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ZEITGEIST #5: Cauldron-Born (PATHFINDER RPG) $5.00
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ZEITGEIST #5: Cauldron-Born (PATHFINDER RPG)
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ZEITGEIST #5: Cauldron-Born (PATHFINDER RPG)
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2014 05:07:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The latest installment of EN Publishing's Zeitgeist-AP clocks in at 95 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 90 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

It's been too long since I took a look at one of the Zeitgeist-modules, but before I do, here the obligatory warning - this review contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

No, really. Jump to the conclusion.

...

Only DMs left? Good.

This adventure is the conclusion of the first act of the epic ZEITGEIST-saga, and as such, provides guidance of running it stand-alone (or the first campaign-act alone - just eliminate the conspiracy elements and there you go!) - which renders it longer than one would have expected. The constables of the RHC will have A LOT on their hands, so better hope they have honed their investigative skills.

A peace-summit is looming between the nation of Risur and Danor, finally bringing peace to the strained relations between the nations - including, btw., a list of the points of contention. In one sentence - there are a lot of elements invested in seeing the summit fail. Beyond a turf-war, a mad fey and radical eschatologists all have their own plots, which means that the constables will have to wrap up no less than THREE threads: In order to cope with this, magical long-range communication and the B-team are provided - the latter being only 4th level characters the players may play...and, of course, as always, characters may very well die.

And yes, on their way to meet the king, the PCs immediately are subject to a well-planned, rather deadly assassination attempt, including carriages, which should make clear the stakes are high - crimelord Lorcan Kell (backed by the two-letter-abbreviated conspirators) wishes to take them out. The king himself briefs them with the severity of the situation (as well as dropping some hints of ravenloftesque ties of rulers to their realm and citizens...) and tells them about the conspirators having some means of access to the Bleak Gate - something the PCs should better unearth as soon as possible.

Now the B-team will be busy with escorting the minotaur-ambassador Brakken - hopefulyl without attacking his dire-bear companion. Meanwhile, the PCs may see an old acquiantance from module #1 show up at the royal palace- the high elf Asrabey Varal asks, veiled, for assistance in hunting down aforementioned rogue fey. The B-team, escorting both the minotaur and the dwarven eye of Drakr at the summit will right NOW have their hands full -a deadly ballet of death is unleashed upon the city by a cadre of deadly dwarven eschatologists - perfectly timed bombs, sniper nests - the B-team will have its hands more than full trying to save what's there to save! Alexander Grappa, the golem-maker, has his mind currently inside the head of a demolished bronze golem and may just be the additional piece of information the constables need regarding the Bleak gate - though a clever geas prevents him from divulging crucial information. Now as an additional mini-game, the PCs will have to generate and train a task force of people to take down Kell et al, which also provides various means for complications - essentially, they have to order a shadow war against Kell and his associates - in a damn fun, cool mini-game. Better - if the PCs have good relationships with the Cipiano, they may utilize Morgan Cipiano's resources against Kell...for a price that will influence further adventures. Speaking of which - if the B-team can ensure that their outgunned fight in a night-club is successful, they can influence this mini-game as well - and actually get Kell's lawyer!

Espionage and counter-espionage very much determine how well the final crackdown on Kell goes -if moles are not exposed, the PCs may find themselves at a significant disadvantage. Now the investigation into the renegade fey with Asrabey turns out to be rather interesting - the haughty elf still vastly outclasses the constables and thus, combats tend to have certain things for him to do - and yes, the fey-opposition of the Unseen Court is rather deadly. While the main group dukes it out with powerful spellcasters, the B-team will have "fun" calming superstitious folk and hopefully prevent multiple lynchings due to the fear of a curse. Capturing and interrogating a gremlin may see the PCs finally in a position where they can confront the fey-lord Ekossigan - in the process of a ritual sacrifice, clearly mad and mumbling about dread things hidden...but more on that later.

If the PCs have made friends with Kvarti in a previous encounter, the dwarf's divergent take on eschatologist philosophy may provide a simple means for them to gain information - Kvarti is unhappy about the radical plan of mass-bombing the sub-railway system and wants to help prevent the unleashing of dangerous beasts bound for the harbor and a hostage situation planned by a particularly cold eschatologist - hopefully also diffusing the deadly bomb in a nail-biting finale.

