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Jiggy's page

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32. RPG Superstar 2013 Marathon Voter, 2014 Dedicated Voter. FullStarFullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 16,748 posts (17,992 including aliases). 15 reviews. 3 lists. 1 wishlist. 12 Pathfinder Society characters. 14 aliases.

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The novelty wore off fast

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Most of the scenario is mass combat, which means each player is controlling an army. You're on a grid map, with each army/player taking up a space, and you move, attack, etc according to a statblock that you're given.

So, basically the exact same gameplay experience as when you play a pregen instead of your own character. And that's most of the scenario. The idea of getting to lead these armies into battle was cool, but it only took a round or two of combat to realize we were just playing a party of nothing but fighter and rogue pregens against a bunch of NPC warriors, just with all the names crossed off and replaced with "army".

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Great except for a major flaw

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Spoilers below; read at your own risk.

Overall, this was a great scenario. Cool background/flavor, diverse challenges, cinematic ending. I loved setting the thing off at the end. :D

My one big gripe is the puzzle that opens the door (the one with the Acts of Iomedae). It shatters immersion and is mostly a frustrating time sink.

The only involvement the actual PCs have in the puzzle is an initial knowledge check to see how much info they have to work with. But really, you can't succeed without all the info, so it's more of a binary "Is it possible to solve this puzzle?" check.

Assuming you roll high enough for it to be possible, you then have to completely step out of character for the next hour or two. It's left to the players to figure out the solution, such that a 5 INT nagaji barbarian and a 24 INT elven wizard will have identical chances of success.

I can't speak for everyone, but to me, setting aside everything that has to do with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game so that I can do a puzzle instead doesn't even qualify as "playing Pathfinder", which is what I signed up to do.

If I ever GM this, then I'll probably allow INT checks to get hints or something, so that people's characters can actually be involved and thereby return them to their game of Pathfinder. (I won't require such checks; if the table enjoys out-of-character puzzle solving, they're welcome to it.)

Other than that, though, I loved this scenario. Would have been five stars if the PCs had been allowed to get involved in the puzzle.

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Great, but a tad long

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This is from a player's perspective.

Overall, this was a really fun scenario. Has a great mix of roleplay (supported with skills to make it matter), investigation, and combat. The last fight can be brutal for unprepared parties, but not (in my opinion) inappropriately so.

My one real criticism would be length. Both the roleplay/skill challenges and also the last fight can go really long. My table took about 7 hours. That can be a real issue. The roleplay/skill part can be sped up if you cut down to brass tacks, but then you've lost the primary meat of what this scenario's about.

I advise against scheduling this in venues with limited time slots. But in places where you have all the time in the world, this is great!

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I played this at subtier 3-4, so keep that in mind. I hear the higher tier is tougher.

The combats felt pretty reasonable for the most part. The layout of and progression through the "dungeon" was kind of interesting.

Infiltrating the secret lair was a matter of doing single, prescribed action with no check or roleplaying, followed by a single skill check (again without roleplaying). Huh.

Within said secret lair, there was no need to be quiet. You can slam your metal weapons against robots without fear of getting caught by anyone. Huh.

The biggest thing, though, is the ending. Now, I admit I don't really know the backstory of the Shadow Lodge. But still, when I was asked to roll initiative for the final encounter, I had no idea why I was rolling initiative.

What started the fight:
A good guy killed a bad guy. OH NOES.

I won initiative, and delayed because I had no idea why I would take any particular actions. Even on a metagame level, all I had to go on was "There are things on the map that are not PCs - I'm probably supposed to kill them." But since I don't like being a Murder-Hobo, I delayed. My eventual motive for re-entering the initiative order was that the mooks attacked.

I finished the scenario not really knowing what just happened.

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I haven't had the good fortune of playing this yet, but I just ran it yesterday, so here's my GM perspective (spoilers below!):

There are basically two "halves" to this scenario: the escort, and the Black Edifice. The escort part is generally going to take longer, though.

Be prepared for hilarity during the escort. The PCs have to do as little harm to their quarry as possible while keeping him safe but also letting him lead the way. How do you get 5 PCs, a sleepwalker, an eidolon and a lion safely down a 70ft cliff into a ravine and back up the other side?

My players did well, with the only significant damage to the sleepwalker being in the bandit ambush. Speaking of which, I think we've all run (or at least played) plenty of scenarios where one of the encounters is just "Here, beat up some thugs". Usually, the thugs are laughable. But these guys? Welcome to the very first "random thug fight" that's actually dynamic, interesting, and potentially threatening. There are as many thugs as PCs, they have teamwork feats to match their tactics, and they have ways to take advantage of the terrain. It was one of the most satisfying combats I've ever run, putting some real fear into the players without truly being overly difficult. The balance is subtle and beautiful, in my opinion.

There's also a hilarious not-exactly-a-trap that lets you make the big tough guys collapse under the weight of their gear while the 8 STR gnome shoves the giant iron doors wide open. Nobody gets hurt or has to expend any resources, but it's just another fun little twist to watch the players try to figure out. Priceless!

And finally...

...there's the glabrezu. Oh, the joy of plunking down a huge-sized demon and saying "Yes, that IS the correct mini." My group was just that close to setting him free to terrorize all of Varisia. >:D

All in all, this was a fantastic scenario with lots of opportunity for creativity, surprises, roleplaying, puzzles, and meaningfully engaging combat.

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