Phantom Fungus

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber. *****Venture-Captain, Washington—Seattle 194 posts (427 including aliases). 15 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 34 Organized Play characters. 1 alias.



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Quite variable

4/5

Ran this twice, once at high tier and once at low tier.

High-tier game for 6 PCs (3 L8s and 3 L7s), online:
- Runtime was 4 hours.
- The party succeeded in the skill check section and faction mission.
- All of the 3 combats presented significant peril to the party; they managed to pull through with good teamwork to save one of the PCs who was at some risk of permadeath.
- Hazards were easily detected and did zero harm to the party.
- Overall, this felt like the right amount of challenge for the higher tier of a L5-8.

Low-tier game for 5 PCs (4 L5s, including 2 pregens, and a L7), in-person:
- Runtime was slightly under 3 hours.
- The party failed the skill check section, but failing this has little impact to success conditions; in fact, it makes it slightly easier to achieve the faction mission, which they did.
- No real difficulty was encountered in any of the 3 combats.
- Hazards were easily detected and did zero harm to the party.
- Overall, I would say that this was less of a challenge than I would expect for even the low tier of a L5-8.

As another reviewer has pointed out, the combat could be quite swingy depending on the party composition. The special abilities of the higher CR foes are a big difference-maker and gave the high tier game much more mechanical interest.

Plot-wise, the continuing story of the Razmiran lodge is likely to be attractive to those who enjoyed #1-18 or who have an interest in the tension between the Razmiri priesthood and the Society. There are a couple of good opportunities to showcase some nuanced character aspects of Narsen, and some hints about the past, but no dramatic revelations.

GMs should read the GM discussion thread in the Org Play forum here.


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Fun investigative scenario

5/5

Context: I ran this in high tier for a strong party of 6. Total runtime was 4 hours, with about 30 mins spent on the starship combat, and a little less than 1 hour spent on the land combat(s). (4 hours is certainly longer than the average SFS scenario but not entirely out of line for a L7-10.)

Combat: All the combat encounters are mechanically of low-ish difficulty.

Non-Combat: The meat of the scenario is the roleplay & investigative section, which is nicely laid out and thought through with enough pointers to portray NPCs that have personalities. This section is written with loads of clues to lead an average party to success. There are a lot of skill checks in total so GMs should really not skimp on roleplay.

It will help the pacing if you give your players a visual aid of all the locations that are available.

My suggestion to GMs if the party is Very Good At Skills:
The number of clues may seem heavy-handed if the party has good skills and the players are paying attention. If the party gets the scent of what is happening early, my suggestion is to lean into it - it's okay that the party has formed an opinion about things and each successive interaction with the duplicitous NPCs simply stokes their simmering outrage :)

The scenario has an expectation that the party should do something at the end of the mission that is alluded to in the Wayfinders faction briefing, but some parties may not have paid close enough attention to the briefing to realize that this is the thing to do.

My suggestion to GMs if the party is unsure about what to do at that scene:
As they continue to dither or argue with the NPCs, describe the palpable increase in the peril of their situation, signs of the rising anger of the mob, etc. Certainly, experienced players will quickly get the hint.

Overall: My favorite adventures have good background and guidelines yet leave plenty of room for GMs to improvise and add value. This falls into that category. I enjoyed running this one; it's a lot of fun with an engaged group.


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5/5

I ran this in high tier for 5 players: two L12s, two L11s, and one L10. (The L10 was a solarian, the rest were 2 operatives, a mechanic and a technomancer.) The players were eager to play a 9-12 and were well-prepared.

Plot, setting/atmosphere, RP opportunities: Well received by the players and fun to run. The BBEG was amusingly over-the-top evil and the "gauntlet" similarly trope-y. The players started out paranoid and became even more so over the course of the adventure, if that's even possible. [Note to GMs: At first glance the intended sequence of events laid out seems a bit railroad-y but players tend to find ways to break that, so if that happens, roll with it and trust yourself to nudge them subtly back on the track a bit further down - this is easy when you've got a BBEG that's written this way.]

