Today I'm going to take a look at the second half of the Splinters of Faith Saga, starting with
This pdf is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of advertisements, 1 page SRD, leaving 25 pages of content, so let's check it out!
This being an adventure-review, the following text contains SPOILERS. Potential players might want to jump to the conclusion.
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This installment of "Splinters of Faith" brings us to the Monastery of World Sundering, where a passive, Illmater-like god was once worshiped - before the monastery was swallowed by a now receding glacier, that is. The monastery has been repopulated by a ragtag-band of strange monks (including a bugbear) and would gladly help with the ceremony to anoint the Scepter of Faiths, in spite of their rather rudimentary grasp on the teachings of the god Voard. However, the statue necessary for the task has been stolen and so it falls to the PCs to reclaim it.
This installment follows the tried and true formula of the series to the letter, i.e. we get the good temple (the monastery) as a write-up and then the adventure centered on the evil temple. No transition is provided for and once again, the wilderness-section (this time around rather short) features no new polar hazards or the like. A player's map for the wilderness-exploration is once again missing and once again I'm annoyed by the fact that I'm supposed to draw one myself. Remembering a recent review, I did recall a good option, though: Scavenge the excellent ideas for survival in the cold from the rather lackluster "Ursined, Sealed and Delivered" and add them to this adventure's wilderness and you might get something out of them. (Alternatively, use Open Design's Northlands - still THE resource for adventuring in cold confines, at least in my humble opinion...)
This lack of hazards unfortunately extends towards the cool (pardon the pun) dungeon of this installment - housed within the glacier, guarded by a tribe of Yetis and a white dragon, the statue remains and the PCs will have to find a way to kill the opposition and get the statue back. Oh yeah, and then there's the abode of an archwizard and an option for the PCs to kill his family and make a powerful foe that is mostly unrelated to the whole arc. I think the section would have benefited from this being cut in favor of some more exciting natural hazards, as the dungeon pulls the tries tropes "fall into cold water" and "slippery ground" without using them to the advantage - Yetis in PFRPG generate cold and thus could use water and their chilling abilities to create rather elaborate structures, traps etc., especially under the guidance of their new leader, who is in fact an ogre mage in disguise. Ice-bridges etc. are nice, but when e.g. compared to Ben MacFarland's "The Breaking of Forstor Nagar", the glacier-exploration felt rather like it did not use its full potential - if the glacier is receding, why not add cracks, tremors etc. while the Pcs explore it? Add some magical effects to sections of the ice? Anything really. There is a remorhaz there, why not use it?
As written, the exploration is, once again, a good dungeon, but nothing to write home about. Another wasted potential would be getting the statue back through the dungeon - if e.g. the place was collapsing, the task would be much more daunting and no true guidance for the DM on how to handle the extraction is given. Once the idol has been returned, the PCs might even have preserved Voard's holy texts and reignited a faith that is rather obscure and thus gained another blessing on the way to restoring the Scepter of Faiths.
Editing and formatting are good, I did notice one number missing on the maps, though. layout adheres to the 2-column standard and the b/w-artworks are nice, as are the maps. I already said it: Again, no transition, no player-friendly maps and again: The adventure could have been so much more than it is: The fact that it takes place in the frozen reaches of the world almost doesn't fracture into the adventure if we ignore the standard cold-dangers and slippery surfaces - the dungeon feels not like a glacier, but rather like a white-washed regular cave-dungeon.
I've ranted on long enough about how this scenario falls short on what it could have been and while I've come to expect the series to fall short of its potential, this one does so by a larger margin than others - while the new faith is intriguing and the brotherhood depicted cool, the wilderness suffers from the old problems and the dungeon is bland. In fact, of all the dungeons in the series so far, this is probably the one that felt the least original to me, as it is an iconic location, but the scenario does nothing intriguing with it. Especially when compared directly to the two predecessors, a drop can be detected - Part IV had a stellar temple/wilderness, part V an EXCELLENT dungeon - this one has a good temple. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad module, but seeing the lack of embedding and originality, I'll settle for a final verdict of 3 stars - ok, but nothing too awesome, especially for the series.
