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FullStarFullStarFullStarFullStar Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden 11,481 posts (12,212 including aliases). 137 reviews. 3 lists. 1 wishlist. 27 Organized Play characters. 5 aliases.



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Straightforward scenario with some neat set pieces

****( )

I played this a while back and had a good time. It's certainly a morale-booster for Liberty's Edge, you can work a little harder and achieve a sweeter victory for it. For the main fight we had some nice 3D terrain set up which really enriched it.

While there's nothing really annoying in it or any obvious mistakes, I guess maybe it just felt a little too straightforward. Do the thing. Get back again. I would have been okay with a few more curve balls. We were nicely in-tier but the final combat wasn't really that scary. As a result, we were in better shape during the getaway than the scenario seems to expect. What I was missing was the "out of control" feeling.


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A nice challenging dungeon with a few annoyances

***( )( )

Like Hall of the Flesh Eaters, this scenario is a real stickler for theme. Lots of things that could be classified as "hungry ghost". Since this dungeon level literally had that name on the door (as described in Halls), it's one of the rare adventures where it's not that metagamey to buy equipment based on the name of the adventure you're going on.

That's probably why the high-tier first encounter is annoying. It doesn't fit with the theme at all. It's otherwise interesting and challenging, but it just doesn't fit in with the adventure.

When I ran this my enjoyment was a bit marred by an overly argumentative player with a trip-oriented build who kept trying to argue rules about why he should be able to trip things. Given the name of the scenario, guess how that went.

Another thing that irritated me both while GMing and while playing was that the labyrinth is basically a bunch of rooms, with very little hallway leading up to them. In both cases, you're spending minutes, hours or days trying to navigate the maze and these rooms represent the spots where you encounter something particularly interesting. The way the map is laid out, there isn't really much room for players to position themselves outside the rooms, and the encounters tend to start with the assumption that the PCs just burst into the room and then the encounter reacts to them. But in both runs, the players kept asking for a way to "hear it coming" and be able to approach those rooms more cautiously. This could have been handled more elegantly somehow. Lesson for next time I suppose.

The labyrinth navigation has been rather maligned by some people. I found the system a bit clunky, with a few too many layers of checks on top of each other, that could have been simplified to "assign one lead navigator, everyone else can aid, and these are the checks you can use". But on the whole it's a major improvement over the navigation rules in Delirium's Tangle where it felt like you were rolling on the Wandering Damage Table. This was much less grindy.

The encounters themselves I liked; each one was different and several of them quite challenging. They had some startup problems due to players queuing at the door though.

I didn't really like the mechanical design of the main boss; it felt like a bit too much of a custom monster with random extra defenses piled on to the point where it's really a crapshoot if you can affect him. I think I actually liked the "filler encounters" more than the main thread, which was a bit overused cliche.


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There's a reason Nidal isn't a tourist hotspot...

*****

I played this mod with Quentin as GM, and later GM'ed it myself. I had a great time in both cases.

The module has a solid story, tied in to Golarion lore and making sense; and pretty much all of it will be discovered by the players during the module sooner or later. If it happens sooner, the tone will be quite different. There's the potential for serious pathos here.

When I ran it, even the non-main fights had my players nervous. Some of them came fast and furious. And the bosses are really quite scary. The final boss is IMO way over the top, but GMs should pay close attention to his tactics, as those give the players a chance to get at him without too many PCs dying.

However what I like best about this module isn't the fights (although those are mostly well-chosen), but the attention paid to description and NPC background. Even the rooms where nothing actually happens are interesting to describe to your players because they help establish the situation the PCs find themselves in. And because every NPC has enough description, it's easy to improvise when players try to talk their way through things (which is possible and even advisable in many places).

Also, auntie dear is an amazing NPC.

One final piece of advice to GMs: the mission hook in modules tends to be a bit vague. In this case, think carefully what hook will best draw in your players and keep them going after their initial findings. The default hook in the module works fine with heroic/do-gooder PCs but for the more mercenary ones you might want to pick something different.


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Not bad, but I don't think it'll stay fresh quite that long

***( )( )

To play this once, it's fine. The story works well enough, there's flexibility in how you do things, and I like those sort of final confrontations.

However, as an evergreen, I dunno. The story is pretty static. The GM chooses which enemies to use in the final confrontation, and this time there's actual well-built statblocks to pick from. I foresee that fight being interesting every time. It's just those missions before that I'd be kinda dozing through on re-runs.


