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For those of us who aren't up to speed on the setting -- is there any other information on the DJ? Race/class/level? Anything else about her?
Also, what level are the PCs now, and what level would they be by the time the might be facing her?
Edmin Al'Roth wrote:
So .....where am I in relation to the dragon now?
The Judge blipped you in adjacent to one side of the beast, within reach. However, having been killed and then quite suddenly returned to life, you are prone.
Yes well, that would require a Heal check now wouldn't it. Mind, you can make those untrained!
I would allow you to delay init until the end of the round. That way, you can see if Edmin (or whoever) finishes it off first.
Jax Naismith wrote:
Why would it prevent damage? You suffer normal AoOs with that thing, right?
Well, crudknuckles. And the dragon was saving an AoO for exactly this sort of thing, but your Grace -- a second level spell! -- shuts that down.
Okay, Round Three. Jax, the Judge and Ulp take your actions.
Jax, take 3d8 + 33 ⇒ (1, 2, 6) + 33 = 42 damage.
Dren, Edmin being dead, you may want to reconsider your Round 2 actions. Everyone else, hold your round 3 actions while I calculate the total damage to the dragon.
Well, first let's see if Edmin survives. His magical hat (which nobody makes fun of, ridiculous though it may appear) somehow shifts so that it gets wedged in the monster's teeth, blunting the force of its attack. Hissing in irritation, the dragon lashes out with two claw attacks: 1d20 ⇒ 191d20 ⇒ 14
Ulp already bombed in Round 2 -- message 697. We're now late in Round 2. Edmin, you'll get your damage from your FRA if you survive. This is, of course, why the dragon is trying to eliminate you first. Dragons aren't stupid.
Confirm crit? 1d20 ⇒ 19 Welp. That's 6d8 + 66 ⇒ (6, 2, 2, 1, 8, 4) + 66 = 89 damage, which is more than enough to kill Edmin dead.
If anyone has Breath of Life or some similar get-out-of-jail-free card, you can play it now -- I'll wait.
[Do keep track of mythic points and other resources, gang.]
Actually, you did need Spell Penetration. Roll that when you have a moment. Meanwhile, the dragon turns its attention to Edmin and the Judge. It starts with a bite attack at Edmin: 1d20 ⇒ 20
Okay. First off, the dragon could AoO the Judge, but chooses not to.
Second, it saves twice against Dren's attack:
1d20 ⇒ 18
The dragon's mind is old and cold and strong. It resists Dren's mental assault.
Wow, this is great. Not as tanky as some, but probably the single best all-round companion so far. (And another one that you can walk around with in public.) Good one.
I believe everyone goes before the dragon except for Edmin.
Note that Edmin can act normally now -- casting Dim Door means the caster can't do anything else that round, but passengers can.
1d4 ⇒ 3
Okay, so to sum up: Edmin, you take 118 points of damage, must make two Fortitude saves, and are grappled. The grappled condition is as follows:
Grappled creatures cannot move and take a –4 penalty to Dexterity. A grappled creature takes a –2 penalty on all attack rolls and combat maneuver checks, except those made to grapple or escape a grapple. In addition, grappled creatures can take no action that requires two hands to perform.
Note that last bit. I must point out that a greataxe is a two-handed weapon, meaning you can't swing it. Also, while you're an amazingly powerful fighter, you're being grappled by a Gargantuan creature that weighs several tons, and has a CMD/CMB accordingly.
Okay, the dragon, having unleashed a flurry of hurt on Edmin, finishes its turn. Over to you guys.
The tail does another 3d6 + 18 ⇒ (5, 5, 4) + 18 = 32 of damage, and also has the Grab special ability. So it gets to attempt a grapple as a free action, without provoking an AoO. Grapple roll: 1d20 ⇒ 6
Oh man, I should have done that first! The grappled condition is soooo good.
Actually, why don't I just start rolling those? First, let's start with two bite attacks.
1d20 ⇒ 13
One hit, one miss. Edmin, you take another 3d8 + 33 ⇒ (7, 5, 7) + 33 = 52 of damage, and you need to make a second Fort save.
Then, two claws:
1d20 ⇒ 14
One hit for another 2d6 + 25 ⇒ (3, 6) + 25 = 34. And finally, the tail:
1d20 ⇒ 15
Edmin, charging the dragon gets you an AoO. The massive jaws snap at you: 1d20 ⇒ 12 Some of the teeth crunch through your armor, and you feel a blast of pain as acidic venom eats into your flesh.
