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Pathfinder Society Scenario #4–15: The Cyphermage Dilemma (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Implausible and disappointingAscalaphus —
Let's take a look at the prerequisites for the Cyphermage prestige class:
Feats: Cypher Magic (Inner Sea World Guide 284), Scribe Scroll.
So basically any cyphermage is a level 6+ spellcaster, probably a wizard. The head of their order is a level 9 diviner (according to Second Darkness). If there's NPCs with this prestige class anywhere in the world, it's gonna be in this city, their headquarters. And divination is basically their thing. But they need the help of some level 1-5 pathfinders, because their organization is under attack and they don't know where it's coming from.
Next, there's people walking around with rabid dogs as pets.
Finally, the "BBEG"
She's a pirate who wants to compete with said level 9 NPC. Except that she's level 2 or 5 magus.
She wants to become more notorious and feared. The warehouse where she stores her loot in the harbor is known; people have seen her crew bring stuff to it. However, the name of her ship is a secret. It's right there in the harbor, but it's a secret. Meanwhile her crew is going to and fro it.
"Cyphermage Dilemma" makes you expect cyphermages, as well as tough choices. Maybe some puzzles, some magic/rune stuff. Well, disappointing.
The story is a railroad. The fights would be easy for a fresh level 1 party; our four-person 1/2/2/2 party sleepwalked through them. (Merisiel 1; fairly mediocre level 2 gunslinger; level 2 support cleric and level 2 arcanist that never even cast a level 1 spell, there was no need. Basically, Merisiel beat people up and took their lunch money with some flank buddy help.) Supposedly the enemies are exotic races and exciting classes. In practice they're low level and die before doing anything special.
There's some implied intrigue but you're basically brought in to do the mopping-up so it doesn't apply to you.
It gets a little bit tricky at the end;
The BBEG's plan is to hold hostage the guy you've been sent to rescue. She threatens to Coup de Grace him if you attack. I was coming down with a cold and half asleep and accidentally fouled things up, so he died. And one round later the BBEG died as well, never even having damaged us.
This scene could've been something. Bad guy holds scholar hostage, you're trying negotiate something. Maneuverings, you try to somehow set things up so you can save him.
But the practical solution is to just kill her in one combat round, because her tactics specifically call for a Coup de Grace, which as a full-round action can't be readied. You'd want to make sure the entire party is in melee range before you strike. But she wants to march out the guy at swordpoint, so she does this for you.
The point I'm trying to make is this: this is supposed to be the big scene. Either you have a tense hostage negotiation, or you have an epic fight against a weird and special combatant.
But then the author should've written down some actual ideas about how to negotiate with her; as is there's little to negotiate about. If you let her leave you fail the mission. And she's rather uncompromising.
And the fight.. well, she's just too squishy for that, and she's scripted to waste a round on killing the hostage. No chance in combat.
It would've been better to omit any reference to cyphermages. Call it "carefully beat up the BBEG at the end of the railroad" and it'd be better, because you're not raising expectations.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #3-05: Tide of Twilight (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Much funnier than its predecessorAscalaphus —
I played this with Woran as GM and Damanta as fellow player; I was the inquisitor.
I'd previously played Tide of Morning with the same Abadar-inquisitor; I had some unfinished business in this forest. Pave The Earth and all that. For my character, this primal business was very unsettling and had to be dealt with.
I've read the adventure, and Woran pulled more RP potential out of it that you'd get from a dry reading. There are some good tips on that in the discussion thread. They really make the scenario great instead of just okay. They turn it from just a job into a fantasy adventure.
Difficulty seemed okay to me, we were a smallish party and we triumphed but it wasn't too easy.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #37: The Beggar's Pearl (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Fun, but takes significant preparationAscalaphus —
I've both played this and run it. When I played it, the GM didn't really manage to play up the spookiness or lore-background of the place. When I read the adventure I saw how much more it could be, and tried to put it in there.
This adventure has some things I really like;
In the ravine next to the trap at the entry, there's silver bars. The PCs may need them to finish off Morylaeth, who has both DR/silver and regeneration/silver.
The template used originally comes from the Advanced Bestiary, a 3PP product published by Green Ronin. The template's been reprinted in Paizo Bestiary 4, with some differences. Green Ronin's Frightful Presence ability is based on 3.5 rules, and works better than Paizo's, which seems to have errors in it.
