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Wolverine

pauljathome's page

FullStarFullStarFullStarFullStarFullStar Venture-Agent, Canada—Ontario—Toronto. 1,876 posts (3,044 including aliases). 31 reviews. 1 list. No wishlists. 46 Pathfinder Society characters. 11 aliases.



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Killer quests are not a good recruiting tool

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Paizo, I really don't care what your silly CR system says, a L3 Druid is really NOT a fair encounter for a group of L1 pregens.

With a group of 5 experienced players playing decent pregens we just lost 4 out of 5 characters in the first encounter. In an encounter that was virtually unavoidable.

Sure, there was a little bit of poor luck. But there was also something near cheating by the GM trying to stop a TPK :-).

I'm an experienced player with a new character so I don't care. But if I was a new player this would be my only Pathfinder encounter ever


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WAY too optimistic and flawed

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Most of my review below will contain considerable spoilers. I'll try and make my main points here before starting with the spoilers.

This review is based on playing it and then reading it afterwards in preparation for running it in a couple of weeks.

I mostly enjoyed myself and if it wasn't for the various things that I point out I'd probably have given this 3 stars.

1) There was absolutely no reason for this being an Aspis Agent pregen only scenario. With a few changes in the mission briefing this could trivially have been a normal 7-11 scenario
2) It was WAY too long. There is next to no chance of getting this finished in a 4 hour slot without some major cutting of corners
3) Parts of it were significantly over complicated for no good reason
4) Preparation for this is going to take much longer than it really should
5) There are many parts where the characters are supposed to do insanely stupid things because of "plot"
6) The pregens suffer the usual problems of Paizo pregens. Too complicated in some areas, too weak in others. And incredibly variable difficulty in getting secondary prestige. Some were darn near impossible, some essentially gimmees.
7) The combats were fairly uneven. Our group found them fairly easy (due to a combination of team work and some luck). Other apparently found them too hard.
8) A massive element of WTF

Lots of Spoilers. Really:

1)So, in the mission we find out that the Society and the Consortium have shared information so as to crush the Korholm Agenda. In other words, this could trivially have been a Society raid. NOTHING would change. Oh, the characters would have to be the usual Murder Hoboes and not the "I am actually evil" characters but that is pretty darn minor.

And its really MUCH worse than that. The GM learns lots of interesting back story about the Aspis. The players are unlikely to figure out much of this (I was quite confused when playing). But, of course, the actual Pathfinder Society players will know NOTHING of this. So, any knowledge acquired is now "forbidden knowledge" that your character would NOT know. Usually one can at least arm wave the "heard things around the Society bar" to explain out of character knowledge. Here, no. EVERYTHING you find out NONE OF YOUR CHARACTERS WOULD KNOW. And there is a LOT of things you find out.

2) When I played it it took over 5 hours and still felt rushed with the GM shortening some things (NOT complaining about the GM). There is a mini-game which can take lots of time as players consider a host of options, there is combat, there is some exploration largely meant to be arm waved. There are huge "What the Fxxx moments which take time to process. All this with characters that the players are NOT very experienced with and so they take longer to decide what to do,

3) Piazo loves its new books. I don't. The BBEG is a Psychic with several OA spells (6 if I counted correctly). I'll just quote his summary : "Mutant aranea psychic 5 (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 5 180,
Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 2 30, Pathfinder RPG Occult
Adventures 60)" . That really pretty much sums it up.

The set of books used are "Pathfinder RPG Core
Rulebook, Advanced Class Guide (ACG), Advanced Player’s
Guide (APG), Advanced Race Guide (ARG), Occult Adventures
(OA), Ultimate Combat (UC), Ultimate Equipment (UE),
Ultimate Magic (UM), Bestiary 2, Bestiary 3, Bestiary 4, and
Bestiary 5".

We then had the two mandatory little subsystems (in fairness, these were both fine on their own. Just not when put into an adventure that is already complicated).

4) So, I have to learn what this new class does, what the various monsters do, create several maps, keep track of lots of things, read all the pregens so I know how to adlib, come up with ways to handle an amusing but very difficult to run beastie and how it communicates. All in one scenario. No. Just too much.

5) So, when I ran it I got the strong impression from the GM that I was "breaking it". From my point of view, I took the ONLY logical path. We were wandering around the Warehouse when the 1/2ling NPC showed up and recognized one of our characters. Obviously, to me, letting her go was INSANE. She'd raise the alarm immediately. So I wanted to kill her. I'm an Evil Aspis on a Mission and my Mission pretty much includes killing that NPC. But no, letting her go just raises the enemy alertness level a little bit. That MAKES NO SENSE.

Even worse is the potential replacement character. The other players are expected to just watch while it eats a companion and go "Oh, ok, we'll trust you now"? This is metagaming of the worst possible type. The PLAYERS know what is going on so the characters are supposed to act totally idiotically.

6) I'm only going to discuss Eramay, the Cavalier pregen that I played. Note that this is one of the 4 Pregens that are supposed to be pretty much always played.

So, given that a pregen created specifically and exclusively for this adventure invested a feat into knowledge religion in order to get a massive +15 on that skill one would kinda expect Knowledge Religion to be at least sporadically useful, right?

No, of course not.

Well, ok, at least it will have the skills to participate in the "sneak into the place" part of the adventure, right?

