I have been thinking a lot about the new adventure path my Pathfinder group is playing, Mummy’s Mask. The reason I am thinking about it is because this is the first adventure path I have played that I have actually really enjoyed. Not saying that the others were bad, as Kingmaker and Rise of the Runelords are not bad modules. However, adventure paths are a completely different beast than homebrew campaigns. And, if followed rigidly, feel like plot train where everyone is going to the same destination regardless of whether or not they want to. But, if the adventure path is followed loosely, with several options put forth for the players to choose from, all reaching the same destination differently, then it no longer feels like we’re on a train.
Generally, I prefer homebrew campaigns a lot more than I do adventure paths. There’s just something about knowing the DM came up with the world and story all on their own and that we, the players, are a major force within said story and world. There, of course, is the overarching plot, if you will, that we do have to contend with, but we are essentially given carte blanche on how to get there.
The DM caters every week based on what we did and what we discussed the week before. This makes it pretty much impossible for the DM to plan several sessions ahead, but it gives the players much more say in what goes on. There’s almost infinite choices and paths to trek down. There’s hidden gems distributed throughout the world and story for us to stumble upon and discover. I absolutely love this aspect of homebrew campaigns. Everything is completely unknown at the time, and if I was so tempted (which, thankfully, I never am) there’s no material I can dig up, anywhere, that will give me hints as to what’s to come. So, when given the choice, I would play a homebrew campaign 11 times out of 10.
However, that is not to say that adventure paths are boring. If done properly, as I mentioned above, they give the players the notion that their choices do matter. This brings me to the current campaign I am in (technically, we have three active campaigns going on, with DMs rotating when they get too busy at work or are too tired to prep), Mummy’s Mask. I have played in a homebrew campaign with this DM before, and it was quite fun…until the Big Baddies continued to become bigger and badder at a faster pace than us. So, needless to say, I was a tad hesitant when they said they wanted to run an adventure path.
My trepidations were unfounded. They have proven to be most adept at running an adventure path. They decided that there were going to follow the path very loosely, yielding a lot of control to the players. If we decide not to do something, it is completely skipped. Instead of dwelling on all the stuff we did not do, the DM just moves us forward. To make up for some of the skipped parts, the DM throws some extra stuff into the road we are currently travelling. This makes it feel less plot train-like and more spontaneous; it’s just another encounter we have to overcome. At this point in the path, and we have definitely jumped all over the place, I have no idea what is actually coming from the module and what is coming from our DM.
This, to me, is how an adventure path should be run. Follow the overarching storyline, but allow room for the players to get there their own way. You truly stop thinking about it as another adventure path and just run with it. It has completely changed how I feel about the numerous adventure paths that Paizo puts out for Pathfinder. I might even consider running one someday.
What is your take on adventure path vs homebrew campaigns? Which do you prefer? Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.