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Read more than just the scenario first.

*****

This is an excellent scenario that allows for a surprising amount of freedom in a PFS setting. How? Read the spoilers if you dare...

Spoiler:
Because despite the bones of this scenario being a fairly simple railroad (PCs talk to NPC, go collect objects 1, 2, 3; have social encounter), the adventure takes place on another plane with fantastical creatures and requires the author to devote some time flushing those out. As a result, a lot of the "in between stuff" is left undefined.

Unlike another scenario which might tell you the names of 6 merchants the players can speak to for information, this scenario does no such thing. It just says "they can make this check and it takes this long to learn X." Well that doesn't mean that the players don't encounter 6 merchants, it just means that you get to define them. And that is freedom. Especially given the backdrop of Axis.

Axis got a recent write up in War for the Crown, as did psychopomp culture, both of which are at play in this scenario. When you go to GM this scenario, do yourself a favor and read up on those things, as well as Hao Jin herself. If you don't have access to the books, check out the Pathfinder wiki -- its not as detailed but contains the same major points. Having a strong understanding of Axis, Pharasma (river of souls), and Hao Jin, goes a long way to making this adventure stand out.

I mentioned the simplistic structure earlier, and I want to be clear that it isn't a detriment in this scenario. Yes, in almost any other adventure, the structure would be a knock against it in my book. However, given the complexity of the setting, the motivations, and the story behind the scenario, having a simple layout for the adventure is a welcome blessing. Otherwise this scenario would almost be too much. Also, the simpler the layout the more prep time you have to read up on all that juicy lore.

And man, is it good. The story the author presents here is solid. Hao Jin's motivation, the various places her memory USB drives have gone, what results those have had, the tie in with 322. But the real moment it shines is in the judges. Each judge that presides over her trial has a specific problem with what she did--make the tapestry.

Judge A is an immortal being that watches over civilizations and preserves history so it can be passed down to younger generations. Hao Jin literally abducted thousands of people from their culture and trapped them in a demi plane. Whoops.

Judge B is the herald of exactness, more or less, who is upset with how Hao Jin made her demi plane. She broke lots of laws on Axis, and Judge B knows them all. Things aren't looking great.

Judge C is a psychopomp, tasked with preserving the passage of souls to Pharasma so they may be judged and pass on the the afterlife. Any mucking about with that process is a big cosmic no-no. Hao Jin may have syphoned off residual soul stuff to make her demiplane function. So basically, she's screwed on three fronts.

But over the course of the game, the PCs can learn of Hao Jin's motivations, her process, and the details of how she did what she did and actually formulate solid counter arguments for each judge. And if they do so, they can help sway them to find her innocent of her crimes. That's freaking cool. Name another scenario where you decide the fate of an immortal mythic tiered sorcerer before a tribunal of eternal beings on another plane. Go ahead, I'll wait.


This scenario goes big and doesn't disappoint. Do your players a favor and run this game for them, but make sure you read up on your lore ahead of time.


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Fun, but enough with Historia-7 already.

***( )( )

Alright, let’s break this down.

The good: Flavor, SSHL, Characters

Star Sugar Heartlove!!! and Strawberry Machine Cake (SMBC) Is something of an SFS phenomenon. When SFS 1-01 came out, we, the people, really attached ourselves to SMBC. We even had a thread about how cool that paragraph-long descripted fictional space band was. That’s how much we wanted to see more of them. And Thursy listened, and we got this game. So from the start, we have a lot going for this scenario in its flavor.

But that’s not to discount what else it does well, which is the characterization of all it’s minor players. From the damage vid-robot to the crazed collector looking for original disks of an SSHL (that you might have picked up in 1-01), I felt that all these characters were well acted. The scenario gave our GM the tools to bring them to life and he did a great job it; the RP in this scenario was a 5/5.

The combats also felt unique. We had a techie and his robots, some radiation-mutation fey that just wanted to chill, and a final fight against a giant, shape shifting holo-mech (someone’s been watching Yu-Gi-Oh).

And that’s all great. But how did we get there?

The bad: GM NPC is better than our PCs; what to do with all these hooks?

Unfortunately, this is where the scenario has some flaws. You might not have noticed yet, but we’re not actually the main characters here. Histora-7 is. She’s the ultimate GM NPC.

She’s the one that sent us out to get her info. She’s the one that recovered the plot thread off the Deus Ex Machina’d sundered datapad. She’s also the one that figures out how to eliminate the virus. The entire scenario, when you look at it from this perspective, really becomes a game of “well GM, where does our main character, Histora-7 want us do next?” And that’s not how you make your players feel like they have agency.

Now obviously, this is a 4 hour scenario. We can’t account for every eventuality and players need to have some guidance. But why not let them discover the plot threads with all those Computer checks instead of having the result of a 40+ be “uhh, better ask Historia-7 what to do next?”

And that’s a real problem. Especially when the scenario is asking us to give it the benefit of the doubt with the other problem—why was this concert hacked?

This is my second main problem. We have no way of finding out anything about the true mastermind here, their purpose, or how they developed this mutable, alien/magic AI. It seems like Historia-7 probably knows, but she doesn’t need to tell us. We’re just the tool. Also that hacker we took alive from the first combat? He doesn’t know anything. No info, whatsoever. We don’t even get a breadcrumb to tease our appetite.

So what are we left with? What’s up with this sabotage? Why do we care? We have to give this scenario the benefit of the doubt that an explanation is coming in a future game. And that’s a dicey proposition. Because there’s only two ways this can go.

To that end, I have two examples that illustrate this point.

The first is the story of Scheherazade. The story goes the unfaithful wife of a cruel king would tell more and more of a story each night but never finish it, thus postponing her execution. For when the story ended, so did she. By the end, she never finished the story, but had convinced the king to love her once more and her life was spared. This is an example of telling a story for the sake of taking up time. Her goal in doing this was to keep the king distracted over and over again without really getting anywhere in the story. Objectively—this is really crappy storytelling. We never end the story, we just keep going till people get bored enough to change the subject.

The second is the Count of Monte Cristo. These were a series of serials written by Alexandre Dumas that told the lengthy tale of a man (Edmond Dantes) being betrayed, and slowly, methodically, taking his revenge on those that betrayed him. Now the author, Dumas, was getting paid by the chapter to do this (and as a notorious drunk probably needed the coin). So his goal was also been to make the arrangement last as long as possible. However, when Dumas finished his story, it was finished beautifully, and the book is widely considered a literary masterpiece as a result. This is phenomenal storytelling.

So are we going to get more scenarios that leave us feeling satisfied (Dumas), as if everything was leading to this? Or scenarios that leave us wanting more (Scheherazade), wondering where it’s all heading towards? And that’s where we have to take this on faith.

Now that’s a lot to take in, and a lot of onus to put on just this one scenario. But it’s a trend that I’ve been seeing lately and it’s worth pointing out.

