The Gardner


Hell's Rebels


I'd love your help brainstorming a short series of encounters with this character, which I figure a few other DMs will be interested in having available too! My table is interested in this character, because I have a PC who's got ranks in herbalism, and a background at Alabaster Academy. I thought it would be good to have a mini-plot to give The Gardner some screen time, setting them up as a grudge match for this PC. And yours, if you've got a druid, ranger, or someone with ranks in herbalist.

What We Know
There's not much written about her. She's an outsider in the region, as a foreigner with an undead bloodline and literally toxic to the touch. Until she befriends Corinstian Grivenner. She provides urns and gravestones, and kills off undead in the Asmodean cemetery. She's done these tasks for two decades. She's described as loyal, mocking, disdainful, and imperious. She's making a statue for Barzillai, as her charisma is about insight into how to survive power politics in Cheliax.

I was thinking that there's a couple of options:


  • She's behind the ghoul random encounters due to her having an undead background, animate dead, etc. Her plot line has something to do with more undead stuff. Complication: undead stuff is currently associated with the vampire cleric Aluceda Zhol. Is there a connection there?
  • She's doing something plant-related. Maybe she's taken over the greenhouse for the Alabaster Academy. Maybe she's creating something or killing people to feed carnivorous plants. Complication: how do the PCs find out about this? Is this sanctioned by her friend, the high priest? Or is it a private hobby/rebellion?
  • Art! Technology! She's got ranks in craft alchemy and craft sculpture, and has the craft construct feat. We don't have a ton of constructs in this AP either. But why? What is she crafting? Why do the PCs care?
  • Something else?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

She's definitely a fun character, and alas, one of those many fun characters which are patiently sitting in a room waiting for PCs to show up and murder her.

I kinda REALLY like the idea of throwing some constructs into the Temple. but better yet, I like having her out of the Temple and maybe doing something else. I dunno. She's just got such badass art and is a really cool concept.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Yakman wrote:

She's definitely a fun character, and alas, one of those many fun characters which are patiently sitting in a room waiting for PCs to show up and murder her.

I kinda REALLY like the idea of throwing some constructs into the Temple. but better yet, I like having her out of the Temple and maybe doing something else. I dunno. She's just got such badass art and is a really cool concept.

She's only "sitting in a room waiting" if that's how you run the adventure. The inhabitants of the temple should be dynamic and they SHOULD move around and react. How much they do so depends on you, the GM, and your interest in maintaining a fully dynamic dungeon. Note also that throwing too many bad guys at the PCs at once can overwhelm them, but having neighboring encounters come to investigate combat is my favorite way to adjust difficulty. If you find the players are cakewalking through encounters, have neighboring foes come and join the battle midway through so that the PCs don't have time to recover.

And also, the main reason I like giving my NPCs in adventures I write detailed backstories is precisely TO inspire GMs to run with them and give them more of a role. You know what NPCs will work better with your group, not me, though, and customizing things like that is part of the fun of being a GM.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Yakman wrote:

She's definitely a fun character, and alas, one of those many fun characters which are patiently sitting in a room waiting for PCs to show up and murder her.

I kinda REALLY like the idea of throwing some constructs into the Temple. but better yet, I like having her out of the Temple and maybe doing something else. I dunno. She's just got such badass art and is a really cool concept.

She's only "sitting in a room waiting" if that's how you run the adventure. The inhabitants of the temple should be dynamic and they SHOULD move around and react. How much they do so depends on you, the GM, and your interest in maintaining a fully dynamic dungeon. Note also that throwing too many bad guys at the PCs at once can overwhelm them, but having neighboring encounters come to investigate combat is my favorite way to adjust difficulty. If you find the players are cakewalking through encounters, have neighboring foes come and join the battle midway through so that the PCs don't have time to recover.

And also, the main reason I like giving my NPCs in adventures I write detailed backstories is precisely TO inspire GMs to run with them and give them more of a role. You know what NPCs will work better with your group, not me, though, and customizing things like that is part of the fun of being a GM.

Query - have you considered restructuring the adventures so that these kind of fun, unique NPCs, like the Gardener, aren't so much tied to a geographic location, but are intentionally made to be more "roving"? I know that Paizo does often put in "if the PCs raise the alarm, they find X in the ballroom; if they avoid the room, X will be with Y in the throne room." Is this enough to help make the dungeons - like the Temple of Asmodeus in #100 - dynamic for maybe a less-experienced DM? Or does too much "looseness" in the dungeon present a challenge for a less-experienced DM?

