Old-Mage Jatembe

Gary D Norton's page

Goblin Squad Member. Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber. FullStarFullStarFullStarFullStarFullStar Pathfinder Society GM. Starfinder Society GM. 31 posts. 7 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 26 Organized Play characters.



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Fast-Paced Action in front of a Studio Audience

****( )

Pact World Warriors is a fast-paced action-packed scenario giving the player characters another opportunity to be adored by Pact Worlds citizens. I would give this scenario a rating of 4.5 stars if I could; however, I decided to mark it down to 4 stars. (See comments hidden by the spoiler tags below.)

There’s a lot going on in this scenario and the scenario runs on the long side (around five hours). The first two challenges are the most exciting and work well to build up the tension. The scenario can be lethal for level 1-2 characters (even while playing in-tier). The banter between the undead hosts is quite amusing. The Rival Team needs a name!

The scenario has four sections:

Obstacle Course:
In general, the obstacle course is a lot of fun with varied challenges for the player characters to overcome. Not surprisingly, this section emphasizes Athletics and Acrobatics; characters trained in those skills will excel here. This challenge runs a long time and eats up most of the slot. I think it would have been better to end the obstacle course after the Lava Hop.

The main issue I have is with the lethality of the traps at the end of the course when there is no real warning that traps are present. By the time PCs get through the Electrogrid and the Lava Hop, they can be nearly be out of Stamina Points and Hit Points. In my first session, four of the seven characters fell into the Lava. Then the leading PC is possibly subjected to a 4d6 force blast (in sub-tier 1-2); that blast killed a character with only had 1 Hit Point prior to setting off the trap. Then there’s another trap dealing 3d6+1 damage (sub-tier 1-2). It is too much damage at the end of the obstacle course.

Combat Cooking:
This was a fantastic idea. I think this challenge would have been better if there was a more obvious reason to rush killing the monsters. There’s not a clear reason to be quick; perhaps points could have been awarded for the first team to kill the monsters.

The cooking section has some nice options for everyone to participate. The sabotage actions are a nice inclusion. As written, it seems that the same sabotage can be used multiple times per cooking segment and they all add (even if DCs are fairly high).

Kill Count:
If you need to run this scenario in a four-hour slot, I recommend skipping this challenge. Fortunately, only five rounds of combat are allowed. Both times I ran this scenario, the party had a healer with Harm Undead and good set of area of effect weapons. Both groups destroyed three sets of undead and accumulated a nearly insurmountable lead.

Capture the Flag:
This combat is too easy for the PCs. One problem is that PCs can re-enter the fight immediately by spending 1 RP (since they don’t have to spend a round and an RP to stabilize). The rules should have stated that PCs have to stay out of the fight after being knocked out. Why is this fight non-lethal when everything else has lethal potential?

The most frustrating thing is setting this combat to occur in zero-gravity. Since there is very little room to move around, PCs are going to keep running into each other trying to float down hallways, stopping movement, and then they’ll likely get knocked off kilter. It might be more interesting if the rival team was able to cheat and move more easily, but the zero-gravity just adds more time and complexity to a too-long scenario. On most occasions, boarding actions are going to occur in a 1G environment; why is it different here?


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A Terrific End to Season 1 Scenarios

*****

This is a terrific scenario to finish out season 1. There is a nice balance of starship combat, regular combats, social skills, and other skills. This scenario has it all. We played low-tier with a strong combat party (3 9th level, 3 8th level, and 1 7th level); 3 operatives, 2 soldiers, melee mystic, and technomancer.

The starship combat has the potential to be really challenging for the players if they roll poorly and the GM rolls well. I can see some tables losing this combat.

Details on Starship Combat:
If the player starship is caught in the forward arc of both jinsul starships, the jinsul could conceivably do a lot of damage in a single round. The jinsul gunners are competent and, if they use the computer bonuses, will hit at least 50% of the time. The jinsul have the potential to fire three weapons in their forward arc (with the captain acting as a gunner). Let’s assume that both masers hit (with above average luck), one linked coilgun hits, and one coilgun hit, that works out to 2*33 + 20 + 10 = 96 damage. That will punch through the 40 point shield and 56 of 100 hull points (for the tier 8 Drake).

The social encounter works well since it is a single round, although success seems to rely heavily on successful Sense Motive checks by the PCs. (My players were quite relieved that this social encounter wasn’t going to be like Siege of Civility.)

The section for approaching the command carrier was a lot of fun. The players spent a fair amount of time deciding on how best to allocate the PCs against each series of skill checks. Once they got the hang of it, this went smoothly. The only thing I would change is to lower the DCs for the gunnery checks; PCs can’t improve gunnery like they can other skills.

