I'm looking at running the Harrowing for my homebrew campaign setting, but I'm a bit confused by it.
When the party is first sent there, how do they figure out what they're supposed to do? How much do I tell them about how the world works, and how do I show this to them? How do they move from one realm to another? How do they know they can use the cards (and exactly how do they use them - I understand what the cards do, but not how they're activated).
I feel like I'm missing something, reading through the module. But it does look very promising, so I want to figure that out.
Getting information? They talk to the NPC's. There's one they encounter right off the bat that they can get some from and work out a plan. From there it leads into another somwhat reptilian NPC who may give them even more. If they are inclined to kill everything and expect a written explanation or list of what to do, they are going to be wandering for a while.
How the world works? They'll figure it out as they investigate. Some NPC's may also share information if they are polite and ask the right things.
How do they move? They walk. It's all one plane that's connected together. The encounters aren't separate realms.
As for the cards, in mine I used a simple tack of making the holder of the deck sense/feel/see a glow or hum or vibration from the deck during their first encounter where it was involved (which happens to be right off the bat when they land). Kind of a "Hey, pay attention". If they chose correctly, the card went up into a series of sparkles that flew at the affcted creature(s). Otherwise it went up in a puff of dark smoke. They quickly noticed that the encounter was one of the cards and went from there. After that I kept the same notification going that it wanted used, but the choice of whether to do so or not and which to use was up to them. Several times they didn't use any because they didn't want to lose the cards.
The whole thing plays as a a mystery to be figured out during play. Most of the NPCs have clues that, when put together, become the complete story of the place. It has a sort of Alice in Wonderland feel to it, that's not supposed to make complete sense all the time.
My PCs had a great time, one of the best modules ever in our opinion. As for 'figuring out the mystery', they'd achieved that just about at the end of the module.
for the cards I through them onto the table and swirled them around. and told the players these cards are at your characters feet. 2 of 3 times I've run it, it didn't take long for a character to figure out the encounters were similar to the cards. The other time there was a Harrower in the party and I just told him since I figured he would know them inside and out.
For those of you that have run this, how long did it take? Do you think I could fit it in a one off day game 11am to 11pm ?
It would be tight. Doable but I would suggest allowing more time - there is a LOT of stuff in the Harrowing - largely because nearly every monster is just a standard monster stat block so there is a lot of room for encounters - and there are a bunch of encounters which are really fun to have enough time to roleplay them and/or to set them up as taking place in a large area (Rabbit Prince encounter for example really works well with lots of variations in heights and lots of space. I've run this in a single day but we started earlier than 11 and ended closer to midnight or a bit after.
The Harrowing may be one of my favorite Paizo modules - both as a player and as a GM. Tons of creative encounters, lots of roleplaing opportunities, lots and lots of flavor, exploration elements, puzzle solving and more. If you aren't running for PFS it will also likely include the party leveling up at least once - and keep in mind as well that it is likely to stretch over many game days (some areas could easily take a week or longer depending on the party - a week in "game" time that is. The in game timing however is almost entirely up to the GM - and I generally had it be an element of the whole realm - that some areas took longer to search through to get to a specific area than to get out of when they were done.
For the right party many of the encounters aren't all that challenging mechanically - but their flavor tends to make up for that - and it can lull the party - later on there are some really challenging encounters potentially. Especially if you allow the final BBEG to cast some buffs - which given everything else going on in the module is very likely indeed - it can make for a really challenging encounter.
Overall if you can take longer I would suggest you do so - there is a lot of fun to be had the The Harrowing.