Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–99: Through Maelstrom Rift (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Special designed for 6th-level pregenerated characters.

Even the limitless Plane of Air is at risk of eldritch instability, and a cult dedicated to the planes' integrity has sensed an imminent calamity brewing deep within a primal storm. In this special adventure, the players portray a diverse coalition of elemental guardians that must embark on perilous journey into the maelstrom’s heart and avert a disaster that threatens the Inner Sphere.

Written by Linda Zayas-Palmer.

Note: Through the Maelstrom Rift 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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One of a Kind!

5/5

NO SPOILERS

Through Maelstrom Rift is definitely different than your average PFS scenario. It can only be run by four- or five- star GMs, so you don't see it offered everyday. It also uses special pre-gens that are very different than your run of the mill races and classes! The backstory to the plot is a bit opaque and confusing, though the adventure itself has some interesting encounters and role-playing opportunities. It's an odd scenario, but a memorable one, and worth signing up for should you see it offered.

SPOILERS!:

Through Maelstrom Rift takes place entirely on the elemental Plane of Air! The adventure revolves around a tower that has become the focus of chaotic planar eddies from a breach of the dimensional walls with another plane, the Maelstrom. The breach and resulting eddies are causing major disruptions in that area of the Plane of Air, and the PCs are tasked with investigating and solving the problem. There's a fairly involved backstory behind the crisis that involves lingering magic from the ancient imprisonment of Ranginori (an elemental lord), an artefact called the Untouchable Opal, a "naunet protean" called the Rift Spinner, a group called the Concordance of Elements, and more. We're clearly not in Golarion anymore! There's a lot of setting lore here that was brand new to me as a player (and subsequent reader) of the scenario because I haven't done much with the game's planar cosmology, but, fortunately, grasping the nuances aren't crucial to understanding the general thrust of the scenario. I will say in the scenario's favour that at least some of this semi-convoluted backstory has some player-facing content so it's not a GM-only thing.

The pre-generated PCs are a fascinating collection of custom-made adventurers tailored to the plot. Each is given a full backstory and motivation, and there are several points in the scenario where particular named PCs are given special opportunities or role-playing interactions. The pre-gens are mechanically a really fun lot as well, ranging from a kineticist water mephit to a pyrausta bard and much more in between. I signed up late to the scenario and was assigned a janni (genie) aristocrat named Jamila, and I can't tell you how nerdishly happy I was to realize that this was the same character from PFS # 0-3, Murder on the Silken Caravan (and her backstory references the events of that scenario)! I'm a sucker for surprising continuity. My favourite of the pre-gens is "Octaris", who is actually someone impersonating the intended recipient of the mission invitation and has to use various means to disguise the fact that they have a different set of powers.

The scenario starts with a briefing in Armun Kelisk, a metropolis on the Plane of Air. A member of the Concordance of Balance (a group dedicated to building peace and relationship between the elements of air, water, fire, and earth) named Ashasar delivers the briefing. He assigns the PCs to charter an airship, travel to the site of the planar eddies, investigate, and, if possible, set the matter right before returning home. The briefing itself is fairly standard apart from a quirky bit with an air elemental chef serving "bubble halo pie" and other foods. There are knowledge checks to acquaint players with the basics of the Plane of Air, though I still found it hard to get a sense of what the place was like. I guess some things are best learned through experience.

As the PCs journey from the briefing to the docks, the GM is given a handful of little vignette encounters to help provide some flavour to the city. I really like things like this. They don't take long and there's nothing on the line, but they give players a chance to role-play and enjoy feeling like different settings are more than just different names.

Finding an airship captain willing to take the PCs to the site of the disturbance is a role-playing and skills encounter. The good side of this encounter is that the various NPCs captains are well-described, have very distinct personalities and ships, and the choice impacts the plot later on. The downside is that the skill checks are pretty easy and no guidance is given to how many PCs can attempt them, whether re-tries are possible, whether a character can try another skill if they've failed on an early attempt, etc. Setting the boundaries are crucial to make a skills challenge like this workable (and not trivially easy).

