Pathfinder Society Scenario #6: Black Waters (OGL) PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for 1st to 5th level characters (Tiers: 1–2, 4–5).

The Pathfinder Society seeks the ancient ruby ring of the salamander and it falls to a team of Pathfinders to find it. Last seen in the Tri-Towers Yard, a once elite academy for the youth of Absalom, the ruby ring is now lost in the Drownyard, all that remains of Tri-Towers after it was destroyed a decade ago in the great quake. The Pathfinders must risk the strange black ichors and salty brine to find their prize—will they risk their very souls as well?

Written by Tim and Eileen Connors

This scenario is designed for play in Pathfinder Society Organized Play, but can easily be adapted for use with any world. This scenario is compliant with the Open Game License (OGL) and is suitable for use with the 3.5 edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game.

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Great Atmosphere

****( )

NO SPOILERS

The good thing about Season 0 scenarios is that they tend to be short, straightforward, and easy to run with limited prep. So when the planned GM for a Season 10 scenario cancelled, I was able to step in and run Black Waters at relatively short notice (it helped that one of the players was late, giving me some extra last-minute prep time!). The main thing I've learned and tried to implement about these early scenarios is that, as written, they're really only the skeleton of an adventure and require the GM to flesh out the description and role-playing to make them come alive. Black Waters has a wonderful, dark atmosphere if done right, and I think that's the reason it's one of the more memorable Season Zero adventures and led to a sequel later on.

I ran this at low sub-tier.

SPOILERS!:
Famously eccentric Venture-Captain Drandle Drenge makes his first appearance ever in PFS to deliver the briefing. Ten years ago, an earthquake struck Absalom and sheered off much of a neighbourhood called Beldrin's Bluff, sending it plummeting into the sea. An elite private school in the area stayed on the mainland but fell into a sinkhole that quickly filled with water, drowning the students and staff inside. Since then, the Pathfinder Society's archaeologists have surmised that the school fell through an ancient necropolis. The entire site, now known as the Drownyard, has remained off-limits . . . until now! Drenge wants the PCs to delve into the necropolis and explore, paying particular attention to a ruby salamander ring said to be on one of the bodies interred there (the ring is apparently valuable as a divination focus to recover a fabled treasure horde elsewhere--I don't know if this plot thread was ever followed up on or not).

Act 1 starts with the PCs leaving the briefing and receiving an invitation to attend a formal dinner with a noblewoman named Lady Miranda Dacilane. As written, this provides a brief role-playing opportunity as the noblewoman explains that her daughter, Junia, was one of the students lost during the sinking of the school. She asks the group to inform her if they find her body, foreshadowing the climax of the scenario. As an aside, it's also an opportunity for members of the Cheliax faction to try to steal a broach from around the old lady's neck! I miss the faction missions--they really stir the pot. Anyway, knowing this scenario has a very short run time, I made a lot of this dinner and really pushed the role-playing (using some suggestions in the forums, including a menu for the stated ten-course meal). I think it worked out well.

Act 2 starts with the PCs arriving at the Drownyard. I think it's important to play up the atmosphere here: dark gray clouds, cold rain, gusting winds, and an almost silent landscape of dead trees and derelict buildings. (A little additional description of this area (along with a map) can be found in the module Hangman's Noose.) Here the group will encounter a man named Deris Marlinchen, a completely delusional man who thinks his daughter (who died in the sinkhole) will be walking out of the school any minute now. In the meantime, he tends to the grounds. If the PCs ask about the necropolis, Deris will lead them to a classroom where the spirits of dead students and their teacher continue re-enacting a lesson. Deris can be threatening if angered (he has stats as a sorcerer), but really this is more of a way to build on the dark, tragic tone of the scenario.

Act 3 covers entry into the necropolis. The directions to the necropolis are in journals locked in the desk in the Act 2 classroom, and I was a bit confused when running Black Waters about the geography of the Drownyard--it's clear that only part of the school fell into the sinkhole, but why do the PCs need to locate a particular entrance to the necropolis? Wouldn't there be a huge depression in the ground where the buildings on the surface crashed into the caverns below? In any event, the entrance is suitable creepy: a gently bubbling black pool has the shoulder of a severed arm jutting out of it, with the fist still gripping the handle of a heavy, iron plug. A giant water bug is concealed by the pool and attacks those who get to close, and there's a fun bit where pulling the plug drains the pool and risks pulling the PCs into the hole to tumble into the necropolis below. (it's one of those hazards that's perfectly logical, so especial fun to inflict on PCs!)