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Such promise, but ultimately deeply flawed

**( )( )( )

I played this together with TheDegraded, GM'ed by Woran. Although we had a good time together, there are serious flaws in this scenario.

Spoiler:

Act 1, getting enough evidence for a warrant: great. It makes sense, it's got some challenges because you're asked to do it in a particular way, and it has original opposition. Except that given how long the rest of the scenario takes, the GM should probably use timers to make sure this part doesn't take too long. In terms of content, you could fill about 50% of a normal scenario with this.

Act 2, infiltration: I think the house is really just too big. So many rooms to search, means you run out of OOC time, get hurried, make mistakes that you wouldn't have made. I also don't think the infiltration part is written robustly to work for less-stealthy parties, and some of the "advice" the NPCs give you is bad and should not be followed. I think newer scenarios like the Sun Orchid Scheme do a much smoother job of what is essentially a Heist. There's a real danger that the party wastes a lot of valuable OOC time figuring how to approach this.

Act 3, the talk: this part makes no sense whatsoever. You're supposed to question an Aspis agent and get him talking about topics which you as the players (if you've been playing S7 scenarios in order of publication) have no knowledge. So you don't actually know you need to be fishing for them. This part just makes no sense and should be completely rewritten, starting with giving you sensible instructions in the mission briefing about what to ask for.

I'm not going for one star because there are quite a few nice things in it still. I really dig the premise of the adventure, and the first part is really tight. It's just the end that's baaaaad.


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An evergreen that will have you wide awake with adrenaline

*****

We've wanted a higher-level evergreen for a long time now and finally got one. The design here I think is ideal: focus on varied and seriously challenging encounters. There's still story, and actually with more variation than in for example the Confirmation. But the meat of this one is really in the tough as nails fights.

The author has been quite explicit that in this dungeon it should be possible to withdraw to recover and come back if needed - there's a lot of TPK stories of groups that tried to complete this one in a single day even though they'd already taken heavy beatings. Hoskins also meant this scenario as an instructional one, making sure most monsters have at least one "interesting" ability that you might run into more at higher levels. The dungeons are full of "you'd better learn to be prepared for this" things.

I like how the scenario gives the GM a lot of room to adapt it for his playes. Although you can roll randomly for the encounters, you don't have to, and the tables are sorted from easier to harder to brown pants scary. So a GM with less experienced players can also assemble a dungeon that's fair for them. But the scenario has also been able to challenge seriously experienced groups.

(Conversely, "it's not my fault you TPK'ed, I just rolled maximum scary on every table" is not an excuse - the GM is under no obligation to roll randomly or abide by rolls that turn out too extreme.)


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Mix of RP, lore and some interesting combats

*****

I really enjoyed playing this adventure. It's definitely an RP-oriented adventure, not a mindless combat grind. However, you don't have to have a diplomancer per se; it's more about your behavior and choices than raw social stats. I like that. It's particularly fun for people who are into Tien lore. Reading through the Dragon Empires books will make this one more fun both for players and GMs.

It's also just got great scenery and a callback to an earlier awesome adventure. Unfortunately this one's lower level than "part 1", but that's hard to get around because the main NPC would just be out of his depth in a higher-level scenario. Fortunately the boon for playing both doesn't insist on playing in a particular order.

For that matter, the chronicle sheet for this one is particularly creative with some things that almost anyone will find useful.

The fights in this one weren't the hardest I've ever fought, but they were original and thematic and not complete pushovers, so no complaints there.


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Interesting premise, but somewhat difficult to convey

****( )

I really enjoyed playing and later GMing this scenario, but it does have some weak spots.

The good part: there are quite a few opportunities for RP and for comedy. You get to play drill sergeant as GM which can be very entertaining :P

What doesn't work entirely well though is that there are some challenges set up to be almost unbeatable, making it feel that the writer, not the BBEG, is being unfair to the PCs. It serves a function in the story, but it does require a concentrated effort from the GM to hit the right vibe instead of pissing people off. (As attested in a lot of previous reviews.)

Another point that one of my players remarked is that although you get a lot of training, there's no real sense of progress; after weeks of training, you haven't actually gotten better at things. Any skill is tested once, there's no chance to demonstrate improvement (if any).

What I do like is that there is a decent variety of challenges, with a significant athletic and mental/social part. Don't think of this as a grunt muscle job; it's for thinking warriors and thinkers who can fight.


