Free Kobold Press Runs Amok in Green Ronin’s PFRPG Cityscape with "Dark Deeds in Freeport"!

About this time last year, Green Ronin Publishing completed a successful Kickstarter Campaign to bring forth a city-setting for Pathfinder RPG. Freeport: City of Adventure is the newest Pathfinder-reincarnation of Chris Pramas’ earlier urban fantasy setting designed for d20/OGL from back in 2002, and this new edition had a few nifty Kickstarter stretch goals like the Freeport Companion, as well as a little adventure release from Kobold Press.

That adventure, Dark Deeds in Freeport, is now out in both PDF and paperback form. And Dark Deeds in Freeport presents not merely a single adventure, but an adventure-arc of five stories all interconnected to lead characters on a quest of delving into mayhem and madness in one of the most corrupt and villain-riddled cities in heroic fantasy!

Dark Deeds in Freeport (for Pathfinder RPG)

  • Designers: Mike Franke, Philip Minchin, and Christina Stiles
  • Illustrators: Malcolm McClinton (cover); Peter Bradley (interior & cartography)
  • Publisher: Kobold Press
  • Year: 2014
  • Media: PDF (80 pages)
  • Price: $9.99 (Available from RPGNow in PDF format – only $7.49 during the Christmas in July Sale or $17.49 from Amazon in trade paperback format)


Dark Deeds in Freeport is an Adventure-Arc Anthology designed for use with Pathfinder RPG. The Adventure-Arc Anthology consists of five separate adventures which take place in Green Ronin Publishing’s Freeport: City of Adventure setting, but are all tied together to form one overarching plotline. The five adventures are designed for characters of 9th to 12th Level.


Production Quality

The production quality of Dark Deeds in Freeport is very good, presenting some excellent writing and adventure plotting by the designers, and a nice easy-to-read layout. Although the designers worked on different adventures in the arc, there is definitely decent cohesion between the storylines, even if the styles are a little divergent. The monster and NPC stat blocks are presented in a format which is standard PFRPG, and important notes are placed in shaded boxes for easy reference throughout the book.

The book itself has a fairly detailed table of contents for GMs to use when finding their way through the adventures. Physically, the binding is standard trade paperback style, and the cover is thick paper stock with a glossy exterior finish. The interior paper-weight is decent, with a slightly rough texture, good for thumbing one’s way through the pages. Font-choice and print quality are good, although the gray tones of the watermark/background graphics does present some contrast issues on the more “busy” pages.

The artwork in Dark Deeds in Freeport is fair to average quality at best, a bit of a disappointment considering the publisher. The front cover depicting the frightened woman and demonic figure seems befuddling, as if the characters aren’t truly interaction with each other properly – the demon creature seems more content glaring out at the reader than concerned about its prey waving a sword, while the woman is staring off to some point on the side wall but certainly at not her enemy. The interior art is all done in grays and shadows, and not particularly breathtaking. And the art depicting the “big baddee” villain was particularly disappointing, as it bears absolutely no resemblance to the written description by the designers. On the other hand, the cartography in the adventure is pretty good overall and there are a goodly number of maps presented to accompany the plotline.


The Maddening Truth

[Reviewer's Note: Please note that the review is written in a general fashion to avoid revealing too much specific information about the plot of this adventure-arc. This has been done to avoid "spoilers" so that the review can be read by players and Gamemasters alike.]

Dark Deeds in Freeport for Pathfinder RPG introduces a very dark and disturbing plotline into a city-setting which is already brimming with dark and disturbing things. The adventure is designed to take a party of 9th Level characters through a story arc which will complete, according to the designers, at around 12th Level of play. And although the five adventures presented are designed for recommended levels of play – one at 9th, two at 10th, and one more each at 11th and 12th Levels – the designers make it clear that the adventures need not be run in a particular order, which might require a GM to do some tailoring in threat levels to make it work in his or her campaign.

