Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-10: The Shattered Shield

1.40/5 (based on 9 ratings)
Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-10: The Shattered Shield

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 1-5.

When news arrives that one of the shards of the holy relic known as the Shattered Shield of Arnisant have been put up for sale in a Rahadoumi auction, the Pathfinder Society is highly skeptical, particularly since all the shards of the shield are safely accounted for, enshrined in the nation of Lastwall's capital city, Vigil. However, the Society's sources have confirmed that the seller does indeed seem to have a powerful magical relic identical to one of the shards, so the Pathfinders have sent a team to investigate. What secrets might be uncovered in this nation where religion is banned? And who besides the Pathfinder Society and their allies in Lastwall might be seeking the purported relic?

Contents in The Shattered Shield also contribute directly to the ongoing storyline of the Dark Archive faction.

Written by Leo Glass.

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

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Are there errors or omissions in this product information? Got corrections? Let us know at store@paizo.com.

PZOPSS1010E


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1.40/5 (based on 9 ratings)

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Poor Plotting

3/5

NO SPOILERS

I ran this at Subtier 1-2. The scenario features some great flavour in terms of setting and characters. A couple of the encounters are really memorable. However, the major middle sequence just . . . doesn’t make sense. It’s a hard scenario, but playable, if you can check your logic at the door.

SPOILERS!:

The backstory to The Shattered Shield ties in quite heavily to the Tyrant’s Grasp adventure path. Although I don’t know much about the latter, I know the general concept is about legendary lich The Whispering Tyrant’s attempt to escape from his imprisonment in Gallowspire. Accomplishing this requires reassembling the pieces of the Shattered Shield of Arnisant, an artefact-level magical shield wielded by the crusading general who helped defeat the Whispering Tyrant centuries ago. Apparently, agents of an evil organisation called the Whispering Way have been secretly stealing these shards and leaving fakes in their place. In this scenario, we learn that the Whispering Way was double-crossed by one of its own members who wants to put up a real stolen shard at auction in the city of Azir, capital of Rahadoum. The overall goal for the Pathfinders is to get this shard back.

The scenario starts in Manaket, another city in Rahadoum, at a PFS lodge named Swordmeet. There, while studying moves on a chess-like board game, Venture-Captain Obo explains the importance of the shard. He tells the PCs that it’ll be placed up for auction at the Sacred Cobra auction house, a secret (and illegal) roaming auction of divine artifacts. Obo says that finding the secret site of the auction in Azir will be difficult, and that entry is allowed only if the bidders bear a special banner. The Pathfinders are told to find an artifacts dealer named Torvad in Azir in order to get his help in getting into the auction. The group is also given ten thousand gold pieces (!) in bank notes to fund the purchase, but asked to also do their best to obtain any other magical artifacts sold at the auction. The briefing is pretty straightforward, with a very minor twist in that a successful Intelligence check allows a PC to help Obo with his board game; this gives the party some extra gold at the end of the scenario. Some people in the forums were annoyed by this, but the amount is so small (25 gp at Subtier 1-2) that I really can’t see what the big deal is.

One of the fun twists in this scenario is that Rahadoum is a country where public worship of the gods is illegal, and any proselytization (or divine spellcasting) is punished severely! Mechanically, getting caught with divine objects or publicly casting divine spells accumulates a PC a certain number of points, and the points can result in penalties to skill checks or even banishment from Rahadoum (and the rest of the scenario) unless bought off with Prestige points. Although some players will groan and moan about their builds being “nerfed”, I really like story-logical constraints that force PCs to get out of their comfort zones to see just how resilient they are when things don’t go as planned. And as most of the encounters take place out of public view, even cleric or paladin PCs don’t actually have that much to worry about.

Manaket, where the lodge is, and Azir, where the auction will be held, are about six days’ journey overland away from each other. The PCs are instructed to join a caravan. As is wont to happen during these sorts of things, a violent electrical dust storm catches the caravan while it’s still a couple of days’ out from Azir. During the storm, the PCs hear the sound of someone choking in the distance. Through a mild skills challenge, they’ll find and rescue this individual: Kazima, a member of Azir’s Pure Legion regiment, a military unit charged with enforcing the country’s laws (including the laws against divine worship). The plotting is a bit awkward here, but Kazima explains that she’s been investigating strange deaths that involve people dying and turning gold-colored after touching particular objects. She’s retrieved one of these objects from an investigation site. In game terms, the object carries a pretty nasty supernatural disease/curse called aurum death that causes those who die from it to come back as gold-clad ghouls or ghasts!

