Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–98: Serpents Rise (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for 7th-level pregenerated characters.

Years of political maneuvering, espionage, smuggling, and diplomacy have set the stage for the Aspis Consortium's most ambitious attack on their Inner Sea rivals: the Pathfinder Society. All that remains are several key preparations that only an elite team of Aspis agents can arrange, and once the fireworks begin, these same agents must strike quickly and mercilessly to secure objectives—some shared and some connected to deeper plots—and escape without the Society being any the wiser.

In this adventure the players portray agents of the Aspis Consortium using 7th-level pregenerated characters. The events in this story also connect to and expand upon those in Pathfinder Society Scenario #6-97: Siege of Serpents.

Written by John Compton.

Note: Serpents Rise is a limited release scenario. It may be run anywhere, but only by 4- or 5-star GMs. Venture-Officers may only run this scenario if they meet this star rating requirement.

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Revenge is Sweet!

5/5

NO SPOILERS

Sometimes it's good to be bad! Serpent's Rise is a one-of-a-kind scenario, in which you get to play members of the Aspis Consortium and punish those annoying Pathfinders for years of their self-righteous interference with free trade and good business. It's not offered that often (only 4- or 5-star GMs can run it), so definitely jump at the chance if you get one. I got into a game at a play-by-post convention and it was a really interesting and memorable experience. This review is based on playing in that game and then reading the scenario afterwards.

SPOILERS!:

This is a big scenario, and it's clear a lot of time and effort went into it. The gist of Serpent's Rise is that the Aspis Consortium is ready to strike back at the Pathfinder Society for decades of meddling in its affairs. The PCs play pre-generated, 7th level members of the Consortium as they undertake a daring (and risky) plan: infiltrate the Society's annual Grand Convocation, penetrate Skyreach, rip a hole in the Hao Jin Tapestry to set free Consortium forces trapped inside, and then steal a legendary artefact called the Sky Key! It's a really cool way to see things from a different perspective.

One of the things that makes the scenario work so well is the pre-generated characters. Each has a distinctive personality and motivation for undertaking the mission, different skill-sets, and some cool artwork. Just look at that guy on the cover! In addition to the character sheet, each player receives a special handout at the beginning of the scenario that details their PC's personal mission(s) during the adventure. This is somewhat like the old faction missions from early PFS scenarios, but the ones here all require some significant time and attention and tie in well to the pre-gen's backstory. Each of the pre-gens has a particular role on the team, so there's not even a briefing in the traditional sense: instead, a particular pre-gen (Rataji) is the leader of the group and the handout for his player contains the mission goals and plans he's to share with the others however the player running him wishes.

The first portion of the adventure takes place during the Grand Convocation, an event where hundreds of Pathfinders from all around the Inner Sea assemble to discuss policy. The PCs have to wait until the keynote speech is given at an outdoor parade ground before they can infiltrate Skyreach, so until then they have preparations to make and personal missions to complete. For example, one of the PCs is tasked with stealing a set of keys from Janira Gravix, while another PC (the one I played, a brawler named Zurnzal) needs to steal a Pathfinder's identity and frame them for the heist to sow confusion. There's a lot of open-ended possibilities on what will happen here. The scenario is actually a really good introduction to the Grand Lodge, as PCs may visit the statue of Dervin Gest, the Wall of Names, the on-site menagerie, and more. There will be a lot of plates in the air for the GM to keep spinning as the PCs will likely need to split up to accomplish their various tasks. Success in this phase of the scenario makes the later parts easier, and I thought it was an interesting and exciting way to begin.

When it comes time to infiltrate Skyreach, the PCs have to sneak or bluff their way past various guards and patrols. The scenario handled this intelligently, as one bad roll wouldn't sink the entire team's efforts but blindly attacking everything isn't likely to succeed either.

The Consortium agents first task is to slip into the vaults below Skyreach to steal Aram Zey's (the PFS's Master of Spells) notes on the Hao Jin Tapestry (an entrance to a magical demiplane). The vault is protected, of course, by both traps and guardians (foo creatures, which are like giant animals capable of replicating stone statues). With the notes in hand, the PCs know the ritual to tear a rift in the tapestry--but first they have to get to it.

Reaching the tapestry requires getting past a trio of Pathfinder guards forced to miss the Grand Convocation as punishment for a previously failed mission. The three Pathfinders have surprisingly detailed (and interesting) backstories which, unfortunately, the PCs will probably never get to learn. I especially liked Ralirio, a Kalistocrat who uses firearms because he hates the thought of getting dirty from fighting "filthy miscreants" and because guns are so expensive they're an obvious sign of wealth. I might have to make a Ralirio for regular play sometime!

