Pathfinder Module: Tomb of the Iron Medusa (PFRPG)

****½ (based on 9 ratings)
Pathfinder Module: Tomb of the Iron Medusa (PFRPG)
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A dungeon adventure for 14th-level characters

Hidden in the remote southern range of the World’s Edge Mountains lies a mysterious necropolis known in legend as the Tomb of the Iron Medusa. When the last heir of the dungeon’s long-dead noble builders hires the PCs to explore the forlorn and deadly site in search of evidence that may clear his family name, the intrepid heroes soon find themselves in over their heads. For the Tomb of the Iron Medusa does not give up its secrets lightly, and the dangerous truths that lie within its ancient, trap-laden crypts may have been hidden for very good reasons indeed.

Written by fan-favorite author Mike Shel, Tomb of the Iron Medusa features an expansive necropolis of crypts and tombs, all guarded by devious traps, strange puzzles, fiendish monsters, bizarre creatures, and the undead remnants of a once-powerful aristocracy.

Tomb of the Iron Medusa is an adventure for 14th-level characters, written for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and compatible with the 3.5 edition of the world’s oldest RPG. In addition to the adventure, this volume also features a brand-new monster and a fully detailed borderland inn that can serve as a place to begin the adventure, or as a roadside tavern in any fantasy world.

Written by Mike Shel

Pathfinder Modules are 32-page, high-quality, full-color, adventures using the Open Game License to work with both the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the standard 3.5 fantasy RPG rules set. This Pathfinder Module includes new monsters, treasure, and a fully detailed bonus location that can be used as part of the adventure or in any other game!

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-318-7

Tomb of the Iron Meduda is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. Its Chronicle Sheet and additional rules for running this module are a free download (232 KB zip/PDF).

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Modules Subscription.

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****½ (based on 9 ratings)

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My favorite Pathfinder adventure

*****

I've bought multiple copies of this module over the years to give or trade away at gaming conventions. It is a proper "dungeon crawl"with a nice blend of puzzles, fighting, and role-playing. The theme is epic in scope and extra imaginative in its execution.

I find it difficult to challenge high-level players with a traditional "dungeon crawl" setting. This adventure pulls it off with pocket dimensions, puzzles based off of role-playing rather than mechanisms, and truly awesome encounters.

Personally, I'm a big horror fan and I'm always attracted to anything that takes place in a graveyard. But at 14th level, the thought of level draining undead almost becomes a cliche' and certainly nothing my players want to gamble on. This module turns that on it's head to the point where PCs are sometimes interacting with undead and, while there are still level draining baddies inside, every encounter feels very different and with unique adversaries to keep players on their toes. Plus, a super cool BBEG at the end.

Top marks all around!


Very Good for Dungeon-Puzzle Loving Players

****( )

I agree with the other reviews. This module is a puzzle crypt with some fights. This module took my group of 4-5 PCs from level 14 to level 15 just before the end, which was pleasing to me. Just some advice for the running the module: As with any module, try to find relevant pictures on the internet for showing so that players get a good sense of what this place is like. The module gives some DC’s so that the players can make checks to find out how much of the story their characters know. I recommended thinking of other ways that players could come to learn the story apart from the module because it is a good backstory. Remind the players that this place was not built as a deathtrap; it was a real necropolis that a noble family used for a long time back in their day. There would have been caretakers and what not here on a regular basis, but the place would have safeguards against grave robbers. Of course let the players try to figure out things on their own first, but consider allowing Knowledge (Engineering) checks to give them some clues about how to open the doors if the game is grinding to a halt in the first room because of it. Consider Knowledge (planes or arcana) for clues about leaving the crypt. Lastly, consider Knowledge (religion) to understand the natures of some of the relics within the crypt.


One of the most fun modules ever!

*****

My DM ran this module in between Kingmaker module 5 and 6. My worry going into it was that the encounters would either be, for our level, too challenging (TPK) or not challenging enough. Instead, this module was one successful "gotcha" after another, in which every member of the party was forced to think how we get out of each situation. No spoilers here, but we had to deal with domination, blindness, petrification, and, of course, mortality. The best part is that I can see this going a completely different direction if we had made different choices.


Best. Module. Ever.

*****

I haven’t written a product review in almost 2 years, but after reading this module I felt compelled to do so.

Tomb of the Iron Medusa is the best adventure that Paizo has ever published in its Pathfinder Modules line and it deserves to be read and played by more people.

I’ll admit I’m late getting to this. I got this module through my subscription when it first came out, but it wasn’t until I was looking for some additional content to insert into my Kingmaker campaign that I started flipping through the pages of my many Paizo modules.

