What Adventure Path to DM?

Pathfinder Adventure Path General Discussion

First and foremost, Hello to anyone reading this thread. The game I'm currently in is going to end in the next five or so sessions. When it ends it'll be my turn to DM, and I'm fairly new to DMing. I was reading the overviews of the adventure paths on the wiki, and glanced through the introductions of some of them. Many of them sound interesting and fun, but I'd like some opinions on them. I know some some them are somewhat of a sequel to others, should I not run those if the first installment hasn't been played? Are there ones that are easier to jump into than others?

I have a good amount of time ahead before its my turn to DM. I'd like to be prepared without having to rush so I can give some information out when we get together to make characters.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

First, a question for you: What kind of game do you like to run/play? Are you looking for straight up swords, sorcery, and high adventure, or do you like a game full of intrigue and mystery? Would you rather have a clear-cut quest/goal for your players, or would your prefer a more open world for them to run around in?

Me, I think the most important thing is that the GM is interested in running the game. Nobody profits if the GM is bored.

I can play just about any game so long as I know what I'm going into. As a DM though my gut tells me that a more open world isn't what I'm looking for. Aside from Skull and Shackles, and Second Darkness they all seem really interesting to me from the start.

Ancient Thassalonian threats from a Millenia ago? Awesome. A dead king possibly assassinated, a town thrown into chaos, and a possibly cursed throne? I want to know what happens next! Two warring armies of genies in a desert adventure? Let me get my flying carpet. The titles of Council of Thieves and Kingmaker alone have my attention hooked. Serpent's Skull starts off with an awesome way to bring a party together, and with promises of assassin's and a lost city could both be intriguing and adventurous.

Carrion Crown seems to be horror themed by the overview. That's a genre my group hasn't touched upon yet. I don't know how it'll be received. Some times we can really be into the mood of whats going on, and other times we get can get wacky.

Jade Regent seems to somewhat be a sequel to Rise of the Runelords, and Shattered Star seems to be a successor to Rise of the Runelords, Curse of the Crimson Throne, and second darkness, but also claims to be a good first introduction to Varisia.

Do not run a adventure path. Too long and takes a experienced hand to not make the railroad obvious.Just a heck of a HUGE bite.

I am running To Slay a Dragon right now and find it a fun adventure in the line of The Hobbit.

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Goldenfrog makes a good point. An AP is a big chunk to bite off as a new DM. That said, it also means that you have a lot less work to do as a DM, because the AP's are generally very well written. Depending on how often your group meets, it can take 6 months to go through an AP or it could take 6 years.

An alternate option open to you is to pick up and chain together a few of the modules. Crypt of the Everflame, Carrion Hill, and Masks of the Living God were writtin to follow one another. That would give you a chance to get your GM feet wet without facing and entire AP.

But I digress. You asked for recommendations on AP's.

Top Recommendation:
Rise of the Runelords. This is hands down the most supported Adventure ever. There's face cards, minis, battlemats, maps, pawns, and paper minis for this adventure. It contains many of the classic tropes of tabletop RPG's. The new updated book is both pretty and updated for the Pathfinder rules.

Here's some thoughts on some of the other AP's:
Jade Regent follows Rise of the Runelords and incorporates some of the NPC's from that AP. It starts off with a journey through Golarion's arctic, and ends in Golarion's Asia (Tian Xia). I've heard it described as Vikings and Ninjas.

Shattered Star is pretty railroady (which I think can be a positive thing for a new GM) and has lots of dungeon crawling. LOTS of dungeon crawling. Shattered Star is the first AP to move the Golarion timeline forward; the events of this AP assume that the events of Rise of the Runelords have already happened.

Carrion Crown is gothic horror to the core. If you haven't run horror, or you are not sure your group will take the horror seriously, then don't try it. I don't think that this one is a good AP for a beginner.

Serpent Skull I have heard starts strong, gets really weak in the middle, and ends strong (if I'm remembering my reviews correctly). It gets a bit sandboxy too, which can be a challenge for a GM who doesn't have a lot of time to prepare ahead.

Kingmaker is one of the most popular AP's Paizo has produced. It is very sandboxy. PC's are building a kingdom out of the wilderness.

I would recommend staying away from 3.5 AP's initially. The conversion can be a bit more work than you think it should be. In my experience, all else being equal, Pathfinder characters are a tad more powerful than 3.5 characters. I found that without conversion work, my players were not challenged by adventures written for 3.5.

