Hooded Man

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Let's talk about editing.

**( )( )( )

Now, I want to be fair to the author in that, like many scenarios of the past few seasons, there has been a perceived need to shoehorn Bestiary 5 and Bestiary 6 critters into scenarios because the Bestiaries need to sell. It's all well and good that authors find opportunities to do this or that creatures are recommended, but there's a big elephant-in-the-room problem that Organized Play leadership needs to recognize when budgeting encounters:

BESTIARY 5 AND 6 DO NOT PRESENT CREATURES ON THE SAME CR SCALE AS ANY PRIOR BESTIARY.

So, the major encounter, budgeted as CR 14, runs into a major issue where it's comprised of a reasonable CR 13 creature from B2 and 2 unreasonable CR 9 creatures from B5. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out, mind you - compare the Pakalchi to a Bone Devil and you will immediately see at every possible turn that the Bone Devil is inferior, even down to base ability scores. Numerically, it's much closer to a Barbed Devil, a CR 11 creature. This is a pattern in both B5 and B6 - all creatures should have +2 adjustments on their CR across the board to be balanced to the prior Bestiaries.

Why am I saying this here, then? Because when Paizo fails to design, develop, and edit a Bestiary properly, it falls to adventure authors, Organized Play leadership, and editors to fix the problem in the scenarios themselves. The reality is that it probably doesn't matter anymore for PF1 - there's 2 months of scenarios and then it's dead. That said, for future scenarios in PF2, this sort of thing needs to be considered because the editing on some of the later entries has been atrocious. The problem I continue to see on adventure after adventure is that this sort of issue is not addressed in any fashion, resulting in encounters that far exceed what players can reasonably handle, particularly when the 4 player adjustment doesn't actually impact the threatening creatures at all.

Lyz, I liked your story and I relished the opportunity to personally execute Colson Maldris. I appreciated that we had the easy out on the final encounter because nobody could see invisibility or stop the dim door to bypass it. There was a bit much hardcoded on the investigation part, but it was rather enjoyable nonetheless.

I'm just tired of these encounters where the CR is not accurate because of garbage editing in the Bestiaries.


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Excellent content, but a bit too much

****( )

As others have noted, this scenario will run long. We had a fair amount of RP and highly capable characters, but still ran 6 hours. Fitting it into 4 hours seems like a task only made possible if you skip the RP entirely. We even did the arena stuff in 2 relatively simple rounds, but the combats simply weren't the time-consuming thing here.

That said, the content was excellent. Dis was well portrayed, with an emphasis on the planar points of intrigue. The devils each had notable personalities.

We had 3 Chelish Asmodeans at the table, though only my character supports Her Infernal Magistrix. It was fairly great, save for all the times that the other characters prevented me from killing Zarta.


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Fun RP stuff, but wtf combat?

****( )

I ran two slots of this at Con of the North, one in each subtier. I played it in 8-9 subtier prior to running.

The enjoyable:

  • The players enjoyed the lore elements of the scenario that were relatable to their prior play experience and the cargo cult feeling of the situation.
  • When transparently run, the investigation piece was really enjoyed by the players.
  • A lot of elements felt novel and interesting to me as a GM.

    The painful:

  • The 8-9 subtier final encounter is not well balanced, but this is largely the fault of Bestiary 5 throwing balance out the window. Psychementals are improperly CR'd at best. Putting 3 of them in as "mooks" is somewhat inappropriate for this subtier.
  • The scenario required a lot of prep due to the amount of if->then logic and organization of the material.
  • The investigation can be difficult to convey transparently without simply describing the mechanics.
  • There was not enough care put into including guidance for a very likely scenario regarding Lin Fen Hai - namely, any abilities that might result in the combat ending somewhat peacefully without her being able to return to town.
  • One item has not been addressed in the GM thread still regarding the investigation piece, where one of the locations has twice the text of some other locations and significantly more information that's relevant to the investigation, but provides no mechanical benefit. I maintain that this is an error by omission.

    Ultimately, I had two good tables for the scenario as the players took the mission to heart. Sincere and successful efforts were made to subdue and talk to Lin Fen Hai after she attacked - one party had 2 Slumber-capable characters and the other had Ritual of Reparation. Zero guard deaths later, both parties found themselves in the position of having adequate reason to be able to attempt Diplomacy checks and adjust her attitude as a result. Both tables struggled with the final encounter, but the 8-9 table definitely was the worse-off for it.

