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PFS # 47: The Darkest Vengeance [SPOILERS]


Pathfinder Society GM Discussion

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Osirion **

With a first level party of six players, this is a guaranteed TPK unless the GM tones it down.
Room B2:

Spoiler:
The Diva: I don't have the AP this construct came from to double check it's abilities, but the low tier creature has Inflict Serious Wounds, which looks like a mistake. Normal bards don't get this until 7th level. At caster level three, that it is set to, an Inflict Serious Wounds is going to do 3d8+3. Anything other than minimum damage is going to knock a new character unconscious. A good damage roll, and even a first level barbarian is fully dead. A DC 15, save or dead is a bit harsh at first level, even if the the creature only gets one a day.

The Optional Combat:

Spoiler:
Fighting a swarm immune to weapon damage is hard. Fighting an aerial swarm from a boat that cannot outrun the damage area at first level is near impossible. Area of effect attacks are also going to hit party members that have just as many hit points as the swarm. The PCs at least have the -CON buffer before they croak, so it is survivable, but very dangerous. The only safe place to move to is diving into the water and staying under water (for a while). Without knowing that party has a couple anti-swarm spells on hand, this encounter should be avoided.

And the final bad guy:
Spoiler:
A two weapon fighting, always sneak attacking creature going after blinded prey with 3d6 twice per round is going to be able to pick off any party member in one round. Even if the party does survive his onslaught, the death throw can still wipe out the party after a "victory".

So, in my opinion, this scenario is a death trap at APL 1, survivable at APL3 by playing the lower tier with at least two clerics, and playing the high tier should only be attempted with an APL 5 party and at least two clerics. There is just too much damage the party has to be able to soak up when the bad guys have the battle field control advantage.

The only character, that I can think of, that can easily handle this adventure, is a

Spoiler:
Channel Negative Cleric with Selective Channeling.

**

While I agree that this is a difficult scenario for level 1 characters, I don't think it's as big of a death trap as you think.

The ability in room B2 can only be used once.

The optional combat is tough and the immunity to weapon damage is also tough, but a 13 hit point creature can be taken out with spells and alchemical items rather quickly by a quick-thinking party. And, as you noted, they can dive into the water to escape.

The final bad guy is most certainly tough and a real challenge for level 1 folks, I can't deny that. Here's to hoping it's a memorable encounter. :-)

Qadira *

I loved this adventure.

The Diva:
I continually had crashing, breaking, door pounding noises going off, while the party battled her above the organ. The party thought it was a room reenactment of Poltergiest. The Inflict Serious Wounds target made the save.

Had to skip the optional.

Final Boss:

Had a party member who knew all about the sunrods standing in back and slinging them into the corners of the room on the last encounter. The party darn near wiped when he exploded but I had a Paladin in the process of climbing the machine on the side away from the explosion who lived and could stabilize the party as well as save the Minotaur.

It was memorable alright! Had a very Ravenloft feel. My players and I are hoping we'll be headed back to Ustalav soon

**

Elyza wrote:

With a first level party of six players, this is a guaranteed TPK unless the GM tones it down.

Room B2:

Spoiler:
Soulbound dolls receive a spell-like ability dependent on their alignment, and The Diva's alignment granted her ISW. Keep in mind that she is tiny and thus has to enter an opponent's square to touch them with a melee attack and provokes an attack of opportunity. In general, her tactics should be such that she avoids melee, including touch spells, hoping to get the PCs to play her a song instead of trying to kill them; she only wants to kill them if they mess it up.

When I play this encounter, I use a creepy, inquisitive, yet somewhat spoiled little girl voice and have her use ventriliquism as if the statue is speaking. Everyone gets freaked out about the creepy head and avoids the organ.

Elyza wrote:
The Optional Combat:

Spoiler:
Your assessment of the encounter is correct. We wanted to make it a resource drain of area of effect spells for when the PCs face Zoathrias in the dark later. If a GM feels that the optional encounter would kill the PCs, they can omit it without effect to the PCs' rewards.
Elyza wrote:
And the final bad guy:

Spoiler:
At low-level, yes, Zoathrias is very difficult. If he is aware of PCs before they enter the room and casts Deeper Darkness before they have a chance to see where the aureolyte machine is, it's even worse, as they won't even know where to go and stick their sunrods. In this case, I suggest giving him penalties on Perception to hear the PCs trying to gain egress to the room while he tortures Miregrold. If the PCs can get the sunrods into the machine in the dark while he picks them off one by one with his sneak attack, they can blind him and take him out fairly easily. It's all about that machine.

I've run this twice for real groups in the high tier and both found it very challenging. Only one PC fell victim to the final encounter, and that was because I rolled two crits on a full attack with sneak attack on each. I can see how someone might find this a tough scenario to run for an unoptimized or unbalanced party, but being able to do so and provide a fair and fun time for all is what great GMs live for. I'm happy to give clarification or advice in this thread as well.

Glad everyone's enjoying it, though!

*

Spoiler:
Then ... Tasha LIVES !


Thank the maker. I'm looking forwards to having something challenging to throw at a group ;)

Jh

Taldor

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'm having a hard time understanding how the sunrods and rings are supposed to work in the big glowy machine. In one place in the text, it says the map indicates which rods go where, but if it's there, I sure can't find it. Do you have to put 5 rods in the machine in a certain order? Does each rod have only one ring on it? Do you put multiple rings on each rod? I admit I was reading this fast to get ready for a game with about 24 hours notice (and we still didn't get the chance to run it).

Also, how is the party supposed to see the big machine good enough to place the crystal and manipulate the rods inside a deeper darkness?

Paizo Employee ** Developer

Twowlves wrote:


I'm having a hard time understanding how the sunrods and rings are supposed to work in the big glowy machine. In one place in the text, it says the map indicates which rods go where, but if it's there, I sure can't find it. Do you have to put 5 rods in the machine in a certain order? Does each rod have only one ring on it? Do you put multiple rings on each rod? I admit I was reading this fast to get ready for a game with about 24 hours notice (and we still didn't get the chance to run it).

There are five slots in the machine, each marked with numbers I-V. Each sunrod contains one ring in one of five positions along its length. If all five rods are placed in the correct slot in any order, the machine functions normally. The table in the sidebar describes how it malfunctions if incorrectly activated.

