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Smaar Janderfut

CanisDirus's page

Goblin Squad Member. RPG Superstar 9 Season Marathon Voter. Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber. FullStarFullStarFullStarFullStarFullStar Venture-Captain, Indiana—Bloomington. 1,333 posts (1,973 including aliases). 15 reviews. 4 lists. 2 wishlists. 46 Pathfinder Society characters. 5 aliases.



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Punitive conditions for players

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I think one of my locals said it best tonight when they described this scenario as "probably written by someone who as a GM hates their players coming up with creative solutions".

There's a lot of complexity in this scenario, and regardless of GM experience level, it's very difficult to fit into a 4 hour time slot. The villains are challenging, yes, but are still very "Skeletor-evil" and sadly not as interesting as they could have been. It was almost painfully obvious that "something was off" in the first conversation with the NPC present, which in all of our tables of this scenario led to PCs dealing with the "problem" immediately, eliminating having a babysitting mission / twist ending. The pirate leader is also given absolutely 0 agency beyond being a cookie-cutter enemy that, thankfully, some of our local GMs allowed to be talked down in the fact of being obviously outclassed.

The labyrinth mechanics were also annoying - even with a check of 30+, it still takes the PCs an hour (minimum) to travel from encounter to encounter. Especially at the low tier, that's very punishing, as all but hour-per-level buffs and effects wear off after each encounter. At the high tier it wasn't too horrible, except when a check in the mid-to-high 20s left the PCs with a 4 hour trek for one of the trips.

I will say that the banquet hall was very amusing and was easily my favorite part of the scenario. Watching a rogue, a paladin, and a spiritualist try to aid another to "perform" to free their brawler friends was a great moment.

The penultimate encounter was confusing for one of our younger GMs, who made a judgement call that even though none of the PCs could do the specific performance the scenario required, that making the knowledge check and several very high (30+ diplomacy) checks was sufficient to avoid an unnecessary combat.

The final room is potentially a death trap for a party of players who aren't very much on their "A" game and/or optimized. The persistent conditions for the locale shuts down several character build-types, and unless the PCs bring specific items/weapons to the scenario...that final fight could lead to the PCs ending up like the previous Pathfinder team to enter that space.

Speaking of which - the story and boon from "Halls of the Flesh Eaters" led several people in my area to bring those specific PCs to this scenario...only to end up with one extra paragraph of intro text for their trouble. As far as I can tell having played it and then read it afterward, the boon from #6-06 has absolutely zero applications in #7-19.

Interesting premise, 1 star.
Great haunt/scene, +1 star.

Unfortunately, that's about all I can rate this one at. I may be alone in this, and if so that's okay, but I was really not a fan of this one.


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This Scenario isn't just Gneiss - it Rocks!

*****

Yes, I am a Geologist. Yes, I am allowed to make rock puns. Yes, I know it is a slippery slope. No, I'm not sorry :P

After having played this scenario and now having run it twice last week, #7-13 Captive in Crystal is now my favorite scenario of Season 7. I do have a small bit of personal bias in this, but by admitting it, I hope you will forgive it.

First - This is the first Pathfinder scenario/adventure/story/book I have ever read at the time of this review (not written by James Jacobs) that has 100% accuracy when it comes to descriptions of geological phenomena. Every mineral, metal, rock, and gem was set up absolutely correctly and really brought life to an amazing location! Things were so well written that I found myself expounding on the descriptions even beyond the box text - so much so that one of my players told me a few days after playing that he went home that night and looked up a few of the things that were mentioned because he wanted to see what they looked like - and was equally impressed! Win for Pathfinder and win for science!

Second - There are no published adventures that can predict with total accuracy what actions the PCs will take when faced with Plot/NPCs. The best ones give a GM the tools and knowledge to take any action no matter how far-fetched and work it into the adventure without having to utter the hated "beyond the scope of this adventure" line. Captive in Crystal is among the best I've ever seen at these - without making them feel "railroaded" by the story, the GM is given more than enough information to allow the PCs total freedom in how they approach every journey. The PCs can follow any of the breadcrumbs they want to, and it all fits within a four-hour time slot with ease, and not once did I find myself having to say no to any of the players (except when they rolled low)!

Third - Each combat brings something different, and each is well balanced to provide a good challenge for all kinds of parties. I strongly urge anyone who GMs this to find a way to show the full-color artwork for the monsters and NPC that show up after the PCs reach Area A. It didn't matter what minis I used - having the art there for the players to stare at made the fight "feel" a lot more intense!

