EZG reviews Against the Cult of the Bat God
This module clocks in at 63 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks, 1 page help on using the adventure, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 55 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We kick off this module with a handy gazetteer of the immediate area, which would be the lonely coast, Raging Swan’s easily plugged in, free mini-setting – which you btw. should have downloaded years ago. 😉 Kidding aside, travel distances etc. are part of the deal and mainly, that due to this module taking place in Oakhurst, the most remote of the villages of the decidedly old-school, old-world style lonely coast. Oakhurst (previously spotlighted in a village backdrop), is also one of the most unpleasant places to visit.
Insular and xenophobic, dirty and illiterate, rumors of cults and stranger things abound and still, no matter y which hook – it is here the PCs have to travel. Nestled deep inside the tangled forest, Oakhurst is not a pleasant place, and both its statblock, rumor- etc. tables drive that home.
Now I’m going to deviate from my usual format for a bit – there still will be SPOILERS here, but not as many as usual. Players should probably still skip to the conclusion, though.
All right, only DMs left here? Good! The events that transpire in Oakhurst have a loose timeline of 3 days, forcing the player’s hands without becoming hectic – and here’s the first peculiarity of the module: The level of detail. It’s staggering. From the thoroughly unique areas, villain machinations and plans that make sense to the massive table of sights and sounds around town, this place jumps to life from the very page.
Especially the latter table makes for a joy to read – each entry offering some direct or indirect way of characterizing townsfolk, coming with subtle, yet disturbing nods towards something just being WRONG around town. The sense of decay and decrepitude are more than prevalent and, as any DM with a bit experience in that regard knows – the devil (or rather: horror!) lies in the details.
Even before anything happens, the sheer level of detail makes this module stand out like a lighthouse – and helps with one crucial task: Making this investigation so easy to run, I bet any DM with even a bit of experience under his/her belt can pull it off sans preparation, just reading this book while running the module. For stumped PCs, alternate helps to come to conclusions and provide cues they might have missed are just as much part of the deal, as are thoroughly interesting adversaries.
I’m not spoiling much (given the title), when I’m saying that the cult of the primal bat god has reactions to the PC’s meddling that make sense, their responses working exceedingly well and taking both terrain and creature peculiarities into account. Furthermore, we get a thoroughly unique “grimoire” (you’ll understand what I mean by that when reading this module!), a chance for PCs to be kidnapped (and the first handling of such a gambit that makes sense!), awareness of spell-usage to handle challenges…
Have I mentioned the supremely creepy mansion of decadent, inbred scions, the intimidating as all hell, dreadful final encounter with boss fight-level special arena “features” (again, not spoiling!), the unique and lavishly illustrated final adversary? The fact that, throughout the module, not only PCs, but actual players have to show bravery with the actions of their characters? The inclusion of one damn cool haunt?
Oh, and the pdf comes with pregens, should you wish to run it as a one-shot.
Editing and formatting are slightly less superb than in many RSP-products – but I don’t care. The few glitches can be easily ignored. Layout adheres to RSP’s 2-column full-color standard and the b/w-artworks are neat and thematically fitting. The superb maps can be downloaded for free as web-enhancements on ragingswan.com, which is simply superb customer service. The module also comes with an optimized screen and print pdf. I do own the dead-tree copy as well and the quality of this book is nothing to scoff at – elegant, nice paper, no printer-glitches. If you can, get the dead tree version. Also, the pdf comes fully bookmarked with excessive nested bookmarks for your convenience.
John Bennett’s “Against the Cult of the Bat God” is one thing: Supreme.
This is the best gothic horror (not splatter/dark fantasy, but true GOTHIC HORROR) module I’ve read in ages.
If the spirit of the best Ravenloft modules had a love child with Raging Swan Press’ excellent quality control, production values and attention to/level of detail – this would be it.
This module is ridiculously good if you have even the slightest soft spot for horror. Each sentence, each paragraph BREATHES atmosphere, mood – and it’s incredibly easy to run to boot! This module is one of the best modules currently available for Pathfinder and can stand alongside the works of giants of horror like Nicholas Logue, Richard Pett or ascendant masters like Tim Hitchcock or Tom Phillips, all while having its very own style, its very own, distinguished voice.
Have I mentioned that I could actually read this somewhat like a novel? Yeah, the writing is that good.
This book is so good that I will take a look at Vathak again (which I have dismissed as not working for me), Fat Goblin Games’ setting, which is now under the tender care of John Bennett.
This module is so good, I deleted my original draft of the review, went back and killed spoilers, just to drive home that you SHOULD get this and avoid just about all notions of spoilers for peeking players – because I *know* that neither my ramblings on the content, nor a tight synopsis would do this one credit.
If you’re like me and come from a Ravenloft background, if you’re looking for a change of pace and mood, if you enjoy somewhat gritty and SUBTLE horror that plays with your mind and that does not end with “roll initiative” (though there are combats to be had!), then you NEED this.
This is a hot contender for my no.1 spot for 2014. This is a module that makes me recall how joyous being a reviewer can be. 5 stars + seal of approval – and damn it, would I go higher if I could. I do hope, from the bottom of my heart, that we’ll see more collaboration between John Bennett and Raging Swan Press, more modules of that caliber.
If you have even the remotest soft spot for Gothic Horror, you should go ahead and get this superb, excellent module, here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop! Buy it for your DM! I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!