Act 4 begins with the PCs in the necropolis proper. It contains chilling bits of text like "On the floor of the east recess, the perfectly preserved body of a young boy lies in a puddle and stares silently upward." This is the body of a boy named Grishan Maldris, the younger brother of Colson Madris, the head of the Andoran PFS faction. At low tier this chamber is guarded by a bugbear zombie, which is out of place and doesn't make a lot of sense--why would bugbears be buried in this necropolis? At high tier, two allips are in the chamber, and they make much more sense and fit the tone thematically.

Act 5 features a vaulted chamber containing another ghostly reenactment--this one of schoolchildren huddled up hearing a story. Three ghouls gradually converge on this room, which is a very unfair challenge for low tier PCs--I was pleasantly surprised my group emerged without any deaths. (As an aside, these early Season Zero scenarios sure did like ghouls!) I should add that the groundskeeper, Marlinchen, has a whole little subplot if he accompanies the PCs into the necropolis and I appreciate the added detail (he got torn apart by the water bug when I ran it, so I didn't actually get to use it).

Act 6 has the big climax. It has a cool conceit, as the chamber is right at the edge of the cliff-face so that sea water surges in periodically, threatening to temporarily blind PCs with foamy spray. A ghast wearing rotting finery and a golden crown is here, and he makes for quite a battle after what the PCs have already been through. When I ran it, he defeated everyone but one PC (a Gunslinger), who ran for it, only to get cut off; the gunslinger had one shot (and one chance) to live: he rolled a critical hit, and it was one of those memorably awesome endings that can only take place in RPGs. Although my group missed it (those who survived being happy to escape with their lives), hidden in a sarcophagus here is Junia Dacilane, daughter of the noblewoman the PCs had dinner with earlier. Somehow, Junia is still alive--just comatose! It turns out the ruby salamander ring (which she found and put on) is a ring of sustenance!

The Conclusion allows the return of Junia to her mother, with suitable rewards and prestige for the PCs.

As a Season Zero scenario, there's some extra work to get Black Waters up and running today, like updating stat blocks from 3.5, adding CMB/CMD, looking up the new success conditions, etc. You can't expect much in terms of artwork, and the Chronicles tend to be pretty bland. There's no four-player adjustment, and the skill check DCs aren't usually changed depending on what sub-tier is used. It's runs heavy on the (sometimes unfair) combat and light on the role-playing. But all that being said, I really like the feel of this one, even if it doesn't quite live up to its potential. With a little work by the GM, it can be creepy and memorable as hell.


****( )


Toes don't touch bottom

****( )

I played this scenario and loved it until the end despite a raging migraine and fever. The pace and setting was perfect, very eerie like ones toes may never touch bottom in the black waters beneath. One caution, playing up my prove to be fatal for the unprepared low level melee types.


Creppy, but limited guidelines for GM

***( )( )

Striaghtfoward story: delve into dungeon to get a ring as well as a little girl?

Althoug there are good atmospheres, but as a 9-page-scenario, it only gives very limited guideline, GM have to a lots of work on NPCs and mobs(it contains two major NPCs, with undeads that even have no background discription. And boring pale haunts as well).

Black Water does have great potential for GM to do lots of roleplays(make the mobs scream and murmur!)

I prefer to play low tier, tough combats can makeup a darker atmosphere, tier 4-5 may be a bit of easy(unless they fail thier save)


An RPG Resource Review

****( )

Ten years ago, a massive earthquake devastated part of Absolom called Beldrin's Bluff, most of it falling into the sea with great loss of life. In this adventure, the Pathfinder Society's thirst for artefacts takes the party to the site of possibly the greatest tragedy - a school where nearly all the students died, killed by falling masonry or drowned - to conduct the first archaeological dig permitted since the disaster.

The adventure opens with the party being invited to the home of a Pathfinder Society Venture Captain who explains the background and gives them their task, along with the key to the railings. In the course of any investigations they might make before embarking on this job, they get invited to a posh formal dinner hosted by the mother of one of the dead children. It's an interesting opportunity to impress upon them the very real grief still felt by those bereaved by the disaster as well as entertaining to watch them on their best behaviour!

