Saturday, January 28, 2017

Header Change - Iron Warriors

I've been building up the Iron Warriors force for about two years now and they are almost finished. At about 3500 points with a full set of choices for Elites, Fast Attack, and Heavy Support, I feel like it's about as solid as I can make it given the state of the current codex. I figured that was worthy of some time at the top of the blog.

It's funny - my original plan was to make them an ally force option for my demon army (to give them some shooting) or my Nurgle marines (in case I got tired of my "no tanks" mandate for that force) but along the way they kind of jumped in front of both of those to become my "main" chaos force. Why? I'd say it's because 1) I didn't really put any restrictions on the force and 2) they're really easy to paint, at least to a decent tabletop standard. That makes a huge difference in getting them to the table.

You'd think Nurgle stuff would be easy to paint and it id to a degree but there are many many versions of a "Nurgle" paint scheme - some people will go old school bright green and purple, some will go more rust or brown and paler green, and other will go with the Death Guard scheme of white and green. It's difficult to keep a consistent look to the army if you add in some already painted pieces because there's so much variety out there.

Iron Warriors have none of that trouble. It's metal all the way - silver, bronze/gold, and some yellow and black hazard stripes here and there. It's a scheme that looks great on the table and one that is easy to match or blend.

Here's a breakdown of where things stand:


  • Chaos Lord on foot in power armor with powerfist and lightning claw
  • Warpsmith with the usual gear, also on foot
  • Demon prince with wings and psyker levels - usually Tzeentch
  • Sorcerer on a bike, usually unmarked
A normal CAD means only two of these guys make it to each fight but I like options. It's hard to fit a 300 point demon prince into a 500 or 750 point game so the warpsmith often shows up there. If I'm not taking my Iron Bikers squad the sorcerer stays home and the Chaos Lord jumps into a Rhino, usually with the plague marines. The plan for the future is that most of the time, at 1500+ the prince and the psyker biker will be leading the army.

  • 3 ten man squads of chaos marines - one with double plasma, one with double flamers, and one with plasma gun and missile launcher. The first two are usually in rhinos.
This is not a terribly efficient setup but I don't play chaos marines to play cultists. The missile squad holds a backfield objective while the other two go get into trouble. 

Fast Attack
  • Heldrake with a baleflamer
  • Five chaos spawn
  • Six chaos bikers
The Heldrake is still a terror against marine types. The spawn are one of my favorite units in the book and have a ton of uses and are fast - something the chaos marines need. 

The bikers are a unit I am still building and I am torn on what weapons to give them. Melta makes a lot of sense for mobile anti-tank but relentless means they could take plasma guns and still charge a unit. They will spend a lot of time Nurgle-marked to increase their lifespan as they are also the bodyguard for the sorcerer. An unmarked sorcerer can take biomancy among other things and he would want to be in melee if he does. It's a difficult choice.

Heavy Support
  • Triple-lascannon Predator
  • Havocs with 4 autocannons
  • TBD
The predator is the old standby for chaos anti-tank. It has a tough time vs. AV14 but anything else is a fairly easy kill. I've toyed with the idea of a second one to fill that last spot but I'm not sure I want to go that heavy on these.

The havocs are another chaos standard. Nobody else can field good autocannons this easily so I feel like I have to take them. They're also just so damned useful, reliably putting five to six S7 hits on anything within 48 inches. They threaten bikes, most vehicles, monstrous creatures, and most infantry.  They're worth taking in every battle.

The third slot is really my most up-in-the-air position in the army. Could go with a 2nd predator - more strong anti-tank is a good thing. I could grab a three-man obliterator squad as they are tough and versatile but two of them cost as much as the predator! My main inclination so far has been "Maulerfiend" - it's fast, tough enough, and another form of anti-tank too. In the full army if it's running upfield alongside 3 rhinos. the spawn, and a biker squad then that's a lot of fast targets for an enemy to deal with. I'm leaning towards it but I haven't picked one up just yet.

  • Five Plague Marines with double plasma, usually in a rhino
  • Eight Berserkers
  • Helbrute with a plasma cannon and a power fist
This section is due for some changes. 

