Legendary Planet III – Dead Vault Descent
The third installment of the Legendary Planet AP clocks in at 108 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 97 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
I was a kickstarter-backer for the Legendary Planet campaign, but I was not in any way involved in the production of this AP. My review is based on the Pathfinder version, since that is the game I’m using for this campaign.
Wait, before we continue, there is another thing to note: The adventure comes with a MASSIVE Art-and Map folio: The folio is 37 (!!) pages long, and presents the artworks as handouts. Oh, and we do get player-friendly versions of ALL of the maps! No Spoilers on them, but plenty of details; no immersion-breaking letters or keys. AMAZING.
To reiterate once more: Publishers, this right here should be industry standard! Huge kudos for going the extra-mile, as this renders the folio essentially a massive handout/map-booklet, ready for table-use!
Structurally, this installment of Legendary Planet, like those before, follows the formula popularized by Paizo: We for example get a well-written piece of prose (by Chris A. Jackson). The adventure is designed for 8th level PCs with 2 mythic tiers, and by the end of the module, the PCs should have reached 11th level.
Since the setting of this adventure features a blending of magic and technology, we also have quite an array of archetypes by Jason Nelson, Jeff Lee and Clinton J. Boomer: The book includes the astrologer (mesmerist), delver (wizard), engram channeler (spiritualist), nanotech infuser (sorcerer), penumbral arcanist (arcanist), robot fighter (ranger) archetypes, and the Technopath, Teletechnopath, and Walker in Rust feats. Sound familiar? Yep, this is a significant component of the Magitech Archetypes book. I’ve already covered that book, so I’m not going to retread that discussion here.
The book also contains 8 new magic items:, which include a fishbowl hat, dubbed atmosphere visor, which protects versus inhaled toxins and environmental effects, but not versus vacuum or pressure. Chimes of warning generate a magical resonance, which traverses several miles, providing ample warning – interesting item, and certainly one that has seriously neat application regarding e.g. security system designs, or warnings from Dune worm/tarrasque/etc. critters. The convocation stone is interesting, in that it requires a countdown of concentration before sending request to be teleported to the target – this one has great potential for interesting encounter designs and escapes. The dauntless jacket Is my least favorite item herein – it nets an initiative and skill bonus, as well as a 1/day reroll of an opposed check; at just 4,500 GP, it is pretty inexpensive, particularly for an AP that uses mythic rules. The energy blade, which essentially is a lightsaber, using plasma (half fire, half electricity) as damage basis. And yes, you can use it to fire rays. The orb of venerable memory is interesting, in that it lets you tap into memories/experience, and as such becomes less potent for older characters. Wrappings to conceal magic auras and a minor artifact, the necromantic box, which can be sued to conceal phylacteries, seal in souls or the like, complements this well-wrought section. Matt Goodall also penned this one, and the bestiary-section, which this time around contains 5 new creatures.
Okay, since the monsters, gazetteer and module all are relevant to the story, consider this to be the big SPOILER WARNING. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
Okay, only GMs around? Great!
As for the monsters: The CR 8 Amalgamite Swarm is a super-deadly swarm that can us its Step-Up based feats to maintain control, and with the ability to disperse and reassemble, makes for a challenging foe. The Divymm are sentient constructs with a sueprisingly-detailed customization engine, including different materials. At CR 3, the hetzuud is more deadly than you’d assume: These intelligent oozes may generate perfect copies and duplicate objects…and they can merge. Have you played the phenomenal videogame Prey? Think of the mimic’s from that game, in slime-version, in smarter. Yeah, a good GM can play these fellows as truly dangerous threats. Supported with animal companion stats, I really liked the entry of the CR 3 Narav, a lizard that can detach its tail – so far, so good…but the tail retains its combat-prowess!, and can continue to maintain grapples etc.! That makes sense from a fantastic point of view, yet feels grounded. Love it! Finally, at CR 9, we have the toxic eradicator, an incorporeal ooze, essentially a kind of living poison gar bio-weapon. Nasty!
The gazetteer is once again something I definitely recommend that GMs read prior to the adventure, for this installment sends the PCs to Kylorn, the Sunset World, a tidelocked planet that may be frozen on the night-side, and very hot on the day-side, but not in a way that would be uninhabitable. Indeed, the planet’s sunset strip, if you will, is a lush and fertile land, and we do get a massive map of the surface of the place. This map sports squares, as well as letters and numbers – at one glance, you could e.g. determine whether quadrant 14-UU is in the dusk-zone, the sunset-zone, etc. I LOVE this, and even more so due to the presence of a player-friendly version of the map. The visuals of the planet and its concepts are easily my favorite in the Legendary Planet supplements so far.
Which brings me to the module itself: Now that the PCs have obtained the knowledge contained in The Scavenged Codex after the massive treasure hunt in the last module, they have the means to reopen a dormant path from the world of Kylorn to return home, but unfortunately, the only available gate to said world is controlled by the Thanex Coterie…who deactivated it in a show of force some 300 years ago, and the Coterie is known for being ruthless and rather nasty. Before you fear the like: No, the PCs won’t have to enter a devil’s bargain once more, and make knowledge of the Opus Aeterna known to them, which is not exactly desirable – instead, the first part of the adventure is one massive caper!
The PCs will have to infiltrate the Thanex’ reception halls, steal the component, and then enter the warehouse currently storing the gate. These locations are fully mapped, and I’m absolutely ecstatic to see a well-presented caper executed in the AP. Emphasis on “well-executed”, for, from brute- force to stealth to subterfuge, we have various means of infiltration, fully mapped areas, and more hooks/angles to achieve each part than you can shake a stick at. Moreover, the adventure structures its material in a smart manner: “Who will be there?,” “How will we secure the component?”, helpful tables for stats of nameless staff – this whole section is LITTERED with troubleshooting information and manages to render the caper more freeform than what you’d usually ever get to see in comparable adventures. Indeed, the whole section can be seen as a massive rebuttal to the claim that rules-intense games like PFRPG etc. can’t handle freeform infiltrations/heists properly, as its sheer scope is certainly beyond anything I’ve seen executed for the system.
