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Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-09: Beyond the Halflight Path PDFPaizo Inc.
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The most adaptable scenarioScott Young —
I've run this once, at high subtier for a party of six. I plan to run it again enough times that I'm making map tiles out of the flip mat PDFs and some props and terrain to go with it. It really is a great scenario.
First, the setting: Kaer Maga is one of the best settings in Golarion. We spent a lot of time in the investigation phase, and each "travel" segment can discover another cool aspect of the City of Strangers. For groups that want to roleplay, there is enough material to replay a bunch of times and still meet new people. I'm glad the troll augurs appear, but there's also room to have the party chat with gargoyles or a naga, filling ut the NPc roster and breathing life into those "gather information" rolls.
Once the investigation completes, the dungeon crawl begins - although even here there is some room for negotaiation. Despite being on a bigger map, there are enough encounters that it can be easy to trigger more than one, if the party is breezing through them. There are also some terrifying encounters that will challenge every the most powerful damage-dealers. I prepped my list based on the characters and players who signed up, choosing ones that would challenge them. In a convention game, I might leave one of the foes near the back of the map undetermined, so that it could be adapted to the party at hand. Given the range of foes, it would be easy to prep a set of encounters and then wipe the floor with an underprepared party.
The choice of encounters is excellent. There are horror encounters, and funny encounters, and could-be-roleplaying encounters. The are certain combinations that make a hilarious amount of sense. There are devious traps and hazards, and there are encounters with lots of creatures as well as single monsters. There are encounters that are straightforward, and some that are challenging (including one at APL+4!).
Particularly nice is that the goal itself changes each time, not just the monsters you fight. This really helps make each run seem like its own scenario. The only drawback is the use of the same map a bit too often - I understand why, but once players have seen the map once or twice they know a lot about the "dressing" and it loses its impact. I'd love to see some method of randomizing map tiles and/or assigning descriptions to rooms, to help make this part different each time as well.
I love this scenario. It sets the bar for evergreens in the future.
side note on Bigger Flip Maps:
They are too big to fit on a standard round convention table and leave enough room for each player to have their own space. This is the real reason I'm making tiles, so I can present the map piecemeal but still have it at full resolution.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-01: The Cost of Enlightenment (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Very thoughtful and lore-basedScott Young —
First of all: This scenario rewards people who love the lore of Golarion, and those who take good notes. You get to learn a lot about various aspects of the setting through exploration.
Second: Our GM didn't have the new Qadira book, and it made zero difference in his ability to make this an awesome experience for us, despite what other reviewers have posted.
There is some version of the influence mechanic (called clout) that helps keep track of how you're doing, but we were able to not need to back-up NPC to achieve what we wanted. There is one fight that is a challenge but a bit out-of-place, and the other fights were all very on-theme, with not just combat but information (and insanity) being delivered by the antagonists.
The only issue I found is that at the end, you basically have to "drink the kool-aid" of a cult to succeed at the mission. While I enjoyed the philosophical debate while it was largely theoretical, it is difficult for divinely-minded characters to really submit to the tests at the end. With four out of five PCs having a patron deity, this was pretty awkward. I wouldn't mind missing out on a boon for opting out based on my PCs religious beliefs, but this was apparently the primary success condition.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-02: A Case of Missing Persons (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Plot twists and a great investigationScott Young —
This is a fantastic investigation scenario, with a lot of room for roleplaying. There a couple of plot twists that made my eyes bug out with surprise, even though I had an inkling of something going on since I had already prepped (but not run) the special for this season. It's really nice to return to a location that really only shows up in a "retirement" arc, and a lot of the background detail there was very cool to see again. It's nice to know what those "folks" have been up to the last several years.
Hold on to your hats when you play this one, especially if you're Liberty's Edge!
Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-00: Assault on Absalom (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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An excellent specialScott Young —
This was a great event to participate in. We ran it at our local event the week after it was released at GenCon, with 7 tables. The overseer had one player bring in his trumpet for the "signal horn" and gave character parts out to different people to read in character.
Prep: this was much easier to prep than other scenarios, and required far fewer maps for "maybe" encounters. Even though there were encounters that the players didn't choose, prep wasn't over-taxing.
