Imeckus Stroon

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RPG Superstar 8 Season Dedicated Voter, 9 Season Star Voter. Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber. ******** Venture-Captain, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh 1,721 posts (2,553 including aliases). 25 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 53 Organized Play characters. 4 aliases.



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Solid outing, good combat, great encounters, but definitely not perfect

3/5

Cornered Rat was a lot of fun to run. I think my players had a good time. My prep process, though, wasn't a lot of fun

Strong points

First, I think you have to mention the combats. There are two: one is solid (or a little better), and the second is excellent. A single boss with excellent tactical options and lots of variety! These are the kinds of combat encounters I want to see more of.

I'm not a fan of starship combat in general, but even I can say the starship combat was just fine. That probably means it's pretty good!

The exploration mechanics, both on the way in and on the way through, were really well done. Just enough there to keep people guessing.

Weak points
The plot tries to tie a lot together into a nice shiny bow. It's not easy, and when you've got a storyline that's been going on as long as this one it's really hard to do well. The scenario does make the attempt, and I'd call it average, but not a particularly wonderful success. Rather than naturally developing answers, there's a lot of "narrative in a can" style reveals. (You surmount challenges and then you encounter a "narrative can" that you open up to get narrative!) It's not particularly engaging or anything, and it relies on the players to bring their own enthusiasm around the importance of the reveal. That said, with so many threads to weave into a coherent whole, this wasn't an easy task. The scenario doesn't fail--it's fine--it's just not better than fine.

Preparing the adventure, I saw that the development was also really solid right up until it fell down in one specific place.

Spoiler:
That maze! Ugh!

Okay, so: the maze was very well-conceived. The mechanics are fine. Forgetting to communicate the things on the map that only were supposed to exist on the map was kind of a problem. There are labels, one of which is missing, many more of which are clearly not in the right place. The intersections, supposedly labeled, were never added to the map. That leaves it up to the GM to solve the maze during prep, identify their own intersections (that have implications because of the timer the players are on!) and so forth.

It doesn't even have to be on the map, because if the text had simply stated how many intersections there were between each of the defined challenges we could have made it work anyway. The rules for moving through the maze are really good in that sense!

Since I'm on the topic of the maze: outside of the map situation, things were good. One possible improvement is that I thought asking the players for a direction at each intersection was really awkward in the absence of information. Ideally, there's no real information about either turn. This could lead to the party choosing correctly, completely randomly, and then missing out on loot the way some of the loot appeared in dead-ends. I think there are two possible avenues to go: first, get rid of the interactive asking of directions portion and force the PCs down dead-end paths in narrative, then allow checks for them to avoid the time penalties. Second, we could write some box text for major intersections to at least make the PC choices at least somewhat informed. Since this maze was only a portion of the adventure, it doesn't make sense to develop any particularly heavy systems to support a lot of classic maze-resolution strategy IMO, but it also felt wrong to make the players make completely arbitrary decisions.

Overall
This is a really solid adventure. I'd normally rate it 4 stars. Due to the... "complication" referenced in the spoiler, I think this is probably a 3-star scenario for me. Of course, once you do the work to address the spoiler, it's 4 stars worth of enjoyment.


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A solid dose of Salvation's End

4/5

My experience: I GMed this for a party playing in the lower level range.

Flavor's great--the environment's amazing, as is usually the case with Salvation's End. There are some fun stories to tell during the exploration portions, a big reveal, and it's overall just a lot of fun.

The combat encounters are interesting, but if you get a party with stronger PC builds, they probably won't be challenging.

The one downside from my perspective as a GM is that the maps were good stylistic fits, but poor fits on the details. What's supposed to be a wide-open room is represented by a pair of narrow rooms with a big wall down the middle. The notations on another map were confusing and potentially incomplete. I ended up having to make some judgment calls on what was supposed to go where, and I did some photoshopping to make the maps fit the descriptions better: the kind of thing you might use a marker for in person, mostly. It's not a showstopper, but I definitely had to think about it in advance.

Overall, it's a more-than-solid entry in Season 3. Everyone had a good time. I heartily recommend this.


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A flawed scenario in a fun setting

3/5

Like the title of the review says, I have mixed feelings about this one. I GMed this before the other parts of the Frozen Ambitions arc were released.

The plot, characters, and flavor:
The Veskarium portion felt very underdeveloped to me. You're doing this thing that is maybe sort of related to the evils of the Veskarium but you just totally drive by the horrors of the penal colony working its workers to death, and as a result the Veskarium representatives come across as quite reasonable people when they perhaps shouldn't. As a GM, you can play the evil up a bit more, but it's not something the scenario intrinsically deals with. The reason the Society is working with the Veskarium itself is also quite perfunctory, which contributes to the whole "glossing over" issue.

The characters you meet once you're off-planet are quite interesting, though. The scenario gets bonus points from me for making me look up kothama society, which is enjoyably crazy.

I feel like the plot may make more sense as we see more entries in this arc, but as a stand-alone scenario it really feels like it's just setting something up for later. This adventure isn't the main event at all.

The setting:
I mentioned in the plot section above that the Veskarium portion is underdeveloped. The setting of a strange, airless moon is an interesting one though and you get to run around in some exciting locations. The hobo in a crashed starship, the strange trek through floating ice razors, the shrine on the airless mount; all interesting and unusual places. I felt like this was a strong suit of the adventure, and would love to see more interesting venues like it.

Editing, development, consistency:
I felt like I had to keep fixing things throughout the entire scenario and it got on my nerves a little bit at the end.

