Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ranking the Paizo Adventure Paths (some spoilers)

Today I'm going to rank the Paizo Adventure Paths (APs). I am including the 3.5 APs but excluding the Dungeon ones (Shackled City, Age of Worms, and Savage Tide). The main criteria is fun to play taking into consideration amount of role playing, interesting combat encounters, cool themes, and great story.

The APs in order or appearance are: Rise of the Runelords, Curse of the Crimson Throne, Second Darkness, Legacy of Fire, Council of Thieves, Kingmaker, Serpent's Skull, Carrion Crown, Jade Regent, Skull and Shackles, Shattered Star, and Reign of Winter. I will admit to being slightly biased towards the earlier ones since I've read them over more and played most of them.

Tier 1 - Over all Great with just a few weak spots
1. Curse of the Crimson Throne. I love the first three parts of this one but part 2 is really the star here. With a group that loves to role play this AP would be amazing. Lots of interesting NPCs, great stories, and some interesting encounters make this one the winner. Part 4 is a bit railroady but still has some great themes and interesting encounters. Part 5 is a massive, very difficult dungeon. Should be very fun. The last part is a bit weaker like most of the final chapters but does a good job of wrapping up the story that really took play in the first three parts. Parts 4 and 5 are really good but don't have the same feel as the other four parts.

2. Kingmaker. A close second. This AP can really be anything you want it to be. It is so modular that it can be expanded with little difficulty incorporating whatever you want. It has an old school feel with the first few parts heavily focused on exploration (hex crawling). The last part was very cool since since it is really just a series of gonzo boss fights tough enough to challenge any party. The only real fault of this one is that the BBEG at the end doesn't really feel connected to the rest of the Path.

3. Rise of the Runelords (Anniversary Edition). This one is great because they got to go back and fix the minor flaws from the first time around. This one has some great roleplay elements, fun combats and great back story that is slowly unveiled over the first few parts. In the last third, things start to go down hill. The dungeon in part 5 is both rather pointless and is so long. Part 6 isn't too bad but we usually have ADD by this point in the campaign and the way its written is very long and drawn out. We played a shorted version of it.

Tier 2 - Good but need some help to be great.
4. Reign of Winter. This AP wasn't really what I was expecting and it won me over as I read through it. This is one of the rare APs that seemed to get stronger as it went along instead of the other way around. Part 5 is down right weird and yet is rather appealing. Who hasn't wondered how high level PCs would do against WW1 troops and tanks?

5. Shattered Star. If you really love dungeons I'm sure you would rate this one higher. Sure the dungeons have very different themes, contain some interesting role playing options but over all it just didn't appeal to me. There is usually at least one part in each AP that is "WOW" and this one really didn't have one. It was just consistently good.

6. Carrion Crown. This one grew on me the more times I read it. The horror themes were fun and I thought the first two parts were quite unique and entertaining (and difficult). Part three was a bit like "Clue" before ending as a zombie movie. I cut this campaign off here because I didn't really care for the second half. Part 4 tries very hard to be Lovecraftian. Plot wise Part 5 makes no sense, and although Part 6 had one super awesome encounter (OK maybe 2) most of the book was rather blah and the BBEG was a pushover.

7. Legacy of Fire. Pugwumpies. That word still sends shivers down my spine. May I never encounter them again. This one had a great theme, lots of fun in the first two parts but kind of lost its way in the middle. Part three was a blatant railroad and then both Parts 4 and 5 involve being trapped in either a pocket dimension or another plane of existence. A bit repetitive and by the time we finished part 5 we were still walking around in same gear we had in part 3.

8. Skull and Shackles. I really wanted to love this one but after Part 1 I found it just fell flat. A DM who loved the material and really put some life into this AP could probably make it great but it definitely needs some love as most of it just seemed rather blah and generic.

