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Pathfinder Society Scenario #2-20: Breaking the Storm: Bastion in EmbersPaizo Inc.
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Right Up My Alley and the Perfect Way to stat a 3 partereddv —
Let's face it in 3 parters one of the episodes is always plot light anyway so why not take this chance to just thrown down with some demons and set the stage for the stakes of this story!
The fights were complex and all had a lot of moving parts which have been SORELY lacking in Pathfinder up to this point.
However, the last fight there was a serious discrepancy between the proscribed tactics and what the monster Clouded Quartz actually had available to him in terms of spell selection. This isn't a huge deal but I would have liked to be put in a less no-win situation than that as it really put the players behind the 8 ball in ways that felt unintentional.
But still a properly dramatic scenario themed around combat? I could swoon.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #2-22: Breaking the Storm: Excising RuinationPaizo Inc.
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Another Nick Wasko Swiss Watch Masterpieceeddv —
This was a huge improve on 2-20. There were a lot of complicated moving pieces here that really help this one stand out as a metaplot ending experience.
The ritual, the callbacks to the previous metaplot episodes, the way the scenario continually tempts you into using Aspiration points.
One point of contention is the scenario as written doesn't really make a lot of sense in terms of how rituals work (the ritual can only fail or succeed given the parameters laid out in the scenario and that success is only possible on a crit by one of the two secondary casters).
But the three fights how they are laid out and how the final one lands depending on how players have done to the point is all impeccably done. Just a blast from start to finish.
Brilliant Conceptually but Rough Mechanicallyeddv —
This scenario is the first one to really lay out the beginnings of the conspiracy that is assaulting the Society on all fronts and it begins with a simple haunting.
I appreciate the authors use of a non standard couple and with the use of non human ancestries in this. I ran for a party of half orcs who were delighted to encounter a half orc PC for once.
The mystery of the haunting itself was one of the few I have seen which was genuinely intriguing and the plot of this scenario just flowed freely in ways that it often doesn't and the author deserves their roses for it.
But the mechanics of this one were rough - the overuse of hazards and combination of hazards with fights were very unpredictable. Fights that might have been easy got really really dicey when combined with haunts going off, especially as I ran for a group of 4.
And the final fight - APL+2 after 3 other encounters is very very rough. Had the party lacked a dedicated healer it would have been an easy TPK in ways the author may not have intended.
Overall, the story was very very well done and the encounters were memorable if overclocked and to boot the new plot arc was kicked off with plenty of intrigue. Recommended for sure.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #3-04: The Devil-Wrought DisappearancePaizo Inc.
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A fun bit of Espionage in the Old Capital.eddv —
I have a long held fondness for the ole city of Westcrown having rub Council of Thieves and I was very pleased at how easy it was too integrate Greensteeples and the various other aspects of thus scenarios modifications to the setting in with my existing understanding of Westcrown. A lot of careful attention went into this portrayal of Chillax and into the portrayal of the Pathfinder Society as a clandestine organization within the empire's borders.
I found the investigation/research section of this one to be remarkably well done. There was a cinematic pacing to the scene with lots of useful narrative suggestions for turning it into more than just rolling dice in rounds. Easily the best use of these subsystems in Pathfinder 2 so far.
The infiltration into the fortress of the enemy was also very well done and was made to feel like it was proper spy work being performed. There wasnt a lot of combat in this one, so I appreciated that a lot of thought went into the tactics used by the foes and that each was unique and memorable.
And excellent but not transcendent scenario highly recommended.
Trial of the Century?eddv —
This adventure is one that very much feels disjointed. Its a fun bit of smoke and mirrors as just as the trial seems to be setting up to be the main thrust of the scenario it very suddenly shifts focus and goes in another direction.
The second half is a quick trio of combats one of which might well be labeled "we are very excited about guns and gears" and which is the absolute highlight of this adventure, especially in the hands of a GM who can do quite a lot with the premise of the encounter.
