Review – The Slithering (Pathfinder)

The Slithering is a Pathfinder stand-alone adventure for 5th level characters. Centered in Kibwe, The Slithering kicks off with a spreading curse that turns its victims into oozes. The characters must ascertain the origin of the curse (Pathfinder Society veterans will enjoy figuring out how the Aspis Consortium was involved), identify the magical artifact solution required, and then go fetch said artifact. This review will be divided into two sections – the top half is safe for anyone to read, while the bottom half is intended for prospective GMs only.

Structurally, The Slithering has a couple of major tactical areas (there are two sides to that The Slithering Flip-Mat, after all), plus some smaller ones. Much of the early going involves investigation, but the remainder of the adventure is fairly combat-focused. As one might expect, there are a relative lot of oozes to fight, although this too fades and a wider variety of foes are encountered as the adventure goes on.

The Slithering is unusual in that it requires an entirely non-human party. This is mechanically relevant, but it is also thematically pertinent, as racism against non-human persons is an element of the story. This might be relevant to you for a couple of reasons. First, it makes it a bit harder to slot The Slithering into an existing campaign, as most parties tend to have at least one human characters. Second, while some groups will enjoy exploring this sort of topic, some will not. Indeed, combined with a disease-like curse that requires social distancing and the wearing of protective gear, The Slithering doubles down on real-world relevance. These are, ultimately, lesser aspects of the adventure – it’s still mostly focused on fighting oozes, investigation, and plain old killing the bad guys. But I know that, depending on the day, I may or may not want to add real-world themes into my RPGs, so I can see The Slithering being of more or less value to players depending on their interest in having such topics in a game.

Note that, although The Slithering is a stand-alone adventure, it is not a one-shot – I can’t picture going through the whole thing in a single session (the adventure itself takes up about 50 pages). The remaining pages include a gazetteer of Kibwe, which is located in the Mwangi Expanse. Kibwe is possibly the smallest city ever to have impregnable walls. They were erected long ago by persons unknown, so the city essentially grew up within the walls, instead of the walls being built around the city. As usual, there’s a small mechanical section in the back. For players, the most noteworthy addition is the oozemorph archetype, for those who want to slowly turn into a gross ooze-thing. And your character literally does become more gross, taking penalties to Diplomacy checks based on the number of oozemorph feats possessed. Ooozemorph feats focus on defenses – variously resisting precision damage, visual effects, bludgeoning damage, being disarmed, disease, and poison. The remainder of the new mechanical content is items and bestiary entries.The Slithering is a solid adventure, but will shine the most for groups who think oozes are cool (or, at least, find the idea of a bunch of oozes to be a refreshing change of pace) and are interested in the notion of real-world issues showing up at the gaming table.

More detail is discussed below. Players, stop here to avoid any spoilers.

To sharpen the synopsis a bit for GMs, the characters will investigate the origin of the curse (fighting oozes along the way), take a short visit to the local Apsis Consortium offices (more oozes), make a first foray into the Archive of the Sun (flip-mat side #1), venture out of the city to the plaza of the festering fiend (flip-mat side #2) to find the magical artifact (fighting cultists and fiends), and then back to the city and the Archive of the Sun again. The first foray into the Archive of the Sun features boggarts, while the second is against the Apsis Consortium.

The initial portion of The Slithering is very investigation heavy, with combat limited to quick, isolated encounters. Much of the skill checks involved are your standard social ones – gathering information, making impressions, sensing motives. Additionally, characters will likely be called upon to gather information, and engage in debate (the nonhuman characters must debate a racist religious leader about whether nonhumans are inherently incapable of true wisdom). Multiple Medicine checks are required but, really, what PF2 party doesn’t have at least one Medicine expert? There’s also an orc, Grisshuk, who the characters will probably encounter because they think he’s a brute who might be inflicting the curse. This takes a different turn when, it turns out, the orc (wrongly) agrees that he might be accidentally turning people to oozes, and believes that this is a punishment for his prior bad acts, leading him to seek redemption (he can eventually be found at a shrine to a local interpretation of Sarenrae). It will likely be obvious to the characters that Grisshuk is mistaken, although there’s the possibility that they want to leave him under the false impression that he’s being judged, thus encouraging him to stay on the path of redemption. I liked this twist, although in the context it felt a bit heavy handed (I get it, don’t just assume that the orc NPC is evil). And, because Paizo knows that players are sometimes oblivious, there are also (easy) skill checks provided for figuring out the significance of all the clues assembled.

I liked the Archive of the Sun best out of the two major encounter locations, including getting to revisit it with a different array of enemies. It has some nice interplay between locations, including a ritual spread across two levels. The second trip will (hopefully) feature some variety from a friendly golem, because it turns out that the mcguffin the characters have to retrieve is mobile. This might take a bit of work, because most parties will be faster than the golem and can arrive back in Kibwe several days in advance if they want. But I think that the second visit to the Archive is more memorable if the golem is also there sort-of fighting alongside the characters. It is not a straight-up ally, as its goal is just to keep moving, so some enemies will just get out of the way, forcing the characters to try to fight and keep up with the golem.

The plaza of the festering fiend is nice, although it doesn’t stand out as much. The cult here isn’t really involved in the story except that they were asked to hold onto the golem. There are little touches in why certain characters are in certain places, but I’m not sure how the players would pick up on some of it (e.g., senior cultist has his son cleaning the altar in the room with a violent aura in order to warp his personality). They might, however, pick up on why the cultists personally attending the cult leader happen to be young, attractive women.

The bestiary entries add a new ooze, and while that may be more important to the theme of the adventure, I personally got more excited about the fiendish dinosaur.

The Slithering runs smoothly, and provides the Archive of the Sun as a standout encounter location (that appears twice), which should make things easy on the GM for a couple sessions – a nice adventure that could provide a bit of a breather for the GM in an ongoing campaign.

Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy.

 

 

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