Pathfinder 2nd Edition: Age of Ashes – Part 4 (Final)

Well that was a short lived campaign, made even more interesting by the fact that nobody died. No party wipe, no inter-party bickering, no real-life event interfering.

Typically I’m the ‘nit-picker’ of the group. I’ll openly admit that. My mind just works in facts and logic, yet I fully believe you can have a system of magic as long as it’s grounded in reality. That might sound like an oxymoron to you, but hey, it’s how I get through the day.

If you have a glance back over my initial Ages of Ashes piece you’ll know that I had some real problems with the town of Breachill. The river is referred to as a creek, there is no water infrastructure, no fishing, no trade up and down river. The lumber mill is located inside the town walls, a distance from the gate, and not amongst the woodlands. No mill, no market, very little industry, very little commerce.

It bothered me, but for the sake of the campaign I let it slide. Our GM was kind enough to scribble on our map and move a few things around, add a few buildings, all in an attempt to make more sense. Take a look at the map of Sandpoint from Rise of the Runelords for an example of a much better designed town. Even things like waste services are considered in Sandpoint. Whomever designed Breachill didn’t do their homework.

Okay, so I got over myself and got on with the campaign. We played a number of ‘session zero’ games, all very enjoyable, all completely thought up and in many cases ad-libbed by our GM. We all began getting into the groove of our characters and having a great time.

Then we started the actual campaign and the printed material. Oh dear.

Initially I had planned to enter spoiler territory for these Age of Ashes campaign articles as our group slowly moved through it, but being that we’ve now abandoned the campaign entirely I see no need. I’ll share my thoughts but not spoil the story for those still wanting to give it a spin.

What started as myself complaining about the terrible design and flaws of the campaign, soon turned into an echo chamber with even the most sedate and easy-going of our party members starting to become irate with the printed material.

The nearby keep made little to no sense in it’s layout. The pantry was situated nowhere near the kitchen, instead beside the indoor training room and the large evil room where you summon demons. Kind of moot though as the keep had no access to clean water. At all. No wonder the order who occupied the keep abandoned it.

If you take a look at our own real world castles, cathedrals and similar large structures, you’ll find that careful planning is made prior to the commencement of any work. Castles not only took an enormous amount of money to construct, but also decades of construction time. A lack of planning and poor design would cost you both time and money.

Not to mention many villages are constructed from the stones of ruined castles all throughout Europe. Here we have the town of Breachill only ten minutes up the road and nobody came to reclaim some stone work. The hungry and poor gave no thought to the short jog up the road to loot the place. The local council completely dismissed the idea of claiming the entire fort for themselves and making good use of it.

Nope, just let it sit there and rot until some goblins decide to move on in.

Without going too greatly into spoilers, the first part of the campaign sees a building catch on fire. Rather than allowing the players to think about the problem and come to their own solutions, the book has an entire page detailing exactly how the players MUST react. That didn’t go down too well. In the end the GM simply ignored the book and let the party solve the problem as they saw fit.

Being that the Age of Ashes campaign released alongside the launch of Pathfinder 2nd Edition, I feel perhaps that it’s designed for completely new players. While that doesn’t excuse the absolutely abhorrent town and keep design, it does explain a lot of the ‘railroading’, and cliche moments we experienced in our short time with it.

For those who are jumping into tabletop roleplaying for the very first time my advice would be to perhaps take a look at the newer adventure path ‘Extinction Curse’ (which I’ve not inspected at all), or run a series of standalone adventures with ‘The Fall of Plaguestone’ (which I’ve also not looked at) being the first.

For me and my group though, that puts an end to our Age of Ashes playthrough. While I was prepared to tolerate some nonsense with Rise of the Runelords in order to tick it off my RPG bucket list, no such compulsion exists here. I believe now we might be looking at either a custom campaign or changing game systems completely.

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