Pathfinder Society Scenario #2-21: The Dalsine Affair (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).

Your mission takes you to the Taldan capital city of Oppara where the intricate web of political intrigue and ages-old religious conflicts threaten the Pathfinder Society’s presence in the land. When Baron Jacquo Dalsine’s cousin is implicated in a recent attack on Society allies, the situation becomes even tighter for the Pathfinders, and at the end of the day some members of the Dalsine family may not get out unscathed.

Written by Alex Greenshields.

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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A Good Story that Needs a Good GM

****( )

NO SPOILERS

I played The Dalsine Affair at Subtier 4-5 and then read the scenario a couple of times for the purpose of this review. I think it's a good example of how much variation there can be between what's seen at the table and what's in the scenario. While playing it, I thought it was an average, somewhat forgettable adventure. But reading through it, I see excellent world lore, plot development, and interesting combat/non-combat encounters that offer multiple ways to resolve problems. It's a scenario, however, in which a good GM with an attention to detail is necessary in order to really make it pop.

SPOILERS

The written scenario starts with a *really* long (but really good) backstory. It involves a Taldan noble named Chalfon Dalsine who, like many of his social class with lots of money and no responsibility, fell into carousing, gambling, and near ruin from debt. But then Chalfon joined the Pathfinder Society and things . . . didn't change! He got kicked out of the Society for various misdeeds, and has harbored a grudge ever since. After learning the art of the magus from a reclusive hermit, Chalfon has returned to Oppara, ingratiated himself with his family, and set forth a (fairly complicated) scheme to destroy the Pathfinder Society in Taldor by setting its Taldan and Qadiran factions against each other with the help of the Shadow Lodge. We've often seen adventures with fantastic backstories that are never glimpsed by players, but this scenario actually offers a couple of opportunities for different NPCs to deliver parts of it to the PCs. It's definitely worthwhile for GMs to do so, as it helps explain what the heck is going on in sections of the scenario.

The scenario starts with a briefing provided by Venture-Captain Muesello in Oppara. Muesello has gotten himself into a jam: hoping to save the Society some money by evading export taxes, he's been trafficking treasures and artifacts out of Taldor by using an underground cult of Sarenrae called the Dawnflower Blossoms. (the worship of Sarenrae is forbidden in Taldor because of its links to Qadira, and the two nation-states are major rivals) But a sudden raid led by a Taldan noble (Chalfon Dalsine!) left many of the Dawnflower Blossoms murdered, with the rest seeking refuge in Muesello's hideout.

Before he can continue the briefing, there's a sudden knock at the door--the authorities have arrived! This starts a sort of time-based challenge to get the ten cultists out of the hideout (through a trapdoor in the basement into ancient catacombs) before the authorities can bust in the front door. There are a variety of non-combat actions PCs can take to speed things up, but fighting is, ultimately, an option even though it's not what Muesello wants. I think the encounter is a great way to spice up the standard mission briefing opening for PFS scenarios, and I liked how it got everyone into the action early. As a player, it was a bit confusing as to what options were available to help the refugees get out faster, and perhaps some subtle hints from the GMs in this direction would be advisable.

Act 2 starts with the PCs escorting the cultists through the catacombs towards their place of refuge, an ancient underground cathedral. This is mostly an opportunity for the PCs to ask questions and get some exposition (as well as do some faction-specific missions), though it has the requisite little battle against a giant spider. A bit more creativity would have been nice there.

Once at the hidden temple, the PCs meet the cult's leader who, oddly enough, keeps trying to convince the PCs to stay in the temple and not investigate why Dalsine has been leading murderous raids on the cult. It turns out the cult's leader has been replaced, weeks earlier, with a faceless stalker loyal to Dalsine! I like how the lead-up to this encounter was structured, because it put the PCs in the weird situation of not being sure why they were being stalled, and whether initiating violence would lead to the death of an overly-cautious good man or uncover something more nefarious. The only thing I would have liked to see when reading the scenario is some sort of consequence for the faceless stalker being successful and delaying the PCs for a significant length of time.

