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RPG Superstar 8 Season Marathon Voter, 9 Season Marathon Voter. FullStarFullStarFullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 19 posts (20 including aliases). 215 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 19 Organized Play characters.



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A challenging introduction for new players

***( )( )

I played this scenario yesterday, knowing all too well that parts 2 and 3 wouldn’t be PFS legal. I suppose that’s my biggest complaint as well: it’s a part 1 that won’t get a legal follow up. Only a portion of the various factions will get addressed and new players will only get a glimpse of a select few of the factions.

I mentioned the words ‘new players’ deliberately. It’s for those players that this scenario is great. You get a plethora of different challenges that you have to solve. It gives you a nice impression of what the various things you can encounter in Pathfinder Society. There’s some role-playing, creative thinking, fights and challenges. In short it’s everything you need for an introduction.

For more experienced players it still is enjoyable, but not remarkable. It’s basically a bunch of ‘fetch this for me’ quests and lacks story (not to mention a solid conclusion). It’s similar to the Silverhex Chronicles or Phantom Phenomena, but without an overarching storyline that brings it all together. A special mention should be the final encounter though. That one can still be quite challenging. It’s a shame it’s a five-foot corridor, though that can also be a blessing I suppose.

In short it’s a challenging introduction for new players and the last fight can be brutal. More experienced players will still enjoy this, but will likely want more of a story. The fact that it’s the only part in a series that’s still PFS-legal, also slightly lowers my overall rating. I’m a little OCD when it comes to such things. I honestly felt like I needed a better conclusion and storyline. I still had fun though, and I can see this being great for new players. For more experienced I'd look for something different.


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A rebellion done right

*****

The story of overthrowing a tyrant is an often used plot in tabletop roleplaying, or any game for that matter. Helping the oppressed and freeing them from their shackles is always a gratifying thing. This is no different for this scenario. This scenario consists of two parts: preparing for a rebellion and the coupe itself. Typically in pathfinder society one of these parts is amazing and the other is okay-ish . This time I’d have to say that both parts are fun and challenging.

The preparation phase more or less consists of doing four tasks. A few are similar in the way they can be solved, but they each contribute differently to the rebellion itself. Our group had a lot of fun, especially since my gullible gnome wasn’t informed of our actual plans by the rest of party, much to the hilarity of everyone at the table. While the table was plotting, my gnome summoner was asked to play a cardgame outside in order to not interfere with our plans. While my entire party was bluffing and passing along secret messages, my gnome consistently rolled a 5 or lower on sense motive. I never was more pleased to have such terrible results.

We did well with our preparations, but as is to be expected, a rebellion is still dangerous. That can easily be said for the combats. The enemies can hit very hard and dish out a bunch of damage. As we were playing on the high tier with two level 9 casters (including a tanky eidolon) and two level 6 frontliners, we did take a severe beating. The fights were rough, potentially lethal, but still fun. One of the classes, or more specifically the archetype, that was used in the last couple of encounters really was unique and left a lasting impression.

This scenario just works. There’s something for everyone. Roleplay-heavy groups will enjoy setting up the rebellion, whereas murderhobo’s will enjoy the fights. Getting dragged to help set up the rebellion is a bit abrupt, but that’s probably because of the fact it’s a scenario and thus has to fit in a fixed timeslot. If you can get past that point and start getting ready to overthrow the establishment, you’re bound to have a good and challenging session.


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A good example of what a special should be like

*****

Multitable specials always bring something extra to an event. No matter what level you are, you are a part of something clearly bigger. You’re all trying to achieve the same goal; in this case saving a city.
In more recent years, say season 6 to 8, this basically means that groups have a couple of paths to choose from and that basically only the monsters you face are different. You still work together and it is still fun seeing districts slowly come under Pathfinder control, but it misses the real interaction between tiers.

That last part is something that this special actually does well during its final act. The tiers are divided in three groups and they all have different task to accomplish. When a group succeeds at their task, it has an impact on the other groups. If the high level tables are struggling, they can suddenly get a boost because the lower tiers successfully fired a siege weapon. Even though you as a low tier don’t fight the bosses directly, you indirectly have a big impact. In terms of interaction between tiers, this is an improvement compared to the later specials.

The highlight for me, however, is act 2. There are basically 5 districts you have to secure as they’re under attack. This is translated into 12 different, sometimes district-specific, events. These events are not just standard ‘here, have combat and here’s another one’. Instead there’s a mix of combat and social events, which all differ in nature. For example one combat requires you to hold a position and only shoot at targets, another have you check a house if it’s a safe refuge. One of the social events tasks you finding and bringing back pathfinders who are outside the wall, another has you acquire medical supplies as cheap as possible.

In short this means that there’s an event for everyone. While you should roll which event you get, it also puts a GM in a position to tailor the entire experience to the players at his table. If you notice they are bored of fighting all the time, you can toss in a social event. If you know your players just want to smash things, you can put the emphasis on combat encounters. It allows you to really adapt based on the situation and cater to the needs of the players at your table. If you do, they’ll definitely have more fun.

Compared to the latest special, the Sky Key Solution, this flexibility is far superior to the ‘pick one route with a single theme’. Players are likely going to have a better time and as a result the special will be more memorable. I’ve GM’ed both and can safely say that while a portion of what I prepared never got used, that portion is still considerably smaller than the Sky Key Solution. There were also less mechanics to keep track of, so this special is a clear sign that less can be better. I honestly hope that newer specials will be more like this one than some of the recent ones.


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The League of Extraordinary Planar Characters

*****

First we had Goblins. Then we had Kobolds and Aspis. And now Paizo took it one step further: We Be Something Elemental. It’s Paizo’s latest scenario using a concept that has worked well in the past and it continues to do so, albeit it with a little twist this time around. Compared to the other scenarios, this time the pregens truly differ from another. Some are a bit more traditional, others are just unlike anything the majority of players have ever played or even heard of. They even have completely different personalities and motivations as well, making it an unlikely, but hilarious party.

