PFS#19: Skeleton Moon [SPOILERS]


GM Discussion

The Exchange

I'm surprised there hasn't been a thread started on this yet. I looked up and down this list and couldn't find one so I guess I'm going to start it. I haven't read the scenario yet.

We played this last night. We had a full table and were fairly balanced. Our party composition was:
Ranger 3/Rogue 3
Druid 5
Wizard 5
Cleric 4
Fighter 2/Rogue 2
Druid 1/Ranger 3
Really all we lacked was a front line fighter, but when choosing between Tier 3-4 and Tier 6-7 we chose the former. We had a PC death in the previous game and needed to take a break. At least we thought it was going to be a break.

We fairly waltzed through the first three combats but when the

Spoiler:
advanced assassin vine appeared we were hosed. My cleric took the journal and went to leave the tower while the other PCs were still talking with the diseased guy (he surrendered to us when we agreed not to interrupt his ritual). The GM triggered the mishap while the PCs were all (except myself) still inside the ritual room. I'm sure this was intended to happen this way.

What followed was the "Full Metal Jacket" effect. Remember in the second half of the movie when the sniper shot a soldier out in the open and the rest of the platoon were watching him dying from their covered position. One of his buddies runs out to try and save him and becomes a casualty as well. And then another dummy wants to try the same thing. The Tier 3-4 assassin vine can drop a 4th level PC in a single hit. You're looking at 15HP from the slam, no chance to beat it on the grapple, and another 15HP from the constriction. If you aren't dead it will certainly pop your head off the following round.

The first round the Fighter/Rogue ran out onto the balcony in a theatrical David vs Goliath moment--until the vine's turn when it slammed, grabbed, constricted and dropped him to -9. The cleric (me) was 40 feet away and wasn't going to become the next casualty by moving through the vine's threatened area to get to the dying hero. He passed at the end of the round.

After the first round the PCs peppered the vine with arrows and an ineffective fireball until it pulled itself up to the balcony and threatened the ritual room. At that point the rest of the PCs moved into the back rooms and tried to think of a way out of the mess. Basically after a lot of magic missiles and summoned monsters the vine was dropped but it wasn't much fun.

Afterward we chose to rest inside of the tower. The last fight was supposed to happen on the open road but the GM felt that if the PCs didn't come back, the Aspis Consortium agents would come looking for us. It shouldn't have been that tough of a fight, but we didn't finish resting when the bad guys came calling. The wizard got KOed and someone brought him back up to 1HP while he was still threatened. Stubbornly he shot the raging barbarian with some magic missiles in the kneecap on his turn. The GM returned the favor with a crit on the wizard and we were down another 5,450 GP.

I'm sure I will have more to say after I read the scenario, but one mistake we found was giving a bad guy a rapier and the Power Attack feat. A rapier is a light weapon and you cannot Power Attack with them. On top of that, what kind of self-respecting barbarian carries a rapier?

Liberty's Edge

Spoiler:
Actually it's a 1 handed finessable weapon.

BTW the intent was to have everyone soil themselves and run.


Spoiler:

I am very sorry to here you got mullered.

Ideally, d'Aponte's soul should not possess the vine, while people are within its reach.

At mid-tier, the best approach to dealing with the assassin is to attempt to do what you can to prevent it attacking you, while you make your escape, or withdraw and hammer it with all you have at range.But going toe to toe with it is a bad choice.

I previously thought that the discription and behaviour of the vine would be enough to make it clear that the straight forward approach was a bad choice.

On the rapier thing. Sefu isn't really a 'barbarian', so yeah, no rapier bashing, that said he was originally armed with a Khopesh. I think this was one of the changes made in development.

All that said, i am left a little concerned that the other encounters are turning out to be push overs.

Ofcause, if you have any other observations, it would be useful to hear them.