Final thoughts

All that said, I think 1-14 is a great romp for any SFS enthusiasts—or even new players. The writing shows some real potential from the author, and I look forward to seeing what they can do next. The only downsides are design related and the overbearing handholding of Historia-7, which can be downplayed by a GM ready to give the PCs some of the spotlight back. Otherwise, enjoy your rails folks.


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Call a spade a spade

*( )( )( )( )

This scenario is bad.

Played this tonight. And sad to say, this scenario was my first big disappointment in SFS. Spoilers ahead.

To start, the Starship combat. This was absurdly difficult and felt very overtuned. We had an AP boon for a starship and still almost lost. That aside, it was painfully tedious. There were a fairly boring set of tactics used again and again, which I understood to be “as written,” makes an already boring system even more tiresome. Once the mystery ship was defeated, it self destructed. There’s no opportunity for the players to learn anything about their assailant - not even a little. Which is a major bummer. Also the GM is also kept in the dark. To top it off - there’s nothing to salvage. And if you lose, you are towed to safety anyway after being saved by Deus Ex Machina. So really, the entire hour of starship combat is pointless. Why was this not optional? Why is there no info to learn about the attacker? And most importantly, why was this included?

Realistically, that mystery ship will probably be explored more later as we find out more about the Scoured Stars incident. But with zero context for that encounter, it was just a waste of time.

Moving on to the planet. Oh boy. First impression was very Avatar/Dances with Wolves. Thats fine. Tropes work for a reason. But this is SFS. There’s an infamy option for characters, so scenarios should be designed to allow for that. Our table had 4 players that were morally grey. We immediately sided with the money grubbing corporation.

As written, if you do this - and kill, displace, interrogate, etc the local population, you auto fail the scenario. Why? Because only they know of the relic. What’s the relic? More on that later. Also, when you return to the corporation, you are ambushed by them—because they don’t trust you? What the heck.

First you tell us that they want to hire you to kill the locals, then whether you did it or not they attack you? Sounds like a terrible company. And yes, I know they’re evil. Evil doesn’t mean dumb. They did tell us the locals were strong, having already dispatched three Corp squads. But us? Having defeated the locals supposedly are somehow easier marks? This plot smacks of poor design.

There is only one option. Be the good guy. But that wasn’t my character, or any of the others. We are mercenaries. And we were getting paid to do a job. Give us an infamy, sure, but don’t give us zero rewards.

Oh yeah, the relic? What is it? I don’t know. The Second Seekers leader didn’t know. The locals didn’t know. The GM didn’t know, cause it isn’t in the scenario anywhere. I know we want to keep some meta plot secret, but come on—you can do better than this. Being railroaded into retrieving an unknown macguffin is just terrible writing, and was super disheartening to play through.

This entire scenario is a sequence of rolling dice to get a sheet with variable rewards at the end. It sells you the lie of choice and roleplaying, but the only RP at the table came from the players and the GMs ad lib, with no help from the scenario. You learn nothing about the meta plot from this filler scenario, except for a sign saying “more later.” That’s enough to keep people interested a little longer, but only if the filler material is strong. And this isn’t.

One player summed the night for us. “Well, the best part is that we’ll never have to play that again.” Yes, but what about everyone else?


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Easiest 5 star review I've ever had to give

*****

This is my favorite SFS scenario out thusfar. The encounters were strong, but not overwhelming, the plot was well done with several vibrant, memorable characters, and the ending leaves the PC with a major moral quandary. My players spent a good 15 minutes debating what to do as I filled out sheets, and it’s great to provide that kind of unique experience for your table.

I felt that the "set up" of the scenario was perfect for me as the GM to really flesh out with descriptive text. We get a great skeleton of a scenario, with some meat, but the rest you've got to describe yourself. It was as if the scenario was an underhanded pitch, and I was able to knock it out of the park by drawing on pop culture and bring it to life.

Space Ship Combat: This is the third time I’ve done combat, and this one was the most exciting. With multiple smaller combatants, the PCs movement on the map is vibrant and becomes important. Given the raw stats of how ship combat tends to work, most 1 on 1 battles become people moving around one another and getting in good arcs. With 2-4 enemies, that’s less possible so PCs instead are scrambling to take down targets and disable systems. All of my players had a role to play, and the flavor of a dated drone deployment module gave me a lot to work with.

All that said, I have run combat three times now and tend to run my combats quickly, so I could see this scenario going long if this part drags (as others have said). My advice would be to keep it simple. My drones only moved and shot, and my platform only advanced and pooped out drones. Nothing fancy. This helped emphasize the "primitive technology" of the platform and allowed my players to accurately guess upcoming actions. So they got to feel reactive and smart, besting my drones. Overall this is the only starship combat I haven't hated. A+

Husk Culture: I depicted this as tribal and unburdened by technology. Not quite luddite, but not too far removed from it either. Inspired by some characters from the Borderlands series, they arrived and polished off the Sand Brute in the second encounter, before butchering it up for use as food, armor, and war paint. We had a great time describing non-verbal communication, and the scenario does well presenting those rules in detail.

Membrane Culture: This was presented as a group of individuals so far into sedentary ways that no further progress was being made (scientifically, physically, socially, etc). Basicically just like the humans in the movie WALL-E. At one point, I described a membrane by a food dispenser who was shoveling a continuous stream of soft-serve ice cream into his mouth.

Arkeost: I envisioned a technologically advanced but dated mega-city, that was also fairly vacant (given the lack of half its populace). So like the ghost planet from Serenity, mixed with some of the “giant force-field protecting us” of Ergo Proxy.

The Great Sin: So for the great reveal, I embellished a bit. The PCs had already indicated that they thought both groups were just ignorant (Husks for obvious reasons, but the Membranes because they refused to accept their technology was imperfect), so were inclined to help both out. I pulled from various sources to play this up, but basically the trope of the repentant scientist that did something evil and then offs themselves rather than lives with the guilt of it.

So when they accessed the data terminal in the end, I had the information presented through a series of “video diaries” of a lead scientist and some government officials talking about the plan to reduce population within Arkeost. She played like the female doctor from V for Vendetta (the coroner), originally on board with the plan, but by the end disgusted by what they had done. For the final recording, after the Husks had been tricked out of the city, I had her speak “about knowing what she had to do.” Then she ordered the robots from the previous encounter to open fire and they proceeded to massacre the rest of the people involved. “I’ll have the drones clean the room and dispose of the bodies. Then I’ll kill myself. Now my people can live without the Sin of what we have done.”

It really made my party appreciate why they had separated the Husks from the city, and caused the discussion about what to do with the technology to become even more intense. One of my players said “I completely understand why she did what she did,” in reference to the fictional scientist. The vote came down at a 2-2-1. Two wanted no one to know, two didn’t care, and one wanted to share it with Husks.

