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Poisonous Secrets (rejected scenario)


Scenario Submission Talk

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Here is my rejected scenario proposal. I'd appreciate any feedback you care to offer.

INTRODUCTION:
The logging town of Falcon’s Hollow is gripped in fear. Townsfolk are being murdered in their beds, poisoned in their sleep, never to wake again. Victor Shadowgleam, a druid from Darkmoon Wood, is picking off any lumberman in a position to gain a seat on the board of directors of the powerful Lumber Consortium. Victor polymorphs into a venomous snake to slay his victims, intending to frame a local cleric of Norgorber for his crimes. Through these assassinations, the power-hungry druid hopes to slowly subvert control of the town.

SUMMARY:
The Pathfinders are sent to Falcon’s Hollow to speak with an Andoran scholar. This scholar is the sole person who knows the location of a rare artifact buried beneath the town. When the PCs arrive, they find the scholar locked in his home, refusing to speak to anyone. The man fears for his life after a series of recent poisonings. If the Pathfinders want information, they first have to put an end to the murders.

The black market can provide hints regarding jewelry stolen from one of the victims as well as poison recently purchased by a religious zealot and cleric of Norgorber. The cleric collects venomous creatures, but he is not responsible for the murders. Another suspect is the Gavel of the Lumber Consortium, Thuldrin Kreed. No solid evidence exists against him, but rumors swirl about his cruelty.

When the Pathfinders discover Victor Shadowgleam, they venture into Darkmoon Wood to defeat him in his lair. The dangerous woods are guarded by poisonous spiders and charmed boars, which must be dealt with before the confronting the murderer himself.

ACT 1: THE BLACK MARKET
The Lumber Consortium controls the town by tightly regulating trade. Local black markets occasionally spring up in defiance of these regulations. The PCs can locate a black market to follow the trail of stolen jewelry or to learn about recent poison purchases. If they stir up trouble, thieves attempt to scare them off by force.

Tier 1-2: human rogue 1 and halfling rogue 1
Tier 3-4: human rogue 2 and halfling rogue 1
Tier 6-7: human rogue 4 and halfling rogue 2 (x2)

ACT 2: DEN OF VENOM
The cleric of Norgorber acts as a red herring, but initial clues point to his venomous pets.

Tier 1-2: half-orc cleric 3 and monstrous scorpions (tiny) (x2)
Tier 3-4: half-orc cleric 3 and monstrous scorpions (medium) (x2) and spider swarm
Tier 6-7: half-orc cleric 5 and monstrous scorpions (large) (x3) and spider swarm

ACT #3: THE TYRANT'S THUGS (OPTIONAL)
The Pathfinders might suspect Thuldrin Kreed. If they voice such suspicions, Kreed sends thugs to silence them. Use this encounter if the PCs beat the previous encounters too easily.

Tier 1-2: human fighter 1
Tier 3-4: human fighter 2 (x2)
Tier 6-7: human fighter 4 (x3)

ACT #4: SPIDER NEST
The PCs stumble into a web-covered spider nest at the edge of Darkmoon Wood. The cleric of Norgorber marked the location on his map as he came here to capture poisonous pets.

Tier 1-2: monstrous spiders (small) (x3)
Tier 3-4: monstrous spiders (large) (x3)
Tier 6-7: phase spiders (x2)

ACT #5: MY LITTLE FRIENDS
Animals charmed by Victor Shadowgleam protect his woodland lair. The animals attack anyone who comes near.

Tier 1-2: boar
Tier 3-4: boars (x2)
Tier 6-7: dire boars (x2)

ACT #6: THE MURDERER'S LAIR
Victor has been watching the Pathfinders in animal form and is prepared for their arrival. For Tiers 1-2 and 3-4, the druid has a small collection of scrolls of Beast Shape III, which he uses to gain the poison ability of a viper.

Tier 1-2: human druid 4 (has already used his wild shape ability for the day and was injured in a scuffle with his previous victim)
Tier 3-4: human druid 6
Tier 6-7: human druid 8 plus deep spiked pit trap

CONCLUSION:
If the Pathfinders stop Victor Shadowgleam, the Lumber Consortium thanks them for keeping the town safe and for preventing further corruption of the board of directors. The scholar comes out of hiding, only to reveal that the artifact the PCs sought was stolen years ago.

