Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-01: Portent's Peril (PFRPG) PDF

3.30/5 (based on 20 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1–5.

Even in an age where prophecy rarely comes true, many in Varisia hold the mysterious Harrow cards and their predictions in high esteem. The Pathfinder Society’s ally Zeeva Foxglove recently received a Harrow reading as repayment for her generosity, but a rare card appeared and portended imminent doom. Now that these terrible predictions are coming true, Zeeva realizes she cannot weather this storm alone. It’s up to the PCs to save this friend and philanthropist—perhaps by changing fate entirely.

This scenario is designed for play in Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild 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.

Written by Scott Sharplin.

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Society Scenario Subscription.

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Clever and Exciting

4/5

NO SPOILERS

Portent's Peril will always be a special Pathfinder Society scenario to me; it was the first one I ever played! Using my "caveman shaman" PC for the first time and attending my first PaizoCon, this was the scenario that started off my experience in organised play. That was a couple of years ago now, and this review is based on my memories of that session as well as recently reading the scenario. It's a very original adventure in terms of concept, and cleverly incorporates some mechanics (inspired by the setting) that players may have never encountered before. One of its strengths is that there's a lot of latitude given to different ways to solve problems--it's far from being a rote dungeon-crawl like some early season scenarios. It also makes great use of world lore and contains several references to earlier adventures. Although one section might be a little on the cheesy side and the plot is a bit loose, on the whole I had a blast playing it and enjoyed reading it.

SPOILERS!:
Via a brief handout, the PCs are sent to Korvosa at the behest of Venture-Captain Sheila Heidmarch to meet with Zeeva Foxglove, the owner of a marketplace called the Green Market. The name "Foxglove" may strike some Rise of the Runelords players as familiar, and it was a great easter egg for me when I played. When the PCs meet with Zeeva, she explains that, after an encounter with a fortune-teller, she's become convinced that a terrible slate of calamities is about to befall Korvosa. She offers the adventurers a Harrow reading, and this cleverly combines the fun of a real-world Tarot card reading (especially in the hands of a creative GM) while advancing the plot. With the benefit of some knowledge checks, PCs will realise that the cards they drew are clues to where these disasters might strike; and in addition, each PC gets a special benefit dependent on the card they drew. My caveman drew the Idiot card, which was perfect! Owning a Harrow deck is not a requirement to play the scenario (there are alternatives), but having one does add a lot to the feel of the adventure and I'd recommend it. Anyway, it's a very memorable beginning and a nice change from the standard mission briefing I've become all-too familiar with since.

The clues from the Harrow cards lead the PCs to three different sites around Korvosa, and they can investigate them in any order.

My favourite location was a run-down tenement full of homeless people calling themselves The Empty. There's some excellent role-playing to be had here. Once the PCs move on to the second floor to investigate the rooms of some suspicious people, there's a good chance they trigger a trap that collapses part of the floor, raining bricks and debris on the people below! The PCs may have just caused the exact calamity they were sent to prevent, a clever plot point. But as they hurry to rescue those trapped in the rubble before they suffocate or are crushed to death, they'll also see the loose pages of a book or journal being blown out the window of the room they want to search. The PCs have to decide quickly what their priorities are and how to handle the twin dilemmas, which will reveal a lot about individual personalities and the group's ability to work as a team. Mechanically, a good array of skill checks are used and player creativity is explicitly rewarded. I'm on the record as favouring encounters with a sense of urgency and multiple problems that have to be solved at the same time, and I thought this was a fantastic way of implementing the idea with the added bonus of a revealing moral dilemma.

A second location is an inn called the Frisky Unicorn. Again there's a lot of role-playing potential. The drama is caused by the presence of several psuedodragons in the building's turret, and unless the PCs are friendly and diplomatic, misunderstandings can lead to combat. Still, I found the whole thing ran to the cheesy side and it was only, in the most tangential sense, related to the plot.

The third location is the Kendall Amphitheater. The PCs arrive as a troupe of actors are practicing stage combat, and (as in the tenement) their attempt to stop catastrophe is actually what causes it. By distracting the actors, they cause a minor accident and blood is shed. But because the theatre is built above an old sinkhole full of ankhegs, the blood lures the monsters to break through the floor! It sounds like a real stretch, but it's actually a plot point right out of the Guide to Korvosa. Good research!

