Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-19: Corpses in Kalsgard

***½( ) (based on 6 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 5-9.

The great Linnorm King Sveinn Blood-Eagle prepares for his final voyage to legendary Vallenhall, but all is not right in his kingdom. As Sveinn's unworthy children battle over the soon-to-be-vacant throne, Kalsgard's gnomes find themselves beset by a rash of sudden deaths. While these deaths appear to be caused by the Bleaching, a dread affliction that saps the life and light from gnomes who succumb to ennui, a gnome Pathfinder and priestess of Nivi Rhombodazzle believes that something more is afoot. She’s recruited the PCs to uncover the affliction's origins in a city where mighty Ulfen warriors are on the verge of war.

Written by Alex Riggs.

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

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***½( ) (based on 6 ratings)

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An intrigue adventure that forgot to bring the intrigue...and the adventure

**( )( )( )

The rare adventure I get to review from the playerside.

This was truly dull. The intrigue and mystery were thimble deep and not generally interesting in anyway, instead feeling distinctly like we were being led by the nose - which isn't too uncommon for these high level intrigue adventure, but what made this stand out is that nothing ever made up for it. It had real echoes of City of Strangers where the adventure is meant to be the PCs solving a mystery while the plot simply happens to us. But unlike City of Strangers, I walked away feeling no more informed about Kalsgard, and not feeling that I had met or encountered anything all that interesting.

There were no interesting locales, no memorable NPCs, no fun fights, and my rogue rolled a series of skills when prompted with varied levels of success. Just... 4 hours of polite play followed by some pizza.

Skip it unless you have nothing better to do.


Almost 5 Stars

****( )

I ran this for five PC's at low tier. An excellently written and formatted scenario with a lot of great gnome tie-ins. Only a few tiny issues kept this from being 5-stars, including weak enemies at the low tier and a few questionably written tactics. But I'll keep most of my review in spoilers to avoid anything slipping out.

Spoiler:
I honestly really liked this scenario for flipping the usual script of pathfinder missions. Most of the time on an investigation you encounter the true villain right off the bat so the writer can do a 'gotcha' moment later on. It actually seemed a lot more like an episode of Criminal Minds, where the team has to track down a spree-killer before another person dies and they don't actually discover the psycho in the woods until the very last moment. While my players may have thought the necromancy stuff was cheesy, it did tie the serial killer stuff into the fantasy setting really well and explained all the enemies you faced. Said enemies certainly could have tactically been more of a threat though (and against a weaker or slower acting group, they might have been).

A main complaint was that the undead badgers at the end had no way of actually discovering the pathfinders easily when they started sneaking through the tunnels. Thus, they couldn't use their burrowing stuff to get the jump on them. The high tier digging enemies had tremorsense, which solves that problem. I also had a smaller issue with the restriction of the skeletons being unable to leave the bosses side. It would make a lot more sense for them to take advantage of their size in the tunnels instead of staying in the large room. Anyway, small complaints overall and I think most of that was solved at the high tier.

The only other issue was the whole background about the Linnorm King stuff. I'm guessing a lot of that is setup for a future scenario, but it really just felt forced into a really well crafted murder mystery scenario that had absolutely nothing to do with the stuff, other than as a foot note to explain why the authorities aren't looking into four bleaching deaths.

The DC's for the investigation skill checks also seemed really low, but I also had a few Perception & Diplomacy optimized players so maybe that was it more than anything else. I did like how the checks were formatted though.

Anyway, all in all I would strongly recommend this scenario.


Gnomes for world power?

****( )

I ran this for a group of four yesterday evening on low tier without the modifications for four people because they were quite high level (witch 6, barbarian 7, paladin 7, alchemist 7, none were gnomes).

The Investigation
Good - I love investigations: Lots of possibilities for roleplay and creativity. In this case my players were even able to speak with the dead, which is not mentioned in the scenario, but is actually a great investigative solution, especially since they never found the first message. I also liked the insights into Gnome life and its difficulties.

Ok - I agree with one of the earlier comments that the investigation checks were too easy and too focused on just two skills. However, this is what we GMs are for; to make roleplay interesting beyond just skill checks and mechanics. I just let them roll their skill checks and describe what they were looking for, so their discoveries would feel less mechanical and more natural.

