Sunday, March 15, 2009

Review: PF#6 The Spires of Xin-Shalast (Part 1)

I was planning on just doing this in one blog post, but the finished write up came in at over 1400 words, so I thought I would split it in two parts to make it easier for the reader. I will post part two tomorrow.


This is the final installment of the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path, which is the first in the Pathfinder product line, which I have been reviewing over these past two months. I have been looking at these modules singularily, and in my next product review I will do a holistic review of the entire adventure path, and give my perspective of it.

For this last module, the focus is two things; the exploration of a lost city, and the final battle with Runelord Karzoug. These two focus points dominate the book from front to back. The lost city of Xin-Shalast, with its double entendre of an Asia city and its pronunciation of “sin-shall-last,” is meant to foster images of ancient city teeming with gold and lost treasures. Lost cities are a classic in the lore of pulp adventures, and it always seems as though the hero is stumbling on to a forgotten city, with an ancient evil beginning to stir. Whether the lost city is on a deserted island, deep in a dense jungle, in the underdark, or high on a secluded mountain top, one does not have to look very far to trip over numerous examples located in all of these remote locations. The old school modules in the early days of D&D, made ample use of this concept, and I cannot fault any new designer for following this well established trend. The challenge is to provide a different twist on this old idea.

Greg A . Vaughan

Greg is another one of the group known as the Werecabbages, whose elite membership includes some of the more active writers/free lancers in the role playing industry. Paizo has had a history of tapping into their talent pool, and has continued this trend through the Pathfinder lineup. I can remember seeing the term thrown around on message boards and in chat rooms, and I had no idea of what the story was behind the group. Eventually I stumbled upon their website, and was immediately impressed with the number of names that I recognized. Their current membership stands at 42, and I think most active and well read members in our hobby would at least recognize at least a name or two.

Greg recently caught my notice with his publication of The Skeletons of Scarwall, in Pathfinder #11 which is just brilliant. Since then, I have been backtracking through some of his other works, and I have been impressed with a number of his works. James Jacobs raves about his map cartography, which he claims is just stunning. He compares this with some of the other Cabbages, whose map work is less than stellar. I will protect the guilty and not mention any names. James in the forward of Xin-Shalast, has some nice things to say about Greg’s map turn over for this particular module. In light of this, I can see why he continues to be featured heavily in the Paizo rotation. I would go as far as to say that in this particular adventure, he wrote almost the entire book, including the supporting articles and the bestiary.

While I have never personally met him yet, he is one of the writers I hope to run into at Gencon. Based what I have seen from his comments on the Paizo message board, I suspect that he is quite the prankster and has a good sense humor. His frequent poking at Nick and Rich always leaves me chuckling.

With that, let me start in with the review of the book.


Not much new to add on here. The layout is very similar to the earlier Rise of the Runelord Pathfinders, and I am including the text here for completeness. The book comes in at hefty 96 pages not counting the covers, with the actual adventure taking up 56 of these pages, with an approximate word count of ~40,000 words. From strictly a page count perspective, this is one of the longer adventures of the first series. The book is divided up into several sections including the main adventure, two supporting articles (Karzoug the Claimer and Hazards on the World’s Roof), the Pathfinder Journal, bestiary (seven monsters) the pregens, and a teaser for the Curse of the Crimson Throne.

This adventure shares the same criticism as the other in the series with regards to the small font and the ease of reading. I personally did not find it that bad, but I can see how this could be a valid criticism. There have been a number of modules created with small font, and this module is not any worse than some of the others that I have seen.
For tomorrow, I will continue with the review and post my final thoughts along with my overall grade for this module.

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