Pathfinder Society Scenario #4–02: In Wrath’s Shadow (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 3–7.

In the ruins of Xin-Bakrakhan—seat of power of the Runelord of Wrath—the Pathfinder Society stands on the verge of a great discovery, but first the brave agents exploring the ruins must survive ages-old dangers and contemporary threats to return with the knowledge and wealth they’ve unearthed.

Written by Mike Shel.

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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Bring Out Your Dead! Litterally!!

4/5

Story: C+

Story::
Now, I had the luck to play this adventure before running it, so I got both sides of the coin here. While there is room for RP and the adventure surely gives loads of visual opportunities for RP, if you have a combat heavy team, you usually end up skipping some of it. My team got a great balance of both and a good chunk of that came from the faction missions which gave players the opportunity to RP while looking around. Being the heavy RP player I am though, it wasn't enough, but it was still enough to not be boring.

Location: B

Location::
Being that I never played Rise of The Runelords, I was a little bit at a loss when it came to the background location, but my players-all of whom have played Rise of the Runelords were able to help me out where needed.

The only reason this adventure doesn't get an A in location is that Society Play still needs to stop with these epic maps. It makes pre-drawing almost a futile pursuit, and even worse when your players get to the end-boss in three rooms, and then say to the hell with the rest of the basement. Feeling the drawings of the Rune symbol in the place. Pretty awesome.

Combat: A++++++ --- But warn your players if you are the GM!

Combat::
I would like to state for the record, this is a potential TPK adventure combat wise. And while many players and GM's will cry about it, I would like to remind them, that this is what you all get for complaining about PC's easily walking through adventures in past seasons.

So make sure, before you sit down, that you warn your players that death is highly likely and that if they aren't bold enough to take on the challenge, they should leave your table. If they accept the challenge and die, they can't get hurt about it.

It's nice to see undead, be scary undead. The ones that just don't go down with a quick channel. It's nice to see demons be the type of demons that can scare players, and at the same time kill them. And don't be rolling high like I was, because then it means that you may kill them in two or three turns. I obliterated the paladin with three critical hits back to back. Although this will never happen again, I have a reputation for being a nice GM that never kills anyone, and this adventure reminded our players that I can kill you too..

Lastly, being a regular cleric player, it's nice to see a cleric that is just as awesome as I am. In past seasons, all the clerics were light and not scary. I hit them with something insane and the GM hates me. Now the GM and I are on the same footing. He can quick channel, and I can too. He has Chaos Hammer and Unholy Blight, and I have Wall of Fire, Holy Smite and Cure Light-Mass. So it's nice to have a real combat challenge and not have clerics just be some boring bit of NPC...

Overall, while I am not a big combat person, these combats were the type where the whole time I'm going "Holy Saranrae!" the entire time and I had to work for my experience and my gold payout. This is what I want in combats, the constant fear of death and some good reasons to kick some butt!!

Just Overall and Personally: B-
This is just a simple, no fuss/no must dungeon crawl in Varisia. Again, this is also one of those adventures that the story could easily get lost, but the faction missions kind of keep the RP in place. The combats are ridiculously awesome, but be sure to advise your players that this adventure may remind you how truly precious your character's life is. Once again Mike Shel, is making players nervous to bring their characters to the table. Good job!


Solid

4/5

A bit creepy for younger players, otherwise a solid scenario.


My New Halloween Scenario

5/5

Once again Mike Shel deliver's a seriously fun scenario for GenCon and at this point I would like to see a Mike Shel scenario at Gen Con next year.

The level of detail in this scenario is high. Many of the room descriptions are written to make this dungeon crawl style adventure down right spooky.

My only issue with this scenario is working the back story on page three into the game so the players can feel more integrated.

I would rate this one of the more difficult scenario's for the 3-7 Tier. As it can be easy to kill an under prepared party.


Good dungeon, but where's the plot gone?

3/5

Played in 4h30 with 6 level 4 PCs, inc. optional encounter.
The skinny
Good dungeon that will disappoint players who like to follow the plot.

