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Pathfinder Society Scenario #4–15: The Cyphermage Dilemma (PFRPG) PDF

***( )( ) (based on 7 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1–5.

In the shadow of the cyclopean Cyphergate that spans Riddleport's harbor, the PCs find themselves embroiled in a dangerous plot of deception that one could only find in Varisia's infamous pirate port.

"The Cyphermage Dilemma" was originally an exclusive adventure, run only by 4-star Pathfinder Society GMs, Venture-Captain and Venture-Lieutenant campaign volunteers, and Paizo staff for its first year, but has been revised and updated for public release.

Written by Patrick Renie.

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.

Note: This scenario has been updated from its exclusive version for public release. Purchasers have access to both the exclusive version released as Pathfinder Society Scenario #3–EX and Pathfinder Society Scenario #4–15, but as of February 28, 2013, only the latter is legal for Pathfinder Society Organized Play. Except for minor editorial changes, both versions of the scenario are the same; only the legal version of the scenario contains a Chronicle sheet.

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PZOPSS0415E


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Product Reviews (7)
1 to 5 of 7 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>

Average product rating:

***( )( ) (based on 7 ratings)

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Rather disappointing and misleading

**( )( )( )

This scenario promises a dangerous plot of deception, which likely is Cyphergate related. Like others have pointed out, you are left to expect cyphermages and tough diplomatic choices, with some puzzlesolving along the way. I'm sorry to say that if you are going to play this scenario with those expectations, you'll be disappointed.

What's worse, in my opinion at least, is that the storyline is simply lacking. To me it seemed as if the writer thought of some interesting encounters and just threw them all together. They're not really linked story-wise and it is the GM's job to somehow make it seem like a logical and plausible progression. It is doable, but it shouldn't have been left to the GM's imagination. Mind you, my GM did a great job regardless.

If anything this lack of logical storyline made it hard for us a party to follow the path the scenario wants you to take. Instead of going from A to B to C to D to E, my party went from A to C to a made-up, yet perfectly logical F to D. This means that the scenario is flexible, but does need a GM who is flexible and who can improvise well.

The fights in this scenario are okay. It's nothing special to be frank. I do however have a problem with the final fight. Where you would normally expect an epic showdown of sorts, this one can actually be completely lacklustre. Don't get me wrong though. The premise is really great and in theory could be pretty epic, but it's almost too easy to defuse the situation. I could elaborate more, but Ascalaphus summed it up below in such a way that I don't see a reason to echo his sentiments.

As it stands, we solved the situation with a single spell and with that the fight was already over. I believe two people didn't even get to act in that 'fight'. You could say we were lucky, but we really weren't in my opinion. As a result that final showdown was pretty disappointing and left me as a player wondering if that was really the end of the scenario. Looking back, I'm still not really satisfied with how the scenario ends, but I want to stress the fact it's not the GM's fault, but rather a problem that lies at core of the scenario itself.


Implausible and disappointing

**( )( )( )

Implausible

Let's take a look at the prerequisites for the Cyphermage prestige class:

Feats: Cypher Magic (Inner Sea World Guide 284), Scribe Scroll.
Skills: Knowledge (arcana) 5 ranks, Knowledge (history) 5 ranks, Linguistics 5 ranks.
Languages: Thassilonian, Varisian.
Spells: Able to cast arcane spells.

So basically any cyphermage is a level 6+ spellcaster, probably a wizard. The head of their order is a level 9 diviner (according to Second Darkness). If there's NPCs with this prestige class anywhere in the world, it's gonna be in this city, their headquarters. And divination is basically their thing. But they need the help of some level 1-5 pathfinders, because their organization is under attack and they don't know where it's coming from.

Next, there's people walking around with rabid dogs as pets.

Finally, the "BBEG"

Spoiler:
She's a pirate who wants to compete with said level 9 NPC. Except that she's level 2 or 5 magus.

She wants to become more notorious and feared. The warehouse where she stores her loot in the harbor is known; people have seen her crew bring stuff to it. However, the name of her ship is a secret. It's right there in the harbor, but it's a secret. Meanwhile her crew is going to and fro it.

