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Pathfinder Society Scenario #2-18: The Fanciful March of UrwalPaizo Inc.
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A happy tale of leshies romping about, surely...Matthew Scheele —
Jackpot is great. The first section of the scenario is delightful. Open ended skill challenges are always nice to have and adding an adorable character and delicious hazards makes for a good time.
On to the combat encounters...
Spider fight worried me, but went fairly smoothly. Multi-day treks make it much easier to handle these fights as casters can go nova on them, and our party was very well balanced. The mechanic of having to have someone keep Urwal from wandering into the fray was a good touch, and it plays nicely with the action economy, especially of spellcasters (easy for someone ranged to hang back to handle it)
The fires encounter. Trample is scary, but this was probably the one that went fastest of the night due to brutally effective martials. The second trample provoked two AoO and took him down, the remaining enemies were mopped up easily. I like the constant threat of the fires, I'm slightly concerned about that plus the trample but as they only hit one PC per turn it didn't prove too dangerous.
The final (and optional) encounter. This is the big one, and I think there's a risk of heroism getting people killed here, as some people will assume the scenario expects them to do the heroic thing as a default and it's hard to make it clear enough that this is an optional challenge? This isn't anything against the scenario so much as it's a difficultly in putting this kind of fight in at all. (Perhaps it would be easier if it wasn't clearly the end of the scenario - PCs may be more inclined to bypass and avoid risk)
The monsters are relatively simple for a good party to put down, though the metaplot up to this can discourage preparation of big fire spells. Thankfully, the ritual option makes short work of the dragon rot, and martials can cut down the oozes in short order with a focused assault (it's a rare enemy where third attacks are reliable, but this encounter has them). But this absolutely calls for a smart party with balanced roles, as the continual onslaught of enemies requires constant damage output to keep up. There is definitely a risk of TPK here if the dice turn nasty though with breath weapons and other area attacks flying around, but both enemy types also have glaring and exploitable weaknesses to exploit. It absolutely meets the goal of being a hard but winnable fight... but some parties are stronger than others.
Needs a bit more polishMatthew Scheele —
If I could I'd mark this a 3.5 - it's right on the edge for me.
I like the Farheaven clan and that part of the setting, and this does some neat things, but I feel it also misses a few steps.
First... the secondary success condition is a single roll. By a single PC. At the very end of the scenario. No retries. It's far too easy for a bad roll to cost the party the secondary condition here. I feel like it should have been a bit more lenient, and it's disappointing to come into it having nailed everything leading up to it, all the bonuses... and then the die shows a 3. Kind of ended on a downer from that.
Second, I feel like condition riders on attacks were excessive - the party was 5 level 5s, so in the middle of high tier. But in the second and third encounters basically everything required you to make a save if it hit you, which slows things down, leading into my third downside.
The fights feel like they run a bit too long - mainly on account of it feeling like everything's a big pile of HP, combined with needing lots of saving throws. This one could be partly on the party, definitely a group with a cleric is going to have an easier time of it.
I both liked and disliked the first encounter. The radius on the difficult terrain when the leshies died was far too big - we dropped one and basically now the whole area is difficult terrain for the rest of the fight. The explosions were interesting since it did friendly fire, but... also kind of big? I did like the main enemy having entangle and wall of thorns, and the GM played them smartly using the wall to cause problems for us (but entangle was pointless because of the mushrooms). If the other fights hadn't dragged I think I'd be less annoyed with the everything is difficult terrain.
The mists sequence was very cool, and I love how it played into the following encounter with buffs and debuffs based on the result. The various skill challenges in the barrow were nice.
The last boss gets points for having a non-AoO reaction, grabbing is a nice variation over straight damage.
Overall I think it's a solid scenario, but there's room for improvement on some of the encounters, which generally felt like a slog.
Short, possibly frustrating.Matthew Scheele —
This ran very short for my group, as the encounter ended very quickly and the skill challenge was basically a single batch of rolls. Coming off of playing bounty 5 beforehand it feels like there's not a lot of meat on the bone here.
That said, I would say the length would make this a good way to show new players some of the systems (even if the skill challenge could really have done with another step) except the enemy has high potential to be unfun. Not really deadly (I think? It died before attacking anyone), but unfun.
The issue is that it has a 30' cone blind attack, with a 1d4 round duration on fail (and basically the rest of the fight on critical fail). At level 1, blind is crippling. We were fortunate that 2/3 blinded players could get around it to still fight (animal companion that wasn't blinded and share senses with a familiar). Being forced to make DC 11 flat checks on every attack will result in a lot of misses and doesn't lead to having fun, and I can think of only one way to cure the issue at level 1 (Hyperfocus from the Delirium domain). I feel there's also a real risk of a GM misplaying this and requiring Seek checks at -4 to even find it.
Depending how the fight goes there's a lot of ways this could lead to some players not being able to participate at all.