At the beginning, the event that strands you on the other side of the portal is subject to some awkward double-fixing with both the portal winking out and a cave-in sealing you off from the portal. I'm not sure how that came about, but it felt... very contrived. One or the other seems to have been added later, as there's contradictory text you may want to change.

Someone also felt the urge to get very detailed with sounds and smells throughout the entire adventure, despite the vast majority of the scenario taking place in a vacuum--a basic mistake that really made the whole thing feel amateurish. That there were two long conversations that were probably also held in a vacuum--it's hard to push air through your vocal cords to make vibrations that are carried by the atmosphere when there's no air and no atmosphere--just added to the frustration. As a GM you can work around it and invent pressurized areas where you can talk, or you can just not take it seriously and ignore the glaringly obvious issues, I suppose. It did make telepathy and certain non-verbal communication skills more useful, at least.

The crashed starship area could have been developed better or further or more consistently--a little extra detail about possible entry points would have been nice, as well as the expected presence or absence of atmosphere. There were some inconsistencies between the location of a trap in the text and on the map, and the trap area wasn't well-described on the map either. (As a GM, you can make a call as to where it goes and what squares it affects, but there are a lot of ways to be inconsistent.)

Some of the box text was... inconsistent with the story and my players caught it immediately and became concerned and confused. We got pulled out of the moment as I tried to backtrack and make sure that I could communicate what the box text should have said, rather than what was written. It's not the biggest of issues, but it was just significant enough to be worth mentioning.

Finally, I'm not sure what the thinking was with the summary on the chronicle sheet. I didn't even see the first checkbox, and hiding it like that makes it really hard to find. Would it have been so hard to put the checkbox on the same line as the thing it references?

Combats:
The combats were excellent. There's an easy combat with some explosions that weren't really a threat, except to the low-subtier characters playing up--but they happened to be a handy mechanism to introduce one of the obstacles to the PCs returning home. There was a brutally hard combat against some high-damage, high-HP swarms that my particular party just couldn't deal with--the HP could probably stand to have been dropped. I'm not sure I'd want to play this low subtier! And finally the shimmerstone elemental was nasty but had a reasonable out to save the party if they got in trouble.

I'd probably rate the combats as the strongest part of the adventure--a definite treat.

Note, however, that one of the combats for levels 1-2 is tuned way way high--in 1-2 you still fight one of the 40 hp swarms. I can imagine level 1-2 parties that can handle it, but most of the level 1-2 parties I've seen couldn't. I wouldn't recommend this at level 1-2.

Strong setting and combats; mixed plot and characters; and what I'd consider below-average editing and development... I'd play this without question, but it's not an instant classic and the quality of the experience is going to be heavily dependent on the GM.


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Potentially fun, but don't run for 4, and don't run for level 1s

2/5

Have only played this so far.

It's fun and generally well-written, and runs short. Short! That's amazing. We get to see a different side of Ziggy, which is also welcome. Overall, I had a good time.

The one challenge here is that IMO the difficulty knobs are tweaked too high in a couple places.

In an early encounter:
There's some nasty poison whose DC isn't adjusted downward for 1-2 subtier. It's a fairly simple thing to get poisoned twice, and that's got better than even odds of killing most characters.

Now, you can work on overcoming this with having medpatches and the medicine skill available, and it's a good lesson for players to be prepared. Even so, these are expensive for level 1s, who are unlikely to be able to afford enough medpatches to survive. I'm not so sure that's a great experience for new players.

There's also the complication that the four-player adjustment doesn't adjust the DC of the poison either, while running with 4 hurts the action economy in terms of getting medpatches on poisoned PCs. It's rough.

A later encounter:
There's also no 4-player adjustment on the last combat, which is... really problematic, given how much damage some of the challenges do there. Also considering that it's like... CR 6 or 7 or something, depending on how you calculate it? For low subtier? That seems extreme for a full party, let alone an underpowered one!

I'll probably adjust my review upward from 2 stars to 3 stars when we get a 4PA for the last encounter, because I do rather like a lot of individual components of this adventure. And it makes sense that the difficulty is high, because the swarm should be scary! But given that this doesn't run well for 4 and it doesn't run well for subtier 1-2, it's hard to review Illegal Shipment too favorably right now. Be careful with the group you run this for.


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Fun but flawed: do your homework in advance!

3/5

Many Paizo scenarios play at a particular trope, but don't go all-in. Bluerise Breakout is an exception--this is an infiltration (okay, technically exfiltration) adventure, and it goes all-in on the concept. For a party of players who are familiar with the sub-genre, it's relatively simple and straightforward, and the difficulty is about what you'd expect. If you have a party of players unfamiliar with the trope (or who don't, for whatever reason, recognize it), or a group of PCs who are ill-suited for it, it seems like it can go south really quickly.

I had a lot of fun running this one:
First, it's an interesting spin on the infiltration (or shadowrun) trope.

Second, it broadcasts the various dangers fairly well.

Perhaps most impressively, its main NPC turns this into an escort mission--but he's got skills, and the escort mission is handled in a way that nobody complained about it! That's a rarity.

I also wanted to add some props for the detail that went into the building: I found it to (generally) be statted out quite well. Contrary to some other reviews, there absolutely are stats for the cubicle walls, and you can definitely take cover from the sensors--hell, the chairs are even specifically noted as providing cover! You're not expected to barbarian-trapfind your way through the room--those traps are supposed to hurt!

