Pathfinder Module: Tears at Bitter Manor (PFRPG)

****( ) (based on 5 ratings)
Pathfinder Module: Tears at Bitter Manor (PFRPG)
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Hope Against Hope!

Bleak days have come to the Taldan city of Cassomir and nearby settlements, with a wave of depression and rage sparking horrific acts of violence. When retired adventurer Taergan Flinn doesn’t show up to meet with his old companions, the PCs are called upon to investigate, leading them into a swirling maelstrom of horror and tragedy. Can the PCs unmask and confront the malevolent entity behind the madness and restore hope to a tortured land?

"Tears at Bitter Manor" is a deluxe super-adventure for 5th-level characters, and includes 64 action-packed pages filled with horrible haunts, eerie monsters, new magic items, a beautiful double-sided and full-color poster map featuring a regional overview and an important miniatures-scale battleground, and more! The winning entry of the 2013 RPG Superstar contest—in which unpublished authors compete for a chance to write a Pathfinder Module—"Tears at Bitter Manor" includes not only Steven Helt’s winning adventure, but also a plethora of new monsters and magic items submitted by other contestants!

Players can expect to reach 8th level by the time they complete this epic adventure and take on the otherworldly entity that thrives on humanity’s despair!

Written by Steven Helt, RPG Superstar 2013 winner.
Cover Art by Kieran Yanner.

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-613-3

Pathfinder Modules are 64-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, a double-sided poster map, and a fully detailed bonus location that can be used as part of the adventure or in any other game!

Tears at Bitter Manor is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. Its Chronicle Sheet and additional rules for running this module are a free download (1.6 MB zip/PDF).

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Modules Subscription.

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****( ) (based on 5 ratings)

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A good story held back by bad design

**( )( )( )

Note that if/when my GM reads this, I mean no disrespect to him at all. He did his best with what he had to work with, which was unfortunately kind of a mess.

Let's start things off on a positive note. There is a GOOD story here unlike a few modules I've played. The NPCs you're supposed to save have an interesting backstory and you legitimately want to help the people of this town. And the encounters in Part 1 are reasonably fun

Now the bad stuff

1. It seems overly bogged down with sidequests that don't really contribute much besides extra encounters. I'm usually inclined to do them since doing the side stuff in the module tends to translate to provide some help in the later stages. The ones we did, didn't seem to do much story or mechanics wise. You could easily have had them just be dialogue NPCs and get just as much info. And it'd be paced better.

2. There needs to be some gate keeping when letting players design monsters. One monster in part two can perform an instant death skill at range that normally can only be performed in melee. As far as I can remember, the GM said there really was no valid reason given for this. Any time a player designs a monster for use in non-homebrew play, Paizo must make sure said monsters conform to the rules of the system. I hate to play Rules Lawyer but no matter the reason, even if the DC is so low you can only fail on nat 1, if a monster is doing things that break the rules, some reason better be given beyond "dramatic effect" as a good friend called it (and I believe they were being sincere I was just quoting them). I'd accept that it uses a special item or something (particularly if it's available on the Chronicle sheet) but a reason needs to exist IMO. That's just my personal quirk though.

3. Perhaps the most egregious problem is the difficulty spike. The first part's encounters were decent, perhaps a bit too easy. Second part's first couple encounters were alright. But then pretty much goes into Bonekeep territory when you encounter the rulebreaking monster. I'm not trying to dramatic I assure you. I'm told one of the encounter rooms is even a borderline ripoff of Bonekeep. (Minus points for ripping from another scenario if this is true btw. Come on, this author is capable of doing better).

What makes the whole thing worse is that you ABSOLUTELY need a balanced party. The trouble is with 4 players, that is insanely difficult if not wholly impossible. You're either going to be sacrificing damage, healing, spell casting, or trap finding. This is one scenario where you need them all. If you go in with 4 players, prep for a TPK (#DimensionDoor) or have some prestige built up. You are better off just going with max players. Not only would it be paced a lot better, but you'll (probably) survive to see the end of a good story.

Scenarios actively designed to get TPKs, such as Bonekeep, are not for everyone. However, they are honest about their intent. Namely to wreck you, especially if you're not an active powergamer. If you go into such scenarios you do so expecting that this will happen, design around it and are more likely to have fun.

Tears at Bitter Manor, IMO, if played with 4 players as advertised, is an intentional party killer scenario that is not honest about its intent when it starts off like a rather normal, if a bit sidequest heavy, module in the first part. Then it literally rips off Bonekeep and then just goes off the rails from there.

To make things worse, it was not adjusted for more restrictive PFS play when it was allowed.

If I want to play Bonekeep, I will play Bonekeep. I don't think I'm alone here.

I give it a 2/5 for being an intentional party killer that hides itself behind a scenario of reasonable difficulty. If being played go for max players and you'll get 3/5.


