Here in the second installment of the Rise of the Runelords campaign, we get the same mix as in the first: a splendid adventure along with background articles rounding out the campaign setting, new monsters and more. The Introduction talks not only about the talents of the adventure's author but how they are ideally suited to the darker turn that the campaign plotline is taking. For a vicious serial killer is loose in Sandpoint, and this adventure involves unravelling the complex background to his crimes as well as finding out who the murderer is - someone encountered during Burnt Offerings, the last person you'd think of as a brutal murderer.
The adventure begins as a classic murder mystery, with a gruesome murder which the characters - as known heroes around Sandpoint - are asked to investigate on behalf of the authorities. Like any good murder investigation, there are plenty of clues, and a good few red herrings as well. The clue chain is well-constructed and the characters ought to be able to find their way along it without feeling that they are being led by the nose. Several people the characters will encounter have been driven mad by what they have seen - a fine opportunity for the DM to enjoy a spot of ranting and raving, plenty of scope to bring the horror of the situation to life by demonstrating the effect it has had on the minds of those who have seen more than they ought.
If this isn't enough, following the clues will eventually lead the characters to investigate a haunted manor house. It's full of spectacular hauntings and things guaranteed to make everyone twitchy... a beautiful example of a sometimes cliched 'place to visit' within role-playing. A skillful system of 'hauntings' can bring both fear and real danger to the characters as they explore. In the final part of the adventure, the characters need to visit another town, Magnimar, following the clues they ought to have discovered. However, Magnimar is suffering its own spate of murders. Seeing as the characters have (hopefully) done so well in dealing with Sandpoint's serial killer, perhaps they will be able to clear up this problem as well. The killers, however, might have other ideas for them...
As well as the adventure itself, there is a detailed rundown on the city of Magnimar - useful both during the adventure and for any other exploits the characters might undertake there. Being the second-largest city in Varisia it is well worth knowing about. As well as being a noted trading centre, it has spectacular monuments and flourishing artistic programmes to enjoy.
Other resource material provided includes a complete rundown on the goddess Desna - perfect for any character who might wish to devote himself to her worship as layman or cleric. The 'Pathfinder Chronicles' section takes a more personal turn, being an account of adventures submitted by a member of the society, telling of his travels around Magnimar and the surrounding area and containing a lot of useful background flavour that you can incorporate into your game. The Bestiary provides full details of new monsters encountered during the adventure itself, and the book winds up with updated versions of the four pre-generated characters and a preview of what's coming next in the campaign.
Overall, this adventure is even better than the first - with layers and convolutions which lead the characters deeper and deeper into the plot, into fear and horror and ultimately to the chance to rid the world of a potent if minor evil... and open the doors to more!
Return to Rise of the Runelords # 2: The Skinsaw Murders page.
Reviewed: 4 November 2007