PFS2 1-00 Origin of the Open Road


GM Discussion

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@Lau

Most of this is moot for my campaign, but I agree that talking about it, could be helpful for both future GMs and the authors/editors (so they can see how people interpret their writings).

Lau Bannenberg wrote:

So at maximum the PCs can attempt 6 x 9 skill checks.

That is one way to interpret the instructions. I do not believe it is correct for a host of reasons:

1. The actual instructions refer to the PCs collectively, not individually. Let's look again:

Scenario p7 wrote:
If the PCs succeed at a particular skill check, or if they fail or critically fail the check, they have received all the information they are capable of gleaning from that section and can’t attempt that particular skill check again.

The instructions talk about the PCs as a group, not as individuals. If the author wanted me to allow each PC a check, regardless of previous success or failure, then the section should have been directed at individuals, e.g.

If a PC succeeds at a particular skill check, or if s/he fails or critically fails the check, s/he has received all the information s/he is capable of gleaning from that section and can’t attempt that particular skill check again.

2. The failure clause is nonsensical if the next PC up can find information. How can a PC receive all the information from a section only to have the next person up find more? And then possibly happen again if there is a crit success? If there is more information to be found, then why couldn't that same PC simply keep searching, exactly as it works when the PCs are on the street?

3. If each PCs can try then they could crit fail themselves to zero results. Unless the GM forbids a low modifier from rolling, a small party could see enough crit fails that they get a total of zero, even after some success. It's a lot easier for a low mod to crit fail than it is to crit succeed.

4. A potential 6x9 attempts is 54 rolls to pass a skill encounter. That doesn't pass the smell test for a PFS encounter. Sure, the start-of-scenario K checks are attempted by everyone, but that isn't an encounter and the information is usually only background lore, having little impact (if any) on the actual success of the scenario. While we both agree that it is highly unlikely all six pregens would attempt every roll, your interpretation doesn't preclude it. My experience with PFS suggests that this is an unlikely approach for a skills encounter.

5. Too much overhead. Even if you have only four people rolling, your asking a GM to track and tally between 18-36 odd rolls and then matrix out who has done what, the total success, crit fails/succeeds, etc. Again, that doesn't pass the smell test for a PFS skill encounter.

6. Doesn't match my library experience. When I've done group research, we don't go to the library and have every person research every other person's topic. The idea that each person gets a section, and their search is determinative is consistent with real life and the rules instructions that says fail or succeed, there is no more information.

7. My party's results seem appropriate. They had five success with bad rolls and one crit failure reducing them to 4 successes. They got enough info to trigger the combat encounter and leads to track down the twins. I did not explicitly tell them what to look for on the street.

I would welcome Paizo clarifying this for future GMs.

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An example scenario where gather info retries are used is The Technic Siege, and in that scenario it really matters how many hours it takes you to find things.

Never GM'd or played that scenario. But as a I said in a previous post, I would anticipate the hour-based time counter has been used before. I just haven't seen it personally.

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The obvious counterexample is gather info checks at the start of scenrios, where it's assumed that you can try only once. Although that might be more assumption than actual rule.

Maybe a year ago, I posted on the PFS forums asking for some clarity on how the skill check roll instructions are to be interpreted. To my recollection, Paizo/PFS never answered. There were lots of GM input, but no consensus. When multiple options are listed (and no penalty for failure), can a player roll all three or just one? Some situations it seems obvious, others not so much. Still, PFS seem to have no interest in clarifying how these are suppose to work.

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So when a scenario seems to want the party to split up for something relatively safe, such as walking around to gather info, I think it's good if the GM just tells the players that it's safe and useful to do so.

I disagree.

1 You're robbing the players of their agency by precluding them from making their own decisions.

2. When and when not to split up the party is one of those fundamental choices in Pathfinder, and PFS especially, that players should always be confronted with when possible. Players must learn when and when not to do this through experience. If the GM simply tells them when to do it, your short-circuting that learning process.

Yes, there are some scenarios where it is meta-game greenlighted and I have no issue with that as it's clear that splitting up is an intended experience.

3. The idea that it's clearly safe to split up the party isn't true in this scenario. It's possible that one of the early clues the PCs get is the location of the apothecary. In other words, the PCs could find out the location of the combat encounter before they've gathered all the info. Did you tell the party that they should go to the apothecary as a group? If not, it's quite possible inexperienced players might think this is just another routine info gather and send others to investigate the arcane markings, or Igrigi's connection.

4. Telling the party to split undermines the time restraint. My group stuck together. This made it take longer. Had they split up, it would have taken a lot less time and probably zero chance of them hitting the 30 hours unless they slept for a day.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

N N 959 wrote:

@Lau

Most of this is moot for my campaign, but I agree that talking about it, could be helpful for both future GMs and the authors/editors (so they can see how people interpret their writings).

Lau Bannenberg wrote:

So at maximum the PCs can attempt 6 x 9 skill checks.

That is one way to interpret the instructions. I do not believe it is correct for a host of reasons:

1. The actual instructions refer to the PCs collectively, not individually. Let's look again:

Scenario p7 wrote:
If the PCs succeed at a particular skill check, or if they fail or critically fail the check, they have received all the information they are capable of gleaning from that section and can’t attempt that particular skill check again.

The instructions talk about the PCs as a group, not as individuals. If the author wanted me to allow each PC a check, regardless of previous success or failure, then the section should have been directed at individuals, e.g.

If a PC succeeds at a particular skill check, or if s/he fails or critically fails the check, s/he has received all the information s/he is capable of gleaning from that section and can’t attempt that particular skill check again.

I happened to run the scenario again yesterday so with this discussion in mind I was looking at the scenario to see if maybe I was wrong and you were right.

Origin of the Open Road p. 7 wrote:

To reflect their research on behalf of the Grand Lodge, the PCs can attempt any of the skill checks below once. Each skill is appropriate for a different location in the archive, as indicated on the map on page 6; the skill relevant to each location is obvious to the PCs once they poke around a bit, allowing them to decide where to spend their efforts based on each PC’s skills.

(...)