This installment of the series is 28 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of advertisements, 1 page SRD, leaving 21 pages of content, so let's check it out!
This being an adventure-review, the following text contains SPOILERS, so potential players, please jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right!
The latest installment of the Splinters of Faith-series presents us the Shield-basilica of Muir, a fortress set in a mountain-range that makes for a more than awesome location: A fortress-garrison of paladins that houses Muir's grindstone, an artifact against which the Scepter has to be hit to hone it and further enchant it. Only happening rarely, the honor of striking the stone has to be earned, though. The ceremony is scheduled to happen soon and in order to win the competition for the honor, the PCs will have to leave on a rescue attempt. The basilica also features some rather iconic defense-mechanisms - a tunnel leads inside and has a corkscrew-like blockage, essentially a stone-revolving door with the option to seal the tunnel while being operated. Neat!
But back to the quest at hand - the PCs will have to brave the pinnacle of Pazuzu, where locust-demons, deadly aerial servants, 4-armed gargoyles and corrupted djinn as well as some rather interesting traps await your PCs and it is in this installment that the difficulty of the campaign arcs up. Once the PCs have saved the damsel in distress, they have earned the right to use the grindstone and receive another blessing for the Scepter of Faiths. I would have loved a social encounter/ some roleplaying- encounter depicting the ceremony/some additional challenges to determine the worthiness of the PCs. None are provided.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to the 2-column standard and the b/w-artworks are neat. The pdf strangely does not offer any bookmarks, which is a pity. The shield-basilica in one of my favorite temples in the whole series and is iconic, cool and smart - a true bastion of good in a world that has changed. The temple is a smart fortress and its non-standard defenses rock. Kudos to the authors for providing yet another smart temple. The evil temple in this installment is a good little dungeon with some rather challenging defenses and neat non-standard foes. While the dungeon is not the best of the series (I still prefer the dungeon in Eclipse of the Hearth), it is one of the best in the series so far. The pdf could easily have been a stellar scenario, but it suffers from the hick-ups of the series as well - no player's maps, no transitions and the great roleplaying scenario of the test of worthiness has been left mostly undeveloped, missing out on a stellar roleplaying opportunity. This installment does not feature a wilderness section and thus I can't complain about player's maps for wilderness areas. Add to that the unnecessary lack of bookmarks and I'll settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.
The 8th installment of the "Splinters of Faith"-series is 36 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement and 1 page SRD, leaving 31 pages of content, so let's check this out!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players might want to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right! The 8th installment of the series once again presents us with a truly distinct and unique temple: The lady of searing waters is a temple shaped like a lotus-flower and built upon the largest one in a field of geysers, resulting in a geyser of scalding water falling down and gathering in the petals of the lotus-shaped temple. After visiting a village at the edge of the volcanically-active badlands, the PCs once again will have to do a favor for the temple: The tube of volcanic glass channeling the scalding water has been compromised by a sleeper-agent of Orcus in service of Akruel Rathamon and in order to get the blessing for the Scepter of Faiths, the PCs will have to replace the broken section with volcanic glass. Fortunately for the PCs, a mine is nearby.
Unfortunately, said mine is now housing more than a few problems: Adherents of the vile teaching of parasite-god father host are trying to build a base in the mines of Honn. Worse, aboleths have started laying siege to the servants of and the cult has lost control of some summoned outsiders from the lower planes that are now hunted down by demonic retrievers. Father Host's druids and wizards are nothing to be trifled with, either - the druids have the unique ability to transform into vermin-forms and animated Buckets and Ropes make the exploration of the mines rather lethal. The climax at the shores of a subterranean lake featuring aboleths, stone giant guards and even a purple worm make for iconic foes the PCs are sure to remember. And then there's again the problem of carrying the volcanic glass back to the temple to finally get the penultimate blessing for the Scepter of Faiths.
