3-book APs and thoughts on the directions campaigns go. (long)


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I see that Paizo is moving towards 3 book APs which cover only half the level range. I think this is a great direction to head in, but I also think that this needs to be further subdivided. Let me explain why.

The one long standing criticism about APs (which many of you are already intuitively aware of) is that there is a very difficult transition around the end of book 3 and into book 4. For whatever reason keeping the same plot with the same characters and the same BBEG is really hard to do consistently (basically twice a year). Paizo does it better than most, but even their efforts are problematic at best.
So I like to look back to the old Mystara campaign setting for guidance (really, basic D&D did SO much correctly). The "official campaign" had four distinct stages (pre-Immortals)
1. Karameikos dungeon crawls and later city crawls.
2. The Master of the Desert Nomads invasion and the Known World
3. Norworld, and understand the relationship between the empires of Thaytis and Alphatia.
4. Fighting the immortal Alphaks' plans.

Each one of those things was a campaign in itself, and you could play each one individually. They didn't really wrap into one another, either, which makes sense. It doesn't always have to be one world-ending threat (in part, because you eventually run out of threats). If anything, a single campaign like Tyrant's Grasp or Jade Regent or Strange Aeons taking place over several weeks or months feels unnaturally forced, narratively. Its great marketing, but its terrible storytelling. Think of how much better Tyrant's Grasp would have been if the party started at Level 10 with the destruction of Vigil.

The only exception really is Kingmaker, because there are appropriate natural pauses built into that campaign. Ruins of Azlant has similar, but fewer and shorter pauses.

What is forgotten by people who didn't grow up with 1e AD&D, etc.. is that you're not supposed to be able to jump from level 1-20 over the course of a year (real time or game time). Back in the day, if you gained three levels a year playing at typical frequency, it was considered a fast campaign. And things slowed down even more at higher levels (9th level and higher). I power-leveled my ranger-illusionist in my last AD&D campaign (10th level ranger / 10th level illusionist at the start) and he gained a total of 2 levels, 1 in each class, both of which he was partway to at the start. Plus an additional level from a magic item. That was over 2 years of regular playing and 7 modules. Clearly, we weren't playing the modules to level- we played them because we enjoyed the story.

I think APs need to move to 3 volume sets which cover approximately 6 levels of experience. At the beginning and end of each AP, there should be suggestions to which modules these APs can connect to thematically. Then the players can mix and match themes based on their tastes as well as swap out GMs to avoid GM burnout. When a group gets close to the end of AP 1, the GM for AP 2 can already be prepping their turn. In the end, by making the modules more focused and taking up a lesser percentage of the PCs' career, I think Paizo will win out financially as the sale of older modules and APs will be able to better keep up with newer ones. Having those older works continue to bring in $$$ (especially digitally) helps everyone including the developers who aren't feeling the pressure as much for the current fare to be a "hit".


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Leveling up is fun. I'm not 100 percent sure but I'm confident today's generation of roleplayers don't want 3 lvl ups a year. If I played every week for a year I'd expect to be lvl 10 at the absolute minimum.


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I don't necessarily disagree with Paizo needing better reasons for continuity between the related APs, but there has to be a reason for the APs to be connected, otherwise they are just their own standalone adventures, not unlike Troubles in Otari or Fall of Plaguestone. As you stated in your example, those things can be their own campaigns: What brings them together for the purposes of making them a connected storyline? The setting? The pace? The players' levels lining up with the content?

Kingmaker is timeless because it's an extremely popular sandbox that many players believe is done correctly. (Granted, I've never actually played Kingmaker, so I don't even know much about it other than the point of the AP is to create a nation and, well, make a King.) That doesn't make it a successful AP done in succession of one another, just like your examples prior, it is its own campaign not linked to anything, so it doesn't really hold up as an example of what Paizo should do to create interlinked stories/chapters for an AP series.


