Hardcover Seven Days - The Lack-of-Cleric Dilemma


Curse of the Crimson Throne


I wouldn't normally start an entirely new thread, but I'm shopping for ideas on how to handle Seven Days to the Grave when the only PC divine caster is an inquisitor, who doesn't get remove disease until 7th level - the end of the chapter.

Background: I ran the original Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign largely as-published, and without a 9th level divine caster. It wasn't a problem, so I didn't see any issue with doing so again in Pathfinder when none of my players wanted to play such a character. What I hadn't realised until very recently, was the enormous extent by which Pathfinder has escalated the danger Seven Days presents.

Original Version: Blood Veil was a DC 16 Fortitude save, had an onset of 1 day, and dealt 1d3 Con and 1d3 Cha damage per day. It had a cure of 1 save, as all diseases had a cure of 1 save. This was still expected to kill around 30% of the city's population if the PCs didn't stop it, and good justification was given for it.

Casting remove disease automatically removed the disease from a patient, but was in limited supply, and thus while it was a drain on PC resources to need scrolls, potions or wands of it, it kept them in the fight so to speak.

Using the Heal skill could allow a trained PC or NPC to replace the patient's saving throw with their Heal check result. This meant that anyone with a Heal of +6 or more could take-10 and see a patient successfully throw off the disease. It is also the very premise of why the Hospice is accepted as the most viable means of treating the sick: In 3.5 it was.

Pathfinder Version: First, Blood Veil doesn't have a cure listed, which is (hopefully) simply an oversight. If one looks at diseases with similar saves, the 'norm' is two consecutive saves, which immediately makes surviving the disease four times as hard (no, not twice). The ability score damage also increased from d3s to d4s - a roughly 25% increase, on average. Ouch.

Next, in Pathfinder remove disease doesn't always work. It is now a caster level check against the disease's save DC - 16 in this case. That means scrolls, potions, wands and the PCs if/when they first get the spell have a 50/50 chance of it working per casting. So, on average, need to burn twice as many resources for the same results. Double ouch (literally).

Lastly, in Pathfinder Heal no longer can be used to replace the patient's Fort save, but instead simply gives a +4. So rather than "I have some ranks in Heal and stay with the young girl to tend her illness... and save her life!" it is "I spend all night tending the girl, who is still almost certainly going to die right here in front of me". This also makes the hospice much less of a sure thing, and so rather than its failure rate being suspicious*, it is instead perfectly understandable to any player who understands how the mechanics work.

*The double-whammy here being that the only hook to send the PCs into the Hospice is them being suspicious of its failure rate. The hooks from the original module (i.e. the Direption) were removed.

So.... my five PCs are basically a mix of martial and arcane casters, plus an inquisitor. I'm open to suggestions for means of making this adventure path feasible without a full divine caster, and without simply pulling a sleight of hand on systems and running with 3.5 mechanics for the plague (though that option still has a spot on my list).

Ideas?

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I get the impression that you like the 3.5 version better, so just run with that.

honestly, i wouldn't worry about it too much. The Blood Veil is deadly. It needs to feel deadly and the players need to react with a sense of urgency. If you can accomplish those things, which mechanics you use for NPCs don't matter.

-Skeld


Replace some treasure with wands of Remove Disease. Do bring to their attention antiplague from alchemical creations, which is cheap and good enough to boost their saves vs the Blood Veil. And, no joking, by Pathfinder rules, 1 hour in a bath gives character a +2 on the next ongoing save vs disease.
My players, even having a cleric, were drinking antiplague and bathing all the time. Maybe because I used Unchained Rules for Disease to make Blood Veil deadlier then it is.


They could also make friends with a cleric. Since they spend time with at least one NPC cleric during 7 days, that's not a difficult thing to wrangle.


Ashkar wrote:
And, no joking, by Pathfinder rules, 1 hour in a bath gives character a +2 on the next ongoing save vs disease.

That I did not know. Where is that from, by the way? (so I can give my players the reference)

Skeld wrote:

I get the impression that you like the 3.5 version better, so just run with that.

Honestly, i wouldn't worry about it too much. The Blood Veil is deadly. It needs to feel deadly and the players need to react with a sense of urgency. If you can accomplish those things, which mechanics you use for NPCs don't matter.

Heh. In truth, I suspect only one of my players will actually notice if what is going on "under the hood" doesn't align with Pathfinder's published mechanics. I just prefer to avoid this kind of deception (in part because I have no poker face at all).

Ramble on hardcover edition:
I can see what they were trying to do with Seven Days when they did the updated version - in the 3.5 version the Direption was too easy to look into immediately and the link between it, the coins and the Queen's Physicians way too obvious, which could see a sizeable portion of the adventure skipped and players slaughtered by too-hard encounters. And having the "Hungry Dead" as the first mission makes little sense as it needs bodies to be racking up first.

