Return of the Runelords


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logic_poet wrote:
Marco Massoudi wrote:

It's only a Player Companion (although it's one of the best together with People of the River imo) and more aimed at PCs than GMs.

And 32 pages are not enough to cover everything relevant in Golarions most fleshed-out land. ;-)
I was bummed that the Varisia pdf doesn't have the center map as all one page in its own pdf, like People of the River. The only real flaw in that product, IMO. The ribbon art of the big three cities was a nice touch.

I think that may have been due to the fact that the large Varisia map was included in the Shattered Star Map Folio at the time. As far as I can tell, the nifty map in People of the River has yet to be presented in a map folio.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Had a thought recently. This is the second of the PFAPs to hit 20th level, and Wrath of the Righteous was more focused on the Abyss and demons and their influence on Golarion than more Golarion-based threats. So now, Return of the Runelords comes along, and we have a chance to hit what I believe is the final monster from Bestiary 1 that hasn't had an appearance in any Paizo product yet.

RELEASE THE TARRASQUE!!!


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Elegos wrote:
Sorshen can't come back as a clone cause one of my players walked off with her clone body. Best bit of shattered star.

Is she allowed to have only one?


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Sub-Creator wrote:
Elegos wrote:
Sorshen can't come back as a clone cause one of my players walked off with her clone body. Best bit of shattered star.
Is she allowed to have only one?

Came here to say that. Thank you.


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She probably has far more than one clone, and I'd wager at least three survived to the events of Shattered Star. If Xanderghul liked her enough maybe they became partners-in-crime as it were ... I doubt it, but they are capable to doing 'entertaining' things to each other's minds.


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Okay that's true. Hey if you have more then one clone set up how does the universe decide which one you inhabit?

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
Elegos wrote:
Okay that's true. Hey if you have more then one clone set up how does the universe decide which one you inhabit?

Ask Manshoon.


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Kalindlara wrote:
Elegos wrote:
Okay that's true. Hey if you have more then one clone set up how does the universe decide which one you inhabit?
Ask Manshoon.

An all clone Manshoon Sorshen Wars would be a good plotline in the AP (although Jacobsaurus would avoid it precisely because the plotline has been used before).

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Ambrosia Slaad wrote:
Kalindlara wrote:
Elegos wrote:
Okay that's true. Hey if you have more then one clone set up how does the universe decide which one you inhabit?
Ask Manshoon.
An all clone Manshoon Sorshen Wars would be a good plotline in the AP (although Jacobsaurus would avoid it precisely because the plotline has been used before).

That would be an interesting way to play the AP though, the PCs are tied together cause they went f*#*ing around in ancient Thassilonian ruins where they weren't supposed to, so now they all meet up at a Sorshen clone support group.


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It'd be neat if a Sorshen clone awoke in the Starfinder era.


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The Pact Worlds would have their secret weapon against the Azlanti Star Empire.


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As for the question of which of multiple clones become active, might I suggest oldest clone first?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Sub-Creator wrote:
Elegos wrote:
Sorshen can't come back as a clone cause one of my players walked off with her clone body. Best bit of shattered star.
Is she allowed to have only one?

Spoilers for Shattered Star:

Curse of the Lady's Light specifically says that the clone encountered in that module is but one of many that are scattered throughout her former realm. In an unrelated adventure in my semi-homebrew campaign "Champions of Old Korvosa" (set in the year 4704, before King Eodred II met Ileosa), my PCs found a very similar clone in a crypt below the city of Korvosa... and the (male) half-orc rogue ended up in that clone body for the rest of the campaign!


What to do with those pesky, high level ex-PCs?

Any one here recall the Vecna Lives! intro? =)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Nomad Sage wrote:

What to do with those pesky, high level ex-PCs?

Any one here recall the Vecna Lives! intro? =)

I certainly do. One of my least favorite intros to an adventure ever, in fact, so rest assured I'm not gonna start Return that way.

Silver Crusade

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James Jacobs wrote:
Nomad Sage wrote:

What to do with those pesky, high level ex-PCs?

Any one here recall the Vecna Lives! intro? =)

I certainly do. One of my least favorite intros to an adventure ever, in fact, so rest assured I'm not gonna start Return that way.

Thank you!

