January 11

Master of the Fallen Fortress Review

1  comments

PZO9500-4 Master of the Fallen Fortress cover

Master of the Fallen Fortress:

  • Author: Rob McCreary
  • Publisher: Paizo Publishing
  • Published: 2010 
  • Pages: 16 
  • Price: Free 

Master of the Fallen Fortress is a short 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 for Free RPG Day 2010. The 16-page saddle stitched booklet contains the Master of the Fallen Fortress adventure, and 6 pre-generated characters that preview the 6 new classes of the Advanced Player's Guide.

Art

I absolutely love the cover art by Tyler Walpole that shows 2 of the new iconic characters, Alain the cavalier and Alahazra the oracle, facing off against an army of Troglodytes.

The interior art is taken care of by Andrew Hou (a half page battle scene and 3 character/monster pieces). The portraits of the pre-generated characters are done by Wayne Reynolds.

It's hard to really put my finger on it but I'm not a fan of the Andrew Hou illustrations. It's not at all the technical ability, but more the style that just doesn't gel with me.

Maybe it's the big contrast in styles between Andrew's work and the depictions created by Wayne and Tyler. I'll put 3 depictions of the iconic character Alain below to illustrate what I mean. 

Iconic Cavalier Alain by Tyler Walpole

Alain by Tyler Walpole

Iconic Cavalier Alain by Andrew Hou

Alain by Andrew Hou

Iconic Cavalier Alain by Wayne Reynolds

Alain by Wayne Reynolds

Cartography

The cartography by Jared Blando is top-notch! 

Yes, it's a simple 5 floor tower, not an incredibly hard to navigate dungeon. But it all fits on a single page, it's clear, and easily read. 

I love the parchment approach with all the stains, symbols and lines worked into the background. 

Look & Feel

As we can expect from a Paizo product, the module looks really professional. It's only half the size of a regular adventure scenario but given that it was given  away for free through the Free RPG Day program, that's no surprise. 

Writing

Master of the Fallen Fortress was written with Free RPG day in mind, meaning it's a short adventure that can be quickly prepared and played within a single session. 

Due to that it also foregoes any introductions and skips straight to the tower the player characters are supposed to explore. For a one-shot this makes sense. 

It's funny to read the bad guy's reasoning. Tasskar, The Troglodyte 'mastermind', has been given the tower/fortress by his god to prepare the Troglodyte race to take over the world. 

Talk about being ambitious, seeing that it's Tasskar, his crocodile, and 6 other Troglodytes. 

The conclusion of the adventure then reads: "It's only a matter of time before someone else moves into the damaged siege tower and poses a new threat".

I mean, Absalom is the biggest city in the world of Golarion. The Cairnlands around Absalom are filled with siege towers of previous attempts to take over the city. With whole armies! 

So I really doubt this 'step-on-the-wrong-floortile-and-it-collapses-even-more' siege tower is going to pose much of a threat in the future. 

Encounters

The encounters are super straightforward and are a mix of random monsters and the Troglodyte crew. 

I was super excited seeing giant frogs in an encounter in Crypt of the Everflame, stating you don't encounter them very often. Well, there's a giant frog here too. 

That'll shut me up!

What's really a pity is that the stat blocks of the monsters are abbreviated and refer to the Bestiary for more information. 

From a publisher's standpoint I get it of course. You're giving away a free module so it makes sense to point people to paid products.

On top of that you want everything to fit within 16 pages and a crunchy system like Pathfinder has stat blocks that potentially take up a bunch of space.

I look at it from a Gamemaster's perspective though, which means I have to go and grab other books and look up stuff in order to run this adventure. 

Master of the Fallen Fortress Challenge Ratings

If you look at the challenge ratings for this adventure, it's safe to say that this is an 'easy' adventure for the Pathfinder way of doing things.

Most parties shouldn't have any trouble hacking through the encounters. 

There isn't a single encounter that really jumps out for me. 

