View Full Version : Dungeon Adventure Paths

2009-11-22, 09:47 PM
I'm considering forking over the cash to acquire one of the Paizo Dungeon adventure paths, the massive campaign modules that take characters from level 1 to 20.

Now, I may eventually acquire them all, but from those of you that own them or have played through them, which one would you consider the best? Shackled City, Age of Worms, or Savage Tide?

I'm interested to hear reasons why you enjoy which ones. Which have the best designed encounters? The best story? The best pacing? etc.

2009-11-23, 01:42 AM
Shackled City is the only one with a compendium, but is was the first one produced, when they were first learning the ropes. It gets fairly shaky at times in terms of plotting. If you do get the compendium, the adventure added in that (the second, I believe) is generally considered to be superfluous. If you just get the back issues, then the first couple are under the 3.0 rules.

Age of Worms is bloody brutal, and apparently hard to actually finish (if the two failed campaign journals, one mine, are any measure). Has some utterly vicious fights, especially if they're played intelligently. I believe the kill counter in my campaign was climbing into the low teens before we stopped. Has some utterly gorgeous adventures (#8, primarily a role-playing adventure). Has two central plot threads, but one just sort of peters out midway through.

Savage Tide is probably the most tightly plotted, though it can tend to drag when the players are in the low to mid teens. Actually plans for and presents recurring foes: I like this aspect, but it all depends how your players will react. Again, a lovely role-playing adventure in there (#11), with the players dealing with real planar movers and shakers.

The Short:
Shackled City: Has the advantage of a central location for the players to work out of (the City of Cauldron), meaning it has a chance to develop as a character in its own right. Suffers in terms of story.

Age of Worms: Probably the most difficult in terms of actual play (though maybe it's just that I've had the most experience with it). Has the advantage of an early identified enemy, and thus a driving force for the campaign.

Savage Tide: Most coherent in terms of plot, and with multiple recurring characters. Because of this, it can get rail-roady.

I'd personally recommend the Savage Tide, so long as what you want is an epic story.

2009-11-23, 02:47 AM
My group just finished 9th chapter of the Savage Tide (I'm DMing) and another group I play in just finished 8th chapter of the Shackled City, so here are my thoughts:

Savage Tide:

Lots of encounters happen in wilderness and on/in water. If your group is of exploring type, they'll love it. Very little urban encounters.

Of recurring villains, there's actually only one, Vanthus. You have to play him out right if you want your party to truly hate him, so he has potential, but you gotta be careful. My party is mostly annoyed by him, but they did cheer when they killed him for the second time.

Memorable boss fights - they're truly good, my party loved each and every one of them.

Good story, but the downside is that you're players will actually know the most of it only at the beginning of the 11th chapter (out of 12), which is bad since your players will be hard to motivate sometimes.

It's a demon slaying campaign, so it can become one-dimensional at times.

Problem is, there are a few filler chapters that players find boring and they have small impact on plot anyways - chapters 2,4,9 and 10. But chapters 11 and 12 are just wow.

Shackled City

First of all, it requires a lot of work on DM's part. Encounters are horribly weak and unless your players are total beginners, they won't be challenged at all. My group isn't.

Boss fights are kind of a let down. Either they are too hard (Nabthataron) or too easy (Kaurophon, Orbius, Zenith...) and badly planned.

Cauldron is an intresting city with lots of intrigue and potential and characters will mostly enjoy it.

Cagewrights are solid opponents (fluff-wise), veiled in mystery for the most part of the campaign, since they're kinda 'power behind the throne' type of villains.

We'll be starting Age of Worms once we finish these two, so I have no thoughts on AoW, but we're all looking forward to it.

But between these two... It comes down to player preferance, really. If your players want an urban campaign, SC is the way to go. If they want water-based encounters, exploring the far-off world, meeting Demon Lords and the like, go with Savage Tide. IMHO, Savage Tide is a far grander campaign than SC for a few reasons:

First of all, you actually know who's your final villain, and he's badass. I have no idea who's the villain of SC and that's annoying, not intriguing.

