Hangman's Noose - Advice on running the adventure?


Adventures


First off I have to point out the high quality of Paizo's modules. I don't know how many dozens of adventures, modules, campaign settings, etc I've read. These are simply top notch and easily stand out as some of the best I've ever read. This one in particular was vastly more dark, grotesque, and mature than most any other as well. Not all of them are like this but man when they go dark and gritty it gets ugly! Anyway...

Any advice or tips for running this adventure? I have a lot of my own ideas about these questions but would love to hear yours as well!

Managing all of the NPCs and the complicated, interwoven, plot between all of the NPCs and PCs?

Conveying the complicated plot in a way so that the players can figure it out? Was confusing enough for me reading it and I had all the answers in plain sight!

Tips for getting it done in 4-6 hours of game time? We play one-shot adventures once a month for about 6 hours. If it's not possible then where's a good 'break point' to stop and start again next month?

Better way of keeping them in the building so either can't leave it or always end up back in it? Only lame thing about the module was that they suggested you 'warp' them back into the building if they leave; I didn't care for that.

Ways to keep the mystery, suspense, and horror at full throttle? My players enjoy some music in the background so I've got some good creepy (yet not annoying) music to play. Anything else?

Anything else you want to advise?

Thanks!

Paizo Employee Senior Software Developer

[moved thread to modules forum]


Gary Teter wrote:
[moved thread to modules forum]

Sorry about that; thanks GT :)


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Penny Sue wrote:
Any advice or tips for running this adventure? I have a lot of my own ideas about these questions but would love to hear yours as well!

Well, I've run this adventure and it went pretty well, so let's see what I can offer...

Penny Sue wrote:


Managing all of the NPCs and the complicated, interwoven, plot between all of the NPCs and PCs?

Conveying the complicated plot in a way so that the players can figure it out? Was confusing enough for me reading it and I had all the answers in plain sight!

Remember, the ghost has an inside man, and he can pass on information if the players get stymied. They weren't directly involved, so he technically doesn't have a grudge against them... in fact, they may be his best tool to get things where they need to be.

The heroes weren't on the jury. Everyone else was. Everyone else has information they don't. Play it up and goad the players into shaking down the jury members for clues. Diplomacy and Intimidate checks are fine to start with, but once things get crazy and people start dying, don't be afraid to forget the dice and just have NPCs spill their guts out of terror. (well, um, it'll happen literally too, but that's not what I meant.) I think that once the PCs realize most everyone had a reason to strike down Mord, the picture starts clearing up.

Penny Sue wrote:


Tips for getting it done in 4-6 hours of game time? We play one-shot adventures once a month for about 6 hours. If it's not possible then where's a good 'break point' to stop and start again next month?

The night is on a timeline. Things happen according to Mord's schedule. You get to be Mord's director. Look at the schedule ahead of time and adjust it to be shorter if you think you'll need it. (say, shorting something that happens an hour apart to 1/2 hour.) Most of all, make sure the players and their characters know they can't afford to drift off task, because that's when people start dying and coming back.

Penny Sue wrote:


Better way of keeping them in the building so either can't leave it or always end up back in it? Only lame thing about the module was that they suggested you 'warp' them back into the building if they leave; I didn't care for that.

To keep them in the building, I'd suggest taking away the doors and windows, and surrounding the outdoor areas they -can- reach with a tangible fog that gets thicker and firmer until it's practically solid, and the press of seemingly infinite broken-necked zombies, almost like they've fallen into a demiplane of dread whose borders won't open until the night is resolved.

A touch of Ravenloft here or there goes a long way, but I also can't help imagining a frankly wonderfully oppressive and horrifying episode of Samurai Jack where just that happened... he became trapped in a house where a demon long ago rose and did terrible deeds to claim the spirits within and it Won't Let Him Leave, stealing doors and windows, and creating layers of walls when tries to slice his way free, leaving him in claustrophobic rooms haunted by the ghosts of the people it stole. Or the old classic computer game Alone in the Dark, where the protagonist is trapped in a mansion crawling with zombies, spirits, less speakable things, and the mystery of their unholy existence, trying to leave by the front door finds you staring down the Cold Dark Void and an Eldritch Horror.

