APs: Really enjoy them but ...


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Scarab Sages

ziltmilt wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:


How do you expect for this to be accounted for in an actual publishing?
The book is already at this limit if the players stay on the rails. How is a written book supposed to cover X, Y, and Z? I need a more detailed example.

Did you check out the link I provided? Here it is again ... you'll hve to copy/paste the url, i'm too lazy to embed the link again.

http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/4147/roleplaying-games/dont-prep-plots

The point the author makes is that dynamically staged adventures take LESS space, not more. I don't think anyone here is thinking through what I'm advocating.

I'm not saying APs should be a sandbox. And, yes, I'm familiar w/ Kingmaker. Yes, an adventure with a storyline is a good thing, but the story should be dynamic, not predetermined. My main beef w/ the APs is that their pretty linear: you go through dungeon A, then dungeon B, etc. Not always, mind you, but often enough that it leaves me scratching my head. Why not give the PCs the oppty to hit Dungeon C, then A or B then C, or maybe they just wanna check out B. Absolutely have a BBG, but does the BBG always have to be in the last room of the last map? Maybe the PCs have a chance to catch the villain before he's situated just so?

Let me take a different tack. RPGs, as a storytelling medium, are relatively new, compared to other related mediums, like Homeric epics, plays, novels, etc. So, safe to say, RPGs are pretty young. Is it really so outrageous to maintain that published adventures have not reached their apex with these APs? That there is still some room for improvement?

I realize I'm talking to folks who're high on the Paizo kool-aid (and yes, I put myself in that number) ... but come on, this is a medium that affords an infinite amount of variations in story hooks and structure. This ain't rocket science ... read the link I provided and see if what the author argues could pertain to Serpent's Skull or the Crimson Throne or just about any PF/3.5 adventure.

...

Something else to consider is that a market share of Paizo's subscibers are the sort of GM that does NOT have time to have a totally open and dynamic game that allows players to wander all over and do whatever they want. That sort of game requires quite a bit of adjustment after every (or at a minimum every few) game session to keep up with the variations to the story added by the players. Some GMs have very little free time to make these adjustments, and just want a canned adventure, which is why they buy an AP instead of running a homebrew. If Paizo implemented the changes you are suggesting, it could discourage this sort of GM from purchasing the APs.


thenobledrake wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
Most players don't expect to meet something they can't beat though, so that is a bad idea from a publishing point of view.

This is true... it boggles my mind, especially since I see it happen even in players that are new to table-top games but have played video game RPGs in which choosing the wrong area to go to results in facing tougher enemies than you should.

...I guess there is just something about having a person in charge of what happens (the DM not being pre-programmed AI with no possibility to change) that causes an assumption of "whatever I choose was the right choice," instead of an assumption of "I can choose poorly and face the consequences."

Most of us assume we will get to fight gradually stronger opponents and be victorious since that is the norm. Video games are known to have you fight things you can't beat if you go to the wrong part of the world map, so the expectation is already there. In Kingmaker it was very possible to roll up a fight while exploring that the players could not win. I told my players this up front, so it was not an issue. I think it could work for an AP or two, but not for every AP.


deinol wrote:
I think you are looking at the problem all wrong. The article linked has great advice on how to run an adventure.

Seriously ??? The article is all about prepping, not running. Specifically, it's saying how you should prep in order to better run a game, by not plotting.

I'm really surprised you could think otherwise, if you read the link. Prepping happens before your game, not during it.

deinol wrote:


Paizo never has read-aloud text that describes scripted actions of NPCs. They don't even assume that NPCs are in the rooms they give descriptions for.

Maybe the Paizo stuff in the planet I'm on is totally different. Check out the first volume of Serpent's Skull, which I've referenced on this thread a few times previously. Yarzoth is always to be found in the same room, no matter what the PCs have done previously. That's just one example. In fact, if the PCs are wreaking havoc on your timeline, there's a sidebar in that volume telling you to be careful and time things just so, so that Yarzoth is where she's supposed to be.

I'm not talking about scripted actions of NPCs per se ... , if you're referring to NPC speech, I personally don't mind suggestions for dialogue for probably PC questions. (example, pg 15 of Rise of the Runelords, vol 4) That stuff comes in very handy, for the most part. My complaint would be that, in many AP volumes, you have to go through dungeon A before dungeon B ... etc.

deinol wrote:


So I guess I have to ask, can you point to a published adventure that is formatted the way you want?

Nope ... I wish I could. I was hoping to hear ideas on how such a thing would exist for a fantasy RPG and for APs specifically. It's an interesting thing to imagine ... what would the next step look like? RPGs are an art form, and as artists, we should expect the medium to evolve and grow.

Paizo's APs are amazing things. I used to game way back in the early 80s, when adventure modules were pretty thin, all the interior art was B/W, and the maps were plain as a checkerboard. Those adventures, for the most part, were (and still are) fantastic, but I have to admit that the gameplay I've experienced so far from running a couple of APs is better. The art is more immersive, the players can move their tokens around on full-color maps, the NPCs are better fleshed out, and the game, while more complex, is simply more fun.

Having said that, I do believe there's always room to grow and improve.


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ziltmilt wrote:
Having said that, I do believe there's always room to grow and improve.

I don't think a sandboxy mega-campaign (like Rappan Athuk) is an improvement on a linear adventure path (like Age of Worms) any more than a car is an improvement on a motorcycle. They're just different things with different purposes.


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The problem is you are looking at the APs all wrong (assuming you are the GM) and not enough of what you are doing. Running any module requires GMS to be ready to change anything at a moments notice due tp player's action. That is what I believe a good GM should do. It is impossible for Pazio to write a module that would fit every group way of doing thing....so they just go with what is easier and more useful to the largest number of gamers.

Just because the AP say NPCx is in area y...does not mean when you run it and the PCs do something to change it does not mean the npc is in that room.

You should look at the AP as it outline.


ziltmilt wrote:

It feels like I've struck a bit of a nerve with this topic. I never said an AP should accommodate every potential choice. But, how about the most likely choices?

How about an AP that utilizes some of the philosophy behind this:

The Alexandrian - Don't Prep ?? Interestingly, the author of the blog maintains that a robustly designed adventure should take less prep work than something heavily scripted.

I think a lot of what you're seeking comes out in the side-quests and additional elements a GM will introduce to tailor an AP to their individual group/campaign.

The APs by their intrinsic nature require a progression of plot. That said, Paizo, more than any other publisher I've seen, attempts to allow for deviation/variation from the plot to account for individual play styles. As recently as Carrion Crown, the authors noted that one of the installments might pose a moral conundrum for LG types, specifically paladins. The plot allowed for the players to insert themselves into the political situation (i.e. "have to work with these monsters here, to achieve a greater good there...) or to take a "they all must die!" approach.

