I'm thinking this entry needed a little more time. I was so excited when I got the idea, but my initial inspiration splintered into a dozen different threads. With the few days I had to implement that idea, I couldn't pull all those threads back together into a superstar encounter. Mabye, with an extra week, this might have been something great. But, given the quality of my competitors, I don't know that an extra year would have helped me.
So, some thoughts:
On Encounter Level: Hello; my name is Joe, and I'm a PC killer. I don't try, but for whatever reason - me, my players, luck - PCs tend to die a lot in my games. I've developed the habit of "rounding up" encounter levels to compensate; I just continued to do so for this, without even thinking about it.
On Size over Weight: Why, oh why, did I not do this? I had the idea. Several times. I realized that weight would be clunky, and that it should be replaced with something a little easier to track (such as size). But I never actually did anything with that. I have no explanation.
On "Why are we here?": I think I missed the part in the rules where it specified that the encouter should be a part of an adventure. I tend to prefer out-of-the-box components (such as a single encounter with little context) myself; perhaps that preference colored my reading of the rules. So I went for the side quest/random encounter idea, not the part of a larger whole idea. I felt that the situation was sufficiently odd to warrant a history (though I did probably go overboard on it); this was not intended as a way to hook the encounter into a wider adventure.
On Boring Goblins: The goblins were one of those threads that got away from me. The original inspiration involved simply getting the statue out of the boat without killing yourselves or ruining the statue. I don't remember exactly why the goblins came in in the first place, but had I better held that core idea, they might not have even been there.
On Searching for Traps: I'm with the 4e designers in that traps shouldn't default to Search/Disable Device rolls. Many traps probably should be, but there are definitely a class of traps that I feel should use different rules. This is one. How exactly does one search for this as a trap? And, assuming you've identified it, disabling it is no small task, involving more muscle than your standard rogue probably has. And if the party can disable the trap with a couple of rolls, where's the fun in the encounter?
To Clark, Wolfgang, and Eric, everyone else at Paizo, all my competitors, all those that voted, all those that critiqued, thank you all. This has been a wonderful learning experience, and I've had a lot of fun.
A Precarious Shrine refers to a small shrine to Murakin, the goblin sea god. Situated in the hold of a beached, but unstable, sailing vessel, the challenge of this encounter is two-fold: the loyal defenders of the shrine, led by the goblin shaman Zaweri, and the potentially dangerous shifting of the hull. Parties will have to coordinate their actions and think on their feet to handle both at once.
A Precarious Shrine is a 5th-level encounter.
Approaching the Shrine
Read or paraphrase the following as the party approaches the vessel:
Just off shore, a once-grand merchant vessel lies on its side on a small sandbar. While the aft appears partially embedded in the sand, the fore hovers unsupported over the water. The masts have broken off, and you can barely make out the words Daughter of Dusk in the Common letters on the aft. Rope ladders and bridges spread across the nearly vertical deck, creating paths between the various hatches and the ground.
Characters with ranks in Knowledge (architecture and engineering) can make a DC 15 check to identify the instability without interacting with the hull. A character who casts detect snares and pits also detects the danger.
Entering the Shrine
The only entrance to the shrine is the hold hatch. The rope bridges and ladders make reaching the hatch easy, but if the characters aren't careful, they could disrupt the vessel's balance without even entering the hold (see Tipping the Daughter of Dusk, below).
Zaweri usually keeps the hatch doors open. Due to the angle of the ship and the destroyed rigging, handling these large doors can be quite difficult. Opening or closing them requires a DC 15 Strength check.
The floor of the shrine is actually the side of the Daughter of Dusk's cargo hold. All ribs and slopes, this floor requires a DC 12 Balance check to walk across. In addition, creatures in the hold can potentially tip the vessel (see Tipping the Daughter of Dusk, below). The chamber is 20 feet tall at the center, tapering to a point afore. The three masts pass overhead; the shrine itself sits just abaft of the aft mast.
The shrine consists of a wooden alter, covered with carvings and religious paraphernalia, and a goblin-sized, gold-plated statue of Murakin. Zaweri attends the shrine nearly constantly, and several petitioners usually join her in prayer. If approached peacefully, Zaweri will feign polite curiosity, but is really just sizing up the intruders and looking for an opening to attack. If the party tips the Daughter of Dusk or otherwise defiles the shrine, she will attack outright.
See below for Zaweri's statistics. The three petitioners are typical goblin warriors (see the MM) with 5 hp each.
Zaweri CR 3
NE Small Humanoid (goblinoid) Cleric 3
Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +2, Spot +2
Aura moderate evil
Rebuke Undead (Su): Once per day, Zewari can rebuke, control, or bolster undead.
Rebuke Water Creatures (Su): Zewari can use her Rebuke Undead ability against creatures with the water subtype in addition to undead.
Turn Fire Creatures (Su): Zewari can use her Rebuke Undead ability to turn or destroy creatures with the fire subtype.
Tipping the Daughter of Dusk
The Daughter of Dusk's balance is very precarious. If the party places 500 pounds or more of weight on the fore half of the ship (the area marked A on the map), it will tip into the water. The party can avoid this tipping by placing weight on the aft portion of the ship: for example, with an additional 200 pounds abaft, the Daughter of Dusk will only tip with 700 pounds afore. Likewise, if 500 pounds are removed from the aft, the ship will also tip.
Characters on the fore when it begins to tip can choose to make a Reflex save (DC 15) to jump aft 5 feet, potentially re-balancing the ship. Characters aware of the dangerous nature of the vessel can ready an action to move abaft if it starts to tip.
If the ship does tip, it does so within seconds. Any creature in or on the vessel must make an immediate Balance check (DC 16) or fall. The hold hatch becomes completely submerged. If the hold doors are open, water nearly instantly fills area A, making it extremely difficult to right the ship. The sudden flood of water batters anyone in the area, dealing 2d6 damage (Reflex DC 15 halves).
If the hold doors are closed, 50 pounds of water enters the hold every round. If left undisturbed, the hold will fill after 10 minutes. Opening the hold door while water is seeping in means pushing against tons of water, requiring a DC 30 Strength check, and results in the sudden flooding of the hold (as detailed above). Once area A is filled, the pressures have equalized, and opening the doors requires no more effort than before.
If Zaweri and the petitioners were not yet aware of the party when the Daughter of Dusk begins tipping, she will immediately realize that something is wrong and will begin investigating. Zaweri herself doesn't know of the danger (the goblins are too light to unbalance the vessel by itself) and could make the situation worse by moving to the fore.
