Pathfinder Society Scenario #2-01: Before the Dawn—Part I: The Bloodcove Disguise (PFRPG) PDF

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

You are sent to Aspis Consortium-infested Bloodcove to gather supplies for a nearly doomed Pathfinder mission nearby. Disguised as ordinary merchants, you have little time to gather what you need and get out before the Consortium discovers and destroys you.

The Bloodcove Disguise is the first scenario in the two-part Before the Dawn campaign arc. Pathfinder Society Scenario #2-02: Before the Dawn—Part II: Rescue at Azlant Ridge is the sequel.

Written by Crystal Frasier

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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****½ (based on 27 ratings)

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Clever and Well-Conceived

*****

NO SPOILERS

The title is a mouthful, but Before the Dawn, Part I: The Bloodcove Disguise is a heaping handful of high-quality adventuring. It has it all: a memorable location, high stakes, multiple types of encounters, and an ending that will leave you wanting more. The scenario is an early example of Crystal Frasier's work, and it's clear why she quickly became a rising star in Paizo's ranks. The scenario gives the PCs a lot of flexibility in how they approach their mission, and it's a sterling example of a non-railroading structure. I played through it and then read the scenario, and I'd definitely recommend it (and its sequel).

SPOILERS

The backstory and premise for this scenario is great. In the remote jungles of the Mwangi Expanse, the Pathfinder Society has set up an excavation of one of the few known Azlanti settlements in the region. But now the camp is under siege (by the half-mad soldiers of the gorilla king Ruthazek) and in desperate need of food and medical supplies. Enter the PCs. The scenario starts fast with their arrival at the outskirts of Bloodcove, a city of cutthroats, pirates, and smugglers dominated by the Society's rival organization, the amoral Aspis Consortium. The mission for the PCs is to disguise themselves, slip into Bloodcove, organize supplies for a relief caravan, and then lead it to the dig site. It's not going to be easy!

I really like a hidden sub-system in the scenario to evaluate how well the PCs do with disguising themselves while in Bloodcove. It's based around the concept of "Awareness Points," and periodically during the scenario different skill checks are required depending on the type of disguise the PCs adopted. Other actions (including faction missions) can lead the PCs to accumulating Awareness Points, and the consequences are meaningful: different tiers can lead to an extra encounter or even the PCs being forced out of Bloodcove early. The scenario includes a little tracking sheet as well. It's an elegant mechanic that gives PCs flexibility for different approaches and strengths, while holding them accountable for their choices (and rolls).

The scenario is divided into five acts, each with at least one encounter.

In Act 1, the PCs track down the man who has organised the relief caravan but is waiting for directions on where to go. However, Raimondo Scevola has just lost his pack mules to a pirate captain while gambling at a tavern, and the PCs have to sweet talk, bribe, or force their new owner into giving them back. A lot of groups (including mine) approached this with violence, but there are other ways to handle the matter, which is the sign of a well-conceived encounter.

In Act 2, the PCs head to a local trading post to purchase food for the relief mission only to find it closed because giant ants have broken into the basement of the place and are eating everything! I confess that giant ants are a bit cheesy, so this was probably my least favorite encounter in the scenario.

In Act 3, the adventurers visit a local alchemist to find out why he hasn't been producing healing potions as promised for the relief caravan. It turns out that his son is deathly ill, but that a local gangster has access to a brew that temporarily halts the boy's disease. Forced to work purely for the gangster, the alchemist is constantly under watch--which is why the PCs probably find themselves in a knife fight in a cramped shop against murderous thugs! In order to get the alchemist's help, the PCs have to retrieve the curative elixir from the gangster, who is currently running a pit fighting ring. What's really clever here is that the gangster is a Summoner, and uses her abilities to conjure all sorts of monsters as a natural draw for her business. The PCs will have to defeat the gangster and her Amazon-like eidolon in order to succeed here. The encounter has an interesting setting and some interesting tactics, as the Summoner turns invisible and aids her eidolon through spellcasting.

Act 4 is the optional encounter that occurs only if the PCs' Awareness Points have escalated to the point where they've been discovered as Pathfinders. The Aspis Consortium sends a gang of toughs and a special agent to kidnap and interrogate them. Failure in this encounter (probably) doesn't leave the PCs dead, but instead they get tortured for two weeks, automatically fail the scenario, and end up with a permanent negative boon on their Chronicle! You don't see much in the way of negative boons on Chronicles these days, but I like the story potential they open up.

Act 5 finds the PCs on their way to the dig site when they're ambushed by more agents of the Aspis Consortium: a Witch and several guards. It's a solid if unspectacular encounter, boosted by a clever attempt by the witch's familiar to steal something from the PCs but let down by the fact that the text talks about it taking place "on the edge of a "large river gorge" but the encounter grid just has it on a trail in the middle of the jungle. Setting it in a location where falling into raging waters below was a possibility would add to the cinematic feel of the encounter.

The scenario ends with the PCs realizing that a *large* force of Aspis mercenaries are hot on their trail, and their only chance of survival is to make it to the relative safety of the Pathfinder camp first. It leads in smoothly to the next scenario, and is a solid cliffhanger.

