D&D General Best Adventure Path (spanning 10+ levels) of all time?

Frankie1969

Adventurer
Large but straightforward question: what is the best collection of pre-made adventure content that follows a full story arc from small-time local heroes (preferably starting at level 1, no higher than 4) to world-hopping legends (preferably reaching 20, no lower than 14)?

Not just in 5E. Any edition, including 4E, PF, 13A, or any other system similar enough to translate.

YMMV, but my personal criteria for "best" are:
  1. well-written plot with logical motivation & consequences,
  2. well-written NPCs who merit emotional investment,
  3. well-written scenarios, preferably organized like instructions not like a novella,
  4. well-balanced & interesting challenges, and
  5. not overly complex to DM (Zeitgeist gets dinged on this last point).
I don't know what my answer would be. I have fond memories of (TA)GDQ but I know it doesn't stand up well by modern standards.
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
Probably Kingmaker or Savage Tide although I've heard the 3.x ones kinda fall apart.

Night Below. Starts out great devolves into a dungeon gack and takes to long for the basic premise to pay off.

5E. Has a lack of great adventures CoS maybe?

4E has 1-2 good adventures total none of which count as APs.

Pathfinder. Several contenders Runelords and Kingmaker.

1E lacks required adventures two that kinda qualify aren't very good.

2E. Night Below maybe.

3E Savage Tide or Age of Wyrms.

B/X lacks required criteria but you could probably build your own with the B and X series.
 

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Frankie1969

Adventurer
I'd ding this pretty heavily on point #4. It was a sandbox of various different levels but part of the party's goals are laid out by the card reading that could (and did) lead the party into challenges very inappropriate for their level.

I had a good time playing CoS, but it was in spite of the module not because of it.
CoS is also the big counterexample of how not to write an adventure in the article for point #3.
 

Reynard

Legend
The Paizo APs all sort of suffer on point 3 -- by design. Paizo developers have said on multiple occasions that because of their model, the APs had to be as entertaining to read as to play, because few would actually run them all and certainly not in the time frame of publication.
 
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thullgrim

Adventurer
Enemy Within until you get to Power Behind the Throne which looks like a nightmare to run.

Masks of Nyarlathotep would be my submission. It’s broken up into chapter that can be handled in any order. Each chapter though is a manageable sandbox of clue following. The 7e version is well laid out with the connections pointed out clearly to the GM. The plot is as ut reveals itself is transparent to players. Something Paizo APs sometimes struggle with.

If I were picking a Paizo AP it would be Runelords.
 


Merifluous

Explorer
I've been converting and running parts of the Great Modron March + Dead Gods in high level (10-20) 5e. They are fantastic adventures, but incredibly difficult to run, especially if you convert to 5e. One of the advantages of Modron is you can cut the weaker adventures out easily. You cant do that in Dead Gods, but you wouldn't want/need to. CoS is the best of the published 5e stuff, though I also think its the hardest 5e adventure to run as a DM because its so sandboxy yet interconnected. RoT, SKT, OotA are all fine, especially if you are willing to mix and match the best parts.
 


toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
...pre-made adventure content that follows a full story arc from small-time local heroes (preferably starting at level 1, no higher than 4) to world-hopping legends (preferably reaching 20, no lower than 14)? Not just in 5E. Any edition, including 4E, PF, 13A, or any other system similar enough to translate.
  1. well-written plot with logical motivation & consequences,
  2. well-written NPCs who merit emotional investment,
  3. well-written scenarios, preferably organized like instructions not like a novella,
  4. well-balanced & interesting challenges, and
  5. not overly complex to DM (Zeitgeist gets dinged on this last point).
In no particular order of stuff I've run, and I can't reconcile a level 1-20 style campaign with #5 (not overly complex to DM) as every one of these needs help and a lot of tweaks/fixes.
  • Savage Tide (3E, Dungeon mag). Classic, epic high adventure feature the Isle of Dread and Demogorgon and an invasion into the heart of the Abyss. If done right and with a few tweaks, a totally despicable bad guy (early on and with tweaks later) and totally memorable NPCs that you spend time on a ship with. Tons of campaign journals on Paizo, ran using Pathfinder.
  • Age of Worms (3E, Dungeon mag). Amazing starting adventure, fabulous dungeons. Needs tweaks on some adventures that drag and is dungeon-heavy, deadly if run with original lethality of monsters. Epic conclusion with a demigod. Tons of campaign journals on Paizo. Ran using Pathfinder.
  • Kingmaker (Pathfinder). It's a coloring book with the most campaign aid from DMs in the history of anything I've ever seen. 10 years later I ran it in 5E and still found folks providing advice or asking for it. If filled in properly (as in a LOT of work), could be the most satisfying campaign you'll ever run, taking you to crazy feyworld. Having just finished it to completion, a 2 year campaign, yeah. But #5 criteria, nope. Hit level 15.
  • Dragons of Despair, et all (AD&D). The original Dragonlance modules. Yeah, it's a railroad, but gamers are entering into this on purpose to play some epically high fantasy knowing they're staying on the rails. It violates the "start at 1" idea, but when converting to 5E, I worked around this and am currently running it. Epic encounters and scenery, imagery sticks with you, and nothing more epic than stopping the goddess of all evil. Should hit around level 14-15.
  • Out of the Abyss (5E). Amazing start, totally fun NPCs like a gelatinous cube, and demon lords. Needs a TON of work up front and a TON of work around the seams, and a TON of work at the end-game when there's not enough going on to warrant going up levels, and some work to make eons-old Demon Lords scary combatants because as-written they suck. But at the end, totally worth it (if you run the "players control demon lords" battle option). Hits levels 12-14.
 