After a few days in the air, whatever airship captain the PCs chose tells them that the ship has gotten as close as it safely can. The captain provides the PCs with a smaller vessel (I guess the aerial equivalent of a rowboat) so they can approach the eddies without risking the entire airship. This is where the fun really starts, as, after a day or two of travel, a sudden incredibly violent wind completely smashes the PCs' ship and throws everyone overboard! Important cargo (like rations, charts, and a special magical gift provided by the captain) fly off in various directions. The PCs, for their part, are also flung randomly into the sky and get their first taste of the joys of the subjective gravity of the Plane of Air. Some of the PCs have natural or magical flight and will be fine, but others have to decide what's "down" and "fall" towards it in order to move, but unless they roll well on Wisdom checks, they're likely to drastically overshoot. All of this occurs with the added complication of a group of "comozant wyrds" (air elementals) taking an interest in the debris. It's an encounter like nothing else I've ever played in PFS, as the PCs have to reorient themselves, recover whatever cargo they deem is most important, and either negotiate or fight the wyrds, all while falling through the air! It's very cool and original.

After dealing with that problem, the group can make their way to the source of the problem. The Tower of Contemplation contains several rooms that can be investigated for insight on the cause of the planar eddies. There's a weird elemental (instead of undead) haunt that has to be neutralized before exploration is safe, as it deals constant damage and will otherwise weaken PCs substantially before the scenario's big conclusion.

In order to set things right, the PCs need to enter a portal to the Maelstrom. They'll end up on a cool island floating in the chaos (beautifully represented with the Extradimensional Spaces Map Pack). There's a backstory link to Runelord Azlanist and ancient Thassilon here, which (as much a fan as I am) might just be over-egging the pudding. But anyway, the PCs need to defeat Rift Spinner (the naunet protean) and either fight or free a pack of elemental wysps that are also present. Each round, the Maelstrom's influence produces a rippling "warpwave" that has very negative effects (usually) on a randomly-chosen PC. I enjoy complications like this in encounters. Once the opponents are defeated, closing the rift still needs to be done--and it's not easy or automatic, as failing skill checks causes more warpwaves and four failed skill checks result in the rift becoming permanently stuck open. I appreciate real consequences for failure.

Unlike many scenarios, there's a nice conclusion here. Ashasar wants a full debriefing from the PCs, and specifically calls upon any PCs who are being quiet. It's another little thing I like, as players can't just lurk and hide from the role-playing.

All in all, there's a lot to like about Through Maelstrom Rift. It has some interesting encounters, solid writing, great pre-gens, and a very different setting to the norm. It'll hold special meaning to fans of planar adventures or the PFS storyline about elemental shenanigans. It's definitely worth playing for a chance at something different.


The League of Extraordinary Planar Characters

5/5

First we had Goblins. Then we had Kobolds and Aspis. And now Paizo took it one step further: We Be Something Elemental. It’s Paizo’s latest scenario using a concept that has worked well in the past and it continues to do so, albeit it with a little twist this time around. Compared to the other scenarios, this time the pregens truly differ from another. Some are a bit more traditional, others are just unlike anything the majority of players have ever played or even heard of. They even have completely different personalities and motivations as well, making it an unlikely, but hilarious party.

The plot is fairly straightforward, but the location isn’t. That last part is important. In order to feel immersed in this scenario, the Plane of Air has to be brought alive. This is a difficult task since it’s completely different from real life, but the author did a great job providing plenty of examples of everyday life on that plane. They were quirky and playful. It really helped to set the stage.The encounters were are interesting as well. From finding transport to being adrift in the sky and the final encounter, they were all unique and fun. I enjoyed visiting this plane and I hope to do so with my PFS characters.

That’s not to say that the pregens weren’t fun. I had a great time playing Ember, and I think everyone else at the table had fun portraying their characters as well. They all contributed, though I feel like Zephyr and Rhyol struggled the most. I don’t believe I saw Zephyr cast anything other than Produce Flame during the final encounter, simply because the rest wouldn’t work according to him. I didn’t have time to check, but if that’s true, that’s a pity. Rhyol, on the other hand, did shine in battle. It’s a shame though that was only once. It left the player a tad disappointed as it somewhat felt like an anticlimax. At the end of the day, everyone enjoyed their pregen and their unique abilities, though some were sadly not used.

