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Silver Dragon

Neil Spicer's page

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor. Goblin Squad Member. Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber. Pathfinder Society Member. 5,801 posts (9,490 including aliases). 1 review. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 17 aliases.


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RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

There are multiple ways to introduce the alien PCs into the same homeworld as traditional PCs. Any of the following would work:

Amnesia: As suggested, you could have the aliens suffering some kind of temporary memory loss...whether as part of a normal affliction/illness or some kind of magical curse or technological treatment.

Stranded: As recent arrivers, they could have been stranded there through a freak accident while activating a gate or other technology on their own homeworld. Of course, you have to be careful if you go this route, because if these alien PCs already know a lot about the greater multiverse and interplanetary travel, it could give them more insight into the Adventure Path's backstory than you might want to reveal from the get-go. Of course, on the flip side, having them know more about the looming threat might give a greater catalyst for roleplay and getting more traditional PCs involved in the overall plot.

Abducted: Although there are abduction themes firmly laid into To Worlds Unknown and the start of the AP, there could have been a reverse abduction that brought alien PCs to the traditional PCs' homeworld.

Colonials: These alien PCs could have legitimately traveled to the traditional PCs' homeworld, part of exploration meant to establish their own colony there. Of course, the fate of that colony might be in jeopardy such that the alien PCs now represent the last of their kind and they'd very much like to return to their culture if they could.

Transmutation: Perhaps the alien PCs were once from the same species as the traditional PCs, but powerful transmutation magic warped them into what they are now...never realizing that their new forms are also the same seed stock the Ancients used to seed other worlds across the stars.

Reincarnation: In a similar fashion, reincarnation could have resulted in members of the native species on the PCs' homeworld returning to life as members of these alien species, never realizing there are more of their kind on other worlds.

Hybrids: Perhaps these alien PCs represent a hybrid race, a mingling of DNA from the species of the traditional PCs' homeworld and something else. The end result is something "in between" the two species, kind of in the same fashion as how half-elves and half-orcs are possible. The "alien" PCs may have never known their off-world parents and lack knowledge of their homeworld as a result.

Just a few ideas,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

2 people marked this as a favorite.

If it helps...

Spoiler:
I had originally envisioned the Planetary Heroes pregen product giving GMs (and players) a couple of different ways for using it. One set of four PCs would be ideally suited for adventuring through The Assimilation Strain and all belonging to the same homeworld. The other set of four PCs would explore using some of the new playable alien characters as being ideally suited for skipping the prequel, starting with To Worlds Unknown, and potentially being from different homeworlds. In the end, however, I kind of blurred the lines a little by making all of the PCs 2nd level, thereby implying their stats were only reflective of starting with To Worlds Unknown. In fact, I wanted to make it so that the PCs could be scaled down to 1st level if you wanted to start with The Assimilation Strain instead.

At the same time, when putting together the Player's Guide for the AP, I wanted to recognize that some GMs (and players) might want to include The Assimilation Strain prequel adventure in their gaming experience. And, as such, we needed to consider whether or not the alien races would be available (i.e., we wanted them to be, so we included how to play one...and how to fit them into the same world as other PCs from the more common races). So, the Player's Guide has an assumption that PCs can be from different planets (in order to play one of the newer races and start with To Worlds Unknown), but that they could also start out on the same planet featured in The Assimilation Strain.

Later, when putting together To Worlds Unknown, we likewise wanted to honor the idea that PCs could all be from the same homeworld. But, they didn't all have to be, because we wanted to leave room in case players had decided to use one of the new alien races (i.e., the auttaine, chlorvians, tretharri, or zvarr). Most of it really depends on what campaign setting you're integrating The Assimilation Strain or To Worlds Unknown into. We left it more open-ended to make sure we maximized all the potential starting points and starting locations for the PCs.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Rednal has the right of it...

Spoiler:

1. We left the "world" in The Assimilation Strain undefined, because we wanted the prequel to serve as a gateway adventure that could be slipped into any ongoing campaign setting. Thus, the planet where the initial outbreak occurs could be Golarion, Oerth, Faerun, Midgard, or even your own homebrew setting. Each GM gets to define it for their game, and then both The Assimilation Strain and To Worlds Unknown help to bridge your campaign into our larger multiverse. As for a "gate" being on the world where The Assimilation Strain takes place, it is assumed that one exists...somewhere. But, it's intentionally left undefined, because we don't want the discovery of that particularly gate to play a role in the storyline for The Assimilation Strain. Even the gate to the PCs' world that gets described in To Worlds Unknown is purposefully destroyed as part of the adventure's background, because that lets us push the PCs into the broader multiverse via their escape from the jagladine prison and emergence on the "hub" planet Argosa. From there, the entire AP carries a "Lost in Space" theme as the PCs are continuously trying to find their way home again.

2. Again, the planet's name in The Assimilation Strain is up to you. The expectation is that you define your own game world and campaign setting, so it should be whatever planet the PCs are from. If you want to include characters that are already from other planets, you'll need to build in a reason for why they're on the particular planet where the assimilation strain is released...i.e., they could have been stranded there...they could have been born there as a result of a handful of explorers or cataclysm survivors stumbling through the gate before the jagladine seize control of it in To Worlds Unknown...and so on. But, you'll need to be very careful in granting alien PCs too much knowledge about the broader multiverse. Otherwise, it'll undo some of the mystery and wonder of everything being "new" to the PCs as they go through the full adventure path. In my opinion, it'll work best if you afflict any alien PCs with "temporary memory loss" (if they're recent arrivers on the PCs' planet) or an "alien raised on another planet" situation (if they've been living on the PCs' planet for awhile already). Regardless, it's best if the alien PCs on the world that's featured in The Assimilation Strain don't know anything about the broader multiverse yet. Or, at least, they don't know much (if anything) about the jagladine or the Ultari Hegemony, etc. The AP's story will serve you better if you hold back some of that in-character knowledge from them and just say that their alien species is an offshoot or a stranded sect, and so on.


But that's just my two cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Thanks for posting a review, CB. We were thrilled with your input and engagement in the creative process. And I'm glad Omik put a smile on your face. Those multiclass choices were mine, and he was a very fun character to build while envisioning how he'd play at the table during the AP.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

That's an interesting idea. Mark has generally been the champion of the Ultimate Relationships product line. I've had no conversations with him about doing a Legendary Planet series for it (whether using NPCs from the AP or the pregens from Planetary Heroes). We've got a LOT on our plate already with trying to get each chapter of the AP published, so I'm not inclined to take on anything more at the moment. Still, if we've got bandwidth as something to include for AP plug-in material, this might make the list, so we'll keep it in mind.

I look forward to the Planetary Heroes review...

--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Rikkan Anardi wrote:
How cool is it that the author/developer of the AP is so awesomely willing to answer questions and give guidance?

It's not just cool. Or awesome. It's...

Spoiler:

...Legendary!
;-)


Have fun with the AP!

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Kevin Mack wrote:
Any updates on when The Scavanged Codex will be available?

It's in development now. I've gotten the entire adventure blocked out now. Stat-blocks are mostly settled upon (i.e., I had to shift a few things around from the original manuscript turnover to assure we'd meet page-count/word-count). And I'm now going through the written text to tighten things up and check for internal consistency with the rest of the Adventure Path. In addition, all of the backmatter material (i.e., bestiary, gazetteer, new tech items, fiction, etc.), with the exception of our bonus article on vehicles, has gone to the editor already. And, in the next few days, I'm expecting to pull together Part One of the adventure for our Legendary "special" gaming event at PaizoCon so I can get it into the hands of our volunteer GMs. After that, I'll go back to cranking on the remainder of the adventure so we can get it published. Hopefully, that happens well ahead of PaizoCon (i.e., later this month or early-May).

Kevin Mack wrote:
Also is there anyway for people that missed the kickstarter to get in on this?

I believe Jason's plan continues to be that every PDF of the AP adventures (and the eventual hardcover compilation) will also be sold through the Legendary Games webstore, Paizo's webstore, and so on. So, anyone who missed the Kickstarter, should still be able to pick up the final products. Kickstarter backers will be the first to receive them, though.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

DM Papa.DRB wrote:
1) When gaining the Mythic Tier in To Worlds Unknown, is the feat Morphic Nature a feat that should/could be given in addition to the normal feat given at 1st Tier?

No. We're very deliberately tagging the feat granted by the 1st mythic tier as Morphic Nature...not just because it serves a useful story reason within the AP...but it also helps control the power-creep inherent in the mythic rules. The PCs will gain lots of other benefits from their mythic ascension aside from the extra feat, so it's not a big loss to purposefully assign it the way we've done it. If you give them Morphic Nature in addition to another mythic feat, I think that won't serve you well, unless you're all-in on running a high-powered, superhero scale game. And that's not really the direction we're headed with the AP. We want a slow escalation of mythic abilities. Not rocket tag. And that's why we've laid down a fair amount of GM advice about the use of mythic rules.

