Brambleson

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FullStarFullStarFullStarFullStarFullStar Venture-Lieutenant, Online 1,105 posts (14,601 including aliases). 19 reviews. 3 lists. 1 wishlist. 24 Organized Play characters. 13 aliases.



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Bring your fur coat!

****( )

I played this at high tier and had a great time. The story is great and typical for the land of the linnorm kings. Fights were tough but fair.

The only reason that this does not get the full 5 stars is because I think the writer tried to put too much into the scenario. Even without the optional encounter the GM had to rush us through the last encounter because we had no time left.


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Into Tanglebriar we go!

***( )( )

I played this with together with The Degraded, I was the demon-hating ranger archer. I have wanted to play this scenario for a long time with that specific character. She is an elf with the tanglebriar demonslayer archetype and a background in Kyonin, so this scenario should be perfect for her.And that made it all a bit too easy for me. But that has nothing to do with the scenario itself.

So what about the scenario? It gives a good impression what Tanglebriar is about, with interesting environmental effects and though fights. I really liked the first and the optional encounters, because both are challenging and use some things not often seen. However the map used in the optional encounter is too small for the encounter. Using the regular forest flipmat for this encounter would have been better.

The final encounter has a lot going on for the GM. Unfortunately most of that is just scenery and high-level PCs are probably aware of that. A few twists (class levels on the mooks? and removing some hazards) would have improved the final combat, while reducing the burden on the GM lower.

I rate this scenario a 3: the Tanglebriar background is very good, which would warrant a 4, but that is offset by the things mentioned above.


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We be apes!

****( )

I recently GM'ed this again and have played it ages ago.

I ran this for a party of 4, APL exactly at 3.5 and they decided to round that to 4 -> high tier.

The scenario is straightforward, but quite fun if the GM plays up the whole Jumanji theme. My players embraced the fun and were properly scared by the encounters, even thought it is now season 8.


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Is this really where we want PFS to go to?

*( )( )( )( )

I played this at high tier with 4-player adjustment. (6 players, APL 5)

Note that I do not read reviews for scenarios that I am about to play as I think it spoils part of the fun. I might change that after playing through this one.

I had high hopes for this scenario. I really love The Before the Dawn scenarios and a follow-up can only be a good thing, right? "NO!"

This scenario caused my first character dead. It is not that this is the first character that died (I had 5 deads before), but it is the first time that the scenario caused a character to die.

My opinions on the encounters
The first encounter is trivial and is a waste of playing time.

The second and third encounters are great, they make a lot of sense in the location and adventure. Despite the fact that my tripper monk could not trip that much I liked these encounters.

The last encounter is also a waste of playing time. Why: because there was no fun. There was only: what more shenanigans can we pull of to defeat the writer. In my opinion PFS should not be: who can pull the weirdest trick out of the big hat.

That way we get into an arms race, which nobody will win. I don't mind the occasional hard scenario. There is hard mode for that, we have spoilers like Bonekeep has. It would have made sense to include a warning at the start of the scenario.

Last combat:
My monk can get to a plus 20 on acrobatics. I rolled mediocre to get past the BBG without provoking and contemplated to use my reroll on that acrobatics check. The GM asked me what the highest number was that I could reach with a natural 20 on the roll and told me flat out that I should not use my reroll, because I would fail anyway.

The BBG managed to exactly hit my AC of 27 (according to the GM later with a +20 to hit modifier) and proceeded with a grapple check (grab), which it could only fail on a natural one because of insane modifiers. One round later I was dead, thanks to grapple to do damage, constrict damage and most importantly of all: no chance to get loose, even with a good escape artist modifier.

No, we did not drink from the fountain, we failed the knowledge /spellcraft checks to figure out what it does and were not prepared to drink from a source of water that the archeologists, who had been compelled had been drinking from.

Let me end with the good things about this scenario:
The lore and setting are great. The scenario really adds to both player and character knowledge, which I love.


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Great setting with some disappointing encounters

***( )( )

I GMed this in the standard campaign at low tier for a six person party, including The Degraded and Quentin Coldwater. You can find their reviews below.

Starting with a 3 score I adjust that for

+1: Setting potential
The setting has a lot of potential: an ancient Jistkan place buried beneath sand for a few thousand years, a lot can be done with that! Background is solid and makes sense, so we are off for a great scenario right?