Twowlves wrote:
Also, how is the party supposed to see the big machine good enough to place the crystal and manipulate the rods inside a deeper darkness?

Assuming the PCs read the handout and learned how to work the prototype in Miregrold's laboratory, they can make Perception checks while adjacent to the main apparatus in the excavation site to feel for a slot. I have been ad-hocing the DC at 15 to "braile" the number from a given slot and place the associated rod in that position. If the PCs don't preset the rods with the right rings in the right spots while they can see, however, this becomes more difficult.

Taldor

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ok, so one ring per sunrod. From there the rest makes sense.

I think it'd be rough to open a door into inky blackness where your sunrods/torches/anything less than a Daylight spell is useless, stumble around, bump into a huge machine (how do they know it's a scaled up version?) know someone is strapped to it, get the rods in the right slots AND get the aureolyte fragment in it's delicately precise slot. The potential to make the thing shine like a sun and then explode, killing the bad guy is awesome, but impossible to achieve as written, IMO.

Andoran ***

Just played this one today. Ugh, encounters within deeper darkness are the worst. I'm curious as to what we are supposed to do when everyone has to fight blind? Especially against a foe that deals a painful amount of damage every round.

Grand Lodge ***

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I ran this yesterday, and the players seemed to enjoy it.

The party (Fighter 4, Cleric 3, Cleric 2, Rogue 1 and 2 Fighters 1) walked thru the encounters until the climax, but did not have time for the optional. Ran at Tier 1-2.

Machine

Spoiler:

I found the machine sidebar somewhat confusing, but made more sense once you read the player handout. It was still unclear what happened on specific malfunctions. The sidebar mentions an overload "as above", but I was not certain which overload it referenced. And is the "wrong" order mentioned on the handout supposed to produce a set or random result? It also would have been helpful to have more guidance as to time needed... during the final fight, I ruled 1 action to retrieve sunrod, 1 to insert, 1 to place ring, 1 to light... it took quite a while for them to set up in the dark.

Finale

Spoiler:

The deeper darkness was crippling for this party, and would have led to may PC deaths of new Society players, so I modified it slightly. I allowed sunrods to shed dim light in a 5' radius, after the PC's eyes adjusted (1 round). This allowed them to converge on BBEG after a few rounds, and prevented auto-sneak attack.

Thanks Yoda, even with my concerns it was a memorable adventure. I am pretty sure I have some more PFS converts.

Taldor ****

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

notice a very minor typo. The page count goes from 18 to 20, with no page 19. Of course there is also no missing info so I just think it was a mislabel.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

Tim Statler wrote:
notice a very minor typo. The page count goes from 18 to 20, with no page 19. Of course there is also no missing info so I just think it was a mislabel.

That was 100% Tim Hitchcock and NOT me. I swear.

Taldor ****

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

BTW, Ran it tonight. The players Loved it.

I tried given the Venture Captain they talk to a slight Eastern european accent, and did great. Later I (tried) used a child like voice for the first encounter in the basement.

The only comment on the faction missions was that the Paracountess seemed unusually mellow in her letter.

Shadow Lodge **

I noticed that too. No pettish, moderately condescending greeting...no promises of pleasure should you succeed (or pain if you fail). Maybe she was having an off day...

Qadira *****

I am curious, is it intended by the authors that the PCs confront the Dark Stalker at the conclusion using a Daylight spell? I know that Skeldon's journal is supposed to have a chapter detailing the weaknesses of Stalkers and Creepers, but I'm not sure how much is meant to be given away.

I've run this one four times now. Only once has a party been equipped to deal with the Deeper Darkness, and when that happens the Stalker's teeth are effectively pulled. The other three times I have run it the PCs have staggered around in the dark going up and down like yo-yos. Of those groups, only one has attempted to activate the sunrod device while fighting in the dark.

I'd like to share a cool moment from one table I ran. The players never asked any questions about Stalkers and darkness effects, so they went into the last fight completely blind. The Stalker cut them up something fierce, taking the half-orc barbarian into the negatives. On his turn he was able to isolate the square the Stalker was lurking in and he swung for the fences, knowing he was the party's only hope of survival. He critted with his great axe and confirmed it, blind and everything. However, none of them expected the fireball that followed. The poor half-orc was so low on HP that he was toasted (even a successful save wouldn't be enough, but he failed it anyhow). It was a cinematic end to the BBEG and a heroic death for the half-orc. The rest of the table had to expend all their loot to get him raised but I think they enjoyed themselves all the same.

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Doug Doug wrote:

I am curious, is it intended by the authors that the PCs confront the Dark Stalker at the conclusion using a Daylight spell? I know that Skeldon's journal is supposed to have a chapter detailing the weaknesses of Stalkers and Creepers, but I'm not sure how much is meant to be given away.

I've run this one four times now. Only once has a party been equipped to deal with the Deeper Darkness, and when that happens the Stalker's teeth are effectively pulled. The other three times I have run it the PCs have staggered around in the dark going up and down like yo-yos. Of those groups, only one has attempted to activate the sunrod device while fighting in the dark.

I'd like to share a cool moment from one table I ran. The players never asked any questions about Stalkers and darkness effects, so they went into the last fight completely blind. The Stalker cut them up something fierce, taking the half-orc barbarian into the negatives. On his turn he was able to isolate the square the Stalker was lurking in and he swung for the fences, knowing he was the party's only hope of survival. He critted with his great axe and confirmed it, blind and everything. However, none of them expected the fireball that followed. The poor half-orc was so low on HP that he was toasted (even a successful save wouldn't be enough, but he failed it anyhow). It was a cinematic end to the BBEG and a heroic death for the half-orc. The rest of the table had to expend all their loot to get him raised but I think they enjoyed themselves all the same.

Poor Ewwww! :(

Qadira *****

Kyle Baird wrote:
Doug Doug wrote:

I am curious, is it intended by the authors that the PCs confront the Dark Stalker at the conclusion using a Daylight spell? I know that Skeldon's journal is supposed to have a chapter detailing the weaknesses of Stalkers and Creepers, but I'm not sure how much is meant to be given away.

I've run this one four times now. Only once has a party been equipped to deal with the Deeper Darkness, and when that happens the Stalker's teeth are effectively pulled. The other three times I have run it the PCs have staggered around in the dark going up and down like yo-yos. Of those groups, only one has attempted to activate the sunrod device while fighting in the dark.

