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Carrion Crown

The Carrion Crown series is a campaign inspired by Victorian gothic horror and other RPG games like Ravenloft.

The Haunting of Harrowstone

Issue 43. Part 1 of the Carrion Crown series.

The opening scenario is a mixed bag, opening with the conceit of the PCs attending the funeral of an old friend. It is a good setup that then kind of runs into a CoC-style research 'em up while a series of ghostly inspired events occur. The idea is that the group are meant to be winning over the inhabitants of the town but its not clear why they should want or need to. It seems to be some uncomfortable rubbing together of theme and fantasy gaming tropes. It also has that classic situation where a group of villagers are living near a dangerous ruin but have managed to forget anything useful about it.

The second act takes place at the haunted ruin of a prison. The main part of the story line has an evil cult performing a ritual that removes a protective spirit from the ruin. As a consequence the ghosts that the spirit once held in check now have a free rein for all manner of mischief. The spirit's ghostly wife provides the exposition (just in case you decided to skip that research back in the village) and is also an engaging hook into dealing with a situation that is otherwise done and dusted before the PCs arrive.

However once again a good setup is let down by excess. In this case no less than four serial killer hauntings need to be dealt with before the campaign proper can begin. The core story is about the former warden and his wife and the riot that destroyed the prison. The hauntings and former prisoners should be supporting that main story.

Some good ideas but linked poorly and disjointed as an overall story.

Trial of the Beast

Issue 44. Part 2 of the Carrion Crown series.

This is a take on Frankenstein with the PC's being asked to investigate the alleged crimes of a sentient flesh golem. This scenario falls into the usual trap of games that are not aimed at investigation by having a lot of key revelations linked to skill rolls with little provision for these being failed. There's no proper conception of whether something is key to understanding the plot or not, these elements cannot be conditional. Skill checks should be used to deepen understanding or contextualise a situation, not reveal key elements of what is happening.

What works better are the parts that mix combat and investigation as this is closer to the heart of the game style. A fight through the chemical factory of two disguised monster serial killers is much better. Holding off an enraged mob without killing too many people provides an opportunity for underutilised abilities and a combat-related challenge with a twist.

The framing structure of a trial is quite interesting and puts pressure on the normal D&D cycle of resting and adventuring. Instead the group are going to be forced into difficult resource juggling to get them through the scenario while not imposing an unfair penalty on the magic users.

A small detail I liked is that rather than going through convoluted explanations as to why using magic to discover the truth is not possible one of the goals in the scenario is the recovery of the charred skull of one of the victims so that a Speak with Dead spell can be used on it to discover how they died. Pathfinder tends to work best when embracing its foibles rather than trying to find loopholes in its own game logic just to support a play-style.

It's an interesting scenario with some genuinely creepy moments but it doesn't really fuse the different genres together that effectively.

Wake of the Watcher

Issue 46. Part 4 of 6.

This is Pathfinder doing Call of Cthulhu (and I mean the RPG rather than short story) with an investigation in the town of Illmarsh (Innsmouth), a place where the natives are breeding with the aquatic mermen Skum and worshipping the demon Dagon. The homage leaves me feeling cold and the adventure eventually twists into a steampunk exploration of the lake in an experimental submarine and a fight with Mi-go in their base on the lake floor. The whole thing doesn't feel like a comfortable fit with the campaign, the only hook is that one of the cult couriers has fallen foul of the townspeople. It feels more like a pastiche adventure that should have been in a standalone module.

This issue includes some information about the cults of the Dark Tapestry and how the Mythos fits in with the Pathfinder pantheon and mythology.