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Nice setting details, functional story, but the combats fall flat

***( )( )

I mean, it's an interesting town, there's definitely a feeling that there's quite a bit of story going on here. The GM was certainly having a lot of work navigating the script. From our perspective though, the story that actually happened was pretty straightforward, cliche even.

The definite downside to this scenario is the combats. The enemies are so feeble that you almost spend more time on rolling and organizing initiative than on actual combat.

What saves it from getting a "poor" rating from me is the attention to set-piece dressing. That was nice.


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Imaginative set-pieces, but mechanically dated, and some plot weakness

***( )( )

Quentin ran this for us last night, and we had a good time. It wasn't because of being properly challenged (we weren't) but rather because there's a few imaginative set-piece fights.

Mechanically, there's quite a few issues in here (mostly behind the scenes). Enemy tactics could have been interesting, and made things spicy, but they were founded on somewhat brittle assumptions of what PCs will do. When players start moving less predictably (and this is a 7-11 scenario, so they will) those assumptions don't pan oout.

The plot is interesting, but seems a bit contrived. I think by pitching the mission briefing slightly differently, it would work out better.

Also, I think this scenario would be really neat if the whole Shadow Lodge thing was totally new; it fits very well in the then-metaplot when people had no idea who these people were and what they were about. Unfortunately that metaplot hasn't aged all that well. Suppose you're looking to run a cohesive campaign of scenarios in storywise order for new players who had no foreknowledge, that's something you can exploit.

In any case, I recommend playing this scenario on low tier, it just feels more like a 3-7 in terms of the degree of weird s%$# going down than the superheroic antics you expect in a 10-11 tier.


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Great to run

*****

I GMed this a few weeks back. When I first read it, I thought "hoo boy, there's a lot going on in this for a 1-5", but on second reading it turned out that it was actually pretty clear. There's a lot of small stories in here, each of which makes sense. And they're all neatly tied together through the Harrow theme. The whole story naturally conveys itself to the players.

I liked the setup of the final combat, but unfortunately the BBEG's tactics can be a bit finicky, and just didn't really come off the ground during my run-through. Oh well, that part still wasn't bad, just not great.

The earlier parts worked extremely well though. I had a goofy group of players who had a lot of fun with the earlier scenes. And that's where the scenario really shone for me.

It's exceptionally well-written and edited[. All the plans, abilities and motivations of all the actors are clearly described and exactly where you'd look for them. And the Harrow mechanics used were cross-referenced extremely well, making it very easy to run. This made it very easy to adapt to the PCs' unexpected ways of handling things.

The Harrow use in this scenario was unexpectedly easy and fun to do. Because the GM has a good insight into how the scenario is set up, it's really easy to tailor whatever cards you draw to the PCs and provide a vague yet still meaningful hint of the future for that PC. (Make sure to get an impression of the PC's class, general style and abilities beforehand.)


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Challenging and epic like a 7-11 ought to be

****( )

I played with Damanta, Woran and TheDegraded (see a theme here?). I played my L11 Paladin. The only player who hasn't reviewed yet brought a techno-barbarian who was very very useful.

I liked the RP opportunities in this one. Quite a few NPCs with big potential. Firmly grounded in Numerian lore. I like it when the location really adds to the adventure instead of being just a random spot on the map.

In the end we didn't have a lot of fights, but the ones we had were pretty fierce. Good variation on opponents.

There was opportunity for very different characters to contribute. I was afraid going into this that bringing a paladin to a tech adventure would be lackluster, but I was very wrong about that. The technologist barbarian likewise got to do extremely important stuff. But really everyone got to add to it.

I'll also add that the chronicle sheet doesn't kid around. There is some actually useful tech on there.

So why only four stars? Because it looked like this one was really a monster to prep and run. We had some hiccups where the GM noticed rather late that we were supposed to be getting significant help during an encounter, and at some point had to apply seven adjustments to a boss based on things we'd done earlier.


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I saved my 100th review for a scenario I could really be happy about

*****

So you already guessed I liked this scenario. Perspective: player.

I'd just played the Heresy of Man series and was a bit nonplussed about how little those actually did with Rahadoum as a country. In those adventures, the Pure Legion were just faceless goons that we beat up and moved on. It was just us murderhoboin' our way across the sandbox.

This adventure was quite different. It hit a particular tone I've never really had before in PFS (although this adventure would fit nicely together with Ageless Ambitions). It was as if we were the foreign spies coming into a sovereign, civilized and functioning society to do some "housecleaning", and while we might feel justified about that, local law enforcement wasn't going to agree that we had any right to interfere. So we had to be on our toes about that. It was an interesting tension in the adventure.

