This is a fun level one encounter inspired by Pathfinder Dark Archive and NPC Index: Warriors/NPC Index: Spellcasters. The idea behind the encounter is to test your party’s compatibility, give your party insights into their backstories and motivations, and do so in a way that allows their characters to continue even if they are killed in their first encounter against intelligent and dangerous creatures who want them dead. While encounter design is usually the purview of the GM, this is a lore-minimal article and can be adopted and adapted with minimal effort; I could very easily see a player requesting an adventure like this, especially if they wanted to play a reflection.
So for those of you who don’t keep on top of Pathfinder Infinite, NPC Index: Warriors and NPC Index: Spellcasters are monster creation tools that allow you to quickly create NPCs with standard ancestries and class levels in a quick four step process. Basically, you pick a class and the book gives you one ability the class always gets and a list of carefully tuned abilities you can pick depending on the NPC’s level range. Pick an appropriate number of abilities depending on the NPC’s level, throw in some bonus abilities for the NPC’s ancestry, and you have yourself a brand-spankin’ new NPC! In many cases you are just applying the class feats, which makes making NPC stats for your favorite PCs super easy. Which brought me to the Case Files on Reflections in Paizo’s newest hardcover release: Dark Archives.
I love mirror hazards. The Pathfinder Core Rulebook gives us the Darkside Mirror. I made a lower level variant of the hazard in an older article. And I’m going to go ahead and plagiarize myself in this fun little sample “encounter”: Broken Reflections.
Broken Reflections Severe 1*
Broken Mirror of Divergent Paths Hazard 2
Complex, Magical, Trap
Stealth +18 (expert) to notice it isn’t a regular mirror
Description A shattered magic mirror reflects characters from a parallel timeline
Disable Thievery DC 20 (trained) to permanently disable the mirror once all mirror duplicates (and/or originals) are dead, or DC 21 Occultism (trained) to suppress the mirror’s power by smudging each shard with blood in the proper order
AC 10; Fort +11, Ref +5
Hardness 1, HP 4 (BT 2), the mirror can’t be damaged while any mirror duplicate (or their original) is alive
Parallel Reflection [Reaction] (arcane, conjuration, teleportation); Trigger One or more creatures are reflected in the mirror. Effect Duplicates of each creature steps out of the mirror and rolls initiative. A creature reflected by the mirror is immune to this effect for 24 hours.
Routine (1 action) The reflections tend to have almost the same personality, goals, and alignment as the original, but are overwhelmed by the mirror’s magic for 1 minute and obsessed with killing the original (as long as the original is alive). Whether the reflection or original is slain, the soul of the first individual to die is captured by the mirror; If this occurs, the reflection is no longer connected to the mirror. If both survive, the reflection disappears after 1 minute.
Reset The mirror is always ready to create one or more reflections.
Reflections are not exact mechanical copies of whomever looked into the mirror. That would easily make this an extreme encounter and should be beyond the capabilities of the mirror. Note that a reflection loses that drive to kill and should be pretty easy to convince to join the rest of the party if they have it in their hearts to forgive them, which should be pretty easy if you present the PCs with an explanation of how the mirror works during or immediately following the fight. This is a wonderful opportunity for your PCs to reveal something about themselves, specifically if you let them role-play what their characters ‘see’ when they look into the mirror and the dialogue of their reflections. This can be a challenge, but it’s one my players would love!
After the encounters PCs can likely sell the mirror to their local adventuring guild for a quick coin, even if it fizzles out by the end of the encounter to prevent PCs from using it on enemies. Alternatively, the mirror could break and their clones could die by their hands, leaving them with a moral quandary and double their starting gear.
But, mechanically speaking, what are the mirror reflections? Creatures equal to the party level -1! And while the best way to make these creatures is using NPC Index: Warriors and NPC Index: Spellcasters, the fact the players are level 1 makes it pretty easy to slap-together an NPC even if you don’t know what your players are playing until 2 minutes before game time. Remember if you are using NPC Index to build the creatures as level 1 and then apply the weak template! So load up your favorite NPC creation app, my favorite still being Monster Tools, and make a level 0 monster. Or, if you want to make things even easier for you, take some of the following level -1 creatures from the Gamemastery Guide and replace their special ability with one of the following abilities depending on your PC’s class (with your own adjustments depending on the PC’s own choices; these are guidelines meant for an on the fly emergencies and should be adjusted; Shout-out to the article if you want to see more thorough stat-blocks):
Alchemist: Apothecary + Quick Bomber (+3 additional Acid Flasks)
Barbarian: Weakened Dockhand (no Heft Crate or Swing; Give Weapon using base die for damage) + “Rage” (+2 Damage, -1 AC) + Sudden Charge
Bard: Harrow Reader (Replace Fortune-Telling Lore with Diplomacy +8, No fated Doom) + Inspire Courage + Occult Spells DC 13, attack +7: Colorspray, Fear, Soothe + Cantrips: Daze, Guidance, Haunting Hymn, Shield
Champion: Weakened Dockhand (+1 AC, -2 Reflex, +2 Will, no Heft Crate or Swing; Give Weapon using base die for damage) + Retributive Strike (2 resistance) + Lay on Hands (1 focus point)
Cleric: Judge (Replace skills with Religion +7 and the deity’s divine skill +5; No Group Impression; give deity’s weapon) + Domain (1 Focus Point/1 Focus Spell) + Divine Spells DC 13, attack +7: Bless (or Bane), Heal (or Harm) x3, Divine Weapon + Cantrips: Daze, Divine Lance, Guidance, Shield
Druid: Judge (Replace skills with Nature +7 and Survival +6; No Group Impression) + Companion (see ranger) or Wild Form (see below) + Divine Spells DC 13, attack +7: Heal, Hydraulic Push, Mudpit + Cantrips: Acid Splash, Electric Arc, Guidance, Tanglefoot
Wildform: 30 feet; 5 Temp HP; Attack: +6; 1d6+2 Piercing (Jaws)|
Fighter: Abberton Ruffian (+1 to Attack, Replace Weapon, No Opening Threat) + Sudden Charge
Monk: Weakened Dockhand (+3 HP, +2 Will, no Heft Crate or Swing; Fist deals 1d6+1) + Flurry of Blows + a level 1 Stance feat of your choice
Ranger: Weakened Burning Mammoth Hunters (No Spurred by Death or Muscle Slicer) + Companion (see below)
Companion: Small, +5 Perception, +6 Acrobatics, +5 Athletics, 14 AC, +4 Fort, +4 Ref, +3 Will, HP 12; Speed: 40 feet; Melee: Jaws +5; Damage: 1d6 piercing
Rogue: Street Urchin + Sneak Attack +1d4
Sorcerer/Wizard: Adept (Adjust for Spellcasting) + 1 Focus Point (School or Bloodline Focus Spell) + Spellcasting DC 14, attack +8 (three level-1 spells; four cantrips)