Pathfinder Society Scenario #3–24: The Golden Serpent (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 5–9

The Pathfinder Society sends a team of agents to meet an important contact in an unassuming restaurant in Absalom’s Ivy District, but not everything is as it seems. What the Pathfinders find there will lead them into a lion’s den of danger and intrigue in the City at the Center of the World.

Written by Jim Groves.

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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A simple task is never easy for a Pathfinder


I was one of the players in Quentin's game, see the review below and I have to echo some of his thoughts.

The Golden Serpent is a scenario that is wickedly fun, but does have a few problems. Let me start by saying that the plot is a lot of fun. You are asked to perform a simple task, but nothing is ever easy for a pathfinder. You'll end up dealing with a volatile, even potentially explosive situation, and also encounter some pretty interesting foes you hardly ever get to see. For me, that's always a good thing.

Yet as I mentioned, the scenario does have some issues. For the players the storyline was unclear. We had no ideas why certain foes were even there and sadly we also couldn't find a note or two to explain that to us. The backstory, which we heard from the GM after the scenario was over, is however really good. It's a shame you just miss out on it as a player.

Another issue is that I noticed the GM struggled a bit with the rooms and tactics at times. Turns out that certain important sentences are scattered over multiple pages, as well as different tactics. The formatting in other words is a bit of a mess. If you're looking to GM this, and I recommend you should, you really need to be aware of this, but even then I can see you forget things in the heat of the moment.

Finally there's a small issue with the gold. Having to rob a store or miss out on 17 gold is just weird. The same applies for taking a bunch of clothes and torches. To put that in perspective: taking some of the extravagant furniture fetches no coin. That really doesn't make sense at all. It's just an arbitrary way of 'well, the PC's are entitled to this much gold, so let's toss in some random stuff to reach that number.'It felt weird and really unsatisfying.

That said, The Golden Serpent is a fun and challenging scenario with a lot of potential. There's enough opportunity to roleplay, fight and investigate and there are multiple ways to overcome certain challenges. Players have a decent amount of freedom and that is always a good thing. The potential boons, I may add, are great as well. If it wasn't for the issues I pointed out, this scenario would have gotten five stars from me. Regardless of that, I highly recommend this scenario to everyone.

Great setup, lacklustre story.


(I GMed this)
I just love how this scenario starts. No one expects what's happening, and although people are mistrustful of the seemingly easy mission, seeing the players realising what's going on makes for a great story. The roleplay was great, without the adventure hinging on it. I wish this was done more often.
I also liked the variety of the encounters. Pathfinder has hundreds of Bestiary pages; it's great to see them put to use to create more unique encounters, rather than throwing more vanilla humans at the party (and even the human encounters had some interesting strategies). Though I feel the monsters could've been buffed slightly, the damage output never really reached its full potential. Meanwhile, the final boss was a house to deal with, but with action economy favouring the players, she never really got to shine.
What puts this scenario down for me is the fact that the dungeon made little to no sense, the backstory never really factored in, and the BBEG's plan was as cliche'd as they come. My players kept wondering what they were doing in the dungeon, and why everything's even there.
I liked how the writer tried to make it a realistic lair with sleeping quarters, a kitchen, and a training room, but if half of those rooms are empty with nothing to find (or even lacking flavour text), it loses some of its appeal. Similarly, the Society expects you to loot everything, and failing to loot a wardrobe could cost you a handful of GP. I know the Society likes you to loot valuables, but I don't think I'm supposed to loot a legitimate business, even if it's a front for the evil guys.

All in all, the encounters were great in its variety and abilities (although they do suffer from the "stay inside your room until the heroes kick in the door"-syndrome), but the backstory could really use some help.

Five stars, would GM again.


