Plight of the Tuatha – Dark Sails & Dark Words
The third installment of the somewhat Celtic-styled Plight of the Tuatha-saga clocks in at a massive 122 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with an impressive 116 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Well, before we dive into the nit and grit of the module itself, let us take a look at the supplemental material featured herein: The pdf contains 4 sample pregenerated characters for your perusal, all with full-color artworks. Beyond these, the book also contains the Lawspeaker PrC. IT spans 10 levels and provides full BAB-progression as well as 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progression. The PRC gains d8 HD and requires ~5th level to take, with the Imperiums Interrogate-skill being required alongside a story-relevant task. The character must also be proficient with martial melee weapons. Lawspeakers gain 6+Int skills per level and gain universal proficiency with all armors and shields and all melee weapons as well as ranged simple weapons; however, they may not use martial ranged weapons sans losing their class abilities for 24 hours. Okay, so proficiency-wise, the PrC gets ALL exotic melee weapon proficiencies at first level…that is pretty nasty. Providing the proficiencies upon taking the PrC and then dispersing new ones gained through the levels would have been more elegant and less prone to dip-abuse. Starting at 1st level, the lawspeaker becomes the beacon of a modus lex, a type of law if you will. The save DC is equal to 10 + 1/2 class level + both Wis and Cha mod – two attributes to DC is nasty.
Also, the rules-language violates formatting standards here – lower case save and the sequence and formatting of the DC formula, while functional, also deviates from the standard. The lawspeaker can choose from 7 types of modus lex and the ability radiates an aura that penalizes actions pertaining the modus lex chosen. Unfortunately, this is where the rules-language falls apart a bit; not so it’s unsalvageable, but to the extent where it definitely requires clarification. Higher levels net additional types of modus lex and allow the character to further increase the penalties imposed for specific types of modus lex – the higher the penalty, the larger the range of the aura – as mentioned, pretty functional per se, but it took me 3 readings to get what the ability is supposed to do. Lawspeakers gain masks that allow them easy ingress to gatherings and they may prepare one specific one- or two-handed weapon as a weapon of judgment that increases its weight, but gains enhancement bonuses for every 3 such increases. Cool: Only the lawseaker or an angel can lift the weapon. As a nitpick – the ability should specify that the +5 maximum cap remains in effect.
At 2nd level provides mystic knowledge of the letter of the law as well as social skill bonuses and 3d level hampers divinations targeted at the lawspeaker as well as bonuses to perceive criminals. 5th level provides more skill bonuses and the option to erect a structure from the ground – the spell referenced here is not properly italicized. Not the only one, just fyi. 6th level provides a general sense for crimes in proximity that assumes a level of severity from 1 to 3. 7th level is wonky – it nets 2 fighter levels when attempting to punish the target of a judgment. Why not codify this with proper bonuses? Also: Any 1st level inquisitor can issue judgments. The ability itself needs a trail to activate, making it obvious that it’s supposed to refer to that, but using “judgment” here still renders the ability ambiguous and needlessly clunky. 9th level nets slippery mind and, as a capstone, the lawspeaker can suspend a law in a whole area, sanctioned by the gods – the larger the area and the more severe the law, the higher the cost. All in all, I like a lot of the PrC and it is functional, but the numerous deviations from formatting standards and the similar hiccups in rules-language depiction make it harder to grasp than necessary – still, it has some serious flavor and style.
The pdf also features a bestiary section that features the creatures featured in the module – these include classics as well as new ones; however, even in the case of the old ones, we do get lore-sections for the respective creatures and new creatures featured do have unique and rather cool signature abilities like ignoring AC-bonuses granted by force effects. Also glorious: Know how back in the days of old, creatures actually had more detailed notes on interaction and ecologies? Well, such things are included. Rather nice here is that the pdf introduces the lamia subtype – those cursed by the gods; said creatures are susceptible to the divine and minotaurs, medusae and the like are codified with this subtype, with unique abilities to make them more minotaur-like, more medusa-like, than usual – you know, with e.g. labyrinth-themed abilities ; think of that as basically a more interesting iteration, not unlike the Mythic versions Legendary Games champions, but without the power escalation associated with Mythic Adventures. Cool!
