Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Rise of the Runelords and DH5

I like poking around in the online catalogs of public libraries near me, and using interlibrary loan to get stuff that's often out of scope for my own public library.  When I was younger, I was a HUGE proponent (and user) of the public library; my experience is somewhat soured lately both because like every other facet of the government it's turned into a profound well of anti-American virtue-signaling, and like every other public commons, it's been over-run and taken over by Fake Americans who make the place unappealing as a destination.  Who would have thought?  When I was 13-15 or so and couldn't drive yet, I would literally ride my bike more than half an hour one way deep into downtown Bryan (OK, Bryan wasn't a super big town, so downtown was modest) almost weekly during the height of the hot, humid Texas summers to spend a few hours browsing the shelves of the library, coming home with a backpack full of material to keep me busy that week.

Now that I obviously can drive but don't even need to because I live within a 15 minute walk of the public library, I rarely pop in except to pick up something that I've put on hold remotely.  Sad how that's changed.

But regardless, I found that the Anniversary Edition combined, compiled, and updated Rise of the Runelords campaign was available via interlibrary loan, and I went and requested it.  I just finished this morning the last few pages (to be honest, I skimmed the last sections which were new rules and new magic items, because I don't care that much about mechanics, and I don't play the Pathfinder system anyway.)

But it was interesting to read, and other than those specific last appendices (and some monster and character statblocks, although I did skim them to make sure I had the gist of them, at least), I actually read the whole thing.  I actually played almost half of it once long ago when it was still a 3.5 product, so it's not like I didn't know what to expect.  I was disappointed yet not surprised to see it swamped with D&Disms; references to not traveling because of the expectation of various teleportation spells or whatever, everything is a dungeon, everywhere is built on top of a dungeon, etc.  There are actually quite a few interesting and compelling ideas in there, but they are often breezed over and then loving detail is given to describing room after room after room with idiotic traps that make no verisimilitudinistic sense whatsoever, etc.  But although I was disappointed to see that, it's hardly like I was surprised.  What I hoped to find was that there was value to be had in the thing anyway, even if it had to be carefully extracted like a miner working a difficult to reach vein of precious metal buried in a difficult matrix of gangue.  How's that for a tortuous metaphor?

One thing that immediately leapt to mind, although it's a very big picture idea, and unrelated very much to the specific details, is that Varisia, the region in which this takes place, is very much what I need from my Hill Country DH5 development, and one or two of the details strikes me as superbly usable in my own milieu.  By this I mean specifically that the region is a frontier or backcountry region, but is subject to the influence of two large, rival city-states.  There are a number of other towns and settlements, but many of them—probably most of them—have some sort of loose vassalage or client relationship with one of the two city-states.  This doesn't mean that they aren't small and isolated and largely either independent in their day to day operations, or at least autonomous, but it does also mean that there's reason for them to exist, trade relationships, occasional feudal/vassal obligations to be fulfilled, etc. that makes for some interesting and believable reasons for them to exist and for people to travel from one to the other, especially people like the PCs who aren't likely to be rooted artisans, farmers or laborers or whatever.  And the fact that there are two rival city-states out there means that there is also reason for politics, skulduggery, intrigue, and more.  Even in the hinterlands, where agents of Magnimar and Korvasa might vie for influence with a settlement looking for protection from one or the other against hazards of the wilderness in exchange for exclusive access to mineral or lumber rights, or control of a strategic pass or ford or trade route, or whatever the case may be.

Anyway, I'm certainly not going to go and do a whole Rise of the Runelords Deconstructed, or anything like that.  In fact, I'm not going to do any of those types of posts anymore, I don't think.  That experiment was kind of played out already, and I can't imagine that I'd enjoy doing it again very much.  But reading these at high level and seeing if anything looks so compelling that I need to strip mine it out of the modules might be workable.  I'll probably read the Curse of the Crimson Throne too, which is the next Adventure Path after Rise of the Runelords, and which is set in Korvasa, the rival of Magnimar, which plays a significant role in this one.  I'll get to see both sides of the city-state rivalry, as played out in the adventure paths.  Not that either actually focuses on anything other than internal affairs, but still.

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