To say The Price of Friendship is a problematic scenario would be generous.
Fresh from their adventures in the Sky Citadel of Janderhoff, the players are intercepted by venture captain Canayven Heidmarch. He relays that the Pathfinder Society aims to delve into the dwarven ruins of Koldukar in order to discern the location of another long lost Sky Citadel.
There’s only one problem: Koldukar rests in hostile territory, underneath the orcish city of Urgir. The players are tasked with finding a guide that can lead them to the dwarven ruins safely. Canayven has a particular individual in mind, an orc named Gulros who shares a storied history with the society. Gulros may be found in Urglin, a city on the fringe of orcish territory.
The premise of The Price of Friendship is irritatingly convoluted. The scenario’s opening flavour text is so dense with lore and geography that I can’t imagine anyone comprehending it on first read. Having two orcish cities with practically the same name compounds the problem, as well as mentioning three Sky Citadels in the same breath.
The forfeiture of dwarven lore for orcish lore is also a jarring choice. I can appreciate the author’s desire for variety in the Glories of the Past trilogy, but the expedition into Urglin (and the subsequent Bulette hunt) comes entirely out of left field.
It makes the whole adventure feel like an exalted side quest.
Tracking down Gulros in orcish territory proves mechanically irksome. The first act involves a series of diplomacy and local knowledge checks in Urglin in order to learn more about an incident involving Gulros, a former Pathfinder, and the local coliseum. These skill checks are mandatory to progress in the scenario, have no time limit, and can be repeated as many times as the players desire.
In short, they are pointless.
Furthermore, the information gleaned from these checks is meandering. Some of the NPCs offer rumours that prove to be half-truths. Others, anecdotes that are entirely inconsequential. The intention is obviously for the party to perform detective work, but the individual stories don’t hang together well enough to make this feasible.
The end result is a lot of stumbling around until the game master throws the party a bone.
Although these narrative bits are ill-conceived, the environmental encounters are what really sink the scenario.
The second act of The Price of Friendship thrusts the Pathfinders into the Cinderlands, a harsh wasteland buffeted by natural disasters on an hourly basis. These range from duststorms, to emberstorms, to methane seep rockfires – all of which can shave dozens (if not hundreds) of points off the party’s collective health pool.
High survival checks can mitigate the damage to a degree, but no amount of ingenuity allows the party to shield themselves entirely. These hazards are a deliberate, brutally efficient, and entirely unwarranted resource sinkhole and nothing more.
I have never seen a table of players look so unamused as they tick charges of their wands of cure light wounds.
There’s little to nothing to say about the combat encounters in this scenario. Every monster is a big bulky melee mook, and every one of them is ridiculously easy to neuter. Throw a save-or-suck their way and they crumple.
My bulette was blinded, and my ettin fell into a pit. Good fun.
The sole part of The Price of Friendship I enjoyed is roleplaying Ploog, the proprietor of the coliseum. He is a crafty villain that keeps the players on their toes, and there are serious consequences if the players attempts to intimidate him or shake him down. Watching the table react to his ridiculous demands is an absolute joy.
It’s a shame he resides in such a hole of an adventure. The Price of Friendship is one of the worst scenarios of the season, and maybe one of the worst ever published for organized play. The story is clumsy, the monsters are pushovers, and the unavoidable environmental damage is sure to infuriate everyone at your table. Avoid this one at all costs.