Dark Archive

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Running Crimson Throne is kinda upping my hype levels for this even though I know its not plot wise relevant .-. I'm just so curious about what callbacks to it might shown up. Like, Kusasfa, Sorshen's first cohort mentioned in one room's info text, thats something that sounds like good cool callback or maybe it never will get mentioned because undead guy has been perma death since Earthfall or something xD Speculation in my mind is killing me

Anyhoo, what happened in "Vecna Lives!"? I mean, it sounds like you guys are implying they killed off previous PC character, but would even classic D&D has that type of evil unfairness? ._.

Silver Crusade

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Yes.

Dark Archive

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Huh. Well good thing return won't start that way then ._.;

(is this one of those "Oh Vecna is classic D&D writer's pet bbeg" sort of deals? Because seriously, thats some ridiculous unfairness)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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"Vecna Lives" began

Spoiler:
with the players playing famous NPCs from the Greyhawk setting, including Mordenkainen, Bigby, Rary, Otiluke, Otto, etc. All the big wizards of the setting. And then it arbitrarily killed them off in what amounted to read-aloud text.

From a story perspective, killing off the world's most famous wizards in one fell swoop accomplished two things.

1) It set up a power vacuum in which a newly emerging wizard threat (Vecna) could be relatively unopposed by existing power structures in the form of NPC wizards, and...

2) It set up a sense of horror and "anything goes" in the player's minds. If the Circle of Eight could be killed so easily and quickly, then the threat facing the world is REAL and one that the gloves are off for and that imposes a very real possibility of failure.

Anyway, after the arbitrary killing off of the famous NPCs, the actual adventure started with the players starting with their own PCs and then they play from there.

But while I understand the story reasons for setting up things they way they did, this remains a classic example of how many tropes that can be used to great effect in traditional fiction and storytelling (AKA non-interactive storytelling) are completely the wrong choice for interactive storytelling like an RPG. It destroys the bond of trust between player and GM, and that's something that, alas, for many games, is already a tenuous bond to begin with.

Imagine how that'd go over if instead of famous NPCs being arbitrarily killed off while under player control it instead happened to previous and much-beloved PCs? No thanks!

Dark Archive

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Ah ._. Thank you for explanation!

(On side note, I think that opening also falls flat if player is newbie who doesn't know who any of those guys are <_< I mean I think I've heard of Mordenkainen and Bigby but otherwise I have no clue who any of them are)


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James Jacobs wrote:
"Vecna Lives" began ** spoiler omitted **

Not to mention completely violating how the spell

Spoiler:
time stop actually worked, even in 1st/2nd Ed.

Granted, this was a time when "DM-fiat" and "don't let the rules get in the way of the narrative" were still leading paradigms; even to the point of removing player agency in a lot of cases. However, despite the opening and some other troublesome parts, it was still a fairly decent adventure; not great, but better than many that were published at the time.


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CorvusMask wrote:

Ah ._. Thank you for explanation!

(On side note, I think that opening also falls flat if player is newbie who doesn't know who any of those guys are <_< I mean I think I've heard of Mordenkainen and Bigby but otherwise I have no clue who any of them are)

Many of the "legendary" wizards (magic-users/mages in 1st/2nd Ed.) of the Greyhawk setting; in several cases, they were originally PCs from Gary Gygax's OD&D/1st Ed home games. Inventors of many of the "named" spells; the names were removed (TSR/WotC intellectual property) in Pathfinder.


I do think that setup could have maybe worked if, instead of being the NPC's about to get heavily murderized, you were playing as hirelings, or allies etc of the walking dead guys. Essentially, have the wizards taking on the big bad in a fight while you guys are fighting off small minions. When the battle against Vecna goes bad, the last survivor uses a spell to teleport the party away...just before Vecna disintegrates him.

That might be a better way of handling that, rather then it being just a case of untrustworthy GM.

Not to say you should do that to peoples old PC's in Return of the Runelords, of course.

Grand Lodge

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Only problem with killing off old pc's would be that it would be impossible to account for the contingencies of the other parties. For example many parties will have clones stashed away just incase.


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To my recollection, Vecna Lives came out at the end of the 2nd Edition era, at about the same time as the Apocalypse Stone. TSR wanted to give DMs a chance to end the old campaigns prior to the rollout of 3rd Edition. A crude way of "wiping the slate clean."