DM Papa.DRB wrote:
2) Over the course of the adventure, how many Mythic Tiers will be given to the PCs?

I'm pretty locked in on just 4 mythic tiers at the moment. Originally, we thought about shooting for 6, because it opens up another grouping of mythic powers/abilities for the PCs to choose from. But, again, for the purposes of limiting the power-creep and making sure the granted mythic power "suite" supports rather than overwhelms the storyline of the AP, I'm thinking it's best to keep it at 4.

This doesn't mean, however, that GMs can't ramp it up higher, if they want. It all depends on what you're comfortable running at the table. And, of course, it would necessitate further adjustments (of varying complexity) to assure the challenge rating stays high enough to entertain everyone. Overall, however, we're putting forward the Legendary Planet AP as an attempt at demonstrate how to effectively and judiciously use the mythic ruleset to enhance the plot and the gameplay. So, it's more nuanced than full-bore.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Zesdead wrote:
Rednal / Neil Spicer - thanks... that was moreorless the logic I used... Although I hadn't noted the target touch AC aspect for firearms. Good to know that I am not being overly cruel to my players...

You may want to rule that the spur rifle is close enough to a firearm that repeated use by someone proficient with firearms can at least reduce the non-proficiency penalty from -4 to -2 or something. No need to be overly harsh with it. But, the general principle is that the hardened spur is still trying to penetrate your opponent in the same fashion as a crossbow. Merely hitting the touch AC of your opponent isn't sufficient, because it's not a high-powered, high-impact bullet striking them.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Qstor wrote:
1. Are there any rules for spaceships etc in the AP?

Definitely no spaceships, but there will be other vehicles involved on the surface of various planets. Also, Richard Pett is already exploring multiple methods of traveling between the asteroids of the Shattered Zone, where his adventure takes place.

Qstor wrote:
2. Are there descriptions of the planets in the solar system in the AP? Or the home worlds of the new races in the Players Guide?

We're including a section in each planetary gazetteer that also addresses its star system and the other nearby worlds. We don't go too in-depth on them, however. The same limited material you'd see in a short description of a city or other locale in a gazetteer for a country/nation in a campaign setting. This will serve as foundational material in the event we expand on those ideas for an eventual Legendary Worlds Campaign Setting, but that's much further down the road. We've got an AP to finish first.

As for the homeworlds of the new races in the Player's Guide, we're leaving those less defined at the moment. However, there's a significant population of auttaine colonizing the Shattered Zone (featured in Richard Pett's adventure in Chapter 4 of the AP). And, in truth, all of the new races can exist on other worlds. Their "seed" stock was available for the Ancients to provide genetic material for them to evolve in other places. But that means they would have emerged independently from one another. It's the same situation for how John Carter shows up on Mars, and he finds other "humans" (in addition to some pretty weird aliens) living there. This is a common trope in the sword-and-planet genre. And, we'll be using a lot of racial variants and alternate racial traits to explain the differences of similar species that evolved on other worlds.

Hope that helps,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Zesdead wrote:
Are the Spur Rifles (used by protagonists early in the adventure) considered as Firearms?

Not quite. There's no gunpowder involved in them. The spur "rifles" are essentially multi-shot crossbows, but fire smaller bolts which are hardened, organic spurs. Thus, they do 1d6 rather than 1d8 damage. They look even more like a rifle than a crossbow, however, and you can think of them as shortened, multi-shot "spear" guns, if you want. They're a jagladine weapon provided to their klaven shocktroops. We used Exotic Weapon Proficiency to govern their use, because they're in the same category as a repeating light crossbow. And they use normal attacks rather than relying on touch AC (like a firearm would).

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Don't listen to them!
casts resistance to further assist the Will save

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.
FallenDabus wrote:
Hey guys, I thought you might want to know that I've featured the Jagladine on my monster blog for Planescape. Who did the art for them so that I can add a proper credit?

Interesting read. Thanks for sharing. The artist for the jagladine was Matt Lewis. He also did our illustration for the krang, an ape-like alien you'll be seeing in The Scavenged Codex.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Distant Scholar wrote:
I didn't realize Neil Spicer was so important to the founding of Legendary Games.

It's because I'm doubly important. ;)

Truth be told, however, Jason is totally the guy who keeps the ship running. Hats off to him! I'm just happy to help where I can and when my family schedule allows.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

If anyone gets an opportunity to peruse (or use) Planetary Heroes, please do post a formal review here on the product. It not only helps others get a sense of the material it contains (and the quality level), but it serves as useful feedback to all of us who work on the pregen PC product line.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this product. We had a lot of fun incorporating ideas and input into their crafting from a special group of backers...some of whom have apparently found their way here. :)

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Vampire Kitty wrote:
This sounds amazing! When is the rest of the AP due?

We're chugging away at getting Chapter 2 into publication and hope to have it out next month. I'm currently sitting on a pile of text turnovers for everything from the adventure to the gazetteer and bestiary for Mike Shel and Mike Welham's The Scavenged Codex. The art is already in, and, once I get the full manuscript into the layout phase, I'll be turning my attention to Matt Goodall's Dead Vault Descent (which is nearing the development cycle).

In the meantime, the other authors (i.e., Richard Pett, Steve Helt, Tim Hitchcock, and Jason Nelson himself) are already in various stages of the brainstorming, outlining, and writing phases for the latter half of the AP. We were hoping to get the whole thing out by GenCon, but that's looking overly ambitious at the moment. That's because we're not just writing an adventure path. We're also doing a hefty amount of worldbuilding as we go along. That, and real life stuff occasionally pulls at all of us, but we're definitely committed to seeing the whole thing in a gigantic hardbound tome.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

DragoDorn wrote:
Print/PDF bundle?

As Jason indicated earlier...

Jason Nelson wrote:

Unfortunately, the economics of doing a print-on-demand book of this size and shipping to Paizo along with their consignment percentage on print books makes it economically infeasible for us to sell print copies here. It works out fine on smaller books and on big print runs like our mythic hardbacks or Gothic Campaign Compendium, but a limited-run 100+ page softcover falls into a middle ground where the numbers just don't add up to sell here.

You can get print copies and print/PDF bundles directly from the Legendary Games webstore and from the shop.d20pfsrd online store, and they'll eventually be available on DrivethruRPG as well once they cycle through the approvals process (which takes a good bit longer than our usual CreateSpace/Amazon printer).

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Ninja in the Rye wrote:
This creates an interesting dilemma for me, I was going to make Crimson Throne the next campaign I ran after my current Runelords game, but, since the rules were 3.5 and were going to require conversion anyway, I was going to take the plunge and convert it to 5e. Now I'm unsure if I should stick with the 5E plan, or just go with the shiny new PF rules Hardcover.

Assuming they publish the hardcover Crimson Throne in the same manner as the hardcover Runelords, there'll be all new content to be had. And, if they do a deluxe edition, it'll include some pretty neat player handouts. So, if I were in your shoes, I'd wait for the Pathfinder version.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

I'm taking notes. Shouldn't be too much of a problem to circle back and add that for Chapter 1, and I can certainly integrate such information into future chapters for everyone. Thanks for the feedback, guys!

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

GM Zed wrote:
...Obviously, what I don't know is whether a full ten tiers of mythic are envisaged across the AP (there's another six adventures to be published so we're a way off from knowing such things) or whether it is a more restrained use...

From the Developer/Creative Director: It'll be more restrained than that. Right now, we're looking at just 4 mythic tiers.

GM Zed wrote:
Given that one of Legendary Games' big things is making Mythic workable, I think I trust them to do it right!!!

We appreciate that. Best of luck with your campaign.

--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

I don't know. I'm kind of energized by the whole thing.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

4 people marked this as a favorite.

I said it before, but figured I'd post it here again for posterity's sake...

Spoiler:

I DO RECOMMEND!!!

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

My two cents...

Spoiler:
The lake of fire tied together the storyline of Daryl with other people in the forest who had recently escaped Negan. Daryl had learned from them that the fuel truck "Patty" had been used to set the huge forest fire that drew an entire herd away from a town and basically lured the walkers to their deaths.

Seeing the herd assaulting Alexandria, it made perfect sense to Daryl that he could lure the walkers into the flaming lake. After all, he couldn't take the time to lure them all out of town with a trail of fire from the truck. And, the water in the lake would slow their movement enough to ensure each walker caught fire to still burn it up. The only thing I felt was a little over the top was wasting a grenade from the grenade launcher to light it. But, otherwise, it made perfect sense to me. Great episode!

