Reviewing the Reviews (Seasons 4 through 6)


Pathfinder Society

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Being a data driven nerd, I've compiled all the reviews through today for seasons 4 through 6 for all the PFS scenarios.

The raw data can be found here. If you have the time, feel free to add seasons 0 through 3! ;-)

Top 5 Season 4-6 Scenarios

4.75 #4-25: Glories of the Past–Part III: The Secrets of Stones Keep
4.64 #4-03: The Golemworks Incident
4.59 #4-19: The Night March of Kalkamedes
4.52 #5-08: The Confirmation
4.50 #4-08: Cultist's Kiss

*note that the top two scenarios are both by Larry Wilhelm!

Bottom 5 Season 4-6 Scenarios

2.44 #4-23: Rivalry's End
2.39 #5-24: Assault on the Wound
2.38 #6-01: Trial by Machine
2.35 #5-20: The Sealed Gate
1.88 #4-22: Glories of the Past–Part I: Halls of Dwarven Lore

Most Reviews:

32 #5-11 Library of the Lion
28 #4-19 The Night March of Kalkamedes
28 #4-07 Severing Ties
28 #4-02 In Wrath's Shadow
26 #4-11 The Disappeared

Have a favorite or least favorite scenario? Be sure to write a (constructive) review!

The Exchange

looks like I need to play night march...

Shadow Lodge

You do. It's absolutely amazing.

Now we just need more Gamin the REforged. . .

In all honesty, this was the best scenario I've ever played or run. It's fantastic. Unlike the other babysitting scenarios, it's fun, entertaining, and interesting, and isn't one that just annoys the players.

It runs pretty smoothly, and not really a huge risk of running over time.

It's a pretty good blend of different encounter types, with a lot of room for smart/investigative characters, combat, physical characters, traps, survival, and healing in a not-healbot sense.

It's got a unique sort of problem that's very classic fantasy/fairytale feel (there's not really rules for it, but it's also not really outside the rules).

Kind of the return of the epicness that some of the old scenarios had (Frozen Fingers, Silent Tide, Before the Dawn 2, the fist 3 Blakros Museum scenarios).

The hand's down most interesting "npc" in any scenario, and one that all players have the option of obtaining their service.

It's got amazing RP and plenty of opportunities for creative thinking.

It's got an amazing final encounter*, x3. (gotta play it to find out).
*there are plenty of opportunities to find out something is up on different fronts, both in and out of character, plus there's a dragon. :P

It's got an amazing Chronicle Sheet to boot.

The Exchange

Yeah it got run a million times at local cons, that I couldn't make it too so I haven't found a chance to play it, but I'm going to make it a priority now :D

Shadow Lodge

While I do agree that I wish more people would rate scenarios, particularly with honest feedback in mind both good and bad, one thing I really wish that was an option for Scenarios is the ability to review it as a Player and as a DM separately.

When I run a game, I try to ask the players opinions on things afterwards, allow them to ask questions, and explain things I wouldn't while playing, then incorporate all of that into a review I give. Or if I'm a player, to listen to other peoples complaint, and keep an eye out during the game to wee what others are thinking. I then try to read up on the actual scenario afterwards, either to run it myself or to see if there was an issue if it was from DM mistake or the scenario itself.

It really bugs me to see a lot of the 5 Star Reviews, and to a point the 1 Star Reviews of products as, at least it seems completely BS. More like they where either a friend of the author or didn't actually play or run the scenario, and just didn't or did like a concept, theme, or special rule in it.

It's also pretty clear with some that a given scenario is awesome, from the DM perspective, but players generally (in my limited experience) hated it. Mostly because the nature of the beast is that GM's get a lot of the backstory and explanation that many times does not make it to the players, and can leave the players confused and annoyed.

I'd really love to see this sort of thing done that differentiates between Player and GM perspective.

Shadow Lodge

Really? Assault on the Wound and Sealed Gate are really your idea of the bottom of the barrel?

Come on people.

Did the scenarios work 100% of the time?

No, not at all. But at least they were creative, at least they tried something new and interesting.
While I can't speak for anyone else, I know I'd rather play something unique instead of yet another generic dungeon crawl.

Shadow Lodge

And it's wrong for people to disagree with you?

Also, it's not really any one person's opinion, but rather the overall percentage of reviews of the given products.

Assault on the Wound was reviewed 23 times, and this many individuals gave it this many stars

1 Stars: 11
2 Stars: 3
3 Stars: 3
4 Stars: 1
5 Stars: 5

Which placed it at 2.39 out of 5 stars.