As a GM you should thoroughly study this NPC's stats and the fear rules. She uses fear abilities to prevent the PCs from mounting a mass offensive against her, and she's got high AC and DR to protect her. Combined with Regeneration, she's hard to take down.
At mid-tier, she's much weaker; by then people will be prepared for DR/silver, paladins are immune to fear etcetera.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–00: Legacy of the Stonelords (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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A good test of endurance and team skillAscalaphus —
I played with this with Damanta and Monkhound; I was the paladin.
I've previously played Siege of the Diamond City and Year of the Shadow Lodge, and I think Paizo's really getting better at making these. YotSL was chaotic, the interaction between groups was poorly worked out. In SotDS I played at the bottom tier and after beating back the 8th wave of nearly identical critters I was getting rather tired of it. So I was gratified that this special did much better.
Interaction between tables: this went smoother than before. I think part of it is the scenario; the big boss fight is set up a bit more plausibly than in YotSL. The Aid token came in very usefully, although we didn't really understand how it was supposed to be used. All we cared about was that it gave us a shot at curing a very nasty curse. I recommend that GMs have a handout with these rules for their table.
The combats were what you'd expect, but in a good way; we'd already played 6-01/2/3 earlier, and a lot of season 5, so we were quite ready for them. Even so, they were scary enough to make it exciting. The fights weren't terribly original, but they were a good fit for the place and time.
There was some RP here and there, but this isn't a social-heavy scenario. That was to be expected. Earlier in the year I'd found a boon to learn Dwarven. I took the hint and learned Dwarven, since it makes good sense when you're gonna storm a Dwarven ruin. This opened up some more options for our group.
There were quite a few puzzles and traps, which rewarded players for being sharp and attentive and bringing the right skillset. I know Monkhound was pretty happy to get to show off just how good his Ranger/Living Monolith was at the skill portion. Proper validation for anyone who's been told that Trapfinding is unimportant. But what sold it for me was that the traps were fairly clever; if all you do is throw dice at them you'll fare badly, but if you think things through it gets much better.
The time pressure element worked well for me. The organizers were well aware of it and planned for it. After a certain point you're told "this place is gonna become very unhealthy after X time", but the time is based on how much real-world time is remaining. In that time you want to achieve as many successes as possible, so playing together and playing fast is imperative. It also means that at some point you're like "we have only 15 minutes left before something horrible happens, do we try another side quest or do we run for the exit?" That gave us all a good adrenaline rush. How well this works out depends on how well your organizers plan for it.
In the big boss fight, you can fight at your own tier or choose to play up a tier. (It's literally on a sort of stairway, with scarier monsters on each rung. Which lampshades the metagaming very nicely.) If you win at higher tier your successes count for more. We'd been doing fairly well but weren't sure what to do. So like proper cautious Pathfinders we flipped a coin and went up high. That was a pretty furious fight. I think it's good this choice has been put into the scenario.
The "big twist" in this scenario isn't the most original thing I've ever seen, but it works very well. It's cliche but it's fun for the players so that's fine.
I've said that in a way the scenario isn't super surprising. But that's not the point; it's the climax of a big adventure arc and there's been a lot of foreshadowing about what you'll find there. So the challenge to the writers was to meet all those expectations. To set before you a dungeoncrawl for an army of PCs with worthy foes, a working system for intergroup cooperation, challenges of lore, ingenuity and combat. And the scenario delivers on that.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–07: Valley of Veiled Flame (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Though I walk through the Valley of Veiled Flame, I shall fear no evil...Ascalaphus —
I played this as the Taldan Sarenite paladin in the same party as Damanta's bloodrager and Monkhound's living monolith.
We didn't have the kind of motivational problems that others had; we also had a Sarenite cleric in the group, and the bloodrager was a CG pirate type. Monkhound and I have also played Rats of Round Mountain together, so overthrowing tyrants of small isolated
It helped that our GM was able to with just a few key comments sketch things, indicating that the BBEG was in fact BB and E. "Your fellow Pathfinders are guests" quickly translates to "they're prisoners". "The BBEG is warlike" translates to "time for regime change".