Act 3 takes place at Dalsine's manor. Two of the Society's faction leaders have arrived, coincidentally, at the same time to confront Dalsine. The leader of the Taldan faction, Baron Jacquo Dalsine (Chalfon's cousin) has been let inside, but Pasha Muhlia Al-Jakri, the Qadiran faction leader, has had her entourage stopped at the gate. That hasn't stopped her, however, as she's a professional assassin and has secretly snuck in anyway! From the PCs' perspective, they need to figure out a way into the manor, and they have a few different options, such as using multiple successful Diplomacy rolls on the guards, bribing the guards, or sneaking over the walls. When I went through this session as a player, I didn't have any of the backstory on what was going on with the factions, etc., so the whole thing was kind of confusing and we just snuck in.

Once inside the mansion, the PCs witness a duel between the faction leaders (because blood is thicker than water, Jacquo has defended Chalfon) in which Jacquo dies and Al-Jakri teleports away. Chalfon uses illusion magic to hide his presence before attacking the PCs. When this scenario came out, it was right around the time of Ultimate Magic, so a lot of GMs didn't understand how the magus class operated and you can see a lot of concerns over TPKs in the forums. When my group went up against Chalfon, it wasn't a particularly hard fight--he's still one guy against 4-6 PCs, so the action economy is definitely against him. The part of this event that I still don't get, even after reading the scenario, is why Chalfon attacks the PCs and fights to the death--he's already achieved his goals of turning Pathfinder against Pathfinder, and his capture or death simply reveals his role in the manipulation and undermines everything. His motivations as a villain just don't really fit.

But while there are some flaws in the scenario, I think there's a lot to like about it as well. There are several encounters that can be approached in different ways, there's a real story behind the events, and (for players experience the scenarios in order) it contributes well to the overall story of Season Two. Overall, it's a better scenario than I thought it was at first glance.


Overrated

**( )( )( )

Dalsine is a mix of combat, some sandbox, and a little roleplay.

The Dalsine story is not very good. The combat encounters in this scenario are also highly overrated. Compared to recent scenarios, Dalsine is quite boring and not innovative. It hasn’t aged well.

The big bad guy is very overrated as well. Sure, at subtier 1-2 there is a good chance he could 1 shot kill a level 1 character, which is where this scenario gets it’s notorious reputation. At subtier 3-4, the BBG did hit for 50% of my pets hit points and then died before he could act again. The surprise was that he didn’t last 1 round.

To top it off, the story, which revolves around the Shadow Lodge, doesn’t make sense anymore.

Dalsine was very disappointing.

Overall: I’d avoid Dalsine, there are better scenarios to play. (4/10)


This scenario lives up to its ruthless reputation

***( )( )

This scenario is known for its reputation. On the one hand it’s vital to understand some of the overarching plot and the importance of certain scenarios. On the other hand, it’s known to brutally murder characters. It’s reputation is justified.

I really liked the opening scene. It was hilarious to have characters without social skills try and get people to move. At the same time others tried to stop people from coming in. We barely succeeded, but we were laughing the entire time. It’s a really nice take on an encounter and I’d say it’s executed better than some of the new ones that are similar.

At some point in time you run into a scary encounter. It’s a nice twist, albeit a bit expected. It doesn’t change the fact that the opponent can hurt a lot, and I can see certain parties struggle a lot in that situation. After that combat, you’re probably happy you’re still alive, only to then run into an optional encounter that on the low tier might as well just be skipped since it’s not good for anything. All it does is lure you into a false sense of security.

And then the final encounter happens. I can say a lot of things about this encounter, but I won’t. What you're about to read is just a fragment of what I want to say. All I’m going to say is that someone will die, unless he plays out of tier and is lucky. To give you an indication: we played tier 1-2, had one level 4 melee character with us and the other four were level 2. The bad guy crit the level 4 on the first round, dropping him down to -1 hp. I don’t have to tell you that’s a problem and what that would mean for in-tier characters. It really is that lethal and the opponent is incredibly optimised.

Surprisingly enough we all managed to survive this ordeal. A combination of trip and a tangleburn bag helped us a lot. Normally I’d not share such tactics, but I think it is justified given this particular opponent. Even with those penalties he only barely missed us. This encounter appears to be designed to just kill as many as possible. My believe this to be true is strengthened by the fact none of the prestige points are even linked to him. This encounter proofs why certain classes are not really suited to be the BBEG. I’ve only encountered one scenario with a final encounter that was worse and that’s saying something.

