The Gamers’ Guide to The Haunting of Harrowstone

A GM only review and set of recommendations for running the Haunting of Harrowstone, first adventure in the Carrion Crown Adventure Path

 

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8 Responses to The Gamers’ Guide to The Haunting of Harrowstone

  1. Jennifer B says:

    I really enjoyed your review and discussion! I’ve been running Carrion Crown as a one-on-one with my husband, and we’re very RP oriented, so investment in the town wasn’t as difficult as it might have otherwise been. He did, actually, choose to play an Inquisitor of Pharasma (and yes, he rescued Professor Lorrimor). I totally agree with the need for a prequel, and we actually did a series of short vignettes.

    On the other hand, if you think about Lorrimor’s profession — hunting down and researching the dark and deadly creatures that infest Ustalav — then it makes *sense* that he’d need to be rescued often. (For Ravenloft fans, he’s a re-skinned Rudolph van Richten, sans family curse.)

    I’m a player in several of the Paizo APs, and what I’ve found as both player and GM is that it’s important to work with the players all together w/r/t the campaign traits. If the players are expecting two traits of their own choice, it might be effective for the GM to give the campaign trait as a ‘bonus’; I’ve actually found that one or two extra traits don’t ruin game balance too much.

    I ended up throwing out the trust mechanic, because it wasn’t working for a campaign with a single PC, and largely for the same reasons you touched on during the podcast.

    I’m just to the point where we’re starting Trial of the Beast — do you plan to do a podcast on that?

    • This episode was a test to see how people would react to a GM only episode. Based on the responses we got on our forums (at http://www.35privatesanctuary.com), on the Paizo boards, and now here, I think it has been really well received. So… we most definitely plan on doing more, and Trial of the Beast is likely to be the next one that we do.

      The problem comes in that I would want to do these after we have completed our run through, which we haven’t yet. (Sounds like you are right about the same point that I am at with out group, or close).

      We play once per month for about 12 hrs a shot. So long sessions but infrequent. I am guessing that at our rate we are looking at 3-4 session (so 3-4 month) before finishing an adventure. You can see the problem… we are going to be slower releasing these than most groups.

      Anyway, we WILL do another one, but it won’t be for a while.

      Thanks for the comments!!!

      Out of curiousity how do you do this for a single player? Does he have NPCs filling in the roles of the rest of the group? Do you scale encounters down to match one person (if so, how is that done)? Very curious…

      Sean Mahoney

      • Jennifer B says:

        Sean,

        Story-wise, Kendra and Sutter (the PC) had a strong friendship-turning-into-romantic-interested, and Kendra decided to take up her father’s mantle, especially after his death is confirmed to be foulest murder, indeed. Mechanically, I’m running Kendra and Sutter as gestalt characters — Sutter is a gestalted fighter/Inquisitor of Pharasma, and Kendra became a dreamspun sorcerer/rogue (just because sorcerers are easier for me to run in general. I started them at level 2; some of the encounters were a little more difficult (the animated headsman’s scythe was a nightmare, due to the hardness). They just hit level 5, which I think will work well for TotB.

        I did make a few changes and adjustments — I changed the trigger for Father Charlatan’s attack to the small chapel of Pharasma in the prison itself, and focused on the RP aspects; Sutter gained Charlatan’s especial hatred as a true priest of Pharasma, and so Charlatan wanted to get Sutter to renounce his faith. I also ended up moving the Splatter Man to the torture chamber; Sutter found the broken, tortured body of Warden Hawkran and, in righteous outrage, cried out for the Splatter Man to reveal himself, and it seemed dramatically appropriate; also, I smartened his tactics up a little to make up for missing the haunt/trap. The dire rats were less than effective, I’m afraid, but that maximized magic missile more than made up for it.

        I also pulled in background elements from Rule of Fear and Gods and Magic; for example, I set Professor Lorrimor’s funeral several days before the Pharasmin holiday Day of Bones, and had the spirits try to desecrate the holiday. Also, instead of using a ouija board to communicate with haunts, Sutter throws a set of bones — in his case, the fingerbones of a dead Pharasmin cleric, finely polished and marked. The inspiration for that was the Pharasmin holy book: The Bones Fall in a Spiral.

        The game balance is a little odd, I’ll admit, but in this case the story takes precedence over strict mechanics. I don’t even run minor combats, because my husband’s not a big fan of dungeon crawls; I focus on the plot-centric encounters instead, and work on making those memorable and thematic. I’m still tweaking encounter difficulties — they blew through the Lopper, for example, because he couldn’t just hit and move on, sucking up the bleed damage. On the other hand, the Piper was harder than I initially expected, because with one character held, that left the other to bear the brunt of the damage. And the Marauder I left as-is, explaining his relatively low hit points as a sign of his internal struggle between genuine remorse and maddened rage, and added the roleplay elements accordingly.