Zaweri is a CR 3 opponent, and the other goblins are CR 1/3 each. They all have appropriate equipment that can be salvaged by the PC's.
Treat the entire Daughter of Dusk as a CR 3 trap. If the party tips the vessel, or takes action to prevent it from tipping, they earn the appropriate amount of experience.
The statue of Murakin is worth 2,800 gp. However, as it weights 400 pounds, removing it from the Daughter of Dusk safely could prove to be difficult, and transporting it to market could be challenging as well. The remaining religious items (two candles in golden candleholders, a silver holy symbol, and a jeweled incense bowl) are worth 120 gp in total.
About one year ago, the merchant vessel Daugther of Dusk began her first voyage to Zavaten Gura. As she sailed past goblin territory, a heavy fog beset her and her crew. The sailors, blindly navigating unknown waters, found their ship grounded on a sandbar just off the goblin shore. The crew, fearful for their lives, abandoned the ship, taking what they could and fleeing in dinghies down the shore to civilized lands.
Zaweri took the sudden and inexplicable arrival of the sailing ship as a sign from Murakin, the god of the sea. She gathered some of her tribe members and took claim of the grounded vessel, using its hold for religious gatherings. As her followers increased, her shrine grew; by selling off the contents of the ship, Zaweri was able to commission the golden statue of Murakin.
However, the Daughter of Dusk did not sit on stable ground, and during one particularly vigorous ceremony, the vessel suddenly and catastrophically listed to port, killing many of the faithful. Despite Zaweri's pleas to the contrary, many in the flock interpreted the event as a warning from Kobinalu, god of the earth, to return to solid land.
Although her numbers decreased considerably, Zaweri held onto her belief in the miraculous appearance of the ship. She rebuilt the shrine, with the golden Murakin as the centerpiece, and still holds rites there.
I struggled with this round. I spent too much time working on ideas that didn't pan out... eventually I chose a theme that I knew that I could execute, even if it wasn't the most exciting or original. So when I started on this concept (with only a few days to go) I just wasn't drawn to it, and I had a hard time forcing myself to work on it.
The result was a rather short entry with several oversights: yes, I copy-pasted parts from "Creating a Vampire"; the cloud golem is supposed to be clouds around an iron skeleton; the save for Become Bolt halves the damage. Given another shot, I'd have added more crunch to the thunderstruck (I particularly liked the suggestion of a death-throes effect), cleaned up the cloud golem some (maybe even replaced it with something else), added more fluff to the squallherds (such as a full-blown "Squallherd Society" section), and actually written an introduction.
To the judges and all those that saw past the problems and found something they could use: thank you for your support. Those 3-1/2 days between submission and posting were terrible on me, and all the friendly posts really helped get me excited for this contest again.
And to those who voted for me: I am excited for the next round, and (assuming I'm still in the running) I think you'll be rewarded for your confidence in this designer.
An inky thunderhead
Thematic Link: The three monsters below share a connection to the fury of storms: the thunderstruck form from the clash of lightning and necromancy; the cloud golem merges the natural force of weather with the artificiality of arcane construction; and the squallherds control the winds that shape storms.
The charred corpse rises from the ground. Its burnt skin crackles with electricity as the smell of ozone fills the air. Though lifeless, the corpse's eyes seethe with hatred.
Thunderstruck are the undead remains of those unlucky enough to die from a lightning strike, or other potent source of electricity, while near a source of necromantic energy. The force of the lightning, combined with the fury of the one struck, triggers the latent necromantic power of the area, transforming the corpse. The result is a malicious spirit imbued with the power of storms.
Jealous of the opportunities stolen from them, thunderstruck hate all living creatures. Most stay in the wilderness during fair weather, happy with destroying the local wildlife. When storms come, more intelligent thunderstruck descend on cities to wreak havoc among the civilized peoples.
Usually content with their random carnage, intelligent thunderstruck will often develop vendettas against creatures that show control over the weather. Simple jealousy gives way to anger at those who collude with the deadly natural forces. Thunderstruck will hunt such foes, actively seeking vengeance for their lost lives. They will fight to their own destruction, if necessary, to kill such an opponent.
Travelers can encounter thunderstruck anywhere thunderstorms naturally occur, but always outdoors. Combat is much more likely during stormy weather, when the thunderstruck are at full power and are looking to cause mayhem.
Thunderstruck Manticore CR 5
Spikes (Ex): With a snap of its tail, a manticore can loose a volley of six spikes as a standard action (make an attack roll for each spike). This attack has a range of 180 feet with no range increment. All targets must be within 30 feet of each other. The creature can launch only twenty-four spikes in any 24-hour period.
Shock (Su): A thunderstruck deals an extra 1d6 electricity damage on any melee attack it makes.
Creating a Thunderstruck
Size and Type: The creature's type changes to undead, and it gains the augmented subtype. It retains any subtypes except alignment subtypes (such as good) and subtypes that indicate kind (such as goblinoid). Size is unchanged.
Hit Dice: Drop any Hit Dice from class levels (to a minimum of 1), and raise the remaining Hit Dice to d12s.
Armor Class: The creature's natural armor bonus improves by +2.
Base Attack: A thunderstruck has a base attack bonus equal to 1/2 its Hit Dice.
Attack: A thunderstruck retains all the attacks of the base creature and also gains a slam attack if it didn’t already have one. If the base creature can use weapons, the vampire retains this ability. A creature with natural weapons retains those natural weapons.
Damage: Natural and manufactured weapons deal damage normally. A slam attack deals damage depending on the thunderstruck's size. (Use the base creature's slam damage if it’s better.)
Size : Damage
In addition, any melee attack, whether natural or manufactured, deals extra electricity damage (as indicated in the shock ability description).
Special Attacks: A thunderstruck retains the base creature's special attacks and gains the special attack described below.
Shock (Su): A thunderstruck deals an extra 1d6 electricity damage on any melee attack it makes.
Special Qualities: A thunderstruck gains the special quality described below.
Fast Healing (Ex): A thunderstruck heals a number of hit points per round equal to its Hit Dice, provided it is outdoors during a thunderstorm.
Immunity to Electricity and Sonic: A thunderstruck cannot be further hurt by what ended its natural life.
Saves: Base save bonuses are Fort +1/3 HD, Ref +1/3 HD, and Will +1/2 HD +2.
