Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-00: The Hao Jin Cataclysm

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1-11.

Many centuries ago, the legendary sorceress Hao Jin crafted a museum demiplane, ripping locations from across Golarion to add to her personal collection. When she vanished without a trace, the demiplane began falling into disrepair. Ever since the Pathfinder Society gained access to this realm seven years ago, its agents have been gradually exploring the demiplane's wonders, meeting its people, and cataloging its preserved historical relics.

Former Pathfinder Master of Spells Aram Zey has just made a terrible discovery—the demiplane's deterioration has reached a critical stage. Unless the Pathfinder Society intervenes, the entire demiplane will rip apart violently, ejecting most of its contents into the Astral Plane and killing everyone inside. Yet it isn't as simple as sewing the demiplane back together with some metaphysical thread. Powerful forces from both within the tapestry and outside of it seek to hasten the destruction or profit off the chaos, and the impending apocalypse has thrown the tapestry's civilizations into turmoil.

Written by Mike Kimmel.

Release: The Hao Jin Cataclysm will be available for sale in August 2019.

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NO SPOILERS

The Hao Jin Cataclysm is the big kick-off to the tenth and final season of PF1 organised play. I played through it with my mid-level half-orc paladin at PaizoCon AP in 2018, and then later purchased the scenario for this review. As a multi-table special, it's fair to expect some big plot developments and lots of fireworks. I think for the most part The Hao Jin Cataclysm delivers. It does a great job incorporating elements from older PFS scenarios (as far back as Season Three) and continues the epic tale of the Hao Jin tapestry. The weaknesses it has are weaknesses common to specials: a frantic pace, an emphasis on combat and skill checks over role-playing, and the likelihood that only some of the overall story will get filtered down to each table and player. I've only played a few multi-table specials, and I thought this one was about average.

SPOILERS!:

The Hao Jin Cataclysm is an imposing package to read through, weighing in at a whopping 88 pages! But actually, only 37 pages of that is the adventure, and then there's 40 pages of bestiary followed by a dozen or so pages of handouts and checklists. The adventure is divided into three parts, with Part One consisting of the mustering and briefing, Part Two consisting of a series of short vignettes and encounters, and Part Three as the big finale. The elements that players will probably have encountered in other multi-table specials, such as an intermission, boons for a certain number of successes, and the aid token mechanism (something I've always found too complicated to really work well) are all here as well.

Part One (15 minutes) starts with mustering and a sort of pre-briefing by Master of Spells Sorrina Westyr. She gives the PCs (who have assembled in the Grand Lodge) a brief history of the Hao Jin Tapestry and an explanation of the problem: it's coming apart at the seams! While waiting for other players to get seated at the table, there's a nice array of things that PCs who are ready can do, such as assessing the damage to the tapestry, checking supplies, interrogating members of the Aspis Consortium, and more. Each of these actions is intended to take just a couple of minutes of role-playing and a skill check, but the results can provide some pretty useful boons for either the PC or the whole table. It's a good way for tables that fire early to have some fun before the main event, even though, in my experience, it's hard to incorporate the skill checks organically and rare for the players to remember the special bonuses they've earned.

The main briefing is delivered by Aram Zey. Zey says the entire tapestry demiplane will collapse in just two days. Tears in the tapestry seem to be centered around six sites of past Pathfinder Society activities, and there are incursions from the astral plane and spontaneously spawning undead wreaking further havoc. Thus, the Pathfinders' first task is to secure and stabilize these six sites so that special (off-screen) groups can repair the damage.

Part Two (140 minutes) is where the PCs complete as many of these six missions as they can in the time they have available. Players are given a handout with a brief summary of each mission, and the tables can choose which ones to tackle in which order. If the PCs restore order at a location, a success is reported to the Overseer, and after a certain number of successes, that mission is closed to other tables (and everyone earns a boon). Once they've entered the tapestry, the PCs can't return to Absalom without sitting out the rest of Part Two. However, I don't think the encounters are so difficult that the pace is really worrisome for most groups (and there's built-in healing and, later, resurrection in the scenario).

In Mission # 1, the PCs need to help the Muckmouth lizardfolk tribe. The Muckmouths are facing a dried-up water supply and constant attacks from undead, so the PCs need to explore an ancient Serpentfolk ruin to set things right. This requires dispatching a mixed group of undead (with the precise composition depending on sub-tier) and then by-passing three magical wards using skill checks. The Muckmouths were the subject of a Season 3 scenario, and there's a really nice reward here for PCs who took part in that adventure.

In Mission # 2, the PCs visit Round Mountain. The location isn't described very well in the scenario, but apparently it's a wobbly or constantly-spinning sort of artificial mountain that contains a tribe of ratfolk (also from scenarios in Season 3). During an encounter with various creatures from the Darklands (like darkmantles or ropers), there's a risk of falling prone due to the spinning--though there are also a host of skill checks to stop the spinning. I thought it was all rather vaguely described.

