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Dalviss Crenn

Scott Young's page

Goblin Squad Member. FullStarFullStarFullStarFullStarFullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 66 posts (5,871 including aliases). 58 reviews. 1 list. 1 wishlist. 18 Pathfinder Society characters. 20 aliases.



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Cool lore, but some mechanical problems

**( )( )( )

First, let me echo the warning others have made: DO NOT GM THIS WITHOUT SUFFICIENT PREP. Just don't do it. It's a "SPECIAL", so it should be special for the players (and can be, as evidenced by all the high ratings). It is also the hardest scenario I've ever prepped. If you want to run this at the level it deserves, you need to prepare thoroughly, and there's a lot of special rules, environmental bits, and stuff from Occult Adventures here.

Second, the good news, since the low rating might seem harsh: This scenario is not a typical PFS experience. It's extraplanar, for starters, but the encounters are definitely non-standard. It also has a HUGE amount of backstory and lore, which is fantastic - I love it when a scenario allows me to use campaign material and encounters to make a setting feel different than the usual places. The pregens are unique, with interesting backstories and even some secret mission-type stuff that really allows for some great roleplaying moments. It even has room for a GM to add some cool stuff of their own devising, which is a rarity in Organized Play. If I could run this in in a home campaign situation, I think I'd give it 4-5 stars.

The problems arise from the fact that all of this is supposed to happen in a standard PFS timeslot where people are playing on a table that can often barely fit a regular-sized flip mat, using very complicated pregenerated characters.

We'll start with that last one first: the pregens are complex. Non-standard races, lots of newer classes, abilities that aren't commonly used... There's only one PC I would give to a new player, and even that one is using rules that are beyond basic. That makes them fun for experienced hands - but dropping a class from Occult Adventures on a player unawares is not setting them up for success. Luckily, we had a player at our table who knew the class in question and offered to switch - without that, I think we would have bogged down as the new player read and re-read 40 pages of OA during the game, and still didn't play at full potential.

Spoiler:
It doesn't help that this PC is one with a "secret", so you can't even warn players about the class in advance without spoiling some stuff.

Another issue is getting "buy-in" from the group. People know what Pathfinders do, and they know enough about the Aspis to make that work, but this is a new organization with vague goals, and so my players didn't have much of a framework to hang their roleplaying and decision-making off of. Thankfully, the pregens all have inicredible backstories and handouts, which helps.

To me, a big mechanical issue was the physical space needed to run the first encounter properly. Without getting into details, the space involved is larger than any table I've ever gamed at. That's fine when you're running Call of Cthulhu or even AD&D, where the GM could just "ballpark" distances and narrate results, but in Pathfinder most players are used to dealing with the grid. You can't really use the grid in this one; even when using the tricks suggested on the GM thread and PFSPrep.com, the GM will be making some estimates and playing fast and loose with some of the rules. Not all players (or GMs) are readily accepting of this.

After the first encounter, the scenario seemed to proceed more smoothly - most players had gotten to know enough of their pregen that they could be effective. The second encounter is interesting in a way, since players expect A to happen when in fact it doesn't, and then doesn't happen again, and again... and then suddenly B happens, triggering a neat encounter. Unfortunately, there is a lot of GM box text and uninhabited rooms to get through before B happens at all, which loses momentum.

The climax is really good, though - first, because no one is sure if it will be the climax or not, and also because of some neat mechanical stuff that makes it more than just "fight the BBEG". This ends the scenario on a really high note, which is always a good thing.

I wavered between 2 and 3 stars for this one. The pregens and the complex first encounter took for us more than half the slot, and it's hard to recover if that part isn't fun. There are a lot of special rules that pop up at different points, and some of them are game-changing, so it's a big deal if you miss something. The prep aspect is a significant impediment. I spent about double my usual amount of prep, and I still had some issues in keeping everything running smoothly. I don't think I'd want to do that again for a game at a con where you don't have any flexibility in table size or time limit, and where lore and story can't always cut through the noise. That's the situation this rating is based on. If I run this again, though, I will do so as a home game, perhaps over two "slots", and really use all the suggestions and options in the first part to bring the setting to life - I think that will make it a truly "special" scenario and worth 5 stars.

I hate to provide non-glowing reviews of people's work, so I hope this is taken in the spirit it is intended, as useful feedback for future endeavours. Ultimately, this felt like adventure path material, crammed into a PFS box.


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A great scenario, I want to replay it over and over!

*****

Played this last night with a party of four at high subtier. We had a great GM who was able to seamlessly integrate the apparently random elements so that they made sense in the context of the exploration. One player had played it three times already, and still had fun without knowing what was going to happen. The fact that it's a 3-7 replayable is fantastic, I have a lot of mid-level PCs who are eligible.


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Lots of fun!

****( )

Played this at low subtier with three PCs and a pregen. First, loved the use of the Harrow and the Yellow Sign... I mean, Prophet... even though my PC didn't believe in "that Varisian folktale", it provided a unique connection to the events.