After visiting the three locations, the PCs may start to pierce together what's really happening: a somewhat baroque plot by disgruntled members of the Pathfinder Society's former Sczarni faction to assassinate a Taldarn noblewoman (Lady Auralina Qualstair) and blame it on Qadira in order to spark a war that would fracture the newer Exchange faction. I imagine most of the major NPCs in this scenario must stem from previous PFS storylines even if they were all new to me. Anyway, the PCs will realize that the assassination attempt against Lady Qualstair will take place at the Green Market, and that's the real catastrophe that Zeeva Foxglove may had foretold for her. As they race to get there in time, there's a fun little obstacle in the form of a street preacher of Groetus proclaiming doom and gloom--this isn't designed as a combat encounter, but instead one that (unless handled smartly) can slow the PCs down with detrimental effects for the big climax. I really liked it, and I might just have to play a street preacher of Groetus someday.

The big end to the scenario is suitably exciting. Depending on how quickly they arrive, Lady Qualstair has been or is just about to be poisoned by a Scarzni assassin named Jaelle Goldtooth. The PCs need to save Lady Qualstair from the poison while apprehending the fleeing assassin, all in the middle of a crowded market that Goldstar starts on fire to cover her escape! Again, there's a lot going on (poison! assassin! crowd! fire!) and I love it. As a villain, Goldtooth is memorable as she has an archetype from The Harrow Handbook and her choices and abilities depend, round to round, on the crowd she (and the GM) draw. All in all, it's a great encounter and a satisfying climax.

There's also a brief Conclusion that nicely wraps things up with some additional role-playing instead of the usual abrupt ending.

I do have a few criticisms. As I mention above, the pseudodragon side-trek could have been much better. Korvosa as a whole seems like a much friendlier place than I imagined, and a darker tone for the city would have fit even better the "impending calamity" theme. The plot, although simple from the player's perspective, doesn't really hold up to scrutiny from a backstory perspective. Last, GMs *really* need to draw the custom maps ahead of time: they are large and detailed (with the Green Market still probably the biggest and busiest location I've seen yet in PFS). I'm also not sure why flip-mats weren't chosen for the Frisky Unicorn (only the turret is likely to have an encounter, and that could be a quick add-on to any inn/tavern map) and for the Kendall Amphitheatre (there's a theatre flip-mat, though admittedly it's an older one).

Few scenarios are perfect though, and these criticisms shouldn't dissuade you from running Portent's Peril. With some extra preparation, I'm confident your players will have a great time.


A Horrible Nonsensical Story

2/5

Peril is a mix of combat and investigation (if you call following non-logical clues from location to location investigation).

There are two main problems with Peril. First, not much happens in the scenario, and it doesn’t happen fast.

And then there's the story. The story is not conveyed well to the players, I had to ask my GM the story at the end. Even worse, once you hear the story it makes absolutely no sense and it’s just a bunch of contrived coincidences.

The investigation doesn’t leave the players anything to figure out, everything is solved by skill checks. No meaningful choices.

And last, none of the challenges were fun. The last encounter was long, but not in an enjoyable way. A very forgettable scenario. My GM didn’t have harrow cards so maybe that changed the experience, but I doubt it.

”Detailed Rating”:

Length: Short (3 hours). We probably skipped the optional.
Experience: 6 under average PCs at subtier 1-2.
Sweet Spot: tbd.
Entertainment: Turn your brain off for this one. Just do it. (2/10)
Story: Stupid story on par with “Shadows Last Stand 1”. (1/10)
Roleplay: There was some but it was not interesting at all. (3/10)
Combat/Challenges: Not fun. (2/10)
Maps: OK. (7/10)
Boons: Really good, maybe too good. (8/10)
Uniqueness: This story could have been a winner. (1/10)
GM Preparation: TBD.

Overall: Nonsensical, forgettable, turn your brain off for this one. (3/10).


Huge work for GM

4/5

Runned, not played yet.

Great setting of Korvosa, even better if played Curse of the Crimson Throne AP and season 4 scenarios.

However the guide of Harrow is hard to display, PCs might fall into confusion, don't know what to do. And the final fight is difficult for low level groups, with too complex tactics.

Not recommended for new GMs, I wish I could run better the next time...


Not the easiest to GM, but great fun.

4/5

(I GMed this with little prep time as I had to fill in for someone.)

I love this scenario. It just hits all the good points. Fun story, cool things to do, interesting characters with little quirks, and so on. My only real problem is that Paizo editing is still a thing, and information is sometimes hard to find. Maybe I overlooked it, but I found some character motivations difficult to portray, but otherwise it went great. Final encounter can be bit of a slog, though.

One thing I'd like to point out is how natural the story felt. There are clues spread out over multiple locations, and while it might be a little obvious, it felt great to see the players' face light up with realisation about what's going to happen. One part of the story might be a little hard to figure out, but that might've been my underpreparedness.

