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Sajan

WalterGM's page

RPG Superstar 2013 Star Voter, 2014 Dedicated Voter. Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber. FullStarFullStarFullStarFullStarFullStar Venture-Captain, Washington—Eastern Washington. 2,193 posts (2,244 including aliases). 5 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 16 Pathfinder Society characters.



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5 out of 5, would replay.

*****

Janira Gavix
This NPC is probably the best thing in The Confirmation. Janira serves many functions, some of which are pretty subtle, and overall is a great addition to the scenario. Janira drives the story. She gets your players introduced to the idea of adventuring, gets them out the door and into their first dungeon. She's written in such a way that she enables you as a GM to help you players develop their skills as fledgling Pathfinders. The scenario itself makes this clear, as it has Janira inspect player's gear, pass out useful items, and define the qualities of exemplary former Pathfinders.

Also, because of the addition of Janira, it gives you as a GM a voice among your players. This allows you to advise your players through the medium of an NPC. So instead of telling your players "hey, let's focus on the game please," you can have Janira do it for you. "Oh yes! What a delightful story, friend. Now then, what do you make of this cave up ahead?" You can use Janira to keep your story on track, help new players make better combat decisions, draw typically quiet players out of their shell -- anything you really want. And the whole time the NPC is doing it. Since Janira is the one giving out advice, players are more likely to be responsive to it. Everyone hates being told "no" by a GM, but it's hard to hate Janira's genuine passion for adventure as she keeps the table in check. "Why don't we visit that whore house after we explore the caves? Sound good?"

Replacing First Steps
The Confirmation has some pretty big shoes to fill. It's replacing the only PFS introductory scenario the game has ever had, and at the same time it's condensing it from a 3 part story arc to a one part. That's not easy. All that said, Kyle hasn't failed to deliver with this scenario.

Rather than spending three games following the instructions of almost a dozen different people, in this scenario you have a very straightforward "do this" kind of plot. Straight forward, but with enough of a twist that it remains interesting all the way until the end. In addition, because of how the final fight is designed, it allows the players to experience a difficult fight with a level of preparation that helps careful PCs even the odds.

By having randomly rolled fights for a majority of the encounters, it makes every playthrough of The Confirmation quite different. The built in replayability feature is a huge step forward for an evergreen (replayable for credit) scenario like this.

As an introduction to PFS play
My players (all of which had experienced First Steps) thought that the way The Confirmation was written served as a much better introduction to the Pathfinder Society. As a player, you are given an introduction to the society, it's history, a couple of it's members, and are reminded of it's structure and beliefs. You are given your first official assignment, presented as a final exam, and are guided through your first fight in a sort of "tutorial mode" before Janira lets you off the leash to adventure on your own for the rest of the game. You are given instruction on gear, which can be quite daunting to new players, and are faced with an even mix of combat and non-combat encounters to test your newly minted skills.

As a GM, I especially liked that the players were reminded of what is expected of Pathfinders - explore, report, cooperate. It can be difficult in PFS when players with diametrically opposed characters sit down and have to rationalize working with one another. I was actually able to remind my players of this via Janira, which was great. An Andoran at the table introduced his character and included a line about defeating the evil Chelish empire and driving them from the face of Golarion, so I had Janira chime in. "Now while I, more than most, can appreciate your drive for freedom and equality, we must remember that while adventuring under the Pathfinder banner that we uphold the three duties. The last of which is cooperation. I'd suggest that you embrace any Chelaxians Pathfinders you come across as your brothers and sisters. Some might even consider joining your cause! Ethnicity is no reason for exclusivity, I always say!"

Final Thoughts
I've liked Kyle's previous work (Rats of Round Mountain, pt. 1 in particular), but I think that he's hit the nail on the head with The Confirmation. This scenario comes exactly as promised: an evergreen new scenario that introduces new players to PFS. And it even goes a bit further. It's well written, quick, and replayable in a way that other PFS scenarios aren't. It can help introduce new players to Pathfinder in general. I actually plan on using it to introduce my parents to Pathfinder, as well as any other people that are unfamiliar with tabletop.

