Rohkar Cindren

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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber. FullStarFullStarFullStarFullStarFullStar Venture-Lieutenant, West Virginia—Charleston 167 posts (987 including aliases). 10 reviews. 2 lists. 2 wishlists. 35 Organized Play characters. 9 aliases.



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An excellent narrative finale mired by gameplay

***( )( )

Serpents Fall is excellent in the sense that players are able to tie a nice little bow on a number of problems that have plagued them for the past few seasons. Revenge is sweet, and many PCs (and NPCs) enjoy some degree of retribution by the finale. The roleplay encounters are great -- pretty much every combat (potential or otherwise) is prefaced by one -- so it's quite easy to get lost in the moment and behind on schedule. Considering how lackluster the encounters and investigation are, it's time well spent.

Serpents Fall suffers from a similar problem as Part 2: very forgettable encounters. Players are more likely to remember the interactions pre-combat than they are any real threat of death.

Spoiler:
This entire scenario was solved with judicious castings of fireball and a little brute strength... every... single... encounter.

There are two potential final encounters, and "the second one" is, I feel, a very dissatisfying conclusion to what has been a solid trilogy for seeker players.

Beyond encounters, the investigation segments feel tacked on and the "awareness" mechanic...

Awareness:
So... the party starts with 3 awareness points, there's no way to reduce your awareness points, there are mechanics that effect combat if your party has less than 3 awareness points, roleplaying is penalized by adding awareness points, and you run the risk of losing a prestige point for going over 4 awareness points...

I still recommend doing the entire trilogy, especially for the closure it will offer a number of PCs. I definitely rank it someplace behind Part 1 and well ahead of Part 2.


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Weakest of the trilogy

**( )( )( )

I've had the opportunity to both play and run this scenario, and both times, it left me wanting.

As a GM, it was somewhat frustrating to prepare... the unclear map delegations became a source of several inside jokes betwixt my players and I. The story is somewhat of an inconsequential mess, initial encounters and puzzles were forgettable, and the final boss would have literally been easier for this particular party if we had chosen hard mode.

Spoiler:
The party had an evoker who was able to change energy types... early in Round 1, the Godfont would have split, and the evoker would have done even more damage, versus leaving it at single-digit hit points for the next person to clean up.

As a player, the final boss was certainly a highlight (never thought I'd have to bring out those spells with spell kenning), but one combat an enjoyable scenario does not make.


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Strong start to a new seeker arc

****( )

Had the pleasure of running this for my fifth-star adjudication for two Venture Captains, two Venture Lieutenants, and another experienced GM (there were 21 stars on the opposite side of the screen) in an open slot. After a pretty thorough introduction for the players, this scenario hits the ground running full-tilt.

Spoiler:
There are three fairly involved encounters to prep for this scenario... get comfortable with oracles and mesmerists

Combats are tough but memorable -- probably the most interesting fights in the entire trilogy. I've since run this twice and played it once, and in all cases the final fight is a puzzler with a satisfying conclusion.

Highly recommend this as a supplement or alternative to Eyes of the Ten for eligible characters.


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Grab a snack

***( )( )

So, this 31-page behemoth was one of the five-hour slot scenarios I had to run at GenCon. I enjoyed reading through it... a lot of flavor (some of which the characters may never encounter), a lot of potential combats (about a half-dozen encounters), and extremely sandbox-y. This scenario could easily take a large block of time if you allow it to.

Spoiler:
The party I ran this for was unique prepared for the task and was able to legitimately complete the scenario. It shocked me that it would be possible, but they met every criteria listed, even if it was just with an hour to spare in all cases.

I would certainly recommend this one to enterprising GMs that are willing to allow their players the time this scenario deserves.


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***( )( )

Ran this three times at GenCon. This scenario could be quite rough depending on party makeup, and reliance on the NPCs for certain tasks (like massive knowledge checks for low-level parties) can prevent players from getting all of the rewards, but all three of my tables (ranging from Level 1 pregen newbies to a late-night multi-star GM run) were 100% successful with no deaths. This scenario can be jarring, but I was actually a fan of the juxtapositions (as were my players, or at least I got that impression).

Spoiler:
Welcome to the year of the magus.

A fourth session:
I ran this one locally for a group of seasoned players, and only one of the table of six left the Red Redoubt alive. The problem was the Fearmonger Prototype, which the party was using poor tactics against.


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***( )( )

I ran this one today for a table of experienced players, levels all across the board... per the rules, my five PCs played up with the 4-player adjustment.

The lead-up to the eponymous dungeon went fantastic. Plenty of opportunity for RP, and it certainly sets the mode for the rest of the adventure. I'm happy to report there was no reason to pull out the NPC Codec.

