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Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–27: Beyond Azlant Ridge (PFRPG) PDF

***( )( ) (based on 14 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 3–7.

Six years ago, the Pathfinder Society narrowly avoided disaster at an archaeological excavation in the Terwa Uplands. The expedition recovered and resumed its work, and at long last they have learned what the ancient culture had hoped to guard. That’s when all correspondence ended. Fearing the excavation may be besieged once more, the Society has sent the PCs to save who they can, salvage what they must, and uncover a secret that has laid buried outside Bloodcove for millennia.

Written by Ron Lundeen.

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Product Reviews (14)
1 to 5 of 14 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | next > last >>

Average product rating:

***( )( ) (based on 14 ratings)

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Accomplishing the impossible

*****

I played through this scenario with a group of experiences players in the low tier.

I have enjoyed the "Azlant Ridge" scenarios so far and this does not veer from that pattern. There is a good mix of required skills as far as combat and skill checks and a variety of challenges to overcome in this dungeon crawl. It presents some interesting NPC's and set pieces and manages to do a lot with the dungeon crawl format.

Spoiler:

Pathfinder society scenarios often make use of what I like to call event fights. These are combat encounters where the combat is not the focus but really a backdrop to solving a puzzle or running through some skill checks. They are often not properly balanced for difficulty and I generally find them quite tedious. This scenario includes one of the only 2 such fights I have encountered that I can say I genuinely enjoyed. It is threatening and challenging but also represents a genuinely interesting confrontation. It takes work on the players parts to solve it but without being unfair. I'll spare additional details in the review.

There are some rough edges such as a very long run time with no optional encounter, but on the whole this scenario is wonderful, doubly so if you enjoy a challenge.


I think I'm in love.

*****

I give 0-3 stars for fluff and 0-3 for crunch, and do a good/bad/ugly for each. I give this 3 stars for fluff and 2 for crunch.

Fluff (good): There is a great deal of foreshadowing, and its actually used properly. The narrative pacing is sensible, and the plot is creative and unique. It hearkens to previous scenarios without being derivative. There are unique and interesting items, set pieces (artwork, artifacts, etc.) are well executed to give hints at what to do without blatantly telling the players, and the dungeon is designed to pace the mission to match the narrative flow. There are even a few great NPCs that we enjoyed interacting with. Events towards the end of the mission are incredibly cinematic, to the point that I would close my eyes and smile imagining what the GM described like when I was a kid. It was a thrill to the imagination that all scenarios should aspire to. Magnificent.

Fluff (bad): As far as fluff goes, I can't think of any real criticisms. It was just brilliant.

Fluff (ugly): I do have a few nitpicks, however. There was an interaction between a set piece and a mind-affecting spell-like that was difficult to reconcile in terms of spell durations, which felt off. There was also an attempt to deceive the party that broadcast itself too much to be a real concern.

Crunch (good): There were non-bypassable, unique and challenging encounters. There were also social checks, ability checks (with reasonable DCs), non-social skill sections, and some 'out-of-the-box thinking' bits. There were elements that required some intelligent play. The final encounter was a truly unique experience that required teamwork, forethought, and some luck in equal measure. Actions taken throughout the dungeon had very meaningful impact on the final battle. Unique items were well designed. Overall, this scenario was quite good.

This scenario also does something with encounters that is as vital a design element as it is rare: each encounter can potentially grant long-lasting negative status conditions to the players, such that challenge might increase over time, and the players get 'worn down' beyond simple expenditure of resources. This is how a good dungeon crawl works, especially in PFS where wands of cure light wounds are practically limitless. The post combat "I use 6 charges off my wand and am hunky-dory" completely kills the suspense in the vast majority of missions. This scenario does not suffer from that problem in the least.

Crunch (bad): There were some issues with the mechanics, I felt. This scenario has shown me just how hard it is to hit the sweet spot in terms of scenario length. While every mission in Season 8 feels like a glorified quest, Beyond Azlant Ridge proves challenging to run in a four-hour slot. It has numerous combats, none of which can be truly bypassed nor are any optional encounters. There was also a superfluous mechanic for opening doors that accomplished little beyond eating into run-time. Honestly, the major change that would help most would be eliminating the first combat entirely. It was completely unchallenging, and just used time without real payoff. That's where the star is lost.

Crunch (ugly): I kinda think there should be a good method of disseminating more information about a particular set-piece involving water. The haunt also was a bit obvious, and solved so easily that it didn't feel necessary. Maybe it was better in the high-tier.

Overall, the flaws in this scenario are minor, and its virtues are just brilliant. I feel like I just took a Master's class in scenario design.

