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Pathfinder Society

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-08—Tyranny of Winds, Part 1: The Sandstorm Prophecy (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1-5.

As a repurposed prison, the Sandswept Hall Pathfinder lodge in Sothis is an imposing target for thieves, yet an enemy operative recently broken in, stole valuable property, and escaped into the sun-scorched deserts of eastern Osirion. The PCs are the best disposed to follow the culprit's trail. Be warned, though, for the Scorpion Coast is the battleground of powerful elemental tribes that have assailed Osirion's frontier with cruel sandstorms and deadly force for millennia.

Content in The Sandstorm Prophecy also contributes directly to the ongoing storyline of the Scarab Sages faction.

The Sandstorm Prophecy is the first scenario in the three-part "Tyranny of Winds" campaign arc. It is followed by Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-10: Secrets of the Endless Sky and Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-12: Caught in the Eclipse. All three chapters are intended to be played in order.

Written by Charlie Brooks.

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Product Reviews (10)
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Poorly written and irrelevant to the plot

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The scenario starts with contradictory orders: a thief has stolen a society artifact, so you should hurry after her to recover it. But if you see any interesting ruins on the way, ignore your urgency, stop, and explore them. It should be no surprise that you spend the entire evening in these "interesting" ruins and have no chance to catch your quarry.

Turns out there are two tribes that have an unexplained prophecy and think you are The Chosen Ones (no reason given, and despite you being unknown low-level characters at this point). You can state that you're clearly not prophesied, but that's just what A Chosen One would say, right? So you have no choice but to enter an ancient ruin to prove that you're The Chosen Ones. This takes the form of three rather easy tests.

Then you run into an NPC, and the scenario expects you to murderhobo the sh*t out of her. You have no reason to fight, neither does she, and plausibly a few social checks should resolve the matter. But no, this is not allowed, you have to fight. Finally, you meet both tribes at the exit, they pick a fight with each other, and each expects you to murderhobo the sh*t out of the other tribe. Again, no reason to fight, you haven't even met one tribe before, and social checks sound like a reasonable solution. But no, it's mandatory fight time again. Oh, and it turns out you weren't The Chosen Ones after all.

If you're wondering how this relates to the seasonal plot, it totally doesn't. Neither the ruins nor the tribes reappear in the two sequels, they're basically irrelevant. Indeed, the second scenario starts with the exact same situation: that thief has stolen the artifact, and you should hurry after her. This sidetrack hasn't accomplished anything.

To be fair, we have a fun group and a good GM, so it was a nice evening anyway. But this was despite the scenario, which is embarrassingly bad for season eight. So do yourself a favor, consider the three-parter a two-parter, and start with Part Two instead.

Disappointing and with many shortcomings

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Due to circumstances I was unable to play this triptych earlier. It basically meant that Tyranny of Winds ended up being a sequence of scenarios I was looking rather forward to, especially given the planar vibe this season has. When I finally got a chance to play the first part last Sunday, I instantly signed up. Little did I know I’d end up being rather disappointed. I apologize in advance, but I’m going to be brutally honest in the rest of the review below.

The premise is okay. Someone stole something, so you have to track that person down. Now if you’ve played Through Maelstrom Rift, you’ll be a bit surprised if you find out who the thief is. However, that’s of later concern I suppose. First you have to make haste and chase the culprit. So far so good. But then you also get a side mission of ‘study and take note of interesting things along the way’. I’m sorry, but that instantly raised a red flag for me: how is taking rubbings, for example, supposed to help you to gain ground on that thief? It does not make any sense. Then again, I remained optimistic. Perhaps the two would come together.

Sadly, that’s not the case. Instead something happens and you are (mistakenly) seen as prophets by one of two factions. Which faction depends on a choice you made earlier. That’s an interesting twist, perhaps, but the scenario then fails to mention what you’re supposed to be the prophets of. That itself is rather awkward and does the storyline no good. That faction then tells you they can help you track down the thief, but only after you do a couple of tests for them to proof you’re the prophets. The scenario expects you to do so as well, which is in conflict with the notion of having to swiftly track down the thief. As a player you know you have to do this, while in character that’s rather debatable. Luckily you can justify it due to the side mission you’ve received, but it doesn't really sit well.

The series of trials are decent at best, with some clearly better than others. The first one is an interesting take on a certain skill, but is nothing more than just rolling dice. The second test features an interesting, albeit easy fight that features a pretty fun environmental effect. The third room is by far the best feature of this scenario. I’m not going to spoil too much, but we had a lot of problems having the animal companion (an axebeak no less) traverse this room. The fourth trial was, in our case, just a small role-play encounter which we completely managed to destroy with a diplomacy result of 46. That said, I think the whole concept of what is going on in that room is really interesting and I do hope to encounter that individual again in a later scenario.

After that there’s the obligatory final encounter. The other of the two factions shows up and you basically are forced to pick a side. You’ve not even met that party before and yet you must choose with whom you want to align. I’m sorry to have to say this, but that is absolutely terrible game design. When played as written, there’s no option to talk this out or to get them to stand down. There’s no further background you can use to base a decision on. There’s no tangible explanation why they even fight over whether or not a city should remain hidden other than ‘there’s a hidden power’. In short, you have nothing to go on except for the fact that you have a guide who has, at least so far, not betrayed you. I as a player and as a character would have flat-out refused to pick a side and I’m incredibly disappointed how this scenario ends.

The initial premise of catching a thief is okay, but apparently you’re forced to spend a bunch of time doing something else to proof you’re something that doesn’t even get explained. It’s like being told to make haste, but first you can take a trip around the world, visit relatives, spend some time on the beach and take care of some other chores. I’m exaggerating, but it’s the feeling I’m left with. In short: the premise does not deliver. The final encounter is in my honest opinion the worst I’ve seen in a long time in terms of context. Overall I’d say there are just many things that are lacking or disappointing in this scenario, though I somewhat doubt if it’s the author’s fault. It’s more as if the final editing removed a whole lot of (in hindsight mandatory) details.

