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Michael Kogan

Round 1: Tinnil's Stirring Rod
Round 2: Calidune

Calidune


Round 2 - Top 32: Design a Country

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Michael Kogan 74

Calidune
Proper Name: Great Kingdom of Calidune
Ruler: King Thomas Falcrest II
Government: The king rules as a monarch with advisors, granted the position through the Grand Joust from among the various baronies’ representatives competing for the position.
Capital: Grand Citadel of Calidune (pop. 58,900)
Baronies: Maga (pop. 4,500), Shaydor (pop. 3,600), Lawson Port (pop. 5,100), Cybrus (pop. 4,300), Omrik (pop. 4,000), Soloveer (pop. 7,300), Pemrose (pop. 6,700), Vostra (pop. 2,100), Bort (pop. 2,500), Braka (pop. 7,500), Licido (pop. 3,500), Sholvar (pop. 11,400), Shrydus (pop. 13,000)
Population: Human 80%, Halfling 10%, Elf 6%, Dwarf 2%, Other 2%
Languages: Common, Halfling
Alignment: NG (primarily, but most others can be found)

History: Calidune’s system of government was founded upon the determination of a few courageous heroes looking to end a tragic war. The Great Dwarf-Elf War, started out as a simple dispute over resources which turned brutally violent over time. History tells of a Dwarven clan within the Ashron Mountains that felled a section the Grand Forest in order to fuel their forges. The group of elves residing within took offense and approached the dwarves with diplomatic intentions. The negotiations failed and the elves were cast out of the area. The dwarves continued to fell several more acres. One of such acre, unbeknownst to the dwarves, contained a sacred grove of trees dedicated to the elven god. The elven retaliation was swift and deadly. As the battles intensified, more elves and dwarves joined the fray and the fighting continued for nearly a hundred years. With the elves leaving their forests and the dwarves coming out of the mountains, massive amounts of troops trudged through human settlements, destroying their resources and their homes, killing many in the process. The humans needed a hero, they got fourteen.
These heroes, led by Thadius Calidune, became the Champions of Calidune as they rose from the corners of the lands bringing an end to the war. Thadius ordered his group to divide into two. One side was to seek a powerful and ancient artifact. The others tasked to sabotage various aspects of the war in an effort to buy time for the artifact’s recovery.
With the artifact recovered, a trap was laid to draw the majority opposing armies together for their final confrontation. During the ensuing battle, the Champion Shrydus, and his famed Lance Riders volunteered to infiltrate the battlefield and activate the artifact. Knowing he wouldn’t return, but seeing a chance to end the war, Shrydus bid his son and the other Champions farewell. The success of his mission was seen as the artifact’s immense power spread from the center of the battlefield nearly 250 miles, violently converting the terrain from mountains and forests to a vast desert, now named the Barren Sands. This ecological shift caused many changes throughout the country. Seeing their armies destroyed at the hands of these powerful humans, the elves and the dwarves retreated deep within their respective homes.
The surviving human population then turned their attention to rebuilding. The Champions of Calidune were honored and rewarded by the population, each with their own barony. To honor Shrydus and his lance riders, Thadius chose to hold a jousting tournament to determine the assignment of the baronies. Those that could joust did. Those who couldn’t chose a representative. Thus, the baronies were divided and the winner, Thadius Calidune was crowned king and resided and ruled over all in the Grand Citadel. The country was then renamed Calidune and reign of peace began.