Hm, don't think I can do Power Attack on the first round. Ah well. Edmin, take a mere 3d8 + 15 ⇒ (7, 6, 8) + 15 = 36 damage. However, you will need to make a save against poison.
Edmin Al'Roth wrote:
Thought we had air walk, negative level did not take a Bab acordiacording to companion chart, do I need to subtract a Bab?
"For each negative level a creature has, it takes a cumulative –1 penalty on all ability checks, attack rolls, combat maneuver checks, Combat Maneuver Defense, saving throws, and skill checks. In addition, the creature reduces its current and total hit points by 5 for each negative level it possesses. The creature is also treated as one level lower for the purpose of level-dependent variables (such as spellcasting) for each negative level possessed. Spellcasters do not lose any prepared spells or slots as a result of negative levels."
Ulp does a full bomb attack all attacks vs touch, and the first one Ulp is invisible., I have taken into account the -2 for range
It does take electrical damage, and its touch AC is low. Your first two attacks hit, as does your mythic one. However, its DR soaks up a lot of the damage. It ends up taking 14 + 27 + 19 + 29 = 89 damage.
Why do so many dragons have cleave/great cleave and the vital strike /improved vital strike feats? I appreciate that you can combine them (i.e., if all the adventurers are standing around you, you could do a vital strike and hit again and again). But most dragons have so many different attacks on a FRA that it doesn't make much sense for them to give them all up in return for a single bite, no matter how vicious.
Am I missing something?
Also, if you're interested in building a planar binder character, check out the Guide to the Diabolist (comment thread over here). It focuses on the Diabolist PrC, but much of the discussion -- especially the parts on feats, skills, and magic items -- would be of interest to anyone planning to bind outsiders on a regular basis.
Tiny Coffee Golem wrote:
Any advice on getting these various creatures to cooperate and, you know, not kill you in your sleep?
Planar Binding compels them to obey you. Of course, intelligent creatures can come up with ways to twist your instructions -- they're not mindless automata -- and you're not allowed to give them impossible or "unreasonable" instructions.
The RAW leaves a lot of room for interpretation. My take on this is, you want to work with the grain -- don't order the creature to do things against its alignment, do give it tasks that suit its nature. I discuss these issues in more detail in my Guide to Planar Binding (drafts, still a work in progress, so feel free to comment).
the Diviner wrote:
I'm not going to include Mythic creatures. I do play with the Mythic rules, but I don't think they are as well thought out as they should have been.
And, as you say, this thing is the ultimate tank: it's just ridiculously better than anything else you might call with Lesser Planar Binding. Right now, the spell offers a really intriguing mix of options. There are several creatures competing for the role of tank; I think the barbed devil wins by a nose, but you could make a case for at least three others, depending on the exact mix of tactical abilities you're looking for -- and there are several other creatures that, while weak in melee, could conceivably outgun the barbed devil by using ranged attacks, save-or-suck SLAs, and so forth.
But toss this guy into the mix, and all those interesting choices become moot: you call an Apocalypse Locust, because it's just obviously better than anything else. Even putting aside issues of game balance, that just seems less fun.
You're right -- LPB is one creature only. It's the higher level PBs that allow you to call multiple creatures.
Edmin can't charge until after the dragon has acted; we'll keep those rolls, though.
Does Ragnar have a way to get 10' up into the air? (And is his attack roll including that negative level?)
Ulp, Knowledge checks for rare monsters (which this definitely is) are 15+CR. So you got nothing.
On the plus side, your dex is higher than his, so you go first. Your current range to the dragon is 20' + 2d4 ⇒ (1, 2) = 3 x 5' = 35' plus 10' of altitude.
The dragon's initiative is 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (4) + 11 = 15. Roll your save against his breath first and then your initiative; if you beat his init, you may act.
You are scattered around the cave, so your range to the dragon is random: 20' + 2d4 x5. That's not including an additional 10' of altitude, as the dragon is floating 10' off the ground.
(Ulp, Nythoggr is a Gargantuan creature.)
Nythogger, the Worm of the Cairn, is upon you.
Nythoggr is a beast of legend. He resembles nothing so much as a great emaciated serpent with two long, clawed arms. He is bone white. His head is crested with horns and bone spurs like a great crown. His massive bulk is pitted and scarred with a thousand wounds and cuts. But they have all healed. This is no easy beast to slay, though countless have tried.
Although he has no wings, he seems to swim through the air somehow.