The Sealed Gate was reviewed also 23 times.
1 Stars: 10
2 Stars: 4
3 Stars: 2
4 Stars: 5
5 Stars: 2

Coming out at 2.35 out of 5 stars.

All in all, it does look like both Season 5 and the new Season 6 are just not well liked. But, lets take a look at the actual reviews of said products.

Assault on the Wound: The vast majority of the 1 and 2 star reviews are pretty lengthy and do seem to be aimed at constructive criticism and what aspects they did not like. More than a few of the 4 or 5 star reviews are a bit questionable though, with reviews like "yah this one was great" as the entirety of the review.

The Sealed Gate: from what I can see, seems a little bit more honest on both sides. It seems the issue with this one is, is basically it's very polar. You are either going to love it or going to hate it, and that's basically where the reviews land. One thing I did notice is even the people that gave it 4 or 5 stars tended to have a list of Cons or dislikes for this scenario. ?

Shadow Lodge

DM Beckett wrote:
And it's wrong for people to disagree with you?

Not at all, I'm just surprised, and a little disappointed, that so few people seem to share my opinion.

In response to your edit: My "your" was meant in the plural sense, and directed at the general public. I apologize for any confusion. (English really needs a better way of differentiating between "you" singular and "you" plural)

Sovereign Court 5/5

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Disk Elemental wrote:

Really? Assault on the Wound and Sealed Gate are really your idea of the bottom of the barrel?

Come on people.

Did the scenarios work 100% of the time?

No, not at all. But at least they were creative, at least they tried something new and interesting.
While I can't speak for anyone else, I know I'd rather play something unique instead of yet another generic dungeon crawl.

The problem is that people are likely to rate scenarios poorly if they died in them, and that's really the common theme between the bottom 5 scenarios. They could be well written or terribly written, but the anger from character deaths are going to taint the review.

In other news, I wish I could review things, since Trial by Machine really doesn't belong to be in the bottom 5 scenarios, but either I'm completely blind and can't find the review link or it doesn't exist for me.

Glories of the Past Part 1 though, deserves its bottom spot.

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Disk Elemental wrote:

Really? Assault on the Wound and Sealed Gate are really your idea of the bottom of the barrel?

Come on people.

Did the scenarios work 100% of the time?

No, not at all. But at least they were creative, at least they tried something new and interesting.
While I can't speak for anyone else, I know I'd rather play something unique instead of yet another generic dungeon crawl.

Yes, Assault is my least favorite scenario ever. I came to play Pathfinder, not a war game for three hours and then a little Pathfinder on the side. Rivalry's end is near the botton because it betrayed, in my eyes and the eyes of many others, our fundemental understanding of the Shadow Lodge Faction. Basically our sense of familarity.

As for creative, four of the five top scenarios also tried to be creative, but they did it in smaller doses, balancing it with the familar.

I think the lesson here is if you include good RP along with some creative situations you still have something very different than a dungeon crawl.

If you as an author let your creativity and your "Cool Ideas" run roughshod over the people's expectations, you have a problem.

It's a balancing act. In movie terms, it's the difference between making Star Wars and making Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Both were bold risk taking movies at the time. One is a classic. The other is in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. The same thing is true of scenarios. The trick is including the new without alienating your audience.

Without looking, popular scenarios for seasons 0-3 will be--

Godsmarket Gamble
Pallid Plague
Temple of Empyemeral Enlightenment

None of which are your standard Dungeon Crawls.

Shadow Lodge

Disk Elemental wrote:
DM Beckett wrote:
And it's wrong for people to disagree with you?

Not at all, I'm just surprised, and a little disappointed, that so few people seem to share my opinion.

In response to your edit: My "your" was meant in the plural sense, and directed at the general public. I apologize for any confusion. (English really needs a better way of differentiating between "you" singular and "you" plural)

Honestly I didn't even take it that way. :P

Was just pointing out something you may not have noticed.

Trust me, I've been there, too. I mean just look at he reviews for the ACG, then then take a look at the various threads about the ACG. Or see my next upcoming response. :)

Then again, different people have different tastes.

Shadow Lodge

Kerney wrote:


Without looking, popular scenarios for seasons 0-3 will be--

Godsmarket Gamble
Pallid Plague
Temple of Empyemeral Enlightenment

None of which are your standard Dungeon Crawls.

I'm personally of the opinion that Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment ranks in the top 5 or so worst scenario's I've every played. It's a perfect example of great for the DM, but (and this is just my experience) the player hated it.

I broke down and ran it myself not too long ago, and they sort of had the same opinion. I began to enjoy it, but afterwards, the entire player group wasn't all that thrilled with it.

