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Horror Rules

Source Horror Adventures pg. 8
The elements of a horror game might be gruesome, dreary, unnatural, or frightful, but they have the biggest impact if the players aren’t quite expecting them. The rules in this chapter support some tried-and-true elements of horror that need new rules elements to be fully realized for a horror campaign. Though these rules are a good start for a GM running a horror campaign, it is equally important to set the right tone with how they’re used.

Other Horror Rules

Horror Adventures teems with systems, tools, and guidance for running horror-themed games, but it’s not the first Pathfinder RPG book to touch on that territory. The rules and systems from numerous other sources fit well in horror-themed campaigns. The list below points toward relevant sections of these sources, and mentions which ones link with systems within this book when applicable.

Horror Characters

Source Horror Adventures pg. 8
The life of an adventurer has never been safe or comfortable. Terrible dangers lurk around every corner and the threat of death is a constant companion. Despite such grim realities, far more horrifying fates await those who find themselves facing off against true darkness: nightmares that thirst for the tears of the innocent and hunger for the flesh of the living. Adventurers who find themselves in a horror game must be prepared to face terror, madness, and threats to their very souls.

Playing a Horror Hero

Source Horror Adventures pg. 8
To run an effective horror-themed adventure, the GM has to think about her game in a different light. In the same way, to get the most out of their characters, players in a horror game should consider their characters anew. This section is aimed at the player, and provides tips on how to create suitable characters for horror-themed Pathfinder RPG adventures. It also touches on how you, as a player, can participate in horror-themed games in ways that make the story more unnerving for everyone at the game table.

Participating in Horror Adventures

Source Horror Adventures pg. 8
First and foremost, understand that horror games are meant to be creepy. If you don’t want to risk being actually frightened, you don’t have to play. If you do want to play, make sure you’re familiar with the Horror Games and Consent section.

Aside from their macabre themes, many horror games involve a different, intentionally darker sort of storytelling than other Pathfinder games. In a horror-themed game, the GM is juggling her story and the game’s rules to not just tell a story, but to create an atmosphere of dread within the game. Joking around out-of-character and getting distracted can wreck the mood the GM works to create. Laughter relieves tension, which might be exactly what the GM is trying to foster. At the start of your horror game, point out this section to the GM and have her answer the question: How serious do you want the game to be?

Building Horror Characters

Source Horror Adventures pg. 8
Characters in horror-themed campaigns are usually no less skilled or powerful than those in other Pathfinder RPG campaigns. The GM might also have special guidelines or expectations for the game’s characters— particularly in the cases of supposedly fearless classes, like paladins—so make sure that you and she are on the same page regarding character creation before you get to work.

During the process of creating your character, also keep this question in mind: What is my character afraid of? This isn’t something that’s going to come back and make your character weaker; it’s a consideration to help you get into your character’s head. Probably the biggest difference between horror adventures and other games is that they encourage you to have a more intimate understanding of your character as an individual, not just as an assemblage of numbers. Take a look at the sidebar on page 9 and consider working some of those elements into your thoughts about your character. These story elements will help your GM involve your character more deeply in the story, and help you as a player understand what your character fears and how your character might confront or avoid those fears.

Plan to Be Frightened

Source Horror Adventures pg. 9
Characters who aren’t afraid of anything—or who are incapable of emotion—are the worst characters to play in a horror adventure. If the slasher bursts onto the scene and no one’s startled or frightened, that’s a bad sign for a horror game. Fight-or-flight responses, instant reactions, and expressions of revulsion are key components of a terrifying scene. In horror adventures, it is the GM’s job to set up grim scenarios, and it is part of your job to consider how your character would actually react to these situations.

That doesn’t mean your character needs to be a shrieking coward, though. Your character likely is skilled with weapons or has the power to magically manipulate reality. By the same token, your character should also be a person. In the face of a terrifying encounter, consider how your character would respond. If you’re not sure, think about your own reactions when to being frightened or unsettled in the past.

If you decide that your character would probably have some sort of startled reaction to a scene, consider expressing that. Your character’s actions might even intersect with specific game rules. As such, here’s a list of reactions to frightening situations common among Pathfinder characters. Sometimes your reaction will be strong or important enough to warrant flight or a moment of shocked paralysis, but in other cases you just want it to be flavorful and not impede a more strategic response.

Cast a Protective Spell: You gird yourself with magic.

Draw a Weapon: Usually done while taking a step back, you both prepare for and distance yourself from danger.

Gape: You hold your ground, but look on in shock.

Guard: Moving into position between the threat and an ally, you try to prevent another from seeing the scene.

Pray/Swear: You call upon the gods or verbally express shock.

Retreat: You seek escape if the situation is overwhelming.

Screaming might also be an obvious reaction, but that tends to be the domain of victims, not heroes (though, everyone has the occasional less-than-heroic moment). Retreating also seems distinctly unheroic, but in a horror game, that might occasionally be the prudent choice, especially if it is clear that a threat outmatches your group. Remember that in horror games, combat is not always be the surest path to victory.

Roleplaying Fear

Source Horror Adventures pg. 9
When your character confronts a shocking scene, ask yourself what your character would do, what you would want to do, and what you would really do. These questions often have different answers. Let those answers influence how you react. Alternatively, you might hang on to the first thing that comes to mind, emulating more instinctual reactions to horror. Frightened or distraught people don’t make the best decisions, so don’t be afraid to make a snap judgment, act rashly, or react without consulting the group. In any case, your choice of action should usually be whatever you think will be the most fun or interesting for the entire group.

Conspiring with the GM

Source Horror Adventures pg. 9
Sometimes, your choices might mean playing along with the GM. The GM is not your opponent—she’s the conductor of a symphony in which you’re a star performer. If she seems to be hinting hard toward a course of action, consider going along with it or mentioning to the whole group why you don’t want to. The GM might also use any number of “special effects” during a horror game, such as providing certain characters with information only they know or asking to roll your dice for you in a specific situation. If that happens, oblige your GM. It could mean nothing or it could portend terrible things, but whatever the case, your GM isn’t trying to cheat you. You’re all just trying to make the game more fun.

Aspects of Horror Heroes

Source Horror Adventures pg. 9
The GM is telling a story and wants to include you in it. Consider including one or more of the following aspects and let your GM know so she can work them into her stories.

Have a Goal: Strive to be the best at something, to create something, to see a place, to get married, or to achieve some other goal. Whatever it is, have something you want above all other things.

Have a Reputation: Maybe you’re a great juggler, or maybe you slipped on the stairs in front of the whole town. Whatever it is, it’s something locals remember about you.

Have a Friend: Whether a friend from school, a coworker, an army buddy, or someone you saved, have someone you’re close to and whom you wish well.

Have a Home: It might be a neighborhood you love, your parent’s house, or a room you rent; in any case, it’s the place you call home.

Have a Signature Item: A signature item is something that is recognizably yours, be it a weapon with a distinctive grip, a piece of jewelry, a lucky charm, or your favorite scarf.

Have a Problem: Maybe you don’t have any money, a member of your family is sick, or you’re trying to get home. Whatever the issue is, you’re doing your best to solve it.

Have a Secret: Maybe you can’t read, left your crewmates to die, or made your long-lost sister run away. This should be something that would embarrass or endanger you if others found out.

Have a Reason to Be Brave: Maybe it’s to be like your hero, maybe it’s to repay a debt, maybe it’s for your child, but have a reason to occasionally face your fears.


Source Horror Adventures pg. 10
In a game where terrible things lurk in the darkness and horrors crawl forth from nightmares to plague the living, the rules for fear are an important part of play. To help bring an appropriate atmosphere to the table, the following rules broaden the levels of fear and allow fear to have a greater impact on your character and the story.

Levels of Fear

Source Horror Adventures pg. 10
The existing rules for fear offer three levels of fear, each one represented by a condition: shaken, frightened, and panicked. The following system expands the various states of fear into seven levels, divided into two groups (lesser fear and greater fear). The three levels of lesser fear—spooked, shaken, and scared—cause you to take penalties, but you are still ultimately in control. The four levels of greater fear— frightened, panicked, terrified, and horrified—cause you to progressively lose control of your character.

When you are subject to a fear effect whose level exceeds your current fear level, your fear level increases to that level. If you are subject to a fear effect of a level equal to or lower than your current fear level, your fear level usually increases by one. However, multiple lesser fear effects can’t force you to progress from a lesser fear level to a greater one. If you are scared and are subject to an additional lesser fear effect, you are staggered for 1 round, rather than becoming frightened. You can, however, accept the frightened condition rather than be staggered while scared if you prefer (such as if you actually want to run away).

For example, Merisiel is exploring a haunted graveyard. Her GM declares she is spooked by her surroundings. She falls into a sinkhole filled with rotting corpses, which would also make her spooked. If she fails her Will save, her fear level increases to shaken. Later, after dealing with gruesome undead, she is scared and facing off against an evil cultist who casts doom, which causes the shaken condition, on her. If she fails her save against the spell, she is staggered for 1 round (rather than frightened), since shaken is a lesser fear effect.

Lesser Fear

Source Horror Adventures pg. 10
Fear begins as a shiver down your spine, but soon grows.

1. Spooked: The nature of your surroundings or events that you have witnessed makes you uneasy. You take a –2 penalty on saving throws against fear effects and on Perception checks, as your mind conjures potential horrors in every shadow. However, you are ready to face danger, and gain a +1 circumstance bonus on initiative checks.

2. Shaken: Fear has taken hold of you and you are no longer thinking or acting clearly. You take a –2 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks.

3. Scared: You are noticeably afraid, jumping at shadows and easily panicked by odd sights and unexplained noises. You take all of the penalties of the shaken condition, except the penalty on saves against fear effects becomes –4. In addition, if being subject to a lesser fear effect would increase your fear level, you are staggered for 1 round instead.

Greater Fear

Source Horror Adventures pg. 10
At these levels, your fear begins to overwhelm you.

4. Frightened: You are so afraid that you must flee from the source of your fear. On your turn, you must move away from any source of fear you perceive. Once you can no longer perceive any source of fear, you can act as normal, but you still take all the penalties of the shaken condition. You can use special abilities, such as spells and equipment, to flee and must resort to such abilities if they seem like the only way to escape. If you flee from the source of your fear and it later reappears while you are still frightened, you must immediately begin fleeing again. If unable to flee, you can fight.

5. Panicked: This functions as the frightened condition, but you drop anything held whenever you are forced to flee and you flee in a random direction. In addition, you treat all sources of danger as fear sources and must flee from them as well. If unable to flee, you cower in fear.

6. Terrified: This functions as panicked, but you do not treat any other character as an ally and thus must attempt saving throws against spells that allow them, even if the spells are beneficial. If unable to flee, you cower in fear. In addition, once you have fled from fear, you do not act as normal. Instead, each round you roll on the following table to determine your course of action.

01-25Continue to flee, moving away from any known source of danger.
26-50Find a place nearby to hide, using Stealth as normal. You do nothing until you are discovered (and forced to run again) or you are no longer terrified.
51-75Lash out at the nearest creature, even an ally, attacking it with whatever weapon is available.
76-100Do nothing. If you get this result in two consecutive rounds, you no longer need to roll on this chart starting on the third round and can act as normal unless you encounter a source of fear or danger, in which case you are still terrified and act accordingly.

7. Horrified: You are transfixed with fear and can take no actions. You take a –2 penalty to your AC, are flat-footed (even if you normally cannot be), and are considered helpless.

Fear Duration

Source Horror Adventures pg. 10
Using this system can make the tracking of your overall fear level a bit more complicated. Track each fear effect separately, evaluating your current fear level whenever an effect is added or removed, starting with the most severe effect and adding levels on top of that for each new effect. Remember that lesser fear effects cannot add up to a greater fear effect, regardless of their number, and the staggered condition that can result from being scared and then suffering another lesser fear effect applies at the moment when the new fear effect begins (not when it expires).

For example, Ezren becomes subject to an effect that causes him to be shaken for 1 minute and another that causes him to be panicked for 1 round. On the 1st round, his fear increases to panicked. On the following 9 rounds, he is shaken. If, on the 3rd round, he becomes spooked for 1 minute, he becomes scared for 7 rounds (the overlap between the spooked condition and the remaining rounds of the shaken condition), then spooked for 3 rounds.

Adding Fear

Source Horror Adventures pg. 11
This revised fear system is meant to work seamlessly with the existing rules for fear, so GMs should use this system as an opportunity to add new fear effects to their games, including those derived from the environment and various situations. For example, entering an abandoned asylum during a moonless night might cause all the characters to gain the spooked condition, while discovering a cabinet filled with gnawed bones might cause a character to become scared for 1 minute after a failing a Will save. GMs not using this system should use the next-lower condition from the Core Rulebook if one of the new conditions appears, so anything that would normally inflict the spooked condition has no effect, scared becomes shaken, and terrified or horrified become panicked

Fear Immunity

Source Horror Adventures pg. 11
A number of creatures and characters are immune to fear. While that is fine for most fantasy adventure campaigns, it can prove problematic for horror-themed campaigns. GMs running such games should consider changing fear immunity to a form of resistance. Creatures and characters with fear resistance track their fear levels as normal, but they take the penalties of the fear level two steps lower than their actual level (thus, they suffer no effect at all unless they are at least scared). Furthermore, effects that normally cause a character to become spooked or shaken don’t increase such a character’s fear to a higher level.


Source Horror Adventures pg. 12
An abundance of horrors can scar a being. Wounds and fatigue can ravage the flesh. Poisons and venoms can putrefy a creature from within. Curses and hexes can assault the body and soul through supernatural means. But of all the horrors a hero might face, few are as debilitating or insidious as those that assault her sanity.

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game already features many threats that can erode a character’s sanity. The insanity spell can cause a character to act confused until its effect is removed. Insanity mist is an inhaled poison that deals Wisdom damage. The allip, an undead creature created when a soul is lost to madness, features several madness-themed abilities.

For some games, presenting the weakening of sanity and the onset of madness as assaults on a creature’s Wisdom score or the randomness of the confusion condition might be enough. But running a horror-themed game often necessitates a more robust and nuanced system. In the following system, the mental resilience of a creature is based on the totality of her mental being and mental strengths, rather than her weaknesses, improving her chances to weather and triumph against a vast array of sanity-threatening horrors.

Sanity Score, Edge, and Thresholds

Source Horror Adventures pg. 12
Each creature has a sanity score, along with a sanity edge and a sanity threshold. These values depend on the creature’s current ability scores and ability damage. Increases and penalties to ability scores (even temporary increases and penalties) adjust these numbers. Each discrete instance in which a creature takes 1 or more points of sanity damage is called a sanity attack, regardless of what caused the sanity damage.

Since effects that deal sanity damage are always mind-affecting effects, mindless creatures are immune, and do not have a sanity score, sanity edge, or sanity threshold.

Sanity Score: Your sanity score is equal to the sum of your mental ability scores (Charisma, Intelligence, and Wisdom) minus any ability damage taken to those ability scores.

Sanity Threshold: Your sanity threshold is equal to the bonus of your highest mental ability score minus any ability damage to that score (minimum 0). When you experience a sanity attack, if the sanity damage from that attack equals or exceeds your sanity threshold, you gain a madness, either lesser or greater depending on the relation of your current sanity damage and your sanity edge (see below).

If your sanity threshold is 0, you always suffer a madness upon taking 1 or more points of sanity damage.

Sanity Edge: Your sanity edge is equal to 1/2 your sanity score. When you experience a sanity attack that causes you to gain a madness (see Sanity Threshold above), compare your total amount of sanity damage to your edge to determine the potency of the madness. If your current sanity damage is less than your sanity edge, then you manifest a lesser madness. If your current sanity damage is equal to or greater than your sanity edge, you manifest a greater madness instead. More information on madness, both greater and lesser, can be found in its section. Furthermore, when you accrue total sanity damage equal to or greater than your edge, any dormant lesser madnesses you have manifest again.

Effects of Sanity Damage

Source Horror Adventures pg. 12
When you experience a potential sanity attack, you must typically succeed at a Will saving throw to shake off or reduce the sanity attack’s damage. Whether this saving throw is successful or not, if the sanity damage from a single sanity attack is equal to or greater than your sanity threshold, you gain a madness with a potency based on the relation between your total sanity damage accrued and your sanity edge (lesser if the total sanity damage is below your sanity edge, greater otherwise). In most cases, GMs should choose a madness that reflects the horror faced or your deep fears and potential mental breaking points rather than rolling on tables. For instance, if you gain a lesser madness due to an encounter with a mummy or some other undead that features a fear effect, it might make sense to choose the phobia madness. If you already suffer from delirium and gain a greater madness, it might make sense for that madness to be increased to schizophrenia. However, when a random madness is appropriate, the GM can generate one by rolling on Table 5–1 (for a lesser madness) or Table 5–2 (for a greater madness).

You are afflicted with a madness until that madness is removed by the methods described in Chapter 5. You may not always manifest the madness, though. If you are afflicted with madness and then are healed of all sanity damage, all of your madnesses become dormant until you accrue further sanity damage. Typically, a dormant madness does not affect you at all, but some madnesses feature an effect that occurs only while that madness is dormant. A lesser madness that becomes dormant does not manifest again until you take sanity damage equal to or greater than your sanity edge. A greater madness stays dormant only as long as your total sanity damage remains at 0. Dormant madnesses, no matter the potency, can be removed only by miracle or wish.

Lastly, if your total sanity damage equals or exceeds your sanity score, you become insane as per insanity (no saving throw) until all your sanity damage is healed and all your madnesses are cured.

While Pathfinder RPG Horror Adventures introduces a number of spells, feats, monsters, or other effects that deal sanity damage, the GM is also encouraged to create her own sanity-damage-dealing effects in her horror game. The table below gives a number of examples of situations that might cause a character to take sanity damage.

The first time a character encounters a dead body101d3 sanity damage0 sanity damage
The first time a character encounters a gruesome scene of death121d6 sanity damge1 sanity damage
The first time a character encounters a horrifying creature*10 + CR of the creatureSanity damage equal to 1/2 the creature's CRSanity damage equal to 1/4 the creature's CR
Each time a character encounters a qlippoth or other creature with a particularly horrific appearance10 + CR of the creatureSanity damage equal to the creature's CRSanity damage equal to 1/2 the creature's CR
Each time a character encounters a Great Old One15 + CR of the creatureSanity Damage equal to double the creature's CRSanity damage qual to the creature's CR
* Horrifying creatures are typically aberrations, evil or chaotic outsiders, and undead. “Each time” could mean the first time for each creature type, or each time a creature encounters a new kind of specific creature of that type (for example, the first time a creature encounters a skeleton and then again the first time the character encounters a wraith), at the GM’s discretion.

Expanded Sanity

Effects dealing sanity damage and madnesses are mind-affecting effects, and as such certain creature types are immune to them. In horror games, the GM may want to make an exception to this, at least in the case of sanity damage and madnesses, allowing undead and even some kinds of plant and construct creatures to feel the effects of insanity. The GM should be careful to determine whether the creature’s immunity to mind-affecting effects compensates for an extremely poor Will save and potentially give a bonus on Will saves against sanity damage to such creatures.

Reducing Sanity Damage

Source Horror Adventures pg. 13
Sanity damage can be reduced in a number of ways. The first is with time and rest. For every 7 full days of uninterrupted rest, you can reduce the sanity damage you have taken by amount of equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum 1). Instead of relying on your own strength of personality to reduce the effects of sanity damage, you can seek out a single confidante, mentor, priest, or other advisor. You must meet with that person regularly (at least 8 hours per day) and gain guidance during the 7 days of rest. At the end of the rest period, the ally can attempt a Wisdom or Intelligence check (whichever score is higher) with a DC of 15 if your sanity damage is below your sanity edge or 20 otherwise. If the ally succeeds at this check, you can add the ally’s Wisdom or Intelligence modifier (whichever is higher) to the amount of sanity damage you remove.

Sanity damage can also be reduced with magic. A single casting of lesser restoration reduces sanity damage by 1d2 points up to once per day; restoration reduces sanity damage by 2d4 points up to once per day; and heal reduces the amount of sanity damage by 3d4 points up to once per day. Greater restoration, psychic surgery, and limited wish reduce your total sanity damage to 0 if your total sanity damage was already below your sanity edge; otherwise, these spells reduce your total sanity damage to 1 point below your sanity edge. Miracle and wish instantly reduce your sanity damage to 0, regardless of whether your total sanity damage was below your sanity edge.

Tenacious Sanity

In a particularly horror-themed game, the GM may consider removing some or all of the magical options to reduce sanity damage, relying on rest alone to recover sanity. For the most terror, she could even make sanity damage irrecoverable. In these cases, the GM should consider increasing the characters’ sanity scores and sanity edges to ensure the heroes can make it through enough of the adventure before they snap.


Source Horror Adventures pg. 14
Even the most pure creature can succumb to tides of darkness. What begins as a minor malady or errant idea can grow into something malignant—a spreading corruption that can obscure your morals, cloud your judgment, and ultimately devour your soul. There are a number of different types of corruptions, from the hunger of vampirism to the horrifying transformation of the promethean. Living with a corruption is often a terrifying experience, but also offers the temptation of dark gifts. Hosts sometimes choose not to fight the corruption, but rather accept it and allow it to progress. These unfortunate folk either succumb to lust for the corruption’s power or attempt to control the stain of corruption and use its gifts for some greater good.

Each corruption detailed on the pages that follow features a general description, followed by its catalysts and manifestations. The catalyst section explains how a creature might contract the corruption, how it progresses, and how it can be cured. When a creature first contracts a corruption and its manifestation level increases, the corrupted creature gains manifestations. Manifestations carry both beneficial gifts and detrimental stains. Also, as the manifestation level increases, the stains and gifts of previous manifestations might grow more powerful. Lastly, as a creature’s manifestation level increases, so does the possibility of the corruption taking hold entirely, defiling its host forever.

Corruption Glossary

Source Horror Adventures pg. 14
A short list of terms related to corruptions follows.

Catalyst: The inciting incident that corrupted you in the game’s story, combined with ways you can progress toward total corruption.

Corruption: A dark manifestation of evil or alien influence that changes you over time.

Corruption Stage: A measure of how close you are to falling to your corruption. Think of your corruption stage as how much your soul has been altered by your corruption. At corruption stage 3, you succumb and are no longer a PC.

Gift: A benefit granted by a manifestation of your corruption.

Manifestation: A manifestation is a way in which your corruption becomes more prominent. You gain manifestations roughly every 2 character levels you live with your corruption. Each manifestation has both a gift and a stain, although you might not get both.

Manifestation Level: This is a measure of how much your corruption has changed your body and mind. Your manifestation level equals the number of manifestations you have.

Stain: A negative effect granted by a manifestation of your corruption.

Contracting a Corruption

Source Horror Adventures pg. 14
The catalyst section of each corruption offers a number of possible methods for contracting that corruption. Once you contract a corruption, you immediately gain a manifestation. Your manifestation level becomes 1, and your number of manifestations and your manifestation level can increase as described in Manifestation Level. You also draw closer to losing your soul, as represented by your corruption stage. This is described under The Corruption’s Progress.

Multiple Corruptions: Typically, you can have only one corruption. If some exceedingly rare condition arises that would cause you to be affected by more than one, you typically gain stains from both corruptions’ manifestations but gifts from only the first one you contracted, and the secondary corruption also grants manifestations at a slower rate. When the text refers to your manifestation level, use only your manifestation level for the second corruption, not the sum of all your manifestation levels.