-1: Unfortunately not
For me as GM the different encounters felt unconnected, with strenuous ties at best. Off course that also made it hard for my players to feel the connection between the encounters

Thoughts on the serie
I do not really understand what the connection between the series is. I can find some things, but in my opinion a series should have a more clear meta-plot that connects the scenarios.

Other than the location on Golarion they might have been completely separate scenarios. Having played and GM-ed several other three of fourpart series (Shades of Ice / Scions of the Sky Key / Destiny of the Sands / Devil we Know / Faithless or Forgotten / Quest of Perfection) this series ranks the lowest in connection between the scenarios.


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Good atmosphere, weak combats

****( )

I GMed this in the standard campaign at low tier for a six person party.

Starting with a 3 score I adjust that for

+1: What the F is going on!
I managed to have the players at full alert with the things that are happening. It helped that one of the players has the feat Eerie Sense. The party managed to deduce what was going on, but the NPC also figured out what they were doing thanks to spellcraft. Therefore the final showdown was still where it is supposed to happen. Note that the scenario specifically addresses the situation where the PC's confront him earlier, which is a good thing!

+1: It gets explained
Luckily the NPC has a diary in which he has written everything down. This is an important part of the scenario as I can understand that players otherwise would feel left out of information if the GM skips this.

-1: Encounter strength
For a regular party in season 8 this scenario should not be a challenge. All combats where walkovers. I did not roll well and think I did less than 20 damage in total. For people that want to be challenged in combat: don't look at this scenario. I can understand that a certain situation with the BBEG might cause a TPK. However at level 5 all parties should have a way to deal with that situation, even if you did not figure it out during the dungeon.


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Information overload!

**( )( )( )

I played this in the standard campaign at high tier with a four person party.

Starting with a 3 score I adjust that for

-1: Lore
There is a lot of information coming from the GM. While I like that in general as it grounds the scenario in Golarion lore there was just too much background. It also was not clear what was critical information and what was flavor. As it was I did not ask questions that I would have otherwise asked so that we could finish the scenario in a reasonable time.


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5 Foot hell that did not age well

**( )( )( )

I GMed this in the standard campaign at low tier for a six person party.

Starting with a 3 score I adjust that for

+1: First act
I liked the first act. Making landfall at night in unknown surroundings should be tricky and it is. The party put 'the world's greatest archer' (an overconfident bard) at the helm of the boat and things started to go from bad to worse in a hilarious way. There was so much mocking going about that at one point the player asked to tone it down a bit.

-1: Five foot hell
I understand that it makes sense that hidden smuggler tunnels are not palace hallways and that 5 foot wide is already exaggerating the actual width these corridors would have. However this is a game and encounters in long straight corridors just aren't fun in my opinion.

-1: Encounter strength and aging
We are in a completely different point with PFS than were we were in season 2. This scenario was build for a 4 player team, without having access to all the options that appeared after that. Since the main actions are about combat it just did not age well. Do I hold that against the writer: not at all. However it is a thing to consider when one decides to run it in this season of PFS.


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Solid background that the players get to know!

****( )

I played this at high tier with a five person party.

Starting with a 3 score I adjust that for

+1: Background
This is an investigation scenario that fully delivers on the background AND embeds it solidly in Golarion lore. Everything made sense AND is explained.

+1: BBEG
Another plus for the BBEG. All the actions make sense, if you step into it's shoes. I actually felt sorry for what happened to her.

-1: Map

Minor Spoiler:
So we have several buildings on the compound and we are forbidden to go into some of them? Really? Where do you think the macguffin can be found?

Having two seperate locations would have helped: place the forbidden buildings somewhere else on the island and let the PCs find that (or be told that it exists once they have proven themselves)


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Kaer maga rocks, this investigation does not

***( )( )

I played this at low tier with the 4-player adjustment.

Starting with a 3 score I adjust that for

+1: Kaer Maga
The scenario builds great on the season 2 series City of Strangers. Some NPC's are revisited and the setting is well-done. If you have never been to the city of strangers: play the series first as you will likely appreciate this one better if you have played those.

-1: Mediocre Investigation
The investigation is rather straight forward and felt a bit like a series of fetch quests. Also it was obvious from the start who we needed to find, a bit more mystery which of Guaril's rivals is behind the attemps would have helped.

+1: Memorable Combat
The number of combats was rather low, due to some creative thinking and a certain druid PC. However one of the combats that we did have was very tough. We managed to defeat the enemy with most of our PC's having just a few hitpoints left. My staff magus uses most of his daily arcane points in this combat, trying to go for a better allotment of enhancements on his staff. Great!