The plague marines have done really well for me but I do want to limit the amount of marked troops in the army as that's never been the Iron Warriors main thing. If I take either of the two foot-mounted HQ's they usually ride in the Rhino with these guys. It makes for a pretty nasty little squad. 

The Helbrute, well, I just like the model, it seems fitting for an IW force, and it's one of the few ways to get a plasma cannon on the table in a chaos marine army and that's a weapon I just find useful. Sure, occasionally it overheats and hurts the dread or the blast deviates into your own guys but quite a bit of the time it removes heavily armored infantry from the table. 

The berserkers are there in case I want heavy melee but I rarely take them and no longer think they really fit the army. They will probably transfer to the Khorne Daemonkin force that's taking shape on another shelf in the room. 

Replacing the berserkers will likely be a unit of chosen. You can get 4 or 5 special weapons into a chosen squad and I am coming around on the idea of going full melta with these guys. I'll probably put them in a rhino so I'm either going to need one more or somebody else is going to lose their ride. They're vets (so 2 attacks base) and they keep their pistols and chainswords so they can stand up in melee as well. I think 5 or 6 of them plus their champion, plus a warpsmith would make a nasty nasty package up close. 

I'm also looking at some terminators. They're not the strongest unit  anymore but I have quite a few old metal chaos termies sitting around and they could do the drop-melta termicide thing (when I can;t afford the mayhem pack) or switch to backfield/anti-drop-pod work with a reaper cannon and a bunch of powerfists.

It's good to have options.

This force started out as an allied detachment, then quickly grew into a full combined arms detachment and is now straining the seams of that a little bit. I already had a ground-pounding force of mostly plague marines. I wanted something different.

My biggest concern was speed - much of the current version of the game requires decent mobility for seizing objectives and reacting to enemy movement. Rhinos are an OK start, but I wanted more. The bikers, the Heldrake, and the spawn are all aimed at that same goal: something that is both fast and a serious threat to enemy units. With the force I have now all of the HQs, all of my troops, most of my elites, and all of my fast attack are able to cover 12" or more in that very first movement phase, leaving only the havocs and the helbrute and maybe a tac squad in the backfield. It's still a little short on anti-vehicle firepower though, in my opinion. Marine armies have the sternguard in a drop pod, the multi-melta dreadnought in a drop pod, multimelta speeders, and multimelta attack bikes that can all threaten even the heaviest of tanks on Turn 1 and I wanted something like that. There's nothing that good in the CSM codex, but there is one dataslate: Enter the Mayhem Pack

Mayhem Pack
  • Three Helbrutes each with a Mutlimelta, a Heavy Flamer, and a powerfist
The dataslate special rule is that they all get It Will Not Die (nice) and this:

Mayhem from the Maelstrom: 
All of the units in this Formation must begin the game in Reserve. When making Reserve Rolls, make a single roll for the entire Formation. On a successful Reserves Roll, all of the units in this formation arrive from Reserve by Deep Strike.

Yes! Deep striking chaos dreadnoughts! With those weapons they can threaten every unit in the game, and they can drop in anywhere on the table! It's just the type of unit a chaos force should have.

Now admittedly the last time I used them one immobilized himself in some woods, one was out of range of anything and then was blown up before he could do anything but the third actually got to hurt some people. It's roughly 350 points to build them out like this but they are a ton of fun and can really change up the game. 

So that's the force as of now. I'll finish up the bikes this week, figure out what I'm doing with my elites, and maybe get in a game next weekend. More to come!

