A few months ago, Legendary Games ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund a series of fantasy/science fiction-hybrid adventures. The first of these adventures, The Assimilation Strain, is now available for both Pathfinder and D&D 5E.
The basic plot of the adventure is that the players arrive in a town that has been the subject of alien experimentation – a hidden alien has infected most of the populace with a virus that has sent them insane. The remainder of the populace have either fled or are (foolishly) hoping that things will come good. The adventure mostly has the party investigating what has happened in the village, until they locate the dungeon where the alien is hiding. The adventure makes use of a lot of body horror (transformation) and madness.
I have a problem with the “science fiction” horror used here, because it’s something I’ve seen before in regular fantasy adventures. Yes, it’s definitely a trope of science-fiction adventures, but it’s no longer exclusive to them. As a result, while this is a well-constructed adventure, the basic theme doesn’t excite me. The investigation is competently handled, but I’ve seen a lot in this style and it doesn’t distinguish itself enough from what has gone before.
Indeed, you could happily remove the science-fiction elements (just say the alien is from the Far Realm) and you’d be good to go.
The adventure also suffers greatly from poor editing, over-lengthy stat-blocks, and too much irrelevant text. I am not a fan of stat-blocks in the Pathfinder style, and I’m even less fond of stat blocks that have had a standard template applied without changing it to match the creature. Using the text “a maddened creature” in one ability description when the rest refer to the creature by name? That’s poor.
The references to “The Official 5th Edition Manual of Monsters” are laughable. I know why they’ve done it, but it really looks clunky.
The maps are fine; the artwork goes between adequate and terrible.
Ultimately, The Assimilation Strain is a fine adventure. You should have fun with it. It’s not elegant, but it gets the job done.
Unfortunately, the editing is horrible. It’s a joke. For a company that proclaims that it hires the best authors, designers and layout experts, it certainly hasn’t gone to any trouble with getting the best editors. Jason Nelson proclaims in the introduction that the company is committed to bringing us “the absolute best third party support for your Pathfinder campaign”, which is fascinating, since this is a 5E adventure. The credits list Alistair J. Rigg and Neil Spicer as the editors – with Spicer also being one of the authors. Dan Dillon did the 5E conversion from its original Pathfinder incarnation and the conversion seems fine, even if the expression is clunky at times. But the editing? Argh!
I have seen much worse edited adventures, but they generally come from single-man production teams. This is an endemic problem at Legendary Games. Their initial 5E releases also have horrible editing.
Am I making of this more than it’s worth? Possibly. I expect most people won’t have a problem and will just enjoy the adventure. As I said, it’s not like the adventure is bad. I just find it boring – and that may be an indication of my personal taste in adventures. However, if you really want to irritate me, do a bombastic introduction with a lot of errors and then continue with the errors throughout the product. Just like The Assimilation Strain did.
I really hope this improves for their upcoming adventures.