Pathfinder Adventure Path #33: The Varnhold Vanishing (Kingmaker 3 of 6) (PFRPG)

***½( ) (based on 12 ratings)
Pathfinder Adventure Path #33: The Varnhold Vanishing (Kingmaker 3 of 6) (PFRPG)
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Chapter 3: "The Varnhold Vanishing"
by Greg A. Vaughan

The Stolen Lands consume many wanderers—the perils of its rugged wildernesses and hidden mysteries prey upon even the wariest of travelers. Founded upon one of the most savage frontiers, the colony of Varnhold defied the many dangers of this harsh region. At least, it did until all the residents of the fledgling community completely disappeared. Now it falls to the PCs to discover what became of their eastern neighbor, a secret steeped in generations-old hatreds and the mysteries of an empire long crumbled to dust. Can they uncover the terrible secret behind this shocking disappearance before the same calamity befalls their own land?

    This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path includes:
  • “The Varnhold Vanishing,” a Pathfinder RPG adventure for 7th-level characters, by Greg A. Vaughan.
  • A gazetteer of Iobaria, frigid land of savagery and fallen empires, by Steven Schend.
  • Six new sites of adventure and mystery to expand your Kingmaker campaign, by Ed Greenwood.
  • A new Pathfinder’s Journal in which Pathfinder Ollix Kaddar and Phargas discover the price of gallantry, by J. C. Hay.
  • Five new monsters, by Ed Greenwood, Colin McComb, F. Wesley Schneider, and Neil Spicer.

Pathfinder Adventure Path is Paizo Publishing's monthly 96-page, perfect-bound, full-color softcover book printed on high-quality paper. It contains an in-depth Adventure Path scenario, stats for about a half-dozen new monsters, and several support articles meant to give Game Masters additional material to expand their campaign. Pathfinder Adventure Path volumes use the Open Game License and work with both the Pathfinder RPG and the standard 3.5 fantasy RPG rules set.

ISBN–13: 978-1-60125-234-0

A free web enhancement including a map and timeline of Iobaria was feature on the Paizo Blog.

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscription.

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Dungeon got my players back into dungeon crawls

*****

I ran this adventure with moderate modification for a group of 5 players (4 experienced, 1 novice). We used the fast experience track, and I cut most of the random encounters and some of the hex-ploring. The adventure took about 7 sessions of 3 hours each, for at total of ~21 hours, but by this point kingdom turns and following up with other side plots makes an exact hour total difficult.

My players have disliked dungeon crawls for years. Some of this is the result of my badly designed dungeons, but they also disliked Jzadirune, City of the Spider Queen, and even the famous Maure Castle. However, they absolutely loved Vordekai's tomb. The villains were cool and creepy. The terrain was interesting and flavorful without being too complicated to run. Even having multiple encounters with exactly the same minions didn't feel repetitive, and the challenge level and size were perfect.

The rest of the adventure was a blast, too. Varnhold is a tantalizing mystery and the smaller encounter sites still have many nice little flavorful touches. These encounters can become boring if the players do things out of order, but it's easy enough to cut them if they become a drag.

The back material on Iobarria is interesting and a great resource if you later want to run Reign of Winter or other adventures there. Ed Greenwood's article on small encounter locations fell flat for me and didn't match the flavor I wanted from Kingmaker, but I'm not going to let one back article pull down the rating of a stellar adventure. The fiction is particularly funny. Among the monsters, the blodeuwedd and stygira saw use in my Kingmaker and made for interesting encounters. All around, a solid issue and a good purchase for the adventure itself, even if you don't want to run the entire Kingmaker campaign.


The challenge was delightfully creepy

*****

I don't read spoilers, which is a good thing. My DM ran this module and I was blissfully happy that I had no idea what was in store.

The good? Some of the traps were cliffhangers that kept our group on the edge of our seats. I was particularly happy for quick thinking--my cleric cast silence on one of the front line combat characters in combat with the lich. It was still a rough module, but could have been a TPK several times over.

The bad? The module didn't have enough to do with the plot. We still have many unanswered questions about how any of it ties in. Ah well.

It made for a memorable experience, nevertheless.


Is that a F'ing Lich!!!!

*****

CLASSIC! Great story. Amazing npc's (possibly my DM's doing) great villians and what I final showdown! Lich + instant fortress= Classic! Personally my favorite of the first 4 books for sure.


Free Town, If You Can Keep It! Varnhold Vanishing


This was one of my player's favorite arches; I can see why...there is a great mix of diplomacy and dungeon crawl, and the big bad...*shudder.* See my full review: The Varnhold Vanishing


Running this and its recession review changed my opinon see link at end.

***( )( )

My format is bullet points, just how I roll.

The Good: -Awesome villain, sells it for me.
-Ok this is based of what is perhaps the most interesting mystery in US history.
-If you use Varn right he adds an amazing element to the story (intro him by book 2 invests your PCs.)
-Some great traps and pitfalls.
-Noman Centaurs are awesome despite the terrible name.

