Rise of the Runelords #1 – Burnt Offering

Rise of the Runelords #1 – Burnt Offering

From: Paizo Publishers

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Rise of the Runelords #1 – Burnt Offering is a new d20 Fantasy Campaign Adventure from Paizo Publishers.

Paizo has really impressed me in the past several months with their bold moves and quality products. This is evidenced now with their most recent Ennie Award for this very campaign adventure book. The Rise of the Runelords adventure path series introduces the players to a new fantasy setting for D&D 3.5. This soon will be the setting for the Pathfinder roleplaying game, which some are calling D&D 3.75.

In the first chapter of this series, this book includes the 1st-level introductory adventure Burnt Offerings, an exploration of the PC’s new hometown Sandpoint, a history of the ancient empire of Thassilon, and the first installment of the Pathfinder journal. Also included are several new monsters used in the adventure. Along with this, Paizo supplied a Player’s Guide that can be downloaded free or ordered for $2.

From the back cover: “The Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path begins here,…”

Locale:  The adventure series starts out in a small town of Sandpoint, the new home for the characters. It is left up to the GM and the characters for why they were there. There is a complete map of Sandpoint included in this book as well as in the Player’s Guide. Sandpoint is a coastal settlement in the world of Golarion, in the land of Varisia, the land where the Pathfinder’s Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path takes place. Sandpoint has a short 42 year history some of which is covered in the Pathfinder Player’s Guide. The people of Sandpoint have faced hardships and prosperity through those years. The players come at a time when a “great shadow” looms in the small town’s future.

Honestly, at first glance, from a player’s point of view, Sandpoint is nothing remarkable. It is a rather boring-looking town on the outset. Nestled on a small peninsula, it is a typical town with a Cathedral to the god Desna, a few bars and taverns, a glass works, all the smiths a town this size would need, and its share of colorful denizens. However, that is the beauty of this adventure. It is a town easily under-estimated.

The book contains more than just the setting information for the adventure. All the Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords volumes contain a chapter about the Pahtfinder setting. This one covers the fallen Empire of Thassilon, which gives further depth to the setting overall as well as the local area the players will be playing in. It also gives the reader an idea of the depth and uniqueness of the Pathfinder setting.

Plot: The adventure starts out with an attack by a band of goblins. As the characters find out, the town is developing a slight goblin problem. After establishing themselves in the town (and presumably helping with the attack on the town), the players are made local heroes and eventually given roles of town defenders. Trouble is brewing in the surrounding hills of Sandpoint, and although it is easy to laugh at the some of the goblin encounters are first, they take a gradual dark turn as time goes on.

The plot takes the players into the surrounding areas to the dark depths of a goblin hovel called Thistletop. On the outset, this looks like a typical dungeon-crawl, but in truth it is more than that. The module gets you involved with the people and the politics of Sandpoint. This adventure is also a prelude to a long adventure path. You meet many NPCs that can be allies or enemies. A good DM can develop a good plot surrounding the small town politics alone.

Villain:  Something is growing in the darkness outside and under Sandpoint. One of Sandpoint’s darker secrets has come back for revenge. Nualia, a once beautiful girl, was a mysterious orphan raised in the church who had a rough time growing up under the church’s teachings. From her is born a plot involving a teenage pregnancy, an evil goddess of monsters and madness, and a hidden shrine. Fueled by an ancient shrine to the goddess of madness, monsters and nightmares, Nualia and her new allies hatch a plot of revenge against all those that Nualia deems did her wrong.

Minions:  Nualia’s minions are the goblin tribes. What this does to the adventure is provide some comedic relief for the game but also a way for the DM to trick the players into underestimating the threat. They can create some fairly fun encounters but also add some twisted madness to the plot.

Reward:  By the end of the adventure, the characters should reach 4th level and be high enough to take on the next one. Aside from the leveling reward, as well as the prestige of saving the town from Nulaia’s plot, the characters do gain interesting treasure along the way, much of which is deep seeded in the legends and lore of the area. For a 1st to 4th level adventure, it definitely builds up rather swiftly after a slow start and ends with a very climactic battle against the Nualia and her minions.

From the back cover: “Five years after a tragic fire and spate of brutal murders, the people of Sandpoint eagerly anticipate the Swallowtail Festival …”

Layout: The layout of the book is incredible; the art is dazzling and the structure is top-notch. It is nearly 100 full-color pages, with great organization and feel. This is a high quality soft back book. Interestingly, some of the art has a slight anime feel, which you do not see very often in D&D products. This product won a Gold Ennie for Cover Art and a Silver Ennie for Interior Art at GenCon2008, and for good reason.

Other Stuff: As mentioned, the Pathfinder chronicles series will not only include an adventure module, but also a little piece of the Pathfinder setting. The ancient empire of Thassilon is like the Roman Empire of our world – it had a lasting effect, both negative and positive, on the civilizations that now inhabit Golarion. This gives you the background of the Runelords and one of the more significant characterics of Golarion – the Runes. Also, the first installment of the Pathfinder Chronicles is found here – Opening Moves. This introduces you to the exploits of the members of the Pathfinder Society. This society of adventurers seek out the secrets that the wilderness and ruins of Golarion hold. Included within these pages is the first bestiary of Pathfinder. The five creatures here include the Goblin Dog, Goblin Snake, and Sandpoint Devil.

In conclusion, the third Ennie this book won was the Gold for Best Adventure. It is that good of an adventure. Primarily because of the fact that it is multi-faceted and gives you insight into a very deep world. It is a very good 1st level adventure. It is not epic but it does take place in an epic setting. It makes 1st level adventuring more interesting and fun, with a dark twist. Not many adventures do that.

For more details on Paizo Publishers and their new d20 Fantasy Campaign Adventure “Rise of the Runelords #1 – Burnt Offering” check them out at their website http://paizo.com/pathfinder, and at all of your local game stores.

Rise of the Runelords #1 – Burnt Offering

From: Paizo Publishers

Type of Game: d20 Fantasy Campaign Adventure

Written by: James Jacobs

Contributing Authors: Wolfgang Baur, Erik Mona, Richard Pett, F. Wesley Schneider

Cover Art by: Wayne Reynolds

Additional Art by: Rob Lazzaretti, Vincent Dutrait, Andrew Hou, Kyle Hunter, Jeff Laubenstein, Warren Mahy, Arnold Tsang.

Number of Pages: 97

Game Components Included: 1 softback book

Game Components Not Included: Core d20 books

Retail Price: $ 19.99 (US)

ISBN: 9781601250353

Website: paizo.com/pathfinder

Reviewed by: Ron McClung