PCs can Aid instead of attempting their own check; this counts as their attempt for that section. If the PCs succeed at a particular skill check, or if they fail or critically fail the check, they have received all the information they are capable of gleaning from that section and can’t attempt that particular skill check again. The PCs earn a success for a successful skill check, two successes for critically succeeding at a skill, and reduce their total successes by 1 on a critical failure (reflecting their research being hindered by bad information or conclusions).

The bolded sentence is the key to my position. Each PC can attempt a check for each section of the library once, or Aid Another in that section instead.

I believe the use of "they" and "the PCs" is still intended to mean "each PC", but is the result of Paizo trying very hard to avoid using gendered pronouns; PCs are "they" not "he/she". But "they" is not quite singular and not quite plural in this case. So it would indeed be slightly better to say:

If a PC succeeds at a particular skill check, or if they fail or critically fail the check, they have received all the information they are capable of cleaning from that section and can't attempt that particular skill check again.

It's a teensy bit clearer that it's per PC, but the problem really is that this use of gender-neutral singular they is really confusing when you need to know if it's really about one or all of the PCs.

I still think I'm correct that they mean that each PC can try each section once, as shown by the bolded part of the original text.

N N 959 wrote:


2. The failure clause is nonsensical if the next PC up can find information. How can a PC receive all the information from a section only to have the next person up find more? And then possibly happen again if there is a crit success? If there is more information to be found, then why couldn't that same PC simply keep searching, exactly as it works when the PCs are on the street?

The scenario says that "clearly", if you think singular they is clear. The PC who makes the check does the best he/she can do in that section, and moves on. Another PC can then come along and see if that second PC can find something the first one missed.

N N 959 wrote:
3. If each PCs can try then they could crit fail themselves to zero results. Unless the GM forbids a low modifier from rolling, a small party could see enough crit fails that they get a total of zero, even after some success. It's a lot easier for a low mod to crit fail than it is to crit succeed.

Yeah, but that would be extremely unlikely unless the party is making really poor choices. The scenario says that PCs can quickly see which skills are needed to investigate which section of the library, so they should be attempting the best checks first. In fact, when I ran it last night, after a couple of rounds the players had caught on that the DC was more than 16 but less than 23, and Kyra and Valeros were out of skills that had a better chance of success than critical failure. So those characters stopped researching so that they wouldn't hinder the rest.

N N 959 wrote:
4. A potential 6x9 attempts is 54 rolls to pass a skill encounter. That doesn't pass the smell test for a PFS encounter. Sure, the start-of-scenario K checks are attempted by everyone, but that isn't an encounter and the information is usually only background lore, having little impact (if any) on the actual success of the scenario. While we both agree that it is highly unlikely all six pregens would attempt every roll, your interpretation doesn't preclude it. My experience with PFS suggests that this is an unlikely approach for a skills encounter.

A theoretical maximum isn't the same as what happens in practice. In practice each PC has 2-5 suitable skills, some of which overlap. So you have between 2 skills * 4 pregens to 5 skills * 6 pregens. They could try all the other skills but it would be useless.

The typical chance of success with good skills is a bit over 50% (skills ranging from 8 to 13 vs. DC 20), so you need about two rolls per success. You need a minimum of 4 successes for the adventure not to grind to a halt because the theft isn't discovered and the statues never attack. That could happen if you brought a bad party (say, Merisiel, Valeros, Amiri and Kyra) and got a bit unlucky in your dice rolls, and each section could only be tried by one PC. But I think the more likely planning is that most parties should be able to get up to 7 successes to recover all the texts in the library that are required for primary mission success, which requires roughly 14 skill rolls. As a smell test, it's normally not that hard to get the primary mission success for these kind of scenarios.

N N 959 wrote:
5. Too much overhead. Even if you have only four people rolling, your asking a GM to track and tally between 18-36 odd rolls and then matrix out who has done what, the total success, crit fails/succeeds, etc. Again, that doesn't pass the smell test for a PFS skill encounter.

I disagree. I wrote the skills on the map, because the scenario says it's quickly obvious to the PCs what goes where. Then had people place their minis on the section they were researching, and told them to remember where they'd already been. So each player just needed to remember about 4 skills/places they'd already done.

Counting successes was easy. Going around the table I ask people what they got on their check. Count on my hand, one finger up per success, or pointing downwards if they go into negatives due to critfails. Once you've got everyone's results, read out what they find.

N N 959 wrote:
6. Doesn't match my library experience. When I've done group research, we don't go to the library and have every person research every other person's topic. The idea that each person gets a section, and their search is determinative is consistent with real life and the rules instructions that says fail or succeed, there is no more information.

That's not my own library experience. Either searching digitally or using old-fashioned cataloging systems or even just browsing the shelves, there's always the chance for someone to think of a better keyword, for fresh eyes to spot something someone else missed, or for someone to make a connection with another topic and realize a differently titled book could also be relevant.

N N 959 wrote:
7. My party's results seem appropriate. They had five success with bad rolls and one crit failure reducing them to 4 successes. They got enough info to trigger the combat encounter and leads to track down the twins. I did not explicitly tell them what to look for on the street.

Four successes seem like the absolute minimum needed for the scenario not to grind to a halt, because later on in the scenario there are some fallbacks. But on a 1-9 scale I don't think 4 is normal. I think normal is getting to 6-7; I think they anticipate that a slightly unlucky or impatient ("theft! killer statues!") party might not have gotten the civic permits but they can still get them in the next phase.

Lau Bannenberg wrote:
So when a scenario seems to want the party to split up for something relatively safe, such as walking around to gather info, I think it's good if the GM just tells the players that it's safe and useful to do so.

I disagree.

1 You're robbing the players of their agency by precluding them from making their own decisions.

2. When and when not to split up the party is one of those fundamental choices in Pathfinder, and PFS especially, that players should always be confronted with when possible. Players must learn when and when not to do this through experience. If the GM simply tells them when to do it, your short-circuting that learning process.

Yes, there are some scenarios where it is meta-game greenlighted and I have no issue with that as it's clear that splitting up is an intended experience.

I see it as the other way around. By not informing them of their options, you're robbing them of agency. "Don't split the party" is seen as such an iron rule that informing players that they have more choices available is a good thing.