This pregen-scenario was a lot of fun. The location was excellent, the plot straightforward and the encounters diverse. Some characters might have a tendency to outperform others, but in the end they all played their part. Since we all did our best imagining ourselves to be those pregens, we ended up laughing to the point we could barely breathe. I suppose that is both a warning and a recommendation.

Just be aware that you need to prepare in advance as a GM, but also as a player. It might even be best if the party decides on who plays what pregen, just so they can get used to the relatively complicated and unique skills and mechanics. It's not newbie friendly. You will also probably need a bigger timeslot than normal, but in the end it’s worth it as there will be plenty of laughs to be had.


Fun and Interesting, if Oddly Paced

4/5

Through Maelstrom Rift is an interesting adventure that everyone involved in Season 8 should have a chance to play, which is why it's a shame that Paizo has made it one of their restricted adventures. It has a good mix of somewhat-unique challenges, though that occur in a bit of a strange order that left me wondering whether I needed to save some of my abilities in what might or might not have been the final fight.


GM's and Players be prepared...For Fun!

3/5

This scenario can be taxing on both players and GMs, but it can be equally rewarding. If your table wants to drive through it as fast as possible, it will not be fun. The sandbox like qualities of the first half of the scenario requires the players to be willing to get into the spirits of their characters, and the GM must be willing to improvise. Fortunately, the scenarios length is such that there is adequate time for roleplay and the players should be encouraged to explore this strange world and all its wonderful creatures. The GM should do some extra homework prepping for the adventure in the strange new plane, but most of all should be ready to let the players spend some time getting a feel for their characters.

The second encounter was extremely difficult to prep. Even the most experienced GMs at Gencon were running from table to table asking one another how they planned on doing it. I saw velocity charts and additional rules handouts and numerous other aids, and I wish the module would have given some optional tips to GMs, or even a photo of how the table was set up during testing.


Cool lore, but some mechanical problems

2/5

First, let me echo the warning others have made: DO NOT GM THIS WITHOUT SUFFICIENT PREP. Just don't do it. It's a "SPECIAL", so it should be special for the players (and can be, as evidenced by all the high ratings). It is also the hardest scenario I've ever prepped. If you want to run this at the level it deserves, you need to prepare thoroughly, and there's a lot of special rules, environmental bits, and stuff from Occult Adventures here.

Second, the good news, since the low rating might seem harsh: This scenario is not a typical PFS experience. It's extraplanar, for starters, but the encounters are definitely non-standard. It also has a HUGE amount of backstory and lore, which is fantastic - I love it when a scenario allows me to use campaign material and encounters to make a setting feel different than the usual places. The pregens are unique, with interesting backstories and even some secret mission-type stuff that really allows for some great roleplaying moments. It even has room for a GM to add some cool stuff of their own devising, which is a rarity in Organized Play. If I could run this in in a home campaign situation, I think I'd give it 4-5 stars.

The problems arise from the fact that all of this is supposed to happen in a standard PFS timeslot where people are playing on a table that can often barely fit a regular-sized flip mat, using very complicated pregenerated characters.

We'll start with that last one first: the pregens are complex. Non-standard races, lots of newer classes, abilities that aren't commonly used... There's only one PC I would give to a new player, and even that one is using rules that are beyond basic. That makes them fun for experienced hands - but dropping a class from Occult Adventures on a player unawares is not setting them up for success. Luckily, we had a player at our table who knew the class in question and offered to switch - without that, I think we would have bogged down as the new player read and re-read 40 pages of OA during the game, and still didn't play at full potential.

Spoiler:
It doesn't help that this PC is one with a "secret", so you can't even warn players about the class in advance without spoiling some stuff.

Another issue is getting "buy-in" from the group. People know what Pathfinders do, and they know enough about the Aspis to make that work, but this is a new organization with vague goals, and so my players didn't have much of a framework to hang their roleplaying and decision-making off of. Thankfully, the pregens all have inicredible backstories and handouts, which helps.

To me, a big mechanical issue was the physical space needed to run the first encounter properly. Without getting into details, the space involved is larger than any table I've ever gamed at. That's fine when you're running Call of Cthulhu or even AD&D, where the GM could just "ballpark" distances and narrate results, but in Pathfinder most players are used to dealing with the grid. You can't really use the grid in this one; even when using the tricks suggested on the GM thread and PFSPrep.com, the GM will be making some estimates and playing fast and loose with some of the rules. Not all players (or GMs) are readily accepting of this.

