(PF) The Forest of Starving Spirits


By … Jessica Redekop, Robert Gresham, Michael Whitney
Wayward Rogues Publishing
Pathfinder
Level 10

Explore the haunted remains of Endiel Forest, the forsaken kingdom of the gruesome ghastlord Mortalbane. Once a vibrant wildwood where the ancient elves lived in harmony with nature, what’s left of Endiel now is a shadow of its former glory, a rotten wilderness guarded jealously by an enigmatic horror known only as the Endiel Witch. Tread paths no mortal has walked in over a thousand years and uncover long-forgotten forgotten secrets in Forest of Starving Spirits, part four of the Ravenous Ruin adventure path.

This thirteen page adventure is a trip through a haunted forest. Part four of an adventure pah, it is barely coherent. Motivations, knowledge, challenges … they all have some of the most tenuous ties I’ve ever seen in an adventure. Another example of focusing on the style, artwork, layout, font, borders, instead of the substance of the text.

I like treading paths no one has walked for a thousand years … I am a failure as a father because my son now plays Pathfinder … because it’s what his friends play … and he said Oswalds adventure, while great, was something his friends could not handle. Fuck your system superiority complex; it’ all about market share.

Oops. I stumbled on to part 4 of an adventure path. Still … let’s judge the entire series by this one entry and also see if its useful as a standalone haunted forest.

The party wants the magic gobstopper and is told that The EVil One has it; you gotta go in to the haunted forest to find him and get it. The forest is 400 miles by 800 miles, with each square being 30 miles on the map. There’s some mountains on one side where The Evil One resides. I think. Well, I, the DM, know he’s there. It’s unclear if the party is supposed to know that before they go in. I guess not? I mean if they did, then why would they enter the forest at the far/opposite side, why not enter the forest at the square next to the mountains, keeping to the unhaunted grasslands AROUND the forest until then? So I guess the party doesn’t know he lives in the mountains? It’s VERY clear. Just like everything else in this adventure.

Remember that super big 400×800 mile forest? The one with the map? The map doesn’t have locations on it. The text of the adventure eventually tells us that the lost city is in I-4 and waterfall is in G-8, but that’s at the top of each entry, spread out through the entire adventure. So what the fucks the purpose of the map? I don’t know. The evil spirits in the forest get you lost and evli dryads lead you to danger … but the map doesn’t tell you where anything is.

The climax is in a ruined city. “Once the players reach the ruined city …” Really? Once they reach it? Were they trying to reach it? That’s not mentioned anywhere. In the ruined city (city!) are some crypts. Are you looking for crypts? It doesn’t say we’re looking for a crypt in a ruined city. There’s a total disconnect between what the players are trying to do and what the text is assuming. More on this later.

There’s a stinking cloud above the forest, it makes flying above it hard. (I Guess it reaches outer space?) So you’re footslogging 30 mile hexes in a tangled forest. What is that, 8 miles a day or something in a bramble filled haunted forest? For every hour spent in the forest there’s a chance the evil witch shows up to fuck with the party. What is the chance? We’re not told. Just “there’s a chance.” Wandering monsters? No, no list. At all. There’s a couple of entries: Winding Woods (you get lost) and an Unnerving Presence that makes you have a -2 to WIll saves. Oh ,it also says that you an encounter a poison pit tap, four shambling mounds, four lacedon trolls, and a ghoul treant. In as many words. That’s literally a quote from the adventure to describe the encounters on your trek. Nothing else. That’s it. I’m not making this fucking up.

There are knowledge checks. “The forest is wild and overgrown.” Ok. They are all just as useless. They tell you nothing of consequence. It’s just trivia. Why the fuck do they exist if they are just trivia?

Grief builds inside of you, silence is deafening, and the writing is hackneyed. More to the word, the formatting is terrible. Recall how a modern bullet point system works in a word processor. If you indent then the text is offset to the right and the style of bullet point changes. This denotes this is a sub-item to the item above it. This allows for easy visual groupings of data and relationships to be immediately obvious. Yeah, this adventure don’t do that. Everything is at the same level, and appears in the same style. Is this a new monster? Is this a part of a different encounter? Who knows, because the formatting makes everything confusing as fuck. You know those monstrous long Pathfinder stat blocks … imagine three of them all in a row with something else FORMATTED THE EXACT SAME WAY appearing between two of them. There’s no way to tell where one things ends and another begins. I wouldn’t quite call it wall of text, but “confusing mass of text” is a relative of it, to be sure.

Oh, oh, in the crypt in the ruined city (again, why the fiuck are the party drawn there?) you finally battle the evil witch that has been harassing you. This time she flees to an estate. Uh. She has fled in every encounter. Is the party still chasing her? Why are they following her? Killing the witch isn’t a part of the adventure, getting the gobstopper is. It makes no fucking sense AT ALL.

Back to that total disconnect I mentioned earlier? I think this adventure falls in to the “throw some shit at the party” category of product. Here’s some shit, throw it at the party until bored. Make them have this encounter, and then this one. Lead them to this one. Just put them in the ruined city and tell them they see a crypt. (Aside: Roll to find the crypt, to trigger the witch encounter? That’s a roll to continue. What if they DON’T succeed in their roll? Nothing happens, ever? No, the DM fudges it. So why the fuck is it in the adventure?)

This is a bad adventure. It fails on the most basic points. Great encounters might be a part of my review standards, as might evocative writing, terse writing, useful to the DM at the table. One of the most fundamental points though, that I never mention because it’s NEVER an issue, is a goal. I don’t mean a hook, or some such. But communicating to the players what they need to do. This adventure doesn’t do that. Sure, I think the read-aloud is hackneyed, I see that in a lot of adventures. Terse and evocative? Meh, again, lots of examples of that. Useful to the DM at the table? Again, lots of product fail at that point. But to be so incoherent that no one at the table understands what is going on in the adventure? That’s a new one. I think. I’ll have to go reread my review of Golanda.

