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Gem Inspector

Mattastrophic's page

FullStarFullStarFullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 1,550 posts (2,564 including aliases). 23 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 7 Pathfinder Society characters. 9 aliases.



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Only Appropriate for GenCon

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I can understand that the authors and developers of Siege had to make a lot of compromises to make Siege work at GenCon 2013. Unfortunately, those compromises lead to an inferior product outside of the Sagamore.

Siege is a poorly-put-together slugfest, a chaotic mess of descriptions, stat blocks, and NPCs who might as well not be named. It might have been appropriate for GenCon, where the energy of so many tables can overcome the mediocre content, but it's a terrible product for the rest of us.

-Matt


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Epic Adventure Seed, and Solid Statblocks, But...

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But the 32-page format really kills this adventure. There are just too many needless fights which push out what could have been dialog or developed NPCs. A third of the fights are easily bypassed by just being 15th-level, for example.

Also, the production quality of the maps is well below average for Paizo. The maps are, for the most part, vacant grey boxes which do very little to reflect the room descriptions given. It's as if the cartographer drew the maps from gridpaper-sketches, and did not have access to the actual room descriptions.

In all, The Moonscar has some solid statblocks (even if they suffer from Core-only-itis) and an epic adventure seed which can be layered onto many high-level homegames. It seems like it is half-finished, though, and could really have used some more development time.

-Matt


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A Book Full of Dungeons...

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...and not much more. Dragon's Demand does have four pages on the town of Belhaim, and a creative mechanism about midway through to advance the story, but a grand total of six(!) dungeons represent the rest of this book. There is very little NPC development and very little time spent on a very basic plot.

It's unfortunate that Dragon's Demand is the first of the expanded module format. There is nothing Dragon's Demand contains that could not have been accomplished in the old, 32-page format. All it actually manages to do is stuff in a greater number of dungeons and stat-blocks. There are so many dungeons that their maps have to both line the inside covers and be placed in the interior.

I purchased Dragon's Demand because I was looking forward to a developed Belhaim with fleshed-out NPCs and a solid low-level storyline with twists and turns. I was eagerly awaiting a departure from the 32-page module line, in which the requisite maps and stat blocks left very little room for very much else. I was tantalized by the variety of quests and side-quests on Page 3, and the opening sentence of "Getting Started" on Page 5 was what really drew me in:

Dragon's Demand, Getting Started wrote:
A large part of the adventure is getting to know the people of Belhaim and exploring its hinterlands...

Six dungeons of room descriptions and stat blocks later, I now know how wrong that sentence is. In the end, this is all that Dragon's Demand is:

-Start PCs at Level 1.
-Grind for XP until Level 6-7.
-Hand out a heck of a lot of magic items, putting the PCs waaaaaay over their wealth-by-level. (Even a 54,000GP rod!).
-Fight a dragon.

That second step, the XP grind, is wholly unnecessary. So is the third, but treasure handouts don't take up many pages. It's as if Paizo has shackled itself to its own XP progression table, and Dragon's Demand is the result of feeling the need to cram all that XP into 64 pages, solely to reach an arbitrary level target. James Jacobs has previously confirmed this problem, though within the context of APs.

I wonder, if that arbitrary level target had been something lower, say level 5, if Dragon's Demand would not have turned out to be the definition of an XP grindfest. The question becomes, will Paizo make the same mistake again?

Will the now-quarterly Module line contain intriguing, ambitious 64-page adventures, or is it doomed to be filled with 64-page XP grinds?

-Matt


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Nothing Else Has Come Close

*****

Requiem of the Red Raven is simply the best scenario PFS has ever produced.

If PFS were to strive to have more scenarios like Requiem of the Red Raven, the campaign would improve vastly. The players get to bask in Golarion canon, meet established canon NPCs, receive exposure to the canon instead of isolated dungeons, and fight interesting combats which do not have straightforward objectives. I cannot recommend this scenario more.

Just make sure that you have a Cheliax faction member in the party. They get the best faction mission ever in Part I.

-Matt


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A Reversion to Mediocrity

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The bulk of this review is very spoiler-filled.

You have been warned:
Way of the Kirin contains everything that Pathfinder Society scenarios have done poorly over their five year campaign, all in one package. The scenario is a classic PFS Bait-and-Switch in that a compelling storyline is introduced, and interesting story-driven encounters are promised (it even asks the PCs to bring formal wear!), only to revert to a slugfest after the first encounter, as if the character-driven interactions were a mere appetizer to be consumed as quickly as possible. Any interesting background about the Way of the Kirin or the Golden League is never seen by the players, confined entirely to the third page of the PDF. Oh, and that formal wear? It just acts like a masterwork tool. Expect PCs who are wearing fullplate, or who have gigantic weapons strapped to their back, or who wear their locked gauntlets, while they somehow manage to sit cross-legged to drink tea. It's really on the GM to enforce the social norms invoked by Kirin. Admittedly, it's not as bad as in Season 2's The Immortal Conundrum, which silently requires the PCs to be fully-armed and armored while sitting down to tea, in order to fight the combat that occurs at the table.

The main course suffers from being back-to-back combats within a map that suffers from the "six PCs in five-foot hallways" problem that plagued Seasons 0 and 1. Mechanics are presented to resolve setting up defenses, mechanics which really aren't necessary due to the PCs already having the overwhelming terrain advantage. Much like in Baker's King of the Storval Stairs, the author goes out of his way to give the players opportunities to trivialize the "challenging" fights. Naturally, the final encounter is the easiest one.

As a dessert to be presented if the players are not completely stuffed after gorging on combat, an optional encounter is offered. In true PFS style, the optional encounter is perhaps the toughest one in the scenario, and it features, of course, darkness effects, even at Tier 3-4. That fad faded out long ago.

If the reader is set to GM this, I can offer the following suggestions:

-Remove Defense Points. They favor larger parties, they slow down the session, and they simply are not necessary.
-Treat the lighthouse map as having a scale of one square representing a 10'x10' area instead of a 5'x5' area. This change will treat the cramped-spaces problem.
-Don't run the optional fight. I don't even know why PFS still includes these.
-Fires spread automatically, instead of having a random chance of spreading. I would also suggest increasing the size of fires to compensate for the increased map scale. These changes make fires more relevant to the encounters they appear in.

In short, Season 4 has taken opportunities to present some innovative and quality offerings, such as Blakros Matrimony and The Disappeared. Kirin is not one of them. It instead represents a style of play in which any semblance of plot or storytelling is quickly dispensed with so that the tactical miniatures battles can commence.

-Matt


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