It seems to me - and you are the professional - that there's a contrast between your extensive backstoried NPC and the traditional, "there's a goblin in room C, it attacks" which might seem a little out-of-date in comparison.

I dunno. I'm sure you've thought about this stuff for many years and much deeper than I have.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Yakman wrote:

Query - have you considered restructuring the adventures so that these kind of fun, unique NPCs, like the Gardener, aren't so much tied to a geographic location, but are intentionally made to be more "roving"? I know that Paizo does often put in "if the PCs raise the alarm, they find X in the ballroom; if they avoid the room, X will be with Y in the throne room." Is this enough to help make the dungeons - like the Temple of Asmodeus in #100 - dynamic for maybe a less-experienced DM? Or does too much "looseness" in the dungeon present a challenge for a less-experienced DM?

It seems to me - and you are the professional - that there's a contrast between your extensive backstoried NPC and the traditional, "there's a goblin in room C, it attacks" which might seem a little out-of-date in comparison.

I dunno. I'm sure you've thought about this stuff for many years and much deeper than I have.

I have. We do this with 2–4 NPCs in every Adventure Path volume already; the ones that we put at the end of the adventure are often ones who aren't tied to one location. We can't really do more than 4 in this section though without seriously cramping the space for the adventure itself.

But also, keep in mind that not every GM is of the same skill level. It's a LOT more complicated to track multiple NPCs doing different things in an adventure, and if we set up every NPC with a name to have a complex schedule that makes it difficult to interpret where they might be at any one moment, that'd make things to complex for some GMs to run.

The way we present them now is a sort of middle-of-the-road solution—some NPCs appear in their own section, and others are tied to locations. GMs who are more experienced can adjust NPC schedules and locations just as easily wherever their stats are presented, but those who are not would be overwhelmed if they had to keep track of that much information all at once.

Furthermore, adventures should be fun to simply read. And having fun, interesting NPCs appear in locations helps to make the adventures more fun to read. Since adventures are read FAR more often than they're ever played, it's important not to sacrifice the enjoyment of reading an adventure like one would read any story, from start to end.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Yakman wrote:

Query - have you considered restructuring the adventures so that these kind of fun, unique NPCs, like the Gardener, aren't so much tied to a geographic location, but are intentionally made to be more "roving"? I know that Paizo does often put in "if the PCs raise the alarm, they find X in the ballroom; if they avoid the room, X will be with Y in the throne room." Is this enough to help make the dungeons - like the Temple of Asmodeus in #100 - dynamic for maybe a less-experienced DM? Or does too much "looseness" in the dungeon present a challenge for a less-experienced DM?

It seems to me - and you are the professional - that there's a contrast between your extensive backstoried NPC and the traditional, "there's a goblin in room C, it attacks" which might seem a little out-of-date in comparison.

I dunno. I'm sure you've thought about this stuff for many years and much deeper than I have.

I have. We do this with 2–4 NPCs in every Adventure Path volume already; the ones that we put at the end of the adventure are often ones who aren't tied to one location. We can't really do more than 4 in this section though without seriously cramping the space for the adventure itself.

But also, keep in mind that not every GM is of the same skill level. It's a LOT more complicated to track multiple NPCs doing different things in an adventure, and if we set up every NPC with a name to have a complex schedule that makes it difficult to interpret where they might be at any one moment, that'd make things to complex for some GMs to run.

The way we present them now is a sort of middle-of-the-road solution—some NPCs appear in their own section, and others are tied to locations. GMs who are more experienced can adjust NPC schedules and locations just as easily wherever their stats are presented, but those who are not would be overwhelmed if they had to keep track of that much information all at once.

Furthermore, adventures should be fun to simply read. And having fun, interesting NPCs...

thanks. this makes a lot of sense. i really like the crazy over-detailed back-storied NPC. it's fun.

also, as an aside - would you happen to know when/how did DM get shunted aside for GM? just a random question. no problem if there's no answer.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Yakman wrote:

also, as an aside - would you happen to know when/how did DM get shunted aside for GM? just a random question. no problem if there's no answer.