I like the direction that this will take PFS in Season 5 and beyond, and look forward to what else Paizo has Kyle work on. 5/5.


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GM's: worth your time, prep for it; Players: don't read this!!

*****

Since this is one of the scenarios I am slotted to run a table of at Paizocon, I figured I would run it a few times before getting there to see how it was, and boy was I surprised. The first thing that really got me into Rats, Pt 1 was the basic premise.

The Premise:

I always thought going into the tapestry was a cool notion -- as genesis was a staple of any high level wizard back in the day -- so the thought that the Pathfinder society would send people into a high level spellcaster's personal demiplane to look for treasure, explore, report, etc. is just very cool to me. Rats turns that introductory premise on it's ear a bit. Hao Jin didn't just use her tapestry for cataloging relics and hiding pyramids, she used the existence of her demiplane as a tactical decision. Against an invading force of ratfolk, she simply caused a massive chunk of Golarion's Darklands to no longer exist on Golarion -- teleporting it into her tapestry. Not only did this cause some catastrophic drawbacks for the ratfolk back home, but now there was essentially a spherical terrarium that cratered it's way into the tapestry. And from that "round mountain," the rats adapted to their new home. How freaking cool is that? And all that is just the premise to the freaking scenario.

That right there should be enough to get you to go out and get this scenario. Or download it. After you've done that and have a copy beside you, let's continue.

More Hooks:

So, as the players find out, there's more than just rats within Round Mountain. Because Hao Jin essentially just scooped out a huge section of earth, anything that was in that dirt and rock was teleported into the tapestry as well. This allows Rats, pt. 1 to be filled with displaced creatures, scratching out a new survival in their sundered home. It also allows the young wyrmling that was caught up in the spell to have come to full maturity. But more on that later. We already agree that the presentation of this scenario is great, but what of the actual meat? The crunch, the numbers -- how does it play?

The Encounters:

Breaking down the encounters, you have:
- Diplomatic
- Combat
- Trap
- Combat (optional)
- Diplomatic/Combat Final

A pretty standard set up for PFS game. But lets look at each one in depth and find out why they stand out. The initial diplomatic encounter is pretty straightforward. There are some rats, you are sent to parlay with rats, so you parlay with rats. However, for the diplomatically disinclined, there are actually options for combat. Challenging combat at that. And even if they succeed, they get burned in the end, as the consequences of their actions carryover into the second scenario in the series.

The rest of the encounters struck me as very solid benchmarks for what a high level party should be prepared to encounter.

The combat following the diplomatic encounter demonstrates this well. You have a pair of creatures with see in darkness, deeper darkness, and dispel magic. Combine that with 4 attacks from a high level enemy rogue a round and you have the potential for a lot of bloodshed. However, this encounter can be defeated if the PCs have a well thought out group and supply accordingly. They are going into a place that was torn from the darklands after all, so perhaps they should have a means to dispel magical darkness. Just saying.

The trap is easy to notice, but the PCs can't help but trigger it when the swarm appears. I liked that. I think a really challenging encounter should always put players into a situation where they're deciding between one unfavorable outcome or the other. Do I take full attacks from the wolves, or do I jump off the balcony? Things like that. And because it's made fairly clear that the trap can be triggered quite easily, punishing the group for a player casting fireball on the swarm serves as a good learning lesson.

The optional encounter is rough, very rough. In the high tier, expect a PC to die. You have 4 attacks slamming in at a +15 a pop (with power attack) that do 1d6-1d8+17 each. You can also have fun with their tactics. They have awesome blow and greater bull rush, and they are trying to beat one PC up and scamper off with their dinner. Combined with a 15' reach (courtesy of lunge), those feats make it very easy to split the party, especially in the 30ft corridor the gugs appear in.

