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Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-20: Countdown to Round MountainPaizo Inc.
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Skill-heavy language-locked mess.BMO —
I hated GM'ing this scenario.
Reading through it, it sounds fine, maybe heavy on the skill checks, but fine.
The problem is that the GM is privy to much more information than is ever reasonably explained to the PCs. Most encounters seem completely random, and the final encounter feels both forced and anti-climactic.
Secondly is the problem of the NPCs' native tongue. We were fortunate enough to have one PC who could speak the uncommon language they use. But even when the backup team arrived, with an additional translator, the party still felt crippled in what they could do, the fluff given for most of the checks, implies that the PC must be able to speak the necessary language. Of course half the party were int-dumped combat-focused characters, and had maybe one or two irrelevant skills to contribute to any checks (if they had a translator handy). Paired with the fact that only one check was permitted per day, I couldn't even reasonably waive this arbitrary barrier with magic like comprehend languages or tongues.
At one point an argument broke out between two of my players about how to handle the checks, and I wanted to join in, my frustration was so great at this point.
I didn't have fun, my players didn't have fun, and I honestly need a break from PFS after this experience.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-99A: The Solstice Scar, Version APaizo Inc.
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Player Perspective at subtier 7-8
Overall its a very enjoyable special, with a good flow to the various encounters. Everything after this is just nit-picking.
Story-wise, it was a little disappointing, with a plot that made little sense as anything more than a single-party scenario.
Paizo is trying something new, and should be applauded for that, implementing a 3-act structures that will swap out act(s) in later versions. This is very noticeable as a player, as the driving maguffin prevents the pathfinders from teleporting to the final fight, or at least right past act 2 (calling it now that act 2 will get swapped out first). It screamed "just go with it". Having said that, it provides some fun encounters that aren't combat-based, and allowed my rogue's skills to shine.
Something I felt worth mentioning, was the inclusion of a transgender NPC. How do I know they were transgender? Why, thanks to a heavy handed reveal during an info dump. I'm all for greater diversity, but in my mind it sounded like a henchmen NPC interrupting mid info dump to tell me their boss was gay. I mean it could have been handled worse, but I wasn't the only player at the table who rolled my eyes at the lack of tact. It wasn't relevant, it definitely didn't need to be revealed within the first 2 minutes of meeting these NPCs.
Not unique to this special, I found that combat encounters were balanced to provide an above-average challenge. Which would be fine, if it weren't twice as long as a regular scenario and without any 4-player adjustments. The entire third act is composed of combat with a single enemy type, and as a result, a quarter of my party was made dead weight, as next to all of their class features were rendered ineffective. It felt like we'd been penalized for adventuring with one of our party members. Had the final bell not rang when it did, we most surely would have had a casualty in the following turn.
But like I said, I'm just nit-picking here, it was a lot fun, we had a good rhythm going with aid tokens, and we all came away with some pretty nice boons.
Writing this review while its still all fresh in my head..
Party: Occultist, Paladin, Samurai, Inquisitor of Iomedae, and Rogue.
An easy recommend. I GM'ed the module over the course of about 3 months, with fortnightly games. And I think the players really got a kick out of it as well.
The module itself is very classic high-fantasy adventure, with the backdrop of a mysterious accident to get the ball rolling, the PCs explore caves, tombs, and abandoned monasteries. And there's even a Dragon! Or is there...
The entire thing felt very cohesive plot-wise, with each dungeon feeding into the overall plot. Admittedly the players didn't quite pick up on the entire backstory, but I've found that tends to be the case with most RPGs.
NPCs were memorable and the players found themselves checking in on certain villagers every time they came back from an adventure.
The only bad thing I can say about it is that it has ruined Paladins for me. We had one in the party, and in the space of a single round (with a few buff spells) managed to land 3 critical hits against the BBEG. There wasn't a lot left of the poor BBEG after that. Not to mention he had passed all the saves and blocked every attack sent against him. And just for reference the Samurai got killed in round 2 of the same fight. That said, the final boss did get to use all their "tricks" which for me as a GM is deeply satisfying.
Like I said, its a great module, and if you feel like you can't commit to a full AP, then this adventure is a good alternative.
A solid early scenarioBMO —
There sure are a lot of reviews for the scenario, so I'll do my best to add a new take on it. I've now played and ran this scenario so I'll try to review it from both perspectives.
Overall this is a fun scenario with simple encounters and an interesting puzzle. NPCs add character to Absalom which helps hugely for new players (of which I had 3 when I ran it), but also gave a suitably oppressive atmosphere to the Puddles district.
The first encounter isn't inherently challenging due to the enemies you face but more for the extra count-downesque mechanics going on. When I played, a quick-thinking caster was able to delay the counter and we never had to deal with the results, however because we dealt with the secondary condition first, the fight itself was notably more difficult. When I ran it, the players cleared the enemies first, and just faced the consequences, not wanting to penalize these new players too much I allowed a couple of simple skill checks to deal with their consequences.I also think that this encounter could have benefited from a map, to give some kind of indication of where to place enemies/players/etc.
Encounter two was also fun thanks to the combination of "trapped" squares and difficult terrain, meaning that positioning was a very important part of their strategy and as such the party in both cases had to adjust their strategy accordingly.
I only got to play, not run, the optional encounter due to time constraints. But I felt that the ultra-specific skill check was a little unfair. But I think this was a a teething issue from such an early scenario. Either way, our party handily dispatched the enemies.
The final encounter was a little confusing to interpret, even though I'd played through it previously, I was still a little confused as to the actual layout of the field. The fight itself isn't spectacularly difficult, and it suffers from party members being funneled and blocking each others access, but I assume this was part of the design, in which case it makes sense and uses the terrain to the enemies' advantage.
