Title: Pathfinder – Rusthenge
Publisher: Paizo Inc
Author: Vanessa Hoskins
Artists: Rodrigo Gonzalez Toledo, Rael Dionisio, Robert Lazzaretti, Luis Salas Lastra, and First Solhan
Genre: Standalone introductory Pathfinder roleplaying adventure
Pages: 64 pages
MSRP: $24.99 in softcover or $19.99 in PDF
An eerie messenger kickstarts a desperate quest to avert the resurrection of a dead demon lord in Rusthenge, the new Pathfinder one shot.
Rusthenge serves as a focused introduction to Paizo’s design ethos. Though the adventure is largely linear and lacking in moral choice impact or extended social maneuvering, clever solutions to thorny problems are still rewarded; wanton murder is curbed via unobtrusive ludonarrative disincentives; and player actions during exploration can pay off via the reduction of combat difficulty later on. Consideration is also given to players who may be uncomfortable with the adventure’s focus on a wasting disease and unobtrusive alternatives are provided upfront. While it’s hardly a complete microcosm, Rusthenge nevertheless allows Pathfinder to put its best foot forward.
This is no doubt intentional, as the adventure feels like one designed for players and GMs who are new to the system and the hobby at large. Its linear story allows just enough room for player invention to feel rewarding without the risk of throwing the narrative seriously off-track. Scaffolded help comes in the form of NPCs who are friendly (or friendly enough!) to the party, including one who is explicitly descried as aiming to “empower [player] choices and roles within the journey.”
All of this makes Rusthenge a great option as an introduction. An emphasis on exploration and combat keeps things moving and helps to ensure players get a good taste of the core Pathfinder experience. It also allows characters of a relatively diverse skillset an opportunity to shine. However, it also means that it may feel a little flat or basic for groups with more extensive experience. Recent Pathfinder Adventure Paths have invited a more sophisticated use of the rules than what’s on display here, and as such, seasoned players may find this one comparatively flat.
Despite this ostensible orientation, the adventure does account for the possibility of failure. While the party may be able to venture in once more in an attempt to defeat Meitremar and his forces, repeated failures may lead to the fall of the Kindred Coast as his fiendish forces find an ally in Runemaster Belimarius. In many ways, it’s a tantalizing plot hook and one almost hopes Paizo will come to revisit it in time with a fully-developed Adventure Path.
While Paizo consistently delivers on high-quality art and design, Rusthenge’s border art deserves special mention. There is grandeur and decay in equal measure, encapsulating both theme and setting beautifully. Rusthenge also has some of the most “fun” pieces in recent memory including the half-page spread that accompanies the start of the first chapter.
On the whole, Rusthenge is a well-designed, well-developed sampling of Pathfinder play, anchored by an exciting and fast-moving plot. The relatively compact nature of the adventure makes it a great choice to run for newbies, at a convention, or as an aside from a main campaign. While not Paizo’s most groundbreaking narrative effort, it is rife with potential for enjoyment and a solid addition to any GM’s library of premade scenarios.