As I picked up Tomb of the Iron Medusa and started casually reading the introduction, I was immediately impressed by the refined quality of the narrative. I became intrigued about the mystery of the Adella Curse and felt engaged by the large cast of complex NPCs. The more I read, the more possibilities I saw for how the adventure might play out and by the time I finished it, not only could I imagine myself easily fitting Tomb of the Iron Medusa into my Kingmaker campaign, I also felt a real sense of excitement at the thought of doing so.

The Story

The adventure takes place in Taldor, a country desperately trying to hang on to the echoes of its former greatness. However, having said that, I think the adventure could very easily be set in any other country under the rule of a monarchy.

A merchant who claims to be the last surviving heir to a disgraced Taldan noble family known as the Adellas contacts the PCs and asks them to venture into his family’s ancient necropolis, the Tomb of the Iron Medusa. Legend has it that the Adellas were stripped of their titles under mysterious circumstances by one of the previous rulers of the Taldan Empire and that the family then proceeded to fade into obscurity. The merchant suspects that the Adellas had been framed and believes that the family sword, Infensus Mucro, is the key to proving his family’s innocence and he wants them to retrieve it for him.

This may sound like your run-of-the-mill adventure hook but, as the players will slowly discover, things are not so clear-cut. For buried in one of the ancient and dusty vaults of the Tomb of the Iron Medusa lies a secret, that if exposed, could shake an empire down to its very foundations.

The Adventure

Overall, the encounters in Tomb of the Iron Medusa are interesting and provide a good mix of combat, role-playing, skill use and even some old-school puzzle solving. Over the course of the adventure, the PCs will have the opportunity to have such wildly disparate experiences as fighting hordes of undead and outsiders, answering the riddles of a proud and angry ghost, and even laying back and enjoying a break in a cozy study found inside a portable hole.

The traps are well crafted with some going beyond the usual predictable scope of such game devices. One encounter that I found especially refreshing features the reliquaries of two feuding twins that, depending on how successful the players are in dealing with the wrath of the twins, can very much impede or facilitate the PCs’ progress through the dungeon.

One thing that really stands out as you read through Tomb of the Iron Medusa is how very much content has been stuffed this module. No space is wasted, no opportunity missed and every page practically oozes with interesting details and possibilities. Consider, for example, that most important crypts found in the necropolis feature the name, dates of birth and death and on occasion even a fitting epitaph for the deceased. In most other adventures this would be inconsequential fluff of little importance. In this case, however, in addition to giving the module extra flavor, the writings on the crypts often provide clues to attentive PCs on how to bypass difficult encounters or point the way to the secret entrance to a set of hidden catacombs.

Yet, despite the astounding amount of content, the module does not overreach. It elegantly accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to build an evocative site-based adventure that is part sandbox, part dungeon-crawl and part narrative. I suspect that the Paizo developers who edited this module are as much to thank for this show of restraint as the author.

The Road Less Traveled

Apart from the plot and encounters, what really drew me into this adventure was Mike Shel’s knack for creating deeply flawed and tragic NPCs that you can empathize with. From Cadimus and Bartolomae to Micheaux the Magnificent, every important NPC, whether vile or conceited, is given a moment where you can glimpse their underlying humanity. The acknowledgement that the NPCs are capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions makes them more believable, and lends a realness to this adventure that I’ve never encountered in any other Paizo module.

For me, adventures like books, movies and music are at their most powerful when they can help me better understand another perspective. Tomb of the Iron Medusa achieves this transcendant quality through the character of poor, conflicted Cadimus who serves as the common thread to the saga of the Adella family. Did Cadimus make the wrong decision in the final moments before he was about to die? Of course he did, but going through this adventure, it will make sense to the players why he did what he did and how truly desperate he must have felt.

Mike Shel also does what few other adventure writers are capable of by bringing the full extent back-story of the module to the attention of the players. He chooses to do this through the effective and judicious use of cutscenes. I think this is a gutsy move, knowing that many RPGers (myself included) are strongly biased against cutscenes considering them to be a heavy-handed way of delivering the story to the players.

However, I like the cut scenes in this adventure. I think that the cut-scenes work because they are used sparingly, seamlessly (in most cases the players don’t even know that they are witnessing a cut-scene until after it is over) and allow for the players to make use of several skills while they are taking place. In fact, my favorite encounter in the entire module is the cut scene where the chilling and dreadful meaning behind the curious epitaph “Then Let Them Drink” is finally explained.