The plot is fairly straightforward, but the location isn’t. That last part is important. In order to feel immersed in this scenario, the Plane of Air has to be brought alive. This is a difficult task since it’s completely different from real life, but the author did a great job providing plenty of examples of everyday life on that plane. They were quirky and playful. It really helped to set the stage.The encounters were are interesting as well. From finding transport to being adrift in the sky and the final encounter, they were all unique and fun. I enjoyed visiting this plane and I hope to do so with my PFS characters.

That’s not to say that the pregens weren’t fun. I had a great time playing Ember, and I think everyone else at the table had fun portraying their characters as well. They all contributed, though I feel like Zephyr and Rhyol struggled the most. I don’t believe I saw Zephyr cast anything other than Produce Flame during the final encounter, simply because the rest wouldn’t work according to him. I didn’t have time to check, but if that’s true, that’s a pity. Rhyol, on the other hand, did shine in battle. It’s a shame though that was only once. It left the player a tad disappointed as it somewhat felt like an anticlimax. At the end of the day, everyone enjoyed their pregen and their unique abilities, though some were sadly not used.

This pregen-scenario was a lot of fun. The location was excellent, the plot straightforward and the encounters diverse. Some characters might have a tendency to outperform others, but in the end they all played their part. Since we all did our best imagining ourselves to be those pregens, we ended up laughing to the point we could barely breathe. I suppose that is both a warning and a recommendation.

Just be aware that you need to prepare in advance as a GM, but also as a player. It might even be best if the party decides on who plays what pregen, just so they can get used to the relatively complicated and unique skills and mechanics. It's not newbie friendly. You will also probably need a bigger timeslot than normal, but in the end it’s worth it as there will be plenty of laughs to be had.


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Roleplaying 101: How to take over a city through social means

*****

I played this scenario on high-tier with a party of four during a convention. The other players brought a level 2 alchemist, a level 4 inquisitor and a level 5 fighter to the table. I myself played my level 4 gnome mesmerist (fey trickster archetype). Long story short, we had a great time.

The scenario gives stopping an evil organization from taking over a city a new spin. Instead of an evil plot, this time it’s politics and urban development. In real life I work in the field of urban and regional planning, so this instantly became a fun scenario. I’m a bit biased, but that won’t stop me from writing this review. Before I continue, I should point out that I don’t have a lot to say about the combat in this scenario. Our crowd control just made it a cakewalk.

The main part of this scenario is a social sandbox. In order to achieve your goal, you have to influence various NPC’s. How you do that, depends on your approach. Your success, in this case, isn’t just a single dice-roll either: there are several things that can influence the outcome. Certain strategies are better than others, and some things only work against you. It’s an interesting mechanic that has been used before, but still continues to perfectly fit a PFS scenario.

What’s best is that everyone can participate no matter their class, and ‘unique’ skills get rewarded. In our case we had our alchemist successfully identify weaknesses and strengths, as she was the only one with a certain knowledge skill. She also helped influence a character the others couldn’t. The fighter, even though he had few skill points, played his part by assisting and using sense motive. The inquisitor did what he did best: intimidate people into submission with a whopping 46 on a single check, while my gnome mesmerist ended up using ‘profession: interplanar real estate agent’ to its fullest potential. Yes, I got 4 ranks in that profession. People laughed at me for even doing that, but this is the second scenario where that profession ended up being useful.

Ignoring the combat, the social portion of the game was outstanding. Everyone could contribute in their own unique way. The events during that section were all different and allowed different characters to shine. We all had a great time and I’m looking forward to running this myself. Apparently it’s a lot for a GM to keep track of, but I hardly noticed it. The only thing I did notice is that the plethora of handouts she gave us, helped a lot. This is one of the best scenarios of this particular season and I can’t recommend it enough if you like to roleplay.


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Not bad, but definitely not the best part of the series

***( )( )

I ran this module last weekend as part of a convention. Once more we got a glimpse of our beloved goblins, this time taking a trip down memory lane.

Just like the other instalments, you don’t have to worry about players not having fun. You’re playing a goblin after all. That alone makes it worth playing as players will think outside the box and come up many surprising ideas. The challenges at the start aren’t the most inventive, but they serve as a nice canvas for getting into character. I consider that to be the biggest strength of the whole series and in my opinion is also the highlight of the module. Up until showdown with Kettlehead players really get immersed in playing a goblin.

And then it stops. Magical Maggie is great, but all of a sudden our goblin friends are forced to read words. I know goblins are opposed to writing, but they likely would burn words on sight. Instead we now have to bring hated words to our village, which can be seen as a danger, and have our chief read them. From a ‘the show must go on’ - perspective I can see why this is necessary, but it doesn’t feel right at all. Surely a more clever solution can be found as it honestly breaks immersion. I noticed a clear difference in the way half of my table suddenly started playing their character (and it wasn’t just because of some alcohol).

Let me explain. So with some immersion lost, our brave goblins go to the final location to cause mayhem. It’s a real shame that a lot of the background of that place is completely lost to players. They’re just fighting a random soldier, a woman with a pan and a dog. Ok, they hate dogs, but a woman with a pan is just weird without proper context. Out of all the guests present there, why her? A huge portion of the story that ties it a bit together is lost. It's not on the same level of immersion as fighting a goblin cannibal like they did in part one of the series.

What’s worse is that because some of the immersion is lost, it’s hard to maintain Goblin composure and treat fights as such. It turns a bit too easily into a normal PFS series of encounters. There could, and possibly should, have been more silly things happening similar to the cake-incident. It helps to keep the immersion intact and even strengthen it. I tried to do so by describing what other goblins of the tribe were doing, but if run as written, it doesn’t feel like a full tribe raiding at all.

The callbacks to the other parts were nice, but can be missed and thus won't be appreciated, if you haven't played the other instalments. The challenges were fun, but the immersion just vanishes closer towards the end a little. Sure, it’s possible to stay in character, but the plot could have been better and easily avoided that situation in the first place. Had it been a normal PFS scenario, I’d have given it two stars as a result. However, as you’re playing goblins, you can easily go nuts and be creative. This means you’re guaranteed to have a great evening simply because you will laugh so much and that does bump up the final rating to three.


