Mike has been pretty clear on this in other threads. Core campaign sources for character options are the core rulebook, the traits web enhancement, the guide to organized play and the languages blog post. Anything beyond these four options is only unlocked in the event you have it listed on a chronicle sheet. In that event, it still falls under the pfs rule that you must own the source to utilize it, save in the event it is detailed on the chronicle sheet in question. Anything else belongs in the standard campaign.
I've got a hunter who has a small cat. It's been just as effective as any other animal companion I've been around (typically pounce gets ruined by lack of charge lanes anyways, especially for large creatures without reach). The only thing you give up with a wolf is really 2 extra attacks, until you get multiattack. Some players like to make it sound like if you aren't making the choices they would make, you're doing it wrong. At the end of the day, typically you only need to make it to the end of the scenario alive. As long as you've done that and not been carried the whole way, that's typically a win in my book.
So I'm certainly on the fence on this. I see both sides have equally valid concerns and points.
Cons need to provide GMs incentives to running games or they won't be able to offer gaming and therefore will lose some attendance and thus revenue (which they need to run the Con). Cons that make it a point to provide their GMs incentives to run are successful in recruiting those GMs. Cons that do not offer incentives have trouble finding anyone to volunteer for them, because really who wants to volunteer to run a game to line someone else's pocket. Cons are also likely the biggest opportunity to bringing in new players. I've GMed both for Cons and for gamedays. The number of new players to gamedays in the 3 years I've been playing and GMing is right around 10. I've had the same number of brand new players begin at one of the small regional cons that I've GMed, and those were the new players that I was aware of because they sat at my tables that weekend.
On the flip side, game day GMs are the basis of the community. Obviously I don't have figures, but I imagine that the number of reported tables Gamedays vs. Cons would likely be in the neighborhood of 3 to 1, conservatively. Most players aren't only playing at conventions (at least not the ones I've met), unless it's their very first time trying PFS (and when that's the case, the organizers are very quick to get them in touch with their VOs to ensure that they aren't lost in the interim). Gamedays also serve to bring people in and spend the money to continue the hobby's growth.
I GM because I enjoy it. I've got a good enough job that I can afford to pay and travel to Cons. There's 3 that I regularly attend in my area, 2 of which I often run the minimum tables necessary to get a free badge, simply because that $50 can be better spent allaying the cost of my hotel or just make it easier on me. I GM at gamedays to give the other regular GMs a break and to get the credit for a scenario a second time. I also Gm just for the making of a table. I keep a busy schedule though, so I don't get to GM nearly as often as I'd honestly like to. I appreciate that there are fringe benefits for GMing (stars, boons, chronicle sheets) and for Con GMing an increased award is certainly justified (which I don't think that anyone is saying that they shouldn't be rewarded for their volunteer hours, I think it's mostly that people think that Gameday GMs deserve an increased incentive). The problem is that there are already rewards for GMing, when is it enough? If they get Con GM boons a year late, how long until the cries from both sides start (either that they should have access at the same time or that it's not fair that I sacrificed the whole of my weekend and weeks ahead as well as travel expenses and I only get this lousy boon that I would have earned next year anyways)? It's difficult to balance the valid concerns. The fact that the efforts that campaign management has taken to provide increased rewards are looked at with disdain does not really encourage them to offer more rewards. I know when I first started GMing PFS there were Stars, but all that did was add them next to your board avatar. Over the few years that I've been involved in the campaign the increase in rewards has been substantial, in that there actually are some. I appreciate that there is some perk to GMing. I would do it without it because the hobby I've had for 2 decades needs me to step up so it can continue to grow and it's fun for me. And really, that's what I want out of a game. Fun!
I'd like it tied to where the society is active in the current season. Since this season included trips to Goka and away from the world wound, the loss of plane touched and inclusion of more eastern races made sense to me. So if, for instance, the next season has several trips to Ustalav and/or Geb, an increase in the dhampir pathfinders would make sense to me. Same if the elemental races coincided with Qadira and Katapesh missions. So if you ask me, I want more missions in Ustalav and Geb so let's do dhampir and maybe changelings (they have a similar origin to my mind, though I'd imagine more of them from the river kingdoms).
It seems your expectations and your player's are very different. You need to have a conversation with your players about how you feel about it and listen to their concerns and comments. Compromise a solution and move on. Next time, be sure to have these sorts of conversations ironed out ahead of time.
