Running Season One Scenarios (for GMs – SPOILERS!)

[Based on reader feedback, I’m providing a bit more detail and spoilers for certain scenarios – hopefully this will help GMs select scenarios and prepare for them. As always, the GM Shared Prep is an invaluable resource for prep, and Pathfinderwiki gives additional detail and insight into the locations and people of Golarion. – Lamplighter]

Season One was the first season of the Pathfinder Society Organized Play campaign to use the Pathfinder RPG rules. No mechanical conversion is necessary to play these scenarios, unlike Season Zero which used the 3.5 rules. However, the Chronicles are the old style, without the out-of-tier gold calculations, and there are many Tier 1-7 scenarios which have three subtiers of stat blocks. Most importantly, there are many story issues to be aware of, since the meta-plot and factions had a very significant role in Season One.

In terms of prepping Season One scenarios, it can really help to know what subtier you’ll be playing in advance. With the Tier 1-7 scenarios, the wide range of potential levels means that the encounters can change radically from one subtier to another, with totally different creatures and tactics. If you use advance scheduling for games, this won’t be a problem, but the Tier 1-7 scenarios are some of the harder ones to prepare if you don’t know who will be at your table.

In every scenario, the five nation-based factions of Andoran, Cheliax, Osirion, Qadira, and Taldor had side missions for their respective faction members to perform. At the time, these faction missions were the way a character earned Prestige, and so they became the dominant focus of many players. Since prestige limited access to new gear, the system encouraged players to put their faction’s mission before the Society’s objective. Today, this is no longer an issue, since prestige is earned through the completion of the primary and secondary success conditions (listed in the free download “Secondary Success Conditions” available at However, the faction mission handouts often contain information which can help a party accomplish these goals, and so GMs should hand them out anyway. Even though there is no reward for completing them, it does provide players with more information about the game world, and allows players to decide how involved they wish to be with the meta-plot of their factions. Make sure you read them before handing them out, as some of them can raise issues with lawful- or good-aligned characters or those from particular homelands.

The major issue complicating Season One scenarios is the emergence of the Shadow Lodge. Several scenarios (especially the “City of Strangers” series, #1-51 The Shadow Gambit and #1-52 The Twofold Demise) center on uncovering evidence to prove the existence of the Shadow Lodge. This was a fine objective when the scenarios were new, but is almost pointless now – most players are aware of the existence of the Shadow Lodge, and may even have been members while it was a legal faction for players in Seasons Three and Four! Things have actually gotten easier now that the Shadow Lodge is no longer available as a player option. Still, these scenarios need to be dealt with carefully, but they have such a great setting and some epic NPCs and faction missions (“For Taldor!”) that you should definitely run them anyway.  One way to do so is to portray the Shadow Lodge as seen in City of Strangers as rogue members who never came back into the fold with Grandmaster Torch, or who left with him at the end of Season Four, depending on what your players already know. Another way is to suggest that this may be a re-emergence of a “shadow” Lodge within the Society; not the same group as the capital-S Shadow Lodge, but a shadowy group having a similar agenda. The surprise is gone, so instead play up the setting and intrigue aspects of these scenarios.

Also in Season One, we had the appearance of the first two parts of the four-part retirement arc, Eyes of the Ten. At the time, PFS play was capped at level 12 – once you hit level twelve you were retired. Eyes of the Ten was a special scenario for level 12 PCs, which would give them one last epic mission before actual retirement. It is a great series, and begins with one of the all-time best PFS scenarios ever written, the double-length Requiem for the Red Raven, scenario #1-46, by Paizo Publisher Erik Mona. Today, this is just one of many options Pathfinders have for high-level play; with the sanctioning of modules and Adventure Paths, plus Special scenarios which allow play above level 12, you can actually take your Pathfinder PC all the way to 19th level. Eyes of the Ten does give one of the coolest rewards in Society play at the end of all four scenarios, and so it is definitely worth playing, but to make the most of it you should plan it out.

Since Season One scenarios were designed for teams of four Pathfinder agents, playing them today with the typical party of six can make them somewhat easier than average. When running them for experienced players, try to run these scenarios with four players to provide an appropriate level of challenge. For Eyes of the Ten, you should definitely get to know your party. If they are very combat-orientated, run the series with a group of four for a much more memorable experience.

Here are very brief notes on Season One scenarios, flagging potential issues for GMs. (WARNING: SPOILERS!)