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thanks, Thilo! I know Matt and Jason have got to be ecstatic with that review. Matt especially since he poured his heart and soul into addressing a lot of the perceived problems with rogues. Looks like that really resonated with you.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Nightdrifter wrote:

...Andoran...

...Worldwound + Mendev...

I agree these would make the best location-based themes for Wayfinder #16. And, of the two, I think the latter (i.e., Worldwound/Mendev) is strongest, because it'll present opportunities to play around with the geography/history of that location, demons (perhaps as counterpoint to all the devil-themed stuff that showed up in the Cheliax-themed Wayfinder #11), and mythic content. That way, even the last part (i.e., mythic rules) can be explored alongside a variety of other elements associated with the Worldwound area of Golarion rather than it having to be a standalone theme of its own. Also, in addition to the inspiration listed for Worldwound/Mendev, there are multiple novels set there (e.g., The Worldwound Gambit, Liar's Blade, and King of Chaos), so even the fiction authors should have some examples to follow or build upon.

But that's just my two cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Kalindlara wrote:
Bardess wrote:
What about a Milani monk?

Monk as in friar, I assume. ^_^

I suppose there is the martial artist archetype, though...

If you do a Milani "monk" I'd recommend going with brawler, instead. I think that might fit a follower of Milani a bit better than the typical tradition of Eastern-style martial arts. Of course, even monks don't have to strictly be from that style, but Milani's themes of rebellion and liberation just seem more fitted to a brawler's mentality.

But that's just my two cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Last but least, here's an idea I had for a vishkanya rogue with the deadly courtesan archetype from the Advanced Race Guide with an assumption that she would be in service to Tragshi the Herbalist who runs the Poisoner's Guild in Daggermark (and like Tragshi, she would originally have hailed from Casmaron):

Vishkanya Poisoner

Spoiler:

VISHKANYA POISONER
XP 800
Female vishkanya rogue (deadly courtesan) 4
NE Medium humanoid (vishkanya)
Init +4; Senses Perception +6

DEFENSE

AC 17, touch 14, flat-footed 13 (+3 armor, +4 Dex)
hp 33 (4d8+12)
Fort +3, Ref +8, Will +0; +4 vs. poison
Defensive Abilities evasion, uncanny dodge

OFFENSE

Spd 30 ft.
Melee mwk kukri +8 (1d4-1/18-20 plus poison)
Ranged mwk shuriken +8 (1d2-1 plus poison)
Special Attacks bardic performance 5 rounds/day (fascinate [DC 14], inspire competence +2), poison, sneak attack +2d6

STATISTICS

Str 8, Dex 18, Con 14, Int 13, Wis 8, Cha 14
Base Atk +3; CMB +2; CMD 16
Feats Sleep Venom (ARG), Weapon Finesse
Skills Acrobatics +8, Bluff +8, Craft (alchemy) +5, Diplomacy +6, Disable Device +9 (+11 vs. traps), Disguise +8 (+12 to look fully human), Escape Artist +13, Intimidate +8, Knowledge (history) +5, Knowledge (local) +5, Knowledge (nobility) +5, Perception +6 (+8 vs. traps), Perform (dance) +10, Sleight of Hand +11, Stealth +13; Racial Modifiers +2 Escape Artist, +2 Perform (dance), +2 Stealth
Languages Aklo, Common, Vishkanya
SQ limber, poison use, poison resistance, rogue talents (bardic performance, deft palm), sensual, subtle appearance, toxic, trapfinding +2, weapon familiarity
Combat Gear blue whinnis poison (3 doses), oil of taggit poison (2 doses), poison tattoo, potion of delay poison, potion of invisibility; Other Gear mwk studded leather armor, mwk kukri, mwk shurikens (8)

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Sensual (Ex) Some vishkanya are trained in drawing attention to themselves, and gain a +2 bonus on Perform (dance). This racial trait replaces keen senses.
Subtle Appearance (Ex) Some vishkanya have normal (humanlike) eyes, and their beauty is more conventional, granting them a +4 bonus on Disguise checks to look fully human. This racial trait replaces low-light vision.
Toxic (Ex) A number of times per day equal to a vishkanya's Constitution modifier, she can envenom a weapon that she wields with her toxic saliva or blood (using blood requires her to be injured when she uses this ability).
Poison (Ex) Injury; save Fort DC 14; frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect 1d2 Dex; cure 1 save.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Also, here's another one for a Gralton Spy (i.e., a half-elf rogue with the spy archetype whose human lineage traces back to the disaffected nobles from Galt who fled to the River Kingdoms):

Gralton Spy:

Spoiler:

GRALTON SPY
XP 1,200
Female half-elf rogue (spy) 5
NG Medium humanoid (elf, human)
Init +2; Senses low-light vision; Perception +8

DEFENSE

AC 15, touch 12, flat-footed 13 (+3 armor, +2 Dex)
hp 36 (5d8+10)
Fort +1, Ref +6 (+1 vs. traps), Will +4; +2 vs. enchantments
Defensive Abilities evasion, uncanny dodge; Immune sleep

OFFENSE

Spd 30 ft.
Melee mwk shortsword +3 (1d8-1/19-20) or mwk dagger +3 (1d4-1/19-20)
Ranged mwk shortbow +6 (1d6/x3)
Special Attacks sneak attack +3d6

STATISTICS

Str 8, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 16
Base Atk +3; CMB +2; CMD 14
Feats Deceitful, Iron Will, Toughness
Skills Bluff +15, Diplomacy +8, Disable Device +8, Disguise +12, Escape Artist +8, Knowledge (local) +8, Knowledge (nobility) +5, Perception +8, Ride +3, Sense Motive +10, Sleight of Hand +10, Stealth +10, Use Magic Device +7; Racial Modifiers +2 Bluff, +1 Disguise, +1 Knowledge (local), +1 Sense Motive
Languages Common, Elven, Hallit
SQ elf blood, integrated, poison use, rogue talents (honeyed words, quick disguise), skilled liar +2, wary
Combat Gear blue whinnis poison (1 dose), oil of taggit poison (2 doses), potions of cure light wounds (2), potion of invisibility, sleep arrows (2), smokesticks (3); Other Gear +1 leather armor, mwk short sword, mwk dagger, mwk shortbow w/ 20 arrows, feather token (bird)

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Integrated (Ex) Many half-elves are skilled in the art of ingratiating themselves into a community as if they were natives. Half-elves with this racial trait gain a +1 bonus on Bluff, Disguise, and Knowledge (local) checks. This racial trait replaces the adaptability racial trait.
Wary (Ex) Many half-elves have spent their long lives moving from place to place, often driven out by the hostility of others. Such experiences have made them wary of others' motivations. Half-elves with this trait gain a +1 racial bonus on Sense Motive and Bluff checks. This racial trait replaces the keen senses racial trait.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Kalindlara wrote:
I wanted to do that, but I was afraid to use too many non-PRD sources. I'd have a completely different build then. ^_^

I realized I have a copy of the Tymon gladiator stat-block on my thumb-drive here at the office, and it relies only on the PRD (with the only non-core references coming from Ultimate Combat):

Tymon Gladiator

Spoiler:

TYMON GLADIATOR
XP 800
Male human fighter (gladiator) 4
CN Medium humanoid (human)
Init +1; Senses Perception +0

DEFENSE

AC 17, touch 11, flat-footed 16 (+4 armor, +1 Dex, +2 shield)
hp 38 (4d10+12)
Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +1

OFFENSE

Spd 30 ft.
Melee +1 longsword +10 (1d8+7/19-20) or throwing axe +8 1d6+4) or dagger +8 (1d4+4/19-20)
Ranged shortspear +5 (1d6+4) or throwing axe +5 (1d6+4) or dagger +5 (1d4+4/19-20)

STATISTICS

Str 18, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 13
Base Atk +4; CMB +8; CMD 19
Feats Dazzling Display, Intimidating Prowess, Performance Weapon Mastery (UC), Performing Combatant (UC), Savage Display (UC), Weapon Focus (longsword), Weapon Specialization (longsword)
Skills Acrobatics +1, Climb +7, Handle Animal +5, Intimidate +10, Perform (comedy) +5, Ride +4, Swim +7
Languages Common
SQ armor training 1, fame
Combat Gear potions of cure light wounds (2); Other Gear mwk leather lamellar, mwk heavy steel shield, +1 longsword, throwing axe, shortspear, dagger

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Kalindlara wrote:
I know time is short, but if anyone has NPC suggestions, I'll consider them for inclusion.

