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Brutal, fast-paced funLeftHandShake —
This scenario more or less plays as an action movie, and it mostly works. This is a complete tonal shift from the mystery, exploration, and intrigue of part 1 of Perennial Crown, but it's a shift that's justified by a significant plot development. I strongly recommend running the two parts back-to-back-- if not in the same session, then at least in consecutive sessions. The scenario has a "How Did I Get Here?" explainer for PCs who only play part 2, but I would guess the experience would be both extremely jarring and a bit random for those players.
Mechanically, the action movie style means that the party is on a very tight time budget between encounters, sometimes none at all. The scenario beats up on the party (with an interesting choice along the way) as it builds to a climactic set piece encounter. To my eye, this looks like the most potentially deadly scenario in season 1, mostly for parties who were counting on mundane healing.
I actually think it might be *too much* for parties that aren't well balanced or have a stock of magical healing. Most other PFS2 scenarios have 1-3 encounters per adventuring day, with opportunities to heal & refocus in between. This scenario stacks more encounters / dangerous situations in the same adventuring day while shoving the party forward in the plot. That's going to strain a lot of parties.
As usual, my biggest criticism is the editing. At high tier, one encounter has invalid/impossible tactics specified for a creature, and another creature has a mistake in its statblock that makes one of its abilities unusable.
The jinkins are specified to attempt to flank, but they are tiny size, have 0' reach, and can't flank. The red caps are tiny (rather than small in the Bestiary), so their Deadly Cleave ability likewise can't be used (unless two PCs are also tiny).
There's also one skill check that has no effect on the scenario as written; I interpreted the consequences to be consistent with the pace of the adventure, but that just makes the scenario even harder.
The Athletics check to escape the sewers says how long this takes depending on the results of the checks, but the scenario specifies no consequences for taking longer here. I took it to mean that with a poor result, the PCs can lose time to rest.
Great settingLeftHandShake —
This scenario seems to be all about setting up the fantastic setting of Bhopan. It's an insular place, with "technology" that is absent everywhere else in the world, creating a good sense of wonder. My players were genuinely wondering whether their PCs actually finished the first fight or were in a drug-induced dream the rest of the session.
In contrast to some other reviews, my table enjoyed the skill sections, but I can see the latter one becoming a drag if the players don't lean into it. Mechanically, the latter skill section has really fun consequences for critically failing checks, but makes it too easy to avoid those consequences. I'd wager most parties will never get to encounter that, and I think they're missing out.
The puzzle is fine, and the climactic battle has a couple cool features. Overall, I like the pacing of this scenario, but I do wish that just a *tiny* bit of the setup of its sequel had been shifted to the ending of this one; that is, the "cliffhanger" could be better.
The editing of the text is pretty good, but one custom monster doesn't work within the rules, and also has some bizarre ability phrasing:
The snapping flytrap has a Swallow Whole ability, but the text of this ability requires that that the grab be with the jaws or mouth. It needs an ability that says, "Snapping flytrap can Swallow Whole with its leaf as if it were a mouth." Another ability refers to "the number of leaves the flytrap has", but the only other reference to the number of leaves is that it uses "both its leaves".
Why not just say it counts as two attacks?
As good as you could ask forLeftHandShake —
This scenario hits on all cylinders: lots of roleplay with interesting characters, many inter-related tasks (allowing player choice), many solutions to problems, and an evocative setting that amplifies the mission theme. Other reviewers praised the combats as well, but I found those to be the weakest part of the scenario.
This one is a blast. If you haven't run or played it yet, do it. This goes outside of the scenario itself, but my one suggestion for improvement would have been to the rewards on the Chronicle sheet:
The PCs visit the capital city of the Runelord of Abjuration, so it wouldn't be unreasonable to give them access to an uncommon abjuration spell after the adventure.
Great cultural introductionLeftHandShake —
I ran this at high tier.
This scenario largely delivers on its hook: The party gets to go to a new continent and see what's there. The focus of the adventure is thus on a cultural introduction to this new land: players get to find out who lives there (ethnographically), what their economy is like, a bit about the local and regional government, the threats these people face, and their beliefs/understanding about an Avistani legend. Despite this focus, the combat encounters still manage to throw in some variety/twists, and the PCs get a teaser of a broader mystery/lore in this area.
