Recent Adventure Paths underwhelming to you? And if so, why?


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Hi all, Just wondering if anyone else feels like the last couple APs (Return of the Runelords, Tyrant’s Grasp, and the first book of Age of Ashes and summary of the AP) have been underwhelming to you? The plots feel simplistic and immature to me, the NPCs have little motivation, there’s not great connection between books, and plenty of weird plot holes. I find that more recent books take more work to adapt into something that's sensible. Is anyone else finding this? (See my review for Secrets of Roderick's Cove for an example of more specific complaints I have).

I’ve noticed that AP reviews on Paizo are also generally lower since War for the Crown, so it’s not just me perhaps? (**Only counting reviews with at least 2 reviews - a sample size of "1" doesn't say much, especially since there are a few reviewers who consistently give 4-5 stars).

I keep hoping the next AP will be better but I keep getting disappointed. I feel like they’re writing for people who just want a list of things to kill. There’s little room for subtlety and plot development.

Is there a new developer for APs or something? Have they tightened their budget on APs to invest in other things? Thoughts? I'm hoping that it's just that they've had to invest so many people-hours in developing the new Edition over the last year.

I’m happy to be more precise about the problems with any of the last 13 books, if anyone wants to get into the nitty gritty...

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I really liked Return of the Runelords. I don't think the plot could be described as simplistic or immature. The NPCs felt very well done to me, and the books flow very nicely from one to another. Even Book One, which is pretty standalone, has a lot of foreshadowing.

I feel like the adventure path line started on a really high note with Rise of the Runelords and Curse of the Crimson Throne, and it's sometimes hard to meet that level of quality. But recent adventure paths have included true gems like Hell's Rebels, Ironfang Invasion, and War for the Crown, all of which I think make for excellent campaigns.

I missed Tyrant's Grasp, but I think Age of Ashes is off to a good start. I like the NPCs and the structure of the first adventure, and I'm really looking forward to the developments that seem to be waiting in Books Five and Six.

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Coffee Demon wrote:
Hi all, Just wondering if anyone else feels like the last couple APs (Return of the Runelords, Tyrant’s Grasp, and the first book of Age of Ashes and summary of the AP) have been underwhelming to you? The plots feel simplistic and immature to me, the NPCs have little motivation, there’s not great connection between books, and plenty of weird plot holes. I find that more recent books take more work to adapt into something that's sensible. Is anyone else finding this? (See my review for Secrets of Roderick's Cove for an example of more specific complaints I have).

You have never played Second Darkness.


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I think they've been very good. Personally, I had no buy-in to Tyrant's Grasp - the story just never grabbed me (I suspect because I knew he wasn't going to win from PF2 previews/discussions). I thought it was very well done though.

Return of the Runelords didn't work for my group because of how our runthroughs of the other prequel APs ended. Again though, I thought it was an extremely well done sequel - following on from a bunch of prior APs must be a difficult gig.

Age of Ashes had me uninterested until it arrived. My skimread got me very excited though (and now I'm auditioning for a PBP so I haven't actually read it). Out of the three, I'm really surprised to hear this one labelled as simplistic - one of the "bad guys" in particular in that campaign has an extremely complicated backstory. I think there's tons of room for nuance in this AP if a group gets into that kind of thing. I really, really like the idea of an adventuring group 'setting down roots' in the first AP and then moving upwards and outwards from there.

I don't know when you got into APs, but one thing I've noticed for myself was that the first half dozen I read were kind of "a whole new level" of design and I found myself eager for every instalment. Then I went through a period (around Iron Gods/Reign of Winter time) when they just left me going "meh" even though according to forum buzz Paizo was releasing "their best work ever". Going back to those, I began to appreciate their skill even though the themes didn't appeal to me.

Long story short - maybe you're maturing in the way you read them and you're looking for different things now? (and perhaps are never going to recapture the feeling you had when you discovered the first few you read?)

Again, I have no clue when you started and that's all just speculation from my own experience, not meaning to suggest everyone is the same.

