7–98: Serpents' Ire (GM Prep & Discussion)


GM Discussion

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Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

Hitting the prep hard this weekend. I'll try to get statblocks and reflections posted in a couple of days for those with limited time before the convention.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

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Click to Download:#7–98 Statblocks & Adventure Notes
*These notes may see a slight update before the convention. Check back Wednesday or Thursday to make sure you have the latest copy.

This adventure is complicated enough with plenty of prep time, but with so many moving parts it will be good to have some additional tools at the table. Over the next day or two I plan to create a Phase & Strike Tracker and an Evidence Point Tracker. If I have time, I may even create a player-friendly handout for the infiltration, distraction/trap and research rules of Part 1. Handouts for the treasure found in The Lab Warren area will be a real boon to the players. The vampiric metamagic rod is especially complex.

For Shohiraj’s mission it may be helpful to slide the player a cut-out with instructions to hand to the GM when they player wishes to attempt the Sleight of Hand check. This would allow the player to signal the GM without having a discussion at the table. The note could read something like this:

“Hand this back to the GM after you have recovered information and wish to copy it. Your companions will prevent any such theft if they know find out. Depending on your circumstances there may be bonuses or penalties to the attempt.”

For your tables you may wish to fashion cut-outs for the theletos’ blessing as well. It could read as follows:

“The theletos has shown you an ambiguous vision that seems to be of some benefit to you. While in the secret facility below Wirholt’s Rictus, before attempting an attack roll, saving throw, skill check, or ability check, you can use this benefit to roll 1d6 and add the result to his d20 roll. When deciding to use this benefit, hand this back to the GM.”

The PCs can gain access to a nifty Esoteric Item Research boon. In the rush to fill out chronicles I can see GMs initialing the items found on the chronicle, but this is intended for future adventures.

Also, an item under this boon, the necklace of shattered dreams, is at risk of detonating when exposed to a negative energy attack. This item is similar to a necklace of fireballs, which is only a risk when the wearer fails a Reflex save versus a magical fire attack, requiring the necklace to make its own Reflex save (+7), or detonate. If the necklace of shattered dreams functions exactly like this there are very few situations, if any, where a Reflex save against a negative energy attack is possible (maybe gloomblind bolts?). It seems the intention that the items instead use the Will save condition instead.

The Conclusion section makes reference to a Seen it All boon that does not appear on the chronicle. This must be the Unwavering Resolve boon that appears on the chronicle instead.

As a side note, is there any chance that Shohiraj’s vision is of her wearing a Decemvirate helm as her niece and nephew leave her old wayfinder at the Wall of Names? What else could the mask of falling water be?

5/5

Not running this until GenCon, so I don't have it, but I'm sure PaizoCon GMs appreciate your quick work. Thanks!

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

#7–98: Serpents' Ire, page 8 wrote:
"No matter how well the PCs perform at their infiltration, they always earn at least one strike at the end of each phase to represent minor clues or hints that they leave behind."

This seems easy to miss/mistake. As written, this is not increasing the strikes earned each phase, but simply ensuring that the PCs always receive at least one strike during a phase, regardless of success. If a single player earned a strike because of a failed check I would not be assigning an addition strike.

Paizo Employee 5/5 Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

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xebeche wrote:
#7–98: Serpents' Ire, page 8 wrote:
"No matter how well the PCs perform at their infiltration, they always earn at least one strike at the end of each phase to represent minor clues or hints that they leave behind."
This seems easy to miss/mistake. As written, this is not increasing the strikes earned each phase, but simply ensuring that the PCs always receive at least one strike during a phase, regardless of success. If a single player earned a strike because of a failed check I would not be assigning an addition strike.

That's the correct interpretation. That mechanic exists to ensure that eventually the PCs have to proceed to the rest of the adventure and (more importantly) that the players don't just send in one or two super-sneaky PCs to do all of the work while everyone else twiddles their thumbs.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

In the A Familiar Face sidebar (page 7) Joliryn is said to appear if at least one of the players brings a Chronicle sheet from Pathfinder Society Special #6–98: Serpents Rise. Under Red Alert Joliryn accompanies the Burea Guards if any player has the Spoils of the Siege (Joliryn) boon. Is it intended that Joliryn would make an appearance above ground at Wirholt’s Rictus, but not to fight her later? Or does she instead only appear if a player has the Spoils of the Siege (Joliryn) boon? Or does she instead accompany the guards if at least one player has a chronicle for Pathfinder Society Special #6–98: Serpents Rise?

The conditions for earning the Joliryn’s Foe boon are very clear, but she still provides lore and Evidence Points to a group that doesn't possess the Spoils of the Siege (Joliryn) boon.

Thanks! :)

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

Sorry for the repeated messageboard posts, but with this I've prepped as much as I plan to. My only regret is that I didn’t take a detailed look at the pregenerated characters and create supplemental handouts. Here are the resources that I have to share:

Magical Items Handout
Statblocks & Adventure Notes
Strike & Evidence Tracker

The following are things to consider:

Complexity The scenario has a lot of intricacy and certain sections affect others. Fortunately, there are a fair number of reminders throughout the scenario. The more time devoted to preparing the smoother your table will go. I’ve put together several resources to assist, but if these aren’t to your liking I encourage you to create your own. The players will have far less time to familiarize themselves with their characters, so be ready to answer questions.

