Feedback on Season 5 Faction Missions (Spoilers)


Pathfinder Society

Silver Crusade

I've recently had the chance to play Glass River Rescue and Wardstone Patrol. Overall, they are decent scenarios and I like the general storyline they're telling! The majority of their content is on the right track for making Season 5 a good one. However, I wished to provide some feedback on their sub-missions/faction missions... as I feel Wardstone Patrol handled this very poorly.

This will contain specific spoilers for both adventures.

My broad critique is that faction missions based on random chance aren't much fun. The impression I got based on Glass River Rescue is that PCs are to be rewarded for an attention to detail. Keeping an eye open for important things that their briefing didn't cover, reacting to events that falls within their faction's portfolio, and so on. I like that idea! Wardstone Patrol seemed to stray from this, however.

A quick comparison. First, Glass River Rescue missions that I'm aware of as a player (haven't GMed it).

Spoiler:
As I understand this one, PCs are expected to rescue the dwarven delegation, clean up evidence they were there in the first place (especially any evidence that could be used to scry on the dwarves?), ideally convince nearby non-combatants that something else entirely is going on, and prevent a certain Razmiran official from escaping to report on the party's actions.

Those are all fine. One is somewhat luck-based, but even if you fail it (and that's pretty easy to do, especially with lower-level parties)... the others just rely on the GM giving you good environmental descriptions and having a solid plan for dealing with the biggest threat near the end. Even if you lose init, so long as you have a sound plan there is a very good chance you can handle the last objective.

I really liked this! PCs who pay attention to the details will usually succeed and be rewarded.

Then I look at how Wardstone Patrol went and honestly feel cheated. It seemed to involve, based on the end of session overview the GM gave us...

Spoiler:
The main objective is as straightforward as it gets. Unless the PCs are being willfully contrary or outright lose, they'll get this every time. That's fine. It's the faction missions and sub-goals that left me going "Wait, what? That's luck-based almost the whole way through!"

Two of the goals involved saving allies or bystanders. Poor initiative rolls combined with Area of Effect attacks made this impossible in both cases. The citizens in the flooded ruins were cut down by multiple Mass Inflict Light Wounds before my character could do anything about the situation. Had they lived, I would have gladly 'wasted' combat rounds getting healing effects going on them... but there was simply no chance to do so. Back to back AOEs took care of that quite well.

Then it happened again in the final battle of this adventure. Rescue 5 of the crusaders? Nearly all were dead before the party even got meaningful turns! A pre-engagement AOE made sure of that. It's not like the PCs sat back and buffed while the demons cut people down... they moved in and were making a clear effort to take the fight to the demons in order to save lives. Getting even some of them, or even one of them, out in light of that seems like an impressive result on its own.

I don't remember what the Scarzni (sp?) sub-mission was, but I do recall the Cheliax one being something the players and their characters receive little to no hint about. I don't even play that faction and when I heard it I was left wondering "How is anyone supposed to complete that? The only NPCs a Cheliax character might plausibly pursue that goal with would have no reason whatsoever to share that info, and using magic to coax it out of them is liable to turn the PC into a pin-cushion for their archer forces." Or if that doesn't happen, I suspect there's a good chance Ilivan would, perhaps violently, take exception to the data-gathering?

Outside of the Chelish concern... overall, bad Initiative rolls plus terrain/distance considerations plus numerous area of effect attacks resulted in what amounted to automatic failures for most of the sub-missions. There wasn't even much of a chance to save them as they were struck down; the GM was clear on the victims being dead, not just dying, so various healing effects weren't going to matter.

That left me rather annoyed, and I hope that future missions won't use so many luck-based outcomes. It wasn't even the GM's fault; he did a great job with the story materials provided, and as far as I can tell he ran the encounters as-written. It's just that as-written, it's pretty likely you're going to fail a majority of the sub-missions without some lucky rolls. It's a pity, because I loved the overall story told in Wardstone Patrol and only felt cheated upon hearing how the secondary objectives went.

I much prefer 'pay attention to the finer details' goals like were used in Glass River Rescue, and hope this will become the norm. It's a great idea, and one I really liked seeing since it rewards things beyond just combat optimization and tearing every room apart looking for the specific item the faction leader asked for (which was very disruptive to the flow of play).

