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PaizoCon 2014!

Robert McRae

Round 1: Thieves Cowl
Round 2: Drei-Conità

Drei-Conità


Round 2 - Top 32: Design a Country

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Darrien

Drei-Conità
Land of Three Peoples

Alignment: LN

Capital: Tropili (pop. 50,000, 80% human, 10% elf, 5% dwarf)
Notable Settlements: Annwn (pop. 17,500, 95% elf), Shadowvale (pop. 22,000, 40% human, 30% dwarf, 25% elf), Stonehold (pop. 16,500, 95% dwarf)

Ruler: Seva Reliwyn, Braith of the Paragons of Justice, Defender of Drei Conita
Government: Democratic Dictatorship. A parliament of 13 is elected every 10 years, from within the membership of the Paragons of Justice, a human group devoted to the furthering of law. While the entire membership chooses this council, the parliament, from among its’ 13 members chooses the Braith, or leader of the Paragons of Justice. The Braith is always a female paladin, in keeping with tradition.

Description:
Hewed from the primeval forest, Ashaninka, Drei-Conità is regarded as the edge of civilization, at least to the human population. Attracted by a seemingly unoccupied land, human settlers expanded as far north as the Dragon Fang mountain range. This rapacious expansion by humanity, the drastic reduction of Ashaninka, and the plundering of the mountains, created hostilities between the pioneers, the elves of Annwn, and the dwarves of Stonehold.
Peace came to the races in the form of a Goddess.
Sabirda, Goddess of the Mountains, appeared to the dwarves of Stonehold, beneath the Dragon Fang mountain range, and revealed for them a lost kingdom of vast riches. She appeared to the elves of Annwn, deep within the forest Ashaninka, and directed rivers from the mountains and revitalized the woodland. To the humans, She founded the city of Shadowvale, at the base of the mountains, a place of peace and trade with dwarves and elves.
Temples dedicated to the Goddess of the Mountains, exist throughout Drei-Conità, as She is essentially credited with bringing the three main races together in peace and prosperity.

DM Secrets:
The current Braith, Seva Reliwyn (LG female human paladin 18), knows that forces of great evil have infiltrated and corrupted the organization but feels if she can maintain her tenuous hold on power, the corruption can and will be cut be cut out. Seva has been aggressively recruiting paladins, trying to shift the balance of the organization to Good, not just Lawful. This is proving difficult as many prospective paladin recruits share the zealot attitude of the growing hardliner movement.
Not only is Seva’s leadership being assaulted by the evil elements within the organization, a growing number of hardliners are questioning her effectiveness as Braith. The hardliners believe the organization is more than powerful enough to replace the established government and guard in other countries that are incapable of enforcing the rule of law.
Maladius Oly (LE male human fighter 20) is second in political power, but incapable of becoming Braith. Maladius is happy with the status quo and has built a financial empire on the slavery of monstrous races, using the Paragons of Justice to quell any resistance to legalized slavery as criminal or rebel organizations.

The lost kingdom is Darkcore, a dimly lit dimension that is coterminous to both the Material Plane and the Underworld. Darkcore is not, as generally believed, a vast subterranean cave and tunnel system below the Dragon Fang mountain range. Rather, Darkcore acts as a buffer between the Material Plane and the Underworld, the Land of the Dead.
Darkcore is a world of darkness, but far from lightless. While the natives of this plane all have darkvision, the dominant race, a depraved and evil subterranean offshoot of elf, cultivate luminous plants to provide a level of light similar to dusk. Between naturally occurring and cultivated luminous plant life, Darkcore is ironically brighter than the subterranean system it connects to. It otherwise appears similar to a vast system of caves connected with tunnels, though impossibly immense.

