Pathfinder Module: The Midnight Mirror (PFRPG)

****½ (based on 20 ratings)
Pathfinder Module: The Midnight Mirror (PFRPG)
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A horror and investigation adventure for 4th-level characters

The sleepy town of Karpad in shadow-haunted Nidal has long been overseen by the Boroi family, and until a few weeks ago, the citizens under Baron Stepan Boroi's rule have lived uneventful lives of relative peace. Recently, however, the outbreak of a virulent and fatal disease and a number of mysterious disappearances have left the people of Karpad paranoid and fearful. Even Baron Stepan has been acting strangely, and now the tenuous balance of racial tensions between Karpad's human and fetchling populations stands on the verge of collapsing into total anarchy. Can the PCs uncover the root of Karpad's problems and put an end to the deadly virus, the terrifying disappearances, and the miasma of fear and distrust that threatens to overwhelm the region?

Written by Sam Zeitlin, 2011's winner of Paizo Publishing's annual RPG Superstar contest—in which unpublished authors compete before a panel of celebrity game designers and legions of their peers for the chance to write a Pathfinder Module—The Midnight Mirror takes players from a mysterious investigation into a shadowy demiplane prison and pits them against the evil forces of both darkness and light.

The Midnight Mirror is an investigation and horror adventure for 4th-level characters. This volume also contains a fully-detailed gazetteer of the town of Karpad and a new magic item that are sure to add depth and flavor to any campaign.

Pathfinder Modules are 32-page, high-quality, full-color, adventures written for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and compatible with the 3.5 edition of the world’s oldest RPG.

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-401-6

The Midnight Mirror is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. Its Chronicle Sheet and additional rules for running this module are a free download (119 KB zip/PDF).

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

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****½ (based on 20 ratings)

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Fantastic, Dark Module

*****

NO SPOILERS

I ran The Midnight Mirror recently for three friends using PFS characters and I loved it. It’s a dark module (in more ways than one) that has an excellent and evocative setting, memorable NPCs, and a “boss” fight that’s finally worthy of the concept. There’s loads of role-playing and investigation available, but the combats don’t hold back: the PCs I ran it for were along the low range of levels (and fighting ability), and there were several points I thought a TPK was on its way before they managed to just barely escape or emerge victorious. If you’re looking for a challenging but well-written module that will prove satisfying on all of the various joys Pathfinder has to offer, I would definitely recommend this one. Even the cover is awesome!

SPOILERS

The Midnight Mirror takes place entirely in Karpad, a small village in Nidal. If you don’t know much about Nidal (and there are not a lot of adventures set there), it’s the country where, thousands of years ago, the people swore to follow the tenets of Zon-Kuthon (the god of pain and darkness) in exchange for protection from the cataclysmic events of Earthfall. Although the residents of Karpad are some distance removed from the most zealous worshippers of Zon-Kuthon, the religion’s influence still has influence there. Two pages of the module are an appendix that provides an overview of the village, and it’s important because what’s happening in the village (particularly strains between its human and fetchling inhabitants) are a key part of the story. In my game, the Temple of Zon-Kuthon was particularly memorable, as the priest offers healing in exchange for the infliction of pain! (I should say as a general note that GMs should know their players’ tastes before getting too detailed in the S&M practiced by worshippers of Zon-Kuthon).

The PCs have been enlisted by a wealthy family in another city to look into why their daughter, who married the baron of Karpad, hasn’t written in several weeks. The adventure hook requires some massaging for Pathfinders, and some ideas for that can be found in the forums (this part could have been developed more in general, as outsiders are generally forbidden in Nidal except in the port city of Nisroch). Anyway, once the PCs reach the baron’s manor, they’ll quickly get the scoop. The village is under quarantine due to the spread of a mysterious ailment the locals are calling Tallowthroat; it causes the swelling of the throat until it explodes and shadowy figures emerge! The PCs obviously need to get to the heart of the matter and investigate the origin of the disease and how to stop it (especially if they catch it themselves, a real possibility!).