The Bottom Line

Mike Shel packs more adventure into Tomb of the Iron Medusa than I’ve seen in any other Pathfinder Module. He has masterfully crafted a fun, evocative and challenging dungeon-crawl that skillfully tells the tale of one family’s tragic fall from grace.

The Adellas are cursed! You owe it to yourself to find out why.


What's old is new

*****

There's an old adage that goes "what's old is new" and Tomb of the Iron Medusa fits that like a glove. I'll be honest: I'm an old-school gamer and a sucker for dungeon crawls, but having played them so many times for so many years has made me somewhat fickle. There are many dungeon crawls out there, both good and bad, but only a few that are truly great. Unless its great, I usually wont GM it. See what I mean? Fickle.

Mike Shel's Tomb of the Iron Medusa is a great dungeon crawl. It takes an old-fashioned setting (a trap-laden tomb) and makes it fresh,exciting, and fun again. It breathes a lot of new life into old ideas without relying on convoluted plots, mandatory events/encounters or tons of filler. Mike Shel is an excellent writer who keeps it simple. Unlike some writers that try to shoehorn too much story/adventure around the game mechanics, he lets game crunch work around his ideas and his writing style has a certain sophistication that is rarely seen, making the adventure both more believable and immersive.

The backstory, which involves a disgraced aristocratic family under a curse,is intriguing and sets the stage for the PCs to investigate the tomb. As the party progresses, they will have to deal with an assortment of challenging puzzles, traps, and monsters while unraveling important pieces of story that could affect an entire kingdom (which can easily be placed in any fantasy game world.) Some of the monster encounters are quite tough, but not overly so. Personally, I prefer a module where certain encounters are a little tougher, rather than easier, on a high level party. Also, while the tomb itself is self-contained, there are various ways to explore it so the PCs are not necessarily on a set linear path. Indeed, they may even encounter the "final boss" near the beginning - depending where they go. As the party continues, more of the story behind the fate of the cursed family is weaved into the adventure and the transitions between narrative and active playing are seamless. Some may balk at some of the story moments, but I thought they were really well done. More importantly, the story is kept interesting from start to finish and ultimately gives the players the freedom to decide their destiny, which is always a sign of good adventure design.

The module presentation is good, but not great. Compared to other adventures of the Pathfinder Module line its about the same, although the artwork has improved lately. I thought the illustrations really helped capture the mood and atmoshere of the adventure. The maps are nicely done too, clear and easy to read - nothing too complicated.

Whether run as a quick dungeon crawl or fitted into a much larger campaign, Tomb of the Iron Medusa is an excellent adventure. Its great to see Mike Shel back and I look forward to more from him in the future.


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Dark Archive

I know this likely isn't the cover but I do like the cover art. :)


Dark_Mistress wrote:

I know this likely isn't the cover but I do like the cover art. :)

The Lady in Black is the Vampire from the Bestiary. Not sure about her thralls (?) in that pic. So yeah, definitely not final artwork...unless she is a Vampire with Petrifying Gaze and Iron Body cast. Hmm...evil thoughts at work.

On second glance, they appear to be Shadow Demons.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

The original art was from Pathfinder #29.


A Pathfinder module by Mike Shel!? Woot!

If this is anything like the Mud Sorcerer's Tomb; You've made me a very happy DM today Paizo!


I had a feeling this was coming when Mr. Shel appeared out of the woodwork and started asking people what they liked about Mud Sorcerer's Tomb. I think of all the products announced for next year, I'm most psyched for this one.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules, Tales Subscriber

Here's hoping this is Pathfinder's equivalent of his earlier, legendary MST! I'm super excited about this one.

And that placeholder art rocks! Feel free to keep it Paizo!


yoda8myhead wrote:
I had a feeling this was coming when Mr. Shel appeared out of the woodwork and started asking people what they liked about Mud Sorcerer's Tomb. I think of all the products announced for next year, I'm most psyched for this one.

yeah, I hear you. I'm loving this idea. I like the all-star modules here (like the Monte Cook one)

Dark Archive

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

And it's a higher level module, too. Hope the trend continues of awesome low-level mods and then a few high-level ones here and there to keep us high-level fans from complaining. Too much.

Dark Archive

Great news. I recently worked a way to fit The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb into my RotRL campaign (forewarning, mostly), and a high-level dungeon crawl adventure by Mike Shel sounds most excellent.

Silver Crusade

Sold upon reading "Iron Medusa".

Liberty's Edge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

Mike Shel? Wow, welcome back! I don't really like huge Dungeons, but DMing THE MUD SORCERERS TOMB was a blast! Can't eait for this gem...


Indeed! I got to play through the Mud Sorcerer's Tomb and had a blast doing it. Damn were we paranoid though.