Overall I loved running this and will happily run it again.


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Excellent flavor, but a simple delivery, which isn't always a bad thing!

****( )

So my review on this scenario is mixed. First off, I love the flavor of it. Visitor helps out the locals, is assumed to be Robin Hood, is actually a charlatan. It’s great, and an easy trope to develop for some great RP. All that said, the scenario is incredibly linear. It also includes a “gotcha” kind of BBEG, which makes me uncomfortable as a GM. Normally such things would be negatives, but, given the timing of this scenario and the newness of SFS, I can understand why it was designed that way. So let me explain my points and then elaborate on that conclusion.

The Theme of the Scenario This is where Fugitive does a great job. We can easily picture the kind of character Talbot (the BBEG) is and his motivations. It makes RPing him and developing the narrative for our players a breeze. For me, the overall theme reminded me so much of an episode of Firefly that I actually wrote a folk-song to sing to my players rather than do the standard “talk to an NPC, get an info dump,” which isn’t something I usually do. So strong and great was the flavor.

We also travel to Akiton, which is a great throwback to any seasoned PFS players, and Starfinder has given it a facelift reminiscent of Blade Runner / Red Faction – which makes it easy for both us as the GM and our players to ground ourselves in it, making immersion and RP much easier. These two things are huge pluses, and make the scenario incredibly easy to run.

No real choice, only perceived variations Unfortunately, if we strip away all of that, and look at the skeleton of this scenario, we’re left with a railroad. The plot is basically this.

Get briefing > Go to Maro > Maro people tell you to go to Tasch > Go to Tasch > Go to Bar > Bar People tell you to go to mine > Optional* fight > Required fight > Go to mine > Fight Talbot

There is a zero percent chance to do those steps in any other order, given the structure of this scenario. And where other adventures would have consequences, real consequences for failure, this scenario doesn’t. For example, if your PCs botch their investigation checks in Maro, they still learn to go to Tasch. The penalty? The DC of social checks increase by 2, or the attack rolls of enemies increase by 1. There is no real perceived drawback, so as far as the players know their skill checks on Maro were pointless. This is bad, we want players to feel important. Another example is when the players go to Tasch. There is literally a single point of interest, and when the PCs go there the NPCs are drunk and just tell the PCs where to go next. There’s no purpose to the location except to have combat.

That “optional fight” is also super avoidable, and I can’t really imagine the table of PCs that would fight the AbadarCorp representatives. And when an “option” is taken less than probably 10% of the time, it’s not really an option. With the removal of that fight, the scenario becomes a half hour of talking and describing people moving around, two fights and a trap. The second fight can happen one of two locations, but is in fact the exact same fight, so no real variation there. To make matters worse, the final fight is rotten with “gotcha mechanics.”

What do I mean by that? I consider a “gotcha” mechanic to be anytime when the players assume the basic rules of the game to be X, but your NPC does Y, thus breaking the agreed upon rules, and you as the GM are left saying “Gotcha!” It’s incredibly irritating as players to experience this, and feels amazingly douchey as a GM to do it to your players. And this final encounter forces that, pitting the PCs against an opponent with very high ACs, mirror image, cover, AND a “gotcha” mechanic involving the mine cart. Which I guess is ironic, given the rails this entire scenario is on.

Why isn’t it as bad as it sounds? Normally, my review of a scenario like this would be scathing. Obviously, I’m not a fan of the incredibly boring, straight shot story that allows for very little deviation. It has a great story, and a very simple straightforward playthrough. It’s not complicated, and a trained monkey could run a decent table of it. And that is good. This is SFS 1-02. It’s the second scenario in ALL of Starfinder Society, a new OP system that’s going to have new people in it.

Get what I’m saying? To some extent, we have to keep it simple. And looking at this scenario through that lens, it’s a lot more palatable. The writing is great, the flavor is great, the setting is great—everything that speaks to the quality of the author is present, but the mechanics are simple. Which is what you need for introductory scenarios. I’d feel comfortable giving this scenario to a first time GM, which is why it gets higher marks from me.

Unfortunately, I still can’t justify the “gotcha” final fight, which knocks it to 4 stars.


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An excellent intro for Starfinder Society!

*****

After years of playing Pathfinder Society, I've started to grow a bit weary of all those "Welcome to Pathfinder" scenarios that are out there. The Confirmation, Wounded Wisp, First Steps, all those quests. So when I heard that Starfinder was starting off with a "Welcome to Starfinder" scenario, I was not colored excited.

Then I played it.

Then I ran it.

Holy freaking crapbaskets this scenario has it all. First we start off getting a dope introduction. The TLDR of which is that 80% of all the higher level SFS agents are gone. Lost somewhere because of a technical artifact glitch or some Deus Ex Machina. Either way, they're outta the picture. Great explanation for why they're recruiting so many new agents. Very choice.

We then get 4 missions, each of which shows off something different for your new players. You get to choose your own adventure of .. Shadowrun-level espionage, Classic wham-bam alien hunt, skill check extraviganza to chase down some sentient life, and finally, the crowd pleaser, a freaking pod race.

Well not a pod race. This isn't Star Wars. It's a junk race. But there's still pit droids, Hutts, Sebulba, chance cubes. Alright. Not really. But maybe if your table takes the scenario in that direction. Which ours did. And it was beautiful. Nothing like Star Wars quotes, blasters, and a good RPG to make a memorable night.

And that's what this adventure was. I suspect we'll be hearing long into the future about the various podjunk races that took place in Tattooine the Downlow for years to come. There's also STAR SUGAR HEARTLOVE!!! which was shouted no less than 7,452 times the first time we played (it was a 13 year long session). Now we just need more people playing this game so we can get more content.

I would kill for more content like this. I would lightsaber battle my mentor while he had the high ground for more content like this. It would not go well.

5/5 would (will) play / GM again.


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Solid dungeon delve

****( )

The forum monster ate my very long detailed review, and I haven't the will to recreate it. :(

The TLDR is that this scenario is challenging, unique, and cool, but it feels like lots of details were cut for length. Expect to need to build on what's presented to give your players the best experience. The lack of important details (Ocosten's personality, Korj's relationship with him, etc) makes key interactions entirely up to you. Which isn't great for green GMs.

I'd recommend making your own handout for the puzzle and drawing the map in advance. It's a pain to do on the fly.


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"Pathfinders huh? Is that supposed to impress me!?"

*****

This is a great low level scenario. Such a welcome relief from the typical “here’s a dungeon, explore it,” adventures lowbies tend to get. It takes place in a cool setting with some really interesting locations to explore and fun NPCs to roleplay as a GM. A great deal of this scenario is in the description, of which a lot is provided. The author does an outstanding job delivering a cool setting, concept, and characters, and I look forward to more from her in the future. This scenario is definitely going into my back-pocket as another 1-5 I can run on the fly if needed.

