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

3.00/5 (based on 7 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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Starts poorly, picks up a bit midstream, and ends with a whimper


This is, unfortunately, a mediocre adventure. It's blandly written, with poorly thought out plot and character motivations, and lack of attention to detail. An unfortunate trend with Paizo is the bland nature of their module writing, such that nearly every location feels the same. Roderic's Cove becomes easily interchangeable with Breechill in Hellknight Hill or Etran's Folly Fall of Plaguestone. Sense of place and immersion has fallen by the wayside.

Cover art is excellent. However, though some interior art is decent, much of it is cartoonish and subpar.

Maps are fine, though they all are encounter maps. Given the number of disparate encounter locations throughout the adventure, the absence of a regional map is unfortunate and notable. Paizo would also do well to start including a small map, as they did with their early adventures, illustrating where on Golarion the setting is to be found.

Part 1:

Let's highlight a positive to start: The young boy Kynae's motivations and characterization are very well thought out and written. Nicely done.

Jana's actions make no sense, and her motivations are not sufficiently explained. It defies credulity that anyone would follow her or try to better themselves and their station by forming a gang called "The Horned Fangs" while living under the town.

For some reason, the town authorities are blithely unconcerned about the murder of 6 people in town. However, they encourage the PCs to investigate, naturally!

Part 2:

Spiders and cockroaches aggressively attack the PCs when the characters enter the room the creatures are in, running contrary to any evolutionary survival instincts the creatures would have. Far better would it have been for the critters to only attack PCs who invaded their specific homes - investigating under floorboards, etc.

Other than the faux pas with the vermin, Roderic's Wreck is very well put-together, flavorful and evocative, with well-placed and appropriate haunts, though the sewing haunt is a bit much.

The intro states that Roderic didn't realize the sword he found in an ancient Thassilonian ruin was Baraket, the sword of pride. Curiously enough, the sword case he kept the weapon in is labeled "Baraket". Oops. As well, in his conversation with the PC's, Roderic's ghost warns them about Baraket controlling them. Double-oops. Later, he even refers to Baraket as a Sword of Sin. Triple-oops.

By the way, the module insists that PCs won't earn XP as normal if they happen to defeat Roderic's ghost. Extremely lame.

Some creatures encountered can seem a bit forced. For instance, attic whisperers form as a result of a lonely or neglected child's death and linger in the places where they were formed. Since this module states that Roderic's children were well-loved, the attic-whisperer, as cool as it is, doesn't seem to be thematically appropriate here.

Part 3:

This section is mixed consisting of initially trite encounters with bandits and goblins followed by very solid encounters at Stonehouse and Alaznist's Armory. Generally well-done here, though it's extremely weird that the Roadkeeper bandits are led by an old woman.

Part 4:

Peacock Manor is fairly well crafted, but rooms are not properly described, with a lack of attention to detail. This is especially notable in the scriptorium and library, where not a single specific tome is listed. Poor show. Adventure designers, take note: if space is an issue, simply have fewer rooms, but describe each remaining in detail.

As well, morale becomes an afterthought, with singular opponents apparently not at all caring for their lives while facing off to the death against a full party of adventurers.

Completely weird and out of place that Corstela has an assistant who's a cambion. Apparently, they formed a friendship for some reason long ago. No information is given as to the cambion's motivations. At least he has an incredibly cheesy name: "Pridebound Assistant". As if anyone calls him that.

Part 5:

And now we arrive at the Underflume, where the plot issues rise to the fore. To begin, it makes no sense that Galeena, the owner of Creekside Tavern, would rent out her storeroom, which connects to her valuable and secret cold storage room (kept at a constant 40 degrees F by the way) to Jana, a drunk who was allowed to "sleep off a bender" there. As well, the "secret" door that Jana discovered in the cold storage room, while drunk apparently, is labeled as a normal door on the map.

Jana's actions based on her motivations make no sense. She wants to get Roderic's Cove on her side to help gain revenge on the criminal elements in Riddleport that doomed her mother? Ok, then why does she form a criminal gang called the "Horned Fangs" and live under the town?

The room descriptions and encounters in the Underflume are very underwhelming. Far too much effort went into describing what the rooms were used for 10,000 years ago vs. focusing on making them interesting places to explore now. As it stands, the place seems like it was far more interesting 10 millenia ago.

The Alaznist haunt in H20 is extremely cheesy and ham-handed, treating the players like children in the manner in which it forces plot reveals down their throats.

Roderic's Cove Gazeteer:

Very bland and not believalable. The town is described as being small and insular, full of gossiping, superstitious people, but is presented as exactly the opposite, full of people completely tolerant and accepting of gender and racial equality.

This illustrates one of the primary issues with Paizo products these days - since Paizo takes pains to virtue-signal political-correctness, all of their non-evil towns feel exactly the same. All are exemplars of racial and gender harmony and equity, unless they are explicitly matriarchies. This really ruins the verisimilitude of the world, instead making it a pale reflection of our own real-world left-wing politics.