Encounters: it was great to see nods to previous scenarios in the selection of the enemy forces; long-time players appreciated the various connections to people they've fought before. The encounters were fairly challenging (I ran subtier 7-8), and I my party of five was in dire straits several times, although they managed to persevere, survive, and succeed. We finished three of the encounters in Part Two, but fell behind in Part Three and wound up skipping the Gulgamodh fight (had to skip something, the group really wanted to finish the <redacted> they were already fighting, and at this subtier the Gulgamodh encounter is a bit less interesting as a method of balancing it for the sub-tier).
Reporting Successes: the specials have evolved to a system where the reporting and conditions are pretty streamlined. When a house success is reported, a condition went into effect - fairly simple to enact on the fly, and our coordinator made cards for each one so table GMs could just throw them down and let the players worry about the bonuses.
Rewards: there are some cool rewards, although others have pointed out some disparity in their value, and the method of qualifying for them isn't obvious in-game.
Overall, I think this is the best-executed special I've seen. Well done to all involved!
Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–99: Through Maelstrom Rift (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Cool lore, but some mechanical problemsScott Young —
First, let me echo the warning others have made: DO NOT GM THIS WITHOUT SUFFICIENT PREP. Just don't do it. It's a "SPECIAL", so it should be special for the players (and can be, as evidenced by all the high ratings). It is also the hardest scenario I've ever prepped. If you want to run this at the level it deserves, you need to prepare thoroughly, and there's a lot of special rules, environmental bits, and stuff from Occult Adventures here.
Second, the good news, since the low rating might seem harsh: This scenario is not a typical PFS experience. It's extraplanar, for starters, but the encounters are definitely non-standard. It also has a HUGE amount of backstory and lore, which is fantastic - I love it when a scenario allows me to use campaign material and encounters to make a setting feel different than the usual places. The pregens are unique, with interesting backstories and even some secret mission-type stuff that really allows for some great roleplaying moments. It even has room for a GM to add some cool stuff of their own devising, which is a rarity in Organized Play. If I could run this in in a home campaign situation, I think I'd give it 4-5 stars.
The problems arise from the fact that all of this is supposed to happen in a standard PFS timeslot where people are playing on a table that can often barely fit a regular-sized flip mat, using very complicated pregenerated characters.
We'll start with that last one first: the pregens are complex. Non-standard races, lots of newer classes, abilities that aren't commonly used... There's only one PC I would give to a new player, and even that one is using rules that are beyond basic. That makes them fun for experienced hands - but dropping a class from Occult Adventures on a player unawares is not setting them up for success. Luckily, we had a player at our table who knew the class in question and offered to switch - without that, I think we would have bogged down as the new player read and re-read 40 pages of OA during the game, and still didn't play at full potential.
It doesn't help that this PC is one with a "secret", so you can't even warn players about the class in advance without spoiling some stuff.
Another issue is getting "buy-in" from the group. People know what Pathfinders do, and they know enough about the Aspis to make that work, but this is a new organization with vague goals, and so my players didn't have much of a framework to hang their roleplaying and decision-making off of. Thankfully, the pregens all have inicredible backstories and handouts, which helps.
To me, a big mechanical issue was the physical space needed to run the first encounter properly. Without getting into details, the space involved is larger than any table I've ever gamed at. That's fine when you're running Call of Cthulhu or even AD&D, where the GM could just "ballpark" distances and narrate results, but in Pathfinder most players are used to dealing with the grid. You can't really use the grid in this one; even when using the tricks suggested on the GM thread and PFSPrep.com, the GM will be making some estimates and playing fast and loose with some of the rules. Not all players (or GMs) are readily accepting of this.
After the first encounter, the scenario seemed to proceed more smoothly - most players had gotten to know enough of their pregen that they could be effective. The second encounter is interesting in a way, since players expect A to happen when in fact it doesn't, and then doesn't happen again, and again... and then suddenly B happens, triggering a neat encounter. Unfortunately, there is a lot of GM box text and uninhabited rooms to get through before B happens at all, which loses momentum.
The climax is really good, though - first, because no one is sure if it will be the climax or not, and also because of some neat mechanical stuff that makes it more than just "fight the BBEG". This ends the scenario on a really high note, which is always a good thing.
