Pathfinder Society Scenario #4–23: Rivalry's End (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 3–7.

The Pathfinder Society's conflict with the Aspis Consortium in the frontier region of Varisia has come to a head, and the time to secure dominance of the ancient land is now. But despite mounting victories on the Society's part, the Aspis Consortium still has a few tricks up its sleeves, including several powerful agents from the Pathfinders' past who could prove too challenging an obstacle to surmount. Can the PCs end the ongoing struggle for control of the flow of ancient Thassilonian artifacts out of Varisia's ports, or will the Aspis Consortium succeed in keeping the Pathfinder Society ever in its shadow as it profits on the exploitation of the millennia?

Written by Ron Lundeen.

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 24 ratings)

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Zero Star - Worst Scenario Written to Date

*( )( )( )( )

EDIT: 3 years later
When talking to others I often throw a lot of rhetoric around when it comes to Ron Lundeen scenarios. I've had a lot of time to consider and refine my position on them and I can honestly say, that in my opinion Ron Lundeen scenarios, which were capped with this particular scenario, represents the worst point in Pathfinder Society. This is particularly unfortunate, because Ron Lundeen is quite clearly creative. His non-combat encounters are fairly interesting, but he should never be given control over Pathfinder Society combat encounters again.

The authorship of scenarios like these were not just a symptom of the "war of escalation" between players and GMs, but rather a direct causal influence on it continuing and growing to the point it did. His scenarios, and in particular this one, represent a "GM v. Player" aspect that no other scenarios, in my mind, reach. This scenario can be attributed to the reason I quit PFS for nearly two years, it was both a symptom and a cause of a disease that resulted in over-deadly scenarios, "hard mode", and the social pressure to optimize every character. I find his scenarios toxic to PFS, and when I say "he caused me to quit for over a year", that statement has a lot of truth in it. Yes, Rivalry's End was not just one of the straws, but it was the final straw for the reasons I just noted.

Three years later and the ship is nicely righting itself, but considering this scenario made me not play for that long, I think it's fair to call this the worst scenario ever...

Formerly titled Horrible Ending for a Fantastic Faction
This review contains spoilers.

I have played this scenario at sub-tier 6-7. My feelings echo that tier. The lower tier may make some of the topics I discuss moot. I walked in hesitant about the ending of the Shadow Lodge, my favorite faction. I knew there was supposed to be a mighty "twist" (as revealed by the developers). I guessed the twist on the nose, I didn't guess it would be presented in the manner it was...a trudge of a scenario with everybody's favorite "sit back and watch you don't get to play through what's going on."

Roleplay (2/5): The beginning of the scenario involves infiltrating a gambling hall, except other than needing to make a roll to get in, there's no roleplaying at all. In fact, the whole adventure is a dungeon crawl in sheep's clothing. Don't expect much folks...especially with the "roleplaying" in the final act (oh wait...what roleplaying in the final act?).

Combat (1/5): Combat in this scenario is terrifying. Just because you can write encounters like this doesn't mean you should. If you think PFS is too easy, then this should be right up your alley. I'll be kind and spoiler this section, read on if you're really interested.

Spoiler:
The first real combat (which admittedly can be avoided, unless you're trying to get your faction missions, in which case chances are you'll trigger it anyway) is a monster. A monster that can one-shot well built characters with high CON scores, favored class bonuses in HP and who have given up all offense for defense. To add insult to injury there are three of said creatures. From there it only gets worse. The next encounter is quite simply a major slap in the face for any group. A one-two-three punch of a trap with a DC 34 to see (roughly a 50-50 shot for our well built but not optimized rogue) that can wipe out groups (and nearly did ours if it wasn't for a kindly GM who forgot about the 10' space of the opponents). We almost walked out of the scenario at that point and just called it quits, which I hear several groups did. From there there's an optional encounter/main encounter that is the final nail in the group's coffin. Our group survived because I (and the character built for my SO) broke my cardinal vow and decided to buy a clear spindle ioun stone because I've gotten sick and tired of the scaling challenge in Season 4, yay for forcing me to optimize to survive).

So to be clear. One TPK guarantee missed only because the GM allowed (against the rules) for a GM T-shirt reroll. One TPK guarantee missed because the GM missed the 10' square of the swarms instead of a 5' square, and one TPK opportunity missed because I decided to be a cheese-weasel...yup, fantastic scenario.

