Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-08: What Prestige is Worth

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Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-08: What Prestige is Worth

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 7-11.

Given the countless powerful relics the Pathfinder Society keeps in the vaults beneath the Grand Lodge, it should come as no surprise when there's the occasional magical outburst. However, the most recent incident involves a powerful talisman opening a portal the Hell, and the head curator Zarta Dralneen believes this event is no mere coincidence. Alongside a band of elite Pathfinders, she intends to travel through the portal to the infernal city Dis in order to close the gateway, in the process uncovering Cheliax's secret history, the follies of House Thrune, and what her role will be in the events to come.

Contents in What Prestige is Worth also contribute directly to the ongoing storyline of the Dark Archive faction.

Written by Matt Duval.

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Society Scenario Subscription.

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If You've Got the Time, It's a Hell of a Ride!



Whew, this is a big scenario! It clocks in at 45 pages, which I think makes it the longest PFS scenario I've ever run or played (apart from the multi-table specials). By comparison, the old Pathfinder module line, which put out adventures designed to be played in 3-5 sessions, had products that were only 32 pages long. The good news is that What Prestige is Worth is a great scenario, full of depth, setting lore, plot development, and characterisation. I just wouldn't try to run it without extensive preparation or if there was a hard deadline looming (like a store closing or a convention slot).

Anyway, I ran this at low subtier using the four-player adjustment; if I recall right, there was one "real" PC and the rest were Iconics. It's a memorable adventure that sends the Pathfinders to a place they've probably never been before. With the right group of players, the moral quandaries it presents could be really interesting.


Go to Hell! What Prestige is Worth has the PCs voyage to Dis, the capital city of Hell, to figure out why a portal has opened under the Pathfinder Society's Grand Lodge. But perhaps just as importantly, they have a chance to aid a noteworthy faction leader (Zarta Dralneen of the Dark Archive) in uncovering secrets of Cheliax's past. The scenario briefing starts with the PCs arrival at the portal, where Ambrus Valsin and Zarta explain their mission. Zarta has a contact in Hell, a bone devil named Vetrivides, who has provided the group with writs allowing them to enter Dis for 48 hours. But Vetrivides wants something in return: the Pathfinders' aid in investigating whether a contract devil named Leventi has been breaking Hell's laws. There's a lot more depth and detail to the briefing, but to keep things moving I'm trying to summarise only the crucial bits.

Once the PCs are in Hell, they'll be presented with multiple avenues of investigation, and, as leads start to accumulate, additional sections of the adventure open up. Hell's a very orderly place, so the PCs will be okay if they mind their Ps & Qs. But if they stray from the strict conditions of entry, they might bring the attention of Dispater, Dis' overlord--and that would be bad! As Zarta is going to accompany the PCs, she's presented with a special compact character sheet detailing the actions she can take in battle. She can go her own way from the group, and if she does, explanations of what she discovers at each stage is provided for the GM.

The first choice the PCs need to make is whether to travel to the Market of Breaths (a floating bizarre where an associate of Leventi's is said to frequent) or to the Fallen Fastness (a massive library of mortal sins, where Vetrivides resides). Each location presents several role-playing opportunities and skill checks to navigate, and each provides different pieces of evidence to show Leventi may have been playing fast and loose with Hell's rules around negotiating contracts with mortals. Each location also provides an opportunity for the GM to introduce a major sub-theme in the adventure: the concept of "Dark Bargains." The denizens of Hell love to tempt mortals, and they're happy to play the long-game by giving mortals something they want now for a high price to be exacted later. Mechanically, PCs can get thousands of gold pieces worth of treasure and information; all they have to give up are pieces of their soul, such as their Hope, Fate, Power, etc. All of this is spelled out in terms of mechanical implications, and is permanently represented on the PCs' Chronicles if they make a Dark Bargain. My players were too wary of Hell to make any deals, try as I might, but I thought it was a cool concept.

After the Market of Breaths and/or the Fallen Fastness, the PCs can follow leads to places like the Ghetto of Outcasts (a broken wasteland where some mortal souls permanently affixed to the walls), Eleusys (the palace of the Queen of Dis), and the Widow's Cry (a gladiatorial arena). These leads may uncover souls belonging to Hellknights that were wrongfully damned to hell at Leventi's bidding, an imp that served an important figure in Chelish history (Gellius Thrune), and more. Of course, the PCs have an opportunity to fight in the gladiatorial arena. The encounter uses the Hellscape map pack (one of my favourites), and presents a real risk to the PCs: if they fall into the river Lethe that borders the arena, they can permanently forget everything (including class abilities, feats, and skill ranks!).

