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.

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Unbalanced

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The other reviewers have done a great job at describing the short comings of this scenario (and there are many). I don't normally write reviews but I feel like this scenario needs a PSA.

I want to focus on the mechanical aspects of the scenario and what I feel are some significant balance issues.

The Lodge:

At the very beginning of the scenario, there is an obscure Intelligence check that if the PCs don’t make, they lose money on their chronicle sheet. Not only is it obscure, but the DC is ridiculously high for a level 1-5 scenario (DC 20). That means that a group that has a character with an intelligence of 20 in low tier only has a 25% chance to pass the check or the group loses money.

The Estate:

This was almost a TPK at my table. The high tier, 4-player adjustment is not at all balanced. The gold-clad mummy stat block that is in the scenario is shown as a CR 5 creature (just like a regular mummy) except:
-It has 24 more HP (84 not 60)
-Its paralyzing aura is a DC 19 instead of a DC 16 (3 out or my 4 players failed this and were paralyzed with fear)
-It has fire resistance of 10
-The only saving grace with this creature is with the typo in its mummy rot (it could be intentional, but it feels like a typo). The stat block seems to combine the effects of mummy rot with scenario disease Aurum Death. The onset is listed as 1 day instead of 1 minute, and it says it can be cured by two consecutive saves as an optional alternative to using remove curse and remove disease within 1 minute as with mummy rot.

As I have already mentioned the 4-player adjustment is not balanced for this scenario. All it does is remove one festrog from the encounter. It does nothing to de-buff this 84 HP, 19 AC, fire resistant, terrifying mummy, that has DR 5/-. The only reason my players did not get TPKed was because one of them could summon zombie meat shields which absorbed around 80 HP of damage. (Oh, and the mummy has a +14 to hit with its attack (with power attack) so it only needed a 5 on the dice to hit any of my players)

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that while this fight is going on, the estate is on fire and that fire is growing each turn, and there are NPCs that are trapped in a room with only one exit which is, of course, blocked by fire. The mechanics of the fire are also strange, and no allowance is made for slower spread of the fire for 4 players.

At the end of it all, 3 out of my 4 players were infected with mummy rot (thank goodness it was not the 1-minute onset version thanks to the typo mentioned above).

If the party can survive this encounter, there is enough time for them to rest and the remaining encounters are easy by comparison.

The Auction House:

The 4-player adjustment for the gold-clad necrocraft at least gives the creature a penalty to its attacks and damage. It still has 80 HP and DR 5/Good with some SR and resistances but my players were able to use the environment to trap the creature in the nearby hallway thus giving it a significant penalty. That said they still had to throw another 70-80 HP of zombie meat shield at the creature to prevent them from getting wiped. This creature is listed as CR 7 and it felt like a much easier fight than the CR 5 mummy from earlier.

The Gambling Den:

The final boss is laughably easy should the PCs decide to attack her (which why would the PCs agree to help her in a clearly dark and evil ritual?). There is no 4-player adjustment for this encounter and it isn’t really need since my group of 4 players was able to drop her in less than 2 rounds.

If you are thinking about running this scenario, and you have not read the other reviews, I highly encourage you to do so before deciding to run this for your players. (Particularly in high tier)


Cool Elements That Never Come Together

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GMed this for a table of six (Metamorph Alchemist 4, Primal Companion Hunter 3, UC Rogue 2, Cleric 2, Barbarian 1, Ranger 1).

Positives and Negatives

+Rahadoum and the Pure Legion make a definitive impression upon divine casting characters entering the city.

-The Legion Point system should be good, but every encounter after entering the city takes place in private locations with people that would/should never report you. Why would a woman you rescue from a burning building immediately report you for using divine magic?

+The villain has an interesting background and ties into a greater threat.

-Unfortunately, the party will never learn any of that unless you force a massive evil monologue at the very end.

-Additionally, her decisions in parts of the scenario are baffling and stupid.

---After entering Azir, the different sections of the scenarios aren't connected well. A random noblewoman just happens to have a ton of items necessary for the auction to be easier, several of which beggar belief. The villain just happens to make a stupid decision that is all risk and no reward, but that's necessary to continue the scenario. And after the auction, the party has no actual leads on where to go, leading to another random gather information rather than any kind of problem solving.

--There's honestly just too many sections in this adventure. Desert rescue, dealing with the line, scavenging for clues, a fight, rescuing people, talking with people before an auction, running an auction, another fight, and then a dungeon afterwards. Our table ran for 5 hours, and that involved me rushing the group through the final dungeon at a breakneck pace.

