Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer

Mists of Mwangi Review

Mists of Mwangi

Mists of Mwangi holds the honour of being the first Pathfinder Society adventure I ever played.

Like many fledgling Pathfinders before me, my first mission led me to the front door of the Blakros Museum, Absalom’s famous tourist destination / den of unspeakable evil. Of course, this being a season zero scenario, the latter reputation had yet to be earned.

The trouble began when prodigal Pathfinder Lugizar Trantos returned from the Mwangi Expanse with a number of strange idols. The adventurer, looking gaunt and haunted, quickly sold the idols to Nigel Aldain, the curator of the Blakros Museum, then disappeared. Little known to Nigel, the idols carried with them a terrible curse. Now a mysterious fog shrouds the museum and Nigel is missing in action as well. It is up to the Pathfinders to find Nigel and break the curse.

The mists themselves are, for better or for worse, what most players remember about Mists of Mwangi. A failed will save afflicts a character with the mist-tainted template, turning them into a bestial mongoloid.

A few weeks ago I reviewed Tide of Twilight, an adventure that features a similar transformative mechanic. Overall, I feel it was handled much better there; the stat adjustments, while significant, weren’t enough to cripple a character. In Mists of Mwangi, the mist-tainted template reduces a character’s intelligence and charisma scores to an abysmal six each, while only offering a paltry +2 bonus to strength and dexterity, a few random skills bonuses, and a weak natural attack in exchange.

That means afflicted sorcerers and wizards are entirely unable to cast spells. The fighter might as well carry them around in a dufflebag for the rest of the adventure.

Thankfully, the mists are easy to avoid. Anyone who wraps a scarf around his or her face is protected. It’s such a simple deterrent that the game master might have to reassure his table that a mundane, non-magical solution could be the right one.

Owing to how weak the mist-tainted template is, the scenario contains a number of pushover encounters. The transformed scholars and attendants that stalk the corridors of the Blakros Museum are the mookiest of melee mooks. They pose virtually no threat and are almost worth skipping entirely.

Vargouille

The vargouilles, on the other hand, have the potential to cause a total-party-kill if the players waft their fortitude saves. A particularly diabolical game master might even be tempted to infect paralyzed characters with the vargouille’s disease ability; at first level, I think a coup de grace may be a more merciful fate.

It’s only natural that a scenario centred around the mythos of Mwangi would contain a few vicious animals in its roster of baddies. There’s a giant crocodile in the higher tier that can cause some damage if it gets the jump on the party, but apes are the real name of the game.

A large gorilla known Da’Tunga serves as champion of the mists. During the fight he is aided by several Tik Taan idols and rooted on by his posse of clamouring monkeys. He’s a threat, albeit not as large a one as he’s made out to be. Burly beasts always seem to be let down by their low will saves, bad touch AC, and the multitude of ways players can prevent them from full-attacking.

There’s a fight with a few animated display pieces that is also of note, but frankly, if you’ve visited the Blakros Museum before, you’re already wearily accustomed to this type of jump scare.

At its heart, Mists of Mwangi is is a hack-and-slash dungeon crawl, but it packs in a satisfying helping of lore as well. The Mwangi Expanse is an area of Golarion that doesn’t get showcased as often as standard bearers like Varisia and Tien Xia, and it’s nice to see an adventure that revolves around the remote region. The monkey idols and ape-men are admittedly silly, but they are a nice change of pace from fighting goblins and Aspis Agents.

I recall not being all that impressed with Mists of Mwangi when I first played it precisely because of how silly it seemed, but the scenario has grown on me since. Don’t get me wrong, it has problems. The lopsided difficulty and bizarre mist mechanics are impossible to ignore. But it is still a competent dungeon crawl, and at the very least it can be considered an interesting diversion into Mwangi lore.

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By Mathew
Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer