D&D 5E Paizo's 'The Abomination Vaults' Pathinder AP Coming to 5E

Paizo is set to release one of its adventure paths--The Abomination Vaults--for D&D 5E in November. The AP will be compiled as a hardcover and retail for $59.99. There will also be a Pathfinder 2E version of the hardcover.

The 3-part adventure path was originally released for Pathfinder 2E in early 2021, and is a big dungeon crawl adventure.

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When the mysterious Gauntlight, an eerie landlocked lighthouse, glows with baleful light, the people of Otari know something terrible is beginning. Evil stirs in the depths of the Abomination Vaults, a sprawling dungeon where a wicked sorcerer attempted to raise an army of monsters hundreds of years ago. The town's newest heroes must venture into a sprawling dungeon filled with beasts and traps to prevent a spiteful spellcaster from rising again!

This complete compilation of the original Adventure Path campaign has been adapted to the newest version of the world’s oldest RPG. You’ve heard about the quality and depth of Pathfinder campaigns for years—now explore the Abomination Vaults yourself without having to learn a new game system!
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

darjr

I crit!
That “back room dealing” is straight from Prof DM last year when he admitted to starting the rumor!!! He started it and people latched onto it. I got kicked off his Facebook group after he admitted to making it up for clicks and telling him he was no better than the QAnon influencers then. And here we are… people still believe WOTC might be buying Paizo.


He also made a spec video that WOtC might get sold to GW


Better left ignored.
Oh no. Well now we know. Thanks.
 

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payn

Legend
My issue with Paizo's APs is that because they write the books individually, by different authors, the overall adventure path lacks connective tissue. The path is often more like several disjointed roads, created by the same company but by different teams. Also, the structure of publishing individual books that each covers a level spectrum restricts the design of the adventure as a whole -- you can't for example have a very open, sandboxy section that covers levels 4-10 because a single book in an AP can only contain 3-4 levels.
Its true, there are some paths much better than others. I found the Cthulhu themed story in Carrion Crown out of place. I love Cthulhu themes, but I dont feel it fits with traditional horror stories about ghosts, vamps, and werewolves. I also recall the debacle of Serpent Skull where a writer failed or bailed on their portion of the work and ended up spitting out a terrible book that the AP never recovered from. So, I do see potential pitfalls of the AP design process.

Thats where the art of running APs piece comes in. You have to be ready to do some work yourself. No adventure is going to be perfect out of the box. Even after you start the adventure, your PCs might stretch the limits and you might have to customize. I think this is key to understanding the product is not going to be perfect. Folks tend to either like this, because most of the work is done and customizing is easy for them, or they walk away and just write their own stuff entirely.

Though, I disagree about the adventure design. I especially like that each section is designed for the appropriate level of the the PCs. It gives a consistent feel of story that works well for a linear adventure. As GM, I can relax on sign posting because the PCs are not going to run off and get gank'd by a dragon becasue they took a sharp left turn. I do think APs can do a limited sandbox (kingmaker) but ultimately if you want an old fashioned no holds barred sandpit, APs are not going to deliver it. YMMV.
 

Retreater

Legend
Can anyone who has played the original module comment on how the module was in the first place? I've seen one comment about it, but, other than it's a big dungeon, that's about it.

