Harrowing help (here there be spoilers)


Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

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Ok, need a kick in the brain to get the juices flowing.

In the module The Harrowing (which is really enjoyable) there's an encounter that's kind of incomplete, at least to me.

If the PCs inquire about the ringmaster’s token, he grins and challenges them to a battle of wits. He offers the group five questions to catch him in a lie; if they succeed, he freely parts with his token, but should they fail, he demands to keep one of their number as a “pet.”

Anyone want to suggest good things for him to ask? Also, aren't his definitions of 'truth' subject to what he knows? (I assume he'd complain casting detect lie would be cheating.) Like if he states he's 'a Rakshasa' to him it's true, even though technically he's not, being a planar construct.

Dark Archive Vendor - Fantasiapelit Tampere

I thought this one to be incompleted too. It's easy to make up some riddles, but to catch someone lying in a riddle-now that's hard. Any ideas? Please? Or would they just be true-or-false-kind of statements?

Liberty's Edge Contributor

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This portion was much larger in the original manuscript, but we had to cut it down to fit the page count. We also decided that individual GMs would be able to customize this encounter to their players' play style.

The basic gist is that the Ringmaster lets the PCs ask him three questions to try and catch him in a lie, and he'll always answer truthfully questions about the Harrowed realm, he'll always lie about himself, and if he doesn't know the answer to a question and can't pry it from a PC's mind with his Detect Thoughts, he simply makes up a reasonable and confidant-sounding lie.

Ultimately, he doesn't consider Sense Motive checks or spells like detect lies to be "proving" he's lied; after all, he only has the one wizard's claim that he's cast anything, and a sense motive check is just a glorified hunch.

Here are a few suggestions:
Logical Paradox: Players can use two of their questions to create a logical paradox to trap the Ringmaster on his third question, as he'll always give a definite answer, even if there are multiple correct answers. Think three-card monte or the old "Can god create a rock so heavy even he can't lift it" schtick.

Knowledge Skills: Since the ringmaster will always make up a lie about any subject he's uncertain about, PCs can simply use knowledge skills to pose questions they might be able to answer correctly but he can't. As the ringmaster can detect thoughts at will, though, it's better if a PC who doesn't know the answer asks the question, trusting a teammate to be able to answer it.

Trickery: The classic unsolvable riddle is simply "What have I got in my pocket," but between the Ringmaster's ability to detect thoughts and the vagueness of that specific question, it's unlikely to trap him (He can simply answer "lint", after all). Still, a PC with a high Will save or magical protection from mind reading may be able to stump him with simply questions like "Which hand is the marble in" or "How many coins am I carrying?" PCs can also use Sleight of Hand to change the answer to questions like this after the Ringmaster has responded.

Dark Archive Vendor - Fantasiapelit Tampere

Geez, I hope my pc:s are smart enough to think about the logical paradoxes. Otherwise they ask something that the Ringmaster can lie about very easily. I also thought of just changing the ringmaster's "battle of wits" to the standard riddles, because my players really like riddles.

I have to say, I love this module so much! the best module I ahve ever read, and I can't wait to run this with our group! it has great "Alice in Wonderland"-vibe in it. Thank you so much!

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Thank you for the thoughts Crystal!

Reposted from a different thread...

I found this one a little confusing too. I left it entirely up to the players with some ground rules (which they clarified in advance)...

The characters could ask 5 questions and every answer the Rakshasa gave would be a lie. They had to catch him by having him give contradictory answers (They can’t just know it’s a lie because it’s an obvious untruth).

For example they could ask, “What color is your coat (Truth “RED”)?”
Rakshasa Answers, “Blue.”

“Aha a lie, it’s red”

“Well we’re from different planes, perhaps what I see as blue you see as red.” Not contradicted by Rakshasa, no victory for players.

Players look at a red pillow, “Is this red?”

Answer “No, it is Blue as well.”

Question “Are the pillow and your jacket the same color?”

“No” (A direct contradiction of what he just said, caught in a lie, players win)

My players settled on, “Do you always Lie?”

Answer, “Yes.” (A Lie. If he did always lie, his offer to allow the characters to win the contest would be a lie, so he doesn't "Always" lie.)

Players, “Are you a liar?”

Answer “No.” Busted.

The Exchange

Our party just played this part of the module last week. I loved it, by the way, since I really love logic puzzles. We trapped him in a logical paradox.

Here's how:

Skipping our first question, which was ultimately unhelpful, we asked:
"Will you answer "yes" to the next yes/no question we ask?" The ringmaster said no.
Then we asked, "If we prove you are lying, will you give us the token?" He was trapped.