If the Pathfinders accuse the wrong person, the murders continue, prompting further investigation. If unopposed, Victor becomes more brash, targeting board members directly and causing chaos to erupt throughout Falcon’s Hollow and the surrounding area.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

This is a really cool premise and a good murder mystery is something we haven't seen yet in PFS. Obviously, you've had a past pitch chosen for a scenario, so I'm sure you know what you're doing. These are just my initial thoughts.

I think that the Lumber Consortium elements here seem at odds with the Pathfinder Society. I know that they're more related to the motivations of the villain, but it doesn't jove right with me. Plus, how many people really are up for this high position in the BoD for the Consortium (especially in a POS town like Falcon's Hollow)? In Oregent maybe, but Falcon's Hollow is the victim of the Consortium's greed and evil ways, not the root of it.

You also risk the PCs going after a major regional NPC with Kreed listed among the suspects. Even if there's no evidence, I'd play it safe and not use someone like him. New NPCs like the PFS's contact and the cleric of Norgorber seem better suited for a scenario like this in terms of world breakability.

I have mentioned before on other feedback threads the amount of wordcount used up by listing detailed accounts of each encounter's tiers. You tell an excellent and compelling story. Use every word to evoke the experience of play, not details that can be ironed out in development. In a murder mystery like this, it's even more important to tell a captivating story as it's a story-heavy concept.

In all, this seems like a great adventure and one I'd love to play in. I don't know what about it wasn't to Josh's liking but had he chosen it I'd love to see how it played out.

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Please take the following comments as a creative critque.

The Good:722 words. The pitch is good. I like the fact its low key, not "save the world" feel to it.I like the "who done it?" Sherlock Holmes investigation style of this submission. The outline format is easy to read and you have put thought into the tiers. I like the simple, to the point encounters.

The Bad:In the Summary, you have the players having trouble getting information from a Andorian scholar which is a good (solve murder A to get artifact B logic)but it is not your first encounter. How do the players know to look into the black market? Do they start there? Major NPCs(Kreed) need to stay out of direct contact in PFS encounters IMO. The part of Kreed can always be played by an underling of his.

If the priest had no part in the assassination, how do these items stolen from the victims point to him? I can see how the "buying of snakes" makes him a suspect. Also, why is the druid trying to frame the priest?

How do the the players eventually stumble onto Victor Shadowgleam? The only connection I see is the players find the location where the snakes are captured. This really is the only major flaw. There needs to be stronger evidence to suggest the druid to be the target of the player's wrath.

What I would improve on: Your submission is good. The strong evidence tie is the only real flaw. Good luck next open call!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Thank you both for the comments.

*

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game Subscriber

Thanks for sharing your submission, Elizabeth. This is a really interesting murder investigation.

I'd recommend putting a lot more information in the summary about what clues, red herrings, and resources the Pathfinders will discover as they move from one encounter to the next. I'm sure it would be spelled out in the scenario, but the submission would be stronger with more details about the how the party can solve the crime.

I like the use of a Cleric of Norgorber as a red herring.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
Here is my rejected scenario proposal. I'd appreciate any feedback you care to offer.

Hey, Elizabeth. It's great to see you building on your RPG Superstar 2009 success by pitching for the PFS scenarios. I believe you've already done one? If so, I think that's fantastic! In the interests of trying to give some feedback to folks (I did one for Zizazat earlier), I figured I try and do the same for a couple more that caught my eye. Yours did, so here goes:

Feedback:

Spoiler:

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
Poisonous Secrets

First, that's an interesting title. There's a lot of sibilant "S's" to it that's reminiscent of a snake. Don't know if you were going for that, considering your druid villain is wild shaping into a venomous snake in order to murder folks. Still, with so many "S's" the title kind of comes out a little hard to pronounce out loud. A thought occurred to me that you could have called it "Venomous Secrets" and that might eliminate some of it. Still, I'm not sure that "secrets" and "poison" is really the heart of your adventure. It's more about "murder" really and the need to solve the mystery of who's poisoning so many folks in Falcon's Hollow. Since it's pretty clearly murder that's featured as the catalyst of your adventure, I don't think there's any harm in giving that away in your title. So maybe naming it something with "Murder" in the title would okay?