An important thing to keep in mind is that there wasn't really a clock here--the PCs can take their time since the AI has limited tools for tracking them down. I'm glad the author and developer didn't give in to the temptation to add to the drama with a timer or clock here.

I also appreciated that bringing the Director out of the building had immediate, tangible effects in that he pays for healing and condition removal. That was a very nice touch.

That said, I've got some complaints--some of which have been noted by previous reviewers and some of which have not:
First, the difficulty--the enemies are a little rough. If you go in with a team that is incapable of functioning without weapons, life is going to be hard. And if you haven't gotten your weapons by the time the oozes get to you, you're going to have a really bad time. I think the scenario benefits immeasurably from having the oozes lurk in the southwest corner and slowly approach the east side, rather than sprinting there in one round. I'm also not sure what the radiation trap adds--I think there may have been better ways to add some varied challenges into the scenario than adding radiation sickness.

Second, the mismatch between player expectations and scenario expectations is a problem. This really expects a careful, considered approach with characters who have some infiltration skills. If you aren't careful--if you don't pay attention--you're going to have a bad time. If you don't have infiltration skills, you're going to have a bad time.

Third, there's a lot going on here for a 1-4, and if you as a GM aren't on top of your game, your players won't have fun. The sensors are supposed to be tricked; you can harvest weapons from the abadarmors, plus some radiation shielding mods; the doors can be hacked through (although not those blast doors); the chairs can be pulled around with you for cover; the cubicle walls can be damaged and/or cut through. These elements all work, but the GM has to be aware of them, and it's a lot to keep track of for a 1-4.

Fourth, the GM difficulties are made substantially worse by some real rough spots in the scenario. The map doesn't line up with the descriptions in a few places--like what's going on with the lab? The text description can't be right, but the map is also clearly not right. I ended up photoshopping a new glass-walled enclosure into the lab map. DCs for hiding from the sensors are missing--I ran it as anyone taking a stealth check could successfully hide from the sensors, but I'm pretty sure there was supposed to be a DC involved somewhere. The corpses of Abadarcorp employees are a critical part of the puzzle, but they aren't included on the map. A prepared GM will add them onto the map themselves, but it's going to make life harder for the more inexperienced or underprepped GMs. The last encounter fits awkwardly into the area at best. I think I ran it as intended, but it's really hard to tell.

And that map, by the lock and key! The map provided for the GM is a hot, hot mess. Taking a moment to gripe from a display of information perspective: you can't indicate multiple areas, all next to each other, using only dotted lines as outlines--you just can't! When a GM looks at those lines it's nearly impossible to tell at a glance which side of the line is supposed to be "hot"--and sometimes it's both sides at once! (/gripe) I suspect the challenge here was that there are two overlapping area maps, one for the sensors, and another for the shock grids, and it's really hard to get that right while also letting the map underneath be visible. When I prepped my own version of this map I found that a strategy using overlapping transparent area fills (with a bit of an opaque outline for good measure) was also suboptimal, but it really, really helped and worked a lot better when compared to the plain opaque outline approach.

Overall: like so many scenarios before it, this was an ambitious attempt to do something really fun and flavorful. A lot of it is done really well, but there are some rough spots that have the potential to significantly hamper the implementation. If the GM takes their time prepping this, works through the issues in advance, and lets the players know in advance to bring some infiltration skills? Then this can be a lot of fun. I wouldn't run it cold, though, and I wouldn't run it for a group of low-level ranged fighters with no sleight-of-hand. A bit of genre-savvy would also be a big help.


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A great concept, averagely executed

4/5

Storm of the End Times is a bit sloppy in some ways and it suffers for it. Even so, in the hands of a good GM or a well-prepared GM, it will still be fun.

Some spoilery challenges:
The adventure feels like a few things were missing here.

For starters, one of the NPCs is of a race that doesn't appear in any published source (rather, it appears in a previous adventure; see the GM thread). The race isn't described or explained in the scenario, unfortunately.

The scenario asks you to chat up a number of different factions and make friends with them. (Gain their favor.) There's a handy handout to help you with this, which I'll mention a little later. The scenario forgot to mention what task you need to perform to make friends with certain factions, though, or you can't make friends with them all and that fact wasn't described in the text. At least one other faction only "favors" PCs with a certain scenario boons. This is an unfortunate complication because the players can only explore a faction's location if they have gained favor from that faction. That isn't necessarily a problem, but the handout seems to indicate that you can gain favor with every (normal) faction. That, combined with the problem that there's no note saying which factions you can't gain favor with, suggests that a mistake was made somewhere in authoring or development here and some information was cut or was never written.

The handout hints at another potential issue--a final faction, the cultists, is noted in the handout as landing at a certain stage, but their appearance isn't noted anywhere else in the text! They just sort of magically appear without further comment when they blow up a pillar. Again, it can be worked around if you prepare, but it really made me think that the whole "cultists show up" event was missing.

Finally, the final combat encounter was very strange. The stat blocks were fine (not that I deconstructed them in any detail) but the setting is a ledge on a pillar that has been rigged to explode--and the explosives have gone missing! The players are strongly hinted to go defuse the bombs but there's no mention of how to do that, or where they are on the map. Again, a GM can improvise this bit and it's generally fine, but it would have been helpful to have a couple of markers on the map with an Engineering DC at least.

That said, the more I think on this, the more I like the scenario:
You get to go to a weird location, you have a bunch of social encounters interspersed with investigation, and then you have a fight at the end. It's a little trite, sure, but it's a really good mix and works for all kinds of characters.

