Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-08: Birthright Betrayed PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1-5.

For all its rich history and heritage, Taldor has not always welcomed the Pathfinder Society's inquiring minds. This is especially true of a small museum in Ridonport, birthplace of the legendary General Arnisant, who confronted the dreaded Whispering Tyrant during the Shining Crusade. However, the Society's ally Lady Gloriana Morilla has secured a small group of Pathfinders a unique opportunity to study the museum's relics. All she needs in return is the Pathfinders' investigative skills to uncover the local earl's indiscretions—an earl who proudly identifies as Arnisant's direct descendant.

Contents in Birthright Betrayed also contribute directly to the ongoing storyline of the Sovereign Court faction. This is one of several scenarios that also set the stage for and directly tie into the upcoming War for the Crown Adventure Path.

Written by Sam Polak.

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****( ) (based on 9 ratings)

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Please do not mix real world politics with Pathfinder

***( )( )

Birthright is an equal mix of roleplay, skill checks, combat and investigation.

I have a problem with the Sovereign Court part of this scenario. Just because you disagree with the King, doesn’t mean it's OK to manipulate the senate, through any means, to achieve your goals and what you think is right. Second, it is treason. Third, if I had a PC playing this, I’d want to turn report Lady Morilla.

Please consider that many SC PCs are ex-Taldor and are also Lion Blades, dedicated to protecting the King, and Lady Morilla's goals are treasonous.

The editing and design in this scenario in this story were poorly done.

Editing Mistakes:

Morilla says "I want to stress that we must operate legitimately and within the law.". Yet it’s assumed that the PCs will break into an establishment, owned by nobles, most likely assault (or kill) a guard and some of the watch, steal from the chandlery and/or the Earl. My group killed the guard by accident.

Because this is a sandbox, they will also be tempted to assault (and kill) suspected pirates, without being deputized, which is vigilante justice (and without a lot of evidence). My group did that too.

The build on Rusmonya Kusk is such that's it fairly difficult to not kill him unless everyone is doing non-lethal damage. Orc Ferocity means he shrugs off the effects of unconsciousness for 1 additional round, which combined with rage makes a deadly combination.

Neffery says he will only help them if they don’t cause “any significant damage to the building or its contents”, but the PCs break the ship (they don’t know it’s not Neffrey’s), steal, and possibly more. In my game Vernisant's guards broke down the locked front door.

The NPC sidebars do not match the section the sidebar was in, which means the GM is constantly flipping.

In this case the handout for the skill checks was NOT useful because it made an organic roleplay situation too mechanical. PCs could also look ahead to what they need from further NPCs. Furthermore, not all checks are available if the PCs don’t make Sense Motive checks. So I didn’t end up using it.

There are two different descriptions for the painting that hides the safe in the chandlery.

The scenario can't decide how long the Earl was in power. Was it 1 year, “years ago”, “a few years back”, or 10 months ago? Parts of the plot depend on these changes happening shortly after the Earl took over.

I appreciate different builds, but the Dirty Trick Gang Up build didn't make sense for a navy officer to have, and it didn’t work well in practice either. They are 15' down, my groups just ranged them down.

In the Earl's speech he talks about primogeniture, but he shouldn’t even know about that plot element.

The mechanics of the end were horribly done, there is almost no chance for the PCs to fail. My group broke the law several times, killed a guard, got caught in the chandlery, assaulted the pirates, let them go, and they still had a +18 bonus (+24 total to get DC 30 for the final roll), which is a 75% chance! The only reason they failed was because they didn’t even bother trying, they felt it was hopeless. In any case, the bonus system was ridiculous.

The ending doesn’t make any sense, except to show that the men in Taldor are incompetent idiots (apparently).

The roleplay and NPCs in this scenario are quite good. The painting was nice too. They had personality, they were fun, they were well done.

The encounters were also well done, with the exception of the end. This was however, an easy scenario both in terms of combat and skill checks.

The scenario is too long. It took us 4.5 hours and we skipped all of section "C".

Detailed Rating:

Length: Extremely long (4.5 hours). If we had done section “C”, it would have been around 5.5.
Experience: GM at subtier 1-2 with 5 average PCs.
Sweet Spot: Subtier 1-2. I think subtier 4-5 could be too easy.
Entertainment: A fun time. (9/10)
Story: Staying away from the SC aspect, it was decent. (8/10)
Roleplay: Good roleplay opportunities. The painting in particular, if your GM takes advantage of it, is a great way to interact with the main villain without combat. It was brilliant. (10/10)
Combat/Challenges: A little unfair and dangerous at the chandlery, but that’s OK. (8/10)
Maps: Good map use. (9/10)
Boons: Nice boons, especially for Sovereign Court. (10/10)
Uniqueness: We’ve done this before. (7/10)
GM Preparation (4/10): For what it is, it took much longer to prepare than expected.

