#9-01: The Cost of Enlightenment


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Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

I had a much better time than I expected while running it. I thought it was too highbrow for PFS, but I had a table of only three players who all got into the Qadira mood and one of which was quite interested in existentialism.

I also tried to emphasize the social side of Qadira that these sects were rebelling against. That even though none of the Qadirans they met were bad people, all the jockeying for position was still destructive.


left review on product page.

From a game perspective the deity has her viewpoint and philosophy. It doesn't have to make sense or be consistent. It's religion. I wish it did make better sense.

I think the scenario is a romp and can be a lot of fun for those interested with skilled characters.
The martial types get the combat. They can ignore skills and get COMBAT.

The attacks in the final railroad are contrived (it's a high drama scene). Fortune favors the bold at the pool.
Do Pathfinders think they don't have to take notes even if it's nonsensical? You just MET a demigod/Deity! Hello! *thunking on wooden head* It hails back to Baba-Yaga eating rude visitors.
I think if you just treat Roidira as a 'power' that the PCs should play along with and get as much info on, you are on the right track. You could paraphrase this to a wise PC. Explore, Report, and Cooperate, oh, and don't be a jerk.

It is unfortunate that if you do not drink you get no visions (other than seeing Roidira) and 0 prestige. Seeing and listening to a "deranged and crazy" deity should get you 1 PA for reporting that if you did well on Clout. You have effectively ended the problem, just not in the best way.

on the write up of Roidira
As somewhat proficient in philosophy I found it sophomoric. As a Zen Buddhist (Soto) I was both amused and insulted. I'm glad no one took it for a portrayal of Zen. It falls far short of Nietzsche. It's really a concept revolving around denial, contrariness, and some late night quick discussions. I'll leave my critique of Roid-ira at that. Is it a portmanteau of Void and Qadira with an R for a V? lol...

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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It's interesting that people keep circling back to Nietsche and nihilism. Although the Roidans are often called nihilists, they gave me more of an existentialist vibe.

It's not that there is no truth at all, but that you have to find it for yourself instead of latching on to structures that other people have built. You have to tear down things before you can try to see clearly. Of course to people outside looking in, all that tearing down looks very nihilistic.

My impression was that Roidira was disgusted that her followers didn't understand that: that her followers got stuck in the tearing down, chanting slogans part, but didn't actually start trying to think for themselves. They just changed one dogma for another. A bit like the "Yes, we're all individuals" moment from Life of Brian :P

Silver Crusade ***** RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 aka GreySector

I'm confused about something.

The Cost of Enlightenment p. 9 wrote:

On the White Feather, her views are more sanguine, and she shares her view if the PCs ask. “They are somewhat unsettling, but they are more content to keep to themselves, save for one notable exception I would like you to investigate.”

and later,

She suggests two places, each representing very different sectors of Qaharidi society, to investigate as a way to find more information about the Roidiran cult... the second is an elite club for the city’s great and good. For the latter, she gives the name Vashti al-Amiyyah, the White Feather that she alluded to earlier, suspecting that Vashti’s tongue may be loosened by al-Sahba’s patronage of the PCs.

First, what are the PCs supposed to be investigating about Vashti?

Second, why does Amal al-Sahba suggest that the PCs speak to a member of the White Feather about the Roidirans?

Aside from them both being fringe religious groups, what connection do they have?

Vashti wrote:
You’ve heard the rumors, no doubt, about how we White Feathers and the Roidirans are two sides of the same coin, yes?

No, I haven't. This is the first time in the scenario that this is mentioned.

Silver Crusade ***** RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 aka GreySector

Also,

The Cost of Enlightenment pp. 13-14 wrote:

C. FOREST SHRINE

The equipment from the abandoned mine seems to keep a respectful distance from a hollow at the cavern’s end, as though these trappings of civilization are repelled by what lies on the other end.

What cavern?

The map of area C makes it look like an open air clearing in the Maharev Jungle, not a cavern.

The PCs got directions to the abandoned turquoise mine, where is it? How do the PCs get from the mine to the shrine?

You would think that the miners would have noticed a giant statue and columns near their mine if the ruin was anywhere close to their mine.

*** Venture-Lieutenant, Spain—Barcelona aka Baranduin

It could have received better redaction, maybe. My take, Michael, was:

Vashti is in a seemingly hypocritical position, preaching simplicity and unattachment in a setting full of big fishes. What is she doing there, what is she after? Why isn't she keeping to herself like the other White Feathers?