In horror games, a certain amount of "shutting down" the players is in bounds, because that's the point. Bad things are happening, they're in over their heads, and they can't just get away. It's all in how the you describe the horrible presence using them and keeping them pinned down that keeps it from sounding like a cheap "No, play the module."

Penny Sue wrote:
Ways to keep the mystery, suspense, and horror at full throttle? My players enjoy some music in the background so I've got some good creepy (yet not annoying) music to play. Anything else?

Work on your best intimidating croak. ;)

Seriously, I find Jarbin Mord to be the centerpiece of the module, and if the PCs are afraid of him, everything sort of flows from there. I got into the part by starting with the creepy croaking woman in the Grudge, and then transforming her into an imposing spectre of a giant of a man. :)

One thing that happened when I ran the game was that a PC (the boldest character in the group) cracked a joke at Jarbin. I had the strangled ghost try to laugh. One of my other players said, "That's the creepiest thing."

Hope it helps!

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Well since I plan to run this at some point. Anyone have any suggestions about having certain NPC'S live? I mean would it derail the story if they (The pc's)managed to rescue say the halfling? I imagine if they were unable to save any of the NPC'S my players would quickly become annoyed.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Kevin Mack wrote:
Well since I plan to run this at some point. Anyone have any suggestions about having certain NPC'S live? I mean would it derail the story if they (The pc's)managed to rescue say the halfling? I imagine if they were unable to save any of the NPC'S my players would quickly become annoyed.

Save the sexy halfling! Seriously, I described her as gorgeous, but my players (male and female) all went "Woah" collectively when they saw her portrait.

My advice to you is... this is the point where you don't want to "roll over" the heroes' actions, unlike escape attempts.

There are a couple of NPCs that probably "need" to die. For example...

Spoiler:
The awesome encounter with the Gut-Lurcher can't happen if the sorceress doesn't die.

... and a few should die, just to show the PCs things are serious, but if the heroes actually do make a serious and well-planned concerted effort to protect NPCs, give them a shot at succeeding. It's the hero thing. Maybe their devotion gives Mord doubts, and he receeds after a half-hearted swipe or two.

On the other hand, if the players leave everyone to fend for themselves, chew through the NPCs according to Mord's schedule. Just do it. He means business.


The paladin doesn't necessarily have to die if the players figure out the mystery and hang the true villian. Old man Trabe doesn't necessarily have to die; the PCs could 'save' him from the villian if they figure it out. Sveth doesn't have to die but he really doesn't need to be saved either since he's in on it.

Read through the adventure; it clearly outlines who should die, when, and who doesn't necessarily have to die.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I have read through the entire adventure the problem is some of the deaths pretty much involve the pc's just standing there (The halfling one being an example.) or the NPC getting separated from the group which with certain groups (mine being one of them) wont really work that well.


Kevin Mack wrote:
I have read through the entire adventure the problem is some of the deaths pretty much involve the pc's just standing there (The halfling one being an example.) or the NPC getting separated from the group which with certain groups (mine being one of them) wont really work that well.

It's not a text book :) So maybe your players do save some that were intended to die in the module. The female halfing is a good example; the PCs could verywell take control of the situation quickly enough to save her.

The party may kill some themselves; like the hobgoblin :D Maybe after some RP'n they come to the realization that some don't deserve to be saved! They may be less inclined to save that cute little halfing if they learn before hand that she played a key role in hanging Mord based on her neive, ignorant, fued.

Scarab Sages

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I loved this adventure, it was a great start for my eberron campaign.

In Sharn, it was easy to keep the character inside the tribunal. They were dragged to an abandoned cursed tower, with no acess bridges. No sky couch get near there during the night.

