I am winding down my current game and will be gearing up for a new one soon and I have been looking at perhaps running of the older Dungeon mag adventure paths and was looking for any advice as to which one I should choose.
My group has 7 players, 2 girls and 5 guys. We are all at least in our mid to late thirties and have been playing DND for about 15 to 20 years each. They tend to enjoy an equal mix of both tactical combat and Role-Play, not quite as into the exploration/investigation aspects of the game.
Another consideration is that I plan to update the adventures from 3.5 to the PFRPG rules.
So should I go with Shackled City, Age of Worms, or Savage Tide?
Each of the paths has plenty of strengths and weaknesses and opportunity for both action and RP. I'm not as familiar with Savage Tide since I haven't done anything more than skim it.
Shackled City needs a ton of conversion and customization to make it work. I ran it to completion and it was a blast with lots of opportunity for exploration, action, and roleplaying.
Age of Worms has lots of tidbits that make it enjoyable for old school gamers. It's pretty dungeon heavy and requires some work to smooth out the plot wrinkles and hiccups in design. It's not anything compared to the work needed to get Shackled City shored up. There is an entire adventure however, that is geared toward roleplaying almost exclusively. I've wanted to run this since it was first being published but I never got the opportunity.
For everything i have seen Savage Tide has a pretty tight story compared to the previous two and doesn't require much work in the plot smoothing department. based on the adventures it seems that exploration plays really heavily into the campaign as well as some epic battle both on land and at sea.
My recommendation would be to browse through the issues and read the synopses of each adventure. Get a feel for the tone of the campaign and run the one that grabs you the most. Each can be as awesome and tailored to your tastes as you want them to be.
I mastered SCAP for two years and must say, that it was the best campaign I ever played/mastered before. Yes, you have to do some homework but you have a great forum just some clicks away. Especially the sidekicks from Delvesdeep are very very exciting. The campaign is centered at one city so you have many oportunities for getting involved in the local affairs, many chances for good roleplay.
AoW is a bit more epic but for my opinion too much dungeoncrawl heavy. Some senseless plothooks, so you need much homework, too. Most enemies are undead, so you must love them to love AoW :-)
I'm playing STAP as a player at the moment. It's an interesting setting (demons and dinosaurs on a lonely island), but it seems for me very railroady. And until now (Lvl 12) not as epic as the other two.
Make your choice but I prefer SCAP.
I consider Savage Tide the better AP, but I suspect Age of Woims is more your speed. ST has more exploration than the others, with significant portions involving PCs heading into the wilderness in search of stuff.
I believe ST edges out AoW in the roleplaying arena, though. Both paths have plenty of NPCs to chat with, but ST has the strongest, recurring NPCs which make for some nice long-term character interaction.
In any case, I always recommend playing AoW first if only because if you ever think you're going to play both of them, AoW won't follow ST as well as ST would follow AoW.
Sheharan wrote:I think Shackled City and Age of Worms are roughly equal in terms of dungeon crawls.
I mastered SCAP for two years and must say, that it was the best campaign I ever played/mastered before. [..]
AoW is a bit more epic but for my opinion too much dungeoncrawl heavy.
I used the scenarios from Delvesdeep (Demonscarball and Siege of Redgorge). These two together with "Foundation of flame" and "Test of the smoking eye" are great nondungeoncrawls. As I stated you have to do some homework. Sure, if you play it as written you're right.
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I would say Shackled City. One city, and it has the allure of being the first AP ever. As far as smoothing things over, all of that work has already been done. Especially if you're using the hardcover and not the original magazines. Delvesdeep additions are excellent; I recommend them.
( 1 ) Have Kaurophon kicking around Cauldron conducting research at various libraries (Bluecrater Academy, Wee Jas, etc.) Have him show up during the umber hulk attack and again during the tax riot. Finally, have him fighting with Alex Tercival at the end of Demonskar Legacy. It'll make it a lot easier to buy him as an ally as opposed to just some half-fiend who shows up all of a sudden.
( 2 ) Increase the treasure up to Foundation of Flame. Mostly consumables. Why? After assisting with the evacuation during FoF, Jenya Urikas tells the party she's located the Cagewrights (beginning 13 Cages) and they're conducting a planar ritual to open a permanent gate to Carceri . . . but the party has time to rest before heading off to stop them. What?!? That never made for good dramatic tension. Send the group off on 13 Cages immediately after FoF; this builds tension, a lot of tension, and really makes the group feel the clock ticking away as opposed to meta-gaming "oh, it's just the next adventure so let's reset our spells." The increased consumables makes it more likely they'll stumble along.
( 3 ) Furthermore, in 13 Cages, if the group misses the secret door where Gau lives (very likely), don't have her go to Area 5 to stage an ambush. Have her alert the entire complex. The Cagewrights have been working for years to subvert Cauldron to bring about a plan set in motion by the demodands some 500 years ago. They are arrogant, yes, but not stupid. They know this group has been undermining their plans for months, raided the cathedral of Wee Jas, took out Rhiavadi and her guests at her party, and stormed Oblivion. The Cagewrights know this group isn't to be trifled with. That said, they're not going to just wait, room by room trying to take them out one at a time. Remember that Gau has a move of 40', which is probably faster than the average group speed. The group will get slowed for a few rounds by the farastus in rooms 4 & 5, so Gau will have plenty of time to alert the complex. ALL of the Cagewrights should be at the Tree of Shackled Souls, except for the paranoid one, he's paranoid after all. Ti'irok should gather all of his Flamewarders (16 iirc) and await the party in room 10. If the party doesn't arrive in 5-10 minutes, then he should fall back to the Tree. A kelubar in 7 should get the vrocks in 6 and head to 16 to spring upon the group from behind the stone curtain (also falling back to the Tree if it seems the group has gone the other way). There should be plenty of evidence of recent occupation (i.e. a knocked over cup that's still dripping) so the party knows that they've been detected and the complex is on alert.
I know this makes 13 Cages MUCH harder. A total meat-grinder, but it's a lot more tense. Players who've played as long as yours should recognize that its time to call in Nidrama, the hound archon from Test of the Smoking Eye, Saureya (if feasible), and any other big guns they can.
( 4 ) This addresses all the dungeon crawls in any of the APs. The old school days of random monsters with no ecology just waiting around are DEAD. These ruins/dungeons are dynamic environments occupied for a reason. Take the skulks/dark creepers in Life's Bazaar. They're not just summering in Jzadirune. They're using it as a staging area from which to kidnap people who live in the city above to be sold as slaves in the Underdark. Kazmojen has to know (or Vhalantru would tell him) that its possible someone will find them down there. They'll have a plan for when the alert goes up.
This does five things:
( A ) Dungeon crawls go much faster because more and more rooms are emptied as one and two guards start clumping together at the Last Stand.
( B ) Builds tension as the group finds empty rooms. "Its quiet. Too quiet."
( C ) Really gives the stealthy people a chance to do their thing. They can really scout about, tell the clanging armored ones when to stop and when to go, stealthily take out some guards without alerting the whole place.
( D ) Makes the Last Stand more complex to run as a DM
( E ) Makes the Last Stand much harder for the players. They've got to have good tactics. They might actually withdraw to rest. This creates a very tense cat and mouse.
I'd also recommend Shackled City. I padded it out with 'Mad God's Key' to give some extra XP at lower levels, and made quite a few adjustments on the fly, but the AP runs nicely, my (old school) players enjoyed basing themselves in a city - they even bought property (with Vhalantru's help!) and took any threats to the city personally.
And it only took about six or so years to finish! (we game irregularly...)