The APs can't predict which NPCs are going to live, die, or have a tangible impact on the campaign with 100% certainty. There is a great deal of latitude for player choice. There are almost always various outcomes cited in the APs. Certainly, there's always an envisioned or most-probable outcome, but they're rarely set in stone. When it is, as others have said, it's an Adventure Path -- it's presumed you're going to want to continue the story.

That said, there are plenty of subplots, side quests, and NPCs a GM can flesh out or insert into a campaign that allow for wider variation. While a GM can certainly run an AP as a self-contained unit, it's not intended to be limited in that fashion. That's why you often see a Campaign Setting supplement the ties into the current AP -- so an individual GM can add in additional elements as desired.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
deinol wrote:
I think you are looking at the problem all wrong. The article linked has great advice on how to run an adventure.
ziltmilt wrote:


Seriously ??? The article is all about prepping, not running. Specifically, it's saying how you should prep in order to better run a game, by not plotting.

I'm really surprised you could think otherwise, if you read the link. Prepping happens before your game, not during it.

I understand that prep happens before games. But that style of prep only works for a particular style of running a game. The article is saying, prep less, because you will run your game this way. They are inextricably linked. Being a flexible GM that reacts to what the PCs do. What I am saying is that Paizo already over-preps for you. They give you the NPCs and their plans. Keep those things in mind when you run the AP, and you can end up with far different results than described in the AP.

deinol wrote:


Paizo never has read-aloud text that describes scripted actions of NPCs. They don't even assume that NPCs are in the rooms they give descriptions for.
ziltmilt wrote:


Maybe the Paizo stuff in the planet I'm on is totally different. Check out the first volume of Serpent's Skull, which I've referenced on this thread a few times previously. Yarzoth is always to be found in the same room, no matter what the PCs have done previously. That's just one example. In fact, if the PCs are wreaking havoc on your timeline, there's a sidebar in that volume telling you to be careful and time things just so, so that Yarzoth is where she's supposed to be.

I haven't read Serpent's Skull. I only read a few APs since I hope to someday be a player in a few. But I can assume that the character's are going to interrupt Yarzoth in some magical ritual, so the PCs have that prevent disaster at the last minute feel. I'm saying you don't have to stick to that. Go ahead and let ingenious PCs catch up to her early. As long she's got enough stuff on her (a scroll, a journal, etc) to drop whatever information the PCs need to move on, it will be fine. Even if that's not in the AP, add it. That's part of how you tailor things to what the PCs do.

ziltmilt wrote:

My complaint would be that, in many AP volumes, you have to go through dungeon A before dungeon B ... etc.

I don't know why you asked us to stop saying sandbox earlier, because you just described a sandbox. In fact, everything the article talks about (motivated NPCs, flexible events and situations, a toolkit) is what we call a sandbox. Kingmaker is the AP Paizo experimented with this style. It really is exactly what you describe. The PCs can go to any "dungeon" in whatever order they wish. They could work on the events of book 2 before finishing half of book 1.

So you really ought to buy and read Kingmaker, because it will be a while before Paizo makes another one like it. I know it will be the next AP I run precisely because of how much of a flexible toolkit it is. In fact, I haven't read the APs since because I know that's the one I will run. So I'm saving the others for when I may get to play.


I can't access the Alexandrian article right now, but I think I understand what Ziltmilt is suggesting:

A useful addition would be a clear outline of the major NPC's goals, allies/contacts, resources, character/personality, and possible contingency plans. You can still have the more linear tracks, but giving an overview of what the character is trying to do and how they are likely to go about it would make it easier for GMs to deal with things when their players take a different route. The APs already have this information to some extent, but it could generally use some more fleshing out and slightly better organization/presentation.

You could probably do a similar type of layout for major environmental events or other types of issues/opposition (man vs man, man vs nature, man vs self, etc type antagonists).

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

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While I refuse to follow any link so agressively promoted, here is a thing I noticed about variable storylines and sandbox games.

Not. Worth. It.

90% of the time, players will not deviate from the script in any significant way. They build to the sides of the script, establishing romances with the throwaway barmaid and deathly grudges against the guardsmen kindly asking them to not spit from the roof. They don't, however, shake up the story per-se.

Way back when I was GMing Age of Worms, I reworked adventure 3 (Blackwall Keep) to a much more open-ended swamp-exploration scenario. Just putting up rought constrains took hours - but the players just beelined straight to the lair as quickly as they could manage. (My) players wanted an entertaining story, not a quasi-simulation of taming a swath of wetlands.

That in addition to the much-cited constraints on time, space in the volume, and fiction analogy. After all, you fight the high priest in front of the idol, and not in the pantry.

Dark Archive

ziltmilt wrote:

The linear nature of APs gives a feeling of sameness to the books. The veneer certainly changes ... gothic horror, jungle/pulp adventure, Asian folklore. And Paizo does do a very good job of grounding these APs in specific cultural atmospheres that wonderfully evoke their inspirations. For example, I'm a big Halloween geek, and I just went nuts over Carrion Crown.

However, it feels like every single map has a BBG at the end that has to be defeated in order to progress to the next step in the story. With 6 volumes in an AP, it seems to me like we could be getting a lot more variety in structure.

Interesting OP. I started a rather similar discussion on these boards more than two years ago. Certainly interesting to compare the two discussions, now that Kingmaker has come to pass. You will note that even there Paizo couldn't resist the BBEG ending, even if the structure leading up to that was a refreshing departure in many ways.

I think Paizo has since experimented a little with the Adventure Paths veering occasionally into sandbox style (as witness the opening of Serpent Skull), and certainly Carrion Crown is an interesting experiment in its own right to adjust the overarching structure towards making it a bit more episodic like Rise of the Runelords was. So the experiments continue, and it's a very interesting ride.

On the whole, though, my impression is that Paizo is at the same time trying to play it safe and not alienate too much or too many of its customers who have come to appreciate adventure paths for what they are. It's after all a subscription model, and so you want customers to have some reliability going in as regards their product expectations. I say that because every time Paizo tries to deviate from the main model ever so slightly, we get threads saying how people didn't really like that.

In that light, looking at a posting by James Jacobs in this discussion upthread, it seems to me that Paizo has hit on a rather good solution to pacify some of those wishing for more structural deviation in the adventure paths - introduce a different product line to cater to such wishes, such as the Campaign Setting line.

All said, I'm curious to see how this works out. So here's to another interesting thread in 2 years time!

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TerraNova wrote:
While I refuse to follow any link so agressively promoted,...

I understand the sentiment all too well, but in this case I knew the Alexandrian before and consider it to be one of the better blogs out there. Lot of thought-provoking stuff.

I've problems though to see how the Alexandrian's idea discussed here could work within the frame of an AP. The Designers have to make assumptions about what the PC will do because the adventures are written at least partly parallel and the authors have to have a point from which to start. They cannot wait for the players to decide what to do and then only design whats necessary for the adventure's progression.