Spoiler:
Each challenge was interesting, and as it evolved we could see how our actions were both causing and resolving the "prophecy" of the cards. The pseudodragon was a cool NPC, and its flight and stinger really helped us on the last fight, as it got to the baddie quickly and helped us keep track of her amongst the crowd.

Now having read it, this looks like it requires more prep than the average scenario, due to the number of NPCs and the complicated plot. Our GM only had a bit of time to prep and did a great job, but I can see who people might get lost in some of the details without knowing the scenario well.

I'm pretty surprised at the number of 1-star reviews - I suspect this has more to do with the GM than the scenario. There's lots of meat here, some great Varisian flavor, and a mystery that isn't either insanely complex or too easy. I felt like I had accomplished something by figuring it out, and even though we failed in one of the tasks, we managed to earn both prestige.

Highly recommended, but don't try to run it cold.


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Another excellent set of articles!

*****

Finally finished reading Wayfinder #15 (the electronic version, since I couldn't make it to PaizoCon to get a printed copy... :(

Once again, the all-volunteer Wayfinder team has put together an excellent round-up of material. This issue focuses on the River Kingdoms, an area of Golarion so diverse you could run a dozen campaigns there and never have the same setting. It's a rich area, especially for characters and stories that are slightly over the line of the law (vigilante, anyone?). It's also the region where the Kingmaker Adventure Path is set, making it an essential resource for GMs running that campaign.

There are literally too many articles for me to review them all, but here are some highlights.

* Crunch: there are new archetypes, poisons, and a set of obeisances for two very flavorful deities worshiped mostly in the River Kingdoms (Hanspur and Gyronna). Throw these against your players as they pass through the ever-shifting river network for some nasty (yet not overpowered) surprises. Magical items (including some that scale with character level) and even new special materials are to be found as well. Bardic masterpieces, friendly (or not) NPC stat blocks... there's just so much that's ready for a GM to use as-is or as inspiration for their own campaign.

* Lore: (I refuse to use the term "fluff" for something so central to the game's feel!) To me, this is the best aspect of Wayfinder - you get dozens of creative takes on areas of Golarion that can be dropped into your campaign with almost no effort. Often, the Paizo products give an intriguing sentence or a few words of "hook"; in Wayfinder, some great Golorian scholars have fleshed those out into fully-developed encounters, NPCs, stories, or adventures - or created them out of whole cloth to fit seamlessly into the campaign. Here, you'll find tavern songs and anthems of the River Kingdoms, and a fully-designed tavern to sing them in, as well as explorer's journals and gazateers of various locations throughout the Kingdoms. Short fiction pieces help flesh out various areas of the lands, and provide NPC personalities that I've pulled into my games on more than one occasion.

Wayfinder 15 is one of the best ones yet, in my opinion. Some really great work by lots of great contributors, and the core Wayfinde team that puts it all together. Plus... it's free. Seriously. No reason to not download it and immerse yourself in one of Golarion's most varied and soggy regions.


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Mysteries to unravel

****( )

Got to play this last week, and have now purchased and prepping to run. Overall this was a great experience as a player - a fairly conventional mission turns into something else entirely, and even with good Knowledge checks up front, there are surprises in store. I found myself pulled into the story, and kept flipping back and forth between who I believed the "bad guy" to be until quite late. It plays on some popular tropes without being predictable... or is it?

I gave it 4 instead of 5 stars because it does look like it will take a lot of prepping to pull off effectively as a GM, and that sort of time doesn't always work for Organized Play. The plot is complex, and requires several different NPC personalities to be portrayed. Our GM did a great job and the scenario really shone, but I could see how a less-RP-focused GM could make this fall flat. Following are some GM thoughts as I prep.

First off...:
We get an Outer God in PFS! Happy dance! I hope this is a sign that the stars are nearly right... I played it with a 1st-level PC, and I think this encounter will become a defining force in his development.

Combat:
The initial combat was easy for us but flavorful, and helped remind us of the setting. This threw the village into sharp relief when we got there and everyone was healthy. We played with a group of 7 due to a walk-up, and also had three archers or gunslingers, so the big bad was not as terrifying as it could have been. We also didn't do the thing at the end, and so avoided a fight.

Roleplaying:
So much for a GM to work with here! The Sheriff's tone can really set the PC's course - he is the key NPC to develop a personality for. This is what will take the prep time - there's the Sheriff, the doll, the alien entity, the various plants, and the various townfolk, who all need to seem different to the players. I can't wait to run this!

Lore:
It's nice to visit this area of Golarion, since we haven't spent a lot of time here. A lot of the detailed backstory has no vehicle to come out, though - it's enough to try and convey the more limited local story of the town and the townsfolk and what is going on with them, plus the agent that the PCs are sent to find and what happens to her. GMs should probably use every opportunity to present tidbits of information to the players so they can solve the mystery - especially if the party lacks one or more Knowledge skills.

Overall, a great scenario, although perhaps more suited to play-by-post (where story can really come out without the pressure of a time slot) than regular play. Will run this one several times to make use of the higher prep required.


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