Creation During the primordial war between the empire of the alghollthus and the xiomorn , the Vault Keeper Iluchtewhar , driven mad by the powers of the alghollthus, attempted to use a stolen vault seed to create a vault where he would build an army to wage war against the alghollthus. However, as a Vault Keeper, Iluchtewhar could not control the power of the vault seed, and instead of creating a vault it instead generated an enormous spire of magical crystal that erupted towards the surface, becoming the Emerald Spire. Serpentfolk scholars from the Circle of Vissk-Thar settled in the dungeon, as did goblins from the Kingdom of Zog , who used the spire as a place of execution for captured prisoners. After the collapse of Zog, humans resettled the region, building towns such as Thornkeep , Mosswater , and Southwood , now known as Fort Inevitable. Since AR , the Numerian has protected his holdings by constructing clockwork automatons and forming alliances with the monstrous denizens of the upper dungeons. These levels sprawl off in their own directions and are not usually adjacent to one another.
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This page book covers sixteen dungeon levels, details a nearby town, and takes a party of adventurers from 1st level to 13th level. What Is It? Emerald Spire is the first Pathfinder superdungeon. There have long been requests by fans of dungeon crawls for a larger-than-average dungeon, but Paizo never felt able to do this with either the Adventure Paths which have to stand alone or the module line previously too short.
This meant there was the opportunity to do something extra special to encourage gamers to pledge funds. The hook of the dungeon was each level would be written by a different author, and as the Kickstarter raised more funds more authors would be added.
Wesley Schneider, Michael A. Stackpole, Lisa Stevens, and James L. Paizo is doing its usual excellent job of releasing companion products, including a deck of Campaign Cards and a Flip-Mat Map Pack.
The Campaign Cards are similar to the decks released for the last few Modules and Adventure Paths, and includes a deck of 53 cards containing items from the adventure, Face cards of various NPCs, and Quest cards summarizing important missions.
The Flip-Mats set is more impressive, being eight double-sided flip maps covering every layer of the dungeon. The entire dungeon is pre-mapped! Golarion has a series of underground vaults that are essentially magical wildlife preserves inspired by pulp stories and Hollow World tales, such as Journey to the Center of the Earth. While they filled the same niche as the Underdark of other campaign worlds, these Vaults had a mysterious origin having been created by an unknown race who once warred with the aboleths.
The Emerald Spire reveals the identity of these mysterious Vault Builders. The Good First off, the presentation is excellent. The book features all new art and looks good. Each dungeon level has consistent formatting with a full map followed by a page with flavour text and an introduction of the level. The third page features a sidebar explaining some key features of the dungeon layer, such as doors, ceiling height, lighting, etc.
The dungeon is really diverse. Many dungeons — especially mega-dungeons — get a little samey, having the same rough tone and execution: the same types of monsters, the same architecture, and same level design. There might be a varying room or two but the majority is familiar for reasons of consistency. Similarly, not all layers are just kick-down-the-door combats. Some levels have the opportunity for some roleplaying and interaction. One level could even serve as a headquarters for the party as they adventure deeper.
At several opportunities PCs are given the chance to skip a level, ignoring a door or using a token to travel to a deeper layer.
This adds a slight feeling of old school exploration to the dungeon, where players just pick a wing or area to explore: there is not a set order to the exploration that must be upheld, there are no rails for the dungeon. The book presents a lengthy background describing the dungeon, with much of it focusing on an Azlanti expatriate that features heavily in the lore.
The history is accompanies by a very cool cross section of the dungeon showing the height difference of the various levels, as well as some side passages.
This is actually pretty useful and evocative, showing just how deep things get while also countering the mental image of the dungeon being shaped like an inverted sixteen-story office building. The book describes the small city of Fort Inevitable, created as one of the starting areas for the MMO. This is a decent starting town, with lots of potential for side quests and adventure hooks, but not so much content that GMs have to use the city or cannot move the Spire elsewhere.
