|Paizo Pathfinder® Paizo Games|
|About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ|
Did you look at the booster packs, not just the collection? There's quite a lot of them, and a wide variety. Probably if you take the time to use their figure finder for "human clothes" (adding gender, etc.) you will find other minis that also fit, but you have to probably take the time to do it yourself.
Also, if you have more specific needs than "people in clothes," perhaps you should describe what those are if you want people to be able to help you effectively.
Or buy some greenstuff and convert what you need yourself.
To clarify something earlier, I don't mind if the text itself is descriptive (provides color and detail) and of course it needs to prioritize the GM needs to know and needs to share with the players... I just don't personally need it in the format of "you see X as you enter the room." I think the issue is I'd rather the text "speak" to me as the GM and not alternate between "speaking to the PCs" (I want complete control of that) and providing GM only detail. I think the constant perspective/POV shift is where I get lost (and MY brain farts).
I also grok that other people need that "you" POV to keep them on track.
If only all our brains farted in the same way!
Wait a minute...
Dale McCoy Jr wrote:
Cool. While I like in theory listing all the checks separately (that someone else suggested upthread) I think that does add wordiness and space-taking issues. As bold text is used for other purposes, another color (or perhaps font--e.g., gothic if the running text is roman--if you're publishing in B&W only) is the easiest option I could think of.
Glad you and other 3PPs are thinking of this, and maybe that's the best/most obvious place such experimentation can take place.
It's okay, Dale, I can live with different GMs having different needs than myself. You've got to determine what works for the majority of your audience.
I don't buy a lot of modules anyway (though I buy more than I used to) so you're not trying to sell to me. (Of course I might buy more modules if they were formatted differently, but if the cost is losing other regular custom then it's not worth it.) Still you asked for feedback and that's what I've got.
Dale McCoy Jr wrote:
We (we being JBE) talked about it and came up with a modified adventure design format. Check it out at JonBrazer.com and please tell us what you think.
I like the order of information given(e.g., creatures, traps, room desc.), especially creatures being listed first (we can skip it easily if the creatures left). But personally I do not like that the sample puts things in "read aloud text" with a lot of wordy (space consuming) fluff I don't need. As GM, I don't want to be told what to say, I want to be told what is there, and for the developer to trust me to determine what to describe or not myself---especially if I've tweaked the adventure or my players have taking things off the rail--I just want to know what is there. If I want to read purple prose, I'll buy a novel, that's what they're for.
It also does not follow the for-good-reason standard that you don't describe monster actions, as you can't always presume what they do, again based on player actions (if the players saw spiderwebs at the edge of the cavern and just threw a fireball in there pre-emptively, the spiders don't "turn to look at you" because they are already dead. (But you DO need to know spiders are in there to see if the fireball killed them.)
Using your sample, I'd want something like this:
I'd like all the skill checks in another color rather than bolded. This of course only is what I'd like and can't speak for everyone. This isn't necessarily the best either (not to say it isn't good or better) and for sandbox adventures a different, looser format might be better. Adventures are often more sophisticated than they used to be and a one-size-fits all approach may (note I said may) not be ideal.
Battlefield is pretty simple but simple can be good -- it allows for a LOT of possibility and creativity. It could be an urban (bridge just outside of town) or wilderness adventure. It could be in a number of climates. You have your widest number of options to choose from as far as who or what you're encountering or why.
Pub crawl narrows most of your options to "this is an urban encounter of some kind." There's still a lot of possibility in there, as urban encounters can be nicely varied, and you could decide if the encounter was in one of the pubs or in the streets, time of day, etc. but your scope of what happens here and why is much more limited compared to "wilderness possibly near civilization bu maybe not." Your encounter will more likely be with humanoid NPCs, or maybe undead, or some other urban specific monsters, but if you're thinking "dragon fight" or what have you, this probably doesn't work. Someone who works well within restriction, or who was already thinking "urban encounter," was probably attracted to this one the most. But if they weren't, then it wasn't probably even considered as an option.
Dungeon is dangerous--dungeon has been DONE. It is the thing "and dragons" that is the daddy of this game system, and some of us have seen dungeon after dungeon after dungeon and all the encounters a dungeon could hold. You have to be sure you have an idea no one's seen before or a take or twist that makes an old idea new again. It doesn't make it impossible but it makes it a particular kind of challenge.
You're also limited here in WHAT to encounter--although the game is rife with underground dwelling creatures, if you don't want to work with those (and we also had an awful lot of "underground" last season) then this is not going to be your first choice.
James Jacobs wrote:
The best bet might be to tinker on things that aren't for public release—sort of an R&D type environment. But that's not something we at Paizo currently have the time or resources to pull off at this point.
And that's fair enough. I just hope Paizo is taking notes when the formatting is getting IN THE WAY of helping a GM run an adventure, because that means the formatting doing the opposite of what it's intended to do.
As I noted above, I deeply understand and value importance of standardized formatting, and know it's better to have it than not.
At the same time I have seen circumstances where the standard formatting was "forced" on a (normally unusual in nature) module/adventure and it made running the adventure overcomplicated and frustrating, which is not what you want your adventure/module designs to be. These things are supposed to save GMs time, and if they fail at that fundamental purpose, something is wrong.
While this isn't the main point of the thread, I wouldn't assume all of your audience finds adventures/modules fun to read. . Personally, I have always found them difficult to follow, and can't think of a time I have ever had "fun" reading through one in the 25+ years I've been gaming -- over time I've figured out how they work and valued them for all that they provide, so I can and do make use of them. I have had fun of course running the module once I made sense of it, but simply reading them, worthwhile experience though it may be, has never merely entertaining. (Thinking HOW to organize one's thoughts to fit the formatting when constructing, say, even a single encounter is also a huge challenge for me -- and is probably a major factor as to why my title above ends at "top 8." :) ) I know a lot of folks who certainly DO find reading adventures actually fun, but stating that "reading these is fun" as universal fact is inaccurate and even possibly detrimental.
If you're presuming all your readers find it "fun" and/or are veteran gamers used to this format--and thus solely designing for that section of your audience--you may be alienating newer players unused to both the formatting and what a module is trying to accomplish (deeply structured adventures are common in fantasy RPGs but not always used or even encouraged in other RPG systems). Of course you can't please everyone, and I am NOT advocating for a "let's make this fun for DeathQuaker personally" mentality (I am well aware what is "fun" for me is very definitely not for everyone). But remembering your--very, very wide with mixed experiences--audience is important.
Again I understand trying to change things would be hard and that Paizo doesn't have the resources for that right now, but I hope the company remains open to opportunities for trying alternatives as they may occur. Thanks.
I think there's a semantic problem here as regards to the meaning of "workshopping." I think different people have a different sense of what it means.
I think most agree having some folks look over your submission before you submit it is a good idea. Gathering feedback and technical corrections is good ("this needs some oomph"; "you spelled this wrong"; "I don't think this monster you reference exists."). My sense from Frank's post and elsewhere is that's what he and others are trying to talk about.
"Workshopping" CAN indeed however mean deeper input---writing or design by committee, which is where I think Neil is concerned. If someone starts feeding specific suggestions like, "This should be able to fart rainbows and shoot lightning out of its eyes," and you add that to your entry, and then even perhaps advance because people liked "your" rainbow-farting ability so much, you essentially advanced due to someone else's creativity than your own. When stuff like that happens, we aren't seeing what YOU, as a designer, by yourself, are capable of, and that can cause problems down the line, both in terms of legality as well as relying on an individual to provide quality work (amid a myriad of other issues, if you lost touch with rainbow-fart guy and no longer have him to get ideas from, and can't do the same on your own, you can't deliver what others have come to expect from you).
From my POV, the take-home is that giving specific feedback is good, but you need to give feedback on WHAT IS THERE, not what you would make of it (because it's not your entry).
Development of course can be and usually is collaborative, but this is still a contest that assesses an individual's skill---just as in this industry, assessing individual skill is still crucial to determine what any given person may contribute TO a team.
IIRC, it's actually officially standard practice to NOT include creatures (or actions of said creatures) in read-aloud text, believe it or not. Which adds to those ridiculous GM moments of, "Here is an immaculately maintained parlor with floral print curtains blocking out the light from the window, a lamp with an exquisite stained glass lampshade sitting on a mahogany end table, and a red velvet sofa. ... Oh, and the Tarrasque. The Tarrasque is there too. I guess it's sitting on the sofa."
I guess the reason is if something happens in the adventure that would make the creatures disappear, they don't want the GM to have to alter the text on the fly. Say, for example, the room is a barracks; in some circumstances, it could have guards in it. But if the PCs trigger an alarm elsewhere in the area, those guards would leave the barracks to investigate the alarm. Presuming the PCs dispatch the guards, they would then enter an empty room, so read aloud text including the guards in the description would then be inaccurate.
