Pathfinder Society Scenario #24: Decline of Glory (OGL) PDF

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

When the son of a famous Pathfinder gains control of his father's holdings in Taldor, the Pathfinder Society decides to build a new lodge there as a base to explore the many ruins of that crumbling empire. Unfortunately, the Taldan Phalanx has its eye on the holdings and an ancient curse has turned many of the residents into the walking dead. Can you survive the tangled web of Taldor's politics and fight off the echoes of the past or will you, too, see your glory decline?

Written by Tim Hitchcock

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.

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I recently ran Decline of Glory for Subtier 1-2 via play-by-post. From the GM's perspective, it has a very "raw" feel, with a lot of details and encounter transitions a bit vague and fuzzy. In some places there's much more information than a GM needs (such as crazy long adventure background and summary sections), while in other places in the adventure itself the GM has to fill in some gaps. From a story perspective, I guess it's okay but not great. All in all, Decline of Glory doesn't hold up particularly well. As it doesn't establish interesting lore about the setting or the Pathfinder Society, it's really for completists only.


As the very long background section covers, there's a tiny, out-of-the-way settlement along the Taldor coast called Railford. The area around Railford is swampy and overgrown, so the land's not good for much. But it does happen to have the perfect climate for vineyards, and a century ago a wine distillery was established on a hill in the area and the settlement grew around it for its employees. Formerly owned by the noted Pathfinder Iadon Railford, the distillery passed on his death to his son, a former Taldan soldier named Becher Railford. Now, the Pathfinder Society sees the distillery as the perfect place to establish a new Pathfinder Lodge and it wants the PCs to go to Railford and persuade the owner to make a deal for it. As an aside, I really can't fathom why the Society would want to establish a lodge in what's clearly the middle of nowhere. Given that we never hear of the place again, the Society must have also shelved the plan.

The adventure starts in media res as the PCs are marching through the muck at night toward Railford (a typical Season Zero "flashback briefing" explains their goal). One of the things I should say the scenario does well is set up atmosphere--the frequent descriptions of the constant drizzle, muck, leeches in the mud, etc., all contribute to situating the adventure in a particular environment. Anyway, as the PCs march toward Railford, they have their first encounter. What the PCs don't know from the briefing is that a brutish soldier named Grald Kretchmoor and his troops have surrounded Railford and plan to seize it unless Becher can produce his deeds to the land. Several squads of soldiers (and their dogs) are camped around the town, so the PCs are likely to just accidentally stumble into one and be attacked. If the battle lasts too long (unlikely given how tough modern PCs are), additional squads could arrive. One challenge I found while running this encounter is deciding on encounter distance, as the scenario doesn't give any guidance.

Once the PCs arrive in the settlement proper, they'll have a chance to speak to the (suitably wary) townsfolk and learn that Becher isn't at the distillery. Instead, he's left with some of his workers to retrieve the deeds from where they'd been hidden in a secret cache (a cave for barrel-aging) in the swamps. Although my group didn't, there's a chance that the PCs can actually learn very early that there's an additional problem: ghouls in the swamp!

While travelling through the swamp, there are some annoying leeches to deal with and then an encounter against some monstrous plants (violet fungus, bog screamers/shriekers, and, at high-tier, a shambling mound). Again, nothing too serious for modern PCs, though it is worth noting that everything in the adventure happens in one night, so there's not an opportunity to rest and recover if a PC does take a hard hit or expends their resources early.

There's a fun bit with the entrance to the caves being blocked with debris that leads to a long-fall with a previously-trapped ghoul along for the ride. Inside, the caves are partially flooded, making movement difficult. I think my players hated it, but I thought it was a good opportunity for some of the ranged characters to shine as zombies slowly trudged towards them. Travelling to the caves ends up being a bit of a runaround, as it turns out that Becher has already retrieved the deeds and headed back to Railford via a secret underground tunnel. He's very ill from ghoul fever when the PCs find him, and says he'll agree to the deal if they help him deal with Kretchmoor and his thugs.

The big finale of the scenario takes place in the distillery and is set up as an "Assault on Precinct 13" situation. The PCs need to defend the building as Kretchmoor's soldiers try to break their way in through various doors. But there's a reasonably good twist, in that the soldiers themselves will come under attack from an even more serious threat: rampaging ghouls! The concept is for drama to be piled on drama as the PCs' initial foes plead for help against an even more dangerous foe. It's a good concept, though it didn't really work in practice in the session I ran. One issue was that the soldiers took ages trying to break into the distillery (they needed something like a natural 20 on Strength or repeated chopping to do any damage above the hardness of the doors). It became more amusing than dangerous. A second issue was that the soldiers (and Kretchmoor) were pushovers, easily defeated by the internal timeline for the ghouls to actually show up (I think it would scale even worse at higher subtiers). From a GM's perspective, the scenario seems ambiguous or even contradictory in places about exactly what enemies will show up when and where, so some discretion will have to be exercised. Other important details, like the location and width of windows, are missing.

