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Review of Pathfinder Adventure Path #158: Sixty Feet Under

Hello my lovelies and welcome to another PAIZO PRODUCT REVIEW! Today we’re taking our second bite out of the Agents of Edgewatch Adventure Path with its second chapter: Pathfinder Adventure Path #158: Sixty Feet Under! For an adventure with such a punny name you’d think they’d make a bigger deal out of the depth one delves to in the dungeons, but no matter! We press onward—and into spoiler territory!

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Chapter 1: The Unusual Suspects​

Still punning along with the names, I see. This adventure kicks things off pretty much right where the last AP ended, with the characters collecting clues from the arrest of the previous villain to see what further villainy awaits the city of Golarion.

The facade of policing is slipping further and further from the face of this otherwise-standard adventuring fare—it seems to exist primarily to add a specific flavor to the introductory setpieces, and shows up here and there in the form of a passing mention of arrest or how to less-than-lethally handle some mook or underboss. Beyond this surface level scattering, however, it’s back to the tropes of killing people and taking their things for profit, which for characters that are nominally keepers of the peace and officers of the law isn't a great look

Troubling context aside, the actual encounters are quite entertaining, bouncing the characters off a medley of colorful and entertaining NPCs (only some of which are saddled with unfortunate names). There are even a few surprises, like some ether spiders caught between a rock and a hard place, or a love triangle that explodes into conflict as soon as the characters arrive. There’s even a little monster variety from the expected wave of humanoids with a bunyip lurking around the edges of a boss fight in case your players start feeling sneaky.

Chapter 2: A Penny Saved​

Chapter 2 has the characters playing defense on a bank heist—something which can often just mean “beat up all the guys that run in, then run to a different room and beat up all those guys”.

Maybe I’ve watched too much Burn Notice (note: I definitely have watched too much Burn Notice), but I can’t but help feel a little…underwhelmed? Playing white hat is fine, I just recommend interested GMs do a little modding and legwork to allow the characters to infiltrate the heist crew and see how much they can screw up the plans without or before being discovered. A bit of sleight of hand, a bit of deception, a surreptitious surprise round, and you have a vastly more tense and exciting encounter than the current offering of punch-up. Also, I have to seriously question the motivation and judgement of a criminal enterprise whose plans specifically call for some of their number to confront law enforcement mid-heist—wouldn’t you want to be in and out without anyone even noticing?

In terms of the actual encounters, again a bit of a mixed bag—the new monster is delightful and horrible, but the only nod towards policing or the nominally nonlethal methods of upstanding police officers is a passing reference that certain thieves, once arrested, will deliver crucial plot information. Sure, a GM can just arbitrate that some of the thieves survive, but by this point in the adventure (and with the sight of a horrible necromantic monster on the field) I get the feeling that most players will have settled back into the “kill first questions later” mentality.

Also, if these thieves die, it’s another point where this adventure has a tendency to destroy crucial plot developments before the players can find them. If you’re running this, you may have to do a bit of thinking on your feet to get the players back on the railroad.

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Chapter 3: Caught Copper Handed​

Again with the puns! I like puns, I’d just prefer them to actually heighten the material, and this first success puts the adventure at one for three.

This chapter is focused on the infiltration of and crackdown on a safehouse used by the same gang of thieves from Chapter 2, so make sure your characters are ready for anything as they tread into the lion’s den! If you didn’t catch it right at the tail end of Chapter 2, there are some thieves that automatically give up the location of the criminal hideout once arrested. This may also be an opportunity for some of the woefully-underused NPCs from Devil at the Dreaming Palace to make a return should your characters have gone in a little trigger happy and now find themselves without any leads.

Nominally, the chapter break is meant to allow for enough downtime to rest, recover, and prepare for a dangerous infiltration, but I find that a little…immersion breaking. If I was running a criminal gang and my heist got very spectacularly and very publicly thwarted by a brand new hyper-competent task force, I for one wouldn’t wait around in my safehouse—at least, not in my first safehouse.

I think it would do your game some service to make reference to the time delay and the consequences of Chapter 2; maybe some of the encounter balancing can come in the form of removing thieves that have already moved on, or maybe some of the downtime is spent tracking down a third or fourth safehouse where the thieves truly feel safe enough to lay low. I’d also recommend calling out more people in the cover operation moving around, stumbling about, or interacting with the characters so that the only person mentioned in that section doesn’t stand out like a secret revolving wall panel in a 90s cartoon.