And even if they could: multiple outcomes in one adventure means multiple starting points in the next adventure, probably followed by multiple outcomes and so on; sounds like a potentially exponential growth of outcomes to me and that's just not feasible within the restricted boundaries of an AP.

What the designers can do (and already did) is to allow for different sequences of events in an adventure. Remember Burnt Offerings? I loved how you could let the players choose if they wanted to do the catacombs of wrath before or after Thistletop (or if they wanted to to them at all). Also you could insert a lot of side events at any fitting time. You even could start the second adventure (Skinsaw Murders) before you had completed Burnt Offerings.

In my opinion that's the best way to insert some flexiblity into an Adventure "Path". Apart from that, you're the GM. There's no one stopping you from taking all the material in the AP and use it to run it the way suggested by the Alexandrian. The best thing is, that if the players decide to follow the assumoptions made by the designers, you don't have to prepare anything because they already did it for you. And if the players don't you still have a lot of material you can use so it's not as if you had to invent everything from scratch.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

WormysQueue wrote:
What the designers can do (and already did) is to allow for different sequences of events in an adventure. Remember Burnt Offerings? I loved how you could let the players choose if they wanted to do the catacombs of wrath before or after Thistletop (or if they wanted to to them at all). Also you could insert a lot of side events at any fitting time. You even could start the second adventure (Skinsaw Murders) before you had completed Burnt Offerings.

Although we don't always say so in print... you can still do this. For example, the last four parts of Serpent's Skull can be taken together to form a HUGE adventuring arena that the PCs can tackle in any order they wish. And Kingmaker presents four open exploration regions across its volumes that the PCs can explore how they want. And that's just two (of the larger) examples.


TerraNova wrote:

While I refuse to follow any link so agressively promoted, here is a thing I noticed about variable storylines and sandbox games.

Not. Worth. It.

90% of the time, players will not deviate from the script in any significant way. They build to the sides of the script, establishing romances with the throwaway barmaid and deathly grudges against the guardsmen kindly asking them to not spit from the roof. They don't, however, shake up the story per-se.

Way back when I was GMing Age of Worms, I reworked adventure 3 (Blackwall Keep) to a much more open-ended swamp-exploration scenario. Just putting up rought constrains took hours - but the players just beelined straight to the lair as quickly as they could manage. (My) players wanted an entertaining story, not a quasi-simulation of taming a swath of wetlands.

That in addition to the much-cited constraints on time, space in the volume, and fiction analogy. After all, you fight the high priest in front of the idol, and not in the pantry.

My experience with this is the opposite. Players tend to follow crumbs, but will take wild tangents. They continuously throw wrenches in some GMs' plans. Other GMs have no problem geting players to follow a specific path. I have found this to be entirely dependant on GM style and player composition. Many players want to be led from plot point to plot point. Others want to explore and find out what is going on in their own way. Depending on how the GM responds to these types of actions, players can have completely different responces.

Some GMs will send signals to their players that they don't want them going a certain path. These can be really subtle, and the player (and GM) may not even notice them. Usually this is because the GM does not have a contingency plan set up to deal with players befriending the enemy and joining them (I have seen it in at least 4 campaigns, with different players for different reasons.) I can't count the number of game sessions I have had where the GM had to close game early in order to handle how badly the players derailed what he had planned.

I tink it would be interesting to see a very open ended AP, where various villian were statted out, you were given their basic (and not so basic) plans, and the players did not have a strict path. Where even the encounter sites had significant variation depending on how the players approached them. Where you give the GM seeds for creating the adventure, rather than the adventure itself. I think the APs could bennefit a lot from this style, but I think it would be very difficult to design, and have a hard time thinking about how to do it for a full AP's worth. 1 book can be done, but multiple arcs would be difficult.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Although we don't always say so in print... you can still do this.

Oh, I'm aware of this. Should have made clear that it was just an example. It's fresh in my mind though, because I've just started to run RotRL once again (my new players couldn't wait until next year ^-^)


Caineach wrote:
I tink it would be interesting to see a very open ended AP, where various villian were statted out, you were given their basic (and not so basic) plans, and the players did not have a strict path. Where even the encounter sites had significant variation depending on how the players approached them. Where you give the GM seeds for creating the adventure, rather than the adventure itself. I think the APs could bennefit a lot from this style, but I think it would be very difficult to design, and have a hard time thinking about how to do it for a full AP's worth. 1 book can be done, but multiple arcs would be difficult.

The problem with that from a module point of view isn't that it's hard for the designer to do, but that it shifts a lot of work back onto the GM's shoulders. Since a large part of the point of using a module or AP is to ease the GM's workload, that's counterproductive. Alternately the designers could put in multiple variations (or rules for varying) each encounter site depending on how and when the PCs reach them, but that's a lot more work and will take up a lot more space, meaning there will be a less actual content for the module size/cost.

It would work better in a game system with slower advancement. If PCs didn't wind up at drastically different power levels depending on when they hit a given area, then much less would have to change.

It still might be interesting to try for a stand alone module, rather than, or before, trying a whole AP.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
ziltmilt wrote:
KaeYoss wrote:
And if the old "Big showdown at the end of the story" thing is so disturbing, you must be really annoyed at most books, films and computer games that have some sort of action or tension in it.

Thanks, I understand the concept of story-telling climax very well. The point I'm trying to make is that the APs would be more interesting if the flow of the game wasn't as scripted. This is a game ... there should be a multitude of outcomes, not just one. Player choice ought to matter. As an example, in Serpent Skull vol 2, the party gets to choose which faction they'll work for. And, this impacts the following encounters in that volume ... hardly at all.

And, despite the fact that the settings are quite variable, there's a real sameness to the APs. From what I see, they all share a common theme of an ancient evil (Runelord, Serpent God, undead ruler, etc) being resurrected. If the settings can vary so much, can't the plots?

Evil queen seize power, Efreeti try to free/resurrect dead guy, Drow try to destroy the world, build a kindgdom beating fey opposition, cambion try to take control of a city, heir to a kingdom try to get it back.

So, out of 9 AP, 4 have an attempt to resurrect the "ancient evil" theme and 5 don't.
Maybe you stretching it a bit?

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

James Jacobs wrote:
Although we don't always say so in print... you can still do this. For example, the last four parts of Serpent's Skull can be taken together to form a HUGE adventuring arena that the PCs can tackle in any order they wish. And Kingmaker presents four open exploration regions across its volumes that the PCs can explore how they want. And that's just two (of the larger) examples.

While I would love to do this, I would posit that it is not possible due to the level-curve that Pathfinder uses. You must tackle obsticles "in order" or else you are too weak/strong to make it any fun.


Erik Freund wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Although we don't always say so in print... you can still do this. For example, the last four parts of Serpent's Skull can be taken together to form a HUGE adventuring arena that the PCs can tackle in any order they wish. And Kingmaker presents four open exploration regions across its volumes that the PCs can explore how they want. And that's just two (of the larger) examples.
While I would love to do this, I would posit that it is not possible due to the level-curve that Pathfinder uses. You must tackle obsticles "in order" or else you are too weak/strong to make it any fun.

