Pathfinder Society Playtest Scenario #3: Arclord's Envy

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A Pathfinder Society scenario designed for 5th-level PCs.

Among the greatest archmages in Golarion's history is Nex, who created an arcane kingdom that shares his name and survives to this day. Although the archmage disappeared under mysterious circumstances millennia ago, his disciples the Arclords have continued his vision—at least what they can piece together from his surviving writings. The capital of Quantium's now abuzz with the news that another of Nex's texts has resurfaced, and already the owner has died under suspicious circumstances. Hoping to avert a political predicament as various arclords fight to inherit the text, the local authorities have hired the Pathfinder Society to untangle the situation as independent investigators.

Written by Lyz Liddell.

Release: This Pathfinder Society Playtest Scenario will be available for FREE on August 7, 2018.

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3.50/5 (based on 2 ratings)

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Very Playable (with a few flaws)

4/5

NO SPOILERS

I was pretty excited to play Arclord's Envy because I've never had a chance to play an adventure set in Nex, one of the under-detailed countries in Golarion. As a land full of architectural marvels, unparalleled arcane power inherited by one of the setting's greatest wizards, and exotic, fantastical things treated like everyday occurrences, I was really looking forward to seeing what a scenario set there would be like. I can't say Arclord's Envy met all of my (admittedly high) expectations. On the other hand, there is one encounter that was great fun and unlike anything you've done before in a Pathfinder game, guaranteed. On that basis alone, there's something to recommend in playing this (converting the mechanics as desired, since the Playtest is over).

I should also give a nod to that cool cover art--very evocative of the setting.

SPOILERS!:
The scenario takes place in Quantium, the capital of Nex. The Pathfinder Lodge in the city, Nexus House, gets some really nice background (apparently, it was the second lodge created after the Grand Lodge in Absalom) and description (such as cool reverse waterfalls, doors that open into places other than you'd expect, etc.). The Venture-Captain, Sebnet Sanserkoht, is given a good personality as a friendly, easygoing figure who is so used to the wondrous that she forgets newcomers to Nex may not be.

The gist of the mission she gives the PCs is that one of the famed Arclords of Nex (a cabal of wizards that holds a high position in the country) has been murdered, and the Pathfinders need to find out whodunnit. The Arclord, a wizard named Kefanes Ahmakt, had just discovered a rare tome called the Collected Directives that contained some of the writings of Nex himself. On the suspicion that another Arclord may be behind the murder, the local guard brought the book to the Pathfinder Lodge for safekeeping and asked for assistance. I liked the implication here that, unlike in many other countries, the authorities trust and rely on the Pathfinder Society. My only qualms with the briefing is that there was a *lot* of information for players to try to process about this new place, much of which won't be learned unless someone happens to ask the right question.

The PCs start with a couple of leads to follow up on in investigating Ahmakt's murder. The first is the wizard's workshop, which has been sealed off by the local guard on account of a flesh golem having broken into the place! It's a bit *too* coincidental that the flesh golem breaks free of its restraints just as the PCs arrive to investigate, but I understand dramatic license. The flesh golem was pretty tough, and it probably didn't help that I was playing Seoni and chanced shooting it with a lightning bolt (which of course healed it). After defeating the creature, the PCs can get some clues that this was probably the scene of Ahmakt's murder.

The second lead is the body itself. In some way or another Ahmakt's corpse ended up squished between the toes of one of the pair of legendarily massive golems (the size of a castle tower) that have patrolled Quantium's perimeter for millennia. I'm not exactly sure about the sequence of events here (did the flesh golem break into the workshop, kill Ahmakt, take his body out into the path of the gargantuan golems, and then return to the workshop?). The patrol golems are huge and fast, and the PCs have to somehow figure out a way to keep up with them and dislodge Ahmakt's corpse without getting stepped on or swatted away! This was a really fun, original sequence, and I liked that the scenario gave the GM flexibility on the different ways PCs might try to dislodge the body. I think more creative, cinematic sequences like this would be good for PFS scenarios.

