Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-17: Oath of the Overwatched PDF

****( ) (based on 8 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 5–9.

Deep beneath the Blakros Museum lies a copper gate that no key could open—at least, not from the outside. To the horror of museum curator Nigel Aldain, the gate has begun to writhe and buckle. Whatever lurks beyond it will not remain contained for much longer. Aldain sent an urgent request for aid to Zarta Dralneen, leader of the Dark Archive faction. Dralneen quickly realized that protection would require a divided approach, with some remaining behind to guard Absalom from what pours out and others charging in to deal with the source. With the support of Aldain, Dralneen, and Venture-Captain Ambrus Valsin on guard behind them, the PCs rush beyond the twisted portal. Within, they uncover the true reason why the ancient mage Ralzeros made the place beyond the gate so hard to reach.

Contents in Oath of the Overwatched also contribute directly to the ongoing storyline of the Dark Archive faction.

Written by Isabelle Lee.

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PZOPSS0917E


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Average product rating:

****( ) (based on 8 ratings)

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Best to be prepared for this Scenario

*****

Played this a couple of nights ago, and I can say this....this scenario doesn't pull punches.

Too long, don't care about analysis review:
I was in the same game as Matt Proctor if you want to see the party breakdown and read his review.

Great story, great location descriptions, powerful encounters. Good game for people who like story, fights and searching. If you are a combat monkey and only that, maybe not a game for you...or at least not you and 5 other combat monkeys only. Need some skills, and a good head on the players for thinking sometimes out of the box.

GM's do a lot of prep work for this scenario. It is a must.

Now for full review:

Ranking

Story 5/5
As a player I am always happy to see something that came up in earlier (and a VERY early at that) scenario come back. Glad to hear that some boons that people might have collected over the years (though rarely if at all possible to be on the same character based off of years between them) are useful. The GM that ran this scenario pulled off the creepy atmosphere of the whole scenario well, and kept us anticipating what might happen if we made a mistake. At the same time, he kept us going forward without feeling like we were being shoved into that area. He did in both in character descriptions and as a GM talking to players how some unusual mechanics work. I would highly recommend any GM who runs this scenario look into all the history of other scenarios that are referenced in this, for story line and backstory when your characters go off script. I think we were all as players happy that our GM did the extra prep on that.

Setting 5/5
This is real spoilery. I haven't done much with the Occult adventures mindscape and such...so I was semi clueless on that, but the GM did a very nice job on getting us to realize what it is and how to interact with it. As part of the Story, it explained a lot. Also, I love bringing things in from other settings (Iron Gods baddies for example, or the Cthulhu mythos feel).

Role-play-ability 5/5
There is a LOT of role play potential in 2 or 3 encounters. Some with the players in one encounter, another has role play with something that I never thought I would be meeting in an encounter.

Combat 4.75/5
Okay, one thing I do have an slight issue with was mentioned in another review....having a bunch of CR 3 or so mooks there just to attempt to get people to have to roll 4 different fortitude saves in the first round to hopefully take out party members via nausea or sickened is a bit of a chump move, but at least it was in theme of what was happening in the game. It might have been better to have that be built into the scenario itself, or maybe something that the other baddies that were real threats set off. The rest of the fights though were challenging (one VERY much so that we mostly kept from being worse...could have had a TPK if a diplomacy roll was a little lower), and fun.

Over all, I give a 5/5 for this scenario. With the caveat that if as a GM you are going to run this, do a LOT of preparation, and be willing to read a few back scenarios and THEN be willing to explain in mechanic terms how things work. You can not go into this scenario only semi prepared. That will only lead to frustration on the players part, and likely irritation and anger about this scenario.


He Has A Mouth, So At Least He Can Scream

*****

Just finished playing this. I'd prepped to run it at one point, but I haven't actually GMed this yet.

Our party (two Witches, a Sorcerer, a Bloodrager, and a Paladin) had a complete blast with this one. This was a creepy mystery from the get-go, and it didn't disappoint as we progressed. It rewarded good skill checks while still providing some solid combat opportunities as well, though I would concede that going in on 100% MurderHobo Mode will likely end with mission failure and character deaths.

From behind the screen, I'll second the others that recommend that this is a scenario for experienced GMs. There are a number of things to keep track of throughout the course of the adventure, and a few key elements of the scenario aren't so readily apparent to the players that should be (In our case, our GM did an excellent job of subtly conveying that information).

I'd say that this is a must-play for members of the Dark Archive and those who have followed along with the storyline around the Copper Gate.


Very creepy, full of Lovecraftian flavor

****( )

In an uncharacteristic burst of sense, the Pathfinder Society assigned this mission to exactly the type of adventurers who would WANT to visit a Dark Tapestry-adjacent demi-plane - full-casters with egos that could block out the sun. Along with one rogue. I'm not entirely sure what she was doing there, but she seemed to enjoy herself.

