|Epic Meepo RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32|
Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo Publishing / Pathfinder® / Pathfinder Adventure Path / Second Darkness
Poor expectation management. Players were told to make characters interested primarily in making money and surviving the grimy streets of Riddleport. They invested in a business and a home town that in Book 2 they leave and never return to for the rest of the AP.
Then the elves turn out to be jerks. The only way to advance the plot is to use a gross Drow Corpse suit spell and characters built to be Riddleport mercenaries don't have a strong motivation to care about an Elf/Drow war.
Basically book 1 & 2 are great together.
But the tonal shift between 2 & 3 feels railroady (in an unsubtle way) and clunky.
Ok so I guess 1) we didn't use traits back then. 2) because of that we didn't make characters attuned to Riddleport.
The gross drow suit we avoided, we used disguise and sneak instead, just didnt "do it" that way (the whole become sions of said grow house thing)
We had a very 'skulky' group.....
The elves as jerks.... I ALWAYS thought elves were jerks (elves in the hobbit, excellent example of elven jerks)
Our party actually came up with a side scheme where they betrayed the surface elves to the Drow (because surface elves were ridiculously incompetent jerks) and then double crossed the Drow with an human army.
BUT.... my groups NEVER stay on course. (personality of players)
with that said your analysis can be said of many APs (serpent's skull, legacy of fire, council of thieves) that dont get pooed on like SD.... but have similar faults....why love to hate SD so much?
Serpent's Skull and Council of Thieves do get their share of haters.
I like Second Darkness, but I would replace the first book almost entirely, insist the players play Elves/Half-Elves and change up the NPC Elves to be more likeable and interesting.
well id have to go back and re-read book 1, I only remember the golden goblin.
We didn't do the gross suit thing because players refused outright to be a part of it.
They found another way to continue the AP (albeit with DM fiat on my part) as a direct result of how the AP was written (gross suit, jerky elves) and then chose to do the other things they did, that were "off the beaten path" due to the fact of how the AP was written (back to the ridiculous NPCs) One of the players, actually sided with the point of view of the BBEG and understood WHY she chose to betray the winter council, and as such lead the entire party to HELP that goal, then decided the Drow couldnt be trusted either.
The derailment of the continued AP is basically the players reactions to what everyone else didnt like, just that these players didn't ride the train to it's final destination....
I just dont feel it was any worse per se than some of the other APs that practically did the same thing...
IMO the main issue is the chain of authors, who many times don't seem to collaborate with each other AT ALL, which gives you situations that lack cohesion (like book 1-2 vs 3-6...CoT had much of the same issues... Six fold trial im looking at you!)
but Like I said, Im struggling to see how SD was worse than SS or CoT? Was it because it was on the heels of RotRL and CotCT that everyone thought was great so it was the contrast of "suck" that made it "sucker"? (SD was our first AP)
Both SS and CoT have cohesive plots and don't require nearly as much wrangling as SD. The problem in SS is that City of Seven Spears, which is the most important adventure in the AP, is really ... bland. The problem in CoT is expectation management - people (me among them) saw AP in Cheliax, thought it's gonna be an epic tale of guerilla warfare against diabolists, what we got was a silly tussle against a bunch of spoiled tiefling kids.
As opposed, SD has the disjunction between books 1-2 and 3-6, the drow corpse thing (not a problem for my group, but could gross out those turbo touchy American puritans) and Memory of Darkness which fails as an adventure on oh so many levels and pretty much requires a total rewrite.
Ah, and Sixfold Trial was the best part of CoT.
Suffice to say that after first 5 pages of MD the group I run APs for would teleport out of Kyonin and never bother themselves with the problem.
And even if they didn't, the rest of the adventure is so bland and uninspiring that I feel asleep reading it, let alone running. Bad adventure, no cookie.
You can read my review on the product page, it's a little more angry :)
couldnt stand six fold trial, almost ruined the entire AP for me. the real thing that just beat the old dead horse was yet another pocket dimension. they most be but a few copper pieces at the local curio what with how common they were for a few APs...
the first module was fun enough. But I was also expecting some sort of cheliaxian coup.
in SS the Guerilla King could have been epic, I just couldn't pull it off as written, I should have spent more time re-writing it. Again we had a BLAST in the first AP.....
