Pathfinder Society Scenario #19: Skeleton Moon (OGL) PDF (Retired)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for 1st to 7th level characters (Tiers: 1–2, 3–4, and 6–7).

When Pathfinder alchemist Andrax d'Aponte contracted a mysterious wasting sickness, he set his mind to feverishly researching the disease and its cures. With the rare skeleton moon hanging in the sky above Absalom, the Decemvirate sends you to an ancient siege castle outside the city to recover d'Aponte's research notes and inquire about his involvement in recent Pathfinder deaths in Osirion. What you find, however, is a man changed by madness and paralyzed by paranoia and fear. Will you survive the night of the skeleton moon?

Written by Benjamin Wenham

This scenario is designed for play in Pathfinder Society Organized Play, but can easily be adapted for use with any world. This scenario is compliant with the Open Game License (OGL) and is suitable for use with the 3.5 edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game.

This scenario was retired from Pathfinder Society Organized Play on November 15, 2010. After November 15, 2010, it will no longer be legal for Pathfinder Society Organized Play and will no longer be available in the Pathfinder Society Organized Play reporting system.

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This product has been retired.

Are there errors or omissions in this product information? Got corrections? Let us know at store@paizo.com.

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Thin Plot & TPK-Generator

1/5

NO SPOILERS

Although Skeleton Moon has been retired for years, I was lucky enough to have a chance to play it with a Paizo staff member GMing during the 2018 PaizoCon Asia-Pacific. I read through the scenario afterwards, and my experience seems to have proceeded pretty faithfully to what's written except for some changes at the end. Although I had a good time playing (using a Level 4 Valeros pre-gen), I can sort-of see why the scenario was retired: it has a couple of combats that are very unfair for the level of the PCs involved, the plot is weak, and there's very little opportunity for role-playing. I'm glad I played it because chances like that don't come up every day, but, frankly, people aren't really missing much here.

SPOILERS!:
Skeleton Moon has a really long backstory involving an alchemist Pathfinder from Absalom suffering from a rare disease who undertakes an expedition to find a cure in a tomb in Osirion. The Pathfinder, Andrax d'Aponte, penetrated the tomb of Razma the Sage (an ancient alchemist in his own right) with the help of Pathfinder Society resources and a trusted bodyguard named Sefu. The quest was partially successful; although d'Aponte didn't discover a cure per se, he did discover a ritual that would allow him to make his spirit immortal. Returning to one of the old siege towers that surround Absalom, d'Aponte began preparations to undertake the ritual. What he doesn't know, however, is that Sefu has been bought out by the Aspis Consortium and is preparing to betray him at any moment! It's an interesting backstory to read, but unfortunately very little of it is player-facing content. In other words, most of it is wasted verbiage that appears on the page but probably won't make it into the session.

The scenario proper starts with a briefing from Venture-Captain Adril Hestram. He explains that although the Society sponsored d'Aponte's expedition, the alchemist has refused to share his discoveries as promised and that messengers sent to inquire have disappeared. Hestram reluctantly asks the PCs to get d'Aponte's journal by hook or by crook, warning them that they might be walking into a trap.

The bulk of the adventure takes place at the old siege tower, and an interesting map is provided.. As the PCs approach, they're mocked by Sefu (standing at the top of the tower) who then sics a flock of cockatrices on them! The problems with this scenario start here, as (if you're not aware) the bite of a cockatrice in D&D 3.5 turns the victim to stone if they fail a saving throw. Adding insult to injury, the normal cure (stone to flesh) is a sixth-level wizard spell that requires the target to succeed on a saving throw or die, and that's beyond the means of any PC in the appropriate tier to cast! So, in the very first encounter, it's very possible that some PCs could be turned to stone with no real recourse. That's hardcore gaming, and presumably not the sort of experience that Paizo wants PFS players to have (at least without warning).