**SPOILERS IN DETAIL**
The players are presented with an immediately unlikable NPC but forced to follow their direction. They then collect evidence that shows that NPC is actually a bad-guy, and get the satisfaction of having them court-marshaled for their crimes. They get to do all this while going through boot camp, travelling to another plane, protecting an exotic fantasy casino from theft, and negotiating a ceasefire with a giant, intelligent, acid-spewing rock worm. Honestly, this scenario has so much awesome packed in to it I’m surprised I ran it in under 4 hours.

Part 1--Boot Camp: So the PCs are tasked with joining up with a mercenary company in order to better align the society with that group. In order to that, they need to go through boot camp which means (at least according to every movie ever and the ex-military player at my table) a ton of hazing. My players are good sports and we had a great time roleplaying the over-the-top shouting, saluting, and camaraderie that comes with hating your training officer. I threw peoples bedding away, replaced their meals with gruel, and responded to every clever quip from the PCs by making them run the obstacle course again. “IF YOU’VE GOT ENOUGH ENERGY TO MAKE JOKES YOU’VE GOT ENOUGH ENERGY TO RUN IT AGAIN, PRIVATE!”

There’s a brief combat where the PCs have to brawl other trainees, and I’m fairly certain it’s supposed to be an easy fight—at least it was for my players. Of course all this does is infuriate their CO, which starts the cycle all over again. My players missed the thread where they could speak with their opponents, and instead went back to the obstacle course for some late night runs.

Part 2--The Casino: The first job the PCs get is to guard a casino on opening night against a master-of-disguise con-artist. And gods what a great backdrop to have. A Bellagio-styled resort embedded in the skyline of the plane of earth. The PCs had a great time posting up and keeping an eye out for their mark. They find her, and quickly realize that they’ve been given false information by their CO, and in fact just attempted to arrest the general in charge of their mercenary company. Oops! The general brushes it off, and the PCs double down their efforts to find the swindler. They spy her and confront her, and manage to talk her down. As they are escorting her out, I have her palm one of the PCs wayfinders and give a sultry wink. The mesmerist hypnotises her as she activates her get-away trap and as the elevator falls I figure, what the heck, let’s spice this up. I reckon that since she’s paralyzed, she can’t remove her heel from the trap, so the elevator just plummets 400 feet to the ground below and shatters, killing Inysha in the process. The PCs look down and see her sprawled there, gold and blood framing the grim scene. Picture the start of Lethal Weapon or those noir classics where the bodies of femme fatales are found. They have a riot with it, slapping the mesmerist on the back for getting his first kill.

Part 3--The Convoy: The second (and final) job the PCs get is to escort some rocks from one side of rock town to a rock manor off in the rocky wastes outside of rock town. Basically, at least. They travel with some rock beetles, a massive rock worm, and a pair of dwarves. Part way through their delivery, they’re jumped by a rock elemental and a rock mephit. Combat ensues and the rock worm gets enraged, spewing acid everywhere. They manage to talk him down and dispatch the rock bandits, ultimately recovering the spilled rock cargo, the rock beetles, and completing their journey to the rock manor. This is a pretty cut and dry type of encounter, livened up by the exotic characters that participate. The players especially liked the diamond-studded halfpipe beneath the bridge, as the mephit happened to fall onto it and was shredded to death. They also enjoyed the large rock worm, who I named Jeff and had eat the earth elemental after combat. Again, my players missed the thread to gather more evidence against their CO here, but ultimately didn’t need it.

Part 4--Courtmarshal: The PCs are called in by the general because their corrupt CO is trying to get them to wash out. Instead, the PCs turn the dishonorable discharge meeting against the CO, refuting her claims and proving that she, in fact, has been the one acting suspiciously. They make some token diplomacy checks, aided by their collected evidence and roleplaying, and the general ultimately has the CO taken away in shackles.

Overall, this is a unique scenario that takes place in exotic locations with exotic creatures, but at the end of the day is a fairly straightforward scenario. There are no new mini systems to learn, and very few “secret GM things” to keep track of. Everything is presented well and the one new map that is included likely doesn’t need to be drawn, and if so, probably only a room or two.

Other reviews: Reading over the other reviews, it occurs to me that some people have downvoted this scenario because of it's subject--that being one of a military-style boot camp. Various reviewers didn't care for that setting, and as a result left a low mark for this scenario. That seems rather unfair, as scenario authors are rarely left leeway to make such decisions and (in my experience) are given a general concept and then direction to run with it. Since this is Jenny's first scenario, I think she's done an outstanding job of giving us something new, exciting, and memorable.


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A perfect tie in to Siege of Serpents

*****

This is an excellent scenario that has more than earned its place in my top 5 favorite PFS scenarios of all time. John knocked it out of the park with this scenario, and here are few reasons why.

Story
Story is a big thing for me when it comes to scenarios. I’m always more interested in an exciting story than a mindless dungeon delve, and Serpents Rise has exciting story covered in spades. Not only do we have the overall story, which parallels the events of Siege of Serpents, but we have 6 unique side stories, each directly tying one of the Aspis agents being played by the players into the meat of the main story. These pseudo side quests (somewhat reminiscent of old faction missions) are well written and engaging. They do draw the spotlight on one or two players at a time, but fortunately can be concluded in about 5-10 minutes a piece. In a situation like a home game, where table time isn’t an issue, having one-on-one side quests isn’t really an issue. But in a convention atmosphere, or at a game day that limits slot time, I can imagine situations where some of these side stories derail the main game quite a bit. Fortunately, a well prepared and skilled GM should be able to keep the pace of their game flowing through these side missions.

Characters
Each pregenerated character is unique, intelligently constructed, and relatively well equipped. I enjoyed that pregens pulled from Unchained, Advanced Class Guide, and other newer sources to create characters of moderate to high power, ones that easily overshadow the classic level 7 PFS pregens (Harsk, we’re all looking at you, buddy). They all also have brilliantly written backstories, outstanding art selections, and personal motivations so diverse and complex that some of them honestly make me question all this dwindling animosity I once possessed towards the Aspis Consortium prior to this scenario.

While there has been some negative feedback regarding the gear on each pregen, I find their loadout to be appropriate to the scenario. Coupled with the invitation to make further purchases at the beginning of the scenario and the roughly 2,000 gp available to the party through pooling character wealth, most cautious players will invest in a wand of cure light wounds and some utility potions or scrolls.

Challenges and Combat
The non-combat situations present in the scenario challenge players to think outside the box to achieve success, rather than just roll dice and succeed or fail at their skill checks. This is just what you want in your game, as nothing dulls a table experience more than boiling every non-combat encounter down to “roll a d20 and add ___.” The one involving Janira especially requires some good conceptual problem solving. I also deeply enjoyed the last non-combat encounter that introduces that “seventh pregen” into the mix. Nothing gets a table pumped for the final encounter like having your players give an impassioned speech about why the Pathfinder Society needs to burn for its sins.

