About to run the Misgivings - Would rather avoid a TPK


Rise of the Runelords


I'm about to run the Misgivings in the Skinsaw Murders, and it really looks like a serious meat grinder. It's hard to imagine it not being a TPK.

So I have a question for those who have run it:

The Carrion Storms outside are what make it so ominous. Without the ability to leave the house and return, is it even survivable? (I guess it must be, since plenty of people here post about making it through and moving into subsequent chapters. But it seems pretty rough.)

Has anybody tried running it without the Carrion Storms outside? That would seem to make it a lot more reasonable. Maybe come up with some hurrying factor instead so they don't take a week?


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Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Don't worry:
Hm, I'm surprised you're worried about the Misgivings. I've never heard of a TPK inside the house, and there's definitely more dangerous sections of the adventure path. Keep in mind that there's very little actual combat inside the house, except for the caverns below the basement when the PCs are approaching Aldern himself. Most of the dangers in the house are from haunts, and they tend to create "save or suck" situations--if the PCs have any luck with saves, many of the haunts will be purely cinematic ways to better understand the story. The beauty of the carrionstorms is that keep the tension ratcheting up inside the house, because if the PCs could leave and return at will, the overall effect would be diluted. It's also a good wake-up call for those players who plan their PCs around the "five-minute adventuring day." The group I GM for just entered Foxglove Manor last session, and although I think it's possible one or two PCs could die from some of the nastier haunts, I'm not nearly as worried as I was when they were fighting the ghouls at the Hambley Farm (three attacks per ghoul, each of which could paralyze an opponent? That's a recipe for a TPK!). So, overall I would say not to worry too much about a TPK in the house. If you're really worried, make sure the PCs get some Knowledge rolls on the carrisonstorms so they realize they're swarms and not invincible auto-killers--they can be destroyed if the PCs are desperate to leave.


Yeah, my PCs had a much tougher time

Spoiler:
with the ghouls in the farmlands and at the Hambley farm than they did inside the Misgivings. They found the haunts annoying more than dangerous. (Though one failed save on one of the deadly haunts could change that opinion very quickly.)


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A TPK is almost always the GM's fault. The GM chooses when and how encounters happen.

Spoiler:

You are not the AP's thrall, you are its master, aka Gamemaster. So if your group of pc's is fleeing the manor on death's door, simply omit the carrionstorms. The undead swarms can attack them when they return. Or even after they re-enter the house - the house is aware and malevolent - it opens windows and doors to let the birds in.

And if they've defeated everything in the manor and are not going to return, yet the carrionstorms would kill them? Even then just skip the birds. Why throw a pointless encounter at them after victory?

The carrionstorms are a cool encounter but I'm not sure they really work for at least part of their advertised purpose: keeping the pc's from fleeing the manor. In my experience, that's not how most player groups work - once engaged in combat, how often do they actually retreat? And how often do they just press on regardless of consequences, perhaps to their doom? "Running away isn't a plan, it's what you do when a plan fails." And swarms are harder to retreat from in the first place - given they are more like moving areas of effect than monsters.

The carrionstorms can annoy, frustrate, challenge and creep your players out but as with any encounter, if it's going to derail the campaign/ruin the fun - don't do it.


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My take:
The carrionstorms are mainly there to provide a sense of dread: There is no escape from this haunted house!. They're not actually that tough for PCs of this level.

As for the haunts: Remember that the real purpose of haunts is to provide information to the PCs in a creepy and disturbing way. They're not supposed to just be "weird traps that a Rogue can't disable," like so many people complain about. It's really important to build the proper atmosphere for the whole Misgivings encounter area. Once the players start cracking jokes or quoting Monty Python, it's just not going to work.

I'd recommend reading the GM tips for running a horror adventure from Horror Adventures before you run Misgivings.

Misgivings is one of the best haunted house adventures I've ever encountered in a published adventure for the D&D family of games. Enjoy it, and good luck!


Are your players finding swarms particularly problematic?

Spoiler:
They are more ominously scary, than dangerous scary. My group killed them almost as an afterthought.


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Another observation: If you're reading Book 2 and you think Misgivings is going to produce a TPK, let me redirect your attention to the final encounter of the book. I don't think there's much doubt its the greatest TPK generator in the entire AP.


Ditto. When my group went through, the haunts in Misgivings were annoying and creepy, but not lethal. I did nerf the suicide haunt in advance, as there was a particularly sensitive player in the group with some bad associations, and it would NOT have been fun.

