This is my first review here for the site and to kick things off I wanted to start with a product which I feel to be an excellent resource for any Pathfinder GM. More or less any campaign will come upon points throughout where a call for random encounters is made—while all too often a toss of the dice and the check of a chart leads to just that: a random mishmash stroke of combat where you duke it out, dispatch a monster and occasionally mark down some loot before heading on your way.
That may all be well and good, but if you’re moving through a storied campaign and the aim is a memorable experience, why relegate a part of that experience to percentiles and a spontaneous band of critters?
Here, Raging Swan Press has put together an excellent alternative in the way of well-made miniature set pieces chock full of flavor and the opportunity to better enhance an otherwise boring trek from point A to point B. Included in this product are eight encounters ready to roll out on the fly.
Each of the eight encounters includes an introductory write-up, flavor text for your party, tactics, area features and other pertinent information. Advice for scaling each encounter to a lower or higher CR is also included, as well as possible developments staged as an aftermath for each. Where this really shines is the presentation of this information: at a glance you’ve got crisp clear stat blocks, environmental modifiers and on-the-fly adjustments for scaling which all lend to being able to utilize these scenes on the spot with ease.
Not all of the encounters are necessarily combat, which in and of itself is a great boon; even among those oriented around such generally offer diplomatic alternatives for parties who are quick on their feet or silver-tongued. There are a bevy of excellent situations to thrust your players into throughout this book–among which I’d like to give a nod towards ‘A Fate Worse Than Death’, an encounter I’ve now run in our own group’s campaign.
In ‘A Fate Worse Than Death’, a brother and sister who are the children of wealthy merchants have been assailed by vargouilles, nasty flying heads which deliver a terrible curse via kiss which invites the heads of their victims to join the ‘flock’; the bodyguard to the children has succumbed to just such a disease while the poor pair themselves are in the process of the terrible transformation themselves. The party comes upon the two of them terrified in a ramshackle farmhouse while a fiendish melancholic ooze swarm lingers at the front door.
From here, vargouilles emerge from hiding to attack the party and work in wicked conjunction with the ooze–which paralyzed by touch–creating a rather good synergy between the enemies for the encounter. Both also prove more interesting fare than most of what you might usually encounter in the wilderness–and with the staging of the scene as a whole, it makes for both a potentially pitched battle and a disturbing race against the clock while players attempt to save the children from a rather gruesome fate.
Included are helpful instructions for how to scale this encounter to make it easier or more difficult, as well as environmental considerations for the farmhouse and surrounding environs, suggestions for the tactics, and also a nicely written backstory for how the whole affair came to pass (invariably in this bizarre situation, a Wizard did it of course!) I found that this made for a very interesting encounter for my players which was well enjoyed and fit well into the campaign at large, allowing the introduction of the (rather grateful) merchant parents of the children as new contacts, good favor among the small community and so forth.
The other reviews present have already addressed the overall encounters in the book, so I’ll leave it with that. I’d like instead to make note that I contacted Raging Swan Press with questions and comments regarding the materials presented in the book prior to running them in my campaign and that the communication there was prompt, helpful and very pleasant; the fact that added inspiration was gleaned from such served to make for a very positive experience with this product above and beyond the material itself.
In closing, whether you’re looking ahead of time to add interest to a party’s travels or are put on the spot for a sudden scene—this product has a solid variety of options at your disposal. I’d rate it five stars, and look forward to incorporating more of the encounters present into my future sessions. As well, Raging Swan Press gets high marks from me for great customer service!