Paired alongside these well structured non-combat encounters, the combats were, by and large, equally challenging as well. While the combat in area A is a rather a-typical combat, all of the other encounters are quite unique and refreshing. The one in the tapestry room can be especially challenging for players, while the final encounter, if prepared for adequately, should last several rounds. For GMs reading this review that are planning on running, see the spoiler below.

GM only:
Remember that the creature in the final area makes use of his scroll, as detailed in his “before combat” tactics. I’ve heard reports from other tables where their fights against the final opponent were less than epic, and they were all due to the fact that the GM neglected to make use of that scroll before combat begins. It changes the fight significantly and turns what should be a 5-10 round combat into a 1-2 round combat.

Overall
This scenario is an easy 5 star review for me to give. I deeply enjoyed running it and am hoping to see it opened up as a 4 or 5 star exclusive scenario once Season 7 is in full swing. I think that having more than a 5 hour time slot would be beneficial to the scenario, as there is a lot in the first half of Serpents Rise that could be explored in more depth if time wasn’t an issue. I wouldn’t recommend any GM run this scenario cold, and would advise GMs prepping this scenario to read the pregens backstories and handouts as well—there’s a lot mentioned in them that is missed in the scenario proper.


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What did I love about this scenario? Everything! (except the maps)

*****

After running this last night, the Overflow Archives has wormed its way into my heart as one of my new favorite 1-5 scenarios. There is so much that is right about this scenario, its hard to find a specific place to begin, so I’ll just start throwing out everything it does right.

Exciting characters The Overflow Archives is packed with memorable and unique NPCs. From the VO briefing at the start alone, we get two excellent characterizations of well known Pathfinder Society NPCs, as well as a perfect “third man” in the form of the Pathfinder initiate. Follow this scene up with the fishermen, the sleeper, Gormandelle, and the Fox—every NPC you encounter in this scenario will stay with you afterwards. Scott Sharplin does a great job of picking interesting creatures and giving them outstanding personalities. As a GM, its impossible to run this scenario and not be animated as you cycle through all the different personalities. I surprised myself with how much I got into roleplaying, and when a GM does that, it really encourages the players to follow suit, which is exactly what I want to see more of in 1-5s.

Amazing plot I want this review to be as spoiler free as possible, so I will tell anyone that is thinking of running this to please prep it first. There are no complicated rules or abilities, nothing that isn’t already listed in the back with the monster stat blocks, but what The Overflow Archives does have is one of the cleverest plots you’ll find in a PFS scenario. You need to do your players justice and give this scenario a once over, otherwise you’re bound to make mistakes. The scenario does a great job of presenting the information you need to understand what events have occurred in the past, and you’ll need to remember that information as your players start asking the right kinds of questions.

Well placed faction mission Although only the Dark Archive will find something specific in the Archives, the faction mission doesn’t detract from the overall storyline at all. It is also a clever side quest, one that you’ll easily be able to identify from across the room once you know what it is, similar to “I do this for Taldor,” but it involves the GM yelling instead. I had a great deal of fun making noise for this faction mission.

Brilliant Riddle I don’t know where Scott pulled this riddle out of, but it is a sublime piece of trickery. My players literally beat their head against the tables when they finally figured it out. One stood and applauded the pieces of paper before them, proclaiming, “oh my God is so good!” It is a great thing to be able to give those feelings to your players, so thank you for that.

Solid finish When I read the effects that surround the conclusion, I visualized it perfectly. This is the only part I will spoil, as it is to help future GMs describe what happens to their players in greater detail.

Spoiler:
Jumanji

I’ll end this review by asking anyone that might play this scenario before they run it to please not spoil this for yourself, as all you are doing is depriving yourself of an amazing experience. My biggest regret with this scenario is that I GM’d it first, instead of playing it myself. My second biggest regret is the maps for the lower levels. Since these are both custom maps, having that second one be entirely diagonal is aggravating as a GM. However, as this is the only thing I would change about the scenario, The Overflow Archives is still an outstanding scenario that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys having a good time.


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Possibly my favorite 1-5 scenario

*****

Having now played this and run it twice, I've gotten my thoughts in order for this review.

First off, there has never been a scenario like this before, and as of writing this, it is still the only one that exists. That means that Library can be thought of as sort of a “guinea pig scenario” when PFS development was trying something out to see how it was received. And just for attempting that, I’ve got to give them a big hand. After six years of content, to write something that so breaks the mold of what you expect from a scenario, that takes a leap of faith. Lucky for them, authors Kyle Elliot and John Compton really hit it out of the park with this one.

The scenario required the creation of never before used mechanics—clues—in order to keep investigation of the Library of the Lion exciting, and man does it work. I’m reminded of another scenario, where in players have to research a cure for a terrible plague, but it mostly boiled down to X amount of skill checks, meaning Y amount of time, and that was about it. With the clue mechanic in Library, my players instead are very engaged in the actual research, debating over who searches what room, and are always eager to read whatever clues they received aloud to the table, proudly announcing their successes. This is a great thing to see. Especially when I can get players who have non-social PCs engaged in a challenge that’s 100% different from combat.

The restricted time frame the PCs have to explore also added a great element to the scenario, the running minute count I kept on the board served as an invisible hand, always ushering the players to stay on point. That’s also a good thing to have in a scenario like this; without it I can see PCs getting overwhelmed with the amount of rooms to search or even boringly moving as a unit from room to room until they find all the clues. As it is, with a party that works well together and thinks outside the box, I’ve found that all of my tables have been able to find all the clues and make it back under two hours—even with just 4 players present. That is a great feeling to be able to reward your players with.

Furthermore, the NPCs in this scenario are among the most memorable and unique Society has to offer (Grandmaster Torch being a solid exception). Both the Guardian and the librarian each serve both a crucial mechanical point as well as being a delight to roleplay as. I can use the Guardian as a GM to offer hints if needed to the PCs, or to fill in gaps in their understanding of the history of Taldor, while the librarian can serve to give the PCs a more grounded understanding of both the Lion Blades and what service to Taldor truly is under Prince Stavian. By having these NPCs in the scenario, and making them so memorable and unique, it made getting my players to roleplay a breeze. They wanted to try and negotiate with the Guardian and to try and fool the librarian. I’ve never had a scenario so give me the tools I need to make NPCs interesting as this one does.

In addition to all this, Library is literally packed with lore about the Inner Sea. There are detailed tidbits present in the clues the PCs uncover, there is excellent lore regarding Taldor in the scenario, and several of the final rooms are open ended enough to include items from whatever exotic and untapped nations the GM wishes to mention. I found myself pausing the scenario at points to give brief history lessons on the Inner Sea region, having my players make a token Knowledge check as an excuse for me to dish about the rich world that Pathfinder takes place in. I thoroughly enjoyed the ease that I was able to do this with in the scenario, and I believe my players enjoyed uncovering random bits of lore, becoming more immersed with each new thing they learned.

