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Thematically good, mechanically dubious. I'm not as big a fan of dust-based items as Clark. But okay.
I agree with Steve that the Will save is too low. Combined with the "go-around" problem, there's too great a chance that a party aware of the impending attack of incorporeal undead (which is already not super likely) digs out the dust (move action) throws it in the air( standard action...crap, full-round action?), and through successful saves or simply ducking around, the attacking spectres are completely unaffected.
Which is unfortunate. Players are pretty fickle, an item only has to completely fail them once before they eschew it completely. Perhaps instead of creating a wall, the dust could create a cloudy area that the spectre would have to penetrate to attack within. Perhaps the save could be bumped a little. But, as written, I don't see this as being effective.
This item just does too little for me. Mechanically, spending 20 GP to get fire resistance (That might be as low as fire resist 1) for a minute is probably fine, but it's only really useful to a very, very low level party, I think. And, at 2000 GP, it's probably well priced out of their range.
To anyone who could afford the item, it's not really that useful. There are better ways to spend 2000 GP.
This isn't an item that's big on new, groundbreaking, gonzo ideas. It does something useful, it's reasonably priced, it has interesting mechanical limitations.
The strength of the item in how evocative and whimsical it is, I think. It's an item that a retired adventurer has a block of in his shed, or arcane secret police carry, or is gifted to a fated protagonist by an eccentric fey relative.
It's useful not only for a player, but the ease of which a GM could fit it into a campaign, and perhaps tie a storyline to it. Recommended.
I took sociology, psychology, and philosophy in college, but that was years and years ago. I couldn't tell you the difference between a Jungian archetype and a cheese danish. A girl I had a severe crush on loaned me The Fountainhead when I was in high school, and I got 300 pages in, before realizing I had no idea what I was reading. So it's fair to say I'm not super aware of Randian philosophies.
But yeah, I just liked that I wrote something that seemed like it had some subtext. An author has to be able to stir things in a reader--it's a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. It's a plus to get people thinking about your work, finding threads and tugging on them, as it were, even if the the threads don't lead where they expect.
And criticism doesn't hurt my feelings, I went to art school. It's always better for someone to find something to address in your work, then it is to have them say nothing. If people are talking about your art, you've succeeded in engaging them, on some level. Getting people to have an opinion about your work is the first step to getting them to have a positive opinion.
I wanted to call this one out, as my favorite criticism from this round, by far. While I'd like to say that all the subtext was planned, sometimes a sword is just a sword.
Thank you everyone, for your careful consideration. I've had a tremendous time participating in RPG Superstar, and have enjoyed your feedback more than you could guess. While I'm certain that I will not be your RPG Superstar for 2012, I can tell you that I fully intend to pursue every opportunity that this competition has provided.
Thank you all so much, it has been a genuine blast.
The Unsheathed Revolution
Galt is a nation on the edge. For decades, Galt has been eaten from within by sedition and protest. Invariably, whenever a new revolutionary flame sweeps across Galt, its spark is struck in Woodsedge. Radicals, abolitionists, and anarchists of all stripes call Woodsedge home, and a fresh generation of nascent treasons are furtively nurtured within its borders. Now there is a new rebellion growing in Woodsedge, a rebellion not of men and ideas, but of lost souls and hammered steel.
The Unsheathed Revolution is a Pathfinder module designed for four 9th-level characters. Using the medium XP advancement track, characters should achieve 10th-level by the end of the adventure.
The Unsheathed Revolution is an urban investigation taking place in the anarchist enclave of Woodsedge. The party must investigate a sudden influx of intelligent magic weapons that threatens to engulf Woodsedge in violence and undeath. During the investigation, the party contends with over-armed criminals, diseased cultists, and sentient traps, finally confronting the cult's leader within a thorny labyrinth.
Zaszmarkana has travelled to the town of Woodsedge to test yellow scythe in real-world conditions. To facilitate her plan, the high priestess acquired access to one of Galt's fabled final blades, Friar Sharpness, a viable source of the disquiet souls needed to create yellow scythe. She has also acquired a local counterfeiting concern, whose equipment she uses to create yellow scythe-infused coins. The first batch of these coins has been released among the criminal populace. As a result, dozens of potent magic weapons, called unsheathed weapons, have emerged in the hands of Woodsedge's disenfranchised. This has resulted in a deadly upswing in sectarian violence. Woodsedge has no organized town guard, and counts on loose militia groups called "Bluecaps" to provide paid protection for its citizenry. The Bluecap militias have been stretched to the breaking point by this outbreak, and without outside assistance, Woodsedge will fall to Urgathoa.
