Xamanthe

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Goblin Squad Member. RPG Superstar 6 Season Star Voter. FullStarFullStarFullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 3,176 posts (3,181 including aliases). 38 reviews. 7 lists. 1 wishlist. 15 Organized Play characters. 3 aliases.



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The rumours were true.

*****

This scenario shows you what it means to become a seeker level Pathfinder. The rules have changed, and you'd better adapt quickly.


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Something Janderhoff something

**( )( )( )

Only having played this once and not having GM'd it, my experience pretty much completely matched Beckett's experience below (in different games, probably different parts of the world).

The scenario is mostly a dungeon run, and the thing is I usually like that, and for what that is, I guess it's not bad. The bizarro puzzle really threw us off course and the whole table, including the GM, really struggled to try and work out what was going on with all the facts we knew. We stretched every nugget we could've pilfered from that puzzle to get us a little closer to solving the puzzle, and eventually we did, but even then it didn't really make a lot of sense. Usually when this happens, I'm pretty switched on to a GM making mistakes, but my spider sense didn't tingle here - it's just a really, really weird puzzle.

But as I said, the other encounters were reasonably enjoyable for your standard dungeon run. The first set of rooms dragged on a little more than necessary due to what was in there, but authors probably need to get a little creative with those kinds of mechanics, and we didn't let it drag.

Near the end of the scenario:
while we were running low on time, we weren't really sure what else to do down there because it seemed like our mission was completed, but there was one last room we hadn't really looked at. When we got in there, we learned a large amount of "dwarven lore" all at once, and it was hard to even try and take all of it in, because it just wasn't interesting, and wasn't really of much import to our mission. I guess we were sort of asked to keep track of some of this?

So we picked up "The runes represent Sky Citadels in Dongun Hold, Highhelm, Janderhoff, something, something bla-dee-dee-blah.... (everyone scratches their heads trying to get any kind of meaning out of this, wondering why we're here) errr....you take the information back to Sheila Hardmach." and it's at that point we woke up and said YES that sounds like something that makes sense!

I felt like it would take only the most hardcore Golarion lore lovers to have any real appreciation for that ending!

But whatever, the scenario isn't terrible - but don't expect anything amazing in part 1 either.


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One big mistake

*( )( )( )( )

We split the party (oops) and ended up being separated from the others for 2d4 ingame hours - our GM rolled two 4's, so 8 hours. At the time, we didn't think we were going to be travelling that far, but if that's as long as it takes, maybe it's not as big of an issue as it seems, right? Wrong.

In a scenario where an assault is coming based on a time constraint, that is a fairly big blunder to write into the scenario, even if you expect that the party will stay together.

This likely isn't fair on the rest of the scenario, but this was my experience with it, and I'm glad I'm not the only reviewer.


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Undead apocalypse

***( )( )

Played at high tier, 4-player adjustment. I think we did so well only because we had some specialty characters that suited this scenario so well.

This scenario has some really strange things going on. It's a bit like the issues that First Steps 2 had, but on steroids.

The setting never really feels like you are where you're told you are - at the Gloomspires. The maps just don't resemble anything like it.

The secondary success condition (from what I understand) is bizarre - it's the kind of thing you might only coincidentally do, relying more on what you do as a player rather than as a character. If you're the kind of player who is better at taking mental notes and reporting verbally, you might get penalised for it.

Overall it's not a bad scenario, really, but it's pretty straight and narrow, and I'd recommend at least one character who's gone down the optimised route a little here. Level 1 characters new to PFS should steer clear.


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Destiny underwhelming.

**( )( )( )

Maybe it was built up quite a lot after part 2, putting this scenario at a disadvantage - I dunno. As a rule of thumb, I'd say if you're playing this and ever feel like you're on the cusp of whether to save those mythic points or use them, go ahead and use them.

We played up and ended up saving too many. I was playing my level 4 paladin in high tier, and our classes and levels were very varied across the group (3 to 7, 3 melee fighters, 3 casters). I was really quite terrified to be playing a mythic scenario out-of-tier, and while it wasn't a total cakewalk (there are genuinely scary bits), I really had nothing to worry about.

On its own, it'd be a fine scenario. But this is the final chapter in something that is meant to feel epic. And it doesn't - especially now that we're past season 5.


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Origins probably isn't the right word, but it does sound cool.

