Pathfinder Adventure Path #135: Runeplague (Return of the Runelords 3 of 6)

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Pathfinder Adventure Path #135: Runeplague (Return of the Runelords 3 of 6)

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Runelords Rising!

Varisia has long survived in the footprint of the ancient nation of Thassilon, but now the powerful runelords who once ruled that realm are waking from their centuries-long slumber, hurtling this frontier nation—and the entire world—toward great danger. The latest manifestation of peril facing Varisia's newest group of heroes is a hideous plague that threatens to spill into the streets of Magnimar and spread to the other major cities of the region, transforming beggar and prince alike into slavering monsters. Which of the runelords might rise next, and are all of them equally dangerous? Could some of them even become the heroes' allies? And what is causing a series of strange visions and otherworldly invaders to haunt and harry the heroes?

This volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path continues the Return of the Runelords Adventure Path and includes:

  • "Runeplague," a Pathfinder adventure for 8th-level characters, by Richard Pett.
  • Details on the vile faith and horrific cults of Yamasoth, the Polymorph Plague, by Jason Keeley.
  • An exploration of the legends and true natures of magic pools around Golarion, by Eleanor Ferron.
  • A bestiary of monsters, including the artistic yet alien ashullian, a disturbing manifestation of grim emotion known as the misery siktempora, and the eerily silent kasthezvi, by Mike Kimmel, Andrew Mullen, Richard Pett, and Jeffrey Swank.

ISBN-13: 978-1-64078-079-8

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

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Master Class in Adventure Writing (for the most part)

4/5

Richard Pett is one of the most talented adventure writers of all-time, and one of my personal favorites, so to say I've been looking forward to this module would be an understatement. He does not disappoint. Let's dive in, shall we!?

All told, this adventure offers a balance of combat and role-playing with myriad (perhaps too many actually) opportunities to travel across Varisia.

The beginning, with the time-traveling Steward is just odd. Tack onto this the PCs "remembering" knowledge from their future selves, giving them boosts to ability scores, and it's a weird beginning. Feels unnecessary, but perhaps will make more sense later in the AP.

Part 1: Polymorph Plague

Fresh off their exploits in Hollow Mountain, the PCs return to Magnimar to consult with the Sihedron Council. In the Mountain, the PCs discovered cultists of Yamasoth who intended to unleash a virulent plague upon an unsuspecting populace. Having foiled part of this attempt, the PCs have the advantage. While meeting with the Sihedron Council, the party is introduced to a talented local artist some readers may recall from AP #100. This individual has been having visions and noticing strange happenings near her home under the Irespan. She leads the PCs to an entrance to one of the Irespan's pilings, and it's here that the real adventure begins.

This portion of the piling is referred to as "The Gecko" due to the gecko-headed gargoyles surmounting balconies, and it's served as the recent home base for the Cult of Yamasoth, who happen to be away on another mission to further their foul aims. This lets the PCs explore this noisome lair, discovering undead creatures, witness experiments gone wrong, and unearth the cult's evil plans.

This area is EXTREMELY well done. Shout out to the confrontation with the unfortunate survivor of the cult's experiments with the polymorph plague. This is one of the most well-crafted encounters I've read in a while. Well done, Mr. Pett. Samsarru is also very flavorful and interesting. By the way, Mr. Pett may well be the best I've seen at devising intriguing, flavorful treasures.

Part 2: The Zincher Siege

Having learnt that a large contingent of cultists is traveling to Riddleport to steal scrolls of true resurrection from the crimelord Clegg Zincher, the PCs follow. This section is fantastic - fast-paced, interesting, and flavorful. The PCs must convince Clegg that his scrolls are under threat and that they need to help him defend. Clegg has an auctioned he must attend, so it falls to the PCs to plan defense of his (very well mapped) tenement, which already employs various traps and defenses. Having done so, the party must fend off waves of attacking Yamasoth cultists, led by Leptonia, bent on claiming the scrolls of true resurrection.

This is a masterful section. My only slight quibble is that I would have liked to have seen more detail provided about Zincher's auction of his arena (auction bids, personages who are present and interested, etc.)

