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PFS#43 The Pallid Plague [Spoilers]


Pathfinder Society GM Discussion

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Qadira *****

So I played this one on Thursday. I didn’t enjoy myself BUT it wasn’t because of the scenario. I look forward to running this scenario at our gameday next weekend and I wanted to get a discussion going about it before I have to run it. If you have not played this scenario and plan on doing so, please read no further! I’m not going to bother with a spoiler tag since I put the warning in all caps in the title.

I’ll break it down encounter by encounter. First, who’s this Brackett guy? I know he’s a venture captain but all we have on him is what type of nose he has. Is he a native Andoran? Do they speak with an accent in Andoran? Does he have an affinity for fey? I’m just curious how he’s intended to be played.

It’s over 500 miles from Almas to Falcon’s Hollow. If the plague has already broken out, it will take the players 2-3 weeks to get to Falcon’s Hollow to try and stop it. Each day after the first a victim drops 1d2 Con and the save gets harder to make. I’m just sayin’ the problem may work itself out before the PCs get there. The scenario doesn’t say anything about the disease only affecting humanoids.

I think what confused me most during the scenario was the timeline. When the PCs arrive at the cutyard in Act One the overseer is already dead of the plague. Supposedly the lumberjacks had gone out hunting fey, stumbled across the plague fields in Act Two and contracted the disease. They return to the cutyard and infect their co-workers and overseer. The ex-druids send their zombies after the lumberjacks and the players arrive in the midst of the attack. So the overseer went from healthy to dead in one day, unless the druids waited around for at least five days before deciding to send their zombies against the cutyard operating one hour away from their location.

The low tier fight was OK, we handled it with ease and really freaked when the thing literally popped when we killed it. We had wanted to play the mid tier but our GM persuaded us it wasn’t safe. The only thing I saw that was worrisome was the damage the large wolves could do in tier 3-4 was very dangerous for a 1st level PC. I liked the cutyard map but when I made my map last night I spread stuff out so it didn’t look so organized. I eliminated the charge lane for the players by curving the trail through the stumps, and I placed a large pile of logs next to the trail. I like to mess with the players who metagame. A logging camp should have some logs around, right? The pile of logs looks just like a trap so the players who metagame a lot will spread out and avoid the area around the logs because they believe it’s going to be sprung if they go near it.

Our whole party had no one with any ranks in heal, and no cleric to boot. We knew the lumberjacks were sick, but I felt the best thing we could do was contain the plague to that location by killing all the lumberjacks and burning their bodies. No one liked my plan. Stoopid paladins.

The plague fields in Act Two was a very frustrating encounter. Most of us were already exposed at that point so we didn’t think anything about charging right across the flowers and beating the snot out of the ex-druids. I think the whole table was annoyed by the demeanor of the ex-druids who didn’t seem to care about anything. They came off as listless and apathetic about dying. They weren’t fanatical or defiant. They came off like ahedonistic goth kids and their refusal to beg for mercy as we took out our frustrations on them only made things worse. This was not a failure of the scenario, however. It just was aggravating since it shouldn’t even be listed as a combat. The ex-druids provide no challenge and simply dying where they stand doesn’t add to the story at all. They should just stand in the fields smiling cruelly and wait for the PCs to come to them. You want to tie me up and take me to Falcon’s Hollow to turn me over to the authorities? Sure! [make a Fort save] It also seemed like they should have been dying already if they were diseased, right?

Act Three I really liked. This would be called a Skill Challenge in 4E. It was a great example of how players can have fun while not trying to kill something. My only concern is what to do when the players lay down a die because all their characters are tweaked for combat and they have no skills that can be applied to finding a cure. I think it is just deserts and I plan on strictly enforcing the rules. If the players can’t assist Laurel to find a cure then they need to buy some fleet horses for the ride back to Almas else find a friendly druid fast. I do admire the high Fort save that was set for the tiers. Disease should not be something that is easily dismissed.

Act Four was a cakewalk, with the cultists again just serving as punching bags for frustrated players. I felt like we should have taken them to an armory and bought them some better gear before fighting them. The optional encounter in Act Five was skipped since we were playing on a weeknight and no one was in the mood.

Act Five lasted one round. Our wizard ran up and dropped the cleric with a scorching ray, then the others were hit with an entangle and it was all over. I think the GM needs to put figures or counters out on the map to represent the non-combatant cultists. Otherwise it is too easy to run up and put a hurtin’ on the BBEG right off the bat. A crowd of diseased partiers serve as cover and speed bumps.

I think the main question I want to raise on this thread is what should happen if the players fail to assist Laurel in crafting a cure? What recourse do the players have once they realize they’re dying and will never make two consecutive saves? Where are the druids who might help, and what is their attitude toward the PCs (Diplomacy DC)? How many days travel is it to a town with a 5th level divine caster? How far to Oregent or Carpendon? I expect if the players are unable to find a cure, at least one of them is going to die from Con damage. Like I said to Mark, it sucks to die of a disease but it should be within the realm of possibility.

Osirion **

Doug Doug wrote:
So I played this one on Thursday. I didn’t enjoy myself BUT it wasn’t because of the scenario.

Well, you had an amateur GM. You knew it was my first time, and I didn't do too bad I hope.

Doug Doug wrote:
The scenario doesn’t say anything about the disease only affecting humanoids.

You must have missed it in the briefing, because it was covered in the questions asked by the elven ranger that the disease was originally designed for humanoids, but was attacking fey also, and it wasn't known if the town folk humans were infected or not.

Doug Doug wrote:
I think what confused me most during the scenario was the timeline. When the PCs arrive at the cutyard in Act One the overseer is already dead of the plague.

My mistake. I should have described multiple skirmishes over the past weeks. Rereading, it is still a little loose as to who was infected by whom and when.

Doug Doug wrote:
We had wanted to play the mid tier but our GM persuaded us it wasn’t safe.

