Which APs have the lightest tone ...?


Pathfinder Adventure Path General Discussion


I know this can largely be impacted by GM style and the group but the overall plots of most of the APs seem rather gritty and dark what with having to combat escalating evil and usually world conquering plots

Looking through and you have some outright horror ones, rebellions or pseudo uprisings against devil sponsored overlords (twice) , demon wars , being forced to become refugees etc .

So with that in mind which APs lend themselves best to a lighter tone? Which are the least gritty ?

On the face of it it seems like the lightest could be:

- Skull and Shackles with an altered first book to remove or lesson the whole beatdown of press ganged victims

- Iron Gods seems like it could just become a power metal music video (although I have heard it is brutal and also have no desire to play in it or run it)

What do people think ?

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I feel like that despite some mega-dark elements of book 3 (the Paraika Divs) War for the Crown can be kind of a light spy game.

My game ended up being fairly gritty but that is just essentially my style.

Jade Regent as well, can be a fairly light exploration path. I can see easily down-playing the grittier elements of it.


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Seems to me that in Mummy's Mask you are up against sort of an action movie villain, who could be made suitably over-the-top for less grittiness. (I would have also said Legacy of Fire, but the prevalence of slavery in the area being so widespread as to have its own Campaign Trait tends to put a damper on making a light tone.) I would guess maybe even Tyrant's Grasp, but I haven't seen any of this one yet.

Think of it this way: In which APs could the villain actually be Sideshow Bob? (Come to think of it, maybe even Hell's Vengeance could be made light if the whole party was willing to play Golden/Silver Age comic book villains and the GM was willing to go along with it.)


Interesting poInts

War for the Crown - from listening to the Know Direction actual play it certainly seems like it can be of light of tone. It seems like it can either go Roger Moore James Bond or gritty Game of Thrones style (although i get the impression more nobles are supposed to live through chunks of this!)

Mummy’s Mask - does seem like it can be pulpy Indiana Jones style

Hells Vengeance - tounge in cheek villain style seems to be the best way of doing this unless your players specifically want to get really dark


Reign of Winter has a definite "fairy tale" vibe. Like it's a "help the big bad witch because it's less bad than the alternatives" one, but it is kind dof a romp.

I think a GM wanting to edit this one for tone would have to do more work on difficulty (first book is super lethal for some reason) and less on content.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Well, War for the Crown does start with a quite violent massacre, though.


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

As written EVERY AP has some dark tones, it's up to the individual GM to decide how much to lighten them up.


So should my question be rephrased as which has the fewest ?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Lanathar wrote:
Hells Vengeance - tounge in cheek villain style seems to be the best way of doing this unless your players specifically want to get really dark

you have to do some really nasty stuff in HV.


Hell's Rebels, despite touching on dark themes (the game starts with a political massacre and a riot, not to mention the entirety of Book 6), has a hopeful tone and gets downright campy in points. It could easily be tipped one way or the other by the personal style of the GM.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
PossibleCabbage wrote:

Reign of Winter has a definite "fairy tale" vibe. Like it's a "help the big bad witch because it's less bad than the alternatives" one, but it is kind dof a romp.

I think a GM wanting to edit this one for tone would have to do more work on difficulty (first book is super lethal for some reason) and less on content.

I dunno, RoW also does have

Spoiler:
multiple instances of actual or threatened child murder. Not to mention Baba Yaga's whole essence-devouring of her descendants. And everything the White Witches get up to.

I'm prepping to run it right now, and it definitely has a fairy tale vibe...but more of an old-school one than a Disney one, though you could certainly play down those elements.

Mummy's Mask is fairly pulp adventure in tone, so I'd consider it lighter. I recall Serpent's Skull being like that too; there are some dark elements in the first book, but other than that, it was more action-oriented.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Serpent's Skull part 1 has cannibals and vampires, if I remember correctly.


Zaister wrote:
Serpent's Skull part 1 has cannibals and vampires, if I remember correctly.

Almost every children's cartoon I have every seen has a part where a main character is tied hands and feet to a stick and carried towards a boiling pot ostensibly to be eaten - so that seems like it could be got around...

But it is like mentioned above - it depends on how you run these things...


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Zaister wrote:
Serpent's Skull part 1 has cannibals and vampires, if I remember correctly.

Yeah, that was one of the things I was referring to as dark elements in the first book. The other being

Spoiler:
the shipwreck, which at least in our group's case killed an NPC we'd interacted with and liked (the first mate). Not to mention everyone else on board besides the handful of survivors.

But as Lanathar said, it depends how the GM plays it.


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I mean "the Witch wants to eat Hansel and Gretel" is sort of in the background radiation of a lot of people's cultural context, even if, on face, the whole thing is horrifying.

Some things come across as less dark solely because they are familiar. I mean, from one perspective the premise of "Batman" is "Billionaire punches the mentally ill to deal with his trauma" but nonetheless campy/silly Batman is one of the more enduring takes on the character.

Dark Archive

Dawn of Flame Starfinder AP has a lot of actual comedy in it


Meraki wrote:
Zaister wrote:
Serpent's Skull part 1 has cannibals and vampires, if I remember correctly.