In case you haven’t noticed: This section is easily my favorite in the AP so far, and I consider it exceptional enough to warrant a recommendation to scavenge the module for it, even if you do not enjoy the sword and planet genre per se. With a bit of reskinning, you can adapt it, and the massive caper is amazing. We need more modules that go this route. It’s really a bit of James Bond/Mission Impossible, seen through a sword and planet lens, even before the custom NPC builds are taken into account. I adore this.
Once the PCs have finally managed to pass through the gate, they will find themselves on the dark side of Kylorn, and they’ll have to navigate the massive, darkened tunnels that crisscross the strange world – between haunts representing temporal instabilities, the deadly bio-weapons (see monster-section above…), they PCs will have their hands full – but thankfully, they will also find the transportation network that will guide them to the habitable zone of the planet via transport tubes, catapulting them through the planet at incredible speeds. (If none of your players quotes Mortal Kombat, Futurama or a similar movie here, I’m sorely disappointed.) After this chapter of claustrophobic survival, the PCs will have a chance to soak in the wonders of this strange new world – and are pointed towards the Citadel of the Oracle.
It is here, however, that the PCs find that the citadel’s been taken over by a coterie of hostile intelligent constructs; it is here we get a more “regular” type of dungeon-crawling and combat experience, but this is not where the module ends: With the citadel liberated, the PCs learn that the planet’s primary gate lies beneath the scorching dayside of the planet…and the trail there will require that the PCs brave the Palace of the Undying Empress, right at the edge of the sun-blasted daylands. Empress Zefora is btw. a lich, and not one of the simple ones: Interesting here would be the fact that this also is a bit of an investigation, as the empress’ undead “daughters” scheme for her demise, adding a very lite bit of intrigue to the mix, which ultimately culminates in attempting to best the undead ruler – who btw. once was an elali, akin to the PC’s faithful ally.
From the palace, the PCs can once more find a part of the transport tube network, as they make their way to the Dragon’s Gate, which is the final area/dungeon of the adventure. Unlike the previous ones, this one is very much linear, and for a reason: This is one of those rare, finely-tuned and mechanically-impressive gauntlets and combat challenges that will definitely test the PCs beyond what you usually get to see, as befitting of their powers and achievements so far. The adversary-selection here is calibrated rather well, as the PCs make their way to the CR 13/MR 5 mythic vortex dragon you can see on the cover. This is, mechanics-wise, a truly fitting and epic final stretch for the module….only to end in failure for the PCs: The gate can’t be used to send them home, and ultimately, while they will gain the ability to stabilize the planet’s secondary gates, the ultimately will have to return to Argosa, though thankfully, the Thanex won’t harbor a grudge, courtesy of the new venues the PC’s meddling has caused…but this will also have once more put them on the radar of the hegemony.
So yeah, if we’re honest, this module didn’t exactly propel the metaplot of the series farther than it was before, making it a candidate you could theoretically cut, but I genuinely found myself minding less than I expected, courtesy of the pitch-perfect execution of the unconventional vistas and genres explored.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, with a plethora of new full color artwork, and full-color cartography, the latter ranging from amazing to good. The inclusion of the art and map folio, as noted above, should be industry standard. The pdf comes bookmarked, with bookmarks for chapter-headers.
Matt Goodall, with supplemental content by Chris A. Jackson, Jeff Lee, Clinton J. Boomer, and Jason Nelson, delivers my personal favorite in the AP so far. I’m a huge sucker for capers and heists, and to see one executed so well warmed my heart. The world of Kylorn is also exciting and most assuredly a place I’d love to visit. I consider this to be a masterclass installment. All great? Well, yes…apart from the relatively slow progression of the metaplot and the class options, which I considered to be not exactly among the finest in Legendary Games’ cadre. Personally, I think that expanding the section on Kylorn or the gazetteer (perhaps gameify in some way the surface map?) would have been a better use of the space than reprinting a significant portion of the Magitech Archetypes book, but then again, but that may be me. Still, it is particularly jarring, since e.g. the engram channeler would have made for a great baseline for a NPC in the palace of eternal sunset, for example – but it’s not used. In short, the class options, while certainly not bad, are also kinda superfluous. Then again, they only take up 8 pages, and I’ve already rated those. As a sidenote: Items and monsters introduced do matter in the module’s context, so this struck me as doubly odd. As a whole, that section’s tacked-on feeling is a main reason why this doesn’t transcend the level of being “just” as great as the AP so far, which should tell you something about how well executed this adventure actually is. (I.e.: This almost reached Top Ten Candidate/Best of…-levels.)
In the end, my final verdict will be based on the main meat of this offering, and that’s the adventure, the setting, the items & monsters – the material that is actually relevant for the AP – and that material is, in the grand scheme of things, simply fantastic in the literal sense of the word: This module breathes the notes of sword and planet romance, with touches of raygun gothic, in a way most exemplary. The module most assuredly is worth running, even if you’re not interested in going through the entire AP, and if you do, prepare to engage in a truly fantastic offering. 5 stars + seal of approval. The run of excellence of the AP remains unbroken, and if Legendary Planet can retain it for the remaining modules, we’ll have an all-time great saga on our hands.
You can get this impressive adventure here on OBS!
The Magitech Archetypes-file may be found here!
While this review is based on the PFRPG-version, the module is also available for other systems:
The 5e-version can be found here!
The SFRPG-version can be found here!
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