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***** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden 11,934 posts (12,684 including aliases). 138 reviews. 3 lists. 1 wishlist. 29 Organized Play characters. 5 aliases.



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How to turn a simple premise into a special adventure

5/5

Track down some kobolds. Sounds straightforward, right? Of course there'll be traps. But there's going to be a lot more to that. These aren't just faceless kobolds, they're people too. Some of which you might like. Some less so..


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I love you guys!

5/5

This adventure is best enjoyed with a GM who tends towards the extrovert, hyperactive side of things; and with a quick turn of mind to run any shenanigans that happen.

The adventure's got interesting locations, some unusual monsters, a lot of possibilities to get stuff done without a bloodbath and also some opportunities for a nice bloodbath.

The concept - escorting a bunch of crazed goblins - certainly scores points for uniqueness.


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Awesome idea, but finicky to pull off

4/5

The concept of the adventure is really awesome; there's some brutal stuff in the last battle, and it'll be hard on everyone.

That said, the whole adventure has some tricky mechanics to it. The GM who ran it for us was a great performer, but was a bit fuzzy with rules. For example, the first encounter has terrain that mitigates some of the enemy's advantages, but he didn't use that map but one that didn't hamper the enemy that much.

The big end fight also has a lot of interwoven mechanics. If you correctly apply all of them it should give players the clues they need to avoid certain Don'ts, and the whole thing is hard but survivable.


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Wake-up call for the kitchen sink

4/5

Most of the time in PF, there's a line of thinking that goes "it doesn't matter if I look weird or scary, I'm a s+%%-kicking adventurer and nobody's gonna mess with me and live". This is one of the first serious undercover adventures where your disguise skills actually get put to the test, and many are found wanting.

I do think the adventure has some bits that could use improvement; the success conditions don't really reflect the mission briefing well. If you ignore part of the mission your odds of complete success (according to PP) improve. I think the management screwed up the move towards secondary success conditions here.

There are multiple tactics to blend in, using different skills. I think the adventure works better if the GM is open as to what skills could be used for what kind of disguises.

As to the actual goings-on. The encounters were occasionally quite challenging, but some rely on sketchy rules (details in the GM thread).

I loved the final encounter though; someone ambushed us, we royally beat her and I used Explosive Bomb to set her on fire. After she burnt down and we defeated her accomplices, she suddenly rose from the dead to deliver some cutscene text and then promptly collapsed back to smouldering corpse again :P

On the whole, I think this adventure is a solid start to the "genre" of undercover scenarios, and that good lessons were learned from it for later sequels like By Way of Bloodcove.


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Now *this* is fantasy!

5/5

This scenario really felt like a high fantasy romp. Exotic location, rare and deadly monsters, dangerous traps, flying carpet rides :D


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Creepy and possibly quite deadly

4/5

I played this under Woran's GMing a while back. I had a good time. The balance of investigation and fighting worked for me; it took us quite a while to figure out what was going on, but it all fit into place when it did. And the combats against sometimes rather weird enemies are the logical result of that plot. I'll also add the combats weren't walkovers but not unfair either; just the way I like it.

Sadly we had to rush the ending; possibly we took too long on the investigation. I recommend scheduling this on an evening where you have plenty of time, so you don't have to diminish the atmosphere by rushing.


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Strong athmosphere, fights can be a bit easy

4/5

I love these backwater Taldor adventures (Decline of Glory also comes to mind). Crumbling nobility that needs your help to keep its head above the water

This adventure scores very strongly on mood and setting. While not very complicated, the plot holds together well enough.

When we played it the fights felt a bit easy. I recommend playing with the 4 players the adventure was balanced for, rather than the 6 you're allowed to have.


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Okay, but kind of a filler adventure

3/5

The scenario was okay - some puzzling (which I totally overthought, coming up with a way more complicated explanation for he same solution), traps that make you nervous and some cute fights.

However, it wasn't really anything special. The bad guy was just "someone", there was no big story behind this that I could see. It could happen anytime, anywhere. And none of the puzzles or monsters were special enough to really make this one stand out for that reason.

I'm on the fence about the narrow corridors. I suspect that was just the author going "it's only people walking through here, why should it be any wider?". However, if you actually plan fights in there, you get horribly cramped fights in those 5ft corridors, in which only half (at best) of the party gets to participate.

At some point, it turns from "tactical challenge" to "author absent-mindedness means half the party gets to sit on its hands". I think this adventure was just barely on the good side of that.

In summary: this is a good adventure if you want to spend an amusing afternoon spanking baddies and get your XP, but that's about it. Also, for a beginning GM it's a good buildup to more difficult to run scenarios.