This level of detail regarding interaction and the like also affects the significant array of NPCs featured herein. The pdf also features the rules used in the Imperiums Campaign Setting, including the awesome idea of emergences and faction approval tracking rules. Beyond that, cities and structures can be found in the appendices – the respective settlements come with full statblocks and the membership, leadership or summaries are truly intriguing…oh, and there would be rules for a powerful tower that delivers increasingly powerful blasts of heat damage…think of that one as an obelisk of NOD or scorching towers. The pdf also features a serious amount of magical items, which include doublets to enhance items…and then, the pdf gets completely unique in its takes on magical items: You get a metric TON of information, including a massive array of diverse items that also feature e.g. the tools of Senmut, three enchanted architect’s tools…all with truly unique options. The magic items featured here breathe a spirit of the magical; they feel like items truly infused with powers beyond. The artworks featured for two of the items featured here are absolutely glorious full-color pieces.
Okay, but you’re not here for all of this material, right? So let’s take a look at the main meat – at the module. The following, thus contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
The PCs are still tasked to bring the Antecedent of Erasement to the city of Chandegar at the request of their Tuatha ally Philiandrius – and they will need the rather long trip to recuperate from the unpleasant things the adversaries will have inflicted on them in the previous module. Open questions left in the previous module and sidetrek suggestions are provided for your convenience, including chances to potentially get up to the level required by the module – the suggestions are pretty neat. The section also features some rather nice poetry, with six stanzas of an epic poem repeated, providing a great means to immerse the players in the world.
The arrival at the lavishly-detailed city of Chandegar is next, the shining gem of Aeliode – if the general theme of the Plight of the Tuatha so far focused on an old world early middle ages, Gaelic-influenced aesthetic, the town of Chandegar is closer in style to a blending of the Minoan/Greco-roman themes combined with those of quasi-Egyptian style. Arrival at the town will see the PCs probably foil a pickpocket trying to steal from a gorgeously depicted woman wizard – and they are not the only ones; a tribune of the fifth pillar witnesses everything and proceeds, as lawspeakers, to pronounce judgment; getting involved in the trial will change their relationships with factions.
After this introduction, the module becomes one of the best written towns I have seen as a backdrop in a published module; the city features extensive information pertaining skill checks to unearth unique bits and pieces of information as well as links to the Imperiums CS homepage, where a whole array of random names for NPCs can be found; similarly, dressing events for Chandegar and additional shops and items make the city grow beyond the confines allotted by the page-count of the module. The GM’s map of the city, absolutely gorgeous and in full color, spans two pages. From chances to catch diseases and reaping consequences from previous modules, there is a ton of codified dressing, more than you usually see in all but sourcebooks explicitly devoted to depicting a city.
This level of detail is further upgraded . the module, in several parts, has “Up the Ante” sidebars – and if your players are as hardcore as mine, you most certainly appreciate these suggestions to make the module more challenging; beyond simple scaling, you also can use these to cater to the tastes of your players. When the PCs arrive in the Gilded Peacock, the Inn not only gets a full menu, the PCs also walk into the tail-end of a discussion between the Culling and the proprietor, as they seem to be on the hunt for a specific individual. When the PCs finally meet up with Chondus…it is a winged humanoid…a quasit! While this does not change the dire threat the Fomoire pose, it is a component that needs to be handled with care by the GM, as it is a full-frontal mallet-to-the-face hint that Philiandrius does have a darker side to him as well…and indeed, with demonic tact, refusal to be of further assistance will leave a dark threat hanging over the PC’s home. And indeed, while subtle this is not, the pdf does provide advice on PCs refusing to work with the demonic thing.
Either way, it looks like Philiandrius requires a book called “Corporeal Bindings and Sunderings of Transmigratorial Spirits”, written by one wizard named Iaret, studded with 4 sigils that would need to be copied; to the demon’s knowledge, the book would be situated in the library of the Governor Mamet…and then, the PC’s privacy is crashed, as the Fomoire crash in…and don’t try killing the PCs. Instead, a diplomat tells the PCs that Philiandrius is basically only using humans as meat shields, caring nothing for them and that he will use the power gained by the sigils against all not of elven blood. The diplomat then process to make a counter offer…but whom to trust?
