Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Kingmaker Adventure Path So Far...

Let me start by saying while I have all three of the Kingmaker Adventure Path products that have been released, I don't play Pathfinder/3e/3.5/Fantasy Craft/4e or much d20 at all. I certainly don't own any of the other Paizo Adventure Path modules, nor ran one from a previous issue of Dungeon Magazine. Since I don't use the systems I listed above, the stat blocks in Kingmaker only serve as a benchmark for me to wing it a different system, and only then if the critter actually inspires me to come up with stats for the system I'm using at the time.

Second, I always alter game products to fit my game, and most modules rarely survive contact with my game table without serious modifications. From what I hear, Paizo's Adventure Paths are notorious for being railroads, but I don't have any first hand experience with that.

That said, I was intrigued by the buzz around Kingmaker and I decided to pick it up. So far, I'm quite pleased with it.

The first supplement provides a encounter-infested wilderness environment where your low-level PCs can explore, build contacts, fight bandits and other threats, as well as discover resources for the next stage of the game: building a kingdom. There are notes about the difference between moving through hexes and exploring them, as well as hidden items that wouldn’t be discovered by explorers unless a certain check is made. Honestly, the contents of the first Kingmaker supplement is nothing that I couldn’t have come up with on my own, but it inspires that style of campaign, as well as is filled with ideas to steal. For example, I tossed out the map that came with the Adventure Path and created my own with Hexographer, but I sprinkled the Kingmaker encounters that I liked on my map. My PCs (a gaming buddy, my wife and two young daughters) are puzzling out how best to defeat the Stag Lord and his bandits up in the mountains…

The second supplement more wilderness encounters (which are designed for slightly more powerful characters), as well as rules for running and developing your own kingdom. I really like the rules they presented for building your community. It even has a city map grid and building tokens, where your choices in what type of buildings to construct next has a direct impact on your stability/economy/loyalty checks. Ironically, I’m using REIGN to play Kingmaker, but I have no interest in using the company rules in that book. I like the idea, but frankly it’s far too abstract for my taste. Instead, I’m using the kingdom mechanics in the second Kingmaker supplement. It requires very little tweaking to get it working for the system I’m using, and it isn’t overwhelming or horribly unbalanced like most RPGs that focus on nation building. IMO, these rules alone were well worth the money I spent for the supplement.

The third supplement has even more wilderness encounters, as it adds another map directly to the east of where the first two supplements took place. It’s a mountainous realm, with lots of interesting encounters… but that’s about it. I mean, some of these encounters are somehow linked with their adventure, but honestly, I could care less about the railroad Paizo is creating in this book. A cyclops lich with a magical gem for an eye is interesting as a bad guy in the mountains, and the mystery of why a settlement in this area became a ghost town is fleshed out… but frankly neither of them inspired me. Since the previous two supplements had solid hooks to them (Explore! Build!), the third one just seemed unfocused. Bah. Worse, it looks like the fourth and sixth books are all about the railroad express as well, but at least the fifth one has mass combat rules in it.

For all my negativity about the third supplement (and my doubts about most of the future ones), I’m pretty happy that Kingmaker inspired me to run a third weekly game, but one that involves my daughters (ages 7 & 9). We aren’t using any variation of D&D, but the Kingmakers books did a good job of inspiring me to run a “sandbox game” with my kids that would make an old school grognard proud. ;)