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The Mosquito Witch ProjectOliviasEule —
Review to "The Mosquito Witch"
By now I have run this scenario three times with three different groups, with 8 players (at a Con), with 4 players and with 5. I chose to play up the horror elements of the scenario since I did not think humour would work well.
and of my three groups only one ever found out she was there looking for her friend. And this is quite an important piece of information later on. Why does this have to be hidden information?
- The other two NPCs had a lot of character and all managed to pull my players in. Mrs. Lyons felt a little forced (only recounting her story and not answering questions), but she underlines the feeling of dread regarding the witch.
+ The (mad) Prophet on the other hand gave me as the GM a lot of leeway which was nice. Always muttering, splattering out hints, and the players could pick up or leave whatever they wanted. And the paper puppet was a very nice detail.
- The role of the other villagers was complicated. It was nice to have all the information about them, with the exception of the tanner, the Blacksmith and once the Brewery none were visited by any of my groups. And even these three I had to basically lead my players to. Maybe this scenario was written for perfect roleplayers, but in my opinion the players have nearly no reason to ever visit the other places.
- The Carriage Crash was the one encounter in this scenario which I did not like. While not uninteresting it lacks coherence with the rest of the story. No background is given for the carriage riders (probably because a lot of the text-space was given to the unimportant villagers), leaving some kind of information-vacuum. Why were they on the road, where was the attack, who even are they? No information at all.
+/- The bleeding calf was an atmospheric but unneccessary encounter. Only one group even reached it, and they just mercy-killed the poor thing.
Into the Woods:
And since one Success Condition was having to save at least two groups this was a little unfair. And, to be honest, too many deaths in a scenario make for a depressing atmosphere around the table, so I did very much not like the high DCs here.
Anyway, on to the Encounters:
+ Witchtop Hill was great! This was the point when my players first felt like they were in the Blair Witch Project. Blood coming from trees, strange dolls... just awesome! In the end all groups were happy to follow the footprints just to get away.
+/- Lasartes Remains had different kinds of impacts on the different groups, depending on their finding out about Lasarte before entering the woods (either through Haru, or through the Blacksmith, Brewer or Tanner). So either it was a very shocking encounter when they knew beforehand (finding the armor and other gear plus the tracks spread around), or just another strange thing of many (when they did not know about Lasarte).
- The Shivering Pond itself was atmospheric with all the insects and crawling things. But the encounter with Andor Oronce was... difficult. It seemed very random and forced. It burdened the players with a very sick (and for them incurable) person in need of constant care, detracting from the mystery of the Mosquito Witch and the strange atmosphere, leading the players back to a more down-to-earth mindset.
+/- The terrible reunion was the first combat encounter of the scenario. It was quite challenging for the 4 and 5 player groups, and a total pushover for the 8 player group even with the scaling. Anyhow, since Peaches was quite liked, all rushed to his help. This part was nice, a positive moment. Finding Haru made the finding of the cave easier and she was not a burden to the groups even though she was severely weakened, so her lacking interesting characteristics could be overlooked. Only one group took to long and found her dead... as I said before, I didn't like this at all, since after that these players felt like they were helpless and the scenario did not give them the opportunity to save her, because they did not see the connection between them getting lost in the woods and her being drained ("Peaches lived, so why was she already dead?"). On the other hand, they adopted Peaches as the groups dog for future adventues.
The Iron Cave:
+ As I said for the first combat encounter, this was quite easy for the 8 player group, but just the right measure of challenging for the other groups. Even had to apply the Dying condition rules once. And with a little bit of roleplay with the other non-combatant Mitflits in the cave, and crates full of stolen shovels, the story came together, while leaving enough unexplained things to make a good mystery. None of my groups went home unsatisfied with the solution to this scenario, even though they never found out if there was a witch or not and they could not answer all questions they had.
Into the Woods:
The Iron Cave:
Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-05: Call of the Copper Gate PDFPaizo Inc.
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Not a horror scenarioOliviasEule —
I GMd this last night for a group of 4 on low Subtier without adaptation for 4 players (because: Swashbuckler 3, Fighter 3, Witch 7, Vigilante 6). While prepping this scenario I already thought that the low Subtier would be a lot easier than the high subtier for players of the respective levels. And this is exactly what happened. But let me go into more of the details.
