Pathfinder Adventure Path #133: Secrets of Roderic's Cove (Return of the Runelords 1 of 6)

**½( )( ) (based on 2 ratings)
Pathfinder Adventure Path #133: Secrets of Roderic's Cove (Return of the Runelords 1 of 6)

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Wrath Shall Reign!

When one runelord rose from his slumber, the frontier nation of Varisia shook with his power, and it took a band of heroes to save the world. Yet there remained six other runelords, and now the most wrathful of them all has woken! As the runelords waken one after another, the dangers and perils faced by past heroes pale in comparison. When a mysterious and fearful ghost manifests on the streets of Roderic's Cove at the same time the town's gangs use the runes and legacies of ancient Thassilonian tyrants for their own ends, a new band of heroes must rise to save Varisia, and perhaps the world, from the return of the runelords!

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

  • "Secrets of Roderic's Cove," a Pathfinder adventure for 1st-level characters, by Adam Daigle.
  • An exploration and gazetteer of the town of Roderic's Cove and its inhabitants, by Adam Daigle.
  • An extensive timeline of the history of Thassilon, revelations about the methods used by each runelord to avoid destruction during the apocalypse of Earthfall, and notes for Game Masters on the roles each runelord plays in this Adventure Path, by James Jacobs.
  • A bestiary of monsters lurking around Varisia, including the child-stealing nochlean and the innocuous-looking warpglass ooze, by Mikko Kallio, Luis Loza, Jacob W. Michaels, and Conor J. Owens.

ISBN-13: 978-1-64078-062-0

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

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**½( )( ) (based on 2 ratings)

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Underwhelming.

*( )( )( )( )

The underlying structure of this story is not great, and the writing doesn't help. For the first book in an Adventure Path, this one leaves me underwhelmed and slightly nervous to see what follows. It seems like a rough first draft, and it gives me the same impression of Ultimate Wilderness, where not enough time was taken to craft a publication that is worth distributing. I hope it was just a one-time thing, and that the next books will be back up to the usual standard of quality for APs.

I find that the AP books are increasingly filled with great ideas, and the quality has been top-notch for quite a while. When I read this book, I was constantly thinking about how I'd have to re-work things to make the story coherent, or thinking of details I'd have to add where none are provided in the book.

The text (room descriptions, faction descriptions, NPC description) gives very little fuel for the imagination. They largely focus on back-story that is irrelevant to what the PCs might encounter.

SPOILERS:

For example, one room takes an entire paragraph to describe where the long-dead family sat in this room when they ate their meals. That does nothing for me as a DM. Instead, why not say that the following can be found in the room: "A child's toy; a carved drawing on the table. An old bracket on the window where a telescope used to be. A hand-crafted high chair for the youngest child that's now rotting." Something that the characters could actually discover. I find myself continually frustrated by the unusable text in the book that makes it a chore to read.

Some room descriptions simply repeat what's obvious on the map (and also given in the read aloud text): "This hallway stretches from the front door and curves at a right angle before ending. A set of rickety stairs ascends to the house's second story." This is obvious from the map, and to make it worse, the read-aloud also says: "A set of stairs rises to the next floor, and the hallway turns sharply to the north past the staircase." None of this adds anything I couldn't just tell the players from looking at the map.

There are four different groups involved in this book, and the relationships between them are over-complicated and unnecessary. Several of the groups are hard to realistically imagine living in the town. The groups (and all areas) also feel static, like they're waiting for the PCs to arrive to interact with them. The descriptions of the groups are insufficient to determine more dynamic interactions and motivations, and these brief descriptions sometime contradict the way they're encountered.

For example, there is a group of "frustrated workers and struggling individuals from the lower classes who hope to make a better place for themselves in Roderic's Cove - a sort of informal and rough-around-the edges labourer's guild." This sounds very realistic and compelling to me. However, the group is named the "Horned Fangs", and their members seem to be hanging out in a dungeon, waiting to attack. All the verisimilitude is lost, as is the potential complexity of dealing with co-opted members of the town.

