Also, while I generally like the scenario, setting success keyed to a specific number just hurts tables with fewer people (especially since there is no 4 player adjust). For example, a table with, say, seven players is MUCH more likely to get those 8 successes than a table with four players. In the future I might recommend tiers be something like number of successes=half number of players/number of players/1.5x number of players/2x number of players.
I agree, this was an oversight on my part.
Prepping this and it says on page 14 that in C2 PCs can 'initiate containment protocols' with two full-round actions, but . . . doesn't say what containment protocols do. Are these the same protocols that happen if you get 8-9 successes against the AI?
In hindsight I realized I didn't use the same language, but the containment protocols are listed in Development.
Page 18 wrote:
Development: Once Dvimnix and her lackeys fall, resetting the power core’s containment system is a simple matter. Once the panels lock around the core, all the ship’s lights brighten slightly, and the air feels less oppressive. It will take some time for the radiation in the surrounding area to fully dissipate, but the threat of ongoing fallout passes. Once the PCs accomplish this, they can return to the Izalguun settlement.
Gary D Norton wrote:
This was exactly my logic too. A jinsul mystic would use Sense Motive for this ability rather than Bluff.
Douglas Edwards wrote:
It gets lost in the formatting somewhat, but if you go to Hazard after the creature stats for the final encounter:
Page 18 wrote:
Most of this room is filled with medium radiation. The squares adjacent to the nuclear core have high radiation; touching the core automatically exposes a creature to severe radiation. Any square adjacent to one of the petal-like containment panels on the opposite side from the core only has low radiation. Furthermore, any irradiate spell cast in the room becomes fueled by the power core, functioning as though the caster’s level was 3 higher than normal.
Emphasis mine. "Boosted" applies to irradiate, but not slow.
@HoloGnome: The way I intended it, life bubble would prevent infection from the biochem weapon, even though armor environmental protections would not. The biochem weapons (as well as the invisible torpedoes) were inspired by the jinsul weapons development lab detailed in another scenario (spoiler below). This is also part of my rationale for their bypassing EP (though I sympathize with Lau's frustration with it coming across as a "sore loser writer thing"): Given the jinsuls' intended use for the synthetic disease as a starship weapon, part of their R&D would include devising a means for the disease to bypass the most common technological barrier to its effecting a crew. Magic, even a 1st-level life bubble spell, puts the kibosh on that because magic should be, well, magical, capable of doing things even advanced technology can't.
Scenario with Jinsul Weapons Lab:
#1-23: Return to Sender.
When I got the outline for SFS 1-13, Thursty offered that I could submit PC race stats for the izalguuns on the off chance they became a playable race further down the road. I enthusiastically did so, having immediately fallen in love with the species, and then I dutifully held my tongue as the scenario hit the shelves and for months afterwards. To see that chicken finally come home to roost in this epic way is better than I could have hoped for! Thank you for this experiment, John & Thursty! I’m so excited to see izalguuns join the ranks of the Society!
I have two lvl 5s who I'm looking to play 1-11 with (either one), but they're both in games at the moment. Definitely keep me posted for when this table launches, especially if it's high tier.
Thanks for the feedback! Chalk this up to first-time Starfinder author growing pains; I didn’t follow the blog commentary religiously as it came out, so I missed Owen’s clarification and based the guards’ sample tactics on what I understood the core rules to mean, including the passage Misroi mentioned and my previous Pathfinder experience. Fortunately the guards’ tactics are flexible, so GMs should just use a different tactic based on what the guards know and what the PCs do.
I love this, and am absolutely stealing it when I run this adventure.
@1bent1: I'm glad your players had a good time! Yes, the creatures you listed begin on the Irespan walkways, which are 15 ft. high. One thing the map doesn't really depict well is that the Irespan walkway in the NW corner is actually a stairway, with the end facing the door at ground level and the end facing the copper gate being 15 ft. high like the other walkways. I appreciate the feedback!
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
I would say so, yes. The intent and end result (keeping her alive) is there even if the healing is not.
Dennis Muldoon wrote:
Sorry to hear you had a negative experience with 9-05. In response to your questions about the two caveats for full prestige, BretI provides some great ideas. The more you can describe the gas a dangerous-looking and rapidly approaching Imrizade—and the more you can use Nigel to frame the importance of her safety—the more likely it is that players will get the hint that they need to get her out of harm’s way. The PP is contingent upon Imrizade having firsthand evidence that the PCs bailed her out of a real jam.
