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Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–98: Serpents' Ire (PFRPG) PDF

***( )( ) (based on 6 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for 8th-level pregenerated characters.

A parasitic faction known as the Korholm Agenda has tried to corrupt the upstanding Aspis Consortium from the inside out, all in the vain pursuit of revenge and profit. Now one of the powerful Aspis Patrons has learned that the Korholm Agenda has siphoned the Consortium's funding to build a base of operations in Nidal. This shall not stand. He has assembled a team of top agents—including both new faces and veterans of the attack on the Grand Lodge a year ago—to infiltrate the operation and shut it down by any means necessary.

In this adventure the players portray agents of the Aspis Consortium using 8th-level pregenerated characters. Content in Serpents' Ire also ties into a special metaplot element from Pathfinder Society Special #6-98: Serpents Rise. Players who have completed that special event are encouraged to bring its Chronicle sheet when playing this adventure.

Written by John Compton.

Note: Serpents' Ire is a limited release scenario. It may be run anywhere, but only by 4- or 5-star GMs. Venture-Officers may only run this scenario if they meet this star rating requirement.

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Product Reviews (6)
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Average product rating:

***( )( ) (based on 6 ratings)

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Hillarously Awesome

*****

I just played this at a local con and had a blast. I will say that it definitely needs a long slot, and some bonus time to get the players to acclimate to the characters (both mechanically and RP-wise).

We had a great time- I played the Enchanter and loved how it worked out. Our GM did a great job of streamlining a part of it to account for too much time spend in the first act (again, wish we could have had a 6-7 hour slot for this one to truly enjoy everything).

I also see a lot of potential for learning more about the "Catastrophe" backstory. WHAT HAPPENED IN Saringallow???? Why do they think the Aspis are werewolves there?? This is a story that needs to be told!


WAY too optimistic and flawed

*( )( )( )( )

Most of my review below will contain considerable spoilers. I'll try and make my main points here before starting with the spoilers.

This review is based on playing it and then reading it afterwards in preparation for running it in a couple of weeks.

I mostly enjoyed myself and if it wasn't for the various things that I point out I'd probably have given this 3 stars.

1) There was absolutely no reason for this being an Aspis Agent pregen only scenario. With a few changes in the mission briefing this could trivially have been a normal 7-11 scenario
2) It was WAY too long. There is next to no chance of getting this finished in a 4 hour slot without some major cutting of corners
3) Parts of it were significantly over complicated for no good reason
4) Preparation for this is going to take much longer than it really should
5) There are many parts where the characters are supposed to do insanely stupid things because of "plot"
6) The pregens suffer the usual problems of Paizo pregens. Too complicated in some areas, too weak in others. And incredibly variable difficulty in getting secondary prestige. Some were darn near impossible, some essentially gimmees.
7) The combats were fairly uneven. Our group found them fairly easy (due to a combination of team work and some luck). Other apparently found them too hard.
8) A massive element of WTF

Lots of Spoilers. Really:

1)So, in the mission we find out that the Society and the Consortium have shared information so as to crush the Korholm Agenda. In other words, this could trivially have been a Society raid. NOTHING would change. Oh, the characters would have to be the usual Murder Hoboes and not the "I am actually evil" characters but that is pretty darn minor.

And its really MUCH worse than that. The GM learns lots of interesting back story about the Aspis. The players are unlikely to figure out much of this (I was quite confused when playing). But, of course, the actual Pathfinder Society players will know NOTHING of this. So, any knowledge acquired is now "forbidden knowledge" that your character would NOT know. Usually one can at least arm wave the "heard things around the Society bar" to explain out of character knowledge. Here, no. EVERYTHING you find out NONE OF YOUR CHARACTERS WOULD KNOW. And there is a LOT of things you find out.

2) When I played it it took over 5 hours and still felt rushed with the GM shortening some things (NOT complaining about the GM). There is a mini-game which can take lots of time as players consider a host of options, there is combat, there is some exploration largely meant to be arm waved. There are huge "What the Fxxx moments which take time to process. All this with characters that the players are NOT very experienced with and so they take longer to decide what to do,

3) Piazo loves its new books. I don't. The BBEG is a Psychic with several OA spells (6 if I counted correctly). I'll just quote his summary : "Mutant aranea psychic 5 (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 5 180,
Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 2 30, Pathfinder RPG Occult
Adventures 60)" . That really pretty much sums it up.

