Pathfinder Module: Tomb of the Iron Medusa (PFRPG)

4.60/5 (based on 10 ratings)
Pathfinder Module: Tomb of the Iron Medusa (PFRPG)
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A dungeon adventure for 14th-level characters

Hidden in the remote southern range of the World’s Edge Mountains lies a mysterious necropolis known in legend as the Tomb of the Iron Medusa. When the last heir of the dungeon’s long-dead noble builders hires the PCs to explore the forlorn and deadly site in search of evidence that may clear his family name, the intrepid heroes soon find themselves in over their heads. For the Tomb of the Iron Medusa does not give up its secrets lightly, and the dangerous truths that lie within its ancient, trap-laden crypts may have been hidden for very good reasons indeed.

Written by fan-favorite author Mike Shel, Tomb of the Iron Medusa features an expansive necropolis of crypts and tombs, all guarded by devious traps, strange puzzles, fiendish monsters, bizarre creatures, and the undead remnants of a once-powerful aristocracy.

Tomb of the Iron Medusa is an adventure for 14th-level characters, written for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and compatible with the 3.5 edition of the world’s oldest RPG. In addition to the adventure, this volume also features a brand-new monster and a fully detailed borderland inn that can serve as a place to begin the adventure, or as a roadside tavern in any fantasy world.

Written by Mike Shel

Pathfinder Modules are 32-page, high-quality, full-color, adventures using the Open Game License to work with both the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the standard 3.5 fantasy RPG rules set. This Pathfinder Module includes new monsters, treasure, and a fully detailed bonus location that can be used as part of the adventure or in any other game!

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-318-7

Tomb of the Iron Meduda is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. Its Chronicle Sheet and additional rules for running this module are a free download (232 KB zip/PDF).

Other Resources: This product is also available on the following platforms:

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4/5


My favorite Pathfinder adventure

5/5

I've bought multiple copies of this module over the years to give or trade away at gaming conventions. It is a proper "dungeon crawl"with a nice blend of puzzles, fighting, and role-playing. The theme is epic in scope and extra imaginative in its execution.

I find it difficult to challenge high-level players with a traditional "dungeon crawl" setting. This adventure pulls it off with pocket dimensions, puzzles based off of role-playing rather than mechanisms, and truly awesome encounters.

Personally, I'm a big horror fan and I'm always attracted to anything that takes place in a graveyard. But at 14th level, the thought of level draining undead almost becomes a cliche' and certainly nothing my players want to gamble on. This module turns that on it's head to the point where PCs are sometimes interacting with undead and, while there are still level draining baddies inside, every encounter feels very different and with unique adversaries to keep players on their toes. Plus, a super cool BBEG at the end.

Top marks all around!


Very Good for Dungeon-Puzzle Loving Players

4/5

I agree with the other reviews. This module is a puzzle crypt with some fights. This module took my group of 4-5 PCs from level 14 to level 15 just before the end, which was pleasing to me. Just some advice for the running the module: As with any module, try to find relevant pictures on the internet for showing so that players get a good sense of what this place is like. The module gives some DC’s so that the players can make checks to find out how much of the story their characters know. I recommended thinking of other ways that players could come to learn the story apart from the module because it is a good backstory. Remind the players that this place was not built as a deathtrap; it was a real necropolis that a noble family used for a long time back in their day. There would have been caretakers and what not here on a regular basis, but the place would have safeguards against grave robbers. Of course let the players try to figure out things on their own first, but consider allowing Knowledge (Engineering) checks to give them some clues about how to open the doors if the game is grinding to a halt in the first room because of it. Consider Knowledge (planes or arcana) for clues about leaving the crypt. Lastly, consider Knowledge (religion) to understand the natures of some of the relics within the crypt.


One of the most fun modules ever!

5/5

My DM ran this module in between Kingmaker module 5 and 6. My worry going into it was that the encounters would either be, for our level, too challenging (TPK) or not challenging enough. Instead, this module was one successful "gotcha" after another, in which every member of the party was forced to think how we get out of each situation. No spoilers here, but we had to deal with domination, blindness, petrification, and, of course, mortality. The best part is that I can see this going a completely different direction if we had made different choices.


Best. Module. Ever.

5/5

I haven’t written a product review in almost 2 years, but after reading this module I felt compelled to do so.

Tomb of the Iron Medusa is the best adventure that Paizo has ever published in its Pathfinder Modules line and it deserves to be read and played by more people.

