Haiku of Horror: Autumn Moon Bathhouse by Michael Tumey Review

I have mentioned this module previously in this blog on the post of Rite publishing so you are likely aware that I was very fond of the way it read.  But I have now actually run the module twice and so I thought I would do a full review based on my own views and the views of my players who I quizzed so I could pass this information along to the author, +Michael Tumey.  I also talk a little bit about it on this weeks Iron Tavern blog post that went up a little less than 12 hours ago.

The module cover from Paizo site

Haiku of Horror is a module easily portable into any setting but really needs an oriental history to be fully appreciated.  It is designed to be played in Rite Publishing’s Land of Kaidan which is a third party addition to the game of Pathfinder.  The setting is largely a Japanese mythological setting where the spirits of Japan are a large part of the focus.  Japan has a rich mythology that is only glossed over by much of the Western world.  Think about what you know of Japanese mythology and then scratch the surface like I did and you will realise that you, like I did, have such a small snapshot into this world.  Take for example one of my new favourite websites Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai which is translating into English the stories of the spirits from Japanese mythology.

Land of Kaidan is Michael Tumey’s own gaming worl brought into reality.  Haiku of Horror is Michael’s first authored entry into the setting though, and I am certain it will not be his last.  Michael is a game map creator and the Haiku of Horror maps have all been created by him, as well as some of the art that is included in the module.  Michael has worked on many projects, including the Pathfinder Jade Regent adventure path amongst them.  The map work in this module is exceptional.  The games that I ran of this were both through Google+ Hangouts utilising roll20 as my virtual tabletop.  I had bought Haiku of Horror as a PDF from Drive Thru RPG and as part of the module you receive the maps as full maps alongside the maps that are set into the main book full sized but broken up because of the page size limitation.  So it was easy to transfer the full maps for the full four floors of the bath house into roll20.  The players all commented on the quality of the maps and how they added to the awesome authentic feel of this module.

Players enter the bath house (images from the roll20 game)

The module is a short side adventure or perfect for a convention (which is what I used it for).  The module includes a range of different CR adjustments so it is as good for the 1st level as it is for the 20th level characters and everything in between.  No matter what level the players are at you will find a suitable CR to meet your needs.  I had to give my players a reason to attend the bath house so I attached a bit of my own design at the start of the games (my players were 12th level) as they sought to restore the honour of their clan Daimyo who had his son assassinated at the bequest of a rival clan.  This was a front just to get them to the bath house and if I were playing a longer campaign this would be the story we would continue with but in game it is a story of love that is the tragic central focus of this module.  In the con, my players met the assassin (a Worm that Walks – Pathfinder Bestiary 2) and then travelled to the bathhouse through a village to await the arrival of the assassin’s employer.

Enjoying a meal of sashimi, the fish merchant checks that
the meal is to the Samurai’s taste

The players hear of many rumours that the bathhouse is haunted and the locals do not travel there at night.  Sure enough, the first night they stay they meet a spirit that is bound to cause the players some trouble in the long run.  I do not intend to say any more of the actual story here as the mystery is the key to this game.  In both runs of this module that I had there was one combat and a mass of roleplaying.  there was of course more option for combat in my version but the focus on Samurai and their honour had every player focussed on the roleplaying options to solve the challenges before them.

The real winner in this module is the story behind it.  For the players they will piece together a story of a tragedy that should never have occurred and in finding it they will become connected to the story itself.  It is such a sad, well written, story that had me feel the sorrow of the characters involved as the big reveal occurred in both occasions.  This is a mature story for mature gamers and would not work terribly well in a young teenage audience but as an adult your players should have the life experience to truly understand the pain of the mistakes that lead to the tragedy.

I have read another review on this module who had the main complaint that there were not enough NPC’s in the module for a busy bathhouse.  This is true, but I found this an opportunity, not a hinderance as you could fill the bathhouse with NPC’s of your own devising that can further your own story.  The author has described to me that this is meant to be only a one session side adventure and so is perfect to populate with the NPC’s you want to use.  I had fun with this and I think the NPC’s I included made the bath house alive although I really only included two or three of my own each time.

The players search a room…  What for?

The only issue I had with this module is the location of the story.  To piece together the full story of what happens in this module requires a close attention to detail as the story is spread across many different entries.  On the first run through I had what I like to call a “brain fart” and forgot who did what at the tragic end so while the players were discussing things I was trying to find the details and basically failed so had to go with what my rebooted brain came up with which was close but no cigar.  The second group got a variant version that I thought worked a little better for my memory and it went down pretty well.  So really the only improvement I would have liked to have seen would have been a section added to the module that tells the story from start to finish in one spot, rather than scattered across NPC stories.

Overall, this is one of the best modules that I have run for Pathfinder.  It is immersive and relies on role playing, not dice rolling to tell a story that still provides some decent XP.  This module has cemented my decision to run a home grown campaign in Kaidan as my next Pathfinder excursion.  So, should you get this module?  Hell yeah!  It is $2.99 USD via DrivethruRPG or the Paizo store!  That is well worth the money.  In fact, best value module I have ever purchased, including second hand ones I have bought from eBay!  So, what would I rate this?  Out of five it would have to be 4 and a half cherry blossoms out of 5!  Had the story been all in one place it would easily have taken out the perfect score, so if you read this and buy it, make notes so you have the full story all in one place in your GM notes as you run the game.  Well done Rite Publishing for a fine module!

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