Official research -- favorite Golarion dungeons?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

Scarab Sages

Hi, all!

I'm a recent addition to Paizo's freelancer ranks, and I'd like your feedback for an article I'm writing for an upcoming product.

So -- Golarion has LOTS of dungeons, but which ones are your favorites and why? In other words, which dungeons are just the coolest Golarion has to offer? These dungeons can exist anywhere and have been published in any official Paizo product, including the Inner Sea Guide, Adventure Paths, modules, etc.

Looking for any insight anyone is willing to offer -- whether it's really well-known dungeons like Gallowspire or some of the more esoteric ones.

Thanks in advance!


Red Redoubt of Karamoss.


I'm gonna go ahead and say Gallowspire right off the bat. Ustalav is my favorite Golarion region by far and anything relating to the Whispering Tyrant draws my interest. Plus well-known, high-level dungeons make for a good carrot to dangle in front of your players to get them excited for a campaign, and combating BBEGs who have a discernible presence in the world (as opposed to random cultists or dragons) can make characters feel that much more epic, like their actions can drastically change the course of world history.


The Runeforge:
I haven't actually run it yet, but I've read through it a couple times. I like the theme, the background story, the branched layout, the means of access to it, the objectives of the PCs, and the encounters.

Sczarni

Hollow Mountain all the way. Mostly because I have a mild obsession with Alaznist.


Silver Mount in Numeria.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Viperwall, mostly due to the fact that we know so agonizingly little about it after all those years.

Hollow Mountain is a close second, tho.


Gallowspire, for its mythical place in the setting.

I'd love to see that God-trap on the Isle of Terror developed, too.


While it might not be a dungeon, I'm sure it has dungeons: Castle Corvischior.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Bastardhall, even though there is probably 0.00% chance of seeing additional content about it.


Castle Korvosa


Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Dungeons beneath Kaer Maga.


I second Kaer Maga.

Scarab Sages

Awesome -- thanks, everyone, for your responses! Got some good suggestions to get me started. If anybody thinks of anything else, please don't hesitate to chime in. Thanks again!

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm a big fan of the Red Redoubt of Karamoss, and of course I want to know more about the Tower of Nex.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Gallowspire and Bastardhall both spring to mind immediately. Hollow Mountain and the Candlestone Caverns also peaked my interest.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

My hope = that after Shattered Star's out, at least 5 more dungeons will be on this list! (The 6th, Kaer Maga, i already mentioned.)

Scarab Sages

James Jacobs wrote:
My hope = that after Shattered Star's out, at least 5 more dungeons will be on this list! (The 6th, Kaer Maga, i already mentioned.)

Can't have too many cool dungeons, right? Looking forward to seeing some of the newest ones. :)

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Bastardhall and Viperwall for me!

Contributor

Viperwall

Labyrinth of Shiman-Sekh

Below Kaer Maga

Spire of Nex


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
My hope = that after Shattered Star's out, at least 5 more dungeons will be on this list! (The 6th, Kaer Maga, i already mentioned.)

The Lady's Light makes my top 5 dungeons on the strength of that trap (you know which one) alone. All the other cool stuff is just bonus.


Gonna try and keep mine spoiler free, here they are in no particular order.

Vivified Labyrinth: I love the Vudrani themes of this dungeon, the way the rooms change via levers, the multiple bosses, the intrigue, and how it tests the player's wits, not just the numbers on our character sheets.

Armag's Tomb: A bit more classical with clever room ideas, good fights, a fantastic boss, and some good non-evil enemies to fight.

Veil of Frozen Tears: Great high level dungeon, interesting challenges and concepts, good theming, and a solid boss.

Castle Scarwall: Fantastic theming, good map, lots of memorable fights, great bosses, only complaint is too much ability draining (and that's easily solved).

Aberian's Folly: Great map, lots of fun encounters, one of the more interesting boss fights I've read.

Azlanti Ziggurat: Tazion's dungeon provides a lot monsters we don't usually see, a mobile boss fight, and lots of paths to take.