Yeah, that was one of the things I was referring to as dark elements in the first book. The other being

Spoiler:
the shipwreck, which at least in our group's case killed an NPC we'd interacted with and liked (the first mate). Not to mention everyone else on board besides the handful of survivors.

But as Lanathar said, it depends how the GM plays it.

In the PbP that I followed all the way through and past Book 1 of Serpent's Skull:
The aftermath of the shipwreck was just plain excruciating.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

well... 'tone' and actions are somewhat different.

I think the easiest APs for a GM to keep a light tone are probably the campier ones, like Serpent's Skull, Reign of Winter, War for the Crown, Mummy's Mask, etc.

Now, bear in mind that you can EASILY make these incredibly dark stories. War for the Crown in particular, if you really get into it, could be nightmare fuel.

But, you could also play up the fancy-snootyness of it and have fun playing dress-up aristo.

Liberty's Edge

Ranking the APs I've played in from least dark to most dark:

1. Hell's Rebels (played up through book 1).

Spoiler:
Even the dog-boxing (or whatever it's called) is relatively tame, being bitten by dogs as you try to get food/water rather than being eaten by starving dogs as our characters had first suspected. Tooth fairies are creepy too, and the tiefling murders aren't great, but not overly disturbing and you can tone them down.
Motivations are pretty solid, as the setting is pretty obvious about Cheliax being evil and just leaving it at that. Might get darker in later books but this first one is fun and relatively tame.

2. Iron Gods (played through book 1 and part of book 2). Doesn't get disturbing until book 2, though damn does it ramp up fast there.

3. Serpent's Skull (GMed through book 2 and part of book 3).

Spoiler:
Book 1 - soulbound dolls, cannibal murders, general "oh god we're all gonna die here. Book 2 - slavery (and fighting on the side of slavers), zombie trees. Book 3 - the book expects characters to massacre hundreds of intelligent monsters to "win".
It's not a super pleasant ride, though you can certainly remove some elements to make it better.

3.5. Age of Worms (played through most of book 8). It's about the end of the world - it's dark.

4. Reign of Winter (played through book 1 and part of book 2). Our GM is running it in Ravenloft so it's got more horror than the original book, but it's still got

Spoiler:
those lovely soulbound dolls and a tortured child ghost.

5. Rise of the Runelords (GMed through book 1, part of book 2). The actual tone of the story is more lighthearted than say Serpent's Skull or Age of Worms, but the content is harsh:

Spoiler:
Goblin in the crawlspace, and the whole Foxglove family, really stand out. "The assimar who turned evil" is pretty pessimistic too, though an interesting story line.

Shadow Lodge

Gark the Goblin wrote:
1. Hell's Rebels

Book 6 got a content warning. Not even Book 3 of Rise of the Runelords got a content warning.


zimmerwald1915 wrote:
Gark the Goblin wrote:
1. Hell's Rebels
Book 6 got a content warning. Not even Book 3 of Rise of the Runelords got a content warning.

I think it deserved it too. But if you wanted to run HR as a light romp you have a natural stopping point after book 5 before things get real dark.


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
zimmerwald1915 wrote:
Gark the Goblin wrote:
1. Hell's Rebels
Book 6 got a content warning. Not even Book 3 of Rise of the Runelords got a content warning.

There was also almost a decade between the printing of Rise 3 and Hell's Rebel's 6. Putting such warnings on material is, I believe, a newer trend.


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Run the "We Be Goblins" series if you want something "light". Playing a game about going around and killing evil things is not what I come to for "lightness", but some adventures can be more whimsical than others.

Dark Archive

RotR hardcover had content warning in book 3 didn't it?


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
CorvusMask wrote:
RotR hardcover had content warning in book 3 didn't it?

Out of curiosity, I skimmed through it and didn't see one, but I didn't take the time to reread the chapter.

Liberty's Edge

I mean, Book 1 and 2 both have content warnings (either in a sidebar or in the introduction).

Jacobs in Skinsaw wrote:
In "The Skinsaw Murders," and in the adventures to follow, things grow darker for the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path.

This is part of what I was referring to.


PFRPGrognard wrote:
Playing a game about going around and killing evil things is not what I come to for "lightness"

If you don't think stories about good guys fighting bad guys can be lighthearted in tone you must not have consumed very much media. It's pretty much standard fantasy fare.


Yeah. Killing. It's fun for the family!


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^The family that preys together slays together!

Shadow Lodge

Gark the Goblin wrote:
I mean, Book 1 and 2 both have content warnings (either in a sidebar or in the introduction).
Jacobs in Skinsaw wrote:
In "The Skinsaw Murders," and in the adventures to follow, things grow darker for the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path.
This is part of what I was referring to.

That's less a content warning than a three-act story structure warning.


rkotitan wrote:
Jade Regent as well, can be a fairly light exploration path. I can see easily down-playing the grittier elements of it.

I'll second this one. Things don't really get dark until Book 4, and there are more than a few GM's who dump that particular dungeon crawl anyway because it just goes on and on and on. Excise that and the rest is easily managed.