The Beast:

The final fight, is of course the dragon we were introduced to in the fluff. CR 14 in the 10-11 tier means high level SLAs, spell resistance 20+, 30+ AC, 200+ HP, not to mention her slew of other spellcasting abilities. However, it begins the "fight" in discussion mode. The PCs have a couple of rounds to sense the beast coming, and will likely use this time to prep their buff spells. A lot of those will have minute durations or less, so you may want to employ this trick. Once they're all done with their "pre-dragon rounds," have the dragon appear, describe it, and then take out your smart phone and set it as a stopwatch in the center of the table. And as you start it, begin speaking as the dragon. If they do something to move the discussion into combat, stop the stopwatch, and see how much time was "wasted" dialoguing.

The dragon can do quite well at the end, following the presented strategy. Fear aura, split the party, breath weapon, combination of melee/spells. Be sure to calculate out the size covered by her wall of stone ahead of time, and use a shot or two of her enervation in the 10-11 tier. One to four negative levels on a touch with no save is pretty harsh. Then again, so are her full attacks, especially with power attack, improved critical on her claws and bite, and lunge. In the 10-11 tier, the math for power attack is -5 to hit, +10 damage (or +15 on the bite), and the lunge makes her have a 20 foot reach.

That is how a high level scenario should be. Even with all these challenging, gear checking encounters, I was able to finish a high tiered in 3.5 hours, with the optional encounter. A quick read though, followed by a short visit to the Society forums will do you well if you're planning to run Rats 1 and 2.

- WalterGM


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A Perfect Present for Newcomers

*****

The Beginner Box looked amazing when it was announced and now, having seen it, I can confirm this. Details are spoiled below incase you don’t want to ruin the surprise of opening your own box.

Spoiler:

There are so many great things in here; I just had to splurge them out.

-Instead of having only pregen characters for new players (which are the fighter, wizard, rogue and cleric) the player's guide in the box also has very simple instructions for how to make your own, "customized" version of those four classes. You can pick from an array of feats, skills, and equipment. It even includes rules for leveling all four classes from level 1 to 5.

-The character sheets provided have each area of the sheet (like skills for example) labeled with a letter (skills are "D") that corresponds to that section in the player's guide that's provided. This is such a cool idea, and it’s something that is sure to make character creation that much easier for new players.

-The player's guide includes options for race, skills, feats, deities, equipment -- just like the actual core rulebook but simplified for new players. As far as I can tell, none of the game mechanics are "dumbed down" (like Castle Ravenloft for 4e), which means that if new players enjoy playing with the Beginner Box, they'll enjoy playing Pathfinder!

-The player's guide also includes a sort of quick rules section for combat and status conditions which I actually might steal for my home games (easier than thumbing through a whole book).

-The GM guide included is really incredible. In addition to explaining the role of the GM, how to read stat blocks and craft a convincing narrative, it also details how to start your own game, with tips like: how to draw out and plan dungeons, how to balance combat encounters, settings you can use, story hooks, magic item tables, NPC suggestions, and several pages worth of monsters straight from the bestiary.

- In addition to a simple adventure designed for new players with a new gm, there is also a solo adventure that reads (and I assume plays) quite nicely. The simple adventure includes such things as: sneak attacks, traps, treasure, harrowing danger and even a dragon! Throughout the gm handout for the adventure are rules breakdowns for skill checks, combat, and monster tactics. Very nicely done.

-There is also a flip mat included. One side is blank squares (tan colored), and the other is the dungeon used for the adventure provided in the box. The dungeon side is easily reusable in future games (provided you have new players).

-The token sheets provided for the players and monsters are actually very nicely detailed and, at least for me, are going to see use in other games.

-There’s even a plug for Pathfinder Society in the form of a one page ad that comes in the box. Not entirely relevant, but it’s something neat that I’m going to post in my local gaming shop to advertise for Society, so it was nice to have a little more icing on the already superb cake that is the Beginner Box.

Overall, this is the best "beginner-type" product I have seen for any roleplaying game. I just dug up my 3.0 starter booklet and pregens to compare and, although it brought back great memories, it couldn't stand up to what Paizo has produced. Get this if you're looking to get someone new into Pathfinder or if you think you might in the future. It's a purchase that you won't regret.