I wavered between 2 and 3 stars for this one. The pregens and the complex first encounter took for us more than half the slot, and it's hard to recover if that part isn't fun. There are a lot of special rules that pop up at different points, and some of them are game-changing, so it's a big deal if you miss something. The prep aspect is a significant impediment. I spent about double my usual amount of prep, and I still had some issues in keeping everything running smoothly. I don't think I'd want to do that again for a game at a con where you don't have any flexibility in table size or time limit, and where lore and story can't always cut through the noise. That's the situation this rating is based on. If I run this again, though, I will do so as a home game, perhaps over two "slots", and really use all the suggestions and options in the first part to bring the setting to life - I think that will make it a truly "special" scenario and worth 5 stars.
I hate to provide non-glowing reviews of people's work, so I hope this is taken in the spirit it is intended, as useful feedback for future endeavours. Ultimately, this felt like adventure path material, crammed into a PFS box.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-07: From the Tome of Righteous Repose (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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A great scenario, I want to replay it over and over!Scott Young —
Played this last night with a party of four at high subtier. We had a great GM who was able to seamlessly integrate the apparently random elements so that they made sense in the context of the exploration. One player had played it three times already, and still had fun without knowing what was going to happen. The fact that it's a 3-7 replayable is fantastic, I have a lot of mid-level PCs who are eligible.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-01: Portent's Peril (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Lots of fun!Scott Young —
Played this at low subtier with three PCs and a pregen. First, loved the use of the Harrow and the Yellow Sign... I mean, Prophet... even though my PC didn't believe in "that Varisian folktale", it provided a unique connection to the events.
Each challenge was interesting, and as it evolved we could see how our actions were both causing and resolving the "prophecy" of the cards. The pseudodragon was a cool NPC, and its flight and stinger really helped us on the last fight, as it got to the baddie quickly and helped us keep track of her amongst the crowd.
Now having read it, this looks like it requires more prep than the average scenario, due to the number of NPCs and the complicated plot. Our GM only had a bit of time to prep and did a great job, but I can see who people might get lost in some of the details without knowing the scenario well.
I'm pretty surprised at the number of 1-star reviews - I suspect this has more to do with the GM than the scenario. There's lots of meat here, some great Varisian flavor, and a mystery that isn't either insanely complex or too easy. I felt like I had accomplished something by figuring it out, and even though we failed in one of the tasks, we managed to earn both prestige.
Highly recommended, but don't try to run it cold.
Another excellent set of articles!Scott Young —
Finally finished reading Wayfinder #15 (the electronic version, since I couldn't make it to PaizoCon to get a printed copy... :(
Once again, the all-volunteer Wayfinder team has put together an excellent round-up of material. This issue focuses on the River Kingdoms, an area of Golarion so diverse you could run a dozen campaigns there and never have the same setting. It's a rich area, especially for characters and stories that are slightly over the line of the law (vigilante, anyone?). It's also the region where the Kingmaker Adventure Path is set, making it an essential resource for GMs running that campaign.
There are literally too many articles for me to review them all, but here are some highlights.
* Crunch: there are new archetypes, poisons, and a set of obeisances for two very flavorful deities worshiped mostly in the River Kingdoms (Hanspur and Gyronna). Throw these against your players as they pass through the ever-shifting river network for some nasty (yet not overpowered) surprises. Magical items (including some that scale with character level) and even new special materials are to be found as well. Bardic masterpieces, friendly (or not) NPC stat blocks... there's just so much that's ready for a GM to use as-is or as inspiration for their own campaign.
* Lore: (I refuse to use the term "fluff" for something so central to the game's feel!) To me, this is the best aspect of Wayfinder - you get dozens of creative takes on areas of Golarion that can be dropped into your campaign with almost no effort. Often, the Paizo products give an intriguing sentence or a few words of "hook"; in Wayfinder, some great Golorian scholars have fleshed those out into fully-developed encounters, NPCs, stories, or adventures - or created them out of whole cloth to fit seamlessly into the campaign. Here, you'll find tavern songs and anthems of the River Kingdoms, and a fully-designed tavern to sing them in, as well as explorer's journals and gazateers of various locations throughout the Kingdoms. Short fiction pieces help flesh out various areas of the lands, and provide NPC personalities that I've pulled into my games on more than one occasion.
Wayfinder 15 is one of the best ones yet, in my opinion. Some really great work by lots of great contributors, and the core Wayfinde team that puts it all together. Plus... it's free. Seriously. No reason to not download it and immerse yourself in one of Golarion's most varied and soggy regions.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–12: The Twisted Circle (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Mysteries to unravelScott Young —
Got to play this last week, and have now purchased and prepping to run. Overall this was a great experience as a player - a fairly conventional mission turns into something else entirely, and even with good Knowledge checks up front, there are surprises in store. I found myself pulled into the story, and kept flipping back and forth between who I believed the "bad guy" to be until quite late. It plays on some popular tropes without being predictable... or is it?
