Most engaging AP storywise?


Pathfinder Adventure Path General Discussion


My group is about to start their first AP and they have asked me, as the GM, to choose the best ones from the 15 available, then they will vote on which one we will run.
We have been playing only 30 pages paizo modules so far, so i feel that my players have never experienced the joy of a rich overarching plot that connects all the single adventures into a memorable story.
So my question is: Which AP has the best story that connects (almost) everything through the six books?

To clarify i'll add that while i was reading the AP general discussion forum i often encountered the phrases: "I think that [AP NAME] is very disjointed betweek books." and "in this book of [AP NAME] the PCs don't progress at all with the main plot"; if these phrases can be used to describe an AP, then that particular AP is the exact opposite of what i'm looking for.

Bonus points if the AP has some fully fleshed-out NPCs, not necessarily many NPCs, i would be happy even with 4-5 if they're as precisely described as possible.

I understand that what I'm asking is highly subjective and the the mileage may vary a lot between group and group, so personal opinions are obviously welcome.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

It's hard to nail this down, in my opinion, since whether or not the AP remains focussed on the main plot depends somewhat on whether or not the players get drawn into it - I guess part of what you're looking for is a railroad-heavy as opposed to sandbox-y AP?

I think I'd recommend:

Curse of the Crimson Throne (provided you manage to convey beforehand that the players have to both be very strongly concerned with Korvosa and not averse to leaving it for some time).

Reign of Winter (there's a lot of travel, but it's pretty heavily plot-motivated).

Shattered Star (although I personally think this is a bit samey, I think it might fit what you're looking for).


Second darkness would be bad for you. Both because of the 'halfway criminal people suddenly being supposed to give a damn about elves' and 'back in time' bits.

Everything in carrion crown happens because of the main plot, but that's not readily obvious on the player end, so I'd avoid that as well.

WotR has the midnight isles, which are supposed to be this, so not that one either.

We have now hit upon the extent of my knowledge of overall arches of APs. Avoid the three above, I think.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Okay. Several of the early APs suffer from connection-itis. Often there is marginal connectivity between the starting adventures in the AP and the ending ones. This is due to several factors - one is that often the Big Bad of the AP is too powerful for players to deal with if it focuses on the region or players.

That said, the Anniversary Edition of Rise of the Runelords does help link the first couple of books. There are sufficient hints at the eventual Big Bad that if the players pay attention, they may realize what they are facing. However, there are still disparities between these elements and your early foes aren't that related to later ones.

Wrath of the Righteous actually showcases this - it started out as a strong and superb AP. Sadly, poor encounter creation and the failure to realize just how overpowered Mythic players are results in a complete wash of the AP. (It can be played as a non-Mythic AP and while it's difficult in places, especially in the 2nd book, non-Mythic PCs can survive and flourish.)

Mummy's Mask actually has a fairly strong interconnected plot; while the first couple of adventures in the first book have no link to the eventual antagonist, they do set up the villain and reasons why the players will come to blows with him.

One last suggestion is actually a 2nd edition AD&D boxed set: Night Below. While you would have to convert it to Pathfinder (and there are several people who've done this in the past), the actual storyline links the enemies from the start of the campaign all the way to the Big Boss at the end. Of course, seeing that Mindflayers don't exist in Pathfinder you will likely need to replace several enemies. So a lot of work would be involved in this.


The Dragon wrote:

Second darkness would be bad for you. Both because of the 'halfway criminal people suddenly being supposed to give a damn about elves' and 'back in time' bits.

Everything in carrion crown happens because of the main plot, but that's not readily obvious on the player end, so I'd avoid that as well.

WotR has the midnight isles, which are supposed to be this, so not that one either.

We have now hit upon the extent of my knowledge of overall arches of APs. Avoid the three above, I think.

I found Second Darkness hard to play through. Those arrogant elves... well, I wanted them to lose. :)


Tangent101 wrote:

Okay. Several of the early APs suffer from connection-itis. Often there is marginal connectivity between the starting adventures in the AP and the ending ones. This is due to several factors - one is that often the Big Bad of the AP is too powerful for players to deal with if it focuses on the region or players.

That said, the Anniversary Edition of Rise of the Runelords does help link the first couple of books. There are sufficient hints at the eventual Big Bad that if the players pay attention, they may realize what they are facing. However, there are still disparities between these elements and your early foes aren't that related to later ones.