Anyway, not a big deal or anything. It's just a title is the very first eye-catching and interest-grabbing thing you can fire out there with a proposal. So, finding the beating heart of your adventure and ensuring it's part of the title is a really good thing to strive for when pitching something to a publisher.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
INTRODUCTION: The logging town of Falcon’s Hollow is gripped in fear. Townsfolk are being murdered in their beds, poisoned in their sleep, never to wake again.

This is more of syntax/grammar piece of advice, but your first two sentences use passive voice. As a result, your lead-off paragraph isn't as attention-grabbing as it otherwise could be. When you use active verbs instead of "is" and "are" it can totally change the power of your writing. For instance, here's a revised take that imparts the same information you wanted to convey, but it uses more active verbs and language to draw a reader in:

"The logging town of Falcon's Hollow lies gripped in fear. Someone has started murdering townsfolk in their beds, poisoning them in their sleep, never to wake again."

By exchanging "is" for "lies" and changing the second sentence to describe "someone" who has started murdering the "townsfolk," you're able to flip the subject around to show who is "acting" upon whom. I'd recommend that you look for ways to identify passive voice in your writing, and then work on how to rephrase such sentences to make them more active. The mere inclusion of active verbs help add to the descriptive text of what you're trying to convey.

Other than that, I have to say that I love your premise. As someone (yoda/Mark?) said earlier, I think a good murder mystery scenario is needed in PFS play. There ought to be more of that going on among the Pathfinders and their adventures.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
Victor Shadowgleam, a druid from Darkmoon Wood, is picking off any lumberman in a position to gain a seat on the board of directors of the powerful Lumber Consortium.

A couple of comments here. One, Victor's last name feels a little forced. Shadowgleam, while evocative, doesn't really feel like it fits as well with the other named PCs of the Falcon's Hollow area. I don't know. Others might feel otherwise. But Shadowgleam sounds menacing from the get-go. And, naming your villain that pretty much tips off the players as soon as they hear it that he's their likely target. Personally, I'd recommend going with something more innocuous and less likely to immediately conjure assumptions of "evil" from your NPC.

Secondly, I'm not up to speed on the structure of the Lumber Consortium, but do they have an actual "board of directors?" That sounds a little too modern, like an actual corporation from the real world. Thuldrin Kreed is referred to as a Gavel, right? So maybe borrow from those naming conventions and construct something else to describe their leadership.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
Victor polymorphs into a venomous snake to slay his victims, intending to frame a local cleric of Norgorber for his crimes. Through these assassinations, the power-hungry druid hopes to slowly subvert control of the town.

Some more questions jump to mind here. First, if Victor is a druid, I believe he "wild shapes" into a venomous snake, right? He wouldn't polymorph into one. ;-)

Secondly, what does he intend to gain by assassinating lumberjacks who might get promoted into the hierarchy of the Lumber Consortium? Other than delaying an eventual successor (and I would presume they've got plenty of ambitious guys who'd like to climb into a seat of power alongside Kreed), how does Victor eventually benefit? I don't see how he subverts control of the town through these actions.

Frighten everyone? Yes. Blackmail or coerce the other lumberjacks via threat of a silent death if they don't do his bidding instead of Kreed's? Perhaps.

I think what might sell it better and make his actions more credible is if he were intentionally trying to eliminate the rivals for such a position...presumably to make way for someone who's much more easily manipulated by him. In other words, maybe he's worked a charm or has a fey ally who charmed or can influence one of the lumberjacks. And, he's counting on putting that guy in power so he can pull his strings and affect the Consortium? I think that might have made your villain a little more villainous and the overall story more compelling. Also, it could setup more "loose ends" for the PCs to trace in order to find out who's really behind everything.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
SUMMARY: The Pathfinders are sent to Falcon’s Hollow to speak with an Andoran scholar. This scholar is the sole person who knows the location of a rare artifact buried beneath the town. When the PCs arrive, they find the scholar locked in his home, refusing to speak to anyone. The man fears for his life after a series of recent poisonings. If the Pathfinders want information, they first have to put an end to the murders.

This seems like a good initial reason to have the PCs come to Falcon's Hollow, but I think you didn't do enough with it. As a starting "encounter" or situation for kicking off the adventure, I'd suggest making it bit more imperative and exciting. Have the PCs show up to converse with this scholar. Maybe they get to have dinner with him. He tells them he needs time to gather all the information they need from his notes or whatever and offers to let them stay the night while he does so.