Friday, January 27, 2017

40K Friday: Blood Angels Holiday Battle 2: 1000 points, "Contact Lost"

No pictures of this one, really, because it didn't last that long! I reshuffled the army significantly and it looked like this:

  • Captain (with the tac squad below)
  • Sanguinary Priest with a jump pack so he could run with the assault squad
  • Furioso Dread in a drop pod
  • 5-man scout squad set for assault
  • 9-man tac squad in a drop pod
  • 5-man Assault Squad featuring Veteran Sergeant Nameless from the first battle
  • 3-man Bike Squad (2 grav guns and a combi-grav - see, I'm learning)
  • 5-man Devastator Squad with 4 missile launchers 
Starting out I did not accomplish enough on turn 1 and he proceeded to wipe out my devastator squad, my scout squad, and my tac squad and the captain. That meant that 20 out of the 30 figures I had in the force were gone by the end of Turn 2. I was not in a great position, had done very little damage to his force, comparatively, and it was already 3-0 in victory points.

I called it at the end of Turn 2.

Things I did learn though, even with a short, lopsided defeat:
  • Captains are not that useful. Other HQ's add Feel No Pain or Psychic ability to your force, but the captain is just a melee boost. He added very little to my force yet took up an HQ slot and cost at least as many points as the other choices. Despite having a nicely painted Captain and options for more, he will not be seeing much table time.
  • Grav guns on bikes are every bit as good as the internet says they are. 103 points to put 2 + a combi on a fast, relentless platform is a strength for this army.
  • Despite being a codex army in most ways I am not convinced that Devastator Squads are something the BA's really need. Sitting back and shooting is not really what this army is about. I'm still going to build some for the force for the long term but right now I feel like that 130 points is better spent elsewhere. 
  • Furioso's in a pod are just too much fun: DROP! Stomp Stomp Stomp! BLAM! BLAM! WHOOSH! That's more than most units can take. If they do, well AV13 is pretty tough and he's more than ready for a scrap if you want one.
  • This is where I started to realize that the Baal Strike Force is the One True Way for the BA's for me right now. 
    • First up making all of your marines S5 I5 on the charge is the key to beating other marine units. Now the wolves mostly having two CC weapons and having counter-charge dulled this a bit but I was still going first and that matters a lot. It's a reason to downgrade power fists and axes and go for more swords to make sure you take some opponents down before they get to swing. 
    • Secondly from a force org point of view the Elite choices are where the real core of this army lives. Dreads, Death Company, Sanguinary Guard, Sternguard - having that fourth choice from Elites makes a big difference. It also means that to afford them you are probably going to need to go light on Troops choices. 
So while it was one of my less effective games in a quite a while, it heavily colored my take on how to play these guys - and that's why we were playing these games.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

40K Thursday: This Year's New Army

In between all of the other army work I've been doing - and 40K has been a huge focus for me this last month - I got to talking to Blaster about what else we want to do this year. We usually try to build or acquire some new terrain too. We've done hills, trees, and snow terrain in the past. our biggest lack right now is ruins or more sci-fi specific terrain like storage tanks, factory parts, etc. That may become a goal for the year - build a set of terrain for a "ruined city" or "ruined factory" table.

Besides that talk though he mentioned he had thought an Imperial Guard tank army would be fun and I agreed. That's something we could build together and use with our imperial armies as an allied force. We will start with a few and maybe add a piece each month - a tank, a flyer, something like that. By the end of the year we should have a good-sized tank force. I'm not worried about tournament play here, just another army option to have around the house.

The current IG codex, or "Astra Militarum" codex has a Tank Commander as an HQ option. He's an upgrade to a Leman Russ (any type) and has to have at least one other tank attached to him forming a 2-3 tank squadron.  Right now we're probably looking at a Vanquisher for the commander, and an Exterminator as his sidekick. He has orders he can issue (with a decent roll) to let them fire at separate targets so the squadron limitations shouldn't be much of a problem.

For an allied detachment you need one troop choice, and for a full CAD you need two. We're going with the always-popular Veteran squads to answer this need. That gives us some troops on the ground but keeps it at a minimum. We will probably go with plasma guns, maybe melta, for them. We're still discussing transport options but for now they will be on foot for a few games at least. I'd like to get them some Chimeras and even moreso some Valkyries, but that will have to come later.

 That gets us the minimum requirements to field the group: Two tanks, one infantry squad. We won't stop there of course.