I just ran ths yesterday, and it is now one of my favorite scenarios to date. While reading the scenario during prep I knew that if it played half as well as it read I would not be disappointed, and I wasn't. The scenario has a little something for everyone: ample roleplaying opportunity, good fights, cool baddies (something I've noticed in the other Jim Groves scenario I've played, Haunting at Hinojai), some opportunities for some hilarity, and plenty of danger. There wasn't really any point that the party felt at ease, it was really nice to keep people on their toes.

A splendid scenario for both combat and roleplay


This scenario had everything I was looking to bring for a table. The roleplay elements were in depth, and varied between subtle nods to prior scenarios, backdrops detailing the political atmosphere of Absalom, and detailed interpersonal opportunities with specific NPCs. The number of things I can't say here without spoilers is simply overwhelming.

The opening was done beautifully, and really sets the tone for the urgency of the whole scenario. This leads directly into some tactically interesting combats that had my table gritting their teeth as they fought through them. This scenario sets the party up well for a real feeling of accomplishment at the end. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Dripping with flavor


The first scene of this adventure is one of the most memorable of any PFS scenario. It leads into an excellent dungeon crawl that is challenging and creative. Good RP, plenty of combat; everybody leaves the table happy.

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Announced! Cover image is a mockup.


Author announced!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4


I had not realized the author had been announced on this one so long ago.

I loved Frostfur Captives and Haunting of Hinojai for different reasons, and the same is true for this one.

The Golden Serpent was written recently enough that it came about AFTER I had started to become much more active on the PFS comnmunity boards, As a result I feel it benefits from a much clearer understanding of the community likes and dislikes (as opposed to HoH and Frostfur, which were written as is).

I can't be specific, because we need to preserve spoilers, and of course Mark has the final say on everything and stuff may change. But needless to say, when i was putting it together I was mindful about things people were asking for, what they liked, and what they expressed that they found really frustrating. I couldn't accomodate all the feedback all in one shot, but I certainly bore it in mind. Especially the big stuff. (I.e. some plain ol' fashioned treasure variety is a safe hint, but there is so much more besides that)

I consider this scenario as a definite part of my writing evolution and frankly there's always a chance it might suck despite my hopes and hype- but I hope not! I really tried hard!

As always I hope the community has a lot fun with this, and I look forward to finding out what works and what doesn't.

Barring an emergency I'll be at PaizoCon that weekend and VC's, GMs, and Players can tell me all about it.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Oh, and I can't wait to see the artwork on this one too!

As the great Mr. Wonka, portrayed by the great Gene WIlder once said, "Little surprises around every corner!! But nothing dangerous... yet."

Jim Groves wrote:
As the great Mr. Wonka, portrayed by the great Gene WIlder once said, "Little surprises around every corner!! But nothing dangerous... yet."

Oh you tease, you. ;-) I can hardly wait!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4


I got cover artwork now. I can hardly wait to see the finished version myself in a few days.

Cool stuff in this one.. Heh heh heh.


Hey Jim, I'm running this on Saturday morning at ConnectiCon in Hartford, CT... I'll give you some feedback on Monday on how it went

Lantern Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Jim, we had a lot of fun playing this one at PaizoCon. We played up and my 12-year old was very nervous about doing so, but his 5th level fighter proved to be the hero of the final battle. Everyone cheered! Party was a 9th level sorcerer, 7th level bard, 7th level pally, 5th level fighter, 5th level bard and my 5th level battle oracle. If you have any specific areas you'd like to hear about, just PM me or I can put it in spoilers.

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC

Cpt_kirstov wrote:
Hey Jim, I'm running this on Saturday morning at ConnectiCon in Hartford, CT... I'll give you some feedback on Monday on how it went

You lucky dog! It was scheduled the same time as my summer vacation this year. Been a thin year for cons for me, that's for sure.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Cpt_kirstov wrote:
Hey Jim, I'm running this on Saturday morning at ConnectiCon in Hartford, CT... I'll give you some feedback on Monday on how it went

Please do! I hope everyone has fun!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

michaelane wrote:
Jim, we had a lot of fun playing this one at PaizoCon. We played up and my 12-year old was very nervous about doing so, but his 5th level fighter proved to be the hero of the final battle. Everyone cheered! Party was a 9th level sorcerer, 7th level bard, 7th level pally, 5th level fighter, 5th level bard and my 5th level battle oracle. If you have any specific areas you'd like to hear about, just PM me or I can put it in spoilers.

