PFS(2) 1-09 Star-Crossed Voyages


GM Discussion

Grand Lodge 5/5 ****

We had a very enjoyable evening yesterday when I ran this the first time. But I had a few questions how to run certain situations. The most crucial one that would benefit from a clarification is encounter D.

Encounter A: The sea devils target lightly armoured foes first and fight to the death. That one is clear. Also it should be clear where the PCs are - just let them move to wherever they want to be.

But this makes positioning of the sea devils / their tactics crucial. Do you start with them 10/20 feet away - using their spears? How many do they have? Do you start with them climbing up the ship and boarding it / already on board as this is what they just did ahead of initiative?
The ship is 120 feet long. So it makes a huge difference where you start with the sea devils - especially if some players are in front of the ship and some in the back.

Encounter B: The sod hounds go for the closest enemy - preferring enemies with metal weapons / metal armour. Positioning at the start of initiative again makes a difference - but less so as in encounter B. The map looks like difficult terrain - but it isn't mentioned and this is the village - so I assume it isn't difficult terrain. I allowed one of the sod hounds to burrow - more for roleplay / show they can do it.

Encounter C: Check if the group has anyone who understands Mwangi or Iruxi as a language. If not then Lumki will only be able to gesture / point to the group. My group actually enjoyed it. I described her pointing in direction a, shake her head, make faces, wave etc. So there was never a problem to get lost if they followed her / went into the direction she pointed to - but keep this in mind ahead of the encounter. The boggards do speak common - so the group has no problems to chat with them. This encounter was straight forward - they first gave food but then chased them away (intimidate).

Encounter D: The group never got the clues from Lumki when she pointed towards the log and the other side of the river to use it as a bridge that can be moved. They (and me) also missed the option to use a feather token ladder as alternative to the log.

Jumping the river clearly is not intended. That leads to issues going deep into how jump works. It is autofail if you don't have a 10 foot stride (remember difficult terrain - making distance/speed an issue). But failure on a jump check means you still Leap normally. So even from standing start this is a 10 foot leap? What about landing in this case? An 'auto success through failure' on a jump seems to cheapen the whole encounter and seems to go against the intention of the writer.
Neither the landing square nor the square you start is 100% land - but how to you deal with a 80% land / 20% water square? This really would benefit from a clarification / from a discussion how to handle this fairly across groups. Keep in mind the group also gets penalized jumping as they likely never spot the 2 treasure bundles.

Arriving at the guidepost with Lumki:
Do you allow players who use search or detect magic while with Lumki to discover the satchel with potions (Detect Magic) and the Hidden Door (Search). It feels wrong to penalize the group not allowing these if they are with Lumki. See also Encounter E why this is of importance.
This seems less of an issue now as I realized you don't miss a treasure bundle (just some potions) and that likely just the double doors are locked. In a quick read you find treasure and assume it must be a bundle ...

Encounter Area E:
There is also a door (window?) on the East side that isn't mentioned. Should this be a window? I have to admit I must have misinterpreted the sentence 'The doors remain resolutely shut despite attempts to open them;'. I applied it to ALL doors leading into the observatory as it uses the plural doors not door and appears straight after describing all entrances. Reading it again I feel it seems only to mean the double doors and the plural doesn't cover the small doors in the North and South. This part had me puzzled as I couldn't find any unblocked entrance apart of the tunnel - which you possibly can't find if you are with Lumki.

So running it again I will rule you can come from the South or North through small doors - break down the double doors (difficult / noisy) and the East is a window climb needed - or you get in via the tunnel - you need someone to search while coming from the guide post. Lumki will suggest not to use the tunnel - but will follow part decision.

Everything else in E is pretty standard dungeon crawl / fights.

I still can't judge how difficult it is to take down Paravaax. My group couldn't scratch Paravaax in the first round but then the rogue did two crits while flanking to take off half the HP and the ranger critted in the end with his hunters shot that also added deadly - making all the difference between a hit absorbed by the damage reduction and doing considerable damage to take him down.