SD was ok in number 1
Maybe it's because, for our gaming group we're so used to elves being jerks, that we liked it?
I actually enjoyed how the AP wrote elves as being different and not "tra la la lally here we are down in the valley?"
I like me a good mirkwood elf.
running around the island in children of the void was great, the new "war wolves" (as we called them because they are so much like the marvel comics 'monster') were cool to fight.
WE thought the transition from book 2 to book 3 made sense.
Maybe that was because everyone was so focused on this new mysterious dark elf, they totally forgot about their new gambling hall they leveraged out of the first book.... I dunno. But for whatever reason, with our group it worked.
We had a REAL hard time making CoT work. It was more like Labor, less like gaming.
Very disappointed with LoF (but we may revisit that one could have been our GM)
SS was a huge success (souls and racing to ruin was a blast) that fizzled out of power mid way.
We are doing CotCT and struggling with early motivation, but I think once it really blows up... our group will definitely get motivated (they went into this one expecting to over throw a queen)
What was the more popular of APs (besides the early ones)?
Spoilers ahead for Second Darkness and Curse of the Crimson Throne. And minor rant.
Second Darkness is a great AP, but I think there are two main issues with it. First, like mentioned before, the NPCs for the elf kingdom are very unlikable and very stereotypical stuffy elves, which no one likes. Now, I don't believe that every NPC has to like you because that honestly isn't very realistic. For example, in Curse of the Crimson 4, when you have to gain the trust of the Shoanti tribes, a lot of people whined and balked. I personally was okay with it and I liked how we ended up gaining their trust because I don't have to have things given to me on a silver platter. I don't believe that my PC is super special and that I can walk up to a group of people that hate non-Shoanti and expect them to automatically adore me. Bad things happen to adventurers and you have to overcome them. And earning a group's trust is a classic troupe you see in older fantasy and I don't have any issues with it.
That said, there are extremes. And Memory of Darkness did do the "stuffy elf" thing to quite a degree, with them raiding your quarters and locking you up in a prison. That kind of thing can reek with railroading and let's face it, most players despise losing control like that. It's also a shame that the elves in Golarion didn't get the same overhaul treatment that other races got (gnomes!) and instead stuck with the troupes that people dislike about elves.
The second reason was honestly drow fatigue. People were (are still?) tired of drow this and drow that. Hell, a couple of weeks ago, I checked the 4e website and over half their new articles are drow related STILL! I think that if they waited on the drow AP for later, it probably would have done better.
My bet with the previous DM about running it is off, since he refuses to even talk to me let alone play with me now :3
Wow, a lot changed in 20 minutes...
I've only recently started playing Pathfinder (6 months ago), after having played LG from woe to go, and 4e LFR the same. I've started SD as the first non-living campaign I've run in years. And so far, up to the end of Act 1 of Book 1, it's been a blast. I've read ahead, and I can see what people say about the later parts, but...I still don't see a huge issue getting the players into Book 2 and 3, except that Kwava needs to be foreshadowed a little earlier. I understand the icky of Part 4, but it's no worse than some of the plots in other campaigns - in fact, there is an LFR special that sees the PCs physically turned into water-breathing Aboleth slaves. And you know what? Nobody batted an eyelid at it...
Hell, a couple of weeks ago, I checked the 4e website and over half their new articles are drow related STILL!
Actually, that's AGAIN, not STILL. For whatever reason, every time WoTC get to the end of an edition, they seem to go Drow again. I guess Drizzt sells, so you can't really blame them...
My problem with SD was the "here's a bunch of unlikeable elves who don't want us around - oh, they need help to win their war against a bunch of evil elves - let's go on a near-suicide mission to help them" followed by "the elves we helped lock us up".
Can I also say I think it's a bit funny that you wonder what people didn't like about SD, and then when people answer you say "we didn't like those bits, so we changed them completely" :)
The other two APs that have been brought up don't have the same issues, or at least not as strongly. Neither of them have the "I don't see any reason why the PCs would do this" aspect.
I personally like Serpent's Skull quite a bit. The only problem with that particular AP is the amount of work required to create memorable encounters in part 3, since that whole book is simply a framework. However, creating and tweaking encounters is one of my favorite things to do as a DM, so that didn't bother me at all.