The massive banquet scene that is to follow the happenings will be just as nail-biting and tense - there is a lot at stake and after the rather exquisitely detailed scene - which unmasks a particular NPC as a telepath and also provides the PCs with a means of maintaining an element of surprise over the obscurati in Cauldron Hill - depending on the means the PCs chose during the module, the finale's assault on the Obscurati base will happen under vastly different constellations. Beyond infiltration, the utterly EPIC boss-fights that reward making allies and smart choices here deserve special mention.

But this is not the end - the titan of adamantine is unleashed upon the city, and while, for now, without direction, it needs to be dealt with - the king assembles a makeshift fleet (plus allies PCs may have made!) and tries to lure the titan to sea, while the king executes a powerful ritual aboard the vessel to banish the titan. The PCs will have to hold off the deadly, nigh-indestructible creature while dealing with the deadly witchoil horrors generating from the titan, for one of the most epic climaxes I've seen in any module.

Pages upon pages of handouts and GM-guidance to running this beast are provided as well.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to EN Publishing's 2-column full-color standard with plenty of glorious, original pieces of art. The pdf comes layered to the extent where you can make it easily player-friendly. Cartography is glorious as well.

Thurston Hillman has done it. The fifth zeitgeist-module manages to live up to the utterly INSANE standard the first 4 modules set, all of which manages to score 5 stars + seal of approval, rendering this AP the only one among those I've reviewed that managed to maintain this level of quality. The ONLY reason I'm not playing this AP right now is that I'm waiting for it to finish - I never start APs that are not yet done. That being said, this module is glorious and the first ACT of this AP has more going on, more memorable moments, than many full APs I've read. Superb in writing and ambition, this killer module is simply brilliant and utterly captivating - my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ZEITGEIST #5: Cauldron-Born (PATHFINDER RPG)
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/31/2013 09:17:37

Enworld Publishing pushes out the fifth installment of this masterpiece of an adventure path, Zeitgeist, with Cauldron Born, a climatic mega adventure that serves as the final piece to the first arc of the Zeitgeist campaign.

What Makes it Iron As I have said time and time again, Zeitgeist is written by dungeon masters for dungeon masters. I am not talking about a few novice dungeon masters who cling to xp tables and random charts. I am talking about the die hard dungeon masters who still like to create their own side quests and enjoy freedom in a module. Cauldron Born is a very free type of module. In the first Act alone, there are 4 adventure hooks the PCs can explore.

The dungeon master is free to expand or deexpand this as much as possible. If the DM decides that he wishes to act out the major raids on the local crime family, he can draw up some maps and get down and dirty into small squad fantasy tactics. There are options on some hooks to side with the not so good guy to achieve a greater goal. These are things you see parties attempt to do all the time but the restrictions of a module make for a broken adventure if you allow it. In Zeitgeist, its all there.

The 93 page book centers around the PCs attempt to keep peace during the peace talks while exploring a secret organization. The organized thieves’ guild are not the only threat. Other problems include a dark fey army, mad dwarves and a very large and angry golem. The handouts designed are exceptional. Helping catch players up on a yearlong campaign by providing cliff notes of the PCs exploits complete with insults by their boss.

Not So Iron The book has a couple of awesome subgames in a minigame to take down the organized family and a b-team to show the PCs what is going on in other places. Both of these are good, but felt like they could have been fleshed out more. The minigame needed more ways to get the win condition for smaller actions. After all All Capone was caught on tax evasion. The alternate team is a bit fumbly, frequently breaking up the action of the game for characters the PCs couldn’t care too much about. DMs attempting to correct this should let the PCs make their own b-member characters of 5th level, giving them a slight more chance to survive. Also, only switch once, at the beginning or end of a game session.

The Iron Word Zeitgeist: Cauldron Born is every bit the epic conclusion to the first arc that it should be. All of the plot threads either complete or further into the next arc. The combat, as usual, is not over done. DMs who want more of something can easily insert it into the many unseen vignettes that occur. I should also note that even if you have not played a single adventure, this one can be easily adapted for a campaign as most of the premises are basic, thieves guild needs to be taken down, king’s in town and attempting to be assassinated and 100 foot golems are never a good idea.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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