N N 959 wrote:
3. The idea that it's clearly safe to split up the party isn't true in this scenario. It's possible that one of the early clues the PCs get is the location of the apothecary. In other words, the PCs could find out the location of the combat encounter before they've gathered all the info. Did you tell the party that they should go to the apothecary as a group? If not, it's quite possible inexperienced players might think this is just another routine info gather and send others to investigate the arcane markings, or Igrigi's connection.

I don't think it's as risky as all that. For convenience (I don't want to track hours for 6 separate PCs) I used the same 1d4 hours time for all the separate groups that went out to do research. Basically, Kyra goes here, Valeros goes there, they ask around, and after a couple of hours they come back and share their findings. So there's no chance for one group to decide to immediately follow up on the apothecary lead on their own, without first having contact with the other PCs.

Then if they had wanted to send only some people to the apothecary while others chased down another lead, I would have not-so-subtly asked "Are you sure you want to do that alone? These are the people that sent statues to kill you."

Agency be damned. I have no qualms warning players if they're about the split the party in a way that has some of them sitting on their hands for hours while others go through a dungeon and get killed.

Actually, that in no way reduces agency. Agency is being able to make informed decision and having the results matter. That's still the case. Giving the player information (or reminding them of information) that they're allowed to use to make decisions, is not a breach of agency.

N N 959 wrote:
4. Telling the party to split undermines the time restraint. My group stuck together. This made it take longer. Had they split up, it would have taken a lot less time and probably zero chance of them hitting the 30 hours unless they slept for a day.

Yeah I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to hit the 30 hours unless you rest for the day. If you do rest for the day, you'd regain all the spells you may have used in the library, so at that point beefing up the bossfight is appropriate. If not, then it really isn't needed.

(Also, imagine me hearing me making my usual grumbling sounds about something that happened weeks ago suddenly coincidentally being a matter of every hour counts.)


@Lau
Let's look again at the section you quoted.

Origin of the Open Road p. 7 wrote:
To reflect their research on behalf of the Grand Lodge, the PCs can attempt any of the skill checks below once. Each skill is appropriate for a different location in the archive, as indicated on the map on page 6; the skill relevant to each location is obvious to the PCs once they poke around a bit, allowing them to decide where to spend their efforts based on each PC’s skills.

Once again, the section talks about the PCs in the plural, not the singular. Also, there would be no reason for them to "decide where to spend their best efforts" if all of them can make all the checks. A PC can make an effort anywhere s/he wants.

Lau Bannenberg wrote:
PCs can Aid instead of attempting their own check; this counts as their attempt for that section. If the PCs succeed at a particular skill
...

Yes, that is a confusing statement given all the instructions and does give some credence to your interpretation, but I read it differently. It's saying that you can actually use Aid another instead of having to roll your own section and in so doing, you're using up your hour in that section. So you can't both aid someone while research something else.

However, it is possible your are correct in what that sentence is conveying. Paizo should clarify because it's unfair if all GMs aren't doing it the same way.

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It's a teensy bit clearer that it's per PC, but the problem really is that this use of gender-neutral singular they is really confusing when you need to know if it's really about one or all of the PCs.

It's possible, but it is acceptable to use "they" in this circumstance. I would think clarifying whether each PC can make every check or the party as a whole can only make one check would be more important than avoiding the use of "they" when using the singular PC.

Quote:
I disagree. I wrote the skills on the map, because the scenario says it's quickly obvious to the PCs what goes where. Then had people place their minis on the section they were researching, and told them to remember where they'd already been. So each player just needed to remember about 4 skills/places they'd already done.

That's an order of magnitude more overhead than each section gets one roll. If you have five, six, or even seven PCs (as that happens), it quickly gets unwieldy for an average GM. One roll per section is the same work no matter how many PCs you have. Which sounds more intended? 18-63 primary rolls or 9?

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Four successes seem like the absolute minimum needed for the scenario not to grind to a halt, because later on in the scenario there are some fallbacks. But on a 1-9 scale I don't think 4 is normal. I think normal is getting to 6-7;

We had five rolled successes. One player tried to backdoor roll with a PC who was not trained in the skill and crit failed. This precluded a trained/expert attempt. So that would probably have been 6 successes and could have been 7-9 if every roll hit.

If I allowed every PC to roll every section, I would expect 8-9 to be the average. That doesn't sound correct. How many successes did your group of four tally?

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I see it as the other way around. By not informing them of their options, you're robbing them of agency. "Don't split the party" is seen as such an iron rule that informing players that they have more choices available is a good thing.

Nobody told them "don't split up the party." I specifically told them that they can split up or work in groups. What I did not do, which it sounds like you did, is specifically tell them it was "safe" to split up. That is meta-gaming. The players have to decide when/whether it is safe to split up the party based on the available information. My group wanted to play it safe and stick together until they only had one subject left to search.

I gave them the same instructions in the library as I did on the street. Did you tell them it was safe to split up in the library?

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I used the same 1d4 hours time for all the separate groups that went out to do research***So there's no chance for one group to decide to immediately follow up on the apothecary lead on their own, without first having contact with the other PCs.

There is, except you've artificially constrained the group. It's possible for one person to get in four searches in the time it takes another to do one search. Sure, if you refuse to let the players investigate the apothecary on their own, then they can't do it.

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I would have not-so-subtly asked "Are you sure you want to do that alone? These are the people that sent statues to kill you."

I don't do that with experienced players. With a bunch of 10 year-olds, or people new to the game, yes. But not with experienced players.

Quote:
Giving the player information (or reminding them of information) that they're allowed to use to make decisions, is not a breach of agency.

It is when you give them information, they aren't intended to have, and it precludes a decision. Telling them then it's safe or not safe to do X, is, imo, just that. As I said before, there are some scenarios where it's intended for the players to do X and the scenario makes it clear that the players need to do this. If experienced players don't have enough awareness to not go down a trap door into an unlit basement by themselves, then they its probably because their GMs aren't letting them make mistakes in this regard.

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Yeah I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to hit the 30 hours unless you rest for the day

I tend to agree. I don't think many (if any) parties should hit that 30 hour mark unless they all the unskilled Pregens and have jackpot bad luck. However, I think the payoff is letting the players know that there is a time counter, which I did. I told the players there was a counter because:

1. This is not a standard or even uncommon technique used in scenarios and it's unfair to not let the players know that such a technique is being used in this case.