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
John Napier 698 wrote:
To my recollection, Vecna Lives came out at the end of the 2nd Edition era, at about the same time as the Apocalypse Stone. TSR wanted to give DMs a chance to end the old campaigns prior to the rollout of 3rd Edition. A crude way of "wiping the slate clean."

I've long suspected that Elder Evils, one of my absolute favorite 3.5 books, filled a similar role for that edition.


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Yeah, it totally was.

They also published, "Ways to End your Campaign" on the website - it was pretty much filled with advice the boiled down to, "Make sure everyone dies. The game world is ending, after all!" (though it allowed for a few victories, those were suggested to be kind of hollow.

Silver Crusade

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Kalindlara wrote:
John Napier 698 wrote:
To my recollection, Vecna Lives came out at the end of the 2nd Edition era, at about the same time as the Apocalypse Stone. TSR wanted to give DMs a chance to end the old campaigns prior to the rollout of 3rd Edition. A crude way of "wiping the slate clean."
I've long suspected that Elder Evils, one of my absolute favorite 3.5 books, filled a similar role for that edition.

O.o

That actually explains a lot (I also love Elder Evils).

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
John Napier 698 wrote:
To my recollection, Vecna Lives came out at the end of the 2nd Edition era, at about the same time as the Apocalypse Stone. TSR wanted to give DMs a chance to end the old campaigns prior to the rollout of 3rd Edition. A crude way of "wiping the slate clean."

I believe you're thinking of Die, Vecna, Die!, which traversed the Greyhawk, Ravenloft, and Planescape lines in order to provide a suitable end to the 2E era. Vecna Lives! and Vecna Reborn, two other published Vecna mods, are referenced in that adventure, and there was a point I was planning on running a mega Vecnaventure to combine the three.


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You're right. But while the exact details may be fuzzy from that time, my point still stands. Even a prequel to the end is still the end.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Dragonchess Player wrote:
CorvusMask wrote:

Ah ._. Thank you for explanation!

(On side note, I think that opening also falls flat if player is newbie who doesn't know who any of those guys are <_< I mean I think I've heard of Mordenkainen and Bigby but otherwise I have no clue who any of them are)

Many of the "legendary" wizards (magic-users/mages in 1st/2nd Ed.) of the Greyhawk setting; in several cases, they were originally PCs from Gary Gygax's OD&D/1st Ed home games. Inventors of many of the "named" spells; the names were removed (TSR/WotC intellectual property) in Pathfinder.

More to the point, at the time the adventure was published, the names of those wizards WAS well-known sine many of the spells in the Player's Handbook had their names in front of them, be it Mordenkainen's Disjunction or Otto's Irresistable Dance or Otilukes Freezing Sphere or Bigby's Crushing Hand...

I do miss that level of world influence on the rules, to be honest.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Rysky wrote:
Kalindlara wrote:
John Napier 698 wrote:
To my recollection, Vecna Lives came out at the end of the 2nd Edition era, at about the same time as the Apocalypse Stone. TSR wanted to give DMs a chance to end the old campaigns prior to the rollout of 3rd Edition. A crude way of "wiping the slate clean."
I've long suspected that Elder Evils, one of my absolute favorite 3.5 books, filled a similar role for that edition.

O.o

That actually explains a lot (I also love Elder Evils).

Having been part of the team that wrote that book, I can confirm that was indeed part of the goal of the book; to provide a capstone adventure for a campaign before moving on to the next game, although if I remember correctly at the time, I (and the others) maybe didn't know the edition change was coming. Maybe we did. It was ages ago.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
I do miss that level of world influence on the rules, to be honest.

Same here.


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CorvusMask wrote:

Ah ._. Thank you for explanation!

(On side note, I think that opening also falls flat if player is newbie who doesn't know who any of those guys are <_< I mean I think I've heard of Mordenkainen and Bigby but otherwise I have no clue who any of them are)

There is not a direct comparison in Pathfinder universe, as there is not a circle of "good guys" high level wizards, but imagine you start the adventure playing the role of, say, Jatembe, Baba Yaga, Gex, and the Runelords (except they are not villains), then they get

spoiler of vecna's:
killed narratively, with no option to win


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Vecna Lives! came out in 1990, when 2nd edition was still pretty shiny new, and nearly a decade before 3rd edition (and any 'edition transition' apocalypses) came out.

