Return of the Runelords Begins!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I've been looking forward to working on the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path since the very start. As development on Rise of the Runelords wrapped up over ten years ago, we started a tradition that's lasted ever since—the inclusion of a tiny little message at the end of the sixth volume's legal text. In Rise of the Runelords, this message simply read, "The runelords will return." Likewise, in the sequel to Rise of the Runelords, the last volume of the Shattered Star Adventure Path teased, "Sorshen lives!"

Now, with Return of the Runelords, we finally get to see the payoff to these hidden messages, as well as wrap up the epic storyline that began with a now infamous goblin raid on the little town of Sandpoint. If you've played through either Rise of the Runelords or Shattered Star, you'll find a lot of callbacks in Return of the Runelords to events, characters, and treasures that first debuted in those earlier campaigns, and you'll even be able to see what became of prior PCs who played through those earlier games!

Illustrations by Ekaterina Burmak

But even if you haven't played these prior campaigns, there's plenty of reasons to play Return of the Runelords. This Adventure Path features longer adventures than most volumes, with the final installment being the longest adventure we've ever run in an Adventure Path volume! This increased length allows us to cover every level from 1st to 20th, without using Mythic Adventures to speed level progression along (as was the case in Wrath of the Righteous, the only other Adventure Path we've published that reached 20th level), but also pits your PCs against some of the most infamous and dangerous villains of the Pathfinder Campaign Setting.

So... if you think you've got what it takes to stand against the runelords, now you'll have a chance to prove it!

James Jacobs
Pathfinder Creative Director

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Tags: Ekaterina Burmak Pathfinder Adventure Path Return of the Runelords
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Dαedαlus wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Paladinosaur wrote:
Also, why are the forehead gems gone?
Because sometimes they wear different stuff.
Aren’t those like... surgically implanted though?

Maybe they have Kyton surgeons on staff.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Bellona wrote:

Just realised that Sorshen's polearm is double-headed in the sense that there is a blade at both ends. Wasn't the original plan that it be double-headed in the sense that one end has two blades?

James Jacobs wrote:

Nope. The original plan was to have two side-by-side blades at the end, but a mixup with the artist the first time we ordered her with her weapon combined with the fact that we got the final art in at the very last minute and it was too late to make changes ended up scuttling that plan.

Her weapon does have blades at either end, but it is not used as a double weapon. Among other things it's a speed weapon, and its flavor is that when one makes the additional attack with the speed quality that strike comes from the second blade.

So yes, the original plan was indeed that it be double-headed in the sense that only one end has two blades, only the original artist (for ISMagic) misunderstood the art order which then caused that plan to change?

And now the flavour has been adjusted to fit the original (and new) art. :)


So many plat twists in just one art... So that's a Runelord level of scheming?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I am pleased by this.

...

And methinks Nocticula's New Groove has her first "convert." Which makes sense. If the Queen of the Succubi can aspire to be something other than a demon, then why not the Runelord of Lust (who presumably, given the Directorsaur's love of all things demonic, especially for Thassilonian heavies, was probably one of Nocticula's faithful way back when)?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Cole Deschain wrote:
(who presumably, given the Directorsaur's love of all things demonic, especially for Thassilonian heavies, was probably one of Nocticula's faithful way back when)?

Shattered Star's second module suggests as much.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Tangent101 wrote:

I truly hope that Paizo does one of two things. Either they put out some rules on how to translate these APs over to 2nd edition (as I'm liking what I'm seeing of 2nd edition but truly love the Runelords series of APs) or that you put out new hardcover books for the Runelords Trilogy as 2nd Edition APs.

I mean, I'd buy them. I suspect a lot of folk would. But you could always do a Kickstarter or the like on that to gauge preorders and how much of these should be printed and adapted to 2nd Edition.

I suspect that'd be a good choice for modules that are deemed popular enough for a formal reprint or hardcover. Probably be good for this trilogy / Sihedron Heroes stories. Maybe Kingmaker too, eh?

Otherwise, translating the rest of them might be a great community project if given allowance!

Silver Crusade

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I'm a little surprised at how...up-to-date their sense of fashion is. I'd have thought they'd look a bit more Greco-Roman, or whatever ancient Azlanti fashion looked like.

Silver Crusade

I am a little confused by play test banner in the blogpost. Is this part of the play test or P1?


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

So. Very. Cool.

Thank you James, for making this, and everything else you and your teammates brought to my table this last decade. No matter what changes PF2 makes to our relationship moving forward, we'll always have Paris.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Dαedαlus wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Paladinosaur wrote:
Also, why are the forehead gems gone?
Because sometimes they wear different stuff.
Aren’t those like... surgically implanted though?

Karzoug's were.