Unique, with lots of interesting opportunities for roleplay

*****

The group I ran this for really cherished the opportunity to interact with the retired adventurers that are part of this modules premise. This really did a splendid job setting up the environment in which things were happening, so the effects of what was happening were more strongly felt by the party. It is rare for me to see these players get so emotionally invested in rooting out a villain.

GMing this was a little difficult, though. Not because of what was provided to me, but because a lot of what's here requires a certain amount of description or subtlety to carry the right impact, which kept me on my toes.

The combat difficulty varies throughout the module, with some being easily overpowered, and others being terrifying obstacles to the party.

There are a number of unique items in this module, many of which are fairly interesting. Some of which my party has taken up and used into their higher levels, but most were discarded quickly.

All things accounted for, this was detailed, emotional, thorough and interesting. This is definitely something I would be willing to run again.


*****


Hopefully a victim of the format change


I would give this 2 1/2 stars. The following is from a GM perspective.

My first impression after reading this module was that it seemed like it was developed for the old module format (1 level), caught in the switch to the 3 level format and stretched. The middle third of the module is especially suspicious and could reasonably be reduced to a random encounter table without losing anything.

I liked the idea that it seems to start from one villain and build a module around exploring the machinations and ramification of that one bad guys actions. Although...

Spoiler:
The scenario revolving around a succubus' plots isnt exactly rare and replacing a succubus with a kissing cousin version and a different alignment doesnt quite stand out enough

As another review noted the story itself was kind of thin as its based around these few setpiece NPCs which fall pretty flat. My players pegged the plot from the get go as it was all relatively predictable.

Gameplay wise, I felt the module was underwhelming in presenting a challenge. Players around here like their optimization (we had a gunslinger, witch, life oracle, and swashbuckler) and nothing presented was interesting without being doctored up. That being said in these things theres always one encounter markedly out of line difficulty wise.

Spoiler:
Second to last battle, players climb down a chimney into three waiting, hasted, alchemists likely joined by the next rooms inhabitant, an alchemical golem. Bombs away!

None of the unique monsters were really something Id be interested in seeing again and the same for the items

Minor gripes:
The players expressed dissatisfaction with the quest and reward system as essentially all their rewards were deferred until the end of the adventure when they came back to claim them. Maybe thats fine as part of a large campaign but we ran this as a one-shot adventure.

The provided map is a bit odd, as another review said. Better than the Wardens of the Reborn Forge one but having a provided map for floor one of three is a bit throwing.

Editing. example, it seems like all the unique monsters health was listed wrong in the module run. It didnt match with the stats at the back of the book.

Wins:
The module seemed to get more background information across than average. Normally these things have pages of backstory that only the Gm will ever get to know.

The art was particularly nice.

All in all the module seemed kind of... lacking. I really enjoyed Dragons Demand and at least Wardens was alright but this one, if it wern't for the Pathfinder Society credit tie-in I think we would have just flat abandoned it partway through and not looked back. I am inclined not to play the next module, the pirate theme does not interest me to begin with and this module did not really do much to get me excited in the modules line.


Good Story

****( )

I like it. Haven't played it yet, but the story seems solid. Definitely very investigation/story driven, so players will need to buy in to that, but there are lots of cool little connections if players look for them.

My one grip would be the big fold-out map. On one side is a nice map of the city and on the other is a great 1"-grid battle map of the bottom floor of a certain manor. The only problem is that the manor has four levels, so my players are going to get an awesome, professionally drawn map of the 1st floor... and fugly upstairs on graph paper. As a GM, more manor maps would have been better for me, ideally, the whole manor in 1" squares.


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Paizo Employee Digital Products Assistant

Announced! Product image is a mockup!

RPG Superstar 2012

Yay! New Superstar module! :)


Congratulations, Steven. I am looking forward to having you GM this.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010

Nice, 64 pages of Superstar goodness.

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Chris Lambertz wrote:
Product image is a mockup!

But dang if it isn't appropriate as-is!

Sovereign Court Contributor

Congrats, Steven. This should be good...

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32

Oh wow...like the new name! I will definitely be supporting this module.


Congratulations! Now, can we find out what "AAAHH! EMBALMING BEAR!!!!" means?

Shadow Lodge

Ah, Ravengro. How nice to see you again. :P

Very excited for this, Steven! Congrats!

Shadow Lodge

TarionsCousin wrote:
Congratulations! Now, can we find out what "AAAHH! EMBALMING BEAR!!!!" means?

It was described in the adventure proposal.

Spoiler:
A taxidermied bear that held a trap - anything that got near it, it sprung a needle at and started pumping them full of embalming fluid. It hadn't yet been statted, since the proposal was just a pitch without the nitty-gritty statistical details, but I'm sure it will be in the final release.

Dark Archive

Why why does this have to be so far away, this one sounds really cool.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

I wish they would keep the cover the way it is.


I like the new name, it sells the idea more to me than "The Golden Watch" --- though in the initial announcement of the winner I was like "The Bitter what? Did I miss an entry?" :-D Congratulations Steven


I so can't wait for this! Maybe by then I'll have a party in Taldor... Idk I may go with the old dudes last adventure one shot. In any case I'm excited!