Assuming the PCs get past the Pathfinder guardians, performing the ritual is easy and the tapestry rips open to disgorge a veritable army of Aspis agents and native inhabitants that have been misled into believing the Pathfinder Society is their enemy. This all ties into previous scenarios and storylines. As the armies pour out to wreak havoc and destroy at will, there's a surprising twist. One of the tapestry's inhabitants, a young green dragon named Gazwyr, wants to join the infiltration team on the last leg of their heist. How this works is that one of the players can set aside their pre-gen and run Gazwyr, which is pretty cool--one doesn't get to play a dragon very often!

The big finale takes place when the PCs breach the remaining fixed defences separating them from the Sky Key. This artefact is a pretty big deal (there's a whole season named after it), though I have to confess I haven't played any of those scenarios and don't know exactly what it does. Anyway, the Society has one last trick up its sleeve: Aram Zey himself has caught wind of the heist and is going to personally fight, to the death if necessary, to protect the Sky Key. This was a really tough fight, as Aram Zey is an 11th level wizard, has time to prepare defences, has some clever tactics, and the GM is allowed to use any PFS-legal spell once during the battle through the character's arcane bond. It was an exhilarating encounter when I played it, with Aram Zey flying around invisibly, mocking us with dry condescension, and blasting us with chain lightning, fire snake, and more. I was running Gazwyr (the green dragon) at this point, and he got killed! But I figure, if you have to die, getting killed by the Master of Spells is a pretty good reason. In fact, we came very close to a TPK and only managed to pull out a victory by surviving the initial onslaught of high-level spells and then wearing Zey down when he only had the low-level stuff left. Interestingly, one of the PC's special missions is to trap the dead wizard's soul in a magical lantern so he can't even be brought back from the dead--I'm not sure whether/how this plays out in later scenarios.

With Zey dead and the Sky Key in Aspis hands, the PCs are successful and the scenario ends. There's not much of a written epilogue, which usually annoys me, but this is clearly a set-up to a big storyline, so I understood why.

I could quibble with a detail here or there, but really, I only have positive things to say about Serpent's Rise. Even speculative faults like players embracing getting to be evil to do gross things is headed off with good advice to the GM on how to remind players that these are serious professionals on an important mission. This scenario is a special treat for PFS players, and the writer really came through. Play this one if you can!


It's good to be bad...

4/5

.. or at least once in a while. I finally had the opportunity to play this special. I had been waiting a long time for this and it did not disappoint. Well, that’s not entirely true, but I’ll comment on that later.

First I should mention that the pregenerated characters all seemed interesting. They all had an interesting set of skills and/or spells, but also had distinct characters and underlying motivations for being there. It quickly became obvious that you needed each other in order to succeed, more so than in Pathfinder Society. Given the fact there were only four of us, we knew we had to play it smart. We decided early on to go for a sneaky approach, trying to avoid fights as much as possible.

I’ve heard other parties just went on a murder spree, but we took it slow and were successful. We had our first taste of success when we split the party to tackle down some side objectives. The oracle and rogue managed to make quick work of their tasks, whereas the magus initially struggled. Luckily we had a glorious leader who used emotional speech in an effort to get someone to not burn valuable papers. The words ‘embrace nature’ and ‘give it to me and I’ll turn it into ecological toilet paper and dispose of it that way’ were used.

The first fight started badly with us all having very poor initiative, but we quickly had things under control when 3 out of 4 enemies were confused and attacking each other. Traps were spotted, dispelled or disabled, patrols were avoided and a sobstory by the rogue helped decrease the numbers we had to face in a certain tapestry’s room.

So far so good, right? A quick partymember change later, we took the fight to a strong PFS individual, someone who our pathfinder characters didn’t really like. And here’s where it went downhill. You see, it’s supposed to be a difficult and challenging boss fight. We were done in less than two rounds and didn’t take a single point of damage. Grapple, pin, coup de grace. Half of the party didn’t have have a second round.

The problem with that fight is that the four-player adjustment really guts that character. He only has short range spells and has way less defences up and running. It’s much harder to find out the real caster without that adjustment, which means that he will be unleashing hell on you. Now he was less harmful than a random foo lizard. It was a major disappointment honestly. This is the only reason I can’t give it 5 stars.

