Pathfinder Society Scenario #43: The Pallid Plague (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for 1st to 7th level characters (Tiers: 1–2, 3–4, and 6–7).

Reports from Andoran's Darkmoon Vale indicate that a new plague is causing the deaths of untold fey. The Pathfinder Society sends you there to aid the nymph queen in stopping the plague and finding and destroying its source. When the plague spreads to the human population of Falcon's Hollow, the need to find a cure grows more frantic. Can you save the many denizens of Darkmoon Vale from certain death?

Written by Mark Moreland

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 Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

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Average Adventure in a Nostalgic Setting

3/5

NO SPOILERS

I played The Pallid Plague via play-by-post using my doomsday street preacher oracle, Makras. One of the coolest things about the scenario is that it’s set in Falcon’s Hollow/Darkmoon Vale, the location for some of Paizo’s earliest adventure modules that a lot of folks remember fondly. I thought this scenario was fine—nothing amazingly memorable, but it delivered a decent, straightforward experience. A few elements are a bit clunky. I’d say it’s a good one for players particularly interested in the region or for GMs who need a session that’s easy to run because the encounters are discrete and concise, with little complication.

SPOILERS!:

The scenario has a bit of an involved backstory, but it does support the adventure well. Centuries ago, angry at the intrusion of humans into Darkmoon Wood, a particularly-territorial dryad named Isandrea crafted a magically cursed basin that would lure loggers into drinking water that carried a debilitating (and ultimately fatal) wasting disease. Flash-forward to recent years, and the child of parents who died from the disease grows up, falls in with the cult of Urgathoa (goddess of disease), becomes their leader, and then proceeds to seek out and finds Isandrea’s Basin. Using the basin, the evil priestess (“Vondrella”) hatches a plan to use the cursed water to grow flowers that carry the disease before spreading them around the lumber camps around Falcon’s Hollow and the town itself.

The PCs get called in by Venture-Captain Brackett in Almas, who explains that he’s received a letter for help from the nymph queen Syntira of Darkmoon Wood, reporting that a deadly plague is affecting the fey of the wood. Brackett wants to make Syntira into an ally, and if the PCs can travel to the area and find a cure for the plague, the Pathfinder Society will earn her trust. Brackett tells the PCs to first check out a particular lumber camp that has been involved with several conflicts with the local fey—he suspects that, perhaps, the Lumber Consortium is behind the plague.

When the PCs arrive at the lumber camp, however, they quickly realise that the loggers are just as much vicims of the plague as the fey are! And more pressing, strange undead animals stuffed with brightly-colored flowers are invading the camp. In reality, these are variant plague zombie animals sent by Vondrella because some of the loggers stumbled upon the fields where the flowers are grown. Once the PCs destroy the invaders, they can interview survivors and get a lead on the flower fields. It’s a good first encounter, and I like the little twist that the Lumber Consortium (bane of decent folks in Darkmoon Vale) isn’t actually behind this particular evil.

Following the lead, the PCs will soon arrive at a clearing in the first with rows upon rows of the plague flowers. The fields are guarded by some evil ex-druids who probably won’t put up much of a fight. Still, this encounter presents a real risk of PCs catching the disease which is called palepox. One thing I think the scenario fails at is making palepox way too mild. The scenario assumes that PCs will be in a desperate urge to concoct a cure for the disease (as seen in the next encounter), and the scenario includes a special “Pathfinder Infection Tracker” to make it easy for the GM to mark the course of the disease’s progression of each member of the group. The problem is that the onset of the disease is just 1 Charisma damage, and the disease then recurs only on a daily basis. The disease has worst effects on future failed saves, but there’s no particular reason the adventure would take a group more than a single day to complete, and so that risk is probably never going to be experienced. The solution would have been to hard-code some distances the PCs had to travel between different places in Darkmoon Vale so that days would start to pass, but that’s not done.

