Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-20: Countdown to Round Mountain

**½( )( ) (based on 4 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 7–11.

As the Hao Jin Tapestry demiplane collapses at an increasing rate, the Pathfinder Society has decided that it must evacuate the surviving inhabitants using a powerful ritual that can return one of the demiplane's monumental sites back to the Material Plane. The only candidate large enough is Round Mountain, an immense, tunnel-ridden stone sphere pulled from the Darklands of Tian Xia centuries ago. However, in the generations since Round Mountain vanished from the Darklands, countless subterranean creatures moved into the vast cavern left behind. If the mountain returns—and it must return to save the demiplane’s refugees—it would crush all those who have moved into the cavern since.

The Society must move quickly. The PCs are one of several teams tasked with exploring the vast cavern, cataloguing the doomed architecture, and above all coordinating the occupants' evacuation before the long ritual concludes.

Contents in Countdown to Round Mountain also contribute directly to the ongoing storyline of the Exchange faction.

Written by Jerall Toi

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

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**½( )( ) (based on 4 ratings)

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Got a few kinks to work out

***( )( )

This scenario takes place in the Darklands beneath Tian Xia and continues the ongoing Hao Jin Tapestry storyline. Although it involves Round Mountain this scenario doesn’t actually take place in Round Mountain, which is important to note for managing player expectations. The Venture Captain is Amara Li.

In a lot of ways, I love this adventure. Its an easy read, has a really cool premise, and has a creative location to explore. I really like that this adventure is on a timer and has a lot at stake, but I don’t think it quite got the timing right. There’s plenty of promising ideas and details in the adventure, but I don’t think many were explored fully, resulting in either a missed opportunity or a lot of GM improvisation, depending on the situation. This scenario is very heavy on skill checks, and would have benefited from some further social aspects. I like the enemies the PCs come across, and I really enjoy the finale.

GM Spoilers:

This scenario doesn’t really conform to any of the typical Darklands adventure themes, tasks, and expectations. Which is fine! There’s nothing wrong with breaking stereotypes, and I do really love the premise and feel of this adventure location. My issue though, is that the mission briefing hints PCs will need to face such dangers –– which they don’t. That’s going to lead to PCs spending coin or prestige points on underground survival gear and magic which will never get used. I doubt players will appreciate it.

I think there’s a lot of interesting cultural and societal details mentioned in this scenario, but they aren’t explored, which means such discoveries will either involve a lot of GM improvisation to make fun, or will end up feeling like a useless skill check. On the topic of skill checks, I found a lot of the DCs in this adventure on the low side, which is an interesting choice considering the tier. Personally, I think it’s too easy.

There’s a few interesting NPCs in this scenario, but I feel like it needed more to make this place feel lived in. I don’t get a sense of the mood or outlook of the populace or their reaction to current events, which is unfortunate. There’s some really great remarks in the beginning regarding communication and teamwork between the PCs and allied NPCs, but the adventure doesn’t utilize either concept particularly well. A bit of a missed opportunity, I think.

Nitpicks aside, I really enjoy the culture and settlement we’re introduced to in this scenario. It’s really great work! But, I don’t think the adventure as written is going to get those same feelings across to a player in game. And I really wish it did!

Let me finish by saying I enjoyed this scenario, but I think it’s got a bit of kinks to work out.


Disappointed

*( )( )( )( )

I was pretty much disappointed by this title that references some of the more spectacular season 3 scenarios.

First of all, forget Round Mountain: The scenario had barely anything to do with it, which partly makes sense, but on the other hand, it would have been nice to have had at least some connection (an NPC that got out of the tapestry, or something?), or a case of the 'Reality' of the tapestry bleeding into the Reality if the real world, which would have added some mystic dimension to the story.

Secondly, the combats barely made sense. Somehow, this is a valley heavily guarded by the ratfolk, but somehow constructs have managed to break through without anyone noticing. From almost anything other than constructs, it would have been more believable. No-one had warned you about them before a number of days, after which you are informed about a war that is supposed to explain the final encounter to come. Having them sneak up on you in the final encounter is just another nail in the coffin. I enjoyed the strange template used by the creatures, though!
The most absurd one is the 'haunted' lake where ratfolk are described to be fishing, yet the moment the PCs arrive on the shores of the lake to explore, huge monstrosities (themed entirely around hunger, mind you, so why are there even ratfolk and creatures near the lake?) appear.

Thirdly, as Quentin mentioned below, the DC are absurdly low. I understand some skills have a cap because of how the rules are setup (such Diplomacy, Climb), but still: the DC in the scenario are calibrated for a 3-4 (low tier) or for a 5-6 (high tier) subtiers. As one player remarked: Save DC from the monsters in the scenario should not be higher than 95% of the skill check DC. Either this was originally setup as a 3-7 and badly edited, or something went spectacularly wrong while copying the DC's from the Easy/ Medium/ Hard DC tables.

Finally, it felt like this scenario could have played anywhere on Golarion if you replaced the phasing of Round Mountain by a volcano, earthquake, or anyother natural disaster: This was not a Darklands adventure. I'm not a fan of creatures spamming darkness effects, but having an 8 mile diameter hole in the Darklands almost being described like it's a tiny New York at night, breaks immersion.


Just plain boring.

**( )( )( )

(I GMed this, and I have to admit I made a mistake in the mechanics that led to some negative play experience. Keep that in mind when reading this review. I'll try adjusting my experience for the positive, but it might still colour my review.)

This is a disappointment. As a player on my table said, you have a legacy like Rats of Round Mountain to follow up on, and you do it with this? Some of this will be spoilers (and appropriately tagged), while others complaints are spoiler-free.

