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Pathfinder Society Scenario #5–05: The Elven Entanglement (PFRPG) PDF

***½( ) (based on 24 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenarios for levels 7–11.

Nearly every nation has contributed to the Mendevian Crusade, but few are willing to send additional aid to assist the Pathfinder Society directly. Owed a favor the elves cannot refuse, Pathfinders travel to Kyonin to secure a force of some of the finest demon-hunters in Avistan only to find that the hunters are missing in action. Can the Pathfinders extract the lost elves from the depths of Tanglebriar, or will they become the latest casualties of Treerazer’s domain?

Written by Ryan Costello, Jr.

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 (24)
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Average product rating:

***½( ) (based on 24 ratings)

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Not for the skittish

*****

My Experience

I played in this module at a mini-convention, run by the author. Table was run at tier 7-8 for six players - a bard, a summoner, a cleric/barbarian, two fighters, and a pregen Seelah.

The Good

Atmosphere: From the scenario’s description, you’re travelling into Tanglebriar, a demon-tainted region of Kyonin where nature has been twisted and perverted by the abyssal presence. There’s lots of opportunities here for a skilled GM to really paint a vivid picture, and to have players shuddering in discomfort, if they do it right. By the end of the scenario, players should be apprehensive about whatever they might encounter around the corner - and given the encounters, they should be.

Challenge: This scenario hit the sweet spot, at least as far as our characters were concerned. In each of the fights, there were moments of worry in the opening rounds, and then a turning point somewhere in the battle where we knew we had it. That’s just good encounter design - it’s not a rollover, and it’s not a brick wall. None of our party was particularly optimized - we all had areas of specialty, but there weren’t any “uber-characters,” and with a lot of tactics, cooperation, and thinking outside of the box, we prevailed with no losses.

The Bad

Not really a scenario complaint, but more of a system complaint - there were sometimes a LOT of things on the board, and as a result, combat sometimes dragged. GMs might want to consider how to expedite combat going in.

Conclusions

For GMs: Play up the atmosphere. Practice your improv skills and look up a bunch of synonyms for “creepy” before you start. Don’t give anything away ahead of time; live up to “Nothing in Tanglebriar is what it seems.”

For Players: Don’t assume an overly optimized character can roll over this one. Thinking outside the box is more valuable here than a straightforward murderhobo approach to combat, and thinking tactically is more valuable here than in many scenarios.

Overall Feegle Rating: Satisfying, with a side of challenging and an extra helping of creepy.


What the things under your bed have nightmares about

*****

I played this at the recent 3XP Con and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a hard scenario, no doubt, and there's been lots of discussion about that, so I'll leave that to the end.

There is a brief set-up in Absalom but the main briefing effectively takes place in Kyonin – given that it's called 'the Elven Entanglement', I hope that's not too spoilerific. A macguffin mission quickly becomes something rather more interesting, and the adventure is afoot. The section in Kyonin gives opportunity for some role-play, but the main opportunity for that is later on.

First encounter:

The first combat encounter is 'Keith'. 'Keith' is being pursued by some people who aren't sure what to make of you; that gives not only 'Keith' but shouted, in-combat diplomacy. Once you get over the shock of 'Keith's, er, unusual appearance, you have to realise that the usual tactics aren't necessarily going to work. At least in our case, moving around the terrain a lot made things much easier – once we worked it out. As with the third encounter, terrain was a challenge that made the whole setting more realistic (well, Golarionisitic). My character only survived this because of some first aid gloves and we had a couple of people down.

Second encounter:

The second encounter has a monster I'd never encountered before but is, more experienced players tell me, a classic of sorts. In retrospect, this encounter suffers in comparison to the other two; once the trick is worked out, it became a more standard sort of fight. What I only realised on reading the scenario is that a previous choice that I thought was either just for flavour or that we had made the 'right' decision (after a few anxious moments, thinking we'd just brought down all kinds of chaos) affects this combat – a nice touch.


By this point, we were on the clock, in a hostile jungle. We hadn't quite broken out the camouflage paint, but we did feel that we were somewhere we all would rather not be.

