Sironu

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*** Venture-Lieutenant, Louisiana—Baton Rouge 23 posts (181 including aliases). 17 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 45 Organized Play characters. 1 alias.



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Revelations Galore!

5/5

I really liked this scenario, and going into it, I had no idea how much it would reference PFS1. I was absolutely floored in the intro briefing, and only continued to be more and more amazed that Paizo decided to pick up one particularly loose (and fascinating) thread from PFS1. SO MANY RELVELATIONS!

As others have commented already, these revelations might not have much of an impact on new players, but I absolutely loved them as a PF1 vet!

The fights were all interesting and substantially threatening. The final challenge was particularly deadly, but our GM gave us ways to avoid the damage (by leaving the room if need be). I also think that for a final challenge of the game, the deadliness was justified.

Again, as others have also called out, the tone was great. There were also some interesting opportunities for roleplay, and I liked being able to save a few new friends along the way...

Overall, a great metaplot scenario - and I would say it felt like one of the strongest story-wise since Season 2. I was not excited at all about the metaplot this season until I played this scenario, but now I'm really interested to see where the finale goes. Good job Paizo, and great job Michael Bramnik!


I had a terrible GM, but I still liked this scenario...

4/5

As the title says, I had a terrible GM when my party played through this scenario at Paizocon. The game was running long due to a proliferation of tanky targets with one particularly problematic reaction, and even though everyone was focused on trying to win the fights, the GM was still getting irate and raising his voice at us about "table chatter," trying to rush us while claiming the game was running long because of US (and not himself or even the length of the scenario itself). Among other things he did before and during the game, that particular GM was one of the worst I've ever played with and I will be avoiding him at any convention I go to in the future.

Despite of all that though, I still liked this scenario. The story behind it was great, the fights were challenging, and as another reviewer remarked there was more to worry about than simply beating down the enemies. I liked how the orc pantheon was involved, the subsystem was long but didn't really bother me (since the flavor for it was pretty cool), and the set up and falling action after the final fight actually made me feel emotional - in a good way.

If I were to recommend one thing that could be taken out to make this game run faster, it would be the subsystem challenge. Still, I actually liked its inclusion in my run of the game (though it did admittedly have way too many rounds and was just starting to outlive its welcome at the end).

In any case, I agree with the more positive reviewers when I say this scenario does a great job of progressing the Belkzen metaplot, and I look forward for where it will go next. To GMs and players out there though, I'll warn you, this scenario will likely run long. Prepare accordingly and set enough time aside so that you can fully enjoy it.


How This Scenario Does Everything I Hate... and Why I LOVE It Anyway!

5/5

I played A Lie Told to Strangers at Paizocon, and we had a high-tier party of a Steam Knight Kineticist (me), a Psychic (the one with amped Guidance), a Bard, a Paladin Champion, an Investigator, and a Rogue (Thief, I think?).

Now then, I’ll start by noting this - A Lie Told to Strangers does everything I’ve come to loathe in PFS scenarios. It has a quest-giver that tells you to go to another quest-giver to get more information about the quest, it uses multiple subsystems, has a ton of skill checks, does not delve much into what makes the setting unique, has idiotic villains, and has some fights with fairly generic enemies too - none of which proved very challenging for my party (and I like a challenge).

So why do I rate this scenario so highly?

Because somehow, in spite of all this, Alison Cybe still made an adventure that I absolutely loved playing!

The opening setup where you meet your first quest giver is great. I loved seeing the bureaucracy that goes into organizing the Pathfinder Society and it was hilarious. A great tone-setter for the rest of the scenario.

Then you go to Kaer Maga. Oh, Kaer Maga - how I love thee! Our GM showed us the old picture of the city sitting on the backs of the mountains carved to look like undead giants, and that really added a lot to the setting. This part of the experience may vary by GM, but I would really recommend that every GM running this scenario do a quick search for the amazing old artwork and show it to players as they’re entering the city. It adds so much flavor! Even though the rest of the scenario could have basically occurred in any city, that one photo cemented the fact that my party was somewhere special. To be fair though, there was also some old Runelord flavor sprinkled throughout the adventure as well, and that helped with bringing the setting alive too.

In any case, after the initial intro to the city, then you get to meet your second contact - and OMG I LOVED THIS CHARACTER! SHE WAS AMAZING! If you get a good GM, this NPC can really shine, and our GM made her shine like the sun! She was hilarious, quirky, and so much fun to interact with! I think by the end of the scenario my super-excitable catfok kineticist had a HUGE crush on this character, and I really, really, REALLY hope she shows up again in the future! Paizo! Please make her an official romance option like Foxglove in PF1! PLEASE! If you do nothing else for me all my life, DO THIS!

...

In any case, even without the primary scenario NPC, this story included plenty of opportunities for roleplay, which my party took good advantage of.