I play a Thunder and Fang Slayer; basically, your worse nightmare as a teammate. He also has a 7 INT and I play that lack of intelligence up. I can certainly relate with players at the table not recognizing the tactical advantages of just simple action economy. I can say, that a simple blurb like Shrouded suggested would likely be helpful to most players, but with such a diversity of people in PFS, you're liable to rub at least 30% of people the wrong way. But you're certainly taking pains to ensure you are not being unreasonable in your playstyle, which is more than I can say of the vast majority of players. Heck, even I am guilty of it on my witch, using spells like web and stinking cloud to shut down enemies, but also restrict my allies movement. I'm going to take page from your book and load up on some wands to alleviate the problems that I cause. So you've certainly opened my eyes to a better way to play. And your willingness to be a team player makes you a good pathfinder, which is cool. I don't think you should invest too much beyond the potions you mention, because that allows them to take equal advantage of your battlefield control.
Arbitrary rules are Arbitrary and therefore bad. These are things that people should announce ahead of time. The GM made a poor call just adjudicating the volume of blood in a creature. That has NOTHING to do with how the rules are written, because that adds a level of complexity that doesn't exist in the material. Damage (ability & HP) is abstract to represent the nuances of combat and debilitating effects. It's not modeled to represent the contrived response the GM had and he is pretty wrong for springing that on the party. If he wanted to remove save or suck spells from the game, he should have said something from day one, not arbitrarily try to finagle a way to kill a PC.
I just got through running Dragon's Demand for a trio of players with one playing a Wizard.
In case people are playing it and don't know what's at the end:
I felt bad because the player in question had several valid complaints leading up to the dragon fight about how many encounters were things he just wasn't effective at dealing with (few reasons to control the battlefield when only 1 monster is encountered). Basically, my two martial characters were hogging the spotlight. This became doubly so when they finally reached the dragon and 4 of his attempts were foiled by the dragon's SR. But after the fact, the player was pleased with his contributions in the fight. He felt that his buffs and summons served the purpose that a wizard plays in those kind of fights; set the martials in the position to deal the requisite HP damage to win.
Really, dragon's don't need any buffs to be an appropriate challenge for players (assuming appropriate CR). Though this GM is being stupid in his dragon tactics. I will say that for a dragon fighting campaign, a blaster wizard would be my absolute last choice in wizards. Too many spells will end up foiled by SR and typically, a dragon would be mobile enough to need the caster to be moving the martials about the field so they can engage the dragon.
This GM is clearly foolish in his attempts to negate the caster role in these sorts of encounters. The options are really to quit, or just reroll a martial realizing that anything else would just be countered by fiat. If things change so that you are still countered, then it is a personality conflict between you and this Gm and the best thing is to excuse yourself from the table. If you want to be able to play with your friends, invite them to your own game and recruit someone to replace the current GM.
What level is everyone? Deeper Darkness is a terrible thing for a low level party because the only counter to it is Daylight, and the worst part of the set up is that the Stalker can cast Deeper Darkness at will. Basically, the GM is intentionally killing your party (just checked, there are no references to dark stalkers in book 1, 2 or 3 of Kingmaker) by picking something you literally have no way of overcoming. The only other advice to negate this specific thing is a Tiefling with Fiend Sight x2. If someone wanted to go that route, I'd go Alchemist, but mostly because I like them.
I'd certainly suggest using the PFS scenarios to solve this precise issue you are running into. There are several mini arcs that fit together, but the individual scenarios largely stand alone. Each are compelling. The best advice I can give you is to read each of the scenario decriptions and take a look at the comments and ratings. They tend to be fairly informative about the type of scenario each one is. Choose ones that sound of interest to you/the gm to run. At $4 a piece, they are really worthwhile gaming resource for groups that can only devote 4-6 hours to play infrequently. I would encourage you to stay within the PFS rules because you never know what will happen down the road and being able to play characters as you travel and move is a really nice resource.
Since Barbarian and Bard both interest you, why not try both. I'd do Urban Barbarian & Invulnerable Rager (Barbarian Archetypes that stack) 2/ Bard (whatever archetype you want or just vanilla) 6. For 1 Rage power, I'd probably go fiend totem for a 4th Natural Attack. Focus on STR, CHA & CON, with remaining points just going where you want them. You were shunned by your tribe for being less in tune with the wild lands and more with cities, plus you get a number of decent bonuses for winning friends and influencing people as a Urban Barb. If you go fiend totem, the basic strategy is use the first round of combat to start your inspire courage and move into position to get a full attack. When you can get a full attack, Rage and take all 4 with your bonus from Inspire and STR from Rage on all of them. Power Attack gives you a strong increase to damage across the board (they are all primary natural attacks and so get full bonuses). You can pick up extra rage and rage powers if you prefer, or you can focus on spell casting. A really interesting build I think.
