A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement Mother of Flies

Mother of Flies is the fifth, #29, in the Council of Thieves Adventure Path from Paizo Publishing, the next in the series following The Infernal Syndrome. The supplement is published for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and, as such, is covered by the Open Game License with some of it being considered to be Open Game Content as a result. Characters are assumed to have reached 9th level at the start of the adventure and should have reached 11th level by its end. The adventure path concludes in the final instalment, The Twice-Damned Prince.

The PDF is available from the Paizo site for $13.99 but was purchased at the reduced price of $9.79. It is also available as a softcover book, primarily from sites such as Amazon. The PDF is the version reviewed and has 100 pages. Two pages are the front and rear covers, two pages are the inside covers which have a map of Westcrown and the surrounding, showing the sites for the adventure, and the Dramatis Personae, two pages are the front matter, one page is the Table of Contents, one page is what’s coming next month and the Open Game License and four pages are ads for other Paizo products.

Mother of FliesFact or Fiction is the two page Foreword and it mainly concerns Pathfinder fiction. Each Adventure Path instalment includes a piece of fiction (and this Foreword does confirm the similarity between the Council of Thieves fiction piece and Sherlock Holmes) but there is also mention of upcoming books (now a fact) and how they weren’t planning on writing world-shattering fiction (something that the old TSR did tend to do).

Mother of Flies is the adventure itself. This gives some background to a hag, the titular Mother of Flies, who lives outside of Westcrown. Having lost her sister and daughter to one of the Council of Thieves, who she had tricked, she had then plotted her revenge. The Mother took too long and control of the Council has now been usurped. In order to preserve herself and get her revenge, she will need to ally with the characters.

Part One: A Mother Scorned sees the players approached by a previously unknown NPC, or perhaps by another NPC with which they have an existing relationship, who wishes their help with a contact of his who he had promised to get out of town. Doing so will enable the characters to learn more about the Council of Thieves. This results in the players walking into an ambush, and a redcap associate of the Mother of Flies may help.

Part Two: War in Hagwood has the players travelling to the Hagwood outside the city where the Council of Thieves has invested the tree home of the Mother of Flies. They can help rescue her from this, in return for which she will give them more useful information.

Part Three: The Hidden Ways of Walcourt is the final encounter of the adventure. This sees the players exploring a safe house belonging to the Council of Thieves, one that the Mother of Flies told them about. The players may also be encouraged to go as the NPC from Part One may (or may not; both are mentioned) have been made prisoner there, along with his family, due to his involvement with the characters. This safe house is substantial in size, being in its own estate and having levels both above and below ground – as well as a fairly substantial amount of treasure in the vault belonging to the Council of Thieves. Most of this is stolen, and selling it may be a problem; returning it to its rightful owners is given as an alternative. This safe house is the location of one of the major villains of the adventure path.

Concluding the Adventure wraps things up and considers what will happen should the characters fail to defeat the villain and be captured by him instead.

Ecology of the Thieves’ Guild is an article on thieves’ guilds, why they come to be, how they communicate, using methods such as thieves’ cant, how they organise and recruit, why people join and what benefits they get, different types of criminals and crimes and their allies and enemies. There is a battlemap of a sample underground thieves’ lair and it discusses why such guilds are not necessarily evil and how other organisations that aren’t pure thieves’ guilds might overlap in some areas, such as freedom fighters and spies.

Asmodeus covers the ruler of the Nine Hells, an important deity in the Golarion setting, one of the oldest gods and, according to some tomes, the creator of pretty much everything. This chapter details his worship, priests, military orders and paladins (yes, some Lawful Good paladins apparently worship perhaps the most powerful Lawful Evil deity), aphorisms and holy texts (many), holidays (he doesn’t care but his church does), relations with other religions (surprisingly good), artefacts, new spells, priests of Asmodeus and planar allies.

Hell’s Pawns Part 5 of 6: Blackrose Gardens is the penultimate instalment of the piece of fiction set in the capital of Cheliax.