Now then - as for the subsystems, this scenario did something unusual for a PFS scenario: it watered them down into a number of quicker, rapid fire skill check challenges. Instead of bogging us down with round after round after round of relentless mechanics, the GM would describe something, we would roll our checks - and then we would move on. The challenges were much shorter than what I’ve come to expect with these particular subsystems in PFS2, and it was actually quite fun and refreshing - even playing a kineticist (who dumped Int and was short on useful skill options to contribute to the party)! I don’t recall either of the subsystems that showed up taking more than 4 rounds tops to complete, and the flavor for the challenges was engaging, fun (sometimes hilarious even - cats, I'm looking at you), and at times even endearing.

There was also a bit of a mystery in this one, and it wasn’t immediately obvious who done it either! I played "Ukuja the First Wall" prior to this, so a more competently-written mystery was a nice change of pace. While the mystery wasn’t super fleshed-out, it was sufficient enough that I felt like we were slowly uncovering a dangerous conspiracy - and that was great!

In the case of the scenario’s villains - the big, master scheme wasn’t all that complicated and the generic mooks were portrayed to be some real idiots. When Paizo has villains that are this idiotic, I normally don’t like it. How did idiots like these manage to accomplish anything before the scenario began? How are they an actual threat? How do they even get up in the morning and know how to tie their own shoelaces? That noted however, the scheme this time was still quite sinister and had some dark, dark undertones. The primary villain also seemed to be fairly crafty too, so I’ll forgive the scenario for having some idiots in the ranks. It makes some sense that the villain would be able to get these particular idiots to fall in line with their plans. Also, with the tone this scenario had already set up earlier, the idiotic villains tended to synch up with the light-hearted tone of the overall adventure well.

As for the fights, in our experience they were nothing particularly special. The first fight was actually the toughest in our playthrough, as the starting positions of our party and our enemies made things more difficult. In my opinion though, this was more of a fun challenge than a problematic encounter design. After that, both of the remaining fights were tough enough to last a few rounds, but not dangerous enough to knock anyone out. As I mentioned earlier, I normally prefer challenging fights with unique and exciting enemies. Here though, it actually felt good dumpstering the bad guys after uncovering their plot. It felt kind of like a reward for completing the investigation, while also continuing the light-hearted tone of the scenario overall. As I mentioned, the fights still lasted a few rounds each so everyone had a chance to show off their character builds and get some good licks in. The final boss even had some interesting abilities, so while he wasn’t particularly dangerous, it was still interesting to see what he could do.

So there you have it. This scenario did everything I hate, but somehow I still walked away loving it and thinking it was one of my favorite experiences in all of PFS2. It wasn’t perfect though, and it definitely had its flaws. Depending on your GM and party, you might not enjoy it nearly as much as I did. Speaking of, the party I had was full of great roleplayers and exciting character concepts. Likewise our GM was laid back, fun, and a good roleplayer himself. Bear in mind that this may have skewed my overall experience more towards the positive. With that duly noted however, I would still highly recommend this scenario to anyone. For players and GMs both, it has subsystems the way they should be run, a setting that could be on the cover of a heavy metal album, dastardly schemes to uncover, goofy shenanigans to be had, some dark undertones that could please even the edgiest of players, and just the absolute best new character to be introduced in Society this season (and possibly ever)!

I love you Nelly! My kineticist misses you already! Please come back soon!


An Extremely Underwhelming Finale

1/5

There are two reasons I rated this scenario so harshly.

1. The Influence subsystem can be really fun when well-written, but Paizo typically does not put in the effort to truly make the subsystem shine. This scenario is another example of how Paizo puts too many characters into these encounters and doesn't try harder to make them fluid and interesting - possibly with various talking points or scene transitions.

2. The final boss battle was an absolute letdown. For the finale of the season, and the culmination of years of build up, facing off against a villain who's been a thorn in the Society's side since Season 5 of PF1, I was hoping for a battle that would be challenging, memorable, and rewarding. Instead, I got a MODERATE ENCOUNTER?!?! Why Paizo? It was the finale of an entire season, darn it! In the future, please have more challenging boss battles. PLEASE!!!!


Amazing Concept, Brilliant Implementation!

5/5

I played at Falgaia’s table some time ago, and for what it’s worth, his review was previously posted. Still, after reading over all the other reviews for this scenario, I wanted to put in my two cents.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

When I originally played through this scenario, I had no idea that user reviews would be so polarized. I just thought this scenario was an amazing combat gauntlet and that was it. I personally love tough combats, and feel like if you’re not having tough combats, then why even have the combats in the first place? I want to be challenged, I want to be forced to use tactics, to plan out my turn in ways that feel more significant than “run up and punch things,” to feel like we could be right on the cusp of losing at any moment! In that regard, this scenario does not disappoint. All the combats felt challenging and tense, especially since we had additional losing condition besides a TPK. It’s rare to find additional losing conditions in any Pathfinder products, so having additional things to worry about other than death made the fights feel fresh and exciting!