In any event, the group is now supposed to visit the town of Falcon’s Hollow, seek out the local herbalist named Laurel (an NPC from the modules), and help her formulate a cure for the disease. This is handled as a skills challenge, with PCs allowed to roll any skill they can justify as being relevant (even Perception to “find some rare herbs hidden in her lab”) to give Laurel a bonus to her final check to make the cure. The actual mechanics of how many checks a PC is allowed to make and what effects they have is pretty confusing and clunky, and could have been written in a much more clear way. I’ve re-read the dense paragraph a couple of times, and I’m still not 100% sure how it works. The scenario also doesn’t give Laurel any personality (and doesn’t even re-use her picture from the module), so she’s something of a cipher for the GM to portray.

As the PCs leave the herbalist with the antiplague for Syntira, they’ll likely realise a wagon full of the plague-treated flowers is right outside. The cultists of Urgathoa are planning to spread the flowers around during a big festival in the evening, and the PCs need to intervene. It’s a pretty forgettable encounter, with the only meaningful bit that the PCs need to interrogate one of the cultists to discover Vondrella’s location. On the way there, there’s an optional encounter (depending on much time is left in the session) that involves a satyr patrol that may or may not turn into a combat encounter depending on how the PCs handle it.

The big finale sees the PCs assaulting the entire local cult of Urgathoa as they hold a disgusting, gruesome festival of their own in a forest clearing. Most of the cult flees, but the PCs will need to battle a certain number that stay (depending on subtier) as well as Vondrella herself. At least at low subtier, this is an almost laughably easy encounter. One thing I do really like about the scenario is that it provides a different epilogue and different set of boons depending on whether or not the PCs were successful in helping Laurel come up with a cure and in discovering the location of Isandrea’s Basin.

Overall, I’d rate The Pallid Plague as about average--it’s playable, but not particularly memorable.


Pathfinders Without Borders

4/5

I find myself struggling to rate this scenario. As is always the case, there’s things I like and dislike about it. The premise, for starters, is a great one and honestly not something I see often in PFS. Sure, there are diseases that you can stop, but they’re never the primary focal point. This time around, you’re tasked to find the source of the disease and, along the way, find a cure for it. It’s simple, elegant and effective as a narrative.

To continue with the good things: There’s multiple factions involved: lumberjacks, townsfolk, fey and of course the bad guys. This means there’s a variety of encounters and plenty of opportunity to role-play certain parts and to show off your creativity. I don’t have to explain why I like that. In fact, every encounter makes sense and adds to the story. In particular I liked the skill challenge. As long as you provide a convincing reason, every skill can be used and end up contributing to finding a cure.

There is, however, also a downside to the encounters. As others before me have mentioned, they aren’t all that challenging. While they thematically make sense and can spread the disease, they are rather easy to dispatch in just a few seconds. They lack the health, items or skill-set to pose a real threat. I was honestly a little disappointed that the Big Bad Evil didn’t last a single round. It was rather disappointing. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that nowadays characters are vastly stronger than a couple of years ago.

And then there’s the disease itself. Again I agree with others that in order for the narrative to work, it has to be infectious and difficult to cure, but I think it’s bit too easy and monotonous to get infected. A bit more diversity could have underlined the scariness of the plague. At the same time, I can see some groups really struggling to find a cure and possibly survive the ordeal. While the DC is high and the skill challenge is indeed challenging, I think that overall it is doable especially if players are able to think outside the box and be creative with all of the skills at their disposal, even those they have no ranks in.

The Pallid Plague is a great scenario in terms of role-play and storyline, while at the same time provides a difficult skill challenge. The combats however are too easy by current standards and are in dire need of a revision or update. If I were to rate it, I’d give it 3,5 stars. Since that however isn’t possible, I’m going to bump it to 4 stars, because I value role-play potentials and opportunities to showcase creativity over challenging combats. As such, I’ll also only recommend it for like-minded players. If you’re looking for scary opponents to fight, I recommend looking elsewhere.


4/5


Plague mechanic is maybe a bit shoehorned, but otherwise fun.

4/5

(I played this.)

