Pathfinder Society Scenario #3-07: The Locked Lodge

3.80/5 (based on 5 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 3-6.

The Pathfinder Society recently dispatched a group of experienced agents to search for a missing venture-captain with a secret operation in the infernal-bound nation of Cheliax, where Pathfinder Society activity is forbidden. In their search, the agents learned that a nefarious group of Hellknights had taken the the venture-captain prisoner and hidden him in a secure sight that the Society had assumed was abandoned. Now, more of the Society's agents must infiltrate the site, find the venture-captain, and learn why these Hellknights are moving against the Society. The future of Pathfinder Society activities in Cheliax is at stake!

The Locked Lodge is part of the ongoing story of the Year of Shattered Sanctuaries. It is the second scenario in a two-part arc detailing the events befalling a Pathfinder Society lodge in the nation of Cheliax. Other arcs explore other locations across the Inner Sea. While the arcs can be played in any order, it is recommended that players experience the scenarios within each individual arc in order.

Written by Kalervo Oikarinen

Scenario tags: Metaplot (Shattered Sanctuaries)

This adventure uses three custom maps.

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

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3.80/5 (based on 5 ratings)

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A new story burdened by old hand-me-downs

3/5

TL/DR: This is not a bad scenario, but all the issues and callbacks are really distracting from the main narrative, and if run outside of org play, I would personally suggest cutting a lot of rooms and descriptions.

plot spoiler:

I have only played this a couple of hours ago, and have not yet prepped or GMed this.

Based on what is apparently written in the pdf, and what has been communicated by the GM, this scenario is based upon and seems to use the map from a PF1 AP volume. To be honest even before I learned that fact, I noticed that the maps, particularly the first one... look dire on a VTT - and since I have printed hundreds of maps from scenarios for the use at the gaming table, this one certainly is among the worst as far as graphical fidelity is concerned. It is rather hard to look at, though it gets better once you go underground.

However... there is just too much map... which makes sense if the whole location was recycled. Unfortunately, it causes a situation where a lot of the scenario feels a bit flabby and unfocused as there are just going to be more rooms and plenty of them with nothing relevant for this time-critical mission. That perception might be totally different for someone who has played or run the PF1 AP in this city... but for those of us that have not, it feels a bit like we are not in on the joke.

A lot of the room descriptions sound like callbacks to that AP volume... which is rather confusing to players, it felt like walking through an apartment the day after a massive party. At least for me, it made it a bit hard to differentiate what happened when the lodge was first sealed, and what happened very recently. Which again muddies the water a bit.

Actually, I rather liked the reasonable time pressure when it was introduced by the servant of House Thrune (one player accepted personal damnation, and the group as a whole did not bargain for the insight), unfortunately once Radovan had his appearance, it felt like the time pressure was increased, after all, it felt reasonable that taking breaks to heal with treat wounds would not make a lot of sense while he was buying us some extra time.
So we tried to ignore rooms until we found the count, only to then later spend some time clearing them just in case.
Related to this... I understand that the formula discusses that players have to earn some of their treasure bundles, but I am not sure that the ways to earn them in this one really fit the urgency implied by the "Radovan distracts nasty guards etc." plot device.

We had a rather unusual setup with a level 5 bard, sorcerer, cleric (with paladin multiclass), and my level 3 magus, which placed us at the upper end of low tier, with a lot of challenge points. Can't fault any author for not planning for something like that.
The first fight against the guards was... well the GM rolled rather bad and it ended without any of us taking a single hit.
The second fight against the imps and their master went better, or at least took longer, the groups could handle the fight quite well, and other than some scratches, it was a very manageable fight, though, for at least one player, it felt a bit easy (again our party setup is likely to blame for that). The fake VC... honestly since we spotted the incongruity (with our dice rolls, some of the players were fans of the sadly no longer in production novels, but we did not metagame) we tested the copy and then ignored it for the time being.
The final encounter was interesting, with a lot of hell hounds, that could actually pose a challenge, maybe the GMs dice were lucky but one player was knocked out and others took substantial damage, so I would not complain, that this was too easy at least from my perspective as the level 3 character.

I actually don't mind the first encounters being a bit easy, as that helps to avoid a lot of breaks in the actions as we urgently look for the VC.

Unfortunately, after that encounter, we were stumbling around a bit, some of the rooms and their descriptions confused us somewhat, but we eventually found the shadow prison, and then started looking for the items we needed. Since this part happened after we had slain the person responsible for some of the recent difficulties it felt a bit like an anticlimax to poke around in yet more rooms.
Eventually, we found the items, smashed them, tested the person we freed, and moved to escape... not much to complain or honestly comment about here. It was fine, except that we stopped the evacuation to look through at least 3 other rooms we had skipped previously... and did not learn a lot more. This is another case where players are somewhat trained by org play not to skip rooms... and they are really not relevant to the scenario... so essentially just a distraction.

I fully admit that I am not always the most perceptive player and likely will have a slightly different opinion once I prep it, but I fear my review is unlikely to improve a lot.


A disjointed scenario.

3/5

(I GMed this.)

While prepping this, I had a constant feeling of weirdness. There's something off about this scenario, and I couldn't put my finger on it. After playing it, I think I know why. It features an old location and characters from the novels. In fact, this whole scenario is basically a parade for Paizo's past. It really feels like everything is bent and twisted to make it fit this premise, which doesn't allow it to stand on its own. There's a weird "planning meeting" just to ensure a specific thing happens, a character pops up and shows how cool they are, and lots of references to this location from an old, old AP. Way too much time went into these parts and not enough into the rest of the scenario. The villain's motivation and backstory is basically unknown, combat encounters feel off, and half of the locations on the maps are unused because they're not relevant to the plot.