Temples of Sabirda are in fact Cabals of Desolation, however most worshippers are unaware, with the upper hierarchy of the church controlling the knowledge that Sabirda is Lilith, the First Evil. Like all façade sects, Temples of Sabirda, indoctrinate new members over time, only revealing the temple’s true calling to those the leadership feels would accept the truth. Those individuals, unfortunate enough to be a devout member of a façade sect, and seen as incorruptible, are used as tools or sometimes sacrifices, by the Cabal.
Naude (NE female Human half-fiend cleric 27) is the High Diviner of the Temple of Sabirda. She coordinates and rules over the high priests of each temple; around forty temples exist throughout Drei-Conità. Born a half-fiend, Lilith’s blessings over the last 120 years have most certainly altered Naude’s monstrous body. Not seen by anyone in decades, save the various high priests of the Temple of Sabirda; those that know of her existence can only speculate at her current appearance and power.
Player characters will no doubt come to the attention of the Cabal, for good or ill, as they progress in power.
Incorruptible characters that find themselves involved in a façade sect receive all the support and questing opportunities one would expect when dealing with a good or neutral church. Quests received from the Cabal, while highly lucrative, are usually more deadly than the character’s expectations and tax their abilities to the limit.
Additionally, these quests often appear to support the greater good in the short term but have evil consequences long term. The capture of a known bandit for trial and hanging seems to be a lawful quest, but if that bandit is stealing from the rich to give to the poor a force of good has been eradicated.
The assault and destruction of a façade sect is a completely scalable adventure based on the class, level, and number of worshippers. However, special consideration must be paid to the fact that most of the worshippers are innocent.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Submission checklist:

Submitted on time? Check.
Submission is a "country"? Check.
Submission contains all of the mandatory content as required by the contest rules? Check.
Submission is within the word limit? Check. 953 words.
Submission is free of inappropriate content in violation of the "taboo" guidelines? Check.
Submission does not use content from a source other than those listed? Check.
Submission does not reference a published campaign setting? Check.
Submission does not include maps or art? Check.
Submission is a suitable setting for roleplaying with the d20 system? Check.
Submission is not a "joke" or otherwise completely fails to meet the minimum requirements of the competition or other contest rules? Check.

Qadira Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

I was mostly following this and curious where it might lead, at first. I enjoyed some of the flourishes like "according to tradition".

Then I hit the DM Secrets, which seems... disjointed. Or like an adventure proposal, or maybe a religion/cults sourcebook. Or something else. But it doesn't feel much like a country writeup for a gazetteer, which was the requested design challenge.

I'm not convinced this meets the bar, because it seems to wander in several directions without really selling me on a core premise. It needs focus and it needs a big spark or theme to make it jump into the next round. The elements aren't bad, but they don't rise to the superstar level.

Not recommended for top 16.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Fluff (writing, grammar, style, evocative prose, etc.): C-
The Good: Above average style and evocative writing in the beginning. The word choice and the writing show conflict and adventure.
The Bad: Some mild grammar issues—OK, a bit more than mild. Repetitive. The writing started relatively strong and then twisted and turned into a convoluted mess that got rather difficult to follow at times, particularly in the DM Secrets section, which dragged down the score.

Crunch (basics, rules issues, depth of the setting, details, etc.): C-
The Good: Good addition of racial data to the notable settlements. Nice title of the ruler. I don’t know what a “Braith” is, but it sounds good. I like the passing stats provided for some key NPCs and the new deity.
The Bad: Unfocused. Incomplete.

Design (choices made, format, naming, originality, theme, balance--ie, is the submission heavy in one part but lacking in another?): C+
The Good: Chose to go heavy on the DM Secrets section, which is potentially a plus (unfortunately it winds up being very unfocused). Does something cool with paladins, which is fun. Has a theme.
The Bad: The country name rubs me funny, and not in a good way (maybe it is the German in me and the drei = three thing). That said, many of the other names are very good. And then we get to Darkcore, which to me is not a good name but could have been an interesting location. Frankly, I think I would rather have had a good submission about that plane/setting than I would have about Drei-Conita. As it is, though, Darkcore is a rather clichéd underdark-style setting. The overall submission was unfocused and disjointed, which is unfortunate because there were some good things brewing here.

Play (setting for adventure? campaign? is there conflict? are there play limitations?): B-
The Good: Some interesting conflict promised with the three races. Good and evil are in play. Seems like a potential setting for heroic fantasy roleplaying. The Underworld, an underdark-like setting and a deity of the mountains with followers led by a female paladin and a primeval forest are very evocative locales.
The Bad: There is just no way to really what to know what to do with all of this mess.