The APL was 2.5 with a gnome druid and (IIRC) gnome paladin as the fresh, new level 1 characters. Their contributions in scene three would have been lost if they had a DC 24. That would have failed the scene, and consequentially the module. You nearly ran out of possible rolls as it was. The druid, played by a 10 year old kid, thought to use handle animal to check how the disease we progressing for his panther pet. Bravo.

Doug Doug wrote:
The plague fields in Act Two was a very frustrating encounter.

The druids played friendly and stupid as 5 of the 6 party members tromped through the field to yell and complain about the diseased zombie animal companions. "Don't you like our pretty flowers and the blessing of Urgathoa?" And none of the party have knowledge religion because the higher characters are arcanes and the ones with any divine power are on their first adventure.

Once frustration set in and a detect evil was done, the party attacked. The surprise round color spray took out one gardener, another went unconscious in one round, and the third backed further into the fields, plinking with his sling, trying to draw a ranger in after him. The gardeners won in their eyes, becuase five more people were infected with a disease they were cultivating and spreading. Death is a blessing, a goal, and coming in a few days for them anyways. So they weren't interested in saving their own lives.
Doug Doug wrote:
Sure! [make a Fort save]

Well, you did handle a pollen ridden body, and right on the edge of the flower field. And they were infected and dying already. Just not dead yet.

Doug Doug wrote:
I think the GM needs to put figures or counters out on the map to represent the non-combatant cultists.

Agreed. I did that in one run, and it was: players charge in, crowd scatters, and clear all the counters before any actions anyways. I skipped putting them out on your run when I shouldn't have. But, your group hollered "We're here" before you even got on the map. What ever happened to sneaking up on the bad guys. ;-)

Wrapup: I have run this twice to prep GMs for the gaming day, once at tier 1-2, and the other at tier 3-4. This my first time being the GM for anything, although I have been playing off and on for 25 years.
A) The fights are real easy. Four villains were one shotted. The last one is especially a let down on the lower tiers.
B) The timeline is very loose and hard to make a final scene deadline at "this evening". I had to hand wave it to every evening.
C) Scene 3 was very close to failure for both groups. The tier 1-2 group had 6 players, and the tier 3-4 group only had 4. But, the second group had a cleric with the luck domain and therefore double d20 rolls. Without that, plus guidance, and resting a day in town to refresh powers, the 4 member party would have failed.
D) The four man group heard their Pathfinder instructions and immediately went out to stock up on cold iron crossbow bolts and spears. Ah, well, then they run into zombies...
E) The six man party wanted to split up at scene 3. I hmm'd and haw'd and didn't let them out the door. If the party splits to hunt down those in scene 4, it stalls and jeopardizes scene 3.

**

Lots to respond to here, but I'll do my best.

I think your analysis of the timeline and travel to and from Falcon's Hollow is sound, Doug, and I'll keep that in mind in future scenarios. I suggest GMs alter the timeline to put the PCs at Falcon's Hollow right on the verge of the larger outbreak, regardless of how long these things take them. I didn't adequately back into that timeline in my initial design though.

VC Brackett is detailed more in Seekers of Secrets, which is now considered part of the core assumption of PFS, so I didn't use word count to further describe him. I probably should have.

I intended several of the battles, especially those with cultists, to be relatively easy, seeing them as chances for the PCs to get themselves nice and infected or social encounters if the PCs chose to take that route instead. It's possible to only have two combats in the whole scenario if one uses social skills in encounters 2, 4, and 5. I'm sorry to hear that the final encounter wasn't challenging. I think that adding additional minis to the board to keep PCs guessing as to who is a combatant and who isn't is a good fix. At the very least they'll think they're up against a huge force until the bystanders have a chance to flee.

As for act 3, I originally designed a much more complex skill challenge, involving specific skills in a specific order with different DCs, the success or failure cascading to the next check with bonuses or penalties. I think a creative party has an easier time now, since they can roleplay and try to justify just about any non-combat skill to gain bonuses. I like Josh's change to the act in development and think it runs much smoother than how I originally envisioned it. I will be running this on Wednesday, so we'll see then! I don't see a problem with the party splitting up for this act, since some could use Survival to search for rare herbal ingredients, while others could use Knowledge (local) to try to find information on rumors of similar diseases in the past. Basically, whatever PCs can justify to make the encounter more interesting should be encouraged; let them feel like they have a real impact on what happens. Parties who don't participate in the research should fail, the same way students who don't study for tests should have a harder time succeeding than those who put in the effort. If the party splits up, don't start the cultist encounter until they've completed Act 3.

Hope that helps, guys. Did I overlook any other concerns?

Cheliax *

I met Mark at the very first PFS game both he and I ever played. Back then, Alex (Branding Opportunity on the boards) was kind enough to run a table of Pathfinder newbies through what was then the early stages of Paizo's stab at organized play; it was the first weeks of season 0 and only the first 4 mods were out.

That was a little bit ago ...

Last night, Alex was at it again, GMing a table of eager newbies through a mod that was about to be retired. A few feet away, Mark run another table made up of some of the 'old guard' players. What was quite telling was that table had regular players who were all boasting thier second society characters and Mark himself was running a mod that he had penned.

I am quite happy that Paizo went with this direction when they set sail out on the murky sea of organized play and happy that they chose Josh to helm the ship.

I am quite proud of being part of Pathfinder Society and eager to see it's continued growth.

And I must say I am quite proud of Mark.

Osirion **

Here is a little more feedback from a third run through.
1) It is amazing what PCs will carry along as evidence.

Spoiler:
This group made a litter to drag behind a horse and dragged Fulch's body to town. Then again, the osirion in group 1 was taking heads to make sure he had his faction mission evidence. He ended up with three by the end.

2) This was a kinder party this time compared previous runs.
Spoiler:
This group didn't feel comfortable stealing from the living lumberjacks, so they didn't get the treasure from scene 1. Overall, they missed out on a good percentage of the treasure from this scenario.

