A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement What Lies in Dust

What Lies in Dust is the third, #27, in the Council of Thieves Adventure Path from Paizo Publishing, the next in the series after The Sixfold Trial. 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 well into 5th level at the start of the adventure and should have reached 7th level by the end of it. The Adventure Path continues in The Infernal Syndrome. This adventure sees the players finding the clues needed to access the Pathfinder lodge in Westcrown, Delvehaven, so that they can recover an artefact that is inside.

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 full colour front and rear covers, two pages are the inside covers, one being a map of Westcrown with the locations of this adventure marked and the other being a Dramatis Personae, two pages are the front matter, one the Table of Contents, one page is the Open Game License and details on what is coming next month and four pages are ads for other products including the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary and the Pathfinder Chronicles.

Wes Sold Me to Pirates is the two page Foreword. This gives a rundown of recent (at the time of writing) events at Paizo, about the design of the Pathfinder lodge and the return of haunts, which were first seen in Rise of the Runelords.

What Lies in Dust is the adventure itself. It starts by giving some Adventure Background (some of which was covered in The Bastards of Erebus). It discusses the Pathfinder Society lodge in Westcrown, Delvehaven, giving some of its history and that of a couple of Pathfinders who returned after an expedition to the Mwangi Expanse, said Pathfinders being the only two survivors. They returned with an artefact, but one of them split it in two. That Pathfinder as a result was turned into a vampire. Since then, he has returned to Westcrown at the invitation of the House of Thrune and his minions are the reason that the city’s streets are so dangerous to travel at night. Since then, he has started working with the Council of Thieves, in particular the two behind-the-scenes manipulators looking to seize control. The Pathfinder lodge has itself been sealed by both the Pathfinders and the House of Thrune.

What Lies in DustPart One: Within the Crux deals with opening the Chelish Crux, a magical item (standard magic item details are provided for this as well) that was recovered from the Asmodean Knot. Inside the Crux, which is a type of dimensional storage device, there can be found a number of clues. The Crux is also a puzzle box that needs opening by following a specific method, with failure causing damage to the person attempting to open it and force destroying everything inside. This is simply done by dice rolls though rather than an actual puzzle, which is a bit disappointing. The various items, which includes the severed, but not dead, head of an erinyes – the head is potentially helpful, even if it’s more than a little mad by now – can be used to gain formation before attempting to access the Pathfinder Lodge of Delvehaven. Several Pathfinders went missing and tracking their bodies down and questioning them using some of the items inside the Crux is the next step.

Part Two: The Devildrome will be visited when the players follow up on one of the clues regarding the missing Pathfinders. The minor noble who runs the place owns a bust that is all that remains of one of them. The Devildrome itself is a gladiatorial arena where summoned monsters battle each other. The noble will allow characters access to the Pathfinder remains if they fight – they will be a draw due to the appearance in The Six Trials of Larazod. Players can summon their own creature to battle for them or, if the characters can’t summon monsters (which does seem potentially quite likely) they can fight in the arena themselves against the other opponents creatures. Success will grant them the access they desire, and make an enemy of their opponent if they win (he is a poor loser).

Part Three: Massacre House details a place where the remnants of another Pathfinder can be found. Her ashes are kept by the devil-worshipping nuns who assassinated her. The house can be dangerous, but the nuns are not doing that well under the devil-worshipping regime of House Thrune for some reason, so there aren’t that many.

Part Four: The Wave Door leads to a hidden Pathfinder cache of magic and other items. Clues to find and open the Wave Door leading to the cache will have been found earlier. Keys needed to explore Delvehaven are also in the cache.

Part Five: Delvehaven is the final part of the adventure and covers exploring the Pathfinder lodge of Delvehaven. The lodge is occupied by vampires and is also home to haunts and animated dolls. The erinyes head from earlier can provide useful information about the lodge.

One of the unusual items found in the lodge is the remains of a golem from another world, a golem that sounds rather like the Martian war machines from H. G. WellsThe War of the Worlds. Especially as the golem originated from a red planet.

