Pathfinder Society Special: Blood Under Absalom (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Special designed for levels 1-11.

The Ruby Phoenix Tournament is nigh, and organizations and individuals throughout the Inner Sea are scrambling to secure a spot in the legendary Tian fighting competition, among them the Pathfinder Society. In an underground qualifier event overseen by an enigmatic old monk and his oni spokesman, the Pathfinders must overcome the opposition to ensure the Society can send representatives to distant Goka to compete in the Ruby Phoenix Tournament itself. Battles will rage and blood will flow under the streets of Absalom, and only the greatest combatants will emerge victorious.

Written by Tim Hitchcock.

Supplements: Blood Under Absalom utilizes Flip-Mat: Arena, Flip-Mat: Waterfront Tavern, and Map Pack: Inns.

Note: Blood Under Absalom is designed for play in the Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild. It may be run anywhere by anyone, as long as there are 5 tables playing the scenario simultaneously and are in contact with each other. To inquire about access to this scenario, refer to the Organized Play Convention Support Policy.

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A Nicely Streamlined Special



I got a chance to play in Blood Under Absalom, the multi-table interactive special from Season Three, many years after it was first offered. It was really interesting to compare the incredibly dense and complex Specials in SFS and the last few years of PFS1 with one of the earlier Specials that has far more straightforward content. For example, there are no mustering activities, no aid tokens, no House-wide conditions, etc. (Blood Under Absalom is a 50 page document, compared to the 107 pages of the Season Ten Special!) I think there are real advantages to the more streamlined approach, even if it doesn’t do as good a job as preserving the illusion that each group in the room is having its own unique adventure. This is a pretty combat-heavy Special, with only one real opportunity for role-playing. The story, although straightforward, is an important one that ties into not only to the “Year of the Ruby Phoenix” season plot but also PFS content as late as Season Ten (essentially, this scenario is where the whole Hao Jin Tapestry storyline begins). I enjoyed playing in it, and it was cool to see how the lore all tied together.


The name can be a little misleading—-although the scenario does take place entirely in Absalom, it’s not some kind of dungeon-crawl. Instead, the Decemvirate assembles all nearby agents of the Pathfinder Society to announce that entrance trials for the Ruby Phoenix Tournament are going to be held in the city. The Tournament is held only once a decade, and the winner is allowed to choose something from the personal collection of the legendary sorcerer Hao Jin. (This scenario just tells how the PFS gets entrants into the Tournament—there’s a whole season’s worth of stories about the Tournament itself.) But of course, the PFS isn’t the only organisation interested in Hao Jin’s collection—those snakes the Aspis Consortium want it too!

After the briefing, there are six Acts and an Interlude in between, each of which contains at least one and possibly multiple encounters. Just from reading it, my guess is that’s too ambitious for the hurly-burly of an interactive Special and I’d be surprised if most groups were able to accomplish everything they wanted. I don’t know for sure though because I played it via play-by-post, which of course doesn’t have the same time restrictions.

Act 1 takes place in a crowded waterfront tavern as the emissary of the Tournament throws a hundred rubies into the air and explains that, on the morrow, those in possession of one will progress to the next stage of the trials. This naturally sets off a huge brawl as everyone scrambles to get one. It’s a fun premise for an encounter. A GM’s job is hard though because for each subtier, there’s a random encounter table, so instead of preparing one batch of enemies, a GM has to prepare several.

Act 2 sees the would-be entrants in an arena, simply trying to survive as waves of foes from Tian Xia (onis, tengu, ogre mages, etc.) are unleashed until time is called. Again, random encounter tables mean more GM prep.

Act 3 has the PCs traversing an underground sewer system hoping to be the first to find and return with a vase. Agents of the Aspis Consortium will spring an ambush.