I can expand on my “bad review” of Abomination Vaults, so you know that I have given it a lot of thought and maybe trust my experience a little more.
Here are issues that came up in Book 1 (we got to the end of Book 1, fwiw).
Motivation
The reason to investigate the dungeon is extremely flimsy. Your only reason is that local town eccentric has a strange feeling about the place and asks you to investigate it. She has no idea what’s going on, why you should go, no motivation to offer (payment, reward, etc.) It’s the weakest introduction I could imagine for an Adventure Path except for just starting the heroes on the doorstep of the dungeon and telling them to “have fun” – which is the suggested approach given in the adventure. As it is, the writers wait until basically the end of Book 1 (one-third of the way into the campaign) before suggesting who the villain is, what her motivation is, etc.
Connection to Otari
There is very little to connect the dungeon to Otari, and it’s a missed opportunity. There is a guy who is looking for books that he will buy from you, and that’s about it. It needs more. Put in a kidnapped villager who needs to be rescued. A valuable item that has been stolen and needs to be recovered. Or – if you want to make this f’ing epic – you put in a cult to Belcorra operating in Otari. You make them responsible for reawakening her. You let the party start uncovering a mystery that connects them to the lighthouse, realizing early on that the cult is operating there and that they have their sights on Otari. That gives them more motivation than going through a monster hotel fighting monsters in rooms every 30 feet. There was space to put this in the adventure if Paizo were to cut out a handful of meaningless encounters designed to – I guess – meet an arbitrary treasure and XP quota.
Layout
The second level of the dungeon is supposed to be at the water level of the moat surrounding the lighthouse. This isn’t clear at all from looking at the maps. It also doesn’t line up correctly because you have the boat house (on Level 1) at the water level, but then the basement of the boat house (Level 2) also on the water level.
Dungeon Scale
Don’t let the name “megadungeon” fool you: the dungeon is very small, but extremely dense with content. You have 5-foot-wide corridors that impact marching order. An abundance of 20x20 rooms that guarantee you can’t maneuver properly (and some of the monsters don’t even have room to use their powers). Then you have the issue of having 20 feet of hallway between encounter “boxes” – and there’s no realistic reason that monster allies wouldn’t come to each other’s aid (but you can’t combine encounters in PF2) OR that if they aren’t allies that they wouldn’t have killed each other already.
Like before, I think a lot of this comes down to trying to reach an arbitrary treasure and XP quota. There are too many “encounter boxes” – you open a door to a 20 x 20 room and fight the monster; rest to regain focus, repair shields, treat wounds; go to the next room; then finally after doing that six or so times, you make a casual 15-minute walk back to town (with no chance of random encounters) to rest up fully. Repeat this 4-5 times and you’ve beaten the first book.

I am considering running Abomination Vaults again in PF2 for a second group of players. I think they’ll enjoy it, especially after I make tweaks based on the issues I’ve discovered.
If I do, I’ll be changing the motivation by adding a prelude to get the party involved. I will make the first few levels of the dungeon more thematic. I will cut out encounters that seem to be there to take up space, so the dungeon doesn’t seem absolutely “packed to the gills.”
 

payn

Legend
Connection to Otari
There is very little to connect the dungeon to Otari, and it’s a missed opportunity. There is a guy who is looking for books that he will buy from you, and that’s about it. It needs more. Put in a kidnapped villager who needs to be rescued. A valuable item that has been stolen and needs to be recovered. Or – if you want to make this f’ing epic – you put in a cult to Belcorra operating in Otari. You make them responsible for reawakening her. You let the party start uncovering a mystery that connects them to the lighthouse, realizing early on that the cult is operating there and that they have their sights on Otari. That gives them more motivation than going through a monster hotel fighting monsters in rooms every 30 feet. There was space to put this in the adventure if Paizo were to cut out a handful of meaningless encounters designed to – I guess – meet an arbitrary treasure and XP quota.
That, there, is a million dollar idea. Also, the kind of thing I mean when I talk around here about folks having to inject their own stuff on occasion to make an AP sing.
 

Retreater

Legend
That, there, is a million dollar idea. Also, the kind of thing I mean when I talk around here about folks having to inject their own stuff on occasion to make an AP sing.
Thanks. I can be a good GM, but APs feel so limiting. I feel like if I change too much, I'll back myself into a corner, so why even bother using an AP if you're going to re-write so much? So I run the APs "by the book" and they end up being lifeless and ruined anyway.
 

payn

Legend
Thanks. I can be a good GM, but APs feel so limiting. I feel like if I change too much, I'll back myself into a corner, so why even bother using an AP if you're going to re-write so much? So I run the APs "by the book" and they end up being lifeless and ruined anyway.
It's a balancing act for sure. I'm not great at making stuff from nothing. I need a good foundation and I will make it beautiful. Thats why I love the APs they give me that starting direction.