Wouldn't you know it, I was playing the trapfinder...

I'm still amazed I survived. I'm definitely looking forward to this!


Egads! I just saw this.

As a former DM of the infamous Mud Sorcerer's Tomb (every bit as good as the legendary Tomb of Horrors), Im very happy to see this. Top of my must buy list for one shots.

So happy Paizo has Mike Shel back in action.

Now if we could only get Grant Boucher (another golden oldie from Dungeon mag), It would be an RPG renaissance. :)

Dark Archive

Sunderstone wrote:

So happy Paizo has Mike Shel back in action.

Amen brother!

Dark Archive

Sunderstone wrote:


Now if we could only get Grant Boucher (another golden oldie from Dungeon mag)

From your lips to our Paizo overlords' ears!

He wrote the Galaxy Guide for the original Star Wars. Later on this RPG book became official Lucasfilm archives material at George Lucas's request. That link takes you to Grant's web site.

Dark Archive

I'm a Grant Boucher fan, but it's unfortunate that some hardcore Star Wars fans attribute the history of the Five Mile Fallacy to his him.

He's a great writer, he just had his warship technical dimensions wrong.


ok thats just too much. LOL.

Didnt Grant write "Ancient Blood" (with his brother?) Dave Boucher in an old Dungeon mag? I didnt see him list it on his site.

Thanks for the link.


Yep, found it via google. Dungeon #20. I remember dm'ing Ancient Blood way back, gosh, im just plain old.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Hmm, I see getting a spare copy for my friend.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Cover image and description have been updated to match the finished product.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Love this cover!

I am very much looking forward to this adventure. I've already got it slotted into my ongoing campaign.

Contributor

Oh, that is cool. Let my obsessive trawling for comments and feedback begin!

Dark Archive

I liked the old mock cover but this one is very nice.


Anybody know the name of the artist who did the new cover art?

Thanks

Contributor

PFWiki Scribe wrote:
Anybody know the name of the artist who did the new cover art?

I'm pretty sure the artist is Craig J Spearing. Here's Paizo's page with a sampling of his stuff:

http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/tags/craigJSpearing


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Mike Shel wrote:
PFWiki Scribe wrote:
Anybody know the name of the artist who did the new cover art?

I'm pretty sure the artist is Craig J Spearing. Here's Paizo's page with a sampling of his stuff:

http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/tags/craigJSpearing

Linkified :)


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Nice Artwork


I am personally very excited about this module - my players, perhaps less so. =]

The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb and Tsolo ended up playing a pivotal part in my last big campaign, but now, short of converting swaths of Return to the Tomb of Horrors for PF play, I don't have anything to top the awful things I did to my players in that dungeon. Hopefully Iron Medusa will fit the bill for what I'm planning next.

Thanks, Mike, for giving us a great adventure all those years ago - and hopefully a new classic for the Pathfinder generation as well!

EDIT: Speaking of the Tomb of Horrors, that stone face in the cover art there sure is reminiscent of everyone's favorite mouthful of annihilation... =]

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Power Word Unzip wrote:
EDIT: Speaking of the Tomb of Horrors, that stone face in the cover art there sure is reminiscent of everyone's favorite mouthful of annihilation... =]

Weird, huh? ;-)


Craig Spearing posted a large version of the cover art over at his ArtOrder page.

Tomb of the Iron Medusa

I have to say, in my book this is one of the coolest versions of our iconic paladin.


Power Word Unzip wrote:

I am personally very excited about this module - my players, perhaps less so. =]

The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb and Tsolo ended up playing a pivotal part in my last big campaign, but now, short of converting swaths of Return to the Tomb of Horrors for PF play, I don't have anything to top the awful things I did to my players in that dungeon. Hopefully Iron Medusa will fit the bill for what I'm planning next.

Thanks, Mike, for giving us a great adventure all those years ago - and hopefully a new classic for the Pathfinder generation as well!

EDIT: Speaking of the Tomb of Horrors, that stone face in the cover art there sure is reminiscent of everyone's favorite mouthful of annihilation... =]

One of the greatest times one of my groups had way back when was The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb. Good Times...

Paizo Employee CEO

Heine Stick wrote:
I have to say, in my book this is one of the coolest versions of our iconic paladin.

I agree! And I also think that he made Ezren look pretty cool too, which is hard to do with an old wizard. Hopefully Sarah will be using more of Craig in the future!

-Lisa

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

An aside: Looking at the cover art, my first thought was: she's holding onto her swordgrip as if it's going to keep them from falling into the bright blue stuff.

