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My Ustalav campaign's proposed CR 1 encounters


Suggestions/House Rules/Homebrew


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These are my encounters right now for level 1 in my Ustalav campaign set in Amaans with the PC's maining their operation base in Sen's Pass. Do you think these do or don't work? Is the CR 3 stuff too much? Will any of these be a guaranteed TPK for a full party of level 1s? What's my change of losing members to the specific encounters? Basically do these look alright?

Encounter Plots for LEVEL 1

CR 1 – The giant spider in the old farmhouse on the cliff road killed a mule owned by a local farmer when the farmer was bringing his cart to market.
(medium spider, CR 1)

CR 1 – In the old farmhouse on the cliff road, once the spider is destroyed it is possible the PCs may disturb the egg sac. If they do it erupts with a swarm of newborn spiders. The spiders are not initially hostile but still do swarm damage to any creature in their space and will swarm any creature they perceive as a threat.
(spider swarm, CR 1)

CR 1/2 to CR 2+ – The spider destroyed, the incidence of giant maggots has increased.
(giant maggot, CR 1/2)

CR 1 – If any maggots mature there is a giant fly.
(giant fly, CR 1)

CR 3 – Townspeople are salting their homes after hearing some disturbing noises in the night. The town is under threat from a wandering drekavac and its cries are heard on multiple occasions but it avoids confrontation (gaseous form) unless odds seem in its favor.
(drekavac, CR 3)

CR 1 – A pair of vishkanya “prostitutes” are traveling the county and robbing men who would pay for their services. They target married men who are less likely to report their crimes. They mistakenly target an ignorant man who reports them as succubi out of fear for his soul. The local Pharasmin priest requests that the party investigate.
(vishkanya ninjas, CR 1/2 each)

CR 1 – The party encounters a lone ghoul making a fool of itself by the river outside of town, not far from The Silver Dagger Inn. It’s wading into the river, trying to catch a fish, and is so involved in what it’s trying to do that it initially ignores the presence of the PCs or parleys with them, but will turn its attention toward attacking them once it dawns on the thing that they’re also food.
(ghoul, CR 1)

CR 1 – A fire skeleton walks down the road outside of town in the middle of the night carrying a steel chest. It is accompanied by a fireskull. This isn’t the first night an eerie light has been noticed passing the village. The PCs are sent to investigate. The fire skeleton is carrying tribute from another village to the Army of Burnt Bones and it’s only coincidence that they pass by Sen’s Pass on its route.
(burning skeleton and screaming burning skull beheaded, CR 1/2 each)

CR 2 – A cultist of Jezelda (CE human cleric 3 [GMG 278]) comes through town, trying to locate the body of the vilkasis, but she doesn’t know where to look. Her investigations into its whereabouts are the first the PCs have heard of the vilkasis. The cultist is making her lair in The Silver Dagger while she investigates the area, but she’s having troubles of her own because she’s awakened the lar that dwells at The Silver Dagger.
(CE human cleric 3 [animal, evil] of Jezelda, CR 2)

CR 1 – Poison ivy surrounds a location the party tries to enter.
(poison oak, CR 1)

CR 3 – A rabid worg wanders into the town square. It appears confused and is mumbling to itself. It doesn’t attack immediately but will attack if anyone approaches it. It needs to be put-down before it gives anyone rabies.
(worg with rabies (DC 13), CR 3)

CR 1 – A farmer with land deep in the Vale of Red Breath asks the party to investigate some weird crop markings he came across. When the party investigates, they find a path cut through the brush. It looks like the plants have been melted away from a walk path on both sides at the border of the lands of Castle Galdyce. If the party follows the trail either direction they eventually encounter an acid blood skeleton walking the circuit of the path. It attacks the party on sight but doesn’t pursue them outside of the Galdyce holdings.
(bloody acid skeleton, CR 1)

CR 1 – If the party ventures into the Galdyce holdings there is a chance they’ll encounter a trio of blast skeleton archers. Like the acid blood skeleton, the blast skeleton archers do not pursue beyond the property line.
(exploding archer skeletons, CR 1/3 each)

