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Written by Sam Zeitlin, 2011's winner of Paizo Publishing's annual RPG Superstar contest—in which unpublished authors compete before a panel of celebrity game designers and legions of their peers for the chance to write a Pathfinder Module—The Midnight Mirror takes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.
I ran this at a convention last week and it was perfect for building a dark atmosphere. You might want to put a minimum age limit on players because some scenes are pretty disturbing. It gave me nightmares! It's a story of betrayal and retribution for past deeds and, played right, there can be no happy ending. It needs some prep to get the names and the motives right and I had to draw myself up a family tree to understand the background history. My players did the adventure in a slightly different order to that envisaged but that wasn't a problem. The risk level is very high in places and there is a strong chance that they won't come back from this one. But the module has a very high standard of writing and I have no hesitation in giving it 5 stars. I hope to run it again. The website's GM suggestions for setting the scene and motivating the PCs using Count Varian Jeggare was very attractive to my players and I would recommend taking a look at that, too.
I ran this for some very experienced players recently, and the more I prepared in advance, the more excited I was.
Unlike many modules which are dungeon-delves or where everything is seemingly preordained in the module itself, The Midnight Mirror presents the story in such a way that the PCs can take almost any approach, any order of events, and the story remains coherent and tight.
(My players caught the subtle "butcher, baker, candlestick maker" bit, and thought that was a neat joke to slip in under the radar, by the by)
Many times in PFS scenarios and some other modules, a rich backstory is developed that the GM gets to read and enjoy, but there are no good opportunities for the PCs to learn about it, and the motivations behind NPCs and their involvement in the story - Midnight Mirror has those connections in spades, and my players (especially the ones who were more investigation-focused than combat-focused) loved digging into the history of Karpad and the Shae/Kayal of the past and the present.
I only have two criticisms of the module, neither enough to warrant less than a 5-star review from me:
1 - Stats for Stepan would be nice, in case the PCs decide to turn on him, or if Nicasor goes for him and the PCs are engaged to try and protect him.
2 - One of my players caught a potential plot hole:
If those trapped inside the mirror do not age as part of their eternal imprisonment, how is it that Manar and Sorin were born/aged inside the mirror? Is it just that people brought in from outside don't age, but those born within can be born, age, and die? That bugged some of my players for hours after they finished the module and had convinced Stepan to raise Sorin as his own.
I found this module to be rich in story, and flexible in terms of numbers of combats depending on the PCs' approach - a more diplomatic group (like mine) could talk through many encounters, whereas a more aggressive party would be able to enjoy fighting through everything, and the story would still be solid.
As the title of this review says - this is now my favorite Pathfinder RPG module!
This is a great module, full of intrigue and dark Nidal flavor. I hadn't read the Pathfinder novel Nightglass yet but this module inspired me to read it. The characters and situations are compelling and feel real. I could definitely imagine myself in Nidal trying to help an ancient but corrupt noble house. There is one character in particular who was very entertaining to talk to, though I won't say more because I don't like to give spoilers. The Midnight Mirror allows PCs to roleplay, think critically, and engage in some (potentially deadly) fights. Alas, my party experienced a TPK during this module. I really wish we had been able to finish it. I still recommend this module, just be prepared and realize that anything involving Nidal is not for the faint of heart!
Most of the complaints I have about Pathfinder modules and PFS scenarios is how generic they are. The Pathfinder campaign setting is expansive and ever-improving. It is a shame not to put this tool to use. Many times the players have no idea what nation or region they are in because that’s how the author intended it. In The Midnight Mirror the location matters for a change. Placing the adventure in Nidal was a bold move. I just wish there were greater details about Nidal in the module, such as the reaction of commoners and authority-types to faiths opposed to Zon-Kuthon. Having the threat of arrest and torture hanging over the PCs is something the GM has to add to the experience, but it heightens the tension.
The module is split into two sections. The first allows for mood development, investigation and role-play. It’s very ‘sandbox’. The timetable is fuzzy and the GM must improvise more than they should need to. However the players shouldn’t know the difference. There are enough clues to keep them moving. There’s a great deal of exposition to cover, but I enjoy the differing POVs the players get. Part 2 is a combination of combat and role-play, giving the PCs more insight into the backstory and a feeling they've been had.
The best part of the adventure is the aftermath. PCs are forced to choose a side or witness acts of vengeance on the innocent. It doesn't matter what they pick, they are going to have blood on their hands. I like it.
I have run this module twice. I've enjoyed it, but I have some concerns about felt the climactic encounter was going to be overwhelming for 4th level PCs. Thus far I have been wrong. It’s extremely challenging but so far only 1 PC has died.
I can't point to any single thing that prevented me from giving this 5-Stars. It just seemed lacking in small ways. Like
casters using blindness in two encounters, which hoses PCs with a permanent condition. And giving a sorceress with darkvision darkvision as a 2nd level spell slot.