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It's a shame when certain mechanics are badly explained..

***( )( )

I did indeed play this scenario with Quentin, see his review below. I must say he aptly described this scenario, so there's not a lot for me to add. Instead I will disagree with some of other reviews below to give a different point of view as I believe this scenario deserves more than one star.

The biggest issue people seem to have with this scenario is the verbal duel. To some extend I agree: it's rather complicated. It will take a GM some time to explain them. That is only natural, but the problem is that the hand outs that come with the scenario are by no means able to give a quick overview. In fact, they only overcomplicate things and make it seem more difficult than it actually is. You should 100% skip these handouts as they're not helpful at all. Paizo should have realised that during the playtesting of this scenario. There's no excuse for that.

Instead our GM put some effort into this and made his own 1 page cheatsheet for the mechanics. That's two pages less than the handouts. This single page of paper combined with a short explanation managed to give us a decent understanding of the mechanics. That said, it still took us about 15 to 20 minutes to get ready for the debate as we had to figure out some of the numbers, as well as decide on a strategy to use. That's still less time than you would need when following the handouts. Needless to say we all asked our GM to put this cheatsheet on PFSPrep for others to use. If he does so, the whole verbal duel mechanic is still complicated, but much easier to understand and to subsequently put into practice.

That said, I'm not convinced it's the best mechanic to put in a scenario, especially due to circumstances. While it seems logical to bring diplomatic characters, it might actually work against you. You need to make a good impression, but at same time you also shouldn't. It's weird, yet true. The same can be said about bringing a Wayang. You're tempted to bring one, but I'd say the scenario might be more enjoyable if you don't bring one.

To conclude: this scenario is still enjoyable, but with some minor flaws. It does a great job at revealing the Wayang culture. The encounters are interesting and have some nice elements to it. The storyline isn't great and won't stand out, but it is still sufficient enough. It could easily have been stronger though. I'm also still not entirely certain about the verbal duel as it really comes down to proper preperation from the GM to explain it in a timely fashion. The handouts are utterly rubbish to use, so I hope that by the time you or your GM thinks of running this adventure, he can use the cheatsheet my GM made. If so, I think you and even new players will have a good time.


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A Brutal Exhibition at the Blakros Museum

***( )( )

When the GM openly said that it wouldn’t be a bad idea for me to bring my level 7 alchemist to a low tier table of this scenario, I was a little confused. As we all know, there’s a tendency for a level 7 to outshine every level 3 or 4, which in turn can make players not have the best of evenings. We trusted his judgement however and I myself tried to only roll for skillchecks when really needed. That I could also pass Infusions to other characters made sure that I didn’t completely stole the spotlight every single time.

And so a party of four went into the museum (why Nigel, why?!) on a 6-player low tier: a level 3 fighter with a polearm, a level 4 investigator, a level 4 bard and a level 7 alchemist. For the record: my alchemist did have shocking bombs, as well as the Technologist feat. At the start of the session, I thought to myself to only use bombs when absolutely needed. Imagine my surprise when the first encounter happened. Those creatures are incredibly rough to deal with and I can understand the low average rating (especially in combination with the need to have Technologist).

I did like the scenario though. While it’s true that it’s somewhat of a railroad going from one fight to the next one, there were a few instances where social skills helped a lot. My alchemist didn’t have any, but the others in the group performed admirably and had a great time. Personally I was happy to see that while I outperformed others in the damage department and certain skill checks, they easily bested me in others. There was a certain balance: we all needed each other to survive this painful experience.

The last fight can be really scary for multiple reasons. I assume that there’s a peaceful way of resolving that situation, but we went for the stealthy approach followed by some good old bashing. Thanks to me having Technologist, invisibility and some really lucky roles, we managed to force the threat to come out of its, shall we say, hiding hole. There it stood out in the open and even my level 7 alchemist had issues hitting the thing straight in its face(s). Luckily I managed to land one shocking bomb to solve that situation, so we could then focus our attention on the other heavy hitting and still scary foe left.

Playing down typically means that the scenario turns into a cakewalk. This is not the case for this scenario at all. Now it gave us a fighting chance and, due to Technologist, ways to succeed at getting the secondary prestige point. If I had brought something that had been in tier, I’m convinced we all would have died due to our party composition. Only one of us would have been able to deal with hardness and the final encounter would have been really hard to deal with, if we even made it that far to begin with. I honestly think we wouldn’t even have seen the second encounter.

I still like having some small technology in my game, but not being able to figure out how to deal with some things can be a major setback. While it is rewarding those with parties with a Technologist present, I feel like it gives other parties too much of a disadvantage. Since you more or less need it for the secondary prestige point, I think that clues should have been more readily available. I also think that anyone with knowledge Engineering should have a chance to identify robots, though a -5 or -10 penalty should be involved.

To conclude: this is a very dangerous scenario when it comes to combat. On the low tier you really need to be prepared in order to deal with some of the things that get thrown your way as they can force a TPK to happen relatively easily. If you have a chance to bring a character with the Technologist feat, you should do so as it can help you figure things out. As a result, I think it’s best to play this at the high tier as it’s more likely you’ll have the tools required, but you should play it only if you really like a challenge.


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It's good to be bad...

****( )

.. or at least once in a while. I finally had the opportunity to play this special. I had been waiting a long time for this and it did not disappoint. Well, that’s not entirely true, but I’ll comment on that later.

First I should mention that the pregenerated characters all seemed interesting. They all had an interesting set of skills and/or spells, but also had distinct characters and underlying motivations for being there. It quickly became obvious that you needed each other in order to succeed, more so than in Pathfinder Society. Given the fact there were only four of us, we knew we had to play it smart. We decided early on to go for a sneaky approach, trying to avoid fights as much as possible.