Finally, no investigative, thinking-man’s (and woman’s) scenario like this would be complete without puzzles. And Library has some of the best ones in PFS. I will not detail them at all, as to do so would be to do a disservice to this remarkable scenario, suffice it to say that at one point, a player tried to make a Knowledge check to get hints as to how to bypass one of the puzzles. I smiled and simply told him no—everything you need to succeed in Library of the Lion is right there in front of you. You just have to work your brain a bit.

In the end, I highly recommend Library of the Lion, it is in my top five scenarios of all time and may be my new favorite 1-5. It is a delight both to run and to play, and if you have any questions when prepping it I encourage you to post over on the GM boards. Kyle and John have been consistently on top of answering any and all questions and further explaining the mechanics. My only advice would be for GMs to prep this scenario thoroughly in advance, and to play it before running it if possible. There is more prep work for this 1-5 than any other out there, and I am not exaggerating.

So do your research and draw your maps, because Library of the Lion is worth the extra work. It’s a wholly unique experience and one that everyone should be able to enjoy.


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Valeros looks good in the spotlight

*****

I've been getting all the Pathfinder Comics as they've been coming out. I've enjoyed them all thoroughly, but this is the first one that's had me smiling page after page.

The story presented for Valeros is a perfect way to encapsulate his character. We even get a solid taste of Amiri in Origins #1, which is a welcome addition to the tale. I would have assumed both iconics to have a friendly, but competitive relationship, and the one presented in the comic supports and develops that. My other major praise has to be the dialogue. All of it is so in character and wholly entertaining. The one-liners delivered by Valeros alone had me chuckling. In addition, all of the minor jokes, both visual and written, all fit seemlessly within the larger story without detracting from its impact.

I hope the rest of these are as entertaining, and I look forward to the next installment.


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Such revelry that Cayden would be proud

*****

Every bit of Hall of Drunken Heroes warms my cold, lifeless GM heart. Even in re-reading the introduction to the Hall itself I find myself grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

"Cayden’s Hall is a massive, open fest hall of rough-hewn timbers. The latter have been replaced many times over the years thanks to their predecessors being burnt to cinders when the large, celebratory bonfires often burning within the wooden structure mixed badly with the very large and very inebriated crowds frequenting the establishment."

I think it's impossible to resist wanting to play a game where that is the setting. In addition to such a great location, the game starts off with what is probably the best briefing ever, as Osprey brings in a demon for the PCs to pump for information, like some 1970 beat cops.

Outstanding.

We then are taken into Cayden's Hall, thrown into a memorable barroom brawl and are free to roam through a series of clues and leads before arriving at what is probably the most challenging fight in all of Season 1 (sans Eyes of the Ten). And the fun's not done yet; you're only half-way through the scenario at this point!

I could keep going, but you shouldn't keep reading. Download this scenario and play it right now!


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This might be my favorite scenario of all time

*****

What an excellent scenario!

When this adventure came out, it was a showstopper when I ran it at PaizoCon. Players stood out of their chairs when the reveal happened that Season 4 was going to have a Thassilonian theme. That alone is great to have in a season finale scenario. But that aside, this scenario still carries its weight as we start moving into Season 6.

Each of the encounters is unique, challenging, and wrought with roleplay opportunity, and the trap(s) that lie within the Well of Tainted virtue are still whispered among my players to this day. In addition to having an especially potent BBEG, this scenario is well equipped to handle a seasoned party of Pathfinders and give them a run for their money.

It wastes no time placing your players into the action and has a thrilling "Stargate" styled introduction to boot. Despite their retirement, even the faction missions in this scenario are worth exploring. Cheliaxian PCs may indeed enjoy playing this scenario if they are willing to explore their... morally ambiguous side.

Literally the only thing that I have issue with in this scenario is the map. But given the setting and epic gravitas of this scenario, I don't mind drawing it out each time one little bit.

To this day, this scenario is the gold standard I use when gauging the quality of new 7-11 scenarios, as well as the season finale scenarios of season 4, and 5. And I still like Portal of the Sacred Rune more.


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A fantastical romp through classical Aladdin themes

*****

*GM Spoiler area*

This scenario screams Aladdin to me. It takes place in Qadira, it involves an evil genie and a magical lamp, and the PCs have to travel deep into the desert to find the vault where it all lies hidden beneath the sands.

If that isn't cool enough, this adventure is packed full of challenging and different encounters, clever traps and hazards, and a well written narrative that the PCs can uncover as they play through the game. I love giving my players handouts and clues to point them in the right direction when they are playing an investigative game, and this scenario provides those.

Couple that with one of the most memorable environmental challenges I've ever seen in a PFS scenario and you've got a game that's sure to entertain and challenge your players.

I've GM'd this scenario a handful of times now and my players have always enjoyed it. The one time I did get to play was one of the best experiences I've had at a table, and kudos to the GM aside, this is a great gem of a scenario from Season 2.


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5 out of 5, would replay.

*****

Janira Gavix
This NPC is probably the best thing in The Confirmation. Janira serves many functions, some of which are pretty subtle, and overall is a great addition to the scenario. Janira drives the story. She gets your players introduced to the idea of adventuring, gets them out the door and into their first dungeon. She's written in such a way that she enables you as a GM to help you players develop their skills as fledgling Pathfinders. The scenario itself makes this clear, as it has Janira inspect player's gear, pass out useful items, and define the qualities of exemplary former Pathfinders.

Also, because of the addition of Janira, it gives you as a GM a voice among your players. This allows you to advise your players through the medium of an NPC. So instead of telling your players "hey, let's focus on the game please," you can have Janira do it for you. "Oh yes! What a delightful story, friend. Now then, what do you make of this cave up ahead?" You can use Janira to keep your story on track, help new players make better combat decisions, draw typically quiet players out of their shell -- anything you really want. And the whole time the NPC is doing it. Since Janira is the one giving out advice, players are more likely to be responsive to it. Everyone hates being told "no" by a GM, but it's hard to hate Janira's genuine passion for adventure as she keeps the table in check. "Why don't we visit that whore house after we explore the caves? Sound good?"

Replacing First Steps
The Confirmation has some pretty big shoes to fill. It's replacing the only PFS introductory scenario the game has ever had, and at the same time it's condensing it from a 3 part story arc to a one part. That's not easy. All that said, Kyle hasn't failed to deliver with this scenario.

Rather than spending three games following the instructions of almost a dozen different people, in this scenario you have a very straightforward "do this" kind of plot. Straight forward, but with enough of a twist that it remains interesting all the way until the end. In addition, because of how the final fight is designed, it allows the players to experience a difficult fight with a level of preparation that helps careful PCs even the odds.