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Nice combination of low-level and high-stakes

4/5

It's often hard to combine high stakes and realistically leaving it to low-level adventurers. This one does that nicely. There's a good sense of urgency throughout the story.

It's also a good mix of talking and fighting. The fey can be fun to talk to.

The fights themselves are on the tough side with some hard-hitting enemies. I wouldn't recommend doing this with a party of newly made characters; better to have a few wands and suchlike at hand. When we played this with some pregens along those had a rather poor time of it.


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Straightforward and nice

4/5

Sometimes you just want a straightforward adventure. This one does so nicely. It's got a funny backstory which you get to find out, too. Most of the faction missions are also cute.

The enemies are rather feeble on low tier, but if you just barely squeak into high tier they can be dangerous. On the whole this one is most fun if you don't overdo it with optimizing your party.

I think the simplicity and easiness of this scenario on low tier makes it a good one for demo-ing PF to new people, were it not for some fuzziness on some 3.5 rules used here that might complicate the demonstration.

A re-issue of this one with PF rules instead would be extremely welcome.


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Nice mood piece, suddenly newly relevant

5/5

With the publication of School of Spirits there's renewed interest in this scenario and rightly so. It's a cool story in a cool location. It does very well on mood and setting and the combats can be hairy, especially if you keep in mind this is meant for a four-player party.

If you're going to play School of Spirits, I would recommend playing this one before, ideally with the same character. Try not to play them in the reverse order because of major spoilers.

I think a re-issue of this one with PF mechanics might be nice, although the 3.5 mechanics are workable.


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Can be rather painful

4/5

So when I played this I though I was quite safe: a level 1 bloodrager with strength 18 and AC 18 while raging. However, my GM borrowed my dice, rolled open every time, and didn't roll below 18 when attacking me. Was very painful :s

It's a nice straightforward adventure in an evocative location, with some groaning humour thrown in ("WHY Nigel WHY?!"). The encounters can be pretty fierce but are fair.

I think the only big downside is that the map is too straightforward. It could do with a few more twists and turns.


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Nice story, somewhat dated mechanics

4/5

I enjoyed the old-school PFS flavor here, with somewhat over the top NPCs, silly factions and a grandiose plot. Most of the enemies are somewhat feeble but that's not a dealbreaker if the story is just plain entertaining.


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Fun, but doesn't achieve everything it sets out to do

4/5

I just ran this and had a good time with friends, but I'm alo left slightly disappointed.

Good:
- Good story, engaging and with no facepalm stupidity moments
- No stupid "invisible walls" (some non-stupid ones)
- Encounters advance and tell the story to the players
- Lots of rarely-seen monsters to make your players go "whaaa..."
- Chronicle sheet is equally awesome for all tiers

Bad:
- Goons from the NPC Codex are sorely underpowered. I couldn't realistically challenge the PCs with them. To-hit was too low, AC too low.
- Too many encounters; to get a complete success all the tables need to complete LOTS of encounters, but there's not enough time for that in six hours let alone four.
- Final encounter has so very little to do with the story. The "boss" wasn't.
- Too many creatures with abilities that flourish in particular environments, locked up in rooms where they can't use them.

Spoiler:
Goons with area attacks that will inevitably damage their allies, flyby monsters in rooms with nowhere to go.


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Great fun

5/5

This was a great scenario. It's one of the first "social" scenarios, preceding the modern use of influence mechanics. Character skill isn't so important, player social skill much more. That worked very well for us. The structure of the encounter also allowed for natural "turns" to also give a chance to the more quiet players to get a few words in. The rather loose structure of this encounter helped to give it a lot more depth rather than following rigid rule-paths. Very nice.

The more fighty part of the scenario seems about right to me as well; there's a fight that wasn't all that easy for our four-player party. A 6-player party or one with different builds might find it much easier though. The dungeon and puzzles were easy but that was fine; we'd spent so much time on the dinner party that we had to hurry a bit anyway.


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Straightforward, flavorful, fun, but a little easy and too simple

3/5

Let's first talk about ambiance. I think the scenario has a very good start; the setting description is flavorful and has the potential to be creepy. However, somehow it doesn't really cross over into being a proper horror scenario. I think the potential wasn't fully exploited. That's somewhat due to the rather simple map used; not enough twists and turns, too many big rooms. It's a bit sad; Shadow Absalom is looking very intrigueing, I wish this was exploited more. Perhaps an idea for a new scenario?