Tier 3 - Strong elements but need major re-writes
9. Council of Thieves. They tried to fix the problems of Curse of the Crimson Throne and failed miserably. The first part was largely forgettable as all of the NPCs you meet are then ignored for the rest of the AP. The back story is handed out in bits of pieces but never really comes together. Even after you killed the BBEG you are wondering who the guy was. The best element of this AP was Part 2. It actually comes with a script and the PCs can act out the murder play. For a theatrically inclined group it would be amazing, for a group of dice rollers, not so much.

10. Second Darkness. This one isn't as bad as it seems. Parts 1 and 2 are actually really good. Part 3 is fun but the elves come across as very unlikable. Parts 4 is unique and part 6 was fun with lots of tough boss fights. The big reason people love to hate this AP is part 5 which was a total disaster and needs a complete rewrite. One interesting fix for this AP I saw, is to drop parts 1 and 2 (which didn't really fit with the rest of the AP) and make the PCs Lantern Bearers.

11. Jade Regent. Don't get me wrong I liked the Asian themes but this AP just didn't work for me. Chapters written by James Jacobs are generally great and Part 1s are generally great but I just didn't care for the first part of Jade Regent. The caravan rules are broken, I didn't love the NPCs (even though some are returning from earlier APs), and I didn't love the dungeon. Part 2 didn't really work for me either. I liked the travelling in Part 3. Its rare that the environment plays such a central role in the game. Part 4 started out strong but I didn't like the dungeon that it led to. I heard someone replaced it with the Jade Ruby Tournament which sounds like fun. I love the idea behind Part 5. Rally different factions into rebellion against the Jade Regent but I was not thrilled with its execution. It could easily be expanded and made more awesome.

12. Serpents Skull. Part One is one of the stronger adventures out there and darn near perfect. Part 2 is fun if you play up the different faction rivalries but Part 3 is a big mess like Part 5 of Second Darkness. There were so many things they could have done with Saventh-Yi and what we got was kill 60 Mobs to pacify this part of the city. Thanks. Part 4 was only OK except for the Gorilla King which I thought was a excellent encounter. Parts 5 and 6 mainly involved trips down into the Darklands to kill snakemen. Yawn. Now the end boss of this AP is great. He is a tough mofo and should challenge any party. The best part is that should the PCs be good enough to defeat him, an avatar of his god emerges and they have to fight that too. It is just as tough as the BBEG if not stronger. I've started this campaign twice but never made it to the end which is a shame since this would be an epic fight.

So there you have it. The above list is just a snap shot of how I feeling at this moment and if you ask me to do this again in a week I'd probably move a few of these around. Any feedback is welcome.


Rognar said...

Kingmaker is still tops in my book.

Matt West said...

Just finished part one of jade regent with my group and the general consensus was that is was the best pre-written module any of us had played. You really missed the train on that one brother. Jade Regent part one is outstanding.

I agree that Curse of the Crimson Throne is the best of the bunch, so far. Amazing campaign, with part two being a real strong point.

Jerome said...

I really liked Jade Regent, but when I ran it I added a lot of in-between adventures until the party got to Minkai. I can't believe you travel 600 miles to Kalsgard, and the best encounters on the road they could think up are bandits and bunch of wild animals and such.

You are right though, the caravan rules are completely useless, also the relationship rules with the NPC traveling companions, as well as the rules on becoming known to the enemy by your actions.

You need a well balanced party, and someone who can use ninja items. A character with performance skills would help a lot for relating to the NPCs since several times you need to impress people by performing.

I'd put in a good word for Mummy's Mask too, although I'n only halfway through playing it

I like Reign of Winter in concept, but our DM has been completely poleaxed by the complexity. Not a game for a beginning DM.

Rise of the Runelord is really great old school. However, too many town people to keep straight though. You keep meeting people who after a single session you never see again.

(That's all the ones I've played or run.) I've heard that many good things about Crimson Throne before. I really into the idea of Serpent's Skull, just because you just never otherwise go to Africa in RPGs.

Unknown said...

Just found this post, which I realize is already a few years old.

Was wondering if you had any plans to update your ratings to include the APs that have been released since this post was made?

Obiri said...

I haven't played a lot of the newer APs so it is a bit harder to judge them when you've only read them. That being said I certainly could update the list.