I actually don't like read aloud text. I often find stuff in the read aloud text not to be important (or worded in a way I wouldn't word things) while stuff I DO want to share with the PCs is elsewhere in the description. I'd rather just have a BRIEF description of the room followed by observable threats followed by threats the GM knows about but the PCs don't, a list of checks they need to make upon entry (and I mean need to, like saving throws due to a hazard or Perception checks, not Spellcraft checks to ID an aura), and let me determine what to share in what order.
Isaac Volynskiy wrote:
I saw a post where Owen said he wasn't sure if he was going to keep it or not, but I haven't seen that it is a sure thing one way or another if they are going to keep or lose it.
I personally agree it's a good idea--after all, it's not like you're going to email your design to the cartographer with no explanation whatsoever. Superstar is supposed to, to some extent, simulate the challenges of freelancing, and a map with no explanation I don't think happens in real freelance design.
Glord Funkelhand wrote:
Just FWIW... the first part of Skull and Shackles has about 30 active NPCs in it, which I use a spreadsheet I had to make myself to track. You can't sort them by "area" because the "area" the PCs and NPCs occupy is the whole ship they are crewing. They're not exploring a dungeon where they enter a room, then move on to the next, then the next. They're trapped on a large ship where they and the NPCs move between each area more or less freely. The adventure as written describes the entire ship in one section (but in a place where it bisects the adventure narrative for about 10 pages) and then describes MOST of the NPCs right after the ship description... except for one described later for and the three more at the end of the book, because the way APs are written is they are "supposed" to have NPC spotlights at the end of the adventure. All of the NPCs, in spite of being described in different sections of the book, are all on the ship and can encounter/befriend/attack the PCs (or other NPCs) together at any time. And that's the problem. The solution would be to have all 30-odd NPCs described in one place (which I had to do myself in prep--but the point of pre-written adventures is to save the GM prep time, not add to it). My overall complaint is to not stick to the "standard format" when it obfuscates, rather than clarifies, adventure progress.
I agree a list of the books used in the front of the adventure would be really helpful. You can at least keep those sections of the PRD open ahead of time in your laptop.
I totally agree with the OP in the spirit of what he's saying. I find APs and modules often very hard to read and make sense of... especially when an adventure is NOT a typical "dungeon crawl" where it's "you enter a room and this happens and then you enter a room and this happens."
At the same time, I get why how listing certain explicit GM notes explicitly ends up getting cumbersome on a design and publication level. I think it would take a lot of work and experimentation to find a way to improve things.... but I'm willing to endure, as a customer, the experimentation.
Part of the problem I think is adhering to the "adventure format" when it sometimes, simply doesn't work for the adventure (or for a particular encounter at least).
I am running the Skull and Shackles AP. I love the idea of the adventure and much of its story, but the organization of the first book is driving me NUTS. The way the book is written is downright NONSENSICAL and unintuitive for how to run this ship adventure, and it's because it's an atypical adventure that's getting shoehorned into the "established adventure format." Examples:
- The game's action starts on Page 8, but by page 9 the prose digresses at length going more into meta-information for the GM regarding how to get the PCs' equipment and the like (and yet further similar meta-information doesn't show up until page 23 or so).
- Then it goes back into the first day of in-game adventure for a most of page 10, including assigning the PCs to jobs that aren't detailed until PAGE 23. Page 11 starts meta-describing in detail, every single part of the ship the PCs are on as well as all of the NPCs, and doesn't get BACK to the adventure narrative until page 26.
- Most NPCs are described pages 16-22... except for the one described on page 27 AND the other three described pages 52-56. Two NPCs show up together frequently, but one of them is on page 21 and the other on page 54, which is a big f~#%-you to me if I want to quickly references both characters' stats when they show up in the same scene. One character has DIFFERENT sets of details provided on him on page 21 and then on page 52-3, so if I fail to quickly check both, I may screw up his interactions with the PCs.
- A substance given to the PCs is described on page 26 but the statistics for what the substance does is on page 67, in an easily-missed sidebar.
All of this stuff is designed this way because they were trying to shove a square sandbox into a round dungeon crawl hole. Because they said, "Oh, but we have to have the special NPCs fleshed out in the back of the book because that's how they do it" they threw the NPCs all over the place. If ALL the NPCs were in the back of the book, even if some are little microstatblocks and others are fully fleshed out, that would be fine--that's only one section rather than several that I have to bookmark. But because no, because we put microstatblocks HERE and fight statblocks THERE and detailed NPCs OVER THERE, I get to develop a migraine from excessive book flipping.
I understand the very very crucial importance of having a standardized way of formatting -- having done freelance editing for Paizo, no less, I am usually more than happy to point out deviations in that formatting -- because it creates consistency that is supposed to help people have an EASIER time of finding things.
However, if sticking to the format in a particular circumstance makes it HARDER to find things, then it is not serving its purpose. Then the readers get punished for the sake of a tradition that is not serving the audience the way it is supposed to.
Being certain that the way things are structured are serving the desired purpose is crucial. If not, then it's time to look at something different.
The hard part is that takes time... and trying things that may not work well along the way.
Having sucked at the encounter round last season, I will offer this as "learn from Rep's mistakes!" advice:
If you find an element isn't working or tripping you up, don't be afraid to scrap whole parts of the encounter or even just entirely go back to the drawing board. The time crunch in this contest is obnoxiously grueling and stressmaking unlike anything else I have ever experienced (including work I've done in journalism and publications) and I totally understand the desire not to start over when the deadline is flying toward you like a cannonball. BUT... I know last year the trap twist threw me---a trap just didn't work for the encounter I was mainly working with, and rather than pick one of my other encounter concepts from my pre-round brainstorming, I stubbornly tried to shoehorn something in to what I was working on. The shoehorning showed. In spades. The whole thing lacked tightness that should have been there.
Flexibility is probably one of the most important skills you can develop.
It's a lovely dungeon map; I love the layout and it's aesthetically very pleasing. I agree with the other posters that it doesn't quite have the sewer look I think you were going for, but it would be awesome as something like a thieves' lair in a river-trade town or something. You obviously have a good sense of space, so it's time to work on a sense of story. Your map can't merely look good, it has to tell a story, give GMs ideas. It also has to have some internal logic, and show some research--look up what some actual sewers look like, for example, before drawing a sewer lair. Think from the wererats' perspective as to what kind of space they would live in and what features it would have (CC3 has loads of "debris" images so you weren't lacking for decorative options by sticking to that program).
I can't comment on it as I would for round 2, because you don't have it labeled, legended, or your 50 word text to support it. The important thing to remember for round 2 is the point is to design a location for an encounter from a designer's point of view, not just merely to make the prettiest map. This isn't a cartography contest, it's a game design contest, and folks who confuse the two in Round 2 seldom advance. Every single entry in this contest boils down to "what story do you tell in this?" even if it's just an item, monster, or map. You can have artistic skill out the wazoo, but if you can't tell a story with your image, then you're not a Superstar.
From your various posts around here, your pride in your mapping work is clear. And I can see from your deviantart page, you indeed display talent. I urge you, only because I hope you can be successful in the area that you're passionate about, to consider why you'd enter Superstar... versus, say, a mapping competition held by Profantasy. Make sure you're pursuing the avenues that get you where you want to go. If your focus is on cartography, Superstar probably isn't the thing for you.
If you DO think Superstar is the thing for you, then my advice would be don't practice mapping -- obviously, you've got that bit down. You need to practice all the OTHER things that get someone through this contest, from item design through to monsters, encounters, and of course the pitch. I think especially encounter design would be a good thing for you to focus on. Once you've refined a sense of what makes a good encounter, you can map a location for it that will knock people's socks off.
The other VERY CRUCIAL THING if you enter Superstar is DO NOT POST YOUR ENTRY PUBLICLY ANYWHERE. "Public" includes anywhere on the Internet. As Garrick correctly noted, you posted your entry publicly to DeviantArt, and both because you posted it publicly elsewhere AND, making matters worse, prior to when Round 2 began, you would have been disqualified even if you had made it into Round 2. Also, talking about it in DeviantArt counts as "discussing your entry." Superstar contestants cannot talk, discuss, or post about their entries ANYWHERE, not just avoiding the Paizo boards.
Also, perhaps you are not aware, but anything you submit as an entry to Superstar becomes Paizo's intellectual property. If you had gotten into Superstar, entered this map into the contest, and THEN published it on DeviantArt, Paizo would have the right to ask (or even force) you to remove your map on DeviantArt as it would own the rights to it.