I have two advices that worked very well in my game:

1) I did print the NPCs portraits so I could point out who was speaking. It make things a lot less confusing, as there are several NPCs introduced at the same time.

2) I did sincronize the killings the big clock ringing. That give a sense of urgency and desesperation, as every hour a scary ghost would kill someone in an terrible way.

luciopim


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I'll be running some friends through Hangman's Noose in a month or two. We only play monthly, one shot adventures, pre-generated characters for each adventure, no persistant campaign or characters. This is because with our busy lives it's way to infrequent to get everyone together so now it doesn't matter if you miss 1 or 10 sessions; nobody falls behind, nobody feels left out, we all get to game more often, and we get to try lots of fun new things like Pathfinder :) As a result I have a little more control on PC design since I pregenerate them for each adventure.

With this module I would like to tie in the PCs to the story as them being actual jurors. They won't be taking the place of the NPCs but rather their character backgrounds will be intertwined with the story itself. I think this will lend to the sense of being a part of the plot and also the urgancy of figuring out how to satisfy ole' Mord before it's their turn to die! Below are the characters and the motives I've written up which ties them to the plot. Please read them and provide any thoughts you may have. Keep in mind the Motive is seperate from the characters Description and Persona (which I haven't written yet).

Merisiel
Elf – Rogue – Level: 1
MOTIVE: Some 10 years ago Merisiel was a street urchin indentured to the up and coming gang called the Grindle Street Shades. When offered her freedom and even some coin to give her a leg up she was more than eager. She was told all she had to do was vote guilty in the trial against Jarbin Mord. Arrangements were made and she was put on the jury. The price of freedom was heavy and its ramifications not cast off lightly.

Kyra
Human – Cleric – Level: 1 –
MOTIVE: In years past Kyra was but an acolyte at a small temple in the city of Absalom near the Beldrin’s Bluff neighborhood. She was conscripted to fulfill her civic duty as a juror in the trial against Jarbin Mord. She remembers the early proceedings of the trial well enough but the actual time spent in the court room during the trial and conviction is all broken and fuzzy memories. One thing is clear; she must have voted guilty since Mord was hung.

(NOTE: The player doesn't know this but Kyra can't recall much of the trial for the same reason the paladin can't. They were both charmed by the sorcerer during the trial. This all may be discovered through RP)

Seoni
Human – Sorcerer – Level: 1
MOTIVE: As a resident of the Beldin’s Bluff neighborhood Seoni was enlisted to serve on the jury for the trial against Jarbin Mord. A week before the trial a dirty, scribbled, note clearly explained she would be voting guilty “or else”. On her way back from market with her daughter, the night before the trial, she was cornered into an alleyway by a couple of unsavory characters. One of them grabbed her daughter away while the other shouted over the crying and screaming that she better vote as she’s been told or much worse tragedies would befall upon her family. With a heavy heart and against her better judgment she did vote guilty to hang poor old Mord. Seoni wishes more than anything to atone for her hand in the perpetration against Jarbin Mord.

Valeros
Human – Fighter – Level: 1
MOTIVE: Ten years past Valeros was nothing but a common hobo; panhandling for coin and spending it all on booze. In a drunken stooper, wandering the Grindle street area, he stumbled into a well dressed man. Instead of casting Valeros aside like so many other snobs the man offered a hefty purse of small gems and coins. All Valeros had to do was show up at the court house a few days later, “do the right thing”, vote guilty, and he’d get his payment. It wasn’t malice that led Valeros to vote guilty but rather inebriated ignorance. Years later Valeros sobered up, realized the tragedy spawn from his actions, and repent his sins.


We made it half way through the module in about 5 hours of gaming. It's going really well and people love the plot!