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Steve Geddes wrote:
I don't know when you got into APs, but one thing I've noticed for myself was that the first half dozen I read were kind of "a whole new level" of design and I found myself eager for every instalment. Then I went through a period (around Iron Gods/Reign of Winter time) when they just left me going "meh" even though according to forum buzz Paizo was releasing "their best work ever". Going back to those, I began to appreciate their skill even though the themes didn't appeal to me.

Really? Second Darkness and Council of Thieves were not very good.


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I quite liked Second Darkness. Definitely better than D1-D3, in my view. It seemed to me I was the only person in the world who liked the deliberate gaps in experience and the side quests (an innovation that sadly fell flat).

Council of Thieves suffered from expectations, I think, because we thought we were getting a “bring down Cheliax” campaign. In terms of design, the opera in book two was an eye opening experiment (even though it wasn’t for me).

My point though wasn’t some abstract idea of what was good - if anything the consensus opinions on those two strengthens my point. I think the potential sense of jadedness may come as much from the reader as from the inherent quality of APs.

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Steve Geddes wrote:
My point though wasn’t some abstract idea of what was good - if anything the consensus opinions on those two strengthens my point. I think the potential sense of jadedness may come as much from the reader as from the inherent quality of APs.

True. While we could discuss the weaknesses of any AP, and there are threads for that, it would be beside the point.

It might help to actually take a break from reading APs.


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sadly, I have to agree with the OP. The last AP that was up to the earlier standards was Strange Aeons. Every AP since then has been a little bit dissapointing. Return of the Runelords has potential and an interesting premise but it doesn't really live up to it.
I don't know what happened around the time the downward spiral began, maybe some crucial creative staff left, but yeah, undoubtly the quality is not what it once was.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

As a GM who is close to wrapping up Return of the Runelords, I can confirm it's a very good AP, especially if the group has played through all or parts of Rise of the Runelord and Shattered Star. There's been sub-optimal and above-par APs throughout the whole AP run and the current state doesn't look better or worse than usual. A lot of it is also a matter of taste. Remember the massive arguments around the time of Iron Gods, which I would consider as one of the very good APs?


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I think that the last few AP's have gone steadily downhill too, but my disappointment with the AP's escalated and started right around the time of the 2E announcement.

War for the Crown - I really liked the vast majority of this one. But with the 2E announcement coming out the Player's Guide was seemingly delayed until something like Book 3. That tempered my enthusiasm, frankly. For me, the glaring oddness to the AP

Spoiler:
was that we go from a potential civil war to all of Taldor uniting behind the "tragic prince" with little in the way of solid explanation (other than a couple of throw away lines of text to justify it).
Opportunity lost, I think, for a more interesting AP.

Return of the Runelords - hey, it's Runelords! Awesome! Alaznist is the lead baddie though.

Spoiler:
Xanderghul gets ganked off stage and there is a lesser version of him to deal with. Huh. Sorshen, the other powerhouse - co-opting the party and almost becoming that annoying DMPC - doesn't look like the group will be dealing with her.
I get it, I guess, she's slated for 2E - so, it's Mary Sue makeover time for her. Fun to deal with Runelords, but disappointing that the two big names - one is neutered down in power, the other is pretty much off the table.

Tyrant's Grasp - I would have thought the finale to 1E would have been much better than window dressing Golarion for 2E. You could play it for the sake of playing *something*, but what's the real point? Imagine doing Wrath of the Righteous, with a perma-TPK waiting at the end, and you don't even get to close the Worldwound with your sacrifice. That's Tyrant's Grasp. Another poster in another thread summed it up perfectly - Paizo was too attached to their NPC to let it be truly defeated.

I really think that Paizo was so focused on 2E that 1E became "this thing we need to wrap up" and the AP's reflect this.


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I thought Ruins of Azlant was the last decent AP, it's not perfect but I'd certainly run it and I intend to at some point.

I have a couple of issues with War For the Crown that left me feeling largely dissatisfied with the whole thing. But I won't bore you at length details of my personal dislikes of it here (I can always bore you somewhere else instead)

My problem with Return was very similar to Dracovar, I wanted to be able to kill all of the Runelords and finish the AP with a full set accounted for. I felt cheated out of Sorshen's much deserved demise at the partys hands through what is essentially writer armour.