Wrath of the Righteous actually showcases this - it started out as a strong and superb AP. Sadly, poor encounter creation and the failure to realize just how overpowered Mythic players are results in a complete wash of the AP. (It can be played as a non-Mythic AP and while it's difficult in places, especially in the 2nd book, non-Mythic PCs can survive and flourish.)

Mummy's Mask actually has a fairly strong interconnected plot; while the first couple of adventures in the first book have no link to the eventual antagonist, they do set up the villain and reasons why the players will come to blows with him.

One last suggestion is actually a 2nd edition AD&D boxed set: Night Below. While you would have to convert it to Pathfinder (and there are several people who've done this in the past), the actual storyline links the enemies from the start of the campaign all the way to the Big Boss at the end. Of course, seeing that Mindflayers don't exist in Pathfinder you will likely need to replace several enemies. So a lot of work would be involved in this.

Wow, it has been a while since I have heard of Night Below. Yeah, I heard good things and it got very creepy.

Liberty's Edge

This is largely going to be dependant on your DM but so far my favorites have been Skull and Shackles and Reign of Winter.

The Exchange

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Night Below is and always has been one of my favorites. I am slowly working on a complete, Golarion-friendly rewrite, but I imagine it is a long, long ways from being finished. The players have barely even begun the campaign.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

The benefit of Night Below is that it is generic enough to fit into any region. Milbourne and Thurmaster are generic enough towns that any region with a river and near mountains would work - thus they could easily be a couple of towns in northern Golarion, somewhere in Varisia, in Cheliax, or really anywhere else. Likewise, the priesthoods can easily be converted over to Golarian deities without any significant problem.

This is a design feature for NB. And even though I've run the campaign twice (the first died at the end of the first "book" due to a disruptive player, the second (heavily modified) game ending at the regular end) I've still had the occasional urge to play it again. (Heck, I'd absolutely love it if some company did a "Temple of Elemental Evil" style computer game for Night Below - I'd buy and play that in a second!)

The problem is that it's an old campaign for a different system (to the point that it's not even a simple conversion like 3.5 to Pathfinder). It is far easier to buy the Anniversary Edition of Runelords or the books for Reign of Winter or Mummy's Mask than it is to find and acquire a copy of NB and then start converting it.

Liberty's Edge

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I would highly suggest Curse of the Crimson Throne. It is paizo but made for 3.5 so it will needminor tweaking but it is pretty awesome. Like one of the above posters mentioned make sure the players understand they need to make characters that care for the city of Korvosa to some extent.


I think Skull and Shackles is the best one at providing early interaction with the NPCs that are important at the end of the adventure path. Largely due to the way the AP kicks off.

Second in my mind would be Legacy of Fire, if you make sure things stay on the railroad.


I would recommend Rise of the Runelords for classic fantasy adventuring, Skull n Shackles for some swashbuckling fun or a Mythic-less Wrath of the Righteous for a world-class showdown between good and evil.

The Exchange

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Iron Gods has a really, really cool story, and from what I have seen of it the modules are well connected to one another.

Reign of Winter also has a great story, although it does come with the caveat that it is somewhat episodic in nature - more like a TV show than a movie trilogy.

The obvious recommendation is Curse of the Crimson Throne. You really just can't go wrong with it. Best story of any Paizo AP.


I think Curse of the Crimson Throne is done really well.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

My two favorite stories are Jade Regent and Iron Gods.

Jade Regent's caravan mechanics and story progression created an evirinment where the party became really connected to the NPCs, and in a couple instances even evolved generic NPCs of their own into full blown personalities (every caravan guard and cook ended up with personality...).

Iron Gods, though maybe not for everyone due to the robots and lasers, has a really deep and cool story that gives you a ton of info on Numeria and the forces that shape it. We're playing it currently and it's been awesome to see the party focus on learning Androffan and trying to understand the nature and functions of all the space age tech they're uncovering.


I think they're all great. It really just comes down to what kind of theme and campaign your team wants to play.

