EZG reviews Pathmaster: The Timeless Fort
I was one of the judges of the contest that determined which pitches were chosen for the Pathmaster contest. I did not receive any compensation and thus do not consider my verdict compromised. The very presence of these modules means that I like the premise of all Pathmaster-modules, but can their execution stand up?
This Pathmaster-module is 51 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page author-bio/developer’s note,1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 43 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
When a crystal shard fell to earth centuries ago in an age of peace at the border of three kingdoms, its power prompted obsession on part of the three monarchs and led to disaster – sheltered away by guardians, the kingdoms whittled themselves down in trying to claim the shard, finally tracking it and its guardians, the Order of the Shard down to Fort Jamora, where they annihilated their last forces in a desperate claim for the shard. When the shard sundered in the chaos, it sent the fort and its assailants into a Grounghog Day-style time loop.
Now the fort is depicted i rather extensive detail and constitutes basically the groundframe for the PCs to work from – the PCs start with 7 Fort Points and add 3 per assault day. A true sandbox, the PCs have only a scarce amount of soldiers and reinforcements to make to the fort to withstand the challenges and assailants that would otherwise be beyond their power to surpass. In order to break the timehole, the PCs will have to guard the shard from the assault of an orcish warlord, a priest-king and an elven lord and finally a combined move by all of the monarchs-all three kings and their desperate gambit need to be vanquished in their attempts to gain control of the shard. Now the respective assaults of the king’s and their henchmen (which include elementals, thieves and treants) are detailed herein, but more interesting for the PCs, they actually get to experience the creation of new buildings etc. in fast-forward and reap the benefits of actually knowing what will happen after experiencing it. Only if they manage to prevent the shard’s shattering may they break the resetting of the timeline of the fort.
The PCs may use aforementioned FP as resources to defend the fortress during the final assault and overall, there are quite a few consequences and details on both fortress and occupants confound in making the loop an interesting concept to experience. The assaults per se are also cool and oftentimes rather imaginative – being catapulted into the fortress’s courtyard and surviving the fall via feather fall, just to give you an example, would be one of the assault-techniques employed by the PC’s opposition.
As with most AaW-modules, we also get player-friendly versions of the full color maps of the locales featured, though the maps this time around are not as mind-bogglingly beautiful as in some other AaW-modules.
Editing and formatting are very good, with only a few minor glitches creeping into the pages. Layout adheres to an original drop-dead gorgeous 2-column full color standard with thematically-fitting full-color artworks. Cartography adheres to a full-color standard as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Author Luis Loza has created a cool, uncommon adventure-premise/sandbox in this module – ambitious in scope, detailed and challenging, PCs can and probably will require the resetting of the fort’s properties. The consequences of their performance make for more cool variety and a sense of empowerment for the PCs. That being said, this sandbox does waste one extremely cool opportunity: With consequences for the fort and fast-forwarding due to the unstable timeframe, this pdf could have utilized Ultimate Campaign’s downtime-rules to exceedingly awesome effect. While the Fort Points mechanic works well within the frame of this module, actually using the donwtime-rules would have provided for a glorious, more diverse variety of consequences and player-choices. Handing them an amount of capital and making them earn capital for acing encounters could have made this even cooler in my book and fit in more seamlessly within an overall context. This would have also expanded the PC’s option by oh so many options…
Now whether you consider this a blemish or don’t mind, I still consider this the one and crucial missed chance of an otherwise cool, uncommon module with a nice premise that is executed with surprising panache. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform and I look forward to reading more from author Luis Loza!
You can get this module here on OBS!