Then there was the special tree mechanic – which just pushed this combat gauntlet over the top for me. I loved everything about the trees! At first, I thought it might just be some gimmick that wouldn’t prove to be that important in the long run – but no! The trees were an important strategic advantage throughout the adventure, one that we had to protect and position carefully in order to get the most bang for our buck.

SUPER SPOILERS AHEAD!

And this leads me to the grandest moment of the whole scenario. After our group completed the first two fights with the trees (and were all in love with them BTW), we had to say our goodbyes since the final fight was underground. We were so disappointed that the – until then – awesome tree mechanic had reached its end, and that for the final fight, we’d be on our own… We got onto the encounter map and saw all the dangerous foes arrayed against us, strapped ourselves in for an uphill battle – AND THEN THE TREES CAME! THEY CAME JUST THE SAME! It was such an amazing feeling, thinking that the coolest mechanic in all of Paizo had abandoned us – only for it to return to us like a blessing from the heavens! That is one of the most exciting and rewarding moments I’ve ever had in all of PFS!

BTW – The final fight was still tough, a lot of fun, and the trees helped out considerably!

Now, I will admit that this scenario is very light on roleplay. The story is there though – it’s just not a very deep one (Defend the camp and weather the storm! Hoorah!). Also, this scenario does have tough, complex fights, so the combats can take some time. However, unlike some reviewers, I do not see the complexity, difficulty, or the length as downsides. If you have a capable and prepared GM (and it doesn’t need to be the first GM to get 5-glyphs), you can complete this scenario in 5-6 hours – which is perfectly acceptable to me. If you have a time crunch, play a different scenario and save this one for a day when you have the time. Still, I’d argue that this scenario is most-definitely worth the time! Also, some may think the combats are too complex or too tough in this scenario; but again, I’m the type of player that likes a challenge. Our party wasn’t really optimized, but we survived everything – though with some admittedly close calls (which is perfectly acceptable – and even appreciated in my book).

So in sum, if you want a challenging combat gauntlet with some cool tower-defense mechanics – then this scenario is for you! If the GM takes the time and prepares ahead, this scenario can be amazing fun.

In spite of it's lack of RP, the sheer ambition of this scenario is enough reason for me to rate it 5-stars! I want to see more from this author.


You Call This A Finale?

2/5

I played this scenario via play-by-post, and since the game stretched out over roughly a month, my enjoyment of the game may have been affected by that. Anything I liked/didn’t like was drawn out a lot longer, and it made some scenes better or worse. Also, I have only played this scenario as a player, and have not prepped it to GM.

SOME SPOILERS AHEAD

In any case, I’ll start by noting that this season has been my least favorite season of PFS so far (in either PF1 or PF2). The Onyx Alliance has been the most disappointingly inept bunch of moustache-twirling chickens-with-their-heads-cut-off I’ve ever had the displeasure of facing off against in PFS ever (beating out even early season Aspis from PF1). This scenario did not help improve my opinions of them either. They still seem incompetent, and even the dramatic potential of building a truce between the faction and the Pathfinder Society is mostly explained away by the magical (and confusing) return of one notable NPC.

The true bigbad of the season is pretty cool at least, but you only start to battle their minions in the mission leading up to this one, and you never get to truly face the villain herself. Thus, this season finale doesn’t feel like much of a finale at all. Instead, it ends up feeling like the middle book in a trilogy, where things have been built up – but the payoff is still well out of reach. Season 1 had you fight a demi-god, Season 2 had you stopping an apocalypse – but what do we get from Season 3? We get to fight a LIEUTENANT and get teased for a real showdown in… Maybe? Hopefully? Season 4? Blargh. This finale left me very underwhelmed from a story-driven standpoint…

That typed, I do agree with most of what P.B. brought up. I don’t know about the final encounter being too dependent on crit fails/successes. That didn’t come up in my playthrough, and it’s possible the GM might have hand waved it.

For all my complaints, the scenario’s greatest strengths were its local Shadow Absalom flavor, interesting NPCs, and excellent character art throughout. Shadow Absalom felt truly unique, and I’d like to see it get more scenarios and be further fleshed out in the future.

Going back to my complaints though, the scenario was indeed front-loaded with roleplay – and as I was playing a character who had no people skills (and also since the scenario seemed to only ever call for a small pool of skills to impress the NPCs in the first place) – I was mostly stuck twiddling my thumbs for all the first half of the scenario. Then when we finally got to some actual combats, they were all fairly forgettable. None of them were challenging, the enemies didn’t start in very strategic positions (for instance, in two fights consecutively, the mages were not hiding behind their buddies), and the combat maps were small, cramped, and practically barren. I thought that we’d at least get a unique and interesting map for the final encounter – but nope, it was just more generic gray dungeon tiles…

Overall, while the setting’s flavor was notable and really cool, everything else in this scenario felt like a letdown. That’s why I give this scenario 2 stars. It would be 3 stars if it wasn’t also supposed to be a season finale…


