Review of Runelords

Fortress of the Stone Giants Anniversary Edition

gaming modules rpg pathfinder dnd

I picked up the Anniversary Edition of Rise of the Runelords, the very first Pathfinder adventure path. This is my review of the fourth module, Fortress of the Stone Giants.

This module, in a way, is the turning point of the Runelords adventure path. It's in this module that the players learn of the ultimate plot, and in which they discover a library that can provide them with as much lore dumping as they want. The author of this one is Wolfgang Bauer, formerly one of the architects of Planescape and currently of Kobold Press. Player characters progress from level 11 to 13 over the course of the module.

The adventure begins with Sandpoint under attack. Again! And this time it's not just a bunch of goblins, but giants and, believe it or not, even a dragon. If for no other reason than bringing out a dragon at level 11, I admire this module. It's a common complaint that D&D has more dungeon than dragon, and not without reason. There are necessarily more dungeons than dragons, but it can feel pretty barren when an adventure has no dragon whatsoever. Well, this adventure provides a young dragon as an enemy right up front. A flying, fire-breathing dragon that can easily kill player characters. Of course at level 11, it's reasonable to hope to survive and even slay the dragon as well as the raiding giants. As long as the players manage that, they successfully save Sandpoint, but their work hardly stops there.

Assault on Jorgenfist

After Sandpoint has been saved again, the player characters learn that the source of all the trouble comes from the Jorgenfist fortress of the Stone giants. Jorgenfist itself is a huge compound, and the remainder of the adventure is sort of a variation on the Against All Giants theme: go to where there are giants, kill them, loot their stuff.

That's an oversimplification, of course.

On their way to Jorgenfist, there are lots of opportunities for ambushes and encounters with ogres and giants and whatever else you put in their path.

Once they arrive, the PCs must plan their attack, and as long as they do a little reconnaissance they'll learn that storming in with teeth and weapons bared is probably not the best plan for success.

Once the fortress has been taken, there's the seemingly simple matter of looting, but this leads to some exploration which in turn reveals an ancient library filled with lore about the ancient Thassilon empire. It's within this library that players are able to learn as much about the region, history, and adventure backstory as you want to give them.

And what a relief that is.

I don't have the exact statistics, but I imagine that most players only get about 40% of the story behind the adventures they play, compared to the DM's 98%. And frankly it's a little sad to be the DM privileged with a hundred pages of lore and nuance that you're never quite able to share with your players. In theory, it's "safe" to tell players all the nuance they missed at the end of a game session, but it's risky business because a little lore here and a little lore there can sometimes gives away what's yet to come.

The ancient library within Jorgenfist grants you permission to reveal everything you've been holding back for the past 230 pages.

Onto part five

This is another good entry into the Runelords saga, and one that affords the players with plenty of play styles to choose from. This could easily be a non-stop battle sequence, leaving a trail of blood across the Storval Plateau. But it could also be played as an initial battle sequence followed by espionage and intrigue, or intrigue and black magic, or stealthy exploration, or even audacious diplomacy. This is a great mix of adventure and dungeoneering, and should be relatively easy to run.

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