Every weekend, I am going back through my massive collection, and it seems to be getting bigger each week, of D&D goodness and reviewing some of the adventures and supplements that I have enjoyed throughout the run of D&D. I started with some old school classics, and then mixed in some new school stuff. I have found a great deal of satisfaction flipping through the dusty tomes in my library, and I look forward to continuing to do this on a weekly basis. One of the ultimate classics is the G-series from early in the life of AD&D. It starts with Hill Giants, then moves to Frost Giants and finishes up with Fire Giants, and it is literally a tour-de-force of giant proportion. I must admit that the Frost Giants are hands down my favorites, as I am a giant Viking fan (not to be confused with the football team). When it comes to frost, fur and fang, I am signed up.
This brings us to this week’s review which is Pathfinder #4 Fortress of the Stone Giants, Wolfgang Baur. This Pathfinder is a new take on the older concept, which was by design. The Paizo team was looking to create a new spin on the older giant modules. Stone giants were left out of the early trilogy, and they never seem to have broken free of the shadows cast by the giants featured in the earlier series. As it turns out Wolfgang has a thing for giants, so this was a perfect fit for a re-imaging of an older tale.
Wolfgang is a bit different from the previous two authors, Nick and Rich, who I high-lighted in my previous Pathfinder write ups. Wolfgang started out his gaming career working on Dungeon and Dragon magazines. He then switched jobs and went to work for Wizards of the Coast. As he states on his web page, the constant layoffs drove him crazy, so he set off on his own. In addition to the numerous side gigs that he does, he is the editor and chief of Kobold Quarterly and he started up his own design shop called Open Design, which is adventure writing for paying patrons. He strikes me as someone that is incredibly organized and methodical when it comes to designing dungeons. Having never seen him work, I may be totally off on this last assumption, but based on his work with KQ and OD, I think it is a safe assumption. I am going to plug his KQ magazine, as I agree with many folks that this is the spiritual successor to Dragon magazine. This is not to take anything away from the fanzines that are in production at this moment, as the work done on those smaller fanzines is also very good.
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 46 of these pages, with an approximate word count of ~40,000 words. The book is divided up into several sections including the main adventure, two supporting articles (Born of Stone and Dragons of Golarion), the Pathfinder Journal, bestiary (six monsters plus one template) and the pregens.
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.
As with all Pathfinders published to date, this one is in full color. Wayne again is the cover artist and has drawn up the giants doing what they do best, which is throwing rocks! The interior art is excellent. Holistically, the art in this Pathfinder is the best of the series so far by a comfortable margin. Considering that the art in the other modules is very good, goes to show how much I think of the art work in this one. There are a number of evocative pieces that capture the theme of the adventure. The supporting art in the article on dragons is just plain sweet. The Paizo team really hit their stride with the art work on this one.
The action starts with the characters taking part in defense of Sandpoint, which is coming under attack from a group of Stone Giants and their allies. As it turns out, this was just a scouting party and the full army is gathering at the giant fortress called Jorgenfist. The characters launch a daring raid against Jorgenfist hoping to defeat the leaders and stop their assault on Varisia. During the course of their raid against the Stone Giants, they find out that the giants are pawns of the Runelord Karzoug, and that they must destroy the runewell to truly defeat Karzoug.
There are a number of features that this module provides that I am going to list out below:
1. An adventure starring the Stone Giants, which is a new spin on the classic Against the Giants adventure.
2. A full scale assault by giants on the village of Sandpoint, which the characters play a major role in Sandpoint’s defense.
3. Fully mapped out giant stronghold, complete with a dungeon underneath it.
4. A very well writing article on Stone Giants by Wolfgang.
5. An article on the dragons of Golarion, which is excellent.
6. The Pathfinder Journal, which continues the chronicles of Eando Kline.
Wolfgang has done a descent job of breathing life into the Stone Giants, and to create an adventure that hangs together well. This adventure includes what I would consider the big reveal in that the Runelord Karzoug is the BBEG of the series and that the characters have to arm themselves with special weapons if they hope to defeat him. While the adventure is decent, I think the real strength of this Adventure Path is in the supporting material. The articles on the Stone Giants and the dragons elevate this module to a higher grade than I would have assigned it without them. I really liked both articles, and they add considerably to the final product. The bestiary is big, coming in at six monsters plus a template, so all the monster fans out there should enjoy that.
Overall, I give this module a thumbs up, especially considering the support material that is included. The adventure is solid, and it does satisfy the nostalgic itch for another giant adventure. Fans of the original G- series, should like the new school spin on the classic adventure.