***( )( )

The book is, in a nutshell, a short extensions of the ever-amazing Advanced Class Guide.

It has a few extra hybrid class options (like Investigator Talents), an extra archetype per hybrid class, feats, spell options from other sources for the hybrid classes, a bit more magic gear and a table for hybrid class pre-requisites for existing prestige classes (from the CRB and Paths of Prestige).

Noteworthy, it strangely doesn't include the extra retraining options for the hybrid classes mentioned in an earlier blog post (like how the Shaman can use the Druid's retraining options). Probably a page count omission.

For the price, you get what you pay for. It's not terribly useful for the most part, but probably still worth grabbing if you liked the ACG and need that little bit extra.


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Use the thingy with the thingy!

**( )( )( )

I was really worried about season 6 scenarios in general because I felt like it would be all about hardness and robots. I'm happy to say this scenario turned that idea on its head - this was actually a pretty enjoyable scenario. Played on tier 4-5.

First off, the Technologist feat tax was handled very badly. I don't know how we can have a scenario that was not intending to use that feat and yet there's no fix in the rules that have some sort of workaround for this (some people have suggested a boon would've been good). If a GM were to discover similarly harsh rules in the same way (like in the middle of an encounter, detrimental to the characters) at the last minute and were to enforce them, there would've been blood.

Having said that, we made the best of what it was, and it turned out kind of alright. While every now and then someone would groan "but we don't know that because we need the feat", we roleplayed our ignorance quite well, making up names for the doohickeys we found, and it was really quite entertaining. For me it was sometimes so cryptic that I didn't understand what we were talking about, but I was playing a 7 wis/12 int paladin, and the investigator and alchemist handled most of the "tough stuff", so that worked out.

Our region has come up with a "tier 2-5" so as not to kill off newer players without warning, and this scenario certainly qualifies for it.

Advice for GMing:
Our only saving grace in the last combat was that the GM ruled that the door would close and then open after each round. I can't remember if we did something to make this happen, but we would have TPK'd if it weren't for that - our positioning became vital to survive the encounter using that door to end the effect, allowing us to make new saves. Even then we had serious trouble.

It seems like this door closing/reopening must have been intentional, but wasn't clear in the scenario? I don't know, I haven't read it.

Spoiler:
The NPC being an android was an absolute mystery to us. We dealt with the encounter badly, so couldn't appease either of them in the end, but there was no way we were going to know about that piece of technology. Why?

The scenario ended up being fun, but with the difficulty and the feat tax, I can't reasonably give it a third star. I really feel like it was the group of players and the GM that made it fun, and the scenario did more to get in the way of that, rather than to help us.


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This changes everything.

****( )

Have played (10-11) and run this (5-6), in that order, and this is the first special I've run.

I thought the first part of the scenario felt pretty samey when I ran it, but when I was playing it, it seemed pretty cool. It wasn't until we thought the special was coming to an end that the special really kicks into high gear, and it's this that really makes the special amazing.

While both playing and GMing, our tables felt the pressure to get moving quickly. Justifying the use of timers in a special in this way hasn't happened before, and it was fantastic.

A few problems:
- For players: No 4 player adjustment, again. (a table might survive with 5 players, though)
- For GMs: Stat blocks. The appendix is woefully lacking. Act 2 was accounted for, and that's it? Add it to the page count, guys. We need it. Thanks to whoever added it to PFS GM prep, because without that, we'd be screwed.
- For GMs: That puzzle's colours don't print well. There's an alternate version in PFS GM prep for this as well. I played using the original version and GM'd using the alternate version; everyone I talked to thought the alternate was superior.
- For GMs: Knowing when to report successes isn't especially clear. Scars of the Third Crusade had a similar problem with advancing the 2 tracks.
- For both: You can't reasonably run this special in 5 hours. VO's need to allow leniency on the timers for players to enjoy this one: you want 9-10 hours (which includes a ~45 min lunch break). It might have been possible without Act 5, but I think that's pushing it.


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Gotcha!

***( )( )

Player perspective, tier 10-11, 5 player party, good class mix.

It's the middle of season 6 as of this writing, and I'm reminded of the difficulty of what season 4 was like, especially when you play with the amount of players that is equal to the dreaded number of death - no scaling down.