For HQ's that don't take up a slot I have my old Rogue Trader Adeptus Mechanics and his three servitors. They've been in a box for decades and now they finally have a reason to hit the table for a real fight. Gotta keep those tanks alive!

I also have a pair of RT psykers in all of their late-80's painted glory and I will be taking them too. This will probably be their first action since ... 2nd edition? Yowch.

I have some commissars of a similar vintage too. I'd say there's a good chance they join in as well - why not? Two vet squads each with a commissar and a psyker are notably more dangerous than basic infantry alone.

Our other immediate acquisition is a pair of standard Leman Russ tanks. It is a tank army after all. There's our heavy support choice.

For Fast Attack our first choice is a Hellhound but it will be a while for that one. We both want some more Leman Russ hulls before we pick the flamer tank up. Valkyries will probably come first here too.

Elites are trickier as we might go with some cheap ratling snipers. We've also talked about some ogryn to guard the rear but those are pretty low on the priority list.

That's enough to get us started. once we have some of this put together I will share pictures. Expect regualr updates on this one through the year.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Fantasy Non-Option

Weirdly, the decision to go with Deadlands as the main game has me thinking about what kind of fantasy game I would want to run the next time it comes up. In between chapters of the main Reloaded book and The Flood I am flipping through a few others and making some notes. I'm mainly concerned with getting the new game pointed in the right direction but these other things are still leaking in.

My campaign notes and binders for 4E still feel like something I need to revisit. There is still a lot to explore there. One of these days we will. I don't think I need to make a bunch of new stuff, it's more that I'd like to "finish" what we started in them. As much as a relatively open campaign can be finished.

For 5E I do have some ideas, many of them revolving around playing through some of the older classic adventures that some of my players, mainly the Apprentices, have never experienced. It might be a way to finish out the Temple of Elemental Evil campaign outside of the 4E version I had worked up. The main open question here is setting - homebrew? In that case old or new? Greyhawk? It's been a long time. Forgotten Realms? I used it exclusively for 4E, don't know that I need to go there again for 5E but my players know it and seem to like it. I'd like to do something again with the Scarred Lands but I'm not sure 5th is the best fit for it. This one is still "TBD" for now.

Dungeon Crawl Classics - It's its own thing. If we keep playing it I plan to make it a world of its own. I'm having fun with the published adventures and I am pretty sure I can string those together into the beginnings of a campaign setting of my own. Maybe a variation of the whole Dragonport thing I used for my Basic games. The plan forward here is to finish our intro adventure, run through a level 1 adventure, and see what people want to do next.

This brings us to Runequest. Runequest of all things! I've never run it. I've never been a Glorantha-phile. I played it for a while 20 years ago and thought it was fun but it's never been in demand with my group of players. That RQ 2 Kickstarter material though has stirred up some things. I could run it, and I think I could make it quite a bit of fun. I've always thought of Glorantha as having more pre-existing lore than I would enjoy tangling with but the early books, this 2E stuff, is much more "here are some cool things" than the commandment-level scripture style that it comes across as in later stuff. I'm not afraid to bend lore in game worlds to better fit what I want to do with the game and this version of the stuff seems much more bendable.

For RQ I have two main ideas:

  • Glorantha - my take on Glorantha. I have one player who played in that same long-ago game that I did and remembers enough of the setting that he could help the other players get familiar with things. I'd probably use Pavis/Big Rubble as the focus of the game. No metaplot, just RQ characters exploring a big ruined city.  I kind of have a thing for those, with Return to the Ruins of Adventure being the biggest example. I think trying it in this world with these mechanics would be a blast. Plus it's authentically retro, not a modern attempt to do a throwback, and that makes it that much cooler. 
  • Mythic Greece - RQ supports magic everywhere, weird mythic beasts, and a generally lower level of tech than most D&D games nowadays. Why not take that somewhere besides Glorantha? Why not the age of the Greek myths? Gods, monsters, heroes, wars, cults - all of that fits really well here. Adapt some of the Goranthan cults and the rune stuff to the Olympian age and see where it goes. I had a campaign outline worked up for a 4E game that never went that far and it could be adapted here. I have some adventure ideas too. I think it's a solid fit between system and genre. the trick is convincing the players that it's a good idea. It's also a chance to run RQ without the Glorantha cultural baggage that sometimes bogs the players down. 
So there are a lot of options for the "someday" fantasy game. I'll keep making some notes and doodling some maps and then one day there will be a need and off we will go. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Picking a New Campaign