All it takes is a Gm willing to play around a little with the CRs.

I'm running a PBP game online with SD as the backdrop but I'm running it very sandboxy.

Spoiler:
Due to players' actions, their second combat encounter ended up being the battle in the Boneyard against the wererats, etc. Now they're going after Zipheras...all before ever setting foot in teh Golden Goblin. (Though the Cheat the Devil scenario will be happening tonite).

Paizo did a good job of making and detailing Riddleport that I can move the encounters around to fit the players' actions and motivations (thanks Paizo!) so it's easy for me as a GM to run the adventure when the players INEVITABLY go completely off-script... And we'll probably wrap up the AP after Armageddon Echo and then move off to another plotline...or they might go all the way to the end.

I'm also running a River Kingdoms campaign and I've moved TRIAL OF THE BEST from CC to a "homemade" River Kingdom town so that the adventurers can get involved in the plot there. You already get a premade town...just drop the CC campaign plot and add in a reason for the heroes to be asked to help and you ahve a great combat/ courtroom adventure. Again, quick fix. And the fact that there IS a full AP behind the adventure leads to good backstory if the players ask questions about larger plans and plots...


thejeff wrote:
Caineach wrote:
I tink it would be interesting to see a very open ended AP, where various villian were statted out, you were given their basic (and not so basic) plans, and the players did not have a strict path. Where even the encounter sites had significant variation depending on how the players approached them. Where you give the GM seeds for creating the adventure, rather than the adventure itself. I think the APs could bennefit a lot from this style, but I think it would be very difficult to design, and have a hard time thinking about how to do it for a full AP's worth. 1 book can be done, but multiple arcs would be difficult.

The problem with that from a module point of view isn't that it's hard for the designer to do, but that it shifts a lot of work back onto the GM's shoulders. Since a large part of the point of using a module or AP is to ease the GM's workload, that's counterproductive. Alternately the designers could put in multiple variations (or rules for varying) each encounter site depending on how and when the PCs reach them, but that's a lot more work and will take up a lot more space, meaning there will be a less actual content for the module size/cost.

It would work better in a game system with slower advancement. If PCs didn't wind up at drastically different power levels depending on when they hit a given area, then much less would have to change.

It still might be interesting to try for a stand alone module, rather than, or before, trying a whole AP.

1. Include a method for scaling the baddies. Why should the world arround the PCs stay static? Some challenges scale at different rates and have different starting difficulties, so if they go to somethings to early they will get hosed (challenge the main boss at their base), while if they do others (take out satalite instalations) they may be cakewalks later. This causes the players to take certain paths in some orders more than others, which you focus on and you ballance for these expected oaths.

2. This would actually reduce my GMing prep time for Kingmaker drastically. Almost every GM I have heard about is talking about how they are modifying it (or is running it strictly and hitting issues of various types related to not modifying it.) And everyone is doing it differently. By giving more vague outlines of villian's plans, and various methods for the players to come accorss them and deal with them, you can give the GM more options for making the world come alive without forcing them to re-write things that are in the AP.

For instance

kingmaker 1:

The Stag Lord did this fairly well inside the keep, but he lacked flavor outside. No matter what the PCs did, it assumed the Stag Lord sat in his keep until the PCs came to him. It didn't matter how long they took, or what they did. This made it hard for me to think how they would respond to wierd ideas the PCs had, like marching siege engines down to his castle.
If they instead added a couple notes about what kind of patrols are outside the keep, how far out they go, added a few more bandit camps (it implies he has a network outside his keep but there is not much in the way of it in the AP), how about many bandits they have in total, how frequently they keep in contact with him (this was a major issue in my game. There is the implication that the codes are changed monthly, which puts the players on a timeline, but in that timeline they will not necessarily be appropriate level to use this strategy. Also, does he change it if he learns one camp was comprimized?)

Sure, as a GM i can come up with answers to all of these. But these are much harder things to do on the spot than determining how many bandits I should put in a room to make it challenging, or what rooms they should be in. By not having static numbers of people in rooms and enemies in set locations, and just giving me a list of 10 bandits in camp + statblock 1, statbock 2, statblock 3, usually found in rooms x, y and z, it becomes easier for me to modify the adventure on the fly and respond to the players. Sure, as it is layed out now I can pull creatures from room 1 to room 2, but I can do it much more easily if I know everything that is there up front and can move it arround as I see fit.

I think the APs can be written in a way to facilitate easy modification, and I think this will ease GM work. It will make them harder to run as written, but will encourage custimization, which I think people will enjoy more.

Sovereign Court

Sorry if I sidetrack a bit from the original OP post.

There are two things that I'd like to see added to APs :

1 A conclusion
Something like one or more pages of ideas to continue the campaign further after the BBEG is dead. I know there are some advice on this, but more would be welcome. Ending a campaign with a Hero's welcome, a big feast and celebrations should happen.

2 During the action, some more possibility of down time between major scenes, so the DMs have an easier time inserting side quests. Hey, you do not think I let go of my dungeon and D20 collection, right ?

I would welcome anything like this.

Scarab Sages

I think the APs, combined with the immense amount of previously published modules, allow a GM to be as flexible as desired while enjoying the lower prep time provided by the AP.

In my own campaign, I have used Legacy of Fire as the foundation AP. I shifted the location to Geb, a bit farther south on Golarion, in order to have access to all the Egyptian-themed modules (Desert of Desolation AD&D series, Touch of Death from Ravenloft AD&D, Necropolis by Gary Gygax from 3.5, and Pactstone Pyramid from Paizo notably) and I have, as a result of player-wrought havoc (destroying the pyramid of the Pharoah module causing a flood and making a lake at the foot of the village of Mudar (from Touch of Death) that then caused a bigger side-quest to kill the vampire in charge of Mudar. A quick pivot to 3.5's Expedition to Castle Ravenloft gives me a full castle for the party to explore and engage with, a redressed Strahd as a BBEG, and almost no prep/conversion time for this DM who has WAY too much to do to make it all work. Renaming characters is a lot easier than designing lairs and encounters from the ground up.

By doing this, I give Jhavul more star time (he is the efreeti freed from the Sunken City of Pazar in the Pharaoh module now) and give the players a sandbox experience. Heck, I even threw in the Kingmaker realm-building rules to make more out of the 'One Year in Kelmerane' hook at the end of the first volume of the AP.

I think the element that is missing in all the discussion on railroad/sandbox in an AP is the context in which a DM works now. We have more than thirty years of lore to draw from, Bestiaries to give us PFRPG stats for any monster in any old module, and an AP that has a coherent plot (for the most part) that can survive contact with a determined group of players. For LOF for example, as long as the party doesn't get to killing Jhavul until late in the cycle, his menace can be properly epic no matter how many side battles the party faces. With an efreeti (of vampire, or dead god, or whatever other world-warping BEG the AP puts up) as the party's true nemesis, the DM needs only worry about utilizing that villain's escape powers effectively to keep the fun going until the proper moment. Each adventure completed moves the party forward with their nemesis always moving forward as well.

