A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 7-11.
Over the years, the Pathfinder Society has sent several teams into the mist-shrouded Gloomspires to explore the tomb of the legendary pirate Sempet Sevenfingers. Each has contended with unforeseen horrors, but the way to Sevenfingers's final resting place and his treasures has remained hidden and sealed—until now. While Sempet's natural life may have ended, he remains a powerful opponent, one whose mastery over the magic of the Gloomspires has allowed him to reach beyond his tomb into a realm of myths and nightmares in order to seize a frightful new source of power. Can the PCs defeat this wily ancient pirate, or will they become the next victims of Sempet's greed?
You know you're in for an experience when a scenario offers an optional "hard mode." As the name of the scenario gives it away, this scenario continues and concludes the series of PFS adventures involving legendary sorcerer-pirate Sempet Sevenfingers. I played it with Gurkagh, my "caveman shaman" on low subtier, four-player adjustment, and without hard mode, and still found it suitably challenging! There's only a little role-playing involved in this one, and it's better tackled with combat/dungeon-delving PCs than something like a diplomancer. The scenario definitely takes the PCs to some unexpected places (setting-wise), and although I might have liked a little more atmosphere and flavour, overall it was an enjoyable and memorable session.
It's hard for me to write a quality review of On Sevenfingers's Sails because I haven't played any of the earlier scenarios in the story arc. Essentially, I'm coming in at the very end of what sounds like a pretty cool series of adventures, but I'm not qualified to assess whether this scenario is a fitting capstone (and I'm sure I'm missing plenty of backstory and nuance). But with that disclaimer clear, I'll do my best.
The scenario starts in the Gloomspires, towering stone columns rising from the ocean west of the Eye of Abendego built for an unknown reason by an ancient civilization. One of the Gloomspires was renovated centuries ago to serve as the hidden treasure repository for a notorious sorcerer-pirate named Sempet Sevenfingers. In previous missions, Pathfinders have uncovered information about Sevenfingers and liberated his lieutenant, Hrethnar, who was magically bound to the site. Today, in a briefing delivered by a clearly-excited Venture-Captain named Calisro Benarry, the PCs are tasked with making the final entry into Sevenfingers's innermost tomb/vault! The briefing aptly sets the tone that this is a big event, and some of the surrounding circumstances (the tomb can only be opened one day a year, and only from dawn to dusk) add to the feeling that something special is about to occur.
When the PCs enter Sevenfingers's inner complex, they find a narrow walkway across a long pool of water. The area is guarded by a coral golem, and some specific terrain features make for a tactically-interesting (and dangerous) combat. In other words, it's very easy to take some damage just by moving around during the battle. Past this guardian, the Pathfinders will find a laboratory and a treasury that is almost empty save for a chest containing a cache of flawless rubies. The mystery of Sevenfingers's whereabouts is explained by an admirably ghoulish NPC: a mask made from the face of one of Sevenfingers's rivals, magically preserved and still containing the man's consciousness, pinned to the wall for eternity! (Note to self: Do not cross Sempet Sevenfingers!) If the PCs can get the mask on their side, they'll learn that Sevenfingers has recently set out on an ambitious goal: to build a pirate armada equipped with plane-travelling magic from the nightmarish dream realm of Leng! To accomplish this, Sevenfingers has travelled to the Mines of Baol-Kataar in Leng in the hopes of finding more rubies to power the magical engines his ships will need.
When the PCs report this to Venture-Captain Benarry and Hrethnar, the decision is made to send the Pathfinders out after Sevenfingers. I'm not really sure I understand the reasoning here, as it tends to put the Pathfinder Society in the category of "interdimensional police" rather than "seekers of lore". But the Society has definitely evolved into more of a "do-gooder society" since its inception, so I guess I can buy it. Hrethnar is able to open a magical portal to Sevenfingers' former flagship, the Voracious, and repair it so the PCs can then use it to travel in Leng to the Mines of Baol-Kataar. I would have liked more description and flavour of Leng in the scenario, because (apart from the foes they face in the mine) this part of the adventure could just as easily have happened anywhere.
The mines contain--in close and perhaps too-on-the-nose proximity--the most iconic inhabitants of Leng: Leng Spiders and the Denizens of Leng (each of which will be familiar to players of a certain early adventure path). Leng Spiders can be pretty nasty when fought in close quarters, and my caveman shaman got killed in this battle (there was a mistake with the 4-player adjustment, but these things happen and I always save enough PP or gold to bring characters back to life). The PCs will learn that while they've been doing all this fighting in the mines, Sevenfingers' has grabbed the rubies he wants and teleported himself back outside to where the ships are docked! There's an optional (if time permits) encounter against his rear guard, some bodaks (plus a nightmare dragon at higher subtier). I'd judge it pretty nasty for an optional encounter, and say most groups would be happy if the clock helped them avoid it.