Abilities: Dex +2, Int –4 (minimum 1). As an undead, a thunderstruck has no Constitution score.
Climate/Terrain: As base creature.
Organization: Solitary, pair, or gang (3–8)
Challenge Rating: As base creature, ignoring class levels.
Treasure: As base creature.
Alignment: Always chaotic evil.
Advancement: As base creature (or — if base creature's advancement is by character class).
Level Adjustment: —
Dense puffs of cloud fill out an iron skeleton to the form of a well-muscled giant. Occasional blasts of cold mist pour out between the metal ribs, only to be drawn in again, creating the illusion of breath. Its steady, golden eyes remain constant among the shifting hues of mist and fog.
The Cerulean Sisterhood first crafted the cloud golems as defenders of their floating ziggurat. The Sisters hid their new guardians, capable of self-sustained flight and concealment, amongst the jungle mists around Jhansi. Many an unsuspecting intruder fell under the sudden force of living cloud bound with iron. As Iskandria's influence grew, the secrets of the cloud golem spread across the Material Planes.
The final phase of construction of a cloud golem must take place during a thunderstorm. As the final spell is cast, a tower of cloud and lightning descends from the storm to the empty skeleton. This tower grants form and life to the golem, fusing cloud, elemental spirit, and iron into a cohesive whole.
Whenever possible, the elemental spirit that drives a cloud golem reforms the construct's body with vapor taken from the local environment. While this allows the golem to repair itself, it also makes it susceptible to changes in the atmosphere. The masters of these golems have found ways to use this to their advantage, while others have determined how to use this trait to disable them.
As is typical with all golems, the cloud golem loyally serves one master, and most encounters with a cloud golem involve that master. Beyond these situations, flying travelers may meet a cloud golem that is running an errand or defending an airborne site. Few masters would put a cloud golem in an enclosed structure, where other golems would serve better.
Cloud Golem CR 10
Berserk (Ex): When a cloud golem enters combat, there is a cumulative 1% chance each round that its elemental spirit breaks free and the golem goes berserk. The uncontrolled golem goes on a rampage, attacking the nearest living creature or smashing some object smaller than itself if no creature is within reach, then moving on to spread more destruction. The golem's creator, if within 60 feet, can try to regain control by speaking firmly and persuasively to the golem, which requires a DC 20 Charisma check. It takes 1 minute of inactivity by the golem to reset the golem’s berserk chance to 0%.
Emit Cloud (Ex) Once per round, as a free action, a cloud golem can emit a thick cloud. This cloud functions exactly like the fog cloud spell, centered on the golem, with a duration of 1 round. Note that since the cloud dissipates before the start of the golem's next round, it cannot use this ability to fulfill the condition for its fast healing.
Fast Healing (Su): Whenever a cloud golem is in a cloud or other foggy environment, it gains fast healing 5.
Flight (Su): A cloud golem can cease or resume flight as a free action.
Immunity to Magic (Ex): A cloud golem is immune to any spell or spell-like ability that allows spell resistance. In addition, certain spells and effects function differently against the creature, as noted below.
A cloud golem within the area of an acid fog spell absorbs the fog. The normal effect of the spell ends, but for the remainder of the spell's duration, the golem's slam attacks deal an extra 2d6 acid damage.
A cloud golem within the area of a cloudkill spell absorbs the cloud. The normal effect of the spell ends, but for the remainder of the spell's duration, the golem is stunned, with no saving throw.
A cloud golem within the area of an incendiary cloud spell absorbs the cloud. The normal effect of the spell ends, but for the remainder of the spell's duration, the golem's slam attacks deal an extra 3d6 fire damage.
A cloud golem within the area of a mind fog spell instantly goes berserk (see Berserk entry above). So long as the golem remains within the mind fog, its creator cannot regain control over it.
A cloud golem within the area of a solid fog spell absorbs the cloud. The normal effect of the spell ends, but for the remainder of the spell's duration, the golem is slowed, as the slow spell, with no saving throw.
A cloud golem within the area of a stinking cloud spell absorbs the cloud. The normal effect of the spell ends, but for the remainder of the spell's duration, any creature hit by the golem's slam attack must make a Fortitude save (with the same DC as the original spell) or become nauseated for 1d4+1 rounds.
A cloud golem's body forms around a skeleton of iron and precious metals worth 1,500 gp; building this framework requires a DC 15 Craft (armorsmithing) or DC 15 Craft (weaponsmithing) check.
CL 11th; Craft Construct, animate objects, control winds, fog cloud, caster must be at least 11th level; Price 44,000 gp; Cost 23,500 + 1,700 xp.
Elven figures with mottled grey skin and tangled white hair glide around the clouds on transparent wings. Occasional flashes of lightning accompany their passes, and the clouds seem to reshape themselves before their paths.
Squallherds are the shepherds of the sky and the guiders of weather. Using powerful blasts of wind, they push fronts across the vast expanse of heavens, often creating massive, destructive storms. The squallherds follow some unknown sign in their drives; they have little care for the effects of the storms on the world below.
Unlike many of their fey kin, squallherds are very structured and organized. Moving a storm requires significant coordination and dedication: scouts monitor conditions, drivers push the front, and others support and defend the drivers. This organization drives not only storm fronts, but also squallherd society. Adolescent squallherds look forward to their first drive and the mark of adulthood earned by it. Those drivers talented enough to enter into the ranks of the scouts gain much respect and a position of leadership in the clan.
When not herding storm fronts, squallherd clans relax in mountain-top settlements called aeries. These settlements feature few buildings and structures, but a clan will return to the same aerie year after year. Other clans rarely even approach another clan's aerie: squallherds closely defend their homes and are quick to assume ill intent of intruders.
Most encounters with squallherds will occur in mountainous regions near their settlements. However, their drives take them all over the Material Plane, so adventurers could meet them anywhere. When encountering strangers, a lone squallherd (a scout if available) will challenge the intruders while the remainder ready to fight or flee.
Squallherd CR 3
Become Bolt (Su): A Squallherd can charge with such natural fury that he actually becomes a miniature lightning bolt. Three times per day, he can take a full-round action to move ten times his normal fly speed (400 feet) in a straight line. During this move, he can move through any creature in his path; any such creature takes 1d8 electricity damage (Reflex save DC 14). A squallherd draws no attacks of opportunity when moving this way. The save DC is Constitution-based and includes a +2 bonus from Ability Focus.