The story flows fairly well from one section to the next, although there's certainly bits and pieces that aren't awesome, plus there should have been some consideration made for groups that want to explore on their own rather than be a part of any of the five organizations.
oh, they need help to win their war against a bunch of evil elves - let's go on a near-suicide mission to help them" followed by "the elves we helped lock us up".
Shouldn't it be more like 'Be heroes, and prevent a second Earthfall'? I'm still a little unclear on just when the overall plot becomes player knowledge, but I expect sometime in part 4 or 5.
I have not actually run SD, but I found the whole story pretty evocative to read (score one for Paizo making modules and APs fun to read). I was in a good mindset for it, however, because I was also adapting the Descent to the Depths/Vault of the Drow adventures for another campaign and getting back to basics on use of the Drow.
Friends of mine are playing it on another game night now and they've been enjoying it. They didn't mind the switch in themes from Riddleport to elf-politics.
The big sticking point is when the PCs get mocked by the evilll chancellor for bringing their information tot he Elves' attention and the Queen acting all scatter-brained. They then get attacked while no doubt being out of armor and sleeping. Then other elves rush in and try to rush them into a special prison.
What we changing in the AP was based on the players saying "nope" we aren't going to do that.Didn't ruin the AP or make it a bad AP, players chose not to do it.
Because they chose not to wear Drow skins, some of the others things just didnt happen at all, because they weren't in the situation drow skins put them. So they were avoided by default.
I DO remember something now, which irked by ALOT and seems to be a fault of ALL APS.....so much information there is no way to GET to the PCS.
It vexes me why so much material has time spent on it that has now way for the PCs to know it, sometimes I find ways to tell PCs about it (usually through a DM PC or some other narrative and other times I can't find a reasonable way and pages and pages are wasted.
But thats not an SD only issue.
But like I'm saying, problems with SD seem to invade all the APs just in different ways.
We didn't have an issue with transition form sand point to crying leaf (I dunno just wasn't an issue for us)
We didn't have a real issue with being locked up, because the PC's didnt initially get the fact that they WERE locked up and by the time they did, they were able to get out quite quickly.
They did go off on a lot of tangents, but they always do.
Can I also say I think it's a bit funny that you wonder what people didn't like about SD, and then when people answer you say "we didn't like those bits, so we changed them completely" :)
I'm kind of in this boat. I changed the premise of the adventure a bit in that the PCs are a mercenary unit that has been hired by the elves. Part of their utility is that they are outside of the elven political spectrum and conflict. We almost finished Armegedon Echo, and will be re-starting it after a long hiatus.
So far I plan on having the rest of the modules be more series of missions to save the world. After the AP is done, they may get assignments to protect/save elven interests in other parts of Golarion.
Check me off as another who is GMing this AP but with big changes. Just finished "Shadow in the Sky" and so far everyone's having a lot of fun.
That said... It probably wouldn't work if I hadn't known ahead of time about the kind of characters my Players were gonna make. Two wanted to make fetchling siblings who didn't know what they were, nor their origins, so I ran with the visual similarity to Drow and tied in the shadow plane WAY more. Drow are basically elven fetchlings now, and the Azrinaes are actively extremists. If that doesn't hint to the scope of what I've changed, I dunno what will.
But anyways, the way I see it when it comes to Second Darkness is this:
The concepts, many of the encounters, environments and so on? They are pretty damn fun! This adventure wasn't CONCEPTUALLY bad at all!
But I think there were a lot of execution problems. It really needed a lot more refining and editing. The blatant railroading that's prevalent is frustrating for a high-RP content and creative party.
When I talk about railroading, I don't just mean the "they have NO OPTIONS BUT TO DO IT EXACTLY THIS WAY". I mean that almost ALL plot info can't be discovered by the PCs actions. Most of it has to be told to them by NPCs. Or their diaries (which is, frankly, a rather over-used plot device).
So that is frustrating for players because they very actively can tell they haven't got control over what happens to them. It makes their choices nearly meaningless.
Add to that the fact that the amount of betrayals that happen in this AP is, quite frankly, mind blowing. It's one thing to have Betrayal be a theme. It's another to have the PCs CONSTANTLY betrayed by people they considered allies.
Plus the incompetent and unsympathetic NPCs, the potential tonal 180 between the second and third adventures...