The various factions (except for the cultists, whose entry got deleted or was never written or something) are all detailed enough to give a GM something to work with to really bring out the different personalities and make life interesting. And the astronomers are a very nice callout to a race in an Alien Archive that has some serious potential.

The setting is a great one--maybe a little reminiscent of the Gloomspires in a way, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There are a lot of little callbacks to our friend Morlamaws that I appreciated.

Finally, with enough prep, I was able to work around all of the issues mentioned above. It wasn't perfect, but it worked. Everyone at the table had a good time, which in the end is the metric by which we should measure ourselves.

I would love to give this 3.5 stars out of 5. I was going to give it 3 right after running, but after sleeping on it a couple of nights, I'm going to round up instead. Everyone had a good time with it. If the development had gone a little more smoothly, I'd probably bump this up to 4 (from 3.5) or even 5 stars.

So in sum: it can be very good. Just make sure you take the time to prep this. It's not a good one to run cold.


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Amazing stuff.

5/5

The only problem with this scenario that I've found is that it's pretty heavily tied-in with a bunch of previous plot hooks. So if you're a relatively new player, this probably won't have the same impact as if you'd played through a bunch of earlier season 1.

You get great characterization of Ziggy, some relatively balanced combats, some investigation... it even runs fast!

I've run and then played this and it earns its full five stars IMO.


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A good introduction using concepts from other games, without the fun twists

3/5

Heroes for Highdelve is a module written specifically for Gencon, with slots of uncertain length, that is supposed to be good for introducing new players to Pathfinder. And, if the ads are any indication, for selling Gencon junk.

It borrows the structure that was used with great aplomb in adventures like We Be Goblins! with roleplaying followed by dungeon delving. For new players, for whom the idea is new, this can be a beautiful experience! For old players, though, this is just going to play as "We Be Humanz!" without much of the charm. That said, meeting the [redacted] is sort of cool (again, more cool for new players...) and that's worth something. Plus, you can skip huge chunks of this and make it run in just a few minutes.

Of course, the huge volume of ads for minis of questionable quality eat up space that could have been used elsewhere. As has been mentioned before, the room descriptions are sparse (casualties of low wordcount, perhaps?) and the conclusion got typefit right off the printed page, which is also sort of a travesty.

As you can tell, I have mixed feelings about this. For new audiences, it can be an awesome experience, although you probably need a GM who's been around the block at least a couple times to really make it shine. But that's exactly the situation it's written for! So while it's not as unique as it could have been and it does have shortcomings, it's hard to hold them against it--at least too much. So I guess I'd rate it par. It is perfectly good at what it's designed to do--but it doesn't really succeed beyond that.


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An acceptably fun scenario that tries to be everything at once, and fails

3/5

Like Part 1, Part 2 is fine, it's fun, it's playable, but it can't quite decide what it wants to be. It has perhaps two parts that really desperately want to be horror, to the extent that the scenario includes a disclaimer about horror. But nothing else in the scenario is really scary, and the horror just really doesn't work.

The main schtick:
You (the PCs) get to be werewolves! But sparkly silver good-aligned werewolves! I mean, that's cool. Since you're now silvery sparkly werewolves, we're fully into "let's have fun with cool stuff" territory.

Combined part 1 and part 2 (A) spoilers:
Because becoming a werewolf is a personal decision, it makes sense that you'd have a consolation prize for the PCs who decided not to be werewolves. The consolation prize arrives in the form of an inquisitor who Bane's vs. shapechangers, and yes, it's Ichonvarde. How he makes the leap from working with you to murdering you is unclear at best. He wasn't very well-integrated into Part 1 so a GM has to work pretty hard to play up the bits we do have to make this Ichonvarde a compelling heel. But this puts the horror conceit on even shakier footing--since we're not actually on Golarion, the anti-Varisian bigotry plays as ridiculous, possibly absurd comedy. And the other listed motivation was one line in the conclusion of Part 1 where the PCs get too much credit.

Ichonvarde, for all of his motivational ambiguity, is an absolutely brutal encounter if you stand in a row and fight, and it's quite well set-up where a number of abilities related to the forest or being lycanthropes could come into play and make the PC's lives easier.

The Unlettered Encounter:
The chase is fine, really. It's sort of thematic but not really. Chases don't lend themselves to horror, especially not when you're the one chasing something else. The lead-in was nice if you're trying to make things scary, but that's about it.

Encounter B1:
Your opponents and the scene are sort of fun and sort of thematic but not so much that they add to anything. They don't detract from it either. But opening with Blindness/Deafness, really? Really? I was running this in convention slots and I broke tactics because there's no way this one goes quickly if any of those SLAs land. They already get invisibility or blur unless the PCs make use of countermeasures. Not to mention that they can't really do damage unless they're invisible or flanking, and it's just an exercise in frustration.

Encounter B2:
You need some way to show your connection to wolves, so this encounter makes the cut--I think it works really well with the scenario, actually. And the undead wolf isn't particularly scary, but it's absolutely fitting--it's a shame this is the optional encounter! If you ask me, you should always run with this and skip the next interstitial encounter.

Interstitial, the Second:
I'm so conflicted. I mean, I love love love horror. And taken in isolation, this is a well-written horror encounter! But nothing in the scenario really builds up to this. It's just all so different from anything that's happened here. The haunt asks for your deepest fears, but why? What led up to this? The PC's fears don't play into anything else before this. The tone is just so completely dissonant. And then there's the horror warning? The warning that's hardly made it into any other scenario, it appears here? It's just so bizarre. I can see why it would have been included at one point, because it does lead into the second encounter, but in the scenario's current configuration it should have been the optional in my opinion.