I’ll admit I’m late getting to this. I got this module through my subscription when it first came out, but it wasn’t until I was looking for some additional content to insert into my Kingmaker campaign that I started flipping through the pages of my many Paizo modules.

As I picked up Tomb of the Iron Medusa and started casually reading the introduction, I was immediately impressed by the refined quality of the narrative. I became intrigued about the mystery of the Adella Curse and felt engaged by the large cast of complex NPCs. The more I read, the more possibilities I saw for how the adventure might play out and by the time I finished it, not only could I imagine myself easily fitting Tomb of the Iron Medusa into my Kingmaker campaign, I also felt a real sense of excitement at the thought of doing so.

The Story

The adventure takes place in Taldor, a country desperately trying to hang on to the echoes of its former greatness. However, having said that, I think the adventure could very easily be set in any other country under the rule of a monarchy.

A merchant who claims to be the last surviving heir to a disgraced Taldan noble family known as the Adellas contacts the PCs and asks them to venture into his family’s ancient necropolis, the Tomb of the Iron Medusa. Legend has it that the Adellas were stripped of their titles under mysterious circumstances by one of the previous rulers of the Taldan Empire and that the family then proceeded to fade into obscurity. The merchant suspects that the Adellas had been framed and believes that the family sword, Infensus Mucro, is the key to proving his family’s innocence and he wants them to retrieve it for him.

This may sound like your run-of-the-mill adventure hook but, as the players will slowly discover, things are not so clear-cut. For buried in one of the ancient and dusty vaults of the Tomb of the Iron Medusa lies a secret, that if exposed, could shake an empire down to its very foundations.

The Adventure

Overall, the encounters in Tomb of the Iron Medusa are interesting and provide a good mix of combat, role-playing, skill use and even some old-school puzzle solving. Over the course of the adventure, the PCs will have the opportunity to have such wildly disparate experiences as fighting hordes of undead and outsiders, answering the riddles of a proud and angry ghost, and even laying back and enjoying a break in a cozy study found inside a portable hole.

The traps are well crafted with some going beyond the usual predictable scope of such game devices. One encounter that I found especially refreshing features the reliquaries of two feuding twins that, depending on how successful the players are in dealing with the wrath of the twins, can very much impede or facilitate the PCs’ progress through the dungeon.

One thing that really stands out as you read through Tomb of the Iron Medusa is how very much content has been stuffed this module. No space is wasted, no opportunity missed and every page practically oozes with interesting details and possibilities. Consider, for example, that most important crypts found in the necropolis feature the name, dates of birth and death and on occasion even a fitting epitaph for the deceased. In most other adventures this would be inconsequential fluff of little importance. In this case, however, in addition to giving the module extra flavor, the writings on the crypts often provide clues to attentive PCs on how to bypass difficult encounters or point the way to the secret entrance to a set of hidden catacombs.

Yet, despite the astounding amount of content, the module does not overreach. It elegantly accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to build an evocative site-based adventure that is part sandbox, part dungeon-crawl and part narrative. I suspect that the Paizo developers who edited this module are as much to thank for this show of restraint as the author.

The Road Less Traveled

Apart from the plot and encounters, what really drew me into this adventure was Mike Shel’s knack for creating deeply flawed and tragic NPCs that you can empathize with. From Cadimus and Bartolomae to Micheaux the Magnificent, every important NPC, whether vile or conceited, is given a moment where you can glimpse their underlying humanity. The acknowledgement that the NPCs are capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions makes them more believable, and lends a realness to this adventure that I’ve never encountered in any other Paizo module.

For me, adventures like books, movies and music are at their most powerful when they can help me better understand another perspective. Tomb of the Iron Medusa achieves this transcendant quality through the character of poor, conflicted Cadimus who serves as the common thread to the saga of the Adella family. Did Cadimus make the wrong decision in the final moments before he was about to die? Of course he did, but going through this adventure, it will make sense to the players why he did what he did and how truly desperate he must have felt.

Mike Shel also does what few other adventure writers are capable of by bringing the full extent back-story of the module to the attention of the players. He chooses to do this through the effective and judicious use of cutscenes. I think this is a gutsy move, knowing that many RPGers (myself included) are strongly biased against cutscenes considering them to be a heavy-handed way of delivering the story to the players.