Meanwhile, our enemies weren't going to take our efforts lying down either. We ran into plausible and effective defenses, and enemies that fought back effectively.

Nice things about this scenario:
- Celebrity NPC
- Nice locations (don't drop the soap)
- Interesting investigation
- Heist/raid planning
- Well-designed enemies that put up a fight
- Enemy locations that make sense
- More than one way to approach the main dish
- Intelligent play with regards to NPC "feelings" matters
- Well-balanced for four players as well
- Uses the country where it's set to effect
- Advances the metaplot in a way we understand/premise makes sense
- Treated like adults by VC
- Difficult for divine PCs, but not unplayable. Take your precautions. The Pathfinder Pouch exists for a reason.


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Easy, but thematic and entertaining

***( )( )

Just played this scenario this afternoon with a group of Flowing Monk 6, Swashbuckler 6, Hakon pregen 7 and my Slayer 7 (sword and board). The pregen was there to provide a legal table, but mainly kept in the background. It was kind of refreshing to have minimal casting in the party. It was just us knuckleheads getting called in to sort out some mess by doing what we're good at.

Altogether, although it was a pretty easy adventure, I was quite entertained. The trail of clues works pretty well. It felt more like following up on leads than being led around by the nose. The encounters fit together nicely to build information about what's going on.

To be honest, our GM did go a bit light on the scripted tactics; some of them make no sense whatsoever. This is something that comes up in the GM threads; this was Thursty's first scenario and there are some bits in there that result from imperfect rule understanding. Our GM focused on "what the NPCs came here to do" and the encounters made sense and were still easy, but at least they didn't have enemies wasting actions on entirely pointless tactics.

I think it'd be really nice to get a revised version of this scenario that polishes it up a bit to modern-day standards. The story premise and the way the encounters lead into each other is solid. It just needs better tactics and beefed up enemies.


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Interesting

***( )( )

Nice exotic location. Some interesting NPCs to interact with. A couple of quite challenging fights. Nice boon.

It gets tarnished a bit by the contrived enemy lair, which is basically just a dungeon where you go to kill everyone. The monsters can hear you fighting, but for wafer-thin reasons don't all bunch up. This strained plausibility.

Story-wise, meh. It felt a bit like a filler installment in the "follow up on the NPCs from Serpents Rise" series. Although it does peel back the curtain on the Aspis aggression story a bit, giving some insight into their internal workings.

All in all it was a fine enough scenario, just didn't amaze me.


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Cool scenario, some flaws

****( )

Overall this was a nice scenario. Good premise, interesting location, unusual and challenging enemies. Great RP opportunities, and an important move forward in the metaplot.

There are a few tidbits that I dislike though;
- In the first fight, the scene description says a monster holds back until X and then joins the fight. It's written tactics give the impression it fights from the start. This makes a big difference in how hard the fight is.
- At some point there are critters blocking your way. They're kind of on the good side, but can't be persuaded to let you past without violence or teleportation. This makes me sad.


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Ugh.

**( )( )( )

I had mixed feelings about part I of this series, which heavily railroads players to set up part II. The second part didn't work so well for me either.

The opening encounter... yeah, cuz getting completely bogged down in environmental effects is truly fun. Also, you get punished if you didn't play part I right before it.

Next... interesting people and places, underwhelming fight. Setup to do funny things, but it's more straightforward to just kill them.

Oh, yay, more controller fights.

Oh, yay, even more controller fights, but this time with tactics that don't match with the placement on the map. The tactics are literally impossible to execute with the scripted placement of the PCs on the map. I can see that the author had a fantastic confrontation in mind, but the NPCs' tactics work so badly that it doesn't go anywhere. The NPC that's supposed to be helping you does random things that are completely useless due to the order in which it does them. The enemy starts casting spells that you're not in range of.

The only thing saving this from a one star is that the story has the potential to be nice, if the GM conveys it well.


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The high tier is particularly good

****( )

Perspective: GM

About a year ago I GMed Siege of Serpents, and I was rather disappointed. The party were all highly optimized PCs, and the enemies tended to be feeble NPC Codex dudes. They didn't have a chance at winning initiative, hitting or damaging the PCs before being vaporised.

This time, things were very different. The scenario gives players some choice of path to follow, along with an expectation of what to expect in terms of difficulty. Also, the high tier has several optional encounters with varying difficulty, in case the PCs want an extra epic challenge. These vary from brutal to absolutely insane. Which means, altogether, that the GM has a lot of tools with which to tailor the difficulty of the scenario to fit the group of players and provide an enjoyable challenge.