The first combat was really easy for the PCs (in part because my dice were cold). The PCs could have won even more quickly if the technomancer had dropped explosive blast spells on the grouped-up jinsul. This combat seemed designed for an easy victory by the PCs.

The various options for navigating to the command center were nicely set up. The group quickly decided on the stealthy option and then cast 5 invisibility spells.

Unfortunately, the command center room description doesn’t include the height of the platform; I assumed a height of 5 feet to allow the hierarch to see the PCs enter the room. (In the GM thread, the author stated a height of 15 feet, but then positions need to be modified so that the hierarch can see the PCs.)

The combat was entertaining, though the PCs easily won:

The PCs arrived at the command center with invisibility still up. I gave the PCs one round to move the invisible creatures and then gave the hierarch and his allies a Perception check. The hierarch easily recognized what was happening and combat was initiated.

The hierarch, unfortunately, went last in the initiative order and was killed before acting by 3 operative trick attacks and arcing surge from the technomancer. The praetorians were quickly dispatched as well. The players really enjoyed the fact that the encounter wasn’t over with the rise of Dhurus. That battle was slightly more challenging as Dhurus is fairly well built and can do a lot of damage.

Dhurus won initiative and opened with the ichor spray catching three PCs in the attack. The PCs responded by inflicting over half of Dhurus’s hit points in their first round. Then Dhurus used his bonus action to bite one melee combatant and reposition her away (negating that character’s ability to full attack) and then used multiattack on the remaining melee combatant. The multiattack could really do serious damage and take PCs out of the fight (a nice touch in a boss fight), but my dice went cold again. Dhurus was then easily killed before acting again.

The players enjoyed the wrap-up. The arrival of reinforcements played out well and is a wonder lead-in to the season 2 special.


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A Fun Romp Through Historia-7's Past

****( )

Everyone following the story of Historia-7 and Ziggy will love this scenario. You’ll want to play this scenario after playing 1-33 (Data Breach). As an added bonus, we get to learn more about the previous leaders of the Dataphiles.
I’ve run this scenario twice (both in high tier) and both times it was a fun romp. I want to give this scenario 5 stars for a good time, but there are so many problems with enemy tactics and missed opportunities that I’m giving it 4 stars.
I can’t review this scenario anymore without going into heavy spoilers. If you plan to play in this scenario, read no further. You have been warned!
* * * * * SPOILERS BELOW * * * * *
Missed opportunities:
Instead of the art for the Decomposing Stage, it would have been wonderful to have instead had a picture of the previous Historia androids.
The playlist for Star Sugar Heartlove is a lot of fun; but at some point I have to make sure that the players don’t obsess over it. It would have been amazing if somehow that playlist tied more directly into the scenario. (Hard to do, but amazing if the author could have pulled it off.)
A2 (combat): The positioning of the robots completely works against their tactics. The scenario places them on the far side of the room (outside the northwest doors). Their tactics are to use automatic fire; I like the idea as this is the first time that I recall tactics calling for automatic fire. Additionally, the robots have a nice ability to keep up with the automatic fire. The problem is that automatic fire is a full action and effective range is only half normal (30’ range with their weapon). Thus, they are not allowed to move and then fire automatic. Giving them Nimble Fusillade (from Soldier Hit-and-Run) would be ideal so that they can move and shoot (or guarded step away from melee characters). Alternatively, Uncanny Shooter (operative exploit) would avoid AOOs while firing. Since the robots need to be so close, this gives enemy melee characters a chance to close the distance, leaving the robots the choice of stepping back and taking a single shot or absorbing AOOs while firing in automatic mode. Furthermore, the tactics of avoiding the cradle make it much more difficult to allow the robots to get a good automatic shot.
A2 (post-combat): The intent of the scenario is that the PCs are unable to release Historia-7 from the command cradle at this time. But there is no further information (including skill checks) on why the PCs need to leave her there and move on. Additionally, the map shows these cables connecting the cradle to the wall. Both groups removed the cables but there is no sense of what (if anything) such an action should do.
A3: I like that the datapad is difficult to find. That makes it more likely that Ziggy’s stress level will be increased. However, losing credits for failing a fairly high perception check seems overly punitive.
Into the Blue: This was a nice opportunity to see Historia-7’s past. The difficult part was having the players see that the Computers skill is an option. Both groups I ran missed the Culture check and were left on their own to decide what to do. One of the players in the first group did come up with the Computers check idea on their own. When I ran it the second time, I emphasized (twice) that the PCs need to repair Historia-7’s memory before sending them into the Mindscape; however, the players didn’t connect the dots.
B: It’s a nice surprise to have the trap on the console; that will certainly catch melee characters off-guard as they race into melee. However, the Historia fragments are placed poorly; I would have preferred that they were placed two squares forward of their current position to force melee characters to move into the trapped squares. Essentially, if the Historia fragments lose initiative, they cannot easily maneuver the PCs into activating the trap.
Historia Fragments: These creatures are too weak for high tier. While the damage scales a little bit, the bonuses to hit don’t change. This made it difficult for them to hit characters with good armor in high tier.
C: The scenario wants to imagine that this encounter is really difficult. However, both times (in high tier), the PCs had no problem winning. The first group (with only four PCs) had two Mystics who simply used Mind Thrust on Historia-Prime until it was dead; it wasn’t even close.
The second group had a little more trouble, but not much. The melee Mystic ran in and got pummeled by Historia-Prime and was quickly knocked out. The melee Mystic kept getting back into the fight and repeatedly knocked out (3 times total). Everyone else was barely touched. As noted previously, the Historia fragments aren’t challenging enough in high tier to hit well-armored foes and did very little damage.
Stress Points: Neither group had any trouble with the stress points. The first group didn’t gain any; the second group only got to two stress points and successfully removed one.


