Pathfinder Society Scenario #51: The City of Strangers—Part I: The Shadow Gambit (PFRPG) PDF

3.80/5 (based on 20 ratings)

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

The Pathfinder Society sends you to Kaer Maga, the City of Strangers, where you are ordered to find a local Pathfinder associate who sent a strange letter to Venture-Captain Drandle Dreng in Absalom. When the local associate turns up dead and you find evidence linking his death to a mysterious organization called The Shadow Lodge, it's up to you to track them down and solve the man's murder.

The Shadow Gambit is the first scenario in the two-part The City of Strangers campaign arc. Pathfinder Society Scenario #52: The City of Strangers—Part II: The Twofold Demise is the sequel.

Written by Joshua J. Frost

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 Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

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Average product rating:

3.80/5 (based on 20 ratings)

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Starts out great, then limps to an ending.

4/5

(I both GMed and played this.)

Kaer Maga is a fantastic city, and when I explained to my players what it was, they were eager to explore it. The scenario starts out with two great combats, then gets bogged down by social encounters. I like roleplaying, and so did my players, but in the end there's too much pressure on those encounters and not enough attention to making this scenario fall together.

Plot spoiler:
Me and my players found it difficult to actually find some useful information through regular roleplaying. My players wanted to interrogate the goons, infiltrate the Kiln, and wait for Ardoc back home, but the first were unreasonably unhelpful and the latter two seem reasonable option, but are never explained. I kept having to point them back at the scenario and tell them to ask random people on the street. And even then, they kept asking the same character over and over, rather than jumping to a new target.

The social encounter part fell a bit flat, as you can read in my spoiler. Two sentences isn't enough to make memorable characters, especially if they're implemented in such a clunky way. I'm reminded of Shades of Ice 2, with a similar disappointing mechanic. You'd think that a season later they'd have learned from their mistakes, but apparently not.
The meeting with the information broker was very memorable, though, and I would have liked to see more of that, impress the hostile nature of the town on the players. The Taldor faction mission is great, though silly.

And then the final encounter. Hoo boy.

Final encounter:
When will Paizo learn that one big guy isn't a proper challenge? I'd rather have three or four enemies of roughly equal skill, rather than one overly specialised enemy three or four levels higher than the APL. Players will just wade through the summons as if they're nothing, then face a horribly outmatched opponent. He was statted in such a way that he could maybe take out one or two party members, and then be out of juice. Now he blew his wad and then he was helpless against a full party heading his way.

I did like the encounter difficulty. I've mostly GMed earlier seasons, and there they just wiped the floor with every encounter. Here, (barely tier 3-4), every fight was a challenge (though also through terrible rolls by the party, I must admit), though not insurmountable. I did see quite a bit of errors in statblocks, though. Also, why are there so many potions? In the second encounter, all enemies have three potions of CLW each, that's way more than my party needed, especially since they also got seven from the first encounter.

In short, great adventure with amazing atmosphere. Too bad it sort of petered out in the end.


Lots of fun, lots of RP

4/5

GM'd, not played.

The Good:

*The trip to get into the city makes a nice 'bookend' to a mostly RP scenario.
*The NPCs are fabulous. The GM should really get into their performance here.
*The incidental magic item. The bags with Silence cast on them were really useful, and the PCs bargained for the use of some during the scenario, functioning as (single-use) gun silencers as well as temporary disruptive PC 'time outs'. I would have loved to see the bags on the chronicle sheet!

The Bad:

*Depending on the party makeup, the investigation can drag a bit.
*It could be easy to offensively overplay some of the more memorable NPCs.


Almost Perfect

4/5

Played this at low tier.

I absolutely enjoyed playing this. It was a real delight to find a scenario that isn't OTT combats and silly darkness/blindness style encounters.

There was a hell of a lot of room to actual role play for a change which was really refreshing. The combats were simple and over quickly.

The only reason I didn't rate as 5 stars is because even with a lot of role play and good diplomacy checks it still felt like it took forever to actually get anywhere in finding the NPCs and clues we needed. A little more work there and this would have been 5 stars.


2/5

This is a hard scenario to rate.

It has a lot of potential for a real scenic roleplay adventure.
But too much depends on the preparation of the GM and the party you get. Even if the GM reads this 20 times, there is just so much more to Kaer Maga then described here. A more experienced GM that has the City of Strangers book, and/or ran something like the Godsmouth Heresy, will get more out of this. But that is not something you can or should expect of someone.

Also, if the party fails to have certain skills, it can easily end up with a boring dice rolling excercise to get what you need.

Hence my bad rating. Too much is left up to circumstance. With the right party and right GM, this could be a four or five. But that combination is not something that should be counted on in PFS.


Excellent social scenario

5/5

Personally, I am fond of investigative scenarios. This one presents a great number of intriguing NPCs for the party to encounter. Kaer Maga is a fantastic setting, and this adventure and its counterpart showcase it well. If you are considering GMming this, be prepared to think on the fly and really get into the NPCs heads. The difference between a poor running of this and an excellent one is how well those NPCs are played.


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Announced! This is for Tier 1-7.

Dark Archive

Thea Peters you might want to add a rating to your review. :)

Scarab Sages

I like this set of scenarios a lot. My advice to those running this scenario is simple:

This advice and 10 cents won't buy you a cup of coffee:

Play Wymund in a cunning manner. Use the invisibility and have him summon monster as much as he can. Once he has spent his summons the party may actually have burnt through some of their healing. In this scenario the party will find a lot of healing.