The big showdown against Sempet Sevenfingers's is, fittingly, a boarding action as he sails away on his ship and the PCs give chase either magically or on the Voracious. Sempet has, in the centuries since he locked himself away, become a Leng ghoul--and his crew also consist of ghouls. This makes for a final encounter of a CR 4-5 points higher than the PCs' subtier, so it shouldn't be an easy one. I honestly don't remember much about what happened when my group went through the battle other than that we prevailed (since my PC was dead, I was just a casual observer). Reading through the stat blocks, catching "Leng ghoul fever" would be a very easy way to die!
Assuming the PCs are successful, they'll be able to return to the Gloomspires. The Chronicle has a very cool boon: a PC can buy the Voracious and even, a limited number of times, planeshift with it! Definitely something my PC will do once he gets enough prestige points.
Overall, I thought this was a strong scenario with an exciting story against foes worthy of higher-level PCs. It's a suitably hard scenario given the threats involved, and definitely not the sort of thing you'd want to tackle with a few Iconic pre-gens and skill monkeys, for example. I wish I had played the earlier scenarios in the series, as I'm sure it would have added even more to the experience. But even as a standalone, On Sevenfingers's Sails is an enjoyable adventure.
I only rated this one star because I couldn't rate it lower.
I haven't played any of the previous Gloomspires events, so this would have been my introduction to Leng. But every encounter is designed to be frustrating -- at least those we got to.
As for one particular encounter? SIX creatures for a DM to control is pushing it. More? The DM has enough to do already. That's beyond pushing it. That's just a failure in design. I have to wonder what editor let that through in the first place. Especially with how long these things would take to run in the first place. This is not a four-hour slot game.
Run this on hardmode on higher tier for 6 players (with one out of subtier)
Have to say that while I think two of hardmode encounters were either frustratingly bullshit or just made players want to lure enemies out of the room(especially in latter case with no reason for them to stay in room and no reason for enemies to not follow them), we had lot of fun with this. Like encounters definitely aren't easy even without hardmode, hardmode just amplies the threat level. It also has some really neat flavor though kinda sad scenario doesn't answer "What if PCs take Shivers with them?" :p
Some themes were very interesting, which is the only good part of this scenario, so let's start with that.
The blood ritual, the coral hall, the face just hanging there, the bloody spiders, the excursion to Leng, all very cool!
The issues arrive when it comes to literally everything else.
The first thing the players encounter is a golem, making almost all spell casters completely useless. Immunity to magic is very harsh, even more infuriating than swarms. The worst part about that encounter? The reward for that entire minidungeon are tied to that golem. So even if you avoid it by D-Dooring or using any other way to get to the other side, you lose all rewards for the area for no reason. DR 10 that can only be bypassed by a material costing 3000GP. Very dull and frustrating for the players.
Every single encounter is paired with a bottleneck. Every, single, encounter. Almost killed one of my players simply because of that. Full attack from a denizen of Leng? 1HP away from actual death, on low Subtier. And because of the bottlenecked encounter, there was no way to quickly get to him. Thank god one of the PCs had a FLYING FAMILIAR THAT WAS ABLE TO USE A WAND OF HEALING. The only thing that kept that PC alive. The Golem? Bottlenecked by a wonky bridge you fall down. The spiders? Another bridge! And also obscuring mist. The Denizens? 1-square wide cave. The last fight? Literal hundreds of feet away from the fight, and then bottlenecked by a plank. The optional encounter was the only one that wasnt completely bottlenecked.
And that optional encouter. Why make a cool fight against a dragon optional?? And Bodaks as well!
And then Sevenfinger himself. Good 'ol "has 10 fingers now" Sevenfinger. He went down in 2 turns.... No DR, no high AC for a 7-11 game, and the morale makes him boring af. "if the fight goes bad, let him go into melee". Ah yes, the sorcerer that goes into melee, that will show those pesky PCs! This is the 4th Scenario and they were finally able to fight Sempet, and then the fight was so disappointing
Hey, you guys gave it a "greater challange" option, very cool! Where's the bonus? What do they get? Nothing? Higher chance of dying? Wow... Very useless :D No player that I know would take that under the threat of their PC dying
"Drat... Seems like it was found after I retired... Is there anyway someone could sneak me in? Just... Just for a little while?" She says as she greedily clutches her hands together, the power of her deity flowing through her. "Just... One... Last... TIME!!!!
The Ravings of a Seeker Level Paladin with the first three Gloomspires on them