Paizo Glitterati Robot

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Lantern Lodge

Kingmaker, hands down it's an awesome campaign and great opportunity for RP also there's plenty of fan-made material if you want to modify it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I would have thought Reign of Winter would be an exceptionally poor choice for avoiding the "disjointed" feel of what happens between books. You start out in

an area:
IceWitchland
and end up in a
a drastically different area:
other planets/alternate earth

Shattered Star and Forgotten Pharaoh, which to me were lackadaisical, are both far more cohesive than most of the APs because you actually stay in the general area. Plus you never really get away from the main bad guys - only take brief breaks. The downside to both of these is that while there is the occasionally memorable NPC - Crystal Fraiser wrote an amazing one for Forgotten Pharaoh - they're pretty few and far between. In my own opinion of the overall campaigns, both really suffered from being A) about spaceships or B) about tombs and pyramids and never really involving either for the bulk of the campaigns. My own reaction was like being promised a pirate campaign and yeah while there are boats in the distance we just play in the harbor until just before the end. Even though I have all 6 books for both, I honestly can't see myself ever having the patience to sit through a full campaign of them (either as DM or as the player). While both definitely have very awesome points, neither really delivered (imo) on the premise.

Wrath of the Righteous has some of the most brilliant and fun NPCs, but like others have said, while its first and second books - even the third and fifth - are solid and strong, it has some very, very low points. Even as my own personal favorite AP, I have to say that I like it in spite of those low points - and it was hard for me personally to get over them. You pretty much have to write your own final book because the City of Locusts has nothing of use.

Still, if you're looking for great RP and fun NPCs, ending a non-mythic (or just 1/2 mythic) WotR on book five is still really fun and climactic. If you're looking more for cohesion, Shattered Star and Forgotten Pharaoh really are both right up that ally. Kingmaker, I'd actually argue is the next-most cohesive after those two.


Sincere thanks for sharing your opinions on the matter.
Let's see if I can sum up my impressions on what have been said so far:

Curse of The Crimison Throne: This has been highly recommended, and I'm not surprised since this AP has a great number of fans. The conversion wouldn't be a problem though I'm not 100% sold on the urban setting, It always seemed a little "sterile" to me.
I nonetheless think that my players would have a blast with this AP.

Kingmaker, Skull and Shackles: I didn't expect to see these two suggested because of their sandbox nature, but if these APs manage to tell a good story as well, it's great!
I'd be very excited to run one of these.

Reign of winter, Rise of the Runelords, Mummy's mask: These have received some support, and while each of them seems to have some minor issues, they would be solid choiches. They'll definitely be on the list of the eligible ones.

Wrath of the Righteous: I'm on the fence with this, even without the mythic rules, the idea of having to rewrite some parts of the AP to make them work doesn't appeal me.
But I really like the theme, and if we're talking about scope and PCs' motivation, i think no other AP is on par with this. It should make it to the list.

Jade Regent:I'm surprised it received so little support, given its number of NPCs I thought it fitted my requirements pretty well, but maybe its low points (book three?) really bring down the level of the entire AP.
Still undecided on this.

Iron Gods: The suggestions in favor AP piqued my interest because I thought that beyond its "innovations" it didn't offer much of interest. Glad to be wrong, it goes on the list.

Shattered star: My group gets very bored of dungeon crawling after a while, so i think this isn't the AP for us.

Second darkness, Legacy of fire: Too many issues with these plus conversion from 3.5 on top of the fact that the themes don't convince me. Maybe another time.

Throne of night: thanks for thinking out-of-the-box, but the conversion from 2.0 plus the fact that it seems quite dungeon heavy doesn't feel like this is appropriate for us.

If anyone disagrees with anything of what i've just written, please feel free to respond.

Quick question: Carrion crow clearly doesn't meet the requirements of this thread but i've read somewhere that it has some good investigation parts, is that true?


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Quote:
Shattered star: My group gets very bored of dungeon crawling after a while, so i think this isn't the AP for us.

Bear in mind that Curse of the Crimson Throne has at least one protracted dungeon crawl:

Spoiler:
The entire book 5 of the AP is essentially one big dungeon.

I think it's a fantastic dungeon and wouldnt rule it out, but if that might be a dealbreaker you should consider whether you're going to need to replace this book entirely, or skip over it.


yaloc wrote:
Curse of The Crimison Throne [snip] I'm not 100% sold on the urban setting, It always seemed a little "sterile" to me.

Part of the reason I love CotCT is that, despite selling itself as an urban campaign, actually has a significant portion spent traveling outside the city.

It's also possible to detour a bit between volumes 2 and 3 if you want to insert the excellent Pathfinder module Conquest of Bloodsworn Vale.

Spoiler:
Story-wise, the big bad could be trying to get rid of heroes who could interfere with her plans, but all the PCs know is they're being offered a chance at noble titles by helping clear the Vale. When they return successfully, though, they find the city gone horribly wrong and need to uncover the truth in Old Korvosa...

That would get your players into some story-appropriate wilderness adventures between episodes 2 and 3 if you want to break of the urban-ish-ness.