The VL intro is ridiculously heavy handed, but I guess the sadistic Call of Cthulhu side of me liked the way it set the tone. Recall that the 90s were the height of the 'storytelling' wave, so at the time, so it didn't seem too crazy to run. Certainly wouldn't fly nowadays, or if it were actual players' beloved PCs...

The parallels are there though between Vecna/Greyhawk and Runelords/Golarion... uber-powerful wizard from the past comes back and needs to clear the way for his rise to power. Need to make sure the powers-that-be don't get involved before its too late to stop! Outright killing isn't necessary -- and given the near-immortality of PF/3.5 high level PCs, nearly impossible without DM handwaving -- but could be done with convincing distraction (red herring, etc), trapping them outside the time/space continuum (pretty much handwaving), or the old 'problem is beneath our notice until its too late' excuse most major villains use (kinda lame).

What other parallels are there? Fistandantalus/Dragonlance basically possessed Raistlin. Still kinda fuzzy on that, to be honest. But there's an option: Runelords co-opt old PCs >> old PCs become the villains (until the new PCs can find a way to release them...)

Silver Crusade

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James Jacobs wrote:
Rysky wrote:
Kalindlara wrote:
John Napier 698 wrote:
To my recollection, Vecna Lives came out at the end of the 2nd Edition era, at about the same time as the Apocalypse Stone. TSR wanted to give DMs a chance to end the old campaigns prior to the rollout of 3rd Edition. A crude way of "wiping the slate clean."
I've long suspected that Elder Evils, one of my absolute favorite 3.5 books, filled a similar role for that edition.

O.o

That actually explains a lot (I also love Elder Evils).

Having been part of the team that wrote that book, I can confirm that was indeed part of the goal of the book; to provide a capstone adventure for a campaign before moving on to the next game, although if I remember correctly at the time, I (and the others) maybe didn't know the edition change was coming. Maybe we did. It was ages ago.

Either way, Thankies for that book ^w^

Silver Crusade

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Kalindlara wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
I do miss that level of world influence on the rules, to be honest.
Same here.

Stylized was nice, and it made the spells stand out more.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

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I ran a Vecna Lives-style scenario once for a superhero game to good effect, but it's worth noting that the old PCs were all incapacitated and captured off-screen, so the game began with the PCs knowing they were creating a new team to rescue the old guard. (Also a major difference between this and Vecna Lives - the old PCs were held prisoner, not killed.)

Regardless, what made the session work well was the fact that the PCs didn't have the firepower to beat the big bad, but they clued in on targeting the prison holding the old group. That made for a nice moment of triumph when the two groups joined forces to do what one alone couldn't.

No idea how the old PCs might affect the plot of Return of the Runelords, but I can imagine a lot of groups getting a kick out of creating a Justice League from their old heroes, even if only for a scene or two.


Charlie Brooks wrote:
No idea how the old PCs might affect the plot of Return of the Runelords, but I can imagine a lot of groups getting a kick out of creating a Justice League from their old heroes, even if only for a scene or two.

Consdiering that RotR's opening was of accidental heroes who just happened to be in the right place at the right (or wrong?) time, some of those PC's may just say, "Don't bother me, kid. I'm retired." :)


John Mechalas wrote:
Charlie Brooks wrote:
No idea how the old PCs might affect the plot of Return of the Runelords, but I can imagine a lot of groups getting a kick out of creating a Justice League from their old heroes, even if only for a scene or two.
Consdiering that RotR's opening was of accidental heroes who just happened to be in the right place at the right (or wrong?) time, some of those PC's may just say, "Don't bother me, kid. I'm retired." :)

Mine'd be more along the lines of: "Finally gonna cook some runelord pie!" ;)


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The Mad Comrade wrote:
Mine'd be more along the lines of: "Finally gonna cook some runelord pie!" ;)

Our RotR party had some from column A and some from column B. My fighter ended up with the Mark of Wrath and the Mark of Greed. He'd view this as a chance to collect all seven. ;)

Dark Archive

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Tacticslion wrote:

Yeah, it totally was.

