It took a while for me to get back on the horse after Varjosuot and Verikosto, two 3.5-campaign which had both failed to some extent for pretty much the same reasons. What brought me back was the immense hype generated by Paizo Publishings new 3.5-derivative game Pathfinder to be released in about a year, and the Pathfinder Adventure Path Rise of the Runelords. The RotRL material was captivating, interesting and well written and inspired me to take a plunge into the thus uncharted territory of running campaign material created by someone else. I got together a group of four players, gave them pretty much a free hand to create any kind of characters they wanted, prepped up on the material and started running games. The Pathfinder RPG was at that point in the alpha playtest stage, so for the sake of playtesting we played the rules system and the modules pretty much as written. Starting out, we had a great time exploring the possibilities and learning the system. The characters had real depth and strength of personality. The combats were entertaining and exiting.
The campaign ran without any major hick-ups for about half a dozen sessions. At this point we started noticing that the characters weren’t really meshing, working together effectively as a group, or even getting along half of the time. Players with strong personalities and competitive mindsets started getting on each others’ nerves due to characters with low charisma or opposed alignments being played in a character immersive way.
From a rules point of view the group composition was less than ideal with a monk, two rangers and a barbarian. This particular group was all about front-loaded damage dealing with little or non-existent magical back-up. This pretty much meant they were doing ok as long as they came up against foes using the same arsenal. By the end of book two of the adventure path, however, the villains were getting beefier and bigger by the encounter, which was causing the group to loose on their own turf without any kind of back-ups for alternate solutions to the problems presented. Looking at book three and four (ogres, trolls, ettins, giants and dragons) I thought to myself, there’s just no fucking way this group will get through even half of these without taking several severe beatings and suffering character deaths.
So what we did was this: Reboot the whole campaign starting at book three, create new characters with a stronger group composition in mind and continue from there. Around this time one of my players dropped out and got replaced by a new player. We played Rise of the Runelords book three for a few sessions with this new group of characters, but soon realized the problems didn’t go away. We were still butting egos’, and running head first into rough and tumble combat encounters. The module was also getting increasingly combat-heavy with ogres, more ogres, and stone giants. It was getting old really fast. Eventually we decided to call it a day for Rise of the Runelords and moved on to other campaigns.