I'd like to share a cool moment from one table I ran. The players never asked any questions about Stalkers and darkness effects, so they went into the last fight completely blind. The Stalker cut them up something fierce, taking the half-orc barbarian into the negatives. On his turn he was able to isolate the square the Stalker was lurking in and he swung for the fences, knowing he was the party's only hope of survival. He critted with his great axe and confirmed it, blind and everything. However, none of them expected the fireball that followed. The poor half-orc was so low on HP that he was toasted (even a successful save wouldn't be enough, but he failed it anyhow). It was a cinematic end to the BBEG and a heroic death for the half-orc. The rest of the table had to expend all their loot to get him raised but I think they enjoyed themselves all the same.

Poor Ewwww! :(

OMG you killed ewwww!!!!!!!! he was one of my favorites lol

Taldor

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Am I to assume that if the players get the handout excerpt from the journal and make the linguistics check for the rings that it essentially spells out exactly how to activate the big machine?

Also, if the party has a Light spell up (creating "Normal" light), the Deeper Darkness will bump that down two steps (normal to dim, dim to dark) and then darkvision would work normally?

Qadira *****

Twowlves wrote:


Am I to assume that if the players get the handout excerpt from the journal and make the linguistics check for the rings that it essentially spells out exactly how to activate the big machine?

Also, if the party has a Light spell up (creating "Normal" light), the Deeper Darkness will bump that down two steps (normal to dim, dim to dark) and then darkvision would work normally?

Darkness has been discussed on multiple threads, and if you go searching for an answer to your second question you will find a lot of opinions ventured. Mine would be in line with this thread, borrowing from AvalonXQ:

1) Eliminate the lighting changes from all light sources of level 2 or below that are within the darkness. This would include a torch or light spell within the area of effect, but not the ambient lighting conditions in the absence of such local light sources (so it does not negate light outside during the day, for example).
2) Lower the light by one level for Darkness, or two levels for Deeper Darkness. Darkvision is negated in Deeper Darkness. Basically the only thing that can overcome Deeper Darkness is a Daylight spell, which would mutually be canceled out and allow normal light sources like torches to be utilized.

In a nutshell, a light spell won't function in a Deeper Darkness. This means that any party that initiates the last encounter is going to get hosed unless they either get lucky or can activate the sunrod machine.

Taldor

Doug Doug wrote:
I'd like to share a cool moment from one table I ran. The players never asked any questions about Stalkers and darkness effects, so they went into the last fight completely blind. The Stalker cut them up something fierce, taking the half-orc barbarian into the negatives. On his turn he was able to isolate the square the Stalker was lurking in and he swung for the fences, knowing he was the party's only hope of survival. He critted with his great axe and confirmed it, blind and everything. However, none of them expected the fireball that followed. The poor half-orc was so low on HP that he was toasted (even a successful save wouldn't be enough, but he failed it anyhow). It was a cinematic end to the BBEG and a heroic death for the half-orc. The rest of the table had to expend all their loot to get him raised but I think they enjoyed themselves all the same.

That's cool.

When I ran it the players played a good game of spreading out talking in the dark as much as they could, blinding attacking whenever they could. Eventually someone grappled the DS, and on the next round the entire party piled on, surrounding the DS and began hacking away.

This was after the previous encounter where they learned what happens when mysterious darkly clothing humanoids who emanate darkness do when they die. I try to keep as much of a game face as possible when I GM, so I only raised an eyebrow when the final player dove onto the pile, but in my head I was thinking, "Seriously? You guys didn't enjoy what happened last time."

So the DS died and BOOM. I had to grimace as I rolled the dice, wondering if I was about to TPK. Everyone went negative except for a ranger who was able to pull out a wand and start waking everyone up.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

I love hearing stories like these!

Cheliax

Mark Moreland wrote:
I love hearing stories like these!

I *loved* this module. Ran it on Saturday morning, for PaizoCon UK, and it was brilliant.

A whole (7 PC) cycle of initiative, with every PC saying "I have nothing that will effect a bat swarm." for the wizard to go, "oh, Yeah, I'll colour spray them." Splash. Wet sinking bats.... Pure win.

I'll definitely be picking up more mods by you guys.

Grand Lodge *****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Tales Subscriber

I also ran it at PaizoCon for a tier 1/2. I loved the encounter with the puppet.

There wasn't a single charismatic player in the group - so in the end the dwarven fighter ended up playing the piano. he was closest to the puppet and had a reach weapon.

He role-played it really, really well - and with some fantastic dice rolls he even managed some decent piano play for one or two rounds - before he failed miserably.

The puppet levitated down and splurting blood everywhere he collapsed.

It gave the group one round to actually reach her and do a lot of damage - but not enough. So the puppet went below the ceiling again - some broken legs, her clothes burned off by an alchemist fire - but her porcelain face still a perfect beauty.

A human fighter climning up the piano to reach her was the next falling to her charm. It's really dangerous what you do - you could fall. Better climb down again and start playing for me.

The last encounter was tough for the group. One player with a very high Knowledge Engeneering who also had studied the machine above worked aimlessly to get the machine working. The others tried blindly in the room to get at the Stalker.

The dwarven fighter managed one real good blow - so when the light went on the stalker was surounded by the whole group, only a few HP left - smiling an evil smile.

The fireball engulfed the whole group of 6. I didn't roll high - and non went below his constitution. A healing burst just before and some selective healing had helped everyone to survive. It was a truly great finale. Battered and half the group down - but alive and victorious.

Thod

Grand Lodge ***

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Was just thinking about this mod again, and some of the darkness questions which have yet to be "offically" resolved.

If we go with the answer Doug links to above (which seems to fit the rules very nicely), I don't think that the machine can do anything about the Deeper Darkness, as it would be a light source brought into the area after the DD spell... and be negated. I'm sure that this was not the intent of the writers, as the whole machine setup seems to be intended to allow lower level PCs to have a way around the darkness.

Mark/Tim:
1/ Am I correct that the machine settings should overcome the Deeper Darkness? Perhaps the Aureolyte magnifies it to a greater magical light than 3rd level?

2/ What type of actions / how long should it take to configure the device?