However, I like the cut scenes in this adventure. I think that the cut-scenes work because they are used sparingly, seamlessly (in most cases the players don’t even know that they are witnessing a cut-scene until after it is over) and allow for the players to make use of several skills while they are taking place. In fact, my favorite encounter in the entire module is the cut scene where the chilling and dreadful meaning behind the curious epitaph “Then Let Them Drink” is finally explained.

The Bottom Line

Mike Shel packs more adventure into Tomb of the Iron Medusa than I’ve seen in any other Pathfinder Module. He has masterfully crafted a fun, evocative and challenging dungeon-crawl that skillfully tells the tale of one family’s tragic fall from grace.

The Adellas are cursed! You owe it to yourself to find out why.


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Contributor

Evil Lincoln wrote:

I just posted my first review for a Pathfinder module here. I plan to review each module in my sub, with an eye toward the needs of Virtual Table-Top players who get added value from the PDFs.

I just wanted to add that I probably low-balled this module's rating because it was the first! I actually really enjoyed every aspect of it, and I probably spent a few too many words being critical in the review... but that's just because it's the first and you don't want to start out with "all fives, A+++!"

[snip]

Seriously, Tomb of the Iron Medusa was a great read!

Thanks for taking the time to review Iron Medusa and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

As a favor, I'm wondering if you could edit the art section of your review to remove the quasi-spoilers, or at least mask them.

Thanks!


Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Mike Shel wrote:
Let my obsessive trawling for comments and feedback begin!

Just finished reading this and it is pretty much exactly what I look for in an adventure. I was about ask what other adventures you have written and saw that you've got them in your profile! Off to spend some money!

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

I've given it the cursory once over (can't read too deeply, since my useless edictic memory only works on gaming text) and it looks awesome.

I got a copy for my friend, who was/is a big fan of Mud Sorcerer's Tomb. The other reason I don't want to read too closely, I'm betting he'll want to run it.


Pathfinder Card Game, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
Evil Lincoln wrote:

I just posted my first review for a Pathfinder module here. I plan to review each module in my sub, with an eye toward the needs of Virtual Table-Top players who get added value from the PDFs.

This is a cool niche! I am especially intrigued as the great majority of my gaming involves Maptool.


Elorebaen wrote:
This is a cool niche! I am especially intrigued as the great majority of my gaming involves Maptool.

Well then, stay tuned for my upcoming review of Cult of the Ebon Destroyers! Pesky schoolwork has delayed it.

@Mike Shel: I spoilered that stuff you asked about.

Contributor

Evil Lincoln wrote:


@Mike Shel: I spoilered that stuff you asked about.

Thanks! You are my favorite evil president.

Dark Archive

Having received my copy of this module and prepping to spring it on a few unsuspecting players I have a few questions that I have to ask first. I'll spoiler tag them since a few of them really shouldn't be viewed by players.
Most of my expected players are PFS types so unless I have a good reason, modifying the scenario as written is mostly verboten.

The Rooms

Spoiler:
I do not see a listing for standard ceiling heights in any of the hallways.

Ursulla

Spoiler:
The Nemhain's touch attack; I see that her 1D6 Con drain attack has no save or type listed, is this by intention ? If so nothing can survive more then 2-3 rounds of her attention (1 swift hit from spirits for 1D6 and then a regular lunging fly by from her for another 1D6 each rnd that can't be blocked or negated that doesn't provoke AoOs is lethal!!) Just taking averages she'll drain 7 CON.

Lucretia

Spoiler:
I just have a problem understanding this one. She's a 200 yr old vampire who's been hunting the same 20-30 square mile countryside non-stop for centuries and she hasn't scared off or devoured all the peasants from here yet?

Sausandra

spoiler:
I enjoy this optimized Paladin killer but curious why she doesn't have Rapid Shot or Manyshot and has Weapon Finesse but does everything she can to avoid melee. Her Smite good, is it only 1/day or as a 19th level paladin. Also don't you think 1D8+2D6(4D6 if she uses scythe of Evil)+31 4 times a round is a bit...hateful? and Low?

How deep is the pool in her room?

She cast Unholy Aura before summoning her Barbed Devils preventing them from getting the buff, was this intentional ? Without it I don't see them being more than a speed bump for an average (lol) 14th lvl party.

She also has Hallow as a spell like ability but no mention of it being used anywhere in her lair. Was that an oversight or an excuse to place it anywhere I choose ?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Mathwei ap Niall wrote:
Having received my copy of this module and prepping to spring it on a few unsuspecting players I have a few questions that I have to ask first...

All of the answers addressed in the spoiler below...