This is clearly an older scenario and it feels a bit dated and simple. That can also be an advantage though if used by a less experienced GM or to introduce new players; in that case it's nicely straightforward.

On the whole I think the scenario's difficulty is on the easy side, when the GM sticks to the rules and scenario as written. There are quite a few suggestions in the GM threads on how to oomph it up and/or interpret some vague rules in the scenario in a harsher way. On the one hand those might make the scenario more interesting/challenging; on the other hand you're on the slippery slope of altering scenarios which you're not supposed to do in PFS. Because some of the bad guys' advantages are rather trivially overcome by simple measures by the PCs, there may be the temptation to block that (going against the scenario). I think the best course might be to run this scenario with 4 players (the amount it was written for) rather than 6, and keep the difficulty as-is.


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Interesting, but too enthralled to part II

3/5

When I played this is it didn't go so well. I think part of that was end-of-Con fatigue or something. Later I got the impression that what we played resembled the published text only vaguely. On inspection of the scenario, that proved true. However, the most serious irritations during our play actually come from the scenario, and are due to it being a multi-parter.

For part II to happen, some stuff needs to happen in part I. This is stuff that most normal PCs will want to prevent, and anyone with a bit of genre savvy will see coming from a mile off, so you can bet players will be taking steps to prevent it. However, the scenario is dead-set on railroading these mishaps into happening anyway.

That said, it's not a bad scenario. The background story is interesting and you'll find out some of it in part I; and it does a good job of getting you interested in part II.

"The" fight is pretty spicy, and unfortunately actually nullifies a lot of the abilities of Occult classes, which is awkward because this scenario draws rather heavily on Occult Adventures. A conventional, balanced/diversified party should be able to handle it though.

UPDATE: I've since replayed this to fill out a table. I had a good time, but I stand by my earlier verdict. Too often the GM had to say stuff like "there's no IC reason why you would know this, but you can't fix this in part 1, that's for part 2".

As such, I would recommend running these back to back, not with a few weeks in between.

I would also recommend playing this with a well-rounded party, perhaps leaning a bit to the combat side. You get challenged on arcane knowledge, social skill and/or stealth, but the combat is particularly deadly. I'm glad I picked pregen Kyra and Seelah to fill out the table. With a swashbuckler and a hard-hitting UnMonk/UnRogue that gave us quite a frontline and we needed it, because this scenario puts most of the hurt in one combat.


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Nice people get nice things :)

5/5

I really enjoyed playing this. We played the high tier with a bit of a scattershot party that just barely made high tier but the GM told us we'd be fine - and we were. The scenario can be a bit on the easy side, but I think that's been a good choice of writing here. The focus is on telling a personality story, not blood-curdling danger. Although I gather that if you're more into picking fights, some of the enemies are dangerous enough. We were nice people though.

The NPCs were likeable and an interesting showcase of the Occult Adventures content. The whole "this stuff is rare and poorly understood" angle worked out very well.

The story is good; it makes sense and has surprising revelations, especially for this tier. Callbacks to older storylines that PFS veterans will enjoy, too.

You get to make some (moral) choices, and for once it doesn't feel contrived that it's you making them, and the choices feel like they matter.

The boons are sweet too.


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Nice brutal fun

4/5

I played this in a party of 7,8,10,10,10 I think, so high tier with 4-player adjustment. We had a party of pretty highly tuned PCs and players who cooperated well, and that worked out well. It was pretty tense here and there but we made it through without fatalities.

I think the balance was quite well-done actually. The monsters didn't go down too easily even to the L10 assault, but my L8 and the L7 guy could land some hits too if we put in effort, so everyone got to contribute.

There is at least one major tactical challenge here, where just trying to rush in would be very bad. Between casting, a roc mount and a cacodaemon familiar we had good scouting and mobility options and that saved us a lot of grief.

In many scenarios you can't really do that much tactics; dungeons often have a linear path and you don't know what room you're gonna encounter until you're in front of it. In this case you have the opportunity to look ahead and really make a difference. I like!

---

Apart from the combat part, the scenario has a nice flavor to it. The whole rough and tumble giant island thing works for me. And even so, you don't actually have to fight everything, although that also works. Good job!


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I like it less after actually running it

2/5

I GM'ed this for Kurald Galain and a few others last weekend, and I'm rather disappointed myself.

I personally do like good puzzles, but this one wasn't written like that. There's no way for character skill to really help you. There's no feedback mechanism to let you know if you're on the right track. Although you can get more clues, those are pre-set clues. In this case my players were trying very hard to reason their way through but got stuck with a few false assumptions and I couldn't really help them away from those with the stuff the scenario gives you.