I've ran 3 tables thus far and each one has been a blast. I enjoy running this so much that I will happily run it anytime people ask for it. Also, on a personal note of pride, my 5th level Gnome Cavalier of the Tome was able to purchase Glorymane after his last table. I can't wait to play him at another table with the shield.
I'm quite happy with the Module and AP sanctioning as well. I've picked up several just on the off chance that I could also run them in PFS as well as home games as I chose and the options to play through them in campaign mode and apply credit to a PFS PC is just gravy. I definitely appreciate the continued support, Mike.
As for the 12+ support, I don't exactly have a dog in the fight as my first character is just now closing in on 11. But at the local cons I've been to that have offered specials with seeker tiers, those tables generally had difficulty making either because there were few PCs in that tier or because players that had characters in that tier opted to play with their friends in the lower tiers. I imagine at the larger conventions you would have significantly less issues, but at those cons you end up with a large mix of people, many of whom have little exposure to PFS and are likely trying it for the first time that weekend. For those settings, I feel it's even more important to provide lower level play experience because these players are still learning.
At least that's been my experience. When I finally get up and through EotT, I'll miss Vikram's adventures, but I have 6 other characters I'm equally attached to and who I can enjoy the new story lines that Paizo is releasing for the seasons to come.
I've run this twice and neither time have I had anyone who wasn't fully engaged. This, the Blackros matrimony and the disappeared are among my favorite scenarios precisely because they break away from the norm and reward players for roleplaying. And perhaps I'm alone in this, but the passage describing the use of any skill to aid in searching is one I fully embrace. I've had players use handle animal (riding dog sniffing out correct books), diplomacy (feeling drawn to areas where people would naturally gather to id shelves containing clues) as well as those few skills specifically called out (knowledges, Profession, craft, or perception). Obviously you give penalties on unusual skills, but I slide that from 2 to 5 based on the descriptions the player provides. In short, everyone should be able to contribute if you run the scenario as written.
Plus I haven't been at a table that didn't adore glorymane.
Ok, so I think you're trying to go too many directions here. My advice from the things you've passed back and forth is going to just be in my experience (highest level PFS character a lvl 8 Rage Prophet): Go with the Reach cleric wielding a longspear (1 extra critical multiplier is not worth trying to get a Weapon Proficiency IMO) and the Animal (preferably Feather) Domain. Aasimar and the Celestial Companion feat are pretty good (Darkvision is great and being able to cast Daylight can make a huge difference in some of the earlier seasons' lower level scenarios). For a reach cleric, the only MUST HAVE feats would be Combat Reflexes (pretty much the whole point of the build) and Power Attack (a really nice to have boost, but even manageable without it). To make your AC worthwhile you definitely want Boon Companion (btw, I'd suggest a Roc if you go for Feather Domain because it is a really awesome and flavorful option...plus you know, flying mount), the Celestial Servant (again if you go Aasimar) is just an icing on the cake, but will give you much more mileage out of your AC in the later scenarios. Ultimately, the reason I suggest this path is because you have effectively made a party unto yourself. You have 2 decent melee combatants and a divine caster who can channel (which if you choose base Aasimar, you'll get a +2 WIS & CHA, making you better at both of those things). Why this matters is because you never know what you may end up sitting with at any given table and by making sure you've got some coverage of two areas, you can better ensure success, and when you are overlapping at a table, you'll be that much more able to focus on the areas not covered by being a prepared caster vs a spontaneous one. If you go with all 4 feats suggested here, you'll have 2 more at the end of your carreer that will be totally up to you and how you've found yourself playing. I don't think you'll hurt yourself at any point by making these choices.
You have read through the entire first part of the AP and do realize that there is at least two NPCs who ACTIVELY KILL GOBLINS ON A REGULAR BASIS and that this town is CONSTANTLY HARASSED BY THE LOCAL GOBLIN TRIBES? These characters are monumentally out of place in this AP and why you let them in, I can't fathom. They should face constant prejudice that isn't subtle in the leastand there should be several calls for their death. You also have the really convenient part that a large goblin attack just happens right after they show up in town and that there is clear evidence that someone inside town had to be involved but the person behind it isn't clear. That alone would get them in the best case locked up immediately.
As a player in a current RotRL game who has only learned a bit about the town, the townsfolk are largely insular and if there is one race unanimously hated, it would be the Goblinoids. They honestly should be run out of town before they get a chance to enter. Otherwise, you ignore any reality that the setting is supposed to have.