This installment of the Rituals of Choice AP is 50 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content, so let's check this out!
This being an adventure-review, the following text contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion,
Still here? All right!
This pdf kicks off when the PCs are returning to the town of Far-rough from their trials and tribulations in "To Kill or Not to Kill" and are contacted by the greenbound Quayneel, though the job offering she provides is anything but simple - haunted by dreams of a by now golden jackal, she want the PCs to undertake a journey that seems to be rather urgent - for the dreams speak of keeping the crystal fold out of the hands of the sinister cabal, the sisters of Is-Nachblot. Unfortunately, even this talk does not work well - the PCs start to fall asleep and have to battle an undead version of Breandra (known from installment II) in dreamscape (also gain nice pieces of information and foreshadowing the things to come), while those resisting the magical slumber will have to defend their sleeping allies against a group of raiders - this dual fight, both in dreamscape and in reality, makes for a compelling start - and after that, the race is on!
And this makes the adventure interesting - for immediately, with the lure of magic, delays and time are a central plot of the module - whether they take their time or not, they'll have to deal with the consequences. Another leitmotif would then be honor - standing for one's word and convictions will have major repercussions in one of the climactic encounters of the module, as do courteous, honest, sincere and valorous actions.
Mind you, this counting of honor and similarly virtuous behavior is not necessarily the easy option and it's often the conflict between the abstract urgency of the quest and what would be honorable to do that makes this module stand out beyond the standard. Want an example: After the bribe sent their way, the PCs will find a blind oracle expert - a child stuck in a chasm. Saving her and returning her to safety might be the honorable thing to do, but that will cause massive delays. Of course they could take her along - though she mystically sees truenames and has no qualms whatsoever discussing their choices and identities along the way...
They can also save a goblin that is being tortured to death by some commoners, encounter some litorians who try to cross the same rope-bridge (with all the machismo/honor vs. courtesy-repercussions you could ask for...), meet a sleeping, extremely lethal rune-reaver (whom they could ignore, try to kill in his sleep just talk to) and meet the inquisitive dark warden Ry-Derch, who may become hindrance of ally to the group, Finally, the PCs may find the wall and its Litorian watchers and challenge the litorians for the honor of reading the sacred wall of honor that is central to the PC's quest. and indeed, the quest is not simple, even here, including further deceptions to earn (and lose) virtue-points. And then, they get to decide what to do with Breandra, who has been caught by the Litorians - whether they'll see her hang as in their dream, return her to Rar-Rough for her just sentence or do something different - they will have to answer to an honor-rune manifest, who will reward (and punish) the PCs according to their respective deeds. Unfortunately, the sacred mound has already been entered by the PC's opposition. After braving a dread arcanoplasm, the Cs will encounter the grynlocs and rune-manifests (and depending on their speed, their opposition) to answer the questions that will determine worthiness of the Crystal Fold -with or without their opposition, they have to stand before one of the enigmatic Faradians and should receive their due reward with the fold - unfortunately for the PCs, the Faradian guard has already handed over the legendary crystal fold to the baroness - with the prophetic words that denounce them as "Not ready" for the burden - and potentially in danger.
After that, we get full stats for all named NPCs, including awesome full-color artworks, write-ups for all the magic items (including loresight information) and a what has gone before conclusion by Robert N. Emerson.
Editing and formatting are very good and while I noticed some very minor glitches, they did not detract from my enjoyment of the third installment of the Rituals of Choice-series. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous full-color, 2-column standard and the full-color artworks are beautiful, as is the stellar cartography, though the first two installments had more to offer in that regard. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.
The Rituals of Choice-series of adventures is awesome. Honestly, if you ever wanted to see some intelligent adventures that deviate in concept and appeal from the norm and go beyond "Slay the evil foes", these modules do deliver exactly that, and this installment is no different: Where the first module emphasized the consequences of choices both for oneself and one's surroundings, where the second dared to ask the question about when it's okay to kill, even in an adventure module, this one takes a look at different virtues - and while the virtues seem like they shoe-horn the PCs into alignment-like paths and judge them, they actually do something more subtle: They make you question the absolutes the respective virtues constitute, they portray them as being inconvenient (as they are in real life - being good is quite hard) and make the players question their priorities and morality, the need to make compromises etc. This adventure evokes classic themes, but does so in an exciting way: The heroes' journey as a road to self-discovery, culminating in a judgment that the PCs may or may not like is handled with delicate precision and narrative panache, including the bittersweet cliffhanger ending - which had me asking for more. Unfortunately for a long time by now - Ceremonies of Sacrifice, the fourth installment of the AP, remains one of my most anticipated modules right now and what I've seen so far on the patron forums looks awesome. And so I remain, with yet another jubilant review of this brilliant series of modules, that is not only a must for Arcana Evolved players, but should also be considered a great inspirational module and worth the conversion to PFRPG for the DMs out there. My final verdict will thus unsurprisingly be 5 stars.