Pathfinder Society Scenario #4-05: The Arclord Who Never Was

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for 1st- through 4th-level characters.

A skull with glowing eyes was among the many objects which recently turned up in the Pathfinder Society's vaults, and none of the other objects are quite so talkative as this one! In fact, the skull isn't an object at all, but a person. The Society isn't sure who, or what, they are, and the skull seems to have lost their memories. Nonetheless, the skulls requests—no, insists—that the Society return them to their former glory at once!

Grand Archivist Zarta Dralneen has determined that the skull is from Quantium, the magic-filled capital of Nex. She dispatches a group of Pathfinders to conduct a simple research mission and guide the skull around the city, hoping to jar the skull's memories and learn the truth.

"See the world," they said. "Simple research mission," they said.

This adventure is the first part of the two-part Skull & Scroll metaplot arc in the Year of Boundless Wonder.

Written by Michael Bramnik

Scenario tags: Metaplot (Boundless Wonder), Faction (Envoy's Alliance, Vigilant Seal)

[Scenario Maps spoiler - click to reveal]

The following maps used in this scenario are also available for purchase here on

  • Pathfinder Flip-Mat: The Rusty Dragon Inn
  • Starfinder Flip-Mat: Solar Temple
  • Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Society Scenario Subscription.

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    Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Pathfinder Society Scenario #4-05: The Arclord W


    Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Pathfinder Society Scenario #4-05: The Arclord Who Never Was

    Originally posted at, a new idea every day!

    Product- Pathfinder Society Scenario #4-05: The Arclord Who Never Was
    System- Pathfinder
    Producer- Paizo
    Price- $6 here lord-Who-Never-Was
    TL; DR-Good overall story, but small issues in the middle beats. 83%

    Basics- Who is the skull? You find a talking skull…what the heck is up with that? Find out who the skull is and continue the mystery of the fey who want it!

    Mechanics or Crunch- The math is all balanced for this adventure, but the progression of it is a bit skewed. This adventure is basically several skill tests, a potential fight, skill test/fight, plot, skill tests, then end fight. Players who are combat monsters will be a bit bored as the goal of most damage will not be a major time sink for the game. It is all balanced for the numbers and skills used, but the game is moving to much more explore, report, corporate and less destroy all things. 4/5

    Theme or Fluff- The overall story of this adventure is great, but the beat by beat is a bit off. The basics are to learn about the skull. Characters are introduced in throw away lines and given full pictures, but I don't honestly know who they are and how they fit into the flow. This leads to players asking questions that I honestly can’t answer. It’s nice to have, but it feels off. One example is a NPC who talked to the skull as a person, but that person is mentioned exactly four times. All four times are either in the paragraph saying he talked to her or his pictures. NO real description of who he is and why we care. The major pieces are fun and the second half of the adventure comes together well. The first half has good things that just don't fit true. 3.5/5

    Execution- PDF? Yep. Hyperlinked? Yep. Solid Art? Yep. Good layout? Yep! This is what I expect from a Paizo adventure. I complained that there are TOO many pictures. That’s a good problem to have. 5/5

    Summary- I like the metaplot between the starter adventure, this adventure, and the last of the trilogy about this magic talking skull. The crunch is good, but not even. If you just want to beat things, this is not your adventure. If you want to explore a magic town, this is a blast. As a GM, some pieces don’t quite work. I want more background on some characters. Help me use the NPCs and their pictures to fill out the social bits of the adventure. It’s physically well done, and the big story is a blast. I just need more flow in the middle. 83%

    Not a bad sceanrio but I dislike some of the choices in it


    I have my issues with this one, and they deserve a longer review, but having run it, I am really not keen to run it again or play it. The mechanics are fine, I have some issues with how the story unfolds. The scenario gives a lot of artwork to NPCs but gives me as the GM barely anything to work with.

    Not a badly crafted scenario, but it is pretty good at hitting aspects I don't personally like.

    Update: I actually played it days after my review so I can expand a bit:

    - The scenario tries to make it more likely to experience the second of two potential combats, either the bar or the constructs. Personally, I understand how it makes sense to balance things and have at least two encounters however, I have narrative concerns.
    Both encounters are those that players don't really want to fight, beating up the confused people is not really enjoyable. Fighting the constructs is at best a crying shame considering how this one forwards the narrative.

    The mechanics that make it less likely to be able to avoid the second encounter feel a bit forced, like getting the symbols from the group downstairs.
    I would have preferred some sort of unrelated combat encounters if that is the design goal. I know optional encounters are not super common these days but I think this would have been the place for one.

    - The faction missions do clash a bit/are a bit nebulous, but that is partially because the group of ruffians is not really described, they literally lack a group name. To be honest I did not love how they seem to be some sort of choice between the factions. Though I am not entirely certain that this was intentional and not just the perception of the players (and the GM).
    Having experienced this sort of clashing incentive and goals in PFS1 I am not a fan of the implementation.
    Branching choices are all fine and good, but with individual players wishing to advance their particular rep with a faction, I feel like factions missions should be none of them.

    - Featured and illustrated NPCs: This adventure features a fair number of NPCs and I have some issues with that. 2 of the NPCs look like they could almost come from our world, or were inspired by something contemporary. Since I wear glasses, that look rather similar the former Pathfinder really bothers me, to the point where I was hiding his artwork in my VTT files. The diamond merchant gives me a similar contemporary vibe that drags me out of the experience.
    In general, I don't feel like the various NPCs the players meet this early in the scenario do not have a lot to tell the players, even worse when I ran it players were trying to act upon what they were learning, unfortunately, that is not really a viable option in the scenario, and once the story advances after going to location A and B... the previous information is not really all that relevant/adds very little.

