Monday, September 5, 2016

What Comes Next?

Recently there has been some table talk about what our group will do once we've finished our Shining Scorpion campaign. Personally I love running modules. Always have. I like to story-stitch them into an ongoing campaign where I throw in an equal measure of my own personal stuff to create an epic story. But going forward the thought was to offer a list of choices to the crew and see what the majority would like to play. It would be a mix of long form adventure and shorter more focused gameplay. The shorter options would give the players at the table a chance to try out various characters but without the commitment of a full campaign. It would give me, as game master, a chance to knock out some of the modules I'm aching to play yet without the burden of shoe-horning them into a long form story/game.

So let's take a look at the options. I've asked the players to read this list as well and I'll be handing them a form to fill out, marking from one to ten in order of interest and desire to play. I've also asked them not to discuss their choices until after voting has been completed by all. Once the votes are tallied, we will have our answer. Here we go, presented in alphebetical order so as to not show any preference on my part.

Crypt of the Everflame
Levels: 1st
Why?: This is the first module published by Paizo to use the Pathfinder rule set. The modules that came before were all made with the Dungeons & Dragon's 3.5 rules. So that makes this an important classic in my eyes. The module was designed to use the Game-Mastery Flip-Mat: Dungeon which I recently purchased when it was re-released under the Classic Flip-Mat line. This will give me a chance to use it. Having listened to a podcast where a group who ran the module talked to the module's designer Jason Bulmahn about it, well it really sparked the interest for me.
The plan: Just run this for a fun classic dungeon crawl and enjoyment of a piece of Pathfinder history. Then move onto something else - no attachments or plans to start a campaign with it. Just one and done. Although the module is the first part of a three module adventure arc titled "Price of Immortality" it will be completely up to the players whether or not they follow up with the second two modules. Which kinda makes this unofficially the first Adventure Path, albeit a short one.

Dragon's Bane
Levels: 1st to 20th
Why?: This would be a campaign of my creation. The idea behind it being the players are all evil PC's aligned with a powerful evil benefactor who wants them to hunt down and kill good aligned dragons. This would be an oppotunity to utilize all of the "good-aligned" dragon miniatures in my collection. I've already catalogued them based on challenge rating and mapped out the order of their apperance. When would you ever get the chance to fight good dragons like this? I'll throw in some other good aligned creatures to help fill the gaps as the PCs level since I don't have dragons for every CR but I am damn close.
The Plan: This would be an excellerated campaign I'll not be using XP progression. Each level the PCs gain will consist of just a dragon hunt. Finish the hunt, level up, onto the next one. Of course roleplay with the benefactor and such will be involved but not much else. We're skipping all the travel and blah-de-blah. The benfactor provides so no need for shopping and selling treasure every level. At the start of the campaign the players will each draw from a series of cards which will define their relationship to the benefactor, give them a starting bonus, a chance to forge their own fate while manipulating another PCs at the same time and reveal a mysterious mark that they were born with.

The Dragon's Demand
Levels: 1st to 7th
Why?: Another Pathfinder first. This is the first module in the restructuring of the ongoing module line. With this title the page count gets kicked up and a fold-out poster map is now included. Also, its written by Mike Shel. I love his adventures. At the time of this writing I am running his module, Tomb of the Iron Medusa and will be running The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb for my D&D group when they hit the appropriate level. The Dragon's Demand is one of the only modules to have a dragon as the big bad and not just another encounter in an overall story. The village the adventure starts in is fleshed out so well and the story takes characters through a handful of different locales. This is another module where I listened to a group that ran through it interview the designer. It got me fired up. So I bought the two sets of paper minis and now they just wait.
The Plan: Just run the adventure and then close the book.There is plenty on this list to run PCs through to level 20, so why not just play some shorter stuff for the kicks? This module gets a lot of praise, I know why, I would like my players to know it too.

The Emerald Spire Superdungeon
Levels: 1st to 13th
Why?: Superdungeons are cool. They're a staple of RPGs. This is Pathfinder's take and what a take it is. Each level designed by a different designer. Each of them a top designer in the industry and Paizo veteran. Including author Ed Greenwood the creator of the Forgotten Realms. Seven new monsters and a highly detailed local settlement, Fort Inevitable, where the PCs can return to and forge alliances with factions both inside and outside the Spire itself. I bought the set of flip-mats, they were expensive, using them would justify their purchase. I also bought the adventure card deck which will assist the players in keeping all the main quests, side quests, NPCs and factions all in hand.
The Plan: Run the superdungeon and be done. No need to do more than that.

Goblin's Adventure Path
Levels: 1st to 4th
Why?: Because running the goblin adventures would be a blast. The pathfinder goblin has become an iconic symbol for Paizo. Fans of these modules can't seem to praise them enough for their fun and crazy creativity.
The Plan: To run all four of the modules as a mini goblin adventure path.

Hell's Vengence Adventure Path
Levels: 1st to 15th
Why?: Because it's Paizo's first foray into an evil character adventure path. I have no idea if it's any good. I'm sure it's a blast and really let's players cut loose as the bad guy. From what I've seen and read there are plenty of good guys to fight; man and monster alike. don't you get sick of playing the good guy who has to defeat the villain and reclaim the kingdom from the evil despot? How about being the evil despot? Sounds appealing, right?
The Plan: Play through the Path. Be the bad man.