The NPCs who reside in the manor are a key part of the story, and all are well-drawn with strong characterization. There’s Stepan Boroi, the Baron of Karpad, who is paranoid and withdrawn; Anya Boroi, his wife, who earnestly wants the best for the village and her husband; a creepy ghost tied to an iron maiden in the basement (who could be an ally for the PCs!), and more. I would really play up the manor’s gothic vibe, as it’s a key location in the module and PCs will probably spend a lot of time there, especially if they make it their home base while conducting exploration elsewhere.

In the village itself, the PCs will witness a lynch mob about to hang three fetchlings on suspicion that they’re responsible not only for the Tallowthroat but also for the recent disappearances of some humans. I like how this encounter was structured, as the PCs can do nothing and just watch, intervene with violence, or make a series of Diplomacy/Intimidate checks to try to get the mob to stand down. (one of the PCs in my game was terrible at combat but a master negotiator, and was rocking out on these skill checks!)

The encounter leads to the PCs meeting the captain of the village watch, a man named Lucian Groy, whose daughter is among the missing townspeople. He’s desperate and willing to get help from anyone, even strangers like the PCs. If they agree to take part in the search, clues will lead them to a chandlery (candle-making shop) where the PCs have to fight through a wax golem and some nasty strength-draining shadows before confronting the villain responsible for the disappearances: a Lurker in Light (a sort of crazy evil fey) who is using his kidnapped captives to enact a strange ritual to bring more of his kind into Karpad. It’s actually a tougher fight than it first appears, as the fey can fly, has DR, may be able to turn invisible, and may be able to blind and poison multiple PCs. On the other hand, he doesn’t pump out much damage, so if the PCs can survive the first few rounds and have some ranged weapons, they should be able to tackle him. The PCs I ran this for nearly TPK’d the first time and were starting to flee just before they triggered the fey’s morale condition and it flew away first. It was an exciting, edge-of-your-seat encounter.

However, the Lurker in Light didn’t bring the Tallowthroat to Karpad, and his presence in the village to begin with requires explanation. More poking around various avenues will lead the PCs to reveal that Baron Boroi has a major part to play in everything that’s happening in the village. He’s not evil, but desperate, and his backstory is essential to the plot of the module. In the manor’s basement is a midnight mirror, a magical device that allows passage to the Shadow Plane. Almost 900 years ago, the Baron’s ancestors used the mirror to imprison several fetchlings and shae (natives of the Shadow Plane) in a mystical demiplane within the mirror because they were planning a revolution to liberate the subjugated shadow peoples in Nidal. A decade ago, Baron Boroi made contact with the leader of the rebels, a shae named Nicasor, who still remains trapped on the other side of the mirror: Nicasor offered to help Boroi gain power in Karpad by providing a convenient place to dispose of rivals to his leadership (his brothers) in exchange for trading places with him once a year every decade. Nicasor fulfilled his end of the bargain but now, ten years later, Baron Boroi refuses to fulfil his end! The shadowy essence leaking out of the mirror stems from Nicasor’s cold anger, and it’s what is causing the Tallowthroat. In other words, there’s no clear “good guy” to this story—just innocents being affected by the schemes of others. It’s a type of grim realism that suits the story (and the Nidalese setting) perfectly.

The PCs will realize that the only way they can stop the disease is to go through the midnight mirror and destroy it from within. This is the final third of the module and offers a great introduction to the characteristics of the Shadow Plane (and since it’s a fairly low-level module, may be the first time the PCs involved have ever visited another plane). The particular demiplane on the other side of the mirror is a dark and distorted reflection of Boroi Manor. Again, the flavour fits the tone perfectly. There are threats within the demiplane, but what I really liked about the module is how it also allows more thoughtful PCs to form alliances with Nicasor and the other shae (and fetchlings) trapped there (depending on how good they are at Diplomacy, of course). Indeed, I think the module is hard enough with just the absolutely necessary combat encounters, and groups that try to kill everything will have a *really* hard time unless they’re optimized combat machines.

