By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Corvus Lunaris is 65 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving 60 pages of content – a nice length for an adventure.
Set in Stone is an adventure for characters 4th to 6th level that immediately kicks off by the PC’s arrival in a tranquil little town called Quilton’s Rise. This being an adventure review, this contains massive SPOILERS.
Potential players might want to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right!
The adventure has an uncommon formatting peculiarity that somewhat irritated me in the beginning – the adventure synopsis for the DM is not the first thing you’ll read, rather first providing the information for Quilton’s Rise first. The PCs are recruited by the local lord for a simple task indeed – deliver a note to a dwarven paladin and assist him. Seems simple, right? The reward of 10 GP might look a bit tawdry for these levels, granted, but all right – let’s hope for the PCs taking the bait. The town’s inns and shops are presented in excruciating detail, complete with stats for all the NPCs as well as short lists of what they have for sale – commendable and cool. But what is this adventure about?
Well, turns out said paladin, Boren investigated the disappearance of a pair of star-crossed lovers: A never-do-well son of a drunk and an mercenary captain’s pampered daughter. The PCs will soon find out on their investigations that both the young man’s father blames the mercenary captain for the disappearance, while said captain has his men looking for them. Unbeknownst from both parties, the dwarven paladin came close to finding both.
The PCs, on another hand, will have to meticulously put together puzzle pieces to reconstruct the lover’s disappearance via which horse was taken, when the horse was last seen, the height of the girl, etc. to finally find out they have ventured close to a nest of giant spiders. This investigation is actually quite smart, does not rely on magic or similar gizmos and can actually be solved without succeeding a single skill-check – the mark of good, intelligent writing.
As soon as the PCs venture to the giant spider’s nest, they’ll encounter a battle with rather intelligent tactics for the spiders . Among the remains, a corpse alongside a suicide note may point them towards the local sculptress-virtuoso, an orphan known for stunning, almost life-like renditions of animals as well as some rather subpar works. The thing is, though, that the body can’t belong to the artist – she is still alive!
Investigating the reclusive woman may bring to light the truth, but only if the PCs have managed to put the pieces together to confront the sculptress – she is quite an expert liar and will make some spin a web of elusive answers, all of which can potentially be dismantled by clever PCs. This interrogation MIGHT actually be the climax of the adventure, as the true sculptress is the medusa-born sister to the deceased (and actually talentless) sculptress.
The corpse the PCs found belongs to her, as she committed suicide after forcing her will upon her sister and subsequently petrifying the runaway couple by accident. The rather uncooperative paladin drew the same conclusions, found the medusa and tried to slay her – he was petrified as well. The catch being, that the medusa tries to immortalize her sister by faking a mysterious disappearance – in contrast to her deceased sister, the cursed, petrifying true sculptress is actually a good girl who just wants to leave, start anew and somehow get rid of her curse. Whether the PCs slay or help her, they’ll have to make a weighty decision: While she does have a salve that counters petrification, it’s a) potentially lethal and b) only two doses are left.
After determining who lives and dies (and it’s quite possible that the petrified persons die), the aftermath of the adventure will depend on how the PCs handle the revelation of the true culprit as Lord Quilon’s sculptress and whom the depetrified.
The pdf concludes with 16 pages of NPC-stats for just about anyone the PCs might meet in this adventure, complete with read-aloud descriptions and equipment. The NPCs are not presented according to PFRPG-standard, but rather similar to char-sheets. The two notes are presented as handouts as well and we get a schematic map of Quilton’s Rise and the 1 page map of the Demay’s house.
Editing could have been better – while it is by no means bad, I did notice some typos. The pdf comes with very extensive bookmarks and formatting adheres to a 2-column standard. The pdf is a printer-friendly b/w and comes without any artworks apart from the hideous front cover. Hideous is unfortunately also the moniker I’d give the maps – they are schematic and I’ve doodled more compelling maps on a whiteboard. Formatting and layout are unfortunately downright TERRIBLE. The individual pages have a very wide margin on all sides, resulting in a lot of wasted, blank space and there are some pages that contain almost no text. Not adhering to the PFRPG-standard for the statblocks is another bummer that could have easily been avoided. This pdf is a prime example of the maxim that layout-artists, editors, cartographers and artists are truly the unsung heroes of the business – For the writing of the adventure is actually excellent – in spite of the non-existent artworks, I could always precisely picture the respective NPCs, locations etc. Even better, the way in which the different pieces are put together makes for a compelling and smart adventure that could (provided the PCs include a ranger or druid against the spiders) be solved sans violence – a rare breed of adventure indeed and one I enjoy! 6 bucks are expensive, though, especially as this adventure unfortunately feels not like a professional adventure – the layout is non-existent, no artworks, no maps that deserve the name, editing glitches. While the writing is good, that’s unfortunately the only component of this adventure that works as it should. Seeing that for 6 bucks you can get an excellent adventure by Frog God Games or Raging Swan, 3 installments of 0onegames’ “The Sinking” etc., I have to conclude that, for what’s provided, the price of “Set in Stone” is simply too high. If this was 2 bucks, it would be a steal and justify the lack of artwork and maps – at 6 bucks, though, I can’t recommend this adventure to anyone but those willing to invest work into drawing maps and interested in smart, relatively combat-light low-magic adventures. For those of you belonging to this category, this might be a 3 star-file. For everyone else, though, and taking the industry-standard into account, this is a 1 star file. I sincerely hope the authors can find a way to present their work more professionally – they have potential.
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