The Bad: -Hexploration, again, can't we just hire surveyors?

Flying Pincusion Recession Review.

The Ugly: -While awesome this villain has no connection to the meta-plot

Overall: Haven't run it yet but I'm psyched to do so, the best reads always translates to teh best adventures.


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Quote:
"This volume of Pathfinder contains the first detailed look at the blasted plains east of the Inner Sea region, a ruined swath of the realm of Iobaria ruled today by sinister druids, feral barbarians, centaur tribes, and an ancient slumbering menace whose remnants still haunt this realm today."

Nice...

The whole northern Casmaron sounds very Conan-esque to me...

Looking forward to this!

Dark Archive

Another interesting AP.


Part 3 starts at level 5? When will it finish...level 10? That's only half an adventure!

Part 3 of RotRL starts at level 7
Part 3 of CotCT starts at level 7
Part 3 of LoF starts at level 7...

Paizo Employee Creative Director

stuart haffenden wrote:

Part 3 starts at level 5? When will it finish...level 10? That's only half an adventure!

Part 3 of RotRL starts at level 7
Part 3 of CotCT starts at level 7
Part 3 of LoF starts at level 7...

We expect it to start at level five, yah. We haven't done a PFRPG adventure path all the way to the end yet, and since we're taking the middle track for XP rather than the fast one (so that folks who do the fast or slow track have to do less work adding or subtracting encounters), that does move more slowly than XP in 3.5.

For now, it's looking like both Council of Thieves and Kingmaker will go from 1st level to 13th level, but we won't know for sure for a bit. If that estimate changes, we'll change the summary here.

EDIT: That said... no matter HOW many levels the AP covers, since the PFRPG has 3 advancement tracks, you'll be able to play it using the fast track and reach higher level than if you were playing the medium track, if that's your preference (or you can play the slow one and never hit double digit xp levels). The GM in this case will need to do more adjustment of monster power levels, but that's a little simpler in PFRPG than it is in 3.5 for a few reasons that the Bestiary will reveal in late September...

Dark Archive

I actually find this to be good news.

1) it focuses on the levels I most enjoy more. (purely selfish reason)
2) I think this might increase the chance of seeing a return to AP at some point as it gives Paizo more levels to work with for a return to AP series.


As an old school "cut my roleplaying teeth on Basic D&D" player, gotta agree with Dark Mistress - focussing on those mid levels is most welcome - most classes really start coming into their own, and throwing realm rulership, sinister druids and feral barbarians into the mix sounds superb.

Dark Archive

I hope I have the money to restart my subscription by the time this AP comes out.


James Jacobs wrote:
stuart haffenden wrote:

Part 3 starts at level 5? When will it finish...level 10? That's only half an adventure!

Part 3 of RotRL starts at level 7
Part 3 of CotCT starts at level 7
Part 3 of LoF starts at level 7...

We expect it to start at level five, yah. We haven't done a PFRPG adventure path all the way to the end yet, and since we're taking the middle track for XP rather than the fast one (so that folks who do the fast or slow track have to do less work adding or subtracting encounters), that does move more slowly than XP in 3.5.

For now, it's looking like both Council of Thieves and Kingmaker will go from 1st level to 13th level, but we won't know for sure for a bit. If that estimate changes, we'll change the summary here.

EDIT: That said... no matter HOW many levels the AP covers, since the PFRPG has 3 advancement tracks, you'll be able to play it using the fast track and reach higher level than if you were playing the medium track, if that's your preference (or you can play the slow one and never hit double digit xp levels). The GM in this case will need to do more adjustment of monster power levels, but that's a little simpler in PFRPG than it is in 3.5 for a few reasons that the Bestiary will reveal in late September...

Thanks for the info. I had forgotten about the different XP rates.

I still urge you to aim a little higher though!

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Here's an interesting concept...

The fact is, the physical size of an AP installment limits how many encounters we can cram in to those 40–50 pages, and the fact that on a monthly schedule, we can only produce about 40–50 pages of adventure per month gives us a pretty hard restriction on expanding the size of the adventure to make them capable of doing more encounters and thus awarding more XP.

Two ways we could, say, do a 1st–20th level adventure in a 6-part AP... IN THEORY:

1) Assume the fast track XP route for a campaign, and focus less on roleplaying and story and more on just cramming in fun encounters. For fans of the older D&D computer games, this means doing an AP more like the Icewind Dale games and less like the Baldur's Gate games.

2) Get more liberal with story awards. We can drop in any amount of story award XP to artificially increase the rate of level gaining. In this way, we could easily do an adventure, say, that splits into three main parts; a part might only have enough encounters to get you 2/3 of the way to the next level, but by saying "Award 3,500 xp to each PC once they successfully kill the goblin king and return the stolen gems to the merchant," we can shoot the party through more levels in an adventure than normal.

How do either of these options sound? Would they be good methods to use to try to aim for a 1st–20th level adventure path?