I’ve heard other parties just went on a murder spree, but we took it slow and were successful. We had our first taste of success when we split the party to tackle down some side objectives. The oracle and rogue managed to make quick work of their tasks, whereas the magus initially struggled. Luckily we had a glorious leader who used emotional speech in an effort to get someone to not burn valuable papers. The words ‘embrace nature’ and ‘give it to me and I’ll turn it into ecological toilet paper and dispose of it that way’ were used.

The first fight started badly with us all having very poor initiative, but we quickly had things under control when 3 out of 4 enemies were confused and attacking each other. Traps were spotted, dispelled or disabled, patrols were avoided and a sobstory by the rogue helped decrease the numbers we had to face in a certain tapestry’s room.

So far so good, right? A quick partymember change later, we took the fight to a strong PFS individual, someone who our pathfinder characters didn’t really like. And here’s where it went downhill. You see, it’s supposed to be a difficult and challenging boss fight. We were done in less than two rounds and didn’t take a single point of damage. Grapple, pin, coup de grace. Half of the party didn’t have have a second round.

The problem with that fight is that the four-player adjustment really guts that character. He only has short range spells and has way less defences up and running. It’s much harder to find out the real caster without that adjustment, which means that he will be unleashing hell on you. Now he was less harmful than a random foo lizard. It was a major disappointment honestly. This is the only reason I can’t give it 5 stars.

It still felt good to get rid of that individual and, what’s even better, is that the multitable special finally makes sense after all these months, or even years. No longer do the random mix of encounters in that special annoy or confuse me. They are all explained now and it all comes together. It’s a shame this special is a special. I consider it a mandatory exercise for everyone who has played that special. It’s fun, very well written storywise and the pregens are great. Just be sure to play without the four player adjustment though!


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A surprise assault on an Aspis location

***( )( )

I played this scenario last night on the low tier with a four-man party: a level 3 rogue, a level 2 bard/rogue, a level 1 occultist and a level 1 cleric. We had a bunch of fun, but mostly because we had a relatively stealthy/espionage party and took full advantage of it.

Three of us didn’t get lower than 16 on our stealth attempts, with our average being roughly 22. We managed to get a couple of successful backstabs in before they could notice us. I don’t have to explain that sneak attack damage can really make a difference. Two of us were also walking around disguised as Aspis agents in case we were spotted. A disguise of 24 and 21 is pretty convincing to temporarily stop a fight in order to get in a more advantageous position.

That’s not to say it was a complete walk in the park. My character did get knocked out at some point as a result of being focused by the enemy. When it’s suddenly a 3v3, it can be quite challenging, though I reckon a party of 6 would have an easy time. Furthermore we had a habit of either ‘accidentally’ an Aspis agent outright, or forcing them to surrender. The whole ‘you better join us now, or we’ll make sure the Aspis know you’ve helped us’ is a good threat after all.

One thing I’m a bit disappointed at, is the fact that on paper this is a fascinating location, but it’s not being optimally used. It could have been more immersive had the temple itself been a bit more described. Sure, certain titbits were nice and flavorful, but it still feels like wasted potential. The various statues/gods could have made more of a lasting impression for instance.

In short: we ended up playing this scenario as a SWAT-team. We showed little mercy, though we did end up convincing and/or blackmailing certain agents to join the Pathfinder Society. There’s always room for a former silver agent scholar, a bard and a very interesting ninja. The story is non-existent though in this scenario and there’s a lot wasted potential. However, it’s one of those rare few scenarios where a stealthy approach is actually worthwhile, viable throughout the entire scenario and in turn rather rewarding. For certain parties, this can be great fun, but only if you don’t really care about a storyline.


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Straightforward scenario with solid mechanics

****( )

I ran this scenario last weekend at a convention. I picked this scenario because honestly the storyline looked like a bunch of fun. Travelling below earth, finding allies where you least expect them, defeating the bad guys and making a daring escape. Add a simple, yet great Liberty’s Edge side quest and you basically got this scenario in a nutshell. Based on that summary, I’m sure you will agree it’s probably a fun scenario.

After having run the scenario, I still say it’s a nice storyline. It’s quite a railroad except for the escape part, but it works. My issue though is the fact that there can be quite a bit of NPC on NPC action during encounters. While from a story perspective it’s nice and in the case of one of the allies is even potentially hilarious, it does have one issue: it can make the presence of the player characters feel pointless or make the fight underwhelming.

To elaborate on that: maybe it was my share of luck with the dice, but the NPC’s had a more than huge impact on the final two encounters. At some point I heard two of the players at the table wonder what was going on and if the NPC’s were supposed to solo the encounter. Of course it’s partially a reward for befriending that certain individual, but maybe it’s a bit too present during those fights. That said, they did enjoy what was happening.

My favorite part, other than a grippli trying to intimidate a fearsome huge monster, was the part where each player character individually had to come up with a plan and execute it. It’s a perfect way to showcase a character and his or her quirks. You can finally show that Craft (Clockwork) or Profession (Architect) or (Siege Engineer) are actually useful, contrary to popular opinion. You can finally showcase an actual character instead of just numbers.

I quite liked the scenario, though I fear the NPC’s might be a bit overtuned and too impactful. A bit more background on the mongrelmen would have been nice. Now it was just a short stop along the way, without any real lasting impressions. The Liberty's Edge storyline is excellent and the boons are great. I would recommend the scenarios to others.


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Its ambition is its biggest problem

*( )( )( )( )

I played this scenario last night with Quentin as the GM, see his review below. Before anything else, I’d like to point out that the rating I gave this scenario is not influenced by him as a GM. I’m solely basing my opinion on the scenario and its mechanics.

The idea behind the scenario is excellent, but fails to live up to its expectation. It’s something that regrettably is often the case. The premise of a murder mystery on a ship with a crew of suspects is solid. It’s understandable, easy to imagine and on paper is effective as an adventure. However the writer’s ambition ended up ruining the whole thing.

