|Gark the Goblin|
My party reached their greatest moral quandary so far last night: the Mzali rangers. I'd intended for them to stalk the party for a while, do some sniping, but when the party made their Perception checks I ruled that the rangers were in fact open to parley. They just wanted these folks to turn around and go back to Sargava. They eventually were convinced to let the party pass, but things went wrong when the party failed a Bluff check to convince the rangers that they were the only people who'd come through on that route (since the Pathfinders were two days behind them, that was a lie). And, well, the Mzali rangers knew that if there was a bigger force coming, they needed to get back to the city and warn the Mzali forces, so they split up and started running. Now the party is faced with the s$@&ty decision of "Do we, as interlopers into the land of this people, shoot them in the back to further our goals, or do we suffer the potential tragedy associated with a Mzali force attacking the Pathfinder Society expedition?"
There are ways around this situation after the fact, and we'll be exploring those next session. But the initial, as-written situation of mindlessly killing these (potentially indigenous, and certainly not colonial) people who are defending their sovereignty is b~$!#!@+ from the get-go. It's true that they're murderers, evil, but that's because they were written that way, and just killing them because they're evil doesn't make the imperialist implications any less apparent. Mwangi land was taken by Sargava, is ruled by Chelish Sargavans, and Mwangi people were taken by Sargava, made into slaves, etc. Decent characters - good characters - shouldn't have to accept the idea of necessary imperialism for an entirely voluntary and (to this date) apparently amoral adventure. Even going around the Mzali-claimed land will still eventually require intruding on other Mwangi lands!
As I discuss this conundrum with my players, I realize it's a much less "good" AP than I'd previously thought on the basis of TTFB and SotSG. SfSS seems ambiguous - you get stuck on an island and are forced to work together with your fellow castaways to survive - and I'd say that it's kind of the choice of the players whether they want to play evil or good characters in that book. Maybe a little tilted away from good, since you're encouraged to be explorers coming to plunder the Mwangi Expanse for its wealth.
RtR, however, immediately amps up with characters putting down a native rebellion and harassing a creature that's religiously important to a tribe of Ijo. And the motivations for going on the expedition don't give many options. Evil and neutral characters have plenty of reason to go - they'll get loot, knowledge and prestige. Good characters are interested in the expedition because of . . . the same kind of goals? Where other APs have looming threats and the like that drive PCs to make long-distance treks, this AP has only the slightest of hints that something bad will happen in Saventh-Yhi. If they actually had some pressing threat they were going to stop, the characters could use that to justify the violent intrusion - they'd feel crappy, maybe, and get a taste of moral greyness, but they could feel they made a decent choice. But here, the Good characters say, "We need to get through your land and bring another 100+ people through as well, so we can make more money/get more power/find more knowledge. If you don't want to let us through, our options are killing you or giving our GM a lot more work."
CoSS is a little better - you finally get to the city, and technically it's ancestral Azlanti land, so it's not like you're looting the artifacts of a Mwangi civilization. But for Good characters? Your motivations are still the same. You're here for wealth, power, and knowledge, and any sidequests where you actually help people are incidental. Sidequests where you actually hurt people (vegepygmies come to mind) are certainly also present.
VoM is better, from my understanding (haven't read it yet). At least here you're a) fighting more objectively evil creatures (undead) and b) now know from Juliver that there are people down there who need saving. But the evil and neutral characters still thrive, because their basic motivators are still there.
TTFB and SotSG are basically the same as VoM. There are good motivations for Good characters - and still a plethora of motivations (money/prestige/knowledge, but now also the motivations of "the city I co-rule upstairs is in danger from this Ydersius guy" and "the Coils of Ydersius tried to kill me - time for revenge") for evil and neutral characters. These and SfSS were the first adventures I read, and they gave me an inaccurate impression of the AP as a whole.
More than most APs I know of, this one has a core theme that's going to eventually force Good PCs to make significant choices in opposition to their alignment. Not greater good choices, not even lesser of two evils choices, but choices that only make sense for those characters in a meta context. I'd honestly recommend this as a legitimately evil campaign, if you could somehow do it without exacerbating the racist elements.