The Harrowing Module


Hello all, I wanted to play the Harrowing Module as a one shot for my group. It says that it is for 9th level characters, but i noticed that some of the fights go up the CR11. Do you think it will be too difficult? Do you guys have any suggestion for me when I DM this module? Should I start the party at lvl 10, or maybe level them up as they play? This is my first time DMing so if there are any suggestions that seem obvious it may still be helpful to a first time DM.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Take a look at this table. Encounters that equal a party's level are meant to be "average" encounters: encounters that a party can face a few of in a row without facing significant risk of defeat. A challenge rating two higher than the party's average level is a "hard" encounter -- a boss encounter that the party is likely to have to rest and regain resources after.

CRs above party level are veru common, particulary for BBEG battles that will be remembered. CRs equal to party level are more lather-rinse-repeat experiences. In short, a 9th-level party should be able to face CR11 encounters, as long as there aren't a bunch of them in a row; they are placed on purpose to be more difficult battles.

Sovereign Court

For some broader advice, I would not recommend a level 9 module with some complexity, such as The Harrowing, for your first GMing experience.

Unless you are a pretty experienced player with some system mastery, level 9 is at a point of serious complexity, with 5th level spells coming in to play.

For a first adventure as a GM, I would recommend Gallows of Madness, Crypt of the Everflame, The Godsmouth Heresy or even Ire of the Storm.

They are all well-written first level adventures of a similar length to The Harrowing, except for Gallows of Madness which is three short, linked adventures and Ire of the Storm which takes characters from level 1 to level 6.

My top recommendation would be Gallows of Madness, the first adventure is great and gives new GMs a tour of key GMing elements and rules.

Joana explained what the challenge ratings mean well. I will only add that if you have experienced players it may actually end up being to easy as written, rather than too hard.

I disagree to an extent with GeriantElberion. If that module excites you and you find it compelling as a story that you want to run, then run it. I'm assuming that you are familiar with the rules of Pathfinder, just not the role of the DM. If you are brand new to everything, then a lower level start might be better, but in general being interested in and excited about the material is more important than perfect mastery of the nuances of GMing, you will learn mostly by doing, and the more the adventure interests you as a Game Master, the more likely it is to be enjoyable for your players.

The module looks cool! I hope you have an actual Harrow Deck.

The module is awesome but I have no idea how it could be a one shot. My group's been working through it over the course of 4 or so days - unless you want to cut everything really short, but that seems to me like it would remove what makes this module great.

That aside, we played it as a group with 3 level-8 characters (bard, sorceress, paladin) who leveled up to 9 midway through and did just fine.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Mchawi wrote:
This is my first time DMing so if there are any suggestions that seem obvious it may still be helpful to a first time DM.

This is an excellent module, but it is very complex, and delves into a bunch of oddball situations. This is very much not an adventure for a new GM.

It's also in no way a one-shot. When I ran it, it took about eight four-hour play sessions to complete.

If you're GMing for the first time, I'd really recommend picking a 1st-level module. Crypt of the Everflame is a great choice.

If by one shot you mean one session, then not gonna happen probably.

If you mean a one-off apart from a campaign, then it could be fun.

My group is finishing it up soon, as they have done all of the mini-tasks, etc to get to the BBEG next session.

However, it is complex and has some holes in it that you might have to fill on the fly. For a first time DM that might be difficult. Especially depending on the nature of the players.
Mine have become largely murderhobos in this one because they are away from home, although that's due to some of them not seeing the inhabitants as "real".

So be prepared for them to go "off script". Also be prepared if they are not good with a sandbox layout. The module is largely one of them doing things on their own, and some players do not like having to come up with their own "what next". Mine are more of the "wanting an NPC to tell them the next thing to do" type.

Also, plan for the loot. I hand out a sheet at the end of each session when possible, and during this module there is little to no capability to sell things off, so they are forced to deal with weight issues if they want to loot everything.

Paizo Employee Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.

As others have said, The Harrowing is very dense for a 32-page adventure. It's much more than simply a string of encounters like you'd have in a linear dungeon crawl. Each encounter is packed with setting lore and roleplaying opportunity, and you'd be doing a disservice to your players to skip over that for the sake of running the whole thing in a single sitting.

I echo others' advice of running a lower-level adventure first to get used to GMing before tackling this, or any other mid-level adventures. In the same way you wouldn't throw 1st-level PCs into a 9th-level adventure, expecting a 1st-level GM to handle the complexities and eccentricities that come with a 9th-level adventure is setting yourself up for a very steep and potentially frustrating learning curve.

One of the great things about The Harrowing is that it can take place anywhere, so you can start out with a lower-level adventure or two to get the hang of GMing, and then simply transition the players into this adventure whenever you and they are ready. You just need to have them find the Harrow deck that starts the adventure wherever they happen to be.

As others have said, I wouldn't recommend running The Harrowing as a first time DM. It's an incredible module but takes some serious DM'ing to get the most out of it.

I would recommend playing The Dragon's Demand adventure, which suits a newer DM. Then you can add The Harrowing on to the end of that (DD ends at level 8).

The Harrowing is such a fun module, and I would say go for it and let it be crazy! There will be a lot to keep track of as a new GM, but just make sure you read through the whole thing first and are familiar with the main NPCs.

While the players can fight everyone to win, the colorful NPCs are way more fun to roleplay with. Try to give the players multiple opportunities to negotiate with the NPCs before letting fights break out. Have NPCs surrender and offer interesting deals.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder Adventures / The Harrowing Module All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Pathfinder Adventures