Third encounter:

The main role-play opportunity came with 'Ronnie'. The set-up is fantastic; I can't think of anything I can say that won't give too much away, but enjoy it. It fits into the area really well; you know things are creepy when you get to a nice area and immediately go on the defensive.

Spoiler:
It turns out that wayangs don't like dancing, but do like sneak attacks.

We didn't have time for the optional encounter.

Fourth encounter:

The denouement of the adventure came when we met 'Mick'. This was a tougher fight, I think, than the first encounter. It may be that we were lucky with the earlier and unlucky with the later combat, but the first one was more shock and regrouping while this was difficult all the way through.

This big bad came with abilities to match; this may be my inexperience, but I had not encountered this critter or a lot of its powers before, which always makes things more interesting.

The big difference between this and other fights here was the environment. The scene setting up to this point made it feel like an unpleasant, dangerous place to be, but the opponents and others beyond the bbeg really made it feel more like a stinking forest than a field with some unfortunate bits of terrain. Some of the opponents could easily have just been what you would expect to find in such a place; the difficult bits of terrain were used appropriately by the bbeg and it did feel like we were creeping in on his lair.

Difficulty:

Everyone seems to be giving this either a one out of five or a five out of five. I would hazard a guess that the people who gave it one out of five were TPK'd in the opening encounter.

The scenario and does, I feel, give fair warning that this is not a run of the mill adventure, particularly if you make even half-decent knowledge rolls. I came very close to an early bath – it took some first aid gloves to bring me back – and I do sympathise with people who were wiped out by the first encounter. That having been said, I'm not sure that people who lost a character and so didn't play the rest of the adventure are necessarily in the best place to comment on the adventure as a whole. I would also endorse DeusVult's comments above, to the effect that it's good to have hard adventures and, indeed, hard first encounters; if every first encounter is a cakewalk, they become humdrum and we're always waiting for the meat.

Thoughts for GMs:

As a few people have said, impressing upon them either in character, out of character or both that they're not in Kansas anymore is going to help with expectations. I originally but here that they should come loaded for bear, but that makes it sound like they just need to hit things hard - for this one, they need to be ready to think on their feet.

It it an unusual scenario, not just because of the setting and storyline but because it throws unusual critters at you in unusual ways. I'd like to see more like this from Ryan – maybe not quite as hard – because, above all, it was memorable.


Never play this

*( )( )( )( )

Absolute garbage. Playing 4 chars, 2 7s, a 10, and a 8, only the level 10 cavalier survived the second round of combat. This is a complete waste of money and your time to try and attempt. I can't disrecommend this strongly enough.


Excellent, though dangerous scenario

*****

I finally got around to playing this over the weekend, as the last session of Coast Con. I'd heard talk about the danger of the first encounter. We were a party of 6 between tiers playing 10-11 with the 4-player adjustment. While the scenario is very dangerous, and there was a moment when two characters were unconscious and looked like they might not last another round, I think most of the negative experiences have been from situations where the GM misunderstood or misread tactics, monster abilities, or both. I highly encourage anyone planning to run this to read the GM discussion thread.

For me, the combats were challenging, but extremely fun. There were opportunities for fun role play as well, though I'd lost my voice by that part of the con and couldn't participate much in those sections, despite playing my social focused ninja. This was my first experience with Tanglebriar. It was also my first Season 5 7-11 scenario, and it did not disappoint. I hope the early confusion and negative reviews are forgotten over time, as I think this is an excellent scenario.


It doesn't deserve a bad rap...

*****

There's no harm in having a scenario with a reputation for generating TPKs.. and it's of no consequence if that reputation is deserved or not.

In fact, there IS harm to PFS on the macro scale if there are NOT any such scenarios. Add "I survived the Elven Entanglement" to a bragsheet alongside others like "I survived the Dalsine Affair". Not only does it keep the optimized player crowd challenged, it reminds everyone that you should remember to be on your A-game when the adventure is on.

Whether you agree or disagree, I believe that The Elven Entanglement is memorable (good), challenging (good), thematically consistent (good) to a "sylvan elven adventure" theme that avoids being trite (good). It even has roleplay encounters to keep the normal players entertained at a table that's bound to have TPK-defying munchkins seeking that "I survived the Elven Entanglement" t-shirt.


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