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Pathfinder Module: Tomb of the Iron Medusa (PFRPG)

****½ (based on 6 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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Product Reviews (6)
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Average product rating:

****½ (based on 6 ratings)

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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.


An intelligent dungeon crawl

*****

The title says it all. This adventure has a lot of background and the players should be exposed to it relatively easily. There is a lot of work done to set-up the why and how of the place, everything fits and makes sense when one looks at it.
The encounters could indeed be pretty tough, but with all the various barriers, keys and other teleporting devices, it seems natural to move one room at the time, without falling prey to boring dungeon mechanics. Despite being a tomb complex, i.e. predictable ghosts and undead, the place has a lot of history and the adventure flow rewards inquisitive players.
I especially liked the notes at the beginning that allow the GM to change the motivation for the players to go and visit the place, so as to adapt to a particular party. I like Taldor and the author has done a great job crafting a story befitting this region of Golarion, the greatness of an old Taldor family, its fall from grace and amazingly a potentially setting shattering revelation!
Great art and pretty decent maps, well written, great design, interesting story, all in all, an excellent standalone adventure that brings a welcome change to the run of “pretty decent but not that great” adventures of late.


Amazing

*****

As Gm this module is very well organized... The monsters are a decent strength when you are running in to them one at a time. I can see it getting really bad with a time crunch of if they are resting and decide to stay the night and someone comes back, it can get really hairy... I will not spoil it for you...

If you use the Haunt Mechanics out of the GM guide you can add some real horror factor to this module. It is far from a hack and slash and forces the characters to play a their character to the fullest.

I definitely recommend this to anyone running the Carrion Crown Adventuring Path.


Fantastic!

****( )

I'm usually not a big fan of standalone modules. I kind of hate them, to be honest. They try to introduce the story as if it were a novel, or are set in beautiful and distant locations my campaign will never go to. TotIM doesn't really fall into that trap-- because, well, TotIM feels like it was written to be included a campaign. The adventure is in the tomb, not outside of it, and it's easily editable and insertable into almost any game with just minor tweaks.

The encounters in the book are all very well varied. What similar creatures the PCs encounter have their own interesting points and aren't at all duplicates. The art is good looking, and the cartography is amazingly detailed and just nice to look at. I recognized Jared Blando's cartography work from the Haunting of Harrowstone immediately, and can recommend that if you're a map fan, his maps are very good looking.

As for story, I'd say that the story in the module is fairly well encapsulated and open to improvisation, which is a good thing. Take it or leave it, it only takes up about six pages total in the entire book. The module contains a constant theme of problem solving and puzzle situations that starts from area A all the way to the last page. None of the puzzles are "beyond" the PCs or require them to know obscure facts, which is a big plus. The rooms and locations are just as interesting as some of the encounters, and a lot of detail went into minutiae in the module, which added a fantastic amount of flavor.

Things of concern: The treasure in the module is far and beyond what a normal 14th level party would be able to find. I'm glad that, for once, a module writer wasn't afraid to give the world to the PCs, but some GMs may have an issue with a character obtaining a 75,000gp magic item. My other concern is that the climax of the module is heavily reliant on a "cutscene" mechanic I wasn't too pleased with, but recognized the necessity of it as a storytelling tool.

This module is very solid. I'm impressed. I think this module will fit very nicely into Carrion Crown.


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