Sahba suggests that they speak to Vashti because White Feathers (or at least Vashti) think they are linked. Or at least, they have similar theology. The PCs don't need to know why, though. Maybe there was an uncited incident, for instance. That, like the conversation with Sahba, is up to the DM, I guess.

The cavern you access through the stairs in the middle of the map, starting from between the big square columns eastwards.

The text looks like more information was present in the intro, and was cut to meet space requirements. The information though is in there, and it's obvious a lot is left to the DM to fill in.

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

It's a bit tenuous, but the White Feathers and Roidirans both reject mainstream Qadiran society and all it's social-status-seeking.

To a mainstream Qadiran, it might seem like they're both complaining about the same things, so then maybe they have the scoop on each other.

**

THEM: "Hi, we're a couple of parents with two kids under 10. We don't game much anymore, but we come along to the odd convention to roll some dice, have a laugh and teach the kids. We had such fun playing 'Dead Man's Debt' last year that we've signed up to your table again to play today! What are we playing?"

ME: "Welcome. Good to see you again. The main themes of today's adventure are lesbianism and existentialism".

Good scenario, good story, terrible choice for a con.

Sovereign Court **** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

I wouldn't go so far as to say that lesbianism is a theme in the scenario. The high priestess just happens to be married to a woman.

But I get your point, I was nervous to run this at a Con too. But my players just shrugged about the gender issue and were actually into the existentialist part, and we had a great time. (Big relief.)

Scarab Sages **

I ran this yesterday. Not at a con, but at our open game day. The table was a level 1 Druid (Lini plus a couple changes) playing her 2nd PFS game (and I think second game of Pathfinder), a level 2 Barbarian, a level 3 Spritualist, and a level 3 Half-Orc Mesmerist/Witch. None of which had higher than a +2 Diplomacy.

They did fine. Being in the low tier with the 4-Player adjustment helped a lot. The Witch’s 31 (aided) intimidate check to portray Rovagug meant that the 5 the Druid got to portray Sarenrae didn’t hurt them, and was actually enough to earn them 8 clout and a redefining success. The crowd thought it was the scariest Rovagug they’d ever seen. Children cried from fear. A few people left convinced that Rovagug defeated Sarenrae. Others questioned the casting of a gnome as their deity, especially given that the costume was for a human, and the sleeves were dragging on the ground.

That head start meant they only needed 2 clout at the dinner. They got 4, so they were fine for that part.

Despite the low diplomacy scores (I think the Phantom was second highest), they managed to aid enough to get through the other checks. The fights weren’t really an issue for them. The Druid tried to Wild Empathy the lizard, but cane up just short on the roll. It did some damage to her cat, but no one was ever in real danger.

At the shrine, they fought the unfettered phantoms. They did remember the phrase that they were supposed to respond, actually saying it to the Phantom before the fight started, then again when the roidiran asked the first half. That fight, again, wasn’t difficult for them.

The Druid took good notes. She’s run through the confirmation at a previous session, and picked up the habit there. That proved helpful in their conversation with Roidira. They also, again despite their diplomacy/charisma scores, did well enough on the skill checks. The players also put some thought into their responses, with the Barbarian even coming up with a correct response on his own when asked about believing in nothing, responding “We believe in you.” That seemed pretty much spot on with Roidira’s take on the question.

Anyway, with thoughtful responses and some lucky dice, they made it through with full prestige. They did have the Witch’s skunk drink and receive a vision. The Roidiran’s were none too happy about the skunk on psychedelics.

My only complaint about the scenario is that the custom maps are so huge compared to the action that takes place on them. I usually print custom maps, but after getting them prepped, I realized how much space they were going to take up, and I decided against it. I drew out the mine site on a large canvas map, and I drew the room where they encountered the ex-clerics on a blank flip-mat. Then I just showed them what the other rooms underground looked like on my tablet, and what the mine site was supposed to look like instead of my scrawled drawing.

It’s an impressive site, but even after trimming off as much of the forest as I could and most of the path in, I think it was still 31x31, with most of the action taking place right by the main statue.

EDIT: I realized I actually played this at a gameday, not a con. I mixed it up with Copper Gate. This did run at that convention without any complaints (to my knowledge).

Sovereign Court * Venture-Agent, Alaska—Anchorage aka 1bent1

I have a question on the boon allowing the discount of an item by 10%.
With a character with only 4 prestige to his name can he purchase a scroll with 6 lv 1 spells on it?

Please check me if I am correct because with 4 prestige the character only has the always available items to purchase and scrolls can have up to 6 of the identical spell on them correct?