    I think the author had a good scenario here and the challenges with it likely come in at the development level.


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    A scenario to feel Good about

    *****

    I wrote a giant review and the website ate it. Bottom line: the story is compelling, filled with the original goals of the Shadow Lodge and empathy, along with the understanding that not all wounds are physical. The mid-scenario encounter is just as deadly as everyone else says, as it's a unique critter (at least, in high subtier) that is effectively a Dire Tiger with upgrades, but no CR adjustment.

    Good use of Occult mechanics, good RP opportunities interspersed, and, most importantly, a compelling objective for the Good-aligned PCs.


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    Satisfying, difficult, and deep

    *****

    I ran this for a very experienced, RP-focused party with 3 Scarab Sages members. The party felt genuinely threatened by the encounters and engaged well with the story elements.

    From the GM perspective, there's a lot to think about with this scenario. I'm a 4 star PFS GM who specializes in mid-high tier play and I spent 2 weeks preparing the scenario, but still faltered on some details during the encounters. This scenario has a lot of depth with a lot of elements to portray, but some of that portrayal is condensed into mid-encounter chatter and visions. Portraying how fight mechanics work while the combat is ongoing is essential to making the players understand what's going on.

    The players all loved the scenario, saying that it felt like it was a multi-table special in content and tone. Avoiding as many spoilers as possible, one of the single best elements of the scenario is how it dives into history-as-experienced, particularly for otherwise hard to nail down NPCs.

    Appropriate tables for this adventure will come prepared for a variety of situations, be combat-capable for complex encounters, and have a strong desire to fulfill the goals of the story over quick one-shot combat capacity. It's worth noting as well that the combats are exceptionally dangerous for some compositions, particularly if the level spread is large and the scenario is pulled into high tier.


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    Amateur philosophy hour(s)

    **( )( )( )

    Generally, I agree with a lot of prior sentiment that I'm seeing in the reviews. There was little canon regarding Roidira, so I can't fully blame any single party for trying to define and explicate her philosophical underpinnings.

    Pros:
    *Social scenario with definite non-Diplomacy answers.
    *Combats were relevant to the plot and conveyed information about the story being presented.
    *The story was mostly coherent.
    *Lorah is an entertaining NPC.
    *The Sunwrought Festival was pretty fun.

    Cons:
    *Philosophically equivalent to a 15 year old's interpretation of Nietzsche.
    *Seriously, the lizard. There are very reasonable complaints about the lizard, particularly since the Young template is one of the least balanced CR adjustments.
    *Quiz Show felt pretty bad for PCs who were not in any way, shape, or form interested in Roidira beyond the mission and the scripted assumption that the PCs did have interest was made ridiculous.

    The scenario felt less like an investigation and more like story time in many regards - I spoke probably twice as much as the sum of my players. So much of the scenario attempted to script the PCs and, quite frankly, that is not a reliable way to write a scenario, nor an engaging one. I had walked in with some amount of excitement for what the scenario could offer, but the reality was that none of my players were particularly on-board with the premise of the railroad and there was little I could do to change that. Uncovering information on a cult can be pretty interesting stuff, but a petty, pretentious, and juvenile goddess is not an engaging subject, even to the party nihilist who might otherwise share some viewpoints with her.


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    Great flavor, some questionable filler

    *****

    Update: I was able to play the module recently, albeit modified to fit into a more reasonable day. I think we completed it in about 11 hours, but we also had cut a number of the encounters. Exploration remains very long. I was glad that we cut out several sections for time.

    Original review:
    I had a much more in-depth post, but the website ate it. I ran this module as part of a 24 hour fundraiser event.

    Fort Breakthrough: Solid first level adventure, very engaging to the party. Est run time: 4.5 hours.

    Storm: Perfection. Very quick, but the players really engaged with the town in a way no other adventure ever has. The players absolutely loved Oyin and I loved how much a mundane cat added to the personality of the adventure. The subsystem was basically run over by the party of 6, who would have had enough successes for the best result even if they skipped everything after the skill check section. Est run time: 1.5 hours.

    Out of town: LONG! Probably two sessions of content. Some excessive filler, IMO, that didn't particularly advance the story (esp. the coral capuchin thing). Travel to set pieces means you have to spend a lot of time re-establishing what the players are doing. Weather was interesting for a while, but really frustrated the archer in the group. Est run time: 9 hours.

