Zon-Kuthon

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****** Venture-Agent, Massachusetts—Boston Metro 266 posts (10,442 including aliases). 15 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 46 Organized Play characters. 19 aliases.



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3/5

I appreciate the actual challenge of many of these high level combats. The enemies between encounters are a good mix  of re-used monsters from prior fights and new foes. This is a good thing to see in my opinion: it allows PCs to have learned about certain enemies' tactics and abilities from earlier battles and then be able to adapt while also mixing indifferent creatures with their own quirks. The fights can also be challenging,especially the final one: both times (running and playing) the group of Pathfinders really felt like their backs were up against the wall. 

The problem is that there are too many combats. At this tier 4 fights - none marked as optional - means this is never going to fit into a normal 4 hour slot.Playing it took 5.5 hours; running it took 5 and that was with me knowing how long it could go and trying to push forward as best possible. The 2nd and 3rdfight particularly come across as 'samey'; while the enemies are a bit different the overall feel and narrative importance of each is about the same and one could have easily been dropped. 

The amount of time the encounters take up also shortchanges opportunities for other types of RP.Ukuja as a setting is great and relatively unexplored in Pathfinder but the PCs don't have much opportunity to get to know it. An investigation component is(happily) left pretty open-ended and sandbox-like in terms of approaches but the scenario does not give that many hooks for a GM to build on to flesh out the city as the PCs move through it. I had to pull liberally from the LO:Mwangi Expanse book to flesh out the scenes but not all GMs have that resource. 

Also this scenario contains a too-common example of

Spoiler:
the NPC who doesn't like you is the one behind it. It's a too common pattern in Paizo adventures that lets any other points they're making against Pathfinder be dismissed as 'but they're the bad guy, so of course they'd say that.' Let NPCs not like Pathfinders for non-villainous reasons and let indifferent/friendly NPCs actually be behind the unrelated schemes!
 
Overall a good challenge and interesting setting that suffers from too many long combats overshadowing the chance to explore that setting.


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Intriging investigative delve let down by poor map choices

3/5

Played this in Low Tier

A curious assignment - trace a strange signal to a wrecked Ustalavan lab and determine what happened there and what may still be going on - leads to a good mix of investigation elements and combat. The plot(s) going on around the lab can get a bit complicated to parse out, and our GM noted the information layout of who knows what/which clue points to what wasn't as clean as it could be. But the story itself is a good one, and I enjoyed how there are a variety of methods the PCs can piece together the puzzle (finding clues, Knowledge checks, potential social encounters, and general player-deduction).

Of course there's some combats to be dealt with too, and there is the scenario's greatest flaw. I actually like the monster and encounter designs themselves - the several different obstacles you encounter have a good variety to them while still having their presences make sense, and it could lead to a varied set of encounters.

Emphasis on could, as the scenario's maps betray it hard. Paizo missions being written to use bland and over-used flipmats that make missions and fights feel 'samey' is nothing new (if it feels like more and more the map choices are getting irritating). But I don't think I've seen the 'map vs encounter' disconnect actively hinder a scenario more than this one before. Every single combat encounter the map choices actively detract from the design of the enemies themselves.

Encounter details:
The oozes are massive creatures...cramped in a single room even the dev clarification to knock out a side-room wall only slightly improves this. Without room to maneuver, its a single-choke point to even get through the door to hit them, while the incant can just keep launching Fireballs into the room beyond.

Harpies' danger is their ability to fly and their song's chance to lure creatures away across the battlefield. So you fight them...in a small and ceiling-ed room where their mobility is fully negated.

The possessed constructs have burst abilities and the main threat wields a reach weapon. So of course you fight them in a narrow hallway [ooc]one where depending on how you interpret the description of C4 and the mesh around it it may not be possible for the PCs to even be able to move around to try and pincer from the other side

Together it makes the combats feel 'frustrating' rather than memorable. Which is a shame: the skeleton of the adventure is a good and fun one but the execution of the fights left an annoyed taste in the tables' mouths


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There is a fine line between 'quirky' and 'grating'

1/5

So the Pathfinder Society wants to deal with a treasure-rich and knowledge-filled dragon based in Tian Xia. And it falls to some low-level PCs to put in some legwork to make sure prep gifts are given to smooth out the actual talks between the actual negotiators. Not a bad premise to kick off some ongoing plotlines, and a fine way to get low-tier tables involved. 

The execution of the scenario itself is where the issues pop up unfortunately. The vaults the PCs end up exploring isn't as 'fantastic' or unique one would hope for something that got its own whole book hyping up (The 'delve' section also feels limited by having to work the constraints of an existing flip-mat, something that isn't the author's fault nor unique to this scenario but restricts some more interesting possibilities). 