As the freezing acid cloud begins to clear, you hear him rasp out short, harsh phrase.
Thieves. Die, thieves.
It's a choking cloud of corrosive droplets -- some sort of cold, cold acidic bile.
Everyone take 18d8 ⇒ (1, 4, 5, 8, 6, 6, 8, 2, 6, 8, 2, 1, 1, 3, 7, 2, 2, 8) = 80 of acid damage and also 1d4 ⇒ 1 negative levels. (The cold is magical or spiritual, it seems. Yes, Judge, it's a death effect so you're immune.)
A successful DC 28 Reflex save means you've managed to somehow jump clear or find shelter; you take only half damage from the acid and avoid the negative levels entirely. I don't think any of you have acid resistance. Does Jax have Evasion from his rogue levels? Anyway, please be sure to mark off your hp -- they might drop a lot lower, so we want to keep track.
You're all minding your own business, just starting to search the rubble for anything shiny, when you hear the Judge's harsh voice ring out: "Welcome, lord of ice. We are -- "
Judge, your Perception was high enough to spot the dragon's final approach, so you have a chance to act in the surprise round. Roll for initiative and tell me what you're doing if you win.
"Not surprised," Jax mutters to his sword "You're not great on conversation."
Hey, I didn't even criticize him for stealing my kill. Brink hums merrily in Jax's hand. Not that it's much of a steal. Constructs don't taste like much of anything. This one was a little different, though. I think it --
But just then the dragon sticks its head in the entrance of the chamber and breathes on you all, which cuts the conversation somewhat short.
Ipslore the Red wrote:
Shepherd and Catrina are already covered, I think, and the Shepherd dies when it's not possessing anything unless it's on the Shadow Plane.
Yes, the Shepherd is sort of like a poor man's Shadow Demon. Still pretty handy for a CR 5 creature, though.
(It's part of what I love about the Planar Binding spells: there's almost no limit to what you can do with them. Somewhere there's an outsider that has a mix of powers that will be oh, so useful to you.)
Dandasuka Rakshasa [CR 5, SR 20, Will +6, Cha 15] -- the description says they're spies and assassins and this time it's right. They can sneak and lie, change shape and read thoughts, bleed damage and sneak attack will be handy for an assassin. While their actual spellcasting is insignificant you can hand them wands or scrolls to use. Hard to bind though and they are worrying psychos.
Yeah, this little guy is respectable. The catrina makes a better one-shot assassin, but his shapechanging and mind reading makes him a better spy. Another creature that can walk around with you all day long.
You call up one of these to give it as a present to someone, so you can spy on them and then possibly send something more powerful after them.
Nice one! Although it's only CR 4, the at-will spectral hand/bestow curse combo make this guy worth calling up. As you say, call up several of them and have them just throw curses. It's RAW that they're motivated by a compulsive hatred of beauty, so call them if you're facing a high-Cha opponent.
Ipslore the Red wrote:
A Gloomwing (Will +5, Cha 10) can make a small army if you're confident you can control its tenebrous worm spawn. Even if you can't, it's a low-HD creature that can pump out lots of CR 8 creatures if you can keep it hidden. Stash it with a few dozen Small animal corpses somewhere deep within enemy lines and your enemy's in serious trouble.
Now that is just sick. Good one!
Yes, definitely. This guy is in the same weight class as the bearded devil in terms of melee; they're almost identical in terms of AC and damage output. The devil has teleportation and Power Attack, but OTOH if you get two of these guys they can use the Outflank feat together. Also, the JNO can shapeshift into your halfling valet or whatever and follow you around town. Mind, it's RAW that they get cranky if they go very long without killing something.
If you've read the draft Guide, you'll notice that one of the cheesier tricks is calling an outsider and then killing it for its gear. Hey, 1,000 gp resale value! Anyway, yes, this is a pretty respectable backup caster.
By the time you're high enough level to cast LPB, this guy will be pretty worthless except for the +2 Perception bonus. I guess that's nice enough? He's really intended as a familiar.
Another familiar. You could call up three of these if you're going on an undead hunt.
Kind of a specialized tool, but okay. (And having up to six owls whooshing around is a nice effect.)
With a roar of rage, Sir Edmin charges the stone thing. The headsman's axe of Branderscar falls, rises, and falls again. There is crash, a grinding grate of metal on stone, another crash.
The stone thing crumbles under Edmin's furious assault. In a few moments he's standing, breathing heavily, over a pile of gravel with a few larger chunks mixed in.