Notably poor, full of silly creatures.

As with all Pathfinder products, the unfortunate gender activism is present here, with all leaders being female. Yes, even the gang leaders are female. Makes perfect sense! Pretty soon, every Good-aligned nation, city, town, and village in Golarion will be ruled by a female. This falls once again in-line with Paizo's verisimilitude-shattering habit of assigning gender-equality or matriarchy to seemingly all non-evil communities. (-1 star)

The relative quality of Roderic's Wreck saves this from being a 1-star review.

Fun Adventure Path for Your Varisian Legacy Characters!


A Strong Start to an Epic Campaign


Secrets of Roderic's Cove serves well as the start of the Rise of the Runelords adventure path and is strong enough in its own right to serve as a stand-alone adventure if desired. Since it covers a level 1-5 range, it could even serve as an entire campaign for somebody using the Beginner's Box if desired.

The town of Roderic's Cove has many problems, from a mini-gang war to the appearance of the ghost of the town founder. The order in which the PCs solve these problems depends on their choices. All told, the adventure features several dungeons, a monster-filled wilderness, a haunted house, and a mansion whose infiltration calls for stealth and guile. This is in addition to several encounters in the town itself, from monsters that attack in the night to the chaos caused by a renegade grimple.

Secrets of Roderic's Cove is much more of a sandbox than most other 1st-level adventures, and it serves well to establish the PCs as individuals with their own agency. The adventure path calls for a group that is willing to be proactive and solve problems in their own way, and this adventure sets that tone nicely.

It would have been nice to see more guidance in certain areas - the aforementioned mansion could be difficult to run for a GM who doesn't handle infiltration missions well, for example. I also miss certain adventure path features such as the foreword and the fiction, but I understand that certain sacrifices have to be made for the line's first 1-20 non-mythic adventure path. Overall, this book is a strong start to a campaign and a good adventure to have even if you don't plan to run the full path.

Third Time's the Charm


First, let me qualify this review. This is not a read-through review; our group has played this adventure and it’s not all that different from any of the other introductory modules of which we've played in nearly half of the APs Paizo has published over the past decade. It is quite serviceable and, as advertised, disposable pulp fantasy, complete with the requisite tropes. If you're looking for award-winning prose or groundbreaking character development, it is in short supply, but this seems to be standard and the norm for monthly canned modules like these. Even so, there's a lot for GMs to work with: a fleshed-out location with ample NPCs, a clear tie in to the next module, and enemies who, if played with nuance, skirt the line between ally and enemy. The encounters are appropriately difficult for a system that's now so bloated with exploits. Groups looking for cheap thrills and plenty of them will be satisfied as the module trends towards quick advancement and steady, generous treasure acquisition. Does it need some extra love from the GM, well yes – show me a module that does not. Does it live up to the previous installments in the Runelord franchise, I'd say, yes, close. We lack singing goblins in this one, but, memory has a funny way of making those past installments better than they actually were and it's challenging to go up against that type of nostalgia in a world increasingly suffused with critics.

Of six ap’s this is the worst


Into book three of this ap; have played six other ap’s and this is hands down the worst ap. The story is extremely underwhelming and feels like it was written as a “where are they now” tour of previous ap’s. If you want to take a tour of previous ap's NPCs and locations then this is the ap for you. If you want a good story I’d try any number of other ap’s.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

In the PG's Circle Market Hunting Guide is each bargain item supposed to be at 10% 'off' its normal price? Or is it as written?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Yes. 10% off normal price.

Dark Archive

I had a rather interesting misprint, my copy has pages (1)/2,3/4,5/6 so on to 15/16 then (1)/2, but then 17/18, to 91/92 and ad inserts.

So basically I got Part 1 twice.

Is this a thing that happened to anyone else?

Varian - misprints like that happen. I've picked up a couple books like that in the past. If you send an email to customer service, they will help you out.

I got to play in my first session of Return tonight. We had a lot of fun and I like the way things are being set up. I'm super excited to see how it all plays out!

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Varian Seth wrote:

I had a rather interesting misprint, my copy has pages (1)/2,3/4,5/6 so on to 15/16 then (1)/2, but then 17/18, to 91/92 and ad inserts.

So basically I got Part 1 twice.

Is this a thing that happened to anyone else?

Brother Fen is right. This unfortunately happens sometimes in mass printing. A message to customer service with the order number, details of the issue, and maybe a photo of the issue will sort this out.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Yes. 10% off normal price.

Thanks, that's how I read it anyway. My teenage sons will now be sorry they pointed it out to me before we started play.

