Publisher: Paizo Inc
Author: Ron Lundeen
Artists: Oliver Bernard, Gislaine Avila, Loïc Canavaggia, Emanuele Desiati, Jay Epperson, Chris L. Kimball, Rob Lazzaretti, Raymond Sebastien, and Darko Stojanovic
Genre: Stand-alone high level Pathfinder roleplaying adventure
Pages: 72 pages
MSRP: $22.99 in softcover or $15.99 in PDF
Night of the Gray Death is a rare high-level stand-alone adventure for Pathfinder. These types of adventures are probably rare because few campaigns that aren’t adventure paths make it to such a high level, and creating high-level characters from scratch is a chore in Pathfinder. However, if you have a group of high-level PCs and your players like a dose of horror with their fantasy, this adventure might be appropriate. There are minor spoilers for the adventure in this review, so players might want to stop reading now.
First, Night of the Gray Death involves appropriately high stakes for legendary heroes of 16th level (Yes, that’s the starting level of this adventure). Thousands of lives and the fate of one of the nations of Paizo’s official Golarion setting are at stake. It also offers two challenging boss fights with more complicated stakes than merely the PCs’ lives. Beating the monsters isn’t the only goal here. Also, this adventure gives the GM a few new monsters that even experienced players who have memorized all the bestiaries haven’t experienced before.
Though the adventure does feature a fair amount of combat, including the two tough fights mentioned above, much of it is based on political intrigue and solving a supernatural mystery. Edgar Allan Poe is a major influence, mentioned prominently in the adventure’s introduction. In fact, you can make a game of counting the number of allusions to Poe works in the text. The political intrigue comes from the fact that the adventure is set in the nation of Galt, which is stuck in a perpetual reign of terror like the one that followed the French Revolution. In this nation, everyone calibrates their actions carefully to avoid the capricious “justice” of the Gray Gardeners, the secret police of Galt.
One of the hazards of a mystery-based adventure is that it can become completely stalled if the PCs miss the clues that lead to the next stage. This adventure risks that possibility early on. The first act requires the players to canvas the population of a major city for information about an event planned in the next few days and for ways to finagle their way into this event. The DCs for the checks involved are somewhat higher than normal because the citizens of Galt are understandably tight-lipped and wary of outsiders. If any of the PCs has focused on training Diplomacy, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, if this isn’t the case, having a spellcaster in the party isn’t necessarily an automatic solution. That’s because in Pathfinder 2nd Edition, most of the divination spells that can get around these skill checks are Uncommon, so whether casters have access to these spells is determined by GM fiat and/or the player’s choice of character options. However, only a few parties should be derailed by this obstacle.
In addition to the adventure, the book includes other useful materials. First, there is a mini gazetteer of Litran, the city that hosts the headquarters of the Gray Gardeners. It might be useful for the GM to read this section before the adventure proper, since the adventure refers to locations detailed in the gazetteer and its accompanying map. The information might also be used as a basis for setting lower-level adventures of a Galt-based campaign in Litran before running this adventure. That way, the characters have reason to care about this city and its inhabitants before the perilous events of Night of the Gray Death.
Second, there are some mechanical items in the back of the book. First is a Gray Gardener archetype that can be taken by PCs in campaigns following the events of the adventure. As befits a masked organization of secret police, it is a variant of the Vigilante archetype from the Advanced Player’s Guide, offering alternate archetype feats for PCs who have taken the Vigilante Dedication feat. Second, there are rules for new monsters introduced in the adventure, including the powerful underlying villain. These stats can obviously be used for other high-level adventures.