Janni (Genie) [CR 4, SR 0, Will +4, Cha 13] -- An excellent taxi service and universal translator. True neutral so can probably work with anyone; won't upset the paladin the way a nightmare will.
Not sure about the taxi service, "Ethereal Jaunt, one hour duration" with invisibility thrown in to boot make this pretty much your ultimate scout and spy at this CR.
You'd want to summon two at a time, for the Paired Protector thing.
Note that if you want to wait a bit, you can call and bind multiple nightmares and have each member of your party riding one.
Not everyone is going to invest ranks in Ride, but fair enough.
Hm, three of them could work pretty well, actually. Good catch. I'll also note that they can teleport (unusual in a CR 2 creature), meaning they can deliver long-distance messages and fetch items from home base. They'd make great dungeon scouts -- float ahead, light the place up, teleport back if you see anything interesting. There are a lot of tactical possibilities here, too: stay up in the air and out of reach, force powerful opponents to make three Aura of Menace saves, if it fails one teleport away so it can't shake off the debuff.
The standard Paizo AP includes a mix of urban, wilderness, and dungeon crawl. There are some exceptions, but that's the default. In design terms, an AP that never left the city would favor certain classes over others (rogues over druids, say) and there'd be whole categories of spells and feats that would never become relevant. Also, while some of us love the mean streets of the city, six straight modules of urban adventure might get a bit wearisome. (See, e.g., the near universal agreement that while hexagon-based exploration of wilderness in the first installment of Kingmaker was awesome, by the fourth it had become pretty tedious.)
Also, in this particular case, the PCs spent two modules and 5-6 levels outside the city getting better, smarter and stronger so that they can come back and lead the revolution against the Queen. That makes thematic sense, and I don't have a problem with it.
As part of DMDM's Guide to Planar Binding, I want to include an appendix on creatures that you can call and bind. Since there are a lot of outsiders, it's a big chunk of work. So I'm looking to crowdsource it.
Let's start with Lesser Planar Binding, which lets you summon and control outsiders of 6 HD or less. Here follows a partial list of targets. It's heavily weighted towards evil outsiders, because it grew out of my Guide to the Diabolist. You'll notice it's in order from lowest CR to highest; within a CR, it's alphabetical. Please feel free to either amend or expand existing entries, or create new entries (but in the same format, please, for consistency). If this works out, I'll post the other two spells later.
Many thanks in advance,
* * * * *
So, you have your circle drawn, your sacrifice ready, your nervous apprentice close at hand... it's time to start conjuring and binding! Here I list some of the outsiders you're most likely to conjure up. This is by no means a complete list; consult the pfsrd for more. An asterisk (*) means a creature that's a devil – a Diabolist can use Infernal Charisma against it.
There are three statistics you have to think about here: Spell Resistance, the creature's Charisma, and it's Will save. Its Will save is what it uses to resist being called in the first place, its SR will resist your spells, and its Cha can both get it out of the circle and be used to defy you. Remember, the more times it can defy you, the more rolls it gets to escape! So you want to win those Cha checks.
Lesser Planar Binding: Who You Gonna Call?
Lemure* [CR 1, SR 0, Will +0, Cha 5] -- The lemure is feeble, stupid, and has no useful skills or SLAs. If you’re playing a Diabolist, summon one of these at your initiation to start your career and then never bother again. Everyone else, don’t bother ever.
Imp* [CR 2, SR 0, Will+4, Cha 14] -- These little guys have their uses, but for a creature of their CR they're actually pretty hard to call and bind. Go with a zebub devil instead – they’re dumber and creepier, but are easier to conjure and make better scouts.
Gaav* (Host Devil) [Cr 3, SR 0, Will +0, Cha 8] -- These guys are pretty easy to call and bind, but for combat purposes the bearded devil is just going to give you much more bang for your buck.
Zebub* (Accuser Devil) [CR 3, SR 0, Will +1, Cha 12] -- The zebub isn't terribly bright, but it has at-will invisibility, at-will teleport, +15 stealth (the imp, for all its other fine qualities, has no stealth), whispering wind for reporting back, and a variety of useful SLAs including that weird Infernal Eye thing. Summon these guys regularly for use as spies and scouts -- in particular, if your party doesn't have a rogue, you want one of these flybabies bobbing invisibly down the dungeon corridor in front of you. Despite their low CR, they'll stay at least occasionally handy well into higher levels.