My final advice based on the above is to read the rules carefully as your actions suggest you did not do so. Failing to fully read the rules is only going to get you in danger of disqualification, no matter how awesome an entry you have.
Good luck with your mapping and I hope you find an appropriate venue to submit your work.
Good luck, top 8, and congrats!
Some unsolicited and probably entirely unnecessary advice, but just in case---do make sure you hit that "preview" button before submitting on this one. I noticed last season, the higher the word count, the greater divergence between Word's word count feature and the submission tool's.
Walter, congrats on getting into the top 16!
What I like: While "protector of the forest" is a common theme, I love your twisted take on it, especially with the background flavor of being a holy creature corrupted by Lamashtu. This could be a truly terrifying thing the PCs encounter.
What I struggle with: I wish you extrapolated upon its current relationship with animals--it has a lot of animal-control abilities, but does it hunt and mutilate them as well, or in a mockery of its original shepherd role does it collect hunting packs to help it fight? I kind of hope the latter, but wish you had clarified that.
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? Nope! And it's a native outsider which I love and suits both your theme perfectly and is very usable in Golarion.
Final Thoughts: Fun, nasty, creepy monster that is challenging but not broken.
Hi, william, congrats on getting into the top 16!
What I like: It's a BEAR THAT'S ON FIRE. Hard to go wrong with that. Moreover, it's Smokey the Bear's vengeful cousin who's taken wildfires especially personally.
Also, it's just a well designed creature. Mechanics are on point with good flavor text to back it up. I love the howl of hungry flames ability, that helps it stand out.
What I struggle with: While its abilities are GOOD, if I need a fire monster, there is not a LOT of reason to choose this one over other fire monsters that already exist in the game. That said, your flavor text helps provide some ideas.
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? Nope! It's a magical beast and a very well designed one. There are a lot of fire monsters already in the game though.
Final Thoughts: It's a fun, solid design. Good luck!
Congrats on getting into the top 16, Jeffrey!
What I like: It's a well-designed, mechanically sound creature appropriate for its CR, and the potentially complex bind corpse ability is clearly explained and fleshed out (pun intended?). This ability is also cool, and while there are other creatures that do weird/awful things with dead bodies, I've not seen an ability quite like this--although ironically, it is very loosely thematically similar to another monster in this contest's (the guillowed steal head ability). Still, it's essentially a shapeshifting monster with a very unique and ooky way of changing shape.
What I struggle with: The theme works, especially for an undead, but the abilities don't all come together to feed the theme as well as they should. The consume spell ability comes out of nowhere and seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the monster.
Horrid destruction is also just nasty for nastiness's sake and I would probably never use this monster in one of my games--even to the point of replacing it with another creature if it showed up in a module or AP--simply because I don't like doing that kind of stuff to my PCs (it's hard enough in my games to get raised anyway, but I'm not going to block it like that). Harder core GMs than I may love it. I also agree with another poster that it should not apply to reincarnate.
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? Yep, and unfortunately, if I need an undead, there are many, many, many already established ones I would prefer to use before turning this one.
Final Thoughts: I am just not excited about this, personally, but I can tell you have an excellent grasp of design and mechanics and wish you well in this contest and any other design endeavors you take on.
Robert, congrats on getting into the top 16!
What I like: I was worried AT FIRST, because the name and a quick glance at the abilities made me think, "Oh, some broken anti-spell-caster schtick." But reading along, you DON'T fall into that trap, nor even repeat the abilities of loosely thematically similar creatures such as disenchanters. The abilities are actually really quite balanced and do not actually gimp any one character type, but simply force other tactics. I LOVE that ordinary weapons bypass its damage reduction, and would (perversely) love watching PCs puzzle over what on earth could penetrate its hide (or thinking that it is a special material because they use a nonmagical cold iron or adamantine weapon and find that it is effective). The Mana Wastes lore fits right in with the creature.
What I struggle with: Not much, at least at a glance -- I kind of wish it had a little more zip, somewhere, and I want the read-aloud text to hint a little more at its nature than just "weird cat thing" (of which there are many in RPG monsterdom). I'm not sure why treasure is incidental, perhaps it would collect magic items in hopes of absorbing their magic eventually (even if they cannot directly do something to them).
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? No! Hallelujah for your taking the opportunity when being asked to make ANY monster suitable for Golarion to think outside the box a bit.
Final Thoughts: While I don't have that ooooooh I need to use this right away thrill that I get from some other monsters, this is very solidly designed. Well done.
Congrats on getting into the top 16, Mark!
What I like: The FLAVOR and THEME here are in spades; although it's fascinating to me we've seen a few undead here who form as victims of neglect. Still, this creature is a very suitable urban-themed undead, and I especially like the naturally ignored ability, that is both mechanically useful and builds upon your theme quite well. Your descriptive text is fantastic and provides multiple seeds for adventure alone, especially with the attic whisperers.
What I struggle with: It's interesting that a creature built on themes of isolation has sneak attack, an ability most easily gotten off regularly through flanking, and thus requiring teamwork. Although you allow for tatterghouls working together (and with attic whisperers), this feature weakens its potential as a solitary encounter, where it's unlikely to be able to use this extra damage after an initial surprise attack. If it had better ambush capabilities (although freeze definitely applies) and/or feats oriented toward aiding solo-sneak attack (feint feats). I feel like the sneak attack was more of a way to give it some combat bulk and I wonder if there were other, more effective ways of doing that.
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? Yes. As such this is a creature I would only use if it was very suitable to the story; otherwise there are more combat-terrifying undead that already exist I'd rather rely upon.
Final Thoughts: Beyond being a solid designer, you're a really good writer, Mark. I'm not all that excited by yet another undead alone, but I enjoyed reading your entry for the creativity you still expressed through your design; your writing "voice" comes through loud and clear and that's a good thing.
Congrats on getting into the top 16!
What I like: Tossing shards of negative energy is cool, and gives this undead a niche that makes it give me a reason why I might use this creature over other undead. In fact, off the top of my head I can't think of a lot of undead that have a ranged attack, and that makes for a useful PC antagonist. I like the Ebon Altar idea, as well as the theme of it being a marshal for other undead, something that could have been built upon even more.
What I struggle with: The flavor is not coming together for me personally. I'm failing to make the leap of logic from "was a righteous priest in life" to "monster that throws shards of darkness." I DO see the difference from a huecuva, which are the restless spirits of heretical priests, but I don't see HOW or WHY these creatures form the way they do. Are the priests' corpses purposely desecrated to make these undead, or do they form for some other reason? Tying it to a lost soul killed in the shadows, or some other darkness/negative energy related theme, would make more sense. The descriptive text in general feels piecemeal and actually in my opinion undermines a strong creature concept rather than helps pull it together.
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? Yes. Its ranged attack is why I'd use it over other undead, but that's about it.
Final Thoughts: You've got a very strong sense of design and excellent grasp of mechanics. The theme falls apart for me however. I still hope your excellent design skills take you far.
Hi Taylor, congrats on getting into the top 16!
What I like: This plays on a common bit of folklore--the headless undead--and plays with it in ways we haven't seen in Pathfinder yet. The Steal Head ability provides opportunity for story--it can start in a game as a villain masquerading as one of its victims--and is creepy and cool.
What I struggle with: It relies upon outright killing a PC in a very specific way to use its best and coolest ability. Yes, all monsters are potential PC killers of course, but I balk at a creature whose schtick is essentially to coup de grace a PC under a very specific set of circumstances in order to fully manifest its nastiness. It's also a low enough CR that if a PC did get decapitated by the monster, they would struggle to find a way to raise that PC. Perfect for a Gygaxian style PC-murderfest, but personally not my cup of GMing -- or adventure designing -- tea.
The guillotine idea is cool but a bit clunky in its description. I'd just say that if it manages to pin its target for a full round, the target is decapitated at the end as a force effect, with the image of the guillotine doing it largely as flavor.
I might even move away from the specific guillotine flavor, as they could also be victims of a headsman's axe, etc.
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? Yes.
Final Thoughts: It's a cool scary undead, but not something I would want to personally make use of (or even see show up in a module) in most circumstances. The exception is if I was running a game in post-Revolutionary France. :)
Congrats on getting into the top 16, Isaac!
What I like: It's an OOZE that is INTERESTING. Accomplishing that alone is a challenge. I also like "hazard monsters" -- things that aren't necessarily outright vicious or menacing, but their presence can nonetheless cause trouble for PCs depending on when and where they show up--especially as moral PCs may struggle with how to contend with a creature that is draining their resources by their nature but not actively causing harm. These creatures could also be used to the advantage of PCs, and I can see creative PCs capturing and using tranquility oozes to halt evil barbarian charges, etc. Your background suggests their use in monasteries but I can see other origins and uses for them as well. I'd love to see a paracletus have one for a pet, except that it is higher CR than the paracletus. ;)
The abilities work well together and are tightly thematic.