Difficulty: The old "operatives are always better at skills" adage holds true in any SF situation but there are some checks where there is a mix of skill choices and I do remember the low-tier Solarian contributing. Combat-wise, 5 players is always a danger zone in high level scenarios as the party is slightly underpowered; this is especially true when a frontliner is playing up so the final combat was challenging.

How it reflected upon the Society:
I enjoyed how the events that transpired prior to the mission start were revealed through the BBEG's recordings. Other than being a vehicle for demonstrating how deliciously evil she was, these also endeared the captured Starfinders to the players, both by showing what the captives had suffered at the BBEG's hands, and also the ways in which they had surreptitiously aided their rescuers, i.e. allowing these lower-level Starfinders to demonstrate tenacity and presence of mind under pressure. In this way, the scenario successfully conveys the impression of the PCs being a more experienced team in a generally well-trained organization, rather than being the only vaguely competent people anywhere in the Society. This was very welcome and I'd like to see more of it.

Final combat:

I don't think anyone would be surprised that the solo boss fight in a 9-12 is dificult. Here, I disagree with Sebastian (the previous reviewer) and I would characterize the combat as "tense", rather than "grindy". Depending on the party, there is definitely potential for a wipe if the GM rolls passably well and uses optimal damage-dealing tactics. (For context, I generally aim at the setpoint of "make them scared of wiping but don't actually go all out to wipe them".) In my opinion, when the party has to think about what equipment/abilities they have and what interesting things they could pull out to do, rather than repeat "my usual combat routine", I think this is a good thing.

Overall: There were some great moments here where I saw an emotional connection of the players with the scenario. I enjoyed running this.


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Refreshingly different

5/5

The interesting flavor of this scenario seems to be being overshadowed in these reviews by the concerns about the boss fight, which is definitely different. I loved the very effective use of the flip-mat with textual descriptions that match up to the map graphics. Players who enjoy Egyptian-esque horror tropes are the perfect audience for this. The planar shifting concept was very well done and added a lot to the atmosphere, rewarding the players who caught on that they would have to "clear both versions of the dungeon". Realistically, players are going to try to do all of one plane and then the other, as opposed to jumping around randomly in between them, though.

I ran this once before the rebalancing changes (online) and once after (in-person). The first run had 2 low-tier characters playing high tier and they definitely did not have the most worry-free adventure. This first run went longer than I would like, but the party were very cautious, took care of each other and came out of it intact. In the second run, all 6 characters were high tier. The rebalancing change sadly didn't even have an impact because the PCs all miraculously managed to save (easily) and entirely avoided the effect. There was a certain amount of shock at the damage output of the enemy nonetheless; this party was, shall we say, not accustomed to being challenged in that way, and perhaps the recent run of relatively cozy scenarios had lulled the players into a sense of security. While that fight was later rightly described as harrowing, it was far from hopeless and at no time did I ever seriously have to worry about the survival of the party. This time it ran only slightly longer than a typical scenario.

With the wrong party composition (e.g., if there was a lack of effective healing) things could certainly work out badly, of course.

This scenario is a wonderful fit for players who like flavor, enjoy challenging combat and are able to effectively work together.

Note for GMs - The 2 pathfinder agents representing the factions are described in the Pathfinder Society Guide hardback and they both have art there.


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5/5

Time has not diminished my affection for this scenario, which became a favorite of mine instantly upon release and continues to remain so. The flavor and atmosphere are fantastic, with enough support for the GM to add their own little embellishments. It flows naturally, everything that happens fits, and the encounters are fun to run. There's something very special about this one for me.


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4/5

Have run this twice for mostly experienced SFS players who found it generally to be a fast-paced and fun experience. The cinematic use of the environment was appreciated, especially a certain explosion. There's ample opportunity for roleplay and as with One-Shots in general, the amount of mechanical content does tend to assume there will be a lot, but obviously this will depend on your players' predilections. In total, there's a trivial combat encounter, a skill encounter, a larger combat encounter and a 3-way choice for the last encounter.