Overall
First, a warning: Graphic, grisly contents. Might not be approriate for the occasional young players that pops up at gaming stores.
Good background, great premise, exciting set-up, strong flavor… leading to a dungeon that flushes the plot down the drain and therefore encourages the kind of “room by room strip-search the dungeon” adventuring that discourages some players (and me) from playing scenarios. There’s no way the players can understand the good background. Acting on the great premise gives them no reward. Paying attention to the strong flavor leads to nothing. So much of a waste that it feels like a late rewriting pared down these elements. Am I right?

The good
As said above, the premise and flavor is very good.
The dungeon itself offers varied threats and monsters and is not linear. A party may end up fighting the boss early on (which is good considering he has 2 of the 3 magic items of the place).
Well integrated faction missions.
Good timing.

Plot issues

Spoiler:
Lots of “future stuff hints”. Strong mentions of the Aspis Consortium at the mission start, but none whatsoever afterwards.
Teleporting mask piece thing is very contrived, so is the secret bypass corridor to the boss room. Same for the falling block trap rigged to… a makeshift bricked wall? This kind of stuff discouraging players from trying to figure things out – or encourages them to over-rationalize.
Why did the boss split up the mask except to push PCs to explore his temple?
As said above, trying to understand the cult(s), its fate and the aims of its leader is pointless.
As in other scenarios, the boss is built using straight templates and levels, with baseline spells, with almost no tie to the story theme. I.e., in what way is Tholrist any wrathful-er than some other random evil cleric? Even the 100% theme-appropriate wrathspawns suffer from their monster write-up being lackluster: besides their rather useless wrath scent, their sinful bite feature is not tied to wrath in any way.
Why do wrathspawns torture people? They’re not painspawns…
Why did the spawns emerge from the temple to start with?
Who’s depicted on the masked statue? (I guess it’s Tholrist)
Is the cult that of Lissala, Alaznist, or its fiendish master ?

Editing issues
Many descriptions information is scattered through the description and text. Once again, bullet-point list would help.
Several typos.
B2 corridor info incomplete.

Design issues

Spoiler:

With 4 PCs, a single harpy’s captivating song is pretty useless as there’s no dangerous terrain around and it ties up her actions.
Lack of tracking skill check DCs to follow the spawns, eventhough the PCs are likely to try it.
Haunt obstacle lacks DCs for other means of traversing.
Placing treasure as gems set on statues is risky: many careful or pious PCs will not try to remove them. Should we punish this?
Rage is not casteable on undeads (how does the cleric get this spell anyways?).
Because the boss has time to cast before the PC break down the wall, his stats and his ghouls’ should include the spell, that would save tons of prep time.
Not restricted to this scenario, but skill checks DCs are often too low and not scaling. No team can miss a DC10/12 check. Result = trivial to succeed at, and don’t reward skilled PCs.
This is a general comment on scenarios layout, but description scattered throughout the text is really nor helpful. Also, complex bosses with spells definitely should have simplified combat sheets with some precomputed stats, and removing useless stuff (cantrips, touch of evil…).

Suggested tweaks

Spoiler:

The consortium
One of the archeologist is from the Aspis (I actually used Nester Rees from First Steps), and betrays the dig team, tying them up with the help of Riemme Batelle (a shadow lodge pathfinder who trusts PFS little) and a few fellow workers, broke the temple wall and stole the statue’s mask (thinking it to be the real thing. Also they left the belt because they got hit by the trap already) then fled on the diggers’ ship (before the PCs’ arrival). In the process, he woke up the spawns who then climbed up and slaughtered the bound-and-gagged laborers. Riemme also ended up backstabbed by Nester, and carried away by the spawns.

The mask
Tholrist broke up the mask because his ritual uses powers from all three entities.
Also, they have powers. Wearing it gives some wrathsense:
o Upper temple statue: cheek part, affords wrathvision
o Cave statue; nose part, affords wrathscent
o Torture chamber statue; affords wrathearing
Also, entering combat wearing it triggers a rage with a Will DC16+2per part save.

