Kaleb Hesse

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**** Venture-Agent, Finland—Turku 259 posts (608 including aliases). 6 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 22 Organized Play characters. 1 alias.



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Awesome scenario, had a blast

5/5

Really awesome! probably my favorite 2e scenario so far, although Bandits of the Immenwood was good too!

Firstly, the scenario is pretty much a dungeon crawl, but it didn't necessarily feel like it because the build-up and transition is pretty smooth and well done. You start the adventure with a handout from your Venture-Captain, so pretty basic breefing. Then you meet a contact, who leads you to another contact, who points you to a possible point of interest. Journey there doesn't go without hickups, but the actual crawl doesn't really start before you get there, and the social beginning of the scenario sets a tone quite different from other crawls.

As to the crawl itself - the encounters aren't too deadly or difficult, but they are interesting and provide a sufficiently threatening feel. There's some more socializing in the middle that provides the PC's and players a breather, and possibly more socializing in the end too.

For Society play, it's probably best if the GM reminds players to "do as their characters would" during the scenario, because despite the very railroaded nature of the crawl, the actual outcome of the scenario can vary VERY wildly between different runs (although due to the tendency of players... doing as players often do, without spoiling too much, many parties probably reach the same conclusion).

I've rarely seen a scenario that hands players this much agency in the matters, let alone in a scenario this dungeoncrawley.

BOSS FIGHT: The boss fight can be, and probably will be, very tough, probably even deadly. Probably many could even consider it Unfair in the way it works and how easily it might kill PC's (despite the 2e's tendency to not kill PC's very easily) - but PC's and players should probably realize that the odds might not be in their favor, given how the end goes down. On our group, 3 out of 4 PC's (levels 2, 2, 2, 1) went down, two saved themselves with hero points, and one was saved by healing. Nobody died, but it could have been a TPK.

A note to GM's: Apparently the two boons should not be mutually exclusive even though they may feel like they sorta are. There might be an update on the matter in the GM thread once the dev's confirm this.


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2.5 stars

2/5

This adventure has strong pros and strong cons.

Some Spoilers!
Pros:
An actually challenging and combat oriented 2e scenario, when so far most seem to have been more skill focused with a token combat or two, this has a chance to put a drain on PC resources and lets players try out their combat capabilities.
The setting felt engaging and interesting, and the mission was different from the usual scenarios.
The circumstances were fun, but it requires some work from the GM to keep the bad luck and constant horrible weather interesting.

Cons:
Almost literally a railroad.
Encounters are set up in a way that often leaves some of the PC's outside of the action:
Constant difficult terrain slows down PC's who take rear guard, they may miss action altogether.
In the first encounter, three of the five PC's did basically nothing except ran after the wagon, trying to catch up with it. Just two PC's actually had meaningful ways to combat the threat.
Third encounter is set up in a way that it's likely that one or more PC's start in a trap, practically guaranteed to fail a save, potentially dropping to dying with unfortunate rolls. The rest of the PC's are hindered by environment, making helping/healing hard/slow.
Fourth encounter has a chance of overwhelming frontline before the rearguard can join the fight, again.
Last encounter is... Cool, but extremely unfair.

Spoiler:
Out of 5 PC's, one was taken down by a mook on their first turn, due to basically guaranteed fail against a poison. Soon after, boss activated his special ability which took 2 PC's out of the fight - the alchemist pregen did nothing during the combat except "stand up, move 10 ft in a random direction, land prone, stand up. repeat." as did the combat medic rogue. The encounter completely neuters any ranged attackers and anyone not trained in athletics. Even the barbarian with strong athletics was practically pinned down, with the -10ft movement speed from spell, then the remaining 20ft got halved due to not rolling 18+ on the athletics, and then the remaining 10ft got practically halved due to the difficult terrain. Moving 5ft per action, the combat was brutal.
Boss would have wiped the party, if it weren't for the fact that the environmental effect hit him twice, for a total of 10 dmg, and then the barb got a lucky crit and a normal hit, and finished him off. Barbarian was left standing with 3hp, on the merit of his rage.