The others, maybe not.

Won't make a difference as to how tough they are when your PCs fight them though, never fear.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Oli Ironbar wrote:
I am a little confused by play test banner in the blogpost. Is this part of the play test or P1?

No. This is a 1st edition product. The playtest banner is an error.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
I'm a little surprised at how...up-to-date their sense of fashion is. I'd have thought they'd look a bit more Greco-Roman, or whatever ancient Azlanti fashion looked like.

Thassilon is Thassilonian, not Greek or Roman. The game isn't intended to be a real world historical Earth parallel, and mixing in modern fashions mixed with ancient fashions is a great way to make up fantastic/fantasy fashions.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

10 people marked this as a favorite.

Also, let's try to keep the 2nd edition feedback to the Playtest forums... and when you DO give feedback, give us feedback we can use; rather than saying blanket statements like "It's a mess" please tell us specific things that bother you and why they bother you so we can look at those rules for adjustment. Just saying "It's a mess" is pretty much useless to us, since it doesn't give us any feedback we can act on.

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I still have no regrets for trying to wake up Alaznist in my group's RotRL. Oh boy it'll be interesting for this AP if we still run with me having a thing for her. XD

Also thumbs up for all the outfits, especially Sorshen. Her evolution is going to be something I'm looking forward to seeing where you go. :)

Dark Archive

James Jacobs wrote:


Sorshen's new outfit is not just a result of "new artist" but a deliberate plot point that'll be revealed in the AP. There'll be some new art of Karzoug, but not a new body shot.

And the post being headed by the Playtest logo is an error. Return of the Runelords is 1st edition Pathfinder all the way.

Is it because of this?

Spoiler:
Sorshen is no longer evil after spending 10 millennia in contemplation?

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Did Krune somehow survive The Waking Rune?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Atrocious wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:


Sorshen's new outfit is not just a result of "new artist" but a deliberate plot point that'll be revealed in the AP. There'll be some new art of Karzoug, but not a new body shot.

And the post being headed by the Playtest logo is an error. Return of the Runelords is 1st edition Pathfinder all the way.

Is it because of this?

** spoiler omitted **

Not so much that as it is...

Spoiler:
...after 10,000 years or so, she was ready for a change.

It's covered more as the AP comes out. Don't wanna spoil it all here.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Lord Fyre wrote:
Did Krune somehow survive The Waking Rune?

Spoiler:
No. His role/legacy in the AP is pretty much contained in the 3rd adventure.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
SilentInfinity wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:

I truly hope that Paizo does one of two things. Either they put out some rules on how to translate these APs over to 2nd edition (as I'm liking what I'm seeing of 2nd edition but truly love the Runelords series of APs) or that you put out new hardcover books for the Runelords Trilogy as 2nd Edition APs.

I mean, I'd buy them. I suspect a lot of folk would. But you could always do a Kickstarter or the like on that to gauge preorders and how much of these should be printed and adapted to 2nd Edition.

I suspect that'd be a good choice for modules that are deemed popular enough for a formal reprint or hardcover. Probably be good for this trilogy / Sihedron Heroes stories. Maybe Kingmaker too, eh?

Otherwise, translating the rest of them might be a great community project if given allowance!

Well, Kingmaker's got a computer game coming out, so you should see a lot of folk playing it who didn't get a chance with the original tabletop game. I'm actually looking forward to it as I put in for a copy during the crowdfunding efforts.

As for community translations... I think this is an excellent idea and hopefully Paizo backs this, assuming they don't decide to translate any of these to 2nd Edition. One of the fun things about such a translation of course is that with the new XP system, it's easier to allow people run characters running through level 20 in each AP - though I'm not entirely sure how you could set up the final encounters with Karzoug and have him be a viable threat seeing level 20 characters would match him in power... and for that matter some of the Runelords are Mythic and Mythic is taking a back seat for now with Pathfinder 2.

Spoiler:
My own experiences with it suggest Mythic isn't a problem so long as you keep it at Tier 2 or 3 at most. And one of my players recently commented on how he enjoyed my incorporating Mythic into Rise of the Runelords as it allowed him to be far more versatile (he had an Eldritch Knight) - to be honest, he probably also enjoyed it because a Mythic Karzoug went and flubbed up his Mythic Wish (that the PCs would have no access to Mythic abilities in this fight) when it rebounded off of the Sorceress's Spell Turning and he flubbed his saving throw, so Karzoug wasn't tossing Mythic spells at them (mind you, they'd been so low on Mythic at that point and used a Nap Stack spell to regain spells before the final assault without letting Karzoug regain all of his spells that they basically didn't USE Mythic either - I was quite pleased with how I drained most of their resources going into that).