Bad - The canvassing of the neighbourhood seemed kind of pointless and my players did not do this even once since they were able to find all necessary information at the crime scene. Which is actually sad, because the description of the people they would have been able to meet were great.

Unforeseen - After getting Humush Mum's name my players immediately wanted to abandon the other crimescenes to go to a pharasmin temple to check the records of the deceased... which is actually not a bad idea and a very obvious solution. This could have led them to the home of the mum family and find them missing. This possibility was never mentioned in the scenario, and I dissuaded them from doing this eventually. But it still was a very valid possible route of investigation.

Following up on the investigation
Good - I love that the scenario includes two possible outcomes of the investigation: figuring out the clues or not, and the consequences of either option (which could have been dire indeed, my players quite liked Quil).

Ok - I like fights which are not too straight forward, since these tend to be a little repetitive. So the option of having my players fight a ghost was something I looked a bit forward to, to see how they would deal with the incorporeal challenge. However, I could also see them all die in this fight, since Humush can deal a s!++ton of damage. I am not sure if this encounter is balanced for the lower subtier at least.

Bad - Maybe this was intended, but the guardians of the hostages were such pushovers, that one of my players decided after the first round of combat (during which the first two undead already re-died) that she would clean her nails and wait for the others to nuke the rest... The alternate route, meaning fighting Humush Mums Ghost, would have been the much bigger challenge and also what my players prepared for.

Ellux Lair
Good - Ellux' build was very solid! With all his buffs he was near unhittable, and if not for our alchemist and his cold bombs they probably wouldn't even be able to scratch him. This was the first fight in the scenario which actually felt challenging to my players, and they had fun. And i doubt that they understood the foreshadowing for future events, which will make it even more exciting later on. However, see the 'Bad' part.

Ok - The Warrens with the Burrowing Undead was another strategically interesting encounter. The hit and run tactics of the Burrowers was nice. Not too challenging with my party setup, but I rolled the saves against the diseases behind the screen and without the players knowledge, so I could surprise them later. Regarding Ellux' motivations... I don't know if this was intended as a wink to current political tendencies, but he felt disgustingly antisemitic in an "in your face"-way. Makes for a very satisfying kill, but I prefer a little more subtlety when pointing at real world politics.

Bad - Ellux' minions were very much useless. With a +3 to hit (or +4 with haste) they were basically only able to hit on a rolled 20... My players figured this out pretty quickly and proceeded to ignore them, going straight for Ellux. Having prepared all the buffs, this left Ellux with very little offensive magic, and with a +5 to hit he was basically dead in the water. Be had one succesfull shot a the barbarian with the Enfeebling ray, and the Black Tentacles (which also killed the remaining skeletons) against all others, and then we were at a mexican standoff: Neither side was able to do anything for a few rounds, and then my players just outwaited his buffs...

TL;DR
The investigation was interesting; it needed a little GM initiative to make it non-mechanical and to not drift in directions not mentioned in the scenario, but the different outcomes make it worthwhile. Most of the combat encounters were pushovers, with the exception of the final boss. He was built very well (the "you will never hit me" variant), but could do with a few more offensive options. I also loved the foreshadowing.


A Tale of Two Tables

****( )

There were two tables of this scenario run at a local games day, and it seemed like it went very differently for each group. Let me describe a couple of the things that I enjoyed about playing it, but also point out a couple of things other folks might not enjoy so much.

The gathering information/role-playing bit:

Good - You end up investigating several deaths, and there’s a danger that this could feel like doing the same thing over and over again, but the author includes enough details to make it not boring. Each of the deceased is a different and interesting person. There is enough redundancy that you could survive not getting all the clues, but it doesn't feel repetitive talking to different people in different places.

Bad - The investigation basically comes down to two skills. I can see how this helps keep things streamlined, and gets the party through the investigation with time for everything else that comes after, but if your party is really good at both those skills, you will roll through the investigation and get all the clues. If your party is lacking in those skills, I’m guessing this could be quite frustrating.

The fighting/tactical bit:

Good - The fights felt interesting, particularly the one in the tunnels. The group I played with got to use some unusual powers and magic items that don’t necessarily get used in every adventure. I felt like our success was a nice pat on the back for being prepared for a little weirdness.

