Best AP to drag out over 20 years?


Pathfinder Adventure Path General Discussion

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I feel like I want to take an AP and have considerable time (as in, years) pass between installments, so that the entire AP would take 20, 30, even 40 years. Some APs are going to be a worse fit for this sort of thing than others. For example, Jade Regent comes to mind -- a caravan traveling for 20 years might be tough to swallow as believable.

Which APs do you think would be best for this?


I really don't think any of the APs really handle what you want from this. They're pretty well structured in a way that keeps driving forward, for necessary reasons.

Maybe you would be better off with a series of modules instead? As self-contained story blocks they'd be much easier to insert the sort of long breaks you're looking for.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm thinking Kingmaker, Skull & Shackles, Iron Gods and Ruins of Azlant might be some of the best candidates with the least time pressure (or time pressure elements that could be tweaked away relatively easily).

Serpent's Skull, Carrion Crown and Mummy's Mask all feature a sort of race with a rival organization, which sort of puts in time pressure...although I suppose maybe it could just be a really slow race.

Hell's Rebels and Hell's Vengeance would require Cheliax to take 20+ years to put down an uprising...and I think that premise is one of the most strained to work with. I would definitely put these two at the bottom of the list, IMO.

Not sure about Reign of Winter and Strange Aeons...


I'm running Strange Aeons currently, and there's a time crunch aspect to it as well. It's a bit looser than Carrion Crown in that respect, but not as loose as Mummy's Mask. It just takes a while for the party to realize there's a clock running in the background...

EDIT: although, a little weirdly, the key aspects of the "race" in Mummy's Mask is kicked off by the players, and the major milestones can't happen without them. Plus there's a lot of desert exploration. So if you waited until after book 2 you might be able to really drag that one out, since a lot of what the bad guys want to do they can't do until the PCs take certain actions or go to certain places.

I think Iron Gods could stretch to that if you were willing to put the time breaks between parts of the unofficial trilogies. Parts 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6 are more strongly linked together as pairs than they are across pairs to the point where the book has suggestions/warnings of what the GM might want to do if the party unknowingly decides to skip straight from part 2 to part 5.

I haven't read or run Kingmaker, Skull & Shackles, or Ruins of Azlant, but now that you mention them the first two of those could probably work pretty well based on what little I know about them, especially Kingmaker. I just don't normally think about that one because nobody I play with (including myself) has ever has any interest in it. But it sounds to me like "Downtime: The Campaign" so it might be your best bet.

Scarab Sages

Go third party. The Northlands saga from Frog God is the best AP I've ever read, just incredible flavor and world building, and its timeline takes you from 1 to 20 over the course of sixteen years.


Have to check that one out, Dulker.

Out of Paizo's APs, Kingmaker is the best one by far to spend decades of in-game time with and to expand upon at your leisure, until the final chapter.

Most of the remaining APs do not readily lend themselves to being played over 20+ years of game time. Skull and Shackles I would rate at 2nd best suited for that long of a time frame.

Ruins of Azlant ... yeah, it could work, but it'd be a lot of "fast forward X amount of game time, when ... " between chapters. Given the backstory behind the curtain, that is a bit more difficult to warrant.


It's absolutely Kingmaker, since the story of the AP is basically "a bunch of threats attack a growing kingdom", which can easily be spaced out over 20 years.

The only flaw is that the Kingdom will become ridiculously vast over that time if following the kingdom rules normally. To alleviate this, you can set the speed of the Kingdom turns to whatever you want. A Kingdom that takes 1 month per turn will be enormous and epic by the end of 20 years. A kingdom that takes 1 year per kingdom turn will be puny, still building towards their first castle. Temper the level to somewhere in between to fit the pace of growth you want.


Kingdom turns being annual lends itself to a campaign covering 2-3 generations. ;)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Shattered Star actually has no timetable but the decision of the players to "get on with it". It's an artifact hunt where there are (as written) no time limits, even for the start of the big finale in the last module.

Aside from Kingmaker it would be the AP which is a perfect fit for what you want.

Kingmaker is a sandbox with not a lot of narrative focus. Shattered Star is more focused, only that between modules your players can decide to sit it out for a few years, since there is no pressure.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yeah I'm hearing Kingmaker a lot and that was my gut feeling for best choice too. I think that's gonna be the winner for me. Thanks guys.


I'd suggest the Runelords trilogy. Though, as stated above, Kingmaker is so open that it would be easy to keep adding random events to it. Legendary Games released several tie-in adventures as well.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I second the suggestion for Shattered Star.


magnuskn wrote:

Shattered Star actually has no timetable but the decision of the players to "get on with it". It's an artifact hunt where there are (as written) no time limits, even for the start of the big finale in the last module.

Aside from Kingmaker it would be the AP which is a perfect fit for what you want.

Kingmaker is a sandbox with not a lot of narrative focus. Shattered Star is more focused, only that between modules your players can decide to sit it out for a few years, since there is no pressure.

Yeah, I'm with Magnuskn on this one.

Shattered Star has no firm timeline and progresses as the party wishes to for the most part. I'd planned to stretch my Shattered Star game out over at least 5-10 years of in game time while also adapting pieces of Rise of the Runelords and a few other applicable adventures (the Waking Rune comes to mind, I'd planned to move the reforging stuff from the 1st adventure to Krune's tomb).


Shattered Star taking 5-10 years is about the upper limit most groups will be happy with.

Kingmaker OTOH can easily take a century with significant GM elbow grease liberally applied. There's so much peripheral material to flesh out and deep personalization that can be applied to Kingmaker ... it boils down to how much spare time does a GM have to apply in this fashion.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I really appreciate all your thoughts and I'm making notes of each and every one of your suggestions. Thank you so much.