If there's still time, I'll shoot you some stat-blocks I cooked up for the earlier NPCs I suggested for the River Kingdoms. I took a different approach with the Tymon gladiator by making them a human fighter (gladiator) 4 and selecting a handful of different feat choices which synergize really well with the gladiator archetype. Basically, it gives him the ability to use performance combat feats even in everyday combat. I think it's an interesting mix.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Timitius wrote:
This is an interesting idea. I'm wondering what the word count for each NPC is looking like. If this turns out to be an especially lean issue for submissions, we might do a large article (like 4-6 pages/3000 to 4500 words), but not sure how many of these NPCs will fit on 4 pages.

Stat-blocks will typically take up more space, just because there are more lines (with empty space) that have to fit on each page. Paizo guidelines are typically 700 words to a page. And, for NPC write-ups and bestiary articles in the APs, we're given 1400 words for a 2-page spread.

For the purposes of Wayfinder's Weal or Woe articles, I've always operated with 750 words per page as the guideline. Sometimes, it's less, but that's usually fairly accurate. By keeping the NPCs low-level, it reins in the length of the stat-block and how much space it eats up. As a result, it lets you "buy back" that extra 50 words to put towards the NPC's description and the boon or drawback information.

So, my advice would be to shoot for one NPC per page (just like a Weal or Woe article with art). Keep each character's stat-block as short as possible. And, use any remaining space for a few words describing the NPC's connection to the River Kingdoms. It wouldn't have to follow the Weal or Woe format by including a boon or drawback. And, as a result, that buys you additional words to towards the NPC's background.

My two cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Kalindlara wrote:
Neil Spicer wrote:
Timitius wrote:
More Weal or Woe articles wouldn't hurt, so we have a wide selection to choose from.
If you're short, I can always chip in with Weal or Woe contributions. Or even a brief River Kingdoms NPC Codex style of article. Something like an example Daggermark assassin, Gralton noble, Tymon gladiator, Sevenarches hunter, etc.? Maybe even some outside influences like a Razmiran charlatan and Galtan bounty hunter?
I never even thought of this. I don't want to step on your toes, but I could easily put something like this together (if that's all right with you; it was your idea, after all).

If you've got the time and Tim's got the page count/word count to spare, have at it. I've got four stat-blocks slapped together for a handful of the NPCs I proposed above. And I brainstormed a couple more for a Pitax bard and a Mivon duelist, but haven't put the numbers together for them.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Timitius wrote:
More Weal or Woe articles wouldn't hurt, so we have a wide selection to choose from.

If you're short, I can always chip in with Weal or Woe contributions. Or even a brief River Kingdoms NPC Codex style of article. Something like an example Daggermark assassin, Gralton noble, Tymon gladiator, Sevenarches hunter, etc.? Maybe even some outside influences like a Razmiran charlatan and Galtan bounty hunter?

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Jason Nelson wrote:
Which Paizo adventures have mass combat scenarios you'd like to see translated into the premade unit stat blocks section of Ultimate Armies?

Completely Anonymous Suggestions:

Spoiler:

Rise of the Runelords - Definitely the attack on Sandpoint...both for the goblins in "Burnt Offerings" (if you can pull that off at such a low level) and in "Fortress of the Stone Giants"

Curse of the Crimson Throne - Introducing some squads of Hellknight enforcers and Gray Maidens could be useful at various points in this AP.

Kingmaker - You already know that "Blood for Blood" and "War of the River Kings" are definitely in-scope for mass combat.

Serpent's Skull - The big assault on the "Sanctum of the Serpent God" so the PCs can infiltrate the temple and take down Ydersius cries out for a major mass combat playing out in the background.

Carrion Crown - The AP doesn't call for it, but I always thought a Mordor-like battle between a Whispering Way-aligned undead army and a combination of Ustalav/Lastwall forces would be cool. Kind of like a miniature Shining Crusade culminating in "Shadows at Gallowspire."

Jade Regent - There are a handful of places in "Tide of Honor" and "The Empty Throne" where mass combat would make sense.

Skull & Shackles - Mass naval combat for the end-game in "From Hell's Heart" seems like a no-brainer.

Wrath of the Righteous - Definitely needs some mass combat troop engagements for "Sword of Valor" but could be useful throughout the entire AP as add-on material, including the opening chapter given how things go down when the demons launch their surprise attack.

Giantslayer - Has room for some mass combat given the gathering of giant armies. Even the orcs could have a few troops involved in the opening chapter.

Hell's Rebels/Hell's Vengeance - Both of these APs should have ample clashes between government and rebel forces.

But that's just my two cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Shensen wrote:
...And yes, still an aquatic half-elf, but without the typical extra (and mostly optional) race swap outs for it, due to the sort of unusual way I ended up being an aquatic half elf...

Did the aboleths do it? ;)

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Neil Spicer wrote:
Wow! This product made the Top 5 PDF downloads this week.

Even more WOW! Number one PDF download this week in the Paizo webstore. You folks are awesome!

Legendary Games also has three other products in the Top 10. Amazing!

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I'm not the author of that particular NPC/AP combination. But to answer the original question...yes, I have insight into it. ;-)

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Wow! This product made the Top 5 PDF downloads this week. That's pretty awesome for a Player's Guide. Hopefully, folks check out The Assimilation Strain, as well...and the rest of the Legendary Planet Adventure Path as it becomes available. Thanks for the interest, everyone!

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Devastation Bob wrote:
Just bought the pdf and on a quick read through it looks very cool, but I have a few spoilery type questions.

Hey, Bob...I'll do my best to answer, but I think Rednal hit on most of them already.

Spoiler:
Devastation Bob wrote:
1.)Does the Con damage on the infected villagers from the virus or another source? I didn't see Con dmg in the viral description.

This stems from the flawed version of the assimilation strain which induced madness in the villagers.

Devastation Bob wrote:
2.)I would assume that the players leave the rescued children with the gnome, but then in part 3 we see that the gnome has been abducted. Won't someone think about the children?

This is an outcome each GM will have to adjudicate, but yes...it's possible the children are there when Rexel is abducted. You could handle that in many different ways. Rexel could have been abducted in his sleep with the children none the wiser. Or, Rexel could have defended the children, directing them to flee before he eventually succumbs to his attacker. Or, the children could have ventured away from the treehouse to retrieve something important from the Mulnarin farm and been entirely absent when Rexel's abductor appears. Lots of ways to go with that which don't involve violence against the children. But, if you want to include them as part of the abduction, too, that's entirely possible, as well. They could show up in Part 3 alongside Rexel and give the PCs an even greater moral dilemma to face.

Devastation Bob wrote:
3.)How do the events of this tie into the Legendary Planet AP proper? The player's guide seems to suggest that players would already be interplanetary type characters, but the Assimilation Strain seems written for core-type characters. Will there be suggestions for this in the first book of the AP?

The Player's Guide is meant to support the AP moreso than the prequel adventure (which is entirely optional). So, starting with interplanetary characters isn't your best bet if you're going to run The Assimilation Strain, because it's meant to invoke a sense of mystery and wonder about the larger multiverse. Whereas, if the PCs originated from off-world, the mystery is mostly absent from The Assimilation Strain.

That said, we did our best to layer in as many different options as we could. So, you certainly can run TAS with interplanetary characters. The GM will just have to engineer some greater explanations for it. Meanwhile, if you start interplanetary characters out with To Worlds Unknown, that'll work far more easily. Bottom line, you can go either direction with it. And, yes, we do spend a bit of text in TWU discussing how TAS can fit into the AP.

Devastation Bob wrote:
All in all though, a really cool little adventure. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

Awesome. Glad you're enjoying it.

--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Endzeitgeist wrote:
Modified my review to reflect the latest iteration and posted it now also here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.

Much obliged, Thilo. I believe Jason and the team cleaned up the missing map situation you cited. Also, I'd heard (from one of the other Kickstarter backers) that the high-resolution maps were also introduced in the map folio. So, as always, we took note and revisited things to make the final product even more awesome!

P.S. I'll be curious to know your thoughts on To Worlds Unknown now that it's available to the Kickstarter backers.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Devastation Bob wrote:
I think it would be fun to "twist" the narrative with the interplanetary connection. Then with the actual 1st part of the AP, the characters can choose to bring those Assimilation characters along, or then make up new characters/races drawing from the interplanetary setting.

