Skinsaw Murders

As always, plenty of spoilers for the Pathfinder Adventure Path: Rise of the Runelords follow.

Pathfinder #2: The Skinsaw Murders is presented in five parts, but in play I found it was structured more as three Acts. Act One is dealing with the Skinsaw Man, Act Two covered the Cult of Seven, and Act Three ended up being the Shadow Clock Tower. Of the three, Act One was probably the most fun to play, being a murder mystery mixed with a haunted house tale. Act Two is more or less a false victory, with Act Three ending up a little dissatisfying given the overwhelming nature of the opposition.

The Skinsaw Man portion of the adventure was my favorite part, likely because it built on events in Burnt Offerings and was set around Sandpoint. After all the work making Sandpoint feel like a real community in Pathfinder #1, it was good to continue in the same setting and with the same characters. The Foxglove Manor haunted house is a great environment, with minimal combats, but plenty of atmosphere. I screwed up running the Carrion Crows, missing the fact that they did 1d6 damage … as a result, they were a little less threatening than expected. The hauntis made up for it, though – my players never clued in that these things might be turnable undead, and instead just accepted them as some supernatural quality of the home.

Another good point I found while running this first part was how the players really are paying attention to Sandpoint. It was quickly realized that with the Glassworks down (thanks to Tsuto's attack in Pathfinder #1) and the Sawmill shut down (due to the murder), plus all the dead farmers (with the ghoulings), the economy of the town was going to be in trouble over the winter. The players stepped up in the later section, with the Cleric of Abadar trying to drum up support for more business going to Sandpoint and the other heroes contributing some of their treasure to help out.

This need to help Sandpoint was a good way to smooth into Magnimar, as the heroes had reasons to be in the city other than just tracking down Foxglove's co-conspirators. It made things feel a little more organic, possibly helped along by tying the background of one of the characters into the Justices. This part of the adventure felt pretty standard. The heroes tracked down our cultists, engaged them in battle, and were victorious. This is where it felt a bit like a false ending… with Justice Ironbriar defeated, surely the trouble had past?

Of course, it hadn't. Xanesha remained. What a monster … fully buffed, she can single-handedly destroy a party, I think. She has the advantage of position (180' up, flying), is buffed to the gills (AC 34?!), has pretty much an automatic hit with her melee attack (+20?!), is backed up by spells and over 100 hit points. Truly deadly, and I think a bit overwhelming for a party that's just fought through a flesh golem and a bunch of faceless stalkers.

To deal with this, I had decided Xanesha was basically going to take off once her lair was discovered and she'd managed to tell the heroes that they were wasting their time and the end of days was coming. Even then, the monk nearly killed himself with a desperate gamble on a grapple attempt after leaping off the tower… thankfully the cleric was flying and able to pull a Superman-like rescue.

We're on a break right now, as sailing schedules and re-life intrudes, but will pick up the game in November with the Hooksaw Mountain Massacre.

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