Whats the hardest AP to DM?


Pathfinder Adventure Path General Discussion


I would guess Wrath Of The Righteous since it uses the mythic rules which adds a whole new layer of complexity.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

YMMV depending on the GM. Some are excel at dungeon crawls, others excel at diplomacy, some excel at running "off the cuff", etc, etc. Whether an AP is difficult to DM really depends on the GM's box of skills.

Personally, I've always found intrigue campaigns difficult to run, mostly in part of properly role-playing the different NPCs within that setting.


Strange Aeons requires the GM come up with player character backstories and events related to them. Impossible to run RAW otherwise.
Rise of the Runelords requires the GM stat out a high level wizard that counters the PC's normal tactics.
Hell's Vengence requires making sure evil PCs don't get too out of hand without reining them in too far.

On the other end I'd say if you drop the caravan rules, since all the feedback I've seen on them says to, Jade Regent is likely one of the easier ones. The PCs can't teleport or use planar travel as a group without leaving someone or an important artifact behind. That prevents a lot of ways to bypass challenges from working.


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It's not a Paizo adventure path, but hands down Kobold Press' Courts of the Shadow Fey is the hardest adventure that I've ever run. It's the ultimate fey themed sandbox adventure in Midgard. Highly recommended, but only for DMs that love that kind of thing. Every session has taken more prep than I'd care to do.

Grand Lodge

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Yeah I think it completely depends on what kind of prep the DM is comfortable with.

If the DM likes to read well into to published story and NPC background then something like CotCT and WotR will be much easier for him to DM. Whereas if he doesn't like dealing with many NPC developments and complicated NPCs, those to APs would be much harder.

If the DM is a rules maestro then the more crunch-heavy APs will be easier and the extra Fluff APs may be more challenging.

A DM who loves to play around and modify published material in order to make the campaign his or her own will find something like Kingmaker easier and something like Strange Aeons harder (or maybe vice/versa!). Depending on the DM.

All in all, though, I think a BIG part of the Development process during writing is considering ease-of-use for DMs and player-friendliness/ flow for PCs. So I don't think you could say, in apples-v-apples, that any AP is significantly more or less difficult to DM.


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War for the Crown.

So many moving parts.


captain yesterday wrote:

War for the Crown.

So many moving parts.

Haven't had the chance to run WftC yet, but am hoping to; it appeals to me a lot for that exact reason.

I'm not sure there's anything in a post-RotRL AP that looks quite so difficult to DM on a lots-of-moving-parts basis as the birthday party in Age of Worms with more than a dozen NPCs most of whom have the potential to be plot-significant; not sure I'd want to run that without a couple of assistants to divide those between.


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It is a spectacular adventure path, I hope to run it someday soon myself. :-)


War for the Crown had me doing more work than any other AP I'd ever run.

It was a great adventure, but by the end of it I had over 100 colour-coded NPC flash cards. It was a lot of prep compared to what an AP usually needs.

Wrath of the Righteous was honestly not too bad, though I let the mythic PCs smash through everything without much adjustment. I know a lot of folks advocate serious balance-edits for the opposition in that one, and it definitely would have taken a lot longer if I'd gone that route.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

War for the Crown...by a landslide. As others have said, the prep work is a lot, but so far the payoff has been there. My group is enjoying it. And, just as important, I enjoy DMing it.

Shadow Lodge

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Second Darkness requires the GM to write an entire adventure between Books 2 and 3.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

For me?

Jade Regent.

I am using the Legendary Games Ultimate Relationship system so keeping up with all of the relationship stuff for an insane number of NPCs is maddening and I've got to be honest. I wouldn't recommend it... especially if you think there might be a chance you might kill more than half your party and lose all that built roleplaying cred in one fell swoop.

That last bit might be from experience.

Also, Skull and Shackles.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Good to know that War for the Crown has really a ton of prep work. I mean, it was pretty predictable, but still good to know. I guess those flashcards were handcrafted, LittleMissNaga?