Source Horror Adventures pg. 14
You gain a manifestation of your curse when you first contract a corruption, and gain more at later levels. Each manifestation includes both a gift and a stain (though campaign variants can change how you acquire these gifts and stains as described in the Variants section below). Many manifestations have prerequisites that limit them to characters farther along in their corruptions. A prerequisite marked with an asterisk (*) is another manifestation in the same section.

Unless stated otherwise, the DC for gifts that allow a saving throw is equal to 10 + 1/2 your level + your manifestation level (see below). You can have a maximum of nine manifestations.

Corruption Variants

Source Horror Adventures pg. 14
A corruption’s gift and stain don’t have to manifest together. Your GM can use the following variants to alter how gifts and stains are gained.

Useful Corruption: In this form of campaign, your corruption’s gifts allow you to fight sinister forces. You select which manifestation to take when you gain the corruption and with each increase to your manifestation level. You receive the gift, but you don’t have to take the stain. If you refuse the stain, that manifestation doesn’t increase your manifestation level, which could prevent you from qualifying for additional manifestations. You can accept the stain of your manifestations at any time, immediately increasing your manifestation level.

Vile Corruption: In this form of campaign, corruptions are terrible burdens to be purged as soon as possible. When you contract a corruption or your manifestation level increases, the GM decides which manifestation you gain. You always acquire the stain, but you can choose not to take the gift. If you refuse the gift, you gain a +1 circumstance bonus on saving throws related to the corruption progressing. For each additional gift you refuse, this bonus increases by 1. You can accept the gifts of your manifestations at any time, but once you do, you immediately lose the corresponding bonus on saving throws.

Manifestation Level

Source Horror Adventures pg. 15
Each creature with a corruption has a manifestation level, which is normally equal to the number of manifestations the corrupted creature has (see Variants for exceptions). Sometimes gifts and stains become more extreme as a creature’s manifestation level increases.

You gain a new manifestation roughly every 2 levels. GMs can introduce corruptions as early as your 1st character level. A standard rate of corruption starts with a PC gaining the first stain at 1st level, the second at 3rd level, and another at 5th, 7th, 9th, and so on. Because you are limited to nine manifestations, your manifestation level can’t exceed 9th.

This standard rate of acquisition is a guideline rather than a strict rule. Many corruptions feature story considerations that could speed up or slow down the process, and individual GMs can alter the speed to serve the campaign’s narrative. When introducing a corruption at higher levels, a GM could accelerate the rate at which the first manifestations are acquired or grant multiple manifestations at once. In any case, the GM decides when a corruption progresses, not you (though variants can alter this, as described in Variants).

The Corruption's Progress

Source Horror Adventures pg. 15
Every corruption has an associated saving throw. Each time you fail it, your corruption progresses to the next corruption stage. Each stage causes a more significant change within you, until you become completely irredeemable at corruption stage 3. When you gain a corruption, you begin at what is effectively stage 0, with no direct penalties. You must attempt a saving throw when you are being pulled toward darkness, and these saves are usually spread over a long period of time (often weeks or months). As such, abilities that allow or force rerolls (or rolling twice and taking the higher or lower result) can never be used on these saving throws, and temporary bonuses don’t apply on the progression saving throw, even if they are long-lasting.


Source Horror Adventures pg. 138
Curses are among the oldest and most deeply feared types of magic. They linger far beyond the original malicious words or grave deeds that spawned them. Although the most wellknown and easily broken types of curses are spells, others are afflictions, from the notorious curse of lycanthropy to foul mummy rot and the esoteric death curse of the linnorm. All the new curses presented in this section are afflictions and share certain features as a result.

This section includes new curses, as well as several curse variants. It also provides advice for using all kinds of curses in your game, including guidelines on creating them.

Curses in your Game

Source Horror Adventures pg. 138
Curses can afflict characters in a variety of ways, but because they are perniciously difficult to remove, the tone of the game can shift if they appear often. Most curses—especially those that require more than a simple remove curse spell to eliminate—should be used to add a significant and memorable challenge or as a consequence for a momentous choice. A relentless torrent of curses reduces their mystique while dramatically hampering a party’s effectiveness, potentially removing the PCs’ ability to deal with encounters of appropriate Challenge Ratings.

Curse Spells

Source Horror Adventures pg. 138
Many spells can place curses on unfortunate victims. Their effects are usually simple and can be ended with the right spell (but never dispel magic). All curse spells have the curse descriptor. The most well-known is bestow curse, which allows the caster to invent her own effect in line with the listed options (no worse than a 50% chance of losing actions, a –4 penalty on checks, or a –6 penalty to an ability score). Effects in line with that power level include the following, though ultimately they are limited only by the caster’s imagination and the GM’s discretion.
    When the victim is adjacent to the area of a damaging spell or spell-like effect (even one he created himself ), the area expands to include the victim. The victim can’t heal naturally, and magical healing heals the victim by only half the usual amount (minimum 1 point). The victim’s fast healing and regeneration, if any, are likewise halved. The victim is plagued by cacophonous sounds and strobing lights that only she can hear and see. She is distracted (–5 penalty on Perception checks), cannot take 10 on skill checks, and must succeed at a concentration check (DC = 20 + spell level) to successfully cast spells. Any time the victim picks up or retrieves an object (including drawing a weapon or ammunition), there is a 50% chance that she immediately drops it. If she drops ammunition while attempting to make a ranged attack, that particular attack is lost.

    Save DCs: The stat block for a curse lists the save DC. For curses that can be created by a spell, this usually represents the minimum DC. If a spell is used to create a curse in your game, calculate the DC using the caster’s ability score and the spell level as normal.

    Optional Rule: Spontaneous Curses

    Although spellcasters can curse targets more easily than others, in times of great emotion and the need for vengeance, other creatures can channel divine or arcane energy to create a spontaneous curse. A curse can be improvised only under great stress, whether by the deepest indignity, seething hatred, cold revenge, or as a dying act (all at the GM’s discretion), though in any case, never more than once in a month. Spontaneous curses are most commonly placed upon those who violate a taboo or a sacred or unholy place. Sometimes gods or other supernatural beings curse mortals who fail tests of character or who trespass where they are not welcome.

    If the GM allows a creature to place a spontaneous curse, that creature must have at least 5 ranks in Knowledge (arcana) or (religion). Such a creature can attempt to use a curse with a listed DC less than or equal to 10 + its number of ranks in the skill. Creatures with a curse ability, as well as some creatures closely associated with curses (such as angels, fey, hags, and undead), can curse a target without meeting this requirement. Improvising a curse reduces the cursing creature’s Charisma score by 2, and this decrease remains as long as the curse lasts; the cursing creature cannot dismiss its improvised curse.

    Creating New Curses

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 140
    Curses needn’t be limited to the effects listed under Afflictions. When designing a new curse, though, be careful not to go too far. A devastating curse can have consequences as serious as dying or being turned to stone. Certainly, horrific curses that promise immediate and inescapable doom have their place, but curses that can be endured for a time bring far more horror to the table, as struggling under the curse can lead to more tension than instant death would bring, while surviving and escaping such a curse can become an adventure all its own. Consider these guidelines when creating a curse.

    Make It Logical: A character generally doesn’t get cursed for minding her own business. More often, the victim meddled with powerful forces, disturbed an ancient grave, or even wronged a vengeful fortune-teller. Try to fit the curse to the act that brought it on, like a glutton being unable to eat, a bigot becoming the target of his bigotry, or a tomb robber burning in the light of day.

    Make It Interesting: A boring curse isn’t worth the game time it consumes. A good curse should be creepy, comical, embarrassing, or terrifying, and it helps to have a good story behind it.

    Make It Interactive: Some curses require the players and GM to roleplay effects such as an inability to lie or a compulsion to steal. This sort of curse can be very rewarding with a motivated group, as possible effects could extend far beyond what game mechanics decree.

    Make It Simple: A good curse has easy-to-handle mechanics. Most curses should have only one or two effects, and should be possible to resolve during play. Avoid the need to reference complicated effects during combat. Failing that, prepare an index card with the curse’s details that you can use as an easy reference.

    Types of Curses

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 140
    Curses can have a wide range of effects, which is something to keep in mind when designing a new curse. They may trigger only intermittently, apply a constant penalty, or grow worse with time. In addition, curses can function exclusively using game mechanics, or incorporate roleplaying considerations.

    Intermittent: Some curses, such as unluck, trigger only under certain conditions but otherwise stay consistent in their effects.

    Mechanical: These curses rely on game mechanics for the majority of their effects, such as applying penalties, ability damage, or negative conditions. This sort of curse is a good choice if you want a steady, consistent effect for the curse, though particularly with conditions, you might have to start considering interactions with other abilities triggered by those conditions.

    Progressive: A progressive curse functions much like a disease, requiring periodic checks to determine whether the affliction progresses. However, unlike those suffering from diseases, the victims of these curses cannot recover just by succeeding at saving throws. A progressive curse worsens with each failed save, often ending in incapacitation or death. Mummy rot is a typical progressive curse.

    Static: Curses like baleful polymorph apply an effect for the entire duration of the curse, with no change in their severity.

    Breaking the Curse

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 141
    The most conventional way to rid a victim of a curse is the spell remove curse, occasionally with the aid of other or more powerful magic. When making a new curse, especially one with a strong story background, consider novel ways to remove the curse beyond just casting a spell, as with the spell conditional curse. Robbers might be cursed until they return every ill-gotten coin, while a haughty aristocrat might suffer until she cleans the feet of a dozen beggars. In these cases, it’s best to make the victim vaguely aware of how to end his torment, but let him discover the specific details on his own through either research or trial and error. Curses with story-based remedies are often hard to break with remove curse and break enchantment. Increase the DC for removal by 2, 5, or even 10 based on the power of the curse. Particularly powerful curses resist remove curse and break enchantment entirely, requiring either specific conditions for removal or the application of limited wish, miracle, or wish.

    Some curses are easier to remove than normal; improvised curses, because of their impromptu nature, tend to be easier to remove. A simple cleansing ritual might suffice to remove them, which the PCs could discover through exploration, research, or a successful Knowledge (religion) check. Such curses could even fade over the course of days or weeks. While many NPC casters offer curse removal with no questions asked, it is common knowledge that curses are rarely picked up accidentally. Some of these casters might want to know the circumstances behind the curse (often employing Sense Motive or even divination magic during the discussion). Good-aligned churches might expect acts of atonement or charity as at least partial payment for removing a justly gained curse.

    Alternative Means of Relief

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 141
    Should a curse seem impossible to end by either normal or conditional means, the accursed might take desperate measures for even temporary relief from their suffering. Many such methods are dire enough that creatures may consider them worse than simply being cursed.

    Death: Some curses end upon the death of the victim, perhaps leading a victim to take her own life in the hope of being raised from the dead free of the curse. Although some find release this way, others are sorely disappointed; some gods may not smile upon such wanton suicide—or the victims might be restored to life, only to find themselves still afflicted by the curse.

    Making Amends: A curse laid as punishment for a misdeed might be neutralized by rectifying the misdeed. But there are no guarantees. Undoing the misdeed and additionally offering a comparable effort to make up for the trouble caused might allow a new saving throw against the curse to remove it. Forgiveness from the curse-layer grants a +4 bonus on this saving throw. For curses that require amends, remove curse generally fails unless and until such amends are made.

    Symbiosis: On rare occasions, a character might allow the curse to infect her very being as a desperate attempt to mitigate the effects, hoping that this will give her some measure of control. Symbiosis with a curse is rarely successful, and it usually leads to contracting an accursed corruption, as the curse takes over the creature’s personality. In rare cases, curse symbiosis might transform the accursed into a monster associated with curses (such as a hag) without first going through an accursed corruption.

    Cursed Items

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 142
    The Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook and Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Equipment describe many kinds of cursed magic items. These cursed items most commonly result from something going horribly wrong during the creation of a normal magic item. However, it is also possible for such items to carry a curse to punish a death or to be the result of intentional malice. Cursed items are often most pernicious and difficult to thwart when created to hurt a particular foe.

    Crafting Cursed Items

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 142
    A creature can intentionally craft a cursed item—except unique cursed items and items with opposite effects—in the same manner as the item it resembles in most respects. Crafting a cursed item has the same requirements and calls for the same skill checks as for the normal item, but in addition, intentionally cursed items require bestow curse or major curse. Crafting cursed items that pervert normal items usually has the same cost as for the fully functional versions, though with the exceptions below. However, as with all magic item price guidelines, the discounts below should be used only as a starting point for determining a cursed item’s final price, and the particulars of a given situation will likely require ad hoc adjustments beyond the advice below.

    Delusion: Items that merely delude the user into thinking they function cost 90% less than normal, or possibly even less (for instance, an item that deludes the user into thinking it’s a mirror of life trapping probably doesn’t need to cost 20,000 gp).

    Drawbacks and Requirements: Drawbacks and requirements typically don’t reduce the cost of a cursed item in any way (and might increase it). Since the crafter of an intentionally cursed item is setting these requirements, it is expected that she does so with a particular agenda, such as choosing a requirement that doesn’t affect her very much but would make the item painful for her enemies to use should they steal it, or choosing a requirement that she wants someone to perform anyway and then offering the item as a gift.

    That said, these curses typically affect the price when selling the cursed items to a merchant. The price may be reduced by 10% for minor drawbacks or requirements such as minimum skill ranks or the worship of a specific deity; by 30% for harmful or costly drawbacks or requirements such as an alignment change, ability damage, sacrificing wealth, or performing a quest to activate the item; or by 50% for severe drawbacks or requirements such as negative levels that cannot be removed or needing to routinely sacrifice sentient creatures to the item.

    Opposite Effect on Target: These items are rarely appropriate for a character to intentionally craft, as they might lead to weird situations where a reverse attack or a dispelling of certain spells is actually beneficial when used on allies, or vice versa. For effects where the opposite is not a new effect (such as inflict light wounds instead of cure light wounds), the crafter might as well just craft the opposite item to begin with unless she plans on tricking the owner of the item.

    Stained Items: A creature’s death can potentially stain a magic item that’s used to kill it, that’s in close proximity at the moment of death, or that’s crafted using material gained by its death. A stained item is permanently converted into a cursed item of the appropriate type. A stained item functions as normal for a cursed item of its type except that the DCs of checks for remove curse or similar magic to suppress or remove the item’s curse from any creature responsible for the curse-layer’s death increases by 5.

    Unique Items: These items should be priced and their crafting requirements assigned on a case-by-case basis as new items with the effects they produce rather than the items they appear to be.

    Cursed Land

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 143
    Cursed land is a region marked by divine judgment, scarred by a great tragedy, or wounded by intentional malice. Common causes of such a regional curse include undead hauntings in the area, a grave transgression by the inhabitants that offends a powerful spirit or god, and large-scale killing or destruction that demands justice. They can also be artificially created with spells, such as curse of night, curse of fell seasons, and the curse terrain spells. A regional curse has an area in addition to the features all curses have. All regional curses have a DC for the purpose of removing the curse, but many of their effects allow no saving throw. When casting remove curse to remove a regional curse, the caster treats the land as an object and typically needs to be at the center of the emanation or at some other location closely tied to the curse.

    Sometimes, a creature’s punishment curse and a land’s curse are the same. A cursed lord is a creature trapped by a cursed realm. The cursed lord gains power over the realm, but is incapable of leaving unless the curse is somehow broken, which usually involves killing or redeeming the cursed lord. Characters can accomplish this only by enacting very specific circumstances, similar to the restrictions placed upon the destruction of artifacts. For example, a cursed realm might trap a villainous cursed lord who profited by selling false maps to escaped slaves and refugees, who then drowned while attempting to cross a river at a nonexistent ford; the realm would be impossible to free from the stain of his heinous crime until he is slain and his body is placed in the river by a former slave.

    Curse Templates

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 143
    Some curses function in an unusual fashion compared to others. The following section presents several templates that can be applied to any curse to represent variants of that curse. These templates function similarly to templates that can be applied to creatures, and you could potentially apply several templates to the same curse to create a truly horrifying effect.

    Contagious Curse

    Effect In addition to the curse’s normal effect, the curse is transmissible to other creatures by a particular means. This could be similar to transmission methods for a disease, or it could be something more esoteric, such as by song or love.

    Cure The accursed creature’s attempts to remove its own curse with magic automatically fail, though other creatures can do so as normal. Whatever its other means of transmission, a creature attempting to cure the original creature’s curse with magic is automatically exposed to the curse and must succeed at a saving throw to avoid being afflicted by it.

    Death Curse

    Effect A death curse usually occurs upon the deaths of linnorms, some fey, or hags, but other creatures can also curse their killers. The save DC is equal to 10 + 1/2 the creature’s Hit Dice + the creature’s Charisma modifier, rather than the curse’s normal DC. A death curse’s effect is the same as the original curse, and the effect tends to vary based on the cursing creature’s HD.

    Cure In addition to the standard cures, the first time that the creature who placed the death curse returns to life, the accursed creature receives a new saving throw to break the curse. If the accursed contributes to this resurrection, she receives a +4 bonus on this saving throw.

    HDDeath Curse
    1–5Minor haunting or weeping wound
    6–10Bestow curse, major haunting, or tormenting visions
    11–15Doom of the hunted, shattered self, or unluck
    16–20Greater doom of the hunted or sealed fate

    Generational Curse

    Effect In addition to cursing the original target creature, this curse continues to curse the target’s children, and their children, and so on across multiple generations. It is possible it might carry on only to certain children (such as daughters or firstborn children).

    Cure Generational curses can usually be cured only by special means, though the extinction of a family line also is able to end its threat. Even if remove curse can cure the curse on an individual target, it doesn’t stop the generational curse from affecting future generations, which must deal with the curse in their own manner.

    Horrific Diseases

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 146
    Diseases hold great potential for horror. They often strike at abilities or traits people value dearly but take for granted. They can leave victims unable to walk or speak, radically change a person’s appearance, and, of course, claim lives. They are impossible to see with the naked eye, and for most of human history, they were poorly understood. Perhaps worst of all, for adventurers, they cannot be fought in the traditional sense and are completely impervious to violence or reason.

    While standard diseases in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game challenge players and make for good storytelling opportunities, they are typically telegraphed days in advance with the first Fortitude save and easily cured with low-level spells. Further, very few diseases are even capable of killing, and often they do nothing more alarming than dealing ability score damage. However, there are worse diseases brewing in the world. This section contains new options for diseases, including a collection of templates that can be applied to any disease to make it more frightening in a variety of ways, and a selection of new diseases that progress through a series of horrifying symptoms, similar to the diseases rules introduced in Pathfinder RPG Pathfinder Unchained.

    Disease Templates

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 146
    Not all strains of the same disease are identical. Diseases mutate and change over time, so the PCs may encounter local strains of devil chills, filth fever, and other diseases that are different from those with which they’re familiar. These different strains might be particularly fast-acting, easier to spread, resistant to treatment, or otherwise improved over the default version of the disease. The following section presents several templates that can be applied to any disease to represent more dangerous strains. These templates function similarly to creature templates, and several templates can be applied to the same disease to create a truly horrifying plague. The special properties of a disease with a template are difficult to predict without special training. Unless a character spends at least an hour examining the disease and its victims and then succeeds at a Heal check (DC = the disease’s save DC + 10), she identifies the disease as its more common variant, without realizing the differences.


    An incurable disease is all but impossible to cure completely, even with the aid of magic. The incurable template can be added to any disease. The disease retains its base statistics except as noted below.
    Save The disease’s saving throw DC is reduced by 5.
    Cure The disease cannot be cured with any number of successful saving throws. Whenever the afflicted creature succeeds at a saving throw to resist the disease’s effects by 5 or more, you automatically succeed at your next saving throw against the disease’s effects as well. Even spells that can normally cure diseases only cause the disease to become dormant for 2d4 days, after which the affected creature must begin attempting saving throws to resist the disease’s effects once more. Only powerful magic like a miracle or a wish is sufficient to completely cure a creature of an incurable disease.


    A lethal disease attacks the host’s body with ruthless efficiency. The lethal template can be added to any disease. The disease retains its base statistics except as noted below.
    Save With each failed saving throw, the DC of any future saves by the affected creature to resist the disease’s effects increase by 1. These increases stack to a maximum of 5.
    Effect Any Constitution damage or Constitution drain dealt by the disease increases by 2. Otherwise, in addition to its normal effect, the disease also deals 1d4 points of Constitution damage.


    A lingering disease is one that tends to remain with its victims for a long time and is difficult to cure completely. The lingering template can be added to any disease. The disease retains its base statistics except as noted below.
    Save The disease’s saving throw DC increases by 2.
    Effect Any ability score damage or drain dealt by the disease is reduced by 1 (to a minimum of 1).
    Cure The number of consecutive successful saving throws required for the victim to be cured of the disease increases to double the normal amount.
    Special Any effect that would cause a creature suffering from the disease to be cured of it (including remove disease) instead counts as a single successful save for the purposes of curing the disease through consecutive saving throws. No more than 1 successful save can be accrued in this way within a single period of the disease’s frequency (1 day, for most diseases), even if multiple effects would cure the creature of its disease. Finally, even if a creature is completely cured of the disease, small amounts of it remain within its system, and there is a 30% chance per day that the creature becomes reinfected, and must succeed at a new saving throw or contract the disease again. This chance decreases by 5% per day, until it reaches 0%.


    A magic-resistant disease is protected against magical treatment. Sometimes this is because the disease has a magical origin or has been infused with magic, and sometimes it’s because the organisms that cause the disease simply react differently to magic than most infectious organisms do. The magic-resistant template can be added to any disease. The disease retains its base statistics except as noted below.
    Save The disease can affect creatures that have Constitution scores and are normally immune to disease, whether that immunity comes from a racial trait, class feature, spell, magic item, or other source. However, such creatures receive a +4 bonus on saving throws when attempting to resist the disease’s effects.
    Cure The disease is particularly difficult to remove using magic. Remove disease can’t cure the disease, and even more powerful spells such as heal require a successful caster level check with a – 10 penalty (DC = the disease’s save DC) to remove the disease.
    Special The disease responds violently to any attempts to heal it using magic. Whenever the diseased creature is subject to a spell or ability that cures diseases, it must succeed at a Fortitude save or suffer the disease’s effect. This does not reset the disease’s frequency, and succeeding at this check does not count toward the number of consecutive saves required to be cured of the disease.


    A plague is a disease that spreads very effectively, and can easily pass through an entire community in a short period of time. If left unchecked, plagues can ravage entire cities or regions, and in the case of particularly deadly or virulent plagues, can potentially even bring an end to mighty civilizations. The plague template can be added to any disease. The disease retains its base statistics except as noted below.
    Type If the disease’s type is ingested, it instead changes to inhaled. If its type is injury, it instead changes to contact. If its type is contact or inhaled, it remains the same.
    Save The initial saving throw DC to resist the disease increases by 5. The saving throw remains the same for all subsequent saving throws to resist the disease’s effects.
    Special Simple contact with or, in the case of inhaled diseases, spending time near a creature infected with a plague can expose others to the disease. If the plague is an inhaled disease, then a creature afflicted with the disease creates an aura of disease around it. Any coughing, sneezing, and in some cases, even breathing releases clouds of disease-causing organisms into the air. Any creature that comes within 30 feet of the diseased creature is exposed to the plague, and must succeed at a Fortitude save or begin suffering its effects. A potential victim must attempt a new save each time it moves within 30 feet of a diseased creature, to a maximum of one saving throw every 10 minutes. Any creatures that remains within 30 feet of the diseased creature must attempt a new saving throw every 10 minutes. If the plague is a contact disease, each time a creature touches the diseased creature, or touches an object that was touched by the diseased creature in the last 24 hours, the potential victim is exposed to the plague, and must succeed at a Fortitude save or begin suffering its effects.