The fights are fine but all play out extremely similarly, with the final fight ironically being the easiest. Some of the monsters in the first two encounters have an interesting mechanical tweak, but at low levels the low HP on everyone means they are more 'neat' than end up mattering as much. 

I appreciate the inclusion of a 'chase' encounter to provide some variety, but the context and details of it do not make much sense.

Chase:
After going through entire levels entirely free of kobolds to assist or explain where Purepurin is or what's going on, dozens appear in an instant the moment you don't need them solely to clog your way. And after three combats readily killing rats/bats -two on Purpurin's explicit instructions! - 'what to do with thebaaaaabbbbbiiiiiiieeeeeesssss' isn't exactly a 4+ success-worthy moral dilemma.
 
But the real issue with this scenario is its main NPC: Purepurin. As presented in this mission we are expected to be deeply invested in getting the Society on good terms with a wise and powerful dragon…whose majordomo fails at the basics of their job five separate times in the ~hour the PCs spend with them. A bumbling NPC isn't new,but it plays as though the PCs are meant to find Purepurin endearing and want to help them. We did not. 'Quirkiness' isn't itself a problem: the goblin troupe at the beginning (and end) was great! But while a 'chicken contest' was a bit odd, they also were friendly, helpful, and doing their own things in the world, not existing only to try and force chicken on random passers-by. When an NPC's 'quirk' is 'incompetence', we ended a half-scenario of trying to cover up Purepurin's failings not only annoyed at them, but thinking less of the dragon who keeps them on. Which is not the attitude you want to give off at the start of a new plot.  

Overall 1 1/2 stars.I can see what they were going for here, but it did not come together for me. 


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Solid and varied mission, ending a long-running if undershaded plot

4/5

Overall a solid higher-level adventure with a good variety of elements in play.

While a bit odd the have an 'Influence' event in the climax to a multi-season arc, I actually liked how it was done here: all the NPCs have history with the Society so there are things for your characters/players to base their RP and skill guesses around, and you are influencing through assisting their prep for the mission which gives a strong sense of 'we're working towards a concrete goal' instead of 'why do our bosses care so much we get this random merchant to like us?' like Influence setups can sometimes feel

The fights seemed well-balanced and the 2nd one especially had some interesting enemy variants and terrain elements that spiced it up. though the PC's 'starting place' can leave the battlefield feeling cramped - I would remove the wall between their area and the larger room to the north to give more chance for the fight to breathe and not get choked in by narrow doorways.


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A fantastic inaugural special to the new edition!

5/5


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An incomplete beginning

2/5

Have both played (high tier) and run (low tier) this scenario.

First, the good. This scenario has a decent mix of both combat and roleplaying opportunities. The settings for both main encounters are interesting, and my party and my players both enjoyed interacting with the festival and the villagers. There is also a real sense of mystery hanging over the adventure that gets the players motivated to try and piece together every clue.

Unfortunately, since this is Part 1, no satisfying answers can be found. While the overall plot in this duo of scenarios is quite interesting, most of it is beyond the player's ability to discover and lacking that knowledge means that the adventure abruptly ends on an unsatisfying cliffhanger rather than a compelling revelation or twist. The result is that the Pathfinders mostly just go to various places, do things, have some of their efforts box texted away, and then realize the scenario is suddenly over. Even multi-parters shouldn't have players confused as to most of what is happening.

The Lost Legacy also runs incredibly short, with essentially three setpieces, though one of them in particular can become much more involved if the players are interested in roleplaying it to its fullest. The infamous combat mentioned in several other reviews is quite deadly: even following printed tactics and unbalanced or simply unlucky party could easily get multiple casualties if GMs don't recognize when to softball some of their options.

I'd also like to echo a below poster regarding the formatting. Some of the scenario, particuarly Act 2, is layed out in a very unintuitive way that results in a lot of wasted time flipping back and forth trying to find the page needed information is on.

(I'll write a review of Part 2 soon. Short version: the follow up is better, but this is still a lesser multi-parter)


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Suprisingly unique low-tier adventure

4/5

GM'd this on low tier and played on high tier.

As a season opener this scenario is a bit odd, touching not at all on the ongoing Aspis war (though definitely including the unexpectedly-prevalent occult subtheme). Beyond that however, this is a fun and innovative 1-5 scenario that I would be happy to run again.