The other two combats are pretty paint by numbers and I would have frankly rather seen one or the other cut in order to really bring to life the somewhat unique setting of having an emergency encounter
Deep in the vault of one of Pathfinder Societys Oldest lodges. There is some lip service paid to the unique nature of the place with the metronome hazard but it felt like a real wasted opportunity to show us something unique we hadn't seen before. Especially since the two encounters with mercenaries were mechanically identical with only the first having a sorceror and the second a cleric.
Overall there were some neat ideas in here, but all of them are stretched really thin and threadbare and a scenario that focused harder on two of the three main elements (the trial, the lodge and the combats in the marketplace) would have almost surely been markedly better than trying to do it all at once. I also would have liked a little more on Valor who has all the makings of a very cool recurring npc.
Excellent Concept, but groaning under the unnecessary rules-weighteddv —
The premise of this adventure is quite nice - returning lost loot and trying to gain a foothold amongst a people who are not necessarily hostile, but not necessarily friendly either.
Storywise, there is a snag, I found truly odd.
I thought it was downright alien that the song'o halflings couldn't bear seeing the bellocos feast on phantasms so hard, that they decided they were okay with their people just straight up getting murdered instead. Did I miss something here?
The real issue is that sandwiched between a really fun boss fight and an interesting exploration section is this weird application of the influence system. It was difficult as players to understand what the purpose or objective of this whole thing was. We just ask about the artifact and then play a game of "20 or so dice rolls" to find out how much of a story these people tell us and it being presented as one solid but chopped up narrative made it difficult to understand what information was meant to be conveyed even with multiple players taking notes at the table. Ultimately, I just don't feel this situation really called for the full and formal influence system, especially when the characters being influenced had so little on the bone. It became impossible to roleplay out this social encounter and that feels like the wrong way to do things. The influence subsystem has had good uses in the past, but this was not one of them.
An excellent demo, if the GM is willing to apply some vigorous polisheddv —
First of all I do want to praise this on the superficial level - the art assets for the pre-gens and in general helped to raise the presentation level of the product. The tagged and untagged maps made preparation in VTT a breeze (I appreciated that the untagged map was ungridded so it could be dropped on a VTT map after eyeballing the approximate size of the map without having to play the game of having to match the grid on the graphic to the grid of the VTT). In general this allowed for me to present a smooth and polished product to the players.
The roleplaying hooks for the pre-gens were strong and the pirate theme is always a hit, especially with newer players. The rough shape the I ran this as a demo of 2e for 4 new players, all of whom have experience with RPGs, but not with 2e. The puzzles were firm and fair - the wheel puzzle having two possible solutions based on which way the players want to solve things and the other puzzle was a good fun logic puzzle.
The story arc was short and satisfying and every player walked away with a greater appreciation for what the system does well and piqued the interest of all four in playing the game again. It was overall as an experience a rousing success. 5th level offers a real peak into what it is this system does well and leaves you without the chance of a freak death.
The downside is, in order to make the adventure work as intended I did have to make a few adjustments. The pre-gens were incomplete and lacked several key items, things as basic as "healing kits for the people with battle medicine" and "which domain the cleric took". Later on the players are meant to solve a puzzle and learn an important lesson about damage resistance, but the adventure sets them up for failure as written. I went ahead and made it so the weapons had striking runes on them so that the adventure would work as intended. Even then, I would note that they failed to provide the rogue with a usable weapon for that, which made that player feel left out of the fun to some extent.
I will also say the last combat is really hard for a team that did not pace their spell usage as the creatures special ability makes it VERY difficult to handle.
Overall, this product definitely fills a much needed niche within the community, and because it is the first I will give some slack on the lack of polish. As is this product will likely produce an uneven experience because it will be dependent on the GMs skill to pull out the authors intention vs what's on the page.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #2-09: The Seven Secrets of Dacilane AcademyPaizo Inc.