What I struggle with: There's some mechanical issues others have pointed out, and some awkward phrasing, such as the first clause of center of emotions. Unlike another monster I just looked over where the numbers were too high, your ability saving throw DCs are a little too low -- should be 18 rather than 16. While the target numbers for a monster of a given CR are suggestions and not hard rules, the creature's special abilities are the focus of the monster so they need to be on par with other creatures of its CR.
Minor niggle: treasure should probably be "incidental" since it engulfs creatures and, as with many oozes, might contain some random stuff from the creatures they engulf.
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? No! And an ooze, no less--not often seen, and this one is really unique.
Final Thoughts: I love this creature. You need to work a bit more on mechanical and writing polish, but you excel at establishing and working within a theme.
John, congrats on getting into the top 16!
What I like: If you asked me before I read this, I could swear there was already a grimalkin-type monster in Pathfinder just because it's so obvious there SHOULD be. But yet, there isn't, and so you found a classic mythical creature concept to build upon, tying in equally classic ideas like breath stealing.
What I struggle with: Stat-ifying a real world myth into a monster has the downside that you have to not just fill that niche, but still make it stand out as a monster exemplary of your particular unique vision and creativity. This is a solid build but for lack of better description, it just doesn't POP. There's not a lot here that makes me want to choose this, say, as a nemesis or challenge in an adventure. I want a little more motivation for the creature--there's a seed there in terms of avenging cruelty to animals, but it doesn't quite get there.
The lethargy ability could have been simplified as a touch attack that fatigues the target. As written, your "curse" seems to go away on its own in 24 hours, which I don't think curses normally do.
Your ability saving throw DCs are quite high for a CR 8 monster.
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? Yes. Fey is a more than sensible choice for the idea of course, although based on its concept it could have also been a magical beast or evil outsider.
Final Thoughts: If this concept were tightened and a little lower CR, it would be an awesome Improved Familiar for an evil witch (also befitting its inspirational source material). A lot of potential here, just missing a little pizzazz. Good luck.
Congrats on getting into the top 16, Nick!
What I like: I love the idea of an empathetic undead, who wants to rescue others from a similar fate. Its concept is strengthened by the fact that most people know or know of someone who died due to the failure of caretakers, whether intentional or accidental, which is always a grievously tragic situation. So many undead (so... many...) predicate themselves solely on vengeance or soul devouring or making spawn or what have you, and you've managed to take one of the most overused creature types in the game and provided it with a very underused, storied, and just cool theme.
I questioned at first the divine failure ability -- an undead that blocks channel energy could be an unbalancing win-button, but you did a really good job balancing the ability. It's interesting that a creature that may have been spawned due to lack of divine healing can prevent others from receiving the same--this perhaps clashes a little with its desire to ultimately heal others, but on the other hand also suits its tragic and contradictory nature.
What I struggle with: If the unliving empathy curse is delivered by touch, that should be listed as a touch attack, I think.
I am not sure why an undead creature (immune to mind-affecting abilities) would have magic circle against good. The spell has other benefits besides defense from influence, but it seems like another protective effect or spell would be more appropriate.
While your read-aloud descriptor is evocative, I'm not clear on why this creature would cry "rivulets of blood." Weeping fits with its theme, but I'd prefer a visual that hints more to its nature--perhaps wrapped in dirty spectral bandages or looking gaunt and undernourished or something else that indicates medical neglect.
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? Yes. And undead are the ones I'm MOST sick of. There's too many, and too many that are too alike. (No such thing! the naysayers cry. But still.) So you actually earn bonus points because this is a creature I like and would use.
Final Thoughts: This is a unique, storied monster that is tightly designed. Even with mild room for improvement, flavor and mechanics both are very strong.
Hi Crystal, congrats on getting into the top 16!
What I like: This is a great gloom/horror creature with a lot of flavor, without pulling on shock or gore tactics, or hard-to-incorporate mechanics. You provide strong visuals and a clear, unique theme that makes these creatures as heartbreaking as they are potentially frightening. I can even see these creatures being non combatant but story-focused NPCs who challenge the PCs in other ways. At first I was wondering if this would make a better monstrous humanoid, but your flavor text ties the fey concept nicely. And your flavor-text in general is excellently written; I'm glad you didn't skimp on it. My favorite ability is the sorrowful gaze and wish that was fleshed out more.
What I struggle with: There's just a lot of LITTLE things that makes this not quite come together for me. The separate shadow ability is unclear and probably could have been removed entirely and, while a cool idea, other mechanics tightened up in its place. Some of the SLAs could just be made quickened. I wonder if sorrowful gaze and maybe some of the other effects should be specified as mind-affecting despair effects.
I cannot find an item called a shawl of life-stealing in the PRD, although it's possible the search engine is failing me. There is a shawl of life-keeping, and if that's what you meant, you should have double checked that item name. And as it is, I am not sure I would have used this -- one of your monster's signature "abilities" is really a wondrous item effect, one that can be gained by those who kill the sorrow stitcher, so that weakens its uniqueness.
You really could have used a good proofreader--there's a lot of little errors that could have been easily picked up by a second pair of eyes, e.g., misspelling of "descendant"; missing punctuation; feats are not alphabetized. Likewise, there are phrases you could have deleted to make that word count more comfortable -- for example, under the curse, you could say "they lose and cannot benefit from any morale bonuses," without specifying from what source (since it's all bonuses, that's implied and you don't need to waste word count on it). It's important at this phase to be sure you get at least one person to get feedback from before submission. While most of the errors are minor, combined they make the entry lack polish and show that as a designer, you do not pay much attention to detail.
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? Yes, it's yet another fey. It's a cool concept though, and not a fey idea I'd expect.
Final Thoughts: I think you have a phenomenal sense of STORY and atmosphere, and this shows in spades in your monster concept. The devil is in the details, and here is where you fall short. Still whether here or elsewhere, I hope we see more work from you.
Garrick, congrats on getting into the top 16!
What I like: There are myths of creatures turning people into animals to hunt them down, but there are few reflections of this in the Bestiaries, so you're filling a good niche here. The image of the vicious, barbaric fey hunter also works well, and I LOVE the "snap trap" ability. This provides a lot of cool encounter potential, as we have not only the monster itself to deal with, but the hazards it creates.
It is interesting (a love-nor-hate feature) that your key ability, touch of the wild, is dependent upon its use of the bow, since it explicitly states the monster's arrows deal this effect. This means that a valemask forced into melee, disarmed/sundered, or out of ammunition loses its key advantage. This is either a useful planned weakness or an unintentional chink in its metaphorical armor.
What I struggle with: I love the idea of the touch of the wild, but the execution is both wordy and problematic; beyond the restricted-to-bow question above, I wonder if some afflicted creatures (a PC) might find an advantage in being polymorphed in this way, even if the valemask can deal more damage to it. If it was more typical to animal-shaping banes (a la baleful polymorph) where the afflicted creature loses its mind (or has a chance of doing so) this would be more effective. And/or, perhaps it should be changed into one TYPE of animal only (e.g., mythology would call for a stag as the classic example).
I wonder why this fey doesn't have DR/cold iron. While fey don't HAVE to have this feature, most do, and a classic foresty-type creature as this seems to be, it would be thematically appropriate and fine for its CR.
Given your theme, why is its Survival skill so low? I know fey don't typically have Survival as a class skill, but for this creature I would find a way to make this an exception or at least give it a notable racial bonus (the favored enemy bonus still results in a fairly low result for such a creature).
I think I'd like to see a simplified touch of the wild ("as baleful polymorph, but... ) and more space devoted to flavor text and, building on wild snap trap, ways this creature manipulates its environment to its advantage. The net seems extraneous--I'd get rid of it (save that word count) and rejigger its feats for bow, spear, and boosting other abilities.
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? Yup. But it's a great idea for a fey at least.
Final Thoughts: You have a phenomenal concept. Just simply needs more polish.
Brian, congrats on getting into the top 16!
What I like: The visual image of a fungal canine. This would be fun to describe in an encounter, and useful in a number of scenarios. It's got a good CR and good abilities for that CR (which is harder to accomplish than one might first think).
What I struggle with: Even the text itself notes it: this is less a unique creature than a cross between a number of existing creatures. It's basically an evil, fungal blink dog. I am not sure WHY plant scientists from outer space made these--how do these creatures serve the mi-go?
The special abilities, while technically new, are largely re-workings of similar monster abilities (create spawn, phase spider phasing, etc.). I'm also a little tired of plant monsters that spread by "colonizing" living victims (and the mi-go themselves don't do this and thus wouldn't create a creature that had to spawn in this way). It's been done, and I don't like using such monsters as a GM as it's not a heroic death for a PC (I'm too nice a GM, I know).