The things that make a dungeon stand out for me are memorable bosses, interesting concepts, clever puzzles, multiple paths to victory, and a good map.

Grand Lodge

The Spire of Nex

Maybe I've misinterpreted the purpose of this dungeon in the design concept for the Campaign World -- but I've always seen it as the Castle Greyhawk / Undermountain mega-dungeon of Golarion. The only dungeon that really matters. Far more important than any other two dungeons combined.

But Paizo hasn't really done anything with it while the little dungeons, Kaer Maga, Candlestone Caverns, Gallowspire, The Red Redoubt of Karamoss, Bastardhall, Viperwall, etc., have gotten some Fluff and Crunch in a number of products and, as an obvious result, Paizonians are interested in the little dungeons as much or more than The Spire of Nex.

Here's to hoping that my impression of the design purpose of The Spire of Nex is accurate and that Paizo will, in the NEAR future, publish a mega-product -- I'm hoping for a 300 page Hardback Book -- for the mega-dungeon to surpass Castle Greyhawk and Undermountain. (A mere Pathfinder Chronicle or Module is NOT sufficient.)

But among the "little dungeons," my favorites are
1) Candlestone Caverns
2) Hollow Mountain
3) Ice Spire
4) Kaer Maga


Gallowspire - what bits of it are covered in Dungeons of Golarion and Carrion Crown, anyway - is awe-inspiring.

I also very much enjoyed running Harrowstone Prison (from "The Haunting of Harrowstone"), Foxglove Manor (from "The Skinsaw Murders"), and the Graul farm (from "The Hook Mountain Massacre").

The Tomb of the Iron Medusa is also a lot of fun; I played through that one, and it's one of the few times in that campaign that I genuinely feared for my PC's life.

And technically, the issue of Dungeon featuring "Iron Medusa" author Mike Shel's masterpiece dungeon "The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb" is also a Paizo product. I'd recommend that one as a primer for any GM or designer in need of some devilish inspiration - it rates up there with the Tomb of Horrors in my book, and in some ways I even consider it superior to Gygax's meat-grinder.


Necromancer wrote:
While it might not be a dungeon, I'm sure it has dungeons: Castle Corvischior.

...and I spelled Corvischoir wrong...lovely.

Contributor

The Whispering C...

Oops, I mean The House of the Beast in LoF #2. Wonderfully written.

Scarab Sages

Power Word Unzip wrote:
And technically, the issue of Dungeon featuring "Iron Medusa" author Mike Shel's masterpiece dungeon "The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb" is also a Paizo product. I'd recommend that one as a primer for any GM or designer in need of some devilish inspiration - it rates up there with the Tomb of Horrors in my book, and in some ways I even consider it superior to Gygax's meat-grinder.

Oh wow, GREAT suggestion, PWU. I'm not sure I could include that in this article, though, because isn't "The Mud Sorceror's Tomb" a 3.5 D&D dungeon?

I'm loving all the suggestions of Hollow Mountain, Harrowstone Prison and Kaer Maga. Those are a few of my personal favorites!


It isn't a Golarion-specific dungeon, so it doesn't fit if your article is in-world fiction about expeditions to sites on Golarion or a similar topic. The adventure was originally published for AD&D years ago and updated to 3.5 in more recent years. However, MST is generic enough to be usable in nearly any setting, and I could easily see it being placed in Osirion or Jalmeray.

If you are designing a dungeon from scratch for your project, however, Shel's dungeons are like master classes on the subject.


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

Runeforge.

Scarwall.

I'll also confess a fondness for the Catacombs of Wrath, although the fun of that one owed as much to the opponent as the dungeon itself.

Grand Lodge

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@ Amanda,

"Mud Sorcerers' Tomb" is originally a 2E adventure from Dungeon 37 that Paizo, as your office mates can tell you better than I or PWU, worked with the original author during 3.5 to do a redo of in Dungeon 138.

"Tomb of the Iron Medusa" is Shel's redesigned and recreated version for Paizo's Pathfinder world, as again, your colleages can say better than we.