A good snackMatthew Scheele —
This was a fun little bounty, with a fun little song. An unexpected fight that rewards some stuff that isn't always taken.
All told I'll definitely play this one again in the future.
Two good trials and one recurring mistakeMatthew Scheele —
It's been noted already - but this throws out another boss enemy that's far too strong.
This is a shame, as the other two trials are solid encounters. Scrolls rewards knowledge checks. Spells rewards problem solving. And then... swords. It starts promising, and then oof. There are going to be parties who get TPK'd before being able to move on that, I would put money on it.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #2-09: The Seven Secrets of Dacilane AcademyPaizo Inc.
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Knowledge rolls take center stageMatthew Scheele —
This was a great scenario to play with a party full of knowledge skills. It often feels like knowledge checks are somewhat superfluous in scenarios - either you're mainly just getting background information or it has physical or charisma alternatives.
I also appreciate that knowledge skills can outright clear encounters on their own as a nonviolent approach. This is normally the domain of charisma skills, so again, it's a welcome alternative.
That said, it does feel like this devalues the charisma stuff too much? At least one of the mysteries should have allowed diplomacy or the like to be the center of attention. A music room or theater for performance to shine (as a knowledge check) perhaps?
Still, it was a great time. I wish this was repeatable, I'd absolutely play it again. All it would need is to have a list of possible mysteries that could come up before the final encounter. Between that and different possible explanations there would perhaps be good room for variety.
An enjoyable twist on the bounty formulaMatthew Scheele —
I love how this deviates from the formula of prior bounties. The skill challenge section is very enjoyable.
The combat is unexpected, and left me unsure how the rest of the bounty would play out. I'm told there's a factor we didn't reach (due to well-suited party) that makes sure party composition won't inflate the difficulty excessively.
As a final note, the riddle the author wrote for this is excellent and thematically appropriate.
Best bounty yetMatthew Scheele —
This one offers more room for player decisions I feel than the first pair, which were more straightforward search and destroy affairs.
I like the setup of the final fight. More like this, please.
More Arcadia pleaseMatthew Scheele —
I greatly enjoyed this run. Arcadia is uncharted territory as a setting, and this really delivers on making me interested in what's going on there.
I do feel that one of the skill challenges was a bit rote (the negotiations), but I really appreciated the characterization of the parties involved. The last of the freeform sections my party tackled may have been the best though.
The party's bard walking across the ice singing along while jumping clear of collapsing areas... that was great to watch. I love that you have a negotiation section with hazards like this.
The final encounter I am unsure of - the enemy mix for a party of 4 level 3s is possibly nasty for some compositions. We had a reasonably balanced group of fighter, rogue, witch, and bard. But the difficulty of this encounter is potentially very swingy based on a single question of party composition.
How much fire do you have? I had no fire spells prepped on my witch (in retrospect, I can't recall if the topic of "trolls" had come up, and I left myself with a default spread of electric arc and telekinetic projectile). The scenario provides a fair amount of fire and acid weapons for the three troll type enemies, but this party only had one person proficient in them, since rogues and bards aren't proficient in martial weapons by default.
On the other hand? Once the fighter started lobbing the bombs (at point blank!), the enemies started dying fast thanks to their very high weakness value making the splash devastating to them.
If the fighter had gotten hit more though, we might have been in real trouble, since I'm not sure anyone else could have reliably avoiding critical misses on the bombs. As is he did go down once, but the enemies missed a lot too.
A good scenario with a couple excessive DCsMatthew Scheele —
In general I enjoyed this scenario a lot. I actually wish it was replayable (switch out the squad members and skill challenges maybe?).
My only complaints come in the final section.
As has been noted, the one treasure bundle is perhaps a bit too hard.
My bigger concern is the DC on the spider venom. I think I ended up needing a 14-15 on the die for a success and I was playing a barbarian. I am very glad nobody else got poisoned by them and that poisons have a max duration. Because that DC is definitely too much, especially when it ends at paralysis.
Thematic and amusingMatthew Scheele —
Overall a solid scenario and one I'd recommend most players find time for.
The boss fight in particular is a standout, though it does have a couple things I'd nitpick.
A haunt activating with the boss fight is... potentially really, really bad. Haunts are not nice. Not sure if this is just how it was run though, considering point 2.
Sanctuary is a bit of tricky spell - though I think this is more a lack of an explicit "this is the definition of a hostile action", and I think this definitely ends up more an issue of how it was run vs written for my experience. But why sanctuary is on an enemy who is going to take hostile action every turn once people get anywhere near him confuses me.
Now, that aside? The dancing zombies are great. I absolutely love the mechanic of them all stepping in sync. I also like how their size works against them here - it's easy for them PCs to be in the entryway where they end up with a couple unable to fit in. And too dumb to do anything about it. I like the pipe organ being weaponized against the party (the free action may have been too much).
But despite the issues, it's definitely something to point to as an example of strong encounter design.
