Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-13: Devil at the Crossroads

3.50/5 (based on 13 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 3–6 (subtiers 3–4 and 5–6).

The Sarkoris Scar still aches from the recently closed Worldwound, but that hasn't stopped the Pathfinder Society and their allies in the Farheavens Clan from maintaining their efforts to reclaim the Sarkorians' ancestral homelands. At a trading post near the southern border of the Sarkoris Scar, the PCs meet their contact from the Farheavens but not all is as it seems. The PCs and their allies will need to unravel the twisted skeins of an infernal plot if they have any hope of avoiding becoming the next victims of a fiendish spirit. This adventure was concepted at Paizo's Adventure Design Workshop panel during GenCon 2019.

Written by: Jenny Jarzabski

Scenario tags: Faction (Vigilant Seal)

[Scenario Maps spoiler - click to reveal]

The following maps used in this scenario are also available for purchase here on paizo.com:

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

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3.50/5 (based on 13 ratings)

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Great setting, very unsatisfactory encounters

2/5

Experienced as a level 5 with 19 CP. We had a party of 5 seasoned but reasonably casual players.

+ It started with a flavor that reminded me of a blend of movies between Cabin in the Woods and the Hateful Eight

+ The investigation and the story are pretty straightforward, and nicely presented, in accordance with the flavor of the adventure: Not for the fainthearted.

+ The enemies make sense in the story, but see the point below

- There are 3 combat encounters. The first one is ok, I guess: It serves as a reminder that you're traveling in what used to be the Worldwound with all its abyssal warping. The second and final ones just throw one BS ability after the other, resulting in excessive damage both to and from the party. Some issues could have been avoided (we had some bad luck due to character designs), but the rest felt like it was meant to avoid satisfaction on the PC side

- This one is WAY too long. I admit we did not necessarily play the investigation part efficiently, but it took us about 8 hours (with 3-4 five minute breaks). I cannot over stress that the combats were a dis-satisfactory grind: Especially the second one felt like a meat grinder.

One of my major peeves with some scenario's, including this one, is that the stakes of a scene (often the boss encounter) are unclear:

Spoiler:
My experience from players in the region where I play, is that we are usually reasonably careful with attacking random people, and we try to understand what the goal of a scene is before rushing in.
When a combat is meant to be a gauntlet encounter against a creature that is way above the CR of the party (or alternatively against an excessive number of enemies), really make clear to the players that they do not necessarily need to kill the enemy. Make it clear that the primary task is to keep the boss busy, and to prevent it from doing anything else.
Don't get me wrong: I like the concept of the encounter!

But from a player perspective, this encounter felt unnecessarily harsh, because our expectation was that we had to actually kill it.
I experienced the stats below:
- Required 4 successful checks to reach the target in melee (crit for double progress)
- AC requiring a melee character to roll a 14+ to hit
- The enemy requiring a 7+ to hit a maxed defensive character
- killer ability DC around the mid-twenties
- some interaction DC's in the low thirties
- It also managed to make non-crit saves in the high thirties
Once we had ground through 80% of it's health, the monster imploded because it was scripted, leaving us bewildered and unsatisfied.

Our GM did a good job pointing out the instability moments, but I guess we interpreted those as increasing weaknesses for the boss which was not the case, and which would have been more satisfactory. There was at least one NPC that had proven knowledgeable that could have pointed out that the instability was doing more than weakening the enemy, and that we just needed to keep it busy (i.e. taunting or attacking her) until it would implode.

All in all, this thriller scenario has a great potential, but the combat encounters either need either some balancing or some rescripting.


4/5

This is a well-written scenario with a lot of challenging combats. My only gripe is that it was really designed to run long - I don't see any way to make it shorter than the 6.5 hours it took us (with a few corners cut). In contrast, the other very long scenario (#1-18) is compressible.

I felt tension all the way through, which is excellent, and the end fight felt like it was the culmination of everything that happened (which is not always the case).

If this were a non-Society adventure where people didn't play at game stores with a hard closing time, I would easily give it 5 stars. I intend to run this on PbP so the time won't matter as much.


A Well-Earned Reputation, For Good or For Ill

3/5

The premise of Devil at the Crossroads is reminiscent of a teen horror movie. A group of friends, or acquaintances, or even strangers converge on a location with a dark and mysterious past. They awaken an evil force, and must struggle to survive until daylight. But where Devil at the Crossroads deviates from the formula is what really sets it apart as a scenario--both to its benefit and its detriment.