Some mechanics are off: the monster does not need Improved Grapple -- the "grab" ability alone is Improved Grapple for monsters, as it does not provoke and gives it a +4 bonus to grapple (which you didn't include in your math--you only included the Improved Grapple bonus). As one of the judges noted, a monster that DOES have such a feat still needs to meet the prereqs. I'm not sure why it has or needs a climb speed.
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? No! Hooray. I just wish as plants go you were a little more daring with some truly new abilities to go along with the unique visual you provided.
Final Thoughts: You have a good sense of balanced design and a clean writing style; you just need to be willing to go for more oomph and refine your grasp of monster mechanics.
I don't have the unofficial patch (the only mod I'm running at the moment is SkyUI and a really minor one that makes the Stones of Barenziah show up as quest markers), so it is the Thief Stone that rules it. (Actually, I think it makes sense to have Archery be a thief skill anyway. Certainly made leveling my thief character easier.) I'll probably install it though at some point, I'm just lazy about looking up mods.
Good luck, captain yesterday.
Jason, congrats on getting into the top 16! Trying to comment this time while voting rather than after...
What I like: This is FUN. It's freaky and weird, but we need that especially for aquatic encounters which often are more toward the dour, gloomy, and ickily horrific... all well and good, but sometimes you just need a sword fighting mollusc. I didn't realize you needed one till reading your monster, but you do. (And I hope in fact to perhaps gank this for use in a Skull and Shackles campaign I'm running). The descriptive text immediately evokes a very specific image (and while it does describe an action, which these flavor-texts aren't supposed to do, I'm okay, as it is merely "brandishing" the sword rather than attacking with it--I expect such a creature would be reflexive and might brandish its sword at any sort of notable movement nearby. Mechanics are tight and appropriately particular to this monster.
What I struggle with: It's an ambush monster, which on one hand can be very fun to place in encounters, but on the other hand is hard to get creative with how, why, and where they show up. So it's rather "limited use." Of course, some monsters just have to be. Little nitpick--presuming it doesn't magically grow +1 scimitars on its tongue, its treasure line should read "double (+1 scimitar plus other treasure)".
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? No! Yay! And I love magical beasts in particular, and this is definitely appropriate example of this creature type.
Final Thoughts: Well done monster with good formatting and showing a lot of creative thought and a sense of fun from this designer.
Charlie, congrats on getting into the top 16! Trying to comment this time while voting rather than after...
What I like: Congrats on a dragon concept I've not seen before, with fairly unique qualities (distracting aura, swarming wounds) in spite of the sources of inspiration (swarms, dragons) being fairly common in the game already. I can strongly picture this monster and can think of ways I could use it as a GM or writer. I like that it's NOT an undead dragon, just looks like it is, though would love some more-than-vague-speculation origins.
What I struggle with: I struggle with the name for pedantic game mechanics reasons: "wyrm" mechanically indicates a really old "true" dragon of a particular level of skill (and this monster is obviously not a "wyrm" in that sense), and "swarm" of course mechanically indicates a different kind of monster. I get why you might not have wanted to call it, say, a "Swarm Dragon" or "Carrion Dragon" -- as "X dragon" type dragons are usually designed according to age category and have things like spells. I take it this creature is more like a wyvern or drake or linnorm and doesn't get age category entries (all the more reason NOT to have the word "wyrm" in the title).
I'd like to cut about half of your first paragraph and put those words to more specific descriptive, background use.
Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? Yes. But it at least is a dragon with an unusual breath weapon I've never really imagined before and fills a niche that another existing dragon could not.
Final Thoughts: Nice, tight design job that shows creativity and an ability to describe potentially complex monster abilities cleanly (a greater challenge than one realizes).
Skyrim Rampage Cap'n Yesterday wrote:
Bearing in mind I am nowhere near a power player for Elder Scrolls, I'm also a character with a lot of Archery and magic focus, although my character is more focused on being a thief at the moment. I'm playing largely Vanilla (just SkyUI and some other minor tweak mods)... here's some advice for your current character, if you decide to stick with him/her:
- First, do another questline for a little while. I haven't done it in this playthrough yet, but I recall some of the later quests in the Mage Guild quest are tough, and 17th level is fairly "low" for that.
- Level up more--if carefully--which means use skills. For your archer/mage: the spells you want to be good at, cast them over and over (even if you don't need to); activate the Mage Stone near Helgen to help those go higher. I find archery does not seem to level as quickly as some other skills (even with the appropriate Stone, the Thief stone, activated) but again, use it use it use it. Find places where there are low level creatures you can shoot lots of (like the animals that run around everywhere) and zap spells at. Some skills do seem to boost faster than others, like enchanting, smithing, and sneak, but be aware of course it's not helpful to boost those skills massively if you're not planning to use them. If you keep leveling due to improving your sneak, but you want to buy Archery perks, but you haven't leveled Archery enough to do that, it's not going to help. (That said, Sneak and Archery do combine well because sneak attacks with the bow deal x3 damage.) I find wandering around fighting bandits (who are EVERYWHERE) a great way to level.
If you do want to be good at Smithing, indulge in Hearthfire if you have that DLC. Crafting all those nails and stuff for your house building can raise that very effectively.
- Find better gear. Daedric Prince quests are usually fairly short and often net you some cool stuff. Go through As someone else said, the Thieves' Guild and Assassins' Guild quests also net you some good gear --- but depend upon your playing a thief/assassin sneaky type, of course. I am playing an archer-thief and the Thieves' Guild quests have helped me level a lot as well, but again, that's if you want to play that kind of character. Thieves Guild quest ends with you getting a good bow as well. If you have the DLC, the Dawnguard quest line also nets you a good bow.
- Archer-mage isn't a BAD combo, but the challenge is good protection. The character I'm playing is rather glass cannonny as it is because I'm not good at focused builds myself. You don't want heavy armor because you want speed. You can't cast and shoot at the same time (unlike, say, a sword-mage who can swing with one hand and cast with the other). So--learning from my own mistakes--you may either want to really focus on clothing+Alteration spells for protection, or buy up light armor perks to max out your protection.
General build advice, presuming Vanilla:
I chose dark elf because I felt like it, but turns out that's a great choice for the thief/mage/archer I'm playing, because they start with good sneak, illusion, destruction, and light armor.
Khajiit and Bosmer are also great archers as well as thieves, but are poorer mages.
I would go Breton or High Elf for mage build; the high elf's improved magicka regeneration is especially helpful here.
For sheer melee butt-whupping, I would do one-handed-weapon+shield (as shield maneuvers build Block effectively) with an orc (heavy armor) or Nord (light armor). Redguard's also good. Orc would be my first choice for their berserker rage ability on top of good skills. I would in that case do the Riverwood and Whiterun quests and join the Companions -- of course being able to become a werewolf can also amp up the melee skill as well. :) I'd go and take the civil war quests for that kind of character as well, as lots of opportunity to run around and attack things and build up weapon and armor skills.
I am slowly trying to comment on these, even as we move forward, in an effort to put forward the favor given me by those who commented constructively on my entries last season. Apologies for taking my own sweet time. :)
Congratulations on getting into the top 32, and for making this beautifully artistic contender for the map round.
What's great about your map is obvious: it looks like a nearly finished piece, is very beautiful, with a lot of fancy digital brushwork and nicely contrasting colors. The eye is drawn easily to what obviously is supposed to be the focal point: the ancient well. You create a fantastic sense of mystery here and I could certainly use this location as part of a story.
If this was an art contest, or something like Profantasy's map contests, I could see you placing high, easily.
Unfortunately what we're looking for here is an encounter location--and this is where the concept is lacking. Absolutely there is some potential here--a roadside encounter is always great, and you have some varied terrains that helps (in addition to the well, something coming out of the woods, and the camp itself could all be sources of a variety of encounters). The sense of abandonment also, while atmospheric, reduces "encounter potential" -- the only immediate encounter obviously possible is the discovery that the camp itself is abandoned, with some development there. Otherwise I feel like the encounter already happened and I missed it, and any other further development would not happen at THIS location, but elsewhere (such as going into the well). You have a lot of empty space here as well--for example, the forest is just a blob of color on top, when it could have been used to add some extra detail for more encounter potential.
Your map, while again lovely in many ways, also lacks in important information -- while you note the "slope up" is difficult terrain, you do not outline clearly where this difficult terrain starts and ends. I could infer it's where some of the dark lines are, but it's your job to indicate clearly where the mechanical elements start and stop. The job of the professional cartographer--not you--is to make that into something aesthetically pleasing. You needed to focus more on the mechanical nitty gritty and game detail. As nice as the map is, I can see the cartographer still having a lot of questions about the details and terrain before he could turn it into a final product. And visually, there's a lot of dark lines and overdone shadows which, while adding ambiance to the area, obscure important detail, game-wise.