We figured we had to commit him to an answer in the first question, then ask a question with an obvious answer, removing the difficulty of proving his lies.

This took us quite some time, but we all really enjoyed it, even those party members who don't typically like puzzles. In the brainstorming stage, our paladin came up with some great questions: "If we don't kill you, will you give us the token immediately?" and "If we cut you up into little bits, will we find the token?"

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

My group went with:

What question should we ask to win this challenge?

It probably is a cheating question, but I couldn't think of a way out so I went with it. If it didn't work the rogue was going to start doing the stabbity.

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I would like to mention that a player of mine, upon being told about the Lying Challenge by Bernaditi, immediately charged into the following dialogue:

"Do you have the token?"
"Is it in your coat?"
"Is it in your tea cup."
"Of course not."

Laughter ensued.

Scarab Sages

Our group decided to go with trickery:


First question: "What kind of questions would you lie about?"
Answer: "I always lie about questions concerning this realm."

Second question: Open the map and ask, "Where is the carnival?"
If he answers truthfully and points to the carnival, his first answer was a lie.
If he lies about the location of the carnival, it's obvious because the location is on the map.

We all felt pretty clever about that. Lots of fun was had.

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Abciximab wrote:

Reposted from a different thread...

I found this one a little confusing too. I left it entirely up to the players with some ground rules (which they clarified in advance)...

** spoiler omitted **

For my group I put a different spin on it.

He gave them the five questions to catch him in a lie, saying he'd lie to some or all of them, but the trick is...

His lie is that he would give any lying answers to the questions at all.

He actually would answer every one of the five questions as honestly as he could, leaving the PCs to puzzle about what the lie could be.

This made it easy to GM, since I didn't have to make up any lies or have to puzzle through any of the players' logic traps. Whatever they pulled to manipulate the questions would be the wrong guess, since he'd answer each without any attempt at deception on his part. Every sense motive would indicate he's being truthful, which the players might assume is just him having an absurdly high bluff, but is actually a clue. His denials that they won the contest evne if they caught him in a logic trap would likewise be the clue to the actual solution, which he'd reveal to win the contest if the PC don't get it or accuse him of cheating:

"I, in fact, made every effort to answer your questions as sincerely as possible. The answers may have been contradictory as you constructed them, but they were not attempts to deceive you, I answered them sincerely, thus that was not the lie. I said I would give you five questions to catch me in a lie, and spoke honestly, but I did not say the lie you needed to catch would be the response to any of the five questions! In truth, the lie you failed to guess is simply this: I lied when I said I would lie!"

Standard spoiler warning. . .

My questions are about Brambleson.

1) His description mentions his intent to recover the other half of his sword, but I don't see it listed in the dragon description. Where is the information on the complete Sword of Oaths?

2) Is it possible he could leave with the PCs for the real world as he plans?

Scarab Sages

darth_borehd wrote:

Standard spoiler warning. . .

My questions are about Brambleson.

1) His description mentions his intent to recover the other half of his sword, but I don't see it listed in the dragon description. Where is the information on the complete Sword of Oaths?
2) Is it possible he could leave with the PCs for the real world as he plans?

1) The other half is the broken +2 short sword. The "Sword of Oaths" is just a named weapon, which is actually a broken +2 short sword.

2) No. No harrowed realm creatures can return. The dragon knows this and uses mortals in order mask himself so he can leave.

The Exchange

We bashed in his cage, attacked and killed him, and then searched and found the token. But we were already fighting the others...

So Brambleson can't really leave, even though he thinks he can.

If he could somehow leave, how do you think he could do it? (other than trying to what Patchwork tried)

Liberty's Edge Contributor

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darth_borehd wrote:

1) His description mentions his intent to recover the other half of his sword, but I don't see it listed in the dragon description. Where is the information on the complete Sword of Oaths?

2) Is it possible he could leave with the PCs for the real world as he plans?

Hmmm... that part about finding the other half of his sword wasn't in my original draft. The behind-the-scenes, totally non-canon explaination of Brambleson's sword is from an old Varisian fable about why rabbits are timid and never trusting what you hold most dear to someone else's care. Brambleson was once the only timid rabbit in Golarion, in a time when all other rabbits were soldiers of the gods, with their gnashing claws and powerful legs. But when a creature attacked that no rabbit's claws could pierce and whose voice filled their hearts with such terror that no creature could face it a second time. Brambleson (who had been too afraid to face the beast), schemed and convinced the other rabbits to loan him their courage, swearing to return it the moment after he faced down the beast. The rabbits forged his oaths into a sword the rabbit prince needed to slay the beast, so he couldn't abandon them.