Tilt (my personal take, is it evocative? do I want to play there? does it capture my imagination?): C
The Good: I really feel there were some good things simmering in this pot.
The Bad: It just wasn’t quite soup yet.

Overall: C+
An evocative idea that needed more marinating and a lot more focus in its presentation. It did some things right, but too many things wrong.

NOT RECOMMENDED for top 16.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Tropili was perhaps not the wisest choice of capital names since it is a simple transposition of vowels away from Tripoli, the capital of Libya. I keep harping on this point entry after entry because it is really important. This kind of thing yanks people out of the fantasy mindset jarringly, and good writers avoid it.

The general set up of Drei-Conita is not inspiring. Basically it's a generic fantasy kingdom with neighborly elves in the nearby forest and dwarves in the nearby mountains. We've seen that in several submissions so far, and that's because it's the most stock and expected thing imaginable.

The appearance of Sabirda, the Goddess of the Mountains, is a bright spot. I'm not generally a fan of gods manifesting on the world in my own campaigns, but it's certainly an interesting idea. I like how you took the concept and ran with it.

Here's something else that happens a lot. A LOT. Badguys whose names start with "Mal". In Dungeon we published the Malgoth as part of the Istivin trilogy. Shakespeare used Malvolio (who also showed up in Green Lantern), and in this contest so far I've noticed it at least twice. What I'm saying is that it's a pretty common approach, and you'd do better to aim higher in this competition.

The tie to the kingdom of the dead via a big cave system adds some flair to the setting, but again it is wholly expected and well at home in Hum-Drum Harbor. The name Darkcore sounds like something out of a He-Man cartoon.

Even the church of the main goddess being an evil sham is old hat, and making the main villain Lilith is even more old hat than that, literally dating back to Biblical times.

In all I am disappointed by this entry, especially since I really liked the thieves' cowl that got you through from round one. I think, however, that the magic item's strength may have been this entry's weakness.

We all liked the thieves' cowl because it competently executed a classic fantasy concept. This entry takes the same approach with several different fantasy tropes and cliches with competent writing (though the DM Secrets section is a train wreck). Trouble is, when you've got 1000 words to fill and all you have to offer are solid delivery of fantasy standards, it's very difficult to stand out from the pack. There's got to be more there, there, as they say.

I still think the thieves' cowl is one of the better items from Round 1, but this entry does not get my recommendation for advancement into the next round.


This is my fourth review.

There's definitely some good stuff here, but it is kind of all over the place. I think part of the problem is that essentially there are two countries here. Or one country with a really big dungeon attached to it.

The note at the end on quest structure is interesting and I think deserves some note. This isn't just a good-guy place that is secretly evil, there's a definite statement that even the good guys have an edge of their own. Perhaps if that had been played up instead of the good versus evil aspect, we'd be looking at a solid contender. But as it stands now, the moral dilemma isn't really for the PCs, its for the NPCs. Do they ally with the wild and the free to stand up against evil? That's the kind of thing I'd like to have the players go through, not the NPCs.

Rating: Thumb Sideways


Erik Mona wrote:


The tie to the kingdom of the dead via a big cave system adds some flair to the setting, but again it is wholly expected and well at home in Hum-Drum Harbor. The name Darkcore sounds like something out of a He-Man cartoon.

And Annwn is the name of the land of the dead in Welsh mythology, so the connection was even less unexpected.

Osirion

I like the name of the country. Fresh, though I don't know that it needs the little tilde above the last letter. But it got me interested in the setting without having to resort to "The Fantasmagorical Mega-Nation of..." epithet. Good naming is hard, so I consider an really evocative nation name an accomplishment of its own.

I don't really like the idea of a country based on Deus Ex Machina, which is what seems like the setup here. The fact that the goddess is in fact evil, seems a strange turn given her role in the nation's history--but even at that the "good god/goddess who turns out to be an evil culty god/goddess" is such an overdone thing that it kinda' hurts the whole endeavor even more.