The actual safehouse itself is lovely—good variety in the enemies and their abilities, a few otherwise-safe spaces for a much-needed short rest or two (even if the adventure does think a latrine is an appropriate place to bind open wounds), and secret checks to get one over on the boss of this dungeon! I’m also quite pleased to see the final encounter here quite clearly telegraph a non-violent solution. Points for adventure variety!

Chapter 4: Descent Into Death​

Okay, enough mucking about with thieves and humanoids, let’s get to the weirdness!
Ezren on the splash art for this chapter has the exact right expression for some of the grody body horror stuff we’ll find after the break—we’re taking down a Skinsaw cult! This chapter kicks off with the characters getting yelled at in the boxed text for stepping outside their jurisdiction—something that made me do a double-take because I’d completely forgotten that adventurers have “jurisdictions”. Well, adventurers don’t, but cops do, and that’s nominally what you’re playing as. Maybe take some time in between sessions, or APs, to refresh the players on which branch of the city guard they come from, and where the Edgewatch is supposed to operate?

Well, that’s enough pretending to be anything other than murderhobos, let’s get to the dungeons. And we kick right off with a random encounter table! WHOOO! Now you KNOW you’re in a dungeon crawl! Even the more static encounters are neat—there’s a dullahan wandering around with a specific name and a specific way to unmake it, a roper with a fascination for rope-like trinkets that makes for a fine way to lose a party member, and a beautiful dumbass murderer whose heart really isn’t in the whole “cult” thing. There’s also a great horrible half-ooze half-golem! And a horrible undead spider monstrosity! And a sad little ghost elf girl! And horrible and thematic environmental hazards!

What I’m getting at is the last chapter of this adventure path, like the last episode of any anime, is clearly where all the budget got spent, so take your time and really read up, and give this complete tonal shift the attention it deserves.
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The Back Nine​

I find the inclusion of a gazette on Vudra a strange inclusion at the back of this adventure—barring a brief mention from one of the NPCs that is introduced and then immediately forgotten, Vudra doesn’t have a tremendous influence on this adventure (and, I’d be willing to bet, on the AP as a whole). Especially in light of the loving and detailed treatment the Mwangi Expanse got, I’d expect a place called “The Impossible Kingdoms” and described as having “countless microcultures” to get a bit more than just seven pages stuffed into the back of an Adventure Path.

The Bestiary additions in the AP provide some truly nightmarish additions to your arsenal as a GM—even excluding the monsters specifically made for this adventure. Whoever’s been on monster duty at Paizo has a serious thing for body horror and I’m here for it—well, at least as a GM. Hard pass on facing any of these in a dark alley.

Conclusion​

And that’s about it! A decent investigation and a fantastic little dungeon crawl wrapped in a fairly regrettable and ill-fitting guise of a cop story. Honestly, at this point, you probably should just have your players be random mercenaries being funded by the city to work all this out, and occasionally have them bounce off actual law enforcement only when they run out of clues.
 

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Ben Reece

Ben Reece

prosfilaes

Adventurer
There are tonal issues in the adventure path. But it does say in the first adventure that all damage dealt by PCs can be taken as nonlethal unless stated otherwise. So there shouldn't be a problem with downed foes not being interrogatable unless the GM or PCs decided to make it that way.
 


Davies

Hero
There are tonal issues in the adventure path. But it does say in the first adventure that all damage dealt by PCs can be taken as nonlethal unless stated otherwise. So there shouldn't be a problem with downed foes not being interrogatable unless the GM or PCs decided to make it that way.
In fact, the Player's Guide phrases it more strongly than that.

"First, as city guards, your party’s player characters are
all assumed to be trained in nonlethal conflict resolution.
This means that, during combat encounters, your
character is always dealing nonlethal damage; you are
never allowed to deal lethal damage.
You take no penalty
to attack rolls for dealing nonlethal damage, and all types
of damage you deal (whether from weapon attacks, spells,
or even poisons) are nonlethal. You gain no bonuses or
added benefits for making attacks using weapons with
the nonlethal weapon trait. As usual for nonlethal damage,
when you reduce a creature to 0 Hit Points using nonlethal
damage, the creature falls unconscious instead of dying."

Emphasis mine.
 

Retreater

Legend
In fact, the Player's Guide phrases it more strongly than that.