Part 3: A night on the Town

Next, the PCs travel to Korvosa to meet with Sorshen. After a LOT of combat in the prior two sections, this part focuses on role-playing. Although the book presents it as such, it's doesn't seem as if it would be an obvious next step for the party to respond to Sorshen's dream sending way back in the previous adventure (It Came from Hollow Mountain) by traveling cross-country to Korvosa at this point. Nevertheless, off they go.

Though interactions with Sorshen can seem a bit forced at times, the scenarios, events, and role-playing opportunities here are quite fun.

My quibble with this section is that Sorshen doesn't seem like a Runelord. Whilst most of the other Runelords have been written as caricatures of the sins they are associated with, Sorshen is not. Instead of seeming full of lust for life, she seems conservative and careful. Caution is not a synonym for lust.

As well, during a certain Truth-or-Dare-like game, the module makes a point to mention that nobody should be made to feel uncomfortable by this. Good lord, is this the standard? Nobody should ever feel uncomfortable while roleplaying? There goes the acting industry! Seriously, it's PC crud like this that sullies and lessens art, dumbing it down and blanding it up.

At the end of the night's festivities, the party is confronted by a very cool foe - a time flayer who has stopped time in order to prevent the character's from meddling with its flow. Very cool and flavorful and the art for the time flayer is amazing!

Part 4: The Sundered Seal

Next, acting on intelligence provided by Sorshen, the PCs are off to Kaer Maga, in pursuit of a Whispering Way cultist, who means to awaken the Runelord Zutha. This section seems rushed. The trip to Kaer Maga is completely glossed over as is the trip to The Seal within Kaer Maga. As well, who the Brothers of the Seal are and what The Seal is not explained. Paizo would do well to remember that not everyone reading their books is familiar with prior works.

Part 4 is the weakest section thus far, seeming rushed with details glossed over. However, it does end on a high-note, with the PCs battling the necromancer Erigantus and hopefully recovering the Bone Grimoire.

Part 5: Death Rising

In this brief, 2 page section, the PCs travel to a small island on the coast of the risen city of Xin and conduct a ritual at an ancient shrine to summon and defeat and weakened, shadowy fragment of Runelord Zutha. Doing so destroys his phylactery and thus, him as well. This section is very condensed with much detail glossed over. It feels rushed. The battle with Zutha's simulacrum could be great though.

NPC Gallery:

Clegg Zincher, Erigantus, Sorshen's Blood Simulacrum, Zutha's Fragment

Yamasoth, the Polymorph Plague:

Magic Pools:

For some reason, Paizo thought it beneficial to include an article on Magic Pools of Golarion, a subject only tangentially related to the adventure. Far better would it have been, IMO, to have dedicated these 6 pages to fleshing out the last few parts of this adventure.

Bestiary:

The encounters provided (which are for Kovosa) are haunts for some reason. Seems odd and out of place. Would have liked to have seen not combat-related encounters (revelers, shopkeepers and wares, etc.). Aside from this, the bestiary is a strong one: Ardoc Moilant, Ashullian, Kasthezvi, and Misery Siktempora

To sum, the relative weakness of the last two parts of this module are more than compensated for by the near-perfect brilliance of the first two parts. Some politically-correct narrative about creating a safe space where nobody feels uncomfortable as well as Paizo's ever present feminist agenda - nearly all leaders and NPCs encountered are female and personal pronouns default to the female, instead of "he or she" - mars the believability of the world. Sadly, this gender activism results in a lowering of the final grade. (-1 star) All told, a highly recommended adventure.