Paravaax could be a real problem if a group gets just bumped up to next tier. I played him after round one as gloating - you can't hit me - don't you want to reconsider and hand over the juicy Iruxi before you are dead as well?

I will reread the scenario to see if there is anything I missed. As always - having played it before GMing or GMing it a second time always helps.

2/5 5/5 ***** Venture-Captain, Massachusetts—Boston

For the log/river challenge, is it intended that after crossing to the center island and moving the log, that's it's automatic to cross, or do we repeat the balance challenge? Seems like repeating makes sense, but isn't called out, and might be repetitive.

(Of course the jump question from the OP looks important too)

Shadow Lodge 5/5 5/55/5 *** Venture-Lieutenant, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

Do wayfinders count as magnetic compases or is there magic keeping them accurate?

The Exchange 5/5

James Anderson wrote:
Do wayfinders count as magnetic compases or is there magic keeping them accurate?

Yes, wayfinders count as magnetic compasses. However, you need a compass in order to make a Sense Direction check without penalty (i.e. without a compass you suffer a -2 penalty.) That said, I would give a wayfinder user a +1 item bonus for the Sense Direction check similar to a lensatic compass. The GP cost of a wayfinder is more than that of a lensatic compass which grants a similar bonus, but a lensatic compass is a higher level item, so YMMV.

Grand Lodge 5/5 ****

NielsenE wrote:

For the log/river challenge, is it intended that after crossing to the center island and moving the log, that's it's automatic to cross, or do we repeat the balance challenge? Seems like repeating makes sense, but isn't called out, and might be repetitive.

(Of course the jump question from the OP looks important too)

Very good question. I did impose another check. My group never got the idea of using a rope. Instead one spell caster used prestidigitation to clean off the moss.

There is one alternative in the scenario to get across without a check: trek down until you reach the bottom of the waterfall. So a group not wanting to risk (and without any ideas) could be nudged to look for an alternative (at the cost of 2 treasure bundles of course).

5/55/55/55/5 ***** Venture-Captain, Washington—Seattle

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Thod wrote:
using their spears? How many do they have?

See the word 'spear' in the Items line of the stat block. This means each Sea Devil Scout only has one throwing spear (in addition to their melee longspear).

For a contrasting example where multiples of a throwing weapon are available, see the Boggard Warrior stat block where the Items line says 'javelin (3)'.

1/5 ** Venture-Agent, Online—PbP

Does anyone else find it odd that the lower sub-tier receives lesser healing potions and the higher sub-tier receives lesser elixirs of life?

This happens twice during the scenario.

I noticed it the first time I ran it and thought it odd. Now I am preparing to run it again and came here to check if there was anything about it.

2/5 ***

numbat1 wrote:

Does anyone else find it odd that the lower sub-tier receives lesser healing potions and the higher sub-tier receives lesser elixirs of life?

This happens twice during the scenario.

I noticed it the first time I ran it and thought it odd. Now I am preparing to run it again and came here to check if there was anything about it.

That seems to be correct. The lesser healing potion is listed as a level 3 consumable in the CRB, while the lesser elixir of life is a level 5 consumable, which perfectly aligns with the lower ends of the respective tiers of the adventure-

2/5 ***

I GMed this adventure today in high tier for a group of 6 (5/5/5/5/5/4, so 23 CP), comprising of three fighters, one cleric of Nethys, one rogue and one druid. While preparing / playing, I noticed quite a few issues. Some have already been listed here, others not, so I will just post the complete list, as copied from me review:

First of all, there is mention of Parvaaxes influence making the compasses go haywire. Is that the same as his aura? If so, do the penalties (Clumsy 2) apply for the whole adventure? The dude can extend his aura to up to 100 miles. Did he do that? Or did he just leave it at 30 feet?

Then, while we are at the aura, what does "wearing metal" mean? Are only people in metal armor affected? Or anyone wearing any kind of metal on their body?

OK, back to the beginning of the adventure: What happens if the players go into the water to fight the Sea Devils? Animal Form and Waterwalk were both available in my group, but there is no mention if the damage the ship takes is from the sea devils and could be prevented (thus possibly completely missing the adventure) or if the have sharks with them, etc.