But the 3.5 version had a certain flow to the encounters and sense of timing that was fairly organic, if not without a hurdle or two. What I expected to see in the hardcover edition would be mostly the same content, but with the Hungry Dead mission as #3 or #4, removing the plague doctor mask from the Direption, and having Jolstinia know (or have written in a sordid diary of necrophiliac fantasies) that "Rolthy baby" is working with some crow-faced people who are stopping him from spending time with her - and thus she hates. Given the adventure is written with a sense of a timeline, publishing it as a guide for the GM would also be handy.

That would pretty much clean up the issues with the old adventure.

In the Hardcover Edition, they instead took a very different tack, and I really don't think it works as well.

  • The direption not only had all links to the physicians removed, it had all links to the plot removed. It arrived "several days" after people started getting sick, and the PCs can find this pretty much immediately.
  • The spread of the plague feels much more rushed and sudden. In the original version you cure Brienna then escort Trinia through the city and out to safety, which primarily serves to showcase the spread of the disease throughout the city, which is then followed up by the scene at the bank of Abadar. In the hardcover you escort her out (with no signs of any plague in the city), then the Direption is sank at midnight the one night the PCs are out of the city (assuming they don't return the same day), and then you cure the girl (who is apparently the first case), then suddenly heaps of people are sick and hovering outside the bank of Abadar.
  • There is still no timeline. Indeed, the implied timeline (as above) of the hardcover edition is dramatically shorter, with the disease sprouting up in a matter of hours and Ileosa arranging the Queen's Physicians potentially even before the disease was visible in the populace.
  • All hard evidence pointing the PCs towards the Queen's Physicians and the Hospice was removed. Instead, the only reason to go there is "because it is suspicious that they aren't curing very many people", which doesn't ring true in Pathfinder, where the Heal skill merely grants a +4 to the patient's save, which is generally not going to save very many people at all. You can do the math, it's pretty grim.
  • The doctors are all still wearing the pop-culture reference masks when you meet them, even though there is no need to in Pathfinder. This is then followed by a request to the GM to downplay how suspicious they are, because the PCs shouldn't be looking into the Hospice until later. The problem is that the sudden arrival and weird appearance of the doctors is suspicious, but their failure in the hospice isn't. So the GM is expected to convince the players not to look into the suspicious doctors when they are being suspicious, but then to backflip and try and get them to go and investigate the hospice later, when they aren't. It might be just me, but I don't like this.

Or in fewer words: Yes, I prefer the 3.5 version.

That's my 2cp anyway.


While my party did have a cleric on board, I also had them create a relationship with the Temple of Abadar by having some of the quests come at their request instead of from the Korvosan Guard or unaffiliated NPCs. That relationship gave them a higher priority access to healing magic. It helped a bit at the end when they picked a fight with a certain vampire, who ended up flat-lining the hunter with one spell.


Raynulf wrote:
Blood Veil was a DC 16 Fortitude save, had an onset of 1 day, and dealt 1d3 Con and 1d3 Cha damage per day. It had a cure of 1 save, as all diseases had a cure of 1 save.

Looking back through the actual 3.5 rules, I discover that apparently all of the groups I had been gaming with had consistently gotten it wrong. The default in 3.5 was two consecutive saves, not one. Huh.

Raynulf wrote:
Ashkar wrote:
And, no joking, by Pathfinder rules, 1 hour in a bath gives character a +2 on the next ongoing save vs disease.
That I did not know. Where is that from, by the way? (so I can give my players the reference)

Found it - Downtime rules from Ultimate Campaign.

So with antiplague, a bath and a friend with Heal, characters can roll twice and take the higher result, with a +6 bonus.

Of course, the rules also imply that once you have failed your initial save against a disease, you are infected and thus contagious... meaning the PCs will soon infect each other and everyone they encounter.

Given that this is a contact spread disease, and as such requires infectious matter to able to be touched - typically a result of the weeping buboes - I would argue that at a minimum characters would need to have passed the onset period, and by preference need to have actually failed a save and suffered ability score damage (and display symptoms) to be contagious. This is partly a matter of verisimilitude, but mostly to make sure my rather compassionate players focus on heroic action and saving the day, rather than trying to quarantine themselves - ensuring that part of the party will be sitting out through most of the book, which isn't fun for anyone.

The horror of plague is awesome. Spending a session playing scrabble on your smartphone because your character is laid up with plague, and the party doesn't have the resources to magic it all away constantly? Not so much.


I agree that flow of the story in the 3.5 version of the second arch was better, though I still had to tweak it (and all AP, for the evil scheming in the background be coherent). In overall I still use the 3.5 version more than hardcover for the story (some changes and cuts are dissapointing indeed).