I have run three Paizo adventure paths all the way to the end: the D&D 3.5 version of Rise of the Runelords, Jade Regent, and Iron Gods. I am currently in the 3rd module of Ironfang Invasion. Each adventure path offers insights into the length of a campaign.

I started Rise of the Runelords as a player and took over in the middle of the 3rd module when my wife stepped down as GM. After the 6th module, I continued the campaign with The Witchwar Legacy module, which conveniently began at 17th level in a location not far from where Rise of the Runelords ended. I continued to 20th level and one mission at 20th level with homebrew material to give my players the opportunity to play their characters at all levels. Jumping from Rise of the Runelords to The Witchwar Legacy smoothly shows that separate adventures can follow each other.

Next was Jade Regent. I chronicled it at Amaya of Westcrown. We began with 8 players, but during a break between the 1st module and the 2nd module, half of them moved or were otherwise occupied. For continuity I claimed that half the party returned to Sandpoint rather than journeying across the world to Minkai. However, I also had to tell the remaining players to level up from 3rd level to 4th level without earning the experience points, to keep the party strength appropriate for the module. This illustrates that the 2nd adventure does not have to end at exactly the same level that the 1st adventure ended at.

Third was Iron Gods, Iron Gods among Scientists. That adventure path had a flaw in motivating the PCs. The first 2 modules were tightly connected, but the obvious path after them was to head to the city of Starfall and the crashed spaceship called Silver Mount, the locations of the 5th and 6th modules. The 3rd and 4th module felt like filler if not properly motivated. I suspect that the adventure part was designed in three parts matched to the 3 iron gods: Hellion, Casandalee, and Unity, but since Casandalee was not a menace, her parts lacked dramatic tension in the overarching plot. A single adventure path is not always as tightly woven as the writers hope.

The pacing of Iron Gods could be leisurely if the players want. Unity's master plan took centuries and only plot-based coincidence put it close to completion. Take time away from the plot and Unity's plan is delayed by the same amount. My players would often take two months downtime for crafting.

Fourth is Ironfang Invasion. In the first 3 modules, the PCs escaped the Ironfang Legion, fight back against the legion, and defeat the northern army of the legion. Then the 4th and 5th modules go to investigate the secrets of the Ironfang Legion without facing the legion directly, to prepare for the final battles or peace talks in the 6th module. My players like defeating armies, but they do it by clever tactics, so they won't mind side quests to improve their tactics. Nevertheless, Ironfang Invasion has a natural ending point at the end of Ironfang Invasion, with the defeat of the northern army. We could treat it as a 3-module adventure path, but luring to party away to an unrelated 3-module adventure path would be difficult without adding a peace treaty to the end of the 3rd module.


Zi Mishkal wrote:
What is forgotten by people who didn't grow up with 1e AD&D, etc.. is that you're not supposed to be able to jump from level 1-20 over the course of a year (real time or game time). Back in the day, if you gained three levels a year playing at typical frequency, it was considered a fast campaign. And things slowed down even more at higher levels (9th level and higher). I power-leveled my ranger-illusionist in my last AD&D campaign (10th level ranger / 10th level illusionist at the start) and he gained a total of 2 levels, 1 in each class, both of which he was partway to at the start. Plus an additional level from a magic item. That was over 2 years of regular playing and 7 modules. Clearly, we weren't playing the modules to level- we played them because we enjoyed the story.
WWHsmackdown wrote:
Leveling up is fun. I'm not 100 percent sure but I'm confident today's generation of roleplayers don't want 3 lvl ups a year. If I played every week for a year I'd expect to be lvl 10 at the absolute minimum.

My Ironfang Invasion PCs went from 1st level to 10th level in 6 weeks of internal game time. In real world time, we required 83 weeks with one 4-hour game session per week, 332 hours, from October 2019 to the present. That is about 1 level-up for 9 game sessions. They earned 125 xp in Friday's game session, which is consistent with that rate. In contrast, WWHsmackdown's desire for 10th level in one year of weekly game sessions would be about 1 level-up for 6 game sessions.