Editing and formatting are very good, though a bit worse than in the other installments of the series - I noticed quite a few minor glitches. layout adheres to a 2-column standard and the pdf once again has no bookmarks. Once again, the pdf features no transitions from locations to location or even module to module. Once again, no player-friendly maps are provided, but seeing the lack of wilderness-exploration, that's not as bad. The mines are a stellar dungeon, the temple is excellent in its iconicity and the locations presented rank among the best of the whole series. Even more so a pity that the temple and its surrounding, geyser-studded badlands haven't been further developed with unique hazards. Apart from this complaint on a very high level, I have nothing to be picky about. The dungeon rocks and the temple is a genuine delight. On the other hand, the pdf has no bookmarks and more glitches than other installments of the series, thus preventing me from rating it the full 5 stars. Seeing that the limitations of the series are not as prevalent in this installment and that the overall writing by Gary Schotter & Jeff Harkness is still awesome, I'll settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.
The penultimate installment of the "Splinters of Faith"-series is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 27 pages of content, so let's check it out!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players might wish to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All righty! Following the format of the series, we venture to the island city of Jah Sezar, a magocracy under the benevolent auspice of good arcanists. Once again, a task must be completed to receive the blessing and this one is rather peculiar: A good being has to willingly sacrifice his/her life in order to provide for the final blessing. Thankfully, an angel is currently being tortured in Abhor Brazier, the temple-fortress of Hecate. Situated at the complete other end of the world map, the two locations are VERY far apart and make the lack of transitions/journeys/wilderness-sections quite apparent. As the temple is located at the top of a mountain, altitude adaption is a problem that has to be taken into account. While rules are provided, more hazards and a more pronounced effect of the altitude would have been nice to add complications to the scenario.
The Hecate-temple of Abhor Brazier (3 levels btw.!) is a rather large fortress and features some individuals that would make careful planning on part of the PCs advisable: From a 5-headed iron-golem hydra with decapitating bites to several NPCs of CR 15 and higher, we are in for pain - a lot of pain. Especially the high priestess is a foe not to battle on her own terms - CR 20 if they do, even without additional support from other denizens! While the intrigues within the temple make semi-stealthy solutions viable, they do so only to an extent - with all the spells at the disposal of Hecate's wizards, PCs will be hard-pressed to keep their intrusion under the radar. While the dungeon is lethal and works well as a deadly crucible for the PCs to pass and as a preparation for the things to come in the climax, the scenario nevertheless borders on being a meat-grinder. Which is not bad per se, at least for me - after all, I really love Rappan Athuk.
What is a downer for me in this module is, that some obvious chances were not taken: The followers of Hecate scream "Witches" to me, not wizards/sorcerors and I would have really loved for this module to provide us with some high-level witch-antagonists. That's a personal preference, though: What is more grievous, is that the temple is, especially when compared to the excellently-written temples from the other installments, rather bland. It just feels common, like yet another deadly dungeon to be cleaned out without offering much in the way of originality. Oh well, once the angel has been rescued and the followers of Hecate vanquished, the anointment of the Scepter will be complete and it is time to confront Akruel himself in issue 10.
The decline of quality in editing and formatting started in the 8th installment unfortunately continues and I found quite a bunch of editing/formatting glitches, even some double sentences. Layout adheres to the 2-column b/w-standard of the series and the artworks are neat. The pdf thankfully has bookmarks, although I don't get why so many other installments don't have them. This installment, more than others, is plagued by the issues of the series - no transition is especially grievous when the good temple is FAR away from the last one visited and when the evil one is essentially on the other side of the map. The high altitude and environmental complications have been kept to a minimum in favor of extremely deadly fights with spell-casters that feel a bit redundant - some less overkill on their levels in favor of environmental obstacles would have gone a long way in making the whole module more memorable. The lack of infiltration-routes like secret passages etc. unfortunately lead towards the DM either pooling resources and crushing the PCs like bugs or the "waiting bad guy"-syndrome. Information on how the temple reacts to alarms/ repeated incursions would have helped a lot in portraying the temple as a believable fortress. Add to that the fact that the temple is nothing special in appearance/structure etc. and we're unfortunately in for my least favorite installment of the whole series - "Duel of Magic" feels like "the obligatory evil magic-user fortress" of the line and didn't excite me crunch or fluff-wise. In fact, I consider the fluff of installment I to be superior to this one. Were it not for the glitches, I'd settle for a final verdict of 3 stars due to some interspersed good ideas, but as written I can't say I was impressed by any component of this module. The authors have shown that they can do better. My final verdict will be 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2.
