Le Petite Mort's page

RPG Superstar 9 Season Marathon Voter. Organized Play Member. 451 posts (586 including aliases). 38 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 14 Organized Play characters.

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Great on Crunch, a bit short on Fluff


I give up to three stars in two categories, fluff and crunch. 0 stars is terrible, 3 is extraordinarily good.

Fluff: 1 Star
I really felt like there was nothing really happening here. You're told to explore a ruin, which you then do. There was little NPC interaction overall, and what there was had little impact on the events as they unfolded. That said, there was nothing awful about it either.

Crunch - 3 Stars

The encounters were thematic, challenging, and diverse. The final boss was extremely difficult without having insurmountable defenses or indefensible abilities. It felt like a final boss should for a three part series: tough but fair.

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Absolutely Fantastic, would give 6 stars


I give from 0-3 stars for fluff, and another 0-3 for crunch.

Fluff - 3 stars:
The story was well conceived, and ties in neatly to the ongoing story arc for the season. There were few NPCs, but those that the party encounters have interesting personalities. The prose for room descriptions is vivid, unique, and evocative imagism. Phenomenal work.

Crunch - 3 stars:
The combat encounters were full of interesting enemies using creative (but not convoluted) tactics. The research portions were very well executed, but I will admit I am concerned that this mechanic could be disastrous in future scenarios if utilized by authors of lesser talent. Many scenarios include weird quirky mechanics unique to the scenario in portions that are overly complex, and either minor in impact or utterly debilitating. The unique mechanic at the end of this scenario is simple, has major impact, and is unbelievably fun.

This is one of the best things I've had the joy to play.

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Well crafted flavor, mechanics miss the mark


tl;dr Amazing story couched in bad mechanics, don't play the high-tier without fireballs.

I divide my reviews into two sections: fluff and crunch. Fluff is everything from NPC personalities to room descriptions to narrative flow. Mechanics is how 'level appropriate' and interesting enemies, traps, navigating, and socializing are. Each can have up to three stars, with 0 stars being absolutely terrible and 3 stars far exceeding any expectations I had.

Fluff: 3 stars

The mission itself is really quite cool. It had great atmosphere, and the narrative provides a kind of twisted reflection of the 'save the villagers from the bad raiders' motif. The backstory is cool, the NPCs are interesting, and all of it is very unconventional.

Crunch 0 stars:

Holy crap are the mechanics bad though. The Undead template wasn't my issue (well, there was a small thing, but more on that later). My issues were elsewhere:

1st encounter: We played in the high tier and managed to Diplomacy our way through it. However, after reading the low-tier it becomes clear that a party can't reasonably do that if even ONE PC fails a Will save against one of the NPC's auras. Just a silly way to derail an interesting story element.

2nd encounter: This is actually probably my biggest beef with the scenario, as the party can basically fail the mission by not thinking to do something that Pathfinder rules normally don't allow. A group of NPCs ambush you, and unless you use Diplomacy to talk them down (which is normally impossible or at least ludicrously unfeasible in combat) you will lose the mission. They are the only way to get the required information to reach the remainder of the mission. Our group didn't realize that we were in imaginary made up rules land, and took them down non-lethally on a lark. We pretended to enslave them, and set them free in the woods. Thing is, there was no real reason to believe that they had the information we needed, so we let them go. We played for about another hour (six weeks of game time wandering through the muck) before figuring out that we just needed to go two miles south of WHERE WE FOUGHT THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE. This kind of narrative bottleneck is just silly.

The Haunt. Oh god, the haunt. Anyone planning to run this should know that this haunt CANNOT reduce PCs to below 1 HP. It works like the heal spell that way, which is not how the in-scenario text writes it. In fact, Undead Anatomy 1 wouldn't make the PCs take any damage from it, as it isn't a cure spell or channeled energy. Technically it should heal the players. In any case, having a 6th level single target touch spell turned into a 30 foot diameter burst with no attack roll THAT GETS A SURPRISE ROUND is just incredibly over-the-top against lvls 8-9 PCs. GMs who don't know about the Product Discussion notes from Mark Moreland (weird place to have that) can (and probably have) TPKed parties in a surprise round.