-1: Tian Xia link?
We encountered a monster from Tian Xia. Why? What is the background? I know that Kaer Maga is the City of Strangers, but Tian Xia is a great distance away from Varisia. On an out of character level it annoys me that there was no explanation given. I do not know if this is due to our GM not relating this information (I did not ask for it) or if this is not given in the scenario.


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Not for murderhobos

*****

I ran this today for a table of 6 PC's in the low tier.

We had a heck of a good time, even though one player wasn't that interested in the social side of this scenario (he still enjoyed himself).

I really liked the fact that the players were looking for a time when things would start to go wrong. They were continuously second-guessing everything, to a level where I had to step in and say that they should not overthink matters.

The NPC's all had marvelous backgrounds and were easy to bring to life. With the help of some cheat-sheets it was rather easy to keep track of all the moving items, as I had a sheet for each NPC.

Yes, there are a lot of moving parts in this scenario and it is one of the few times where I bring out my GM screen to hide my notes. But I really, really like the fact that this scenario is not about combat, has a believable premise and an enemy who is not killed at the end.

My feeling is that the combat has no place in the scenario and that it would be better if it was replaced by an intermezzo in the scenario. Perhaps a hunt for everyone involved that chanced upon a dangerous beast?

After the second or third event we lost a bit of pace because things start to be repetitive, this might be circumvented by such an intermezzo (that could even have an impact on the results)


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Good investigation, somewhat lacking in combat

****( )

I played and GM'ed this scenario

This is a solid scenario that works great if the table likes to roleplay. The combats are rather easy, but they all make sense within the scenario (if you ignore the optional encounter). It is a nice sandbox scenario and I had a lot of fun running it.


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String of unrelated encounters

**( )( )( )

I played and GM'ed this

As a player I felt this scenario was a string of unrelated encounters and unfortunately my opinion did not change when I ran the scenario. Which is a pity as the travel from A to B could have been made a lot more exciting with some relations between the encounters that are obvious for the players. That would have increased the feeling of being watched / chased and improved the scenario.


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Great atmosphere

*****

I played this

I really liked this adventure, it has a bit of everything: great atmosphere, need for roleplay and a tough combat that is not as straightforward as it might be. The plot and background are obvious from the start, while the solution to the issue at hand is not obvious.

I think the scenario could be improved by staggering the roleplay more through the scenario, instead of clumping it all in one act. However that is a minor nitpick and does not prevent me from giving it the full reward of 5 stars.


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Did not deliver on expectations for a 5-star exclusive

***( )( )

Going in for this scenario my expectations where high: I have played Serpents Rise and had a blast. This is a 5-star exclusive, so I should have at least as much fun, right?

Wrong...

The author crammed a lot of combats in this scenario, meaning that our GM had to be liberal with his GM'ing (calling combats early) and even then we barely finished within the 5 hour mark. At the start of the scenario there is opportunity for roleplay (with a wonderful NPC!), but after that it is mainly a lot of combat. I do note that other reviewers imply that the last combat can be a social encounter, but we did not see it.

What I really liked about Serpents Rise is that I felt that each pregen got an opportunity to experience character growth. With this scenario I did not feel that, which is a shame.

All in all I would have preferred to play another scenario with one of my own characters rather than playing this one. Especially when it is a 5-star exclusive I do expect more.


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Good close of season 4

****( )

I ran this scenario yesterday for The Degraded at a tier 5-6 table. And I agree with both him and Ascalaphus that this special is fun and is not as bad as some reviewers want you to believe.

Yes, there is some moral shadiness in the beginning of the special, but the table with the Paladin solved that admirably. After that there are several encounters that the players can either choose from or select randomly. At my table the players choose randomly and we had a good mix of role-playing, investigation and combat encounters.

The auction stays weird in my book: it took us GM's a bit to figure out how to do this and we choose to let the GM's portray the NPC's. I think that did not work as well as it could. After that there is a load of fighting. Since we might have spend too much time on the previous acts the fighting did not last very long, which is a good thing. If we had allowed for enough time for all the fighting at the end the RP parts would have been much shorter (and therefore less fun).

The scenario as written is a good closing of season 4, fitting with the theme of the season. It could have explained more regarding the involvement of certain factions.

