January 9

Crypt of the Everflame Review, Coming of Age the Hard Way

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PZO9520 Crypt of the Everflame cover

Crypt of the Everflame:

  • Author: Jason Bulmahn
  • Publisher: Paizo Publishing
  • Published: 2009 
  • Pages: 32
  • Price: $13,99 

Crypt of the Everflame is a dungeon adventure for 1st level characters written for the Pathfinder RPG and compatible with the Dungeons & Dragons 3,5 ruleset.

The module was published by Paizo Publishing in 2009. The 32-page saddle stitched booklet contains the Crypt of the Everflame adventure, an appendix detailing the town of Kassen, and 4 pre-generated 1st level characters.

Art

I love the cover art by Vincent Dutrait that shows the final battle with the skeletal champion called Asar! The art really captures the darkness and grittiness of the dungeon, and contrasts that nicely with the vivid colors of the eternal flame and the spell being cast. 

Crypt of the Everflame pre-production art

I also found a pre-production cover floating online and I'm glad that was reworked to the current cover. 

While the art on the alternative cover really looks nice, it doesn't capture the spirit of the adventure in quite the same way. 

Also not a big fan of that yellow, curly font that was used there. 

Whereas in Murder's Mark the interior art was mainly character portraits, in Crypt of the Everflame there's several pieces that cover half a page. 

I don't like all those pieces of art equally but the art that showcases encounters in the dungeon are all great. My favorite is no doubt the Valeros close-up on page 11. 

The remaining art are very detailed depictions of monsters which are a great asset to the dungeon master in describing the story for the players.

I also love that they reprinted the full cover art on the inside of the back cover. I much rather see that than an ad for other products. 

Cartography

A smart cross-sell tactic was used when it comes to the map of the dungeon. The dungeon used in Crypt of the Everflame is the same one that's sold as the Gamemastery Flip Mat: Dungeon

There's nothing wrong with that dungeon map necessarily but it's a dungeon map on a dark background. It's for sure not as elaborate as other maps I've seen in Paizo products. 

The dungeon has 2 levels and each level is printed on a full-color page in the module. 

The other 2 pieces of cartography can be found in the appendix. One is a simple  top down view of the town of Kassen. 

The other is a (on purpose) super simple rendition of the road that characters are supposed to travel to reach the Crypt of the Everflame. 

It has strategically been placed on the other side of the Open Game License so it can be removed from the module and given to the players as a hand-out without ruining any text necessary to run the adventure. 

Look & Feel

This module is from the early Pathfinder days. While it doesn't have all the bells and whistles yet of later Paizo products, it definitely looks like a professionally produced adventure scenario.

Crypt of the Everflame has a 2 column layout. Due to the use of titles, bolding of words, a different font for the read aloud text, stat blocks, art, and the occasional side bar, you're never looking at a big wall of text. 

Crypt of the Everflame look and feel-min

Writing

The module assumes that this is the first adventures for the player characters. 

While of course you can drop this scenario into any campaign with the necessary work from the GM, I don't really like it when adventures make such big assumptions. 

At the same time I do really like it when at the start of a campaign you establish some kind of a connection between the player characters. 

When I played in the Rise of the Runelords campaign, our GM had all the characters somehow tied to the orphanage in Sandpoint. 

But that is for a campaign, not for stand alone adventure modules. 

When it comes to the actual writing, there's a few typo's that slipped past the editor's gaze but nothing major. 

Encounters

A few of the encounters really made me scratch my head. 

Before the characters reach the crypt they will have to roll 3 Acrobatics checks just to get down a slippery hillside. 

That is just such a waste of time in my opinion. It's totally not relevant to the story and is just a way to get some damage into the characters if they fail their rolls. 

If they roll really poorly, they could even get 2d6 damage which is potentially enough to kill any of the pre-generated characters. And they haven't even reached the objective of the module yet. 

I really dislike rolling dice for the sake of rolling and it really serves no purpose at all other than 'another encounter'. 

Inside of the crypt a shadow is thrown at the players. Now if I understand this correctly, it goes a little like this: 

  • The shadow is incorporeal so normal weapons don't do damage. 
  • I don't know if you equip your starting parties with magical weapons but I certainly don't. Even if they have a magical weapon, it only does half damage. 
  • Most spells or torches do half damage. The only thing that does normal damage is Channel Energy. If you didn't bring a cleric, too bad. 
  • As if that wasn't bad enough, there's a fire in the room which causes smoke. That smoke gives you a -2 penalty to attack. 
  • Smart players might want to put out the fire but the smoke that that generates causes the penalty to become -4.
  • Oh and by the way, they're being attacked by a creature they can't hit! 

Luckily the author left a magical weapon in the room. A +1 dagger. Guess where it is? In the fire! If they take the dagger without putting out the fire, they take 1d6 damage. 

Am I getting soft in my old age? To me it seems like a lot of effort to have the player characters fail. 

Is it all bad? No, of course not! There's some really cool encounters in this dungeon. A room full of mold with roots dangling from the ceiling which is really cool to describe. It does 3d6 lightning damage but oh well. 

