My 10th-level party was killed by a family of mundane rabbits: the most bizarre death imaginable in The Frozen Oath


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Thus far, I have GMed two iterations of The Lost Star under no updates, one iteration of In Pale Mountain's Shadow under no updates, one iteration of In Pale Mountain's Shadow under update 1.0, two iterations of The Rose Street Revenge under update 1.0, two iterations of Raiders of Shrieking Peak under update 1.1, two iterations of Arclord's Envy under update 1.1, one iteration of Affair at Sombrefell Hall under update 1.2, one iteration of Affair at Sombrefell Hall under update 1.3, two iterations of The Mirrored Moon under update 1.3, one iteration of The Frozen Oath under update 1.3, one iteration of Heroes of Undarin under update 1.4, and one iteration of The Frozen Oath under update 1.4.

That is 17 sessions thus far. Every single one of them has been a TPK. Both In Pale Mountain's Shadow sessions actually included two TPKs, so that is technically 19 TPKs. The party in Heroes of Undarin is supposed to TPK, but they died to wave #2 out of #9, so I consider that the party's failure.

But just moments ago, my party for the second run of The Frozen Oath stumbled across the most bizarre TPK imaginable. None of the party could speak Jotun, so they never deciphered the stone tiles. When they entered the storeroom in Dvalinheim, two PCs were using the Sneaking exploration tactic, and two PCs were using the Searching exploration tactic. The PCs were rummaging and sneaking around the storeroom, specifically through the pile of discarded clothing and furs, simultaneously. The PCs who were using the Searching tactic failed the DC 24 Perception check.

Quote:

THE AWAKENING CURSE

When any creature wakes someone else while in Dvalinheim, the waker is immediately stricken with a powerful curse that manifests as a bone-deep weakness and desire to rest, although rest perpetually eludes her. She is immune to effects that cause the asleep condition (but not other forms of unconsciousness), is drained 3, and cannot reduce her drained condition. If she awakens multiple creatures, her drained condition increases by 3 each time.

A pile of discarded clothing and furs is jumbled against the north wall. This pile conceals a small hole that leads outside of Dvalinheim, under the snow that surrounds the building. The hole is only a few inches wide, but it is large enough for a small family of pikas (short-eared arctic mammals related to rabbits) to enter Dvalinheim. The pikas have created a burrow in the middle of the clothing pile. The creatures are currently asleep, and a PC who disturbs the pile wakes them up, subjecting that PC to the Awakening Curse. If awakened, the pikas flee out the hole as quickly as possible. A PC can detect the pikas’ presence with a successful DC 24 Perception check while searching, and a PC can gently rouse the pikas with a successful DC 27 Nature or Perform check or by calling to them softly while under the effects of speak with animals. Doing so awakens the pikas slowly enough that the Awakening Curse does not activate.

I asked my players what the average size of a family of rabbits was. The consensus was a number of "6." Thus, the PCs were all drained 18 and died instantaneously because they had the temerity to awaken a family of sleeping arctic rabbits.

It could be argued that only one PC, arbitrarily determined as the very first one to awaken the rabbits, would be the one deserving of death. Even if that did happen, the scenario would be rendered unwinnable by dint of being down a PC, when the party is supposed to face a severe encounter later.

I do not know what to think of this. For comparison, the first party in The Frozen Oath eluded death by fluffy bunnies, but was then brutally crushed by the stone golem's Inexorable March; this was before Mark Seifter clarified in a forum post that Inexorable March was misworded and that only those trying to block the golem take the damage.

Also in both of my runs of The Frozen Oath, the game ground to a halt during the first encounter with the rocs, because the rules are completely unclear on what happens if a creature is grabbed by multiple other creatures, something that can dramatically influence roc tactics. In both playthroughs, I had to skip the first encounter after a PC would have been grabbed by both rocs, because the group could come to no consensus.


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This is actually pretty funny and I appreciate you sharing it.


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King Arthur: Well, we'll not risk another frontal assault. That rabbit's dynamite.

This edition is seriously not ready.


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Quote:
a small family of pikas (short-eared arctic mammals related to rabbits)

I'd even go so far as to say that they were all killed by "Albino" Pikachus (hence the origin term 'pika,' and the parody creature does look more like a rabbit instead of a mouse), but still, this is just poor writing on the AP's behalf, especially considering the consequences.

For starters, it doesn't say how many there are. It could be 6, it could be 3, it could be even more than that; the trap description simply doesn't say anything other than "you apply drained 3 and it stacks for each creature there". In short, it creates for an equation with a variable by which we have no means to solve for. GM adjudication in a trap such as this is bound to result in wide variations of curse effects, which is just bad design all around.

