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Pathfinder Society Scenario #16: To Scale the Dragon (OGL) PDF

****( ) (based on 15 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for 5th to 9th level characters (Tiers: 5–6 and 8–9).

The last remains of a sage from an age long past rests high atop the snow-covered tips of the Fog Peaks in Southern Galt and the Society wants his bones in order to study them and learn from them. They've sent you into a wintry wilderness of primordial beastmen and snow creatures not seen below the snow line to do just that. With the Aspis Consortium also seeking the bones, the race is on to beat them to the top and, once the bones are recovered, to make it back down alive.

Written by Tim Hitchcock

This scenario is designed for play in Pathfinder Society Organized Play, but can easily be adapted for use with any world. This scenario is compliant with the Open Game License (OGL) and is suitable for use with the 3.5 edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game.

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Product Reviews (15)
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****( ) (based on 15 ratings)

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An RPG Resource Review

****( )

Go and fetch the bones of some old mystic who lived in a cave high above the snowline... sounds simple enough (if a but chilly)? Don't you believe it, Pathfinders!

Sending the party so high that altitude sickness becomes an issue, the adventure is full of thrills from fighting off semi-sentient beast-men to wild sled chases that seem to have come from a fantasy version of James Bond. There's plenty of atmospheric description of the heights to which they have to ascend, and the added bonus of other parties who also have an interest in the bones they've been sent to fetch.

The journey itself is an adventure worthy of song or story, and those not constrained to a limited time like a convention slot might wish to make more of the thousands of miles between Absalom and the chilly mountain peak. It is an action-oriented adventure, but one in which the action is more than mere brawling (but never fear, there's plenty of that!). The terrain is challenge enough, and the dog sleds provide an interesting angle. The Faction missions fit in well, and as usual require Faction members to try and get things done without making too much of a show of what they are doing.

However, where it falls down is in character power. Characters of the suggested level ought to cope easily with - if not bypass - many dangers, lower level ones who will find the ascent a decent challenge risk being overwhelmed by the opposition. In particular, little attention is paid to the sort of things a half-decent mage can do. I'd recommend scaling back the opposition and enjoying the fight against the elements with a lower-level party.

Conceptually, it's got the potential for great fun. Take the time to hone it a bit, and have a blast!

Dated and easily derailed V2

***( )( )

Echoing the sentiments of some previous reviewers, this is a pretty interesting scenario that is far too easily derailed by modern/optimized parties in the provided level range. A single 9th level caster has enough tricks to trivialize alot of the scenario, never mind if there are 2+ casters in the party.

Honestly, as one of my players pointed out last night, this would be a really cool low level scenario if the encounter CRs were modified down. The unique sled mechanics, environments, and story would would really shine if they couldn't be circumvented. Which a party of 6 level 7-9's with all their abilities, items, magic, etc can easily do...

I know it would never happen, but I'd love to see this scenario re-balanced for modern parties or modified to a lower tier.

TL;DR: Good story/scenario, but the mechanics are sorely under-powered and easily trivialized in the provided level range.

Dated and easily derailed

*( )( )( )( )

I am so late to this party. Finally ran this scenario tonight. It does not hold up well. Most of this is simply the change in expected power levels combined with the unpredictable nature of regional meta. When written, this was probably a much more interesting and challenging scenario. The party was very well-balanced and, as typical for the MN lodge, we had a table of 6 (not the greatest situation here) - Occultist 9, Bard 8, UC Rogue 8, APG Summoner 9, Fighter 8, and Alchemist 6. I'll be describing these in spoilers just for space's sake.

Waystation + Sledding Up:
There was very little to work with for Rysam and Krysher. I had handed out the faction missions with the explicit "these are not for prestige" statement and the Liberty's Edge folks tried to shake down Krysher immediately. They could tell he wasn't fully honest, but did not do anything to derail things here. He was summarily executed by the UC rogue at the end of the scenario.

I handed out the dogsledding rules, the party determined who could best handle mushing, and they were off to the races. The ascent was thoroughly described, though the fact that there are only 2 events on the way up was somewhat disengaging for the players. They eagerly seized on what was available, though, and figured out some things about the taer and Aspis presence with The Bodies.

The avalanche was one of the things I was most concerned about. Having read the rules thoroughly on this in advance, I was relatively certain that this would either be a non-issue or a TPK, as determined solely by the result of the d6 roll. I got a 2, it was a non-issue. 1 character was buried, but the Occultist could use telekinesis to remove 250 lbs. of snow per round, while the eidolon could clear 1400 lbs. per minute without tools. I'm glad it was relatively forgiving in that a 2 or higher trivialized the encounter since a 1 is almost always going to be a TPK. The only PC in the party who could make the strength check to escape being buried was the fighter. The eidolon was flying the entire time, so even then it wouldn't have been a TPK for this group - it would only take about 5-10 minutes to clear everyone with just the eidolon working.

The Maw:
The players were thoroughly amused that the anger of the taer barbarians make them stinkier. The 5 barbarians lasted less than 2 rounds. This, however, is where the scenario broke.

