There's a difference between deleting/altering some of PF1's history and expanding upon it. People saying "I want to blow up the Blakros Museum" miss the point. As much as you hate the place, it's still a good source of lore and adventure. On the other hand, I could see an evolution of most of the NPCs happening. There's been 10 years of stories happening, the writeup for all Venture-Captains should be different. I can see some Captains being replaced or killed off, but keeping Dreng exactly the same as he is now is just a waste of potential.
(For what it's worth, I've always suspected Dreng of faking his age, even before School of Spirits. He seems like the trickster kinda guy.)
Also, I just remembered. Amenopheus has a weird history with the Society. He's up to something, and I want to know what. He appears as a semi-antagonist in Echoes of the Everwar without explanation, and there's one or two more times I forgot where he's being shady.
Oh, and while we're on the subject of important NPCs: it's been mentioned earlier, but I want some conclusion on Drandle Dreng. Some scenarios paint him as a weird goofball, some as a kind grandfather figure, and some as a senile old man. And then School of Spirits happened. I want to know the real Dreng.
There is no "finale." Pathfinder Society 1.0 will end, maybe with a cool climax to commemorate, but don't expect to fundamentally change Pathfinder as we know it (unless of course it's planned by developers). As far as I understand, what's happened so far is canon in Pathfinder, and will continue to have taken place in 2.0. There might be some reimaginings or retcons, but don't expect to wipe several places off the map that'll still exist in 2.0.
I'm not 100% on the exact statistics, but it basically boils down to the following:Starting as Druid so he can be a large Earth Elemental pretty much all the time.
Then going Monk for Flurry of Blows, Wisdom to AC, and a whole lot more.
A few levels of Id Rager (maybe just one) to have his damage dice go up, and of course, all the bonuses Rage gives.
Again, I'm not sure about the build, he obviously has a lot of magic items that boost him, but he has four or five attacks that each deal 60 static damage (including Power Attack), before damage dice are rolled. He has great saves and AC through Monk levels, Evasion, spells to buff himself, and so on. As a GM, he was frustrating to play for, because he had no weak point. Everything just died around him. This might just as much be a fault of the equipment as it is of multiclassing, but you see where I'm going with this. And this was for Society, where you go to level 11.
And this one:
Why should I care? Well, I mostly care because I play a lot of PFS, where I've seen some absolute bonkers builds, where people squeeze every last bonus into their character. I've seen one guy roflstomp several scenarios, basically soloing every encounter, with us merely as backup. Monk/Id Rager/Druid is a crazy powerful build. I might just be whining, but I've heard several people complain they feel useless next to these people. This is also partly an OOC problem, not an IC problem, as the player wants to dominate everything and show off, but it's indicative of the problem. If people want, they can break the game beyond what the system meant for the player to do. Multiclassing for more abilities is good, as long as the overall power level doesn't exceed its intended maximum. But it does, and for Society play, that can be a problem.
I agree though that for non-Society play, this is less of an issue, where you as a GM can have more control over the power level of your players.
Why is dipping a bad thing? Your new level 1 ability never improves, and your main class abilities are slowed by a level.
Except that you can still boost those first-level powers. There are a lot of feats or items that grant extra rage rounds or boosts to certain powers. Dipping one level of Barbarian and the Extra Rage class feature allows you to rage for 10+ rounds a day, enough for 2 or 3 combats. Yeah, Rage doesn't turn into Greater Rage, but that +4 is already a lot. Swashbuckler dips get free Weapon Finesse, skips some prerequisites, gets some Panache and deeds, and so on. There's a lot of reasons why one level of something else can really boost your effectiveness, especially if you're not a caster-type.
I honestly think some kind of variant multiclassing-like implementation could work, but I see Planpanther already beat me to the punch. But still, to to illustrate my point:
I just gave one example with one class feature, but I'm sure more class features can be implemented just as elegantly.
Or go with the Starfinder route and massively decrease the amount of bonuses you can collect. Getting to stack Morale with Enhancement, Luck, and so on only invites people to seek them all out. Get two or three total types of bonuses and multiple ways to get to them. That way, they overlap easier and people have to make a choice. It might lead to bad gameplay when you keep finding items that don't stack, but you can work around that, I think. Or give bonuses "slots," where you can only carry X amounts of bonuses at a time (either scalable with level, or a static amount). That prevents self-buffing monstrosities from existing, and buffing one direction means you neglect other aspects.