I love the APs for their ability to link into the context of our game's history and hope they continue to give the DM enough wiggle room to insert this lore as needed for the benefit of the game. For DM's who need more sandbox support, I strongly recommend looking at the wikipedia descriptions of old modules and then, when you see one that fits your world, grab it and make sure you have it on hand to support your work when your players decide they want to go farther afield from the APs primary path.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Stereofm wrote:

Sorry if I sidetrack a bit from the original OP post.

There are two things that I'd like to see added to APs :

1 A conclusion
Something like one or more pages of ideas to continue the campaign further after the BBEG is dead. I know there are some advice on this, but more would be welcome. Ending a campaign with a Hero's welcome, a big feast and celebrations should happen.

We do this, and have been doing this since Kingmaker, in the form of a 6 to 8 page article called "Continuing the Campaign."

A bigger article would hedge out space we need for the adventure and other articles.

Sovereign Court

James Jacobs wrote:
Stereofm wrote:

Sorry if I sidetrack a bit from the original OP post.

There are two things that I'd like to see added to APs :

1 A conclusion
Something like one or more pages of ideas to continue the campaign further after the BBEG is dead. I know there are some advice on this, but more would be welcome. Ending a campaign with a Hero's welcome, a big feast and celebrations should happen.

We do this, and have been doing this since Kingmaker, in the form of a 6 to 8 page article called "Continuing the Campaign."

A bigger article would hedge out space we need for the adventure and other articles.

Ah, good to know, I have not read them yet, as I am playing them :)

Liberty's Edge

Caineach wrote:
1. Include a method for scaling the baddies.

This, but not (or not only) because of the levelling-up of the PCs.

The problem I (and my fellow GMs in our group) am running into is that we have far more players than the group of 4 PCs which serves as a reference/baseline for ALL of the encounters in each and every module in every AP !!!

Giving advice on how to scale up the CR of a given encounter without altering its flavor would be a huge benefit (and save a lot of work and second-guessing) for us and all the other GMs in the world who run the modules with more than 4 players around the table.

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC

The black raven wrote:
Caineach wrote:
1. Include a method for scaling the baddies.

This, but not (or not only) because of the levelling-up of the PCs.

The problem I (and my fellow GMs in our group) am running into is that we have far more players than the group of 4 PCs which serves as a reference/baseline for ALL of the encounters in each and every module in every AP !!!

Giving advice on how to scale up the CR of a given encounter without altering its flavor would be a huge benefit (and save a lot of work and second-guessing) for us and all the other GMs in the world who run the modules with more than 4 players around the table.

I'm all for this too, but don't think that every one of the adventure paths needs to be expanded to include this.

I think it would be better served in the "Guide to High Level Play" that has been suggested in several other threads. Thus, rather than writing the same stuff over and over (and taking up precious space in adventure paths), it could be presented once and used over and over.

Note that this is not to be confused with a book on epic/mythic level play ... what I'm talking about is a book on how to run high level games (probably in the 12-20 range), but it would certainly have advice that would be useful for scaling adventures and encounters, very similar to the advice in the GMG about running adventures.


My main issue with trying to cover all these extra options is deciding what has to go to make it fit.

No, seriously. What do you want removed from each issue so it fits the page count? Should the fiction be removed? The Bestiary? The articles on religion/gazetteers/monster ecologies? Maybe remove 2 or three encounters or shorten the dungeons by a full level?

The truth is that you'd probably have to do a few of these in order to give all these extra options. What encounters should be completely removed from Kingmaker I to expand the Staglord's activities (and provide a separate encounter option in case he gets encountered elsewhere) or to help him scale?

What should be taken out of Haunting of Harrowstone in order to explain what to do if players decide to spend time investigating the relationship between the Sheriff and the local alchemist? Or add more biographies to the other characters mentioned (like the deputies, who characters are likely going to bump into and want to talk to).

They have limited space and need to focus. Gms are given solid frames to work around, but each one requires a certain amount of customization and adaptation because they cannot possibly cover enough possibilities to satisfy what people are requesting. If they do fulfill what one person wants, they'll have 20 other different things they're leaving out.

So that's what I would ask. If you want more material, what do you want taken out to make the space. And remember that material loss from adventure usually means less XP.


Honestly, this kind of thing seems like the kind of stuff that a dev might do a blog post/forum post about every blue moon if he feels like the topic wasn't broached enough on paper.

Not something I'd want to drop, say, the new Appendix chapter in Jade Regent for.

Liberty's Edge

The way I see it, you only need add a few lines at each encounter to explain how to scale it 1 or 2 CRs, for example by adding X of the same monsters, or Y of the monsters mentioned on page XX, or add Z levels to such and such NPC, or such and such template to these monsters, or such magical items. And those who want even higher scaling just need to combine the options.

Of course, I could do it myself, but I am not enough of a master of the CR rules to know if what I am ending up with will be a proper challenge to my group or if it will be either a cakewalk or a TPK. That is why a few tips from those who have already considered all this when they wrote the encounters would be most helpful.

BTW, I am quite okay for the fiction to be removed. YMMV of course.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

WRT: Railroadiness (TM)of AP's

While player choice does matter in how they accomplish the goals in an AP, and do not want to be shoehorned into how they play, there has to be a certain degree of practicality from the the players.

In that:

1. Someone has offered to DM.

2. That same person has most likely shelled out the moolah to purchase the AP.

3. Same person has already advised the players loosely what to expect either via themselves or Player's Guide or both.

4. Said players have agreed to play in/within that AP.

My group has the advantage of coming fully into Pathfinder a little over a year ago, so we have bunches of AP's to chose from and when we finish one, we all rub our heads together and decide on the next one. Right now Council of Thieves and next will either be Kingmaker or RotRL special edition...and when those are done...still a lot left to play as long as Paizo keeps making them and even if (GODS FORBID) they stop at Skull and Shackles, we still have plenty to go through before the well is dry.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The devs have made it clear that about 50 pages of content is the most they can develop in the span of a month. That's the length of the adventures right now.

So adding more options means more page count, and it's just physically impossible to develop any more adventure content than is being developed.

I like the fiction, and its inclusion is part of the reason why I stay subscribed to Adventure Paths, even when I can't read the adventure portion due to being a player.

So while I'm all for more options, I'm aware that Paizo is producing as much content as possible. I'd rather not lose out on more adventure because of paths that the PCs might not take. Sometimes we GMs have to put an hour a week in and say:
"What if?" And then answer some questions ourselves.


Joana wrote:


Plus, you seem to be picking the APs that do have that trope. Second Darkness, Legacy of Fire, Council of Thieves, Kingmaker, and Serpent's Skull have no such "damsel in distress" or family tragedy in the first book that I'm aware of.