As many others have remarked, this scenario is BIG. At high tier I had to be prepared for 23 different fights, and that's not including an option whereby the party faces enemies from a lower tier (I would ignore that event; it's crazy for preparation and pointless as a combat). However, there does seem to be some effort to make things a little less crazy;

- Some reuse of enemies. Some monsters appear in 3 different places, but due to path choices, you're not likely to face them more than 1-2 times. And the pairing of monsters is shuffled. So the total number of statblocks the GM needs to learn is a little bit reduced.

- Several flipmats re-used. Although it does tend to be "one map one fight". It could have been both interesting and convenient to set multiple encounters on the same map. Either in separate areas (cave systems) or as late reinforcements to fights ("in round 3, these people arrive") which force players to re-think how the fight looks. Reinforcement fights also reduce the overhead of having everyone roll initiative, position themselves on maps and such. It also breaks the "combat is decided in three rounds" paradigm a bit.
- Standardized DCs for skills and saves, scaling by tier. This means you need one small table for DCs that you use everywhere, instead of every section getting new mechanics. I think this principle could have been used even more for "random damage events" that do damage based on APL. Those could have been more standardized as well.

I'm the player that Quentin referred to as making story/lore handouts. I think this scenario has a fantastic premise and I like the way the encounters lead up to bigger revelations. The problem is that the scenario as written doesn't really have a "message plan" for how to communicate this information, and how to dose it. There are various NPCs who provide information and that earns the PCs "clue points", but that's very abstract. So I made handouts with tidbits of info to accompany clue points (also useable as talking points for the GM when RPing that NPC). The idea was that during the break, tables could show each other what they'd learned, and that when the NPC Society leader summarized everything, players could see what their contribution to that had been.

When I read the premise for this scenario, I got really excited, but also saw trouble on the horizon, because I doubt most players have any clue about the following (publicly available) Golarion lore:

Spoiler:

Who the Elemental Lords are (ISWG, The Great Beyond) and what they're like.
Who the good Elemental Lords are, and what happened to them (Artifacts and Legends).

The premise of the scenario is that you're contending with demigods, but most players will just respond with "who?"

I think this Special made some strides towards improving on prior complaints.

- Enemies aren't complete walkovers. There are scaling options to make things doable for high-powered PCs without forcing every table to play at that difficulty.
- The choices players make in which direction to go matter, and the likely effect of the choice is obvious enough.
- Variety in monsters, but also an attempt to limit the amount the GM has to prep. Still not perfect but the attempt is there.
- The interaction between tables was less abstract. Specific PC actions enabled specific thematic benefits for other tables.
- Appendix with monster statblocks sorted by tier. So you don't need to print monsters your players can't encounter.
- The encounters made sense in sequence; each one dug a little deeper, they weren't some random order. The progression felt right.
- Epic premise that makes sense to do as a group special.

- There was no graded performance for the House. That means that if you have to skip some encounters because there isn't time, it doesn't negatively impact people's rewards for the adventure.

This is important because almost all specials I've played before had so insanely much content that you didn't have time for, and then got slapped for not completing it. We took about six hours and I was able to run 10-15 encounters (depending on how you count) which is already pretty huge for a 10-11 tier.

- Diverse encounters. Quite a lot of different abilities had a role to play. And picking a different path really gave you very different challenges/people to talk to.

However, there is still room for further improvement;

- The final map uses a flipmat but then goes on to provide a description of what's actually there that you have to ignore about 50% of what's printed. At this point it's less confusing and less explaining work to just draw it yourself. Shame, a pretty final map should be part of the deal.
- Monster statblocks could be even better organized by:

1) Sorting it into encounters, instead of alphabetically. I want to be able to print a 1-4 page spread of pages that lists all monsters in an encounter, without anything else.

2) Starting statblocks at the top of a page/column, making sure they don't break onto other pages.

Screw pagecount. I want useability more than I want to save paper.

- A message plan for the story. At what points and pace will information be revealed? Because specials tend to be big stressful things, many GMs won't have time to improvise lore drops that aren't already in the scenario. Please provide bullet points with "this NPC tells you..." or handouts.

- Minigames should have flowcharts or handouts. I can make them myself, but if every table needs them, why isn't it in the scenario? They should be player-safe to read. This goes in particular for the final map; a list of "what can you do, which abilities can you use". You can't just dictate ten skills to players and expect them to remember all that, then dictate ten items, then ten spells and some more things they get access to, and expect remembering of all that as well.