We may or may not have called that out specifically (hard to remember since I'm knee-deep in later chapters of the AP right now)...but GMs would most certainly have the leeway to do exactly that given how we crafted things.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Thanks for the review and your support, Rednal. It is much appreciated.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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I'm glad you guys are both enjoying and/or eager to acquire The Assimilation Strain. Just hold still. The infection should take hold very soon, and it won't hurt a bit. ;)

I actually ran this module at PaizoCon earlier this year, and then twice more just this weekend at a local convention called MACE here in Charlotte. So far, everyone has been really impressed with its "creepiness," unique adversaries, and overall storyline.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Welcome to the Superstar club, Nick. If you're at PaizoCon next year, we'll have to do another group photo with the new crown-bearer.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

A new editor, huh?

Well..."I am Syndrome, your nemesis and..."

Oh, wait. Actually. "I'm your biggest fan!"

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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One of the hardest lessons to learn as a freelancer is the amount of "stirring up" your design choices and design execution can create among the fanbase and with the average consumer. You never quite know what someone will put an emphasis on which causes them to either really love or really take exception to what you've produced. Sometimes, just sitting back and observing the conversations can enlighten you in some really amazing ways about the nature of people, the things that are important to them, and how much or how little that might be in tune with the mainstream thinking.

But here's the rub: What really matters is how you deal with all of that. You're never going to be able to satisfy everyone. There'll quite likely be a vocal few who are really passionately against something you've created. That's okay. What you really need to be conscious of...or, at least what I've personally chosen to examine in my own freelance career...is whether or not you inspired a majority of the people using/reviewing your work. If you succeed at that level, it doesn't matter overly much what the outliers think or say. Those slings and arrows can't penetrate your personal armor (or, thick skin if it's a natural armor bonus). Sometimes, those outlier opinions can still alert you to something you might not have realized was an issue or an ingrained element in your work. And, you may even find it useful in the event you want to tinker or adjust your approach as you go forward. Learning how and when to apply that kind of feedback only comes with experience. But, at least, the RPG Superstar contest still exposes you to some of that as you see the various responses from those who feel compelled to leave feedback.

So, to echo Monica, don't take it personally. But, do personally examine it and learn from it where you can and when it seems right to do so. And, likewise, for those leaving commentary/feedback for these competitors, just be aware of how you're conducting yourself, how constructive you're being, and the support role you play--both in encouraging future designers, and in helping the RPG Superstar contest continue to shine.

But that's just my two cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Jason! Welcome to the Final Round! This is it! An opportunity for you to pitch a (mostly) independent idea for an adventure, win over the voting public, and get a signed contract with Paizo to bring it to life. As someone who's lived that dream, I can tell you that it's a very, very cool experience. And, provided you apply all the lessons you've learned throughout the competition, you can use this contest as a platform for really getting your name--and your work--out there. So, relish the opportunity, soak in the feedback, and, whether or not you win it all outright, take the broader experience of RPG Superstar with you as you pursue whatever freelance opportunities come your way.

Based on prior years, you may know that I like to break my final round judging commentary into two halves. The first assesses your pitch...meaning, how well you sold your ideas within the proposal itself. I think it's important to take a look at that because it gives us a more complete sense of your vision and how well you're able to convey that to your developer (and the broader RPG community) to win them over and green light your work. It also offers a glimpse into how you'd structure your actual adventure, giving us a sense of your capabilities as a storyteller and how well you can tap into elements that will get people excited.

The second part of my assessment will dive into the proposed adventure and whether what you've presented here includes all the relevant pieces to hopefully make a great Pathfinder module. More than anything, that's really the goal here. While your pitch may demonstrate you've got the professional polish, insights, creative writing ability, and organizational skills to entrust you with this type of assignment, it's the core ideas of your adventure which will convince voters to select your proposal as the one they most want to purchase and play at their gaming tables.

So, with all that in mind, let's get down to business and see what you've proposed...

Feedback for: Escape From Moonshell Grotto

The Pitch
Okay. This is the part where you need to sell your proposal to us...which means, you need to write well enough to convince us you know what you're doing with strong, purposeful design choices--a skill you should realize by now plays an important role in pretty much everything you bring to the table if you want to stand out as a Superstar designer. This can include the underlying storytelling, pacing, and plot of your adventure; the choices you make with regards to the level requirement/CRs for various encounters and how they'll likely play out at the table; the number of maps you'll require for your chosen location(s); your sense of Golarion canon vs. how best to support the intellectual property of your publisher; your sense of scope and scale so you can fit everything into the required page-count/word-count; and so on. Basically, your adventure pitch should convince us you've got a good head on your shoulders when it comes to adventure design, and that you're the man Paizo (and the Paizo community) should trust with this opportunity.

Hopefully, the prior rounds of this year's competition (as well as what you've learned by following along in prior years) helped develop an understanding of these things for you. Personally, I think the best approach is to study what Paizo already does with their Pathfinder modules...i.e., how things are structured, how each adventure premise innovates around some new idea or theme, what kinds of limitations they put on you, and what kinds of opportunities they grant you as a writer/storyteller. Likewise, I believe it's important to study the winning adventure proposals from prior years of RPG Superstar to get a sense of how they "sold" the readers, judges, and voters. If you can pick up on all those elements and adapt your proposal accordingly, you'll be light-years ahead of most would-be designers in convincing folks to give you a chance.

So, the first thing I notice when I read your submission is the adventure's intended name. Escape From Moonshell Grotto. I can't say I'm completely won over by it. The main element is the "moonshell grotto" and while that sounds like an intriging location, it's really just a reflection of the dragon turtle's name. So, while I like an "Escape" adventure's potential, I'm not as keen with how the adventure fails to live up to such a title. Really, one of the most useful tricks for selecting an evocative or even iconic name for an adventure is to include either the name of your primary adventure location (e.g., The Temple of Elemental Evil, White Plume Mountain, Tomb of Horrors), or the name of your super-memorable, awe-inspiring villain (e.g., Queen of Spiders, Scourge of the Slave Lords, Crown of the Kobold King). The names of these adventures resonate because they draw upon the things your players will almost certainly remember and reminisce about after playing through them...i.e., the cool location where it took place, or the awesome villain they faced. If your adventure pitch can tap into a name that contains one or both of those things, you're on the right track. I'm not sure you succeeded here. There's nothing about the "Moonshell Grotto" that makes it an important, iconic location that the PCs will identify with a terror-filled dungeon or adventuring site.

So what about the rest of the pitch? The presentation follows a sound structure. Tying the chapter names to the Cosmic Caravan doesn't really elevate the piece all that much, despite the Desna connections. I'm also not as sold on the adventure hook and Meika's inclusion as an NPC ally who could easily become a casualty along the way. There's not enough to fully invest the PCs in the adventure given how you've pitched it, and I'm left looking for more.

The rest of your pitch is okay. You've made very good use of appropriate adversaries for this region of Golarion, interweaving them with possible PC alliances, depending on how they approach each encounter. But, if I'm being honest, the rescue of Moonshell feels kind of uninspired to me. There's not enough there to tie in the PCs and give them a reason to care which dovetails with the overall story involved.

The Adventure
I've written many times before in my advice for RPG Superstar about five key elements which I believe are vital to good adventure design. In fact, I like to use them as a good barometer for assessing how well a proposed adventure will hold up in terms of providing a memorable, entertaining experience. Those five things boil down to: 1) a memorable villain whose goals are a legitimate threat which credibly prompts the PCs to act; 2) a unique and interesting set of locales which provide cool maps, memorable encounters, and innovative tactical/terrain situations; 3) a compelling and interesting plot wherein the villain's goals encroach on the PCs' world in a sustained, threatening manner where they get to become heroes at the center of attention throughout the adventure; 4) some interesting and entertaining minions and NPCs who have a credible reason for working with the villain, existing within the chosen locale(s), and create recurring problems for the PCs; and 5) an interesting, worthwhile reward which the PCs (and their players) will cherish for the rest of their adventuring careers. If you can achieve high marks in as many of those areas as possible in your design, you could have a winning idea on your hands. So, let's see how you measured up:

The Villain: Here's the main problem. There isn't one. Instead, it's a series of lesser creatures and tribal leaders of lizardfolk and troglodytes who pose the most recurring threat. More powerful adversaries loom with the medusa, etc., but none of them are really tied into the plot and the adventuring locale in a way that elevates the adventuring experience with something truly memorable and iconic that the players will take away with them if they play through it with their PCs. For me (and a lot of publishers and gaming groups), an adventure pitch will flat out fail if it doesn't include an iconic villain shaping the story the players get to experience vicariously through their PCs. And, sadly, I think that's your biggest misstep here. A memorable villain is perhaps the most important element of constructing an adventure, because it's the foil the PCs need to move the story forward as they become involved in it.