I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle segment, both playing it and running it. Watching the party slowly figure out the solution was extremely rewarding. MVP goes to this part.
Taking into account this scenario's status as a season 0, this is a very solid game. While not exactly fantastical by any means, you wouldn't really expect that of a low-level game anyway. Each battle adds a little twist to the combat and forces players to think beyond just "hit it as hard as possible!" which I always appreciate. Definitely a solid entry.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–21: Tapestry's Toil (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Duergar DungeoneeringBMO —
So I ran this at tier 6-7, and overall I think it ran fairly well. I quite enjoyed the backstory for this one and I feel it translated pretty clearly to the players. The scenario has to get bonus points for including past metaplots such as the Hao Jin tapestry, with the new metaplot of the rival Aspis Consortium group as foils.
Definitely enjoyed the whole Duergar theme of this adventure, and overall it felt quite coherent even with an Eidolon , construct, and undead enemies sprinkled in for variety. The BBEG was especially fun, being able to let loose all of his class abilities and causing minor panic before being efficiently taken down.
The infiltration of the enemy stronghold felt a little cheap, but I would personally run something similar in the same way. When my party decided to free all the slaves they had forgotten to heal up post-boss fight and nearly died in the process.
My only criticism is a lack of puzzles in this one, it felt more like fight, fight, fight, and repeat. Aside from that I would definitely recommend this one for higher level players.
Multi-table funBMO —
I'll preface this by saying that I ran this with a table of 4 very experienced players (In a room of about 30) at tier 3-4 and I had a lot of fun. Also; SPOILERS ahead.
Things ran far smoother than expected after reading through, and players remained engaged throughout. It helped that my party trounced anything in their path until they reached the elemental room. The first wave was a cake walk, but because of the elemental traits, DR/-, and high damage output, I nearly TPK'ed simply by virtue of the fact that other tables were taking too long. My party did their best just to stay alive. I had to double and triple check that I was running the right enemies due to the number of times party members fell unconscious. Had I been more vindictive I could have definitely wiped the party. The monk fight immediately after felt a lot fairer while still making for a climactic boss fight.
However the multi-table event definitely did not feel like we were a room of players working together. With no opportunity to influence other tables, it felt disjointed, and led to complication in the boss room as mentioned above as we waited for other tables to catch up.
Another gripe of mine was the theatre scene. This was an opportunity ripe for actual roleplaying with costumes and props and everything, but it ultimately fizzled down to a rematch against a previous already-easy enemy team but made easier again. Sure Pathfinder has a robust combat system, but it felt like a missed opportunity all round.
Highlights include the Ronin sub-plot, and the scramble for the rubies. The players immediately engaged the Ronin when they first encountered him and handled the barmaid-scuffle without hesitation. They also had a lot of fun fighting wave after wave of competitors for more rubies, and it really helped create a feeling of a packed tavern.
Like I said, the overall game was very fun, and the players enjoyed themselves. Which should always be the goal of any RPG. I look forward to playing more multi-table scenarios like this one in the future.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–03: The Bronze House Reprisal (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Fun idea, clunky executionBMO —
I was really excited to GM one of the new season 7 scenarios so I initially read the pdf with great optimism, but even at this early stage I was finding it difficult to understand how the pieces fit together. I plowed ahead anyway, hoping that the players would fill in the blanks as we played.
The first issue I saw happening actually ironed itself out in play. The initial detour to the excavation site seemed a little disjointed from the main mission, but after a fun fight, my players cleverly elected to use their new prisoner to aid them later on (following several successful diplomacy checks). So overall I'm going to say this first part was a success all round.
Then the actual infiltration, or rather planning the method of infiltration, occurred. I had a team of 5 players, and between them they spent 30+minutes debating how best to infiltrate the Bronze House. In an effort to speed things along, I had the guard captain provide them some hints for the pdf's suggested best method. They ignored that help entirely and tried entering as teamsters. Now by all rights the angry half-elf guard SHOULD have attacked them. But the half hour of planning had ended with the my players taking their captive Aspis agent, with their cart, which I felt earned them enough bonuses to their diplomacy roll to allow the guard to let them pass.
Then the searching section and pandemonium. I knew this section would be difficult to keep track of, but the PC's fortunately managed to search the back half without alerting anyone as to their true identity, fake-carrying boxes as the teamsters they were masquerading as. Then they were spotted in a restricted area and panic ensued, both for the NPCs and the GM. With one PC waving their writ of permission about, another threatening any NPC he saw attempting to hide/destroy evidence, and the rest scurrying from room to room, I basically had to just give them the remaining evidence.
The last part, the social combat, was a mess, though that fell on my ill-preparation. It took a fair bit of prompting to get anything close to satisfactory attacks on the enemy's character. But by this point my players had grasped that outright attacking the NPC would end poorly. My recommendation for GMs here is to know the social combat section as best you can, because it gets rather confusing reading over the notes.
Final thoughts: interesting and novel mission with plenty of scope for problem solving (as seen with my own players extended planning session), but as one the players said to me afterwards, another GM could half easily had the grumpy half-elf raise the alarm on sight of the party of strangers. I'm unconvinced that there really is a best way to infiltrate the bronze house without arousing suspicion or raising the alarm too soon. Social combat is especially clunky for players unused to actually role-playing, but being a tier 5-9 helps with that fact. A combat-light scenario that is easy to miss the second prestige point. Can only recommend it for more experienced players, but definitely unlikely to die during the scenario.