Part 1: Phases & Strikes Consider explaining to your players that they likely have a limited amount of time to infiltrate Wirholt’s Rictus before they are found out. By supplying a printed handout with a map the players can make better sense of the locations they can visit.

Investigation Handout:

BUILDINGS
1. Manor (much larger than it appears on this map)
2. Greenhouses
3. Warehouse
4. Processing Facilities
5. Residences
6. Smokehouses
7. Kuthite Shrine
8. Threshing Yard

INFILTRATING THE FARM
Although you know that Wirholt’s Rictus hides some clandestine facility, the entrance is not obvious from casual observation. You need to infiltrate the farm and sniff out the entrance without raising the alarm.

The time you have in which to perform your tasks is limited. It will be broken into a number of phases, effectively serving as “turns” for you to investigate points of interest and pursue other plans. The number of phases you receive depends upon your skill at evading detection.

You can travel to two locations during your turn (to scout, for example), but can only perform a task at one location each turn. These tasks can be to gather information, set traps, steal research, steal keys, explore the Kuthite Temple, and infiltrate the manor. Bluff, Disguise and Stealth are particularly well suited to these tasks. Intimidate and combat maneuvers are well suited to a more aggressive approach. Creative use of other skills, spells or other abilities may also be used (often providing a bonus to a check).

The Theletos Aeon Even with knowing what the theletos wants the PCs to do it is hard for me to understand how the images are to communicate that to the PCs. Consider embellishing, but only if your players seem completely lost. Imagery that is too literal may not be fair to the other tables. Also, if you do not mention that aeons are guardians of fate and prophecy, capable of giving a glimpse of the future, the PCs will likely not ask for their sidebar visions. Falth & Thestil may voluntarily fail their saves against the aeon’s wreath of fate ability, but they are still entitled to one each, if they choose.

Kar Zaweeb On the bottom of page 24 it says: “Kar Zaweeb waits in the next room preparing for combat, and the longer the PCs spend here, the harder the next encounter will be.” This has nothing to do with the nightmare machine. He uses the time to cast his scrolls or spells, as per his tactics.

Thank you to John and everyone else who had a hand in creating this scenario. I'm very excited to run this at PaizoCon!

Paizo Employee 5/5 Developer

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xebeche wrote:

In the A Familiar Face sidebar (page 7) Joliryn is said to appear if at least one of the players brings a Chronicle sheet from Pathfinder Society Special #6–98: Serpents Rise. Under Red Alert Joliryn accompanies the Burea Guards if any player has the Spoils of the Siege (Joliryn) boon. Is it intended that Joliryn would make an appearance above ground at Wirholt’s Rictus, but not to fight her later? Or does she instead only appear if a player has the Spoils of the Siege (Joliryn) boon? Or does she instead accompany the guards if at least one player has a chronicle for Pathfinder Society Special #6–98: Serpents Rise?

The conditions for earning the Joliryn’s Foe boon are very clear, but she still provides lore and Evidence Points to a group that doesn't possess the Spoils of the Siege (Joliryn) boon.

Thanks! :)

Thanks for catching that. She should appear only if a player has the Spoils of the Siege boon for Joliryn, not just if a player has played Serpent's Rise.

The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

Thanks for doing all this xebeche! Trying to do all this (for three scenarios) in what amounted to two evenings worth of time for me would have been impossible.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

Kevin Willis wrote:
Thanks for doing all this xebeche! Trying to do all this (for three scenarios) in what amounted to two evenings worth of time for me would have been impossible.

I figured there would be several of us in that position. I hope all your tables are a blast :)

Sczarni 5/5 ⦵⦵

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I made some pawns.

If you adhere them to a foam sheet with double sided tape they fit nicely into the pawn bases.

Sczarni 5/5 ⦵⦵

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Starfinder Charter Superscriber

The map on page 6 states that "1 square = 5 feet".

Welcome to Golarion's tiniest plantation.

Paizo Employee 5/5 Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

Nefreet wrote:

The map on page 6 states that "1 square = 5 feet".

Welcome to Golarion's tiniest plantation.

That...was supposed to be a 30...30 feet.

Paizo Employee 5/5 Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

In the final encounter area:
The giant nightmare hazard's acid attack affects a 5-foot-radius area centered anywhere it can see—not in a radius around its body. As I read through the adventure again, I noticed this might be unclear.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

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Nefreet wrote:

The map on page 6 states that "1 square = 5 feet".

Welcome to Golarion's tiniest plantation.

Now you know why cheliax uses halfing slaves?

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Ow. That table was a disaster. And I'm not sure what could have been done to improve it.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

Steven Schopmeyer wrote:
Ow. That table was a disaster. And I'm not sure what could have been done to improve it.

Care to elaborate? We ran short on time at my table, but we had a blast despite how sleepy we all are at this point in the Con.

Sovereign Court 5/5 RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Thanks for all the prep work. Two weeks until I run it (and still need a copy.)

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

I strongly encourage everyone who prepped and ran this scenario at PaizoCon to provide feedback and commentary so that Paizo can determine if it requires any further development before a more widespread release at GenCon. Also, take a moment to leave a review.

