1) The players. My old PF/D&D group of a bazillion years broke up about 11 or so years ago. This is a new group, all of us are age 30-50, with me as a GM. The rest are friends of 15+ years, mostly consisting of ex World of Warcraft buddies along with an old pal from my old group. We meet up a lot in RL individually, and still game together over PC (talk on the phone almost daily and hang out in discord, etc). Two of the players are experienced tabletoppers, one hasn't played in many years, another has kept a steady pace with various D&D incarnations atm.
2) The goal. Twice a year, a long weekend getaway from stressful jobs, going through a full (or expanded) Pathfinder AP at an air B&B location that's central enough for a similar drive time from various states (as well as Canada). Campaign goals were set at about one and a half books per meetup.
2a) The accomplishment. A little shy of one book at this meetup. We took some extra breaks for family phone calls, a tavern/microbrewery jaunt, the 49'ers/Packers game,etc.
3) The AP choices. Originally, this was to be one of my two favorites, Carrion Crown and Kingmaker. I decided to run something more traditional and easier with Runelords and see how this all comes together. I'm glad I decided on Runelords, more on this to follow.
4) The experience. We started with a prelude in Crypt of Everflame to see if the group liked PF enough to invest in a long term campaign like an AP. Characters were 15-point buy and created months ago with backstory tweaks to Runelords as well as a few other seperate modules. The party of five consisted of: Paladin, Druid NPC, Sorcerer, Rogue and Witch.
Eventually, she fell in with evil to whispers of the Dark Tapestry promising her power that she thought she could use to undo the troubled past. This began with stealing the Midnight Mirror from the crypt of the everflame.
4a) What we liked. Curse of the Everflame was fantastic as a prelude, adjusted to keep folks at level 1 to begin Burnt Offerings. I left out the townsfolk and their contest for the backstory spoilered above I added Zerren as a part-time hireling of Iramine's to link it to Skinsaw later at Habe's. Another PC (Tengu Rogue) was also hired by Iramine but fled to sandpoint when she started using innocents as trap fodder.
Burnt Offerings was just as great, they liked Sandpoint well enough. There was some frustration here and there with the usual suspects, Erylium and Gogmurt come to mind. I played them to the hilt, Gogmurt took two casters down at the refugee thistle cave with his pet's trip and a well placed entangle while the meat shields finished off the rest of his Birdcrunchers, they had to parlay. The Birdcrunchers took "the good lair" in exchange for the PCs clearing it and a promise not to raid caravans passing through to Sandpoint. Tsuto got the drop on them and took out the rogue with a well placed Critical. Erylium is still Erylium, Nuff Said!
The not so stealthy approach to Thistletop lead to a near TPK and harrowing escape. They were smarter during their return trip some days later. Thistletop sent for reinforcements but they never arrived in time (this DM boon was explained as Gogmurt and Birdcruncher survivors doing their part to get the good lair by delaying said reinforcements).
4b) What we didn't like. LOL, cellphone and playoff game interruptions, crappy tasting takeout. The module itself was great.
4c) Where we are going. Here's the kicker.... I'm likely ditching RotR after we do the last two levels of Thistletop and moving to Shattered Star instead.
The reason... We had a great time, but I sensed that most of the fun they had was from combat, even when they near TPK'ed and got their arses kicked. Despite some town padding and leading, Sandpoint wasn't a big deal for them and besides Ameiko and Sheriff Hemlock, they didn't seem interested in getting to know the town too much. The "Shayliss Affair" went off great and I had big things in store for her later but that'll go back on the burner.
Though my player's liked it all, I think something like Shattered Star will work better based on our limited time, as well as trying to maximize their enjoyment. A lot of RP fell by the wayside explaining some mechanics to the new to tabletop player, and two of the veterans seemed a tad hesitant about taking lead during the RP moments.
I'm not saying Shattered Star has no RPing moments, I just think combat will break them out of the preliminary shell while training/refreshing them in the intricacies of the PF ruleset. Also, a smaller set of recurring NPC's (despite a bigger city) might be easier to deal with from an RP standpoint.
On an important tangent... I though minis and battlemats would kill alot of our time and we all thought to minimize the tactical aspect to SOME boss fights, important encounters like a dragon, etc. Ripnugget's throne room and the Catacombs of Wrath made it more fun than we thought it could be. Another point to the combat loving players.
In any event, after chatting with them, I'm happy to report that we all had a blast. These guys are already planning our next meet in 6 months or so, and are stoked for the concept behind the Rod of seven Shards/Mega-Dungeon theme (one of my players has been around since the 2E "Night Below" days (which oddly had a crap ton of fondly remembered RP moments). Their backstories still fit as chasing Iramine is happening off AP at various interludes, one already has a major backstory in Magnimar, and the witch player just has to meet up with a different witch at high level. Luckily there's a higher level enemy witch in nearly every AP, lol.
They do want to keep Burnt Offerings as an extended prelude and oddly it works. The Sihedron star (without shards) will be found with Nualia despite her not knowing what it's for. She likely found it after discovering these chambers in Thistletop, etc.
Overall, Runelords so far has been masterful, but as above, YMMV based on your table.
Thanks for reading :)