A Railroad Masquerading as a Mystery…

1/5

I agree with Checkmonkey. This scenario falls extremely short as a mystery. It has some fun, quirky NPCs and it is entertaining to interact with them – but never in this scenario did I ever feel like the roleplay was truly rewarding, and the “mystery” left a lot to be desired. Every NPC basically gives you the same vague information (and not enough information for you to really act upon - outside of following the railroad exactly as the author has set for you). You get a list of points of interest: go from point A, to point B, to point C – but all roads lead to point D, E, and F with no room for intrigue or other possibilities. As a player, I felt like I was just getting yanked around without any real player agency at all. Plus, if that wasn’t enough, there’s actually an NPC working with your party who has a seemingly super-sophisticated spy network (and who gets even more info for your party while you sleep), so I really didn’t feel like our party was needed at all. Why did we need a spy network Paizo? Couldn’t we have just found out the information on our own so we felt like we’d done something? Deus Ex Spy Network was not fun. Give the PCs a reason to exist!

Also, this is a pet peeve of mine, but Paizo or its authors seem to have a habit of making their villains a bunch of incompetent idiots. This scenario was no exception. The villains are perpetrating what equates to a bunch of juvenile pranks for the most-part. They never felt like they were a real threat, came up with some hair-brained schemes, and were weaklings in combat to boot. Is it too much to ask that we match wits with competent villains every once in a while? Instead we get the Aspis Consortium, the Onyx Alliance, and these guys (who are probably the worst of the bunch)…

A number of reviewers have rated this scenario up for the extensive RP options – but I feel like this is indicative of the lack of good RP options in a number of Society scenarios, at least as of writing this review. We’re so starved for good roleplay that any roleplay at all is considered a big bonus, even if (as I mentioned earlier) the RP doesn’t lead anywhere.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this scenario. Even if you’re interested in playing Pt2 of this Taldan 2-parter (which actually is a good scenario), I’d recommend skipping this scenario and just going straight to the sequel. You won’t miss anything – outside of a railroad masquerading as a mystery.


GIVE US MORE LINNORM KIDS PAIZO!!!

5/5

I played this scenario during Gencon 2022, and out of all the games I played over my 4 days of gaming, this scenario was hands-down the greatest highlight of the con (and honestly, it might be my favorite PF2 scenario ever produced to date). It helped that I played with a GM who was good at roleplaying and fleshing out each of the unique Linnorm kids in all their goofy, Frostfur Captives-eque glory (and if you play this scenario – which I highly recommend – I also recommend getting a GM that’s good at RP. With an experienced RP GM, this scenario is golden). The scenario has tons of RP opportunities with a lovable cast of quirky characters, some fun (but fairly easy) combats, and a couple of skill challenges that are engaging and rewarding. If you’re looking for a challenging scenario, head elsewhere – but if you want a wholesome roleplaying experience with just a few slightly dark undertones, this is your scenario! I foresee it becoming a classic of PF2.

To GMs out there though, I would warn you that the scenario looks like it has a lot of moving pieces. The biggest challenge is juggling a lot of unique NPCs and doing them all enough justice to make them memorable (and potentially endearing even). Also, the skill challenges looked a bit complicated – but not too unwieldy. To sum it up, I’d recommend giving this scenario the prep time it deserves so you can really make it shine – but it can definitely shine (perhaps blindingly so) if you put in the effort.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

For a more in-depth explanation of my experiences, I’ll first state that going into the scenario, I knew I wanted to play my fairy bard. I figured she would be the perfect character to herd a bunch of unruly little monsters, and I figured her performance and diplomacy skills would be super useful with kids. I was not disappointed! Surprisingly though, I don’t recall performance and diplomacy being the end-all, be-all solution to every interaction we had. Since each of the Linnorm kids had their own interests and values, our party was able to make good use of a number of skills in order to impress our charges. For instance, one of the kids wanted to be a great warrior – so I think martials would’ve had the easiest time impressing her. Likewise, there was this one nerdy know-it-all Linnorm that liked to start every sentence with, “Well, actchually…” who knowledge monkeys would probably get along well with.

Of all the kids though, my favorite was… I believe her name was Brullivex? The little sister of the group! She was THE bestest best Linnorm EVER, and my bard made it her calling in life to boost little Brulli’s confidence whenever she got the chance. I even bought that little Linnorm a stuffed bunny with my character’s own money – something I never do in PFS play (but I just loved Brulli sooooooo much!).

All the Linnorm kids were great though, and I for one cannot plead Paizo enough to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE GIVE US MORE LINNORM KID SCENARIOS IN PF2!!! PLEASE!

One other thing I’ll note, but this scenario took a surprisingly dark turn when the crybaby Linnorm got kidnapped. I loved it personally, although I was not expecting such a seemingly happy-go-lucky scenario to go that route. When it happened, I really got a kick out of roleplaying my fairy bard going ballistic. Also, after we resolved the kidnapping, my bard had a long chat about stranger-danger with the Linnorm kids – which was also great!

