Adventure Paths should come with a stripped-down, bulleted, summary document


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I'm setting up to take my first real shot at an adventure path and making notes I think I'll need to reference during play as I do with my homebrew.

I've realized that I am wholly incapable of picking out info from the Adventure Path text on the fly. My solo test runs have me pausing to scan the text for key info, even after I've read and reread the adventure multiple times. Names particularly fail to jump out, and I flip back and forth between highlighted pages. It might just be my ADHD, but I just don't seem to be able to reference the book in the heat of the moment.

As a result, my note document has become essentially a bulleted outline of the entire book. All the background lore and immediately unnecessary stuff is stripped out, all the names are bolded, the DCs are clear and succinct. Indentations and bullets let me skip around and return to the same spot with ease, and important diagrams, maps, and statblocks are all exactly where they should be, adjacent to their points in the outline. The difference in usability is night and day.

While I understand prep work is always going to be necessary, I realize the only reason it's taking me *significantly* more time than prepping for a homebrew is because of all this effort I have to put in to manually extract a stripped down outline.

The problem, I think, is that the Adventure Path is written with the goal of being digestable by the GM, as well as fitting within the page constraints. This leaves usability during play very much neglected. If I weren't so dedicated to giving this particular adventure a go, I would have given up long ago and just whipped up my own. I can't really see myself doing all this for another adventure in the future, and I'm only one book into this one!

It would be a HUGE help if Paizo could put out a pdf-only not-intended-to-be-printed document that is just a bare bones outline.

Dark Archive

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You might find it gets easier with more practice. I had significant difficulty parsing all the info, back when I ran ROTR anniversary edition. For organized play scenarios I still go in and highlight DCs as part of my prep to help me run fast and efficient. Overall though the preptime has gone down dramatically over the years.


What AP exactly are you talking about? Would you post a print showing your "bulleted outline"?

I have this problem with names. I'm terrible with names. When I used to play on person, before what is still happening, I used a tablet with the PDF and dozens of bookmarks and important things highlighted.


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The adventure paths for 2nd edition have a synopsis of each chapter at the beginning of the chapter, and you really don't need more advanced info to run the chapter than that.

I often don't even do as recommended and read through the whole adventure before running it, just 1 chapter at a time, and rarely is there anything to stumble over because I don't know the right piece of info at the right time.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I'm starting up Strength of Thousands. I'm not sure how kosher it is to copy text from APs here, so I'm going to give an example instead:

Something like:

AP Section: wrote:

Ireni is a particularly short and curt dwarf woman who is the proprietor of the Painted Mare inn. She is entirely uninterested in anything the heroes want, unless they want to rent a room. Her business relies on her continued disinterest, so she isn't easily swayed to provide information. Gethin's room is one of the several doors facing the street on the ground level. If the heroes decide to go door to door and knock, they will find that Gethin is not inside at the moment, and only two other rooms are occupied by disgruntled guests. After two doors Ireni will come demand that they stop harrassing her guests. The party can choose to wait to see if Gethin will return, and try to meet with him then, but they will not be able to search his room unobserved. Picking the lock to Gethin's room requires a DC20 stealth check to not be noticed by Ireni, and a DC22 thievery check to pick the lock.

Everyone has a price, however, and Ireni can be paid off with 25 gold, which can be haggled down to 20 with a DC25 diplomacy check, and she will even unlock the door. Ireni is not very easily impressed, so it takes a DC26 Intimidation check to coerce her into showing the heroes the door to Gethin's room. If the heroes would like to use some other magical means to convince Ireni to help, use the statistics of an Innkeeper (Gamemastery Guide pg.239)

becomes something like:

Outline Version wrote:

NPCs:

Ireni - gruff female dwarf innkeper at the Painted Mare
Gethin - lanky male human counterfeiter
[Other NPCs in the chapter]

Key Story Points:
[Previous bullet points about finding where Gethin is staying]

* Gethin has a room at the Painted Mare inn, but the party doesn't know which room is his. He's not inside right now.
_- The inkeeper,Ireni, can be bribed with 25 gp (20 gp after DC 25 Diplomacy) to show the party his room, or DC 26 intimidated
_- The party can't just check every door or Ireni comes to kick them out
_- Sneaking into the room: DC20 stealth, DC22 thievery to pick lock


I find the headings to be enough organization. I do have decades of practice tracking people and places due to reading novels. GMs like me won't make use of a bulleted summary document. I have no idea whether the number of GMs who would appreciate the document would be worth Paizo's trouble.