That said I’ll try to remain optimistic though: I can see two things that are the saving grace of this scenario. First there’s the third test which can (and probably will) be hilarious. By itself that raises the numbers of stars I give this scenario by one. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there the fact that the other two parts of this triptych might actually be worth suffering through this one.

Just Not Interesting

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Sandstorm is a skill based scenario with some combat and roleplay.

The story and scenario experience is just not that interesting. You’ll spend most your time making climb, swim, fortitude, and fly checks. Too much of the scenario was spent making skill checks for boons and the secondary mission, telling a story that no one cared about.

Skill checks where the result doesn’t really matter are not fun. So what if it takes me 10 minutes of game time to climb up a cliff face or swim across a pool? There was no real chance of dying, it just wasted everyone’s gaming time. There are numerous examples of this in Sandstorm.

For GM preparation, this scenario took more time than average to prepare and it wasn’t a fun read. The boons, primary and secondary missions, and faction missions were not straight forward and easy to understand. Please, do not make boons like this, please remove boons altogether if I need to make notes just to understand what should and should not be included. In practice I’m sure most GMs will just give their players all of the boons (which is my experience in general).

There were a lot of details in this scenario, I’m sure that GMs will make mistakes (particularly in A3 where the dangerous effect should only be 1 round until a new save is made). For GMs there were a lot of rules that needed to be looked up.

There are several sections and details that are not relevant to the scenario (Ex. Dazzled, the design around the Sandstone Source, talking about tea, etc) and by including them, it wastes the players time and the GMs time when preparing the scenario. This scenario already runs long.

The final combat was too easy.

If the two powerful elementals are in the fight, they more of less cancel each other out, and even though they attack the lesser elementals, the only challenge to the encounter is really the lesser elementals. Sigh.

Some GMs will (incorrectly) force the players to make a choice at the end, which players dislike.

The scenario punishes the PCs if they aren't murder hobos in certain circumstances.

In the case of Iyasset, she wants you to kill Qiarah. My PCs were so disgusted by this suggestion, even when later prompted with convincing her to leave the Sandflow Source, they ignored Iyasset altogether and lost substantial gold and attitude. If they hadn't switched to Elsharon they would have lost almost everything.

”Detailed Rating”:

Length: Long (4.5 hours) and I was completely prepared with pre-drawn maps and notes on everything from environment effects to skill checks. I even skipped some of the pre-amble at the start.
Experience: GM with 3 pregens and 2 OK PCs, 1 strong PC at subtier 1-2.
Sweet Spot: Subtier 4-5 in my opinion, the combats will be more challenging.
Entertainment: I personally had fun with the NPCs, which is the only part I enjoyed. (4/10)
Story: A basic uninteresting story. (2/10)
Roleplay: As written the NPCs are jerks and could be unlikable and/or boring. (4/10)
Combat/Challenges: Most of the encounters are complete pushovers and not interesting, but one of them can be deadly (if played incorrectly). (5/10)
Maps: Better than average. (8/10)
Boons: Too complicated and not useful enough to be worthwhile. (1/10)
Uniqueness: Another trial scenario. Yawn. (1/10)
GM Preparation: Not fun. I’ve prepared tier 7-11 scenarios that were less complicated and a more enjoyable to prepare than this.

Overall: An uninteresting story wrapped in skill checks that eat time but are inconsequential. (3/10).


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tl;dr: no highpoint; cliche NPCs; no solution; no depth - storywise;

I've run this game just yesterday. In the tier 1-2 with seasoned PnP-players.

First off, my players had no skill monkey. So the whole backstory as far as it goes, remained a mystery. They got all the clues available without the different skill checks (Planes, Local, History, Nature, Arcane, Craft: Stonemasonry), but there was nothing to gain.

First the theft itself, with little information regarding what was stolen, why for example or how or how difficult a theft it was.

This adventure had a good start, Sothis is a good location. An inspection throughout the city, meeting people, chasing snitches, would have been very interesting. If the adventure would have made this theft a great big crime, showing the effort it took and therefore the importance and power of those involved. The answer the players are finally getting "She is involved with the yadda-yadda-group." would have been far more rewarding. But no the players are looking for the information what she did after that and where she went to, because their plothook "Something-was-stolen... get it back", which is what one usually aims for, was important to them. The theft and information which group she worked for never connected in the beginning and therefore wasnt satisfying.

Instead, players get forcefed the cliche animosity of characters without any depth to them. I am very windy - I am very earthy - We hate each other - done. *sigh*

In the end my players preferred the wind elemental (which they first met) simply because it was talking faster. Of course, they didn't act in combat. There was no reason given, to prefer any side. Which in my eyes led to often described problem that players try to make peace. Which would have been interesting and impactful. If it had been the focus of the whole story all along. It wasn't.

This could have been also an interesting point and goal, but no. Wasted. Instead players return to the lodge and get the feedback, that the important mission wasn't a success, someone more experienced pathfinders will do that. Which is of course after getting shipped out of absalom to a terribly dangerous and wondrous place. Which is all in all insulting to the players and the GM.

Lastly even if my players would have gotten all the information available, it's all over the place. And everything leds to the conclusion, that this is only the first part, of a bigger story perhaps. Owning the second part, which is more interesting (but I haven't played it yet) I must admit, it doesn't deliver on this. Because the second part has yet another story it's based unto.

The scenario had different skill checks, nice places (not interesting or fascinating, nice), the opportunity for combat and not combat. So it earned a star.

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