Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-14: To Seal the Shadow (PFRPG) PDF

**½( )( ) (based on 34 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1-5.

To most, Mount Shibotai's devastating eruption was a footnote in Tian history. To the shadow-bound wayangs who settled the jagged crater in Minata, the volcano was the reason they inhabited Golarion at all. In their de facto capitol Inahiyi, the wayangs host an annual festival to commemorate the catastrophe that brought them into this world and forced them to ally with their neighbors against a common threat. On especially auspicious anniversaries, the wayangs invite foreigners to contribute to the ceremony, and the Pathfinder Society has negotiated the privilege of having its agents observe the sacred ceremonies as these outside participants. This is no mere anthropological opportunity, though, and the PCs may be all that stands between their world and an unspeakable evil.

Written by Jason Keeley.

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

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**½( )( ) (based on 34 ratings)

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The (Not-So) Great Debate

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Featuring an interesting concept and setting, I figured that we'd be engaging in a lot of fish-out-of-water fun amid the miniscule Wayangs, but that promise largely went unfulfilled.

The Good: There are some small doses of flavor throughout the scenario that added life to Wayang culture and gave us a chance to partake in it. The first combat was entertaining (and in our case, fairly threatening) as each of us attempted to play out our parts during the battle.

The Bad: The Debate rules. Oh boy. Everybody has been harping on them, but I'll add to the dogpile. A complex sub-system like this only grinds the game to a halt, and in the end, you're supposed to lose, making all the effort to learn the system feel hollow. We took about 20-30 minutes to get everybody up to speed on the system, and then it was over in maybe 5 minutes. It also seemed like the writers didn't prompt the GM with many examples of what sort of things to debate, so we were often left in a void of roleplaying. The one bright spot of the debate was an excellent Red Herring by one of the players: "You say we should help seal the evil, but I think we need a massive seal, a huge seal, and the evil is gonna pay for it!"

The final battle... happened. A guy jumped out, got Hideous Laughtered, his shadow pup went down, another shadow monster popped out, and some ritualizing put it back where it came from. Just never had a great grasp on why or how it was occurring.

Conclusion: There are some neat pieces and ideas floating around in this scenario, but too often, I felt like I didn't have much of an idea of what we were doing or why. The debate was fun enough once we got our heads wrapped around the subsystem, but took waaaay more time than was worth it to learn.


I'm tired of paizo trying to stuff ultimate intrigue down our face

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Really the debate system is bulky and really not a lot of fun it breaks up the session and ruins the immersion with so many die roles and mechanics that just slow the session down.

We spent 2 hours trying to explain the mechanics in a 4 hour slot


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Terrible

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Started off OK and then dropped off a cliff. Adding a complex subsystem in the middle of time limited sessions is just an awful idea. The fact that the debate rules are terrible also doesn't help.


Good Story with Poor Mechanics - Experienced GM Required

****( )

Edit: I recently had the opportunity to run this and watch a solid GM run it as well. Due to that opportunity I'm revising my review from the "average scenario I don't need to play or GM again" 3-Star to "good scenario I'd be willing to run again" 4-star.

This scenario has a really good story and does not deserve the hate it gets. The key is prep - if you play with any GM that enjoys "running on the fly", you will have a bad time. If you have a GM that thinks things through, prepares appropriate player aids, and pushes the story while trying to engage you to do the same, you'll probably enjoy yourself.

I'd suggest reading through the GM thread if you're running - this one requires work to pull off.

Original Review:

I walked into To Seal the Shadow with a laundry list of 1-2 star reviews to back up why I would not have a good time. In my case though, I had a GM where I was able to walk in cautiously optimistic. That optimism was well founded.

I'm here to say that:

1) This is not a spectacular scenario, but it is not a horrible 1-star mess.
2) It is true that the mechanics are less than ideal.
2a) With the right tools the mechanics are not nearly as cumbersome and horrible as noted.
3) The story is solid.
3a) The background could be stronger, which does weaken the scenario.

Seriously, it's not that bad. Since the rest of the scenario apart from the "debate" was pretty typical in terms of complexity and story, I'm going to simply say it was fine - I had fun. And then move on.

