Every new edition of Dungeons & Dragons has its naysayers, but in the mid 2000s Fourth Edition’s announcement was especially volatile compared to the widely beloved 3.5 edition. So much so that one company split off and created their own RPG system heavily based on 3.5 edition. Pathfinder did the unthinkable and proved more popular than Dungeons & Dragons for several years, until Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition arrived in 2014.
My own experience with Pathfinder is quite limited. When we first got into doing role-playing games online via Roll20, we actually started with Pathfinder, playing for several months. That game was cancelled when our GM abruptly left, and it would be several months before we got bit by the RPG bug again, first with Shadowrun and then with D&D 5E.
Now, finally, Pathfinder has officially come to Roll20. Roll20 is completely open, meaning you could always play Pathfinder, but with official licensing support comes Roll20-created character sheets, as well as professionally adapted modules, the likes of which we’ve been seeing (and I’ve been reviewing) for D&D over the last several months.
The first official Pathfinder module on Roll20 is Crownfall, written by Thursten Hillman. Crownfall is part 1 of 6 in the War for the Crown Adventure Path. Instead of releasing large, $50 campaign books every six months as Wizard of the Coast does, Paizo releases episodic modules called Adventure Paths, similar to story arcs in a comic book series.
Crownfall is designed for Level 1 player characters and it’s all about politics. Specifically the political upheaval and civil war taking place in Taldor.
Since Crownfall is a relatively recent release (Feb 2018), I’ll be analyzing the module itself, as well as the Roll20 adaptation.
The following content is included in the $27.99 Crownfall (War for the Crown 1 of 6) module:
- 3 5-ft battle map with Dynamic Lighting (for Roll20 subscribers)
- 1 10-ft battle map with 5-ft subdivisions (+Dynamic Lighting)
- 2 non-gridded overland maps
- 64 named NPC character sheets with matching tokens and GM descriptions (34 w/ pics & player handouts)
- 27 NPC monster sheets with draggable tokens, vision, and separate player handouts.
- 62 Magic Item player handouts (16 w/ pics)
- 11 ready to play pre-generated player character sheets with pics and tokens.
- Journal organized into three parts, each containing DM notes, maps and player handouts
- Extensive notes, pics, and political history of the city of Oppara and the region of Taldor.
- Rollable tables for optional random encounters and rumors in Oppara.
The adventure begins on the Day of Exaltion in the city Oppara, in which a lauded commoner is elevated to noble status. It’s a big gathering of nobles, and more importantly, a historic Senate vote on whether the young princess can be allowed to succeed her aging and increasingly paranoid father.
Taldor doesn’t allow women to rule, but Grand Prince Stavian is without a male heir, leading to a political situation that’s rife with conflict.
The player characters step in as undercover agents of one of the noble families who seek to support Princess Eutropia. Her ascension to the throne is supposed to bring peace and prosperity, and the adventure only works if the PCs agree with this at the onset, and have agreed to work for Lady Martella Lotheed. You and your players will need to fill in the blanks of why their characters care about all this and where their loyalties lie.
Part one takes place within the Senate, and is almost entirely free of combat. Fans of traditional dungeon crawling adventures may be off put by the focus on role-playing political intrigue, but there’s a lot of potential here. The events are organized into Social Rounds, where the PCs can either influence certain areas or certain people to gain information and standing.
Every so often a scripted event occurs that the PCs should react to, such as a noble physically bullying another (which can lead to combat) or a bunch of bees being released in the middle of the senate floor.
The actual vote of ending primogeniture (passing the crown to the first-born son) doesn’t seem to matter too much, and I was disappointed to see the PCs’ actions don’t appear to actually alter anything, at least at this point.
The vote passes, and the deranged Grand Prince comes on stage and declares everyone an enemy, ordering a massacre of the entire room. It’s revealed that the identification passes the PCs received are also magical, and teleport the party below ground at the first sign of danger.