In either way (or if the PCs completely try to go off the rails), the trip to the library, however ingress is gained, will feature an unanticipated confrontation with some powerful and notoriously nasty outlaws/adventurers. After dealing with these dangerous rivals, the librarian will note that…all of Iaret’s texts are gone. At the living cell erstwhile utilized by Iaret within the library, the PCs will have the means to pick up the trail that rapidly cools…oh, and the Culling seems to be after her. The notes of the wizardess do mention several people by name…and structure-wise, this is where this module fully comes into itself. Ina sense of irony, the wizardess the PCs met at the docks, as they are bound to find out, was none other than Iaret!
You see, the PCs have a ton of different leads with the names of the allies of Iaret and the module suddenly turns into a glorious free-form investigation with a lot of cool ways to interact with the various factions…oh, and the PCs get to participate in politics, influencing the vote regarding the city’s stance toward the Avitian Empire – the PCs will have all the tools at their disposal and the names; basically, the task is to utilize the overt and covert means at their fingertips to radically change the course of history via flattery, assassination, bribes, pandering to religion or simply rhetoric. This section, when handled right, evokes the glorious tropes of byzantine shadow politics so often depicted in fantastic fiction set in such an era. If I were to go into the particulars of this section, this review would be bloated by several pages beyond its length! Suffice to say, I absolutely LOVED this section; it is smart, evokes a great atmosphere and I’ve seen the like not done this well in ages. The trail of Iaret mentions the Dust of Aeliode, a sect that believes the gods to not be creators of the world, but rather despots that perpetuate a lie to maintain control over the world – the temple of the thrice eclipsed seems to be the headquarter of this sect…and it is here the PCs will explore a dungeon that features scarab golems, chances to deal with lamiae and reach a manor in the fantastic undercity of the metropolis – think of it as a twisted mini-crawl in decadent surroundings that features the tropes of classics like Caverns of Thracia and Greek mythology.
Euryale, legendary being (yes, pretty much what we’d associate from the myths…with a twist) confirms that Iaret was brought to the Tower of Light, to be handed over to the Culling – in order to save her, the PCs will need to secure a boat…oh, and guess what: Time for a boat chase…and deal with the tentacle of the kraken and dealing with the Culling’s vessel…and follow it through a rift in reality, fighting foes and emons alike – and in the end, Philiandrius’ masterplan will have been completed; he’ll gate in, use the power accumulated to transform into a lich…and inform the PCs of the genocide he has planned; after all, by making all the elves liches, he’ll save them from the fomoire doom encroaching right? And if it takes a continent of humans to die, who cares? He’ll even graciously leave a couple alive for them! Such a nice guy…
Kidding aside, it may seem like things have suddenly escalated rather badly…and indeed, they have. A dire prophecy calls the PCs back to Iria, and with war and revolution brewing in the grand city, with quite possibly a couple of factions on their heel, the PCs will have to venture homewards sooner or later for a cold homecoming indeed…
The pdf does sport a player map of the gorgeous city; the city map, though, unfortunately still sports the large letters of the map key, which, blue and jarring, stick out from the per se gorgeous drawing. I really wished the module had a version of this map sans the key.
Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal level; on a rules-level, the pdf is similarly precise, with the notable exception of the PrC, which, while functional, does feature some deviations. Layout adheres to Mór Games’ gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the artworks featured herein are absolutely gorgeous and Paizo-level in quality. Kudos indeed! The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.
William Moomaw’s third part of Plight of the Tuatha is in equal parts byzantine city politics and smart free-form investigation sandbox for smart players, great sourcebook, homage to the classic Caverns of Thracia and high-action finale, with a finale that will leave a clump within the stomachs of your players – the stakes are truly high for a level 6 module and the end leaves you craving the finale to this unique saga.
More so than the module component, I think one of the stand-alone components in the pdf is that its design and aesthetic hearkens back to the Classic period and truly Medieval period, as opposed to the early modern period aesthetics most settings like the Forgotten Realms, Golarion, etc. sport. The atmosphere conveyed here is simply evocative, the production values great. While the PrC does have a couple of rough spots and does not reach the level of awesomeness of the module itself, as a whole, this is a truly glorious module. The Plight of the Tuatha saga is one of the hidden gems the 3rd party circuit has bestowed upon us – after the somewhat rough first module, Part II and now this truly upped the ante.
This is an evocative, fun and unique module for the thinking player, for the roleplayers and those of us that enjoy immersing ourselves in a world and culture that resonates with an uncanny sense of fantastic realism. In short – this is a great, glorious offering, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.
You can get this superb module here on OBS!