Now, I'm a big fan of this AP! But that's specifically because I'm willing to put in the work to adapt things to my players, let things go off the tracks a little if it means a more exciting story that the PCs can take more initiative with, and I like to build and change my adventures to have a personal flair.
My verdict: This AP CAN be really great if you're the kind of GM who enjoys or is at least okay with being really flexible, and/or is prepared to put in the work to edit the awkward bits.
BUT if you're a GM just looking for a nice pre-made ready-to-go game to run without having to do a lot of extra legwork... This AP could end up really being frustrating for GM and players alike!
Which I think is what kills it for most people.
Something I recall about our play style is interesting too.
A lot of people on this board tend to make characters that are optimized (a Giant fighting ranger for RotRL for example) where as we tend to make characters we feel like fleshing out and go with whatever happens. So for example, a Paladin with Oath against the Wyrm, who... never fights a dragon, or maybe sees battle with one dragon the whole AP (like SD).
So when it comes to being settled in sand point doing something and then "oh look squirrel!" and we're off, I guess that doesn't bother us as something odd, or weird, because we're almost expecting that theme.
MY very early experiences in sword and sorcery come from three places. Middle earth, Dragon Lance and Michael Morcock's Melibonean (elric and his race are elf-like) as a result, we as a gaming group have never known nice, cool, laid back fun elves.
Mirkwood? No they're jerks, Silvanesti? Total dinks, Meliboneans? forget about it!
So elves being tools, not anything new.
What was "lame" for our crew, was the necromancer elf , Drow disguise thing. Really left a sour taste in the troops mouth and they decided THIS is when they didnt trust the surface elves (an in game thing).
Later on, an in game agreement was made between the PCs and a Drow house (can't recall which one) The Drow would help them stop the other (rival) house from their plot to cause earth fall, in exchange for the PC's helping the Drow exact revenge on the surface elves.
Eventually the PC's double cross the surface elves with a human army they helped organize and stuck it to both groups of "elves" because they didn't trust either one of them, and still accomplished the AP goals. although the party was a TPK at the very end, but they did thwart earth fall and the BBEG. It was kinda lame it was an unconscious bleed out fest with lots of failed stablization checks, very anti climatic....
however, WE had a BLAST.
Those who didn't like the AP as written aren't saying you can't have a great time playing the AP. If I decide to run it some time, I'm pretty sure I'll be able to make it an enjoyable campaign. But I'd have to change much more of SD to do so than for any other AP.
(disclaimer: I haven't yet read Carrion Crown, Jade Regent, or Skull & Shackles)
I think several of the adventures are great individually. They just don't come together well as a cohesive entity.
Exactly my feelings. We're having a great time playing it and I'm happy running it because I really enjoy messing with GM stuff and writing my own plot elements and changing up motivations and the like! So while a lot of work, this AP also represents a lot of opportunity to me!
But not everyone likes that kind of work, and people who just wanna pick up the premade and GO are gonna find things pretty frustrating.
Curious, what others found "wrong" with SD, I found in almost all the APs. In that way I dont find anything 'worse' about SD, which is why I don't understand the more concentrated SD "hate'.
The worst thing about the APs in general (starting with SD) is ALL the information there is no way for the PCs to find out! Lots of space wasted on plots and subs plots you just can't give the PCs, it's frustrating, but thats not solo to SD.
I actually suspended my subscription to APs for a time, so I don't have Skulls,or Jade Regent.
We had a lot of fun in carrion crown, I don't recall as much of the issue with the previous APs, seemed like more of the information was obtainable somehow.
We Liked CoT to a point, but ti's plot seemed to derail itself but the beginning got boring.
Serpent's Skull was a gigantic, frustrating let down.
LoF could have been so much more. (and is worth another shot in my book)
So far my favorite APs have to have been CC and SD.
I personally avoid Second Darkness because, as I understand it, if the PCs fail, the world ends.
I scrapped the 1st adventure and made sure my PC (solo campaign) knew that Riddleport would not be a base of operations. Replaced it with a plot from an old 3.5 adventure I found lying around.
Still had to railroad between book 2 and 3. Accomplished it by having a price put on their heads due to events in book 2.
Dealt with the pocket plane by making it temporary. When it collapses at the end of the echo it doesn't reform. However, any item or book taken from that shadowy plane is okay so long as it's not exposed to sunlight. Haven't lost those books yet.
