Starring: Trevor Littledale, Ian Brooker, Stewart Alexander and Kerry Skinner, with Yuriri Naka, Toby Longworth, Steven Wickham, Annette Badland, Mark Donovan, Harry Myers, Nicholas Rowe, David Dobson, John Banks and Jason Mitchell
Written by Cavan Scott, Directed by John Ainsworth
In which the Champions of Sandpoint make it back to the town just in time to help repel an attack from a band of stone giants and their draconic ally Longtooth. But with one of their number carried off by the dragon, the others have little choice but to follow and take the fight to Jorgenfist (the giants’ mountain stronghold), from where Warlord Mokmurian plots his long game…
This latest Pathfinder audio adventure hits the ground running and rarely lets up its relentless pace as Sandpoint’s defenders (including Ameiko Kaijitsu and Sheriff Hemlock) do their best to repel their attackers until the adventurers arrive and turn the tide. The emphasis on melee here is almost equal to that of Burnt Offerings, but already feels more polished than the latter, with a better balance of plot and dialogue to offset the clangs, grunts and screams. And along the way, it’s demonstrated several times that while Harsk, Ezren, Merisiel and Valeros are the good guys, they’re certainly not the nice guys.
Once the action moves to Jorgenfist, there’s a fair amount of court intrigue as we discover that Mokmurian’s grasp on leadership may be more tenuous than previously thought. A usurper who’s murdered his way to the top, Mokmurian is a nasty, ruthless and well-spoken antagonist capably brought to life by Harry Myers. In fact, the sound design on all the giants is of a uniformly high caliber; successfully making them large and imposing through audio alone is no mean feat! And at least the giants have their own personalities and agendas, which make them interesting characters in their own right instead of the hulking dullards all too often encountered in fantasy.
In some ways, it’s too bad that more of the warlord’s interesting background – as detailed in the original adventure module by Wolfgang Baur – wasn’t explored in this audio adaptation, but perhaps such a nasty piece of work doesn’t deserve the slightest shred of sympathy.
Verdict: A rousing return to form with battles aplenty against articulate, well-rounded adversaries, Fortress of the Stone Giants begins the second half of Rise of the Runelords with panache. 8/10
John S. Hall