A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement The Infernal Syndrome

The Infernal Syndrome is the fourth, #28, in the Council of Thieves Adventure Path from Paizo Publishing, the next in the series after What Lies in Dust. This is an adventure for 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 be 7th level at the start of the adventure and should have reached 9th level by its end. The adventure continues in the next instalment, Mother of Flies. In this adventure the characters have to deal with a pit fiend that has is on the verge of escaping from control in the mayor’s house (this was warned of in The Sixfold Trial) where it was being used to power various things in the mansion.

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 colour front and rear covers, two pages are the inside covers, one having the map of Westcrown with the adventure locations marked and the other being the Dramatis Personae, two pages are the front matter, one page is the Table of Contents, one page is the Open Game license and what is coming next month (there is a mistake in this section as the adventure is listed as being The Infernal Syndrome, not Mother of Flies) and four pages are ads for other products including the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary and Pathfinder Chronicles.

The Infernal SyndromePlugging in the Pit Fiends is the two page Foreword. This states that the concept for the adventure was one that was come up with prior to the creation of this adventure path and had been given the go ahead for some time, but had not been worked on. It also states that this is the first adventure in the series where the PCs will start driving the storyline, as they decide what happens next rather than NPCs deciding it for them.

The Infernal Syndrome is the adventure itself. It gives some background to the pit fiend and how it came to be powering the mayor’s mansion, with much of this having already been covered in previous instalments and then gives a brief synopsis.

Part One: Streets Gone Mad has the eruption at the mayor’s mansion and the immediate after-effects. There are three short side quests that can be done in this section, although none have much more detail than a few paragraphs.

Part Two: Siege of the Folly starts with details of several interested factions, each of which has an experience reward if their particular condition is fulfilled. Despite the factions sometimes being in conflict with each other, players can probably get a reward from each.

On the way to Aberian’s manor (the Folly) they will be met by the mayor himself, who can provide some useful information and materiel. The players may then have a moral dilemma; do they kill this evil person or not? Not is the intended result; despite his flaws he was a better mayor, from the point of view of the citizens, than the previous two.

The area surrounding the ruins of the manor, including several damaged manors belonging to other families, is covered, as is the few remnants left of the Folly itself which provide access to the Nessian Spiral. This area is more than a little dangerous, as there are devils, vampires and representatives of the renegade faction of the Council of Thieves here, all of whom may – and in some cases, will – attack the players.

Part Three: Into the Spiral is the final part of the adventure and involves exploring the Nessian Spiral itself. The Spiral is compared to a nuclear power plant (indeed, the adventure is named after The China Syndrome) except it uses infernal power from an imprisoned pit fiend. The final confrontation of this adventure is fighting the pit fiend; this would be dangerous enough if this was an ordinary pit fiend but this is an Infernal Duke. Fortunately his imprisonment has left him greatly weakened, or the players would likely lose and lose badly. There is also an optional encounter with a powerful member of the Council of Thieves.

Concluding the Adventure wraps it up and covers what to do should the players fail in their mission. The freed Infernal Duke could destroy the city, but this would derail the adventure path, so he doesn’t go that far. There are also details on the current plots of the renegade faction of the Council.

In the Fiend’s Grasp covers possession by fiends from the Lower Planes. Not every fiend is capable of doing this but those who are gain access to three new feats, Possess Creature, Possess Location and Possess Object – covering creatures, places and objects, naturally enough. Once the relevant whatever is possessed by a fiend, there are a number of different Possession Actions they can do, using Possession Points. These are divided up by the feats, into Bodily, Object and Location. There are also sidebars on exorcism and possession in the real world.

Path of the Hellknight continues with the description of the Hellknights that started in the previous supplement. This gives a history of the Hellknights, who were first founded prior to the fall of Aroden, the Chelish civil war and the resulting conversion of the nation to diabolism. The first Hellknight was someone who renounced Aroden after losing family members due to a demonic infiltration of Aroden’s religion. The term “Hellknight” was originally an insult and the orders are devoted more to pure law than anything, using the legions of Hell as an example of efficient martial behaviour. This does mean that the name makes more sense, but the various orders are still not completely involved with Hell and the final test of any Hellknight is to kill a devil, so it really isn’t clear why Hell bears them in respect.

Also included in this section are details on the current Hellknight citadels, with a map of one that is inside a mountain, and of previous, now-ruined, citadels. Hellknight Philosophies is how any why Hellknight behave; order is everything. Hellknights also hope for a time, but do not believe it will be in their lifetime, when society is so ordered that the various Hellknight orders become obsolescent. True believers, which makes them extremely dangerous, in other words.

Hell’s Pawns Part 4 of 6: The Palace of Jubilations continues with the piece of fiction.

The Bestiary starts with a new wandering monster table for Westcrown, this time with a greater number of devils wandering the city. There are also a number of new monsters. There are three new devils, one of which comes in two types and another is an example of what may be a new type, and a new type of undead and a magic item that can be used to create it (both based on the dragon’s teeth from Greek mythology).

Finally, Pregenerated Characters has the four characters from the previous books but raised in level.

The Infernal Syndrome in Review

The PDF is well bookmarked with the major and minor sections linked, and including the sidebars. The Table of Contents only lists the major sections. Navigation is as a result above average.

The text maintains a two column format on the Adventure Path’s standard (albeit printer unfriendly) full colour background and a number of minor errors were noticed. The supplement is also extensively illustrated, with many full colour illustrations up to around half a page in size, including one for each new monster, and with several full colour battlemaps as well. Presentation is as a result very good.

The adventure itself has a number of things, including a moral dilemma, building up to the main exploration of the Nessian Spiral. There are various side ways of earning experience and dangerous encounters in the region outside the mansion and in its ruins.

The exploration of the Nessian Spiral is dangerous and ends in a dangerous encounter. The pit fiend who is imprisoned is, in some ways, a little odd. Firstly, this pit fiend is more dangerous than a regular one – and regular ones are dangerous enough at this level – so he’s been crippled to make the encounter possible. Surely it would have been better to have a less powerful creature to begin with. Secondly, this pit fiend is really hard to, permanently, kill, and characters may only be able to banish him. Given that he has a habit of holding grudges, he might in such case reappear at a later date, and at full strength, which is another added danger. On the whole, the boss fight of this adventure seems to be with a deliberately crippled boss who was too dangerous to start with, rather than being with one of an appropriate level.

More details are provided on the Hellknights but, even though such as the origin of their name, the Hellknight orders’ link to Hell still does not seem to make a lot of sense. Surely, given their devotion to pure order, they would be more likely to have linked with a plane devoted to pure Lawful Neutral, not Lawful Evil. The Hellknights perhaps make more sense than they did in the previous supplement, but they still seem odd.

The new wandering monster table in the Bestiary seems a little broken; the majority of the encounters are with devils yet the GM is advised to not actually make that the case, but to vary the encounters. Surely it would have been better to have fewer encounters with devils in the table, and have a secondary table for rolling encounters with devils on, to vary the types. As it is, it seems the GM is being advised to regularly ignore the results when rolled, which makes having a random table pointless. The monsters themselves provide some new potential encounters.

The adventure does seem to be flawed, as mentioned earlier, by having a too-powerful and as a result crippled main boss at the end of it. Fortunately, even if the characters lose (as long as they aren’t permanently dead) the adventure path is not totally derailed – although they will become less popular if the rampaging pit fiend destroys a large area of the city. The, at times over-the-top lethal, dungeon (the Nessian Spiral) is the major focus of the adventure; the two preceding sections are fairly minor. Still, The Infernal Syndrome keeps the adventure ticking along, although it could do with some improvement.

 

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