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Pathfinder Society Scenario #4–23: Rivalry's End (PFRPG) PDF

**½( )( ) (based on 17 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 3–7.

The Pathfinder Society's conflict with the Aspis Consortium in the frontier region of Varisia has come to a head, and the time to secure dominance of the ancient land is now. But despite mounting victories on the Society's part, the Aspis Consortium still has a few tricks up its sleeves, including several powerful agents from the Pathfinders' past who could prove too challenging an obstacle to surmount. Can the PCs end the ongoing struggle for control of the flow of ancient Thassilonian artifacts out of Varisia's ports, or will the Aspis Consortium succeed in keeping the Pathfinder Society ever in its shadow as it profits on the exploitation of the millennia?

Written by Ron Lundeen.

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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Product Reviews (17)
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Average product rating:

**½( )( ) (based on 17 ratings)

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Solid adventure when reviewed under unbiased lens

****( )

I felt compared to review this scenario upon seeing it's only 2.5 stars. I've both played this scenario and now GM'd it twice (for a total of 3 trips through it).

First, a lot of the negative reviews are colored by this being the retirement of the Shadow Lodge faction, which was a sacred cow to many players. Thus it's viewed under the lens of "did Shadow Lodge end in a satisfying way?" instead of "Is this a good scenario for a gameday for folks to play?".

My review is mostly taking this as a pure scenario and answering the question if in the hands of a good GM if the players can have a fun evening playing through this now that faction missions are a thing of the past and that folks won't be retiring from Shadow Lodge while going through it.

The scenario offers ample time for free-form roleplay in the "first half" of it. In all three of my runs, we spent a solid 2 hours roleplaying through the "sandbox" portion which features creative ways for the Pathfinders to sneak into an exclusive gambling tournament and then participate in that tournament. The scenario lets the GM fill in these details with improvised roleplay, and this has led to some very classic, memorable moments at the tables I've played at. There's some further encounters presented which are intended to be solved via roleplay before getting into the meat of the "dungeon".

This is my favorite formula for scenarios. Half "sandbox" then half "dungeon" to appeal to both types of players.

The "dungeon" side is challenging. The first encounter at the high subtier is a solid challenge with a monster that is not often seen. The main encounter is extremely challenging at both subtiers. It will challenge practically all tables.

Then there's a "twist". A lot of folks don't like this twist, but I've seen 3 tables of filled with folks who weren't emotionally attached to Shadow Lodge lore, and all 3 were shocked and entertained.

Overall, it's a fun run. Good sandbox section followed by brisk, challenging encounters for the tactical wargamer.

Ending Spoilers:

A lot of the negativity stems from how Torch is handled and his "betrayal".

From the get-go, I've always envisioned Torch as mostly a self-serving information broker trying to resolve the wrong perpetuated upon him by the Society.

As a Shadow Lodge member, I'd be pissed if my leader decided to simply move on to his own self interests. But, realistic people do this. They will simply resign from their jobs when they have a path to what they want. A lot of the angst is from Shadow Lodgers who feel like they got the short end of the stick versus a mechanical flaw in the scenario's presentation. This is more an issue with handling faction politics in overarching PFS rather than anything specific with regard to Ron Lundeen's ability to craft an interesting scenario for an evening, which is pretty great.


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**( )( )( )

Really hoping that ending is explained at some point because it makes basically no sense whatsoever. I don't mean "X wouldn't do Y" I mean "THIS IS THE DUMBEST WAY TO GO ABOUT DOING THIS."


Didn't See That Coming

****( )

I found it interesting and fun, and I did NOT see the ending coming.


Not as bad as everyone makes out, but not that good either.

***( )( )

Impossible to review without spoilers:

This scenario has had its fair share of gamers hurl abuse at it. 'Why did we lose?', 'How can this happen to us?!', 'Who thought this up!?', 'Wahhhh, I can't reach DC41 sense motive, it's not faiiiiir'
Well, guess what. Losing hurts. Plot-driven losing can hurt even more, especially if you end up leaving the scenario feeling like a useless puppet.

My biggest issue with this scenario is the relative lack of fanfare that heralds the destruction of the Shadow Lodge. It dies a quiet death in a Riddleport Inn, whereas the end of the Lantern Lodge came with a private army tearing down upon a single island. One is cinematic, memorable and exciting, the other is dark, grim and unheroic.

