The Sunken Pyramid: An undersea adventure perilous enough to frighten Robert Ballard out of his wets

One of the great aspects of role-playing is the chance to “experience” things which most of us never could in our mundane existence. And playing fantasy RPGs gives players the opportunity to interact with creatures and places out of ancient myths, famous legends, and well-known literature.

Sure, at times, there’s a lot of dungeon delving going on, but there’s also the possibility of journeys to cloud castles, adventures in mysterious jungles, battles fought in planes beyond knowledge, and voyages across oceans – or perhaps under them?

It is that last one - an adventure beneath the sea - which is the focal point of Raging Swan Press’ adventure The Sunken Pyramid – a dungeon delve of sorts, set in a long forgotten ruin at the bottom of the ocean. Pathfinder RPG compatible, The Sunken Pyramid offers gamers a quest where few heroes dare to tread, and to face creatures from the deeps in their dark and watery world!

The Sunken Pyramid

  • Developer: Creighton Broadhurst & Marc Radle
  • Illustrations: Creighton Broadhurst (cover); Gary Dupuis, Larry Elmore, Rick Hersey, William
  • McAusland, and Marc Radle, Small Niche Games (interior); Marc Radle (cartography)
  • Publisher: Raging Swan Press
  • Year: 2013
  • Media: PDF (87 pages)
  • Price: $9.99 (Available from RPGNow)

The Sunken Pyramid
is an underwater (aquatic) adventure for 7th Level Pathfinder characters, and is compatible with the Pathfinder RPG. The adventure features include complete stat blocks, text, and maps to GM the module for Pathfinder gamers, as well as four new magic items, two new monster types, complete rules adaptations for running aquatic encounters, and more.


Production Quality

The production quality of The Sunken Pyramid is very good, with an excellent layout and design, along with imaginative writing by the designers. This aquatic adventure uses stat blocks which deviate slightly from the standard PF setup, but they lack none on the information necessary to use them during a gaming session. The use of shaded boxes for stat blocks and important notes is useful to make them stand-out from the rest of the text, and the two-column format is clean and easy to read throughout the adventure.

The Sunken Pyramid
utilizes both a table of contents and PDF bookmarks for navigating through the text. Compared to the ToC, the bookmarks are fantastic and a quite detailed set - each area, encounter, and most tables (like Wandering Monsters) have a bookmark available for a click.

The interior art and cartography in The Sunken Pyramid are really well done, but the cover is quite disappointing by comparison. Some of the interior illustrations are done with “old school” flair – heavy inked lines and shadows – while other art is more of a nice clean sketch type. The maps in the adventure are also depicted in an “old school” style, and would look totally apropos if they had been printed with cyan ink instead of a crisp black.


Death in the watery deep


The designers of The Sunken Pyramid weren’t just thorough when they designed this adventure, they were bordering on OCD levels of meticulousness – and I mean that in a good way! Just reading through the introduction reveals the craftsmanship of the designers. There is a full explanation of each entry of the stat blocks for monsters and traps, and a table of monsters by CR and page number of where their stat blocks are located in the adventure. The anatomy of encounters and the meaning of the entries, as well as alternate rules for identifying items during the course of the adventure are also included here. Clearly, the designers wanted to be sure that a PF GM was fully briefed to make their experience a pleasant one while running the adventure.

The adventure opens with background and recent events for the GM to get a clear picture of what is going on, and what sorts of magical gear/spells would be required to run an aquatic delve. The Sunken Pyramid could be placed in almost any campaign setting, and the designers make note of that in a handy sidebar. There is a full description of how the heroes might be “hooked” into the adventure, and even notes on how to motivate them into undertaking a very hazardous mission into the depths of the ocean.


*** SPOILER NOTICE: Reading beyond this point in the review will reveal some small amount of information contained in the adventure. If you may be playing in this adventure, please skip to the end of the review for the score and conclusions.