Amount of GM prep is roughly equivalent to a normal SFS scenario for the same tier, though a GM who intends to allow the players all 3 choices for the last encounter will likely have to make some player aids/handouts for a subsystem that most will not be familiar with. I personally found this more interesting and enjoyable than SF One Shot #1. For SFS players who are invested in the SFS campaign world, it's obviously nowhere near as satisfying as a good metaplot scenario with all the emotion that entails, but there are enough accessible tropes here that you can still get some decent engagement going with the good-humored cooperation of players.

Runtime for GMs (Spoilers!):
In both my runs, when the decision point came for the last encounter, I made sure the players were aware that mech combat was an option so nobody would feel that they had missed out on the opportunity to do an epic mech fight. In both cases, the party chose the vehicle chase, feeling that was what their characters would be most likely to do, which is entirely reasonable and very on-point for the heist genre. The chase option runs very quickly. I imagine that the mech combat option would take considerably longer, but sadly I have not had the chance to run that. I have not run the social option either, but without a party of excellent RPers, I would discourage that choice - I think that would make the ending feel anti-climactic.


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Well done

5/5

1-16 and 1-17 remain my favorite scenarios of season 1, now that season 1 is well past us. Other reviewers have already mentioned the sheer epicness of this two-parter, so I won't dwell on that except to say: YES. I have run both of these multiple times and would run them again in a heartbeat.

The skill check section at the beginning of 1-17 is nicely flavorful. Of course, it is entirely possible players will get into the first combat debuffed--that is the point. The justification for some of the treasure bundles is a bit silly but never mind that - the heavy-handedness of their placement can be forgiven. The chase scene is amazingly cool when set up right, instilling urgency and real tension. The boss fight is designed to be somewhat challenging even for well-balanced parties made of PCs that are all in the "right" tier, which I personally believe is the preferable approach. GMs who run for parties that might not fit this description should exercise the considerable freedom they have available within the strictures and tactics specified by the scenario.

As a GM, there are two things that make a scenario rewarding for me: first, the opportunity for a GM to add their own unique value to the experience; and second, the ability to place the players into situations where their hearts legitimately race and all their minds are directed towards a goal which actually matters to them at a visceral level.

This two-parter absolutely ticks those boxes for me.

As with all the scenarios that I love, this is not what I would call low-prep. But the payoff is worth it.


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Tremendously rewarding to run

5/5

Have run this 3 times, twice in high tier and once in low tier.

This is a fine example of a GM's dream scenario - with enough latitude and freedom to feel you really can add something to it, but also enough context to be confident you are acting in the intended spirit when you improvise. Make no mistake: it is by no means a low-prep scenario, but scenarios of this kind never are.

From the sense of the dark, unknown depths to the tropes that players will recognize and love; from the fast-paced action scenes to the taut atmosphere that you as GM can build with your carefully-chosen words, this feels so meaty and meaningful. The combat is calculated to challenge even veteran players, yet there are ways for any party to succeed, if they think creatively.

As a GM, I love being able to say, "Yes, that is a cool idea; I will absolutely allow that!" The emotional payoff when players pull a victory out of a tense situation because they were good players that were engaged in the scenario and worked well together is the thing I love most about running games and the opportunities for that abound here, in this adventure.

LOVE.


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Well, I liked it

5/5

I've run this twice face-to-face - the first table in low subtier with 4 players (3, 4, 5, 5) and the second table barely into high subtier with 7 players (3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5). The low subtier table with 4 players ran a little over 3 hours. The barely-high subtier 7-player table ran 5 hours - and that's long, in my estimation. I don't think this is really a problem with the scenario, though.

The scenario contains plenty of recognizable genre tropes (which is not a bad thing), and the atmosphere is enjoyable. Other than the first, trivial encounter of the scenario, the other combats were interesting and tense. The lead-up to the final encounter definitely caused some raised eyebrows at both tables, as it is quite dramatic. The boss combat itself was challenging but not impossible. Though (as you would expect) people did get hit hard, I never felt the party as a whole was ever in imminent danger of failing. The terrain does pose a challenge, but not one which is unique to this scenario. And yes, the geometry causes line of sight issues, but that works both ways. As with many PFS2 scenarios, the odds might seem bad at first glance but barring exceptional circumstances, the encounter balance is on the side of the party.