    A ravaging disease is one whose effects are particularly difficult to heal, and that can permanently scar creatures affected by it. The ravaging template can be added to any disease. The disease retains its base statistics except as noted below.
    Effect If the disease deals ability damage, each time the affected creature fails a saving throw to resist the disease’s effects by 5 or more, 1 point of that ability score damage becomes permanent ability score drain instead. If the affected creature rolls a natural 1 on a saving throw to resist the disease’s effects, all of the ability score damage becomes permanent ability score drain.
    Cure The number of consecutive successful saves required to be cured of the disease increases by 1.
    Special Ability score damage and drain dealt by the disease cannot be healed as long as the affected creature is still infected by the disease. This applies both to natural healing and magical healing (such as lesser restoration).


    A virulent disease is particularly fast-acting, and runs its course in hours, rather than days. While this could mean the disease runs its course more quickly, leaving the victim disease-free, virulent diseases are particularly taxing on their victims and often end in death. The virulent template can be added to any disease. The disease retains its base statistics except as noted below.
    Onset If the disease’s onset is normally measured in weeks, it is instead measured in days. If it is normally measured in days, it is measured in hours. If it is normally measured in hours, it is measured in minutes.
    Frequency If the disease’s frequency is normally measured in weeks, it is instead measured in days. If it is normally measured in days, it is instead measured in hours. If it is normally measured in hours, it is instead measured in minutes.
    Effect If the disease doesn’t already deal Constitution damage on a failed save, it deals 1 point of Constitution damage in addition to its normal effect on each failed save. If it normally deals Constitution damage, increase the Constitution damage by 1.
    Special If the diseased creature fails two consecutive saving throws, it is sickened until the next time it succeeds at a saving throw to resist the disease’s effects. If the diseased creature fails four consecutive saving throws, it is nauseated until the next time it succeeds at a saving throw to resist the disease’s effects. These penalties are in addition to any other effects of the disease, and cannot be removed as long as the creature remains diseased. Even if the creature is normally immune to the sickened or nauseated condition, that condition still applies; only immunity to diseases protects against gaining the condition from a virulent disease.

    New Diseases

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 148
    The following diseases blend the traditional style of diseases found in the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook with the disease progressions found in Pathfinder Unchained. Each of these diseases progresses through a series of stages, from carrier to terminal, and each stage comes with its own horrifying symptoms. The DC listed for each disease is a baseline for the most common form of the disease, but higher-DC strains of these diseases exist, especially in the vicinity of disease-bearing monsters and plague-worshiping cultists.

    These diseases do not have onset periods. When the affected creature fails its initial save and becomes infected with the disease, it immediately moves into the first stage of the disease, which is carrier, though it doesn’t suffer the disease’s effect. After this, the affected creature attempts subsequent saving throws at regular intervals, defined by the disease’s frequency, just like any other disease. Whenever the affected creature fails a subsequent saving throw against the disease, it suffers the disease’s listed effect and also moves to the next stage of the disease (progressing from carrier to early, early to moderate, and so on). As long as the affected creature remains diseased, it suffers all of the effects listed for its current stage, as well as the effects of any previous stages. When the affected creature reaches the terminal stage, it can no longer fulfill the cure condition without magic; most creatures don’t survive long at this stage. Whenever the affected creature fulfills the cure condition listed for the disease, it moves to the previous stage of the disease. If this would cause it to move to a stage prior to carrier, it is completely cured of the disease. Any effect that would normally completely cure the affected creature of a disease (such as a remove disease spell) similarly moves the affected creature to the previous stage of the disease instead.

    Several of these diseases impose certain conditions at various stages. These conditions can’t be cured as long as the affected creature remains at that stage or a worse stage, even by effects that would normally be able to do so. These effects typically end automatically once the creature is cured of the disease or moves to a less severe stage. Only immunity to disease can prevent these conditions; no other immunities apply against these conditions. Occasionally, a disease might even have an effect that is permanent, and persists once the disease is cured. In these cases, the effect’s description states what measures (if any) can undo the effect, but these measures are generally effective only once the disease has been cured.

    Bloody End

    This disease causes the body to produce blood filled with sanguine humours and adrenaline, making the victim incredibly violent and savage. It is spread by contact with the tainted blood—so while it is safe to touch creatures in the early stages of the disease, coming into contact with even the smallest amount of a diseased creature’s blood allows the disease to spread.
    Type disease, contact; Save Fortitude DC 20, see text
    Frequency 1/hour
    Effect –2 penalty to AC and on Reflex saves and Will saves for 1 hour; Cure 2 consecutive saves


    Carrier The affected creature becomes more irritable and aggressive than normal, but otherwise there are no symptoms of the disease at this stage.

    Early The affected creature’s skin darkens, and the creature’s attitude worsens, making it prone to violent outbursts. The affected creature gains a +1 alchemical bonus on attack rolls and damage rolls, and takes a –2 penalty to its Armor Class. Its tainted blood is unable to clot, and rushes out of even minor wounds. Whenever the affected creature takes at least 5 points of piercing or slashing damage, it also takes 2 points of bleed damage. This bleed damage stacks with other bleed damage, including itself. Whenever the affected creature takes bleed damage in this way, a thin but far-reaching spray of blood erupts from the wound, exposing all creatures in a 15-foot cone (pointing toward the source of the attack) to the disease unless they succeed at Reflex saving throws at the disease’s DC.

    Moderate Blood begins to ooze through the affected creature’s pores, coating its skin in a thin, red sheen. The alchemical bonus on attack rolls and damage rolls increases to +2, and the penalty to the creature’s Armor Class becomes –4. Whenever the affected creature takes damage, it must succeed at a Will save at the disease’s DC or fly into a berserk rage, in which it is compelled to attack the nearest creature each round for 1 minute, regardless of whether it’s a friend or foe. The amount of bleed damage the affected creature takes after being dealt 5 or more points of piercing or slashing damage increases to 5.

    Severe The affected creature is constantly staggered. Additionally, the berserker rage caused by the disease clouds the mind of the affected creature, which is constantly compelled to attack the nearest creature. The affected creature can attempt a Will save at the disease’s DC as a free action to suppress this effect for 1 minute, but if it fails this save, it can’t try again for 1 hour; even if it succeeds, it must continue to attempt a save whenever it takes damage to avoid flying back into a berserk state.

    Terminal The affected creature can no longer attempt a saving throw to suppress its rage. If it fails a saving throw against the disease’s progress at this stage, it dies. Even on a successful saving throw, the affected creature takes 10d10 points of damage and 2 points of Constitution drain. If the affected creature dies at this stage, its body explodes in a shower of gore, exposing all creatures within 20 feet to the disease unless they succeed at Reflex saves at the disease’s DC.

    Brain Moss

    This bright blue fungus grows inside the brain tissue of a living creature, altering the brain’s chemistry to make the host docile, and eventually consuming the host’s brain while it is still alive. In severe cases of the disease, telltale blue fuzz can often be found growing out of the victim’s ears and nostrils.
    Type disease, inhaled; Save Fortitude DC 16, see text
    Frequency 1/day
    Effect –2 penalty on Will saves and Wisdom-based skill checks and ability checks for 1 day; Cure 2 consecutive saves


    Carrier At this stage, the affected creature experiences colors and sounds with more intensity than it normally would, but there are otherwise no effects.

    Early The affected creature’s mind is flooded with calming chemicals, which put the creature in a tranquil, calm state. The affected creature cannot gain any morale bonuses or penalties, and it takes a –2 penalty on attack and damage rolls. Additionally, the creature takes a –4 penalty on Sense Motive checks, as the brain moss interferes with critical thinking.

    Moderate The affected creature becomes placid and incredibly impressionable. It cannot take hostile actions, although whenever another creature takes a hostile action against the affected creature, it can attempt a Will save at the disease’s DC to suppress this effect for 1 minute. Additionally, whenever anyone makes a request of the affected creature, it must succeed at a Will save at the disease’s DC or be compelled to perform the request, similar to a creature that failed a saving throw against the suggestion spell, except this suggestibility is a nonmagical disease effect (not a spell, spell-like ability, enchantment, or compulsion).

    Severe The fungus begins to cause intense hallucinations in the affected creature, making it constantly confused. Additionally, once every 1d4 hours, it has a hallucination that causes it to be dazed for 1 minute, after which time it must succeed at a Will save at the disease’s DC or be compelled to perform an act chosen by the GM or determined at random, as a result of the delusions (similar to the effect at the moderate stage).

    Terminal The fungus begins to consume the brain tissue of the affected creature, whose brain can no longer control its body. The affected creature falls unconscious and remains unconscious for as long as it remains at this stage of the disease. If it fails a saving throw against the disease’s progress at this stage, it dies. Even if it succeeds at a saving throw at this stage, it takes 4 points of Constitution and Intelligence damage.

    Ghoul Distemper

    This rare, tropical disease causes living creatures to turn into feral, ghoul-like entities, and when fatal, often causes the affected creature to rise as a ghoul. The creature’s metabolism rises at an incredible rate, forcing it to devour untenable amounts of food. Eating only further fuels the disease, and all victims of this affliction quickly develop an emaciated, corpselike appearance.
    Type disease, ingested, inhaled, or injury; Save Fortitude DC 18, see text
    Frequency 1/day
    Effect –2 penalty on Fortitude and Will saves for 1 day; Cure 2 consecutive saves


    Carrier The affected creature becomes voraciously hungry, and must consume double the normal amount of food each day it remains at this stage or risk starvation.

    Early The affected creature’s skin turns a deep shade of yellow, while the creature’s temperature begins to rise. Additionally, the affected creature’s ravenous appetite worsens. As long as it remains at this stage of the disease or worse, it treats each hour as though it were a full day for the purposes of the frequency and amount of food it must eat in order to avoid starvation (including time spent sleeping). Finally, it develops a strong craving for raw meat, and must consume at least 4 ounces of uncooked meat per hour or become sickened until it does so.

    Moderate The affected creature’s body begins to quickly waste away, as muscle and fat are consumed to feed its growing hunger. Further, its body begins to constantly exude a stench of rotting meat, which cannot be removed with any amount of bathing. The affected creature is constantly sickened. Additionally, whenever the creature takes nonlethal damage from starvation, it takes 3d6 points of damage, rather than 1d6. Finally, whenever it comes within 10 feet of any amount of meat, including the bodies of slain creatures, it must succeed at a Will save against the disease’s DC or be compelled to spend 1 minute gorging itself on the meat.

    Severe The affected creature’s teeth begin to grow and twist painfully, fusing together to form four massive fangs. The creature gains a primary bite natural attack that deals 1d6 points of damage (1d4 if Small). Further, its hunger-addled mind drives it to favor this attack over all others. It can no longer cast spells or use other activated special abilities, nor can it use manufactured weapons; it is able to make only full attacks with its bite and other natural attacks. Finally, whenever the affected creature takes nonlethal damage from starvation, it takes 6d6 points of damage, rather than 1d6.

    Terminal The affected creature completely loses control. It is compelled to attack any living creature it encounters in an attempt to devour its victim’s flesh, preferably while still alive. Player characters who reach this stage are under the GM’s control until they are cured. Additionally, whenever the affected creature takes nonlethal damage from starvation, it also takes 2 points of Constitution damage. If it fails a saving throw against the disease’s progress at this stage, it dies. A creature that dies while at this stage of the disease rises as a ghoul (or ghast, if it had 5 or more Hit Dice) after 24 hours.

    Gore Worms

    These parasites derive their name from their habit of devouring their hosts from the inside, leaving them as putrid sacs of blood and worms. Gore worms release their microscopic eggs in sporelike clouds that make their way into the bloodstream when inhaled. Eventually, the eggs anchor themselves within a host’s body and grow until they reach nearly 2 inches in length. Adults burrow out through the host’s skin and release their eggs into the air. The worms cannot survive outside of a host for more than a few hours, though they can inhabit corpses as easily as living creatures.
    Type disease, inhaled; Save Fortitude DC 20
    Frequency 1/day
    Effect –2 penalty on attack rolls, damage rolls, and Fortitude saves for 1 day; Cure magic only


    Carrier The gore worm eggs travel throughout the creature’s body via its circulatory system. The affected creature doesn’t suffer any particular symptoms at this stage.

    Early The affected creature develops swelling, blisterlike growths that ooze blood and are incredibly painful when touched. Whenever the creature takes bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage, it takes 1d6 additional points of nonlethal damage. Additionally, if the creature is wearing armor, then whenever it takes a standard action, it takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage, or 2d6 points if wearing heavy armor.

    Moderate The gore worms hatch. The affected creature can feel them writhing and moving beneath its skin, and others can even see the worms moving occasionally. The affected creature is constantly sickened. Furthermore, whenever it takes more than a single standard or move action in a round, the worms roil angrily, causing the host to become nauseated for 1d4 rounds afterward. Finally, magical healing greatly agitates the worms, and whenever the affected creature is the target of a spell with the healing subschool, the worms whip into a frenzy, dealing 2 points of Constitution damage.

    Severe The gore worms burrow holes through the affected creature’s skin and extend portions of their bodies out into the air, giving the appearance that the affected creature’s body has been covered in dozens of tiny gaping mouths with serpentine tongues. The affected creature is constantly staggered and exhausted.

    Terminal The gore worms begin devouring the affected creature’s internal organs. The affected creature is constantly nauseated. If it fails a saving throw against the disease’s progress at this stage, it dies. Even if it succeeds, it takes 10d10 points of damage and 2 points of Constitution drain, in addition to the disease’s normal effects.

    Skin Wastes

    This disease brings intense itching, then hardening and cracking of the skin, and eventually the transformation of all soft tissue to bone.
    Type disease, contact; Save Fortitude DC 20, see text
    Frequency 1/hour
    Effect –2 penalty to AC and on Fortitude and Reflex saves for 1 hour; Cure 2 consecutive saves


    Carrier The affected creature suffers from itchy, irritating skin, and localized, splotchy rashes. At this stage, the disease has no mechanical effect.

    Early The affected creature’s skin becomes gray and flaky. The itchiness caused by the disease worsens, and the creature must succeed at a Will save at the disease’s DC each waking hour or frantically spend much of that hour scratching away at its skin. For each failed Will save after the first in the same day, the creature takes 1d6 points of damage, as its scratching begins to break the skin and leave bloody gouges.

    Moderate The itching intensifies, and the amount of damage dealt by scratching increases to 1d8. Additionally, during combat and other stressful situations, the affected creature must scratch its skin each round as a move action that provokes attacks of opportunity. Each round, the affected creature can suppress the need to scratch that round with a successful Will save at the disease’s DC, but if it attempts the saving throw and fails, it spends the entire round scratching.

    Severe The affected creature’s skin becomes cracked and broken, and even moving is incredibly painful. As long as the creature remains at this stage, the affected creature is sickened and staggered. Additionally, whenever the affected creature takes damage, it takes double the amount of damage it normally would.

    Terminal The affected creature’s skin and organs slowly transform into solid bone, until eventually the creature is effectively petrified. The creature is constantly nauseated. For the first 24 hours at this stage, its Dexterity score is reduced by 1 each hour. During this time, its skin and organs transform into a single, solid mass of bone. Once its Dexterity score reaches 0 or after 24 hours have passed, it is petrified. A stone to flesh spell can undo the petrification, but the creature must immediately succeed at a Fortitude save against the disease’s DC to survive the change. Even if it does, its Dexterity is again reduced by 1 each hour, and it eventually becomes petrified once more unless cured of the disease.

    Horror Environments

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 152
    While many Pathfinder campaigns tend to fixate on the monsters and NPCs that directly oppose the PCs, in a horror game, it’s important to give the environment, atmosphere, and ambience equal billing. An appropriate environment can lead to a much deeper sense of horror and a more memorable session, since creatures are something the PCs usually fight and defeat directly, while the environment is pervasive and unstoppable. Use the following horrific locations, hazards, domains, and nightmare dreamscapes to build the tension and increase the growing dread the players feel.


    Source Horror Adventures pg. 152
    The following locations have particular features that fit well in the context of a horror game, such as minor unusual magic or creepy special effects. Though they might not be directly threatening like the hazards in the next section (and thus don’t possess their own CR), they nonetheless add an ambience of horror and a sense of unease to the game, and sometimes make the journey through the surrounding area much less pleasant.

    Divining Water: Certain special bodies of water grant insight into the spirits of those reflected in them. The reflections of creatures that appear in divining water show each creature as though it were viewed with true seeing, bypassing any illusions or polymorph effects and revealing the creature’s true form. However, either right away or after establishing their divinatory properties, the reflections sometimes shift to show images of horrific creatures (generally undead and evil outsiders) instead of creatures’ true forms, especially when the viewer is in a state of fear or mental turmoil.

    Faceless Statue: These specially created stone statues are humanoid in appearance and elegantly carved, but they stand out because of their completely blank visages, which appear as though the sculptor simply forgot to give them faces. Whenever a character casts project image within range of such a statue, she can project her image onto the statue, instead of creating the spell’s normal effect. This causes the statue’s blank face to transform into that of the caster, and the statue mimics the caster’s actions, rather than a projected image doing so. The statue has a movement speed of 0 feet, but a caster projecting her image through the statue can direct it to make up to two slam attacks per round as a full-round action, using the caster’s base attack bonus. The slam attacks each deal 1d8 points of bludgeoning damage. A project image spell cast in this way has a duration measured in minutes, rather than rounds, and the caster isn’t required to maintain line of effect to the projected image at all times. A faceless statue can also be affected by enter image, causing the faceless surface to transform into an image of the caster’s face for the duration of the spell, instead of producing the spell’s normal effects. The statue’s hardness is based on the type of material from which it is made. Dealing an amount of damage to the statue equal to double the caster’s caster level ends either of the special spell effects channeled through the faceless statue.

    Godless Void: Godless voids are pockets of altered reality that typically infest ruined temples, forsaken battlefields, and churches that fell from grace through the blasphemous deeds of corrupted worshipers. Even the divine might of deities is denied influence within these voids. The radius of a godless void is usually 1d6 × 100 feet. Within lesser godless voids, divine spells become more difficult to cast, and a divine caster must succeed at a concentration check (DC = 20 + the level of the spell) for a spell to function normally. If the caster fails, the spell doesn’t function, but the prepared spell or spell slot is still lost. In addition, the DC to resist channeled energy of all sorts is reduced by 4. Greater godless voids are more troublesome, as all divine magic melts away within them, so divine casters must operate totally cut off from their god, as if within an antimagic field.

    Selective godless voids exist, though they are rarer still than their normal counterparts. Such blasphemous sites affect divine casters of alignments opposed to the void’s influence or who worship a deity or belong to a religion opposed to the void’s influence. For instance, evil lesser godless voids impede good-aligned casters’ access to spells and weaken their ability to channel positive energy as described above, while evil greater voids totally cut off spells and class abilities from good-aligned divine casters or casters who gain their powers from good-aligned deities. Good-aligned godless voids, or those aligned to law or chaos, are less common. Godless voids created by a great blasphemy against a particular deity might affect only that particular deity’s power.

    Grave: Macabre reminders of mortality, a grave could be found among many more within a necropolis or alone on a windswept hill. Digging a grave (4-1/2 to 6-1/2 feet deep) in typical soil takes 1d4 hours, while digging a grave in frozen or otherwise harder-than-average soil takes 2d6 hours. Without standard digging equipment, these times are doubled. Climbing out of an open grave usually takes a move action and a successful DC 5 Climb check (plus another move action to stand if the creature started out lying down).

    Careful examination of the surrounding area can reveal the presence of an unmarked grave or provide insight into how long ago a grave was dug. A successful DC 15 Perception check allows a character to notice an area of recently disturbed earth. For every week since the soil was disturbed, and for every day of rain since the soil was disturbed, the DC increases by 1. A successful DC 20 Profession (gardener, gravedigger, or other similar profession) or Survival check allows a character examining a patch of recently disturbed earth to determine roughly how long ago it was disturbed, as long as it was disturbed no more than 1 year ago.

    If a character is buried alive, perhaps by the buried alive haunt, the rules suggestions give an idea of what that character needs to do claw her way out of an early grave.

    Holy Ground: When first constructed, most goodaligned churches, temples, and holy sites are consecrated by the religion’s clergy in elaborate and expensive blessing ceremonies, culminating in the casting of a hallow spell. This effect permanently wards the site with a magic circle against evil effect, bolsters channeled positive energy while reducing the effects of channeled negative energy, and protects interred bodies from turning into undead abominations. The magic circle prevents intrusion by evil summoned creatures, and GMs may rule that other evil creatures refuse to trespass on holy ground. This hallow spell also carries the protection of an additional spell for the first year—most often aid, bless, death ward, dimensional anchor, or zone of truth. The temple’s attendants usually renew this spell in a special ceremony each year on the anniversary of the blessing ceremony, but the effect isn’t in place for churches that have fallen into disrepair or been abandoned by their faiths. However, the remaining lingering hallow effect in a ruined holy site might still provide sanctuary for those seeking respite from dark forces.

    The lingering presence of evil in or near a holy site can slowly undermine and eventually dispel the hallow effect. This usually takes years or decades, and even a small amount of resistance by pure-hearted attendants can protect the site.

    Evil denominations also perform rituals to increase the power of their unholy sites, but with the exact opposite effects, replacing hallow with unhallow, and providing similar protections against good creatures. Evil clergy are more likely to utilize detrimental additional effects like bane or cause fear to discourage trespassers on their unholy ground or even more powerful spells like dimensional anchor to ensure the trespassers will never leave.

    Lost Halls: The corridors of some decrepit mansions can mislead those who seek to discover their hidden secrets. Within these lost halls, doors vanish, corridors impossibly twist and turn, staircases climb endlessly, and passages appear and disappear to confuse explorers. Creatures caught in lost halls find themselves temporarily trapped in an extradimensional labyrinth. For each round spent exploring the twisting turns, an affected creature can attempt a DC 20 Intelligence check as a full-round action to find its way back to the point where it originally became lost. During this time, others might hear it calling out, but can’t see or detect the lost creature. The phenomenon is short-lived, so if the creature finds itself hopelessly lost, 10 minutes later it finds its way back to the point where it first disappeared. This phenomenon can affect multiple creatures at once, in which case they can hear the disturbing echoes of other lost creatures trying to extract themselves from the twisting halls, but they can’t otherwise interact with or assist their allies in any way. Unlike most of the other locations in this section, a lost halls phenomenon is normally harmless, if extremely unsettling, but when populated with creatures that target the separated characters, lost halls can substantially alter the threat of encounters.

    Horror Hazards

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 154
    The following hazards help build an atmosphere of horror and dread when used separately, but can also be combined with creatures to create truly frightening and memorable encounters (for instance, consider a battle with ogres within an animating fog, such that each ogre that dies rises again as a zombie).

    Animating Fog (CR 6): Arising from polluted cemeteries and other recesses of stagnated evil, these areas of heavy, corpse-gray fog reek of rot, and seem to have a strange and malevolent sentience. These fog banks act as normal fog, but usually have a radius of 1d4 × 50 feet and creep along with the wind at a rate of 10 feet per round. When the fog comes into contact with a mostly intact corpse, that corpse is immediately animated as a zombie and attacks nearby living creatures, as if under the effect of animate dead. This animation is temporary, ending 1d4 rounds after the zombie leaves the fog. Corpse fogs can animate up to 30 Hit Dice of corpses in this manner at any one time, and they have no limit on the total number of Hit Dice of zombies they can animate over time.

