A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 7–11.
The Pathfinder Society has secured one end of a portal from Golarion leading to an isolated demiplane rife with adventuring opportunities. Now all that remains is gaining control of the other end, thereby ensuring safe and continued use by Pathfinders for years to come. The PCs are selected as the best chance the Decemvirate has of claiming the portal for their own.
Written by Sean McGowan.
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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This is an excellent way to end Season 3 and lead into Season 4. As far as season transitions go, I'd say this is the best one I've experienced so far. So even though there's very little actual story in this scenario, I really like how it introduces Season 4 without relying on specials or hard-to-play adventures.
Combat-wise, things aren't as impressive. The non-human monsters are quite scary, but I was amazed at how little threat the "normal" enemies posed. Season 3 was fond of flavourful multiclasses, but in the end most of the enemies encountered here are lacking both power and survivability. On the other hand, the non-human encounters were much more interesting, including the final boss, which is a house to deal with.
Seriously, level 2 Rogues aren't a threat to a level 7 party. I know they're not the big hitters of the encounter, but a 1d6 sneak attack isn't going to faze players. Similarly, third-level Clerics channeling and Channel Smiting (with a terrible DC) just isn't going to bother most players. These multiclasses are more done for flavour than for power, I feel, and even then their stats are sub-optimal for what they're trying to accomplish. I'm glad later seasons moved away from this. Moreover, I was shocked at how terrible their AC, to-hit and damage output was. Almost none of them could reliably take some blows through either HP or AC, and at the same time their damage output was abysmal. All of these encounters were a piece of cake, because the PCs were vastly better built in both AC and damage output, without investing too much in it.
The location is extremely cool. It's an interesting new environment with great atmosphere, and a cool way of designing a dungeon. The only downside is that Season 3 maps, even though they're extremely cool-looking, are terrible to draw, with half-squares all over the place. For the people drawing the maps, this is a nightmare to make. I won't dock points for this, but I would like to mention this. I think designers have learned from this as I don't see it much anymore, but please, draw straightforward maps from now on.
In the end, while this scenario wasn't an all-star, it still ranks very highly on the cool-factor alone.
When this adventure came out, it was a showstopper when I ran it at PaizoCon. Players stood out of their chairs when the reveal happened that Season 4 was going to have a Thassilonian theme. That alone is great to have in a season finale scenario. But that aside, this scenario still carries its weight as we start moving into Season 6.
Each of the encounters is unique, challenging, and wrought with roleplay opportunity, and the trap(s) that lie within the Well of Tainted virtue are still whispered among my players to this day. In addition to having an especially potent BBEG, this scenario is well equipped to handle a seasoned party of Pathfinders and give them a run for their money.
It wastes no time placing your players into the action and has a thrilling "Stargate" styled introduction to boot. Despite their retirement, even the faction missions in this scenario are worth exploring. Cheliaxian PCs may indeed enjoy playing this scenario if they are willing to explore their... morally ambiguous side.
Literally the only thing that I have issue with in this scenario is the map. But given the setting and epic gravitas of this scenario, I don't mind drawing it out each time one little bit.
To this day, this scenario is the gold standard I use when gauging the quality of new 7-11 scenarios, as well as the season finale scenarios of season 4, and 5. And I still like Portal of the Sacred Rune more.
Just played it. Probably the most enjoyable scenario of the 40 or so I've played or run. Our group of 5 (which lacked a dedicated healer and contained a summoner and magus for arcane support) had a choice to play up or down and we chose to play up which I think contributed to my enjoyment. With this mix every single encounter (we played the optional) was a challenge, and in all but one I felt the balance of success or failure could go either way - which builds the kind of tension that gets the adrenaline pumping and provides a real sense of accomplishment when success does rear its battered head.
By the three quarter point, Story wise, I had an inkling of why they opponents were organized the way they were, although before the final encounter I was not sure what might show up - and after the encounter the reveal made sense. I think that the fact that there was a design structure that raised my adventurer's hackles as to "hmm what is really going on here?" was a plus.
