I'll be filling in updates on this as I get the feedback from the players (or I'll ask them to post it themselves).
Yesterday we ran a roughly 8-hour session of the first part of The Moonscar module using a party consisting totally of ACG classes. We had four veteran players and one experienced role-player who has only moderate experience with d20 (and none with Pathfinder specifically).
All characters were generated with a 15-point buy and were 16th level. Average wealth by level of 315,000 was used, with a standard limitation of no more than 50% spent on any one item. HP was calculated using the average (rounded up) for the class's hit die. We tried to stick to RAW as best as possible, and discarded most house rules for the test.
The party consisted of:
- Tiefling Bloodrager
- Human Investigator
- Dwarf Warpriest
- Human Arcanist
- Slayer (can't remember race, will edit later)
They faced the following encounters (spoilers for those who are planning on playing in The Moonscar at some point):
2. Optional encounter on the rim of the Skald's crater versus a group of five magma oozes (CR 11). Another easy one, and I don't believe there were any major injuries here either. The Arcanist took out three of the five on his own using an empowered (Exploit-)intensified freezing sphere, and then took out a fourth using hungry pit. The Warpriest and the Bloodrager, with some minor assistance from the Slayer's bow, took out the fifth.
3. Encounter at the Somal Gate versus four fire giants and a fire giant Cleric (Cleric 4) (Cr 17). The party surprised the giants, who were camped out in the outer chamber of the gate room. The Arcanist used his dimensional slide exploit with a five-foot step (which I've since found should not have worked; a five-foot step is not a move action, and the ability states that it used as part of a move action) and then cast stormbolts, which effectively stunned all five giants. The Bloodrager then proceeded to take one of the regular giants down singlehandedly; the Warpriest took down one as well, then assisted the Slayer in finishing off the giant cleric; the Investigator, the Warpriest, and the Arcanist took out the remaining two. Injuries: Minor (no one actually took more than about 30 points of damage total during the whole session).
At this point, the group rested in the gate room and then proceeded on to the moon.
4. Encounter in the Blighted Orchard at the gate's exit against the Sisters of Vigilance, their mounts, and their summoned demons (3 Succubus Rangers, 3 Shantaks, and 3 summoned Babau demons - total CR 16). The party failed to spot the succubi mounted on their shantaks flying above and so the demons summoned their babaus, who got a surprise round - which was fairly ineffective since they couldn't hit anything, heh. The succubi did some minor damage to the party from above using the +1 shocking composite longbows before they were spotted.
The Bloodrager and Slayer took out two of the summoned babaus without breaking a sweat, and the Warpriest and Investigator took out the last one.
Then the Arcanist proceeded to cast Prismatic Spray, and the fight was basically over.
One succubus failed her save and wound up teleported to another plane (she also succumbed to a flesh to stone effect since he rolled an 8 against her but that was just overkill at that point); her mount failed its check and wound up insane. Another succubus was hit by fire damage but was immune; her mount, however, wound up teleported to another plane as well, and so she fell for a bit (but could fly so she landed safely next round). The last succubus took some acid damage and her mount took a significant amount of electrical damage, but they landed safely.
The Slayer used a class ability to double-charge the succubus who had been hit by fire and did some decent damage to her, but then she used her Dominate Mind on him and succeeded. Before she could do anything with her new mind slave though the Bloodrager absolutely nuked her with a crit (+2 Demon Bane Furious elven curved blade, raging, and enlarged due to his Abyssal bloodline).
The insane shantak wound up attacking and succesfully grappling the remaining succubus, so the party turned its attention to the one remaning shantak, and the Arcanist, Investigator, and Warpriest took it out. While they were busy though, the succubus broke the grapple and successfully teleported back to the Insatiable Queen to report that new worthy slaves were on their way.
Overall, the synergy between the classes was great. The most effective class really appeared to be the Arcanist, but his player (and I agree) stated that except for a couple of the exploits a Wizard or Sorcerer of the same level would have been just as effective, and so we don't think the class is imbalanced at all.
The Bloodrager was being played by the experienced role-player who is new to Pathfinder, and he had a lot of fun with it; the addition of the bloodline abilities really makes the character since it gives him such massive strength (and that nasty enlarge ability).
I didn't feel like any of the classes was particularly overpowered, but then again they did chew through the four encounters with very minimal difficulty. I'm not certain if that was because of the classes or because they were just very clever with their abilities.
Anyway, we will probably get together for another day-long session within the next couple of weeks, and I'll post more then. The players are also supposed to be providing me feedback on the classes themselves, and I'll include it here once I receive it.
For the Orchard encounter the enemies are stated to be patrolling around in the sky above. Given they are out in the open flying about how did the group fail to spot them?
Couple of reasons:
First, the demons had a bit of warning that something may be coming through the gate because the Warpriest decided (rather silly, I know) to throw one of the giant's heads through to see what happened; the demons noticed a random head pop through the gate and were already on watch. Before resting in the outer chamber of the gate ruins, the Arcanist put up a Wall of Stone across the hall leading back to the gate, so although the demons came through to investigate overnight, they couldn't easily get to the party and instead decided to see if the adventurers would come through to the jungle.
Second, even though the gate is in a clearing, it's still in the middle of a jungle. I assumed there was some overhead canopy. Additionally, the description of the encounter states that they are patrolling very high in the sky above. Specifically, it says that they fly to the outer limit of the atmosphere, then swoop back down to check and back out again. So I assumed they would have some cover, both from clouds\fog and from the jungle canopy.
Finally, when I built the shantak in Hero Lab it indicated the creature had unspent skill points; I dropped those into Stealth, then when I rolled the checks the shantaks all rolled exceedingly high.