Pathfinder Society Scenario #51: The City of Strangers—Part I: The Shadow Gambit (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for 1st to 7th level characters (Tiers: 1–2, 3–4, and 6–7).

The Pathfinder Society sends you to Kaer Maga, the City of Strangers, where you are ordered to find a local Pathfinder associate who sent a strange letter to Venture-Captain Drandle Dreng in Absalom. When the local associate turns up dead and you find evidence linking his death to a mysterious organization called The Shadow Lodge, it's up to you to track them down and solve the man's murder.

The Shadow Gambit is the first scenario in the two-part The City of Strangers campaign arc. Pathfinder Society Scenario #52: The City of Strangers—Part II: The Twofold Demise is the sequel.

Written by Joshua J. Frost

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 Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

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Better than I expected

****( )

I played this last weekend at the 6-7 tier with a six-player party, and both us and the GM were expecting a walkover. That didn't happen however. We triumphed but it took some ingenuity; in some of the fights the enemies are well-placed to handle PC crowds.

The thing to remember when playing this adventure is that at the time of this scenario, nobody knows about "that other lodge". It's not until the next season that they come out of the closet.


All on the GM hands

****( )

This adventure can be pretty boring or an excellent adventure depending entirely on how the GM prepares it.

In my opinion, completing the adventure with a full background on the City of Kaer Maga taken from the Pathfinder Campaign Setting City of Strangers is a must, and gives the adventure the flavour it might be lacking.

Only downside are the encounters which can be quite easy for some parties. Big room for role playing on this one.


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An 'Investigation' Where Nobody Knows Anything

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The upside of the scenario is that Kaer Maga is an interesting location with colorful NPCs, and that several of the faction missions are funny (although Silver Crusade asks you to murder a civilian for some reason). The combats are nothing special and are all very easy.

The downside of the scenario is the absence of plot. Your goal is to locate the Shadow Lodge, but nobody in town knows anything about it. The various colorful NPCs don't know, gather information reveals nothing, divinations don't help, the crime lord who ambushes you early on doesn't know either, even the Shadow Lodge goons that also ambush you don't have any info. Only after spending enough time getting no results whatsoever, you get the attention of another crime lord who knows where the Lodge is. After meeting him, you get ambushed again by Shadow Lodgers, who apparently followed you the whole time with no chance of being noticed. And then you easily defeat the leader in his lair, although the sequel reveals they have a second lair, that nobody has information on either.

I did have a pleasant time roleplaying with my teammates, but must note this is not because of the scenario, but in spite of it. So while I hope there are other missions to vibrant Kaer Maga, I really can't recommend this one.


An awkward combination of sandbox and railroad

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I had the pleasure of running this scenario earlier this week for a band of misfit pathfinders. Above anything else I agree with some of the others below that the scenario is hard to rate. It's essentially an investigation-based railroad with a lot of role-play opportunity.

And that's exactly my issue with it. It's a railroad, meaning players can not easily deviate from it. You have to accept a certain favor in order to progress and to proceed to part 2, but my players had valid in-character reasons to not do so. You can have all the fun role-play you want, but in the end certain things have to happen and there is no way around it, mostly due to the second part. It's basically frustrating and I could see the disappointment on the faces of my players. They specifically said they didn't blame me, but I as a GM still feel like I failed to some extent even though I probably shouldn't be feeling that way.

The scenario started on a great note. The players had fun dealing with the first encounter and loved role-playing with each other. They had the chance to really show off the quirks of their characters and enjoyed the first couple of acts. They also enjoyed meeting Dakar - the Taldor faction mission is weird and awkward, but still amazingly memorable - as well as the way they got to him. The freedom they had to talk to NPC's was appreciated as well, though it had to be cut a little short due to time constraints, but the way they had to progress through the story ruined the mood at the table a fair bit.

In short, I'd say that the scenario has a lot of things going for it, but that it fails to be an actual sandbox. It offers the room for it by having a bunch of fun NPC's the players can talk to, but in the end they still are forced to follow a certain path no matter what happens or what they want. It basically ruins the freedom they get. It has a huge amount of potential, but is limited by actions that have to take place regardless of what the players want to do. I know that's partially due to the premise of the second part, but it feels awkward.


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Announced! This is for Tier 1-7.

Dark Archive

Thea Peters you might want to add a rating to your review. :)

Scarab Sages

I like this set of scenarios a lot. My advice to those running this scenario is simple:

This advice and 10 cents won't buy you a cup of coffee:

Play Wymund in a cunning manner. Use the invisibility and have him summon monster as much as he can. Once he has spent his summons the party may actually have burnt through some of their healing. In this scenario the party will find a lot of healing.

Summon monster does not count as an attack and therefore does not cause the invisibility to drop.

If the party manages to find him, have him evade and go invisibile again if he can. In the higher Tiers, once the party gets him on the ropes don't wait too long to use the scroll of dimension door to have him move to a remote location within the theater and heal up for the final confrontation.

