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It seems like haunts are just souped up traps. My problem is according to the book, they have some ridiculous requirements for getting rid of them. How would my party even know the very specific destruction requirements?

My part will have no Cleric or Paladin so I feel this may be a little too much for my newbie-ish group of players. I'm thinking of simply making them standard, one off traps, with the effect laid in the book.

Example:

Headless Horseman CR 10 Source: Pathfinder Carrion Crown Adventure Path

Whether spectral cavaliers from distant lands who lost their heads in battle or jilted equestrians decapitated by jealous rivals, headless horsemen are dangerous and deadly pursuers known to haunt dark roadways and abandoned bridges in the late hours of the night.

XP 9,600 CE persistent haunt (10 ft. by 50 ft. roadway or bridge) Caster Level 10th Notice Perception DC 20 (to hear the galloping of a phantom horse) hp 45, Trigger proximity; Reset 1 day

EFFECT This haunt materializes as a headless, horse-bound spectre. Wearing ancient armor, its decapitated head hanging from the saddle of a rotting, ghostly equine, the spirit swiftly gallops across the roadway, attacking each round with a terrible, ethereal blade as the mage’s sword spell with a +16 attack bonus. Some roving specimens are known to continue pursuit far beyond their original area.

DESTRUCTION A holy weapon must be buried in the roadway, and then the haunt must be provoked during a full moon. The headless horseman is destroyed when it charges over the holy weapon.

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You are largely correct.

When they introduced haunts in Rise of the Runelords, they were still somewhat supernatural and ill-defined, and were super fun and creepy. We all still fondly remember Foxglove Manor. As much of the 3.5/PF community is intolerant of anything that's not entirely mechanistic, however, when they re-did haunts for Pathfinder (RotR was 3.5e originally) they did them in extra lame form as basically a trap. The only way you'd know any of those things to get rid of them is usually to make an artificial Knowledge check, which makes no sense you'd somehow know that, but that's where it is. Now, the haunts we hit in Carrion Crown recently were a lot more boring. "Oh let me channel energy again! Wait, no cleric? They're invulnerable!"

When I run haunts, I do two things. One, I throw out the trap/CR/etc crap and treat it more organically like a real inexplicable haunted-house thing. Then, the way to get rid of it is to research, ask creepy old Varisian ladies, ask the gods... And allow things to affect it that aren't just a cleric channeling energy, but symbolically appropriate stuff that any PC can do. Of course this means that haunts need to be "big deals" and not side throwaway encounters. Rather than have each individual haunt be its "own trap" I just make the whole haunt basically one thing, where you'd need to dispense with the whole thing and not "the scary painting in area A8." Haunts can be super fun and engaging if you reject the whole "it's a CR appropriate trap" approach and think "I'm directing Poltergeist."

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