For example, consider Fangs of War, the most recent module that I have finished--I am still running the next module Assault on Longshadow in the Ironfang Invasion adventure path.

Fangs of War, espcially Fort Nunder:
The party's goal in Fangs of War is to find the Chernesardo Rangers, the fabled protective force of Nirmathis who failed to show up in the previous module, Trail of the Hunted, and rescue the invaded village. The party might think that they are reaching out for help, or might want to solve the mysterious abscense. The solution to the mystery is that the Ironfang Legion recruited aid from a dragon and other monsters and attacked the Chernesardo Rangers first.

The secondary table of contents for the adventure says:
PART 1: EXPLORING THE FANGWOOD 5
To secure the area around their hideout and make contact with the elusive Chernasardo Rangers, the PCs investigate the Southern Fangwood and learn the location of Fort Ristin.
PART 2: REVEL AT RISTIN 15
The PCs discover that a group of fey have moved into the devastated Fort Ristin and now hold a grisly celebration. By rescuing a Chernasardo Ranger named Cirieo, they learn the location of forts Nunder and Trevalay.
PART 3: SECRETS OF FORT NUNDER 30
In the remains of Fort Nunder, the PCs confront the Ironfang Legion’s troll mercenaries—now exiled for insubordination—and explore the fort’s wellprotected underground vault.
PART 4: THE GORGE 39
The PCs assault Fort Trevalay, a fortress built on a stone pillar within a deep gorge. The black dragon Ibzairiak and his hobgoblin minions occupy the fort, and the PCs must defeat them to free the remaining Rangers.

I can get away with memorizing only one part at a time, except that Part 1 also deals with the encounters between the three forts, so I have to revisit it. Let me look at Part 3, the smallest fort, in more detail.

PART 3: SECRETS OF FORT NUNDER - Introduction and history of Fort Nunder. This fort is an armory with a few dragon-hunting weapons in it.
The map of Fort Nunder is on page 32.
K1. Gatehouse (CR 6) - encounter with 3 trollhounds
K2. The Courtyard (CR 8) - encounter with 3 trolls and a treasure list
K3. Ruined Barracks - treasure list
K4. Commander’s Quarters (CR 7) - encounter with troll leader Nashgra
K5. Trapsmith Plaques - entrance to underground armory. The plaques remind NPC Cirieo to tell the party everything he knows about the trapped passages ahead.
K6. Lunging Strikes Trap (CR 6) - a trap
K7. Advancing Formation Trap (CR 5) - a trap and one of 2 keys to the vault
K8. Axe Guardian Alcove (CR 6) - encounter with a wood golem armed with an axe
K9. Hundred Arrows Trap (CR 6) - a trap
K10. Cornered Prey Trap (CR 5) - a trap and the other of 2 keys to the vault
K11. Bow Guardian Alcove (CR 6) - encounter with a wood golem armed with bow
K12. Crypt - tomb of the 2 trapsmiths and the controls to deactivate the traps
K13. Vault Door - requires 2 keys or a DC 40 Disable Device check to open
K14. Vault - a treasure list

That list of traps, treasure, and encounters requires only a little preparation. I complicated matters for myself by playing this PF1 adventure path under PF2 rules, so I had to make sure that trolls, trollhounds, and wood golems were in the PF2 Bestiaries. I rebuilt Nashgra under PF2 monster creation rules, rebuilt the traps under PF2 hazard rules, and replaced PF1 treasure with PF2 treasure. I did all that on the Thursday before the Friday game session. And I added more trolls, some in the ruined barracks. Roll20 added further work where I copied the map and found token images.

In running the exploration of Fort Nunder, I alternated between the map on Roll20, the text in the PDF of Fangs of War, and the text in a file of rebuilt NPCs and hazards.

