Tide of Twilight is a mixed bag from a game master’s perspective.
On one hand, I am in love with the premise. Deep within the Verduran Forest, a rogue cabal of druids have acquired the Atavistic Splinter, an artifact capable of transforming normal people into bestial half-animal hybrids. The malevolent druids aim to “naturalize” the loggers and townsfolk who make their home within the forest, and it is up to the brave Pathfinders to stop their ritual before the effects become permanent.
However, the players are not immune to the magic of the Atavistic Splinter. When entering the forest, those who fail a fortitude save will gain the bestial template. This template entails a penalty to charisma and intelligence, a bonus to constitution, a natural armour bonus, and the acquirement of a claw/claw/bite attack.
The flavour text only offers loose guidance as to what animal an afflicted player takes the form of, so the game master is permitted some juicy creative liberty in this regard. I turned my cleric into a ferret, my rogue into an armadillo, and my samurai into a panda – cliche perhaps, but satisfying.
The fairness of the template is a bit lopsided. Although my cleric balked at losing the utility of his selective channelling, my rogue was ecstatic to unload sneak attack damage on his natural attacks. If you have a sorcerer or wizard at your table who flops his or her fortitude save, I think it’d be permissible to nudge them into using their shirt reroll.
This is largely due to how misleadingly difficult Tide of Twilight can be. The scenario starts off a snore, only to culminate in a series of deadly encounters.
Disappointingly, the animal hybrids that make up the narrative weight of the scenario are pushovers. Although their claw/claw/bite attacks are nasty on paper, the expansive geography of their encounter all but neuters them.
The lycanthrope hunters raiding the farmstead in the first encounter are lightweight too. While giving them shapeshifters as a favoured enemy makes sense from a lore perspective, it doesn’t do them any favours against a group of Pathfinders.
The difficulty takes an ugly turn in the third encounter. A simple river crossing offers a gratuitous gauntlet of danger: a swinging axe trap, a sneaky crocodile, and a longbow-wielding druid. Although a solid perception check is enough to negate two out of three of these threats, a careless player could easily be annihilated in the surprise round.
When the party arrives at Briar Henge, the serrated stronghold of the druids, things get even dicier – this time on both ends of the table.
The players face two encounters with a high killing potential. The twigjacks have a massive advantage within Briar Henge, owing to their bramble jump ability, and the only thing preventing the mischievous fey from abusing their devastating splinterspray ability is game master discretion.
The capstone skirmish with the cabal of druids poses an unexpected threat. The druids immediately wade into melee, using their combination of quarterstaves, shillelagh, and enlarge to drop squishy players in a single hit.
The game master faces a different kind of challenge: drawing an obnoxiously obtuse map.
The dungeon of Briar Henge is too large to fit on a normal-sized battle map, rendered entirely in irregular lines, and completely circular. I think I may have pulled a game mastery muscle on this one. Preparing it beforehand is almost mandated; drawing it on the fly will inevitably result in clumsy improvisation.
The number of encounters in the scenario is a bit irksome as well. There are six total, and although one is optional, it is still a lot to slog through is a four hour slot. Game masters should make sure not to squander too much time dealing with the arson attempt in the first encounter or the mischievous atomie at the gates of Briar Henge.
Otherwise, I quite enjoyed running Tide of Twilight. The Atavistic Splinter is a memorable MacGuffin that deals a hilarious wild card to the players. Although the difficulty perhaps peaks a little too high by the final encounter, a reasonably optimized table should be able to escape the brambles in one piece.