Also the underdark not really being an underdark but being the realms of the dead is enough of a jarring change to whatever cosmology is the background of the setting, to really define the whole thing according to the one country. Now if it had been that every patch of underdark in this world led to the underworld, that would be one thing--or if like Ghostwalk, the connection to the underworld is what makes the nation special, that might have been a really cool hook. But it just seems like a radical turn for a big chunk of the cosmology to rest on this nation and yet nobody seems to know. Not an impossible idea to sell, but tough and I don't know that it really sold me.

So yeah. I don't know. I would have liked to see more stuff going on in the nation on the ordinary nation level and less on the behind the scenes gods and planes level. It would make for stronger hooks to tie a character or a series of adventures here.


The concept of Darkcore is interesting, but the name fell a bit short given some of the promise in the rest of the submission. Here's a case where I think ideas were good and needed better execution.


I thought it started off good and I loved the title for the ruler but I was confused much of the time about what organization was being talked about and how things connected together. I persevered only to be rewarded with the DM's section that really confused me.


I was, not enthralled, but definitely paying attention, until the DM secrets.

The presence of:

Darrien wrote:
and will be cut be cut out.

threw me just a little, followed by the bit about Darkcore, which practically limped along.

Still, I’ve got six more entries to read and two votes left, so assuming no one wows me out of my boots, this is on my list to reconsider.


Naming was very on again, off again...several of the names were good (one of the better names of the country), several were not (Darkcore? Tropili? And Annwn was really unsettling considering the Celtic connection...)

In general the entry was a mess, ideas floating around but the total did not work.


I have to agree with Clark. I was disappointed that your Darkcore seemed to be a carbon copy of the Underdark. I guess I was unhappy to see it inhabited by evil elves. I wish you would have used another race and built up more conflict with the surface world.

I think the name Shadowvale may be too common to use.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Land above the under-world. There’s some good stuff nestled in this entry, but over-all I find it rather disjointed. I’ve criticised some of the other entries for not making good use of the DM Secret’s section – I think this one goes too far the other way, focusing on setting up adventures or even campaigns in this section, whilst neglecting the description of the country.

And the names really threw me off here. Tropili = Tripoli. Shadowvale = Shadowdale. And they seem a real mish-mash of quasi real world culture names, which threw me off as to what sort of vibe you might be going for with this setting.

Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Names aren't doing it for me, and there are some better generic fantasy entries.

This one feels a little too simplistic in what it's going for. There are some decent setups here, but it doesn't push them at all. Basic ideas are fine, if you push them to the next level. Don't see that here, unfortunately.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Steven T. Helt

I think you amde a good effort, but your entry is not really organized and dedicated to a few exciting concepts that would get my imagination going.

I think outside of having a decent name for your country, most of the names were poorly chosen. It seems to me that you settled on names instead of choosing inspired names that help draw a picture of the people and locations they represent.

Congrats on making top 32.


I hate to say it but the names were terrible. It may have been done accidentally but many of them were too close to other well known names for them to sit right with me. Tropili=Tripoli, Shadowvale=Shadowdale (huge mistake), Annwn=Welsh land of the dead (I recognized the name and had to google it to remember what it was). Probably accidental but the names hurt you a lot.

As for the rest of entry it was mostly cliched. Dwarves in mountains, elves in forests, humans in city, good god that is actually evil god, etc. My question is, why would the evil god not just stomp everyone out of existence or steal their souls instead of helping them? I was really turned off by this submission and I really thought the Thieves Cowl was cool.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Darrien

Thanks guys, I have taken your advice/ctitiques to heart.
I understand I have a much to learn on the editing side of things.
I appreciate the critiques and will use them in later writings. Thanks again.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 aka adanedhel9

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.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Poor names for the major settlements and the country. If the country name has an accent, which I don't think it needs, the author should have written it consistently.

Democratic Dictatorship: No, it's neither. There are accurate terms for governments of this sort which the author would have done better to use.

The Goddess of the Mountains as an evil impostor - I'm sure a lot of people saw that coming. It's done better than some of the other Big Secret based entries, though.

Interesting to see an entry where the DM Secrets are the largest section rather than the Description. Having said that, the section is not well organised and takes a while to get to the point.

