Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-04: Reaver's Roar

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 7-11.

A call from some of the Pathfinder Society's most esteemed leaders brings the PCs to a small town in Lastwall. While their mission to retrieve a relic of the Shining Crusade from a cathedral guarded by a fearsome beast seems straightforward—if extremely hazardous—interested parties from the nearby orc nation of Belkzen and beyond have their own plans that may not align with the PCs' own. Will the Pathfinders survive the deadly onslaught of a territorial guardian, or will they play into the hands of even more sinister forces?

Contents in Reaver's Roar also contribute directly to the ongoing storyline of the Silver Crusade faction.

Written by Steven Hammond.

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***( )( ) (based on 4 ratings)

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A scary boss, but even scarier PCs.

***( )( )

(I GMed this twice.)

Overall, this scenario does a good job at telling a story. Flavour-wise, everything that's in the scenario simply works. There's a nice setup, everything is laid out pretty well, and as a GM, I really appreciate the use of pictures to set the mood. Full marks for that.
There's a chase scene in here that's done really well. Both the parties I ran it for crushed it, but there's an interesting mix of easy and difficult skill checks, which I liked.
There's also a puzzle that went over really well. I think the GM should make some physical handouts for that, but otherwise, I like what the author did here.

But, sadly, there are two things that I'm not as positive about. First off, the map is large, but mostly empty. The author says the GM can fill some parts with certain stuff, but I would've liked a little more direction, and maybe more descriptions of the rooms themselves.
The other thing is, the PCs can get certain power ups. Which is a really good idea, it makes the players feel really good about themselves for doing cool things. The problem is, they get buffed too much. In both times I ran it, the boss was pathetically weak and didn't pose a challenge anymore. I would have personally liked it when the Reaver either lost some abilities, or the players get some power ups, but not both. This skews the fight too much in the PC's favour, and makes the victory feel hollow. Both times, my players commented how it didn't feel like they fought an epic creature.

Aside from that, though. I like the scenario. It's not amazing, but I've certainly seen a lot worse. It's got some good ideas, and aside from the negative parts mentioned up above, we all really had fun with the scenario.


Too Hard or Too Easy, but Never Just Right

**( )( )( )

NO SPOILERS

I ran Reaver's Roar at low tier using the four-player adjustment, with each player running a pre-gen. The session turned out better than I thought it would from my first read-through, as this is one that could get off the rails very quickly if the players make the "wrong" decision On the other hand, after such a big build up, the combats turned out to be far too easy. I do appreciate the incorporation of interesting setting lore, the inclusion of a puzzle (something we don't see often in PFS scenarios) and some opportunities for role-playing.

SPOILERS!:
Reaver's Roar takes place in the nation of Lastwall, the final stop for crusaders working to contain the evils of the Whispering Tyrant's undead hordes. When the Inner Sea World Guide was published several years ago, a small town in Lastwall named Roslar's Coffer received a capsule description about how it had become the territory of a red reaver: a huge, monstrous demonic beast attracted to things of beauty. In this case, that thing of beauty was a temple to Sarenrae located near the village. In a nice bid to continuity (and preparation for the setting to be updated in the game's second edition), this scenario involves the PCs rousting the red reaver from Roslar's Coffer and recovering some holy artifacts in the temple.

The scenario begins with a joint briefing from Venture-Captain Shevar Besnik and the leader of the Silver Crusade, Ollysta Zadrian. The mission the PCs are given is fairly straightforward: travel to Roslar's Coffer, find the temple known as the Bastion of Light, and figure out a way to banish or kill the red reaver. A lot of references are made to how the red reaver has somehow become incredibly strong and that perhaps things within the temple could be useful in defeating it, and GMs better hope that their players take the hint for reasons detailed shortly.

The journey to Roslar's Coffer is uneventful. The writer does a good job describing the place, and how the villagers have gradually withdrawn, leaving abandoned homes and stores, within about a 1 mile radius of the temple. A local dwarf historian can provide the PCs with directions and the layout of the temple, but the rest is up to them.

Here's where things get dicey. As the PCs approach the temple, they'll see the red reaver chowing down on some orcs that are also trying to get into the temple. But this is no ordinary red reaver: it's been given mythic levels and other templates to make it, at both subtiers, a CR 17/MR 2 creature! The idea here is that the PCs are supposed to see this beast and be so intimidated by it that they run for the safety of the temple using the Chase mechanics. The two potential problems with this set-up occur if the PCs don't take the hint and try to fight the red reaver (after all, PCs are warned about terrible monsters by villagers every day). The first possibility, of course, is that they could all get killed in a battle that is highly unfair; a TPK just an hour into a session isn't exactly fair. The second possibility is that they could kill the red reaver and win the scenario right away--despite the creature's appearance, it doesn't really deal out that much damage and I know there are some PFS groups with super-optimized characters (hold monster with a high DC and a coup de grace can kill a lot of things!). Either way, it's a risky gambit for a scenario. Fortunately, the group I ran it for went with the Chase option.

The Chase itself is fine, though I still find it hard as a GM to incorporate the skill checks in a natural and organic way so that it doesn't feel too "gamey." I didn't like how the success conditions of the Chase were implemented: basically, they just give the PCs more or less time inside the temple before the red reaver breaks through the (off-camera) barricades the PCs are assumed to put up. My suspension of disbelief was broken in having to imagine that a mythic red reaver with a Strength of 32 couldn't break through some hastily-barricaded wooden doors and windows. In addition, even if they somehow do terrible on the Chase, the PCs are still given plenty of time to do everything they need to do in the temple. Finally, it wasn't clear to me how to convey to the players, using in-game language, how much time their characters thought they had left. It all felt very forced to me.