Assuming the PCs are successful in dislodging the body, they can conduct an examination and will probably end up at a local magic shop (with a suitably interesting-looking proprietor). More clues follow. One of the interesting touches about this scenario, that I'm not sure works, is that the GM gets to choose who the murderer is! The GM is given two options, each an Arclord, and is supposed to choose clues to suit the killer. Each of the two suspects is described well. The idea of leaving it to the GM to choose isn't bad (and I guess it would aid replayability), but the downside was that the clues didn't fit together all that well for a satisfactory mystery (and I think it was hard for our GM to think on their feet to make everything consistent). At least when I played the scenario, the group just kind of bumbled along until inevitably the murderer was revealed.

On their way back to the Lodge to report what they've learned, the PCs are ambushed by agents of the murderous Arclord. The flip-mat chosen here was a good way to give a visual representation of the feel of the place, and the elevated rooftops made for a good encounter.

The big finale of the scenario takes place at one of the all-too-frequent galas that Pathfinders are asked to attend. (I think I've been to galas of various types in PFS and SFS more often than I've actually had to mark off rations from my inventory sheet!). My biggest beef with the scenario occurs here, though I admit part of it may have just been the table and the GM. The PCs are expected to ask questions and try to confirm who the murderer is. I was *not* expecting that a gala would be the place for a massive battle to try to apprehend the Arclord, nor that an Arclord would necessarily be something that low-level Pathfinders could conceivably take in a fight (in my imagination, they were like Level 15, not Level 7), nor that the Arclord would animate statutes to try to murder *anyone* who strayed into the garden. So when my PC went off to follow one of the Arclords to ask questions without taking the other party members with her, I got a lot of crap from the table for messing things up and triggering multiple encounters, etc., when it all seemed perfectly reasonable at the time. I think the whole section of the scenario needed some work. I will say that the big battle against the Arclord and his apprentice felt suitably epic, as we blasted that guy a *lot* before he finally went down and it was a close call. The map for the garden was great, and I'd buy it as a flip-mat.

Arclord's Envy has some flaws. The "mystery" doesn't really work and is more of a device to get the PCs moving from place to place. There were some nice touches of the fantastical, but I would have liked to see even more. The ending seemed forced. But those flaws shouldn't detract too much from what's otherwise a strong, fun adventure in a cool setting with at least one great encounter. It's not a home run, but I'd call it a solid double.


A memorable if shallow sandbox

3/5

This was the much more warmly received of the two 5th level playtest scenarios.

It was refreshing to see an open ended mystery that the GM had the freedom to present the plot structure for while giving the players a memorable sandbox.

Ultimately the sandbox was too small - players had far more creatuve memorable approaches they wanted to take that the scenarios plot structure was utterly unable to accommodate.

Still the giant Golem, the frenzying Guardian and the setting of Geb all lent themselves to a memorable story and experience even as the players largely did not enjoy the playtest mechanics.


Dark Archive

Did we have an adventure taking place in Quantium before?

It sounds like intrigue may be involved.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

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Maps in Arclord's Envy:

  • Flip-Mat: Bigger Village
  • Map Pack: Village Sites
  • A custom full-page map
  • Dark Archive

    John Compton wrote:
    ** spoiler omitted **

    I bought

    :
    "Bigger Village"
    yesterday - it's the best "bigger" flip-mat yet imo. I'm very excited to play this scenario, as the map is super-evocative.

    Thx, John! :-)

    Dark Archive

    Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
    John Compton wrote:
    ** spoiler omitted **

    The scenario actually uses a map from Map Pack: Village (not Village Sites).


    That's good to know, thanks Gary.

    Tom

    Dark Archive

    Gary Norton 569 wrote:
    John Compton wrote:
    ** spoiler omitted **
    The scenario actually uses a map from Map Pack: Village (not Village Sites).

    That's a really strange decision imo, as Game Mastery Map Pack Village is long out of print.

    Also the style of the houses in map pack that John Compton named is very similiar to the one on the flip-mat he put in spoilers...?!

    Dark Archive

    For ease of reference/ordering:

    Flip-Mat: Settlement

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