The map of the first level is a bit confusing.

Why, you might ask?:
The false hallway trap leads PCs to an area that is not mentioned on the map. I assumed it wasn't a big deal and went about my business (never came up, Rogue aced his Trap Spot). There is also a secret door in the throne room which, unless I overlooked it a half-dozen times in a row, was never mentioned. I set a reasonably high DC for spotting it which, again, Rogue nailed.

First "encounter" in CoS was pretty challenging for the table.

Did our heroes survive?:
That last bit of climbing was problematic for some of the party, but it definitely gave the encounter some excitement. 4-player adjustment helped a bit, but the other creature was what caused problems. The paladin turned out to be the answer.

The final encounter turned out to be a rough one.

Did our heroes survive again?:
The room's designed took away a lot of the PCs offensive option... scout rogue couldn't charge, human ranger couldn't effectively put arrows down range, wizard had to get close to see targets, and paladin had to slog to go anywhere. The wizard at the table went for the haymaker (phantasmal killer), which the BBEG saved on by the skin of his teeth. Wizard paid for it when BBEG did what you would expect the BBEG would do -- go thermonuclear on the caster -- and the BBEG's weapon did what you would expect it to do -- crit on the caster. The fight wore on until the BBEG abandoned cairn and the last mob covered the escape, not before 3 people were dropped (two stabilized 1 point shy of negative CON) and an animal companion bled out.

A template is applied to some of the the high-tier baddies, but the resultant hitpoints are miscalculated in the scenario (to the PCs favor). Also, this fight could have used a four-player adjustment.

The factions missions were both completed at the table, though we did not have a Cheliax or Andoran present...

Faction Missions:
It would be pretty difficult to fail the Andoran mission, in spite of the fact there's really no guidance as to what it could possibly be (not what you're expecting), and the Cheliaxian mission would most likely be performed by Andorans without prompting, though Zarta keeps her tender flesh-morsels in line.

The secondary success condition hinged greatly on the primary success condition... Most tables will get all or nothing, though there are likely some hedge cases in which a table may only accomplish the primary.

Long story short, my table left the Cairn of Shadows with one experience, no prestige, about a third of the possible gold, and their lives.

Final Impressions
This is probably one of the darkest scenarios I've ever read/run, and in the best possible way. It was definitely a test for the party, but they came out of it pleased that they at least survived. This scenario suffers from some de-synchronization between maps and text which could have been prevented with a(nother) proofread. Last, I agree it's a bit unfair to punish the party's loot pool for having an awesome rogue. Great flavor, but mechanically troubled. Would definitely run again, though.


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The Immoral Conundrum...

****( )

Had the opportunity to run this for our local game store, our first Season 5 scenario, and I feel like things went relatively smoothly. There's a considerable amount of push-back concerning how faction missions are handled now; personally, faction missions have ranged from "enriching additions" to "pointless and tacked-on". This scenario felt a bit meatier than previous outings, and if that's the trade-off for ditching 8 faction missions and corresponding notes, I'm okay with that.

My Table:
We had a table of four: L2 Wizard, L3 Gunslinger, L3 Paladin, and L5 Paladin, all of which are experienced players. APL was right at 3, so they chose to go the more challenging route.

Progression:
I'm kind of a fan of the illusion of choice in this scenario... it did a lot to plant seeds of doubt in not only the NPCs but other players (nothing better than a little dissension to create drama and good RP opportunities). First encounter was handled expertly (accidentally ran the encounter without scale-down... didn't realize it until several pages later when the blurb appeared for scaling). The next combat gave them a little more of a challenge, but the scale-down made a big difference. Nailed the social encounter at the Inn. It took the table a bit longer than anticipated to find the secret entrance to the basement and the optional was skipped due to time. Final encounter was very much nerfed due to scale-down and the previous social encounter... BBEG seemed a bit weak, but a particular item on her person helped lengthen the encounter... to about 2 and a half rounds. Full clear, no deaths, job well done.

What the...:
So, during the dead of night, the party decides to explore. Lawful-stupid Paladin (LSP) splits the party in order to keep watch on the sisters. LSP knocks on their door and aces the perception to hear them whispering to one another. LSP assumes this means they're in trouble and kicks the door in. Queue three old women in nightgowns scared half to death of the 7-foot tall Aasimar in full-plate standing there. LSP uses the cover story that he's hungry (while eating an apple, mind you). They know he's lying. One sister makes an attempt to leave so she can warm him up some stew. LSP closes the door, locks it, and says "I want us to be alone." Two sisters do fine on their Sense Motive... one is entirely convinced that something terrible is going to befall her, so she grabs a knife off the mantle. Roll initiative. LSP holds action until someone threatens him. Sister comes at him Wendy-from-The-Shining-style with a knife, misses. Sister two throws a cup at him, misses. Sister three grabs a fire-stoker and takes a swing, misses. LSP cuts the knife-wielder down. Sister two cowers in the corner, pleading in her native language (that LSP does not know). Sister three attempts to do the same, but provokes AoO, which LSP takes (she *did* threaten him). LSP doesn't have the Spellcraft, Linguistics, Language, or Sense Motive necessary and legitimately believes she's casting a full-round spell. LSP kills her. ALL THE WHILE, the other three members of the party are in the stables, listening to the cacophony of screams getting louder, more panicked, crescendo, and fade to silence... and they did nothing, because, you know, LSP can't be reasoned with.

