Crisis of the World-Eater Delta: Devourer of a Thousand Worlds
The second adventure in the Crisis of the World-Eater campaign serial clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
The second part of the “Crisis of the World-Eater”-serial begins at 12th level, which means you’ll have to slot in some modules between the Alpha adventure and this one – some adventure-ideas are briefly touched upon before we begin the module proper. The adventure does contain two player-friendly maps – one half a page-sized, one full-page sized. I wished the former got its own page. Anyhow, the adventure also depicts another faith of the implied setting of the campaign-serial, namely a religion worshiping the 4 central tenets, the physical entities, that drive the complex metaplot of universal struggle – in a way, these are overgods, not akin to how Io worked; whether you like this or not is up to personal tastes.
The pdf also introduces a brief notoriety system, which uses it as an alternate form of currency, and 6 feats provided to capitalize on it…and once more, I have to say that, while I do get why the system is here…we already have a reputation system for Pathfinder. Why not expand on that one? Heck, why is this even here? I get the idea regarding “survival is worth something, we’re fighting for you” – but ultimately, this section is, essentially, a brief, but also somewhat superfluous system that requires significant pay-in via feats by the players…and while this may make sense in a setting book (with more room to develop the system!), as an appendix of sorts in an adventure, it’s ultimately wasted space. If the like is something a GM wants, they’ll already have one in place that conflicts with this one.
The pdf also introduces two new drones: The CR 10 security drone and the CR 6 telescopic drone; the former is missing the (robot) subtype that it clearly should have, and much like the Chronicler (properly statted in this adventure), the statblocks like referencing the “laser” damage type. Guess what does not exist? Bingo. There is no such thing as “laser damage” –a simple look at the Tech Guide (thanks to my friend Chad, who got this book for me!) will show you that laser weapons inflict frickin’ fire damage. The statblocks otherwise are pretty interesting, but could have used a closer look. Once more, the esoteric plasma damage type is not explained. (Half fire, half electricity) – this is frustrating, for I do like the unique abilities these critters have.
This being an adventure review, the following will contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only GMs around? Great!
The Confederate is in chaos; the skies darken, as the planet-sized vessel of the Deliverer of Omega, the Final Moon, arrives! The PCs are hailed by the Chronicler, and when they arrive, they will get two bags of dust of instant repair (oddly, not using Technology Guide rules) and then be introduced to the Chariot, the Chronicler’s space ship. While the Chronicler will attempt to create a last-ditch ship that can save a couple of folks, the PCs are tasked to fly to the Final Moon and establish contact with the Deliverer of Omega.
The Chariot represents a per se cool mini-game, wherein 4 PCs take control of the vessel. Smaller groups are accounted for, but larger groups have a slightly less cool solution. You see, beyond the dangers faced without, there also are saboteurs on board – The Onyx Cabal has infiltrated the vessel. Here’s the thing, though. The vessel is pretty small. The module says that the saboteurs “used magic” to stowaway. Yeah, don’t know about you, but my players would never embark on such a journey without THOROUGHLY checking the vessel. This feels, to me, like fiat and railroading – no chance to find them prior to embarking, and we don’t really know where they hid on the small vessel. At this level, any group of PCs that doesn’t use see invisibility, arcane sight, etc. and thoroughly checks the place deserves punishment. So yeah, unnecessary railroading there.
Anyways, I like how the ship is presented – somewhat akin to mecha-rules, each PC manning a station determines the attacks and defenses, which is pretty cool and makes this rewarding. That being said, the rough editing that plagues this module also rears its ugly head here: We have a spell-reference that is not properly italicized, and the respective stations that the PCs can man don’t specify the actions they require to activate. The section also refers to defense” when AC is meant, and the ship’s AC is very swingy, based on Strength or Constitution checks, which made no sense to me. This is also evident with air-cycling – I like the idea that it needs to be taken care of and the multi-step consequences of bad air…but the section does not comment on whether exhaustion incurred by bad air is alleviated or not upon air becoming fresh again. So yeah, mechanically, this section could have really used some critical editing to polish the amazing concept – particularly since the encounters en route to the Final Moon manage to drive home the stakes perfectly: The prose did send a shiver down my spine, highlighting Michael McCarthy’s talent as a narrator.
This excellent atmosphere also is represented in the exploration of the Final Moon itself – a desolate place, it is home to robots and automatic defenses, and the PCs may explore, for example, the museum of dead worlds, battle a child of saitan in the Biosphere (racial traits included – they’re lopsided and not suitable for PC use). I loved this section and how desolate, eerie, silent it felt. However, the respective rooms don’t come with big versions and, oddly, we get no big versions of most of them. A downside of this section, though, would be that the connections of the rooms via the respective Plexus makes the moon feel less grandiose than it could – a kind of travel-mini-game or the like would have added the icing on the cake here.