Another group is led by an old witch-like oracle who seems completely out of place with the rest of her members, and there is literally zero description about her motivations, or why she leads the group.

The macguffin in the book could provide a great lead-in to the dangers of the following books, but everything is strangely capped off at the end of the book. The only motivation the PCs have at the end is to follow an NPC's advice to research the macguffin they found. I can think of a number of ways this could have been done better. (The macguffin also uses a power at the start of the story that is not usable by PCs. There is some description of why this happens, but it will never be obvious to the PCs, and is potentially confusing).

TL:DR - This book doesn't match up to the usual quality of PF AP's. I'm writing this to express my concern, and my hope that the next books in this AP match what we expect in terms of cohesive and compelling writing, and as a tool for GM's to create great stories from.


Sins of the Past

****( )

I have written this twice now, and I keep getting timed out so, quick version. I like this adventure; good story, and set up. challenging encounters, and investigations. Consequences to the PC's actions, and the written structure of the adventure is set up to greatly assist a GM. Downsides though, there are several difficult, if not impossible for their level, skill checks that give the PC's important information, that they may not get. Could leave some PC's un-invested in the developments. There are NPC's to balance this, but can feel like hand-holding for some. Despite the flaws, I enjoyed the first volume, and can't wait for the next.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Jacob W. Michaels wrote:
Hey, that's *my* name! (In all seriousness, I'm very excited for my first AP contribution.)

Congratulations, Jacob!

And I'm glad I know who the artist for many of my favorite Reign of Winter and Hell's Rebels pieces is :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Not bad cover art.

Dark Archive

Erasmus the medium & Jir(i?)elle the swashbuckler vs. a pair of Reefclaws.


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

That might be my favorite cover yet its gorgeous


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Very cool cover art! There is a element of "old-school" to it that I really dig.

Also, congrats Jacob!


Marco,

I think it's more like just spawned reefclaws.

But yes, great cover AND I love the villain too. :)

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

When will the Paizo Community Use Logos file be updated to include the Return of the Runelords logo?


Alaznist surely looks madly irritated, but she's also incredibly gorgeous. *---*


5 people marked this as a favorite.
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
Alaznist surely looks madly irritated, but she's also incredibly gorgeous. *---*

She's been woken up to find her rivals aren't all gone, much of her power base is lost, and she drew short straw for first module of the AP. Also, Runelord of Wrath?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
The Gold Sovereign wrote:

Alaznist surely looks madly irritated, but she's also incredibly gorgeous. *---*

Lathiira wrote:

She's been woken up to find her rivals aren't all gone, much of her power base is lost, and she drew short straw for first module of the AP. Also, Runelord of Wrath?

And by "much of her power base is lost", I assume that you mean that basically her entire realm has sunk into the sea? :D


That'd certainly contribute to my bad mood were I her!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
The Gold Sovereign wrote:
Alaznist surely looks madly irritated, ...

Well that's kind of her "thing".


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Timeline! Sweet!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Is there any estimate/guess as to when we will see the Players Guide?
My group is super excited about this AP, and we can't wait to sit down and get character creation started.

Dark Archive

Cat Whisperer wrote:

Is there any estimate/guess as to when we will see the Players Guide?

My group is super excited about this AP, and we can't wait to sit down and get character creation started.

Anywhen in august.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It's odd that Alaznist is on the cover of the first volume. As far as I can tell she is the BBEG, and those characters usually premiere on the final volume when they are actually faced. There are exceptions - Jade Regent, Hell's Vengeance, Strange Aeons - but still. Curious.


GV,

Nothing is set in stone about Alaznist being the BBEG. It just says Runelords.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

In the pathfinder art seminar at Paizocon, they said each cover was going to have a runelord minus Karzoug.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
zergtitan wrote:
In the pathfinder art seminar at Paizocon, they said each cover was going to have a runelord minus Karzoug.

Ah that clears it up, thanks.


Thomas Seitz wrote:

GV,

Nothing is set in stone about Alaznist being the BBEG. It just says Runelords.

The sixth volume summary kind of gives the game away. She may not be a BBEG in the sense of driving the entire plot, but more like the final boss you fight. Kingmaker redux.


