Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-14: To Seal the Shadow (PFRPG) PDF

**½( )( ) (based on 34 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1-5.

To most, Mount Shibotai's devastating eruption was a footnote in Tian history. To the shadow-bound wayangs who settled the jagged crater in Minata, the volcano was the reason they inhabited Golarion at all. In their de facto capitol Inahiyi, the wayangs host an annual festival to commemorate the catastrophe that brought them into this world and forced them to ally with their neighbors against a common threat. On especially auspicious anniversaries, the wayangs invite foreigners to contribute to the ceremony, and the Pathfinder Society has negotiated the privilege of having its agents observe the sacred ceremonies as these outside participants. This is no mere anthropological opportunity, though, and the PCs may be all that stands between their world and an unspeakable evil.

Written by Jason Keeley.

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**½( )( ) (based on 34 ratings)

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Straightforward scenario, interesting setting, one part needs heavy GM prep

****( )

Reviews below thoroughly detail the 'problem' parts of To Seal the Shadow. I had the pleasure of playing this scenario online (R20) earlier this week in a pickup PFS game. I had fun. My friend also had fun. I think this module is stronger than the 2.5 star rating average at time of positing. So I thought I'd write a review.

The scenario plot was straightforward; don't go in expecting an investigation/intrigue focused scenario. I nonetheless enjoyed the progression of events: there were things for every character to do, and little twists to encourage interesting tactics and roleplay.

I particularly liked that the scenario had easily accessible background elements. To Seal the Shadow features a neat little locale with plenty of low-key opportunities for interaction with the locals. All players seemed to enjoy getting 'in character' at various points throughout the adventure, picking up on flavour 'hooks' in ways that complemented the objectives we were trying to accomplish. Unlike some scenarios which lock history, backstory, and flavor away behind high DC background skill checks or specific questions that the party doesn't think to ask, this one seemed to deliver story/background to the players well.

Picture this: it is a weekday evening. You want to play PFS. You want to play something linear with a fun and straightforward plot that can wrap in 4-5 hours. You want some flavour/background and low-key RP alongside your combats (not merely as a prelude to the dungeon entrance). To Seal the Shadow could be the scenario for you!

...if you have a DM that has visited PFS prep to get the player handouts, delivers a copy to each player at the start of the scenario, and moves the verbal duel along at a decent pace.

---
My 2 ep on the dreaded verbal duel. During scenario marshalling, our GM gave us each the handouts and instructed us to assign tactics to skills in advance. Then, at the start of the encounter, our GM was clear what our team's objective was. Time Taken > Narrative/Plot/RP advancement, but our GM was prepared and each player had a nifty little RP segment or two. It was 'okay'.

Having now used the mechanics in play, I 'see' better how UI's rules might work in a 'normal' game. So, objective accomplished for Paizo I guess?


Worst PFS I've ever played

**( )( )( )

SPOILERS AHEAD!!

I played this at GenCon 50. The first 1/3 of this is incredible--the new culture introduction, the premise, and the opening fight were wonderful. This is why it got 2 stars from me rather than 1.

The debate section is AWFUL. Introducing a clunky sub-ruleset that is so detailed & wonky, to have a debate that you're expected to not only make historical arguments about a history that you know next to nothing, but in particular styles (appeal to emotion; red herring; ad hominem, etc)...you need to be a philosophy major in order to enjoy this. I tried REALLY REALLY HARD to like this, because my 15-year-old son was in it too, but we both hated it. The only saving grace of the debate is that the PCs are expected to lose (something I had to keep reminding the other players of due to their frustration at not being able to come up with ANY arguments, let alone reasonable ones), which is itself a weird way to set up a challenge...

The final fight was also problematic. While it was a cool concept, you are forced to split the party--it is impossible to succeed without some of the party doing only skill checks, and the rest fighting to cover them.

Overall, the setting is awesome, the culture is very cool, the premise is excellent. The execution is abysmal.


Great story, unfortunate mechanic

***( )( )

Spoilers ahead!

So much to love about this scenario: the setting is invitingly weird, the NPCs are memorable, lots of nifty roleplay. From a roleplay standpoint, I particularly enjoyed having the PCs take on the roles of historical characters. The wayang kulit at the end is a great touch.