Also, you are not the first to bomb out of an AP, but want to go back and do it right again. I have been there once or twice myself. Let me know if you ever want to talk shop in the future. I find the online community invaluable in running APs
 

BrokenTwin

Biological Disaster
I'm a big fan of Paizo's Adventure Paths when I want to run a linear campaign. Fixing the weaknesses of the format usually involves waiting for the full series to come out and putting in a lot of work to integrate them. I tend to put a lot of work into modifying the APs anyway (since I don't run them in Pathfinder), but I like the framework and character interactions they provide. There's usually at least one book that can be functionally left out entirely, which helps, haha.
 

JmanTheDM

Explorer
I can expand on my “bad review” of Abomination Vaults, so you know that I have given it a lot of thought and maybe trust my experience a little more.
Here are issues that came up in Book 1 (we got to the end of Book 1, fwiw).
Motivation
The reason to investigate the dungeon is extremely flimsy. Your only reason is that local town eccentric has a strange feeling about the place and asks you to investigate it. She has no idea what’s going on, why you should go, no motivation to offer (payment, reward, etc.) It’s the weakest introduction I could imagine for an Adventure Path except for just starting the heroes on the doorstep of the dungeon and telling them to “have fun” – which is the suggested approach given in the adventure. As it is, the writers wait until basically the end of Book 1 (one-third of the way into the campaign) before suggesting who the villain is, what her motivation is, etc.
Connection to Otari
There is very little to connect the dungeon to Otari, and it’s a missed opportunity. There is a guy who is looking for books that he will buy from you, and that’s about it. It needs more. Put in a kidnapped villager who needs to be rescued. A valuable item that has been stolen and needs to be recovered. Or – if you want to make this f’ing epic – you put in a cult to Belcorra operating in Otari. You make them responsible for reawakening her. You let the party start uncovering a mystery that connects them to the lighthouse, realizing early on that the cult is operating there and that they have their sights on Otari. That gives them more motivation than going through a monster hotel fighting monsters in rooms every 30 feet. There was space to put this in the adventure if Paizo were to cut out a handful of meaningless encounters designed to – I guess – meet an arbitrary treasure and XP quota.
Layout
The second level of the dungeon is supposed to be at the water level of the moat surrounding the lighthouse. This isn’t clear at all from looking at the maps. It also doesn’t line up correctly because you have the boat house (on Level 1) at the water level, but then the basement of the boat house (Level 2) also on the water level.
Dungeon Scale
Don’t let the name “megadungeon” fool you: the dungeon is very small, but extremely dense with content. You have 5-foot-wide corridors that impact marching order. An abundance of 20x20 rooms that guarantee you can’t maneuver properly (and some of the monsters don’t even have room to use their powers). Then you have the issue of having 20 feet of hallway between encounter “boxes” – and there’s no realistic reason that monster allies wouldn’t come to each other’s aid (but you can’t combine encounters in PF2) OR that if they aren’t allies that they wouldn’t have killed each other already.
Like before, I think a lot of this comes down to trying to reach an arbitrary treasure and XP quota. There are too many “encounter boxes” – you open a door to a 20 x 20 room and fight the monster; rest to regain focus, repair shields, treat wounds; go to the next room; then finally after doing that six or so times, you make a casual 15-minute walk back to town (with no chance of random encounters) to rest up fully. Repeat this 4-5 times and you’ve beaten the first book.