Tables are then given 15 minutes for an Interlude scene that involves a drunken ronin involved in a misunderstanding at a tavern that could lead to violence. PCs who move quickly could resolve the situation peacefully and gain an ally, but if they don’t, the ronin instead joins the Aspis Consortium and will be encountered later as an enemy. This is essentially a little role-playing and one-skill-check exercise, but it’s probably good to have a break from the heavy combat of the previous acts.

Act 4 is fun. It’s a classic “assassins attack as the PCs are sleeping in an inn” scenario, something which we rarely see in PFS. I like how GMs are instructed to handle the whole lead up nonchalantly, because if you ever ask players about watches and sleeping arrangements, they instantly know something is up. The assassins are Qadiran poisoners hired by the Aspis Consortium. I remember having a lot of fun with my trickster gnome detecting the ambush early and singing opera loudly to wake up the other PCs.

Act 5 has a really creative premise, and is probably the most memorable part of the scenario to me. The PCs have to take part in stage combat at an opera house, with each assuming the role of a different character from the Lung Wa operatic tradition. So there are characters like the Monkey King, the Wizened Crone, the Cruel Bandit, and Chou (clowns). Each role has different (nonlethal) weaponry and restrictions on whether spells can be cast. My GM did a great job of making the encounter all about impressing the Tournament emissary with acting out the assigned role instead of simply winning the “fight”.

Act 6 starts with an interesting exercise. The PCs only have to ring a gong to advance to the next stage of the entrance trials. Of course, the gong is guarded by an oni and can’t be rung too softly or too forcefully. Clever groups might devise some interesting strategies. The final task is to “simply” touch the robes of the emissary. But wave after wave of elementals stand between the PCs and emissary, as do several trained monks. One of my favourite little bits of the adventure is that the individual PC who is the first to succeed in getting to the emissary is recognised by the event overseer in front of all the assembled tables, and shortly thereafter the first table to complete another task as a group is similarly recognised. It’s a neat thing I’ve never seen done in a Special before. I know the Pathfinder Society is all about cooperation, but a little inter-table competition can be fun too.

Overall, I really liked Blood Under Absalom. I can see its limitations—it doesn’t have a great storyline, there are limited opportunities for role-playing, and the time-constraints look pretty rough. But to me, it just had a fun feel to it, and I think too often the multi-table Specials overcomplicate things.

Lots of combat yet lots of creativity.


I played this over Play by Post as a level 3 sorcerer in a subtier 1-2 game.

I had a lot of fun. This was a combat heavy scenario, and it was easy for spell casters to run out of magic. So I kind of cheated and brought my Level 3 sorcerer. I remember playing the Sky Key Solution with my low level Magus and it was tough to choose spells.

An encounter that started us naked was very interesting. Or at the very least without armor. I also liked the opportunities to charm my opponents, since many scenarios don't use charms or ignore Charm Person.

This was fun. Actual fun was had.


I just played this module at DunDraCon on February 18, 2017. We had approximately 40 players for this giant multi-table game. At my particular table was Tonya Woldridge, along with a Venture Agent and a Venture Lieutenant. Eric Bennett was running.

I tell you that because I want you to understand that my review may be biased. I was at a table filled some of the best players in Pathfinder Society. Because of this, I am fighting a strong urge to rate this 5 stars, as it was simply the most enjoyable gaming I've experienced in Pathfinder Society in recent memory.

Some things I can tell are due to the module itself. The opening was insane (and good), as the gem brawl turned into a bloodbath of epic proportions. Other reviewers have commented about how chaotic and fun that was. The next 2 encounters were run-of-the-mill combats, though I see some other reviewers liked them a lot.

Some things I can tell are due to the people I played with. The theater encounter? It was absolutely hilarious, due to both Tonya and the Venture Agent actually improvising funny puns and verbal barbs at the gaming table. The non-stop banter and cheesy over-acting was excellent.

The final fight (and re-fight) was so-so as far as the module goes (it drags a bit). However, I personally had a wildly fun time, as the Venture Lieutenant at our table was playing a "Bless Equipment cleric" (oracle?) and boosted my barbarian through the roof. I did hugely inappropriate damage thanks to all of his buffs, and had a great time in the process.