Four temples, four powers
Clarify thus, tying up the rooms more tightly to the powers:
Upper temple is strictly Lissala. The statue is Lissala’s. Runic text describe her cult. The pit contains offerings, not blood. It also makes getting treasure more straightforward.
Room with Wrathspawn is Alaznist’s temple. Mosaics depict his cult. The statue is Alaznist and standing adjacent triggers rage. The victims are not tortured, they have been forced to fight each other instead.
Torture room and cave is Yamasauth’s shrine. Mosaics depict his cult. Bodies have been tortured and transformed. I did place the ooze and skellies here, and reskinned as multi-armed, grisly skellies. This avoids the weird block trap and bricked deadend, as well as the contrived secret bypass corridor. Anointing the bodies damage the creatures, not the haunt. Haunt’s screams reveal Tholrist’s plan.
The secret temple is Tholrist’s hideout. Floor mosaic illustrate his plans.
Also, remove the secret door. The only special door is the bricked-out entrance to the secret temple.

Wrathspawns
The spawns’ bite triggers Rage, not sickness. They’re deaf, and can only detect the PCs by wrathscent.

Harpy tactics
Have the harpy start on the dome and use their songs on Halla outside to draw the PCs outside and attack stragglers.

Tholrist tactics
I had Tholrist start the fight inside a sarcophagus and the ghoul laying immobile on slabs. Count the time it takes the PCs to break down the wall and use his prep spells as appropriate.
Instead of Rage, simplify and have him Aid and SoF on both ghouls. A viable tactic is have him move to a corner, casting silence so as to just encompass the area in front of him.


Fun Dungeon Crawl

4/5

This was a solid dungeon crawl. My only complaint is that:

Spoiler:
The final boss was a nuisance. He just sits there with his ridiculous AC, heals himself, and curses party members to make it even more difficult to hit him. It's a war of attrition, and the encounter provoked numerous sighs from around the table.


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Announced! Cover image is a mockup.

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

Author announced!

Liberty's Edge

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Yes, got to Love Mike Shel.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Dragnmoon wrote:
Yes, got to Love Mike Shel.

It's just platonic.

Go Mike Shel!


Congrats Mike!

Contributor

Dragnmoon wrote:
Yes, got to Love Mike Shel.

Heh. You might want to let about half the reviewers of Isles of the Shackles know that.

Liberty's Edge

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Mike Shel wrote:
Dragnmoon wrote:
Yes, got to Love Mike Shel.

Heh. You might want to let about half the reviewers of Isles of the Shackles know that.

Most of those reviewers under scored it due to the map.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Dragnmoon wrote:
Mike Shel wrote:
Dragnmoon wrote:
Yes, got to Love Mike Shel.

Heh. You might want to let about half the reviewers of Isles of the Shackles know that.

Most of those reviewers under scored it due to the map.

That, and vomiting comes always easier than praising. Just look at me.

Dark Archive

Ah I shall return in triumph to MY ISLAND! The Warmages of Bakrakhan shall return in all their glory.

I guess im going to put Eldarius on slow play mode if these scenarios get too juicy!


Added final cover image!

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC

Gorbacz wrote:
That, and vomiting comes always easier than praising. Just look at me.

Huh? You're a bag of devouring ... how is that even relevant???

Contributor

Thanks again to all the GMs who ran this scenario and GenCon and for letting me pop in and out to observe. Apologies to those who got murdered, hope everyone had a great time! Please take a few minutes to post your reviews. Paizo listens to feedback and so do I!

See you next year!

Liberty's Edge

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Thanks Mike for sitting at our table, it was nice to have you there on Sunday.

I will be putting up a review when I get back home.

The scenario was great, and very well written. The problems I had with it (running out of time both times I ran it, and neither time was the overall mission completed) had nothing to do with how well this scenario was written. Thanks again Mike for contributing to PFS, you are one of my favorite scenario/module writers.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Question about one of the stat blocks -

Spoiler:

Shouldn't the Wrathspawn Barbarians have SR? Or am I missing something?

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber

I loved this scenario and was honoured to have the author at my table 3 times. Some parts of it had the potential to be very creepy and provide a great opportunity to play up the atmosphere. Pretty sure I traumatized a kid who played at my table but it was very well received by all the groups I ran through it!

Contributor

Iammars wrote:

Question about one of the stat blocks -

** spoiler omitted **

Yes. Looks like that was an oversight. Look to Bestiary 2 for the actual value, which I think is 12.

