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The gang sets in for their first proper dungeon crawl in this month’s installment of Pathfinder Legends.

For some never disclosed reason, someone…or something appears to have been tunneling beneath the much-beleaguered village of Sandpoint, leaving a giant pit from which eerie sounds emanate continually.

Guardsmen sent to investigate have vanished, and our heroes are forced into a situation which results in a long journey to far flung vistas and long forgotten magical dimensions.  But will they return stronger, girded for the final confrontation?  Or will one of them be lost to us forever?

Complete with logic puzzles, arcane secrets and long buried threats to modern civilization, regular rotating author Mark Wright (Burnt Offerings, The Hook Mountain Massacre) delves deep into the sort of adventure with which tabletop gaming veterans are all too familiar.

Eschewing much of the comparative open endedness of prior installments, Sins of the Saviors necessarily delivers a very different feel from what’s come so far.

Less inclined towards the sort of characterization heavy, village based adventuring of Burnt Offerings and The Skinsaw Murders or the more tactically inclined, militaristic variant we saw in much of The Hook Mountain Massacre and Fortress of the Stone Giants, this one is more about the mystery and effective mechanics of the game/plot than any actual roleplaying/characterization (though Wright does take care to sidle in as much of that as possible given the constraints of both time and event based happenstance).

Filling in some details which serve to further tie together the Lamasthu and Karzoug-driven events of the prior four installments, we are introduced to a character called The Scribbler, who once acted as servant cum double agent for each of those effective deity/legendary figures and was driven mad as a result.

The one real bugaboo here is that Ezren and the others appear to know of this being from minute one, when despite listening to each of the prior adventures dozens of times since their respective releases (I did say this was one of our favorite Big Finish lines, after all), I never heard Mokmurian, Ezren or even Valeros (who was central to the prior episode and its denouement in The Library with Karzoug) mention such a character even once.  It’s conceivable this was such a passing comment that we missed it, but quite dubious considering just how many times these stories have aired, and all the wonderful asides and under the breath bits of character business we’ve picked up as a result…

Another deus ex machina of sorts is the initial setup.  OK, they stumble upon an ever escalating trail of clues that began at least in the Library of Mokmurian and continues through the Scribbler’s lair to a distant mountainside all the way to the Runeforge.  But one is forced to question exactly why The Scribbler was even residing beneath Sandpoint, if not directly tunneling his way to the surface with that pit?  Or did it conveniently appear after the damage caused by Longtooth and the stone giants last episode?

Once again, as with Ezren and company’s apparent prior knowledge of The Scribbler, it just seems overly convenient and decidedly underexplained – there’s no build, no real setup, it’s just there, presented as a preexisting fait accompli.  Not a deal breaker by any means, but it just feels awkward by comparison to the intricate web of hints, clues and interweaved plotting built over the last four stories.  Effectively, it feels like we walk in having missed an episode, or perhaps even the first 10 minutes of this one.  As in wait, how did we get to this point again?

That said, it did dredge up childhood memories of a cheap but eerie Rod Serling-narrated supernatural portmonteau film called Encounter with the Unknown (which resurfaced after decades of oblivion recently thanks to Bill Norton Olsen and Code Red).  While viewing it again more recently showed much of the cheesiness I was oblivious to as a toddler, I could certainly see the source of many youthful nightmares in the creepy old witch cursing the hapless teens inadvertently responsible for her son’s demise, the ghostly hitchhiker on the bridge and especially the pit to hell that mysteriously appeared in the woods, emanating eerie moaning noises and swallowing up a young boy’s father and dog…

Other points are more solid and welcome, such as the fact that barkeep cum town elder Ameiko Kaijitsu (Yuriri Naka) actually joins the regulars for some hands on adventure for the first time since Burnt Offerings* (a definite plus, though she has little to do this time around, action-wise).  There’s also more airtime for Ian Brooker’s Harsk than usual (though of course, much of it is spent in his preferred mode of nonstop complaining!) and our usual heaping helping of Kerry Skinner’s Merisiel (always a delight).

*which explains the cover, by the way.

Interestingly, Stewart Alexander’s Valeros gets to play both sides of the equation this time around, both the put upon, somewhat lost and fragile role he’s shown in his nigh-ghoul transformation of The Skinsaw Murders, as Mammy Graul’s paintbrush cum love object in The Hook Mountain Massacre and as Mokmurian’s runeslave (well, almost) in Fortress of the Stone Giants and on the flipside as one of the two heroes of the piece, in proving once again that “straight down the middle” is often the best course of action in that bit with Trevor Littledale’s Ezren and the dragon.

While all four leads (and to a lesser extent, Naka’s Ameiko) continue to develop and impress with their depth (remember, this is a genre not often noted for its depth of character development, which makes their work all the more surprising and notable), it is becoming increasingly apparent that Alexander and Skinner are the heart and soul of this operation, with each imbuing what could easily have been some very stock genre characters with enough subtleties and nuance to make them believably human (well, Elven in Merisiel’s case) and recognizably real.

With the somewhat Captain “Shazam” Marvel-like business at the Runeforge offering a bit of further insight (and potential for further development) as to the character and motivation of our four leads, things would seem to be heating up for an even better second season – we can only hope the next episode’s “season finale” is merely a stepping stone for further adventures with this delightful sextet (yes, though he’s been relegated to ever briefer cameos of late, Toby Longworth’s Sheriff Hemlock remains an integral part of the series equation).

Onwards to Xin-Shalast!