Pathfinder – Adventure Path
#1 – Rise of the Runelords
This is my thoughts on the books, storyline and possible issues I found while trying not to produce any spoilers for the storyline.
Running the Campaign
- Campaign Rules: Published Books (Paizo – Adapting to Pathfinder on the fly)
- Timeframe: 23rd Sep 2010 to 18th Sep 2012
- Total Sessions: 40
- Gaming Group: Tuesday Night (fortnightly)
- Campaign: Season 1 – Rise of the Runelords
- Experience: As obtained from encounters and roleplay
- Special Campaign Rules: Sin mechanic
- Note: conversion of 3.5 to Pathfinder for play, campaign notes maintained in Realm Works, session notes in OneNote, tabletop environment in D20Pro and character creation in Hero Lab.
In the sleepy coastal town of Sandpoint, evil is brewing. An attack by crazed goblins during the annual Swallowtail Festival quickly turns into something more ominous as the shadows of a dark past come back to haunt the town—and perhaps all of Varisia. Can the heroes stop the awakening of a legendary runelord and keep him from reclaiming his lost kingdom of greed?
The Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path begins with a goblin attack and takes players on an epic journey through the land of Varisia as they track a cult of serial killers, fight depraved backwoods ogres, stop an advancing army of stone giants, delve deep into ancient dungeons to reclaim weapons of unbelievable power, and finally go up against an all-powerful wizard-king in his ancient mountaintop city.
The Sin Mechanic
The sin mechanic is based on the sins of Greed, Lust, Envy, Wrath, Gluttony, Pride and Sloth. This is first mentioned in the second book in a sidebar on page 19. What it is meant for is to help run the fifth book by establishing what sort of characters are in the party based on their actions in the campaign up to this point. Based on the sins the character has committed over the course of the game they will be effected differently in the fifth book of the series.
Players Guide (also free PDF)
Useful info for the players to get a copy of, though its stats are D&D 3.5. Contains:
- Map of Sandpoint (starting town)
- Map of Varisia (starting country)
- Overview of Races in Golarion including example names
- Overview of Classes in Golarion including Gods, familiars and companions
- Equipment of Varisia for specialised items found here
- Varisa – overview of the country
- Sandpoint – overview of the town
Book 1 – Burnt Offerings
Goblins and the shadowy specter of a murderous past descend to plague the sleepy coastal town of Sandpoint. Also includes a detailed gazetteer of Sandpoint, a history of the corrupt empire of Thassilon, and a stage-setting overview of the Pathfinder Society adventuring guild.
This book expects the characters to gain enough experience to go from level 1 to 3.
Player use of illusion magic was quite effective in the combat during this book.
It is broken up into four parts that introduce a setting with a rich and detailed background. This is based on the town being located on an ancient ruin of a long gone civilisation and introduces Goblins as a good early threat. It ends with the party confronting the source of the Goblin threat and opening them up to a larger world.
- 4 part Adventure
- Sandpoint – detailed description
- The History of Thassilon – includes campaign outline
- Pathfinder’s Journal – includes overview of pathfinder society
- Pregen Characters at level 1: Valeros (male human fighter), Seoni (female human sorcerer), Kyra (female human cleric of Sarenrae) and Merisiel (female elf rogue)
Book 2 – The Skinsaw Murders
An investigation of the Lost Coast’s most notorious haunted mansion sets the heroes on the trail of a cult of serial murderers called the Skinsaw Men—a trail which leads all the way to the bustling city of Magnimar. Also includes details on Magnimar, the City of Monuments; an overview of the church of Desna, goddess of dreams; and the first installment in the Eando Kline Pathfinder’s Journal.
This book expects the character to gain enough experience go from level 4 to 6.
It starts with exploring the area around Sandpoint with a haunted house that if the players do what players do, can be bypassed without using a new “haunt” mechanic created for this location. Then the character move on to Magnimar, a nearby capital city to follow leads behind the murders.
As a GM I recommend raising the water level of the well at the haunted house just to avoid players going this way.
- 5 part Adventure
- Magnimar – major town of Varisa
- Desna – details on the goddess of dreams, stars, travellers and luck.
- Pathfinder’s Journal – First installment by Eando Kline
- Pregen characters of level 4
Book 3 – The Hook Mountain Massacre
A desperate cry for help from the rangers of Fort Rannick leads the heroes to the revolting den of a degenerate ogre family, a dam in peril, and a fey-haunted wood. Also includes rules for running a keep, an extensive gazetteer of Varisia, and Eando Kline’s adventures in the corrupt city of Kaer Maga.
This book expects the character to go from levels 7 to 9.
The adventure centres on an area known as Hook Mountain which the characters are sent to investigate. This leads to them owning a castle and tracking down what killed the former occupants. Well written and quite disturbing. Had a good feel to the hero’s victory over the storyline. This was my highlight of the series.