All in all, this one's a winner. The scenario makes good use of some classes that aren't seen all that often in PFS Scenarios (the Summoner and the Witch), the Awareness mechanic is great, and the general setting and premise of the mission is interesting and flavourful. It's a job well done.


****( )


Come to Bloodcove to RP

*****

The roleplaying opportunities are great and many, and the tone is set brilliantly with the briefing. You can see Aram Zey's voice on the page, and it sets the standard for what I look for in character writing in scenarios. All depictions of him after this one owe it for giving such a brilliant image of him.

Once again, Crystal Frasier takes risks and tries to use new mechanics to structure and tell the story, which set the standard format for other classics like Severing Ties. While there are parts of the disguise mechanics I would tweak, I still respect the effort to forge new ground. Modern power-creeped characters will steamroll this scenario (though my table did have a rough time with one fight when I played it), but that is more of a function of the scenario's age than anything.


Wake-up call for the kitchen sink

****( )

Most of the time in PF, there's a line of thinking that goes "it doesn't matter if I look weird or scary, I'm a s!%*-kicking adventurer and nobody's gonna mess with me and live". This is one of the first serious undercover adventures where your disguise skills actually get put to the test, and many are found wanting.

I do think the adventure has some bits that could use improvement; the success conditions don't really reflect the mission briefing well. If you ignore part of the mission your odds of complete success (according to PP) improve. I think the management screwed up the move towards secondary success conditions here.

There are multiple tactics to blend in, using different skills. I think the adventure works better if the GM is open as to what skills could be used for what kind of disguises.

As to the actual goings-on. The encounters were occasionally quite challenging, but some rely on sketchy rules (details in the GM thread).

I loved the final encounter though; someone ambushed us, we royally beat her and I used Explosive Bomb to set her on fire. After she burnt down and we defeated her accomplices, she suddenly rose from the dead to deliver some cutscene text and then promptly collapsed back to smouldering corpse again :P

On the whole, I think this adventure is a solid start to the "genre" of undercover scenarios, and that good lessons were learned from it for later sequels like By Way of Bloodcove.


Failing to stay unnoticed was never more fun

*****

Why the Decemvirate decided to send an alchemist and scholar on an infiltration and reconnaissance mission to a pirate-den is beyond me, but who am I to doubt our leaders? Surely they know what they’re doing, right? .. Right?

Those, dear reader, were the thoughts of my alchemist as she walked through Bloodcove yesterday in what turned out to be a fun and entertaining scenario. As is normal, you find yourself tasked with multiple different objectives that you have to complete. Some you will know from the start, others you will randomly have to stumble across along the way. The good news is that this scenario allows you to tackle these minor quests in whatever order you see fit and however you see fit. You ahve a lot of freedom, but there will be consequences and it’s best to remember that you should act like you’re from this place at all times, even if it’s against your nature. Interpret that as you’d like.

Now, my party wasn’t exactly quite subtle as they made their way through town. We would have honestly just been better off simply stating we were Pathfinders as that would have had the same effect, but we can at least say we tried. As such we got to experience the full scenario as we ended up pissing off all the wrong people. That however isn’t a huge problem, as you’re still left with a lot of freedom when it comes to dealing with the many encounters, some more dangerous than others.

The tasks themselves made sense, though at times I wondered why some NPC’s trusted us that quickly. I mean, we were supposed to be pirates and criminals, so why would you allow us to help, why would you believe us? Some of those segments and interactions felt a bit too easy or forced, but nonetheless enjoyable. That said, the rest was great fun and I’d recommend it to others, whether you’ll be able to blend in or not. As for me, well, I’m just a little bit worried as to how aware the enemies are of us, but I can’t wait to find out in part 2.


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Announced!

Dark Archive

Joshua J. Frost wrote:
Announced!

Whoo. I'll be running this mid-august online to see how it plays.

Dark Archive

As my local gaming club have just started Pathfinder Society games, we're looking to purchase the flip-mats required for each module.

Any chance of getting an advance idea as to which flip-mats are being used for this adventure so that I can get them ordered in advance?

Cheers.

Grand Lodge

Running this adventure in five minutes here at Gen Con. You need flip mat water front tavern.
You will also want map pack inns, cities, waterfront, and jungle.

Sovereign Court

John Stout wrote:
Any chance of getting an advance idea as to which flip-mats are being used for this adventure so that I can get them ordered in advance?

Bloodcove Disguise uses the Waterfront Tavern Flip-Mat and, I think, two of the Map Packs: Inns.

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

OMG. In addition to being one of the funniest beings on this planet, Crystal Frasier can write scenarios. Good ones. "Sandbox in Mwangi with APG content and Lizards named Omb" good.

Paizo ! Immediately redirect Crystal to scenario writing duty ! Halve the food rations ! Triple the workload ! Threaten to have Jason B eat an alive octopus in the middle of Paizo office unless more Crystal modules are written ! And if all else fails, RELEASE THE KRAKEN !

Dark Archive

Cheers for that folks, that'll make running this much easier! Starting out with a fledgling group so I'm having to get a lot of stuff from scratch.

Grand Lodge

I built a fully featured Maptool instance of this campaign + herolabs NPC files, if any paizo staff wants to check it out.

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