So then why should we set up an actual insurrection, instead of saying "we're the PCs, we'll take it from here"?
For us, easy enough; the oreads told us about the barracks, that there were about 200 soldiers there. So to us the insurrection was mostly about splitting the enemy's forces so we could deal with the BBEG without distractions.
Plot (4)The plot is straightforward enough for a single slot game. It's a bit simple even, but that's fine; this is a small town after all. If you're playing heroic-minded PCs, it's enough reason to do what you have to do.
Since we didn't play it that way, I don't know how well the "low road" works, where you don't actually help the town. I do think it's good that the scenario explicitly anticipates the possibility.
RP (3) There were okay RP opportunities here, although not the best I've ever seen. Rousing the downtrodden masses was entertaining though.
After stuff like Silver Mount Collection, this adventure felt like the combat difficulty returned to normal levels again. (Normal levels of difficulty felt easy to us, but then we had a pretty good party, working together well.) The combats are made more interesting because there's quite a few opponents that are pretty dangerous, but you don't want to kill them because they're basically still villagers, just fighting for the wrong side. As I understand, it could've been harder if we hadn't done the right stuff in the village, but we did.
There's opportunities to pick up a lot of anti-fire-damage tech in this adventure, far more than we really needed. I think the author may have been over-cautious a bit.
Because the BBEG in this adventure is Large herself, the adventure is decidedly more friendly to cavaliers than I'm used to, which is good.
I like the location of this adventure. It's not terrifically original, but it's a good concept and it works. I didn't really notice all the new classes at work, though I did recognize the brawlers.
The chance to set up an actual revolution in a way that works in a normal slot, I think that's good scenario writing. And it's even a revolution that a paladin can get behind!
All in all this adventure was a satisfying afternoon for me. We were heroes, we kicked fiery butt.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–06: Hall of the Flesh Eaters (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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I've both played this on high tier with a party that barely qualified (eeeep!), and run it for a low-tier party. Both were a success.
RP: 2; there's pretty much no RP in this one. You're exploring the island of nasty things that want to kill you.
Location/Story: 4. The location has nice flavour. You can really milk this as a GM. There's some story too, I hope that gets developed further in later seasons. There's clearly a buildup to more scenarios, so the story in this one is a bit simple, but satisfying enough.
Combats: 5. There's some pretty fierce fights here. But the environment gives the players the chance to apply some tactics to improve their chances. Props to the writer for making the fights rough but fair.
GMing perspective: 5. This one is uncomplicated to run, maps are easy to draw, and it's not likely to run overlong. It's enough material to give your players a good time and proper challenge yet pretty easy on the GM.
I'm keeping this scenario in my binder to run again. It's a good scenario if you suddenly need to run an extra table and a lot spicier than yet another Confirmation run.
Your fortitude save must be at least this high to exit safelyAscalaphus —
So I played this last night at high tier, together with Damanta and Carla, with Woran as GM.
I was playing a Taldan paladin with the Remove Disease mercy, and boy did I feel like the right guy at the right place. Also, I have the Title prestige award, which made things even more appropriate; I'm the nobility as it should be, and in this adventure we bump into the grim reality of Taldor's would-be nobility.
The story is not complex, but it just plain works. We have a town of shady people on the one hand, a corrupt officer who wants to seize it for himself on the other. Then there's the man we've been sent to find, who's damaged goods too. As a loyal and idealistic Taldan paladin, clearly we're here to make things better and we're sorely needed. That corrupt officer embodies Taldor as it is, not as it should be. I totally sympathized with the emperor wanting to bring these rogue domains back into the empire, but I did not agree with the method. Time for some righteous strongarming.
And everyone's in danger from the ghouls. Oh yeah, these people definitely need our help, otherwise noone's gonna be alive by morning.
Bonus points: the Taldor faction mission really works for this adventure. It's simple: make sure that the VC for the new lodge will be a Taldan. That turned out to be quite practical; it let me be loyal to my king by bringing this village back into the empire while also putting a better man in place than the corrupt officer.
There are lots of opportunities for roleplay. The NPCs have rough but evocative backgrounds. RP is the best way to progress through several stages of the scenario and avoid a couple of fights. But the scenario isn't littered with "Diplomacy X here to go on" or even worse "Diplomacy Y here to finish the adventure without a satisfying climax". The NPCs have agendas and personalities that the GM can really work with. One risk is that RP makes the game run late.