Legacy of Fire was lots of fun, and I cannot off-hand recall anything uber-dark about it. I think that could be played with a light, fairytale theme. I mean, you have

spoiler:
silly pugwampis, genies, fantastical demiplane, romp through the City of Brass, wishes, etc.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I'll toss my vote in for Mummy's Mask as well. There are very few 'dark' moments.

Spoiler:
Book 1 is very pulpy and content appropriate for anyone who is playing PF.

Book 2 has a horror theme, but its just some zombies at an auction trappings over more of the same of book 1.

Book 3 has Muminofrah, which could get a bit mature depending on how the party RP's to her debauchery and proclivities, but is very tame in tone.

Book 4 has a demon cult of scorpion men fighting cultists who explode when they die. Its the lightest of the books, IMO.

Book 5 is about like book 1 and 4 in tone, except with some hostage taking and offscreen WMD usage.

Book 6 is a fairly straightforward 5 dungeons back to back, learning about Hakotep. There are some dark undertones (his wife was a Dark Tapestry devotee, his Shory engineer slave stuck as a ghost for eternity, etc), but its no worse than than the drug peddling undead in book 2.


Ronnam wrote:

Legacy of Fire was lots of fun, and I cannot off-hand recall anything uber-dark about it. I think that could be played with a light, fairytale theme. I mean, you have

** spoiler omitted **

I wonder if the most depressing part of Legacy of Fire might be where you start from.

Spoiler:
Not only are you up against slaving Gnolls in a mutually genocidal quest, but you might even be starting as slaves yourself, and even if not, you're working for a slaveowner, and higher up the chain of authority, you are DEFINITELY working for slavers and drug-runners (the Pactmasters will NOT allow anything to get in the way of their profits from these businesses.

Sczarni

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber
Ronnam wrote:

Legacy of Fire was lots of fun, and I cannot off-hand recall anything uber-dark about it. I think that could be played with a light, fairytale theme. I mean, you have

** spoiler omitted **

I agree, if LoF didn't have the filed experiment of built in gaps of xp for you to add sub-quests in, it would be the least stressful


Giantslayer? That's generally considered one of the weakest APs from what I've seen though.

Crypt of the Everflame is pretty light. The second module in that series not so much (and it's terrible, telling GM to make something up if the PCs don't act like idiots.), but the third is fairly light... by virtue of being a wilderness romp to find the dungeon then mostly dungeon crawl.


UnArcaneElection wrote:
Ronnam wrote:

Legacy of Fire was lots of fun, and I cannot off-hand recall anything uber-dark about it. I think that could be played with a light, fairytale theme. I mean, you have

** spoiler omitted **

I wonder if the most depressing part of Legacy of Fire might be where you start from.

** spoiler omitted **

Easy to skip over all that. I don’t recall any of that, so we must’ve left that aspect out. I don’t think that was integral to the overall story.


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Trial of the Apprentice if third party APs count.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Spoiler:
Not Tyrant's Grasp. That's surival horror of the darkest sort, where the PCs die at the end (even if they succeed in their objective).

Granted, there's an optional side-bar in TG suggesting how they could be reincarnated or something like that, but that "survival" would take place a few centuries later, so there's nothing left of most PCs' lives/connections (unless elves and possibly dwarves).


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Bellona -- Seriously, why would you spoil the end of the newest AP without using a spoiler tag?


Now, I've not played Reign of Winter but doesn't that one contain...well, book 5 of Reign of Winter? With

RoW spoiler:
Rasputin, World War One and the Tank powered by War Crimes?

For my money I'd say Shattered Star might well be lightest, at least for me? It's a treasure hunt against a series of various evils, lots of dungeon crawling etc. Don't play up the Sorshen dungeon too much and you're pretty good, I think

Dark Archive

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Elegos wrote:

Now, I've not played Reign of Winter but doesn't that one contain...well, book 5 of Reign of Winter? With ** spoiler omitted **

For my money I'd say Shattered Star might well be lightest, at least for me? It's a treasure hunt against a series of various evils, lots of dungeon crawling etc. Don't play up the Sorshen dungeon too much and you're pretty good, I think

Yeah, gotta agree with Reign of winter not being light in tone. Book five of Reign of Winter is deadly serious without comedy even though name of the book is funny.

I mean intro scene when you get out of the hut is:
Rasputin having Corpse Orgy made out of bonfire of corpses of russian villagers shot (and bombed, village is pretty much in ruins) by the mind controlled russian soldiers before you arrived attack you

Thing about parts of Reign of Winter that have fairy tale theme to them is that its inspired by russian folklore, and russian folklore is really really dark :P Actually traditional fairy tales ARE dark in general


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Warped Savant wrote:

Bellona -- Seriously, why would you spoil the end of the newest AP without using a spoiler tag?

I apologise if you haven't been keeping up with the recent TG discussions.

It should be pointed out that the Player's Guide for Tyrant's Grasp calls out the AP as being "survival horror". Please note that not all forms of survival horror stories guarantee the survival of the protagonists.

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