3/ Could you please clarify the configuration needed for bright light or overload?

Shadow Lodge ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I played this adventure just today.

Honestly I don't get the appeal of the module and found it horribly overrated. It was easily the slowest module I've played through so far, and for something set in Ulstav, I expected it to be A LOT more creepy. I didn't like how the adventure doesn't play well without certain classes, and woe to the group that doesn't have a cleric. From Tim Hitchcock I expected so much more, which only added to that disappointment.

I will say this though. I don't mind a challenge, but the potential lethality of this module was inappropriate. I don't care what level you're playing at, creatures with base damage capable of insta-killing party members are neither fun, nor a "challenge" they're just outright mean and do nothing but discourage the player it happens to. This is especially true in Pathfinder Society where a lot of times you're trying to encourage new players to join. 1st level PCs should not be meeting up with one, let alone two creatures that can one-shot party members (whether you're talking about an inflict serious wounds spell or a fireball on an already horribly battered party), and throwing swarms like that up against 1st level characters is easily on the same "what the f***" scale.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

Scribbling Rambler wrote:

Was just thinking about this mod again, and some of the darkness questions which have yet to be "offically" resolved.

If we go with the answer Doug links to above (which seems to fit the rules very nicely), I don't think that the machine can do anything about the Deeper Darkness, as it would be a light source brought into the area after the DD spell... and be negated. I'm sure that this was not the intent of the writers, as the whole machine setup seems to be intended to allow lower level PCs to have a way around the darkness.

Mark/Tim:
1/ Am I correct that the machine settings should overcome the Deeper Darkness? Perhaps the Aureolyte magnifies it to a greater magical light than 3rd level?

2/ What type of actions / how long should it take to configure the device?

3/ Could you please clarify the configuration needed for bright light or overload?

Sorry for the late response on this; I've been busy moving.

1) Yes, the machine should increase the light to above the level needed to negate deeper darkness.

2) In general, I require a perception check in the dark from a PC adjacent to the machine to find a slot and identify which one it is (as in slot number) with a DC of 15. Then a move action to place the corresponding rod in that slot. If PCs are really having a tough time of it, I get more flexible on their ability to aid one another.

3) If PCs replicate the configuration that made the prototype in Miregrold's workshop overload, they will get the same effect on the large machine. The adventure doesn't describe that configuration, so I'd just switch two of the rods from the standard settings as listed in the scenario.

When it comes down to it, the aureolyte divice should be as complicated or as simple as you need it to be to keep the plot moving and to have a cool puzzle for the PCs to solve to give them a leg up against a tough foe. If that means you make DCs tougher to challenge a party that wants or needs that extra level of difficulty, then do that. Conversely, if a low level party is really struggling to grasp it or are getting demolished by the big bad, ease up to allow them the cool, cinematic satisfaction of having the machine blaze to life and blind their foe. In the end, he's going to explode, so it's not like the encounter is completely nerfed if he's blinded earlier.

**

MisterSlanky, Sorry to hear you didn't like the adventure. Thanks for the feedback and I (we) will keep it in mind for future scenarios.

Shadow Lodge ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
yoda8myhead wrote:
MisterSlanky, Sorry to hear you didn't like the adventure. Thanks for the feedback and I (we) will keep it in mind for future scenarios.

Thanks for listening. :-)

It's been a couple weeks now and I've had extra time to reflect on the module both as a player and somebody who GMs for society. My original feelings towards this mod still stand, but I think it's important to understand the why. Again, I have no problems with difficult modules, and I feel players should have to work for their rewards, but there's a pretty thick line between difficult and outright nasty. There were other issues too, which I'll try to address.

1. The initial encounter is interesting and was a lot of fun to both roleplay and (eventually) fight. These kinds of encounters are difficult though (twice now I've dealt with them), and it's sometimes hard for GMs to provide the right level of suspicion without giving it away. I was actually interested in the adventure at this point though and considered it the high point of the adventure.

2. When Ulstav was mentioned I expected something a lot creepier. I was actually disappointed when I learned it was a Darklands adventure, because although they can be interesting, I felt the locale really screams something other than Darklands as those adventures can be set nearly anywhere and portray the same story. It's just one of those things, when Ulstav is mentioned there's an automatic assumption that things are about to get Gothic.

3. Overall I didn't have that much of a problem with the module thematically. I understood the story and the motivations and I can see how it could be an interesting mystery. I think though that the small scale and encounters really distracted me from the overall feel of the whole thing. Given a better level spread and maybe reduced difficulties, I might have enjoyed it a lot more. There got to be a point though were our group was literally saying, "what now?

4. The difficulty level was easily the number one issue I had with this module. I as a player and GM find it completely unacceptable that a creature can cause anywhere between 8-29 (avg. 18.5) points of damage to a player . When you're talking about a first level character with a CON of 10 and a D8 hit points (like our Cleric), you're looking at instant-death on average (if it hits obviously). The same holds true for a creature that deals two hits of 4D6+2 damage nearly every round of combat. That's a range of 6-26 (avg. 16) points for each of its hits. Again for first level characters, you're looking at instant-deaths without even a chance for retaliation. I understand the desire to try to make the encounter memorable and tough, but there's a big difference between the end-encounter in darkness in The Devil We Know Part II and this encounter. The eventual 3D6 area damage had the same problem. While an issue on its own, after a horrifically tough fight where the party is already hurt, 10.5 damage will kill most any unconscious individual who likely didn't get a chance to move. The room is barely 40' wide to begin with, so chances are everybody will get hit with it too. Fortunately when we played we had two tougher individuals who were able to stay conscious on a significantly lower-than-average damage roll. The swarm encounter had the same issues, but really limits the player's ability to flee. Again, I can understand why you would introduce an element like this to try to pace the adventure, but at the point it (would have) occurred, we were just feeling beat-up.

5. I didn't get a chance to play it on the higher tiers, but I really feel that this module is not appropriate for level 1 characters at all, and is barely appropriate for a group of level 2 characters. From what I gather from the comments here, the higher tiers are worse (I'd hate to see why) when it comes to the difficulty level.

Thanks for listening though. I think under a slightly different set of circumstances we might have enjoyed this one more, but as it was I think our interest waned the moment our cleric nearly died from a single spell and then things didn't get any better.