I also liked the foreshadowing for bringing the Runelord of Envy into the foreground, and am really looking forward to wherever that goes in the future!

As far as combats went, while the first fight with the manticores was fun and slightly challenging, the fight with the ulfen warriors near the end was laughably one-sided. I typically like to have challenging fights, but in a scenario this goofy, it didn’t bother me at all (since we were trying to impress the kids, after all!).

Overall? Amazing stuff. Again – Paizo, we need more of the Linnorm kids! PLEASE BRING THEM BACK! BRULLIVEX 4-EVAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR!!!


Challenge Accepted!

4/5

Judging by the reviews, this scenario seems like it’s fairly polarized, depending on whether you can accept the final battle or not. I personally enjoyed the scenario quite a bit, and it was very rewarding to play through with my Paladin of Anubis.

The unique mechanics of the scenario feel like they had some untapped potential, but were still neat to see.

Most of the fights were challenging, but fair. Also, there was lots of flavor and backstory to uncover as we explored the dungeon.

As mentioned previously though, the final boss fight seems to be the real hurdle to contend with, and I’ll admit that it is not for the faint of heart. TPKs are a distinct possibility in it, as there are multiple AoEs that get thrown around, as well as paralysis. If your party is unlucky enough to lose out on initiative against everything in the combat, you could be wiped out before a single PC gets to act. The fight felt super-dangerous, and our party’s success or failure felt like it hinged on a razor’s edge for the longest time. However, we were able to ultimately survive thanks to some fast thinking and a life oracle’s timely intervention; and while I was on the fence at first, looking back now, I feel it was actually nice to have a deadly challenge in PFS for a change.

So in sum, due to the difficulty of the boss encounter, I wouldn’t recommend this scenario for everyone. Also, as a GM, I would warn my players ahead of time that they were in for one doozy of a boss fight. That typed, this scenario is great for those who crave a challenge and aren't afraid to flirt with death.


Why Does Paizo Make Villains So Incompetent?

2/5

I agree with Sliska Zafir, this scenario was not all that great. In-particular, the villains were treated as though they were completely incompetent, to a cartoony extent. It’s especially hard to feel any real sense of danger when the bad guys are constantly tripping over their own shoelaces and literally begging for their lives after you punch them once.

That typed, I have not been a fan of Season 3’s primary metaplot at all. Paizo seems intent upon presenting their shadowy S3 villains as a bunch of bumbling buffoons that pose no serious threat whatsoever to the Society whenever they show up in a scenario (similarly to how Paizo has treated the Aspis Consortium at times in the past). It takes a lot away from the experience in my mind, and I’d like to see enemies that are clever – not stupid. That way I (as a hero) can feel like I really achieved something when I foil their plans.

On the plus side, this scenario did at least have a fun introduction to the action, and the final boss was indeed an interesting concept. I’ll give it props for that. However, it’s still not enough to make up for the incompetence of this season's villains.


The Good, the Bad, and the Sky-High DCs...

2/5

I played this scenario during Gencon with a GM that seemed pretty capable. I believe our party had a barbarian, rogue, bard, cleric, and ranger (so a pretty good balance of skills and combat-capability overall, if I’m remembering correctly).

On the positive side - the story was set in the dreamlands and had some interesting planar mechanics that were fun to utilize. The combats were against fairly-unique monsters for PF2 and were even somewhat challenging. There was also a bit of room for roleplay, exploration, and psychedelic dream shenanigans that called back to previous metaplot material and characters.

Likewise, this scenario finally started to make some sense of Season 3’s Onyx Alliance metaplot (which I’d argue has been fairly convoluted and disappointing up to now).

That typed, I have not been a fan of Season 3’s Onyx Alliance metaplot at all. Paizo seems intent upon presenting the Alliance as a bunch of bumbling buffoons that pose no serious threat whatsoever to the Society whenever they show up in a scenario (similarly to how they’ve treated the Aspis Consortium at times in the past). This adventure doesn’t help the Alliance’s reputation that much, but it does at least imply that something else may have been going on behind the scenes. The scenario also builds up for the reintroduction of a villain in PF2 that I really loved back in PF1, so I’ve got my hopes up that the story will improve by Season 4 at least (which is when I suspect we’ll finally be able to deal with this particular reoccurring PF1 villain).

