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Amber Vadalis's page

FullStarFullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 6 posts. 14 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 8 Pathfinder Society characters.



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Welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

****( )

This is definitely an adventure for all Harry Potter fans. I know that Paizo probably wants their product to be seen on its own merit but I couldn’t help convert the Breaching Festival into the Triwizard Tournament. I encourage GMs out there to go ahead and take creative license with this module.

When I read this module, it was divided clearly into 3 acts. The author seems to me to have written the middle act first – and then discovered that it was such an incredible piece of work that he split it into two. As such the first and middle acts were creative and diabolically fun. Unfortunately, I’m guessing that he was probably then told that he needed more material – after all, modules are supposed to represent 12 hours of play. So rather than cutting back on the word count and losing the content in the first two acts, he threw together the results from a random encounter roll-off. As such, the third act was a waste of time – fortunately, it only encompasses about 2 pages of the final product and can easily be ignored.

Below – if you’re interested in my cast of characters for converting this module into Hogwarts:

Spoiler:

Cast of characters

Faculty at Hogwarts
Headmaster Toff Arnelos = Headmaster Albus Dumbledore
Dean of Abjuration Julaei Cangi = Professor McGonagall
Dean of Conjuration Messida Vost = Professor Umbridge
Dean of Divination Norva Allesain = Professor Trelawney
Dean of Enchantment Heresta Tarlan = Rita Skeeter
Dean of Evocation Salgar Irevotnin = Professor Snape
Dean of Illusion Rombastle Falgeringer = Professor Flitwick
Dean of Necromancy Orianna Delmore = Bellatrix Lestrange
Dean of Transmutation Elgin Remorri = Argus Filch

Other characters
Jandar Lilswin = Percy Weasley
Seska Imintar = Ginny Weasley
Fatmire = Wormtail aka Peter Pettigrew
Illia Ean = couldn’t figure out a good match for her
Knur = Hagrid
Maganrad = Cedric Diggory
Terentius = Roldophus Lestrange

Below – my thoughts regarding running the module:

Spoiler:

Act 1 – Hogwarts
For the most part this portion of the adventure is setting up the module and I allowed my players to explore the campus and meet the faculty. Also, if they don’t chose to explore the campus on their own, they will be given an opportunity during the first round of the Triwizard Tournament since they each need to get a Golden Snitch (aka keylights). I gave them an opportunity to learn about the “student life” at Hogwarts through talking with Percy and Ginny Weasley. Also, they get to meet the other “contestants” – and I had fun playing Wormtail, Hagrid and Cedric (dead) Diggory.

Act 2 – Deal with the Devil
I know Paizo’s been criticized for over-using demi-planes. However, I felt as though Belzeragna was well-planned and structured. This is probably the “tightest” of all three acts since it demonstrates the author’s mastery of developing a structured dungeon crawl. I especially liked Nagxiv and Valshune’s little debate along with Marijkal’s relationship with Chyvvomn. These little touches help create a cohesive story. However, I think the mobs were a little underpowered for dealing with modern Pathfinder players.

Act 3 – Random Devil Encounters and wrapup
Not much to know – if your players are into Hackfest 2000 then this is a great way to allow them to do battle with various denizens. There is a potential the players will choose to confront Dumbledore – however, I think it would be highly unlikely that his entire faculty and student body would simply stand-by and allow them to do so. As such, I simply used this time to wrap up the adventure.


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Goblin madness!

****( )

What a great start to the Fourth season of Pathfinder! This scenario exemplifies their honed and refined craft of developing a compact yet fun filled adventure. I am very looking forward to the next installments from this season. I felt that this scenario seemed lengthier that the past scenarios? – perhaps they’ve increased their word count? In any case, whether or not they did or did not, it was appropriately comprehensive and detailed for any GM to be able to have plenty of material to draw upon.