CR 1 – If the party ventures into the Galdyce holdings there is a chance they’ll encounter a pair of whirlwind blast skeletons. Like the acid blood skeleton and the blast skeleton archers, the whirlwind blast skeletons do not pursue beyond the property line.
(exploding mudra skeletons, CR 1/2 each)

CR 1 - Eli Ogden, a former town guard and the son of Marcus Ogden, an elder of Sen's Pass, is trying to start a new career as a bandit by operating a road toll racket just outside of town. So far all he's done is harass some local farmers, going so far as to shove a few of them, but he needs to be put back in line. The town authorities don't want him crippled, maimed or killed, they just want him apprehended as gently as possible.
(CN human warrior 3 [GMG 260])

CR 1 - Things have been going badly at the mill recently and there'a a rumor the place is haunted. But the mill isn't that old, and nobody has died there that anyone can recall. All the same, the gears have been coming out of alignment, the place has taken on a rank odor, and yells or laughter occasionally seem to ring out from nowhere. A fair amount of the grain has been ruined even though every known procaution has been taken. What the millers don't know, and what the PCs may find, is that a mated pair of pugwampis have moved into the mill and have been setting escalating pranks on the mill workers.
(pugwampis, CR 1/2 each)

Grand Lodge

Might have to use some of these actually :)


Okay, two things strike me.

#1, I find the giant maggot infestation due to sudden lack of spidery death very clever. Good job.

#2, Beware, pugwampis can and have destroyed a 10th level party when combined with other things if one of the dice doesn't like a player. Remember, they make people roll twice and take worst on everything except damage rolls.

Liberty's Edge

I'm going to echo Aranai on the giant maggot infestation, that is a very creative idea and I might have to steal it. And by might I mean I will.

My only worry about the Drekavac is the touch attacks. It has a fairly anemic AC so your party will probably destroy it before it has a chance to do much, just be advised that with a few bad rolls this could get ugly fast.

The two ninja's could also do some serious damage with some unlucky (lucky?) rolls. If they win initiative and get to one of your less armored, flat footed pc's someone could die.

The Cleric of Jezelda could be a fun encounter. But I would change her domains to Trickery and Fur. With the Trickery domain she can use invisibility as her second level domain spell and Trickery's Copycat domain power is fun. With the Fur subdomain as her second domain she will be able to run away a little faster and let her "live to fight another day". But I love reoccurring villains. And a Lemure from summon monster 2 would just be mean but I think a wolf would be more appropriate.

Overall I love the mix of encounters. Good work.


obadiah wrote:
I'm going to echo Aranai on the giant maggot infestation, that is a very creative idea and I might have to steal it. And by might I mean I will.

Depending on what miniatures I pull together when I run it, I may change the maggots/flies to another CR 1 insect, but I like the idea of giant spiders filling a similar role in the ecosystem to their fine cousins, so I plan to populate the spider's lair (the old farm house on the cliff road) with the remains of giant insects (and the occasional mammal) that have died in its webs.

obadiah wrote:
My only worry about the Drekavac is the touch attacks. It has a fairly anemic AC so your party will probably destroy it before it has a chance to do much, just be advised that with a few bad rolls this could get ugly fast.

I'll have to look at the Drekavac again but I'll probably play it as more likely to run than fight if it's outnumbered. More or less the party will have to trick it into a direct encounter so the fight should be on their terms.

obadiah wrote:
The two ninja's could also do some serious damage with some unlucky (lucky?) rolls. If they win initiative and get to one of your less armored, flat footed pc's someone could die.