Anyway, in order to destroy the mirror from within, the PCs have to destroy its semi-sentient “heart.” This is essentially a battle against a CR 8 shadow-infused tendriculos (a Huge-sized plantlike monster) that can paralyze PCs and swallow them whole! In other words, it is *not* a pushover. PCs will need a lot of luck or clever tactics in order to survive; my players used some fantastic teamwork, but even then one PC died. After the heart is destroyed, the PCs need to leave relatively quickly because the deteriorating demiplane can be even more dangerous. And when it’s completely destroyed (and every living thing within is expelled), the danger isn’t necessarily over! Nicasor is bound and determined to kill Baron Boroi for his treachery, so depending on whether the PCs are inclined to intervene, they may think they’ve triumphed only to have another difficult battle on their hands. It’s a module that really tests the morality and personalities of the PCs in a good way; there are no easy answers on what to do in this one.

It may be the coffee buzz, but I really can’t praise The Midnight Mirror enough. I would love a sequel to return to Karpad. It’s a hard module, and success for the PCs is definitely not guaranteed. But great heroes can only emerge from great challenges, and this is definitely one worth experiencing whether the result is victory or defeat.


TPK sauce.

****( )

Without spoiling anything besides confirmation that, guess what, there are fights in this module:

The fights vary from aggravating time fillers (there's more than enough content to make this last two 4-5+ hour sessions even if you drop a bunch of the pointless fights) to absolutely brutal.

My party of five players (Pregen cleric, sword & board fighter, party buff spellcasty/secondary melee type, reach fighter and zen archer) actually did fairly well against the "main" encounter (took some heavy damage but at no point was I concerned for their survival) but were absolutely BRUTALIZED by the other hard encounter.

By brutalized I mean even GM rolling damage to pull punches at the end of the fight one was dead, three were unconscious and the last one standing surrendered. Had I not pulled punches at least three of them would have been dead.

HOWEVER as a GM I thoroughly enjoyed running encounters that players were not able to breeze through and the scenario is top notch in all other aspects. Mood is suitably drippy and sour. Backstory is great although it may take some GM thought to expose the cooler bits to players. Ending is satisfying.


There's a reason Nidal isn't a tourist hotspot...

*****

I played this mod with Quentin as GM, and later GM'ed it myself. I had a great time in both cases.

The module has a solid story, tied in to Golarion lore and making sense; and pretty much all of it will be discovered by the players during the module sooner or later. If it happens sooner, the tone will be quite different. There's the potential for serious pathos here.

When I ran it, even the non-main fights had my players nervous. Some of them came fast and furious. And the bosses are really quite scary. The final boss is IMO way over the top, but GMs should pay close attention to his tactics, as those give the players a chance to get at him without too many PCs dying.

However what I like best about this module isn't the fights (although those are mostly well-chosen), but the attention paid to description and NPC background. Even the rooms where nothing actually happens are interesting to describe to your players because they help establish the situation the PCs find themselves in. And because every NPC has enough description, it's easy to improvise when players try to talk their way through things (which is possible and even advisable in many places).

Also, auntie dear is an amazing NPC.

One final piece of advice to GMs: the mission hook in modules tends to be a bit vague. In this case, think carefully what hook will best draw in your players and keep them going after their initial findings. The default hook in the module works fine with heroic/do-gooder PCs but for the more mercenary ones you might want to pick something different.


Great Gothic Horror

*****

One of the very few modules of Nidle, really love the great setting of an isolated town and people.

The first part is full of investigation and roleplaying, followed by a planar trip (also with much diplomacy).

However, there are two very difficult encounters, a well-balanced party is needed (especially a divine caster). And beware of getting a bad end :) (although no real influence with PFS play)


Great Setting, Great Story

*****

I've run and played this, my biggest suggestion would be to read Nightglass before running it if you happen to like the novels. This is the dark and twisted depths of Nidal and making the setting speak for itself is crucial. I think this had more of a feeling for me because I had the background on the setting and why things are so wrong because what your seeing is contrary to what it should be.
As a GM I would strongly stress on the trip in what the settings and customs of the country is. I would also suggest be highly flexible, when we played it, our group ran it 'backwards' and thought our contact was the bbeg (oops) it still worked out as we put together pieces from exploring the town and finding out what was going on.
If your players like exploring locations and not just looking for an issue and fixing it this is a very good module for your group.


