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198 posts. 14 reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist.

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Very fun. Head into a difficult environment, but you can plan. You can beat it!

****( )

My favorite part about this module was dealing with the environment. And it's not necessarily even that hard -- I just really enjoyed the chance to hear what our problems would be (it's no spoiler -- right in the overview text at the top of this Web page it tells you that you're going to the plane of water) and then as a group we all started figuring out what we could do, what we could contribute. Apparently the module expects players to spend a chunk of time (and money) on shopping & planning, and so it even sets aside time for it. People were looking up spells, finding magic items, etc. It was nice to participate in teamwork in a no-pressure, no-combat situation.

Table Variation

One thing your GM should clarify right up front: how do monsters and polymorphed PCs (and companions, and summons) qualify to do full damage in water? The rules for water state that "land-based creatures" have to do half-damage, but what counts as land-based? It's not a creature type, and not officially defined. So for example, if you play a druid and you wildshape into a water elemental... the elemental form is a water type, but the original caster is probably land-based. So does that druid do full damage on a hit (due to being a water elemental), or half damage (due to the PC's land-based origin)? Does being the aquatic type confer full damage, or does living underwater your entire life confer full damage (even if you're not aquatic)? From what I can tell, this is not explored deeply in the GM forums, nor the Rules forum. So expect table variation.

Therefore, expect that you may have to change your game plan. Depending upon what you GM says, you may decide that you'll focus on wildshape, or focus on summons, or focus on your companion. So GMs & players both: get that resolved at the start, so nobody is surprised mid-combat.

And GMs: be careful how you rule on that, because I know of at least 1 way to rule in which all your monsters do half-damage, too. So when you come up with a ruling, make sure it's not so punitive that it wrecks everything across the board. If you're too harsh, the players may hold you to it when it bites you back.

Also, the official rules for many spells when cast underwater is that they "don't work as expected" and you may need to ask your GM. So that's another thing you may wish to clarify up front. Do my lightning spells remain in a line? Do they begin to take on a sphere shape? Is your GM deciding that since the rules don't explicitly say how the GMs may rule, that he/she won't rule at all and everything is exactly the same? Find out beforehand!

So what's good?

OK, so why is this fun? Aside from what is essentially a mini-game to defeat the limitations of water, the story actually furthers the season's plot. I got to hear a lot about the lords of the planes, and have an effect on the outcome (granted, any group that succeeds will "have an effect on the outcome" but at least we're rolling the plot forward). The combat encounters are decent -- they were hard enough to damage us, but not so hard that the team gave up or players got frustrated.

Well, wait a second. One fight was hard. Like really hard. However, advice for GMs: if your players are in high tier and there are only 3 or 4 players at your table, be sure you give them all the advantages listed. Our GM was like, "Wow the 4-player adjustment is really helping you." Then we had the fight. Let's just say that we needed the help.

This game is probably a planner's paradise. Not only can you plan out how to handle water, but in at least one case the PCs become aware of an enemy before combat is engaged, meaning that the PCs can calmly put together a game plan for handling the encounter. Or rush in without planning!

Also, there is a big choice/consequence check in the game. I can't detail much without posting spoilers, but the general idea is that how you approach things and the balance you have between speed and caution can affect a certain someone's impression of you. When we experienced this, some players wanted to take back certain decisions, or convince the GM that the group could still fix things after the fact. But that isn't how the adventure works, and honestly I was grateful for it. I like that you are making choices that you don't even know will have an effect, and you absolutely get an advantage either way, but you can't get both advantages. Here, I'll spoiler this just so that people who have played it can match up what I'm talking about:

There is a secret tracking system for getting "points" that lead to a boon. One of the points is that you can work on a mural. However, the mural is right after a fight at the entry way. Why does that matter? Because all our players came into that mural area with buffs up & running. We messed with the mural for a few minutes and then said "Screw it, we can come back later, we need to get moving while the buffs are still active." And then we met with the "certain someone" and part of the good or bad impression you make is if you can tell the story of the mural. This is where our players started trying to suggest that they'd get back to the mural and should get credit for that. But no, the certain someone is forming an impression of you. If you don't already have the ability to explain the mural story when you meet up, then the impression is made. So we didn't get credit for finishing the mural, even though we could finish it after the fact. However, we did get to use our buffs in every fight. That was our choice, we had to live with it.

