After being disappointed by the Skull and Shackles Player's Guide, I was very pleased with The Wormwood Mutiny, the first module in the Skull and Shackles Adventure Path.
It can be difficult to engage low level characters, especially trying to challenge them without killing them. Richard Pett manages this effectively with a timelined, sandbox environment that allows for plenty of options and danger, with visible consequences for success and failure. While the module starts off with a heavy focus on skill tests and roleplaying, combat becomes a greater focus as the characters gain experience. Throughout, the PCs possess a tangible means of plotting their success as they explore the Wormwood and interact with the other crew.
While PCs are railroaded originally, their freedom to explore the ship and interact with crew within set boundaries gives them plenty to do. That said, this module will work best with players who actively contribute to the game as opposed to those who sit back and wait to be entertained. This is further complicated by some event triggers that rely on the party to follow certain courses of action and indeed, with a suitably unreactive party, it is possible to miss whole sections of the adventure. That, however, can be the risk with sandbox adventures.
Overall, a solid adventure with some original ideas and great gameplay but could have been executed better.
At 30 pages, this is the longest Player's Guide I've seen yet. The balance differs significantly from previous Player's Guides. Instead of being mostly advice about characters and how they link with the adventure path with a couple of extra rules thrown in, this is the opposite: there's a whole bunch of rules for ships and naval combat and the players get only a few pages.
The usual breakdown of why particular classes or races may be in the area, or what connections they may have to the adventure path, is pretty much skipped. There are vague backgrounds mentioned in the mostly mediocre traits but otherwise this section appears rushed and incomplete. This will be a major shortcoming for those players who wish to define their characters in terms of life in The Shackles. Likewise there is no overarching goal implied to aid party unity which will be even more important in a Chaotic leaning Adventure Path.
The rules for Naval Combat start simply, devolve, then end with over four pages about seige engines. The premise is good, the execution is standard and details are overly complicated. However, there is a highly useful page about spell effects at sea (though Fireball is listed under 'D' for Delayed Blast Fireball). There are also plenty of options and ideas for ships, with stats and modifiers for various types, and included are a ship character sheet and a page of ship counters. At about nine pages, this is a nice balance between complexity and options.
Overall, this is not a Player's Guide but a bunch of extra rules that look like they didn't have the room to be crammed in the module.