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Very strong conceptually but ultimately dissatisfyingeddv —
I groan every time I start preparing a scenario and there are tone notes where you have the option of going horror or lighthearted horror-comedy. Especially when the way you play it has such a direct impact on how players will interact with the scenario in question. Especially so when its clear that the author clearly preferred the light hearted horror-comedy and that a deeper infusion of that style into this would have made the dungeon pop more than this sort of "fill in the blanks with your preferred style of horror" approach.
That said, when I read the synopsis I was very excited. Scenarios with this sort of set-up have a long history of being fun and memorable and this sadly is neither.
When writing a mystery, it's pretty important for the thing being discovered to be memorable or interesting in some way. This scenario lacked that. Part of that being that the enemy is just a being chaos that, as far as the scenario has given me reason to believe, is literally just doing things for the heck of it.
I had expected this to be a haunted house sort of scenario and instead just got wacky hijinks - as if my episode of Supernatural was replaced with an episode of What's New Scooby Doo? after the introduction. Particularly with the use of J Dacilane - a character who has been synonymous with the occult in his previous two appearances it seems downright strange that J is skeptical that the building could possibly be haunted and that J wouldn't have been able to handle this problem himself considering his training and his history as an occult spellcaster who is by now likely quite seasoned.
The grand reveal and ending sequence has confused parties every time I have done it and the fact that if they want a big boss fight they basically have to pick a fight left them frustrated. Once again, it was a mystery with no secrets to be unraveled and a potentially interesting occult scenario that boiled down to a completely random occurance.
There were seeds of something good - who brought in the bracelet? Was it on purpose? Maybe the chaos beast could have been a specific one with a specific agenda? I just don't understand what the point of this all was.
Maybe the point was that there was no point. But with no satisfying mystery to piece together and no memorable NPCs to interact with this felt like a barren dungeon crawl with little to sink your teeth into. Both times I ran it, it went just over 2 hours, largely due to a lack of scenes for the players to really sink their teeth into.
Overall, I think if you lean hard into the camp this is a scenario children will enjoy but it was ultimately very disappointing and dissatisfying for me personally.
Messy and meandering execution of a good plot outline.eddv —
I truly wish I could recommend this more. It was great to finally get to return to the lair of the Sewer Dragons and to have some level of interaction between the canon kobolds and their people. The RP opportunities were a bit stiff however and without profiles about the personalities of Pethjun and Chief Yiddlepode it was hard to riff with the players in ways that felt genuine (especially given their hypocrisy depending on if the kobold was a Sewer Dragon or not).
The combats were cool but overall, I don't feel like the overall mystery of this scenario ended up being solved - just three episodes surrounding the same incident that I assume we'll end up seeing more of later. The details you uncover all confirm the biases set by the previous adventures and the opening encounter. But in general this sort of scenario that is just pure set-up has no shelf life and I don't think I would ever run it outside of the sequence of this particular metaplot because without those tie-ins this scenario has nothing for players to sink their teeth into.
Players in general bristled at being scolded by the kobolds for not wanting to rescue Dreng and then having no actions they could take towards helping with looking into what happened to him.
The episode with the city guard in particular felt very disjointed and random, serving only to direct you to the museum in case you hadn't already figured that out. It was weird to have a cult of Urxehl's lair feature prominently only for zero details (that weren't already known before you entered the lair) about that cult to be gleaned from your time there. Exploration is only thrilling if you can actually discover something - without it it's just a frustrating waste of time. Doubly so when this cult would seem to be the bad guys du jour that we already know nothing about and which players are thirsty for more on.
The one highlight of the adventure is the sequence at the museum with the storm, the intern, and the snatching of the obelisk capped with a very fun fight. But the sequence, while cinematic once you're able to decipher the way it's presented, is potentially pretty brutal and a bit too repetitive for a scene that is meant to be cinematic. For example, the necessity of 5 rounds of checks to run against the wind to get inside the museum is a boring sequence because there will always be several party members who aren't trained in athletics that will be required to roll pretty darn high. 5 rounds of checks will always cause cinematic momentum to grind to a halt. Further the lightning damage is a bit too high and can result in players being in extraordinarily bad shape entering this boss fight.
