Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-10—Tyranny of Winds, Part 2: Secrets of the Endless Sky (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1-5.

Recent discoveries suggest what was a simple theft is part of a grander plot that directs the PCs to floating metropolis of Armun Kelisk, capitol of the djinni empire. As the Pathfinders pursue the culprit and uncover the past that has brought them in conflict, they may find they have more in common than they had expected—including a shared enemy.

Content in Secrets of the Endless Sky also contributes directly to the ongoing storyline of the Sovereign Court faction.

Secrets of the Endless Sky is the second scenario in the three-part "Tyranny of Winds" campaign arc. It is preceded by Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-08: The Sandstorm Prophecy and followed by Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-12: Caught in the Eclipse. All three chapters are intended to be played in order.

Written by Crystal Malarsky.

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Social scenario, but only for murderhoboes

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Again, this is not a trilogy but really a set of three unrelated scenarios, written by different people with very little communication or coordination between them. Keep that in mind before you start. This is the only one of the three that is somewhat ok.

After the disappointing first part, you find yourself in the same situation again: a thief has stolen a Society artifact, go chase after her to get it back. Interestingly, the thief went to the Plane of Air. But you get a contradictory order again: if you find some info about the Untouchable Opal, please forget about the thief and get that info instead. Just like before, you end up chasing the secondary order all evening, with no means of catching up to your quarry.

The scenario starts out strong. It does a lot with the exotic surroundings: there are floating creatures everywhere, transport is by flying carpet, and you get to talk to numerous exotic NPCs to figure out information on the thief or the Opal. The best part of the scenario is a grand party where you meet djinni, veela, and even an invisible stalker. As numerous clues unfold, a mysterious society appears to be at the heart of it all.

And then, the plot comes to a screeching halt. From this point, it assumes the PCs are unthinking murderhoboes, and gives no other options. A bunch of society thugs confront you, and you have no choice but to fight. In the society's headguarters, a group of guards appear, and you fight those too. Then you return to an earlier location, a team of evil elementals turn up, and you must fight them as well. Oh, and there are two extremely easy puzzles. This is all to find an ancient book about the Opal. It has been lost for centuries, so of course your team of low-level Pathfinders finds it within the hour. Yup.

Now there's nothing wrong with a solid combat scenario, but this one is particularly hamfisted about it, and the fights fail to be interesting. Where the earlier encounters really establish the elemental setting, the later encounters don't do anything with it, and the opponents are basically sacks of HP with no noteworthy abilities. And it's just annoying when combat is forced upon a scenario if neither side has a compelling reason for attacking the other.

Again, because of the good GM and good group, we had a fun day anyway. It feels like the two halves of this scenario were written by different people entirely. The roleplaying half is good, the combat half is mediocre at best. And it's almost entirely unrelated to the first and third "parts", which leaves me wondering why this is called an "arc" in the first place.


Better than part 1, yet still flawed

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Even though part 1 was disappointing, we as a group decided to stick with the series and play part 2. We figured it couldn’t get worse and, hooray, it wasn’t . However, that doesn’t mean it was great either. Just like it’s prequel, this part has flaws, albeit less. I shall address the two biggest flaws first, and then comment on why I still liked the scenario regardless.

Flaw number one would be the fact that the storyline is completely missing between part 1 and 2. Sure, certain elements are the same, but it really feels more as if we’re dealing with two separate scenarios rather than a trilogy of sorts. I honestly think it would have been better if the whole ‘part x’ had been removed from the name and if they had removed all the weak connections between the parts.

Flaw number two is the fact once again certain combats are unavoidable. It’s as if the writer is convinced that combat is the only outcome, which honestly makes absolutely no sense. Just like in part one our party is forced to fight in a situation that could very well be solved in a peaceful manner. I’m incredibly disappointed by this. It’s like being a murderhobo is the only good way to play this scenario. In the end we just solved it with a glitterdust and then talked it over, saying we were willing to talk to the leader in order to understand their point of view. A short summary would be that forced fights need to make sense. These didn’t.

