Recommendations for hard adventure paths?


Pathfinder Adventure Path General Discussion

Liberty's Edge

My GM recently ran us through the first 2 modules of Kingmaker, because that was the AP we request. I was excited to play Fantasy Sim City alongside Pathfinder. The rest of my party couldn't care less about our town.

So on top of our group mostly ignoring a primary aspect of the campaign, we also seemed vastly overpowered for the level of challenge the combat scenarios in the AP presented to us.

Having done a fair bit of Pathfinder GM'ing myself, I know how hard it can be to provide consistently challenging and exciting combat to a bunch of players that will build highly capable combatants. (My level 7 Flying Blade Swashbuckler killed a CR 9 tree monster from full in 1 round. And he was the weak character.)

I also read on these forums that Kingmaker is one of the easier APs, combat-wise.

Can you all recommend which APs are the hardest?


Just gotta say, Watchout for book 3 of that AP, I TPKed my team there and since it has lvl design by Greg H. Vaughan, expect some weird twists that outright combat won't save you from.

Besides that, most APs are not all too difficult for a team that optimizes, since they're built with the expectation that an average party will find them a challenge.


Carion Crown, if you want a tough AP go with that. Its fun and challenging and The Lopper is down right nasty at low levels.

Grand Lodge

Rise of the Runelords Defiantly has many TPK opportunities and many Nasty bosses. Very epic adventure as well.

I've heard Iron Gods can be rather difficult but have not played it as of yet.

Reign of Winter has some good difficulty to it.

3rd Party Rappan Athuk has really good reviews.

Silver Crusade

Age of worms is a meatgrinder


Fruian Thistlefoot wrote:

Rise of the Runelords Defiantly has many TPK opportunities and many Nasty bosses. Very epic adventure as well.

I've heard Iron Gods can be rather difficult but have not played it as of yet.

Reign of Winter has some good difficulty to it.

3rd Party Rappan Athuk has really good reviews.

While I heartily endorse RA, it's more of a sandbox-setting then an AP....but that also sounds like what your party is looking for. It *IS* tough.


Rappan Athuk things killing you is funny.

That said, I think most APs can be fairly challenging if there's a low point buy and the GM doesn't softball stuff. XD


I'd disagree about Carrion Crown, a party set up to take down undead will do just fine. Harrowstone is a tough adventure granted but outside of a few scattered encounters throughout the books it is nowhere near Age of Worms or Rappan Athuk. I'd imagine a non-mythic run of WoTR should be challenging.

That said from the OP's post the group would be better off with low point buy and maybe a few other changes to account for the skill of the players, # of the players etc.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The difficulty level for the "exploration" parts of Kingmaker tend to be "easier" than expected, because the PCs can "nova" with few restrictions and tend to involve a single creature; on the other hand, the sand-box nature can also let the PCs run into something too tough for their APL and lead to a TPK if they don't retreat. Some of the "set piece" dungeons can be a bit more challenging as well, because of the need to conserve resources for multiple encounters.

In general, APs are designed to be somewhat challenging to 4 moderately optimized PCs using 15-point buy. If the PCs are using higher point buy and/or at a higher level of optimization (including options in rulebooks published after the AP, if the GM doesn't adjust*), then things will be easier. Party composition will also play a huge part in difficulty level (i.e., cleric, inquisitor, and paladin in Carrion Crown or Wrath of the Righteous).

Serpent's Skull can be challenging, especially early on.

Shattered Star also has challenging parts (and some pretty epic moments, including one very interesting potential development).

As mentioned, the Dungeon magazine APs (Shackled City, Age of Worms, Savage Tide) were normally tougher. Mostly because of larger "dungeons" with a larger number of encounters.

*- Kingmaker was published before even the APG, IIRC.


What do 'you' mean when you say , "hard". That is a very subjective term.


Fruian Thistlefoot wrote:

Rise of the Runelords Defiantly has many TPK opportunities and many Nasty bosses. Very epic adventure as well.

I've heard Iron Gods can be rather difficult but have not played it as of yet.

Reign of Winter has some good difficulty to it.

3rd Party Rappan Athuk has really good reviews.

While there are a couple encounters that can be lethal, Rise of the Runelords up to book 4 has been pretty easy.

With so many low will save humanoids throughout the game there are just so many easy ways to beat most combat encounters.


Giantslayer.

My party has struggled throughout, and the GM has apologized for the high lethality. We're on book two and have 6 PC deaths so far, but my count may be wrong as there's literally been some characters who don't last a session. Some have been because of poor decision making on a PC's part, but we're routinely fighting CR+2 and CR+3 encounters, in rapid succession, back-to-back. Not to mention, at second level, you have swarms, incorporeal enemies, and diseases that can take a PC down pretty easily. We're a party with collectively 10+ years of playing, and moderately optimized characters (though GMs asked us to scale it back a bit, so we're not all ubermensch), and we all feel the pain.

