Thursday 8 November 2018

Giantslayer Player's Guide

In order to get an adventure path going, the players need characters, and ideally, they’ll create characters that are suited for the particular adventure path they’ll be undertaking—characters who come from the appropriate region(s), and have relevant skills and abilities. In the case of the Giantslayer Adventure Path, they should come from the town of Trunau in Belkzen or have a reason for being in Trunau, and they should be interested in fighting giants.

The Giantslayer Player’s Guide provides players with the tools they need to create such characters. And it does a reasonably good job. One of the difficulties adventure path player’s guides can encounter is providing enough information to let players create characters appropriate to the entire campaign—not just the opening—while not giving away too much about later parts of the campaign. In the case of Giantslayer, this means making it clear that the PCs will be fighting giants (it’s in the name of the adventure path, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to the players even though it may be to the characters) and that they will be travelling through the Mindspin Mountains.

Like most adventure path player’s guides, the Giantslayer Player’s Guide opens with a brief overview of the campaign. This includes some suggestions on how the characters might already know or come to know each other. It then moves on to some basic character tips, including suggested archetypes, animal companions, bloodlines, favoured enemies, and so on. Since it’s not mandatory that PCs come from Trunau (although it is strongly recommended that at least one come from Trunau), it also includes a section on possible nearby places of origin.

Of course, one of the most noteworthy parts of any adventure path player’s guide—and the section many players probably turn to first—is the section on campaign traits. These are the background details and minor abilities that fine tune characters to the particular adventure path. In some adventure paths, the campaign traits provide the characters an intrinsic tie to the events, making taking a campaign trait necessary for all characters, as they provide something important to the story, sometimes even tying into specific events in the adventure path. In other adventure paths, the campaign traits are more generalised, offering abilities tailored to the adventure path, but otherwise being little different from the other traits players can select at character creation. In the case of Giantslayer, the campaign traits are of the latter kind, and this does make them seem a little underwhelming at first, a little less special. That isn’t necessarily a fair criticism though, as there isn’t really anything that requires every adventure path to require PCs who were born specifically for that adventure path. These campaign traits are well balanced with other traits (some adventure paths do have campaign traits that are noticeably more powerful than other traits) and provide abilities that will be useful throughout the entire campaign. One nice thing here is that, because they are campaign traits, players can be reasonably confident that abilities that might be very situational in other campaigns (such as Artifact Hunter’s ability to recognise artifacts) will see use in this campaign.

The bulk of the Giantslayer Player’s Guide, however, is given over to a gazetteer of Trunau. Given the importance of the town to the opening of the adventure path, players will likely be grateful to have this information at their fingertips. One thing I really like about this section is that, as well as giving site-by-site descriptions of the town, it also provides fairly extensive background on what life is like in Trunau. Given its location in an orc-dominated country, Trunau society has developed some very specific customs, and the gazetteer allows players some idea of what it’s like to live there. It gives them information that can help them develop their characters’ personalities and backgrounds. Even if characters don’t come from Trunau, they have likely spent some time there already, so this information remains useful to all players. Similarly, since the characters would be very familiar with locations in Trunau and how to get around, the site-by-site descriptions and map will be very useful.

The book ends with some environmental considerations. These are rules summarised from the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook covering travelling and adventuring in hill and mountain terrains. While this is nothing new, it nicely places these rules in one spot that will be easy for players to find and consult.

On the whole, the Giantslayer Player’s Guide does its job well. It offers an introduction to the campaign and provides players with the tools to make characters who fit the adventure path and will remain relevant throughout.

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