Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-18—Champion's Chalice, Part 1: Blazing Dangerous Trails (PFRPG) PDF

**½( )( ) (based on 15 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1-5.

Every year, the Sargavan government hosts the Sargava Chalice, a contest of speed and survival that draws eager competitors from far and wide, each hoping to win fame, fortune, and glory. This year, Pathfinder Society has taken a special interest in the competition, sponsoring a team of agents to compete to with the trophy. Can PCs overcome their competition and the dangers of the Sargavan wilderness to emerge victorious?

Blazing Dangerous Trails is the first scenario in the two-part "Champion's Chalice" campaign arc. It is followed by Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-21: Agents of the Eye. Both chapters are intended to be played in order.

Written by Benjamin Bruck.

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**½( )( ) (based on 15 ratings)

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****( )


Challenging but fun

****( )

As a player I really enjoyed this scenario.

To be fair, we had a team with the right mix of skills and abilities (oracle, sorceress, swashbuckler, brawler, ranger) so we didn't struggle as much as some.

The GM did a really good job of making us feel under pressure and in peril, which made for a great gaming experience!

To all those worried about if their class will sink or swim, I believe that in PFS you are able to swap to a pregen once the Venture Captain has give you your briefing..


The willingness to adept is the key to win

****( )

I find myself disagreeing with some of the things said in the reviews below. As someone else mentioned: this scenario is about adapting to circumstances. Instead of complaining about the situation, find a way to make yourself useful again. In my case I knew I couldn’t do much in combat, but I could definitely help navigate and craft things for others. A gunslinger might not have access to his gun, but that doesn’t mean he suddenly is useless. You’re still proficient with multiple other weapons, so if you can find or make them, you are back to being a threat again. You need a holy symbol? Spend some time making one. Adapting and teamwork are the key to this scenario. Complaining won’t get you anywhere.

For the record: we played high-tier with a cleric, warpriest, ranger, investigator, swashbuckler and wizard. Only the warpriest dropped below 0 hp once and we only crafted one rapier. We managed to not only finish the race in 5 rounds, but also to win it just because of sheer teamwork.

Granted, when I played it, I (as the investigator) was able to secure us an advantage by successfully getting us information about a cache of goodies. That is a big thing and can help you proceed with the first combat, which in my opinion was much scarier than the caterpillars. Then again, having half of the party be small is an issue due to the opponents you face anyway. In fact, small creatures should be worried in combats as most of the foes have some kind of extra threat towards them. Then again, it’s the jungle and you’re food anyway. I do agree with others on this one: the fights can be scary indeed and you can die if you’ve not careful and have not adapted.

The one thing I didn’t like though, is the fact way you get advantages during the case. While it is true that a lot of skills can be used, it will still boil down to constantly using the skill you have the highest bonus with. There’s no incentive to use different skills in different surroundings. The element of making a decision just gets removed, which is a shame. For instance knowing that perception is less useful in the jungle compared to planes, with knowledge nature being the other way around, would give the players a reason to choose which skill to use instead of turning to a default option. It’s a small change, but thematically more fun.

As such I find myself disagreeing with some of the ratings this scenario has received. It really isn’t as bad as it seems to be. Yes, you suffer an early setback, but if you overcome that obstacle you get a bigger sense of accomplishment than in most other scenarios. I will not however recommend this scenario as it really is one of those ‘either you hate it, or you love it’. You need a full group of players who are willing to improvise and not complain. Otherwise that negativity will ruin the scenario for you. If you have a group that likes this sort of challenge, you’re going to have a difficult, but great time.


The Great Race (And The Rest of the Baggage)

***( )( )

GMed but have not played. Full party of six in low tier. Can't recall the classes immediately.

Having read over reviews and recommendations beforehand, I made sure to offer a disclaimer to the players at my table. I told them that characters that rely heavily on specific equipment and niche builds would likely have a difficult time in this adventure. While this did not sway the character choices for any of the players, all of them appreciated the warning. I strongly suggest GMs warn players beforehand so there aren't any surprises that could potentially ruin player enjoyment.

