Premade Games, and How We Feel About Them

Hello everyone, haven’t posted in a few weeks, really haven’t been having much in the way of inspiration of late.  Well as I sat down here at my computer after work, I thought of how I am running a pre-made campaign, Rise of the Runelords, and the flaws and benefits of this.  So today I wanted to talk about two premades I have participated in and how I felt about them, whether I was running them, or was a player.

I have participated in two major premade games, both from the pathfinder tabletop rpg, specifically Kingmaker and Rise of the Runelords.  In Kingmaker I was a player, while in Runelords I am the DM.  I have mixed feelings about premade campaigns, because for example the two I mentioned were a lot of fun, but I also had misgivings.  I think I will start with Kingmaker first, and then talk to you about Runelords next though, makes more sense as I played them in that order.

Kingmaker: A Pathfinder Adventure Path

The kingmaker campaign was very interesting as far as concepts go, you are sent into an area called the stolen lands by a norther nation of Brevoy, and you build your own nation which you rule.  You start by building your own fiefdom, deal with your land and cities, build your nation bigger, deal with war, so on and so fourth.  Lastly you end up having to deal with a major threat to your fledgling nation, and protect your home.

My character was the first ruler of the land, later marrying one of the other characters in the group at which point they both ruled.  She was the Empress Arandra Delen, and the nation was the Kahlizian Empire (pronounced Kah-Leez-Eeann), and the other ruler would later be her wife Fijit Delen.  It was really neat to be a ruler, especially with my character being a more diplomatic character, a sorceress with the serpentine bloodline.

This game was a lot of fun, was really cool to rule a nation and build it, and some of the boss encounters were very challenging.  The problem was that you were exploring hexes, which while it produced some neat encounters once in a while, it was just more of the same over and over again.  Towards the end it really kind of dragged on and we just wanted to get it over with.  It didn’t help that my friend who was DMing it really isn’t huge on roleplaying, he prefers dungeons and combat, and I am big into character development and RP.

It was a neat concept and with some tweaking and changing of some of the mechanics, it could have been a lot more epic and amazing.  It was a bit repetitive, between doing kingdom building “one week out of the month” in game time, the exploration of hexes as the primary driving force, and the powerhouse in our group getting a vorpal weapon, it just dragged on and lost all challenge.  The last fight was a little challenge, but between the barbarian/samurai, the shadow-dancer, the ranger and the caster, she wasn’t overly hard.  I never really felt at any time like any of us were going to die while taking on the final boss which is always a shame.

It really seemed to me there were a lot of missed opportunities when I experienced Kingmaker, between the rigid structure, the poorly scaled encounters, and the tedium, it could have been so much better.  Sure I had fun due to the players I was playing with and the idea for the game was really cool, but there were a lot of sessions that really just were dull.  A few times I even considered not continuing out of boredom but then I just decided I would rather finish it instead of dealing with an unfinished story and character.

Rise of the Runelords: A Pathfinder Adventure Path

Here is one adventure path that I thought the story for was really cool, very epic feel to all of it, taking the players over the country of Varissa, in pathfinders premier and original adventure path.  The story essentially begins with a simple goblin attack, but that is such a small part, as in the background one of the 7 Runelords of Thassilon, Karzoug the Runelord of Greed, is awakening after 10,000 years and the party has to contend with that.  It has a lot of rich history and lore with Varissa, some neat story elements, and many of the combat encounters are very challenging (though this was also spurred on by the fact that my party had the minimum number of players and they were purposely leveled a bit slower.)

This was a really neat story, and as I was DMing it I was privy to a lot of information and history and the like that the players were not.  The story was really riveting and there was a lot of background that was really cool in the story that I enjoyed being privy to as the DM.  It is a really epic adventure, had a lot of cool ideas, and I used the anniversary edition which brought it up to current pathfinder rules (as it originally came out before pathfinder, being its premier thing) which helped a lot.