That should have prepared me for Tyrant's Grasp where Writer Armour overshadows the whole book and spoils what could have been a great finale to 1st ed.


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Olwen wrote:
There's been sub-optimal and above-par APs throughout the whole AP run and the current state doesn't look better or worse than usual. A lot of it is also a matter of taste. Remember the massive arguments around the time of Iron Gods, which I would consider as one of the very good APs?

This. The APs considered 'best' by popular acclaim (CotCT, Kingmaker, Reign of Winter) are the ones I've disliked the most, and my absolute favorite AP Paizo has ever published was Second Darkness. It's good that they don't make only APs I like (both because I don't have time to run them all and because they'd go out of business), but it's also good they don't only make APs you* like either, or there'd be nothing to appeal to people with different tastes and preferences.

To paraphrase James Jacobs, the reason they do 2 APs a year is so if particular subscribers don't care for one, they may adore the next. Every AP isn't for everybody.

*:
Not 'you' specifically; whoever
.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

some of the best APs have been the ones in the last 3 years. Ironfang, Ruins, War, Return, are all really cool. Haven't really read Tyrant's Grasp.


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Looking at the list of authors for the APs over time, they had a stable of several experienced adventure developers (Jacobs, Baur, Sutter, Schneider, Vaughan) for much of the early and mid period. The more recent APs feature a lot of new - and presumably less experienced - developers.

It could be a matter of new developers taking a few adventures to get their sea legs under them. Or the new stable of writers have different notions of what makes for a compelling adventure.


I think it's inevitable that people are going to find disappointing whatever APs immediately follow the ones they are fondest of, and what hurts the last few here is that Ironfang Invasion and War for the Crown were absolutely amazing.

I mean my least favorite AP followed my absolutely favorite one.


I’m very curious to see the upcoming police procedural one.


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keftiu wrote:
I’m very curious to see the upcoming police procedural one.

that was quite the shocker.

the next 2E AP, where the players are members of a travelling carnival, also sounds like a ton of fun.


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As I get older, my tastes seem to lean back to classic "feel" fantasy tropes a bit more.

A few examples...
Too much emphasis on the political aspect will have me more "meh" than anything. I kind of try to get away from dealing with that out of game, I don't mind some intrigue or doing the occasional hobnob with a queen (CotCT), dealing with a rival king (KM), an occasional Mayoral dinner like in CoT,or freedom fighting in general for that matter (again CoT, and HR, though the latter looks like it may have some duller moments). War for the Crown is a flat out "No" for me.
I'm also not into the visiting real world stuff in my "fantasy" gaming like in RoW, and the alien/scifi stuff with one caveat... Iron Gods scratches my "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" nostalgia trip. It was my least favorite AD&D module but Paizo had a great take on it. Another IG-type wouldn't get a glance from me.
Lastly the sub-rules in most of the APs (Trust Points, Infamy scores, Kingdom Building, etc). Half of them feel unfinished and half-arsed, some feel outright broken. TBH, I have no clue if the newer APs are still using these, but it makes me feel like I'm being fed into a beta testing program. The mythic AP (forgot the name) is by far the worst offender. After reading countless posts and reviews, the entire AP screams like a beta test.

I get that there's an audience for the above examples, but I'm definitely not in that camp. I'm going to say it's my fault at the end of the day due to Grognardism combined with some Rose-tinted spectacles.

Plot wise, nothing past Ironfang or Strange Aeons appeals to me. I was never a big fan of Cheliax to begin with though I enjoyed CoT (yes, I'm a minority here). Then we got HR, HV, and now another Hellknight beginning. After reading the promo blurbs about each volume, I'm left with that "meh" feeling again. The ending of Tyrant wouldn't work for me and the whole Runelords thing began taking a dump with me in the latter half of the Shattered Star AP, the blurbs from Return flushed it. I also have personal issues with the beginning feel of Ironfang, but this opinion might be colored by it's author, and I'll leave it at that. Chapters 2,4,5 and 6 are gold however. I didn't like the tedious Siege rules in Longshadow.

