Pathfinder Society Scenario #4-06: Signal from the Electric Laboratory

2.30/5 (based on 6 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for 7th- through 10th-level characters.

A crystal key from another world? We should look into that. What could possibly go wrong?!

In studying a strange key made of metal and crystal, the Pathfinder Society has determined that it is receiving a distressing signal from a remote estate in mist-shrouded Ustalav. Other people in the area have been receiving the signal as well, but without the key, they have no way to interpret the strange messages and images. The Society must travel to Ustalav, investigate the source of the signal, and prevent the terrified populace from taking matters into their own hands!

This adventure is the first part of the two-part Crystal Key metaplot arc in the Year of Boundless Wonder.

Written by Letterio Mammoliti

Scenario tags: Metaplot (Boundless Wonder), Faction (Horizon Hunters)

[Scenario Maps spoiler - click to reveal]

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

  • Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Haunted House
  • Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Dungeons Multi-Pack
  • Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Society Scenario Subscription.

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    2.30/5 (based on 6 ratings)

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    Interesting premise but needs more focus

    3/5

    The scenario has several good things at a glance:
    Ustalav location
    Dealing with angry mob
    A mystery

    But after playing (High tier), those all seem like red herrings.
    The location is the same tired map from 1-01. The mob is barely present and introduces npcs only to throw them away. And the mystery turns out to be rather shallow and not well explained.

    Add to this multiple npcs that keep mentioning other npcs that are often not relevant to the task at hand. Someone mentioned a choice, but I did not see any choice at all. It all felt rather linear. Overall, it didn't feel like anything meaningful was accomplished. The combat was fine at our CP except for last one that had one big problem GM had to adjudicate ((details below)).

    Mechanical details (gm spoilers!):

    Now, the mechanics. The skill checks were fine for our group.

    The combat on the ground floor was ok as the group quickly switched to "correct" damage type and used weak saves against them ((bludgeoning for oozes and using reflex save spells.)). The incant could be a problem if there was more than one. Putting multiple engulfing creatures can easily separate the party so I can see how this can be a problem.

    The second floor combat was not memorable. Not sure if GM simply forgot to use harpy song ability or chose not to. The harpies themselves felt very random and out of place.

    Now, the basement encounter.
    If it was just the constructs it would be tolerable but as it happens nearly the entire room is "within 20ft" of electric enclosure that counters spells and spell effects next to it. Which means heal spells getting countered with over 50% chance of success plus damage to caster. ((95% if spell below level 4)). This mechanic resulted in a near tpk situation before GM decided that 20ft has to represent a line of effect and cannot act through walls, which then put most of the room outside the effect. Add to that the construct that had high precision and high damage plus AoO.
    I wish this mechanic was clarified better because I imagine not all gms will be as lenient.

    After all, unfortunately, the scenario felt like busy work and not particularly memorable.


    Advice to new GMs: This should not be your first 7-10

    3/5

    I feel like this scenario could easily have had five stars, but agree with a lot of points made in other reviews. The NPCs have such niche skills, abilities and immunities that even figuring out RAW is hard in some cases. There are pieces of lore, but it is almost like only half the information you need is there.

    The selection of the flipmat for the basement floor is lazy at best - look at this intricate, detailed description of an empty room that is central to the plot, and the house as described in the text doesn't fit the haunted house flipmat either. The basement should have had a custom created map - I know they cost more but this is a 7-10 that you pay more for.

    Lastly, given the complexity of the enemies and the volume of partial lore and number of NPCs this should have had the glyph tag. It is a great way to let GMs know the difficulty of running is above average and that a lot of rules interpretation is necessary.


    I really wanted to like this scenario

    1/5

    I want to like this scenario, but there's a lot wrong with it.

    The plot itself is needlessly complicated, which isn't helped at all by the way this scenario is written. The layout and lack of direction with the dialog making it even worse, as I had to improvise entire conversations between the party and some of the NPCs. The scenario also expect the GM and the party to remember very minor details, which just made it even harder.

    Scenario Spoilers:
    The combats felt pretty stale too. The first encounter is full of immunities to such common damage types (precision, evocation, necromancy, mental). I get some immunities makes a challenge, but these creatures did not challenge my party and were just tedious to fight. Plus the roiling incants' engulf ability just doesn't work RAW, as they lack a land speed.

    The scenario also misgenders Lumna a couple times. While it's never explicitly stated that they are nonbinary or use they/them pronouns, it is *strongly* implied through the writing. Seeing such a central character getting misgendered just feels frustrating to see, since Paizo is usually really good about these kinds of things.

    Overall, I liked where this scenario was trying to go, but it lacked the polish needed to get there.


    Too many things in a pot

    2/5

    This was a bit of a letdown. The locale and the idea behind it sounded a lot better than it fleshed out to be.

    I enjoyed the overall plot and things it introduces as possibilities into the story.

    Minuses are a lot more heavier in this. First of all there's just too many NPC:s which overlap with each other on information and there's just so many names mentioned overall that do not show up in this one. The map and descriptions are way off sometimes and also they just do not fit the enemies well making it way too crowded. Encounters themselves were ok but especially the second floor one feels very tacked on.

    In the high-tier some things are locked behind master proficiency and depending on the society group there might be none who could even make those check (please do not do this in society scenarios where you don't know what kind of a party composition you get).

    Running this felt like dropping a new name every twenty minutes and then not really having much more information to give out at that point.