At one point a player asked to stop for just a moment, and he said, "I just want to say how nice it is to play with people who know the rules and know how to complement each other's strengths without stepping on toes. This has been amazing."

He was right.

Multi-table fun


I'll preface this by saying that I ran this with a table of 4 very experienced players (In a room of about 30) at tier 3-4 and I had a lot of fun. Also; SPOILERS ahead.

Things ran far smoother than expected after reading through, and players remained engaged throughout. It helped that my party trounced anything in their path until they reached the elemental room. The first wave was a cake walk, but because of the elemental traits, DR/-, and high damage output, I nearly TPK'ed simply by virtue of the fact that other tables were taking too long. My party did their best just to stay alive. I had to double and triple check that I was running the right enemies due to the number of times party members fell unconscious. Had I been more vindictive I could have definitely wiped the party. The monk fight immediately after felt a lot fairer while still making for a climactic boss fight.

However the multi-table event definitely did not feel like we were a room of players working together. With no opportunity to influence other tables, it felt disjointed, and led to complication in the boss room as mentioned above as we waited for other tables to catch up.

Another gripe of mine was the theatre scene. This was an opportunity ripe for actual roleplaying with costumes and props and everything, but it ultimately fizzled down to a rematch against a previous already-easy enemy team but made easier again. Sure Pathfinder has a robust combat system, but it felt like a missed opportunity all round.

Highlights include the Ronin sub-plot, and the scramble for the rubies. The players immediately engaged the Ronin when they first encountered him and handled the barmaid-scuffle without hesitation. They also had a lot of fun fighting wave after wave of competitors for more rubies, and it really helped create a feeling of a packed tavern.

Like I said, the overall game was very fun, and the players enjoyed themselves. Which should always be the goal of any RPG. I look forward to playing more multi-table scenarios like this one in the future.

Fun adventure, dubious mechanics


So let's be clear: this one isn't high-brow literature. But the plot is coherent and has a certain kind of style. For the whole thing, think of it as a kind of 90s video game/martial arts tournament kind of atmosphere. Roll with the silliness and then it's pretty fun.

That also illustrates the problem with this scenario. It's a series of fights (not a bad thing in itself) with some awkward RP interludes that much resemble cut scenes in a video game. There's not much flexibility here.

There are also some moments in fights where you're given an objective, like "get to that person". But the way it's written, you're supposed to fight some monsters first, and so should the other tables. Only when all the tables have killed X monsters can you get to that person. But this kind of falls apart when you start using fly spells or dimension door etcetera. You basically run into an invisible wall of "scenario says no". Again, a lot like a video game.

It also shows how clumsy the early multi-table specials were. This one relies a lot on synchronizations between all tables, making it feel rather forces. I recently played Legacy of the Stonelords which had much better synchronization mechanics. RPG technology advances, it seems.

Despite these flaws, I had fun playing this. The fights are flavourful and occasionally quite challenging, especially if you play with a 4-person party, like this one is meant to be played. Having a head GM with a flair for drama also helps.

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Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

Product page now live! Feel free to discuss the special and review it here. It will remain exclusive to conventions and special game days until August of next year, when it will be available for general purchase. To schedule this scenario at your local Pathfinder Society event, please contact campaign management at

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Have there been any changes made to it since Gen Con?

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Could you please add the year with the release date?

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Charles Scholz wrote:

Could you please add the year with the release date?

We have finite room in the price block, but the full release date under the product description contains the year (and the day of the week).

Scarab Sages

Wasn't this product supposed to be available for purchase and download on September 4th, 2012?

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

It's available now.

Lantern Lodge

Are there any special requirements to run this for PFS play or can we run it with our single table group?

Rendrin wrote:
Are there any special requirements to run this for PFS play or can we run it with our single table group?

It requires a minimum of 5 tables playing simultaneously for this one.

Lantern Lodge

Alright, thank you.

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