Just the description of the vault made my players apprehensive of the whole situation. However, vigilante and witch were able to manouver the terrain easily and started to try to disable the sphere. In this time, the fighter distracted the swarm golem (not doing a lot of damage at all, but also not really bothered by it HP-wise, and easily managing the saves for the ability damage) and the swashbuckler also managed to reach the beacon. And of course he just smashed it in 2 rounds and that was that. So:
The Encounter had a very atmospheric start, but was way too easy. Then after the encounter, a lot of exposition, a lot of rolls to study the artifact, and Zarta healing a little before running off. Sadly, this broke the last remaining creepy and dangerous atmosphere that was left. So on my players went to the Arcanamirium.
After bullying the clerk to give them the location of the two remaining beacons, the went to Maren. He did not let them in, and they were to imparient to wait the 5 minutes Maren told them to wait, so they broke down the door. My players were also not inclined to talk to the strange summoned creature which was asking even stranger questions (even after Zartas and Marens request they do so), so again, they just easily killed the creature (in 1.5 rounds), packaged the beacon and ran off to Blakros Museum. I do not know what I could have done to motivate roleplay in this case, and I was not able to create any creepy or dangerous atmosphere. My players also missed any information that could have been given to them by not asking any questions to either the creature or Maren. Anyway:
This Encounter war intended to introduce more lore about the copper gate and the imminent danger of it being opened from the other side, possibly letting out unknown dangers. This was supposed to instill fear into the minds of the PCs. But in my opinion this failed due to the creature being too weak. In a true cthulhu-esque manner, why not have the creature just suck the answers to its questions out of the PCs heads, if they do not want to interact with it, and leaving behind damage and some information? This should create the necessary atmosphere, a feeling of danger and helplessness in the PCs.
spoiler:So, nothing bad to say about this encounter.
Actually experiencing the creatures which the players later get told were "sown" by a strange mutant from the basement gave them a little more sense of urgency.
I liked the idea of the room slowly filling with poison, forcing the players to actually think about where they could move and stand and still breathe normally. Sadly, this idea was foiled by the quite low saving throw against the poison. Over the 8 rounds of fighting only six of the 32 saving throws were failures (and two of those were by the lion they summoned), so mostly my players simply ignored the poison gas. The Grioths were each down in one hit and within the first three rounds, and it only took so long because two of them kept their distance to use their spychic magic. They were useless. Why even put them in this scenario? The final boss was... too weak as well. Since my players opened the door in time, he only had shield and his alter ego as buffs. And since all previous encounters were so easy, I decided for him to use his first round to cast his scroll of fly, so that the whole thing would at least be a little harder. That was a very good decision. Instead of circle stomped to death in two rounds while not being able to do anything (casting while in close combat never works), he was able to shoot some spells, do quite a bit of damage, and actually be threatening. Besides this, my players only checked on Imrizade once, saw she was stable, and then forgot about her and leaving her in the poison gas... Anyway:
This Encounter was - once more - much too easy. I get the feeling that this encounter would have been at an appropriate difficulty on the high Subtier, where the boss can do some crowd control by himself. And when designing an encounter with an environmental hazard, then it should be able to actually be dangerous instead of just having basically unfailable rolls every round. Again, this was an encounter which just did not feel in any way creepy, dangerous or atmospheric in any other way.
inspiration for changes:
Why not have the BEG stand behind a force barrier where the PCs can observe him preparing the gate for opening while he tells them that he is looking forward to the things that will happen when it opens, tell them that in a few seconds the gate will open and laugh at their helplessness. And all the while the Grioths sneak up on them while they are distracted. But of course the PCs can dismantle/smash the devices powering the force field, and defeat the BEG. But then, they have to reverse the preparations done to open the door, and this could be a final challenge, maybe a puzzle. That would have had an atmosphere of danger, creepyness and urgency, instead of yet another "go there, smash, and be done".
The players get next to no story besides a little, very vague information about some gate which is maybe about to open or not and is linked to the Dark Tapestry. Thats it.
Regarding this scenario, I am a little bit of a divided opinion. The most obvious point which has been pointed out many times now is the length of the scenario: We needed more than 7 hours to complete it, and we still had to rush in the last encounter. But lets go over it section-wise.
