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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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.

{. . .}

That's what Garfield(*) Zutha, the Runelord of Gluttony, is for, but they put Krune in that scenario . . . wait, that means that they put the wrong Runelord in that scenario . . . .

(*)Actually, on second thought, Garfield is somehow both a Runelord of Gluttony and Sloth.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
CorvusMask wrote:
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 ** spoiler omitted ** is considered possibly redeemable? :D

LOL! Yes, yes he is.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

CorvusMask wrote:
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 ** spoiler omitted ** is considered possibly redeemable? :D

An opinion that I do not share.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Lord Fyre wrote:
CorvusMask wrote:
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 ** spoiler omitted ** is considered possibly redeemable? :D
An opinion that I do not share.

Doesn't matter that you don't share that opinion.

Paizo has that opinion and they are crafting this AP which has another Runelord who is considering a more peaceful way of reforging Thassilon. And she did have 10,000 years to consider... and change. She also watched three other Runelords try using might to force their reign and all three were cast down. So she has even more reason to change her ways - because better to walk the path of redemption than die.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Mark Moreland wrote:
It's canon.

Does this AP make Rise fo the Runelords and The Waking Rune impossible to run?

This is something that Paizo tried very hard to avoid with previous APs.

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Why would it?

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

TriOmegaZero wrote:
Why would it?

Do the events of Return of the Runelords hinge on the events of the previous APs (Rise of the Runelords or Shattered Star)?

Would the events of Return of the Runelords prevent Krune from awaking separately?

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Even if they did, I don't see how that would make it impossible to run Return, unless your players really messed things up.

And I don't see how Return could prevent events that already happened.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Lord Fyre wrote:
Mark Moreland wrote:
It's canon.

Does this AP make Rise fo the Runelords and The Waking Rune impossible to run?

This is something that Paizo tried very hard to avoid with previous APs.

Return of the Runelords is the third entry in an AP 'trilogy' and have the same assumptions that Shattered Star had that certain adventure paths had reached certain conclusions.

So, if you have not run Rise of the Runelords, then there will be some spoilers for players if you play Shattered Star or Return first. However the spoilers are of the most general nature, and the vast majority of the campaigns are still playable with the same group, and in fact may garner more appreciation for nuggets of Thassilon information that was threaded in earlier.

Personally, I wove Waking Rune into my Shattered Star campaign, something I highly recommend (Give the Sihedron a trial run). But I didn't run Rise before Shattered Star. However I'm fine with the idea of Running Return right out of Shattered Star, and then coming back to Rise as a sort've, victory lap thing.

A way to think of it is, most people read Lord of the Rings before the Silmarillion. This establishes certain things, Sauron being the right-hand man of Fallen Morgoth, the fall of a human empire of Numenor, etc. However it doesn't make reading the Silmarillion redundant, and in fact enhances interest in it because the reader can see how expectations fits into the detail of earlier history.

My thoughts on it anyway.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Lord Fyre wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Why would it?
Do the events of Return of the Runelords hinge on the events of the previous APs (Rise of the Runelords or Shattered Star)?

Sort of? It assumes a few things, but gives you enough leeway that if something different happened in your version, you can incorporate it into Return easily.

Spoiler:
The broad strokes is that Karzoug was killed at the end of Rise, Ileosa was stopped in Curse, Krune was killed in Rune, and the Sihedron was reassembled. If your Rise PCs somehow managed to stop Karzoug without killing him, he's simply assassinated offscreen during Return, for example.

Carter Lockhart wrote:
Personally, I wove Waking Rune into my Shattered Star campaign, something I highly recommend (Give the Sihedron a trial run).

Oooh, that sounds cool!


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Archpaladin Zousha wrote:


Carter Lockhart wrote:
Personally, I wove Waking Rune into my Shattered Star campaign, something I highly recommend (Give the Sihedron a trial run).
Oooh, that sounds cool!

Some small notes on it for others interested:

Spoiler:
Essentially, I assumed all the Lissala vs. Pathfinder lodge happened in background while the group was collecting shards, and actually the start of it was what clued Sheila into her Sihedron research because it seemed Krune's rise may be eminent and a defense was needed.