Once he is out of summons and healing, it becomes a straight up fight.

If you don't play him this way. Large parties can easily kill him in 2 rounds. My advice is to make him memorable, play him tough. You will also want to study the map and see the locations he might use for cover or where he could lure a single character to an isolated area for an ambush.

The attitude I give him is simple: He knows this theater better than the party and he would take full advantage of knowing the home turf.

Hope my experience is helpful. Cheers :-)

PS I have made counters for these scenarios and am happy to post them on the SCARAB Gaming Convention Forums if you would like.

SCARAB GAMING CONVENTION

Scarab Sages

Additional Info - What if the party splits up.

Be Prepared:

I have had a few parties split up at the initial climb up the Halflight path. They take the incognito thing seriously. It's not a major problem unless they specifically say that they want to be equally dispersed throughout the caravan.
If this happens it means that there would likely be only one of the characters caught in the isolated arm of the path. There are several different ways you can handle it.

    [1]Role-play it instead of roll-playing it. Reward their preparedness with all the gear from the bad guys.
    [2]Run the combat as is. Have the players dice off for which one is isolated and see what happens.
    [3]My preferred method is to have the players dice off and determine which one is caught in the trap and then provide the other players NPCs to play for the encounter. I like to use 1 Dusk Warden (Gahiji), 1 Merchant and the remainder Warrior guards for the merchant.

The cool thing about using the NPCs is that it gives the party some friends in the city right off the bat. You can use them to offer housing, information, assistance locating people, additional muscle if the party is under powered, etc.

Here are the NPCs I use at all levels.

Dusk Warden Gahiji
Male Human Ranger 3
N Medium Human (Garundi)
Init +2; Senses Perception +6
Defense
AC 15, touch 12, flat-footed 13 (armor +3, Dex +2)
Hp 27 (3d10)
Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +1
Offense
Spd 30 ft.
Melee mwk longsword +6 (1d8+2)
Ranged mwk composite longbow (+2 strength) +7 (1d8+2) or mwk longbow (+2 strength) +5/+5 (1d8+2)
Special Attacks: favored enemy (+2 vs humans)
Statistics
Str 14, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 10
Base Atk +3; CMB +5; CMD 17
Feats: Endurance, Rapid Shot, Skill Focus (Survival), Toughness, Track, Weapon Focus (longbow),
Skills: Climb +7, Handle Animal +6, Heal +6, Intimidate +5, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +6, Knowledge (geography) +6, Knowledge (nature) +6, Perception +6, Ride +7, Stealth +8, Survival +9, Swim +7
Languages: Common (Taldan), Osiriani, Kelish
SQ: Wild Empathy +3, Favored Terrain (desert)
Gear: potion cure light wounds (2), masterwork composite longbow (+2 strength), masterwork longsword, masterwork studded leather, quiver with 20 arrows (10 cold iron)

Merchant
Male Human Aristocrat 3
N Medium Human
Init +1; Senses Perception +8
Defense
AC 14, touch 11, flat-footed 13 (armor +3, Dex +1)
Hp 20 (3d8)
Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +3
Offense
Spd 30 ft.
Melee mwk rapier +4 (1d6-1) 18-20/x2
Ranged mwk shortbow +4 (1d6) x3
Statistics
Str 9, Dex 13, Con 10, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 11
Base Atk +2; CMB +1; CMD 12
Feats: Alertness, Persuasive, Weapon Finesse
Skills: Appraise +6, Bluff +4, Diplomacy +7, Intimidate +6, Knowledge (local) +6, Knowledge (nobility) +6, Linguistics +5, Perception +8, Profession (Merchant) +4, Sense Motive +6, Swim +4
Languages: Common (Taldan), ?, ?
Gear: potion cure light wounds (2), masterwork shortbow, masterwork rapier, masterwork studded leather, quiver with 20 arrows (10 silver)

Warrior
Male Human Warrior 3
N Medium Human
Init +0; Senses Perception +2
Defense
AC 16, touch 10, flat-footed 16 (armor +4, shield +2)
Hp 27 (3d10+3)
Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +0
Offense
Spd 30 ft.
Melee mwk scimitar +6 (1d6+1) 18-20/x2
Ranged mwk light crossbow +4 (1d8) 19-20x2
Statistics
Str 13, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 8
Base Atk +3; CMB +4; CMD 14
Feats: Quick Draw, Rapid Reload, Weapon Focus (scimitar)
Skills: Climb +4, Handle Animal +3, Intimidate +4, Perception +2, Ride +4, Swim +4
Languages: Common (Taldan), ?, ?
Gear: potion cure light wounds (1), masterwork crossbow, masterwork scimitar, masterwork chain shirt, heavy wooden shield, quiver with 10 bolts

Again, this has only happened to me a few times, but it is good to be prepared.

Hope this helps you to be better prepared.

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