This scenario introduced a new structure – players were able to start by exploring the City of Magnimar. Fortunately, I had a copy of the Rise of the Runelords so that we were able to use the map of Magnimar along with the description of the various districts. Then they got to experience a chase. Note to DMs – please make sure to read up on chase rules before running this because otherwise chases are just a lousey experience for players. Next they have the opportunity to perform a small investigation before entering the combat intensive portion of the scenario.

Spoiler:

Admittedly, I’m right along with Paizo in my love of Goblins so I found the nasty little Goblin antagonists to be absolutely adorable. Yarak was undoubtedly my favorite and I hope that we have another opportunity to see him again. This was the toughest fight for my players which had a hard time getting up to the second story. Then needless to say, Versevosh was my second favorite. Again I enjoyed the use of terrain in making the combat more complex. Sadly, after those two incredible character, Inoklar was a bit anticlimactic but I suppose it’s not that easy to keep the mobs exciting.

I think the main challenge of this scenario will be for GMs to complete it within the typical 4 hour timespace for PFS events. I had 5 players – half were new, half were experienced and I had a fairly unlimited amount of time to leisurely complete this scenario. It ended up taking about 6 hours in all (and we missed the optional encounter).


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The Colors of Evil

***( )( )

I recently had the honor of running one of the retirement arc scenarios and although this was an incredibly clever and creative scenario, I did not enjoy it. This is a tragic tale of two successful Decemvirate members who ultimately meet an untimely end at the hands of Evil. I really wavered regarding how best to rate something I did not like because I still did feel as though this was an incredible scenario as far as quality and would definitely jump at another opportunity to run/play it. Another element I favored on this scenario was that this particular scenario was more "mature" than most which I appreciate since the average age of my players are mid-thirties.

Spoiler:

This scenario exemplified the differences between lawful and chaotic evil and how the leaders of these doctrines would chose to interact with and lead humanity. For lawful evil, they used the traditional "deal with a Devil": Xerazcis had a contractual agreement with Rysuss Soth to make him help defeat Eddington Keel. For chaotic evil, they used Chorax's cult which committed all sorts of unnatural acts to achieve the disturbing transformation of Kyalla.

DM complexity - moderate
I consider myself an experienced DM in 3.0, 3.5 and PFS and probably spent about 4 hours preparing this scenario. Due to the complexity involved in some of the combats, I ended up taking almost 6 hours to run this adventure. Looking back, I could imagine reducing the time of this scenario by perhaps an hour but would probably recommend that a DM allocate 5 hours for it.

Player complexity - high
I ran this scenario for 5 fairly experienced players and they struggled with several elements of the combats. Although my players were familiar with their characters, they were not accustomed to the strategies and tactics of high level mobs. Unfortunately, this is just a consequence of PFS rules - characters level too slowly at lower levels and too quickly at higher levels.

Spoiler:

As most scenarios, the prepared-ness of a DM contributes significantly to the difficulty of a combat. Although there are some minor skirmishes in this scenario, I only considered there to be two major combats: against the lawful evil Devils and the chaotic evil Lich. Both combats discourage traditional melee combatants which forces the PCs to be sufficiently sophisticated to deal with fighting through less conventional means.

As advice to other DMs, keep in mind the Devils are aware of the PCs presence and are able to prepare for their arrival. As Leaders of Hell, most Devils would be accustomed to leading their denizens into strategic combat which requires a balance of deception, patience, fear and terrain mastery. For the combat with the Lich, this was primarily a spellcaster challenge - groups without a strong caster/dispeller would likely fail. Once the Lich's defenses are dispelled, he is easy mop up work for players.