5/5 ⦵⦵

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I hope this gets shortened. Where I was at only 1 table out of about 13 tables I could see finished within 5 hours. At the table i was playing the GM skipped 2 encounters to get to the final encounter, called every single combat encounter short, skipped us doing spellcraft checks to speed up the game, and we still only got 3 combat rounds into the final encounter and had to end it due to getting thrown out of the ballroom after 5 hours and 20 minutes.

If the GM does not do super through prep and runs things quickly there is no chance this will finish within 5 hours as currently written.

Shadow Lodge 5/5

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I'm wondering when those of us running it at Gen Con will be getting it? I'd love to do custom terrain for it, but would want to get it quickly so that I could get it done in time.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

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Starfinder Superscriber
Linda Zayas-Palmer wrote:
Thanks for catching that. She should appear only if a player has the Spoils of the Siege boon for Joliryn, not just if a player has played Serpent's Rise.

Oooops. I did this wrong. Didn't read this thread until now (after PaizoCon).

HOWEVER. I think what I did is the better way of doing it, and as such would recommend that you do not change the text of the scenario, and in fact clarify it. People do remember Joliryn, even if they didn't play her. So, having her show up does add something to the game for them. People shouldn't get the boon at the end unless they have the right Spoils of the Siege boon from Serpent's Rise, but I still do think that she ought to be present.

(After all, in the other season 6 scenarios that feature a Serpent's Rise character, that character doesn't vanish if nobody from the table has exactly the right SR boon. They have to have the boon to get the follow-on boon, but the story doesnt need to change.)

So, what I'd do is: if anybody has any Serpent's Rise chronicle, then Joliryn appears as an NPC in Serpent's Ire. However, they only get the Joliryn boon at the end if they have the Joliryn boon from Serpent's Rise.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Starfinder Superscriber
John Compton wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Damn, I really should have read this thread before PaizoCon. I had that thing come up, and told the players that nothing meaningful happened because nobody was in the right place.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

xebeche wrote:
Care to elaborate? We ran short on time at my table, but we had a blast despite how sleepy we all are at this point in the Con.

I don't have access to the scenario as of yet, so I can only speak to what I saw as a player.

My first issue was not understanding the Loyalist and her mission. Her backstory suggested for me not to lead, but the mission letter suggested she was the leader. I also wasn't sure how a cavalier with no Stealth was supposed to observe a tiefling inquisitor. This partly led to me feeling adrift without a purpose. The other pregens felt better suited to bluffing our way in, leaving me the dumb fighter waiting for combat to break out. This is not entirely the scenarios fault, as I should have been stepping forward more, but by Sunday night I wasn't in a condition to do so.

Secondly, we took way too long on the infiltration. I expected we would sneak in and get what we needed, kill everyone, and burn it down as we left. Apparently we needed distractions before we could infiltrate, leading to the other members of the party lighting fires. We also spent way too much time bluffing the leader of the opposition into giving us a guided tour. It was fun, but ate up our slot time something fierce. Again, not sure this was a problem with the scenario or just a bunch of stray cats for players.

The captive creatures I can't speak to, as we were rushing in the final hour to do anything with them. As we discussed the scenario over chronicle paperwork, it seemed that most of the pregens had conflicting goals, leading the party to work at cross purposes. Some warning about this would have been helpful, as I believe this slowed down our play as well.

I'll come back once I get my GenCon downloads and have had time to review the scenario.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

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Starfinder Superscriber

Reaction from GMing this at PaizoCon

Two primary reaction:


  • This scenario is very cool
  • This scenario is way too long and complicated for a convention slot

I am very sure that the "too long" isn't just me as GM. In my local area, I'm one of the GMs who is probably above the median in terms of run time, because I do like to dig into the roleplay aspects at times (as well as all of the Golarion lore). (And, I find I have more fun with the other GMs who do that too.) But, I'm not extreme, and there are lots of others (including local VC Andrew Hoskins, who is the best GM ever) who run similarly long or sightly longer. (We do have a couple of GMs who are known for running short and efficient sessions. And they're good GMs, just a different style.)

However, all those disclaimers aside, the scenario here is what is too long. At however long it was after midnight at PaizoCon, when the announcement that GMs had to finish their encounter and get out, more than half of the tables (maybe even most of the tables?) were still seated. When the second announcements that the GMs had to clean up and leave was made, pushing half of the tables were still seated and going strong at the time of the second announcement. When I got outside, without even looking for them I saw two or three tables who had moved to the lobby to continue. (Last year, I only saw one such for Serpent's Rise.) There is a lot of strong evidence that this scenario runs long, and GMs need to approach it in such a way to mitgate that.

It can be made to work in a 5-hour* convention slot, if the GM preps the hell out of it and comes into the slot with part of the game plan being moving the players along. It cannot be approached like a typical scenario, or even like Serpent's Rise. It's just too long and complicated for that. (* -- if you're a VC or other organizing another convention, do not schedule Serpent's Ire in a 4-hour slot. If your convention has 4-hour slots and you want to schedule Ire, schedule two back-to-back slots for it as a double slot, and make sure that all players who sit down for the first slot are committed for both slots.)

I hate to give up any of it, because the whole scenario is very cool. But an 8-hour slot with an hour break in the middle would be a better venue for it than a typical 5-hour convention slot.

