Pathfinder is a roleplaying game where a group of players sit around a table playing through an adventure. This article is the first in a series detailing my thoughts on the set storyline called an Adventure Path with is new for each season. Each article covers one season (storyline) of play. The first couple of adventure path are written with the rules from Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 by Wizards of the Coast, and are compatible with the Pathfinder ruleset later created by Paizo to continue their line of products.
This is my thoughts on the books, storyline and possible issues I found while trying not to produce any spoilers for the storyline.
Campaign Rules: Published Books (Paizo – Adapting to Pathfinder on the fly)
Timeframe: 23rd Sep 2010 to 18th Sep 2012
Total Sessions: 40
Gaming Group: Tuesday Night (fortnightly)
Campaign: Season 1 – Rise of the Runelords
Experience: As obtained from encounters and roleplay
Special Campaign Rules: Sin mechanic
Note: conversion of 3.5 to Pathfinder for play, campaign notes maintained in Realm Works, session notes in OneNote, tabletop environment in D20Pro and character creation in Hero Lab.
Impressions of Sin mechanic
The sin mechanic is based on the sins of Greed, Lust, Envy, Wrath, Gluttony, Pride and Sloth. This is first mentioned in the second book in a sidebar on page 19. What it is meant for is to help run the fifth book by establishing what sort of characters are in the party based on their actions in the campaign up to this point. Based on the sins the character has committed over the course of the game they will be effected differently in the fifth book of the series.
Players Guide (also free PDF)
Useful info for the players to get a copy of, though its stats are D&D 3.5. Contains:
- Map of Sandpoint (starting town)
- Map of Varisia (starting country)
- Overview of Races in Golarion including example names
- Overview of Classes in Golarion including Gods, familiars and campanions
- Equipment of Varisia for specialised items found here
- Varisa – overview of the country
- Sandpoint – overview of the town
Book 1 – Burnt Offerings (8 Sessions)
This book expects the characters to gain enough experience to go from level 1 to 3.
It is broken up into four parts that introduce a setting with a rich and detailed backgound. This is based on the town being located on an ancient ruin of a long gone civilization and introduces Goblins as a good early threat. It ends with the party confronting the source of the Goblin threat and opening them up to a larger world.
Player use of illusion magic was quite effective in the combat during this book.
- 4 part Adventure
- Sandpoint – detailed description
- The History of Thassilon – includes campaign outline
- Pathfinder’s Journal – includes overview of pathfinder society
- Pregen Characters at level 1: Valeros (male human fighter), Seoni (female human sorcerer), Kyra (female human cleric of Sarenrae) and Merisiel (female elf rogue)
Book 2 – The Skinsaw Murders (8 Sessions)
This book expects the character to gain enough experience go from level 4 to 6.
It starts with exploring the area around Sandpoint with a haunted house that if the players do what players do, can be bypassed without using a new “haunt” mechanic created for this location. Then the character move on to Magnimar, a nearby capital city to follow leads behind the murders.
As a GM I recommend raising the water level of the well at the haunted house just to avoid players going this way.
- 5 part Adventure
- Magnimar – major town of Varisa
- Desna – details on the goddess of dreams, stars, travellers and luck.
- Pathfinder’s Journal – First intallment by Eando Kline
- Pregen characters of level 4
Book 3 – The Hook Mountain Massacre (7 Sessions)
This book expects the character to go from levels 7 to 9.
The adventure centres on an area known as Hook Mountain which the characters are sent to investigate. This leads to them owning a castle and tracking down what killed the former occupants. Well written and quite disturbing. Had a good feel to the hero’s victory over the storyline. This was my highlight of the series.
- 5 part adventure
- Keeping the Keep – Rules for running a Fortress
- Varisia – more detail on the country of the adventure path
- Pathfinder’s Journal – Part 2 of Eando Kline
- Pregen characters at level 7
Book 4 – Fortress of the Stone Giants (8 Sessions)
This book expects the character to go from levels 10 to 11.
The party returns to Sandpoint and battle with Stone Giants. Having to work out why they are attacking and stopping them while exploring ancient mysteries.
Not as good as what has come before, but power level creep of the characters can shut down most of the encounters without risk to the party. Not challenging enough.
- 5 part adventure
- Born of Stone – All about Stone Giants
- Dragons of Golarion
- Pathfinder’s Journal – Part 3 of Eando Kline
- Pregen Characters level 10
Book 5 – Sins of the Saviours (5 Sessions)
This book expects the character to go from levels 12 to 13.
Investigation into an ancient complex which is an interesting open module without a linear approach to its finish. Was interesting, but again at this power level most of the encounters were not challenging.
The sin mechanic fell flat after all the build up, but that may have just being the lack of enthusiasm for the group I was playing with.
- 11 part adventure
- Magic of Thassilon – This sections spells are available in Hero Lab if you select the adventure path. As they are rewards for in the game, care would need to be taken if using such a tool.
- Lamashtu – Goddess of madness, monsters and nightmares
- Pathfinder’s Journal – Part 4 of Eando Kline
- Pregen characters level 12
Book 6 – Spires of Xin-Shalast (4 Sessions)
This book expects the character to go from levels 14 to 15+.
This final installment is about travelling to the centre of the runelords power and confronting those who rule out of his ancient city.
The party was able to skip 70% of the module by flying over the spires and attacking the big bad without gaining any XP. The ability to fly over the city with standard magic made travelling through all the encounters to get to the tower all the way at the back a sound thing to do for the players.
Not advised and they did not have the power necessary to survive the final encounter. After review, I don’t think they would have survived with the experience, quite a few bad saving throw rolls in the final encounter lead to this being a total party kill.
- 6 part adventure
- Karzoug the Claimer – Runelord details
- Hazards of the World’s Roof – adventuring high up in the mountains
- Pathfinder’s Journal – Part 5 of Eando Kline
- Preview of Curse of the Crimson Throne (next Adventure Path)
- Pregen Characters level 14
- Rise of the Runelords Map Folio
The map folio is a fantastic resource as it provides all the maps without needing to have the book open to that page while running the game.
It would have been better if it has player versions without numbers, but it was good to use just by having it available while accessing the locations on different pages.
- Rise of the Runelords Dice
There are seven runes of sin, each of those runes is used as the maximum number on each of the dice here.
This can make it hard to read, but was a good gimmick to distinguish these dice from my others.
Rise of the Runloards Item Cards
- GameMastery – Rise of the Runelords Item Cards
These cards give a picture of what the item looks like, as well as a description on the back of the card.
It also has space for notes on the item itself. Not that I used them as such. They were good to show players what they found in a location and add flavour to magical items.
I intend to use the images with my Realm Works tool to keep track of what items the players have found over the course of the campaign as it would work well there.
Conclusion: Party was defeated by the Runelord and the world was made poorer by their failure. The campaign was entertaining but most players felt it dragged on too long and XP was a constant problem to keep track of and balance the storyline encounters. I changed this in the next campaign as I will discuss there. It was a good introduction to the world, though careful management of spells and magical items would need to be done to lessen power creep. I am looking forward to re-running this campaign using the Anniversary edition of the Adventure Path written for the Pathfinder ruleset. I will review that one after my group plays it.