And then, sometime during their stay, maybe Victor sneaks into his bedroom in snake form to bite the scholar once he falls asleep at his desk. Why? Maybe the scholar was starting to put two-and-two together and was on the right track to eventually discover the druid was behind the murders? Maybe the scholar had some influence over the Lumber Consortium that was at odds with the druid's goals? By having him suffer an attack, you can either have the scholar be slain as well, or have him poisoned by the attack and dependent on the PCs tracking down the source of the unusual venom so an antidote can be made that will save him. Meanwhile, maybe someone's using delay poison on him until they can succeed. And he withholds his information until they save him.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
The black market can provide hints regarding jewelry stolen from one of the victims as well as poison recently purchased by a religious zealot and cleric of Norgorber. The cleric collects venomous creatures, but he is not responsible for the murders. Another suspect is the Gavel of the Lumber Consortium, Thuldrin Kreed. No solid evidence exists against him, but rumors swirl about his cruelty.

I agree with one of the earlier comments that including Thuldrin Kreed as a potential suspect probably isn't a good idea. It leans too heavily on an existing Paizo NPC that's pretty important to Falcon's Hollow and Darkmoon Vale. A lesser minion of Kreed's would make an excellent guy to finger, though.

As for the cleric of Norgorber, I like that angle, but priests of Norgorber are not typically welcomed in most communities. So, is this guy secretly practicing the faith and masquerading as a local apothecary or something? I think you'd need to build a better case for how and why he becomes a suspect. What leads the PCs to start asking questions among the black market about poisons? And who puts them onto the cleric? I'd suggest maybe having one of Victor's minions do it...possibly a fey with the benefit of disguise self or something. Or maybe a traveling bard acquaintance who likes the idea of assisting Victor in his goals to manipulate the Lumber Consortium.

Lastly, the stolen jewelry angle makes me question how or why Victor would have taken that from one of his victims. If I were a detective, it wouldn't seem to fit his profile. What interest would a druid have in jewelry and selling it on the black market? He isn't purchasing his poison from there since he can wild shape into a venomous snake. So, my recommendation would be to give him an accomplice...someone who helps him get into homes so he can attack his victims. Either a rogue, bard, or fey obsessed with shiny things that would find a victim's jewelry too tempting to pass up. This way, the minion's actions become a clue or loose end that helps lead the PCs to Victor. Good stories always include some kind of flaw like that in the plans of villains that helps the good guys thwart them. And I think your adventure pitch would be stronger by finding opportunities like that to weave your encounters more tightly together.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
When the Pathfinders discover Victor Shadowgleam, they venture into Darkmoon Wood to defeat him in his lair. The dangerous woods are guarded by poisonous spiders and charmed boars, which must be dealt with before the confronting the murderer himself.

This definitely defines the end-game scenario in the adventure proposal, but I don't really get a sense for how the PCs get clued into Victor's involvement. I think you need a stronger tie between all the encounters to show how the PCs get there, so you can mention it in your summary.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
ACT 1: THE BLACK MARKET - The Lumber Consortium controls the town by tightly regulating trade. Local black markets occasionally spring up in defiance of these regulations. The PCs can locate a black market to follow the trail of stolen jewelry or to learn about recent poison purchases. If they stir up trouble, thieves attempt to scare them off by force.

I think you need a stronger tie-in here. Rather than having generic thieves get upset about the PCs asking too many questions around the Black Market, make it so that their adversaries in this scene actually do have a tie to Victor. Maybe they get to stake out the Black Market or solicit the help of a pawn broker to tip them off to anyone bringing a certain piece of missing jewelry to attempt to sell it. That way, the PCs start getting clues immediately that will put them on the trail of the main villain. If Victor had a rogue, bard, or fey accomplice using a disguise, this would be the scene to introduce that NPC and let the heroes take him down...only to be faced with interrogating him to find further leads...or otherwise learn the cleric of Norgorber and Kreed's men aren't the ones behind what's happening.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
ACT 2: DEN OF VENOM - The cleric of Norgorber acts as a red herring, but initial clues point to his venomous pets.

