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Familiarity with Pathfinder Adventure Paths

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  • Familiarity with Pathfinder Adventure Paths

    Hello all!

    With the kickstarter for Savage Pathfinder and the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path (AP) launching imminently, I was wondering how familiar the folk here are with other AP in the Pathfinder portfolio.

    I am a huge fan of Paizo's world building and adventure design, but I despise the Pathfinder rules (1e and 2e equally) for being too crunchy and complicated.

    I own all the existing AP for Pathfinder and Starfinder. I have converted and run Rise of the Runelords in SW already and was prepping to run Curse of tbe Crimson Throne before Covid hit.

    TBH, I already have more Pathfinder stuff than I will have the opportunity to run in my lifetime, so I was wondering if anyone here had any thoughts on which AP to prioritize, as being particularly fun or original. The way my head works, I feel compelled to work through the books chronologically, but at that rate I'll be in my 70's before I'm halfway through Council of Thieves, lol.

  • #2
    The only AP I have are the Rise of the Runelords and the Shackled City. (I realized there was no way I'd be running them fast enough so it wasn't worth spending my limited TTG money on them.)
    Both are fun, I've toyed with bringing them to Savage Worlds but concluded that the AP design is too restrictive and too bloated for my players to enjoy, so I shifted to other projects.

    The key to converting Adventure Paths is to break them into their Plot Points. I'll use the Shackled City as an example.
    • Ch1: Life's Bazaar. Unites the party, introduces major allies, identifies one of the Shackleborn.
    • Ch 2: Drakthar's Way. Filler with minor clues.
    • Ch 3: Flood Season. Filler with minor clues.
    • Ch 4: Zenith Trajectory. Filler with moderate clues.
    • Ch 5: Demonskar Legacy. Introduces Occipitus and that the government of Cauldron is definitely evil.
    • Ch 6: Test of the Smoking Eye. A party member becomes a claimant to the throne of a layer of the abyss.
    • Ch 7: Secrets of the Soul Pillars. Filler, major clue in the captured Soul Cage.
    • Ch 8: Lords of Oblivion. Filler, confronting the various secondary villains.
    • Ch 9: Foundation of Flame. Filler, distracting the heroes while the villains reorganize and consolidate.
    • Ch 10: Thirteen Cages. Break the villain circle, break the apocalyptic artifact, cheese off the final boss.
    • Ch 11: Strike on Shatterhorn. Finish off the villain circle, learn that the final boss must be dealt with.
    • Ch 12: Asylum. Go to the broken prison of the final boss, free him and then kill him.
    So half the chapters of the Shackled City are filler. They're good filler, with a lot of politics, false allies, assassination attempts, and a couple of city-scale disasters; but they do not advance the central plot beyond dropping some minor clues. Heck, even the plot-focused chapters are padded with unimportant fights with minions, side-plot scenes, and red herrings.

    In my experience, Adventure Paths are 75% filler. Part of that is getting enough XP bags in front of the party to justify the expected level-ups, but the bigger part is to introduce and resolve all the amazing B- and C-plots the writers came up with; plots that make the campaign come alive with multiple independent factions, reactive characters, allies that both need and provide help, and the chance to interact with 'normal' people.

    What this means for a Savage Conversion is that the GM can take a chainsaw to the Adventure Path and still keep the important parts. If half the path is pure filler then half the path can be kept, or thrown away, based upon how interesting it is. If half the important chapters are also filler then you can distill those parts into their social interactions, and just keep a short list of "Generic NPC" stats nearby (Soldiers, Rogues, Wizards, Clerics, maybe one or two others) in case the players pick a fight or recruit one of these social characters as a combat ally.
    So, as a Savage GM, you only need to convert about an eighth of the material in an Adventure Path. The rest is description that can be handled via Social Conflict, Dramatic Task, or just talking.

    Good luck!
    I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.