Unfortunately, the scenario is marred by the inclusion of the verbal duel rules. I have to wonder what the motivation was for using them here. I'm not saying the mechanic is bad--it might work well in a different context--but this is definitely not the place for it. It's a very heavyweight solution to a lightweight problem. It bogs down the game. Worse, it perversely penalizes characters who should be good at the challenge, making them less likely to succeed.

Mechanics aside, the scenario doesn't really provide the details necessary to run the associated encounter: The PCs are required to reenact (improvisationally) a historical argument. Unfortunately, we are given very little idea as to what the original argument was even about. It's not impossible to come up with a plausible guess, but it would have been nice to have it spelled out.


More fun than you'd think

*****

ithinking can't say exactly why Ilike the scenario, butI do. i've been waiting for more wayang content and now I have it. The concept is great, the role-playing opportunities are great, the last fight is stupendous! The debate section might get to some people, but with some prep work and handouts it is fine.

Just make sure not to run this one without preparations.


Please put Ultimate Intrigue on the PRD

***( )( )

I've played this scenario and am currently prepping it for gen con. When our group played the gm had pages of materials printed out to help ease the mechanics of the debate. Even with the materials, we ended up scrapping most of the rules and used opposing skills checks. Which was fun with roleplay.

Now that I'm prepping this scenario I want to run my head through a brick wall. I'm more than likely going to spend 80-90% of my prep time just run the debate smoothly.

Paizo please add Ultimate Intrigue to your PRD if you plan on having more scenarios utilizing mechanics from the book. That way both the pcs and gm can have a sense of the rules before the scenario is played, instead of hitting the breaks mid-game to spend 30-45 minutes learning a brand new mechanic.

This mechanic does not affect my star rating as I believe this was an idea of the design team and not the authors


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Grand Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Moar Tian Xia!

Contributor

2 people marked this as a favorite.

This sounds poised to do for the wayang what Red Harvest did for the nagaji. Nice!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I'm so happy the Wayangs are finally getting some love. I really hope it shows us a bit of how worship of Lao Shu Po, the Old Rat Woman, effects Wayang culture.

With all the Wayang characters there are in central Illinois these days, I am betting this scenario will be quite popular around here.

Silver Crusade

Soooooon....

Dark Archive

But my wayang is already level 9...

Paizo Employee Editor

8 people marked this as a favorite.

To set the mood, I wrote this scenario by only the light of a candle made from wax produced by bees that never saw the sun and exclusively pollinated the Nicandra physalodes (commonly known as the shoo-fly plant) while listening to The Smiths. The bees have since died, and my life expectancy has yet to be fully determined.

I hope you enjoy it!

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I am excite. ^_^

Sovereign Court

Hi.

Very good an interesting scénario.

But, the rules for the second reenactement are awfully long to explain.

I'd give to my players a summary of the rules 30 minutes before the beginning and we can achieve the scenario in four hours.

If i run it again, I'll plan it to 6 hours, because this part can offer a lot of roleplay and it's a shame to skip it.

Thanks Jason and too bad for the bees.

Scarab Sages

Alexander Augunas wrote:
This sounds poised to do for the wayang what Red Harvest did for the nagaji. Nice!

It did exactly that and cranked hot-button political issues up to eleven.

Paizo Employee Editor

Hidesako YAMAMOTO wrote:

Hi.

Very good an interesting scénario.

But, the rules for the second reenactement are awfully long to explain.

I'd give to my players a summary of the rules 30 minutes before the beginning and we can achieve the scenario in four hours.

If i run it again, I'll plan it to 6 hours, because this part can offer a lot of roleplay and it's a shame to skip it.

Thanks Jason and too bad for the bees.

No, thank you!

It is a bit of a complicated scenario in places. Sorry about that, but I just can't do things the easy way!

Without spoiling anything, GMs might want to brush up on Ultimate Intrigue's verbal duel rules...

Lantern Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I tried to prep this for a game tomorrow night but have failed. There is a whole set of complicated new rules that I am unable to understand, let alone try to explain to the players. I hope other people have better luck.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I have a negative opinion of a scenario that spends 10 pages (almost half of this 25 page scenario) on a unique encounter and rule-set. I am prepping this adventure to run and am very annoyed that I am spending the majority of my time reading this one-off ruleset from Ultimate Intrigue (a book I do not own, that is not even on the Paizo PRD yet).