Your 50 words doesn't add much, unfortunately, and you have a lot of "empty words" that you could have employed better. We don't need to know "it is autumn" (and try not to start a lead sentence with vague "it is" as it is narratively weak) because that IS something your map conveys without your needing to tell us. "Somewhere in Avistan" -- akin to saying "Somewhere in Asia" -- is too vague to be helpful. If you didn't want to place it in a too-specific location, I would have just omitted that. The tools and carts can also be indicated on the map or left off. "The camp is abandoned" is enough given what precious word space you have. You could have then spent more wordage on why, for example, the well is an attraction and what might happen there.
This is still a lovely map, with a cool story behind it. I'm sorry you didn't make it and I hope we'll see you again next year.
I am slowly trying to comment on these, even as we move forward, in an effort to put forward the favor given me by those who commented constructively on my entries last season. Apologies for taking my own sweet time. :)
Congratulations for getting into the top 16 with this fantastically detailed dungeon map.
I really like how much you have squeezed into this space--even still allowing room for a legend, and it's maps like these that make me especially wish the contest rules specified that the legend/key go OUTSIDE the required 24x30" map, because I'm sure with the full battlemap space provided you could have added even more. That said there's more than enough here, and a "story" of the incursion and corruption of this dwarven area is apparent with very little explanatory text needed. Others have more than illuminated what makes this work so I'm not going to go too much further. I like that this represents a very specific place and event and yet the area could still also, in part or whole, also be repurposed for other underground encounters.
This map--clean and understandable--is also a great representation of the fact that you do not need advanced mastery of graphic design to make a readable digital map--your use of pre-created shapes, lines, and colors are put expertly to reflect a well-engineered area that a pro cartographer could easily turn into a very special final piece of artwork. My only tiny niggle is it is not clear to me whether the "floors covered in flesh and chains" is covered in corpse bodies or the floors have transformed into something fleshy (ew! but great for a creepy dungeon).
I would have preferred something more narrative or mechanical (is the fleshy chain floor difficult terrain?) than a legend in your 50 words but of course a legend certainly helps illuminate what is going on here. I think I would have rather just seen room labels on the map, however, but I understand why you may have preferred not to clutter your map with that.
Great map, and good luck on the monster round!
Taylor Hubler wrote:
<obscure old anime warning>
And now I'm imagining the Superstars going down in Mikage's Confessional Elevator, waiting for the Black Rose to be plunged into their hearts.
</obscure old anime warning>
I am (slowly) trying to post comments on maps; I recall last season I appreciated constructive feedback so I am trying to return the favor forward.
Congrats on making it into the top 16 with your awesome dragon "spa"!
This is an excellent example of "common adventure location turned unique." We have a lot of need for dragon lairs in adventuring, but all too often, regardless of dragon type, they become your typical caves, with giant hoard-cave in the middle. This really gets us out of that "comfort/cliche" zone and, as you note, this area could also be used for a number of other kinds of monster encounters as well. You've accomplished the difficult task of creating something that is specific enough to have a story to it, while still being variable enough to be reusable.
You also do an impressive job of breaking out of "grid-mode" -- the habit many of us (myself included) have of trying to make even natural features conveniently fit the square grid, with too many straight lines and right angles that probably shouldn't exist outside of certain structures. Your geographical shapes and lines feel very natural, and I'm guessing you did a lot of drafts to figure out placement.
This is a place I'd ask, "but why are the adventurers HERE?" and your 50 word text answers that question; it aalso succinctly provides some basic background and important atmospheric details.
I do feel like some of the coloration is, well, muddy and I wonder if clarity would be improved if your inked lines were thicker and colors contrasted a bit more. Likewise, I wish the text had a white outline or glow to help it stand out from the darkish background. That said, your map is very well laid out, with a useful legend, and it is clear where everything starts and stops. A cartographer could easily generate a final map from this with few questions.
Congratulations again and good luck today!
Oh why not? I am just answering the OP's inquiry and have not read other replies, and like the OP, am not here to engage with them.
And I'll give a quick answer to the OP first: if you are not sure, try it. Run an all-caster campaign and see what happens.
DISCLAIMER: I can only speak from my personal experience, with my particular gaming groups that I've played with or PBPed with. I will not speak from theory (where often ideal circumstances or high levels are presumed, when ideal circumstances and high levels seldom occur in gameplay); I will speak from practical experience with parties that most typically start at 1st level and go up to about 7-9th before the campaign ends, playing in adventures that are either Pathfinder modules and APs or built in similar ways. I have also run a high level party and can speak to that.
Things to bear in mind: I've played in a variety of groups, but most groups I've played with do not presume 15 minute adventure day and feature fairly well-rounded parties. Most people I play with are not uber-optimizers but tend to create effective-to-powerful builds.
I have also actually played in an all-arcane caster party and will also speak to that. Likewise I have also played in martial-heavy parties and that experience also informs me.
First, my general observation: The main difference between a caster and a non-caster (whether martial, skill monkey, or something else) lies in resource management. The challenge of playing a caster is that your resources are somewhat finite; while you always have at least endless 0-level spells as a last resort, but if you're playing in what I'd consider a typical Pathfinder adventure (akin to what might be presented in a module, AP, or by a creative GM), you're not going to be able to stop and rest every two minutes. Prepared casters struggle to make sure the "right" spells are prepared---a wizard can technically know every spell, but if he prepared unseen servant and charm person that day and it turns out he would have been better off with magic missile and shield, then it doesn't matter what's actually in his spellbook (and likewise, if he's in an urban-intrigue campaign where the PCs are infiltrating and gathering information, and he prepared magic missile, he'll be kicking himself he didn't prepare charm person instead). Spont casters likewise have to be very careful with choosing known spells. You have to constantly figure out when and where is best to cast a given spell, and hope you have something that speaks to a certain situation. An enchanter will dominate in a fight with humanoids, but without a versatile enough spell list, will have nothing to contribute in a fight against undead. Clerics who prepared spells to defeat evil fiends may regret it when they are attacked by an inevitable. And so on. A clever caster player knows how to manage resources carefully. One who doesn't may find they have little to practically contribute; yeah, it's awesome you can create that demiplane, but if you can't do anything to affect the golem that's crushing us to death right now, what are you good for?
This is not to say that a good game forces casters to death-march for days without resting, but a typical, well-run adventure day where people are not stopping to rest after every fight (because if they do that, the dragon is going to have time to eat the princess), a caster has to manage their limited resources carefully.
What martials do are much simpler---they don't have the potential field of options a caster has---but they don't run out of the core of what they do---although pool-based characters like gunslingers, swashbucklers, barbarians, and monks do have some limitations in that regard. With few exceptions, they don't have to worry about how they set themselves up that morning to be effective that day. Still, the strategy in working with a combat focused character is more in initial build than in, say, choosing daily abilities and hoping they picked right. Their positional builds are different.
Players are human beings, and human beings come in a wide variety of preferences, skills, and talents. Therefore some players work better with strategies focused on casters and others work better with strategies focused on martials, and a good party will accommodate both (and other) play styles.
In short, one answer to "why would I want a martial in my party," is "if one of your players can manage martial strategy more efficiently than caster strategy, they should play a martial."
This is not the only answer of course, and we shall continue.
Here are your questions:
A) What people THINK fighters are supposed to be doing
I'm going to use the general "martial" rather than "fighter" specifically since there is more than one kind of combat-focused character, but of course much of this applies to fighters.
Martials are supposed to-
- Have high base armor class. Especially at low levels, where casters often struggle to raise their AC save for temporary buff spells that aren't always available.
- Take lots of damage, both via higher hit die and usually an ability to raise Con. At low levels, for example, a fighter can easily survive a hit that would kill your typical wizard. In the arcane-caster-only game we played in, we struggled with having low HP overall, even though we were allowed to multiclass and some folks had good Con.
- Have good Fortitude and/or Reflex saving throws and generally other good innate physical defenses. This also not just from base saves but from physical stats that are more likely prioritized. A rogue at higher level can shrug off a fireball or better AOE spell like it's nothing; a wizard at the same level could be killed by the same attack (unless the wizard thought to be protected from fire, but that could be said for any character regardless of party role). Yes, some casters have good Fort or Ref too, and of course yes, all casters generally have good Will which is less common amongst non-casters---but that's the tradeoff, of course. A good party will have a variety of characters each with different strengths so they can shore up each other's weaknesses. The barbarian who can shrug off poison and the wizard who can shrug off charm can protect each other.