For your second question, given Nggilth-Tsa’s mental probing, the PCs don’t have to ask the “right questions” per se, but rather just ask any questions at all and make the corollary skill checks (which can be prompted by the GM). If they don’t ask the questions listed, Nggilth-Tsa still gives the closest response after a successful skill check, which may make the answer seem a tad odd if provided out of context (which is fitting for such a weird critter). It sounds like your GM didn’t give much guidance on that section of the adventure, which is a pity.
Hope this helps!
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
I haven't been running PFS nearly as long as Earl has, but I organize in the same state and see a lot of overlap with him. Earl can probably provide a more comprehensive response than I can, but I can at least give a little context.
In CT the PFS leadership typically tries to reserve new scenarios for conventions; there are quite a few in the area between Boston and New York, and we want to avoid having to turn players away from convention tables due to having already played the scenario as much as possible. We normally dive back into older seasons for monthly store events, or do something a little more special if a regular group shows up (in SW CT, where I operate, we have one GM running the Emerald Spire with his regulars, and we had several sessions of Thornkeep at monthly tables). Personally, I invite my regular players to a Google Spreadsheet of events they've already played and/or GMed so I can poll for interest in a particular level range and slot events that are new for them in that tier.
From what I've seen around the state, the exhaustive playing of low-level scenarios stems from a combination of A) players' fear of their PCs that they become attached to dying to in higher tier scenarios, and B) interest in the new content Paizo produces that leads to making a characters. Some more veteran players have gotten mildly frustrated with this pattern in the past, but mostly they're cool with making new characters to try out new builds, so it hasn't really bubbled up. I'm sure this has something to do with the availability of conventions: I see a lot of players from around the area bring their high-level PCs to cons after level grinding the 1-5s at routine store events.
Thus far, CT PFS membership has a high floor but a low ceiling: our base is loyal and regularly attends events, but they are spread out and don't frequently invite others to participate (making recruitment one of our ongoing areas of concern). I typically struggle to field a single table in my usual store because my regular player base hovers right around the single-table range, meaning one or two absences for life events combined with one or two no-shows means the table doesn't fire.
We're currently undergoing a shift in leadership and some changes to store availability, so things are very much in flux right now, but in the past we've had one location field two standard tables (one low, one higher), one alternate standard and Core bi-weekly or monthly (almost always low, for the reasons I detailed), and my store that I described above (typically standard of varying levels). Starfinder Society has also added a whole other ball of wax to our scheduling: currently my local players are really into it, and we've used it a little for recruiting new players, so for now we've shifted to almost exclusively Starfinder tables until interest in returning to PFS increases. For scheduling and communication, we use combinations of Facebook, Warhorn, and email depending on the needs of the area.
Long answer to a short question, perhaps, but in response to Lau we mostly field low-level tables because that's what our base tends to want to play.
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
One thing I'm a bit sour on: was it really necessary to give the boss immunity to mind-affecting effects?
Yeah, I sympathize with your frustration. I can't speak for the authors of the other adventures you cited, but for me part of designing an encounter with a main villain (especially one with high Intelligence) is to consider A) in-game what threats would a BBEG know to protect himself against or realistically have immunities to, and B) meta-game what spells or effects stand the greatest risk of instantly derailing the boss encounter? In the case of a mutant psychic touched by an Outer God and isolated in contemplation about the maddening influences of the Dark Tapestry, in a subtier where many PCs will have access to deep slumber, fear, suggestion, and other major save-or-sucks, immunity to mind-affecting effects made a lot of sense. In some respects even thematically the best defense against an occult character is another occult character; more "pedestrian creatures" (including the grioths in this adventure) are easy fodder for characters that control or manipulate minds, but someone who uses such tricks himself is more likely to steel himself against such tactics.
I tried to give occult characters or other mind-reader types some opportunities to shine in other parts of the adventure (specifically calling out use of such abilities when interacting with Nggilth-Tsa, and leaving the BBEG's big beefy grioths susceptible to suggestions that might stymie their quadruple-18-20-crit-threat-with-bonus-damage full attacks), but for an Intelligence-based final boss I wanted to cover as many easy outs as I could. PC psychics can very realistically rule the field in combat against more conventional enemies (I've seen several powerful foes one-shotted by a mind thrust tripped out with phrenic amplifications and build specializations), but against a boss like this one I wanted an archer or highly mobile melee fighter to get more mileage (especially since they typically have less to offer in more skill-based encounters), and even then for the boss to have some contingency plans in case they showed up.