Scarab Sages **

As long as it's a level 1 spell, and it's the same identical spell, there shouldn't be an issue. Scrolls can have multiple castings, but for PFS they have to be of the same spell.

Since scrolls of level 1 spells are always available, I think that should be fine. It's saving him 15 gold, so it's not like it's going to break WBL.

Silver Crusade **** Venture-Lieutenant, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh aka Terminalmancer

Lau Bannenberg wrote:

It's interesting that people keep circling back to Nietsche and nihilism. Although the Roidans are often called nihilists, they gave me more of an existentialist vibe.

It's not that there is no truth at all, but that you have to find it for yourself instead of latching on to structures that other people have built. You have to tear down things before you can try to see clearly. Of course to people outside looking in, all that tearing down looks very nihilistic.

My impression was that Roidira was disgusted that her followers didn't understand that: that her followers got stuck in the tearing down, chanting slogans part, but didn't actually start trying to think for themselves. They just changed one dogma for another. A bit like the "Yes, we're all individuals" moment from Life of Brian :P

I'm late to the party, but thought I'd leave a comment for future PFS philosophers. I make a poor philosopher myself, but I do think that existentialism isn't a perfect fit--this really looks like textbook absurdism to me. But I am philosophizing without a license.

My Camus is rusty, but maybe I can speed-read The Myth of Sisyphus beforehand and get some inspiration for the philosophical debate.

Some of the hooks do seem awfully tenuous on this one, but I think this might be more on the GM side of things--NPCs who give the PCs direction without giving us much to go on. It's not ideal, but it seems like an easier problem to solve than it could be?

There are a metric ton of encounters in this, though. That's what I'm most worried about--even in a 5-hour slot, is there enough time to do more with the philosophy than just roll some dice and be done with it? Guess I'll find out in a couple of days.

Scarab Sages **

When I GMed this, it almost ran very short. And the group did some roleplaying.

Keep in mind that the encounter in the tavern may not happen. It's there as a fallback if the PCs don't participate in the performance at the festival, or if they decide to seek out Lorah before their meeting with Amal. If they succeed at the festival in getting Amal's attention, then they get the invitation to the dinner, and they may decide not to speak to Lorah beforehand at all. That happened both when I played it, and when I GMed it.

On top of that, the encounter with the ex-clerics is optional. If you're running short on time, then they don't attack if they are disturbed.

Really, it depends on how much your players get into the roleplaying, and how long those sections go. We were only about 2 hours in when they got to the underground part of the shrine. So I had them do the optional encounter. Even with that, we finished in a little over 3 hours.

Jason

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Ferious Thune wrote:

When I GMed this, it almost ran very short. And the group did some roleplaying.

Keep in mind that the encounter in the tavern may not happen. It's there as a fallback if the PCs don't participate in the performance at the festival, or if they decide to seek out Lorah before their meeting with Amal. If they succeed at the festival in getting Amal's attention, then they get the invitation to the dinner, and they may decide not to speak to Lorah beforehand at all. That happened both when I played it, and when I GMed it.

On top of that, the encounter with the ex-clerics is optional. If you're running short on time, then they don't attack if they are disturbed.

All of that is pretty much how my play and run went.

Shadow Lodge ****

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Terminalmancer wrote:
I'm late to the party, but thought I'd leave a comment for future PFS philosophers. I make a poor philosopher myself, but I do think that existentialism isn't a perfect fit--this really looks like textbook absurdism to me. But I am philosophizing without a license.

That's certainly the vibe I got from her; although I, personally, would put her a bit closer to epistemological nihilism than pure absurdism... but for the vast majority of tables I think the distinction is moot. Glad to see all those philosophy books I spent lunch period in highschool reading to look smart have finally paid off!

Silver Crusade **** Venture-Lieutenant, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh aka Terminalmancer

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It seemed like Roidira was more absurdist and her adherents went full nihilism, but I agree--most groups aren't going to be able to tell.

My table did not go entirely well, unfortunately--the group was very much of the "I will take notes and reuse phrases from the notes. What do you mean, repeating this phrase verbatim wasn't what you're looking for??" approach. Ongoing distractions all throughout the slot didn't help things, and there are probably a few things I could have done better myself. I was disappointed--I enjoy these sorts of debates, and spent the evening before reading Camus to get into the right mindset, but I was the only one interested in that sort of inquiry at my table.