First off, the combats.
The clockwork guardians are very easy to avoid. I haven't experienced them at high tier, but at low tier, a few power attacks, one entangled hero, then they're dealt with.

The Spider. I was annoyed by this fight. If this woman has so many resources at her beck and call, why does she make it so easy for the PCs? I understand she's been caught unawares, but why doesn't she have a bodyguard that is immune to her Confusion effects? Whenever I've experienced or discussed this fight with others, she has pulled off two confusion spells, then fallen. The rest of the fight is the PCs gleefully killing one another. I'd love a Clockwork bodyguard who identifies non-confused opponents and attacks accordingly.

The Final Betrayal. The dramatic reveal in this scene doesn't work for a number of reasons.
1. Torch would be better served by congratulating the PCs, taking Spider and leaving the inn, to do his filthy deeds with no witnesses.
2. Torch would be better served by killing the PCs (witnesses) by placing them in a situation where they are unlikely to escape alive. Sending two of his half-orc guards doesn't quite cut it. Why not set them up to be attacked by the Riddleport families? Why not send them into a Dragon's Den? Why not make them stand on the trap door above the gaping chasm? Why not send them on a pirate boat laden with gunpowder and then have your half orcs fire flame arrows at the ship? SO MUCH COOLER BETRAYALS ARE POSSIBLE.
3. The Spider is the sworn enemy of the Pathfinders and it is not a 'betrayal' when Torch executes her. It's gross, sure, but it is not a betrayal.
4. Torch should not be Torch. It should be a Simulacrum, a Doppelganger, a Contingency Teleport, something like that. I don't think the PCs should even have had a chance to touch him. He has the PCs in his palms for the entirety of this mission.
5. Why is the Shadow Lodge dead? Why can't the good aligned Pathfinders redeem the name?

The one thing I loved about this scenario is the discrepancy in the SL Faction Mission and the Spider's list. My cunning SL players saw the lie and were immediately perplexed by its implications. What do they do next? They decided to trust Torch and got burnt for it. It'd have been nice if their distrust led to an advantage somehow, such as the Pirate Ship of Explosives scenario imagined above.

Yeah. Not terrible, but seems like a wasted opportunity for a very intriguing plot hook.


Unsatisfying.

*( )( )( )( )

This scenario was unsatisfying to me, both as a GM apart from my faction, and as a committed Shadow Lodge member.

First, the scenario itself. The entire first act of the scenario allows for some fantastic roleplaying opportunities, but it's up to the GM to pretty much make everything up. There's just not much in the actual text of the scenario to work with, even though it feels like there should be something.

The difficulty between subtiers is wildly different. At 3-4, this is a borderline cakewalk. At 6-7, I think it would be nearly impossible. I haven't ran it at 6-7, but that's how it looks to me.

Now, as for my affiliation with the Shadow Lodge...

I started playing PFS in November. My first scenarios were extremely, extremely difficult. Near-TPKs. As a result, after playing First Steps 1, I decided to join the Shadow Lodge. The goal of making sure that everybody came home safe and being a bit distrustful of the "masked ponces", as my character calls the Decimvirate, was highly appealing. I didn't play the old Shadow Lodge scenarios, and I didn't even realize that they were an enemy until well into my Pathfinder career. I feel that a lot of others are in the same boat.

In the finale of this scenario...

Spoiler:
Grandmaster Torch apparently betrays the Society? I can't see him doing anything in the storyline that merits the reaction that the game expects from the players. "Roll initiative." Why? He's trying to escape? Alright, that's fine, why should I stop him? He's ordered his guards to fight to the death? Why? Once he's gone, can't we just make some peace of it? None of it makes sense. I assume that things will be clarified in a later scenario, but it doesn't make sense right now, and it should make at least some sense within the session, or players leave disappointed and confused.

Additionally, I was frustrated regarding the time that Shadow Lodge PCs had to complete this scenario. In my region, at least, Shadow Lodge was MUCH more popular than Lantern Lodge. Lantern Lodge, however, had a full 2 months to complete this mission, while Shadow Lodge had about a month. That made it very difficult for us to get in enough playtime to make sure that everybody could do it before they had to switch factions. We had to schedule several additional sessions to level up some lower-level Shadow Lodge PCs, and it all felt very rushed and frustrating. Was it really necessary? Why couldn't both end-of-faction missions have been released in the same month?

Disappointing. I don't see this scenario ever really being ran after August 14.


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