The debate is the part that seems to enjoy the majority of the consternation. I can see where that's founded, the mechanics are not "normal" and it took a little getting used to. That said, we sailed through that section of the scenario with only a few early hiccups, and I can honestly say everybody at the table enjoyed trying to figure out what to counter with what, and how to move our story forward. I wouldn't call it the most robust or best roleplay I've experienced in PFS, but it was pretty good.

This wasn't without reason though, and I think that's the key behind this scenario. To any GM running I would:

a) Make judicious use of PFS Prep. The player worksheets were a godsend and were 10x better than any of the in-scenario handouts (which we basically ignored once we figured out our worksheets).
b) Do the worksheets right away - just get them out of the way. Don't interrupt gameplay. I think our GM had us through in less than 20 minutes.
c) Be prepared and ready to run your (GM) end as well as possible. Our GM did a good job of this and knew what his roles and actions were.
d) Be ready to just "run with it" and make a ruling that sort-of makes sense in edge cases. Don't bog yourself down if you don't need to.

If the GM does these things, and doesn't poo-poo the mechanics, it really will work better.

The real issue I had with this section though was that PC involvement was the weak point , and the area that I wish would have worked better (and what keeps this from a 4-star review). Players just don't have the opportunity to learn what's going on well enough to play the role given to them in the debate. Even the "good" roleplayers at our table struggled to provide real allegories or logic without understanding the story behind what was happening. I wish the scenario had a better social lead-in to help establish the story better, and provide players a better idea of how to actively perform the role given to them. This is something I can't wait to see enterprising GMs whip together for future GMs.

That's it. Not great, not terrible.


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Grand Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Moar Tian Xia!

Contributor

2 people marked this as a favorite.

This sounds poised to do for the wayang what Red Harvest did for the nagaji. Nice!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I'm so happy the Wayangs are finally getting some love. I really hope it shows us a bit of how worship of Lao Shu Po, the Old Rat Woman, effects Wayang culture.

With all the Wayang characters there are in central Illinois these days, I am betting this scenario will be quite popular around here.

Silver Crusade

Soooooon....

Dark Archive

But my wayang is already level 9...

Paizo Employee Editor

9 people marked this as a favorite.

To set the mood, I wrote this scenario by only the light of a candle made from wax produced by bees that never saw the sun and exclusively pollinated the Nicandra physalodes (commonly known as the shoo-fly plant) while listening to The Smiths. The bees have since died, and my life expectancy has yet to be fully determined.

I hope you enjoy it!

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

I am excite. ^_^

Sovereign Court

Hi.

Very good an interesting scénario.

But, the rules for the second reenactement are awfully long to explain.

I'd give to my players a summary of the rules 30 minutes before the beginning and we can achieve the scenario in four hours.

If i run it again, I'll plan it to 6 hours, because this part can offer a lot of roleplay and it's a shame to skip it.

Thanks Jason and too bad for the bees.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber
Alexander Augunas wrote:
This sounds poised to do for the wayang what Red Harvest did for the nagaji. Nice!

It did exactly that and cranked hot-button political issues up to eleven.

Paizo Employee Editor

Hidesako YAMAMOTO wrote:

Hi.

Very good an interesting scénario.

But, the rules for the second reenactement are awfully long to explain.

I'd give to my players a summary of the rules 30 minutes before the beginning and we can achieve the scenario in four hours.

If i run it again, I'll plan it to 6 hours, because this part can offer a lot of roleplay and it's a shame to skip it.

Thanks Jason and too bad for the bees.

No, thank you!

It is a bit of a complicated scenario in places. Sorry about that, but I just can't do things the easy way!

Without spoiling anything, GMs might want to brush up on Ultimate Intrigue's verbal duel rules...

Lantern Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I tried to prep this for a game tomorrow night but have failed. There is a whole set of complicated new rules that I am unable to understand, let alone try to explain to the players. I hope other people have better luck.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I have a negative opinion of a scenario that spends 10 pages (almost half of this 25 page scenario) on a unique encounter and rule-set. I am prepping this adventure to run and am very annoyed that I am spending the majority of my time reading this one-off ruleset from Ultimate Intrigue (a book I do not own, that is not even on the Paizo PRD yet).