Spoiler:
The Rooms
Ceiling height is one of the elements that we didn't have room to nail down—set it to whatever seems logical (I suggest about 8 feet for hallways and 10 to 20 feet or more for rooms).

Ursulla
Correct, the nemhain does not allow a saving throw to resist the Con drain it inflicts. Essentially, its actual damage done by its touch is mostly irrelevant for a CR 15 monster (normal CR 15 monsters should do an average of 52–70 points of damage in a round, but she's only doing an average of 13 points a round)—it's the 1d6 Con drain that's the REAL danger you face against these monsters. She's a tough foe—but then again, she's also CR 15. Compare her to other CR 15 monsters like an adult gold dragon, a neothelid, or a phoenix, and she stacks up pretty well... especially considering her relatively low AC for being a CR 15 creature.

Lucretia
Lucretia is no fool. She's actually pretty smart, and over the course of several centuries she'd be able to develop some pretty cagy tactics. She knows that if she's blatant and obvious about her hunting she'll just attract vampire hunters, so she uses all of her skills and powers to be stealthy about who and what she grabs for food (and this isn't always people; it can be animals or monsters as well, and given the remote location of the dungeon... most of her prey probably IS monsters and animals).

Sausandra
She's a CR 17 foe. Against 14th level PCs, that's a rough and tough fight. Often, we deliberately do NOT maximize foes in adventures because doing so is unfair—and in the case of a super powerful foe like this, not maximizing her tactics or stats is a way to not only make her a more survivable encounter, but also gives her personality. If every single bad guy is as maximized as possible in stats and tactics... that gets old. Having monsters make mistakes or not be perfect helps to give them some flaws that smart PCs can then capitalize on, and it helps make the monsters more realistic.

She gets her smite good ability by dint of being a half fiend. It only works for 1 round.

She does indeed do a lot of damage against good foes, which is why good PCs should be careful around her and use tactics OTHER than "I run up to her so that I only get 1 standard action but then on her turn she gets a full attack action simply by five-foot stepping away from me and shooting me full of holes."

Barbed devils might be a speed bump... but if the PCs don't deal with them, they're going to be enduring a lot of attrition damage from their powers. Furthermore, even if it only takes a round for the PCs to deal with the devils, that gives Sausandra essentially one free round to do stuff to prepare for the fight. Don't underestimate the value of "speed bumps" in encounters where the PCs outnumber the bad guys.

As for her unhallow spell-like ability, go ahead and put it anywhere you want. Remember, though, that a lot of the benefits she'll get from that spell don't stack with the benefits she gains from unholy aura or don't matter at all (she doesn't care if the PCs have a harder time channeling energy to hit undead, really, since there aren't undead in the fight). We didn't bother doing anything in print with her unhallow spell like ability because we felt that was too much extra complexity in an already complex encounter, and that the benefits that spell would grant her were in the end not worth the extra complexity. If you enjoy complex encounters, though... she's got the resources to make the encounter as complex and deadly as you wish.

Her pool is 10 feet deep.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Well, I am loving this! Mud Sorcerer was wonderful and this is just as full of fantastic ideas! (Plus you have a nifty avatar, Mr. Shel!)

Spoiler:
The alternative powers for the ghosts are ingenious! That sort of twist is what makes you "fan-favourite Mike Shel" :-) Excellent stuff!

I think I'll give the teleporting touch to an Aboleth ghost my players are due to met soon - in Golismorga! I'm just wondering if he does 4 tentacle attacks, would it be wrong to let him deliver a corrupting touch with each one? ;-)

Contributor

carborundum wrote:

Well, I am loving this! Mud Sorcerer was wonderful and this is just as full of fantastic ideas!

** spoiler omitted **

Far be it from me to deflect a compliment, but the particular idea you mention in your spoiler was the brainchild of either Mark Moreland or James Jacobs (not sure which of them is the genius in this case), who both polished the rough stone of a final draft I sent their way.

BTW, you are referring to Iron Medusa, no?

Liberty's Edge

I'm currently setting this up to run online using a VTT. I'm having problems with the main courtyard and building grid scalings:

Spoiler:
The Necropolis shows a scale of 1 square = 50 feet. This makes the inner map of the central building far too small. I figured I would adjust the grid size to instead be 1 square = 25 feet. But that made the smaller building floor plans too big!

Why is this important, you ask? Well, because I plan to place the inner floor plans on top of the buildings in the courtyard so that the floor plans appear as the players enter them. Snazzy!

