Looking at this fight, I realize I shouldn’t have let the Nalfeshnee join the party. A few sessions back I mentioned the rocket tag nature of high-level Pathfinder, but that’s not just because of the rules: the published adventures contribute as well, seeing as how they like to give the players powerful allies, and on top of that instruct the GM to have the monsters use ‘sub-optimal’ tactics.
That said, I know many groups would really struggle with this module, largely because they’re not good at optimizing their characters or working as a team. Those parties would need all the help they can get, and might still wipe.
So I guess what we have here is the major downside of Adventure Paths. Yes, they give you a coherent story arc to follow through a whole campaign, but because they’re written for an ‘average’ party, they can easily become too easy or too hard. As GM you really have to look into ways to customize them for your party, but of course many people choose to run APs precisely because they don’t have time to create adventures themselves. It’s a dilemma that appears when running single modules as well, but the fact that APs encompass a whole campaign means you can’t just swap in a harder module if you think things aren’t challenging enough.
None of this is too say that I regret running an AP, or that campaigns structured around stand-alone modules are ‘better’. They’re just different, running this AP has been a great gaming experience, and however it ends it’ll have been a really good choice on my part.
Of course, you may want to ask for my opinion again after the fight with this dragon.