Overall, the vision was in place for this adventure - there are good bones here. But it just never came together.
Strangers in a Hostile Land [SPOILERS]eddv —
The somber turn from 2-01 to here was an excellent bit of plotting. No longer is this the hopeful band of explorers hoping to make history - no no, now we are just hoping to get in, get out, and not die in the process.
EVERYTHING FROM HERE ON IS SPOILERS FOR THIS ADVENTURE
This is a standard dungeon crawl with a twist and the way the set pieces are lovingly laid out builds the tension the whole way through the event.
The novelty of actually being chased out of the dungeon at the end was very cool and exciting (especially since it allowed me to use said lovingly laid out set pieces against the party!).
My one and only complaint is that the puzzle having two layers was a real challenge to convey to players and the punishment for being bad puzzle solvers being combat really slows the session down.
Still that one complaint aside this was an incredible time.
Good story, Good action, very poorly executed exploration segmenteddv —
Overall, this was an enjoyable romp that set up the incoming metaplot in ways that hooked me, so I can't completely kill this one.
I got the overall concept of exploring the area and getting a feel for what the complex was like. Moreover, I was excited to do this exploration given this is a new culture we as players don't know much about. However, I think the way the author went about executing this was a bit clumsy and could be improved. It was the part of the adventure that most hooked me during the briefing and which most let me down during the adventure itself.
The time spent researching the surface for instance left very little in the way of detail to give to the players and the way the skills section was written here felt like it was originally written with one set of rules and them clumsily partially switched to a second set halfway through development. While I understand such revisions are part of the process, it left the section a bit of a confusing mess to navigate. Worse, even when it was navigated successfully the detail given by successful checks was truly pretty minimal and on-failure there was often no detail that could be given at all.
It would have been nice if these things were more detailed to enhance the experience of exploring the ruins even if you had to condense the number of locations.
The combats with the Haunt/undead was pretty cleverly executed and was definitely one of the highlights of the adventure, though again it would have been nice if the fact that an ancient silver dragon clearly died here featured more prominently into the locations overall lore.
The speedbump with the fungus needed a little something because with no surprise rounds in this edition the combat always initiates a bit awkwardly. Maybe some sort of combination environmental hazard/encounter? Though using that tactic twice in one adventure would have probably been overkill.
Finally, the final combat with the Cyclops Wraith is TERRIFYING and very well done, always confronts the players with legitimate fear of death.
However, my biggest complaint in this scenario has to do with the library
Library Skill checks:
With there being no set time limit that I could see, the only real bit of this that can swing your level of success and information is how quickly the party realizes the mural is breaking down and whether or not they have the skills necessary to capture that information in a timely basis. The library mechanics combined with the positively prodigious number of successes required is a bad combination. I don't know how exactly I would fix this but again - it leads to an awkward encounter with endless rounds of checks that usually lose the player interest. Also the way the eye works is just asking for player death considering the exceptionally difficult encounter that gets triggered during your exploration.
All in all I still enjoyed my time with this adventure, but I was left wanting so much more from it than it was capable of delivering.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-08: Revolution on the RiversidePaizo Inc.
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Completely pointless, boring battles and setpieceseddv —
Sometimes a scenario concept just doesn't land. This is one of those times.
"hey go here and scout out a location for a potential lodge" (you do this in the opening moment of the game) okay cool now here's some stuff with a potential revolution in the town nearby where we as a society have no real stake.
Wanna pick a side? Uhh..why would I? Who are these people? What's going on? None of these questions are really ever answered. You then do some talking to some king after which you may or may not get involved in a fight over political power in this region you have little to no reason to care about.
Forgettable adventureeddv —
I literally just played this and remember nothing about it.
But why?eddv —
The "puzzle" was a fun little diversion but the actual mechanism involved with it made basically no sense beyond "it's a level 1 quest what did you expect".