Given the Big Bad of Return of the Runelords was Mythic before things went south for the Runelords, I'd not be surprised if she retains at least a couple Mythic Tiers going into the end-game - it actually is quite effective in creating interesting and challenging foes for players of similar level. Seeing Alazzy can't really get beyond Level 20 in any event, and doesn't have access to Conjuration magic unless she's burning a Wish or has a Staff or other conjuration-based magic item, she's not going to have easy access to minions to burn up PC action economy. Mythic helps level the playing field in that case.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I do hope that they are not planning to do any of the "redemption" BS for any of the Runelords.

From what we know about Thassilonian culture from the earlier APs, all seven Runelords were COMPLETE MONSTERS and there is a certain magnitude of evil from which there is no coming back from.

Consider that Ileosa Arabasti was recreating the ritual that Sorshen used to insure her eternal beauty - a sacrifice requiring the lives of hundreds of people.

Sovereign Court

Tangent101 wrote:


I mean, I'd buy them. I suspect a lot of folk would. But you could always do a Kickstarter or the like on that to gauge preorders and how much of these should be printed and adapted to 2nd Edition.

i hope the people at RPTOOLS.net do a suitable Maptools framework for pathfinder 2.0 or im out cause the bestiary is to much of a hassle for me as a DM. i dont understand the removal of the attributes, didnt like it in Starfinder either.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Did Krune somehow survive The Waking Rune?
** spoiler omitted **

I should still find some way to play through that scenario if I want the full Varisian campaign experience, right? I'd feel like I'm missing a chunk of the settings "metaplot" otherwise.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Did Krune somehow survive The Waking Rune?
** spoiler omitted **
I should still find some way to play through that scenario if I want the full Varisian campaign experience, right? I'd feel like I'm missing a chunk of the settings "metaplot" otherwise.

It’s not just one adventure, APZ. It’s 3-4 of them.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Tarondor wrote:
Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Did Krune somehow survive The Waking Rune?
** spoiler omitted **
I should still find some way to play through that scenario if I want the full Varisian campaign experience, right? I'd feel like I'm missing a chunk of the settings "metaplot" otherwise.
It’s not just one adventure, APZ. It’s 3-4 of them.

And that's what makes me frustrated: I had initially thought I could safely ignore PFS modules and that they didn't impact the setting and stuff, and then not only is there several of them where they confront and kill a Runelord, and other things are referenced in other books (like that tapestry the Society won that is a parallel dimension and stuff), and I realize I have to play through YEARS of modules with no clear clue of how they fit together into a narrative-style campaign and I'd probably have to run them myself because everyone else has already moved on and I couldn't do it anyway because I suck at GMing, and that means my Pathfinder experience will always essentially be incomplete! *screams into pillow*

Grand Lodge

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Dude. If it is that big a deal, I will run them for you.


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Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
Tarondor wrote:
Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Did Krune somehow survive The Waking Rune?
** spoiler omitted **
I should still find some way to play through that scenario if I want the full Varisian campaign experience, right? I'd feel like I'm missing a chunk of the settings "metaplot" otherwise.
It’s not just one adventure, APZ. It’s 3-4 of them.
And that's what makes me frustrated: I had initially thought I could safely ignore PFS modules and that they didn't impact the setting and stuff, and then not only is there several of them where they confront and kill a Runelord, and other things are referenced in other books (like that tapestry the Society won that is a parallel dimension and stuff), and I realize I have to play through YEARS of modules with no clear clue of how they fit together into a narrative-style campaign and I'd probably have to run them myself because everyone else has already moved on and I couldn't do it anyway because I suck at GMing, and that means my Pathfinder experience will always essentially be incomplete! *screams into pillow*

There is also another Runelord killed in one of the novels (It is mentioned in Secrets of Roderics Cove). So you probably want to read some books too. I suspect the comics are a part of cannon Golarion also.


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I find the obsession with needing to know every scrap of lore in order to play kinda funny. Take it like each gm has their own setting which simply resembles Golarion.

Also, if TriOmegaZero runs them all, I might be interested in joining in such a group.

---
Note: My last post was not intended as a critique of pf2, therefore no need to shuffle it off to feedback forums. Pf2 is a thing. It can be mentioned and referenced without being the central topic, kinda like how we can mention the blue skies without needing a special forum for it.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
GM DarkLightHitomi wrote:
I find the obsession with needing to know every scrap of lore in order to play kinda funny. Take it like each gm has their own setting which simply resembles Golarion.

I really, REALLY don't like it when a character I make ends up conflicting with canon, especially if later canon emerges that invalidates it. It makes me feel like I interpreted the game or the story wrong. Like I ordered a pizza and then when you found out you said "Why'd you do that? We were planning on grilling burgers for dinner!" And then I feel like the jerk for ordering the pizza.

