Pathfinder Society Scenario #5-05: The Island of the Vibrant Dead

2.80/5 (based on 10 ratings)
Pathfinder Society Scenario #5-05: The Island of the Vibrant Dead

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for 3rd- through 6th-level characters.

During routine study on the Maze of the Open Road, a lecture is interrupted by the old Pathfinder ghoul ally, Marcon Tinol. Through discussions with him, the Society learns that he and Drandle Dreng established an island haven in Azlant for ghouls wishing to live apart from humans, referred to as the Island of the Vibrant Dead. Marcon reports that a strange new ghoul named Ghessa has arrived on the island but her story about her death and undeath isn't adding up, leading him to fear that she may be up to something sinister. The PCs must travel to the island, where the residents maintain a ghoulish existence celebrating their undeath, and dig into Ghessa's story, as well as her trips into the vaults of the long-dead Arodenite priesthood.

Written by Joseph Blomquist

Scenario tags: Metaplot (Unfettered Exploration), 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:

  • Pathfinder Flip-Mat: Mythos Dungeon
  • Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Society Scenario Subscription.

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    2.80/5 (based on 10 ratings)

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    A Difficult to review scenario

    3/5

    So on the plus side

    - Good Varied combat encounters finally! There were 3 very good fights in here and one which i had to cut for time and thats okay because it was wholly unnecessary anyway. Big props for finally doing good combat design work!

    - Tone and setting - it feels like a fun romp because its supposed to be. It raises a LOT of setting related questions specifically on the nature of this island, ghouls, undeath in general. Its really really weird. Hopefully we eventually get answers because the mystery of the island was way more interrsting than the actual mystery the adventure was about and doesnr get resolved.

    Downsides

    - The mystery itself...isnt a mystery. You get told who the suspect is and then every single piece of evidence supports that theory. If a GM really tries and reaches for it you can loop in a red herring but its tough sledding.

    - Pacing its ALL mystery and then ALL combat which just isnt good pacing. Something more varied (and there were opportunities for it in this story) would have helped

    - The setting and tone are VERY light hearted regarding topics which are typicslly quite heavy. If a player brings a champion or a cleric of pharasma or Iomedae or just...is from Last wall, there is a lot of cognitive dissonance the scenario does NOTHING to smooth.

    So good combats, good humor and memorable npcs but it can run long and the mystery itself is simply a dissatisfying conclusion


    Confusing and outstays its welcome

    2/5

    I recently had the opportunity to play this adventure, it was a fun table with other players I enjoyed a fair bit. Unfortunately, in this case, this is more despite the adventure than because of it.

    In general, I agree with some of the points raised by the other reviews, if I could give points out of 10 or fractional points it would be 2.5 but since this one has been on my mind for more than a month we end up with a 2-star review, I really hope this is not a permanent choice of direction.

    - Map: Reusing the final map used in 1-07 - and likely the more memorable ones once you go underground, is very disappointing. This makes it harder to first run the preceding adventure since putting players on the same map in short succession tends to be bad for their immersion. Similar to reusing the Museum flip mat so much, it tends to rip players out of their immersion if they find themselves on the same map that is supposed to represent vastly different locations (usually without any significant changes to the flip mat)

    - Marcon: I don't dislike the artwork (which at the very least is a boon to someone running 1-07, since the normal ghoul artwork was a bit akward) and my GM spent quite some effort to run the NPC with an accent so deep that I struggle to understand it.

    My main issue is... which is he here and not dead? I got the impression running 1-07 that there were essentially 2 outcomes, he dies close to the area where he was imprisoned, or he is brought back to the Grand Lodge so he can pass on the information and generally just die. The fact that he survived is more of a distraction to me, as I have assumed, that he died 4 years ago... so any sort of presence, no matter how well represented and written only really distracts from the story.

    - Drendle Dreng: This character's inclusion into previous seasons' storylines was not received well when I ran it, because while PFS1 players had a lot of exposure to the NPC that was not necessarily going to be the case for new PFS1 players. Now we are learning
    that apparently he had the time to set up a settlement for a very specific flavor of undead.
    The connection to our somewhat overused Maze of the Open Road is... oddly convenient, and honestly might have been enough to justify and adventure here without the involvement of Drend and Marcon

    - The Shark Captain: .... why does he look like some sort of humanoid shark mix, as others have mentioned, I would not have been shocked to see a character like that (maybe excluding the undead element) in something from Battlezoo, but it's very odd.
    The character is immediately suspicious, depending on how people tend to roll, but it still ends up with a betrayal towards the end.