Overall, very fun. Not perfect, not 5 stars, but very good. There is that 1 fight that I suspect will be too hard for a few groups, and as the previous review noted, the game can run long. Set aside 5 hours for this one, maybe even more if the players are exploring every little thing and the GM wishes to run all the optional stuff. So I think this adventure is pretty great and if we take 1 star off for the too-hard fight and a few other nitpicks, we still have a 4-star product. Not bad at all.

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If this is run correctly, at high tier it should be a TPK.

*( )( )( )( )

Note: Apparently my review has caused such concern that people are messaging me about it. I thank those users for the feedback, which I would like to address here in some spoiler text:

  • 1. Yes, I have played and read this adventure scenario.
  • 2. Yes, I am aware that PCs can do crafting. That should be obvious, since I mention it in the review below. Unfortunately, crafting cannot replace magical items, and page 19 seem to to imply that crafting cannot even replace metal items (only "organic material" and "non-metal components"). This is why, in every game I've played or heard about, the players moved forward with less-than-ideal armor or in some cases no armor. Therefore, I stand by the assertion that in many instances, PCs will have bad AC and be hit more often.
  • 3. Yes, I am aware that there is a weapons cache in this adventure. In fact, my group found it. However, the items were unusable by certain classes, and there were not enough items to equip everyone. On top of that, we can see in earlier reviews that people are complaining that the cache is difficult to find. In tier 4-5, a PC must succeed on a DC 20 Perception check AND an opposed stealth check. Groups can fail at either point, and be forced to carry on without that gear. Therefore, a cache of meager gear that sometimes isn't even found at all is not enough to offset the bad experience that many groups will struggle with.

Thank you for giving me the chance to clarify that. And now, on with the review!

This is basically 1 long race. You'll have choices to speed up (but possibly starve or take damage), or slow down (and really make use of the land). The path you choose is also open. It appears that these choices do affect gameplay. My GM noted that his play-through was vastly different from mine -- whereas he was bored by the constant endless skill checks, we were nearly killed from constant combat encounters. In fact, we certainly should have been all killed, but the GM pulled punches. For example:

One encounter involves ability damage. My character should have ended up with about 20 points of damage, putting me out of the game entirely. However, once PCs were knocked out due to an ability score reaching 0, our GM stopped having us save, and just left us at 0. This is what I mean by the GM was "pulling punches." By the rules, ability damage can go into negatives, and then you have to rest for days, weeks, or months to come out of unconsciousness. In my case, I should have needed 13 days of bedrest before I would have a strength of 1. However, since the GM hand-waved everything below 0, I was able to get back in the game after just 1 night of sleep. Without this hand-waving or rule mistake, we were almost guaranteed to all die, or at least fail the race.

And no, for those of you thinking that spells/potions can easily speed up healing ability damage, you mostly can't. You're stripped of gear and unable to hire spellcasters. So unless you have a PC who already has Lesser Restoration on his/her list, you're outta luck. Although heal checks can speed the natural recovery of ability points.

So... what are the redeeming qualities of this module? If you like an open-ended chase/race, that's kinda cool. If you ever thought, "Pathfinder Society doesn't reward crafting very much," then you might like this. (By the way, in a previous review from someone else, he/she stated that it's totally unfair to rely on crafting for some parts of the game when Pathfinder Society has banned crafting. However, they're 2 different crafting "things." Society bans crafting like Scribe Scroll, Brew Potion, and so on. Basically the magic item feats. Pathfinder Society does not ban the crafting skill, and in fact it's one of the few ways your character can make money during down time. Those skills are what come into play here, and in a very generous fashion. So it's not a bad implementation, and it's wrong to think that nobody would or should have those skills -- anybody who makes money during down time might have a crafting skill that qualifies.)