Can anyone confirm a more accurate square size on these areas?
Otherwise I can just photoshop the main map and adjust the buildings as needed to get them to match the size of their inner floor plans, after I come up with a reasonable adjustment to the grid size.

Thanks!

Liberty's Edge

For the time being, I guess I'll go with 1 square = 30 feet. That puts it in a happy place between the maps that are too large and too small.

Contributor

Has anyone actually played through the module? I'm curious as to how it plays out? The reviews seem to be based on just reading the product.

Dark Archive

I placed this under the Modules Thread but also felt a link here would provide some humor and input for GM's :)Mike Shel is hilarious!!.

The Exchange

I cannot wait until I can play this with my PFS legal character. We are in the planning stages right now of seeing when the group will be available to get together and play this.


My GM just started running this last week as part of our ongoing home game, and we're two sessions into the tomb. Here's how it's gone for us so far:

Spoiler:
The first night, we bumbled right into Suasandra and had to fight very hard to overcome her, but at least she is out of the way. Last night, though, things took a turn for the worse.

First, we headed north from Suasandra's chamber and provoked the wrath of the two shining children, which had all of us blinded, on fire, and cut off from each other by walls of force. The dwarf fighter didn't make it through this encounter.

Then, after getting the dwarf raised and heading back in to check out the three domed crypts on the northern side of the necropolis, the party decided that we needed to clear out the six small crypts marked "E" on the map to make sure we didn't miss any items we needed. After we all contracted a bad bout of crypt fever while trying to make a rubbing of an epitaph, we went back to town yet again for healing, then gave it a second run. In the second small crypt, the barbarian tried to pull the lid off the central sarcophagus with a grappling hook, but for some reason our alchemist panicked and threw a bomb into the crypt - raising the ire of every spirit interred there.

I have never seen someone roll 28 Will saves simultaneously before. O_o We are really popular with the healers in this locale - the cleric who is removing all those curses from the alchemist says we've just put four generations of his children through college in less than 72 hours.

The Exchange

Ran through this beginning to end yesterday with our 14th level society PCs. Thoroughly enjoyable game.

Spoiler:
The tactics of the enemy summoning allies in the first round is not smart. Full Round Casting is almost guaranteed to never be successful in combat when there are no existing allies to absorb blows before you can complete the casting. Our judge ignored that bit or the fights would have been over far quicker.

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC

Power Word Unzip wrote:
I have never seen someone roll 28 Will saves simultaneously before. O_o

Wow.

I'm pretty sure I've seen that before either, and I've done some seriously crazy stuff to my players. Maybe when they were ambushed by over a hundred intellect devourers, but even then I think not because the attacks were split up among the 7 party members ...

On the other hand, you want to scare the living bejezus out of your characters? Take a look at crucifixion spirit in Tome of Horrors. Four of those suckers is a CR 15 encounter. Yeep!


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
gbonehead wrote:


On the other hand, you want to scare the living bejezus out of your characters? Take a look at crucifixion spirit in Tome of Horrors. Four of those suckers is a CR 15 encounter. Yeep!

Just looked that up after reading your comment. That thing is AWESOME!

(starts trying to figure out how to incorporate one into campaign...)


Just posted a review of this module

Brilliant work Mike! (as well as all the Paizo editors and developers who worked on this)

Can’t wait to see what you have in store for us in The Dragon’s Demand


3 people marked this as a favorite.
baron arem heshvaun wrote:

I'm a Grant Boucher fan, but it's unfortunate that some hardcore Star Wars fans attribute the history of the Five Mile Fallacy to his him.

He's a great writer, he just had his warship technical dimensions wrong.

Hi everybody! Grant Boucher here.

I came across this today because of a random search term and decided I would raise this thread from the dead. :)

Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Baron.

I checked my original and published drafts of Star Wars Galaxy Guide 1: A New Hope for the offending issue.

It's not there. So, that one's NOT my bad, ladies and gents.

Since the website linked talks about a product that would have amalgamated my work with that of other writers and WEG editors, I assume the dimensions problem originated at WEG as they tried to make sense of it all in those early days.

Not that it matters anymore, but let the record be clear that I'm not the one responsible for mislabeling that mighty ship. :)

PS I can't believe so many wonderful folks still care about my work from so many years ago. It's become canon not only for Lucasfilm at the time but also now for the Disney era -- as a lot of these races and names I was given the chance to create have recently showed up in The Mandalorian series. Unbelievably wonderful.

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