Once inside the tower, the PCs may view what the scenario calls an "alchemical mystery play," which essentially consists of manikins symbolically depicting the ritual that d'Aponte plans to complete to gain immortality. Both during the session and reading the scenario afterwards, the whole thing just doesn't make much sense to me. What kind of alchemist sets up mystery plays? I guess it's a way to try to reveal some of the adventure's backstory, but it's really just a cryptic, confusing irrelevancy that mostly just provide an excuse to have the manikins later come to "life" as animated objects to attack.

When the PCs find and confront d'Aponte, they have a very slim chance to get him to explain what's happening before he completes the ritual. The ritual goes awry, of course, and instead of gaining immortality, d'Aponte finds his spirit inhabiting a nearby assassin vine which starts to attack everything in the laboratory. At low tier the assassin vine only has 30 hit points, but at mid-tier and higher it has 114 hit points and is pretty nasty, as it's likely to grab and constrict someone to death before it gets destroyed. I'm guessing this encounter was considered unfairly lethal as well.

Once the PCs finish their mission in the tower and are on the road back to the Grand Lodge, Sefu (the disloyal bodyguard) springs an ambush with the help of some Aspis thugs. I think this is actually a good twist, as most players will think the scenario is basically over. (I'm not really sure why Sefu waits so long to betray d'Aponte and try to get his journal, but I guess that's not really important)

And that's it. It's a short scenario to play, and an even shorter one to read. Most of the story that exists is locked into the background, and the PCs have little opportunity to influence the course of events. They basically need to go to the tower, defeat the cockatrices, defeat the assassin vine, and survive the ambush on the way home. If it wasn't so lethal, I might recommend it as a short, introductory adventure. But as it is, I can see why it's been retired.


An RPG Resource Review

4/5

Like many of the errands handed out by the Pathfinder Society, this one seems quite simple... at least to begin with. The party are dispatched to the home of Andrax d’Aponte, a previously well-respected member of the Pathfinder Society who recently retured to the Isle of Kortos after a major expedition to Osirion searching for the tomb of Razma the Sage, and has broken off all communications with the Society. The Society would really like to see his report.

For once, no long journey is required. D'Aponte lives in Flint Tower, a rather tumble-down siege castle a scant hour's journey from Absalom. Whilst the adventure is quite constrained in its objectives, the party has some leeway in how they go about their visit to Flint Tower as the events and encounters they will face are location-based - so let them roam as they will. The background information lays out what is actually behind d'Aponte's behaviour and some things even he is unaware of, and the resources provided about the various locations in the Tower enable you to provide atmospheric and clear descriptions to the players.

Whilst it is a straight combat-oriented delve, it is possible for those characters who want to engage in conversation to do so if they wish. This is handled neatly, but does require the DM to be fully conversant with the backstory. The Faction missions fit in well, and even interlock in places, a nice touch. Overall, the adventure hangs together well... and there's potential for further adventure returning to the Osirion dig site, for those who'd like such further development.


Completely uninteresting

1/5

I was a player in Skeleton Moon which had been translated from Season Zero rules to Pathfinder. Frankly, if this had been my first season zero module, there is a chance I would have outright quit society play. It is only because the encounters were modified for Pathfinder play that things were bearable.

The story behind the module is muddled and uninteresting. I am actually still unsure what was going on, even after it was explained to me by our GM after the module was over. To those who have their hopes up, I can confirm that it has nothing to do with Groteus, and while normally I'm very interested to go and re-read the modules once I'm done playing them, this is one I have not purchased. To add insult to this injury, there is little to no opportunity in the module for anything more than a little intra-party roleplaying.

The encounters blend together and if you have a group with somebody who likes to move ahead even a little bit, you might find yourself enjoying a module that exists as one massive encounter. Unfortunately though, the worst part of the module isn't its challenge (who doesn't enjoy a good challenge?), it was the fact that it's absolutely brutal and has the capability of one-shot killing characters with almost no chance for recourse. If we had been playing with untranslated 3.5 rules from season zero it would have been a TPK on the first encounter, and who wants to show up to a game and not even be able to live past the first encounter? Another encounter later in the module has a creature capable of outright killing characters in one attack without a critical hit.