That's my 2 cents.


If you are not looking for a more open world, then Kingmaker would definitely not be for you. It is a giant sandbox, especially the first three chapters. I like it a lot, and plan to use it for my next campaign, but its definitely very open ended.

As far as recommendations go though, I think you'll find that everyone has their own particular tastes, so I think it may help if you develop a particular theme or style you wish to explore. Or at least narrow it down to a few paths and then head over to the AP forum's general discussion and ask for input as to each of them.

The good news is that in general, most of the paths have gotten really good reviews and appear to be fairly well written (although there are usually some holes that need to be plugged). Unfortunately, that's also the bad news as it makes hard for us to say "Well, definitely X is the far and away the best AP they've published." :p

Liberty's Edge

Id like to add...the 3.5 adventures (Rise of The Runelords, Curse of The Crimson Throne, Second Darkness and Legacy of Fire) have support for the conversions in the forums on the board

The Exchange

Go Runelords, the anniversary edition.

It's a traditional sort of campaign. The first 4 levels don't introduce too many bizarre rules or new rules mechanics in order for you to run.

The game is balanced quite well in the revised edition. And it follows the fast track Xp ( or has a good guide to when players should level). Good for pacing.

I think it will be an easier transition for a newish GM.

Some of the others have complex rules initially ( Carrion Crown has some funky stuff in the first book)

Kingmaker is very open, and not something to run without some experience, though many aspects can be run by players.

Avoid second darkness, crimson throne and legacy of fire. While they're fantastic plots, you'll need to do converting of stats because they're written for an older edition of the game.

I can't comment on the restas I don't own them.


Liberty's Edge

Also agreed with Rise of the Runelords. I've simply never heard anything bad about it, and it has a good feel for a beginning GM. Kingmaker is awesome, but has awesome demands. Likely my favorite is Carrion Crown, but I've GMed CoC since it came out.

my group have been playing D&D for over 10 years.... man I am old :p when we went to pathfinder we did Rise of the runelords so we can get use to it. We are loving it, it is well worth it.

Rise of the Runelords, Curse of the Crimson Throne, or Kingmaker.

Everyone loves RotRL. It was Paizo's first AP and they really made it shine. That said, I think Crimson Throne is as good or better -- it hangs together (you're trying to save your home city) in a way that IMO RotRL doesn't. Which is better depends on what kind of campaign you want to run. Either would be fine for a new DM. Both are 3.5, but personally I don't think the conversion is much of an issue -- 90% of the rules are the same, after all, and when there's a difference you can find a lot of support online.

Kingmaker is, as everyone has already pointed out, super sandboxy. I think it drags a little in the middle, around the 100th new hex you explore. But it starts strong and, really, is just a lot of fun. But again (as everyone has said) a bit more challenging, though by no means impossible.

Doug M.

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Itchy wrote:
An alternate option open to you is to pick up and chain together a few of the modules. Crypt of the Everflame, Carrion Hill, and Masks of the Living God were writtin to follow one another.

Excellent recommendation about modules, but there's one slight mistake: Crypt of the Everflame and Masks of the Living God form a trilogy with City of Golden Death. They're very solid choices to start with, ask for a lot less preparation than APs, and are a very enjoyable series. There are also various other modules of excellent quality, including Carrion Hill, From Shore to Sea and Realm of the Fellnight Queen. To be honest, my recommendation for a new DM would be this.

If you're ready to wait until July, there's a new kind of module which will be available. The first one is called The Dragon's Demand, and takes the characters from 1st to approximately 7th level, iirc.

To give you and idea, an AP represents about 30 to 36 game sessions if run from beginning to end. If you're dead set on an AP, I'll happily suggest Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition. Kingmaker, due to its open structure, is quite a bit of a challenge for a new GM, so I wouldn't recommend it.

Shadow Lodge

I made this same decision a ways back and came to the RotRL conclusion as well. For me, it rings as a classic Paizo product, and a part of the whole experience. So I picked it as much for the geek cred as anything else.

If you pick Shattered Star consider developing some sort of continuity from chapter to chapter. Otherwise it can feel very disjointed and players sometimes feel like what they did in one spot has little to no impact in another spot.

IMO no AP since Kingmaker has been in the top rank (though there have been some wonderful individual modules, most notably Hungry Storm). You'll find fans willing to speak up for any AP, but RoTRL and Kingmaker seem to be the two that people bring up again and again.