Bad - Apparently the tunnel fight was absolutely brutal at the other table. I’m not sure if any PCs actually died, but they ran away and said, “We’re going home; if we go back in there, we’ll die.” If you are expecting the same old fight where you line the melee types up in front, while the archers and casters rain down pointy and fiery death from long range, you’re going to have to think outside the box. If you are ill prepared, or maybe even just have the wrong mix of characters, then things could go badly here (and maybe even in one of the other fights as well).


Gnomes, man. Gnomes.

**( )( )( )

(I played this.)

This scenario is odd. The plot doesn't make much sense and the investigation feels stilted. While it's an unfair comparison, I likened it to season 1's City of Strangers, where you're supposed to piece things together through checks and the plot just happens to you. The investigation is weirdly abstracted and is more mechanical than it should be. There's no more creative input on the player's side, so it's just a matter of rolling checks, instead of giving the GM guidelines on how to approach this.

On the plus side, the combats felt pretty good. I liked them.

I wouldn't recommend this scenario. It's not horrible or outright offensive, but I just have a weird aftertaste of confusion.


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At last, a chance for Gnomeageddon!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

More Ulfen intrigue!

The Exchange

"By Mama Seven-Pips' loaded dice, oi've got to get to Kalsgard!"

Grand Lodge

"Oh Arshea... Please let me become strong enough to save my people!"

(Need to level up!)

Dark Archive

Huh, I guess NPCs CAN die of old age by time of 2e

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

2 people marked this as a favorite.
CorvusMask wrote:
Huh, I guess NPCs CAN die of old age by time of 2e

Given that Sveinn is human and was like 90 when he was first introduced a decade ago, it was pretty unlikely he was going to make it to PF2 as more than an historical reference. We figured we'd send him off on-screen and in style rather than it being an after-the-fact mention in a PF2 product.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Ok, scaling encounter E2 mentions affecting one kind of creature that’s not involved in the encounter. What is it supposed to do?

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

Chris Ballard wrote:
Ok, scaling encounter E2 mentions affecting one kind of creature that’s not involved in the encounter. What is it supposed to do?

Encounter E2:

Subtier 5–6 should refer to removing 2 gnome skeletal champions.

Subtier 8–9 should refer to removing 1 gnome bloody skeletal champion.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Michael Sayre wrote:
Chris Ballard wrote:
Ok, scaling encounter E2 mentions affecting one kind of creature that’s not involved in the encounter. What is it supposed to do?
** spoiler omitted **

Ok, thanks.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Just wrote a thousand-word review, and the website ate it. Now I remember why I don't often write reviews. Will re-do it at some point, I suppose, but doing a placeholder now so Alex knows he has some positive feedback.

Paizo Employee Developer

Maps in this scenario:

Pathfinder Flip Mat Classics: City Streets
Pathfinder Flip Mat: Thieves' Guild
Pathfinder Flip Mat: Necropolis
New full-page map


Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber
Linda Zayas-Palmer wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Is the third of those maps modified from the original form in this scenario?

I was looking to order the map and I was comparing online images to the scenario, and it looks like several elements were edited out for the scenario.


Comments and Questions

Comment page 14 D. Creatures . . . "although the state that they find them in depends on whether or not they successfully . .. in area C". Encounter C & D are mutually exclusive so I'm defaulting to the 'failed area C' conditions.

Question page 16 E.:
'If a PC succeeded at the Survival check above, the PC's arrive just after Ellus and he has not yet had a chance to deploy his undead minions.'

Is this talking about the badgers or the Skeletal Champions? The champions are already lined up in E2. Do we add the badgers to the lineup or deploy the champions in E1?

Follow-Up Question:
If the PCs succeed at rescuing the family, are the badgers deployed ready for the PC's?

Encounter E1:
Subtier 5-6 Undead Badgers Tactics: they "wait unil a PC comes within 10 feet, then use their burrow ability to crawl directly ... and attack". As the badger doesn't have tremorsense at this level, how are you handling it?

Thanks! Looking forward to running this at GenCon.


Another question. What is the DC for the BBEG to use perception to hear the fight in the tunnels? My idea (derived from the Perception skill) was to was to start at the cave entrance to the inner chamber with a -6 then add one to the DC for each five feet out into the caves. Doing that gives a DC of 6 at the small chamber SE of the cave/inter chamber junction.

Thoughts?

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