Im almost entirely sure I played in the same eyes group.
Aside:I spent my career as a would be summoning cleric. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I actually got to summon before everything was annihilated, but I'd just go on hoping next game It'd be my time to shine.
If Im correct, yeah the archer was entirely singleminded in his devotion to killing things. But he also had a +3 will save (Yes, really) and was left sidelined in at least two fights. The real person who I felt sorry for was the lore warden. He barely got to do anything, and I dont think that would have changed archer or no.
All in all archery is probably a bit too easy, its just been given too many legs up (seeking, weapon blanches, deadly aim, cluster shot, rapid/multishot, snap shot, often early access improved precise shot). But two wrongs dont exactly make a right. Archery being strong doesnt mean we need to proliferate the overpowerdness. Leave pummeling charge out as it stands.
Maybe this mechanic wasnt meant to be representative of the lore but...
Assault on the Wound minor spoiler:
The selectable pathfinder armies are large, so 200 strong. If, theoretically, 7 players all selected them thats 1400 pathfinder field agents. We might even be able to say with 2 different armies to pick from theres at least 2800 pathfinder field agents. Anyway the one type are 200 "personally selected" by farabellus meaning the numbers in the low hundreds arent quite so reasonable.
I was gonna write a guide but I got lazy, maybe I still will but my initial impressions:
All the 3rd level options added are basically the same, only useful for commune but that has 10 min cast time.
I have a bard who had the masterpiece. I still invested in knowledges so its no big loss but in general rebuilds should err on the side of being generous.
In the time it would take to be able to afford that I would hope someone would have the time to look through some magic items.
Anyway I play in a pretty high optimization area so it seems like most people know all the tricks. A good starter list is the survival 101 blogpost. I consider a jingasa of the fortunate soldier almost mandatory. For forced social situations a mask of stony demeanor can give you a decent bluff bonus. If you have the AP the dream journal of the pallid seer is pretty alright. Weapon blanches and potion sponges with touch of the sea in them are nice and cheap. The first time someone encounters a clear spindle ioun resonant effect they normally make the I don't believe it face. Boots of the cat are pretty common. It's 10k but an unfettered shirt can save your life. At some point a martial should get a swarmbane clasp. People forget the small stuff like a crowbar or portable ram to knock down doors. Enemies don't sunder a lot but a fortifying stone on an expensive brittle weapon like a bow is good.
There is a headband slot item, the headband of fortunes favor, that extends the duration of luck bonuses, specifically including the luck domain power, by 1 round. Costs 8k or so and also gives a +1 luck bonus to saving throws. It would probably not be efficient but you could gain the domain's benefit for yourself with the item, or give it to a friend who might not be using their headband slot.
Despite the difficulty I think this was an enjoyable run and was pretty well received in our area. We ran 5 tables at our store, ours was the third to finish and we had one death and that was the only one I heard of for the day.
Area Venture lieutenant Matt had set up some spectacular looking 3d terrain(See here) so we were all jostling to play at that table. In the end we were the only table of 5 and the others went with 4. I was the only pregen, Oloch, and we had a lvl4 dual wield fighter, 2 witch, 4 monk, 4 oracle/pally. I could easily see how having actual characters at level 4 along greatly added to our success but we didnt have any tables of all pregens to compare to.
We possibly could have wiped on the rolling pyramid. After trampelling first round our gm had it single attack the highest ac target (he hit the pyramid last) the second round as a bit of a respite. Our witch was down after the first trample but was lifelinked. If the thing trampelled again only the monk would have been up and only if he made his ref save. But because of the oradin channeling we survived and whittled down the pyramid over 4 or so rounds(the fighter crit once which hastened the affair).
For the mimic we thought the lid looked heavy so 4 of us each took a corner and grabbed to lift. Woooops.