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Terrific Concept; Poor Execution

***( )( )

I love the idea behind this scenario. This promises to be the first of many scenarios that can be linked together at future conventions as The Final Voyage of Rasheen (or something along those lines). I hope that future scenarios will be at this tier or higher so that individual PCs can adventure through them in succession.

Exploring the starship is interesting. I enjoyed the way that the two encounters are linked; that makes for an interesting encounter. However, it feels like there should be a little more here. Another combat or hazard on board the ship would have been great.

Problems with area A7:
There is a trap on the door to room A7. Please reference door traps before the boxed text to make sure that they get used properly. When I ran this a second time on short notice, I missed the trap until it was too late.

Let’s talk about the map. The scenario labels the map as STARFINDER FLIP-MAT: STARSHIP. Naturally, I pulled that map out of my collection and brought it to the game. Imagine my surprise when neither side of the flip-mat matches the picture in the scenario. Fortunately, the layouts are similar enough that I was able to make it work, but it was somewhat annoying. Thurston Hillman’s list of maps in the product description is correct.

The fight in encounter B is a real pain with fog covering the entire battlefield. I appreciate this as a counterpoint to the scenario with the snipers (i.e., sometimes you just have to fight up close). But it just makes for a painful fight to run especially since a tabletop game doesn’t lend itself well for a fog-of-war scenario. Spellcasters and ranged characters have to fire into total concealment and that slows down the fight. Could we do this again with a lighter fog (e.g., total concealment after 20 feet instead of beyond 5 feet)?

The starship combat (high tier only) is just a waste of time if the PCs have a competent pilot. If the PCs can gain position, the enemy starship is useless.

Problems with enemy starship:
In high tier, the Eoxian turret weapon is a light EMP cannon; an EMP weapon is only usable against a starship with its shields down. Once the PCs get their starship out of the front arc of the Eoxian vessel, the EMP weapon is useless since the Eoxian ship is using gyrolasers (1d8 damage) to attempt to knock through shields. If the Eoxians lose initiative, the only real chance for them is to attempt a Fly-By maneuver; but the turn radius of 2 makes that impossible if the PCs have gotten behind the Eoxian ship. The combination of a poor turn radius and a turret weapon that doesn’t do damage is a killer.

From a story perspective, this is a disappointment. Rasheen sounds like an interesting character. Yet we learn nothing about her; we learn nothing during the course of the scenario. We aren’t told about any specific to her explorations. We could have at least had a culture roll for PCs to know details about some first contact mission (perhaps foreshadowing another future scenario). Please breathe some life into Rasheen; there’s so much potential here.


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Prepare Carefully Before Running

*****

This is an interesting scenario with a lot of unusual elements working together. The GM really needs to understand this scenario prior to running it. As a result, I really enjoyed running this scenario with its complexity.

The author quickly introduces us to a very low gravity environment and seems to have thought a lot about how it works. That has made it into the scenario in a number of places and affects the plot. When I ran the scenario, one of the players really got into the mood and started jumping around the battlefield like John Carter of Mars. [In retrospect, I’m thinking that the character, when jumping a long distance, should target the square that they want to jump at. Then roll a ranged attack roll against AC 5 (with a 20’ range increment) to see if the character hits the desired square. If a miss, use grenade miss rules to determine where they land.]