The Devil We Know series (Tier 1-7)– PFS #1-29 Shipyard Rats, #1-30 Cassomir’s Locker, #1-41 Crypt of Fools, #1-48 Rules of the SwiftWhat starts as a simple rescue of a kidnapped Pathfinder turns into a campaign against a cult of Groetus, a derro invasion from the Darklands, and a major betrayal. A four-part series, but NOT intended to be played back-to-back, as some time is assumed to pass between scenarios. The Devil We Know series defined the Aspis Consortium as the Society’s hated foe, and the NPCs in this scenario have been on the top of many players’ “hit list” for four years. The NPCs in question do finally return, in the Destiny of the Sands series (PFS #5-12, #5-15, #5-16), so running this series beforehand will make Destiny of the Sands even more meaningful.

1-31 Sniper in the Deep (Tier 5-9) – Features underwater combat and incorporeal foes, which are great equalizers for one-trick-pony PCs who can power attack through a typical dungeon by themselves.

1-32 Drow of the Darklands Pyramid (Tier 7-11) – Alas, the title gives away the major reveal of the scenario, that the Drow exist and are active in the world. Still a great scenario, with lots of interesting combats.

1-33 Assault on the Kingdom of the Impossible (Tier 1-5) – Our first visit to the Isle of Jalmaray, a rich culture based on distant Vudra. Features the death of a Venture-Captain and a chance to strike back at the Aspis Consortium.

1-34 Encounter at the Drowning Stones (Tier 7-11) – PCs race against the Aspis Consortium, this time into the Mwangi Expanse.

1-35 Voice in the Void (Tier 1-7) – We visit the Blakros Museum, where we learn the secret behind how the Blakros family amassed its collection of relics. This scenario is the background for many of the events which occurred during the Grand Convocation interactive scenario at PaizoCon 2012, and directly leads to PFS #4-10 The Blakros Matrimony. NOTE: This can be a deadly scenario, with the possibility of permanent death without the possibility of a body recovery, but very creepy and full of lore.

Echoes of the Everwar Series (Tier 7-11) –  1-36 The Prisoner of Skull Hill; 1-42 The Watcher of Ages; 1-44 Terror at Whistledown;  #1-53 The Faithless Dead – This four-part series takes high-level Pathfinders across Avistan and northern Garund, tracking a set of artifacts left over from the Chelish Everwar of 4305 A.R. PC’s will enter  an orcish stronghold in the Hold of Belkzen, search a collapsed outpost in Cheliax, visit the gnomes of Varisia, and end up in Sothis to put an end to the arc. Important note: Part 1, 2, & 3 can be played in any order, but Part 4 must be played last.

1-37 The Beggar’s Pearl (Tier 1-7) – A dungeon crawl into a dwarvish ruin in Andoran which has been taken over by nightmare fey. This scenario has a large map but only the standard number of encounters, which makes it tedious to play out for a group of miniature-and-map players; large parts are best handled via the “theatre of the mind” technique.

1-38 No Plunder, No Pay (Tier 7-11) – The Society tasks you to break a pirate out of a Chelish military prison in order to track down his lost cargo of artefacts. Note that lawful characters may have significant issues with completing this scenario in the typical way, and may wish to negotiate or resolve the situation diplomatically. Several of the faction missions likewise skirt the law. In these cases GMs are reminded to “reward creative solutions” as outlined in the Guide to Organized Play.

1-39 The Citadel of Flame (Tier 1-7) – Exploration of a newly-revealed shrine to an arch-devil in the deserts of Qadira. This scenario features a long cat-and-mouse encounter with an opponent who avoids going toe-to-toe with the party, and so it’s a good change of pace from more straightforward combats.

1-40 Hall of Drunken Heroes (Tier 7-11) – PCs delve under Cayden Cailean’s temple in Absalom, seeking a hidden archive of demonic lore and bound creatures. The scenario takes place at least partially in public, complicating matters for parties that are usually very direct in their approach. Once below, PCs find powerful demons working to free their leader from weakening shackles.

1-43 The Pallid Plague (Tier 1-7) – Written by now-Paizo-Developer Mark Moreland, this scenario is a challenging trip into Darkmoon Wood to help the nymph queen Syntira deal with a horrible disease. The fey of the forest and the Andoran Lumber Consortium are at odds, providing an interesting political aspect to the mission.