As I mentioned, it's a far more epic campaign. Gathering armies, some of which were gods, leading armies, battling Prince of Demons, potentially visiting Sigil...

The rest is up there, so you decide. Although you should check out Paizo Messageboards, too, that's a wellspring of knowledge on all three campaigns.

2009-11-23, 02:55 AM
In terms of Paizo adventure paths, and I know you didn't mention it, Rise of the Runelords is my favorite.

2009-11-23, 12:51 PM
I played just a wee bit of Age of Worms. The DM was telling us how we were all likely going to die, so I believe that it is indeed dangerous.

How do the adventure paths compare to Red Hand of Doom, if any of you have played it? I played through RHoD and loved it, loved it, loved it.

I'll have to ask my players what they're in the mood for, but Savage Tide sounds more up my alley. Shackled City never interested me a great deal.

2009-11-23, 01:41 PM
I've played and am currently DMing Shackled City, and played Age of Worms.

Personally I find Shackled City much, much better in terms of plot, but it does require a lot of work on the DM's part. I've found that throwing in a few extra mooks has kept the players happily challenged so far (they're level 6 now), but it's tricky if you don't know what you're doing. The boss fights were very, very tough. The BBEG nearly gave us a TPK when I was playing, and seemed to be significantly tougher than what we were used to fighting.

If you get the whole adventure path book, skip Chapter 2 and substitute Jil for Artus Shemwick in Chapter 3. The writers apparently didn't realize that most parties will clear out a dungeon room by room, milking it for all the XP they can get and taking everything that isn't nailed down. If you go through Chapter 2, the PCs will be overpowered for the next few chapters from leveling up too fast.

Age of Worms seemed extremely slow-developing in terms of plot. There were about seven or eight levels around the middle where there didn't seem to be anything going on related to the over-arching plot. 4 out of our 5 players (me included) were bored enough to bring that up to the DM. I definitely agree that it was the deadliest of the adventures I've played in. My character (cowardly roguish con-man) was the only one who didn't die at least two or three times.

All in all, Age of Worms is a more combat-oriented campaign. I can't think of a single memorable NPC from it (and I can think of four or five from Shackled City off the top of my head). That might have a big something to do with DM skill, too, but that's my experience anyway.

If your players love combat challenges, go with Age of Worms. If they're in it for the story, Shackled City. If they like a mixture of both, Shackled City (but be prepared to amp up the difficulty or tone down the XP rewards).

2009-11-23, 04:36 PM
My actual play experience with Red Hand of Doom is fairly limited (going to try again this spring, though). Thing is, RHoD is pretty darn short by comparison, so NPCs and the like are fairly well fleshed out, whereas the Adventure Paths include a whole lot more, you know, dungeons, with less role-playing, and more XP-grinding (not always in a bad way, though it is coming off that way). They work fine as is, but if I was to go back and do them all again, I'd pick out the actual plot advancement bits, and see if I could condense it down.

At Gorbash: You know, I'd forgotten that Vanthus was the only intended recurring villain. Let's just say that the PCs did not take well to Harliss, and I wasn't exactly thrilled at the 'look at me, I'm a designer's pet character!' No, I'm not bitter, why do you ask?

2009-11-23, 04:39 PM
I've never played Shackled City or Savage Tide, but Age of Worms is fantastic and then some. It is a bit difficult, though.

2009-11-24, 05:44 AM
I can't really compare RHoD with Adventure Paths. RHoD is really, really short compared to them and doesn't leave much time for anything besides running around killing Azar Kul's allies.

We finished RHoD in about... 9 sessions (of 4-5 hours) over the course of 2 months and last weekend I DMed the 36th session of Savage Tide over the course of 16 months. We're playing Shackled City for 3 years, I think (our DM is kinda slow and insits on every player to be present on sessions, so we don't play that often) and the big difference is that you get really attached to your character for two obvious reasons:

1. You'll be playing them much longer.
2. You'll have the time to do anything you like.

RHoD is kinda rushed, everything happens really quick and you don't really have the time to wander around.