Combat should teach you to be prepared for every encounter, but at least one encounter in this scenario feels like it was set up to be unfair. When it gets to the point where there is almost nothing you can do, unless you have an obscure magic item or ability that breaks the game, something is wrong with the design of the encounter. I haven't seen the stat blocks, but I don't have any reason to think that our GM didn't run it as written. It's a shame that softballing an encounter compared to what's in the book is the only way to make it seem like a fair encounter.

That goes double considering this is a scenario in the season's plot arc, and it's a scenario most players will not want to avoid. They need to be written with a really high standard of quality.

It's good then that the rest of the scenario is actually really well done, so long as the GM can pick up on very important subtleties that are key to making the scenario not become a disappointment. Creative solutions probably have to be welcomed a little more than usual.

There are a couple of puzzles here that I thought were great. They can get a little frustrating and they encourage great Pathfindery discussion. One of the earlier reviews mention how a puzzle got overwhelming, but the book apparently has a fallback rule on that, so to GMs, I stress again - prepare.

If the combat in this scenario was fixed, this could really be a top notch scenario. If you've got a table of 6 hyper powergamers, the star rating probably goes up to 5.


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Go hard with a vengeance

**( )( )( )

Player's perspective, subtier 7-8, with a party of 9-9-10-10 (APL 9.5), playing down with 6-player scaling. Reasonable class mix.

We weren't sure what we were getting into, and did a little over an hour of short-term preparation. Long-term preparation (expensive items) might helped us a lot more, but all of us made mistakes in that area.

Spoiler:
The first half of the scenario is very cool with its environmental effects. It is a bit repetitive, but I felt this did a better job than other some older Worldwound scenarios at giving us a feel for the setting. Some of our short term prep here did save us; I'm not sure what would have happened if we didn't have that prep ready. I feel like the GM would have had to given us a lot of unprompted support on the surroundings to come up with something.

The second half of the scenario is where things got really messy. The amount of NPCs that the GM has to control, at 7-11, becomes pretty ridiculous. By the end of that first big encounter, we thought that was the end of the scenario. At this point, we were about 6-6.5 hours into the game.

There is even an optional encounter after that. My first thoughts were that nobody would ever be able to play that, but some groups say this scenario is a little easy. That seems absurd considering what the first encounter did to our group, but it was quickly becoming apparent that the 6-player scaling on our 4-player table was what was killing us. Another player or two definitely would have changed it. I don't believe anything would have changed if we were still APL 9.5 with 6 players, except that we would have had an easier time of it (I might be wrong here).

There are too many unknowns to comment about the last encounter, so I'll largely leave that out.

My character knew both of the bad guys in his lifetime (I have a lot of characters and play them each maybe 5 times a year), but I really have no idea how it came to this point. These were some really cool villains and the way it ended just seems like "okay, now we have a chance to kill them", and that's what we do. Really? I have missed a lot of scenarios, so maybe it's my fault.

It didn't even dawn on me until much later that this was a season finale. The challenge was there, but even that felt it was more our mistake, and not the scenario's setup. What kind of reaction should we experience from that?

And if you think this scenario is easy...:
A 6 player group, at any subtier, is obviously going to destroy everything if you have such a great party mix as a healer, arcane caster, bard, and 3 barbarians.


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Tracing the scent.

****( )

Player's perspective, tier 1-2. I was actually a little apprehensive to play this scenario because I don't usually like this kind of adventure, but good execution really does it... justice.

This scenario comfortably forces your characters to determine the truth of a crime that may or may not be legitimate.

Add some interesting characters to the mix - that you can visit throughout the scenario - and some interesting exploring mechanic, and this plays out in a way that can have you feeling like you're doing well for the first half of the game, and in the pits in the second half. You must stay on the ball.

I was really quite impressed with some of the answers our GM gave to our curveball questions, which I'm sure couldn't have all been in the book. I was none the wiser, and I can't say I'm not slightly worried about where to find those fairly necessary answers to potential questions.

On GMing this:
Keeping track of everything is really tough. The Opposition and Town Sentiment tracks, which rumours you've already used (and what to do if you reroll the same number on a d8), the maximum amount of both types of rumours you're allowed to get in an area - it's too much. I understand it's needed to keep balance, but the book should've accounted for this better. Even worse if you're trying to run this cold. This mistake has happened before, with Library of the Lion.