Not that long of a review for me, but if everything's working fine, there's not much to criticise. We all had fun, and I can't really imagine this being a bad time for anyone.


Lots of fun!

4/5

Played this at low subtier with three PCs and a pregen. First, loved the use of the Harrow and the Yellow Sign... I mean, Prophet... even though my PC didn't believe in "that Varisian folktale", it provided a unique connection to the events.

Spoiler:
Each challenge was interesting, and as it evolved we could see how our actions were both causing and resolving the "prophecy" of the cards. The pseudodragon was a cool NPC, and its flight and stinger really helped us on the last fight, as it got to the baddie quickly and helped us keep track of her amongst the crowd.

Now having read it, this looks like it requires more prep than the average scenario, due to the number of NPCs and the complicated plot. Our GM only had a bit of time to prep and did a great job, but I can see who people might get lost in some of the details without knowing the scenario well.

I'm pretty surprised at the number of 1-star reviews - I suspect this has more to do with the GM than the scenario. There's lots of meat here, some great Varisian flavor, and a mystery that isn't either insanely complex or too easy. I felt like I had accomplished something by figuring it out, and even though we failed in one of the tasks, we managed to earn both prestige.

Highly recommended, but don't try to run it cold.


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Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

The Harrow!? Exciting! ^_^

Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Maps Appearing in Portent’s Peril:

  • Map Pack: Marketplace
  • Map Pack: Urban Sites

  • Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Card Game, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

    Sounds cool!

    Grand Lodge

    John Compton wrote:
    ** spoiler omitted **

    You sir, are awesome! I will be running this 7 times at Gencon. This will make prep EVER so much easier!

    Silver Crusade

    Out of curiosity - any relation between

    Spoiler:
    Jaelle and Tsadok?


    CanisDirus wrote:
    Out of curiosity - any relation between Jaelle and Tsadok?

    Nope, although I am a big fan of Skull & Shackles!

    My turn to be curious: how did you hear about Jaelle? That NPC isn't mentioned in the product description above, and her identity is a bit of a spoiler.

    Scarab Sages

    Ah, kinda bummed that my Kapenia Dancer fortune teller (by profession) is too high level for this. Oh well. I have a Half-Orc/half-Varisian ex-Sczarni Brawler who would be sufficiently spooked by such a portent and who is still in the level range. Sounds like fun!

    Grand Lodge

    I'm GMing this scenario at 08/13 and I'm really excited about it. I hope I'll have enough time to prepare myself.

    Dark Archive

    Huh? Thought it said it would be available at Thursday... Maybe I remember wrong

    Community & Digital Content Director

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Unfortunately this is a display problem. This month's scenarios will be available at noon (Pacific time) today :)

    Dark Archive

    Is it just me or does Zeeva not look anything like either of her siblings? .-. I mean, I get that they are all from different sources and its likely that all three had different artists who hadn't seen the other ones, but still


    here again we have another instance of scenario writers putting NPCs together and not even validating them correctly against the rules. Zeeva's stat block is incorrect according to rules and errata.

    problems:
    you forgot to add her patron to the stat block. you gave her locate object as a level two spell when it's clearly a level 3 spell for Witches. you gave her Extra Hex feat but didn't actually give her an extra hex.

    At the top of the block is says she has a perception of +2 then in the skills section it's +8. Well which is it? she can't get to 8. her familar only add +2 with with in arms reach per the alertness bonus feat granted under that condition. it's not a class skill for witch either and with here wisdom score of 10, she could at most have a +6 in the skill.

    Maybe I'm just being picky but when we are supposed to run rules as written and your guys can't even follow the rules as written, that seems like a double standard to me. I know when this conflict happens, scenario trumps, but would it really hurt to do some actual proper editing and scrubbing to ensure these things don't happen.

    Don't get me wrong, i think this will be an awesome scenario to run, which I'm doing tomorrow. I just wish you guys would do some proper editing and ensure things are correct.


    drgnmstr44 wrote:
    here again we have another instance of scenario writers putting NPCs together and not even validating them correctly against the rules. Zeeva's stat block is incorrect according to rules and errata.

    I take responsibility for the errors in Zeeva's statblock. In my haste to submit the scenario in time for GenCon, I copied the NPC's statblock from Scenario #4-06 without running the numbers.

    I should have used Zeeva's reappearance as an opportunity to make updates and corrections; instead, I took the easy route, to the detriment of the final product. Please accept my apologies.

    Hopefully,

    Spoiler:

    if GMs follow Zeeva's stated tactics and use her strictly for support,

    the errors you observe won't drastically affect the outcome.