I hope running it goes well. I have printed off 6 sets of the Player handouts for the players to pre-read this alternate rules. I also find that this rule-set is being used in a non-standard way additionally frustrating and unnecessarily complicated.

I think this could have been handled with a half-page of skill checks and Role Playing commentary. I would rather spend this encounter & game-time role playing basic concepts and a few skill checks, then get mired an overly mechanical setup.

The remainder of the adventure looks straightforward, and the story is good. I will post a review after running it with real players.

I am highly tempted to Kobayashi-Maru this (scrub the whole encounter rules and re-write it myself to be something simpler), if that wouldn't set such a bad precedent for others.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

For GMs that do not have Ultimate Intrigue, the extra rules can be found here.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

With all respect due the author and editor of this adventure:

A few years ago, I got a chance to play "Assault on the Wound," and I thought that the mass combat rules, and in particular the "swarm of tieflings" rules were promising mechanics that belonged somewhere else. It might be fun to build a character who's good at mass combat, and then let him or her shine. It's awful to run a mass combat with inappropriate characters shoe-horned into it. It's fun to be powerful enough that masses of low-level humanoids act like a swarm. It's awful, awful, awful to be at a similar level to those enemies, who cannot be defeated until the last of them falls.

This scenario feels much the same. There are campaigns, and characters where "verbal duelling" is appropriate. And in particular there are situations where "try to look like you're winning, but actually lose" might be a valid option in a duel. (You're an envoy for a pig of a king, He expects you to persuade people to do X, which you really don't want to do...)

Let's contrast that to "Midnight Mauler" which introduced the chase mechanic. Normal PCs can participate in chases, and they can have a lot of fun. The mechanic doesn't have to be adapted to characters who weren't built around running after people.

So, I went into this adventure expecting very much to like it. I've had a Wayang ninja since you needed a special boon to play one, and she's been pining to find out information about her background. It was going to take something pretty awful to get me to dislike this scenario.

I dislike this scenario.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

How is adding verbal dueling that much jarring in contrast to the normal formula of having face characters/Diplomacy rolls?

Shadow Lodge

Because it's a dumpster fire of a ruleset?

Chris Mortika wrote:
Let's contrast that to "Midnight Mauler" which introduced the chase mechanic.

The chase rules were also s#+# on a shingle. It took two seasons to get decent chases.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

*shrugs*

I like verbal duels and chase mechanics.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I like the new chases. Not the originals.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:
I like the new chases. Not the originals.

Which chase rules are The Original Cherry Vanilla ones and which ones are the "New Chase - Different Formula, Same Great Taste" rules?

Silver Crusade

Ran this days ago, going to play it today.

Getting ready to run this one was unpleasant, I think I made the scenario a fun experience for my players... but frankly that was mostly me trying to be entertaining despite the scenario.

We had a couple of players with only a couple of scenarios at the table, and frankly, I was very happy, that we didn't have a player with no previous PFS experience at the table.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Gorbacz wrote:
Which chase rules are The Original Cherry Vanilla ones and which ones are the "New Chase - Different Formula, Same Great Taste" rules?

The Midnight Mauler versus The Merchant's Wake.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Which chase rules are The Original Cherry Vanilla ones and which ones are the "New Chase - Different Formula, Same Great Taste" rules?
The Midnight Mauler versus The Merchant's Wake.

Let us not forget the OG chase rules as presented in Curse of the Crimson Throne, my personal favorite.

[hipster]
I was a fan of the chase rules before they were cool.
[/hipster]

:P

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
graywulfe wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Which chase rules are The Original Cherry Vanilla ones and which ones are the "New Chase - Different Formula, Same Great Taste" rules?
The Midnight Mauler versus The Merchant's Wake.

Let us not forget the OG chase rules as presented in Curse of the Crimson Throne, my personal favorite.

[hipster]
I was a fan of the chase rules before they were cool.
[/hipster]

:P

The one in CotCT is the only chase scene I've gotten to play in.

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