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
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!
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.
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
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.