3) Scene two had more evidence.
Spoiler:
Two unconscious gardeners might be useful. Tie them up and stack them on top of the dead dude on the litter.

4) Scene 3 was still tough.
Spoiler:
It came down to healing up the unconscious gardeners, everyone trying diplomacy, and then later, everyone trying intimidate. Without these "everyone can try" skills, they would have come up well short.

5) Diplomacy did get them from scene 4 to 6 this time.
Spoiler:
But the wagon was left behind for Laurel to "hand out flowers" without it being searched. So Laurel made a nice profit.

6) Scene 3 always takes so long that scene 5 was skipped all three times. But, this is something I wondered. If scene 5 ends in a kill,
Spoiler:
would that lose the PCs their "Hero of the Fey" boon, even if they did find and deliver a cure? It seems wrong for the party to kill one of the fey and still get hero status.

7) Scene 6
Spoiler:
This time, the party was sneaky. They were led to the festival area by the two cultist from scene 4. Once they got close enough to hear where the party was, out came the saps. Then they did sneak up. Snipers identified one healthy person, and one zombie. The fight did last a few rounds this time though. So, better this time.

8) One of the GMs commented on this at the game day. The back story is very good, but doesn't have a way to get disseminated to the PCs.
Spoiler:
I had Laurel remember a little girl from town named Vondrella in the past, but not much more. Only Vondrella would know her motives, and she died quickly.
After the four tables were done for the game day, and we were cleaning up, that GM did a synopsis of the back story for the group to explain the background.
9) Combat was light and easy. It was designed that way, which is fine.
Spoiler:
The party spent more healing resources on reviving the gardeners than they did on themselves for the whole scenario.

So, in conclusion: Very good story, but I missed a way to get most of the motivations of the story to the PCs. It was different than most of the other scenarios, and that was appreciated by the players. So Mark, when will we get to see your next one?
In other words, Good Job! Please give us more.

*

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Elyza wrote:
6) Scene 3 always takes so long that scene 5 was skipped all three times. But, this is something I wondered. If scene 5 ends in a kill, ** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
Remember, Fae can be very, very strange at times. Killing one of them might get the whole forest looking for your head, or they might just want to pop grapes in your mouth for a job well done. So, with unclear motivations, it may be best to just assume that particular fae was somehow hostile to the others in the forest and move on.
Qadira *****

So we had four sessions run of #43 this Sunday. There were a total of 8 sessions over two slots at Uncle Den’s gameday & we actually ran out of chairs. I think we covered each tier. I ran the 6-7 tier, and it went…predictably. The high tier was the only table that failed to come up with a cure for the disease. All the players survived, since they had a good cleric and a paladin who could cast a lot of restorations & lesser restorations. Falcon’s Hollow and the fey of Darkmoon Vale did not fare as well. Urgathoa reaped a bountiful harvest this weekend! On the bright side, nature abhors a vacuum and the woods will once again be populated in a few decades. Maybe the darkwood trees will have time to recover.

The reason the 6-7 tier failed was the ridiculously high DC. In order for Laurel to have any kind of shot for crafting a cure, the PCs had to assist her ten times to overcome the -20 to her check. I let my players go through all their skills twice and they couldn’t get over four successes. Even at their levels, making a DC 28 skill check is not easy. Their skills were focused in a few areas related to their classes. Having a miscellaneous rank in linguistics or in knowledge (nature) didn’t give them enough to make a 28 though. Like I said, I gave everyone two shots at making it and they still weren’t even close. That was what I expected though.

None of them were too upset about it. They understood it was their dice that failed, not themselves. They also appreciated that not everyone is supposed to succeed. To rub it in, they screwed up their faction missions a number of ways too. If the Andorans can’t find a cure then they’ll never get their second point. They did get the basin in the end, but it was a hollow victory. One amusing aside, two tables decided to torch the cart in Act Four without searching it. My group also didn’t take the Lumber Consortium’s loot, so they lost out on that too.

In summary, I did like this scenario since it was such a departure from the norm. It is very memorable since it was so tough AND it finally had a favor and consequence of significance. I want to thank both Josh and Mark for adding such an appropriate and substantial reward/penalty to this scenario. Now that the precedent has been set, I expect to see something like this on all future scenarios :)

Paizo Employee ** Developer

I ran this for the second time last night and have adapted a few things to make play easier and more enjoyable that I thought I'd offer up on here

Spoiler:

When the low-skill party didn't succeed at offsetting Laurel's Craft (alchemy) check to produce a cure, I allowed them to rest overnight (good for spellcasters, bad for infected PCs) for her to work through the night (which I called taking a 20). The result was that PCs actually lost Con since they needed to make a day 2 save, which I liked! I just pushed the feast back a day and had the beggar cultists waiting in the streets for them the following morning.

Also, in response to people on the boards mentioning that PCs didn't get Vondrella's backstory, I made sure that the gardener they interrogated mentioned her name and gave them Diplomacy and Know (local) checks in town to discover her history. Some people, including Laurel, remember her parents dying years ago of a strange sickness they never discovered the source of, and also that their young daughter was essentially abandoned. This actually made the neutral and chaotic members of the group second guess killing her, since they thought she had a pretty good reason for wanting the whole town dead.

I am continually disappointed by the length of the final battle, though. Last night Vondrella was dead in the surprise round! The PCs silenced an arrow, using it in the bow to sneak up, then silenced her when it hit her. Good tactic, but a letdown final fight. I think I got hosed by the CR system in the design of this one, since I wanted to include low level mooks to soak up attacks. In the end, while it amounts to a challenging CR for each tier, it's not a hard fight at all. In practice, her cleric level (or at least hp) should be higher, at least in tiers 3-4 and 6-7. I'm running it for a level 1 party this weekend, and we'll see how that goes. :-\

Andoran ***

It's great to be able to read these posts before I GM them. Good stuff.