Then they come to shore and have to talk to the Iruxi. All good and well, but the languages listed are Iruxi and Mwangi. Is Mwangi the same as Polyglot? The Core Rulebook lists Mwangi as a language, the player basics list Polyglot. Probably the same language, but we missed that while playing and so the ship's Iruxi was needed to translate. It struck us as strange that he could not be taking along as a translator later as well, making the interactions with Lumki fun and weird on the one hand, but very limited on the other. A lot of things in the observatory just weren't understood by the characters since Lumki couldn't tell them about it. And that was a missed opportunity in some cases.

Then there was the second encounter. The sod hounds. On a giant map, that shows neither a village, nor a shore. And no indication as to where players and creatures should be positioned. Weird for a map of that size. And weird map, by the way. That doesn't look like a natural jungle to me. But back to the encounter itself:
For high tier, there are conflicting numbers: 3 are listed on page 8, 4 on page 28. Which one is correct? The encounter is listed as moderate, which would indicate 2, which doesn't fit either number. Also, the Creatures are listed as level 4 on page 8, with a perception of +11 and level 5 with perception of +12 on page 28. Furthermore, page 8 says one can find them on page 27, not 28. There seems to have been some serious editing mistakes here!

Since we tend to run long, I skipped the optional encounter. But looking at the stats, it would have been a walk in the park anyways and wouldn't have offered any interesting texture to the adventure, either.

The skill challenge in Area D was another thing that is absolutely baffling - there is nothing to prevent the players from just using the basic action "leap" to reach the island and then continue to the other shore. Also, there wouldn't even be enough room on the island for 6 characters plus Lumki, so the suggested tactic of the adventure wouldn't even work!
We decided that the map actually shows 10' squares, which solved both issues at once, and continued with the challenge as it was probably intended.

Reaching the observatory included another weird thing: The adventure states that if you have Lumki with you, you just get there. So, do the players miss the chance to find the potions and the trap door? Or does Lumki just prevent them from having to pass the survival check?

Now we were finally at the observatory and the first encounter were some Mephits. Straight forward fight, but why do they have fast healing listed there? That was the point were I realised that Parvaaxes aura probably is extended at least somewhat and decided, that the observatory was completely under the influence of the aura. But I have no idea if that is correct or if the aura should have affected the characters all along (see above).

The players proceeded to the Summoning Pool. None of them had the earth trait, so it wasn't possible to activate the pool there. But there is no guarantee that players at some point won't have access to that trait and then might be able to activate it. Yet the adventure does just state that the summoned creature is not under the control of the summoner, not what it would do. Or for simplicities sake just state that it was already used that day, completely circumventing the issue.

Finally, the players reached the main chamber and Parvaax was roused from his slumber. He delivered his offer to just eat Lumki and leave. And I have several issues with that offer:

1. The adventure states that Lumki is shocked by that offer. But she and the Gargoyle don't share any language. So how could she have understood it in the first place?
2. Why does the adventure waste so much space on what happens if the players actually take that offer? Who would ever do that? They would gain Infamy, and thus would have to be warned about getting Infamy according to the rules of PFS. Which group would then still go ahead and take the offer? That just baffles me!

Oh, and last and probably least: Did I say finally above? Yes I did, and the fight with Parvaax SHOULD be the final encounter. But regardless of the way you took in, there is still a room with mephits left to kill. And if you took the normal way, not the secret door, there are even treasure bundles yet to be found. There shouldn't be any minor fights to fight after the climactic battle. That just felt off!

Wow, that was a bit more than I wanted to write, but the adventure had so many things that just felt wrong or weird, that I had to put that frustration somewhere...

1/5 5/55/5 ** Venture-Agent, Online—VTT

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I had a player a offer to have their 3rd level character eaten in the Iruxi's place, bargaining with the gargoyle. I figure that should not gain the infamy or Iruxi Bane boon.

