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I 100% respect the OP, if you finished the AP, as a badge of commitment you well deserve the right to your opinion. But I disagree with a lot of your review. As I absolutely loved running the AE version of Runelords! Coming from old school modules to this was a total cake walk, DM prep wise! This forum alone was a DM's Mithral mine of information, as it was like Google Maps/Waze for my groups course through the AP. It was like having years and years of play testing at my fingers. Something I never dreamed of having in all my years of TTRPG's. I loved being able to have so much amazing feedback from others, that offered me total confidence to put my personal spin on a truly epic adventure. With the heavy lifting of the frame work of the adventure built, my job was to decorate and make the NPCS come to life so that my Characters could shine. I think having some of the things left semi incomplete is so important to allow a personal stamp in certain parts of the story. I further feel it is unfair to expect a high level adventure to do everything for you CR wise, tactics wise or even plot hole wise. I felt the rails on this adventure in specific were amazingly easy to keep on the tracks... while not making it so obvious that I was covering them up. Pre-written is not a excuse for DM's to regurgitate the story. I spent at-least 2 hours out of game prepping for each one hour in game, and I mostly ran the adventure as written!
I agree with many, on Chapter 5. As I found I did most of my hardest, (yet most rewarding) work in this area. But,it is the chapter all of my players look back on and rave about, so I will call that success! My Arkrhyst was flat out brutal, and still lives to this day. Stories of his terror continue in all my adventures...a memory of the failure to kill him. But as I said, I had to work hard to bring it to life. Simple things like custom soundscapes for each section of the forge, and Maptool's for easy exploration on all sections. I loved pushing the different politics between the sections, with it, they talked there way out of 3 sections. Plenty of amazing Role-play to be had in each Dungeon. I further loved challenging the group via the tactics and theme of each section of the Runeforge.
After running 4 AP's, I agree with many here. My biggest advise on any pre-written adventure is to flesh out the NPC's and Villains in your mind. If you cant envision them as written, then change them and the combat tactics. I treat them as My PC's. With that, I imagine how they fit into the story and foreshadow them, perhaps even in a characters background, dreams, flashbacks, create props, and rumors. Make them come to life! The amount of content that would take from the writers to write monologues, and to fit them into your players narratives is well beyond the scope of any Pre-Written Adventure. An AP is a multi year commitment from my players, this effort is well worth the reward.