The premise is great. Having to work and communicate with other Pathfinder for a bigger mission is a great set-up. Sadly, none of it pays off. You get communication tools, but they won't be of any use, and you get trading goods to negotiate with, but it's never referred to again, nor does it give a bonus on anything. Either the author had some ideas with them that got edited out, or never had them in the first place.

The whole idea is that your party spends time exploring and interacting with their environment and making checks, but never give a description of the results. Either the GM has to make up all the descriptions on their own, or just skip over them. There is no roleplay involved in any of it. Most of them are just, "look around, find samples." At some point, it just becomes a slog. About half of the scenario is just walking around and making checks, with no real input from the players and also no output from the GM.

Combats make no sense, either. There's mechanical things walking around (as seen on the cover, so no spoiler), while all entrances are supposed to be guarded, and a few undead roaming around a heavily-used lake while the inhabitants pass it off as a "haunting."

Spoiler:
The skill checks are ridiculous. The DCs are stupidly low. I made the mistake of eventually telling my players what the DCs were, which put them at ease, but whichever skill they tried, they automatically made it. At some point, I just got tired of them rolling and said they didn't need to bother anymore, and they just boggled at how low that check was.
So yeah, maybe my party was just lucky with their composition. PFS is supposed to be for everyone, and you can't guarantee that whatever is called for, you'll have in your party. But I did some calculations, and anyone with only a minimal to moderate investment in those skills (most of them aren't even that unusual to invest in) will make that check most of the time. If you have any INT-based character in your party, or just a skillmonkey, you'll crush this scenario. And conversely, if you have none of those skills trained, you're just plain useless and will fail the scenario. Either make it (or at least some of the checks) hard so that specialists can feel important, or don't bother at all. In-between is the absolute worst place to be.

In short, this scenario actively wastes your time. Story has potential but doesn't live up to it or makes no sense at all, combats are nonsenical (though pretty decent), the timeframe is too generous, and the skill challenges are laughable. I barely see any redeeming quality in this at all. I wanted to give it one star, but due to my mess-up I'll add a second, just to be on the safe side.


Open Area with a Check List

***( )( )

I played this once at subtier 10-11 and haven't run this.

This adventure didn't feel terribly exciting as we searched the area. The main reason I think that was the case was that, as we entered each area, the GM had us run through the list of required skill checks we had to complete to finish cataloging the region. He made it a clear point as he presented the check list he was referring to as we proceeded through the adventure.

With that direction we finished the adventure in a short time, both in and out of game. By the time additional NPCs were presented, they felt more like a sidenote rather than anything we were encouraged to interact with. We finished the game far ahead of schedule. Afterwards I wished that were were allowed to explore the area more freely and interact with the cast of characters. As it was presented, the adventure I played in wasn't very exciting.

The combat difficulty felt a bit awkward, but as always that might have been because the group I was with had more combat effective characters. One character was in danger of death in the final encounter, but each encounter felt short and that felt especially true in the final battle. It was described as a battle with the leaders of an army and it ended very quickly.

I'm not certain what is in the adventure, but I think this could be a more fun adventure if the GM focuses less on the combats and more the exploration, but I'm not certain if that is correct without running the adventure myself.


Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

It's the Final Countdown!

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

TriOmegaZero wrote:
It's the Final Countdown!

Well that's stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Thanks TOZ.

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh...

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

12 people marked this as a favorite.
Michael Sayre wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
It's the Final Countdown!
Well that's stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Thanks TOZ.

Hey Mike? About this adventure? One of the encounters reads "B3. The Final Countdown," and then there are four lines of read-aloud text that say—and I quote—"Mah nuh na naaaa, nuh na nuh nuh naaa, nuh nuh na naaa, nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh—" Like, Mike? There aren't even creatures listed. You just tell the GM to play the air guitar for 40 seconds and then hand out Chronicle sheets. I hate to be the bad guy here, Mike, but I think I'm going to have to redo this encounter.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

2 people marked this as a favorite.
John Compton wrote:
Michael Sayre wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
It's the Final Countdown!
Well that's stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Thanks TOZ.
Hey Mike? About this adventure? One of the encounters reads "B3. The Final Countdown," and then there are four lines of read-aloud text that say—and I quote—"Mah nuh na naaaa, nuh na nuh nuh naaa, nuh nuh na naaa, nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh—" Like, Mike? There aren't even creatures listed. You just tell the GM to play the air guitar for 40 seconds and then hand out Chronicle sheets. I hate to be the bad guy here, Mike, but I think I'm going to have to redo this encounter.

>_>

<_<

Whelp, I tried everyone.

Dark Archive

So does this mean players failed to get Hao Jin's help? I'm kinda out of the loop on the storyline ._.

Sovereign Court

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
CorvusMask wrote:
So does this mean players failed to get Hao Jin's help? I'm kinda out of the loop on the storyline ._.

major 10-15 Tapestry's Trial spoiler:
Hao Jin told the Pathfinders the damage was beyond repair, but she was able to devise a ritual to return one of the places in the Tapestry to its original location. Whether or not she'll be physically there to help with the ritual depends on the outcome of the that scenario.
Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

You all know that Europe released songs other than the Final Countdown, right? The whole Prisoners in Paradise album is amazing. That should get its on scenario, or maybe a 32-page module.


Could GMs running this at PaizoCon get a map list like posted to Siege of Gallowspire?

Paizo Employee Organized Play Lead Developer

Maps appearing in #10-20:

  • Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Bigger Bridge
  • Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Winter Forest

  • 1 person marked this as a favorite.
    John Compton wrote:


    You just tell the GM to play the air guitar for 40 seconds and then hand out Chronicle sheets.

    IDK, I've definitely had AP sessions that ended almost exactly that way before.

    Grand Lodge

    Did somebody say Darklands? This looks like a job for... me!

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