Now then, you may be asking why did I rate this scenario 2-stars and not more? Well, there’s only one real reason for that. At one point in the scenario, you have to deal with a particular encounter. Said encounter requires you to make skill checks with DCs that are bordering on “Incredibly Hard” in order to defeat/survive said challenge. When I played this scenario, it took us over an HOUR to complete the challenge, because only one member of our party (which was fairly balanced, mind you) even had a chance of getting a success on the challenge without rolling near-to, if not, a nat 20. To make matters worse, the challenge required you to make multiple successes in order to defeat it, and if you failed to defeat the challenge, you could potentially have multiple PCs die within a number of rounds. I docked this otherwise 4-star scenario two whole stars because it’s not fun to be struggling for survival against a non-combat encounter, and especially when you’re rolling well (and we were rolling well in our case – but just not well enough to beat the sky-high DCs, FOR OVER AN HOUR - all while multiple members of the party had nothing better to do than twiddle their thumbs). That one encounter was a terrible experience, and it left our party drained mentally and spiritually for a while afterwards. I hope that Paizo learns not to make their DCs so high in the future. It is not fun, and only wastes needless time and player energy.


The Worst PFS Scenario That I Have Ever Played/GMed

1/5

I will try to avoid spoilers, but this scenario was seriously the worst PFS scenario that I have every had the misfortune to play and GM. The story only made sense for GMs who could see the full backstory written at the beginning of the scenario, there were multiple quest givers in the scenario as well (which is a personal pet-peeve of mine, “Here’s your mission – now go to point B where you can talk to quest-giver B about the mission too!”), the fights were all strung together in a massive unsatisfying railroad with very little indication that they are even connected, and the big bads of the season are portrayed as a bunch of complete idiots who decide to leave tons of incriminating evidence behind so the party can finally see some connection between the season opener and the rest of the season to come by the conclusion.

Worst of all, when I GMed this scenario myself, we had a brand new player who had been to a session or two before then and seemed excited about Society. He was quickly overwhelmed by this scenario though, and the deluge of confusing and seemingly disconnected information that is data dumped on the party at the beginning of the adventure left him completely lost and confused. I honestly felt much the same way when I was playing the scenario, and I’ve been playing Society for 9 years.

In sum, this scenario expects way too much trust from players to be a good intro for a season. I personally, as well as my players, felt that we were floundering for 4+ hours – and that is not something I wish to feel ever again. If this scenario is an indication of things to come this season, I am no longer excited about Season 3 (which is unfortunate, because I was excited when I first heard about the concept).


Meh... No Flavor, Easy Fights

2/5

So, I had a longer review typed up - but the internet ate it. So I'll be more succinct this time. Please note that I played the scenario at low-tier, and read over the scenario as well (in case I have to GM it later).

That typed, I disagree with the other reviewers - this scenario was a major disappointment for me.

For one thing, the scenario doesn't do it's setting justice. There's nothing that happens that couldn't happen in a previously established snowy locale (for instance, it could've been set in the Linnorm Kingdoms just as easily - and the entire story would've been mostly kept intact).

The scenario also relies too heavily on fetch-quests, and doesn't really take the time to mesh the quests together in a satisfying way, or to have any meaningful roleplay interactions - especially since Sveinn Bloodeagle is present in the scenario, and it would've been awesome to have a more meaningful interaction with him.

Finally, the fights are too easy. The only battle that has any real threat is the final one, but when I played through it, our party handled the encounter without much issue at all.

Overall, in my opinion this was a very disappointing first outing into an uncharted continent. I wanted so much more, and while I am still looking forward to Part 2 of the Arcadia arc, I hope that the next installment will value story over formulaic fetch-quests - as well as have some challenging fights.


Not Perfect - But Definitely Promising!

4/5

I’ll start off by noting that I have not yet ran or played this campaign, but at the time of writing, I have bought all 6 books of the AP and intend to GM it for a group of my regular RP buddies very soon.

Keeping that in mind, I actually thought the first book in this AP was a pretty strong start. I had a few issues with it at the beginning, but otherwise, I was very happy with it. Also, this is the perspective of another white guy, but I thought that the themes of law enforcement are fine for the most part. Cop dramas are pretty popular on TV, and I kind of see Agents of Edgewatch as Paizo’s attempt to create a cop drama in roleplay form. Though, as another reviewer commented, I do not like the mercenary aspect of the Edgewatch Precinct either. I would’ve much rather seen the Precinct pay the players for their service – instead of forcing the players to get paid off by citizens and “confiscated” items. I intend to change this in my own home game, and run it much more like Pathfinder Society – where the players are expected to hand in everything they acquire during missions, and get a general salary for their work. If a player likes a particular piece of treasure, they can pay for it with their wages, and file the proper paperwork to get the original themselves, or pay for the precinct to get an exact copy made for them instead.

Now then, spoilers follow…

So, as far as my issues with the beginning go – I really was hoping that for an AP that’s basically trying to be a cop drama, they would do more at the beginning to set the stage for a cop drama. The campaign could’ve started with something unique, like the players taking the role of rookies having just signed up for the officer’s academy – and let them get to know each other in the first act while they went through basic training and their graduations.

Instead of something like that, Paizo threw us directly into the precinct and the party’s first assignment with absolutely no fanfare at all. Paizo didn’t even think it necessary to play out the opening ceremonies of the Radiant Festival – which is something that I’m definitely adding to my own home game.