As for the other encounters, the first one was constructs (not much to be done about that), and Nggilth-Tsa is mind-immune in high tier, but beyond them and the boss I don't think any of the other critters are mind-immune (although divining a cerebric fungus's mind in low-tier might cause headaches).
I know it's probably not what you want to hear, since it doesn't change the fact that this is still one more in a seemingly growing list of occult-flavored adventures where occult-themed classes find themselves somewhat cut off at the knees, but that was my logic when designing the encounter.
Very true, and if that's the most tactically sound option for the BBEG, then that's what he should do, and the PCs will just have to figure something out. That being said, he's a pretty smart villain with lots of options in both his tactics text and his stat block, and his starting point offers him plenty of breathing room (especially if he gets fly off before the encounter begins), so GMs should definitely consider all angles. If he can't catch a bunch of PCs in one casting of black tentacles, or if there isn't an obvious place to put it to stop their approach (such as on some of the boxes or other platforms that they might use to actually reach him or avoid the gas), he might decide he's better off hitting an archer with an uber-boosted mind thrust IV or readying a magic missile to harass a spellcaster as his opening gambit, giving the PCs a round or two to get Imrizade out of the line of fire.
Thanks for the feedback! I'm checking in to provide help where possible.
Imrizade had a Con score of 12 when she first appeared in Voice in the Void, so use that as her Con score in the event that death becomes a threat. As Lau mentioned above, the BBEG is more interested in keeping anyone from disarming the beacon than kicking people while they're down, so the scenario will play better if you try to place the tentacles so that they're an obstacle rather than a direct attack on Imrizade. Naturally initiative and PC actions will influence where the tentacles go, but do keep that tactic in mind.
The NPCs are designed to add flavor and some minor mechanical benefits to PCs who ask for help, but not to overshadow or interfere with the PCs' actions in any given encounter. If confusion causes unavoidable combat between PCs and NPCs, GMs can fudge Maren's numbers remembering he's a 6th-level human wizard with no offensive spells or weapons; stats from the NPC Codex would work fine if the GM has to eyeball something. Imrizade can use her listed attack stats, an AC of 22 (+5 armor, +3 Dex, +4 shield), and saves of Fort +5, Ref +9, and Will +8 in a pinch, given her stats from Voice in the Void.
That being said, nothing pertaining to the NPCs should add additional stress to the GM or take attention away from the PCs. Monsters should always target PCs instead of NPCs, and if the NPC's interaction with confusion or a similar effect gunks up the flow of combat in a way that is frustrating to GMs or PCs, the GM has carte blanche to sideline the NPC from the encounter in a way that makes narrative sense, such as knocking themselves unconscious in their confusion or simply fleeing or cowering away from the action if injured. With the one exception of Imrizade's potential death as collateral damage from the gas or a stray black tentacles spell, the PCs shouldn't really have to spend their efforts keeping the NPCs safe; GMs can communicate this by depicting each NPC as a visibly competent professional capable of handling him- or herself under duress (yes, including Maren).
In encounter A the plant poisons have an onset time of 1 minute and a frequency of 1 minute. I am not seeing how this really increases the CR of the encounter much at all as its likely to be over by the time anyone needs to make a save to take any actual damage.
The long-term damage probably won't affect the PCs in the span of this encounter, but it may gradually cause problems en route to the other locations that last into subsequent encounters. Being in a city, they may stop by a temple or apothecary to treat the poison (assuming they find out that's what the problem is), but the GM may rule that such a sidetrack affects the setup of Encounter B in a similar way to being delayed by Arcanamirium staff.
Michael Eshleman wrote:
Yes, it looks like the item name and spell name got a little jumbled. Sorry about that!
The elixir provides the benefit of the monstrous physique I spell for one minute.
Andrew Mullen wrote:
Hey Andrew, thanks for your great question! I designed the trophies section, so I'll provide my two cents and see if I can give some guidance.