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Dragon78 wrote:
I wish they would keep the cover the way it is.

The art itself is from the article on Ravengro in the first Carrion Crown... so that's where to go to see the whole picture.

Sczarni

Out of curiosity, does Paizo keep the mockup cover images around somewhere? There have been some pretty cool ones over the years. :)


Is it tears, like in crying? Or tears as in ripping paper.

Or perhaps there's something sneaky going on here.

Shadow Lodge

Pretty sure it's crying tears.


Wow, I'm really surprised at the winner this year! It's not to say that I didn't think the adventure was good, quite the contrary actually, but rather that it had so many issues that were complicated in its design (a retired adventurer party bringing in the whole Elminster Dillemma to name just one). I'm really, really curious how it will be worked to allow a party of the module's level to face a challenge a group of retired adventurers need help with.

Best of luck to you, Steve!

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

I am looking forward to this module SO HARD.

The Exchange

1 person marked this as a favorite.

So happy to see this win, Helt was the best since the very beginning, every design he made was on par with Paizo quelity. Waiting to read this module, and eager to see even more from the 2013 superstar. if he could join Spicer, Groves and Nelson as part of the writing staff I'd be excited!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

This module sounds fantastic. I'm planning on replacing NPC's with my own retired characters already :)

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thank you for the support, everyone. I am working on the adventure, and working to include many new things so you poor GMs haven't had the whole adventure spoilered!

This is exciting, and I hope to earn a place writing for Paizo on a regular basis. And of course....maybe novels!!


I'm excited to see Ravengro again.

Any idea what levels this takes parties through?


ahhh maybe we need to run Carrion Crown again when this one arrives!!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I think there is a typo in the adventure description.

"A deluxe urban mystery adventure for 5th-level characters" as the intro.

"Players can expect to reach 16th level by the time they complete this epic adventure ..."

Huh? That is a lot of levels to gain in a 64 pages adventure.

Most likely a copy and paste issue where something got missed in the word smithing.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Yeah; that's an error.

The adventure should be enough for the PCs to hit 8th or 9th level by the end.

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Neat to see a large urban adventure


I'm here because the author described this adventure as a "gritty horror/mystery." More like this!

Contributor

That's my minion! :) Looking forward to seeing this!


2 people marked this as a favorite.

So from what Im seeing they are keeping a steady level build with the quarterly releases. And I DID notice this one is ALSO in Taldor (Awesome!!!). Throw in the really helpful Adventure Deck as well as gorgeous Callous Jack illustrated Paper Minis and I think Paizo is really on to a serious marketable plan for the Quarterly Module releases!!!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It states that they should expect to reach level 8 or 9, does that mean starting at level 1?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Galnörag wrote:
It states that they should expect to reach level 8 or 9, does that mean starting at level 1?

Nope; this adventure starts at 5th level.

Dark Archive

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

this still says a release date of early november but I don't see it listed on the november releases.
Changing of the release date to be announced?

Webstore Gninja Minion

chopswil wrote:

this still says a release date of early november but I don't see it listed on the november releases.

Changing of the release date to be announced?

Updated.


Are you publishing Campaign Cards for Tears at Bitter Manor?

Contributor

Sannos wrote:
Are you publishing Campaign Cards for Tears at Bitter Manor?

I do believe they are.

Contributor

Can't wait to get my hands on this one. Should be very interesting to run a group through.

Webstore Gninja Minion

Product image and description updated.

Dark Archive

Ooh, I love that cover! Are those two huecuva or mummies?


Very cool cover. Who's the artist?

Contributor

Asgetrion wrote:
Ooh, I love that cover! Are those two huecuva or mummies?

The former. :)

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Heine Stick wrote:
Very cool cover. Who's the artist?

Kieran Yanner.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Is this still likely to release in early January (given the preceding module has been pushed back to December)?

The Exchange

Even though this is one of my least favorite covers for an adventure from paizo, this is still a hec uv a good piece of art :)

Spoiler:

Seriously, couldn't resist

Any idea on when the next products in the modules line are getting announced?

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

Ha! I made that same joke to developer Logan Bonner when he told me about it. I'm not sure whether he laughed so I hooked you up.


I seriously can't wait to buy this :)

Dark Archive

Christina Stiles wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:
Ooh, I love that cover! Are those two huecuva or mummies?
The former. :)

Now I'm even more excited about this module! I've loved huecuvas ever since I fought them the first time about... maybe around 25 years ago? As a GM, I use them in every campaign, and the last time was two months ago (I did use mummies, too).

I always say that you just can't have too many minis -- especially goblins, orcs and undead. I also say that you can't use huecuvas too often in your games! ;)

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Huh, Alain doing something cool... thats a first.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber

I'm looking forward to this one. I'm wondering if I could drop it into Carrion Crown...

Probably not since it takes the characters to 8th or 9th level.

-Aaron

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