|Liz Courts Contributor
|Chris Lambertz Digital Products Assistant
|Runelord of Sloth
I imagine the missing faction mission is supposed to make things more "real" for the Chelaxians in the party
I feel pretty strongly that this adventure goes right along with the meta of "Season Four - What A Doozy!" I ran this for an underpowered table of 5, and they held their own, had a blast, and still managed to keep things interesting. Definitely writing a review.
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To address the "missing" Chelaxian handout, I told the Chelaxian players that when they had picked up their copy of Bondage Fetishist Quarterly from their faction contact, the Paracountess' usual coded message was missing.
This is a "Caper" scenario: Before running it, watch some episodes of Mission: Impossible or films that feature similar shenanigans. When things start to go wrong, remember that the Chelaxians are a very socially-stratified culture, bound by bureaucratic procedure. They won't respond efficiently to a confusing situation. ("You want us to interrupt the Ambassador because you THINK some uninvited guests have crashed the party? OF COURSE some have! This is the Grand Gala of the season!" "But, but, but..." "Come back when you are sure!")
When I ran it, some of the disguised PCs found themselves repeatedly lectured by a senior servant ("I see that you're new here, but any idiot knows not to serve sherry with the vegetable canapes!"), others feigned that they were drunken party guests ("Of course I have a claim receipt for my cloak! My idiot manservant was carrying it!"), and one attempted to sneak an eidolon through the party in a large sack (It's a surprise for later, sir!"). As the minutes ticked away, the party eventually found themselves huddling on top of cabinets in the archive, desperately trying to fend off the chamber's guardian (which found the cabinets difficult to climb...).
When running this mission, keep emphasizing the passing time ("That took three minutes. Tick-tock!") so the players know to hurry. Be open to attempts to "jump the rails": Almost any party will try a few stunts that nobody sane would have considered.
Also, err on the side of generosity if the party mix is just completely unsuitable for the the scenario. If your group utterly lacks the ability to be stealthy or to bluff through a dangerous situation, play the scene for laughs. Situations that are TOO ridiculous might not even count as strikes against the party, as the Chelaxian security forces may think they're being subjected to some sort of a practical joke ("A barbarian is attacking the topiary? Go back and check again: This sounds like another jape from those idiots in the kitchen! You remember the time they claimed that a drifting mist was turning people into monkeys!")
I was looking forward to experiencing this scenario when I first heard the bullet-points of it, but now that I have read the scenario over, and am scheduled to run it at a convention in less than a month, I will tweak this heavily.
And the time-keeping mechanic seems very complicated, yet subjective at the same time.
The average GM is going to have a tough time weighing what can and cannot happen in the scenario. It seems unfair to make them stay canon in this scenario, when there are just too many details to keep track of. The victim here is going to be the player.
Oh, and the scenario uses a single map that is large and detailed, but it is a custom one - not available via a mat or map? Sheesh.
What I'm going to do instead is tell the players that they have three hours to complete the mission (which leaves a half hour on either side for set-up and wrap-up). When they enter the waiting room, I'm going to start a count-down timer at the table.
The map I'm going to cobble together with map packs and make it as accurate as possible to the map in the scenario. I'll only reveal each piece of corridor as they encounter it. And I'll have a pre-made mental list of random encounters, pulled directly from the scenario, in the hallways - waiters, dignitaries, drunk guests, etc.
I'm volunteering to run it this way for a willing group of volunteers before the convention to see how this works instead.
Before anyone criticizes me for not running this scenario to the letter of the text, I would have to say that when I GM, my ONLY concern is player enjoyment, and this scenario - as written - does not pass my GM-spidey-sense muster.
To be completely honest, I think about half of us completely misunderstood the point of the scenario mission as well. Somewhere along the way "infiltrate Cheliax and pretend to talk to the ambassador, whle there find cues about what is really going on" turned to "attend to party as a front to meet the new ambassador, and find out as much as you can about them/shake their hand for taking out Zarta finally and asure him/her that the PFS is interested in being allies".
I'm not sure playing down would really have helped that much. It's one of the ones I think that DM's and Players walk away with a very different experience. :)
When I first played this, my group had a little bit of trouble because we were fuzzy on exactly what our goals were. We succeeded, but until the scenario was over and the GM told us we succeeded we weren't sure.
When I GMed this scenario, I had the VC really drill the PC's goals into them:
1) Go to the embassy with a message for the ambassador.
2) Amara Li will keep him busy for an hour, and while they're waiting they should take the chance to sneak into the embassy.
3) After they're in, they need to find three things:
- Where Zarta was taken
- Why she was taken there
- Who was responsible for it
Before the scenario, my wife drew out the map on graph paper for me (we were helping each other prepare for a con), then I cut out each room so that I could lay them down one at a time as they explored the building. My favorite bit of prep, though, was:
The players really got a kick out of that.
The group just barely made it, but they were all clear on what they had to do and I think they had a lot of fun doing it. This has been one of my favorite scenarios to run; I'm planning to run it again at GenCon.
Mainly due to the fact that the party played 4-5 Tier with a bunch of 3rd level characters. They managed the infiltration fine, but the first combat encounter destroyed them.
I'm pretty sure that's the intent for Season 4 scenarios. If your party falls in the middle, playing up should be a scary prospect; they should not go into it with the assumption that they'll make it through just fine.
I ran it last night, and actually my fears were unfounded, because...
The rules are pretty lenient and subjective on how the characters can do this, and the players came up with some creative solutions that weren't described in the scenario, so I just let them go with it.
I tried to keep track of the amount of time it took them to get to Zarta's chambers - and then back out afterwards - but really, it was only a handful of skill checks each way, and really creative role-playing that got them through. I rewarded them for the creative role-playing by allowing different types of skill checks, and lower DCs when I was impressed with their problem-solving.
Any other GMs that run this scenario, I would suggest being more descriptive than usual of the characters' surroundings and the goings-on, and maybe give hints, and allow a lot of perception and sense motive checks to deduce maybe the best course of action and movement. But, overall, be lenient and let the players be creative.
The total navigation time in real-time was maybe a half hour of game time. They spent most of their time and energy on the combats, the deciphering of the code, and searching the vault.