Assuming all goes well, the PCs will succeed in securing the deal and "are forever treated with honorary status at that lodge." Ha!


An RPG Resource Review


In this adventure, the party is sent to negotiate for space to set up a new Pathfinder lodge in Taldor - with a drunkard who owns and operates a whiskey distillery! Others also have their eyes on this choice piece of real estate, and the game is on.

In customary style, the adventure begins with the party slogging through the swamps that surround the village where the distillery is to be found, with the mission briefing presented in flashback. Oh, and it's raining. If you have the time (i.e. you're not running this in a convention slot) you might want to play out the trip to reach this location - swamps can be fun, after all.

There are ample opportunities in this adventure for those characters who like to use their tongues as well as their swords... but fighting will be necessary as well. Especially as there's Something Nasty out in those swamps... and needless to say, the party needs to venture out there in search of what they need to complete their assignment. The adventure ends with a thrilling climax in the distillery itself as the party scrambles to get the agreement they need as time runs out.

Overall it's a good adventure, exciting and with scope for a range of approaches to shine and a real sense of accomplishment if the party can conclude the agreement (and save the village...). One of the better offerings in the introductory season.


I GMd this for Ascaphalus and Damanta, see their reviews below, they already said a lot of things.

What I found really interesthing, is that this scenario actually punishes the all out murderhobos:

You start of with an encounter with Taldan Phalanx soldiers. WHen you finally limp into town, the townfolk is convinced you are with them and start throwing rocks and bottles.
You will run into armed townies that question you.

Now, if you go all out murderhobo and attack the villagers, they wont help you. This could even go as far as not giving away the location of the barrel caves, where you have to go next.

Ultimately, this could result in missing items and a lot of gold. While murderhobos could easily still get 1 or 2 prestige, this will penalize them nicely.

Just beware: This scenario runs long due to the bog mechanics, and the ample roleplay oppurtunities. You will be hard pressed to fit this into a 4 hour slot. It will more likely run 6 hours.

Your fortitude save must be at least this high to exit safely


So I played this last night at high tier, together with Damanta and Carla, with Woran as GM.

I was playing a Taldan paladin with the Remove Disease mercy, and boy did I feel like the right guy at the right place. Also, I have the Title prestige award, which made things even more appropriate; I'm the nobility as it should be, and in this adventure we bump into the grim reality of Taldor's would-be nobility.

Story (5):
The story is not complex, but it just plain works. We have a town of shady people on the one hand, a corrupt officer who wants to seize it for himself on the other. Then there's the man we've been sent to find, who's damaged goods too. As a loyal and idealistic Taldan paladin, clearly we're here to make things better and we're sorely needed. That corrupt officer embodies Taldor as it is, not as it should be. I totally sympathized with the emperor wanting to bring these rogue domains back into the empire, but I did not agree with the method. Time for some righteous strongarming.

And everyone's in danger from the ghouls. Oh yeah, these people definitely need our help, otherwise noone's gonna be alive by morning.

Bonus points: the Taldor faction mission really works for this adventure. It's simple: make sure that the VC for the new lodge will be a Taldan. That turned out to be quite practical; it let me be loyal to my king by bringing this village back into the empire while also putting a better man in place than the corrupt officer.

Roleplaying (5):
There are lots of opportunities for roleplay. The NPCs have rough but evocative backgrounds. RP is the best way to progress through several stages of the scenario and avoid a couple of fights. But the scenario isn't littered with "Diplomacy X here to go on" or even worse "Diplomacy Y here to finish the adventure without a satisfying climax". The NPCs have agendas and personalities that the GM can really work with. One risk is that RP makes the game run late.

Combat (3):

There's good and bad here. Bad is the Bog mechanics. A deep bog has quadruple movement costs, so that basically means that moving a single square costs a Move action.

This made one encounter really dangerous for us, fighting the Shambling Mound. It's got reach and we can't come closer without a lot of effort and provoking (or Enlarge Person and Grace spells, fortunately). It made getting to the monster take a long time, and it made it hard to reach allies in trouble.

Honorable mention here to Harsk who tanked the Mound for quite a while before almost getting killed. His dwarven fortitude also served him well against the violet fungus. He might not be the king of damage in this party (the rest of us were pretty vicious), but he sure could take a lot of punishment.

This was definitely the main course fight in our game. The bog mechanics made it hard, which is good. But they also made it take very long, and that's bad.

After that was a fight against ghasts in a cave. Because the bog slows everyone, the ghasts couldn't gang up on us nor we on them. We made pretty short work of them.

Then there was the fight in the distillery. This scene has great dramatic potential, although I think the writer underestimated the power a high-tier party brings. We're in the building and barricade two entries, so the soldiers come in through two others. We promptly kill almost all of them within a single round. The scenario talks about "what if the PCs hold them off for more than 6 round".