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RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8

Congrats, Sam! Do us proud!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

Oo, a new title already. Make us proud Sam. You represent our hopes and dreams. Give 'em a good dark romp through the two manors!

You deserve the big prize. Way to go!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8

Yeah, I like the new name. Some of the voters and I were tossing around the idea of calling it "The Black Mirror" on the entrie's thread but "The Midnight Mirror" distinguishes it from Sam's R4 entry. Also, it has a nice alliterative ring to it. And I see they've already decided to move it to Nidal!

Dark Archive

very cool.


Congratulations Sam!

Grand Lodge

Well done Sam! Moving the action to Nidal should be interesting.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Modules Subscriber

Congrats and well earned. I look forward to another superstar module.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Congrats!

Contributor

Congrats Sam! :)


Wow! Less than 6 hours into winning and they've already changed the name and location of the module. Makes me wary of how much else they plan on changing and if the final product will even resemble the winning proposal at all. I guess only time will tell.

Congrats on winning.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
james knowles wrote:

Wow! Less than 6 hours into winning and they've already changed the name and location of the module. Makes me wary of how much else they plan on changing and if the final product will even resemble the winning proposal at all. I guess only time will tell.

Congrats on winning.

To be fair, the changes that have been made so far (location and title) were items that were specifically called out in the judges' comments as changes that would need to be made if this were the winning proposal. So, the voters shouldn't exactly be surprised at this.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Yup; there's also going to be some other plot changes as well so that this adventure doesn't so closely resemble the Pathfinder Society scenario "The Penumbral Accord." We'll be letting the author come up with alternate plot elements, though, so even though it'll change, it'll still remain his work.

And such changes really aren't a big deal, honestly. Happens to every product, more or less, when we don't give the author a super strict outline.


I'm very excited to see this. The new name (and locale (Nidal, at last!)) is great-- and the scenario sounds perfect for the ghastly plans I have for my campaign.


Well if it does end up in Nidal, it will be a rather interesting peek at how Nidal operates, which hasn`t really be detailed all that much to my knowledge...

The Shadow Plane stuff will not be a surprise as a whole to any PCs, though the Lurker in the Light will likely be. But I imagine how Nidal`s government, ruling class, and sociey at large are portrayed here will do alot to establish the canon on that subject.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

I noticed that the Paizo people moved really fast on getting a mock-up on the site once the announcement of the winner was "offical." ;)

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Lord Fyre wrote:
I noticed that the Paizo people moved really fast on getting a mock-up on the site once the announcement of the winner was "offical." ;)

We do that every year... it's one of the reasons why the results are announced the day *after* voting closes—we have to make a mockup cover, create a product listing, write a press release and a Paizo blog, and rework some web pages.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

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Quandary wrote:

Well if it does end up in Nidal, it will be a rather interesting peek at how Nidal operates, which hasn`t really be detailed all that much to my knowledge...

The Shadow Plane stuff will not be a surprise as a whole to any PCs, though the Lurker in the Light will likely be. But I imagine how Nidal`s government, ruling class, and sociey at large are portrayed here will do alot to establish the canon on that subject.

That's part of why we decided to move it from Ustalav, as proposed. The actual events that play out within the adventure shouldn't be affected by the move, but it does allow us (and Sam) to detail a largely undeveloped nation that I know a lot of people are interested in. Fans of Ustalav are getting tons of goodies between Carrion Crown and Rule of Fear. Sam should have more room to stretch his legs in Nidal where there are less canon toes to step on.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Mark Moreland wrote:
canon toes

Those sound dangerous, and hard to walk on.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

Justin Franklin wrote:
Mark Moreland wrote:
canon toes
Those sound dangerous, and hard to walk on.

They're actually frighteningly easy to walk on, which is what makes them so dangerous. Best to avoid them when possible, especially when it also means we can grow new toes somewhere that currently features very few.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Justin Franklin wrote:
Mark Moreland wrote:
canon toes
Those sound dangerous, and hard to walk on.

