Pathfinder Society Scenario #5–21: The Merchant's Wake (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1–5.

A powerful Qadiran trade prince has died, and faction leader Aaqir al’Hakam rushes to his homeland to attend his mentor’s funeral. As an act of support, the Pathfinder Society sends the PCs as representatives to the event; however the death of such an influential merchant and politician has created a considerable power vacuum, and ambitious acquaintances from across the Inner Sea are in attendance to pay their respects, claim a piece of the trade prince’s legacy, and undercut their rivals’ attempts to do the same. Can the Pathfinders keep this somber event from spiraling into a bloodbath?

Content in “The Merchant’s Wake” also contributes directly to the ongoing storyline of the Qadira faction.

Written by Justin Juan.

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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4.00/5 (based on 21 ratings)

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Long, but Great

5/5

NO SPOILERS

I got to play The Merchant's Wake via play-by-post with my Groetus-worshipping, doomsaying, filth-encrusted oracle Makras Vekker (he was certainly not the right choice given the premise of the scenario, but I didn't know!). The scenario is a substantive, well-written one with some real meat on the bones--I'd be surprised if many live groups didn't struggle to finish in the normal five-hour slot. There's a lot of role-playing in this one, and the scenario provides the GM with plenty of support to make it manageable. The action scenes are done well and fun to play (even if a tad on the easy side), and there's plenty of attention to setting lore. Overall, I think it's a winner.

SPOILERS!:

In a departure from the norm, The Merchant's Wake doesn't start with a briefing from a Venture-Captain. Instead, the PCs are directed (by letter) to attend (as representatives of the Society) the wake for a woman named Zarmina Bahjari. Zarmini was the mentor for an important PFS figure, Trade Prince Aaqir al'Hakam. Many players will recognise al'Hakam from previous scenarios, and this one provides (the GM, at least) a lot of information about his personal background. Zarmini hand-picked al'Hakam and set him on the path to his current position, and he loved her dearly. There's a bit of fun to be had at the beginning about appropriate clothing for the characters to wear to a wake in Katheer (the capital of Qadira, a nation inspired by classical Arabian themes). Makras was forcibly given a bath, if I recall!

The bulk of the scenario takes place at the luxurious mansion in Katheer where the wake will be held. After the PCs pay their respects to al'Hakam, another reason for their being sent is revealed. Although family members would be culturally forbidden from doing business at a wake, al'Hakam knows several other influential merchants will be attending--and wants the PCs to help him make contacts to expand his trade network. This plays out as the PCs attempting to earn "Influence Points" with the five different merchants available through the use of social skills and (hopefully) some quality role-playing. This sort of situation will be familiar to most PFS/SFS players, but it's done really well in The Merchant's Wake. Each of the NPCs has artwork, a thorough description of motivations and personality (for the GM to work with), interesting relationships with the other merchants, and a way that additional favour can be curried with them by handling a little task or errand (like planting something embarrassing on a rival). Two of the merchants, Temel Passad (a prophet of Kalistrade) and Metella Rauger (a dwarf from the Five Kinds Mountains) hate each other, and the PCs will probably be forced to pick a side (they first appear in # 5-01). Another merchant, Jakti al'Alwar (an inquisitor of Sarenrae) may seem unimportant at first, but he actually has murder on his mind, as the PCs may soon learn. Anyway, it's a model for how these sorts of social influence challenges should be handled. The GM just needs to keep a close eye on the clock to make sure it doesn't consume too much game-time.

After some general mingling, a cleric of Pharasma named Umut begins the formal funereal ceremony while standing over a bier bearing the shrouded body of Zarmina. But what nobody knows is that Umut was actually murdered on her way to Katheer and replaced by a cleric of Urgathoa, the goddess of disease and the undead! After "Umut" finishes her invocations and leaves, Zarmina arises as a mummy and attacks! It's a fun surprise and way to start an encounter, even though I don't imagine it will be a challenging one for the PCs.