    Played this a Gen Con. Worst experience I have ever had with PFS. We had a party of 2 level 4s, a level 2, and a level 1. GM only allowed us a Knowledge (Arcana) check to identify the cards. We all failed. So we had failed the mission almost immediately. All of the bad can be blamed on the GM on this, though a bunch of level 1s could have a hard time making DC 18 knowledge checks. Our GM just left us to run around, and gave us no hint we were wasting our time. We never knew about the Unicorn diner (or whatever it was called), and spent 2 days waiting for the enemy to show up at the play. She then kills and NPC we didn't know existed and we lose. Of course he tried to say we could have asked anyone about the cards, but we actually asked multiple times to get pointed to any harrower. I would love to give this scenario a review, but we didn't see enough of it for me to do an honest review.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Poison Dusk wrote:
    Played this a Gen Con. Worst experience I have ever had with PFS. We had a party of 2 level 4s, a level 2, and a level 1. GM only allowed us a Knowledge (Arcana) check to identify the cards. We all failed. So we had failed the mission almost immediately. All of the bad can be blamed on the GM on this, though a bunch of level 1s could have a hard time making DC 18 knowledge checks. Our GM just left us to run around, and gave us no hint we were wasting our time. We never knew about the Unicorn diner (or whatever it was called), and spent 2 days waiting for the enemy to show up at the play. She then kills and NPC we didn't know existed and we lose. Of course he tried to say we could have asked anyone about the cards, but we actually asked multiple times to get pointed to any harrower. I would love to give this scenario a review, but we didn't see enough of it for me to do an honest review.

    Sounds like your GM made a big mistake. There are more ways than knowledge (arcana) to learn about the cards. Even if you guys failed all of the possible knowledge checks, your GM should have given you hints to get you to at least one location. NPCs could have helped you figure out what the other cards mean.

    It's a fun scenario. I ran it four times at GenCon. I'm sorry you had such a horrible experience and wish you'd been at one of my tables.

    Grand Lodge

    The maps on this are giving me a serious headache. I am preping this for sunday, and

    Spoiler:
    Kendall's Auditorium
    and it is terrible. You have multiple textures with vertical or horizontal lines the same color as the map grid, making the map grid nearly impossible to read in those areas. Normally, my solution to this is to just replace the map grid with my own, two tone, grid, which is vastly more readable, but once again whoever drew the grid freehanded the grid, so it isn't even a uniform number of pixels between grid lines.

    I am seriously considering just rebuilding the map.

    Grand Lodge

    To add insult to injury, the map has two doors that open onto a hallway, only the hallway has stairs down half way between the two doors, and the other side of the door is level floor, meaning one of those doors opens on mid air.

    Dark Archive

    Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

    ZEEVA FOXGLOVE p. 20

    has no patron listed and apparently no patron spells applied
    she has a familiar so she must have a patron

    Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

    chopswil wrote:

    ZEEVA FOXGLOVE p. 20

    has no patron listed and apparently no patron spells applied
    she has a familiar so she must have a patron

    It is Portents (Ultimate Magic) as originally appeared in Scenario #4–06.

    Dark Archive

    Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
    John Compton wrote:
    chopswil wrote:

    ZEEVA FOXGLOVE p. 20

    has no patron listed and apparently no patron spells applied
    she has a familiar so she must have a patron

    It is Portents (Ultimate Magic) as originally appeared in Scenario #4–06.

    then one of the 1st level spells known should be ill-omen, as was done in Scenario #4–06

    Silver Crusade

    John Compton wrote:
    chopswil wrote:

    ZEEVA FOXGLOVE p. 20

    has no patron listed and apparently no patron spells applied
    she has a familiar so she must have a patron

    It is Portents (Ultimate Magic) as originally appeared in Scenario #4–06.

    Well, that's appropriate.


    In the Harrow Handbook (page 6) there is just a glimpse of The Yellow Prophet. Is there any way to get a full picture of this lost harrow card? It would be a great prep to run this scenario!

    Silver Crusade

    Donkey Shot wrote:
    In the Harrow Handbook (page 6) there is just a glimpse of The Yellow Prophet. Is there any way to get a full picture of this lost harrow card? It would be a great prep to run this scenario!

    The PCs never actually see it in the adventure.


    Fromper wrote:
    Donkey Shot wrote:
    Is there any way to get a full picture of The Yellow Prophet card? It would be a great prep to run this scenario!
    The PCs never actually see it in the adventure.

    I know. But I plan to adapt this scenario for my campaign, where my PCs are supposed to see it, instead.

    Silver Crusade

    Question: if i replace my witch familiar, with improved familiar listed in the chronicle sheet, do i lose spells from my old one? Or spels automatically transfers?

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