I'm running this tomorrow so reading through it tonight. I noticed the stat block for the dire wolves at tier 3-4 don't mention trip as part of their attack. Is this just a typo or is the trip lost in the transformation to a plague zombie?

Thanks.

**

Quote:
Special Attacks: A zombie retains none of the base creature's special attacks.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

Githzilla wrote:
I'm running this tomorrow so reading through it tonight. I noticed the stat block for the dire wolves at tier 3-4 don't mention trip as part of their attack. Is this just a typo or is the trip lost in the transformation to a plague zombie?

Spoiler:
Yeah, trip is gone, but it gains a slam, spreads disease, and explodes when it dies. Good trade-off if you ask me. ;-)
Sczarni ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8

In the final battle, Vondrella is both easily surprised and obviously the main target. I had a party of level 1 PCs take her down using magic missiles before she got a chance to act.

Maybe this is frowned on in organized play, but I always customize pathfinder society scenarios for my group. I usually limit my customization to giving the NPCs names, personalities and more interesting tactics, but I know my players like a good fight and the "boss" of each scenario usually needs some extra love.

I have what I think is a very thematic idea to make the final battle more dramatic. I'm hoping I'll get to use this next time I run the pallid plague.

First off, I'm going to place the feast table in a more thematic location-- on top of "an ancient barrow mound" with a decent view of the surrounding area. Besides being a favorable spot for her deity, this will give Vondrella a little better chance of spotting approaching PCs.

The feast table is crawling with flies, and on Vondrella's first turn, they rise up from the table and swarm around her. I'll have to decide exactly what benefit this confers based on the party I get, but I imagine a fly swarm would cause some penalty to attacks made while adjacent and require concentration checks for casting spells while adjacent to her. If I get to run at a higher tier, I plan on allowing the fly swarm to move away and deliver her contagion spell like a familiar.

*

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Sam Polak wrote:
Maybe this is frowned on in organized play, but I always customize pathfinder society scenarios for my group. I usually limit my customization to giving the NPCs names, personalities and more interesting tactics, but I know my players like a good fight and the "boss" of each scenario usually needs some extra love.

Yeah, this isn't just frowned on, it's outright forbidden, at least the last part. You can alter tactics and give the 'unnamed' mooks some extra personality, but when it comes to their stats, run the adventure as written. This includes initial setups, and especially any notes on whether or not people are busy doing stuff and if they have some priority other than killing the PCs.

The reason for this is simple. A part of organized play is being sure that, if the guy next to you has run the same modules, he's had similar experiences. This is likely going to be more and more important going forward, as "Series scenarios" start taking center stage and the faction missions are brought a little more into prominence again.

For example....

Spoiler:
In "The Devil We Know" the party will face a major villain in two separate scenarios. If you add embellishments in one, where he might be a bit underwhelming, when he shows up again later in a much deadlier tactical situation and he doesn't have the same 'tweaks' it's going to get confusing for your players. But if you ran each game as soon as it came out, you wouldn't know this.

Now, if you're just buying the scenarios to run in your home game, it's obviously a different kettle of fish and you can do what you want.

Also, I've probably missed a whole ton of other reasons for not messing around with the scenario as written, which people with more OP experience than I have will be happy to come up with.

Sczarni ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8

Quote:
Yeah, this isn't just frowned on, it's outright forbidden

Then I suppose my suggestions are not very helpful to you.

Consider them cheerfully offered for their potential use to others who are considering using this scenario as an episode in something besides official organized play.

Andoran ****

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I understand what you are saying Sam. I have spiced up a few of the otherwise stale scenario's too. Adding a couple of roleplaying experiences and other misc tweaks, such as a modified map, are not a big deal in my book. I do try to stay away from messing with the power of the bad guys, but I have increased the HP a bit for a few bosses so they would last a touch longer, but I stayed well within the limits of the class and level as they were written. To confuse the players on some of the less than challenging bosses, I tend to use similar mini's on the map so it is not immediately clear who the boss is. This becomes evident after a few rounds, but it can make it a little more interesting. I also add mini's for non-combat NPC's just to confuse the group. If they enter a tavern, they can count on a room full of figures to freak them out.

The key is providing an enjoyable but fair experience for the players. The adventure is the foundation, but the GM has to add his/her own roleplay ideas and really study the tactics for the bad guys to take advantage of what you have.

I would feel bad if I beefed up the bad guys and then killed a player's character. Adjusting a few hit points is one thing, but it is a delicate balance that many new GM's cannot handle.

Andoran ***

I got to run this adventure yesterday and I really enjoyed it. Some quick points as to what I liked:
1. I loved the balance of combat and roleplay encounters. Act 3: Roots and Remedies was very entertaining. It allowed for each player to have to think on their feet a little differently - frantically scanning through their skill lists.

2. I can't pinpoint exactly why, but many of the faction missions added a lot to the session as well. They provided for some fun interactions. This could be more about the players than the missions but worth mentioning.

3. Although the combat encounters were easy that did not detract from the fun. Everyone was so worried about the disease the combats were secondary.

4. It seems too easy for the party to get the jump on the final encounter, which makes for a quick beatdown. On the positive side of this, it allowed for the group to formulate and execute a good plan before attacking.

*

great fun...especially for the partys paladin who was infected unlike the rest of the party and their camel!!

was just OTT and mad adventure, party did things their own way involving setting fire to some of the town, causing massed panic about the coming plague and waving fey-bane arrows at satyrs and trying to flog the dozen or so anti-plague antitdoe vials....

each person ended with an individualised chronicle was various, or not, fulfillments and very differeing money values.

nice change of pace and plot

Osirion **

I just started reading this but I had a question about the first part, regarding the reward. The only reward from this is if the PCs pretty much steal the lumberjacks' wages. Has this ever happened? I mean, isn't there usually one 'good guy' who would feel kind of bad about this? So far in scenarios I've seen the rewards be loot off the fallen foes or other kinds of legitimate treasure, but robbing these lumberjacks? Seems kind of strange to me, and unfair to the players since I'd have to mark off money from their 'total earned' bit. Like they're being punished for being nice.