The main issue I ran into running this game was that while as a DM I saw a lot of interesting story, it wasn’t written in to tell the players much of it.  Now I am not the most fabulous DM in the world, and had I seen all these issues before I started Runelords, I would have worked in a lot more story and foreshadowing, as well as a few more tweaks to make it more riveting to the players.  As it was, the main motivation for the players was “oops, something else just happened, guess we have to go deal with it.”, and it helped that one of the characters was motivated by helping people.  Mix this in with my less than amazing DM skills, (I would say I am about average, but could use a lot of work to make my DMing skills riveting.) and you run into a number of issues.

Another issue that this one has that a lot of other adventure paths has is that once you get to the last few installments, there are a lot of dungeons.  Some of these encounters are really challenging and interesting, but at the same time it was just combat after combat after combat.  Combat is fun, and it can produce some fun times, but roll it right after one another and it can be a bit tedious.  This is partially my failing, and partially the adventure path as well, because it could be a lot better with some tweaking.

So if you plan to ever run this adventure path, read the whole thing, be prepared to tweak it to the style of play that your players has.  It has a great story, great elements of neat and interesting intrigue, an awesome end boss which while very classic villain, can also be tweaked to be even more awesome.  Really when they did the anniversary edition they should have worked in a lot more foreshadowing, more intrigue, and gotten characters invested more.  There were really a lot of missed opportunities for epicness with this adventure path, which if you are prepared and a good DM you can fix and make this story even more amazing.  All paizo did with the anniversary edition of this path was update the combat encounters really, they kept the exposition and the like very similar with little change.  So it still had that episodic feel of a 6 part pathfinder adventure path, even though it was compiled into one big book.

I would love to run this adventure path again some day, and knowing what I know, tweak it to make it even more interesting and engaging.  Even with all these flaws it is a great adventure path with an awesome epic adventure of a story.  I enjoy it and like it a lot, and hope the next time I run it it will be epic as hell.

I know, this was a giant TLDR, but hey, lemme get to the conclusion.

Conclusions about Premade Adventure Paths

Now I am not making an overall judgement on adventure paths as a rule, but specifically these two ones and my experience with them.  Both have cool stories, and neat ways of going about things, but in the end it tends to drone on with too many dungeons.  If you love dungeons, they are really cool and story is just a mechanism to get you to fights and dungeons.  If you prefer a more story-esque kind of thing with rife opportunities to RP your way through some encounters, they needs a lot of tweaking.  Most of them are minor tweaks, and with an experienced DM can make for an amazing and memorable adventures with a great story.

I really wish to be that kind of DM too, and will continue to work on my skills so I can take stories like this as well as other premades to make awesome experiences.  In my RP group though we have a few people who can DM well and make games interesting, but none of us really LOVE to DM.  I need inspiration, it is my biggest problem, and its why premade adventures like these are really cool for me.  Now that I have gained more experience due to Rise of the Runelords, I would really love to try DMing more and more in the future, see if I can really refine my abilities as a DM.

Especially as a DM, you have hundreds of characters to make use of to further the story, and this can really get you a lot of neat experiences.  I really would like to work on and get better at this, and when I do run Rise of the Runelords and Kingmaker, because I do enjoy them both greatly.  Adventure paths are meant to find a nice medium between the fluffy players and the munchkin players, and this can lead to some frustrations between players of those various types.  They are also written so that any DM can run them, and make it halfway interesting, and I applaud them for these efforts.  I much prefer pathfinder’s methods at premade campaigns than dnd 3.0 which I started on, and a lot of their stories are interesting and lead to a cool experience.  I think that with an experienced DM you can tweak it to be amazing in any case, but I just think that that leads to missed opportunities as they are now.  I guess that is the evolution of the tabletop gaming we are familiar with today, so this is definitely a good thing in my opinion.

What are your experiences with Adventure Paths?
Which ones do you like or dislike?
Did you DM them or did you play in them?
How many do you have experience with and in what editions?
What RP system do you use for tabletop.

TLDR: Adventure paths are cool, but require some tweaking to fit your group’s style, and preferably run by an experienced DM.

This is ERW signing off

One thought on “Premade Games, and How We Feel About Them

  1. I used to run premade adventure when I first started DMing. I had a player who constantly thought outside the box though, and he taught me very quickly that you had to be prepared to go off the menu. I learned to think on my proverbial feet and wound up just running my own adventures mostly because it was easier. Kudos though. Great review!!

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