Well Legacy of Fire you are helping (read, Doing all the work) to help a woman establish her new/old city and have to help save the caravan she is depending on from fire.

Council of Thieves has the old hag you have to save (granted a spin on an old theme... but still the theme, not to mention the daughter doppelganger thing)

Kingmaker... well the ending could be skewed (and I realize I use that word purposefully) to be 'save her from herself'.

The trope that kills me is the number of swiss cheese inescapable extraplanar spaces in the APs.


redcelt32 wrote:
Something else to consider is that a market share of Paizo's subscibers are the sort of GM that does NOT have time to have a totally open and dynamic game that allows players to wander all over and do whatever they want. That sort of game requires quite a bit of adjustment after every (or at a minimum every few) game session to keep up with the variations to the story added by the players. Some GMs have very little free time to make these adjustments, and just want a canned adventure, which is why they buy an AP instead of running a homebrew. If Paizo implemented the changes you are suggesting, it could discourage this sort of GM from purchasing the APs.

I fall under this category. While getting my degree I had all sorts of time to prep adventures, build a world, tweak things for everybody at the drop of a hat. Now however, I'm lucky to get an hour or two free each week to prep. The APs have saved my ability to run games. I still tweak here and there. I'm running Jade Regent right now and have made some change specifically for my players. But for the most part it progresses A-B-C as I don't have the time to reconfigure C if they go there first and I'd rather not TPK them due to my lack of time and their choosing the deadly corner of the box to go play in.

If I still had the free time I wouldn't be running APs, I'd be running from a vague plot framework and making up the next adventure bare days, or even hours, before the game, and in my own world too.

ziltmilt wrote:
deinol wrote:

So I guess I have to ask, can you point to a published adventure that is formatted the way you want?

Nope ... I wish I could.

That might be an answer right there about the viability of such a beast. Now, I imagine that a "Sandbox of the Month" article would be entertaining. Sixty pages of a framework to build a campaign off of. But I don't really see it becoming mainstream.

Those GMs with the time to flesh out a sandbox framework probably have the time to do it all the way from scratch. I often created whole adventures after seeing an evocative picture or reading an interesting hook idea online or an offhand comment from one of my players without buying any published material other than core rules. Now however, I more often than not run most encounters with very little tweaking.


I think the aps already cover a significant amount of what if style play. It gives me a framework of what should reasonably happen as well as an awesome story I would have never came up with on my own. However there are times Iagree that that the railroad scriptiness gets a bit much even for me:

Serpents Skull Spoiler:
We as pcs get stuck on the island in book 1. We kill the snake chick and learn of her plans. We vowed to tell no one of our impending expidition (so we wouldnt have to share treasure) and never mentioned it to the ship who rescued us, or the 3 surviving npcs (Jask, Sasha, and Gellick) and yet somehow when we get into Eledar EVERYONE knew where we were going. They all also knew how to get there apparently from OUR notes. Then if that wasnt bad enough, we lost 2 days ressurecting an ally after a water dino ate him and the Red Mantis SOMEHOW beat us to the first city snuck past everything and discovered the way to the main city without using the magic gem lightshow that was necessary. I'm all for Sandbox and railroad, but when they shove the railroad up your Hindend it's annoying. Usually I would assume the issue was new DM syndrome or something, but it says it right in the module... And people wonder why the middle volumes of SS get such low reviews?End rant and spoiler

Grand Lodge

wraithstrike wrote:
gigglestick wrote:


I often "transplant" encounters around if the heroes make the mistake of moving to the wrong lair...
Most players don't expect to meet something they can't beat though, so that is a bad idea from a publishing point of view.

I think this is only true of D&D and Pathfinder and then only as of 3.0 did that unrealistic expectation occur. In early games it was not uncommon to encounter things you were expected to run away from.

In Vampire or Shadowrun you often encounter situations beyond your ability to control.

I think ultimately the problem stems from publishing a scale of what players should be able to face. When the core book says that players should never face anything above CL +3, then it limits the GM and sets a specific expectation from the players. This makes them realize that there will never be anything thrown at them that they cannot beat.

A great example of breaking the rule is the Witchfire Trilogy (an award winner when it came out). In the very first book the PCs are about level 1-2ish and the villain is level 10!

Ever look at Necropolis written by Gary Gygax? This is for characters 10-18. Fairly early in the book they have an EL 22 encounter...

Just once I'd like to Paizo print a book where the PCs meet the BBEG in the first book, get humiliated and sent running with their tails between their legs. THAT is a way to generate a desire for real revenge when you get to the last book. :)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Krome wrote:
Just once I'd like to Paizo print a book where the PCs meet the BBEG in the first book, get humiliated and sent running with their tails between their legs. THAT is a way to generate a desire for real revenge when you get to the last book. :)

Curse of the Crimson Throne doesn't count, I guess?

Spoiler:
You meet the BBEG at the start of the first adventure, but you don't get humiliated.

Problem is... players don't take well to being humiliated. If we did an encounter like you suggested, we'd risk having a LOT of would-be campaigns self-destruct when stubborn or foolhardy players/PCs TPK the group in that initial encounter.

It's an interesting idea to try out in a campaign, where the worst case scenario is make up new characters and start another campaign. Not so great a thing to try out when if it backfires, a tentpole product line for your company dies 1/6 of the way through its six month lifecycle...


Stewart Perkins wrote:

I think the aps already cover a significant amount of what if style play. It gives me a framework of what should reasonably happen as well as an awesome story I would have never came up with on my own. However there are times Iagree that that the railroad scriptiness gets a bit much even for me:

** spoiler omitted **

Just because "it says right in the module" is not a good excuse. Your issues really are "new GM syndrome."

Spoiler:
You should have not gotten any help travelling there, and you should have not have had any real competition for a while until other people went to Smuggler's Shiv to investigate.


James Jacobs wrote:


Problem is... players don't take well to being humiliated. If we did an encounter like you suggested, we'd risk having a LOT of would-be campaigns self-destruct when stubborn or foolhardy players/PCs TPK the group in that initial encounter.

Imagine, for instance, if you threw a beholder into the first module of an adventure path. Egad! ;-)


Ice Titan wrote:
Stewart Perkins wrote:

I think the aps already cover a significant amount of what if style play. It gives me a framework of what should reasonably happen as well as an awesome story I would have never came up with on my own. However there are times Iagree that that the railroad scriptiness gets a bit much even for me:

** spoiler omitted **

Just because "it says right in the module" is not a good excuse. Your issues really are "new GM syndrome."

** spoiler omitted **

See the issue is that reasonably speaking:

Spoiler:
no one SHOULD have went to the SHiv if we didn't tell anyone what we were doing or where we were going. By all reality we should have never actually had competition as no one would have had any idea we knew the location and no race should have been happening as long as we kept things quiet. At least not until we started selling looted ruin stuff. But that would have removed basically a huge chunk of the AP.