A feast of Content

4/5

This is one of the more interestingly put together adventure paths I have ever read. As with previous volumes, there is considerable challenge presented here, and not just for players. This Adventure continues the trend of giving out clues to PC’s with incredibly high DC’s in order to get any information. This is not an adventure for new players, or even beginning Game masters, as the amount of note taking will be considerable. This adventure also begins to introduce the time traveling elements that will be taking part in the later volumes of the adventure path, and provides some ideas as to demonstrate that things are changing around the PCs. This is a very good section, and gives me plenty of ideas on how to implement this, but I feel it should have been covered in an earlier volume, so that canny GM’s could have been taking notes throughout the adventure and give the players a greater sense of change. This adventure also provides several opportunities for good roleplay between the PC’s, as well as NPC’s introduced here, and in previous titles. These sections are always limited in scope, and provide some ideas, but doesn’t force the roleplay, or leave it completely to the GM. Enough is provided to give the GM a head start, without taking up too much time. This adventure has multiple call backs to previous adventure paths as well, and not just from Return of the Runelords. Characters form Rise of the Runelords, Second Darkness, Wrath of the Righteous, and Curse of the Crimson Throne, but just like the roleplay, it is not forced onto the players; if you have players who went through those games, it just makes the appearances a fun twist, but doesn’t intrude on the action. I also favored the tasks presented here, being both varied and thematically interesting. I can’t say much without spoilers, but each event feels different from the last, and I feel can be very engaging for the players. With all this praise, you must be thinking this sounds like a near perfect adventure, and that is not the case unfortunately. While what is provided is good, and nearly all of it is new, the book accomplishes this by providing multiple sources that are used for this adventure, a total of 7 by my final count. These cover the various cities, and sites the players visit. None of them are detailed in the text, which works to it’s advantage in a way. The text however provides only the bare minimum of information needed to get the PC’s to their destinations, and anything they choose to do while at these cities, or how they get there is dependent on the GM, and more often than not would require these references. Even more so for the final encounter which requires the PC’s to perform a ritual, which was only detailed in a separate text. This feeds into the idea that this is not an adventure for new GM’s or players. Because of all this, this particular chapter could be the longest of all the modules presented in Return of the Runelords. Don’t get me wrong, what is here, I like, and would love to run this adventure myself. But this will require much more work than a typical adventure path, and you should know that going in.


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1 person marked this as a favorite.

Sweet!! Yamasoth MIGHT be making an appearance if the summary is accurate! I can't wait! :)


Dot


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Seriously no love for this? Come on fellas!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I think everyone is just focused on......other issues....
I for one am very excited about this adventure path :P


The only reason I am getting this AP is because... yeah 20th level.


I'm excited too Nighttree, but mostly for more Qlippoths. :)

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Is Korvosa getting hit by a plague again?

Also: will this AP be going to Korvosa at some point?

Dark Archive

Huh, would have thought this one would have been about Zutha.

Speaking of Zutha, Bhoston Jola Rould the pathfinder in expedition to find Gluttonous Tome mentioned in one of Council of Thieves articles, is it ever mentioned afterwards what happened to that expedition? As far as I know, Tome was discovered by non Pathfinders?


2 people marked this as a favorite.

if Yamasoth shows up, I'll be glad. Any monstrous outsider that turns people into things is alright in my book.


Nightdrifter,

I'm assuming Korvosa will be left alone by this...but I could be wrong.

Corvus, I'm pretty sure having the Runelord of Wrath (or one of her projects) would be about par for this AP.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Nightdrifter wrote:
Is Korvosa getting hit by a plague again?

No.

Nightdrifter wrote:
Also: will this AP be going to Korvosa at some point?

Yes.

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Ooh, some fun times with qlippoth!


Cool! Forward Korvosa!

Dark Archive

Has Academy of Secrets happened so we know whether headmaster got replaced or not? :D


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

That's a insanely good place holder cover


Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Sounds awesome!!


2 people marked this as a favorite.

yes, I especially like the Plagued Steed and Lava Children on the Placeholder Art

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Cultists eager to transform people into monsters via a plague - could this be Lamashtu's plan for the Lost Coast region?


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Marco Massoudi wrote:
Cultists eager to transform people into monsters via a plague - could this be Lamashtu's plan for the Lost Coast region?

Polymorph Plague, also known as Yamasoth, is one of Alaznist most powerful allies... And I suppose he has no love for Lamashtu, as he is a qlippoth.


Yeah I think that this is more some of Yamasoth's doing rather than Lamashtu.

Web Product Manager

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Updated with final product description and cover image!

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Huh, I don't see rings on his fingers so I guess Lord of the Runes pathfinder tales book stuff might not be covered :D

But yeah neat

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

On nice, an article on a demon lord! Looks like a adherent of Urgoatha is involved, too!