I hope running it goes well. I have printed off 6 sets of the Player handouts for the players to pre-read this alternate rules. I also find that this rule-set is being used in a non-standard way additionally frustrating and unnecessarily complicated.

I think this could have been handled with a half-page of skill checks and Role Playing commentary. I would rather spend this encounter & game-time role playing basic concepts and a few skill checks, then get mired an overly mechanical setup.

The remainder of the adventure looks straightforward, and the story is good. I will post a review after running it with real players.

I am highly tempted to Kobayashi-Maru this (scrub the whole encounter rules and re-write it myself to be something simpler), if that wouldn't set such a bad precedent for others.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

For GMs that do not have Ultimate Intrigue, the extra rules can be found here.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

With all respect due the author and editor of this adventure:

A few years ago, I got a chance to play "Assault on the Wound," and I thought that the mass combat rules, and in particular the "swarm of tieflings" rules were promising mechanics that belonged somewhere else. It might be fun to build a character who's good at mass combat, and then let him or her shine. It's awful to run a mass combat with inappropriate characters shoe-horned into it. It's fun to be powerful enough that masses of low-level humanoids act like a swarm. It's awful, awful, awful to be at a similar level to those enemies, who cannot be defeated until the last of them falls.

This scenario feels much the same. There are campaigns, and characters where "verbal duelling" is appropriate. And in particular there are situations where "try to look like you're winning, but actually lose" might be a valid option in a duel. (You're an envoy for a pig of a king, He expects you to persuade people to do X, which you really don't want to do...)

Let's contrast that to "Midnight Mauler" which introduced the chase mechanic. Normal PCs can participate in chases, and they can have a lot of fun. The mechanic doesn't have to be adapted to characters who weren't built around running after people.

So, I went into this adventure expecting very much to like it. I've had a Wayang ninja since you needed a special boon to play one, and she's been pining to find out information about her background. It was going to take something pretty awful to get me to dislike this scenario.

I dislike this scenario.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

How is adding verbal dueling that much jarring in contrast to the normal formula of having face characters/Diplomacy rolls?

Shadow Lodge

Because it's a dumpster fire of a ruleset?

Chris Mortika wrote:
Let's contrast that to "Midnight Mauler" which introduced the chase mechanic.

The chase rules were also s$#$ on a shingle. It took two seasons to get decent chases.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

*shrugs*

I like verbal duels and chase mechanics.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I like the new chases. Not the originals.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:
I like the new chases. Not the originals.

Which chase rules are The Original Cherry Vanilla ones and which ones are the "New Chase - Different Formula, Same Great Taste" rules?

Silver Crusade

Ran this days ago, going to play it today.

Getting ready to run this one was unpleasant, I think I made the scenario a fun experience for my players... but frankly that was mostly me trying to be entertaining despite the scenario.

We had a couple of players with only a couple of scenarios at the table, and frankly, I was very happy, that we didn't have a player with no previous PFS experience at the table.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Gorbacz wrote:
Which chase rules are The Original Cherry Vanilla ones and which ones are the "New Chase - Different Formula, Same Great Taste" rules?

The Midnight Mauler versus The Merchant's Wake.

Liberty's Edge

TriOmegaZero wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Which chase rules are The Original Cherry Vanilla ones and which ones are the "New Chase - Different Formula, Same Great Taste" rules?
The Midnight Mauler versus The Merchant's Wake.

Let us not forget the OG chase rules as presented in Curse of the Crimson Throne, my personal favorite.

[hipster]
I was a fan of the chase rules before they were cool.
[/hipster]

:P

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
graywulfe wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Which chase rules are The Original Cherry Vanilla ones and which ones are the "New Chase - Different Formula, Same Great Taste" rules?
The Midnight Mauler versus The Merchant's Wake.

Let us not forget the OG chase rules as presented in Curse of the Crimson Throne, my personal favorite.

[hipster]
I was a fan of the chase rules before they were cool.
[/hipster]

:P

The one in CotCT is the only chase scene I've gotten to play in.

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