So you and Mike Shel can crank out anything you want with "Tomb of the Iron Medusa" and a great many of Paizo's customers will know from where the ideas came / were inspired by, and appreciate it even though there is no mention of "Mud Sorcerers' Tomb."

P.S.
As a side note, I also loved playing through Harrowstone Prison and would love to see more of it though it seemed to be pretty thoroughly designed in the AP in which it is introduced.


...Or what WE Ray said, though I think Iron Medusa and Mud Sorcerer are two very different animals, stylistically speaking. :)

Contributor

W E Ray wrote:

@ Amanda,

"Mud Sorcerers' Tomb" is originally a 2E adventure from Dungeon 37 that Paizo, as your office mates can tell you better than I or PWU, worked with the original author during 3.5 to do a redo of in Dungeon 138.

"Tomb of the Iron Medusa" is Shel's redesigned and recreated version for Paizo's Pathfinder world, as again, your colleages can say better than we.

So you and Mike Shel can crank out anything you want with "Tomb of the Iron Medusa" and a great many of Paizo's customers will know from where the ideas came / were inspired by, and appreciate it even though there is no mention of "Mud Sorcerers' Tomb."

I wrote the original Mud Sorcerer's Tomb for Dungeon #37, but the Paizo updating to 3.5 in issue #138 was done without me—James Jacobs tried to track me down to see if I was interested in the project, but he was unsuccessful ("Mike Shel" is a pen name). At any rate, MST is the property of Wizards of the Coast.

Also, Tomb of the Iron Medusa wasn't actually a "re-created" MST for the Pathfinder world, but brand spankin' new. Glad to hear from Power Word Unzip that he was scared for his PC's life—if the two modules had anything in common (other than both being tombs), I would hope it was that fear!

@Amanda, were you the person I met briefly at GenCon this year when I was on my way to lunch with the evil James Jacobs while you were on your way to lunch with the evil Wes Schneider? If so, howdy again, and welcome to the stable of Paizo freelancers!


The Undercity of Kaer Maga

Scarab Sages

Mike Shel wrote:
W E Ray wrote:

@ Amanda,

@Amanda, were you the person I met briefly at GenCon this year when I was on my way to lunch with the evil James Jacobs while you were on your way to lunch with the evil Wes Schneider? If so, howdy again, and welcome to the stable of Paizo freelancers!

Yep, that was definitely me, happily reveling amongst all the evility. :) It was great to put face to pen name -- I hope you had as much fun at the con as I did! I'm still a little bit in shock that I've actually been able to meet and hang out with so many amazingly talented and cool folks.

Thanks to everyone for giving a bit of the back story behind MST and TotIM, and to Mike for clarifying the details. You guys have been awesomely helpful!


Mike Shel wrote:

I wrote the original Mud Sorcerer's Tomb for Dungeon #37, but the Paizo updating to 3.5 in issue #138 was done without me—James Jacobs tried to track me down to see if I was interested in the project, but he was unsuccessful ("Mike Shel" is a pen name). At any rate, MST is the property of Wizards of the Coast.

Also, Tomb of the Iron Medusa wasn't actually a "re-created" MST for the Pathfinder world, but brand spankin' new. Glad to hear from Power Word Unzip that he was scared for his PC's life—if the two modules had anything in common (other than both being tombs), I would hope it was that fear!

Ah. Mud Sorcerer's Tomb is easily one of my absolute favourite Dungeon modules. What is especially impressive is that it uses its rather basic elements to make something amazing. It's good to have the updated version, but the original has a far better ambience/feel. Thank you!


My party only recently has begun adventuring with AP's and similar, but in this time I have really liked (as DM) Harrowstone Prison and REALLY, really disliked Scholss Caromarc.
One thing I would like to coment. I and my party are not native english speakers. We really don't have problems with rules books, and regionals/ player option books normally have a simple enough english for us. But the non native english suddenly becomes an important obstacle in some APs, that have a more obscure language in them, and need a dictionary to rule the adventure, and that can slow the adventure.
Of course, I'm not saying to change the style to my personal needs, only to put that little problem to Paizo knowledge.