The Locale(s): This too was kind of a miss for me. I'm looking for an iconic, memorable location the players might recall years later when they reflect back on this adventure. And, unfortunately, there's nothing really amazing here to hang your hat on. Yes, there's this grotto where the dragon turtle got trapped and needs help escaping, but there's nothing especially amazing about the adventuring site itself in how this adventure proposal describes it.

The Plot: This feels a bit contrived. With no villain shaping a credible threat that requires heroic PCs to counter, this is just a freeform sandbox "wander over there, find what we find, something happens, and then adventure!" type of scenario. Yes, there's a quest-giver in there with an interest in retrieving the lost lore of her ancestors...which apparently includes a "beached whale" in the shape of this dragon turtle, but the premise isn't compelling and doesn't hang together all that well, logically-speaking given some of the resources the PCs will have at their disposal at this adventuring level. The proposal also doesn't include enough complicating factors or potential plot twists to make it entertaining at the table...not just in combat, but in a story-stacking sense. This proposal needs a tighter plotline, and a more compelling villain could help with that.

The Minions: Without a true villain shaping the story behind the adventure (both in terms of its background story and the way the plot plays out as the PCs move things forward), there aren't really any identifiable minions that PCs can experience multiple times. Technically, everything else appearing the adventure is a "minion"-level threat just based on how its described. I realize that's not how you probably meant for it to come across. I get the sense that you have it all in your mind the way you'd envision it likely addressing some of these things. The problem is that the adventure proposal doesn't convey it. There are too many generalities here and not enough details to highlight the really "cool" elements that players would get to experience as the adventure played out. You need to identify something grander than this to convince a developer to green-light your idea. And, you can't hold back. You've got to actually define what's going to happen, and describe it in a way that makes people say, "Yes, I want to see that in print! I want to run that for my gaming group!"

The Reward: The reward is kind of lost. The lode medallion has the potential to fill this role, but it's not all that different from an item you could find in the Iron Gods AP as a technological gravity-based device, or a magical artifact the Shory might have crafted. Having something like this appear as a Lirgeni device feels kind of misplaced by comparison. And, even then, I'm not sure it'll take on the iconic magic item PCs will recall from the adventure and cherish over the remainder of their adventuring career.

Conclusion
There are bits and pieces which present elements of cool design ideas, but they don't quite come together into a compelling proposal for an adventure. Instead, this comes across a bit more like a collection of notes for a potential mini-campaign where all of it's note yet fully thought through or defined enough to write up into a full scenario...i.e., kind of the hallmark of a GM who's comfortable winging or handwaving certain design elements in the interests of just keeping a freeform campaign moving so it's more about the PC/player choices than a guided story. Sandbox designs like that can sometimes work, but only if the sandbox is still supporting an interesting plot involving a credible, compelling villain the PCs can engage. That's not really what comes across here. So, it's not tight enough in concept for me to get behind it.

So, as a result, I'm going to say that I DO NOT RECOMMEND this adventure for consideration as the winning proposal for this round. It's possible you might still strike a chord with the voters and they push you through, but I'll be surprised if that happens. If you do win, it'll take a lot of revision and enhancement to bring these ideas to life in a way that creates a product that will appeal to a majority of gamers. So, it'll be an uphill battle. If, however, you don't win, I don't want this critique to weigh you down. You've alreayd demonstrated a significant freelancer skillset in other designs, and that could serve as a springboard to still make your mark in the industry if you want to give it a go. Just make sure that you keep broadening your design experiences by learning from what's out there. Emulate those things to meet the demands of what the gaming community expects, and then, once you've established yourself, start branching out and innovating as you see fit.

My sincere two cents and best wishes on your future freelancing career,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Nick! Welcome to the Final Round! This is it! An opportunity for you to pitch a (mostly) independent idea for an adventure, win over the voting public, and get a signed contract with Paizo to bring it to life. As someone who's lived that dream, I can tell you that it's a very, very cool experience. And, provided you apply all the lessons you've learned throughout the competition, you can use this contest as a platform for really getting your name--and your work--out there. So, relish the opportunity, soak in the feedback, and, whether or not you win it all outright, take the broader experience of RPG Superstar with you as you pursue whatever freelance opportunities come your way.

Based on prior years, you may know that I like to break my final round judging commentary into two halves. The first assesses your pitch...meaning, how well you sold your ideas within the proposal itself. I think it's important to take a look at that because it gives us a more complete sense of your vision and how well you're able to convey that to your developer (and the broader RPG community) to win them over and green light your work. It also offers a glimpse into how you'd structure your actual adventure, giving us a sense of your capabilities as a storyteller and how well you can tap into elements that will get people excited.

The second part of my assessment will dive into the proposed adventure and whether what you've presented here includes all the relevant pieces to hopefully make a great Pathfinder module. More than anything, that's really the goal here. While your pitch may demonstrate you've got the professional polish, insights, creative writing ability, and organizational skills to entrust you with this type of assignment, it's the core ideas of your adventure which will convince voters to select your proposal as the one they most want to purchase and play at their gaming tables.

So, with all that in mind, let's get down to business and see what you've proposed...

Feedback for: Beneath the Storm-Veiled Spires

The Pitch
Okay. This is the part where you need to sell your proposal to us...which means, you need to write well enough to convince us you know what you're doing with strong, purposeful design choices--a skill you should realize by now plays an important role in pretty much everything you bring to the table if you want to stand out as a Superstar designer. This can include the underlying storytelling, pacing, and plot of your adventure; the choices you make with regards to the level requirement/CRs for various encounters and how they'll likely play out at the table; the number of maps you'll require for your chosen location(s); your sense of Golarion canon vs. how best to support the intellectual property of your publisher; your sense of scope and scale so you can fit everything into the required page-count/word-count; and so on. Basically, your adventure pitch should convince us you've got a good head on your shoulders when it comes to adventure design, and that you're the man Paizo (and the Paizo community) should trust with this opportunity.

Hopefully, the prior rounds of this year's competition (as well as what you've learned by following along in prior years) helped develop an understanding of these things for you. Personally, I think the best approach is to study what Paizo already does with their Pathfinder modules...i.e., how things are structured, how each adventure premise innovates around some new idea or theme, what kinds of limitations they put on you, and what kinds of opportunities they grant you as a writer/storyteller. Likewise, I believe it's important to study the winning adventure proposals from prior years of RPG Superstar to get a sense of how they "sold" the readers, judges, and voters. If you can pick up on all those elements and adapt your proposal accordingly, you'll be light-years ahead of most would-be designers in convincing folks to give you a chance.

So, the first thing I notice when I read your submission is the adventure's intended name. Beneath the Storm-Veiled Spires. I can't say I'm completely won over by it. The main element is the "storm-veiled spires" and even with all that, it doesn't really provide a lot of clarity about the adventure beyond "storms" and "heights" of some kind. Naming is one of the most important elements in adventure design. And, that's because it's the first thing people are going to see when they come across your module on the shelves. Thus, your adventure's name needs to evoke a powerful image in the reader's mind so it makes them want to pick it up and read what lies behind the cover.

One of the most useful tricks for selecting an evocative or even iconic name is to include either the name of your primary adventure location (e.g., The Temple of Elemental Evil, White Plume Mountain, Tomb of Horrors), or the name of your super-memorable, awe-inspiring villain (e.g., Queen of Spiders, Scourge of the Slave Lords, Crown of the Kobold King). The names of these adventures resonate because they draw upon the things your players will almost certainly remember and reminisce about after playing through them...i.e., the cool location where it took place, or the awesome villain they faced. If your adventure pitch can tap into a name that contains one or both of those things, you're on the right track. And, I'm not sure you succeeded here. There's nothing super-iconic about the Storm-Veiled Spires as a unique location. The Augur's Throne is probably a more potent named location for the adventure, and it also hints towards the hag "rulership" of the region. Or, in a pinch, if you gave the coven a definitive name of its own, you could call the adventure by the same title and I think that would get you more mileage.

So what about the rest of the pitch? I think you presented the cleanest written text in the proposal. By that, I mean it reads well. Your writing chops are on display, and you're giving the solid impression that you can be trusted to produce a publish-worthy turnover with solid ideas and execution based on your prior contest submissions and this proposal. Your lead-in summary, however, lost me a little bit. At first, I was struggling to tell if the coven truly rules over Hyrantam, or if they're just an exterior threat. But, once I got deeper into the proposal, it became clearer what you intended. You've also used an appropriate chapter-based structure and effective bullet points to outline encounter setups, their contribution to the overall plot, and various options they can present to the PCs to widen the story.