The main protagonists in The Sunken Pyramid are sahuagin, and there are fish-men of all varieties encountered in the undersea ruins where the adventure takes place. This is mainly a search-and-rescue mission, saving kidnapped townsfolk before they are sacrificed to a terrible entity (new monster!) that the sahuagin discovered deep in the pyramid. Of course, there is a real dungeon delve here as well, as the sahuagin are merely using the ruins for their own plans – of course, it’s a delve under the sea as well as underground, which presents a collection of new challenges to the heroes.

The designers devote some effort to detail the ecology of sahuagins, along with the customs and religion of this particular tribe. (I believe I did mention the word “meticulous”), which gives the GM a basis for what motivates the monsters to attack and steal away the locals. The locals come from the village of White Moon Cove, which is fully detailed by the designers with a map, list of notable locales, important NPCs, and even some village lore and rumors. There is a timeline for the adventure as well, with each day that passes bringing with it specific events – such as the blood sacrifice of captives. It’s important for the heroes to take some initiative if they have any hope of rescuing the prisoners and stopping the sacrifice. But even if they don’t succeed in that task, the adventure timeline continues with new events and more kidnappings until the evil fish-men are finally annihilated.

There are well over two dozen encounters listed in The Sunken Pyramid, with three levels to explore, and there are some great design features which should make running them a simple task for most GMs. Each encounter has an introduction with read-aloud text in italics, as well as the EL, experience value, tactics of the monsters, and features in the area. Important monstrous NPCs often have their own description, including background, mannerisms, personality, and more. Stat blocks for the creatures are also here in the encounter layout, along with treasure and what is required to claim it, such as Search DCs. The designers also included an encounter scaling (no pun intended) guide, to increase or decrease difficulty by an EL, as deemed appropriate in the course of the adventure. The only problem I had with the encounter section (and this is pretty minor) was that the maps of each level were not given a bookmark, which might be deemed tedious to have to find from one encounter to the next. Otherwise, the encounters come off as exciting, well designed, and present a good challenge to 7th level heroes.

The designers also included three appendices in The Sunken Pyramid, to present special information to the GM. Appendix 1 contains “New Stuff” as it is so entitled, and contains the new monsters and new magic items which are found throughout the adventure. I really liked this section, and the monsters and items presented here are very cool and well-thought out. The second appendix contains a complete set of rules for handling an underwater environment during the delve, including movement, combat, stealth, spell alterations, and of course, holding one’s breath. (Good luck with that last one, landlubber!)

Finally, Appendix 3 offers six pre-generated heroes ready for action, and include a half-elf cleric, dwarf fighter, Halfling rogue, human wizard, half-orc fighter/rogue, and an elf magus. The sheets are nicely designed, and include all their stats and skills, gear both magical and mundane, special abilities and spells (if applicable).

Character sheets for these heroes are also available for download from the Raging Swan Press site in PDF format, along with “drowning” tracks, product art, and maps of the adventure.


Overall Score
: 4.1 out of 5.0


Conclusions


I have to say that I’m very impressed with this adventure from Raging Swan Press, and I think many Pathfinder gamers would welcome a chance to have an experience of delving through a ruin in the deep sea. The plot of the adventure was very engaging, and should be exciting for the players as well as the GM to run together. The designers get a gold star for presenting so much additional content, like pre-gen’d characters, ecology of the monstrous inhabitants, and new creatures and magic items – as well as a whole appendix of important rules for handling aquatic adventures!

While the cover of The Sunken Pyramid failed to impress me, the contents more than made up for any misgivings I had about cover art. Pathfinder RPG players and GMs should definitely give this adventure due consideration, and is decently priced for hours of wondrous (and dangerous) questing in the depths of the sea.

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

Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

  • Presentation: 3.75
  • - Design: 4.0 (Great writing style and design)
  • - Illustrations: 3.5 (Disappointing cover, but excellent interior illustrations and maps!)
  • Content: 4.5
  • - Crunch: 4.5 (Very complete; solid encounters; cool new monsters and items)
  • - Fluff: 4.5 (Great fluffy bits and lore; excellent plot and exciting ending)
  • Value: 4.0 (Very decent price for a complete and detailed adventure!)
 

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Creighton

Explorer
Thanks very much for taking the time to do this review for Raging Swan Press. I much appreciate it and I'm glad you enjoyed The Sunken Pyramid!
 


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