Leveling up serves two game purposes: enabling the party to tackle new challenges and preventing boredom from using the same abilities in every enounter. How many non-leveled game sessions would induce boredom from sameness? Would Paizo writers want the maximum number of game sessions before boredom or would they want a more exciting pace?

In the real world, people gain skills from practice, so we level up slowly. In Pathfinder and Dungeon & Dragons, characters level up from experience points earned in challenges. Thus, adventurers level up much faster than townsfolk. Most adventurers die in deadly dungeons, so Golarion is not overrun with high-level adventurers. I am willing to accept different rules in a magical fantasy world.


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I’ve been playing tabletop games for coming up on 15 years and my longest campaign was 14 sessions. Life is busy, and hard, and complicated; a book that expects me to be playing it for a year+ is a book I won’t be buying.


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Zi Mishkal wrote:
What is forgotten by people who didn't grow up with 1e AD&D, etc.. is that you're not supposed to be able to jump from level 1-20 over the course of a year (real time or game time). Back in the day, if you gained three levels a year playing at typical frequency, it was considered a fast campaign. And things slowed down even more at higher levels (9th level and higher). I power-leveled my ranger-illusionist in my last AD&D campaign (10th level ranger / 10th level illusionist at the start) and he gained a total of 2 levels, 1 in each class, both of which he was partway to at the start. Plus an additional level from a magic item. That was over 2 years of regular playing and 7 modules. Clearly, we weren't playing the modules to level- we played them because we enjoyed the story.

This style of play doesn't sound terribly interesting to me. Advancing 3 levels in two years of real time isn't a superior story to advancing 20 levels in one year real time, it's just a different one. It'll fit some tastes better than others. Personally, I find the idea that progressing and exploring the module doesn't also feed into character progression is somewhat unfulfilling, it feels like you are getting punished for trying to follow the story instead of "playing to level."


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I don't necessarily want a slow leveling pace in real-life terms, but I wouldn't mind a slow-down from the PCs' perspective. So far in my Extinction Curse campaign, the PCs went from level 1 to level 5 in less than a week, then had about two weeks of downtime and travel to the next major location where they first gained one level in about another week (because that's how long it takes to put on a circus show), after which they will soon have gained another three levels in less than another week. In other words: 1 to 9 in a little over a month.

Part of this is because of the break-neck pace of adventure paths: there's 20 levels of adventuring to do, and about 360 pages of adventure in which to do it. This is pushed in 2e, where the "20 levels" mandate is much stronger than it were in 1e. Part of this could be helped by building in more downtime, but it would also be nice to have a slower adventuring pace in general, with more investigation and stuff in between encounters. This would also be a nice place to make adventure-specific backgrounds more relevant. But that takes more page count, and we can't have that.

I'm hoping that the next evolution in APs will be to get rid of the 1-20 mentality. 3-part APs would be a great place to try something new in this regard—instead of having them be either 1-10 or 11-20, why not 1-7, 8-14, and 15-20? A 9-part 1-20 AP might not fly, but a 3-part 6-level might.

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I think Starfinder has already demonstrated that chaining three three-part APs is totally possible. The Starfinder APs also tend towards just two levels per book which definitely feels less rushed.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

The slow leveling pace supposed by older games is neat in some ways, but wildly impractical in others-- a big part of why it worked was because you were meant to use the same character in many different adventures and dungeons, all mostly unrelated to each other (shy of a Mega dungeon like Castle Greyhawk I guess), character diversity was both limited because we didn't have builds in the same way we do now, and existed in the form of troupe play where characters were simple enough to run multiple at a time, and where lethality would force you to play another character far before you got your current one to any high level.

I do like the idea of making it standard to draw out the in universe time to represent years of an adventuring career, Strength of Thousands is implied to do that quite heavily.


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I dont care how they did it in the old days (I was there) im not going to be satisfied with three levels in a year at the table. I also dont have a problem with gaining three levels in a week game time if it fits the story.