I gave it 4 instead of 5 stars because it does look like it will take a lot of prepping to pull off effectively as a GM, and that sort of time doesn't always work for Organized Play. The plot is complex, and requires several different NPC personalities to be portrayed. Our GM did a great job and the scenario really shone, but I could see how a less-RP-focused GM could make this fall flat. Following are some GM thoughts as I prep.
We get an Outer God in PFS! Happy dance! I hope this is a sign that the stars are nearly right... I played it with a 1st-level PC, and I think this encounter will become a defining force in his development.
The initial combat was easy for us but flavorful, and helped remind us of the setting. This threw the village into sharp relief when we got there and everyone was healthy. We played with a group of 7 due to a walk-up, and also had three archers or gunslingers, so the big bad was not as terrifying as it could have been. We also didn't do the thing at the end, and so avoided a fight.
So much for a GM to work with here! The Sheriff's tone can really set the PC's course - he is the key NPC to develop a personality for. This is what will take the prep time - there's the Sheriff, the doll, the alien entity, the various plants, and the various townfolk, who all need to seem different to the players. I can't wait to run this!
It's nice to visit this area of Golarion, since we haven't spent a lot of time here. A lot of the detailed backstory has no vehicle to come out, though - it's enough to try and convey the more limited local story of the town and the townsfolk and what is going on with them, plus the agent that the PCs are sent to find and what happens to her. GMs should probably use every opportunity to present tidbits of information to the players so they can solve the mystery - especially if the party lacks one or more Knowledge skills.
Overall, a great scenario, although perhaps more suited to play-by-post (where story can really come out without the pressure of a time slot) than regular play. Will run this one several times to make use of the higher prep required.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–09: The Blakros Connection (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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One of the best scenarios everScott Young —
I played this (high subtier), and then prepped it to GM.
I've always been a fan of scenarios that require PCs to actually be *Pathfinders*, and this one does it: research, lore, crazy combats, fear of death, and exploring places we have never been before.
While the research rules are a bit clunky and probably need some adjustment to make things a little less "foregone conclusion", the way information is doled out really makes players pay attention and participate in putting the story together. Of course, the story does hinge on having played the special scenario that is related to this one, and without that, it's likely that the motivations may just be too complex to make sense. Still, this is a great exploration of one of the best NPCs to grace PFS, while also setting up a mysterious group in the shadows that isn't one of the regular enemies we face. I can't wait to see what happens next!
The Dreamland sequence was really well done. Alas, by the time my group got there, we were so short on time that our creativity had to be curtailed. The first fight, while cool and "realistic", just takes so darn long because of the mechanics of the creatures involved. Took us 2 hours to finish it, and then we skipped the optional and had to really rushed everything from the Dreamland sequence on. 4.5 hours is not enough to do this scenario justice.
I can understand the other reviewers who said that the name "Blakros Connection" is inappropriate, since we spend so little time in the Museum itself. For me, however, the title served to underline the importance of the connection that the <thing> came from the Blakros family's holdings, and how that might have happened. I expect that this connection will play out over future scenarios. To my character (who has met Nigel Aldain twice and really dislikes him), the only disappointment was that the esteemed curator did not have a stat block. One day, Nigel, one day...
Lots of great scary stuff!Scott Young —
Disclosure: I have an article in this issue. My first ever, so I immediately started paging through the PDF to find it, instead of reading it cover-to-cover like I have the other Wayfinders. I found I just couldn't do it, though - I spotted so many awesome bits in the titles and pull-quotes that I had to stop and read close to a dozen articles before finally jumping ahead to find mine. Then I went back and re-read everything.
In general, Wayfinder is an awesome publication, and just because it is fan-generated content doesn't mean it is somehow lesser than the "real" stuff. Obviously you won't be using it in the Pathfinder Society organized play campaign, but for anyone running home games, this issue is full of great reasons to add a trip to Ustalav(this issue's theme). Statted NPCs, gazeteers of villages ready to drop into your game, monsters, class options, and some great fiction to help bring the campaign setting alive... you'll find it all here. There's enough in hereto jump-start an Ustalav campaign without having to depend on the Carrion Crown adventure path at all (or to supplement the heck out of that adventure path). Well done to the great team of folks who put this together, both as a venue for fan authors *and* as a great source of gaming goodness.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–06: Hall of the Flesh Eaters (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Creepy scenario!Scott Young —
I really enjoyed playing this and running it. When we played, we got in about halfway after some bad luck, saw one of the encounters, misjudged the tactical situation and thought we were outgunned, and turned tail and retreated. Even with that failure, it was a great scenario.