Description: Surrounded by water, this great country is filled with a proud population, diverse in its resources and determined to not fall prey again to the events of the past. Today the kingdom, ruled by King Thomas Falcrest II, is divided into 13 baronies, each subdivided into smaller provinces. Political disputes are handled in a more civilized fashion, by the joust. Since each barony requires experts in the fine art of the joust, many of its house nobles are sent to the honored Jousting School of Aramus in the Barony of Cybrus. Additionally, the arts of horse breeding and riding have become important traditions in Calidune with the best horses being bred in the Baronies of Licido and Shaydor. The position of Stablemaster has become very prestigious.
It should be noted that Calidune is not without its military forces. The country still needs to defend itself against aggressors both foreign and domestic. There are still many goblinoids and other creatures that plague the nation. Although each barony has its own militia, they are required to send several volunteers to join the Calidune Army and Navy. And, in an agreement with the elves of the Grand Forest, the Barony of Braka is charged with the navy’s fleet construction.
With nearly two million square miles, Calidune has a vast range of geographical features, creating new traditions and varied ways of life. One such example, a 400 mile desert span of the Barren Sands located between the Baronies of Pemrose and Soloveer gave rise to a people known as the Sandmasters. With their knowledge of the terrain and their sand magic, they are the best guides for merchants to hire to cross the harsh environment. Other geographical features include the Shadow and Grand Forests, Windy Woods, Tier and Ashron Mountains, The Span and Ashlands.

DM Secrets: For several years, Valen Thorek has led the Order of the White Hammer, a group of malicious wizards, which is gaining in number. While serving as headmaster of the University of Nostromos, Calidune’s premiere magic academy in the Barony of Maga, he was stripped of his position and banished for crossbreeding intelligent beings with other creatures. Since then, several students have mysteriously disappeared from the school grounds. These were students closely associated with Valen and may have reported his activities to the authorities. It is rumored that these students now serve him in some twisted way. No one knows where the old headmaster is, but many believe he is amassing a crossbred army to exact his revenge.

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? Fails to include "evocative concept in brief" and instead simply uses a more full name of the country. Not an auto-reject, but the problem shows itself in its total lack of theme that would ordinarily emerge in the evocative concept in brief.
Submission is within the word limit? Check. 1000 on the dot.
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

This isn't bad, though the elf-dwarf war is more or less a fantasy cliche at this point.

However, the design burns about a third of the total wordcount on history. Almost none of this is recent or affects the current state of play, so it's a bit of a dead end.

The emphasis on jousting is interesting, but doesn't seem to lead anywhere for PCs.

And most of all, some elements just don't add up for the "Great Kingdom." It has an area of 2 million square miles (the size of three Alaskas, or oh, the Sudan) but a tiny population, smaller than Rome, Toulouse, or Venice at their medieval height.

Call me pedantic, but it doesn't work. It's a basic demographic/geographic mistake; if you say a Great Kingdom has 13 baronies and so forth, it should have the population to back that up.

Not recommended.

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

Fluff (writing, grammar, style, evocative prose, etc.): C
Average. The problem isn’t the writing, it’s the lack of inspiration and lack of theme.

Crunch (basics, rules issues, depth of the setting, details, etc.): D
The Bad: Very little crunch. No real depth, and what there is is very cliche.

Design (choices made, format, naming, originality, theme, balance--ie, is the submission heavy in one part but lacking in another?): D
The Bad: This is some seriously generic fantasy. Elf-dwarf is cliché. Names are boring. I’d say you wasted almost all the words in that history section. As a result you were forced to give short shrift to the DM section. Not really much of a theme. You fail to include an evocative concept in brief, so I guess technically your submission does not include all the mandatory content. But I think it is clear in other ways that you failed to do this. The reason for the evocative concept is to force you to come up with a theme—which you never do.

Play (setting for adventure? campaign? is there conflict? are there play limitations?): C-
The Good: Yeah, you can play here but who cares.
The Bad: Generic.

Tilt (my personal take, is it evocative? do I want to play there? does it capture my imagination?): D
Let’s just leave it at that.

Overall: D+
Poor format and lack of theme don’t help overcome the generic and cliché content.

NOT RECOMMENDED for top 16.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Calidune is a great name for a fantasy campaign. "Thomas"? Not so much.