The rest of your pitch is solid. You've made good use of appropriate adversaries, interweaving them with possible PC alliances, depending on how they approach each encounter. There's a healthy mix of sandbox versus railroad dungeon-crawling, but you keep it freeform for the most part. There's a segment of the gaming public for whom that style will appeal, but it's also a much harder component to deliver on when you've got a limited word-count to do it justice. But, you've demonstrated a significant talent over the course of the competition in taking on challenges. So, I'm mostly convinced that you could pull it off.

The Adventure
I've written many times before in my advice for RPG Superstar about five key elements which I believe are vital to good adventure design. In fact, I like to use them as a good barometer for assessing how well a proposed adventure will hold up in terms of providing a memorable, entertaining experience. Those five things boil down to: 1) a memorable villain whose goals are a legitimate threat which credibly prompts the PCs to act; 2) a unique and interesting set of locales which provide cool maps, memorable encounters, and innovative tactical/terrain situations; 3) a compelling and interesting plot wherein the villain's goals encroach on the PCs' world in a sustained, threatening manner where they get to become heroes at the center of attention throughout the adventure; 4) some interesting and entertaining minions and NPCs who have a credible reason for working with the villain, existing within the chosen locale(s), and create recurring problems for the PCs; and 5) an interesting, worthwhile reward which the PCs (and their players) will cherish for the rest of their adventuring careers. If you can achieve high marks in as many of those areas as possible in your design, you could have a winning idea on your hands. So, let's see how you measured up:

The Villain: We're looking at another coven of hags as a triumvirate of villains, but it goes the extra mile in holding forth an even more potent threat with the thunderbird. Your proposal spends a lot more time outlining how the PCs need to amass the alliances, knowledge, and resources to effectively combat the latter moreso than the former. And, in many ways, the thunderbird comes off sounding like it's the "villain" rather than the allied hags. So, your proposal doesn't quite do justice to the hags enough that they pervade the plot and the locale in a way that puts them front-and-center. Sometimes, as writers, we have a tendency to fall in love with a certain creature choice or NPC design and, like side characters in a novel, they can start to take on a larger role than you'd originally envisioned. I'm wondering if the thunderbird developed in a similar fashion as you were crafting this proposal. Regardless, I wish there was more "hag" in the villain presentation than "allied thunderbird."

The Locale(s): This is the real challenge. Your locale is about as widespread as it can get. The entire city is the element the PCs will truly invest in, as they'll have an entire sandbox of mini-locations within to explore. It plays a vital role in securing what they need to affect the outcome of the adventure. But, you've also got the Augur's Throne, and prior to that, the sunken locations with the storehouse of knowledge they need. These are all cool, but you've jammed in so many places that you're going to struggle to pull them all off when you get down to judiciously spending your map space and word-count. All in all, I'm intrigued by the idea of setting up the adventure as an "explore the city to get what you need to fight the villain(s)." Becaues of the ancient Lirgeni elements, It even has a bit of a Crucible of Chaos feel to it--the early adventure Wolfgang Baur penned which presented a crashed Shory city to explore--except, in this case, it's a flooded city instead. I like that element, but I'm just worried that you won't have the space to do it justice, because of how much you're depending on so many sandbox elements to sell it.

The Plot: This felt a bit more contrived at times than I'd have prefered. The basic premise for how and why the PCs get drawn into Hyrantam are okay, but a bit too convenient. The adventure proposal could use a stronger hook to truly invest the PCs in its outcome. What might sell it more strongly is if the PCs were venturing there to begin with, arriving as treasure-seekers of a particular Lirgeni artifact which brings them into contention with the coven. Having something like that in addition to the storm-wracked ship sinking off the coast and stranding the PCs in the city helps give them more reasons for going through the adventure than just the pleas of the locals asking for their help. That trick works for good-aligned PCs, but the neutral ones sometimes need a selfish reason to go along, and it's useful sometimes to examine your hooks with that in mind so you can present a variety.

From there, I like how the adventure plays out. You've got a nice organic flow happening with all the various locales within the city's sandbox where the PCs can garner resources and alliances to pull off the lofty effort to unseat the tyrant hags. I'm not as keen on how prominent the thunderbird elimination becomes such a focus. It might be better if that could be exchanged for a handful of creatures in service to the hags (see my comments under Minions, below) which are more CR-appropriate, but recurring in a way that the local inhabitants of Hyrantam fear them, but the PCs can capably handle them over and over again as they try to interfere with their efforts. That way, the hags come into focus much more strongly as the true villains and the thunderbird doesn't overshadow them so much. That might also free you up to define more knowledge and resources the PCs need to oppose the hags in the Augur's Throne which they reclaimed from the ancient Lirgeni...i.e., the PCs might need some artifact from that bygone civilization to access the Augur's Throne and face down the hags on their own terms.

The Minions: The minion in this adventure proposal is basically the thunderbird, but he's a bigger threat (individually) than the hags, and I think that's a misstep from an adventure design perspective. You could probably still pull it off regardless. And, if you're truly married to the idea, it'll be up to your developer to guide you on it if you get voted through as the winner. But, for me, I feel like the other creature encounters never quite establish a true lesser minion for the hags to use to exert their influence over the region. Even something as simple as a stormwracked gargoyle template would do wonders for giving them their own "flying monkeys" (a la The Wizard of Oz to harass the city and the PCs). Something like that would help punch this up in ways that would give the PCs a consistent lower level threat to cut through on their way to challenging the hags once they secure enough resources from the flooded city to do so.

The Reward: The reward is basically the jetstream bow, but, like Crystal, it doesn't feel iconic in a way that it'll stay in the PCs' magic item inventory beyond this adventure. To really punch it up, I think you need a different Lirgeni artifact for them to recover from the flooded city...something important that plays a role in moving the plot forward as an item they can use to access or influence the Augur's Throne...and yet, something that's so useful and cool that the PCs will want to identify with it by keeping it with them long after the adventure is over. A hard-won item like that is often its own reward, especially if it's got a legacy the PCs can learn, embrace, and renew by using it in the course of the adventure and beyond.

Conclusion
There's a lot to like here. Hags are a compelling, useful villain, but I think you undersold them a bit in comparison to the thunderbird and the greater threat it poses to the city. Like Adam, I fear you have bitten off more than you can deliver, but some people thought the same thing with my adventure proposal back in 2009 and I still had a clear enough vision and plan that I felt I could come through on it. Based on your performance throughout the competition, I think you're wired the same way, and I'd be curious to see how the final product would come out with the guidance of a Paizo developer.

So, all in all, I'm going to say that I DO RECOMMEND this adventure for consideration as the winning proposal for this round. It'll be up to the voters to decide how much your pitch and contest performance moves them. If you win, it'll take a sustained effort to truly bring to life the promise you've held forth. Trust, listen, and learn from your developer. But, if you don't win, I think you've demonstrated a significant enough freelancer skillset that you can make your mark in the industry if you want to give it a go. No matter how the voting comes out, more opportunities will come your way. You just have to make the most of them when they do. And that's why it's going to be more important what you do after RPG Superstar than during it...whether that's in writing this adventure for Paizo, or delivering a different awesome product for someone else.

My sincere two cents and best wishes on your future freelancing career,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Crystal! Welcome to the Final Round! This is it! An opportunity for you to pitch a (mostly) independent idea for an adventure, win over the voting public, and get a signed contract with Paizo to bring it to life. As someone who's lived that dream, I can tell you that it's a very, very cool experience. And, provided you apply all the lessons you've learned throughout the competition, you can use this contest as a platform for really getting your name--and your work--out there. So, relish the opportunity, soak in the feedback, and, whether or not you win it all outright, take the broader experience of RPG Superstar with you as you pursue whatever freelance opportunities come your way.

Based on prior years, you may know that I like to break my final round judging commentary into two halves. The first assesses your pitch...meaning, how well you sold your ideas within the proposal itself. I think it's important to take a look at that because it gives us a more complete sense of your vision and how well you're able to convey that to your developer (and the broader RPG community) to win them over and green light your work. It also offers a glimpse into how you'd structure your actual adventure, giving us a sense of your capabilities as a storyteller and how well you can tap into elements that will get people excited.

The second part of my assessment will dive into the proposed adventure and whether what you've presented here includes all the relevant pieces to hopefully make a great Pathfinder module. More than anything, that's really the goal here. While your pitch may demonstrate you've got the professional polish, insights, creative writing ability, and organizational skills to entrust you with this type of assignment, it's the core ideas of your adventure which will convince voters to select your proposal as the one they most want to purchase and play at their gaming tables.

So, with all that in mind, let's get down to business and see what you've proposed...

