Disappointed somehow

Ruins of Azlant

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Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I've started reading into this AP now, since my players voted this as their top choice to follow up on our now finished Iron Gods campaign. Although I was optimistic at first about the AP, after reading the first two parts, I'm now rather sceptical. I actually feel disappointed with these adventures.

All in all the adventures seem somehow... lackluster to me; there's nothing that really stands out, nothing fancy that gets me thinking, "oh yes, I'd like to see that played out". The encounters are all fairly standard, nothing really exciting so far. The Stepford colonist plot doesn't really catch me either, and I wouldn't really be looking forward to have to GM that.

Then, there's this one little speck of an island amid a large number of such islands that are scattered over the ocean where still a lot of unconnected evil plots (e.g. Ochymua and Onthooth, Helekhterie, and the sakhil, which really has nothing to do with anything) are afoot which seems awfully convenient. Some of them, such as the gillman colony and adjacent areas or the bleeding forest in part two are not only unconnected to anything else, there's not even really a motivation for the PCs to go there except to earn a "Completist" achievement.

The island is also rather sandboxy. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but as it is designed it can lead to overlap between the adventures, i.e. while there is nothing nudging the PCs to go to certain encounters in part two, there is also nothing warning them not to explore the entire island earlier in part one and unwittingly get into encounters above their paygrade. Besides that, I feel, in general, PC motivation is low except by letting themselves get ordered around by Rowena.

I don't know, am I missing something here? I'm not even really motivated to read any further parts at the moment. What do others think about these adventures? What excites you about them?

I've only skimmed the first book, so I can't really comment on the exact details, but to me it sounds the APs theme simply isn't something that resonates with you. Which is fine. I stayed away from other APs for that very reason.

But that being said: if your players read the Players Guide, their characters should already be motivated. That guide tells them they are supposed to be the guys that help a colony thrive, so any potential threat or trading partner near to the new colony is automatically connected to the story. Discussing plans with the NPCs should be something that comes naturally as well, so it is always possible to guide them in the right direction.

Personally I actually like the exploration aspect and look forward to learn more about cultures that haven't already been heavily featured in the past.

1. Exploration and establishment of a colony
2. Azlant! Golarion's other ancient history
3. Crazy new race encounters
4. Underwater mayhem

If #1 isn't an exciting theme, then yes you will struggle.

Getting into the mindset of someone starting a colony, trying to figure out what happened to the previous colonists, being the overall "protectors", and excited history buffs about the earliest humans on Golarion is what should drive the PCs early on.

At first, they may need hints that their immediate goal is "what the heck happened" and not full island exploration because if they stray too far, they are potentially leaving the colony without their defense.

You can easily lead them to the right areas anyway because they should have no idea what the island looks like - don't give them the overhead map! They can make survival checks to explore and you can put whatever you want in front of them. They should eventually see the tall tower, or hear about it from the two statue-things.

That being said, if they are determined to explore, you can let them wander into too high of an encounter - hopefully they realize it and run. That is how this game used to be played; you didn't always get "level appropriate encounters".

Finally, and most importantly, you should NOT run an AP that you aren't interested in, even if that is what your players want. You will not enjoy it and consequently they won't either. Work together and pick something else you are all interested in.

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Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

It's not the theme that is my problem—in fact I like all of your bullet points—it's the execution.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Key to an AP like this is the gazetteer. If you like the settlement, if you like the NPCs there, that's what will make or break RoA. Just like for Mummy's Mask it's not about the tombs, it's about whether Wati comes alive for you. As the DM, I assume you've read the gazetteer, and the NPCs didn't really grab you or inspire you. With a group that's so excited to play this particular AP, but a DM who's not inspired by the settlement and the personalities, I guess my top advice would be: find a settlement you like and transplant it here. If you liked Wati in Mummy's Mask, take NPCs and personalities from there and have them be part of the colonists. Bring the Kaijitsus from Sandpoint if you like them. Take any NPCs that you've liked across all of Golarion and make it so that they decided to enlist on this expedition. That's the biggest way I can think of to make the AP more interesting to you.