Disappointing

"Cyphermage Dilemma" makes you expect cyphermages, as well as tough choices. Maybe some puzzles, some magic/rune stuff. Well, disappointing.

The story is a railroad. The fights would be easy for a fresh level 1 party; our four-person 1/2/2/2 party sleepwalked through them. (Merisiel 1; fairly mediocre level 2 gunslinger; level 2 support cleric and level 2 arcanist that never even cast a level 1 spell, there was no need. Basically, Merisiel beat people up and took their lunch money with some flank buddy help.) Supposedly the enemies are exotic races and exciting classes. In practice they're low level and die before doing anything special.

There's some implied intrigue but you're basically brought in to do the mopping-up so it doesn't apply to you.

It gets a little bit tricky at the end;

Spoiler:
The BBEG's plan is to hold hostage the guy you've been sent to rescue. She threatens to Coup de Grace him if you attack. I was coming down with a cold and half asleep and accidentally fouled things up, so he died. And one round later the BBEG died as well, never even having damaged us.

This scene could've been something. Bad guy holds scholar hostage, you're trying negotiate something. Maneuverings, you try to somehow set things up so you can save him.

But the practical solution is to just kill her in one combat round, because her tactics specifically call for a Coup de Grace, which as a full-round action can't be readied. You'd want to make sure the entire party is in melee range before you strike. But she wants to march out the guy at swordpoint, so she does this for you.

The point I'm trying to make is this: this is supposed to be the big scene. Either you have a tense hostage negotiation, or you have an epic fight against a weird and special combatant.

But then the author should've written down some actual ideas about how to negotiate with her; as is there's little to negotiate about. If you let her leave you fail the mission. And she's rather uncompromising.

And the fight.. well, she's just too squishy for that, and she's scripted to waste a round on killing the hostage. No chance in combat.

It would've been better to omit any reference to cyphermages. Call it "carefully beat up the BBEG at the end of the railroad" and it'd be better, because you're not raising expectations.


mehhhhhh

***( )( )

Love the mooks with saps and the tactics calling for sneak attack ... who only have levels in fighter. Good work, guys. "Clunky" doesn't being to describe this.

Buuut, I like the ending, because it has been known to leave players up a certain well-known creek. Plus the BBEG is kind of fun. So ... 3 stars.


rough but good

****( )

This scenario's a bit clunky. The transitions between encounters aren't quite spelled out, making the GM have to adlib a bit. It could have used another round of editing to smooth out the kinks. There's also a couple of extra fights that really should just be removed or it runs to long and doesn't leave time for much roleplaying. That aside, it features some great fights, pirates, and a tense hostage negotiation.


I Expected Better

***( )( )

I’ve run this scenario 7 times and it’s making a slow recovery from the 1-Star first impression it made. The adventure takes place in Riddleport, a nearly lawless pirate town. The surroundings are very colorful but can be lost on players unless the GM does some research first. I recommend the GM read either the Second Darkness Chapter 1 Adventure Path section on Riddleport or the associated Player Companion as part of the prep work, your players will thank you. Also consider purchasing Pirates of the Inner Sea as the scenario features some equipment from that resource. The scenario spends a fair amount of time on the water, which favors high-mobility (and buoyant) PCs. If you have a social PC you can also have a good time. Non-lawful PCs also fair better in Riddleport. The scenario gets high marks for Campaign Flavor for using Riddleport as a backdrop, and for enabling creative approaches from players. The Faction missions are a let-down, more of the usual find-the-obvious-stuff-and-bring-it-back. My two gripes are with the background and the combat encounters. The background/plot is implausible and takes a toll on the player’s immersion into the situation. The combat encounters are recycled opponents & contrived roles. There was a lot of potential for exploiting the Bestiary 2 and Bestiary 3 here but instead I feel let down. I’m giving the scenario a grudging 3-Star review, only because so far all my players have enjoyed themselves and haven’t felt cheated. However, this is an Exclusive scenario and there’s nothing here that set it apart from any other scenario available for purchase. It took more effort than it should have to fix this scenario, and as an Exclusive release I really expected more.


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