Pathfinder Society Scenario #4–20: Words of the Ancients (PFRPG) PDF

***½( ) (based on 11 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 7–11.

After countless divinations and the efforts of undercover agents throughout Varisia, the Pathfinder Society has discovered the location of the last component needed to awaken a sleeping runelord. In a mad dash to beat the cult of Lissala to this ancient Thassilonian ruin, the Pathfinders must do whatever it takes to ensure they and not the evil cultists acquire the power within. But the arcane components are not unguarded, and even after 10,000 years, the cost of ensuring the safety of the region could be higher than the veteran adventurers are prepared or willing to pay.

Written by John Compton.

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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***½( ) (based on 11 ratings)

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Very Dangerous, Very Creative

***( )( )

First the complaints...

My party found this scenario to be quite dangerous, especially the first encounter. While the encounter was within the appropriate CR, the tactics were so brutal and one-sided, it nearly caused a TPK. In a party of 6; 1 was killed and 4 were knocked unconscious, the sole survivor ran away with single digit HP. The GM (who played the baddies with expert skill), went easy on us at the encounter end so we could continue further.

The other disappointment was the puzzle in the same room. We solved the puzzle accidentally while trying to figure out the clues. But what really bugs me, it was a (tedious) math puzzle. Why would a runelord have a math puzzle? It felt very out of place. The second riddle was much more appropriate (and somewhat easier).

Now the kudos...

Other than the afore mentioned missteps, the plot was interesting and the encounters were creative. There was enough roleplaying for our table and tactics proved to be important (hack-and-slash players be warned!). Paying attention to details can sometimes be tough when running in a public place, but there was enough repetition to warn us when something was amiss.

Due to the wildly difficult combats and the out-of-place math puzzle, I can only rate this scenario a "3".

On a sidenote: If you're planning to GM this, you better prepare in advance. It was clear our GM did a lot of prep work and studied the NPCs carefully beforehand. If you don't prep, it will likely show.

Bad on many levels

*( )( )( )( )

I consider it one of the worse I've played in 200+ scenarios.
Played in a balanced party on Tier 10-11. Despite the Con below, the combat wasn't dangerous.

Has puzzle that requires PC to ask the GM for "check to bypass".
Has Riddle that is important to not fail.
Scenario splits the party.
Once split, making it back requires complicated puzzle or randomly going through portals to make it back.
NPC tells you your object is fake, but since the entire party was so frustrated with the entire thing we didn't remember the path we didn't go so lost prestige.

So having one {Puzzle, Riddle, Forced Party Split, or a Prestige tied to fake item} is fine. Having 4 is in my view the worse scenario I've played.

Nice interacting with the major NPC.


Remember to take your tablets

****( )

Played once, GM'ed once.

This is a great example of a flavourfully epic dungeon delve and a reason why a decision to spend a year in Paizo’s favourite country ended up being a great thing for PFS. ‘Words of the Ancients’ is a ‘Collect A, get to B’ mission that provides plenty of opportunities for those with smarts and a rigorous beating for any murder hobos. I’d like more adventures of this high calibre for PFS. That said, Krune overlooked some details in crafting his conjuration tower. Spoilers ahead.


-I really enjoyed having a scenario where the Pathfinders are not expected to instantly fight a monstrous creature. This crafts a much more three dimensional view of the fantasy world while giving an insight into a ‘federation’ of good dragons who are involved with stopping the Great and Terrible Evils of the Inner Sea. Zonaladin is awesome. I hope he returns.

-Great work with the Silver Crusade and Chelish faction missions. GMs, please keep these two missions in, even if they’re retired. The Zonaladin works better if there’s a Chelish adventurer talking smack about metallic dragons.

-The Importance of Appraisal in an Archaeological Society.

-I only like maths puzzles when I can solve them :B

-Some fantastic bestiary choices.


-The Sphinx battle at high tier is a little underpowered. It could do with a Symbol of Pain or three. [/evil]

-The Greater Scrying guard-dogs with swift teleporting full attacks and surprise rounds (and the intelligence to target mages first) pack enough punch to kill any character in one round. If a GM wants to be a real a$+!&#~ with these nasties, the opportunity is there. Please see Avatar’s “Gotcha!” review below.


***( )( )

Player perspective, tier 10-11, 5 player party, good class mix.

It's the middle of season 6 as of this writing, and I'm reminded of the difficulty of what season 4 was like, especially when you play with the amount of players that is equal to the dreaded number of death - no scaling down.

Combat should teach you to be prepared for every encounter, but at least one encounter in this scenario feels like it was set up to be unfair. When it gets to the point where there is almost nothing you can do, unless you have an obscure magic item or ability that breaks the game, something is wrong with the design of the encounter. I haven't seen the stat blocks, but I don't have any reason to think that our GM didn't run it as written. It's a shame that softballing an encounter compared to what's in the book is the only way to make it seem like a fair encounter.

That goes double considering this is a scenario in the season's plot arc, and it's a scenario most players will not want to avoid. They need to be written with a really high standard of quality.

It's good then that the rest of the scenario is actually really well done, so long as the GM can pick up on very important subtleties that are key to making the scenario not become a disappointment. Creative solutions probably have to be welcomed a little more than usual.

There are a couple of puzzles here that I thought were great. They can get a little frustrating and they encourage great Pathfindery discussion. One of the earlier reviews mention how a puzzle got overwhelming, but the book apparently has a fallback rule on that, so to GMs, I stress again - prepare.

If the combat in this scenario was fixed, this could really be a top notch scenario. If you've got a table of 6 hyper powergamers, the star rating probably goes up to 5.

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The Pathfinder Society would be insane enough to intentionally awaken a Runelord? =80

As I read the description, my impression is that the Pathfinder Society is keen on making sure the cultists of Lissala DON'T acquire the power do so so more than it is a wish by the Pathfinder Society to awaken a Runelord.

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Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Forgive me for this possibly dumb question, but as I don't play PFS and don't know much about its inner workings, I may have missed something.

This scenario bears on its cover a plaque "Year of the Risen Rune". So do some of the other scenarios of season 4, but not all by far. I know that this is the "motto" of the season, bu I am curious: why is this plaque only applied to some of the season's scenarios?

The plaque is added to the scenarios that tell the metaplot of the season.

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

So is there a narrative in these scenarios? Could they be used to form a campaign? Or wouldn't that work sue to level variance?

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Zaister wrote:
So is there a narrative in these scenarios? Could they be used to form a campaign? Or wouldn't that work sue to level variance?

I don't see why they couldn't. But, they would not have the same tight flow that an AP should have.

Each Pathfinder Society scenario is designed to be run as a separate event. Each season share a metaplot and some themes, but not all scenarioes will follow that theme.
Each scenario starts with a briefing from a Venture Captain. Some times he might reference an earlier scenario: "A. Team of agents figured out that (something). Now we need you to follow up and do (this)."
A player who played the referenced scenario might recognize it, but not playing the scenarios in succession would not change the enjoyment.

In season 4 there are two story arcs - one for low level players and one for high level, so you could run one of the arcs as some sort of campaign.

Liberty's Edge

The only thing I don't like about the Season 4 metaplot is the choice of the Runelord that's being awakened.

Why would the Runelord of Sloth bother awakening? You'd think he'd be happier sleeping for another 10,000 years.


Paizo Employee Developer

casiel wrote:

The only thing I don't like about the Season 4 metaplot is the choice of the Runelord that's being awakened.

Why would the Runelord of Sloth bother awakening? You'd think he'd be happier sleeping for another 10,000 years.


To be fair, he only planned to sleep for a hundred or so.

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