I ended up buying some of the books of this adventure, not because I intend to run it but because I can mine it and graft it in home games. And the art, which is fantastic - 100% rating to the presentation artists/editors. I have books 3-5 and have read a bit of 1&2, which are perhaps the ones that attempt something different.

The flow, writing and adventure itself is good enough for a standard adventure.
However in bringing the players a taste of the genres it is supposed to represent this adventure is lackluster and disappointing, I find. It only initially exotic because it happens in a different environment and the stat blocks say "merfolk" instead of "any-other-race". You could drain this adventure of water and call things hobgoblins, throw it the high mountains and it would play exactly the same (and also play the same as a bunch of other already published adventures). I think this is a squandered opportunity and not a success. Perhaps I was expecting something else, like many others it seems. A larger exploration component, some interesting portrayal of the indiana jones and colonisation genres.

In short, this ended up as a A->B->C adventure in which the only exotic part is the wonderful art and the name of the stat blocks, otherwise it plays out like a dungeon crawl.

    What I liked seeing: (spoilers from here on)

  • Beautiful, evocative art. Top marks in that, it's what has made me buy it in physical format.
  • Mordant Spire elves and their obtuse mentality.
  • Alternating between water and land. Good mix, as I said before I wish the water parts were more ingrained and a living part of this world rather than "i get freedom of movement/water breathing/swim speed" and forget about it, rather than build on it.
  • The ruins of Azlant, they are well done (despite them being know to the whole world except for your ignorant behind, that is) great environs.
  • The theatre itself, islands, ruins, a couple factions here and there...the setting is good and thought out.
  • Aboleths and their manipulations.

    What I'd like to have seen:

  • Different interest parties vying for resources/treasure/land.
  • Such factions in stand offs with varying outcomes (lets see..PotC stranger tides last scenes? even PotC manages to do it).
  • Tying the party more to constant presence NPCs to bring a sensation of "it's really only us out here away from home".
  • Cleverer use of water. They played it very safe with water parts, and I understand it to not impeed sales to people who dont like water, but it ends up as being an ignorable prop.
  • Less static world. It feels very linear. Everyone is waiting for the PCs to arrive for them to run the scripted lines. This is a necessity of adventure writing. Good adventures make it seem like it isnt the case though and here it's very obvious.
  • More sandbox elements. This is absolutely subjective, of course, but if you are going to do colonisation/exploration AP and then get on the story train many people will get disappointed.
  • An alien world beneath the waves. The cities and environs are too relatable. Something that works in a way that you have to think outside of the box to really elicit that you are in somewhere that isnt your civilisation anymore.

    What I didnt like seeing:

  • Bad guys, which are very archetypical bad, go from badder to worser: a tier of bad people in a chain of command.
  • Weak plot moving elements under scrutiny (like discussed in another thread, a murdered body with a note and a name, The evil genocidal campaign that expands 0.3 yards every 200 years.
  • Complete invalidation of the unknown/what lies in the depths (from books 3-5 at least). A light is shed at everything, throwing mysteriousness of the unexplored out of the window. No huge behemoth shapes in the depths when they travel through the seafloor, no moments where the threat of getting lost makes the players wonder. Everything is very clear cut, defined. One of the most powerful evocative tools in media is the unexplained, hints at something, morsels of information. When you swim on the surface and look down into the depths of the sea, the rays of sunlight penetrating until they are lost in an obsidian world, the sense of danger and wonder mix that races firing our instincts?
  • Main underwater city could have been any city anywhere with the same exact problems and story hooks we've seen a bunch of times and the same resolution.
  • Way too populated with standard stuff. Everyone's been there before, everyone's already recorded, organised and filed everything in. Nothing left for you but second hand dregs. The alabaster tower? Lich dude's got the CAT file. City beneath the waves? Obvious ruling structure and standard black market. Definitely not feeling like I'm discovering anything here.

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