A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement Racing to Ruin

Racing to Ruin is the second, #38, chapter in the Serpent’s Skull Adventure Path from Paizo Publishing, the immediate sequel to Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv. The adventure is published for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and, as such, is covered by the Open Game License, with some parts therefore considered to be Open Game Content. The adventure is written for a party of characters who should be 4th level when they start and should have reached 7th level by the end of it. The Adventure Path then continues in City of Seven Spears.

The adventure is available as a PDF from the Paizo site for $13.99, although it was purchased at the reduced price of $10.49, or as a softcover book, primarily now from sites such as Amazon.

Racing to RuinThe PDF is the version reviewed. The supplement has 100 pages, of which two are the colour front and rear covers, there are two pages of illustrations from inside the covers, two pages are the front matter, one page is the Table of Contents, one page is the Open Game License and a previews of upcoming material, one page is an advert for fiction, one page an advert for the Gamemastery Guide, one page a product list and one page an advert for the Advanced Player’s Guide.

The Foreword, Back on the Rails, is a simple two page introduction comparing the differences between sandbox adventures and railroads (the latter often being what Paizo’s Adventure Paths are, although the first part of the path, not so much, nor the previous Kingmaker). These is more a of a philosophical consideration of the differences and benefits between them, with how this chapter fits.

Racing to Ruin is the actual adventure. It begins with a brief background and adventure summary. The PCs are considered to have continued on to Eleder, which is where the adventure continues in Part One: A Gathering of Scavengers. There are five factions looking for the lost city of Saventh-Yhi, once Yarzoth’s notes are deciphered (consideration is also made should she have survived). The five NPC castaways from the previous chapter are all aligned with one of the factions, and the players will need to pick one to join. Each has slightly different benefits, and joining one will cause another to become their bitter rivals (joining one is a necessity). There are several encounters in and around the city, which includes finding a guide.

The Race Begins is a fairly straightforward wilderness trek following the river, with a number of encounters along the way, some of which are optional.

The Ruins of Tazion is the final part of the adventure and involves looking through a ruined city occupied by a group of serpent-cult ape men for clues as to the location of the city. The actual encounters will depend on which faction reaches the ruins first, the players’ or one of the others, with variants provided.

Concluding the adventure is a brief few paragraphs on going on to the next chapter, with options should the players have failed to find the clues they need.

Eleder has a description of the city, which is the capital of Sargava. There is a colour map along with descriptions of its geography, government, politics and some trading companies, as well as brief descriptions of the various districts and some notable locations.

Gozreh describes a new god, one which the guide from the start of the adventure follows. This is a dual aspected, and dual sexed, deity, one who is a nature deity and rather uncaring as a result. Details are provided on his/her religion and relationship with other religions, as well as a new spell.

Plague of Light: 2 of 6 – Friends and Other Enemies continues the fiction from the previous month.

Bestiary has random wilderness encounter tables for the areas the characters will be visiting, along with five new monsters. Three of these creatures are taken from different mythologies, one is a type of insect swarm, along with a new disease and the final one is a powerful, unique elemental being associated with Gozreh.

Finally, Characters has four pre-generated characters, the same as in the previous module but advanced in level.

Racing to Ruin in Review

The PDF is, as usual, thoroughly bookmarked with the various major and minor sections linked. The Table of Contents is not as thorough, only linking the major sections. Navigation is, on the whole, above average. The text maintains Paizo’s standard two column full colour format – printing will be a bit of a nuisance – and seemed pretty much error-free. There are various full colour illustrations up to around two thirds of a page in size appropriate for the section they are in. In addition, there are a number of full colour maps for different areas. If there’s a downside to the latter, it’s that they aren’t really suitable for using with miniatures. The presentation of the book is well above average.

There are a number of references to Sargava: The Lost Colony and Heart of the Jungle; enough that these two books are really required to properly run the adventure, which is a bit of a nuisance.

Despite what the Foreword might say, this is very much a railroaded adventure, greatly unlike Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv, perhaps too much so. Word gets out about the players’ discoveries even if they don’t discuss what they have found (this is needed to advance the plot but perhaps a reason could have been developed), so that there are various factions to contend with. This leads to several encounters in Eleder, one of which kidnaps an ally of the players and forces them to rescue them; the players cannot stop the kidnapping.

Regarding the five different factions themselves, they are all very similar; players don’t really get anything for picking one over the other and the foes from the rival faction are generic. Yes, this does add balance but it also decreases flavour and interest.

The characters have to hire a guide, of which there is supposedly only one, and the players recruit him (the guide is sort of interesting, but not really relevant). Yet without a guide the other factions still manage to find the city. Admittedly, much of the journey is quite straightforward – head east until you reach Sargava’s largest city (which is bound to be a pretty straightforward route from its capital) then follow the river. Consequently, the guide feels more like an encounter thrown in to pad the adventure out a bit. Regarding the race itself; well, it isn’t really a race at all. The other factions arrive at specified times and there are a few actions that players can do to speed up their own time, but not alter those of any of the others. There is a potentially lethal encounter with the characters’ opposing faction in one of the cities.

The final section, The Ruins of Tazion, is perhaps a bit more interesting. It’s more freeform than other areas, although quite what will be found there does depend on how quickly the players have made the journey.

As always, there is new material in this chapter of the Adventure Path. There is the description of Eleder, which perhaps could have been more thorough, a new deity and several new creatures. At least a couple of the new monsters are highly unlikely to be encountered during the adventure – one is essentially sea-based and the adventure is inland.

This is, as usual, a nicely-presented and well put-together Adventure Path chapter from Paizo. The adventure itself seems a little lacking. There is too much railroading, too many events that have to take place or the plot grinds to a halt (what if characters managed to completely keep their discoveries secret?) and at least a few encounters that are irrelevant, railroaded or foolishly dangerous. Having more fleshing out of the factions would have been good. Certainly, the room to describe in detail five different factions and their agents was probably not present, but they all feel a little too generic. This is definitely less impressive than the first in this path, but it isn’t beyond salvage. Definitely some tweaking is required on the part of the GM to make it more enjoyable and run it better, but supplements such as this are bought to cut down on prep time, not add to it. Racing to Ruin has some interesting bits bit overall it’s not the best.

 

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