Check out the Kingmaker AP subsection for a TON of already-done supplementary material to pillage use in your own campaign. There are so many good ideas there.

Recommended are modifications playing up and interweaving the fey themes, the brewing civil war to the north in Brevoy, fleshing out the ancillary colonies that live/die and the bordering River Kingdoms to the south and west. GOBS of good stuff!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The Mad Comrade wrote:

Shattered Star taking 5-10 years is about the upper limit most groups will be happy with.

Kingmaker OTOH can easily take a century with significant GM elbow grease liberally applied. There's so much peripheral material to flesh out and deep personalization that can be applied to Kingmaker ... it boils down to how much spare time does a GM have to apply in this fashion.

That is correct. We are talking, however, about the necessity for a GM to write an entire new campaign around the established material for that to happen.


magnuskn wrote:
The Mad Comrade wrote:

Shattered Star taking 5-10 years is about the upper limit most groups will be happy with.

Kingmaker OTOH can easily take a century with significant GM elbow grease liberally applied. There's so much peripheral material to flesh out and deep personalization that can be applied to Kingmaker ... it boils down to how much spare time does a GM have to apply in this fashion.

That is correct. We are talking, however, about the necessity for a GM to write an entire new campaign around the established material for that to happen.

The OP seems willing to do so. With the copious amount of free filler material in the Kingmaker section, that should ease that pain quite a bit.


magnuskn wrote:
That is correct. We are talking, however, about the necessity for a GM to write an entire new campaign around the established material for that to happen.

I'm not sure that's entirely true. Running a 20 year long campaign doesn't mean you have to run every minute of it in character. Kingmaker needs very few changes to simply say "Between Books 2 and 3, 4 years pass".

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Reverse wrote:
Kingmaker needs very few changes to simply say "Between Books 2 and 3, 4 years pass".

That's more along the lines of what I'm going for.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Then Shattered Star would do as just as well, with the caveats I mentioned above, i.e. Kingmaker is a very loose narrative against a more focused narrative in Shattered Star.

Actually, Kingmaker without some dedicated GM work even for the published adventure part is a pretty lackluster story, IMO. It heavily depends on the GM putting in a lot of extra work to flesh out the kingdom the players will build and inject it with memorable NPC's. Otherwise the AP, especially in its early parts, devolves into "We explore one hex" "You have an encounter".

Shattered Star, despite its dungeon heavy design, has a lot of diplomacy and interesting NPC's.

Of course I am probably a bit biased, given how I tried to run Kingmaker a few years ago and abandoned it frustrated after getting into the second module and that I am just now gearing up to start running Shattered Star, beginning in two weeks.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

I have run Shatter Star in its entirety and I absolutely believe you could frame it as a quest that spans decades rather than the mere months it took our PCs to go through it.

I would say, though, that you should remove the vision mechanic that lets you divine the hiding place of a shard by holding another. That way you can easily insert a couple of years of research and maybe even a short adventure or two between books.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The Mad Comrade wrote:
Check out the Kingmaker AP subsection for a TON of already-done supplementary material to pillage use in your own campaign. There are so many good ideas there.

Looking at the sheer amount of posts in that forum, it will probably take you 20 years just to go through that :-)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

At least Shattered Star's sub-forum won't give you that particular problem, because for some reason it has some of the least posts of the entire AP line. :p

Probably because it is so dungeon-heavy, but I think the AP is vastly underrated. There are many elements of diplomacy and RP in those dungeons. I think the only module I found not really that good was the fourth and it still was well done.


I ran a lot of Shattered star, the first four books before I burned out. ( though there were other factors in that for sure) and it really suffers from too much dungeon, a lack of overarching threat and way too much "super interesting npc who will instantly react hostile to the party and die within 2 rounds"

Also Im just not that into lovecraft so book five was a chore for me. That was a factor


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yeah, well. I'll have to see how it goes when we start next week. I probably should run some of the sub-quests you can do in Magnimar to stretch out the time between the dungeons and the web enhancement for book two. As I said, book four seems the least interesting and after it I think I'll have no problem selling a lovecraftian dungeon to my players in book five. Book six is by Brandon Hodge (who wrote Rasputin Must Die!, IMO the best adventure path module ever published) and he did great work here already with Xin's palace.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ruins kinda works. Dunno about 20 years, but after you finish book 3, there's nothing super compelling about getting you to book 4. the pcs might take a few years and settle that homestead, get their town up and running before going onto book 4. and then, heck, azlant's a dangerous place. might take years before they find the tower in book 5.

i can easily see some bright eyed colonists full of ambition arrive at the climax transformed into haggard and grim persons who are zealously defending their tiny home against the rising tide of evil.

the bad guy's got no reason to rush, also.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Kingmaker is the clear choice for this. You can tuck other adventures into it, and you have a lot of control over the timescale. I recommend "Fellnight Queen" and a de-Asianified version of "Ruby Phoenix Tournament" as mix-ins, and I bet you could also pick up parts of Ironfang.

I am currently trying to run Ruins of Azlant as a Kingmaker-type game, but I don't think it will go 20 years. The threats in the early going just establish too much sense of urgency.

I can see how you could do Shattered Star this way but I personally feel it adds nothing--in a Kingmaker game you can watch the situation evolve as time passes, in Shattered Star you'd just be doing jump-cuts. But take this with a grain of salt as Shattered Star is close to my least favorite of the APs I've run. If you're willing to jump-cut, Iron Gods might work too: you could do something nice with the BBG just being a legend at the start and a terrifying player in local politics by the end.

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