So, uh, I'm confuzzeled, are we going to get the stats of the Runelords as they were before Earthfall hit (aka at the height of their power) or are we just going to get a few of them in their new forms? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad for whatever we get but I'm hoping one of the last things Paizo does with 1st edition Pathfinder RPG is giving us the post-Earthfall stats for the Runelords. That would be really awesome in case we'd want to use them for our own independent campaigns! :D

I just kind of hope we get the stats for the other rods of rule. So far we've gotten two.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Berselius wrote:
So, uh, I'm confuzzeled, are we going to get the stats of the Runelords as they were before Earthfall hit (aka at the height of their power) or are we just going to get a few of them in their new forms? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad for whatever we get but I'm hoping one of the last things Paizo does with 1st edition Pathfinder RPG is giving us the post-Earthfall stats for the Runelords. That would be really awesome in case we'd want to use them for our own independent campaigns! :D

It's kinda all over the place. You'll see as the adventures come out. Some will have stats at the height of their power, some won't. It depends on how they interface with the plot.

Liberty's Edge

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

Sorry guys. Going to have a bit of a grumble. I found Secrets to be pretty underwhelming and dull.

I won't presume to do a formal review of the adventure, but I have to say:
- the different groups involved were very static and really there was little or no development on their behalf throughout the adventure;
- there was no feel of a real threat to the town and the different gangs involved were pretty uninteresting and pretty forgettable;
- the locations had been done before and often in a better way - mansions, haunted house, dungeons under a flume, etc;
- none of the locations really felt alive, they were really passive, just waiting for the characters to wade through them;
- the town of Roderic's Cove was pretty uninspiring and with few plot hooks to really make the characters feel at home in town
-the Thassollian lore was pretty limited and the threat posed by Azalinst seemed distant at best
- the treasure seemed totally over the top in some areas (7,000 gp in one chest alone) and pretty generic in others.

All in all. Ehh...

Sorry I don't normally complain about these things. But as someone who has subscribed from the very first AP - I just expected something more inspiring for a return to the much beloved Runelords story arc.

The difference between this and Burnt Offerings was pretty noticeable.

I hope it is just a aberration and that the rest of the AP gets back on track quickly..

Sorry for being a grump.


Dark Archive

Hmm, I'd say you probably shouldn't have expected new version of Burnt Offerings though. Burnt Offerings is special in that it works best as first ever campaign game for newbie pathfinder player, Secrets of Roderics' cove is written in way that seems to appeal to players who have played both previous parts of trilogy. There are lot of references to Thassilonian lore mentioned previously and at least few spoilerific thing which get people who know about Thassilon stuff get excited.

I also feel like this book is pretty weak. I'm going to carefully read the whole thing then write a review. Gonna have to do a fair bit of work as a GM to make Rodericks Cove feel like a liveable town. Just as a start (without spoiling anything):

(1) The 'factions' seem like simplistic caricatures that I think my players will have a hard time believing in. One group in particular seems really divorced from the look and feel of the rest of the town.

(2) The main NPC descriptions aren't very evocative - they don't stir my imagination or add complexity or depth that I could add subplot to.

(3) The Macguffin in this book uses a power that is dormant, for a moment, but it doesn't adequately explain why that powerful latent power arose at such an innocuous time. I think that could have been better considered or explained.

(4) Some witnesses suspect something that the PCs have already seen. (p.7). I need to give them something more to say, rather than just banging the PCs over the head something they already suspect.

(5) No Adventure Summary at the start of the book.

And I'm only on page 9 (and the NPC section) so far.

I hope it's just this book and not some overall issue with the whole AP.

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

Big thumbs up to the mapping! Specifically, little details about where smaller things are (I had been sketching these in myself and often guessing) and the door openings (I've been rolling 1d4 to decide left/right/in/out, then forgetting which one I had for which direction and having to roll again...)

I also have a general approval for what seems to be a greater availability and better integration of non-combat XP. Not that there's anything wrong with slaughtering hordes of evil mooks, mind you... but I appreciate the textual support for a non-hack-and-slash play mode.
1) Specific details and rewards for pieces of plot advancement, and bonuses when done "well".
2) Redeemable (and not always "Evil") antagonists. There are still some "made out of evil in a pot full of evil" villains and "you can't reason with this rabid wolf" scenarios, and there is space for most or all of the baddies being played as mustache-twirling black hats if you so choose. But between several of the antagonists being at odds at each other, and having goals that seem laudable or at least understandable, even a few of the Evil aligned characters seem less like bags of XP to pop with your sword and more like someone to work around (or with). This depends on your table's play style, of course. But I'm glad we were given enough bones with which to build.
(Of course, going too far in this direction, you end up with your PCs trying to befriend everyone they meet and bring them along everywhere and having a cast of thousands...)

Sovereign Court

(SPoiler warning)

In the stonehouse there is a creature, and a treasure, and in that treasure is a 7x Slim Platinum rods worth 1000 each.

1000gp each or 1000pp each. it is not clearly labeled.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

We finished book one! Woo hoo!!!

Next up, Hollow Mountain!

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

Yay! I hope y'all had a good time!

We did enjoy it. We all really enjoyed the chance to tie-in legacy characters from previous APs. This adventure is ripe with opportunities for roleplay and interaction with the various factions. My Varisian bard with a fascination for Thassilon and Azlant found plenty to keep him interested.

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