Personally, I sort of feel that both of the above "solutions" are less organic and less than optimal to creating the types of Adventure Paths that have made Paizo so successful and have helped keep us in business for the past 6 years or so, and so I'm a bit hesitant to try something crazy and experimental like this anytime soon (especially since the last few years have been particularly tumultuous for Paizo)... but I'd love to hear some gut-level reactions to the two options above.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

I think I'd prefer keeping things as is rather than going with either of those options. The appeal for high levels, to me at least, is that the players have watched their characters grow through many different adventures. The second option sort of kills that, since they're basically on a super-fast advancement track due to story awards. The first option, while more viable, does not play to what I consider to be Paizo's strengths.

Speaking only as one customer, I'd prefer keeping the adventure paths at low- to mid-level and having a few high-level single modules available (or, preferably, a Pathfinder companion targeted toward running high-level games).

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

James Jacobs wrote:
but I'd love to hear some gut-level reactions to the two options above.

I try to encourage side-treks and roleplay by using milestone XP awards, such that PCs in Burnt Offerings would reach level 2 either right before or during the Catacombs, level 3 after clearing out the top layers of Thistletop and 4th after completing the adventure. If they decide to explore the countryside and encounter another level's worth of XP in the process, it doesn't throw off the CRs and allows them to not feel railroaded.

So I think the second option of the two could work if it were done throughout the campaign, and the campaign itself were designed around a more sandboxy feel. This would be easier with a lot of tables for random encounters, both social and combat, to make the PCs feel that they've earned the extra level (and hopefully they never know what's random and what's planned).

Dark Archive

James Jacobs wrote:

Here's an interesting concept...

The fact is, the physical size of an AP installment limits how many encounters we can cram in to those 40–50 pages, and the fact that on a monthly schedule, we can only produce about 40–50 pages of adventure per month gives us a pretty hard restriction on expanding the size of the adventure to make them capable of doing more encounters and thus awarding more XP.

Two ways we could, say, do a 1st–20th level adventure in a 6-part AP... IN THEORY:

1) Assume the fast track XP route for a campaign, and focus less on roleplaying and story and more on just cramming in fun encounters. For fans of the older D&D computer games, this means doing an AP more like the Icewind Dale games and less like the Baldur's Gate games.

2) Get more liberal with story awards. We can drop in any amount of story award XP to artificially increase the rate of level gaining. In this way, we could easily do an adventure, say, that splits into three main parts; a part might only have enough encounters to get you 2/3 of the way to the next level, but by saying "Award 3,500 xp to each PC once they successfully kill the goblin king and return the stolen gems to the merchant," we can shoot the party through more levels in an adventure than normal.

How do either of these options sound? Would they be good methods to use to try to aim for a 1st–20th level adventure path?

Personally, I sort of feel that both of the above "solutions" are less organic and less than optimal to creating the types of Adventure Paths that have made Paizo so successful and have helped keep us in business for the past 6 years or so, and so I'm a bit hesitant to try something crazy and experimental like this anytime soon (especially since the last few years have been particularly tumultuous for Paizo)... but I'd love to hear some gut-level reactions to the two options above.

God no to both of those options. I think that would be horrible and kill part of what makes Paizo good. Personally I would much rather see a 1-10 or 1-12 AP and then maybe come back and make one out of every 3 or 4 AP's a return to and start at level 10 or 12 and finish at 20th. I think that would allow for Paizo to tell a much better story with their AP's. Which is Paizo's biggest strength.

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
How do either of these options sound? Would they be good methods to use to try to aim for a 1st–20th level adventure path?

I'm not a big fan of either options, personally. I've basically gone XP-less. If an adventure calls for PCs to start as level 1 and end as level 3, I try and find two convenient and somewhat evenly distributed spots in the middle to tell them "congratulations, you've leveled."

But here's another idea for you: Why not leverage some product synergy with the Modules line? There are 12 AP issues/year and 6 modules/year, so you should have about 3 Modules published during the course of a single AP (I'm speaking generally here, I realize the scheduling doesn't always work out this nicely). You could release a lower-level module (say level 2-3) around the beginning of a new AP, a level 7-ish module about the middle of the AP, and a higher-level module toward the end of an AP. The you could include a box in the AP (or Module) to tell a GM they might consider using Module X as a side-trek in AP Y. Maybe include a few lines of "change the city to this, and the main villain to that."

I suggest this without any knowledge of how easy or difficult it is or how much work it adds, it's just a thought.

-Skeld


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules, Tales Subscriber
Skeld wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
How do either of these options sound? Would they be good methods to use to try to aim for a 1st–20th level adventure path?
I'm not a big fan of either options, personally.

Agreed!

Skeld wrote:

But here's another idea for you: Why not leverage some product synergy with the Modules line? There are 12 AP issues/year and 6 modules/year, so you should have about 3 Modules published during the course of a single AP (I'm speaking generally here, I realize the scheduling doesn't always work out this nicely). You could release a lower-level module (say level 2-3) around the beginning of a new AP, a level 7-ish module about the middle of the AP, and a higher-level module toward the end of an AP. The you could include a box in the AP (or Module) to tell a GM they might consider using Module X as a side-trek in AP Y. Maybe include a few lines of "change the city to this, and the main villain to that."

