Monday, February 27, 2017

Pathfinder Legends: Rise of the Runelords # 1: Burnt Offerings [RPG]


Pathfinder Legends is the title of a product line that dramatizes chapters of popular Pathfinder adventure paths by including four of Pathfinder's iconic characters (Valeros the fighter, Merisiel the rogue, Ezren the wizard, and Harsk the ranger) in what is basically an audio-play complete with background music and special effects.  So, the somewhat awkwardly titled "Pathfinder Legends: Rise of the Runelords # 1: Burnt Offerings" covers the first installment of that adventure path.

The most important thing to remember before buying this is that these are *not* novelizations.  There is no narrator, nor is there description of events or action scenes.  Instead, the story is told solely through dialogue (and sound effects), which means that the listener can usually get the gist of the plot but there is far, far less detail and immersion in the setting than one would get through a novelization or even reading the adventure itself.  Because many scenes in the adventure are skipped and there's no narration, the entire first chapter of the adventure path (which would take several sessions to play at the gaming table) is reduced to less than an hour.  In other words, this audio recording will hit the highlights of each chapter of the adventure path, but in a rather shallow way.

There are some nice features in the recording.  The voice acting of the Iconics is strong and fits with how I imagined them from the comics (the goblins need to be more shrill though, methinks) and the sound effects and music is quite good and up to Audible's usual standard.  The dialogue is professionally written and manages, for the most part, to establish what is happening in the plot.

Still, all of that being said, I think the conclusion has to be that this is a disappointment.  Combat scenes, so integral to a sword-and-sorcery adventure like this one, are reduced to a lot of grunting, exciting music, and "sword clangs" sound effects.  There's no way to get a sense of what's going on, who's doing cool stuff, how the difference Iconics fight, what the villains look like, how overwhelming the odds are, etc.  If you haven't read the adventure path, I'd imagine the listener would be quite lost in many places and find it incredibly difficult to imagine the scenes.  I would have far, far preferred that this was a true audiobook based on a novelization of the adventure path than in this sort of "dialogue-only" format.

What adds insult to injury is how expensive these recordings are given how short they are.  It's just not good value for money, and I'd be embarrassed to spend something like $ 90 to $ 120 USD to have all six parts.  I can get full-length, full-cast audiobooks for a third to a half of that.
Even hardcore Pathfinder enthusiasts could find better things to spend their money on.  So, as a whole, I have to recommend giving this one a miss.


Some parts of the first chapter of the adventure path are skipped.  There's very little "role-playing" in Sandpoint, and most of the key NPCs (apart from Ameiko and Sheriff Hemlock) barely appear at all.  Some of the most memorable encounters from the adventure, like "The Shopkeeper's Daughter" and "Monster in the Closet" don't appear at all.  The Catacombs of Wrath are also skipped.  I'm not saying we need to see the Iconics in every random encounter that would feature in a real campaign, but I can't help but feel like the writers of the script were in a big hurry and with instructions to condense the story down as much as possible.

I will say, to be fair, that they did a really nice job explaining Nualia's backstory in a clear, coherent, and interesting way.  I'm sure most gaming groups get a much more confused picture of why she's doing what she's doing.  In addition, I quite liked the "twist" of the Iconics getting captured at Thistletop.

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