When the PCs reach the gates of Azir, they see there’s a long line to get in, as everyone who passes through the gates is searched for hidden objects of worship. (Finally, a good use for that Sleight of Hand skill that’s been sitting on your character sheet for months without being looked at!) There are some other skill checks useful for getting into through the line faster (leaving more time for investigation before the auction begins), but the major excitement comes from a member of the Whispering Way (sent to watch for Pathfinders) trying to slip a holy symbol into a PC’s pocket so they get caught with it. In addition, the object is tainted with aurum death. It’s a pretty effective scene even if it’s unlikely the thief will succeed (each PC gets a Perception check to notice, and that’s a lot of rolls).

Once inside Azir, the group can do some Diplomacy (Gather Information) or Knowledge (Local) checks to figure out where Torvad is staying and get some more background on the Sacred Cobra auction house and these dangerous little gold statues that keep popping up. As an aside, I don’t like how these two skills are often treated interchangeably in PFS scenarios—the former should be for finding out things your PC doesn’t know, while the latter is a representation of something your PC already knows. There’s also a lot of little traits, feats, and class features that PCs may have to help out with gathering information (such as speeding up the length it takes), and those special abilities become meaningless if a Knowledge (Local) check instantly does the same thing. Anyway!

The PCs learn that Torvad is staying a patron’s mansion. When they arrive, however, the building is on fire! The fire gradually spreads as the PCs conduct a room-by-room search, (hopefully) rescuing a young girl along the way and fighting off a pair of undead creatures in the mansion’s living room. If the PCs are speedy enough, they’ll find Torvad in a back room, handcuffed to his patron and stabbed in the stomach in a cruel act of torture by the malefactors responsible. I thought this scenario played out really well, as the fire occupies more and more squares each round while the PCs are fighting the undead. Although the PCs can put out some of the fires, they need to act quickly to get to Torvad before he’s incinerated. It was pretty exciting when I ran out, and a good thing the group included a hydrokineticist!

If the PCs rescue Torvad (and keep him alive), he tells the group where the auction is being held (the city’s Museum of Philosophy, Logic, and Natural History) and gives them his bidder’s banner. At this point, the PCs know that there’s a lot of weird stuff going on (the attempt to frame them for a crime at the gates, the fire at the mansion, the undead in the living room, etc.), but can’t really put any of the pieces together. In addition, they have the added complication of either avoiding or cooperating with the Pure Legion because Kazima (rescued from the dust storm) is also on the case.

The auction itself is really clumsily handled. While rescuing Torvad from the burning mansion, the PCs were apparently intended to have taken the time to salvage and examine random pieces of décor. In a crazy coincidence, these pieces of décor all belong to or contain information about other bidders who would be at the auction. The PCs are then supposed to use this information to help sway things their way before the auction starts. Once the auction starts, there are eight items up for sale before the shard of the Shattered Shield of Arnisant in Round # 9. But just as the bidding begins on the shard, the auctioneer is revealed to be an undead witch named Zaashakar (a member of the Whispering Way) and her minion (a flying “necrocraft”) crashes in through a skylight to attack. There are so many things wrong with this whole sequence that I’ll have to use a numbered list to keep track:

1) When the PCs are rushing through a burning building to rescue the one man who can tell them where the auction is, why would they stop to examine burning pieces of junk?

2) Why would those burning pieces of junk just so conveniently have information on the other bidders?

3) How much will the bidders bid on objects? We’re told what they want the most (and that they’ll use all of their “remaining” gold on bidding), but we don’t know how much they’ll keep in reserve until that comes around.

4) Why would the PCs risk bidding on earlier items when, as far as they know, the one thing they can’t risk getting outbid on is the shard which will go up last in the auction?

5) Why go through all of this rigmarole when the auction doesn’t actually matter because a fight will break out before the shard is bid on?

6) Why go through all of this rigmarole when, it turns out, the real piece of the shard isn’t even at the auction site because Zaashakar has already stolen it and sent it ahead to her hideout, replacing the real thing with another fake?
7) Why is Zaashakar intentionally antagonising the Pathfinder Society and risking the biggest score of her career when she could have got away completely scot-free?