There's good and bad here. Bad is the Bog mechanics. A deep bog has quadruple movement costs, so that basically means that moving a single square costs a Move action.
This made one encounter really dangerous for us, fighting the Shambling Mound. It's got reach and we can't come closer without a lot of effort and provoking (or Enlarge Person and Grace spells, fortunately). It made getting to the monster take a long time, and it made it hard to reach allies in trouble.
Honorable mention here to Harsk who tanked the Mound for quite a while before almost getting killed. His dwarven fortitude also served him well against the violet fungus. He might not be the king of damage in this party (the rest of us were pretty vicious), but he sure could take a lot of punishment.
This was definitely the main course fight in our game. The bog mechanics made it hard, which is good. But they also made it take very long, and that's bad.
After that was a fight against ghasts in a cave. Because the bog slows everyone, the ghasts couldn't gang up on us nor we on them. We made pretty short work of them.
Then there was the fight in the distillery. This scene has great dramatic potential, although I think the writer underestimated the power a high-tier party brings. We're in the building and barricade two entries, so the soldiers come in through two others. We promptly kill almost all of them within a single round. The scenario talks about "what if the PCs hold them off for more than 6 round".
At this point we were about to get kicked out of our gaming location so the GM went into narrative mode to finish up. It was pretty clear that neither soldiers nor ghasts were really a threat to our bunch of extreme aggression melee strikers. So when the soldiers proposed working together to fight the ghasts, what they really said was "please please please save us oh mighty heroes!" :P
On the whole I was fine with the level of challenge. One quite challenging fight that nearly killed 1-2 PCs, a couple of easier fights where you feel badass, all in interesting locations.
The bad stuff was the bog mechanics. (There were also mist mechanics, but those were actually not so bad.) We were literally inching forward and that was just annoying. I think ordinary difficult terrain instead of Very Difficult terrain would've been sufficient to drive the point home.
The bad: bog mechanics and the scenario being just a bit too long-winded to properly finish. Also a nitpick about the Taldor mission: it mentions an ideal VC candidate but nobody else in the scenario knows the name so that's kinda weird.
The good: this scenario rewards some things not often rewarded. Due to Harsk being trained in Heal and my Remove Disease mercy we were able to cure those townsfolk infected with ghoul fever, and thereby achieve the secondary success condition.
I'm a fan of Taldor and I'm looking forward to running this scenario myself. But I'll make sure I have more than 5 hours, because I don't want to cut things short like we unfortunately had to. Even so, we had a good evening.
And now I've also run the scenario. I thoroughly enjoyed that as well.
I ran it at lowest tier, with a party of Bard 2, Cleric 1, Ranger 2 (archer) and Barbarian 3. They were lucky to have the barbarian, otherwise it would've gone badly for them.
They hemmed and hawed in the opening encounter until combat ensued. The FE(human) rangers put quite a hurt on them, and the mud (difficult terrain) made it hard for the barbarian to get close enough to the archers to murderize them.
They dealt with the townsfolk, that went well enough. Then into the mire. The encounter there was brutal for them. Super-difficult terrain versus an enemy that can move around in it freely (native Swim) and Reach, is brutal. Add to that the mists and ranged characters have a hard time contributing.
Into the caves: even more super-difficult terrain. Both I and the players were getting pretty annoyed with that. Otherwise, this wasn't a very hard encounter.
Into the distillery. They could easily handle the guards, now that they had a defensible positition. They took the guard captain hostage, which was easy given his stupid bad stats. They hemmed and hawed again until the ghouls started swarming. At this point they elected to work with the guards against the ghouls, and the party was mostly on a balcony practicing archery. The guards took the brunt of it and the barbarian finished off ghouls left and right.
All in all the final fight was perhaps the most fun; finally terrain was on the PCs' side, and fighting off that many ghouls at low tier is pretty epic.
As I GMed this I detected another issue with the terrain and combats;
Standing half-submerged in bogs is supposed to provide cover. Which means both sides of the fight will have a much harder time hitting each other. But also, that no AoOs will be provoked, because cover blocks that. That rather kills the Reach idea of the fight in the bog.