I just have them as ninjas because the default creature listing in Bestiary 3 is ninjas and it worked for my purposes. If I restat them, I'll probably make them a bard and a rogue. I am aiming to make it an RP encounter though, really. The vishkanyas are lovers, not fighters, quite literally. They'll surrender if it seems their lives are in danger. They haven't killed anyone, they've just been using their inherent vishkanya dexterity poison so make their marks easier to rob, relying on the marks' own shame to keep them quiet. Of course it's possible the party will mistake them as succubi like their last mark did, and force them into a fight to the death.

obadiah wrote:
The Cleric of Jezelda could be a fun encounter. With the Trickery domain she can use invisibility as her second level domain spell and Trickery's Copycat domain power is fun. I'd suggest giving her the Fur subdomain as her second domain. This will allow her to run away a little faster and let her "live to fight another day". But I love reoccurring villains. And a Lemure from summon monster 2 would just be mean but I think a wolf would be more appropriate.

I'll have to look at the subdomains, I just quickly looked at the domains in the Core Rulebook to pick Animal and Evil since the default domains listed for a cultist are Healing and Evil. Why Healing and Evil? No deities have those two domains together that I know of. Her main role in the campaign is just to plant the seeds of the vilkacis rumors though, I plan to have it start causing problems in a few levels. The vilkacis has been dormant for years, or trapped somehow (yet to be worked out), but finding its body may be enough to rouse it, or not. To destroy a vilkacis its canopic stone (in this case the weapon that killed it) and its body must be present. That's going to present a problem here because I'm going to steal a twist I saw in a module once where the spirit and the body were both undead, in this case the body is going to be running loose in the form of a werewolf ghoul (ghast, actually). (I believe it's Classic Horrors Revisited that says werewolves occasionally carry their lycanthropy into ghouldom.) But all that is for levels yet to come.

obadiah wrote:
Overall I love the mix of encounters. Good work.

Thanks. I'm still tweaking things. Campaign isn't starting until at least June.


Aranai wrote:

Okay, two things strike me.

#1, I find the giant maggot infestation due to sudden lack of spidery death very clever. Good job.

#2, Beware, pugwampis can and have destroyed a 10th level party when combined with other things if one of the dice doesn't like a player. Remember, they make people roll twice and take worst on everything except damage rolls.

Been reading about the pugwampis in the "deadly monsters" threads. But I'm hoping if it is just two of them alone it won't be that bad.

Liberty's Edge

Wolf Munroe wrote:


Been reading about the pugwampis in the "deadly monsters" threads. But I'm hoping if it is just two of them alone it won't be that bad.

Sorry you just cursed yourself for saying that. :)


obadiah wrote:
Wolf Munroe wrote:


Been reading about the pugwampis in the "deadly monsters" threads. But I'm hoping if it is just two of them alone it won't be that bad.
Sorry you just cursed yourself for saying that. :)

Well, I had to take the worst of my two rolls. Honestly though, I put pugwampis at the end of the list because that's more likely when I'd be using them, when the characters have actually been played for awhile and I have a better idea of their capabilities.

Pugwampis, the burning skeleton, and the CR2/CR3 encounters are the ones that concern me the most. Oh, and the spider swarm. I've heard burning skeletons and swarms can be tough. My original encounter had two burning skeletons carrying the chest but I switched it to one and a screaming burning beheaded accompanying him after reading about them in one of those "deadly monsters" threads. I posted the screaming burning flaming skull beheaded in another thread a few days ago (a week or two ago, maybe?), and the general response I got was that it was probably going to be easy by itself because it incurs an AoO when it attacks (as a tiny creature it has to move into a creature's space to attack). So I figure put the fireskull and the fire skeleton together and they'll even out, maybe.

Liberty's Edge

For the swarm you might make one of the rewards or loot from an encounter before it a few alchemists fires or acid flasks. Or have the ye olde general store have a sale on them because of an ordering mistake. Buy one get one free should be plenty of incentive to buy a couple.

Do you have any idea as to the number of players you will have yet?


Not yet. I'm aiming for 4 or 5 players. I just started recruiting in the past week though the FLGS and will likely be playing with all strangers. I've had one interested party reply so far. The shop owner says there are more interested but I'm not sure how many of those will be interested in this campaign specifically, since I'm aiming to run what I'd at least consider an atypical game.