Giving the designer(s) the benefit of the doubt, I have to question the editing of this. What the fuck is the purpose of editing these days? Copy editing? Fact checking? It’s certainly not “point out basic things wrong”, which is much more important than an orc having an ac of 13 vs 14.

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is one of those mini things, so you can’t actually see what you are getting. Boo! I Boo I say! Still … on that last page? That’s two things you are looking at, nt one. See how everything is in “one line” green boxes? Yeah, no indent. Confusing as fuck. On the page before that, #3, that’s THREE things in that text on the left side column. Good fucking luck with that.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/242806/Forest-of-Starving-Spirits

Oh, and one more thing. A Poison pit trap is CR13 in Pathfinder. Ouch.

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13 Responses to (PF) The Forest of Starving Spirits

  1. Commodore says:

    Well, it’s level 10. How else are you going to prevent Scry->Teleport->The End? Not having a goal or discernible objective shuts that one down, at least.

    • SolCannibal says:

      If you have no goal or treasure rumors to stimulate exploration – that the map & encounters are NOT conductive to, might bem said – why enter the country-sized haunted forest in the first place?

  2. Jeff says:

    800 by 300 miles for an adventure locale? I looked it up California is only 163,696sq miles. The internet tells me the isle of dread around 20,000, I wish the party the best of luck finding anything.

    • SolCannibal says:

      Yes, that’s about the size of France or the Iberian Peninsula – or about a hundred times the notorious Black Forest in Germany. Pretty large area for just one lost elven city and about a dozen encounters.

  3. Chris Hall says:

    I’m interested in knowing what your son’s friends couldn’t handle about Oswald’s adventure.

  4. Keith Hann says:

    Bryce, just trucking along, reviewing all these 5th ed shitpiles, thinking “what’s the harm?”

    And then one day… “I am a failure as a father because my son now plays Pathfinder …”

  5. *sigh* Ludicrously large terrain features are a common flaw of ineptly designed settings.

  6. Anonymous says:

    No worst evar rating??

  7. Jeff says:

    There’s not much of a “path” evident in this adventure path. I’m still none the wiser as to why the PCs might want to enter the forest. (Their previous adventure path, Whispers of the Dark Mother, does at least seem to have a recurring theme of defeating cultists, and comes with a free Players Guide.)

    The Hunger from Below
    The Freedom Games summons competitors from throughout the civilized world, but the events are doomed. Agents of evil have a vile plan for the unwary citizens of Omnilibertas, and heroes must rise to face terrifying foes, or the free city could fall forever to an ancient horror.

    Thirst for Knowledge
    The dwarves of Orvast have made a terrible discovery among the ruins of an elven siege fort and now an ancient, cosmic threat arises! Will the characters be able to rescue their dwarven allies or will they unwittingly release a dangerous alien priest of Cthulhu?

    A Feast of Ashes
    The adventurers discover the plundered town of Kushl, but a group of Dwarves think they are somehow involved. Will they be able to prove their innocence? Or will they have to start a war with the Dwarven City of Orvast?

    Forest of Starving Spirits
    Explore the haunted remains of Endiel Forest, the forsaken kingdom of the gruesome ghastlord Mortalbane. Once a vibrant wildwood where the ancient elves lived in harmony with nature, what’s left of Endiel now is a shadow of its former glory, a rotten wilderness guarded jealously by an enigmatic horror known only as the Endiel Witch.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I like adding little random areas the party may stumble upon. I like the sandbox idea. As a player, sometimes just exploring can be fun. I mean the ultimate reason to enter a forest is to explore, kill monsters and find loot. Sounds like this had potential to be a good idea…maybe the hooks are in the forest and the party can unravel a mystery…or not..as they wish. Too bad this adventure seems to lack some tools for the GM.

  9. Grützi says:

    @Jeff:
    What pulls the “path” together (or tries at least) is the search fot the macguffin (the magic gobstopper 😉 )
    It is stolen in the first part, the Party is captured by dwarfes while searching for it at the beginning of part 2. In part 2 and 3 you then get some Background on the gobstopper and the Setting while you explore some elvish ruins. Which leads to part 4 –> The big bad has the gobstopper, the big bad rules the forrest, go to the forrest and search.

    There is still no reason, why the Party enters the forrest where the path tells you to tough 😉

    A Highlight 😉 for me is the beginning of part 2:
    The Party has been arrested by dwarfes. They think you are responsible for the shenanigans of part 1. so they bring you before their king and his judges. Here you have to convince them that you are innocent and on their side …
    and this is no small sidequest-thingy … there is a table, each side gets their arguments, the whole thing takes a few pages in the Adventure …

    If you convince the dwarfes of your innocence you are treated as honorable guests for the next three days.
    If you are found guilty by them you are thrown into the dungeon for the next three days.

    REGARDLESS what happens, after three days the dwarf king calls for you and sends you on the next part of the main quest … (If they found you guilty, he tells you something of having come by “irrefutable” proof of your innocence … the Adventure of course never tells you what that proof was exactly … some random god probably told the dwarfes you didn’t do it 🙂 )

    The dwarf king could as well just say: “If you are guilty or not is of no concern to me, but I have a quest for you to prove you mean well by us.” or something. The whole trial doesn’t do anything except take up space and time in the adventure.

  10. Talvola says:

    Funny – I don’t even see the coordinates of the final ruins anywhere, much less on the map. Definitely needs some work…

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