    • #3
      Originally posted by ValhallaGH View Post
      In my experience, Adventure Paths are 75% filler.
      This is my main concern with the Rise of the Runelords kickstarter. In an interview posted to Youtube, the guys responsible for converting the AP are talking about bloat and filler encounters and my interpretation of their message us that all the crap is going in and its the GMs decision what to skip or reduce to a Quick Encounter. Having converted RotRL already, I'm pretty sure that approach will draaaaaag, but maybe the audience for this book have more patience with long dungeon crawls than I do.


      • #4
        I'm gonna try to summarise RotRL in the same manner as your exmple above;

        Ch1 Burnt Offerings: Introduce homebase, filler, introduce McGuffin
        ​​​​​Ch2 Skinsaw Murders: Filler, introduce scheme of bad organisation.
        Ch3 Hook Mountain Massacre: Filler
        Ch4 Fortress of the Stone Giants: Attack on homebase, discover link between giant army, McGuffin and BBEG.
        ​Ch5 Sins of the Saviours: Filler, get weapons to damage BBEG
        Ch6 Spires of Xin Shalast: Travel to confront BBEG, filler, final battle!

        You are right (mind blown). I could have skipped so much stuff without really altering the flow of the AP. You might just have revolutionised how I approach these conversions in future!


        • #5
          You are most welcome.
          I found the entire philosophy of Plot Point Campaigns revolutionary. It changed campaign design for me. The PPC is the "critical path" for the main plot; everything else is a one-off adventure or secondary plot.

          For systems with a Kills = Character Progression mechanic, a lot of that filler is fights to progress the characters.

          In Savage Worlds, all that filler can be stories that affect the players: part of a character's motivational journey (revenge, discovery, conquest, creation, etc.), a chance to showcase a part of the setting that player characters can interact with, consequences of previous choices by the characters, or a nifty monster-of-the-week because my brain is tired and needs a relatively simple session to relax.

          What I now dislike about Paizo's Adventure Paths is the lack of flagging for what's critical path and what's filler that the GM can change out for something more relevant to the table. We don't know what's critical until the whole thing is out and the party is two-thirds done, and by then it's too late to change things. It's possible that the latest few have corrected that flaw, but I doubt it.
          I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.


          • #6
            I never ran Pathfinder, but I subscribed to their APs for a number of years always with the idea of running them in Savage Worlds at some point. I even started a conversion at one point, but got diverted into something else and never went back to it. Sometime after that, I got burned out on the fantasy genre entirely and started focusing more on modern or sci fi settings. The Kickstarter announcement has me intrigued enough to check it out, just to see how they did it, even if I don’t end up running it. I originally assumed that they would cut a lot of the filler out by converting it to quick encounters, but it sounds like they’d rather do a more straight port, thus leaving individual GMs the option to run them as full combat encounters or not. I can’t say I blame them as it’s easier to just decide to use a quick encounter for an encounter you don’t feel needs the full treatment than it is to reverse engineer a combat encounter from a quick encounter. It’s probably also wrapped up in the licensing agreement and not optional, which is why we are getting 6 books for the AP rather than 3 or some other number.


            • #7
              Plot Point campaigns were a revelation to me as well. However, as a long-time Paizo AP collector, while there are definitely XP or page/word count filler encounters in APs, the way filler is being thrown around in this thread is overblow, IMO. One person's filler is another's Savage Tale...


              • Deskepticon
                Deskepticon commented
                Editing a comment
                True. But I don't think "filler" is being used disparagingly here. It only means "not relevant to the main plot." Filler can definitely be fun, but like ValhallaGH mentioned above, it would be nice to have the option to swap out (or alter) a particular part with something more personal and meaningful to the player-characters.

                Most of the Savage Worlds PPCs I've seen are focused on unfolding the main plot, and thus would make for relatively short campaigns if played straight through. GMs are encouraged to therefore "pad-out" the PPC with minor B-plot stories, preferably tailored to appeal to certain characters. That's more difficult to do if the filler is already pre-written with no indication of what's important to main plot.