Rather than just making this a red herring that's a complete throwaway once the PCs find out he's not the murderer, I'd recommend integrating it more tightly. Make it so that he's already been falsely accused and arrested. Perhaps many of the murdered bodies bear marks of a venomous snake. Since he's the guy with all the venomous snakes and scorpions in town...and maybe someone eventually noticed he's got a holy symbol or something dedicated to Norgorber in his home...that caused the locals to arrest him for the murders. The PCs could then interview him and ascertain he's not the guy. And maybe he has an idea of who the real culprit is. Somewhere around the time the PCs are interrogating the accomplice from the Black Market, it would be cool if this priest of Norgorber gets arrested. And that would prompt the PCs to initially think someone had solved the murders before they did...only to find out it's not him...and the well-meaning townsfolk who arrested him need to be convinced to let him go. You could even have Victor send snakes into his cell to kill him off, too, before the priests puts the PCs onto him.

Alternately, it might even be doubly interesting if your scholar that the PCs need to consult with turned out to BE this priest of Norgorber instead of the other NPC. That would tie all these scenes together even more tightly and make your proposal really compelling, I think.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:

Tier 1-2: half-orc cleric 3 and monstrous scorpions (tiny) (x2)

Tier 3-4: half-orc cleric 3 and monstrous scorpions (medium) (x2) and spider swarm
Tier 6-7: half-orc cleric 5 and monstrous scorpions (large) (x3) and spider swarm

I was expecting the priest of Norgorber's pets to be snakes so there'd be a stronger case for suspecting him. After all, Victor's fangs even while wild shaped into a venomous snake would leave enough telltale signs to ascertain the type of death suffered by his victims. So people would be looking for snakes...or maybe initially fear vampires until they could prove none of the bodies arose as undead. But, generally, by making his pets snakes, it implicates the priest better than having him keep a bunch of scorpions and spiders.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
ACT #3: THE TYRANT'S THUGS (OPTIONAL) - The Pathfinders might suspect Thuldrin Kreed. If they voice such suspicions, Kreed sends thugs to silence them. Use this encounter if the PCs beat the previous encounters too easily.

Again, my recommendation would be to ditch Kreed as the suspect and make it one of his men. A recent hire. Someone with a past from the assassins and poisoners guild of Daggerkeep in the River Kingdoms would be a nice touch.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
ACT #4: SPIDER NEST - The PCs stumble into a web-covered spider nest at the edge of Darkmoon Wood. The cleric of Norgorber marked the location on his map as he came here to capture poisonous pets.

This encounter doesn't "bridge" very well from the cleric of Norgorber to Victor Shadowgleam. I'd recommend more of a relationship between these two NPCs. Maybe Victor used to bring rare components to the cleric so he could manufacture rare poisons for his own purposes. And, somewhere in the course of transacting their business, maybe the cleric became aware of Victor's leanings and political views on the Lumber Consortium. Enough to know how extreme Victor might become in opposing or controlling them.

Then, it makes more sense why the cleric would put the PCs onto Victor. By telling them of the locations in the wilds where Victor probaby had to go to find such rare components for him, it should help the PCs start tracking down the elusive druid. This would also present some serious wilderness challenges, because presumably the druid is high enough in level to potentially avoid them. So they'll need some kind of advantage provided by the cleric of Norgorber in tracking him down...all because the cleric needs to save his own skin before the townsfolk find him guilty of murder and string him up.

In terms of an actual encounter in the woods, I'd recommend the PCs come across Victor's animal companion instead. That way, either by trailing it, tracking it, or capturing it and holding it hostage, they can find their way to the druid or convince him to come to them. It also avoids too many poisonous encounters. After all, you don't want to afflict the PCs with too many debilitating effects when you're only going to run a 4-hour session.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
ACT #5: MY LITTLE FRIENDS - Animals charmed by Victor Shadowgleam protect his woodland lair. The animals attack anyone who comes near.

This is where I'd recommend not going for more animal guardians of the druid's lair. Instead, put another sentient ally like a fey or other woodland creature that he's befriended into the mix. A centaur might be a good choice. Or a satyr. Basically, someone who enjoys sticking it to the Lumber Consortium, too, but who's a little more constrained to staying in the forest...and hence, has a good reason why the PCs would only encounter them at the druid's woodland lair.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
ACT #6: THE MURDERER'S LAIR - Victor has been watching the Pathfinders in animal form and is prepared for their arrival. For Tiers 1-2 and 3-4, the druid has a small collection of scrolls of Beast Shape III, which he uses to gain the poison ability of a viper.

