Back when Wizards of the Coast canceled Dragon and Dungeon magazines as printed product lines, Paizo Publishing took it upon themselves to finish up an adventure series they already had in-progress. The result was the Rise of the Runelords, a six-part adventure set in a new campaign setting of Paizo’s creation. As with previous adventure paths (starting with the Shackled City that started in Dungeon #97 back in 2003), it is intended to take a group of lowly 1st-level adventurers through an interconnected series of challenges that weave together into a grand adventure culminating with some pretty impressive high-level stuff. Ending an adventure path at level 20 is a reasonable expectation, and the challenges at the climax are worthy adversaries.
I haven’t actually run Rise of the Runelords, having purchased each installment more as a symptom of my RPG addiction than for any practical purpose, but I’m sorely tempted to give it a shot now that I have all the material. Central to the premise is an ancient, largely-forgotten empire ruled by a fractious group of specialist wizards. Some great cataclysm came down upon this ancient empire, and the ruling wizards (the Runelords of the adventure’s title) had to withdraw from the world until they could reconstitute their power. A variety of events have finally come to awaken the transmuter Runelord, which represents a tremendous threat to the wellbeing and safety of everybody on the continent.
A theme that runs throughout the adventure path is the close association of the seven deadly sins with the seven schools of Thassalonian magic (they didn’t have Diviners, it turns out). They may Evocation to Wrath, Transmutation to Greed, Enchantment to Lust, Conjuration to Sloth, and so forth. The less-than-heroic tendencies and personalities of the heroes are to be used at various times, with certain encounters keyed to whoever the most proud party member is, or the greediest, and so forth. The seven deadly sins show up frequently as the primary motivations for the various villains and scoundrels that appear throughout the Rise of the Runelords, something that helps set this story apart from others I’ve seen.
The production quality is excellent, printed in full-color on solid-feeling glossy paper. A number of talented writers and artists were called to collaborate on this project, with writers like Wolfgang Baur and Nicolas Logue putting their weight into background information and individual legs of the adventure, and artists like Wayne Reynolds putting together some great illustrations to help give everything the pop that helps a DM whet his appetite. Priced at $USD19.99 apiece, picking up all six is a bit on an investment, the blow made softer in my case by being spread out over a whole year. I’ve run through the first few chapters in my head and am pretty confident it would take my play group the better part of two years to pound our way through this, which makes it a reasonable investment if you’re keen on the idea of running somebody else’s creation.
Next up will be the Curse of the Crimson Throne, which takes place in the same campaign setting (starting in a different area, one that the party wouldn’t likely have visited in Rise of the Runelords). The Curse of the Crimson Throne should have six installments (I’ve seen preview covers, but only the first three look finished to me, the tail end appearing to be mock-ups put together with artwork from the first adventure). This will be followed by another adventure named the Second Darkness. I’m guessing that the folks at Paizo are pretty happy with how things have been going since their magazine publishing days.