As is written in the small summary, this scenario features a mechanic allowing for a different killer each time it’s run. This is an interesting concept and in theory could work, were it not for a major issue. Every single one of the crew has a motive and means of being the murderer. One could argue that creates suspense, but in this case this means there are way too many red herrings.

This, in turn, means that the investigation will not narrow anything down and ends up feeling frustrating if you roll well or ask the right questions. You only get swamped in more and more potential suspects. The amount of evidence piles up, but against multiple people and it becomes increasingly harder to keep particular clues linked with particular people. And when you roll terribly, you will not figure anything out, or only things that are not linked to the actual murderer. Long story short: there are no conclusive clues, since everything is a clue for a possible outcome.

However, it gets even worse. While you’re slowly getting annoyed that everyone becomes a suspect and don’t get any closer to finding the real murderer, something happens. The killer all of a sudden decides to reveal him- or herself, making you feel like you’re an idiot and as if the investigation didn’t matter at all. You literally spends hours gathering too many clues, but before you can come to a conclusion, plot kicks in and spoils it all for you. I’m sorry, but that really ruins any fun you may have had up until that point. But wait, there’s even more! The conclusion to the scenario actually makes you feel even worse about the whole investigation. It’s like kicking someone that’s already down and out.

This scenario tries to be somewhat of a scenario and an evergreen scenario. Sadly it completely fails at both. It’s too complicated to be a scenario due to the amount of red herrings. That said, I can see it potentially work as an evergreen. That, however, requires it to be rewritten in such a way that certain red herrings are gone when X is the murderer. That way you can actually solve the murder and confront the killer, or close in enough to force the murderer to make a final stand. As it stands now, it’s not coherent enough and way too frustrating, regardless of the dice-rolls. It is such a shame that such an ambitious scenario ultimately ends in a major disappointment and I will not recommend it to others.


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Good idea, poor execution, dreadful end

**( )( )( )

I always like the idea of social-infiltration missions. It’s a part investigation and then doing something with the evidence or clues you find. The premise of this scenario is therefore something I’d enjoy: gather evidence of smuggling and link that to the Aspis in a sandboxsituation.

I’d say the scenario has three parts. First you need to investigate a dig site either by brute force, or in a more diplomatic fashion. It’s simple, but effective. The ruin itself will lead to some interesting discoveries and encounters. Add some interesting traps and you got a more than solid start.

The second part features infiltrating a certain location. It’s a good thing there’s multiple ways of doing that and the building itself is quite elaborate. However, there’s just too much going on, making it impossible to find it all. It feels a bit punishing. I mean, it’s supposed to be a challenge, but this is just a bit too much, especially given the (really) hard checks that have to be make. Then again, a case can be made that you’re not supposed to find everything anyway. You are supposed to work for it. From that perspective, I still think this a decent to good part.

The checks come back to haunt you once more in third part, the confrontation. This part is scripted as an extreme variation of a railroad, which is a shame given the rest of the scenario. By its very nature this is completely led by a GM and doesn’t allow for much, if any, deviation. You’re basically asked to role-play, but only by answering questions and dealing with certain situations in a very specific way.

To add insult to injury, the GM is forced to put certain clues together for the player and provide the players with theories and further clues to continue this railroad. Honestly, I dislike it a lot. I want to figure things out on my own and not have a GM tell me what every single thing means, let alone decide how we’re supposed to present evidence. This is a role-playing game, not a ‘this is how you’re going to role-play this part’. It’s too much of a railroad and too much information. In my honest opinion, a very, very disappointing ending of the scenario that started so promising.

Ignoring the fact that it will run (too) long, this scenario starts out great, but loses all its momentum. The final act was just a mess and that is solely to be blamed on the way it’s written in the scenario. The idea is great, but the execution was terrible. The majority of the scenario gives you a lot of room to approach things how you want to, but when you expect that same freedom, it’s taken away from you. I dislike that a lot and solely because of that, I can’t recommend it. If it was just the first two parts, you’d get 4 to 5 stars from me, but the end completely ruined all the fun for me.


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This scenario lives up to its ruthless reputation

***( )( )

This scenario is known for its reputation. On the one hand it’s vital to understand some of the overarching plot and the importance of certain scenarios. On the other hand, it’s known to brutally murder characters. It’s reputation is justified.

I really liked the opening scene. It was hilarious to have characters without social skills try and get people to move. At the same time others tried to stop people from coming in. We barely succeeded, but we were laughing the entire time. It’s a really nice take on an encounter and I’d say it’s executed better than some of the new ones that are similar.

At some point in time you run into a scary encounter. It’s a nice twist, albeit a bit expected. It doesn’t change the fact that the opponent can hurt a lot, and I can see certain parties struggle a lot in that situation. After that combat, you’re probably happy you’re still alive, only to then run into an optional encounter that on the low tier might as well just be skipped since it’s not good for anything. All it does is lure you into a false sense of security.

And then the final encounter happens. I can say a lot of things about this encounter, but I won’t. What you're about to read is just a fragment of what I want to say. All I’m going to say is that someone will die, unless he plays out of tier and is lucky. To give you an indication: we played tier 1-2, had one level 4 melee character with us and the other four were level 2. The bad guy crit the level 4 on the first round, dropping him down to -1 hp. I don’t have to tell you that’s a problem and what that would mean for in-tier characters. It really is that lethal and the opponent is incredibly optimised.

Surprisingly enough we all managed to survive this ordeal. A combination of trip and a tangleburn bag helped us a lot. Normally I’d not share such tactics, but I think it is justified given this particular opponent. Even with those penalties he only barely missed us. This encounter appears to be designed to just kill as many as possible. My believe this to be true is strengthened by the fact none of the prestige points are even linked to him. This encounter proves why certain classes are not really suited to be the BBEG. I’ve only encountered one scenario with a final encounter that was worse and that’s saying something.

The story in this scenario is worth it, the combats are lethal. I can’t emphasize that enough. It’s certainly a challenge and if that’s your cup of tea, by all means go for it. Everyone else I’d recommend to stay clear, or be very, very, very careful. This is especially the case if you're level 1 or 2.