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magnuskn wrote:
Good to know that War for the Crown has really a ton of prep work. I mean, it was pretty predictable, but still good to know. I guess those flashcards were handcrafted, LittleMissNaga?

They were. I bought some coloured construction paper and a 2-pack of black permanent markers from my local dollar store, and doodled a little line-drawing mugshot for each important NPC beside some jotted notes on them (usually their name, race, title, and any distinguishing features).

Cheap, but effective prep material. Very time-consuming to make, though. If you crammed together all the hours I worked on those things, I'd say that I probably spent almost a full week on them.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Crikey. Not for me, then. I already invested a week into translating all the flavor text into German. ^^

I guess my guys will have to do with their memory, then. :p


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I often make colour photocopies of the various headshots/full body artwork, and hand them out to the players as the party meets the relevant NPCs. After the players get the artwork pieces, they are then stored in a file folder shared by all the players. They can write their own comments on the back of each piece.


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Rather than creating a new thread - what about the reverse?

What do people think is the easiest ? Perhaps in terms of lower prep time and limited balance adjustment (I understand the latter is party dependent so probably too difficult to answer easily)


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Lanathar wrote:

Rather than creating a new thread - what about the reverse?

What do people think is the easiest ? Perhaps in terms of lower prep time and limited balance adjustment (I understand the latter is party dependent so probably too difficult to answer easily)

Hell's Vengeance?

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Whichever one has the least amount of a sub system connected and a low amount to be changed to challenge modern characters...

I would go with a healthy medium and say Mummy's Mask?

Sub-systems can throw a massive wrench into things and as a DM updating monsters with newer classes and abilities can be quite the challenge.

It isn't the newest but I think it would provide a healthy medium.

I would almost agree with Hell's Vengeance as well if you can prevent your players from playing stupid evil.

Shattered Star and Giantslayer also have a lack of subsystems as far as I know.

I don't know about Tyrant's Grasp or Return of the Runelords but running something that has all that Paizo has put out up to this point taken into account would be a pretty strong choice.


Easy for whom? If it's a later AP, there will be more of the later classes and spells in it, so a newbie GM is going to have to learn a whole lot. Whereas he can tackle RotRL or CoCT with just the core rulebook and bestiary 1, and plug in more when he needs it.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

If the DM curtails his party to using the CRB then that is a fine option and the anniversary editions of those two paths would be good choices as well.

Restricting yourself as a DM to the CRB and Bestiary 1 while allowing your party the whole run of Paizo's line of options could lead to a frustrated DM though.

EDIT: Ultimately I think that the best answer to the both questions in this thread is, "As hard or as easy as the DM wants to make it". Scarwall for instance in CotCT took me weeks of prep but if you just wanted to run it seat of the pants it wouldn't be nearly as difficult. If you think the relationship and caravan systems in Jade Regent are too much just axe them. Plenty of people have had great adventures through those paths with and without those things to deal with. That being said, adventures with a lot of sandbox can be a bit of weight on a DM (final answer).


So some of these suggestions seem to focus on the complexity of content rules wise which is useful

What about from a story telling / prep section

For example War for the Crown seems to involve lots of managing of NPCs and relationships (but I suppose that is covered by the avoiding complex subsystems point...)

So it that the general idea - the early books just stuck to the standard rules apart from some dabbling with haunts?


Hardest to prep for me was Kingmaker because I had to remember what would happen if the players went in any direction at any point in time and be ready for the fights that would happen in those locations. Plus, keeping track of the various enemies throughout the books and figuring out what they would be doing was a lot of work.

Hell's Rebels was pretty straight forward and didn't require much prep time but you had to have read the entire AP to run it without weird things popping up that would make the players go "why didn't we know about that in the first book?" Eg: There's a group of people in one part of town that would be at least seen (if not interacted with) in the first book but they're not mentioned until book 3 or 4 as that's when they might actually matter for the story.
Plus, it mostly happens in one city and people/places get mentioned in the AP only when they need to be. (Because it would be impossible/pointless to list everyone throughout the entire city in the first book).