Luis Loza's descriptive writing is strong-- the GM gets enough to key off of for characters and action sequences-- but I think the scenario lacks imagery for the physical environment. The PCs get to visit several locations in and around a town and interact with various people, but there isn't a lot of description for what these locations *look like*. What is the architectural style, beyond being related to the Avistani culture present here? What is the terrain and wildlife like? Other than the cover art, what is the style of clothing? Given that the party is going to a *new continent*, the scenario is short on new artwork. Maybe that can be chalked up to the pandemic, as I've seen reference to freelancers having to pull out.
There are a few editing problems, but they concern flavor, not grammar or mechanics: a character's ethnicity changes, and a plot of land magically shifts location. But overall, I strongly recommend this adventure for those who want a sense of cultural exploration.
Solid questLeftHandShake —
I guess this will be the last PFS "quest", and I think they closed on a pretty strong note. The scenario is well motivated both in why the Society is involved and the interaction of the (minimal) plot and adventure structure. The writing is clear and straightforward, and the art includes a common low level foe who lacked an image in their Bestiary entry.
There's a limited time budget to work with in this format, but I think author Joshua Hennington did well with a narrow canvas. I actually like this style of "skill gauntlet" to beat up the party a bit before the single fight; in fact, the consequences of failure could probably be bumped up a bit. Comments behind spoiler.
The initiative penalty from one of the skill checks, and from taking too long by taking too many ten minute rests is a good idea, but doesn't interact well with the combat design. The PCs start far away from their foes, who are largely out of sight and taking advantage of terrain features. The foes can't really use superior initiative to get the jump on the PCs.
The production/editing is solid. This may seem like a small detail, but the map for this scenario (composed of flip tiles) is properly aligned. These days, when most sessions are being run by VTT, it greatly helps GMs to not have to twiddle the maps in Paint/GIMP/Photoshop because the map tiles are misaligned or mis-sized, making it look poor on the VTT. So... kudos for putting in the effort on that.
If you're not running this for PFS and are just looking for an adventure hook, you can do worse than this as a starting point.
Fun setting, decent adventureLeftHandShake —
Christopher Wasko did a good job establishing the setting and "feel" of the adventure, which gives the GM enough to work with. The random "quirks" in the adventure reward GM prep for how to incorporate them, but players have to improv personality changes on the fly with their random effects. Fun if it works, but some players might not play ball.
The story and gameplay (via combat and skill checks) are ok, but not spectacular, in my opinion. The overall story of what's going on-- the forces causing the events at hand-- can't really be learned by the PCs as written, which makes the adventure a little empty. If you have leeway to adjust the scenario, it provides a good basis/setting for storytelling.
As usual, the editing isn't great. The most significant error is that one of the "foibles" that can be imposed has literally no effect when played in PFS:
The "reverent (mauled to death)" foible imposes "weakness 2 against natural attacks", but natural attacks don't exist in 2e.
Scaling problemsLeftHandShake —
The scenario delivers on its intended mix of roleplay and dungeon crawl. The opening social encounters can be fun/comical (if you're in a group that has time to linger here), and the characters met during the adventure are interesting (and ambiguously motivated) as well. For an adventure that spends a good amount of time as a dungeon crawl, the players get the chance to think about what the correct resolution is.
Within the "dungeon", the flavor of the encounters strongly matches the nature of its occupants. Each encounter has its twist, and each is a little bit troll-y, in a fun way. My players really enjoyed the encounters.
That said, this scenario needs some editing. For example, the statblock of a hazard is incorrectly specified and can't be run as written, and it makes a significant mistake about its history/timeline (implying two historic figures were contemporaries when they actually lived centuries apart).
There is also a serious editing error that causes one encounter to be extremely difficult with a certain range of CP. This was noted by another reviewer, but I want to be specific about it to (hopefully) induce Paizo to go back and fix this:
Encounter B4, subtier 3-4 with 19-22 CP would be calculated as above "extreme" by the CRB's method. A party of five level 3 PCs has 20 CP in PFS, so they're the "core" party for this calculation. Per the CRB, a "severe" encounter like this one should have 120 + 30*(#PCs-4) XP, or 150 in this case. Per the scaling, the foes encountered are 2x level 4 (60 XP each), 2x level -1 (10 XP each), and 3x level 1 (20 XP each), plus a level 5 simple hazard (16 XP), for a total of 216. The threshold for an "extreme" encounter is 200, so this is a bit above that. I think the error is having 2x spellweavers rather than just 1; that would make it 156 XP, just barely over the target of 150.