:S

*

Karui Kage wrote:

I just started reading this but I had a question about the first part, regarding the reward. The only reward from this is if the PCs pretty much steal the lumberjacks' wages. Has this ever happened? I mean, isn't there usually one 'good guy' who would feel kind of bad about this? So far in scenarios I've seen the rewards be loot off the fallen foes or other kinds of legitimate treasure, but robbing these lumberjacks? Seems kind of strange to me, and unfair to the players since I'd have to mark off money from their 'total earned' bit. Like they're being punished for being nice.

:S

the CN Qadiran in our party swiped the cash while others where tending to the diseased

as he later never explained where he got the cash, the 'good' guys in the party wanted nothing to do with it hence adjustments to chronicles

**

I have now run this several times, and each time it's just been those money-grubbing Qadirans rifling through the tents trying to get their faction mission accomplished. The "good guys" have always been busy chatting up the lumberjacks and trying to heal them or get to the bottom of their infection. In any case, I think stealing a few hundred gold pieces from the evil Lumber Consortium isn't such a big deal. The specific lumberjacks at this camp are all gonna die of the plague anyway.

The only time I marked down players' wealth was when they set fire to the cart before checking it for treasure. Only one of the scrolls made its save, but after dividing by two and then again by six, the difference was hardly noticeable.

*

yoda8myhead wrote:


The only time I marked down players' wealth was when they set fire to the cart before checking it for treasure. Only one of the scrolls made its save, but after dividing by two and then again by six, the difference was hardly noticeable.

yep, my group set fire to the cart too....lost potions, scroll and the map to the next bit!!

Osirion **

Personally, I recommended (as a DM) that the group avoid burning the flowers (after a Knowledge nature check or two). It makes some sense that these plague flowers, which can spread through a large variety of ways, would be even worse if they were burned. The smoke could spread all over the place and possibly carry the disease with it. :o

**

I tried the same thing, but players will be players, and fire happens. Every time they burnt the flowers, I make the whole party make Fort saves. After they're all infected, though, they lose some a lot of the hesitation about the flowers and the disease in general, since they can't recatch what they already have.


Here's something that didn't seem logical to me:
The basin was created by a dryad.
p1 para6: "..palepox is incredibly infectious to fey creatures and that the covenant's deep forest plague farm has infectd the dryads, nymphs, and satyrs.."

WTH!??!?!?

The dryad created a plague to kill her own people?

Am I missing something here?

jh

Paizo Employee ** Developer

The plague was created by Vondrella and her Urgathoan cultists using the potent, cursed water of Isandria's Basin. The disease affects fey because it is derived from the dryad's original curse.


Mark Moreland wrote:
The plague was created by Vondrella and her Urgathoan cultists using the potent, cursed water of Isandria's Basin. The disease affects fey because it is derived from the dryad's original curse.

One more question: are the PC's /supposed/ to meet with Sylvira the Nymph queen? The herbalist encounter says that she gives them directions to her secret grove.

jh

Paizo Employee ** Developer

emirikol wrote:
One more question: are the PC's /supposed/ to meet with Sylvira the Nymph queen? The herbalist encounter says that she gives them directions to her secret grove.

If they do, it takes place after the conclusion of the scenario and is unscripted. In theory, they get directions from Laurel to Syntira's court, but meet the cultists in town and head to the ritual before going there. They can either deliver the cure to the satyrs in the optional encounter or take them to her after they've squashed the cult once and for all.


Thanks Mark. I look forwards to running your scenario this afternoon and will hopefully give a full report after that ;)

jh


emirikol wrote:
Thanks Mark. I look forwards to running your scenario this afternoon and will hopefully give a full report after that ;)

OK, we had a table of 7: fighter, ranger (melee), cleric, fighter, bard, sorcerer, rogue. No gnomes. 2 halflings.

Since we had 7, I added some difficulty to things:
* Mist/fog 4' deep so the wolves got some reasonable attacks in.
* I moved the druids to the final encounter, as the PC's went to town first and the final encounter was still way too weak.
* The preistess at the end has abilities that I'd neither heard of, nor knew what the effects were: see (all special abilities), but in typical 3.5 fashion, she only had about 3 rounds to live anways as she only has 13 hps. The only thing that she did was her "channel energy" blast.
* I added an extra zombie and cultist in the final encounter and did managed to knock two pc's into negatives and made it a little dicey for the players to take out the final zombie without killing the two downed-PC's.

I let the PC's find out a LOT about vondrella prior to leaving town. This helped intensify the battle, but I couldn't help but think that perhaps the PC's could have maybe used that for a more interesting encounter in some way..opportunity lost I guess..to a simple battle.

Important to know how far it is from town to the camps as the PC's saves, etc. will matter. For each subsequent hit, btw, I lowered their onset time..otherwise once infected the PC's just went kamikaze because they 'thought' they couldn't get 'more' infected.

Overall, it was a satisfying scenario. The players commented on death by flowers as being interesting.

Regarding GM prep time, this tiny-font-syndrome-with-giant-margins that paizo suffers from needs to change. It's not fair to GM's to have that tiny font to read..I can only imagine what it would be like to try to read that at a major convention when you're tired...

Preptime and notes otherwise:
*my player asked "what was the point of the wolves in the first encounter? The npc's already had an outbreak in the camp.

* The "extra" information from the background was virtually unnecessary under normal play of the scenario, but with a bard in the party, I had him read much of it verbatim.

* Helping the alchemist/herbalist formulate a cure was an interesting way to see the PC's come up with ideas. If they were creative, I gave a +2 to the assist roll by the PC.