Endure Heights (Ex): Squallherds are resistant to the effects of extreme height. They can survive comfortably in conditions as cold as –120 degrees Fahrenheit, and they can breathe the rarified air found at the height of storm clouds.
So now that voting has ended, I'd like to cover some of the common critiques you've made:
On Motivation: This was actually part of my inspiration. Shortly before I started thinking about this entry, one of my players was telling about a villain that he took from a Dungeon article - an alpha werewolf that was simply out to grow his pack. I liked the idea of a villain that wasn't trying to take over the world, or summon a dead god, or something equally megalomaniac - a villain who was just doing what came naturally to him, and that nature created conflict.
I definitely felt the problems with this when I started working on the entry, and I tried to cover it with the Claws and the plot-hooks (in particular, the second plot hook). I realize that I could've handled it a little bit differently; I'd have given her more reason to take personal interest in the world around her. She'd still not be expansionistic, but she'd be sending her Claws, and occasionally taking trips of her own, out into the wider world.
On "Demonlake": Yes, I put almost no thought into this name. It was originally a place-holder for a different name, but I never got around to finding that other, more creative, name. But I'd like people to think about this: many real-world toponyms are pretty boring. Heh, I grew up in the city of "The Cross" in the "Land of the Muskrat", and now live in metropolis of "Water City" in a state named "Cloudy Water". Now, this doesn't excuse my lack of thought, but I don't think that "Demonlake" is such a terrible name.
On Fragility: Unfortunately, this didn't really come across as strongly as I liked, but the idea was that she'd never enter combat without allies. Her pets and the Claws would hold back the party while she attacked at range with spells. If the party ever got to her, she'd be dead real fast, but they shouldn't get to her until all her resources had been drained.
Thank you all for your feedback, and especially thank your to those that voted for me.
You've got some great imagery in your entry - the knitting wands, the wall of hands, the little old lady beating the PC's...
But I don't think it all holds together. The big thing is that she's a one-trick pony. If all she ever does is steal hands, then she's just an insane bad lady. If she had started on hands, and had graduated up to larger projects, she could be a real villain.
You've already got her set up as a social climber with a lot of influence on her community; it's not a big jump from that to a power-hungry demon who's really running the show. Sure, it's a little cliche, but then you could've put some real meat on Elsie's bones - and you wouldn't even have to get rid of the hands component.
Watch your sentance variety: your first few paragraphs read as stilted and repetative to me. You seem to get more into the flow towards the end of the entry, though. Oh, and enchantments pretty much imply moral dilemmas; I don't think you needed to specify that.
So what you've got here is a very good adventure, one that I might even use. But I don't see much of a villian.
I don't think I've ever run a real tragic villain before. I'm not quite sure what to think of that yet. I'm thinking that it could provide plenty of ground for good play, but it would have to be handled very carefully.
As others have said, I think your idea conflicted too much with the requirements of the contest. Had you been able to go all out, create something brand new, you could have had a very interesting - mechancically, at least - entry. As is, it looks rather uncentered and thrown together.
I think his biggest problem as a villain is durability. It's not that he's incapable of surviving a fight, it's that (at least as I understand it) he'd be more willing to die than to give up his garden. Once the PC's find his lair, he'd fight to the bitter end, even if grossly overpowered. And finding this garden isn't going to be much of a deal. Good villains always have hiding places and escape plans.
Your entries have shown some real creativity, both in the round and in the last rounds. This entry, though, just has too many issues to come together as a villain.
Hmm, an underwater baddy with a penchant for manipulation. Definitely intriguing. Your quote had me at the get-go (I just ran a villain with a similar mindset), and you held me throughout. I really like this guy.
I especially like that, unlike many of the other entries, the PC's would likely see him early and often. The general leading the troops might not make the most sense tactically, but it makes for great drama.
Between the long-range plans and the plot hooks, you've got plenty of conflict here, plenty of ways to bring the PC's in. I wasn't hugely impressed with Eluraelon, but Seskadrin makes me want to run a game there.
I keep going back to find something to critique... and I'm not finding much at all. I'll agree with the judges that this is a bit more straight-forward than I would expect of a superstar, but your execution is absolutely excellent.
So far, this is one of my favorite entries in this round.
I'm not generally a fan of psionics, but you made very good use of it here. The only time I've brought psionics into a serious campaign is somewhat similar to this - a mysterious power from another universe directing followers in this one. I appreciate the thought you put into justifying psionics here.
I worry that you might be setting up the PC's to fail with Voeren. Even if they do defeat him, why wouldn't the aboleths just flood the surface anyway? While we're thinking about that, why would they send Voeren to begin with? I think a different long-term goal could've really helped your entry: maybe the aboleths need a large number of elans for some ritual that would allow them to flood Verindum? This way the PC's can really win with Voeren's defeat.
Oh, and I agree that Voeren is definitely a villain - even though the aboleths are pulling the strings, the players would never even have to see them. Voeren is perfectly capable of providing conflict all by himself.
Continue working on your writing, as there are several spots where it needs some touch-up. In particular, pay attention to sentance structure (you've got several run-on sentances and fragments) and avoiding the passive voice.
But, overall, good job. I hope to see you next round!
I'm going to agree with a lot of things said here. "Where's my drink?" is not a fantastic villian motivation, even for a vampire. I think you could have started with either the druid part of the "Last of" part to give her a stronger motivation. Make her a crusader against the miners or the keeper of some forgotten knowledge; give her a reason to interact with the PC's beyond "I vant to drink your blood!"
I do really enjoy the local legend flair Kaltia has. I can really see a group of Stained Peak dwarves, huddled around a fire, telling their children (and the PC's) stories of the monster in the snow... and then something knocks on the door...
James, I loved the Stained Peaks; and I think Kaltia makes a great addition to that setting. But it leaves something to be desired as a villian.
The more and more I think about Hetty, the more and more I like her. Yes, she does have issues, but she'd be a great villain in many ways for a 1st-level game. The problem is, as presented, she's not going to be capable of challenging a party past 1st level. A real villain should stick around for more than the couple sessions that it would take to get to 2nd level. You give us ideas on how to advance her, but I think you needed to do more.
As others have said, 60 children under 5 years is a bit much. If the age range was wider, then we could have some older kids helping out not only with the younger kids, but also with defending their mother. This would have given Hetty much more staying power, and hence, much more capacity as a villain.
Your entries have shown real creativity in a creepy sort of way, which I absolutely appreciate. I hope you make it through this round so I can see what your next entry brings.