A metal weapon corrupted by yellow scythe is called an unsheathed weapon. It acts in most ways like a typical intelligent weapon. It does not react to detect magic, but it does react faintly to detect undead. Each unsheathed weapon has identical mental ability scores, senses, speech ability, and ego score. They possess diverse enhancement bonuses, special abilities, powers, alignments, and personalities. The purpose and dedicated power they all unknowingly share is to transform their wielders into undead creatures known as risen blades. This transformation takes several days, during which time yellow stains creep up the wielder's hands and arms. As the stains progress, an unsheathed weapon becomes more difficult to discard. If an unsheathed weapon fails to transform its host, it loses all of its yellow scythe-gained abilities permanently.
Chapter 1: Ancestral Voices
Assuming she is treated with respect, Tadamori Yubi begrudgingly relays her story to the party. In her youth, Yubi-san was a samurai in the service of a minor lord of Jinin. After her lord was executed for dishonor, she became ronin, traveling across the crown of the world with the intent of returning to the land of her elven ancestors. Finding Kyonin unacceptably chaotic, she established her inn and hung up her daisho. However, in traveling with her grandsons to Woodsedge for supplies, she carries her swords for protection.
After a recent such trip, Yubi-san began to hear voices when she grasped her swords, and feel a vulgar power within them. She is now convinced that she has dishonored her ancestors in some way, because as she puts it, "My blades speak to me, but they do not speak with the voices of my ancestors. They do not speak the language of my homeland." She is inconsolable, and stoically wishes to redeem herself with a ritualized suicide known as seppuku. She asks that one of the party act as her kaishakunin, whose function is to behead her during the ritual so that she does not suffer.
The party can handle her request in a number of ways. Becoming Yubi-san's kaishakunin is a noble decision, by her cultural standard, but is probably considered abhorrent by a good-aligned party. The party can refuse her request, which may result in her talking her own life without a kaishakunin. Using Diplomacy to calm her fears and/or offering to resolve the situation is a superior solution. Examining Yubi-san's daisho provide the first clues as to the nature of yellow scythe. Unfortunately, it also exposes the party to its effects.
Yellow Scythe Exposure:
At many times during this module, player characters who carry metal weapons will be exposed to yellow scythe either by handling yellow scythe-infused metal (notably the specially prepared coinage prepared by the Pallid Way cultists), or engaging in combat with characters wielding unsheathed weapons. While magic weapons are entitled to a save to resist corruption, mundane weapons are not, and due to the pervasive nature of the pathogen, it's very likely that some characters will have their weapons become unsheathed (which occurs within an hour of contact with corrupted metal). While break enchantment has a chance to cleanse this corruption, the possibility of recontamination is high. In the short term, having an unsheathed weapon can be seen as both a tactical advantage and a roleplaying opportunity. Many unsheathed weapons are neutral or good in alignment, and could help defeat the forces that created them.
Chapter 2: City without a Flag
The instigators, members of a criminal gang known as the "Lutins" seek revenge against the Bluecaps for the recent killings of some of their members, found mutilated and stacked in a public park (Their vengeance is misplaced, however, as will be revealed in Chapter Three). The Bluecaps are under-equipped to face the assault from the Lutin's unsheathed weapons, and will be killed if the party does not intervene.
Many of the Lutins are concealed within the roiling crowd of Woodsedge citizens, and are difficult to detect prior to using their weapons' spell-like abilities to sow destruction. Some Lutins take to the air or haste themselves to attack. Assuming the party defends the Bluecaps, care must be taken not to use deadly area effects within the crowd. Also, until the mob clears the marketplace, poorly-aimed ranged attacks have a chance to strike the panicking citizens as they run to and fro. Engaging the Lutins in melee combat exposes characters to yellow scythe.