Mummy's Mask can probably be run without reading anything but the current book you're on but you might have a problem if the players want to do something unexpected/go somewhere not listed in the book. and so long as you know how traps and haunts work, you're pretty much set.


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Warped Savant wrote:

...

Hell's Rebels was pretty straight forward and didn't require much prep time but you had to have read the entire AP to run it without weird things popping up that would make the players go "why didn't we know about that in the first book?" Eg: There's a group of people in one part of town that would be at least seen (if not interacted with) in the first book but they're not mentioned until book 3 or 4 as that's when they might actually matter for the story.
Plus, it mostly happens in one city and people/places get mentioned in the AP only when they need to be. (Because it would be impossible/pointless to list everyone throughout the entire city in the first book)...

I'd say that Hell's Rebels is fairly straightforward to run, but much more challenging to run *well*.


Artofregicide wrote:
I'd say that Hell's Rebels is fairly straightforward to run, but much more challenging to run *well*.

Yes, but there's nothing that jumps out as a problem that has to be fixed with Hell's Rebels. Kingmaker had a lot of problems that I wanted to fix for my players and it required a lot of work whereas I ran Hell's Rebels almost completely as written and all of my players loved the game.

I'm not saying Hell's Rebels doesn't require some prep, but it doesn't require nearly as much prep time between sessions that I put into Kingmaker.
Not including working on the maps, Kingmaker was typically at least 10 hours a week, sometimes many, many more, most of it having to be done at my computer. Hell's Rebels was mostly thoughts churning around in my head about what enemies/NPCs were doing/how they were reacting to the PCs and occasionally looking through the book(s) to remind myself of small details.
This will, of course, vary by group, power level, and expectations.


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I'd argue something like Serpent's Skull is hardest, since it's both sandboxy and requires a bunch of work - the third adventure is more or less a gazetteer of a place, and the GM needs to create or tweak encounters and make it entertaining and not a slog.

I've found Curse of the Crimson Throne (hardcover) incredibly easy to run so far - it's so well written that I've needed to make very little change to keep it fun and exciting for the players throughout.


I'd agree that CotCT is probably one of the easier ones. Book 4 might frustrate some players, but there aren't any giant plot holes that need spackling.

Kingmaker can be pretty difficult, especially if the GM wants to emphasize more political aspects.


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Hardest AP to run: the one you're not passionate about running. If you are genuinely interested/committed to running it, any challenge caused by its design can be easily overcome. If you're not, even the smallest difficulty will appear mountainous.

Dark Archive

Hardest AP to run for me so far has been Serpent's Skull. You have:

Minor spoiler I guess:

- In Book 2 & 3 you have multiple different camps and expeditions to track if you want the adventure to feel realistic and dynamic.
- In Book 3 & 5 you have sandboxes that can be very dynamic.
- And Book 3's sandbox badly needs to be further fleshed out.

For Moderately hard to run, I'll say Carrion Crown. As written, you have a very straightforward and easy to run adventure. If you want to improve on the adventure and

more minor spoiler:
include the big bad of Book 6 early on (using the many excellent resources and suggestions on these boards) it's only a bit more work.

For Fairly easy, I'll say Reign of Winter. It's surprisingly straightforward aside from a bit of sandbox in Book 5. Quite easy and a whole lotta fun!

Shadow Lodge

Reign of Winter is pretty easy to run. Books 3, 4,5 and 6 are all disconnected from each other, so there're no relationships or intrigue etc. to keep track of. The are no subsystems. However, I don't think books 3 and 4 are satisfying to run without (major) modifications.


Serum wrote:
Reign of Winter is pretty easy to run. Books 3, 4,5 and 6 are all disconnected from each other, so there're no relationships or intrigue etc. to keep track of. The are no subsystems. However, I don't think books 3 and 4 are satisfying to run without (major) modifications.