Venture-Agent, Canada—Ontario—Ottawa aka Mistwalker

Have you read the faction letters for Year of the Demon? They play an important role in letting factions know what they need to do.

Also, I suspect that the GM for Wardstone may have made a few errors

possible errors:
the Mass Inflict Light wounds spells are only able to hit 3 targets with each casting. The Vermek should have been using those to heal themselves in the fight, not kill their allies - the combat section says that the farmers are so terrified of the vermek that they will fight the PCs.

In the rescue the crusader fight, the brimorak tactics indicates that he saves his spells for the PCs, waiting for them to come into range (and will advance and attack if they don't). That he cackles every time that one of his minions kills a crusader. The brimorak shouldn't have used/wasted an AoE against the helpless crusaders.

Silver Crusade

Mistwalker wrote:

Have you read the faction letters for Year of the Demon? They play an important role in letting factions know what they need to do.

Also, I suspect that the GM for Wardstone may have made a few errors
** spoiler omitted **

It was a while back, but I think I recall the general content. At least for the factions I focus on, and knowing what their goals are isn't too hard to begin with. If I've made a mistake on some of those aspects (and it's possible), then I apologize and I'll take a closer look.

As for the other aspects you brought up... I will speak with the GM about it in a few days; perhaps they can reverse the ruling or explain whether I missed something. No name-and-shame here; they're a good sort and may have just made an honest mistake given the tone of the story presented in Wardstone Patrol. It certainly came to mind that the enemies in this story would behave the way I described just to spite Good people and inflict more emotional damage.

Thank you for bringing these to my attention! Nothing would please me more in this case than to discover my 'feedback' is more theoretical than something that actually applies to an actual scenario as written. If that ends up being the case, then I would like to apologize to the author, Alex Greenshields, for what may well amount to be false accusations on how the sub-missions were written.

Edit: Also, to clear up a potential misunderstanding...

Spoiler:
The party did not attack the citizens per se. They did do things to make it harder for the citizens to attack, but they were all consciously mindful to not hurt innocents in this battle. The only damage they took was from AOEs when the demons and PCs mixed it up in melee.

Venture-Agent, Canada—Ontario—Ottawa aka Mistwalker

You may want to take a look at the Faction Talk subforum for a bit more guidance on what each faction should be looking for/doing in Season 5. And keep an eye on that forum, as from what I understand, the guidance for the faction will likely be updated a time or two during the season as scenarios are reported and what choices the PCs made.

Faction Talk

Each of the factions have a thread with their name in it "XXXX Faction Status Report - Year of the Demon".

So if you are Andoran, look for the thread titled "Andoran Faction Status Report - Year of the Demon".

Sovereign Court

I will chime in and say that the Cheliax faction role in Wardstone Patrol was so obscure even I as a GM for a different group didn't see a connection or any way players would know what to do. Even with the faction letters.


I have played both and failed to get the extra prestige on both. Out of those two, I was more troubled by Glass River than Wardstone. It is spoilered in the title, so I am not doing so again.

In the initial briefing of Glass River we were told to avoid leaving bodies, or things bloody, or words to that effect, and then 1 of the 3 things you had to do involved either taking a lady prisoner or killing her. I admit that I was somewhat at fault for letting myself get distracted when I thought the scenario was over and my party decided to strip the BBEG and let her go, but I couldn't really blame them, after all we were told to keep violence to a minimum. We "missed" the perception check due to some shadiness I don't care to get into....

For Wardstone, my GM told me up front that if I was Chelaxian and hadn't read my season briefing letter I needed to go do so. I will admit it was a little obscure but not entirely, and it lead to some nice RP moments that felt so much more fulfilling that the old "Does anyone in this room have a scar on their left buttock" faction missions.

We also didn't save enough people in Wardstone, but it wasn't like we did know that might be a good thing to do. I am ok with us failing that because we did actually try and fail. For two out of three of the Glass River, we were just completely side swiped by what needed to happen. That was extremely dissatisfying.

Silver Crusade

Spoke to my GM about these, and they went over some things with me that would either leave this in the realm of GM interpretation or reintroduce the problem I complained about. Since they're spoilers...