In Mission # 3, the PCs visit the location from yet another Season 3 scenario: The Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment. The leader of the temple has had his mind invaded by evil spirits caused by the tapestry's unravelling. The PCs can enter the leader's mind through a ritual and set things right by overcoming (through skill checks) six different nightmarish obstacles. This mission looks pretty easy, but is there is a chance that, if the PCs fail to overcome the obstacles, the evil spirits manifest as actual demons.

In Mission # 4, the PCs return to Slave Mountain (from a Season 6 scenario) and fight duergar who are sending the souls of sacrifices to the evil night hag Aslynn. Unlike the other missions, a fun twist here is that PCs who played through the previous scenario don't get a special advantage; instead, they're remembered by the duergar and become special targets!

In Mission # 5, the PCs interact with three groups encountered in a Season 6 scenario that featured the Aspis Consortium invading the tapestry. The three groups--warriors of Lung Wa, owl-headed syrinxes from Arcadia, and wyvarans--are all sceptical of the PCs. At least two of the three groups have to be won over to the Pathfinder side. A wide variety of skill checks can be used, but many seem especially forced (something only really good GMs can fix). There's also a seemingly random battle against some bugbears.

In Mission # 6, the PCs need to help some kappas (turtle-backed humanoids) who have been deprived of water through the unintentional actions of a sovereign dragon. The PCs can negotiate with the dragon or fight it, and I appreciate the reminder in the text to encourage the players to role-play rather than just rolling dice for Diplomacy.

I can only speak to my own experience, but I only vaguely remember these encounters. There's a ton happening in a relatively short period of time, and tables of strangers are understandably focussed on quickly figuring out the problem and (usually) killing it. I wish there was a way to get better role-playing and character interaction in the multi-table specials, but I'm not sure if there is. Anyway, for groups who complete the missions quickly or just want to spend some extra time at a location, there are additional encounters provided against ghouls, boggards, and magical beasts. These are essentially random encounters, but winning one does count as a success.

Part Three (100-120 minutes) starts with all of the Pathfinders back in the Grand Lodge, thinking they've been successful in stabilizing the Hao Jin Tapestry. Alas, just as Aram Zey is thanking everyone for their efforts, a massive tear appears in the tapestry (partially the doing of the night hag Alynn)! Undead and invaders from the astral plane invade the demiplane, so the PCs must once more sally forth unto the breach! Tables can choose weather to focus on undead or the "astral invaders" (a weird way to describe what are groups of either giants, pirates, or drow). Each encounter that's won is a success reported to the overseer, and once enough successes are reached, the big finale starts. I'm a bit fuzzy on exactly what's happening here (despite having played through it and read it), but apparently residual magic from the tapestry in its death throes conjures huge phoenixes. The PCs need to destroy these phoenixes, with each success resulting in a phoenix feather. The feathers can be used to either resurrect any party members who have died or to repair one rent in the tapestry. Once enough of the tapestry has been fixed, the tapestry is (semi?) permanently repaired. The conclusion has Aram Zey merging with the tapestry as a sort of special guardian, and I think that's a plot point that plays out throughout the rest of Season Ten.

I imagine The Hao Jin Cataclysm would be a very rewarding scenario for players who started PFS several years ago and remember the multiple scenarios it has callbacks to. Similarly, the plotline of the tapestry has been going on for several years now. As a relatively recent newcomer to PFS, neither meant a lot to me personally, but I still recognise the value in storytelling progression and continuity. As for the encounters, I found them pretty run-of-the-mill and uninspired; but that's doubtless the side-effect of having to prepare something for several different sub-tiers. Overall, I feel that this multi-table special was fine, even if it wasn't particularly . . . special.


Paizo Employee Developer

7 people marked this as a favorite.

Hi all! Here's the list of maps that appear in this adventure.

Maps:

Flip Mat: Desert Ruins
Flip Mat: Lost City
Flip Mat Classics: Battlefield
Flip Mat Classics: Darklands
The custom map is a direct port from an earlier scenario. It is the map of the Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment (#3–21 p 7.)


Linda Zayas-Palmer wrote:

Hi all! Here's the list of maps that appear in this adventure.

** spoiler omitted **

in regard to the spoiler:

SQUEEEEE!

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

Not even being subtle about the death by box text anymore, eh?

Shadow Lodge

Linda Zayas-Palmer wrote:

Hi all! Here's the list of maps that appear in this adventure.

** spoiler omitted **

I very rarely break into stereotypical "evil GM" laughter...but y roommate now has proof that it does happen! :)

Quick question for Linda:
Are there any scenarios other than the one whose map you mention that we should maybe try to run for our local players before Gen Con that tie in to this one? Thanks very much if you see this, and no worries if not!