Final encounter:
It's nice that you get a lot of advantages for being a wolf! This encounter is interesting and appropriate and occasionally difficult. I had no problems here.

Overall:
I do actually like the scenario all right, but the parts don't fit together well, like three or four different ideas are all smushed together into one fun but ill-fitting scenario.


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A fun, if disjointed, romp through Magnimar

3/5

Disclaimer: I've run this scenario four times now, three in a convention environment.

Mysteries Under Moonlight, Part 1 can be fun, but it takes some work to get there. There are a number of set-pieces that, individually, are quite good, but as a cohesive whole fail to work together to create a consistent theme or experience. It works almost like a series of quests instead of a single scenario. When combined with Part 2, this decoherence becomes even more problematic. And like I mentioned, you as GM can work hard to make things fit together--but you really have to work. And if you want to make things work with part 2, that's extra.

First, there's some fun Magnimaran flavor:
The lord-mayor isn't getting along with the Council and the Chelaxians don't like the Varisians, because it's Magnimar and that's just how things work. But we only get hints that this is important--if you don't emphasize it, it gets lost in the players' notes.

This also plays into part 2:
Ichonvarde's motivation to turn on the party is very weakly presented here. We have the tools to do so, but the two parts are not well-integrated.

The first set-piece is comedic:
you've got the grumpy old inquisitor giving you a hard time as you interview various amusing witnesses who don't want to talk to you because the inquisitor's a jerk. The list of skills is extensive and slightly nonsensical, as most of these lists tend to be nowadays, and if you don't have time to play up the reasoning behind each and every one of those choices it's too easy for this encounter to become an exercise in "Well, if you'd like to get her to talk to you, try diplomacy, or intimidate, or for some reason perform (tuba), but not bluff this time for some reason. And if you try to intimidate you get a -6 penalty because he's gassy today." (Real skill checks changed to protect the innocent.) For this, this isn't necessarily a criticism of the author--PFS investigations have been slowly metamorphizing into this approach over the past several seasons. Mechanically, it has a lot of strengths. In terms of integrating it seamlessly into gameplay without having to step back and explain the metagame, it's frequently a problem.

Another complication is the number of NPCs in this section. You've got Davorge and Ichonvarde in addition to all the names you previously heard PLUS the witnesses. It would have really helped to have an indication of how Davorge interacts with Ichonvarde, if nothing else.

The cenotaph really wants to be horror:
It almost succeeds, but the various spirits don't support the theme well. Having friendly spirits, even just one friendly spirit, really takes the bite out of any horror theme. And this theme should only run between 45 minutes and an hour. Also, low subtier is a lot harder than high subtier, which was an interesting choice. Mummies are scary. Mohrgs are not nearly as bad.

The founder's flame is just straight combat, with a twist:
there's no real theme here outside of beating up on some fire elemental things. The haunt, though, was not well-described. I think I have some idea of how it's supposed to work and when these elementals are supposed to arrive, but I'm not positive, and I've run this a bunch of times. The language here could really stand to be cleaned up.

Ordellia's townhouse also maybe wants to be horror but ends up just being a fight:
There's no building-up of atmosphere; no sense of isolation; only a little horror, but most parties don't have a connection to Davorge since he only sticks around for a tiny portion of a scenario. They have no connection to Ordellia since she can only say 25 words per day and the players almost certainly aren't well-versed in Magnimaran lore. So there's no emotional investment; the PCs just end up fighting some stuff and silver starknives happen.

The conclusion has a lot of flavor that would have been useful at the beginning:
for example, meeting the mayor would have helped set the stage, and in fact one of my parties did that, but there's no real depth to him in the scenario; no real description. And the scenario is a bit poorer for not having his picture included, even though the art was created for earlier products.

Overall:
it's a bunch of really good encounters that don't fit together to make a scenario. Occult classes should have some fun; if you have a character who enjoys dancing, they should play it if they can. If a player enjoys Magnimar, they should have a good time with all the various call-outs. But none of them are integrated well enough into the whole for any of it to make sense to someone who doesn't come in with those advantages. This scenario would have been better-off as quests; that, at least, would have explained the disconnect between parts.


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An excellent scenario, with a couple of pitfalls

5/5

I've prepared to GM this, and ended up playing it instead.

It's one of my favorites already. It ties into existing lore with aplomb, but players unfamiliar with the area or the history shouldn't feel left out. The characters are well-developed and fleshed out, and the motivations--while some are hilarious--are plausible. The plot is solid. The dialogue sparkles, and even the stuff the players don't see is a fun read.

The final RP encounter, from the GM side, was a pleasure to prepare for and I'm looking forward to running it myself. I'm not familiar with every scenario out there, but I've played or run the huge majority of season 5 content and on, and the structure of that encounter was pretty unique. The structure might be one that is rarely appropriate, but for those situations where it is, I'd like to see it used again. On the player side, the mechanics fit seamlessly and transparently into what the party wanted to do. It went almost perfectly.

There are a few gotchas in the scenario, though. Paladins in particular and anyone interested in following the law in general would be well-served with speaking to one of the citizens early, but the scenario doesn't sell that very hard, making it easy for parties to talk themselves out of speaking with that NPC. That, in turn, makes it much more difficult to take a lawful approach. GMs should be aware and be ready to make a stronger case.