Sounds like a great game! There's nothing like kids having a good time in the hobby. And that is a pretty good party mix.

I'd love to hear about anything you want to tell me. If there was a problem that needs addressing, feel free to start a thread down in the PFS boards.


::coughcough: post-a-review ::coughcough::

Ah shucks, I hate pimping for reviews, but we take the good with the bad, so I guess it's alright. That's also a great way to get our attention and let us know what you liked and what you didn't like. They definitely get read and considered.

Sovereign Court Owner - Enchanted Grounds, President/Owner - Enchanted Grounds

Reviewed. I gave you high marks, Jim, because I can see the huge potential in this. I think hack 'n slahers will hate it, though. Of course, that's a "plus," in my book. (-:

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Drogon wrote:
Reviewed. I gave you high marks, Jim, because I can see the huge potential in this. I think hack 'n slahers will hate it, though. Of course, that's a "plus," in my book. (-:

Thank you Drogon! Much appreciated!

A long time ago the judges of RPG Superstar made a general comment about freelancers that rings true for me. We all have our own styles, even when we're working with the same template or infrastructure.

I gravitate towards story and role-playing. It's easy to say those are the best virtues, but honestly a healthy balance is required. A good adventure is going to have crisp, challenging combat encounters too. Neither is better or worse than the other, but in correct proportion both are necessary ingredients.

But yeah- I made a concerted effort to juice up the treasure, and I'm pleased that its a good problem to have.

Thank you again for the kind review and I hope you and the players continue to have a good time with it.

And I'll be back fairly soon in Season 4, with all the cool changes that Mike and Mark have implemented!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

@ Jason S: Thanks for the review!

Sorry it didn't appeal to you. I'll take your feedback into consideration. I confess I'm disappointed as I recall reading your posts specifically, but I don't and won't debate a review. :)

Though, may I suggest it might appeal more after you've had a chance to read it? It might have been challenging for the GM under the circumstances you've described.

Sovereign Court Owner - Enchanted Grounds, President/Owner - Enchanted Grounds

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I ran this today and, as I predicted, pretty thoroughly enjoyed it. The players said they felt challenged, as well, and enjoyed everything. They particularly liked the short sword, and how that ended up in the final encounter.

I think, had I had the chance to play it before running it, or simply been more attentive to abilities, it would have been deadly for a couple of the players. I had one down at one point, and another very nervous, but never quite put finishing pressure on anyone. As well, each of the two melee players had step up, and that feat wrecked a lot of plans.

Overall, it went well. I definitely ran a little long, though, as I thought I would. I'd have even more fun with it in a home game, and may have to figure out how to work it into my Shadow War campaign. Thanks for the good time.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

ZomB thank you for your review!

I think you'll find the Season 4 six player assumption makes a huge impact on the difficulty level. I've written a "to be announced" Season 4 scenario, and personally I think it's going to be a lot easier to have a BBEG and still give them cohorts to stave off economy of action problems. That is a lot of the issue that you're I think you're seeing in Season Three.

And some authors use certain techniques to correct for that, but if you get it wrong-well then you trade one issue for another.

Watch for my next scenario! It will have more roleplaying opportunities throughout, and other coolness I can't talk about yet!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Falcore51, thanks for your review!

Interesting. This is the first report that I've had that this is too hard.

I had hoped to mitigate DR with the align weapon scrolls

Thank you anyway, sorry you didn't have more fun.

Grand Lodge

Hey Jim,
We had a great time with this down in Australia. Loads of fun.
I think I have some points of discussions for future GMs to make this as good as it should be.