It still felt good to get rid of that individual and, what’s even better, is that the multitable special finally makes sense after all these months, or even years. No longer do the random mix of encounters in that special annoy or confuse me. They are all explained now and it all comes together. It’s a shame this special is a special. I consider it a mandatory exercise for everyone who has played that special. It’s fun, very well written storywise and the pregens are great. Just be sure to play without the four player adjustment though!


Those Aspis guys aren't so different!

3/5

When running an adventure like this at a convention, I think that having "Experience Required:None (You've never played before - rules will be taught)" listed as the experience required might be disingenuous. These pregens are complicated, and not something to be attempted by new players.

Running around as Aspis Agents? Attacking those Pathfinder Murder Hobos? Yes Please! I'll have some!

This scenario felt like the old school PFS ones. Everyone had a secret mission to hide and complete. At the same time, you had to work together to accomplish the big mission. It was most enjoyable, and I played this with a PUG (pick up group), which can sometimes lead to problems.

My complaint on this one though is focused on the combats. If things go poorly, and with pregens it might, then much fun will be lost. Its not the player's fault if they can't overcome some of the challenges when not given the proper tools to do so.

Overall, this one was fun.


Revenge

5/5

Rise is an awesome mix of roleplay, investigation, and combat using some excellent evil pregen characters that have very interesting back stories, motivations, and side missions.

If you've ever wanted revenge on Pathfinder society NPCs, this is the scenario to do it.

Players should arrive early to read the fluff and mechanics of their pregen.

Details:

Length: Medium (4 hours). We finished in 4 hours with a late start. I wish we had more time.
Experience: Player with 5 PCs.
Entertainment: Lots of room for creative solutions. (9/10)
Story: Great story being Aspis. (10/10)
Roleplay: Some roleplay. (8/10)
Combat/Challenges: Tough but fair. Nice way of compensating for PC death. (9/10)
Maps: Hard to say since everything was drawn during the session. (7/10)
Factions: Great side missions. (9/10)
Boons: Nice boons, plus this scenario makes it possible to gain boons on other chronicles. (10/10)
Uniqueness: Certainly was fun switching roles. (10/10)

Overall: A "must play" scenario for season 7 in terms of both fun and boons. A scenario worthy of exclusive status. Locally I've heard that this scenario hasn't been run many times and that's really a shame.


Great concept, some balancing required

4/5

Yessssss, this is what we've been waiting for!

This is a great 'deep cover' mission for the Aspis Consortium to strike a decisive blow against the hated Pathfinder Society. It's full of chaos, incredibly damaging strikes and plenty of chances for murder and mayhem. There's even a incredibly significant boss battle thrown in for good measure. Some secondary missions are amazing (lanterns), others are not so hot (hey guys, whatchoo doing?).

My only problem is that the 4-player adjustments are a little too generous. The tigers lose a lot of their teeth with these adjustments, meaning what should be a very tough mission suddenly feels... easy. If these adjustments had been tweaked a bit, and the mission was less military style efficiency, and more the glorious fun of being evil, this'd be 5 star scenario.

As it stands, get a party of 6 together and definitely play this. It's great value. And the cert is lovely too!


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Webstore Gninja Minion

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Announced!

Shadow Lodge

Pure awesome! :)

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16

This is my dream scenario! I can't wait to play it :-D


Wicked.

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Will there be 6 (or more) pregens to go with this adventure? I am assuming yes as the current PFS table size assumption is 6 players.

Paizo Employee Developer

1970Zombie wrote:
Will there be 6 (or more) pregens to go with this adventure? I am assuming yes as the current PFS table size assumption is 6 players.

The plan is to have six pregenerated Aspis agent PCs for this adventure.

Scarab Sages

11 days until Paizocon, any idea on when the GMs who have this in their downloads will be able to access it and the other specials so we have ample time to prepare/purchase supplies for it?

Paizo Employee Developer

skyshark wrote:
11 days until Paizocon, any idea on when the GMs who have this in their downloads will be able to access it and the other specials so we have ample time to prepare/purchase supplies for it?

As has been the case in past years, the adventures go live for convention GMs on the Friday before the convention (May 15th this year). There are a few that might be ready earlier than that on a case-by-case basis.

For this adventure, you'll want the following map products:

Spoiler:
Map Pack: Fortress (out of print, yes, but it ended up being a good fit)
Map Pack: Temple

Scarab Sages

John Compton wrote:
skyshark wrote:
11 days until Paizocon, any idea on when the GMs who have this in their downloads will be able to access it and the other specials so we have ample time to prepare/purchase supplies for it?