I suggest this without any knowledge of how easy or difficult it is or how much work it adds, it's just a thought.

-Skeld

This is a very interesting idea. There might be logistical problems having it all come together in a timely fashion, though. Right now, the modules are great b/c they're not afraid to happen in hitherto unexplored areas/countries. Not sure how limiting it would be to try and force them to happen in areas that would match up w/ the AP. But the more I think about it, since I prefer the equivalent of the slow AP track, I wouldn't mind modules that became useful to fill in some of those gap levels...

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Linking modules to the Pathfinder AP is not a good idea for many reasons. A few example reasons:

We don't want buyers of one line to think they're being tricked or forced into buying another line of products.

Modules don't come out often enough to be able to do this.

Modules are meant to go places we aren't going in the Pathfinder AP.

Etc.

Dark Archive

Have you thought about doing a double or triple sized module that is say level 15-20? Maybe do it as a new stand alone product line, just to see how well it sells, maybe call it mega adventures or something or other.

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Linking modules to the Pathfinder AP is not a good idea for many reasons.

Thus we see why Skeld is an Engineer and not a RPG Editor-in-Chief.

-Skeld the Unknowing


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Dark_Mistress wrote:
Have you thought about doing a double or triple sized module that is say level 15-20? Maybe do it as a new stand alone product line, just to see how well it sells, maybe call it mega adventures or something or other.

I'd say this is a better option than either "fast-track plus" or "tie AP and module lines together." Having an even faster advancement than 3.x or limiting the module line to effectively "AP extra content" would probably cost Paizo more sales than they'd gain.

A separate line, perhaps a 96 page soft-bound super adventure in the sytle of Red Hand of Doom, with maybe one or two releases per year, would probably be the best option. It wouldn't have to be strictly "followups" to an AP, but could be used to present story arcs too big for a single module but not big enough for an entire AP; for example, the Falcon's Hollow module arc (D0, D1, E1, D1.5) could be made into one big adventure, with expanded information on the town's movers & shakers, surroundings, and options for the party. This would allow a "mid-sized" option between the one-shot/serial Modules and a full blown AP.

The trick is coming with a catchy name for the new line... (and getting Paizo another editor or two to give the current crew time to breathe with everything else they've got on their plate right now)

Liberty's Edge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:

Here's an interesting concept...

The fact is, the physical size of an AP installment limits how many encounters we can cram in to those 40–50 pages, and the fact that on a monthly schedule, we can only produce about 40–50 pages of adventure per month gives us a pretty hard restriction on expanding the size of the adventure to make them capable of doing more encounters and thus awarding more XP.

Two ways we could, say, do a 1st–20th level adventure in a 6-part AP... IN THEORY:

1) Assume the fast track XP route for a campaign, and focus less on roleplaying and story and more on just cramming in fun encounters. For fans of the older D&D computer games, this means doing an AP more like the Icewind Dale games and less like the Baldur's Gate games.

2) Get more liberal with story awards. We can drop in any amount of story award XP to artificially increase the rate of level gaining. In this way, we could easily do an adventure, say, that splits into three main parts; a part might only have enough encounters to get you 2/3 of the way to the next level, but by saying "Award 3,500 xp to each PC once they successfully kill the goblin king and return the stolen gems to the merchant," we can shoot the party through more levels in an adventure than normal.

How do either of these options sound? Would they be good methods to use to try to aim for a 1st–20th level adventure path?

Personally, I sort of feel that both of the above "solutions" are less organic and less than optimal to creating the types of Adventure Paths that have made Paizo so successful and have helped keep us in business for the past 6 years or so, and so I'm a bit hesitant to try something crazy and experimental like this anytime soon (especially since the last few years have been particularly tumultuous for Paizo)... but I'd love to hear some gut-level reactions to the two options above.

Here are my thoughts:

1) I am ok with dropping some of the fluff to add additional encounters. I have always felt that they are a bit heavy on descriptions, and that by just cutting back slightly we could sneak in a few more encounters. For example, I thought that AP3 was too heavy on fluff, and too light on crunch.

2) Story awards are good, but I would not over do it. Even if you added in heavy award points, I would probably end up reducing them.

3) I think the base line assumption for experience points should be the middle advancement table. If folks want to deviate from that, it should be easy enough to do.

4) I do like the idea that if the AP's are only going to 10-12th level, creating a follow on AP (part 2) that goes from 10-20th. I am not saying that we need a part 2 to every AP, but it would be a change of pace. Potentially every 5th AP could get a part 2.

5) I do want to encourage the Paizo team to try different things with their AP's. I do not want to buy the same 'ole AP every 6 months. I realize that there will be AP's that I do not like, but that's ok. I want a little variety in the AP.