As far as conflict names, the Great Dwarf-Elf War is about as underwhelming as they come. The Grand Forest doesn't really improve things, unfortunately, and neither does the Barren Sands. These are the sorts of names I would expect from a video game in 1981 written by a software engineer who didn't really get D&D and didn't try very hard. That's harsh, I know, but you've got to set the bar higher than this to stand out from the pack.

One thing we're always looking for in these submissions is opportunities for adventure, and this entry is unique in that its very creation owes itself to what sounds an awful lot like an adventure. That's interesting, but I'd caution against getting so wrapped up in a historical story about the country's origins that you munch up valuable words that could be used giving players or GMs something they can use in the game _right now_.

It's weird that "the artifact" plays such an important part in the creation of the country, but that "the artifact" doesn't get a name. This is an easy layup when it comes to evocative names. Almost anything is better than "the artifact." What was the artifact, the players might reasonably ask? And the GM can't provide any kind of answer, because you haven't provided it for him.

The sole DM Secret is an interesting adventure hook, but if that's the tactic you decide to take (adventure hooks rather than campaign-inspiring secrets), then I think you need to provide more than one.

So, in the end, we've got an uninspiring submission about a mostly peaceful country that is good for lots of jousting, maybe some stablemastering, and the odd fight against a goblin. With boring names.

No thanks.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Clark Peterson wrote:

Submission checklist:

Submission contains all of the mandatory content as required by the contest rules? Fails to include "evocative concept in brief" and instead simply uses a more full name of the country. Not an auto-reject, but the problem shows itself in its total lack of theme that would ordinarily emerge in the evocative concept in brief.

Which, I must point out, is exactly why we asked for it. I have a feeling that Michael started writing the entry before he really knew what he wanted it to be about, and by the time he ran up against the word count it still wasn't really about anything.

Cheliax Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

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

I've read about half of the county entries an I have to say all the history junk is what I call Forgotten Realms inspired drivel.
If Eric Boyd was a judge maybe you'd have something, but skip all the fluff history.
Most of them sound like bad super hero origins.

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

Please edit your comments. You cant post stuff like that. If you dont, Vic or Gary will just delete it. New rules are that you cant explain or clarify in your thread.

Thanks!

Clark


Phrases like "There are still many goblinoids and other creatures that plague the nation." should be avoided at all costs. Nothing bad about this submission, but nothing truly outstanding.

Star Voter 2014

Too much past, not enough now. I need to be able to describe a town or a village in this country from your entry and I cannot.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Michael Kogan 74

Clark Peterson wrote:

Please edit your comments. You cant post stuff like that. If you dont, Vic or Gary will just delete it. New rules are that you cant explain or clarify in your thread.

Thanks!

Clark

How do I edit a post?

-Mike

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Michael Kogan 74 wrote:
Clark Peterson wrote:

Please edit your comments. You cant post stuff like that. If you dont, Vic or Gary will just delete it. New rules are that you cant explain or clarify in your thread.

Thanks!

Clark

How do I edit a post?

-Mike

It's too late. You have to do it within an hour of posting.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Michael Kogan 74

Sebastian wrote:
Michael Kogan 74 wrote:
Clark Peterson wrote:

Please edit your comments. You cant post stuff like that. If you dont, Vic or Gary will just delete it. New rules are that you cant explain or clarify in your thread.

Thanks!

Clark

How do I edit a post?

-Mike

It's too late. You have to do it within an hour of posting.

Thanks for the info. I'm not usually a person that hangs out on message boards.

-Mike

Osirion

See, this one is tough. I'm glad I got to read your explanation (heh, I cheated and read it before it could get deleted). I think your country is one of those entries that isn't based on a week thinking about what would be cool for a writeup, but is the fruit of years of actual gaming. A thousand gallons of paint you're trying to fit into one can. I gotta' say I'd be interested, once this is all over, to get the full director's cut of the setting. It seems like one of those things that's better to plop your character into and explore than it is to write five paragraphs about. Anyhow thanks for the forbidden explanation. And hey, this thing still isn't over yet, so good luck!