2. I kept the elapsed time counter visible so the PCs were constantly aware of it. I think that gives it power and adds a rare sense of urgency to the scenario.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I haven't GM'd this scenario yet, but played it and read it afterwards.

We were 6 players, so we were using all 6 of the available lvl 5-pregens. The game was played online, I didn't know any of the other players before.

During the library research our GM had the party split up and let each player decide which section his character was going to research during that hour-long research-interval. Different players were allowed to investigate topics at the same time or one-after the other, even if another player had already failed there. Minis were placed on the map next to the relevant sections and each player was asked to keep track of where they had already researched. When the statues activated, combat started from that spread-out position, which was a nice change from the usual "party enters map here". It did make the fight noticably more difficult than I would have expected with Fumbus being flanked by two statues in the first round and being seriously in trouble quite a bit away from the others.

After each 1h-research-session, we received the discoveries for all the successful checks at the same time, which lead to us finding both the "there is nothing more here" and the next one after that simultaneously, which was odd, but led us to continue researching and find the final one as well. I'm not sure we would have continued if the last clue discovered was that here was nothing more to be found, I really don't get why that is in there, we just basically meta-game assumed during the session that that player had crit-failed his (secret) roll. Such a false clue would be totally okay for a crit fail, but on a success?? Hmmm...

We did get the multiple hints that there might be oozes to fight coming up, so did extensive research on those and knew about their resistances and split-ability going in.

We took our sweet time during the initial part, in particular fighting the stautes took longer than I would've expected, which in retrospect was probably good for us, as it caused our GM (in accordance with the sidebar declaring that encounter optional if a certain time has passed irl until that point) to skip the trap in B1 which reads like it could have seriously hurt.

Even with pre-knowledge of the oozes abilites be were not smart enough to think of bringing extra blunt weapons... However, since we knew about the split, we were able to fairly effectively carve the black pudding up into multiple smaller pieces before hitting them all with a fireball, which helped tremendously (even though the Merisiel player decided to roleplay being scared and not throw a few daggers at the pudding(s) as had been agreed initially). Still, after the fight we had to retreat and buy Amiri some new hide armor and repair Valeros's shield boss. I can definitely see how this encounter can easily turn into a massacre for an unprepared party, even though our group had a reasonably easy time with it. We were unclear during the game about being able to melee attack a creature that has grabbed you from 10' away with reach, but our GM hand-waved that you could still hit whatever bit of the creature extended towards you (which in retrospect is exactly according to the rules, we were just unaware of that rule at the time).

We went through the sewer and completely bypassed the B4 hazards.

The boss fight was very enjoyable for (almost) all. Merisiel was tinkering with the weird machine. Valeros was tanking the Ochre jelly the machine initially spit out (6-player adjustment) with some pretty lucky rolls and smashing it with his shield boss over and over again until it finally stopped moving (ultimately, that was the last opponent alive). Amiri finally had some targets she could actually hurt with her big sword. Kyra was trying (and mostly succeeding) to keep us all alive. Ezren did his magic thing while hanging back. Poor Fumbus, however, ended up being swallowed by a Gelatinous Cube and with some bad rolls spent most of the fight paralyzed inside the cube. While that was arguably not so much fun for that player, it provided some excitement for the rest of the party wo where scrambling to somehow get him out of there. He ultimately survived only because by unanimous party vote the last hero point to be distributed went to the paralyzed Fumbus (at Dying 3 with no hero points left and noone close enough to help) for "heroically tanking the cube from within". That was probably somewhat fishy rules-wise, but felt right.

Overall, I was positively surprised by the adventure after having heard some rumors of "it's almost impossible to succeed with the pregens who are totally unsuited for the task". After reading through it, it definitely has that TPK-potential, but if players are paying attention, there are enough clues there to be able to come prepared enough. Still probably not ideal as an introduction to a new system, #1-01 is definitely what I'd use instead to introduce new players to the game.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I have one question about the chronicle, and I'm sorry if this has been answered elsewhere: The GM and other players were adamant that it needed to be applied immediately and could not be saved up. The character I had assigned for this scenario had finished 3 other scenarios before (with no playtest boons applied), so I guess she was technically 2nd level (even though at the time, she had never been played as a 2nd level char and I had not actually levelled her up). The Guide to Play has this to say about the matter:

Society Guide to Play wrote:

You may apply a pregenerated character’s Chronicle sheet to one of your Pathfinder Society characters once your Pathfinder Society character reaches the level of the pregenerated character used to play through it. For example, if you played a 5th-level pregenerated character, you would apply the credit once your character reaches 5th level.

(...)
You can apply credit from a higher-tier adventure to a 1st-level Pathfinder Society character. When doing so, you gain only the gold appropriate to a 1st-level character. You do not benefit from any boons until your Pathfinder Society character reaches the minimum level listed on the Chronicle sheet, unless otherwise noted.

So I'd read that as saying I cannot actually apply the chronicle to the current character (her being 2nd level), but have to wait until she is at 5th level. And even if she were 1st level, she could get the xp, but not make use of any of the boons until she was 5th level and would only get 1st-level gold.

Is that right? Also, what's the point of having the items on the chronicle sheet - my character would be interested in getting the dagger of venom (item 5) - if you can only ever get them once you have reached 5th level (when they'd be available anyway, being common items from the CRB)?

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Agent, Australia—NSW—Newcastle aka Tim Schneider 908

The scenario's chronicle sheet explicitly overrules that restriction to allow you to apply it immediately.

Quote:
Special: This adventure was designed for use with pregenerated characters. You can assign this Chronicle sheet to any character of levels 1–5 who does not already have a copy of this Chronicle sheet.

That tells you that you can assign it to 1-5, so you apply it immediately and get gold as per the level it's assigned at (e.g. If your char is level 1, get level 1 gold. If your char is level 2, get level 2 gold).

As far as the items go I think the restriction would be, from the guide:

Quote:
Any equipment listed on your character’s Chronicle sheets with an item level equal to or less than your character’s level + 2. Some items found on Chronicle sheets are available for purchase only a limited number of times.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Ah, actually reading it might have helped, then :). I had not received it yet when the issue was discussed... Thanks!