It wasn't the DM, (I had TOZ run both it and God's Market Gamble which is one I rate very highly), and in both cases he did a great job and added some cool features, rp, and personalized extras, but the scenario itself was just, not cool.

The other major offender in my experience was Severing Ties, and I think it has to do with I just do not like that particular author's way of running a game that bleeds into the scenarios they wrote. I don't normally like or dislike any particular scenarios based on the writer, but this is an exception, in my opinion, and I wasn't at all surprised when I discovered that both of these scenarios where by the same person. That being said, I don't know that writer, or have any personal issues with them, I just don't want to run or play in any scenarios they have done due to the terrible experiences I've had with these two.

Shadow Lodge

Kerney wrote:


Yes, Assault is my least favorite scenario ever. I came to play Pathfinder, not a war game for three hours and then a little Pathfinder on the side.

I guess my I'm not understanding why that's necessarily a bad thing. Maybe I just had a good GM, maybe it's because I obsessively gathered all the boons, but I felt like Assault was a good capstone to the season.

Was the mass combat confusing? Yes.
Was needing to pick up new tactics on the fly difficult? Absolutely.

But, in my mind, that was the entire point. The Society is a group of adventurers, not tacticians, so I felt like the confusion was kinda the point.

Your character is not a general, but they the mantle of leadership thrust upon them, and now they're hopelessly scrambling to try and keep as many of their people alive as possible, while ultimately realizing that the goal is the only thing which matters.

Then again, I like war-games, and I have a tendency to read into subtext which isn't there, so take my opinion with a heaping handful of salt.

Kerney wrote:


Rivalry's end is near the bottom because it betrayed, in my eyes and the eyes of many others, our fundamental understanding of the Shadow Lodge Faction. Basically our sense of familiarity.

No argument there. I don't review scenarios I haven't run, and I have no plans to run Rivalry's, so I can't give it the 1-star I believe it deserves.

Silver Crusade

Disk Elemental wrote:

Really? Assault on the Wound and Sealed Gate are really your idea of the bottom of the barrel?

Come on people.

Did the scenarios work 100% of the time?

No, not at all. But at least they were creative, at least they tried something new and interesting.
While I can't speak for anyone else, I know I'd rather play something unique instead of yet another generic dungeon crawl.

There's a lot of scenario concepts between "generic dungeon crawl" and the Sealed Gate. Most of them better than the Sealed Gate. Challenging does not necessarily mean frustrating. And that's really what Sealed Gate is. Frustrating. I wanted to kill the VC in question at the end, and had it been a home game where it would have stuck, I would have. Idiot.

Shadow Lodge

Disk Elemental wrote:

I guess my I'm not understanding why that's necessarily a bad thing. Maybe I just had a good GM, maybe it's because I obsessively gathered all the boons, but I felt like Assault was a good capstone to the season.

Was the mass combat confusing? Yes.
Was needing to pick up new tactics on the fly difficult? Absolutely.

But, in my mind, that was the entire point. The Society is a group of adventurers, not tacticians, so I felt like the confusion was kinda the point.

Your character is not a general, but they the mantle of leadership thrust upon them, and now they're hopelessly scrambling to try and keep as many of their people alive as possible, while ultimately realizing that the goal is the only thing which matters.

Then again, I like war-games, and I have a tendency to read into subtext which isn't there, so take my opinion with a heaping handful of salt.

I'm currently playing this right now in a PbP, and between my personal experience and the complaints I've heard (and agree with at this point) is that it's not the mass combat itself, but the fact that the only thing that matters at all on your character sheet for the majority of the game is your Cha score. It's the combination of not actually getting to play your character, the absolute failure of the coolness that was supposed to be the Taldor Endgame, (mechanically, you are actually punished for having more than 1 Taldor Faction player that uses the extremely lackluster Taldor special boon after the entire season of "this does nothing right now, but wait and see".

After you finally make it through the mass combat, you then encounter something that basically just destroys your characters and you can't really fight back against all to finally make it to the BBEG which is basically a huge let down in the finale.

Shadow Lodge

DM Beckett wrote:
Kerney wrote:


Without looking, popular scenarios for seasons 0-3 will be--

Godsmarket Gamble
Pallid Plague
Temple of Empyemeral Enlightenment

None of which are your standard Dungeon Crawls.

I'm personally of the opinion that Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment ranks in the top 5 or so worst scenario's I've every played. It's a perfect example of great for the DM, but (and this is just my experience) the player hated it.