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Golarion Olympics

****( )

This module was the cause of my hiatus from review-writing. As all modules, it was a very involved experience for me to prepare this module. I spent probably at least 20 hours over two-three weeks to prepare this. As such, I feel justified for any opinions I have to share here. I thought this module was absolutely lame when I read and prepared it. In my mind, it was just fight after fight after fight. However, when I ran it, I was very pleasantly surprised how well-paced it was and how each "Day" of the Ruby Phoenix Tournament was very complete and satisfying. My players also managed to stay very engaged throughout the entire 12+ hour long escapade. When I prepared this module, I felt as though each fight would be near identical but when it actually played out, I think all my players got a chance to "shine" as each fight was sufficiently different to allow different abilities and skills to be advantageous.

The Ruby Phoenix Tournament is basically the Golarion Olympics. It consists of 5 grueling days of fight, exhibitions and challenges followed by a night of revelry. Each day consisted of roughly one tough fight, one easy fight, one skill challenge and then a role-playing encounter. It integrated some fun elements from different movies and tv-series to weave an asian themed ku-fu championship. In addition, there was an underlying plot of corruption which added a deeper layer of intrigue and revenge.

DM complexity - high
This module utilized almost every single character class all the PFS rulebooks. I consider myself an experienced DM in 3.0, 3.5 and PFS and still had to spend a significant amount of time preparing and re-reading everything from spells, abilities to combat maneuvers. However, I also found it very fulfilling to have achieved this because running a high level complex module - imo demonstrates a level of proficiency and mastery over the PFS system.

Player complexity - high
This is an 11th level module so needless to say, it's expected that the players be experienced and know their own strengths and weaknesses so as to prepare accordingly for a 5-day tournament. I warned my players in advance to ensure that they equipped themselves appropriately. There were also opportunities for each class to draw into different abilities so that no fight is quite the same as the last one - and no opportunity for the same trick to work twice.


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White Castle

***( )( )

I didn't have as much time as usual to prepare for this scenario so my review might be slightly tainted. Usually, I read the scenario once, sleep on it (thereby being able to align the NPC motivations), read it again, sleep on it (understand logistics and other mechanics in play), go over it with a fine tooth comb (reading all the spells and abilities in detail), sleep on it (develop strategies and tactics), skim it, run it. So in all, I usually spend at least 4 hours over 3 days preparing a new scenario. However, for this one, I only had two hours immediately prior to running it to prepare. In perspective though, I do believe that this is still probably more than most DMs spend preparing a new module so I don't feel too bad. But I do feel that there is the potential I might have missed some of the subtler NPC motivations.

This scenario is basically another crazy cultist scenario reminiscent of the Feast of Ravenmoor (which I've played and read and am waiting for an opportunity to DM - after which, I will write a review of). Except instead of an entire village of cultists, these cultists live within a perfect white elysium. This scenario also introduced "Heresy Points" which created consequences to individual player decisions - I'm not sure if I liked these or not since they were only punitive (and not rewarding). The scenario also possessed a very open format, allowing the players to move throughout the scenario as they chose. It also offers ample opportunity for role-playing and creative combats.

However, despite all these traditionally good elements of a scenario, I felt as though it lacked believability. This scenario is supposed to be placed inside the Hao Jin tapestry. I have no idea how the cultists got drawn to this particular location or how this particular religion could have possibily flourished throughout the centuries. As such, I felt as though this particular scenario was written and then someone was told to "make it fit in the tapestry". Thus, this scenario felt very disjointed which I somewhat expect from a scenario within the Hao Jin tapestry but perhaps it was a little too much for me.

DM complexity - moderate
I'm an experienced DM in 3.0, 3.5 and PFS and spent about two hours preparing it for Tier 4-5. One of the things I also found nice was that the entire scenario's encounters fit perfectly on one side of a flip-mat. As such, I just drew the exterior prior to running and filled the interior as the players explored it.

Player complexity - high
I ran this scenario at Tier 4-5 for 4 experienced players who did not play optimized characters with an average party level of 4: they had very challenging time defeating the encounters. I felt this was somewhat indicative of the trend in PFS scenarios to be tougher and designed for 6 optimized characters. However, I also have a tendancy to run very optimized/intelligent mobs so it's possible that the CR was appropriate.


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