The adventure is presented in six sections: an introductory section, and one chapter for each of the adventures. The introductory section presents the story synopsis to explain the overarching plot-arc, as well as some recommendations on how to use the adventure in an ongoing campaign set in Freeport. The designers assume that the heroes will be doing other things between the adventures, so that overall plotline told by the adventures takes place over a long period of time – presumably months if not a year or more. The designers do a good job laying out the premise of Dark Deeds in Freeport as well as the suggestions on how to run the arc itself.

The adventure is designed to work in tandem with the Freeport: City of Adventure product, as well as the Pirate’s Guide to Freeport and the Freeport Companion, not to mentioned the Pathfinder Role-playing Game books as needed – or at least access to the Pathfinder System Online Documents. Obviously, the adventure need not be set in Freeport, but in another corrupt city of the GMs choosing, but there are references to specific NPCs and locales in the adventure-arc which might make it less efficacious without those references.

Thematically, Dark Deeds in Freeport bears a certain resemblance to a Call of Cthulhu investigation – dark cults, demonic entities, and terrible-secrets-best-left-unknown are all strong story elements utilized by the designers. Even insanity plays a part in the adventure, specifically the insanity optional rules found in the Freeport Companion. There are more than enough Lovecraftian tropes scattered throughout the five adventures to make it a benefit to have some sort of “SAN-Loss” mechanic in the Pathfinder game.

Dark Deeds in Freeport is no mere dungeon crawl, but a substantial investigation in a “living” city, and the players will find their characters presented with a wide range of social interactions and opportunities for role-playing. But there is also a decent amount of combat opportunities as well, and there is a bit of dungeon-crawl here and there, which makes the adventure a pretty balanced affair between sleuthing, scamming, and all-out battle. And because the adventure is presented in a “living” city, the actions taken by the characters and their successes and failures will absolutely have far reaching ramifications for Freeport and its citizens. It’s that butterfly-effect element in this adventure which might have a strong appeal to some groups, and a good GM will be able to leverage the players actions and decisions into “real-world” effects on the city around them.


Overall Score: 7.7 out of 10.0


Conclusions

If you and your gaming group enjoy the darker side of high fantasy role-playing, and especially if you’re also a fan of creepy Lovecraftian horror, then Dark Deeds in Freeport is going to be a winner at your Pathfinder game sessions. Although the adventure-arc does presume to require a serious investment in the Freeport-setting book collection, it can be run in other urban campaign locales of the GM’s choice. The adventures have enough depth to them that players will be able to role-play to their hearts’ content, and can also offer plenty of opportunities for spin-off adventures of the GMs own devising, whether in Freeport or not.

Although there are some misgivings about the artwork in Dark Deeds in Freeport, there is so much plot and potential side-adventure material that it more than makes up for the disappointing illustrations. And the price tag on this adventure-arc is plenty reasonable, particularly for the PDF version during the annual RPGNow Christmas in July sale, and this Freeport Kickstarter Stretch-Goal might well be the kind of high-level dark-fantasy play many gaming groups long to have as part of their Pathfinder RPG campaign.

Editorial Note
: This Reviewer received a complimentary playtest copy of the product in paperback format from which the review was written.

Grade Card (Ratings 0 to 10)

  • Presentation: 6.75
  • - Design: 8.0 (Excellent writing; good layout and presentation)
  • - Illustrations: 5.5 (Mediocre cover art; gray toneless illustrations; decent maps)
  • Content: 7.75
  • - Crunch: 7.5 (Good balanced encounters; pretty cool use of rules and monster mechanics)
  • - Fluff: 8.0 (Very intriguing plotline; good meshing of story and NPCs; solid role-playing opportunities)
  • Value: 8.5 (Good price for a lot of adventure – many hours of game play possible here!)
 

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When in the timeline does this take place? Is Drac definitively dead at this point? Is there a new Sea Lord, or is it still in the chaotic post-Drac period? Are there events from other modules mentioned (have the pirates from Black Sails shown up)?

Since the Pirate's Guide advanced the timeline to post-Vengeance in Freeport, I'm assuming that the new City of Adventure (sort of confusingly named, since that's also the name of the original setting book) advances things even further, no?
 


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