There's a javelin trap I found a bit odd though. The Troglodytes are guarding/defending the tower and they put a javelin trap pointed at the north-western door in room 5. I would assume they'd put it pointing towards a possible entry point. On top of that, room 5 is completely empty. There's nothing inside except for dust.

Then there's a bat swarm that according to the description is disturbed by any light (or movement) entering the chamber. The bat swarm however, is placed in a partially collapsed room which means that sunlight can enter this room freely. 

No rest for the wicked ehm bats.

Pre-generated characters

The provided characters are Damiel the alchemist, Alain the cavalier, Imrijka the inquisitor, Alahazra the oracle, Balazar the summoner, and Feiya the witch.

All mechanics are provided and explained for use during this adventure. I would have preferred at the very least a single paragraph describing a bit of character background but that's not available. 

Of all the classes I personally only played a summoner which was a lot of fun. I spent a good amount of time tinkering with my eidolon.

What struck me as odd though is the order of the cavalier. The Order of the Cockatrice promotes being selfish and concerned only with personal goals and objectives. The edict is states: "You must put your own interests and aims above those of all others". 

I really don't think we should be encouraging the 'lone wolf' playstyle where players don't give a shit about the adventure or the rest of the party because "I'm just roleplaying my character". 

It just seems extremely counterproductive in a game that's supposed to be a cooperative effort to create great stories. 

The Master of the Fallen Fortress Storyline

An earthquake has crumbled a, previously magically sealed, tower. The characters want to explore it. That about sums it up. 

While exploring the tower the characters will find that a small group of Troglodytes have occupied the tower. 

A Pathfinder named Balenar Foresend tried to explore the tower prior to the character's arrival and was captured by the Troglodytes. 

Master of the Fallen Fortress is legal for Pathfinder Society Organized Play so the captured Pathfinder serves as an introduction to the ingame Pathfinder Society.

GM Preparation

  • The adventure is so simple it can be run after a single reading and can easily be played in a single session. 
  • Make sure you have the Pathfinder Bestiary available since you will need to look up the stats for all the monsters used in this adventure. 
  • I would completely forgo any 'quest-giving roleplay' and just drop the player characters in front of the tower. It makes more sense to spend a bit of extra time introducing them to the ingame Pathfinder Society through roleplay when they return from the adventure with the freed Balenar.
  • If you intend to roleplay that introduction to the Pathfinder Society, you might want to keep Seekers of Secrets handy as well as it explains the inner workings of the society.  

Critical Hit or Fumble?

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

Pros

  • Can be run after a single reading.
  • Simple and easy one-shot if you have no inspiration.

Cons

  • There's not much story going on.
  • Stat blocks refer to the Bestiary for additional information.
  • Little if any roleplay interaction with gamemaster characters.
56%

Product Rating Summary

Art

cartography

look & feel

writing

story

gm prep

If you really have 0 inspiration and you need a super simple adventure to keep your friends going for another session, then you could give this a shot.  

I can't help but compare this to other Paizo Free RPG day products and to be honest, it falls a bit short. 

If you look at the sheer entertainment value of a product like We Be Goblins, it's clear that even with a free 16-page module you can deliver an amazing product. 

Master of the Fallen Fortress unfortunately doesn't fall in that category.  

Purchase Master of the Fallen Fortress

Hardcopy

As Master of the Fallen Fortress was a limited Free RPG Day release, it has been out of print for a while. A print copy can most likely be found on Amazon or Ebay

Master of the Fallen Fortress pdf

As Paizo doesn't sell their products through DriveThruRPG, you can grab a free copy of the pdf directly from the Paizo webshop

Also of interest

Since the stat blocks refer you to the Bestiary, I'll leave a link to the 1st edition and 2nd edition Pathfinder Bestiary so you can choose which edition to purchase. 

If you are interested in exploring more of Absalom and its surroundings, you can pick up the Guide to Absalom or the Inner Sea World Guide

For those interested in the Pathfinder Society, check out Seekers of Secrets

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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