I'm not sure if the same rules applied in the 3.5 days or whether the author was even aware of this effect of cover. I split the difference, by only applying cover rules if someone was fully underwater.
I think the writer went overboard with terrain usage here. It's okay to use terrain to make a clever encounter, but this wasn't just clever, it was frustrating.
At least be honest about it. CR guidelines specify that if terrain works to the advantage of the monsters, that's worth +1 EL. I wouldn't make the encounter easier to stay under some ceiling, but just be honest in your scenario-writing about how hard it is!
Finally, a comment about treasure:
People have remarked that there's a large batch of treasure in the bog encounter that you're likely to miss if you avoid that encounter, which is a smart thing to do.
What they failed to notice is that the adventure also yields 50% more treasure than normal for its tier. That's the treasure in the bog. Basically this is an optional encounter with additional treasure if you do it; but season 0 didn't have that concept yet.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–02: The Silver Mount Collection (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Watch the cluesAscalaphus —
Damanta and I played this at Carla's table. We were the second group playing it; the first one had a miserable time due to catastrophic miscommunication about tier selection. So when we sat down we were so very very ready to work together, communicate well and not let things get out of control. Carla's known to be a hard-mode GM (to say it nicely) and the scenario to be deadly, so we were really dug-in, mentally. After playing the Technic Siege the day before the ranger stocked up on an adamantine earthbreaker, and that was gold well-spent.
Perhaps amazingly, I found this scenario much more a combat scenario than the Technic Siege. We went for overwhelming force and it got us through. We had to, because most things hit back really hard as well.
There's some "RP" in the middle but it kinda fell flat, and so we missed some important clues. That gets me to the weakness of this scenario: you need some clues but it's very easy to miss them, or worse, to think they point to something else.
There's a Wand of Remove Disease that can be used in the final fight to expel the plasm from the boy you should be saving. However, just before that you fight about 6 oozes that cause a nasty disease. One of us got infected and it took 3 out of 14 charges to cure him. So to us it looked like that was what that wand was for.
There's a second clue: someone tells you that the plasm got into the boy. It's possible the word "infected" was used once, but we overlooked that. When you're talking about a puddle of quicksilver that possesses people, disease isn't the first thing that comes to my mind. Pathfinder has a LOT of different ways to simulate possession/infiltration.
Add to that, there's also talk about the creature escaping from a hazard crate, and that hazard crates can be used to deactivate tech hazard things like this plasm. So we thought the correct solution would be to dunk the boy into a crate.
Finally, there's the Technologist feat; you can't use Knowledge Engineering (our ranger was trained) on the robots. Although you don't really need to anyway; just keep hitting them with adamantine. But you can use Arcana on the plasm because it doesn't have the robot subtype and doesn't fall under the purview of the Technologist feat due to this rules technicality. That's NOT something players are going to know however, and frankly, I think it's cheesy as hell. The plasm is basically even more advanced than the robots, so of course it's the only tech thing in the entire adventure you don't need Technologist for.
I think the scenario needs the GM to be a bit generous with the clues; if the scenario says players can make a knowledge check for something, tell them they can, don't wait for them to ask it. As it is, there was a lot of "gotcha!" going on which really drags it down.
Combat: 4 Excluding the repeated gotcha factor in the last combat, I enjoyed the other ones a lot. However, that one soured it a lot for me. Also, lots of arguments about how (object) Hardness and creature types interact and that sort of thing; if the GM makes a mistake things get a LOT harder all of a sudden. Note that the combats are fairly brutal but doable if you bring the right stuff.
Story/scenery: 3 The museum is a nice location of course. Wasn't too impressed with the TL part. I'd been leveling my alchemist a lot because this was advertised as a Dark Archives mission but ended up playing my paladin to make sure we were all in the same tier. Afterwards I'm glad of that, because the Dark Archives mission looked rather lackluster.
RP: 1 Although Carla's portrayal of Nigel was entertaining, it also made us despise him. I think that's a poor move in the end, because it means you won't really care about the boons/antiboons at the end. We actually never realized the TL sniper was TL, although I did notice she wasn't on the list of museum employees. This could be better if the GM plays the NPCs differently. Since it's not a RP-focused scenario I'm not weighing this too heavily.