    Having only played this I can't comment if/how players can resolve the issue of the shark early, but in my personal experience... NPCs betraying player characters is a really poisonous chalice, as it encourages players often called "murderhobos" to be more aggressive when it comes to NPCs.

    - The town and setup for the island: It's weird, it's weird that apparently the Society was involved in setting it up, it's super weird, that the due to the weird reaction or the major and the IIRC first mate, they did not seem super surprised by the betrayal or really care all that much - but that might have been because the adventure ran super long.

    - Arodenite dead: Having a large supply of human beef jerky to enable the town to persist a bit is (while everyone does not seem super keen on dealing with the inevitability of the corpses running out) is a weird plot point. The fact that those who eat any part of them get part of their memories.
    I think I watched every episode of the show Izombie, but getting memories from eating someone's shin is peculiar.
    Without looking in the scenario pdf and doing a lot of research, I am not sure if this is new lore or if it is a bit of established weird lore (not unlike the charge of the gorgon mentioned in 1-01 Abaslom Initiation which was introduced in the PF1 Absalom book).

    - There really seems to be no one who actually wants to deal with their desire to eat corpses, which is essentially just kicking the can down the road. I think there is a significant difference between this colony and the skeletons the Pathfinder Society recruited/rescued in the Gravelands.
    The Skeletons are "just" victims, and despite looking scary, do not pose a threat to anyone. The ghouls eat people, they only seem to eat them when they are dead, but historically ghouls tend to have few qualms about turning living people into dinner. When they are hungry, they are always going to be a threat to others until that is resolved. Pending unlucky seafarers fortunately the colony is pretty far from most population centers, but since the Agents of the Whispering Tyrant have found them..

    The issues above tend to distract from the actual story of this adventure, the fact, that a village of corpse-eating undead is getting infiltrated by Agents of the Whispering Tyrant. That's not a bad story, but the setup for the village, and the connection to the Pathfinder Society via Marcon distract from that core narrative.

    To be fair, I might have been more understanding, but our session took about 6 hours, and at that point, everyone was tired and in a hurry. If the encounter with the plants had been optional. that might already have helped the perception a bit.

    If I end up prepping/running it, I will attempt to update this review with any additional context.


    4/5


    disappointing

    3/5

    Ran it twice in high tier (24 CP and 32 CP).
    Combats in this one can be challenging, which I like (I generally find that most recent scenarios go soft on the players). But:
    - the map is the worst for this. the GM needs to put doors in places where they are not to avoid triggering all encounters at the same time. Or some other trick to the same effect.
    - the looney pirate is fun about 5 seconds. after that, it's dumb.
    - the premise that ghouls are cool is wrong. They stink and they are evil. Paizo, next cool thing, demons, maybe? Or devils?
    - the investigation part is OK.
    - the combats are lacking in justification, but they are challenging (did I mention I prefer that to soft ones?)
    I almost put 2 stars, because of the editing errors (the big bad guy has something with a save and the DC is the same for the standard bad guy from the Bestiary as it is for the weak one in low tier... and a few other things like that. Paizo was getting better at avoiding this, disappointed to see it rear its ugly head again.


    Wasted opportunities

    2/5

    I was kind of expecting this to be an interesting place with some ideas to explore but the premise just is missed mostly and ends up just trying to be funny but with dark subjects.

    The good things about this are the location and all the things you can find out about the place. As others have said I hoped they would have dwelled a bit more on how this place and its habitants operate. The investigation was decent, but I hoped there was a bit more information to be found. There's some good NPC: s to interact with but also one of the most grating ones also.

    Then to the bad things. First, I hate Barnacle Barnaby and it just mixes up some ha-ha ain't I funny things to serious things and just does not match the tone for me at all. This makes these scenarios feel like the worst Marvel movies where they can't go through a serious scene without making a silly joke. The map is just so boring and mostly does not fit what has been written in my opinion but that is just the problem with all the scenarios now. Using this map also makes all the battles just happen in a row which just makes the rest of the scenario a slug fest of combat. I wish there was some guidance on what the NPC: s would do if they were suspected or how do they would act if this happened.