I ended up converting Tablark Hammergrind, Sir Cole Rekkart, and Sveth (aka Killian) into player characters. 5 players showed up so we also used the pregenerated Valeros and Kyra (to include the motives posted above which wove them into the plot). The person playing Sveth is 'in on it' and I talked to him before the game while also explaining who he is, his motives, background, etc. It's a lot of fun seeing him role play Sveth who is role playing Killian =) however Sveth really doesn't know much more than the other characters so he too is striving for the same goal but for a different reason. None of the other players are aware; they all think he's Killian! =^.^=

The first hour and a half (real time!) all took place right in the courtroom they woke up in. It was great; lots of role playing and people trying to figure out the plot. I really enjoyed hamming it up with Malgrim the hobgoblin and using Patricia. Another fun twist is that the players aren't necessarily some cohesive party. So often the players are some happy go-lucky group with strong bonds; this time the characters haven't seen eachother in 10 years and really aren't bonded. So unusual alliances form and there are lots of social dynamics between everyone.

Great adventure and we are all looking forward to see how it ends.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Penny Sue wrote:


The first hour and a half (real time!) all took place right in the courtroom they woke up in. It was great; lots of role playing and people trying to figure out the plot. I really enjoyed hamming it up with Malgrim the hobgoblin and using Patricia. Another fun twist is that the players aren't necessarily some cohesive party. So often the players are some happy go-lucky group with strong bonds; this time the characters haven't seen eachother in 10 years and really aren't bonded. So unusual alliances form and there are lots of social dynamics between everyone.

Great adventure and we are all looking forward to see how it ends.

Keep us posted, please! In fact, I humbly recommend, if the idea appeals to you, posting the events of the adventures in the Campaign Journals thread or the like, as it sounds like you had a fun and unusual take on the module, and I'd love to hear more about how it panned out.


Good idea Drakli!

Just so happens I wrote up a synopsis of the session for reference when we play again. That way we can keep track of important plot events and such.

http://paizo.com/paizo/messageboards/community/gaming/campaignJournals/hang mansNoosePaizoModuleU2&page=1#0


Just posted a synopsis of Act 2 in the journal thread; it's even more action packed!

http://paizo.com/paizo/messageboards/community/gaming/campaignJournals/hang mansNoosePaizoModuleU2


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I missed the boat really, but nonetheless, something I find useful with this module is to photocopy the portraits of all the various PCs and paperclip them to the front of my DM screen. It helps the players keep track of all the various NPCs (I went further and included notes about each PC on the inside of the screen also to avoid the problem I always have of forgetting crucial bits of plot or confusing who knows what when running lots of different NPCs).

As each NPC dies, I remove the sheet of paper corresponding to their portrait - it kind of adds to the feel that the group is gradually being poached in that horror/thriller movie way...


For the last act of this adventure I have 6 or 7 players showing up so I needed 2 more characters. We left off right with Alister Wade and Silman Trabe showing up at midnight. So I've converted both of them to PCs. I think it will be a blast to watch the players role play this out and they will have a hoot with it.


Well we've finished the adventure and it was a blast. This was one of the best times gaming we've had in years. The last act was 90% role playing which is a huge stretch for our group who is usually 80% hack :)

The MicroLITE d20 OGL system was a perfect fit. Since it's completely compatible with the SRD but also because if fits our gaming style as well.

Anyway here's the last post to the campaign journal for this module:
http://paizo.com/paizo/messageboards/community/gaming/campaignJournals/hang mansNoosePaizoModuleU2&page=1#2


I want to convert this to 4E. Any suggestions? I know, I'm getting in over my head... the game is Wednesday. Yikes!

I'm thinking about converting the whole module into one mega skill challenge.

I think it has a lot of 4E potential. But, it is also going to take some serious work. I think I'm going to be up late the next two nights.


Well, I'm about 90% done with the conversion. We'll be starting it tonight. I expect it to take 2 or 3 sessions. (Our game nights run about 3 to 4 hours of gaming.)

I am writing all of this up in Word, and when I'm done running it, I'll go through and make some notes and additions, and then I'll share it with people.