When the PCs have gathered enough evidence against Leventi, they can travel to his scriptorium to confront him. Leventi is a cunning foe, however, and he tries to persuade or bribe the PCs to let him off the hook and instead blame everything on Vetrivides. This is 100% the opposite of a scenario that's on rails, and I really appreciate how much agency it gives the PCs to resolve things the way they wish. My group ended up fighting Leventi and dispatched him fairly easily--he wasn't really much of a melee threat. Once the investigation in Hell is completed and the culprit (real or feigned) is punished, the PCs will be able to make their way out without further complications.

I haven't gone into detail about it, but one of the major story threads in the scenario concerns Zarta Dralneen and her antagonistic relationship with House Thrune. From what I can gather, this adventure is a sort of climax to an on-going storyline developed in previous scenarios. Zarta uncovers some crucial information through the course of the adventure that will allow her to get revenge on House Thrune. In the scenario's epilogue, the PCs are asked to give Zarta advice on whether she should leave the Society to take her revenge, or stay and continue on as the Dark Archive faction leader. Again, I probably haven't summarised it as well as I could, but my impression is that it's a satisfying conclusion to her character arc.

I have to give writer Matt Duval credit for doing such a fantastic job portraying Hell (and Dis, specifically). Every scene is packed with flavour to make a distinctive and consistent setting. This is not one of those adventures where the setting is just an afterthought--it's crucial to the adventure. In addition, the GM is given a lot of guidance (through sidebars and in-text passages) on how to portray Dis and its inhabitants. I almost feel bad that so much work went into something designed for one session's play, and I hope much of the material can be used again in future adventures.

However, there is a *lot* for the GM to keep track of during the scenario. Although I consider myself a very well-prepared, detail-oriented GM, running What Prestige is Worth felt like doing air traffic control. The GM has to keep track of the in-game clock (every trip from place to place takes a certain amount of time, which can be modified by skill checks), Dispater's Attention Points, Evidence Points, what leads become available at each stage of the investigation, Zarta's NPC sheet, and special encounters that trigger when specific thresholds of time or Evidence Points are achieved, while also making sure that various special rules and flavour elements (each summarised in a sidebar somewhere in the adventure) are applied correctly; these include Hell's planar traits, "Presenting Zarta", "Portraying Devils", and the effects of Dark Bargains. Several handouts and tracking sheets are included in the scenario to help the GM manage everything, but it's certainly not for the faint of heart (or a new GM)!

In sum, this is a great scenario: just make sure your group has set aside plenty of time to play it and the GM has had plenty of time to get ready for it.

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Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

BRB going to Hell!

Love the sound of this one.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

375 gold piece per 1

Shadow Lodge

Limit 2


1 person marked this as a favorite.

People have told my alchemist "go to Hell," but I never thought it would actually happen.

The Concordance

Oh HELLS yes.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.

This is gonna be a Hell of a trip.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4

4 people marked this as a favorite.

I can see the wordplay has already begun. Make sure to budget time at the start of the scenario for some punicillin or you'll quickly Dis-pair of ever getting through the briefing. ;-)

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Dis sounds like fun!

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Time for my Priestess of Dispater to return home.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Maps appearing in Scenario #10-08:

  • Pathfinder Flip-Mat Classics: City Streets
  • Pathfinder Map Pack: Hellscapes**
  • A full-page custom map

    **Yeah, big surprise. This scenario is in Hell—of course we used this map

  • Scarab Sages

    Can't wait for this one to come out. I am building a Projector Slide Show for it!

    Grand Lodge

    Already found an error. Adding the Advanced template should make the CR +1. Instead the creature in question has the same CR as the normal version right above it.

    Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

    kevin_video wrote:
    Already found an error. Adding the Advanced template should make the CR +1. Instead the creature in question has the same CR as the normal version right above it.

    If you are referring to the entry on page 27, that appears to be a mistake in labeling the creature's CR. However, the encounter's overall challenge rating is designed with the correct advanced creature CR in mind, and the advanced creature stat block in the back of the adventure has the proper CR listed. This should not impact gameplay.

    Grand Lodge

    John Compton wrote:

    If you are referring to the entry on page 27, that appears to be a mistake in labeling the creature's CR. However, the encounter's overall challenge rating is designed with the correct advanced creature CR in mind, and the advanced creature stat block in the back of the adventure has the proper CR listed. This should not impact gameplay.

    Yeah, just a typo. Nothing more. The advanced hp are still noted.

    Yay! I can finally use those hellscape maps!

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    I can't put up an actual review, but I figured that this was good enough.

    We played this scenario yesterday and it was amazing! Despite needing better editing for time, it was well written for the most part. We had a lot of fun, and it is probably in my top 5 games, maybe even #1. Watch out though, it is very investigation-intense and requires more than average story book keeping.

    Oops. Maybe I should have spoilered that.

    Long session, maybe two parts would have been better.

    Grand Lodge

    There are a number of scenarios this season that would have benefitted from being two parts. I understand why they couldn't be, given all the work going into 2E as well.

    The Concordance

    Whose Prestige the title means?

    Infernal laws or the house of Davian

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