My second thought was: next sword I'm getting, I'm paying to have the pommel constructed around an immovable rod.


Lisa Stevens wrote:
...I also think that he made Ezren look pretty cool too...

No small feat considering Ezren's current predicament!

But yeah, more Spearing!


I am all over this one simply on the possibility of running the encounter pictured on the cover.
This one has me salivating...

Dark Archive

Chris Mortika wrote:


My second thought was: next sword I'm getting, I'm paying to have the pommel constructed around an immovable rod.

I love the way your mind works.


Many thanks everyone! This was a really fun piece to work on, and I'm busy brewing up a bunch more iconics in creepy situations. I'd tell you more about 'em, but then Sarah would have to kill me :).

Pardon the shameless plugging, but for more please visit:

http://www.craigspearing.com
http://artorder.ning.com/profile/CraigJSpearing

Dark Archive

cjspearing wrote:

Many thanks everyone! This was a really fun piece to work on, and I'm busy brewing up a bunch more iconics in creepy situations. I'd tell you more about 'em, but then Sarah would have to kill me :).

Pardon the shameless plugging, but for more please visit:

craigspearing.com
Craig Artorder

Fixed the links for you.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Modules Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
cjspearing wrote:
Many thanks everyone! This was a really fun piece to work on, and I'm busy brewing up a bunch more iconics in creepy situations. I'd tell you more about 'em, but then Sarah would have to kill me :).

I like your art very much. It is clearly fantasy, but not over the top - neither Vallejo nor Manga, just the right amount of fantasy (for me, at least). And the Iron Medusa cover is just great - I can´t wait to see the printed version.

Stefan


Stebehil wrote:
cjspearing wrote:
Many thanks everyone! This was a really fun piece to work on, and I'm busy brewing up a bunch more iconics in creepy situations. I'd tell you more about 'em, but then Sarah would have to kill me :).

I like your art very much. It is clearly fantasy, but not over the top - neither Vallejo nor Manga, just the right amount of fantasy (for me, at least). And the Iron Medusa cover is just great - I can´t wait to see the printed version.

Stefan

+1

Liberty's Edge

I just got my Paizo pre-ship email for this. Yay!

Will this one be sanctioned for PFS credit as well?

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

Pygon wrote:
Will this one be sanctioned for PFS credit as well?

That's the plan! We have the venture-captains looking over the special rules for playing this 14th-level adventure right now so we can have the Chronicle available as close to when the adventure ships as possible.

Liberty's Edge

Excellent, thanks Mark.

I plan to run this one.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

The Pathfinder Society rules and Chronicle are now available on this product page and on the Additional Resources list.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

OK, so I already thought to myself "now this looks like an adventure I'm really looking forward to", but I have (only) just noticed that it is by Mike Shel!!! The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb is my all time favourite Dungeon Adventure, so now that I know this is by Mike, I am very sorely tempted to even consider DMing this.

Really can't wait for this... really.


I had never noticed the arrow stuck in the neck of a certain creative director's avatar before. But now I know why the dino looks so angry... he's having to chase down freelancers who are late getting their revisions in!! XD

Gorgeous artwork and yes - that cover art would be enough to sell it, but then to see who wrote it... yeah.

Dark Archive

Beercifer wrote:
Stebehil wrote:
cjspearing wrote:
Many thanks everyone! This was a really fun piece to work on, and I'm busy brewing up a bunch more iconics in creepy situations. I'd tell you more about 'em, but then Sarah would have to kill me :).

I like your art very much. It is clearly fantasy, but not over the top - neither Vallejo nor Manga, just the right amount of fantasy (for me, at least). And the Iron Medusa cover is just great - I can´t wait to see the printed version.

Stefan

+1

+2! Keep up the good work, Craig! :)


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I just posted my first review for a Pathfinder module here. I plan to review each module in my sub, with an eye toward the needs of Virtual Table-Top players who get added value from the PDFs.

I just wanted to add that I probably low-balled this module's rating because it was the first! I actually really enjoyed every aspect of it, and I probably spent a few too many words being critical in the review... but that's just because it's the first and you don't want to start out with "all fives, A+++!"

I want to leave room for myself to be really impressed later. Which might not be too far away, since I'm reviewing Cult of the Ebon Destroyers next, and so far it redresses a few of my concerns from this module (like a mid-high level spell interactions sidebar! Yay!)

Seriously, Tomb of the Iron Medusa was a great read!


Just got my copy in the mail - now if I only had time to read it cover to cover!

I did sneak a peek at the big bad, though - and I liked what I saw. =]

Guess I will have to join Evil Lincoln in posting my first review soon...

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