At this point we were about to get kicked out of our gaming location so the GM went into narrative mode to finish up. It was pretty clear that neither soldiers nor ghasts were really a threat to our bunch of extreme aggression melee strikers. So when the soldiers proposed working together to fight the ghasts, what they really said was "please please please save us oh mighty heroes!" :P

On the whole I was fine with the level of challenge. One quite challenging fight that nearly killed 1-2 PCs, a couple of easier fights where you feel badass, all in interesting locations.

The bad stuff was the bog mechanics. (There were also mist mechanics, but those were actually not so bad.) We were literally inching forward and that was just annoying. I think ordinary difficult terrain instead of Very Difficult terrain would've been sufficient to drive the point home.

Miscellaneous (3):

The bad: bog mechanics and the scenario being just a bit too long-winded to properly finish. Also a nitpick about the Taldor mission: it mentions an ideal VC candidate but nobody else in the scenario knows the name so that's kinda weird.

The good: this scenario rewards some things not often rewarded. Due to Harsk being trained in Heal and my Remove Disease mercy we were able to cure those townsfolk infected with ghoul fever, and thereby achieve the secondary success condition.

I'm a fan of Taldor and I'm looking forward to running this scenario myself. But I'll make sure I have more than 5 hours, because I don't want to cut things short like we unfortunately had to. Even so, we had a good evening.


And now I've also run the scenario. I thoroughly enjoyed that as well.

I ran it at lowest tier, with a party of Bard 2, Cleric 1, Ranger 2 (archer) and Barbarian 3. They were lucky to have the barbarian, otherwise it would've gone badly for them.


They hemmed and hawed in the opening encounter until combat ensued. The FE(human) rangers put quite a hurt on them, and the mud (difficult terrain) made it hard for the barbarian to get close enough to the archers to murderize them.

They dealt with the townsfolk, that went well enough. Then into the mire. The encounter there was brutal for them. Super-difficult terrain versus an enemy that can move around in it freely (native Swim) and Reach, is brutal. Add to that the mists and ranged characters have a hard time contributing.

Into the caves: even more super-difficult terrain. Both I and the players were getting pretty annoyed with that. Otherwise, this wasn't a very hard encounter.

Into the distillery. They could easily handle the guards, now that they had a defensible positition. They took the guard captain hostage, which was easy given his stupid bad stats. They hemmed and hawed again until the ghouls started swarming. At this point they elected to work with the guards against the ghouls, and the party was mostly on a balcony practicing archery. The guards took the brunt of it and the barbarian finished off ghouls left and right.

All in all the final fight was perhaps the most fun; finally terrain was on the PCs' side, and fighting off that many ghouls at low tier is pretty epic.

As I GMed this I detected another issue with the terrain and combats;

Standing half-submerged in bogs is supposed to provide cover. Which means both sides of the fight will have a much harder time hitting each other. But also, that no AoOs will be provoked, because cover blocks that. That rather kills the Reach idea of the fight in the bog.

I'm not sure if the same rules applied in the 3.5 days or whether the author was even aware of this effect of cover. I split the difference, by only applying cover rules if someone was fully underwater.

I think the writer went overboard with terrain usage here. It's okay to use terrain to make a clever encounter, but this wasn't just clever, it was frustrating.

At least be honest about it. CR guidelines specify that if terrain works to the advantage of the monsters, that's worth +1 EL. I wouldn't make the encounter easier to stay under some ceiling, but just be honest in your scenario-writing about how hard it is!

Finally, a comment about treasure:

People have remarked that there's a large batch of treasure in the bog encounter that you're likely to miss if you avoid that encounter, which is a smart thing to do.

What they failed to notice is that the adventure also yields 50% more treasure than normal for its tier. That's the treasure in the bog. Basically this is an optional encounter with additional treasure if you do it; but season 0 didn't have that concept yet.

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Available June 24th!

Grand Lodge

can my level 1 pathfinder Season 1 player play this and get credit?

It's a Tier 1-7, so yes.

I'm a bit confused by the counts of the final combat.

The Tier 1-2 for the Distillery lists Grald and 4 Phalanx guards. The Distillery is then attacked at 4 points. Is Point A Grald + 4 guards and then area b, c, and d have 4 guards? Is Point A Grald + 1 guard at Point A while 1 guard is at b, c, and d?

Sovereign Court

I played at the deadly 1-2!

2 guards came in at 1 side and the boss with 2 other guards attacked the front. This made it easier because we were mostly newbies and I was a cavalier so my horse got left behind in the swamp.

I'm about to host this one today, and I was wondering, whether I should add some level of difficulty since the group has a gunslinger.

In act 1:
for example speeding up how fast the next guard team arrives? Firearms can be heard quite far when compared to the normal clash of steel against steel etc. so I think it might be plausible if it took a little less than 10 rounds (I was thinkin 5 rounds, not less) for next group to join the fight. Besides, since this is season 0 scenario, those stats the guards have are bit of a joke anyway.

Liberty's Edge

If you are running for PFS, do not adjust the difficulty, it is against the rules.

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