The story in this scenario is worth it, the combats are lethal. I can’t emphasize that enough. It’s certainly a challenge and if that’s your cup of tea, by all means go for it. Everyone else I’d recommend to stay clear, or be very, very, very careful. This is especially the case if you're level 1 or 2.


A corker, and may the dice be forever in your favour!

****( )

This Scenarios fights all boil down the final action, where if you are simply unlucky, you can be slaughtered.

I believe this sort of risk is needed once in a while, and is truly bracing, because if the BBEG has his druthers, he'll drop 2 before you can blink.

I Gm'ed this in mid-tier, and can see how it can be very obviously deadly even to the most prepared players, however, my version failed spectacularly, and was trounced in short order...

"Sometimes all it comes down to is a roll of the dice, a flip of a coin, or a turn of the wheel" - Dr. Dealgood in "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome"


Great

*****

This scenario has a good plot, which I agree can be somewhat limited by the fact that people who don't play the earlier seasons don't necessarily know the NPCs. The final fight in particular is one of the most memorable ones in a 1-7 scenario, although I agree that it is probably a bit much in the 1-2 subtier. Personally I've run it in 3-4 and played it at 6-7 and found both fantastic.


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Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

Announced!


Woohoo!

Sczarni

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Alex Greenshields wrote:
Woohoo!

woo-hoo!

Contributor

Description updated!

Contributor

Now available!

Dark Archive

Holy crap in a hand basket!

Sczarni

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Todd Morgan wrote:
Holy crap in a hand basket!

just finished prepping this for Saturday - all i can say is WOW!

Grand Lodge

Cpt_kirstov wrote:
Todd Morgan wrote:
Holy crap in a hand basket!
just finished prepping this for Saturday - all i can say is WOW!

I've put this is in the shopping cart for my next round of purchases but can anyone tell me what makes this a good module?

The intrigue bit sucked me in but is anyone prepared to do a review?


Another question: Is this the scenario that has the big shake up for Qadira?

Sczarni

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Abbasax wrote:
Another question: Is this the scenario that has the big shake up for Qadira?

To answer the last two posts,

Qadira:

Spoiler:
Yup, there's a shake up in it, and not just for Qadira

What makes it good

Spoiler:
1) the writing is fantastic
2) the fluff is well incorporated (as I would expect from a pathfinderwiki admin)
3) almost every encounter has notes on how the PCs can use methods other than combat to pass the encounter
4) the last encounter visualizes as a picturesque movie scene
5)there are very good notes with how NPCs interact with each other
6) There is a mechanic to let the PCs know all of the adventure background fluff at the beginning so that they fully understand whats going on.

All in all, I think this reads as a very good scenario to give to a newbie GM to show them that the game isn't all about combat. I'll write up a full review after I run it on Saturday.


Holy cow, that module was awesome! Modules like these should be the new standard for PFS.

-Matt

Sovereign Court

I wasn't pleased with this module. Nothing I could do as a player to shape or change the big outcomes of this adventure in any way. The rest of the adventure was fun but the one cinematic scene left a sour taste in my mouth. Nothing like giving the Taldor's a slap in the face . . .

I honestly don't even care about the shadow lodge anymore. I was not motivated for this finial fight in the least. I mean when you think about it:

Spoiler:
Pathfinders in Taldor were cheating the government out of taxes, conspiring with cultist, and murder and in fighting between factions. How exactly are we the good guys again? Quite frankly I'd have an easier time arguing that shadow lodge were the good guys this adventure.

I felt very demotivated by this adventure. Big blow to my faction and nothing my character could do about it. I wonder how this would have played out if there were some haughty Qadira faction members at the table? It wouldn't take much mocking to spark some PvP.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Guy Humual wrote:
I wasn't pleased with this module. Nothing I could do as a player to shape or change the big outcomes of this adventure in any way.

I haven't played this one, but if that's true, I find it very disappointing. I've played in modules like that before - one guy I know was a very big fan of that style of module - and there would be times where nothing I or any of the players could do would advance the plot. The only option was to wait until the next scripted event moved the story along. Yuck.

Contributor

Guy Humual wrote:

I wasn't pleased with this module. Nothing I could do as a player to shape or change the big outcomes of this adventure in any way. The rest of the adventure was fun but the one cinematic scene left a sour taste in my mouth. Nothing like giving the Taldor's a slap in the face . . .

