The Breaking of Forstor Nagar, is an adventure written for a playgroup of 8th level characters for the Pathfinder rules system. Weighing in with 48 pages, losing only 4 pages to non material (front and back covers, OGL and ToC), the remaining 44 pages are formatted to a dual column layout, with the occasional embedded artwork. The PDF is fully bookmarked for separate sections, which is always a good thing. Maps are interspersed throughout relevant sections as appropriate. Crested with a stylized white dragon head and wings, each page is adorned with the thematic graphics one would associate with an adventure in a frozen environment. Across the bottom of the page in the background one can see the skyline of what I assume is the city of Forstor Nagar, framed with what can only be assumed to be the herald standards of the invading legion this adventure presents as the adversary the group has to overcome. So, right off the bat, this PDF is very visually graphic heavy, and would be a nightmare on a home printer. Luckily, the product is available in print, so there is an option to see these pages as they are meant to be seen in print.
Giving us a mercenary legion of cannibals as our main antagonists, this adventure steps away from the classic creature killing adventures that flood the marketplace. The idea that your enemy is in fact human, and still wants to eat you, adds a level of creepiness to the entire product that really takes the story to a new level.
But why are these cannibals attacking Forstor Nagar in the first place? Because of the oracle, an adult white dragon. They want to feast upon his heart, assuming that they will gain his precognitive powers if they do. The fact that their stocking up on supplies, loot and enough to eat for days while working their way through the city of Forstor Nagar is simply icing upon the dragon heart cake for the invaders.
As the city is under siege, the PC's have many obstacles to deal with to even get into the city in the first place, as well as traversing the environment once in. The adventure supplies a few options for why the group would enter this killing field, but they all boil down to one basic concept, its a snatch and grab, they are there on a rescue attempt of one person of importance. Of course, as always happens, the important person in the adventure refuses to leave without dragging as many other people as possible, making what could be handled quickly and easily into an ordeal for the PC's.
Looking over the maps within the PDF, I find that I am really torn. On the one hand, the cartography itself is clear, colorful, and all around excellent. However, nothing ruins a gorgeous map faster than covering it with little circles full of letters and predetermined location markers for a playgroup. These maps are all but useless when it comes to being able to use them for players, as there is no way to hide the icons, short of removing the maps from the PDF and breaking out ones photoshop skills. I understand the adventure comes with Maptools support, but it occurs to me that for groups not using this program, perhaps setting the PDF to have hide-able layers for the maps would have really helped a lot. And in regards to several of the predetermined and marked areas for the PC's on multiple maps, as well as the written assumptions within the adventure of player choices for approach and movement. It feels very much like the PC's are expected to do only what was thought of by the author of this adventure, I know my own playgroup found several variable answers to how to enter the city that fell well outside what was expected of them by the adventure. Now, I will admit, as a GM I have always encouraged non linear thinking from my playgroups, but I can not help but think that marking a map with a white box stating PC's is presumptive, as is stating that only this roof can be landed upon, or this alley walked through. I am fully aware any GM can work around the text on the fly, but a marking on the map becomes an issue all unto itself.
Several times throughout the PDF, NPC's and combatants are graphically represented with top down illustrations, not only can you not see any true detail in an illustration of this nature, the ones chosen are graphically very reminiscent of a cartoonish style and feel. To clarify, there are pieces of artwork throughout the PDF that are amazingly good, the illustration of the remorhaz is amazing. Unfortunately the very next page has a top down, Saturday morning cartoon version remorhaz, which is jarring in how different of an art style is it from the previous piece.
Those using the Maptools program and tools will find the support package an excellent addition, and I have no doubt those with more skill at the program than I will truly appreciate all of the tokens included with the full encounter maps. I, while obviously not being a fan of the art style of these top down tokens, could not help but take note that everything a GM would need to run these encounters token wise was included. And yes, those same maps from the PDF, once covered with tokens as opposed to letters, look a lot better. I'm still not a fan of the white boxes stating PC on them on the maps, but that's a personal choice.
Ending thoughts.....An interesting setting, with a unique situation in that the PC's find themselves with a task to achieve in the middle of a siege. Maps that I want to love, I do, but I am having a hard time getting past the letters all over them....artwork that goes from truly beautiful, to the topdown map tokens. And, I want to be clear, in regards to the top down tokens, where as I am not a fan of them myself, it is not because they are not well drawn, it is simply a personal taste issue in regards to the style they are done in. As far as, is the storyline a decent challenge, and a good story for a group to play through? Yes, there is a story here that is well thought out and very playable. I would like to have seen more attention paid to how the Oracle is imprisoned, and how it managed to get free. It felt like there was in the end, more attention paid to various options pertaining to the Hungering Legion's history and motivations, than to details of the Oracle's that would of helped make the encounter with the dragon much more detailed.
So...all things taken into account, art, maps, the absolutely flawless formatting (I couldn't find a single formatting or grammatical error), story and playability I am going to go with a four star rating of this adventure. The feel in sections of “forcing” a group into a predetermined set of circumstances (the white box location markers), and the travesty of marring the maps with large white circles filled with letters (a layered PDF with the option to hide layers would of easily solved this) kept me from giving this a five star.
[4 of 5 Stars!]