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The Cinderlander

Dice Munkey's page

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber. FullStarFullStarFullStar Venture-Captain, Australia— Brisbane. 48 posts (79 including aliases). 4 reviews. 2 lists. 1 wishlist. 9 Pathfinder Society characters. 1 alias.



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A hard scenario for hard players

***( )( )

The Ruby Phoenix plotline is building to its crescendo this May with the release of Rats of Round Mountain Part I: The Sundered Path and the object of this review; The Icebound Outpost.

Picking up where Wonders of the Weave left off, players find themselves in a Vudran ruin buried deep inside a glacier, currently under control of the Aspis Consortium, the villain of choice for PFS at the moment. Players need to eliminate this threat and the general gist of the directive is by any means necessary.

There isn't a lot of room for talking written into the scenario (unless the players force it in which case be ready to improvise) and there are some questionable directives written into the NPC tactics. I am looking at you Ms. 'stands there looking menacing only to the first level sorcerer drop you in the first round with a colour spray because he beat your initiative’.

The Icebound Outpost is a fairly straight forward, single map affair that will either go real easy on careful players or end up a blood bath with dead PCs. If players get the drop on the NPCs they win. If not, they could well be screwed. I have heard of TPKs in the first encounter and it's not hard to see how if the NPCs are ready for the players. This is not a criticism in so much as an observation; this is a tough, combat heavy scenario that is more 'no prisoners' in style than the edge of your seat 'it's going to be alright' variety. This is not often the case with Tier 1-5 scenarios and is worth being aware of that from the outset.

The Icebound Outpost is a tactician's dream and that's how it needs to be treated and delivered. Be prepared, hold no bars and make the players work at staying alive. The setting is cool (no pun intended), the combat challenges varied and should deliver a smug sense of satisfaction for players that survive. If this doesn't sound like your cup of beverage, maybe move on to an alternate scenario.

I hear The God's Markets are nice this time of year...


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A nicely executed balancing act

****( )

One factor that keeps me coming back to the Pathfinder Society scenarios is the variation in their styles. From combat driven dungeon bash to the role playing heavy mystery, if one month’s scenario doesn't do it for you (which is largely a matter of taste for the most part), then something the next month will. The God’s Market Gambleis a balanced combat meets investigation scenario that should have just about everyone covered.

The God's Market Gamble reminds me of First Steps Part I: In The Service of Lore, right down to the illusion of sandbox if provides the players with, sans the 'go here and do this says the faction leader' directives (with the exception of an appearance by Grandmaster Torch, but he is always a welcome NPC to narrate). There is a mystery to solve and combat to be had. There are rewards given to the player for not killing every single aggressive NPC in sight. This has been a recurring theme across some of this season's scenarios (Midnight Mauler, The Rats of Round Mountain Part I: The Sundered Path) and it's a welcome one. Encouraging role-playing over grinding is awesome and it is awesome fun watching the players squirm under uncomfortable dialogue and negotiation. It is also a hoot watching the fighter with a great axe trying to deal non-lethal damage, but that is a laugh for another review.

On the detracting side of things; I am not sold on the chase mechanic. Its mini-game nature doesn't quite gel with the mechanics surrounding it, the DCs seem either really low or really high and I am yet to have a chase last more than three/four rounds, as at least one player seems destined to beat the NPCs initiative check. High initiative shouldn't break an encounter, unless color spray is involved at first through fifth level. The way I will be treating chases from this point, role playing encounters with a DC to move through with bonuses for being engaged in the dialogue, scrapping the mini game. No difference in the encounter construction, just one less mechanic to juggle at the table and more colour in the play.

As one of the other reviews below mentioned, would make for an excellent follow on from the First Steps trilogy, and at $3.99 it is hard to go past The God’s Market Gamble, even if you're not into the society play side of the game. This one in particular has huge amounts of room to run long (time-wise) with room for roleplaying and sand box exploration at low level, with a (general) lack of complicated game mechanics to get in the way of an inexperience GM running it.

In the end, if you’re tempted; get it. If you’re vaguely interested in it; get it. If you see it on a list to be played at your local PFS games day; play it, you’ll not be disappointed.


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Rounding off the nostalga weekend with a wilderness adventure

***( )( )

In The Service of Lore was hands down one of the best bit of low level adventure writing I've read in a while (which I might add is a fairly huge thing to say, given the general high quality of writing on PFS scenarios) that took in all the classic tropes of the city adventure. To Delve the Dungeon Deepis a love note to the classic 80's dungeon crawl (come on, there was a *****name of classic creatire deleted***** in there, it doesn't get much more retro that that) and with A Vision of Betrayal, the third and final part is a classic overland trek, including everything that makes those kinds of adventures just a bit annoying to run.

The encounters are all fun to play, and the McGuffin is well handled with a fast paced, cinematic climax. There is a lot of scope to have a lot of action here and the chance to access a rather cool little something-something for the curious character in the mountains.

There is also the potential for tedium and mundane crunch, with tedious fortitude saves to roll repeatedly with either little chance of failing or no real chance of succeeding. To compound the matter, that would be two separate lots of checking, making it that much more tedium making. GMs will want to look at these areas of the plot and play it up with some colour narrative; otherwise it will be a very real example of crunch without substance. I get why it's there and I am not attacking the writer who's done a bang up job with this. Environmental hazards are stock and trade of the overland wilderness trek; they can just be boring mechanically.

I've run it twice now, hammed up the fortitude save inducing hazards and the players have had a ball. The series hangs well together and it really does leave players wanting to play some more Pathfinder Society, which is what they are meant to do.

Whole heartedly suggest getting all three and making a weekend of it.


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Great Introduction to the Pathfinder Society Play

*****

In The Service of Lore is an adventure with a firm emphasis on the role playing. It serves up quality opportunities to engage with the city of Absalom, and the people that will be manipulating the player’s lives for years to come, solve problems that don't need a sword or spell to crack, and enough hard combat in here (see the ongoing references to TPK in other people's reviews and all over the forums) that will keep the hardened tactician well chuffed.

There are some typos and oddities in there (letter opener transmuted riding crop I am looking at you) but that's just quibbling over minutia. It play time is more in keeping with a season 1 or 2 scenario than a season 3 (3-3.5 rather than 4-4.5 hours), worth bearing in mind when scheduling the scenario with other season three scenarios.

In all, it is free, so download it now, get a group of players together with freshly minted player characters (or pre-gens) and run it; you won’t be disappointed.



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