Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Emerald Spire Review – Part 1

 I recently started an open call for guest bloggers, and here's the first guest blog, a review of the Emerald Spire Superdungeon, written by Neal Powell. The review is published in two parts, here's the first one!

Have old school meet new school meet some of the greatest writers from the past 35 years, shake it up with some of the best monsters and traps that roleplaying has to offer and you will have a vague idea of what The Emerald Spire Superdungeon has to offer you. The Emerald Spire module was written in conjunction with the Pathfinder Online Kickstarter that ran, and funded, in January 2013. It was to help draw in people to fund the Kickstarter with the awesome writing power behind the module. The product finally reached the hands of consumers in June 2014, but I waited for the rest of the supplemental material to be released before purchasing the module and preparing to play with a group. The history lesson is over, and the awesome begins.

The book starts out with something I didn’t quite expect; a fully fleshed-out town full of intrigue. It makes perfect sense that there would be a large, established town to be a home base for adventurers traversing the 16 levels of The Emerald Spire, but it still took me aback how well done it was. There is something for every character in the town, including a grumpy old alchemist that dabbles in poisons, who is tons of fun to roleplay as. It is important to note that the town was established, and is now ran by, Hellknights who are lawful evil in nature. Also, there is an underground revolutionary group that the characters could also join with. Pretty much anything that a player character, or Game Master, could want is in the town, or could very easily be added in.

The Emerald Spire itself is a mere six miles away from the town, so it is very easily accessible by the PCs. It is so close in fact that it is a tourist attraction of sorts. The first level was written by the Lisa Stevens and is a great introduction to the superdungeon. As goblins are the mascot of Pathfinder and Lisa Stevens is the CEO of the company it is no surprise that they are in control the first level of the dungeon. They are occupying the ruins of a tower that surrounds the Emerald Spire itself, and are a fairly straightforward foe.

Things escalate fairly quickly as you move to the second level, written by none other than Ed Greenwood. Seeing as how he is the person who brought about the creation of the Forgotten Realms themselves it is an amazingly well done level. Full of traps and custom monsters it will be a level full of fun for at least one side of the Game Master’s screen. The Moon Spiders that Ed Greenwood adds to the level are a mix of vampire and spider given that they have the gaseous form special ability. He also adds a specialized undead monster known as the bone priest, who of course has his own set of undead minions. The bone priest is a cleric of an evil god who has forced them into service even after they have died.

The Emerald Spire itself is in every level to whatever capacity the writer sees fit. It could be the central focus of the level and its inhabitants, or simply makes a guest appearance in a hallway. Another thing of note is that the writers were all also confined to the space of a single flip-mat (24” x 30”) for their level. This doesn’t come across as anything besides awesome. It helps to normalize the size of the levels, and to have the flip-mat pack very easy to produce. I have bought the PDFs rather than the physical product and it is well worth the price.
From Paizo blog. By Rob Lazzaretti

The third level changes things up once again, and is written by Michael A. Stackpole, who has written a slew of Star Wars and Battletech books. Technically the players only need to enter two rooms before they descend to level four. This area has been taken over by a group of bandits that have been using a secret access point they found in the woods surrounding the Emerald Spire. This level brings with it one of the worst sounding poisons I have read, and some of the most interesting animal testing I have seen in role playing.

Frank Menzter create a stinker in the form of level four, but it’s impossible not to when you fill an entire level with troglodytes. With two tribes of competing, but fairly amicable troglodytes makes for some interesting questions that the players have to answer. The troglodytes worship a device as if it were their god, and claim that the players need only make a sacrifice to move to the next level of the dungeon. It puts the amount of bloodshed that happens completely in the player’s hands.

The fifth level in the Emerald Spire is the one that I am most excited about. It is written by Sean K. Reynolds who some consider the father of the Pathfinder campaign setting. It is titled the Drowned Level, and I am sure that this will likely be the truth. It is on this level that the Emerald Spire starts to establish itself as truly out of place. There are portals into the elemental plane of water that bring with it not only water, but a set of amazing creatures to put in front of the players.

There have been other hints at automatons throughout the dungeon, but it is on the sixth level where they culminate. The Clockwork Maze was written by Richard Baker who has hand in writing for D&D since the early nineties. It has one of the more intriguing mechanics of the module in the form of movable hallways. With the simple flick of a lever the entire level changes.

Here is where the players will find the man behind the madness of the constructs in the superdungeon so far. As mentioned, this is a maze, and anyone who knows about mazes knows that it wouldn’t be complete without a minotaur. Thankfully though, the leader of this level has seen fit to make the minotaur what can only be easily described as a cyborg minotaur! At this point if you aren’t completely sold on the Emerald Spire as a must buy product for you and your players, then come back as the review slithers its way into the second half of the Emerald Spire!

Text by Neal Powell 

1 comment :

  1. Can't wait to read more. The Emerald Spire is on my short list of things to run or play.


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