Encounter 3: (This is REALLY spoiled, so really don't read if you haven't played.) In the low tier, I think this fight is about right. In the high tier, the combination of DR 15/-, fast healing 10, and immunity to precision damage/flanking/crits, mind-effecting, and any single-target effect makes this fight unwinnable for many parties. We basically just stole the thing we needed and ran away, because our party was incapable of damaging it. Essentially the only solutions at this level are martials that completely bypass DR (Clustered Shot archers, Pummeling Style monks, and Paladins, who basically can't play due to the whole 'lying by pretending to be undead and not freeing every human they come into contact with') or AoE blasters like Sorcerers and Alchemists. If you don't have one of those, you can't win. We spent 15 rounds in combat. He had no spells left above 2nd level, and we were all still fine. It just became a war of attrition where nobody had an end-game.

We never played what SHOULD be the final fight, but it looked cool when I read it after we finished.

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Well constructed scenario with one FATAL flaw


This scenario has an amazing sense of atmosphere, and begins with a pretty cool social section. The combats it moves into were cool, and the story hangs together well.

Just DON'T PLAY THIS IN THE HIGH TIER. The penultimate combat is labeled as CR 12 (which would be a very tough fight even with 6 players at level 9), but it isn't. At all. I compared the custom monster's stats to the 'average Monster Stats by CR' table, and the monster itself should be CR 14 or 15, and has several advantages from its environment, bringing its CR up by 1. Our group had an APL of 7.5, and was up against a CR 15 or 16 fight.

Our GM had to pull every trick in his book to NOT wipe us out immediately. The damn thing can (and is said to in the tactics)

Monster tactics and abilities:
hit an entire party with 16d6 fire damage with a whopping DC 24 save for half. That can kill all full casters in tier as its first action, and take all of the martials down past half health. It can then take 5 attacks on a full attack, each attack with a +25 attack bonus. Oh, and there's no real outlined way to get information on this bad boy pre-combat, so you're walking in blind. It also has several immunities atypical of its creature type/subtype.

This is not the first time I've noticed this phenomenon. Pretty much whenever Paizo allows an author to create a custom monster, they are wildly overpowered for their listed CR. I think the PFS development team should take a closer look at custom monsters and compare them to the Average Monster Statistics by CR table to ensure that this kind of thing doesn't happen. It nearly ruined an otherwise great time for us.

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I once wrote a more in-depth review, detailing this scenario's many flaws. Seemingly that review has vanished somehow, so I'll remake it in a simpler manner.

It is the absolute least fun I have ever had playing a tabletop game. There is no element of this scenario that is executed even half-decently, and the concept was terrible to start.

I hope it gets retired.

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I wish I could give 0 stars.


The story goes as follows: You are told to go kill stuff. Then you go kill stuff. The end.

There's virtually no interaction with NPCs beyond the briefing, there's very little tie-in with the overall campaign story beyond the briefing, and frankly the ambience is just some generic caves, forest clearings, etc. I give the fluff aspect 0 stars.

The fights vacillate between utterly trivial and downright impossible to survive without an extremely lenient GM.

After examining the stats of the monsters and comparing them to the average monster stats table in the Monster Creation page of the PRD, the two most difficult encounters are WILDLY CR inappropriate. In the high tier, the final encounter matches most closely to a CR 16 or 17 encounter, which is cruelly dangerous (bordering on impossible) even as a campaign ending mission for a four player party of level 11 PCs. This could go up against APL 9.5 players.

In the low-tier (and high) there is a fight that can throw 14d6 of damage as a 20 foot burst from a 60 foot range (by flying opponents) on the first round, as well as a mesmerize effect that can't be broken, and hits everyone within a 300 foot range.

Everything flies, damn near, except for the two encounters that are little more than speedbumps due to their wildly under-powered nature.

Pathetic encounters and outrageously difficult encounters do not average out to a reasonable scenario.

Crunch gets 0 stars as well. Unfortunately, I can't give 0 stars, so I'll begrudgingly submit this review with the required minimum star.

It also is nearly impossible to run in a 4-5 hour slot. 6 combats with no story makes Bruck a dull boy.

