Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Horror Adventures - Tabletop and Board Games Review
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Having recently had a chance to play and review another Pathfinder product that had a focus on making actual heroes, I find it fascinating to now delve into a book focused on monsters. Not hobgoblin, enemy fodder types of monsters, but the kind that have psychological weight to them as well. From start to finish, I found this to be an excellent tool for GMs, though perhaps less handy for the actual players.
Just to put this out there, but horror themed RPGs are pretty much my go-to. I sunk numerous hours into Ravenloft campaigns in the past, and even my original worlds have almost always had some significant horror themes baked into them. Just about all of the players on Kingdoms of the Lost have noted that my zones on that MUD tend to have at least a whiff of horror to them. Why? Because to me they are simply more rewarding. Of course there is physical danger to a character when characters are wandering the landscape and fighting monsters and looking for traps. However, by its very definition, horror tries to tap into something more than just physical danger, and tends to up the ante for characters, yielding even greater risks and rewards while potentially adding new facets to any adventure.
The quick overview of materials is simply that your game masters should enjoy some of the cool ideas such as the different kinds of corruptions and monsters. You have the normal items, feats and spells for players as well, so they add some more customization to the character kits, but what really shines here is the depth of some of the more unique monsters within the book. It helps that in terms of the quality of the book, everything is excellent from the hard cover and snug binding to the excellent and even sometimes slightly disturbing illustrations the the span of its 256 pages. While sanity and madness are hardly new territory in roleplaying games, the systems around them do work very nicely here and help to add some framework to how you want to challenge your players with this new content.
This is how the first chapter kicks off, introducing us to sanity and corruption. There are some 'powers of the dark side' jokes I could make here, but the idea of delving into popular fantasy horror creatures such as a lich and these horror characters benefit from the in-depth examination that takes place here. I love it when you can take something that is traditionally just fodder in fantasy games like this and give players a reason to inspect them in greater detail, adding solid narrative and looking at the character from more than just one angle. This book allows you to do that and chapter one in particular assists in this.
Our second chapter is all about archetypes. Some are more obvious than others, like a slayer of witch-killers. Others are perhaps not ones I would have immediately thought of, like the investigator who is more than willing to dig up a grave to find answers that others might have missed. This ties right into the next chapter, which lays out a variety of different feats focused on either combating this evil - or perhaps becoming one with it. There some interesting uses of alignment that show up here, which is a welcome thing for a game mechanic that too often goes neglected.
In the fourth chapter, we are still somewhat tied to the previous two as we talk about spells themed to a horror game. Drain life is hardly a new spell in and of itself, but it is given a slightly different lens to look at it through now. Instead of spells that just do a little damage over time such as the splash of acid, we have dark magic that rends a person's flesh and causes them to bleed. Very few of these are earth shattering in their innovation, but they fit the theme of the material rather nicely.
Chapter five has some of my favorite mechanics as we delve into things such as diseases, curses, hauntings and more. We have almost all played a game where there is a cursed item, but generally they are treated as anything more than a heavy mace you cannot drop, or a dagger that actually makes your accuracy worse in combat - things like that. Here the curses tend to have a little more flavor to them, and I was able to conceive dozens of adventures just off of this segment alone once I started to pour through it.
The prior chapter served as an excellent bridge between the more mechanical aspects of the book and chapter six, which delves into the idea of storytelling in horror and how to run a good campaign. It touches on a lot of those points I mentioned initially, how you have to make it tense and really use the atmosphere to make the adventure about more than just dealing and taking damage, but how sometimes there is more threatening things to a player than their hit points. While I liked how the last bit led into chapter six, chapter seven feels somewhat appendix-like and might have made more sense earlier in the book with its lists of horror themed magic items. In fact I think chapters six and seven probably should have been swapped around, but seven is still quite informative. Ditto chapter eight, which is a bestiary that is a great way to close the book, because it echos so many things that we opened with in the first chapter.
I am a huge fan of all things horror, especially in roleplaying games. Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Horror Adventures is probably my favorite Pathfinder expansion yet and is absolutely worth a look to GMs looking to do something new with the system.
Article by Nick