The X-Factor (0/5): Lets talk endings. Everybody remember when we complained about Dalsine Affair and how it's not fun to just watch the scene unfold without the ability to interact? Yup, it's baaaack. Sure, they added in a chance (for that appropriate build that decides to focus all of their abilities on one skill), but really...don't expect to get to act in the ending. Also, and most importantly, it didn't make any sense. There was no "wow" factor - it was a complete wrote ending where you have to sit back, watch the show, and then deal with the ramifications.

It's rare that I absolutely detest a scenario. In fact, with the exceptions of The Darkest Vengeance and Skeleton Moon (which by the way is still the only zero star scenario I've played) I can't say that I've really disliked that many scenarios. This one though joins that inglorious heap.


Could have been better

**( )( )( )

The end of the Shadow Lodge could have been so much better.

The problem with this scenario was mainly the story. When you have an intelligent enemy... they shouldn't be scripted to do unintelligent things "just so the PCs can win". Anyone who calls themselves a master manipulator and spy (and I'm talking about both end bosses here) should act much more discreetly and intelligently. Otherwise you don't live long enough to be 10th level, lol. I shouldn't leave the scenario thinking: "Wow, ____ is really f-ing stupid". The PCs shouldn't even have the *chance* to catch them unless we have a (good) plan. But honestly it comes down to winning initiative, just like every other combat. What's the point of having defenses in your lair if you're going to ignore them and fight killer hit squads anyway? You'd think a master spy would run/teleport away or at least attempt to trick us.

Also, the end of the Shadow Lodge was just completely silly, it made no sense, his plans would be more easily accomplished with the status quo. I hope the end of the Lantern Lodge was better than this. Because of the stupidity of it all, the GM was forced to use fiat and cut screens, which no one likes.

Spoiler:
You can't coup de grace in a surprise round with only a standard action, which leaves him trying to complete the coupe in the following round, and with a bad initiative score, just gets him killed. If the intention was to just stab the prisoner in the face, then he shouldn't have healed her to full health... idiot. Also, this situation shouldn't have even occurred, he could have merely thanked us, we'd leave, and then he could have done anything he wanted in privacy.

Also, I'm bothered by the horrible tactics that are used by the end boss. Seriously, if you feel the need to give her bad tactics in order to compensate for the fact that she's several levels above the PCs, just lower her level and give her good tactics. Sigh.

The encounters could be deadly (at subtier 6-7) but there were several ways to solve them without raw power or optimization.

”Detailed Rating”:

Length: Medium. The scenario starts very slowly, with lots of red herrings and irrelevant time wasters. We were actually pressed against the 4 hour mark and hand waved most of the final encounter. If the time wasters are skimmed over at the beginning, it's also possible this scenario could be one of the fastest scenarios you've run as well.
Experience: Player with 7 players at subtier 6-7 at APL 5 (three level 4 PCs). Decently made PCs but we played recklessly. I've also just read the scenario since I'm GMing it soon.
Sweet Spot: Subtier 6-7 can be a PC killer. Average groups of PCs will enjoy it more at subtier 3-4. This scenario is not scaled appropriately for 4 players (and some aspects can't be scaled) and could lead to TPKs.
Entertainment: OK dungeon crawl, but that's not what was needed. (6/10)
Story: The end of the Shadow Lodge made no sense at all and making the PCs eat crow was not cool. (1/10)
Roleplay: There was very little roleplay in a scenario that basically begged for meaningful roleplay and talking to the bosses. What we got was basically a dungeon crawl. Grrrrrrrrrr. You could argue there was roleplaying at the beginning, but it was meaningless and a time waster in my opinion. (2/10)
Combat/Challenges: Some people didn't like the challenges, but I thought they were decent. Subtier 6-7 can be deadly. (7/10)
Maps: Having the lower lair look like a spider looked nice but was a little silly. (7/10)
Boons: Paizo staff implemented the boon so that a PC can only benefit from one faction retirement scenario. Well done. (10/10)
Uniqueness: Standard dungeon crawl. Not impressed. (2/10)
Faction Missions: The missions were above average and witty in some cases. (8/10)
GM Preparation: This was perhaps the fastest scenario I've ever prepared. The clarity of the writing is excellent and the editing is also extremely good.

