My Adventure GM-ing Rise of the Runelords, Part 1

Rise of the Runelords was my first Dungeons and Dragons campaign as the Game Master. I had GM’d previously for Pathfinder Society, sessions that lasted only a few hours where most everything was laid out and ready to be read. Yet Rise of the Runelords was my first time as the puppet master, director, designer of the story. When this opportunity arose to GM an AP, I jumped eagerly at it for a few reasons.

First, the challenge. Running an entire campaign was something I hadn’t done and I was excited to be able to do that. As part of joining my Pathfinder Society group, I told my recruiter (and good friend) that there was a singular thought that I would play to, “Go big or go home.” To that end, I happily tackled this challenge

Secondly, I was envious. My pathfinder group usually maintains a couple of AP groups running at any given point and I missed landing a seat in either of them. Unfortunately for a newcomer, the AP groups are rather static and consist of good friends who don’t really care to open their AP groups to other people (to the point of dropping a campaign rather then recruit a new player or two). C’est la vie.

Third, I was attempting to mend fences between the pathfinder group and a good friend of mine. In a very interesting social dynamic, my friend had ended up as the token scapegoat for the angry feelings people had for “broken things in pathfinder.” Happily, I was able to do that without running an AP, but it was still one of the original motivations.

Starting an Adventure Path takes a lot of work. Acquiring materials, finding players, prep work, scheduling…it can be a monster to deal with. And with wild abandon, I threw myself into that. My first attempt to get a group rolling was centered on the pirate AP, Skulls and Shackles. Excited to get into it all, I got my hands on a copy of the book and spent several days pouring over it, copying out stat blocks, tracking possible party interactions and generally familiarizing myself with what I would need to have on hand to run a given session of this AP. After that I sent out feelers to see if anyone would like to play if I ran that adventure path. The response varied between “played it” and “no” for the most part and out of a group of 50 or so people, I got two people who were willing to play. That’s right, two. Such a response dealt considerable damage to the momentum I had gathered around the idea of “pirates on the high seas!” and really crushed my desire to run or even play in pathfinder.

A week or so later, I mustered my resolve and printed out an interest poll. It was fairly simple, containing nothing more then “name, contact info, AP you’d be interested in playing”. I provided three options, Jade Regent (Let’s explore Asia), Rise of the Runelords (Zombie Demigods), and Skulls and Shackles (Yarrr). I circulated this for a week before compiling the results. Out of the 12 or so people that scribbled down their names, only five people really showed any signs of interest. The two I had previously recruited, a pair of roommates who had just started coming to my Pathfinder Society group and a relative newcomer to Pathfinder and DnD.

Reflecting on myself and the lessons that I have learned from my experiences is something I believe that everyone should take the time to do. From this simple story of gathering an AP group together, I can glean a number of good lessons; “Persistence is key.” “Research is powerful.” “Cater to what is wanted, not what you want.” are all immediately obvious, but only scratch the surface. So much of this experience is tied up in events that I haven’t transcribed for you, the reader, to have read and known about. Certainly in the coming days (like any good GM!), I will begin to fill in the picture, describing the key players and their roles in this story. But until that moment, this introduction is all that I shall give you.

“I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” – Homer


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