The alternative success route for the boss encounter is a novel experiment that (I think) succeeds in its intention. As a GM, if you think your players might be annoyed by having it just suddenly happen, I suggest adding some foreshadowing flavor before it does. It is, however, entirely possible to win the traditional way (my low-tier table did so).

This is definitely not what I would call a social scenario, but unlike (say) #1-04 which is almost pure combat, there is enough social interaction required here that it makes this scenario feel more balanced. Prep-wise, the NPCs don't need a great deal of additional work to portray. The trope-y elements are good and the events unfold with minimal-to-no GM extemporizing needed to make things hang together. You can easily say yes to players' creative ideas in the RP on the fly - if you keep in mind what's going to have to happen and flavor events appropriately. On that basis, this is a fairly low-prep scenario.

Overall, I enjoyed running this and I believe my players had fun with it. I can understand how it isn't necessarily going to be the scenario of everyone's dreams, but I think it was a pretty good one.


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Arrr

5/5

I ran this in a single session of quests 1-4, with the repeatables (Q1 and Q4) first, back-to-back. Comparing Q4 to Q1, it has a little more mechanical complexity and is more colorful lore-wise. I personally prefer Q4 to Q1 simply because of the lore (but Q1 would certainly be a better choice as an introduction to new players.) There are 3 encounters to choose from.

As a rule, I don't expect a lot of depth out of a quest, which is after all, only meant to run an hour. However, I really liked the setup and setting of this one, especially the way in which the party was delivered to the location, which was different and interesting. I also appreciated the (admittedly tenuous) connection to the campaign meta plot.

In the combat encounter, the modeling of the crowd as a hazard is a novel experiment, though both the implementation and the fluff justification are uneven between the 3 different encounter choices. The motivation for both the skill check section and the combat encounter is also a bit silly and relies a little more on worn tropes than on in-game justification, but that's ok - I think this quest should really be approached with a lighthearted touch and willingness to suspend disbelief.

Overall, I think this is a fine quest.


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A romp

5/5

I was eager to run this as soon as it came out, and had a blast doing it. With players that will get into the spirit of things, the RP is hilarious and fun. The combats are on the easy side (I ran at high tier) but it didn't seem to detract.

GM tips:
Do take note of the typo in Marcon's AC. Though I would guess that most parties won't fight him, it would be very unfortunate if they tried to, with that incorrect number. (See the GM discussion thread for this scenario.) The players' decision about Marcon will likely be strongly influenced by how you play him, so consider your presentation carefully.

Also a great scenario for the bard and/or goblin of the party to shine!


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Demands commitment, but is worth it!

5/5

I've run this twice so far, both times at high tier, with different choices of encounters, for 6-player parties of mixed levels (from 1 to 3). The party fared very well in both my runs and though some of the enemies' damage output and special abilites caused some worried looks and managed to drop a couple of PCs, the party as a whole was never in serious danger of actually being defeated. I believe the combats were correctly balanced in favor of the party, for their challenge point total.

The four completely different encounter tracks make this scenario eminently more replayable than, say, #1-01. It's true that the other random elements don't have a huge impact on the later combat sections, but they do have a lot of impact in the RP/investigative sections in terms of bringing the world to life and establishing atmosphere, which is great.

The level of engagement and the memories the players will have of this scenario depends very much on the flavor that the GM brings to the game in the RP/investigative sections. This is definitely not a low-prep scenario. However, I found it extraordinarily rewarding to have the freedom (and responsibility) of shaping so much of the setting's feel and color.

GM tips:
Play up the traits of the village. Create interesting individual stories around each of the skill checks that allow you to showcase the character of the village and make the place feel real, populated with people that have real problems and hopes and dreams. Not every scenario has so much latitude for GMs to influence the feel of the setting so take advantage of this opportunity.