What I'd recommend to modify the scenario:

First, simplify the "heist" section at the beginning. I'm sad about this, because I think it's a really cool part of the scenario, and I like having something that's fairly open-ended. It allows players to come up with their own plan of attack, and gives the GM guidance for how to handle the results of it. However, this section is going to be somewhere between very difficult and a trauma-inducing nightmare for GMs who aren't comfortable going off the rails, because the rails basically aren't there to start with. Honestly, the mansion plus the underground complex is already enough for the scenario to fill a five-hour slot. Vastly simplifying the first part (either by providing some rails, or perhaps two or three optional sets of rails, or just boiling it down to a set of skill checks) could make the scenario fit into five hours.

Second, make the biodome underground an optional encounter that should only be started if 2 or more hours remain in the session. Add instructions that if players don't do this encounter, then all evidence point requirements for success conditions at the end of the scenario are reduced by 4. This does complicate and add fiddily bits to the evidence point system, but of all the encounters, this is the one that could most reasonably made into an optional encounter. (It's less of a loss to the story than the optional encounter in Golemworks Incident. I'm very sad that optional encounter has been skipped every time I've either player GMed that scenario.) This scenario really needs to have one encounter made optional; it can go for a table that's moving along quickly enough that they have time, but it allows tables that are matching the experience from PaizoCon to get to the big final showdown with enough time left to enjoy it. It will also allow for them to spend more time in the abstract "search the lab warren" section, complete with some time to ooh and aah over the cool magic items found (as well as reading up on how they might use them), and to roleplay with the found allies.

What I'd recommend for GMs running this scenario if it is not modified as I describe above:

First and foremost, if your slot is less than five hours, refuse to run it. Tell your convention organizer that you can't run this scenario in a 4 hour slot.

Second, your slot is at least half an hour shorter than you think it is. Players may want to take some time to figure out which of these pregens -- all with fun backstories and a set of complicated 8th level mechanics -- they want to play. Once they have, they're going to need some time to look through what the pregens can do, look stuff up in reference materials, ask each other questions to understand the mechanics of the characters, and as the GM about the mechanics of the characters. And, unless you're a super Pathfinder GM, you are going to suffer the problem we all have with Pathfinder nowadays that there are just too many classes and too many rules, and there's absolutely no way to be familiar with all of them any more. People, perhaps you, will have to look things up in sundry books to figure out how these characters work.

Third, interfere in character choice. Don't allow players to choose just based on what they want to play for roleplaying reasons, as fun as that is. Make sure that the person playing the mesmerist is somebody who has played at least a low-level mesmerist before, or has some idea about all the new complicated hard-to-play classes in Occult Adventures. This is absolutely not the character to give to somebody who isn't a Pathfinder wonk; don't just not give it to a newbie, but don't give it to somebody who isn't already fairly embedded in Pathfinder rules. Likewise, the Inquisitor and the Cavalier need to go to somebody who's played that class before, or who has read and thought about that class enough to have a feeling for how they go. The other three characters are more accessible to newbies. However, provide at turnkey template of "use X and Y feats with your Martial Flexibility if you don't know what you're doing" for the Brawler. If somebody knows the combat feats in Pathfinder well enough that they can figure out what to use (and hopefully not violate the rules in so doing; as GM, I have no idea any more in any Pathfinder game if Brawlers are being played according tothe rules), then let them do that, but give a crutch for people who haven't thought a lot about Martial Flexibility.

Fourth, really make sure to keep the players on track during the initial "heist" phase of the game. Make clear from the beginning that they only have 60 minutes to run this, and that while, yes, they should be getting back together, reconnoitering, and making plans, they also need to make plans and execute and not spend too much time debating and remaking plans. By 90 minutes after the start of the time slot (including players choosing and reading over characters), they need to have gone into the mansion and be on the cusp of running into the Aeon and trying to find their way into the underground lab. If they aren't there yet, start to lay down some heavy-handed rails.

Most importantly: Prep the living hell out of this scenario. I don't think I prepped it enough. By the end of your prep, you should know this scenario as well as a scenario that you've run three times. It's complicated. There are a lot of moving parts. Individual enconters are complicated. You need to have read up on all of the abilities of things in the encounters. You need to know what's going on in each encounter. You need to know what happens next, and you need to be able to dive into an encounter without looking at and reviewing what's in the next room as the players get to it.

Absoluely, categorically refuse to run this one cold or even near-cold. If a convention organizer comes to you and asks you to fill a table due to too many players or a no-show GM, it's better to leave the players with nothing to do than to try to run this cold. Run them through Confirmation or another scenario you're familiar with instead.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Starfinder Superscriber

One thing that should be made clear to GMs: the instructions to leave the rogue base a smoking ruin applies to the underground base, not necessarily the plantation. Players may want to leave the plantation a smoking ruin as well, but that's not necessary to accomplish what the Consortium is really after.

Of course, players can't be told this, because going in they don't even know that there is an underground base.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

I really loved running this scenario at PaizoCon. My players really enjoyed themselves as well, but there just wasn’t enough time to do the ending justice. Something may need to change to better accommodate a five hour slot. I’ve typed up some sections below to better breakdown my thoughts.