From there the adventure proceeds as a straightforward delve - or is it? There are various hauntings, a lunatic and unmentionalble evils stirred up by the disturbance of the necrocropolis on top of which the school was built to contend with. Oh, and there are a few critters down there as well, which resent being disturbed by passing adventurers, not to mention the environmental dangers posed by investigating a place that's been inundated by water. Good use is made of faction missions, with members of each faction tasked to recover various items... whilst these don't compete with each other, it is unlikely that any faction wants its interests broadcast, so assorted party members trying to retrieve whatever it is they've been asked for without letting anyone else see can also prove amusing. Naturally, there are one or two surprising discoveries to be made here, too.

Whilst a conventional delve at a first glance, this is actually quite an interesting adventure that hangs together well, with a reason for everything... even if it's not always obvious at first glance. Acting as archaeologists may prove entertaining to those players who see their characters as more combative in nature - although they will not be disappointed on that front, especially if they enjoy fighting undead.


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Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Now available!

Scarab Sages

question concerning Quadiran faction mission (SPOILERS!):

Spoiler:
It says in the set of paragraphs after the conclusion that if the Quadiran purposefully fails his will save when an agent of the Saphire Sage scrys on him, he gets the point, but in the handout it says that Quadiran agents will be watching him. the saphire sage is the leader of the Osirions, so I'm just wondering if this is a mistake and it should be that an Agent of the Pasha will be trying to scry, or if this wasn't and has some hidden meaning attached. I'm only pointing this out since I hate inconsistancies...

Thank you for your time.


The PDF has been corrected and will be uploaded again shortly.

Spoiler:
The running text under the Faction Missions heading should read Pasha under the Qadira Faction heading and not Sapphire Sage.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Joshua J. Frost wrote:
The PDF has been corrected and will be uploaded again shortly.

And so it has been—repersonalize and redownload for the new version.

Scarab Sages

Cool. It is a great adventure incidently, and I can't wait to run it. Inconsitancies like that just pop out at me since I like to have a lot of subtext. the way the original was worded hinted at some kind of teaming up of Quadira and Osirion, which could have been interesting.

Spoiler:
also, and I hesitate to point this out since I hate when people do it to me, but I noticed that Taldor wasn't put into its own paragraph in the same area. instead it just runs on from Quadira to Taldor. again, I'm just trying to be helpful, but having cheliax, osirion and quadira with their own paragraph (and indented), and having Andoran not be indented and Taldor not have their own paragraph just sticks out.

Sovereign Court

Angry rant ahead...

Spoiler:
I... uh, I just got this scenario and read most parts of it.

I quickly read the encounters, and I stopped at Act 4 to scream "NO! THEY CAN'T DO THIS!" Tell me, how do you expect six 1st level characters to win that battle? Conclusion: They can't. It's impossible. Yes, impossible. I don't even see any place giving free oils of magic weapon or any real help that would make it even possible to get past that encounter. Even a second level cleric will need to have Charisma at least 14 to have the 5% chance to affect the allip. This encounter just begs the DM to softball it so much the Allip is going to have a happy carnival mask with a flowery halo on top.

I'm expecting a revision of this. I'm willing to mark this scenario as a mere two-star in case this obnoxious encounter is left in place. A prime example of this same mistake is a Living Greyhawk metaregional scenario, ESA6-02 Gift of the Tempest (IIRC), which also featured an Allip, killing at least 60% of the parties on the lowest APL.

Incorporeals - are - not - fair. Don't use 'em on low (1-3 levels) APLs. Period. I honestly don't understand what's so great about having tons of super-deadly scenarios.

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I haven't read this scenario, but I will concur

Spoiler:
that encounters with incorporeal monsters can easily be a TPK for low level parties. If the melee classes have no magic weapons, they have no chance of hitting them. A wizard or sorcerer with magic missle has the best chance of killing them. As you said above, a cleric with a very high charisma might be able to turn an allip.
I remember an allip encounter in the first Freeport (Green Ronin) adventure that became a TPK, the first time my group tried it.

Sovereign Court

Boerngrim wrote:

I haven't read this scenario, but I will concur

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
I actually thought of the possible ways to deal with the encounter with 1st level characters and 2nd level characters (only ones available at this time)...

