Long ago, three kingdoms were gifted with the fiery arrival of a skybourne crystal shard. Some say the artefact possessed the ability to enhance magical powers, but none of the kingdoms could tell for sure, for a righteous order of men and women stole it from beneath their noses. So started the Shard Wars.
Like a fantasy re-run of Groundhog Day or Source Code, this adventure puts the characters in a situation where they have the opportunity to hit reset, taking advantage of the open detail in the sandbox to attempt new things and try again.
The Timeless Fort is a Pathfinder-compatible adventure for four to five level 3 characters, written by Luis Loza, running to 51-pages. Richly illustrated throughout, the adventure would be best used electronically on a tablet or laptop – as printing would likely hammer your colour cartridges! Alternatively, you can order a softcover version.
The book includes two-pages of colour maps, and statistics for key non-player characters and special items scattered throughout. Adversaries and friends alike appear neatly picked out in eye-catching pale red boxes.
I found while reading that the rich illustration and format heavy interior gives the file a bit of a memory overhead that might make it a bit sluggish to read on devices with low RAM, or which don’t readily handle PDF as a primary format.
When the Shard of the Broken Sky came to the world, it immediately set three fiercely competitive kingdoms at each other’s throats. Only the intervention of the Order of the Shard – a group formed spontaneously from defectors of the three nations, intent on preventing armed conflicting – stopped any one kingdom laying claim to the Shard. However, in the siege that ended the Shard War, the three kingdoms broke open the walls of the Order’s fortress and would have acquired the Shard if not for an unexpected turn of events…
Gamemasters have a fairly open approach to getting their player’s characters into the fortress of the Order. For some tales of this once lost fortification might be enough, while others might seek unanticipated solace their in the face of pursuit or heavy weather. Whatever the case, the characters come across a stout and well-maintained fort, free from the ravages of time, tucked away where least expected.
The initial section of the adventure provides an introduction to the adventure, as summarily outlined in the start of this review, and then walks through the floorplan of the fort. A Gamemaster looking to run this adventure needs to be very comfortable with the layout to facilitate movement between one location and another. Better yet, you might want to consider creating a printed floorplan for the benefit of your players, allowing them to better co-ordinate their activities as the action proceeds.
While the siege on the fortress by the armies of the three kingdoms progresses one encounter after another, the players have the option to pick and choose around their involvement. In practice, the characters could actually take a step back and witness the forts fall from beginning to end. It’s in this regard that the sandbox nature of the adventure kicks in, as changing the course of events lies firmly in the hands of the characters – and they have the whole of the fort and near surrounds to play in. A distortive mechanism exists to prevent the characters just walking away once they’ve become involved. Whatever they choose to do, they will need to do something to unseat the railroad and break themselves out of the loop they’ve fallen into.
As the characters intervene, interfere and interject with their own plans, they have the opportunity to sway personalities, confounded fiendish plots, and weaken the forces of the attackers. The adventure offers up mercenary necromancers, furious treants, discontented, ghosts, sneaky kobolds, stealthy assassins, wild elementals, and unhinged kings – a diversity of situations that will demand more than just a strong swordarm. Those with command skills or magical talents may find their talents best channelled in guiding and supporting – and everything has the potential to create change – and change the strength of the fortification, measured in Fort Points.
The accumulation (or loss) of Fort Points shows how the players affect the progress of events in and around the fortress. The turn of events may reward or deny them points, which in turn affects the availability of troops or the physical structure of the building. For example, if the party manages to accrue a certain number of Fort Points, the fort’s barrack acquires a second storey to accommodate the additional soldiers. Some changes take place regardless of the Fort Point balance of the party – so, for example, after ten deaths, the Fort acquires a Chapel, and any deaths result in the additional of a Graveyard. This is an interesting measure of the party’s progress, allowing their actions, successes and general involvement to form the world around them.
After the introduction and fort overview, the rest of the supplement splits fairly evenly between around 20-pages of statistics drawn from Pathfinder sources, cited underneath each stat block, and about 20-pages of encounters and events. All personality and soldier-of-the-line information include notes on additional equipment, as well as – where appropriate – their tactics before and during combat, as well as their actions in a state of low morale. The supplement lists encounters in the order they occur and often actions taken earlier can affect later events in small or more significant ways.
The final pages – before a further copy of the fort map – consider the outcome and offers thoughts on ending the adventure – and going around for another try.
One downside – the proliferation of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Compounded by the fact the author states he’s a returning student majoring in English at the end of his first sentence, he comes a cropper before this when he states he also works as a ‘costumer service representative’. While not at all a deal breaker in such a rich and innovative product, it’s nevertheless a distraction while reading.
All-in-all, even allowing for the safety net of a reset, The Timeless Fort presents a robust and entertaining adventure, filled with potential for strategy, tactics, and in-your-face action. The varied tactics of the enemy forces can be handled in a number of ways, and the presence of soldiers means some characters have the option to serve in a more advisory capacity if direct combat isn’t there thing.
My copy was provided for review. The Timeless Fort, Luis Loza, Adventure a Week.com, $7.99 in PDF.