After-action report:

The tone of the scenario was set when I handed out the opening handout(s) to the players, we did introductions, and then we got distracted for 20 minutes when boon rolls happened and most of the table was out of commission dealing with boons. I've never had more than one person out of commission at a time for boon selection before, so this was a new distraction for me. Next time I may insist that boon rolls happen during chronicle sheet handouts, to avoid this problem.

Part 1a, the market: The party learned some things with detect thoughts, tried to buy something and were disgusted, and then became horrendously indecisive.

Part 1b, clockwork rovagug: party had a good time with clockwork rovagug and really crushed the DC. They went straight to the dinner.

Part 2, the dinner: with no direct instructions to impress Amal, the party barely got the 2 influence they needed and were very reluctant to talk to her about the cults or their philosophies. I asked a lot of leading questions and they weren't really engaging. I mentioned three times that they were supposed to also be interested in the White Feather cult before they caught on. Which led to a lot of freelancing at the upscale "club". One party member tried to use his discount to buy a 30 gp courtier's outfit. I had a brief metagame conversation about how the discount works.

Part 3a: investigation (the club): party gets in. I give some specific hints for how to pry the White Feather cultist away from her entourage, and they figure it out no problem. They then proceed to ask her all about the White Feather and I had to freelance everything. A discussion of divesting yourself of worldly goods had the intended effect and she volunteered information on the Roidirans instead.

Part 3b: investigation (the tavern): They talked to people. Nothing special here.

Part 4 (skipped the lizard. I was sad, but we'd had more distractions at this point and were running late.)

Part 5: phantoms. No spiritualist, no problem. The phantoms went down easily. Even after lots of hinting, nobody read the carvings.

Part 6 The chapel: I was going to skip the optional encounter in the chapel, but one PC kept messing with their empty altar, so after enough provocations, sure, why not? The party was perfect for this fight anyway, with lots of debuff and not much else.

Part 7 Roidira's Test: There appeared, to me, to be three ways to make this work: the no-RP way, where you roll dice and are done; the middle ground, where Roidira has a dialog instead of listening quietly and I get to give the group leading questions to get them across the finish line; and the hard option as outlined in the scenario where she asks questions and expects player answers, acts mysterious and is genuinely unhelpful, and punishes failure with damage.

I picked the middle ground, and it didn't help. Two players really tried to engage; one didn't take notes. Another had taken notes, but tried looking for key phrases in the notes as a "key" of sorts to unlock the riddle instead of trying to "grapple with the inherent contradictions of their philosophy." After lots of leading questions the player got something that wasn't in the right ballpark but was at least attempting to find the ballpark, I gave him a diplomacy roll, and he nat-1'ed it. Already used his reroll. That spelled the end of the productive discussion and everyone got fed up with the scenario.

I treated part 2 as a "make the knowledge (religion) DC and your character figures out what Roidira is looking for" opportunity and her philosophy was not popular with the group. It was enough for them to get Part 3, though, and wrap up the rest of the scenario like a bow.

Thoughts, and things I'll do if I run this again:

The obvious problem for me is that the last encounter was a big problem for my table, with a group comprised of individuals with no affinity for certain styles of postmodern thought, or who simply don't like philosophy.

Looking at the structure of the scenario, it strikes me that there's probably not supposed to be just one attempt to engage--there are three opportunities to try to engage players and make them grapple with these issues. You have the dinner and the conversation with the white feather adherent in addition to the conversation with Roidira. The shouted sayings by the Roidirans throughout the scenario were maybe supposed to provide hints, but I think they're just empty flavor instead. And the two encounters with the religious philosophers are structured in a very "ask the right questions and get some answers" fashion which is not helpful in teaching people what they should be doing in the last encounter.

What I will probably do in the future is turn the first two conversations into philosophy lessons. Give them the information in the box text and then enforce a back-and-forth dialogue with the entire group on the very things that Roidira is going to be asking about. Amal is probably the best person for providing a sympathetic perspective and comparing and contrasting the Roidirans' nihilism with the more structural approach of Sarenrae and many of the other main-pantheon deities. The White Feather cultist I will probably use to provide a more spirited defense of the Roidiran philosophy. The difficulty there is that her own religious philosophy seems (at least superficially) quite different from the Roidiran philosophy; she may not be the best messenger. I'll have to think some more on this.

Other challenges

I didn't do enough to frame the one-time discount in a way that the party understood it, so I ended up having a metagame discussion to avoid people being really disappointed when they got discounts on incredibly cheap things. Some help from the scenario would have been appreciated.

Given that the conversation with the Sarenrae priestess is one of the primary ways to get exposure to philosophical debate before the scenario's climax, it doesn't seem smart to only provide PCs with the suggestion to do so on one of two paths to get to the dinner.