My PC is squicked by the flesh suits but I still got her to go along with it by making the necromancer just the right type of creepy. Scrapped the whole neutral thing.
Rewrote elven society. Having to rewrite the first half of book 5.
Might do something to the glyphs to make them less dumb.
Also... omg book 4 with just one player SUCKS!!! So much of it is literally just me talking at her about what happens because there's no other party members to provide conflict! I've had to come up with some interesting twists to twisted jobs lemme tell you...
Lord Twitchiopolis wrote:
Most of the adventure paths are world changing but not world ending if failure occurs.ROTRL= Karzoug rises and conquer Varisia in a few weeks and proceeds to conquer the rest of the continent shortly after.
COTCT = Kazavon is Resurrected and wreaks havoc being nigh unstoppable (If I remember correctly, it has been a while).
SD = Space rocks fall elves die.
LOF= Genie army takes over the southern continent.
SS(serpent's skull)= Ydeserius(don't quote me on the spelling) is resurrected, whole new god and his followers are back.
CC= Tar Baphon, quite possibly the most formidable necromancer to ever walk Golarion is effectively reincarnated.
All of them pretty much boil down to a group of heroes saving a quarter of the planet from drastic and violent change.
My wife ran SD for us and it was great. That said what everybody said here is accurate, there is a disconnect between book 2 and book 3 and the elves are jerks.
Descent Into Midnight is a great AP volume though.
For reference here are the reasons people don't like Serpent's Skull and CoT
1) It's too sandboxy. GM's need to put far too much work in to make it work.
2) Books 4-6 are too similar.
3) Book 3 is terrible, an uninspired mess of hack and slash which should have been the cornerstone of the whole AP.
4) Being forced to work with an organisation for the AP makes a lot of players feel like employees rather than heroes.
1) The setup for the AP feels like it's going to be revolution in Cheliax but it chickens out in favour of the status quo.
2) The BBEG's are a pair of whiny emo kids. When you compare them to the collection of badasses who you get to fight at the end of other AP's there is no contest.
3) Aside from the Sixfold Trial there is no real inspired moments. It's all a bit samey really.
I didn't like SS either (which made me cancel AP subscription for a time) and I hated Six fold trial, I thought the 1st book of CoT was fun. we died somewhere after aberians folly but before getting into to fighting too many devils (fought like a few after the mansion blew up) went into somewhere and all got killed by a medusa, TPK, everyone was killed by the medusa....it was crazy.
Totally Agree. I remove all the information that my players have no way of finding out, and the information that has no direct relevance to the AP. This generally makes it much better, and I end up getting adventures that are 30% smaller. Still I wish I didn't have to read them to unfocus me from the actual adventure.
Small suggestion for easing irritations
A noticable sticking point is how the PCs get dumped on when they bring their evidance of the Skyfall to the elves. They then get shoved to the side and a hit-squad sent after them. Change it so it SEEMS they are taken seriously. Have the Winter Council elf look doubtful and then serious when the PCs present things, have him ask questions and appear to be a red-tape type but someone they can win over. The end result is the same, but hopefully the players won't feel that they are getting trolled by the elves.
Small suggestion for easing irritations** spoiler omitted **
If I ever get to run it, my plan at that point is to do the following :-
The noble who meets them when they come through the Elf Gate is viewed as expendable by the Winter Council. He has found out too much from the PCs, and knows enough background information about the Council that he might eventually figure out that the famous General who has dropped out of sight "on a mission to Sargava" is actually a renegade Council member who has somehow turned into a drow.
They arrange to have him murdered, and frame the PCs for it. They then whip up an angry mob of Lantern Bearers, who attack the PCs in order to "bring them to justice". Assuming the PCs kill the Lantern Bearers, the Queen urges them to accept her protective custody to avoid further attacks by the friends of those who have died, until they are able to prove their innocence.
I had a lot of fun running this AP. I didn't like it as much as the AP I ran before it (Savage Tide), but it was still a good time for my group. I did make several changes here and there, but nothing too crazy. I also ran it in 4E, but the conversion worked out pretty good. I probably liked the first couple of adventures the best, but we still had fun with all the different adventures. I enjoyed Memory in Darkness, even though it gets a lot bad press.
Recent threads in Second Darkness