If the chronicle can be applied at lower levels, the items on there make sense. But if it could only have been applied at 5th level, it just seemed odd to have items on there that by that point would be available through the CRB anyway.


albadeon wrote:
After each 1h-research-session, we received the discoveries for all the successful checks at the same time, which lead to us finding both the "there is nothing more here" and the next one after that simultaneously, which was odd, but led us to continue researching and find the final one as well. I'm not sure we would have continued if the last clue discovered was that here was nothing more to be found, I really don't get why that is in there, we just basically meta-game assumed during the session that that player had crit-failed his (secret) roll. Such a false clue would be totally okay for a crit fail, but on a success?? Hmmm...

I'm glad you asked that. If you read the instructions as giving the "PCs" only one check per section, then it makes perfects sense why that's in there, right? But if you let every PC check, then it makes no sense.

One of the things I thought was clever about this scenario was exactly this clause. If you run the encounter as only one attempt for the party, then a failure essentially means the info was never there as opposed to the PC failing to find it. That's kind of a neat way to deal with the question of why can't we keep searching.

Equally confusing is that the description for the skill checks don't even support the idea of a PC being limited . Many of them read as though a PC could simply keep trying. e.g.

Quote:
Acrobatics: The steps to the highest shelves are so worn smooth with age as to be dangerously slippery. Reaching these texts requires a successful Acrobatics check to Maintain Balance.

Why would a critical failure here mean you find nothing, let alone take away a success? Why couldn't a PC keep trying to reach the texts?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I don't think a success when looking for information should give you the false information that you've learned all there is to found here. That kind of misleading information is something that should be limited to crit fails, imho. That's why I don't get why it's in the list of things you learn with successful checks. That is completely irrespective of whether you allow only one check for the entire party per hour or one for each PC. It's just generally wrong to give false information for a successful check.

The in game explanations are mostly very much contrived to allow for a wide spread of skill checks to be used. You don't really need thievery to open glass doors either, especially after a violent fight in the same room...


albadeon wrote:
I don't think a success when looking for information should give you the false information that you've learned all there is to found here.

It's not false if you read the instructions as only allowing one check per section.

Quote:
That is completely irrespective of whether you allow only one check for the entire party per hour or one for each PC. It's just generally wrong to give false information for a successful check.

I read the instructions as only allowing one check per section Not just one check per hour. Every party no matter how big or small, should only make 9 primary rolls. It just takes an hour for an individual to search a section.

How many skill rolls did your party make in this encounter? How many of the clues did you find? How many hours did it take?

Quote:
The in game explanations are mostly very much contrived to allow for a wide spread of skill checks to be used.

Everything in the game is "contrived" but you're exactly right. And this one of the reasons I found the "no more information" result so innovative in this encounter.

As written, many of the skill checks are physical tasks do not logically preclude retrying the task. So what the author did is use a sleight of hand. The physical check is essentially retconning the available information. IMO, the way this should be handled is to describe the skills check as physically successful and then provide the information indicated by the result. For example, even on a failed roll with the Acrobatics check, you tell the player that the PC reaches the texts, but they don't find any information in them.

Quote:
You don't really need thievery to open glass doors either, especially after a violent fight in the same room...

That's right. So the elegant way to handle this as a GM is to simply tell them they open the glass door, regardless of the roll. This works if you only give one check per section, because then you don't have to explain why someone else can't try and open the glass doors as they are now open. There's just nothing else to find in this section.

Obviously this approach breaks down when the PCs can see the roll is lousy or they crit fail and I don't think you're suppose to use secret rolls. So while I find this encounter clever, it is not robust. In fact, it was mentioned in one of the first few posts in this thread, the whole research subsystem is problematic. The main issue is the crit fails and how they affect the total outcome. If you give out information on one round of successful rolls, what happens when they crit fail the next round? You can't take info back.

Again, the only way this makes sense is if you give one roll per section, and then tally the results after all the sections have been searched. But even this presents problems as there are nine sections and at most 7 PCs, so you're kind of forced to give out info after the 1st hour and once given, you can't take it back, regardless of 2nd hour results.

I would be very interested in hearing from the author on how this is suppose to work.

Dark Archive 5/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Captain, Minnesota—Minneapolis aka Silbeg

N N 959 wrote:
Quote:
You don't really need thievery to open glass doors either, especially after a violent fight in the same room...
That's right. So the elegant way to handle this as a GM is to simply tell them they open the glass door, regardless of the roll. This works if you only give one check per section, because then you don't have to explain why someone else...

I disagree here. This is not an elegant solution, as you are damaging the library.

Perhaps there is a magic seal that protects the books within, keyed to the lock, that would be destroyed if the glass is broken. Or something else? I dunno. Even the simple thing of damaging the library should be frowned upon.

As for the rolls, I ruled it much like Lau describes when I ran it at Gen Con. It is a library, and there are likely many places that hints could be found. The fact that a critical success gives you more stuff kind of points me in the direction of it doesn't matter where they are.

It would have been more clear if the author said "A given PC can make only one check in any given location, regardless of the results." Paizo has definitely taken to the singular "they" in their writing, which does confuse things. "s/he" is not correct, as this assume only binary gender identity. "They" is meant to be broader.


Jack Brown wrote:
I disagree here. This is not an elegant solution, as you are damaging the library.

If you succeed, then you're not damaging the library, but you've found "all the information."

There's nothing in the instructions that indicates failures cause damage to the library. Technically, not even crit failures require that the library take damage.

Quote:
Perhaps there is a magic seal that protects the books within, keyed to the lock, that would be destroyed if the glass is broken. Or something else? I dunno. Even the simple thing of damaging the library should be frowned upon

You only have to resort to something like this on a critical failure. A failure is simple: There was never any information there to find.

The problem with these skill check descriptions is that you can't justify not letting someone keep attempting them if you insist they failed the physical part. I find it to be a lot more consistent with the instructions to let them complete the physical part and just indicate that there is nothing useful here, as per the actual scenario instructions. As I said, it just gets hinky when they see a low roll. A crit fail does require you have to come up with something more obviously detrimental to further searching. Of course if you're going to let everyone in the party roll every section, then I suppose you're just ignoring the crit fails because you can't' retroactively take back stuff you gave out earlier.