I also had my single worst experince with a GM while playing it. But I ran it and had a lot of fun with it. Turned some the chants into songs and having a GM sing gets players notice. Loved running the "stoner" gnome. I had 4 of 5 players down in one fight. Another time one player was facing the final fight alone because he decided to scout and the "Oh shoot" (insert simular word) reaction froze the table.

Still, of the three I mentioned, it is my least likely to make the list and if the players aren't using weapons appropriate to the last encounter they have a good chance of being wiped.

Shadow Lodge

David Bowles wrote:


There's a lot of scenario concepts between "generic dungeon crawl" and the Sealed Gate. Most of them better than the Sealed Gate. Challenging does not necessarily mean frustrating. And that's really what Sealed Gate is. Frustrating.

No arguments there. However, even with all that, I still don't believe it's the worst of the worst.

Maybe it's because I had the opportunity to run it, maybe it's because I had the opportunity to watch Baird run it, maybe it's because I'm a masochist that enjoys crazy-hard scenarios.

But, I think the Sealed Gate is a lot more interesting, unique, and, ultimately, more worthy of your time than numerous other scenarios.

David Bowles wrote:
Idiot.

We're all adults here. Act like it.

How does I reading comprehension?

Silver Crusade

Disk Elemental wrote:
David Bowles wrote:


There's a lot of scenario concepts between "generic dungeon crawl" and the Sealed Gate. Most of them better than the Sealed Gate. Challenging does not necessarily mean frustrating. And that's really what Sealed Gate is. Frustrating.

No arguments there. However, even with all that, I still don't believe it's the worst of the worst.

Maybe it's because I had the opportunity to run it, maybe it's because I had the opportunity to watch Baird run it, maybe it's because I'm a masochist that enjoys crazy-hard scenarios.

But, I think the Sealed Gate is a lot more interesting, unique, and, ultimately, more worthy of your time than numerous other scenarios.

David Bowles wrote:
Idiot.
We're all adults here. Act like it.

No, no. Talking about the NPC VC, not the author. I understand completely what the author was doing. How did he blow that will save again? :)

Shadow Lodge

I think they are referring to the NPC in the scenario and not a real person.

Shadow Lodge

David Bowles wrote:


No, no. Talking about the NPC VC, not the author. I understand completely what the author was doing. How did he blow that will save again? :)

Ah, sorry, my mistake.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

Rivalries end definitely deserves to be there.

1) Ha! you were stupid for ever picking your faction

2) Completely out of character actions with no apparent purpose other than kicking the dog

3) no actual conclusion or resolution: that plot-line is still out there.

4) The conflict between the shadow lodgers and the ten is solved... in the last paragraph with a handwave without the ten changing behavior.

Liberty's Edge

BigNorseWolf wrote:
3) no actual conclusion or resolution: that plot-line is still out there.

It's ok, just come join me. The True Lodge lives and thrives still. A few like minded and loyal have taken up the mantle of f'ing over the Ten, well, it's more like the Two now, and looking out for the low men and woman on the pole.

. . . Let us back in, indeed. . .

Shadow Lodge

BigNorseWolf wrote:


4) The conflict between the shadow lodgers and the ten is solved... in the last paragraph with a handwave without the ten changing behavior.

This a huge problem. Especially after completeing Eyes of the Ten, my reaction (and my Paladin's reaction) was that the Ten needed some smiting and Torches' reaction to them was completely justified.

I've had a hard time playing Grand Lodge because of that.

I also wonder, which scenarios had the most divided opinion, i.e. lots of 4-5 and 1-2 review but few 3 stars.

Shadow Lodge

Looks like

Siege of the Diamond City (x14 at 3.14)
Fortress of the Nail (x10 at 3.2) probably not too accurate as it's only 10 reviews)
The Veteran's Vualt (x22 at 3.55) pretty close to a tie between 3 and 4 stars
Glories or the Past 1 (x9 at 1.88) again, probably not too accurate due to too few reviews

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

Fortress has one very hard encounter, the variation is probably whether you overcame it or it just killed you.

Veterans vault has a nasty low tier fight that you really can't do anything about unless you brought some rather specific equipment at low tier.

Glories of the past I had a nasty fight and used the same annoying mechanic in 2 fights.

Shadow Lodge

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Fortress has one very hard encounter, the variation is probably whether you overcame it or it just killed you.

For my part, I just wanted a certain NPC to get what she deserved. I did give it a lower star review from what I recall, but it was, aside from my personal views on NPC, I didn't at all care for the rail-roading, absolute lack of cohesive reason for me or other characters to want to succeed or care. It was just totally contrived, in my opinion, but I can also totally understand others liking said NPC.