Hell Hound [CR 3, SR 0, Will +1, Cha 6] -- Fairly easy to summon, and their low Int means they're not too hard to please -- if you regularly give them meat and stuff to burn, they should be happy. If you're just getting started with planar binding, or you need to call up a lot of monsters fast with a high chance of success, go with these guys. A pack of them can be fun, but their low CR and lack of useful skills or SLAs means that before long you'll be moving on to bigger and better monsters.
Hound Archon [CR 4, SR 15, Will +5, Cha 12] – The hound archon is a respectable melee combatant, but his Aura of Menace makes him particularly attractive… it’s always a good debuff, but at this level it’s particularly nice, since a lot of low level foes will fail the save and then have trouble hitting him. If you're facing a bunch of mooks, consider turning him invisible: his Aura still works, and it will be very difficult for them to hit him and shake the debuff. He’s also one of the lowest CR creatures that can teleport, giving him wonderful tactical flexibility. And he’s got constant detect evil and magic circle against evil, and can throw aid spells all day long, meaning you and your allies should always be walking around with +1 to hit and an extra 8 or 10 hp.
Ukobach* [Cr 4, SR 15, Will +7, Cha 13] -- These little pyromaniacs are Paizo, but 3.5, not PFRPG -- they showed up in Pathfinder #25 (Bastards of Erebus) and have never been converted. Check whether your DM will allow them. A specialized tool, call these if you want to burn stuff down. Note that they're unusually "friendly" for devils, and may show up with gifts or information.
Barghest [CR 4, SR 0, Will +7, Cha 14] -- Call one of these when you need to get rid of a body.
Shae [CR 4, SR 0, Will +7, Cha 17] -- A decent bodyguard and scout for a creature of its CR. The Barbazu is much more powerful, but the shae is not inherently malicious, and has great stealth and some decent SLAs.
Barbazu* (Bearded Devil) [CR 5, SR 16, Will +3, Cha 10] -- These guys are your go-to, meat and potatoes devils for your first few levels of conjuring. They're relatively easy to conjure and bind: once you overcome their SR, their lowish Will save and weak Cha are unlikely to present problems, and you can raise the odds still higher by giving them something to kill (+2 on the Cha check). A single bearded devil is only CR 5, but four of them are CR 9 and a group of six is CR 10, so you can have squads of them running around into the low teen levels. They have respectable hp, AC 19, and the ability to dish out large amounts of damage quite fast. They're the lowest CR devils with at-will teleportation, which means that for their CR they're incredibly flexible tactically; they can pop up next to enemy casters, swarm opponents who think they're safely distant across a chasm, your party rogue will always have a flank buddy, you name it. Once you're able to cast LPB regularly, you should always have a few of these guys hanging around. Print out a copy of their stat block... you're going to be using it a lot.
Catrina [CR 5, SR 16, Will +9, Cha 19] -- The catrina is a tough creature to call for its CR, so you'll really only call it for one reason: to kill some particular target. It's about the best assassin you can find at this CR. It has invisibility and greater teleport at will, so it can teleport to its target invisibly, gain surprise, and then use its Compel Condemned power to command a deadly kiss. That's basically a save-or-die, and you can boost the DC 17 save by buffing the catrina before sending it on its way.
Cayhound [CR 5, SR 0, Will +6, Cha 13] -- If the barbazu is just not a fit for you alignment-wise, consider a pack of these guys. They're not quite as tough, but they're respectable in combat. The cayhound has the Dimensional Assault feat, which means it can charge up to 80 feet by means of Dimension Door, ignoring everything in between. That's very nice for getting at enemy bosses and casters who are hiding behind a screen of mooks, or enemies who are on the other side of a pit or a wall. Also, as a Medium creature, the hound can be ridden by a Small rider -- and it's been ruled that if your mount uses Dimension Door, you still retain all your actions. So if you're a small sized caster, you can drop a rank or two in Ride, call up a cayhound, and have unparallelled tactical mobility. The hound bamfs you wherever you need to go, you rain death upon your enemies, and next round the hound takes you somewhere else. The hound can't be grappled or Dimension Anchored (although you can -- take care) and its Dimensional Agility feat means that it can Dimension Door and still take a move or swift action.
