Publisher: Paizo Inc
Authors: Jessica Catalan with John Compton, James Jacobs, Vanessa Hoskins, Randy Price, and Linda Zayas-Palmer
Artists: Mirco Paganessi, Mylene Bertrand, Rael Dionisio, Kent Hamilton, Dariusz Kieliszek, Ivan Koritarev, and Robert Lazzaretti
Genre: The final chapter in the three part Sky King’s Tomb Pathfinder adventure path
Pages: 94 pages
MSRP: $26.99 in softcover or $19.99 in PDF
Every great journey must come to an end — but players still have plenty to tie-up in Heavy Is The Crown as they face down Narseigus’s forces and finally come face-to-face with Targick’s legacy.
One of the marks of strong adventure design is the ability to balance player agency with the need to keep the story moving along the intended path. The most compelling designers have learned to strike a balance, establishing a kind of boundary within which player creativity and invention are rewarded. Heavy Is The Crown shines in this regard; even in more structured, scripted sequences, players have ways to pursue goals with their own spin and to approach problems with an eye towards their characters’ strengths. The extended sabotage sequence harnesses the natural player character urge towards chaos and funnels it into a high-stakes romp to route an opposing army.
Likewise, there’s a nice balance of adventure, combat, and social maneuvering at play with a chance for diverse skillsets to shine. The change in gameplay style and focus helps to keep things feeling fresh and moving at a steady clip, even as it can make the adventure feel far longer than its three acts. By the time the curtain closes on the Sky King’s Tomb Adventure Path, it truly feels as if players have been on an epic quest.
The chapter’s title is a nice nod to Shakespeare’s famous “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” and the trek through Targick’s tomb highlights that very unease that plagued the High King in his later years. Compassion and carnage are both on display; Targick cared for his people, but at times, we learn, it was only for his people.
Pathfinder adventures are at their best when they have a bigger goal in their storytelling, one that might extend beyond the confines of a game. Heavy is the Crown has one such goal in mind and it’s one for the ages: even in a world of good and evil, lawful and chaotic, it’s rare that people fit wholly or neatly into one box. People are nuanced. Life is messy. Targick faithfully followed the teachings of Torag, a Lawful Good deity, even as that adherence led to the slaughter of innocents; his loyalty to those teachings, which forbade mercy towards one’s enemies in the belief that they would seek to do harm later, left a painful and bloody legacy that virtually ensured that harm would come to pass.
We can accept all of this —embrace it, even— and still strive to do better. The mistakes of our past do not have to define us forever. The confrontation with Stoneriver can be of words and ideas, a chance to reflect rather than just roll. Compassion may not always be the answer, but an attempt is never wasted.
Heavy Is The Crown brings the Sky King’s Tomb Adventure Path to a strong and satisfying conclusion. While certainly interested in its bigger picture ideas, fun gameplay remains at the core of the experience, keeping players happy across the board.