Miscellaneous: 1 The fragile clues and the Technologist nonsense really took this down a notch for me. Because of that we failed the secondary mission, but all ended up feeling that we really couldn't be blamed for it.
All in all we had fun through most of the scenario, especially the fight against the "stuffed animals", that was glorious for us.
First we spot them in advance (whereas the previous party blundered into them, but we saw a dinosaur on the map and went Oh! Oh! Genre savvy!) and the cleric gets off a fireball with no monster making its save. Then our martials make a stand and no monster survives to cross the line we drew.
It was hard enough that even though we failed the secondary success, we still felt victorious just for making it out alive and killing the BBEG. With better clues/better clue handling it could've been great.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–03: The Technic Siege (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Exciting and exoticAscalaphus —
Played this at low tier with Damanta at Maglok's table.
So far this is my favorite S6 scenario, and one of my favorite PFS scenarios period. It's got a strong story, strong challenges, and a lot of different possibilities for player strategy. It's also a big scenario; you do a LOT of things. You want to make sure you have no time constraints when running this, you don't want to rush it. But it's well worth that. Man, I'm getting adrenaline pumping again thinking back to it.
First, the setting: Nantambu. Woran had done his homework, and took a moment to lay out the flavor of the city to us. We briefly saw a really pretty map although it played no role in the rest of the scenario. Nevertheless, it's one of those maps that really set down the idea of the place in your mind. Nanatambu is an interesting place for this scenario because it's quite far away for both the Society and its opponents, and the playground of the Magaambya, a badass (but Good!) magic college that we did not want to end up on the wrong side of. So while we had a party of heavy hitters, we yet had to be a bit subtle about things.
Second, story: it makes sense. A book with a lot of precious information, and the TL will stop at nothing to destroy it. They WILL destroy the lodge and kill civilians to get to it. That MUST be prevented somehow. Just getting the book out is not enough, that'll still destroy the lodge and people. It's up to you to be heroes and prevent that from happening.
Which is where it gets really awesome: you actually get to choose your own strategy on how to do that. There are many things to work with; you can try intrigue, you can try preemptive attacks, or you can dig in. Or you can do combinations of the above. At one point we contemplated inviting a bunch of Magaambya wizards for a social function around the estimated time of TL attack :P In the end our strategy was actually determined by morality;
A pathfinder has been captured, and he might be getting tortured into revealing the location of the lodge. Although we were genuinely worried about getting in trouble with the Magaambya for assaulting the TL, we also couldn't just leave him to his fate. We found out where they were keeping him and used Augury to determine whether we should attack. Sarenrae will es!
After that we pursued another lead and continued our attacks against the TL, attacking fast and furious. However, we weren't fast enough to stop the TL from finding our lodge, so when we got back they were already inside. However, our preemptive strikes had weakened their forces, making it a fair but hard-fought fight. They had some seriously scary stuff with them. This is one of those scenarios where the final fight does not disappoint.
Then, RP. This scenario has quite a bit of it. From just talking with our first informant, to various NPCs we rescued, to some other people whose help we wanted, there was good RP to be had, all of it relevant and a lot of it very funny.
Combat: 5 Challenging but fair, original enemies and interesting tactics. On a bigger scale, in this scenario you not only have to think about your tactics in combat, but you have to find a strategy for the whole scenario, and your choices matter a great deal. That's really well done.
Story/scenery: 5 The story makes sense, is interesting, and the stakes are high. And Nantambu is a very cool place for it: both we and the TL were nicely out of our element there.
RP: 4 Good RP was had. I understand that it's possible to solve a bigger part of the scenario socially than we did, but given our militaristic methods, there was still a lot of nice RP. This is not a murderhobo scenario, this is a scenario for heroes that can handle fighting.
Miscellaneous: 5 The whole Technologist thing really isn't an issue in this one; it's annoying in 6-01 and 6-02 but it doesn't cause any problems here. Here, the TL are worthy opponents using their own exotic powers against our exotic powers. Also, this scenario allows for a LOT of player creativity while still maintaining a focused story, and that's rare.
I think this scenario does really well on what I want from PFS: a good challenge, a story that works, in a cool setting.