* All factions completed their duty, but the andorian wanted to steal the basin and bring it home. I had him work out a compromise with venture-captain beckett a the end with a diplo check.

jh

Paizo Employee ** Developer

emirikol wrote:
Since we had 7, I added some difficulty to things

I don't know if this was played in an official capacity, but making alterations to a printed scenario in this manner isn't legal within Pathfinder Society, even for tables of 7 players.

emirikol wrote:
I let the PC's find out a LOT about vondrella prior to leaving town.

I generally do the same, providing them Knowledge (local) or Diplomacy checks in town to hear about a young girl whose parent died of a disease similar to the current ailment, or information about Vondrella's plans from the ex-druids or cultists in town. I find that players often get more involved in a scenario when they understand the backstory, and there are a lot of opportunities in this adventure for PCs to get snippets and put it all together themselves. Glad to hear you expanded upon this and gave them some story to back up the encounters.

emirikol wrote:
Important to know how far it is from town to the camps as the PC's saves, etc. will matter. For each subsequent hit, btw, I lowered their onset time..otherwise once infected the PC's just went kamikaze because they 'thought' they couldn't get 'more' infected.

That's not really how diseases work in PFRPG, and what separates them from poisons mechanically. I don't see it as a problem for PCs to become more reckless as the scenario progresses, since they still have to make two consecutive saves against the disease (after taking Con damage from its effects) for days in most cases after the conclusion of the scenario.

emirikol wrote:
My player asked "what was the point of the wolves in the first encounter? The npc's already had an outbreak in the camp.

The gardeners in Act II sent their former animal companions, now zombies, to the camp not to infect the lumbermen, but to kill them, since some of them encountered the flamebloom fields. They wanted to ensure their secret forest plague farm was safe, so they planned to kill all the witnesses. I thought this was all included in the backstory, but it may have been changed in development; I'm not looking at the document at the moment.

emirikol wrote:
The "extra" information from the background was virtually unnecessary under normal play of the scenario, but with a bard in the party, I had him read much of it verbatim.

This is normally the case. As a player, I am often dissatisfied with the level that backstory comes through to the PCs and I always try to keep that in mind when writing adventures. Other than through bardic knowledge (which is an excellent reason to play a bard) what suggestions could you offer to provide more of the backstory through the action of the five encounters presented? I'm always looking to improve in this area.


> This is normally the case. As a player, I am often dissatisfied with the level that backstory comes through to the PCs and I always try to keep that in mind when writing adventures. Other than through bardic knowledge (which is an excellent reason to play a bard) what suggestions could you offer to provide more of the backstory through the action of the five encounters presented? I'm always looking to improve in this area.

I guess the "mechanics of delivery" of the backstory would be most helpful.

As GM's we get these wonderful backstories but sometimes in the thick of things we don't deliver as much of it as we could.

I think having it in the background AND in the encounter is kind of redundant. When I used to write and edit for LG, I used to get annoyed with having to edit back and forth between the background and the encounter text. There were always discrepancies.

jh


emirikol wrote:
As GM's we get these wonderful backstories but sometimes in the thick of things we don't deliver as much of it as we could.

Speaking as a GM, I must make the marginally relevant comment that even if you wind up unable to convey the backstory to the players, the backstory serves an important purpose: it gets the GM interested enough to want to run the adventure. The Pallid Plague certainly had that effect on me!

I remember reading an article (which, alas, I can no longer find,) on wizards.com, which said something like "It's amazing how many adventure writers - even professional ones - make the mistake of putting too much background in the adventure. The players will never learn all that information."

Well, maybe the reason so many writers do it is because they feel it's not a mistake. It sells the adventure to the GM, and that's the one deciding whether to RUN the adventure or not. That's what I loved about so many old "Dungeon" magazine adventures, and why I ran so many of them. It's true that the players seldom learned much of the backstory, but at least I, as the GM, understood how the run the NPCs.

And just once in a while, the PCs just happen to interrogate the right person, or ask just the right question, and - Wow! - it was all worth it.


BD,

I favor a moderate amount of backstory where 90-100% is revealable to players. Not because I think that it should all be "gamist" but instead because I just don't have time to read a lot of "extra stuff" anymore just to get to the point. I trust my authors to not write Robert-Jordan style novels for their backgrounds.

I think I'd favor the "web enhancement" approach where there's extra, but it's set aside for GM's that have the inclination to use it.

Hopefully, the 1xp per game rule will FINALLY get PATHFINDER off the D&D railroad of combat/trap/combat/screw-the-story mentality as well. After having left D&D for story-based games and come back, it's frustrating to see a bunch of rules-checks instead of players-involvement and using their heads instead. I guess 4e is a Pallid Plague retroactively into 3.5!

jh

****

I added this to the product description a while back, but I thought to add it here.

A major thing noted going through the scenario in tier 3-4 was that Laurel couldn't actually cure anyone, or at least it seemed very much that way. At that level, unless the party had a constant way to restore ability damage from the disease, that I believe that it would be a likely occurrence that all the infected would just die whether or not they aided Laurel. Especially since, as time goes on, PC's fortitude saves will just keep going lower.

It then becomes the issue that Laurel only finds the cure once she cures the PCs, which doesn't seem to be what is intended for the scenario as it means spending days at Roots and Remedies as well as because of the noted inability for people to actually get rid of the disease.

I'm fine with the party failing to aid Laurel with the cure, I just don't want to kill a chunk of the PCs.

If there is a way to run it that I am missing, I love to hear it.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

Blazej wrote:
If there is a way to run it that I am missing, I love to hear it.

