This review is based off of playing the scenario at Subtier 3-4 and then reading it after. The Devil We Know Part I: Shipyard Rats is the first in a small series of linked PFS scenarios. Overall, I found it a fairly average scenario that definitely leans more in the combat/combat/combat direction, with only a little role-playing or decision-making. It’s not a bad scenario, just limited in what it offers.
The scenario is premised on a fairly elaborate backstory, most of which the players probably won’t learn. It has to do with a man named Dalirio Teppish, a member of a disgraced Taldan noble family who turned to worshipping Groetus, the God of End Times. Dalirio has set forth several schemes of revenge against Taldor for his family's disgrace, one of which involves a plan to kidnap sailors, dockworkers, admirals, and others in order to cripple the country’s vaunted navy (one of its few respected institutions), thus speeding its collapse. However, a member of the Pathfinder Society named Cestis was attending a secret auction of relics held in the shipyards when it was raided by Dailiro’s agents. Cestis was kidnapped, as was almost everyone else in attendance, including a member of the Aspis Consortium. The lone escapee was the Aspis agent’s assistant, Kafar, who saw where the victims were taken. The PCs are tasked with allying with Themis and freeing the prisoners.
From the start, we get an interesting twist in that the Pathfinder Society is forced to work *with* its natural enemies, the Aspis Consortium. I don’t think this angle is exploited as well as it could be, but it’s always good to change up expectations sometimes.
The first encounter takes place at the Inn of the Unlucky Sailor, the place Themis says the victims were taken. The location is guarded by Dalirio’s fellow cultists, including evil druids and their dire rat or rat swarm buddies (depending on subtier). It’s a solid first encounter, though it would have been more interesting as a “race against time” to save some of the victims from being murdered, or as a “hostage negotiation” scenario. Anyway, once the enemies are defeated, the PCs learn that the Aspis agent and most of the other kidnaping victims are there, but that the Pathfinder Society member, Cestis, has been taken elsewhere, to a ship called the Prancing Prince.
The second encounter is again average. It puts the Ship flip-mat to good use (with a quibble that one of the locations discussed in the scenario, the bilge, isn’t labelled). When the PCs drop down into the cargo hold, they’re ambushed by more cultists: half-orc monks! An odd choice that the players probably will wonder about. Cestis, as this scenario’s MacGuffin, is still not present.
I really liked the third encounter because it plays with the expectation players have of always having a discrete location (and timeframe) set aside for each encounter. As the PCs are dilly-dallying aboard the ship after the battle against the monks (searching for treasure, interrogating other victims, etc.), they’re likely to be surprised by Dalirio’s sometime flame (another cleric of Groetus) and her undead minions. It’s a fun set up because the PCs may be scattered around various decks of the ship, and they get a chance to “repel boarders!” On the dead/captured cleric’s body is a note giving directions to a warehouse in the shipyards. Kidnappers always keep the address where their victims are being kept, don’t you know?
After a laughably easy battle against some CR ½ thugs (at least at Subtiers 1-2 and 3-4), the PCs can bust into the warehouse. There, in a hidden basement, they find the cult’s lair and confront Dalirio and his minions. As the “big bad” of the scenario, he’s kind of a pushover. On the other hand, if the PC have kept up a steady pace and haven’t stopped to rest and heal, they may be a bit worn down by this point. Again, we have a solid but unspectacular encounter.
By way of conclusion, the PCs will find Cestis, but also hear hints that strange creatures from below the city were buying captives from Dalirio. Presumably, that leads into the next part of the series.
Overall, The Devil We Know Part I: Shipyard Rats strikes me as perfectly average. The encounters are varied enough and there’s an interesting backstory, even if the plot is a typical railroad. It’s also rather forgettable, as I could barely remember much of it a few months after playing it and had to refresh my recollection by reading the scenario! I wouldn’t put this high on the list unless you needed a very straightforward scenario to run that won’t tax anyone's mind.