The Exchange

ben wenham wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Well Ben, the GM who ran this scenario had run it twice previous. I'm not saying he couldn't have gotten it wrong, just that it wasn't his first time. I have read the scenario now and it seems like it is designed to trigger the assassin vine encounter while the PCs are still inside the laboratory. There's no exit from the laboratory save back through the courtyard. The vine has a 30' reach so there's no easy way to fight it from a distance because of the castle layout.

The way our game unfolded was the PCs surrounded d'Aponte and warned him to not provoke them. He agreed to listen to the PCs as long as they agreed not to restrict his ritual. After hearing his story my PC took his journal (he was beyond caring about it) left the castle while the rest of the PCs watched and debated amongst themselves. The GM chose to trigger Act 4 after I had left the courtyard. d'Aponte flubbed and the assassin vine immediately appeared in the courtyard. There was no time to leave the area between the flub and the vine's arrival.

With no obvious escape, the trapped PCs rolled initiative and reacted the way they thought best. The tank ran out and took a swing at the vine with his spiked chain. Then the vine stuck back and took him to -9 HP and dropped his body in the courtyard. He was out of reach from the rest of the party unless they wanted to move through a threatened area. At that point they started brainstorming how to stabilize the tank without becoming the next casualty. The tank expired at the end of the round but no one knew he was done.

Some PCs began to attack the vine from a distance but they had only two rounds before the GM moved the vine from the floor of the courtyard to the balcony. Now the entire laboratory was unsafe. The vine still had the tank's body covered so I couldn't get to him without provoking. The rest of the party withdrew to the bedrooms and resorted to summoned animals and magic missiles. No animal lived longer than 1 round.

With spells nearly exhausted the trapped PCs began to try and tunnel their way out through the walls of the castle. The wizard continued to snipe with his wand of magic missiles and I thought the GM was going to have it attack the wall between the courtyard and the lab so it could get to them. The wizard finally dropped the vine after burning through a lot of MM wand charges.

If this same encounter had happened at the higher tier the trapped PCs would have all died from the tower collapsing on them.

As for the rest of the encounters, here are some thoughts:

I really liked the cocktrices. You don't run into those very often and I really enjoyed the 'oh crap' feeling that went around the table when the players metagamed what they were facing. The cocktrices got 1 round of actions before the anxious players unloaded on them with both barrels. It was a quick fight, and I guess I thought it was easy since both the PCs who were struck made their fort saves. If they had been petrified then it wouldn't have been so easy...

The recital scene with the animated objects was unusual but lost on us players. No one could figure out a reason why d'Aponte would go through the hassle of animating & enchanting the manakins. They really made little sense as guardians other than their worth as obstacles. For low-level PCs overcoming hardness is a problem. Our party was heavy on spellcasters who had the means to bypass hardness. Animated objects don't deal much damage either.

The tactics state that the lab assistants withdraw if they get injured and flee the castle--but there's no where for them to flee. With the PCs in the courtyard there's nowhere else to go. Was there supposed to be a secret door or an exist from the bedrooms off the laboratory? Another question about the map was where was the staircase to the parapet from whence the cocktrices were launched?

d'Aponte's tactics state his first round action is to summon a wave of fiendish dire rats to block the entrance. Summon monster is a full-round cast. d'Aponte will not live long enough to complete this action. He's got 18 HP at Tier 3-4 and 6-7. He could be a lot more of a challenge if he had a scroll of stoneskin and buffed with false life and mirror image. Web should have been his first round action. That courtyard is perfect for a web spell. Then a lightning bolt down the staircase. And then summon the fiendish dire rats inside the web with the PCs... I'm sure this would only be amusing for the GM though.

In Act 5 I already mentioned that the GM altered the encounter from how it was intended. I won't say that it wasn't a challenge. The problem is that human opponents are so vulnerable. They can be blinded, stunned and sneak-attacked. The Aspis Consortium thugs were also very vulnerable to an entangle spell. And they have no ranged attack weapon, so the PCs (if a druid is present) can entangle and pick them off at range.