The scenario gives multiple options to resolve each of the scenario challenges. The group I ran had a good spread of skills (operative, technomancer, mechanic, and soldier) and they were able to succeed at most of the skill checks to keep the story moving.

Overall, this scenario was an outstanding presentation and I only have a few nits:
1) Large creatures in area A can be a problem in high tier and there isn’t a lot of room to maneuver; I suspect they won’t be as much of a challenge in high tier. The creatures attacked near the large door and there is only room for two at a time on the bridge.
2) The encounter in area B was too easily bypassed. This could be an exciting battle area if the enemy creatures used abilities that could move the PCs around (allowing some of the referenced low gravity rules to come into play).
3) When aligning the lens in area C1, the text incorrectly references the Development section on page 17; however, the information the GM needs is at the top of page 18.

Combat Difficulty:
In low tier, the combat were very challenging. First-level characters can easily be taken out of the fight by one critical (or two hits). Characters who are stable but are at 0 or 1 hit points are extremely vulnerable to the self-destruct damage and being forced to expend another RP. Our first-level soldier was down to one RP after the first fight (knocked out, stabilize, get back in the fight, and stabilize again after the self-destruct).


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Needs More Plot Twists and Turns

***( )( )

At first glance, this scenario reminds me a lot of the PFS Season 5 scenario “The Hellknight’s Feast.” In both scenarios, the PCs need to interact with influential people and attempt to sway them to their cause. In both cases, PCs have a number of opportunities to learn about the dignitaries and then apply appropriate skills to influence them.

In terms of learning which skills would be useful, I much prefer the approach in “The Hellknight’s Feast.” In “Siege of Civility,” the only applicable skill to learn about the influence skills is Sense Motive; a party with a number of characters with a low Sense Motive is really going to struggle. In “The Hellknight’s Feast,” different skills (appropriate to the dignitary) can be used to learn what skills are useful for influence (often including Sense Motive).

For the Influence checks, “Siege of Civility” works better than “The Hellknight’s Feast.” In “The Hellknight’s Feast,” Diplomacy and Bluff are always acceptable skills. While those skills can be used in “Siege of Civility,” they don’t work on everyone. As result, there’s a greater usage of the different skills. It would be nicer of all of the dignitaries had at least four skills that would be useful. Additionally, I would like to have seen rules for gaining extra influence by exceeding the Influence DC by 5 or more (similar to learning additional useful skills from Sense Motive).

“Siege of Civility” falls flat for me with regards to providing other things for the PCs to do and explore. There is one minor sub-plot to resolve and a much-needed combat (to engage players not excited by the social checks).

The combat in the arena is very nicely set up. The dynamic battlefield makes it more interesting and is a good changeup from standard battle areas. Unfortunately, the opposition is too weak. Appropriate CR calculation for large NPC groups is often a challenge. But, in this case, I can compare six combatants on one side against six PCs. If all of the PCs are in-tier, then all of their equivalent NPC opponents are lower level (with one exception); this is not much of challenge especially since the PCs can use Resolve Points to re-enter the fight and the NPCs cannot.

I would like to see more plot points to better engage with the dignitaries of the Gideron Authority. There aren’t twists and turns that I expect to see in this kind of scenario. There’s really nothing to do (besides influencing people) and nothing to learn.

From a “moral of the story” perspective, I worry about this scenario. The Starfinder Society is cozying up to a fascist regime and essentially giving them the green light to engage in an aggressive war against another civilization. I really hope there is a payoff down the line where the Starfinder Society gets blow-back for this kind of cooperation.


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An excellent scenario to run multiple times

****( )

This review is primarily intended to provide feedback to the Organized Play team (as they have requested) and for GMs. While I’ve tried to keep this review relatively spoiler free, I recommend that players who are interested in playing this scenario move to the next review.
There is a lot to like in Heart of the Foe. As Meloriel posted, this is a complex scenario and should not be attempted by inexperienced GMs or someone who has not had time to prepare. Conversely, this is the type of scenario I would love to run at a convention so that I can better internalize what needs to be managed from session to session. There is a lot going on and the GM needs to have a solid understanding of the entire scenario and how pieces interact to run it well.
I’m giving a 4-star review because the scenario has many excellent qualities to it, but is brought down by omissions of required details and inflicting arbitrary rules on the players.