Stewart Perkins wrote:
Ice Titan wrote:
Stewart Perkins wrote:

I think the aps already cover a significant amount of what if style play. It gives me a framework of what should reasonably happen as well as an awesome story I would have never came up with on my own. However there are times Iagree that that the railroad scriptiness gets a bit much even for me:

** spoiler omitted **

Just because "it says right in the module" is not a good excuse. Your issues really are "new GM syndrome."

** spoiler omitted **

See the issue is that reasonably speaking:

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:

Quote:
We vowed to tell no one of our impending expidition (so we wouldnt have to share treasure) and never mentioned it to the ship who rescued us, or the 3 surviving npcs (Jask, Sasha, and Gellick)

"When we were there, there were a whole ton of cannibals!"

OR
"They had this huge lighthouse up on the beach."

"Hm. That could be a useful place to check out. We could turn it into a harbor." OR "Hmmm... Should check out this claim of cannibals on the island. They might be still around being a danger to the public... and the Shiv would be a great place to build a small enclave."

From there, the other groups find out from information leaks within those groups.


Ice Titan wrote:
Stewart Perkins wrote:
Ice Titan wrote:
Stewart Perkins wrote:

I think the aps already cover a significant amount of what if style play. It gives me a framework of what should reasonably happen as well as an awesome story I would have never came up with on my own. However there are times Iagree that that the railroad scriptiness gets a bit much even for me:

** spoiler omitted **

Just because "it says right in the module" is not a good excuse. Your issues really are "new GM syndrome."

** spoiler omitted **

See the issue is that reasonably speaking:

** spoiler omitted **
** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
You see though the place ALREADY had a legendary reputation of danger. People already knew it was dangerous. Even if they decided this ONE time to check it out (after avoiding it for so long) the likelihood of them finding the temple without the knowledge from the npcs on the island (who were all dead or gone) and no Tide stone thanks to it being destroyed, then how did the place stay hidden for 10,000 years?
Dark Archive

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James Jacobs wrote:
Krome wrote:
Just once I'd like to Paizo print a book where the PCs meet the BBEG in the first book, get humiliated and sent running with their tails between their legs. THAT is a way to generate a desire for real revenge when you get to the last book. :)

Curse of the Crimson Throne doesn't count, I guess? ** spoiler omitted **

Problem is... players don't take well to being humiliated. If we did an encounter like you suggested, we'd risk having a LOT of would-be campaigns self-destruct when stubborn or foolhardy players/PCs TPK the group in that initial encounter.

It's an interesting idea to try out in a campaign, where the worst case scenario is make up new characters and start another campaign. Not so great a thing to try out when if it backfires, a tentpole product line for your company dies 1/6 of the way through its six month lifecycle...

Hmm.... But if the BBEG defeats them by shunting them off to a distant land/plane and then the AP is about them getting back in order to exact revenge and stop his rule of tyranny, that could be something epic right there. A lot of great fantasy is written with that type of story arc.


Jim Cirillo wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Krome wrote:
Just once I'd like to Paizo print a book where the PCs meet the BBEG in the first book, get humiliated and sent running with their tails between their legs. THAT is a way to generate a desire for real revenge when you get to the last book. :)

Curse of the Crimson Throne doesn't count, I guess? ** spoiler omitted **

Problem is... players don't take well to being humiliated. If we did an encounter like you suggested, we'd risk having a LOT of would-be campaigns self-destruct when stubborn or foolhardy players/PCs TPK the group in that initial encounter.

It's an interesting idea to try out in a campaign, where the worst case scenario is make up new characters and start another campaign. Not so great a thing to try out when if it backfires, a tentpole product line for your company dies 1/6 of the way through its six month lifecycle...

Hmm.... But if the BBEG defeats them by shunting them off to a distant land/plane and then the AP is about them getting back in order to exact revenge and stop his rule of tyranny, that could be something epic right there. A lot of great fantasy is written with that type of story arc.

True, but you've got to take the players into consideration. That fantasy involves characters controlled by the author who knows what's going to happen. Such a start in an AP needs some metagame buy-in from the players.

Years ago a friend started a Ravenloft campaign. He did the classic TPK to get our characters there, without any warning. There was a near riot and a lot of fast talking on his part as we fought, and lost, a fight against horribly stacked odds. Great for the story, but not for the players. Once we figured out what was going on, then it became ok. Had we known at least something ("Hey, the first few minutes are going to suck, roll with it please, it'll all become clear shortly."), then I think there wouldn't have been nearly as much angst and the game would have started far more smoothly.


Stewart Perkins wrote:
Ice Titan wrote:
Stewart Perkins wrote:
Ice Titan wrote:
Stewart Perkins wrote:

I think the aps already cover a significant amount of what if style play. It gives me a framework of what should reasonably happen as well as an awesome story I would have never came up with on my own. However there are times Iagree that that the railroad scriptiness gets a bit much even for me:

** spoiler omitted **

Just because "it says right in the module" is not a good excuse. Your issues really are "new GM syndrome."

** spoiler omitted **

See the issue is that reasonably speaking:

** spoiler omitted **
** spoiler omitted **
** spoiler omitted **

Good point.

In either case, the GM's options were limited. Either drop pages and pages of content, or rationalize it. There wasn't a lot of rationalization going on-- they just blamed the module.

Souls for Smuggler's Shiv is one of my favorite (tone, mood, setting) and least favorite (illusion of sandbox, ease of ability to avoid playing the adventure, diseases) modules to come out of Paizo for a long time. Hopefully we never see another module again that can be so polarized in reception based on a group's interpretation and exploration of the module's contents. >>


Ice Titan wrote:
Stewart Perkins wrote:
Ice Titan wrote:
Stewart Perkins wrote:
Ice Titan wrote:
Stewart Perkins wrote:

I think the aps already cover a significant amount of what if style play. It gives me a framework of what should reasonably happen as well as an awesome story I would have never came up with on my own. However there are times Iagree that that the railroad scriptiness gets a bit much even for me:

** spoiler omitted **

Just because "it says right in the module" is not a good excuse. Your issues really are "new GM syndrome."

** spoiler omitted **

See the issue is that reasonably speaking:

** spoiler omitted **
** spoiler omitted **
** spoiler omitted **

Good point.

In either case, the GM's options were limited. Either drop pages and pages of content, or rationalize it. There wasn't a lot of rationalization going on-- they just blamed the module.

Souls for Smuggler's Shiv is one of my favorite (tone, mood, setting) and least favorite (illusion of sandbox, ease of ability to avoid playing the adventure, diseases) modules to come out of Paizo for a long time. Hopefully we never see another module again that can be so polarized in reception based on a group's interpretation and exploration of the module's contents. >>

To add to my point, it wouldn't have bugged me if the npcs caught on and retraced our footsteps, but it should have been quite a bit of in game time before anyone figured out what we were up to. :P


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Stewart Perkins wrote:

I think the aps already cover a significant amount of what if style play. It gives me a framework of what should reasonably happen as well as an awesome story I would have never came up with on my own. However there are times Iagree that that the railroad scriptiness gets a bit much even for me:

** spoiler omitted **

I too think that there is a certain amount of blame due to the GM on this.