Personally I really like the first part book 4. The second part could be really interesting if you run it as an intrigue instead of combat.

Book 3 is pretty cool thematically but if you don't enjoy endless dungeon crawls you won't enjoy it. It's also possible too oops your way past large parts of said endless dungeon crawl...


Carrion Crow was a breeze. Skull and Shackles was hard (and very rewarding). I edited them both a lot, the latter more as I liked it better.
Played RotRL, S&S, Carrion, Way of the Wicked (non paizo), currently doing Iron Fang (also easy).

Shadow Lodge

Artofregicide wrote:
Serum wrote:
Reign of Winter is pretty easy to run. Books 3, 4,5 and 6 are all disconnected from each other, so there're no relationships or intrigue etc. to keep track of. The are no subsystems. However, I don't think books 3 and 4 are satisfying to run without (major) modifications.
Personally I really like the first part book 4. The second part could be really interesting if you run it as an intrigue instead of combat.

Could you expand on how you would run Book 4 part two as intrigue instead of combat, either in spoilers or PM? I am managing to do the majority of book 3 as intrigue, but am having trouble visualizing how that would work in book 4.


Serum wrote:
Artofregicide wrote:
Serum wrote:
Reign of Winter is pretty easy to run. Books 3, 4,5 and 6 are all disconnected from each other, so there're no relationships or intrigue etc. to keep track of. The are no subsystems. However, I don't think books 3 and 4 are satisfying to run without (major) modifications.
Personally I really like the first part book 4. The second part could be really interesting if you run it as an intrigue instead of combat.
Could you expand on how you would run Book 4 part two as intrigue instead of combat, either in spoilers or PM? I am managing to do the majority of book 3 as intrigue, but am having trouble visualizing how that would work in book 4.

Book 3 as intrigue? How did you do that ?

From memory it was mostly a massive triple dungeon that unobservant players could easily get confused by...

Shadow Lodge

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Lanathar wrote:
Serum wrote:
Artofregicide wrote:
Serum wrote:
Reign of Winter is pretty easy to run. Books 3, 4,5 and 6 are all disconnected from each other, so there're no relationships or intrigue etc. to keep track of. The are no subsystems. However, I don't think books 3 and 4 are satisfying to run without (major) modifications.
Personally I really like the first part book 4. The second part could be really interesting if you run it as an intrigue instead of combat.
Could you expand on how you would run Book 4 part two as intrigue instead of combat, either in spoilers or PM? I am managing to do the majority of book 3 as intrigue, but am having trouble visualizing how that would work in book 4.

Book 3 as intrigue? How did you do that ?

From memory it was mostly a massive triple dungeon that unobservant players could easily get confused by...

book 3 RoW:
By setting the majority of the denizens to unfriendly/neutral instead of hostile. There are a bunch of rooms relating to the progression from maiden to crone (eg the stone rooms, the trap puzzle rooms), so I reflavored the dungeon as a place where women can go on pilgrimage, with the warden and a few of the denizens acting as guides. However, Caigreal's rebellion is currently in play when the PCs get there, so she's let Vvesevolod in with his minions and blamed it on Jadrenka, and she's convinced most of the occupants (via bribes, blackmail, seduction etc) to be unhelpful toward Jadrenka. Jadrenka still can't ask outsiders for help explicitly, so Caigreal's actions have put her in a major bind. With some room adjustment, and a much larger guard on the door to the Eon Pit, the PCs now will probably need to convince the denizens to help them to get through the guard and to Vsevolod, all while Caigreal's coven is working against them (Long duration coven spells are great: 24hr mind blank, 9hr veil, nightmare and more). Some room modifications include enlarging the room with the destroyed crone golem to a 120 radius and placing 5 frost giants and a frost giant skald 6 inside with obstacles, moving the crypt to the Crone, Vsevolod's staging area to the Mother and turning it into a large, vandalized library, the common room to the Maiden, adding secret doors between the Maiden and Mother stones to the Crone golem room and some other changes to links. I can share the new dungeon's line map if you're interested.

