You know what? Fuck it. Just rename this adventure path to, "Blackdirge's Most Excellent Adventure Path," since he's responsible for the only two adventures that I'd bother to run (counting this one).
I like The Tainted Spiral because its got a simple, strong theme thats consistent and logical. Its short enough to entertain for an entire gaming night, which is a major selling point for me. The most important aspect, however, is that it uses lots and lots of aberrants (but no tentacles :-( ).
Lets talk about the bad. There...isnt a whole lot that I want to complain about with the exception of the last encounter. It weighs in at almost 800 XP, with a level 4 controller and level 3 elite soldier. Yeesh. Mister Soldier has an at will that does a variable effect which can deal ongoing damage, make targets vulnerable to basically anything it does, or even the dreaded daze condition. To make matters worse it has a recharging ability that lets it do this twice per round. Pretty extreme, but the real shitter is its minor-action pulse that slaps on a save ends daze just to put a damper on your day. It can only do this twice throughout the encounter, but thats quite a bit of action control.
All that dazing seems like a bit much considering a level 1 party and a finale at that. If the party does badly on any encounter before this it could easily end as a total-party wipe.
That being said, I'm still going to run this and see how it turns about because despite this concern the rest of the adventure looks bad-ass. For starters, I like the hooks.
- One isnt really a hook so much as a kind of skill check that reveals some info about the nature of the meteor. The downer isnt that it isnt worth shit. I would grant a very small XP award for a successful Dungeoneering/Arcana check for Hook 1 as a kind of "exploration bonus". Nothing major, mebbe like 50 XP or something. Kind of like how you get bonus XP in World of WarCraft when you find new areas. Just a minor nitpick.
- The second hook is worth a variable amount of XP in addition to a permanent discount on items purchased from the quest-herald. I like this because its a reward that isnt flat money, but definitely worth it.
- The last one is a fetch-quest. Go in, bring something back to the NPC. The best part is that you can keep fetching more shit for a smaller return, but its kinda cool. Like treasure parcels of a different color.
This is a similar approach to how I'm running the start of the third Songs of Erui adventure path, where the party has to navigate a jungle. If they fail the challenge, they advance anyway but start combat encounters with a penalty such as ongoing poison damage, or near a lot of dangerous terrain like bloodthorns or whatnot. You could do a similar thing here, where monsters start in more advantageous positions or get a surprise round against the gang. That way you can avoid having them grind skills until they eventually succeed in the unlikely situation that they suck so bad that the adventure enables Easy mode for them.
I dont want to reveal too much, but I'm going to talk a bit about two things that I enjoyed the most the encounters.
First, I like the warp crystals. They fuck with the players and boost the baddies, but they arent just another magic circle. Its a simple-yet-effective reskin of what I've found to be an overused terrain feature.
I was also morbidly pleased with the corpses in T4: you can use them to gain cover as well as a bonus to Athletics checks to stay afloat in the water. Thats just awesome on a disturbing level.
Honestly if you are considering running Chaos Scar I recommend this and Stick in the Mud. Thats really it. Use those two back to back and hopefully by then Aeryn will roll out something for level 2 characters (hint hint).