This module clocks in at 71 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page CR-lists, 1 page advice on reading statblocks and 1 page advice on running the module for novice DMs, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 62 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
I will break my own format for reviewing with this module. The original Retribution was the first Raging Swan Press-product to see the light of day and I bought it on a whim back in the day, long before I was a reviewer. I expected it to suck, frankly, and did so out of a morbid curiosity. I was utterly flabbergasted at what I found. Retribution is probably as close to a traditionally gothic (in the “Castle of Ontranto” “Name of the Rose”-style, not the association commonly used for this term…) mystery as you can get in a module. It breathes psychological depth, symbolism, has an unprecedented level of detail for the NPCs in here and to this date remains one of the best 1st level modules I’ve seen for any iteration of D&D or d20-based systems like Pathfinder.
Retribution is one of those non-optional relics of good gaming I’d consider a must-own for any PFRPG-DM – why? Because it’s not over the top, it’s not grindy, it is the perfect, absolute incarnation of atmosphere and mood, with diverse challenges, smart and unobtrusive subtext and, better yet, it retains this fascination throughout, evoking a level of grit and desolation that is simply entrancing – both while reading and while playing it.
My players still talk about this one, and it’s been more than 4 years since we ran it and it made second place on my first best-of-list.. Now it’s back and got a collector’s edition – and honestly, I was afraid. I feared something akin to what happened to Star Wars. Almost perfect cult classics don’t do face-lifts well in many cases.
This collector’s edition kicks off with a n abbreviated primer on the village of Swallowfeld before getting into the meat of the module – which I will NOT SPOIL. Seriously – just think monastery full of eccentric clerics, snowstorm outside, glorious psychological underpinnings, a great (and easy to run!) banquet scene, slowly rising tension – a furious finale. Social skill challenges to bypass certain obstacles, a dungeon now with a small dressing table, improved artwork…generally, organization is perhaps the most significant improvement here – you get the respective content like magic items etc. on the page you’ll need them -the collector’s edition requires next to no page-flipping.
Editing and formatting, as almost always in RSP’s offerings, is flawless. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. The pdf comes with excessive bookmarks. It should be noted that the pdf features improved artworks for many a piece and also features one version for screen-use and one for print-use.
Creighton Broadhurst’s master piece “Retribution” didn’t have much to gain by this Collector’s Edition – it was already one of the best 1st level modules I’ve ever read. On the other hand, it had a lot to lose – and does something smart. It applies RSP’s by now acquired knack of making extremely user-friendly books and applies it to the classic, very cautiously streamlining presentation and adding minor bits and pieces herein that do not stick out like sore thumbs and rather organically fit with the module.
I do have the print version (one great reason to get this, imho!) and it should be considered a steal at the low price. – with paper, spine etc. all being up to my standards.
Now let me get one thing clear – this module can be run by even novice DMs (in spite of a banquet scene!) and offers one of the best playing experiences I had for Pathfinder. Additionally, the further streamlining almost makes it possible to run this module sans preparation – one read should suffice for almost all DMs. Beyond that, the improved streamlining of the layout makes the running of this legendary module even easier. This would be a serious contender for my Top-Ten-list of 2014, but let’s face it, the first edition already made such a list and this one is very close to it. Hence, I remain with a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and one general announcement – people, if you don’t have the original Retribution, this is your chance; You literally have no reason not to get this gem and having it as a print edition made me feel all fuzzy and warm. This has its place on my shelf of honor and is truly a must-own for any PFRPG-DM’s module-library.