The start of the scenario is nice, with the highlight being going back to the old map from 2-02. The scenario sticks to a heavy theme of snakes, and does a very nice job of imparting the story of what happened here and generally does a nice job of making the PCs and the players feel like archeologists.
However, all that build up falls apart at the last encounter, which is a TPK fest. I obsessively broke it down in the Product Discussion thread. The bottom of that post contains info for GMs to help make it more palatable for the players and things that need to change for the scenario to be more fair.
At GenCon, I heard they released a scenario with a puzzle in it, so I bought a ticket for this scenario with one of my open slots. The scenario started off well, with a cool skill encounter, a nice writeup of a new town, some fun roleplaying, and a monster that had me shaking my fist in the air yelling “COURTS!”.
Then we got to the puzzle. Throughout the scenario I was already working out how the portals worked, so I wasn’t surprised when they became the focus of the puzzle. My table identified how the puzzle worked fine, and we identified some of how the final answer should look, but the final ordering is fairly frustrating and not well clued. It feels as if someone was trying to be really clever, but in doing so forgot to include that a puzzle author is trying to set him or herself up to lose.
But that’s okay, I thought, when I run it I’ll switch around the cluing to help the PCs. After all, one of the benefits of puzzles in RPGs is that there is a gamemaster there who can help prod the players to move along as they solve.
Later during GenCon, I ran this as an after-hours slot alongside another table doing the same scenario. Doing my readover to pick up additional details that my GM missed, I noticed that the rewards for the puzzle encounter. The gold that PCs earn on the chronicle sheet is dependent on whether or not they solved the puzzle before a certain number of hints. This is problematic for two reasons. The first is that full gold is dependent on not getting the clue which hints towards the proper ordering. The second is that now if I change the hints to make the experience better for my players, now I’m adjusting things that have an effect outside the scenario. While this effect is small, it pretty much is the definition of a change that a PFS GM is not supposed to do. And even though it’s a small change, there will be players who will not be happy if they don’t get full gold because of a change I made (as opposed to a choice they made).
I can’t in good conscious call this a bad scenario, because the rest of the scenario is pretty amazing and left me wanting more like it. However, I can’t in good conscious call it a good scenario when it leaves 2 tables disappointed at the end of one encounter and a third so frustrated that they got up and left without completing the scenario. A middling 3 stars then with a request to have Liz write something else in the future so that we can think of her as someone else than “the author of that terrible puzzle.”