This is the first of the Pathfinder Adventure Path books that I’ve purchased, although I’ve glanced through many others. I’ve always enjoyed running adventures that involve ships and the seas, so this one appealed to me right off the bat.
For those unfamiliar with the Pathfinder Adventure Paths, they are published roughly monthly and will have a six issue run devoted to one large campaign, split into six individual adventures.
This is the first part of the six issue Skull & Shackles campaign.
It starts with the Player Characters having been press ganged into the crew of the pirate ship Wormwood.
The first half of the book is the adventure itself. There are a few preset encounters and a sizable dungeon type section near the end, but alot of the focus of this first book is on the players interactions with the crew and getting a rating of “friendliness” between the Players and the crew members, which will become important as the adventure moves on. This means alot is left up to the DM to handle as far as giving the crew members personality and coming up with additional situations for opportunities for interactions to take place. This means I don’t think this would be a good adventure for a novice Gamemaster to try and run, and even experienced Gamemasters could find it challenging.
There is an abstract system for handling some of this, but I think that relying on it too heavily could detract from the enjoyment of the game and could cause the first part of the adventrue to drag out somewhat.
I was a little suprised that they didn’t include a table that could be copied for actually keeping track of the standings between the PC’s and the crew, I think a GM is going to need one and it would have been nice to include it. Also, although several important crew members are described in alot of detail, there are a large number that are only given very brief descriptions, not enough to really give them much personality. This would mean additional work on the Gamemaster’s part to flesh these characters out if you want to roleplay encounters with them rather than just rolling dice to see if side with the Player Characters or not.
The second half of the book includes more background material on treasures, pirate life, creatures, a short work of fiction and an outline for the campaign as a whole.
Overall I was fairly impressed with the book and look forward to seeing future installments.
Whether I will get a group of players together and run it remains to be seen, I’m still learning my way around the Pathfinder system, and running through an entire Adventure Path is a fairly long term committment. I think I’ll see if I survive as a player in the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path first 🙂