There is a greater emphasis on actually being a Pathfinder (Explore, Report, and all that) in this scenario, although RAW it may be implemented a bit harshly. Just walking through a dungeon killing stuff won't get you all the way there.
Running it, it has some great NPCs that players don't normally chat with, and explored an interesting and promising location with the potential for follow-up. The environmental "issues" and unusual traps really added a lot of flavour (I took the suggestions in the GM Forum thread to play this up), and even the combats had non-standard bits to keep players worrying about stuff they didn't understand. Fear of the unknown is your friend when GMing this one!
Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–17: Fires of Karamoss (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Good scenario, memorable NPCs, some flawsScott Young —
I ran this scenario for a party of 6 non-Core high-subtier players. They had a great time, and really enjoyed the main NPC interactions with 2 of the NPCs. There were some great tech-related surprise moments when the party encountered various items. Even without the Technologist feat, there are in-scenario resources to help players make use of some of the items.
Combats are interesting and utilize terrain very effectively, with multi-level fights with unusual opponents. Unfortunately, many of the opponents can be neutralized by a well-prepared party, even without the technology items found. This can completely unravel the (REALLY cool!) ticking-clock tense ending as designed. GMs, make sure you prepare for your party's likely buffs if you can, so you have a "Plan B" when the given tactics are rendered irrelevant.
Only real complaint: one of the important map areas is on a strange angle, making the grid close to unplayable without dealing with squeezing and unrealistic positioning in the entire room. This is unfortunate, since the map is actually rectilinear and is only rotated to squeeze it onto a single page width. In this room, positioning can be critical, so I strongly recommend GMs re-draw this map on the square. (My version will go onto the pfsprep.com website shortly.)
Also make sure you have the items stats from the PRD available, since there are a *lot* of items from the Technology Guide in this scenario, and the players will want to use them.
Great fun, would run again!
Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–15: The Overflow Archives (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Great scenarioScott Young —
This is an excellent scenario that rewards GM prep. Lots of interesting NPCs that need to be distinguishable and have meaningful interactions with the PCs, plus a complicated puzzle plot, means the GM needs to have everything understood well in advance. Not a scenario to be run cold! (Not like any of them really are, but you will probably ruin this one if you run it cold.)
A few things to be aware of:
None of these are problems in design, except insofar as they encourage a more rounded PC design than many other scenarios. A well-prepared Pathfinder, quick of wit as well as blade, and well-prepared to explore, report and cooperate should succeed and have a memorable tale to tell at the end. Those of more violent tendencies may find themselves in over their heads or unable to complete their mission as effectively.
Major gripe: diagonal maps. I wound up printing the scenario map rather than making a custom one because of the 45-degree corridors everywhere. I know it makes the map interesting and makes sense from a lore point of view, but it needlessly complicates combat movement.
Well done! Will run this one again, and likely also PbP to allow some of the RP to really shine.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–10: The Wounded Wisp (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Fantastic, lore-rich scenarioScott Young —
I played this once and have read it for GMing in the coming weeks, so this review is a bit from both sides of the screen. As a player, the story is really good, with lots of interesting NPCs to interact with, and in some cases to ask for help later. The location really provides some great Society lore, and the entire plot gives interesting insight into the early days of the Society. Having said that, the NPCs were all encountered early and together, making it a bit hard to keep everyone straight later on. However, this format did draw everyone in to roleplaying, even the folks who tend to be more combat-oriented.
The combats were challenging - some mechanically, and some from a moral point of view. I found myself facing a member of my own religion with conflicting aims - which gave my PC a moment to shine and some interesting notes on my Chronicle sheet.
As a GM - I love the way the evergreen randomness provides for different experiences each time. Even with the puzzles, PCs will have to go through the process to figure things out, and combats can change completely between runs.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–05: Slave Ships of Absalom (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Great scenario for PathfindersScott Young —
This scenario exemplifies the duties of a Pathfinder - a mix of investigation, diplomacy, political intrigue, and all-out assault combat. Clumsy players can miss a lot of clues early on by upsetting their contacts, but most encounters can be solved in multiple ways.