Your first spoiler paragraph is accurate: trophy implements do not take up magic item slots, but ornament implements do. I didn't state it outright in the original text, but in this case I would treat an ornament made permanent by the class ability function like the Monstrous Craftsman feat: it uses an item slot on its own, functions indefinitely as an implement, and can be activated as an ornament once per day as detailed in the feat. That way the psychodermist isn't penalized by the RAW, but there is still incentive to take the Monstrous Craftsman feat to better consolidate items, implements, and ornaments into the PCs' limited slots. I think that workaround best encompasses the spirit of the rules.
Hope that helps!
Levels 1 and 2 of Thornkeep also have lots of goblin action.
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
"Proper" modules tend to be 3+ slots long. You might be able to force some of them into 1-2 slots but you'll be rushing the entire way and it's really not going to make for a better adventure.
One exception to that I've found is Feast of Ravenmoor. I've run and played this module in a double PFS slot (8 hours), and it's fit really neatly into the time on both occassions. The first half is mostly RP, so time it to around 4 hours, and the second half is mostly combat, which will fill right around 4 hours with reasonably experienced players. Each time we had a party of 4 PCs.
Anthony Adam wrote:
God bless, Anthony. Our best wishes to you and your family, I'm sorry about the bad news :'(
James Anderson wrote:
While all this highly skilled infiltration is going on, what are the fighters and clerics with no skill points supposed to be doing?
7-21 The Sun Orchid Scheme, pg. 6 wrote:
First, each PC must choose a method of spying on her chosen complex. Examples of possible approaches and their associated checks appear in the Infiltration sidebar on page 6. At her discretion, the GM can also allow other types of checks that players can reasonably justify as part of their approach.
I can see a GM allowing demonstration of combat prowess in training (i.e. attack rolls vs. AC equal to the DC), generic socialization or counseling (i.e. Charisma or Wisdom checks), or other options that low-skill PCs possess to keep them involved. There's also the fact that even Int 5 non-humans still receive 1 skill point per level regardless of class, and the only skills not specifically referenced for use during the infiltration are unmentioned Crafts/Professions, Knowledge (dungeoneering, geography, history, nobility, and planes), and Perform (all of which could feasibly be justified by players or GMs as well). Aid another is always an option as well.
So uh, a question: Tactics for Valenti says he uses studied target in attacks but normal inquisitors do not have that as far as I know? Did I miss something from his statblock or is this an error?
That's a holdover from an earlier edition of the adventure. He is a normal inquisitor, so he uses his judgment and bane abilities, not studied strike.
My conclusion is that if the PCs can get 4+ delays on consecutive cards, they CAN widen their lead on the pursuit
Not really, since the pursuit that gets stopped at a card automatically progresses to that card on their next turn regardless of how many delays remain in that card. Your breakdown of the pursuit should read as follows:
Pursuit starts on Card 1.
The second quote you referenced refers to the PCs' ability to stave off the pursuit should they catch up. That would resolve something like this:
The chase ultimately boils down to the PCs first establishing a lead from their performance in part one, then maintaining it throughout the chase by rattling up enough successes to keep the pursuit at bay. I would argue that cards beyond the second still matter, since the pursuit stands a very real chance of rapidly gaining on lazy or unsuccessful PCs (allowing them to fire off one or more free javelin attacks).
Hope that helps!
The chains are mostly suspended overhead and wrapped around the central column, so they don't affect movement within the room. Chains along the floors would impede the interrogator too, so it would be counterproductive for the facility.
D Hennessey wrote:
Ok. That makes sense, especially rereading the room boxtext. The description of tripwires, coupled with the map, had me imagining a scene more like this.
Haha, nice! A great visual I'd love to use one day, but not for this particular trap :)
Fun fact: Those movies were part of my process for designing this scenario. I based Tamrin's character on George Clooney's titular role.
D Hennessey wrote:
The PCs can get around the room the same way the interrogator does: just walking. As much as I love the image of Lau's PCs commando-crawling to each statue, logistically most of the "streamer chains" are out of immediate reach given the room's height and shape (they're included in the map more for flavor). The average human-height level is easy and safe to navigate, so just walking around the room shouldn't be an issue. The PCs only really risk triggering the trap by interacting with the chains in any meaningful way: tinkering with the statues (failed Disable Device), attacking the winches (any attack rolls), trying to wriggle the prisoners free from their bindings (failed Escape Artist), etc. Also note that even if the PCs do trigger the trap, it runs its course over several rounds, during which they can actively try to disarm or destroy the eight statues/winches; in essence, if the PCs can't bypass the trap using skills, they can functionally fight against it like a combat encounter.