The final combat encounter is also tricky to pull off well without irritating everyone. It is, however, a rare opportunity for certain urban archetypes to shine.

And finally, from the GM side, the sidebars are frustratingly misplaced. Each of the major NPCs has information split into two parts: a couple of paragraphs as part of the main text, and a sidebar. The sidebars consistently end up a page or even two pages later than the description in the main text.

In my opinion, this is one of the best scenarios not just in season 9 but of the past few seasons. Well worth a play.

(Especially if you bring a Sovereign Court PC.)


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Pretty art, but don't plan on ever being able to sort them

1/5

There's a really top-notch selection of art here, which is really great! I'm excited to see these guys and gals in pawn form. Or... I was.

However, as owners of basically every other pawn set Paizo has ever printed, we use a lot of pawns. A lot. And we have developed ways to organize this many pawns, using the lists on the back and the numbers on the pawns to organize them. If we need a pawn, we search our spreadsheet and figure out which set that pawn is in, and which number they are at, and what size they are, and then we know exactly where, and in what binder, to go to find them.

When we have pulled ten or twenty pawns out for a game and it's time to put them back, we sort the pawns based on the set, size, and number. We know exactly where each of them lives and have no trouble putting them back in the binders.

These pawns have no identifying marks whatsoever. No names, no numbers, no set abbreviations, no list on the back to help us find these. For us, this is a complete disaster. If we ever remove these from the binder we'll have no idea where they live when we go to return them to the binders. There's no set list on the back to help us inventory these--so they're not going in the inventory at all. Guess what, we can't use them at all!

If this is how any future sets are going to be formatted, we're going to have to drop our subscription, because these are completely useless to us. It's just awful.


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The best investigative scenario I've played or run in Pathfinder so far

5/5

It has its problems, don't get me wrong. From the GM side of the screen, I can say that it's finally time (in my opinion, at least) to move all of the stat blocks to the appendix. Flipping between 3 or 4 pages for stats with the map on another, separate page is just brutal. It's got a chase scene in it, and it's a weird one of a kind I don't like. It doesn't come with necessary handouts and the chronology is too scattered--I made a cheat sheet and uploaded it to shared prep but it's really the kind of thing a scenario like this should come with. You almost cannot run it without having something like that available because the chronology isn't broken down into a list somewhere.

But the investigation works really well. All the clues came together perfectly for the party. Had the party's GM remembered to give them one more hint, they probably would have figured out the one part they missed, even. Everything just... worked. That's not normal. I was amazed.

So... it gets five stars from me. In my opinion, once you do the prep it's the best investigative adventure in Pathfinder right now, at least out of the ones I've played. Would more than happily GM again.


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One of my very favorite scenarios!

5/5

This scenario is really good at
- Providing rewarding roleplay and investigation
- Providing rewarding, interesting, challenging combats that make sense in the setting and with the mission
- Keeping players engaged
- Being pretty creepy
- Requiring some investigation but not so much that people get bored
- Has a really pretty map!
- Not railroading the PCs

This scenario is not so good at
- Providing detail about the NPCs.
- Providing detail about the setting. Why are they here? What is civilization like outside the temple?
- Being playable within a 4 hour slot
- Being quick and easy to prepare
- Making sure encounters are reasonably difficult (some encounters can be very unreasonably difficult for certain parties, especially unprepared ones)

We got through this in about 5 hours of play, 6 hours with leisurely breaks for food and bathroom. I really recommend preparing this in detail and scheduling it in a time slot that allows it to breathe without being rushed. If you are able to both overprepare and give it some extra time, it is incredible.


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Very, very good, but with some dissonance in places

4/5

This scenario was a lot of fun to run and, it seems, a lot of fun to play. It's subversive, but in a way that even a paladin can appreciate. The situation is plausible, the NPCs are creative and interesting. It can be full of combat if you want it to, or it can be (almost) devoid of fighting if that's what the party wants. The last encounter is almost glorious in how freeform it is. And the encounters, at least at high tier, had the potential to be challenging.

A couple of things irked me about the scenario, though.:

  • The sabotage significantly raises the difficulty of getting both prestige, but doesn't provide any other benefits outside of retaining your alignment. Given the increased challenge, that didn't seem quite right to me.
  • The scenario is written in a way that punishes some players for nonviolent solutions. Simply noting that the players are gifted X if they don't defeat Y would have addressed this; I think in any event, the creative solutions clause should apply, but is it really creative when the scenario pushes you in that direction anyway? It seems dangerous to assume your GM won't punish you here.

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    A good, fun, easy sandbox, with flaws

    3/5

    PFS sandboxes aren't easy. Reaping what we Sow does a passable job at it--its strengths are in the setting and the NPCs, as others have mentioned. And as such, if you enjoy roleplay, this can be a really fun scenario. Giving players the opportunity to carve their own pumpkins is the kind of low-key genius touch that helps players roleplay their characters in a fun way.

    That said, the combat encounters are about as easy as everyone else has said. That doesn't support the horror interpretation at all. And in one situation, it's not clear just how bad things get for the PCs and the town due to some serious language sloppiness.

    There's also not a lot of box text, which is fine for some and a problem for others. As you frequently find in a sandbox, some paths and approaches are better-supported than others, too.


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    Above average for some, terrible for others

    2/5

    This has the foundation for a good adventure, but some mechanical/design choices make the PCs enjoyment largely conditional on whether they have one particular trained-only skill and enough ranks in it (or a good enough roll) to notice something very early on.