For the record, the party bypassed both the bushwhack attempt and the caterpillars entirely.

The Good:
1. The build up to the race is rather nice. Having each of the teams announce themselves and their intentions adds personality to the competitors and encourages some roleplay with the particular individuals. The solo racers also allow GMs to include oddballs into the mix.
2. The Pursuit mechanics are easy to run when the GM has prepared fully for them and can clearly describe the system to players. We never had any issues with running it after a short description of how it worked and a few questions to clarify matters.

The Bad:
1. There is no real reason for the players to stick to the intended path the adventure assumes they will traverse. The party pretty quickly veered south into the plains and ended up skipping most of the encounters and still easily won the race.
2. Several of the encounters can be brutally difficult depending on the results of a few early skill checks; some before and some after the Pursuit section commences. While the party didn't encounter any problems, I was keenly aware of how painfully bad things could become had they not made a few critical checks.

The Verdict:
I had a lot of fun running this scenario, and thankfully, the party was capable of thriving through the course of the adventure. The first combat encounter presented some issues, but the final encounter ended up being handled relatively easily. The roleplay element of the scenario was a lot of fun to handle, and the Pursuit mechanic went smoothly and was enjoyed by the party.

That said, I'm aware of the danger this scenario presents, both for an inexperienced party and for an under-prepared GM. This thing can go to hell real quick if things aren't approached correctly from either side of the table. A disclaimer beforehand might be critical to the success of numerous tables depending on the players and classes.

While my players and I greatly enjoyed this scenario, the variability and danger inherent in stripping away equipment is hard to overlook. Whenever I get the opportunity to play this, I'm very curious to see if things go nearly as well. Even knowing what's coming ahead of time, there is a definite concern in the back of my mind that we may end up getting wiped. I'd give a higher rating for the particular table that I ran, but being aware of all of the issues and dangers in this scenario prevents me from giving above a three-star rating.


If this is run correctly, at high tier it should be a TPK.

*( )( )( )( )

Note: Apparently my review has caused such concern that people are messaging me about it. I thank those users for the feedback, which I would like to address here in some spoiler text:

Spoiler:
  • 1. Yes, I have played and read this adventure scenario.
  • 2. Yes, I am aware that PCs can do crafting. That should be obvious, since I mention it in the review below. Unfortunately, crafting cannot replace magical items, and page 19 seem to to imply that crafting cannot even replace metal items (only "organic material" and "non-metal components"). This is why, in every game I've played or heard about, the players moved forward with less-than-ideal armor or in some cases no armor. Therefore, I stand by the assertion that in many instances, PCs will have bad AC and be hit more often.
  • 3. Yes, I am aware that there is a weapons cache in this adventure. In fact, my group found it. However, the items were unusable by certain classes, and there were not enough items to equip everyone. On top of that, we can see in earlier reviews that people are complaining that the cache is difficult to find. In tier 4-5, a PC must succeed on a DC 20 Perception check AND an opposed stealth check. Groups can fail at either point, and be forced to carry on without that gear. Therefore, a cache of meager gear that sometimes isn't even found at all is not enough to offset the bad experience that many groups will struggle with.

Thank you for giving me the chance to clarify that. And now, on with the review!

This is basically 1 long race. You'll have choices to speed up (but possibly starve or take damage), or slow down (and really make use of the land). The path you choose is also open. It appears that these choices do affect gameplay. My GM noted that his play-through was vastly different from mine -- whereas he was bored by the constant endless skill checks, we were nearly killed from constant combat encounters. In fact, we certainly should have been all killed, but the GM pulled punches. For example:

Spoiler:
One encounter involves ability damage. My character should have ended up with about 20 points of damage, putting me out of the game entirely. However, once PCs were knocked out due to an ability score reaching 0, our GM stopped having us save, and just left us at 0. This is what I mean by the GM was "pulling punches." By the rules, ability damage can go into negatives, and then you have to rest for days, weeks, or months to come out of unconsciousness. In my case, I should have needed 13 days of bedrest before I would have a strength of 1. However, since the GM hand-waved everything below 0, I was able to get back in the game after just 1 night of sleep. Without this hand-waving or rule mistake, we were almost guaranteed to all die, or at least fail the race.