Hooray! One question: What happens with spells you get that you normally aren't supposed to get? As far as I know, Mudball is a Goblin-only spell, but the Geomancer Occultist gets it on his spell list (p. 66). Does he instead not get that spell? Does he get a replacement? Or is this a weird enough exception that allows you to have it? I believe I've seen things like this in domains and the like, but I'm not 100%, I just know of this example.
After-action report from me as well:
Party composition was four level 3 people, one level 2. They decided to play high tier.
The items (I allowed rerolls when doubles came up):
In the end, I totally forgot to use the weather-changing effect, but those combats were skipped anyway. I did tell them the weather was actively changing, but I would've completely forgotten it had they gone into a fight.
Yes. The fact that they stop making new scenarios doesn't mean the old ones become unavailable all of a sudden. Ideally I'd jump straight into 2.0, but as mentioned above, the pace of release probably means I'll fall back on OG Pathfinder pretty soon. It'll be confusing to mix game systems, but I'll manage.
Is Koth'Vaul actually featured in The Traitor's Lodge? He's never explicitly referenced in that scenario (it just mentions "a glabrezu," while in other scenarios he's always mentioned by name), and while it's a fun theory, I'd like to be sore of that before speculating further. He does feature in Assault on Absalom, though.
Season 0: Black Waters is amazing if your GM can play up the atmosphere. King Xeros of Old Azlant isn't that amazing overall, but it's great out of sheer weirdness. Our Lady of Silver is probably my favourite scenario ever. So much happens in such a small scenario. I had to stop my players from roleplaying because I had a scenario to finish.
Season 1:No Plunder, No Pay gets high marks for me. It isn't a must-play, but it's really fun if you play along.
Season 2: Below the Silver Tarn is a fantastic horror scenario. It manages to get the mood just right. Forbidden Furnace of Forgotten Koor is also fantastic in theme. Someone's been watching Aladdin a lot before writing that scenario.
Season 3: Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment. I have no words to describe it. It's just a masterpiece. Haunting of Hinojai and Ghenett Manor Gauntlet are great, and the opening act of The Golden Serpent is just fantastic.
Season 4: In Wrath's Shadow is amazingly twisted, in a good way. Golemworks Incident has the best villain ever. Period.
Season 5: The Traitor's Lodge is pure nightmare fuel for people with a vivid imagination.
Season 6: I hate to say it, but Overflow Archives was pretty great. It's so incredibly weird.
Season 7: School of Spirits is an amazing followup of Black Waters. Blakros Connection has some issues, I must admit, but it does storytelling so, so right. Thralls of the Shattered God is an example of a very well-designed dungeon. The author knew what players are capable of, and isn't afraid to pull punches. Sun Orchid Scheme is a great showcase of the heist mechanic, and is done really well.
Season 8: Portent's Peril isn't amazing by all means, but I've never seen a scenario that just clicks together so smoothly. It isn't difficult to run, doesn't have weird rules, but it just simply works.
Season 9: Cost of Enlightenment can be hit or miss, but if you're into it, you're going to dig it.
I posted this in the GM thread, and Scott pointed me here because he didn't know the answer to it. It's about the betting, and the outcome thereof.
If the players pay 50 gold (250 in high tier), they get rewards for it. I assume the rewards are only usable for this scenario only, but since they spend quite a bit of money on it (50 or 250 is quite a bit in that tier, IMHO), do they get to keep it? It breaks the usual rule of "what you find in the scenario evaporates at the end," but since they more or less "bought" it (with discount), it seems reasonable. On the other hand, they lose out on money if they don't bet, so the reward sort of pays for itself.
I'm personally inclined to go with the idea that if you don't use it, you lose it. but I'm just posting this to be sure, as I might get asked this question at my table and I'd like an official ruling to fall back on.
This happened last week: A guy is playing a Hoaxer Bard, which is specialised in offering useless/harmful objects to enemies as a form of action denial. One of his favourite items to give is the Hoodwink Cowl, an item that leaves the wearer blinded and deafened. The idea is that donning and doffing the item (both move actions) provokes, so allies usually get free hits in.
Well, combat isn't going so well versus a souped up Gargoyle. Hoaxer gives him the Cowl, is blinded. GM has had multiple experiences with this Bard and has enough. Instead of removing the cowl, she decides to grapple the Bard. Gargoyle grapples, and I say, "huh, that's pretty smart. Now that he's deaf, he's immune to the Bard's hoaxes." Bard player's face falls, and we all appreciate how messed up this situation is.