Once inside the Bastion of Light, the PCs have to deal with a few things while searching for the holy item they've been sent to recover. First, there are fungal spore pods that can sap PCs' Constitution. Second, the red reaver can make a single attack through the floorboards or a window (mechanically this is treated as a trap). This was interesting because there's a "Gruesome Mangling" special effect that can result in a character losing a limb! Third, there are bands of evil orcs from the Twisted Nail tribe rummaging through some rooms. In an interesting move that I've never seen in PFS before, some of these threats are placed normally in particular rooms but the GM is given an optional "bank" of traps and orcs to place in whatever rooms they want in order to keep up the tension. I'm a bit torn by the idea, because I like empowering GMs to customise the scenario for how the session is running, but it could result in some GMs making things easier or harder than others and thus violating the PFS principle that GMs can never add, remove, or alter encounters.

A good role-playing opportunity within the temple is a severely injured orc warpriest of Sarenrae named Uirch. The PCs can fight him, of course, but if they offer him enough healing he'll help the PCs with information or (with the four-player adjustment) even help them fight. The thing that's a bit odd, as pointed out in the forums, is that Uirch is described as terribly injured and the GM is told that the PCs need to give him 35 hit points worth of healing to gain his trust, but Uirch has the warpriest spells prepared to completely heal himself. And, to boot, he's sitting right next to a magical healing font that could put him to right.

Above, I mentioned that there is a puzzle was included in the scenario. Puzzles are hard to do well, but I have to give the writer credit for this one. It involves finding and placing a series of symbols in the right order within an ankh. Figuring out the placement of the symbols requires understanding their relevance to the religious doctrines of Sarenrae, and some real depth and attention to the setting lore is displayed (or developed) here. And for the "we hate puzzles" crowd, an option is given to just brute-force the thing and take a time penalty (I think the time penalty should be longer given how much time the PCs have in the temple to begin with, but that's a minor quibble).

At some point, the red reaver busts into the temple for the big final showdown. This was disappointing when I ran it. There are so many buffs available within the temple, and so many magical ways to weaken the red reaver, that the battle became laughably easy. In my session, the creature got killed in two rounds and never even scratched a PC--and that's with everyone playing pre-gens! PCs who do everything right within the temple to buff themselves and weaken the red reaver should be rewarded with an easier battle, but not a trivial one.

To wrap up this review, I think Reaver's Roar is a real mixed bag. I like how it picks up a hook from a sourcebook and runs with it, the puzzle was done well, and the general premise of "PCs under siege" was fairly original. On the other hand, the red reaver could either be way too hard or way too easy and much of the scenario felt forced and unrealistic. The germ of something really good is here, but just hasn't quite ripened.


An Excellent Boss Fight, horribly presented

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As a GM, this was one of the more frustrating scenarios to present and run it demanded quite a but more from me as a GM than is typical and a lot of the story beats resolved in what turned out to be arbitrary ways.

There is a germ of something really good here but its a lot of the worst of PFS too.

Scenario Spoilers:

A meaningless chase scene
A disjointed flea flicker briefing and nebulous rewards a POWERFUL (possibly useless)RELIC.
A nonstructured dungeon with arbitrarily brutal traps with some difficult to adjudicate quirks.

I was able to salvage it through liberal use of GM fiat to try and successfully interpret what was written to make a sensibly presented product but this was simply not paizos best work.


Overall a good mod; my complaints may be table specific

****( )

Big picture story-wise, I really enjoyed this mod. It felt like a challenge worthy of high level Pathfinders, and it felt like there were opportunities for high level characters to pull out their various cool tricks. The fighters got to fight. The sneakers got to sneak. The knowledge characters got to be knowledgeable. There were two elements that felt slightly frustrating, and those may have been more the fault of our table rather that the module itself.

First, the chase scene caused some frustration and took what felt like too much time. With 9th to 11th level characters we players kept throwing out ideas that were not specifically covered in the module. What if I use this spell? Can I get a bonus for using this magic item? The GM was forced to keep ruling on our weird ideas, which slowed things down. A couple players grumbled about the chase mechanics in general. At the very least I think it’s hard to write a chase sequence for high level characters just because they might have access to so many unanticipated options.

The second part that was slightly frustrating was the final fight, and it was really because we were victims of our own success. We got the beastie weakened, and positioned right where we wanted. The gnome tried to talk with animals, and when that didn’t get the desired result, we gave it a beat down in about one round. It never felt like any PC was in serious danger. Not everyone is going to have a full table, with a couple of combat capable mounts/companions. Not everyone is going to succeed at all the set up work inside the chapel. I could easily see that fight being harder, but in our case there was a little bit of “Why did we run away from this? We just cleaned its clock!”

Overall, I enjoyed it. It did run a little over 5 hours but we did have a full table and I have found that the higher level mods often run longer so I was not shocked at that.


Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Maybe the Tome finally pays off!


Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Any map updates?

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

Jhaeman wrote:
Any map updates?

Reaver's Roar does not use any pre-made maps.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Michael Sayre wrote:
Jhaeman wrote:
Any map updates?
Reaver's Roar does not use any pre-made maps.

I am not sure I am excited that I do not have to buy any maps or depressed that I have to draw the maps....

Either way, looking forward to taking my players back to lastwall.

Silver Crusade

Spoiler:
Chaotic Good Orcs. Really?

Shadow Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

No worse than Chaotic Evil Humans.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Azhanti High Lightning wrote:
Spoiler:
Chaotic Good Orcs. Really?[/url]

Please use spoilers when referring to adventure content not discussed in the product description.

Spoiler:

Mahja Firehair and the Burning Sun tribe were first introduced in Belkzen: Hold of the Orc Hordes.

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

Spoiler:
MIKAAAAAAAAAZZZZZZZEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

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