Devil at the Crossroads is not a horror, however, but a thriller, combining elements of a murder mystery and a supernatural thriller to produce a uniquely Pathfinder experience that is both memorable and well-paced. The story, which takes place mostly at a trading post in the middle of the wilderness, is accented by a cast of colorful and unique NPCs, each with their own motivations and secrets.

The non-player character cast of the scenario is one of its strengths. The GM is provided with enough detail on each NPC to make them “pop,” but not overburdened by minutiae or excessive backstory. Each character has a distinct, and colorful, personality and set of quirks, but also enough blank space to let the GM really make the characters their own.

In addition to the central mystery of the story, each NPC has a secret motive that will drive their interactions with the player characters. Unfortunately, most of these motives cause the NPCs to remain close to the party during the “haunting,” so most of their behavior (especially during combat) is standing around and looking pretty (or hiding behind things and shouting commands to the PCs along the lines of “kill it!”).

Combat is probably the greatest weakness of Devil at the Crossroads. Of the combat encounters within the scenario, one adds nothing to the story, another is cumbersome to run, and a third is what makes this scenario somewhat infamous amongst players.

combat 1:
The first encounter with the boars is unnecessary, and adds little to the story. It is unlikely the PCs will learn that Zirzip is responsible for provoking the boars, and Zirzip has little reason to do so--especially if he’s relying on the PCs to destroy the Covetous Flame and condemn his master’s soul to Hell.

combat 2:
The encounter with the poltergeist(s)--permanently invisible enemies--was cumbersome to run, especially since the attack starts a good distance away from where they reveal themselves. Only well-equipped parties will really be able to identify and engage the poltergeists before they become visible, and even then a fight with an incorporeal enemy is pulling teeth.

combat 3:
The encounter with the Ascendant is simultaneously memorable and awful. The map, a scant 8-by-8 grid, offers little room to maneuver, especially at higher level when the PCs fight the Ascendant and large-sized zombies. Furthermore, the Ascendant himself is way too powerful. A level+3 monster, even on a 7-round timer, is a death sentence for all but the luckiest and most strategic groups. The paradigm of the “boss” fight is one that needs to be reexamined in Pathfinder Society 2nd Edition, especially because D&D has been, historically, a game system where boss fights don’t work very well because of the action economy.

Overall, Devil at the Crossroads deserves its reputation--both for its entertaining story premise and its unforgivingly difficult encounters. When taken with the fact it has very little luck-gated treasure (although there are still some treasure bundles gated behind arbitrary skill checks), the decision whether or not to play or run Devil at the Crossroads depends on how much your players see randomness in combat as a “challenge” (or whether they’re willing to overlook an unfair fight for the sake of an otherwise solid narrative).

Personally, I would recommend this scenario. I really like the premise and design, even over some of the rougher combat encounters and poor map choices. It has a lot of room for roleplay, but moves quickly enough to never lose the plot. My one recommendation is to also roleplay your villains. Once you see the encounter I’m talking about, you’ll know what I mean.


Great concept, bad editing

4/5

This scenario has a lot going on, and is quite interesting. However, in contrast to other reviewers, it looks to me like the final boss fight is *too easy* rather than too hard. It has a high attack bonus and can do significant persistent damage on a crit... but hardly has a chance to use that attack and can barely damage the party at all. If played at 8 or 16 CP (minimum for each subtier), the PCs win nearly automatically by passing on each of their turns (but they won't know that).

The specified tactics for the boss nerf it to being nearly impotent. This isn't a problem in a home game, as GMs can deviate from the scenario as they wish. But PFS mandates that GMs follow all mechanical elements of the scenario text exactly, and that means...

Spoiler:

The boss spends its first combat turn raising its weapon, speaking, and summoning other creatures; at minimum CP, these creatures do not participate in the battle at all. The scenario specifies that the boss prefers to remain on its elevated dais.

On its second turn, the scenario specifies that the boss casts a spell that has almost no effect on a PC unless they critically fail their save; see CRB page 623. They can't use abilities that depend on having an "ally", but that's it.

On its third turn, the scenario specifies that the boss casts a spell that fails automatically as long as the target declares themselves unwilling; see CRB page 304. It has a range of touch, so the first action probably had to be used to fly down to the floor.

On its fourth, fifth, and sixth turns, the boss spends two of its actions casting non-damaging spells. These can at least hinder a PC, but can't harm them directly.

The boss' seventh turn is free to attack with its powerful weapon, but it might have to move to get within reach first. It won't get an eighth turn, as it goes poof before that. Even if it crits and deals persistent damage, the scenario specifies that this effect ends when the boss poofs.

