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MisterSlanky's page

Goblin Squad Member. Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber. FullStarFullStarFullStarFullStarFullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 3,067 posts (4,277 including aliases). 58 reviews. 2 lists. 1 wishlist. 18 Pathfinder Society characters. 7 aliases.



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No Trouble at All Really

*****

This, this is what I want to see in my scenarios.

I played this months ago, but frankly it was one of those nights and I don't think many of us recall exactly how the adventure panned out, except for the thing about the Halfling.

"You mean I can stop?"

I recently had the pleasure of running it though, and this is one of my new all-time favorite low-tier adventures. It's a really solid mix of a well designed "investigation" and then a more combative "adventure" from what you discover during the investigation. The part that made it really shine for me though is that player decisions mattered. Even the hook itself felt pertinent to being a Pathfinder; help a Lodge recover their reputation and supply lines.

The investigation
The set-pieces for the investigation were really tight, detailed enough for a GM to have a starting point, but open enough for a GM to take a group interested in role-playing to the next level. What really impressed me though was that it required the players pay attention and think about what was happening. It didn't feel like a "throw away" investigation where A->B->C-D, it felt like you piecing together a puzzle (not a complicated puzzle, but a puzzle nonetheless. The encounters aren't tough, but they're meaningful and have impact to the story as well, which I enjoyed.

The Adventure
I absolutely love that the result of the investigation has a mechanical effect on the second half of the adventure. I like how listening and paying attention quietly help the party without being obvious about it. Finally, the end set-piece and encounter really felt like a climax. Too many adventures set up an ending that never has the punch it deserves. Both the lead-in, and final encounters were memorable and exciting for me as a GM (and I think the players as well).

I mean it, easily one of the best adventures in the season. I hope to see more like it.


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I felt like I needed a shower afterwards

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I don't just dislike the Forged in Flame series, it is my current go-to series for everything that is wrong with the way we portray Pathfinders. Go read my review for Forged in Flame Part 1'. No really, go for it. I can wait.

Now, that out of the way, this scenario was better.

But not much.

Why was it better? It didn't fall into the mechanical traps Part 1 did. One character couldn't dominate the series. The crazy loot penalties and failure conditions are eliminated. I even mentioned that Part 1's combats weren't awful, and that applies to Part 2 as well. These are good things.

But why was it "not much"? Well for one, the scenario drives you right back into the world of the Murder Hobo. Except lets not call it Murder Hobo, let's call it what it is. It's the world of a Petty Burglar with a side order of Murder Hobo. Where Part 1 sets you up for really, really horrible things, Part 2 at least just has you doing one generally very, very unlawful thing. Of course, unlike last time, be ready for that atonement for your Hellknight or Paladin, because there's no way around it for this "adventure". While you're set up for systemically dismantling your patron's horribly evil plans in Part 1 if you do that in Part 2 you're not succeeding at all. To be clear, Part 1 sets the precedent that there is an "out", but there is not in Part 2.

And herein lies the core of my utter disdain for this series. We are set up on a path that involves B&E, theft, murder of a head of household, and killing of guards. Our leadership tells us we're doing it for noble reasons (although that's not clear either, since all we're dealing with is the criminal underbelly of the Society), but it is absolutely clear we're assisting something evil at it's core. Worse yet, we're not even given suitable evidence that the evil we're eliminating is worse than the evil we're assisting. It's the classic two wrongs must make a right story, which is a story I don't really need to participate in. I would have loved an out, something where my good or lawful aligned character doesn't have to feel like I can't act because every action is counter to their character.

So there you go. I'm sure plenty of people will love feeling like true criminals. Personally, I just wanted it over.


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The Many Fortunes of the Plane of Fire

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To anybody that knows the Many Fortunes of Grandmaster Torch, it has the poor reputation of being murder hoboism at its worst. How much so? Unprompted, there was a point where a player at the table referred to it as "The Many Fortunes of Grandmaster Torch redux". Everybody agreed. If you haven't played Many Fortunes, this was not a compliment. TMFoGMT is renown for a scenario with no consequences for bad behavior. Where the the players are told, "go rough up the innocents".

