While “Burnt Offerings” was interesting and well done, “The Skinsaw Murders” is where this adventure path really took off and became a thing of legend.
We had fun investigating the murders in Part I, and the subplot where Phiravno was being specifically singled out by The Master as his “special friend” really got us all engaged.
The imagery in this horror adventure was very well done. The scarecrow-ghouls out at the farmhouse creeped people out and then the haunted house (Foxglove Manor) was superb. I once ran a haunted house of this type (I talk about it in my essay on horror gaming) and this was the best example of the genre I’ve seen. All the PCs were creeped out and started behaving more realistically than their usual stud/mercenary selves (refusing to search rooms that were too gruesome, etc.)
My five year old daughter always wants me to tell her what happened at gaming. She *loved* the haunted house story. She was cross that the first telling ended with us prepared to go into the attic, and she didn’t like waiting two weeks to find out what happened. She’s asked to hear the story several times again since. I sanitize it a bit, but these kids nowadays with their TV shows like “Billy & Mandy” aren’t too shockable. Here’s a bit of real dialogue from my storytelling session.
Daddy: “And then they went into a room and all the walls were ripped up like by something with claws, except for this one painting that was turned around and hung facing the wall. One of Daddy’s friends went up and turned it around, and… What do you think it was?”
Five year old: “A booby trap?”
Daddy: “Ah, you’re smarter than Daddy’s friend was. Yes, the painting exploded and covered him with goo and he got sick.”
Five year old: “He should know better.”
The denoument of the haunted house in Part II was a little confusing and not quite as bad ass as the previous chapter, but overall it was boss.
Then we visited Magnimar, which was OK, but we wished there was a player handout like there was for Sandpoint; we really didn’t get enough of a feel for it.
I nearly bought it at the lumber mill in Magnimar in Part III. Talk about true D&D style encounter locations. Since it’s cultists running the mill, they attack fanatically whenever someone comes in even though it’s in the middle of the fricking workday and I’m pretending to be a lumber buyer. I guess they don’t have to buy anything, sell anything, or interact with anyone, despite being in the middle of a large city. </sarcasm> Luckily my Glitterdust and celestial bison combo was more than a match for four cultists, and I ran my dwarf ass out of there and got the rest of the party for a full sweep & clear.
Xanesha nearly killed us all. Even the best of us could only hit her on a 20 since she was fully buffed (and that only after the invisibility, illusion, and mirror image were gone). The DM was merciful on those escaping her by fleeing down the stairs, and Xanesha made a bad decision in following the PCs escaping on the summoned hippogriff as it turned out to be way faster than she was.
Character-wise, the merits of the various characters became more established. Ravno, with his Book of Nine Swords moves and Varisian scarf, was capable of huge amounts of damage. Doing it with a scarf, however, led to a less than butch reputation. Prince Eyorak was traded in for Apollo as he had become percieved as more craven than the player had intended and he wasn’t sure how to pull out of that. Roscoe the cleric was an incredible undead-killing machine. Maru Maru suffered from the classic monk problem of the “flurry of misses”. Hulmar got a lot of mileage out of his high Tumble and scout skirmish ability. Artkel, despite being listed at the beginning of the session summaries, was pretty much MIA by this point (his player hasn’t returned). And of course Valgrim is a summoning machine who KNOWS ALL!