Adventure Review: BP1: The Hidden Current(PFRPG) from Jeff Gupton and Blackbyrne Publishing

Not every product is perfect. And, like a lot of GMs, I suspect that I am willing to overlook certain issues with a product if it meets my needs. But in my role as a reviewer, I want to make sure that I touch on both the positives and the negatives when I find one of these cases.

BP1: The Hidden Current is a first-level adventure meant for 4 characters using the Pathfinder RPG rules. Written originally for D&D 4E a couple of years ago by Jeff Gupton and published by Blackbyrne Publishing, this port of the adventure path released in 2010 offers subtle changes for PFRPG but mostly focuses on little tweaks for the differences in mechanics as well as the different stats for encounters.

Overall this is a great introductory adventure that brings in not only some combat, but a bit of intrigue and a mystery to solve. BP1 is followed up by BP2: The Manor of Deceit and BP3: The Prophecy Revealed. Together these three adventures form the first part of the “Dark Veil Campaign” and take PCs from levels 1 to 3+.

BP1 draws the party into
the adventure as guards escorting a trade caravan from Fairvale east to the town of Boarland Falls. Simple enough, right? Deliver a chest to someone named Xalander in town. Of course, things are rarely as they seem…

The book starts with a bit of history about the area and the lasting effects of a battle between a White dragon and a Black dragon who fought over territory and treasure, eventually driving out any humanoids with half a brain. Nobody really wants to be in the middle of a knock-down, drag-out fight between dragons. After more than a millennium has passed, people arrive to take advantage of some of the natural resources again and form the town of Boarland Falls. Why is the town called “Boarland”? Well, there’s a huge herd of wild boars here of course!

In town, there’s a small group of locals that pretty much run things. Stu Trevek, owner of Trevek’s Tavern is the leader of the town in all but name. Norbon Kinsk II runs the NK Trade Guild after taking over from his father, but he’s not doing a very good job it seems. There are cops and robbers in town, a blacksmith, a gnomish merchant, local mage… On the surface you’d think it a great little town with some potential, but underneath lies a strange current of mystery.

Really, I like the adventure quite a bit. The encounters are logical, leaving room for a GM to customize where they want to, but including enough details that you can run it as-is if you choose. You have stats for the encounter NPCs and monsters paired with great descriptions and maps for each location and the whole thing flows naturally from beginning to end. So content-wise I think the adventure works very well.

My issues come with the structure of the book and page layout, not to mention the artwork. I’m a firm believer that first impressions matter and as I went deeper and deeper into the book, the quality of some of the art really put me off. My 11-year-old daughter is developing into quite an artist and even she was scratching her head at the artistic decisions of some these pictures. I’m definitely not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but some of the pieces felt like they deserved to be tacked to the refrigerator and not in a book for sale.

As far as the structure goes, there really isn’t much rhyme or reason I can find to the way different sections are broken up. The best example of this occurs between the descriptions of “The Locals” and the beginning of the encounter descriptions. With no transition between the two, it just jumps from text describing “The Chosen” to some potential plot hooks and then *BLAM* you’re into “Section One” and hit the first part of the stats for encounter “S1E1.” If ever there was a need for a page break, this was it. Plus, a bigger size difference identifying levels of headings would have helped as well.

Everything you need is in the book, but I wish it was arranged a bit more cleanly with an eye towards better page design. White space matters. Better art would help as well. Ultimately I know all you really need are the stats, descriptions, and maps, but a bit more polish would have helped.

So if you’re looking for a campaign to start out some Pathfinder characters, I’d encourage you to check out BP1: The Hidden Current. But I’d also encourage you to look beyond some of the book’s flaws to see the adventure within. Plus it looks like some of the issues I’ve described have been resolved in BP2 and BP3, so just hang in with me and enjoy the content more than the packaging.

For more about Blackbyrne Publishing, check out their website. And you can download BP1: The Hidden Current and many other BP products from RPGNow/DriveThruRPG.

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