I am considering running Abomination Vaults again in PF2 for a second group of players. I think they’ll enjoy it, especially after I make tweaks based on the issues I’ve discovered.
If I do, I’ll be changing the motivation by adding a prelude to get the party involved. I will make the first few levels of the dungeon more thematic. I will cut out encounters that seem to be there to take up space, so the dungeon doesn’t seem absolutely “packed to the gills.”

my 2 cents. I'm nearing the end of book one - but what does "near" and "end" mean in a dungeon crawl :)

i was very lucky and planted some seeds prior to starting AV - that turned out to be very good guesses - specifically around Belcorra and the thieves guild. This inadvertently created some additional scaffolding to hang this story off of. like I said, lucky

here are my thoughts on this AP:
  • you start the adventure at the mouth of the dungeon. no preamble, no real back story, no real reason why you are there, you just are. this'll take some work to kick things off - and I believe spending some time in your starting town and making connections to the thieves guild and a few others will pay off.
  • there is some in-dungeon intrigue - through the assignment of "side quests". if you are like most groups, you'll kill the monster before you talk to them. so, weaving these side plots will take some work - but its there
  • you do need to read the entire adventure to learn about all the side quests. it makes sense when the PC's are in town to start laying those quests out before you hit that level. this requires some prep and foreknowledge otherwise it'll feel a bit ham fisted ("why am I meeting this book dealer now?")
  • the dungeon is tightly spaced. claustrophobic even. its very easy to have the physical space "nail the encounter" in place. this is particularly acute in PF2 - due to the way encounter balancing works. you do not want to normally have a mobile fight and stumble into another room of baddies. in PF2, merging fights will turn a "moderate" fight into a near certain TPK
  • per the point immediately above, this is where I think AV would play better with 5e than PF2. fights can become more mobile and leverage more space, because encounter balance is more forgiving and merging additional encounter areas into a "grand" fight scene is feasible. this is a big plus IMO of 5e over PF2, and can eliminate the claustrophobic feel of the dungeon if played into and exploited by players and GM.
  • the dungeon has good "jaquaying the dungeon" design. lots of ways to get in, move around, and plan for non-linear movement
  • the size feels good for a "mega" dungeon. but for 5e players not used to PF2 adventures. dungeon's and levels feel "samey" because Paizo wants to sell physical battlemaps, so dungeon levels need to fit inside the physical dimensions of battlemaps :)
  • Each level has a feel to it and a theme - mostly clearly communicated - there are libraries, and personal studies, and fighting pits, etc. levels all describe at the beginning the "feel" of each level. playing up to those will help greatly give the dungeon life.
  • monster placement mostly make sense. this isn't "old school" where you have room a with orcs and room b with a dragon, and the dragon never uses orcs as a food supply :). there has been thought given to ecology and explaining why certain monsters are in certain areas - especially those that stand apart from the level's meta theme. nothing felt overly contrived.
  • this really is a get in, kick the door down, slay the beasts, take the loot adventure. its unabashed about it. the game starts with you at the door and its up to the GM to weave any more story into the game that they see fit. if you or your players do not like get in, kick the door down, slay the beasts, take the loot adventures - this will not work for you. like, at all.

I'm running it for a group of first time PF2 players, and for 1/2 the group, 1st time TTRPG players. they are having fun and the constraints listed above have somewhat turned into advantages because of player inexperience.

YMMV

Cheers,

J.
 


why even bother using an AP if you're going to re-write so much?
Because other people can come up with ideas you wouldn't think of yourself?

Because it provides an overall structure?

Because it provides filler content that is tedious to create yourself?
So I run the APs "by the book" and they end up being lifeless and ruined anyway.
I never run them by the book, and they work fine.
 