So with the old campaign shelved we needed a new game. I told my crew I was fine with fantasy but I probably did not want to start another Pathfinder campaign right away. We have a lot of options for swords and spells besides that game so let's use them. Discussion points:

  • I had gone back and looked through my notes for the nine 4E campaigns I had written up and realized there were a ton of ideas there. It's been almost three years now since the end of my last 4E game (fizzle ...) and it has come up in discussions several times. I ran at least 70 sessions of 4E spread across three different campaigns and I still have ideas I'd like to explore. So 4th was on the table.
  • I also looked over 5E and saw some possibilities. Not with the published stuff which seems to keep disappointing people but with some homebrew + conversions of some old adventures I think I could make a pretty memorable game. I've only played it once. I feel like we do need to try it out for an extended period at some point. Why not now?
  • Runequest came up too but I'm not sure we want to run that as the "main" game. I've been thinking of it as a drop-in candidate for when the stars are right and 3-4 of us can get together without planning it 3 months in advance. I want to date it, not marry it.
  • Savage Worlds also jumped in. I brought up 50 Fathoms as I think it would be a perfect mix of long term plot with plenty of sandbox room and still fantasy with swords and wizards and giant apes and stuff. This sparked a turn in the conversation that "maybe we don't need to a fantasy game at all." Rifts came up but I'd like to play a more "normal" game of Savage Worlds for a while before we go that nuts. I dropped in Flash Gordon, I mean Slipstream, and there was some interest and then somebody mentioned Deadlands. Well ... I do have a lot of material for it, going back to first edition and continuing up through the latest (fourth!) plot point campaign book they Kickstarted last year. Theoretically I could run 5 different campaigns simultaneously and never have the party members cross over each other! We talked about Hell on Earth briefly but Blaster already likes the Weird West, Versatile Dave was up for it, Paladin Steve says he never gets to play a cowboy, and ... that kind of settled things.  
I was in a bit of shock. I still am. I've owned Deadlands for about 20 years and never run more than one-shots and occasional episodic campaigns. We haven't had Savage Worlds as our main game for a few years and it's never lasted more than about ten sessions at a time. I'm still in shock but very happy to be in this place. 

So we made characters, started weaving them together, and ran through a short adventure. There was a lot of rust to shake off, particularly for my players, but it started to come back fairly easily to me and I felt fairly "at home" with it by the end. 

As far as setting details I'm leaning towards using The Flood as our home base, mainly because I like the Maze as a region - lots of ghost rock, Santa Anna eyeballing things, ironclads ... those are all good things. Plus it brings the whole Kung Fu thing in too and that's only going to make it better, right? Each of the campaign books focuses on a particular area of the west and this region has called to me since I first read the original Deadlands book. 

The plan is to make this the main game for 2017 and see how we like it at the end. That has me debating how much I want to use the plot elements in this book versus how much I just want to sandbox it and let the PC's get into trouble without a plot at all. Figuring that we have 11-12 sessions a plot could make things a little more coherent but having a plot also means that the players are not always going to be doing what they want to do. I need to read through it again and figure out how much I want to do with it, if anything. 

