An Encounter: the Heirophant


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


A party of rag-tag adventurers, wandering the long and forgotten roads into Faerie.
Across aN endless moor, into a ruined castle and down into the lonely dark. An underground lake, time-worn statues rising up from the water, whispering in forgotten tongues. An ancient pyramid, lit with pale fire, on a beach of powered bone.
Here dwells the hierophant, a leonine creature with feathered wings, a woman's face and a mane of hissing snakes.
She loves riddles and hates poor manners.

--so the players can try to converse with the hierophant, learn some secrets, avoid getting eaten, etc., but her gaze slowly turns them to stone (Fort save, 1d3 Dex damage). Averting their eyes is considered rather rude, while shutting them outright even more so.

Just trying to find something else to add to the situation. Currently I'm thinking the statues and bones crawl onto shore to fight the PC's. Maybe on the hierophant's command, maybe slowly, as they talk with her.
Maybe there are statues, skeletons, and a sort of hybrid of the two. Maybe the bones form a single amoeba-type thing. Maybe, if they can get the hierophant off the pyramid and onto the shore/in the water, her past victims will seek vengeance?
What do you think? What would make this a dynamic, exciting encounter?


Why aren’t the PC’s going to just kill this creature using a passive gaze attack on them?


Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Why aren’t the PC’s going to just kill this creature using a passive gaze attack on them?

They could certainly try. It's a matter of resource preservation; do you trust to your natural resilience, charm and luck and talk with her, or do throw diplomacy to the wind and try to destroy her?

Each character has a better than 50% chance to resist her gaze each round, and 1d3 Dex isn't *too* terrifying (especially if they take a penalty on their Diplomacy and avert their eyes while speaking with her). In the end, it's really the choice between a handful of Dex damage or a slightly smaller handful of Dex damage and the expenditure of class abilities, spells and hit points.


I mean that’s assuming they full understand how this the encounter works.

I could easily see people mistaking “bad manners” for “provoking an attack” as opposed to a minor diplomacy debuff.

I don’t mean to be a Debbie downer negative nelly, but this encounter screams to me:
Players aren’t gonna read it the way you the DM intends. I’m sure it’s happened to most if not all of us at some point and this screaming that.

I just don’t see players feeling inclined to bend over backwards to talk to a b$+!!y monster who is actively damaging them to begin with.

Ultimately you know your group better I do and I may well be way off the beaten path. But I feel like it might help to have a fresh pair of eyes on it.

Regarding adding to an encounter for fighting. Have you thought about lair actions?


Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:

I mean that’s assuming they full understand how this the encounter works.

I could easily see people mistaking “bad manners” for “provoking an attack” as opposed to a minor diplomacy debuff.

I don’t mean to be a Debbie downer negative nelly, but this encounter screams to me:
Players aren’t gonna read it the way you the DM intends. I’m sure it’s happened to most if not all of us at some point and this screaming that.

I just don’t see players feeling inclined to bend over backwards to talk to a b+#&~y monster who is actively damaging them to begin with.

Ultimately you know your group better I do and I may well be way off the beaten path. But I feel like it might help to have a fresh pair of eyes on it.

Regarding adding to an encounter for fighting. Have you thought about lair actions?

Not familiar with the term "lair actions". What are you referring to?

As to the rest, yes, I always know my groups very well. I am 100% confident that they'll be picking up what I'm laying down. It's taken me a long time and a lot of hard work to get to this point as a storyteller, but the issues you're describing simply don't happen in my games anymore.

They'll have to decide whether to try and solve the situation through social means or physical ones, bearing in mind that failing socially will leave them less able to deal with the already more difficult physical confrontation.


Lair actions are from D&D 5e I think? They're things that happen in the creature's lair in a fight, as the fight goes on - traps activating, walls collapsing, other monsters arriving etc.

If the heirophant is to be in danger near the water you'd need to foreshadow that to the PCs before they get there - ghostly figures screaming at her from under the surface, something like that. Otherwise they're unlikely to have any idea that was ever an option.


avr wrote:
Lair actions are from D&D 5e I think?...If the heirophant is to be in danger near the water you'd need to foreshadow that to the PCs before they get there...

Oh, I see. "Lair Actions" = environment. The pyramid offers high ground while a few pillars/piles of rubble can grant cover/block line of sight. The water isn't very deep, so that's just very difficult terrain unless they duck under and swim. And then there's the other monsters.

And yes, they'll have to use the petrified forms of lost travelers as stepping stones to get to the island. Each will offer a hushed, frightened or forlon whisper of warning ("do not anger her", "beware her eyes!", etc.)


Lair actions = active environment changes, not passive environment like the high ground etc.

To show that the water may be dangerous to the heirophant one of the lost travelers might swear vengeance against her.


Lair actions might be stalagmites growing out of a cave floor to impale people or lava surging up in a volcanic area.


avr wrote:
Lair actions = active environment changes...To show that the water may be dangerous to the heirophant one of the lost travelers might swear vengeance against her.

Oh, I see. No, I don't think I want anything quite that in this scene. Later on there'll be a shifting labyrinth with two minotaurs; I'd rather not get too cozy with a "the ground is moving!" vibe, lest it get video-gamey.

As for the water, if the players can't figure out that the statues are maybe not her biggest fans, that's on them. A hint is one thing. Loudly declaring a fact is another (admittedly, even my players need far more obvious clues to figure things out, but "hey, that guy just warned us about her. Maybe they'd help us" will be enough. Or not. If they don't think of it, they don't think of it).


Never underestimate players' capacity to not catch on to clever GM hijinks. The Three Clue Rule exists for a reason.


blahpers wrote:
Never underestimate players' capacity to not catch on to clever GM hijinks. The Three Clue Rule exists for a reason.

I am well aware of how dense players can be. Your friends are smart, but your players are still dumb.

That said, the "petrified remains of forgotten heroes take vengeance upon their tormentor" thing isn't central to the encounter. If they miss it, they miss it. It's just one potential outcome of many.


Well, things went about as perfectly as I could have hoped for.
They talked their way through the encounter (taking 13 dexterity damage between the three of them), narrowly avoided offending her a few times and managing to fend off the shambling, moss-eaten statues that dragged themselves onto shore even as they engaged in philosophical discourse.


All's well that ends well.

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