Also, I really like the idea that players can ask about terrain and possibly find good/bad aspects for whatever they need. I also enjoyed watching a fellow player interact with the rival teams. The tension around what can or cannot be brought on the journey and whether to cheat (and for some that's a moral issue, and for others it's a "we're worried about getting caught" issue) also made for fun discussion around the table. As a GM, I'll enjoy prepping for that stuff, maybe making little table tents with data about each option.

So then why give it 1 star?!? Unfortunately, one encounter should be deadly pretty much 90% of the time. The fact that teams are getting through it suggests to me that GMs are being overly nice (as mine was, in the previously spoiler'd text). I love that GMs are showing mercy, essentially. However, in Pathfinder Society, you're supposed to run the module as-is. So, let's look at it:

The blood caterpillars, high tier. There are 3 of them in high tier, and the 4 player adjustment does not remove any of them. So, this is a CR 7 fight against a team that maybe averages 4th level. So, that might normally be a tough but possible fight. However, as previously noted, PCs are stripped of gear. So your 3rd to 5th level team is going into a super-hard fight, with no gear or what they could improvise/craft/scavenge.

So let's math this out. When the 3 caterpillars attack, they each get a bite and bristle. The bites do 13 points of damage on average, and the bristles do 7 points on average. That's 20 points, or 60 points per round from all 3. Look at your most recent 4th level PC, or any of the pre-gens. Can any of them survive 60 points? Of course, the caterpillars can spread out the damage, so that might help the PCs survive. Also, the monsters only have a +3 to attack rolls with the bristles, so the bristles shouldn't hit often. Or should they? Remember that the PCs had their armor stripped from them. So the PCs might be easy targets, depending upon if they crafted/scavenged armor or not. Ouch.

Unfortunately, that's not all. Those bristles do 2 other awful things. First, your PC is auto-hit by bristles any time you attack a caterpillar in melee, unless you can pass a DC 16 reflex save (which you have to make for EACH hit). So these caterpillars are doing an extra 7 points of damage to anyone who attacks. If you have a 4 person team, that's an extra 28 points of damage per round. So the monsters are up to 88 points of damage/round. Against level 3-5 PCs.

But there's more! The other bad thing is that the bristles deal poison damage with a fortitude save DC of 15. If you fail, that's 1d4 strength damage per round (save each round -- however, in the game I attended, my PC failed all 6 saves). My strength 10 character had a strength score of -1 by round 3, and went unconscious.

But wait! We're still not done. Poison in Pathfinder stacks in a weird way. If you are hit with poison again while already poisoned, then any subsequent saving throws are at +2 to the DC. So that fortitude of 15 becomes a 17. You can see how getting hit 2 or 3 times by bristles turns the saving throw into something very difficult. And lastly, because ability scores can go negative, and because most groups won't have a healer with Lesser Restoration already on the daily list of spells, it's likely that the PCs must rest for days if they are poisoned and the GM runs it correctly, and thus the PCs should very often lose the race, or maybe even die as PCs start falling over mid-fight from strength loss or HP damage.

The monsters also have reach, so good luck to the PCs who were stripped of reach weapons. AOOs will happen a lot to the PCs here.

Everything I just wrote is using averages, so it could even be worse than what I wrote. However, let's assume it will go better for the PCs. I assumed in my math that everything hit, but that's silly, even if the PCs have no armor (or bad armor). Maybe that 88 HP drops to 55/round. And maybe by round 3 one is dead, dropping damage to 35 HP for a round or two, and then the fight's over. That's still... 145-180 points of damage. Unless your team has lots of barbarians & fighters on it, or your team has a channel energy healer who can burst 10+ points of healing every round, no team of 5th level PCs can handle such a high amount of damage, much less level 4 PCs. And that's the optimistic math.

Exception: 5th level wizards who have saved their Fireball spells, and have a few of them, might be able to wipe out the caterpillars without getting close, thus saving the entire party. However, this will likely kill the halfling hostages in the trees.