Kingmaker Adventure Path
Levels: 1st to 15th
Why?: Hexploration and kingdom building. Now that's a different sort of adventure. Unexplored territory for me and the players. I've always been attracted to the River Kingdoms and this has got to be the best way to experience that region. There is more to it than just the main quest of the AP. There is a seemingly unending amount of side quests and the like so players aren't just clearing hexes, they're scouring them as well. The PCs will forge their own path through the hex based region map so it's like a sandbox adventure in that aspect. Then there's the kingdom building itself. The PCs will build and manage a kingdom from scratch. The kingdom will be built to their specifications and direction. This should make them invested in how the peoples fare being a struggling, growing kingdom in the untamed wilderness. Fun fact: Ed Greenwood (the guy I mentioned before who created the Forgotten Realms) again lends his talents to Paizo and created all the main NPCs and villains for this AP.
The Plan: Just play out the adventure path. When it ends, the campaign ends. But I will add the kingdom to the Golarion map and it will remain there for as long as I play in that world. It would be a hoot to start a campaign in that kingdom with an entirely new set of PCs sometime down the line. Even a fun shout out if one of the player's PC for any future campaign was born and raised there.

Pathfinder Online: Thornkeep
Levels: 1st to 8th
Why?: Again with the River Kingdoms I'm so secretly infatuated with. This is a hidden gem of a module and setting since it was a Kickstarter reward as part of the, sadly, shelved Pathfinder Online game. Much more than an adventure this is also a gazeteer of Thornkeep (which was lovingly dubbed a "hive of scum and villainy") and the surrounding Echo Wood. Just reading the gazeteer got me excited to run this. There is quite a bit here to stretch the adventure out from just the Keep. Which is well and good because the six different dungeon levels are built for different PCs levels and when they may not be at the character level to enter the next part of the dungeon they could gain that XP outside the Keep or on its goblin-infested streets. Yes, goblins are allowed on the streets of Thornkeep. This is almost like a mini Emerald Spire because it too has different levels (six) each designed by a Paizo veteran and powerhouse. Interestingly enough, for as closely tied as Ed Greenwood is to Dungeons & Dragons he must sure like playing in the Pathfinder universe. Because he again designs a level for this. The Emerald Spire also shares the same regional space as Thornkeep. They're both in the Echo Wood! Add to that I bought the flip-mats to make each dungeon level come to vivid life on the game table.
The Plan: Milk this one for all its worth. I wish it did mesh up better with the dungeon levels of the Emerald Spire so the PCs could jump back and forth between the two kick-ass adventure sites. There may be some way to still do that, but that would be a mega-super campaign of dungeon delving awesome! I will utilize every bit of this module when running it regardless.

Plunder & Peril
Levels: 4th to 7th
Why?: The Shackles. The first region I fell for in Golarion. Pirate infested islands and storm filled seas. If you know me at all you know I have a thing for pirates and their vessels. I always get them onto the game table in some format. Interestingly enough this module is right at what I call "the sweet spot" when it comes to RPGs. My favorite level is 5th. The monsters the PCs get to face at that level really start to get good and the PCs themselves are still low in complexity game play wise so players aren't bogged down with so many options and spells to slow down turns. I got off track there. The over all concept for this module is piratelicious. PCs are hired by a captain to join her on a treasure hunt for long lost legndary pirate treasure. It's actually a series of three short adventures that form together into one longer adventure. It was designed to go along with the Skull and Shackles adventure path as an alternate entry point to that AP at a higher level. It comes with a fold-out map that is the most detailed map of the Shackles to date.
The Plan: Sail the Shackles. If the Skull and Shackles AP seems like too much of a commitment, this is a compact way to experience some of what that AP has to offer and to sail the same playground. If this WAS played before Skull and Shackles the table would have a couple options. Using this as the start to Skull & Shackles. This would mean skipping the first two books in that AP and starting with the third at level 7. It would make the AP a shorter endeavor. Another option would be to have the PCs who completed this module be "back-up"  PCs should any death occur during the AP itself. The characters could even become potential crew members for hire when it becomes appropriate in the AP to do so.

Skull & Shackles Adventure Path
Levels: 1st to 13th
Why?: See above. This was the first AP I bought and initially the only one I wanted to run in any capacity. The PCs are pressed ganged onto a ship and over the course of the path work their way up to becoming pirate captains and kings. The Shackles are sailed from one end to the next, port towns, hidden coves, lost ruins on tropical islands - just about every trope of the pirate genre is addressed. Ship to ship combat and pursuit leading to boarding and capturing ... and the booty. Each book in the path also offers lost treasures that can be hunted down in the Shackles as the PCs make their way through the island region. I have a solid collection of ship battlemaps so don't expect to see the shame ship decks and interiors repeated over and again.
The Plan: Again, see above for an atlernate way to start this AP. Although I don't think the proper way to enter an AP is part way through, it's an option I would take if it meant playing Skull & Shackles at all.

That's that. Of course this is still a ways off. There will most likely be a module or two to pop up that I'll wish was on this list before we finish our current campaign and start one of the above. But ... we will ... deal with that when it comes.

Anyways, I'll be sure to announce what the choice ends up being. So place your bets.