Varisian fortune-tellers from across Golarion use the mystic harrow deck to read fate and predict the future, but few have ever mastered the mysterious harrow to such a degree as Sonnorae, a long-dead bard from the Age of Darkness. Fearing her collection of stories would be lost when she died, she created a demiplane within her own harrow deck to contain them. Over time, these stories took on lives of their own, and melded with the images on the cards themselves. But not all stories have happy endings, and the storykin who inhabit the Harrowed Realm have their own motivations and plots for power or even escape into the real world. When the PCs find themselves drawn into the Harrowed Realm in search of a disappeared scholar, they must use all their wits and steel to navigate the landscape and politics of this strange wonderland and make it home again.
The Harrowing is an adventure for 9th-level characters, written for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and compatible with the 3.5 edition of the world’s oldest RPG. It features an entire plane of fanciful locations and characters inspired by the popular harrow deck of the Pathfinder campaign setting. In addition, you’ll find a brand-new monster and an optional rules subsystem allowing players to bend reality to their wills by using all 54 cards in the optional Pathfinder Campaign Setting Harrow Deck to manipulate the strange demiplane in which they adventure.
Written by Crystal Frasier
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.
My Carrion Crown group played through The Harrowing as a prequel of sorts. We played different characters that would be somehow related to the CC characters and saw the game as a chance to meet Lorrimar and get to know each other as a gaming group.
The game was only supposed to last for two to three sessions but it took us about two months of playing once every other week. The game wasn't bad at all and we had some great moments (and that last fight felt like an accomplishment) but it's still not as good as Carrion Crown.
1) The set-up of this game as a Harrow deck come to life is unique and colorful. The players are forced into many wildly different situations within a single module.
2) The module seems like it would be a great into to several different APs, especially Carrion Crown.
3) Some of the encounters had high stakes.
1) The game kind of dragged on. We had fun playing together as a group but we were sick of the Harrowing before we finished.
2) Though unique this was not one of the more memorable games I've played, at least not as written. My group did create our own memories independently of the text, however. I will always remember a confused/a@+~@+# Orc adept skinning the pre-reincarnated corpse of my druid in dire tiger form and making it into a cloak.
Overall this was a fun module but since many of the encounters and creatures aren't distinct in my memory I can't rate it much higher than 3 stars.
Best of all worlds -story-roleplay-mystery-combat-adversaries
This one has it all! I have played and run several "Tarot" themed adventures over the years but this is certainly the one that carries this through most successfully. They tend to be a bit random but this one has wrapped the surreal card images together into a single coherent plot that builds to a climax. Crystal has done a brilliant job of using the powerful images on the card to evoke a weird world of folktales gone mad.
The people and things you meet will engage you, fascinate you, and sometimes do their best to kill you, or worse. But this is definitely not a combat/combat/combat adventures. You need your smartz.
This was a delightfully unconventional adventure, written with a flair for the dramatic and a (mostly) light tone. My players were a bit bemused at first, but soon they came to embrace the setting's rules and Wonderlandian logic, and ended up having a grand time.
I chose to use the Harrow Deck in a different way than the module describes, so I can't speak to its use in the adventure. I changed it because I felt the PCs needed more help navigating through the Harrowing (that is, getting from place to place) than they did resolving the encounters themselves. However, my changes didn't work out that well, so I won't describe them here; instead, I'll recommend that GMs use the NPCs to lead or direct the PCs through the plane's geography -- not necessarily in a linear way, but more in ways that reflect the Storykin's ongoing stories. If the PCs get a sense that there are many stories going on all around them, they will start to eavesdrop and follow characters to the places they need to be.
Speaking of stories: although I love the fact that these NPCs all behave according to certain narrative scripts, I would have liked more written information about the stories themselves. My players quickly realized they could resolve most encounters without resorting to combat, usually because the NPCs were "pre-programmed" with specific needs. So they got the party's bard to start making Knowledge checks about Sonnorae's legendary tales...which led to a LOT of awkwardly improvised details from a frantic GM!
Of course, other parties may choose to hack and slash their way through the Storykin (and I LOVE the fact that both options are consistently detailed). But they would be losing out on a rare opportunity to explore a self-contained, fully-realized fantasy world -- the sort that players will remember and reminisce about long after their characters have been put out to pasture.
I really loved this module. The content and art meshed perfectly, which you don't always get in a module. The background story and creative elements are stellar. As the DM, I greatly appreciated the fact that just about every encounter did not need to be resolved through combat if the PCs came at it from a different angle. You would be shooting yourself in the foot if you play this without a Harrow card deck, so be sure you have that before you get started. The players really enjoyed having those cards in front of them and trying to figure out when and how to use them during the adventure, which is a keen "game within a game" explained in the adventure. I recommend explaining that to the players, even if that takes things a little out of character at first, otherwise they "miss" how the game works for the first bit and can waste some of their opportunities to play the right cards. The theater flip-map would be handy too for one of the encounters. (I substituted the cathedral flip-map which worked well too.) Some of the NPCs are super cool: the personality and stats for the rabbit prince combine to make him a terribly fun character. The strangeness of the realm prompted the players to get really engaged and come up with some innovative and wacky solutions to the encounters. Plus, this module was just a delight to read. I read the module on a flight, and kept annoying the other nearby passengers with little giggles and hoots. If you do play this adventure, afterward listen to the Pathfinder podcast where they interview the author, which I found really insightful. Eventually, Paizo should re-publish this fine adventure with expanded content.