    Some particularly foul and virulent variations of this fog (CR 7 instead of CR 6) produce plague zombies instead of normal zombies. Creatures slain by the plague zombies’ zombie rot who rise as zombies don’t count against the fog’s limit on the number of Hit Dice it can animate, and they remain zombies after the mist passes. Diseased animating fog also exposes every living creature within the fog bank to zombie rot each round as an inhaled disease (Fortitude DC 15 negates).

    Apocalypse Fog (CR 12): An apocalypse fog is an augmented and highly dangerous form of animating fog often called into being by some foul deity. Its radius is 20 times wider than that of an animating fog and has the same ability to animate the mostly intact corpses within itself, but the apocalypse fog can move 10 feet in a direction of its own malign choice, rather than being subject to the whims of the wind. The dread energies that birth the mists bolster the undead within, granting the zombies the benefit of an aligned desecrate spell: a +2 profane bonus on attack rolls, damage rolls, and saving throws, and +2 hit points per Hit Die. Apocalypse fog can animate up to 100 Hit Dice worth of corpses at any one time.

    Bat Colony (CR 2): Bats often congregate in large colonies in underground areas. Though bats are mostly harmless and bat colonies generally have little interest in adventurers or humans in general, if they are disturbed, they can prove dangerous to inexperienced adventurers. Any Small or larger creature moving within 30 feet of a bat colony must succeed at a DC 15 Stealth check each round or use wild empathy or a similar ability to keep the bats calm, or else there is a 50% chance the bat colony becomes disturbed. Additionally, each round the bat colony is exposed to normal or brighter light conditions or loud sudden noises, there is a 30% chance the bat colony becomes disturbed.

    If the bat colony is disturbed, the bats begin to fly about, shrieking and milling in an oversized swarm. When disturbed, the colony takes up a 20-foot-radius area. A creature that ends its turn in the area takes 1d6 points of damage, and is affected by the distraction and wounding special abilities of a bat swarm. The colony remains disturbed for 1d4+1 rounds (or until the swarm is dispersed by damage), after which the bats either return to their previous position or flee the area, depending on whether they feel a threat is still present.

    Blood Moon (CR 3): Two situations give rise to the infamous occurrences known as blood moons: astronomical alignments that result in a calendar month having a second full moon, and atmospheric phenomena when pollution and toxins hang heavy in the air, distorting the rising moon and giving it a blood-red cast and a seemingly larger size. Both types of occurrences are considered bad omens, and are revered as unholy events by worshipers of deities of filth and decay. While the light of a blood moon shines, the DC to resist negative channeled energy increases by 2, and creatures exposed to its light take a –2 penalty on saving throws against diseases, curses, corruptions, and madnesses. Certain foul occult rituals related to such magic must be performed on blood moons. Blood moons caused by astronomical alignments last as long as the moon is risen, while blood moons that result from atmospheric distortions last 1d4 hours, fading as the moon rises higher in the night sky and casts off its ruddy sheen.

    Bottomless Pit (CR 9): A bottomless pit is a yawning chasm that appears to be a perfectly natural fissure in the earth, other than the fact that it appears too deep to see the bottom. In actuality, bottomless pits are entrances to extraplanar spaces filled with nothing but endless empty void. A creature that falls into such a pit (whether it is pushed, runs afoul of a trap that conceals the bottomless pit, willingly dives into it, or enters the pit in some other fashion) falls endlessly in inky darkness at a rate of 500 feet per round. Other than its depth, the extraplanar space’s dimensions match those of the pit’s entrance, and the falling creature can attempt to catch itself on the wall, using the Climb skill (DC = 20 + the wall’s Climb DC, as normal for catching yourself when falling), and can attempt to climb out of the pit from there. The wall’s climb DC typically matches the type of terrain the opening was in, so a rocky chasm has a Climb DC of 15, for example. The creature can attempt to catch itself once per round. Because the creature falls endlessly, it can rest and even prepare spells while falling (although it must be careful not to drop any possessions, since it will likely fall at a different speed than the possessions do, causing it to lose them forever). If a campaign uses the sanity system, for each hour a creature falls in the bottomless pit, it must succeed at a DC 20 Will save or take 1d4 points of sanity damage.

    Captivating Reflection (CR 3): Some narcissistic people need little encouragement to stop and admire their visage in the surface of the water, but occasionally this behavior comes from the bizarre supernatural influence of the water itself. A creature that sees its reflection in the surface of this captivating water must succeed at a DC 15 Will saving throw or become fascinated by the reflection for 1 minute, after which it can attempt a new saving throw to end the effect and look away. A creature that fails the second saving throw is fascinated for another minute, kneeling by the surface of the water and staring at its reflection, its nose nearly touching the surface. At the end of this time, the creature can attempt a third saving throw to end the effect. If the creature fails this third and final saving throw, it is compelled to plunge its head under the water, at which point the fascination suddenly ends, but the creature is paralyzed for 1 minute, unable to hold its breath because of paralysis and therefore immediately forced to attempt Constitution checks to avoid drowning.

    The creature’s allies can pull its head from the water, but meet with surprising resistance, and must succeed at a DC 20 Strength check to do so, regardless of the paralyzed creature’s own Strength score. If the creature avoids drowning by the end of the third minute, it can thereafter act normally, and is immune to the effects of this particular captivating reflection hazard for 24 hours.

    Corpsefruit Tree (CR 5): This gnarled, twisted tree grows only from ground containing the corpse of an intelligent creature (a creature with an Intelligence score of 3 or higher), providing an insidious tether that binds that creature’s spirit to the world of the living and twists it toward malevolent spite. The tree is shrouded by a veil of illusion, which causes intelligent creatures that see the tree to believe it bears a heavy bounty of ripe, succulent fruits, and such creatures are compelled to eat the tree’s fruit unless they succeed at a DC 15 Will save. In fact, the tree’s fruits are brown, shriveled, and rotten, and any creature that succeeds at the Will save can plainly see this.

    Creatures that consume the fruit also consume a tiny portion of the spirit of the creature whose corpse nourished the tree, forging a spiritual connection between the deceased and the unfortunate victim. The next time the creature rests, it is affected as though by the nightmare spell (DC 17). The tree is treated as having a body part of the creature’s, and the tree uses the appropriate modifier based on the knowledge the spirit that nourished the tree has of the creature—typically none. The victim continues to be affected by nightmare for 3 days, or until it succeeds at a saving throw to resist the spell. Further, if the spirit of the creature whose corpse nourished the tree has become an incorporeal undead of any kind, the creature that consumed the fruit takes a –2 penalty on saving throws to resist the spells and spell-like abilities of that undead creature.

    Exploding Window (CR 1): Whether from supernatural influence or simply from more mundane physical forces, windows can sometimes explode in a rain of glass shards. When this occurs, for each 5-foot square containing an exploding window, the shattered glass blasts out in a 15- foot cone that deals 1d6 points of slashing damage to each creature in the area (Reflex DC 12 negates). A creature caught in more than one of these cones (either from multiple simultaneous exploding windows or one large exploding window) takes a cumulative –1 penalty on its saving throw for each cone beyond the first, but attempts only a single saving throw and takes only 1d6 points of damage if it fails, regardless of the number of cones whose areas overlap on the creature’s space. Additionally, the glass shards remain on the ground, functioning as caltrops until they are cleared away.

    Field of Bone (CR 6): This supernatural hazard usually plagues those who trespass on old battlefields still littered with the bones of soldiers who have never been laid to proper rest. These 30-foot-radius patches of strewn bones are considered difficult terrain, and they spring to a foul mockery of life 1 round after a living creature enters the area, causing 1d6 skeletons to animate and attack, as if subject to an animate dead spell. A field of bone can animate up to 24 skeletons in this manner from any single instance of trespassing (regardless of how many living creatures trespass into the area at once), at a rate of 1d6 skeletons per round. The skeletons continue to animate until all are destroyed, all living creatures leave the area, or the field of bone reaches its animation limit, whichever of these conditions comes first.

    Gnarled Tree (CR 5): Some trees become poisoned and malignant, tainted by the corrupt land around them, and spring to a macabre semblance of animation to attack those who trespass on their dark realms. Gnarled trees animate in the presence of living creatures, and attack indiscriminately for as long as creatures are within range. The victims’ spilled blood seeping into the ground further feeds the trees’ corruption. Gnarled trees appear as twisted, or even dead, trees of great age and a variety of species, and they blend in with the surrounding forests. Spotting one as an anomalous growth requires a successful DC 17 Perception check (the DC may be higher, depending on the prevalence and condition of local trees). Though a gnarled tree is stationary and can’t move from its rooted spot, it attacks as if it were a treant. The gnarled tree doesn’t gain the treant’s animation and rock-throwing abilities, but does have the treant’s vulnerability to fire. When all living creatures move more than 30 feet away from the gnarled tree, it immediately returns to its normal, nonanimated state, until a potential target appears within range once more and provokes the corrupted tree’s ire again.

    Grasping Graves (CR 4): Treading on the burial sites of the unquiet dead can be treacherous, as the buried dead seek to drag the living down into their restless graves. These patches of shallow graves are often found near sites of mass burials, such as those that follow plagues or famines, and are typically 60 feet across. Once a creature enters the area, rotting, grasping hands rip from the earth, turning the entire patch into difficult terrain and targeting each creature inside with a grapple combat maneuver check each round at the end of that creature’s turn. The hands don’t provoke attacks of opportunity, and have a CMB of +12 (with a base attack bonus of +8 and a +4 bonus due to their Strength). This check is attempted each round for every creature in the hazardous area.

    If the hands successfully grapple a creature, that creature takes 1d6+4 points of bludgeoning damage, gains the grappled condition, and is unable to move without breaking the grapple first. The grasping claws receive a +5 bonus on grapple checks against creatures they are already grappling, but can’t move or pin foes. Each round the grasping claws succeed at a grapple check, they deal 1d6+4 additional points of damage. The skeletal hands have a CMD of 22, hardness 5, and 5 hit points each. The hands take full damage from channeled positive energy (no save). However, destroying a particular set of hands doesn’t harm the overall hazard, which generates new skeletal hands to grasp all creatures freed in this way on the following round. The only way to evade the hazard is to move out of the affected area, after which the unquiet spirits that animate the grasping graves become dormant once again.

    Grasping Undergrowth (CR 2): In many forests, undergrowth is thick and tangled enough that it seems to be attempting to hinder travelers, but in some places, whether due to a malevolent spirit or the ire of nature itself, it actually is. Whenever a creature moves through an area of grasping undergrowth, the grasping undergrowth attempts a trip combat maneuver check (with a CMB of +5) against that creature. Tripped creatures fall prone in the first square of grasping undergrowth that they entered that round, and lose the rest of their movement. Creatures that move through the grasping undergrowth at half their speed (after factoring in any reduced movement speed for being in a forest) gain a +4 bonus to their CMD against trip combat maneuver checks from the grasping undergrowth, and creatures that move through the grasping undergrowth at a quarter of their speed gain a +8 bonus.

    If a creature begins its turn prone in a square of grasping undergrowth, the grasping undergrowth attempts a grapple combat maneuver check against it, dealing 1d6 points of damage on a successful check and preventing the creature from moving from the spot until it breaks free of the grapple. The undergrowth can’t move or pin the grappled creature on subsequent rounds, and has a CMD of 17. For their own cryptic reasons, some patches of grasping undergrowth grant safe passage to characters of certain alignments or races.

    Insidious Domicile (CR 4): The dwellings of some powerful evil creatures impose pervasive effects on those who disturb the restless hate that dwells within. These areas are typically single structures—a castle, a tower, or a home—infested with spite and malice. Creatures that enter the structure must succeed at a DC 16 Will save or be infected with overwhelming hate toward another creature, as if under the effects of malicious spite. For each day spent within the domicile, the target takes 2 points of Wisdom damage if it doesn’t act to subtly and indirectly slander, abuse, blame, extort, or cause mortal violence against the target of its spite. The malicious spite effect ends if the creature leaves the location, but resumes if the creature returns. Affected creatures get a saving throw every 24 hours to negate the effect. If the effect ends, the target remembers the spiteful behavior, but not the motivation for it.

    If a campaign uses the sanity system, the target takes 1d6 points of sanity damage instead of taking Wisdom damage.

    Misleading Echoes (CR 2): Some places create supernatural echoes that seem to come from random directions, or even all directions at once. An area suffused with misleading echoes imposes a –4 penalty on hearingbased Perception checks, and a listener must succeed at a DC 15 Wisdom check whenever she detects a noise, or else she believes the noise came from a random direction instead of its actual direction. Further, the misleading echoes can replicate the effects of ghost sound (DC 11) once per minute. Any creature that fails a Wisdom check or Will save to resist the effects of the misleading echoes takes a –2 penalty on saving throws to resist fear effects for as long as it remains in the area of the misleading echoes, and for 1 minute thereafter.

    Misleading Path (CR 3): When the surrounding trees begin to move and change the paths when creatures aren’t looking, and the towering branches above even block out the sun, it can be difficult indeed to stay on track. In other environments, shifting dunes or underground tunnels can have the same effect. The DC for Survival checks to avoid becoming lost within an area of misleading paths increases by 2d6. Characters that become lost either travel in random directions, as normal, or are led by a strange intelligence toward a specific location, at the GM’s discretion. Because travelers appear to be on a path as they travel, the DC of the Survival check to identify that they are lost increases to 25.

    Pervasive Gloom (CR 4): Some locations ooze dread and foreboding, whether from old evils left to stagnate or the presence of some lingering psychic residue from years of torture or oppression. The locations can be single rooms, entire structures, old cemeteries, or even decaying forest groves. Trespassing creatures find the gloom nibbles away at their mental defenses, and take a –2 penalty on saves against fear effects, effects with the emotion descriptor, the effects of haunts, the progression of corruptions, madnesses, and sanity damage.

    Plague of Flies (CR 2): Often harbingers of famine and decay, these swarms of flies spread disease and pestilence wherever their buzzing wings carry them. These insects typically form a cloud 20 feet across, made of tens of thousands of flies. This cloud moves at up to 10 feet per round, and obscures all sight (including darkvision) beyond 5 feet. Creatures 5 feet away have concealment (20% miss chance), and creatures farther away have total concealment (50% miss chance, and the attacker can’t use sight to locate the target). Moderate or stronger winds can temporarily disperse the cloud, as per obscuring mist, but the flies reform 1d4+1 rounds later to continue their pursuit of carrion. Spells such as fireball, flame strike, and wall of fire, as well as similar area spells, destroy the cloud of flies if they deal at least 10 points of damage. Creatures that spend at least 1 round in the cloud must succeed at a DC 13 Fortitude save or contract the shakes. Some plagues of flies carry other virulent diseases instead, which might affect the CR of the hazard if the DC is significantly higher or lower.

    Rain of Gore (CR 3): This unusual and unsettling phenomenon results in the corpses of small animals (ranging from Diminutive to Small) falling from the sky in a localized area. A rain of gore generally covers a 500-foot-radius area, and lasts for 2d4 × 10 minutes. During this time, each round that a character remains in the open, it takes 2d6 points of bludgeoning damage unless it succeeds at a DC 13 Reflex save. In the wake of a rain of gore, scores of animal corpses are left strewn about in the area. Sometimes, a rain of gore will deposit animal corpses that are infected with filth fever or another disease, in which case each time characters take damage from the rain of gore, they risk infection. This version of the hazard has a CR of 4 or higher.

    Sanguinary Cloud (CR 6): Often found floating over campsites of unfortunate travelers drained of all bodily fluids, these blood-red fog banks can be mistaken for colossal vampiric mists. A sanguinary cloud typically settles over a 60-foot-radius area, obscuring all sight beyond 5 feet, including darkvision, granting concealment (20% miss chance) to all creatures 5 feet away or farther. Creatures caught within a bank of this deadly fog must succeed at a DC 18 Fortitude save each round or take 1d3 points of Constitution damage as their bodily fluids are forcibly extracted from their pores and mucous membranes and drawn into the crimson mist. A severe or greater wind disperses a sanguinary cloud, leaving behind a thin sheen of bloody bile.

    Sour Ground (CR varies): These corrupted holy sites usually feature long-toppled standing stones and spiraling rock paths carefully arranged by a forgotten culture to invoke powerful divine magic. On these grounds, divine casters restored life to those who died before their time and buried those whose time indeed was up. However, time, overuse, and trespassers caused the ground’s life-giving properties to sour, corrupting the corpses of those whose loved ones are foolhardy enough to lay them to rest within the necropolis’s boundaries. Any mostly intact corpse of a creature buried within these ancient cemeteries animates 24 hours later as a juju zombie and seeks its revenge on those who condemned its corpse to this vile existence. These terrible creatures still retain a semblance of their former personalities and are often barely distinguishable from the living with the exception of cold flesh, slightly sunken features, distracted behavior, and an increasingly foul smell. They lure in mourning loved ones with comforting embraces before engaging in a murderous rampage, perhaps burying the resulting corpses in the same sour ground to increase their numbers and extract more revenge on the living. The CR and the XP reward of sour ground are based on the number of juju zombies that arise.

    Suicide Copse (CR 4): Certain forests are known for attracting unusual numbers of suicides. The exact cause can vary, and may be the result of mind-altering pollen, strange psychic phenomena, or the work of mournful or malevolent spirits. Whatever the cause, suicide copses don’t so much attract suicidal creatures as inspire suicide in those nearby. Each hour a creature spends within the suicide copse, it must succeed at a DC 16 Will save or be affected by the spell terrible remorse (CL 10). A creature that succeeds at this saving throw three consecutive times is immune to this effect for 24 hours. At the GM’s discretion, some creatures affected by the suicide copse might be compelled to hang themselves, drown themselves, or kill themselves by other means, rather than being affected by terrible remorse, but such compulsions still last only 1 minute. Though called a copse, this effect can potentially cover entire forests spanning hundreds of square miles.

    Watchful Doll (CR 1): These porcelain dolls resemble young children, and stare forward with blank, glassy expressions on their stylized yet eerily lifelike faces. Whenever a creature moves within 30 feet of a watchful doll, the doll’s head rotates to face the creature, and emits a childlike laugh that echoes as if across a great distance, and can be clearly heard up to 60 feet away. Creatures within 30 feet that hear the laughter must succeed at a Will save (DC 13) or be shaken for 1 minute. Creatures with 4 or fewer Hit Dice that fail their saves are instead frightened. Once triggered, the doll doesn’t laugh again for 1 minute, but its head continues to move so its gaze follows the creature that triggered it. The fear from the laughter is a mind-affecting fear effect.

    Well of Evil (CR 5): These places are accursed morasses of depravity, nexuses of lingering hate and festering evil that bode ill for the pure-hearted who trespass upon them. A well of evil is typically a single room, cave, or structure, though it can expand to fill an area with a radius of up to 2d4 × 10 feet. Good-aligned creatures can feel the powerful evil presence tainting a well of evil, and such creatures that approach within 30 feet must succeed at a DC 15 Will save or become sickened and refuse to enter the location for 1 hour. A successful Will save negates these unfortunate effects, but if the creature actually enters the location, it becomes sickened with no save. Within a well of evil, the DC to resist negative channeled energy increases by 2, and good-aligned creatures take a –2 penalty on saving throws against curses, corruptions, madnesses, spells with the evil descriptor, and the effects of haunts. Haunts that lurk within wells of evil also gain a +4 bonus on their Initiative checks and to Perception check DCs to notice them.

    Witch Light (CR 1): Often confused with will-o’- wisps, these shimmering lights also tend to lead unwary passersby to their dooms. Witch lights appear as flickering lights resembling lantern or torch flames, but can be seen only with a successful DC 10 Perception check. A result of 30 or higher on the Perception check allows the viewer to identify the witch light as a mirage. The witch light seems to move with the viewer, retreating if the creature moves toward it and following if it moves away. Some witch lights have a mind of their own, or are controlled by malevolent entities, and lead viewers toward specific places—often pits or other hazards, but sometimes treasures or long-buried secrets. Creatures actively following a witch light take a –4 penalty on Perception checks and a –4 penalty on Reflex saves to resist the effects of traps and hazards.

    Domains of Evil

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 159
    Some powerful creatures are so corrupted that their malignancy creeps into the land around them, establishing dangerous domains of evil over which they rule. And though some vile lords find themselves trapped within these cursed realms, they also become capable of exerting tremendous influence over the atmosphere and composition of their domains, such that their lands grow to reflect their dark moods and deeds. These dark rulers are described in the dread lord template.

    Domains of evil are dark pockets of supernatural activity embedded in a plane (often the Material Plane) like boils on pockmarked flesh. Most domains are hostile and uninviting at best, full of twisted forests, rough and intractable terrain, and putrid rivers that reek of rot and pollution. Wildlife could be similarly tainted, in which case even the occasional hare or ground squirrel is bony, cancerous, and infested with vermin. Packs of mangy coyotes, pustule-plagued wolves, and murders of molting crows might constantly harass travelers, nipping at their heels, ripping the flanks of their mounts, or snatching at the fingers of careless campers.

    Supernatural creatures might also plague the unwary, as moaning zombies wander wind-blown mountain passes and spectral dead seek to drain the life from the living at every turn. Packs of ghouls roam the lowlands, devouring entire villages, and the gnawed skeletons they leave in their wake animate and attack travelers. Everywhere lurks the foreboding presence of some foul master, who has an uncanny knack for knowing the whereabouts of trespassers and is capable of bending the lands to his will to make them most unwelcome.

    Such domains are not always devoid of humanoid populations—they may harbor villages of fearful and superstitious locals that usually serve as chattel and livestock for the domain’s lord. These populations tend to be incredibly insular and suspicious of outsiders and intrusions on their lifestyles, as trespassers into the realm—particularly adventurers—have ways of disrupting the locals’ tentative impasse with their lord.

    Domain Geography

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 160
    When created, a domain of evil warps reality around it into a foul reflection of its master, with a radius of 5 miles for every Hit Die of its new lord (see the dread lord template). This radius usually centers on an ancient ancestral manse or cursed cairn that housed the dread lord’s family or was the scene of a tragedy that led to the domain’s creation. Though domains of evil are still located on their original plane (usually the Material Plane), with all the terrain, weather, flora, fauna, structures, and features normal to the area where they were created, their special natures cause them to have planar traits that alter their physical and magical properties, as well as some features exclusive to them. Domains of evil have the following features, as befits the horrible creatures that preside over these realms.

    Alignment: If its master has 10 Hit Dice or fewer, a domain gains the mildly aligned planar alignment trait reflecting the alignment of its master. Domains with masters with more than 10 Hit Dice instead become strongly aligned.

    Borders: Some domains are formed simply by the foul presence of an evil that has long inhabited the land, whether it’s a nosferatu lord lurking in the shadows or a restless ghost bound to the soil of its unquiet grave. The borders of such a domain are open; creatures can freely enter and leave, and its lord can pass to and from its domain without penalty, though the influence he has over his lands doesn’t extend past the domain’s established borders. Other domains of evil serve as torturous prisons for their cursed lords (see Cursed Domains), who find it impossible to leave the realms to which they are bound, oftentimes hindered by a pervasive bank of dread fog that prevents their egress. These mists resist intrusion into the domain, though the strange whims of dark powers might allow passage through the fog for those who might further trouble or torment the land’s lord.

    Disturbing to Animals: The overwhelming taint of unnatural presences disturbs animals that are not native to a domain of evil. Animals don’t willingly approach the domain’s border unless their masters succeed at DC 25 Handle Animal, Ride, or wild empathy checks, and the masters must continue to attempt checks each hour within the domain to prevent their animals from trying to leave the area. The DCs of all other Handle Animal, Ride, and wild empathy checks to influence nonnative animals increase by 5 while the animals remain within the domain’s border.