Decius,

Qlippoth. There's a difference. But yeah not surprised the Pallid Princess has a follower involved in this...

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Thomas Seitz wrote:

Decius,

Qlippoth. There's a difference. But yeah not surprised the Pallid Princess has a follower involved in this...

Ah, right! Don't think we've had a write-up for one of them yet.


Not really since there's less Qlippoth and they tend to hate mortals anyway...

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
DeciusNero wrote:

On nice, an article on a demon lord! Looks like a adherent of Urgoatha is involved, too!

The guy in the cover? That's Runerlord Zutha. I don't think he's involved with Urgathoa.


Runelord of Gluttony, a horcrux-lich-type of guy, involved with the Patron Gawddess of Gluttony and undeath ... naaaaah. ;)


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
DeciusNero wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:

Decius,

Qlippoth. There's a difference. But yeah not surprised the Pallid Princess has a follower involved in this...

Ah, right! Don't think we've had a write-up for one of them yet.

We had an article about qlippoth lords including a statblock for Yamasoth in Shattered Star part 4, Beyond the Doomsday Door

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Zaister wrote:
DeciusNero wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:

Decius,

Qlippoth. There's a difference. But yeah not surprised the Pallid Princess has a follower involved in this...

Ah, right! Don't think we've had a write-up for one of them yet.
We had an article about qlippoth lords including a statblock for Yamasoth in Shattered Star part 4, Beyond the Doomsday Door

Ah, I missed getting that path, that's why!

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.

And to clarify, that one was in general about qlippoth, this is first time we get write up focusing one of qlippoth lord's cults specifically


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

just curious if, since it's in magnimar, we might see the half-elf druid who's name i'm forgetting from the novel Blood of the City in this

EDIT: Luma that's her name!!


I doubt it. They don't showcase that many novel characters. Unless they get more than 3 books. I think.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Product Description wrote:
Could some even become the heroes' allies?

Who else thinks we may see a friendly risen Sorshen? Calling it now, this series ends with a re-awoken Sorshen becoming the Ruler of Korvosa?

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Considering one of PCs or different npc might have become ruler of Korvosa since 9 years ago, doesn't really sound likely to me.

Why does everyone seems to want Sorshen to become good guy anyway? Or do they mean affably evil since she is all about manipulation and such?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
CorvusMask wrote:

Considering one of PCs or different npc might have become ruler of Korvosa since 9 years ago, doesn't really sound likely to me.

Why does everyone seems to want Sorshen to become good guy anyway? Or do they mean affably evil since she is all about manipulation and such?

I think it would make an interesting progression to the story that us the Golarion timelinr. Last book is called Rise of New Thassilon afterall so having a new big bag (especially after the WW closed and Tar Baphon possibly getting his teeth kicked in after this ap) having another threat would be nice for the Inner Sea. And as time travel is involved with this AP, any other pc being Korvosa's leader or the Senachel (who I assume is the NPC your talking about and what I assume is considered "cannon" can easily be change)

Dark Archive

Vorsk, Follower or Erastil wrote:
CorvusMask wrote:

Considering one of PCs or different npc might have become ruler of Korvosa since 9 years ago, doesn't really sound likely to me.

Why does everyone seems to want Sorshen to become good guy anyway? Or do they mean affably evil since she is all about manipulation and such?

I think it would make an interesting progression to the story that us the Golarion timelinr. Last book is called Rise of New Thassilon afterall so having a new big bag (especially after the WW closed and Tar Baphon possibly getting his teeth kicked in after this ap) having another threat would be nice for the Inner Sea. And as time travel is involved with this AP, any other pc being Korvosa's leader or the Senachel (who I assume is the NPC your talking about and what I assume is considered "cannon" can easily be change)

I think Tar-Baphon will return to stay in PF 2.0 - CR 30 is too hard to defeat for (non-mythic) pcs.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Marco Massoudi wrote:
I think Tar-Baphon will return to stay in PF 2.0 - CR 30 is too hard to defeat for (non-mythic) pcs.

So, have you heard about The Tyrant's Grasp?


I just heard it had more Gallowspire myself. Which is good. :)

Right now though, one AP at a time!