I don't know how much of that is due to to GM adjustments, or by the book, but honestly, if you want a campaign that will up the ante combat wise, I think Giantslayer is a good place to start.


I second Age of Worms


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber

The way to make an adventure path "hard" is to keep the PCs well below the listed level for a given chapter.

In my RotRL game, the PCs were built on the basis of a 25-point buy, with two extra DM-distributed traits and they are just beginning to get Mythic powers (one PC has had Mythic since a near TPK facing Xanesha, the others are likely to graduate to Muthic tonight... if they survive).

So, how have I kept things challenging? They were for a long time one level below listed levels for each chapter, and more recently two levels below. I also liberally add in a few mooks here and there.

IMHO, it's best to avoid single-opponent fights, because even if they're really tough buggers, their actions don't stack up against a party of PCs, unless they have a bunch of lackeys to soak up some of the PCs actions.

The other thing that *really* changes challenge ratings is how you use terrain, environmental effects and tactics as a DM. I can only suggest you use it to the hilt - clever terrain and tactics always leads to more fun.

So IMO you should choose your AP based on how enthused you are for it thematically, and adjust things from there.


Going in the other direction, this thread has inspired me to create a thread about the smallest party that can complete an AP.


Age of Worms is really hard with quiet a few possible TPK's. <---- I would pick this one. You might need to do a few conversions or replace monsters which have not been brought over into PF, but it should be challenging.

Rappan Athuk expects for people to die. It is ultra hard.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
Proley wrote:

Giantslayer.

My party has struggled throughout, and the GM has apologized for the high lethality. We're on book two and have 6 PC deaths so far, but my count may be wrong as there's literally been some characters who don't last a session. Some have been because of poor decision making on a PC's part, but we're routinely fighting CR+2 and CR+3 encounters, in rapid succession, back-to-back. Not to mention, at second level, you have swarms, incorporeal enemies, and diseases that can take a PC down pretty easily. We're a party with collectively 10+ years of playing, and moderately optimized characters (though GMs asked us to scale it back a bit, so we're not all ubermensch), and we all feel the pain.

I don't know how much of that is due to to GM adjustments, or by the book, but honestly, if you want a campaign that will up the ante combat wise, I think Giantslayer is a good place to start.

Yep. GS is pretty lethal and properly run doesn't give that many chances to rest to the party which is usually why APs can be easy. Stretch the number of encounters per day and suddenly those uberoptimized characters built to vaporise anything in a single encounter seem a lot less appealing.

Liberty's Edge

Thanks for all the input. I will direct my GM to this thread, and let him decide. Not knowing what we are going to be in for should limit the change of a AP-targeted party. Also, reduction to 15 point buy seems like a fine option too. I will put it to him.


Rappan Athuk

Require all players to bring back up characters.


Fruian Thistlefoot wrote:

Rise of the Runelords Defiantly has many TPK opportunities and many Nasty bosses. Very epic adventure as well.

I've heard Iron Gods can be rather difficult but have not played it as of yet.

I have run RotRL twice, and there are definitely places that can lead to TPK if the DM runs them in a fashion that makes sense. (Such as having nearby rooms populated with bad guys who respond to sound of combat and come investigate, rather than sitting around waiting for the party to get to their room.)

I'm running book four of Iron Gods right now. I have actually only killed players twice, but characters go into negative HP in literally every session. I'm playing with a group who is probably an 8 on the optimization scale (10 highest). There are just some very angry monsters that show up in the course of the adventure path, and some very interesting and challenging environmental issues to deal with at the same time. Heck, in the very first book, there are monsters that effectively have DR 5/- and DR 10/- since nobody can afford Adamantium weapons at that level.


Rappan Athuk is not an AP though; it's an open world murder-fest. You wander around and stuff tries to obliterate you. You have to find or make the story.

I am currently a level 6 Master Summoner in RA. My party is strongly optimized PC's with mostly brand new players. We have had 2 PC deaths, dozens of Eidolon deaths and too many near misses to count.

The combats are consistently WAY over APL (CR 10 at level 3), with many being instant, irrefutable death if you even try to fight. Traps are brutal and instant kill. Encounters pretty much cheat. You will be starved for resources and need to run constantly. The NPC's are overpowered and at best will just rob you.

Make sure that's what your players want. I've had a lot of fun, but also a lot of frustration.

Grand Lodge

Saldiven wrote:
Fruian Thistlefoot wrote:

Rise of the Runelords Defiantly has many TPK opportunities and many Nasty bosses. Very epic adventure as well.

I've heard Iron Gods can be rather difficult but have not played it as of yet.

I have run RotRL twice, and there are definitely places that can lead to TPK if the DM runs them in a fashion that makes sense. (Such as having nearby rooms populated with bad guys who respond to sound of combat and come investigate, rather than sitting around waiting for the party to get to their room.).

