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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What's old is new

5/5

There's an old adage that goes "what's old is new" and Tomb of the Iron Medusa fits that like a glove. I'll be honest: I'm an old-school gamer and a sucker for dungeon crawls, but having played them so many times for so many years has made me somewhat fickle. There are many dungeon crawls out there, both good and bad, but only a few that are truly great. Unless its great, I usually wont GM it. See what I mean? Fickle.

Mike Shel's Tomb of the Iron Medusa is a great dungeon crawl. It takes an old-fashioned setting (a trap-laden tomb) and makes it fresh,exciting, and fun again. It breathes a lot of new life into old ideas without relying on convoluted plots, mandatory events/encounters or tons of filler. Mike Shel is an excellent writer who keeps it simple. Unlike some writers that try to shoehorn too much story/adventure around the game mechanics, he lets game crunch work around his ideas and his writing style has a certain sophistication that is rarely seen, making the adventure both more believable and immersive.

The backstory, which involves a disgraced aristocratic family under a curse,is intriguing and sets the stage for the PCs to investigate the tomb. As the party progresses, they will have to deal with an assortment of challenging puzzles, traps, and monsters while unraveling important pieces of story that could affect an entire kingdom (which can easily be placed in any fantasy game world.) Some of the monster encounters are quite tough, but not overly so. Personally, I prefer a module where certain encounters are a little tougher, rather than easier, on a high level party. Also, while the tomb itself is self-contained, there are various ways to explore it so the PCs are not necessarily on a set linear path. Indeed, they may even encounter the "final boss" near the beginning - depending where they go. As the party continues, more of the story behind the fate of the cursed family is weaved into the adventure and the transitions between narrative and active playing are seamless. Some may balk at some of the story moments, but I thought they were really well done. More importantly, the story is kept interesting from start to finish and ultimately gives the players the freedom to decide their destiny, which is always a sign of good adventure design.

The module presentation is good, but not great. Compared to other adventures of the Pathfinder Module line its about the same, although the artwork has improved lately. I thought the illustrations really helped capture the mood and atmoshere of the adventure. The maps are nicely done too, clear and easy to read - nothing too complicated.

Whether run as a quick dungeon crawl or fitted into a much larger campaign, Tomb of the Iron Medusa is an excellent adventure. Its great to see Mike Shel back and I look forward to more from him in the future.


An intelligent dungeon crawl

5/5

The title says it all. This adventure has a lot of background and the players should be exposed to it relatively easily. There is a lot of work done to set-up the why and how of the place, everything fits and makes sense when one looks at it.
The encounters could indeed be pretty tough, but with all the various barriers, keys and other teleporting devices, it seems natural to move one room at the time, without falling prey to boring dungeon mechanics. Despite being a tomb complex, i.e. predictable ghosts and undead, the place has a lot of history and the adventure flow rewards inquisitive players.
I especially liked the notes at the beginning that allow the GM to change the motivation for the players to go and visit the place, so as to adapt to a particular party. I like Taldor and the author has done a great job crafting a story befitting this region of Golarion, the greatness of an old Taldor family, its fall from grace and amazingly a potentially setting shattering revelation!
Great art and pretty decent maps, well written, great design, interesting story, all in all, an excellent standalone adventure that brings a welcome change to the run of “pretty decent but not that great” adventures of late.


Amazing

5/5

As Gm this module is very well organized... The monsters are a decent strength when you are running in to them one at a time. I can see it getting really bad with a time crunch of if they are resting and decide to stay the night and someone comes back, it can get really hairy... I will not spoil it for you...

If you use the Haunt Mechanics out of the GM guide you can add some real horror factor to this module. It is far from a hack and slash and forces the characters to play a their character to the fullest.

I definitely recommend this to anyone running the Carrion Crown Adventuring Path.


Fantastic!

4/5

I'm usually not a big fan of standalone modules. I kind of hate them, to be honest. They try to introduce the story as if it were a novel, or are set in beautiful and distant locations my campaign will never go to. TotIM doesn't really fall into that trap-- because, well, TotIM feels like it was written to be included a campaign. The adventure is in the tomb, not outside of it, and it's easily editable and insertable into almost any game with just minor tweaks.