I did like the scenario, but this has lots of potential to be very unfair, very un-fun slog where half of the party doesn't get to do anything. The pregen goblin did literally nothing in the last combat, despite the combat being loooooong.


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Tempted to give 5 stars

4/5

Positive:
Easy to incorporate into Pathfinder Society / Other campaigns
Dark Folk and their society
Interesting and challenging combats
Engaging and captivating NPC "cohort" for the players (Aiyana)
The "Threat" of the module is easy to keep relevant to the players properly applied, makes keeping up a horror-theme quite easy.
Allowing Creative Solutions in second and third part comes naturally and enables players to tackle the opposition somewhat how they want.
More dark folk (and their mysterious patrons. Both the Forsaken and the Owbs)
The boons for Pathfinder Society are quite possibly the coolest boons I've ever seen! Especially the Bonus Sheet, despite not being terribly powerful, is something I am eagerly looking forward to using!
Theme and Atmosphere is awesome, and tastefully balanced.

Negative:
One combat can easily spill into a huuuuge and potentially very slow slugfest with tracking many combatants.
Second part eats way more time than first and third.
Third can be quite a drudge if your players live by the "Kill all enemies, get all loot and xp" mentality. Don't count xp, just go with the story and solve problems in smart ways and you'll be fine.
Boss monster, despite having a CR well above the paygrade of the PCs, is not terribly strong/interesting. The "lieutenants" are much more interesting.

Ran this module in a single weekend, spending around 27-30 hours on it with 4 players. I may be biased because Dark Folk are some of my favorite monsters/NPC's, and because I've been itching and waiting to run this since I learned about it back in December. I'm really glad it was sanctioned for Pathfinder Societ before the 2nd edition comes - it had been sitting on my shelf for a long while, and I would have been disapointed had it not been included in PFS1.

SPOILERS!

Background and plothook:
Background and plot hook for the adventure fits PFS perfectly, and makes this adventure super easy to incorporate into just about any adventure. The Aiyana, the Caligni that hires the PC's is interesting and engaging - I got a friend to help me by playing her so that I didn't need to worry about her actions, or without needing to think how much info she'd provide to the PC's. I think this decision made the adventure (and Aiyana) feel much, much more alive.
Since this was for Pathfinder Society, and since this adventure has... Some interesting consequences/mechanics/fights, I asked my players to bring a character they enjoyed roleplaying, but also warned them that they would face a very real chance of having to retire their characters. I think this worked very nicely and kept them on their toes, enhancing the horror element.

First Chapter:
The first chapter is a pretty straightforward, basic dungeon crawl. The location is thematic, but suffers from the "every room is an encounter" syndrome. Since most of the encounters are somewhat similar (despite being very thematically unique) in mechanics (incorporeal and ability damage), a party is either going to have either a very rough time in or relatively easy delve into the tomb.
I felt that the monsters and their abilities gave me, as the GM, a lot of flexibility in handling the encounters - it was pretty easy to adjust the difficulty based on how well the PC's were doing by adjusting tactics.

Journey to second chapter:
There are two different plothooks that drive the PC's from first part to the second part. Again, tying this to Pathfinder Society gave the PC's a good reason to follow Aiyana (It's their Job 'cause Ambrus Valsin told them so >.>), but the pressure from internal plot hook worked just as well, and properly presented, the NPC (Aiyana) also works as a great hook.