I liked this scenario. It's a bit bare-bones on story, but it does what it wants to do really well. The skill challenges are fun and everyone is able to contribute in some way. Combats were a bit on the easy side, though. The fights weren't the real enemy here, but I like to be challenged in some way. First combat started off good (tier 3-4), but the rest was sort of disappointing. The disease was on the tough side, but we didn't really suffer too much from the detrimental effects, maybe we did something wrong there. I've read some reviews complaining about how tough it was, but if you have a somewhat balanced party it's pretty easy to get the cure. I would recommend stocking up on Lesser Restorations in some way, though.
All in all, I thought this was a fun scenario, though the disease is a bit more oppressive than I'd like.


Nice idea, *bad* execution

2/5

I want to give this scenario a positive review. I like the story; it's not super deep but it makes sense and it's evocative. The encounters have good ideas behind them as well; they all make sense.

Moreover, this scenario features one of the earliest experiments by Paizo with what we nowadays call a skill challenge, and it's fairly well done. There's a chance for everyone to contribute, but at the same time it does reward skilled characters.

However, the scenario has two major problems.

The encounters may make sense, the stats of the enemies just aren't up to the task. They're just too weak to make the combats satisfyingly challenging.

The bigger problem is the disease. Now obviously for this scenario to work, the chance of infecting anyone has to be fairly high. But that's been done with DCs so high that you'll have a hard time getting cured going by the regular rules. It's quite possible that days after the combats are over and all the bad guys shredded, you're still in bed, possibly dying even. If the GM is running the disease as written, you will need someone who can cast lesser restoration over and over again. I really think someone didn't run the math on this part of the adventure before publishing it.

Apart from that, there's some typical early-PFS annoyances: not getting full treasure unless you steal from civilians, and the GM has to improvise a way for you to find out the story behind the adventure because there's no built-in delivery mechanism.


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Announced!


I guess I should get started writing this, eh?

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

I thought your avatar choice reflected that you already had. ;-)

Dark Archive

Woot hope to run this at Megacon in Orlando, Florida

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

Dominick wrote:
Woot hope to run this at Megacon in Orlando, Florida

I hope so, too!


Joshua J. Frost wrote:
Announced!

Instead of (Tiers: 1–2, 3–4, and 7–8) it should read as (Tiers: 1–2, 3–4, and 6-7) right?


uncleden wrote:
Instead of (Tiers: 1–2, 3–4, and 7–8) it should read as (Tiers: 1–2, 3–4, and 6-7) right?

Yes.

Dark Archive

I expect you to GM this for us Mark!

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

baron arem heshvaun wrote:


I expect you to GM this for us Mark!

As long as someone can run me through it first. I don't want to eat the scenario.


uncleden wrote:
Joshua J. Frost wrote:
Announced!
Instead of (Tiers: 1–2, 3–4, and 7–8) it should read as (Tiers: 1–2, 3–4, and 6-7) right?

IT'S A TRAP!

Spoiler:
Doh!

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Joshua J. Frost wrote:
uncleden wrote:
Joshua J. Frost wrote:
Announced!
Instead of (Tiers: 1–2, 3–4, and 7–8) it should read as (Tiers: 1–2, 3–4, and 6-7) right?

IT'S A TRAP!

** spoiler omitted **

Fixed.


Is this still coming out today?

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Now available!

RPG Superstar 2012

Congrats, Yoda!

Dark Archive

Serious congratulations Mark! Bravo!

Sovereign Court Contributor

Mikhaila Burnett wrote:
Serious congratulations Mark! Bravo!

Woot! Way to go Mark!

Paizo Employee Director of Game Development

Rock on, Mark!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Ditto. It's very cool to see your first piece get published. And I'm sure it won't be the last. Rock on, brother Yoda!


Congratulations Yoda!


Pathfinder Card Game, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Congrats Mark!