Having mentioned those major flaws, and ignoring some small ones such as ‘why do we have to climb on the plane of air when we have flying carpets’, let’s continue with the fun parts. The start of the scenario has you go to a social meeting where you have to mingle and gain information from a couple of individuals. It’s similar to Bid for Alabastrine, yet less complicated. This is basically a role-playing exercise that not everyone enjoys. I personally, however, like them a lot. It was by far my favorite part of the scenario, not in the least because of the unique and diverse NPCs. It made the social aspect of this adventure a blast, though the DC’s maybe could have been a bit higher.

While I did comment that I didn’t like the fights and their mandatory nature, I would like to mention that the combats were challenging. They packed quite a punch and I imagine that if we hadn’t been able to soak it up and do the same amount of burstdamage ourselves, a few of us would have been knocked out or worse. The fights, however, were fair.

To conclude: compared to part 1 this was a significant improvement, yet still flawed. The roleplay and the NPCs was great, but the storyline is a disaster. I hope part 3 can tie it all together, but I honestly don’t expect that to be the case.


Boring, Broken, and full of Cheese

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The good - I'll get back to this when I can think of something that was good.

The boring - the story is, as other reviewers wrote, just piss poor. There's absolutely nothing that makes it feel like this is a continuation of part one outside of the start to the scenario. I mean the briefing tells you that it is part two, but then all that goes out the window and it's not related. The social stuff at the beginning gives you the illusion that this is a modern scenario that won't simply be one of murder hobos that defined seasons 0-2. Don't be fooled, this social encounter is just to throw you off the murder hobo trail coming.

The broken - the enemy tactics are stupid cruel for a 1-5. My party played up but had a few 1-2's in party and all they could do was cower from the burning steam clouds and then stand around unable to do anything in the obscuring mist that starts the boss fight. Oh spoiler... the boss is awful. After a few rounds my character lead the 'let's just leave' charge and left the building... as a player I wish I could have left the gaming store but alas, my ride wanted to see how it ended. For a low level scenario the boss tactics are stupid broken, especially since they are a repeat of some of the initial fight tactics that made it drag on so long and punished 1-2's.

The cheese - do you have a paladin in your party? anyone good or lawfully aligned? You're screwed, quit now. Are you all just a bunch of murder hobo thugs? well then don't worry the second act is written to reward you. Remember, I told you that the social was to throw you off the trail, don't fall for it and murder hobo your way to victory. Really really freaking stupid.

I think I'm done with PFS if this is the future.


Cool Encounters

****( )

I would highly recommend this scenario. I enjoyed the goals of most of the opposition of this adventure and how it made sense running a non-evil enemy. I enjoyed the tactics and the stat blocks felt like they were on point and provided interesting combats which is very good as such a low level scenario. It was a great scenario, I would be happy to run it many more times and, again, would encourage others to pick it up.

Puzzles

I felt disappointed in both the puzzles though. The first felt like it didn't have enough pay off and it led the party to believe more that they were missing additional treasure or information. The second ended up feeling pretty trivial. It is hard to say because puzzles of that type tend to be either you immediately know the answer or you will never figure it out.

Reoccuring Friends

The reintroduction of the NPC from several years ago was enjoyable, but I did find it disappointing that because of the level range of this adventure, the original adventure he came from, and the time between the release of both, I don't believe that there is any realistic chance that a single character will naturally play both of these scenarios in a "correct" order. I do hope this character is in more scenarios because I do enjoy having this sort of continuity between adventures, meeting characters I had encountered previously whether or not there are boons attached to the meeting.

Faction Missions

The way the Sovereign Court goals integrated with the scenario reminded me a lot of older scenarios in a poor way. For these PCs, this encounter are important for them in and out of character. But for other PCs it is a distraction and irrelevant to the adventure. It would be nice to just be able to roleplay with these characters, but the PCs have goals they are trying to achieve and none of these NPCs offer anything to achieve those goals leading the PCs into dead ends and somewhat confusing them with minimal information results.