- Further cut the number of encounters. A full path here would have been about 1+3+3+[3 to 6]+1 encounters for something that's supposed to take 5 hours or so. That's if you don't take detours or optional content. It also means you don't get to take any second path, while for this one, the GM preps 3 paths. By making each path shorter, we could have people travel across 2/3rds of the content instead of only 1/3rd. For the GM, it would be rewarding to see more of the material you prepared actually getting used.


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Interesting spin on a well-tested recipe

****( )

I'd been looking forward to playing this one for a while, and it didn't disappoint. You're going along with the Hellknights and there's a nice opportunity for interaction and flavour there. Obviously you're not going to have a fight with 10 NPCs on your side all rolling attacks against dozens of enemies; when fighting starts you and they each take a separate part of the front. Nothing surprising there. There's some opportunity and even need to cross the streams so it doesn't feel entirely like mere window-dressing either.

The fights, mostly, weren't that hard. Lots of opportunity to rest and recover in between. All of them were interesting though; the choice of location, monsters, and tactics all helped to develop the story. No filler encounters here.

The story here works quite well. It builds off a little bit from Out of Anarchy (very slightly; first time you see a certain enemy). It works both for PCs who do like the Hellknights, and ones that don't. It's nice to see that the Lawful part of Hellknights is really brought forward. I also very much approve of the choice of all the enemies. It all fit together.

The one thing I didn't really like was The Choice. Interesting (moral) choices with consequences are fine, but this one was a choice of "which encounter are you going to do", which means that whatever choice you make, you miss out on playing the other direction. I do like however how the consequences of your choice affect the Chronicle you receive.


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Like a big-budget thriller

****( )

This scenario was a blast to play. It felt a bit like 24: the terrorists are gonna do stuff all over the place, and you have only so much time to stop them and limit casualties.

The enemies come fast and furiously in this one. We wanted to get to places early and intercept enemies before they struck, but the scenario doesn't really allow that to happen (which was a bit annoying). Instead you're challenged in how fast you can react to enemy moves and neutralize them, because they have more things lined up for you. We were feeling almost overwhelmed. It was epic.

In addition, enemies were rarely-seen but appropriate monsters and NPCs built well enough to put up a real fight. I approve.

The one thing detracting from a 5-star rating here is the Sovereign Court mission. It's practically impossible. There's a significant likelihood that it'll fail due to random dice rolls of the GM without the players being able to prevent it.

Even if there is a chance for the players to try to do something, it basically requires the Sovereign Court characters to spend all their actions on that instead of on fighting. It felt like the writer assumed that SovCo PCs are non-combatant Face characters who needed something to do in combat. For "action prince" PCs it comes down to a choice such as "will I fulfill my Tank/Striker combat role or work on my faction mission", which was annoying.

I don't think faction missions should be written as "either you cooperate with the party, or you work on your own goals". I don't think they should require splitting off from the main action, rather, they could involve the faction PC taking the whole party in another direction or picking a different angle.


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Epic and brutal beyond its level

****( )

Perspective: played it, then GMed it.

If you've played Rescue at Azlant Ridge II, then you'd have some inkling of what to expect. A seriously dangerous but also epic adventure. That's definitely what this one does.

It's getting a lot of negative reactions from people, and I understand where that's coming from. There are some bits in the scenario that aren't really well-explained that matter a lot for how vicious the challenges are (as discussed in the GM thread - no GM should run this without reading it). And there are some things that are supposed to help the players, and they make a big difference, but it's not easy for the players to recognize that these things are good things that will help them instead of bad things to be avoided.

In addition, the 4-player adjustment isn't very well-written. Most of the time now those adjustments focus on altering enemy action economy to fit the difference between the amount of actions available to a 4 and 6 player party. Instead the adjustments here tend to be of the "weaken every attack but keep all the attacks" variety. Which results in some encounters being trivial because none of the attacks threaten the PCs anymore; and others remaining just as hard because the attacks are still accurate and now there's more of them than PCs to handle them.

So if there's so much wrong with the scenario, why am I still rating it a 4? Because it's awesome. It's the kind of nail-biting high-difficulty stuff that you rarely get in the lower levels. It requires characters prepared for a lot of different problems. The way it plays really feels a lot more like an 8-9 encounter (but with lower-level monsters, for the most part).