Uhm I dunno about that...I mean since when did Kingmaker have a Runelord??


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Thomas Seitz wrote:
Uhm I dunno about that...I mean since when did Kingmaker have a Runelord??

He's referring to Nyrissa being the final villain despite being largely absent from the rest of the plot. But yeah, Alaznist is the BBEG this time around. That or some thing she summons/creates/unleashes. The avatar of Yog-Sothoth is on the mockup of the final adventure after all.


That's no Avatar, that the Great Old One Tawil at’Umr!


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Thomas Seitz wrote:
That's no Avatar, that the Great Old One Tawil at’Umr!

Tawil at’Umr is Yog-Sothoth's avatar. And I'd say Gods help the PCs if he's involved with this AP, but I'm pretty sure even the Gods wouldn't tangle with that dude. It's way too early to be guessing, but maybe ole' Tawil will show up in Continuing the Campaign chapter.

Scarab Sages

Player Character concept for Return of the Runelords

Name: Iolanthi

Oracle of Pharasma, The Spiral of Fate
Mystery: Time

Race: Trueblood Azlanti
Sex: Male

Background:

When Iolanthi was young, he suffered from almost debilitating deja vu. After Iolanthi reached puberty, his deja vu got to be so bad his parents fretted about him ever being able to become a productive member of Azlant society.

The night before Iolanthi was to reach the age of majority, both his parents had an identical dream in which a hooded form appeared to them and directed them to take their son to "The Spiral of Fate" for aid.

That morning, Iolanthi did not wake up. He was most definitely alive but no matter what his parents tried, he just would not wake up. Heeding the "advice" of the hooded figure from their dream, they carefully placed Iolanthi in a carriage and took him to the local Temple of Pharasma.

When they arrived, the high priestess was standing on the temple steps waiting to greet them. SHe explained she was expecting them and that they should bring Iolanthi inside which they did.

When inside, the high priestess examined Iolanthi and asked for more information about their son.

The parents explained what had happened that morning as well as Iolanthi's debilitating bouts of deja vu over the past few years.

The high priestess explained that Iolanthi was not dead nor was he sleeping. He was in a state of stasis and that it was most likely that Pharasma put him in that state the previous night the moment he became an adult.

Iolanthi's parents were naturally quite worried and wanted to know why Pharasma did this and when he might recover?

The high priestess said that sometimes Pharasma's motivations were completely inscrutable and that it would be completely up to her when Iolanthi would be released from his stasis.

The high priestess advised that Iolanthi was physically fine and that he would not need to eat, drink, or even breathe while in stasis but he was still very vulnerable to anyone or anything that wanted to hurt him. She advised Iolanthi's parents to leave him in her care and that the Pharasmins would ensure his safety.

Iolanthi's parents agreed. They never saw their son again even though they tried to visit him over the years. The priesthood explained they entombed him deep inside their catacombs and warded his tomb with powerful wards that would take much effort to re-establish if they were broken for such a mundane reason as a "visit."

Time passed. In fact, thousands of years passed until one day, Iolanthi awoke. He had no idea how much time had passed but when he exited his tomb (with much effort) he realized he had no idea where he was. The Temple had been destroyed LONG ago and he counted himself as lucky to be alive and able to exit the temple's ruins.

Trying to orient himself in both location and time (he sensed he was no longer in "his" time), Iolanthi found a safe place to sleep for the night and dreamed.

He dreamed of a hooded figure telling him he was a favored of Pharasma and that his strange connection to Time would be needed in the days ahead. The last thing Iolanthi could remember about the dream was the hooded figure pointing him in the direction of a large city that he sensed was close by.

The next morning, Iolanthi set off towards that city.


Will we get stats for all the remaining Runelords in this AP (aka Alaznist, Belimarius, Sorshen, Xanderghul, Zutha)?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Sorshen stats: none. Full-on goddesses get no stats as per Paizo's policy regarding full-on deities :-)


Lathiira wrote:
Sorshen stats: none. Full-on goddesses get no stats as per Paizo's policy regarding full-on deities :-)

Demi-gawddess at best. Mine had a, oh, 50-odd Charisma and a +83 Bluff without any spells ... hrm ...