They also published, "Ways to End your Campaign" on the website - it was pretty much filled with advice the boiled down to, "Make sure everyone dies. The game world is ending, after all!" (though it allowed for a few victories, those were suggested to be kind of hollow.

I have to say, I'm bit confused by "...So wait, why does campaign need to end with either npc cast dying or world ending? Isn't end of the campaign just end of the story" ._.

Anyhoo, wohoo Elder Evil fans : D Thats one of rare classic D&D books I have actually read and I feel like its pretty unappreciated

Grand Lodge

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I hope they'll be the option for the start of the AP to have an old pc being the reason for calling the PC's together. I know my old wizard would be using the gold from RiseotR to send adventurers all over Varina to dig up signs of the other Runelords.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Balancer wrote:
I hope they'll be the option for the start of the AP to have an old pc being the reason for calling the PC's together. I know my old wizard would be using the gold from RiseotR to send adventurers all over Varina to dig up signs of the other Runelords.

There won't be; that's not the plan. Of course, a GM can change things as needed, but having a 17th level character be in the mix from the very start like that breaks the verisimilitude of why a group of 1st level characters would be the ones going on the adventure in the first place.


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James Jacobs wrote:
Balancer wrote:
I hope they'll be the option for the start of the AP to have an old pc being the reason for calling the PC's together. I know my old wizard would be using the gold from RiseotR to send adventurers all over Varina to dig up signs of the other Runelords.
There won't be; that's not the plan. Of course, a GM can change things as needed, but having a 17th level character be in the mix from the very start like that breaks the verisimilitude of why a group of 1st level characters would be the ones going on the adventure in the first place.

Depending on the sidebars and story elements that are GM-eyes-only, and pending advice on waiting to acquire the entirety of the AP before running in such circumstances, I don't believe that it will be as difficult as it seems. *grin*

Dark Archive

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Ye, level 18th(at least thats how my party ended up in even before final boss due to doing everything they could get exp from. and thats before I gave them one mythic tier after final boss) party doesn't really need level 1 party to save the world <_< Its kind of why I started to make plans for "Ok, how to get Valdemar PC out of Magnimar for events of Shattered Star..." Besides at that point players would probably wonder why they aren't just playing the old characters

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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The Mad Comrade wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Balancer wrote:
I hope they'll be the option for the start of the AP to have an old pc being the reason for calling the PC's together. I know my old wizard would be using the gold from RiseotR to send adventurers all over Varina to dig up signs of the other Runelords.
There won't be; that's not the plan. Of course, a GM can change things as needed, but having a 17th level character be in the mix from the very start like that breaks the verisimilitude of why a group of 1st level characters would be the ones going on the adventure in the first place.
Depending on the sidebars and story elements that are GM-eyes-only, and pending advice on waiting to acquire the entirety of the AP before running in such circumstances, I don't believe that it will be as difficult as it seems. *grin*

Maybe not for your group. That's the advantage a GM has over me. She/He knows the players and knows what will and won't work when it comes to potentially upstaging PCs with powerful NPC allies.

Dark Archive

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So being excited again and started to wonder if we are finally going to visit the other "Xin-" capitals of other Thassilonian realms, but then realized I'm not really sure were they are detailed.

Like, umm, ok so Hollow Mountain is Xin-Bakrahkan so its detailed in hollow mountain comic bonus articles and Dungeons of Golarion, Xin-Gastash is in Hold of Belkzen campaign setting book I think, Korvosa is on top of ruins of Sorshen's capital I think, but I have no clue about Krune(I know hes dead, but not sure if his city was ever visited in pfs), Belimarius' or Xanderghul's capitals <_< So umm, yeah, in which book are they detailed further than what is stated in Lost Kingdoms? I wanna buy all even tangentially Thassilon detailed material and read them before Returns :D


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Nomad Sage wrote:
Vecna Lives! came out in 1990, when 2nd edition was still pretty shiny new, and nearly a decade before 3rd edition (and any 'edition transition' apocalypses) came out.

But right in time to clear the board for TSR's hard pivot away from Greyhawk and toward Forgotten Realms as their "default" setting.

Not every apocalypse was rules-based.

One burden I'm glad Paizo doesn't labor under that WotC does- trying to figure out which campaign setting they think should form the baseline, and then shoehorning in justifications for new rules elements like trying to wallpaper over a major structural change and act like it's invisible.

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