I didn't need indexed notes like WatersLethe because for details, such as the Disable DCs for the traps, I could just scan the few paragraphs in the room description for it (well, scan my list of rebuilt traps, etc.). Searching for the detail does give a slight pause to my game session, but my players give similar pauses when they look up their to-hit and damage numbers for secondary weapons and feats.

I also have to remember to set plot hooks for upcoming sections. The troll leader Nashgra could give information away in her complaints about the hobgoblins or if properly bribed.

But preparing more is not worth the effort because my player character don't behave as the module anticipates. Thus, I improvise. I was playtesting the summoner class via NPC Cirieo, so I wrote chronicles of the beginning of Fort Number for the playtest report:
Cirieo Thassaddin, Summoner.


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WatersLethe wrote:
...
Outline Version wrote:

NPCs:

Ireni - gruff female dwarf innkeper at the Painted Mare
Gethin - lanky male human counterfeiter
[Other NPCs in the chapter]

Key Story Points:
[Previous bullet points about finding where Gethin is staying]

* Gethin has a room at the Painted Mare inn, but the party doesn't know which room is his. He's not inside right now.
_- The inkeeper,Ireni, can be bribed with 25 gp (20 gp after DC 25 Diplomacy) to show the party his room, or DC 26 intimidated
_- The party can't just check every door or Ireni comes to kick them out
_- Sneaking into the room: DC20 stealth, DC22 thievery to pick lock

This as a clean-up of the paragraphs in the module, but to my eyes the original paragraphs contain the information in accessible form. And in roleplaying Ireni I would try to wear her shoes by imagining her attitude. I would invent her attitude to find her voice, such as, "My patrons pay for privacy, so no, I am not saying anything about a Mister Gethin," with the emphasis on "pay" to hint that money motivates her and a bribe might work. That is a different Ireni than one who would reply, "Do you want to rent a room, or are you nothing more than nosy loiterers?"

And my players are just as likely to order breakfast at this inn and talk to other customers, so I would have to improvise those other customers. Assuming that the Painted Mare Inn serves breakfast: I will have to decide myself whether or not it does. I have to make so many decisions in each scene that if I miss something in a paragraph and instead invent it myself, I won't miss a beat.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

I would find the summaries WatersLethe mentions to be helpful. My homebrew *starts* with this kind of outline, as I borrow heavily from the “One Page Dungeon” style, so I’m simply used to having that kind of bulleted summary handy.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I think they are trying to do that a little more. They started adding bulleted treasure lists at the beginning of each chapter.

I once ran an AP that was out of print so I printed out the PDF. I highlighted, circled, and underlined key bits of information. Theoretically there's no reason I couldn't do that with a proper book.

I've also run an AP where someone had converted it between editions. To avoid using two separate docs, I copied the conversion notes and added them as sticky notes to the relevant parts of the original PDF.

I think annotated PDFs might be an untapped market. You can use it to sell quick and dirty conversions (rather than ambitious versions that get stuck in limbo like Kingmaker) and you could make some toggles to color code different kinds of info in there, like xp or treasure awards, DCs, tactical choices, or motivations.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

There’s an idea. I should publish my conversion of Second Darkness Vol 1.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
AnimatedPaper wrote:
There’s an idea. I should publish my conversion of Second Darkness Vol 1.

I'm reasonably sure you'd need to work out a licensing deal with Paizo but it strikes me as free money for them, so.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Er, by “publish” I mean post on the Internet, not actually charge.

Making money off someone else’s intellectual property, even with permission, seems skeezy to me.

But it would be the exact kind of bulleted notes that I use and possibly of use to someone else.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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My assumption has always been that a GM does something like this when preparing an adventure that they didn't write. Providing a full summary of adventures is asking us to not quite double our workload while not increasing the number of for-sale products we produce, so it's a losing prospect for us to do something like this that by its nature won't work equally well for every GM, and also won't remove the need for a GM to read the adventure and study it in the first place.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
My assumption has always been that a GM does something like this when preparing an adventure that they didn't write. Providing a full summary of adventures is asking us to not quite double our workload while not increasing the number of for-sale products we produce, so it's a losing prospect for us to do something like this that by its nature won't work equally well for every GM, and also won't remove the need for a GM to read the adventure and study it in the first place.