And no, for those of you thinking that spells/potions can easily speed up healing ability damage, you mostly can't. You're stripped of gear and unable to hire spellcasters. So unless you have a PC who already has Lesser Restoration on his/her list, you're outta luck. Although heal checks can speed the natural recovery of ability points.

So... what are the redeeming qualities of this module? If you like an open-ended chase/race, that's kinda cool. If you ever thought, "Pathfinder Society doesn't reward crafting very much," then you might like this. (By the way, in a previous review from someone else, he/she stated that it's totally unfair to rely on crafting for some parts of the game when Pathfinder Society has banned crafting. However, they're 2 different crafting "things." Society bans crafting like Scribe Scroll, Brew Potion, and so on. Basically the magic item feats. Pathfinder Society does not ban the crafting skill, and in fact it's one of the few ways your character can make money during down time. Those skills are what come into play here, and in a very generous fashion. So it's not a bad implementation, and it's wrong to think that nobody would or should have those skills -- anybody who makes money during down time might have a crafting skill that qualifies.)

Also, I really like the idea that players can ask about terrain and possibly find good/bad aspects for whatever they need. I also enjoyed watching a fellow player interact with the rival teams. The tension around what can or cannot be brought on the journey and whether to cheat (and for some that's a moral issue, and for others it's a "we're worried about getting caught" issue) also made for fun discussion around the table. As a GM, I'll enjoy prepping for that stuff, maybe making little table tents with data about each option.

So then why give it 1 star?!? Unfortunately, one encounter should be deadly pretty much 90% of the time. The fact that teams are getting through it suggests to me that GMs are being overly nice (as mine was, in the previously spoiler'd text). I love that GMs are showing mercy, essentially. However, in Pathfinder Society, you're supposed to run the module as-is. So, let's look at it:

Spoiler:
The blood caterpillars, high tier. There are 3 of them in high tier, and the 4 player adjustment does not remove any of them. So, this is a CR 7 fight against a team that maybe averages 4th level. So, that might normally be a tough but possible fight. However, as previously noted, PCs are stripped of gear. So your 3rd to 5th level team is going into a super-hard fight, with no gear or what they could improvise/craft/scavenge.

So let's math this out. When the 3 caterpillars attack, they each get a bite and bristle. The bites do 13 points of damage on average, and the bristles do 7 points on average. That's 20 points, or 60 points per round from all 3. Look at your most recent 4th level PC, or any of the pre-gens. Can any of them survive 60 points? Of course, the caterpillars can spread out the damage, so that might help the PCs survive. Also, the monsters only have a +3 to attack rolls with the bristles, so the bristles shouldn't hit often. Or should they? Remember that the PCs had their armor stripped from them. So the PCs might be easy targets, depending upon if they crafted/scavenged armor or not. Ouch.

Unfortunately, that's not all. Those bristles do 2 other awful things. First, your PC is auto-hit by bristles any time you attack a caterpillar in melee, unless you can pass a DC 16 reflex save (which you have to make for EACH hit). So these caterpillars are doing an extra 7 points of damage to anyone who attacks. If you have 3 PCs in melee, that's an extra 21 points of damage per round. So the monsters are up to 81 points of damage/round. Against level 3-5 PCs.

But there's more! The other bad thing is that the bristles deal poison damage with a fortitude save DC of 15. If you fail, that's 1d4 strength damage per round (save each round -- however, in the game I attended, my PC failed all 6 saves). My strength 10 character had a strength score of -1 by round 3, and went unconscious.