Osirion **

Elyza wrote:

With a first level party of six players, this is a guaranteed TPK unless the GM tones it down.

Room B2:** spoiler omitted **

The Optional Combat: ** spoiler omitted **
And the final bad guy: ** spoiler omitted **

So, in my opinion, this scenario is a death trap at APL 1, survivable at APL3 by playing the lower tier with at least two clerics, and playing the high tier should only be attempted with an APL 5 party and at least two clerics. There is just too much damage the party has to be able to soak up when the bad guys have the battle field control advantage.

The only character, that I can think of, that can easily handle this adventure,...

I ran this yesterday for a table of 7, APL 4.8 at the Tier 4-5 level - and I agree that the final encounter was very tough for them.

First combat was a walk in the park (1st level rogues with 5 hp) couldn't even stand up against the witch with a crossbow. Nevertheless, they found it hilarious that the NPC's were a group of opportunistic squatters when they were spending a lot of role-playing time "serving him notice of transfer".

I tried to play up the creepiness of the soul-bound doll - ran her as a spoiled girl who just wanted accompaniment to her songs, and was murderous when she didn't get it. Still, they were convinced the organ was the instrument of great evil, and spent time 1) tripping the paladin to keep him from playing it 2) alchemically bombing it.

The final encounter was brutal. They made a lot of noise getting the door open, but still, gave them time to line up at the door before the darkness was put up. Regardless, the two-weapon attack each doing 5d6 +2 for an average of 20 hp each and +8 to hit can easily wipe out most parties. The paladin spent an expensive consumable to break enchantment (I ruled that the deeper darkness was cast upon the stalker and so was successful in dispelling it with a caster level check success) to reveal him for one round - before he just 5 footed away and did it again. After that, it was bad news. One PC managed to get to the machine, but they didn't have the sunrods/rings, nor do I think they would have figured out the pattern even if they had brought them with them. They managed to get a lucky strike while guessing which square he was in, and converged attacks on it, and killed him, but I think this encounter could easily have been TPK (and deaths would have occurred, except I forgot the extra 4d6 from sneak attack the first round).

The paladin had a good idea to try to detect evil to pinpoint the location, but then I realized the stat block showed the stalker to be CN. I think that should be revisited. Sure, he was carrying out revenge, which is one thing, but I think it went WAY over the line since he was intentionally torturing Miregrold and then purposefully keeping him alive JUST SO HE COULD KEEP THE TORTURE UP LONGER. Even if he's a wholesome guy that hugs puppies and gives balloons to children the rest of the time, I'd say that this one extended series of evil acts should have made him certainly evil...

In any case, I like the possibilities here (and RP'ing Basia Kalistoff's accent), but the final encounter is probably challenging for even a tier 6-7 group.)

Andoran **

I was brushing up on this scenario as I will be running it for the second time this coming Saturday. I was looking at the Diva's Tier 4-5 stats and it adds mage armor to her 1st level spell selection, but mage armor is a sorcerer/wizard spell. I don't think it will be an issue as I believe the players signed up for the Saturday are all 2nd level so we shall still be Tier 1-2, but I thought it something to point out.

*

I'm going to run this scenario in the next month or two. I thought some of the encounters were great, the overall scenario is interesting, and I really enjoyed reading it. However...

I agree that this is a killer scenario. The final encounter and optional encounter are just brutal as written. I could blink and kill a 1st level party. I think I'd find it challenging not to kill all the PCs, even being nice. (Maybe I could become a killer GM like Kyle! :) )

Also, I really like the IDEA behind the final encounter, but as written, it doesn't work as intended.

Final encounter blues:

1) If the PCs don't have a rogue, the machine will be covered in darkness before they can even see it. They won't even know it's there.

2) The explanation of the rings, the slots, and the sunrods was very confusing. The idea is actually incredibly simple, it's just explained badly. Many groups won't probably understand how to use the machine. Maybe that's the point to the challenge?

Although I like them, puzzles like this kind of cross the line between PC and player knowledge. What if the player who solves the puzzle is playing a PC with a 7 Int? :)

3) What's the probability that they can reach the machine (that they don't know is there), fit the correct ring on the correct position on a sunrod blind, pickup the correct sunrod (blind), and then put each sunrod into the correct slot (blind)? I'd say approximately... 0%. Doing it blind just takes a difficult situation and turns it into impossible.

4) Even if they weren't blind (which makes using the machine impossible), it takes a move action to get a sunrod and a move action to fit it into the correct slot. The best approach would be to carry the sunrods in two hands and you could take a move action to remove all of them out of a bag.

To get the machine working it's going to take 5 full rounds for one person to do. If you have all the sunrods and two hands, 2.5 rounds. It's going to take more in the dark (braile on the machine Mark... come on).

With the kind of damage Z is doing, a 4 PC party isn't going to last long. Maybe 2 rounds, not 5 rounds. Having said that, this is the way I'm going to play it out.


The idea behind this scenario is really cool, the execution just needs some work. I'll chime in later, once I complete my full writeup, with my solutions to turn this killer into pure thriller. :) (Sorry, I had to go there).

Andoran ***

Room B3 Blues:
Inflict Serious Wounds at subtier 1-2? Really? That is going to likely kill dead most anyone in a level 1 party, since it is 3d8+4 points of damage, average 17.5, which would be bad enough, but this is likely to get targeted at the same PC who blew the Perform check, and has probably already gotten hurt.

We won't even think about a confirmed critical, which moves into the realms of pure overkill.

Maybe if she has more daggers? As it is, she winds up down to this as her only attack option fairly early.

Sorry, I just ran this for a party of 3 at levels PCs plus 1st level Kyra, and 2 were total newbies. This encounter could have, very easily, taken out the PC of the only experienced with Pathfinder player at my table, since he had the highest Charisma stat.

The Dark Creeper fight was ugly, I was (and am), honestly, frankly happy we got a late start (2 new people making PCs) and ran out of time at the game store...

Taldor ***

I'm planning on running this this Sunday, and I'm keeping a close eye on this thread for this week. Oh, and it was rather hard to find the thread as the title is typoed. Grr.

Map:
Boy did the artist love round corners. Not my thing. Also, the bedroom F4 is probably the most idiotic design I've ever seen.

Also I assume there are no light sources ready? This'd be relevant in area B3.