My players also had trouble keeping track of all of the NPC names, even though they were keeping notes - I made face cards for a few, but should have done so for the rest. A lot of the names are three-syllable ones with similar cadence (especially the two principle NPCs), which seemed to trip people up.
As has been noted, players who have played through 5-03 The Hellknight's Feast have a potential tie-in to this scenario, so make sure your players check in advance and bring that Chronicle along, even if it is from another character. None of the players in my group had these accessible for me to check, so I had to wing it. (Not a big deal, but it's nice to utilize these tie-ins where they exist.)
Some things for the GM to watch for:
One potential difficulty for GMs is the significant difference between subtiers in the combats - it's not just extra minions of class levels/templates, but whole new characters and their part in the hierarchy of information. This makes it harder to correct the odd "wrong subtier" issue without a full ret-con. (Yes, guilty!)
Also, the Sovereign Court faction doesn't really get their mission until midway through the scenario (although they might succeed anyway). My group was eager to move forward and almost skipped that meeting. Make sure they get the chance to talk to their patron and receive the mission before they move on to the finale.
I will run this one again for sure!
Pathfinder Society Scenario #46: Eyes of the Ten—Part I: Requiem for the Red Raven (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Epic!Scott Young —
I have run this twice, and it is by far one of the best PFS scenarios out there. Partially since, as a double-length scenario, there is less of a time limit, but mostly because of the various connections and tie-ins to previous scenarios. Back when this was a "retirement" arc, most of the players had played the Season 0-1 scenarios that provide the background for this, but nowadays many PCs won't even know some of the NPCs. Any GM who is going to run this should arrange for the players to play a few key scenarios first, even with other PCs, so that the players get the full experience.
This is also a great scenario to pull out all the stops in terms of props, terrain, etc. Reaching level 12 is a milestone, and this sereis should feel like a special event for your players.
Two paladins and two outsiders walk into a bar in Rahadoum...Scott Young —
I ran this with a party that included an aasimar paladin, a tiefling paladin, an aasimar sorceress, a human fighter and a gnome bard. The scenario set-up was the longest ever, because of some great in-character discussions on exactly what is illegal in Rahadoum and how it would affect their characters. This is a great scenario for roleplaying, and also for divine characters to really have some moments to shine outside of their usual role of "heal-smite-repeat".
GMs need to prep this one thoroughly, though - there are a lot of reactive elements where things change based on what the players do when, to the point that the encounter areas on the map change completely. You need to know who does what when, so you know what the party sees when they enter a room. You also want to research Rahadoum and its "Laws of Man", and consider how this affects divine characters - don't derive it at the table, plan out how this will work in advance because there is a lot of grey area in how you handle it.
Plus, iconic characters from fiction! We had one paladin ask for an autograph at one point.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #5–05: The Elven Entanglement (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Kobayashi Maru in the surprise roundScott Young —
I played this with 4 PCs at subtier 7-8; we had a barbarian-7, bard-8, fighter-9, inquisitor-10, and a 5-star GM. I was very excited about the scenario intro - tie-ins to a novel I had just read, an area of Golarion I'd never been to, lots of Season 5 plot potential. Some good RP at the beginning sent us on our quest, and our allies were even kind enough to teleport us to where we were going.
... which turned out to be within reach of the largest creature I have ever seen in PFS, who gets a surprise round and uses an area attack that deals an average of 45 (max 60) damage, to the entire party, that really couldn't be avoided (there was a Reflex save for half, but I failed it with a 27). Our GM rolled in the open and rolled low, so we survived the surprise round. (If you manage not to be surprised, this is delayed slightly.
Things were looking grim. Luckily, there were some allies to help...
... but they had to be convinced we were on their side. A 38 Diplomacy check by our bard wasn't enough to convert them all, and so a bunch of them attacked us as well in Round 1, doing another 10-15 points to half the party.
Then it was our turn...
... although, since the creature was across a river, terrain was a problem (not for it, just for us). Some ranged and spell damage to the beast ensued. Then the allies (on higher ground and unreachable) shot us again, and then the creature used its area attack again, doing another 80% damage to three of the four party members. The bard managed to stay far enough away that he still had 7 hit points, but the other three (including both above-tier PCs) were dead. At this point, a second insanely high Diplomacy check by the bard converted the rest of the allies to our cause, and they concentrated fire on the beast and took it down. (Probably due to our GM taking pity on us.)
