A Review of the Serpent’s Skull Adventure Path

Serpent’s Skull is the seventh adventure path, #37 to #42, from Paizo Publishing for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. As such, the supplements are covered by the Open Game License with some content therefore being considered Open Game Content.

As will all the adventure paths, this is in six parts, starting at 1st level with the final module taking characters up to 17th level.

Each module can be bought in either PDF or as a softcover book. All are still available as PDFs from Paizo’s store and some softcovers are still available from them as well. Missing softcovers can be found on sites such as Amazon.

For more complete reviews of the different modules rather than this brief overview of the whole adventure path, click on the links to read them.

Souls for Smuggler's ShivThe Adventure Path is, naturally, set in Paizo’s world of Golarion. The theme of the path is the foiling of the plans by the serpentfolk to bring their god Ydersius back to life, although it is some time before this is discovered.

Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv sees the ship that the players are on wrecked on a desert island, along with several fellow castaways and a serpentfolk cleric of Ydersius. There, they can stumble across details of a lost Azlanti city in the jungle.

Racing to Ruin sees the players following the clues to a lost Azlanti city, Saventh-Yhi, joining one faction out of five possible to get added resources and then fending off the attacks of at least one other competing faction.

City of Seven Spears sees the players exploring, and perhaps taking control of areas of, the city of Saventh-Yhi before a Pathfinder reaches the surface having escaped from the subterranean serpentfolk city of Ilmurea, who is asking for help. This is followed by an undead attack.

Vaults of Madness is still set in Saventh-Yhi. Characters have to explore a number of vaults beneath the city, finding the items necessary to reactivate the portal that will transport them to the ruined serpentfolk city of Ilmurea.

The Thousand Fangs Below involves travelling to the subterranean city of the serpentfolk, using the newly-fixed portal, and exploring it looking for a missing Pathfinder. The city is under the control of several factions; the serpentfolk, despite being the newest arrivals, are currently dominant. Of the others, one faction is potentially friendly, one is an unfriendly split from that faction and the final one, despite being evil, is willing to ally due to mutual interests.

Sanctum of the Serpent God is the finale of the adventure and it again takes place in the underground city of Ilmurea, on the border which had not previously been visited. There is an excursion to gain a weapon before the players assemble an army and assault Ilmurea itself. Whilst the army battles the serpentfolk, the characters assault the Sanctum, culminating with a battle with the avatar of Ydersius, the serpentfolk god.

Each module has additional information as well as the adventure. There is a piece of fiction that runs through all six parts; this isn’t connected to the adventure but can help give a feel to the area in which much of it is set.

There are also descriptions of a number of places, as well as various gods and monsters. Throughout, there are also a number of new spells and some new magic items.

Serpent’s Skull Adventure Path in Review

Each module is well bookmarked and well presented, with many full colour illustrations up to around half a page in size. The text appeared to be free of errors as well. The presentation of the adventure path was very good.

Overall, there are some problems with Serpent’s Skull, especially with the second, third, fourth and sixth modules.

Racing to Ruin, the second module, despite its name, isn’t really a race. There are five factions, including the one the players with. All, bar the one the players are with, arrive at the destination on a set timetable.

Saventh-Yhi in the third module, the City of Seven Spears, is not very well detailed, and has no battlemaps bar several generic ones, not even for the more important encounters. The city could really do with substantial fleshing out.

Vaults of Madness has a difficult, out of character and, as far as can be seen, totally irrelevant encounter with a dangerous NPC that appears to be simply there to annoy players or, at worst, derail the entire adventure path.

The final module, Sanctum of the Serpent God, has the raising of an army by a bunch of dice rolling and then this army fights in the background, rather than being more involved.

The fist and fifth modules are the best. The first module, Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv, is a nice sandbox adventure. The fifth, The Thousand Fangs Below, is similar to City of Seven Spears in that it is based around exploring a ruined city, but it works better, even though it, too, suffers from a lack of maps.

A lot of the problems could probably be summarised as being down to lack of space. There are some large locations that could have done with an entire book devoting to each, but a single adventure path module only gives enough for an outline. Serpent’s Skull Adventure Path is definitely flawed, but it can be improved on by a competent GameMaster – but adventure paths are bought so that the GM doesn’t have to spend time developing stuff, and Serpent’s Skull fails quite badly at that.

 

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