6) I would love to see a special edition AP modules to celebrate special milestones. When I say special edition, I mean double sized issues or a slightly bigger book that has special articles or a foldout map.

Dark Archive

James Jacobs wrote:
Here's an interesting concept...

I think there can be a 3rd way.

How about a "Supermodule" that takes PCs from 1st to 20th. This could be released as a Hardcover (like Shackled City).

Such a big module could be more like a Setting-Adventure combination with a Sandbox approach.
It could deliver the overarching Plot and adventures that tie into this Plot.
Due to space restrictions there would be "EP" and "Story" gaps where DMs can fit in their own adventures or use Modules.
Don't know if this would work out from a financial point though.


Definately favouring the 1-10/12 option mooted above, with the possibility of a "return to" AP as a follow up... would give players and DM's the opportunity to flesh areas/campaigns out with any post ending released material; revisit old characters and stomping grounds [especially if significant time has passed since the last AP] - something I know I've always enjoyed as a player and DM when its happened.

Would get round one of my major gripes that often characters "retire" in their early 20's... some grizzled old PC's to match the grizzled old players [I speak of myself here :)] would be welcomed by this northerner...

Think the accelerated option is "meh" - not my bag, and as mentioned above too much story rewards becomes mundane and predictable... better they are significant to the AP, plus DM's can always include additional story rewards as required [tailoring to their group's style of play etc]


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Maps, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Skeld wrote:
But here's another idea for you: Why not leverage some product synergy with the Modules line? There are 12 AP issues/year and 6 modules/year, so you should have about 3 Modules published during the course of a single AP (I'm speaking generally here, I realize the scheduling doesn't always work out this nicely). You could release a lower-level module (say level 2-3) around the beginning of a new AP, a level 7-ish module about the middle of the AP, and a higher-level module toward the end of an AP. The you could include a box in the AP (or Module) to tell a GM they might consider using Module X as a side-trek in AP Y. Maybe include a few lines of "change the city to this, and the main villain to that."

This is exactly what I was thinking of as well. I understand that the modules are created for different areas, but you could still point them out in the AP as possible locations for side-treks. You could include third party adventures, and even adventures created for Dungeon magazine.

At some point it might be nice to go back, or do a special year long AP. This gives you more room, to add the cool little things that makes Paizo adventures so great. Especially when you are doing something as cool as this sounds. Give yourselves some room to make it what you want it to, without losing some cool features do to a self-imposed page-count, or AP style.

As it is now, by the time I finish one AP, I will have the choice with 2 or more new ones. My group will never be able to play them all with how fast they come out now. I know I wouldn't mind an AP that went a year, instead of just 6 months.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

By the time PCs hit high levels, they've already saved the world a couple of times and often have the potential to drive adventures of their own. In my experience, PCs of that level start founding kingdoms, conducting magical research, or even searching for immortality. Having a single adventure module to plug them into becomes more difficult, and a long-term series could take them away from their own goals.

What I think would be nice for high-level play is less of an adventure line and more of a sourcebook with GMing tips on how to conduct certain types of high-level campaigns. For example, having a book focused on building and running a domain, maybe with some short sample adventures, would work nicely. Another example for the super-epic types could be focused toward divine ascension with a few example tasks set forth to accomplish such a feat.

In terms of tying into an adventure path, I think that certain adventure paths sort of nudge the PCs in a particular direction. For example, my ideal high-level followup to Kingmaker would be a book that fleshes out more of the details about running a kingdom, expanding on the information that this adventure path will provide.

Scarab Sages

Charlie Brooks wrote:

By the time PCs hit high levels, they've already saved the world a couple of times and often have the potential to drive adventures of their own. In my experience, PCs of that level start founding kingdoms, conducting magical research, or even searching for immortality. Having a single adventure module to plug them into becomes more difficult, and a long-term series could take them away from their own goals.

What I think would be nice for high-level play is less of an adventure line and more of a sourcebook with GMing tips on how to conduct certain types of high-level campaigns. For example, having a book focused on building and running a domain, maybe with some short sample adventures, would work nicely. Another example for the super-epic types could be focused toward divine ascension with a few example tasks set forth to accomplish such a feat.

In terms of tying into an adventure path, I think that certain adventure paths sort of nudge the PCs in a particular direction. For example, my ideal high-level followup to Kingmaker would be a book that fleshes out more of the details about running a kingdom, expanding on the information that this adventure path will provide.

I really like this alot. I did have A few ideas that shot through my brain as I read this. Magical creation and founding kingdoms can easilly be done with the material distributed up to this point in Chronicles, Companion, and the AP's, not to mention the 3.5 material from WotC. Other paths have not...

1) Divine Ascension - Absalom and Starfall Tower. Giving a more in depth look at how the four mortal gods came to pass the test, and give some details into what the challenges were and some other options.

2) Creating Artifacts - Creating an epic artifact as a life's achievement. Who would like to have the next set of the "Teeth of CuttinCurt", instead of Dahlver-nar? :D

3) Have the PC's fail the story in the Second Darkness AP. A new set of epic characters from somewhere else stop the second starfall as the meteor is crashing through the atmosphere...