There's a really cool encounter with giant frogs which are a monster you don't encounter that often and have some cool abilities like grabbing characters with their tongues and potentially swallowing them. 

Oh yeah, and there's exploding zombies!! 

Crypt of the Everflame Challenge Ratings

I would say for a 1st-level adventure, this is a tough outing with over 70% of the encounters having a challenge rating that's larger than 1.

The town of Kassen

The town of Kassen has a number of its main locations described with a short paragraph. 

Where the appendix really shines is in the description of the NPCs that frequent the town. 

There's plenty of little tidbits given so a dungeon master can portray the gamemaster characters with ease. 

What I absolutely love is that the author made the effort of providing a character that can serve as a mentor for all the available classes a player could choose from.

It makes a lot of sense as the adventure assumes this is the start of a new campaign but still, kudo's for doing that! Love it! 

The Crypt of the Everflame Story

Crypt of the Everflame takes place in the town of Kassen, in the north of a region called Nirmathas. 

Nirmathas Map-min

Kassen has a tradition of sending young inhabitants of the town to the crypt of the town's founder as a coming-of-age ceremony. 

This year, the player characters are the ones who are asked to light their lanterns with Kassen's everburning flame.

The crypt is normally prepared by the townsfolk to challenge the characters, but to not injure them. 

As the characters will soon find out though, something went wrong. And those challenges sure sport a quite lethal undertone. 

GM preparation

  •  I would highly recommend starting the adventure 1 or 2 days before the characters are sent to the crypt. That gives you as the GM some time to play out the visit of the mayor, the different characters finding out about each other being sent to the crypt, and especially the ability for some of the young adults in town to play up the dangers of the mission and the deaths that have occurred in the past. I would even take that opportunity to have them encounter NPCs like Gerol, Vark, or Roldare who they will find again in the crypt. 
  • If you use this adventure as the start of a brandnew campaign, make full use of the mentors that are provided in the appendix. 
  • Be prepared to answer the question why the previous 3 years noone was sent to the crypt. Is the ceremony truly election propaganda for the mayor?
  • Despite playing up the dangers of previous excursions to the crypt, I would recommend that the characters are aware of the fact that this is a purely ceremonial trip. That makes the contrast a lot bigger when they face real foes instead of a set of illusions created by the local wizard. 
  • As you could tell from my graph of the challenge ratings for the adventure's encounters, this is a tough dungeon. There's a several encounters that could bring a character's life total to 0, if not wipe out the complete party. If you play with a group of players who have never played a roleplaying game before, be prepared to give some extra hints, or fudge a die or two(hundred). 

Critical Hit or Fumble?

For those who just want to skip straight to the ratings:

Pros

  • Love the mentor system as a way to tie the player characters to the setting!
  • If the dungeon master handles it the right way, it can become a very memorable adventure.
  • Provides an ending that leads to a follow-up adventure.

Cons

  • It's a dungeon hack. (Yes, I'm biased)
  • Very challenging dungeon with almost half of the encounters having a challenge rating of 3+
66%

Product Rating Summary

Art

cartography

look & feel

writing

story

gm prep

The story of Crypt of the Everflame is nothing spectacular or original.

Where the module really shines in my opinion is in the appendix where it fleshes out the different gamemaster characters the players can interact with in the town of Kassen. 

I especially love the idea of the mentors! 

There are some fun encounters in the dungeon itself, my favorite being the giant frogs. 

Almost half of the encounters however are challenge rating 3 or higher which is a bit over the top for a 1st level adventure in my opinion. 

I fully understand Pathfinder is a crunchy system and the designers need to take into account a fully min-maxed party. But at first level, how much optimisation is really going to take place? Enough to take on a level 5 encounter? I doubt it. 

If you have experienced Pathfinder players who want a tough dungeon challenge, this is great! If you run this for a group of new players, be prepared to roll new characters, possibly for the entire party. 

If the dungeon master makes the effort of using the gamemaster characters as mentors, and has the characters meet some of the townsfolk that will perish in the crypt, it will add loads to the story.

Otherwise it's just another dungeon, albeit a very challenging one. 

Purchase Crypt of the Everflame

Hardcopy

Crypt of the Everflame has been out of print for a while. Your best bet is to look for a copy on Amazon or perhaps on Ebay

Crypt of the Everflame pdf

As Paizo doesn't sell their products through DriveThruRPG, your best bet to get hold of a pdf copy of the adventure is directly in the Paizo webshop

Also of interest

If you're interested in fleshing out the region around Kassen, Lands of Conflict provides a detailed gazetteer and history of Nirmathas. 

If you want to continue the adventure, make sure to check out its sequel Masks of the Living God

Ralph

About the author

Ralph is a gamer, dungeon master, Youtuber, and RPG collector who's incredibly passionate about roleplaying games. Coming from a computer roleplaying game background, he discovered tabletop roleplaying games at GenCon Benelux and a whole new world opened up. When he was properly introduced to them in a local gaming store, he knew he had found the best game ever!



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