By having randomly rolled fights for a majority of the encounters, it makes every playthrough of The Confirmation quite different. The built in replayability feature is a huge step forward for an evergreen (replayable for credit) scenario like this.

As an introduction to PFS play
My players (all of which had experienced First Steps) thought that the way The Confirmation was written served as a much better introduction to the Pathfinder Society. As a player, you are given an introduction to the society, it's history, a couple of it's members, and are reminded of it's structure and beliefs. You are given your first official assignment, presented as a final exam, and are guided through your first fight in a sort of "tutorial mode" before Janira lets you off the leash to adventure on your own for the rest of the game. You are given instruction on gear, which can be quite daunting to new players, and are faced with an even mix of combat and non-combat encounters to test your newly minted skills.

As a GM, I especially liked that the players were reminded of what is expected of Pathfinders - explore, report, cooperate. It can be difficult in PFS when players with diametrically opposed characters sit down and have to rationalize working with one another. I was actually able to remind my players of this via Janira, which was great. An Andoran at the table introduced his character and included a line about defeating the evil Chelish empire and driving them from the face of Golarion, so I had Janira chime in. "Now while I, more than most, can appreciate your drive for freedom and equality, we must remember that while adventuring under the Pathfinder banner that we uphold the three duties. The last of which is cooperation. I'd suggest that you embrace any Chelaxians Pathfinders you come across as your brothers and sisters. Some might even consider joining your cause! Ethnicity is no reason for exclusivity, I always say!"

Final Thoughts
I've liked Kyle's previous work (Rats of Round Mountain, pt. 1 in particular), but I think that he's hit the nail on the head with The Confirmation. This scenario comes exactly as promised: an evergreen new scenario that introduces new players to PFS. And it even goes a bit further. It's well written, quick, and replayable in a way that other PFS scenarios aren't. It can help introduce new players to Pathfinder in general. I actually plan on using it to introduce my parents to Pathfinder, as well as any other people that are unfamiliar with tabletop.

I like the direction that this will take PFS in Season 5 and beyond, and look forward to what else Paizo has Kyle work on. 5/5.


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GM's: worth your time, prep for it; Players: don't read this!!

*****

Since this is one of the scenarios I am slotted to run a table of at Paizocon, I figured I would run it a few times before getting there to see how it was, and boy was I surprised. The first thing that really got me into Rats, Pt 1 was the basic premise.

The Premise:

I always thought going into the tapestry was a cool notion -- as genesis was a staple of any high level wizard back in the day -- so the thought that the Pathfinder society would send people into a high level spellcaster's personal demiplane to look for treasure, explore, report, etc. is just very cool to me. Rats turns that introductory premise on it's ear a bit. Hao Jin didn't just use her tapestry for cataloging relics and hiding pyramids, she used the existence of her demiplane as a tactical decision. Against an invading force of ratfolk, she simply caused a massive chunk of Golarion's Darklands to no longer exist on Golarion -- teleporting it into her tapestry. Not only did this cause some catastrophic drawbacks for the ratfolk back home, but now there was essentially a spherical terrarium that cratered it's way into the tapestry. And from that "round mountain," the rats adapted to their new home. How freaking cool is that? And all that is just the premise to the freaking scenario.

That right there should be enough to get you to go out and get this scenario. Or download it. After you've done that and have a copy beside you, let's continue.

More Hooks:

So, as the players find out, there's more than just rats within Round Mountain. Because Hao Jin essentially just scooped out a huge section of earth, anything that was in that dirt and rock was teleported into the tapestry as well. This allows Rats, pt. 1 to be filled with displaced creatures, scratching out a new survival in their sundered home. It also allows the young wyrmling that was caught up in the spell to have come to full maturity. But more on that later. We already agree that the presentation of this scenario is great, but what of the actual meat? The crunch, the numbers -- how does it play?

The Encounters:

Breaking down the encounters, you have:
- Diplomatic
- Combat
- Trap
- Combat (optional)
- Diplomatic/Combat Final

A pretty standard set up for PFS game. But lets look at each one in depth and find out why they stand out. The initial diplomatic encounter is pretty straightforward. There are some rats, you are sent to parlay with rats, so you parlay with rats. However, for the diplomatically disinclined, there are actually options for combat. Challenging combat at that. And even if they succeed, they get burned in the end, as the consequences of their actions carryover into the second scenario in the series.

The rest of the encounters struck me as very solid benchmarks for what a high level party should be prepared to encounter.

The combat following the diplomatic encounter demonstrates this well. You have a pair of creatures with see in darkness, deeper darkness, and dispel magic. Combine that with 4 attacks from a high level enemy rogue a round and you have the potential for a lot of bloodshed. However, this encounter can be defeated if the PCs have a well thought out group and supply accordingly. They are going into a place that was torn from the darklands after all, so perhaps they should have a means to dispel magical darkness. Just saying.

The trap is easy to notice, but the PCs can't help but trigger it when the swarm appears. I liked that. I think a really challenging encounter should always put players into a situation where they're deciding between one unfavorable outcome or the other. Do I take full attacks from the wolves, or do I jump off the balcony? Things like that. And because it's made fairly clear that the trap can be triggered quite easily, punishing the group for a player casting fireball on the swarm serves as a good learning lesson.

The optional encounter is rough, very rough. In the high tier, expect a PC to die. You have 4 attacks slamming in at a +15 a pop (with power attack) that do 1d6-1d8+17 each. You can also have fun with their tactics. They have awesome blow and greater bull rush, and they are trying to beat one PC up and scamper off with their dinner. Combined with a 15' reach (courtesy of lunge), those feats make it very easy to split the party, especially in the 30ft corridor the gugs appear in.

The Beast:

The final fight, is of course the dragon we were introduced to in the fluff. CR 14 in the 10-11 tier means high level SLAs, spell resistance 20+, 30+ AC, 200+ HP, not to mention her slew of other spellcasting abilities. However, it begins the "fight" in discussion mode. The PCs have a couple of rounds to sense the beast coming, and will likely use this time to prep their buff spells. A lot of those will have minute durations or less, so you may want to employ this trick. Once they're all done with their "pre-dragon rounds," have the dragon appear, describe it, and then take out your smart phone and set it as a stopwatch in the center of the table. And as you start it, begin speaking as the dragon. If they do something to move the discussion into combat, stop the stopwatch, and see how much time was "wasted" dialoguing.

The dragon can do quite well at the end, following the presented strategy. Fear aura, split the party, breath weapon, combination of melee/spells. Be sure to calculate out the size covered by her wall of stone ahead of time, and use a shot or two of her enervation in the 10-11 tier. One to four negative levels on a touch with no save is pretty harsh. Then again, so are her full attacks, especially with power attack, improved critical on her claws and bite, and lunge. In the 10-11 tier, the math for power attack is -5 to hit, +10 damage (or +15 on the bite), and the lunge makes her have a 20 foot reach.