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Veterans vault has a nasty low tier fight that you really can't do anything about unless you brought some rather specific equipment at low tier.

There was? As I recall, this one was pretty easy combat wise. Honestly, I can't really think of what you are referring to here? Do you mean the Infernal Vault?

4/5

One thing I'm noticing. People tend to hate scenarios that drop them into combat hot zones via a teleport at the beginning, even if they have good reason to thing they're stepping into trouble.

People also really hate save or suck mechanics.

Putting them both in a scenario virtually guarantees poor reviews.

The only issue I have with this is it is virtually guaranteed only to happen in 7-11s, where we should expect save or suck monsters to exist, and you are the PFS field agents called into to deal with big problems.

People also hate it when they feel a particular NPC/monster is unfairly strong. You can simplify this and say that anytime the threat of PC death is real, players are unhappy about it, particularly if you denied them actions via abilities that they could have otherwise used to save themselves.

So I guess the only way to write a good scenario is when there is no save or suck spells, no sense of urgency for the PCs actions, and no powerful melee combatants on the NPC side of things.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

Veterans vault spoilers:
The last fight has darkness AND caltdrops both making you move at half speed. With those in effect you move at 1/4 speed, so you move and.. you're done. For multiple terms. Its very boring/frustrating. You need to have an ioun torch or an oil of daylight to get rid of it, and thats a lot of cash for the low tier.

Shadow Lodge

Ah. When I ran that, everyone loved it, and when I played it, it really wasn't a huge issue. But I can totally see that. Especially for level 1's.

Shadow Lodge

James McTeague wrote:
In other news, I wish I could review things, since Trial by Machine really doesn't belong to be in the bottom 5 scenarios, but either I'm completely blind and can't find the review link or it doesn't exist for me.

Link is here, or just below the "reviews" heading on the product page.


On the individual product pages the review link doesn't appear unless you've logged in lately. (That's how it appears to work, anyway. If I force a login by, say, trying to go to My Downloads then the review link will show up. Opera 23 on Windows.)

Scarab Sages

Interesting I would put these two mods among my least favorite mods of season 4, or maybe season 3 & 4

4.59 #4-19: The Night March of Kalkamedes
4.50 #4-08: Cultist's Kiss

And this one might have been among my upper half favorite games - I suspect given the nature of the game this one depends heavily on its GM and the props he/she provides.
2.39 #5-24: Assault on the Wound

==============================

Silver Crusade 5/5

David_Bross wrote:


People also hate it when they feel a particular NPC/monster is unfairly strong.

That I strongly agree with

Quote:


You can simplify this and say that anytime the threat of PC death is real, players are unhappy about it,

I disagree with that. Waking Rune got 3 stars, Bonekeep got over 3.

Quote:


So I guess the only way to write a good scenario is when there is no save or suck spells, no sense of urgency for the PCs actions, and no powerful melee combatants on the NPC side of things.

I think that this is seriously overstating things.

4/5

pauljathome wrote:
Stuff

The last part was overstated, but generally PCs hate status conditions, and real threats of death. Besides Bonekeep, can you think of a particularly deadly scenario that reviewed well?

Most negative reviews for scenarios come from PC deaths and/or being unable to contribute to a fight.

Silver Crusade

David_Bross wrote:

One thing I'm noticing. People tend to hate scenarios that drop them into combat hot zones via a teleport at the beginning, even if they have good reason to thing they're stepping into trouble.

People also really hate save or suck mechanics.

Putting them both in a scenario virtually guarantees poor reviews.

The only issue I have with this is it is virtually guaranteed only to happen in 7-11s, where we should expect save or suck monsters to exist, and you are the PFS field agents called into to deal with big problems.

People also hate it when they feel a particular NPC/monster is unfairly strong. You can simplify this and say that anytime the threat of PC death is real, players are unhappy about it, particularly if you denied them actions via abilities that they could have otherwise used to save themselves.

So I guess the only way to write a good scenario is when there is no save or suck spells, no sense of urgency for the PCs actions, and no powerful melee combatants on the NPC side of things.

I'll take powerful melee and sense of urgency over save or suck all day long. There are harpies in many different tiers of scenarios, and they are some of the worst offenders. I don't mind dying. I don't want to die to a single die roll in which I made no decisions. Players should die to bad decision, not cold save dice.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Agent, Nevada—Las Vegas aka kinevon

David_Bross wrote:
pauljathome wrote:
Stuff

The last part was overstated, but generally PCs hate status conditions, and real threats of death. Besides Bonekeep, can you think of a particularly deadly scenario that reviewed well?