A mixed bag of good ideas and iffy execution.Matthew Scheele —
First, I like the setting of this. It's a straight up unexplored ruins. It's go in and work on things. And Iobaria is a fun region.
The initial overworld travel type phase should have been more of the meat of the scenario I think. It's been noted that aside from one area it's basically just walk to point A and roll a skill check, and I think that squanders it a bit. I'd have put most of the encounters in this area, basically a mix of minor skill check points and major areas with encounters and a map.
Also, dear god that trap. 30 damage to the whole party. I don't know how much it hits for in low tier, but taking 150% of max HP as a level 2 paired up (...19 or 20 CP iirc) is unpleasant! That still seems excessive as that can easily drop a level 3 outright, so having it hit the whole party is a bit much. (I feel like party-wide traps need to be used very, very judiciously because of the impact on party resources. An encounter directly after one has real potential to take multiple party members out before they can act, which is very un-fun. More single-target traps, seriously. This isn't as ridiculous as the other scenario I ran yesterday, but still)
The fungus encounter isn't particularly memorable to me... but our GM had his macros really messed up (flat 3 damage per hit) the whole time. So... yay us? Some of the other reviews raise some real concerns about it - Darkness is a nasty spell to throw out. Poison should be used in moderation because it's brutal to low fort chars (don't think this was particularly significant there - as I said, I'm not really remembering much of this part a day later)
The research section. The party was fortunate to have multiple int characters. But I have two qualms here. First, stone tablets and some ancient machinery degrading rapidly really doesn't make much sense. Second... it's a lot of complication for little gain I think. The concept of the encounter (including the surprise boss fight) is sound.
I can't judge the boss itself much. It was a lopsided party (2,2,4,4) and we were fortunate enough to have a level 4 fighter who rolled well to hit. Having it surprise you and smash out of the mural was a nice touch.
Promising start dragged down by unacceptable puzzle design and excessive damageMatthew Scheele —
First, I did like the start of the scenario. The first two maps I have no complaints about. If the scenario had continued like that this would be an easy 4-5 stars.
Then it runs into some difficulties.
The third room was a mixed bag. I thought it was very cute that the obvious blade trap was actually broken and instead a fight occurred (so much for mage hand). But the fight felt a bit rough. Primarily the reaction of the severed hand was extremely punishing, and I think the scenario overdid it with inflicting sickened.
The real issue with the scenario is the fourth room. From what I can tell, there's nothing written in the scenario about using skill checks to solve the puzzle... which resulting in my party having to reason it out ourselves. Needless to say we failed.
This is a problem for a couple reasons. First and foremost, I am of the opinion that nothing should ever rely on players figuring it out - characters should always be able to roll something to puzzle through. From a later discussion with the author it sounds like this was not the intent, so I'm putting this down to unclear writing and a lack of the scenario explicitly stating that skill checks are usable (and taking this as a lesson for myself to try and look for ways to use skill checks anyways)
Second, I think the failure penalty is very steep - the scenario up to this point had gotten very damaging due to the difficulty of the hand encounter (in retrospect, it's basically the boss fight in terms of alloted difficulty). Party-wide damage from traps is punishing, so having it happen repeatedly is rough, especially given the prior issue. I think scenarios should be careful with this, as it's easy to burn through tons of the party's resources quickly this way. As is, we basically had to take a healing break after each failure.
Third, the trap springing right into a fight is rough. Since it's party wide damage there's a real risk of people getting further dropped if the monsters roll high on initiative. I'm not a fan of combining the two - it would be significantly less problematic if it was a single-target trap that hit whoever was working the puzzle alone.
I can say that the last part of the scenario was well done and I appreciate the ambiguity of the final choice. I legitimately have no idea how either choice could play out in the future, which is a positive.
Overtuned.Matthew Scheele —
Playing with 5 players and this utterly brutalized our group. And the GM was going easy on us.
Got the numbers from the GM after and I'm pretty sure this is stronger than 1-10's boss. The damage is just too high.
A feast of loreMatthew Scheele —
This book has a wonderfully satisfying amount of lore in it. I love the various short stories given for major personalities, as well as how it ties all these different people together.
I would love to get more books like this mixed into the Lost Omens line.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-16: The Perennial Crown Part 1, Opal of BhopanPaizo Inc.
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I want more of this.Matthew Scheele —
Just finished playing this. Absolutely a blast, the descriptions of the main event are wonderful and really evoke "yes, this exactly what I expect a party to be like for these people".
I loved the revelations about the history going on here and the perspective of the local culture, and that there's room for PCs to interpret it.
Play this as blind as possibleMatthew Scheele —
Would absolutely play it again if I could forget everything.
GM made it decently creepy without going full horror (I mean, besides body horror, there was some gross s#+&, and a lot of creepy stuff).
There's a lot of questions still unanswered at the end and a sequel would be great at higher levels (or after a certain class is added).