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****( )

Great book. Includes 10 classes, archetypes for every existing class and even the new classes, a new set of feats, a new set of spells (existing classes and new classes). Even designing classes/archetypes if that's your thing. The new classes themselves are APG quality, satisfyingly complex.

What it doesn't include is rules on how to retrain into these new classes, including which classes give synergies to others. This is a pretty big oversight for a guide on new classes; especially important for taking advantage of the book in PFS.


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Messy dungeon run, with a twist

**( )( )( )

Spoiler: you're not going into a refuge, and you're not traveling through time. The title does make sense in the scenario, but keep this little tidbit in mind and you'll be able to leave that bit of disappointment at the door.

The best thing about this 7-11 scenario is that it runs pretty quickly. You're looking at a 4-5 hour game, which is a welcome reprieve from the many 7-11's that run 7-8 hours or more. It's one of season 4's finest hours in that respect. Removing most of the faction missions helps a lot here. There's one faction mission in particular worth doing here, and players will know it just by reading the mission.

Apart from that, the scenario has a lot of problems:

Spoiler:

- The VC briefing is a letter, but suggests the GM should read it out as if the VC is there. Why not a handout? That makes sense, and I ended up making my own. The question answerer can be entirely ignored if your 7-11 players act like they have any experience. A waste of word count.
- The angel encounter has an extremely high diplomacy check to even begin to allow players to make a case, unless they have someone who is amazing at diplomacy AND everyone in the party aids. I ran this at subtier 10-11 and they couldn't make it (wizard, paladin, 2x monk). The worst part is subtier 7-8 uses the same DC. My understanding is a lot of GMs mess up this encounter based on the angel's terms (they're only meant to take off their magic items momentarily, not for the whole encounter) and ignore the diplomacy check. This is bad enough that it deserves errata.
- There's no description of the Shoanti at all (I initially thought there was only 3 people, and Jeor and Wattlee were also Shoanti; this is incorrect; there are 2 named characters on a tour and 3 Shoanti). How are the 3 supposed to react? Are they mute? What do Jeor and Wattlee think of them?
- Emketta's 6-player scaling can be worthless if player's go the right way, making this an exceptionally easy encounter at 10-11, unless you realise her "Phantom Steed" can use air walk. At 7-8, she doesn't have the space she needs in this area to be effective at all, and the pews hinder her further. She will in all likelihood have no reason to use half her feat lines.
- Naroth has some great spells but incredibly stupid tactics for someone who is meant to have great intellect. With 4-player scaling, his minions can do very little to help him. His initial spell listed in his tactics is worthless at subtier 10-11.

There are a few good points as well:

Spoiler:

- That one faction mission is great roleplay and guaranteed hilarity.
- The angel encounter is probably the best in the scenario. It forces a moral quandry with a good creature who is preventing them doing their mission. If only the diplomacy check DC was fixed and there was less confusion among GMs on what players should do, it would be a perfect encounter. As is, it's still a valid battle that can prepare them for the shape of things to come in later scenarios.
- Naroth does have one trick up his sleeve that makes him a force to be reckoned with - if he survives that long and doesn't screw himself too badly with his listed tactics that come before it. Apparently his first during-combat tactic should be directed at "a certain PC" rather than "at a PC", if you read between the lines.

The boon is a nonsensical-rule-breaking mixed bag:

Spoiler:

- There's 1 stone, but Mike has clarified in the forums that everyone must get a chance to activate it. To do this in-game is immersion breaking, but PFS rules on chronicle sheet items work like that, so fair enough.
- The book (and the GM messageboards) doesn't explain this very well, and this is crippling: the stone's power is a curse; if the curse goes, so does the power (permanently). But atonement will get rid of its alignment penalty AND let you keep the power. Read the atonement spell in the Core Rulebook - that's not how it works. Explaining this to players will leave you scratching your head or will leave you confident in ruling it incorrectly.

Steve Miller's provided some fantastic feedback for GMs about several of these problems, many of which are fixable at the GM level. The boon is the biggest problem, as it's ongoing and apparently has no good answer.


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A mixed alchemical bag.

***( )( )

I've got a mid-level bomb-focused alchemist in PFS and I had just started to look into what alchemical items were available from Ultimate Equipment to create a proper alchemical arsenal in my backpack, when I found this book had come out. There's some underwhelming reviews here, but I took a chance anyway.