    Mechanics of the scenario:
    To the mechanical side high tier combats were not interesting at all with most of the opponents being lower level than the PC: s. Also, the scaling on high tier and the mistakes that are in the stat blocks in some of the DC: s and HP: s just makes it quite a bad experience (like the big bad has the same HP on both tiers). For example adding CR1 creatures to high tier combat at this level just does nothing.

    So overall a wasted opportunity to explore this location and it’s habitants that is weighted down by the rest of these problems for me.


    1 to 5 of 10 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
    Paizo Employee Organized Play Coordinator

    2 people marked this as a favorite.

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


    3 people marked this as a favorite.

    The rescued one from Flooded King's Court? Cool. Always wondered what happened to him.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    This setting sounds absolutely killer. I love how wild Year 5 is shaping up!

    Contributor

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    GHOUL ISLAND GHOUL ISLAND GHOUL ISLAND GHOUL ISLAND GHOUL ISLAND GHOUL ISLAND GHOUL ISLAND GHOUL ISLAND GHOUL ISLAND GHOUL ISLAND GHOUL ISLAND GHOUL ISLAND GHOUL ISLAND

    Verdant Wheel

    AHHHHHHH I've been *waiting* to see if he popped up again!

    Envoy's Alliance

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    "Azlanti islands? Old "friends"? Stories not adding up. Hazard pay might be needed here, because I think it'll be a *ghouling* experience."

    Paizo Employee Organized Play Coordinator

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Map list updated.

    Paizo Employee Organized Play Coordinator

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    The map for this scenario has been changed, please note the new map.

    Verdant Wheel

    2 people marked this as a favorite.
    Alex Speidel wrote:
    The map for this scenario has been changed, please note the new map.

    Map question.

    Potential spoiler for Flooded King's Court:
    Isn't this map the same one used in Flooded King's Court, where we first meet Marcon Tinol?
    The Exchange

    Pathfinder Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
    hiimwil wrote:
    Alex Speidel wrote:
    The map for this scenario has been changed, please note the new map.
    Map question. ** spoiler omitted **

    That was my first thought as well, but

    Spoiler:
    there are two sides to the map, or maybe the Maze shifted Marcon's house over to the island?
    Contributor

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    New cover, who dis?

    Dark Archive

    Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

    I think that's the accountant

    Contributor

    CorvusMask wrote:
    I think that's the accountant

    LOL

    Yeah, I knew it was Marcon. I was just making a cell phone joke

    Vigilant Seal

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook, Starfinder Society Subscriber

    You know one addition that would make my life super awesome and easy? A combatant count or "Dramatis Personae" list so I know what mini's or pawns I need to pull.


    Pathfinder LO Special Edition, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

    Ron Lundeen did something like that for Abomination Vaults. It's on Pathfinder Infinite, "Abomination Vaults GM's Guide".

    Doing it routinely in the PFS Scenarios would probably significantly increase the word/page count.

    Grand Archive

    Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

    Have any subscribers got their copy?

    Dark Archive

    3 people marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

    I'm currently trying to figure out what I think about the scenario since I'm currently kinda wary of specific kind of trope that has been popular in PFS ever since I was brought attention of it

    Verdant Wheel

    Project: J-ko wrote:
    hiimwil wrote:
    Alex Speidel wrote:
    The map for this scenario has been changed, please note the new map.
    Map question. ** spoiler omitted **
    That was my first thought as well, but ** spoiler omitted **

    It's funny, I actually thought myself a dunderhead for not realizing that yes, of COURSE the map has another side, so surely that's what they're using. Which is especially great for people who DID play the previous module, no need to go out and buy another flip-mat and you can just play them back-to-back!

    Alas, no. It is literally the same map side.


    Pathfinder LO Special Edition, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
    Calcryx666 wrote:
    Have any subscribers got their copy?

    Well, I haven't.


    Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
    Calcryx666 wrote:
    Have any subscribers got their copy?

    I had to email customer service.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
    H2Osw wrote:
    Calcryx666 wrote:
    Have any subscribers got their copy?
    I had to email customer service.

    I just sent an email to customer service yesterday and no response so far, how long did it take for them to fix it for you?

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