I think this is an interesting scenario and I would rank it in the middle of the PFS scenarios released. Unfortunately it has the feel of a "---- you, players" adventure, whether or not it was the author's intention. Sometimes players think that an author designs encounters deliberately to score a body count and get a reputation as a bad---. Dralkard Manor, which also features an

Spoiler:
advanced assassin vine
, earned all three co-authors this rep, although I'm convinced Josh set Steven Helt up as his whipping boy ;). Time will tell if Ben is labeled this way (a nasty author, not a whipping boy).

Please take these comments as constructive and if I come off as snide or abrasive it was not intended that way. None of the players at my table, even the ones who died, are going to walk away from Pathfinder Society because of a sour outcome. Certainly we are adult enough to know that we are responsible for our own actions and if our tactics had been better or if we had been less brash the outcome may have been different. Ben, thank you for the work you put into Skeleton Moon--it certainly is not going to be a forgettable scenario :)

Sovereign Court

I personally dislike all save-or-suck money sink monsters with a passion. The cockatrices are easy themselves, but come with a possible money loss of 660gp. And the Society isn't there to help. Great.

I have to say my Halfling bard/ranger was very delighted to kill Sefu, especially after he proved to be one of Aspis. The joke is we had been talking about Aspis from the start and my halfling is paranoid about Aspis in every corner. "I'm sure Aspis is behind this!"

We managed to clear the assassin vine with ease, thanks to our group of extreme summoners. Even an assassin vine will bow down to 2 dire bats and 3 apes.


Geez, I'm certainly not trying to rack up a body count. :-/

Liberty's Edge

Joshua J. Frost wrote:
Geez, I'm certainly not trying to rack up a body count. :-/

On the bright side my players now fear 'stoning lizard turkeys'... (each and every one failed the know arcana 15 for the flying butterballs).

Liberty's Edge 5/5 5/5

I ran this at PaizoCon UK and I really enjoyed running it. I believe my players had a lot of fun, too. They were a very un-optimized party who were very strong on roleplaying. This module has lots of atmosphere and the setting with the arcane mannekin ritual is quite dream-like and surreal. They got into that and played along brilliantly.

The fowl creatures were, of course, a terrifying threat as they should be and the players didn't know their chance being hit by them was extremely low. A well timed Entangle spell stopped my fun. Shame!

They looked for the way to the top of the tower battlements from where they were first haragued. It's not on the map but, of course, it must be there. Two agile characters climbed the flint tower. (Flint towers are a piece of cake.) They attempted a sneaky two-pronged attack on the ritualists that kicked off all the action at once. It became totally and gloriously chaotic.

By extreme bad luck Haroun the sneaky scimitar weilding fighter was held-off and almost pummelled to death by a young lab assistant using fisticuffs. Alchemists Fire was thrown all over the place. The mannekins blocked off the stairs and the main party while one caster threw spell through the window. d'Aponte was knocked off the stairs and exploded in a ball of fire from the flasks of Alchemist Fire he was carrying. A Summoned pig was sent truffle hunting among the roots of the vine and did more damage in one round than anyone else.

At the appropriate moment, I took Ben's hint and described the big bad vine as truly horrendous and earth shaking and, like any sensible players should, they took the hint and fled as the tower tumbled to rubble.

I liked the finality of that and the players were just working out what they had got out of the adventure when I hit them with the ambush -- an unexpected pleasure.

A lovely drama. Well done, Ben.

Scarab Sages

Yes, thanks, Ben, for writing that. Good to meet you last week.
And thanks to Rob, for running it, and hamming up the ritual so well.
And thanks to the other players, who were firing off each other, especially 'The Butterfly Family' (The McGees? If you were there, you know who I mean. LOL).
I think we hit our stride at that point, we'd played a few scenarios, and worked out that they are doable within the time limit, so we could afford to loosen up with some banter.
That was my favourite of the five slots that weekend.