So, when stuff happens after the Sihedron Reunification, Sheila's mind jumps to Krune waking Up. She gathers the Sihedron heros and makes the choice to use their limited number of tokens to teleport them straight to Krune's lair. Decemvirate plays the bad guy and demands the spear and rod for use of Pathfinder assets in Varisia's personal troubles.

Change wise, I buffed the encounters to be more appropriate to higher level group with the Sihedron, altered the runes to be not as severe debuffs and a bit harder to manage, and wasn't afraid to abuse summoning tricks to challenge the group a bit because as written Waking Rune is fairly easy for a group fresh with the Sihedron to challenge.

I suppose if there's interest I could put together my notes on increasing the challenge of the PFS scenario in the Shattered Star forum or somethign.

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Tangent101 wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
CorvusMask wrote:
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 ** spoiler omitted ** is considered possibly redeemable? :D
An opinion that I do not share.

Doesn't matter that you don't share that opinion.

Paizo has that opinion and they are crafting this AP which has another Runelord who is considering a more peaceful way of reforging Thassilon. And she did have 10,000 years to consider... and change. She also watched three other Runelords try using might to force their reign and all three were cast down. So she has even more reason to change her ways - because better to walk the path of redemption than die.

Not to mention we have examples of literal demons and devils getting redemption too, who've had eternities of evil deeds on their record before changing: Arueshalae in Wrath of the Righteous and Arathuziel the Chained in both the Campaign Setting book Heaven Unleashed and James Sutter's novel The Redemption Engine. The model's made clear with both of them. It will take a lot of effort to do good things to balance their evil past, which usually means it will take a VERY long time, but even a complete monster CAN redeem themselves from evil. And in a Runelord's case, it's remarkably similar to a fiend's, given they have near limitless lifespans, so if they seriously try, they just might have enough time to succeed.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Lord Fyre wrote:
Mark Moreland wrote:
It's canon.

Does this AP make Rise fo the Runelords and The Waking Rune impossible to run?

This is something that Paizo tried very hard to avoid with previous APs.

Return of the Runelords is a sequel to Rise of the Runelords, Shattered Star, and The Waking Rune, but that doesn't make it impossible to run the previous ones. It's best if you do them in order, of course, but we tried to make Return self-contained enough that you can play it without having played the prior ones.

But that said... the whole POINT of Return of the Runelords is that it's the climax of a longer story... the third in a trilogy.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Carter Lockhart wrote:
Archpaladin Zousha wrote:


Carter Lockhart wrote:
Personally, I wove Waking Rune into my Shattered Star campaign, something I highly recommend (Give the Sihedron a trial run).
Oooh, that sounds cool!

Some small notes on it for others interested:

** spoiler omitted **

I suppose if there's interest I could put together my notes on increasing the challenge of the PFS scenario in the Shattered Star forum or somethign.

Very much. I am running Shattered Star right now and I could weave Krune's end into the story, it would be pretty awesome for my players.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Evan Riggs wrote:
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.

I think it's a little to early to say that Sorshen is "redeemed"

Spoiler:
the background info from the Runelord Legacy article says that she's more cautious and that her cruelty has softened. It does not say that she's all butterflys and rainbows. I'm sure she's still a ruthless machiavellian level schemer and political opportunist.


I've been running parts of Shattered Star and Rise of the Runelords concurrently, so it's not like it's impossible to weave them together regardless of order.


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

Has anyone seen an ETA on the Player's Guide? I'm hoping this week.


samuraixsithlord wrote:
Evan Riggs wrote:
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.

I think it's a little to early to say that Sorshen is "redeemed"

Spoiler:
the background info from the Runelord Legacy article says that she's more cautious and that her cruelty has softened. It does not say that she's all butterflys and rainbows. I'm sure she's still a ruthless machiavellian level schemer and political opportunist.

Spoiler:
Now I've got to craft a villain who is a very devious Machiavellian scheming butterfly . . . .

samuraixsithlord wrote:
Evan Riggs wrote:
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.

I think it's a little to early to say that Sorshen is "redeemed"

** spoiler omitted **

This ^^^^

Just because she's softened her cruelty some, and curbed her tendencies towards a more politically cautious approach, doesn't mean she's suddenly "good" ;)


Brother Fen wrote:
I've been running parts of Shattered Star and Rise of the Runelords concurrently, so it's not like it's impossible to weave them together regardless of order.