I have to admit it's very strange to not have a D&D type game to run on the schedule. Regardless, with this and a superhero game as the regularly scheduled campaigns, it's going to be a very different year this year! All aboard!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Something New for Monday: The End of the Wrath of the Righteous Campaign

So Saturday was supposed to be the 2017 kickoff and re-launch of the Pathfinder campaign, Wrath of the Righteous. I was thinking this new once-a-month plan would help keep things on track. I've spent the last week reviewing my notes and re-reading the remaining books in the adventure path. By Friday I was ... not excited about starting things back up. I thought about it a lot. Saturday morning I was trying to make some notes to prepare for that night's session and ... I just couldn't. I am burned out on the whole thing. After spending a lot of time Saturday morning pondering this state of affairs I can break it down to roughly 5 things:

  • Priority - We have really spun our wheels on this campaign. Sessions have become increasingly infrequent, dropping into the single digits in 2015 and 2016. Everyone says they like it but it's just not coming together regularly. It does not seem to be the priority for everyone that it started out as. 
  • Rules - I like Pathfinder but 10th-level PF core + Mythic + Mass Combat + Downtime is a ton of crunch. Playing infrequently and playing multiple characters means combat slows to a crawl and it's typically an hour, minimum, for any fight, even one that just lasts a few rounds. Some monster stat blocks are half of a full page long - later ones are a full page! The drawn-out combats are one of the reasons we set 4E aside. Now I have the same problem with a different set of rules. There are other sub-systems at play too, like item creation. Book #4 has a sub-system for gaining the attention of a demon lord in order to get an audience with her - it's not a skill challenge, it's not a specific adventure, it's a set of tasks to generate a number of points that indicates you have achieved sufficient notoriety to get a moment of her time. It's the last thing this campaign needed.
  • Remaining adventures - the latter half of the AP is increasingly distant from traditional D&D. 
    • Most of it happens on other planes  - the Abyss - and involves a ton of weird demonic monsters that you're not going to find looking through old monster manuals. I'd expect some weirdness, but it's some pretty exotic stuff and some of the stat blocks get to be ridiculously long. It's tough as a DM to figure out how to run these more complex creatures effectively when they have this many details to juggle, especially considering most of them are only going to be around for one fight.
    • It's very heavily plotted with dependencies on meeting/impressing/defeating specific NPC's to advance the storyline.  At one point the assumption is that the party will negotiate a deal with one demon lord in order to take down another demon lord. I know my players and one of them in particular is not going to just go along with that - especially not as a lawful good paladin! This is supposed to be the bigtime demon-bashing campaign made specifically for lawful good duty-bound paladin and cleric types and yet for some reason they felt the need to include a plot point like this  that is going to be a non-starter for hardcore holy avenger types. There's also a sub plot about a demon turning to good which may be interesting for some people but my crew is "demon = evil" and should be destroyed. They're not usually looking to talk with a demon because that's not why they're there: they are stopping an invasion, not negotiating. 
    • The DM advice at the front of the modules says that XP is going to be difficult to track so you should just level the party up at appropriate times. This is a tremendous failure in my eyes. "Balanced encounters" are a central concept to the game. The XP and level system is tied to that concept. Many pages in many books are spent on it and many discussions online revolve around getting this right. To recommend throwing it out and winging it partway through an AP means either your system doesn't work or that you're not trying hard enough to make it work. It's disappointing.
  • Time  - We've been playing this AP since 2013. I've been looking at these same adventure books for over 3 years. I've been looking at the same notes, the same NPC's, the same maps, for over 3 years and honestly I'm tired of doing that. There are six books in the AP and we're now averaging a year per book. I don't want to be running this same campaign in 2019!
  • Approach - I realized I am tired of running not just someone else's setting - I like Golarion and a lot of my games are set in published campaign worlds - but I am tired of running an entire campaign designed by someone else. It is full of NPCs pushed into way too prominent roles, monsters I don't care that much about, background information the players will never discover, and way too many assumptions about how the plot must proceed - assumptions my players are not likely to automatically jump to. 
Now there are some very cool things in this AP, which is why I wanted to run it in the first place. You will rescue helpless civilians, liberate a city, forge a bastion of good in a hostile land, journey to the Abyss, have the opportunity to slay multiple dragons, major demons, and demon lords, and pretty much ascend to demi-godhood yourselves along the way! 

The problem is that is just so much work to get there!

So I decided to tell my players after they arrived. I had no particular game I wanted to play, I just knew I did not want to keep playing this one. So after we all gathered around the table I talked through a lot of the points above.