On the first 'possible error' Mistwalker cited,

Spoiler:

I've been informed that in the Tier 6-7 version, the creatures in question have a higher caster level and thus affect more targets. There were about 2 or 3 monsters active at any one time, plus about 2 to 4 PCs in their face. This arguably leaves room for the remaining targets-per-level to affect their victims. I can't be 100% sure on that since I can't reconstruct the fight step-for-step, but I find this very plausible.

I'm not happy about that one, but if that's RAW correct then I certainly can't hold it on the GM.

So then there's the other situation...

Spoiler:

Apparently the bit about saving spells for PCs is inferred. It reportedly mentions that he uses 'spells and breath weapons until the PCs close the distance' or words to that effect.

I can realistically see that being interpreted as "he breathes on the prisoners right away if there's nobody right in his face by the time his first turn comes around." Given the distances involved, that can easily happen!

I have no reason to distrust the GM or their readings of those sections, so I'm kind of left scratching my head here; what were the PCs supposed to do to complete those sub-missions? It feels like both of them were failed due to rolling poorly on initiative, unless I'm missing something.

Spoiler:
Neither of these were even a case of "your characters should have cared about the NPCs more." The party got in there at best possible speed, and refused to deal damage to the victims in encounter 1 even when being attacked by them. In the second encounter, a great deal of effort was expended on immediately blinding the enemies so their prisoners had a chance to escape safely. The party was pretty heroic overall!

I'll live, it's only the loss of two boons (good ones, but not game-make-or-breakers by any means) and a prestige point... but it's kind of disappointing to look at this and see what appeared to be a series of automatic failures.

Grand Lodge 4/5

Celestial Pegasus wrote:

Spoke to my GM about these, and they went over some things with me that would either leave this in the realm of GM interpretation or reintroduce the problem I complained about. Since they're spoilers...

On the first 'possible error' Mistwalker cited,

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
Incorrect. The Vermleks in tier 6-7 have the same CL of 3 for their innate SLAs as the tier 3-4 ones do.
Celestial Pegasus wrote:


So then there's the other situation...

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
There would be no reason for the Dretch/Schir that explicitly stays out of the fight and coup de graces one prisoner per round if the brimorak was supposed to also kill them. Besides, unless you're playing tier 3-4 with only 4 people, he should pretty much always open up with his Fireball SLA, which has more than enough range to hit anyone on the field.
Silver Crusade

...Okay, so... what do I do about it? The GM in question seemed upset about me bringing it up with them in the first place (Edit: No, they clearly were upset. Some of their remarks to me were pretty strong). Bringing it up again is definitely going to anger them. Escalating it to the relevant Venture Captain could cause the VC to come down on them. Said GM is definitely going to figure out I was the cause, and I could see them getting angry for me 'going behind their back.' This isn't some random two-bit GM doing a one-off session either, they're a fairly active and highly rated GM that puts in a lot of work to help PFS.

I don't want the GM punished; they put in a lot of work on short notice to host this and did a great job with some of the more important aspects of the story. I don't think they're being malicious with this, and everyone seemed to have a good time. Nonetheless, when I pointed out the 'automatic failure' aspect of these faction missions to the GM, they encouraged me to post feedback on it.

Now I've done so and I'm caught in a lousy situation because this has revealed some real problems. Anger them by continuing to press a matter they clearly have no patience for? Anger them by getting a VC involved which is going to come across as 'official sanctions'? Either of those would probably poison our future sessions and seriously hurt a regular play-group by harming the motivation of one of their major GMs. Or should I let it go and miss out on something my character could have realistically earned with these corrections brought to light?

It seems like I've stumbled into a situation with no good answers. Any help would be appreciated...


If you feel so strong about it you can point out that you followed his advice and posted feedback, direct him to this thread. Or you can accept that things don't always work out perfect.

I know I have both had characters get screwed over and screwed over characters with mistakes; they happen. Most of the time I just go on, point out rules for future reference, apologize, or if I am friends with the GM playfully antagonize them after the fact. How much is one PA worth to you?

Silver Crusade

The PA itself is only moderately important. I have some fairly specific PA spending plans, but I'll live without the point. The boons are a bit more interesting however and while I would like them, I don't see any way bringing the GM directly here is going to end well.

1 PA and a few boons versus seriously trying a GM's patience, thus either likely getting me personally barred from their games or just getting them to stop GMing for the group in general... is a fairly obvious choice.

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