Some of the above might sound like I prefer Dungeon Crawls/Hack and Slash, etc. Nothing is farther from the truth. I love the heavier RP aspects in specific APs when flavored right in my particular taste.
To give you an idea of where I'm coming from, some of my favorites are... Carrion Crown, Kingmaker, RotR, CotCT, Skull and Shackles and even Serpent Skull (<--- ehrmagerd!)

The newer APs are a little underwhelming from my research. Specifically Tyrant (so much CC sequel potential lost here IMHO (<--- please note) and Return (more flavor-wise than anything).
Overall though, I'm with the OP.


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On the contrary, I've thought the last several: War for the Crown, Return of the Runelords, and Tyrant's Grasp, have been particularly strong.


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Joana wrote:
Olwen wrote:
There's been sub-optimal and above-par APs throughout the whole AP run and the current state doesn't look better or worse than usual. A lot of it is also a matter of taste. Remember the massive arguments around the time of Iron Gods, which I would consider as one of the very good APs?
This. The APs considered 'best' by popular acclaim (CotCT, Kingmaker, Reign of Winter) are the ones I've disliked the most...

What did you dislike about CotCT?

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Steve Geddes wrote:
Joana wrote:
Olwen wrote:
There's been sub-optimal and above-par APs throughout the whole AP run and the current state doesn't look better or worse than usual. A lot of it is also a matter of taste. Remember the massive arguments around the time of Iron Gods, which I would consider as one of the very good APs?
This. The APs considered 'best' by popular acclaim (CotCT, Kingmaker, Reign of Winter) are the ones I've disliked the most...
What did you dislike about CotCT?

That's a derail. :)

But, your point has been made. The "quality" of any AP is as much about the person reading/running/playing it as what is on the pages.


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Lord Fyre wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
Joana wrote:
Olwen wrote:
There's been sub-optimal and above-par APs throughout the whole AP run and the current state doesn't look better or worse than usual. A lot of it is also a matter of taste. Remember the massive arguments around the time of Iron Gods, which I would consider as one of the very good APs?
This. The APs considered 'best' by popular acclaim (CotCT, Kingmaker, Reign of Winter) are the ones I've disliked the most...
What did you dislike about CotCT?

That's a derail. :)

But, your point has been made. The "quality" of any AP is as much about the person reading/running/playing it as what is on the pages.

Just in case it wasn't clear - I wasn't making a point there but was genuinely curious.

I tend to treat non-rules discussions as conversations, so I'm a bit less worried about derailing (especially in low volume threads).


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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

I haven't had the pleasure of digging into any of the APs past War for the Crown (which I've been absolutely enjoying so far, even if it does have a 'mechanics where roleplay should have been just fine' feel to it). But I do want to comment that I've been an avid consumer of Starfinder stuff since release and I've found almost all the Starfinder APs to be... lacking that something special.

My thoughts about Starfinder APs mirror a lot of what the OP here is talking about: Weird nonsense NPC motivations, blandly straightforward plots that provide constant and heavy rails to ensure the players don't go off course, plot holes, and a general sense that there isn't enough meat on the bones.


Can someone explain to me how the end of Tyrant’s Grasp isn’t a loss for the PCs, given what we know about 2e?


keftiu wrote:
Can someone explain to me how the end of Tyrant’s Grasp isn’t a loss for the PCs, given what we know about 2e?

I mean, we knew six years ago they weren't going to Kill Tar-Baphon for keeps (his phylactery is literally inaccessible), so I figure "thwarting immediate plans" is as much of a win as is possible.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
keftiu wrote:
Can someone explain to me how the end of Tyrant’s Grasp isn’t a loss for the PCs, given what we know about 2e?
I mean, we knew six years ago they weren't going to Kill Tar-Baphon for keeps (his phylactery is literally inaccessible), so I figure "thwarting immediate plans" is as much of a win as is possible.

I’m only broadly familiar with the AP what exactly do they accomplish?