Lastly, note that this fight is not the "super hard fight with unfair DR" that everyone else is complaining about in their reviews. That's a whole other too-hard fight. So... if you wanted to play this module, try to find a GM who is rather forgiving or sucks at the rules. You play with a GM who is good at the rules, and you gonna die.

Whew! THAT is insane. That's 1 star.

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Apologies to the author, but...

**( )( )( )

...I'm going to screw up his nice 4-star rating.

The other reviews are right -- the "verbal combat encounter" rules are too much (about 8 pages of player handouts if I remember correctly). I got my "rule packet," started reading, and then... stopped. I thought, there is no chance of me reading through 8 pages in a timely fashion, and little chance of decent reading comprehension in a noisy game store, AND we still have to fit the game into a 4 hour window. No way.

Unlike the other reviewers, I feel that alone is enough to knock the module down to 3 stars. "But wait!" you might say. "You gave it 2 stars!" Yeah, well, that's because there is more bad.

The 3 wayang ceremony aspects were not fun (for me). Granted, the first (a fake combat) was a bit silly, and I enjoyed that. I took the role of the tactician know-it-all, and was leaping on objects to get higher ground, and spouting info about the enemy's stat blocks. It was cheesy acting amusement. But the actual fight itself wasn't much of anything, and nobody else at the table was bothering to portray the roles they were given. So most of the fun was just me amusing me.

The second ceremony "thing" was to do the verbal combat. This would be very fun with players who geek out on reading the system and knowing it well, and if you had a 6 hour time slot with a private/quiet place to play. I didn't want to geek out on the reading, and we didn't have a quiet place. So it just... was a thing that happened. Not much else to say about it.

The third ceremony was meh. Here's why:

The shadow puppets concept itself was not my idea of fun. However, the whole "puppets are interrupted because somebody goes crazy and tries to unleash the ultimate evil" thing? Yeah, the module telegraphed its moves, totally predictable. And, entirely contrived. As it happened, I was just shaking my head because it felt like the module author just had to have someone be stupid so that the PCs could have a fight.

I'm also a little exhausted by modules that suggest a world-ending problem is at hand, but somehow 1st level characters can handily solve it. Really? Was it really likely to end anything if some ex-farmers with swords can end the threat?

I think if you are interested in wayang culture, you might like this. I think if you hear things like "you're going to put on a play with puppets" and you feel happy about that, then you might like this. I think if you could get the verbal combat rules beforehand, have them memorized, and just whip through that mini-game because you know what you're doing, then you might like this.

Unfortunately, none of that applied to me.

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Well, it solves the mystery, but it isn't amazing.

***( )( )

The two reviews prior to this one are correct & incorrect at the same time (just in my opinion). That is, there are some exciting parts, and some bad parts. However, I don't feel that this module is defined by only the good or bad -- 1 star rating or 5 star rating, either way feels too extreme. It's a sum of all parts, and the sum is, well, okay.

First, I agree that the names in this product are garbage. They're great if you think jokey names are funny and enjoyable. For me, they took me right out of the story. I wanted to explore the plane of air with all its unique civilization and interesting otherworldly creatures, and instead we get a generic ice troll named Bitterbite. We may as well not even be on another plane. The module keeps hitting me over the head with reminders that this is just a silly game and I shouldn't expect to experience anything unique or new.

(EDIT: There is a review more recent than my own, in which the author seems to have misunderstood this complaint. The problem is not that the names are weird. The problem is the opposite: they're generic. They're boring, stupid, dull, and lazy. They indicate that the author or powers-that-be did no thinking about how otherworldly this plane should have been. Instead, we get the same cheesy names that we get when we play generic fantasy module #100 on the world of Golarion.)

Second, this trilogy has a pretty major flaw, which I already was worried about in my review of part 2: part 1 tells us to go find Jamila and return the abacus and codex that she stole, and yet those items aren't even mentioned in part 2 (though it mentions some other codex, just to confuse things), and the same is true of part 3, almost. It's easy to miss. There is a handout with a throwaway line about "We've been compensated for our loss" and that's it. Players invested in helping out may miss that, and even if they see it they may be disappointed to realize that they really had no hand in the recovery of items.

