Publisher: Paizo Inc
Authors: Ron Lundeen with James Jacobs and Jason Tondro
Artists: Loïc Canavaggia, Shafi Adams, Rael Dionisio, Wilmar Ballespí Escarp, Rob Lazzaretti, Christoph Peters, and Daniele Sorrentino
Genre: First chapter of the Stolen Fate adventure path for the Pathfinder RPG
Pages: 94 pages
MSRP: $26.99 in softcover or $19.99 in PDF
The fate of free will itself is at stake as players find themselves summoned by magical cards in The Choosing, the first chapter in the Stolen Fate Adventure Path.
Paizo’s adventure paths shine when they’re rooted in a strong concept: Strength of Thousands challenged Eurocentric framings of the coming-of-age/school adventure, delivering a memorable and compelling experience while the recent Drift Crashers and Drift Hackers paths for Starfinder explored the use of compassion, even small acts, in the face of an overwhelming crisis. The Choosing ‒and by extension, the rest of Stolen Fate‒ seems to take a more meta inspiration: whether free will should be allowed to get in the way of a good story.
Stolen Fate is designed for characters starting at level eleven, centering that question in the gameplay. Rather than newbie heroes with basic skills, player characters are expected to have a variety of tricks up their sleeves to handle problems in creative ways that are not necessarily in accordance with the adventure as written — a purposeful design choice. Author Ron Lundeen even goes so far as to offer GMs advice on resolving these issues and awarding XP for alternative solutions.
The second act manages a bit of alchemy in transmuting would-be fetch-quests into satisfying micro adventures for the players’ recovering a key from a dragon, rescuing a commander, or saving a town from a vampire’s siege are substantial, substantive activities that are structured to encourage player creativity, while their pacing allows the action to keep up at a steady pace. This is a purposeful choice by Lundeen, who highlights the storytelling potential of these micro-scenarios in a callout, should player characters somehow miss a card and need to return. They also all allow characters to shine in different ways and for every player at the table to have an equal chance at a moment of awesome.
The Choosing walks a fine line — it needs to feel appropriately weighty, without risking its momentum. The fate of all free will is a fairly massive subject to tackle in a three-part path, but this is a promising start that balances an “epic” feel while still minding its constraints as a first act. This is, in part, thanks to its magical globetrotting. Lundeen goes so far as to call out the use of linguistic and cultural differences as an aid in establishing the scale of travel and to assist GMs in keeping it from becoming a point of undue frustration.
The Choosing draws players in and steadily raises the stakes, laying the groundwork for grander reveals while still providing a remarkably flexible framework for players and GMs to explore together. The potential for varied and unorthodox solutions supports multiple play styles and will easily suit even a diverse party. The core concept being the narrative is delightful and its apparent that Ron Lundeen is enjoying the opportunity to explore the tension between a carefully plotted tale executed as planned and the wonder, terror, and magic that occurs when players make a story their own. If this is representative of the path itself, Stolen Fate will delight a variety of players, but it will be the narrative nerds who find the most on offer.
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