The brief introduction lays out this product's purpose: it is not just an introductory adventure for four new characters beginning their adventuring careers, it is also designed with the novice GM in mind, replete with hints and tips to aid good gamemastering from the start - the sort of things a more experienced friend might whisper in your ear the first time you try to run a game. It's an admirable intention...
OK, so roll up some characters and let's get going. The introduction to the adventure contains a story commonly told in the village of Galfolweed, the characters being either locals or youngsters who have set out from a nearby town in search of adventure and ended up here in the village tavern. It is a nicely-written tale, suitable to be recounted in the bardic storytelling style - indeed the GM notes suggest that whilst you can mine the story for hints for the characters to pick up in conversation, one of the village elders is renowned for his dramatic recitation of this tale and can easily be persuaded to perform!
Next comes a more detailed background that the GM needs to read and understand, and then the adventure itself begins on a sunny autumn afternoon in the village, with some classic read-aloud text to set the scene. There's a page of background information to provide the GM with more knowledge about the place, more description of what is going on around the characters as they arrive, and people for them to speak with (along with notes on how to run discourse with a whole host of NPCs)... but it is not long before the first event takes place and the characters get swept up in the action.
All this scene-setting is well done, providing even the novice GM for which this work is intended with the resources to make Galfolweed a 'living' village with believeable inhabitants, making the characters feel as if they have arrived in a place that has genuine existance in the alternate reality of the game, rather than being just there to provide a backdrop for their adventures. A lot of effort has gone in to providing well-rounded NPCs who are individuals in their own right.
However, rest assured this is not all interaction and deep character development, there's plenty of action as well as a mystery to solve. Adversary stat blocks are set up to facilitate the use of either the introductory rules in the Beginner Box or the full ruleset, with notes about the extra features to which you have access if you are running with the full rules. There are places to explore, opposition to fight, red herrings to ignore (or get distracted and misled by!), traps to negotiate, treasure to find and more... with an original and quite spectacular Big Bad Guy in the depths of the darkest corners underground to defeat.
There's even that popular but often hard to run effectively feature, a puzzle to solve. Some advice is given on how to make this work, ensuring that character intelligence, rather than that of their players, comes to the fore without making the whole thing either dull, frustrating or a protracted bout of die-rolling.
Included, as well as clear GM maps of important areas, are several battlemaps - well up to 0one's usual high presentation standards - complete with standees of the monsters the characters will have to fight along the way. There are also some good and atmospheric hand-outs.
There's little to fault - the odd clumsy turn of phrase perhaps, one or two words out of place (but not enough to make things unintelligible, they just jar a bit) and perhaps the layout of the handouts could be improved so the borders work better with the cut-lines - but overall this is an excellent adventure particularly for someone just beginning their GMing career - and it's an exciting adventure in its own right however long you've been playing!
Basic Paths: Fangs from the Past (Pathfinder)