When I ran it I had at my table my regional venture coordinator, another 5 star GM and two other very experienced players. They picked PCs levelled 4, 5, 6 and then had to pick a pregen. We discussed whether the new Guide mandated in-tier pregens or just strongly suggested it. I ruled that it was just a strong suggestion, and that the remaining player could also pick the L7 pregen. We'd play the 6-player low tier. Although the 5-star crowd was dubious at first, by the time we got to the boss fight, they reversed their position and entirely agreed with the decision.

It was huge fun to run that final confrontation. Players pulling all kinds of weird tricks out of their sleeves because they need them. This was the kind of action where you have monsters coming in heavy and players coming back just as hard.

Anecdote: when the RVC was driving back home he remarked that the scenario gold was a bit low, the other guy told him "yeah, but we were playing down to the 3-4 tier." "NO WE WEREN'T! THAT WASN'T 3-4!" *swerve*

TL;DR - this scenario isn't for everyone. It's considerably more brutal than most 3-7s. But if you're getting a bit jaded because most scenarios feel too easy, or you and your powergamer friends want a real challenge, then this scenario is just right for you. It's certainly doable (player, then GMed without any deaths, and no soft-balling either).


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Not as terrible as I expected, but not without issues

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If a scenario has "dark" in its name, I assume all sane people prepare to fight in bad light conditions. I personally don't believe that players should contort themselves to avoid making use of the scenario name, blurb or front cover image when preparing for the adventure. It's not their fault the editor spoiled it.

In this case, there are actually quite a few in-scenario hints that you will be struggling with light conditions, so being prepared is legitimate.

We played this with a 6-player party on high tier. It was unusually dangerous for a S1 scenario (which is, after all, built for 4 players with less options than now). Which I'm fine with; a bit of a challenge is good. I think including all the foreshadowing given, the high tier is doable (nowadays). Dangerous but by level 4-5 you should be ready for opponents who have a real plan for fighting back.

On low tier, I think it's quite busted. The boss is way over the top.

All in all I'm not a fan of "darkness gimmick" scenarios. This isn't the first and definitely not the last. The problems with darkness as a gimmick are;

Spoiler:

  • Calculating areas of light and darkness, especially when people start deploying countermeasures, is annoyingly complicated. Especially if the source of light or darkness moves about, continually calculating how far regions of normal, dim, dark and supernatural darkness extend, is a lot of work. Add to that the fact that there are way too many vaguely conflicting light and darkness powers out there and you spend a lot of time looking up and explaining rules.
  • It's repetitive. Just about every darkness encounter I've ever run into is rogues trying to shank you for muchos sneak attack damage.
  • It leads to an arms race where you "have to" play a race with darkvision. Nice surprise for new players. Not.
  • It makes scenario difficulty very swingy. If you have a darkvision table, it makes encounters trivial. If you don't have any, it's murder.

We went into this with a well-prepared group and despite a few dicey moments made it through in one piece. We did have a good time. It's not a terrible scenario, but not great. And should only be played with a proper high tier table.


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Entertaining, but very easy

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I GM'ed this for Quentin, a low tier, for a table with levels 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3.

When I read the scenario I figured it was going to be a 4-star review, but I'm a bit disappointed by the actual playthrough. It was a nice scenario to prepare, fairly simple for season 7. Well-edited, with cross-references to stuff the GM needs to keep in mind. No big new rule systems to learn.

I also like the story. There's enough opportunity for players to figure it out, there's a bunch of nice flavour touches. The enemies you run into make sense in the story and help along the message.

Another tidbit I liked is that there's something for literally every faction to achieve on their journal card, without this being an obvious faction adventure. (In some cases you need to look quite closely however.)

Where it fell flat however was just in how easy it was. There were a few highly optimized PCs playing, but most of them were just normal healthy characters, and there was never any real threat to anyone. Enemies lacked both offensive punch and defensive staying power. They were also sorely outnumbered to the point where it starts to look like a 4-player adventure. It doesn't help that encounters were spread over multiple days.

I believe for an exciting combat encounter it has to look like the bad guys could hurt the PCs. That means they need to be able to actually hit PCs on more than a fluke high roll or live long enough to buy time for... something. These enemies could do neither.

I really want to like this adventure, because it's got a coherent story and variety of encounters and nice rewards. But because it's so easy I'm going to keep it next to the Prince of Augustana as an unofficial "total beginner" scenario.