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An excellent walk in the park...well the desert...to a portal to hell.

*****

I purchased and printed this scenario off for my PFS groups last night and it went two completely different ways for the two tables (my friend Gm'd table 2).

Spoiler:
The first villain
table 1: almost TPK. He opened with a color spray from his hidey-hole and and stunned the level 3 paladin while knocking the cleric out for 3 minutes. The barbarian and wizard moved up, only to get burning hands'd for max damage, dropping the wizard. The barbarian then opened the door, only to get tripped by the sorcerer's waiting whip feather token, followed by a elemental ray that dropped him into negatives. The next 10 rounds were a dance between a disarmed, frequently tripped paladin swinging with his gauntlet (he had no back up weapons) and the sorcerer expending all of his elemental rays, fighting with the paladin's own sword for a couple of rounds, before tripping him and fleeing as the whip ran out of juice. All of the -HP players stabilized, and the party did not wipe.
table 2: Kicked open the secret door and two shot the boss (gunslinger / ranger combo).

The dwarf in the forge
table 1: They approached with diplomacy, coin, and good-will, and learned all about the cleric end boss waiting for them above (already alerted by the sorcerer). They did so well, that I allowed the dwarf to accompany them for the rest of the encounter, although he never entered combat. The dwarf also disabled the steam vents above.
table 2: The gunslinger shot the dwarf as he opened his mouth, crit, and killed him.

The final boss
table 1: The barbarian one shot her: power attack, greatsword; with the help of the captured sorcerer (they got him coming up the stairs), they easily closed the portal and dispatched the fire beetle and the lemure.
table 2: The ranger got swarmed by the three monsters and died instantly. The barbarian got tripped by the whip, hit by a steam vent, and bullrushed into lava by the lemure. They almost TPK'd. They also spent 10 minutes figuring out how to close the portal. Half of them failed completing faction missions because they sped through the scenario.

My thoughts? I had a *huge* amount of fun playing with the first table. All of the first antagonists "tactics" building up to the fight are excellent, and fit exactly into how I ended up RPing him. The secondary characters later on, the dwarf and the devil bridge guardian were also a blast to play as. I really enjoyed the overall back story to the game, as well as the bad-guy motivations behind their actions both before the scenario takes place and during it. I also feel that this would be a good introish game for those new to Pathfinder, as it takes place in a pretty linear format (one location, go straight ahead then upstairs) and the fights aren't that tricky if you are smart, although sometimes fate just isn't on the PC's side (see table 1, encounter 1).

One word of advice to any players: play SMART. I don't mean play like its a second edition dungeon crawl, but do listen to everything your GM tells you (and what items you find, as they may prove to be very useful) and this game will be very satisfying. If you just try to blaze through, you may wind up with a party wipe, or at least a death.

Easily 5 stars.


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Getting the most out of your CR 1/3 creatures.

*****

Goblins have never been so cool. Quick spoiler:

Spoiler:

Here are some facts about goblins that Paizo included in the scenario, which I thought was the best part of the entire game.
- They will steal and swallow flasks of alchemist's fire to use later. These flasks have a chance of exploding. My players lost a goblin this way.
- They have a natural affinity for wolves and will attempt to wrangle / ride any encountered wolves to freedom. My players lost a goblin this way.
- They are never to be trusted. Throughout the game I had the goblins feed my players misinformation, distraction, and overall sew tiny seeds of dissent among the PC's.

By the end of the adventure, they were more than happy to see the remaining pair of greenskins off and have whenever a new scenario has them encounter goblins, they have an entirely new respect for their wicked intent. My favorite thing is that now, whenever we have a new player showing interest in the game, one of the veterans will put an arm over the newbie's shoulder and say. "Well friend, let me tell you something about goblins." This is how being a GM should feel, like you play the emotional strings in your players hearts as easy as a guitar player strums chords. I broke 5 people's spirits that night with goblins. Goblins!


Thank you Paizo.



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