- 5 part adventure
- Keeping the Keep – Rules for running a Fortress
- Varisia – more detail on the country of the adventure path
- Pathfinder’s Journal – Part 2 of Eando Kline
- Pregen characters at level 7
Book 4 – Fortress of the Stone Giants
The stone giants are on the march, and they’re headed straight for Sandpoint! Can the heroes invade the black-towered fortress of Jorgenfist and figure out what ancient force is guiding them before it’s too late? Also includes ecological primers on stone giants and dragons, as well as Eando Kline’s introduction to Korvosa’s seedy underbelly.
This book expects the character to go from levels 10 to 11.
The party returns to Sandpoint and battle with Stone Giants. Having to work out why they are attacking and stopping them while exploring ancient mysteries.
Not as good as what has come before, but power level creep of the characters can shut down most of the encounters without risk to the party. Not challenging enough.
- 5 part adventure
- Born of Stone – All about Stone Giants
- Dragons of Golarion
- Pathfinder’s Journal – Part 3 of Eando Kline
- Pregen Characters level 10
Book 5 – Sins of the Saviours
This book expects the character to go from levels 12 to 13.
The rise of an ancient killer leads the heroes to a dragon’s lair and an arcane dungeon ruled by ageless wizards, where the seven deadly sins reign supreme. Also includes arcane secrets of the runelords, an overview of the cult of Lamashtu, and Eando Kline’s infiltration of a Red Mantis lair in the Pathfinder’s Journal.
Investigation into an ancient complex which is an interesting open module without a linear approach to its finish. Was interesting, but again at this power level most of the encounters were not challenging.
The sin mechanic fell flat after all the build up, but that may have just being the lack of enthusiasm for the group I was playing with.
- 11 part adventure
- Magic of Thassilon – This sections spells are available in Hero Lab if you select the adventure path. As they are rewards for in the game, care would need to be taken if using such a tool.
- Lamashtu – Goddess of madness, monsters and nightmares
- Pathfinder’s Journal – Part 4 of Eando Kline
- Pregen characters level 12
Book 6 – Spires of Xin-Shalast
This book expects the character to go from levels 14 to 15+.
Karzoug, Runelord of Greed, has risen in the ancient mountain city of Xin-Shalast, and only the heroes can defeat him in this strange realm where the boundaries between reality and nightmare grow thin. Also includes full details on Karzoug, expanded rules for adventuring at high altitudes, and the sacrifice of a friend in the Pathfinder’s Journal.
This final instalment is about travelling to the centre of the runelords power and confronting those who rule out of his ancient city.
The party was able to skip 70% of the module by flying over the spires and attacking the big bad without gaining any XP. The ability to fly over the city with standard magic made travelling through all the encounters to get to the tower all the way at the back a sound thing to do for the players.
Not advised and they did not have the power necessary to survive the final encounter. After review, I don’t think they would have survived with the experience, quite a few bad saving throw rolls in the final encounter lead to this being a total party kill.
- 6 part adventure
- Karzoug the Claimer – Runelord details
- Hazards of the World’s Roof – adventuring high up in the Mountains
- Pathfinder’s Journal – Part 5 of Eando Kline
- Preview of Curse of the Crimson Throne (next Adventure Path)
- Pregen Characters level 14
AP Map Folio
The map folio is a fantastic resource as it provides all the maps without needing to have the book open to that page while running the game.
It would have been better if it has player versions without numbers, but it was good to use just by having it available while accessing the locations on different pages.
There are seven runes of sin, each of those runes is used as the maximum number on each of the dice here.
This can make it hard to read, but was a good gimmick to distinguish these dice from my others.
They are fun to roll on the table as the roll of a rune can be a special thing.
GameMastery – AP Item Cards
These cards give a picture of what the item looks like, as well as a description on the back of the card.
It also has space for notes on the item itself. Not that I used them as such. They were good to show players what they found in a location and add flavour to magical items.
I intend to use the images with my Realm Works tool to keep track of what items the players have found over the course of the campaign as it would work well there.
Party was defeated by the Runelord and the world was made poorer by their failure. The campaign was entertaining but most players felt it dragged on too long and XP was a constant problem to keep track of and balance the storyline encounters. I changed this in the next campaign as I will discuss there. It was a good introduction to the world, though careful management of spells and magical items would need to be done to lessen power creep. I am looking forward to re-running this campaign using the Anniversary edition of the Adventure Path written for the Pathfinder ruleset. I will review that one after my group plays it.
- 2021-08-03 – Updated the layout and links.
- 2020-12-30 – Removed legacy links to former hosted site.
- 2020-10-19 – Content migrated from Realm Works.
- 2020-04-26 – Structure.
Adventure Paths: AP #1 – Rise of the Runelords, AP #2 – Curse of the Crimson Throne, AP #3 – Second Darkness, AP #4 – Legacy of Fire, AP #5 – Council of Thieves, AP #6 – Kingmaker, AP #7 – Serpent’s Skull, AP #8 – Carrion Crown, AP #9 – Jade Regent
This site is constantly under revision, no blog posts are final as this is a work in progress place for me to develop my game settings and rules. Some posts might be placeholders for future content, so feel free to check back later for updated information.