"First, as city guards, your party’s player characters are
all assumed to be trained in nonlethal conflict resolution.
This means that, during combat encounters, your
character is always dealing nonlethal damage; you are
never allowed to deal lethal damage.
You take no penalty
to attack rolls for dealing nonlethal damage, and all types
of damage you deal (whether from weapon attacks, spells,
or even poisons) are nonlethal. You gain no bonuses or
added benefits for making attacks using weapons with
the nonlethal weapon trait. As usual for nonlethal damage,
when you reduce a creature to 0 Hit Points using nonlethal
damage, the creature falls unconscious instead of dying."

Emphasis mine.
Are there still enemies that are immune to nonlethal damage in this edition? If so, can you harm them?
I remember a similar situation back in 3.x when we were playing town guards armed with only nonlethal weapons, trying to stop an undead insurrection, and we couldn't damage the monsters.
 

Davies

Hero
Are there still enemies that are immune to nonlethal damage in this edition?
Yes, animated objects and other constructs. I don't know whether any appear in these adventures.

Edit: Just checked and the first adventure in the series does, as @prosfilaes stated, phrase it as "nonlethal unless otherwise specified", so presumably you can choose to inflict lethal damage on targets immune to nonlethal attacks.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
In fact, the Player's Guide phrases it more strongly than that.

"First, as city guards, your party’s player characters are
all assumed to be trained in nonlethal conflict resolution.
This means that, during combat encounters, your
character is always dealing nonlethal damage; you are
never allowed to deal lethal damage.
You take no penalty
to attack rolls for dealing nonlethal damage, and all types
of damage you deal (whether from weapon attacks, spells,
or even poisons) are nonlethal. You gain no bonuses or
added benefits for making attacks using weapons with
the nonlethal weapon trait. As usual for nonlethal damage,
when you reduce a creature to 0 Hit Points using nonlethal
damage, the creature falls unconscious instead of dying."

Emphasis mine.
Which is imo a silly rule and has, probably, only been added because out of fear of twitter outcry.

And I disagree that there are "tonal issues" with this AP anyway. You are playing in a world with objective evil and monsters and in any other and with any other background violence is accepted. Usually not one session goes by during which the PCs are not hurting or killing something.
But because some people can't differentiate between RPGs and the real world we get silly rules like this.
 
Last edited:

prosfilaes

Adventurer
Which is imo a silly rule and has, probably, only been added because out of fear of twitter outcry.

And I disagree that there are "tonal issues" with this AP anyway. You are playing in a world with objective evil and monsters and in any other and with any other background violence is accepted. Usually not one session goes by during which the PCs are not hurting or killing something.
But because some people can't differentiate between RPGs and the real world we get silly rules like this.
Since day one, official RPG books have been discouraging certain type of behaviors considered bad, in part to uphold the image of the game in the outside world. If you want to play a game where cops summarily execute people without charge or trial, you're welcome to, but most of us don't, and Paizo doesn't want to encourage that. It really has nothing to do with differentiating between RPGs and the real world; all produced media takes care about what things are acceptable and what aren't, and the stuff that's minimally bounded tends to be shoved into niches. Video games with violence on random innocents (Postal) gets marginalized compared to blowing up zombies, demons or Nazis (Quake, Doom, Wolfenstein).

The tonal issues seem pretty clear to me; it wants to be an ordinary Pathfinder adventure at the same time it wants to be a cop adventure, and hangs over the edge too much, in ways that Zeitgeist usually didn't. If you want to play the cops like murderhobos, the adventure's still not entirely in line with that.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Since day one, official RPG books have been discouraging certain type of behaviors considered bad, in part to uphold the image of the game in the outside world. If you want to play a game where cops summarily execute people without charge or trial, you're welcome to, but most of us don't, and Paizo doesn't want to encourage that. It really has nothing to do with differentiating between RPGs and the real world; all produced media takes care about what things are acceptable and what aren't, and the stuff that's minimally bounded tends to be shoved into niches. Video games with violence on random innocents (Postal) gets marginalized compared to blowing up zombies, demons or Nazis (Quake, Doom, Wolfenstein).

The tonal issues seem pretty clear to me; it wants to be an ordinary Pathfinder adventure at the same time it wants to be a cop adventure, and hangs over the edge too much, in ways that Zeitgeist usually didn't. If you want to play the cops like murderhobos, the adventure's still not entirely in line with that.
There is a difference between police executing people and them being able to charge in, throw fireballs and swing two handed axes and otherwise not needing to take care to take people alive because for some unexplained reason no one dies.
There are specific weapons that deal nonlethal damage and you can take a -2 to attacks to deal nonlethal damage. So options were already there but for some reason they were not enough to Paizo even though it is, in my opinion, more interesting from a RPG point of view if the players need to decide to go nonlethal and accept a penalty for that in the form of weaker weapons or attack penalty or to go lethal.
But Paizo was afraid to even have this option in the game. And it looks like this option was not planned but was added later as the players guide gives you more options for nonlethal weapons which are not needed because of this rule.