Quote:
It is a library, and there are likely many places that hints could be found.

Except there aren't. The sections are specifically labeled to break up the party. You can't do an Athletic check any place but where the check is labeled. If you're going to let people find information anywhere, then you don't even need to label the sections.

Quote:
The fact that a critical success gives you more stuff kind of points me in the direction of it doesn't matter where they are.

Not really following that logic, but this is what the encounter has reduced us to.

It would be trivially easy for someone with the official capacity to drop a post here and let everyone know whether its X * 9 rolls or just 9 rolls.

Curious. How many rolls were made and how many of the clues did your party find?

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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As a side note on the paralysis caused by the gelatinous cube. The paralysis has the Incapacitation trait, which means that if the PC is higher level than the ooze (yes, level 5 vs. CR 3) then you treat save results as one step better. So a failure on a fortitude save becomes a success. You need to roll a critical failure, downgraded to a normal failure, to be paralyzed in this situation.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

N N 959 wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
I disagree. I wrote the skills on the map, because the scenario says it's quickly obvious to the PCs what goes where. Then had people place their minis on the section they were researching, and told them to remember where they'd already been. So each player just needed to remember about 4 skills/places they'd already done.
That's an order of magnitude more overhead than each section gets one roll. If you have five, six, or even seven PCs (as that happens), it quickly gets unwieldy for an average GM. One roll per section is the same work no matter how many PCs you have. Which sounds more intended? 18-63 primary rolls or 9?

I admit I'm not 100% sure. I don't think you can seat 7 people in this scenario, unless you're giving two people the same pregen which seems very undesirable. I don't know how scheduling goes elsewhere in the world, but since I've been playing PFS since season 5, I've had maybe three 7P tables ever? Now that PFS2 uses 4P as the baseline, I think it ought to be even rarer.

But even with 5 or 6 people, it would make the research section easier if everyone can try, and that is a bit weird that the difficulty doesn't scale up to match. That is not enough evidence to convince me though, because I've seen the same thing happening in other scenarios where the number of PCs drastically upsets the difficulty of noncombat challenges.

I went and looked at the pregens to get an impression of how many skill checks could be made if everyone can try every skill. The pregens have skill ratings either 0-4 or 7-13 depending on proficiency. A bit of programming shows that you need a 5+ in a skill to on average provide a positive contribution to a DC 20 skill challenge with the -1CF/+1CS effects. So I only count skills ranked 7+;

some Python code:

import random

trials = 1000000.0

dc = 20

results = {}

for j in range(1,21):
subresults = {
'cs': 0,
's': 0,
'f': 0,
'cf': 0
}
for i in range(int(trials)):
roll = random.randint(1,20)
if roll == 1:
if roll + j >= dc:
subresults['f'] += 1
else:
subresults['cf'] += 1
elif roll == dc:
if roll + j < dc:
subresults['s'] += 1
else:
subresults['cs'] += 1
else:
if roll + j >= dc+10:
subresults['cs'] += 1
elif roll + j >= dc:
subresults['s'] += 1
elif roll + j >= dc-9:
subresults['f'] += 1
else:
subresults['cf'] += 1
results[j] = subresults

for i in range(1,21):
expected = round((results[i]['cs']*2 + results[i]['s'] - results[i]['cf'])/trials, 1)
print i, expected

Expected contribution by skill bonus:

Assuming a DC 20
Critical Fail: -1
Fail: +0
Success: +1
Critical Success: +2

Skill / Expected Contribution
1 -0.3
2 -0.2
3 -0.1
4 0.0
5 0.1
6 0.2
7 0.3
8 0.4
9 0.5
10 0.5
11 0.7
12 0.8
13 0.9
14 1.0
15 1.0
16 1.2
17 1.3
18 1.3
19 1.5
20 1.5

Pregen skills:

Kyra
Scribing Lore 7
Athletics 10

Valeros
Acrobatics 9
Athletics 13
Occultism 9

Amiri
Acrobatics 11
Nature 7
Athletics 13

Merisiel
Acrobatics 14
Survival 9
Athletics 10
Society 8
Thievery 13

Fumbus
Acrobatics 11
Survival 7
Athletics 8
PFS Lore 11
Society 11
Thievery 11

Ezren
Acrobatics 10
Arcana 13
Mercantile Lore 11
Nature 9
Religion 9
Surival 9
Athletics 7
Occultism 11
Society 13
[/spoier]

The worst case party has 13 skills, but if don't allow multiple PCs to reuse skills, it becomes:
[spoiler=Absolute Worst Case]
Acrobatics 14 (Merisiel) 1.0
Athletics 13 (Amiri/Valeros) 0.9
Nature 7 (Amiri) 0.3
Occultism 9 (Valeros) 0.5
Scribing Lore 7 (Kyra) 0.3
Society 8 (Merisiel) 0.4
Survival 9 (Amiri) 0.5
Thievery 13 (Merisiel) 0.9

Expected successes = 1.0+0.9+0.3+0.5+0.3+0.4+0.5+0.9=4.8

So an absolute worst group would on average expect to get 4.8 successes which is just about enough to make the adventure not go down in flames then and there. But averages don't tell the whole story; a somewhat more unlucky group could get stuck at 3 successes and no more retries, at which point the adventure just grinds to a halt.

---

Regarding the "at six successes the PCs are aware that they're done" while actually they aren't: I don't think that should be taken as evidence for either position, it's blatantly contradictory with the rest of the results table. I suspect it's an editing mistake, which has something to do with the civic permits also being available by talking with Igrigi. It looks like half-completed editing when that possibility was opened up later in editing as a fallback, or maybe the original writer's plan was to have the Igrigi meeting be the place where you get the permits and you're supposed to guess that because the VC tells you that he works in the permits department now. But visiting him is optional and thinking to ask him for the permits is very easily overlooked, so maybe that got changed to be a bit less hidden.

The whole latter half of the table is weird. What's the point of the de-animating gestures at 9 if you have already fought the statues at 4? To help deal with the CR 2 doll in the end fight? It smells a bit like it was a setup for a later encounter that didn't survive editing.