    Sky Tempest Temple: We were exhausted by this point, so I'm unable to be completely fair to the content here. The only thing that truly mattered to me was the MIREBORN LIZARDFOLK CHAMPIONSHIP! It was a hit with the PCs and it woke me up quite a bit after being about 18 hours into the module at this point, including our breaks.

    Daruthek's lair: I really can't be fair to this - we rolled up on this at about 19 hours in and the players could have bodied every encounter in here without much issue. Daruthek is really cool as a villain, but I felt like the encounter lacked a bit of oomph. That may have just been the tired talking at that point, though.

    Great module. Don't do it in one sitting like me.


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    Solid overall

    ****( )

    tl;dr: I think it's a good book with lots of options, but there are reasonable gripes about it. Some people think it's full of spoilers, but I tend to disagree.

    Pros:
    -Compelling write-ups for a significant number of Golarion organizations
    -Huge number of character and NPC options to play with.
    -Character options allow for diversified characters for each organization, such that you could build a primarily Bellflower character or similar.

    Cons:
    -Some of the reprints that could have used polish ended up being straight copy/paste.
    -Not enough page space to devote to a number of other important factions, particularly factions that tend towards villainy.
    -Very short for a hardcover - clocks in at 192 pages.

    Mixed:
    -There are a significant number of reprints. When I asked about this at PaizoCon, the response was that this inserts a huge number of options that previously were in campaign setting and softcover books into the "rules" line, where they will be added to the PRD (assisting scenario/module development by preventing reprints within the scenario/module) and have a more agile FAQ/errata process to fix any issues. I understand how this operates within Paizo's business structure, but still #FeelsBadMan.

    -A lot of people are complaining that the organization write-ups effectively spoil certain APs, particularly Hell's Rebels, Council of Thieves, and Curse of the Crimson Throne. I tend to view the relevant entries as being canonized results within the rest of the world and, while it has some material that impacts the way players might engage with those APs, it presents relevant options for 2 of the 3 APs from what I can tell.


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    Painful

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    0 xp, 0 prestige chronicles are never fun. This scenario was painful in ways I wasn't anticipating.

    Party: Amiri, Lem, 7 bard with the bottle + smoke song combo, and my ectoplasmist 5. Low tier, 4 player adjust.

    GM admitted that he forgot the Haste bombs on encounter 1, which would have murdered the not-Lem bard. We managed alright because of that. Go to encounter 2, surrounded quickly, both Amiri and I were wrecked by the under-CRd mummies and we fled.

    This screams overtuned to me.


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    Repetitive, generic, and occasionally setting appropriate

    ***( )( )

    If you want an indication of how the module was written, look no further than the included pull-out map on the print edition. Rather than include any area with machinery, it's a generic flip of a fortress wall, an interior stream, and what amounts to a run-off structure.

    The module takes place in 3 areas over 4 acts - two of these are generic mines, with 1 sq = 10 ft scaling and constant squiggles. When the mines aren't completely generic, they're kind of fun. There's some nice RP with a few mutants, a couple likable NPCs, an absolutely hilarious encounter that is shoehorned in, and little else. Could have happened anywhere.

    Act 3 has a primal magic event system with a few claw-out-my-eyes moments, including the need to create elementals that have 4+ templates to reach the likely CRs necessarily for the mana storm. I didn't realize that elementals pretty much stop progressing at CR 11. There are use-activated items of CL 17 and characters who could reasonably be casting at CL 19, meaning custom generation of elementals, up to and including adding templates to Gozreh's herald just to fit a poorly thought out table. It is my hope that the Bard Creature + Fighter Creature + Giant + Advanced Elder Earth Elemental I had to generate (CR 17) comes out and starts attacking with dance moves. Note that Act 3 is not part of the sanctioned content for PFS, unless running the Seeker Arc rules.

    Act 4 happens in a place that is befitting of the Mana Wastes - a huge factory...just large enough to fall off the edges of a single map. Assuming the final BBEG can act, it can be wonderfully evocative and interesting. This is unlikely, however, based on a number of factors, not least of which is his abysmal initiative modifier. This is the most setting-appropriate section of the adventure, but also the most likely to be derailed, assuming that players did Act 3.

    It's a grand romp, otherwise, but it really didn't feel very specific to the Mana Wastes.


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    Some flaws, but largely enjoyable

    *****

    The single biggest challenge with this scenario is that it requires the GM to prep and extrapolate a lot. If you're GMing, make sure you take additional time to understand what's going on and read the PFS GM thread. I've run this 3 times now and have found the scenario very enjoyable, despite what others have said here.