A final warning: as a player you won't be able to do everything in this scenario. You're on a clock and need to pick your strategies, which means you get to see those parts you choose. I don't consider that a flaw; there's no false decisions where the same thing happens regardless of your choices.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–01: Trial by Machine (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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"Try out the machine" sounds more like it.Ascalaphus —
Played this with Damanta at Woran's table. I was playing the alchemist.
After the usual sort of roundup, where a VC scolds you for just hanging about the place, you're sent off into an ancient ruin on an obstacle course. And people wonder how the Shadow Lodge got anywhere.
The obstacle course was interesting; the ranger's player has really gone into handling traps and got to show off. I think the fact that the traps are meant to embarass, not kill, makes it even nicer; avoiding getting color paint all over you feels like besting the other team.
The Technologist feat tax is a bit silly I think; Golarion is full of exotic things. Why technology would be so much more incomprehensible than qlippoths, aboleths or Tian magic is beyond me. Getting constant "sorry, you need that feat" felt a bit stupid. Luckily succeeding at those checks wasn't actually needed; just handle hostile things with extreme violence and you're fine.
Handling the technology to get through the scenario felt slightly like information laundering; as players we quickly recognize what everything is supposed to be, and then we search for an IC reason to come to the right conclusion.
I thought the fights were fine; the monsters are new and different and look scary enough. Even though you can quickly guess at some of the mechanics at work, they put enough pressure on you at the beginning of the encounter to make it exciting.
I thought the NPCs were a bit boring; after we got what we needed from them, they didn't really do anything else anymore. Maybe if I had any clue about the Silver Crusade's interest in them that might have been different.
Something many other people complained about needs mention. At some point you've gotten the dingus that you came from, and you could just turn back and report. So why would you go on exploring? That question never occurred to us. We're pathfinders, we're naturally curious, and there's definitely interesting stuff going on here, so let's see what's over there. I think the complainers are playing the scenario too cynically, only focused on the hard official objectives. If you keep "Explore, Report, Cooperate" in mind I think there's no problem here with the scenario.
Combat: 4 interesting fights, not too hard but you do need to work together. If party members get hit with conditions, reading up on those conditions helps the PCs a lot. It also helps if you have heavy hitters.
Story: 3 I like it when the adventure takes place in an interesting location, so that's good. Competition with a hypothetical other team of pathfinders also sets a good tone. Other than that there's not all that much happening here.
RP: 2 After a short talk with the NPCs where they gave us the dingus we needed, that was pretty much it. Which makes this basically just a dungeon crawl in a really fancy dungeon. Okay by me; there was nothing actually unpleasant about the RP, just nothing special either.
Miscellaneous: 3 a half orc steals a flatscreen monitor. There's quite a few chances for nerdy humor in the scenario. On the other hand, the Technologist nonsense is a downer.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #5–99: The Paths We Choose (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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R&R in AbsalomAscalaphus —
This scenario wasn't what I expected. Based on the description I thought I'd be playing some sort of epic finale in Mendev, where factions backstab each other in the middle of hordes of demons. This turned out quite differently.
It should be understood that we had a fairly strong party of mostly level 3-4 characters and my level 6 paladin, with a healthy spread of abilities. I played this with Damanta as a fellow player (see review below). We were told we'd gotten back to Absalom for some R&R after the business in Mendev was concluded, and as it happened there was a funeral/public festival, so that worked out quite nicely. As it turned out the missions weren't hard for us, so we treated the whole thing as a sort of holiday; kick some butt in the morning, go to a party in the afternoon. We felt like veterans dealing with some light issues at home after a season of heavy fighting abroad. So while the adventure as a whole wasn't all that challenging, everyone had a great time.
Basically what happens during this adventure is, you play 3-4 faction missions against a backdrop of a city councillor's funeral. We did Silver Crusade, Osirion and Cheliax missions.
This one was the one we had the most fun with. There's a slave auction with a strange bidding mechanic, and we really went into trying to figure out the "game theory" to win it. And then there was a moral choice; there was a young slave girl that we didn't "need", but it looked like she might end up with a pervy buyer dude. So do we use part of our scarce funds to try to save her? We did, and succeeded at enough of the auction as well, so we finished this with a clean conscience, but it was tight.