Overall: I expected both the plot and the bad guys to be a lot smarter than what they were. The scenario begged for meaningful roleplaying moments but it was just another dungeon crawl. The ending was disappointing in several aspects. (5/10)


Okay but not awesome

***( )( )

Long and short, I thought this might be as good as Way of the Kirin, but that was likely because I thought the fights would go over better. So, maybe this is one of those scenarios that would be better if the group was only 4-5 people, and the group was of level to play up. The first two fights would likely have been harder at least.

Spoiler:
The team I had was six players with 3 pregens, all at level 3-4, so they played down, but with 3 pregens I was hoping it would be at least a little challenge. The first fight the players did a run around on the three bad guys and was able to basically destroy with little issues--though the bad guys do hit like a ton of bricks (if they hit). Second fight was easily dealt with--needed to have more HP. I was hopeful that with the third fight that she would get a couple of good spells off, but no avail. Last fight was just a mop up action with the only saving grace was me getting flanking and a critical on one person....sigh.

Ranking

Story 2.5/5
I thought the set up was great, and we had some GOOD roleplaying trying to get into the building. From there it went from great to okay, with about 1/2 the group disappointed with the "obvious" plot hook at the end.
Setting 3.5/5
I love Riddleport, and I think the briefing room and setting was awesome. And the description of where the group was going was also awesome. I think there should have been more things to do above the lair than was in the scenario.
Role-play-ability 4/5
We did have a lot of roleplaying getting into the building, and a little with the intro and ending, but in the middle was more ehh.
Combat 1.5/5
With 3 pregens, and 3 normal builds I thought the fights would at least have presented a challenge, but the group basically waltzed through them all. I think the last fight did the most damage (but not anything super special) and the first fight being the 2nd most. Compared to Way of the Kirin, the fights were sub-optimal.


Confusion's Beginning

***( )( )

Our local Pathfinder Society group has a large number of Shadow Lodge devotees, so the clamor to run Rivalry’s End as many times as possible prior to the August cut-off has been great. We are pitched another classic battle between the Society and one of their most hated enemies, the Aspis Consortium, being headed up by none other than Grandmaster Torch.

My GM Experience:

The release slipped under a lot of people’s radar, so I ran the low-tier version for a table of four individuals: an alchemist, a sorcerer, and two fighters (hardly optimized, but experienced players none-the-less).
A lot of thought was put into infiltration, but the table managed. I had some random encounters with the staff and other gamblers to give the beginning a bit of flavor and RP opportunities, including putting my Sorcerer in an awkward situation with a very intoxicated like-specied Tengu. Forcing a table of skull-crackers into actually cavorting with individuals as socially inept as they were was entertaining for all involved.

Their first “fight” required pulling the NPC Codex. Keep it on stand-by. A table-full of terrible perceptions almost stalled them out in the cellar, but one person was able to hit the DC by taking 20: the dangers of not bringing a skill-monkey.

The party got unlucky with which hallway the picked, and encountered the patrol very early. One party member dropped, but the alchemist had his time to shine. The alchemist and sorcerer made quick work of the tripped trap/encounter, so no major issues there.

The encounter in the lowest floor went pear-shaped in a hurry. One of the fighters tripped the trap prior to the fight which nearly did max effect. Their adversary had plenty of time to prepare, and luckily for her, no one had a will save. I feel like the tactics assume she’ll be overmatched, but she had between 75-100% of the party predisposed during the entire fight. Once she had four disabled in some form or another, I had her flee. One PC pursued to the best of their ability, but couldn’t catch her before she vanished into Riddleport.

If you’ve read or played the scenario, you realize just how bad this “breaks” things. I had to redact about 75% of the chronicle sheet with black marker since the whole thing is steeped with spoilers which, for all intents and purposes, the PCs never encountered. Probably one of the most mind-boggling things I’ve experienced as a PFS GM.

Personal Impressions:
From what I’ve read of other party’s experiences with this scenario, it’s relatively tough. In retrospect, my table could have stalled out because of a perception check AND, if the tactics were written differently, been subject to a TPK. I had a party of Level 3 and 4 characters who lost out on a lot of loot and some prestige but will live to fight another day – some tables weren’t so lucky. Season 4 definitely “brought it” as far as challenge goes.