Liberty's Edge

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They keep him from invading Absalom and becoming a God, so that's good. They also 'kill' him, but only as much as you can kill any lich if you've never seen their phylactery (though since he's being reluctant to leave his island, it's possible he was more damaged than normal).

Spoiler:
They also die and, depending on GM choices, have their souls utterly destroyed doing so. The 'souls utterly destroyed' thing is the default and particularly harsh and awful.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:

They keep him from invading Absalom and becoming a God, so that's good. They also 'kill' him, but only as much as you can kill any lich if you've never seen their phylactery (though since he's being reluctant to leave his island, it's possible he was more damaged than normal).

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
Thing is, it's a fact of Pathfinder in general that you need something as ridiculous as "your soul got obliterated, do not pass go, do not collect $200" to make a noble sacrifice actually stick. Otherwise you just have some grateful NPC with money (of which there are many) throw a bunch of diamonds in the general direction of your characters' blast shadows and all is good.

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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Tarik Blackhands wrote:
**spoiler omitted**

Aside from the Boneyard catching up with the PCs for the ramifications of book 1. That would have been a nice work around instead of utterly obliterated 'The big P took an interest and you're being judged right now.'

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PossibleCabbage wrote:
keftiu wrote:
Can someone explain to me how the end of Tyrant’s Grasp isn’t a loss for the PCs, given what we know about 2e?
I mean, we knew six years ago they weren't going to Kill Tar-Baphon for keeps (his phylactery is literally inaccessible), so I figure "thwarting immediate plans" is as much of a win as is possible.

That kind of kills any interest I had in either running or playing in this AP. :(

Liberty's Edge

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Lord Fyre wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
keftiu wrote:
Can someone explain to me how the end of Tyrant’s Grasp isn’t a loss for the PCs, given what we know about 2e?
I mean, we knew six years ago they weren't going to Kill Tar-Baphon for keeps (his phylactery is literally inaccessible), so I figure "thwarting immediate plans" is as much of a win as is possible.
That kind of kills any interest I had in either running or playing in this AP. :(

They're fairly upfront about it being bleak. I believe it's the player's guide that mentions the AP's genre as 'survival horror'.

Now, that makes me not want to run or play it either, but it doesn't make it a bad AP, IMO.


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

They have not been underwhelming to me, and Tyrant's Grasp has been a whole load of fun so far (yes, my party is vaguely aware of the ending, except the fact that I plan on having them awaken in Arcadia at the end).

Dark Archive

Every AP since War for the Crown has had excellent quality maps though. Like I really hope they never return to maps that don't look good if you take them directly from PDF into roll20 because they are just basic squares without any special aesthetic sense to them :p

Anyway, kinda weirded out by the notion of "As I grow older, I only want to play adventures that make me feel nostalgic" but I guess its similar to how I want to play more games like video games from my childhood :p

Anyway, yeah, I'm probably not one to speak since I have super varied tastes and like most of APs more or less, but I definitely think there is some sort of bias going on if you think last few year's aps have been nonsensical or immature or such.

(I do agree Starfinder's Dead Suns ap feels borderline railroaded. Mostly in that there are two moments that PCs might not even notice that are straight up railroads of "This happens even if PCs take precautions against it" in order to have plot moving in direction of adventure. I don't think Agaisnt the Aeon throne had any I would have noticed as player, haven't read signal of screams and dawn of flame seems pretty fun in sense of having genuine comedy in it)


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CorvusMask wrote:

Anyway, kinda weirded out by the notion of "As I grow older, I only want to play adventures that make me feel nostalgic" but I guess its similar to how I want to play more games like video games from my childhood :p

I'm not quite sure you read my whole post, or you just misunderstood my post entirely. Getting "weirded out" by my post is totally on you though.

To summarize...
I prefer campaigns without Sci-Fi elements, weird jaunts to our Earth (RoW), etc. I find entire campaigns centered around politicking boring. If i wanted politics in my escapism, I'd rather just watch the news (less prep on my part).

I merely prefer a standard sword and sorcery themed campaign, gothic, cthulu-esque, planar, etc. I like well crafted plots (which I further tweak to suit my group) with plenty of roleplay opportunities, etc. I definitely don't want mini-game rules in every AP.