Afterwards some of us trailed our opponent while the rest of us moved to bring the "merchandise" to the security of the Grand Lodge. So when the bad guys tried to ambush our main party, we ended up catching them from both sides. It was a nice fight.
The epilogue conversation with the faction leader is important here. Using the mini-adventure as an example, it tells you what the focus of the Silver Crusade will be now. I've seen some other reviewers write that they thought this adventure would've made more sense as a Liberty's Edge scenario, because it's about slaves.
I disagree with that: this path is about the SC taking responsibility for things in peacetime. They promised criminals a pardon if they fought in the Worldwound, and now they have a debt to settle. Because some of those criminals are still getting bounty-hunted and sold into slavery, after they went on the crusade. I think this is actually an important message about the Silver Crusade: it's not just about smacking down demons, it's about making the PFS a force for good in the whole world, in peacetime as well.
For the GM, I think he/she should make sure to think about the auction mechanics, and figure out some sort of justification for them. Because they are kind of weird, and you should have answers for that, instead of the lame "that's just what the scenario says".
Personally I think it works if you call it conspicuous consumption; the focus of the customers isn't to get the best possible deal, it's to have a nice evening with some light competition and possibly a souvenir.
This one was a bit trivial, although it ended up entertaining as well. Bad guy comes in, surprises two PCs. I move closer and draw a weapon. He casts Sound Burst, stunning only the previously surprised PCs. Monk manages to Stunning Fist him. I move up again, demanding he surrender. He doesn't answer (stun), so I hit him, crit, and he's dead. His minions run away at that point. And then the surprised PCs went "whaaaa? what happen?"
Afterwards we had fun talking about how we were going to send in the level 1 pathfinder "interns" to nicely seal up and hide the now-cleared tomb. Because that's how level 1 adventures start: a routine job to mop up the remains on a cleared tomb, that of course isn't cleared anymore. We felt we had a "responsibility" to ensure there'd be another such adventure :P
The epilogue however, where Amenopheus decides to formally secede from Osirion, was short but effective. We literally got to see the moment the faction changed, and see why. That was nice.
One of the Cheliax tieflings in our party went with Zarta to a wild party at her villa and was kinda doing the walk of shame in her wake when we met her the next day to hear about a little problem she wanted us to help. Here's were I make mention of how relatively easy the missions were so far; it was basically 15 minute adventuring days, because we had about 4 days to do 3 jobs, and they all showed up nicely spaced apart. So for our wizard to miss morning spell prep wasn't even such a problem. It's a nice change of pace, but from my experience with 6-01/02/03 I can safely say this will be the exception (also good; a break now and then is nice but I also like real challenge).
So basically, we need to go into a vault where something's gotten loose. So we do so, find a strange monster that's escaped from a mirror. We learn that the shards of the mirror might help stop it's fast healing, but by the time someone's gotten the shards next to the melee, we've already beating the thing to death. Remember, our party was on the powerful side for the tier.
What made it nice is that the creature isn't one of the standard evil outsiders, so it's a good break from the "cold iron or silver?" routine. This was still the heftiest fight, but not terrifying. Afterwards, we all agreed that Zarta was right to say that it's about time someone starts real work on dealing with the stuff the society keeps locked inside these vaults. After all, this creature could've been dealt with ages ago, but instead now there's some dead interns. So this mission does a good job of justifying the existence of the Dark Archive.
So, although there's quite a bit of combat in this scenario, it's not particularly hard. There's some RP in it, but you can keep that either minimal or expand on it according to taste; most of it isn't mission-critical but it's available if you want it. I think the strong point of this scenario is that it actually does what it promises: it shows you the new directions for the factions in a way that makes sense.
Combats: 4 Not too hard, but both SC and DA were interesting. All the fights were entertaining.
Story: 4 The scenario does what it's supposed to do. The backdrop adds some flavor but doesn't distract.
RP: 3 It's got possibilities, but not a whole lot of RP is required.
Miscellaneous: 4 We went on to play the first S6 scenarios with roughly the same party, and this was an enjoyable teambuilding exercise. And feeling like a bunch of badass veterans showing the people at home how it's done was enjoyable.
I'll probably GM this at some point as well, it looks like a nice bag of things to work with as a GM.