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

The high tier appendix lists the encounter with the greater sod metallic hounds as 4 level 5 creatures, whereas the main scenario text lists it as 3 level 4 creatures.

Since it's listed as a Moderate encounter, 3x L4 seems appropriate. The statblock looks a lot like a level 5 creature though (note the to-hit and damage, AC, perception; but lower HP than the Bestiary L5 "living landslide").

3x L4 or 4x L5 seems like a big difference!

2/5 ***

Lau Bannenberg wrote:
Quote:

The high tier appendix lists the encounter with the greater sod metallic hounds as 4 level 5 creatures, whereas the main scenario text lists it as 3 level 4 creatures.

Since it's listed as a Moderate encounter, 3x L4 seems appropriate. The statblock looks a lot like a level 5 creature though (note the to-hit and damage, AC, perception; but lower HP than the Bestiary L5 "living landslide").

3x L4 or 4x L5 seems like a big difference!

And it indeed is. I noticed that during the encounter and had one of the sod hounds leave, so ended up somewhere between the two. With the additional hound, a TPK or at least character deaths would have been likely, since at the end of the fight, many people were dying or at wounded 2+

2/5 ***

HammerJack wrote:
I had a player a offer to have their 3rd level character eaten in the Iruxi's place, bargaining with the gargoyle. I figure that should not gain the infamy or Iruxi Bane boon.

Did the group go through with this? And no, infamy would not apply here since it was the decision of the character itself that would get him killed, not any kind of sacrifice by the others.

Also, the condition to get one or the other boon is wether Lumki was sacrificed, so sacrificing someone else doesn't matter for that.

1/5 5/55/5 ** Venture-Agent, Online—VTT

Other players did interfere.

* Venture-Agent, Minnesota—Roseville

I like the idea of having the river crossing map represent 10-ft squares! As printed the entire thing is trivialized - a character with 30-ft speed, which is going to be common in groups of 3rd level or higher because Fleet, can standard Leap 15-ft without a check which just jumps the river. At that point, this isn't an encounter, it's just one of the assumed-to-be-done things happening in the background of Exploration mode.

I still think even at 10-ft though the challenge is trivial if PCs that can simply Leap 15-ft just jump to the island and then to the other side and skip the whole log thing. I'm going to combine this with saying the shore of the middle island and other side of the river is slightly elevated - not impossible to jump but it would require an Athletics check regardless.

Without modifying this, I would be loathe to bother running my players through it. They're playing to overcome heroic challenges, not to risk falling into a river dependent on whether they remember the Leap rules, and I'd have a hard time believing the characters would not be aware of how far they can jump and simply know they could easily jump across (at which point, why lay down a map and waste time running through this?)

* Venture-Agent, Minnesota—Roseville

Ran this last night. As had been mentioned above, the high-tier version of this is a mess. I'm really glad I read this thread before I ran it, as I was able to address a few of the things ahead of time to try and keep everything running smoothly.

The initial fight on the boat was a breeze. The enemies just have such low AC and HP for this level that they get crit to death super fast.

The second fight with the sod hounds I went ahead and followed the encounter as written in the back, which put them up against 5 of the things (they were a 24 CP party). Honestly this was one of the most fun and epic fights I've run - I only wish the hounds had a few more fun abilities to play with than they do. My general gameplan was to see if this was legit or a typo (if it seemed ridiculously unfair, I wasn't going to tpk them), but the party won anyways. I just put the party on the map and had the sod hounds burst out of the ground around them, since that seemed to be the obvious benefit of their burrow powers.

The journey to the Observatory was beyond trivial. I beefed up the river crossing encounter as discussed above, but the party simply used a ladder one of them had and that was that.

Since they brought Lumki along (who says no to this?) the exploration section is simply removed and you just arrive there. The Observatory itself is not well designed, as it has five separate rooms but the most obvious path just leads you right into the boss encounter, and once the boss is defeated there's no reason to bother having the party search room by room as there are no other encounters (Paravaax's minions all flee if he falls).