Just some stuff to chew on... :D

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Tharen the Damned wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Here's an interesting concept...

I think there can be a 3rd way.

How about a "Supermodule" that takes PCs from 1st to 20th. This could be released as a Hardcover (like Shackled City).

Such a big module could be more like a Setting-Adventure combination with a Sandbox approach.
It could deliver the overarching Plot and adventures that tie into this Plot.
Due to space restrictions there would be "EP" and "Story" gaps where DMs can fit in their own adventures or use Modules.
Don't know if this would work out from a financial point though.

A supermodule that goes from 1st to 20th would probably be a 400 to 500 page hardcover, about the size of the Shackled City hardcover. While something like this would indeed be cool... the cost of paying for the art and maps and editorial all at once for one product of that size would be prohibitive. That's a big part of why we do adventure paths in one-month installments—so we can afford to pay for them.

Unless folks would be interested in paying a few hundred bucks for a product like this, I guess...

Dark Archive

James Jacobs wrote:


Unless folks would be interested in paying a few hundred bucks for a product like this, I guess...

*Joel looks at his copies of Shackled City; Castle Whiterock; Ptolus: City of the Spires; World's Largest Dungeon and World's Largest City; and reminder to buy War of the Burning Sky HC compendium*

Uh, I would be interested in such a Paizo product ;-)

Liberty's Edge

I, and several of my friends, have been long-time buyers of Dungeon. However, I and several others became committed subscribers upon the release of the APs. Amongst the many other attractions, the fact that it took PCs to the pinnacle of nonepic power (level 20) was paramount.

Since PF has arisen, I have purchased many, many products, but I have yet to subscribe to the APs (I have bought a couple of issues though). The only thing holding me back is the fact that the campaigns end so early (relative to the old APs) -and seem to be ending even earlier!

I appreciate all the financial logistics, and thus understand why the majority of the above suggestions are untenable. However, I would suggest that PF does an AP that takes players from level 1 to 20 once every three years. In between that time, run the normal 12ish level APs. That way, you have 4 'normal' APs, then 1 'mega' AP. Of the former four, one could even be a pseudo-sequel AP that begins at level 12ish and ends at 20ish, thus catering to those who would like a return to an old AP as well as those who like higher level gaming. As all of these APs would be monthly installments, there would be no price increase. Did sales decrease when you ran the Dungeon APs? If not, I don't think you would lose subscribers during the level 1-20 adventure. Also, the 'return' AP shouldn't require a DM or players to play the 'prequel'; it would, I think, generate interest in DMs buying back-issues or keeping subscribers subscribing since they know that one of their APs will be revisted every 2-3 years. I know you possess the talent to create such level 1-20 campaigns -you have done so before (3 times) and each one was stellar! From personal experience, I know there is interest.

I, for one, would immediately subscribe if I heard Paizo commit to such a policy or something like unto it.


Personally I would much rather see a 1-10 or 1-12 AP and then maybe come back and make one out of every 3 or 4 AP's a return to and start at level 10 or 12 and finish at 20th. I think that would allow for Paizo to tell a much better story with their AP's. Which is Paizo's biggest strength.

A return to concept starting at the higher level would be what I would prefer. It would allow players and DM's to revisit favorite AP's that are both more challenging and familiar at the same time.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Hassan al-Sabah wrote:
Did sales decrease when you ran the Dungeon APs?

Speaking generally—which is all I can really do—sales of high-level chapters have been lower than sales of low- and mid-level chapters in every AP where we approach high level.

Sovereign Court

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

what about a big module - covering 8-10 levels - sold all at once? You could cover something like 6-12 or 8-16 (or do I dare say, 15-18+)? It wouldn't have to be an AP, but rather just a big story.

Short of initiating a divorce, I would do just about anything to get my hands on Slumbering Tsar, or anything in the vein of older Necromancer games... I like stories, not This-Has-To-Fit-In-32-Pages (although I appreciate the niche they fill)

Vic Wertz wrote:
Speaking generally—which is all I can really do—sales of high-level chapters have been lower than sales of low- and mid-level chapters in every AP where we approach high level.

If I could hazard a guess, it may be because, high level AP entries appear to pose a greater hurdle than entry levels. If I have a level 1 adventure, anyone can roll up a character and play. If I have the 5th out of 6 adventures I have to wonder what I'm missing and whether I can use it solo. There is nothing in an AP volume that encourages solo-adventure play (especially consider The Impossible Eye - where is the help for the pick up game in the Brass City? Don't get me wrong, I love the adventure, I'm trying to look at this from a random consumer perspective).

Liberty's Edge

Vic wrote:
Speaking generally—which is all I can really do—sales of high-level chapters have been lower than sales of low- and mid-level chapters in every AP where we approach high level.