You probably are thinking of the legendary cannon toads that live buried in the rough sands of the far corners of Golarion.

Canon toes are very easy to walk on, but the canon is a foul-tempered beast with many followers and a vicious streak a mile wide.

(Just ask any Star Wars fan about The Crystal Star and you'll know what I mean :)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Quandary wrote:

Well if it does end up in Nidal, it will be a rather interesting peek at how Nidal operates, which hasn`t really be detailed all that much to my knowledge...

The Shadow Plane stuff will not be a surprise as a whole to any PCs, though the Lurker in the Light will likely be. But I imagine how Nidal`s government, ruling class, and sociey at large are portrayed here will do alot to establish the canon on that subject.

We haven't done much with Nidal yet at all, so setting this adventure there is a GREAT chance to start looking at that nation, similarly to how last year's RPG Superstar winner was set on the Isle of Jalmeray.


Nice one Sam!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

...and yes I will buy this one as well.


Ooh! This sounds fantastic!

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I know it's a bit early, but will this module be approved for Pathfinder Society Organized gaming, like "Cult of the Ebon Destroyers" or "The Godsmouth Heresy"?

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

Unless our plans change significantly in the next nine months, we plan to sanction all Pathfinder Modules for Pathfinder Society Organized Play from hereon out.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

I've added the ISBN to the product listing.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Hopefully we get to fight some fetchlings and other not so common creatures from and/or related to the plane of shadow like shadows and shadow mastifs.

Sczarni

I'm excited to finally get something set in Nidal!

In its current vague definition, it has always seemed to me to be the sort of country that's so evil and dangerous that most PCs would simply avoid ever going there unless they really needed to. Not a popular vacation spot, and geographically not really on the way to anywhere important.

I hope there's a good plot hook to get foreign adventurers to go into Nidal in the first place.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Product image and description updated to reflect the finished product.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

So what Iconics besides Kyra were used in this one?

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

Lem, Balazar, Amiri

But keep in mind that we don't do pregens anymore, so we typically order art based on who would look cool in different situations rather than any other reason, especially for Modules, where there are generally only the cover and two half-page illustrations with iconics on them anyway.

Dark Archive

Wicked looking cover.

Liberty's Edge

I started a modules subscription just because of this. I can't wait to read it, Sam.

Sczarni

Sweet cover.

I'm definitely interested in buying this one.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Nice new cover.

Silver Crusade

Congrats Sam on getting your adventure published!

Just curious is that Jeff Easley for the cover artist?


Overpriced for the page count.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kolyana wrote:
Overpriced for the page count.

Same price it's been for the last three years. Personally, for the quality product that these modules are, I've always felt that I got more than my money's worth.

Silver Crusade

Tallowthroat is the squickiest disease I've seen in the game for a long time.

Still reading over the adventure. Love that we're getting a look at Nidal's common folk here.

edit-wrote "throat" instead of "folk". Gah, that image isn't going to leave my mind any time soon.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

Don't drink the water!


Fantastic cover art! I hope to see more art in the future with this style. I always love the announcement of new modules, it makes things much more exciting!

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4

Definitely looking forward to this. Congrats, Sam!

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

I'll confess I chuckled when I read your round 1 entry in there as well. :-)


Anyone else having trouble printing the pdf? It's the same "no pages selected to print" issue I had with the last two Adventure Path Player's Guides.

Other than that, it looks fantabulous!

Paizo Employee Web Product Manager

Antimony wrote:

Anyone else having trouble printing the pdf? It's the same "no pages selected to print" issue I had with the last two Adventure Path Player's Guides.

Other than that, it looks fantabulous!

This is the first I've heard of this happening with one of the modules. There's something really screwy going on that I really can't pinpoint that causes the problem. Once it's been fixed there will be an email letting you know.


Thanks for the quick response--you guys really are the best at the whole "customer service" thing.

And I'd like to reiterate that the inability to print the thing is in no way detracting from the sheer awesomeness of reading it.

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