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So I'm a DM with a bit of previous experience who discovered the wonderful world of Pathfinder Adventure Guides, and decided to try my first campaign of those with the classic Rise of the Runelords to see how fun they can be.

I've gathered three players who made the following characters: A Magus of the Mindblade archetype, a Paladin, and a Valkyrie player (from a third party publishing, essentially a tier-3 full BAB combatant). They are all level 1, and about to start the Burnt Offerings adventure.

I want to give them the freedom of choice to play whatever characters they want to play, and I could allow them to recruit NPC from the or even add in a support NPC to make up a fourth party member and therefore give them whatever support they need, but reading some feedback from people who played the module got me worried.

Is the module forgiving enough for they to be able to clear it with this party make-up? Am I going to have to create a supporting NPC? If so, what sort of support would be best to be focused on to allow them to deal with the campaign on the long term?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you going to run Rise of the Runelords as-written in the books, or do you expect to modify parts of it for your group? Do you intend to run the entire adventure path (levels 1-17) ? \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Dec 29 '19 at 8:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ How familiar are your players with Pathfinder? Or RPG's in general? That will play a big effect on how much help they may need. \$\endgroup\$ – RevenantBacon Jan 10 at 22:00
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Yes

From memory, Rise of the Runelords manages to mostly avoid the bad design trap of 'you need a thief/wizard/cleric/str 20 guy to bypass this Locked Door and that is the only way to bypass it and the adventure cannot continue if you don't', so needing any specific class or character type is largely avoided (although any DM worth half a thimble of salt should be able to remove those whenever they show up).

Like most of the adventure paths, the designers occasionally throw in a far-too-hard encounter or a cakewalk, so you must eyeball them normally when running the campaign regardless - and alter them for your specific party.

An all-melee, no-healing party will naturally struggle with being kited by ranged foes, CC, and successive encounters. Of those, the last one is the only one that should be a major concern, as for story reasons it can be very hard to give them '8 days to heal up naturally' or whatever. Generally enemies with strong crowd control or kiting abilities should be weakened unless your party is made up of savvy players who will use strategems to increase their characters' combat effectiveness (like ambush, tripping flying archers into the floor and so on).

Player savviness can solve the 'no healing' problem, such as via Use Magic Device and Wands of Cure Light Wounds (and scrolls or potions for the rarer status ailments), adopting stealth tactics to not lose much hp in fights, buying piles of potions etc. They can also decide to bring along an npc with healing abilities which you can accentuate by placing interesting but not spotlight stealing npcs in their general path. But if these things don't happen or don't pan out you will need to adjust the strength of quickly successive encounters to accomodate the fact that the party has less or no magical healing, as well as providing windows for them to heal up naturally or visit a temple somewhere which the story has some of but probably not enough.

Note that there are a variety of ways for PCs to have npcs around doing jobs for them without it detracting from the players having agency or spotlight, and there's nothing wrong with the 'horde of hirelings' game style which is frankly far superior to someone being forced to play 'a healer' when they don't want to.

In any case, regardless of whether you have npcs or smart players or just 3 melee doofuses running at things, Rise of the Runelords is quite easily alterable to not require magical healing and be usable by nearly any party, required you have basic eyeballing encounter strength skills. If you run it purely RAW you will run into some issues or weird, immersion-breaking MMO like behaviour from the party that you won't be able to react to, but in general playing things purely RAW is not a fun time in any case so I don't recommend it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a great answer. I would wonder, however, about various kinds of “puzzle monsters” that a mundane, melee party has almost no answer to: swarms, incorporeal foes, things with especially problematic DR or regeneration, etc. Even stuff like flight or invisibility, or things that apply brutal status conditions like curses or petrification. Those would be among my first concerns for this party. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 29 '19 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that Rise of the Runelords has some mid-level spellcasting enemies; those will have to be given dumbed-down spell choices and played like morons, for obvious reasons. (I think the first big problem will be the quasit in the Catacombs of wrath) \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Dec 29 '19 at 18:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil I've generally found Paizo's spellcasters to be pre-dumbed-down (although I haven't read through RotR myself). \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Dec 29 '19 at 20:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ poster, The only way I know of to trip flying creatures out of the sky is the Ace Trip Weapon Mastery Feat. Was that what you're talking about? \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Dec 29 '19 at 20:59

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