Siege of the Dinosaurs
This is part four of seven in a comprehensive review of the entire Extinction Curse Adventure Path. You’ll be able to read all the parts below.
part 1 • part 2 • part 3 • part 4 • part 5 • part 6 • accessories
[EDITORS NOTE: If this is your first experience with the Second Edition Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, you may want to consider starting with our previous review of the Core Rulebook. -dc]
The remote town of Willowside is an eager new audience for the Circus of Wayward Wonders. But just after the circus arrives, the town is beset by dinosaur-riding monsters from deep beneath the earth. When the town protectors go missing, the circus’s heroes must unearth an ancient mystery, expose a cunning betrayal, and break the siege of the dinosaurs!
So says the back cover for part 4 of the Extinction Curse adventure path, Seige of the Dinosaurs. Let me start out by saying that I love that dinosaurs are in the Pathfinder bestiaries, but it’s still weird to me that they are just sort of lumbering around the world, more or less like any other creature. That isn’t a criticism in any way, it’s just a bit odd in my head. I assume there’s an in-story reason for it, and maybe Paizo needs to look at putting out a Lost Omens book on it. Moving on.
Willowside is an isolated community on the far northern coast of the Isle of Kortos, almost directly opposite the city of Absalom. The safest, and most common, way in an out of the city is by boat. While this is a minor detail, it means that few in the town won’t know who is coming and more importantly who is going from the town. Two of the people that haven’t been seen leaving are the presumed-missing owners of the Fortune’s Hall gambling house and theatre. The first part of the book has the heroes making their way to investigate the whereabouts of the sibling proprietors. From there the players have a dungeon-dive and lastly a completely-out-of-the-blue and-not-at-all-foreshadowed surprise siege, before making their way to the Marsh Stone Tower.
Opportunities to perform in Willowside are numerous, both when players arrive and at the concussion of the adventure. Willowside is remote, so there are some opportunities to make big gains for the circus. As always, there are six new (level 14) NPCs that the players may encounter and hire during their adventures. Including a dinosaur named Bongo by his musically-inclined master. Yes, you read that correctly. Without spoiling the details, recent Pathfinder releases have made it so I desperately want this character as a full pregenerated PC sometime in the next 8 months or so. (Come on Paizo, you know what I’m laying down here. Doooooooooo iiiiiiiiiit!)
Hiring new NPC performers is an important part of running the circus sub-rules. In our last review, I talked about the downtime action of promoting an upcoming show. Today I want to look briefly at putting on a show, which is mechanically treated as an encounter. There are several steps to a show:
First players can purchase temporary upgrades and decide if they want to take on a Non-Performer Role for the performance, both granting a variety of bonuses to the show. While those are being decided, the GM rolls for a random event that will affect the show and tallies up the starting Anticipation created while Promoting the Show. At the end, the GM calculates the Payout and Prestige for the show.
Of course before the payout, comes the show itself. Each show consists of four acts, with a total of seven tricks. There are two types of tricks that can be performed. NPC Tricks and player’s Signature Tricks. Player’s tricks are usually designed by each player (and approved by the GM) and will automatically improve every 4th Level their character gains. NPC Tricks, on the other hand, never improve. The only way to gain more impressive tricks for the show is to hire on higher-level NPCs as the adventure path goes on. When a player or NPC take the Perform A Trick action they roll one of the checks for that trick using any modifiers for that show. For example, if the player put on a show in Castinlee during Life’s Long Shadows tricks with the Animal trait gained a +1 circumstance bonus there. On a successful roll, the circus gains Excitement equal to that trick’s level; while a critical success also adds to the Anticipation of the show. Both of these totals impact the overall success or failure of the show and the subsequent Payout.
I specifically wanted to look at the performance rules because of the Fortune’s Hall location in this adventure. Because a great deal of my professional background is in theatre, one of the first tangents my brain took with the circus rules was how they would be adapted for a theatrical setting. The bulk of the rules would be the same, but inevitably there would need to be some adjustments. Seige of the Dinosaurs follows up on the previous look at Zevgavizeb, the Beast of Gluttondark, by delving into the realm of Gluttondark itself; as well as the typical Adventurer’s Toolbox of NPCs, creatures, and other cool stuff. I really think there was a missed opportunity here to expand on the circus rules and give even more depth to Willowside and the surrounding area.
That disappointment aside, this was yet another great entry in the series as the action seems to be ramping up fast for the next two installments. I’ll be back in two weeks’ time to look at the next chapter with Lord of the Black Sands. But for now, you can find Pathfinder Second Edition, and all things Paizo, online at paizo.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/paizo.