I do think 3AP wrap ups have a ton of potential. Often, as mentioned, there is a module or two that feels either filler or out of place. I think the concentration on knocking out a good 1-10 level story is perfect.


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I think the shorter APs are great too. You can explore focused themes, play arcs to completion, and even use them to introduce new players to the system and AP format. Sometimes the campaign doesn't need 6 volumes.
After I complete running Abomination Vaults, I'll probably try writing my own adventure unless another AP reels me in.


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It's worth noting that we're about to start an AP that is explicitly going to take place over multiple years. Strength Of Thousands is going to be experimental in that regard, and honestly? I really like it. If that aspect goes over well, I'm sure they'll do more.

In the abstract, I'm also cool with three four part APs being released over the span of one year. If they were set up so that they could flow into each other without needing to do so, the concept could really work. Anything like that will greatly depend on how the three-parters are received, though. Only time will tell.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

The OP seems to take for granted the assertion that leveling up quickly or having stories that aren't stretched over long periods of time (within the game world) are inherently bad. I don't... really understand that. You can have good, slow stories or bad, quick stories, but I don't really think the examples the OP provided would somehow just suddenly be better if it spanned fewer levels or had more downtime inserted into it.


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There's also the mechanical issues with an idea like this. A module or AP that opens with "this uses an extra slow advancement, so is planned with players leveling up every 3000 XP" or something similar is a tougher sell when even the most restrictive module right now (no humans in The Slithering) offers ways to ignore that ruling. Even AV which very strongly recommends against milestone leveling includes guidelines for doing so.

I'm not sure how setting up encounters and XP would work for something like that. Either XP is explicitly handwaved and milestone leveling is hardcoded into the module, the XP to level is raised dramatically (and hardcoded into the module), or there just aren't encounters.

It also just doesn't make sense from a business angle for Paizo, who have said very often that their bread-and-butter are the monthly AP releases. I feel like super long, super massive, yet very slow modules cuts into their own line.

Like, I absolutely appreciate enjoying a slower-paced game, but that was also something that fits with the older systems when players don't have options dangled in front of them at every step of advancement with a system built for customization. This isn't to say that the older editions are bad, but that the mechanics are more comfortable with the slower games. It can absolutely be done with PF2, but I would put this in the realm of homebrew and houserules for actually doing it. I wouldn't put any hopes into seeing a product like it.


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keftiu wrote:
I’ve been playing tabletop games for coming up on 15 years and my longest campaign was 14 sessions. Life is busy, and hard, and complicated; a book that expects me to be playing it for a year+ is a book I won’t be buying.

Yes but people are different. For me games that go past a few sessions normally would average a couple of years.


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I like 6 book to 20 APs. I don't care if the APs are connected or how they break them up, as long as they are fun. They could do 3 book APs connected with separate 3 book AP to 20. They could do 6 book if they have a story to carry it. They could do a 4 book AP to 15 with a 2 book AP to 20. I really don't care how they break it up. Make it fun and challenging, make it so I can players to 20.

I played back in the day as well. We did not do 3 levels a year in my group. We would have been bored to tears.


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Is there any reason we can't have both 3 book AP and 6 book APs?

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Quote:
Back in the day, if you gained three levels a year playing at typical frequency, it was considered a fast campaign.

This was not my experience. The most common reason it took forever to level up in my AD&D days was that we would frequently restart campaigns, thus making a loop of repeated level one adventures.

IIRC, the DM's Guide gave leveling up every three to five adventures as a guideline, meaning a typical group could get into the teens through weekly play.

Moreover, if you played using gold as XP, a large treasure haul could land you well into the next level in a single session.

I don't intend to say that you didn't have that experience, but I suggest that it is not as universal as you recall.

Quote:
And things slowed down even more at higher levels (9th level and higher).

In AD&D, the XP needed for next level eventually plateaued but XP granted for creatures and treasure didn't. At a certain point, you gained higher levels faster than lower levels playing rules as written.