Avoiding a TPK in the book 2 boss fight required direct divine intervention from Sarenrae. And even then the big bad got away.


I surprisingly had a lot of fun running this session for my group. I was really nervous at first! But it really took some work on my part ahead of time, to ensure it ran smoothly. It was very important to me that it was done in one sitting, so I had to time the previous session to end as soon as they entered the front door. I also warned the group ahead of time of a possible shorter or longer, "darker" session would be occurring.

Spoiler:
- I made cards to pass out for each haunt. I also had thought about whom would be ideal for specific haunts ahead of time. I advised if they had any questions, they could pull me aside to discuss the haunt specifically. But rule was, act out! what was on the card as much as possible. As they did, I gave additional details.

- I had a talk with group after giving the first card about, about how the mechanic works, and what was possible with them. Pushing hard the role playing portion of things.

- The haunts, while potentially deadly... were not meant to be deadly. They were meant to tell a story! and meant to encourage role play to tell the story. The worst one for my group, was a player wanting to do more eating of moss on the walls on the boss fight.. as opposed to fight.

- As far as the Carrion's go. I had them start showing up as they were almost to the house. Appearing in small groups at first, and then slowly coming in larger numbers after they were reviewing the first rooms of the home. By the time they looked out first window... the area was covered with them. All watching the house closely. Was used more the force them to explore as opposed to flee. Until a lighting storm all but trapped them.

- I used a digital map to run this one with fog of war, so that the group could explore visually. Allowing me to focus on haunts, and role play. There are some really good maps out there. Creepy music, dim lights and fancy old table cloth completed the scene.

- I had one player express dislike for horror games ahead of time. It was a good talk, and allowed me to take certain cards into mind. It was a chance to advise it was only for one session, and would not be gore related. They enjoyed the session afterwards.

- No characters died in this session. 2 came close. Watch out for the Vorel's Phage


Latrecis wrote:

Another observation: If you're reading Book 2 and you think Misgivings is going to produce a TPK, let me redirect your attention to the final encounter of the book. I don't think there's much doubt its the greatest TPK generator in the entire AP.

That encounter is still tough, but it's toned down significantly in the Anniversary Edition.


Thanks for all the feedback. Having studied it more closely I can see that it isn't quite the meat grinder it seemed at first. the number of save or die haunts seems smaller after you've read through it a couple times.


This part of the adventure got pretty dull in my group.

Problems:

#1:
There was a paladin in the party. Not only was she immune to the effect of every haunt in the place (since they are all fear effects), but her +4 aura meant that the saves against the haunts were almost always made as everyone else stuck close to the Paladin.

#2:
My players chose to go downstairs first. Once down there you basically have a couple of haunts and then a short undead-themed dungeon crawl. They defeated the Skinsaw Man before going upstairs,
which made everything on the upper levels anticlimactic. In hindsight I might force the players to go upstairs first.


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My players skipped the upstairs until after as well. I'm currently running it again and I think I will

Spoiler:
Allow the players to hear Iesha weeping upstairs from time to time as they explore the first floor. Hopefully that will inspire them to go investigate.

As for paladins,

Spoiler:
others have suggested letting the haunts play out for paladins without any of the harmful effects. So they still get the story, but they're in no danger because of their fear immunity.


Occult Adventures, and now Horror Adventures, have some expanded rules and clarifications for Haunts. One of them is to basically allow everyone (even the Paladin) to SEE some of the Haunt's effects... even if the character is not affected by them. That keeps everyone more involved.

As for

Spoiler:
going downstairs before upstairs.. well, yes, having them hear Iesha's sobbing early on should help with that. They're supposed to hear her anyway.


Starfinder Charter Superscriber

My group is in the Misgivings, and although I've had them hear the sobbing twice, it scared them rather than attracted them. So although they've done a couple of the first and second floor haunts, they've decided to seek out the "root" of the evil in the basement and have now made it to the caverns.

It's too bad that they'll miss out on a lot of the explanation for what's going on, but the only way to cure that is to have a very linear adventure. Different groups are going to get different stuff out of the Misgivings, and that's okay.


Urath DM wrote:

Occult Adventures, and now Horror Adventures, have some expanded rules and clarifications for Haunts. One of them is to basically allow everyone (even the Paladin) to SEE some of the Haunt's effects... even if the character is not affected by them. That keeps everyone more involved.