So, after spending enough Prestige to get raised and remove 1 negative level (there wasn't time to wait a week to remove the second one), we were able to start the actual mission.
From this point the scenario was very good - a mix of combat and roleplay, some really cool environmental and terrain effects, and a great sense of what may be to come from other Season 5 scenarios. It was still hard, with a negative level and environmental effects that were quite hard to avoid completely, plus other encounters that tried to delay you and make you spend more time in the harmful environment. Still, I loved this part - really hard, thought I was going to die, but just made it through.
If the first encounter hadn't happened, this would be a 4-star scenario for sure, maybe higher. Unfortunately, as-is, I suspect the first encounter really can't be handled by most in-tier PCs (at least at the low subtier).
Alas, we're going to think long and hard about offering this one again in our Lodge. I still have hope - there hasn't been a lot of feedback yet, so maybe there are ways for the scenario to be "run as written" without requiring a TPK in the first encounter. It really is a great scenario story-wise, but my fear is that only the uber-combat builds will survive to see the story unfold.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #4–09: The Blakros Matrimony (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Very non-traditional scenarioScott Young —
My first run of this scenario started at 6:30pm, and we didn't roll the first initiative check until 9:45pm. If your character doesn't have any skills that can't be used without rolling initiative, this scenario will show you the weakness to that approach to character building.
Those 3 hours of roleplaying were pure gold. Several of my "top ten" moments at the table were replaced last night by new ones that occurred during this scenario. There is a useful mechanic for quantifying the roleplaying and skill checks, and all success for the Society mission hinges on non-combat events.
There is combat, but it is refreshingly different - story-driven rather than "here's something you know you can win". Maybe you can win, maybe you can't - maybe you're not even fighting the right people because you made a mistake or didn't think before you acted. (And, depending on your favorite weapon, you might be severely hamstrung - security disapproves of people walking around with loaded muskets or longspears at a wedding reception.)
Highlight of the night: our non-Qadiran dervish dancer challenges the Qadiran faction leader to a dance-off.
If you are a Pathfinder in the tradition of Durvin Gest or Eando Kline, you will love this scenario. If you are one of those Pathfinders who can only do maximum damage with a single weapon and not much else, you might be ill-suited to this mission's requirements.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #4–05: The Sanos Abduction (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
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Interesting, memorable NPCs, cool fightsScott Young —
Played this first, and now prepping it to run. I really liked the scenario set-up, although there was some grumbling about why the PCs are being delivery boys... some hint of trouble or suggestion to "check up" on the researcher and ehr crew might be in order. (She's a gnome after all - everyone knows you can't leave them alone very long without something exploding!)
The enemies were disturbing... several players said, "XX creature? Who DOES that?" which helped build up antipathy for the BBEG. They were also sufficiently scary and easy to underestimate, which was a nice surprise.
Also - it's nice to see enemies whose abilities and save DCs actually challenge players of the appropriate level. Nothing turns encounters boring faster than a cool enemy that the PCs are immune to because her save DCs are laughably low.
Enjoyed playing this one a lot, looking forward to running it soon.
Eat a sandwich!Scott Young —
It's clear this zombie died of starvation before reanimation... he's really skinny in comparison to the other humans in the set. :) He does have a great facial expression, and the pose kind of works, but also kind of looks like he's in the Thriller video. Not my favorite, but nice as one of many zombies shuffling across your table.
Great scuplt, wierd poseScott Young —
This wolf looks great, but it's in such a specific pose that I can't see using more than one at the table. If you put four of these guys out in a pack, ti would look like they were in a conga line or something. Would have been a good third option for a wolf, but as the only one it's a bit limiting. Of course, there are other wolves out there from other sources that will work as companions to this one.
Sargeant of the GuardScott Young —
This guy is a good match for his guardsman subordinate. His shield is a bit too simple for me - sure, it's a simple steel shield, but it's too big of a piece of plastic to leave plain like that without it looking... plain. Room for a painted or decalled town logo, though...
'Ello, 'ello, what's all this, then?Scott Young —
I love this guy - simple, but exactly what I imagine when I think of the "town guard". The lantern is a great touch - who calls the guard during the day anyway?
Only complaint: in two bricks, I got one guard, but three officers to boss him around.