A small rant on the combat encounters. It feels like this scenario was originally meant for a lower tier and then just scaled up, without much thought put into them. Level 0 creatures in tier 3-4? Why? Most of them honestly feel like they come from a spicy 1-2 tier, rather than a normal 3-4. Enemies have ridiculously low HP and AC, and the author's fix to higher CP is to just throw more at the players, rather than beefing up the existing creatures. More mooks does not make a fight more interesting if they can barely damage the players.

Running it was surprisingly fun, though. There's some cool moments in here, if you can overlook the previous complaints. It might be better on the player side, but as a GM, I was disappointed.

I don't know how to rate this. As I said, my players and I had fun, but I think there's enough bad stuff under the surface that I can't completely recommend this scenario.


a mixed feeling for what is an underlying solid one

4/5

What would be a solid scenario is hurt by the poor maps.
Let's start with the flaws.
I understand were they come from, but it is not really acceptable to simply reuse existing maps without making sure they are fit for purpose (provide dimensions for easy online use, remove the underlying old grid from the pictures, etc).
The beginning is a bit confusing, but this actually provides fun roleplay opportunities.
I will not complain for the absence of a skill challenge.
The reason provided for the disappearance of the VC is not consistent with scenario 3-04, but maybe this is on purpose (being really kind here. Thinking that actually the respective authors were provided briefs that were different).
If one looks beyond the flaws, it is a decent scenario. Good link to the metaplot (slowly unfolding with all the other arcs), one interesting fight, and an exciting setting. Several roleplaying opportunities and some fond memories for some PF1 players.
I have enjoyed running it, once I have had the maps under control. I ran it three times already (26, 27 and 24 CPs) and played it at 25. Had good fun in all occasions.
I can see how this scenario can last more than 5 hours if played as a sandbox. But I ran it in between 4 and 4.5 each time and when I played it, it ran in less than 4.


Good scenario - Map quality very poor

4/5

Overall a good adventure with an enjoyable flow.

The supplied maps are virtually unusable for online gameplay.
Why can modern scenarios not just be supplied with maps with simple and understandable dimensions.


A solid conclusion of the Cheliax mini-arc

5/5

Played at max cp.

The scenario had a good mix of exploration, combat and mystery.

The rp parts had some interesting decisions and rp opportunities, provided the player can separate their knowledge from their PC.

The encounter balance was on the side of quantity over quality, but fair.

Scaling notes for GMs:
I'm firmly in the group that opposes APL+3 encounters. However, a bunch of APL-3 is not great either. At 36cp we faced nearly 10 enemies in each encounter who often just had trouble even hitting our AC.

That changed drastically in the last encounter when due an unfortunate set of circumstances our group started close to each other and were faced with 7 or so monsters with AoE plus AoE caster. The GM made them all delay out of sight so they were all going as a group. Watching them run over and discharge AoE 7 times while trying to hit maximum number of players was not great. To make things worse, the creatures were immune to caster AoE spell so with smaller creatures locking down the party it was a good formula for a potential tpk. We pulled through due to a good party composition but I would advise GMs to remember that creatures with -2 int should be a little less efficient in their tactics.

So, imo, the scaling here could use more elite adjustments and less sheer numbers at high cp.
After all " Encounters are typically more satisfying if the number of enemy creatures is fairly close to the number of player characters." - CRB

Timing: the scenario took nearly 6 hrs at max cp.


Paizo Employee Organized Play Coordinator

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Announced for December! Cover and product description are not final and are subject to change.

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Oh!! A Varian Jeggare Scenario!! This is gonna be awesome! Gonna have to GM this one.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Coordinator

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Cover and map list updated.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What is the scenario in the first part of this arc?

Also, the text reads, "...hidden him in a secure sight..." I think the final word in that quote should be "site".

Dataphiles

Pathfinder Adventure, Maps, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber

The first scenario in this arc is #3-04: The Devil-Wrought Disappearance

I concur with the "Sight" versus "Site" correction above, damn homonyms

Envoy's Alliance

Great, I'm so glad I won't be able to play this adventure. Because my only fitting character Hellknight. It makes me very sad.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Petrus Segoni wrote:
Great, I'm so glad I won't be able to play this adventure. Because my only fitting character Hellknight. It makes me very sad.

@Petrus Segoni, I'm not sure why you won't be able to play this adventure because your character is a Hellknight. The Hellknights consist of a variety of different organizations that are explicitly separate from the Thrune government (which rules Cheliax). Each of the Hellknights' factions focus on a specific aspect of hellish law; beyond the oversight of the House of Thrune. Sometimes those interests align, sometimes they don't. Therefore, it's quite possible that whatever Hellknight faction to which your character belongs is pursuing its own brand of justice that does not necessarily align with the ruling House of Thrune. Play the scenario and figure out how your interests don't align during the course of the scenario. The whole point is to have fun playing the scenario!

Speaking of enjoying multiple scenarios, Paizo has not listed this is a follow up to #3-04: The Devil-Wrought Disappearance in that scenario's description. Since this is one of many multiple arcs in this season, I'm a bit surprised that Paizo doesn't list the follow-up scenario in the the initial description of part one in the two part arc. I would think that would result in more sales: consumer convenience = more buying of linked scenarios. Then again, it seems like there are staffing issues as the company doesn't really look at old posts (c.f. the venture-captain is still hidden in plain "sight" rather than at a secure "site"). Not to tell Paizo how it should run its business, but as someone who appreciates the great talent who writes these adventures, if I was able to easily click on a link - or at least look up the name - of a follow-up from a good part 1 of a 2-part scenario arc, I would be more likely to buy part two.

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