First Event: Obstacle Course
Good: This was really fun! There were quite a few different challenges, and a really interesting setup, which kept me very entertained. The time limit of 15 rounds is appropriate, not too easy and not too hard to manage. Only one of my six-character-party did not make it to the end.
Bad: Most of the challenges are based on Acrobatics and Athletics, none of which my character (Pregen Raia, but level 2) is good or even decent at. Meaning, most of the time I was a dead weight for my party, and had to be rescued from the quicksand, and then again helped over the lava. It was so bad that the combat with the factory slime was already over before I managed to climb the cliff... A bit more balance regarding the challenges would have been appreciated. Maybe a little puzzle or something like that.
Ugly: As other before me have said, many of the encounters of the obstacle course are very deadly for level 1 characters, and still very dangerous on level 2. Three of our six-character-party (2 level 1s, 4 level 2s) barely made it out alive. While this keeps the spirit of the "Pact World Warriors"-Show, it still is quite hard. And with only a short break after the Obstacle Course and not many healing options, this made us all worry for our characters.
Second Event: Combat Cooking
Good: I was quite excited for this event. I mean, how often does one get to cook in battle? Sadly, the idea was a lot better than the actual Event.
Bad: Basically, this Event burned down to "kill three monsters, make some checks, then do a teensy bit of RP". It was a little bit of a let-down. Why not find some herbs or fruit, with a few checks to identify them, or climb up a tree, or something like that, just to make it less combatty. Or choose creatures with a little more flavour or very different skill sets. Except for the Akata, which would have been very frustrating without the special knife from the box, the monsters were boring. The cooking itself could have been designed better: maybe some acrobatics to impress the judges, maybe some knowledge checks to cook something in a special way, not just engineering to use the kitchen and some sabotage.
Ugly: Nothing was exceptionally bad here. Well, except the Akata without the special Adamant-cutting knife :)
Third Event: Kill Count
Good: Again, the idea was a good one. Having the Skeletons arrive in waves and not too close to the party was also a very good call.
Bad: The damage reduction was too high for this Subtier. Or the number of hit points, this depends on your view. In our party of six, the only ones to do any damage at all were me, with my very last spell slot, and one other character after we found the grenades. With a different party this probably would have gone differently.
Ugly: Most of the grenades were uselesse, doing not enough damage to even dent the skeletons. Only the fire grenades were useful. So, all in all, this Event felt very grindy, frustrating, and also a little boring. This was the Event which I would have cut from the scenario if I had the choice.
Fourth Event: Capture the Flag
Good: I love the concept of this. Running around in an unfamiliar Starship, looking for treasure (aka the two flags), basically having a paintball-fight (with the non-deadly weapons). For the first time, our party was able to strategise a little (how to protect our flag, how to find the neutral flag, how to decimate the other team, which of the ones should we prioritise, etc). I wished the scenario had just give everyone a "paintball-gun" and said "two hits and you're out" or something like that.
Bad: Instead, this "non-deadly" rule just crippled all spellcasters. They could not cast any damage spells. And in zero gravity, none of the other spells to hinder opponents (e.g. entangle, grease) have no effect. (Its not like we had many spell slots left... all in all maybe 2 in the whole team) And of course, the other team was cheating, using spells with no visual effect to down us lethally, with no penalty! I think our GM was very friendly regarding movement in zero gravity, but we did not have as much problems with this as suggested in other reviews. Still, it was quite annoying.
Gnomes for world power?OliviasEule —
I ran this for a group of four yesterday evening on low tier without the modifications for four people because they were quite high level (witch 6, barbarian 7, paladin 7, alchemist 7, none were gnomes).
Ok - I agree with one of the earlier comments that the investigation checks were too easy and too focused on just two skills. However, this is what we GMs are for; to make roleplay interesting beyond just skill checks and mechanics. I just let them roll their skill checks and describe what they were looking for, so their discoveries would feel less mechanical and more natural.
Bad - The canvassing of the neighbourhood seemed kind of pointless and my players did not do this even once since they were able to find all necessary information at the crime scene. Which is actually sad, because the description of the people they would have been able to meet were great.
Unforeseen - After getting Humush Mum's name my players immediately wanted to abandon the other crimescenes to go to a pharasmin temple to check the records of the deceased... which is actually not a bad idea and a very obvious solution. This could have led them to the home of the mum family and find them missing. This possibility was never mentioned in the scenario, and I dissuaded them from doing this eventually. But it still was a very valid possible route of investigation.