As for ** spoiler omitted **

Yeah. I just re-read the entryway text as I'm getting Chapter 2 prepped (my players should be finishing Thistletop this week) and I apparently missed that part the first time around.


Kalshane wrote:
Urath DM wrote:

Occult Adventures, and now Horror Adventures, have some expanded rules and clarifications for Haunts. One of them is to basically allow everyone (even the Paladin) to SEE some of the Haunt's effects... even if the character is not affected by them. That keeps everyone more involved.

As for ** spoiler omitted **

Yeah. I just re-read the entryway text as I'm getting Chapter 2 prepped (my players should be finishing Thistletop this week) and I apparently missed that part the first time around.

Eh.. don't worry too much. No matter how "perfect" a job you do, the players will find ways to do something unexpected.

Spoiler:
Such as my players, who insisted on going up to the attic and working their way down ... so as not to leave anything behind them. O_o And they're not leaving things behind them on the trip UP to the attic? The route through the hallways is fairly linear, but they didn't know that when they decided on this plan.

Then they met Iesha.. and fought her. Backing up. Into the 5-ft wide hallway. Where only one of them could face her at at time. And they refused to take any hints to let her pass, instead bravely insisting on being pummeled into unconsciousness one-by-one, reducing Iesha's hp by about 1/2 as they resisted her. So she was easy pickings for Aldern and the Goblin Ghasts.


They managed to see pretty much everything, and only two of them died. (One stabbed himself in the throat with a piece of wood that he thought was a silver dagger and failed his save against his own coup de grace, the other leapt out a window and had a series of unfortunate rolls, taking massive damage as she hit the ocean far below.)

We'll be picking up the next session right outside Aldern's lab, meeting the Skinsaw Man. Unfortunately for them, before the party was cut by 2/5ths, they actually managed to DEFEAT Iesha's revenant. They wouldn't take any hints that she should be let by, and kept fighting her. They're real proud of themselves for it, but as a result they are hurting, and they don't have Iesha to soften up Aldern for them.

It's going to be interesting. That's for sure.

Shadow Lodge

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Mr. Grogg wrote:

They managed to see pretty much everything, and only two of them died. (One stabbed himself in the throat with a piece of wood that he thought was a silver dagger and failed his save against his own coup de grace, the other leapt out a window and had a series of unfortunate rolls, taking massive damage as she hit the ocean far below.)

We'll be picking up the next session right outside Aldern's lab, meeting the Skinsaw Man. Unfortunately for them, before the party was cut by 2/5ths, they actually managed to DEFEAT Iesha's revenant. They wouldn't take any hints that she should be let by, and kept fighting her. They're real proud of themselves for it, but as a result they are hurting, and they don't have Iesha to soften up Aldern for them.

It's going to be interesting. That's for sure.

If you can stall the party for a day, revenants come back. They exist as long as their killer exists; so destroying one is temporary. I know that the Paizo entry for revenants in Bestiary 2 does not say this, but it does imply it. Iesha should rise from the grave the next night if destroyed as long as Aldern is still living/undead.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

That was certainly the case for revenants in earlier editions of D&D.

I was lucky when I ran the Misgivings (twice). One group entered via the observatory and worked their way methodically downwards, the other group entered on the ground floor but then worked their way upstairs first before going below.

In both cases they wisely let Iesha go her way (in both parties there were old school players who recognised what she was and remembered what a bad idea it was to get in her way). Since the two parties were not suffering too badly from the haunts, etc., I didn't want to let Iesha soften up Aldern for them. Therefore I let her fail an Acrobatics check on the ramp down to his door, and slide down into the drink, ruling that she would not be able to get back up before the party had already encountered Aldern.

Sovereign Court

The Carrionstorms are very dangerous if three conditions are met (as unfortunately my last party did):

1) Your party is already bad against swarms (no Evoker or equivalent, little to no alchemical AoE attacks etc.);

2) Your party does not possess someone capable of channelling Positive Energy (a neutral/good god worshipping Cleric, a Life Oracle/Shaman and/or a Paladin);

3) Your party runs into the encounter with the Carrionstorms after fleeing another dangerous encounter in the Misgivings.

My Last Party:
My last party fled the Rat Swarms in the basement after wading through and being sapped by the ground and upper floor haunts, ran out of the Misgivings piecemeal and into the Carrionstorms. Two characters survived, the other three burnt two Hero Points to Cheat Death...

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