There is one more thing I think worth saying: this scenario is very difficult. It is, however, not insurmountably difficult with an intelligent and well-composed party. Being difficult is not, in and of itself, a criticism, even though others reviewing it have seen it so. There's a lot of whinging about "my character died" or, "we didn't know what to do." Well, tough. There's no rule in PFS saying that the party always wins, that characters never die, or that TPKs are impossible. Very few scenarios are sufficiently difficult that there is risk of those outcomes, and this is one exception. Frankly, I wish a more even percentage of scenarios were truly wicked in terms of difficulty, but I'll just have to settle for the rare gem like this that requires my party to pull out their A-game. I love hard scenarios, because they're the ones that leave me with a sense of backstory. They're the ones I remember for years afterwards. They're the ones that my friends and I tell stories about our wily tactics that just barely saved the day. For those that can't handle the possibility of losing, either avoid this scenario or learn courage.


Tough but tasty cookie

***( )( )

Played this Magabeus.

I find it a tough one to rate.

Basically its a great scenario, up untill the end, then it can go either way: Either its really painfull, or its really great.

The last fight is a real tough one, and the idea behind it is really cool. A scene straight out of a blockbuster movie. But now its your character that is actively saving the world. Or at least the Mwangi expanse.
But how it goes is real swingy and a lot depend if you have the appropriate skills, so you know what is going on. If you dont, then its going to be really tough, to the point of near impossible.

I'll rate it at three stars, as the flavor is super duper good. The fights are real thematic and tough but fair, but the four player adjustment isnt that well thought out. And it looses a star for me that there isnt an alternative means to find out things about the last fight if you are missing certain skills. That's a great oversight in my opinion.

I did have a lot of fun playing, and I crossed of two boons from chronicles during this adventure :)


Is this really where we want PFS to go to?

*( )( )( )( )

I played this at high tier with 4-player adjustment. (6 players, APL 5)

Note that I do not read reviews for scenarios that I am about to play as I think it spoils part of the fun. I might change that after playing through this one.

I had high hopes for this scenario. I really love The Before the Dawn scenarios and a follow-up can only be a good thing, right? "NO!"

This scenario caused my first character dead. It is not that this is the first character that died (I had 5 deads before), but it is the first time that the scenario caused a character to die.

My opinions on the encounters
The first encounter is trivial and is a waste of playing time.

The second and third encounters are great, they make a lot of sense in the location and adventure. Despite the fact that my tripper monk could not trip that much I liked these encounters.

The last encounter is also a waste of playing time. Why: because there was no fun. There was only: what more shenanigans can we pull of to defeat the writer. In my opinion PFS should not be: who can pull the weirdest trick out of the big hat.

That way we get into an arms race, which nobody will win. I don't mind the occasional hard scenario. There is hard mode for that, we have spoilers like Bonekeep has. It would have made sense to include a warning at the start of the scenario.

Last combat:
My monk can get to a plus 20 on acrobatics. I rolled mediocre to get past the BBG without provoking and contemplated to use my reroll on that acrobatics check. The GM asked me what the highest number was that I could reach with a natural 20 on the roll and told me flat out that I should not use my reroll, because I would fail anyway.

The BBG managed to exactly hit my AC of 27 (according to the GM later with a +20 to hit modifier) and proceeded with a grapple check (grab), which it could only fail on a natural one because of insane modifiers. One round later I was dead, thanks to grapple to do damage, constrict damage and most importantly of all: no chance to get loose, even with a good escape artist modifier.

No, we did not drink from the fountain, we failed the knowledge /spellcraft checks to figure out what it does and were not prepared to drink from a source of water that the archeologists, who had been compelled had been drinking from.

Let me end with the good things about this scenario:
The lore and setting are great. The scenario really adds to both player and character knowledge, which I love.


A Great Scenario!

****( )

This scenario is one of my new favorites! It's a great overland romp and investigation and delve into an ancient Azlanti site.

Additional Comments Here

I agree that the 4-player adjustment needs reconsideration and suggest an appropriate solution in my comments linked above. But...an easy fix. -1 star for this issue and maybe some other things mentioned by Iammars. But, I don't see these issues as unfixable problems that eclipse the fun of this adventure. If you've got a table of 4, do what's necessary to ensure the quality of the experience until the scenario gets an update (hopefully soon).

I also agree that it's not the best idea to play below subtier on this one. I discouraged it at my tables.

But, aside from those things, it is an open canvas for GM creativity, an exciting return to Azlant Ridge, it has worthy combats that seemed very do-able across my 5 (non-4-player) tables; there is good balance among investigation, RP and combat; and every game was fun and exciting.

If the mark of a good scenario and run is that the players leave the table smiling and wiping the sweat from their brows after a thrilling experience, then this scenario hits the mark.

It's more dangerous than cakewalk PFS, but I don't see it as a TPK scenario in 5-6 PC territory. All my tables succeeded, albeit very narrowly in some cases, which makes it all the more exciting. No deaths. Unconscious/1 round away, yes; dead, no. And with some 4-player fixes, smaller tables can easily come into line.

To me, it seems well-matched against a typical Pathfinder party of 5-6 players and, like every scenario, deserves an appropriate level of GM prep and consideration, especially relating to how to run the final encounter. It's a challenging puzzle trap, and every PC has a job to do. So, nobody should feel left out...but there's also more than one approach.


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