    Hazards: The domain morphs into a dark and twisted reflection of its lord, with dangerous landmarks and supernatural hazards (such as the ones on in the Hazards section) mirroring the master’s temperament and personality infesting the landscape. Forests might become darker and more foreboding, full of misleading paths or gnarled oaks that grasp and tear at trespassers. Seemingly sentient fogs drift across the crags and crevices of the land, animating undead in their wakes, while bat colonies infest the domain’s caves and ruins. These hazards can shift and change over time as the land reacts to the moods and whims of the dread lord (a slow process that takes at least 24 hours, during which no hazard functions), but the total CR of all hazards found with a lord’s domain (that is, the CR of a hypothetical encounter with all of the hazards at once) can’t exceed double the dread lord’s Hit Dice, and no individual hazard can have a CR that exceeds the dread lord’s Hit Dice. If the land is the domain of a cursed lord and bordered by dread fog, the fog’s CR value doesn’t count against this limit.

    Magic: The domain can have the enhanced magic, impeded magic, or wild magic planar trait, as befits the personality and temperament of its lord. If the domain has enhanced, impeded, or limited magic, one type of magic per 5 Hit Dice of its lord can be enhanced, impeded, or limited. The categories of magic that are affected are relatively narrow. For example, an entire school of magic would be too broad, but “effects with the healing descriptor or that restore hit points” or “death spells and spells granted by the Death and Repose domains” would be appropriate. A type of spell can’t be both enhanced and impeded by the same domain.

    Time: A domain’s time passes at the normal rate by default. In some cases, the lord’s powerful whims alter the passage of time, whether replicating the slow churning of years felt by a lich’s long existence, or the quickening felt by a blood-sated vampire. This alteration can be temporary or permanent, and the domain can have the erratic time, flowing time (half or double normal time), or timeless trait.

    Cursed Domains

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 161
    Though many dread lords so embrace their inherent evil that they slowly corrupt the lands around them, others perform deeds so horrendous that gods, the universe, fate, or another powerful force curses them to internal imprisonment in a domain. There is no escape for a cursed lord, who is continuously subject to living and spectral reminders of the tragic misdeeds that trapped him (see the cursed lord template). These realms have all the qualities of domains of evil, with the following additional traits.

    Dread Fog: This cloying mist often encapsulates the boundaries of cursed domains, raised by terrible powers to prevent entry into, or escape from, the cursed lands they protect. Like normal fog, these pervasive banks of thick mists obscure all sight, including darkvision, beyond 5 feet, granting concealment to all creatures at least 5 feet away (20% miss chance). Navigation and orientation within the mists is treacherous, and creatures usually find themselves easily separated from their companions unless extraordinary means are taken to prevent separation, which can include shackling or binding adjacent creatures to one another with rope. Those within the fog have little hope of navigating the mists and risk becoming hopelessly lost. A creature must succeed at a DC 20 Intelligence check each hour after entering the mist. Creatures that fail continue to wander in the fog until they succeed. Creatures that succeed exit the fog 1d10 × 100 feet from the location where they first entered the miasma. Spells and abilities that move a creature within a plane, such as teleport and dimension door, don’t help a creature escape this fog, although a plane shift spell allows the creature to exit at the location it originally entered the fog. Penetrating the fog to actually enter or exit the realm it protects is subject to the GM’s discretion. Navigating through might require difficult Knowledge (planes) checks, random happenstance, complicated arcane rituals beseeching favor, or simply the desire of the mysterious entities responsible for the cursed realm’s creation to see the torture of their prisoner ended or increased with the intrusion of the adventurers.

    The fog’s hopelessness is pervasive, and creatures take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage per hour they are within the fog. The wraiths and geists of those who have perished in the mists might also materialize to drain the life from travelers. Those who lose their lives within this miasma are forever lost, incapable of being restored to life by any means short of direct divine intervention. They often turn into incorporeal undead themselves, their souls feeding the strange boundary’s continued existence.

    Haunted Lands: Cursed lords are plagued with the spectres of the acts that led to the creation of the domain, which materialize as haunts. The realm of a brutal dictator might be tormented with the haunts of those he tortured to death, reflecting the various violent means by which they were killed. The domain of a lich cursed for sacrificing her entire family to fuel her transformation into undeath may contain the spirits of those she betrayed, who wander the halls of a ruined manse at the core of the land. The cursed lord has no control over these spectral trespassers, placed to remind him of his former misdeeds. When a cursed realm is created, the domain manifests a number of haunts with a total CR value (that is, the CR of a hypothetical encounter with all of the hazards at once) of up to double the cursed lord’s Hit Dice, with no single haunt having a CR that exceeds the cursed lord’s Hit Dice. These haunts are chained to the cursed lord and can’t be completely destroyed while the cursed lord still exists. Other haunts not chained to the cursed lord might manifest within the domain of evil, but such haunts don’t count against the CR limit.

    Nightmare Dreamscapes

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 162
    The following section provides guidelines for creating nightmare dreamscapes: realms of fear and horror within the Dimension of Dreams. A nightmare typically has a goal, which the dreamer can complete within the nightmare dreamscape to win freedom from it, and features, which represent the ways in which the dreamer’s fears manifest. A nightmare’s goal and features might come entirely from the dreamer’s own mind or be chosen by the creator of a supernatural effect.

    Naturally Occurring Nightmares

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 162
    Most commonly, nightmares come not from an outside source, but solely from the dreamer’s mind. Whenever a creature sleeps, if it experienced any of the following events since the last time it slept, there is a 20% chance it has a naturally occurring nightmare: being reduced to 0 or fewer hit points, being frightened or panicked, being shaken for more than 1 minute, or taking 1 or more points of Wisdom damage or drain. If a campaign uses the sanity rules, taking sanity damage also counts.

    A naturally occurring nightmare takes the form of a frightening dream. As with other dreams, the nightmare dreamscape has the flowing time, highly morphic, and wild magic planar traits. The exact nature of a naturally occurring nightmare dreamscape is created from the dreamer’s unconscious thoughts, and is not under its control. The GM can select the dreamscape’s traits, or determine them randomly using the following tables. It is more difficult for the dreamer to attempt fantastic feats in nightmares, and the DC of Charisma checks to do so increases by 10.

    81-90Objective directional
    91-100Subjective directional

    d%Size and Shape
    31-60Finite shape
    61-100Self-contained shape

    Supernatural Nightmares

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 163
    A supernatural nightmare is similar to a naturally occurring nightmare, but is created deliberately by a malevolent entity. This entity chooses the gravity, size, and shape of the dreamscape, and can also determine the dreamscape’s goal and features; the goal must be reasonably accomplished, subject to the GM’s discretion. Some supernatural nightmares impose penalties if the goal of the nightmare is not completed, with the most dire cases allowing for death in the dreamscape to cause death in the waking world.

    Spells: Certain spells, such as nightmare or night terrors, can cause their targets to experience nightmares. A caster of the nightmare spell can choose to ensnare her target in a nightmare dreamscape instead of allowing her target a Will save to resist the spell. If so, the caster doesn’t have much control over the nightmare dreamscape but can ensure the presence of one nightmare feature per 5 caster levels. The caster doesn’t select which nightmare features the target experiences. If the target fails to accomplish the goal of the nightmare, it suffers the spell’s effects.

    Goal of a Nightmare

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 163
    Each nightmare dreamscape has a particular action that can be completed to allow the dreamer to escape the nightmare. This goal may or may not be immediately obvious. If the dreamer is unable to complete the goal in a reasonable period of time (as determined by the GM), the nightmare is considered to have bested the dreamer. The dreamer suffers no ill effects when defeated by a naturally occurring nightmare; however, there might be penalties if the dreamer fails to achieve a supernatural nightmare’s goal. The GM can choose a goal or determine one randomly using the table below.

    d%Nightmare Goal
    1-35Reach a creature
    36-80Reach a location
    81-100Take a test

    Reach a Creature: The nightmare ends once the dreamer reaches or catches a creature. The creature might actively flee, or could lead the dreamer on a specific path.

    Reach a Location: The nightmare ends once the dreamer reaches a particular place.

    Take a Test: The nightmare ends once the dreamer completes a test. The nature of the test varies: a cleric might have to endure a test of faith, while a fighter might have to perform difficult combat drills. The GM chooses three to five skill checks or ability checks to represent different aspects of the test, of which the character must succeed at a minimum of half, or devises a series of more complicated encounters, if she desires.

    Nightmare Features

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 163
    Each nightmare has one or more nightmare features, which complicate the nightmare in some fashion. For naturally occurring nightmares, roll twice on the table below or simply select which nightmare features to use.

    d%Nightmare Feature
    1-20Being chased
    21-30False awakening
    51-65No gear
    66-80Unable to move
    81-95Unable to speak
    96-100Other disadvantage, or roll again twice

    Being Chased: The dreamer is being stalked or chased by something. The thing should be difficult (or impossible) to defeat in combat, but possible to escape. Either employ the chase rules or adjudicate the stalking creature’s threat in some other way.

    False Awakening: When the nightmare ends, the dreamer believes it is awake, but actually enters another nightmare dreamscape. Roll one nightmare feature fewer when determining the nature of this dreamscape.

    Incompetent: The dreamer is suddenly unable to do something that it is normally good at. It might lose ranks in an important skill, have its base attack bonus reduced by half, or lose a key class feature or ability for the duration of the dream.

    No Gear: The dreamer arrives in the dream naked, without any gear or equipment.

    Unable to Move: The dreamer has difficulty traveling. The dreamer could literally be paralyzed, or it might find that no matter where it goes, it always winds up in the same spot. Either way, the inability to move shouldn’t render the nightmare’s goal impossible.

    Unable to Speak: The dreamer either can’t speak or can’t understand anything said in the dream.


    Source Horror Adventures pg. 164
    While the pain of physical torture and of a ghoul stripping flesh from the bones of its alive-but-paralyzed prey are horrible ends, few fates are as ghastly as the dire transformations made by the fleshwarper. Fleshwarping is the general term for two main magical and alchemical practices: “true fleshwarping” and fleshcrafting. It is also used to describe transformative mutations caused by exposure to polluted alchemy labs, magical radiation, or either cursed or corrupted magic, which are properly known as fleshwarp mutations.

    True fleshwarping is a vile and violent practice, both alchemical and magical, used to transform one creature into an entirely new form. It’s a horrific art practiced by the drow and other depraved societies to create servants or to bind creatures into twisted forms as sadistic punishment. Fleshcrafting uses a similar process to physically modify the subject by mutating or replacing a body part with that of another creature. This gruesome discipline can also be used to create fleshcraft elixirs that grant creatures temporary versions of fleshcraft grafts.

    In addition to the intentional practices of true fleshwarping and fleshcrafting is a transformation called a fleshwarp mutation, which also involves the nightmarish metamorphosis of a creature into a new form. This type of fleshwarping, however, is a phenomenon rather than a willful act, and typically occurs after a creature interacts with a particularly strong magical or alchemical hazard. The more a creature is exposed to that hazard, the greater the effects of the fleshwarp mutation.

    True Fleshwarping

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 164
    Willfully transforming one creature into another through magical and alchemical processes is a terrifying technique performed by the most cruel and vicious of creatures. Power-hungry necromancers, heartless alchemists, demon worshipers, aboleths, and the drow are some of the best-known practitioners of this foul art, using dark knowledge and secret formulas to flay the creature’s flesh and twist them into amalgamated forms.

    Some sages theorize that other amalgamated creatures, such as chimeras, owlbears, and maybe even skum and bulettes, could have also been the result of an archaic form of fleshwarping. Legends involving Lamashtu’s creation of the chimera give a certain amount of credence to this theory, but even it’s true, the secrets to these early fleshwarps are long lost.

    While fleshwarping often yields results useful to those depraved enough to carry it out, the act of creating a fleshwarp is always evil, as it requires unspeakable acts and horrific physiological and psychological torture inflicted upon the subject of the transformation. Unfortunately, this has not stopped the occasional alchemist or arcanist from pursuing fleshwarping for the well-meaning but ultimately deluded purposes of species genesis.

    Worse still, while the rare fleshwarp formula develops a truly unique race, this seems to be the exception rather than the rule. In the majority of cases, the process involves the utter corruption of sentient beings warped into lurching monstrosities that are both intellectually stunted and existentially compromised. As such, most fleshwarp creatures are sterile. The most famous fleshwarp mutation, the drider, is the chief exception to this rule. Still, the process of creating a drider is no blessing, but rather a cruel punishment perpetrated by the depraved dark elves upon their own kind. If possible, the processes drow inflict on other creatures are even crueler. This also points to another rule of fleshwarping: creatures that are inherently evil tend to take forms that are useful and powerful, while good creatures tend to metamorphose into more twisted and helpless forms. Another quirk of true fleshwarping is that targets of mixed race, such has half-elves and half-orcs, usually transform into creatures that more strongly reflect their non-human parentage. Lastly, while dwarves have proven strangely resilient to drow methods of fleshwarping, the methods of other races have successfully warped dwarves into new creatures.

    Fleshwarping Process: The creation of a true fleshwarp is partly magical and partly alchemical. While a team of alchemists, spellcasters, and torturers is often assembled to perform fleshwarping, it must be led by at least one creature that has the Fleshwarper feat and must be performed on a living creature or creatures. Any attempt to fleshwarp a corpse automatically fails.

    Before the process, a fleshwarper usually restrains the subject or subjects. She then must make precise cuts in a subject’s flesh and insert tubes into those incisions. These tubes connect to vats of bubbling alchemical substances, which are pumped into the subject’s body, racking it with agony. These fluids break down the subject’s corporeal form, making it more malleable. Each subject undergoing the fleshwarping process must succeed at a DC 15 Fortitude save or instantly die from this procedure. If the fleshwarper succeeds at a DC 20 Heal check during this process, she grants the subject a +2 bonus on this saving throw.

    Assuming a subject survives the fluid infusion, the fleshwarper then forces a breathing tube down the subject’s throat. Unable to speak, the subject is at best able to make strangled noises as the fleshwarper immerses it into the alchemical concoction that completes its transformation. Once immersed in the alchemical compound, the subject’s body goes through a rapid series of transformations. During this arduous process, attendants must periodically remove necrotic tissue and organs, as well as flesh that has sloughed off the creature’s body.

    The entire fleshwarping process requires 1 day per Hit Die of the final fleshwarped creature. During this time, the fleshwarper must succeed at a Craft (alchemy) check with a DC equal to the creation DC of the fleshwarped creature (typically, 15 + the final fleshwarped creature’s Hit Dice) each day. Creating a fleshwarped creature takes a number of days equal to 1 + the final fleshwarped creature’s CR. The fleshwarper can’t gain the benefit of aid another nor can she take 10 on these checks. Failure indicates each subject undergoing the fleshwarping process takes 1d3 points of Constitution damage, which can’t be healed until the process is complete, and that day’s work doesn’t count toward the creation time. If a fleshwarping subject’s Constitution damage (whether from this failure or the final Constitution damage at the conclusion) ever equals or exceeds its Constitution score, its body collapses into protoplasmic goo. Creatures slain in such a fashion can’t be raised from the dead except by true resurrection or equally powerful magic, and if any of the component creatures breaks down in this way, the final fleshwarp fails.

    During the entire process, the subject is racked with the agony of the change. At the conclusion of the fleshwarping process, the final creation takes 2d6 points of Constitution damage. A successful DC 25 Heal check made by an attending participant can mitigate the suffering a subject undergoes, reducing the Constitution damage to 1d6 points.

    The alchemical components for fleshwarping are expensive, difficult to create, and expended after a single use. The ingredients for fleshwarping vary from one practitioner to the next, but often include corrosive fungi, poison from several breeds of giant insects, assorted pulverized oozes, essences from a chaos beast, protean spittle, and other exotic reagents. These reagents have a combined cost of 10,000 gp per subject to be fleshwarped in addition to other costs associated with specific fleshwarping procedures.

    Fleshwarped Creatures

    Below is a list of creatures commonly created by fleshwarping, the requirements to create them, and the sourcebooks where they are detailed. The cost listed in each entry refers to the cost beyond the base reagents. If you want to create a new fleshwarp, you can develop a new monster using the various monsters below as guidelines or choose an existing monster and apply the simple fleshwarped template.

    Drider (CR 7): Cost 1,500 gp; Creation DC 24, 8 days; Creatures 1 drow with at least 6 class levels, 1 giant spider. (Bestiary 113)

    Fleshdreg (CR 1): Cost 500 gp; Creation DC 17, 2 days; Creatures 1 humanoid.

    Ghonhatine (CR 10): Cost 4,600 gp; Creation DC 27, 11 days; Creatures 1 troglodyte paragon or 1 troglodyte with at least 8 class levels.

    Grothlut (CR 3): Cost 1,050 gp; Creation DC 20, 4 days; Creatures 1 human.

    Halsora (CR 7): Cost 1,475 gp; Creation DC 25, 8 days; Creatures 1 vegepygmy chieftain.

    Irnakurse (CR 9): Cost 3,500 gp; Creation DC 25, 10 days; Creatures 1 elf with at least 8 class levels.

    Sinspawn (CR 2): Cost 1,000 gp; Creation DC 18, 3 days; Creatures 1 human.


    Source Horror Adventures pg. 165
    Fleshcrafting involves the same processes and applications as true fleshwarping, but is used to modify only a single portion of a living creature. Fleshcrafts are living pieces of tissue that can be attached to any corporeal, living creature via a graft or grown by a consumed elixir. Once attached, a fleshcraft immediately begins functioning and grants its listed abilities to the grafted creature. While a fleshcraft is partially magical in genesis, it doesn’t radiate magic or have a caster level, regardless of whether it has been grafted to the subject or supplied via an elixir.

    Fleshcraft Grafts: Creating a fleshcraft graft requires the Fleshwarper feat and an alchemy lab worth at least 1,000 gp as well as 1 pound of living tissue per 1,000 gp value of the graft to be created. Creating a fleshcraft graft is like creating a magic item and requires 1 day of crafting time per 1,000 gp of the graft’s value.

    Applying a fleshcraft graft to a target requires a 1-hour surgical procedure, during which time the subject must be either willing or helpless. At the end of the hour, the surgeon must attempt a Heal check against the graft’s listed DC. Failure indicates the patient’s body rejects the graft and the graft dies. Regardless of the surgery’s success, the subject takes 1d4 points of Constitution damage and 1d4 points of Wisdom damage (or 1d8 points of sanity damage, if employing the sanity system). Although fleshcraft grafts are not magical, some occupy a magic item slot on the body, preventing that slot from being used for any magic item or other graft.

    A fleshcraft graft can be removed with another hour-long surgery and a successful Heal check against the original DC. On a failure, either the graft remains or the surgeon removes the graft, destroying it and killing the subject (surgeon’s choice). Alternatively, the surgeon can remove the graft more delicately and use healing magic to save the subject, attempting a DC 15 Heal check and applying a heal or regenerate spell immediately afterward. Failing this Heal check always results in the destruction of both graft and subject. A successful surgery removes and destroys the graft. Regardless of the method used and the surgery’s success, the subject takes 1d4 points of Constitution damage and 1d4 points of Wisdom damage (or 1d8 points of sanity damage, if using the sanity system).

    Fleshcraft Elixirs: A creature with the Fleshwarper feat can also create fleshcraft elixirs. Doing so requires an alchemy lab worth at least 1,000 gp as well as 1 pound of living tissue per 1,000 gp value of the elixir, just like creating a graft, but the components are distilled into the elixir. Creating a fleshcraft elixir is like creating a magic item and requires 1 day of crafting time per 1,000 gp of the graft’s value. These potionlike concoctions can bestow the effect of an individual fleshcraft graft (a creature can’t benefit from more than one at a time), but for a limited period of time. Imbibing a fleshcraft elixir works similarly to imbibing other potions or elixirs, except that it’s slow acting, taking effect the round after it is imbibed (as if the imbiber were casting a 1-round casting time spell). Fleshcraft elixirs are foul and potentially dangerous.

    A fleshcraft elixir is keyed to a specific type of fleshcraft, and each elixir provides a Fortitude save that the imbiber must succeed at in order to gain that graft’s effect for the limited duration. On a failed saving throw, the imbiber gains only the graft’s penalty for its duration, and if the imbiber fails the saving throw by 5 or more, the imbiber also takes 1d6 points of Constitution damage. While not strictly magical (and not applicable for reuse with alchemical allocation), they count as both transmutation and poison effects that affect only living creatures for the purposes of saving throws and resistances.

    Sample Fleshcrafts

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 166
    Linked below are some examples of fleshcrafts. In addition to the name, slot, and effect, each fleshcraft presents information for both the elixir and the graft versions. Each category of information is explained below.

    Temporary Duration: This is the length of time the fleshcraft lasts if the recipient is merely imbibing a fleshcraft elixir for its limited effects. This does not apply to a permanent fleshcraft such as a graft. If the graft has a limited number of uses per day, a creature affected by its corresponding elixir can use the ability the same number of times during the elixir’s duration.

    Saving Throw: This is the DC of the Fortitude saving throw the imbiber must succeed at to gain the benefits rather than just the penalties of the fleshcraft when imbibing a fleshcraft elixir. A creature imbibing a corresponding elixir that fails this saving throw by 5 or more also takes 1d6 points of Constitution damage.

    Penalty: This is the penalty that a creature takes while benefiting from a fleshcraft graft or elixir, or takes if it fails the saving throw after imbibing a fleshcraft elixir.

    Link to all Fleshcrafts

    Fleshwarp Mutations

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 170
    Not all fleshwarping is intentional. On occasion, creatures are exposed to environmental hazards that replicate the adverse results of fleshwarping with less grace and precision than the alchemical and magical process of true fleshwarping. Areas of intense magical radiation, alchemical pollution, wild magic, and corrupted ley lines all might cause spontaneous fleshwarp mutations, and in the presence of supremely alien creatures such as the Great Old Ones, the laws of reality can break down and sometimes create a similar effect, resulting in severe mutation and disfigurement.

    Fleshwarp mutations come at an even higher cost to the target’s health, sanity, and life span than intentional fleshwarping. Fleshwarp mutations become more severe with greater exposure. Early mutations are typically cosmetic and act as a sign of something unnatural. Advanced fleshwarp mutations are always detrimental, causing physical and mental trauma to the creature.

    Fleshwarp mutations progress similarly to corruptions, so at the GM’s discretion, spells or effects that help against corruptions might also apply to them.

    Acquiring Fleshwarp Mutations: Any long-term magical hazard can potentially carry the risk of fleshwarp mutation. Exposure to polluted alchemical labs, vile curses, bizarre rituals, wild magic zones, and cursed magic items are all good examples of fleshwarp mutations sources. A source of fleshwarp mutation is a hazard and is assigned a corresponding CR that reflects its relative severity.

    For every hour a living creature is exposed to a fleshwarp mutation source, that creature must succeed at a Fortitude save (DC = 15 + the CR of the corruptive source). Success means the creature has fought off the fleshwarping effects for the time being. On the first failed save, the exposed creature immediate gains an early fleshwarp mutation (see Table 5–1) and takes 1d3 points of Wisdom damage (or 1d6 points of sanity damage, if using the sanity system) due to the sudden and horrific nature of the metamorphosis. The second failed saving throw while the creature is within the same area increases the severity of the mutation. The creature gains an advanced mutation (see Table 5–2), and takes 1d6 points of Wisdom damage (or 2d4 points of sanity damage). Once a creature has at least one advanced mutation, further exposure within the same area causes another advanced mutation on a failed save. However, this level of physical deformity is extremely taxing on a mutated creature, and each subsequent new mutation imposes a cumulative –2 penalty to the creature’s Constitution score as long as the fleshwarped creature has the mutation. If the total penalties from mutations are greater than or equal to a character’s normal Constitution score, its body can’t support all the conflicting mutations, and it either dies or spontaneously warps into a mad, horrific creature.