They didn't scorch me. They completely understood. I admit it's a little weird to be burned out on a game you only ran 5 times last year but that's the best way to describe it. I haven;t deliberately ended 

I've talked about zero-prep campaigns here a fair amount and they do have some good points. Without Combat Manager I wouldn't have gotten as far as I did. Even with it though there's still a lot of overhead during the game. Honestly, I was spoiled by 4E's monster statblocks and how easy they were to run. I also think if you want to run demigod level characters that's a much better system for it than Pathfinder. I have evolved my thinking on this whole concept a bit: 
  • A pre-made adventure is a handy thing as they tend to be a chunk of something you can fit in to a campaign. 
  • A pre-made campaign is a mixed blessing, probably too much of a good thing. I'm running someone else's plot and characters and setting for years, potentially, and that's likely to exceed my own threshold for pre-made stuff. 
If nothing else this has helped me figure out the limits of my tolerance for longer packaged campaigns and what I do and don't like about them and that's good to know. Part of why I run games is to exercise my own creative impulses and having everything done for me removes that part of the fun. Taking one of the old AD&D adventures and fitting it into a new setting can be a creative challenge and a lot of fun, plus it's still my framework. This AP got to where it felt like I was running someone else's script and not doing a lot of the things I enjoy. So we're going to fix that - with a new game.

DM Notes:
If I was revamping the whole thing ...
  • Skip Mythic. It is really cool, but it adds a ton of overhead to both leveling up, and to actions in play. I think the optional hero point system gives you plenty of flexibility, especially when you consider the inherent powers of a fully kitted out high level Pathfiner character anyway. It's also a ton of work for the DM to manage Mythic monsters and that whole extra layer of capabilities for a creature that will typically be making one appearance only.
  • Fewer NPCs. My players are capable of talking to each other in-character. They are capable of motivating each other. For a very long time my philosophy has been that the "important" NPC's develop in play, whether it's the High King of Men or the local blacksmith that the fighter deals with after every adventure. I do not like being presented with the "lynchpin NPC" who drives the plot forward - the PC's should be doing that.
  • A different kind of Redemption: One of the main themes of the PA is "redemption" - there are various sub plots involving some NPC's in the party, a fallen paladin, a succubus, and more. I don't mind some of this but making the reformation of a demon - the supernatural personification of chaotic evil in the game! - such a major point is problematic. I would rather have seen more emphasis on saving mortal souls than those of evil outsiders who, largely being made up of deceased mortals, presumably had their chance and chose their side.
  • Additional Theme: Good is not monolithic. I would have loved to have seen more disagreement between the leaders of "good" and suggestions of alternate approaches on how to tackle the scenarios in the campaign. This would give a source of conflict within the campaign - besides the obvious one - AND it would have opened things up more to let the party have some choice in their actions. The plot of the reformed succubus is a great example as there is no mention of what other people think when the party shows up with a rescued/captured demon girl. How about those other NPC's you've been toting around for months? How about that band of 100 paladins that's the cornerstone of your army?! I can picture a great scene happening in the city square - "You brought a what back to our camp? A demon of seduction? To a camp full of men on campaign? This seemed like a good idea to you?" - that kind of thing. I could probably work it in but there's nothing along those lines in the adventure and in fact it assumes that she's a helpful and trustworthy source of information on the Abyss for the rest of the campaign!
  • Less Abyss - it's an unpleasant place. It imposes negative modifiers. It should be the target of a commando raid, not an extended visit in my opinion, yet a whole bunch of books 4 & 5 and some of 6 all take place here. Book 2 & 3 together are all about capturing, garrisoning, and rebuilding the city of Drezen in the Worldwound, then exploring the area around it. It's a really interesting part of the campaign  with mass combat, hex crawling, and dungeon bashing all mixed together. It's very old school D&D in a lot of ways. Then we leave the city and do very little with it for the next 2 books. It comes up again somewhat in Book 6 but it just doesn't flow together very well. This may be where having different authors for every volume of an AP shows.
The concept is cool and there are a lot of memorable parts, but the way it is stitched together is just not working for me any more.