If you were using MicroLITE d20 you wouldn't even have had to convert anything really and you'd be done! =)


I just really like the 4E system, and I convinced my group into trying it again. We ran a few episodes of H1 last year, and, while the combats were a blast, it was a real snooze of an adventure.

That said, we had barely any dice rolling. Just some skill checks, and the first night (3 hours) was spent getting to know the other NPCs, quizzing them, and witnessing Malgrim's death (pretty awesome how it played out). The party has confessions from Ebin and the half-orc, was close to getting one from Madge, and realized that the paladin and dwarf's stories of the trial were all muddled. We ended the session with the party entering the Gallows room. They left the dwarf behind, though, so I'm going to have to figure out how to deal with that. I think I'm going to just have all of the NPCs follow along (scared to be left alone), and then the dwarf will see him eventually.

The thing I didn't do much of was integrate the map and the monsters into "larger" encounters. I will put some work into that before the next session.

The party just completely ignored the stocks. No fighting there.

Liberty's Edge

Our group converted this to d20 Modern and had a blast. It's an awesome Shadow Chasers or even Urban Arcana adventure.


I ran this adventure yesterday as a one-shot with my regular group. We have not finished it yet, so there will be a second session. But the first session went absolutely fabulous.
I used horror music and candlelight to set the mood. I also used a timer in the form of a small alarm clock. Every time the alarm clock rang, there was another murder. This was a great tension builder. The players were nervously looking at the clock all the time, and saying things like: "Hurry up, there are only five minutes left before the next murder!"
They ended trying to reach the bell-tower in order to ring the bell and to draw someone's attention. The great thing was that it was nearly twelve o'clock when they at last were able to do this (after a long drawn-out fight with both the ghoul-stirge and 4 of the zombies), so that it seemed judge Silman Trabe and Alastir Wade came to help them. Then the players discovered they did not. There we stopped the session.
Next time there will be a battle in the hall, since they already suspect Alastir. However, Sir Rekkart wants to see real evidence of his guilt, which they have not found yet. They only have their visions to go on. It wil be an interesting confrontation...

Thank you Mr. Logue for this fantastic adventure.

The Exchange

I'm planning to run this module as a one shot adventure for my gaming group this week. How many hours would we need to play this all in a single session?

Also, I'd love to use a soundtrack for the whole adventure. The intro box suggests Bram Stoker's Dracula OST; is there anything more that might suit the atmosphere?

Thanks everybody!

Dark Archive Contributor

Any horror soundtrack can work, I used the Alien Ressurection soundtrack when I ran it.

Do your homework. I copied pictures of the NPCs and stuck them on the DM screen, practiced mimicking movements to distinguish each character, all that stuff. I did not use miniatures, as the combats don't really call for them.

I ran an abridged version in about 5 hours- I'd plan for eight for the whole thing. It would be awesome to run it in "real time", and plot the events as they appear in the adventure, but that may not work. The pacing of this adventure makes it easy to drag out or shorten, depending on your group. Basically just run an event when the group starts to falter in their progress.

You may also want pregen characters if you run this.

The Exchange

Thanks Boxhead. I'll look for Alien's soundtrack. As for the NPCs, I've printed them and will use the pictures to point them out. I'm planning to use maps as I like to recreate the places where adventures are settled.

What do you mean by 'abridged version?' I think I could have 5-6 hours to run the module, so any advice on things you can or cannot cut would prove useful.

Oh, and I'll take a look at your pregenerated PCs. Thanks again!


The biggest problems I've had running this are:

a) First, they immediately assumed that all the NPCs were guilty (and of course, all following info confirms this). So, the heroes pretty much feel that the jury is getting what it deserves. They've done pretty well in combat so far, so the undead, while annoying, haven't discouraged them from letting the jury get killed. (They have tried to stop some of the deaths, but not too hard.)

b) Second, they avoided questioning the NPCs until after the party had explored quite a bit. (Left the jury locked in the courtroom). So, some of the more interesting background has been as asides told after the person in question has died.

c) Third, the party figured out the solution to the mystery fairly early, making some good leaps of logic and putting the clues together quickly. So, I've had to up the timetable quite a bit.