We hated it.

Why bring that premise back for round two?

This scenario can play out like a murder hobo's wet dream, and then reinforces that concept by providing all the negative outcomes from "doing the right thing" (such as not earning your prestige) and absolutely no penalty for being a bunch of jerks (such as fulfilling your faction mission objectives for the less reputable half of The Exchange).

I absolutely HATED this scenario. Like bottom 10 hated. Not frustrated hated where I think the power level is way too out of whack, or there's a really lousy puzzle or little logic, but I hope never to see a scenario like this again hated.

So from here on out spoilers abound...

The combat encounters are fine as written. There I said something positive about this mess. The problem is, following the "social route" is the only way for that Paladin not to need an atonement after the scenario is over, or for your character to sleep well at night (unless they are one of the aforementioned murder hobos).

The problem with building an entire series of social avoidances around bluff, or not using far more modern mechanisms of skill checks (such as group checks) means one character can defeat every single non-combat encounter. At my table, three of the players had nothing to do at all, and two were only involved because they were Exchange members. Even trying to split out some face-time with each player resulted in complaints by those characters that all they did was twiddle their thumbs.

In addition, in the poor design category comes the treasure. Every piece of treasure is listed in text as being associated with the combat itself. One can only be found if you decide to search the area around your latest murder. Another only comes from "ransacking the store" after a kidnapping, and the very last one requires that you literally tear off a chunk of somebody's private residence. Since the non-violent approach is not considered "a creative solution" for this scenario (is is advertised as a route to not feel like you need a shower after playing the scenario), a literalist GM could easily penalize characters simply for negotiating an encounter to not require heading off to a warehouse, or negotiating instead of getting into a fight, or by simply not being a complete jerkwad and ransacking somebody's home. Between that and the not-clear result of the party being deliberately defeated in the last encounter, it's hard to know exactly what the author was thinking in terms of treasure distribution.

Finally, other than avoiding the low-tier combat that can be a real mess for most groups, it is mechanically better in every way to just do exactly what you're asked to do...to the letter. That means it's mechanically better to literally murder, kidnap, extort, and murder yet again.

So, if you do horrible things, there is:
- No penalty with the Pathfinder Society leadership.
- No penalty with the Kelish embassy allies.

On the other hand, if you "do the right thing", there is:
- The possibility of missing the majority of the adventure's treasure (as written, maybe not the gold, but items for sure).
- You set yourself up for missing your prestige.

So other than perhaps not feeling good about yourself in the morning, the former option is perfect for Murder Hobos, and only reinforces that play style. Heck, even killing the other Efreet only results in an easy bluff check to explain to the cops, "this wasn't our fault", and if you fail that, You're let off without so much a slap on the wrist anyway that carries no penalties whatsoever.

This scenario was an entire step backwards in the concepts of not being complete d*cks.

I'm not even kind-of getting the like of this scenario. Not even a little.


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More Goosebumps than "Real" Horror

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This is a weird review for me. I liked this scenario, but not the way it's presented, and certainly not it's layout.

To the GM, watch out for the flow charts some of the GMs are going to start pulling together. This scenario reads like a choose your own adventure book, which makes a "quick read and run" very difficult. At its heart though, it's not bad and the reasons it reads that way are pretty good.

For the player, expect to just have fun. Combats (especially a 1-2) are more of a joke than actual threats (this is probably the #1 reason I don't think "horror" fits this scenario well, there's virtually no feeling of risk), but with proper tools and encouragement, it can be a fairly fun roleplay romp.

IMHO, once you're tired of Goblins and We Be Goblins, this could prove to be the next "kids track" scenario.


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Rollplaying...

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A scenario more about figuring out craptastic mechanics than actually playing Pathfinder. Terrible.


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