I love the scrolls of beast shape III to give Victor a poison ability. This is the scene where poison needs to threaten the PCs the most and its great that you give it to your villain who's been using that as his favorite method of murder and intimidation. I will mention that you should use lowercase and italics when referencing spells in your proposal, because that helps Josh and the other Paizo developers know that you understand the proper formatting that will be needed for writing a PFS scenario for them.

As for the final fight, I'm a little curious about "how" Victor has been watching the PCs in animal form this whole time. If that's the case, I'd expect him to have prepared a much better method of opposing them rather than just waiting until they come to him. That's a bit too passive for a guy who's been actively murdering members of the Lumber Consortium on his own. Instead, I'd suggest the final encounter take place in one of two ways. If the PCs captured his animal companion, he comes to them...and probably a bit less-prepared than he might otherwise be, because he'll be blinded with worry over the safety of his pet. Otherwise, let the PCs follow his animal companion back to him or have some other means of surprising your villain. He should think he got away with everything until the PCs demonstrate their heroism, diligence, and tenacity in tracking him down when everyone else thought the cleric of Norgorber was the guy. That's a classic literary ending that I think would resonate really well with the players who experience your PFS scenario.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
CONCLUSION: If the Pathfinders stop Victor Shadowgleam, the Lumber Consortium thanks them for keeping the town safe and for preventing further corruption of the board of directors. The scholar comes out of hiding, only to reveal that the artifact the PCs sought was stolen years ago.

Hmmm...all of this resolution sounds okay. Not great, but okay. The part I don't like is how the artifact was stolen and the scholar having no way to help them at all. That's not a very good payoff for everything the PCs had to go through to save him. I still like the idea of the PCs having to obtain a sample of the appropriate venom before it kills the scholar. That way, they get paid off with their information and they save him in order to receive it.

Elizabeth Leib wrote:
If the Pathfinders accuse the wrong person, the murders continue, prompting further investigation. If unopposed, Victor becomes more brash, targeting board members directly and causing chaos to erupt throughout Falcon’s Hollow and the surrounding area.

This may be a bit too sandbox for a 4-hour PFS scenario. I don't know. But, regardless, including the what-if's where the PCs potentially fail isn't a bad thing. It's good design to explore that possibility and describe the consequences.

Anyway, I hope all that helps. I really enjoyed the seed of your proposal. There were just some parts where I thought it could be even more dynamic and set your idea apart from the other submissions so it would intrigue Josh enough to green-light you to write it. Best of luck in your future work. I really enjoyed your stuff in RPG Superstar and I hope you submit for it again next year as well as more of the PFS scenarios.

My two-cents,
--Neil

** RPG Superstar 2012

This looks like a fun scenario. I can't really add anything to the above comments (I also made the mistake of including Kreed in my scenario). Best of luck on your future submissions!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Thanks for taking the time to critique my proposal, guys. Your questions and insight have given me a lot to think about.

NSpicer wrote:
Hey, Elizabeth. It's great to see you building on your RPG Superstar 2009 success by pitching for the PFS scenarios. I believe you've already done one? If so, I think that's fantastic!

Yup, I did #28: Lyrics of Extinction.

Taldor **

Nice submission. I love mysteries, but I think they are very difficult to pitch in under 750 words. I think my submission suffered from some similar problems I'm seeing in yours.

I think the idea of a lost artifact being the reason for a party of Pathfinders coming to Falcon's Hollow is great, but an unscrupulous group of Pathfinders (not all of them are good guys) might just kick down the scholar's door and demand answers at sword point instead of trying to solve a murder, thereby bypassing the entire scenario. (I also feel a little robbed at the end when the scholar reveals that the artifact was stolen long ago). Why not just make Victor's victims be people who have pieces of information that together will lead to the artifact? Perhaps Victor is also seeking the artifact for his own ends and naturally runs afoul of the PCs at some point.

As far as format and transition, I can guess how one act leads to another, but perhaps it needs to be spelled out a little more precisely when the PCs track Victor back to his lair. I'm not sure what causes them to go into the woods after dealing with the cleric and eliminating him as a suspect. Does the encounter with him somehow lead the PCs in that direction?

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

I rewrote my outline, partially as a writing exercise and partially because I plan to run this for my home group in a couple of weeks. I got a little carried away with its length. I think we'll be devoting a bit more than a 4 hour session to play it.

Since you folks were kind enough to give me ideas, I thought I would share in case anyone else can make use of it.

Poisonous Secrets (expanded outline)

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