Overall, I enjoyed running it. Quite a bit of substance, some of which will be completely ignored unless an Osirion player is at the table. RP elements were solid, though the combats seemed a little too diluted when scaled down to 4 players.


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Confusion's Beginning

***( )( )

Our local Pathfinder Society group has a large number of Shadow Lodge devotees, so the clamor to run Rivalry’s End as many times as possible prior to the August cut-off has been great. We are pitched another classic battle between the Society and one of their most hated enemies, the Aspis Consortium, being headed up by none other than Grandmaster Torch.

My GM Experience:

The release slipped under a lot of people’s radar, so I ran the low-tier version for a table of four individuals: an alchemist, a sorcerer, and two fighters (hardly optimized, but experienced players none-the-less).
A lot of thought was put into infiltration, but the table managed. I had some random encounters with the staff and other gamblers to give the beginning a bit of flavor and RP opportunities, including putting my Sorcerer in an awkward situation with a very intoxicated like-specied Tengu. Forcing a table of skull-crackers into actually cavorting with individuals as socially inept as they were was entertaining for all involved.

Their first “fight” required pulling the NPC Codex. Keep it on stand-by. A table-full of terrible perceptions almost stalled them out in the cellar, but one person was able to hit the DC by taking 20: the dangers of not bringing a skill-monkey.

The party got unlucky with which hallway the picked, and encountered the patrol very early. One party member dropped, but the alchemist had his time to shine. The alchemist and sorcerer made quick work of the tripped trap/encounter, so no major issues there.

The encounter in the lowest floor went pear-shaped in a hurry. One of the fighters tripped the trap prior to the fight which nearly did max effect. Their adversary had plenty of time to prepare, and luckily for her, no one had a will save. I feel like the tactics assume she’ll be overmatched, but she had between 75-100% of the party predisposed during the entire fight. Once she had four disabled in some form or another, I had her flee. One PC pursued to the best of their ability, but couldn’t catch her before she vanished into Riddleport.

If you’ve read or played the scenario, you realize just how bad this “breaks” things. I had to redact about 75% of the chronicle sheet with black marker since the whole thing is steeped with spoilers which, for all intents and purposes, the PCs never encountered. Probably one of the most mind-boggling things I’ve experienced as a PFS GM.

Personal Impressions:
From what I’ve read of other party’s experiences with this scenario, it’s relatively tough. In retrospect, my table could have stalled out because of a perception check AND, if the tactics were written differently, been subject to a TPK. I had a party of Level 3 and 4 characters who lost out on a lot of loot and some prestige but will live to fight another day – some tables weren’t so lucky. Season 4 definitely “brought it” as far as challenge goes.

I’m a bit ambivalent about the story of Rivalry’s End. My table was regretfully unable to appreciate the full gravity of the story, but the conclusion just doesn’t sit well. There’s going to be a huge dichotomy for former Lantern Lodge characters (post-Way of the Kirin) versus Shadow Lodge. I can understand, from a story-writing perspective, why Rivalry’s End may go the route it did, but it still makes me feel dirty and unwell.

Rivalry’s End is tough, the RP elements have to be teased out with a heavy hand, and the conclusion is memorable, for better or worse. It’s mechanically worth it to take your Shadow Lodge character through this one, but I imagine it might be emotionally taxing if you have a lot of investment in them.


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Who Doesn't Like Tea Parties?

****( )

Way of the Kirin is essentially the going-away part for the Lantern Lodge. For those with any investment in either the Lantern Lodge or their Venture Captain Amara Li, you’ll certainly want to give this scenario a play-through.

PCs are tasked with escorting Amara Li as her bodyguards to help facilitate a very pivotal negotiation for the Lantern Lodge. The scenario plays out like an intense Eastern drama, complete with tea ceremony, samurai duel, and the opportunity to enact your very own “Home Alone” fantasies. Having read and run the scenario, it has a lot of Tian flavor, which is a nice change of pace from the usual Inner Sea daring-do.