    Avoid Avoid Avoid - very disappointing high level outing

    1/5

    I want to start by saying the germ of the idea for this scenario is a very good one - going to investigate an alien intelligence which is inadvertently causing disrest amongst the peasants is a really cool story hook.

    Scenario spoilers:

    The execution here however was a disaster in every way. The manner in which the above story hook is integrated into the meta plot is extremely sloppy,connecting the disparate elements of the Ardis Scholars, a previously more or less undefined entity, with the night hag Aslyn. There is also a ghost, and a member of the Ardis Scholars, who for some reason has an artificial heart. The story has 4 major NPCs (5 if you include Gleam the baby cu sith) and they all basically don't know anything. They can tell you the very basics, which amounts to about 3 sentences of lore and leave the PCs having discovered nothing at all.

    The aforementioned mob? They just show up and leave. Nothing interesting of any sort is done with this plot element especially since the mob is very very easy to just talk down. Why was it even here?

    You learn distressingly little information about the alien, the Ardis scholars, the night hags daughter who turned on her mother unsuccessfully. This scenario ties all of these elements and all of these elements contribute a little bit to the cool vibe of the weird electric lab. But that's all the scenario has time to do. It introduces you to a world of stuff and then you leave. This scenario would have been much more successful focusing on any one or maybe two of these elements.

    The scenario also tries to introduce several "hard choices" in order to set up fun in character discussion but the choices first of all the choice is NOT hard (there's just an evil option and a good option) and the scenario the party is being asked to make a decision about has absolutely no flesh on the bone. It doesn't even appear to be a choice at all at first glance.

    Even the mystery of what happened to the Ardis scholars is just completely dull because the answer is just "Aslynn did a thing and since she's the big bad we have no idea why."

    This brings me to the fights themselves. Talk about a lot of anti-fun. One fight is harpies. Enough said.

    The next is oozes and an ooze-like monster that is immune to evocation magic, so no fun allowed for like anyone with non bludgeoning weapons or offensive spells. The ooze fight happens in a locale too small to fit even the basic number of monsters let alone the ones added on for scaling adjustments and the same thing happens again for the third fight.

    Then a fight with a construct that hits like a truck and is pretty darn tanky. Having to do this fight after how resource intensive the previous combats were the party I ran for actually just chose to fail the mission instead of dragging their way through to the end because too much time had passed and they didn't want to do another encounters they were gonna need to chip their way through over a long series of rounds.

    Even the map itself is that same old tired haunted house map, so the PCs have absolutely no chance of being enticed to explore this thing for umpteenth time at this level. In the end there wasn't much here for the players to really sink their teeth into and there desperately needed to be more depth and less width to the proceedings.

    All in all, the plot didn't make any sense, there are so many NPCs crammed into this thing that none of them are memorable, the fights are miserably unfun, and so much word count is devoted to all these extra curriculars that we in the end didn't even really get to learn anything about the alien.

    An easy skip, play literally anything else instead.


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    Paizo Employee Organized Play Coordinator

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

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


    Always down for otherworldly technology.

    Dark Archive

    2 people marked this as a favorite.

    Wait.. It's REALLY continuation story of Sky Key (6 year PFS1) or am I confusing something?


    Vokialus wrote:
    Wait.. It's REALLY continuation story of Sky Key (6 year PFS1) or am I confusing something?

    Ustalav makes me assume this is

    Spoiler:
    Stasian tech, from Earth.

    The key described here doesn’t really sound like the Sky Key at all.

    Paizo Employee Organized Play Coordinator

    3 people marked this as a favorite.

    It's not the Sky Key, it's a new key :)

    Dark Archive

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Alex Speidel wrote:
    It's not the Sky Key, it's a new key :)

    *sounds of frustration*

    In that case, can you tell me how the case with the Heavenly Key ended after 7-00? I know there was also a scenario for lube for him in Season 7, but other than that, nothing.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Vokialus wrote:
    Alex Speidel wrote:
    It's not the Sky Key, it's a new key :)

    *sounds of frustration*

    In that case, can you tell me how the case with the Heavenly Key ended after 7-00? I know there was also a scenario for lube for him in Season 7, but other than that, nothing.

    I’m curious - what Sky Key stories do you think are left to tell? 7-00 has a fleeting mention of Jormurdun dwarves trapped in a bubble outside of time that’s never actually used, but I’m unaware of any other remaining loose ends.

    To be clear, I’d LOVE to resolve that time bubble idea and see some of Jormurdun’s folk return!

    Paizo Employee Organized Play Coordinator

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Map list updated.


    When is this up for sale? There's not much November left.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Just picked this one up - it’s a lot of fun, and has some really nice unexpected continuity! Excited to see its other half, as what’s here is really interesting.

    Spoiler:
    Follow-up on the doomed explorers in the Tomb Between Worlds, a renegade daughter of the Society’s hag rival, Stasian tech being used for both an Iron Man heart and a psychic Faraday cage, AND an alien from one of Liavara’s moons?

    Advocates

    3 people marked this as a favorite.
    Scenario Blurb wrote:

    A crystal key from another world? We should look into that. What could possibly go wrong?!

    In studying a strange key made of metal and crystal, the Pathfinder Society has determined that it is receiving a distressing signal from a remote estate in mist-shrouded Ustalav.

    I have at least 4 Society characters who are natives to the country and have credible claims as to the opposite, spread across both 1e and 2e

    (Please keep putting them in awkward and/or scary situations please . They thrive off complaining about Ustalav)

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