We started using GM the instant we shifted over to doing our own products, since "Dungeon Master" and "DM" are the property of Wizards of the Coast, but "Game Master" and "GM" are public domain.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
James Jacobs wrote:

She's only "sitting in a room waiting" if that's how you run the adventure. The inhabitants of the temple should be dynamic and they SHOULD move around and react. How much they do so depends on you, the GM, and your interest in maintaining a fully dynamic dungeon. Note also that throwing too many bad guys at the PCs at once can overwhelm them, but having neighboring encounters come to investigate combat is my favorite way to adjust difficulty. If you find the players are cakewalking through encounters, have neighboring foes come and join the battle midway through so that the PCs don't have time to recover.

And also, the main reason I like giving my NPCs in adventures I write detailed backstories is precisely TO inspire GMs to run with them and give them more of a role. You know what NPCs will work better with your group, not me, though, and customizing things like that is part of the fun of being a GM.

Can we make this a sticky in every AP Forum? I'm only sort of kidding. This is great advice and every GM would benefit from reading it. And it has a hidden charm - less work for the GM. No need to re-engineer NPC's with advanced templates or redoing class levels, etc. Simply have other nearby encounters bleed together by having the NPC's react more effectively to pc invasions/conflict. And voila! difficulty increased for minimal GM effort.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Latrecis wrote:
Can we make this a sticky in every AP Forum? I'm only sort of kidding. This is great advice and every GM would benefit from reading it. And it has a hidden charm - less work for the GM. No need to re-engineer NPC's with advanced templates or redoing class levels, etc. Simply have other nearby encounters bleed together by having the NPC's react more effectively to pc invasions/conflict. And voila! difficulty increased for minimal GM effort.

I'd rather make this a sticky in every GM's game room, but the logistics of that are tough to orchestrate. ;-P


1 person marked this as a favorite.
roguerouge wrote:

I'd love your help brainstorming a short series of encounters with this character, which I figure a few other DMs will be interested in having available too!

I'll try to assist

book 2: she could have bought off and re-opened the Hocus Fantasmagorium, remaking the museum in an interesting place full of "pro-Asmodeus" propaganda, like having a few exhibitions of the layers of hell and fate of "those who betray their countries"

book 3: she's an artist and a golem maker: she could have commissioned a few wax golem of Barzillai's most trusted minions, or possibly of the Pcs (in whatever may be their rebellious persona) and have them appear as antagonists during the Ruby Masquerade.

book 6: she could return as a wandering spirit, able to possess any of her statues as they were stone golems (with her spellcasting but without the magic immunities).


Latrecis wrote:

Can we make this a sticky in every AP Forum? I'm only sort of kidding. This is great advice and every GM would benefit from reading it. And it has a hidden charm - less work for the GM. No need to re-engineer NPC's with advanced templates or redoing class levels, etc. Simply have other nearby encounters bleed together by having the NPC's react more effectively to pc invasions/conflict. And voila! difficulty increased for minimal GM effort.

Just be careful - it's easy to quickly overwhelm the players - it's much better to 'wave' them and remember rounds are 6 seconds long - giving monsters several rounds to notice the fight - equip/buff/then run in.

That said - James do you ever info dump some of the cool backstory stuff - I do - I hate not letting my players get some of the cool backgrounds to the characters they encounter - especially when there is little to no path in the adventure on them ever finding out.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

My party encountered The Gardener twice and she was a pretty memorable foe – thanks in part to the good backstory helping the GM to give her motive and purpose, and in part to good art in Pathfinder #100.

I basically decided that if she's the gardener she'll usually be outside in the gardens that surround the Temple of Asmodeus.

So once when the party was Lv 10 or so, a pair of them making a "hell, let's make a random scouting run past Temple Hill while en route to other places" encountered The Gardener solo, and she cast a Phantasmal Killer and a Telekinesis and they ran ran ran back to the Lucky Bones and began dreading her.

And the second time was a prelude to their final assault on the Temple at Lv 12-13 (which can present an overwhelming number of high-level NPCs inside the temple). So I had The Gardener and the jorogumo who's also supposed to be inside (daughter of Vyre's Queen of Delights, whom the party had already picked a long-running fight with, on loan to the temple) defending the "entry" to the temple on a fun map full of topiary and fountains.

Moral of the story: you find the cool NPCs in these APs and throw them at your PCs and see which ones stick. And for ours, The Gardener stuck.


Do you have that garden map?

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder Adventure Path / Hell's Rebels / The Gardner All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.