Following up on the investigation
Ok - I like fights which are not too straight forward, since these tend to be a little repetitive. So the option of having my players fight a ghost was something I looked a bit forward to, to see how they would deal with the incorporeal challenge. However, I could also see them all die in this fight, since Humush can deal a s+*@ton of damage. I am not sure if this encounter is balanced for the lower subtier at least.
Bad - Maybe this was intended, but the guardians of the hostages were such pushovers, that one of my players decided after the first round of combat (during which the first two undead already re-died) that she would clean her nails and wait for the others to nuke the rest... The alternate route, meaning fighting Humush Mums Ghost, would have been the much bigger challenge and also what my players prepared for.
Ok - The Warrens with the Burrowing Undead was another strategically interesting encounter. The hit and run tactics of the Burrowers was nice. Not too challenging with my party setup, but I rolled the saves against the diseases behind the screen and without the players knowledge, so I could surprise them later. Regarding Ellux' motivations... I don't know if this was intended as a wink to current political tendencies, but he felt disgustingly antisemitic in an "in your face"-way. Makes for a very satisfying kill, but I prefer a little more subtlety when pointing at real world politics.
Bad - Ellux' minions were very much useless. With a +3 to hit (or +4 with haste) they were basically only able to hit on a rolled 20... My players figured this out pretty quickly and proceeded to ignore them, going straight for Ellux. Having prepared all the buffs, this left Ellux with very little offensive magic, and with a +5 to hit he was basically dead in the water. Be had one succesfull shot a the barbarian with the Enfeebling ray, and the Black Tentacles (which also killed the remaining skeletons) against all others, and then we were at a mexican standoff: Neither side was able to do anything for a few rounds, and then my players just outwaited his buffs...
Can't decide if this scenario is good or badOliviasEule —
I ran this scenario yesterday at low subtier. We had a 5 hour time limit, two level 5 characters, two level 4 and one level 3. No min-maxed characters, no healer, no "real" spellcaster (witches and mesmerist don't count). (TL;DR see bottom)
So... for the first (fight against inspector Ichonvarde) and the second encounters (the chase) we had great fun. Good rp, nice inter-party dynamics, all the nice stuff.
Then, enter the lurkers in twilight. And wow, this was a really bad one: while the characters were really (!) lucky with their saving throws, I still blinded one and deafened another charakter. My party had no way of counteracting the invisibility, the blindness, and they were not able to fly. It was just sad. Since I did not want to TPK at this point, I decided that after 10 rounds of basically nothing happening, that the lurkers would also leave the fight to warn their boss. At this point my players debated if they should leave the swamp to come back the next full moon. I told them that then the scenario would end immediately, so - grudgingly - they continued on.
Since this frustrating encounter took so much time, I had to skip the encounter with the wolf pack entirely. Not that I missed it much. I feel that this encounter was just included in the scenario to make the +4 diplomacy against wolves useful for the players. It does nothing for the plot, the characters, or anything else. It's basically just a filler. So, my players just continued on to the Glade.
We had a short break and I had everyone write down the deepest fears of their character. I narrated the voice of the haunt, and then took a few minutes for each character to describe how the haunt manifested their fear. Interestingly, my players really liked this kind of interaction. We had some really good rp moments here, and maybe even some character development. Since the saving throws against the haunt are quite easy, they were able to endure the haunt mostly intact.
Finally, the characters entered the Glade. They interacted with the Tulvatha for a few seconds, then decided it was no use, and attacked. Now, do you remember the dance they were able to learn at the beginning of the scenario? The one they never really learn the purpose of? Well, a the beginning I gave them the hint that it was to be used against fear... It did not work. They never figured out how to damage the haunt, but instead continued to dance this stupid dance the whole entire final encounter... And again, since Tulvatha is invisible, immune against magic and has fast healing, this encounter would have been near impossible for my party setup. They barely got in enough damage to surpass the fast healing. Luckily most of them had the boon from Part 1, or the electricity damage would have done them in. In the end, since we were already 15 minutes over time, I decided to just forget about the fast healing, and be done with it. A little bit sad for a final encounter.