Divided roughly into two halves, I appreciate how the first section of the scenario allows for options. While in many ways the general structure is a series of 'fetch quests', it's easy enough to have a choice in which encounters to experience and there are enough differences between them to make those choices matter. (Between being a player and behind the screen I experienced all of them).

Still, if the first half is a solid execution of a standard scenario, the second half is where Between the Lines shines. The setting our Pathfinders find themselves in is incredibly unique, which in turn leads to very unexpected encounters for a low level party. I was initially apprehensive about how the roleplaying in this half would go (as much of it is done in a limited if creative manner), but my players managed to really get into the spirit of it and communicated quite well with their target. Most delightful to me however, was that this scenario also does an excellent job in fleshing out the Venture Captain giving you your assignment. Given how much players eye-roll at the obstruction and ineptness of their V.C.s, I appreciated how much one of them is humanized here, and look forward to seeing Wulessa Yuul again.

It's not perfect: the first act is fine but standard, and the final encounter is a bit underwhelming, especially considering how much the scenario wants to make even risking facing it a meaningful choice. But overlooking a few flaws, this is a fun and engaging scenario with a epic feel that many low-tier scenarios never quite reach.


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Smashing Giants leads to tough fun

4/5

GM'd this on the low tier, with a 4 person party.

A fairly combat-heavy scenario, but one based around an interesting location and set-up. Plus, in addition to a good situation for roleplay at the start, the scenario includes multiple encounters where good negotiations and RP can alter the nature of the fights, a nice touch that could lead some parties to have markedly different experiences at points.

Still, the primary focus of Ironbound Schism is fighting giants, and on that front the adventure does not disappoint. The combats can be both long and deadly (we had one death, and a second PC be a single round away from the Great Beyond when the final monster went down) but the scale of the locations and the good use of iconic foes let strong tactics be rewarded even as tough opponents can punish reckless choices. The encounters are tense and the last encounter contains a creature who was a true beast, but it's a fair set-up for a 7-11.

There were two things that I felt could have used a bit more work. First, while the influence mechanic was fine, its payoff is something my PCs were more frustrated by than satisfied with.

Spoiler:
Even with debuffing their enemies, the players kept begging the archers to retreat and leave this to high-level adventurers rather than get continually injured by the giants' tactics. Even with heavy coaxing the Scarab sage in particular couldn't fathom why spending a turn to listen to her target and moderately protect fodder would be more important than just trying to kill the giants faster.

Much more annoying from a scenario deisgn standpoint was the last 'encounter'.

Spoiler:
Setting up a trap with a brutal negative boon as the last part of the scenario seems foolhardy, especcially as the PCs can't explore the ruins anyway. It would be one thing if there was something past the trap, or if resisting it had a reward. Instead, it seems to exist only to punish parties who finish early, since it is the Optional Encounter. I have no problem with some negative ongoing boons in scenarios, but they should be earned through player actions and ideally choices, rather than walking where you've been told to walk and failing one roll.

This scenario is not the most original thing PF has ever done, but its a good romp against giants and a simple concept executed (mostly) well.


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Good Ambition, Rough Execution

1/5

GM'd this for a party of 4 in the low tier (Rogue 8, Monk 6, Paladin 6, Brawler 5?) Would be 1 1/2 stars if possible, but 1 star since its not.

I really like the idea of a social-infiltration mission. And parts of it work: the opening exploration of a smuggling expedition was nice and the multiple avenues of 'assault' for the final act feint at a sandboxy -style experience. The problem comes down to the execution of the Bronze House and the final encounter however which sadly needed another pass or two.

Our experience:
My players discussed several ways they might present themselves to the Bronze House. While they briefly discussed sneaking in, they ultimately decided that the rogue would try to present himself as a teamster while the other three went in the front as merchants a few minutes afterwords. On the one hand, I was partially glad they didn't try to sneak in: the scenario arbitrarily punishes that tactic by saying it fails unless 'the PCs take pains to conceal their approach', without giving any detail as to what amount of stealth or maneuvers would qualify. On the other, splitting the party turned into a tracking nightmare, as you'll soon see...

Despite being warned about magic, the rogue kept most of his gear on him and only slightly hidden, and was thus immediately noticed by an adept. When she broke off to alert the manager, the rogue followed and tried to knock her out. Failing to do so in one hit, the alert was sounded and an extremely awkward combat was joined.

For about twenty rounds, the rogue used smokesticks, stealth, and invisibility to try and avoid the manager and the guards while the rest of the party gamely kept up their facades and played the part of confused merchants. In most scenarios this, while irritating to manage, could have been done with general combat and the players jumping in when they felt enough was enough. However, due to the ticking clock and specified times on investigation aspects, pretty much the whole thing, including some roleplay, had to be done on a round-to-round basis, which dragged the whole thing to a crawl. By the time combat was eventually joined and won, we were already pushing up against hour 5 and as a result, some of the investigation aspects (the main draw of the scenario) needed to be rushed to even get the mission done before our location closed.