As has been the case in past years, the adventures go live for convention GMs on the Friday before the convention (May 15th this year). There are a few that might be ready earlier than that on a case-by-case basis.

For this adventure, you'll want the following map products:

** spoiler omitted **

Thanks John! Any chance of getting the list of maps needed for the other specials too?

Paizo Employee Developer

PaizoCon GMs, we have sent the adventure to everyone signed up to run it at PaizoCon. You might not have received an email informing you that this is the case, but it should be updated in your downloads.

Paizo Employee Developer

Customer service has nobly gone through the list of GMs set to run this adventure at PaizoCon and manually added the file to those individuals' downloads. It looks like most people on the list already had the file, and about half of those who did not receive the file had provided an email address other than their paizo.com email address (the one used for your account on paizo.com).

PaizoCon GMs who do not have this adventure yet: We cannot add this file to your downloads until you tell us what your paizo.com email address is. Please let both Mike Brock and customer service know ASAP, and we will endeavor to have this added to your downloads on Monday.

Grand Lodge

John, this is one of my favorite PFS scenarios ever. My GM was woefully unprepared and I could tell how excellent it is through that challenge. Kudos and thanks!

Grand Lodge

I have to say, the scenario was quite fantastic! There was quite a bit of nail biting in certain spots, but for good reason. Congratulations of a very entertaining and difficult scenario that was enjoyable. If I get the chance, I would gladly GM this at some time once it's available to my VO.

Grand Lodge

Post Paizocon, this scenario is now only runnable by 5 Star GMs or Venture Officers, is that correct?

Grand Lodge Premier Event Coordinator

KestlerGunner wrote:
Post Paizocon, this scenario is now only runnable by 5 Star GMs or Venture Officers, is that correct?

As I recall a conversation I had with John at the convention, this scenario is not available to run (outside of PaizoCon) until after GenCon.

Grand Lodge Global Organized Play Coordinator

KestlerGunner wrote:
Post Paizocon, this scenario is now only runnable by 5 Star GMs or Venture Officers, is that correct?

6-97 and 6-98 are not available to run until after Gen Con.

Liberty's Edge

Michael Brock wrote:
KestlerGunner wrote:
Post Paizocon, this scenario is now only runnable by 5 Star GMs or Venture Officers, is that correct?
6-97 and 6-98 are not available to run until after Gen Con.

But after GenCon will they be available for anyone to run or just the 5-Stars and Venture Officers?


Jester David wrote:
Michael Brock wrote:
KestlerGunner wrote:
Post Paizocon, this scenario is now only runnable by 5 Star GMs or Venture Officers, is that correct?
6-97 and 6-98 are not available to run until after Gen Con.
But after GenCon will they be available for anyone to run or just the 5-Stars and Venture Officers?

According to Mike the 6-98 and 6-99 will need 4 or 5 stars to run after GenCon, even for VO's.

EDIT:This will be the 4 star special and 6-99 will be the 5 star special scenario.

Liberty's Edge

Sniggevert wrote:

According to Mike the 6-98 and 6-99 will need 4 or 5 stars to run after GenCon, even for VO's.

EDIT:This will be the 4 star special and 6-99 will be the 5 star special scenario.

Darn. My region has a couple 4-star GMs but that's the city while I'm out in the burbs, which has its own pool of GMs and players. I think the highest we have is 2-stars.

Scarab Sages

What level PCs can the chronicles be applied to?

Liberty's Edge

LucianC wrote:
What level PCs can the chronicles be applied to?

Level 7 only.

(They can be assigned to a lower level PC, but you'd have to wait until they reach level 7 to apply it.)

Dark Archive

I had played it last sunday at Paizocon UK 2015, and whooo, what a great scenario.

I love 322, a well equilibrate character, with a serious background.

I'll probably create a new character like her.

Community Manager

I quite enjoyed playing 322 myself.

Grand Lodge

Just back from Gencon. It was a blast. Well done, John!

Owner - Kapow Ltd Comics, Cards and Games

Wait, so newer areas without high star VO's won't be able to get this at all? That's sort of lame. Super exclusive club things like this tend to sour audiences quickly.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Wallie, I think I'm the only four star (currently!) in Columbus, and I don't know if we've any five stars yet. Seems to incentivize running events. (I know I'm trying to get my specials in)

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I played this scenario at Gen Con, and it was great. Considering its ties to Siege of Serpents, and having played it a few nights previous, it was especially fun.