But as I've said, personally I think Curse is great too. If you don't care whether it's an urban campaign then, okay, run Rise. But if you do want to run an urban campaign, go with Curse.

Doug M.

Oh wow, I didn't think I'd get this many replies in one night/morning! Thank you all for your imput! I came to Pathfinder from 3.5, so conversion is easy. I'll take a closer look into Rise of the Runelords and Curse of the Crimson throne to see how I feel about the two.

"Which adventure path is the best?" is a pretty regular question around here. There have even been polls; I'm sure someone could provide a link.

If you choose Rise, you immediately have to decide whether to get the Anniversary Edition or not. Four of the six individual modules are long out of print, including the first one. They are still available as PDFs for $14 each, or $11.20 if you're a subscriber. The hardcover anniversary edition, collecting the entire AP between two covers, is $60 (or $48 if you're a subscriber) plus shipping. It's also available as a PDF for $42, or non-mint (some damage, still usable) for $46. The anniversary edition adds a little bit of new material and converts everything from 3.5 to PFRPG, saving you some trouble.

Which is better depends on a complex list of factors, including how far along the AP you expect to play, how you feel about PDFs, and so forth. Personally I like individual modules better than big fat hardcovers (easier to handle at the gaming table, fewer pages to flip through) and am perfectly OK with PDFs (you need a laptop or notebook at the gaming table, but these days you'll probably have that anyway). But YMMV -- I know lots of people who love hardcovers, can't abide PDFs, etc.

As to Curse of the Crimson Throne, all six of the modules are still available in print, though a couple of them are close to running out. They cost $20 each or $16 if you're a subscriber. As with Rise, you can get the individual modules as PDFs for $14 each, or $11.20 if you're subscribing. There is no anniversary edition for Curse (or for any other AP -- they only did it for Rise).

Whichever you choose, both these APs are well supported by Paizo, and both have lively online communities that will be happy to offer suggestions and advice.


Doug M.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

As an aside, Runelords' Anniversary Edition has extra content that helps create more continuity compared to the original APs.

If you're going to be a new GM, then I recommend two things. First, don't go with an AP. Go with some of the modules recommended here. That way you don't leave the AP half done if things get too hectic. Second, either create spreadsheets for yourself in advance, or invest in a computer program such as Hero Labs from Wolflair. It makes character tracking much easier. (As a bonus, there is fan-created content for Paizo's modules and APs. However, you'd need some of the bonus content for Hero Labs to use it, and that gets... expensive.)

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Heaggles wrote:
my group have been playing D&D for over 10 years.... man I am old :p

HA! Our new guy joined 21 years ago. :D

I would recommend Rise of the Runelords Anniversary addition as well, although I do think that the New Dragon's Demand adventure might be even more appropriate if you could wait a month or so. I might also consider Red Hand of Doom as a good mini-campain. It's 3.5, but I'm sure someone had updated it.

The Exchange

I would also recommend that, if possible, you should wait for the new format, 64 pages long mega-adventure "Dragon's Demand" - it's much more handle-able than an entire Adventure Path for a new GM, and it has a cool, classic feel for it.

If you want to try a fun one-shot, pick up Hangman's Noose. It is a first level adventure. But it is NOT a standard dungeon crawl -- it's a horror themed module with a mystery. Yes, that could be a recipe for disaster, but it was written by Nicholas Logue at the top of his g*~$@~n game.

It is slightly more challenging to run, but not grossly so -- and you might find it a welcome difference from "you go to the ruins outside of town to investigate rumors of kobolds".

Doug M.

I would suggest avoiding Skull and Shacles if you are a beginner DM, it has a very spreadsheet intensive start where on needs to track character relationships between the PCs and the crew and a very nasty rum ration that can quickly go into a deathspiral. As talked about, try Godsmouth Heresy as a nice 1st level adventure. You can then easily move into another module after that.

Skull and Shackles IMO was three modules worth of cool, spread thin. YMMV.

Personally I'd say that if you're going to do an AP, then Rise, Curse and Kingmaker are the three you can't go wrong with. Not to say these three are perfect -- nothing is -- but they're all well crafted APs that have no major, fun-train-stopping flaws.

Doug M.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Lord Snow wrote:
I would also recommend that, if possible, you should wait for the new format, 64 pages long mega-adventure "Dragon's Demand" - it's much more handle-able than an entire Adventure Path for a new GM, and it has a cool, classic feel for it.

also a super awesome cover:) can't wait

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