But wait! We're still not done. Poison in Pathfinder stacks in a weird way. If you are hit with poison again while already poisoned, then any subsequent saving throws are at +2 to the DC. So that fortitude of 15 becomes a 17. You can see how getting hit 2 or 3 times by bristles turns the saving throw into something very difficult. And lastly, because ability scores can go negative, and because most groups won't have a healer with Lesser Restoration already on the daily list of spells, it's likely that the PCs must rest for days if they are poisoned and the GM runs it correctly, and thus the PCs should very often lose the race, or maybe even die as PCs start falling over mid-fight from strength loss or HP damage.

The monsters also have reach, so good luck to the PCs who were stripped of reach weapons. AOOs will happen a lot to the PCs here.

Everything I just wrote is using averages, so it could even be worse than what I wrote. However, let's assume it will go better for the PCs. I assumed in my math that everything hit, but that's silly, even if the PCs have no armor (or bad armor). Maybe that 81 HP drops to 50/round. And maybe by round 3 one is dead, dropping damage to 30 HP for a round or two, and then the fight's over. That's still... 130-160 points of damage. Unless your team has lots of barbarians & fighters on it, or your team has a channel energy healer who can burst 10+ points of healing every round, no team of 5th level PCs can handle such a high amount of damage, much less level 4 PCs. And that's the optimistic math.

Exception: 5th level wizards who have saved their Fireball spells, and have a few of them, might be able to wipe out the caterpillars without getting close, thus saving the entire party. However, this will likely kill the halfling hostages in the trees.

Lastly, note that this fight is not the "super hard fight with unfair DR" that everyone else is complaining about in their reviews. That's a whole other too-hard fight. So... if you wanted to play this module, try to find a GM who is rather forgiving or sucks at the rules. You play with a GM who is good at the rules, and you gonna die.

Whew! THAT is insane. That's 1 star.


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Paizo Employee Community & Digital Content Director

Announced for April release!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Wow, there sure are a lot of multiparters this year. That's nice for cons, but gets really hard for small lodges to schedule.

Liberty's Edge

Mimo Tomblebur wrote:
Wow, there sure are a lot of multiparters this year. That's nice for cons, but gets really hard for small lodges to schedule.

Normally, I would agree with you about multi-parters being harder to schedule, but this being only two parts makes it easy to schedule for a two slot game day. It is only when they span across three or four parts that they really become difficult.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Not everyone does two slot game days. My group does one slot every other week, which roughly matches the rate of publication. For us to do a two-parter, when we usually only have two tables at a time, means that the other table has to be kept occupied with two other scenarios that the rest of the regular attenders have not played. Even worse, three-parters require people to commit at least 6 weeks ahead of time. Having too many multiparters directly conflicts with the flexibility PFS is supposed to provide.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I really don't think that it ruins flexibility. Small lodges have problems that adventure design can't solve.


"This year, Pathfinder Society has taken a special interest in the competition, sponsoring a team of agents to compete to with the trophy."

Is that supposed to be win the trophy?

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

Oh man, I remember GMing the first 'Challenge of Champions' adventure back in the 2E era of Dungeon, and the whole group having a great time. I hope this captures the spirit of those adventures.


I'll get this just for the information on the Sargava Chalice. Has the race proper ever been written up anywhere else before?

Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Eric Hinkle wrote:
I'll get this just for the information on the Sargava Chalice. Has the race proper ever been written up anywhere else before?

It's shown up nowhere that I was able to find while planning the adventure.

Grand Lodge

Maps used in the scenario?


John Compton wrote:
Eric Hinkle wrote:
I'll get this just for the information on the Sargava Chalice. Has the race proper ever been written up anywhere else before?
It's shown up nowhere that I was able to find while planning the adventure.

It is breifly mentioned in page 20 of sargava the lost colony player companion but I do not know more than that.

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