Retreater

Legend
my 2 cents. I'm nearing the end of book one - but what does "near" and "end" mean in a dungeon crawl :)
If you're in the stairs getting ready to face the Void Critter and needing to leave the dungeon to get the items to take down the magical barrier to get to the next level down, I think that's a good end for the first episode.

there is some in-dungeon intrigue - through the assignment of "side quests". if you are like most groups, you'll kill the monster before you talk to them. so, weaving these side plots will take some work - but its there
Yes, and that "kill first, ask questions later" approach is rewarded by the system mechanics. If you're coming out of exploration mode with your fighters ready for battle with shields raised, your rogue already hidden and ready to sneak attack flat-footed opponents, etc., then stopping to chat with the monsters is going to hamstring you during the battle. And with the "tight balance" of PF2, the encounter math assumes you don't waste actions, so you MUST strike when you're ready. The drawback is that the paragraphs of background and motivation for NPCs that the GM has is essentially wasted space that can't be conveyed to the party.
the dungeon has good "jaquaying the dungeon" design. lots of ways to get in, move around, and plan for non-linear movement
I agree to that, being one of the strengths of the design.
the size feels good for a "mega" dungeon. but for 5e players not used to PF2 adventures. dungeon's and levels feel "samey" because Paizo wants to sell physical battlemaps, so dungeon levels need to fit inside the physical dimensions of battlemaps :)
The scale of the rooms, hallways, and distance between them is so tiny it's ludicrous. You can run the entire dungeon in "Encounter mode." Fights are usually a single Stride action apart. There is almost no point in going into Exploration mode.
The size of the default Paizo map design should be doubled for PF2. You can't fit a party and a suitable number of enemies in a single room. You don't have enemies outside of range of the caster, so they never have to move, and if your caster is always in the hallway behind the fighter who is blocking the only 5 ft entrance into the room, there's never a danger posed to the back rank. There is no room for any creative movement, tactics like using reach or ranged weapons.
Maybe they should put in a series of 5x5 monster closets - they could fit in more encounters that way.
Each level has a feel to it and a theme - mostly clearly communicated - there are libraries, and personal studies, and fighting pits, etc. levels all describe at the beginning the "feel" of each level. playing up to those will help greatly give the dungeon life.
You don't know until you open the door, though. Like, if you know that flesh-eating ghouls are on the other side of the door, describe some blood smear on the door, a stray finger on the ground, the smell of blood in the air, the crunching of bone heard on the other side. Without connecting the room encounters to the doors and hallways, it gives the feel of having distinct "monster hotels" and few links between the encounter areas. This is stuff that can (and should) be added by the GM, but having some clues in there for the GM to describe to the players would be helpful.
monster placement mostly make sense. this isn't "old school" where you have room a with orcs and room b with a dragon, and the dragon never uses orcs as a food supply :). there has been thought given to ecology and explaining why certain monsters are in certain areas - especially those that stand apart from the level's meta theme. nothing felt overly contrived.
The contrived part of it is that each monster dwells in its "monster hotel." The encounters and occupants do not connect at all. They are all trapped in stasis waiting for the characters to arrive. It's not a living environment. They do not interact to what the characters do. Even if the party leaves and returns, do they restock the dungeon? Are they on alarm? Do they retreat to another area? Do they make any preparations? Is there a time-limit where if the party returns to town after every fight that things might get worse? The answer is "no" to all of these questions.
this really is a get in, kick the door down, slay the beasts, take the loot adventure. its unabashed about it. the game starts with you at the door and its up to the GM to weave any more story into the game that they see fit. if you or your players do not like get in, kick the door down, slay the beasts, take the loot adventures - this will not work for you. like, at all.
For that style of play, I have HeroQuest. Beer and pretzels sessions have their place, but it's odd to see this one held up as the crown jewel of PF2. The idea is fun, but do you want to do this for 10 levels? Maybe 6 months to a year of play?
I think that had Abomination Vaults been presented as a "big dungeon adventure" and not as a self-contained Adventure Path campaign, maybe I wouldn't hold it to such scrutiny. As a big dungeon that you can go in, kill stuff, get treasure, etc., it's not bad. As the focal point of an entire campaign it is samey, tedious, and unrewarding.
 

