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

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

PZOPSS1020E


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Pretty fun, not terribly challenging, will have slow bits for some players

***( )( )

When I ran this, I had a good time. There's some interesting roleplaying in there, particularly if you have creative players. The setup is interesting, and there's a cool thing:

Spoiler:
you get minions partway through, which can help with some skill checks

The story is a little bit random. I liked it, but I can see where it would be confusing. There's a big overarching time-limited thing happening, and you're supposed to deal with this, but if you succesfully deal with it too soon, it means that you'll miss out what it turns out the scenario really wants you to do. I would recommend to GMs:

Spoiler:
Make sure that the briefing emphasizes that you want to learn as much about the culture, history, etc. of the place as possible before the evacuation starts, at which point it will be impossible to learn more.

The flaws are that it's easy to have several characters present who almost can't contribute at all to the skill check portion of the scenario. I had one player creatively contribute by making friends with locals and convincing them to do some checks for her, but others had to sit back and attempt checks they weren't that good at.

The combats turned out to be almost trivially easy. This doesn't really bother me that much; the scenario isn't supposed to be a meat grinder, and the combats aren't the core focus. (Indeed, I was playing the low subtier, and my players unanimously requested that I sub in the high subtier last encounter. That made it a little challenging, but they still handled it readily.) Part of this isn't a flaw of the scenario, but a flaw of Pathfinder -- the rules system is so amazingly bloated at this point, that yes, if a character wants to, he can create a Mr. Hyde like monster that gets seven attacks that all do a lot of damage all at once. (At least, others have assured me that that character was legal. All it did was convince me that Pathfinder has become broken.)


I ran this 4 times and all I got was this lousy T Shirt

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I ran this at Origins last month several times and while in terms of plot devices and overall ideas this was a really interesting adventure this was truly annoying to run and the combats were mostly entirely pointless.

I have these problems three:

1 - This is set up for the archaeology/anthropology to be the star of the show. That is fine/cool on its own but the execution made GMing this a bear. There was very little detail of any kind for the archaeology and anthropology sections, instead devoting that page space to in depth explanations of which skills were valid to roll in a given location. The whole adventure it set up for the players to spend the majority of their time discovering things yet there is staggeringly little for them to find.

2 - The plot structure assumes that the PCs are going to be more concerned about the anthropology and history than with the safety of the people they meet. There are paladins, good aligned clerics, and just generally that feeling like the path of least resistance. Given the incredible DCs that optimized Diplomacy characters can reach this adventure has the ability to end before it even begins if run strictly as written.

3 - The final fight was waaaay lamer than it was set up to be.

Final Fight:
You seed up this big conflict between the clockworks and the rats, build up the clockworks as having infinite numbers where wave after wave of foe is coming for the gate while the party is set to cover the retreat of the rats and then....its just basically a regular, not that good, not all that interesting combat vs the same things you already fought once this adventure

It also isn't a sequel in much of any way to Rats of Round Mountain at all, which was a huge let down.


Skill-heavy language-locked mess.

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I hated GM'ing this scenario.

Reading through it, it sounds fine, maybe heavy on the skill checks, but fine.

The problem is that the GM is privy to much more information than is ever reasonably explained to the PCs. Most encounters seem completely random, and the final encounter feels both forced and anti-climactic.

Secondly is the problem of the NPCs' native tongue. We were fortunate enough to have one PC who could speak the uncommon language they use. But even when the backup team arrived, with an additional translator, the party still felt crippled in what they could do, the fluff given for most of the checks, implies that the PC must be able to speak the necessary language. Of course half the party were int-dumped combat-focused characters, and had maybe one or two irrelevant skills to contribute to any checks (if they had a translator handy). Paired with the fact that only one check was permitted per day, I couldn't even reasonably waive this arbitrary barrier with magic like comprehend languages or tongues.

At one point an argument broke out between two of my players about how to handle the checks, and I wanted to join in, my frustration was so great at this point.

I didn't have fun, my players didn't have fun, and I honestly need a break from PFS after this experience.


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

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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.


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Grand Lodge

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

13 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

3 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, Starfinder 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

2 people 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!

    Liberty's Edge

    Just played through this at ConnectiCon and, frankly, it was a very frustrating experience. I expect and can totally understand some errors, but this module doesn't seem to have been play-tested or even edited with any thoroughness.

    Things like obvious wrong creature types on enemies and suchlike is acceptable and can be easily corrected by the GM but undermining the entire premise given to the players is not. When the in-game scenario briefing promises a second, more detailed briefing but just skips over it completely, that's just sloppy writing and quality control.

    When the entire primary success condition is based on utterly deceptive criteria, however, then it looks more like maliciousness. After all was said and done, our GM and players alike went over the in-scenario briefing multiple times and agreed that it did not so much as hint at the myriad things we were "supposed" to be doing.

    Definitely recommend avoiding unless you like frustrating your players.

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