Campaign won't be following Wealth-by-level, at least not initially, and I plan to start the campaign with specific starting gear rather than starting gold, but I'll determine that starting gear once I know what people are playing so I can give them class-appropriate stuff anyway. I can give them acid flasks among their starting gear. I think alchemical fire would be best avoided in a wooden farmhouse full of spiderwebs.

Basically the set-up is Count Galdana arrives in town and asks the town to prepare some of their citizens should he need to call on them, so the initial gear is just what the citizens bring from home and what the town can provide to their volunteers. This set-up is based on the sentence in Rule of Fear that Galdana might be able to rally an army from the many mountain villages that only he knows about. Campaign is going to use the slow advancement track and players spend their first 1000xp in an NPC class (other than adept). At 1000xp, the NPC class is replaced by their level 1 PC class, with level 2 being reached at 3000xp on the slow advancement track.

The campaign's name is "Relics, Reliquaries, and Remembrance: Revenants of the Damned." It was originally just called "Relics, Reliquaries, and Remembrance" but I ran that by my father and he told me it sounded like a romance and wasn't suggestive of horror at all. This will be my first significant campaign undertaking without playing out of a module.


Here's an interesting twist on the burning skeleton: a large zombie. That's it, just a standard large zombie. This shambling ogre corpse with a bizarre, glowing light in its eyes staggers up the road baring the chest before it (CR 1 fight) but, if hindered in any way...

the head RIPS FREE with sickening rot and gore, becoming a belching screaming beheaded. If the party somehow doesn't destroy the head it flies off...only to come back and re-animate the brutalized corpse and have it stalk the treasure in the chest until its ransom is returned...


I'm trying to avoid using regular zombies, actually. The only zombies I have plans to use currently are apocalypse zombies. I have two different plot hooks for them.

I had a dream the other night that involved vampires using "bloodhounds" that were actually hounds composed of blood, so I'm trying to think how I can incorporate those into the game right now. I statted up "bloodhounds" using the blood knight template (ignoring the requirement for full plate armor) applied to a riding dog, but the problem is that it doesn't give a boost to CHA (because it's a 3.5e template from Advanced Bestiary (also appearing in AP#47)) so the bloodhounds end up being CR 3 with 5 hp. (2d8-4). They have 20 AC (with chainshirt barding) and DR 10/bludgeoning, as well as all the blood knight powers, but with only 5 hp I don't think they're quite a CR 3. I'm trying to decide if I want to increase their CHA, give them Toughness, or lower their CR.


Maybe make the hounds vampires or half vampires w/the young template added? Ghouls?

I myself am working on a homebrew w/a lot of evil fey creatures. Basically I've been obsessing over mites and adding the "fey touched" template to everything I can get my hands on. Its kind of a homebrew rip off of Ustalav, w/out all the undead (replace them with Lycanthropes and Fey and you've got my Lands of Karnoss.)


Mark Hoover wrote:

Maybe make the hounds vampires or half vampires w/the young template added? Ghouls?

I myself am working on a homebrew w/a lot of evil fey creatures. Basically I've been obsessing over mites and adding the "fey touched" template to everything I can get my hands on. Its kind of a homebrew rip off of Ustalav, w/out all the undead (replace them with Lycanthropes and Fey and you've got my Lands of Karnoss.)

I asked in another thread about how I could increase their hp without raising their CR. The advice I got back from a couple people was just bump their CHA from 6 to 14. So I did that. It's an "arbitrary" change but it solves the problem with them as it takes their hp from 5 to 13 and takes their save DCs from 9 to 13, and increases their Fort save bonus.

I'm thinking I might run Howls in the Night in one of the haunted vales of Ustalav's Hundred Haunted Vales (which are an excuse to have different environments and ecologies in close proximity). In that adventure, which was written for AD&D Ravenloft, most of the monster dogs aren't undead but are bog monsters treated as constructs, however changing them to undead is a minor change.

