Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition Player's Guide [RPG]

Paizo's adventure paths for the Pathfinder RPG are an excellent idea: a single long campaign, with six separate chapters, sufficient to take a party from Level 1 all the way up to the Level 15-18.  This past summer, I started directing my first adventure path, Rise of the Runelords, using the "Anniversary Edition" hardcover (which collects and updates the original adventure path featured in the monthly Pathfinder magazine).  I think the adventure path is fantastic so far and am having a blast, but I have to say the one part that lets the campaign down is the Player's Guide.

The Player's Guide, which is free to download from, is intended to introduce players to the adventure path by giving them some background on the setting of the adventure, the type of stories that will be told, and sufficient links to the first chapter so their PCs know where they are when the campaign begins.  The Anniversary Edition Player's Guide offers 1 page of helpful "Character Tips" (explaining that the adventure path involves ancient lost cultures, fighting giant monsters, and surface exploration) and then offers several excellent campaign traits (connections to the path's starting location, Sandpoint, along with a permanent mechanical advantage of some type).  There's then a color map of Sandpoint and a very small map of Varisia.  So far, so good.  But the entire remainder of the Player's Guide consists of *nine pages* of description of various landmarks in Varisia, the vast majority of which the PCs will never visit and which are of no particular interest to the players; frankly, it's rather boring.  The material is a copy of the material that appeared in the third volume of the adventure path, but should have been added, if anywhere, to the Anniversary Edition itself (though, with a separate sourcebook on Varisia available to GMs, it might not be necessary at all). Finally, there are two pages of ads for products that will only be of interest to the GM, not the players!

When the Anniversary Edition Player's Guide is compared to the original Player's Guide for the 3.5 edition of the adventure path, the faults of the new version become even more clear.  The old Player's Guide featured an introduction to the three human ethnicities that are the dominate players in Varisia (Shoanti, Varisians, and Chelaxians), an explanation of how all of the core races are like in Golarion and Varisia, an overview of how the different core classes are perceived in the setting, an overview of the deities of Golarion, some flavourful equipment particular to Varisia, and a two-page spread on Sandpoint that gives just enough of an introduction to the town without spoiling anything.  All of this information is especially useful to players who have never adventured in Golarion before.

If I had to do it all over again, I would give the players the old Player's Guide along with a link to the Archives of Nethys list of campaign traits for the Anniversary Edition.  I'm confident this way would be a more enjoyable and flavourful introduction to the campaign.

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