This problem is not present for the other CP scalings for identically leveled party sizes:
A party of four level 3 PCs has a "severe" target encounter XP of 120, and the scenario provides 126. A party of six level 3 PCs has a "severe" target encounter XP of 180, and the scenario provides 176. A party of seven level 3 PCs has a "severe" target encounter XP of 210 and the scenario provides 216.
Interesting open-ended decisions, awful editingLeftHandShake —
I think a GM could run this scenario four or five times and still be surprised by what players do in it. That's a strong endorsement of a scenario, but it's not perfect.
Player goals are a bit ambivalent: Dig up information on an old Pathfinder lodge (typical enough) and also keep an eye out for the political situation (less typical). The first task is straightforward, and the party can mostly deal with it by following a pretty short railroad; that's fine, and there's a tantalizing discovery by the party. However, the political plot after that begs the question of whether the Pathfinder Society *should* be involved in this situation at all. The scenario can be resolved in several ways, but all of them involve explicit participation in national politics; the provided text from the Venture-Captain about what the party should do is far too hands-off. Shouldn't Smine care about the Society's values and at least express them?
The bigger problem with the scenario is the editing, which is a mess. On page 7, searching PCs find object A (obviously valuable treasure) and object B (a container with a consumable item), specified to be worth 1 Treasure Bundle altogether. One page later, the GM is told that object A is worth 2 Treasure Bundles. Should a PFS GM, sworn to inerrantly obey the scenario text, rule that the container is worth -1 Treasure Bundle, which resolves this discrepancy? That is, A+B=1, A=2 --> B=-1. Nope, the GM references on page 32 *double counts* this, and it's worth 3 Treasure Bundles.
Moreover, one of the NPCs the party can fight is specified to use a spell illegally:
The text says that Nalla uses Telekinetic Projectile with her sling bullets, but this spell only works with loose, unattended objects. Rules as written, she must first dump her bullets on the ground with an Interact action; I doubt many GMs notice this.
A hazard the PCs can encounter has an invalid stat block per the Core Rulebook: its routine does not specify the number of actions it gets on its turn. I think this is a typesetting issue, as the Routine entry has the [one-action] glyph, rather than the text "(1 action)" as the CRB says. Yes, this is a minor issue, but it's the exact thing that editing is supposed to catch. The PFS GM guidelines do not give GMs any leeway to correct obvious typos or mistakes if they pertain to "mechanical elements", which is the only thing that makes this a problem.
Good roleplay opps, interesting dungeon crawlLeftHandShake —
Short version: This is a fun scenario with a little bit of something for everyone.
Longer: The adventure leans in *hard* on its concept of going to explore a location without knowing what's down there or what you're looking for. The downside of this is that there isn't a single coherent plot that you uncover clues about as your explore; rather, you're seeing layers of various stories piled up on each other. It's essentially impossible for players to piece together everything that's happened here, so the GM may need to have the Venture-Captain "speculate" in their debrief about some of the things the party found.
That said, the theme works: the players get a solid sense of exploration and wonder with little hints about what's happened here in the past. The roleplaying bookends provide a fun palate cleanser. The silliness worked well for my group, but I can see more "serious" gamers being turned off.
The editing and presentation of the scenario is pretty good, but I understand there was a fatal typo in the initial version. The current version has a reference to a skill that doesn't exist (Culture, presumably Society); home game GMs can fix this, but it's a problem in PFS.
Good characters and player choicesLeftHandShake —
As a GM, this was a great scenario to both prepare and run. The premise of the scenario is interesting, with imagery that is disturbing, humorous, and intriguing all at once. There's a good mix of combat and roleplay situations, and the final encounter can be resolved in several ways. More like this, please.
The presentation of characters here is top notch-- the provided dialogue and descriptions give the GM enough to work with in terms of personality and motivation to be able to improvise well. There are bits of (actually funny) humor throughout; the new NPC's suggested dialogue if the PCs utterly fail to deal with a hazard is wonderful.
This extends to the scenario's "villain", who is both interesting and (somehow) endearing. The situation is still ambiguous when the party first reaches it, but the dialogue and descriptions are good signposts toward potential resolution methods.
Combat-wise, the mooks/grunts are flavorful and fun: Mikhail Rekun took a known low level creature and flipped its iconic ability on its head. Moreover, he provides differentiating descriptions for several of these creatures, which both reinforces the aesthetics of the adventure and makes the mooks feel less anonymous.