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Excellent Work


My criteria for judging scenarios is that up to three stars can be awarded for fluff and three for crunch. Obviously I can only award 5 stars though.

I have reviewed another scenario by Mr. Hillman, and was pretty merciless in tearing it apart. I therefore had low expectations walking into this mission.

I was very pleasantly surprised. The mission is similar in many ways to The Confirmation, but just...better. I like the Confirmation too, this just had a few nuances that made for a better time.

The combats are well designed for prospective agents, the dialogue with other agents gives a sense of belonging to something bigger, and there are enough little twists in the story to maintain forward momentum for the party.

The mechanic for the random encounter is brilliantly conceived, and what took my rating from 4 to 5 stars.

Well done, Thurston.

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Wonderful Fluff, Terrible Crunch


Review criteria: Three stars may be awarded for fluff, and three for crunch. If the total is 5 or 6, I think 5 is just fine. 1 star in a category means there are some real problems, but it isn't godawful. 2 stars meets expectations, and three far exceeds them.

Fluff - 3 Stars
From the insertion to the extraction, every element of this adventure had real atmosphere and 'cool factor'. The NPCs had personality and well written monologues, room descriptions were well done, and the pacing was good. The faction boon missions were well written too, representing decent little side-stories. Everything just hung together nicely there.

Crunch - Negative 1 stars
But holy GOD are the mechanics terrible. From the pointless and convoluted influence system, to the trade system, to the pathetic and unimaginative combat encounters, NOTHING worked well as far as mechanics are concerned. There's an information broker who has 18 different prices for information, and each one has to be figured out on the spot.
This is actually the first time I've felt the mechanics were so bad that I would give a negative star. Everything is convoluted in practice, trivial in importance, and time consuming. Missing the secondary objective is extremely easy to do, as it is barely even mentioned to the players (or the GM, to be honest).

All in all, I have a very love-hate relationship with the mission. On one hand I feel it had a very memorable narrative and atmosphere, and on the other hand I actively despised any point where I had to roll a die.

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I just got home from playing this bad boy all in one sitting. Took us about 14 hours, with quite a bit of goofing off happening. Probably takes about 12 hours normally.

I absolutely loved every moment of it. The combats are all pretty fun an unique, growing steadily in challenge from quick and easy victories to truly engrossing brawls. We had an easy time of it throughout, but we played with 5 players (for PFS, so our GM was not allowed to scale anything unfortunately) who are all experienced with fairly optimized characters. The encounters are cool as heck, all of them using different kinds of dangers to keep players on their toes. I play a battlefield control + support cleric, and never lacked for opportunities to make important differences to combat dynamic.

Beyond combat, there is an actual story that is pretty neat if you choose to do all the optional things. Almost every challenge allows for creative solutions without handing you all the rewards on a silver platter.

I think this may be the most fun I've ever had in a single day of gaming. While much of that owes to the amazing group of people I had the privilege of playing with (including GM), the module didn't slouch in creatively designed and appropriately challenging combat challenges, non-combat skill challenges, social challenges, RP opportunities, or atmosphere. Everything just tied together beautifully.

Well done, Mr. Hitchcock.

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Solid story, lacking combat


I played this long ago, but recently GMed it for the first time. I'll start off with my one complaint, the combat was easy. We probably only spent a half hour in initiative order.

As much as I love combat, I had a marvelous time role-playing the varied characters in Almas. My players were investigating intelligently and without nose-leading, and put me in unexpected situations calling for my inventing NPCs on the spot. I had a blast doing that. Unlike most 'investigation scenarios' I've played, this really puts the players behind the driver's wheel. I never even had to use the provided hints per se, the players were capable of following leads using their own inferential logic to arrive at the appropriate locations.

In other words, this scenario is more than a few Diplomacy rolls and the subsequent encounters (though those mechanics exist for those that need to use them). It is a story going on with or without the players, and the PCs have the opportunity to change how it ends. I really had a blast, and my players seemed to have a great time too.

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A challenge worthy of the tier


Mr. Baird, for any unaware of his reputation, creates decidedly wicked scenarios. He often plays upon 'genre savvy' expectations, and uses atypical combinations of abilities to create unusual and HIGHLY challenging encounters.