Spoiler:
The Charade
I understand that these mooks aren't supposed to be combatants. With that mindset I understand them. Yet if they are thugs I'd expect them to have at least some abilities contributing their 'profession'.

Spoiler:
B1
The stairs between Tier 1-2 and 4-5 seem to have no difference, except for perception/disable device DCs. I doubt this is intentional?

Spoiler:
B2
The boxtext says the organ is on the northern wall, although the map says it's on the western wall. I'll go along with the map.

Also as much as I like Diva as it is, I agree with other that ISW is a bit too much on Tier 1-2. However, the tactics say she should stay out of melee... sure, but what's she gonna do then? She has absolutely no attacks. I just can't fathom what Diva is supposed to do once the fight breaks out... 1d2-2 damage? Don't make me laugh...

And the Cheliax faction mission's saber says it has poison... yet it doesn't work like a poison. I'll most likely use the Dark Creeper's poison here instead. Feels more logical.

Spoiler:
B3
A scroll of darkvision ... that oughta be good in the last fight.

Spoiler:
The puzzle is the worst I've seen ... because I can't understand anything about it. I even tried to write a thing about it but noticed I still hadn't a clue how it worked. Mark, fix this mess. Meanwhile I'll come up with something completely different.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

Deussu wrote:

Oh, and it was rather hard to find the thread as the title is typoed. Grr.

Fixed.


My two cents:

We played this at tier 1-2 with mostly 1st level characters and a couple of higher level ones. The imposters at the beginning were fun and easily dealt with. The dark creepers, on the other hand, were extremely annoying; none of us had darkvision, so there was a lot of tedious stumbling around in the dark. The doll was not very tough; the GM targeted one of the higher level PCs with her attack and they made the save. The bat swarm was another irritating encounter, since no one had any area attacks, aside from one or two alchemist's fire flasks; the GM let us flee, thankfully.

For the final encounter, the GM took pity on us and let us enter the room before the bad guy used Deeper Darkness. We beat his initiative and he failed his save on a save-or-lose spell, which allowed us to beat him into submission.

None of the PCs had the appropriate skills to figure out the machine, so our GM was sure we were going to have a (near?) TPK on the final encounter, especially considering the difficulty we had with the much weaker dark creepers, but thanks to his soft heart it turned into an anticlimax (fortunately!).

I would NOT recommend this as a low tier scenario.

*

These were my minor and major adjustments.

First of all, I agree with Hogarth. For subtier 1-2, I think APL 3 is desirable (six level 2 PCs). My group was APL 3 and I dropped five PCs into negative hp (two level 1s). It was that close.

Introduction and start:

- Basia Kalistoff speaks with a Russian accent and looks like Elvira.

- I had the diva sing different childhood songs, in a creepy way. Less opera, more creep: “lalalalala”, “ring around the rosie” “This old man”, ”Daddy, come play with me.”, “Help me, the bad man is hurting me.” “Will you be my friend?”

- I gave the Diva the ability to sing and do 1d2 hp per round of damage in a 30' radius (DC 12 Will negates), so she had some offense (besides lamely throwing daggers).

- Dark Creeper: Tries to steal (pickpocket) the aureolyte crystal after the machine is shut down, while everyone is searching the room. If successful he heads back to Zoathrias (and the PCs will be unable to use the machine). If unsuccessful, he hides and then tries to kill the last person to go down the chain to the lake.

The Machine:

The most important part of this scenario is to make the machine a puzzle the group has a chance of figuring out, no matter what their skill composition is.

1) To stop the device, you need a DC 20 Disable Device or Knowledge: Engineering. I said you could do it unskilled (with a -2 penalty in addition to penalties for not having thieves tool (another -2).). You could keep trying as long as you didn't fail by 5 or more. If you fail, the machine blows up for 2d6 damage in 10' radius (subtier 1-2) and 4d6 damage in a 20' radius (subtier 4-5).

2) I created handouts for:

- The following instructions that are in the scenario
Number Name Material
1 coruscation electrum
2 effulgence bronze
3 fulgor copper
4 glimmer magnetite
5 taper graphite

- To interpret the instructions on the rings, I allowed either a DC 18 Linguistics, K-Engineer, D Device, or C. Language spell (a scroll was in library)

- I created 5 individual slips of paper, one set of instructions for each type of ring.

The bronze ring should be put on position V on a sunrod.
The copper ring should be put on position III on a sunrod.
The electrum ring should be put on position II on a sunrod.
The graphite ring should be put on position IV on a sunrod.
The magnetite ring should be put on position I on a sunrod.

- To get the aureolyte, you need to either do a Sleight of Hand (DC 14), Escape Artist, or use a Mage Hand spell. Or blow up or destroy the machine. I would have entertained other options though.

The correct answer is
Number Name Material Ring
1 coruscation electrum II
2 effulgence bronze V
3 fulgor copper III
4 glimmer magnetite I
5 taper graphite IV

- I also created a handout for the items on the desk, so no one is without a handout. :) I gave an extra alchemy fire at subtier 1-2.

Excerpts from Skeldon Miregrold’s Journal:

There is evidence pertaining to various robberies, scams, and double crosses he has performed, all against denizens of the Darklands. So far he has won everytime and taken home all of the profits. Skeldon is an expert negotiator and thief.

Skeldon is a risk taker and as a result, has indirectly caused many Pathfinder deaths in his position as a Venture Captain. He doesn’t feel bad at all about this; he feels the dead Pathfinders were unskilled.

He’s also an information hub, he sells and buys information about the Darklands, and he’s an asset to the Pathfinder’s in this regard.

Through his information network, Skeldon believes a past associate of his, Zoathrias the Dark Stalker, has returned to murder him and steal back his aureolyte crystal. Skeldon left his business partner Zoathrias to death and torture at the hands of the Drow, while he escaped.

The journal also contains evidence that Skeldon has misused Pathfinder money. Instead of building a better Pathfinder lodge for Karcau, he’s used the money to fund his research and for “personal entertainment”.

His journal also shows that he was successful creating a machine to manipulate the aureolyte crystal’s energies, and that the machine in this room is merely a prototype, there is actually a much more powerful device down below, hidden at the excavation site.

Fixing the optional encounter:

I allowed a DC 20 Knowledge Dungeoneering check to know there are vampire bats in the cave, before the send off. Maybe bat droppings on the dock.