Share the details about how you did and how it went, please.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
UnArcaneElection wrote:
Spoiler:
Now I've got to craft a villain who is a very devious Machiavellian scheming butterfly . . . .

No one suspects...


James Jacobs wrote:
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 omitted **

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

Did a certain someone give her a better deal?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

2 people marked this as a favorite.
AlgaeNymph wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
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 omitted **

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

Did a certain someone give her a better deal?

No.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Is there a release date for the player's guide yet? The group I am in is wanting to make PC's for this AP and really like the advice the guide gives as far as character creation.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Murgos the mad wrote:
Is there a release date for the player's guide yet? The group I am in is wanting to make PC's for this AP and really like the advice the guide gives as far as character creation.

No release date announced, but I'm hoping it could show up on our site here at, quite literally, ANY second. Everything, as far as I know, is in place for it to go live. Thanks for your patience everyone while we dealt with our website issues in the meantime.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Please take the playtest feedback to the playtest forums.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

4 people marked this as a favorite.
James Jacobs wrote:
Murgos the mad wrote:
Is there a release date for the player's guide yet? The group I am in is wanting to make PC's for this AP and really like the advice the guide gives as far as character creation.
No release date announced, but I'm hoping it could show up on our site here at, quite literally, ANY second. Everything, as far as I know, is in place for it to go live. Thanks for your patience everyone while we dealt with our website issues in the meantime.

And of course, another way of saying this is "It'll be up in a few hours," but I didn't want to set false expectations because a lot can happen in a few hours. Fortunately, Paizo did not get hit by a zombie apocalypse or meteor or temporal inversion or any other calamity, and so the guide is out. Enjoy! :-)

Paizo Employee Customer Service Representative

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Removed several posts. Discussions on the merits or not of Pathfinder 2e should go in the playtest forum, not on this product thread.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

I have the first volume. Arrived in the mail today. Haven't had the time to read through it yet (and won't until probably tomorrow or Friday at the earliest, saying I don't do more of he playtest first.


Matrix Sorcica wrote:
Brother Fen wrote:
I've been running parts of Shattered Star and Rise of the Runelords concurrently, so it's not like it's impossible to weave them together regardless of order.
Share the details about how you did and how it went, please.

You'd have to ask my players for specific feedback, but I think it's working just fine. I'm about to start book five of Shattered Star after running the Asylum Stone one adventure back. We'll follow up with bits of the Waking Rune from PFS and then book six of Rise of the Runelords.

Since my PCs are all part of the Pathfinder Society, I simply have a separate team of Pathfinders, in this case lead by their rival Valeros, handling the in-between books, that we don't play, off-screen.

If the GM reads through the adventures and plots out a proper course through them, it can result in a really textured campaign. Drop in hints and foreshadowing when needed and everything else will work itself out.


James Jacobs wrote:
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?

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.

Remind me of the thing with the Rhoka Sword.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Going to start this AP soon alongside the previous APs in the Runelord Trilogy.

Most of the old group have found/re-created their original characters from Rise or Shattered for one more grand adventure adventure before the coming of 2e.

Just need to finish War for the Crown and then we're going to attempt a Thassilon mega-AP once we figure out how we're going to work out long term character progression and returning characters.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Ultima75000 wrote:

Most of the old group have found/re-created their original characters from Rise or Shattered for one more grand adventure adventure before the coming of 2e.

Just need to finish War for the Crown and then we're going to attempt a Thassilon mega-AP once we figure out how we're going to work out long term character progression and returning characters.

Make sure they save some characters to be the Sihedron heroes! I love that they've connected these to the previous adventures and am really looking forward to seeing how the Sihedron heroes fit in.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
TomParker wrote:
Ultima75000 wrote:

Most of the old group have found/re-created their original characters from Rise or Shattered for one more grand adventure adventure before the coming of 2e.

Just need to finish War for the Crown and then we're going to attempt a Thassilon mega-AP once we figure out how we're going to work out long term character progression and returning characters.

Make sure they save some characters to be the Sihedron heroes! I love that they've connected these to the previous adventures and am really looking forward to seeing how the Sihedron heroes fit in.

Currently we're looking at options at how to fit everything in proper without the 2nd part released as while some of us are fine making new champions and retiring their originals, some of us have stories they really want to finish.

A prominent one is my character the Magus, originally from the Shattered Star AP and the last descendant of the First King Xin.

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