Creatures Get passive Perception checks to hear the sound of Combat. I agree. Sometimes the first fight sparks a loud noise that draws half the dungeon down on you. (further away means longer to get there) but sometimes it is wave after wave of rooms that catch noise of a fight going on. Sometimes those other rooms alert others to your presence and send a place into "Lock down".

If your a group that plays Room by room where each room seems oblivious to noise then any AP is much easier.

I sure did enjoy RotRL both times I played it. Each run there were a few deaths. The first run through group TPKed on Final Boss fight. Second time through there was 3 PC deaths, 1 of 3 Resurrection, and We completed the story and downed the boss to save the world.

I personally love 15pb-20pb (or Elite NPC stats), Full HP 1st level, and Average every level after, and Automatic Progression Bonus. Of Course the DM has to adjust the loot drops but it is not hard. I feel like the characters stay in line power up wise with what the game assumes.


Council of Thieves is pretty easy...
Unless your players are the type who want to brave the night at lower lvls...
Then they are mulch.
Also just started DMing Rappan Athak and I've already put two names in the 12 page obituary from one session: Squee!!!! ;P


@ Kuro,

Yes, our DM too loves the obituary.


Gevaudan wrote:
The combats are consistently WAY over APL (CR 10 at level 3), with many being instant, irrefutable death if you even try to fight. Traps are brutal and instant kill. Encounters pretty much cheat. You will be starved for resources and need to run constantly. The NPC's are overpowered and at best will just rob you.

In a 9th level party I am one of two players that still has their original character.

The barbarian has been raised 4 times, I have yet to die.

I enjoy the challenge of playing a character that can adapt to nearly any challenge, including running when necessary.

But, yea, a CR10 at 3rd level was brutal. If it had not been for my Grease spell and lots alchemist fire we'd have lost more than one party member.


I've tried running Rappan Athuk. It is very lethal, killing off at least 2+(?) characters through traps or just difficult encounters. One party I ran through managed to avoid any deaths, though they managed to get a lucky teleport crystal by rolling randomly on the the Wayfinder table, which saved them a lot.

It gets more and more difficult as time goes on, and you need to make sure that your group is ready for a grindy and difficult combat-heavy megadungeon which they may not complete. It can easily take a year to finish (my playgroups never even made it to the first major objective.)


Playing Carrion Crown right now. Just started book 3. Just to be upfront our GM is doubling the number of mobs in all encounters except for bosses. Bosses get double minions or more but not doubles of themselves. Also, I am thoroughly enjoying myself and our GM is doing a great job, this is just my honest take away.

Haunting of Harrowstone was difficult only in the "Final Encounter" and one other for the party I play with. Now our party is rather optimized, with 20 PB, and 5 players. Party is Cleric of Erastil, Destined Primalist Bloodrager with bloodline Bodyguard Familiar, Arcanist with Valet Familiar, Archer Bard, and Dervish Dance shocking Grasp magus.

Haunting of Harrowstone spoiler:
The two times we had an issue were with the splatterman, he is rough, and when we triggered both the fake priest and the skull fragment ghost at the same time. This meant that 3/5 PC's were CC'ed the entire fight leaving no healing or positive energy available.

Fun still no complaints but those were the only fights that felt "dangerous". We finished the entire first book in 6 days game time, and that is with us taking 2 days of downtime. We used the remaining 24 days to craft and I think it helped us.

Now I did get the feeling that in quite a few encounters if we had been less optimized and played with worse tactics we would have been in trouble.

The Trial of the Beast was substantially easier. Only two encounters were difficult and one was due to poor play on my part.

Trial of the Beast spoiler:
The courtroom scenes were easy due to me being at +22 diplomacy before rolls. The travel issue became a non-issue when we just paid for wind-walks.

We used restoration dust and a reincarnate to get Elsa back. My buddy rolled a 00 for race and the GM got a funny look and said "Screw it, she's an aasimar!" Walking her into court was fun.

Basically the only rough part was Fighting Volstag and Grimes, but we just locked them down with web and waited out most of their buffs.

The encounter in their basement with the monk juju zombies was rough, only due to the fact that I was dumb enough to wade out into the pool to try to ID/retrieve corpses to see if I could give them proper burial. Forgot to have Deathwatch on.

After that the Innocent verdict was pretty much a cakewalk.

The count's castle we did a few encounters, hit the air elemental and then said "Screw it' and flew to the last tower skipping quite a bit.

Honestly I hated the final encounter as I felt like it was "Yeah watch two NPC's fight! Yeah go cheer squad." Totaled up our parties damage and we did less that 20 points total, the Beast did the rest.

I think the crafted items we had enabled some of the tactics above due to more cash being available.