-The auction, which is supposedly the centerpiece of the scenario, is a complete afterthought. Half of the auction involves no NPC bidding on items. There's no format for how the auction is run. You can wing it, but since it's the main point of the scenario, why should you have to wing it?

-The editing is shoddy, particularly in the section on the auction. The table for the auction items and their bids is multiple pages away from the bidders and what they'll pay for the items. The only descriptions of the items are nestled in the descriptions for each of the bidders.

-The scenario seems to punish you for doing too well. Get all the macguffins for the other bidders at the auction? The auction doesn't happen, you fight a bad guy, and your Dark Archive members fail their mission. Kill the villain early? You just fight something else with her stats as well as another creature for the final fight?

+The disease is incredibly cool and threatening.


Lots of wasted potential

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The concept, story, and setting for this scenario are super cool. Shame that the mechanics of it fail to translate into a fun experience.

1. The PCs lose gold in the black questions of the beginning of the scenario unless they both ask the right question and make a high DC Intelligence check.

2. The DCs for many of the saves seem abnormally high. For instance, the variant mummy is the same CR as the bog standard mummy but its fear aura is DC 19 (compared the the original's 16). This where my game ended, as even the high wisdom/will save characters failed the saves and we ended in a TPK.

3. The auction's characters are well described, given interesting motivations, and you can find neat ways to interact with them. Shame that the auction itself didn't seem to have clear rules and that if you manage to convince the other bidders to leave you're rewarded with more combat. It feels like punishing success.

4. The boons are pretty easy to lose, as are the prestige points.

I hate giving this scenario the lowest score because the story is great, but it needs to be playable. And this wasn't.


Even I can't like this scenario...

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So far, I've always been too lazy to write reviews, so the fact that I'm writing this should already say a lot.

I'll be frank: in all of my years running PFS, I have NEVER had to take as many liberties with a scenario as I had to do with this one. What I love about GMing is the ability to tell a story and engage my players, yet there is so much wrong with this scenario that I could not in any way make this a coherent (or at least semi-plausible) story.

The mission seems simple enough: There is a cool relic being sold at auction and the players must go and procure this item for the Society. Unfortunately that's where simplicity ends.

A few of the bigger flaws - as spoilerless as possible:
- An NPC that has no direct link to this auction just HAPPENS to have items that each of the bidders at the auction would want.
- There are no actual mechanics offered for running the auction and the necessary info is spread over several pages, making it a hassle trying to keep track of who's bidding on what and how much gold they have left.
- There are several places in this scenario where players are, in my opinion, hashly and unfairly penalised in gold earned. This goes so far as that players are expected to ask certain questions to an NPC that have NO relation to the topic of their conversation, without any signs that asking this could lead to more gold.
- Similarly it is fairly easy for Dark Archive players to lose their boon, simply by doing what the scenario seems to suggest doing.

Spoiler:
By giving all the bidders the items from the first NPC, they leave the auction. If there are no other bidders, the BBE assumes she's been found out and immidiately starts the attack, skipping the entire auction, making sure the DA-players can't buy enough relics to satisfy their faction goal. Unless they go completely lawless and just steal the items afterwards. Although... this might be fairly standard Pathfinder behavior, actually.

- The BBE's actions make NO SENSE whatsoever
Spoiler:
So Evil Girl is also sent to retrieve the shard. She manages to get this before the players are even actually involved. But instead of just saying "Haha, suckers, I'm out of here." she decides to play dress up queen and host the auction anyways, because...........? Afterwards she just waits in her lair for the players to come find her, because....? Oh, and of course the part where she basically just offers the shard, that she has been hired to get, to the players as a reward for a gamble... I'm confused.

- The final encounter varies between "rather" and "utterly" anticlimactic.
Spoiler:
In the end the players get a choice: Bash the BBE's face in, which leads to a slightly one-sided combat as she is alone and has fairly few offensive spells. Or helping her with a ritual in return for the shard (Why in the world would sane players agree to help a ghoul complete an evil ritual, where the only benefit to them is that they don't have to spend the time actually searching for the shard? Again no incentive or explanation on how to make this attractive to players.) which results in.... poof, the BBE disintegrates.... Seriously. I'm not joking...

I could list several more weird things for this scenario, but you get the idea. In the end I feel like this scenario simply should not have been released yet. It has potential, but the story, the mechanics - Everything about this feels rushed. There are even more typo's than usual.

I just thank the gods that I somehow managed to make it fun (and understandable) for my group, but I left that table feeling disappointed, unsattisfied and, frankly, dirty for having to change so much in the scenario.


Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics 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 Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics 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.

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