Ref Tips for Running The Pale Lady

What should you do to quickly, effectively and dynamically run The Pale Lady? It's an awesome adventure, but not easy to run straight from the book even though it's only 10 pages of text. By adding in a few touches and preparing beforehand, it can go from somewhat small-scale to epic. We got several sessions out of this little adventure, detailed here (sessions 1-5), and the players are still talking about it. Here are some steps I'd suggest based on my experience (read my review for more info).

It goes without saying you should pre-read the adventure.
  1. Map of the abbey and a little bit of flavor
  2. Same for the town
  3. Highlight the hell out of a printed copy of the adventure for quick reference
  4. Prepare and flesh out the Pale Lady and her minions
  5. Make a timetable for the events of the night
  6. Personal touches

1. Map of the Abbey: PCs may rest there, make permanent allies, or kill everybody and sack the place. This map by Dyson Logos, called the Temple of Marid Scurn and available here is an excellent choice. The large building makes a nice worship hall, pulpit, etc. and the others are well-suited to outbuildings for other things. Historically, abbeys would produce cheese, bread, beer and wine, clothing, coffins, and any number of other crafts to finance their order.
2. Map of the town: Resting, robbing, returning. There's any number of things this town might inspire, and it's nice to fill out a map location in your campaign. Here's a link to a whole bunch of Dyson Logos maps, although many of them may be too large for the purposes of the adventure. Or maybe quick methods of generation like in Scenic Dunnsmouth or Vornheim are more up your alley. Don't go crazy keying them, statting the inhabitants and all that other stuff, as it's impossible to know how much time players will spend there, but we got a lot of play out of these locations.

3. Highlighting: Print out a copy of the PDF and highlight the hell out of it. If you're just using it raw, the room keys are not in alphabetical order and are flavorfully written but a bit wordy. My general practice is to underline any treasure, traps, or notable visual or interactive objects in each entry so that as soon as PCs enter I can quickly describe the room and any effects they may trigger without taking too long to reference. In particular you may want to do this for locations B, G, and the various Cube rooms as these are some of the most interactive and wordy.

4. Prepare the Lady and her minions: Pre-roll the Pale Lady's HP and give her the appropriate amount of spells. She's  a 10th level Elf. In LotFP she'll have 9d6+2hp, a 5 in 6 Search skill, and 4 1st level, 4 2nd level, 3 3rd level, 2 4th level and 2 5th level spells. Also, due to the Word of Creation she possesses, she knows a random 1st level Cleric spell, so account for that. Of course she should be using her spells and items as appropriate throughout the adventure. As written, this is just the magic mirror, but that may come in handy or you may want to give her more items since she's so powerful.

If you prefer, change the rabbit-people to something more menacing. I chose anthropomorphic animals of various types: boars, ravens, wolves, bats, etc, and just a few rabbits. While it's possible to make rabbit-men threatening, I chose to do something I thought more befitting of the dreary, misty gothic horror atmosphere I wanted to build.

Keep in mind how many beastmen there actually are, and adjust accordingly. According to the module there are about 50 total, and about 20 will go out to abduct children. If the players are creeping around the estate stealthily, this means that more and more of the monsters will be leaving as time goes on, same if they somehow negotiate with the Pale Lady to stay in the fae realm without being attacked. As far as difficulty, 20 of them out on the prowl should be plenty to keep low-level characters occupied- my party encountered about a dozen beastmen total throughout the night and had 2 player deaths as a result. Granted, the PCs split the party when facing some of them, but it was still quite a challenge.

5. Timetable: Make a simple, clear timetable for what will happen once the events of the night get underway. I started with one that assumed a batch of 1d4 beastmen would appear every half-hour. It seems like a lot, but if you take into account that this only happens for one night every year/couple years/couple decades, it makes sense that they'd go all out taking captives. I added a random encounter table which I'd roll on about every hour of game time:

Roll 1d6, add +1 every hour of game time
1-2Nothing
3-4Mundane animals scared by the commotion in the forest
51-2 beastmen
61d4+1 beastmen
7-8Escaped prisoner/s from the fae realm
9+The Pale Lady herself

Add events as appropriate. Since the party had Andrew, an escaped eunuch from the estate who was really, really scared, I added in a few events for him: locking the party out of their fortified room and accidentally knocking over a lantern which set the inn ablaze. Of course custom events would be subject to change based on circumstances, but it served as a reminder, authenticity and made the night feel more dynamic and chaotic. Just one or two NPCs that the PCs like may make things really interesting if they're doing stuff, or maybe the townsfolk as a whole. Disregard this if it won't be relevant, everybody's dead, the players don't care, etc.

6. Personal Touches: Throw in some stuff that will make the adventure your own. I left the adventure largely unchanged except for the stuff above, but I added an ability to the Pale Lady that whenever she was spoken of, she could hear the next few sentences of the conversation. If the speakers were nearby, she could inflict damage on them proportionate to the conversation's length. As far as the minions, maybe fae take extra damage from iron or silver, maybe their blood acts as a potion of temporary lycanthropy if drank, maybe the fae realm leaves behind a sort of residual magical radiation. Who knows.

Finally, when you've wrapped the adventure up, regardless of what happens, keep it mysterious. The players didn't know when the gateway was going to close, and lost their opportunity for exploration just as they were prepared to go in with a plan. They didn't find much. They didn't save many people. And as cool as I thought the contents of the fae realm were, I didn't tell them what they had missed or anything beyond what they'd discovered. As a result, they've got the date of the next equinox marked and they plan to go back.

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