Handling the Serpent:
There were a couple of factors that I felt I could have handled better as a GM, given the material in the module.

1. The Taldor Mission was a bit ambiguous. I don't own the Absalom sourcebook, so I have no idea who Alain Always is. I went in on the fly, saying that he was an extravagant and outspoken council member of Absalom and was in the press a lot. A bit of a Lady Gaga of Absalom politics, if you will. I didn't know how to handle the DC25 Bluff controversial statement, it didn't seem obvious to the player. I guess that a Taldor player would go into the restaurant and announce to everyone that they are Always lover, but this doesn't seem likely unless prompted. My player stuck to Gather Info and didn't get very far. Eventually, they were walking past gossipy nobles talking, and let him take a shot at the Knowledge Local check, which he passed, which allowed him to enter a conversation about the tos and fros of Always' Bedchamber. I assume Xaran Hiddock is male, but didn't know for sure with the fantasy names.

2. The Sczarni mission was exciting and flavourful but seemingly harder than everyone elses' mission. Seems like they had to do twice as much work, including a 'one chance or you miss it' mission. Was this one of those cases where it reminds players that they're not meant to succeed all the time?

3. Maelpheta had all this awesome history about how she'd taken over this guild, but with all the Crowsworn wanting the Pathfinders dead, none of it has a chance to come out in the module. It'd be great if you found some lore in the mission about what Maelpheta actually is/her motivations. As it stands, right now the Pathfinders get horrified by the appearance of this Vudran fiend at the end of the mod. Is this meant to be explained to the players with the success of the Shadow Lodge mission?

4. Sendeli Foxglove boon. I really like where this is going, but I'd like to be signposted. As it stands, I don't think this boon does anything, despite the fact that it is a difficult boon to achieve.
I knew my players would be set on achieving their missions rather than being polite to a pretty NPC, so during combat I had Sendeli play the damsel in distress. She fell prone from the fireball and screamed as Amistis loomed with his swords, yet none of the party took the cue and leapt in front of her to protect her. Five foot steps and full attacks were more important.
In any editing that occurs, it'd be great if the boon signposted what scenarios the Foxglove boon can be used towards. As it stands it seems cool, but useless.

5. Shocking floor and Flame Strike traps. I think they are placed in the wrong order for the door in the document? I don't want any level 5s getting scorched by a CR8 trap.

6. As they were fighting intelligent opponents that spoke their language, my party attempted to intimidate/threaten with torture any Crowsworn survivors so they could get the info for their faction missions. Sigh. I would urge all GMs to have the guild members remain tight-lipped, even when there's an actual torture chamber handy around the corner. What's with 'heroes' nowadays?

7. Loved the inclusion of the special familiar and would love to see this method replicated for other strange familiars in different mods.

8. The twins worked well due to the lack of lighting. As the light spell shed light on two, identical, sharp toothed 'children' standing side by side in the dark, one of my players commented: "This is like a Japanese horror movie!" That can only be a good thing! That player later had his knees bitten open. Ouch!

Dark Archive

Just ran this scenario at my local game store. I was thoroughly pleased with the scenario. I have been looking for harder scenarios to run for my players as they are extremely competent (more than one of them has 4+ stars) and the Golden Serpent fit the bill.

I really enjoyed the final boss as she was capable in both melee and from range. She ended up leading the group into the poison gas room and let them set off the trap. I was going to have her fight them in the gas (since she has a hefty Fort save), however she failed a save against Blindness/Deafness. She then used her tools to escape the room while the players continued to suffer the effects of the gas until they finally broke through the door. The rest of the monsters were an adequate enough challenge that it made the adventure seem tough without impossible (a hard line to draw in PFS).

The players really enjoyed the surprise of the familiar as they never saw that coming. They also immediately began pondering how to best utilize the boon given for their characters. Even the 5 star GM had no idea that the boon existed.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoy your products Jim and I will be running The Haunting of Hinojai for them tomorrow.

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