Seems that the reviews before mine are pretty spot on. Spontaneous Alchemy Poisons are the only categories of feats the book covers, and there's only 5 feats in the whole book. Homonculus maintenance, Ooze crafting and Mythic options. The dreaded "a DC 13 Fortitude save negates this effect" rears its ugly head in a few of the new items, rendering them fairly worthless.

Having said that, there are a few items that do stand out - Focusing Flask lets you throw several of the same splash weapon at a time and raises the save DC (700gp). Winged Bottle lets you drop a splash weapon from above from 130ft away, and it flies there (1620gp). Durable Arrows (1gp) don't break on a hit or a miss with some minor exceptions (among other "Alchemical Archery" options like this).

Spontaneous Alchemy isn't terrible - the idea of creating items like Antitoxins, Alchemist's Fire, Trip Arrows, Desiccating Lubricant, Tanglefoot Bags with a standard action, at the cost of a feat is pretty cool. Poisons, Drugs and Alcohol never fall into this category, which are reduced to a minimum of 1 hour instead. If you can take advantage of this, it's probably the best part of the book, and there's a nice 2-page table that covers the details pretty well.

There's 6 more fireworks, 4 new "ales" to buff then break you, 16 new "alchemical reagents" that function the same as the Adventurer's Armory alchemical material components (which are great, but I don't see any stand-outs, and all of them are consumed when used). There's actually more if you include reagents that aren't listed with the other Alchemical Reagents on the front and back covers, such as Pesh (under Drugs) and Ginger Extract and Mugwort Extract (under Herbalism).

I thought there was an Alchemist archetype in the book, but I can't see it. The book says it covers options for Alchemists, Barbarians, Bards, and Rogues, but there's only a single archetype? Based on a alcohol drinking barbarian?

And that archetype isn't referenced in the (very-weak) Contents page. Thankfully the following page has a second sort-of-Contents page that points to pages that have the new alchemical rules in the book (which aren't bookmarked in the PDF version).


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Slip out of your comfort zone.

****( )

Player perspective, tier 8-9. A high 3.5 stars.

I didn't feel like this was the most memorable scenario comparatively speaking - a bit of a mindless dungeon run in some places, if somewhat difficult (I'd recommend 5-6 players here, not 3-4). What really stands out here is the roleplay of the setting. And the bathhouse.

The bathhouse encounter is probably the most worried (read: terrified) I've ever felt about What Could Go Wrong with its setup. No other scenario has done anything quite like it. Our party didn't overly discuss it (which was good, I think) and went on instinct, and a large part of that led to tactics via desperation. The way we left that encounter, as a result, was hilarious.

That was easily the standout of the whole scenario, and more scenarios could benefit from learning to put players in similarly innovative situations where they have to think outside the box.

Advice for GMs:
I usually struggle to take in the lore of the different settings, but you can accomplish this fairly easily in this one by having officials friendly but firmly stressing the strict laws and taking action where necessary. The players should be left with a holy s*** feeling after an experience with them, but nothing permanently scarring (especially for minor breaches). It'll really add flavour.


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****( )

Played tier 1-2 with a bunch of level 2 characters and one level 3.

This is the kind of scenario I'd been after for a while - an advanced version of First Steps 1. Pathfinders with a bit of experience should be ready by now, they should be ready with more than just combat-oriented characters (probably not recommended for level 1s).

The "infamous" character the scenario deals with really begs for a lot of player knowledge about him (maybe not necessarily character knowledge), which the GM might not be able to fill players in about enough. They can disregard the shady past and be none the wiser, but that robs the players of part of the experience.

Spoiler:
Knowing what the scenario actually says the players have the option to do really expects that players will take an incredibly high level of risk - to the point of failing the mission. I just can't see any parties ever trying to do what it talks about. My party did something similar to one of the tasks mentioned in the book, but that was by accident (thanks to a faction mission), and we were only saved at the end by an incredibly lucky high roll for a nasty-high DC.

Personally I played part 2 before playing part 1, and those two scenarios worked reasonably enough out of order, unlike trying to play part 3 before part 2, where it can cause a pretty big problem. I never felt like I'd wished I played part 1 before part 2 - it feels different enough but still a good prequel to make the pieces fit into place.