Someone else decides to grapple the Gargoyle, so he has to decide whether to maintain his grapple, or release the Bard and counter-grapple the other person. Instead, next turn he maintains the grapple and decides to fly off (GM checked, the carrying capacity should work. On the other hand, I'm not sure if he can fly off while being grappled, but we went with it, because rule of cool). All three of these are pretty heavily injured by now, by the way. The other guy decides to pin the Gargoyle in mid-air, and they all fall 40 feet towards the ground. Gargoyle spluts to his death, other two barely survive. We all start laughing about how cool this whole mess was and continue the story. Even though the rest of the adventure wasn't great, that was definitely a highlight I'll remember for a long time.
Scott Sharplin wrote:
That wasn't really what I meant. What I meant to say was: people who bet lose 50 or 250 gold. Are the rewards they get supposed to be permanent (meaning they're considered "bought" and can be reported as such on an inventory tracking sheet), or do people need to re-buy them after the scenario, meaning it's essentially 50/250 gp down the drain (they lose money either way if no one participates, so they sort of get compensated, but still)?
Ah, one more question: does the Wild Hunt know that they're guarding their own bag? I'm sure the PCs will figure it out somehow, but how should they react to it? Weary understanding about the situation, and explain how to retrieve it? Surprise and joy to find it, but frustration when they can't retrieve their cooperation? I'm inclined to go with the former, it seems like a fun thing to do, but any suggestions are welcome.
Also, follow-up question: the Wild Hunt "ran afoul" of the Lantern King, and he gave them contradicting memories of the event. I haven't really given it some thought yet because I need to prep other stuff, but any idea what those memories could be? Since the Lantern King is the Eldest of mischief and transformation, maybe something like they (accidentally) spoiled a joke or told the victim it was the Lantern King, they pranked the Lantern King back and he took it badly, or they did something transformation-related I can't really think of right now.
I'm not sure which feat or ability you have in mind, but I can think of several things:
These are all the classics I can think of I've faced over the past few years. I don't think they show up all that often (25%-33% of the time), but when they do, it hurts. I'd say if you have room in your build to prevent/lessen these kinds of effects, go for it. Especially at higher level these things can get out of hand fast. Oracles with Flame Strike are pretty popular among enemies. Getting 4 of those (the spell, not the enemy) in a single encounter hurts.
EDIT: Also, breath attacks occur at all Challenge Ratings, and traps tend to deal area damage as well.
I second the Onyx Alliance.
Also, I made this thread a while ago, a peek in there might help.
I'll join in with a melee-ish Druid, without animal companion. I wanted to build around what the party needed, but since that's slow going, I'll just try out one of my builds.
I'm running this in two weeks, I have two questions:
- How does the betting work? Falbin bets that the Briar Henge druids are behind it, Jamila thinks it's a planar rift (which is the truth). There are three clues to either side, and Jamila will win if it's a tie. Later on, the scenario says Jamila might miss her potion of Haste during a combat. How does that work, especially since it's likely Jamila will be right? I assume that will happen either through people failing her checks, or actively not telling her if the PCs know the results.
- The weather effects on page 14. Is that supposed to happen during all combats in the First World? That could be pretty severe, especially since only the PCs suffer from it. I hope it's taken into account during CR calculation.
Also, on page 18/19, the checks to influence the Wild Hunt seem disconnected from their results. At least, at first glance. It seems weird to me that a party that wants to smooth-talk with Diplomacy are still forced to fight them, albeit with an advantage. Maybe it'll go differently once I actually play it, but it seems to me people will be confused by the difference between their intentions and the results.
I agree with what's said above, Alchemists don't make for good buffers. They have great spells, but they're limited to you for a reason: they don't have the spells per day to keep everyone topped off. If you want to buff others, go for Cleric or Bard, who can target multiple people at once, or have class-specific buff abilities.
Also, Scott Wilhelm: please don't do that in PFS. Yeah, it's fun to incapacitate your enemies, but if you rely on the same tactic, you remove all challenge from the combats, as well as frustrate your GM.
Do remember that as a module, we're expected to make long days. Not that many rage rounds yet at level 2. Spell Warriors are cool, though.