I also want to use festrogs in my campaign because I think they're a really cool creature. I'll probably use vampiric festrogs if I use them. Vampiric festrogs are advanced festrogs mentioned in the original festrog spread in Hungry are the Dead. Basically they're a breed of festrogs that are frequently kept by vampires, particularly nosferatu, and fed a steady diet of vamp blood to get vampire fast healing and DR. They drink blood instead of eating flesh and they look purple and bruised when they haven't drank blood recently.

I actually want to incorporate more fey into my campaign since one thing that is said of the rural villagers of Amaans (a county in Ustalav) is that they're suspicious that any strangers are fey in disguise. I do have a plot skeleton for a green hag that lives near town and is considered a member of the community (in her disguised form), but hags are technically monstrous humanoids. (I tend to think hags are very fey-like myself.)

I also printed out the brownie stats for my campaign binder, but I don't know how I'll use brownies yet, or if I will.


Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

Careful with diminutive/fine swarms. Ideally, make sure the party blaster is fully rested before messing with them. They're nasty, even with alchemist's fire.


blahpers wrote:
Careful with diminutive/fine swarms. Ideally, make sure the party blaster is fully rested before messing with them. They're nasty, even with alchemist's fire.

I'm going to have to make sure I equip them with plenty of acid flasks and alchemist's fire really since the characters are starting as commoners and warriors (switching to PC classes at 1000 xp). So no "party blaster" is likely for that encounter.


Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

Good idea. Make sure you're okay with the farmhouse being burned down, or else make sure there is some feasible way to prevent it.

Fortunately, spider swarms only have 9 hp. A mosquito swarm nearly killed two of a five person, 3rd level party since they were out of spells and hadn't prepared for swarms. They ended up running away. o_O Takes a lot of alchemist's fire to kill a mosquito swarm. Takes even more swings of a lit torch, or ray of frost.


At least with the spider swarm, the logistics of it make more sense because the spiders can't fly.

I'll probably give them acid flasks more than alchemist's fire. The idea is that they've been recruited to a reserve militia of the local count (Count Galdana of Amaans) and they'll be doing some general training so acid flasks (and alkali flasks from APG, which I like better) will be their "training grenades" so they're not literally playing with fire.

Also, throwing alchemist's fire in an old farmhouse full of spider webs is super dangerous. I don't care if the building burns, but with all the webbing inside, I'm more worried about it burning with the PCs still in there.


Wolf Munroe wrote:
I'll probably use vampiric festrogs if I use them. Vampiric festrogs are advanced festrogs mentioned in the original festrog spread in Hungry are the Dead. Basically they're a breed of festrogs that are frequently kept by vampires, particularly nosferatu, and fed a steady diet of vamp blood to get vampire fast healing and DR. They drink blood instead of eating flesh and they look purple and bruised when they haven't drank blood recently.

Correction: Vampiric festrogs gain fast healing and turn resistance, not fast healing and DR. I'll probably give them both equivalent to vampire spawn. I liked the idea of them having DR though.


A few things:

One thing I've been doing, since I plan to have the PCs start as NPC classes for the first 1000xp on the slow advancement track, is to run mock combats myself with four level 1 commoners from the GameMastery Guide (The Village Idiot) and seeing if they can survive an encounter.

So far I've ran 4 village idiots (10 AC, +1 STR bonus, equipped with clubs and slings) against a few encounters just to test them out.
4 village idiots vs medium jumping spider: 4 surviving idiots
4 village idiots vs medium web spider: 4 surviving idiots
4 village idiots vs a single ghoul: 4 dead idiots.
4 village idiots vs a single ghoul (again, changed tactic): 2 surviving idiots.

So what I got from that is that I should be very very careful with the ghoul. If they don't play smart their adventuring careers will be very short.

Upcoming for my tests are against a burning screaming beheaded, a burning skeleton, an exploding skeleton, and a festrog. Then maybe spider swarm with some acid flasks provided to the test NPCs.

blahpers wrote:
Careful with diminutive/fine swarms. Ideally, make sure the party blaster is fully rested before messing with them. They're nasty, even with alchemist's fire.