I don't think Pathfinder 2 works all that well with large-scale sandboxes meant for a large span of levels, because of the way numbers scale with level. A single monster 3 levels above a party will wipe the floor with them unless they get lucky or prepare just right for the encounter. The first AP makes PCs fight a level 7 monster when they're at 4th level, and the first time we did so we got absolutely slaughtered and had to run for our lives. A level 4 martial will have an attack bonus of about +11 against the monster's AC of 25, an AC of about 22 against it's attack bonus of +17 (meaning it crits on a 15+), and a caster's save DC is about 20 against its saves between +12 and +17.

This is unlike 5e where, at least once you're into tier 2, you can handle most things the game throws at you. You might need rest afterward, but you can punch far above your nominal weight class.

The second adventure in the Age of Ashes AP is a hexcrawl, but it's only for level 5-8 or so. Also, the impression I got (from the player side) was that it was definitely weighted so that the encounters nearer our "base" were lower level than those farther away.
The PF2 Gamemaster guide has guidelines on removing the level scaling aspect and just use proficiency levels.

It a little janky in that you would have to strip out the level from every monster attack and defense and skill. But it looks like it can be done, and it might create a more wider bound between levels.
 

payn

Legend
The PF2 Gamemaster guide has guidelines on removing the level scaling aspect and just use proficiency levels.

It a little janky in that you would have to strip out the level from every monster attack and defense and skill. But it looks like it can be done, and it might create a more wider bound between levels.
Yeah Id strongly consider this if I was to run a megadungeon and/or sandbox in PF2. Foundry has a setting in the PF2 module that automates this process so its pretty easy to implement (in VTT).
 


BrokenTwin

Biological Disaster
I can't comment on "running them by the book", since I tend to convert them to a lighter-weight system, which means I do my best to remove all of the padding that's necessary for the level grind. Which can be a tricky business with figuring out what is and isn't actually relevant, but tends to involve removing a lot of combat.
 

Staffan

Legend
Like before, I think a lot of this comes down to trying to reach an arbitrary treasure and XP quota.
This, combined with the page count hobgoblin. I mean, you could stretch out the same number of encounters over a bigger map, but that would require more space for the map plus probably some "filler" in between the encounters. And we don't have room for that, because we need to get 10 levels' worth of XP and treasure fitted into ~180 pages.

It kind of feels like Paizo has painted themselves into a corner with PF2 adventure paths because of conflicting goals:
  • Either 3 parts covering 10 levels or 6 parts covering 20.
  • A new adventure path starts with the GenCon release, so you can't mess too much with the pacing.
  • One part per month.
  • 96 pages per part, about 2/3 of which is the actual adventure and 1/3 is other material that's thematically related but not necessarily adventure-relevant (this split is necessary because that allows them to have one person write the adventure and another the support material). I've seen some Paizo freelancers comment on how this pace is pretty tough to maintain.
Given these restraints, I think the best change they could do would be to make change the APs to have 4 parts per 10 levels or 8 per 20, and do one small and one large AP per year. That would give the adventures more room to "breathe" while still maintaining the publishing schedule of one book per month.
 

GreyLord

Legend
Most respondents here have commented about it being a "classic" big dungeon adventure. The only negative comment came from someone who actually ran in in PF2, back in post #38.

If I remember correctly there were some additional positive posts in the PF2 forum, but I don't remember anything specific. I will see if I can find some.

I ran it last year

Or at least some of it with another individual also as GM.

I haven't commented much on it or how it ran.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
That “back room dealing” is straight from Prof DM last year when he admitted to starting the rumor!!! He started it and people latched onto it. I got kicked off his Facebook group after he admitted to making it up for clicks and telling him he was no better than the QAnon influencers then. And here we are… people still believe WOTC might be buying Paizo.
So a guy with a small YouTube channels speculating about the RPG industry is, to you, the same as that looney bin of a fringe conspiracy group ruining lives and getting people killed? Holy…wow, dude. That’s an out there hot take you have. No wonder he booted you.
 


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