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Lethal and dangerous, yet great roleplay potential

****( )

I feel obliged to mention that I can understand why some, or even most, people do not like this scenario. They are right when they point out that there are a couple of encounters that can kill result in the death of a character. It’s even likely that none of the player characters survive until the end of the scenario. Furthermore, I dare say that tier 1-2 is more lethal than tier 4-5. I say that not just because the characters have less hitpoints, but also because of tactics and difficulty class (DC). I’d even go so far as to say that one of the encounters in high tier is less scary due to its tactics. Don’t get me wrong, that encounter is still lethal, but not as lethal as the low-level tactics.

That said, I do like the scenario. The task you’re set out to do is simple but effective. The first part of the scenario will have you role-play in various settings. It’s diverse and interesting enough and also allows for creative thinking and out-of-the-box solution. I continue to like such sandbox situations. This time I even get to brag that me having a result of 27 on a Profession: Real Estate Agent actually contributed to getting our secondary prestige point. It’s scenarios like these that reward players actually building characters with unique skillsets, such as an odd profession.

This role-play section gets followed up by a dungeoncrawl and investigation hybrid with some nasty combats. You are tasked to investigate a location and somewhat make it uninhabitable. That’s a fun approach to a crawl in my opinion. It’s an interesting take that I’d like to see more often. You sneak around and find ways to disrupt the place, while still having a relatively large amount of freedom on how to do so.

However, this portion of the scenario is also lethal, in more than one ways. The first encounter you can actually avoid if you’re smart and somewhat paranoid. If you do however trigger that event, you best hope the dice are with you AND your party. You really can’t afford to have half the party do poorly. The second fight is scary on the high tier, but absolutely lethal on the low tier. I’d honestly say it’s a bit over the top in terms of lethality for these tiers, but at the same time my party suffered no casualties.

It’s a brutal scenario, with highly dangerous encounters. The premise, role-playing and investigation portions are outstanding however. It honestly balances itself out a bit, though in my case towards the good side of things. I would recommend it, but only for the high tier and only if you’re okay with possibly having your character die. On the low tier, I’d shy away. It’s too lethal.


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Build/bring your own dungeon

****( )

I had heard rumors this was both a good scenario and also a potentially lethal one. Rarely have been rumors been this true.

Let’s start with the storyline. First of all, it’s an evergreen. It, however, is not a standard evergreen as it’s for a higher level range. That itself means it has big shoes to fill. It has to be different every single in order to be replayable, but also challenging. Let me just say that it succeeded in almost spectacular fashion.

There are four different overarching themes, each with its distinct creatures and opponents for a GM to choose from. Even better is the fact that GMs get to decide where in the ‘dungeon’ they place the creatures, and together with the fact the ‘dungeon’ itself can be different as well, makes this scenario unique experience every single time.

I’ve only played the ‘bones’ path and I enjoyed immensely. The kind of creatures you face were perfect for my psychic funerary priest of Pharasma, so might be biased. Still, some of the creatures we fought were unlike anything I’ve ever faced. Just like the eidolon variety, unfettered phantoms are a huge pool of opportunity. The fact they now officially exist, makes me want to give this scenario bonuspoints.

I do have to say that the encounters are brutal. I can easily see people die here and even the occasional TPK. Not only is this an evergreen, but it’s also a showcase of how dangerous tier 3-7 can be. When I played it, our party only barely avoided a TPK and miraculously didn’t suffer a casualty. I can understand why people somewhat complain about the difficulty. I can only say that the path of bones with Michiko as the final boss was very, very lethal. Our GM guesses this might be the roughest potential fight to face, but the dice had decided to throw it at us anyway.

If the other potential BBEG’s and paths are similar, this is an amazing dungeoncrawl that’s really challenging in terms of combat. Even though we nearly died, I’m very curious as to what the other paths have to offer. This scenario really good and deserves the four stars I gave it. I just wish there were more role-play and investigation portions.


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Solid scenario, even after all these years

****( )

It’s often said that the season 0 and 1 scenarios don’t age well. While it’s true that most notably the opponents are underwhelming, I still am amazed by how certain combats remain refreshing and dare I say innovative compared to newer seasons. This scenario is no different.

The plot isn’t all that amazing and the way the encounters follow eachother up leaves something to be desired, but the fights are all outstanding. In the first encounter the partymembers are forced between fighting, or helping NPCs from drowning. Both tasks have to be done, but who is going to do what? It’s a dynamic that remains refreshing even though we’re currently in season 8.

Then there are two fights with location-specific effects, both differing from one another. They’re simple, but effective. I particularly liked the one in a church of Abadar. After all, who doesn’t want to fight on a gigantic church organ, inadvertently playing it at the same time? Let’s be honest: that’s a unique fighting experience.

Besides those fights, there’s also a fair bit of puzzling to be done. There are 5 different puzzles, all of which require different skillsets to open. Everyone can participate and be successful. They also don’t take up a lot of time, so it’s a nice showcase that things don’t have to be overly complicated in order to be enjoyable.

While the foes didn’t age well and the story isn’t great, this scenario is still an utter joy to play. Interesting puzzles and environmental effects not only make it stand out, but ensure that it’s still refreshing to play. It’s simple, yet effective and even though it was released almost a decade ago, I would still highly recommend it.


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Great flavor, but sadly not challenging

***( )( )

I played this scenario yesterday on the low tier, with a party of mostly level 1’s and me bringing a level 3 character (healbot) to the table. The first thing that has to be mentioned, is how well the flavour is in this scenario. Every NPC felt unique, the festival was nicely organised and the town actually felt alive. It also really suits the Halloween spirit, so great job on that!

As for the combats, I agree with the other reviews before me. They're just on the easy side. I think the majority damage we took was when my gnome decided to blindly try and activate a wand because of gnome reasons. I, as a player, knew in advance I’d fail, but that didn’t stop me. It hurt, but I just shrugged it off with a single Infernal Healing.