*Sorshen whispers in his brain*

[monotone voice] No stat blocks to see here, move along, move along.[/monotone voice]

Paizo Employee Creative Director

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Berselius wrote:
Will we get stats for all the remaining Runelords in this AP (aka Alaznist, Belimarius, Sorshen, Xanderghul, Zutha)?

Good question!

Spoiler:
Yes. And then some. Although not all in the exact way folks might expect.

Paizo Employee Customer Service & Community Manager

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Removed some posts. Let's try to stay on topic and not go off into commentary on what people find personally physically attractive.


So does this do beg a question now that Planar Adventures is out: WILL the Watchers of jandelay get involved?

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32

1 person marked this as a favorite.

So excited for this AP. Just re-started my Ap-subscription now that we can select to start the sub with vol.1

Paizo Employee Creative Director

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Thomas Seitz wrote:
So does this do beg a question now that Planar Adventures is out: WILL the Watchers of jandelay get involved?

We'll see!


2 people marked this as a favorite.
James Jacobs wrote:
Thomas Seitz wrote:
So does this do beg a question now that Planar Adventures is out: WILL the Watchers of jandelay get involved?
We'll see!

YES, WE WILL.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I honestly can't wait - my group is literally on the doorstep to fighting Karzoug in RotRL (level 20 - mythic tier 3!) and they all voted overwhelmingly to continue with this AP once the playtest is over.

Dark Archive

Ckorik wrote:
I honestly can't wait - my group is literally on the doorstep to fighting Karzoug in RotRL (level 20 - mythic tier 3!) and they all voted overwhelmingly to continue with this AP once the playtest is over.

Cool, i wish my group didn't break down after narrowly defeating the Lich in book 5.

That being said, i really didn't like that Shattered Star has a mega-dungeon in every book, but will most probably run this AP! :-)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Marco Massoudi wrote:
Ckorik wrote:
I honestly can't wait - my group is literally on the doorstep to fighting Karzoug in RotRL (level 20 - mythic tier 3!) and they all voted overwhelmingly to continue with this AP once the playtest is over.

Cool, i wish my group didn't break down after narrowly defeating the Lich in book 5.

That being said, i really didn't like that Shattered Star has a mega-dungeon in every book, but will most probably run this AP! :-)

Ha - I bumped him a bit due to my group already being higher level and mythic - and he hit the cavaliers dog mount with a prismatic ray spell - that ended up sending it to another plane of existence - I rolled randomly against the entire list of planes - and it ended up being the plane of dreams.

That left for a very interesting and fun side adventure where they had to infiltrate the dream plane and rescue the dog. The Cavalier now spent two wishes - the first to 'awaken' his dog - the second to give him speech - it's been an interesting campaign to say the least


Marco Massoudi wrote:
Ckorik wrote:
I honestly can't wait - my group is literally on the doorstep to fighting Karzoug in RotRL (level 20 - mythic tier 3!) and they all voted overwhelmingly to continue with this AP once the playtest is over.

Cool, i wish my group didn't break down after narrowly defeating the Lich in book 5.

That being said, i really didn't like that Shattered Star has a mega-dungeon in every book, but will most probably run this AP! :-)

The AP does warn one of this in advance. ;)

Dark Archive

The Mad Comrade wrote:
Marco Massoudi wrote:
Ckorik wrote:
I honestly can't wait - my group is literally on the doorstep to fighting Karzoug in RotRL (level 20 - mythic tier 3!) and they all voted overwhelmingly to continue with this AP once the playtest is over.

Cool, i wish my group didn't break down after narrowly defeating the Lich in book 5.

That being said, i really didn't like that Shattered Star has a mega-dungeon in every book, but will most probably run this AP! :-)
The AP does warn one of this in advance. ;)

Yes, it does and it has a few very good parts (i like the first and last book especially and the second book has a great dungeon), it's just too much for my taste. ;-)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber

Damn! This is going to be an awesome AP. It is SOOOOOO juicy. Definitely GMing this one!