In terms of changes through the years, D&D and Pathfinder didn't (usually) make arbitrary changes for the sake of change; they evolved the editions based on how people played or what people wanted. That leveling got easier seems a reflection of that; I don't see too many people waxing nostalgic about not getting to reach fifth level before their gaming group dissolved.


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You know, there is no reason you cant use the APs with a glacial leveling pace on your own. You just need to shave off some numbers to make the challenges fit. Cut a few AC, attack, saves, etc and it shouldn't be straight up suicide anymore.


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HyperMissingno wrote:
Is there any reason we can't have both 3 book AP and 6 book APs?

Well, they can't publish both at the same time, so if you like six book APs, half a year of getting two 3 book APs is not ideal as a customer.

I prefer the six book APs. The continuous plot is what interests me, as a consumer. The transition from the first half of the AP to the back half is always fascinating to me and some Adventures do it better than others.

The three book APs are...fine, but if I wanted a campaign to continue after Abomination Vaults right now I have to contrive a reason to have the PCs participate in the Ruby Phoenix tournament or start making my own stuff--which is the thing I buy Paizo products to avoid.

This will be less of a problem if the three part APs continue to release in the 1-10, and then 11-20 range so you can have more pick and choose, but I haven't seen that commitment yet.


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Personally I'd like a two-year cycle of 3 6-book APs and 2 -3-book APs. I like both. I like the 6-book one more, but I like that they can explore concepts that fit better as 3-book ones when it makes sense.


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Kasoh wrote:
HyperMissingno wrote:
Is there any reason we can't have both 3 book AP and 6 book APs?

Well, they can't publish both at the same time, so if you like six book APs, half a year of getting two 3 book APs is not ideal as a customer.

I prefer the six book APs. The continuous plot is what interests me, as a consumer. The transition from the first half of the AP to the back half is always fascinating to me and some Adventures do it better than others.

The three book APs are...fine, but if I wanted a campaign to continue after Abomination Vaults right now I have to contrive a reason to have the PCs participate in the Ruby Phoenix tournament or start making my own stuff--which is the thing I buy Paizo products to avoid.

This will be less of a problem if the three part APs continue to release in the 1-10, and then 11-20 range so you can have more pick and choose, but I haven't seen that commitment yet.

Or you could find a higher level stand-alone adventure. Or run the second half of another AP.

But really, how many 6-volume APs can you finish in a year?

In practice, I have never completed a single 6-part AP. And where do we stop? Usually just after Book 3. I can't imagine I'm alone in this. It seems to make good financial sense to focus on releasing the stuff more people are playing.

Dark Archive

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I like the mix of 6 part and 3 part APs, along with standalone adventures you have quite a bit of flexibility to work on your own schedule. I've GMed all the way through 2 APs, working on a 3rd. I had one as a player end in book 4, and another that I was GMing stall out in book 2. Having spent years stuck in low level play due to the slow pace of XP in earlier editions I like to get somewhere, but I can also appreciate that some prefer to spend years with their character.


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Harles wrote:
Kasoh wrote:
HyperMissingno wrote:
Is there any reason we can't have both 3 book AP and 6 book APs?

Well, they can't publish both at the same time, so if you like six book APs, half a year of getting two 3 book APs is not ideal as a customer.

I prefer the six book APs. The continuous plot is what interests me, as a consumer. The transition from the first half of the AP to the back half is always fascinating to me and some Adventures do it better than others.

The three book APs are...fine, but if I wanted a campaign to continue after Abomination Vaults right now I have to contrive a reason to have the PCs participate in the Ruby Phoenix tournament or start making my own stuff--which is the thing I buy Paizo products to avoid.

This will be less of a problem if the three part APs continue to release in the 1-10, and then 11-20 range so you can have more pick and choose, but I haven't seen that commitment yet.

Or you could find a higher level stand-alone adventure. Or run the second half of another AP.

But really, how many 6-volume APs can you finish in a year?

