And so, after 51 sessions carried out over the course of 3 years (not including the year and change hiatus), my Rise of the Runelords campaign came to an end.
I hadn't posted about it since the group fell to Xanesha, here, but in the sessions since the game came back, a lot of things happened. Many of the original characters returned (except for Hyrum and Natasha, and we never saw Elspeth again) because Vic was able to shake Xanesha's charm and dump the bodies of his comrades at the Abadaran church. Some more people joined our group for good, and some came and went, and with them, their characters.
Along the way, our heroes fought against the hideously mutated Kreegs and burned their compound to near uselessness, they liberated Fort Rannick from the merciless ogres that had taken it over, and were granted titles and the land surrounding the fort for their efforts.
The Lords of Rannick then left their lands in the hands of their trusted stewards to venture to their hometown of Sandpoint, where they were able to thwart a raid by stone giants, and then chased the giants to the place from which they had planned to launch an invasion of the lowlands. Our heroes took the fight to the leaders of this faction of giants and destroyed them, but confirmed what they had suspected for some time: there was a greater threat behind the giants; a tyrant of old who sought his return to the physical world and the reclamation of his old kingdom. This was Karzoug, the Runelord of Shalast, perhaps one of the most powerful wizards to have ever lived!
Being called and returning to Sandpoint after a short respite at home, our band descended into a portion of the ancient ruins under the town that had been blocked til this point. There, they uncovered a written passage hinting at a font of arcane knowledge belonging to the Runelords, hidden in the mountains to the north, and they made their preparations from Sandpoint and headed to the spot they would uncover this Runeforge. There, however, they were beaten back by the ancient white, Arkrhyst, who made its lair in the cavern that housed the entrance to Runeforge. After traveling back to safety and recuperating, they made a second attempt at the dragon, this time summoning help, and were able to slay the beast.
Then they made entry into Runeforge. Though they were able to identify the passages matching the various entries associated with each Runelord's realm of power, they decided to work clockwise and systematically explore the arcane secrets therein. Their first challenge came in the form of a trap cleverly designed to trigger multiple Mirrors of Opposition. After defeating their clones, the group pressed in further and were felled by the six simulacrum copies of the wizard Vraxeris, and their devastating spell onslaught.
Cast of Characters
Walt Thrune, Chelaxian Human Cleric 12 (Merciful Healer) of Sarenrae - Paul (deceased)
Rissi Scuttle, Ratfolk Alchemist 12 - Angela (deceased)
Vic Alvaraz, Varisian Human Fighter 12 (Mobile Fighter) - David (deceased)
Indigo, Chelaxian Human Paladin 5/Holy Vindicator 8 - Taylor (deceased)
Thrask, Orc Barbarian 11 (Invulnerable Rager) - Jon
Trink Peacepath, Vanara Monk 10 (Qinggong) - Sam (deceased)
With only one PC technically surviving, due to the player's absence, I called the game.
This was a tough campaign, and one that seemed to really ratchet up in difficulty when the campaign enters the 5th book of the series. There was some discussion about deaths and the larger number of characters contributing to less gold share and thus, being slightly behind the curve, when it came to power level. I do agree to those points, but I also saw certain things like item hoarding to be just as detrimental. The difficulty of the adventure as written had also taken a turn that, at least in my opinion, is hard to prepare for when things had been at a certain level before.
Overall, I don't have any major complaints, and other than Taylor thinking the path perhaps too bland (which is very legitimate, as Rise of the Runelords doesn't - nor was it intended to - bring anything new to the table), I don't feel that the players do...or at least they haven't been voiced.
If anyone who happens to read this was considering running Rise, I would say go for it. Since it's a published campaign, you'll have to fill in quite a few of the gaps in the story, but I felt like I was given the tools to do that with the material as presented. The Paizo forums are also full of great ideas for enhancing the campaign.
This was a very fulfilling campaign, and I'm sure we'll be telling stories from it for a long while.