Overall: Poorly edited, overly politically correct, but should be fun for the players (7/10).


This is a real struggle, but I know there is a good game in there.

****( )

I have not read this, and have not run this. I was merely a player. It was a very odd game. One of us used a grippli boon and could only be healed by negative energy. I used a kobold boon to play a pre-gen kobold character who happened to only be able to channel negative energy. We had a pre-gen arcanist, and a pre-gen warpriest. Levels 3, 4, 4, and 4.

Despite the pre-gens, all of us have been playing for years.

The beginning was a big struggle for our team. It was difficult to get initial information and interview NPCs because, well, we were a party of frogs and lizard-men and such. In addition, we weren't super-optimized. Spoiler about that:

Spoiler:
There is at least one DC in here of 30. At least according to the GM, who said our 31 "barely made it." That seems a little high for a tier 1-5 product. If that's true, this product really is made for optimizers, and that just wasn't us. Or maybe it's made with the assumption of 6 players all doing Aid-Another to super-boost a leading character's results. I'm not sure. What I do know is that many of our skill check results were hovering around 12-22. I suspect at least once the GM just gave us info even though we were too low (our "best" result for a particular check was 8, and it seemed like the game couldn't continue without certain info dumps, so he sorta gave us an unusually good result for getting only an 8).

So after struggling for probably over an hour at the table, just trying to move our PCs through investigations and conversations, we finally started to piece some things together. It turns out, this product is one of those "open-ended investigation" scenarios. However, we seem to have done many things out of order. We kept getting nowhere with certain NPCs, then we'd talk to another NPC later on who would suggest we go back to the 1st NPC. Eventually we got it, but it was NOT smooth sailing. Fair warning to those who come at this without a PC optimized for sleuthing. Also, even though it's open-ended, understand that the product seems to have a preferred order, and we couldn't guess it.

We only had 2 fights for the entire game. And one of those fights maybe shouldn't happen. Spoiler about that:

Spoiler:
At the end, a bad guy is backed into a corner by a crowd, and this bad guy reaches for a chest, opens it, and unleashes a terrible thing. Yet it is all delivered via monologue, via read-aloud text. However, none of our PCs trusted this NPC, and we kept interrupting to try to shut him up and stop his actions. Our GM was wonderful but also new, and didn't really seem to find anything in the text for handling this issue. In the end he agreed to allow us to zap this certain someone and stop him from opening the chest (the bad guy then disappeared), but then the chest unlocked itself and the terrible outcome happened anyway. Our GM seemed to think it was sort-of an inevitable situation that the product forces.

I really feel like something needs improving there. We were at the event with this bad guy because we were presenting evidence of bad/illegal activity, and the idea that we'd allow this NPC to talk for quite a while and then move to a chest and then open it and unleash bad stuff just strikes me as very railroady. Hopefully the author of this product actually has text in there to handle when a group intervenes. But if it doesn't have handling for that, it NEEDS it.

Despite any issues, I had a fun time. I love investigation scenarios. I may buy the product just to read it & think about how I'd run things. It seems creative and possibly NPC-heavy (or role-play heavy). Also, note that this one may run long.

EDIT: I've now read the other reviews before mine, and it seems my gut feeling was on the right path: the product DOES have "only one right way to do things" as an issue. In the very first review, it notes that PCs are admonished to follow the law, but then gives no legal way to accomplish some things. In the 3rd review, it notes that you should speak to one particular NPC first but since it's open-ended the PCs would never know to do that. I'm going to set my review to 4 stars instead of 5, because this seems to be a theme in the product that should have been dealt with. It made my play-through awkward/troublesome, and apparently bothered others too, but it's still a good product.


A highly recommended adventure in Taldor

*****

Above anything else, this scenario really pays attention to the setting it takes place in. Taldor has never felt so alive before. There’s a major difference between the nobility, upper-class and lower-class citizens. All three of them you’ll have to talk to and each acts and reacts differently. The role-play in this scenario really gets influenced by this and the party’s face might suddenly find himself not being the best person to talk to an NPC. Others will have to step up, which can lead to hilarious situations.

Speaking of hilarious, the (potential) combats really were memorable. Not only do they take the surroundings into account, but some of the foes themselves are bizarre and unique. Let’s be honest, the constructs players might face are absolutely amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it and I can’t wait to pit a group of players against them.