For the others, my build I mentioned above is a pretty basic Summoner build. Summoner himself isn't that amazing in combat, but has an Inevitable Eidolon doing the heavy lifting for him.
I'm also trying out a Druid with the Desert domain. Will be fairly melee-centric, but doesn't have stellar AC.
And if necessary, I can always stat up a Cleric. They're my go-to class when I'm not sure what to build. I can go support, melee, whatever.
I have already played (and GMed) this several times, so I'm trying to not be too metagamey and build something that'll be good for this adventure.
My favourite remains the Oracle. Some races (Halfling, Gnome, Tengu) get to add +1/2 to their curse's level. I've combined it with the Wrecker curse to get access to the level 15 ability at level 10. Any creature that strikes me with a manufactured weapon has the chance to make it go up in dust. Is it practical? Probably not. Is it fun? Definitely. By then you're probably fighting epic demons and such, but if you find a lone humanoid, chances are they have only one good weapon on them.
Dwarf Bards can get medium armour proficiency, which is nice. Race/class combo isn't ideal, and there are Bards archetypes that get medium armour, but if those aren't available, that could be fun.
Both of these don't really redefine their class, but they do open up new options.
A friend has a cool story about nearly TPK-ing in Shades of Ice 1 with a party full of CHA 5 Dwarves. I can't do it justice, I should poke him to add his story.
Anyway, I just GMed a scenario where you're forced to drink poison to eject you from the Ethereal Plane to the Matereal Plane (don't think it's a spoiler, it's literally in the mission briefing). It's basically a plot item to keep things rolling. As I finished the mission briefing, a guy playing a Gnome piped up: "Excuse me, you said we had to drink poison?" "Yes?" "I'm a Druid, I have poison immunity." "... Well, here's a scroll of Plane Shift, then."
Such a silly moment. Typically something that should've been spotted in editing, but wasn't. :P
As the GM for this character (SPOILERS for Abducted in Aether!):
Apparatus of the Mantis:
Apparatus of the Mantis: You have recovered a unique apparatus of the crab in the shape of a giant
mantis shrimp. You can purchase this unique apparatus of the mantis for 60,000 gp rather than its
normal cost. Instead of claws, it has two slam attacks that gain a +2 circumstance bonus on attack rolls
underwater but otherwise behave as an apparatus of the crab’s pincer attacks. You can enchant this pair
of slam attacks as it they were a single masterwork weapon, and you can enchant the apparatus’s body
as though it were a suit of masterwork full plate; this does not increase the device’s hardness. For the
purpose of using Fame to qualify for enhancements, treat both the slams and body as though their base
cost were each 10,000 gp.
I'd personally rule it as it retaining its original stats, as it seems strange if it suddenly loses three-quarters of its HP and the like. But since you're driving it, I would say something happens to its attack modifier, but I have no idea what, exactly. Your BAB, its Strength/size modifier? Personally, I'd avoid looking at the Animated Object listing entirely, because that's a generic animated object this thing obviously deviates from. But I have no knowledge about this subject, so I'm not a reliable source (my interpretation of its HP and hardness doesn't seem to match OP's), so correct me if I'm wrong.
As a total aside, is the only real way of moving and attacking through rolling the d10, even outside of combat? That seems... unpractical.
Anyway, it's maybe a cheesy build, but since it's a fifth-level spell, I'll happily encourage these shenanigans. It's either going to take a boatload of scrolls, or a boatload of levels before this becomes viable, in addition to the 60.000 GP it already takes to buy this. I want to support these kinds of nonsense.
Yes, it costs time, money, and effort to GM. But there are also non-tangible rewards for it. I like to GM because I like storytelling and entertaining people. I get to spend a few hours with friends and people I like. Online play (whether PbP or through videochat) is a very different beast, I find. There's less direct interaction, and I miss the physicality of it. Maybe that's part of why you're burnt out about it, I don't know. And yeah, I always thank my table for joining me, and they usually thank me in return. Not everyone might, but I usually feel it's implied, anyway.
If you're feeling burnt out, just stop for a while. You shouldn't force yourself, and if you stop GMing, maybe your players will start to poke you again for more games. Then you know you're appreciated, because without you, they can't play.
I remember GMing a module where two NPCs were getting into a fistfight, and their description was to honestly try to kill each other. One knocks the other into negative HP, then wants to coup de grace him with a rapier. The players intervened and disarmed him. I go over their statblocks one more time to see if he can do anything, and I find... a backup dagger. He whips it out, my players freak out and knock him unconscious as well. I've never seen players more frightened as that exact moment. They're still mad at me for having a backup dagger, and one of them still likes to tell that story when we're talking about backup weapons.