I agree with the tonal issue you mentioned (I assumed you meant something differently). The recent Paizo APs often have this issue that they present a uncommon, specific scenario, police, circus members, space truckers, but in the end don't play any differently and expect the players to dungeon crawl.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
There is a difference between police executing people and them being able to charge in, throw fireballs and swing two handed axes and otherwise not needing to take care to take people alive because for some unexplained reason no one dies.
Mechanically this amounts a +2 bonus on nonlethal attacks, and at least in first edition, the use of the Merciful Spell metamagic feat. It's hardly world shaking within the bounds of the game.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Conclusion
And that’s about it! A decent investigation and a fantastic little dungeon crawl wrapped in a fairly regrettable and ill-fitting guise of a cop story. Honestly, at this point, you probably should just have your players be random mercenaries being funded by the city to work all this out, and occasionally have them bounce off actual law enforcement only when they run out of clues.
So true.

The problem is, this is true for all 2nd edition Adventure Paths.

Extinction Curse? You're supposedly circus workers, but you just kill things and take their stuff.
Agents of Edgewood? You're supposedly law enforcement, but you just kill things and take their stuff. (Or you would have if Paizo hadn't ham-fistedly made it impossible for you to actually off perps)
Abomination Vaults? You're supposedly protecting your home town, but you just kill things and take their stuff. (At least here it's logical since if you don't, they will kill you and take your stuff)
Fists of the Ruby Phoenix? You're supposedly entering a martial arts tournament, but you find out you have to travel around the countryside in order to, yep, you guessed it, kill things and take their stuff.

I'm dead tired of Paizo not owning up to what dungeon delving is all about. (For those with a really short attention span, it's killing things and take their stuff). That's not bad unless you project reality upon it. (So don't. The hint that it isn't reality is in the name: "fantasy"). In fact dungeon delving's good harmless fun with your friends.

At least the first 2E AP, Age of Ashes, was upfront with what was on offer: you good, they bad; go make justified kills, profit. The end.

Either Paizo needs to leave the fantasy scene (the classic dungeon delving subgenre at least) to do the morality plays that - to me at least - they so clearly wished they did, or they need to simply drop the pretense and just have some good old fashioned monsterbashing fun where you don't think too hard on your preferred choice of entertainment! :)

Sincerely yours,
Z
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
I'm dead tired of Paizo not owning up to what dungeon delving is all about. (For those with a really short attention span, it's killing things and take their stuff). That's not bad unless you project reality upon it. (So don't. The hint that it isn't reality is in the name: "fantasy"). In fact dungeon delving's good harmless fun with your friends.

Paizo did the only adventure path in RPG history from a first party developer that was for evil characters. If you loosen that restriction to just adventure or including third party developers, I'm sure there's a few more; Steve Jackson's In Nomine had a few (as, I think, INS/MV), there was a third-party evil adventure path for Pathfinder on DTRPG, but TSR/WotC have never in my memory touched the matter. For fantasy outside of RPGs, Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling, and Pratchett, just to name a few, would be upset by the idea that fantasy is disjunct from reality and morality-free.

Either Paizo needs to leave the fantasy scene (the classic dungeon delving subgenre at least) to do the morality plays that - to me at least - they so clearly wished they did, or they need to simply drop the pretense and just have some good old fashioned monsterbashing fun where you don't think too hard on your preferred choice of entertainment! :)

These aren't morality plays, unless that covers everything that's not dungeon delving, including the majority of the old TSR adventures. You can have a campaign that's about police work; as I said, Zeitgeist did so reasonably well. The problem IMO is being unwilling to dedicate to the concept and keep mixing dungeon crawling in. I haven't really read the other 2e Adventure Paths; I glanced at Extinction Curse and the Fists of the Ruby Phoenix (but stopped as another GM is going to run the latter). I do think the field of dungeon crawling is pretty thick with adventures that could be ported to PF2 and that there's at least some split, with OSR getting a higher proportion of the dungeon crawlers than PF2 does.
 

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