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Interesting premise, but execution could be smoother

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Played this last weekend with the regular bunch, Monkhound GMing. Overall it was a fun time, but compared to earlier social scenarios, I was a bit disappointed, especially since Ultimate Intrigue was supposed to make this sort of thing go better.

The scenario starts off with an okay combat, but I think it could have been even better to cut that out as well and print in big lettering "THIS SCENARIO HAS NO COMBAT IN IT", so that people know what kind of PCs to bring. You're going to a high-security area, to the point that any PC that relies on violence or magical bullying is going to feel a bit sidelined.

We get some introductions and then quite a few rounds of influencing NPCs. There's some interesting stuff happening on the side, but influence is the meat of the scenario.

The ideas articulated in Ultimate Intrigue are applied; each NPC has some special interests so that you can use non-social skills, and all of them can also be influenced with (some) of the standard social skills. So every skilled character should have a role to play. What seems to be souring some other reviewers is that the "specific" skills tend to have easier DCs than the generic social skills. Well, that's basically how UI builds it, and I can support that decision. However, if the only skills you have a Diplomacy and Perception, that's gonna be hard on you. Because the DCs for generic skills are set to cater to dedicated social PCs, not people who had a few skill points to spare to round out their PC.

I think the amount of different views espoused on this subject by previous reviewers is a good indication of what I think is this scenario's biggest flaw. There are a lot of hidden mechanics in this scenario;


  • Which skills work on which NPC
  • Which of the skills which work on an NPC work best (2-3 different DCs)
  • How well are you doing swaying the NPC
  • How much influence over the NPC do you need
  • Who needs to be asked to do what

Now, as a player a lot of this information does come your way. However, unless the GM is quiting bare numbers at you it can be very hard to figure out all the nuances. For example, when the GM is telling you which skills would work on the NPC, he might include a hint that one skill is best, one works, and one works poorly; but the player may just interpret that as saying "one works, and there are two lesser alternatives". The result is that you could end up going up against a DC 5 higher than you needed to. Given the DCs and required number of successes, that matters a great deal.

I believe that in challenges such as these, players are supposed to know enough of the mechanics that they can make informed choices about their tactics; but that requires knowing enough about the mechanics.

Likewise, having an idea of how close you are to success is important. If the players have just got a toehold of influence on an NPC, or have totally swayed him, matters a great deal. If the players understand the GM's roleplayed feedback wrong, they'll waste time on a sure thing or neglect to nurture a budding connection.

I'm not saying the GM should be too open about all of it. I'd rather the GM describe with some flavor that an NPC is more open to bussiness pitches (appraise, profession merchant) than sweettalking (diplomacy, bluff), instead of just getting two lists of skills. However, when there are three tiers of skills, and the players don't know that, it gets hard to correctly parse such descriptions correctly.

It just feels like this scenario piles up the hidden mechanics too high, and combined with several NPCs and a lot of influence rounds that's a lot of vague information for players. At some point it devolves into "button bashing" each NPC with some skill that's allowed just to make sure.

Another peeve was how many PCs could interact with a PC per round. In our case there were six players trying to interact with four NPCs. We'd done Discovery on all of them early on and were mostly done with that (the advantage of knowing how many rounds of talking you get). But then it turned out that each NPC could be targeted for influence only once per round. So two our of six players were relegated to Aiding. There wasn't much else to do; the events were described as being so high security that there didn't appear to be any openings to "extracurricular" activities. And there was nothing new to Discover later on either. I really think this scenario needed more things to do for rogueish spy types.

A final peeve is that we didn't actually got to go to Alabastrine ourselves. We're supposed to talk people into buying up chunks of it, but we basically don't know anything about it beyond what the initial knowledge check revealed.


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Entertaining, but hasn't aged very well

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Played this today with a party of 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 3. By the rules for old scenarios, that put us in low tier. Here we start to see things break down a bit...

The fights weren't challenging - not anymore; they may have been for a party of 4 PCs using CRB-only stuff.

That said, it was still an entertaining adventure to play. It's one of those old adventures that have a good premise even if the mechanics have gotten a bit moldy by now. A savvy GM can really milk the flavor of it.

My recommendation would be to play this with a level 1-2 party of 6 PCs. Originally this adventure can be brutal due to the vast numbers of enemies. Using a modern 6-player party that's fine now. Also having L3+ PCs playing down is too much though. I'd advise against playing this at high tier, I think it'll be grinding with a LOT of individually ineffective enemies.

Another thing is knowing a couple of key rules. At least one encounter goes from TPK-potential to quite reasonable just by having the players understand the Ready action rules.


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