When PCs are done offsetting Laurel's penalty to cure their ailment/brew a potion, she makes a Heal check on each player to see if they receive a bonus on their next save (as per Heal rules). She also attempts to brew the antiplague, which, once ingested, gives PCs a +5 on their next save. Together, they can stack up pretty hefty bonuses. Considering that the won't start to lose Con until the third save, they have several chances to get it under control before it becomes lethal. After the conclusion of the scenario, they should have both extra antiplague vials leftover to chug before making a save for each subsequent day, and should have the chance to make Heal checks on one another as Laurel did. I've run this a number of times and haven't seen anyone at any tier ever die of the plague, though some got to really low Con and were scared. In the end, they can always spend PA or gold on a remove disease, and do receive scrolls of lesser restoration depending on their tier.

****

Mark Moreland wrote:
When PCs are done offsetting Laurel's penalty to cure their ailment/brew a potion, she makes a Heal check on each player to see if they receive a bonus on their next save (as per Heal rules). She also attempts to brew the antiplague, which, once ingested, gives PCs a +5 on their next save.

Ok, thanks alot. I was wondering it antiplague was supposed to apply to the next save if you were already infected.

Then the next questions would be, what would be a good DC for brewing the antiplague and how should one determine if Laurel if the PCs helped Laurel
create the palepox antiplague? Does she only get one shot to make the antiplague during the scenario, one attempt per PC, or something else?

Mark Moreland wrote:
In the end, they can always spend PA or gold on a remove disease, ...

That is certainly an option, I would think they will probably need many castings before it is effective.

Qadira *

I'd just like to point out that playing the farm with the flowers as 6 and 1/2' high cornrows of plague filled blossoms offering total concealment between rows, kept an oversized party of 7 players very entertained. They ignited the rows on the right with an Alchemist fire, then rapidly realized "A warm breeze blows out of
the field
, and the pleasant odor of the countless blossoms fills
the air and permeates the whole forest." meant the fire would immediately spread towards the opening where they where. This forced the players to either back into the opening near the woods or venture deep into the cornrows of plague to locate the crazy farmers that my players deduced must be druids ready to cast enlarge and pinning them in between fire and plague. Pretty suspenseful.

My do-gooder Andoran attempted to keep the plague riddled body of his 'must-heal' friend out of the town, only to find the next morning, the Hari-Krishnas of the Fiendblood world spreading the love (and the plague)throughout the town. Immediately they dispatched a sorcerer to torch the cart, and before the round ended wondered if there might be something important under the blossoms. Wands crackle and burn with the prettiest of colors!

Thanks for the adventure, I loved it, and I think my players enjoyed it as well.

Alex

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
Doug Doug wrote:
Our wizard ran up and dropped the cleric with a scorching ray, then the others were hit with an entangle and it was all over....

I thought you were playing tier 1-2; If some of your characters were "playing down" I understand how it would be a cake-walk. As far as I know it is not permitted to play down.

Andoran ***

about to run this and had question. since zombies are made by plants do i treat them as a yellow musk zombie- plant based not negative undead

Qadira *****

jjaamm wrote:
about to run this and had question. since zombies are made by plants do i treat them as a yellow musk zombie- plant based not negative undead

The zombies were not made by plants, they died were animated then stuffed full of palepox-tainted flowers. They are as standard zombies with the changes as in the scenario. If you are wondering if they are vulnerable to positive energy or not, they are vulnerable.

Grand Lodge **

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber

I saw above someone said it was 500 miles from Almas to Falcon's Hollow. Just looking at the fold out map from the campaign setting it looks more like 200-240 by river. Did you use a different map to get 500?

***

Doug Doug wrote:
jjaamm wrote:
about to run this and had question. since zombies are made by plants do i treat them as a yellow musk zombie- plant based not negative undead
The zombies were not made by plants, they died were animated then stuffed full of palepox-tainted flowers. They are as standard zombies with the changes as in the scenario. If you are wondering if they are vulnerable to positive energy or not, they are vulnerable.

thanks for the correction. hoped i had a way around my player taking them over

Qadira *****

jjaamm/Keldar wrote:
Doug Doug wrote:
jjaamm wrote:
about to run this and had question. since zombies are made by plants do i treat them as a yellow musk zombie- plant based not negative undead
The zombies were not made by plants, they died were animated then stuffed full of palepox-tainted flowers. They are as standard zombies with the changes as in the scenario. If you are wondering if they are vulnerable to positive energy or not, they are vulnerable.
thanks for the correction. hoped i had a way around my player taking them over

Don't let it bother you too much. The scenario is about arresting the spread of the disease, and failing that, simple survival. Having some zombie animals under the control of the PCs is not going to change that outcome. It may even implicate the PCs if they are observed controlling the monsters.

It would be fantastic irony if the zombie animals were controlled and used in the next fight against their ex-druid masters who sacrificed them in the first place!

***

Doug Doug wrote:
jjaamm/Keldar wrote:
Doug Doug wrote:
jjaamm wrote:
about to run this and had question. since zombies are made by plants do i treat them as a yellow musk zombie- plant based not negative undead
The zombies were not made by plants, they died were animated then stuffed full of palepox-tainted flowers. They are as standard zombies with the changes as in the scenario. If you are wondering if they are vulnerable to positive energy or not, they are vulnerable.
thanks for the correction. hoped i had a way around my player taking them over

Don't let it bother you too much. The scenario is about arresting the spread of the disease, and failing that, simple survival. Having some zombie animals under the control of the PCs is not going to change that outcome. It may even implicate the PCs if they are observed controlling the monsters.

It would be fantastic irony if the zombie animals were controlled and used in the next fight against their ex-druid masters who sacrificed them in the first place!

that and the fey encounter will definatly go south

Silver Crusade

I ran this at a PFS home game this weekend. It went pretty well, but after reading some of the info on here I now have a couple of questions:

Spoilers:

1) In Act 3, when helping Laurel is says that "Once Laurel succeeds in curing the PCs (and Inor) of the disease, she now has the recipe to for an antiplague concoction..." As this reads, she doesn't have the anti-plague until she cures at least 1 PC. I take this to mean that one PC makes the pair of successive fort saves. Am I mis-reading that? This proved almost impossible for my party of 5, and in fact the only reason I didn't lose any PCs was that one had a couple of scrolls of Lesser Restoration.
2) In act 3 as well, Laurel is using her heal skill to help the PCs. This means they get a bonus on their next save, which is the next day. As noted in a previous post, their fort saves go down with each failed save. Does Laurel give them early saves or the like?