            • #8
              And honestly, culling content from an AP or any adventure is hardly new for GMs.

              I'm most intrigued to see how PF for SWADE addresses the path from Novice to Legendary. I desperately want to see SWADE character skill & competence progression rather than Pathfinder's Zero-to-Demigod progression where the Level 15-20 character is unrecognizable from the Level 1 character.

              I'm really hoping that it's more PF story to SWADE-style play and not SWADE mechanics re-written to Pathfinder power-progression. I already have 2 editions of Pathfinder for that style of play. I want what I've been seeking since I discovered Savage Worlds: a way to get Conan, Fafhrd, Flash Gordon-style heroics into a Pathfinder story. I want it to play differently than Pathfinder.


              • ValhallaGH
                ValhallaGH commented
                Editing a comment
                It's noteworthy that most Adventure Paths end around level 13 (twelve to fourteen).
                I suspect, but cannot confirm, that most of the authors realized that the deific power of level 15+ didn't mesh with the stories they were telling.

            • #9
              Originally posted by mikeawmids View Post

              This is my main concern with the Rise of the Runelords kickstarter. In an interview posted to Youtube, the guys responsible for converting the AP are talking about bloat and filler encounters and my interpretation of their message us that all the crap is going in and its the GMs decision what to skip or reduce to a Quick Encounter. Having converted RotRL already, I'm pretty sure that approach will draaaaaag, but maybe the audience for this book have more patience with long dungeon crawls than I do.
              I wouldn't call it crap, personally. Yes, Pathfinder is a game about kicking in doors and killing monsters, so you're rewarded for doing that. Those encounters, however, are also there to introduce verisimilitude and make the world feel like a populated, dangerous place. Taking a cult head-on shouldn't be an easy thing to do, especially not one as powerful as the one in RotRL. I think folks will figure out their tempo for RotRL, and for some groups that'll mean more combat because they find it fun. For others, they'll think about ways to conquer those encounters without violence.

              When we were in the haunted house during a playtest, we skipped a couple of fights because we paid attention and used the environment and other characters to our advantage. That said, like we mentioned in the podcast it's a lot harder to take a Quick Encounter and turn it into a full combat than the other way around. And those full combats are still Savage Worlds combats; they don't take nearly as long as a Pathfinder combat to resolve and let you use all the Edges from the Combat Edges section you spent your Advances on.


              • mikeawmids
                mikeawmids commented
                Editing a comment
                Yeah, sorry. My choice of words was unnecessarily antagonistic. I think my issue is that I have played in some Pathfinder games previously that really d-r-a-g-g-e-d. When you are playing a four session and all your group manages to accomplish is clearing a handful of rooms with no narrative advancement, it's a bummer. When that happens for two/three sessions on the trot, it become s a problem. Such was my experience with Pathfinder.

                Maybe it was the GM. Maybe it was t he AP (Shattered Star, which I know is quite dungeon-focused). Maybe it was just me being difficult.

                Hopefully Savage Pathfinder will resolve some of these issues for me. I would love to actually play in a n AP converted to SW for once and hopefully a successful Kickstarter wil l bring me one step closer to that dream.

            • #10
              Personally, I've run Shackled City, Rise of the Runelords, and Carrion Crown, and I've played in Legacy of Fire, Wrath of the Righteous, and Mummy's Mask. I've also run the first book of Curse of the Crimson Throne using Savage Worlds, so it'll be nice to have an official version to support when I want to try that again. I was in the process of converting Iron Gods when the announcement for Savage Pathfinder got made, so that's on hold until after stuff comes out. I love the setting of Golarion, but I've always thought that the Pathfinder system didn't do justice to the kind of stories they wanted to tell. Savage Worlds will be a much better fit for high-flying, pulpy action of the sort you get in the Pathfinder fiction.