Road of the Dead

road
by Creighton Broadhurst
Raging Swan Press
Pathfinder
3rd Level

Centuries ago, the Tuath were a mighty folk who strove against the goblins of the Tangled Wood for dominion over that ancient place. Defeated by treachery and their feral, warlike enemies the Tuath’s civilisation was thrown down, their settlements were sacked, their places of strength broken open and their holy places despoiled. The few survivors melted away into the trackless gloom of the deep forest leaving behind nothing but remnants of their once?great culture. The Road of the Dead, a ceremonial pathway representing a soul’s journey to the underworld, is one such fragment that yet lingers in the Tangled Wood awaiting the brave or the foolhardy. A cunningly designed death?trap, it hides the forgotten treasures and legends of a fallen people.

I don’t like reviewing this one, for some reason. Maybe because I’m so disappointed. Most of the review can be summed up by looking at some numbers: 50 pages. 7-10 encounters. Maybe 14-16 pages of actual encounter description. There is some GREAT imagery in this, extremely evocative. It’s also fragmented and disconnected and so verbose that the excitement that comes from the evocative imagery is dulled by the slog through the text.

There’s a sinkhole. It leads to the Path of the Dead, an ancient underground path/area that an old culture had funerary/symbolic meaning. It’s got seven rooms/encounters, a couple with a few parts, a few extra add ons for after the adventure. Each room generally has several features that is described in what I like to call “4.0 style.” A little section detailing lighting, sound, doors, ceilings, etc. One for each. Each cool little thing gets it’s own paragraph. That’s the problem.

Inside a barrow, water dripping from the ceiling. Large menhirs. A sinkhole, dark. The sound of churning water from below. Maybe a light mist. Part of the way down the sinkhole are three leering stone demon faces, covered in light mold/fungus/etc. That’s GREAT! OMG! I’d love to run that room! But it’s all spread out over two pages. The adventure has to describe EVERYTHING. The DC for this, the DC for that, the (irrelevent) history of things, things that are meaningless to the room or adventure, or the plot. The joy is sucked out of it by the explaining. Yes, guidelines for the DM are good. Explaining EVERYTHING is bad. It all gets in the way. “Overly Organized” might be the right description.

I’m not sure what’s going on. Is the length supposed to be a feature? Are Pathfinder DM’s morons? (I doubt it?) Is that the expected behaviour of Pathfinder adventures? I really don’t get it.

This thing could easily be trimmed to be a 1-page adventure, or maybe two. There’s clearly some very good imaginative stuff going on in this, especially the environments. I’d gladly pay $5 for this if it were 1 or 2 pages of the good stuff. $5 for the 50 page monstrosity that it exists as? No. It distracts and takes too much to run. I’ll forgive the linear nature, the challenge/test thing that I hate. The Imagery is REALLY good and works well together as a cohesive whole to present a compelling journey to the afterlife. Well, if it’s edited down.

I really like the imagery. I just can’t stomach the way its presented.

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One Response to Road of the Dead

  1. Kevin says:

    Looks like the adventure is really just from pages 6-27, with other pages for handouts, pregen characters, appendix, etc, so I’m not seeing the 50 pg monstrosity you describe.

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