INFILTRATION
There is a lot going on before the PCs enter the secret facility. In fact, almost half the page count is dedicated to the introduction and Part 1. It takes time for the players to read over their characters and it takes time to lay the framework for the infiltration. By the time the players are able to make informed decisions and to roll dice a bit of time has passed.

Infiltration is not straight forward for the GM to run on a single read. I reviewed the section several times until I had an intuitive understanding and made key highlights. Information about strikes is interspersed over several pages. Without a Strike tracker it makes the business of running Part 1 more complicated.

I’m curious how many tables at PaizoCon triggered the Red Alert encounter. My PCs were incredibly thorough and accumulated no more than 8 of 15 strikes after three phases (when they discovered the entrance to Slumbersun). They ran a fourth phase to “demonstrate freedom” after I had three people roll 20+ Intelligence or Wisdom checks to decipher that vision. Each phase they used Intimidate, or more violent actions, I made sure they earned at least two strikes. There were very few failed infiltration checks. I was careful to explain the system, allowed them to scout two locations in a phase and provided generous descriptions. I think my players made better informed decisions as a result.

I prefer the current strike total as a GM might not explain or track the strikes accurately and many players are dependent on not triggering Red Alert in order to complete their Secondary Success Condition. This section could have wide table variation. Especially without careful GM preparation.

REMOVED/OPTIONAL ENCOUNTER
As rknop mentioned, the infiltration section could be streamlined to recover quite a bit of time. I like the Su encounter at area C. Bretheda Dome 3 and the urgency of the rounds. Area D1. Nightmare Aposakrasis Lab is important for the choices it presents. Neither is ideal to cut, but I think one needs to go completely and the other could have instructions on how to run as an optional encounter.

CHARACTERS
Certain characters are very complex and others lack the luster. My players found the The Loyalist (cavalier) and The Professional (rogue) to be the easiest to play. This absolutely can be a good thing as those characters can can presented as such. You might consider adding a rating to the character sheets (i.e. easy, medium, hard to play). Thanks to Venture-Lieutenant James McTeague, I had handouts for each character that dug into their consumable resources and better explained their class options and spells.

SMALL EDITS
The map for Wirholt’s Rictus needs to be updated to reflect John Compton’s post about each square equalling 30 feet.

The Unwavering Resolve boon needs to match the Seen it All boon mentioned in the Conclusion section. If these are not intended to be the same boon then there are other complications that need to be worked out.

This is incredibly small, but "Serpent’s Ire" appears on the chronicle instead of "Serpents' Ire."

DOWNLOADS
Magical Items Handout: No changes at this time.
Statblocks & Adventure Notes: No changes at this time.
Strike & Evidence Tracker: I’ve updated this simple tracker to better reflect when Joliryn is supposed to appear, as per developer Linda Zayas-Palmer.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

Steven Schopmeyer wrote:
xebeche wrote:
Care to elaborate? We ran short on time at my table, but we had a blast despite how sleepy we all are at this point in the Con.
My first issue was not understanding the Loyalist and her mission...Secondly, we took way too long on the infiltration.

Unfortunately, it sounds like you spent hours wondering about your mission before you even had the chance to reach the area where you could complete it. The opportunity doesn't come up until page 22 of 30. The player who had The Loyalist at my table expressed the same uncertainty and I subtly told him that it hadn't come up yet and he was satisfied.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

rknop wrote:

One thing that should be made clear to GMs: the instructions to leave the rogue base a smoking ruin applies to the underground base, not necessarily the plantation. Players may want to leave the plantation a smoking ruin as well, but that's not necessary to accomplish what the Consortium is really after.

Of course, players can't be told this, because going in they don't even know that there is an underground base.

The players do know that there is a secret facility as they are told the following in the introduction box text: "This Nidalese facility is hidden within or beneath a plantation known as Wirholt’s Rictus..."

I loathe seeing confusion on my players' faces by no fault of their own. I generally err on their side and try to attribute the information to a skill or ability check when in doubt.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Starfinder Superscriber
xebeche wrote:
I’m curious how many tables at PaizoCon triggered the Red Alert encounter. My PCs were incredibly thorough and accumulated no more than 8 of 15 strikes after three phases (when they discovered the entrance to Slumbersun).

My players didn't encounter it. They were incredibly cautious. The cavalier, recognizing that she didn't have any hope of being stealthy enough, stayed hidden out in the fields and sent the other five in to do recon. They all made their checks and so didn't accumulate strikes that way. They only really "out there" thing they did was charm the lead pharmacist and convince him (with a fairly difficult Diplomacy check, even though he was already charmed, because he does have a sense of responsibility) to come out to the field "to check out a new fungus that was showing up on the leaves". But, even after that, they left the doppleganger behind wandering around the settlement looking like him to avoid raising suspicion.

They never really interacted much with the Aeon (except for Zurnzal, who knew from his briefing that this was a good opportunity), and managed to get downstairs via Dispel Magic and Disable Device without having to figure out about the whip.

5/5

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Were there any requirements for running this scenario? I know normally this would require four GM stars. I really didn't enjoy my game, it went way way too late. I won't say anything negative about the GM if I can avoid it, PM me for details.

