Last night saw the conclusion of another Paizo adventure path for Pathfinder. It was a long session but the players managed to finally rid Golarion of the demonic Worldwound in the Wrath of the Righteous adventure path. Two years, twenty character levels and up to ten mythic levels culminated in the group killing a demon lord. This adventure path was a struggle for me and I think I will be drawing a line. No more adventure paths.
Paths I have run
The first ever adventure path I ran was the best one. It was the Serpent Skull adventure path about shipwrecks and lost cities in steamy jungles. There were three brilliant modules, one awful one and two that were OK but forgettable. I enjoyed this experience at the time and so had signed up to the adventure path subscription. One that came out was a pirate adventure – the Skull and Shackles adventure path. I set my eyes on that path and started it as it seemed to have a really good progression where the players picked up large rewards as they progressed. It actually nearly broke our gaming group. The first module deals with some rough stuff and the players got sick of it. We had to take a six month break from it but we completed it in the end. Though the players at the end were not those that first began.
I run a game online and the first adventure path I ran was the Reign of Winter story line. I wanted to run it because the players end up on Earth! But I had overlooked a broken premise of the plot that basically assumes that the characters that start the campaign are the ones that end it. My games run down the line, if you die and can’t be resurrected it is time for a new character. The base premise of this adventure path just did not consider this at all. At the end of the game there was a couple of originals but no real reason to see it through to completion. I should have known better than to start Wrath of the Righteous.
Wrath of the Righteous
I had purchased Mythic Adventures from Paizo. The concept of having characters above and beyond regular characters imbued with a bit of divinity seemed awesome. The store had opened and so I decided to run it. Interest was high (at one stage I had 16 players at the table) but the story was full of Paizo mistakes. Again, here at the heart of the story, was the assumption that the characters that start the game are assumed to be the ones that end it. In reality the cast of characters at the end contained no originals. The players probably had up to three characters on average each. The plot completely overlooks this and does nothing to “imbue” new characters with mythic ability. Players were expecting just to start with mythic power when a character died and I stopped it. It made no sense. They could pick up mythic abilities after enduring a mythic trial.
The final module tells me that it is premised off the idea that the characters are at the peak of their mythic power and if they die they will just resurrect a day later. Only one character made it that far and they premised the module off of it? Poor design. The saving grace for the players was the fact that Mythic powers are completely broken. Balancing an encounter against mythic players is herding cats. Very hit and miss. One player was doing 350 points of damage with a bow every round most of the time – encounters with NPC’s were just under-powered.
That makes four
I have completed four adventure paths. I am running Rise of the Runelords online in a very hit and miss fashion. The story and path is OK so far and Paizo do not seem to have made major errors in the design to this point. But I am only in the second module (The Skinsaw Murders) at the moment. Scheduling may destroy this game but if it ends it is the last adventure path I will run. These elongated campaigns are a good idea but the more Paizo put out the more the designs are broken. Apparently every single one needs to be about world shattering events. Problem is, none of the resolutions ever effect the actual landscape of Golarion. Paizo put a timeline on things and then in reference to the adventure paths state that they don’t fit into that timeline and therefore may or may not have happened. Absolute rubbish.
If you want to build a campaign these books are OK to look at. They give good ideas but know this;
- Factor in the fact that characters can die (and should if situation warrants it) – this can really drive stories too (revenge, mourning and the like)
- Therefore don’t make the only reason characters are adventuring an event that happens in the first stages of their career. Future characters will have no reason to continue
- Stories can be interesting even if the fate of the world does not depend on it
- The most memorable of the campaigns I played in was in essence a love story between my character and an immortal being – no worlds in danger
- Worlds can change – make what the players do have this effect
- Paizo wrongly assume that they must maintain the status quo because they sell printed material on the setting