If the Lutins meet significant resistance, they flee from combat. If one is captured and interrogated, he reveals that the Lutins staged a false charity food distribution for Woodsedge's hungry, and then scapegoated the Bluecaps when no food was distributed. Guy Vernaut, the one-eyed Bluecap militia captain, takes the wounded Lutins into custody. He confesses that they have no means to keep them off the streets until a trial that will likely not take place for months. Vernaut thanks the party for their help quelling the riot, and shares what little he knows about the yellow scythe outbreak.
The bodies of the fallen Lutins are examined, showing the telltale yellow-stained arms, and their weapons, now powerless, are of poor quality. As one of the Bluecaps crassly empties the pockets of one of the Lutin corpses, he tosses Vernaut a peculiar copper coin. He offers it to the party, saying that it's a peculiar counterfeit, similar to others found within the city. A cursory examination reveals that the coin is minted with strange symbol on one side, resembling a cross between a skull and a swollen-bodied fly (the symbol of Urgathoa, a distinctive flourish that Zaszmarkana could not resist). By investigating the leads provided by the Lutins and the coin, the party can locate the Pallid Way's underground minting facility, located in a disused municipal building.
Chapter 3: Filthy Lucre
The minting facility is a key element in Zaszmarkana's plans. Yellow scythe-infused lead is forged into coins for distribution here, and the cultists present are currently packaging corrupted coins for distribution across Galt. In order to confront and defeat the cultists, the party must first bypass (what appear to be) conventional mechanical traps. The traps were made unsheathed, allowing them to activate and reset themselves. The cultists are armed with necromantic magic, casks of leaden slag, and other virulent defenses, but the most dire threat in the facility is a group of local sellswords in the late stages of yellow scythe transformation. As they are confronted, they slash their own bodies open, and the first generation of risen blades are birthed to the world.
Nearly invisible, this spectral presence resembles a man-shaped hollow in the air, deftly wielding a pulsing magic weapon. Risen blades are incorporeal undead that wield the poisonous magic weapons that spawned them. Unlike the diversity in alignment that unsheathed weapons have, risen blades are always lawful evil. They are unflinchingly loyal to agents of Urgathoa, and exist to enforce her will.
Among the cultists' effects are documents detailing the process for creating yellow scythe, which requires samples of a dizzying array of existing supernatural diseases and arcane reagents. Most importantly, a stable source of disquiet souls must be used to create the template for each unsheathed weapon's personality. Interrogated cultists reveal that their high priestess, Zaszmarkana, has acquired such a source, and is hidden somewhere in Woodsedge. Characters can discern that this source is likely Woodsedge's final blade, Friar Sharpness.
Chapter 4: The Friar is Missing
Opening the obelisk without force requires pressing certain letters in a prescribed order. The letters spell out "Maze of the Open Road," the location where Friar Sharpness has been taken. This famous landmark is one of Woodsedge's few remaining points of interest, and reportedly contains many magical portals within its overgrown thorny walls. Inside the obelisk is a satchel containing the traditional uniform of one of the Gray Gardeners, complete with mask, tricorn, coat, and baton. If the party chooses to open the obelisk by force (and couldn't decipher the script), examining the clothing inside reveals long thorns that can also help direct the party to where the Friar has been moved. The baton is, in fact, a device known as a rod of rebellion, a symbol of the Gray Gardeners.
Rod of Rebellion:
This rod functions as a magic light mace, and possesses abilities that enable its wielder (or his allies) to more readily escape magical compulsion and charm effects. In addition, by holding the rod in hand, a character can unerringly find the nearest final blade as if by locate object.
Chapter 5: Labyrinth
Chapter 6: House of Blades
Zaszmarkana is revealed! From the waist up, the high priestess of the Pallid Way is a striking, dark-skinned elf with thin, stringy white hair. From the waist down hang skeletally thin legs, emaciated from a wasting disease, and clearly incapable of supporting her weight. With her torso strapped to the fore of a spider-like construct known as a cutlass spider, she turns to adjust the nest of bubbling vials integrated into her construct body. At the rear of the "spider's" abdomen protrudes the silvery blade of a guillotine, affixed in place, and faintly thrumming with dark intent. Zaszmarkana has turned the Friar into a factory for producing yellow scythe, and only by removing the blade from her infernal device can the yellow curse be lifted from Woodsedge.