One thing I loved & hated: the module starts right out by explaining who Jamila really is and why she did what she did. So chasing her for the 2 prior modules, and trying to solve the mystery of her behavior, is instantly resolved as you start this module. That's good if you really cared about the story and wanted to know. It's bad because... well, just like a movie or book that resolves huge plot points with plain exposition, the disappointment here is that we don't get to see the main characters (our PCs) actually solve anything. We're just told.

That builds on the frustration I expressed in my review of part 2 in this series. That is, I wanted to catch Jamila and uncover why she turned traitor, but part 2 shot us in a completely different direction -- she doesn't even feature in the story! And so here in part 3, I still want to solve that, but it doesn't even need action from us. It's just solved for us, and we're sent on a revised mission instead.

But enough complaining. This adventure does many things right. The main thing, and GMs would do well to remind players of this throughout the module: in the plane of air, gravity is subjective. Anyone at any time can decide that gravity is pulling them into the air in a particular direction. It's scary and dangerous if you don't have a good wisdom score (since wisdom DCs are how you do it) but if you have even 1 character in the group with a great wisdom score, it can be very useful and fun.

The best moment? Standing on a ship, middle of a confrontation, and suddenly a player declares, "Wait. I don't have to stand on this ship, do I? I can just... float away, right?" And then he did. Our GM was a little sad, because a bigger map was needed to show characters "falling" away at hundreds of feet per round. But other than that, it was great.

What else is good? The final fight. It's going to be a swingy fight where some players complain it's too hard and others complain it's a cakewalk (yep, one of those kinds of fights). Expect table variation. However, the map is visually intriguing, and the concept of:

a mid-air fight with movement in all 3 dimensions is very exciting. Personally, I own the combat tiers that Paizo used to sell and the elevation indicators that Paizo still sells, and so when I run this I will put that all to good use. We are going to have minis up in the air, hovering all over the place.

I enjoyed playing that final fight, and I expect I will enjoy running it, too.

Overall, my fears about this trilogy were confirmed: it's serviceable, it's competent (well, mostly), but it never made it to any higher level of quality. If you want to run a trilogy in PFS, this will do, but it won't be the best choice or even close. If you wanted to run a single module from this trilogy, it will be OK, but it will never compare to any of the truly memorable/wonderful modules we've seen in the past. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd rate this a 6 or 7.

Now, some tips for GMs:

Three notes about the final encounter:

  • 1. Chalissier is just a modified air elemental. However, if you run him just like an air elemental, this fight is going to suck. He is also an arcanist. You need to grab the Advanced Class Guide and learn about how the arcane reservoir works. His spells are not even normal due to how he can modify them with the reservoir. For example, in subtier 3-4, his Magic Missle spell should shoot 3 missiles, not 2. If you don't know how to boost spells like that, re-read the arcane reservoir rules.
  • 2. Something many GMs don't realize or forget: Flyby Attack provokes AOO. It is not like Spring Attack, which says no AOO is allowed while the attacker rushes by the target. Flyby Attack doesn't protect the attacker. So it's a good option on round #1 while everyone is flat-footed and cannot get AOO anyway, but after that it's stupid. It just gives everyone free attacks on your elementals. Try their other abilities.
  • 3. The fight has a glaring flaw: it states that the lightning elementals use their huge disarm bonus to remove the weapons from the PCs, but it says nothing about what happens to a "dropped" item floating in the plane of air. Is it subject to the gravity of the original wielder? So if the owner of the item drops it, it flies off? Does it have no gravity and hover? Does it fly in a random direction? The easy way around this is the disarm rule which states: "If you successfully disarm your opponent without using a weapon, you may automatically pick up the item dropped." EDIT: The GM forum solved this. Unattended objects simply float motionless unless moved.