After dealing with the body, al'Hakam asks the PCs to make sure the grounds are otherwise secure. While they're dealing this, they'll receive notes from one of the merchants that they influenced the most, asking for them to negotiate a deal with al'Hakam. But while this is going on, al'Alwar has his assassins attack one of those merchants! Now, the exact reasons for this aren't clear to me--al'Hakam is a Sarenite, a member of the Cult of the Dawnflower, and for some reason believes two of the other merchants are enemies of the Cult--but it's not clear why. And as the target is screaming for aid, to add to the drama, waves of zombies from a nearby cemetery (animated by the Urgathoan) begin to assault the building! In a clever use of modified Chase rules, the PCs need to speedily overcome the obstacles of the zombies to stop the assassination--the longer it takes the PCs to intervene, the more likely it is that the assassin is successful. I thought it was a well-done sequence.

The last phase of the scenario is when the PCs are sent to the cemetery to figure out what's going on. It's there that the disguised Urgathoan will either lure the PCs into a trap or be discovered for who she really is. She may be accompanied by some skeletons, but the PCs will still likely outnumber their foes (a common problem in PFS) and win handily. There's then some information a GM can use to craft the epilogue depending on what happened with the various merchants.

I thought The Merchant's Wake did a nice job sprinkling the heavy role-playing with some exciting doses of action. It's definitely one worth running or playing, just as long as adequate time is set aside. It confirms my suspicion that no matter where Pathfinder Society agents go--the opera, a coronation, or even a wake--trouble is sure to follow!


Great social scenario, with minor flaws.

4/5

(I GMed this and played this.)

I can be pretty brief about this scenario: the author makes some weird leaps of logic and I guess certain things got cut out during editing, but essentially, this is a great scenario. The social part works well and NPCs are described well enough that you can hold a proper conversation with them. Also, DCs are properly scaled that even non-socially-inclined characters can contribute meaningfully, I feel.

I especially like how certain choices mattered, even if only superficially. It makes the players feel like they've had an impact on the story, which is great. And from the GM point of view, these choices are easy enough to incorporate that they don't slow the game down at all. I've seen scenarios where this goes wrong, for example.

As said, the story is a little strange and NPCs behave oddly just to have the story make sense. Not too keen on that. I feel like this scenario fell prey to heavy editing, cutting out motivations and backstory, but this is only speculation on my part.

All in all, this is a fun scenario. It has some flaws, but it's certainly worth playing.


4/5


Recommend for those enjoy roleplaying

5/5

Most of the scenario is roleplay, you have to chat with varient NPCs. It means that Merchant is hevily depands on how GM and players act, also have to do much work about the Innersea world. What I like the best is the two familiar friends come out again! You'll know them if played The Glass River Rescue.

There are also two challenging and well-scaled combats, but the BBEG fight is dissapointing...too weak and not shocking at all, but still a good one to play.


Role-play heavy, but with an actual good chase-scene

5/5

I ended up playing this scenario last weekend and I had a great time. Not only was there a good mixture of role-playing and fighting, with a clear emphasis on role-playing, but there was also a unique, yet perfect chase-scene except for the swimming part. The only downside was the plot. It wasn't exactly difficult to figure out who the bad guy eventually was. Anyway, allow me to break this scenario down to role-playing and encounters though.

As for the role-playing, it indeed is the most important portion of the scenario. If you just want to kill things, you should stay clear of this scenario. However, I disagree with some of the reviews below that this scenario is hours of just talking. Don't get me wrong, it is indeed possible should you choose so, but it's not a fundamental issue with the scenario. Instead it's something that comes down to the GM and players. The GM has to feel the mood at the table and should adjust the amount of talking to it, whereas the players can speak up as well. Together they should find the sweet spot. Without proper out-of-game communication, I can see how this could drag on and cause issues for individuals.

In my case our GM said he'd give 5 to 10 minutes per conversation and all of us did our best to make the conversations fun and interesting. Not a single one of us was bored at any moment in time, nor felt left out. Everyone of us also liked the chase-scene. I consider it to be quite innovative and far less annoying than other similar situations I've encountered. You are provided with limited options and you can actually go through the process of getting from A to B rather quickly, while still having a lot of options open to you to decrease the DC's. It simply works really well.