Once the PCs reach the throne room, they can talk to the Deliverer of Omega (yep, I’m still refusing to use the name given to this fellow), who also promptly resurrects Asa…I guess the poor armageddon angel hasn’t been humiliated enough yet. The Deliverer’s room also sports an increasing, deadly vortex and activation of the Seed of Change, ostensibly the trump card here, is unreliable, oddly requiring Will- and Fort-saves. The activation is a bit opaque, since it doesn’t work via UMD (which is illogical) and fails to specify the activation action. The Seed can generate wish or limited wish (not properly italicized) and lacks a CL. The battle is a sham of sorts, as the Deliverer can 1/day cast mythic wish, which ostensibly suffices to tear the PCs asunder. You see…offensive use of (mythic) wish, while not unprecedented, is NOT RAW covered in the spell. As such, some proper guidance here would have been very much appreciated. When recalling e.g. the finale of Legacy of Fire, saves would certainly have made sense. Similarly, some trouble-shooting regarding the Seed’s wish-powers would have been very much appreciated here.
Anyhow, as the PCs fall as preordained by the script, the Seed draws them inside itself: And here, things become odd: A titanic scarecrow, the body farmer, may help the PCs, and they proceed to travel through the infinite expanses within the Seed: Here, they can witness unlikely changes be destroyed, traverse the infinite highways of direction, gain a surprising lame regalia of an empire that never was, walk the infinite graveyard of all things…and each region has a d10 roll, which determines whether there’ll be combat or not…potentially pitting the PCs against entropic reapers. As before, formatting is inconsistent. In the end of this trip through infinite expanses, the PCs will meet Change.
Yep, the over-deity thing. It has a gift for the PCs, beyond a mass of XP: Mythic power. Or, well, kinda. You see, the benefit is just temporary. And it’s pretty obvious that the author has no significant experience with mythic design. You see, while the base system is flawed (seriously, NEVER play Mythic without Legendary Games’ amazing supplements. Mythic Solutions and the Path of…pdfs for mythic adversaries are pretty much required!), it still is pretty deftly codified. Mythic, in essence, exacerbates the rocket launcher tag syndrome that high-level PFRPG-gameplay often boils down to; the reason why you need Justin Sluder-style super-optimized mega-bosses to provide a decent challenge for the PCs. Here’s the thing: Mythic power, as granted by Change, will only last until the end of the adventure. I get why, but it still feels somewhat cheap to me. More than that, though, mythic design has very specific requirements: When Legendary Games began designing mythic content, they first fell into the trap that regular Mythic Adventures fell into – an escalation of numbers that quickly proceeds to make PFRPG fray at the seams. The Legendary Games crew realized this pretty quickly and changed the design paradigm, emphasizing breadth and unique narrative angles, creating an astonishing series of master-class supplements that really drive home the potential of mythic gameplay. Beyond that, mythic design requires immaculate precision in rules-verbiage.
Guess what this pdf does not have. Bingo. The Deliverer of Omega has no Mythic Tiers or Ranks noted, doesn’t have the mythic subtype – the deliverer is considered to be a mythic or non-mythic entity, whichever is more beneficial. Guess what? It’s always more beneficial to be mythic. Anyway, the PCs get mythic power, right? Well, how much? No idea. The pdf fails to specify the tier achieved, so even if you do want to go full-blown mythic at this point, you’re only left with question marks.
But what if you don’t have Mythic Adventures? Well, then we come to the default solution this pdf obviously champions: Instead of real mythic gameplay, we get basically mythic power sets. All characters get +10 to one attribute, or +5 to two. All plusses of equipment etc. are increased by one, beyond the +5 limit. Auto-stabilizing and living until twice negative Constitution (invalidating some build-choices) and 20 (!!) mythic surges. Know what’s missing? Yep. Mythic power. Or tier. Those are the base benefits. On top of these, every PC chooses one of 4 mythic power set templates, which yield basically superhero powers. Fly speed, more hp, multiple mythic spells, etc. Once more, these invalidate build choices and player agenda…and their formatting is sloppy, active ability action economy is not specified and power goes beyond what even tier 10 mythic gameplay usually offers.