Furthermore, it just seems like this trap wasn't even really trying to keep an adventure going, it was an adventure-ending trap. Like, a "Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies" sort of trap. Drained 3 is something that takes quite a bit of time for it to work in a normal scenario, as well as recover; short of being prepared for condition removal effects, you most certainly would not be able to properly recover from it, no matter what sort of success you have. Which is again, improper form, especially considering the rules for removing conditions and such being impossible outside of Legendary Medicine shenanigans, and that still takes hours to fully fix.

Lastly, an "Awakening Curse" seems to not follow any sort of rules of PF1's Awakening spell, which was to turn an animal into a sentient creature. I would have rather expected this trap to inflict Stupefied to simulate you becoming animalistic in nature, but what do I know?

In short, bad trap is bad, bad writing is bad, bad adventure is bad. (This also sounds like a PFS scenario, which is yet another reason why I would hate to play in PFS.)


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Well, first of all, a trap like this shouldn't exist. It's poorly designed, ambiguous, and completely stops the flow of the game with no recourse. It's also flagrantly out of line with how magic and debuffs work in PF2. The drained condition doesn't even address the possibility that the HP reduction could exceed the PC's total HP, so it's not even clear what should happen in that case.

That leads me to my second thought: I don't think this trap can actually kill the PC's. The drained condition just reduces your maximum and current HP. Negative hit points don't exist in PF2, so the lowest you can go is 0 HP. Being knocked to 0 HP reduces the players to dying 1, but they are still entitled to a recovery saving throw. Now here's the catch: the DC of the recovery save is based on the attacker that knocked them out. The Curse of Awakening is not a creature, nor is a trap, nor does it have any DC associated with it. Exactly how you'd resolve this is completely unclear, but my own take of the situation is that this effect is simply incapable of killing.

The weirdness keeps going from there; the unconscious rules stipulate that after a certain amount of time has passed an unconscious character at 0 HP should return to 1 HP... but your maximum HP is 0. Again, the rules don't seem to have ever contemplated that such a situation might even be possible.


I think the intention is that if you wake a group up at once, the curse hits you once for drained 3. If you wake something up as a separate incident, then it stacks from there. However, the fact that it's so unclear is definitely deserving of a fix.

Since the rocs were also mentioned, I'm pretty sure multiple things can grab them, but since grabbed also states "you can't move", which is only overridden by the roc's external movement clause...if you grab someone with two rocs, they're not going to be moving. One roc can try and pull someone away, but the other roc holding on to them is keeping them in the same spot.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Quote:
a small family of pikas (short-eared arctic mammals related to rabbits)
In short, bad trap is bad, bad writing is bad, bad adventure is bad. (This also sounds like a PFS scenario, which is yet another reason why I would hate to play in PFS.)

Umm, Frozen Oath IS PFS Playtest Scenario <_< It isn't part of Doomsday Dawn, it is in fact a PFS adventure


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I shouldn't have read this as I'm about to play Frozen Oath and it will now be difficult to unsee this...

If I would be running this I would conclude that the number of creatures was not specified because it's supposed to match the number of the Searching players so that everyone gets hit with drained 3 once. Not sure if the adventure has any other sleeping creatures in it; if it does I will count that as a definite proof that my reading is correct.

That said I do agree with Darksol that it is an oversight in adventure design/development; however it is not in any way the fault of the ruleset as such.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Quote:
a small family of pikas (short-eared arctic mammals related to rabbits)
I'd even go so far as to say that they were all killed by "Albino" Pikachus

That's not any less embarrassing. "Oh no, I was hit by a shock under half the strength of something that only ever runs away without effort put into it." Seriously, this thing's best offecnce (physical, by the way) is less than rattata's and it doesn't get STAB on it's priority. Even as a FEAR strat (which would be harder without the fight being 1v1), It's got nothing on taillow.

Edit: you know, rabbits would have been more dignified. rabbits can kick butt.


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The curse is probably supposed to only effect one person, but there's no way to determine who. Since the drained condition can't be reduced, according to the trap, I think they're permanently unconscious rather than dead. Which is worse than dead since there's no way to reverse it.

That said, this adventure sounds like a cake walk. Take your party up to the location, execute a slumber party, and wake up to the drained enemies surrounding you. Hell, just release some cats up there and let things sort themselves out.


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ErichAD wrote:
That said, this adventure sounds like a cake walk. Take your party up to the location, execute a slumber party, and wake up to the drained enemies surrounding you. Hell, just release some cats up there and let things sort themselves out.

Very nice. You'd fit right in with my players.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Honestly that curse is fairly tame compared to the normal effects of waking up a cat that would prefer to be asleep at the moment; are you sure that wouldn't qualify as the Golarion equivalent of war crimes? :P

But on topic, I agree that this is terrible adventure design rather than a flaw with the system.

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