Part Three of Burnt Offerings
So far in this review/overview, we’ve dealt with the first two parts of the module, roughly corresponding with the first half of the action. The rest of the module is comprised of two separate dungeons and about enough plot to string it all together. There’s a lot going on with the larger issues of the campaign direction, but from where I was sitting as a player, not a lot of it made any direct sense. Most of this had to do with the parts of the module that the module didn’t really bother to explain.
Most of this is due to the lack of background that’s offered to the players in the first parts. The characters are children of the town, but the module treats most of the information as revelations that are handed down after the fact. I went over the three events that took place five years before the start of the module series in my first entry and at this point, I want to go back and talk about one of those.
As the GM is informed, there was a magical artifact of sorts that was activated before ‘The Late Unpleasantness’ took place, which the player characters may or may not ever connect. In the process, this activated something under the streets of Sandpoint, sowing the seeds for these particular events. In essence, everyone who had good reason to fall under the sway of Wrath (see previous note about ‘sin points’ as this is why they will become important) went nuts. One of the people affected was the father of Ameiko, the innkeeper that serves as something of a patron for the PC’s in the module, moreso if they took the campaign feat. He was raising a bastard son (his wife gave birth to a half-elf, when both of them were humans) as his own, and the activation under Sandpoint triggered a homicidal rage in him. He killed his wife by pushing her off a cliff, and he’s been dealing with this since.
There’s a weird point that comes up at about this section of the module. The half-elf son has always been treated badly by Ameiko’s father, to the point that he banished him to an academy and forbade the family to have contact with him over the years. When the son, Tsuto, showed up for the funeral of his mother, the father beat him with a cane, to the point that he nearly broke the Tsuto’s jaw. After this, Tsuto vanished from Sandpoint until he came back a little bit before the start of the module to set things in motion.
In the midst of all this, it’s noted that he’s forced his father’s cooperation through threats of blackmail. Granted, I’m only skimming through these modules to refamiliarize myself with the sequence of events, so I might be missing some important notation regarding this, but there’s no immediate logic as to why the blackmail works at all. Given the tumultuous relationship that’s been spelled out over the course of the background material, it would make a lot more sense for the father to either quietly have Tsuto killed off when he shows back up and tries to force his father’s hand or to ignore him altogether. There was never any direct evidence that his mother was murdered, and he had made a point of loudly and constantly talking about how he believed this of his father. (The fact that it was true was probably what earned him the beatdown that he got.)
As such, it’s not like he could have threatened to tell people that he believed his father was capable of murder. And without that ace in his pocket, I’m not really certain what it would have been that could have been used as blackmail to coerce his father. It certainly isn’t the open secret of the smuggler’s tunnels, as those were pretty well sealed off and disavowed a generation previous. Honestly, I’m a bit mystified as to what leverage he had.
That aside, the third part of the module deals with the raid on the glassworks, a confrontation with Tsuto (and the related rescue of Ameiko), and the dungeon that lies beneath the town. This is the point when the characters start to become aware of the larger plot of both the module and the campaign itself.
The raid on the glassworks is pretty straightforward, honestly. There are eight goblins, total, in the building, and even though there hasn’t been a whole lot of combat up to this point, the goblins are mostly set dressing for this part of the adventure. The real threat is Tsuto himself, who is a half-elf monk/rogue. Depending on whether you’re using the original module or the updated one, he’s either 3rd or 4th level, which constitutes a vague threat, but nothing that can’t be readily dealt with. Once he’s been killed or incapacitated, the players can learn about what’s going on with the actual masterminds behind the goblin raids, leading them eventually to part four of the module. And some investigation in the smuggler’s tunnels will lead them to the larger dungeon that starts to explain why all of this was started in the first place.
There’s one further weird aspect to talk about before I close the page on the glassworks and start trying to make sense of the larger dungeon complex.
When the editors at Paizo sat down to put the module together, it was apparently based on an in-house game run by one of the staff. Naturally, this was developed out into the full module series, and I have the feeling that much of it was based on the original campaign and the attendant maps.
The building that the glassworks is housed in is set along one of the cliffs on the edge of town, canted at an angle to follow the cliff itself and running from the northeast to the southwest. So, when the map was included in the text of the module, it is similarly canted, with the compass rose for reference. While it may not be immediately obvious from my description, this means that all of the maps are vaguely impossible to draw, as most of the walls run at a 45° angle. A quick glance at the map shows me a total of four small rooms that align with a grid, while everything else runs off at angles.
The reason that I bring this up is that I remember watching my GM spend the better part of 20 minutes trying to draw the map out on a grid map, muttering the entire time about how much of a pain in the ass it was to deal with. I’m sure that the reasoning was that GM’s could fork over the money for the map folio, but in an adventure that was meant to serve as a showcase of what they were capable of, it seems like an odd design choice to do something so specifically problematic and guaranteed to irritate their main customer base.