Most negative reviews for scenarios come from PC deaths and/or being unable to contribute to a fight.

Actually, what I, as a player, hate, is the "Hi! You're dead!" situation with no chance at all at the beginning of combat.

When my Magus died in a scenario, due to this, I felt upset. It really stinks that a good die roll wasn't even able to help.
{spoiler]Rolled a 20 on initiative, +3 modifier. NPC, after getting a mandated surprise round, rolls an 18 on initiative, with a +5 modifier, gets to make a full attack, 3 attacks, with sneak attack, on my PC despite acing initiative. That was upsetting, because it meant that there was absolutely NOTHING that I could have done to stop it. THAT is what is a bad thing.[/spoiler]

When my Rogue recently died in a scenario, it was because of less than perfect tactics. There were things I could have done that would have helped, I just decided not to do them. It was just bad luck that the final attack, of a 4 attack sequence, was a crit when my PC was down to 3 points after the first three attacks. But that was a situation where I was able to do something.

So, boning the PCs, with situations where they never get to act before dying, is a bad thing. Bad. Imagine how bad the reviews for In Service to Lore would have been if Ledford and company had all had initiative modifiers of +10 or higher?

Shadow Lodge

David_Bross wrote:

The last part was overstated, but generally PCs hate status conditions, and real threats of death. Besides Bonekeep, can you think of a particularly deadly scenario that reviewed well?

Most negative reviews for scenarios come from PC deaths and/or being unable to contribute to a fight.

I would say that players generally like the real threat of death, but hate status affects that either remove their control of their character like charm/dominate, or ones that remove the from play, particularly for an extended time.

Severing Ties seems to have reviewed pretty well, despite it being considered deadly on two separate accounts. One literally comes down to a single good or bad roll.

The Confirmation likewise seems pretty deadly at a certain point, and looks to be reviewed well.

I'm sure there are plenty of others, too, just the ones I recall of the top of my head.

The God's Market Gamble's BBEG if you have a lot of Humans or lack a great deal of ranged combat.

The Dalsine Affair. BBEG

Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment. Ridiculous BBEG and suggested rules mess with players a lot.

The Glass River Rescue with it's Drake with infinite Damage breath Weapon.

Weapon in the Rift.

The Green Market for one particular encounter that's huge and basically immune to everything, just because.

Fortress of the Nail's final plane hopping environment + enemies.

Silver Crusade

David_Bross wrote:
pauljathome wrote:
Stuff

The last part was overstated, but generally PCs hate status conditions, and real threats of death. Besides Bonekeep, can you think of a particularly deadly scenario that reviewed well?

Most negative reviews for scenarios come from PC deaths and/or being unable to contribute to a fight.

PFS authors, due to the CR system, often have to resort to what I consider cheap monsters like harpies to introduce threat level. Pathfinder has gimpified NPCs and the authors often compound this by building them poorly. Make stronger fights with other classed NPCs and quit using cheap outs like monsters that have incorrectly assigned CRSs to begin with. At least an enemy wizard has to cast slow to make me suck. They just can't DO it like a harpy. And not every enemy NPC can do it. Every harpy can make you suck. It's obnoxious.

Sovereign Court 5/5 RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 aka Netopalis

Well-received and deadly scenarios:

The Dalsine Affair - 4 stars
You Only Die Twice - 5 stars
The Frostfur Captives - 4.5 stars
Sewer Dragons of Absalom - 4.5 stars
The Ghennet Manor Gauntlet - 4.5 stars
The Haunting of Hinojai - 4 stars
The Gods' Market Gamble - 4 stars
Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment - 4.5 stars
The Golden Serpent - 3.5 stars (horribly underrated)
Rise of the Goblin Guild - 4 stars
In Wrath's Shadow - 3.5 stars
The Golemworks Incident - 4.5 stars
King of the Storval Stairs - 3.5 stars
Severing Ties - 4 stars
Fortress of the Nail - 3.5 stars
Fabric of Reality - 4 stars
The Hellknight's Feast - 4 stars
The Elven Entanglement - 3.5 stars
The Traitor's Lodge - 4 stars

There are very specific problems with each of the low-rated scenarios:

A low-tier scenario should feel challenging, but should not pose the type of threat that will lock down a party too terribly easy. Trial by Machine features two such mechanics.

The Sealed Gate has been poorly reviewed in large part, I feel, due to the trap that steals your gold if you bypass it.