The fights, at least on the low tier and for as far as we encountered, were mainly walks in the park. Thematically the ‘hammer’ one, you’ll know what I mean once you’ve played it, is amazing though. The final encounter however just felt like an anti-climax and could have been a bit more spectacular to actually serve as a proper ending.

The story though wasn’t as creepy or scary as I thought it would be. I didn’t get the same level of goose bumps like I did while playing Hall of the Flesh Eaters. I think the ambiance there is just better so I honestly have to completely disagree with the fact that this scenario is supposedly perfect for fans of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Horror Adventures as it claims to be. The other portion, namely that it’s great for lighthearted games, I can agree with. I can easily see this as being one of the first missions new players should embark on.

It’s a fun scenario with a bunch of flavour, but sadly isn’t that challenging. Combined with the fact that it's just not really horror either, I feel like I have to penalize it a little, resulting in a mere three stars. That said, I'd still recommend it to new players.


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A great way to teach various combat mechanics

****( )

Last night I had the pleasure of playing this module. We had a brawler, an arcanist and a bard, and I was playing a melee Spiritualist (Ectoplasmatist). Even though we had two wands of Cure Light Wounds, I can’t really say we were particularly ready for this dungeon crawl of epic proportions for level one characters.

Long story short, you do not play this module for the story. It’s thin and not really existent. The best to see this module, is to see it as an introduction to various kinds of different combats. You’ll come across difficult terrain, grab, reach, swarms, poison and stench amongst others. It’s a great way for new players to learn that fights aren’t always that straightforward and that there are a lot of variables one has to take into account. It’s a great way to learn about combat mechanics without having to worry about a storyline.

It does, however, also mean that it can be quite brutal. There’s a lot of fighting to be done, so chances are you’re going to take quite some hits. You really need to have a lot of healing options. I’d say a wand of CLW is a must if you want to survive this place. Except for a couple of fights, I’d say the fights aren’t challenging. It’s the entire experience and the combination of all of the encounters that make this a potentially brutal and unforgiving module.

Even though it’s lacks a story, I’d still recommend it to others. Those that have seen some of my other reviews are likely to be surprised by this. The reason why I’d still recommend it, is because of how well it teaches new players all sorts of combat mechanics. It’s worth playing this, but be sure to bring enough healing with you!


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Nothing special, except for a missed opportunity

**( )( )( )

I played this scenario alongside Quentin, see his review below. For the majority, I agree with him. As we were playing up, we did struggle with some fights as they were pretty brutal at times. Especially after what happened the first encounter, I'm surprised we even made it. I mean, enemies getting a surprise round and the highest initiative, meant we took quite a substantial amount of damage. The foes were fun, as were the settings, but it sadly got a little repetitive towards the end.

However, a few things bug me about this scenario. The first is the absence of a real story. The only story element we had was to get books back and free people. That alone is not enough in my opinion. It felt like a 'we got these encounter finished and only 5 minutes to go until the scenario is released.. oh dear, we forgot the plot. Lets quickly throw something together'.

This ties in with my second complaint, if you will. At some point you'll come across a big legion of ancient soldiers. That itself has so much potential, including for future scenarios. Yet the only thing you do is fight them and leave them behind. Surely that's something the Decemvirate wants to investigate further as it's a unique trove of knowledge. I'm honestly disappoint nothing has been done with it.

While I certainly had fun, I do not think the scenario aged well enough. I can't see myself recommend it to others if there are other options available. That said, I really hope Paizo revisits this scenario, notices the trove of potential knowledge I mentioned and actually does something with it. There's no doubt in my mind I'd instantly want to play a sequel.


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Challenging, creative but sadly not that creepy

***( )( )

Hall of the Flesh Eaters left a permanent mark on my memory. It was creepy and thematically really solid. Upon hearing that there would be a sequel, I was happy. I couldn’t wait to see if this next instalment would live up to the expectation it’s prequel had set. Sadly it does not.

The location is still the same and there are spirits involved, no surprises there. While it maintains a certain hint of mystery, it completely failed to maintain the creepy sensation however. Only the monsters were able to create that creepy feeling I enjoyed in the previous part. Speaking of the monsters, they’re nasty in a good way. They are, at times, incredibly challenging, especially on the low tier I’ve heard. Just like Halls of the Flesheaters, this scenario can be brutal for the unprepared. You may consider that a warning. Let’s just say I was happy to have my funerary priest/haunt expert of Pharasma with me.

To elaborate: it felt like certain rooms were just randomly there and were in no way whatsoever tied to a single storyline. They felt out of place. Don’t get me wrong, the rooms themselves are all thematically fun, especially the feast one. However I fail to see how it all comes together. It’s like a bunch of cool ideas were just tossed together and explained by the presence of a labyrinth. I’m sorry, but that’s not enough for me personally. It makes no sense. I feel like either I missed something, which I doubt, or that the story and background of the place doesn’t get revealed enough to the players.

In the end I have to give a mediocre rating. I can see the potential it has, but it just doesn’t deliver. The encounters show up, but the setting itself fails to be coherent or explained enough. It’s a shame though. Still, I would say it’s a fun scenario and I would still recommend it even though it has a tendency to run long. Certain parts are just too good to pass up on, others are just madly challenging. That said, I am left wanting more adventures in the Gloomspires and I’m more than curious about what’s next, preferably something that combines the uniqueness of the encounters of this scenario with the creepy atmosphere of Halls.


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Take your time for this one

****( )

I was incredibly happy to hear that the Pathfinder Society was going to visit the other planes. Those planes just are very evocative places and it opens up a whole new range of unique places, mechanics and creatures. Out of the places, I have to say that the Plane of Earth was the least appealing to me. I struggled to imagine what interesting locations could be, but my eyes have been opened after playing this scenario. The casino is an excellent showcase of the power of imagination. It fits, it stands out and I could have never thought of this myself. I also liked the obstacle course. Come to think of it, it showed the diversity of how ‘earth’ can be used. Speaking of the obstacle course, I would suggest GMs make a map of it and have players take turns. That makes it easier for players and GMs alike to figure out where everyone is and what they’re doing. It creates a better sense of immersion and less of dice-rolling exercise.

