A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for 5th- through 8th-level characters.
When Venture-Captain Norden Balentiir learned that hordes of undead were rising from beneath his own lodge, the Sandswept Hall of Sothis, he feared that calling for help from Osirion's government would anger the Ruby Prince, resulting in the lodge being shuttered for good. Instead, he called for an elite team of Pathfinder agents to strike back against the undead incursion and find the source of the unrelenting horde. Thanks to this team's successful efforts, the Society knows how the undead are entering the lodge—but not how to stop them for good. Multiple Pathfinder agents have attempted to scout beyond the breach in the vaults of the Sandswept Hall, but thus far, they've learned little—and several haven't returned at all. Now, the venture-captain has called on another elite team to venture into unknown territory, rescue their lost companions, and put a stop to the attacks, once and for all.
The Tomb Between Worlds 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 Osirion. The first part of this arc is Pathfinder Society Scenario #3-09: The Secluded Siege. 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.
Judging by the reviews, this scenario seems like it’s fairly polarized, depending on whether you can accept the final battle or not. I personally enjoyed the scenario quite a bit, and it was very rewarding to play through with my Paladin of Anubis.
The unique mechanics of the scenario feel like they had some untapped potential, but were still neat to see.
Most of the fights were challenging, but fair. Also, there was lots of flavor and backstory to uncover as we explored the dungeon.
As mentioned previously though, the final boss fight seems to be the real hurdle to contend with, and I’ll admit that it is not for the faint of heart. TPKs are a distinct possibility in it, as there are multiple AoEs that get thrown around, as well as paralysis. If your party is unlucky enough to lose out on initiative against everything in the combat, you could be wiped out before a single PC gets to act. The fight felt super-dangerous, and our party’s success or failure felt like it hinged on a razor’s edge for the longest time. However, we were able to ultimately survive thanks to some fast thinking and a life oracle’s timely intervention; and while I was on the fence at first, looking back now, I feel it was actually nice to have a deadly challenge in PFS for a change.
So in sum, due to the difficulty of the boss encounter, I wouldn’t recommend this scenario for everyone. Also, as a GM, I would warn my players ahead of time that they were in for one doozy of a boss fight. That typed, this scenario is great for those who crave a challenge and aren't afraid to flirt with death.
Perspective: played this yesterday with a party of monk 8 (me), fighter 8, ranger 7, gunslinger 6, investigator 5. So high tier but not by much, but fortunately the high levels were the front row.
At first I was thinking if this was going to be a three or four star review because while I really liked the dungeon design and the lore bits, the big fight really shocked me by how brutal and hard it was. AFAIK this is the only PFS2 scenario so far that's gotten a revision to tone it down due to too many TPKs, and even after the revision it's hitting like a truck.
But after sleeping on it I'm bumping it to a five. We had a lot of fun fighting for our lives and barely snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Pulling out some tactical tricks and learning lessons. And when I'm looking through the scenario now, I think this is just about the hardest fight you can write that's still fair. It doesn't rely on just one boss with super high numbers that are just frustrating, but all the enemy monsters add a real threat. But all of them have soft spots that can be exploited too, if you can pivot your tactics.
It's only the end of a short story arc, but it feels like this scenario can be listed next to the grand PFS1 Osirion capstones like Ancients' Anguish and Salvation of the Sages without embarrassing itself.
For GMs, I think two things to beware of:
- This season 1-4 scenarios seem to be fairly beginner friendly and easy. 3-6 scenarios a bit more challenging. But by 5-8 the gloves are really coming off. Might want to warn the players.
- Make sure you have the revised version of the scenario, for the love of Desna.
I GM'd this. My party succeeded, but I took some liberties with the allied NPC's combat contributions.
I enjoyed the story and how it follows up Part 1. The motivations of multiple groups are revealed during exploration of the tomb, which features interplanar travel and nonlinear exploration. The major frenemy NPC adds an extra opportunity for roleplay while posing a moral dilemma for righteous PCs. Story-wise, this is a great scenario!