The Paravaax encounter was pretty trivial. He has almost no interesting abilities and his attacks hit for less damage than the Sod Hounds did. It's one of those gimmick fights where if your party gets around the Resistance he just melts because he doesn't have that many HP for this level. Basically he just got bombarded with magic and it was over. On the flip side, I could see this being a terribly difficult fight if a party didn't have a lot of magic damage and had a bunch of melee types - Paravaax could just swoop down, bite someone, then fly back up. Non-magical ranged attacks would do very little to him. This would almost certainly be a NPE though, although I'm tempted to say that by this level if your only gameplan was that you beat everything by running at it and swinging a pick then maybe you ought to sometimes fight something that flies 15 feet above you and doesn't just let you beat down on it, and maybe consider having a backup plan to fight such things.

Overall, nearly half the pages of this scenario are devoted to handle situations that will occur in roughly 0.1% of sessions running this. The river crossing spends way too much time discussing players falling into the river and what happens then, but doesn't stop to consider if players even stand a chance of falling in and making the encounter interesting in the first place. Finding the Observatory has a full page devoted to covering the details of an Exploration that doesn't happen. I would be honestly blown away if any party ever sacrificed Lumki - a blatantly evil act when evil characters aren't allowed in the first place. There's more written to describe what happens if you follow that branch (which again, will never happen) than is put into the aftermath of the 99.9% solution of killing Paravaax.

How I'd recommend improving this scenario:

Apply the effect of Paravaax's aura as written for the gargoyle for the entirety of the scenario. As long as he's in stone form it affects everything in 100 miles, so metal users get penalties, and this sets Paravaax up to be a major threat right from the start.

Sea Devils could be beefed up slightly for 5-6, I'd buff their ACs by 2 and give them 10 more HP each.

Sod hound encounter simply needs a bit more guidance on how the encounter is intended to go. I wish the sod hounds had a bit more they could do than just a single melee attack and Knockdown. The burrowing makes for some interesting tactical options.

Have the village offer to lend party members non-metal weapons and armor if they want it.

Get rid of Lumki, and get rid of the River Crossing. Have the party do the exploration.

In the observatory, there should be something the party needs to do before Paravaax engages with them - something that involves exploring the building first. Perhaps there's some text about how to shut down the summoning pool in the corner room on the other side from where the summoning pool room is. When the party goes to shut down the summoning pool, the gargoyle descends to stop them.

The gargoyle should have more HP and less resistance. It'd be nice if he had a few interesting abilities befitting a boss fight beyond just a passive aura, an AOO, and some relatively weak melee attacks (this level 7 creature hits for less than many level 5 creatures). He's on the weaker end of level 7, and based on the encounter budgeting rules, as written this winds up being a Low-to-Moderate encounter when it's intended to be Moderate-to-Severe as would befit a final boss that has had this much buildup. I'll grant that if this was run with a four-person party it'd be Moderate, but I think the issue has to do with the scaling rules simply not working very well as adjusting difficulty. There needs to be more than just "boss gets a few extra HP and throw in some fodder".

EX: For six level 5s you'd have a 120 XP budget to make this moderate, or 180 XP for severe. As written Paravaax is 80 XP and the extra level 4 you throw in through scaling is another 30 XP, making this not even a Moderate encounter.

It gets worse if this was six level 6s running, as even with the scaling this shifts down to a Low encounter.

***

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Someone else has already brought up the problem with the number of sod hounds in that encounter. I'm a new-ish GM who has been hesitant to register my home game PFS sessions because the language in the GM guide (http://www.organizedplayfoundation.org/encyclopedia/pathfinder-2-0-gm-basi cs/) seems to prevent GMs from resolving problems like this in the scenario text or game rules (which come up often due to editing issues):

"Scenarios are meant to be run as written, with no addition or subtraction to the number of monsters"

"As a Pathfinder Society GM, you have the right and responsibility to make whatever judgments, within the rules, that you feel are necessary at your table to ensure everyone has a fair and fun experience. This does not mean you can contradict rules or restrictions outlined in this document, a published Pathfinder source, errata document, or official FAQ on paizo.com."