In practice, I have never completed a single 6-part AP. And where do we stop? Usually just after Book 3. I can't imagine I'm alone in this. It seems to make good financial sense to focus on releasing the stuff more people are playing.

You'd be surprised. Some folks can blast through a 6 part AP in like 90 days. I dont know how they do it, but its not uncommon.

I took me two years with bi-weekly game sessions to complete each of the 3 APs I GM'd.


Really it depends on how much the group is focused on playing, how often they play. Some books are little more than one dungeon.

If you play for 8 hours every Saturday, I could see you finishing an book in one or two sessions.

I've run all the way through one full AP, but we are on book 3 of two others (we rotate GMs, so we are picking up AoA after about a almost year break).


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I do like experimenting with different lengths of AP. I think that the 3 book, 10 level format is a pretty good one and should be part of what's produced. I would like to see those levels not always be 1-10 or 11-20, though. I'd like to see some come in at, say, 6-15 with no intention of being compatible to back to back with another 3 book AP.


HammerJack wrote:
I do like experimenting with different lengths of AP. I think that the 3 book, 10 level format is a pretty good one and should be part of what's produced. I would like to see those levels not always be 1-10 or 11-20, though. I'd like to see some come in at, say, 6-15 with no intention of being compatible to back to back with another 3 book AP.

I wouldnt hold my breath for this anymore than a 3 module level 1-5 setup.


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I said it's what I'd like to see. Not that it's what I expect.


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HammerJack wrote:
I do like experimenting with different lengths of AP. I think that the 3 book, 10 level format is a pretty good one and should be part of what's produced. I would like to see those levels not always be 1-10 or 11-20, though. I'd like to see some come in at, say, 6-15 with no intention of being compatible to back to back with another 3 book AP.

I agree, I would like to see a 3-13 or 6-16 range. Not fresh faced newbies but also not starting out with a group of grizzled vets either.


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My guess is that if we see those kinds of books they would appear as Pathfinder Adventures rather than as Adventure Paths. Like some others have pointed out, the nice thing about three-part and six-part paths is that you can slot one into the other because they all run along the same level ranges, while a path which starts and ends in the middle doesn't play as nicely with that system.

It does play rather nicely with the stand-alone adventures, however.

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Planpanther wrote:
You know, there is no reason you cant use the APs with a glacial leveling pace on your own. You just need to shave off some numbers to make the challenges fit. Cut a few AC, attack, saves, etc and it shouldn't be straight up suicide anymore.

The proficiency without level variant from the Gamemastery Guide would be good for this model.


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The 3 book APs are very enticing for me as I can actually foresee my players finishing the book. Life gets in the way and having that goal be ab it more attainable is a benefit to me.

We plan to run the Ruby Phoenix series when it releases and I'm incredibly hype for it.

Personally I'm hoping they do a 6 part adventure and two 3 part adventures a year with one-shots and modules littered about to supplement everything.


From a development standpoint I would think two 3 book APs would be easier than one 6 book AP. Its easier to find time for two people to supervise 3 books than find time for one person to supervise 6 books.


Kelseus wrote:
From a development standpoint I would think two 3 book APs would be easier than one 6 book AP. Its easier to find time for two people to supervise 3 books than find time for one person to supervise 6 books.

That's debatable.

Paizo is still publishing 12 magazines a year. That means that for most of the people, the amount of work is the same. I forget how many AP developers they have, but Age of Ashes was developed by James Jacobs and Patrick Renie, Extinction Curse was developed by Ron Lundeen and Patrick Renie, and Agents of Edgewatch was developed by Ron Lundeen and Patrick Renie. Abomination Vaults was developed by Ron Lundeen. Now, developing AP material is not James Jacob's job, but it was also the first AP of 2e so I'm sure things were chaotic.