Not sure if this was a mistake or not but on 322's character sheet:

For people who want no info going in about abilities:
322's Interstellar void ability does not have the rules restriction text on it from the void mystery stating that it can be used once per day plus an additional time at 10th level. As such it became an ability which dealt a big chunk of damage, that could be used every turn, so there was almost no reason to use other damaging spells, since it could be used infinitely.

We eventually had to rule that the void mystery text took precedent, because the Oracle was just blasting everything. It might have been intentional, but it lead to a bit of imbalance.

Grand Lodge

Played it tonight and loved it. Final encounter was, while challenging, also truly satisfying.


Played this Sunday morning at Gen Con. Everyone's character got special show-case time, and it was a perfect compliment to 6-97 Siege of Serpents.

Our GM, Chris, was extremely well-prepared and turned in a spectacular performance. I've been gaming since 1978 (37 years) and this is easily among my top 3 favorite gaming experiences in all that time.

My character was 322. Chilling! Role-playing her even creeped out the other players at the table. I cannot wait for her (and all the other Aspis agents) to show up in future scenarios.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Had a blast with this at GenCon, however I thought I read that the chronicle would be updated after Paizocon to be a tier (6-8 I believe) and not just level 7. I applied it to an 8th level character thinking this was the case. Is there clarification on this?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Yes, the chronicle is meant to be Tier 6-8

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

f5 f5 f5...

Sczarni

So as a 4 star gm... how do i go about getting this to run now that Gen con has ended.

Paizo Employee Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Mark L. Crowell wrote:
So as a 4 star gm... how do i go about getting this to run now that Gen con has ended.

We've started to add those to qualifying GMs' downloads. I would expect the process to be done within a week or two.

Sovereign Court

John Compton wrote:
Mark L. Crowell wrote:
So as a 4 star gm... how do i go about getting this to run now that Gen con has ended.
We've started to add those to qualifying GMs' downloads. I would expect the process to be done within a week or two.

As a more recent 4-star GM, I expect I'm further down the list for that, so shall be patient. Don't need it till next month anyway. Thankfully, PbP has little lead time needed =)

Shadow Lodge

just checking in on this ... 3 weeks since GenCon ended - any word ?

Grand Lodge

Just chiming in on what Wraith235 said.


It seems that the halfling pregen, Joliryn, has an inconsistency in her statblock. It says everywhere that she has a scimitar, including her weapon focus feat and her art, but the offense section lists a +1 flaming kukri, with a +12 attack bonus, which seems to include the weapon focus feat.

Second Seekers (Jadnura)

Pathfinder Card Game, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Any word on the availability of this one for four stars yet? I imagine with the shakeups in VO positions and bringing on a new coordinator that things get pushed back. But I know my players are dying to play this one, so I'd hate to see it forgotten.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

If you have not contacted Customer Service about getting it added to your download, go ahead and do so. Some people have fallen through the cracks.


Doctor Mono wrote:
Any word on the availability of this one for four stars yet? I imagine with the shakeups in VO positions and bringing on a new coordinator that things get pushed back. But I know my players are dying to play this one, so I'd hate to see it forgotten.

I just mailed customer services and I received it in about 3 days.

Liberty's Edge

Can VO'S run this or just 4 stars?

Grand Lodge

Are the Evil Pregens available as a separate download anywhere?


Out of curiosity, will it be made available for the general public at one point?


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Diego Valdez wrote:

Hello Fedor,

We run that report once a week, so you will likely see

them sometime next week.

Two weeks passed (three and a half months since 4th star) - still can not purchase Bonekeep 1, 2, 3,

6-98, 7-98, 7-99
http://paizo.com/products/btpy8wrx
http://paizo.com/products/btpy8xkj?Pathfinder-Society-

Special-Ruins-of-Bonekeep-Level-2-Maze-to-the-Mind-Slave
http://paizo.com/products/btpy97st?Pathfinder-Society-

Special-Ruins-of-Bonekeep-Level-3-The-Wakening-Tomb
http://paizo.com/products/btpy9cu0?Pathfinder-Society-

Scenario-6-98-Serpents-Rise
http://paizo.com/products/btpy9lzy
http://paizo.com/products/btpy9mbd
all this links show "unavailable" text under price, not

"Add to Cart" button

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