Tabletop Review: Against the Cult of the Bat God (Pathfinder)

Against the Cult of the Bat God (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Cost: $8.99
Page Count: 63
Release Date: 04/24/2014
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com

Against the Cult of the Bat God is an adventure for 5th Level Pathfinder characters, although the adventure does not say what the ideal party size should be. The adventure is designed for use with Raging Swan’s “Lonely Coast” campaign setting, but can easily be adapted to any Pathfinder game. In this adventure, players will be travelling to a creepy out of the way hamlet where the PCs will encounter a foul cult trying to restore their deity to full power. On the surface this sounds like a pretty generic affair, right? There are countless fantasy RPG adventures that have this same basic scenario. Most of them are terrible while a few like Lamentations of the Flame Princess‘s Scenic Dunnmouth completely rewrite the trope. Against the Cult of the Bat God lies somewhere in between. It’s a well written, if highly generic adventure that throws a few twists into the mix to help the adventure stand out from the large pack of like minded pieces.

One of the things I really like about adventures from Raging Swan Press is how organized they are. You are given multiple pages on how to read and use the adventure before it even begins, allowing even the most inexperienced or new DM to run the adventure. You are given information on how to read stat blocks, how to identify treasure (both magical and mundane) and a ton of information about the Lonely Coast. I was impressed by the sheer amount of detail provided here. Features, locations, mileage and travel times between city and so much more are provided before you even get into the meat of the adventure. The back of the adventure also contains a set of pregenerated characters for players to use if they have no desire or time to make their own. The Larry Elmore portraits for each one are really gorgeous, if not more than a little inspired by his earlier Dragonlance work. Now things are not perfect with Against the Cult of the Bat God. For example, on page 8 of the PDF, the population for Oakhurst is listed at 413 but on page 10, it is down to 121. There are other inconsistencies in the information ranging from alignment (Rasla Neblor for example is listed as Chaotic Neutral on page 10 but then as Chaotic Good on page 12.) on down. So while there is a lot of information to help you run Against the Cult of the Bat God, some of what is in the PDF is contradictory and makes the overall piece feel sloppy. A good editor could have caught much of this and usually RSP adventures ARE better than this. I’m not sure how so many errors got through in this one.

For whatever reason, the PCs have journeyed to the remote town of Oakhurst (there are several story hooks provided). Oakhurst is a backwater community full of rumours about dark magic, inbreeding and being a hotbed for all sorts of illegal activities. Most of the rumours turn out to be true. In addition to all this is the villainous cult of the Bat God who seek to help their god gain more power as well as fully manifest in this reality. Of course players have no idea about the cult of the Bat God when the adventure starts (unless the see the name of the adventure and let character and player knowledge bleed together). Players will have to discover the real horror plaguing Oakhurst once they have arrived on a unknowingly related matter.

Against the Cult of the Bat God is a sandbox style adventure. This means the PCs can openly explore Oakhurst and the surrounding area without feeling railroaded to a specific location by the DM. Now, some events will occur at specific locations at specific times, but these are to help the adventurers find the direction they need to go in order to complete the adventure. Of course there are also some events that occur if the players don’t reach specific goals in time, but this doesn’t necessarily mean “gave over” or that the PCs lose – just that there will be a much unhappier ending. The PCs have three full days in-game time to discover the machinations of the bat god cult and (hopefully) prevent them. There isn’t a great deal of combat in this adventure save towards the end. Most of the adventure is exploring and investigating, which is nice as too many Pathfinder adventures devolve into hack and slash dungeon crawls. Now that doesn’t mean Against the Cult of Bat God doesn’t have that – just that it is more balanced than most Pathfinder offerings, ensuring that every gamer will get to experience the part of tabletop RPGing they like best.

I will say I was very happy with the monster choices in this adventure. I have a soft spot for the main antagonist “race” ever since it appeared in the first Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium back in the golden era of AD&D 2e. It’s a logical choice for the adventure and the slight modifications to the Pathfinder version for this adventure are interesting ones. At the same time, I was very unhappy to see this adventure fall prey to the big problem plaguing most Pathfinder products, third and first party alike, which is the reference of way too many releases in order to make the adventure work as originally conceived. Now there’s nothing wrong with referencing two or three books beyond the core three books every Pathfinder player should have, but more than that and the adventure begins to not only thumb its nose at more casual players, but also makes a gamer feel like they need to spend a lot of cash on other Pathfinder releases to the point where it is the only game they can invest in. Unfortunately, Against the Cult of the Bat God references a whopping seventeen other Pathfinder releases, which is unacceptable. It’s a sign that the author is through and great at cross-referencing, but no adventure should require that math supplements and sourcebooks to run properly. In the adventure’s defense, Against the Cult of the Bat God does its best to make the adventure run as smoothly as possible without needed that actual enormity of dead trees, but that is still WAY too many releases for ANY adventure to reference.

Overall, Against the Cult of the Bat God is a decent, if forgettable, affair. It’s a well written adventure and extremely easy to use thanks to the layout and format provided by Raging Swan Press. The adventure is very generic in plot and follow through however, so some gamers may find this too close to dozens of other fantasy releases that they have encountered over the decades and thus not enjoy the experience. Still, the trope works and Against the Cult of the Bat God makes good use of it. For nine dollars though, there are a lot of better Pathfinder adventures out there and Against the Cult of the Bat God is a bit sloppy compared to other Raging Swan Press releases. Against the Cult of the Bat God might be worth picking up if it goes on sale, but for right now it’s a bit too generic and expensive compared to other options out there.

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