The Bestiary has a wandering monster table for the environs of Westcrown which, due to the attack on the Mother of Flies by the Council of Thieves, are rather more hazardous than normal. A suggestion is made to roll twice on the table to create encounters between the two opposing forces.

Also detailed are six new monsters. One of these is unique and is the Herald of Asmodeus, who was mentioned in the chapter on that deity. One is a guardian monster from the east (it sounds Indian, specifically Hindu, in origin from the text) that is encountered in the adventure. One is a new type of devil, although not a true fiend, that comes in greater and lesser types. One is a denizen of the Plane of Shadow which is encountered during the adventure. The remaining two are what is essentially an eldritch abomination from the depths of the earth (quite what relevance this has to the adventure isn’t clear) and the final one is a new type of vampire, of Greek origin with Slavic influences which can be encountered as a wandering monster.

Finally, Pregenerated Characters has the four characters from earlier books again but advanced in level.

Mother of Flies in Review

The PDF is well bookmarked with major and minor sections linked. The Table of Contents is less thorough, only covering the different chapters. Navigation is therefore above average. The text maintains a two column layout and a number of minor errors were spotted in the text – which is unusual. The layout is full colour and there are many illustrations, including full colour battlemaps, relevant illustrations up to around a half page in size and, best of all, illustrations for every monster. Presentation is therefore well above average.

The adventure is, in some ways, a bit odd. The Mother of Flies is presented as a major NPC and, indeed, in some ways she is, but she is also to a large extent irrelevant to the actual adventure. Her only really purpose is to provide a couple of nuggets of information that point the players towards Walcourt. This could perhaps have been arranged better; as it is saving the Mother feels a bit of a letdown. The combats leading up to that were decent, and the players needed to look to other ways of breaking the Council of Thieves’ siege of the Mother’s tree rather than a full frontal assault, providing some interesting options, but once that was accomplished it seemed a case of ‘Is that all that happens?’

The main part of the adventure is the extensive manor and dungeon crawl. The manor is infested with some dangerous foes, and there is decent treasure, but the main point is that the players will have a chance to eliminate one of the primary foes for the campaign, who is one of the most powerful allies of the main antagonists, and at the same time make the night a lot safer in Westcrown, adding to their fame. Some of the latter parts of the exploration do seem rather similar, but this could be tweaked.

The article on Thieves’ Guilds is actually generically useful, rather than being specific to Pathfinder. Much of what is discussed could be used in most fantasy settings. In fact, given that crimes tend to remain the same, much of it could be used in any setting. The example guild headquarters is nice and could be fleshed out more.

The portrayal of Asmodeus is rather unusual. He is pictured more as a deity of law, who just happens to be evil, than a deity of evil. In fact, the emphasis on law is so intense that he might be considered Lawful Neutral rather than Lawful Evil, which is rather at odds with other depictions of him – and the nature of devils in general. This lawful tendency is why Asmodeus has generally good relations with other deities – he always keeps his word and will deal with anyone for whom he believes the same, which is all but two of the deities in the Golarion setting, and one of those he helped imprison. This is also why some paladins worship him, as they are worshipping him as a god of law (the chapter does acknowledge that this is strange) and some of his priesthood is Lawful Neutral. This does go some way towards explaining some oddities with the descriptions of the Hellknight orders in What Lies in Dust and The Infernal Syndrome, who are not evil, instead moving these oddities to Asmodeus himself, as really he no longer seems to fit with the Nine Hells and the devils. Asmodeus is portrayed as having such an interest in pure law he should be a deity of pure law.

The Bestiary provides some interesting new creatures. The most interesting are, firstly, the, apparently irrelevant to the actual adventure path, abomination. Extensive details are provided on their society and this could be developed further to add greater danger to a campaign in the depths. The next is the inhabitant of the Plane of Shadow, which could be used to flesh out that area.

The adventure is on the whole pretty decent with some perhaps minor niggles. The article on Thieves’ Guilds is definitely interesting and useful. The article on Asmodeus is, frankly, a rather weird portrayal of the deity. The Bestiary does have some interesting new monsters. Mother of Flies does continue the Adventure Path decently and sets up the finale.

 

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