        It’s working so far, though I’m pretty sure I’ll need to take a hard look at some of the later encounters in Trial of the Beast, balance those out.
        It’s working so far, though I’m pretty sure I’ll need to take a hard look at some of the later encounters in Trial of the Beast, balance those out.

  2. Very cool! It does sound like it is working out well. Gestalt is a great way to go, though (as you have already noticed) you have less targets to spread effects and hits around to and get less total actions than a full group would. Still, if it is working, don’t fix it!

    Thanks for sharing that… I would love to run a solo game for my wife at some point if I could get her interested… we’ll see… someday.

    Sean

  3. @ Jennifer,

    I really enjoyed reading about your campaign. I’ve just started running the Haunting of Harrowstone for my fiancee as a solo adventure as well. I too have an npc in the party; however neither of the characters are gestalt characters. Neither character is a healer type, but they both have Use Magic Device, so I’m going to give them a (maybe 2) wand of Cure Light Wounds to use for healing. Do you think the adventure would’ve been possible without your two characters being gestalt? I’d considered making my two characters into gestalt, but I’m wondering if it will be necessary.

    Sounds like you added some really interesting RP elements to the campaign. This is my fiancee’s first time doing an RPG, so I have no idea what she’ll think of the combat (so far she’s been in town doing loads of research). Personally, I detest dungeon crawls, so unless she really digs all the minor combats, I may do as you did and remove them, or just storytell them and not play them out.

    • My only real concerns with less PCs is action economy and how damage is being spread around. Typically the second one isn’t a big deal, but encounters like the Splatter Man in this adventure, it can be HUGE. Look for those spots before hand and you can tone them down, then you will be fine.

      I can tell you that two optimized characters can take an adventure 4 lvls above their APL from recent experience, but other groups might have a harder time. Your players are savvy enough to have been taking UMD, so I think you will be ok… just be ready to back off if things are going bad.

      With just two characters they will likely be way above average wealth by level, which is just fine. They need the power boost, so don’t short them. Additionally, they will go up in level faster as well because they are splitting the XP two ways instead of 4… also fine.

      Other than that, have fun, I think you will be fine.

      Sean

  4. Hello Guys,

    Thank you very much for this audio review, it was fun and helpful. Specially to have a DM and a player who ran through it, you get a different point of view.

    I ran a few things from HoH already, and those are the changes I made:

    – It is set in Ravenloft (where I DM all my adventures), but HoH was fun and didn’t needed a lot of changes to be set in RL.
    – Before hearing your review, I did have a prequel, where PCs save Kendra from a vampire (Ramoska Arkminos) at a town fair (a large town, not Ravengro). So they learned Lorrimor’s trust and he has a debt to the PCs. And later, they found they have common friends, So, tada, he was a good and trusted friend. An unrelated side quest, and there they are asked to get to Ravengro – HoH starts.
    – No trust mechanics (didn’t see it as working well either, I roleplayed it instead. Wish I heard your review before and made townspeople friendly at start, then more and more suspicious,great idea).
    – Thugs in the cemetery event: made these sad thugs throw mud at Kendra to make her flee the cemetery, to have Kendra a more sympathetic and “person you want to protect” NPC.
    – Gibs Hephenus gets a bigger role in the adventure (he knows a lot, since he WAS a guard at the prison 50 years ago), as well as in the background of the prison fire story. That made it a fun and unpleasant 😉 NPC to deal with. And his memory is sketchy … 😉
    – Vesorianna’s story was changed a bit. Removed the hysterics and made her more heroic. She lowered the lift to save a few guards but her effort was spoiled by coward guards (Gibs, I’m looking at you).
    – I didn’t use the items that were belongings of the 5 BBGs. The HH is for low level, the PCs are 8th so I removed these items.
    – Vesorianna’s name is spelled one letter per day (and not once every d4 days). I used the possibility that her family name (Hawkran) would have to be spelled too if PCs really needed time.
    – Added a few atmospherics creepy effects that were caused by the 5 BBGs (effects like the priest suddenly remembers his god’s name, or clutches his holy symbol till he bleeds during his sleep).
    – Boosted the 5 BBGs hps and the DCs to resist their effects (PCs are 8th level, so the BBGs needed a boost).
    – Changed the 5 BBGs background to make them fit into Ravenloft’s domains.

    They enter the prison tomorrow, will let you know how it goes.

    Joël

  5. Bubba Downs says:

    Just wanted to let you guys know that I have ran this campaign twice. I love the idea of a prequel, it makes perfect sense! As for the trust points, I kept it a secret. My players noticed the difference in attitudes as they went along, good and bad. They really worked hard at keeping the towns opinion high.

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