Interesting. Do you interpret this as being because there is less interest in higher level play, or because there is less incentive for new consumers to buy into an AP mid-way through? Naturally, it may be a little of both, but I am curious if you believe one factor is dominant.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I'm not sure if this is a possible solution for the low-mid-high problem, but its one that got me thinking none-the-less.

Lately I've been running the Shards of Eberron Campaign arc from Dungeon 123,124 and 125 (a sort of Trilogy in 4 parts as we had to pause half way through part 2). This has been really fun I had a bunch of pre-generated characters and have been introducing new players to the game. Anyway back to my point.

Why not a series of shorter interlinked adventure paths with arcs that could be concluded within the span of 3 adventures alternatively the DM can interlink each of these mini trilogies into a massive dodecilogy. They could be run as stand-alone or interlinked adventures.

An example might be something along the lines of:
Jan Lvl 1 (The Summer Hunt Trilogy)
Feb Lvl 3
Mar Lvl 5 (Mini Arc Ends)
Apr Lvl 6 (Fall of the Autumn Prince Trilogy)
May Lvl 9
Jun Lvl 12 (2nd Mini Arc Ends)
Jul Lvl 13 (Machinations of the Winter Queen Trilogy)
Aug Lvl 15
Sep Lvl 17 (3rd Mini Arc Ends)
Oct Lvl 18 (Springs Eternal Trilogy)
Nov Lvl 19
Dec Lvl 20! (Final Mini Arc Ends)

Each series of adventures has a stand-alone goal and plot, but if you wanted to you could make them into a larger/longer campaign for those that had the time and inclination. You'd have an entry point for new buyers every 4 months, and if you include Pregenerated characters at each level (as you already do anyway) there would be everything you need to run and complete a mini-campaign every season.

I feel it's the best of both worlds between the 6 Issue and 12 Issue APs, and more entry points for new buyers is always a good thing.

The Exchange

James Jacobs wrote:


A supermodule that goes from 1st to 20th would probably be a 400 to 500 page hardcover, about the size of the Shackled City hardcover. While something like this would indeed be cool... the cost of paying for the art and maps and editorial all at once for one product of that size would be prohibitive. That's a big part of why we do adventure paths in one-month installments—so we can afford to pay for them.

Unless folks would be interested in paying a few hundred bucks for a product like this, I guess...

Sounds like something to pitch as a patronage style thing - get the cash in along the way while writing.

I'd be up for that price point, if I was reassured that it was going to be good as I forked out X dollars per month for Y months based only on snippets and previews.


James Jacobs wrote:

2) Get more liberal with story awards. We can drop in any amount of story award XP to artificially increase the rate of level gaining. In this way, we could easily do an adventure, say, that splits into three main parts; a part might only have enough encounters to get you 2/3 of the way to the next level, but by saying "Award 3,500 xp to each PC once they successfully kill the goblin king and return the stolen gems to the merchant," we can shoot the party through more levels in an adventure than normal.

...but I'd love to hear some gut-level reactions to the two options above.

If my only other option is to be stuck with an AP that ends at 12th-13th level, then I think #2 above is a wonderful solution. Now, I don't think 1st-20th is entirely necessary - I've adapted to 1st-15th/16th level APs (though I do prefer 1-20).

With #2, I have the option to give story rewards and run the AP exactly as written, or instead I can use slower XP progression (that I prefer) and run side-adventures to better personalize my campaign and meet my players desires (which may sometimes deviate a tad from the AP) - and I then get to use all those great smaller Dungeon adventures and Paizo stand-alone PF modules that I haven't even looked at.

I win both ways with option #2.

(Of course, with all that said, I certainly don't mind APs ending at 12th-13th if I knew there would be a 'return-to' series coming after. That's my favorite option of them all, but I'm not holding my breath that we'll ever see those.)


James Jacobs wrote:

How do either of these options sound? Would they be good methods to use to try to aim for a 1st–20th level adventure path?

Of the two, the 2nd would be my choice. My gut reaction, however, is to do what you're doing, rather than shoehorn in the higher levels.

Since it really comes down to what makes business sense, and real numbers vs. forum posts would be preferred, perhaps you could do something like the following:

Pick one of the upcoming APs (e.g. Kingmaker) that tops out at the low teens. Write a sequel one-shot adventure for hihger levels (e.g. 16-18) of a length equal to an AP installment in terms of page count. That is, take a GameMastery modules' worth of content released in AP installment format due to the longer encounter descriptions. Round it out with supplemental features for high-level play as needed (perhaps fleshing out in greater detail some of the Continuing the Campaign seeds from prior APs). Maybe it's a small print run, a Pathfinder Subscriber limited edition, GenCon exclusive,... whatever will let you test the waters without having to commit an entire AP to the course.

Or... just keep doing what you're doing.


Also, either option James mentions should only be used for occasional APs - not every one. There's little need to have every AP cover the 1-20 level range.

For those who want things to go a little higher, perhaps have an AP that starts at level 3 or level 5? I know the rise from level 1's humble beginnings is trademark D&D, but does every AP have to start there?