Sure, but there has to be a better way than how it's currently working. Me using a pre-written adventure is easily doubling *my* workload, so already there's a trade-off happening. How many people aren't buying into APs because of that trade-off?

I suggest a trimmed down summary document, which I would be happy to pay for separately, because it doesn't require a massive re-think of the formatting of AP writing. Even if it's not a perfect fit for most people, simply having it to start with would make my work so much easier.

An alternative is doing some kind of usability study to improve the in-play digestibility of APs. A means of reducing page flipping, bolding names, keeping stat-blocks close by and available, or something along those lines.

I suspect the best improvement in reducing GM workload would in fact involve completely splitting the nuts and bolts of statblocks and DCs from the story that the GM needs to read and digest. I have no idea if that's even feasible.

I'm not an expert on this stuff. I just know it's not working for me as it stands. Sure, everything I've suggested is more work on Paizo's part, but I can't help but wonder if that work could be profitable. I know I'd be FAR more interested in buying more APs if I knew it wouldn't immediately devour double my usual allotted prep time.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
WatersLethe wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
My assumption has always been that a GM does something like this when preparing an adventure that they didn't write. Providing a full summary of adventures is asking us to not quite double our workload while not increasing the number of for-sale products we produce, so it's a losing prospect for us to do something like this that by its nature won't work equally well for every GM, and also won't remove the need for a GM to read the adventure and study it in the first place.

Sure, but there has to be a better way than how it's currently working. Me using a pre-written adventure is easily doubling *my* workload, so already there's a trade-off happening. How many people aren't buying into APs because of that trade-off?

...

Running a pre-written adventure takes twice as much work as writing your own and running it?

I've found Paizo Adventure Paths have a fair bit going on that isn't always critical to the party, maybe try taking more abbreviated notes and 'winging it' a bit more? I know I've missed things before where a particular encounter has 3 elements on different pages that all interact in some way, but it generally works out fine to sweep those missed details under the rug and move on. A lot of that tertiary information offered comes in handy when the party becomes obsessed/adopts a particular minor NPC and I suddenly need to read up on their deeper motivations.

I think something like you suggest could be useful for an occasional encounter with particular complexity, but that doing it all the time would be more trouble than it's worth.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

WatersLethe wrote:
I suspect the best improvement in reducing GM workload would in fact involve completely splitting the nuts and bolts of statblocks and DCs from the story that the GM needs to read and digest. I have no idea if that's even feasible.

WotC did something like that with the Delve format (I think it was called) and it was awful, as the actually stat blocks and encounters ended up being no where near the narrative associated with them.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
thewastedwalrus wrote:
WatersLethe wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
My assumption has always been that a GM does something like this when preparing an adventure that they didn't write. Providing a full summary of adventures is asking us to not quite double our workload while not increasing the number of for-sale products we produce, so it's a losing prospect for us to do something like this that by its nature won't work equally well for every GM, and also won't remove the need for a GM to read the adventure and study it in the first place.

Sure, but there has to be a better way than how it's currently working. Me using a pre-written adventure is easily doubling *my* workload, so already there's a trade-off happening. How many people aren't buying into APs because of that trade-off?

...

Running a pre-written adventure takes twice as much work as writing your own and running it?

I've found Paizo Adventure Paths have a fair bit going on that isn't always critical to the party, maybe try taking more abbreviated notes and 'winging it' a bit more? I know I've missed things before where a particular encounter has 3 elements on different pages that all interact in some way, but it generally works out fine to sweep those missed details under the rug and move on. A lot of that tertiary information offered comes in handy when the party becomes obsessed/adopts a particular minor NPC and I suddenly need to read up on their deeper motivations.

I think something like you suggest could be useful for an occasional encounter with particular complexity, but that doing it all the time would be more trouble than it's worth.