But Brambleson decided he liked feeling brave, and so when it came to face the beast, rather than attack it's soft underbelly, he leaped up and swung at it's shell., shattering his sword and his oaths along with it. He has not bothered to return the rabbits' courage, and instead gallivants across the world having adventures.

So, the "other piece" of Brambleson's sword is actually a dozen or more broken pieces lost to the annals of story time. If you could find them and put the sword back together, the rabbit prince would be forced to return his ill-gotten bravado to Golarion's rabbits and once again become a sniveling coward (essentially a standard rabbit).

Brambleson's Broken Sword of Oaths was (in the original draft) just a medium-sized +2 short sword (it did not have the broken condition; broken is just part of the name). If it were reforged, it would probably become a +2 abberation-bane bastard sword.

As for escaping the Harrowed Realm, none of the storykin can leave. They're made from spider webs, morning dew, and earwax, and would collapse into nothing upon exiting (they could probably survive on the Dimension of Dreams as well). Brambleson is more heart than smarts, though, and doesn't realize that. Still, if any storykin had enough force of personality to hold itself together outside the Harrowed realm, it would be the rabbit prince.

Thank you for the reply! And yes, like I predicted the first thing my PCs said were "Were is the rest of the sword and what happens if we put it back together?"

Looking forward to a sequel or any other modules you write. Kepp up th good work.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

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darth_borehd wrote:

Thank you for the reply! And yes, like I predicted the first thing my PCs said were "Were is the rest of the sword and what happens if we put it back together?"

Looking forward to a sequel or any other modules you write. Kepp up th good work.

Let them know with a decently easy Knowledge check (whichever seems most appropriate for knowing local myths of fables; local, history, and religion all work well) that the broken sword is just part of his myth and probably not in the Harrowed Realm. You can, however, use it as a lead-in for further adventures once they escape. Technically, any treasure they find the Harrowed Realm is fictional; bringing it out into the "real world" of Golarion might have weird effects, such as forcing the other half of the sword into existence or generating other mythical creatures tied to the odds and ends they bring back.

The Exchange

If there are any other stories you could post related to the history of the characters in module I would love to read them. I'm sure I could use them to add more colour to the game when I run this.

Grand Lodge

Im going to run this for some PFS characters and I have a few questions.

  • On page 7 under Planar Traits it states that teleportation spells only function if the caster makes a dc 30 caster level check which is possible for a level 10 cleric to make. What then? For PFS, I am technically not supposed to change anything and play it "as written," otherwise, I might just bump up the DC to 31.

  • Are storykin subject to mind affecting spells? For example, would a pc be able to stick a dominate person on Algon (which both bard and wizard can have at these levels and lasts for a REALLY long time)? What if any affects would the "story resets" have upon him while under a dominate person?

  • It would be very nice to have the Varisian folk tales from which these characters and locations sprang to "life." Anyone written anything along these lines that I could steal? :)

Grand Lodge

By way of clarification, a level 10 cleric can get plane shift, which would blast them out to the prime material plane if they rolled a 20 on their caster level check (d20 + caster level). Seems like it would defeat the purpose of having to battle the dragon at the end.

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I came looking for the Sword of Oaths info also, just to see if there is any, and I also was totally thrown by the line IN the module "If he(Brambleson) can fulfill his story’s quest and find the other half of his broken sword of oaths among the dragon’s hoard, all the better."

I put it there and spun an whole side quest out of it. Mending just gets you the unbroken listed +2 short sword, but I offered quest for proper reforging and I gave the group a weapon worthy of a name. It's ended up being fun so far, but now I need to decide what the sword stats will be. I think I'll have to make up my own and make it useful for they're next adventure since they have put some time and effort into it at this point.

I will second the request for the stories for each module encounter. Maybe quick snippets of the text edited out from the first draft could really help? I was really put on the spot a lot when they questioned NPCs, especially when it was about their own story. And the first friendly NPC has a lot of information and can tag along for the whole thing, so having him come down with memory loss just didn't seem an option. I did my best and everyone said they really loved the adventure, the visuals, and the stories I did try to come up with. But as the DM, I would have really loved to have been able to find some info on the stories alluded too rather than have to make it up on the spot so often.

Maybe an E-book is in order, a nice cheap supplement for the module if you already worked up some draft stories? I'd buy it, and I'd think most people using a Harrow Deck would even if they aren't playing the module.