But yeah, certain manoevers become very dangerous/lethal when used against the baddies. It's a double-edged sword, of course, but I've seen fights that were supposed to be epic duels reduced to a silly slapfight, simply because the enemy was knocked prone while surrounded by bloodthirsty PCs.
In the same vein, I GMed an adventure last week where enemies did an AoE effect when they died (and the players knew). One of them was knocked prone and on 3 HP left, with 3 PCs around him. I said, "the <redacted> suddenly gets a wicked grin on his face, and attempts to stand up. Do you want to take an attack of opportunity?" One of them tried a Wisdom check, failed, and did the attack. That was a fun moment.
-1: Trident. Never used beyond level 3, but hey.
Succor is a good one. I personally have an Oracle of Battle geared towards buffing. Weirdly enough he doesn't do damage on his own, but he greases the wheels for other people. I'll go down my list of choices:
It's a bit of a shame most of these are only once a day, but Abundant Revelations is a good feat and I don't really know what other feats to pick anyway.
One more thing popped into my head while I was prepping a scenario for next week: more useful boons. Or hell, maybe just plain weird boons. Not necessarily more powerful, but things that make you glad you've played a scenario and got an optional objective. Earlier seasons barely had any meaningful boons (Delirium's Tangle is an exception), and up to season 3 there are only a few very insignificant boons (+2 on Diplomacy versus a very specific subset of people). There's a joke that's made every so often that someone gets a +2 versus Ulfen if it's Tuesday, has a funny hat on, standing on one leg, and we're in Rahadoum. And sometimes it really does feel like that. So many minor insignificant boons devalue boons in general. Rather than saying, "yay, I got a meaningful upgrade," it becomes a chore. One more thing to add to your list of conditional modifiers.
The last few seasons boons have really increased in power, but I don't necessarily want power creep. Just something that you can show off to other people, or makes you glad you've played that scenario. Adventure paths and modules often have better boons, as well as end-tier content (the seeker arcs, Unleashing the Untouchable, and so on), but I'd like to see that pushed more to other scenarios. The scenario I'm prepping right now has a very cool unpractical but unique magic item that's still way overpriced for what it does. If we get such items, I'd like to see them decreased in price so it's affordable, and people can actually build around.
I really like the boons that open up options for other characters, by the way. So many times you get a chronicle sheet and say, "wow, this would've been perfect for a different character. I wish I'd brought him instead." And I'm not saying there aren't useful boons at all, there certainly are a few cool boons. I just wish they'd spread the love more, so to say. But on the other hand, I understand that the incidental powerful boon is way more fun to receive than a constant stream of mediocre boons, so I understand the way it is right now.
There are a few scenarios where displaying your Wayfinder skips a few steps in the identification process, but I've also seen a few scenarios where people react negatively to it. But yeah, if Wayfinders are that important to a Pathfinder's identity, I'd like to see more done with it than just a badge of office.
Ohh, I just came up with something. A small sidebar for a reverse four-player mode. Not necessarily a "hard mode," but if you know that the players will trounce an encounter, options to make it more interesting.
Again, I want to stress this is optional, not something GMs should apply without the players knowing. PFS is intended as an accessible game, but everyone knows people like min-maxing, and thereby removing all of the challenge from the scenario. A way of addressing that would be nice, I think. Either make it work retroactively, so older scenarios without it are immediately affected (the only downside is that it's hard to curate/moderate, as some encounters/scenarios are more difficult than others), or add it as a sidebar to every encounter going forward. Things like adding an extra mook or two, higher spell DCs, or a static increase in damage. Advanced templates are also possible, but more swingy, I feel.
Most melee-focused builds go for crit fishing, so that's an obvious thing to do. Grab the weapon that has the best crit range to damage dice ratio and go to town. That's usually a fauchard or a falcata. And for Dex-classes the options are usually pretty limited, so a rapier is the obvious choice. Of all the hate min-maxing gets, weapon choice is one I easily get. It's one of the easiest and cheapest ways to up your damage potential. Why settle for mediocrity, unless you're intentionally trying to hold back?