As for the storyline, it’s pretty good. It’s crystal-clear for a GM, but players will slowly uncover the plot as they go. Or at least, I hope they will. You don’t get much evidence at the start, so you’re left wondering if you’re indeed doing the right thing. Slowly but surely the veil is pulled away, which is both a good and a bad thing. The good side is that you have to get immersed to understand what’s going on. The bad part is ‘slowly’. This scenario has a lot of content and it can easily take between 5 or 6 hours to complete. While I understand that there are no optional encounters due to having to acquire evidence, it means you have to do every portion (which is why the scenario can take quite a while). Thankfully it’s a fun scenario, at least in my opinion, but I would recommend not running it in an evening slot at a convention.

I honestly see little to no issues when it comes to this scenario. It may take the players some time to figure out what they’re supposed to do, but they’ll figure it out eventually and they should have time to act accordingly. The NPCs are solid, the setting is great, the locations are at times mind-blowing. The only small issue, in my opinion, is that there may be too much to do for a single timeslot. It’s one of those scenarios where there’s a lot opportunity for role-play. So in order to get the most of it, you should really take your time as it really is worth doing so. I would recommend this scenario in a heartbeat, but only when there’s a sufficiently sized timeslot available.


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Creativity gets rewarded

*****

I was one of the players sitting at Quentin’s table and I agree with what he has said. The fact that there are multiple ways to deal with encounters, allows you to be creative. There is no fixed solution. As such things can end up spiraling out of control really quickly, but in a good way.

In our case this for instance resulted in flashing a badge of the House of Thrune and the party being given free reign in the fortress. Add a gnome ‘naval siege engineer’ and the presence of ballistas, and you end up in a situation later on in the scenario where a huge water creature ends up getting sneakattacked by a ninja paladin using a now boat mounted ballista. Being the gnome, that was my favorite part of the scenario, though I admit the 'storm' portion was pretty fun as well.

While it’s of course is the players (and GM) that decide how fun a session will be, it really helps if a scenario itself is not too much of a railroad and offers a bunch of flexibility. While that nowadays (say roughly season 6 to 8) is typically the case, the same can not be said for your typical season 0 or 1 scenario. This scenario is an exception to that unwritten rule, I feel, and at the same time is more innovative than others released at that time.

This scenario just does everything well and while a bit outdated by modern standards when it comes to the combats, it can easily hold its own. It’s an excellent scenario and I’d love to see more like this.


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An exploration with a lot of background information

***( )( )

I was the ‘poor GM’ Damanta is referring to in his review below. While it is true that the repositioning made the combats lopsided (it’s hard to deal with a +28 on CMB or something along those lines), I still had great fun running this scenario.

The best way to describe this scenario, is by saying how rich on lore it is. There is an incredible amount of background information that helps bring this place to life, yet by default that means that a lot of dice have to rolled in order to check if the PCs have that knowledge stored away in the memories. Though not getting most of the lore isn’t a huge issue, I’d say it makes the scenario a whole lot more fun if you do. Just because not every party has access to it, I feel like I should lower the rating by one.

Furthermore I liked the fact that, as mentioned by Galnörag, players have a direct impact on the end of the scenario. Their actions along the way decide what the final encounter will be like. Though it can be an anti-climax, it still leaves you with a feeling that you did well. Otherwise, it can be a pretty rough battle with consequences.

There’s a lot of flavour in this scenario and it gets translated into the encounters, NPCs and boons as well. It’s a nice solid package, but what really annoys me, is the fact that this level 3-7 scenario is the sequel to a level 5-9. While a boon takes into account that they can be played out of order, I feel bad for those that did ‘part 1’ as a level 8 or 9, and now miss out on playing this one with that character. It’s a big flaw in my honest opinion and that does lower my final rating by another one.

That leaves this scenario with three stars. Does that mean that you should stay clear? No, you should not. It’s a fun lore-heavy investigation with some interesting fights. However I would strongly recommend playing it after it’s prequel:

Spoiler:
6-21 Tapestry’s Toil
Be sure to pay close attention to the difference in level though, or you might miss out!


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Technically a haunting experience

****( )

I had no idea what I was thinking when I let my level 7 tech-crazed alchemist join a mostly level 11 party. Little did I know I was about to have a great time.

As you can tell, I don’t mind a little technology in my PFS-scenarios. As long as it’s not too overbearing or dominating, or a scene straight out of Star Wars, I’m fine. This balance is perfectly acceptable in this scenario, at least to my tastes. If you’re a player who dislikes technology, you should stay away from this scenario.

What I really liked about his scenario, is the way the ‘haunts’ were approached. The idea is simple and elegant, yet different. Even the ‘new’ way of stopping or disabling it makes sense. Then again, this whole scenario features interesting takes on haunts in general. I was both impressed and intrigued. I hope this mechanic returns in similar scenarios and I can't wait to see if it gets adopted by Starfinder.

There’s plenty of opportunity for characters to shine. Socialites, skill-monkeys and brawlers will all have a chances to shine. In fact, you’ll need all of them to succeed. The encounters can be quite painful, but feature some rarely seen ‘creatures’. Convincing NPCs to help or that you’re trying to help can have interesting consequences. Even the big bad evil is unique, yet perfectly fits the overall picture. There’s a good chance that if you are to replay the scenario, the big bad evil might be different as well.

The only downside I noticed, was the fact that the GM struggled to find all the details and tactics. After having seen the scenario, I’m convinced it’s not his fault. You need to get statblocks from a bunch of different resources, the tactics are scattered all over the place (and at times illogically so) and then there’s a chance that you have to change over seven things in a statblock if your players do something special. In short: the formatting is messy and it’s a pain to prepare. Still, I’d highly recommend the scenario, though it’ll lose a star simply because of the formatting and the fact that not everyone likes technology in their games.


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