The monstrosity arrives a few minutes after PCs start digging...

A few minutes, eh? Well, the ice was destroyed in approximately 18 seconds by the fighter + eidolon. Mind you, this fighter is not a two-hander, but a sword and board defender. They find the bones, pop them in a haversack (still under the 1 minute mark by my count) and start heading back to the sleds, objective in hand. I decided that their "few minutes" were up at this point and had the remorhaz appear by the eggs. The party opted to go to the sleds and leave since the remorhaz can't keep up with the dogs. A couple Handle Animal checks later and the secondary success condition is essentially automatic - the waystation was never on fire because the taer were never enraged into attacking.

The Descent:
The Handle Animal checks were fine all the way down and started being hot as soon as the Aspis rolled out. The Occultist uses telekinesis to devastating effect here, throwing one of the sleds into another, sending all 4 Aspis agents flying. The eidolon flies over to another sled and simply destroys the front end, freeing the dogs and sending the Aspis agents into the snow. The Occultist then telekinetically grapples Fyrth, who remains stationary as his musher and sled move at increment 8 speed. In effect, the encounter was over in slightly more than 1 round.

What bothers me here is that this was assumed to be a chase. Frankly, even a 3.5 core-only party could resolve this within a round without leaving the sleds within 1-2 rounds of "combat." Some suggestions from the party for resolution:

  • Cast sleep on the dogs.
  • Fireball the dogs.
  • Shoot the dogs.

Frankly, this entire encounter could be resolved with level 1 spells at range as long as you can make the violent motion concentration check. It sounded cool, it was interesting to prep, but the reality of it was simply not a letdown.

This was non-existent. The scenario was easily derailed at The Maw, so Act 5 literally did not happen. It is also not particularly clear what an appropriately leveled caster with Create Water prepared does to the fire - I assumed a bucket of water is 1 gallon and Create Water is going to give you at least 10 gallons, which leads me to believe that I should be doing level*2d4 "healing" with each casting of a cantrip.

As mentioned above, the PCs suspected Krysher was up to no good and summarily executed him in the kitchen before leaving. I cut to Osprey and started writing chronicles at this point because there was not a whole lot of anything to work with here.

Where do I even begin with this? I want to start with expletives, but I'd rather not invoke the wrath of the moderators.

First, the gold is INCREDIBLY low. Like, a full tier behind. I actually pulled chronicles from 3-7 scenarios in advance to compare and it's within 100 gold on a significant number of them. I was amazed that there was not a revised chronicle for this scenario and, if I didn't have the option to do a level 1 version of the chronicle, I simply wouldn't have taken GM credit for the scenario. The players were baffled by the max gold on this scenario.

Second, nearly all of the wealth is predicated on two encounters: the remorhaz and the Aspis ambush. I took a liberal reading of the conditions ("defeat" being that they successfully completed the remorhaz encounter via bypass, just like traps, and the PCs certainly "survived the ambush"). Were I to take a more strict reading of the scenario, the players could have gotten full prestige, but walked out with only 333 gold for the chronicle. That is ridiculous. I felt bad enough with the 3531 gold in the 8-9 subtier, but to reduce it further? No. Absolutely not. This is woefully out of line with other scenarios in the tier. Even the Alchemist, who pulled in out-of-subtier gold, barely got rewarded for his efforts. Seriously, I apologized to the players for how lame this chronicle was.

The players, in the end, thanked me for doing the best I could with a dated scenario. It had so much promise, but just a few issues caused the whole plot train to derail. Thinking through it, though, I want to stress that literally everything that happened could have been duplicated with a 3.5 core party. Whether that's a failing of the play environment of the time or a lack of imagination on the part of the author, I'm not sure, but this felt like a 3-7 scenario with 5-9 written on it by accident given that it certainly did not predict the types of resources available to 8th and 9th level characters. Additionally, because of the unique subsystem presented for dogsledding and use of relatively obscure pieces of the ruleset (altitude, avalanches, and cave-ins, for example), the preparation was significantly more difficult than other 8-9 scenarios I've run.

In short, don't run this for players who know how to play the game. If you do run it, it's ideal to do so in Core and with 4 players. Frankly, the design felt as though it failed to plan for the existence of casters. This severely undermined the fun of everyone involved.

Not bad; a bit dated

***( )( )

So, I rather enjoy the setup for this adventure. The idea of a race against the Aspis is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it completely glosses over Galt, one of the coolest locations in the campaign. The combat also doesn't hold up as well these days. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.

Excellent Wilderness Adventure

****( )

Played this at the higher tier (fighter, wizard, rogue and ranger NPC).

This scenario is a well done overland wilderness trek which is always nice to experience. The dog sled mechanics needed to be a bit better and we were glad we had decided on the ranger NPC or we would all have been walking up the mountain.

The fights were suitably balanced though expected them to be harder for some reason but it didn't detract at all. In fact it meant we all got to show case what our heroes could do.

A rather enjoyable fun scenario.

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