1-45 Delirium’s Tangle (Tier 1-5) – Grandmaster Torch cashes in a favour, sending Pathfinders on a quest to fix one of his botched missions. PCs descend into the sewers beneath Absalom to find a missing Minotaur prince, and find a trap-laden labyrinth guarded by fierce morlocks. Since Grandmaster Torch’s history with the PCs may be long and complicated, see the suggestions for running Season Zero scenarios for ideas on how to deal with Torch in this scenario.

Eyes of the Ten series (Seeker arc) #1-46 Requiem for the Red Raven; 1-54 The Maze of the Open Road– The first two of the level 12 arc for Seeker PCs. These should be run consecutively, with the same players and GM for the entire series. The PCs should have enough of the back story to appreciate the scenarios; ideally, before a PC plays Eyes, they will have played 0-04 Frozen Fingers of Midnight, 0-07 Among the Living, both parts of the aforementioned City of Strangers series, and several of the following scenarios: 0-01 Silent Tide, 0-03 Murder on the Silken Caravan, 0-05 Mists of Mwangi, 0-17 Perils of the Pirate Pact, 1-35 Voice in the Void, 1-31 Sniper in the Deep, 0-20 King Xeros of Old Azlant, 0-22 Fingerprints of the Fiend, 0-26 Lost at Bitter End, 1-38 No Plunder, No Pay. This is supposed to be a special event for players, and so GMs are encouraged to pull out all the stops for this series. More tips for GMs prepping Eyes will be covered in a separate article.

1-47 The Darkest Vengeance (Tier 1-7) – Set in Ustalav, the PCs are sent to deliver transfer papers to Venture-Captain Skeldon Miregold, who is being relieved of command of the Karcau Lodge. This scenario features some great encounters, with heavy use of the Bluff skill and Will saves versus charm effects. The last combat is extremely deadly, and likely to kill several PCs in almost any tier-appropriate situation. There is also a complicated device which must be operated during a particularly deadly combat in supernatural darkness. Ensure you are well-versed in the rules on light and darkness before running this one.

1-49 Among the Dead (Tier 1-7) – Sequel to PFS #0-07 Among the Living, the PCs track the same cult to their headquarters with orders to wipe them out. This scenario contains a lot of traps, and so benefits from party members with good Perception skills, trapfinding, or LOTS of hit points. While there is a sidebar with suggestions on how to adapt for a party which can’t deal with traps, this scenario is also a good lesson in the virtue of versatility. The hideout is also a desecrated temple of Sarenrae, giving any worshippers of the Dawnflower a great chance for righteous indignation.

1-50 Fortune’s Blight (Tier 5-9) – Set in the River Kingdoms, the PCs must retrieve a magical weapon from a coven of hags. Lots of charms and curses appear in this scenario, as well as flying creatures which can spell doom for those unable to fly or fight at range. PCs may have to fight their Society allies, and will pay the price should they kill another Pathfinder.

The City of Strangers Series (Tier 1-7): #1-51 The Shadow Gambit;  #1-52 The Twofold Demise – These back-to-back scenarios set in Kaer Maga should be run sequentially (the PC’s don’t even leave the city between scenarios). This is a great series, with some really memorable events. The NPC contact “Ms. Feathers” is one of the most memorable NPCs in any scenario, and we will meet her again when we visit Kaer Maga in PFS #4-10 Feast of Sigils and PFS #5-18 The Stranger Within. Make sure to describe the city’s inhabitants, using material from the Paizo Campaign Setting book, City of Strangers. Things like the Troll augurs and the walking dead of Ankar-Te will stick with your players for a long time. Faction note: In these scenarios there is a “challenging” faction mission for Andoran players (and by extension, Silver Crusade players, who use Andoran faction missions) . These agents are asked to kill a fellow Pathfinder, without due process of law, based solely on their faction head’s say-so that he is evil . This can cause problems with various codes of conduct and other party members.  The simplest solution is for the players to ignore this unreasonable request (which is easier now that there is no loss of prestige for doing so). You should suggest this option to players who are having issues with the ethics of the mission. The Pathfinder Campaign Setting book City of Strangers provides rich detail for running these two scenarios, providing a window into one of the most memorable locations on Golarion.

1-55 The Infernal Vault (Tier 1-7) – A delve into a well-guarded family vault beneath Absalom. PCs will face fiends, traps, and optimized NPC foes before finally facing the powerful caster in her lair.

1-56 The Jester’s Fraud (Tier 5-9) – Master of Spells Aram Zey sends agents to Taldor to barter for some ancient relics, and discover that they have been stolen. The PCs track the thief across Taldor to a ruined keep where the jester reveals his true colours.


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