If depends a lot on how you define 'engaging'. Shattered Star is remarkably coherent and each book flows well into the next, but it didn't actually get me engaged in Thassilon nearly as much as Rise of the Runelords did. RotR piqued my interest in the Runelords and set me to wondering, "Who are these people? Are there more of them? What if one wakes up and isn't immediately defeated?" It got me interested in the mystery of all the ruins around Varisia, and what secrets they might hold, such that I started envisioning an extra-slow progression campaign that explored Varisia in far greater detail and rather than culminating with Karzoug continued on to deal with the other Runelords, like Krune, Sorshen, etc.

Kingmaker had an even more pronounced effect on me, even though it is one of the more disjoint, less cohesive APs. It drew me in more than any other AP since.... but that was all on me. It's not what is in the AP, it's all the unanswered questions left afterward. For me, unresolved plot hooks are awesome, because that's what gets my brain going. But not everyone will feel that way, and from a player perspective, Kingmaker is easy to run poorly and end up not being engaging at all.


I recommend against Shattered Star, I have run it (all of it) and while the story might be coherent at the same time is very weak, most of the dungeons are boring (especially if you haven't played ROTRL and CoCT) and the encounters are kinda weak.
I also recommend against Kingmaker, I have played all of it and the big story is very much nonexistent.


yaloc wrote:
Carrion crow clearly doesn't meet the requirements of this thread but i've read somewhere that it has some good investigation parts, is that true

Carrion Crown has a good amount of investigating and RP. My players enjoyed it until people had to move away.

Just be aware that the wealth is a bit low, and it really helps having someone with access to channeling or cure spells to deal with haunts.


I would recommend en,'s zeitgeist ap. great story. steam punk. naval combat. spy... shoot there is a murder mystery on a train...


Now to what i recommend:
1)WotR (which i am currently playing) has a very good and quite coherent story but has A LOT of mechanical issues (there are solutions to most of those on the forums) because of the mythic rules so it will require a lot more work from you than other APs.

2)From what i have heard CotCT also has a superb story and it's also quite coherent (although there is one book that can be dropped out with very little impact in the story).

3)Jade Regent (which i have played entirely) is also very coherent (part 1 of book 1 is mostly out of place and so is most of book 3) and has a quite good story

4)RotRL AE (which i run all* of it), while the AE is a lot easier than the (converted to PF) original edition the AE has made the story a bit more coherent and the story is very good and classic.

5)Iron Gods (which i am currently running) seems to have a very well structured and a very interesting (albeit kinda weird) story but beware that it also has a lot of sci-fi* tropes and trappings, so it might not suit you and/or your group.

*first half origianl, second half AE
**including some of the sub-genres of sci-fi


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm sorry, I wrote "Shattered Star" and I meant "Iron Gods". Iron Gods has some really high moments, but imo really fails to deliver on the promise of starships and technology until the very end books. The coherence of the story is there and never really disappears, but there aren't any interesting NPCs beyond what you as the DM make do with. That part about you as the DM having to fill in the character is why I personally don't care for the Jade Regent NPCs - it's 100% me anyways, so what's the point of having them?


Mackenzie Kavanaugh wrote:

If depends a lot on how you define 'engaging'. Shattered Star is remarkably coherent and each book flows well into the next, but it didn't actually get me engaged in Thassilon nearly as much as Rise of the Runelords did. RotR piqued my interest in the Runelords and set me to wondering, "Who are these people? Are there more of them? What if one wakes up and isn't immediately defeated?" It got me interested in the mystery of all the ruins around Varisia, and what secrets they might hold, such that I started envisioning an extra-slow progression campaign that explored Varisia in far greater detail and rather than culminating with Karzoug continued on to deal with the other Runelords, like Krune, Sorshen, etc.

Kingmaker had an even more pronounced effect on me, even though it is one of the more disjoint, less cohesive APs. It drew me in more than any other AP since.... but that was all on me. It's not what is in the AP, it's all the unanswered questions left afterward. For me, unresolved plot hooks are awesome, because that's what gets my brain going. But not everyone will feel that way, and from a player perspective, Kingmaker is easy to run poorly and end up not being engaging at all.

Dear fellow pathfinder, I'm glad to hear that you intend to explore better Thassilon and the Runelords. I've many ideas on the topic I'll be happy to share.

