A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement The Bastards of Erebus

The Bastards of Erebus is the first, #25, in the Council of Thieves Adventure Path from Paizo Publishing. This is an adventure for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and, as such, is covered by the Open Game License with some parts being considered Open Game Content as a result. This is an adventure for 1st level characters who are expected to be 2nd level by the time of the final confrontation. The Adventure Path then continues in The Sixfold Trial. This adventure sees a starting group of characters in Westcrown, the former capital of the devil-worshipping nation of Cheliax, where they become part of a group trying to improve the lives of the normal people.

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. This has 100 pages of which two are the colour front and rear covers, two pages are the inside covers, one being a map of Westcrown with four locations from the adventure marked on it and the other a Dramatis Personae, two pages are the front matter, one is the Table of Contents, one page is the Open Game License and a list of upcoming products and four pages are adverts for other products.

What’s Old is New is a two page introduction, which as well as introducing the adventure explains that this is the first adventure path from Paizo for use with as then just-released Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

The Bastards of ErebusThe Bastards of Erebus is the adventure itself and starts with the background. The majority of Council of Thieves takes place in the city of Westcrown, the former capital of Cheliax. Following the death of the god of humanity, which was worshipped by the entire country, control of the nation was seized after a civil war by a house of devil worshippers, who then moved the capital. There are several different groups with mutually compatible aims who are trying to seize control and the players get caught up in it, when they become involved with a group that has a more beneficial aim. The free Player’s Guide is also referenced as are Fame Points, which will have an effect later on.

Part One: The Westcrown Rebels sees the starting party in the process of being recruited by the rebels when the location is in is surrounded by Hellknights (who, despite their name, are not all evil, as many are Lawful Neutral), necessitating their fleeing the tavern they are in. Some suggestions are given should the players not be that easy to recruit (if they never join, that can kind of derail the entire adventure path).

Part Two: Into the Sewers sees the players using the sewer system to attempt to escape the Hellknights and reach a safe house. The sewers are not mapped and the aim is to keep players in them until they either gain enough experience or are on the verge of death. There are half a dozen different small battlemaps for locations, a percentile table for determining sewer features and several random encounters.

Part Three: The Rebel Hideout is where the players end up after successfully escaping through the sewers. This is a secure base of operations for the entire adventure path and there are a number of minor NPCs who can be further developed.

Part Four: A Dramatic Rescue is an operation to free the leader who has been captured by Hellknights. This is an operation that is carried out outside of town, and can be messed up if the players are not suitably cautious and try a frontal assault.

Part Five: Laying Low has a side encounter that introduces the players to an NPC and there are several potential side quests that need fleshing out. In this section an assault on the titular bandits, tieflings called the Bastards of Erebus, is planned.

Part Six: Temple of the Bastards has the characters attacking the Bastards in their home base and defeating them. This is a combination of aboveground and underground sites. This finishes with a section on concluding the adventure and suggesting that the potential side quests from Part Five (which will need fleshing out) are done if necessary to put the characters well into 3rd level.

Westcrown: City of Twilight gives details of the city in which the adventure is set. There is a standard stat block for the city which, at over 100,000 inhabitants, is quite sizeable, and details on its layout, government politics and law enforcement. There is background on the Council of Thieves, an overview of the various locations, mention of the dangers that lurk the city at night and a map with a number of locations detailed.

Tieflings of Golarion is about tieflings in general; they are also the foe of Part Six of the adventure. There are notes on tieflings, how they are treated in Cheliax and the rest of the world (badly), their society and on playing them as a character. Different tiefling heritages are listed giving different strengths and weaknesses dependent on their origin. There is a d100 table of variant tiefling abilities, a d100 table of random tiefling features (they are not truly a race and do not look alike) and three tiefling feats.

The Plaza of Flowers is the first part of a piece of fiction, presumably set in Cheliax and in the new capital, regarding a tiefling and his investigative boss, the latter looking into cases which interest him. Rather reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes in some ways.

Bestiary has a random encounter table for the Westcrown ruins and seven new monsters.

A Heritage of Evil is the adventure path outline; most of this appears to be duplicated or paraphrased from the beginning of the book. This is followed by a summary of all six modules.

Finally, there are four Pregenerated Characters.

The Bastards of Erebus in Review

The PDF is decently bookmarked with all major and most minor sections linked. Importantly, the various encounters in the adventure are all listed. The Table of Contents simply lists the major sections. Navigation is as a whole above average.

The text maintains a two column format and appeared almost entirely error-free. The pages are in full colour and there are many illustrations up to around half a page in size which are mostly relevant to the text. The various monsters are all illustrated, which is a plus, and there are a few portraits of NPCs as well, and some full colour battlemaps. The presentation is therefore very good.

The adventure is fairly linear in style, with events proceeding in a certain order. This can be disguised if some additional side quests are designed and added, but that will require more work on the part of the GameMaster. The biggest problem is if the players decide not to cooperate and work with the main NPCs; this has the potential to derail the entire adventure. There are suggestions given for working around this but really the players have to cooperate or running the entire path will become much more difficult for the GM.

As is generally seen in Paizo’s adventure paths, there is new background material on their Golarion setting. In this case it is on tieflings and Westcrown. The article on tieflings can easily be adapted to other settings; Westcrown probably could with a bit of work. There isn’t really enough detail on Westcrown as a city as yet; perhaps this will be expanded on in later modules, given that the entire Adventure Path is effectively set there.

The fiction is interesting and is definitely suggestive of Sherlock Holmes to start with, with a Watson who is perhaps a little more aggressive. It will be interesting to see how this develops. The additional monsters are what additional monsters always are; extra creatures who may or may not be desired. Many, but not all, of them are or can be encountered during the actual adventure.

The various NPCs encountered are decently detailed (although there is a bit of overkill when a whole bunch of potentially useful NPCs are introduced at the same time) and the method of running the sewers randomly is quite innovative, although some GMs may prefer to map them out beforehand instead. The concluding act of the adventure does feel a bit stuck on, as players confront the tieflings without a whole lot of motivation; if any are tieflings themselves, they may even feel they have more in common with their foes.

This isn’t a perfect adventure but there are definitely some good bits – some of which are not related to the actual adventure. To get the best from it, and to decrease the railroad feeling that can easily occur from the linear nature of the adventure, some side quests are definitely recommended. Unfortunately, most GMs who buy Adventure Paths do so due to a lack of time, and are therefore going to be less likely to develop side quests. The Bastards of Erebus is a fairly interesting start to the whole Adventure Path, if it gets run as planned – players can derail it a bit too easily, which is always a problem with a railroad.

 

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