    NPCs are fun to work with here and the scenario offers a lot of room for players to RP with them and each other. With the number of oddities in Mercy, you can find parties that are highly suspicious of the activities in town or that do things that offend the townsfolk, which can be fun to play around with. From the GM seat, I found those aspects to be really compelling and greatly enjoyed the way the party got creeped out throughout the scenario.

    My understanding is that the published version had to significantly trim down the submitted word count, which explains some oddities of the scenario. Ultimately, this ends up being a non-issue for most tables as you can prep around any areas of concern. A lot of the issues have been hashed out in the GM thread. While the scenario is difficult to run properly without significant preparation, I feel that its other merits compel me to avoid weighing down my rating based on prep time.


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    Frustrating but potentially fun

    ***( )( )

    I've both played and run this scenario.

    Pros: some limited interesting RP, somewhat free-form sections, the possibility of a social TPK

    Cons: Several sections appear to be "read the author's mind" in nature and are not intuitive to either the players or the GM. Skill check DCs are absurdly high. The secondary success condition is nearly impossible with many party configurations as it depends on having a series of specific skills in a series where you can't really get help from others. The level of preparation required for the GM is incredibly high for a 5-9 scenario - it feels in prep more like a particularly complex 7-11, but it doesn't feel commensurately satisfying in play.

    Ultimately, I felt fatigued simply preparing it. I would have rather done pretty much anything else with my time because it took an investment of entirely too many hours just to wrangle the last two sections. The players burned through the first section very quickly, but the scenario slows to a crawl very quickly once you're actually in the Bronze House. As we got to the confrontation, it was clear that the players were exhausted and I had to tell them that there was basically an entire act remaining as they started to pack up. They seriously thought they were done at that point.

    Despite getting the social TPK cost of 5 PP applied to all of them, the players all enjoyed the scenario and I had a good enough time, but I would not have interest in running this scenario again for the amount of effort involved.


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    Amazing

    *****

    Played in the 5-6 subtier. Solid adventure, nice mid-scenario subsystem, kind of a DPR check for a final encounter...but the descriptive text is what sells me.

    10/10, would innuendo again.


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    Dated and easily derailed

    *( )( )( )( )

    I am so late to this party. Finally ran this scenario tonight. It does not hold up well. Most of this is simply the change in expected power levels combined with the unpredictable nature of regional meta. When written, this was probably a much more interesting and challenging scenario. The party was very well-balanced and, as typical for the MN lodge, we had a table of 6 (not the greatest situation here) - Occultist 9, Bard 8, UC Rogue 8, APG Summoner 9, Fighter 8, and Alchemist 6. I'll be describing these in spoilers just for space's sake.

    Waystation + Sledding Up:
    There was very little to work with for Rysam and Krysher. I had handed out the faction missions with the explicit "these are not for prestige" statement and the Liberty's Edge folks tried to shake down Krysher immediately. They could tell he wasn't fully honest, but did not do anything to derail things here. He was summarily executed by the UC rogue at the end of the scenario.

    I handed out the dogsledding rules, the party determined who could best handle mushing, and they were off to the races. The ascent was thoroughly described, though the fact that there are only 2 events on the way up was somewhat disengaging for the players. They eagerly seized on what was available, though, and figured out some things about the taer and Aspis presence with The Bodies.

    The avalanche was one of the things I was most concerned about. Having read the rules thoroughly on this in advance, I was relatively certain that this would either be a non-issue or a TPK, as determined solely by the result of the d6 roll. I got a 2, it was a non-issue. 1 character was buried, but the Occultist could use telekinesis to remove 250 lbs. of snow per round, while the eidolon could clear 1400 lbs. per minute without tools. I'm glad it was relatively forgiving in that a 2 or higher trivialized the encounter since a 1 is almost always going to be a TPK. The only PC in the party who could make the strength check to escape being buried was the fighter. The eidolon was flying the entire time, so even then it wouldn't have been a TPK for this group - it would only take about 5-10 minutes to clear everyone with just the eidolon working.

    The Maw:
    The players were thoroughly amused that the anger of the taer barbarians make them stinkier. The 5 barbarians lasted less than 2 rounds. This, however, is where the scenario broke.

    Quote:
    The monstrosity arrives a few minutes after PCs start digging...

