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

**½( )( ) (based on 12 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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Product Reviews (12)
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Average product rating:

**½( )( ) (based on 12 ratings)

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Beautifully crafted story marred by too many mechanics

***( )( )

There is so much to this scenario that is right, that it is a darn shame the wrong brings it down. I have played this scenario with my wayang cavalier, and read the scenario to prepare for running it in the future.

The plot is laid out in a sensible, if transparent manner. Each stage gives plenty of chances for interaction with the NPCs and exploration of the themes of wayangs. There is enough combat to suit the tactical players and built in characterization for the fights. (Being directed to be unpredictable and confusing was very enjoyable for my CN cavalier.)

The problems come from the vagueness of the story and the maligned verbal duel rules. There just isn't space to give enough fodder for the players to work with, a fault of writing constraints, and the inclusion of dense mechanics cuts that space down even further. Players need to be prepped for this scenario, a practically unforgivable sin for an adventure that needs to be accessible to players just walking up to the table for the first time. Assault on the Wound benefited slightly from not allowing 1st level characters and was still a black mark. To Seal The Shadow is stained even further by lacking that compensation.

I love this story. I hate the hoops required to enjoy it. This is one of the few scenarios I honestly never want to run.

Very poor choice of subsystem

**( )( )( )

I'm torn. The scenario is kind of fun, with some fun NPCs. The first combat has been interesting, GMing this twice and playing this once. The mystery is not all that much of a mystery, but the encounters end up being fun. And, it's a social, don't-kill-everything kind of scenario, which I like.

All else considered, I'd probably give this 4 or 5 stars.

However, then there's the Verbal Duel subsystem. It's a disaster. Mind you, the subsystem itself is kind of interesting and fun. It'd be great for a home game. But, (a) it's too complicated in an absolute sense, and (b) it's WAY too complicated to stick in the middle of a PFS scenario that we're probably trying to squish into four hours. What's more, the scenario stacks more complication on top of that by requiring you to lose, but not too obviously.

(Aside: I managed to get through it by simplifying the verbal duel rules. I didn't require everybody to recalculate all of their skills, and I replaced "edges" with generic rerolls that can be used by the whole party. I let them roll their skills as is and use any of the skills listed for a tactic without worrying about assigning each skill to only one tactic. I then didn't tell the players all of the mechanics. I gave them a qualitative sense as to how things were going, but I kept track of the numbers. This helped a fair bit -- we came in and were able to get going without *too* much pain and confusion as players tried to figure out a whole new subsystem that's needlessly complicated. My changes didn't really adjust the feel of the system, because exchanges and the tactics of the verbal duel remained intact. It was just a simplification. It probably gives the players slightly better bonuses for the tactics, but it's worth it for the simplicity.)

Run as is, all the players have to do a whole bunch of gratuitous recalculation of skill bonuses for their character. Sure, sometimes for some characters there's not much, but for some there is. It brings the game to a screeching halt as everybody starts to do arithmetic. And, then, there's everybody trying to wrap their heads around this subsystem.

The choice of using an overly complicated subsystem, and then pile an additional complication on top of it, was a big mistake. It's a big ugly sore thumb in the middle of what otherwise would have been an interesting scenario. As a result, this bumps my review down to two stars.

Our VC, implicated in yet another human sacrifice scandal

***( )( )

Well, that was sort of the vibe we had after the mission briefing at least. I've got mixed feelings about the scenario. On the one hand I had a fun afternoon with friends so it's certainly not all bad. The story itself is okay, and the challenges are flavorful. And there's the fun of visiting an exotic location.

However, I think it leaves a lot to be desired. The story is very predictable, and the flow of encounters felt a bit formulaic to me. Do X, then Y, then the inevitable twist Z which everyone could predict exactly when it would happen and what it would be. It's a sort of B movie vibe really.

I found the fights to be too easy. Over too soon, opponents with no endurance. Which left little time for the story of the fights to unfold.

As for the debate, the system is way overcomplicated for what you actually use it for in this scenario. I am interested in looking it up for my home campaign now because I like non-combat challenges that are decided in more than one high Diplomacy check.

In summary: not a bad scenario for the players, but requires a lot of prep from the GM to be able to handle the new mechanics smoothly. And given the simplicity of the scenario, the amount of study required is quite out of proportion.

It's a shame when certain mechanics are badly explained..

***( )( )

I did indeed play this scenario with Quentin, see his review below. I must say he aptly described this scenario, so there's not a lot for me to add. Instead I will disagree with some of other reviews below to give a different point of view as I believe this scenario deserves more than one star.

The biggest issue people seem to have with this scenario is the verbal duel. To some extend I agree: it's rather complicated. It will take a GM some time to explain them. That is only natural, but the problem is that the hand outs that come with the scenario are by no means able to give a quick overview. In fact, they only overcomplicate things and make it seem more difficult than it actually is. You should 100% skip these handouts as they're not helpful at all. Paizo should have realised that during the playtesting of this scenario. There's no excuse for that.

Instead our GM put some effort into this and made his own 1 page cheatsheet for the mechanics. That's two pages less than the handouts. This single page of paper combined with a short explanation managed to give us a decent understanding of the mechanics. That said, it still took us about 15 to 20 minutes to get ready for the debate as we had to figure out some of the numbers, as well as decide on a strategy to use. That's still less time than you would need when following the handouts. Needless to say we all asked our GM to put this cheatsheet on PFSPrep for others to use. If he does so, the whole verbal duel mechanic is still complicated, but much easier to understand and to subsequently put into practice.

That said, I'm not convinced it's the best mechanic to put in a scenario, especially due to circumstances. While it seems logical to bring diplomatic characters, it might actually work against you. You need to make a good impression, but at same time you also shouldn't. It's weird, yet true. The same can be said about bringing a Wayang. You're tempted to bring one, but I'd say the scenario might be more enjoyable if you don't bring one.

To conclude: this scenario is still enjoyable, but with some minor flaws. It does a great job at revealing the Wayang culture. The encounters are interesting and have some nice elements to it. The storyline isn't great and won't stand out, but it is still sufficient enough. It could easily have been stronger though. I'm also still not entirely certain about the verbal duel as it really comes down to proper preperation from the GM to explain it in a timely fashion. The handouts are utterly rubbish to use, so I hope that by the time you or your GM thinks of running this adventure, he can use the cheatsheet my GM made. If so, I think you and even new players will have a good time.

Verbal duels are too complicated for their own good.

****( )

(I played this together with TheDegraded. I expect his review soon.)

I have weird feelings about this scenario. The story is standard but decent. The fights are pretty cool, especially the last one. The mask system adds a lot of flair. But the verbal duel system really puts a damper on the scenario. The system itself isn't too complicated, there are just too many moving parts and little rules you need to keep in mind. But worst of all, it's terribly worded. A good rewrite would clarify (and simplify!) a lot of things. Our GM put great effort in making custom handouts, and they're much better than the ones supplied in this scenario (he said he's going to put them online). The main problem I see here is that it's a lot of effort for little to no gain. The fact that there wasn't anything really on the line made it worse. In fact, most of the scenario put up expectations that it failed to meet (details in spoiler box below). I did like the spin on it so that skill-starved people could contribute.

All in all, I had a great time. Some parts felt anticlimactic, but overall it's a fun scenario.

Anticlimactic parts:
This is the "verbal duel scenario," so many people want to bring their social characters with them, but the mechanics of that duel undermine that entirely.
This is also the "Wayang scenario," so people are aching (at least, in my group) to bring their Wayang characters, but it weirdly focuses more on the PCs being outsiders.
The story goes exactly how you'd think it'll go.

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