For higher CR encounters, I was working on adding some beheaded variants to the skull swarm (making a burning screaming beheaded swarm) and I noticed that it's a tiny swarm that lists as having immunity to weapon damage. I'm thinking that's an oopsie on the part of the devs since it's a tiny swarm, not diminutive/fine so I'll likely change that to half damage from slashing/piercing to match tiny swarms when I run it. (Alchemists fire won't help that one at all, it's immune to fire since it's on fire.)


Ok, tried it a few more times, using village idiots equipped only with clubs (1d6+1 damage) instead of improvised clubs (1d4+1 damage).

4 village idiots vs 2 fire skulls (CR 1/2 each): 4 surviving idiots, minor injuries
4 village idiots vs 1 burning skeleton (CR 1/2): 4 dead idiots
4 village idiots vs 1 festrog (CR 1): 4 surviving idiots

The fire skulls (burning, screaming beheaded) were push-overs. They managed to hit one guy before they were smacked down. The festrog did better, taking one guy to 0 hp and a second to 3 hp (from 6 at full health), but I had him run away when he was reduced to 3 hp himself.

Now, on the subject of the burning skeleton, I did equip it with a non-broken chain shirt and a scythe. I think the scythe is neutral to the CR, but I'm wondering if the bump from broken chain shirt to non-broken chain shirt might have upped the creature's CR since it increases the skeleton's AC 2 points. I don't think that should matter that much though.

For the mindless undead (fire skulls, fire skeleton), I was rolling dice each round to see which target they'd attack if all enemies were equally far away. In actual play, I'll probably have them target characters that look like clergy first, everything else being equal.

Given my experiences with the ghoul and the festrog, I'll probably avoid using a ghoul until the party are at least into their PC class level. I'm kind of disappointed that the festrog and ghoul are the same CR. Of course none of the test NPCs had slashing or piercing weapons to trigger being splashed by the festrog's diseased pustules, but the disease has an incubation of 1 day anyway so it's not like it matters for the actual combat.

I might see how the village idiots fare against my "vampire-festrog," an advanced festrog with vampire-spawn grade fast healing (2/round) and turn resistance (+2) that I currently have rated at CR 2. I'll be really disappointed if the test NPCs just whoop it though.


Wolf Munroe wrote:

I also want to use festrogs in my campaign because I think they're a really cool creature. I'll probably use vampiric festrogs if I use them. Vampiric festrogs are advanced festrogs mentioned in the original festrog spread in Hungry are the Dead. Basically they're a breed of festrogs that are frequently kept by vampires, particularly nosferatu, and fed a steady diet of vamp blood to get vampire fast healing and DR. They drink blood instead of eating flesh and they look purple and bruised when they haven't drank blood recently.

I actually want to incorporate more fey into my campaign since one thing that is said of the rural villagers of Amaans (a county in Ustalav) is that they're suspicious that any strangers are fey in disguise. I do have a plot skeleton...

I finally ran vampire-festrogs in my game over the weekend. (The party had previously encountered a few regular festrogs traveling with ghouls.) The level 2 party saw three of the creatures in the crypt they entered, bloated red. They managed to lure one away from the others under false pretenses. Once they did so, they attempted to flank it and attack. Unfortunately for them, they flanked it in a spot where it was boxed in on the other sides and couldn't run around anyone to escape. So it had to go through a party member. It dropped one to dying in a full attack action but by the time its next attack came up, the party "ninja" had moved in to occupy the space of the flank again. So the vampire-festrog had to tear through him in a full attack action on its next turn. It managed to escape without sustaining any significant injury.

They're very lucky they didn't draw all three in that fight.

Still haven't incorporated any fey into the game. I did use the Jezelda cultist. They captured her while invisible by throwing powder over her. (Actually werewolf ashes, to be specific.) Technically they don't have any grounds to hold her though so as of next session I think they'll learn she was released from custody.

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