Unfortunately, due to poor mechanical balance, I downgraded my rating for this scenario. Even after the rework, parties do not have a fair shot at winning. The boss encounter is extreme, not severe. It consists of high trap DCs with lingering effects, overtuned enemies with 3 or 4 high DC AoEs + paralyze, and a chaos-inducing hazard that benefits enemies more than the party. Setting aside the traps/hazard, the enemies alone are worth inspecting closely. The worst case party comp would be 6 players at CP 19, and I'd urge the encounter design team to "math out" what is likely to happen when they're targeted by 4 AoEs.
Low tier does not have this AoE issue and is only slightly more than severe. If this scenario only had low tier, I'd rate a star or two higher.
The interesting flavor of this scenario seems to be being overshadowed in these reviews by the concerns about the boss fight, which is definitely different. I loved the very effective use of the flip-mat with textual descriptions that match up to the map graphics. Players who enjoy Egyptian-esque horror tropes are the perfect audience for this. The planar shifting concept was very well done and added a lot to the atmosphere, rewarding the players who caught on that they would have to "clear both versions of the dungeon". Realistically, players are going to try to do all of one plane and then the other, as opposed to jumping around randomly in between them, though.
I ran this once before the rebalancing changes (online) and once after (in-person). The first run had 2 low-tier characters playing high tier and they definitely did not have the most worry-free adventure. This first run went longer than I would like, but the party were very cautious, took care of each other and came out of it intact. In the second run, all 6 characters were high tier. The rebalancing change sadly didn't even have an impact because the PCs all miraculously managed to save (easily) and entirely avoided the effect. There was a certain amount of shock at the damage output of the enemy nonetheless; this party was, shall we say, not accustomed to being challenged in that way, and perhaps the recent run of relatively cozy scenarios had lulled the players into a sense of security. While that fight was later rightly described as harrowing, it was far from hopeless and at no time did I ever seriously have to worry about the survival of the party. This time it ran only slightly longer than a typical scenario.
With the wrong party composition (e.g., if there was a lack of effective healing) things could certainly work out badly, of course.
This scenario is a wonderful fit for players who like flavor, enjoy challenging combat and are able to effectively work together.
Note for GMs - The 2 pathfinder agents representing the factions are described in the Pathfinder Society Guide hardback and they both have art there.
Be very wary of this one guys. Quite a cool scenario in general but this is how the final encounter went down (hint poorly).
Mummy rolled high on Initiative and went first. All party members were automatically frightened. 4 of the 6 members of the party failed a will save and were paralyzed for multiple rounds. The mummy then reduced most of the party below half HP with a breath attack. The two non-paralyzed party members were quickly overwhelmed and 4 were dead and 2 fled by the end of round 3.
A very anti-climactic and unfun death for the party
This was high tier and the GM didn't use all of the things this encounter had to offer.
I'm sure if a few dice rolls had gone different directions then it could have been a different encounter but this is what is possible.
Huge paralysis aura, very high DC, for lasts multiple rounds.
Seriously, Paizo, do you actually need somebody to tell you that's a bad idea? You think it's fun for the party to just watch while the badguys have their way for 2 - 3 rounds, with no real way to avoid it?
The big boss battle can easily result in a TPK, unless the GM goes out of their way to not use all the bad guys abilities or hand waves somethings to keep a PC from dying 4.
The saves in this encounter would be more appropriate for levels 9-10 or higher. A level 7 character trained in a save, and a +1 ability mod would have a +10 save. The chances for failing saves are well over 50% this encounter. At best a PC in high tier may be a master in one type of save, so level seven master in a save, and with a +4 ability mod is a +17 save. There’s still a greater than 50% chance to fail some of the saves, if the PC is a master in the necessary save. The PC’s other saves won’t be as good, so if the weaker saves are what’s needed, then making that save is very unlikely.