The Roll20 map of the senate building is nice, but also very empty. It’s supposed to be a crowded event with hundreds of people inside, which I realize is tricky to convey with physical tokens. But even with the large cast of named NPCs, it still looks very empty. I would slap a bunch of generic tokens on there to at least convey a more crowded space.
Part two presents more of a traditional dungeon crawl, though one the party is actively trying to escape rather than necessarily plunder. There’s a neat adventure game-style puzzle where the PCs have to coordinate codes and objects within the initial four rooms to reach the rest of the dungeon proper.
The Forgotten Archives is a well-designed dungeon with a lot of variety, despite scaling for level 2 PCs. A museum has some nice magical weapons – and an artifact crossbow on display, but taking them incurs a fight with a pair of phantom armors.
A room with wax figures includes a magical hat that hides a murder-coaxing hair ooze. A mischievous gremlin tries to trick the PCs and demands tribute. A mechanized griffin springs to life and attacks, and there’s a boss fight with a dire rat wizard. A friendly kobold merchant can trade with the party, a mechanized arbiter rules the lending library, and several lords and ladies who were also transported down here need to be rescued.
It’s a detailed, fun section, and the 5-ft grid map looks wonderful on Roll20.
Part three takes place after the PCs make their escape, finding a note on some assassins from the Brotherhood of Silence. Their employer, Martella, is under siege at her safehouse beneath a warehouse called the Dignified Repository.
The PCs need to infiltrate the warehouse and rescue Martella. This provides an intersting scenario where the PCs can choose how to approach. The material warns that a frontal approach will prove difficult, but some stealthy options are available. Additionally one of the nobles from Part one can help out with her Pathfinder Society guards if the PCs influenced her.
The Dignified Repository is a fairly straightforward warehouse map. I like that the boxes and crates were given some dynamic lighting to block line of sight and give further incentive for PCs to be sneaky.
Martella’s safehouse is the final leg of the Crownfall module, and more of a standard dungeon crawl than the warehouse above. It’s relatively light on enemies, though there’s one really creepy creature called a Fantionette that poses as a lost child.
The final battle reveals that the halfling jester from the senate gathering is really a mastermind assassin of the Brotherhood of Silence, toturing information out of Martella. There are detailed notes about Wyssilka, and I appreciate that there are specific tactics written for all the major encounters, explaining in detail how the enemies fight.
With Martella’s rescue the PCs get a final meeting with Princess Eutropia, and learn that the political situation in Taldor is worse than ever: the Grand Prince himself was killed in the massacre, and the war for succession continues in the future modules of War of the Crown.
While it starts off a little slow, I enjoy the direction Crownfall goes in Parts two and three. Nothing kicks off an adventure like a massacre of all the people they were talking to, followed by dumping your PCs into a big dungeon. The dungeons are a lot of fun, providing a varied mix of traps, enemies, treasure, and friendly NPCs.
As the PCs will do the majority of their role-playing in the beginning and end of the adventure, I would use the rescuable senators in part two as much as possible. The bully Dame Malphene Trent in particular has a lot going on and an interesting personality to clash with players.
My biggest complaint is the staggering number of named NPCs to keep up with in part one. The sheer number of unique sheets and tokens rivals that of full campaigns. Twelve senators are included, though it’s completely up to the GM how many to actually use for the PCs to interact with. The Dramatis Personae lists eight NPCs that are more important and involved in the immediate plot. That’s still a hefty number to keep track of, but it would very cool if at least one PC talked with Wyssilka, only later to find her as the final boss of the adventure!
- A solid urban adventure with a good mix of role-playing, puzzles, dungeon-crawling, and combat.
- Fantastic artwork with player handouts that show the Senate NPCs, the city, and the dangers beneath.
- A pre-gen character of each class ready to play, with character sheet, token, and picture.
- Part One could prove difficult to run, with lots of NPCs, scripted events, and PCs splitting up to perform various tasks.
- Only about half the named NPC tokens have token pictures.
- Linear adventure that only really works if the PCs accept working for Martella and Eutropia.