The Second Chapter:
The second part is easily the longest in the book. It has the potential to take up more time than the first and third chapters combined, despite the fact that the PC's could, if they just wanted to, walk straight into the third part. The second part is probably the reason why I couldn't give this 5 stars despite wanting to.
Firstly, I have mixed feelings about the first dungeon in the second part. On one hand, is quite realistic, and utilizes realistic NPC responses in a manner that you don't often see in scenarios - NPC's getting help. On the other hand, despite our group getting the jump on the boss and completely subduing him, they nearly got overwhelmed by what feels like an endless stream of very sturdy mooks. The "dungeon" has a chance, depending on PC's, of turning into a slugfest with nearly 20 combatants with enemies having hp total over 1500. And if it does devolve into such a melee, running the combat through several sessions could be problematic. After we were done, we took a break, went for a walk, and debriefed ourselves about it.
Luckily, the next portion of chapter 2 was roleplay heavy, allowing players to get deeper into the setting and providing the GM with opportunities to highlight the surroundings and society of the darkfolk.
The last part of the second chapter is another "dungeon", but since the group had a clear goal, they used magic to perform a surgical strike that was both enjoyable and fun for the whole group, although they did skip most of the spires. (They teleported right into the prison partly by chance, but mostly through good logic and guesswork, and saved the NPC's with a timely emergency force sphere).
The second dungeon would have a few boringish, fillerish encounters (looking at the beasts, the alchemist and Owb would have been interesting) that they managed to skip, which is another reason I didn't give this 5 stars - the module involves quite a few combats that don't serve a purpose you can't fulfil with roleplay(like the random street patrols - you can achieve the same effect (the noose is tightening, you need to find a safe haven) with just describign and roleplay, although having stats for such a patrol is useful). For smart players and characters that do stuff other than "hit things with a big sword", though, avoiding these is possible and recommended.

Third Chapter:
The third part is a huuuuuge dungeon.
For a group that's determined to crawl through it, killing each and every NPC and looting each and every corner, this will likely take several play sessions and lots and lots of time.
For a roleplay oriented group who are focused on their mission, it provides a sort of a puzzle challenge - how to accomplish what they want without starting a quite literal war of attrition by assaulting a literal fortress.
I had the NPC's that they saved, help scouting
Our group spent some time scouting and preparing, then teleported in. I used the NPC's to point out "prominent targets" that the PC's should take care to prevent a backlash against the general populace of Lyrudrada. Another surgical strike (started by a semi-random teleport) saw the main enemies (including the Huge one) dead in about 5 hours or so. My only complaint is that the boss, despite being seemingly though, has poor time adapting to PC tactics which made the actual boss fight a bit too easy for a well prepared party.
Don't dismiss the conclusion of the adventure either. It have significant impact on characters depending on the choices they've made.

All in all, I'm bad at writing reviews, but this is one of my favorite adventures so far!


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Personal favorite

5/5

I've now GM'd this scenario four times, and I have to say that it is either my favorite scenario, or at least in the top 3.

As a disclaimer, all of my runs have been in High tier. For low tier, it does seem that the combats are overtly easy. For the high tier, I'm not saying that they are SUPER deadly, but they at least Can Appear to be. It's a scenario that, when run properly and when the GM preps it well and gets into it to play up the atmosphere and setting, has the players constantly on the edge of their seats and fearing for their lives.

... It does have it's weaknesses, though. A couple classes can easily negate each of the challenges the scenario throws at the PC's, and an optimized party can breeze through it. That being said, an optimized party can breeze through anything.

The boons are super cool, too.


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I want to like this scenario. And I kinda do. It's just good ideas, but poorly written, with bad or absent mechanics, in a heavily railroaded scenario.

I had fun, players had fun, but it doesn't mean it's a good scenario, since most of the time was laughing at the scenario, not with it.
Not saying "DON'T RUN THIS!" - just saying, be prepared to do a lot of work and handwaive lots of inconsistencies and hope players don't question the plot >.>

SPOILERS!

Spoiler:

The first encounter in the desert had good mood setting and was really foreboding.
Problem is that the mechanics are just time wasting, and there is no challenge in them. The encounter, while it ties into the story sorta later, is a completely random "you just happaned to run into a person that may be of great help to you later."

The second encounter while waiting to get into the city is sorta comical but kinda fun. We had fun when the TSA confiscated the party's holy water bottles.