    I've both played and GMed this and I've seen it go both ways. If you make the check, you get an idea of what's going on. That makes you more likely to go where the scenario expects you to go, and this'll probably be a lot of fun to play. If you don't make the check, you're probably going off the poorly-aligned rails, and you're probably going to lose gold and maybe even prestige.

    A GM who realizes this during prep can foreshadow things and amp up certain aspects of the roleplay and get the party to where they need to be, but 1-5's see far more inexperienced GMs. This isn't a great scenario for an inexperienced GM.

    It's hard to rate this because the possible outcomes are so diametrically opposed. Between 4 stars and 1, I'd like to give it 2.5 stars, but since I can't do fractions, I'm rounding down to 2.

    Play this with a good, well-prepared GM and you'll have more fun than my rating indicates.


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    A fun, above-average scenario with a couple silly bits

    4/5

    I've GMed this and think it's a pretty solidly above-average scenario.

    Strong points:

  • Lots of player agency--what you do matters
  • An obviously important task
  • Interesting fights
  • The potential for roleplay

    Things I didn't agree with or thought were less fun:

  • One of the encounters uses some particularly contrived mechanics--I don't like the "impress an NPC with a skill of your choice!" at all in this case. Although your mileage may vary. I can be a little persnickety about matching encounters with plausible mechanics. If silly mechanics don't wreck your immersion, you may not mind this at all.
  • The terrain inadvertently encourages you to fail a particular faction mission. There's no guarantee you will, but I thought it an odd design choice.

    Things to keep in mind:

  • Parties that successfully handle earlier challenges will find the difficulty in the final challenges almost negligible.
  • This is a particularly bad scenario for GMs who don't enjoy or are less proficient at improvisation, flavorful descriptions, and the like. You can make this scenario about as dry and uninspiring as you want, although the tools are there to make it more memorable.


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    Talk about a gateway drug

    5/5

    Have played this twice, both times GMed by the author. On one of those occasions his scenario totally wrecked our sinister surprise (sailor scouts!) and it was still glorious. One of the most fun scenarios I've played.


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    Has some flaws but still 5 stars and fantastic.

    5/5

    This scenario has some flaws: zero-gravity rules, it has the potential to run longer than normal even for a high-tier PFS scenario, and the final encounter at high tier has nearly 40 effects you need to keep on a cheat-sheet or in your head in order to run the encounter. I think these things are worth docking the scenario at least a star.

    It's still a 5-star scenario in my mind and I would run it again high tier in a heartbeat. The ambiance is fantastic, the NPCs are wonderful. The final encounter is tactically complicated and challenging and throws problems at PCs that are surmountable, but only if they think about it first.

    Simply fantastic. But play it high tier if you can. Not bad for something that's basically a bunch of errands...


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    A great scenario for some groups

    3/5

    This ambitious scenario has some excellent moments. The second half, in particular, is unique. However, it doesn't fully execute on its ambition--not all parties are well suited to it, but more notably, many players aren't going to enjoy the particular type of adventure this provides. There are places where the mechanics for moving between areas are just inconsistent enough to create confusion.

    When I was prepping to run this, I was excited--it's really really cool. But when I ran it, my party just couldn't wrap their heads around what was going on at all. Some of that is surely me, but I've had success running weird scenarios before, and some of it is also due to the scenario.

    If you've got a group that likes to think, this is definitely for them. I wouldn't recommend it for a group of murderhobos, though, or for a group that hasn't gotten enough sleep.


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    Dungeon climbing in Tian Xia

    4/5

    I have run this scenario and will be playing it soon. It's a rewarding scenario, provided you have played Part 1. If you haven't, there is some added bookkeeping involved that can become a bit of a hassle.

    Into the mountains:
    Mountainous adventures are always fun, but many PFS players may not have played scenarios (or APs!) where you get to experience higher-altitude adventuring. That probably should have led to a knowledge check or other warning for the PCs, but instead, they rely on McGuffins from Part 1 of this series to offset the drawback. It's nice that playing Part 1 matters, but if you haven't, you've got some extra bookkeeping to do.

    The initial encounter is very strange in that, unless you have a group that doesn't like playing series with the same character all the way through, you're almost certainly going to short-circuit it immediately. It does reward some creative solutions and provide you with an opportunity to drain some resources from the BBEG at the near-end if it gets drawn out.

    Some more information on samsaran children, how they're reincarnated, and so on would have been nice.

    It becomes a tiny bit of a dungeon crawl after that point:
    as you climb the pagoda. The optional encounter can very easily go wrong for a spellcaster-heavy party so watch out for that. Lord Mata Ryuu, if he successfully scryed on the party, can actually provide a significant challenge (especially if the party doesn't give poor Glacial Rose time to act in the first encounter). It was really nice, from the GM side, to be able to swap some spells for other spells as needed. For my players, however, a prepared wizard was more than just a significant challenge; be careful with him.

    The arrow of slaying provided at the outset of the adventure was a fantastic plot device for my group, and made the final battle incredibly easy. As a result, I don't have a lot to say about it, except that I would have liked her to have lasted more than 3 turns! She's a pretty seriously Occult character so if you were unfamiliar with her class, as I was, you have some extra preparation to do.

    Overall, it's a dungeon crawl with an interesting setup, some fun things to investigate, a strong tie-in with the earlier scenario in the series, and some potentially tactically interesting combat. My players and I had fun and I definitely think this is worth playing, especially when preceded by part 1.