I may be wrong but it seems to me that this Adventure Path is setting up a possible nation of New Thassilon as a major power player in Golarion for the coming new edition of Pathfinder. If so, I'm guessing that one of the Runelords that achieved a measure of immortality will be it's ruler (with my guess on either Sorshen, Xanderghul, or Zutha). If New Thassilon rises again I'm hoping at least Magnimar‎ can resist it's rule or expansion. I'd really hate to see one of the few cities of the continent of Avistan that worships the Empyreal Lords fall to to the tyranny of sin.


I rather doubt that a long-dormant Runelord will have - by default - come to rule all of Varisia by the end of the Return of the Runelords.

The bearers of the Sihedron themselves are more than a match for most of the Runelords save Runelord Sorshen and especially Runelord Xanderghul.

They presumably have the far-from-inconsequential resources of Magnimar's Golemworks and seemingly innumerable quasi-deific Empyreals that would not lightly let their city fall into the clutches of tyrants. Only Xin could unmake the Sihedron, so its phenomenal power is wholly at the disposal of all of the "Sihedron Heroes" and their cohorts (as applicable).

Similar can be said about the veterans of Rise of the Runelords - and they have had more downtime and much more significant wealth to draw upon than the Heroes of the Sihedron, although they lack a centuries-old city-state with which to marry their resources. What they do know how to do is craft runeforged weapons with which to oppose in most efficacious fashion all of the Runelords given a small amount of time upon which to act against the risen Runelords.

18-20th level characters with no few years of downtime and vast wealth at their disposal are not going down easily to any one of the Runelords. If anything, arrogance by one or more of the 'lesser' Runelords would see their ruin smote upon their Sihedron Tomes.

Korvosa's new rulers may well be similarly seasoned adventurers in the aftermath of Curse of the Crimson Throne. Were they to be made aware of Runelord Sorshen's mastaba being directly accessible, they would certainly undertake drastic measures of their own accord. These persons themselves have had nearly a decade of their own and the second-largest Varisian city-state's resources upon which to draw, plus presumably a cooperative alliance with the not-inconsiderable abilities of the Shoanti clans to their immediate east... If they befriended Cindermaw, a carry companion spell provides an enormous tunneling entity able to chew its way to the heart of the mastaba in a few minutes' worth of rock munching.

Xanderghul - pending his development during Return of the Runelords I feel is ... elsewhere, and has been, for quite some time now.

Varisia is remarkably well-defended all things considered. Depending on the former realm, there may well be a third or fourth "team" of almost equally powerful heroes along Varisia's perimeter.

A certain Jade Empress hails from humble Sandpoint. Word of such a terrible event arising may well see her advisors return almost immediately to Varisia to investigate - few of whom are strangers to Varisia.


Korvosa's rulers might also have access to a major artifact. Admittedly it's more useful against Zon-Kuthon and his followers, but a +4 holy Zon Kuthon Bane bastard sword that can bypass/counts as silver AND cold iron...not a bad combo weapon. I mean it's not the ONLY major artifact...but I'd say it's a pretty hefty one to have lying around...

Dark Archive

I remember hearing something about New Thassilon maybe becoming something like the city-state of Ravounel in "Hell's Rebels".

I seem to remember that James Jacobs said that Varisia would still exist largely within the same borders in Pathfinder 2.0.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Marco Massoudi wrote:

I remember hearing something about New Thassilon maybe becoming something like the city-state of Ravounel in "Hell's Rebels".

I seem to remember that James Jacobs said that Varisia would still exist largely within the same borders in Pathfinder 2.0.

Well the Runelords were awesome with stasis and time magic so it can be that the New Thassilon starts off with a bunch of Thassilonians released from stasis. Xanderghul's city has never been found for all we know it could be still operating in its own demiplane and get back in golarion. You also have Crystilan, The folks in Runeforge and rumors of ancient thassiloninans in Magnimar in the ancient bridge structure or in Hollow Mountain.

Probably not enough to make a viable empire at first but just enough to make a small city-state. Hey you never know.

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