A few notes about what happened
Spoiler:


  • My group led all the loggers back to town after the flamebloom field (which they burned) and stayed to help Laurel cure the loggers as well themselves. As such, I held off the cart scene until they were ready to go back out again. This was actually really fun, because everyone was "OH, CRAP! The disease is back!"
  • As someone mentioned earlier, putting out minis for all the guys at the feast and not just the combatants adds a lot to the encounter. I had Vondrella seated at the head of the table, but the PCs had no clear path directly to her. The barbarian was actually able to charge right up and attacked one of the feasters, who happened to be a non-combatant. This gave the bad guys a chance to actually do something.
  • My group was also convinced that the cultists had to have an antidote somewhere, as they were still alive and tending the fields. A way at least to halt the progression of the disease, even if it doesn't cure you. This make a lot of sense, actually, since after 12 days at most of failed saves there'd be no more cult. I know you can't really add something in to this scenario, but if something like this is put in another scenario it might be worth thinking about.


I had a ton of fun running this, and the reasons some of the PCs had when helping Laurel were pretty good.

One last note, this adventure poses a very real and large risk of death. Three failed fort saves could leave a low Cha character out of the adventure, or a low Con character dead.

Grand Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Illinois—Decatur aka TwilightKnight

I've run this three times now and it depends on the APL. When I run it for tier 1-2, the Cha/Con loss is extremely deadly and with a save DC18, most are assured of contracting the disease either from the wolves in the cutcamp or the gardeners. After the skill checks, she can complete the elixir and I allow a bonus, immediate save. This is IMO not a huge issue since it still requires another save in the morning to stave off the effects. Even with a successful save in the AM, I apply the second frequency effect for a cumulative Cha loss of 2-3 and Con loss of 1-2).

At higher tiers, the ability drain is needed otherwise the remaining combat encounters, especially the final, are too easily overcome. For higher tiers (3-4/6-7), It takes at least a day before she has access to the cure. In both cases, the PC's decided to continue on with the mod fearing that waiting would result in more dead villagers. I allow her to use Inor as the test subject while the PC's continue their investigation. This helps to keep some time-pressure and forces the PC's to deal with some on-going adversity.

Note that until the cure is complete, Laurel is not likely to tell the PC's where the grove is. So if they do what I've seen every time and set fire to the cart in act 4, they will have no map to the grove and will have to find it on their own. Additional days can be added to the timetable as they search for it, resulting in even more negatives being applied, at the GM's discretion. This was deadly for my group. When I played it, our tank was a dwarven fighter with a Cha of 5 and the sorcerer (fire elemental bloodline) burned the cart on sight.

Qadira ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Michigan—Detroit

Question about the Andoran mission:
What is Horrick Danlaw's Fort save and what is his current constitution? I ran this last night and the PCs couldn't come even close to offsetting Laurel's -20 penalty. Is Horrick assumed to die if the anti-plague can't be concocted?

Paizo Employee ** Developer

Doug Miles wrote:

Question about the Andoran mission:

What is Horrick Danlaw's Fort save and what is his current constitution? I ran this last night and the PCs couldn't come even close to offsetting Laurel's -20 penalty. Is Horrick assumed to die if the anti-plague can't be concocted?

In retrospect, the NPCs in this scenario should have short statblocks. Most are commoners of 1st or 2nd level and have Constitution scores of 13 at the highest. Since this particular NPC serves as a faction MacGuffin, it gets a little tougher just to handwave him as dead. If the PCs were completely unable to heal anyone, then yes, I'd say everyone infected dies unless they are a PC who makes the necessary saves over the course of time.

Grand Lodge **

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber

Help me out here-

prd wrote:
Onset: Some afflictions have a variable amount of time before they set in. Creatures that come in contact with an affliction with an onset time must make a saving throw immediately. Success means that the affliction is avoided and no further saving throws must be made. Failure means that the creature has contracted the affliction and must begin making additional saves after the onset period has elapsed. The affliction's effect does not occur until after the onset period has elapsed and then only if further saving throws are failed.

So if I'm reading that correctly, the initial failed saved results in 1 point of Cha damage and then after the 1d4 hours of the onset period the Day 1 save and effects would be required.

But then there is this:

#43 The Pallid Plague wrote:
Effect 1 Cha damage on first day, 1d2 Con damage and 1d2 Cha damage each day thereafter

That seems to make it clear that the intent is that the day you contract palepox you only lose the 1 Cha then the next day start the "Day 1" effects.

However, the palepox tracking sheet in the scenario seems to go back to the prd standard rules. There is a box for onset followed by Day 1. If you are only taking the 1 Cha damage on the first day then it is really Day 2 when you first make a save that potentially results in more Cha and Con loss.

I'm not trying to make this more complicated. I just want to know I'm running it as intended. My instinct is to go with the PRD interpretation because those are the Universal Affliction rules.

Grand Lodge **

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber

Hmm. also I overlooked the last sentence there from the prd quote. To catch a disease you have to fail two saves? The way I'm reading that now means:

Failed save vs palepox means wait for the onset 1d4 hours. Then if you fail a second save you would take both the Onset effect (1 Cha damage) and the Day 1 effect (1d2 Cha/Con). If you passed the Day 1 check, then you would wait until Day 2. A pass there would mean you were cured without ever taking ability damage. A fail would give you the onset damage as well as the 1d2 Cha/Con damage.

Does this sound right?

EDIT: Ah. I see my mistake there. The onset penalty is its own preliminary thing. The "effect" refers specifically to what happens on "Day 1" "Day 2" etc

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