Friday, March 25, 2016

Ranking the Paizo Pahtfinder Adventure Paths (update 2016)

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, Reign of Winter, Wrath of the Righteous, Mummy's Mask, Iron Gods, Giant Slayer, Hell's Rebels

I received a request to update my ranking of my favorite Paizo Adventure Paths and since I have lots of time on my hands let's do this. Criteria is the same as last time: fun to play,  role playing, interesting combat encounters, cool themes, and great story. This is just my opinion and I'll admit to my biases: a dislike of long dungeons, and that high level pathfinder (14+) does not play well. So with that out of the way, here we go.

1. Hell's Rebels. It is like someone gave Paizo a list of my likes and dislikes and they ended up with a near perfect adventure path. My last post went over why I like it so much so I won't repeat it here.

2. Curse of the Crimson Throne. Still awesome but parts 4 and 5 just don't fit in well with the rest. I still think this would best if it were expanded into a full multi-year expanding campaign. We would just blaze through this one too fast to give it proper justice.

3. Kingmaker. The adventure path where you can pretty much do what you want. This one was a big favorite in my group and everyone had tons of fun with it. The glue between the various parts is weak but in this situation it is not a deal killer. It falls a bit into Star Trekiness later on when you wonder why the ship captain and bridge crew, err I mean King and his senior advisors, are wandering around caves killing trolls when they should be running the kingdom and leaving this stuff to minions.

4. 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 role-play 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.

5. Wrath of the Righteous. We'll ignore the mythic rules for a moment and look at the AP itself. It has a very interesting cast of NPCs (too many actually), a great plot, lots of epic action and tons of cool encounters. If your players don't try and break the game with Mythic rules it might be workable but most groups will turn into vortexes of mythic destruction and all encounters will be won or lost in the first 2 or 3 rounds. Mythic is very swingy. I do love those re-rolls though. I found Part 6 to be weak but that's pretty common but otherwise if you can work around the Mythic rules problem this is a great AP.

6. Iron Gods. I've never had a problem with Robots in my D&D since it has been an element of the  since Blackmoor but many others do. I really like the first two and the last 2 parts of this AP but I found the middle two a bit weak. I think this would be a great AP for all those weird PCs builds in your stable. I love the chainsaw greatswords, the laser blasters, the nanobot healing kits. Sign me up!

7. 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? The thing to keep in mind is that this AP is largely about travel. You will go to weird new places and kill lots of strange monsters. In a good way. The first part of this AP is deadly if you play with environmental rules.

8. Giant Slayers. This one benefited from low expectations on my part. This AP includes some unique encounter locations, great role-playing opportunities and would work surprisingly well with a stealth oriented group. I particularly like the transition from part 5 to part 6. Enchanter type PCs are no doubt rubbing their hands together in glee at the though of a giant oriented AP but don't worry, Paizo doesn't let their toys work on the bosses.

9. Shattered Star. I am not a fan a huge dungeons but if you are, 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.

10. Mummy's Mask. I had high hopes for this one and the first couple parts work really well. However the whole tomb crawling theme works best at low to mid levels. I wanted this one to feel like Indiana Jones or the Mummy and it does a decent job early on but not so much later.  The railroad on this one feels stronger than most and I can easily see a group running off the rails. The one might be a good candidate for ending it early.

11. Carrion Crown. Speaking of "Ending it early"... 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.

12.  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.

13. 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.

14. 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 had to read it three times to understand the flow of events. I liked the traveling 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.

15. 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, but for a group of dice rollers not so much.

16. Second Darkness. This one isn't as bad as its reputation suggests. Parts 1 and 2 are actually really good. Part 3 is fun but the elves come across as very unlikable. Part 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 is a total disaster and needs a complete rewrite. One interesting fix for this AP is to drop parts 1 and 2 (which didn't really fit with the rest of the AP) and make the PCs Lantern Bearers.

17. Serpents Skull. Part One is one of the stronger adventures out there and darn near perfect (but very hard if played as written). Part 2 is fun if you play up the different faction rivalries. 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 WoW style quests to kill 60 Mobs which will pacify a sector 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. I still like the BBEG of this campaign but I'm worried that he'd get over whelmed by action economy. Needs minions.

And there you have it! It is largely the same list as last time. I made a few minor changes but aside from including the new APs it is pretty similar.

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