Yeah, it takes me SO MUCH longer. My natural GMing style is to wing it. It takes me essentially zero time to come up with an idea for an 8 hour session, then maybe an hour to grab statblocks, whip up maps, and jot down notes in an outline format.

When using prewritten content I have to:
1. Read through everything once to get the story
2. Read through it all again with an eye for how each encounter or section is supposed to play out, and mentally note which future sections are impacted
3. Edit content to run smoother for my group
4. Add content specific to my players
5. Create an outline document to reference specific rules, DCs, statblocks, and allow me to quickly pull from in play

Steps 1-4 take about as much time as prepping for my homebrew, and step 5 is essentially what I have to do for my homebrew anyway.

These are really rough timescales though, because I've only done this with prewritten stuff twice. First one was Carrion Crown, which I gave up on because it was too much work, and now it's Strength of Thousands, which I'm pushing through because I like the idea of the adventure enough.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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This isn't a complaint I've heard much at all. Not saying that it's not a viable and legit complaint, of course, just that ... we've been adjusting how we do our Adventure Paths on reader feedback for a few decades now, and overall they seem to be working as intended.

Your list of the 5 steps for how to prepare for running a published adventure largely follow along with my own steps when I do the same in my games, although mostly just for the first 4 steps. I don't do step 5 at all, but instead am happy to rely upon player aid if there's a rule that I need to look up.

If your natural GMing style is to wing it, the best way to run a published adventure might be to do steps 1 and 4, and then wing it for your group. Think of the adventure more as inspiration for your home game than a recipie that must be strictly adhered to.

And it's also possible that your GM style just might not work for published adventures. In that case, reading lots of adventures can help you to fuel your imagination for future games, but... published adventures aren't for everyone, I guess.

I'll certainly continue to keep an eye/ear on feedback across these forums for how to present adventure information, but we do them the way we do them now as a result of doing that for a few decades, so don't expect significant sudden changes to the format anytime soon—they've proven to work very well for most folks, as far as I can tell. Sorry they're not working as well for you... :(


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Yeah, I can agree with the OP. There's too much info, not presented in a way that's easily accessible during a game, laid out in a confusing manner (splitting up important pieces of content).
I'd be fine with bullet points to describe an NPC in general terms. Or even bolding the most important information to the story.


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I have to toss in my two cents here as I love the AP format and have been following since the days of monthly Dungeon modules. I don't do an insane amount of prep for adventures. I give the adventure a read over, then before game day, I check out the sections that are likely to get encountered. Then, at the table, I have the book or pdf open right there along with AoN for rules lookup.

I'm surprised there's very much issue as I've always seen Paizo APs as the gold standard in TTRPG adventures. I certainly have more familiarity with the adventure when I write it myself, but that's also an astronomical amount of work on my end to get to the level of polish and detail of an AP. If I had any advice for running these more fluidly, I would honestly say to stop sweating the little details. At the end of the day, as a GM, it is your world and it's important that it makes sense to you and your players.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:

This isn't a complaint I've heard much at all. Not saying that it's not a viable and legit complaint, of course, just that ... we've been adjusting how we do our Adventure Paths on reader feedback for a few decades now, and overall they seem to be working as intended.

Your list of the 5 steps for how to prepare for running a published adventure largely follow along with my own steps when I do the same in my games, although mostly just for the first 4 steps. I don't do step 5 at all, but instead am happy to rely upon player aid if there's a rule that I need to look up.

If your natural GMing style is to wing it, the best way to run a published adventure might be to do steps 1 and 4, and then wing it for your group. Think of the adventure more as inspiration for your home game than a recipie that must be strictly adhered to.

And it's also possible that your GM style just might not work for published adventures. In that case, reading lots of adventures can help you to fuel your imagination for future games, but... published adventures aren't for everyone, I guess.

I'll certainly continue to keep an eye/ear on feedback across these forums for how to present adventure information, but we do them the way we do them now as a result of doing that for a few decades, so don't expect significant sudden changes to the format anytime soon—they've proven to work very well for most folks, as far as I can tell. Sorry they're not working as well for you... :(

Fair enough, I mean this entire post was inspired by only my own experience with this, and it might just be my personal idiosyncrasies getting in my way.