I am not normally a fan of villainy for villainy's sake, but I think this entry might be just cool enough to bust through that. I still feel that it would have been much better had you included some real motivations, though. I think your fiendish horses plot hook could've been a start: make him defensive of his children, and you've got a start for real meaty motivation.
Added information on the Mauraders and "Arvinash" would've been a welcome addition to this entry as well. At least we get approximate levels (even if they are buried in the stat block), but details on their goals, makeup, and strategies would've really fleshed out this villain.
The stat block seems extremely well-executed, if a bit overcomplicated (half-fiend on an evil outsider seems to be overkill). Your writing is generally good, except for the adventure hooks (which just seem clunky) and this
" a fanged cat’s head, black on crimson, paws raised to strike"
which reads to me like the cat head has paws, which I doubt is what you intended.
The adventure hooks are somewhat interesting, but definitely could have been done better. In particular, the first and third hooks seem a bit awkward, in that they would need significant adapting to work into a campaign.
But, overall, very nice job. Your twist really got me here. Thanks!
While I understand the "ripped from the headlines" critique, that's not something that really bothers me. In fact, I think an idea like this could make a great addition to the right kind of game. But I really believe that you could have avoided the issue by mixing up some details: different methods, different motivations, different targets. For example, you could have presented a follower attacking a ruling council, for political reasons, with a bead of force. You wouldn't even have to get rid of the religious aspect, just downplay it some.
Your plot-hooks are fairly obvious, but that's somewhat unavoidable in such a "one-trick" villain. I'd liked to have seen a little more diversity, giving me more ways to bring him into a campaign.
Even at a glance, the stat block is a mess. From the judge's comments, it seems that you are a veteran of this game, but you seem to have forgotten your skills. I hope we get an explanation after voting on this, and if you make it through to the next round, you'll have to be much more careful.
The writing is a little clunky at spots, but overall pretty good, and your intro definitely grabbed me. Overall, I liked your entry, but I'm afraid that your stat block is holding it back from greatness. Thanks for sharing!
The "destroyer of civilization" concept, while perhaps a bit cliche, is a strong start here. I'm not quite sure that you followed through, though. The fact that she isn't patient enough to follow a plan to completion makes it hard to use as a real villian. She certainly could be a villian, but I think she'd come off more as a pest than a serious threat.
I love the use of lycanthrope; while I agree with the judges that they can be mechanically cumbersome, I really enjoy using were-critters - especially if they are unusual (were-dinosaurs! awesome!). Having them infect the nearby populace is brilliant, from a plot-hook perspective, but I'm not sure that it makes complete sense - does the personality of an afflicted lycanthrope change (excepting full-moon time)? If all she's doing is spreading chaos, fine, but I don't think she can expect servants out of the infected.
The mass of buff spells is a little odd. I can certainly appreciate that she's a powerful spellcaster and that she can use all these spells to prepare for battle, but it does seem like an awful lot. I'd prefer those split up a little, or maybe prioritized.
I'll echo the others on the presence of "civilized" equipment. I think you could've fixed that with a little bit of flavor text or by giving Mwana a Craft feat of her own.
I'm on the fence on this one, Erik. I like a lot of your ideas, but I think there's enough flaws to distract from the good.
Hey, BD, I absolutely would love a check of my stat block. I already know of a few mistakes I've made (one of which I spotted approximately 3 minutes after I submitted), but having someone else go over it with a fine-toothed comb would be great.
Your writing is, as in your previous entries, excellent. And your critter does have a certain gut appeal that others have expounded upon. And it could present a great boss fight. But I'm not sure that I see much more than a critter here, and I certainly don't see a villian.
It's all about motivation. What does Abzirael want? All I can get from this entry is that he's curious about his new surroundings, and he also apparenty likes to serve powerful masters. That's fine, but it's not ground you can build a villian on.
Your stat block seems pretty accurate, though you've got a few formatting glitches (special ability names should be bolded), and, perhaps, it's a bit overcomplicated. You also seem to have lost the SA entry for Sneak Attack.
Thank you for sharing your visions with us, Boomer. This is certainly a very memorable entry, if not the most villianous.
Nothing's really grabbing me here. Don't get me wrong, Christina, you've shown a lot of creativity here, your English has definitely improved, and this entry deserves its voters. But I just don't get it. I'm not a fan of psionics at all, and that might be clouding my judgement.
But I think a big part of it is the motivation. I don't like insane villians, and while Arthelia/Taris aren't really insane, they certainly act like it. I'm not certain that players would ever see anything past the insanity without some heavy-handed DMing.
A little reorganization could've helped your entry. A (apparently) real-world quote doesn't do much to grab me, and following with the stat block didn't help.
Mechanically, I enjoy her a lot. She'd be a really fun fight, and you did a great job of blending her stats with your concept.
I like a lot of the imagery here: the giant medusa, the animated, petrified allies, the subservient princess. These images actually want to make me use her. I think you could've worked the latter two better into the intro, though. While your intro was good, you could've hooked me a little better.
I especially like the tactics section. Not only is it well-written, but you've presented really helpful tactics. The animate objects part is pure brilliance, and the rod of absorption and scroll of word of recall are great standards of villiany.
I'm not sure that I like the forgotten deity vibe I'm getting from the back story, but that's just personal preference. How does worshipping a nearly forgotten deity change Kalyani? I don't quite see how it's relavent, and would've prefered that to be dropped.
Others have stated my concerns with the stat block. You've got a few little formatting bugs, but nothing horrendous. I would have prefered that you customised the text of the Rebuke abilities to Kalyani, instead of just using the core text. "there is a +2 synergy bonus if the cleric has 5 or more ranks of Knowledge-religion." If? Should probably be "since" instead.
But, overall, I like it. I might be "borrowing" her at some point.
I take more of a sandbox approach to gaming materials myself, so I don't necessarily think the lack of clear plot hooks is a bad thing. However, that lack, combined with the "buried lead", made it hard for me to see how to use Torquil at all. I actually get the sense that he'd be a better ally than a villian.
As an amateur linguist, I appreciate the details on the names, but I'm not sure that really helped the entry. Would that detail ever come up in play? Probably not. But if you could've handled in such a way that it would... you'd have an instant vote from me.
Similarly, I love seeing, and using, quotes in gaming material. I think they can give a great sense of the character with very few words, and your quotes are pretty good. But I think you may have gone overboard here: 4 quotes in 500 words is a bit much.