I have played Year of the Shadow Lodge and GM'ed Legacy of the Stonelords and would rank Race for the Runecarved Key behind Legacy of the Stonelords and before Year of the Shadow Lodge. Paizo has improved their specials over the years!

A more detailed opinion on the acts, contains spoilers:

Act 1 (opening in the cathedral) is nice, but more exposition on the Key would have been nice. The characters are obviously interested why this macguffin is important, so give the GM something more to work with. I liked the sandbox nature of this act

Act 2 (ambush the aspis): I loved the look on my players faces when first the wizard appeared and a round later there suddenly was a charging bulette! (and I picked this tier because I had just the right miniature). At the paladin's table one of the characters made a forgery that stated that the consortium owed the Temple of Abadar a considerable sum.... (the Paladin did not know this)

Act 3 (weed out the opposition): great act, enough choice.

Act 4 (auction, chase and fights): auction is weird and we as GM's should have given more OOC explanation. The cultists in the cathedral are tough while they should have been a speedbump.

The chase was good, especially the advice to the GM's to be flexible with the skills used and that it is better not to tell the players what skill they can use

The assasin is tough, but she should be. We ran out of time because the speedbump took too much time, causing the focus not to be at the epic end fight but at the speedbump. I narrated the opening of the gates and explained that behind them the charging Heidmarch's came to the rescue


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Too smooth?

****( )

I played this yesterday in a party of 3 + pregen in high tier. We had an investigator, channeling cleric and a bard and were helped by Jirelle. So there was an abundance of social skills in the party.

Thinking back I think we were just a bit too good for this scenario, everything was rather smooth and therefore it felt a bit bland and not challenging. Was that a fault of the scenario or the GM? Not at all!

The scenario is almost only role-play and allows for a lot of player interaction. However it lacked some tension, a feeling that we could have failed. Maybe the Venture Captain just picked the exact right team for the situation and there was no chance to fail, but for us it wasn't a scenario where you manage to succeed against the odds. The odds were stacked in our favor from the start.

So what do I take away from this scenario: that it is probably a lot more fun with a party that is less fit for the challenge as you are then really forced to think out of the box and get into weird situations. We did our job expertly and smiled, but besides the smirking and joking over certain items and paintings in a bedroom there was little laughter to be had.

Verdict: a strong 4 stars: I love scenario's that have lot of role-playing opportunity.
Main take-away: sometimes it is more fun to play a scenario with a character that is not the best suited for it. Remember that when thinking at the table about that other PC that would have aced the scenario.


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Great story

*****

I GM'ed this yesterday for a table of 5 (mesmerist 2, rogue 2, cleric 1, cleric 1 and cavalier 1). We had a blast.

I really liked the way the story allowed me to introduce several key concepts in Golarion history that not all players know about. The scenario contains a lot of role-playing opportunities, but needs a GM who is willing to cater to that and embellish the NPC's a bit.

Once you know the story a replay won't really give another experience (like Murder on the Throaty Mermaid does). There is replay value in role-playing another method to go about the problem at hand with another character. Compared to the first steps series this scenario (and the Confirmation) is a big step forward. It is a connected scenario and not just some errands and replaying will give you some different challenges every-time. I also liked the light connection with the Confirmation.

Final note: keep on making scenarios that allow GM's to tell the historic legends from Absalom / Golarion.


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Deeply Disturbing and Tough Combats

****( )

I played this scenario recently with a party with an APL just beneath the high tier mark. We where very glad that we played low tier.

The scenario placed us in a temple complex we needed to search through, and the first scene the GM painted for us when we where below ground was enough for us to look around and check if there where no children within earshot. A couple of very tough combats later we emerged successfully aboveground. We came very close to some gruesome deaths on our side and we luckily had some boons to burn to avoid just that.

I loved that this scenario really had us at that marvelous point where everything could have gone wrong and some good combat-thinking from our side saved the day.

All in all a scenario with hard combats, a deeply disturbing frame and little to no roleplay. I would not like it if all scenario's where like this, but once in a while it is tremendous fun.

What would have improved my rating: I would have liked it better if more background could be found without knowledge checks. Although we had good knowledge skills we botched some rolls and did not get the big picture.

When we where busy with chronicles the GM and some players that I GM for in a Dragon's Demand game confessed that they had not heard from Mike Shel before. I casually dropped that he is also the writer of Dragon's Demand and that I was not surprised at the brutality of the scenario...