A Pathfinder Society Special designed for levels 3-7.
An enemy of the Pathfinder Society recently found a hidden dungeon in a centuries-old siege fortress, but despite his best efforts to convert it into his base of operations, he failed. When a pair of Pathfinders encounter disaster while scouting out the entrance, the party must explore the first level of the dungeon to determine not just what attacked their comrades but also what dark power their nemesis nearly acquired.
Written by Jason Bulmahn.
Note: Ruins of Bonekeep—Level 1: The Silent Grave is a limited release scenario. It may be ran at any time by a 4- or 5-star GM or a Venture-Officer at any time. This scenario may also be run by anybody at any convention. To inquire about access to this scenario, refer to the Organized Play Convention Support Policy.
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Lets be clear. I love thinking and planning my way out of things. Most scenerios seem to be built to be an easy mode so that people who are not that clever rather in RP answers or mechanical solutions can easily get by. This leaves power gamers and the overthinkers often lacking in real good material. Even with the random chance of dice. Bonekeep gives a very different picture.
My main toon, is not min-maxed at all. I have an off balance array and no particular strong build with a few strong traits and a bunch of average. We went in with a party of power gamers. However aware of the reputation of the Keep we had spent the better part of a week exchanging ideas for what gear to buy.
What we found was that the solution to the majority of battles where small items people gloss over in the Core Book's item list. While I don't see the permanent anti-boon as a real problem, I never failed the save and half the party came in either with ways to improve their save against it for extended periods of time (having actually made purchases based on being regular adventurers) and a good chunk where just immune.
What killed players was not a lack of tactical skill. It was not a ton of bad rolls. It wasn't even ungodly bosses. It was a lack of co-operation and preplanning. Some ran in, charging everything, enlarging forcing squeezing all over and giving the enemy greater advantages. Some, with no prior care for the party acted entirely on their own setting off traps after traps after traps ignoring what we had brought with us. Some ignored humble advice from experienced players and came with nothing more then the clothes on their back.
This is not that game. The entire thing is about resource management. We got passed the first two rooms with some intensity. The first rooms mechanic being scary to a party of melee warriors. The second room providing horror to those with low saves. For a handful of our party we easily handled it with our over preparations (I spent 20K gold before walking in on mostly potions). After that, we found ourselves faced with enemies who had powerful tactical skills and strong abilities. IF we hadn't acted first and completely negated their ability to fight us with a single maneuver.
For the prepared there are only two real threats. But you must come in expecting everything, ignore what monsters commonly have and be ready for the unusual. The party was almost TPK'd leaving me, the non-power gamer and a crazy built paladin to fight the boss alone. Not only did we take her down but managed to deal with two more rooms ourselves. Simply by thinking critically, acting tactically, and utilizing our resources. We completed all but one room, before we ran out of resources, healing, cures, potions, resists, protections, arrows, leaving us to finally flee taking the bodies of our fallen comrades with us.
Frankly it's an excellent and challenging game. As long as you got a level headed GM and level headed players. It is not the kind of game for the touchy, or the slow of thought. All around enjoyed. Especially the secret story connection to a prior arc.
Played this with seven players on the lower tier (I believe).
First off I was dreading this. So many comments about how nasty this dungeon is and yet I was a little disappointed that it wasn't like that at all. It was tough but not excessively so. It is actually quite a good traditional dungeon crawl.
We managed half the rooms before the time limit was almost upon us and we fled.
The only downer for me was that they want you to have several characters but the layout prevents that many being useful. My character (ranged slayer) was pointless throughout most of the dungeon because of lay out and corridors blocked with other characters. Tactics and teamwork aside certain character types will be next to useless here.
Edit: I've thought about this more and I decided that I let my own bad experience push my review of the adventure lower than I should. I still believe everything else I have written, but I think that this adventure does work for what it does.
If you have a group of friends that you like to play with and you are all looking for the challenge, this will likely work well for you. But if you are going into a convention, there is so much variation that can happen with number people at the table and with party composition to make this adventure a fun romp or, as it was with me, one of the worst gaming experiences one may have.
Below is my original review.
Even over a year later now, this still is the absolutely worst scenario experience I have played in. I blame part of it on convention staff, but in the end many of the problems are built into the scenario itself.
The scenario starts off with a bit on the challenge level of the scenario, but I find there are enough missteps within the scenario to make that warning itself misleading and pointless.
I was very much irritated to find out after our brief run into Bonekeep that it didn't scale for four players. This is ridiculous for a scenario that intends to challenge a party. It is obvious that what will challenge a six person party will be different from a four person party. Now, to the scenario's credit, it is meant to play as part of a special event with several tables to allow every table to be full for the run into Bonekeep. That is one place that I have to lay the blame for this experience at convention staff. I love you all for everything you do, but we don't know the scenario. When you saw a four person party with no idea of what was inside Bonekeep, you should have told us that it was meant for six person tables and that you were not scaling it down for us. I would have been fine with that, I would have found a different event. Instead you lead me to believe that this would be a challenge to our characters rather than the slog that it was.
For the half of the encounters, one class has it's damage dealing class ability negated. Our GM either accidentally also negated that same class ability in the first encounter or the adventure added that random immunity out of spite. Even in favor of the scenario, you shouldn't be negating any class ability that many times during a scenario. It doesn't make it challenging, it makes it either ridiculously hard if you have characters relying on that class ability.
Once I entered, I found myself bound to stick with the party until the rest of the party realized we couldn't handle this scenario. It was obvious to me following encounter 1. I couldn't leave though because other members wanted to continue forward. This is ridiculous for a special that will be gathering random groups of people into parties. I could have stayed by the entrance, but based on the murderous nature of the scenario, I felt like it would kill me as soon as we split the party.
Boring encounters. All the encounters I was exposed to were honestly boring. They were hard, but not hard in that I had to think of new tactics. They were ten to twenty round slug fests that just bored the hell out of me.
No roleplaying. I know, silly for this sort of event, but even bad scenarios can have some enjoyment created from basic roleplaying encounters. Since this one doesn't have them, it has to rely on the encounters being enjoyable. When the encounters fall flat, that leaves nothing fun about this scenario.
Encounters scale up poorly. The scenario spells out that we can leave any time, but with each encounter being so capable of killing any party member it feels so pointless. There wasn't a sense that we ran out of resources and couldn't keep going. Ever encounter was "wow, if we didn't get lucky there someone could have been killed." There was nothing we could do to gauge if we would be able to take on the next room.
Rewards metagaming. Almost all the encounters can be described as such. "Are you prepared for [blank]? If you are, then you beat the encounter!" All scenarios are like that to an extent, but this one seems to expect it.
This is only the first part. Because of the horrible experience with the scenario, there is none in this line I ever want to experience and in fact I will continue to warn people away from these series of scenarios in the future.
I can easily say to anyone I meet that given the option to play in any Bonekeep special or any other game, that they should go with the other game. The other game will be more likely to be fun even if they lose.
So are the rules for this the same as in regular society play? If my character dies, do I lose all, or do I keep what I won up till the point the character dies? Basically, if my character dies, do I get anything other than a dead character? I want to make sure it is worth the loss (in the event that the character dies)