I wasn't so impressed with the combats either. In the case of the first combat (high tier), the 4-player adjustment ruined it.

Spoiler:
The idea being that the fey use the portals to give you a dynamic combat, running around. But the 4-player adjustment removes the enemy archers. If the party's not standing near to any portals, it's a fight between +3 to hit tiny few and 6-7th level PCs that can just kill them when they try to close in. And the air support really isn't fun; either it doesn't do enough or it does too much.
The second combat could be really cool but the monster died before it could do anything, and the PCs weren't doing any beyond the ordinary effective stuff to it. The next combat was more interesting because it plays a bit with the portals.

What I really didn't like: one of my players knew the solution to the puzzle because her boyfriend was prepping it for running the scenario later in the weekend. So she bowed out of that scene to take a break. But the puzzle took so long that eventually she just went to bed.

I was dismayed at how bad the puzzle went. I was aware it wasn't great but my players at first showed good spirit working on it, so I didn't want to start giving clues out too fast or anything. But I really wish I could've skipped it.

Was anything good? Well, the premise of the scenario. The town is nice, the backstory and the fey there are cool. I liked the tactical possibilities of the portals, but that just didn't really materialize.


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Fun, but some issues with the mechanics and overly deadly to some

4/5

Well, I died in the final fight, as a L3 slayer playing down. But I got better, and had a good time all afternoon.

It's an investigation, and those are tough to write. You want actual difficulty, so finding clues shouldn't be guaranteed; but if the players miss a clue you don't want the scenario to quietly grind to a halt. I think this scenario handles that fairly well; there are some backups but also rewards for doing things right the first time.

At first things don't make much sense, but as your investigation proceeds, you get a relatively full picture of the story behind the scenario. As it should be.

This scenario is rather demanding on skills, particularly at low tier (no scaling). Do not expect a perfect score like in many other scenarios; this one is harder. In the notorious chase, this can be an issue. Hopefully your GM has read the (several!) threads in the GM forum where some remedies are offered to keep everyone in the game.

I would advise against playing at level 1. A stray max damage or crit might kill you. Also don't recklessly play up. Your opponents have a lot of vicious tactics. Standing to the back of the party and hoping you don't get targeted doesn't cut it here. You need to have some clever tactics of your own.


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High potential, so-so execution

3/5

Quentin ran this for TheDegraded and me (and others; you'll probably see a Damanta review too eventually).

I'd been looking forward to playing this one with my roc-riding inquisitor alongside Damanta's mammoth rider for a while now. He was level 11, I was level 7. Since we played high tier, I was a bit on edge, since I'm very melee oriented and chronically low on HP.

I was both pleased and a bit disappointed by the scenario. It does a good job with awesome, weird and just icky monsters. You really don't want to give them any opportunity to do their thing, because that's gonna be nasty, or painful, or both.

While we brought fairly little control, it was still rather easy to gain control of the situation. Due to having eyes in the sky, a healthy dose of paranoia and good Perception (who doesn't?) we didn't suffer surprises and were able to start every fight pre-buffed to some degree. We got to choose who the monster engaged in melee, the monsters didn't get any choices.

After dying while playing Storval Stairs the week before, maybe my difficulty sense is just a bit askew.

The story was fairly simple but if you don't have too much time but do have nice scenery, that still works. I did however see Quentin struggle just to find the information for each scene. The RP could've gone more smoothly if the GM information was better presented, I think. But on the whole the RP was fairly intelligent, with some room for arguing your case and not just bashing someone over the head with your high Diplomacy score. (Although we had that too, of course. We're not stupid.)

The good:
- Setting is nice
- Opportunity for RP
- Big, loud, nasty monsters

The bad:
- Tactically easy (big numbers but not brilliant tactics)
- Messy to GM
- Thin story

It might go up to four stars if I like it when I run it.


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Much nicer than I expected

5/5

This one is all about the expectation management. I think many of the horror stories from other groups are from people who had no idea what they were going into. When you've been working towards this scenario with enough of an inkling, it's really nice.

So I'm going to be a bit more forward with information on what happens in this scenario, but I'll avoid thing I'd consider actual spoilers. In fact, I think the scenario is more fun if players do know these things ahead of time.

The cat is out of the bag: you're leading armies, using the mass combat rules, originally from Kingmaker and reissued in Ultimate Campaign. The scenario uses slightly simplified rules because you're not running a kingdom, too. Even so, if players have read through the Ultimate Campaign rules once, they'll be on their feet sooner.