I would have liked more information on the White Feather cult. We're given a bare-bones outline that wasn't enough to withstand significant scrutiny. I was comfortable freelancing answers and I think I was successful, but without more information it's hard to provide adequate answers as to why the two cults might be considered similar or the same, or how any part of Roidira's philosophy could apply to the White Feather lifestyle.

Those maps were way too effing big.

I would have appreciated even just a line or two of box text to introduce each area. The lack of box text for some areas is not unique to this scenario, but it wasn't helpful.

I'll probably run this again and I'll wait until after that to officially rate it. It's totally up my alley, it's amazingly ambitious, and I'd like to give it a fair shot.

We might have had the perfect storm of tired players not paying attention, distractions, and a table particularly ill-suited for the scenario. But I think a deep dive into absurdist/existentialist/nihilist thought, with players (not PCs) grappling with the implications, demands a certain careful approach. This scenario seems like it had that structure in mind and then the building blocks got turned into more PFS-standard components that didn't quite do the job of preparing the players for what was expected of them. I think the scenario is the worse for it.

Sovereign Court * Venture-Agent, Alaska—Anchorage aka 1bent1

Lau Bannenberg wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
Fromper wrote:
The question of the phantom's skill ranks is probably worth starting its own thread. Maybe as a question about whether that's a typo in Occult Adventures, since it seems like it.
To preempt said new thread, this came up sooner after OA's release, and I checked with Stephen: phantoms get 4+Int instead of the usual outsider 6+Int because they also get max ranks in their two emotion skills.
So how does that square with phantoms getting 2 freely usable skill points per HD (as shown in the table), at Int 7?

Was this resolved? does the pahntom gained in this scenario gan 4 skill points per level plus the maxed ranks with the skill associated with their emotional focus?

Scarab Sages **

I think normally it's 4 skill ranks per level - 2 for a 7 INT plus the 2 maxed skills. That seems to be what tracks with Mark's message. Since Zarisha starts with an 11 INT, then it looks like she would get 4 skill ranks per level plus the 2 maxed ranks for a total of 6.

The phantom is part of the scenario I've struggled with. There was a Spiritualist in the group when I ran it, but he had no interest is swapping out his phantom. Most wouldn't, I would imagine. And I wasn't quite sure how that would even get initiated during the scenario. It's not a normal thing Spiritualists can do, is it? So only if they happen to engage Zarisha in a discussion that might lead to asking her? It seems unlikely. And since she's not around after they've talked to Roidira (presumably they had to fight her to get to the next part), it wouldn't happen as part of the discussion once they've learned the truth.

Silver Crusade ****

I'm still planning to take the spirit on a new spiritualist PC I'm making using the GM credit from running this. So I'm still hoping for a definitive answer, though I think just assuming she gets 2 more skill ranks per level than most because of her int is probably good enough.

***

I'm getting ready to run this again. Brushing up since GenCon.

I've gotten some more information on the two cults so I can provide it to the party when appropriate.

Alex Wreschnig wrote:

After-Action Report

Spoiler:
Part 1b, clockwork rovagug: party had a good time with clockwork rovagug and really crushed the DC. They went straight to the dinner.

Part 2, the dinner: with no direct instructions to impress Amal, the party barely got the 2 influence they needed and were very reluctant to talk to her about the cults or their philosophies. I asked a lot of leading questions and they weren't really engaging. I mentioned three times that they were supposed to also be interested in the White Feather cult before they caught on. Which led to a lot of freelancing at the upscale "club". One party member tried to use his discount to buy a 30 gp courtier's outfit. I had a brief metagame conversation about how the discount works.

All of my tables at GenCon managed to go straight to dinner. The lack of direct instructions on how to impress Amal made the dinner act both less fun and less rewarding. I'm trying to figure out a way to give the instruction to the party to help them. If they skip the performance and fight the thieves instead, Meriwether gives the party some directions and hints. I think if the party goes the performance route, I'll have the priest give the party similar instructions. Maybe a little more vague, but informative. Or I might have Meriwether be with Amal at the festival and talk to the party after Amal leaves. I need to provide some prompts so the party has more fun and gets more info at the dinner.

Also, I don't like that the Dawnflower Sash is just tacked onto the chronicle sheet at the end of the adventure. It's a cool item. I thought I might have Amal present it to one of the party, particular a priest of Sarenre, if they did a good job with the dinner role play. It's not a very powerful item, just neat.

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