"Initiative...27?"
"Chelaxian Death Chickens!!!!! Save yourselves!!!!!" <sprint>

Scarab Sages

Doug Doug wrote:
You're looking at 15HP from the slam, no chance to beat it on the grapple, and another 15HP from the constriction. If you aren't dead it will certainly pop your head off the following round.

It's just a detail but it may helps: I do consider constriction as 'continuous damage' taking one full round to take effect. If the creature grab an infortunate adventurer, the constriction damage applies just before the creature next turn. If by chance the PC escape the grapple before the creature next turn, then no constricton damage occurs.

Also it will be easier to resist/escape grapples with the new CMB rules.


Deussu wrote:

I personally dislike all save-or-suck money sink monsters with a passion. The cockatrices are easy themselves, but come with a possible money loss of 660gp. And the Society isn't there to help. Great.

I have to say my Halfling bard/ranger was very delighted to kill Sefu, especially after he proved to be one of Aspis. The joke is we had been talking about Aspis from the start and my halfling is paranoid about Aspis in every corner. "I'm sure Aspis is behind this!"

We managed to clear the assassin vine with ease, thanks to our group of extreme summoners. Even an assassin vine will bow down to 2 dire bats and 3 apes.

The placement of the cocatries at the first encounter of the adventure was unfortunate. I had a player whose wizard was turned to stone on the single hit the cockatrices scored (he rolled a 1 on the die). I allowed him to roleplay his familiar for the rest of the adventure, which made the night a less-than-disaster for him. I was surprised to see that an experienced pathfinder who regarded the trices as pets wouldn't have a supply of stone-to-flesh ointment available for the unavailable accident that his lab assistant might encounter, so I provided such in the lab equipment.

It was somewhat strange running this, as our group will not be playing again before gencon and season 2 begins. Assuming that every PC at the table will undergo a radical change with the season 2 and new pathfinder rules, I was especially inclined to make this a "fun" event, rather than a sour note to end season 1.


Rob Silk wrote:
I ran this at PaizoCon UK and I really enjoyed running it. I believe my players had a lot of fun, too. They were a very un-optimized party who were very strong on roleplaying. This module has lots of atmosphere and the setting with the arcane mannekin ritual is quite dream-like and surreal. They got into that and played along brilliantly.

Thank you, from one of the players! We had to play this cautiously and cleverly as we were a largely 2nd level party with NO fighter-types. Instead we had a druid, a cleric, a wizard, a sorcerer, a rogue and a monk (me). On the whole a very enjoyable scenario in spite of some truly awful combat rolls which nearly resulted in my monk being beaten up by a commoner, although I have to wonder what happens if you decide to sit and wait to see what the ritual does ...

Thank you Rob, and thanks to the designer!

Liberty's Edge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Maryland— Baltimore aka Qstor

Rob Silk wrote:


They looked for the way to the top of the tower battlements from where they were first haragued. It's not on the map but, of course, it must be there. Two agile characters climbed the flint tower. (Flint towers are a piece of cake.) They attempted a sneaky two-pronged attack on the ritualists that kicked off all the action at once. It became totally and gloriously chaotic.

yeah I told my players the map was off cause they were looking for the battlements. I ran this yesterday.

It wasn't clear when the assassin vine shows up either. I had it appear after a few minutes of interrogation.

Mike


Hi guys.

Had another read through of some of the feedback here.

I am ofcause very happy that a lot of people seem to have enjoyed Skeleton moon, and it saddens me that there have been people who did not enjoy it too.

Battlements:
Yes, there is a lot more of the castle that is just not mapped. I have a few rough scetchs, from doodles i drew juring the planning stages, through to more detailed maps i have drawn since. While i have no doubt mike could have created a stunning map for flint tower as i envision it in it'd entirity, i doubt that it would have complied with the restrictions we have as to space which can be devoted to maps. Especially when most of it, would have been unused space. Many of the buildings stare cases have either rotted away, or collapsed due to the passage of time. the battlements would have originally been reached by the collapsed internal stair well on the north eastern side of the tower. Sefu reached this point by using his climb skill, not difficult due to the nature of the buildings.(Here in colchester, i have seen children in hard leather school shoes climbing up some 30 feet on the walled that inspired the site, without rope or chalk.)