Probably Kingmaker or Savage Tide although I've heard the 3.x ones kinda fall apart.

A lot of the 3.x/PF1 APs struggle a bit because they go into level ranges high enough where the ruleset is broken. Combats are first-big-spell-wins, the maths is a mess, and the enormous stat blocks of high-level NPCs or monsters takes up so much space in the page count that the actual story content suffers. This is especially the case for the APs published in Dragon, that all went up to 20th level whereas later PF APs (for 3.x or PF) capped out at around level 15 or so. Still difficult to write, but not QUITE as hard.

A few of the standard PF story beats irritated me a little as well, and dragged down some otherwise excellent APs. 'Start the campaign in a lovingly and intimately detailed location where your PC is encouraged to have deep roots and lots of connections, which you leave a few levels in and never return to' is one that you find in Rise of the Runelords, Savage Tide, Reign of Winter, Jade Regent. 'Higher-level extraplanar soujourn that doesn't really fit thematically with the rest of the campaign' is another one that shows up in Ironfang Invasion among others. And 'generic quasi-European fantasy PCs go to non-European-coded fantasy country and fix their problems for them' is one we get in Jade Regent, Mummy's Mask, and even Reign of Winter.

Savage Tide blew my socks off when i first read it. I ran it and loved it (the game broke down around 15th level for unrelated reasons), but it did have structural problems that made the modules as written often incompatible with what reasonable PCs would do. It blithely assumed PCs would be sailing their ship all over the place even long after getting access to Wind Walk and Teleport, for instance.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
A lot of the 3.x/PF1 APs struggle a bit because they go into level ranges high enough where the ruleset is broken. Combats are first-big-spell-wins, the maths is a mess, and the enormous stat blocks of high-level NPCs or monsters takes up so much space in the page count that the actual story content suffers. This is especially the case for the APs published in Dragon, that all went up to 20th level whereas later PF APs (for 3.x or PF) capped out at around level 15 or so. Still difficult to write, but not QUITE as hard.

A few of the standard PF story beats irritated me a little as well, and dragged down some otherwise excellent APs. 'Start the campaign in a lovingly and intimately detailed location where your PC is encouraged to have deep roots and lots of connections, which you leave a few levels in and never return to' is one that you find in Rise of the Runelords, Savage Tide, Reign of Winter, Jade Regent. 'Higher-level extraplanar soujourn that doesn't really fit thematically with the rest of the campaign' is another one that shows up in Ironfang Invasion among others. And 'generic quasi-European fantasy PCs go to non-European-coded fantasy country and fix their problems for them' is one we get in Jade Regent, Mummy's Mask, and even Reign of Winter.

Savage Tide blew my socks off when i first read it. I ran it and loved it (the game broke down around 15th level for unrelated reasons), but it did have structural problems that made the modules as written often incompatible with what reasonable PCs would do. It blithely assumed PCs would be sailing their ship all over the place even long after getting access to Wind Walk and Teleport, for instance.

I thought Savage Tide Was great still using Sasserine now.

I just cherry pick various adventures form level 1-10 and drop the rest.

Currently using Vanthus in a Zobeck game
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
The first "adventure path" I ever played is still my favorite by far:

B2: The Keep on the Borderlands

+
X4: Master of the Desert Nomads

+
X5: Temple of Death

+
X10: Red Arrow, Black Shield
 




edosan

Explorer
I’m currently running Curse of Strahd and while I’d call it the best 5e adventure I’ve run so far, that’s some faint praise as I’m becoming more convinced Wizards makes adventures to be read as coffee table books instead of playable adventures. I’m honestly not sure if I’d actually recommend it but I’m toying with doing Lost Mine of Phandelver running into Red Hand of Doom for our next campaign and RHoD seems way better written for actual play.
 



J-H

Hero
I was wondering if someone was going to say RHOD. I've heard good things about it, and have the 3.5 version. I have intentionally not read it in hopes of someone else running it someday.
 

Vael

Legend
I don't know if it hits all the OP's criteria, but if I had to give an AP the nod, it's Savage Tide. I'll confess I've never run it, but I've wanted to in every edition I've played, thought about running it in 3.5, started the work of adapting it to both 4e and 5e. I don't think it's perfect, and not too sure where the pitfalls are, but I find it a memorable and enticing enough I've wanted to run it
 

edosan

Explorer
I was wondering if someone was going to say RHOD. I've heard good things about it, and have the 3.5 version. I have intentionally not read it in hopes of someone else running it someday.
TBF I haven’t read a ton of it but what I’ve seen, I’ve liked. Lots of sidebars with DM tips and designer‘s notes.
 

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