- Deal CONSISTENT and LARGE amounts of weapon damage. Yes, anyone can do damage. But a caster cannot deal lots of weapon damage, and there are a lot of monsters that can shrug off the brunt of most magical/elemental attacks but succumb to a single blow from a well-designed fighter. An optimized martial will deal in one blow typically more damage than a spell that a caster of the same level can cast. There are very few creatures that are immune to weapon damage (the only thing I can think of are swarms) and DR is very easy to bypass -- even without the special material, you optimize a martial's damage output enough, they do enough that DR doesn't make a notable difference (DR IMO is one of the most useless features in the game, but that's another conversation).
Your first fight with a golem--which are pretty common RPG enemies--will demonstrate exactly how important having a strong martial member of the party is.
I ran a HIGH (15th-19th) level Pathfinder game that was , probably not unsurprisingly, caster heavy. The casters did a LOT, do not get me wrong. And they did a lot that relied upon caster-ness. The party would probably not have succeeded without having casters in it. BUT... the character that usually killed bad guys in one or two blows was the fighter/rogue/shadowdancer, with well-placed sneak attacks (he was VERY good at getting in flanking position). The rogue also still handled traps and other typical "dungeon obstacles" in a way others couldn't (the cleric was not going to waste her time preparing find traps and the wizard was not going to waste his time preparing knock when both of them had way more crucial spells they needed to rely on at that level).
In another game I am in right now (a PBP here, DM Papa DRB's Moru Country, if you want to look at it) we're at 8th level, and we have a scary-optimized ranger who typically one-shots the bad guys before the casters can do a damn thing. If there's one outshining "star" of the campaign, it's him. The character I play is a bard-archeologist, and she generally has been more invaluable for her skillset than her spellcasting.
- Again, be able to do what they always do without running out of resources easily, and usually not have to rest to recuperate their strengths.
B) What spell casters can do to invalidate and more importantly
I really don't know what this means. If you mean "spellcasters can invalidate what martials usually do," this is a bit of a falsehood spread by theorycrafters who I'm fairly certain never actually sit down and play the game. Yes, a cleric could prepare find traps but why would you when there's way better spells to prep and someone else can do that? Again, casters have limited resources. If they waste those resources trying to fill other party member roles, then they probably are doing it at the expense of the thing that class is actually most valuable for (healing, buffing, blasting, or battlefield control).
In the all-arcane game I played in, we struggled in dealing with foes quickly (no focused damage dealer) and the only reason we could cover all bases was largely because 3/4 of us ended up dipping into non-caster classes. We also were all glass cannons and went down easily if the dice were not on our side. (Mind, this was due to being all ARCANE; maybe all-caster there would have been more diversity.)
C) Why do martials require a place in game if they're not really allowed to be important
Given every game I've played in over the course of decades, not just in Pathfinder but its D&D predecessors, martials have been important (let alone "allowed" to be) and have shone as brightly as the casters in the group, so this question is untruthful and irrelevant.
EDIT: D) What can a martial do that no other class type can do. Clearly anyone does damage, what else?
See above. It's not about what you can do uniquely--uniqueness should come from the player--it's about what you can do BEST.
Final Thoughts: The best party is one that works together and builds upon each other's strengths. A party that is set up where players pit their PCs against one another in essentially fighting over who shines the most is doomed to fail in a typical campaign. But in a good party, the martial character blocks the caster from taking damage, while the caster buffs the martial to make her do even more damage to the bad guys. The caster alters the battlefield so the martial gains the high ground, the martial deals reliable, consistent levels of damage that are not resisted by magic immunity, saving throw, or spell resistance. The caster uses area of effect spells to wipe away minions while the martial can safely get close to and focuses upon the BigBad. By themselves, each can be good at something or not, but a good party full of a variety of roles will always make each other better.
At the end of the day, it's the party together that should shine as a whole, and not any one member of it.
I've been very lucky enough that in most of the games I've personally played, that is the case.
And again: You don't want to play in a party with martials? Fine. Don't. If that's how you and your gaming group has fun, and you find you can do it successfully, go for it. Others do have fun with martials in the party, however, and neither they nor the game itself is wrong for including them.
Have fun and happy gaming.
I don't think you're off-base, Jarrett. It is an easy trap to assume every player plays like you (generic "you") and wants the things you want. Trying to gauge a BROAD and DIVERSE audience is a challenge that must be overcome to do well in any form of writing, games included.
That said, this also has to come with the corollary: you can't please everyone, and you especially can't please gamers. Gamers are a persnickety and particular bunch, and often have no bones loudly disagreeing with those who present a playstyle differing from their own. You can present something you've designed to three gamers and get three very different reactions and all three wondering how the other two could possibly reach their particular conclusions. Ultimately you have to come up with something that makes YOU excited, and hopefully your excitement shows through your design and bleeds into the voters' evaluation process.
But regardless, understanding the difference between designing for your gaming group and designing for Paizo's customer base is crucial.
I didn't have a chance till after the top 16 was announced to comment on these, but I remember last year really appreciating any constructive feedback I got, so I am trying to return the favor.
Congrats on making it into the top 16 with your creepy ruins map!
I'm biased in a weird way on this one, as my round 4 entry last season also involved a shrine surrounded by magic-twisting emanations, so obviously I think it's a fantastic concept. ;) (And to be clear, your map and concept is still sufficiently different from mine that I am not claiming you took my idea. :) For one thing, your location is way better.)
I love a good ruins map, and you've delivered well on this; the swampy setting adds to the ruined nature and the spooky aberrant mists helps it stand out above being generic. The little details REALLY make this also come alive: the abandoned campsite, the golem bridge, the towers all add touches--as well as usable encounter features--that help give this a storied feel.
Your 50 word text grants potential GMs additional narrative potential and help explain to an extent why what is where.
Visually, there is a lot strong here in that you've made it clear what is what, and aesthetically of course you obviously focused on creating creepy ambiance. However, the atmosphere does come with a cost of everything being too dark. You did manage to still keep everything clear, but this darkness and lack of contrast can potentially conceal important details (it's hard to make out the smaller petrified trees, for example). (Some professional artwork, including published flip mats, are also too dark in the name of "ambiance" and end up being useless because dry-erase marker doesn't show up on them.) I also feel like, if anything, aspects of the image are too symmetrical. I'd like to see the shrine perhaps a little more off center (make room for more hazard spots), and especially the road more curvy -- in a swamp, or area at least near a river (where terrain can be bumpy), such a straight road seems unlikely.
I like the presence of the towers in terms of having additional ruins/structures/difficult terrain, but it's entirely unclear what they would have been actually for. I realize space is limited and those aren't the most important items of detail, but if they're there, as a GM I want to know how I can make use of them. It's also odd that the tower bases are there, but not stone having crumbled away from them nearby. I'd love to see a toppled tower with a still usable stairway to an underground passage or something to add more potential for adventure.
And potential for adventure is a concern for me, in spite of how cool the idea of this place is. You succeeded indeed at making the place look totally lifeless, but in that, then I wonder what creatures visiting creatures might encounter. I can imagine things trapped underneath the shrine or what have you, but THIS is the encounter map, and when thinking about possible encounters, I want to include possibilities for creature encounters if not fights. The possible presence of undead is there but I'm not sure where they might be dwelling particularly. Of course that stone golem might unnecessarily stand up. Don't get me wrong--there IS potential here, in terms of mystery and general creepiness and opportunity for exploration. I don't need specific encounter suggestions per se but I do want to think about what indeed can be found here, including possible intelligences, and that's not clear to me just from this map.
This is still a very clean, creepy, cool map that I'd personally love to make use of at some point and would, indeed, make a good flip-mat location (since you said that was one of your goals). Congratulations and good luck this round.
I didn't have a chance till after the top 16 was announced to comment on these, but I remember last year really appreciating any constructive feedback I got, so I am trying to return the favor.
Congrats on getting into the top 16 with this amazing cemetery map.
What's amazing about it? That we see cemeteries all the time in fantasy games. Common place to fight undead, good place for low level adventures, etc. And yet this place does not look uncommon. You do a lot with building shapes, overall design, terrain, so what could have been quite ordinary stand out as unique. It is challenging to come up with a location no one's ever made before. It is even more challenging to take something typical and elevate it to something special, and you did that. I love all the circles and arcs that give the sense that an architect designed this place--something you'd see in a cemetery for nobility--not just a place where people dump their dead wherever they can.
Your map is very easy to understand and I know pretty much what everything is without having to consult your legend or text at all. This is especially a feat since you chose not to use color and is an excellent example that a well designed map does not require color or complicated software to convey the right details.
I actually disagree with you on "too much rubble" -- I see a lot of maps where people put "difficult terrain" in places that is all too easily avoidable by the PCs, making its presence pointless. I like that you have lots of rubble.