For GMs:

Spoiler:
The first act can drag quite a bit, so keeping the player’s interest, as well as tracking progress is going to be crucial for the GM, especially since the PCs’ actions can make or break the rest of the scenario. I made a time-tracker and let my PCs roll initiative to see who would get to act first (or last, if they wanted to wait for everyone else to decide beforehand). Be sure to pay close attention to weather conditions (I feel like some of the combats went by way too quickly because I may have forgot to apply some effects). I ran low-tier, and it seemed like my table of 5 blew through the scenario, even without the scaled-down combats. We had to skip the optional due to a time constraint at the table, so I can’t say much about the cave until the boss, which again has handily taken care of in about four rounds. If your BBEG gets a high enough initiative and you have a table like mine that’s rocking out, might I suggest readying that Wall of Fire for the first soul brave enough to charge in?

The Chronicle Sheet:

Spoiler:
I don’t want to give away too much, but there are three boons available for completion. The first boon is for Lantern Lodge members only, and is an extremely nice reward for those who will be losing their faction come August. The second boon is for members of all other factions; due to the circumstances and cost of its use, it certainly pales in comparison to the Lantern Lodge boon. Last, for those who have earned the Debt of the Kirin boon from First Steps,Part 2: To Delve the Dungeon Deep, you’ll find that the Way of the Kirin rewards those who they are indebted to very nicely.

As far as detractors, there are only a few. Several faction missions feel tacked-on and don’t necessarily contribute to the feel of the scenario. Low-tier combats didn’t really instill a sense of panic like I had hoped, though perhaps the high-tier offering may strike the fear of Asmodeus into players.

Overall, this is certainly a worthwhile play, and many players may want to spend the next few months getting a character into a position to maximize their chances of getting all of the rewards Way of the Kirin can offer.


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Sweet Dreams

*****

The Night March of Kalkamedes is an absolute gem of a scenario; probably one of the most fun I’ve ever run, and I certainly look forward to being on the player-side of the screen once it’s offered at our game store again.

The bulk of the scenario requires a fair amount of problem-solving and skill-sets that don’t see nearly enough light of day in PFS play (at least in my limited experience) -- intimidation and cracking heads isn’t going to deliver you to the finish line with a full-clear. For those more inclined to fight, there are several combat encounters that are made more challenging by your wandering ward risking life and limb to push forward.

The story was rather good, but there is a long delay before players will get any of it -- your Venture Captain gives you some basic introductions during the setup, a half-dozen encounters will go by, until finally in the last act players are hit with a very compelling story-arc. The curious route of the “Night March” makes up for the lack of exposition one would normally get when escorting a VIP.

The chronicle sheet is impressive, considering the party is able to achieve a full clear.

Spoiler:
If you are able to solve the mystery, all tiers get access to an intelligent weapon. For those who are able to save a particular NPC, you will also receive a one-use boon which, depending on your level and the situation, could prevent a TPK (Total Party Kill) in later scenarios. The periphery items on the chronicle sheet are solid, especially if you’re a low-level character with more gold than fame will allow you to purchase.

Some notes for GM’s:

Spoiler:
Considering I had a low-tier group with varying levels of experience, I wanted to make it clear to them that they would be participating in a night mission. My way around this was having one of the PCs, the night before, grab a midnight snack at Heidmarch Manor and overhear Sheila discussing the situation with a messenger; the PC had the opportunity to relay to his compatriots that tomorrow, they would be embarking on a night mission. The next morning, Canayven Heidmarch gives them a quick briefing, and that they would have about an hour to make purchases before they would need to leave to make it to Kalkamedes’ home by nightfall (this was also my opportunity to deliver faction missions).

Read up on grapple rules. Kalkamedes has a decent CMB/CMD, and was able to free himself from grapples and bust out of hog-ties regularly when not regularly attended.

The Dais is a good opportunity to mess with PCs. Keep the bonus/penalties a secret for as long as possible. Watching the Nagaji Cavalier collapse onto the Dais under the weight of his gear as the Gnome Bard singlehandedly pushes the heavy steel doors open was entertaining, at the very least.

The final encounter is a TPK waiting to happen at low-tier. In my first run, he dropped two party members in as many rounds, though quick-thinking PCs were able to tactically outmaneuver him and put him down in about 8 rounds. Read the tactics carefully and take them to heart, and your PCs should be able to make it out alive.

This one took us about 5.5 hours to run through, which is a bit longer than my average. Plenty of opportunities for puzzle-solving RP, though you’re looking at 4-5 puzzles and 3-4 combats, depending on how things are played.

A very fun scenario which deviates from the norm; your RP’ers will thank you, and your combat-nuts will love the challenge late in the scenario.