Lar [CR 5, SR 0, Will +5, Cha 13] -- There aren't a lot of LG outsiders accessible with this spell. Fortunately the Lar is a good one. It is naturally invisible and is able to possess and animate objects of up to Large size. If its host is destroyed, it takes a bit of damage but can promptly possess another object next round. Since large inanimate objects are CR 5, this makes the Lar sort of like a continuous Summon Monster V spell as long as there's a steady supply of stuff for it to inhabit. Oh, and it can also throw DC 17 suggestions all day long -- pretty sweet. (Note that this can combine with its possession power in interesting ways. Put a lar in your desk, and everyone who sits down across from you gets hit with a suggestion every round.) Oh, and when you're not out adventuring, it has a bunch of SLAs it can cast to make your home more comfortable. If you're LG or close to it, put one of these guys in a suit of armor or something and keep it close at hand.
Nightmare [CR 5, SR 0, Will +3, Cha 12] -- There are two reasons to call up a nightmare. One is if you want to travel to the Outer Planes, as the nightmare can Plane Shift itself and one rider once/day. This is quite risky, since you have to travel alone and you can't come back home for a full day. But if for some reason you really need to go, this is the fastest way to get there. The other reason is, of course, to lend it to the party antipaladin, cavalier, or other steed-crazy fighter type. It's a great way to thank the party tank for standing next to you all those times. A few levels later you can offer him the chance to trade up to a cauchemar -- see below.
Umbral Shepherd [CR 5, SR 0, Will +8, Cha 15] – These guys are creepy but full of interesting possibilities. They can possess bodies as if by magic jar… in fact, they have to do so, because once conjured they quickly wither and die (d6 damage/round) without a body. Note that this means that, once called, you can kill an umbral shepherd simply by keeping it in its circle for a few minutes. In theory, this could make it easier to bind. In practice, your DM might rule that a creature of pure evil that serves the god of suffering isn’t going to just roll over for some schmuck mortal caster. In any event, if you’re going to call one, make sure you have a suitable host body ready for it. Once in the body, the shepherd is an excellent servant; not only can it hop from body to body, but it has a nasty Con-damaging touch attack.
Shadow Mastiff [CR 5, SR 0, Will +5, Cha 13] -- Give it a dog collar and cast Darkness on the collar. Voila: the mastiff now has 50% concealment, turning it from a mediocre melee combatant into a very good one. The mastiff's other useful trait is its bay, which can panic everything within 300 feet, but does not affect evil outsiders -- or you, if you make sure to expose yourself to it every morning before breakfast. The evil outsiders exception means the mastiff makes a nice mascot for you and a band of devils.
Venedaemon [CR 5, SR 16, Will +8, Cha 21] – For a CR 5 creature, the venedaemon is remarkably difficult to deal with: good will save, spell resistance, and a really high Cha. And after all that, you get a creature that’s basically a 6th level sorcerer with better hit dice and some immunities. It’s almost useless in melee and it doesn’t have particularly useful SLAs. Unless you have some really specific need for a daemon – someone has to swim through an acid-flooded underground tunnel, or some such – it’s probably not worth it.
Yamah [CR 5, SR 0, Will +7, Cha 20] -- Also hard to call, but at least you get a decent combat creature with an interesting debuff ability: the yamah can cast dispel magic as a touch attack, all day long. This ability would be awesome if it didn't require the relatively fragile yamah to wade into combat. It's still pretty good. If you know you're going to be fighting something with buffs, call up two or more of these butterfly-winged outsiders and have them dispel, dispel, dispel.
I agree with pretty much everything Knick says above. I don't think there's a compelling need to meet Eodred's Korvosa, but you do need to make sure the PCs are rooted in the city before they set out to save it.
My experience with Book 3 was identical -- there's all sorts of good stuff in there, but as written, it's a mess. The DM is left doing a lot of spadework, and the Arkonas' palace in particular can be lethal if the DM is playing with gloves off.
(Book 2, let's note, is pretty close to perfect. Up until then, it was hands down the single best module Paizo had produced, and it's probably still in the top five. It requires very little effort to make this a creepy, challenging, and truly memorable experience.)
Book 4, Knick nails it -- it's a fantastic sourcebook for the Shoanti and the Cinderlands. As an adventure, it's a kind of annoying railroad where you march from quest to quest collecting plot tickets. There are some cool bits -- the initiation ritual, the Havero, aving to jump into a giant worm's throat at the end. But a lot of PCs will chafe at the unfortunately obvious railroadiness of it all.
Many, many people have already pointed out that Cinnabar is an NPC with a cool backstory that eats up a page of text and *impacts the plot in no way whatsoever*. Something should be done about that. Have her show up earlier on, at least. Also, spend more time with the Shoanti, because the Shoanti are interesting.