I guess I thought more people would have the same issues as me because whenever I asked around for tips and tricks to get into an AP prior to this thread I was met with a resounding "There is no shortcut, you just have to put in the work, and APs are less about saving you time and more about giving you a framework." Which is a far cry from the people in this particular thread saying they can give it a once-through then wing it from the book.

I'm not a professional publisher, so obviously I don't have much to back up my anecdotally based opinions, but I still think there could be improvements to the text's skimmability based on the lack of bolded keywords, few bullet points, and the way mechanical details are mixed in with descriptive. Whatever the case is, I know for me my eyes slide off off of unbroken paragraphs when I'm hunting for a specific piece of info.


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I agree with the complains about APs. I'm new with paizo APs starting in 2e and as reader I can easily say that they are fantastic adventures with all info need to GMing there. But I still remember the first time a tried to GM my first AP. It was disastrous. I stoped many times to re-read during gameplay, the commentaries about "whats happening" breaks the narrative, many time the info is out of order and many others breaks and mixes there.

Rapidly in nexts sessions I notice that I not only have to take notes about names, itens, XP, monsters and NPC stats page numbers but I have to rewrite almost all the story in order, understand NPCs personalities, create and transliterate their from 3º person narrative to 1º person talk, and now I even create flowchars (more exactly an Activity diagram from UML) with all choices, questions and ways that players can choose to help me not miss the point during game play.

And in practice do all this would me loose almost the same time I would lost if I try to adapt a novel but with the exceptional that in APs all stats, itens, rewards, CDs, monsters, puzzles and mini-games are there and this helps a lot so don't unsterstand me wrong the APs are still incredible, useful and I will continue buying and GMing they specially because the plot but it's not like they are a perfect ready to use gameplay book.


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As a GM I want to say not only are Paizo's adventures difficult to prep with, and they are getting worse.

Strength of Thousands arrived earlier this week, and I agree the information about the npcs is woeful. Compare it to Souls for Smugglers Shiv, where the npcs are placed together, in one section, in a more structured and less meandering way.

A number of other adventures are working to make their adventures usable during play, and easier to recall the information. It's often quicker for me to convert another adventure that priorities usability than to prep 0-5 year old Paizo adventure.


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Wow. None of this lines up with my experience whatsoever.

I read an AP volume, then write down anything I feel I want to track for later, then re-read the sections as the players approach. That's basically it. Everything else is VTT prep these days, for me.

The idea that this is getting worse, when I've found 2e APs to be increasingly hitting their stride is also completely the opposite of my experience.

Are people only using the book physically in play, and only reading rooms descriptions as they enter them? THat would obviously be easy if a product did that, but I've never seen a pre-written adventure do that well. In fact I find most adventures by most other companies pretty flat. There are a lot of cool indie adventures for OSR and stuff, but those involve plenty of adding the rules elements from Pathfinder 2e too, if I wanted to use them for Pathfinder.


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Yeah, in my experience, consistent both in older books and more current ones, the front of chapter summaries have everything I would ever need for a summary. It's easy to move between bookmarks.

You should always read an AP volume in full before reading it, which also helps to give you an idea where everything that isn't in the summary is. Plus PDF bookmarks make navigating a book trivial.

These APs do a very good job of giving me all the info I need in a stable place.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

My experience with AP's is:
- Read the whole thing once before playing
- Setup the first book on VTT
- Reread first book
- Review morning of play the content I think we'll get through that day
- Read each book again as my players are finishing the previous one
- Set up the upcoming book on VTT

When I first started I did significantly more prep and tried to memorize even more, but I found that was more out of my own anxiety than useful time spent prepping.


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While I think that I'm generally good with the existing format, I will note that things like including all the loot in a given chapter at the start are helpful improvements that do simplify prep. I'd be more than happy if Paizo opted to experiment adding a few more things like that up front (e.g. brief NPC descriptions or an encounter list). That probably falls short what WatersLethe is asking for but might help overall for people who are having trouble navigating the text for specific callouts.