Raynulf wrote:


This is partly a matter of verisimilitude, but mostly to make sure my rather compassionate players focus on heroic action and saving the day, rather than trying to quarantine themselves - ensuring that part of the party will be sitting out through most of the book, which isn't fun for anyone.

The horror of plague is awesome. Spending a session playing scrabble on your smartphone because your character is laid up with plague, and the party doesn't have the resources to magic it all away constantly? Not so much.

I can understand that players want fun from the game, but the arch is about the horror of plague, not a fight against an enemy who they can touch and slay. It's not APs or your fault that their party composition doesn't have a dedicated healer. Stress to them that if the city cannot magic away the plague (heck, even show them text from 3.5 version that say why, as I did), then they should be extra cautious and look at the bigger picture by working as a part of coordinated effort, not as Wild Cards.

I know that every morning characters will roll for the chance of infection, but do give them possibility to buff their saves by antiplague and bathing. As GM, we know that their vector of infection are arguably coins then just rubbing shoulder with some poor diseased guy the moment they get up out of bed. And if they get infected - antiplague and heal to the rescue again! If the situation is dire, give them instead of some loot wand of Remove Disease. Inquisitor would be able tp use it.
This is a challenging part of AP, but by no way the odds are against the party, even if they don't have a healer, that GM must go easy-mode on them.


Raynulf wrote:
The horror of plague is awesome. Spending a session playing scrabble on your smartphone because your character is laid up with plague, and the party doesn't have the resources to magic it all away constantly? Not so much.

What sort of DnD adventurer doesn't just hard-man up and work through the plague? Given that investigating it requires the usual DnD monster-fighting and skill challenges, isn't even a wounded member of the party going to be more valuable with them than sitting at home?

I don't think I've ever seen anyone stop adventuring just because they're diseased - they just suck it up and work wounded, in the same way you don't stop because you're down on HP.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Blood Veil's cure is indeed 2 consecutive saves. (Not listing that in the stats was indeed an error.)


James Jacobs wrote:
Blood Veil's cure is indeed 2 consecutive saves. (Not listing that in the stats was indeed an error.)

Thanks for the response! The clarification is much appreciated :)

Bit of a tangent:
Reverse wrote:
What sort of DnD adventurer doesn't just hard-man up and work through the plague?

While I appreciate the "The NPCs are merely set dressing and their fate can be ignored" mentality is definitely very common among D&D groups, it is by no means universal. Some players do actually care about knowingly spreading the disease by moving around the city and interacting with people while contagious - especially early in the adventure. The fact that many NPCs are doing exactly that doesn't stop them from feeling like it is the wrong thing to do - especially when (as written) something so minor as delivering a touch spell while wearing gauntlets is enough to infect or contract blood veil, and it is insanely deadly for most citizens.

Reverse wrote:

Given that investigating it requires the usual DnD monster-fighting and skill challenges, isn't even a wounded member of the party going to be more valuable with them than sitting at home?

I don't think I've ever seen anyone stop adventuring just because they're diseased - they just suck it up and work wounded, in the same way you don't stop because you're down on HP.

Again, we're approaching the topic from very different perspectives. You are looking at it from the perspective of the integrity of the team and mission success. I'm looking at it from the perspective of the infection and casualty rate among the citizenry, which is how a number of my players view it.

Or in fewer words: It's not about whether they'll die, it's about how many innocents they'll kill. Might not bother most groups, but it does bother mine.

Hence, my work around is to give PCs the leeway that they're not contagious until they suffer Con & Cha damage from the disease - whereupon they can splurge on magicing away the disease if they are concerned about infecting people. This may seem like hand-holding, but it actually has little impact on the effect of the disease on their characters, but instead alters the effect of their characters on the common citizens.

And thanks for the suggestions! The combo of bath & antiplague and a liberal smattering of scrolls & potions, or the odd wand should do the trick. My house rule of delaying the point to when the disease is contagious mostly is there to reduce the amount of magical solutions required by the party (to ease player guilt), and thus for me to add to the loot.


Another advice - just give them clothes akin to plague doctors (hazmat suits), that prevent then spreading Blood Veil while they are contagious.

Raynulf wrote:
It's not about whether they'll die, it's about how many innocents they'll kill. Might not bother most groups, but it does bother mine.

Can understand that, but I'd remember them that they are heroes of the story. And their sitting on their hands, even being contagious, will result in waaaay more dead people.


Raynulf wrote:
It's not about whether they'll die, it's about how many innocents they'll kill. Might not bother most groups, but it does bother mine.

Interesting way of looking at it. I guess I more see that it's clear the problem of the undead/wererats/false cures will kill a large number of people, and any potential infections the PCs are spreading are a drop in the bucket compared to the number of infections already going on within the city. But each group to their own, I guess.

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