    Fleshwarp mutation effects are transmutation effects, and may also be poison effects based on the nature of the corruption causing the mutations. All mutations are extraordinary abilities. Fleshwarp mutations can be healed with curative magic. Lesser restoration, restoration, or greater healing magic can remove all early fleshwarp mutations. Greater restoration, heal, or restoration can remove all advanced fleshwarp mutations.

    Table 5-1: Early Fleshwarp Mutations

    1-4Animal Traits: Fur or scales grow all over the creature’s body.
    5-8Bloated Neck: The creature’s neck becomes inflated and toadlike.
    9-12Bone Protrusions: Bony protrusions grow across the creature’s body.
    13-16Bulbous Cranium: Misshapen lumps and nodules cover the creature’s head.
    17-20Elongated Tongue: The creature’s tongue elongates and cannot fit inside its mouth properly.
    21-24Eye Stalks: The creature’s eyes protrude from their sockets on short stalks.
    25-28Forked Tongue: The creature’s tongue becomes forked like a snake’s.
    29-32Gnarled: The creature’s flesh takes on knotty, whorled patterns all over the body.
    33-36Hair Loss: Hair falls out in clumpy patches across the creature’s body.
    37-40Huge Ears: The creature’s ears become large and floppy, like those of an elephant.
    41-44Lidless Eyes: The creature’s eyes become saucerlike and lidless.
    45-48Lipless Mouth: The creature’s mouth becomes lipless, with exposed teeth and gums.
    49-52Long Fingers: The creature’s digits elongate and gain additional joints.
    53-56Lurching: The creature grows a few inches taller, becomes gaunter, and walks with a lurching and ponderous gait.
    57-60Molten Flesh: The creature’s skin sags, appearing to run like a melted candle.
    61-64Noseless: The creature’s nose rots away, exposing its sinus cavity.
    65-68Pallid: The creature’s flesh becomes translucent, revealing the veins and muscle beneath.
    69-72Ridges: Prominent ridged protrusions grow on the creature’s forehead.
    73-76Sores: Painful blisters and sores erupt all over the creature’s body.
    77-80Tumors: Tumorous growths appear across the creature’s body.
    81-84Unnatural Eyes: The creature’s pupils become unnaturally shaped or colored.
    85-88Vertical Eyelids: The creature’s eyelids now form vertical slits that open and close from side to side.
    89-92Vestigial Digits: Additional vestigial digits grow from the creature’s hands and feet.
    93-96Webbing: Webbing grows between the creature’s fingers and toes.
    97-100Wide Eyes: The creature’s eyes subtly migrate toward the sides of its head.

    Table 5-2: Advanced Fleshwarp Mutations

    1-5Bioluminescent: The creature’s flesh sheds an eerie light, the strength of a candle’s. The creature takes a –4 penalty on Stealth checks.
    6-11Clogged Ears: The creature’s ears close up and become useless. The creature is deafened.
    12-17Crooked Spine: Strange ridges and dislocations mar the creature’s spine. Reduce its carrying capacity by half.
    18-25Deformed Joints: The creature’s joints are knobby and twisted. It takes a –4 penalty on Dexterity-based skill checks.
    26-30Deformed Legs: The creature’s legs are warped or misshapen in some fashion. Reduce its land speed by half.
    31-37Dermal Fissures: The creature’s flesh painfully splits in dry cracks and exposes tender tissue beneath. Double the armor check penalty of any armor it wears and increases any bleed damage it takes by 1 point.
    38-43Elongated Limbs: The creature’s limbs elongate slightly, causing bone aches. It takes a –2 penalty on attack rolls and Strength-based skill checks.
    44-59Eye Clusters: The creature’s eyes divide and cluster into multiple, smaller eyes contained in each socket. It takes a –4 penalty on visual Perception checks.
    60-62Frail: The creature’s organs fail easily. It takes a –2 penalty on Fortitude saves and on Constitution checks to stabilize while dying.
    63-68Light Sensitivity: The creature’s eyes take on a reflective sheen, and it gains the light sensitivity universal monster ability.
    69-74Malformed Gills: The creature gains nonfunctional gills that don’t allow it to breathe water, but it also has difficulty breathing air and develops a wet, labored breathing. Additionally, it becomes fatigued for 1 hour anytime it runs or charges on land, though this condition ends if it submerges itself in water for 1 minute.
    75-80Misshapen Mouth: The creature’s mouth is warped and deformed. All spells with verbal components suffer a 10% spell-failure chance and the creature takes a –4 penalty on checks that require it to speak, such as Diplomacy or Perform (oratory) checks.
    81-87Rubbery Flesh: Thick, rubbery hide replaces the creature’s skin. It takes a –2 penalty on Dexteritybased skill checks and Reflex saves.
    88-94Tumorous Brain: Large tumors form in the creature’s brain, causing its skull to deform. Anytime the creature casts a spell or attempts an Intelligence-based skill check, it becomes staggered for 1 round.
    95-100Weeping Sores: Open sores weep strange fluids down the creature’s body. The creature takes a –4 penalty on Fortitude saves to resist diseases.


    Source Horror Adventures pg. 172
    Haunts are the echoes of tormented spirits that linger in locations keyed to their suffering—and they have proven to be a favorite challenge in many adventures. The Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide introduced rules for haunts and those rules are expanded in Pathfinder RPG Occult Adventures. This section introduces new elements to add to haunts, as well as variants that expand the haunt rules to apply to corrupted or twisted regions that are not tied to undeath.

    The new haunt elements in this section are templates that can be applied to any haunt.

    Elusive Haunt (CR +1 or +2)

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 172
    A typical haunt can be harmed within the area of its manifestation, but an elusive haunt’s source is in a separate location. An elusive haunt can be damaged only at its source, and can manifest far away from that source, up to 100 feet per point of CR. The elusive element typically increases a haunt’s CR by 1. If the haunt is also persistent, the elusive property increases the haunt’s CR by 2.

    Latent Haunt (CR +0)

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 172
    A latent haunt’s effects are subtle and come into effect only if a creature who fails a save against the haunt fulfills a particular condition, such as visiting a certain location or performing a specific action. For example, a latent haunt may rest among the graves of victims of a serial killer, and only demonstrate its effects if the affected creature enters the killer’s manor. Latent haunts affecting a creature treat that creature as their source, and can be detected and damaged by any means that would detect or damage the haunt. A latent haunt works best if the DC of the skill check to notice it is unusually high for its CR.

    Tenacious Haunt (CR +1)

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 172
    A tenacious haunt clings desperately to its existence. When the haunt is required to attempt a saving throw, instead of automatically failing, it can attempt a saving throw with a bonus equal to 2 + its CR.

    Unyielding Haunt (CR +2)

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 172
    An unyielding haunt has all of the properties of a tenacious haunt, except when it succeeds at a saving throw against a spell or effect that would normally deal it damage, it instead takes no damage.

    Variant Haunts

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 172
    Haunts that are not tied to undeath are not vulnerable to positive energy, and cannot be detected with spells such as detect undead or evaded with spells such as hide from undead. They have their own sets of vulnerabilities and defenses.


    Source Horror Adventures pg. 182
    Fractures, cuts, and abrasions wound the body, but madness undermines the mind, spirit, and personality. Suffering from madness can be terrifying, causing those afflicted to act contrary to their desires or reason.

    Madnesses are afflictions, similar in structure to poisons, diseases, and curses. They are used as part of the sanity system as an outcome of severe assaults on a character's sanity, but GMs can use madness in other cases as well. Because madnesses are presented as afflictions, they can be used with the sanity and madness system from the Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide. If you're using the rules for sanity and madness in the GameMastery Guide, when those rules call for a character to gain an insanity, roll d%. The character gains a lesser madness on a roll of 1–70%, and a greater madness on a 71–100%. Once the potency of the madness is determined, roll on the appropriate table (Table 5–1 for a lesser madness and Table 5–2 for a greater madness) to determine the kind of madness the character gains, or select an appropriate madness that fits the situation.

    The madnesses in this section are works of fantasy. None are statements about or descriptions of existing maladies.

    Table 5-1: Lesser Madness

    67-76Night terrors

    Table 5-2: Greater Madness

    31-48Cognitive block
    49-66Dissociated identity
    79-85Psychosomatic loss

    Running Horror Adventures

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 190
    Game Masters don’t have to run a horror-themed Pathfinder adventure differently from how they would any other adventure—but they can. Before running a horror adventure, though, the GM should consider a basic question: Who is she trying to scare? That might seem obvious, but horror adventures are about fear, so the GM needs to understand the nature of that fear.

    If a GM doesn’t want to scare anyone, she can incorporate this book’s options into her game like those from any other Pathfinder RPG book. The options herein might feature darker themes, but that’s all that makes them different.

    But perhaps a GM decides she does want to frighten someone, and naturally, she targets the player characters. In this case, the game changes to incorporate elements meant to shock the PCs or explore darker parts of the campaign setting. Ultimately, this probably doesn’t mean much more than deciding which monsters and settings the game employs. An otherwise normal Pathfinder adventure featuring ghosts, haunted houses, faceless murderers, and similar creepiness might be all a GM needs to effectively spook the PCs.

    If the GM wants to frighten her players, she must do so with the utmost care and thought, making changes from how she would run other Pathfinder adventures. This doesn’t mean making the game a farce to startle the participants. Rather, it gives the GM the opportunity to use her adventure like a storyteller telling a ghost story, using the medium to build tension and unnerve the other participants, each of whom expects to enjoy a good scare. This sort of game focuses on intentionally evoking feelings from the players themselves, rather than their characters. So long as the players know what they’re in for and explicitly want to be scared, horror-themed games can be exceptionally memorable.

    This chapter includes tips on how to run any sort of horror adventure, describing various horror subgenres and including tips on how to create horror adventures, cultivate an unnerving atmosphere, and use the Pathfinder RPG rules to adjudicate terrifying encounters. Before any of that, though, the GM should understand how horror adventures differ from normal Pathfinder adventures and why she should take exceptional care to make sure her players are willing participants.

    Horror Versus Heroism

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 190
    Especially if a GM has run frightening adventures using other roleplaying games, she should understand that the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is not designed with horror in mind. The Pathfinder RPG is a game of heroic adventure where the characters gradually become more powerful than they were at the game’s outset—by accumulating special abilities, treasure, and so on. In most games designed to tell frightening tales, however, the characters instead begin play on a downward trajectory toward corruption, insanity, or death. Yet using this chapter’s techniques doesn’t mean transforming the Pathfinder RPG into an entirely different game.

    Nor does a horror-themed Pathfinder game suggest that the PCs become less heroic or that they are suddenly destined for a grim fate. It might change what plots, monsters, and locations are included and what sorts of characters players make, but the assumption remains that the PCs will undertake adventures, win treasure, gain power, and ultimately accomplish their quests. The GM might mask these assumptions a bit more than usual—there’s no sense of threat if success seems like a foregone conclusion. In the end, though, it gives the GM the opportunity to pit the PCs against escalating horrors and levels of terror.

    Horror Games and Consent

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 190
    If the story’s objective is to unsettle the players rather than their characters, the GM needs something before even starting to seriously think about running such an adventure: the players’ consent. Players should understand what it might mean to participate in a horror adventure. Knowing that the game is intended to be creepy is not enough—in the same way that some filmgoers might be on board to see a horror movie aimed at teenage audiences but not one exclusively for adults.

    Anyone planning on participating in a horror adventure should read the following section—GMs and players alike. Of all the content in this book, this section is the most serious because it doesn’t deal with fictional characters, but with real people and reactions.

    For Game Masters

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 191
    The Pathfinder RPG styles itself as a fantasy RPG, not as a horror RPG. Horror adventures often feature unsettling content, and while many players enjoy exploring macabre places, that is not universally true. It is part of your responsibility to make sure your players know that the game will feature frightening elements and give them a sense of what themes to expect. If players express discomfort or concern, change or remove the objectionable aspects or, if necessary, invite the player to participate in a different game.

    You might worry that revealing your story’s themes might spoil it. Don’t. This preliminary description can act more as a film’s trailer, providing the players with glimpses necessary to make informed decisions about whether they’ll enjoy the experience. Veiling a game’s content is not worth making players feel endangered or like they’ve been tricked into publicly visiting dark personal places. You can’t simply assume that you know what your players will be okay with. No matter how long you might have been playing with someone, nobody broadcasts his every phobia, secret fear, or private experience. So, for the comfort of everyone, make sure your players know what they’re getting into.

    Additionally, despite the fact that horror games include more ominous themes than other adventures, just calling something a horror game does not provide an excuse to vent your darkest thoughts without further warning. While many frightening games feature gore, menace, and tragedy, the inclusion of such elements doesn’t in itself indicate to your players that scenes of torture, sexual violence, child endangerment, or other brutalities are on the table. “Grittiness” and “realism” are not excuses to surprise players with this content midgame. If a game might feature such elements, you remain responsible for making your players aware of that beforehand and letting them decide whether they want to play.

    Finally, sometimes opinions and expectations simply change. Let players know that if they become uncomfortable with any part of your game, it’s perfectly fine for them to leave the game space. Make yourself available to discuss your game’s content if a player so desires—but understand you are not owed any insight into your players’ reactions. If a player expresses concerns about a game’s content, he doesn’t need to explain himself; either remove the sensitive element, run a different game, or ask the player to participate in a different game. If you keep these considerations in mind and prioritize your players’ enjoyment, you’ll be on your way to running an adventure your group remembers for its creepiness, not its unintended negative consequences.

    For Players

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 191
    The Pathfinder RPG is a storytelling game, and as with stories in any medium, sometimes the tale ventures into dark places. If you are a participant in a game that makes you feel uncomfortable or threatened, you can stop playing at any time. You don’t have to endure a game that unsettles you in a way you don’t enjoy. If that occurs, it’s entirely acceptable to leave the game and remove yourself to a safe space.

    If you want to tell the group that you need a break or have a private discussion with the GM, you may, but don’t feel obligated to. Sometimes GMs seek to include disturbing content in their games to be shocking, to be gritty, or to mimic content from television or film. Unfortunately, such elements often overlap with real-world truths and traumas that are anything but entertaining. Just as you might avoid that content in other media, you have every right to avoid it in gaming.

    A good way to avoid a game that focuses on content that you’re not comfortable with is to talk with your GM before the game starts and find out what sort of adventure she intends to run. Ask whether the GM expects any extreme or R-rated content. As discussed above, it is part of every GM’s responsibility to assure that her players have a good time, but (unfortunately) you can’t trust every GM to act on this. If a GM proves reticent to reveal a game’s themes or implies that there will be disturbing or adult content without elaborating on what, strongly consider not attending that game.

    Just as you would want the GM and other players to respect your boundaries, make sure to respect theirs. Unless the other players and the GM have already agreed to a truly dark game, don’t contribute to making a game uncomfortable by playing a depraved character or by going into explicit detail about your character’s horrid deeds. And if other players feel they need to leave the game, either help change the game to something everyone enjoys or support their decision to leave.

    Everyone should be working together to create a game that’s fun for the entire group, so know that it’s literally in the Pathfinder game’s rules (on page 9 of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook) that playing the Pathfinder RPG is supposed to be rewarding for everyone involved.

    Horror Subgenres

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 191
    Horror stories are not all alike, and neither are all horror adventures. In fiction and film, horror is divided into numerous subgenres. This section introduces just a few of those subgenres to help the GM choose the type of horror story she wants to tell and create adventures that match. While nowhere near a complete listing, the following horror subgenres have been singled out either because they translate easily into Pathfinder RPG adventures or they are particularly challenging to translate and often need more advice than usual to succeed.

    Each of the following subgenres follows a similar format: a general description, followed by four sections.

    Storytelling: This section features notes on themes common to stories in this subgenre and elements to consider including in a subgenre-based Pathfinder adventure.

    Monsters and Threats: This section includes a selection of creatures and rules content that make appropriate threats for this subgenre. Monsters in products other than the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary include a superscript reference.

    Basic Plots: This section contains examples of plots with central subgenre elements that make fine one-off adventures. A GM can flesh out these ideas or use them as departure points to create her own adventures.

    Advanced Plots: Advanced plots are more complex, and can serve as the basis for entire campaigns. Again, they can be used to inspire unique adventures.

    Body Horror

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 192
    The body is a frail, little-understood thing that might betray its host-consciousness at any moment. This visceral subgenre concerns itself with the organic terror of the flesh, including disease, physical corruption, and transformation. At its basest level, body horror is the revulsion felt upon hearing a bone break or seeing a joint violently bend in the wrong direction. Elaborated upon, it’s the terror of becoming physically monstrous and the awfulness that might hide within.

    Storytelling: Body horror plots often concern themselves with transformation. This might be in a mundane fashion, such as a character racing to find a cure for a withering disease, trying to escape enemy territory with a broken leg, or knowing that a parasite is devouring his flesh. Unleashed from reality, body horror might involve an uncontrolled transformation, a disease that has gained sentience, or a monster that consumes flesh or blood. Body horror plots can involve a timeline or countdown, evoking a disease running its course or an untreated wound turning gangrenous. The only way to stop the spread of whatever fleshy terror has been unleashed is to cure it medically or excise it with sword or spell before it is too late. Doing so often comes with the greatest threat of body horror: infection. Characters might suffer curses, contract terrible illnesses, undergo horrific corruptions, or become host to ravenous parasites. Customize body horror effects to the story’s needs, pairing nauseating descriptions with game-affecting effects like loss of limbs, hit point damage, ability score drain, inability to naturally heal, or worse.

    GMs running body horror adventures will likely find that many players have powerful reactions to descriptions of gore and disease symptoms. A GM should describe such scenes in a way that’s right for her players, and remember that gratuitous descriptions quickly lose their impact. Uncertainty and time are also powerful factors in body horror stories, with PCs often unsure whether they or those they love are safe from infection—and if they don’t show signs today, what about tomorrow?

    The enemy in a body horror game can also be unclear. While it might be individuals spreading a plague, a race of sentient parasites, or a mad scientist transforming victims, it might also be simply a disease itself. The former examples lend themselves toward common Pathfinder plots. The latter, though, might unfold as a scavenger hunt or series of challenges that contribute toward concocting a cure. In such cases, the final challenge should be the most harrowing and present the greatest risk of exposure to infection. In that way, the defeat of the invisible menace has a climax, but it also has the extremely personal threat of another outbreak.

    Monsters and Threats: Parasites and diseases often feature in body horror stories, so consider rot grubs (of the giant variety or more common hazards), ear seekers, intellect devourers, or visceral plagues of disease (though consider using the unchained rules for diseases) or the disease section of this book. Creatures that implant their eggs or are born from other creatures include lunarmas, vegepygmies, and xills, while those who cling to or take over a host’s body include incutilises and wizard’s shackles. Fleshwarps and oozes like carnivorous blobs embody the horror of abominable transformation, beheaded and crawling hands are unbound body parts, and drow and kytons use flesh as mediums for their art or taboo experimentations. Many of the corruptions and the fleshwarping rules also allow a PC to experience the terror of transformation firsthand.

    Basic Plots: A quarantine traps the PCs in a city suffering from bubonic plague. A breed of oozes infests a community’s sewers, changing those they touch into melting zombies. Ghorazaghs capture the PCs in a labyrinthine scab-hive.

    Advanced Plots: The secret of an incestuous imperial dynasty reveals an undercity of vain, inbred mongrelmen lurking beneath the capital. A mind-altering disease (to which elves are mysteriously immune) becomes sentient, infects the minds of hundreds, and launches a pogrom against those it can’t infect. A nation’s pervasive, cowlike herd animals stave off famine, but the nation turns on the PCs when they expose that the creatures are semi-sentient drakainia spawn.

    Cosmic Horror

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 192
    Often called cosmicism or Lovecraftian horror, stories in this subgenre involve the realization that humanity and all its struggles are insignificant amid the greater workings of the universe. Such plots typically involve revelations of the truth that shelters the limited, shared lie society calls reality. The forces beyond this veil are fundamentally unfathomable, indifferent, and dangerous. Brushes with these powers typically scar a character, resulting in death, insanity, or understandings that make her an outcast from society. Ignorance and willful delusion then become virtues, shields that protect a fragile narrative from the truth of a vast, apathetic cosmos.

    Storytelling: Cosmic horror stories aren’t about tentacles— they’re about the truths mortals are better off not knowing. Perhaps these revelations are the secrets of cosmic overlords, or maybe they’re leaps of understanding—realities radically different from what society thinks it knows. The pursuit of greater knowledge can begin as a noble quest, gradually revealing an organic conspiracy propagating truths too great for the characters to influence. A GM might provide bread crumbs leading toward this knowledge, but the PCs’ limited perspective grants only glimpses of the terrible whole. The discovery of strange cults or unsettling artifacts might push characters to uncover devices and creatures not native to their understanding of the world. These elements are best revealed slowly, like evidence in a mystery story, and they should build upon one another to suggest ever-greater threats. Ultimately, the threat might be entities from beyond gulfs of existence, or even be something like the arrangement of the stars themselves—foes that can’t be defeated with sword and spell. While the PCs might win a skirmish with such forces and prevent the apocalypse du jour, their world’s days are numbered. Depending on how much the PCs learn, they might never again be able to share in the vision of reality needed to function in society. If that wasn’t terrible enough, when they glimpse the truths beyond the veil, those sanity-bending forces gaze back.

    Monsters and Threats: Cosmic horror games frequently feature aliens—intruders from other worlds, planes, or epochs. These are not typically spiritual beings, like angels or demons, but neighbors in existence that prove the laws of reality aren’t exactly fair. Many creatures from the works of H. P. Lovecraft and other authors of this subgenre exist in the Pathfinder RPG and fit naturally into cosmic horror adventures, such as deep ones, denizens of Leng, elder things, Great Old Ones, mi-go, shoggoths, and Yithians, to name just a few. Lovecraftian creatures don’t have exclusive dominion over this subgenre, though. Given the right backstory, any creature with an aberrant form or mind makes a useful cosmic horror foe, like aboleths, chokers, cloakers, hunduns, hyakumes, immortal ichors, and otyughs. Consider casting whole races or creature types as manipulators from other worlds or beings possessed of enigmatic agendas, such as aberrations, certain monstrous humanoids, or fey.

    Beyond bizarre monsters, tools and artifacts from other worlds might prove to be equally dangerous. Consider taking a familiar item and describing it in an otherworldly fashion—a crossbow takes on an entirely different aspect if it screams every time it’s fired. Magic, too, if learned from otherworldly sources, might gain a dangerous cast, perhaps dealing damage to the caster or eroding a character’s ability scores. Shocking discoveries can also present their own dangers in the form of sanity effects. See Madness for a host of reactions characters might experience when their visions of reality shake and their pillars of sanity crumble.

    Basic Plots: An ally, fearing for his life, provides the PCs with a secret or relic pursued by servants of a god-ocean that covers a distant moon. Opening an ancient vault unleashes a member of a race for which time means nothing. A town forsakes its religions after a seasonally appearing comet lands atop a windmill outside their community.