Anything else I can do in video games. Hope this clears up my previous post for you and lessens your "weirded out" feel.

Dark Archive

Ah, okay, yeah, I misunderstood yer comment on Barrier Peaks.

Yeah, I understood now. Reason why I felt weirded out(...wait, does that term mean what I think it feels? I kinda think its "Huh, wait, is this what everyone else feels like and I'm weird for not feeling like that?" type of feeling. I wasn't trying to be offensive >_<;) was that I kinda thought RPGs are stuff where you would prefer to experience new stuff and it'd be easy to get burned out and cynical on hobby if what you play is always familiar.


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Paizo APs have been great since the Shackled City campaign in Dungeon Magazine. I just think the increasing frequency in newer non-standard fare APs (for lack of a better term and in my case specifically) is designed for a different audience.
This is perfectly fine btw, just that I'm probably drifting further away. It's also the main reason I didn't bother picking up PF 2nd Edition. As the OP stated, the last few APs along with the newer 2nd edition APs don't do anything for me. The upcoming circus themed AP is a teeny tiny bit interesting, but I can't see that lasting over a long 20 level campaign with me.

Also, hope my last post didn't come across as snark, Corvus. :) Smurf it all, I say!

Dark Archive

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Nah no problem, I had yesterday really bad migraine and woke up today after sleeping very little(aka I have only been awake for few hours and am feeling pretty groggy.) so I might have been bit sensitive there :D

Anyhoo, on sidenote, one thing that I'm bit curious about the one that starts circus themed and agents of edgewatch(aka you be lawn enforcement now) on whether the theme will actually last through whole ap. Like, I have hard time imagining level 10+ characters are still traveling with the circus unless writers really had great idea for keeping circus with them. Same way, I feel like its unlikely the whatever event you are guarding in agents of edgewatch will last all 20 levels, so maybe you will turn into some sort of strikeforce or something


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CorvusMask wrote:
(I do agree Starfinder's Dead Suns ap feels borderline railroaded. Mostly in that there are two moments that PCs might not even notice that are straight up railroads of "This happens even if PCs take precautions against it" in order to have plot moving in direction of adventure. I don't think Agaisnt the Aeon throne had any I would have noticed as player, haven't read signal of screams and dawn of flame seems pretty fun in sense of having genuine comedy in it)

I genuinely can't figure out why the dwarf HAS to die in the first fight. Honestly it might even make more sense for him to be greviously injured and laid up for a couple days, allowing saving him to be an easy in for your party into the Starfinder society and an additional mentor (or even replacement PC) to contrast against the Shirren's "can't we all be friends?" And "Starfinders must be neutral" attitude. It's not like he'd know for sure who was trying to kill him, so you'd still have to investigate everyone, with the additonal motivating factor of keeping them from finishing the job.

Dawn of Flame has been my favorite so far. The bickering couple as questgivers is a great story idea. And the noble Skittermander police clerk on the wrong side of the revolution. So to circle back to the original question, I'm also in the camp that writing quality sort of depends on if they are writing to your taste or not. Although there's been a couple adventures that I'd swear were originally written for totally different APs and repurposed with the new plot after the fact. Including the first adventure of Tyrant's grasp, which feels like it should be the entry adventure to a first world AP, not the boneroads.


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CorvusMask wrote:

Nah no problem, I had yesterday really bad migraine and woke up today after sleeping very little(aka I have only been awake for few hours and am feeling pretty groggy.) so I might have been bit sensitive there :D

Anyhoo, on sidenote, one thing that I'm bit curious about the one that starts circus themed and agents of edgewatch(aka you be lawn enforcement now) on whether the theme will actually last through whole ap. Like, I have hard time imagining level 10+ characters are still traveling with the circus unless writers really had great idea for keeping circus with them. Same way, I feel like its unlikely the whatever event you are guarding in agents of edgewatch will last all 20 levels, so maybe you will turn into some sort of strikeforce or something

I expect Agents of Edgewatch will develop somewhat like Zeitgeist - the party starts as law enforcement and eventually builds up to more like, secret agents, then eventually use their secret agenting skills to save the world in true PC fashion.