On the topic of the post, instead, i consider that Curse of the Crimson Throne is very coherent and allows good roleplay in urban environment. Shattered Star is surely a good dungeon adventure , though it lack recurring treats. Also, i think Mummy Mask could be well considerated if you swarp book 2 with book 1, cancel book 1, cut in half book 5 and really change book 6.


Tangent101 wrote:


One last suggestion is actually a 2nd edition AD&D boxed set: Night Below. While you would have to convert it to Pathfinder (and there are several people who've done this in the past), the actual storyline links the enemies from the start of the campaign all the way to the Big Boss at the end. Of course, seeing that Mindflayers don't exist in Pathfinder you will likely need to replace several enemies. So a lot of work would be involved in this.

I'll give another thumbs up to Night below. I DM'ed it twice, it was great fun both times. There are three books and they are all well-connected. There is a great attention to detail, both in the setting and NPCs.

The downside, is, as others have mentioned, 2nd edition rules.


As others have posted for engaging and unified story CoCT remains the best of the APs. I'd add JR and WoTR as other contenders but from your original post I think you and your group would be most happy with CoCT unless your players really want to be pirates, go to the orient etc. Player interest is a always a good place to start.


My favourite adventure path in terms of having a coherent plot from beginning to end is Savage Tide. Admittedly, our game fell apart after Tides of Dread, but I think the progression from "set up a colony" to "save the colony" to "save the world" is pretty smooth.

Liberty's Edge

I would say overwhelmingly CotCT. Of the post 3.5 though. WotR.


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

Iron Gods has a pretty sweet story:-)
and the tech stuff works, mythic? Not so much:-p


I will give a reccomendation for Jade Regent.

While the caravan system is quite bad and should be avoided and removed at all costs (replacing either with strait-up encounters or largely ignoring), the relationship system has been pure joy at encouraging rp and relationships between players and NPCs. The first book and player's guide give a fairly solid set-up to start characterizing them, and while it may not be heavily focused upon in future books there are nevertheless hints on how to play them here and there if you look for them.

The story is quite collected as the majority of it is THE journey to the end of it. That being said, such a journey does require a bit of player buy-in so they don't feel like "Why are we doing this anyway?" However, the end goal is clear from the (end of) first module and doesn't truly deviate, so there is a good pay-off that they are able to accomplish what they set out to do at the beginning of the campaign, overthrow an Oni uprising and reclaim a foreign land with it's rightful ruler.

Book three is not so bad if you recognize not to use the caravan system. The set pieces of the Dragon troubles, the Storm Tower, and the necropolis are all solid adventure spots and stories in my opinion (if anything it adds a nice break from Oni as enemies). Make a few extra mini-encounter zones here and there to provide the experience they'd miss out on otherwise (flesh out some of the encounter points on the trip to more than once a day things), and you can make a fairly fun adventure out of it.

I think it is definitely up your alley for what you are looking for.

Verdant Wheel

Curse of the Crimson Throne, hands down.


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I just wanted to inform you of my players' decision.
After I introduced the APs, they started a long debate on which one they should have run.
I stayed neutral, I stepped in only to correct any wrong statement about particular APs.
After 2 hours and so of discussion, the contenders were Curse of the Crimison Throne and Wrath of the Righteous so I decided to have them vote.

Wrath of the R. won with 3 votes against 2 so I'll be runnig that AP and I'm happy with this resolution.
I was quite surprised by the fact that they completely overlooked Kingmaker and Skull'n'Shackles, but i guess they just don't like free roaming.

Thank you all again.

Liberty's Edge

Glad to be of help, do take a look at the Wrath boards for advice in altering the difficulty level, as some people have an issue with it being too easy post book 1.


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Coridan wrote:
Glad to be of help, do take a look at the Wrath boards for advice in altering the difficulty level, as some people have an issue with it being too easy post book 1.

I'm already delving into the WotR subforum for hints about the AP, but the difficulty isn't going to be a major problem because my players won't gain mythic powers.

At the end of book 1 I'll give them regenerating hero points instead, based on how easily they will have reached that point.


Way of the Wicked! (3pp Pathfinder game where everyone is evil!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook Subscriber

I really enjoyed running Carrion Crown ,but took heavy advantage of the GM threads to tie in the antagonist and mugfin NPCs to the party from the beginning. It also blends well with two modules, Carrion Hill and the Harrowing.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I would say:
1. Carrion Crown. I love the twists, turns, old gods, and undead.
2. Skulls and Shackles - Arrrr
3. Mummy's Mask
4. Iron Gods - yes I admit, you have converted me darn you Piazo staff lol

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