With a library-full of skills and some very diplomatic characters, we made it through without too much trouble; I imagine that a less well-read group of mercenaries would regret having every stepped through the gate!


Great atmosphere, best for experienced GMs

****( )

Story:
This story is a great continuation of one of the oldest storylines in PFS, and the author definitely does it justice. The lore and background are rich and deep, and the story the author told is one of the few in PFS that have ever provoked a genuine emotional reaction from me upon reading (it’s really pretty heartbreaking). However, like many other scenarios, most of the wonderful background and narrative is available mainly only to the GM, and it’s up to said GM to translate it to the players. While this is true in all scenarios, unless the GM is really good with storytelling and atmosphere, the players will most likely miss out on the narrative potential. Take some time with the prep and really get into the story to give your players the best experience.

Mechanics:
Whooooo boy. As others have said, there are a TON of things to keep track of in this scenario, and more skills checks and saves than I’ve ever seen, some of the effects of which may not even come into play until 2 or 3 acts later. Those effects can alter a wide variety of elements, such as check and save DCs, stat blocks, and even mission success conditions. Additionally, previous experiences with other Blakros/Overwatched-related scenarios add additional modifications and story elements, some of which may be double-edged swords for the affected players. This is not a scenario where you can just read through it a couple of hours before table time and expect to do it justice; expect to allocate more time than usual to prep in order to keep everything organized. Additionally, many of these things happen behind the scenes with little direct indication to the players of how they effect their outcomes (e.g. containment breaches), which can definitely lead to the potential for “gotcha” moments (which nobody likes). I would recommend that the GM find a way to explain the containment breach mechanics and time constraints, even going off script if necessary to give players a better sense of what’s going on. Most of the check DCs are challenging but not unrealistic for most parties, but to some extent success in the Library seems to be a function of whether or not the party happens to have the right skills available. In the end, this has the potential to add a variability factor some players may find off-putting. The combats are challenging, especially the end bosses in both tiers, but absolutely doable for a smart party. The chronicle sheet rewards, while not particularly strong mechanically and primarily oriented towards familiar users and arcane types, are supremely flavorful and worth it. Finally, because there’s so much cool story and action going on, this runs long. Both the tables I’ve seen of this scenario ended up skipping the optional encounter just due to time and still finished at 4.5 – 5 hours.

Summary:
I loved this scenario, and would happily run it again. It’s great as a stand-alone but really shines with players and a GM who know the lore and are familiar with the Blakros Museum storyline. For players, bring a lot of different skills and social ability, but also be combat-ready. For GMs, bring your A game, stay organized, and remember that the primary outcome should be that everyone has a good time.


Not Fun and Unfairly Punishing to Players

*( )( )( )( )

Spoiler:

I had a long ranting review and it timed out, so now I'm may be extra salty...

I'm gonna summarize.

Party: Summoner 7 (me), Rogue 9, Gunslinger 7, Arcanist 7
Upper Tier 4 Party Adjustment

Breaches: The scenarios breaches mechanic punishes players for making sensible calls. The PCs don't know about breaches. In the Library, the players aren't aware that they are causing breaches when they fail by 5 or more. So a party only thinks that failing is only costing them time and the goal is to get all the books before the 6 rounds are up. More so, they get breaches for killing the ridiculous dragon who tried to kill them moments earlier. In fact, not only do they get breaches, they plummet 90ft after a CR 11 fight. It's a hidden mechanic that punished players onto of punishing players.

Will Save or Bust: The gimmick of the scenario is to overload the party with more saves than they can possibly make. This is the most frustrating part of the entire thing. "Made 4 will saves in a row? Have another? Failed? Stunned for 4 rounds." It's the equivalent of the guy in an arcade fighting game who holds down and presses the kick button, but instead of dealing damage it makes you unable to play your character each time you're hit. It's frustrating and there isn't much to be done about it beyond get a better will save.

There are a few other things I would touch on but I would avoid this one. The rewards are good, but the scenarios is terrible and unfun in my opinion and I think I've only said that about one other scenario.


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Grand Lodge

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

Finally!


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Oh, hey, apparently this got announced. ^_^

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Oooooo....


WOW!

My first PFS game was 'Echoes of the Overwatched' - hanging out for this one!


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Which maps are used? I will run this on April 4 and it would be nice if I don’t have to go map-hunting while I should be hunting eggs.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

5 people marked this as a favorite.

Maps for #9–17:

This scenario uses the following:
  • Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Arcane Library
  • Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Mythos Dungeon

    There are no custom maps in this adventure.


  • 1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Yes! :D

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