1st level:
- A cleric/druid/sorcerer/wizard who has prepared any of the following spells: Cure Light Wounds, Disrupt Undead, Hide from Undead, Magic Missile (although futile, as an Allip gets 5hp for each successful drain), Magic Stone, Magic Weapon, Shillelagh
- A cleric with improved turning and charisma 14+ rolls 22 or more.
- A character of the Osirion faction can save at least herself by using the power of Attuned to the Ancestors.
- The party consists of the olympic team of Holy Water Throwers, preferably with Blind-fight. Nevertheless the allip has 22hp, so 6 characters would deal 15 points of damage in average per round (provided they hit all the time),... to cut it short, they'd need at least 3 holy waters per character, preferably 4. That'd cost 75-100gp per character. Costly.

2nd level:
- Same as above.
- A cleric with improved turning and/or good charisma, has to roll either 19+ or 22+.

Those are really the only ones that come into my mind. Magic fang is useless since all animals will flee from the unnatural undead. Most likely the only option for non-casters is to fling holy water flasks. It's a very expensive hobby.

Furthermore, removing the ability drain is expensive. It could easily render a promising start of a cleric/druid completely useless, forcing her to pay 380gp for the Restoration spell.

Nitpicks:
On page 10 the ring of sustenance is said to be in Cassiel's fingers, although it should be Junia.
Also, am I to understand the said ring isn't actually going to be accessible in the scenario? It appears in the chronicle sheet, sure, but it is the said artifact as well (a lousy one at that).


Deussu wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Deussu,

I'm working on a fix for this issue that should be up in a day or so. Thanks for the feedback.

Sovereign Court

Joshua J. Frost wrote:
Deussu wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Deussu,

I'm working on a fix for this issue that should be up in a day or so. Thanks for the feedback.

Excellent! Thank you! I'm running this adventure on 19th October, though for you it's closer to 18th (living in GMT+2). By then I'm sure something has been done. :) And I do feel the need to apologize for my (constantly) adrenaline-pumped text.

Spoiler:
I've been thinking of some softballing already. Either by clustering labeled oils of magic weapon, giving a fragile ghost touch sword which turns into dust in sunlight, and/or making the allip deal ability damage instead of drain.
My favorite would be to give the players an alternative, intriguing way to deal with it. Say it was to be succumb into a pool of holy water giving a scripted death. Or somewhere beneath the necropolis is a shrine of positive energy, activated through some clever manner. Whatever the reason, it should make the players feel like they won a very powerful enemy by using their wits.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Joshua J. Frost wrote:
Deussu wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Deussu,

I'm working on a fix for this issue that should be up in a day or so. Thanks for the feedback.

Just wanted to mention that that fix was made last week. (We already e-mailed everybody who had purchased the scenario, but if you were waiting for the fix before you bought, wait no longer!)

Sovereign Court

Ah, so it would seem. I don't find any reference to updates on Black Waters from my email though. Nevertheless, I now have the updated version and I am happy.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

I, too, purchased the scenario and received no email about a second correction.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Chris Mortika wrote:
I, too, purchased the scenario and received no email about a second correction.

Sigh. Looks like our mail server was not on speaking terms with me at the time. I've resent it.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Vic Wertz wrote:
Chris Mortika wrote:
I, too, purchased the scenario and received no email about a second correction.
Sigh. Looks like our mail server was not on speaking terms with me at the time. I've resent it.

I just hopped on to reDL it, grumbling all the while that I just DLed and printed it out yesterday. I'm glad to see that I don't have to reprint the module after all, but the additional notice is perhaps as confusing as missing the original message was...

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Shisumo wrote:
Vic Wertz wrote:
Chris Mortika wrote:
I, too, purchased the scenario and received no email about a second correction.
Sigh. Looks like our mail server was not on speaking terms with me at the time. I've resent it.
I just hopped on to reDL it, grumbling all the while that I just DLed and printed it out yesterday. I'm glad to see that I don't have to reprint the module after all, but the additional notice is perhaps as confusing as missing the original message was...

Hmm. Yep—I probably should have amended the notice to say that if you've downloaded it since October 10th, you have the latest version and there's no need to download it again...

Grand Lodge

Was this updated to the Pathfinder system yet? I saw that it was slated to be, but haven't seen any updates. Now that there's a Season 7 sequel, I'm hoping to run both.

Silver Crusade

One more request for an update, especially since theres a Season 7 sequel.

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