The final installment of the "Splinters of Faith"-series is 44 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC and 1 page SRD, leaving a whopping 40 pages of content for the grand finale of the sags, so let's check it out!
This being an adventure-review, the following text contains SPOILERS, thus potential players are encouraged to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right! The Scepter of Faiths has been restored to its full power by the belligerent PCs and now it is time to finally crush the threat that is Akruel Rathamon once and for all! As befitting of a finale, this installment of the series breaks the formula of the series and ventures straight for Al-Sifon, the power-base of the resurrected vampire lord without stopping at a good temple first. In order to to find the temple, the PCs are in for a neat and creepy wilderness exploration of the seething jungle - deserted villages, partly conquered and partially charmed speak a language of impeding destruction - Akruel is amassing his armies, both living and undead and the jungle shows. Unfortunately, the wilderness-exploration once again suffers from the problem of the series of lacking a player-friendly map for the section. On the other hand, though, the deserted jungle and Al-Sifon feature truly unique landmarks - from a monolith that resurrects the dead to an ominous storm that can only temporarily be dispersed and jots down tell-tale bolts of negative energy, the Aztec-style temple and its surrounding city OOZE iconicity.
In fact, the exploration is rather important, for the PCs will need numerous forays into Akruel's territory in order to beat the powerful vampire - in terms of difficulty, this module surpasses even its deadly predecessor, but offers unique challenges and even secret entry-point to the ziggurat of the dread foe. In addition to the deadly challenges awaiting the players in the city per se, they'll e.g. have to deal with tyrannosaurus-creatures led by will-o-wisp-herders, death nagas and even a green dragon, which might make for an uncommon ally against dread Rathamon. The dungeon per se lacks nothing in terms of iconicity and both ziggurat and catacombs provide ample opportunities for showdowns with Akruel and his undead legions: From portals to the negative energy plane to the legendary Frore Heart, source of Akruel's immortality, the deadly climax of the series surpasses each and every dungeon in the series and provides for a dreadful climax of epic proportions. Well done!
Editing and formatting are unfortunately once again not up to the usual standard of FGG, sporting unfortunately quite a few glitches like double sentences etc. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard and the b/w-artworks rock. The pdf is extensively bookmarked - neat! While the wilderness-section once again suffers from a lack of player's maps for the wilderness-sections and no transition from the last installment is provided, this pdf makes up for these shortcomings by introducing us to a deadly jungle, a cool dungeon, an iconic villain that oozes antiquity, options for stealth and a writing that is on par with Greg A. Vaughan's iconic imagery. In fact, I'd go for a full 5 stars, were it not for the ample glitches that could easily have been caught with another pass at editing. Thus, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.
Conclusion for the whole series:
So, is "Splinters of Faith" a worthy purchase? Yes and no - on the one hand, we get ample of cool temples, wilderness and dungeon-settings. On the other hand, i feel like the sags suffers massively under the format - the individual installments feel disjointed and unfortunately repeat the same formula over the course of the whole series, feeling rather like a weekly series than an organic campaign. The fact that no overall travelling/transition-guidelines are provided, hurts the series and makes it feel like an episodic series that has blank spots in between the adventures. While some of the installments are slightly less compelling than others, sparks of greatness pervade the series in its awesome ideas only to fail to realize them to their full extent.
Due to the lack of player-friendly maps for the wilderness-sections and the lack of transitions between temples and dungeons, a DM has to invest quite a bit of work to make the campaign work smoothly, but said work WILL be rewarded. Overall, I can't help but feel that presenting the campaign in a format similar to Slumbering Tsar (including transitions etc.) would have greatly benefited the series and made it a true blast. Especially if you want a feeling of a world that is very much points of light in style, a world that has had its great civilizations fall and is a hostile place, then the stellar old-world feeling of the series definitely will appeal to you. In spite of its problems, my overall verdict for the series will be 4 stars - I'm looking forward to reading more from Gary Schotter & Jeff Harkness.
It should be noted, that each of the modules is also available for Swords and Wizardry, a 0e-edition retro variant by FGG.