The entire encounter is save or suck, with the chances of sucking being far greater than making the save.
I don’t normally complain about scenarios, but this big boss battle is so much more dependent on dice rolling high that it’s just not fun. I usually like hard encounters, but a good hard encounter has multiple ways for PC’s to prevail. In this encounter, more than half the party to the entire party can fail their saves, in which case GM not holding back can easily TPK a party in under four rounds.
We made a few adjustments the final encounter and we've updated the PDF. Please be sure to re-download the PDF from your downloads page. You may need to click "Problems downloading this file?" to refresh the file.
It's still a hard scenario (as intended), but not so "brutally unfair." Enjoy!
By the way, I wanted to give a shout out to this adventure's author, Jacob, who did a stellar job, conducted thorough playtesting, and delivered exactly what was asked for with this adventure. The rebalancing we had to do for the final encounter is entirely on me.
Even with the updated encounter, last night as the GM I had my first player death, followed shortly by my first TPK.
Party was cp 22, so the mummy pharaoh, and 3 of the skeletons. So 4 things with big cones. Everyone except the rogue had the debuff that made mummy rot go straight to stage 2. The damage output is insane, especially if the players don't roll good on saves. The mummy and 2 of the skeletons even rolled awful on the cooldown of their cones, but it didn't matter.
Only one character didn't lose a turn to paralysis, and like I said the room itself wanted the players to die. I wish I hadn't explained how I was rolling (d8 directional and d6 distance), or rolled it out of sight, because I totally would have fudged those dice. They hated the players.
Speaking again of the damage output, have 2+ did decent damage cones, one incredibly damaging cone (with an incredible 60ft size), on top of the players probably moving directly to stage 2 of mummy rot so if the first time they fail (and thus critically fail) when they get hit it's 8d6 damage going straight to stage 2 (plus weakness if they still have it) is absolutely insane damage output, especially in a situation where some and maybe all of the players will lose a turn to paralysis so recovery is stymied. And recovery is also stymied further by the random teleporting. It's...a really bonkers fight, even with greater despair being replaced with "just" the 1 round of paralysis.
Oh, and what's with the skeleton's cone DC being 26? On a CR 5 creature? 26 really? That's a standard level 9 DC, not 5.
Oh and a final note speaking of DCs that make me say "huh", the traps. All 3 hazards in the scenario require a 30+ perception to spot, which is, again, crazy high. At 30, 33, and 30, these are all at the very least "very hard" DCs for any PC that can be in the adventure. And then the DC to disable the main trap that matters (natron) is again, 30 so at minimum "very hard" and the save also unusually high for it's level at 32 (again, "Very hard"). So it's obviously set up to ensure a good number of characters are afflicted by it, which, ugh.
Take all of that together, and it's one of the deadliest encounters I've seen in society. Guess I should mention the reach AoO that also hits and disrupts concentrate actions in addition to the regular triggers so I guess I will. Which can also trigger mummy rot. Nothing like getting AoO'd for 2d8+11+8d6 damage!
It's a shame because the scenario is so cool otherwise. I even set it up so the vices would teleport the character to the other version of the pyramid when clicked on, and play the noise from Zelda link to the past for traveling between worlds. And I never do anything special in my setups with foundry like that, but I was super excited to, haha. And finding the lore in bits is really cool too! Just, that fight, yeesh.
Tldr: overturned CR 9 boss + overturned CR 5 adds (with CR9 dcs) and a trap that you're likely gonna fail against (unless you're very lucky) which makes the final encounter harder plus a room that negates tactical positioning is a setup for players to fail.
Any chance, uh, "Mr. G" will become a recurring NPC? The party and character I played this with had a rather... "interesting" interaction with him, and I'd be delighted to see him pop up again if the overall campaign's reporting conditions for the scenario determine that he's canonically able to do so. :)