I would have liked to seen these Sovereign Court NPCs better integrated with the scenario and players for all factions. Give them information that the PCs might find some informative to their immediate goals. In the adventure where it calls out that Sovereign Court PCs are able to call upon the aid of the NPCs, just strike out Sovereign Court and allow all PCs that option.

Again, I do love the adventure and I know most of this is talking about the parts I felt could be improved, it is largely because I just that I felt most of the adventure was perfect and I would suggest that others check this scenario out.


Nearly Perfect

*****

I write reviews giving 0-3 stars for crunch and 0-3 for fluff, and do a good/bad/ugly for each.

Fluff: 2.5 Stars

The Good: I have noted that this season has been much more focused on its 'theme' than previous years, which I enjoy. The box-text descriptions were elegantly phrased, having a resplendent imagery I enjoyed hearing as a player and reading as GM. The NPCs were interesting and had fun things to say, and occasionally hearkened to scenarios past. The story was fairly sensible overall, and matched the raison d'etre of the Society well. It was archaeological research, which is the reason the Society exists (sort of).

The Bad: It is difficult to understand why certain things are happening, why some things haven't already been found by others, or why certain people show up when they do. Events just felt...contrived sometimes. This is where the half-star is lost.

The Ugly: I felt that the Sovereign Court faction goal could really have been for any faction, and there wasn't sufficient reason to limit it to a single one. There is also a riddle that is trivially easy, and has one of the most common riddle answers.

Crunch - 2.5 stars

The Good - There is a healthy balance of social encounters, other skill checks, and combat. Some combats have stated methods of bypass, others are mandatory (I like that). The final boss is a significant challenge (at least in the high tier) using terrain, planar characteristics, allies, feats, and spells synergistically and to terrifying effect. I nearly TPKed the party, but by intelligent play they pulled out a victory without any permanent casualties. The social encounter was well implemented, and there is a neat little puzzle/trap encounter. This diversity of challenges allows virtually any character type to have their day in the sun, and is rarely so well executed. I applaud the author's diligence in this regard.

The Bad - There are NPCs that can be bluffed that have a +0 Sense Motive score. There are NPCs that attempt to Bluff the party with a +1 Bluff modifier. Those are both problematic.

The Ugly - I have to spoiler these.

Final Boss details:
The final encounter is against an arcanist, and his most potent spell is lightning bolt. It is the only 3rd level spell he has prepared, and a sixth level arcanist with 18 INT gets 3 casts of his 3rd level spells daily. Unfortunately, his spells/day limits are not specified, which might mislead GMs into believing he can only cast it once before moving on to his lower level spells. This is incredibly debilitating to him as a challenge. I also had trouble deciphering the final encounter's map in terms of 3D elevations (though maybe that's just me), and generally speaking I don't think 3D encounters work very well. I think it would be good to tone down on those; there have been a lot this season already (which, admittedly makes sense for this year's theme) and they are very frustrating to run. I think we all know that the PFRPG doesn't fare very well in more than two dimensions, so maybe limit how many aerial combats we have to run.

Some weirdness about the first combat encounter:
The first combat encounter in the scenario is against some variant shock lizards, who threaten the PCs to stop asking so many questions. Unfortunately, their +0 Sense Motive score can allow PCs to fairly easily "agree" to their terms. At that point, I don't see why the lizards would attack, given that their goal has (to their minds) been accomplished. This is not in and of itself an issue, but it is problematic that there are no written contingencies for later plot points that rely on the lizards having been defeated.


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If I play in scenario #6-11 and receive Djinni’s Admiration boon in other character (6 level now), can I buy a carpet of flying with discount on Jairo’s Generosity boon for my character, that play in this scenario (2 level now)?

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