Spoiler:
were any of the shipwrecked characters experts in Aklo? On the geographic features of the current timeframe? Of what the past timeframe geography looked like? Were they experts in the interpretation on 10,000 years old languages (especially a dead language?)? Were they experts on what was common terms of reference (there are still stories about people mistaking what LOL mean in certain messages - laugh-out-loud to lots-of-love) 10,000 years ago?

When I ran this part of the AP, the PCs did not have the skills or knowledge to understand everything that they had, so they consulted a few sages. This is how the story got out - a few old friends talking about where their research was going over dinner and drinks, all carefully taken note of by a very specific wait staff, who sold the information, sold it several times actually.

In your group of PCs, you didn't buy any maps or supplies on how to get to their first destination? No one wondered what why a random group of shipwrecked individuals suddenly bought supplies and headed out into deep jungle? Wonder what they may have found on the island, that apparently has had it's cannibals killed off?

Also, the three NPCs never asked about what happened underground? Didn't pick up on the fact that the PCs had a secret? Didn't wonder about it? Didn't talk about it to friends?

There is more than one way for the information to get out. It was/is the GM's job to have a believable way for it to happen, based on what their players do.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Abraham spalding wrote:
Joana wrote:


Plus, you seem to be picking the APs that do have that trope. Second Darkness, Legacy of Fire, Council of Thieves, Kingmaker, and Serpent's Skull have no such "damsel in distress" or family tragedy in the first book that I'm aware of.

Well Legacy of Fire you are helping (read, Doing all the work) to help a woman establish her new/old city and have to help save the caravan she is depending on from fire.

Council of Thieves has the old hag you have to save (granted a spin on an old theme... but still the theme, not to mention the daughter doppelganger thing)

Kingmaker... well the ending could be skewed (and I realize I use that word purposefully) to be 'save her from herself'.

The trope that kills me is the number of swiss cheese inescapable extraplanar spaces in the APs.

I think you will like this.

Penultimate panel text balloon.


ziltmilt wrote:

The Alexandrian - Don't Prep ?? Interestingly, the author of the blog maintains that a robustly designed adventure should take less prep work than something heavily scripted.

Eh... honestly, I think that guy's correct about as much as a stopped clock is, in general -- and I don't think this is an exception. (I kind of think he writes this kind of 'trolling' article -- one in which he says something fairly controversial but not especially well supported -- to get page hits.)

Doing what he says -- especially in the form of a written adventure that someone other than the author can realistically run -- is a lot harder than he thinks it is.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

When I write adventures for my home group, I use the following system, which I stole from Mark Acres' work on DC Heroes and his PaceSetter games (Star Ace, etc.) I didn't like the railroad nature of some other games being released at the time (Star Wars and TORG, where all the actions were choreographed, down to acts and scenes.)

  • Describe the major opponent. Stat block, goals, all that.
  • Make a time-line explaining what he'll do if the PCs don't interfere. (If nothing really bad happens here, that's a sign that you need a nastier opponent.)
  • Detail all his resources. Lairs, allies, minions. Secrets he can unearth, if he wants to blackmail town officials.
  • Explain how he'll react to different disruptions in his plans. How strongly will he send in reinforcements? Will he give up and try something else?
  • Detail a half-dozen likely cool areas where conflict might occur.
  • Explain how the party might stumble across his plans. (This is where the Alexandrian's 'Three Clues' is important.)

Then let the adventure unfold as the players dictate. It's been very successful for me over the years.

--

One important note I'd want to bring up is that the Adventure Paths are a communication between the designers and the game master. They're a tool for the GM to use in her campaign. They are not the campaign itself. Helmuth von Moltke the Elder famously said, "No plan survives contact with the enemy," and it's also true that no AP survives contact with the party. Whether a campaign is railroady or not has little to do with the Adventure Path, and much more to do with the GM at the table.

Peace be upon you all.


Chris Mortika wrote:

When I write adventures for my home group, I use the following system, which I stole from Mark Acres' work on DC Heroes and his PaceSetter games (Star Ace, etc.) I didn't like the railroad nature of some other games being released at the time (Star Wars and TORG, where all the actions were choreographed, down to acts and scenes.)

  • Describe the major opponent. Stat block, goals, all that.
  • Make a time-line explaining what he'll do if the PCs don't interfere. (If nothing really bad happens here, that's a sign that you need a nastier opponent.)
  • Detail all his resources. Lairs, allies, minions. Secrets he can unearth, if he wants to blackmail town officials.
  • Explain how he'll react to different disruptions in his plans. How strongly will he send in reinforcements? Will he give up and try something else?
  • Detail a half-dozen likely cool areas where conflict might occur.
  • Explain how the party might stumble across his plans. (This is where the Alexandrian's 'Three Clues' is important.)

Then let the adventure unfold as the players dictate. It's been very successful for me over the years.

--

One important note I'd want to bring up is that the Adventure Paths are a communication between the designers and the game master. They're a tool for the GM to use in her campaign. They are not the campaign itself. Helmuth von Moltke the Elder famously said, "No plan survives contact with the enemy," and it's also true that no AP survives contact with the party. Whether a campaign is railroady or not has little to do with the Adventure Path, and much more to do with the GM at the table.

Peace be upon you all.

My own game is a sandbox, but it's littered with adventure seeds pretty much like yours. I enjoy developing villains / opponents and building adventures around them. Only one thing I'd add to your list: detail the potential enemies and victims of your BBEG as well. After that it's up to the PCs to take the bait or not. I'm patient and there is always something else they can do if they decide not to get involved or just don;t get the opportunity. Sometimes, if they skip it they hear about events later, and make the connection. It gives the setting an illusion of being a living breathing place; one that has an exitence even when the PCs aren't on stage.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Thanks for the kind words, R Chance.

If an opponent is going to face challenges other than the PCs, then I'll note that in the "What happens if the party does nothing" section. But, really, if I have them set to go after Saruman, and it turns out that Gandalf is going to waltz in and take the bad guy out anyways, then

1) that's not as dramatically convincing, and
2) it turns out that the PCs are intruding on another story.

I've made that mistake often in my writing. The most interesting character in the storyline end up being an NPC. The party then just along for the ride, fighting things to clear the decks for an NPC-on-NPC confrontation.

I made this mistake years ago, and I caught myself doing so just recently, when a friend and I were putting together a proposal for a Pathfinder Society scenario: we had the party stumble across a young outcast from a savage tribe, and the magical widget the PCs were tracking had been stolen by another tribesmember as a weapon to use against the outcast. See the problem?

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