Contributor

The ShadowShackleton wrote:
I loved this scenario and was honoured to have the author at my table 3 times. Some parts of it had the potential to be very creepy and provide a great opportunity to play up the atmosphere. Pretty sure I traumatized a kid who played at my table but it was very well received by all the groups I ran through it!

Dude! Write a review!

As for the trauma, there was one boxed text passage that Adam re-wrote during the development process that creeped me out. For the record, what's floating around in Mr Daigle's mind is far more disturbing than what's floating around mine! Paizo staff, keep a close eye on him!

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber

Ha I may have upped the traumatizing side of it a bit. It's what I do.

Review submitted.

The Exchange

I played this today at Austin, Tx's Dragons Lair Lair-Con

Something about Wraths Shadow reminds me of either an older scenario or an AP encounter, I could swear I've played/dealt with several of those fights/situations before in exactly the same manner.

Contributor

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Dear evdjj3j:

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and cogent review of this scenario. I was especially charmed by your call for the brutalization of my testicles. I think I speak for many scenario authors when I say that it's this kind of insightful critique of one's work that makes all the time and labor that goes into producing PFS scenarios and other Pathfinder products worthwhile. Should you deign to participate in any other material I have written, I hope you will provide more of your adroit and penetrating commentary.

On the off chance that you are under the age of 13 — chronologically or emotionally — let me make a recommendation: while the internet provides a level of anonimity and therefore offers opportunities to ignore basic rules of courtesy, try to refrain from coarse insults. It tends to mark one as a troll and results in others making an uncharitable assessment of the poster. Indeed, some may make comparisons of the poster to specific parts of the anatomy.

Sincerely,

- Mike Shel


I happened to see Mike's name as I scrolled through the Messageboard, and now I've caught up on everything.

Having not read the scenario, I can't YET offer a good review of it. However, based on this, I will be getting it just to put a review up.

You deserve better than this, Mike.

Contributor

justmebd wrote:

I happened to see Mike's name as I scrolled through the Messageboard, and now I've caught up on everything.

Having not read the scenario, I can't YET offer a good review of it. However, based on this, I will be getting it just to put a review up.

You deserve better than this, Mike.

Thanks, but I'm not special — everyone on the boards deserves better. No one likes a negative critique, but it helps if the poster puts a bit of thought into it. Smug calls for punting my pudenda might give someone a chuckle, but it doesn't illuminate. Unfavorable commentary is useful if it gives some quantifiable reasons for the dissatisfaction.

This particular scenario produced some strong reactions and those reactions have had an impact on my design work. For instance, I now work harder to make the backstory discoverable for players in situ. If you're unhappy with a scenario, by all means, let Paizo and the author know, but doing so in an insulting manner is counterproductive. Deliberately cruel language may seem clever or edgy, but it just gets you marked as a creep.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

The reviewer also shows some deficiency in knowledge of PFS rules as this scenario is unlikely to be a players first organized play experience as the minimum level is 3.

Mike, loved this scenario, creeps out my players every time. :)


Mike Shel wrote:
justmebd wrote:

I happened to see Mike's name as I scrolled through the Messageboard, and now I've caught up on everything.

Having not read the scenario, I can't YET offer a good review of it. However, based on this, I will be getting it just to put a review up.

You deserve better than this, Mike.

Thanks, but I'm not special — everyone on the boards deserves better. No one likes a negative critique, but it helps if the poster puts a bit of thought into it. Smug calls for punting my pudenda might give someone a chuckle, but it doesn't illuminate. Unfavorable commentary is useful if it gives some quantifiable reasons for the dissatisfaction.

This particular scenario produced some strong reactions and those reactions have had an impact on my design work. For instance, I now work harder to make the backstory discoverable for players in situ. If you're unhappy with a scenario, by all means, let Paizo and the author know, but doing so in an insulting manner is counterproductive. Deliberately cruel language may seem clever or edgy, but it just gets you marked as a creep.

Agreed. I'm off to my "real" job now, but I've already glanced through the scenario and I can't wait to dig into it when I get home tonight. I believe you'll like what I have to say. I'm planning something . . . . creative. :)

Contributor

TriOmegaZero wrote:

The reviewer also shows some deficiency in knowledge of PFS rules as this scenario is unlikely to be a players first organized play experience as the minimum level is 3.