---

So, to conclude:

It's possible that each section is only intended to be searched once, and the scenario doesn't become impossible from it, but it does make it a lot harder. I still think it's more likely that you're supposed to let each PC search each section;
- That's the best explanation for the Aid Another text.
- If you assume the "they" is singular they then the whole text still makes sense.
- It's quite believable that multiple people searching the same disorganized library find different things.
- It makes the skill challenge an "easy and fun way to get to know the new system, that shows off that characters are versatile now" in an introductory scenario as opposed to "if you're very lucky you'll get primary success".


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
As a side note on the paralysis caused by the gelatinous cube. The paralysis has the Incapacitation trait, which means that if the PC is higher level than the ooze (yes, level 5 vs. CR 3) then you treat save results as one step better. So a failure on a fortitude save becomes a success. You need to roll a critical failure, downgraded to a normal failure, to be paralyzed in this situation.

Thanks for that explanation, Lau, none of us were aware of that rule. That would have made a difference in the final fight. Getting proficient in the new system is definitely a learning experience... :)


Lau Bannenberg wrote:
I don't think you can seat 7 people in this scenario, unless you're giving two people the same pregen which seems very undesirable.

Technically, there's nothing stopping two players from playing the exact same build, whether they are using Pregens or have improbably created the same exact character. But I agree that it's unlikely that this happens.

Quote:

I suspect it's an editing mistake, which has something to do with the civic permits also being available by talking with Igrigi. It looks like half-completed editing when that possibility was opened up later in editing as a fallback, or maybe the original writer's plan was to have the Igrigi meeting be the place where you get the permits and you're supposed to guess that because the VC tells you that he works in the permits department now. But visiting him is optional and thinking to ask him for the permits is very easily overlooked, so maybe that got changed to be a bit less hidden.

The whole latter half of the table is weird. What's the point of the de-animating gestures at 9 if you have already fought the statues at 4? To help deal with the CR 2 doll in the end fight? It smells a bit like it was a setup for a later encounter that didn't survive editing.

Perhaps more than other scenarios, this section of the scenario seems to be disjointed. I am inclined to agree with your suspicions regarding to the lack of cohesion.

Quote:
That is not enough evidence to convince me though, because I've seen the same thing happening in other scenarios where the number of PCs drastically upsets the difficulty of noncombat challenges.

I am not "convinced" about anything with regard to this section. Like you, I'm trying to make sense of the instructions, we just seem to be weighting the conflicting instructions differently.

Quote:
So an absolute worst group would on average expect to get 4.8 successes which is just about enough to make the adventure not go down in flames then and there. But averages don't tell the whole story; a somewhat more unlucky group could get stuck at 3 successes and no more retries, at which point the adventure just grinds to a halt.

I don't beleive that's correct. A party can track down the twins with 2 archive successes. The second clue from the archive leads to Durvin Gest/ Open Road. On the "streets of Quantium" a success in the search for Durvin Gest reveals the name of the Ohrlavis and that leads to the apothecary. As I believe you are correct about street searching being repeatable, 2 clues is sufficient to keep the scenario from grinding to a halt.

In addition, the second archive clue reveals records are missing. It is possible for the PCs to ask Sebnet who might have sold the records (since she says she doesn't remember it) and a GM could allow a low success team to learn about Igrgi.

Quote:
I went and looked at the pregens to get an impression of how many skill checks could be made if everyone can try every skill.

I didn't see you actually posted these results? I saw that you have "worst case" of 4.8 for once each section.

I've noticed that no one who has posted they allowed every PC to check every section has posted the results.

Quote:

So, to conclude:

It's possible that each section is only intended to be searched once, and the scenario doesn't become impossible from it, but it does make it a lot harder. I still think it's more likely that you're supposed to let each PC search each section;

I agree that it's possible that each section can be searched more than once. Even the "all the information" could apply to each individual PC. Emotionally, it doesn't matter one way or the other. My issue is that it's totally unfair to the players if GMs aren't doing it the same.

All the more reason Paizo needs to provide some clarity.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

Yeah I'm not saying you're provably wrong. The text is confusing and open to multiple interpretation. It would be good if Paizo or Ron Lundeen could tell us what's intended, because it makes for a notable difference in scenario difficulty.

Something went wrong with spoiler tags in my previous answer. The text is all there but badly formatted :/

As for results when allowing everyone to check:

The first time I had a 5 player table (no Amiri) and they all spread to different sections and rolled multiple crits, earning 8 successes in the first round.

The second time I had a 4 player table (no Amiri, no Fumbus) and they needed five rounds to get to 7 successes, but the last couple of rounds were mostly Ezren showing off that he's quite good at most of these skills; Kyra and Valeros tapped out after 2 and 3 rounds because using untrained skills they were more likely to critfail than to contribute.

Another strike against the "only once per section for everyone" theory is that it makes the optimal strategy to sideline most of the players. Kyra can't compete on Lore with Fumbus and Ezren, or on Athletics with Valeros and Amiri for example. And it seems that the whole point of using all these skills is to promote everyone getting involved. (Sure, letting Ezren do most of the challenge would take longer, but in the beginning there's no indication that time pressure exists, and library research is faster than compensating for it with on the town research. So there's also no good basis for OOC hints that they're doing it wrong, because they're not.)


Lau Bannenberg wrote:
Another strike against the "only once per section for everyone" theory is that it makes the optimal strategy to sideline most of the players.

That's simply not true.

1. Every single player can make a roll. Valeros two, Amiri two with confidence and attempt two others, etc.

2. The players don't know the DC so there's no reason why Amiri with a +7 in Nature and Survival couldn't/wouldn't attemp one.

3. It's an archive. There's no way everyone should expect to contribute as much as Ezren or Fumbus.

4. Ezren can make at most six of the nine attempts. The fact that it would take six hours to let him do them all is a clear indication that the authors want the players to be uncomfortable with this approach.

Quote:
Kyra can't compete on Lore with Fumbus and Ezren, or on Athletics with Valeros and Amiri for example.

If we did the rollls 400 times, that might be true. But you get one roll. There's every reason that Kyra can make those checks. And in my party, Kyra did make the Athletics check and Amiri made the Nature check.

Quote:
And it seems that the whole point of using all these skills is to promote everyone getting involved.

That's exactly what happened in our group, despite having both Fumbus and Ezren.