Keeping all that in mind, I was still very happy with this AP book overall. The party goes to a number of unique locations like a zoo and a kind of Saw-like murder hotel – and though I’m not normally a fan of dungeon-delves (and I personally think Paizo relies too heavily on them in the first place), the unique nature of the dungeons in this book made me feel more excited for the experience. There’s also a great-looking roleplay segment where the party gets to meet a rogue’s gallery of villainous characters (who, unfortunately, in most circumstances never show up again – unless you write them back into the game yourself).

The two main villains of the book are pretty great too, and I have a feeling that a certain clown-prince of crime might have inspired the lead antagonist. Speaking of that lead antagonist, I’m intending to have him be a reoccurring character in my home game – and possibly even have him replace the ultimate villain of book 6 – because when it was all said and done, I actually liked him a LOT more than the campaign’s actual final villain.

As far as the first books other content, I did appreciate a map and description of the fairgrounds, and I intend to use it religiously during the opening acts of the campaign. The gear in the armory is also kind of cool – and I’m especially a fan of the telescoping nightsticks.

Overall – while this book did have its flaws, I was very happy with the installment.


If You Prep It, Players Will Love It

4/5

I believe this has already been said by other reviewers, but PFS #8-09 is a scenario that is very demanding for a GM to prep - but if you can put in the time & effort, your players will love you for it.

My experience comes from having played an Exchange Arms-dealing Gunslinger in a party of 4 that consisted of a Lvl 8 barbarian, a ranger, a fighter, and my aforementioned Lvl 6 gunslinger. I don't remember the levels of the ranger or fighter, but we ended up playing up (and having to rely on the ranger for all our party's healing - needless to say, it wasn't ideal).

-That typed, I liked how we had the potential to talk our way through most of the encounters (and possibly considering that none of us were really party faces), it was fun & challenging to try with our less-than-optimal party comp.

There's flavor galore & roleplay opportunities literally in every encounter, with a diverse & interesting cast of somewhere between 10 & 15 NPCs total. Being an RPer at heart, I really ate up every quirky character & crazy locale we found ourselves in. The one issue with all this was that (as the GM mentioned many times), there was a lot to prepare for: the most of any PFS scenario I've heard that didn't introduce a new subsystem.

The combats (at least for us) weren't complete pushovers (although the final fight was the only one that really made us sweat). There also included a couple of fairly unique enemies.

Also, the Exchange faction mission was the best I've ever seen in a PFS scenario. I'm used to seeing short little faction side-goals that don't really tie into a scenario's main plot - but the way the Exchange faction mission was set up this time around; not only did I feel the mission was fully integrated into the main plot, but I also loved how you as a player feel like you're getting to help choose your faction's future.

There were a few weird bits about the plot - but they were overshadowed by the scenario's sheer awesomeness in my mind.

All things considered, if I were just rating this scenario with players in mind - I'd give it 5 starts. However, since I'm also aware that this scenario is fairly daunting to prep, I give it 4 stars for the GMs out there. Whatever the case may be however, this scenario is well worth the effort of prepping, & if done right, players will love you for it! I look forward to playing Pt 2 to see how the story finally turns out.


Darkness & Death - What's Not to Love?

5/5

To start off, I want to note that my first experience with Cairn of Shadows was when I played it a few years ago at Coastcon in Mississippi. We had a great GM (Kenny – one of the Venture guys from Pensacola if I’m not mistaken) and a great party of players (mostly people that I knew from LA). Now, it might have just been the GM and the group (because, let’s face it, that’s what you really matters to make any memorable RPG experience), but by the time we’d finished playing Cairn of Shadows, I knew that hands down – it was the best time I’d had the entire con. Not only that, but the scenario was one of the best PFS scenarios I’ve ever played! Since then, I just knew I wanted to run Cairn of Shadows for my local PFS, and I was shocked when I found this scenario rated so low on Paizo’s product page.

That typed, at this point I’ve played, read through, and ran Cairn of Shadows at Tier 5-6. I don’t have any experience with Tier 8-9, but my experiences have been pretty positive so far.

Now, I’ll admit that Cairn of Shadows isn’t perfect. You can miss out on a lot of the treasure if you play the scenario exactly as written. There’s also a lot of mechanics and special rules to keep track of during play, the players don’t get the full story behind the scenario as-written, the fights are tough, and there are some typos in the scenario too.

However, I still don’t think that Cairn of Shadows deserves all the one-star ratings and hate that it’s received – and in fact, I’d go so far as to argue that a lot of the scenario’s weaknesses are easily fixed. As far as the treasure goes, all you need to do is be lenient.

SPOILER:

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I don’t even remember what Kenny did when I played through this scenario the first time, but when I ran it, the players noticed the trapped hallway and disabled it in a heartbeat. At that point, I could’ve penalized them for not falling into the trap and seeing the treasure, but instead I simply asked them if they wanted to open part of the trap up, “just to see what was down there…” They opened the trap and found the loot. It was as easy as that.