Paizo Employee Developer

4 people marked this as a favorite.
CanisDirus wrote:
Linda Zayas-Palmer wrote:

Hi all! Here's the list of maps that appear in this adventure.

** spoiler omitted **

I very rarely break into stereotypical "evil GM" laughter...but y roommate now has proof that it does happen! :)

** spoiler omitted **

#10–00 GM Eyes Only:

Why yes there are. All of the following impact the way that NPCs respond to the PCs during #10–00.
#3–12: Wonders in the Weave—Part I: The Dog Pharaoh’s Tomb
#3–14: Wonders in the Weave—Part II: Snakes in the Fold
#3–20: The Rats of Round Mountain—Part I: The Sundered Path
#3–21: The Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment
#3–22: The Rats of Round Mountain—Part II: Pagoda of the Rat
#6–21: Tapestry’s Toil
#6–97: Siege of Serpents

Shadow Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Linda Zayas-Palmer wrote:
CanisDirus wrote:
Linda Zayas-Palmer wrote:

Hi all! Here's the list of maps that appear in this adventure.

** spoiler omitted **

I very rarely break into stereotypical "evil GM" laughter...but y roommate now has proof that it does happen! :)

** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **

*clears throat* For the record, I very rarely, almost never utter, or even type, the word "squee" ...but, well, there it is. Thank you! :)


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Map Question:

I assume the custom map will appear in the PDF without any room labels or pertinent information? I might get a print-out of it, and I rather use a clean copy that the copy in the scenario it originally appeared in.

Thanks!


Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber
JDDyslexia wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

Thanks!

Map Specifics:
The image in the original PDF can be cut-n-pasted out without any of the overlays.
Scarab Sages

How many tables minimum to run this at a convention? Seems like the number can vary with the interactives.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

When will this actually be available for those of us who are GMing it at GENCON? GENCON is only 17 days away!!!

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Marc Waschle wrote:
When will this actually be available for those of us who are GMing it at GENCON? GENCON is only 17 days away!!!

I'm currently doing the final review pass for this adventure, which means it should be ready for us to package and upload within the next few days. We finished up 7 of our 13 new scenarios last week, and the others are hot on their heels.

JohannVonUlm wrote:
How many tables minimum to run this at a convention? Seems like the number can vary with the interactives.

The Hao Jin Cataclysm's minimum table number is four.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Linda Zayas-Palmer wrote:

Hi all! Here's the list of maps that appear in this adventure.

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:

The desert side of Battlefields or the River side of battlefields? I'm thinking of 3D terraining.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
KitsuneWarlock wrote:
Linda Zayas-Palmer wrote:

Hi all! Here's the list of maps that appear in this adventure.

** spoiler omitted **
** spoiler omitted **

In Response:
The desert side

Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
Marc Waschle wrote:
When will this actually be available for those of us who are GMing it at GENCON? GENCON is only 17 days away!!!

For the record, the Paizo staff has been doing a remarkable job the past few years. Four or Five years ago we were getting the new scenarios the Friday before GenCon. One year I got the special the Sunday before (2014).

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Wasn't a gripe, Swiftbrook, they are doing great especially with the Playtest and three specials this year. It is my only scenario left that I haven't received and Im just anxious!

Thanks John for your quick replies they mean a lot!


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

It is now after GenCon. I assume it was made available then. It is not yet available here. I am GMing at a con in early November so I need to start reading. Any idea when Paizo will release this module here?

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This scenario will not be made publicly available for a year. During that time, access will only be provided to GMs who are running the scenarios at approved conventions. After next year's GenCon this will become available for public purchase.

If you're running it at a convention and you don't have access to it yet, talk with your convention organizer.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Iammars wrote:

This scenario will not be made publicly available for a year. During that time, access will only be provided to GMs who are running the scenarios at approved conventions. After next year's GenCon this will become available for public purchase.

If you're running it at a convention and you don't have access to it yet, talk with your convention organizer.

Thanks, this is a sanctioned Convention. I'll contact the organizer.

Paizo Employee Webstore Coordinator

The price has been updated from $4.99 to $9.99 to reflect the extra time, effort, and resources that go into creating interactive specials.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Katina Davis wrote:
...extra time, effort, and resources...

Can confirm.

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Any timeline on when in August this will be made available? We would like to play this at our regional game day later this month....


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Will this be made available to buy?

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Zaister wrote:
Will this be made available to buy?

I've sent two queries to customer support asking that question and all I've got back is the same form reply that they're busy with the 2nd Edition release and they don't have time to answer but will when they can. I don't think it's high on their priority list...

Paizo Employee Webstore Coordinator

Sorry about that, folks! The scenario should be available for purchase now :)

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

2 people marked this as a favorite.

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