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I think one thing that would be useful for me, is to have something similar to page 61 from Dragons Demand module. In just 1 easy to read chart on 1-page there is basically most of the info you need to run NPCs and a bit of info on each location.

Perhaps an NPC/Location summary chart like this that list all the NPCs and locations for that particular volume wouldn't take too much extra work?


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James Jacobs wrote:

This isn't a complaint I've heard much at all. Not saying that it's not a viable and legit complaint, of course, just that ... we've been adjusting how we do our Adventure Paths on reader feedback for a few decades now, and overall they seem to be working as intended.

Your list of the 5 steps for how to prepare for running a published adventure largely follow along with my own steps when I do the same in my games, although mostly just for the first 4 steps. I don't do step 5 at all, but instead am happy to rely upon player aid if there's a rule that I need to look up.

If your natural GMing style is to wing it, the best way to run a published adventure might be to do steps 1 and 4, and then wing it for your group. Think of the adventure more as inspiration for your home game than a recipie that must be strictly adhered to.

And it's also possible that your GM style just might not work for published adventures. In that case, reading lots of adventures can help you to fuel your imagination for future games, but... published adventures aren't for everyone, I guess.

I'll certainly continue to keep an eye/ear on feedback across these forums for how to present adventure information, but we do them the way we do them now as a result of doing that for a few decades, so don't expect significant sudden changes to the format anytime soon—they've proven to work very well for most folks, as far as I can tell. Sorry they're not working as well for you... :(

I wouldn't mind a very small section that explicitly details main NPCs goals and motivations in an adventure because knowing that makes it much easier to run or improvise, at least for me. It also makes it easier to understand the plot of the adventure as a whole. For me, Paizo APs read more like books than modules and what I'm looking for is information distilled down in such a way that it's really only what I need to play/understand the module.

Liberty's Edge

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John Whyte wrote:
Strength of Thousands arrived earlier this week, and I agree the information about the npcs is woeful. Compare it to Souls for Smugglers Shiv, where the npcs are placed together, in one section, in a more structured and less meandering way.

This made my jaw drop. I thought the NPC section in Kindled Magic was the best and most useful such article I've ever seen in a Paizo product.


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I think most GMs will have their own different list of what needs to be pulled out to a helpful cheatsheet for an AP. If Paizo starts trying to make one, the requests over what should/shouldn't be in it would get a bit out of hand. And its not just the amount of extra work, its the amount of page space it takes up; each re-summarization of content included elsewhere needs to be balanced against how useful it is versus how useful the content that must be cut to make space for it.

I personally have a similar approach to nephandys. Very little extra notes, just a couple of sequenced read-throughs.

APs with extra subsystems (EC and SoT) will need some extra handouts/tracking systems made, but given that practically every GM I talk to ends up adjusting those subsystems to some degree, it would be tough to have Paizo make the handouts that work for everyone. While I was definitely confused in SoT's initial read through that all the NPCs seemed to be just a name, pulling them out to their own section made sense, rather than introducing them when they first appeared.


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The AP forums are also a great place to look for these sorts of resources. Often you'll find something specifically meant to be used or filled in during play.


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Age of Ashes is the only AP I own, so this may have been fixed in later APs, but one thing that would be appreciated and would probably take up a couple pages at most is a dramatis personae. I'm horrible at remembering names so having a list of every NPC mentioned in the book and a brief summary of their role (I'm talking like five words max, not sentences) would be very helpful to me.

In book 1 of AoA, my players interrogated a cultist to find out the name of their leader. I knew I had read it, but couldn't remember it, so I went looking for it. I couldn't find it in book 1, so I ended up having to get open my PDF of book 2 and search through that, which took me a few minutes for a simple question (as it turns out, the leader was mentioned in book 1, but only in the description of a room in a later dungeon).


I would point out that your summary takes up almost as much space on the screen as the text it is summarizing - what you are suggesting would almost double the page count - a lot of people wouldn't be happy to hear that less content is being produced because the existing content is being produced twice.

That's not to say that it doesn't have value, it just doesn't have as much value as the content it would be replacing (as any product or increase in the size of a product comes at the expense of other products).