The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

As usual my tips will be based on how my table ran. This generally falls into "things I stumbled over that I want to warn other GMs about" but hopefully this can be used for any development changes that need to be done. I honestly don't think I gave my players a very good experience. There are SO many interconnections that it's very easy to miss some. Despite the limited time I had to prepare I thought I was in good shape but I kept on having to pause and flip backwards to find out exactly what affects the actions they were taking would have. I also made a choice in how to play the initial investigation that ended up being frustrating for the players. rknop covered a lot of this but I'll write my thoughts anyway.

First, this scenario is long. With at least 4 fights, all of which have multiple moving parts, it's going to take a while. And that doesn't even count the investigatory and roleplaying parts.

The length is exacerbated by the way the pregens are built. They are very well built and have lots of good abilities and equipment. Unfortunately that means that a lot of players are going to need to spend a fair amount of time figuring out what their character is built to do. I allotted about 15 minutes for everyone to read over their characters and ask questions. However it actually took longer than that to finish explaining abilities (and even then there were unasked questions that came up later). It also meant that there was even more than normal "look at what MY character can do!" moments. That's not a knock on the players. When they are given characters with these crazy abilities they quite understandably want to use them. But many of those abilities take up much more table time than "I roll to attack with my sword."

Individual Parts
----------------
Infiltrating the Farm:

Spoiler:
1. Much as it pains me to say it I think it is necessary to explain to the players the mechanics behind the first part. "We're going to divide this up into a series of phases. Each phase you can go to at most two places, but can only take a significant action at one location (I'll let you know if what you are attempting is considered significant). You can split up if you want and reconvene to discuss your next moves at the end of each phase." I attempted to make it a much more organic process and not talk about the mechanics but that choice ended up frustrating the players as they couldn't understand why I wasn't allowing them to do more.

2. It may be necessary to push groups to do something useful even though it breaks immersion. For example my group heard the gossip about how Temarra "keeps the manor locked except when there are visitors. Only she and the chief pharmacist Halvair carry the keys, and the former often makes a trip to the Kuthite shrine before returning to the manor." So they decided to go to the Kuthite shrine. Well, exploring that is a significant action so I let them do so. Not finding her there they decided on the next phase to go to the manor. I asked if they were trying to find Temarra (which is a significant action) and they replied that they were going to the manor to find her since those are the two places she could be. I suggested that they could look elsewhere for her as well but I don't think it was forceful enough and they were convinced they had to go explore the manor (which is a significant action so they couldn't do both).

Manor Exploration:

Spoiler:
This was the most troublesome part to adjudicate. Trying to figure out exactly how and when to end each phase was difficult. With the party split up 4 of them attempted to enter the manor over the wall. 3 succeeded and the fourth failed twice at the stealth check. I described workers coming along just as he was getting ready to throw up a grappling hook, and how they actually noticed him on the second attempt. "Why can't I try it again? I just wait until they are gone." This may have been less of a problem if I had detailed the phase mechanic.

Trying to figure out how to deal with 3 characters effectively "stuck" in the manor while the rest were outside is an issue when considering how long exploration should take and how to communicate the info from the Aeon to everyone. It may be best for the GM to suggest that the manor is a job for everyone at once.

The manor setting also caused a weird timing issue for the Red Alert. As in: they were already inside the manor and searching around when they set off the Red Alert by sending one person back to the shrine to get the flail and passing the threshold. So: they're already gathered around the trapdoor when... a second trapdoor opens? I gave them the Red Alert condition but didn't have the fight happen aboveground.

Finally if the players go right for the manor it's entirely possible to get down to the facility without doing any of the outside investigative or sabotage actions. Even if they do a little bit beforehand, once they get into the manor that's pretty much it for the outside. If you have the time it's possible to come back to the farm parts after finishing belowground but if you run out of time there are going to be a lot of missed prestige conditions.

Receiving Lab:

Spoiler:
This is a tight, tight space. Depending on how you deal with the tables the fight will take place in 20-26 squares. For 10 characters. If you get the chance the guards should probably try to form some kind of phalanx wall with the mage/Joliryn behind them. Even if this means delaying their challenge for a round. As for Joliryn, let's just say that The Disgraced's lesser globe of invulnerability completely shuts her down as a threat but if she's already got shield and blur up she can be a pain to hit. And why doesn't she have *any* backup weapon? Once The Ambitious used Improved Disarm there was nothing she could do but hunt around for dropped (medium) warhammers. Really long fight, again because of the pregens' control abilities.

Bretheda Dome:

Spoiler:
Exact opposite of the Receiving Lab as this is a very large space. The PCs are almost certain to lose a fair number of the evidence points here. The only one with the ability to get to the labs in less than two rounds is The Enigma who can use her cape of the mountebank to dimension door into one of the rooms but can't take anyone with her. Thanks to a haste from The Disgraced, good saves, and some poor rolls from the Voonth my players managed to get down to the other end and stop the destruction after only two rounds. So they only lost two points (plus one from the red alert). I see very few groups getting more than three points from this and most getting one or two at the most. The scenario says that the theletos drops a cloudkill into the western lab on the second round if they managed to make it an ally. Unless you're feeling particularly vicious I'd have it drop the cloud into whichever room the PCs are NOT in if they have managed to get down there faster (Enigma).

Nightmare Lab and Arkanen Lab:

Spoiler:
Can't help you out here. We ran out of time before we got here.