The set of books used are "Pathfinder RPG Core
Rulebook, Advanced Class Guide (ACG), Advanced Player’s
Guide (APG), Advanced Race Guide (ARG), Occult Adventures
(OA), Ultimate Combat (UC), Ultimate Equipment (UE),
Ultimate Magic (UM), Bestiary 2, Bestiary 3, Bestiary 4, and
Bestiary 5".

We then had the two mandatory little subsystems (in fairness, these were both fine on their own. Just not when put into an adventure that is already complicated).

4) So, I have to learn what this new class does, what the various monsters do, create several maps, keep track of lots of things, read all the pregens so I know how to adlib, come up with ways to handle an amusing but very difficult to run beastie and how it communicates. All in one scenario. No. Just too much.

5) So, when I ran it I got the strong impression from the GM that I was "breaking it". From my point of view, I took the ONLY logical path. We were wandering around the Warehouse when the 1/2ling NPC showed up and recognized one of our characters. Obviously, to me, letting her go was INSANE. She'd raise the alarm immediately. So I wanted to kill her. I'm an Evil Aspis on a Mission and my Mission pretty much includes killing that NPC. But no, letting her go just raises the enemy alertness level a little bit. That MAKES NO SENSE.

Even worse is the potential replacement character. The other players are expected to just watch while it eats a companion and go "Oh, ok, we'll trust you now"? This is metagaming of the worst possible type. The PLAYERS know what is going on so the characters are supposed to act totally idiotically.

6) I'm only going to discuss Eramay, the Cavalier pregen that I played. Note that this is one of the 4 Pregens that are supposed to be pretty much always played.

So, given that a pregen created specifically and exclusively for this adventure invested a feat into knowledge religion in order to get a massive +15 on that skill one would kinda expect Knowledge Religion to be at least sporadically useful, right?

No, of course not.

Well, ok, at least it will have the skills to participate in the "sneak into the place" part of the adventure, right?

Well, it has a +7 in one of the 3 skills. And the DCs are only 20+. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Partly because they chose a poor archetype of a poorish class the character is no great shakes. Lots of abilities that I'm fortunately experienced enough to realize aren't worth the action economy to ever try and actually use. Admittedly its not that bad in combat as long as the player realizes that you 2 hand the scimitar and power attack a lot. So, a pre-gen that is going to fare a LOT better in the hands of an experienced player.

And different Pre-gens had wildly different difficulties in obtaining their secondary success condition.

7) We found the combats pretty easy. Of course, due to time constraints we skipped the optional. We'd killed the 1/2ling early and so she had no guards with her which made that fight trivial. And there wasn't time to fight the guards with the mage.

The end fight was, due admittedly to a combination of good teamwork and some luck, pretty easy. Fly was cast on me and I was in the bad guys face at the end of round 1. One crit later and the fight was effectively over.

8) The whole laboratory underground and the interaction with the Thelatos felt very, very bizarre. There was a slight bit of foreshadowing in the briefing but only a little. As the GM said, it felt like they were already trying to drum up interest in StarFinder.

It was, at least for me, a massive WTF moment. I mean, LAST year was the year of the Robot :-)


We've lost that "Special" feeling

**( )( )( )

This review is from the perspective of a player at GenCon.

I will admit it may have been our GM, but this scenario fell short of expectations. As far as a followup to last year's "Serpents Rise" it failed to live up to the positive feelings of getting to be "the bad guys" for once. It had more of the feel of a standard pathfinder mission and is not worthy of being called a "Special."

Sorry John, but not one of your better works.


A nice bit of role reversal!

****( )

When running an adventure like this at a convention, I think that having "Experience Required:None (You've never played before - rules will be taught)" listed as the experience required might be disingenuous. These pregens are complicated, and not something to be attempted by new players.

Once you get going, you will love this scenario IF, and this is a BIG IF, you enjoy roleplaying. I mean truly enjoy roleplaying. I don't mean just putting a brogue on your hard drinking dwarf, or making LOTR jokes about the halflings or Gandalf's taking all of the XP for the Balrog. I mean the sort of roleplaying where you can be given an assigned role, with their motivations and truly run with it.

If you can't do that sort of willing suspension and getting out of your own box and getting into the box that the author of the scenario has offered you, then I recommend you find something else to play.