Once the players have discovered the minor artefact in the lodge, this concludes the section. The final part, Concluding the Adventure, is on wrapping things up, how any surviving vampires may try to get their revenge and how the pit fiend is almost ready to break free of its captivity.

Treasures of the Pathfinders starts with details of 21 in-progress expeditions. This is a simple table giving the name of the lead Pathfinder, the region of the expedition and its goal.

Next are descriptions of 12 magic items. The actual magic items themselves are not those used by the Pathfinders (such items can be found in Pathfinder Chronicles: Seekers of Secrets). Instead, they are various unique, rare or from other lands, but not artefact-level, treasures that Pathfinder expeditions have stumbled across over the years. It’s stated that all the items listed are currently in the possession of Pathfinder lodges, but they can be used to inspire similar items (although in some cases there are multiple items of the type anyway).

Hellknights covers these martial orders (although not completely; there are frequent references to the next instalment in the Adventure Path, The Infernal Syndrome). The seven major Hellknight orders are covered in detail, followed by brief overviews of five lesser orders. Despite the name, the orders are not Lawful Evil; they instead largely tend towards pure Lawful Neutral – some even have Lawful Good members.

This section also has details on the Hellknight class and whether or not it would be suitable for players.

Hell’s Pawns: The Goat’s Pen continues the piece of fiction. For the first time it is made explicit that the character who the narrator is working for is a Pathfinder.

The Bestiary has a wandering monster table for the Westcrown coast region and a brief overview of two settlements close to the city, with a notable NPC at each. Five new monsters are described, one of which comes in four variants. Most don’t really have much connection to the adventure, but there is a new devil described.

Finally, Pregenerated Characters has the same characters from earlier modules in the Adventure Path but increased in level.

What Lies in Dust in Review

The PDF is well bookmarked with the various major and minor sections linked. The Table of Contents only covers the major sections. Navigation is as a result above average.

The text maintains a two column format and no errors were noted. The book has coloured page backgrounds and is extensively illustrated with colour images up to around a half page in size. These illustrations are relevant to the text and, most notably, there is an illustration for every new magic item in Treasures of the Pathfinders and monster in the Bestiary. There are also full colour battlemaps of the various locations; presentation is therefore well above average.

The adventure sees a variety of different encounter types and puzzles for the players to solve. There are various clues that players need to find in order to end up in Delvehaven (which essentially winds up the adventure with a dungeon crawl, even if most of it is in a building). One potential trouble spot might be if the players fail to find all the information they need, due to making mistakes. That might make it tricky for them to move onto the conclusion of the adventure. Otherwise, it’s a nice mix of things, with some unusual items and events to find.

The magic items in Treasures of the Pathfinders are interesting, for things that are not artefacts. It’s a shame that the text says that they are all already in Pathfinder possession (excluding some which are not unique) so that the items described should simply be used as inspiration. A GM would be best off ignoring that and just using the items as they see fit.

The Hellknight orders are a bit odd. They are named after Hell, they apparently gain respect from devils, yet they are by and large not actually evil, and may even have good members (some are listed as being important leaders of the orders). This all seems a bit contradictory – why would a Lawful Good character join an order named after Hell, and why would devils respect an order (it is stated that they do) that isn’t evil? This all seems to create a fairly nonsensical concept. Having the orders so respected in a devil-worshipping nation by said nation’s rulers also makes little sense if the orders were not (and they aren’t) devil worshippers themselves. Having a stronger Lawful Evil focus and no good characters would appear to make more sense, especially as the current outright focus on law over good and evil would certainly seem likely to drive away Lawful Good and Lawful Evil characters.

The fiction continues with some more interesting things, although it isn’t totally clear where it is set yet. Probably the capital of Cheliax.

Finally, the Bestiary provides some new and interesting creatures, albeit ones that really don’t have much relevance to the adventure path in question.

What Lies in Dust is a fairly decent adventure, even if it does look possible for it to accidentally derail, and ends with a fairly spooky dungeon crawl.

 

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