Shadow Lodge

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Canon is immaterial.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

That being said, I entirely understand wanting to experience as much of the story as possible. I enjoy seeing everything that exists in a series, which as an anime fan can be difficult. (Umineko answer arc season WHEN?) Tabletop is compounded by the need to schedule multiple people at the same time for weeks at a time.

GM DarkLightHitomi wrote:
Also, if TriOmegaZero runs them all, I might be interested in joining in such a group.

Well, that's half a group. :)


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Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
I really, REALLY don't like it when a character I make ends up conflicting with canon, especially if later canon emerges that invalidates it. It makes me feel like I interpreted the game or the story wrong. Like I ordered a pizza and then when you found out you said "Why'd you do that? We were planning on grilling burgers for dinner!" And then I feel like the jerk for ordering the pizza.

Pizza AND Burgers is not wrong.

...and neither is however you want to interpret the game or story.

Speaking for myself as a writer, if I wanted to control the canon I would write novels. When writing for games, I fully expect the end user to reinterpret anything and everything.


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A major part of what makes an RPG an RPg, is player agency. You simply can't have player agency and a canon to match for events during or after the player's choices unless the canon is literally written based on that player's choices.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Hill Giant wrote:
Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
I really, REALLY don't like it when a character I make ends up conflicting with canon, especially if later canon emerges that invalidates it. It makes me feel like I interpreted the game or the story wrong. Like I ordered a pizza and then when you found out you said "Why'd you do that? We were planning on grilling burgers for dinner!" And then I feel like the jerk for ordering the pizza.

Pizza AND Burgers is not wrong.

...and neither is however you want to interpret the game or story.

Speaking for myself as a writer, if I wanted to control the canon I would write novels. When writing for games, I fully expect the end user to reinterpret anything and everything.

You know, I've gotten feedback along those lines:

"If this unified narrative idea means so much to you, couldn't you just write Adventure Path fanfiction?"

And I don't know how to react to that, because it feels disrespectful to the setting, since it's a game to be played, and because I have a lot of weird hangups with fanfiction in the first place.

But we should really get back on topic, this is about the first book in the AP, which is GREAT, not about psychoanalyzing my RPG neuroses.


What's wrong with fanfiction?


Did they ever officially list what Sorshen's alignment were at the Time of Earthfall? Most home brew stats I've seen list her as being Chaotic Evil. I ask because....

Spoiler:
it looks like she's Lawful Neutral from the Runelord's Legacy article. Wanting to turn Varisia into a New Thassilon that exists peacefully with it's neighboring countries is very Lawful Neutral sounding. I guess 10,000 years of silent reflection will do that


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Toblakai wrote:


So you probably want to read some books too. I suspect the comics are a part of cannon Golarion also.

I took the line

Spoiler:
"The final dose was provided when her castellan, a demon she left in charge of Hollow Mountain’s defenses, was slain by adventurers."
in the Runelord Legacy article as a reference to the kalavakus in the Hollow Mountain comics, though I have only read the first three of those yet.

Toblakai wrote:
Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
Tarondor wrote:
Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Did Krune somehow survive The Waking Rune?
** spoiler omitted **
I should still find some way to play through that scenario if I want the full Varisian campaign experience, right? I'd feel like I'm missing a chunk of the settings "metaplot" otherwise.
It’s not just one adventure, APZ. It’s 3-4 of them.
And that's what makes me frustrated: I had initially thought I could safely ignore PFS modules and that they didn't impact the setting and stuff, and then not only is there several of them where they confront and kill a Runelord, and other things are referenced in other books (like that tapestry the Society won that is a parallel dimension and stuff), and I realize I have to play through YEARS of modules with no clear clue of how they fit together into a narrative-style campaign and I'd probably have to run them myself because everyone else has already moved on and I couldn't do it anyway because I suck at GMing, and that means my Pathfinder experience will always essentially be incomplete! *screams into pillow*

There is also another Runelord killed in one of the novels (It is mentioned in Secrets of Roderics Cove). So you probably want to read some books too. I suspect the comics are a part of cannon Golarion also.

For those that are wondering:

Spoiler:
Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Lord Fyre wrote:

I do hope that they are not planning to do any of the "redemption" BS for any of the Runelords.

From what we know about Thassilonian culture from the earlier APs, all seven Runelords were COMPLETE MONSTERS and there is a certain magnitude of evil from which there is no coming back from.

Consider that Ileosa Arabasti was recreating the ritual that Sorshen used to insure her eternal beauty - a sacrifice requiring the lives of hundreds of people.

You do realize that

:
Alderpash in Wrath of the Righteous
is considered possibly redeemable? :D
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