Requiring skill checks where a specific lore - and ONLY a specific lore - can be rolled to address an obstacle is a bad decision and shouldn't have seen print.
The fight itself was pretty silly but fun.
Left me with more questions than answers.
Dreadful NPCs and lore, but fun set pieceseddv —
Urwal is complete death as a character. Any time a character shows up and all of his words require a critical poetry analysis I am going to just check right out and so did literally every player who encountered this.
The lead NPC was a big geek and if you treat her as such you literally lose money.
And this whole idea of having a follow up for Breath of the Dragonskull only to not develop the ideas further is criminal.
But the actual set pieces involved with the three fights and the building up to the main fight with its alternate win conditions were cool.
A fine scenario, but for one of only two scenarios developing the metaplot...eddv —
I mean this meta-plot has taken an ice age to go anywhere. Every scenario has seen Datch up to some dastardly thing or another and this was our first chance to dig into why or find out what was going on and we got basically nothing. The "big reveal" is something we already know more or less.
That aside this scenario does have a lot of really cool content - the assassin's proving ground is great conceptually and the execution was competent and awesome. But it did nothing to develop a meta-plot that I had much grander hopes for at one point.
The first truly hard scenario of the campaigneddv —
This one was great. The Swarm is set up to be an iconic foe in this setting and yet we haven't glimpsed them at all outside of the adventure path yet and it's frankly just not the same to deal with The Swarm in the context of an AP that is all swarm all the time.
Here the swarm problems just sort of happen to us and we are forced to deal with them or else suffer the terrible consequences. The atmosphere is tight and a good GM can help keep things feeling hectic. This one stays good until the last fly gets swatted. Definitely recommend.
A serviceable first story segmenteddv —
This story content probably would have made more sense for part 1 of a traditional 3 part adventure from campaigns past. As was, this felt like it introduced a brand new and potentially interesting plot just to tear away the rug as it got even a little interesting.
The NPC interactions at the beginning were unique and fun but without seeing any more of the narrative it felt like wasted effort. Just as you get to know these people they become irrelevant and go away.
I guess it's best to be left wanting more, but I don't feel like I accomplished much of anything in this scenario.
Two good halves of a scenario, neither fully realizededdv —
Welcome to The First Mandate Part 3 where we bring back the full bevy of influence mechanics for the third time in this campaign.
And much like the previous scenario in this vein (Siege of Civility) it suffers from a disjointed presentation and everyone being left to ask why any of this was happening.
Part of this is a mismatch between concept and briefing (hey go to the place and find the beacon, which is probably in a dungeon someplace on this planet) and the actual meat of the scenario (charming 4 brand new PCs at a cocktail party). The cocktail party itself is pretty well realized and interesting but there isn't a whole lot of logical sense to the whole affair, especially once the motives of the owner of the land where the beacon is are revealed.
I thought the scenario did an excellent job of detailing what Marixah culture was like, which does juxtapose nicely against Siege of Civility, in which Gideron culture is showcased. And had that been the point of the mission that would have made way more sense. Especially given the big choice at the end of the scenario.
It's just so odd that the ongoing Marixah/Gideron conflict was mashed together with the Rasheen metaplot and in the end the two didn't really mix at all.
Given how detailed and drawn out the social section is, the dungeon section is necessarily truncated and the dungeon itself is one of the most bland and uninteresting locales that we have sent agents to.
The final fight is a huge letdown, though the first fight of the scenario is unique and fun, forcing some interesting tactical choices by PCs once they puzzle out what's happening (though again the question of why is this happening is not answered or even attempted to be answered).
In the end, I would have rather had the two concepts explored in the scenario given their fully realized due rather than suffer this poor mixture that did neither any favors.
A swiss watch of a big story beateddv —
Overall, the metaplot of year 2 developed far far too slowly for my taste and the time taken to reveal the obvious led me to believe I was going to regard the entire experiment as something of a failure, especially after Shades of Spite just sort of...existed.
