Curse of the Crimson Throne is jam packed with action and awesome. Here are some of the stand out moments from it.
Before we go too much further. I just want to say that, since we’re going through the campaign and talking about some of the more memorable moments from it, there are spoilers. I’m being real nice, because this adventure path came out back in 2008, but just in case there’s anyone who wants to play this for themselves, there are spoilers below.
Zorro Batman Blackjack
Curse of the Crimson Throne does many things well. But in particular, I love the way it interweaves lots of little plot threads and weaves them together almost without you knowing. One of the best examples of this comes fairly early on. There’s a big dramatic cut-scene when the Queen is showing her villainous color, and the whole speech is interrupted by
Zorro Blackjack, a masked rogue who fights with a rapier and is more myth than man. After meeting Batman Blackjack, the players have an opportunity to work with the man, rescuing him, and possibly learning that he’s ready to retire.
That’s when things start to dip into Batman Beyond territory, with the current Zorro passing along the mantle to one of the characters to whom it seems suited (they even list guidelines for a good “candidate”). The plot thread disappears while the PCs are off gallivanting around in the wilderness, it is picked back up dramatically way upon their return to the city. PCs discover that someone has been impersonating Batman, and it’s up to them to clear the good name of Blackjack in a throwdown–but it’s not enough to just beat the impostor, they have to expose him for fraud, and since the fraud is a genie, that’s harder than you’d think. I am riffing on them for the symbolism, but this is one of my favorite subplots in the whole adventure path–well worth stealing for your own campaign, even if you don’t play through the whole thing.
Eve of the Rebellion
Another thing that Curse of the Crimson Throne handles well is action sequences. Granted, all the fights are in Pathfinder, and to say it gets a little complex with regards to feats, player actions, and the interactions between various rules, is like saying that the LHC is just some big metal pipe some people put into the ground one time. Even so, the fights are cinematic. You have showdowns with corrupt police/guards (the Gray Maidens, shown above), fight off an entire criminal organization, and have action-packed duels with the Red Mantis Assassins.
But perhaps one of the most dramatic fights is a showdown with the evil Queen’s personal bodyguard, Sabina Merrin. Throughout the campaign, she’s been a character on both sides of the conflict. Depending on how the players do, they might get a sense that she’s not all-in on the Queen’s whole evil plot. This all comes to a head when, after some heroics, Sabina confronts them while riding on the Queen’s personal black dragon.
This is all a ruse, though. It’s a chance for Sabina to try and defect–she subtly guides the dragon to land in among the strongest fighters of the party, and does other things to try and get it hurt. eventually, the dragon realizes what they’re up to, and for the first time Sabina openly defies her order and joins the PCs to take out the dragon before it can wreak havoc on the city.
Fun n’ Games!
In my review of the Curse of the Crimson Throne, I talked about how the adventure path was not afraid to let moments of levity show up in the midst of all the melodrama. There’s a lot of fun and games in the campaign. One of the earliest moments is when players have a chance to play “knivesies” (which is almost exactly what you think it is) in a rowdy tavern on the wrong side of town.
But that is just foreshadowing for later, when the players are trying to gain an audience with a prophetic painter. They must first deal with the Emperor of Old Korvosa, who is basically the emperor of all the crooks, rogues, and outcasts in the poor part of town–only he wants them to earn their audience. And one of the ways (the only one as far as I’m concerned) is to play a rousing game of Blood Pig, the sport of champions.
The game is played by trying to grab a squealing pig and tossing it into a pit containing a starving wolverine. Each team is awarded a point for feeding their wolverine. No weapons or magic allowed, but otherwise, anything goes. Why are you not playing this right now?
In order to stop the evil Queen, the players have to start a rebellion against her. They can’t just march up to the palace and have a showdown (I mean, technically they can, but it’s easier if the people are all on your side). So in order to set the stage for the Queen’s demise, the players have to try and dismantle her powerbase.
I really like this touch, because it gives players a chance to be proactive about the threats that have been a thorn in their side for a while. To wit: they’ve been dealing with Red Mantis assassins who have been helping the Queen since day one, and at a certain point in the game, they have a chance to track down their base and assault it, taking them out adventurer style.
You don’t have to do this, but the adventure path sets this up as a way that players might be more active in the course of the adventure. I love how this feels–it gets players invested and making decisions about the game world from an immersed point of view–they’re deciding what to do based on character motivation, rather than on “this is the next part of the adventure.”
Earning Barbarian Respect
Krojun-Eats-What-He-Kills (of the Northampton Eats-What-He-Kills) is part of the adventure path where the players are going off to earn the respect of the Shoanti barbarians. Now in other adventures, this whole segment could boil down to “we make a diplomacy check,” but earning their respect is an involved process that can send them up against all manner of foes.
And, of course, one of the best ways to earn the barbarians’ respect is to put yourself through the trials that they go through. Which culminates in a confrontation with an advanced purple worm that they worship as a god, Cindermaw.
May his passing cleanse the world
But just in case you’re thinking that players are there to kill Cindermaw, that is absolutely the wrong way to handle it. Killing the barbarians’ god is actually going to make them not be as pleased (if you can believe it), losing 2 “respect points” for adventurers who just kill their way through their problems. No, the goal is to be swallowed whole and then escape. Now while this is clearly lunacy, and makes you wonder if all the Shoanti really do this, or if they simply cooked up this tradition for the outlanders and are all, “we didn’t think he’d actually do it!” but it’s different. There are a lot of encounters in this game that can’t be “beaten” just by killing one side until they stop moving, and that variety makes the whole thing strong.
Like I’ve said, the whole adventure path is chock full of moments like these–these few are just examples of how cool this adventure path is. And while it might not be set using the system you play, the ideas carry through across systems, I think. For more details, pick up the book. Or check out the audio adventures over at Paizo’s website.