All that to say is I think it is the exact same amount of work, presuming that managing a third AP product stream for publishing in a single year doesn't create too many additional workflow issues. (I don't think it would, but who knows?) I also have no idea if it is more work to do first issues or not, but I assume that it is, since starting new projects is always more difficult as you have to bring people on board with the vision for the product as opposed to continuing what you've already established. It does mean there's an additional player's guide to make. Maybe developing lower level content is easier though. That's a possibility.

But overall, I don't think it is easier or particularly harder. Probably about the same amount of work in the end.


Kasoh wrote:
Kelseus wrote:
From a development standpoint I would think two 3 book APs would be easier than one 6 book AP. Its easier to find time for two people to supervise 3 books than find time for one person to supervise 6 books.

That's debatable.

Paizo is still publishing 12 magazines a year. That means that for most of the people, the amount of work is the same. I forget how many AP developers they have, but Age of Ashes was developed by James Jacobs and Patrick Renie, Extinction Curse was developed by Ron Lundeen and Patrick Renie, and Agents of Edgewatch was developed by Ron Lundeen and Patrick Renie. Abomination Vaults was developed by Ron Lundeen. Now, developing AP material is not James Jacob's job, but it was also the first AP of 2e so I'm sure things were chaotic.

All that to say is I think it is the exact same amount of work, presuming that managing a third AP product stream for publishing in a single year doesn't create too many additional workflow issues. (I don't think it would, but who knows?) I also have no idea if it is more work to do first issues or not, but I assume that it is, since starting new projects is always more difficult as you have to bring people on board with the vision for the product as opposed to continuing what you've already established. It does mean there's an additional player's guide to make. Maybe developing lower level content is easier though. That's a possibility.

But overall, I don't think it is easier or particularly harder. Probably about the same amount of work in the end.

Maybe a little more difficult considering promoting 2 3-part APs is a second marketing push compared to a single 6-part AP?


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Kasoh wrote:
But overall, I don't think it is easier or particularly harder. Probably about the same amount of work in the end.

Iirc, the real benefit from a development standpoint was that a single developer could cover both the adventures and the backmatter, where generally those are separate roles.

I’d have to search around for the quote when they talked about it.


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A bit off-topic, but I really wonder what AD&D play was like in the old days, because I consistently hear 2 narratives that seem to conflict:

1. "Leveling up was much slower back then. You could play the same campaign weekly for 3 years and your character would only reach Level 7."

2. "Old-school D&D was deadly. Your low level character probably wouldn't survive. Undead drained experience levels. Death was a constant threat at all times."

I suspect that players who recall old-school D&D to be like #2 leveled up more than a few times per year. I can't imagine players finding fun in a campaign where single touch by a vampire undoing a year of play (2 levels of experience).

Perhaps people who remember old-school play fondly and attribute what they liked to the system, actually enjoyed how their particular table ran what was otherwise a free-form game?


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
The Rot Grub wrote:

A bit off-topic, but I really wonder what AD&D play was like in the old days, because I consistently hear 2 narratives that seem to conflict:

1. "Leveling up was much slower back then. You could play the same campaign weekly for 3 years and your character would only reach Level 7."

2. "Old-school D&D was deadly. Your low level character probably wouldn't survive. Undead drained experience levels. Death was a constant threat at all times."

I suspect that players who recall old-school D&D to be like #2 leveled up more than a few times per year. I can't imagine players finding fun in a campaign where single touch by a vampire undoing a year of play (2 levels of experience).

Perhaps people who remember old-school play fondly and attribute what they liked to the system, actually enjoyed how their particular table ran what was otherwise a free-form game?

I've only played a few sessions but it seemed like both of those are true. Characters that survive into the later levels pretty much have to be paranoid and lucky, which feeds into the slower progression. Then there's also things like how you don't level up when hitting the experience/gold milestone, and instead unlock the ability to train for a section of downtime in order to level up. There's also a lot of random generation baked into some old adventures which took time to handle (One room randomly generated 50 jars filled with random magical ingredients, each individually rolled for on large tables).