On organization: I feel ya, buddy. I made the same mistake in Round 2, sticking too close to the given format instead of following my gut. I think it cost me some votes, and I'm afraid that it will cost you some as well.
As soon as I saw the name, I thought of Elie Weisel, and I couldn't get that out of my head. Was I the only one who made that association?
Thank you all for your feedback. I really do appreciate the time people have taken to comment, from the professional judges to the average gamers. Once voting ends, you can be sure I'll post to answer the critiques made here.
Vote demonic nymph!
Errg, my last two nights have been rather restless with "did I remember this" and "did I do that right" and "should I have changed this". I seriously dreamed stat blocks last night. I don't know if this thread eases my nerves or not. It's good to know that the judges are working and seem to think the entries are mostly decent, but also, they could be judging my entry right now. And that makes me somewhat nervous.
I'm with Boomer on this: I'm waiting for more input from the judges on the definition of "villian" versus "bad guy". I think my entry could really go either way.
So you don't like what I've done with the place? Ah, well, I'm just getting started. A pity you won't live to see the result.
A nature spirit from the demon plane, Kotalya is a twisted mockery of the more common benevolent nymphs. Although she shares said nymphs' otherworldly beauty, there is no mistaking her for one. Her oily, black hair frames a pale face marked by vivid purple eyes. Leathery, ash-blue wings emerge from her scaled back, and her fingers end in viciously sharp claws. Clad in cobbled-together scraps of fur, none can doubt how she treats the local wildlife.
One of the last of her kin, Kotalya fled the war-torn demon lands for a woodland lake in the Material Plane. She found the pristine wilderness there disgusting and unsuitable for her domain. To correct this, she used her alchemical and magical talents to convert the lake into a pool of sickening sludge and filth – now known as Demonlake. She worked similar transformations on the local wildlife, twisting the flora and fauna to her whims: vile, thorny trees offer no fruit to the hungry, while sinewy wolves with fiery eyes stalk unwary travelers.
Despite Kotalya's malevolence towards the local wildlife, she feels no immediate need to spread her influence past her home. She contents herself with survival away from the strife of the demon plane, in a home of her own making. However, if threatened, she will defend her lands relentlessly. Often, she will hunt travelers who simply wander into her domain, more for fun than for own protection.
KOTALYA, MISTRESS OF DEMONLAKE CR 9 [7 Nymph, +2 Half-fiend]
Female Half-fiend Nymph
AC 26 [10, +5 deflection, +7 Dex, +4 natural), touch 22 [10, +5 deflection, +7 Dex],
Spd 40 ft. [30 ft., +10 ft. enhancement], fly 30 ft. (average), swim 20 ft.
Before Combat Kotalya will typically cast barkskin, longstrider, and freedom of movement on herself as soon as she feels she is entering a dangerous situation. She adds cat's grace and magic fang shortly before combat begins. Her stat block reflects these spells.
During Combat Kotalya likes to stay airborne, using her spells and special abilities to disrupt her foes. She will nearly always enter combat with Blinding Beauty active; she'll only turn it off if she has significant help from allies. Typically, she will start combat with call lightning to allow her to deal damage at range. If drawn into melee, Kotalya won't shy away from fighting with her natural weapons, but if she can, she'll use entangle, obscuring mist, or summon swarm to bind her foes or dimension door to move out of their reach. She uses her Stunning Glance or cast poison to disable high-priority targets, particularly arcane casters.
Morale Kotalya is quick to flee if she feels overpowered. In particular, she will try to escape if the opponent shows significant ability to fly or if over half of her allies fall without removing the same number of opponents. If she finds herself in combat without help or surprise, she will immediately flee.
Str 14 [nymph 10, +4 half-fiend], Dex 25 [nymph 17, +4 enhancement, +4 half-fiend], Con 14 [nymph 12, +2 half-fiend], Int 20 [nymph 16, +4 half-fiend], Wis 17 [nymph 17], Cha 21 [nymph 19, +2 half-fiend]
Blinding Beauty (Su): This ability affects all humanoids within 30 feet of Kotalya. Those who look directly at her must succeed on a DC 18 [10, +3 half Hit Dice, +5 Cha] Fortitude save or be blinded permanently as though by the blindness spell. Kotalya can suppress or resume this ability as a free action. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Smite Good (Su): Once per day Kotalya can make a normal melee attack to deal extra damage equal to her HD (+6) against a good foe.
Stunning Glance (Su): As a standard action, Kotalya can stun a creature within 30 feet with a look. The target creature must succeed on a DC 18 [10, +3 half Hit Dice, +5 Cha] Fortitude save or be stunned for 2d4 rounds. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Unearthly Grace (Su): Kotalya adds her Charisma modifier as a bonus on all her saving throws, and as a deflection bonus to her Armor Class. (The statistics block already reflects these bonuses).
Wild Empathy (Ex): This power works like the druid's wild empathy class feature, except that Kotalya has a +6 racial bonus on the check.
Kotalya has at her beck and call a host of fiendish creatures and semi-aware plants. These "pets" accompany Kotalya everywhere within her domain, acting as servants and guardians for their master.
In addition, Kotalya has taken a band of renegade druids under her wings. These druids, drawn to a more brutal side of nature, call themselves the Claws of Demonlake. They enforce Kotalya's will and spread her distorted version of nature — as well as terror and pain — throughout the region. Though the Claw's enthusiasm abroad amuses her, Kotalya only asks them to defend and maintain her new home.
Kotalya's defiling has polluted the Rilamor River. Once rich with fish, the pollution has turned the river barren. Fields watered from the Rilamor yield sickly crops and little harvest. Healers in riverside settlements are in high demand, as Blinding Sickness borne by the river strikes many who drink from it.
Kotalya has sent the Claws of the Demonlake out to hunt the remnants of the druids that previously kept her region. She intends to draw the members of that conclave into her domain, where she will hunt them for sport.
Although beyond her ability, Kotalya hopes to bring a select number of her fiendish kin into the paradise she has created in the Material Plane. To that end, she has recently made contact with the demons who brought her to this plane in the first place.
Thanks all for your input. I'm going to try to answer some common complaints now...
On alignment: Yeah, I screwed that up. When I first started, I definately had a CN to CG vibe going on in my head. But as words started to appear on the page, that vibe dissappeared, and I didn't think to go back to the alignment. My mistake. Given an edit, I'd probably try to work that vibe back in, rather than just change the alignment.