I'd say it's more that Return of the Runelords was a dud. It got off to an amazing start with Roderic's Cove (I would literally say it's the best 1st level content Paizo has ever put out), but then dropped the ball with the rest of the campaign. Each book has different problems in specific, but the campaign as a whole just has a weak plot that verges on non-existent.

I have mixed feelings about Tyrant's Grasp, but it's not bad, and I wouldn't judge Age of Ashes based on its first volume alone. And prior to Return of the Runelords there was War for the Crown, which is the AP for you if you want a more complex and nuanced narrative. So honestly I don't think there's a problem with the recent AP's. It's just one specific AP in the recent lineup that wasn't up to the usual standards.

Dark Archive

I guess I could disagree more with Dasark. I did not find Roderic's Cove to be anything special on read through, but the rest ends up feeling pretty epic. Especially in comparison to Rise of the Runelords which has many threads that did not always shine through. Return did a great job of paying off so much of what has happened and it avoids the common AP issue of obscuring the big threats until relatively late in the game. By book 2 it is reasonably clear where things are going, but still leaves plenty of mystery.


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Davor Firetusk wrote:
I did not find Roderic's Cove to be anything special on read through, but the rest ends up feeling pretty epic.

I think one thing we can agree upon, if nothing else, is that Roderic's Cove does not fit in tone or style with the rest of the AP. It's an open sandbox focused on the immediate problems of a small rural town, with a strong focus on the personal connections your party builds with that town and its inhabitants. Then the rest of the AP is an extremely linear series of escalating conflicts, with the PC's never staying in one place for long and where the only NPC's with names worth remembering are the handful of characters of legendary proportions.

Davor Firetusk wrote:
By book 2 it is reasonably clear where things are going, but still leaves plenty of mystery.

That's sort of where I see the problem; book 2 tells you where it's going... and then that plot hook is summarily ignored for the next three volumes as it throws a breadcrumb trail of tangentially-related adversaries in your general direction. It's not until book 5 that you actually pick up on the trail of Alaznist, and even then you don't really find out anything of substance until the massive exposition dump at the start of book 6.

Spoiler:

Book 2 kinda feels directionless after you complete your immediate goal of shutting off the portal and confirming Alaznist isn't there anymore. Literally the only thing keeping the party here is the suggestion to "find Thybidos", something that turns out to be a big nothing-burger. He can't tell the players anything of real significance, Sorshen doesn't even mention it when they meet her, and it's never actually established why she told them to seek him out at all.

Book 3 feels like out of place filler, completely ignoring the plot hooks it just dropped to chase after Alaznist to instead give the players a chain of side-quests that lead them to confronting Zutha. It just feels like an arbitrary and contrived series of events, and the constantly changing locales doesn't do it any favors as the PC's never have the time to let it become anything more than a blur. I'm sure this chapter would be more meaningful if you've played the associated Paizo AP's, but without a pre-existing attachment to these NPC's or places they just whiz by too quickly to have any impact.

Book 4 continues the trend of pointing the parties at runelords other than Alaznist, but it's the execution that's the big problem here. The temple complex simply has a bad dungeon layout. The whole peacock shrine mechanic basically forces the players to clear out each section in sequence, and the roleplay opportunities are ultimately wasted because the moment the party tampers with the peacock shrine the occupants of the area raise the alarm and turn hostile. The Viridian Transcendence ritual in part 1 is also obnoxious, with skill checks that are outright impossible for most parties to succeed, a ridiculous 10k gp cost, and it takes longer to research than it it takes a party of this level to make the overland journey to the temple complex the old fashioned way.

Now I actually like book 5, but I feel it suffered immensely from trying to cover too much in one volume. The titular city outside of time feels incredibly rushed and under-developed, with important buildings and areas being glossed over. Belmarius' palace is little bigger than my grandparent's old single-story bungalow, and it's one of the few buildings that even gets a map at all. Part 1 isn't a bad adventure in its own right, but it's filler. A GM could skip it entirely and your players would never even realize the content was missing. Why it's there when the rest of the volume is criminally short-changed for page space is a mystery to me.

