By Thilo Graf
This adventure from Rite Publishing is 48 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial and ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 44 pages of content, so let’s check it out!
Disclaimer: I’m a latecomer patron this project.
The first thing you’ll notice when taking a look at this adventure is its layout – Jonathan Roberts, cartographer extraordinaire, has also provided the stunningly beautiful layout for this pdf, which actually surpasses most rpg-books I’ve seen. It’s really worth a mentioning if the layout appears like some kind of extra piece of art. Oh yeah, art. Cover and interior artist Tyler Bartley along his co-illustrators Jonathan Roberts (again, what can’t the guy do?) and James “DevinNight” Hazelett provide some of the most eye-boggling, stunning pieces of artwork I’ve ever seen in any 3pp-product: The 5 pieces of original artwork are so beautiful it almost hurts and rank on the same level as Paizo and similar first party publishers, if not even surpassing them. James Hazelett provides a plethora of easy to use paper-counter-like mini-artworks like the ones you might e.g. know from his Dark Forest pack. Have I mentioned that each and every locale featured in the adventure gets its own map by Jonathan Roberts? If there ever was a beautiful rpg-book that screamed “I’m a high-quality” premium product when looking at it, this is it. The Breaking of Forstor Nagar is an 8th level adventure, but that is about all I can say prior to going into details, so from here on to the conclusion,
SPOILERS REIGN! If you intend to participate as a player, stop reading and jump to the conclusion NOW!
Still here? All right!
Forstor Nagar not only sounds like an awesome place (or a black/death metal band) but rather is – the city is carved into a glacier and subsequently consists mostly of ice, a beautiful and cool backdrop if there ever was one. But what exactly are the PCs supposed to do there? Well, the city is under siege by the dread Hungering legion, an army of devil-driven cannibalistic barbarians set to consume the heart of the city’s legendary oracle to attain its foresight. Meanwhile, via one of the 4 sample hooks provided, the PCs will have to infiltrate the city and convince a certain Mathinder to escape with them – before the Breaking of Forstor Nagar is complete and the last defenders fall to the terrible cannibals. Who are a great looming force – somewhat reminiscent of Fierfly’s reavers, several origins to customize them are included, adding to their mystery and making their implementation into any given campaign world a rather easy feat to accomplish.
The adventure drops the PCs almost in medias res, beginning their assault/chase through Forstor Nagar via their descent from an ice bridge to a fireboat’s deck manned by legionnaires – it’s up to the PCs to take the boat by force, prevent its crashing into the city walls or follow some other, clever plan. A surefire way to tell good design from bad is when an encounter can easily be modified and acknowledge different PC-strategies like using water elementals etc – all in all one of the most memorable first encounters in any given adventure I’ve had the pleasure of reading.
It is here I’d like to add that extensive information on the locale, temperatures, terrain etc. is included throughout the whole adventure, significantly facilitating play. The second encounter has the PCs, via the rooftops, open or disguised, get behind the line of defense of Forstor Nagar’s defenders and their cool lightning-ballista siege weapons. Whether social, stealthy, smart or slaying, a plethora of options is encouraged by the 3 starting positions, Jonathan Robert’s beautiful map and Ben McFarland’s smart design. the terrain is used to full effect in this encounter, guaranteeing a memorable encounter that is followed up by a cool part where the PCs find the now shattered green houses of the ice city along the intruding remorhazes – after all, what better source to generate sufficient heat in these dread climates? They can even prevent further attacks by these dread creatures and might also meet a multitude of monkeys throwing stinking fruit, a nice nod to one of my favorite 2nd edition adventures of old.
Depending on their actions, the upcoming assault on a barricade of the legion will be one hellish battle with the legion and its infernal hunger devils to offer enough time to evacuate the diplomatic compound, saving further citizens (with sample personalities given, offering the extra mile of information that makes running adventures a joy and easy) and finally making contact with Mathinder…who wants the whole refugees be saved as well. Thankfully, Mathinder is not lawful stupid and after the nice change of pace the social encounter provides, has a plan. The plethora of refugee-characters make for as many or as few additional complications as the DM desires, and the next encounter has the hungering legion fight more than dirty as the PCs try to take out one of the legion’s pitch-casting siege weapons, finally reaching the temple of the oracle, where magical escape is waiting if they rescue more hostages and best some rhino cavalry, that is. Yes. I just wrote “rhino cavalry” as an afterthought – the adventure is that good. Sometimes, life as a reviewer is good to me.
Unfortunately, the oracle is an adult white dragon and the ensuing three-way battle between oracle, legion and PCs makes for an iconic & awesome climax – just to have the main forces of the legion arrive and the characters, hopefully, barricading the temple to flee through collapsing ice tunnels, braving stray, final legionnaires, collapsing sections and seeking to reach the saving teleport circle and escape from the collapsing weight of the city coming down upon the catacombs.
The sequence also comes with complicating factors, a lot of sample DCs and a skill-challenge-style optional encounter to repair the circle.
The pdf also offers 5 new magic items: From the skin-rending “flensing” quality, to arachnid bolas and ghoul nets, we get a nice set of disturbing tools. The pdf closes with the CR+1 hungering creature template as well as 4 pregens.
That’s not where the content stops, though: The Breaking of Forstor Nagar was created with full support for virtual table tops, enabling you to play this pdf via the internet and all your friends, wherever in the world they may be via the free maptool (including a YouTube tutorial by the guys from RiP), Fantasy Grounds, and TTopRPG – seeing the quality of the artworks and Jonathan Robert’s cartography, this experience is sure to not only be pleasing on a content-level, but also to the eye.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice a single glitch and the pdf is extensively bookmarked. I already commented on the stunning two-column layout, though I’d like to say that it’s draining on the printer – I suggest you get a full color print copy of this devilishly handsome book if you want to run it. I’m jaded, let’s face it. I’ve seen and read so many RPG-books, it’s hard to excite me and especially adventures often fall short of my own high expectations. I won’t have to modify Breaking of Forstor Nagar. I’ll change diddly-squat. This pdf is Ben McFarland’s roaring rampage through an insidiously well-crafted, yet simple plot, taking flying, invisibility and similar tools at the PCs disposal into account, while providing a huge amount of awesome ideas. The tour de force through the city of grinding ice along its harrowing conclusion and nail-biting, exciting escape has me asking for more. This pdf is a stellar example of peak performance of all the talents that go into crafting a good book – from formal criteria, cartography, editing, writing, art, layout, writing and innovation (this being to my knowledge the first PFRPG-adventure that has specifically been designed for use with VTTs), Breaking of Forstor Nagar would be a prime candidate for 5 stars even without the support. With it and facing the raw quality of the combination of stellar performances by the individual participants who collaborated in this book, I can only say that I’d give this 6 stars if I could. My final verdict will be 5 stars, the Endzeitgeist seal of approval and the knowledge that this adventure will be sure to reemerge in my third party publisher’s top ten list of 2011, it’s that good.
Sometimes life as a reviewer is good.