In lower tier scenarios, I have at times found this frustrating. In this tier, I found it no less than completely satisfying.

Even optimally built characters will not have victories handed to them on silver platters, both combat and out-of-combat roleplay will need to be handled intelligently if the party expects their EXP at the end of the session.

I will say, our party was composed of experienced players who knew to bring their A game, and did. We also go lucky on a few rolls, so perhaps were not as brutalized as other parties with...less positive memories. Therefore, I would say DO NOT RUN this scenario unless your players know roughly what they're getting into. Or do, and make them aware of how hard this game can be.

The only flaw was one of storyboarding, as

Nikolai could not possible have failed the immense quantity of saves detailed to be under the Alraune's influence. Furthermore, even if the party members free him of the enchantment, they are still not allowed to use social skills to convince him of his errors. This bespeaks a certain amount of 'hand-waving' that was somewhat dissatisfying. I don't see how it would have been a problem to allow a party capable and willing of bringing him to their side to get some form of aid from him. Still, this is a relatively minor sticking point in what was generally a great time.

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A convoluted series of annoying mechanics


Spoilers ahoy.

I've been prepping this scenario for the past several hours, and doing so has left a pretty sour taste in my mouth. The lengthy backstory on the front page has NOTHING to do with this scenario. Once it actually begins, it is simply about rescuing a fellow pathfinder. The story comes down to "Your princess is in another castle!" as the players traipse about in the jungle being told by everyone they meet that Sharrowsmith was there recently, but has now gone on to yet another location even deeper in the jungle. The ending is similarly dissatisfying, giving players and GMs alike the distinct impression that they have accomplished nothing. Granted, there will be more to this series of adventures, but previous first installments of multi-part scenarios at least grant some feeling of accomplishment. Players get only the possibility (not certainty, even if they do succeed at the mission) of having rescued a few faceless, nameless NPCs.

The story isn't my primary complaint. It's the mechanics. EVERYTHING is unnecessarily convoluted. There isn't a single section in this adventure that doesn't entail odd combinations of rolls, often with multiple success and failure conditions, and often pointless rewards. Most of these sections serve as minor annoyances to the players, as failure inconveniences them rather than increasing danger/suspense. Examples would be: piddling amounts of damage taken outside of combat, a trivially removed fatigued condition, getting lost in the woods for a few hours, not knowing the name of the dungeon, needing to ask around for directions, or failing to identify the local flowers. This is some epic adventuring right here folks.

Even the combats have needlessly complex mechanics involved. The final encounter is done in waves, one is done from ambush with a strange way of determining where the enemy is when combat actually starts, there is an additional social mechanic during one fight, and another is basically a set of trivial enemies with a few traps lying around.

Frankly, on an individual basis I wouldn't mind any of these mechanics. Some of them are even kind of neat. What annoys me is that EVERYTHING in the entire scenario is overwrought with complexity, but fails to achieve a sense of narrative drive, challenge, or atmosphere. It is ultimately nothing more than a routine dungeon crawl with minimal storytelling and contrived complications and inconveniences.

EDIT: I have now run the scenario, and asked for player feedback. The consensus was that it felt like 'a pretty run of the mill' scenario, which is true. I think my problem is that there are so many of these weird mechanics, but none of them really do anything cool. If I had only played this, I probably would give it two or even three stars. Running it was miserable, and demanded far more preparation than it should have considering that all but one of the enemies are blocked out in the appendices. I'm sticking with my one star rating.

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Best Social Scenario I've played


I love the concept of social scenarios, but rarely the execution. Usually story holes, inability to use any social skill but Diplomacy, and an absence of other options for low charisma parties make them into unwinnable clusterf***s. This is a notable exception.

My character had a high Bluff, and two other members had high Diplomacy. Through creative problem solving and clever wordplay, we managed to win this scenario feeling like far more than a fist clenched around a d20. We had to actually think.

Best of all, even an entirely combat focused group could slog through the mission, albeit with far more risk (which is appropriate, I think). The story was engaging and creative, and the NPCs were a lot more than cardboard cutouts. Even the BBEG was far more than a fight, she was a character.

I look forward to more adventures from Mr. King.

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