I get why. I love the idea, in fact. The Deliverer of Omega is a CR 25 monstrosity and basically a world-ender. Why damage types aren’t concise…that may actually not matter. Does your group include a playable outsider or has such an ally of sufficiently high level? Well, you’re RAW, quite possibly, F****D. In allcaps. “Saitan is protected against the direct intervention of deities, outsiders, and other immortals. When acted upon by any immortal entity whose CR is 21 or higher, Saitan gains 10 mythic ranks for a year and a day. During this time, when she is slain, she is resurrected by her Omega resurrection after 1d4 rounds.“ I get the reasoning here – it’s why the deities and super-powerful fiends and angels don’t intervene, right? Okay, throw a metric ton of CR 20 outsiders at the being. Problem solved. 😉 But how do the PCs with their super-duper-Mythic powers feature here? The surge die-size, at d12, suggests tier 10, which translates to +5 CR, but that’s WITHOUT the massive power set or the potent base ability gain. CR +2 for these benefits would be very much underrated, which would catapult the PCs, potentially, to CR 21 and beyond. I am not dragging this out of my behind, mind you: The module considers the showdown to be the equivalent of CR 18 – that’s 7 CRs difference, and the +2 thus implied is actually not enough in my opinion!
And yes, I am theorycrafting here, I know. I just wanted to use this example as one highlight to show how, beyond formal oversights like damage-types and a ton of missed italicizations, the adventure feels unfinished, unpolished. The Deliverer of Omega’s Omega Barrage’s second use, for example, fails to specify its damage types…and I could go on. Is the Deliverer of Omega hard to kill? Yes. Epic? Yes. Can she stand against a properly optimized group that has just received a super-buff par excellence? Nope. You see, instead of enhancing the survivability and options the PCs have, the final fight boils down to rocket launcher tag – who can hit harder faster. This is a huge wasted potential. Where are the counter abilities for the Deliverer’s super-attacks? This is, alas, much like most parts of the book, a lost chance.
Big plus: The pdf comes with a bonus file (included in all individual modules): Adversaries of Crisis. This book, penned by Matt Medeiros with Louis Porter Jr., provides 12 pages of statblocks for high-level gameplay: ranging from CR 17 to 22, the NPCs depicted within this bonus pdf have unique super-power-like tricks, are fearsome to behold…and sport a couple of odd glitches like incorrect ranged BAB, missing gear-lines, italicizations that start in the middle of words where they shouldn’t…which is a pity, for per se, the ideas here are cool: We have a Green Goblin type of character, a super-deadly robot (30d6 force damage infinite gravimetric pulses, range: line of effect…) and similar beings. Per se, I liked these, but even the best designer can stumble with high-level statblocks, and these could have used a second set of eyes. As far as bonus content is concerned, I liked the NPCs herein very much, though. The bonus pdf has no bookmarks.
Editing and formatting are not good. I wouldn’t consider them okay anymore. Rules-language is often woefully opaque, more italicizations are missed than properly formatted and the whole file feels like it really required both a firm editor and a proper content-development. Layout adheres to the per se nice two-column standard of the series, with amazing full-color artworks. Cartography is solid, though oddly, we don’t get battle-map-style big maps of most places. The presence of player-friendly versions for the Chariot and one locale are nice, though. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, but the bonus file has no bookmarks.
Michael McCarthy and Louis Porter Jr.’s second installment in this series suffers from a wholly different set of problems than the first. Where the first module suffered from being under the delusion that we should know the implicit setting and care about stuff we know nothing about, and from logic bugs galore, this one instead is wrecked by rules-language being really sloppy and imprecise.
The lack of experience with Mythic Adventures rules is painfully evident and shows that, alas, the really cool and versatile gambits and stratagems that you can pull off with it, have not really been taken into account.
Damn, this series breaks my heart. It really does. I so want to like this…but once more, the GM is basically forced to redesign the whole space-craft section (presentation of the rules there also isn’t exactly streamlined) and while there are less logic bugs here, the book also is really, really railroady, and not in a good way. More so than the Alpha adventure, though, this has all the makings of a phenomenal adventure.
It just needed this one pass by a really crunch-savvy, nitpicky developer/rules-editor. If Stephen Rowe, for example, had gotten a hold of this, if Jason Nelson had went through this, we’d have a masterpiece on our hands. What we get instead are amazing ideas, bogged down by issues in the execution, pacing and rules. This feels like a rough draft that hasn’t been edited, like someone said “This’ll do.” and went on.
No. It does not suffice.
Don’t get me wrong. I adore the ideas here. I really do. But they feel crammed into a brief module, and the inspired vistas don’t get to breathe properly. And, whenever rules come up, we falter. The one parallel between the first adventure and this, is that the module disregards what’s already established for PFRPG, in favor of its own solutions. If these alternate solutions worked, I’d be happy. They don’t.
If you’re willing to invest A LOT of work into this, and if you’re REALLY good at high-level number-crunching, then you can have a masterpiece. If not, though, you will be left like I am – disappointed at the squandering of such inspired potential. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down.
You can get this adventure here on OBS.