Third encounter. The idea is fun. The mechanical exectuion is weird. Stuffing the plotguffins into the manor was really crude and the combat in high tier can be stupidly deadly. Our party also failed 3/4 saves. Luckily, they all rolled just 1 round for paralysis duration, and managed to kill the thing.

The fourth encounter. Why is she there. What for. Just... Why. And not to mention that the GM is given just about zero tools for actually running the bidding. Prepare to do kinda lots of the work.
Thing here is... The players might manage to kill the boss here. And if they do, they are rewarded with the final fight being 2-3 times as hard as it would have been if they hadn't killed the boss here, plus, set up in such a way that they are likely to (accidentally, without knowing) destroy one of the boons on the chronicle sheet.
The adventure is literally set up so that if players over-perform earlier, they are punished in for it in the end.

The last part would be interesting except that the adventure is pretty long, so expect players to just look at you stupefied as you speed them through the weird dungeon, with them not knowing what's happening. There won't be time for the optional encounter.
And then the boss fight.

The boss presents a game to the players. The game is effectively: "Heads, I win, Tails, you lose." If the boss is alive, there's no challenge because a party of 4-6 charaters will gang up on a solo caster before it can pull of ANYTHING. They might get a cool boon if they don't have zealots in the party.
If the boss died earlier, there's still a caster, but it's accomppanied by a CR 7 melee monster, and if the players kill This caster, they lose a boon. Horrible design.

To emphasize - scenario is written in a way that punishes parties that perform too well in a certain part, and it punishes them pretty heavily (in my opinion). A GM can fix it by "preventing players from out-performing" but that shouldn't be needed in a scenario.


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Nothing makes sense

1/5

Literally nothing in this story makes any sense whatsoever, starting with the production description which feels like it's missing a half.
The description mentions "A strange confluence of circumstances" that has caused the disappearance of researches. This has nothing to do with the scenario, and the missing researches aren't mentioned after this, and the party isn't there to look for them.
"Pathfinder Society experiments call for a rare reagent found only in that area" Except that what is about to happen has NEVER happened before. EVER. Yet somehow we know that there will be just the thing that we need. For no reason whatsoever.
"Can the PCs reach the secluded settlement in time to witness this extraordinary event" What event? The description doesn't mention any event. This is a bit confusing. It'll come clear during the scenario, but as you are reading the description, it makes no sense.

From there on onwards, it's just downhill, and there is no internal logic in anything. There's a famous village that makes the world's best alchemical items, yet for some reason you need guides to get there. Except that the guides are useless and can't survive the trip without PC's aid. The guides also give you their valuable THINGS for... Saving those things? The guides are fine with the antagonists of the story actively trying to murder them. The players are punished for trying to take care of traps, instead of just walking straight into them (since there's a week of travel time, PC's will heal whatever damage they've taken, except that if they spend an hour dealing with the traps, they'll be an hour late when they arrive. Because of course you can't make up for the lost hour WITHIN A WEEK OF TRAVEL. To a Town where half of the population is JUST FINE with the fact that some times, they wake up and a couple of days/weeks/years/decades has passed on the other side of the town.

And that's just the start. The rest of the scenario, including the horribly designed puzzle that makes no In Game Logical Sense (even though you can figure out the answer, the why and How of the puzzle is just... pointless).

Don't play this. Just don't. It has so many pointless plotholes and inconsistencies that it's better to avoid it, not to mention that the combats are frustratingly easy and pointless (Whee, I'm dealing 1d4 damage with +3 to hit (penalty for not having precise shot has been factored in) AT TIER 6-7!!!) apart from the one that is one bad roll away from a TPK.

It feels like this scenario was written so that some special character somewhere could have a cool hound and time-control powers, and then they were just jammed in there, no matter how poorly they fit or made sense.

I was trying to find out if the author had made other scenarios in addition to this one, to see if the others suffer from the same problems. There aren't any. I'm not exactly surprised.