That is how a high level scenario should be. Even with all these challenging, gear checking encounters, I was able to finish a high tiered in 3.5 hours, with the optional encounter. A quick read though, followed by a short visit to the Society forums will do you well if you're planning to run Rats 1 and 2.

- WalterGM


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A Perfect Present for Newcomers

*****

The Beginner Box looked amazing when it was announced and now, having seen it, I can confirm this. Details are spoiled below incase you don’t want to ruin the surprise of opening your own box.

Spoiler:

There are so many great things in here; I just had to splurge them out.

-Instead of having only pregen characters for new players (which are the fighter, wizard, rogue and cleric) the player's guide in the box also has very simple instructions for how to make your own, "customized" version of those four classes. You can pick from an array of feats, skills, and equipment. It even includes rules for leveling all four classes from level 1 to 5.

-The character sheets provided have each area of the sheet (like skills for example) labeled with a letter (skills are "D") that corresponds to that section in the player's guide that's provided. This is such a cool idea, and it’s something that is sure to make character creation that much easier for new players.

-The player's guide includes options for race, skills, feats, deities, equipment -- just like the actual core rulebook but simplified for new players. As far as I can tell, none of the game mechanics are "dumbed down" (like Castle Ravenloft for 4e), which means that if new players enjoy playing with the Beginner Box, they'll enjoy playing Pathfinder!

-The player's guide also includes a sort of quick rules section for combat and status conditions which I actually might steal for my home games (easier than thumbing through a whole book).

-The GM guide included is really incredible. In addition to explaining the role of the GM, how to read stat blocks and craft a convincing narrative, it also details how to start your own game, with tips like: how to draw out and plan dungeons, how to balance combat encounters, settings you can use, story hooks, magic item tables, NPC suggestions, and several pages worth of monsters straight from the bestiary.

- In addition to a simple adventure designed for new players with a new gm, there is also a solo adventure that reads (and I assume plays) quite nicely. The simple adventure includes such things as: sneak attacks, traps, treasure, harrowing danger and even a dragon! Throughout the gm handout for the adventure are rules breakdowns for skill checks, combat, and monster tactics. Very nicely done.

-There is also a flip mat included. One side is blank squares (tan colored), and the other is the dungeon used for the adventure provided in the box. The dungeon side is easily reusable in future games (provided you have new players).

-The token sheets provided for the players and monsters are actually very nicely detailed and, at least for me, are going to see use in other games.

-There’s even a plug for Pathfinder Society in the form of a one page ad that comes in the box. Not entirely relevant, but it’s something neat that I’m going to post in my local gaming shop to advertise for Society, so it was nice to have a little more icing on the already superb cake that is the Beginner Box.

Overall, this is the best "beginner-type" product I have seen for any roleplaying game. I just dug up my 3.0 starter booklet and pregens to compare and, although it brought back great memories, it couldn't stand up to what Paizo has produced. Get this if you're looking to get someone new into Pathfinder or if you think you might in the future. It's a purchase that you won't regret.


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An excellent walk in the park...well the desert...to a portal to hell.

*****

I purchased and printed this scenario off for my PFS groups last night and it went two completely different ways for the two tables (my friend Gm'd table 2).

Spoiler:
The first villain
table 1: almost TPK. He opened with a color spray from his hidey-hole and and stunned the level 3 paladin while knocking the cleric out for 3 minutes. The barbarian and wizard moved up, only to get burning hands'd for max damage, dropping the wizard. The barbarian then opened the door, only to get tripped by the sorcerer's waiting whip feather token, followed by a elemental ray that dropped him into negatives. The next 10 rounds were a dance between a disarmed, frequently tripped paladin swinging with his gauntlet (he had no back up weapons) and the sorcerer expending all of his elemental rays, fighting with the paladin's own sword for a couple of rounds, before tripping him and fleeing as the whip ran out of juice. All of the -HP players stabilized, and the party did not wipe.
table 2: Kicked open the secret door and two shot the boss (gunslinger / ranger combo).

The dwarf in the forge
table 1: They approached with diplomacy, coin, and good-will, and learned all about the cleric end boss waiting for them above (already alerted by the sorcerer). They did so well, that I allowed the dwarf to accompany them for the rest of the encounter, although he never entered combat. The dwarf also disabled the steam vents above.
table 2: The gunslinger shot the dwarf as he opened his mouth, crit, and killed him.

The final boss
table 1: The barbarian one shot her: power attack, greatsword; with the help of the captured sorcerer (they got him coming up the stairs), they easily closed the portal and dispatched the fire beetle and the lemure.
table 2: The ranger got swarmed by the three monsters and died instantly. The barbarian got tripped by the whip, hit by a steam vent, and bullrushed into lava by the lemure. They almost TPK'd. They also spent 10 minutes figuring out how to close the portal. Half of them failed completing faction missions because they sped through the scenario.

My thoughts? I had a *huge* amount of fun playing with the first table. All of the first antagonists "tactics" building up to the fight are excellent, and fit exactly into how I ended up RPing him. The secondary characters later on, the dwarf and the devil bridge guardian were also a blast to play as. I really enjoyed the overall back story to the game, as well as the bad-guy motivations behind their actions both before the scenario takes place and during it. I also feel that this would be a good introish game for those new to Pathfinder, as it takes place in a pretty linear format (one location, go straight ahead then upstairs) and the fights aren't that tricky if you are smart, although sometimes fate just isn't on the PC's side (see table 1, encounter 1).

One word of advice to any players: play SMART. I don't mean play like its a second edition dungeon crawl, but do listen to everything your GM tells you (and what items you find, as they may prove to be very useful) and this game will be very satisfying. If you just try to blaze through, you may wind up with a party wipe, or at least a death.

Easily 5 stars.


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Getting the most out of your CR 1/3 creatures.

*****

Goblins have never been so cool. Quick spoiler:

Spoiler:

Here are some facts about goblins that Paizo included in the scenario, which I thought was the best part of the entire game.
- They will steal and swallow flasks of alchemist's fire to use later. These flasks have a chance of exploding. My players lost a goblin this way.
- They have a natural affinity for wolves and will attempt to wrangle / ride any encountered wolves to freedom. My players lost a goblin this way.
- They are never to be trusted. Throughout the game I had the goblins feed my players misinformation, distraction, and overall sew tiny seeds of dissent among the PC's.

By the end of the adventure, they were more than happy to see the remaining pair of greenskins off and have whenever a new scenario has them encounter goblins, they have an entirely new respect for their wicked intent. My favorite thing is that now, whenever we have a new player showing interest in the game, one of the veterans will put an arm over the newbie's shoulder and say. "Well friend, let me tell you something about goblins." This is how being a GM should feel, like you play the emotional strings in your players hearts as easy as a guitar player strums chords. I broke 5 people's spirits that night with goblins. Goblins!


Thank you Paizo.