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    Flawed, but playable

    3/5

    I have both played and run this scenario. It has recieved a bland response so far--it's okay, but not particularly outstanding. The primary conceit is cool; however, the implementation seems to have been somewhat sketchy.

    In the initial interactions,:
    Pathfinder agents seem to have become inured to a certain amount of arrogance, which makes the prospect of Bakten getting called out for his arrogance somewhat unlikely--at least in my experience. I think we have RPed too many VCs as too arrogant in the local metagame.

    The setting for part two is very cool:
    and by part 2, I mean the elven festival. I love the imagery. The encounter design left something to be desired. The characterizations are of mixed utility; the person described as intractibly indecisive makes one very decisive decision at the end of the encounter that isn't truly hinted-at earlier in the scenario, and it comes across as really forced. Very railroady. The maps suggested are pretty minimalist; I would have loved to have a custom map of the central area provided, but there's no tactical encounter planned there so it probably didn't make sense in terms of art budget.

    The social encounter is laid out in a fairly freeform way, with hints of the more structured social encounters seen in other scenarios like the Blakros Matrimony. I think the more freeform approach can really help in some ways, but a bit of guidance on interacting with the VIPs would have been nice.

    The overall layout and description for Part 2 was very confusing and nearly impossible to skim; god help you if you ever have to run this one cold.

    I haven't had a subterfuge option available yet but I suspect it would be more interesting than simply completing the social option.

    More information on Lord Mata Ryuu's magical situation would have been nice. Based on Part 2 I could infer some things, particularly capstone-related things, but not everyone's going to have read Part 2 prior to running Part 1.

    Part three was okay.:
    It's very hard to justify all of the different ways this particular McGuffin could potentially break. If something is buried in silt and seepage, that stuff's not structurally sound and that it is somehow necessary for the structural integrity of the thing stretches suspension of disbelief. That makes it seem incredibly railroady, both from a GM and a player perspective. The fluff on the town is nice, and very compelling--at least for good parties.

    The combat seems very hit-or-miss. Some groups have serious problems, while others--particularly with strong arcane spellcasters or ranged paladins--have no problem at all.

    A few other things could have been cleaned up...:
    The scrying and scrying foci don't match up and make it a harder sell in Part 2 than it really needs to be. And it would have been nice to have the leylines and occult unlocks sections of occult adventures included--more than the small sidebars, anyway.

    Still, if you can handle the railroad-iness, the overall effect isn't bad. The combats can be interesting and there's a good balance of social and martial encounters to be had, and the inclusion of Tian Xia and the occult make for an interesting flavor. This is an ambitious, if flawed, scenario. It's worth playing, even if it's not a classic PFS outing.


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    A mixed bag, but still worth playing

    3/5

    I played this scenario in a group of 4 at low tier at a con recently. I had a good time with this scenario, but the enjoyment was distributed very inconsistently.

    The plot was very well-written, with plausible motivations and fun details strewn everywhere. The tie-in with Serpents Rise was great, I thought--I'd played the relevant agent just the day before and thought this added a lot to their character.

    I was very disappointed with the title of the scenario:
    As a result of the supposed Blakros tie-in, I brought a PC who had joined the Blakros family (and had some interest in the museum as well) and outside of some initial conversation with Nigel, the research could have been happening in any old room with a couple of bookshelves. The Forae Logos was sort of the star of the show; I feel like the scenario probably should have been named after it instead of Blakros.

    Speaking of...:
    ...the Forae Logos, that was a very good choice of setting. Well done! We should have more adventures there. I appreciated the note about the specialist from Nex; I like the idea of a wizard simply not making time for the largest library in Absalom until he can clear off his schedule, and it helps tie the world together for players unfamiliar with the more uncommon bits of the Inner Sea.

    The additional mechanic also did not work very well for us and the party did not have much fun using it.:
    Said Blakros character I brought was an archaeologist (bard) who could match the research DCs on a roll of -2 on 1d20. This happens occasionally in scenarios and it's nice to be rewarded for being good at something, but the rest of the party felt really left out. There was no mechanical benefit for increasing our skill checks beyond the immediate DC.

    It's also worth mentioning that there was still a huge amount of variance in how many KP we accumulated. 1d12 is a huge number when you're just adding +4 or 5 or 8 to it! It made us feel a little disconnected from the research itself. ("The only thing affecting our progress was the die, not any particular skill our characters had.

    Looking at both issues we encountered, my thought would be that it would be better if the initial KP roll was lower--1d4 or 1d6 (+int modifier)--and for every 5 you beat the DC by, you added your int modifier (or another die) to the KP accumulated. That would give the entire party a reason to work together even in cases where a knowledge monkey has joined the party.

    All in all this was very feast-or-famine for us. I still recommend playing it--you might have more fun with some aspects than my group did, and when the scenario was good, it was very good.


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    One of the best Player Companions yet

    5/5

    While I don't want to go into too many details prior to a broader release, the entirety of this book seems designed to enable builds and approaches that have been conventionally undersupported in the Pathfinder ruleset, and it accomplishes its goal admirably. I think this is one of the best purchases I've made in this line, and strongly suggest it for anyone considering playing a character following one of the concepts it focuses on: poison, sniping and sneak attack, dirty tricks, and ambush/surprise rounds.

    I'm particularly fond of the additional sniping support, which has been direly needed for some time. The Dirty Fighting combat feat has the potential to steal the show, though, and may become a staple of various combat maneuver builds for years to come. Like most of the options in this book, it's probably not going to be overpowered; it just makes a previously hard-to-build concept be more effective and efficient.