8) What if the PCs get the “shard” at the auction but don’t realise it’s a fake? There are no checks listed for authenticating it, and, according to the backstory, these are amazing fakes capable of fooling even experts in the trade.

It’s a really poor piece of plotting all around.

When I ran the scenario, we had to stop after the auction battle because half the group had to leave due to time constraints and the other half of the group was too beat up to risk continuing on their own. Oddly, they didn’t miss out on much—just 1 PP and some of the gold.

The final sequence of the scenario has the PCs finding Zaashakar’s headquarters, a secret subterranean gambling den called The Grave Wager. I really like Zaashakar’s backstory and the idea of a place for the most desperate people to gamble for a big turnaround (at the risk of their life). There are some more traps and minor minions to battle before the big confrontation with Zaashakar and her poppet familiar (or, if Zaashakar is destroyed at the auction house, the poppet and a replacement bad guy; I think it’s annoying that the scenario doesn’t make things easier if the PCs are on the ball and get the big bad early). If they win the battle, the PCs can find the real shard and make their way back to Manaket off-screen.

Overall, The Shattered Shield is a mixed bag. The setting is great, and the NPCs and locations are given great backstories and flavour. The link to the Tyrant’s Grasp AP is interesting and intriguing, even if the players won’t really find out about it. The big encounter in the burning building is very cinematic. On the other hand, as I’ve belaboured, the whole auction business just doesn’t work at all, and since it’s the centrepiece of the scenario, the entire thing suffers. Still, if you can overlook the plot holes, it’s not bad.


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Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Hey, back to Rahadoum, THAT can’t go wrong...


Can't wait! Any word on which, if any, flip mats will be used with this one?

Dataphiles

Is this planned to be available soon? We've scheduled to have this played at my local hobby store December 20th!

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

This scenario is a December release, usually the last Wednesday of the month. Since that is directly after Christmas, it may release early or it may not. You should schedule a different scenario for that day.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

I'm not sure why this is listed as a November scenario (#10-08 and #10-09 were our November scenarios). This is intended as a December release. I'll see about getting this corrected.

We're getting December scenarios wrapped up a little earlier than we would most other adventures largely because we need everything finalized and queued to go live on the website before much of the office empties for holiday travel. As usual, though, December scenarios become available on the last Wednesday of the month, which this year would be December 26th.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Prepping and reading this was a joy. I have the perfect ratty old fairground teddy for the poppet :-)

Also, maps since I didn't see it posted yet.

Spoiler:

Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Noble Estate
Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Museum
One Custom Full Page map

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

Matt Duval wrote:

Prepping and reading this was a joy. I have the perfect ratty old fairground teddy for the poppet :-)

Also, maps since I didn't see it posted yet.
** spoiler omitted **

How did this game end up going for you?

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Michael Sayre wrote:


How did this game end up going for you?

Gonna spoiler just in case, but in general, had a very fun time!

Spoiler:

The antagonist was very colorful, the PCs really engaged with several of the NPCs they met, and the buildup encounters did a good job of getting the paladin really gung-ho against the villain. It felt like an Indiana Jones story with a nice mix of intrigue, subterfuge, and combat; I was imagining the Cairo scenes in Raiders for much of it. I don't want to get too into spoilers in the product thread since there's a lot of stuff that happens that has fun surprise value [particularly one cinematic moment], but I enjoyed it and I think the players did too. I had a couple minor quibbles but overall a great addition to season 10.

Sovereign Court

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Need clarification on a statblock:

Spoiler:
Gold-clad mummies have mummy rot referenced in their SQ section and the blurb about it only being curable is in the entry for aurum death. So do they have both, or can their aurum death only be treated like mummy rot, or what?


Is there any explanation as to why most of the reviews are gone? I can still find them on the individual reviewers' pages, so they're not gone completely, but they're simply missing from the Reviews page.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

Quentin Coldwater wrote:
Is there any explanation as to why most of the reviews are gone? I can still find them on the individual reviewers' pages, so they're not gone completely, but they're simply missing from the Reviews page.

Not at this time. It's a site error affecting quite a few of the season 10 scenarios that we're not currently expecting a fix for until website updates are completed.

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