PS: This module has 2 big failure points, or bottlenecks where it's possible that the PCs just fail with no solution. You may need to help them with some foreshadowing. First, without anyone having any way to speak Auran, it's possible that they simply never get far enough to even hire a translator. They need at least a meager Comprehend Languages scroll, or a Share Language scroll, just to get started. Second point of failure: the final fight will be brutal if the PCs are low wisdom and never bought potions of Fly. That final fight desperately needs mobile PCs. Without that, they can be bombed/strafed from afar by highly mobile air creatures. Your fighter types stuck on a plank in the sky will feel utterly useless. Light hints might be appreciated by your players.

EDIT, for Le Petite Mort: You didn't like the final "cool" magic item? Brace yourself; it's even worse than you imagined:

This 20000 GP item has a badly worded weakness. Here is the wording: "if the Horn of the Hurricane is used magically more than once in a given day, there is a 20% cumulative chance with each extra use that it explodes and deals 10d6 points of electricity damage to the person who is sounding it." The 20% cumulative chance is completely ambiguous. Is it per day? Is it the lifetime of the object? Is it per owner? The quoted sentence begins with text about the "given day," so in context it may only mean that you track extra uses for that given day, and then the explosion chance resets. If it doesn't reset, then the item is extremely prone to destruction and should likely only be considered an item to sell, as it would be very unreliable.

In a home game, the GM could make a ruling that helps the players to see the value in having the item. In PFS, players cannot rely upon one GM's ruling to be abided by another GM. So the item that one GM ruled in such a way as to make it worthwhile could be completely undone by the next GM to run a scenario for you.

In addition, this item is probably limited in this way so as to make it a useful one-use item in the upcoming modules, without overpowering everything. However, the author and the staff in charge of the upcoming releases might not be aware that the Make Whole spell will repair a completely destroyed item for cheap. So for example, if I wanted to utterly wreak havoc in the big combat-heavy team module that always closes a season, I could buy this item and 4 or 5 scrolls of Make Whole. I could blow the horn like crazy, over and over again, blowing past every combat encounter. When the horn explodes, I could cast Make Whole, and then blow it again. (And while the blast effect bypasses the energy resistance of air creatures, the PCs are most likely not air creatures. This means they can put up energy resistance, ignore or mostly ignore the explosion damage, and keep blasting away at air creatures.)

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Tell your players what the title means. It may help lessen the unhappiness.

**( )( )( )

For those of you who do not know this, around the time this module was conceived, a movie came out called Unbroken. It tells the story of a prisoner who is subjected to very harsh treatment, but somehow perseveres. You'll notice that the title of this module calls back to that movie. And my hint to GMs is that if you mention this to your players before the game starts, it may soften the blow.

You will see in other reviews that some people said things such as, "I do not find being yelled at and degraded to be a fun way to spend a game night." However, if players are aware of the homage to the movie, they may find the obnoxious captain bearable, knowing that this is the module's "shtick" or angle, and that like the movie, there may be some justice in the end.

Having said that, I personally found the module to be another un-word: unrelenting. Part of this was not the module's fault. If you're a GM, read this:

During the obstacle course, our GM expressly forbade any and all gear, and all magic. In the real world, at the table, it got heated before we ever did anything, as we questioned this and so the GM forcefully clarified that using anything other than "gear provided" (none) would be a cheat and a demerit. Because of this, we largely failed every skill check. However, now that I've purchased the module, I can see that it is only the climbing wall in which the captain objects to use of rope or magic, and it isn't in advance as a warning. It's just that if magic is used, then the captain mocks the PCs. This makes sense, as the wall is the only trapped obstacle, so the captain likely wants the PCs to be as weak as possible when the trap is sprung. Using this one limited prohibition against magic in unlimited fashion for ALL obstacles effectively rendered the full course impossible for us. With any other GM, my luck domain cleric would have likely been able to use a supernatural ability to give re-rolls to some PCs at various obstacles, granting us some success.