    - I rather liked the idea of the school (and found the story of a location that spends some focus on teaching species that are traditionally seen as monstrous very interesting - unfortunately I feel with all the other things, the scenarios does not spend as much time on it as I would have hoped) and even the connection to the bar, however, I feel like finding location B, just seems to result in a worse story. Even if you avoid the combat up top, the skull will reject that accusation of being the missing arclord (that also gets outed by their creation - which feels very jarring to me)

    Location C, honestly I have mixed feelings, the library subsystem is rather complicated and gets to show up relatively late in the game but the surprise attack at the end really helps the adventure to end on a high note. Or it would, maybe it was because the faction missions/conflict between the gang and the constructs, did not really sit all that well with me, that I feel like that part after the combat feels a bit tacked on. I seems necessary to resolve one or two of the faction missions, but if feels a bit like artificial conflict in order to fulfill the requirements of a template.

    Connect the dot skill checks


    Never is a skill-based scenario with some roleplay.

    A lot of the scenario is spent with the GM reading box text and exposition. And the players rolling skill checks that are specified at each location. As I've mentioned in other reviews, it's not a satisfying experience and is a really cheap and lazy way to make scenarios. Go here, read description, use skill XYZ, next.

    The roleplay is mostly with the skull, is mostly exposition, and will vary from table to table. For us it was OK only.

    The combat encounters were almost identical to any combat encounter you’d have in a level 1 scenario. Fighting creatures we’ve fought many times before. We’re in Quantium, arguably one of the weirdest and most advanced cities in Golarion. I felt the encounters could have used creatures not typically seen, or who were unique. At least skinned differently?

    ”The encounter in the bar made no sense”:

    Why would low level human ruffians try to extort money from a bar that features a half man half scorpion that could probably solo kill them even if she didn’t have bard levels?

    In my mind, in Quantium the average citizen/creature is between level 5 and 9. So why would a level -1 creature try to do anything other than avoid getting squished?

    And why did they become our servants and fan boys after we scared them off?

    Again, I dislike the cartoony season 4 artwork and much prefer artwork from previous years of Pathfinder.

    ”Detailed rating”:

    Length: Short (3 hours).
    Experience: Player at subtier 1-2 (6 players, 14 challenge points).
    Sweet Spot: ?
    Entertainment: See above. (3/10)
    Story: I thought the story was shallow and disappointing. I also dislike Paizo pushing real world political agendas. (2/10)
    Roleplay: Mostly monologue. (2/10)
    Combat/Challenges: Mundane encounters that could occur in any scenario. (4/10)
    Maps: I dislike using Starfinder maps in Pathfinder, but for Quantium it worked. (8/10)
    Boons: Achievement points. (3/10)
    Uniqueness: Another research scenario. (2/10)
    GM Preparation: ?.

    Overall: Connect the dots, without any PC agency, through a city that should have been much more interesting than it was. (4/10)

    One of my favorites of all time!


    For one, this scenario has the highest PPM (puns per minute) rate of any scenario ever.

    The mission makes sense, and is fun. Players are given a lot of options on how to approach things, though some of the RP NPC could have been a little more flushed out on how they were supposed to be used. A map of Quantium would also have been appreciated

    That all being said, I have run it about 6 times, and each run was a joy. The players seemed to enjoy what was going on, and generally was a good, raucous adventure.

    1 to 5 of 14 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | next > last >>
    Paizo Employee Organized Play Coordinator

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

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

    2 people marked this as a favorite.

    I quite like the sound of this one.


    6 people marked this as a favorite.
    Scenario Blurb wrote:
    "See the world," they said. "Simple research mission," they said.

    Mike (or blurb writer; possibly both), you have won the adoration of the Von Rooiakker family for the rest of existence for that line.

    Dark Archive

    3 people marked this as a favorite.

    Looks like we diving head first into this one. Hopefully we come out of it without having our brains rattled.

    Looking forward to this one!

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Any idea what the level range of Part 2 will be? And when it might come out?

    Got a group of PCs who definitely want to play both parts and don't want to accidentally level out of Part 2.

    Sovereign Court

    Any news on what the maps for this scenario may be?
    Thanks in advance.

    Paizo Employee Organized Play Coordinator

    3 people marked this as a favorite.

    Cover and map list updated.

    Is that sidebar right - Quantium has 18 pages in the Impossible Lands book?

    Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
    keftiu wrote:
    Is that sidebar right - Quantium has 18 pages in the Impossible Lands book?

    Pages 250-268 would actually be 19 pages. If that page range reference is in error, someone will be able to point it out in a few days.


    7 people marked this as a favorite.

    Just played it with the author; it is fantastic. My table and I all had moments of sheer cackling at the jokes, then we got a little teary eyed at a certain point.

    Cannot recommend it highly enough, and if you can catch it with the author sometime, please do. I hear he's a top bloke ;)

    Liberty's Edge

    2 people marked this as a favorite.

    Had the honor of playing this with the author and I can assure you, this one is worth grabbing.

    Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

    Just cruel forcing a GM to play an NPC that has to tell puns. Heartless in fact.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    elisaelli wrote:
    Just cruel forcing a GM to play an NPC that has to tell puns. Heartless in fact.

    Disembodied skulls should be considered to have expert proficiency in being heartless. I'd call this a tongue-in-cheek fact, but that also does not apply here :P

    2 people marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

    Puns are truly brainless. I angrily look forward to going ahead with the follow up scenario.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Michael Bramnik wrote:

    Disembodied skulls should be considered to have expert proficiency in being heartless. I'd call this a tongue-in-cheek fact, but that also does not apply here :P

    Very much enjoyed this one Mike :) Thanks for the humor.

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