(Especially at the high tier! GMs, make sure you read the tactics written on Page 9 carefully or you might accidentally kill a PC or two!)

The second-to-last fight was one all the PCs I had tried to avoid, but the GM is given enough information to make the players understand why it has to be done through battle - though most of my players went out of their way to deal non-lethal damage to try and save lives.

The final fight was a solid challenge. In a tier 5-9, the enemies brought things to the table that PCs should be able to deal with, and even though it was close for one of my groups, both tables managed to tackle it and save the Archive. The final fight is the only nitpick I have with the scenario, though, in the form of the combat tactics for the "real" enemy - through reading its story and mission goals, the conclusion I drew was that it would not engage the PCs directly until it felt threatened or at risk of having its mission disrupted. That happened after only 1 round for my first table and 3 rounds for my second table, so I think it worked out very well in the end. The scenario was also vague on whether or not the sonic damage bypassed hardness, but after pre-rolling a dozen rounds both ways, I was able to find the way I think it was intended (ignore hardness and it's 3-6 rounds before the Archive reaches its 1st threshold and 10-12 for the 2nd. If you allow hardness it's ~10 rounds for the 1st and ~25 for the second).

Fourth - The NPCs. Reyshal is now one of my favorite NPCs ever. His story is concise yet deep, and I found it very easy to find a "voice" (accent, cadence, even body language) for him and draw the PCs into RP with him. There's enough meat there that the RP could go on for a bit, but his "trigger" conditions make it easy to avoid letting the RP run on too long, moving "right onto business" with the next part of the scenario, all while making things flow very naturally. I loved "may she reign forever" and worked it in every time he mentioned the Sultana (may she reign forever).

Sorrina was also very well written. The descriptions of her movements were reminiscent of either a seismic trace and/or damp fingers moving on the rim of a wine glass. Both were very evocative of the scenery around her when the PCs arrived in the Archive, and added even more to the atmosphere.

After (py)writing way more than I thought I would...I think it's clear that by my reckoning this scenario is the schist! This is my absolute favorite of Season 7, and definitely on my top 10 of all time PFS scenario list. I would happily run this anytime and anywhere!

Mike Bramnik
VC Bloomington IN


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Potential for fun story asphyxiated by whale blubber

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(Title is a brief homage to one of the best RP points of the scenario that my players had tonight)

This scenario is basically the chapter on Pezzack taken right out of the Campaign Setting book. As such, the story is good, the NPCs given solid descriptions and agency and their own agendas, and the "feel" of the setting is rather well done.

That's about all I can say about this scenario that is good. To put things in perspective - tonight was my 320th GM table in PFS, and this is only the second time in over 4 years that I did my first read-through of a scenario and went "Ya know, I really don't want to run this."

(For reference, the other was when someone handed me Race for the Runecarved Key for the first time at GenCon 2012 and asked if I felt comfortable running it on ~30 minutes notice)

The PCs can literally sleep at location A1 for 2 days, doing nothing else, and have almost the exact same chances of getting full XP, PP, and Gold as if they had gone through all of the nearly pointless hoops this scenario throws at them.

I imagine from the player's side that it's not too bad, since until after they're done, they don't know that the GM is tracking influence points after every single thing they do (thank god for the folks who posted checklists and/or guides to pfsprep.com) which have almost no effect on anything in the scenario.

Heck, the four factions - ostensibly the most important mechanic to navigate, only changes the flavor of who asks you to do encounter C and who attacks/helps you at D. These events are virtually unchanged regardless if you interact with the factions at all or not.

In an effort to be clever, the PCs are given a "coded message" that correctly points them at the location in part A that will provide them the answers they seek. A smart party will think to go there first, and then have no use for any of the other elaborate mousetrap-games in the other part A locations (mine did, and almost felt cheated that they got the only information they really needed from their very first foray into town, and spent the rest of part A exploring for the heck of it since they had 2 days in-game to kill before something scripted happens).

All in all, not fun to prep and not fun to run.


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A fun romp in Uringen, but.

*****

A great scenario with only one demerit against it - the puzzle. It seems like it was meant to be something math/dice-related, but it ended up being something weird that wasn't related to any of the clues that the scenario gave in a neat way...so not entirely sure what happened between the writing and the editing of this one...

That said, other than the puzzle, this one is a fun and great romp around with fey and time-magic, with some rather memorable NPCs who I hope show up in the future (hopefully from the same author?)!


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Obtuse and frustrating

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