The encounters in the book are all very well varied. What similar creatures the PCs encounter have their own interesting points and aren't at all duplicates. The art is good looking, and the cartography is amazingly detailed and just nice to look at. I recognized Jared Blando's cartography work from the Haunting of Harrowstone immediately, and can recommend that if you're a map fan, his maps are very good looking.

As for story, I'd say that the story in the module is fairly well encapsulated and open to improvisation, which is a good thing. Take it or leave it, it only takes up about six pages total in the entire book. The module contains a constant theme of problem solving and puzzle situations that starts from area A all the way to the last page. None of the puzzles are "beyond" the PCs or require them to know obscure facts, which is a big plus. The rooms and locations are just as interesting as some of the encounters, and a lot of detail went into minutiae in the module, which added a fantastic amount of flavor.

Things of concern: The treasure in the module is far and beyond what a normal 14th level party would be able to find. I'm glad that, for once, a module writer wasn't afraid to give the world to the PCs, but some GMs may have an issue with a character obtaining a 75,000gp magic item. My other concern is that the climax of the module is heavily reliant on a "cutscene" mechanic I wasn't too pleased with, but recognized the necessity of it as a storytelling tool.

This module is very solid. I'm impressed. I think this module will fit very nicely into Carrion Crown.


Virtual Table-Top GM's Opinion

4/5

As a MapTool GM, I've subscribed to Pathfinder Modules primarily for digital assets (maps, art) I can use in my own campaigns. I've read Tomb of the Iron Medusa, but I don't intend to run it as-is. I've broken my review down into sections that I hope will be more informative, but my overall rating is not an average of the section ratings.

Story 4/5
Tomb of the Iron Medusa has a compelling story about a noble line cursed by its diabolism. Many elements are reminiscent of Poe or Lovecraft. The scene-setting text and dialog are both well written and I will be using them (mostly) without modification, which is quite rare in my experience.

The module does resort to "cut scenes" near the end, which is ordinarily an automatic demerit. In this case though, they are compelling scenes and well written enough that I would actually use them as-is, but only if the PCs had an active interest in the background of that noble family; for example, if it had been set up earlier in the campaign, or had obvious later consequences.

As a module for 14th level PCs, it may need more heroic plot hooks — a simple proposition by a merchant prince with a hidden agenda is offered, but 14th level characters are likely to be nonchalant about such errands. Luckily, matters of national importance are simmering beneath the lid, so it shouldn't take a GM much effort to hook the PCs if they've had any exposure to royalty during the campaign.

Mechanics 3/5
The actual flow of the adventure feels very much like a video-game level, and that's not entirely a bad thing. Many of the obstacles will require key retrieval, sometimes involving a search for objects from far-flung rooms. This is an alright device to use once in a while, but I worry that my players would become sarcastic about it before the end.

As a module for 14th level PCs, perhaps there should have been more discussion of how mid-to-high level spells will interact with the adventure design. I understand that page-count limits such discussions, but the module reads like a great lower-level adventure with big numbers, it doesn't quite account for higher level divinations and encounter-bypassing spells. There is no soft timer built into the plot, which I consider a requirement for parties with high level casters; I would need to add one myself.

Art 3/5
The interior character art is not mind-blowing (to me), but far from unprofessional. Many of the pieces are re-usable too, which is of value to me as a MapTool GM.

Spoilered by Request:
The smug noble headshot, undead noble lady, ghost pirate, and demi-serpent medusa
illustrations I shall mirthfully place into my Resource Library for later reuse.

Maps 3/5 (quality 4/5, VTT utility 2/5)
Jared Blando's style always leaves me with mixed opinions. I love the intricate designs that grace his maps, although I feel the nordic runes he uses are not always a great fit for the subject matter. The maps are clear and accurate, but they are also highly schematic. That may be an asset to some GMs, but I am subscribed to Pathfinder Modules so that I get a constant influx of detailed of full-color maps. As such, I prefer Rob Lazarretti's illustrative map style, although I am positive that I can put these maps to work in a VTT with a little added effort. Evocative elements like the over-turned carriage are a must for my MapTool needs.

Overall, a good module, I'm very glad to own it. I'll definitely be putting some of the digital assets to work as well.


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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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