The encounters were fine too. They weren't particularly special, but I don't believe that's needed for this scenario. Thematically it's fine and I'm sure the first encounter can give a fair amount of a parties a run for their money. My party was lucky at the BBEG as they got the drop on that particular individual, but from what I've heard, that fight can be quite annoying as well. In other words, the fights can be quite challenging.

This scenario is role-play heavy, but the fights aren't walkovers either. If you like the previous sentence, you should consider playing this scenario as you're likely to find it quite enjoyable. Be sure to bring a balanced party though!


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Webstore Gninja Minion

Announced for May!

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

A nice batch of new 1-5 scenarios announced. Excellent. I'm trying to focus on season 5 in my territory and having new player friendly season 5 scenarios really helps.

Dark Archive

Quote:
Can the Pathfinders keep this somber event from spiraling into a bloodbath?

I'm sure my players probably hope not...

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

A mob funeral???? Ok, this is Quadira and not Sczarni, but d@#$ this could get nuts fast!


Do I sense another Blakros Matrimony?


Lithrac wrote:
Do I sense another Blakros Matrimony?

That was my impression as well.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

A pity my social characters are out of tier. :)


TriOmegaZero wrote:
A pity my social characters are out of tier. :)

Nonsense! It's just an excuse to make another one.


Tier 1-5 is never out of tier :)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

When your rogue and bard are both 9th level it sure is.

Paizo Employee Developer

There's always room for more bards.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
John Compton wrote:
There's always room for more bards.

He's right.

Shadow Lodge

Hmm. Is the Qadira boon worth not playing my character for 2 months? I'll be GM, so it's not like I'll be able to actually play her in it.

Liberty's Edge

This looks very interesting. Qadira to me at least has felt a little sidelined of late.

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8

There are some typos in the blurb. Corrections are bolded below:

Scenario Blurb wrote:
A powerful Qadiran trade prince has died, and faction leader Aaqir al’Hakam rushes to his homeland to attend his mentor’s funeral. As an act of support, the Pathfinder Society sends the PCs as representatives to the event; however the death of such an influential merchant and politician has created a considerable power vacuum, and ambitious acquaintances from across the Inner Sea are in attendance to pay their respects, claim a piece of the trade prince’s legacy, and undercut their rivals’ attempts to do the same. Can the Pathfinders keep this somber event from spiraling into a bloodbath?

Webstore Gninja Minion

greysector wrote:

There are some typos in the blurb. Corrections are bolded below:

Scenario Blurb wrote:
A powerful Qadiran trade prince has died, and faction leader Aaqir al’Hakam rushes to his homeland to attend his mentor’s funeral. As an act of support, the Pathfinder Society sends the PCs as representatives to the event; however the death of such an influential merchant and politician has created a considerable power vacuum, and ambitious acquaintances from across the Inner Sea are in attendance to pay their respects, claim a piece of the trade prince’s legacy, and undercut their rivals’ attempts to do the same. Can the Pathfinders keep this somber event from spiraling into a bloodbath?

Thanks for the catch—it's been updated!


Oh, this sounds like fun. :)

By that I mean I am sure things are going to get out of control.

Shadow Lodge

This isn't available until Friday now?! Why the push back?


I'm more concerned with how certain the Friday timeframe is - I can cancel a session for this weekend now, but not on Friday if it doesn't come out.

Shadow Lodge

Are we there yet?

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

We are now.


Thank you for the hard work everyone!


6 people marked this as a favorite.

I AM TRYING TO SWIM THROUGH THE DOOR SO HARD :(

Dark Archive

I'm gonna treat that swim check as a strength check.... cause yeah swim through the barricade doesn't make sense.

Scarab Sages

Sporge wrote:
I'm gonna treat that swim check as a strength check.... cause yeah swim through the barricade doesn't make sense.

I was so annoyed that they let a typo that big through into a public release

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

I'm just glad my GM let me roll Swim on it with my Undine Gunslinger. :D

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