On size: This was purely an artifact of the competition. My original thoughts were just the city and immediate surroundings, but I wasn't sure that would be enough to be a nation. In fact, I wasn't sure where the line would be, so I chose a large enough area that I felt safe from that sort of scrutiny. It probably could have been a lot smaller, but I really wanted to make sure I didn't get an auto-reject.
On displacement: This was simply a failure of imagination on my part. I didn't want the city itself to become a weapon of war, crushing existing nations with relatively little cost. But I couldn't think of a better way to make it move, so I just hand-waved it. I like Eldrich Gaiman's idea of having the city exist in the Shadow Plane, with gates on the Material, but I would ammend it so that there are enough gates or large enough gates that significant congress between Moros Akalein and the surrounding lands could occur.
On rarely moving: This was something that got dropped to make the word count. In initial drafts, I had much more info on the map of Phoroneus; included in that info was the stipulation that the map could activate itself if it wasn't used enough. The idea was that the leaders would have to use it on a fairly regular basis or risk the map taking itself to an undesireable location. As the edits went forward, and words were dropped, this went away. I see know that I probably should have left it in.
On writing and organization: Can't really say much here, except thanks for all your input. I know I've written better, and I hope the voters have given me the opportunity to show that.
Again, thanks for all your input; I hope I have the chance to wow you next round!
Lots of little details here not like: the unimaginative names, the use of formians (personal preference, I suppose), the real-world references, the scale issues. But I think the simple coolness of the stone pillars outweighs most of that. Your entry shows some true originality, and that really saves what could very easily been another mediocre nation.
Obviously the pillars are being mined, and my first thought from that involves structural integrity. I think you missed a potentially great plothook by having mining threatening the existance of some of the pillars.
Again, a very orignal entry. Nice work, William.
I'm with Section8 as well; there's a lot here that got buried by the rules discussion and the over-subtlety of the hobgoblins.
The crater of souls is a great idea and the strongest component of your entry, but I'd like to see it filled out more. Who knows about its effects? Does this knowledge change the dynamics of the region? Are there any other effects besides attracting souls? As a holy site, does it have worshippers and/or defenders?
The dead god thing is not my cup of tea, but I think you handled it well and worked it into the nation effectively. I'd like to have seen more about other religions; are there clerics from other nations proselytising in Malar? Are the old clerics trying to prop up their failing religion, or are they moving on?
Your names are pretty good. I was a bit thrown by them at first, but once the hobgoblin origin became apparent, I grew to like them.
Thanks for sharing, William.
Oh, Gods, the puns! The PUNS!
While compenently written, with plenty of good details, I probably wouldn't send adventurers here. I guess I fall on the side of 'too clean'. There's not enough strife or intrigue to really make this a great nation.
That said, I think this is probably the best writeup of a truly undersea nation that I've ever seen. And I thank you for that.
As soon as I read the tagline, I couldn't help but thinking of a nation on a physical edge, on a crumbling cliff that continuously threatens to wipe out the nation...
I don't think you tied your tagline into the entry enough. Yes, there's danger and intrigue and change, but not enough immediate issues to warrant "on the edge". I'm not certain yet whether this is an issue with the entry or the tagline, though.
I love the secret police, but I'm not convinced that such a big secret could be kept. You don't describe the average citizen much, which leads me to believe they're mostly docile. But there should be people who at least think that something's up; as more and more citizens are disappeared, those suspicions will become more apparent.
The dead son story seemed a little too corny for me. I think the son could've died under more fantastic circumstances.
But overall, a very good job, Silas. I hope you make it to the next round so I can see your villain.
With a name like Yithnai (which I find extremely good) I was expecting more of the same within. The borrowed names (whether intentional or not) really bug me here. What's worse is I first learned Enki from another source besides Sumeria, and the resulting clash of mental images isn't helping me.
When I first read kleptocracy, I was trying to figure out how exactly that worked, and I really think you made it fit. I was pleseantly surprised by this.
This is a great entry for an evil nation, but I don't quite think I can say its my favorite. I guess I just prefer my evil less blatant.
A very solid entry, Russ. I do have some thoughts, though:
The primary export is food (and maybe also freshwater). But the islands don't have enough resources to support their own inhabitants. This seems like an oversite; it could very well have turned into an opportunity for some good low-level adventure hooks.
I'd like to see more on how the wizards and the locals interact. How do the wizards fit into the local economy, besides bringing in more people? Do they do anything to encourage or diminish the problems?
Your names have a fairly generic slant, but are generally good. Given the name of the country, I was expecting more vowels, though.
Thanks for sharing this, Russ.
Ross, you created a very well-written entry; add in lots of little details, and this nation really seems to live for me. I really enjoyed reading it, and I think it would make a good addition to a broader campaign setting.
But, there's not enough paths for adventure. If you dropped the standard party into this nation, what would they do? You haven't given the DM enough to work with here.
Again, though, kudos on the writing and details.
I'm seeing several contradictions in this one. When you said "military dictatorship", I expected the military to be in charge, not just being a glorified police force. The "Nexus of Magic" brief provided plenty of ways to go with this, but you don't seem to take any of them. Among others, I'm having a hard time understanding what this nation is. It could be great, providing interest and plenty of opportunities for adventure. Or it could be rather bland. But I can't really tell from your entry.
Drei-Conita is a competent entry, and somewhat interesting. But, as others have said, it's all old hat. If you are going to use old standards (they aren't necessarily bad; there's a reason they're standards), you'll need to present them more clearly than this.
This is a wonderful pastiche of classic fantasy/adventure elements. I think it might be bordering on too "over the top" for my tastes, though. I guess when every third sentence has something new and cool, I have to ask, "Is there anything normal about this place?"
It's very well written, which certainly helps. I also appreciate the thematically appropriate themes, though some of them do look and sound a little odd.
Great work, Rob.
Looks like you've got some good ideas, here, Rennie. Ruined lands, living cities, twisted critters... but your presentation was definately not up to par. I had a real hard time trying to figure out what this nation was; your concept-in-brief "Secure in the Blessed Embrace of the Eternals" didn't help me at all.
I'd really like to see what you could do with an edit, Rennie.
I really enjoyed this one. The dynamics and moral ambiguity really sing to me.
The history is well done and contributes to the whole (which is more than the rest of the histories I've read), but it certainly could've been cut down some.
I'm not certain that your seditious bard is "credible resistance". This could've been corrected with more info on how effective her campaigns are.