Lanathar wrote:
Serum wrote:
Artofregicide wrote:
Serum wrote:
Reign of Winter is pretty easy to run. Books 3, 4,5 and 6 are all disconnected from each other, so there're no relationships or intrigue etc. to keep track of. The are no subsystems. However, I don't think books 3 and 4 are satisfying to run without (major) modifications.
Personally I really like the first part book 4. The second part could be really interesting if you run it as an intrigue instead of combat.
Could you expand on how you would run Book 4 part two as intrigue instead of combat, either in spoilers or PM? I am managing to do the majority of book 3 as intrigue, but am having trouble visualizing how that would work in book 4.

Book 3 as intrigue? How did you do that ?

From memory it was mostly a massive triple dungeon that unobservant players could easily get confused by...

Book 4, not 3.

I'm actually sure which part of Book 4 technically it is, but I mean the second half where you go through the white dragon's palace to get the second key. Technically you can do this first. The easiest way is if your party sides with the bad guys during the first half. But any way your party can ingratiate themselves to the Yrax the Howling Storm could lead to an interesting encounter with sneaking and/or social stuff with some colorful characters.

If your party wishes to just steal the first key from the fortress that could involve intrigue instead of combat. Or if they get recruited to infiltrate the enemy camp to kill the general.

Honestly I really like Frozen Stars, even if the support for alternative solutions to fighting is a bit sparse.


I have been part of a group where the GM tried to play Reign of Winter as written and to this day it remains the only Adventure Path we did not finish because nobody was really having fun. We ended the game somewhere during book 5, but motivation started slipping away as early as book 3. Finding a fitting motivation for my character to keep following the rails felt incredibly hard compared to other APs.

So I'd say out of the 5 APs I know Reign of Winter is the hardest to GM.


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My experiences with campaigns:

Mummy's Mask: Not very hard to run as is. More difficult to play due to the sheer number of save or die/suck situations, which can in turn make it hard on the DM if the players are unlucky.

Hell's Rebels: Moderately difficult, but very difficult to run well unless you have a motivated party. The challenge rests mainly in trying to bring all the components across all the books together to make a properly living Kintargo, as opposed to reading each book separately. It's also a pain to manage the rebellion mechanic if the players don't get into it themselves.

Reign of Winter: Ok to run, with certain parts being particularly difficult (looking at you Mother, Maiden, Crone). Has a lot of non-linear moments which can get messy. This one really relies on the party having self motivation though, as Lintecarka mentioned. Our group managed it mostly because our characters turned it into a comedy campaign.

Wrath of the Righteous: Probably the most difficult in terms of numbers and balancing. Mythic will do that, of course. It also has something of a structural problem during the mass combat portion of book 2 to my knowledge (the first time I played it, our army was killed and we had no viable means of dealing with that situation, so we got a game over despite not having lost our characters).

War for the Crown: Moderately difficult to run, but extremely difficult to run well, especially with a motivated party. It's heavy in terms of things to account for intrigue side (so many notes to track), and it more or less demands the use of additional rules or improvisation to handle all the non-standard things it encourages. This is probably the most non-standard AP and thus requires much more prop, proportionally so to the motivation of the players.

Given that, of the ones I've played in or run, I'd say it's a bit of a tossup between Wrath of the Righteous and War for the Crown, for different reasons. I'd say Wrath is the most vertically challenging (difficulty balancing), while WftC is the most horizontally challenging (managing information).


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shadram wrote:

I'd argue something like Serpent's Skull is hardest, since it's both sandboxy and requires a bunch of work - the third adventure is more or less a gazetteer of a place, and the GM needs to create or tweak encounters and make it entertaining and not a slog.

Seconded. I sunk dozens of hours into making Serpent's Skull playable. It was worth it, but I wouldn't advise to do so.

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