After the first encounter, the scenario seemed to proceed more smoothly - most players had gotten to know enough of their pregen that they could be effective. The second encounter is interesting in a way, since players expect A to happen when in fact it doesn't, and then doesn't happen again, and again... and then suddenly B happens, triggering a neat encounter. Unfortunately, there is a lot of GM box text and uninhabited rooms to get through before B happens at all, which loses momentum.

The climax is really good, though - first, because no one is sure if it will be the climax or not, and also because of some neat mechanical stuff that makes it more than just "fight the BBEG". This ends the scenario on a really high note, which is always a good thing.

I wavered between 2 and 3 stars for this one. The pregens and the complex first encounter took for us more than half the slot, and it's hard to recover if that part isn't fun. There are a lot of special rules that pop up at different points, and some of them are game-changing, so it's a big deal if you miss something. The prep aspect is a significant impediment. I spent about double my usual amount of prep, and I still had some issues in keeping everything running smoothly. I don't think I'd want to do that again for a game at a con where you don't have any flexibility in table size or time limit, and where lore and story can't always cut through the noise. That's the situation this rating is based on. If I run this again, though, I will do so as a home game, perhaps over two "slots", and really use all the suggestions and options in the first part to bring the setting to life - I think that will make it a truly "special" scenario and worth 5 stars.

I hate to provide non-glowing reviews of people's work, so I hope this is taken in the spirit it is intended, as useful feedback for future endeavours. Ultimately, this felt like adventure path material, crammed into a PFS box.


1 to 5 of 10 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Shadow Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

We Be Elementals? :D


2 people marked this as a favorite.

But who's going to be the element of Heart?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

Heart elementals sound messy.

Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

4 people marked this as a favorite.
TOZ wrote:
We Be Elementals? :D

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that this was its working title.

Silver Crusade

I shall take up the element of Heart.

Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

TriOmegaZero wrote:
Heart elementals sound messy.

Bad news, Linda. We're cutting the [redacted] and replacing it with a heart kineticist.

Contributor

Hmm, is that little m maelstrom or big M Maelstrom?

*curious*

Community Manager

Todd Stewart wrote:

Hmm, is that little m maelstrom or big M Maelstrom?

*curious*

Given the elemental theme, I'm voting for big-M-Maelstrom. :D

The Concordance

Lilith wrote:
But who's going to be the element of Heart?

Ma-Ti, of course :P

Shadow Lodge

This scenario sounds utterly awesome! And huzzah Linda!

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

With your powers combined, I am Captain CAAAAAAAVEMAAAAAAAN!

Grand Lodge Contributor

This sounds awesome! I can't wait to see what kind of pre-gens we get to play with. Medium air elementals with class levels, or different types of air elementals? Perhaps just different types of elementals in general... hrm..

If there's a kineticist... I call dibs.

Grand Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Any word on the requirements to GM this? Anyone? Conventions? 4-star? 5-star? Thanks! :)

Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

Maps Appearing in Through Maelstrom Rift:

  • Map Pack: Extradimensional Spaces
  • Scarab Sages

    Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

    When is this going to be available for download?? It is currently just showing as "unavailable" with no date.

    Scarab Sages

    Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber
    xebeche wrote:
    Any word on the requirements to GM this? Anyone? Conventions? 4-star? 5-star? Thanks! :)

    I second this question...

    Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

    sanwah68 wrote:
    When is this going to be available for download?? It is currently just showing as "unavailable" with no date.

    This will be available for Gen Con GMs in the near future so that they can prepare for its debut.

    I don't believe there's been a public announcement about this adventure's availability after Gen Con, but I can say the odds are good that this adventure will be accessible to Pathfinder Society GMs who have earned a certain number of GM stars.

    Scarab Sages

    Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

    Thanks for the quick answer, John. Though as a three star GM...*sad face*

    Grand Lodge

    sanwah68 wrote:
    Thanks for the quick answer, John. Though as a three star GM...*sad face*

    The fourth star sneaks up faster than you think.