I applaud the idea of having some sort of negative repercussions to keeping environmental systems sealed. I really wish the CRB had addressed this in some way instead of leaving it to scenario writers. However, this attempt falls flat. It doesn’t make sense that snow buildup would affect someone’s helmet but not affect their face. How difficult should it really be to clear the snow off of a helmet compared to one’s face?
The travel section is interesting and has a lot going on. But this section would go completely differently if a PC brings a vehicle. The vehicle should take damage from the crash landing, but it should be functional (unless very low level or unlucky). While a GM could disallow a PC from bringing a vehicle on the shuttle, this could unfairly penalize a character who has heavily invested in a vehicle (like one of my local players who dropped 32,000 credits on a vehicle and was still wearing Second Skin armor at 8th level - that character did not play this scenario).
I got into a good rhythm working through the storm hazards and investigation along the trip. Rather than give the PCs the clues as they went along, I recorded successes and failures and gave them the results shortly before entering the city. However, I didn’t correctly note that encounter A takes place in the middle of the trip.
For GMs, I recommend some sort of physical token representing the headpiece to put in front of any player that chooses to wear it. That will make it easier for you to remember that they have it. (A crown from Burger King would suffice.)
I thought the map for encounter A was not the best choice. A larger map makes sense to me since that could give advantage to PCs that spot the enemy to strike from a longer distance. I imagined using the old Mountain Pass flip-mat with either the PCs surprising the enemy from the cliffs above (if they sneak up on the enemy), in the valley (if they perceive the enemy but fail to sneak up), or the PCs walking into an ambush (with the enemy on the cliffs). [Unfortunately, that map is out of print and really should be a part of the Classics line since it has been used in many scenarios.]
In terms of layout, the Development section would be better if it is in front of the Creatures section. Doing so would have been very helpful in making sure that I called out the observer during the combat. It would have also been helpful if that section was in its own paragraph (to help draw the GMs attention).
The scenario states that the PCs cannot rest if they have taken any nonlethal cold damage. How does this make sense? It does make sense that environmental seals be up such that the PC is no longer exposed to the cold condition. Requiring 20 minutes for a rest instead of 10 minutes just seems odd since the only restriction in the CRB is uninterrupted rest.
Encounter B has another odd map choice. Since this encounter is in a city, I would have chosen something like City Streets or Slum Quarter. The current map doesn’t really make it feel like the group is in a city. I also think that starting the chase with the PCs in the middle of a city map would feel more natural (though it certainly worked as written).
I wasn’t sure where to run the encounter and put the PCs on the south side. The start of the combat is interesting, but I wasn’t quite sure how to initiate it. I had the enemy crash the vehicle (and exit the vehicle) at the start of the surprise round and then had PCs acting in the surprise round go next. One possibility is for the vehicle to come around the corner just before the start of the surprise round, then the PCs (who can act in the surprise round) would have an opportunity to shoot the vehicle (possibly disabling it) or at the enemy before the vehicle attempts to ram someone.
The action really picks up with the chase scene. I like the idea of using the Vehicle chase rules with some alternative skill choices. It’s also a very nice touch that skill check successes in a previous section matter.
Unfortunately, some details to run the chase are missing for the enemy side. The enemy horde isn’t given a vehicle tech level, so there is no DC for horde actions. (I used the party APL to set the DCs.) The PCs have the opportunity to attack the horde, but no EAC/KAC is given. (The scenario author has recommended values in the SFS GM prep thread.) No rules are given for area of effect spells. One of my players wanted to use Hurl Forcedisk, I allowed him to do so. Should the grapple attack roll be against normal KAC or against KAC+8; I recommend normal KAC to give the horde a reasonable chance of grappling and providing more urgency for the PCs to fight off the horde.
My PCs had no difficulty in damaging the horde enough to free a grappled PC. They had nearly killed horde after only two rounds. They then escaped as I rolled poorly for the horde attempting to keep up and the party escaped.
The final battle ended up being quite exciting. I liked that the fight occurs on a multi-level structure as that makes jump jets and jetpacks useful in the fight. The players were challenged by having the demon at one end and reinforcements coming from the other end. The demon can really be tough with his spell-like abilities. If successful is summoning another one, this fight could turn brutal.
The players selected the aid option of having the Starfinders freed and armed. I gave the players control of the freed Starfinders in the battle; GMs might want to print the statblock out for the players. They were quite aggressive with that and one of the Starfinders died. It would have been nice if the Starfinders at least had one RP so that they could stabilize him; then the PCs would have to consider using resources to get him up and moving again.
This is a complex battle. I forgot about the traps (described in the text, but not marked on the map). I also forgot about Jadnura’s support until fairly late in the combat (though they didn’t end up needing the help).
I look forward to running this scenario again where I expect that I’ll do a better job of presentation.