A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement Sanctum of the Serpent God

Sanctum of the Serpent God is the final, #42, module in the Serpent’s Skull Adventure Path from Paizo Publishing, the next in the series after The Thousand Fangs Below. The module is written for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and, as such, is covered by the Open Game License with some parts considered to be Open Game Content as a result. Characters are assumed to be well into 16th level at the start of the adventure and be 17th level prior to the final showdown of the Adventure Path.

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.

Sanctum of the Serpent GodThe PDF is the version reviewed and has 100 pages. Two of these are the colour front and rear covers, two pages are the inside cover pages with illustrations and notes on various flora and fauna, two pages are the front matter, one page is the Table of Contents, one page is a preview of upcoming releases and the Open Game License and there are four pages of ads including ones for fiction, the Advanced Player’s Guide and the Pathfinder Bestiary 2.

The End is the Beginning is the foreword and two pages long. This discusses the process of assembling an adventure path and mentions the next path, Carrion Crown.

Sanctum of the Serpent God is the actual adventure. This starts with the adventure background, providing details on the serpentfolk priest of the serpent god, Ydersius, and his motivations and actions so far. The adventure summary covers the progress through the adventure.

Part One: The Danger Below starts aboveground in Saventh-Yhi with the Pathfinder they rescued from Thousand Fangs. This brief section has the Pathfinder tell his story so that the players know what they are up against.

Part Two: The Hunter’s Maze sees the players return to the serpentfolk city of Ilmurea. The Hunter’s Maze is an area where serpentfolk used to hunt, and eat, slaves, but it is now been occupied by a group of urdefhans that were separated from the rest. The Maze is the apparent location of a weapon that can be used against Ydersius; the urefhans, unlike the ones encountered in Ilmurea, are all definitely hostile. This part is basically a dungeon crawl.

Part Three: Forging the Alliance sees the characters recruiting an army to assault the serpentfolk forces with. There are a number of assassination attempts on the characters by the serpentfolk during this, and a variety of different tribes and factions that can be recruited. Recruiting forces gives Achievement Points – which will decrease the amount of enemy forces found in the Sanctum – and potentially experience. Finally, the Seven Spears are activated to provide access to Ilmurea, which they do by boring holes in the ground for the armies.

Part Four: Rise of Ydersius is the attack by the characters on the Sanctum; how difficult this is will depend on how successful they were at raising an army. They will still have to face many dangerous foes and the recombined, but still vastly weakened, avatar of the serpentfolk’s god. Essentially, another dungeon crawl with the boss fight at the end of it.

Finally, there is a longer section on concluding the adventure and what might happen, especially if Ydersius wins, which will result in serpentfolk attacks against the surface.

Beyond Serpent’s Skull provides some possibilities for adventures for players after completing the adventure path. These are an enemy faction taking vengeance on them, what happens to the city of Saventh-Yhi, exploring the (undetailed) Savith’s Crypt in the city, apparently a large dungeon complex, taking out Ydersius completely by destroying his skull, stopping the Gorilla King from becoming a demon lord – probably with the help of another demon lord, who doesn’t want to be replaced and a war against the serpentfolk, some of which uses the mass combat rules.

Ydersius gives details on the currently beheaded serpentfolk deity, his history and interaction in the world prior to his beheading, his religion and a new spell, as well as some planar allies.

Plague of Light: 6 of 6 – Sacrificial Rights is the final piece in the work of fiction.

Bestiary starts with wandering monsters for the adventure, followed by five new creatures. Two of these are associated with Ydersius, one with the demon lord Angazhan and the remaining two are from African mythology.

Finally, Pregenerated Characters again has the pregenerated characters used throughout the adventure path, again advanced in level.

Sanctum of the Serpent God in Review

The PDF is well bookmarked with most major and minor sections linked. The Table of Contents is not as thorough, with only the major sections listed. Navigation is therefore above average, but it could be better. The text maintains a two column format and no errors were noticed. There are a substantial number of colour illustrations, including for the new monsters, up to around half a page in size. Presentation is therefore very good.

There are three maps of significant encounter areas, and the maps themselves are nice to look at, but rather impractical when it comes to actually using them. The maps use Paizo’s standard 5′ per square scale, but each map is multiple hundreds of feet in size. This means that they are effectively useless as battlemaps, if printed out at a typical page size, as the squares are absolutely tiny. Scaling them up to make them a useful size makes the maps huge.

For the adventure itself, Part One is simply background information and Parts Two and Four are a series of potentially deadly combat encounters, although decently done.

Regarding Part Three: Forging the Alliance, there are quite a few problems with this. In Vaults of Madness the characters had a difficult, annoying and potentially adventure-stopping encounter with the Gorilla King and his forces. At the time this seemed to have no point – unless such a point occurred later. Well, in this adventure, characters are building an army, and the Gorilla King’s forces will be highly useful. So, recruiting the king to help them in the attack makes sense, and means that the previous encounter wasn’t pointless. Except it’s explicitly stated in the text that the Gorilla King’s forces have already left the area, meaning that the encounter was just as annoying, difficult and disruptively pointless as it first appeared. GMs might be advised to change this.

Continuing with this, there is the recruitment of the other factions, the tribes of Saventh-Yhi and the urdefhans and morlocks in Ilmurea. With the factions, the one the characters belong to; the other four can be convinced by some dice rolling. With the tribes of Saventh-Yhi – assuming the characters didn’t wipe a lot of them out in City of Seven Spears or otherwise alienate them; a rather hefty assumption – this is done by lots of dice rolling. This is not the most exciting way of building an army. The morlocks are almost automatically assumed to join, after what the characters are presumed to have done so far. The urdefhans may have been made friendly following the characters’ actions in The Thousand Fangs Below. In return for having been made friendly, the urdefhan leader in return is willing to do… well, nothing, unless they give him 100 slaves to torture and kill. What exactly was the point in doing a favour for him in the first place? More pointlessness. This entire recruitment process would definitely benefit from the GM modifying it.

Finally, after creating an army, the players might expect to run a battle against the serpentfolk forces, as per the quick-play mass combat rules from Pathfinder Adventure Path #35 (or Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign) – but they don’t. This battle takes place in the background; all that happens is that Achievement Points make attacking the Sanctum less difficult. Again, an area where GMs should probably modify it. Part Three is pretty much boring dice rolling space filler.

The entire adventure path has suffered from quite a few problems and Sanctum of the Serpent God is a flawed conclusion to it, but a skilled GM could improve on it.

 

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