I didn't have the bats attack in the middle of the lake, I allowed the PCs to dock their boat, approach the door, and do something (pick lock? buff? hide?) for 1 round. The PCs can hear the bats coming.

After the freebee round, the bats can attack people still on the boat or near the edge. If everyone is crammed near the door, the PCs can get a free ranged attack round.

I also think it's silly that swarms have such amazing AC. Hitting a swarm should be dead easy, you're going to hit something always. I reduced their AC by 4 against AE spells and flasks etc.

I basically thought of several ways to avoid the bats:

1) The most cinematic way is to open the door (DC 15) and slam it before the bats come in. It takes 1 round to pick a lock. The bats basically chase the PCs into room while doing minimal damage. My PCs chose this.

2) They can fight the bats. They have (free) alchemy fires, acid, and I allowed tanglefoot bags to 2d6 temp damage that lasts 2d4 rounds (enough the disperse them potentially). AE effects do +50% damage.

3) The can go underwater and hide for 30-60 seconds. Holding your breath and swimming (even in armor) is easy in PF.

4) The bats are attacted to the aureolyte. If we throw the aureolyte away from us, the bats will do another 1-2 rounds of damage and follow it.

5) Bash the door. Break DC 20, hardness=5 + 20hp.

Fixing the final encounter:

I didn't have Zoathrias right at the door, ready to hit them with Darkness. The PCs have 2 rounds to do something before Zoathrias arrives at their location. 1 round can be used to move to the machine, 1 round can be used to start saving Skeldon, heal the group, or start inserting rods.

Skeldon: "Get the hell out of here, Zoathrias will be coming back any second.”

Skeldon is messed up, he has green puss running out of his wounds and 200 small needles slowly dripping acid into his skin, but mostly his face. He starts at 8 hp (10 Con), and loses 2 hp per rnd (9r total). To stop the torture device, a PC needs to make a Disable Device check (DC 12 and 1d4 rounds) or any PC can spend 6 rounds pulling all the needles out. He continues to take 1 hp every 2 rounds until a Heal check is made (DC 12) or water is applied to his wounds.

Aureolyte: The aureolyte always produces light, and even in Zoathrias' darkness. It provides a single 5’ square of light, enough to see the machine to insert rods, but not enough to attack Zoathrias (unless the PC rushes into Zoathrias' square intending to grapple).

Enable Machine: If you can see, each round a PC can put 1 sunrod into a slot automatically with a standard action. A PC can put an additional sunrod into the machine if they make an Int 5 check combined with a Sleight DC 15 or Reflex DC 20. There are 2 slots at the front of the machine, 1 slot in the middle, and 2 slots in the back.

Zoathrias: The entire time, Zoathrias talks about how scummy and evil Skeldon is... and he's right. Generally he tries to stab anyone who is inserting rods into the machine.
“It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. He’s the evil one.”

If he's losing or they start the machine, he'll try to kill Skeldon. If he gets extremely low on hp, he stabs himself in the face (coupe de grace), and blows up.

I hope this helps. I found the end fairly cinematic, but I had more fun with just the journey getting there. It was an extremely long but enjoyable scenario (6 hours).

Taldor ***

Spotted another thing that bothers me:

Spoiler:
If the PCs allow Miregrold to die, they face an unusual predicament. The Decemvirate appreciates the PCs’ recovery of the aureolyte sample and Miregrold’s notes, but are angered that there is no one lef to blame for the situation. Irate that they can’t punish Miregrold for his sleights, the Society leadership instead takes the sum he owes them, the cost of restoring the lodge, and the cost of funerary rites for him and the dead pathfnders out of the PCs’ share of the spoils, which accounts for 20% of their total earnings for the scenario. As soon as word of Miregrold’s death reaches Basia Kalistof, she immediately heads to Miregrold Manor to assume control of the lodge. Upon her arrival, she makes good on her promise and rewards the PCs accordingly.

What the heck does that mean? Punish the players? And more importantly does the last part (emphasized) account for? Does it have any effect?

Rather shafting.

Also, Tier 1-2 Zoathrias' Death Throes DC should be 13, not 11 (10 + ½ HD + con mod). I'll use the 11 regardless, as it's a bit too awful to blast 3d6 on the noobs' faces just like that.

*

Deussu wrote:


What the heck does that mean? Punish the players? And more importantly does the last part (emphasized) account for? Does it have any effect?

Rather shafting.

I forgot, I changed that too since it's almost a slam dunk that Skeldon is going to die (between bleeding out, Zoathrias stabbing him, and Zoathrias blowing up, he has almost no chance).

Imo, Basia wanted Skeldon dead and she said she would cover their backs if "anything were to happen", so her reward to the PCs is to cover the expenses that the Decemvirate want the PCs to pay. She let's the PCs know that the Decemvirate are big jerks and that they want the PCs to pay the price. I'm sure the new Shadow Lodge faction would have a field day with this!

Even though Basia paid for my PCs, my PCs (the players?) still wanted to quit the Pathfinder Society because the guys they were working for were such big jerks. The PCs would have quit the PF society and the players would have also quit PFS if they did pay. So I don't recommend doing that.

Taldor ***

I figured one thing that'd make the scenario playable and less murderous, but this would need a certain blind eye towards some parts of the Darkness spell's description.

The unnecessarily confusing part about non-magical light and all that should have been erased during designing. If you merely rule that darkness decreases light level by 1, deeper darkness by 2, regardless of other factors, you're good to go. Then all the creatures and characters with darkvision are still viable where as others are blinded provided the darkvision characters are given normal lighting within deeper darkness.

This way the last encounter won't hose the whole party.

*

Deussu wrote:
This way the last encounter won't hose the whole party.

Well, the way Darkness and Deeper Darkness spells work, the PCs need a Daylight spell, because Darkvision and non-magical light won't work.

I'm not sure if you read what I wrote, but I found giving the aureolyte a single square of light (enough for a single PC to insert rods into slots, not good enough for combat) worked beautifully. When I ran it, the ending was cinematic with the PCs solving the puzzle, which is the intended ending imo.


Jason S wrote:
Well, the way Darkness and Deeper Darkness spells work, the PCs need a Daylight spell, because Darkvision and non-magical light won't work.