The tactical set ups are each well thought out and the tactics of the creatures appeared to be well crafted and reasonable in terms of setting an appropriate challenge. When I get a chance to read/run the mod I will look forward to judging what might have occurred had our group played down, but I suspect the overall tightness of the design will speak in the mod's favor.
I'm not sure I would want to draw the map on the fly as our judge did - but it did not seem to slow us down too much - so YMMV on that one.
I've submitted a few proposals to open call through the years, and my final compliment to Sean is that this is one of those mods that will be a standard to shoot for in my own design and writing. Thanks for a great evening of play.
Oh, neat. I've been board-distracted for a while and hadn't even noticed the author announcement had gone through. Cool, I can step out of the cone of silence!
Hope this brings enjoyment to the hearts of players and GMs alike; after my previous (and first) scenario had me coming up with wacky minigames to play in a somewhat nontraditional adventure, it was a lot of fun to just sit back and get my dungeon crawl on for this one.
Thanks, AxeMurder0, for your review! Glad you enjoyed it. (Sadly, I can't take credit for the boon, that being something added entirely from the development end. I got a kick out of seeing it on the chronicle sheet, though... quite neat!)
To answer your question as to the number of baddies (or at least shine some light on what I was thinking);
well, the easy answer is that I needed to save some encounters to introduce the other enemies in the adventure. The in-campaign justification I went with for that was that this was basically the Aspis' very last stand as far as holding on to the portal went; the majority of their resources have been whittled away by the Pathfinders over the past year's worth of operations inside the Tapestry (and, presumably, in the tapestry side of the portal). What remains in this is just the bare bones command center for the Tapestry operation; they know they're in trouble and have sent for reinforcements, but those are going to be slow to arrive since they'd need to travel overland. Which, I'll admit, may not come across too well to players; it's all in the adventure background text, but this not being the most RP heavy of adventures, it's questionable how much of that you'd get a chance to discover along the way.
In retrospect, I could possibly have gone with large quantities of extremely lower level opponents, which would have made this feel more like a fortified 'base' while giving players the satisfaction of chopping through big chunks of puny mooks. Oh, well. hindsight.
Played this mod at PaizoCon12 and really enjoyed it. I'm prepping it to run for my home group. The map however is messed up. Not in the way that most of the other people have complained about. (I agree with most of the other people complaining about the map in that respect).
The final encounter isn't listed on the map ANYWHERE. In the middle of the left side of the map there is an arrow from a set of double doors that points to a little map note that says "to [squiggle]". Just now I re-downloaded the mod to make sure that I have the newest version and sure enough "to [squiggle]" is still there. In addition the cut away map doesn't list it there either. The only way you know that the boss creature is part of this map is by looking at the map provided for the boss. That map has a map note stating "to H [arrow]" so you at least have a clue where to start the PC's into the room.
I remember playing the boss creature at PaizoCon12 and I know what came into that room in the wrong direction. We came in from the south between to statues. I'm guessing that's because he couldn't decipher the map.
I will agree with others that I don't really understand the map. The cut away helps, but I get the feeling that the players aren't really supposed to "have battles" in the halls. PC's just linearly move from encounter to encounter. I'm not complaining about the linearity, just that with the map it made impossible to have a hall battle or even understand what the author intended for the hallways and their function(s).
Played this scenario today, loved the layout of the dungeon and interesting encounters. Just enough brutality to make it interesting without being overkill as a 7-11 scenario. Looking forward to running it myself in the future.
So I am to run this adventure in the near future and had a look at the map, which is a bit funky... I intend to print it all out then cut and mount it to make a 3d version of the map and the well - its a great map, but the 2d flattened image detracts from the interesting parts and makes it confusing. Perhaps printing it out, cutting it up, and then mounting it on a number of stands will work, or perhaps that's waaay too much effort. Time will tell!
Thanks guys, I liked the map, but it seemed a little confusing presented on a two dimensional plane.
I have made up the Lisalla statue, as well as the one in the bathhouse (yes the bath is actually recessed in the terrain too!) and if I get time I might just go ahead and paint up the well too - overkill for something that will only ever get used once for a few hours, but its sorta fun.
It all started when I started building ships for other PFS scenarios - now its a strange addiction to make the maps all 3d.