Or... keep doing what you're doing.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Arnwyn wrote:
(Of course, with all that said, I certainly don't mind APs ending at 12th-13th if I knew there would be a 'return-to' series coming after. That's my favorite option of them all, but I'm not holding my breath that we'll ever see those.)

I would dare say chances of us doing a sequel to an AP at some point are 100%. Which AP and when is the question...


yoda8myhead wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
but I'd love to hear some gut-level reactions to the two options above.

I try to encourage side-treks and roleplay by using milestone XP awards, such that PCs in Burnt Offerings would reach level 2 either right before or during the Catacombs, level 3 after clearing out the top layers of Thistletop and 4th after completing the adventure. If they decide to explore the countryside and encounter another level's worth of XP in the process, it doesn't throw off the CRs and allows them to not feel railroaded.

I like Yoda's suggestion: set level benchmarks for various bits of the adventure (e.g. "PCs should be around level 7 at point X, level 8 at point Y, and level 9 at point Z"), and let the DM fill in the gaps between X-Y-Z with extra encounters, if he is so inclined.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Hassan al-Sabah wrote:
Vic wrote:
Speaking generally—which is all I can really do—sales of high-level chapters have been lower than sales of low- and mid-level chapters in every AP where we approach high level.
Interesting. Do you interpret this as being because there is less interest in higher level play, or because there is less incentive for new consumers to buy into an AP mid-way through? Naturally, it may be a little of both, but I am curious if you believe one factor is dominant.

Both, yes. Hopefully the Pathfinder RPG will make high-level play a bit more fun, though...


I wouldn't be averse to the following:

Take two subsequent adventure path arcs and make them one. We then have a 12-part series that will reach from 1-20th, without producing "extra" books that might not be purchased. As a means to keep cost down (since you're saying that higher-level adventures don't sell as well), eschew all art from the second set of 6 books. I truly think that people will buy them without art if it means that you will actually make them.

After all, we're gamers - our greatest asset is our imagination.


I disagree, paizo is notable for its attention to and good taste in art, I just don't see that happening, and it still invalidates the whole not wanting to be tied up in a thing for more than six months aim, because that can't really be spun as two seperate paths, because the second won't begin ath first level.


Hmm, well I guess I might be the exception then - art couldn't possibly be more worthless to me.


Personally I rather like the idea of having the occasional AP finishing at a relatively low level as Kingmaker looks to be. I think the story that's being told should drive how powerful the characters grow, rather than having the need for characters to reach high level drive the story.

A long and enjoyable campaign doesn't need to end with killing the prince of demons, or stopping a god and I for one enjoy 'street level' villains much more for the most part. Going ultra-high level now and then is a lot of fun, but if every AP ended with some massive threat that required 20th level characters then I'd be getting worried about the state of Golarion!

I certainly wouldn't be averse to the occasional 'super module' that pushed levels a bit higher and had some relation to a previous AP, but the kind of level balance that the AP's have had so far suits me very well.


The game went wrong with the idea that we should only play each level for a dozen encounters, and that people should expect to play at high levels the game was never really designed to support. Or worse, that every 1st-level adventurer should have a straightforward, linear path to demigodhood.

I fully support using the medium XP track; I wish our existing campaigns converted from 3.5e used it. Just below name level is where the game is most fun.


James Jacobs wrote:
I would dare say chances of us doing a sequel to an AP at some point are 100%. Which AP and when is the question...

<giddy>


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Arnwyn wrote:
(Of course, with all that said, I certainly don't mind APs ending at 12th-13th if I knew there would be a 'return-to' series coming after. That's my favorite option of them all, but I'm not holding my breath that we'll ever see those.)
I would dare say chances of us doing a sequel to an AP at some point are 100%. Which AP and when is the question...

I imagine it would be between the APs that sold the most books? Here's hoping it's LOF or RotRL!

Getting more liberal with story awards is a good idea, as they seemed to be used a lot in 2E days, IIRC. (I do wonder though what proportion of DMs don't track XP, and just say "level up!" or whatever after certain key points; that's what I prefer these days, anyway.)

I prefer APs to go higher than 13th-level, but that's just my POV.


James Jacobs wrote:
Arnwyn wrote:
(Of course, with all that said, I certainly don't mind APs ending at 12th-13th if I knew there would be a 'return-to' series coming after. That's my favorite option of them all, but I'm not holding my breath that we'll ever see those.)
I would dare say chances of us doing a sequel to an AP at some point are 100%. Which AP and when is the question...

I am very interested in a sequel AP.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Updated description with correct author credits. (The cover image is still a placeholder, and has not been updated.)

"The Varnhold Vanishing" by Greg A. Vaughan. "The Varnhold Vanishing" by Greg A. Vaughan. "The Varnhold Vanishing" by Greg A. Vaughan.

Yeah, that's fun.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Are the lvl ranges right? starting at lvl 5 for the third part of an adventure path that goes up to lvl 18 seem's a little low to me.

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