A wise choice to place the LE second-in-command as a supporter of the legitimate ruler.

The dimension of Darkcore is no doubt interesting but it doesn't contribute to the entry. Maybe it relates to the "apparently abandoned" reference at the start, but that's not made clear and in any case would be an unnecessary complication given the space available.

Lilith, as the First Evil, is probably not new to gaming but she's fairly new to D&D. This is an interesting choice.

"Cabals of Desolation" either should be explained or it should not be capitalised. Likewise I don't like the jargon of "façade sects".

There are some things about this that I liked, but it doesn't make my short list.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Place your votes.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

Ooo, finally one with actually interesting moral dilemmas in it. Although as I read further and see that Sabirda's the 'First Evil' I get a little less interested. The politics are interesting. I don't like Darkcore a bit. Top half but not top 5 for me.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

Divine intervention and mischief definitely has a role in mythology and the fantastic interpretations thereof, and I found your use of it in this case to be intriguing.


For me, the Description section was gold. The goddess coming down and forging a place of neutrality was very neat. Sadly, I feel there's little else to recommend this entry. Naude, in particular, feels like a favorite NPC that gets carted around from campaign to campaign regardless of the plot.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Darrien

Thanks again guys, I have taken your advice/ctitiques to heart.
I understand I have a much to learn on the editing side of things.
I appreciate the critiques and will use them in later writings. Thanks again.


This is certainly a place that I would like to DM or adventure in. Some of the entries, while may have a little better language arts skills don't grab my attention and make me want to start my campaign there or begin rolling my newest character.

Top Five for me!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Darrien

Grimcleaver wrote:
I don't really like the idea of a country based on Deus Ex Machina, which is what seems like the setup here. The fact that the goddess is in fact evil, seems a strange turn given her role in the nation's history--but even at that the "good god/goddess who turns out to be an evil culty god/goddess" is such an overdone thing that it kinda' hurts the whole endeavor even more.

I am not sure which source books you are referring to that use that type of plot device. With the reference material allowed, the SRD (even the Core books I, II, II), this is untapped territory. D&D 3.X is so politically correct an evil (morally challenged) God just sets up shop on Temple Street and no one is bothered by that.

Grimcleaver wrote:
Also the underdark not really being an underdark but being the realms of the dead is enough of a jarring change to whatever cosmology is the background of the setting, to really define the whole thing according to the one country. Now if it had been that every patch of underdark in this world led to the underworld, that would be one thing--or if like Ghostwalk, the connection to the underworld is what makes the nation special, that might have been a really cool hook. But it just seems like a radical turn for a big chunk of the cosmology to rest on this nation and yet nobody seems to know. Not an impossible idea to sell, but tough and I don't know that it really sold me.

This was an inability of clarity on my part. What I wanted to express was that Darkcore was a plane of existence separate and distinct from the Prime Material plane but was accessible through a series of hidden tunnels in this area. As a further explanation that this was a plane in the cosmology and not just a bunch of tunnels, I also physically linked it to the Land of the Dead.

I have always been bothered by the Underdark. If this subterranean kingdom is basically as large as the kingdoms above it, people would be falling into it all the time. And not just the core race of miners.
I wanted to separate it from just being an impossibly large hole in the ground, accessible by pick and shovel, to an exotic locale. A reason to enter the dwaven kingdom.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
DirtyBird99 wrote:

This is certainly a place that I would like to DM or adventure in. Some of the entries, while may have a little better language arts skills don't grab my attention and make me want to start my campaign there or begin rolling my newest character.

Top Five for me!

and with that, the dirty bird fluttered away from the post and vanished.

Andoran RPG Superstar 2008 Top 8

I appreciate your efforts well. I must admit that I was happy that I was not the only person being criticized for names. Personally I didn't think the names were very bad. My only real critique is that it was your standard setting of elves, dwarves and humans, with dark elves below the surface (personal preference, I despise drow). My initial thought was that you were going to have a land of the dead underworld coterminous to the plane, perhaps one that could be visited like in ancient Greek or Norse mythologies, i think that would have been a better route than the underdark clone. I think I saw potential with your work. Keep at it.

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