Zaszmarkana is a noble drow oracle of bones. Rendered lame by disease, her legs have completely atrophied. She can no longer walk, but telepathically commands her spiderlike "body" to move as a free action, although they have different initiative modifiers. Clambering over the walls and ceiling, Zaszmarkana attacks with spells as her Friar Sharpness-enhanced cutlass spider slashes with its vorpal sword-legs or launches threads of razor-sharp webbing. Concealed within the walls of the workshop are several risen blades, which Zaszmarkana calls upon to aid her in combat with the party. Should the party fail to stop Zaszmarkana, her risen blades will pacify Woodsedge within weeks. This is the final battle!
EDIT FROM THE JUDGES: Please read this information about playtesting these encounters. We've also added hyperlinks from the encounter's short stat blocks to the full stat blocks in the PRD so you have the information you need to run the encounter.
Mushti's Beguiling Oddities
Since Mushti's disappearance, his shop serves mostly as a waystation for a rotating assortment of gangs, smugglers, or other criminals needing a convenient place to hide from the forces of law. The shop's basement is currently inhabited by members of the Pallid Way, worshippers of Urgathoa that trade in exotic diseases. Their leader, Iriona, has acquired the "Red Fury of Segang," a terrible beast of Jalmeray which carries a maddening sickness from a faraway land.
Rooftop Entry (CR 3 or 6)
Creatures: The smoke-irritated spider lunges out of the broken chimney in her displeasure attacking the closest character, whether on the second floor or at the front of the building. For high tier play, two advanced spiders emerge from the chimney, although only one receives the haste effect.
Low Tier (CR 3):
Sarcophagus Room (CR 4 or 7)
Creatures: The bulk of the cultists lair in this room. In preparation for intruders, they hide within the smaller sarcophagi. They wait until the glyph of warding is triggered (or they are discovered), at which point they attack. The low tier cultists begin by throwing their tanglefoot bags, and team up on entangled characters to maximize opportunities for sneak attack. The high tier cultists use similar tactics, trying to entangle targets, or tripping them with their guisarmes.
Low Tier (CR 4):
High Tier (CR 7):
The Red Fury's Lair (CR 6 or 9)
The cage is secured with a good lock (DC 30 Disable Device). For a low tier party, the statue is the leader of the Pallid Way, Iriona, gargoyle. The Red Fury is a mangy, balding manticore with sunburned pink skin. It slouches in the eastern corner of its cage in a drooling trance, having been heavily drugged for transport. However, if disturbed (even by the sounds of combat), its ferocity immediately surfaces.
Creatures: Iriona uses her freeze ability to lure targets close, then attacks, taking to the air to avoid flanking. The sounds of combat rouse the Red Fury, who fires spikes at the party from behind the cage bars (which provide partial cover). After the first round of combat, Iriona uses her chime of opening to release the Red Fury, so it can join the combat in melee.
Low Tier (CR 6):
Red Fury, Drugged Diseased Manticore CR 4 LINK
For a high tier party, the statue is the petrified form of the Red Fury, a Chimera. Once it is restored to life, the Red Fury's flesh is revealed to be a nearly hairless pink, the color of a fresh welt. Its three mouths howl in agonized ire. The Pallid Way's leader, Iriona, is a medusa.
Creatures: Iriona, having locked herself within the cage, hides in its western corner until the party nears the Red Fury, at which point she fires her stone salve-tipped arrow to release the creature from its petrified state. She avoids affecting the Fury with her gaze (treating it as an ally), and supports the creature's attacks with poisoned arrow fire from within the cage. If forced into melee combat, Iriona primarily attacks with her gaze, trying to end the skirmish quickly.
High Tier (CR 9):
Red Fury, Diseased Chimera CR 7 LINK
Development:Both versions of the Red Fury of Segang are carriers of Sikari rage, a fast-acting disease from the distant land of Vudra that inflicts a livid madness on its victims. The disease is transmitted by each of the Red Fury's natural attacks. A successful casting of remove disease, heal, or other malady-curing ability upon the Red Fury removes the disease from its system, and leaves the beast exhausted. (Pathfinder AP 9)
Daniel Rust wrote:
Right, like Jodie Foster.
