Inside Pulse 12

Tabletop Review: For Rent, Lease or Conquest (Pathfinder)

For Rent, Lease or Conquest (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Adventure a Week, LLC
Cost: $7.99
Page Count: 45
Release Date: 09/18/2014
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com

With third party releases for Pathfinder, the bad tends to outweigh the good. Because so many companies just throw out things for Pathfinder without any sense of balance or quality control, the really good third party releases can get lost in the shuffle. This is doubly true for release with a sense of humour. They’re rare enough as it is, but to find a comedic adventure for Pathfinder that is also exceptionally well done, well, the old “needle in a haystack” cliché is more than apropos. That what makes me so glad I found and picked up “For Rent, Lease or Conquest.” The adventure is a lot of fun, it is as funny to play as it is to read through and it really shows that there is still originality and cleverness left in the Pathfinder market instead of a bunch of adventures that are little more than derivative dungeon crawls. For Rent, Lease or Conquest isn’t just one of the best Pathfinder adventures I’ve experienced this year, but it is one of the best adventures, regardless of system.

For Rent, Lease or Conquest is for four to five Level 7 characters. It is also compatible with Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 and a few other OGL systems and as such it contains stats for both primary variants. The adventure is a direct sequel to a previous release from AAW Games entitled, Death & Taxes. I have neither read nor played that one so I can’t comment on its quality but I can say that For Rent, Lease, or Conquest is perfectly standalone and you do not need the previous adventure to make it work. The adventure contains multiple maps and all the antagonist/monster stats you will need to run the adventure, making it a rare Pathfinder product where you are not prompted to look through or purchase three or more other books besides the core rulebook(s). I love this. It’s a nod to how expensive and overwhelming Pathfinder can be and also keeping costs low for the potential purchaser of this adventure. Because this piece doesn’t require more than the core rulebook and the adventure itself, it’s a wonderful way for newcomers to experience Pathfinder. They get to play a mid-level character and see that not every adventure is “enter a dungeon, kill things for loot and repeat until dead or the mission is over.” This is exactly the type of piece I would use to introduce someone to Pathfinder, especially if their previous RPG experience was with a more thinking/less hack and slashy system.

For Rent, Lease or Conquest is a lot of things rolled up into one fantastic adventure. First it covers the issue of a guildhall or place for the adventurers to rest their feet. I remember when I was a kid, the biggest challenge in AD&D 2e was not playing the game, but what to do when you character leveled up enough to have followers and/or a keep to maintain. Sure it’s cool your Ranger attracted a Basilisk ally, but where will you guys stay when you’re not murdering dungeon inhabitants. You can’t live in hotels forever! In the case of this adventure players are given a simple hook. There is a large and impressive looking house in town that may be haunted. The local real estate agent wants it off her books for tax purposes. She can’t sell the thing, so she offers the PCs a deal – clear it out and it is theirs for free! Everyone wins. Of course the adventure won’t be that simple…

The second aspect of the adventure is that much of the piece mirrors the typical “haunted house” style dungeon crawl. These tend to work better in games like Ravenloft, Chill or Call of Cthulhu but that’s because those houses tend to actually be haunted with something. In the case of For Rent, Lease or Conquest, the house isn’t actually haunted. It’s filled with some unusual squatters and it was built by an eccentric sorcerer so it’s understandable by the local peasants assume something spooky dwells within the manor. Half the fun of the adventure is the house and its different denizens. What I really liked it that the focus isn’t on the usual hack and slash rigmarole that turns too many OGL adventures into generic trash. Sure combat is potentially plentiful, but the adventure is more about exploring and encounters. Most of the encounters can be solved by talking or using one’s wits instead of a blade. This is absolutely fantastic and a wonderful alternative that more adventures should offer. After all, the Bard’s gift of gab and the Paladin who put on their skill points into Diplomacy and other talking based skills are just going to waste otherwise! The inhabitants of the house are amusing, charming and memorable and are a wonderful example that not all sentient races look or think alike. The end result should be one that has players wistfully remembering this piece for months or years to come.

The third part of the adventure that I absolute love is the climax. After the PCs have solved the problem, some thugs have come to claim the house for themselves. After all, it’s worth a lot of money and property always goes up in value, especially when it is built by a famous architect. After all, you never know what inflation is going to do to those electrum pieces you’ve been storing under your bed AND there isn’t much of a concept of interest banking in fantasy RPGs. Now the roles reverse as the players can use the magic nature of the house (and its inhabitants) that once stymied them against the GM. Indeed, the roles of the PCs and GM switch at this point with the PCs configuring the layout of the house and its abilities to stop the invaders while the GM acts as the adventuring party, guiding the ne’er do wells through the house until they meet a gruesome or comedic end. This is such a wonderful breath of fresh air with this piece and it will surely be a highlight for everyone who plays it.

I think it’s pretty obvious that I can’t say enough good things about For Rent, Lease or Conquest. It’s original, innovative, imaginative and most of all – a lot of fun. This adventure shows you can have a good dose of comedy in a piece and yet still have it be something the players and their characters can take seriously. It’s smart, self-aware and is a perfect response to all the usual reasons people say they don’t enjoy Pathfinder. I can’t recommend this highly enough and it really is the best Pathfinder adventure of the year. Every third party company (and even Paizo to a degree) should consider this required reading on how to write an adventure that captivates rather than relying on standard tropes and generic dungeon crawls. Definitely a must have for any fan of the system.

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