personally, i love gming this. it is a very flawed scenario, but those flaws give you so much space as a gm.
the first time i read through it was in prep for gencon 2014, and right off the bat i noticed that it is probably the worst written scenario ive ever seen. there is a complete page missing! the motivations of npcs and the players for that matter are left wide open, which leaves it open for me as the gm to fill in those gaps.
i will say if you are not good at coming up with info on the fly, or being creative with npcs, this scenario can come across as dry and jumbled and complete garbage. if you are like me however and you like the freedom to make up silly things for creatures to say and do, this is the scenario for you!
what a great scenario. one of the most memorable villains in pfs, with some cool fights to boot. this scenario could prolly be run cold, but i think to give it life you should prolly read it over a couple times and make sure you understand the villains motivations and the mechanics for the last battle so that things stay interesting for the players.
to start off, don't run this cold. there are plenty of other things that are easy to run cold, and this scenario deserves better. the players will hate it, you will be confused why people are doing things, its just not going to go well.
that being said, properly prepared by a gm that knows how to give the npcs life here, it is prolly the best investigative sandbox scenario in pfs.
i can see some players who like dungeon crawls being disappointed with this scenario, but i feel that the boss fight should have enough payoff for them (what a tough fight!)
sorry guys, but this is actually an entirely different game for the first half. sure you use your "characters" as leaders of armies, but the only relevant stat is your charisma or profession (soldier).
the five star reviews are from people who like the idea of shaking things up. for people that rarely get to role play or play pfs in general, this will be a huuuuge disappointment. even the last two fights are nonsense.
a swarm of tieflings? and then a guy whose tactics are to throw you out a window that will not kill you and 50% of the time does no actual damage to you? how is he a threat? why not just have him try to tickle the team to death? it would be less insulting and at least bring levity to this terribly thought out experiment
this scenario seriously needs to come with a warning in the description saying that it is not using the pathfinder rules for the first three quarters. again, if you are a coordinator and you are thinking of scheduling this for your local, please read through it and let your players know they are signing up to play a different game. and by different game i mean an advertisement for paizo's mass combat rulebook.
so there seems to be wayyyyy too much info in this scenario for the amount of payoff you get. the scenario pretends to be a sand boxy investigation when it is anything but.
it is hard to discuss this without spoilers, sorry bout that.
the first part of the investigation yields no results, and in fact is entirely pointless if you get the note from the noodle lady telling you the plan.
knowing the guys plan before hand, our group decided to try to stop it because it was crazy and actually evil, but obviously the scenario assumes the group is ok with allowing a man to start a riot in a city that is already suffering. the gm tried to accommodate us, but seeing as how the great bulk of the scenario assumes his plan has worked, she finagled him into doing his evil deed anyways.
speaking of his plan, it is to cause a distraction to enable him to leave, but he is a master of stealth and disguise, why not just leave? also he doesn't even know there are going to be people helping him leave, is he just doing this to be evil and cause a riot? he is revealing his true identity without an actual exit plan, so is this a sort of weird suicide? on seeing the agents, he tells them to let him do the plan, and will not just leave with them, which also makes no sense. hes been waiting five years to go, why not just go when the people show up saying "hey we're here to get you"
in order to secure help leaving, every faction sends you to kill the strix, with "evidence" to plant in the form of a weird letter that implies that the cheliax killed them? wouldn't the cheliax be the ones ivestigating it? so they show up and say "oh i guess we killed these dudes, case closed." what bizarre dream logic is used to justify that?
the fight in the whale. i like it. it is what is saving this from 1 star. it is silly.
overall a disappointing scenario, made fun by clever gming and a good group to laugh at the bizarre decisions made by npcs.
personally, i actually remember darkest vengeance fondly. sure it was hard but it was at least interesting. darkest abduction also has some interesting fights, and difficult ones to boot. the fights aren't my problem with this scenario.
my problem with this scenario is that if run properly, the best thing for the group to do is classic murder hobo their way through it. one of the encounters actually penalizes the team worse than any penalty i have ever seen on a sheet if they use diplomacy to get through it.
they lose all prestige and fame for the next scenario that they would normally gain prestige and fame for
honestly i cannot understand the justification for this. personally i think this scenario is the worst product for society play because it only encourages being murder hobos. actual investigation will yield no results and will actually make it harder for the team to get prestige. crazy, just crazy.
the optimal run through you kill everything up to the swamp guy, and then go back to the base to regroup, triggering the last encounters. if you do that, even if you dont save the lady you still get full prestige. because you decided not to do investigative work in an investigative adventure. bad job paizo.