    Advanced Plots: A strange nightmare, swift-growing plant, or spreading wound holds a means of communicating with a future dominated by another species. In the wake of a planetary alignment, an entire race begins fleeing the planet. A musician discovers tones that allow her to reshape reality, drawing the attention of otherworldly star-shrieks.

    Dark Fantasy

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 194
    As its name implies, dark fantasy isn’t a subgenre of horror but rather a fantasy subgenre that relies on horror themes. Dark fantasies typically involve the same tropes as fantasy tales—swords, castles, magic, heroics—but viewed through a grim lens. Deadliness, despair, and the macabre are common here, elements that threaten innocents with forces beyond their power to understand or overcome.

    Storytelling: In these tales, magic and the supernatural take on a darker and deadlier cast. Enchanted lands become accursed places filled with ravenous predators and dangerous outcasts. Magic might bear the threat of arcane backlash or addiction. Monsters are fearful things, whether they are born from the corpses of former neighbors, demonic incarnations of temptations, or terrifying beasts that city walls dubiously hold at bay. It’s a pessimistic sort of fantasy where threats are many and death seems likely, yet the heroes of these stories have the opportunity to defend the rare places of warmth and light. Not unlike other fantasy heroes, they become champions of the helpless and foes of evil. However, here the odds are stacked far more heavily against them.

    Monsters and Threats: Aberrations, constructs, evil outsiders, and undead are common in dark fantasy adventures, as are grim reimaginings of magical beasts and other classic fantasy creatures. Evil spells, cursed magic items, and magical environmental hazards are also typical. With a properly grim twist, nearly any fantasy element could find its home in a dark fantasy adventure.

    Basic Plots: Necromancers use the corpses of a plague-scoured village to create a gashadokuro. A gargoyle trophy hunter is responsible for a series of baffling murders. A troll uses the sewer to slip into the basement of the royal archives and preys upon scholars who linger too long after dark.

    Advanced Plots: A genius arcanist seeks to recreate the empire of a fallen undead tyrant by retracing his path to lichdom. A rift between realities allows the hordes of the Abyss to invade the world. The corpse of everyone who dies returns as a ghoul within 1 day, forcing the PCs to investigate why souls are not passing on to the afterlife.

    Ghost Story

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 194
    These stories feature ghosts—whether they’re actual spirits or the characters simply believe in those spirits. Usually relatively short tales, stories in this subgenre focus on wayward souls and the tragic events that keep them from passing on. They usually feature a haunted place—such as the archetypical haunted house—but this might be any location, object, person, or other element that is somehow tied to the spirit’s unfortunate past. The protagonists of a ghost story tend to be latecomers to the tragedy. By entering the zone of spiritual fallout, they either embroil themselves in healing residual scars or try to escape before becoming the next victims.

    Storytelling: Ghost stories make fantastic single-adventure plots because they typically link an atmospheric story with a specific location. The tie between a ghost and its haunting grounds means that PCs can indulge in a ghost story without it necessarily interfering with a wider campaign.

    Ghosts come in an enormous variety, but for horror adventures, the two most useful are ghosts that want something and violent ghosts. The former might be sorrowful entities that make the PCs their agents in the hopes of being set free. The latter are vicious things, incarnations of madness and violence that take their wrath out on any who dare trespass on their haunting grounds. In neither case does a ghost need to be a sympathetic character, but in both, the spirit’s origins affect its appearance, abilities, and behavior. While revealing the lore behind a haunting might be story enough, in a typical Pathfinder ghost story, learning the spirit’s background and using it to put the ghost to rest is central to the plot.

    With the wealth of ghost stories in fiction and film, a GM can plunder existing works for inspiration and experiment with the definitions of “ghost” and “haunting.” She might also consider giving the ghost story a trigger, an event that activates a dormant haunting. Perhaps the return of a family member to his ancestral home or a PC gazing through an orb that reveals the spirit world sparks a full-blown ghost story.

    Monsters and Threats: Obviously, these tales focus on ghosts, but in the Pathfinder RPG, “ghost” might mean a variety of things, not just the monster of the same name. However, a ghost is an excellent choice of monster due to its rejuvenation ability, which means the spirit can only be truly defeated if the PCs discover the correct means. This ability forces the PCs to involve themselves in a ghost story to defeat their foe. A GM might use any number of ghostly spirits to create specific sorts of ghost stories—for instance, banshees terrorize barren moors, poltergeists disturb peaceful households, and yuki-onnas haunt snowy vistas. Looking up creatures with the incorporeal subtype in Appendix 8 of any Pathfinder RPG Bestiary volume can point to strong ghost story candidates. Ghosts don’t need to be incorporeal. Phantom armors, revenants, skeletal champions, and zuvembies, for example, all make fine corporeal threats. A “ghost” also doesn’t need to be undead, especially as the line between spirit and outsider is often blurry. Consider having any of a variety of fiends—such as owbs or vulnudaemons—haunt a ghost story. For story purposes, a GM shouldn’t hesitate to give non-ghosts the rejuvenation ability as well, but only so long as the threat stays bound to a single plot-rich locale. More so than in other subgenres, haunts make obvious choices. Spectral beings (especially geists) teamed with a variety of flavorful haunts can work together to create a wider and more satisfying haunting.

    Basic Plots: The destruction of a local asylum releases years of pent-up mental trauma as an allip or caller in darkness, the dominant personality of which wants nothing more than to visit the sea once more. The ghost of a golemcrafter intimidates a young trespasser into reactivating her laboratory and creating a soulbound body for her to inhabit. A painting from a far-off land drags the ghost of the portrait’s subject with it, a noble but frustrated foreign warrior who speaks only his native language.

    Advanced Plots: A ghost becomes the PCs’ patron, offering its treasure (or home) if they complete what it left undone. A violent, mute ghost the PCs thought exorcised reappears— could they have mistaken its identity? The ghost of a defeated villain or a fallen ally becomes linked to one of the PCs’ pieces of equipment, though the connection seems to be stronger than simply that between victim and murder weapon.

    Gothic Horror

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 195
    Gothic horrors exude atmosphere and portent. This is the subgenre of The Castle of Otranto, The Raven, and Dracula. Lightning-illuminated castles, baroque cathedrals, tortured minds, and unquiet souls fill these stories, every element fostering moodiness and presaging dooms—often through ornate description. While gothic horror regularly focuses on darkness, decay, fallen grandeur, and the wages of sin, it can also be rich with romance and bravery, making it well suited to Pathfinder adventures.

    Storytelling: More than any specific monster or type of fear, in the best of these stories, grim details work together to create an oppressive atmosphere of perpetual fall or winter, where secret transgressions exert dark prices in the form decrepitude, sickness, curses, and monstrous predation. Settings, characters, and plot all work together in gothic tales, and a GM should strive to insinuate that dark things are to come through elements of the narrative. If any subgenre is going to feature sudden thunderstorms, ominous coincidences, or peasant warnings, it’s gothic horror. The evil force at the end of this foreboding path might have the statistics of a brooding vampire or an ageless wizard, but by the time the PCs meet her, what they’ve experienced should have built her up as something much more.

    Gothic horror tales highlight and develop wealth, extravagance, and the noble or positive qualities of characters to better wring pathos from their ruination. Romances are also common, whether as the spark that ignites dark passions or as the motivation for heroics. Death, desperation, and madness are frequent results of both themes, paving the way for encounters with the fantastic, deals with wicked forces, and passions that keep characters from a peaceful death. Indulging these themes suggests not only a host of settings (like crumbling manors, grim cathedrals, and misty graveyards), but also stock characters (suspicious townsfolk, penniless nobles, and ghostly governesses) waiting to populate a gothic tale.

    Monsters and Threats: The mainstays of gothic horror include some of the most identifiable monsters in fiction and folklore: fiends, ghosts, hags, lycanthropes, skeletons, vampires, yeth hounds, and the like. Almost any monster could make a fine villain in a gothic horror story, though, so long as it has a tragic background and intentions of menace. For example, the sorrow of a lovelorn dryad might extend beyond herself, transforming a wilderness into a savage nightmare. Insidious magic items—like monkeys’ paws and soul portraits—also often appear in gothic stories, the objects taking on the sins of their past owners. Bargains with fiends, foul gods, or perhaps even death itself can inspire tragic villains. Haunts also make useful threats for gothic horror tales, their descriptive dangers providing a way to reveal mournful histories—perhaps piece by piece through a series of interrelated, tragic events.

    Basic Plots: Every hundred years, a graveknight appears and challenges the high priest of the goddess of valor, whose cathedral stands upon an ancient battlefield. A changeling begs for the PCs’ protection, fearful of the crone she’s seen in her nightmares. The PCs must retrieve a lost locket from a spectral house that appears only on the night of the winter solstice.

    Advanced Plots: A PC is the reincarnated lover of an ancient vampire baroness. A mothman follows the PCs from afar, intent on creating, ending, or repeating an age-long curse. The entire faith of a just deity is convinced a PC holds the key to a horrible prophecy and can’t be allowed to live.

    Psychological Horror

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 196
    As a counterpoint to body horror, the psychological horror subgenre plays upon the fears and uncertainties rooted deep within the mind. The possibility of becoming detached from reality, plots to drive people mad, and the menace of taboo urges all fill the surreal world of psychological horror. While these stories might involve supernatural elements, it’s often difficult for characters to be sure whether such menaces are real or entirely within their heads.

    Storytelling: Among the most challenging subgenres of horror to re-create in a Pathfinder adventure, psychological horror stories often deal with themes of conspiracy, doubt, and paranoia. In film and fiction, these stories might focus on a single individual being pushed beyond her limit as the lines of reality blur around her. In a Pathfinder adventure, it’s difficult to make one PC the victim of such horror—but it is possible. While the rules for sanity simulate a variety of psychological effects, these are most effective when a player chooses to roleplay their effects, forcing the group to acknowledge that the character’s grip on reality has slipped. Beyond those rules, the techniques described in the Warp Reality section and in the Secrets and Suspicion section can help sow uncertainty among the players, leaving them wondering what’s real and who they can trust.

    Easier to create are adventures where another individual has lost his grip on reality, leading him to commit monstrous acts and possibly transform his home into a manifestation of his delusions. Conspiracy plots might unite a cadre of foes seeking to hide some shocking truth, perhaps making the PCs question whether lifelong beliefs have been lies all along. In more extreme cases, the PCs might become victims of gaslighting (perhaps by a gaslighter mesmerist), either in subtle ways or in elaborate experiments—like a dungeon of shifting passages or a deadly puzzle room— meant to drive them insane.

    Monsters and Threats: Cunning shapechangers (like araneas, doppelgangers, and rakshasas) and creatures with manipulative mind powers (like aboleths, grays, and lotus trees) make fantastic foes in psychological horror adventures. Psychic magic is an obvious threat in these tales, warping memories and outright controlling the weak willed, but so are illusions, which can manipulate what a victim perceives or thinks he knows. More insidious than monsters in psychological horror stories are the everyday people who manufacture plots to undermine someone’s sanity or the individuals whose stresses and delusions become uncontrollable enough to set them on deadly courses—like a deranged individual who makes his home a trap-filled murder pit or a zealot who believes his sins can only be purified with innocent blood.

    Basic Plots: A divine emissary in animal form comes to a PC and encourages her to slay a secret enemy of the faith— but it only speaks when the PC is alone. The PCs need to cure a scholar who has gone insane by entering his hag-haunted nightmares. The PCs come to a town where a teenage girl can turn herself invisible, and everyone lives in fear of what she does, doesn’t, or could know.

    Advanced Plots: The PCs become aware they are the only true humanoids in a society that consists entirely of doppelgangers. Derros kidnap the inhabitants of an entire village without their knowledge, relocating them to a near-perfect re-creation of their community deep underground. A pakalchi sahkil convinces the queen that her court mages have turned against her, leading her to start a bloody witch hunt throughout the entire nation.

    Slasher Horror

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 197
    Violent stories that pit relentless murderers against defenseless victims, slasher horror is the home of some of film’s most brutal killers. These tales typically follow the rampage of a single weapon-wielding psychopath and his targets’ desperate attempts to survive. The slasher is usually more than a normal person, possessing a drive or fortitude that makes him more akin to a deadly force of nature. Only bravery and cunning hold any hope of defeating the slasher, and even then, usually only after he has spilled seas of blood.

    Storytelling: Of primary importance to a slasher story is the sense of inescapability. If the would-be victims can just leave an area and escape the slasher, his threat is undermined. Therefore, seclusion is important. Perhaps the PCs—the likely victims—are isolated by geography (on an island, in the mountains), by terrible weather, or by some other physical factor (a flood washed out the road, the PCs are in a labyrinth that’s supposedly inescapable). Social factors can also create seclusion. Perhaps the PCs don’t speak the language and can’t effectively go for help, know the town guard wants to shield the murderer, have a responsibility to stay in a place, or are cursed and can’t leave an area. In any case, the PCs are trapped with a menace they’re not likely able to physically overcome.

    As monsters and combat are such fundamental parts of the Pathfinder RPG, it’s easy for a slasher attack to become just another fight. Elusiveness, relentlessness, and the perception of invincibility are the slasher’s greatest weapons. To avoid this, the slasher can’t just be an opponent the PCs outmatch, making them have to find ways other than combat to defeat their foe. A GM should make the slasher difficult to fight, but not impossible to defeat. The PCs need to be able to find tools and prepare traps that give them an edge over their foe. Objects meaningful to the slasher (and perhaps his origins) might aid them in their fight. The plot might encourage characters to split up to defeat the slasher and thus make them vulnerable to their foe—see Splitting the Party for ways to help build tension in situations like this.

    Signature weapons are powerful elements in slasher stories. A GM might give the slasher a weapon that’s threatening but also metaphorical—like a headsman’s axe or a scythe. Tools and unique creations that tie into the slasher’s history and origins also make great murder weapons—like a harpoon, a daggerlike quilting needle, or a shark jaw fitted onto an iron mask.

    Monsters and Threats: Slasher tales are monster stories. What constitutes the monster, though, is entirely up to the GM. The implacable stalker template specifically allows for slashers to be made out of any sort of creature or character.

    Often slashers are murderous humanoids who have been driven violently insane or who have become possessed by brutal objectives. These sort of slashers emphasize the monstrousness of everyday people, which might be a concept a GM wants indulge.

    Actual monsters can also make fine slashers. Creatures that bear a semblance to everyday people but obviously aren’t work well for this, like apes, bugbears, goblins, ogrekin, redcaps, and trolls. Finally, more monstrous creatures easily become slashers, even though the PCs might have a limited ability to see something of themselves in such foes. Rather than creatures with obviously monstrous forms, certain beings might pass as humanoids with the right disguises or magic, like babau demons, bogeymen, dark stalkers, denizens of Leng, or dullahans. Or perhaps the slasher’s form is inconsequential, and the true murderous entity is the sentient weapon he bears.

    Basic Plots: The daughter of a villain the PCs slew years ago catches up to them at a lonely country inn and proceeds to poison everyone in the establishment, one at a time. The PCs’ journey forces them to pass through the Valley of the Skulleater, home to a strangely intelligent and elusive bear that relentlessly stalks trespassers. A marsh giant shaman begins murdering everyone associated with the village that killed his son.

    Advanced Plots: The PCs find a crimson garrote that belonged to a famous killer, leading to a rash of murders following in their wake. Mere months after raiding a crypt, a mummy lord appears and attempts to slay the PCs, reappearing yearly on the anniversary of the defiling. Because of her remarkable lineage, the notorious serial killer known only as the Queen of Razors can’t be killed without infuriating the royal church, but the PCs can’t allow her to kill again.

    Creating Horror Adventures

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 198
    Typically, when creating a Pathfinder adventure, a GM begins with nothing more than the kernel of an idea—a setting she wants to explore, a monster she wants to use, or a scheme on which she’d like to elaborate. This basic idea provides the framework upon which she hangs the other elements of the story. A GM can create a horror adventure in the same manner.

    Chapter 1 of the GameMastery Guide provides extensive details on creating and running adventures. As horror adventures are just another type of Pathfinder RPG adventure, all of that advice still pertains. The difference, though, is that now the GM has an additional goal: to make the story scary. The following advice supplements the advice in the GameMastery Guide to help GMs do just that.

    Know the Medium

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 198
    Through the entire adventure design process, GMs should keep in mind that they’re not writing a horror novel or screenplay—they’re writing a horror RPG adventure. It’s easy to get distracted by nuanced lore and charismatic villains, but all GMs should remember that the PCs are the stars of the story and ultimately the most important characters. Along with this, remember that Pathfinder characters have a variety of magic and other options that might allow them to make things that frighten everyday people meaningless or that instantly reveal any secrets. Therefore, it’s important for GMs to know characters’ strengths as much as their weaknesses and customize the adventure to play upon what they fear most (see below for more details). These powers might be daunting in their effects or variety, but each ability might provide a new way to reveal terrors.

    Choose the Terror

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 198
    Once a GM has decided to create a frightening adventure, what sort of terror should be included? As explained in the discussion of horror subgenres, there are many types of horror. A GM should be able to boil her horror story down to something basic, perhaps even a singular fear. This might be as primal as a fear of spiders or of losing one’s teeth, or it could be more sophisticated, like the fear of abandonment or mechanical disasters. Once the GM has chosen a fear, then she can choose an avatar or incarnation of that fear. This might be a monster, person, or other threat that embodies that fear and proliferates it. For example, nothing exploits a fear of spiders quite like giant spiders or spider swarms, while representing the fear of abandonment might require a creature like an attic whisperer or the spirit of a bitter old man who waits for death but can’t be convinced that he’s dead. This avatar can be anything a GM wants. Feel free to make it more terrifying or unnatural if that helps—the giant spiders could actually be scheming Leng spiders, or the attic whisperer might control an army of animated dolls. This can work as mere flavor, or a GM might search out rules (or designs of her own) to back it up. Remember that the chosen threat might not need to be a literal embodiment; for instance, a fear of alien abductions and experimentation is literally embodied by grays but also metaphorically embodied by derros.

    Spread the Terror

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 198
    Once the incarnation of a fear is chosen, the GM can then support it with surroundings and allies that evoke the same theme. Horror often takes place at night since the dark holds the promise of lurking threats, but a horror tale might take place anytime or anywhere with a disturbing atmosphere that reinforces the chosen menace. For example, the tooth fairies that embody the fear of loosing teeth might have created an underground hive constructed from billions of molars, and a mechanical terror could unfold in a half-functioning clock tower. Whatever the choice, it should provide challenges for the characters to overcome, as this—or another later setting— will likely become a sort of dungeon to explore.

    While the horrors of fiction and film often work alone, such is rarely the case in Pathfinder adventures. GMs should choose lesser threats that prop up the horror’s main avatar. These might be its allies, opportunistic hangers on, deranged victims, the remnants of the creature’s work, or the source of the creature’s monstrousness. These allies might be less powerful than a primary foe, or at the very least, less actively horrific. For example, the Leng spiders might surround themselves with a cult of ettercaps, while the tooth faeries might feed their stolen teeth to a half-slumbering, albino purple worm. Traps, hazards, haunts, and other challenges should provide lesser encounters that grant the PCs experience but also winnow away their resources, causing them to face the final threat with some vulnerabilities.

    Fear from the Unexpected

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 199
    While the Pathfinder rules present a finite number of statistics and rules options, how a GM pieces them together allows for infinite scenarios. In the case of horror adventures, this also means infinite opportunities to shock even the most jaded, rules-obsessed players. Opportunities abound in adventures to surprise the characters by revealing terrible secrets or presenting images that make them realize things are far worse than expected. For example, perhaps the PCs find a life-sized mother doll among the attic whisper’s collection, one that’s tending to a mewling newborn. Or maybe the automatic clockwinder at the top of the clock tower is rebuilding the interior to account for a thirteenth hour that occurs only once every eon.

    While startling revelations in a narrative are most powerful, a GM can also twist the game rules specifically to unsettle the players.

    Mask Monsters: There’s no reason a GM must adhere to the basic bestiary descriptions of monsters. By adjusting or completely revising monster descriptions, she gains not only new versatility from the bestiaries, but also the adventure-perfect foe for whatever terror she’s unleashed. The PCs might be horrified by the thrashing pile of snakes and maggots that tangle their legs, knocking them into its squirming maws, but behind the GM screen are just the stats for a wolf.

    Transform Monsters: Veteran players might immediately identify a ravenous corpse as a ghoul, but if the tooth faeries have stolen its teeth, perhaps its bite attack is changed to a harmless, wet gnawing. While this might mean the ghoul is less powerful, the shock and revulsion it evokes is far more important to a horror adventure than dealing 1d6 points of damage. Altering creature statistics can be easy, particularly if a GM does so with the intention of creating unsettling encounters, not of making a creature more powerful. Use the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary appendices to swap around attack types or perhaps exchange abilities with creatures of similar CRs. As long as a GM doesn’t intentionally combine powers that can be exploited for some lethal synergy, such a unique encounter should be fine. And if a GM accidentally improvises something that’s more deadly than it is narratively unsettling, she can err in the PCs’ favor and keep the story moving. The Rules Improvisation section includes tips on how to make the Pathfinder RPG rules work for a horror tale.

    Warp Reality: The rules are the physics of the game—the laws of what can and can’t happen—and sometimes the most unsettling thing a GM can do in horror adventure is plan to break those rules. Maybe the PCs have a bizarre group nightmare, are pursued by a reality warping mothman, or begin to lose their minds. Regardless, a GM can convey this by having the game not work the way the PCs expect. Maybe a detect magic spell reveals its information as a chorus of screams, an isolated character can momentarily walk on walls, time reverses for an instant, or when a PC tries to use an ability, he’s told it doesn’t work, without explanation. These tricks work best when used sparingly and when the PCs’ lives aren’t in jeopardy, because they signal that perhaps the world isn’t as reliable (or unbiased) as the characters thought.

    Horrible Success, Terrible Rewards

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 199
    In most Pathfinder adventures, the PCs are destined to succeed. When running a horror adventure, that doesn’t necessarily mean it should be more challenging, and it certainly shouldn’t be a guaranteed total party kill. Most of the time, a GM wants the PCs to be unsettled by the story instead of their die rolls, so she should plan for the PCs’ success; many adventures have horrific consequences for failure, but in a horror adventure, consider the various ways that success, too, could have horrific consequences.

    During the course of the adventure, the PCs should have numerous victories over lesser enemies, traps, haunts, and other challenges. This is standard for Pathfinder adventures, and a GM should reward the PCs as normal with experience and treasure. Follow the usual rules for awarding experience, but don’t save experience just for successful combat encounters. Horror adventures often include investigation, research, and roleplaying encounters. If a GM wants players to take those elements of the game just as seriously as the combat encounters, she can reward them for successes in those arenas—typically with an XP reward equal to their average party level. See the Encouraging Horror Roleplay section for more details on using experience in horror adventures.

    Treasure can also be particularly useful in horror adventures, both in revealing more of the plot and in unnerving the PCs. A GM can customize treasure to her adventure’s needs. There should rarely be just a +1 dagger lying around in a horror adventure. Rather, that +1 dagger could bear the symbol of the city watch and the letters “J. B.,” the initials of the guard who disappeared after claiming he saw spiders drag a dog into the sewers. Even when an encounter just calls for a heap of coins and mundane supplies, don’t hesitate to slip in letters, journals, or books the PCs can research to learn more about the plot (though try to avoid the adventure cliche of including a bizarrely specific letter or unnecessary journal entry that directly reveals the story in an awkward and heavy-handed manner). Tidbits that make sense for that NPC and that the PCs can piece together contribute more to the air of mystery and horror. Evidence that the PCs aren’t the first to face the horror can be rattling—especially if their predecessors failed—and can also serve as a reason for why magic items perfect for fighting a creature are in its lair. Additionally, rewards that act as a double-edged sword, such as a partially cursed item that provides just what the PCs need at a cost, often work better than cursed items that the PCs could just avoid as if they were other hazards. This gives the PCs the chance to dig their own graves and tempts them to keep the rewards around.