This one however really worked overtime to correct that. The subtle references to current events made this scenario feel like an episode of Homeland crossed with the sort of epic science fantasy adventure you've come to expect from Starfinder.
This scenario even made masterful use of elements that usually bring a scenario grinding to a halt - skill challenge "chase" sequences, starship combat, even freeform GM-improvised maze-crawling all used well in spite of player expectations to the contrary.
Overall very well done - did as well as it could to salvage a poorly realized meta-plot in the 11th hour headed into the special.
Starfinder Society Scenario #3-04: The Vast Experiment: Falling into DeliverancePaizo Inc.
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An excellent evolution on horror themeseddv —
This campaign has experimented with horror in other chapters of this story with mixed results, but this scenario is the culmination of those experiments being hit out of the park.
The set pieces are great - the approach to allowing more GM freedom in these sorts of sandboxes is a welcome departure from the norm and the overall atmosphere of the scenario is excellent.
Starfinder Society Scenario #3-03: Frozen Ambitions: The Shimmerstone GatewayPaizo Inc.
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Another weak trip to the veskariumeddv —
The second consecutive trip to the Veskarium in a row and much like the previous one, the Vesk look foolish and uninteresting by virtue of how they are portrayed in the opening segment of this one.
I also found that the plot structure is positively riddled with areas in which the PCs can be very easily driven off-course through no fault of their own. Environments that players will be tempted to interact with lack definition and leave the GM forced to play train conductor on a rube-goldberg line.
The lore reveals were interesting but the overall plot of the episode and the moral choice the players face are bizarre and not in any way engaging. The players were left in a morass of "I guess" when faced with the information presented in a reversal of the campaigns great strength in the first two seasons.
Throw in an unusually deadly nothing of an encounter and some of the least memorable NPCs in the campaign and you're left with a rare dud.
Extremely party dependenteddv —
In general the concept of this one was truly excellent - the set pieces were memorable, the branching paths allowing for some non-railroaded exploration culminating in some genuinely interesting lore revelations was very good.
However, a sizable portion of the adventure is dedicated survival that can be completely trivialized by a fairly common 1st level spell.
Still, a breath of fresh air and a break from the formula that was very well-received.
Fun but a little too cutesy for my taste and not fully cooked.eddv —
This was well done and realized. The NPCs were very fun to roleplay with but there was a lot going on here and the skittermander stuff is definitely edging over the edge into "over-done." The entire premise of a group of overly helpful "terrorists" is pretty funny but this is one of those things where this was a dynamic that was far more interesting in theory than in execution.
In this case in particular, the personae of the 4 skittermanders so overly flanderish that by juxtaposition the Vesk are turned comedic by it as well, which doesn't seem worth the trade.
As for the adventure itself it was a fun romp! The fights were a little uninspired however -especially as the most interesting of the encounters was in an environment that while flavorful and interesting (the room with all of the corpses) surprisingly little was done with this striking environment.
Robo-guuns were a funny decisioneddv —
It's always nice to return to the scene of the crime. This scenario was weird in that the meta-plot is at the beginning and end and the middle has nothing to do with it.
It was pretty fun to return to the old scoured stars plot but I think the way in which the threat from the [REDACTED] is so randomly presented is worthy of follow-up because its taken in by the NPCs in stride in ways I wasn't expecting.
I think in general, the scenario may have been better next year some time when the conflict with Jinsuls isn't still feeling quite so played out after a two year long run with them.
That said, A-1 was the NPC return I never knew I wanted. This discussion with A-1 was a real roleplaying highlight and I hate so much that it had to be over VTT because it would have been a delight in a more organic setting.
I also really enjoyed that there was an entire encounter circumventable by stealth, that sort of thing really validates certain build decisions and I think that's cool.
The final fight was a bit of a letdown - CR1 mooks simply aren't even an obstacle, let alone a challenge at this level between the omni-present DR and the now-inflated ACs that vanguard and shields make possible.
Still a couple things here made players make the "oh s++%" comment and that's always a good time. Overall well-done, well-recommended but not an instant classic