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A Bounty With Some Interesting BitsRuzza —
I ran this Bounty in Play-By-Post format with four players. The Blackwood Abundance sets out to do two things: introduce the Verdant Wheel faction and somewhat expand on the story created in The Second Confirmation/United In Purpose. That said, as a Bounty, it can't really add in any new elements that would make this required playing should the storyline continue, so what it does (essentially showing that there's a lot of strange things going on here) it does well. It also showcases the Verdant Wheel quite well - they're interested in plants and plant life. Cool.
On the mechanical side of things the adventure is fine. It's broken up into three encounters: a combat encounter, a hazard, and one that's more of a puzzle or skill challenge. I like this, but unfortunately it falls a bit flat due to the nature of Bounties. The combat is relatively easy enough and doesn't really provide much interest - it's a nova encounter for the characters (whether the players know it or not), but does very little with the environment or the creature. It's understandable as a 1st level encounter, so it gets somewhat of a pass.
The problem really comes with the other two encounters - which are both great, really. One is dealing with a dangerous hazard and the other is an interesting little puzzle to solve. I like both of these quite a lot, actually. It's just that it has the potential for one player to handle everything on their own, especially if they happen to have the talents to do so while the rest of the party doesn't. This comes up from time to time in games, but it's a bit more rough in a short-form game like a Bounty. I start to see the appeal of having something slightly more "railroad-y" in the form of having a large encounter at the end just to have the party feel like they've come together.
That said, this is a solid Bounty. You see the Verdant Wheel for what they are and enjoy a more peaceful side of the Society. Stakes are low and it's an enjoyable distraction. For home GMs, if you combine this with the Intro modules, you could craft a little narrative of your own about the strange things existing here in the Blackwood Swamp. For PFS, I do hope that this gets somewhat expanded on as the mystery of the Azlanti ruins is quite interesting!
Not Bad, Not GreatRuzza —
I ran this module for a group of four in a Play-By-Post format. The team consisted of a Redeemer champion, Evil Eye witch, Storm druid, and Dragon summoner.
To open, I do like this module. It has a very interesting story and makes the stakes feel quite real, it’s just that the execution and the meta-mechanical aspects makes it just fine rather than great. To open, oozes are perhaps my favorite enemies in PF2, but they’re also quite difficult to balance. What I mean is, a group of players could approach with a clever strategy for defeating them, such as stacking their turns through the Delay action and then split the oozes as much as possible before taking them all out with a single fireball. Just as likely, however, is a group that knows very little about oozes accidentally putting themselves in an unwinnable situation. If a single ooze represents a Severe encounter, splitting it once or twice easily bumps it up to an Extreme encounter and can lead to some swift TPKs for the unprepared.
That aside, the entire adventure is not ooze, which is good. As a schitck, it gets old rather quickly. Chapter One is incredibly strong, with plenty of investigation (though I’m not personally a fan of the “tug-of-war” mechanic that public debate has). A rushed GM, or perhaps cynical GM could run Chapter One in its entirety and rewrite the ending for a lovely one-shot game. The game really begins with Chapter Two, as does the gauntlet of encounters. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it can wear on groups going from one fight to the next, especially when they’re nova encounters that can be quite difficult. I wish that perhaps the journey to the encounter site in Chapter Two could have shown off a bit more of Holy Xatramba, perhaps with some sneaking or other mechanics. Aspiring GMs could cut out some encounters and replace them with the GMG’s Heist mechanics to make their way into the city safely. Chapter Three is really the resolution and sadly where things fell apart a bit more for me. More encounters leading up to the final romp through the dungeon - these are actually fantastic and give a feeling of just what is at stake if the heroes fail. It shows that things have gotten bad and I really love it. The last dungeon itself has a clever idea that unfortunately feels a bit wasted. It’s the same location as one they visited in Chapter One, but slightly different as it’s been reinforced by the enemy. That said, there are only a few opportunities for the PCs to use what they learned before to great effect. While some things have changed, it very much just feels like going through the same setpieces but with new encounters.
Finally, and perhaps this is me being nitpicky, but the final encounter doesn’t feel like there’s much weight to it. The culprit behind the curse has already died before the game’s beginning, which leaves a hole for a mastermind or someone for the characters to oppose. It ends up being that the final enemy (while they can make a rather interesting encounter with their skillset) is someone from out of left field. Importantly, this person has very little incentive to actually follow through on their orders. Again, this is another opportunity for a GM to potentially introduce a non-combat encounter as an alternative to ending the module.
At the end of the day, this is an adventure with a lot of good ideas, but ends up falling short of expectations.
Good Setup, Poor ExecutionRuzza —
I've run this module three times in a Play-By-Post format using all three options available. In general, this module serves to showcase the four major factions within the Pathfinder Society, but I feel as they they could have been a little more explicit with how they operate. Most of the descriptions of the factions come through NPC exposition rather than adventure theming. The Vigilant Seal gets across their message strongly, while the Horizon Hunters end up looking a little strange.
Then there's also the issue of the hazards. I had originally disagreed with the other reviewers before playing the module, as those DCs aren't terribly unusual for their level, and - given enough notice - characters could deal with the hazards. I was unfortunately quite wrong. The DCs aren't the problem, but rather how the hazards function, each pain point being hazards that target potentially (by a large margin potentially) the entire party with three action routines that allow basic saves. Even very fortunate characters who save against all three effects are likely to go down. Be very careful about this module.
To PFS GMs, I would avoid running this Intro unless your players are very interested in the "conclusion" to Intro #1 or really want to learn more about the factions. If you do run it, make sure you adjudicate the hazards as fairly as possible. The PCs should have "safe places" to avoid the worst of the hazards and you shouldn't be afraid to point that out to your players.
For GMs that want to run this at home, I would choose another module or alter the hazards. Simply reducing the DCs by 2 and bringing their routines down to two actions would go a long way to making the hazards deadly, but manageable.
A Solid IntroductionRuzza —
I ran this module twice in a Play-By-Post format and had great success with it. It introduces what the average Pathfinder experience will be like. There's a small bit of gold management, downtime investigation, careful use of exploration mode, traps, and - of course - encounters.
The hazards feel very fair and there are plenty of opportunities for players to anticipate and counteract them. The encounters introduce some interesting elements to combat that can be interesting for players new to PF2. If there's a weak point, it's just that The Second Confirmation does what it says on the tin incredibly well. It's an introduction - one with a lovely and fun NPC - but it feels like a very curated experience. Very color in the lines. It's not bad, and I actually recommend this to anyone trying out PFS for the first time. If you're a GM looking for a one shot game around your home table, there are much more exciting modules to try.