Grand Lodge

Wow, amazing! Thanks Crystal for the story about Brambleson. I think my players will get a real kick out of that. :)

Grand Lodge

So, I ran The Harrowing at DunDraCon this weekend (14 hours of actual game time!) and I had a question for you, Crystal.

All of the encounters throughout the module are very well written and entertaining, even the ones that you can't simply talk your way through like many of them. However, the Shadow Demon encounter felt... Off. I'm familiar with Magic Jar and how it works, but the tactics as written seemed confusing. I wasn't able to really feel out who the Bishop was, or how that encounter was supposed to lead off. Are all 3 Shadow Demons in human bodies that resemble the bishop? It says they are already waiting in their gems via Magic Jar to possess non-clerics upon combat. I couldn't find anything about where the soul gems were, though I assumed in the same room so that they could attempt to possess.

Sorry for the rambling, just the whole encounter felt like there was stuff missing from it that actually explained the scene in greater detail. I could be mistaken, but I figured I would ask.

Otherwise, my players absolutely loved every other "encounter" in the module. The drunken air elemental in particular got huge laughs, especially when the group was able to convince it to not fight with several castings of Create Beer. :)

About the lying:

This is the question my players asked:

"Will you become angry if we would break your teacups?"

He answered with a 'no'.

Then, they slowly commenced in shattering the teacups one by one....eventually bringing him to a howl of: "Allright! Stop that! Fine, you win!"

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8

Page 4 of the module says "If the players correctly identify these associations during the adventure, they may “play” the chosen cards from their deck for specific boons.."

How are the characters supposed to know that they can do this? What in-world clues do they get? I was thinking of having the deck sparkle at the appropriate moments. Also, what kind of action is it to play a card? Assuming that the deck is already in hand, I would say that it is a standard action which provokes an attack of opportunity.

I have a question too! It's very simple: are the PCs supposed to get their hands on the harrowed realm's map?? Is biyo able and willing to draw a little map or something similar to help them?? Thanks in advance for your help!:D

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm planning to run The Harrowing soon, and I have some questions that I don't see answered in the module.

Anyone knowledgeable, can you help?

Distances and travel times:
How far apart are the domains? How long should it take the PCs to go from one domain to another? The PCs are likely to have spells or other effects running. I think minute-per-level effects will probably elapse, and hour-per-level effects will stay up, so I'm mainly concerned about 10-minute-per-level effects (a 90-minute barkskin or alchemist's mutagen, for example). The whole demiplane is 80 miles across (from the sidebar on page 11), but a lot of that is the Trackless Dearth. The map on page 9 doesn't include a scale. I also don't see distances or travel-times mentioned in the description of the Briar, which separates most of the domains from each other. Playing the Tangled Briar card grants all PCs the woodland stride ability, but does that mean that a trip of two hours becomes a trip of (say) one hour, or that a trip of 20 minutes becomes a trip of only 10 minutes?

Diplomacy to shift an NPC's attitude:
How can the PCs shift the attitude of Algon (the paladin in Event 1, on page 5) to Friendly or Helpful at all? Diplomacy normally allows a shift of no more than two steps in attitude. Algon wants to fight the PCs, so I think his starting attitude is Hostile (DC 27 Diplomacy) ... or maybe Unfriendly (DC 22), at best? The most the PCs could improve his attitude would normally be from Hostile to Indifferent (DC 32 success), or from Unfriendly to Friendly (DC 27 success). Or are the PCs allowed to shift his attitude three or more steps with a higher-DC check?

What does Biyo know?:
Page 7: "Biyo can tell the PCs each of the Conspirators’ names and the domains they rule."
Does he know only the conspirators' names or also what kind of creature each conspirator is? Does he know that Radiant Sunrise (the couatl, page 12) has become Mourning Choir and given her token to the Barrow King? Does he know that the scary thing in in the Prophet's Garden (page 17) is the remnant of Sonnerae and an honorary conspirator? In order not to spoil too much for the PCs and players, I was planning to say that Biyo knows only the names but his information is outdated about the couatl, and he doesn't know about the Sonnerae-hag.

Is there anything urgent about the PCs' activities in the Harrowed Realm? What's to stop them from resting for a day after each encounter or after gaining each token? What would be different if the PCs wandered the Trackless Dearth for 1 day (with Jocob's guiding them) or for 12 days (with no guide, no notes, and bad luck on the GM's roll)? Will Zassrion kill his captive Meloigne eventually? If Marzalee the Weaver is still alive, how fast could she remake a conspirator or other creature that the PCs kill?

Thanks for any answers or advice.

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