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Zaister wrote:
Marco Massoudi wrote:
I think Tar-Baphon will return to stay in PF 2.0 - CR 30 is too hard to defeat for (non-mythic) pcs.
So, have you heard about The Tyrant's Grasp?

Of course i have. ;-)

But i don't expect the pcs to actually slay TB at the end, just somehow contain his ambition and deal him a setback.

The last AP volume #144 is called "Midwives to Death" and personally i would like it more, if an immortal lich would be set up in a part of Avistan as a recurring enemy for most nations.

Also i can't see level 20 pcs going up against a CR 26/MR 10 threat.
Of course there are ways to do this, but i find it not optimal.

Dark Archive

It is possibility thought that someone else destroys Tyrant while PCs destroy his phylactery though

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.
CorvusMask wrote:
It is possibility thought that someone else destroys Tyrant while PCs destroy his phylactery though

That would be a possibility, but if i was a lich with Int 36 or more, nobody would ever find my real phylactery. ;-)


Me and my group have been toying around with the ideas of this AP. Personally, I think that

Kind Maybe Spoiler:
that the PCs are following in Aroden's footsteps to some degree and bring him back into the fold for the near end of the AP. My thoughts are that Aroden and some other super powerful NPCs go toe to toe with the Tyrant while the PCs hunt down the phylactery.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Marco Massoudi wrote:
CorvusMask wrote:
It is possibility thought that someone else destroys Tyrant while PCs destroy his phylactery though
That would be a possibility, but if i was a lich with Int 36 or more, nobody would ever find my real phylactery. ;-)

Which makes for a pointless encounter in an RPG.

Once a creature is played as "too smart to be killed" it doesn't need stats.

Dark Archive

3 people marked this as a favorite.
James Jacobs wrote:
Marco Massoudi wrote:
CorvusMask wrote:
It is possibility thought that someone else destroys Tyrant while PCs destroy his phylactery though
That would be a possibility, but if i was a lich with Int 36 or more, nobody would ever find my real phylactery. ;-)

Which makes for a pointless encounter in an RPG.

Once a creature is played as "too smart to be killed" it doesn't need stats.

I beg to differ.

Not every enemy needs to be or can be killed.
Sometimes it is enough to thwart their plans.
Look for instance at Forgotten Realms' Sazz Tamm, a lich who has often be defeated, but never been killed.

Also, if i look at Call of Cthulhu, the Great Old Ones & Outer Gods have stats and they cann't be defeated by the characters either.

The "if it bleeds we can kill it" mentality should not always work and if pcs always go for that routine, they should be prepared to die themselves sometimes.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Marco Massoudi wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Marco Massoudi wrote:
CorvusMask wrote:
It is possibility thought that someone else destroys Tyrant while PCs destroy his phylactery though
That would be a possibility, but if i was a lich with Int 36 or more, nobody would ever find my real phylactery. ;-)

Which makes for a pointless encounter in an RPG.

Once a creature is played as "too smart to be killed" it doesn't need stats.

I beg to differ.

Not every enemy needs to be or can be killed.
Sometimes it is enough to thwart their plans.
Look for instance at Forgotten Realms' Sazz Tamm, a lich who has often be defeated, but never been killed.

Also, if i look at Call of Cthulhu, the Great Old Ones & Outer Gods have stats and they cann't be defeated by the characters either.

The "if it bleeds we can kill it" mentality should not always work and if pcs always go for that routine, they should be prepared to die themselves sometimes.

Fine with me; not everyone on the internet needs to agree.

I'm just saying that if a GM plays a character in a way that removes player agency entirely from the game, that's frustrating. A great old one can't be killed, but it can certainly be defeated.

Liberty's Edge

Any chance that Desgard's Thousand Columns will feature in this book?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

casiel wrote:
Any chance that Desgard's Thousand Columns will feature in this book?

Nope.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Anyone gotten there subscriber PDF copy of this yet?

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Kevin Mack wrote:
Anyone gotten there subscriber PDF copy of this yet?

I got my email a few hours ago. I haven't downloaded anything yet, but I'll look later tonight.

-Skeld

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