Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Some Pathfinder Adventure Path Notes

Since we're exploring the low levels of Pathfinder I started reading through some of the adventure paths that have been published and I have three main thoughts:

  • They don't go to 20?! I thought that was the whole point! I know Savage Tide did, and I thought Age of Worms and Shackled City did too, and that was back when they had to share a magazine! Now we get almost 600 pages of adventure and some of them only get the party to 15th level? I feel let down.
  • One module per month for 6 months - I like the schedule. I like that they've gone to making the player guides for each one a free PDF. I like that there's plenty of supporting material about the setting. I like that the first one contains a summary of each of the subsequent adventures. I just wish it only took us 6 months to play through one of them.
  • So...much...backstory! My old school roots may be showing here, but I don't need to know that the main villainess had a bad childhood and an unhappy relationship that led to her swearing an oath to an evil goddess and deciding that burning her hometown down was a good idea - I don't need to see extensive justification for the actions of a crazy person! She's doing bad things and she needs to be dealt with - good enough for me! I'm seeing space used for this kind of thing (and there are quite a few villains with a whole lot of backstory in Runelords at least) that could have been used for short side encounters in the wilderness or some more notes (or maps) of places around town. It's not a huge negative thing but does anyone remember that we used to do interesting adventures in 16 pages? When my players see a chick with a demon arm standing in an evil temple pulling monsters out of a summoning circle they aren't going to have much of a conversation about her personal chance for redemption - at most it's going to be dueling monologues and then a throwdown. I wonder if the writers sometimes forget that this is a game (and a world) where party members can quickly and reliably scan for evil - PING! - "Yep she's evil - take her down!" - no confusion, no debate.
That's the initial take anyway. I've read the initial adventure of several paths now and between the backstory and the plots - some of which make supervillain plots to take over the world look concise - there's a lot to read through and I don't know how much of it is going to come out at the game table. I do like a lot of them though so they will probably make an appearance at the table down the road.


Adam Dickstein said...


On that last element, I'm a comic book fan at heart and yes, I do like there to be some reason a villain is a villain. It need not be a long backstory and it need not be every villain but the leader/both could use a bit of pathos to make them different from the last guy you fought and the guy before that.

That said, the over-indulgent backstory is the bane of my existance with players and back designers alike. Come up with a paragraph or two, some notes and such and we'll see where it goes from there. If you live, we get to learn more about you.

It's funny but I never really saw those old 16 page modules as interesting adventures. Most of them were adventures but I always added a story customed to my group to make them feel interesting.

Blacksteel said...

Like you say, I think a paragraph or two of off-screen backstory is plenty. I'd rather _see_ why a villain is a Big Deal than read a half-page about it in the DM's notes. In most good movies/comics/books there's more showing than telling and when it comes to Badness Justification and the ratio seems off here.

The old modules generally showcased one good concept - the hill giants' fortress or the funhouse dungeon of White Plume Mountain - and left the connections up to the DM and the players. These leave very little to the DM and players, and I suppose that's part of what you're paying for. I don't put all of the old AD&D stuff on a pedestal but I think there's some worth to the idea that less is more and not every possible loose end or angle has to be explored in print - it's OK to leave some hooks dangling.

Mick said...

This time I don't agree at all. We need to know all the detailed backstory because the players are supposed to interrogate citizens, investigate what happened before, maybe even start putting pieces together before they face the demon-girl. Having that backstory allows the DM (opps, GM) to reverse engineer the story and come up with stories for all the citizens. The baker's wife might have been jealous of the girl etc. etc. 1st level adventures like this are supposed to be part-investigation, and you can't really investigate in the past of a village without a solid backstory. Go figure, I even found it too little detailed!