Then came the last social encounter with Sloan. Which basically boiled down to a combination of skill checks and reading the scenario writer's mind. At most two of the party had played in the 6-97 Special, and so players and characters alike only had a vague knowledge of what was being referenced-never a good start for what is meant to be a cutting back and forth of remarks. The limited options the scenario encourages as 'counting' as clues or revelations are even more frustrating. Some are high checks in semi-obscure skills, while other **cough, Spymistress, cough** have never even been mentioned before and I cannot fathom why any Pathfinder would possibly pick up on, much less note, comment on, then make a DC 18,25, and 25 skill checks in a row to rub it in.

And to top it all off, because a PC non-lethally attacked a worker at an illegal operation to which the had a writ to search, the scenario rewards them by throwing them in jail, taxing everyone 5 Prestige, and prevents them from achieving any PP or boons for this mission. (I gave them each 1 PP on their chronicle not realizing until later that they do not even get that if they are arrested. I do not mind making that mistake in the slightest.)

In short, while I would like the see more of this type of scenario in the future, I hope we don't get one again until Paizo does a lot of development work to make sure it runs smooth. Conceptually its a nice change from the norm, but between the massively long run-time, very specialized character expectations, and a situation that seems designed to trick players into getting a debilitating punishment I cannot recommend Bronze House unless you have few other options.


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A High Water Mark

5/5

Having played and GM'd this, School of Spirits has quickly vaulted its way towards being one of my favorite low-tier scenarios Paizo has ever put out.

Steeping in excellent flavor and interesting encounters, this scenario offers an intriguing story mixed with great opportunities for role-play. It also introduces two NPCs so well-drawn I immediately started wondering when we might see them again. It does a nice job of incorporating the 'cool new toy' that is Occult Adventures while making it a perfectly organic aspect of the plot. The encounters are surprisingly varied too, and admirably allow for multiple approaches in how a party wishes to handle them.

Spoiler:
While in at least one case it seems quite unlikely that players will be aware they have a chance to talk an opponent down, it is possible to complete the entire scenario without ever rolling an attack, something I can't recall about any other PFS adventure.

The faction element within is also now exactly how I hope such things are handled going forward: extremely relevant to Liberty's Edge players, containing surprising revelations to Pathfinders of other stripes, and resulting in players making an important choice regarding their chosen faction's future.

The faction aspect and the sequel-y nature of this scenario prevent it from being a perfect introductory mission for brand new Pathfinders or players. But for everyone else, this is a new classic, and one I expect to run happily for years to come.


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Creative Minds Need Not Attempt to Solve the Mystery

2/5

GM'd this at the 7-8 tier. 4-player adjustment.

As many of the reviews below go into at far greater length than I feel like, the plot for this is...questionable at best. There's a heavy over-use of red herrings here, and even reading the scenario and thus knowing everything going on, the villain's scheme is full of tenuous assumptions and leaps of logic. My players, even at the end seemed to only partially understand why the enemies were doing what they were doing, and the player who most seemed to get it mostly did so because he had just prepped to GM the 'prequel' to this (Darkest Vengeance).

But zooming in from the macro view of this scenario, the individual encounters here are also just hit or miss. The theater was a solid start (with a player groaningly expecting a haunt the moment he found out about a ghost in Ustalav), but led them to immediately want to search the entire sewer complex. This is a reasonable plan for a team of highly trained pathfinders, but as the scenario doesn't allow for such apparently unpredictably creative thinking, their only choices were to faff about for a few hours or get back on the very visible rails of the scenario.

The rest of Abduction's encounters are fine, but after the third 'your REAL clue is in another castle' they seemed jsut resigned to do what the adventure wanted to get to the end. The swamp encounter was an interesting idea for a multi-choice resolution, but as my players were not murder-hobos, they never considered fighting the swamper (and thus avoided the likely best outcome simply by listening to their briefing orders). The creatures in the house itself at the end could have been quite dangerous, if one of the players wasn't an aasimar (not entirely the scenario's fault, but the main villains' gimmick is certainly goes from awesome to useless depending on whether a single ability's present.

All in all, its not the worst scenario I've ever played (and the Scarab Sages boon is quite nice, with a fitting mission), but its certainly the worst I've GMed.