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Power overwhelming

***( )( )

I was in a bit of a unique position with how I played this - a level 2 paladin playing out-of-tier in 4-5, alongside some strong level 4/5 classes.

I think this scenario really begs for a good party composition. Especially considering the very tough battle in this one, and some bad numbers on the dice, we were fairly lucky to survive. I'm not sure what it'd be like at tier 1-2, but since I was the one playing the low level guy (who had a lot of hit points, thank god), it feels like the combats are geared a little towards the powergamers.

There was an enormous amount of fluff in the scenario that I honestly struggled to keep up with, and didn't really complement my poor level 2 paladin's lack of knowledge skills. Again, at subtier 1-2, I can only imagine this would have been suffocating. Newbies would have little chance digesting it all. Some players will love this though - this scenario is made for them.

One thing that really impressed me:
...in one of the combats, something happened that I just couldn't predict. It speaks to the quality of the season 4/5 scenarios - it's great when that kind of thing you don't predict comes up, forcing less metagame and more realism.

The reaction it should provoke is surprise that you missed it, but that it still makes complete sense. And it works here.

The scenario really loses points for me only because of the too-hard aspect which puts me off, and the extreme level of detail. The latter should make for a better game, but my personal experience was just information overload, and again, that doesn't fit my style of play.

Unless the character you play is really tough - advise against playing out of tier in 4-5 where possible.


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Surprisingly good setting

*****

I walked into this scenario thinking, how good can a scenario that revolves around a market be?

As it turns out, it can be nigh on perfect. Jim Groves has nigh on perfected an art here.

There is a great balance of roleplay and combat, and the weakest part might be the plot, but that's more than made up for with the setup of the market itself. It isn't hard to imagine the dire consequences that take place during the game.

Players will likely feel the atmosphere in this scenario, and that's what gives this one the stars it deserves. It captures the heart of what this game is meant to be about.


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Only kind-of fun.

**( )( )( )

GM'd this at subtier 7-8 (and I think I played it at 7-8 as well, but that was years ago). With 5 players and optimised characters in the party, this felt really easy for them. At this subtier, I'd probably recommend 4 players unless the character's power levels are really toned down. Otherwise save this for subtier 10-11.

Good roleplaying by both the GM and the characters is really what makes or breaks most of this scenario.

Spoiler:
The last encounter can be decidedly tricky, in a way nobody (including the GM) will expect due to a funky combination of a strange morale, a particular SA and another one of his capabilities in the stat block. Unfortunately the rules aren't very clear on how to deal with a failed mission, and RAW (and likely not RAI) can be quite punishing on the players. I really have to recommend GMs show some leniency on a mission failure, or the players can feel very hard done by.

I got a second opinion and it was pointed out that there's a particular tactic characters could use to get around this issue, but I feel it's incredibly situational to expect players to consider it out of almost nowhere, even at tier 7-11.

It's a bit of a shame that there wasn't more in this scenario like the very first encounter, which gives the setting a lot of potential, despite an enormous amount of rule-checking that nobody in the online GM community seemed to be able to answer. Season 5 does the Worldwound more justice.


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Split the party!

****( )

This is my pick of the best of the 3 "Among" scenarios in the trilogy.

The difficulty in this scenario is pretty crazy, and I don't believe it's because it's a season 0. Admittedly, my 6-player group played this at 3-4 with a combination of character levels ranging from 1 to 5, so that might be why.

Spoiler:
I'm not sure how it happened, but splitting the party and taking two encounters at once actually benefitted our split party by making the experience more enjoyable. I can't imagine it being much fun if we tried to take them on with 6 people x2. In any case, this made the environment of the opera house much more of an epic.

The basement was a different story, and this makes up for the easy difficulty on the ground level. It's a tough encounter that probably self-corrects its difficulty between a 4 player or 6 player party. It's for this encounter alone I don't recommend level 5 characters teaming up with level 1 and 2 characters in a tier 3-4, especially if playing with a rough-and-tumble GM.

Ultimately this is a pretty good scenario if you don't mind a pure dungeon crawl with a small slice of Taldan flavour. Bring a comedy bard with you.


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Fly, you fools!

****( )

There's two big things I like about these kinds of scenarios.

(1) The straightforward explore, report, cooperate aspect of a clear location.
(2) A twist that changes the game. There's another season 4 scenario that did this especially well, and when it happens, it really ups the wow factor.