Your text is a good supplement to your map and in two words, "rebel hideout," you add a whole other level of potential in what kind of adventures may be had here. Even aside from standard undead hunts, there are a lot of different kinds of adventure to be had here, and it looks like a great start, even, to a whole story, potentially.
The only suggestions I can think of is to put your labels (rather than numbered references) on the map itself so that you could have used more of your 50 words to set up even more encounter possibilities (haunts? desecration? etc.).
Congratulations again and well done.
I didn't have a chance till after the top 16 was announced to comment on these, but I remember last year really appreciating any constructive feedback I got, so I am trying to return the favor.
Congratulations on making it into the top 32 and for putting such a strong contender in the map round.
What I like about this map is you put a lot of encounter potential and different kinds of danger into a fairly simple concept/area. You've put a lot of thought into the kinds of things can happen here, and this is a location that despite your placing it in a single place in Golarion, it could be used for a number of different places (I just found recently an AWFUL map I made awhile ago of a switchback path down a cliff in the Darklands -- adapting what you made here would have been far more useful!). I like you thought to put a sniper there because he can take care of those pesky flying creatures and PCs that may not be stymied by the rest of the terrain.
I am surprised to hear you lament your "polish" abilities because this looks very polished to me in many respects -- the grid is clear; the lines dark, clean, and precise; the details obvious and understandable. You use minimal color to good effect to outline key areas. As you say, drawing a cliff area is hard, but I think you rose to that particular challenge.
Your text as it is, is fine, though as noted I wish there was a little more detail as to what was there and why -- and why PCs might need to travel through this dangerous area. More hooks are always good (something I learned in last year's map round). What you can't put in the text you could put on the map ("ogre witch's lair" (or whatever) in a label can change the possibilities of what might happen right there).
I am amused to see you mentioned video games because when I first pictured this, I thought of "Donkey Kong" and similar, except I was picturing PCs climbing the cliff while trolls or giants stood at the top throwing boulders instead of barrels. And that is its appeal and also, I think, a bit of its downfall -- it just lacks that narrative OOMPH that makes it stand out from a more standard "cliff hazard"/"player character platformer."
Trust your instinct for tactical terrain--that you have down VERY well--and focus on hooks and potential story, and you will do very well if we see you again. Good job.
Congrats on making it into the top 16 with such a cool map.
I have to admit, at first glance, I thought it was just kind of a generic ruin. I didn't realize at first -- the text helped -- that it was a flying structure (Golarion lore is beautiful in its abundant history but such abundance means I still haven't memorized every single race, etc. and had not come across the "Shory" yet in my personal travels across Golarion, as it were.) I didn't recognize the gears for what they were at first and thought the blue areas were water. Despite my non-recognition I want to be clear this is a neat, clean design that once you realize what you're looking at, is easy to follow.
Once I realized what I was looking at, I was amazed. It kind of reminds me of the Jurai tree ships from Tenchi Muyo! ;) The little bits of detail really stand out, and I'm sure a cartographer would not only find it easy to make a final product out of this in terms of understanding what is supposed to be what, but they'd have hell of a lot of fun doing so as well. You've put a lot of thought into how it works and the overall structure and function.
Your text is important for less lore-knowledgable viewers realize what they are looking at, and is nicely written. I would love a couple more explicit mechanics like how high it is currently flying (roughly speaking, understanding it is in a state of descent). Minor nitpick: "flora" is plural and does not need to end in an "s."
The 3-D perspective is helpful and yet on maps like this I'd also kind like to do without such things so there's more room for other stuff. Which is not to say it should be removed, per se.
"Rule of cool" carries this far and my only concern is this is primarily a location, with encounter potential largely in the hands of the a creative GM who can figure out how to work it in somewhere (definitely doable, mind!). There's not a sense of tension here -- the laboratory isn't even in danger of crashing as it's slowly descending. Apart from sheer ancientness or coolness, what would bring PCs here, why, and how? Do things still live here? (Plant monsters seem obvious.) For an encounter map, I'd like a little more hinting at such possibilities, even if very open ended. (I've read your overview of what you would do for an encounter here, which is awesome--just noting what I'd like to see on the map itself.)
All in all a strong entry and a job well done.
Congrats on making it into the top 16 with this creepy, amazing map.
This takes an ordinary idea from our own world and turns it into something gruesome. It makes an excellent site for adventure as well as for PETA propaganda. ;) The map design itself is also clean, understandable, and well engineered. It's definitely something I never expected to see a fantasy map of. I also appreciate while the horror factor is high, it skews away from mere shock value. It's just more inherently terrible.
Your text is to the point and doesn't need to be more than what it is. Adding the mechanics of how the chattel pens work just adds to the horror while also being useful mechanical information.
I would like to see an increase in color contrast -- especially for the greenish bits, which might blur together for a colorblind viewer(a commenter last year made good advice on such things). Your text is a bit cramped in places -- I always find veering on the side of larger is a good thing, though I understand it's a challenge when you're hand-labeling. Mechanically I wonder if the area might be desecrated, which would make sense and would not take long to mention in the description.
I am not sure why the Paizo judges and staff cannot state clearly or loudly enough that round 2 is not a cartography contest. It's for how module designers convey location.
Perhaps it should be called "Create a map CONCEPT" or something.
(As for getting unlabeled maps from Paizo, that's what the various map .pdfs are for. I've found the ones that come with APs invaluable. I don't know how high res they are for VTT, nobody I know can afford that kind of equipment just for gaming.)
I haven't been able to post comments until now, but I remember how helpful concrete feedback was to me last season so I want to try to return the favor.
First, congrats on getting into the top 16 with your map!
Indeed the small-sized attachment error was unfortunate, but it absolutely speaks to your design that even in the small size, the layout is clean and clear. I can't read the legend on the original but I can still figure out a good deal of what is going on, which is amazing (due to Google Drive misbehaving I still can't see the big map so I'm totally going with what was originally uploaded). You have a good sense of space and line--the whole image flows beautifully--and you use minimal color to excellent effect--in fact, given the sizing error, it's probably what saved you as it helps provide contrast for different areas and features.
It's easy to go "typical" with a temple map and you avoided that. There is adventure potential not only in the location itself, but the journey up the mountain to it.
I'm sure with the right size a cartographer would have no issue turning this into a final product.
Your 50 word text is well written and enhances the story potential we already see in the image itself. I wonder if tengu ghouls fly...
I would suggest darkening text--even for a properly sized image. :)
One "advantage" of the smaller size is it's hard to find details to nitpick. ;) Good job.
I haven't been able to post comments until now, but I remember how helpful concrete feedback was to me last season so I want to try to return the favor.
First, congrats on getting into the top 16 with this great map!
This is a creative, interesting map full of different adventure prospects. You manage to tell (or at least suggest) a story with just a map and a few words, which is what the best entries in this kind of round do, in my opinion. I've seen theaters and the like before, but a gremlin-infested ruin is new to me, and brings out possibilities of encounters and interactions your more typical "haunted ruin" would not. I can imagine a lot of ways to hook PCs into adventuring here, and I love the mystery of the sealed office. The varied terrain allows for a lot of encounter possibilities.
Your map is clean, clear, and easy to understand. A cartographer should have little issue with it. My only suggestions would be to bump the font size (better to always err on the side of readable as possible) and to standardize the trap/trapdoor symbols as discussed by others(standard symbols are in the GMG, but sadly I know it didn't occur to ME to remind folks until too late, and I'm not sure anyone else did).
Your 50 words provides important context for the map and is well-written. Your map can stand alone without it, but the 50 words makes it even better, so IMO it does what it's supposed to.
I did balk at the ick a bit. I get the gremlins and grimples in particular are icky gross creatures. Still, I'm not sure even as a GM I would want to say the words "you have fallen into the vomit pool." The "Sean guideline" for items not making you want to puke is a good one, and to an extent, you do have to consider your audience here. I think you could have conveyed the filthiness and corruption without going for quite as much shock factor.
I wonder if, since this has an underground section and this presumably is in an urban area, there should be a sewer hookup included. Likewise, I wonder if there should be stairs or ladder to a catwalk for lighting, prop crew, etc. Even if you did not include an upper level on the map for space reasons, a reference that it exists would be included.
Overall however, you leave few questions to be asked in a very well presented map concept. Congratulations.
Profantasy (makers of Campaign Cartographer) also occasionally do contests, so keep an eye out for that. The winner I believe gets essentially all of their software for free.
Much as I think as it would be cool to have such a contest here, Paizo does this to specifically cultivate game designers, a freelance pool of which is always needed. They have an in-house cartographer so I don't know if there is demand (here specifically) for any more.