The names are all over the place. Some are very evocative and interesting, but others seem pulled from a grab bag or are just flat.
Nonetheless, this is one of my favorites.
On apostrophes: I think they (and other odd symbols and goofy spellings) do have a place in names. But they need to be used sparingly and carefully. To me, at least, you didn't quite hit the right balance with them here. C’brion? How am I supposed to pronounce that?
You've got a strong concept here. An evil nation led by the offspring of a demon? This is a great start.
But you spend too much time talking about the irrelavent history. More about the here and now would help create a place for adventures. And did you have to make the demon a half-dragon? I don't have anything against half-dragons, nor do I have ancientsensei's reservations. I just think it's a distraction from your theme.
A macron is a straight line over a vowel, like ā. (Well, not like that. Apparently the Paizo boards don't like macrons.) It's typically used to mark the vowel as long.
A dieresis is the same symbol as an umlaut, but it has a different meaning. Umlauts change the pronounciation of the vowel. Diereses say "pronounce me!", as in "naïve".
Okay, Michael, so you can write a whole book on Calidune. That is great, and I wish I had that much material on some of my ideas.
But you weren't asked to write a book. In context, this nation might be amazing. But without that, we just get a generic fantasy nation.
I kinda wish I had seen your explanation. Would you repost it after voting is over?
The language use is mostly good; the names, while not great, are fine; and the core concept is quite interesting. Your problem here is that you didn't spend enough time on that core concept. This entry could've been a lot more with an abbreviated history and more focus on contemporary Nelvia under the magical winter.
Personally, I don't find that name bad at all, probably because I instinctively pronounce fantasy names with Romance vowels instead of English ones. But I can see where the professionals are coming from on that.
It seems odd to me that bridges aren't possible, yet the city is a bridge. It seems extra hand-wavy to me. And as others have said, magic should be able to handle that. I think you could've fixed that by having the city be falling apart. This also presents new dangers in the crossing, making the Firewalkers that much more important.
Despite the flaws, you've got an interesting place to adventure here. I could see this place being a lot of fun to send adventurers through; I don't think they'd stay there though.
I'm actually quite surprised at how much I like this entry. I think, however, that my interest is not in this prison-plane, but rather in Solaria. I think this could've been a lot better had the empire been presented as well. (Isn't there a quote somewhere about judging a society by its prisoners?) Of course, that wouldn't really fit with the rules of the competition.
I like a lot of the ideas you have here, Joseph. I actually appreciate the real-world names; I think they do have a certain place in fantasy. But several of the names are just bad, on Earth or the Prime Material. And, as others have said, the grammar issues make this a less-than-stellar entry.
All around, Jeb, your entry is extremely competent. But it doesn't pop. This nation needs a strong central idea to hold it together. Unfortunately, "european monarchy" isn't a very strong central idea.
I think your entry could certainly have a place in a full campaign setting. But on its own, with no context, there's not really much there.
Hmm, I like it. I especially enjoy that the stereotypical good guys (druids) and bad guys (genies) are reversed; in general this entries plays with a lot of standard assumptions, which I definately appreciate.
The nonstandard abbreviations threw me, too, but its fairly clear what was intended.
Like Wolfgang, I'm not certain that such a big secret could be kept. Sure, maybe the vast majority of the populace believes the lies. Sure, maybe most of those who know the truth are cowed by the power of the ruler. But I think there should be someone inside the nation who can at least attempt to oppose the druids.
But, overall, very nice.
Wow. You are an amazing writer, James, and you've got some great ideas here.
There are a few small things that bug me though.
You use a few odd words and turns of phrase (weeping rusticles, unalloyed blessing) that really made me cringe. Others seem to like them, but I guess I'm just not a fan of that style.
While your names, in general, are very well-done and consistant, there are a few that I worry about in terms of pronouncibility (Iyrgraf and Tvormir). It's certainly not terrible, though.
I'd like to have a bit better sense of the value of the mines. It seems to me that they'd have to be extremely profitable to justify living in the Stained Peaks, but I don't think I quite see that in your entry.
Three minor points to criticize. Wow. So far this is my favorite.
I like the idea of were-elephants. I really do. However, it seems to me that the idea could have been pulled off better. I can only assume that these were-elephants are based on humans, since the entry doesn't seem to specify. I think Hal should have specified that at a minimum; I think it would've been even better had the base creature been large (say, ogres), as this would've resolved the size issue within the rules. Also, a description of these were-elephants would've been nice.
There's plenty of unusual, and disparate, points in this entry. I'm thinking that were-elephants may have been enough; the rest seems to make this entry a bit scattered. The structure, while nice initially, degrades as the entry continues: I spent about half the article wondering who the Ukukes were. Finally, I'm not sure that there is sufficient room for adventure and conflict here. I can certainly see how there could be, but the author probably needed to spend a little extra time on that.
But I really liked the african-style names (though I worry about the pronouncibility of some), and the were-elephants might just save this one for me.
I'm going to skirt the whole blink dog issue for the moment; I'm just going to act like blink dogs are just another race. I'll come back to that later.
This entry isn't quite up to par for me. The history, while interesting, isn't really relevant to the current state of the nation. There isn't enough to really set this apart from a nation designed by J. Random Homebrewer. It's certainly well-written, and it has a nice mystic feel to it, both of which I appreciate. And there's nothing particularly wrong with it. But it's not great.
Now, lets add the blink dogs back in. Does this fix anything about this entry as a nation? I don't think it does. They only thing to set it apart is the blink dogs. Which, to me, makes this an ecology article dressed up as a nation.
Don't like this one at all. There's plenty of big ideas, and workable big ideas at that. But that doesn't make a nation.
That being said, this could be a great start of something - a nation, a campaign setting, a campaign itself. But more details would be needed before it goes anywhere.
I love the writing style, but considering the rather tight word limit on this entry, I don't know that you gained that much from your language. I also think you wasted a lot of words on the history. It does set a great backdrop, maybe the best backdrop I've seen so far. But we didn't need to know that much about the kindgom that was. We care about the nation that is.
Which I really think you could've spent some more words on. The ley-lines are interesting, but what do they do and why do the rakshashas enjoy their flavor? There's resistance, as there should be. Who are they? How effective are they? What resources do they have? The princes are treacherous and constantly fighting amongst themselves. How does that affect the nation?
I really enjoy the concept, though. This is a place for grim and gritty adventures and a great campaign setting overall. I'm just not certain yet that it's superstar.