So, the role-play opportunities are outstanding, combat is memorable, how about the storyline? Well, the storyline also works out incredibly well. The investigation that you’ll embark on makes sense and actually matters in the greater scheme of things. I can’t really find a thing to complain about. It’s just a really good scenario. Every facet of the game is done well and even the chronicle sheet is good. I can do nothing more but highly recommend this scenario.


A fun RP adventure nicely grounded in lore

*****

Played this yesterday with a party mostly level 3, playing up with the 4P adjustment. I haven't looked up DCs but I think the difficulty was fine - if you're paying attention to the story and thinking things through you should be able to accumulate enough advantages to get the happy ending.

The story is well-integrated in existing Taldor lore which is nice; and there's a lot of RP options with NPCs with enough background to have a good talk.

The scenario does something interesting with treating noble PCs (and aspiring noble PCs) differently. It's not necessarily ideal to have an all-noble party, which helps spread the spotlight.

But for our noble-wannabe-PCs we had a great deal of fun heaping our righteous scorn on the BBEG.

There are combats in the scenario; we steamrolled them. They worked fine for the story though, and gave some change of pace between all the talking.

---

Finally, the SovCo boon is really really nice.


An Excellent Source of Intrigue

*****

This is one of my favorite scenarios to do in the 1-5 tier. The NPCs interesting and well thought out and the adventure itself has some pretty fun interactions. The fights are fairly trivial but they include fun and unique enemies which is always worth a star in my book.

Some obnoxious editing problems are not enough to bring this one down and I am actually looking forward to running this one again.


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Grand Lodge

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

We do this for Taldor.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

4 people marked this as a favorite.
TriOmegaZero wrote:
We do this for Taldor.

We always have.

Sovereign Court

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Class Deck, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yessss... Let the Sovereign Court storyline begin!

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Maps in Pathfinder Society Scenario #9–08: Birthright Betrayed:

There is one half-page custom map in this scenario. The following also feature:

  • Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Noble Estate
  • Pathfinder Map Pack: Village Sites
  • Sovereign Court

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    LONG LIVE THE EMPIRE!

    Sovereign Court

    2 people marked this as a favorite.

    Excellent! Another opportunity to mentor a new protege into our ranks. And by Mr. Polak, you say? It'll be a bit of extra work to find a suitably hearty candidate, but the reports they provide should be fascinating!


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    I'm currently prepping this for our Grand Lodge tomorrow and I'm fascinated by the parallels between one of the sub-plots of this scenario (naval corruption in Taldor) and a current-day scandal (the investigations into high-ranking officers in the US Navy and their connections to a shady contractor named "Fat" Leonard). Was this intentional or was this merely a coincidence?

    Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

    2 people marked this as a favorite.
    John Lance wrote:
    I'm currently prepping this for our Grand Lodge tomorrow and I'm fascinated by the parallels between one of the sub-plots of this scenario (naval corruption in Taldor) and a current-day scandal (the investigations into high-ranking officers in the US Navy and their connections to a shady contractor named "Fat" Leonard). Was this intentional or was this merely a coincidence?

    Although fantasy and sci-fi fiction certainly draw inspiration from reality and current events, I wasn't aware of the incident you're referencing until just now. Rather, Taldor lends itself beautifully to scenarios about scandals and corruption. That said, if it makes the adventure more meaningful and enjoyable for you and your players, the drawing parallels could be fertile ground for fun roleplaying.

    Grand Lodge

    Look forward to playing this one!


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    I have a question on the Boon.

    Boon:
    One of the boons lets you check extra boxes if you meet a condition, and there are a few ways to do that.
    Is it possible to get the extra boxes more then once, you meet the condition twice or more?
    .


    Question about the boon:

    Boon Talk:
    As written, if the PC is already a noble via other boons, it seems better to sit on this boon for 30+ XPs before finalizing the conditions of this boon. In other words, if you have other sources of nobility, you add five checked boxes each time and could get all checked boxes at a very low XP count. Was the intent 'boxes checked x 75' or was it indeed 'XP x 75'?

    Scarab Sages

    Boon:
    I think XPx75 is probably correct. There are two parts to the boon. One gives you the gold when you complete it. The other lets you use Diplomacy or Knowledge (Nobility) for Dayjob checks. It looks like the XPx75 gold was a way to make the boon even out for players who get it later in their career. Completing the boon earlier means less gold initially, but lots more opportunities for gold from a Dayjob. I turned 3rd level when I picked up the boon, and I'm going to slow track until I complete it to give more time to use the Dayjob roll. And also because I like the character and invested a couple of boons making him.

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