Actually, even Daylight doesn't work against Deeper Darkness because they're both 3rd level spells; you need a 4th level light spell to counteract Deeper Darkness.

Osirion ***** Venture-Captain, South Carolina—Lexington aka DCII

I love this scenario - it is not for the faint of heart. It is a tough scenario. Almost completely because of the final encounter.

This is how it played out when I ran it.

GMS ONLY!!! PLAYER'S DO NOT READ!!!:
The unfortunate venture-captain is lashed to the top of his own greatest invention, his body riddled with hundreds of sharp, crystal needle-width shunts all filled with acid. Thus far, his nemesis has kept him alive by force-feeding him potions of cure light wounds. Still, his wounds burn fiercely and he is in unimaginable pain.

I had him moaning and groaning loudly in pain, the party knew something was up and was able to prepare accordingly. ((DC 15 Perception) agonizing Miregrold +10 to perception)

Question you have to ask yourself as a GM - Is Zoathrias completely out of cure light wounds potions. From the description of the text it sounds like he is, but you don't have to play it that way. If the characters get into real trouble you can help them out by letting them find Zoathrias' stash of potions. Keep in mind Zoathrias has kept Miregrld alive for a few days.

The desk contains Miregrold’s personal journals. One of them lies open, revealing his latest entry (see Handout A), a passage concerning his growing suspicions that his former associate, a dark stalker named Zoathrias, has returned to murder him and steal his aureolyte crystal.
Others contain some pretty damning evidence concerning Miregrold’s past robberies, the spoils of which he sold to fund his research, and his misuse of Pathfinder Society funds. A DC 15 Perception check uncovers a few dog-eared pages that concern dealings with dark folk and includes notes about their weaknesses.

I had predetermined that Zoathrias was more motivated and interested in recovering the crystal than in killing Miregrold. He knows that he can always come back and do that later. He wants the crystal. ((DC 15 Sense Motive)Reading the journals +10 to sense motive)

The characters knew from reviewing the journals exactly what Zoathrias weaknesses were and I even threw in a passage from Miregrold that he believed that if he could get Zoathrias in close proximity to the machine, Miregrold suspected that due to the stalker's problems with light, the fully functioning machine might actually kill him.

The players knew how the machine worked; Zoathrias weaknesses and were aware that he (probably) was in the room behind the locked door torturing somebody (probably Miregrold). They had plenty of time to prepare and could make a reasonable amount of noise without being heard over the screams of Miregrold and the ranting gloating of Zoathrias.

In the end they managed to get the machine activated and captured Zoathrias.

Once blinded by the machine he is quite an easy opponent to beat up not to mention he initiates a grapple when he gets to 5 hit points. Big mistake on his part.

The party felt so bad for him that Miregrold had stolen this crystal from him, I made up a really great sob story and the group bought it. They gave him the crystal back and I penalized them the way the scenario calls for in the event Miregrold dies. It was awesome, I couldn't believe they did it.

If you wanted to be really nice you could have Zoathrias be willing to give them a small sample of the crystal (they would have to change his attitude to at least indifferent to get this out of him (+10 Diplomacy check to change his attitude if they are willing to give him the crystal back and +5 more if they convince him that Miregrold is going to be punished by the PFS for what he has done)), since that is really all the PFS needs.

I do not disagree with many of the comments of the GMs here that if the players attempt to rush in and go toe to toe with Zoathrias, they are going to die and he is going to add some more pathfinder bodies to the pile he has already accumulated.

This is a great scenario, if you have not run it, don't let the fact that it is very tough, scare you away from running it at low levels. The more you prepare for the scenario the easier it will be for you to run it.

*

hogarth wrote:
Actually, even Daylight doesn't work against Deeper Darkness because they're both 3rd level spells; you need a 4th level light spell to counteract Deeper Darkness.
Quote:
This spell does not stack with itself. Deeper darkness can be used to counter or dispel any light spell of equal or lower spell level.

Overlapping areas of light and darkness spells (that aren't used to dispel each other) must be resolved. If Deeper Darkness and Daylight overlap, the spells either:

1) Cancel each other in the areas they overlap; or

2) Daylight increases light conditions by two levels and DD reduces it by two levels, effectively canceling each other.

Either way, the effects cancel each other and existing light conditions will prevail as if the spells didn't exist.

If it's case #1, non-magical light sources will work.

If it's case #2, the spells offset each other, but non-magical light sources won't work. Darkvision will work however (since it's not
supernatural darkness
).

I'm not sure if case #1 or #2 is correct, but I've always ruled case #2 because I feel darkness spells would be too powerful otherwise.


Jason S wrote:


Overlapping areas of light and darkness spells (that aren't used to dispel each other) must be resolved.

Deeper Darkness works like Darkness, and Darkness says:

"Magical light sources only increase the light level in an area if they are of a higher spell level than darkness."

That seems pretty unambiguous.

Jason S wrote:

I'm not sure if case #1 or #2 is correct, but I've always ruled case #2 because I feel darkness spells would be too powerful otherwise.

Yes, darkness spells are too powerful.

*

hogarth wrote:

"Magical light sources only increase the light level in an area if they are of a higher spell level than darkness."

That seems pretty unambiguous.

Kind of. A magical light source of the same level wouldn't increase the light level, it would remain the same. Hopefully it's just poorly worded, because it's fairly confusing and it's not entirely logical why an equal level spell wouldn't counteract its counterpart.

Grand Lodge ***

I enjoyed this scenario as well, although the final battle was extremely challenging.

Grand Lodge *

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber

I survived this one, but I told a convention organizer (who I was going to DM for) not to order it for his con because I would TPK every group that played. It ran at a local game day and they had 2 or 3 deaths even with the GM softballing the final encounter tremendously.

Shadow Lodge ***

I'll be running this tomorow, and I think I've got a handle on the machine and the last fight, but the Diva's got me confused.

Ok, she gets a guy to play the organ for her. If he messes up, she attacks. What if he makes the the check? Perform[any] DC 10 isn't that hard to hit. Then what happens?

Ok, if combat gets started, it says she avoids melee combat. She's got lots of ways to keep away or keep people from hitting her, but offensively she's got one use of a (potent) spell, and one dagger (which deals 0 dmg unless she crits). What is she supposed to against them?

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