Quote:
(Sure, letting Ezren do most of the challenge would take longer, but in the beginning there's no indication that time pressure exists,

Then that's on the GM. I absolutely told the party that I am tracking time as soon as they got in the archive. As I said in a previous post, it's unfair for the scenario to do this when I haven't seen another scenario do this. Telling the players that the scenario tracks time is exactly the type of urgency that convinces the PCs to split up and let everyone contribute.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

N N 959 wrote:
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
Another strike against the "only once per section for everyone" theory is that it makes the optimal strategy to sideline most of the players.

That's simply not true.

1. Every single player can make a roll. Valeros two, Amiri two with confidence and attempt two others, etc.

2. The players don't know the DC so there's no reason why Amiri with a +7 in Nature and Survival couldn't/wouldn't attemp one.

3. It's an archive. There's no way everyone should expect to contribute as much as Ezren or Fumbus.

4. Ezren can make at most six of the nine attempts. The fact that it would take six hours to let him do them all is a clear indication that the authors want the players to be uncomfortable with this approach.

Ezren has a really solid skill line. In most parties he's the best at most of the skills:

Acrobatics 10 (14 Merisiel, otherwise 11 is best)
Arcana 13 (best)
Mercantile Lore 11 (best)
Nature 9 (best)
Surival 9 (best)
Athletics 7
Occultism 11 (best)
Society 13 (best together with Fumbus)

So he's best at 6, highly competitive at 1 and still viable contributor at the last.

It might make people uncomfortable if he's making almost all of the checks, and for me, that's a sign that that's a bad rules interpretation.

N N 959 wrote:
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
Kyra can't compete on Lore with Fumbus and Ezren, or on Athletics with Valeros and Amiri for example.
If we did the rollls 400 times, that might be true. But you get one roll. There's every reason that Kyra can make those checks. And in my party, Kyra did make the Athletics check and Amiri made the Nature check.

If only one person can try the check, and someone else is a lot better at it than you are, you shouldn't be using up that attempt. Just because it's worked once doesn't mean it was a good strategy.

N N 959 wrote:
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
And it seems that the whole point of using all these skills is to promote everyone getting involved.
That's exactly what happened in our group, despite having both Fumbus and Ezren.

So you started out by earlier in the thread by saying it's a really hard challenge, but then it turns out the players used really bad tactics given the rules as you understood them.

N N 959 wrote:
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
(Sure, letting Ezren do most of the challenge would take longer, but in the beginning there's no indication that time pressure exists,

Then that's on the GM. I absolutely told the party that I am tracking time as soon as they got in the archive. As I said in a previous post, it's unfair for the scenario to do this when I haven't seen another scenario do this. Telling the players that the scenario tracks time is exactly the type of urgency that convinces the PCs to split up and let everyone contribute.

It's a rather contrived timer. It's been months since they break in, but coincidentally the players arrive just on the right day to catch them before they perfect their machine. But you gotta GM with what you get I guess.

But earlier you talk about agency; but aren't you restricting agency just the same, if you're basically hurrying people through the archive, forcing them to use less-good PCs to attempt tasks that can only be attempted once? Since a lot of stuff is much easier in the archive than in the streets - you can't even really split up and search in multiple directions if you don't have enough info from the archive - then you're really hindering the party by hurrying them. Overall they might be slower because you used OOC hints to rush them. Isn't that also interfering with agency?


Lau Bannenberg wrote:
If only one person can try the check, and someone else is a lot better at it than you are, you shouldn't be using up that attempt. Just because it's worked once doesn't mean it was a good strategy.

It's a choice the players get to make. Worry about the the time counter or worry about penalty for failure. In reality, since you only need 2 success to get to the sewers and the timer is 30 hours, neither penalty is that great. So the difference between the optimal strategy and a sufficient strategy is minimal. The main difference is the amount of clues that they'll be facing oozes comes up. It comes up either way, just more opportunities for GMs to talk about oozes.

However, had I not read this thread, it would not have occurred to me to emphasize oozes one way or the other.

N N 959 wrote:
So you started out by earlier in the thread by saying it's a really hard challenge, but then it turns out the players used really bad tactics given the rules as you understood them.

They used bad tactics and got bad rolls and still got 4 total successes and triggered the combat encounter. That sounds to me like working as intended.

Quote:
It's a rather contrived timer. It's been months since they break in, but coincidentally the players arrive just on the right day to catch them before they perfect their machine

It's a TOTALLY contrived counter. That's exactly why I told the players upfront. There's no way anyone would think they were under any kind of time constraint whatsoever. Especially not from any IC clues. IMO, the real value of the timer is the psychological aspect it adds to the scenario. They only way you leverage that is to tell the players from the start. YMMV.

Quote:
But earlier you talk about agency; but aren't you restricting agency just the same, if you're basically hurrying people through the archive, forcing them to use less-good PCs to attempt tasks that can only be attempted once?

I didn't "force" or "hurry" them to do anything. I simply told them there is a counter and I kept them aware of the passing time. They had no idea what the time limit was or what might happen. When the GM tells players there is a time counter and they are told it takes an hour for each round of searching, the players make their own decisions.

Honestly, I think a time counter should be added to more scenarios, but I'm not going to pretend there is a counter when there isn't.


N N 959 wrote:
albadeon wrote:
I don't think a success when looking for information should give you the false information that you've learned all there is to found here.
It's not false if you read the instructions as only allowing one check per section.

I want to amend my answer here. If you were referring to the text after you find Six Successes, then I agree with you that it doesn't make any sense to tell them they've found all the information. I thought you were talking about what happens after any individual roll.

4/5 Venture-Agent, Massachusetts—Southcoast aka JDDyslexia

Curiosity: Is there supposed to be any scenario tags for this? I noticed they're not mentioned on the Table of Contents.


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Lau Bannenberg wrote:
....

Lau, as it turns out, I am thinking that your interpretation is probably the correct one. Why? Because the Primary Objective requires that the PCs find all four documents. Two of these documents are in the Archive and can only be found with six total successes. Based on my experience, I don't think the majority of parties get six successes if the party only gets one shot per section.

Given my game is PbP, I've decided to let the players go back and roll the sections as there is no reason they can't do this after the finding the Twins.

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