It’s not terrible. A lot like the Stirring Rod from your previous entry: Simple, does one thing well, not particularly glamorous. My initial reaction was: No, no, no, no, no!

BUT…I have two votes to spare yet, and I’d be interested to see how badly you wish to wow us in round three if we give you the opportunity to get there.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Michael Kogan 74

I would love the opportunity to wow people with a villian. I may not have been able to "fill my can of paint" this time, but I could write an entire book on Calidune (and yes with better names). I would love your 5th vote as a chance to show you what I can do in the next round!

A country is defined by its history! :)

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka Darkjoy

The dwarf-elf war is a cliche, I even think it was part of the complete elf book of ADND fame.

What strikes me as odd is that the country is NG while they nuked the dwarves and elves ;>

I am getting judging fatigue, but this will not be getting my vote.

Paizo Employee PostMonster General

I deleted Michael's post since he can't edit it.

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

See, this is why we didnt allow author comments.

I also dont think it is appropriate to promise to wow them in the next round.

Voters can use whatever criteria they want. Heck, they could vote based on your avatar if they wanted. But I want to strongly suggest that decisions be made based on the quality of the submission--not on the prior wondrous item or the anticipated upcoming villain. But that is just my suggestion.


This was more like reading a synopsis of a short story. Sounds okay but generic. "Great Elf-Dwarf war" really put me off and that list of all 14 or 13 baronies was kind of a warning of things to come.

I thought this line was really funny: "they are required to send several volunteers to join the Calidune Army and Navy." If all 13 baronies send 4 people the army will have a whopping 52 people!

Sorry dude, you did make it in and I didn't so you have to take the good with the bad. Good luck!


Clark Peterson wrote:

See, this is why we didnt allow author comments.

I also dont think it is appropriate to promise to wow them in the next round.

Voters can use whatever criteria they want. Heck, they could vote based on your avatar if they wanted. But I want to strongly suggest that decisions be made based on the quality of the submission--not on the prior wondrous item or the anticipated upcoming villain. But that is just my suggestion.

Clark -

I realize you're one of the judges, but I also think you're just plain wrong on this one. My vote should be for the person who I believe, based on their work, can produce the adventure I will want to buy come the conclusion of this process. This contest is simply a means to that end. I would frankly be crazy not to take past work into account.

- Ashavan

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Elves v Dwarves in generic fantasy kingdom. Didn’t wow me. There may be a lot of back story and thought behind this one, but despite the large history section (which didn’t add much to the entry in my book), I didn’t get much of a sense of it. Comes across as a fairly generic fantasy setting which I don’t even get much detail of. Perhaps the most evocative sentence to me was “Other geographical features include the Shadow and Grand Forests, Windy Woods, Tier and Ashron Mountains, The Span and Ashlands.”
Alright, some of those sound cool, but we don’t get to find out anything more about them. And like many of the entries I’ve read, the DMs secret section was weak.

I think the missing tagline is in some ways better than a bad tagline – but you missed an opportunity to do something good here!

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Clark Peterson wrote:


I also dont think it is appropriate to promise to wow them in the next round.

Personally I disagree that this is inappropriate.

But personally, I'm also intending to vote based on the work presented in this round, so a promise of future good work doesn't really bother me either way.

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

Well, it wasn't the most boring submission.

But it was in the top three. Most boring submissions.

I am baffled by the refusal of the top 32 to do two things: craft a place with a few setences of intriguing history and many sentences of current life in their country, so we as GMs can set a great backdrop for a series of adventures; and send us off to our legal pads and sourcebooks drooling at the idea of adventures presented in the DMs secrets. The latter seems a clear highest priority.

There are superstars in this group, and there are superstar ideas in a lot of the less impressive entries, but fewer than I thought I'd see.

But: Congratulations on making the top 32. That is a pretty nifty accomplishment and you certainly earned it.

Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Michael Kogan 74 wrote:


The Great Dwarf-Elf War

Right there.

That's where I tilted heavily against this entry.

About as cliche as cliches get.

Now, I went on, hoping there would be some fantastic new take on Dwarf-Elf Wars, but there was not.

The standard is high here. I just got a nice little Christmas card from Paizo with a funny golarian goblin song printed on it. Their reinvention of goblins make that possible.

What in this entry would make next year's Christmas card?

Harsh, but that's the league you want to play in.


It was amusing to see a nation effectively based on adventuring party of old, but other than that, not interested.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 aka adanedhel9

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?

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Michael Kogan 74

I wish people could get past the really cliche "dwarf-elf war" name. It could probably could have been named anything else and it would have been better. I have been reading some of the other entrys and I see the judges stating "this has strong names!". That really bugs me. Although my content may not have been what they were seeking, I don't believe that a name will make it or break it. How many of you GMs have changed the name of a published item to fit your world? I know I have.

Yes, if I had a chance to do it over, like other entries, I would have tried to write two sentences about half of the baronies to give everyone a snippit of what's out there.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

First sentence: "The king rules as a monarch with advisors" - that's why he's called a King. Wasted words. "Granted the position through the Grand Joust" - now, that's interesting.

The Languages line wasn't requested and doesn't help the entry.

This is a contest based on a short time to read each entry. The author hasn't helped himself with dense blocks of unformatted text.

Too much space is spent on history.

The standard of grammar is not acceptable.

A suicide bombing killing thousands of elves and dwarves and turning the centre of the country into a blasted desert is neither a Good nor a sane solution. It doesn't sit well with me that a NG nation honours such an act.

"Surrounded by water," so it's an island? The author might have mentioned that earlier.

If we have to have the desert, I like the Sandmasters.

Only one DM's Secret and it sounds way too much like Harry Potter for me.

Not voting for this.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting Subscriber

Place your votes.


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

Way way too generic. Sure, a full campaign setting needs some of this but it's not a way to wow voters. Pass.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

The good thing about a generic fantasy setting is that it is more intuitive to new players, which certainly has its place.

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

Koldoon wrote:

Clark -

I realize you're one of the judges, but I also think you're just plain wrong on this one. My vote should be for the person who I believe, based on their work, can produce the adventure I will want to buy come the conclusion of this process. This contest is simply a means to that end. I would frankly be crazy not to take past work into account.

- Ashavan

You are right. I am wrong. I agree with you after some reflection. Body of work as an indicator of future work is a valid criteria. Its not mine, but that is why this is a public vote and that is why each country has the author and links to their prior item.

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

Michael Kogan 74 wrote:

I wish people could get past the really cliche "dwarf-elf war" name. It could probably could have been named anything else and it would have been better. I have been reading some of the other entrys and I see the judges stating "this has strong names!". That really bugs me. Although my content may not have been what they were seeking, I don't believe that a name will make it or break it. How many of you GMs have changed the name of a published item to fit your world? I know I have.

Yes, if I had a chance to do it over, like other entries, I would have tried to write two sentences about half of the baronies to give everyone a snippit of what's out there.

Michael, please dont allude to additional content or how you would have done it differently. I think we were pretty clear in saying authors are limited to saying "thanks for the feedback" and "vote for me." Please edit if you can.

Thanks :)


I read your comment about the dwarf-elf war, and I've gotta say that putting a twist (or different races) on this would have really helped. You could have, but unfortunately you didn't.

Having said that, I think your idea about humans nuking the dwarves and elves for their own survival is gritty -- I like it. These are the descendants of those people, so I don't see a problem with the modern inhabitants honoring that.

But as much as I like your backstory, I think you needed more current events. The Sanddudes were pretty cool, we needed more of that type of detail. More DM secrets, more conflict.

I like the base idea, I just think you needed to think more about hooks for adventures/campaigns.

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