Count Lucinean Galdana

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Solid rural horror/mystery, that might need a few story / balance tune-ups

4/5

We ran this start to finish in 15 4-hr sessions and for the most part it was very enjoyable!

(Review will have SPOILERS obviously)

It has a fairly "slow burn" start that I find perfect at level 1, with meeting a bunch of NPCs, getting to know the town, before the hook happens and you begin your murder mystery. There's no explosions here in Session 1.

Encounters:

Good:

- Hallod's Hideout and The Pen are genuinely fun dungeons to explore. I have perfect "low-level adventure" memories from these, and yet the fights are quite dynamic.

- In F5, I had Hallod release his dogs on the players while shooting his crossbow through the barred window.

- In H2 and H4, there's a LOT of alchemical shenanigans, and surprisingly interesting creatures & environmental hazards for only Level 2.

- You can turn the outdoor part of Spite's Cradle into a *really* cool sandbox-y fight, with archers on the tower, Lord Nar as a melee threat, possibly even some PCs on the cliffs.

Bad:

- IMO, like most Adventures, it has a fairly high number of filler encounters. I definitely took out the Bear, and the Swarm of Bees... and half the stuff in the final dungeon (elsewise it has a risk of being like 2x longer than the other ones). But I admit that's personal preference.

- A few of the fights are also infamously "overtuned", possibly victims of "oops, it was the 1st Adventure, we didn't exactly know how to balance yet". Strongly beware of G2 (Mutant Wolves) and H8 (Blood Ooze). These fights can easily TPK a party. Perfect tactical play from you can TPK in *many* encounters. Consider giving your group +1 Level the entire time, a free archetype, a 5th player, or even a combination of these. Especially if it's the first time playing PF2 for some of you.

Story:

Good:

- The core mystery is pretty engaging, I think. A young alchemist named Vilree wants revenge on the town that killed her mother, and has been paying Bort (traveling dwarf merchant) & Hallod (local thug) for years for smuggled alchemical shipments. As she finally acquires enough ingredients to poison the town, she decides to eliminate loose ends by murdering Bort - but the party is there to see it, which starts them on a chain of investigation.

- There are side-quests that tie in to PC backgrounds! They're mostly not complex, but will make this town feel significantly more sandbox-y, and give RP opportunities to the group that wants it.

- The "small-town mystery" vibes really work, I think. All of the villains are basically small-time thugs. Nothing is over-the-top or "comic book"-ish. Hardly anyone in the whole book has access to magic. It's not grimdark, but it's gritty & grounded, like a good Witcher questline.

Bad:

- The orcs are a little simplistic in this, kinda cliche "savages" - a trope I would have preferred to leave in PF1. I gave them a slightly more complex motivation and had Graytusk order a surrender once Lord Nar fell.

- Vilree's ultimate plan doesn't entirely make sense to me, and the reveal that the Plaguestone is filled with actual poison seems more "trying to be clever" than good. If she had the capability to smuggle gallons of deadly poison to the center of town, she could have just dumped it in the town's wells and killed everyone already. I changed this such that the alchemical drudge is now actually filled with poison, a bloated walking bomb. It carries one of Silwyth's rings, and the other (left behind by Vilree 10 years ago) is entombed in the stone. When the two rings touch, they explode, releasing the poison from the drudge.

- Finally, like most Adventures, IMO the chapters in this feel a little disjointed, and can have that feeling of "we've found the exit to the next video game level". Certain players might feel like they're just being strung along until the next clue tells them where to go. If that's you (or your players), try to plant some fake clues and sprinkle hints throughout. Make the investigation a little more non-linear and non-obvious. A few examples of some changes I made are:

1. Introduce more hints that the environment is being poisoned by alchemical runoff. The boar the PCs kill in E? The Feedmill offers to buy the dead animal for meat - but discovers it's rancid & inedible. A few villagers are sick with mysterious illnesses. A PC that forages for food might need to make a Fort save.

2. There's no map to the stump in Hallod's Hideout, and the note isn't signed. Instead, Bort made a secret trip to a "stash point" outside of town, and his cart tracks can be followed there. From there, the tracks are the rather unnerving footprints of an Alchemical Drudge (leading to The Pen).

3. The players can find signs of Noala themselves instead of her just *showing up* in Chapter 2.

4. The Sheriff is crooked, knew (vaguely) about Hallod's smuggling, and can likewise be bought off for information.

5. Silwyth (Vilree's mother) lingers as a ghost/haunt in the ruins of their old house, and can give cryptic hints.

Summary:

Like everything, it might need some modification for your & your players' tastes, but overall, Plaguestone delivers a really gritty, mysterious, low-magic, low-level storyline that's sure to be fun for the right group.