Rivalry's End is a mess - not only do you have Torch betraying the society for no good reason, but you also have a giant middle finger given to Shadow Lodge members in the epilogue. Members of the Decemvirate getting all cuddly and helping these people move along to their new factions. B@%~~*%s. It's unbelievable and out of character for them. It also goes entirely against the Shadow Lodge's principles. Lantern Lodge got this big, fancy blowout-bash where they got to do the things that their faction specializes in. Shadow Lodge...we just got betrayed yet again.

Secrets Stones Keep 1 is just...pathetic. Throwing unmodified advanced ghouls at a party leveled 5-9 is just plain insulting. The puzzle is a train wreck and is horribly written. There is just no reason to play it, and it does not advance the plot of that series whatsoever.

Assault on the Wound is getting mixed reviews because the Pathfinder mass combat rules have always gotten mixed reviews. It's not a particularly beloved subsystem. I imagine that if there were a scenario using kingdom building or caravanning, it would also have poor reviews.

Sovereign Court 5/5

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Netopalis wrote:

A low-tier scenario should feel challenging, but should not pose the type of threat that will lock down a party too terribly easy. Trial by Machine features two such mechanics.

The Sealed Gate has been poorly reviewed in large part, I feel, due to the trap that steals your gold if you bypass it.

Trial by Machine:
What are you talking about besides the scarecrow? I'll agree that the scarecrow is a tough fight, but most parties are able to do well once they realize that the right tactic is to close their eyes. Then the scarecrow is just hard to hit, rather than brutal on the actions.

Sealed Gate - Huh? I think you're mixing it up with another scenario...

Shadow Lodge

pauljathome wrote:


I disagree with that. Waking Rune got 3 stars, Bonekeep got over 3.

Let's start with Waking Rune, which has 20 reviews at the time of writing.

One-star: 6
Two-star: 3
Three-star: 0 (an interesting note)
Four-star: 4
Five-star: 7
Average: 3.15 stars

Now if you look, a little under half (all of the ones under three stars) the reviews were by people who "hated" it.

All of them, without exception, mentioned that they were unable to complete the mission.

Everyone above three stars? They all succeeded. Their characters may have died, but they all completed the mission and killed Krune.

After reading through this, I believe the statement should be modified as such: Any time there is a real chance of failure, players are unhappy about it.

I believe this is part of why the Sealed Gate is rated so poorly, while (for example) Weapon in the Rift is rated so highly. After either playing/running/observing over 10 tables of each, the "success" rate of the Sealed Gate is ~60%, while Weapon in the Rift has a success rate of ~90%.

Shadow Lodge

Not if you read the discussion on it, it doesn't. The scenario contained a huge error in one of the puzzles that made it unbeatable as written, and there where also issues with a few of the encounters. If I recall the corrupted Hound Archons would attack based on party appearance and make up rather than diplomacy or anything, and had DR/Good, or what should have been DR Good AND Evil.

It actually had a lot of players die or fail, but it was generally so well loved because of the odd (designed for Good Aligned players to shine while non-good players actually had a downside) and for it's kind of epicness, and a certain NPC.

Shadow Lodge

DM Beckett wrote:
Not if you read the discussion on it, it doesn't.

And yet it's still sitting around 4.5 stars, with the lowest review being a 3. Besides, typos and things are largely irrelevant to this discussion (if they were, we'd all be ragging on The Merchant's Wake)

DM Beckett wrote:
It actually had a lot of players die or fail

That's completely possible (and if there's a place I can see the statistics, please tell me), however, for simplicity's sake, I'm going off of the reviews page, and my personal observations.

Sovereign Court 5/5 RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 aka Netopalis

James:

Trial By Machine:
I am referring to that and hardness 10. It's really, really difficult for a party to effectively overcome the hardness, especially if the person holding the dagger becomes fascinated.

I may be thinking of a different scenario instead of Sealed Gate. Sorry about that - I haven't played much of the tail end of Season 5.

Shadow Lodge

Netopalis wrote:
I may be thinking of a different scenario instead of Sealed Gate. Sorry about that - I haven't played much of the tail end of Season 5.

I had to check to be sure, but the one you're thinking of is

Spoiler:
5-23 Cairn of Shadows

4/5

Thanks to many people for proving me wrong. It isn't so much difficult scenarios that review negatively, its scenarios where mission failure is a real possibility that review negatively. This makes sense, as gamers we're trained to finish those missions!

I'd argue this has a lot to do with GM actually. I've spoken with many other GMs who use fiat to get characters back into scenarios (even if there isn't a real good way of doing so). Personally I have mixed feelings on it, but I think that is probably the second most common thing that leads to negative reviews, besides being sidelined with a condition that prevents you from playing your PC or doing so with any degree of effectiveness.