To sum up, I really enjoyed running this! In both tables, my players - who are simultaneously focused and responsive RPers and very competent tacticians - made it a real joy.


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Combat-heavy scenario

4/5

I have a considerably less negative view than many of the other reviewers here. I played, GMed and observed 3 different games of this, and in all 3 cases the party was successful and the game did not run overly long.

I agree that there is certainly the potential for the final fight, in particular, to frustrate players. But this is not inevitable.

Some suggestions for GMs:

- Be very, very prepared. Yes, there is a lot to keep track of in this scenario. As always, your level of preparedness determines how smoothly the game runs, and the attitude and intensity you project will shape the moods and the approaches of the players.

- Clearly understand the tactics (in both subtiers, if there is any chance you might be running either). Do not accidentally make things worse than how they are actually written - especially with the BBEG.

- Make sure the players understand going into it that the scenario is combat-heavy and good tactical play will make a difference.

As a final note, I will say that I really like the art.


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Good intro

4/5

I have run this twice, once for D&D 5E players (some with 3.5E and PF1 experience), and the second time for non-TTRPG players.

In both cases the game ran very smoothly with no real problems. D&D/PF1 players will obviously be able to glean more from the lore (e.g. regarding the villain's ancestry) but the adventure does not require that lore and functions perfectly well with only the common western fantasy tropes that your average person on the street might be aware of.

I enjoyed running this and would do so again.

Here are a couple of suggestions for GMs.

- When explaining the rules, make reference to the actual abilities of the characters being played. If someone is playing Ezren, use his Drain Bonded Item as an example of a free action. If Valeros is on the table, use his AOO as an example of a reaction.

- Embellish heavily to avoid plot elements seeming too abrupt. I set the scene as the party approached the village and RPed their arrival in the midst of an uproar after the ogre's departure. I highly recommend this, rather than e.g. simply reading the intro text and starting the party out cold at the foot of the hill. I also suggest fluffing up the ending to add more emotional spin to the rather bland wrap-up.

- The checks the party needs to make in order to avoid combat in the final encounter are fairly difficult. If you would like to allow the players to fully resolve the adventure (as opposed to cutting it off after the previous encounter) but don't have enough time to run the final encounter as a combat, I suggest being fairly generous with bonuses for good roleplaying. Remind them about their hero points!


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Well, I liked it

5/5

I played this at a FLGS with a table who went with ye olde traditional party of 4 (Valeros, Kyra, Merisiel, Ezren) and a good time was had by all. I enjoyed the classic monsters and the PFS lore. It was also very cool that all the characters contributed significantly to skill checks, damage, and to the overall success of the mission. We finished the scenario, including the optional encounter, in well under 5 hours. All success conditions were obtained and nobody went down. I attribute this outcome to really stellar GM prep, as well as the intense focus and good play on the part of all the players. The known personalities of the pregens and their relationships allowed for some nice roleplay moments at our table and was actually quite helpful in fostering camaraderie among our group of strangers (your mileage may vary).

My personal experience was therefore excellent, which is reflected in the star rating of this review.

Having said that, my impression is that this is very much a scenario written for players who are already invested into PF, and in particular, into PFS. Despite the innovations of the new rules, the scenario setting itself has a very old-school feel that experienced players can enjoy but would be quite lost on casual walk-ins. As an introductory scenario for PFS2, #01-00 does do a good job of showcasing the expected difficulty level, and in emphasizing some of the "meta" of PFS (e.g. the importance of skill checks, knowledge, group tactics), but it is definitely not a gentle introduction and will not reward a passive or inattentive party.

GMs should prep the living hell out of this scenario, especially if they intend to run for inexperienced players. The optional encounter should be skipped. GMs should be proactive if they see vital clues being ignored or choices being made out of ignorance that are heading towards disaster. If at all possible, players would be best served if they do their homework beforehand and are conversant with the 2e core rulebook and the org play guide, and understand the capabilities of the pregens.