Sefu's escape:
Sefu needed no secret door or tunnel or even magic to escape. A knotted rope, rough walls and a little time as the PCs get themselves into trouble and then find their way inside, is really all that he needs to escape. Climbing, as already stated, is an ideal way to escape the building.

Chalaxian death chicken venom:
So why no scrolls of stone to flesh, when dangerous, non-native creatures of ill repute are being kept on site? Well the reasons are numerous.

Firstly, from a design angle. The PC's are about five miles(a little over an hours fast walk.) from one of the worlds largest cities. With even the simplist communication magic or a fast horse, a PC can be back on their feet within about half an hour.
Such a choice can be covered in about two minites of game play, and the player is back in the game before you can say fiddlesticks. The adventure would be over by the time PCs confronted the person most likely to have a magic item that would reverse the effect, and half over before they reached a place where one might logically be found.

From the point of view of the people involved. D'Aponte doesn't handle things like the day to day running of a dig. He just doesn't have that sort of mind, that has always been why he is so dependant upon Sefu. D'Aponte in his current state, wouldn't even notice that one of his staff had stopped showing up, unless ofcause it was Sefu. It is even doubtful he would stop his research to remove the petrification on one of his assistants, unless he was carrying something important at the time. That isn't to say that he wouldn't care, but such things can be handled once the ritual is over.

Sefu on the other hand, has many reasons not to buy scrolls capable of removing the petrification. He can't use them. They are expensive, and while D'Aponte has provided him money to purchase them, if no one get petrified before his plan goes into motion, he can keep the money for himself. Since it is Sefu who is responcible for having any such tool to hand, and he has no real reason to purchase it, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have them appear on site.

Liberty's Edge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Maryland— Baltimore aka Qstor

ben wenham wrote:

Hi guys.

Had another read through of some of the feedback here.

I am ofcause very happy that a lot of people seem to have enjoyed Skeleton moon, and it saddens me that there have been people who did not enjoy it too.

One small extra comment. My players were wondering how to find the documents in the messenger's bag if he's turned to stone?

The Flesh to Stone spell says:

"The subject, along with all its carried gear, turns into a mindless, inert statue."

Petrified says:

"A petrified character has been turned to stone and is considered unconscious."

I'd guess his gear would turn to stone too.

The Exchange 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Mediterranean aka Wintergreen

Qstor wrote:


One small extra comment. My players were wondering how to find the documents in the messenger's bag if he's turned to stone?

The Flesh to Stone spell says:

"The subject, along with all its carried gear, turns into a mindless, inert statue."

Petrified says:

"A petrified character has been turned to stone and is considered unconscious."

I'd guess his gear would turn to stone too.

In the scenario it describes the statues as having clothes on and the courier has his bag hanging on his shoulder. So the gear hasn't been turned to stone.

Scarab Sages

Wintergreen wrote:
In the scenario it describes the statues as having clothes on and the courier has his bag hanging on his shoulder. So the gear hasn't been turned to stone.

Maybe he dropped his bag, before being petrified?

And a not-very-greedy, passing, good samaritan picked it up and hung it on him?

Well, come oooonnnn....it could happen!

Scarab Sages

Dabbler wrote:
Instead we had a druid, a cleric, a wizard, a sorcerer, a rogue and a monk (me). On the whole a very enjoyable scenario in spite of some truly awful combat rolls which nearly resulted in my monk being beaten up by a commoner....

Hush there! Remember the story!

We took so long, because we had to fight through a dozen summoned beasts, remember?

<T'choh!>


Qstor wrote:
ben wenham wrote:

Hi guys.

Had another read through of some of the feedback here.