There are some default armies to use, but if you've played the right S5 scenarios, there are several boons that come into play in this scenario. There are quite a few scenarios in S5 that revolve around gathering allies for the PFS excusion into the Wound, and now is when you use them. The way it works is that you get the benefits if any of your characters have the boon, not necessarily the one you're playing in this game. The allies you got in a tier 10-11 adventure will also help you out.

Taldor's storyline in S5 is about gathering an army to prove that Taldor is still great. Now is your time to show off. If you have played most of the "relevant to Taldor" adventures of S5, it's a very kickass army. Another reviewer complained that you get hosed if more than one player uses the Taldor army; that's not quite true. Any additional Taldor armies are weaker than the first, but still relatively strong, and they work well together.

---

So you're going to do some army gaming. You're all going to lead an army and together you're going to beat the bad guys. The mechanics work like a fairly simple tactical boardgame (compared to say, Warhammer). Another thing that makes it different is having your friends at your side; when one of you is facing off against multiple demon armies pouncing on him, you all cheer if he beats them. It's kind of like the fun of working together in PC combat, but with armies. I quite liked it.

I imagine if I ran into this at a con, with no preparation, I'd hate it. But if you've been building up your Taldan generalissimo for a while now, it's a nice L7 mid-career climax. (The guy leading the mammoth lords wasn't disappointed either.) And I was pleasantly surprised at how well the mass combat rules actually work.

---

Apart from leading armies there's also some regular murdering going on. See that guy on the front cover? He's not going to have a good day. But he's gonna try to make you have a bad day too. The scenario isn't only leading armies, although that's the biggest chunk of it.

There's also a "monster" using another set of unusual rules. We didn't fight it, and later when I read the stats, I'm glad we didn't. I think those rules have some wrinkles, and it hits quite hard.

But side effect of having these high-Cha commander commando types is that we were able to disguise and bluff our way trough that.

---

There's been a tendency in S5 to show off new rules (mythic, performance combat, piecemeal armor...) that hasn't always worked well. In this case it works well, but you have to know what's coming, rules-wise.

I might use these mass combat rules in my own campaign as well, they're crunchy enough to give you options but simple enough that things keep moving.


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I live! I die! I live again!

5/5

Going in to this one I was rather nervous, because of its reputation. A well-deserved reputation. At first it looked like we could handle this, but then I flew into an ambush and got killed quite suddenly. Another PC died the next round. Fortunately we both got back to life before the final fight.

This is one of the best brutal adventures I've seen. There were no rule shenanigans; no monsters with obviously illegal builds or tactics; no manipulation of the CR system to shoe in an encounter that's much harder than its CR makes it look. All the challenge is fair and above-board. The author is quite honest about how hard stuff is.

That's not to say enemies fight fair of course. Like I said, I flew into an ambush and paid the price. I should've seen it coming.

The location is beautiful. The monsters are both epic and funny.

When in doubt, play down, and still be on your toes. But I had great fun.


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Enjoyable, but I expected more

3/5

Disclaimer: I played this up as a level 7. I went down quickly (tough not dying) in the final combat so I might have liked it better if I'd gotten the chance to do stuff there.

The premise of the adventure is fine. The leadup story makes sense, but make sure to have a notepad ready at the briefing because Oh God The Namedropping. Showing a map of Tian Xia helps to put places to place names, helps a lot to give you an idea of where you're going.

The journey feels poorly implemented, as others have mentioned; why can't we heal on the way instead of waiting until the end? We just drew a wand of Lesser Restoration and life went on.

I wasn't too impressed with the first fight; the enemies got their tactics a bit tangled up and in general weren't very impressive. The builds seemed awkward and clunky.

After that came an interesting bit of RP. While you can screw this up for yourself, it should be doable if you actually play at being diplomatic instead of just trying to roll through it.

The next fight was flavorful and not too hard or easy. The fight after that was rather dumb, with monsters that use tactics to gimp themselves.

The final fight has a really cool setup. Cool boss, nasty environment. Sadly I didn't get to do anything. But that's the risk you take playing up.

---

My gripes are these:
- For a Sovereign Court mission, there really wasn't enough politicking in here. Like, any at all. This is just "the person whose dirty work we're doing happens to be a noble", but you're basically shock troops.
- You're allowed to take some treasure, but not other treasure. But there's no way to know that, and the distinction feels totally arbitrary to me. And it also doesn't matter what reasons you have for it.
- Most of the monsters seemed "just punks" to me. Not ones you see a lot, but still just things whose destiny it is to die a stupid death. The boss makes up for a lot of this though.


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