It requires GMs to run a game a little more than just by-the-book. They have to think smart about how they do it, ensuring a game is kept fun, kept cool. It's not hard as long as there's no me-vs-them mentality.

Spoiler:
This scenario borrows elements from two season 4 scenarios actually - the second one is the party's "companion", which is fantastic. When I played Traitor's Lodge, she came along for the ride and added an enormous dimension to the scenario, but without her, a huge amount of flavour is lost - these NPCs are designed to be awesome. I sort of wish there was a bit more consequence written into the game so that players realise the error they make if they take the "better dead" route, rather than some metagame discussion after the game about What Could've Been.

And again, when I played the scenario, we explored every room - but we were lucky. The group I ran it for wasn't so lucky, missing many optional-but-cool rooms - including the one at the end which it seems like they're not really supposed to miss - but the scenario is written in such a way that they can, and still succeed the mission. But, but... that's a cool encounter!

The last note that's worth mentioning is that this scenario provides a great alternative-to-a-chase scene, and maybe it needed better execution, but GMs still have enough allowance to get creative. Frankly, I think more scenarios should provide scenes just like this one, where players are made acutely aware (without skill checks) that the odds against surviving an encounter - before it happens - are overwhelming. Time pressure is seriously cool to bake into a scenario, and this scenario very nearly does it right.


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Pathfinders in the sandbox.

****( )

Played at 3-4.

I've got really mixed feelings about this.

The scenario had all the ingredients for a good scenario, and I think my personal opinion has coloured it - in that I don't mind when my characters have a mission that railroads them a little.

Spoiler:
My party was thrown for such a loop that we weren't even sure what our mission was.

Not your run of the mill I-forgot-that-bit-that-the-VC-said. We realised part way through the adventure that we didn't really understand what our mission was, couldn't have had it explained any more clearly if we'd asked, and hoped that down the track we would work it out. The trick with this scenario is that it is so vague about what you have to do, intentionally so, that we spent large parts of the scenario debating the whole mission.

This didn't in itself detract from the game. It's good when you can talk about what you're doing and why you're doing it and to explore the options available to you.

What I didn't like about all of this was that I didn't know if we were at all on the right track. The options were so open, and our mission was so out there that we just had no idea if we were really doing the right thing or not. Call it the metagaming instinct.

For the first time in my Pathfinder career, as we played on closer to the Worldwound, closer to chaos - entirely our decision, and not even sure it was the right one - there were many times we weren't sure whether to turn back and call it a day. Had we done enough? Could we handle any more of this, or were we walking into one deathtrap after another?

Because of that feeling of cluelessness for so much of it, because this scenario is so different, I feel like giving this an average rating, but I can't - because it accomplished exactly what it wanted to do, and did it surprisingly well.


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A different kind of Pathfinding.

****( )

Party Composition
I played this at tier 4-5 with 4 players, and our classes and skillsets weren't especially suited to the scenario (we could tell from the get-go). With a very clever bit of preparation that I won't mention here, my group most likely did much better than we would have without it.

This is important, because groups who are both not lucky and not prepared could run into some issues with this quite out-of-the-ordinary scenario. It can't be said this is a fault of the scenario. This is actually one of its strengths. Pathfinders should be able to think out of the box when the circumstances tell them this is going to be the case. Luckily it's a situation where any one person can do the same prep we did, so it's solvable.

The Gameplay (light spoilers):

Some new mechanics are introduced here, ones that players don't have to put too much effort into thinking about. The "discovery" aspect adds a lot. There are constant "woohoo!" moments throughout.

I feel like there was enough variety to the few NPCs. They had a very specific purpose and they allowed the GM to easily add flavour to them.

The puzzle elements in this scenario were exciting and thought-provoking. The riddle puzzle was my personal favourite - not something you'd expect, and it forces some good creativity. I think even newbies would have a good time trying to solve that one.