Mike, loved this scenario, creeps out my players every time. :)

Thanks, though I can't take all the creepy credit. I sent in my turnover, which I thought was pretty creepy, but then it got...

Daigle-fied.

Liberty's Edge

Starfinder Superscriber

Every time I roll a 1 on a save, the writer of the scenario I happen to be playing in should be subject to physical violence.

Right?

...right?...

No?

Hmm.

Oh well.

On topic: I played this quite a while ago. It may be that memory fades with time, but I have to admit I don't remember being terribly creeped out with it. Now I'm fearing that I might have missed out on the experience. Perhaps this would be a time to use a GM star replay and convince TOZ to run it....

Or I should just GM the thing.

Liberty's Edge

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

This is one of my Favorite Scenarios to Run. One of the few scenarios I was able to actually get reactions from players from the horror aspects of the scenario. I also got lucky and was able to run it with Mike Shel sitting at our table to witness the game.


Off work today, so hopefully the kids will leave me alone long enough to get this review done. It may be a two-parter.


TriOmegaZero wrote:

The reviewer also shows some deficiency in knowledge of PFS rules as this scenario is unlikely to be a players first organized play experience as the minimum level is 3.

Mike, loved this scenario, creeps out my players every time. :)

Player could have used a pregen character. It's becoming apparent through seasons 4 and 5 that pregens have little to no use in a level 5+ encounter, and it should be the GM's call as to whether it's appropriate to allow a new character to pilot a pregen through an especially deadly encounter. If they adjust the sub-tier, they could easily be more of a liability than an asset (in the hands of an inexperienced player).

I loved the scenario, though. The players... not so much.


The review is up. I hope everyone enjoys it!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber
downerbeautiful wrote:
Player could have used a pregen character.

Indeed, but that doesn't change my opinion that it is unlikely to be a players first organized play experience. They would have to walk in on a game day where only this scenario was being offered as their first time sitting down to PFS. That's enough if statements that I consider it unlikely.

Scarab Sages

The scenario itself is pretty cool, even though our table had a very poor experience. That mainly had to do with the player that didn't realize he had already played the scenario until after the first encounter, which resulted in our party wiping in the final encounter. Having that many things that impart that particular negative condition is practically begging for trouble. I didn't even act in the final combat, taking two of the same spell before I could even act. Even then, character death happens, but it still smarted, especially since the GM talked me into playing a character that was 3 in the 6-7 tier because of the cert, and one of the people that had a character die hasn't shown back up for PFS since.

But, like I said, the scenario itself is pretty cool, it has good atmosphere, and the fights are super tough, which is nice if you're playing a character that can deal with it.

Liberty's Edge

Starfinder Superscriber

Gah. I was running "Glass River Rescue", and had a player who had played it before, but only realized it after the initial briefing. Fortunately, there, after he left, I still had four players, and everything was fine.

I predict this becomes more of a problem as there are more and more scenarios out there; it will be harder for everybody to remember which ones they've done. Myself, I keep a spreadsheet of which scenarios I've played, GMed, how many times I've GMed them, and which characters got credit... but I'm extremely anal, and I'm aware that most players aren't going to do that.

Scarab Sages

It's this one specific person that does it over and over. Now when he's sitting at the table, we have to have him double check and make absolutely sure he hasn't already played the scenario before we start.


rknop wrote:
Myself, I keep a spreadsheet of which scenarios I've played, GMed, how many times I've GMed them, and which characters got credit... but I'm extremely anal, and I'm aware that most players aren't going to do that.

... Could I get a look at this spreadsheet? I actually want to do something similar.

Liberty's Edge

Starfinder Superscriber

This feels awfully exhibitionist, but sure.... Here it is as of today (July 26): scenarios.ods.

It's in ODS format, the spreadsheet format used by OpenOffice and LibreOffice. (I use OpenOffice 4 mostly.) The font I use is DejaVu Sans.

The spreadsheet isn't designed to be used or seen by anybody other than me, so I have built in all kinds of assumptions that I will "just do it right" without documenting them....

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