More than anything, the module was just uninteresting, but combined with the fact that the fights were not challenging, but rather, just outright awful, I honestly can't suggest this module to anybody. In fact, I've just convinced myself to give the module one star (I was about to give it two).


One scene, One Fight

4/5

The biggest problem with this scenario (as other reviewers have mentioned) is merging encounters, which can be problematic for the players. If the GM isn't careful to take steps to break up the encounters, it can end up like one long battle.

The story is cohesive and entertaining, but doesn't lend itself to much in the way of non-combat encounters.

I also liked the non-linear aspects... in theory. In running them, I found it difficult to remember what encounters trigger where/when. This would have been a serious problem, if not for the sidebar that explained the where/when for me.


Too bunched together

3/5

The module was really strait forward which was fine. However the big problem I saw was that some of the encounters are basically right on top of each other. It's very easy for multiple encounters to all be triggered at once without players having any real idea of the implications.

The end result it that half the module felt like just one long extended battle.


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Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Congrats Ben! nice map btw!

Dark Archive

I've been promising to pick this one up since I heard ol' Ben Wenham was writing a Society adventure. He was the first person to pay me for art, EVER, and an awesome guy to boot (and ladies, he's single! :D ). Even those reasons aside, it sounds like an AWESOME adventure.

Now it's my time to put money towards YOU, sir! :D

Liberty's Edge

Congrats, Ben! I'm looking forward to running it.


Thank you three.

I haven't seen the finished it yet, but I really can't wait too. I am especially keen to see the finished cartography.

I hope you all enjoy it at much as I enjoyed writing it.

Dark Archive Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4

Dude, awesome!


Clinton Boomer wrote:
Dude, awesome!

Thank you oh mad genius.


Nice one, Ben. It was a fun adventure and cheers for nearly killing us with it! (that's a good thing)


Ben,
great job writing the adventure! Hope you like what I did with the final cartography. :)

I recently started producing the maps for Paizo's Pathfinder Society Scenerios so let me know if you have any crits or suggestions about the finished work.


Schley wrote:

Ben,

great job writing the adventure! Hope you like what I did with the final cartography. :)

I recently started producing the maps for Paizo's Pathfinder Society Scenerios so let me know if you have any crits or suggestions about the finished work.

Thank you Mike.

I have now seen the final thing. You managed to capture the character of the site perfectly, i hope my sketch wasn't to hard to work from.

It was a very pleasant suprise to see your very recognisable and awesome cartography style putting flesh onto Flint Tower.

Ben Wenham


Glad you like the way it came out. :) I'm looking forward to mapping another of your adventures again soon.

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

Ah, Mikey! So nice to see you back in the neighborhood.

Scarab Sages

My favourite of the five played this weekend, partly due to the creepy atmosphere of the goings-on, partly due to the DM (Rob Silk) hamming it up for all he was worth, and partly for some amusing co-players.

Apparently, clerics of Desna do not consider 'being a mime' to be a capital offence, or feel that 'skewering him, for creeping me out' to be a justifiable response.

The Exchange

My players felt this was good fun. Merely the threat of the advanced assassin vine was enough to send them scurrying into the ambush outside of the fort.

The looks on their faces when the vine followed them outside was precious, even if it was just going for a walk.

I told you Ben and just for the record, for me this was a great little scenario. It was tight, easy to run and some lovely moments. The players made me act out the mannikin dance twice! because they enjoyed the last bit so much.

I can see why this won the competition, keep at it, I'd willingly run your stuff again.

I can see how TPK's occur but my guys acted sensible and that made all the difference. Some fights should be avoided.

Cheers

Scarab Sages

Anyone want a full-size map from this scenario? All it'll cost you is shipping. I'm tossing mine 'cause it's retired.


I would very happily have it

Scarab Sages

ben wenham wrote:
I would very happily have it

You should email me! (see profile)


And now, six years after publishing, I finally read through this one and have a question: Why is it called "Skeleton Moon"?

Yes, there's a mystery play that says the timing of the transformation ritual is important--but what, exactly, makes the current date a "rare event"? What is a Skeleton Moon?

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