Points of Improvement (heavy spoilers):


  • The one part which we struggled with was the cipher. We figured we knew how to do it, but the results were still nonsensical, and we had no idea how to complete it. We only found 1 card in this aspect. Maybe that's intentional, but we felt a bit robbed by the end of it. Obviously this relies on luck, and maybe it's just a matter of you can't have it all. But we were thirsty! Grand Lodge players in this situation will be scorned if this happens to them.
  • A lesson not learnt from a certain other scenario - the cipher's solution must be included in the book! The GM shouldn't have to work it out. Thank god for the messageboards, but this is really a book thing. It's a red flag here because this is the second time it's happened in PFS.
  • Names. Give the Administrator a name (another mistake from the same scenario that made that other mistake! red flag here). Give sample names of super-secret books that the GM can use. If the players ask for them, or what they find, these become important.
  • The book also needs to mention some more creative ideas of what else the PCs might find in the last room to avoid metagaming issues. Our GM did a spectacular job here and he was lucky we didn't get obsessed in there with our thirst for secret knowledge. Shades of Ice 2 has a (loose) example of how this could be written.
  • "How to research" was a little difficult to understand, and could probably be simplified since it was required throughout the scenario. The GM needs to work out a good method to ask players how this is done, and it's probably best to explain it as soon as they do their first research. The book should probably have made this more black and white.
  • When I went to GM this and I was preparing for it, the Grand Lodge mission made me want to cry. The book should have allowed for a player to roll an intelligence check to give them clues on non-giveaway tips to help solve it; I'll have to work something out before I GM this to save players some pretty severe grief. This is PGP-level stuff.

Final thoughts (light spoilers):

Overall, as a player who usually prefers heavy dungeon running scenarios over heavy roleplay, I really quite liked this one even though we only ended up going through a single combat. Our game lasted 4 hours cleanly, which I think is fantastic. In getting past the puzzles (bar the one mentioned above), we felt a real sense of accomplishment by the end.

I've since GM'd this, and it was a lot of prep required, and I couldn't keep up with the orchestra's timeline very well. It reminded me of a book I'd once read where the hero has to concentrate on so many different things happening all at the same time, one of which was a timeline hanging over him where he had to enter in the codes on a moving target, as well as deal with everything else that's happening.

Sort of like in Back to the Future 3 when Marty realises THE RED LINE'S ABOUT TO BLOWWWWWWWWwwwwwwww! BOOM

That's what it was like trying to keep it all together.


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Explore, report, cooperate, and be prepared.

***( )( )

No other scenario has taught me the lessons of being prepared as this one did.

In the deadliest encounter in this scenario, our whole 6-person party forgot crucial equipment that would have changed the course of the encounter and instead we only managed to reach and absolutely grueling and unlikely stalemate.

Most reviewers have adequately described this scenario. It has to be said that my rating is based on some great GMing once again, and for GMs with less skill, there could be some fairly serious stumbling blocks along the way.

On the too-easy encounter:
I think there's a specific reason this is too easy (I may be wrong; I haven't read the scenario) but it seems like the goal here isn't just to kill or subdue the bad guy. That encounter is more about creating a diversion. Again, this may have been creative GMing, but even if it was, it was an excellent tool that GMs should speed through. Have players make quick decisions on their turns where possible here.

Later the scenario picks back up in difficulty again, and you could find yourself either in a fairly standard battle or the middle of an apocalypse from a source, or sources, that you'd least expect.

Overall, despite the deathtrap experience I had, I had a good time playing this and I think it was largely due to carefully crafted GMing overcoming the scenario's downfalls, and a little bit of luck from the dice.

There are a lot of variables in this scenario in terms of both difficulty and atmosphere. For any GMs, I'd strongly advise a lot of preparation for this scenario to ensure an enjoyable game - more than usual.

One last mention - it's an excellent precursor to playing Fury of the Fiend soon afterwards, which is where the real meat of this series lies (until Fate of the Fiend is released, at least).


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Like you're in a movie.

****( )

This scenario was tough, and you'll want a good party mix going in (and you don't need hyper-optimised characters, though you won't want to be underpowered either).

Having said that, you're not likely to be prepared for what to expect here.

My experience involved a great GM, and a party that included two Hellknights, a tiefling, as well as two other unlikely party members - trying to get some suspicious Hellknights to like us and trust us. Little did we know what we were all getting ourselves into.

Chaos erupts in a way you'll likely not expect and the atmosphere takes on urgency that most scenarios don't capture as well as this.

Even after that chaos runs its course, you'll need to use some very creative thinking and your endurance and preparation will be severely tested.

While I'm not sure this is one of those scenarios you might consider perfectly designed, it will likely leave you sweating by the end of it with some great stories that you'll come away with - if you make it out of there.


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