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Paizo Product Roundup: March

Hello again buckaroos, it’s time for another PAIZO PRODUCT ROUNDUP! Today we’re taking a look at three products for the price of one: the RUINS OF GAUNTLIGHT ADVENTURE PATH, the LOST OMENS ANCESTRY GUIDE, and the STARFINDER ALIEN ARCHIVE 4. There’s more to say about the Adventure Path, so let’s start there!

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Ruins of Gauntlight​

The Ruins of Gauntlight Adventure Path is chapter 1 of 3 for the Abomination Vaults AP, exploring the town of Otari and mysterious nearby dungeon first brought into the spotlight by the Pathfinder Beginner Box. I got a nice little tickle recognizing some of the sights and features from the Beginner Box, and it was satisfying getting more explanation for the gigantic flume ride that dominated some of its interior art. But now, onto the adventure!

Right off the bat, Ruins of Gauntlight is upfront about the fact that it is a dungeon crawl—if that isn’t your bag, this AP isn’t for you. And, to hammer home that this is in fact an old-school dungeon crawl, the adventure kicks off with the characters staring at the entrance to the titular Gauntlight, a ruined dungeon complete with crumbling walls and a mysteriously intact lighthouse. What are we looking for? Who knows! How will we know when we find it? Shut up and kick some doors in!

In fairness to the AP, it does provide a succinct overview of the town of Otari and its prominent (or at least most relevant) NPCs, as well as some of their hang-ups, motivations, and possible quest options for when the characters inevitably return to town to rest, recuperate, heal, and sell off some of their slime-covered swag. I recommend sending your party in with at least two of those side quests, as the suggested pitch of “there’s something strange in the neighborhood and we called you to check it out” can nominally be completed in the first of the four layers of the dungeon—yup, there’s a great lighthouse filled with heebie-jeebie magic, better find some not-level-one heroes to deal with that nonsense. Depending on which minor quest you use to flesh out the characters’ motivations, you may need to comb through the floors of Gauntlight and sprinkle in clues that lead your party deeper.

As a bog-standard dungeon crawl, Ruins of Gauntlight’s utility is entirely dependent on its implementation. One irritation that will likely plague a number of GMs is that although this is a door-smashing tunnel-twisting monster-filled warren of a dungeon (complete with fast travel points, how thoughtful!), there’s no easy way for a GM to display the maps without some radical surgery to the AP. I feel like it’s common courtesy to include map inserts for a multi-floor dungeon, especially if players can be expected to wander around searching for minor quest objectives.

Thankfully, many of the other details found in Ruins of Gauntlight are well-crafted. I like the use of haunts for adding both a hazard that resets itself without caretakers and as a way to measure progression and contribute to the theme and overarching plot that is slowly uncovered room by room. There’s also a non-treasure reward offered to kindhearted players—always a mark of a designer thinking outside the box, and always appreciated. The bloodsiphon is GROSS and AWFUL and I HATE IT and it’s incredible, well done there.

Chapter 3 of the AP, or I guess level 3 of the dungeon, really stands out with the number of little treats from the designer. [SPOILER ALERT!] A ghoulified morlock with the saddest of sad puppy eyes? Delightful. An incredibly bored devil with a pitch-perfect retail attitude? VIBE. An isolated cabal of ghoul researchers? Delicious. Said researchers pettily shoving each other out of the way if they’re in trouble? Wonderful. A ghoul tattooist shaking up the standard ghoul abilities? Excellent! And, when you move on to chapter 4, the final boss creature looks like a solid challenge for the party, so make sure you take advantage of the dungeon’s passivity to return to Otari and regroup before taking it on.

Is it perfect? No. I’d prefer a bit more to go on than “it’s a dungeon crawl, get in there and have some nostalgia”; maybe something a little more overt and pressing to really push players deeper into the dungeon. I get a little tired of seeing “COMBAT: this creature fights to the death”. And the dungeon crawl could really use some player-facing map inserts. But on the whole, Ruins of Gauntlight is a solid dungeon and a solid adventure with several delightful morsels in there to help it stand out.
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Lost Omens Ancestry Guide​

Now, let’s move on to the next two products on our docket! The Lost Omens Ancestry Guide and the Starfinder Alien Archive 4 aren’t really going to surprise anyone with their contents—it’s more options for ancestries in Pathfinder 2E, and more monsters to throw at your party in their next Starfinder Adventure. With that in mind, my reviews of these products come down to minor details that made a strong impression.

For the Lost Omens Ancestry Guide, in no particular order: the Veil May changelings have access to a Disguise-focused feat that is equal parts gross and wonderful, perfect for people who want to ride the fey line of disturbing and beautiful. Duskwalkers get a bevy of snazzy on-death feats that let them really mess with the expected patterns and flow of combat to wonderfully cinematic results. Hobgoblins, as with their goblin cousins, continue to delight and amuse—they apparently train their diplomats with just as much shouting and whipping as they do their foot soldiers so they can learn to BE NICE AND STOP SCARING THE HUMANS, MAGGOT! The iruxi (lizardfolk to us older generation folks) can TURN LORGE and even BECOME DINOSAUR and honestly what’s the point of playing anything else. I still find it incredibly off-putting that ratfolk are so strongly connected with trade—come on, Paizo, it’s the year of our Lord 2021, if Nocticula can get a retcon, so can the ratfolk. Finally, you can be a pixie and ride a corgi, which in my book is the only acceptable reason not to play an iruxi.
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Starfinder Alien Archive 4​

The Starfinder Alien Archive 4 gets most of its stand-outs from monsters that made me say, “Wow! That’s horrifying! Well done!” For example, the brain collector: quivering, pustulent blisters filled with extracted brains? Truly horrific! Well done. How about carrion wheels aka venomous tumbleweeds? Also horrific, thank you for the illustration of what it does to human flesh! Well done again. Would you like a horrible eyeball with a mouth on tarantula legs that’s actually a sentient black hole? No? Too bad, there’s one in your next Starfinder game. Delightful! And I would be a failure of a reviewer if I let the Definitely Not A Terminator Please Don’t Sue robots go by without mention.

Well, that about does it for this PAIZO PRODUCT ROUNDUP! I’m already looking forward to putting some of those truly awful monsters in my next game!
 
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Ben Reece

Ben Reece


Ghost2020

Adventurer
This whole selection is just great!

Alien Archive 4 is solid, the Ancestry Guide, as stated above, fantastic, and Gauntlight should prove to be a fun 3 part AP.
 

coriolis

Explorer
I can attest that the Ancestry Guide is quite impressive -- dripping with flavour, yet with tons of meaningful mechanical options. While all the technical information is available online at the usual places, you'll be missing out on evocative illustrations of varied characters just begging to be statted out.
 

For the Ancestry Guide, I find it interesting/intriguing that they classified the iconic Kitsune Foxfire as a ranged Unarmed attack that can be elemental. Sure elemental seems like a classic choice. Ranged Unarmed? I thought they would've made it a Cantrip or some kind of spell.

The Star Orb being treated as a Familiar is pretty cool too.
 


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