The interrogator knows where the disarming mechanisms are and has the key to activate or deactivate them, so he just resets each statue whenever he has to leave a torture session.
Alexander Geuze wrote:
What was the deal of the Elixir of Love in the care package, by the way? I can imagine a few things, but did it tie into the scenario in any way?
I included that as an option for non-casters to charm Galvar or another guard. Thus far I haven't heard of anyone using it, but I thought social PCs might like the option.
I'm glad you enjoyed the scenario, and thanks to you and Lau for your feedback! I'm favoriting all of the reviews and breakdowns to look back on and inform my crunch work for future projects, which will hopefully maintain the flavor while moving closer to that sweet spot for challenge. As my first scenario, which was also a Tier 1–5, I definitely erred on the side of lowballing the challenge rather than clobbering beginning players. I think it's easier to forgive an overly easy scenario than an overly difficult one, especially if it has decent flavor.
I'm glad to hear that most people seem to be enjoying the scenario! Getting both positive and critical feedback from players and GMs helps authors learn what to do again or do differently next time around, so I appreciate everybody taking the time to share their thoughts and experiences!
From the looks of things, the chase is the biggest sticking point, mainly that it's too easy and the phrasing of the rules is confusing. My objective was to build upon Mike Kimmel's success in "Kaava Quarry" by creating an equally cinematic chase, but restructuring the rules so that everybody could participate rather than each round being a massive Aid Another fest. Given the high stakes of the chase (potential damage every card, secondary success condition qualification, and need to resolve what could potentially amount to a fourth or fifth combat encounter depending on how things play out in the prison), I intentionally used lower card DCs, but I think that became overbalanced in the PCs' favor by including actions that catered to multiple different character builds in each card. It seems that raising the DCs should alleviate some of this problem.
I agree with Bongo that the guards might seem more threatening if they automatically move into a card where they had been stopped by delays without costing them a move, meaning the PCs need 3 delays per card rather than 2 to keep them at bay and they can only dodge the final fight if they meet all the necessary lead conditions from the prison. That was my original design, but during development I changed it to give the PCs more wiggle room in the event they rolled poorly or otherwise didn't optimize their performance in the chase (wiggle room that, all things considered, the PCs really didn't need). I also need to find a way to streamline the rules to make everything flow better: I like the visual and dynamic nature of two active parties in a chase, but I think just presenting the chase itself and tallying successes to determine outcome like Mike did in Kaava Quarry might prove simpler to understand and communicate.
Thanks again for the feedback! Happy gaming!
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
Awesome! I'm glad your players did well, I prefer stories of the PCs pulverizing the chase than the other way around. I hope everyone enjoyed!
It's ultimately up to the GM to decide how to reward creative spell casting like this. On the one hand, these spells certainly help expedite an escape. On the other hand, they don't last very long or affect many targets at this level, reducing their efficacy for helping the group, and they sort of defeat the party's goal of keeping a relatively low profile.
Personally, I would rule like Andrew, given the nature of this particular chase. The pursuers are everywhere in the streets, and the chase mechanics represent the PCs' overall avoidance of them by disrupting the holiday festivities.
Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
I could be wrong, but if the group manages to create 4 delays on card number two, the guards can't actually get out of that first square in their first round? (Thus enabling a 4 card lead?)
As written you're right, assuming max success.1 (hs): PCs move to and create 3 delays in card 2
2 (hs): PCs move to and create 3 delays in card 3
3 (hs): PCs move to and create 3 delays in card 4
4: PCs move to and create 3 delays in card 5, guards stuck in card 1.
5: PCs move to and create 3 delays in card 6, guards automatically move to card 2 and get stuck.
That maintains a 4 card lead for max completion PCs if they score enough delays in every card. So it looks like even groups who only get 1 of the extra head start options can still dodge the final encounter if they do everything right in the streets, which should give PCs some wiggle room and make things a little easier.
If the PCs create enough delays in their present card when the guards catch up, so the pursuit can't enter their card that phase, that can give the PCs a 1 card lead to keep from getting attacked.