    A few minutes, eh? Well, the ice was destroyed in approximately 18 seconds by the fighter + eidolon. Mind you, this fighter is not a two-hander, but a sword and board defender. They find the bones, pop them in a haversack (still under the 1 minute mark by my count) and start heading back to the sleds, objective in hand. I decided that their "few minutes" were up at this point and had the remorhaz appear by the eggs. The party opted to go to the sleds and leave since the remorhaz can't keep up with the dogs. A couple Handle Animal checks later and the secondary success condition is essentially automatic - the waystation was never on fire because the taer were never enraged into attacking.

    The Descent:
    The Handle Animal checks were fine all the way down and started being hot as soon as the Aspis rolled out. The Occultist uses telekinesis to devastating effect here, throwing one of the sleds into another, sending all 4 Aspis agents flying. The eidolon flies over to another sled and simply destroys the front end, freeing the dogs and sending the Aspis agents into the snow. The Occultist then telekinetically grapples Fyrth, who remains stationary as his musher and sled move at increment 8 speed. In effect, the encounter was over in slightly more than 1 round.

    What bothers me here is that this was assumed to be a chase. Frankly, even a 3.5 core-only party could resolve this within a round without leaving the sleds within 1-2 rounds of "combat." Some suggestions from the party for resolution:

    • Cast sleep on the dogs.
    • Fireball the dogs.
    • Shoot the dogs.
    • JUST TARGET THE DOGS.

    Frankly, this entire encounter could be resolved with level 1 spells at range as long as you can make the violent motion concentration check. It sounded cool, it was interesting to prep, but the reality of it was simply not a letdown.

    Wrap-up:
    This was non-existent. The scenario was easily derailed at The Maw, so Act 5 literally did not happen. It is also not particularly clear what an appropriately leveled caster with Create Water prepared does to the fire - I assumed a bucket of water is 1 gallon and Create Water is going to give you at least 10 gallons, which leads me to believe that I should be doing level*2d4 "healing" with each casting of a cantrip.

    As mentioned above, the PCs suspected Krysher was up to no good and summarily executed him in the kitchen before leaving. I cut to Osprey and started writing chronicles at this point because there was not a whole lot of anything to work with here.

    Gold:
    Where do I even begin with this? I want to start with expletives, but I'd rather not invoke the wrath of the moderators.

    First, the gold is INCREDIBLY low. Like, a full tier behind. I actually pulled chronicles from 3-7 scenarios in advance to compare and it's within 100 gold on a significant number of them. I was amazed that there was not a revised chronicle for this scenario and, if I didn't have the option to do a level 1 version of the chronicle, I simply wouldn't have taken GM credit for the scenario. The players were baffled by the max gold on this scenario.

    Second, nearly all of the wealth is predicated on two encounters: the remorhaz and the Aspis ambush. I took a liberal reading of the conditions ("defeat" being that they successfully completed the remorhaz encounter via bypass, just like traps, and the PCs certainly "survived the ambush"). Were I to take a more strict reading of the scenario, the players could have gotten full prestige, but walked out with only 333 gold for the chronicle. That is ridiculous. I felt bad enough with the 3531 gold in the 8-9 subtier, but to reduce it further? No. Absolutely not. This is woefully out of line with other scenarios in the tier. Even the Alchemist, who pulled in out-of-subtier gold, barely got rewarded for his efforts. Seriously, I apologized to the players for how lame this chronicle was.

    The players, in the end, thanked me for doing the best I could with a dated scenario. It had so much promise, but just a few issues caused the whole plot train to derail. Thinking through it, though, I want to stress that literally everything that happened could have been duplicated with a 3.5 core party. Whether that's a failing of the play environment of the time or a lack of imagination on the part of the author, I'm not sure, but this felt like a 3-7 scenario with 5-9 written on it by accident given that it certainly did not predict the types of resources available to 8th and 9th level characters. Additionally, because of the unique subsystem presented for dogsledding and use of relatively obscure pieces of the ruleset (altitude, avalanches, and cave-ins, for example), the preparation was significantly more difficult than other 8-9 scenarios I've run.

    In short, don't run this for players who know how to play the game. If you do run it, it's ideal to do so in Core and with 4 players. Frankly, the design felt as though it failed to plan for the existence of casters. This severely undermined the fun of everyone involved.


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    Good product, some issues

    ****( )

    Great variety, good content for the price. It feels like the book was rushed through production at the expense of editing, however, and will require a fair amount of errata. Almost fully functional, but a few of the things that need errata are rather essential things, such as one of the Inquisitor's abilities that simply has no function without the errata.