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Pathfinder Module: Murder's Mark (PFRPG)

***½( ) (based on 4 ratings)
Pathfinder Module: Murder's Mark (PFRPG)

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An urban mystery adventure for 1st-level characters.

Everyone in the fishing town of Ilsurian is excited when the legendary Umbra Carnival rolls into town—even if the show is run by members of the much-maligned Varisian ethnic group. With strange and exotic beasts, scandalous performances, games of chance, and all the other fun of a traveling fair, who could resist such an opportunity for entertainment?

Unfortunately for both the town and the circus, however, entertainment isn’t the only opportunity the carnival presents. Hidden within Ilsurian, a guild of thieves and scoundrels has been waiting for just such an occasion to launch a campaign of theft and murder—leaving the strangers from the circus to take the blame. With tensions mounting between locals and performers, and the body count rising on both sides, it’s up to the PCs to uncover what’s really going on and clear the circus’s name before the entire town erupts in a firestorm of ethnic violence.

Murder’s Mark is an adventure of mystery, illusion, and mob justice for 1st-level characters, written for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and compatible with the 3.5 edition of the world’s oldest RPG. This volume also contains a gazetteer of the traveling Umbra Carnival and a brand-new monster pulled from history and mythology, all of which can easily be adapted for use in any campaign setting.

Written by Jim Groves

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!

Murder's Mark is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. Its Chronicle Sheet and additional rules for running this module are a free download (94 KB zip/PDF).

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-447-4

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

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Product Reviews (4)

Average product rating:

***½( ) (based on 4 ratings)

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Investigations and other shenannigans

**( )( )( )

Hello again all!
If there's one thing that can go wrong with an investigation scenario its that the investigation itself doesn't matter. Its a problem I've seen a few times in PFS now, the fact that the clues don't lead anywhere or that even after all the clues are found and followed to their conclusion you are no closer to solving the problem and its the story itself that solves the crime and not you! In other words you as players don't actually have to do much at all except wait for the story to resolve itself!
I understand that as a writer you dont want to make the investigation easy just in case you find yourself with some smart cookie that solves it in just a few minutes and then its all over, but no link at all or only a thin one that doesn't turn up until the story says so is awfully weak and convenient. To explain properly ill use a spoiler:

Over the course of the module we discovered several clues, testimony from witnesses lead us to believe that several thieves were working the crowd at the circus and that the local thieves guild was dealing Shiver, but when we asked where the Guild was we were told they were somewhere in the forest and were unable to find out more information. Essentially this lead was cut off before it even began, very much a case of lost potential.
Then there was the Sheriff. Every time we investigated a scene and found reason to believe that the Circus was innocent the Sheriff would dismiss our evidence out of hand and simply remain focused on bringing down the circus, like she had a personal grudge against them. This got to the point that we started to believe that she was corrupt and therefore didn't trust her. Only the fact that she was in command kept us going back to her. It would have been nice if she was a little more reasonable, if she sympathized with us and then simply asked us to help her gather the evidence she needed to find those truly responsible and bring them to justice. Then she would have seemed more reasonable, personal and professional.
The lead that allowed us the finally find the persons responsible was a note we were told about, found on the third murder victim. Now this presents several problems: The first problem is that like I said our previous actions don't matter, its the note that lead us to the resolution and not our investigations. We could have spent the whole time doing nothing and then when the third murder occurs simply gone to the place mentioned on the note and still succeeded... a more proactive approach would have been better, with a clue or two we could have found earlier on such as witness testimony stating that one of the victims went to the address on the note...
The second problem: This is so Video gamey! its the sort of thing that happened in games like Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale or something like that. Its so overused its basically a trope! The whole clue on a piece of paper some bad guy or victim is carrying that practically says 'this is where you need to go and this is what you need to do'. First of all why would you carry a note like that? especially if youre a bad guy trying to lay low. Secondly is undermines the purpose of the investigation as I stated above.

On the other hand I enjoyed the fact that this time there was no reason to worry about my characters alignment. Often being lawful good is a very inhibiting thing but this time it seemed like it was a useful thing. I was able to role play my character and not find it dangerous or inhibiting at all and there was plenty of opportunities to talk and role play.
Also I did like the idea of the Circus and its main attraction, I thought the ideas behind them were very cool. I only wish that the Varisian culture was brought more into prominence, I don't really feel that the gypsy-like culture was on display there and that's a shame because I really like them.

In conclusion this is an average little module that could have been so much better if some of the ideas in it were further built upon or explored, such as the Varisian culture or the thieves guild and Paizo needs to work a lot on its investigation style scenarios.

Not bad at all!

****( )

The intrigue is fine and the characters are ok. The downside however is that PCs don't really have a chance to connect the clues to the real villains. So they basically have to succeed their perception rolls to discharge the circus at each murder site, and that's it. Only by letting events unfold can they discover their enemy. I would have loved more proactivity and investigation. Good roleplaying and lively interactions with the circus crew can save they day and make the PCs enjoy the story rather than focusing on solving it.
It's a nice module however. Fits perfectly for a cool game session, and doesn't feature endless series of fights.

Love to Run it Again!

****( )

I enjoyed running this module because it wasn’t your typical dungeon-crawl adventure. The party consisted of

a 1st level human barbarian, a 1st level gnome barbarian, a 2nd level druid, a 1st level inquisitor of Asmodeus, and a 1st level halfling sorcerer.
It felt a bit scripted, but the players surrendered to the ‘plot current’ without a struggle. I would have been happier if it had been more like a sandbox. As written it took 7.5 hours to run. If you had more time to work with you could expand quite a bit
ideas to expand on:
like fleshing out the skulk tribe living outside town and tracking down the drug dealing network selling shiver.
The campaign flavor of the scenario was disappointing. It could have been inserted into any world with tensions between two different ethnic groups. The combats were mildly challenging for the most part. I do like that most of the encounters were set up in a thoughtful way. The party split up during the hideout raid and things got interesting, but it would have been over quick if they had stuck together. I regret the lack of monsters to fight. I think it’s more heroic to fight monsters rather than constantly facing amoral humans. What makes this module worth it is the role-playing. There are a lot of different NPCs to bring to life. The author made the pace of the murders quick enough that there’s little chance for things to derail much. I look forward to running this module again. I just wish there were some real monsters to fight!

Great adventure but with one potentially big problem

****( )

Read my full review on my blog.

I’ve always liked adventures that do something a little different, ones that provide adventuring parties with something that transcends or even ignores the typical tropes associated with Dungeons and Dragons-style games. A well-made dungeon can be fun sometimes, but adventures that actually involve characters with the setting and don’t even go near a dungeon (or ruined castle or ancient caves or whatever large, indoor establishment you can come up with) are often better (assuming they’re well-designed, too). Murder’s Mark by Jim Groves is such an adventure. It’s a charming, low-level adventure centred around a Varisian circus and a murder mystery. It contains a wide assortment of well-detailed and interesting NPCs, each with their own motivations and goals, and lots of opportunity for roleplaying and setting immersion. There are surprisingly few fights in this adventure; however, there are numerous other things to keep the party’s attention and to keep them searching for the answers to the mystery. Alas, the adventure does has one significant problem that could completely ruin things if you have any rules lawyers in your group. However, if you have a group that is simply willing to go with the flow and not worry about a niggling rules detail, Murder’s Mark could make a great adventure to start a new campaign with.

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