----------------
Overall this is one of those scenarios that I just didn't get "right" on the first pass. I read the scenario and thought I saw the possible ways it could play out but there were just so many paths the actual experience felt disjointed. I see where I went wrong and I'll make the changes next time but I feel bad for the players who got my first table.

Notes on the PaizoCon experience of this scenario:
EVERYONE went long. The only tables that I heard of that finished in time had a fairly railroad-y experience in the investigation (here are your options, which do you want to do?) and skipped at least one encounter. Even the "Druma Lodge" table with the scenario author as the GM adjourned to the hallway and finished in about 8 or 9 hours total. (Granted I'm sure that table had a lot of roleplaying.) For those of us with an 8 AM slot the next day that wasn't an option. This is a very cool lore scenario but as it is I just don't see it working as is in a 5-hour slot.

Sczarni 5/5 ⦵⦵

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Starfinder Charter Superscriber

A lot of good things have been said, so I'll touch on something that wasn't scenario-related:

Coming from someone who really doesn't imbibe alcohol, this opinion may be a little biased, but announcing that there was an "open bar" right at the beginning exacerbated an already lengthy scenario. My players not only got hammered, they continued to take frequent breaks to get more alcohol. The player immediately to my right was so drunk he couldn't focus, and drunken tangents delayed our session even more. It took us 2 1/2 hours to get to Phase 2 (partly because of a late start to get drinks), and we ultimately only had time for 2 fights (the Bretheda Dome and Kar-Zaweeb).

It almost got to the point, when the table was covered in empty glasses, that I was beginning to wonder if I'd have to play counselor, too.

Please, next time, don't announce that alcohol is free to bring into the special.

Sczarni 5/5 ⦵⦵

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

My only immediate suggestion regarding the scenario itself would be the layout for Phase 1:

Combine the section that describes the buildings with the section that explains what options the characters have.

  • Provide box text that describes the buildings from the outside.
  • Provide separate box text that describes what they find on the inside.
  • Provide GM notes on what evidence, NPCs, skill checks, and whatnot they may encounter in each.

    I had to do quite a bit of work writing notes and circling text on one page that I felt should have been referenced on a different page, and I had to come up with a lot of my own descriptions on the fly (such as the layout of the pharmaceutical lab, and names for each of the techs).

    It may have worked for other GMs, but the way it was laid out (to me) left a lot more questions than answers.

  • 5/5

    What are the maps like? Are there any standard flip maps or is it all custom? I also want to bring terrain to GenCon, and would like to get started asap. Even if the scenario itself gets modified, is it possible to get the maps released earlier for this purpose, pretty please John? :)

    (EDIT: Of course, after y'all have recovered from PaizoCon...)

    Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

    John's posts on the #7-98: Serpents' Ire product discussion thread covers this. I'll take a closer look if you'd like.

    Shadow Lodge 5/5

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

    I really had high hopes for this one after last year's superb Serpent's Rise special. Unfortunately, I think the mechanics, timing, and pace bogged this down to the point it simply is not playable in a convention slot. It has the opportunity to be absolutely excellent, but as it stands, it's just not there.

    I need a chance to sit down and really read it through cover-to-cover, and until I do so any commentary should be considered as armchair GMing, but there really seemed to be a pacing issue in that one. My table wasn't drunk (having done our imbibing the night before and wanting a "night off"), but we struggled pretty significantly to get through the first investigation in any reasonable amount of time. We treated it like any investigation and then found ourselves woefully behind schedule immediately afterwards.

    After that we expected a very similar straightforward run through much like Serpent's Ire (external social interactions followed by a well paced set of encounters), what happened though is that as we thought we were getting through things, everything ground to a complete halt again to make "discoveries". Furthermore, as agents on the mission we couldn't even comprehend why we wanted to look for loot. So instead of continuing proper pacing, we had to stop, and find a way to get moving again - which can be a struggle at 1:30 AM.

    Don't get me wrong, I liked the story and idea, but there was something off with the whole thing. I'd like to believe it had something to do with either the beginning or middle exploratory sections, but until I read through it, it's hard to say.

    Paizo Employee 5/5 Developer

    I'm watching this thread particularly closely, and taking notes for additional development before GenCon.

    Shadow Lodge 5/5

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
    Kevin Willis wrote:
    Even the "Druma Lodge" table with the scenario author as the GM adjourned to the hallway and finished in about 8 or 9 hours total.

    We did the same and did every encounter, and didn't get drunk, so we're probably a good litmus test of actual time. I went to bed at 3:00 AM, so that would put it at roughly a 7.5 hour scenario for our table. We had some good roleplay interaction as well, but eventually just powered through it at 1:30 AM.

    Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Oregon—Portland aka xebeche

    Linda Zayas-Palmer wrote:
    I'm watching this thread particularly closely, and taking notes for additional development before GenCon.

    You rock!

    Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

    Nefreet wrote:
    Please, next time, don't announce that alcohol is free to bring into the special.

    I don't understand this statement. True the bar was open, but it was not free and the hotel had a policy of no outside alcohol which I saw (and heard) being enforced.