I honestly don't even care about the shadow lodge anymore. I was not motivated for this finial fight in the least. I mean when you think about it:
** spoiler omitted **

I felt very demotivated by this adventure. Big blow to my faction and nothing my character could do about it. I wonder how this would have played out if there were some haughty Qadira faction members at the table? It wouldn't take much mocking to spark some PvP.

I played this at Paizocon, with the game being run by the author. I played one of two Taldor faction characters, and the only actual Taldan.

We had a good time and accomplished our objectives even while freaking out and rolling our eyes in character. It was a good illustration of what happens when your Faction starts to conflict with the Pathfinder society and you start having to look at the lesser of two evils.

Of course, it all depends on how you play your Taldan. Mine was very cynical, world weary, pragmatic, but curious. Finding out unknown secrets about his own home town made up for a few things he'd rather never mention to the Grand Prince.

Silver Crusade

I just played this last Saturday night. All I got to say is 'WOW' this was one of the best modules I played in. The last scene was intense and my dwarven fighter almost bit the dust lol. A great scenario all around


I played this one with Guy - as another Taldan.

1) The combats were interesting at the tier we played in.
2) The final fight scene was excellent and well constructed.
3) I don't mind it if we're doing the "lesser of two weevils" scenario thing.

However...:
The PCs have NO WAY OF INFLUENCING the major event of the module. None. They are spectators to it. No matter what they do, they are fated to show up JUST in time to watch it and be unable to do anything about it.

I was looking forward to playing this mod, both because I have a Taldan character, who is very Taldan in outlook, and was looking forward to interacting with more Taldan material, and because of the generally favorable reviews.

Our GM (Justin Sluder) gets mad props for making this fun. Seriously, good work, Justin.

I like that Pathfinder Society is trying different -types- of adventures. This, like Throaty Mermaid, was somewhat experimental. It needed a bit of structural analysis and some If-Then-Else analysis done on it to reach its full potential.

Liberty's Edge

Just played this at Origins over the week, and had a blast! Enjoyed the final fight - I've never been a fan of the whole 'gang up on the end-boss' in an PRG setting, but combine the tactics of the Magus with a GM who played the character correctly, and you have a Hollywood finish. IMHO, a well written work.

Grand Lodge

Just played this one last night, the scenario was a lot of fun up until the last encounter. That's considered a fair Tier 1 fight? Our whole party was down to the floor before the GM obviously started pulling punches.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Flynn Forgewind wrote:
Just played this one last night, the scenario was a lot of fun up until the last encounter. That's considered a fair Tier 1 fight? Our whole party was down to the floor before the GM obviously started pulling punches.

Played this at low tier also, and I agree... if you are a low level group, someone is going home in a body bag.


I thought it was overpowered for low levels. If you knock out Tiers 1-2, I think it's still tough, but manageable.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Quick question, are season 2 modules PFRPG, or were they still 3.5?


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Galnörag wrote:
Quick question, are season 2 modules PFRPG, or were they still 3.5?

Only season 0 scenarios are 3.5. All the others are PFRPG.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

ty


Allow me to echo the previous posters in that (1) there was no way for our team to be in any way proactive to the plot. We were simply there to react to the scripted events. And (2) the final encounter is a tpk machine at Tier 1-2.

That said, the plot is excellent. It fits perfectly with the season metaplot (the Shadow Lodge had its reasons for doing what it did after all). The factions-within-factions is an excellent wrinkle that we should see more. I'll run this module, but only at the higher tiers.

Lantern Lodge

Ah... I'm going to run this, this weekend, but there seems to be a bug/error with how one of the characters in the story uses his power.

To avoid spoilers, I posted the question on the rules message board. If anyone could take a look and help me with an answer, I would be much obliged.

The question is posted here. (WARNING! SPOILERS AT THE LINK!)

Dark Archive

This thing left a bad taste in my mouth. Due to the party make up we had to run it at the 3-4 tier. We had a lvl 5, 2 lvl 4, 2 lvl 3 and a lvl 1. The gm did not pull a single punch. The lvl 1 dead on the floor, both lvl 4s dead on the floor with crits, first one was empowered for a total of a 16d6 +6, then a 2nd crit of 10d6.

I was like really? The DM did not pull a single punch, and killed a character a round.

All I can say is CONGRATS to a TOTAL PARTY KILLING.

This was a fun module to the end. Also will see the last of me playing anything pathfinder.

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