Summon monster does not count as an attack and therefore does not cause the invisibility to drop.

If the party manages to find him, have him evade and go invisibile again if he can. In the higher Tiers, once the party gets him on the ropes don't wait too long to use the scroll of dimension door to have him move to a remote location within the theater and heal up for the final confrontation.

Once he is out of summons and healing, it becomes a straight up fight.

If you don't play him this way. Large parties can easily kill him in 2 rounds. My advice is to make him memorable, play him tough. You will also want to study the map and see the locations he might use for cover or where he could lure a single character to an isolated area for an ambush.

The attitude I give him is simple: He knows this theater better than the party and he would take full advantage of knowing the home turf.

Hope my experience is helpful. Cheers :-)

PS I have made counters for these scenarios and am happy to post them on the SCARAB Gaming Convention Forums if you would like.

SCARAB GAMING CONVENTION

Scarab Sages

Additional Info - What if the party splits up.

Be Prepared:

I have had a few parties split up at the initial climb up the Halflight path. They take the incognito thing seriously. It's not a major problem unless they specifically say that they want to be equally dispersed throughout the caravan.
If this happens it means that there would likely be only one of the characters caught in the isolated arm of the path. There are several different ways you can handle it.

    [1]Role-play it instead of roll-playing it. Reward their preparedness with all the gear from the bad guys.
    [2]Run the combat as is. Have the players dice off for which one is isolated and see what happens.
    [3]My preferred method is to have the players dice off and determine which one is caught in the trap and then provide the other players NPCs to play for the encounter. I like to use 1 Dusk Warden (Gahiji), 1 Merchant and the remainder Warrior guards for the merchant.

The cool thing about using the NPCs is that it gives the party some friends in the city right off the bat. You can use them to offer housing, information, assistance locating people, additional muscle if the party is under powered, etc.

Here are the NPCs I use at all levels.

Dusk Warden Gahiji
Male Human Ranger 3
N Medium Human (Garundi)
Init +2; Senses Perception +6
Defense
AC 15, touch 12, flat-footed 13 (armor +3, Dex +2)
Hp 27 (3d10)
Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +1
Offense
Spd 30 ft.
Melee mwk longsword +6 (1d8+2)
Ranged mwk composite longbow (+2 strength) +7 (1d8+2) or mwk longbow (+2 strength) +5/+5 (1d8+2)
Special Attacks: favored enemy (+2 vs humans)
Statistics
Str 14, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 10
Base Atk +3; CMB +5; CMD 17
Feats: Endurance, Rapid Shot, Skill Focus (Survival), Toughness, Track, Weapon Focus (longbow),
Skills: Climb +7, Handle Animal +6, Heal +6, Intimidate +5, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +6, Knowledge (geography) +6, Knowledge (nature) +6, Perception +6, Ride +7, Stealth +8, Survival +9, Swim +7
Languages: Common (Taldan), Osiriani, Kelish
SQ: Wild Empathy +3, Favored Terrain (desert)
Gear: potion cure light wounds (2), masterwork composite longbow (+2 strength), masterwork longsword, masterwork studded leather, quiver with 20 arrows (10 cold iron)

Merchant
Male Human Aristocrat 3
N Medium Human
Init +1; Senses Perception +8
Defense
AC 14, touch 11, flat-footed 13 (armor +3, Dex +1)
Hp 20 (3d8)
Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +3
Offense
Spd 30 ft.
Melee mwk rapier +4 (1d6-1) 18-20/x2
Ranged mwk shortbow +4 (1d6) x3
Statistics
Str 9, Dex 13, Con 10, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 11
Base Atk +2; CMB +1; CMD 12
Feats: Alertness, Persuasive, Weapon Finesse
Skills: Appraise +6, Bluff +4, Diplomacy +7, Intimidate +6, Knowledge (local) +6, Knowledge (nobility) +6, Linguistics +5, Perception +8, Profession (Merchant) +4, Sense Motive +6, Swim +4
Languages: Common (Taldan), ?, ?
Gear: potion cure light wounds (2), masterwork shortbow, masterwork rapier, masterwork studded leather, quiver with 20 arrows (10 silver)

Warrior
Male Human Warrior 3
N Medium Human
Init +0; Senses Perception +2
Defense
AC 16, touch 10, flat-footed 16 (armor +4, shield +2)
Hp 27 (3d10+3)
Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +0
Offense
Spd 30 ft.
Melee mwk scimitar +6 (1d6+1) 18-20/x2
Ranged mwk light crossbow +4 (1d8) 19-20x2
Statistics
Str 13, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 8
Base Atk +3; CMB +4; CMD 14
Feats: Quick Draw, Rapid Reload, Weapon Focus (scimitar)
Skills: Climb +4, Handle Animal +3, Intimidate +4, Perception +2, Ride +4, Swim +4
Languages: Common (Taldan), ?, ?
Gear: potion cure light wounds (1), masterwork crossbow, masterwork scimitar, masterwork chain shirt, heavy wooden shield, quiver with 10 bolts

Again, this has only happened to me a few times, but it is good to be prepared.

Hope this helps you to be better prepared.

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