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I can even accept failure as long as the reason is something other than "save or you don't get to play anymore".

Sovereign Court 5/5 RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 aka Netopalis

1 person marked this as a favorite.

So, let's talk about those scenarios that have a real chance of failure. Of the ones I listed, I've seen failures on these:

The Haunting of Hinojai - 4 stars (I've personally failed this one)
The Gods' Market Gamble - 4 stars (GMmed a failed table of this)
The Golden Serpent - 3.5 stars (Ran for two parties who very nearly failed)
In Wrath's Shadow - 3.5 stars (This one has failed a couple of times at our store)
Severing Ties - 4 stars (This one recently failed at a convention table locally)
Fortress of the Nail - 3.5 stars (This one has failed locally)
Fabric of Reality - 4 stars (This one would have failed had there not been 4 castings of Breath of Life)
The Hellknight's Feast - 4 stars (I have failed a party on this)

It's not a question of whether there is a chance of mission failure - it's more a question of how satisfying or cheap that chance feels. In order to "win" Rivalry's End, you have to beat a character with a +11 in initiative who gets a surprise round on you unless you make a sense motive, and then you have but one action to stop him from escaping. Storyline-wise, he is assumed to have escaped. That is not satisfying.

In order to win Assault on the Wound, you have to use mass combat rules. From what I have gathered, the armies that you have are not designed by you, and are affected minimally by the PCs. That takes agency away from the players.

In order to win Trial by Machine, you have to get lucky on saving throws and roll pretty well on damage rolls. Both must occur, or you are going to lose.

If you manage to fail Halls of Dwarven Lore...then I would like to shake your GM's hand.

The bottom line is that players like agency. They like to have their decisions (both in character creation and at the table) affect the outcome of things. Rob a player of agency and he will be miffed. Rob a player of agency and THEN tell him that he has lost, he will feel cheated - and why not? If you don't give him agency, he hasn't had much of an opportunity to do anything about it.

4/5

Your list of scenarios that can fail Netopalis is close to a list of some of my favorite scenarios. I also like some other scenarios, but I can see why they review negatively, with some input from others.

Waking Rune is make some saving throws or fail hard. Sealed Gate is actually similar to this.

Rivalry's End from start to finish to me was not an enjoyable scenario, in any sense. After Way of the Kirin it was a total let down.

Hall of Dwarven Lore part 1 had a needless puzzle, and some rather weak combats. If it weren't for the subsequent ones it'd be entirely pointless.

Personally S4 has been my favorite so far, with S2 coming behind it.

Shadow Lodge

I'm just going to chime in on Assault, and I already did in a review (as everyone should).

Assault is a scenario that can make a player feel worthless for many hours in a 4-5 hour slot.

If you run both mass combats and take 20-30 minutes to explain the rules, do army selection and give the intro, you can easily consume 2 hours of your scenario budget on mass combat.

I have yet to see it run where an army is not eliminated in the first 10 minutes or so of each engagement. Every time I've seen it run, 1-2 players are removed from playing half the scenario and sent onto their iPhones/iPads. There's no ability for someone to Saving Finale them, or use Remove Sickness, or Remove Paralysis. They're just no longer playing the game.

Now imagine this person is playing a certain kind of PC. The next combat encounter needs very specific things to defeat it. There are many kinds of PCs that will feel "nearly useless" in this fight. This might be that same player. There's some PCs that are very useful in this fight. They will feel vindicated and somewhat redeemed.

Then there's the final fight. Because of how you deal with concealment, the dice might shut down a player entirely. There's not just one kind of concealment, but several kinds. The boss might also be lucky with his tactics and eliminate a player early on with his first round action. This might be the same player again. A good GM will likely see the sullen look one someone's face and hopefully target someone that hasn't sat on their hands for 3.5-4.5 hours already, but sometime they are the only viable combat based on initiative and "running the scenario based on printed tactics".

Guess what? Someone just got handed a "I bet you wish you didn't come to the store to play today" card.

Scenarios shouldn't be built with a budget of "4 encounters" that can align like this and shut players out so well. For certain players, this will happen in Assault. No matter what the player does, the scenario just gives them a middle finger. And there's no redeeming "roleplay" (unless you count a few minutes with Ollysta) for them to try to find a way to shine through.

Kalkamedes is a classic. It's out of the box and there's nothing in it that basically says "hey you, your character is worthless for 1, 2, 3 or 4 hours on end".

Assault easily rates on my "bottom 3 list" of all time adventures of any system, any era.

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