As to the lethality of early levels, I remember there being some low-threat giant centipedes with a poison that just killed you on a failed save. Never played at higher levels but I doubt things got much kinder.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
The Rot Grub wrote:

A bit off-topic, but I really wonder what AD&D play was like in the old days, because I consistently hear 2 narratives that seem to conflict:

1. "Leveling up was much slower back then. You could play the same campaign weekly for 3 years and your character would only reach Level 7."

2. "Old-school D&D was deadly. Your low level character probably wouldn't survive. Undead drained experience levels. Death was a constant threat at all times."

I suspect that players who recall old-school D&D to be like #2 leveled up more than a few times per year. I can't imagine players finding fun in a campaign where single touch by a vampire undoing a year of play (2 levels of experience).

Perhaps people who remember old-school play fondly and attribute what they liked to the system, actually enjoyed how their particular table ran what was otherwise a free-form game?

I'm guessing part of it is that once players did get a character to a slightly higher level with nice equipment, they were somewhat safer than low level characters who get a few rooms into a dungeon and die. Also troupe play where you have a handful of characters, many of whom basically die with a survivor or two.

Dungeon Crawl Classics actually presents this as a game mechanic they refer to as 'the funnel' and heavily implies that comes from how it was actually played.


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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I'm a player in a 5e game right now (Out of the Abyss), coming up on three years real time. I joined the campaign at 7th level and we are currently 12th level, playing every other week with a few months delay when we switched to VTT for the pandemic.

In the P2 game I run (Age of Ashes) the players are 9th level after 21 sessions. We will hit two years real time in October, with a six month delay due to the pandemic, playing every other week, alternating with the 5e game.

I think both styles work, it just depends on what the players and GM want out of their game. For what it's worth, it's all the same people in both of the games I am involved in. If anyone cares, I've been playing RPGs since the '80s.

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I have removed a post. It is not okay to insult each other simply because you disagree.


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As long as there is some wiggle room for the GM to let things develop organically, I love how immersive the long 6-part APs can be.


I like six book adventure paths. They let you stew in them for a long time that it becomes more immersive the more you play.
Ya hope 3 book AP are not a normal thing.


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I like both AP formats personally. The 3-book APs require less investment to finish the story (both time and money), have less risk of falling apart due to other issues, and can tell stories with conclusions that don't work as well at high levels or beginnings that don't work at as well at low levels. The 6-book APs can tell stories that involve larger scopes and incorporate a wider variety and let the same group of characters experience the same story for a longer set of time. I'd be pretty happy if the AP cycle continues going 2 short APs and a long AP every year.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I think the balance between IRL time and in-world time is something that there are some different player demographics for, and that this is something that adventure creators like Paizo, WotC, et. al. could be a little better at keeping that in mind during the design process and working into their marketing.

Something I've noticed in the PF2e APs/Adventures that I've played/run is that if you clear content in a way that makes sense you really don't get that many daily preparations per level-up unless you're making camp every few ingame hours. In the real life time domain I always want to be leveling up and getting new stuff to use, but in the game time domain I feel like my character is rushed (or that I'm rushing my players).

I wonder if there's a more ergonomic way to handle those kinds of things and bake them into the story than the "fifteen minute adventuring day."


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spacemonkeyDM wrote:

I like six book adventure paths. They let you stew in them for a long time that it becomes more immersive the more you play.

Ya hope 3 book AP are not a normal thing.

Given that Starfinder has had them for ages and Pathfinder 2e has two out with a third announced…


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I happy for the flexibility of having both.

I would like to see more sequel APs and adventures so I did a 3 part AP that was a complete story with an ending but then a year later or something a thematically connected or possibly directly connected AP was released for higher level play that was its own contained story (perhaps set a couple of years later) came out. Groups could continue with the same characters or bring in new ones.

Bridging the thematic gap between AV and Ruby Phoenix just seems to vast to me. I appreciate both but would love a 'sequel' to AV later.


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Kind of defeats the purpose of having 3-book AP's if you're just gonna make three more books tied to the same AP.

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