By Thilo Graf
This pdf from White Haired Man is 34 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page sketch token concept art, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving 28 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
The Kith’takharos-region is the mini-setting of White Haired Man and is essentially a trading post in an inhospitable swamp that lives off the sales off rare swamp plants. The adventure begins with the PCs arriving in the region and has the local arm of the law, Dorian Orsolova, explain the local laws to them – the few that exist, that is. One of them, e.g. is “Murder or attempted murder without fair cause is illegal”. While adventurer-friendly, this law in particular makes clear that Kith’takharos is anything but a safe place to be. It should be noted that some maps are provided of the overall region and the village, unfortunately with a map-key (letters and numbers), the bane of my existence.
After the PCs have somewhat gotten used to the used environment, they get to listen to an old man’s rather long and interesting narrative and the get a job offer.
This being an adventure-review, the following paragraphs contain SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right! The PCs encounter a new contact, a man called Meryl Dunestal who works for one of the factions, the rather unscrupulous Transit Guild which negotiates and is a partner and rival for power of the Order of Jade Leaves. Meryl want the PCs to locate a missing man named Almus, who essentially was operating outside Kith’takharos’ law on behalf of the guild. Locating him, his route and whatever he has learned is the PC’s task. Boarding a skiff, they set out through the marshlands and hopefully avert the attack of the local rather deadly member of the wildlife in the form of a giant lizard at the locale of Almus’ boat. After following the trail, the PCs will have an encounter with the Swamp Men, a type of Lizardfolk that is not necessarily hostile and follow the trail to one of the scarce freshwater springs in the marshland.
There, the rare F’maso plant grows (which btw. gets its own b/w-artwork and might be interesting to the guilds) and the trail runs cold in a splatter of blood and signs of conflict – a swamp man-skeleton draped to a tree serves as another grim warning and then the PCs find an old temple, including a bloodied altar in the jungle. It should be noticed that the old temple comes with a player-friendly version of the map – commendable and something I’d love to see in more adventures. The exploration of the temple is neat – the players have to fight blood mosquito swarms and finally defeat a cultist of a dark god. It should be noted that both the swarm and the cultist come with rather extensive text to paraphrase to your players. Unfortunately, though, not all is well here: In one room, the PCs have to make ref-saves to balance (something usually done via acrobatics-checks in PFRPG) and in another room, there’s a 50% chance that the PCs get damaged by cold damage – a rather strange and clunky mechanic that is not per se conform with design standards. And then there’s the Blood Priest’s magic item: The staff is a quarterstaff +2, grants +3 to saves and enables the user to share pain thrice per day: I.e. for some rounds, an opponent takes the same damage the wielder does on a failed will save. This is the reward for a LEVEL 1 ADVENTURE! NO EFFIN’ WAY! First “Crypt of the Sun Lord” and now this one – for the challenges this adventure has for the PCs, the reward is utterly off the charts! A Ring of protection +3, e.g. is the equivalent of 18.000 GP and this staff is BETTER. Oh, but the staff also lacks crafting information or the like. While the staff needs to be activated via a gruesome sacrifice, this is STILL a very potent item and less scrupulous PCs will actively look for an NPC that is vile enough to warrant sacrifice. I’d encourage any DM to let this item vanish once the dark priest is vanquished, lest it tempt all but the good adventurers.
Upon their return, the adventure concludes with some suggestions for following up adventures and even a potential conflict with the Jade Leaf or an improved standing with the Transit Guild. Resourceful PCs could smell smuggling opportunities and should by now have a good idea of this mini-setting and its components.
Editing and formatting are good, though some slightly awkward wordings sometimes disturb the otherwise nice flow of the long (players might get bored listening to that much text) narratives. Layout adheres to a rather printer-friendly, 2-column standard and comes with quite a bunch of artworks for several key-scenes and figures, which I quite frankly didn’t expect at this price-point. The pdf comes with bookmarks and the full color maps are neat – especially the player-friendly map is a nice bonus at this low price point. It should also be noted that the pdf is linked, so you can easily jump from paragraph to images etc. Kith’takharos is an interesting location and this adventure is a neat introduction to the locale that gets the players involved in the local politics. While the locale, narratives etc. are nice, it is obvious that this pdf is a first offering for PFRPG in that it breaks a couple of design-standards and mechanics, as mentioned in my review. Thus, in spite of an overall good presentation and ok exposition/writing, I’d settle for a verdict of 2.5 stars and round down, for a final verdict of 2 stars.
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