Broken Moon Spoiler:
The travel encounters were pretty easy, except the two worm things that come last. That was an encounter that I felt if we had played even slightly differently would have gone badly.

We managed to track the werewolves in the forest and catch them. I expect there will be some playing of the "who's the werewolf" game but we came prepared, Nose Ring of Awesome. We clubbed up and crafted that after our inquiries told us what usually lived around the lodge.

So I do not know how book three will turn out but we will see.

So far from what i have seen I will say that if your party is less optimized and played less like seal team six, clearing room to room, making 10 minute/level buffs last all dungeon, etc..., then you might have a rough time.

I would call it a solid adventure path and say if you want something difficult, but not quite the RA or AoW meat grinder it might hit the spot.

If you play with extremely highly optimized people then it will need some tweaking.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I've had a run at Carrion Crown twice (the first time we only made it about midway through book 2 due to some people dropping out of the game). The first time we had a cleric in the party; this time we do not. It's significantly easier with a cleric. If you don't have a good way to damage incorporeal opponents, you're going to have a tough time in Haunting of Harrowstone.

Most of the APs will need some tweaking if you want an extremely difficult path and have a very optimized party, since they're designed to allow the average party to get through them.

Make sure to clarify with the group whether they just want an adventure that's more on the challenging end, or if they're aiming for an ultra-death, bring-two-backup-characters type of experience. Some players will like the latter, others will absolutely hate it.

Grand Lodge

I played CC.

First book was good.

I then got into a new group at book 4. Came in on a 20pb, standard wealth, and free feat taxes.

Soloed an entire dungeon @ level 9 and only took 7 damage...willingly by jumping 20ft down onto a bosses head. Could have soloed much of the rest of the AP with the other 3 members bored walking behind the 1 man bloodraging army built to slaughter undead and anything with Spells or SLAs. We started to do book 5 and after just wrecking the fights and being bored of the story we started a different AP and banned me from playing Bloodragers with this group.

I felt book 1 was the best in CC. The story became pretty poor afterwards. I feel it was half a disappointment and if ran stock is not much of a challenge to any form of Semi optimum characters.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Razor Coast by Frog God Games.

Actually, most of what Frog God puts out is challenging and well-written.

Hmm


Snowlilly wrote:


In a 9th level party I am one of two players that still has their original character.

The barbarian has been raised 4 times, I have yet to die.

I enjoy the challenge of playing a character that can adapt to nearly any challenge, including running when necessary.

But, yea, a CR10 at 3rd level was brutal. If it had not been for my Grease spell and lots alchemist fire we'd have lost more than one party member.

@ snowlily, what class are you running? My Master Summoner counts for one of our deaths, raised, after he sacrificed himself to save two other party members.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Reign of Winter... if people don't have the ability to consistently do fire damage and cold resistance.

Giantslayer without reach weapons, enchantment spells, or alchemists. (Seriously that first book is crazy hard if your DM doesn't fudge things)

Carrion Crown without someone doing consistent positive energy damage / casting death ward?

Mummy's Mask because... traps.

Skull and Shackles where no one has a swim check?

I ran Rappan Athuk back in the old 3rd edition days but I was honestly just being a sadist. It was honestly the closest I've ever gotten to playing 1st edition... with the whole make a new character twice a session thing.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Paizo APs are designed for a 4-PC party using 15-point buy, for players of average ability.

The people who complain about APs being "too easy" are usually by GMs who have 5-6 PCs in the party, and/or allowed 20- or 25-point buy, and/or have very experienced players, and who didn't make any changes to what was written.

If you want a challenging play experience, keep the PCs to a 4-person team, and have them build with a 10-point buy. For extra challenge, restrict allowed books to Core Rulebook plus Character Traits Web Enhancement.


Haladir wrote:

Paizo APs are designed for a 4-PC party using 15-point buy, for players of average ability.

The people who complain about APs being "too easy" are usually by GMs who have 5-6 PCs in the party, and/or allowed 20- or 25-point buy, and/or have very experienced players, and who didn't make any changes to what was written.

If you want a challenging play experience, keep the PCs to a 4-person team, and have them build with a 10-point buy. For extra challenge, restrict allowed books to Core Rulebook plus Character Traits Web Enhancement.

If you change things you can make it harder, but as written the AP's not hard for experienced players, even with 4 man, 15 point buy builds.

It's not really a complaint from the way I see it, just an observation.

PS: I do agree that for better players you may need to change things especially if they are mudstomping the AP.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

I totally agree, Haladir. I'm one of those GMs that has 6 PCs with 25-point builds. However, I definitely change things to make them sweat a bit. Our Saturday GS campaign typically results in at least a couple negative HP encounters every week - but I work to make sure they aren't dying (our group prefers it that way). I've actually had to scale back since the 6th PC hasn't been able to be here for various reasons.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder Adventure Path / General Discussion / Recommendations for hard adventure paths? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.