Liberty's Edge

Yea I have a query. I've ran two different groups through the previous modules that take place in Darkmoon Vale, and both groups loved it. I did however miss the "Carnival of Tears" module, and am now considering it for my newer group, since they are still low level enough to run it without drastically changing CR's and such. But in that readout it talks about the evil and uncomprimising fae that threaten the entire community. So my question is how, if I run my players through "Carnival of Tears", does it tie into "The Pallid Plague", where it says it starts off HELPING the fae folk of the area? Sure, eventually the people of Falcon's Hollow contract the illness as well, but I get the feeling that the players should already be well into the module before that happens. Orf is there something at the end of "Carnival of Tears" that leads into possible diplomatic relations with the fae in the future, and this simply plays on that? OR will I have to introduce that into the end of "Carnival of Tears" myself if I plan on running my players through both modules? Ok, so it was several questions, not one. I really enjoy the campaign setting, and would love to run as many modules as are out there for it, so I just want to be as well informed as possible before I spend my small amount of money purchasing them. I's appreciate any input on my questions, thanks.

Kihapiilani William Kinney Akui


This is a Pathfinder Society Organized Play scenario and is independent of the modules line. I'll let Mark talk about how this might fit in with the published modules at this location.

Liberty's Edge

I wanted to let people who might see this thread but not the Gamer Connection one that Mark will be running The Pallid Plague at the Second Annual Dave Arneson Memorial Gameday on 3/27 in NYC. I'm kind of hoping no one shows for the game I'll be doing so I can jump into his - even though I'll need to make a new PFS character because Mark killed my last one, and his little dog too.


Re: Ties to Carnival of Tears

Spoiler:

There are two factions of fey in Darkmoon Wood, one evil and one benign. In Carnival of Tears, the good nymph queen, Syntira, wants to help the PCs defeat her sister and her evil ice fey. She wants nothing more than to end the ongoing hostilities between humanity and her people, but old grudges die hard. Neither adventure assumes the use of another, but I think it would be fairly simple to add this to the end of CoT. Your PCs will have already met Syntira and you could easily have her contact them again after a little bit of time to ask for their help again. I wrote a little bit more about making the fey the primary motivation in the scenario (instead of being ordered to the region by the Pathfinder Society) in this thread, but am happy to address any specific questions you might have. I hope you enjoy the scenario!


Running through this adventure it went pretty well. There were a few issues though. Of course, any of these could have just been a misreading of a rule or missing some element as well.

Spoiler:
For the at least the 3rd-4th tier, the DCs for beating the plague felt too high. It felt like a PC dying from the disease was just as likely (if not more so) as them being able to survive the disease.

It them comes to the encounter with Laurel where she treats the afflicted. But there is a line saying. "once Laurel succeeds in curing the PCs (and Inor) of the disease, she now has the recipe for an antiplague concoction ..." which seems to indicate that she doesn't come up with the cure until she cures the afflicted characters. That feels like a sort of a catch-22, you only get the cure if you don't need the cure. Even with her help treating the disease, it didn't seem as though progress would come at a decent pace. Instead, it seemed like the likely result would be all the afflicted characters dieing without even the option the retreat from the threat claiming their life.
It was still a nice adventure aside from those percieved issues. I probably would look toward running it if I need a Tier 1-2 scenario, but only look forward to running the higher level tiers if the party has characters with magic that can stall or remove the disease.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Recently joined the PFS, and had my first sanctioned game last night. The GM chose this as the intro scenario as some members were new not only to PFS, but also Pathfinder RPG.

Spoiler:

I won't give away anything, but as a group of six, with three of us armed with missile weapons, and a fourth having one as back-up, I have to say it was surprisingly easy. As an Elven Wizard with a bonded composite longbow, I didn't even need to cast a spell until the end, and even then it was more "well I have it readied" than actually needing to use it. The HP f the opponents seemed rather low, as did their AC; though maybe we were all just rolling well.

Anyone else feel this way? My regular game saw much tougher battles and challenges at first level than what we encountered last night. It just seemed, somehow off based upon my experience with running the Legacy of Fire, and playing in two home-brewed PF games since PF came out.

Scarab Sages

So far I'm digging the story line. In trying to wrap my head around the skill challenge with Laurel I'd like to know if I should just TAKE 10 on her heal checks. At tier 1 she makes them every time! Is that by design or do I not understand how "take 10" works? Thanks.


What season is this from?

Paizo Employee Developer

Season One.

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