    One of the reasons for the bar in the room is that players are free to go go down to the main hotel bar and bring back beverages. Having a bar in the room should reduce the impact of replenishing during the event. Also, the announcement is as much for the hotel as it is for the players. They have gone to the expense of providing us with a lot of benefits including a dedicated bartender so we want to assist them in generating the revenue required to justify said benefits. One of the reasons the PaizoCon experience is soo great is that the hotel can afford to provide all the amenities we enjoyed. Unfortunately, they do not do those things out of altruism. We also received a number of complaints last year when we did not notify players there was a cash bar available.

    We did ask that everyone be responsible. If anyone witnessing someone getting out of control would have notified either the bartender/hotel, HQ, or both we would certainly have gotten involved if the GM was uncomfortable addressing it themself. Just like PFS has a certain level of trust when it comes to cheating, having adult beverages available is a matter of trust as well. I will add this topic to my after-action report to Paizo so we can discuss if there are any changes that can be implemented for next year.

    Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Kevin Willis wrote:
    Even the "Druma Lodge" table with the scenario author as the GM adjourned to the hallway and finished in about 8 or 9 hours total.

    To be fair the level of shenanigans going on at that table is not indicative of a "typical" table and should not be used as a basis of comparison. That group could probably make any scenario last 8-9 hours (or more).

    ...and "DRUMA!"

    The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

    Bob Jonquet wrote:
    Kevin Willis wrote:
    Even the "Druma Lodge" table with the scenario author as the GM adjourned to the hallway and finished in about 8 or 9 hours total.

    To be fair the level of shenanigans going on at that table is not indicative of a "typical" table and should not be used as a basis of comparison. That group could probably make any scenario last 8-9 hours (or more).

    ...and "DRUMA!"

    The problems of truncated quotes: my original statement included the line "(Granted I'm sure that table had a lot of roleplaying.)"

    I'm well aware that when John is GMing, a meeting with a group of natives at the top of a ziggaraut whose written description is a paragraph long and whose purpose is simply to take you elsewhere can turn into an hour-long encounter.

    Nonetheless second-hand reports say that the low-roleplay combats took that group quite a long time as well. I'd like to see someone from that table chime in on this thread.

    The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

    Bob Jonquet wrote:
    Nefreet wrote:
    Please, next time, don't announce that alcohol is free to bring into the special.
    I don't understand this statement. True the bar was open, but it was not free and the hotel had a policy of no outside alcohol which I saw (and heard) being enforced.

    Even if no one is getting hammered the issue is that since this was the only slot during which the bar was mentioned in an announcement a fair number of players felt "obliged" to get up and go get drinks. My table certainly wasn't drinking to excess but the announcement led to an immediate rush for the bar and the breaks took longer as everyone stopped by the bar for another drink.

    For my table at least it was a negative time impact. People had drinks at other tables during the con but this was the one slot that seemed to be announced as "the official drinking slot."

    Paizo Employee Contributor—Canadian Maplecakes

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    Do not base anything on this scenario off the table we had. Seriously. DO NOT.

    Within the first 30 minutes, I'd sold the party's:

    Spoiler:
    only scroll of breath of life

    This financed getting myself a pair of really fancy clothes, as befits any true member of the Kalistocracy.

    Liberty's Edge 5/5

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Starfinder Superscriber

    I had no drinking problems at my table. One guy went to get a drink-- and he got me one too, so, win!-- once. Nobody got hammered. (Except for perhaps Joliryn.)

    1/5

    Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

    Review posted.

    Sczarni 5/5 ⦵⦵

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Starfinder Charter Superscriber
    Bob Jonquet wrote:
    Nefreet wrote:
    Please, next time, don't announce that alcohol is free to bring into the special.
    I don't understand this statement.

    I can tell. Emphasis gets lost in text.

    Not "free" as in "no cost". "Free" as in "capable of doing so".

    And the word to focus on would be "announce". We could have started 30 minutes earlier had half the table not stopped what they were doing and gotten up to get drinks.

    My suggestion would be to make the announcement either at the end of the previous slot or perhaps out in the hall maybe 30min before the Special.

    I realize it's a revenue generator. I actually often volunteer to pour alcohol during other events. But when you were announcing it (perhaps it was the way you announced it) I just had this deep mental "sigh".

    Dark Archive 5/5

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
    Thurston Hillman wrote:

    Do not base anything on this scenario off the table we had. Seriously. DO NOT.

    Within the first 30 minutes, I'd sold the party's:
    ** spoiler omitted **

    This financed getting myself a pair of really fancy clothes, as befits any true member of the Kalistocracy.

    Re: spoiler

    That is really funny.

    Grand Lodge 5/5 ⦵⦵

    I have a question about the "Joliryn's Foe" boon on the Chronicle.

    The character that I gave this GM credit to also has the "Spoils of the Siege (Joliryn)" boon from Serpent's Rise, so he has access to the Wrathful Ring of Spell Storing.

    He's also a 7th level Wizard with an Arcane Bonded Ring (no properties, yet).

    Can I upgrade his masterwork ring to a Wrathful Ring of Spell Storing by paying half of the 16,000gp price? He meets all of the requirements to do so, as far as I can tell.

    A good chunk of this question revolves around the PFS rules for upgrading Bonded Items, but since my specific question concerned this Chronicle item I figured here would be the best place to ask it.

    Wizards aren't my forte. This is the first time I've ever attempted to do anything with an Arcane Bond =P

    (posting with my character's alias so I can more easily find the it in the future)

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