For the last fight everyone failed their aura saves but the oradin and I managed to succeed on a reroll. Had we not of been prepared with rerolls it could have been a tpk right there with 2 coup de gras a round coming in. Anyway the mummy downs the pally and, the pally having been the first one in the tomb, has the sphinx full attack him causing the oradin to be dead dead, but he didnt have mummy rot. The mummy crit our monk and gave him mummy rot but he stayed up and we ended up killing the boss before anything else eventful happened.
The oradin ended up being raised by his father who was playing and posessed a debt to the society boon, only having the required fame because he was level 4.
So afterwards we all said it was a fun adventure but agreed it was probably less so for the guy that died. It will probably never be run again now that free RPG day is over. We did have a couple new people show up to try out the system and while I wasnt playing with them it seemed evident from another table that they were enjoying themselves.
I see people do the save thing but with spells, when the dm rolls high its always "Oh good thing I was only casting a first level spell!..." Same with casting defensively, actually.
My pet annoyance is when someone goes to roll for something like sense motive or perception to detect traps or search a room, sees they rolled low, and then has to call everyone else to come make the same roll.
Well that and people thinking you need to hold a summit meeting every round to discuss tactics.
Optimizing doesnt limit your ability to roleplay, optimizing greatly reduces the amount of character concepts you can explore in a game and still be able to roleplay them.
Can you roleplay a tiefling paladin found abandoned and raised by fey? The wizard whos ancestor invented the fireball spell and hunts wayangs in his spare time? And happens to have a rabbit or a dodo or a scorpion tacked into the background somewhere? Yeah, of course. But if you will only roleplay these things than optimizing has cost your ability to roleplay by forcing your character to develop based on mechanical restraints rather than organically... like a character. Opportunity costs are costs.
Generally optimizers are better roleplayers because they simply play more. But to say optimizing in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to roleplay in the same game is stretching it a bit far. Unless, I guess, if you only ever roleplay the same Kicky McKickAss tactical genius...
but with different accents and outfits!
I think what makes a pally seem overpowered might be that everything they have is pretty... obvious. You dont have to work to make a good pally, everything good they get is just handed to you. There arent really many choices or ways to "mess up" a paladin. Compare a pally to an optimzed (other martial) and they may look similar, but compare two completely new players, one making a pally and one a barbarian and the situation will probably look pretty favorable on the paladin side.
Warpriest could be an option as well, they can use their fervor ability to self buff as a swift action to cast divine favor. That is what I am trying next for PFS anyway.
I've heard a good rule of thumb is to make your character at least as competent as one of the iconic pregens. Some concepts probably wont compare too directly but, hey, its what the scenarios are supposed to be balanced around.
Personally with each character I make I am optimizing them less and less as I find it simply unnecessary.
Play what you want and dont worry over 1 to hit at level one
What level range? Overall it seems like PFS is geared towards the type of players you mentioned, especially with the oust of faction missions
The Gods Market Gamble (1-5)
Has a chase scene, which reward skills. Has one combat where its arguably better to lose and let the bad guys carry of the macguffin. One encounter is with a burning building
To Scale the Dragon (5-9)
Havent played it but I hear it revolves around using handle animal to pilot dog sleds
Feast of Sigils (7-11)
A shoot em up group who doesnt roleplay and infiltrate misses out on a cool boon
Night March of Kalkamedes (1-5)
So not exactly what you want but you have to escort a NPC through the wilderness, if you just want to throw them a curveball
Delirium's tangle (1-7)
Have to navigate a maze, which is basically just a skill check test
Before the dawn pt 1 (1-7)
have to infiltrate enemy city, moving around require skill checks to blend in or accrue reputation, can get run out of town if totally unskilled
Ghennet Manor gauntlet (5-9)
More about deciding what loot is okay to take and what isnt that hacking and slashing, but not very skill focused
The Price of Friendship (5-9)
Have to procure a live specimen, weather effects can be punishing for those lacking nature-y skills
As well as the Blackros arc ones already mentioned. If you are frustrated as a GM by players steamrolling scenarios this probably isnt the best recourse.