This bristly quadruped creeps silently along a cavern wall using long, dexterous forelimbs. Its grinning mouth is full of needle-like teeth, and ridged, oversized ears dominate its vulpine face.
Hushfoot Bocan CR 7
----- Defense -----
----- Offense -----
----- Statistics -----
----- Ecology -----
----- Special Abilities -----
Numbing Saliva (Ex) In addition to powerful anticoagulant properties, a hushfoot bocan's saliva contains a potent anesthetic. When an uninjured creature is bitten by a hushfoot bocan, he must make a DC 18 Fortitude save or fail to realize he has been injured (and is suffering bleed damage). Each round he is entitled to an additional save, in order to detect the subtle injury. An adjacent ally can detect the injury with a Perception check at the same DC. Suffering additional injury, from any source, also ends the effect. Once the effect has ended, he is immune to the effects of bocan numbing saliva for 24 hours. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Vertigo Pulse (Su) As a standard action, once every 1d4+1 rounds, a hushfoot bocan can project a 60' cone of disorienting sonic energy. Living creatures within the cone fall prone and are sickened for 1d6 rounds. DC 18 Fortitude save negates. A hushfoot bocan is immune to the vertigo pulses generated by other bocans. The save DC is Charisma-based, and includes a +2 racial bonus.
Hushfoot bocans are fecund Darklands predators that thrive near any sizable underground population, attacking travelers and invading poorly-guarded communities to prey on the unwary. Bocans are opportunistic hunters that favor humanoid meat, although any creature is a potential meal. They have strong familial bonds, and live closely packed in well-hidden warrens or crevices, where they accumulate a communal hoard. These spoils, collected from their prey, are treated as objects of fetish worship. In a typical bocan colony, a well-crafted sword is revered as an icon of martial prowess, a holy symbol represents deceased ancestors, and coinage is symbolic of fertility. A colony spends its leisure hours carefully sorting and rearranging its hoard, or quietly regarding individual pieces. While hushfoot bocans are deathly quiet while hunting, a well-fed bocan can be rambunctious and talkative within its family or among allies. A typical hushfoot bocan is about 6 feet long, 4 feet high at the shoulder, and weighs 170 pounds. Although they cannot be domesticated, enterprising svirfneblin have achieved short-term alliances with bocans, and sometimes use them as sentries or mounts.
Cold Hearth Lodge
In the lonely corners of Avistan, where hook-clawed giants and acid-spewing dragons can raze a village overnight, it can be great comfort to know that the grim stone walls of a hunter's lodge stand nearby. The Cold Hearth Lodge, whose iron-thewed huntsmen protect the lives of provincial folk from threats hidden the wilderness. Too bad the protection the lodge offers is a fable. In truth, the Lodge seeks only the glory of a blood-soaked trophy hoisted overhead, and would sacrifice any number of "provincial folk" to gain it.
Structure and Leadership
Aura moderate transmutation; CL 3rd
This knee-length silk achkan is tailored in an elegant Vudran style, and edged with delicate embroidery. At will, as a standard action, the wearer of a Rajah's Silhouette can flatten his body and become paper-thin while still able to move and act. This transformation can be reversed as a move action.
While a Rajah's Silhouette is activated, the wearer may roll, fold and twist his form in order to bypass obstacles that would be otherwise impassable. The transformed wearer of a Rajah's Silhouette can slither beneath doors or pass between bars, treating these gaps as difficult terrain. By making a DC 25 Escape Artist check to carefully fold his form, the wearer can even hide within exceptionally small spaces: inside bottles, within scroll cases, or between the pages of a book. The wearer is considered pinned by such small spaces but may exit these confines as a move action. While a Rajah's Silhouette is activated, the wearer can fall any distance as if under the effects of feather fall.
While transformed by a Rajah's Silhouette, the wearer weighs 1/32nd of his normal weight but maintains his normal space and reach. During the transformation, the wearer's weaponry and equipment function normally; however, the wearer's paper-like body is easier to cut than normal and becomes vulnerable to attacks that deal slashing damage. The transformed wearer also suffers a -4 size penalty to Strength and is treated as a creature two size categories smaller for purposes of CMB, CMD, and the effects of wind.