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My question is what content do you want to be cut so that this redundant info can be added? Add in that it won't work perfectly for everyone who wants it, and be useless to those who don't need it, and it's not a likely thing to happen. It's far better for GMs to prepare their own notes.


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Tender Tendrils wrote:

I would point out that your summary takes up almost as much space on the screen as the text it is summarizing - what you are suggesting would almost double the page count - a lot of people wouldn't be happy to hear that less content is being produced because the existing content is being produced twice.

That's not to say that it doesn't have value, it just doesn't have as much value as the content it would be replacing (as any product or increase in the size of a product comes at the expense of other products).

Yeah that's why my original suggestion was to have a separate document that isn't intended to be printed in a book format.

White space, indentation, bullets, bolding, and things like that are super useful for making content skimmable, and I regularly use them to make my note outline which I use as a touchstone during play while mostly making eye contact with players.

My in-play notes are a lot like prepping a powerpoint, actually. If someone prepped their powerpoint notes to look like excerpts from an AP, I would legitimately either think they were a savant or insane.


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Fumarole wrote:
My question is what content do you want to be cut so that this redundant info can be added? Add in that it won't work perfectly for everyone who wants it, and be useless to those who don't need it, and it's not a likely thing to happen. It's far better for GMs to prepare their own notes.

As I said above, my ask is that there's an outline document (purchasable separately even), separate from the actual AP (which is a fantastic read, by the way. Can't fault it for casual, out-of-play readability) that can be used as an in-play reference. It doesn't need to be formatted like a professional piece of print media, because it's ultimately either for use in digital format, home printing, or ripping to add to a custom note document.


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Shisumo wrote:
John Whyte wrote:
Strength of Thousands arrived earlier this week, and I agree the information about the npcs is woeful. Compare it to Souls for Smugglers Shiv, where the npcs are placed together, in one section, in a more structured and less meandering way.
This made my jaw drop. I thought the NPC section in Kindled Magic was the best and most useful such article I've ever seen in a Paizo product.

Same, it's got the best NPC section for a long time.


vagrant-poet wrote:
Shisumo wrote:
John Whyte wrote:
Strength of Thousands arrived earlier this week, and I agree the information about the npcs is woeful. Compare it to Souls for Smugglers Shiv, where the npcs are placed together, in one section, in a more structured and less meandering way.
This made my jaw drop. I thought the NPC section in Kindled Magic was the best and most useful such article I've ever seen in a Paizo product.
Same, it's got the best NPC section for a long time.

Yeah, curious what he meant by that. There's a section for the students and another that has the villains and one teacher, which doesn't seem too bad.

The only real problem I see is that there isn't much on the other teachers, who I think are pushed off to a later module.


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thejeff wrote:
vagrant-poet wrote:
Shisumo wrote:
John Whyte wrote:
Strength of Thousands arrived earlier this week, and I agree the information about the npcs is woeful. Compare it to Souls for Smugglers Shiv, where the npcs are placed together, in one section, in a more structured and less meandering way.
This made my jaw drop. I thought the NPC section in Kindled Magic was the best and most useful such article I've ever seen in a Paizo product.
Same, it's got the best NPC section for a long time.

Yeah, curious what he meant by that. There's a section for the students and another that has the villains and one teacher, which doesn't seem too bad.

The only real problem I see is that there isn't much on the other teachers, who I think are pushed off to a later module.

I was meaning that the AP has a head cook, and four (?) key teachers who clearly seem like they should be reoccurring NPCs in the adventure (and later on in the path) who are given a meandering set of paragraphs on the without any real structure. I was sort of expecting them to be in the back of the book (although you are right they could be in the back of another book). So when they crop up again during the adventure it's page flipping time, both during prep and play.

You are correct there is the student npc collection, which is fine, but it doesn't (within that section) link itself back to the adventure. Anchor-Roots description includes playing music from the city, but not her uncomfortable relationship with a teacher.

The information is there, but it takes serious prep to collate it, then use it. It's easy to read, and imaginatively gripping, but it doesn't make running the adventure easier.

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