I once GMed an adventure where you have to travel on a boat, and one player had his own boat. He was pretty annoyed that they had to follow the story of stealing another boat, and I had to convince him it was a good idea to not use his own boat there.
No Plunder, no Pay:
There is a scripted bit where the boat takes a lot of damage, and has a chance of being destroyed. I didn't want to take the risk of possibly destroying the vanity he spent a lot of PP/GP on.
Thurston Hillman wrote:
Related Note: It's really hard to present all the scenario background information in a way that PCs can access and yet still provide all the information that a GM needs to know. I admit, I get really upset when I read two full paragraphs of beautiful background on an NPC and then see "The NPC immediately attacks and fight to the death." as the follow-up.
Yesterday I GMed The Golemworks Incident, and there's a sidebar with <redacted>'s history. A friend wrote diary entries and put them in the scenario, rather than give them the abridged version. They got a peek into the mind of the villain, and they really liked that. I think the scenario would've been even better if it had included actual handouts, rather than summarised them. I guess I'll post them in the GM forums (don't have an account on GM Prep). But yeah, back on track: more believable villains. Golemworks is such a stand-out because so far, it's the only one where the villain is introduced early and believably, rather than pop up in the end out of nowhere. To Seal the Shadow had some of it, but that didn't have the finesse Golemworks had.
Clear central concept is a good start, but I'd like to add versatility. Be good at different things, both in and out of combat. Inquisitors are good skillmonkeys while also being a dangerous force in combat. Fighters and Barbarians hit really hard in combat, but that's pretty much all they do. A main thing and a niche are great, but over-reliance on those things means you're losing ground on other things. It's a team-based game, where you're supposed to have each other's backs, but sometimes, the Rogue gets captured or the Barbarian is passed out somewhere and you need to respectively sneak/talk your way into somewhere or apply brute force in combat. A Slayer can do both, for instance.
Okay, beforehand: I have strong emotions and thoughts about narrative. What I say might be completely false, and if that's the case, please tell me so.
I remembered something I think could be improved, and it's mentioned earlier in the thread (by Lau): storytelling.
As a second point, I dislike direct followups because they presume knowledge you might not have. Seeing returning faces is fun, but you can't guarantee everyone will have the same reaction or knowledge. There are a few spiritual sequels with fun callbacks, that don't rely on heavy interconnection to tell their story (the "Among the" and "of the Fiend" series, and the Gloomspires, for example), where a single location or NPC is the thing that connects them, but I feel like more and more scenarios start to lean on the metaplot too much. The aforementioned All for Immortality series gives context to a whole season, and the whole Concordance of the Elements plot is only in a very few scenarios, one of which is a hard to play special scenario (or a multitable special, in general). Playing them out of order (because you're signed up for other tables, or because the GM doesn't know they're connected and runs others first) can really impact your enjoyment. And on the other hand, like Lau said, I've had great fun with season 0 and 1 scenarios, because they don't feel as constrained, narratively speaking. I really disliked a scenario I otherwise should have liked, Call of the Copper Gate. It had a nice callback, but instead annoyed me to no end that it was blatantly teasing the possible sequels, all the while giving us no satisfying conclusion about what those orbs actually are. The metaplot shouldn't determine the direction or form the adventures should take. There are enough scenarios in a season that don't deal with it, but still, I'd rather put individual enjoyment before serving the greater good.
Bruno Breakbone wrote:
Bruno, a handsome and beautiful Tetori, suggest there be more things to grapple—preferably solo bosses in small rooms. Thank you.
This, so much this. I've had so many adventures where the fight was already over within one turn because of action economy. One guy three levels higher can throw some serious magic around, but he's still only one guy. One simple trip/disarm/grapple/whatever can put him out of commission and end up as an anticlimactic fight.
It's hard to implement with people possibly playing down or up, but I'd rather have one main guy at CR 6 and two CR 5 flunkies than one CR 8 guy. Hell, maybe even deviate from the expected CR system. Recent seasons have already stepped it up from earlier seasons, where 3 Goblins was a CR 1 encounter, but it always ended up as a cakewalk for my group. Lowering CR of each individual monster to increase the amount of monsters is terrible IMHO, because their power level decreases drastically. The numbers just don't add up. I run everything as written in PFS, but in my home game I've started to throw enemies at my party more by feel than by logic (I threw multiple CR 7 enemies against a party of level 6, and they did absolutely fine. Although I must admit my party was above the expected power curve). Again, this is hard to do in an environment where you can't control the level at which your players will encounter the enemies, but the CR system shouldn't be the be-all and end-all for encounter design.