Feedback for: The Starpearl Tower

The Pitch
Okay. This is the part where you need to sell your proposal to us...which means, you need to write well enough to convince us you know what you're doing with strong, purposeful design choices--a skill you should realize by now plays an important role in pretty much everything you bring to the table if you want to stand out as a Superstar designer. This can include the underlying storytelling, pacing, and plot of your adventure; the choices you make with regards to the level requirement/CRs for various encounters and how they'll likely play out at the table; the number of maps you'll require for your chosen location(s); your sense of Golarion canon vs. how best to support the intellectual property of your publisher; your sense of scope and scale so you can fit everything into the required page-count/word-count; and so on. Basically, your adventure pitch should convince us you've got a good head on your shoulders when it comes to adventure design, and that you're the man Paizo (and the Paizo community) should trust with this opportunity.

Hopefully, the prior rounds of this year's competition (as well as what you've learned by following along in prior years) helped develop an understanding of these things for you. Personally, I think the best approach is to study what Paizo already does with their Pathfinder modules...i.e., how things are structured, how each adventure premise innovates around some new idea or theme, what kinds of limitations they put on you, and what kinds of opportunities they grant you as a writer/storyteller. Likewise, I believe it's important to study the winning adventure proposals from prior years of RPG Superstar to get a sense of how they "sold" the readers, judges, and voters. If you can pick up on all those elements and adapt your proposal accordingly, you'll be light-years ahead of most would-be designers in convincing folks to give you a chance.

So, the first thing I notice when I read your submission is the adventure's intended name. The Starpearl Tower. It avoids the traditional X of the Y title. And, it gives us an immediate idea of the presumed iconic location where it takes place...i.e., a "Starpearl tower." I like it. You're immediately causing the reader to wonder what a "starpearl" tower is like and what's so special about it. By including "star" and "pearl" in there, you're immediately tying together the sea and the nighttime sky, and you proposal goes on to live up to the imagery that the adventure's title conjures in the mind's eye. Well done.

In fact, naming is one of the most important elements in adventure design. That's because it's the first thing people are going to see when they come across your module on the shelves. Thus, your adventure's name needs to evoke a powerful image in the reader's mind so it makes them want to pick it up and read what lies behind the cover. One of the most useful tricks for selecting an evocative or even iconic name is to include either the name of your primary adventure location (e.g., The Temple of Elemental Evil, White Plume Mountain, Tomb of Horrors), or the name of your super-memorable, awe-inspiring villain (e.g., Queen of Spiders, Scourge of the Slave Lords, Crown of the Kobold King). The names of these adventures resonate because they draw upon the things your players will almost certainly remember and reminisce about after playing through them...i.e., the cool location where it took place, or the awesome villain they faced. If your adventure pitch can tap into a name that contains one or both of those things, you're on the right track. And, I think you succeeded here. For old school gamers, The Starpearl Tower could become as iconic as The Ghost Tower of Inverness if you play your cards right.

So what about the rest of the pitch? I think you presented very cleanly. Your lead-in summary wastes no time in telling us what it's about, who's involved, what's happening, and what's at stake. In fact, that's almost the same kind of rundown newspaper journalists are trained to use for the lead-in paragraphs of their columns. Hit the reader with the "who, what, when, and where" right up front. Then, once you've given them the basics, expound on them as you present the rest of your story. So, you're wise to take this approach. You hit your marks, and I'm interested to read on.

The rest of your pitch is just as solid from a structure standpoint. There's an adventure background section. You separated it out into appropriate chapters that help move the story along. You've got your new magic item, location, and monster. You've got a short list of ideas for getting the PCs involved (though I'd like to have something more definitive here). And, you've provided a decent conclusion/wrap-up to close things out. Structurally, you've put together a decent adventure pitch. From a content perspective, I'm also intrigued by the choices you've made. Hags are always great story movers when it comes to adventure opportunities. You can use them in a variety of ways, and your adventure hinges on the idea of introducing a new one with a "star hag." And, you've got the requisite changeling in danger as she starts hearing "the call" of her mother. It's a very fairy-tale-esque way of building an adventure premise, and it's a rock solid, proven tradition to draw upon.

The Adventure
I've written many times before in my advice for RPG Superstar about five key elements which I believe are vital to good adventure design. In fact, I like to use them as a good barometer for assessing how well a proposed adventure will hold up in terms of providing a memorable, entertaining experience. Those five things boil down to: 1) a memorable villain whose goals are a legitimate threat which credibly prompts the PCs to act; 2) a unique and interesting set of locales which provide cool maps, memorable encounters, and innovative tactical/terrain situations; 3) a compelling and interesting plot wherein the villain's goals encroach on the PCs' world in a sustained, threatening manner where they get to become heroes at the center of attention throughout the adventure; 4) some interesting and entertaining minions and NPCs who have a credible reason for working with the villain, existing within the chosen locale(s), and create recurring problems for the PCs; and 5) an interesting, worthwhile reward which the PCs (and their players) will cherish for the rest of their adventuring careers. If you can achieve high marks in as many of those areas as possible in your design, you could have a winning idea on your hands. So, let's see how you measured up:

The Villain: We're looking at an entire coven of hags as a triumvirate of villains, but it's the star hag that's calling the shots. This is a smart call. You're basically setting up a recurring theme of "hags" in both your villain and your minions (which I'll touch on later). And, their impacts can be felt across the entire plot. In fact, your main villian has a sense of evil about her that pervades the entire plotline. And, the corruption system demonstrates it even further. Nice touch.

The Locale(s): There's a fair bit of variety here. We start in the town of Jula, get some overland encounters and side caves, eventually find our way to the sea hag's lair, and then venture into the Starpearl Tower. It's a bit ambitious as you may run out of map space to do everything justice. But, from a storytelling perspective, the progression is solid and you've brought forth the promise of a compelling adventuring site with the tower at the end. I think it holds together, but your developer would have to guide you a bit in tweaking your outline to ensure everything can fit.

The Plot: I like that you give a sense of many different areas surrounding Jula that the PCs will get to interact with. Even the graveyard of ships has an eerie quality to it that comes across as a memorable opportunity. The corruption of the changeling also has a compelling plot to it so that the PCs are potentially racing against time to save Calla from herself. I think the plot could be made stronger if you included some encounters where the PCs can see evidence of her deteriorating psychology. Even having her in the final encounter alongside Velika, assisting her as another potential adversary the PCs have to face, might be a good touch...especially, if you give them multiple ways of undoing Calla rather than just slaying her. I think it's also great that the PCs get a chance to start taking apart the hag coven piece-by-piece. And, they get to acquire the necessary keys to open the normally insurmountable Starpearl Tower, giving them a very iconic location full of mystery to adventure through. You've got a lot of strong elements which collectively elevate the plot beyond just a "go here, do this, fight that, get XP."

The Minions: This could use a little more punching up, but in general, I like the additional hags as minions to Velika. And, as I mentioned earlier, Calla could even be another "hag" minion joining her mother at the end, depending on how the corruption plays out. But, aside from that, I think additional, recurring minions under the thumb of the hags would help...preferably something that can resurface again and again in various ways for the PCs to see their influence on the land, thereby giving the PCs another compelling reason to get involved.

The Reward: The reward is basically the starpearl in the adventure's title, and the PCs will need to acquire a couple of them to even venture inside and resolve the plot involving Calla and Velika. These items have some unique enough powers that they can live beyond the adventure itself, and you can envision the PCs cherishing them not only for their abilities, but also the continuing potential of using them as keys to the Starpearl Tower, possibly using it as a fortified base from which to have a lasting impact on the Sodden Lands. So, it's kind of like a double-reward as a wondrous magic item and a future landholding for the PCs.

Conclusion
There's a lot to like here. It may be more than you can deliver, but I'm intrigued. A big part of the adventure proposal round is demonstrating your ability to construct an interesting storyline that'll hook both the GM who reads it, and the players when they experience it. And, I think you've got enough elements here to accomplish that under the guidance of your developer. Special attention may be warranted to tie in the Starpearl Tower even more to the history of the Sodden Lands and give it a more important role in the campaign setting. And, some attention will likely need to be paid to the map count and monster adversaries (with their class levels).

But, all in all, I'm going to say that I DO RECOMMEND this adventure for consideration as the winning proposal for this round. It'll be up to the voters to decide how much your proposal moves them. And, if you win, it'll take a fair degree of collaboration with your developer to truly bring to life the promise you've held forth with this pitch. But, if you don't win, I think you've still got enough of the freelancer skillset to make a mark in the industry if you apply yourself. You've demonstrated those capabilities over the various rounds of the competition. So, no matter how the voting comes out, more opportunities may come your way. You just have to make the most of them.

My sincere two cents and best wishes on your future freelancing career,
--Neil

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