In the end, though, the party still seems to feel that if the jury dies and comes back as undead, it's fitting...

We'll have to see what happens next week...

Dark Archive Contributor

Khalem Nazaar wrote:


What do you mean by 'abridged version?' I think I could have 5-6 hours to run the module, so any advice on things you can or cannot cut would prove useful.

There are quite a few unnecessary combats- look for things like areas 10, 12, 17- places where the encounters are there to fill out the adventure, but have no bearing on the plot. Try to leave in the haunts (or at least some of them) and the plot-relevant events (like area 8 or 18). Most of the rest depends on the PC's actions.

I initiated the next murder any time the party seemed to be pausing for too long. The phrase "roll a spot check" was immediately followed by the players guessing which NPC had disappeared this time, even if it was for something else entirely. I used this technique to prompt them to hurry up.

If all else fails, set a hard time for event 7. If you can only play until 11pm, at 10:15 (or so), have the duo turn up. That way you can (hopefully) finish the advenure. A few posthumous clues will leave the players satisifed if all goes well enough.

The Exchange

Boxhead wrote:
There are quite a few unnecessary combats- look for things like areas 10, 12, 17- places where the encounters are there to fill out the adventure, but have no bearing on the plot. Try to leave in the haunts (or at least some of them) and the plot-relevant events (like area 8 or 18). Most of the rest depends on the PC's actions.

Thanks everybody. I'll be running the game tonight. I've done my homework: I've printed intro notes, background hooks, NPC portraits, etc. I'll let you know how this turns out.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Cool. When I ran this, it turned out pretty good. At the time, I had one player (running three characters) and he knew there was a DMPC. I didn't reveal which person was "on his side" until fairly late, by actions. That lent a degree of confusion, as he had more work than usual to figure out who was trustworthy.

I didn't have much of a problem with any of the death scenes. I altered them on the fly to either happen off-stage, or have the players not want to get involved. In one case, they reluctantly rescued someone, stabilized that someone, then left them unconscious in a "safe" room while they continued their exploration. <Scream> Oh, look. So-and-so is dead. Huh.

The module definitely needs a degree of player cooperation. The whole leaving the courthouse concept... if the players know and understand the fun stuff happens inside, they shouldn't try to leave. If they agree to play the module, they should accept the setting without feeling railroaded. "Do whatever you want, just stay inside the sandbox please." Not unreasonable.

The Exchange

All right, things turned out pretty well yesterday night. My players had much fun as they were trying to figure who was the culprit. I used Boxhead's background guidelines and they worked well, but I changed the sorcerer's background in a quite peculiar way:

Spoiler:
The sorcerer PC was an orphan who never met his parents. As the other PCs were figuring out how they were connected to Mord's trial and the jurors, he kept asking 'Why am I here?,' until he met Wade during event 7. Then, Sveth revealed himself and told the PC he was actually Wade's son, and that was the reason of his presence in the courthouse. That was quite a shock for the PC, but really got him hooked to the main story!

BTW, it was a male sorcerer (unlike the pregenerated female sorcerer included in the module).

All in all, it took almost seven hours to run the entire module, but we skipped a few unnecessary fights (like the one in area 10) and spent much time just roleplaying to solve the mystery. We also used a very nice, scaring soundtrack (Bram Stoker's Dracula, Heavy Rain OST, The Fall of the House of Usher by The Alan Parsons Project, and Eyes Wide Shut OST) and candles to light up the gaming table. I have been GMing D&D campaings for almost 20 years now, but this was definitely one of the best adventures I've ever run. Cheers everybody for your help!

Dark Archive Contributor

Glad to hear you had fun with this one, it's definitely one of my favourites from the module line!

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