During the bridge fight, my cleric was bull-rushed off the edge on round 1 and removed from the fight. I had Feather Fall and was told that I was falling for all the remaining rounds of the fight (so hundreds of feet down, as the fight went on for many rounds after I fell). Because of this, I was unable to heal anyone, nor could I get back in the fight. One PC went to something like -20 HP because of this, and only survived due to the store boon that Paizo put out -- the one that grants you a +10 bonus for buying $50+ worth of store products. The GM suggested there was a lesson to be learned there, about how to be a proper cleric and not take risks. I mostly declined to learn the lesson, saying that I wanted to take risks even after seeing the cost. My suspicion was that there was no lesson to be learned. Lo and behold, upon checking the module afterwards, I discovered that it says "The fall is just 10 feet. You can climb out with just a DC 15 climb check." That's much more plausible, given our low level. So I could have been back in the fight immediately, and should have been able to keep everyone from going unconscious.

I wrote all that spoiler text so there would be a basis for this plea to GMs: follow the module. Don't extrapolate more than what is written there. The module is already getting bad ratings, and if you make an already harsh module even harsher, your players are not going to enjoy your game. Having said that, some blame does lie with the module. Some things are simply impossible if you don't have the one single thing needed. Example:

During the bridge fight, there are multiple spots where the PCs are expected to use Handle Animal (beetles & agrawgh). This is a trained-only skill, so if nobody has ranks, then it simply cannot be done. As luck would have it, our party had nobody with a rank in that skill. So we auto-failed all the way through that. There were no alternatives. EDIT: nope. Reading the module some more, it appears that calming the agrawgh could have been a Diplomacy check OR any healing. We were told "Handle Animal." I'm going to not fault the module here. I'm going to adjust my 2 star rating to a 3 star rating because of this.

OK, finally, let me talk about the good part. Dell is interesting! Check out this bit of backstory for one encounter with him:

"Dell Darkblade, the unofficial leader of the group, is secretly thrilled that the captain’s attention shifted to the PCs. He’s afraid his friends can’t take much more before they break. When the captain ordered him to cheat, Dell refused, only to watch one of his friends get dragged into the captain’s office and severely beaten. Dell quickly recanted to spare his friends from further harm. He stoically carries the secrets of the rigged obstacle course and the poisoned weapons, but the burden weighs heavily on his heart."

If you are doing more of a role-play kind of game, this character is fun & difficult to act out. He has 3 conflicting goals going at once! He could make decisions in any direction, or refuse, and there's a great justification for all of it. His 3 goals are:

1: Get the captain to focus on the PCs. 2: Stop the cheating. 3: Protect his friends. Each goal wins out, until one of the other goals trumps it. He's having a terrible time juggling them all.

And that can make for some good social interactions! Overall, this module rates as "meh" or "OK" to me. It might be better, but I think my GM's presentation of the module sorta corrupted my view of it. Maybe after running the module I'll boost the star rating. We'll see.

EDIT (June 5, 2017): I've now run the module multiple times, and I have to confess that even with great effort to make it enjoyable, players just don't enjoy this. Here is what one player emailed to me after the module: "As for your GM style, I enjoyed it immensely. The NPCs had life and the module moved along and you told a good story. As for the module itself, it was crap - certainly in the bottom few. There was an overwhelming dependency on skills. So much of our final success depended on diplomacy, which is stupid for a module all about martial tests. Also, it handicapped non fighters throughout the previous parts."

For one group, I was unable to convince them to do that 1 bad thing, that 1 taboo thing, that is so important. If you've run it, you know what I'm talking about -- the thing that reveals all the plot, but which no person with military background would ever do. The group had military people in it, and they just simply refused to take the hint. They talked it over, but just rejected the notion at every point. And so in the end their Chronicle sheets were not ideal and they felt the whole thing was rather stupid.

Because of these issues, I'm finally giving up on the module, and lowering my rating to 2 stars. Note that in a home game, you could fix this easily and it'd be fine. There ARE fun encounters. I really enjoyed running it because if you take your time it can be a 6 or even 7 hour game with lots to do. Some of the combat encounters have fun tactical options. However, I just cannot get over the fact that the game run as-is for PFS will often upset players. That's the bottom line. Some will find it unfair, some will find it stupid, and some will call it crap, even if you ran it to the best of your ability.

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