Someone noted that the middle of the adventure is filler-y. This is a valid criticism, but the scenario suggests a way to speed it up / what to skip past if short on time.
If the final encounter is resolved with combat, it looks to be a real doozy. The villain's overall design seems to exceed what the Game Mastery Guide suggests for a creature of its level-- it seems to have "high everything", including (unlimited) spell-like abilities that are stronger than slotted spells at this level.
Editing of the scenario is great; there are none of the crippling errors that plague other PFS scenarios. The only mechanical (possible) error in the text is that a creature's listed HP changes (by 2) in the second battle in which it appears. It's otherwise completely identical (including its name), so it's very easy for a GM to miss this.
Great concept, bad editingLeftHandShake —
This scenario has a lot going on, and is quite interesting. However, in contrast to other reviewers, it looks to me like the final boss fight is *too easy* rather than too hard. It has a high attack bonus and can do significant persistent damage on a crit... but hardly has a chance to use that attack and can barely damage the party at all. If played at 8 or 16 CP (minimum for each subtier), the PCs win nearly automatically by passing on each of their turns (but they won't know that).
The specified tactics for the boss nerf it to being nearly impotent. This isn't a problem in a home game, as GMs can deviate from the scenario as they wish. But PFS mandates that GMs follow all mechanical elements of the scenario text exactly, and that means...
The boss spends its first combat turn raising its weapon, speaking, and summoning other creatures; at minimum CP, these creatures do not participate in the battle at all. The scenario specifies that the boss prefers to remain on its elevated dais.
On its second turn, the scenario specifies that the boss casts a spell that has almost no effect on a PC unless they critically fail their save; see CRB page 623. They can't use abilities that depend on having an "ally", but that's it.
On its third turn, the scenario specifies that the boss casts a spell that fails automatically as long as the target declares themselves unwilling; see CRB page 304. It has a range of touch, so the first action probably had to be used to fly down to the floor.
On its fourth, fifth, and sixth turns, the boss spends two of its actions casting non-damaging spells. These can at least hinder a PC, but can't harm them directly.
The boss' seventh turn is free to attack with its powerful weapon, but it might have to move to get within reach first. It won't get an eighth turn, as it goes poof before that. Even if it crits and deals persistent damage, the scenario specifies that this effect ends when the boss poofs.
So what's left is five non-damaging spells (two with no effect at all) being cast at the PCs while they fight what would otherwise be calculated as a Trivial combat encounter (or no combat at all at CP 8-9 and 16-17) followed by a simple hazard (one round of strong melee attack).
Even that undersells how crippled the boss is by the scenario text. Consider also that...
The provided map is described as a *throne room* with walls of stone; this is an enclosed space. The scenario says that the boss likes to stay on the raised dais... from which it doesn't have line of effect to the ground level for its spells. The boss also can't use its third action (after using two to cast a spell) for its ranged strike.
Preserving the intent of the boss trying to maintain its distance from the PCs, the GM could have the boss fly off the dais to get within the 30 foot range of its spells. Of course, that means that one of its actions each turns must be used to Fly, else it falls.
There are other editing mistakes in this scenario, some of which make it unplayable in PFS:
The boss is described in the scenario text as being 7 feet tall, but has size Small in its stat block.
The scenario text says the boss casts "powerful and destructive spells" when certain conditions are met... but its stat block has no such spells.
A lock is described on one page as being DC 25 to pick (four successes), but on another page as DC 24 (no listed success count). If a player rolls a 24, 34, or 15, there is no choice the GM can make without violating the mechanical text of the scenario.
The complex hazard has an invalid stat block, as it does not specify how many actions it gets on its turn for its routine. The CRB specifies that actions that the hazard can take should be listed outside the Routine entry, and the Routine entry *must* say how many actions it takes.
The critical failure entry for the hazard's action contradicts the rules on drowning (CRB page 478). Amount of air left is measured in rounds, not actions. Should a PFS GM roll 1d4 and subtract 1 round on a 3 or 4 and 0 rounds on a 1 or 2? Are they allowed to fix what they believe to be a typo and change it to 1d4 rounds?
The hazard is listed as level 5 or 7 in the scenario text but 4 or 6 in the appendix. I don't think this has a mechanical effect.
All that said, this is a fun scenario with interesting characters and investigation. Difficult to run in PFS due to length and the requirement to follow scenario text to the letter, but good in a home session.