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I agree with Alaryth on Schloss Caromarc. Way too grindy, and some of the encounter areas are too small to offer dynamic combat, especially in the last few battles.

To elaborate on my first post above - because Amanda asked us why we like these dungeons - Harrowstone was enjoyable for me as a GM because the layout was dynamic without being a pain in the rear to draw out on a flip-mat grid. The haunts were effective and easy to run, and the monster builds were very innovative. Many of the encounters with what you might think of as "stock" undead had mechanical twists added to them to give what could be just another fight with a Bestiary creature much more interesting - the Lopper is the best example of this in HoH.

Foxglove Manor's haunts are masterful, and I had two PCs (run by the same player) die from those practically back to back. The underlying plot about the lich's story of ascendancy that is revealed by paying attention to clues in the Manor also offered great depth to the exploration of the mansion.

The Graul farm and its inhabitants speak to a dark, twisted part of me that Nick Logue managed to tickle perfectly with his writing and characterization. The traps feel like stuff out of a slasher movie and allow for some great descriptions of PCs receiving horrible wounds. When I ran this, the players ran into a few traps on the porch and all their horror movie alarms went off - so they decided to just torch the place with fire spells.

The Tomb of the Iron Medusa, much like MST, is a dungeon which requires you to pay attention in order to survive. If you approach every problem you encounter with brute force, you are probably not going to survive - and I like that in a dungeon design.

Liberty's Edge

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Thistletop probably barely counts due to its size, but it's my favorite low level dungeon. It has such a great layout and look.

Honorable mention (since it hasn't been detailedl) goes to Viperwall.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32

The Spire of Nex!

Daron Woodson
Abandoned Arts

Grand Lodge

(See, told ya they could explain all that better than I or PWU could. .... Holy Moly, I didn't know "Mud Sorcerer's Tomb": 137 was Jacobs using a pen name!)

@ Amanda & everyone else,
Just be careful when describing why we like a certain dungeon to include Spoiler Tags where appropriate.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Actaully...

It was Jeremy Walker who developed Mike's original text for "Mud Sorcerer's Tomb" for that volume of Dungeon.

Dark Archive

Dungeons I am particularly interested in:
Viperwall
Beneath Kaer Maga
Bastardhall
Spire of Nex
Silver Mount

The fully published dungeon I most enjoyed:
Castle Scarwall


House of Oblivion in Thuvia's desert.

And who wants to bet there's some pretty impressive dungeons beneath the Pathfinder's headquarters in Absalom?

Scarab Sages

I would love to see more about the Wizard King's Pit / Well of Sorrows / Xin-Grafar. The City of Golden Death was a good adventure but just teased at Tar-Baphon's pre-lich god-trap. Gallowspire is nice and all, but it was built upon the backs of undead labor as a war capital. This place was created by the Mortal version as both a display of his hubris (its all gooooold) and as the ultimate hidey hole against a divine host. It oozes cool confidence, arrogance, and presents as a challenge meant for only the greatest of delvers.

Scarab Sages

Power Word Unzip wrote:


The Tomb of the Iron Medusa, much like MST, is a dungeon which requires you to pay attention in order to survive. If you approach every problem you encounter with brute force, you are probably not going to survive - and I like that in a dungeon design.

This is a really interesting observation. As a homebrew GM, I'm always concerned about balancing the needs of brute-force players with those of players who'd rather figure out a cunning way to trick their foes--or do something else that I may not even have anticipated. It's a really intricate dynamic now that I'm starting to apply those concerns to designing, so it's good to hear you say that you like the more finessed designs (because I really like them, too).

Interestingly, PWU, your comments are giving me ideas for a DIFFERENT Paizo project I'm also working on right now. Evil, evil ideas. :D


Kajehase wrote:
House of Oblivion in Thuvia's desert.

This, right here. The House of Oblivion would be an amazing epic/mythic/high level dungeon.

Ahriman and the magic of the ancient Pharaohs? Sign me up! Well, sign my players up.

It could really hit a nice balance that not many dungeons get: a strong recognizable cultural theme (who built it) with a dose of high fantasy craziness.

Cheers!
Landon

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