    Finally, a GM should know what success means for her adventure. PCs often assume that violence puts an end to things. For instance, they may think that killing the attic whisperer or setting the clock tower on fire destroys the fear. But fear and evil are notoriously resilient. Truly destroying the horror might require learning its origins or discovering its special weakness. If the attic whisperer continually arises from the ashes, eventually—with a little guidance—the PCs could discover that the creature’s father is still alive, and might even be the priest who asked them to put an end to the lonely creature’s menace. Of course, even then, it’s difficult for the characters within a horror story to know whether an evil is truly exorcised—or merely lying in wait for a sequel.

    Horror Storytelling

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 200
    The promise of fear is often obvious from the first glimpse of a horror film or story, as subtly abnormal choices in the ambience set the mood for terror. Horror adventures should feel much the same. More so than other Pathfinder RPG adventures, these rely on the creation of the atmosphere, the mood that surrounds the game. Atmosphere can mean the difference between a normal session and a truly frightening experience. This section focuses on gameplay techniques and storytelling special effects aimed at creating a moodier, more disturbing atmosphere. These suggestions step beyond game rules, and the advice herein can help GMs deftly defy the expectations of both the characters and their players.

    Ten Questions to Help You Design a Horror Adventure

    1. What is there to be afraid of?
    2. What caused the horrific situation to develop or spike?
    3. How does the adventure’s environment reinforce the horror’s fearsomeness or a sense of dread?
    4. What hides the horror or builds the tension?
    5. What do the PCs fear losing?
    6. Do the PCs have resources that allow them to negate the horror?
    7. What gives the PCs hope of defeating their enemy?
    8. What shocking event lets the PCs know that nothing is safe?
    9. What scenes or settings exist to release tension?
    10. Are elements unintentionally predictable, cliched, or similar to well-known horror tales?

    Going Too Far

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 204
    Some GMs make the mistake of thinking that if a frightening gimmick works for a haunted house or campfire story, then it will work for their horror adventures. Such is rarely the case. At best, overdoing it on artificial, half-creepy tricks can break the atmosphere and distract from the game. At worst, they become jokes or can upset players. As a rule, a GM should keep a horror game on the game table. Here are a few gimmicks to absolutely avoid.

    Don’t Fake Emergencies: Faking choking or pretending the slasher attack is real can be legitimately scary in a way that violates players’ trust. The game must remain a game, and as soon as it breaks the fourth wall and enters reality, things can go off the rails fast. Never risk someone getting hurt or having the authorities get involved.

    Don’t Involve People Outside the Game: Those who haven’t joined the game should not have to experience the game’s creepy elements, whether that be loud music, in-character shrieking, or other disruptive sounds. Additionally, never ask outside coconspirators to secretly participate in the game unbeknownst to the players.

    Don’t Touch the Players: Whether this means getting into character and clamping a cold hand on a player’s shoulder or physically dropping plastic spiders from the ceiling, never invade the players’ personal space or set up tricks that could backfire and cause physical harm.

    Don’t Use Costumes or Makeup: Costumes and fake blood are distractions. If a GM tries to make herself look creepy, it might work for a minute, but most games run longer than that. After a while, the prop or special effect becomes commonplace, or worse, just silly.

    Creating Atmosphere

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 204
    An adventure might be a masterpiece of terror, but if it’s being played on a sunny day with people laughing in the background, the players still might not be able to feel the mood. The surroundings can be a GM’s greatest ally in telling a truly effective horror tale, but they might also work against her entirely. Consider the game space as a stage. This section includes ways that a GM might manipulate that performance space to create an atmosphere perfect for horror adventures.

    Game Space

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 204
    Since playing Pathfinder can take up a considerable area, the size of which is often limited by any number of practical constraints, game space can be one of the most difficult environmental factors to influence. If the GM has a choice, though, she can seek a quiet place where interruptions will be few—traffic and background noise can negatively impact the atmosphere being created. If she has to share a space, it might help for the GM to tell nonplayers that she’s running a game and would appreciate not being interrupted, or she might schedule a time when disturbances will be limited. While a GM might consider running the game outside or in creepy surroundings like a crypt or cabin in the woods, keep in mind that such a venue could be distracting in itself and is probably more trouble than it’s worth.


    Source Horror Adventures pg. 204
    Dimming the lights can go a long way in creating a moodier environment. Shadows add an air of the unknown, and cause everyday distractions to fade away. Make sure that the players can see, though—there’s a lot of reading and page referencing in Pathfinder that GMs don’t want to turn into a chore. A room with lights on a dimmer switch works well, as does turning off overhead lighting and moving a single-bulb lamp into the room. Candles and non-electric lamps typically prove distracting and troublesome, if not outright hazardous. While rooms with natural lighting can create issues during the day, at night, the dark can make them prime game spaces.


    Source Horror Adventures pg. 204
    Used well, music can be a powerful tool for creating atmosphere. Handled poorly, it can be a major distraction that irreparably warps, or even completely ruins, a game’s mood. When a GM uses music in her horror game, the goal is to create a subtle but ever-present auditory undercurrent that reinforces her descriptions of settings and events. The music fills in gaps in the action with content that supports the story’s atmosphere. Often breaks in play get filled in with distractions, but effective musical choices can counter that. Consider the following tips when selecting music to include in a horror adventure.

    Avoid the Familiar: Music should evoke a theme, but not a specific scene or character. Therefore, be wary of using immediately recognizable songs. Players who identify a particular theme will naturally associate a game with the source’s events, often to distracting ends.

    Keep It Simple: Don’t let tinkering with audio devices or searching for the perfect song get in the way of a game. Assemble a playlist before the game. Select a theme for major NPCs and significant events, a few for prominent locations, one or two for battles, and one for a final battle. If a GM can run her music from a computer or phone, preferably linked to a wireless speaker, she can readily switch between tracks without leaving the game table.

    Repetition: RPG scenes usually last longer than a typical music track. Rather than assembling dozens of pieces of music for every event or location in a game, find songs that work well in repetition. Video game scores work well for this as they’re often designed with repeat listening in mind. Set a music player to repeat a track, changing it when the scene or story demands. Avoid songs that have an obvious element to them, like a particularly dramatic crescendo—so players don’t notice the same section every time. In the best cases, players will notice the music for only a few moments at a time before their attention shifts back to the game.

    Steady Mood, No Lyrics: A GM shouldn’t have to compete with the music for the players’ attention. When selecting music for a game, instrumental music that fades into the background is ideal. Avoid music with lyrics, as language distracts from what’s being said and is noticed more readily when it repeats. By the same token, a GM wants songs that inspire a consistent mood. If a piece jumps from somber to upbeat, it won’t serve when needed for one or the other.

    Volume Manipulation: Most times, a GM wants background music to be low and subtle so players focus on the game. That said, manipulating volume allows her to create a number of special effects. Try using the music’s volume to manipulate player attention. If the players’ attention drifts, a GM can slowly turn up the volume until their focus shifts back to her. Once they’ve noticed she’s waiting or has begun speaking, she can turn it back down. This is a fantastic way to end breaks and signal that play is restarting.

    Volume Matching: In action-packed scenes, a GM can turn an energetic track up and raise her voice over it, quickening her speech’s tempo to evoke a sense of urgency. If everyone has to speak louder to be heard over the music, it’s easier to envision the hectic or dangerous nature of the accompanying scene. As with all narrative special effects, this technique works best when used infrequently.

    House-Ruling Distractions

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 205
    Portable games, social media, and other hobbies vie for everyone’s attention. A GM, though, is the arbiter of the rules, both those in the game books and in her own house rules. Consider setting a simple house rule: When at the game table, the group is playing Pathfinder— and nothing else. Phones are away, computers are off, other hobbies and distractions—even RPG-related ones like painting miniatures—are set aside. The GM might expand this to most food and drink as well since eating and the presence of food containers undermine immersion.

    There are a number of reasons to adopt such rules. The first is simple engagement. Some players say they can do two things at once, but if they’re not focused on the game, they’re not imagining the story, thinking in character, or noticing the atmosphere. The second is a matter of verisimilitude. The characters likely don’t have electronic devices. It’s easier for everyone to envision their fellow players as their characters if they’re not engaged in activities that run counter to what’s possible in the game world. The final reason is just a matter of courtesy. A GM puts thought and time into an adventure, and the other players invest a similar degree of consideration in developing their characters. Just as an audience would in any other storytelling medium, players should repay such efforts with their respectful attention.

    If including rules for what is and isn’t allowed at a game table, the GM should make them clear before the game starts, possibly explaining why or showing players this section of text as reasoning. The goal here is to create as atmospheric and immersive an experience as possible, not to be a tyrant.

    Rules Improvisation

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 206
    It’s impossible to predict every character action, and Game Masters often have to improvise when a party follows an unanticipated plot thread. While GMs can cultivate the ability to remain flexible in the face of unpredictability, coming up with new plot elements on the fly is only one challenge. Creating and employing new rules without any preparation is another one entirely. In the context of a horror adventure, such rules improvisation is not only useful, but all the more critical, as interruptions and page flipping can ruin a scene’s atmosphere, while a quick improvised decision can keep the tension intact.

    Fortunately, as a benefit of being a well-developed game system, the Pathfinder RPG offers guidelines and subsystems for adjudicating hundreds of hazards and encounter types. Still, the game rules can’t account for everything. In such cases, it’s up to the GM to use her knowledge of the rules to improvise options. Coming up with quick, simple ways to support characters who find themselves in unique situations or who want to attempt audacious actions is usually preferable to avoiding such game-defining events. Depending on the case, a GM might ask players to merely roll an ability or skill check, setting a DC that seems appropriate. Another option—which can often be more fun—involves considering the situation and adapting existing rules to work for the game’s needs.

    The remainder of this chapter presents a variety of situations that might appear in a horror adventure, but for which concrete rules don’t exist. Each of the following sections references existing Pathfinder RPG rules (largely from the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook and Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide) that GMs could retrofit to handle the encounter. These aren’t definitive rules for any of the situations described below. Instead, they are a primer on customizing rules to meet specific needs, and they should help GMs look beyond the overt purpose of certain rules systems and identify precedents and components that might be repurposed in unlimited ways.

    Improvisation Benchmarks

    While encyclopedic knowledge of existing rules certainly helps with improvising new ones, it’s not necessary by any means. The majority of the time, existing rules supply all the direction needed. In cases where they don’t, don’t worry! Almost everything in the Pathfinder RPG comes down to the roll of a d20. So the main questions are often simply how high to set a DC and what sort of bonus the PC should apply to it. While the latter is largely thematic and up to the GM’s judgment, setting DCs can get a bit more technical. Fortunately, the likelihood of a too-high or toolow DC “ruining” an adventure is infinitesimal, especially when taking the following into account.

    Custom DCs: Need to generate a DC for a specific situation on the fly? Look at tables like those for the Acrobatics, Bluff, Escape Artist, and other skills and extrapolate whether the challenge should be harder or easier based on the DC precedents there. GMs can find some great charts for adhoc DCs for parties of various levels in the sections on social conflicts and influence.

    Monster Statistics: Need something other than a DC? Table 1–1 on page 291 of the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary provides a wealth of level-appropriate benchmarks for creature hit points, Armor Class, damage, saving throw DCs, and more. These aren’t just for monsters, though. Consider finding the party’s level and using these statistics for any challenge required, increasing or decreasing the figures as necessary to adjust the difficulty.

    Buried Alive

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 206
    A character wakes up in a claustrophobic space, walls barely a hand’s breadth above his face and to either side. The air is already growing sour, and his increasing heart rate and frantic breathing aren’t helping the situation. There’s only one thing to do: he has to escape.

    By the Rules: In a coffin, a character’s ability to move is restricted by the tight confines. Even if he’s able to move, the coffin itself and the earth beyond present nearly insurmountable barriers to escape. Relevant to these challenges are the Escape Artist skill, rules on hardness, and details on cave-ins and collapses, as well as the bury alive ability of the gravebound, which uses the aforementioned systems to determine the ability’s effects, including the amount of time it takes to dig up a buried character, with or without a shovel.

    Extrapolation: The Escape Artist skill allows a character to move through a tight space by spending 1 minute and succeeding at a DC 30 Escape Artist check. This seems similar to the difficulty of moving within a coffin. As such, the GM might rule that for any action requiring motion to be successful—such as producing an item, making an attack, casting a spell, and so on—the character must spend 1 minute and succeed at this check.

    As for the coffin itself, a normal casket is probably of similar quality to a good wooden door or treasure chest, which would mean it has a hardness of 5 and 15 hit points. As soon as the coffin is broken, though, things get much worse for the character who was buried alive. According to the rules on cave-ins and collapses, characters take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage per minute while buried. If such a character falls unconscious, he must succeed at a DC 15 Constitution check each minute. If he fails this check, he takes 1d6 points of lethal damage each minute until freed or dead. Thus, a GM might rule that a character can attempt a DC 20 Strength check every minute. If the character succeeds, he manages to clear enough dirt to drag himself upward 1 foot. At that rate, then, it would require six successful Strength checks for a character to dig himself free from a coffin buried 6 feet underground. This, of course, assumes that loose dirt covers the coffin. Other substances, like rocks or metal slabs, would make such a dig far more difficult, at the least, if not outright impossible.

    Horror Considerations: The experience of being buried alive can be all the worse if a character isn’t alone. Tiny or smaller creatures would not have their movement restricted in a coffin constructed for a Medium creature. Crawling hands, rot grubs, scarlet spiders, and vipers all make particularly horrible coffinmates, particularly if they’re crawling all over the character in swarms. Additionally, breaking out of a coffin and finding himself underwater, buried in a walled-off enclosure, or at the bottom of a tank of flesh-eating beetles might make a character quickly regret his escape.

    Burned at the Stake

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 207
    Public burning tops the list of preferred ways to dispose of witches, heretics, and undesirables of all sorts.

    By the Rules: This is a simple matter of reskinning an existing rules set: being burned at the stake rather than being trapped in a forest fire. With rules for heat damage, catching fire, and—most realistically— smoke inhalation, the forest fire rules can be combined with the grapple rules for tying someone up to provide everything necessary for binding a character to a stake and lighting the roaring flames.

    Extrapolation: Binding a character to a stake—and setting a DC to escape said bindings—can be covered by the tie-up options detailed in the grapple combat maneuver. Once the character is bound, likely amid heaps of unlit kindling, the process of starting the fire is relatively simple. Given dry conditions and a ready flame, a GM might rule that it takes 1 minute to get the fire burning to a point that smoke inhalation becomes a threat to a bound victim. After some initial encouragement, the fire takes over; after 1 minute, the victim begins taking 1d6 points of fire damage every round while facing additional Fortitude saving throws as detailed in the heat damage portion of the forest fire rules. Finally, 1 minute later and every minute after that, the victim must succeed at a DC 15 Reflex saving throw or catch fire, as per the catching fire rules. Characters still bound to the stake take a –4 penalty on this saving throw.

    Horror Considerations: Don’t trust a burning wooden post in an open square to hold every heretic. Cages and magical paralysis are more effective at restraining victims, while illusions can lure unfortunates into traps. Placing the stake at the top of a spire or the bottom of a pit also makes access and escape more challenging and could extend the threat of smoke hazards.

    Burning Buildings and Crumbling Structures

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 207
    The fire in the tavern has gotten out of control, the ancient fortress is falling apart, the villain’s death causes his dark castle to collapse into the darkness below, or the powers holding together the alien sanctum have failed and are tearing the place apart. Is there any hope of escape, or will the PCs find themselves just another group of casualties in this catastrophe?

    By the Rules: Few of the game’s ordinary rules operate on the same timer as a self-destructing structure, least of all the abstractions of combat rounds and character actions. Characters counting squares to move out of a dungeon as swiftly as possible hardly captures the adrenaline of panicked flight, rather resembling a chess endgame. But the rules for chases work more like a race against the clock and thus fit the situation far better than combat rounds would.

    Extrapolation: In this case, a chase isn’t that different from an escape from a structure that’s collapsing around the characters; all it requires is a few tweaks to represent the differing circumstances. The GM can simply do away with the “fleeing character” entirely (unless the PCs are also chasing another character out of the collapsing structure) and instead set out a slate of obstacle the PCs must overcome to get out of the structure in time.

    These might include dodging falling timbers, leaping across gaps in the floor, noticing paths that circumvent dangers, squeezing through narrow gaps in the rubble, fighting off the effects of smoke inhalation, and so on. Some challenges might allow characters to charge through walls of flame, weakened barriers, or splintering banisters, causing them to take hit point damage in exchange for successes. Typically these barriers deal an appropriate amount of damage to add to the sense of urgency for characters of the PCs’ level without making the barriers themselves harmful enough to kill the PCs—unless they press their luck on these damaging barriers one too many times. In total, the GM should establish a number of challenges just like she would for a normal chase, but replace the threat of a fleeing character “getting away” with the threat of the PCs failing to escape the crumbling structure before it’s too late.

    This does mean that all the PCs will have to navigate the escape all the way to its end, or die trying. This means that it’s more important than usual to consider each of the pairings in the chase and make sure to include at least one option in each pairing that the characters will be able to attempt. For example, pairing a DC 15 Knowledge (engineering) check with a high DC Escape Artist check might mean that the paladin can’t possibly pass that chase square; for a normal chase, this would put the paladin out of the action for a little while, but in this modified chase, it means the paladin might be guaranteed to die.

    GMs should consider whether or not players can aid one another during an escape. If they’re allowed to do so, perhaps any character near an adjacent obstacle can use the aid another action to assist another character. Additionally, the GM might want to have monsters or other enemies factor into the escape, giving the PCs the choice of standing their ground and fighting—while the timer continues to count down—or to continue fleeing, now with some foe nipping at their heels.

    How long characters have to escape the structure is up to the GM. This should be a number of turns that exceeds the number of challenges by 2 or 3 (or even fewer in particularly harrowing situations). Once that time expires, the GM determines the consequences—which should be ones decided on before the escape begins, even though the GM won’t reveal her decision to the players until afterward, the better to build tension. Consider the following three options.

    No Threat: Perhaps the whole escape might simply be for show—dramatics that heighten tension but pose no actual lethal threat (not that the PCs should be allowed to know that). Immediately after the last PC escapes, the structure collapses, implying that the characters escaped at the last possible moment.

    Heightened Danger: Once the time limit expires, the situation in the structure becomes increasingly dangerous. Perhaps anyone still in the structure now takes damage every round. This might begin as 1d6 points of fire damage (or whatever is appropriate), but every 2 or 3 rounds the amount of damage doubles, suggesting a worsening situation. Or in the case of an alien sanctum falling apart into an unknowable void, perhaps strange and dangerous creatures crawl their way out of the nothingness with increasing frequency. Either way, this makes lagging behind dangerous, but not immediately fatal.

    Near-Fatal Conclusion: The GM might rule that, once the timer expires, the structure collapses—a fate that probably means death for anyone trapped inside. See the Cave-Ins and Collapses rules on page 415 of the Core Rulebook. The GM might add the threat of additional damage to those trapped within (or who try to rescue those left behind) if the conditions call for it—like dealing additional fire damage to those caught beneath a collapsed burning ruin.

    Horror Considerations: Write a 10 on a whiteboard or set a die at 10 in front of the PCs. After their first turn trying to escape, change the number to 9. Decrease the number every turn. A generous GM might let them know that when the count reaches 0, the structure collapses (to whatever terrible end; consider the rules for cave-ins and collapses) or not. In either case, few things motivate a group like a ticking clock. Beyond collapsing structures, PCs may need to flee a burning topiary garden, a tsunami-battered village, the nightmare of a waking dreamer, a city being destroyed by kaiju, or a forest come to life.


    Source Horror Adventures pg. 208
    Simple and relatively clean, execution by guillotine proves as humane as it is grisly. But when the PCs need to prevent such an execution, the rules and timing become more important.

    By the Rules: Traps like the wall scythe already provide rules for hurtling a significant mechanical blade at a hapless character. With the pillorylike restraint at the guillotine’s bottom holding a character, the dropping blade essentially makes a strike against its victim’s neck a coup de grace.

    Extrapolation: One can easily treat a guillotine as a special kind of mechanical trap. Without the restraint, it might function exactly as a wall scythe trap. With the pillory, it becomes more deadly. Any creature in the pillory is considered helpless and so, the guillotine, when activated, makes a coup de grace attack against the victim—potentially causing death. If the guillotine strikes a killing blow, the victim is decapitated. If it fails, there has been some malfunction with the device, catching the blade part way through the pillory. A standard wooden pillory holds a character’s head and both wrists. A character might slip free by spending 1 minute and succeeding at a DC 40 Escape Artist check.

    Horror Considerations: A GM might use an even more horrific versions of the guillotinec in which the creature it killed has its soul trapped within the lethal blade, preventing resurrection.


    Source Horror Adventures pg. 209
    Whether by the snapping of a neck or lengthy strangulation, hanging is a time-tested form of execution, and stories abound of heroes rescuing a victim in the nick of time.

    By the Rules: Being hanged kills by either breaking the victim’s neck or strangling the victim. Breaking the neck implies a quick, instant death from damage, like a coup de grace. Getting into a noose (and the DC for escaping it) would be covered by the tie up aspect of the grapple rules. Strangulation suggests consulting the rules for suffocation.

    Extrapolation: How a PC might have wound up in a noose is up to the GM, but once he has, a few things might occur. If the execution involves a drop, the noose could deal 1d6 points of damage + 1d6 for every 5 feet he falls, to a maximum of 20d6. The victim is considered helpless, and this attack is treated as a coup de grace—requiring a successful Fortitude save (DC = 10 + damage dealt) to avoid death. If the character has his hands free and uses them to hold on to the noose during the drop, he gains a +2 bonus on this saving throw.

    Once a character has survived the drop (or if one never occurred), his time is still limited as the noose chokes him to death. As the rules for tying someone up describe, a character can bind someone, creating a situation where the DC to escape such bonds is equal to 20 + the rope-tying character’s CMB. This seems like a good way to set a DC for escaping a noose. A character can attempt to escape a noose, but doing so requires that his hands be free (otherwise, he must escape from those restraints first). Once they are, he can attempt to break the noose’s “grapple”. While dangling from a noose, a character is helpless.

    Horror Considerations: A noose quickly turns into a lifeline when the ground is hundreds of feet below a struggling victim. Nooses made of chain or metal cord might also be more difficult to escape.

    Thematic Creepiness

    Source Horror Adventures pg. 209
    Be it a misbehaving reflection, a whispering taxidermy, or a leering portrait, sometimes the most minor supernatural effect—noticeable as the subtlest feeling of wrongness— proves the most unsettling.

    By the Rules: The rules for haunts allow GMs to generate practically infinite terrifying effects and create creepy but harmless encounters with which the players can interact.

    Extrapolation: A purely thematic or otherwise harmless haunt probably shouldn’t grant experience points and so shouldn’t have a CR.

    Horror Considerations: One doesn’t have to bother with rules at all. GMs don’t need to explain every thematic effect or unnerving embellishment, especially when these exist in the space between supernatural manifestations and the PCs’ own uncertain observations. If a situation doesn’t require hard-and-fast rules, a GM doesn’t need to complicate things.