"GMs may not change the mechanics of encounters. Specifically, for combat encounters, the mechanics include the creatures presented, the number of opponents in the encounter, and the information written into the stat blocks for those opponents. If an encounter is a trap, haunt, or skill check that needs to be achieved to bypass a situation then the listed DCs and results are not to be altered, as they are the mechanics of that encounter." (emphasis added)

These passages seem overly restrictive to me, preventing GMs from fixing problems in the scenario text or CRB because they can't "contradict" a published source nor change "mechanics", and explicitly says you can't "contradict" the GM guide itself. In the thread asking for feedback on the PFS Guide, I suggested that these passages should have an authorization for GMs to resolve errors, typos, and contradictions, or simply add a "to the greatest extent possible" clause; I was told that my reading was too restrictive and I should come here for advice.

So: How do PFS GMs interpret those passages? What do they mean to you? To me, they are a clear and explicit command to follow the scenario mechanical elements as written, which in this case means obeying "the number of sod hounds is 3" and "the number of sod hounds is 4", which is impossible.

I know how to make a choice to resolve such contradictions or problems. My question is whether doing so is consistent with the PFS Guide and how GMs treat the language in the guide. Implicitly: Does the language in the Guide matter?

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

David Nadler wrote:

The Observatory itself is not well designed, as it has five separate rooms but the most obvious path just leads you right into the boss encounter, and once the boss is defeated there's no reason to bother having the party search room by room as there are no other encounters (Paravaax's minions all flee if he falls).

Could you elaborate on that? The most likely entrance is through the south, which takes you through the E1 encounter area, or the hidden entrance in the north, which takes you by E4. The western set of stairs are completely blocked by a giant set of fused bronze doors, so the most likely situation is that you should usually be passing through one of the mephit areas before you encounter the boss.

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

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I think what David meant is that of the two mephit encounters, one of them is likely to be invalidated because you run into the boss first.

Shadow Lodge 4/5 ** Venture-Captain, Michigan—Mt. Pleasant

That boss encounter also says once he's defeated his minions flee. I figured that was good for the mephits you hadn't fought yet too.

Sczarni 5/5 5/55/5 ***

Thanks to everyone for summing up their criticisms here. Reading this thread really helped me prepare a smooth run and describe how and why all of the encounters were linked.

For people consulting this thread in the future, I would also recommend reading the two Pathfinder Tales with Mirian Raas and Jekka (Beyond the Pool of Stars and Through the Gate in the Sea). I read them when Iruxi were first announced as an ancestry and I used the preliminary ship voyage to really flush out the NPCs for the players.

My group consisted of a Druid-5, Cleric-4, Wizard-4 and a Champion-3 (of Hei Feng). Notably, 3 of these PCs had Electric Arc, and the Champion had charged javelin, so electricity was definitely the MVP of tonight's tactics. All of the lesser mephits popped like popcorn with their +3 Reflex, and by round 2 Paravaax had fallen to half a dozen electric arcs, a fireball and a spiritual weapon.

The Druid always brings a feather token ladder with him, so I was worried they might not find the treasure bundles in the log. But the Champion was a Tengu, so I had Lumki puff out her chest and point to their taloned feat as clearly superior to those of the two elves and gnome. They got the idea that crossing the log might have been a way to "impress" her, and the champion was able to find the sapphires while doing so.

They didn't find the secret hatch, but I described the building as a crumbling ruin, so they likewise took the message to heart that maybe inspecting the outlying rooms before venturing to the middle was wise. They encountered all of the mephits in doing so, but as I said, those encounters were trivial to their tactics.

I will add to the pile of critiques, though:

Getting Started wrote:
Mirian Raas (NG female human Pathfinder; art on page 38) has put out a call...

I love Mirian. My -2002 was inspired off of her. But to save future GMs on ink, I recommend against including a half-page image of an NPC and a full page image. It would cut down on editing and page count if you just used the full art in the back.

Other than that, really fun scenario. I'm following it up with Star-Crossed Court next week, and am looking forward to having them meet up with Lumki again ^_^

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