Finally, we get to book 6 is where the actual main plot begins... and because the PC's have been kept almost completely in the dark up until this point it opens with a staggering amount of exposition. It then drops a convoluted quest on the players that has a solution so obtuse it feels like it came out of a classic Sierra game. The first half of this volume feels like it's flailing randomly, although thankfully once you get to the time travel stuff it gets into its groove and at very least the AP ends strong.

Dark Archive

That was an impressive response it's been a good 6 months since I finished my first read through, so I can't really cite that much detail. I am looking forward to running it after finishing Shattered Star. I can certainly agree about the tone difference. Generally sandboxes don't excite me. Volume 2 of Hell's Vengeance as a player was super fun, but the challenge was clear.

Back to Return Given the magnitude of the threat and the manner in which things had come to pass all the running around and tail chasing came off as very authentic to the situation. Very little of it felt like filler to me.


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Return of the Runelords lost me once it became a time-travel plot. This is absolutely a personal hangup, though: I loathe and despise time travel plots with a passion normally reserved for telemarketers and door-to-door solicitors. So that became a hard stop for me, regardless of the quality of the material itself.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

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John Mechalas wrote:
Return of the Runelords lost me once it became a time-travel plot. This is absolutely a personal hangup, though: I loathe and despise time travel plots with a passion normally reserved for telemarketers and door-to-door solicitors.

"... to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater." — Firefly, "Our Mrs. Reynolds", Air Date: October 4, 2002

John Mechalas wrote:
So that became a hard stop for me, regardless of the quality of the material itself.

Ironically, it is something that many players had been requesting.

Shadow Lodge

Personally, I didn't mind that the entirety of Return's plot wasn't just "Kill All The Runelords". While time travel plots can get dangerously convoluted, I'm glad this one didn't.

Also personally, I never found myself excited for Giantslayer, mostly because I heard its pitch as, "Kill progressively larger giants!" I know there's more to it than that, and I'm certain all the writers were inspired and careful and the proofreaders tried to catch as many typos as they could, but it's still low on my list of APs. Mainly because there's so many, and they all take a long time to do.

Not personally, one of my friends refuses to have anything to do with Reign of Winter, purely because of that plot twist in book 5. Even my idea of having a session of Arkham Horror or Elder Sign or something and having it canon to the AP got dismissed.

Finally, because the staff says they plan to try something different with each AP, naturally they're going to be hit-or-miss with different groups. So I don't particularly mind if one's underwhelming. There are others, and there'll be more.


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Just wanted to pop in and say that Cult of Cinders is one of my favorite scenarios they’ve ever published.


I think they've always been like this. Which isn't to say I think all APs are bad, more that they all have high points and low points. Paizo's publishing model (from my limited understanding of it) means that connections between books in an AP will tend to be weak, and the constraints of Pathfinder mean they have to spend a lot of space on stats and combat encounters. I think the awkward marriage of setting and system also brings in inevitable plot weaknesses. And it's always hard for a whole path to live up to the expectations, particularly if it has a strong hook and exciting premise.

For me, recent instalments have seemed weaker, but I'm guessing some of that is what Haffrung said -- new devs and writers are building up experience -- and the rest is probably just my own changing tastes.

But Paizo can't please everybody, certainly not all the time, and they do a pretty good job in offering a variety of genres and experiences within the AP model. Some of the APs I like least are other people's favourites, and that's a good thing!


Uqbarian wrote:
I think they've always been like this. Which isn't to say I think all APs are bad, more that they all have high points and low points.

This is definitely true for me, even my most liked AP's have a weak book in them where either the plot goes off the rails for a tangent or it just feels like it's not giving to the same standards of other books in the same AP.

It's also more often than not a later book, usually a bk4 or a bk5.


The Shifty Mongoose wrote:
Not personally, one of my friends refuses to have anything to do with Reign of Winter, purely because of that plot twist in book 5. Even my idea of having a session of Arkham Horror or Elder Sign or something and having it canon to the AP got dismissed.

The writer of that part wrote instructions for using a completely different twist.

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