The players could support either faction or freely decide to ignore the struggle. Heck, as the adventure is close to the city of Thornkeep, GMs could choose to set it there and forgo Fort Inevitable altogether. Speaking of Thornkeep, the adventure has some ties to that product, referencing organizations from that town. But the references are largely self-contained, so Thornkeep is not required to play Emerald Spire.
One final point is the new monsters. With so many monsters available for use, the new creatures here seem a little superfluous save two. However, these are based on repainted minis provided to Kickstarter backers, exclusive figures for the Kickstarter.
Including new statistics for these figures is a neat perk, as is incorporating them into the adventure. The Bad The largest problems with Emerald Spire are structural. Because it was written by sixteen people who only somewhat coordinated their efforts, each of the dungeon levels feel unrelated and do not connect well. There are two layers that have similar inhabitants snake people but the actual layers are independent of each other. The most glaring example is the Hellknight expedition, a party of former adventures who delved deep into the dungeon before dying but left no mark or sign of passage.
There are also no guidelines for expected levels, requiring GMs to eyeball the Challenge Ratings of encounters to decide if their party is ready for a level or needs a couple random encounters first. And while there is some roleplaying and lots of combat there are precious few puzzles or areas that require creative thought or ingenuity. Speaking of problems tied to the game system, Pathfinder and 3e have the associated catch of assumed character wealth: magic items are assumed for power level.
However, there are only a couple small cities nearby the dungeon, making selling the substantial treasure accrued at higher levels much trickier. There is also no spellcasters nearby able to cast spells like raise dead making death rather permanent in the campaign until the PCs can handle it themselves. Player motivations might be a little problematic for the adventure, as there are fewer overt goals beyond exploring and completing the quests. The Emerald Spire also feels a little tacked-on to the campaign setting.
There are no shortage of established super dungeons that could have been detailed, places people have heavily requested such as the Test of the Starstone, Gallowspire, and other locales. Their nature is a revelation, but it is not a twist on an established race. The use of the Campaign Cards feels a tad forced, with the quests in the book very obviously tied to the cards. The missions are less organic and more, well, like a video game: the PCs pass through a certain area or talk with someone and a just gain a quest.
Cards and a quest log can be a useful reminder for goals, both long-term and short — there is a reason video games use them — but some are a little more forced.
And there is a LOT of experience tied to the quests in the dungeon, and it often feels like padding. The Flip-Mats are also a bonus feature with liabilities. With all visible rooms required to fit on the Mats, secret passages are often a little too obvious and visible. GMs will need to develop some strategies for covering and revealing details. The size of the maps is also problematic, as the entire dungeon has to fit on a single poster. A few layers have opposing factions, but because of the size each faction is comprised of a half-dozen individuals.
A lesser annoyance is repeated use of the new monsters. As mentioned earlier, the book contains new monsters based on repainted Pathfinder Battles minis. But some dungeon layers use multiples of the same monster, monsters whose minis are going to be particularly difficult to acquire elsewhere. But this is mostly a problem for people who are receiving the minis.
And lots of people like a good extended dungeon crawl. The Emerald Spire will certainly keep people occupied for a year of twice-monthly delving. But the product is inconsistent and is very episodic. For a group of players meeting for long sessions of delving, each layer could be a single session. Thankfully, the problems of the adventure are nothing a skilled GM cannot overcome.
Because the best reviews of an adventure will always come from people who actually played it. Email this:.
Sign in to create or edit a product review. An amazing story to be told, in a complex and rich dungeon TSRodriguez — Dec 18, , pm We just finished this adventure, and what a ride. It is quite difficult, we lost a ton of characters, but almost everything felt fair. I completely disagree with the "lack of RP" there are plenty of opportunities and tons of lore for the fans of Golarion. The end level was Some levels are really mean, and it will frustrate players no doubt, but if they want to be challenged, and you like playing to the will of the dice gods, they will have a blast.
The Emerald Spire Superdungeon