I will second whoever mentionned GMs should read, re-read, then read again the Blog post on darkness


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An okay end to a great trilogy

3/5

Played this this weekend as low tier. 4 characters present, three at level 2 and one level 4 playing down.

Compared to the other two parts in this series it's a dungeon delve, but the setup is nice and the location pretty interesting. Plus, mark this down as another adventure where we really felt like PATHFINDERS instead of murder-hobos. Exploring a site, noting its features, trying to come to terms with locals: all of these things are what more scenarios should feel like.

In our table, the adventure did run a bit on the short side, and it seemed a bit lighter on the challenge than other recent scenarios. That said, two other tables running it that day both ran longer, with one nearly wiping; there's enough variety in how parties can deal with the ruins that I can see a lot of variance here.

Spoiler:
I do wish that the 'Defense Points' mechanic was made slightly more interactive/explicit. I loved that it encouraged you to talk down the kobolds (and we ended up fixing the crossbow trap beforehand solely to try and prove we weren't like the 'mean, clumsy Sharrowsmith'. But we also got some points merely for not going into rooms that there were traps for, so some of our benefits in the assault felt more like luck than clever planning

Coming as the end of this season's first multi-parter (4 if you count a certain other Garundi scenario being related), this did a solid job at serving as a capper to the arc. It's not quite as fun to play as parts 1 and 2, but The Golden Guardian is an interesting tweak on the dungeon-crawl scenario, and a fitting end to this story.

Also, I loved how this scenario incorporated previous chronicles. A+ Paizo. Hope you continue to explore things like this in the future.


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Half of us died. Five Stars anyway

5/5

I died during the first combat of this adventure (admittedly playing up). Two more of our six-man party died at the end and the rest fled to avoid a TPK. The combats here can be brutal for those unprepared or reckless.

And yet I'm still giving this 5 stars.

Cultist's Kiss is a spectacular scenario, with a whole town to roleplay through and an investigation broad yet interesting enough that it was two hours before an initiative check was rolled. The story set up here is top notch, with a plot and set of cult mysteries that hold up remarkably well.

As mentionned, the fights can be HARD, but they didn't feel unfair. A few startegic blunders on our part led to some casualties but the enemies are interesting and create some great tactical challenges.

This adventure can and likely will definitely run long (we were at 4 1/2 hours when it became clear we wouldn't survivie if we kept pushing forward) but if you have the time and are looking for a fun challenge then this is a spectacular choice.


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Wait is that...?!?

4/5

A nice dungeon delve in Tian. While I (both in and out of character) was not especially versed in the backstory/current politics of either Tian Xia or the Way of the Kirin, the adventure set up the plot and goals quite well, and left me with both a clear idea of what was going on HERE, as well as intrigued to see follow ups with this plot in the future.

The scenario as a whole is primarily a dungeon delve into a sunken tower. Roleplaying opportunites were relatively limited, with one notable exception being a tower denzien we had great fun trying to come to terms with. The location itself was also well drawn and mapped, with enough structural details that kept us thinking things could go horribly wrong in a hurry.

The combats were quite fun, with the first being fairly easy and pedestrian but all the rest a cleverly designed change of pace from the norm. Nothing beats the final fight however, which had us yelling "What?" when a creature appears, then "WHAT?" when we realized what it was.

One thing I did not like however, is this scenario's new overland travel rules. It's a minor part of the scenario, and I appreciate the effort to minimize the 'make a bunch of checks over and over' way of showing a journey, but I think this went a bit too far in the other direction.

Spoiler:
Making it all hinge on a single roll saves time, but also adds a LOT of swing to the outcome. It also didn't quite make narrative sense, in that it resulted in a bunch of ability damage all suddenly appearing at the end of a week's journey, without letting the characters be able to heal accruing ailments along the way (such as with prepared Lesser Restorations)

Overall, still a very solid dungeon dive, and a fun 7-11 that doesn't run overly long.

Review based on the 7-8 tier, with 5 players


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We're going on a safari...

5/5

An excellent jaunt in the jungle resulting in one of the best low-level adventures I've played in a while. Plenty of solid role-playing opportunities between the feckless count, gruff baron, and, unexpectedly, some of the wildlife.

I particuarly appreciated the encounter variety here. We got to test our skills in a low-stakes, semi-roleplay hunt, a campsite encounter was open-eneded enough to give us plenty of options, and one shining late combat had an interesting starting twist on top of spotlighting a rarely-used creature. Only the final fight seemed mildly underwhelming, but it's possible that this was due to something we had accomplished earlier in the scenario (and it was a nice surprise to see that come back in our favor)

Review based on the 4-5 tier, with 4 players.


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