Well, it has a +7 in one of the 3 skills. And the DCs are only 20+. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Partly because they chose a poor archetype of a poorish class the character is no great shakes. Lots of abilities that I'm fortunately experienced enough to realize aren't worth the action economy to ever try and actually use. Admittedly its not that bad in combat as long as the player realizes that you 2 hand the scimitar and power attack a lot. So, a pre-gen that is going to fare a LOT better in the hands of an experienced player.

And different Pre-gens had wildly different difficulties in obtaining their secondary success condition.

7) We found the combats pretty easy. Of course, due to time constraints we skipped the optional. We'd killed the 1/2ling early and so she had no guards with her which made that fight trivial. And there wasn't time to fight the guards with the mage.

The end fight was, due admittedly to a combination of good teamwork and some luck, pretty easy. Fly was cast on me and I was in the bad guys face at the end of round 1. One crit later and the fight was effectively over.

8) The whole laboratory underground and the interaction with the Thelatos felt very, very bizarre. There was a slight bit of foreshadowing in the briefing but only a little. As the GM said, it felt like they were already trying to drum up interest in StarFinder.

It was, at least for me, a massive WTF moment. I mean, LAST year was the year of the Robot :-)


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Overcomplicated and good evidence that Ultiimate Intrigue is NOT good for PFS

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There are many aspects to this scenario that I like but it really is overcomplicated.

Even with the GM thread and the pfsprep site it took several hours to prepare and I was still searching for particular information while actually running the scenario. There is a LOT that the GM has to do and keep track of while running this. I am not at all surprised that there seems to have been much greater than usual table variation with this one.

I was chatting to some other GMs before a different game and 2 of them (both 4 or 5 star GMs) said they don't plan to ever run it due to the complexity.

I think that the new mechanics focus too heavily on knowledge checks. The most valuable character at this social scenario was probably the wizard.

I also found some of the mechanics forced a quite mechanical approach at times. Discoveries, especially, just became a quick exercise in dice rolling.

Even with the Influence checks there were difficulties, even after they knew what skill to roll. They talked fairly naturally, and were surprised when I had to take what they were telling me and basically go : That is diplomacy you're rolling, right? Not the Knowledge Planes that you know is the best skill? Heavy handed questions like that got them to adjust what they were saying. But asking a player with 0 knowledge planes to improvise a speech involving knowledge planes that the other guy would approve of didn't work well with all players.

The strong focus on specific skills sonetimes detracted from the roleplaying that can happen in more free form social encounters

But the players had a good time. And I strongly approve of the social interaction and the attempt to let people without diplomacy also contribute.

I hope that there are further scenarios using rules similar to this. But perhaps they could be a lesser part of the scenario, and not quite so scripted?

Edit: I ran it a second time and saw much the same things happening. The players get so involved in the mechanical aspects of maximimizing their influence that the roleplaying got severely truncated. I hate to use rollplaying vs roleplaying but it seems to fit what happened.

Despite the attempt to widen the set of useful skills one player at the second table was essentially useless. At tier 4-5 trying to make the Sense Motive DCs with just his raw wisdom was almost useless.

And the most valuable character was, once again, the wizard. Given that wizards who care are already good at diplomacy (Student of Philosophy) having the knowledge skills be so incredibly valuable just seems like a bit of overkill to me.

In particular, I think that the Discovery skills should have been far more varied. Three skills, all fairly rare for many characters.

Yesterday I played in Hellknights Feast (which has a precursor of the social interaction rules) and I found it better than this. More free form, more roleplaying, and the interaction was part of and not the entire adventure.

I should note that in both runs the players seemed to enjoy it more than I did.


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Too much of a grueling slog for a tier 1-5

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This is based on playing at high tier.

I liked a lot of the story but it just seemed far too grueling a slog and far too random for a low tier adventure. Lots and lots of saving throws and rolls which seem to leave a very high chance of any low Fort save character being diseased.

My unchained rogue was almost completely useless in this scenario. A dex based character so he gets no benefit from the McGuffins (all the wpn choices are utterly useless for a wpn finesse based character). A melee based character so nearly useless against the various opponents that one couldn't close with.

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that my experiment to see if an unchained rogue is a viable character is coming to an end with the clear answer of "nope. Still sucks rocks. Just a little less"


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Very good scenario with an atrocious ending

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The scenario as a whole is excellent and I would have happily given it 5 stars. There is a good mixture of intrigue, role-playing, skills, interesting combats.

Once again, we are in the Year of the Skill Monkey. But, since I like to play skill monkeys, that is a GOOD thing :-).

There is atmosphere galore and an interesting set of intermixed puzzles.

The ending, however, dropped my rating from 5 stars to 2 stars.

Do NOT read the Spoiler if you're playing this. It will ruin things

DO NOT READ if playing:
So, the entire mission of the Pathfinders is to build good relations with Cheliax. But in the final encounter there is no way to succeed except to murder hobo your way through. No diplomacy option is allowed. The characters are presented with a choice of really bad options and are supposed to realize that the best solution is to kill the lawful authorities who are quite legally arresting them.

We chose to flee which seemed like the lesser evil. Surrendering seemed a really bad idea, diplomacy wasn't an option, killing legal authorities seemed really bad.

I guess we overthought things. Clearly, one should just murder hobo anybody who looks at you askance. Killing the authorities is obviously the correct answer. Too bad if you're a Chelaxian (one character), a paladin (another character) or somebody else who wouldn't do that.

We lost close to half our loot and our secondary success condition due to not being murder hobos.

Shame on you Paizo


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