I won't even begin to talk about the scenario plot without spoiling it, because I'd fail. What I will do is state that the motivations and backgrounds of the characters were phenomenal. Even better than the prequel scenario (which I will write up next). The reoccurrence of a character from before was both cool and eerie, as that was the NPC I had played before. I highly recommend that people play the prequel first though, because the continuity will help, and where possible play the same character you did before (3 of the NPCs in this scenario were retreads from the prequel).

Being Aspis agents was a nice departure from the norm. As I said before though, do this one with role-players and a great GM!


Work In Progress

***( )( )

The scenario experience from a play-through at PaizoCon, subject to change as I continue to mentally review this:

There was a *clear* effort and love spent on this scenario, as evidenced by the depth of material and complexity behind the encounters and interactions on a level that exceeded the 'feel' of RiseThe spiritual predecessor.

Pros:

There was a LOT of REALLY NEAT STUFF in this scenario, including a point where a previous NPC from Rise shows up and there's a collective burst of "OH, CRAP!" from the table.

Also kind of neat was to see a different direction and motivation and a for lack of a better term sanctioned 'death vagrancy'.

Group Synergy Bonus:

When the entire party was together and working as a unit, it was fairly impressive, even with lack of system mastery on the player side. That was refreshing.

Interesting Character Backgrounds:

After it became painfully obvious we were going to fail to complete the mission in the time constraints, we shared our personal briefing notes, and it was fun to see where the characters were coming from.

Cons:

LONG -- Sadly, because of the above REALLY NEAT STUFF our party did not get to the 'back' half of the scenario until eighty percent of the time slot (5 hours) was complete. At that point, it was an assured party failure and the party components began looking for means to try and at least complete *just their own secondary conditions*.

As a result, party cohesion went out the window and while not PvP it was a very uncomfortable and distasteful RP experience. The loss of both prestige was annoying, but there was no cure for it as written and run.

CHARACTER COMPLEXITY -- It is difficult to grab a pregen under optimal circumstances, and these circumstances were near sub-optimal.

Even with the helpful 'cheat sheets' that someone devised, it still took us the better part of an hour to get even a rough idea of what our characters were about.

A future recommendation to mitigate this is to make the characters available in whole to the players well before the scenario, so those who HAVEN'T played a given class combo have a chance to work out the mechanics rather than within the already straining constraints of time noted above.

SET UP TO FAIL -- Given the first comment in the above CON section, I was playing Rataji, an admittedly poor choice on my part as I am not familiar with prepared casters.

Given background, though, it felt like (especially after we engaged quasi-passive-aggressive PvP mode) like this was a scenario designed to kill the characters for their perceived failures, leaving me to wonder at least if perhaps that was an unspoken design intent. Pretty sure that wasn't the case, but it was hard to tell.

Perhaps if the 'personal briefings' were tightened up a little bit, that might mitigate some of that feeling?

AMBIGUOUS NPC -- There's a helpful NPC (for a limited definition of 'helpful') that has a communication barrier.

Unfortunately, our GM utilized the method in a way that left us confused and distracted rather than focused on the scenario, and he admitted that he probably would have used a different method if he'd seen how badly it was throwing us off our track.

BRIEFING NPC -- This could have easily have been chopped and replaced with a printed letter and an info-dump (and some block-text) to expedite the 'front half' of the scenario.

It might make things a bit more complex, but it'd stop the 'asking of dumb time-wasting questions' and 'players not making knowledge checks' for information they kind of need to know about the scenario. I realize it's counter-intuitive, but these ARE L8 characters.

If it could be safely assumed they got the briefing in Rise just fine, then it should be safely assumed that the method could work here, as well.

'POINTS' -- While this is a handy GM tool, it is a very quantitative measure for a qualitative rp environment. If this could be altered to 'general goals' rather than 'must have this hard number', it might help with the 'unit cohesion' issue mentioned above.

We didn't know about the points until wrap-up, but it was clear that when our characters did or did not perform actions notes were being made about that.

In Summary
For my play experience, this scenario desperately needs a tag on it along the lines of 'FOR EXPERIENCED PLAYERS ONLY' and 'Potentially Lengthy Scenario' to prevent it trying to be crammed into a four-hour slot.

Our GM had a hard time fitting it into a *five-hour* time slot. Given the way it ran, I can't imagine it fitting into four currently.

It shows a lot of promise.

It also needs some work to clean up to a level where it can be run in a large room with hundreds of fellow gamers talking at conversational levels or louder.

I want to give it a higher rating because of the clear work that was put INTO it, but I can't in honesty give it more given the experience I had playing it.


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