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As far as the mechanics and special rules go? I just typed up cheat sheets for myself and my players – then passed the rules around the table so that everyone had easy access to them. That kept even the more intricate encounters relatively easy to handle.

As for the story…

SPOILER:

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I had Golbrier note the name of the artifact the Onyx Alliance was after, as well as hint at its potential powers and Lord Kazartak’s existence. I also had the party find Lord Maravan’s spell book in the torture room – which had a copy of the infernal contract Maravan and Kazartak had made. I even had Maravan monologue as he was buffing himself in the final fight.

All of that together helped to better explain the secrets behind the adventure.

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I didn’t think the scenario’s typos were all that big of a deal (I’ve seen far worse), and when it comes down to it I really didn’t even think the tough battles were a weakness – but a strength.

This brings me to my next point. Weaknesses aside, I felt that Cairn of Shadows had strengths that far outweighed its shortcomings.

As already noted, the scenario does have some devilishly challenging encounters – but I like a good challenge, and I feel that a lot of PFS scenarios are way too easy. It’s refreshing to see a scenario where the players face a real threat. And not only are the encounters a threat (especially the boss battle), but both of the scenario’s main combats are very unique (and awesome) tactical experiences. Neither are “one and done” scenarios where you face everything on an open field and can eliminate it in a round or less. These fights take place on unique terrain with unique hazards, and they’re also really dramatic and flavorful for the setting they take place in.

Speaking of flavor – this scenario is oozing it. From the Nidalese city to the Nidalese barrow mounds, the enemies you face to the dungeon they come from – it all screams Nidal and Zon-Kuthon. The Silent Enforcers could be a bit more impactful in the city segment, but when my group went through the city, I still made sure to describe how Silent Enforcers were on every corner. The party knew that if they screwed anything up, the Enforcers were going to be on them in a heartbeat.

Also, this scenario has a surprising amount of room for role play. You actually encounter three distinct characters who you can exchange out-of-combat words with, and I feel they also add to the overall flavor (and potentially dark humor) of the game – depending on how you play them.

Overall, after both playing and running through this scenario, and in spite of the surprising amount of negative reviews, I still feel that this is one of the better scenarios out there. It does need some work on the GM’s part to prepare as it’s not perfectly ready to go as-is. That typed however, if you’re willing to put in the extra effort, if love Nidal, and if you have players who enjoy a good challenge – then this is the scenario for you. If I could, I'd give this scenario 4.5 stars, but as that isn't possible, I'm giving it the full 5 stars treatment. I hope to see more from Mr. Baker in the future.


A Total Letdown...

1/5

I'll start this review by first noting that I’ve played “The Midnight Mauler” once and skimmed over it once as well. I’ve never GMed it yet (and I don’t want to).

That typed, when I played the scenario it was with a party of 5 at Tier 3-4, and after reading the synopsis, I was really excited. I thought this would be more of a detective-style, clue-gathering/diplomacy mission reminiscent of a Sherlock-Holmes mystery. Unfortunately, what I got was a scenario that lacked depth or any real mystery at all. We knew the culprit from the get-go (the Master of Blades told us the guy’s identity in the mission briefing!). Also, as other reviewers have previously mentioned, this scenario had plenty of railroading from place to place, some extremely easy & flavorless combats, and the most anti-climactic chase sequence I’ve ever had the displeasure of participating in (much like some of the other reviewers, when I played, our chase was over in less than one round).

In my opinion, this scenario was also lacking the local flavor that would’ve really brought a cool Bram Stoker-esque country like Ustalav to life, and the way we received one piece of treasure in-particular felt way too forced.

Spoiler:

We’d just saved this judge’s life and we were trying to race after her assailant before he got away – but wait! Before we went after him, the judge had to stop and give us a useless sword that couldn’t help us in the ensuing encounters! The judge had just been fighting for her life. She nearly got her throat ripped out. After all that, her first thought was to give us a paperweight? I just found it really hard to suspend my disbelief here.

Keeping all that in mind, the scenario did have a few strong points. There is some room for roleplaying, and surprisingly, one major encounter in the scenario can be resolved in a number of ways.
Spoiler:

I’m a big fan of non-violent solutions – so I appreciated it when they gave you the option to talk down the Mauler instead of bashing his brains in. Don’t get me wrong, bashing the villain’s brains in is still a viable option – but it’s not the only option.

Overall, while this scenario does have its strengths, and bearing in mind that a good group and a good GM can make all the difference to an RPG experience, when I played this scenario, I was extremely underwhelmed by it – especially when I went in with such high hopes in the first place. When I looked over the reviews of this scenario, I was shocked to see that it had a 4-4.5 star average user rating, and while I know that everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, I personally wouldn’t recommend this scenario to anyone. I’m sure it’s not the worst PFS scenario out there, but it’s far from the best.