So I've run this AP once before and am currently running it for a second time. We just made it through Walking Scarecrows last session in the most-recent game.
In both run-throughs the party rogue (different players each time, obviously) has gotten the bright idea to put an arrow or dagger into every scarecrow they see after their second encounter with the walking scarecrows. Both times this has resulted in a tragic end for poor Lettie and several long moments of silence/groans of dismay from the players. (Both parties did ultimately find and save her husband, though.)
Anyone have a party that actually managed to rescue both Guffmins?
|Ninja in the Rye|
As the party was fighting some other ghouls the tied up humans kept struggling with their ropes, even though I continually described the weak movements, groans, and gasps coming from them instead of the obviously loud snarling and vigor of the ghouls, the party Barbarian charged and skewered one of the poor humans with his scythe, critting for a truly obscene amount of damage. The other players had already figured out what was going on, but felt like they couldn't try to stop him since he'd already announced his action. He was confused by their groans and looks of dismay as he celebrated his crit and trash talked the dead "ghoul".
When they got to the Misgivings I had the Burning Manticore trap target the Barb as revenge for that poor farmer.
My group also rescued the Guffmins - one on their way to the farmhouse and the second afterward when they decided they should clear out the entire area to eliminate any remaining ghouls.
In an admittedly judgmental, finger wagging way, I'll observe this is a poorly designed encounter.
1. There should be a perception check offered to pc's as they approach a scarecrow to notice something odd. Normal scarecrows and a human hung on a frame (disguised by ghouls with no disguise skill!) should look noticeably different. No DC for such a check is offered in the write-up (AE version.) Further such a DC should get lower as the group approaches a scarecrow and it starts flailing to break free (including perhaps no check at all.) And lastly, pc's should be offered a perception check to notice that a diseased human disguised as a scarecrow is different from a ghoul disguised as a scarecrow - admittedly this should be a higher DC than just noticing it's not a "real" scarecrow.
2. The most likely pattern of encounters for pc's entering the Farmlands map is normal scarecrows and then ghoul scarecrows, perhaps multiple of each before a human scarecrow. This pattern encourages pc's to believe there are only two types.
3. The idea of a ghoul staying motionless while tied to a frame until such time as someone happens to get near is implausible at best. The write-up in the Bestiary says that ghouls from ghoul fever behave like a ghoul in all respects. As soon as it "arises" as a ghoul it should break free of its bonds and start seeking out food. So players/pc's are entitled to a good measure of confusion as to what is going on.
4. It's also hard to explain why Horran and Lettie have remained bound. The AP explains that it's a DC 15 strength check for the ghouls to break free - hard to see why that's not the same for the Guffmins. Ghoul fever does Dex and Con damage but not Str so the Guffmins should have been able to free themselves some time ago.
I actually had a talk with my players about this whole scenario at the start of this week's session while waiting for a couple of stragglers to show up.
One of them said he actually thought the scenario was "fantastic" because the feel fit in with that part of the adventure. He also said that the scene in the Asylum with Grayst immediately before the PCs head to the farm makes it clear to the players that the transformation into a ghoul takes a decent amount of time and--since it makes no sense for the ghouls to dress like scarecrows and tie themselves up out in the open instead of just hiding in the corn fields--they should have been able to deduce that these ghoul scarecrows started off as people and that some of them might still be people. (They just didn't make the connection until after they killed Lettie.) The rest of them kind of made vague grumbles of agreement after that, but I thought it was an interesting perspective and I was happy to hear one of my players, at least, really enjoyed it from a story perspective. (Of course it probably helps that he wasn't the one to kill Lettie.)
I guess it depends on if they admit to it.
My first party somberly told Horran that Lettie had passed, but didn't give them the details as to how.
The second party insisted on bringing her body back to town and have Father Zantus perform last rites and see that Horran was taken care of. Zantus or Hemlock may have noticed that she died from a sharp weapon rather than a ghoul's claws and teeth like the others, but neither of them broached it with the PCs.
Honestly, my PCs felt guilty enough in both instances, I felt no need to bring the law down on them. (Especially since, considering the circumstances, it was a somewhat understandable tragedy from the view of Sandpoint's powers that be.)
That being said, if the PCs show no remorse and/or have already been behaving in ways that have put them on the town's bad side, by all means put them on trial. Considering the circumstances, I don't think even the most reckless murder hobo players could conceivably be charged with murder, but a manslaughter (or the medieval equivalent) conviction and a fine paid to any surviving Guffmins would be appropriate. (Especially if the PCs decided to continue on shooting scarecrows after discovering they had killed a person.)