I had more ideas, but they're gone for now.
I'm a big fan of this one. I detest the official Pathfinder sheet with a fiery passion, and this one has all the important bits next to each other. The "feats and features" box is a bit unwieldy, but I just paste a text box right over it. It calculates things from your base stats and you only really have to calculate your to-hit and damage modifiers (it calculates your base melee and ranged attacks, so Weapon Focus and TWF aren't calculated). But the most important part for me is how all the different bonuses to saves and AC are spelled out, rather than the "misc" on the official sheet.
I've GMed for multiple people whose first character were a Rogue (why do so many people gravitate towards a CN Rogue?) and tried to rob people blind. I explained to them they can't gain extra money that way and that everything I do allow you to steal is flavour only. They accepted that. Even if they didn't, there's a very good reason why they shouldn't: you're a representative of the Society. One of the most important tasks is that you don't make the Society look like a bunch of incompetent murderhoboes. In PFS, unlike Fallout or Skyrim, you have to report to a higher authority. Explaining to them that you got caught with your hand in a lady's purse isn't something they want to hear.
It's true that a lot of adventures have encounters you can't talk your way out of. Either they're animals or demons you can't reason with, they're fanatics and have no other option, or are misguided/enthralled and are forced to serve the bad guy. But over the past three seasons, there have been more and more encounters that can be talked through. Hell, I've even seen some end encounters roleplayed away. While Pathfinder remains a combat-focused system, diplomacy certainly helps in a lot of scenarios.
Feedback from your actions is also pretty hard. It's not like Fallout/Skyrim where your notoriety can raise and NPCs are programmed to respond in a certain way, but again, there are scenarios where that does happen. Some scenarios have an awareness system where you have to blend in, earn trust points, or have A/B options. And in a lot of newer scenarios, there are things such as reporting notes, where the outcome of a scenario can influence potential follow-up scenarios. Or hell, if that's not an option, there's flavour. I take pride in managing to subdue an enemy and take him back for questioning, rather than being his judge, jury, and executioner and killing him on the spot.
As said before, no one expects you to dominate in all areas. Bards can talk their way out of anything but they're seldom a powerhouse on the battlefield (other than handing out buffs, I mean). Wizards can handle anything, as long as they're not surrounded by enemies. And Fighters can fight all day long, as long as they're supported by Wizards/Clerics/Bards/etc. As for casting stats, here's a radical thought: sometimes you have to depend on others. You can't have your cake and eat it too, and you don't have to. Traditional support Clerics have it tough the first few levels, but eventually grow into their own. People understand that you can't help out in every fight, so being just a meat shield or wand operator the first few levels is fine. Eventually you have enough spells per day where you can do something every fight. Wizards have it even tougher. They get three pissing spells at level 1, and have no frontline capabilities. They have to muddle around with crossbows. I get that party composition can be an issue, but I've seen some inventive solutions. A party without a frontline got by on summons, and Cure Light or Infernal Healing is on practically every spell list, so there's no reason not to carry a wand of either (or both) when you're missing a divine caster.
Again, for every single complaint there's a valid reason why it is the way it is, mostly having to do with individual experience versus general balance. You can either agree with them, or invent your own ChaosTicket Society, where only you have fun. I'm not saying your arguments are worthless, but when you look at the bigger picture, there's more important things to worry about.
Can't you find some people from your lodge to form a home group? I know in my lodge at least two home groups have formed because they met at PFS.
If you really can't find people to join for a home group, that could be because of several reasons:
I played when Aasimars/Tieflings were still in rotation, and I'm kind of bummed out on them. If you didn't need to be a Human for skills/feats or went for a particular build, Aasimar was usually the best choice. No stat penalty, amazingly flexible with different varieties, Darkvision, skill bonuses, and a moderately relevant spell-like ability. There's literally no downside to it, other than not being able to Enlarge Person (but even that can be fixed). Yeah, obviously they have more RP than the Core races, so they should be more powerful, but they're just too powerful. The elemental races are 6 RP and ability-wise worse than the Core races, but they weren't less effective. Aasimars get the best of both worlds. I started during season 5, and almost all of my characters were Aasimars, because they were simply perfect.
That said, Aasimars are pretty cool. It's just a shame they're also kinda boring because of it.