So what's left is five non-damaging spells (two with no effect at all) being cast at the PCs while they fight what would otherwise be calculated as a Trivial combat encounter (or no combat at all at CP 8-9 and 16-17) followed by a simple hazard (one round of strong melee attack).

Even that undersells how crippled the boss is by the scenario text. Consider also that...

Spoiler:

The provided map is described as a *throne room* with walls of stone; this is an enclosed space. The scenario says that the boss likes to stay on the raised dais... from which it doesn't have line of effect to the ground level for its spells. The boss also can't use its third action (after using two to cast a spell) for its ranged strike.

Preserving the intent of the boss trying to maintain its distance from the PCs, the GM could have the boss fly off the dais to get within the 30 foot range of its spells. Of course, that means that one of its actions each turns must be used to Fly, else it falls.

There are other editing mistakes in this scenario, some of which make it unplayable in PFS:

Spoiler:

The boss is described in the scenario text as being 7 feet tall, but has size Small in its stat block.

The scenario text says the boss casts "powerful and destructive spells" when certain conditions are met... but its stat block has no such spells.

A lock is described on one page as being DC 25 to pick (four successes), but on another page as DC 24 (no listed success count). If a player rolls a 24, 34, or 15, there is no choice the GM can make without violating the mechanical text of the scenario.

The complex hazard has an invalid stat block, as it does not specify how many actions it gets on its turn for its routine. The CRB specifies that actions that the hazard can take should be listed outside the Routine entry, and the Routine entry *must* say how many actions it takes.

The critical failure entry for the hazard's action contradicts the rules on drowning (CRB page 478). Amount of air left is measured in rounds, not actions. Should a PFS GM roll 1d4 and subtract 1 round on a 3 or 4 and 0 rounds on a 1 or 2? Are they allowed to fix what they believe to be a typo and change it to 1d4 rounds?

The hazard is listed as level 5 or 7 in the scenario text but 4 or 6 in the appendix. I don't think this has a mechanical effect.

All that said, this is a fun scenario with interesting characters and investigation. Difficult to run in PFS due to length and the requirement to follow scenario text to the letter, but good in a home session.


This is basically 4 star module

3/5

...which is problem when you try to run this as 4-6 hour one shot :'D Party I played in took 8 hours to complete this(and that was with us picking up the pace after 6 hours), another party took 10 hours to complete this. Yeaaaah you need basically 2 or 3 sessions to do this scenario justice.

It does offer tons of great roleplaying and mystery and reactivity, though i do think final boss is kinda... Too powerful and annoying? Like their tactics basically nerf them because they would otherwise be able to crit pcs to death very easily. Like evil GM could just make them hit and run. Oh and first encounter in scenario was completely unnecessary, it could have been cut out completely without changing anything else about the scenario and it would have been better scenario for it. The other two encounters were really dangerous as well, but I think they were better type of difficult encounter than the final one was. (I do have to say though, I think the final boss would have been good hard boss if not for their absurd attack bonus)

Looking at the other reviews, I don't really agree with the railroad complaint ones in this case. PFS allows for "If party creatively bypasses or solves problem, then allow it and give them reward they would have gotten from written version" and nothing from scenario's ending would actually change if PC's actually solve that problem creatively and skipped the encounter successfully.

Comment on other reviews with minor spoilers:
The "I locked the character in room and they got out" isn't really a railroad when its plausible in scenario(and scenario as written doesn't actually directly say "Character gets out if locked in room" so you could also argue that was GM's decision)

For clarity, I played in this scenario and then read it afterwards when reviewing this, but I haven't run it myself, so I could be missing details.


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Paizo Employee Webstore Coordinator

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Coming this month!

Liberty's Edge

Yay! Can't wiat to hang out with Dolok again!

Silver Crusade

Pleeeeease let their be a Contract Devil in this.

Paizo Employee Webstore Coordinator

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Update: Product description has been updated to include the recommended scenario maps.

Grand Lodge

Errata: This scenario seems to only grant 2 fame and 2 reputation. It seems, that these rewards are lacking from page 18 - secondary objectives.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Talon Zorch wrote:
Errata: This scenario seems to only grant 2 fame and 2 reputation. It seems, that these rewards are lacking from page 18 - secondary objectives.

That looks to be an error; the secondary objective should grant fame and reputation as normal.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Good luck to anyone wanting to finish this scenario in less than 8 hours.

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