    My only issue is finding the 10 specials. I only have 1 under my belt, though I am about to earn 3 more at GenCon.

    Dark Archive

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

    Any chance we can know what maps are needed to run this?

    Sovereign Court

    Dubgall wrote:
    Any chance we can know what maps are needed to run this?

    Check John Compton's post six above your one ;-)

    Shadow Lodge

    Update on the Chronicle Sheet from the Author and Developer:

    Second Boon:

    The Elemental Awakening boon references Affinity boons that you earn after applying the Chronicle sheet for 7-99. When applying this boon, the character with the boon can also gain credit from affinity boons on chronicle sheets from any previous scenarios on any of your characters.

    Grand Lodge

    So is this available for 4 and 5 star GMs to run?

    Nate Meyers
    Venture Agent-NYC

    Sovereign Court

    I'm going to be playing this at a convention in late October and i'm trying to plan which character to assign the chronicle to.

    Could someone tell me what level range the chronicle is for?

    Thank you in advance to anyone who looks this up for me :)

    Grand Lodge

    Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

    The chronicle sheet is for tier 5-7.

    Grand Lodge

    Necro apologies;

    Any word on what the GM-star or con-only requirements are for #7-98 Serpents' Ire and #7-90 Through Maelstrom Rift?

    I know it must be posted somewhere in the blog or something, but my google-fu is failing me...

    Grand Lodge

    Daneel wrote:

    Necro apologies;

    Any word on what the GM-star or con-only requirements are for #7-98 Serpents' Ire and #7-90 Through Maelstrom Rift?

    I know it must be posted somewhere in the blog or something, but my google-fu is failing me...

    http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5lj43?OPC-Log-20-Rova-4716

    Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

    More thread necro, How do I get a copy?

    Grand Lodge

    Matthew Morris wrote:
    More thread necro, How do I get a copy?

    If it's not already in your downloads then you'll have to contact customer service to add it.

    Grand Lodge

    Daneel wrote:
    Daneel wrote:

    Necro apologies;

    Any word on what the GM-star or con-only requirements are for #7-98 Serpents' Ire and #7-90 Through Maelstrom Rift?

    I know it must be posted somewhere in the blog or something, but my google-fu is failing me...

    http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5lj43?OPC-Log-20-Rova-4716

    Anyone know if this ever got updated for 2017? Curious as to whether or not the requirements went down to a lower number of tables/tiers.


    Well, the scenario now has a note under it that describes where it can be run.

    Grand Lodge

    Yiroep wrote:
    Well, the scenario now has a note under it that describes where it can be run.

    It does, and I'm very grateful.

    Not long after I posted my question, I got a message that Tonya had made an updated list earlier in the year. It just wasn't advertised.


    I am 4 star GM - but I can not buy this scenario. How is that?

    Grand Lodge

    Fedor Checherov wrote:
    I am 4 star GM - but I can not buy this scenario. How is that?

    You have to contact customer service directly about being a 4-Star and that you'd like this and other scenarios for your rank.


    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

    Grand Lodge

    Fedor Checherov wrote:
    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
    Special-Ruins-of-Bonekeep-Level-2-Maze-to-the-Mind-Slave
    Special-Ruins-of-Bonekeep-Level-3-The-Wakening-Tomb
    Scenario-6-98-Serpents-Rise
    all this links show "unavailable" text under price, not
    "Add to Cart" button

    You will never see "Add to Cart", even as a 5-Star. Check your downloads. They should already be there. If not, then as I said before, contact customer service directly, let them know you're a 4-star, and that you don't have access. These are free adventures that we get access to for having made it to 4+ star status.


    Any word on why this was removed and is now unavailable for anyone to download? Including 4 stars, VA, and VL

    Grand Lodge

    Brian Raivel wrote:
    Any word on why this was removed and is now unavailable for anyone to download? Including 4 stars, VA, and VL

    We're supposed to contact customer service or our RVC to have it added directly to our downloads, after proving we're 4-star equivalent. As far as I'm aware, that was the only way to get it done. That's how I had to get it added.


    Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

    I got it automatically a few days after I got the fourth star.

    Grand Lodge

    Zaister wrote:
    I got it automatically a few days after I got the fourth star.

    Really? Lucky.

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