I’m a bit ambivalent about the story of Rivalry’s End. My table was regretfully unable to appreciate the full gravity of the story, but the conclusion just doesn’t sit well. There’s going to be a huge dichotomy for former Lantern Lodge characters (post-Way of the Kirin) versus Shadow Lodge. I can understand, from a story-writing perspective, why Rivalry’s End may go the route it did, but it still makes me feel dirty and unwell.

Rivalry’s End is tough, the RP elements have to be teased out with a heavy hand, and the conclusion is memorable, for better or worse. It’s mechanically worth it to take your Shadow Lodge character through this one, but I imagine it might be emotionally taxing if you have a lot of investment in them.


What story? Where are my brown pants?

*( )( )( )( )

There is a very little room for role playing in this scenario. As with most you get the mission. Then head out to where ever the pathfinders need you. Over all there is so much less story in this then Way of the Kirin. There is little comparison. At least with Way of the Kirin you understand why, and what your fighting. There is zero connection from the main fight at the end to the other encounters in the scenario.

Plot?:

So I'm to believe a high level bard uses constructs over people to guard them? So the Spider who is a high level bard uses guards that can not benefit from her ability to buff over ones that can? Then I'm to believe she pays a (High Tire) level 13 druid to cast a trap in the middle of a city? The base line of this is how to kill characters with no care for the over all story. That's what I take away from this scenario.


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Webstore Gninja Minion

Announced for June!

Grand Lodge

Is this the one I've been waiting for?

Paizo Employee Developer

You don't wait for all of them?

Sovereign Court

Life's too fast to sit around and wait for anything!

...:
Except for Blakros Matrimony, but that came out late and was totally worth the time.

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Agh, I'll have to GM this one, my Shadow Lodge character just hit Eight...

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Curious if Grandmaster Torch will be as kind as Amara Li...

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Thankfully, I only have two Shadow Lodge characters, and they are both in the range. :)


Did the date on this change or am i just extra full of crazy?

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I do think this was to be released the last Wednesday of June, originally.

Paizo Employee Developer

June scenarios are being released a week after the last Wednesday of the month in order to debut at PaizoCon. At the same time, July scenarios are releasing 4 weeks early to debut at the same time. This was always the plan, even if the website didn't know that plan because it's a computer and not clued in to the awesome stuff we have planned for PaizoCon.

Paizo Employee Contributor

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Man, they let that guy write another scenario? Sheesh!

Grand Lodge

Still seems like a pretty tight schedule to get it in... and my Shadow Lodge character is at 6th... and holding. Have a choice... play him at slow progression for a level (so that I can do the final two levels of Thornkeep with him AND this one), or use another character for Thornkeep...

Oh, the humanity!!!

Liberty's Edge

Ron Lundeen wrote:
Man, they let that guy write another scenario? Sheesh!

I know! His scenarios sucked as hard as the event horizon of a black hole! Except when they didn't, which was always. LOL

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16

Without spoilers, are there any scenarios in particular that I should play before this one, to get the full story impact?

Liberty's Edge

It needs to have an obligatory Torch in Bathhouse scene!

I am hoping that Torch sells out to the Aspis

Liberty's Edge

When is the deadline for this one to get the retirement boon? I.E.: when must I GM this one for my players and I to get the retirement boon; sorry, just wanted to clarify my question.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

August 14th, same as Way of the Kirin.

Shadow Lodge

We're going to be so short on time to get to play this to get the pre-August 14th boon; even shorter if you want to play and GM it. Only 6 weekends to play with.

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

What happened to the release date? When I announced my July schedule last week, this was listed as coming out on Wednesday, so my GMs would have five days to prep. Now they only get the weekend.

Why do you guys keep mucking up what is already a difficult job to do? )-:

Paizo Employee Developer

This scenario has always been intended to be released in tandem with its debut at PaizoCon. If you need your GMs to have early access to it, you may consider contacting Mike to have the scenario added to their downloads, as it is done and in PaizoCon GMs' hands so they can prep.