I am ofcause very happy that a lot of people seem to have enjoyed Skeleton moon, and it saddens me that there have been people who did not enjoy it too.

One small extra comment. My players were wondering how to find the documents in the messenger's bag if he's turned to stone?

The Flesh to Stone spell says:

"The subject, along with all its carried gear, turns into a mindless, inert statue."

Petrified says:

"A petrified character has been turned to stone and is considered unconscious."

I'd guess his gear would turn to stone too.

They are seperate effects.

Nothing within the cockatrice petrification attack, or the SRD discription of petrification say anything about effects on the persons clothing or equipment. More over, flesh to stone does not make mention of the petrified status effect.

The scenario makes specific mention of the petrified individuals equipment not having been turned to stone.


Haroun al-Faayed wrote:
We took so long, because we had to fight through a dozen summoned beasts, remember?

Oh yes ... THOSE summoned monsters, yes!

Scarab Sages

I noticed a problem with the Taldor's faction mission. The mission briefing states that they are supppose to help the Qadiran faction, but the blurb at the end of the adventure says that they were suppose to have thawarted them with fake documents. Any clue which its really suppose to be? I went with assist, given that the Taldor faction isn't given fake documents, and Pathfinder was suppose to have moved away from conflicting faction quests.

Sovereign Court 5/5 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Missouri—Cape Girardeau

When I played it, we actually took the bad guy alive.( both fighters used thier weapons for subdual) So we never got attacked by the assassin vine.


William Sinclair wrote:
I noticed a problem with the Taldor's faction mission. The mission briefing states that they are supppose to help the Qadiran faction, but the blurb at the end of the adventure says that they were suppose to have thawarted them with fake documents. Any clue which its really suppose to be? I went with assist, given that the Taldor faction isn't given fake documents, and Pathfinder was suppose to have moved away from conflicting faction quests.

Strike the word "fake" from the Taldor faction mission summary on page 12. I think the original intent was that the documents were fake and that the Qadiran players didn't know that but Taldor did--thus they wanted the documents returned. But that was simplified in development and I seem to have missed removing the word "fake" from that entry.

Scarab Sages

Running this tonight...Is an Osirian PC unable to complete their faction mission if there is no Cheliax PC playing at the same table? The faction mission seems to be worded as such.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 4

Joshua J. Frost wrote:
Strike the word "fake" from the Taldor faction mission summary on page 12. I think the original intent was that the documents were fake and that the Qadiran players didn't know that but Taldor did--thus they wanted the documents returned. But that was simplified in development and I seem to have missed removing the word "fake" from that entry.

Are the Qadirans supposed to return with the documents from the Mission Notes in Act 1 or the shipping invoices noted in the Mission Notes of Act 3?


Either or both will work.

Sovereign Court

Hi. With the Bestiary and Pathfinder rpg rules now out would the Cockatrices be converted to Pathfinder Rpg rules? In the beastiary they deal dex damage until you hit 0 and at that point you turn to stone. Wanted to get input on this if you have any to share.

Shadow Lodge 5/5

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Kiri wrote:
Hi. With the Bestiary and Pathfinder rpg rules now out would the Cockatrices be converted to Pathfinder Rpg rules? In the beastiary they deal dex damage until you hit 0 and at that point you turn to stone. Wanted to get input on this if you have any to share.

My personal input? Nobody wants their character turned to stone on a first level adventure. At the higher level, the stone-turning occurs on the very first fight, which makes the game entirely unfun for everybody playing who gets turned to stone. Do the nice GM thing and use the Pathfinder stats.

But then again, I cannot express enough my utter disdain for this module. It was the worst I've played to date, even with the adjustment to the Cockatrices. Watch out for the one-shot kill assassin vine too.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Baltic

MisterSlanky wrote:
But then again, I cannot express enough my utter disdain for this module. It was the worst I've played to date.

I'm not sad too see this one go into retirement. Although there are a couple of nice elements there's just too much that can go wrong.

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