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

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I am going to say something odd, but here goes: I like the fact that my GMs are willing to pay for their scenarios. It makes them care more about the game they are running, and it pays you for your product. I also dislike bothering any of you to give me a handout when I know you are busy.

I'd rather it were simply available when I'm told it will be. Especially one like this, which is highly anticipated and has a time-frame for playing.

Shadow Lodge

Need to read the mod and evaluate my play of it with what was actually written.

Liberty's Edge

Spoiler:

Part of the scenario requires a list of 36 names and then a list of 8 names to match the busts (and the mirrors).

Here's a good online Fantasy name generator:

http://rinkworks.com/namegen/

There's even a Japanese name generator on that site for help with the Lantern Lodge faction mission.

For some added fun, enter the following 10 names into an anagram generator and insert the results into the list of 36 names--one every 8th name:

Ron Lundeen
James Jacobs
F Wesley Schneider
James Sutter
Logan Bonner
John Compton
Adam Daigle
Rob McCreary
Mark Moreland
Patrick Renie

http://www.wordsmith.org/anagram/

Liberty's Edge

casiel wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Here's a list of names that I am using as handouts when I run "Rivalry's End"...

The Ten: (37 names)

Spoiler:

(every 8th name is an identity of one of the Decemvirate)
Roight Riletroth
Durod Blyustust
Dunner Lone
Honurn Briprad
Belah Triaughbel
Aces Jamjobs
Elmrana Didard
Deifcers Shewnley
Nynrak Llaydia
Osem Joosest
Master Jutes
Neach Rhalyeet
Rothkin Scharler
Chesold Choolest
Essardu Imyerbur
Bornean Long
Quabwor Deabves
Rilyh Jouzrak
Jom Coptohnn
Nalvese Nuywor
Imche Miafcha
Serldra Mevesper
Kintan Weillcha
Alga Diadem
Miser Rerilage
Ashond Ceraright
Carry Comber
Wopol Deghine
Inagdan Boentia
Ingut Shiuskdyn
Aleacki Sweswor
Kraal Dormmen
Daos Densaygha
Aldvor Tanrakrak
Carter Pinkie
Stesul Vakelend
Lyeem Peremche

The Eight (busts/mirrors):

Spoiler:

Koig Vesburler (Absalom, 12pm)
Suzukami Yoshito (Goka, 3am)
Noet Whiniss (Egorian, 9am)
Irn Dansaycha (Magnimar,6am)
Kem Toubtin (Sothis, 2pm)
Kinl Schesar (Katheer, 5pm)
Leiq Rodanser (Oppara, 8pm)
Rylt Omendrod (Almas, 12am)

Liberty's Edge

Cool handouts there, I love it.

Paizo Employee Developer

Your list of Decemvirate identities is missing several that have already been revealed in other scenarios, namely the Eyes of the Ten series. Otherwise, a very handy tool for GMs.


casiel wrote:
casiel wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Here's a list of names that I am using as handouts when I run "Rivalry's End"...

The Ten: (37 names)
** spoiler omitted **

Ace Jamjobs

The Eight (busts/mirrors):
** spoiler omitted **

LOL!

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Is anyone else extremely disappointed with this scenario? Reading through it, and it just seems very much wtf?!?!? Now do not get me wrong, the scenario itself is good, and this isn't at all a slight towards Ron. I'm talking about the outcome.

Spoiler:

This is what they came up with on how to get rid of the Shadow Lodge, not to mention how to portray Torch, who has gone out of his was to create a network of agents within the pathfinders dedicated primarily to looking out for their own when the jerks of the society fail to do so. Basically anyone with a rank above agent. Secondly, the Shadow Lodge was basically the one way that, out of character, one could play PFS without being uncomfortably a Society slave.

Secondly, why would anyone loyal to the Shadow Lodge give a crap about what the Society wants them to do, even if, if they believe Torch is guilty, (as opposed to finding a new leader and Charlie Mikeing (continue mission)? Instead we are going to just follow some of the most annoying and hated personalities within the Society, Sheila Heidmarch, Drandle Dreng, and Ambrus Valsin? Uhuh? Wait, what?

Webstore Gninja Minion

Added spoiler tag to the above post!

Shadow Lodge

My apologies, it all seemed like common knowledge material, and I intentionally avoided specifics.

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