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Chase on Charred Ground


Round 5 - Top 6: Design an Encounter

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Cheliax RPG Superstar, Contributor aka Leandra Christine Schneider

1 person marked this as a favorite.

CHASE ON CHARRED GROUND
(EL 7 or 9)

“Faster, faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.“
- Hunter Thompson

ENCOUNTER BACKGROUND
This encounter is set at the top of the Charred Peak, a broiling, slag covered volcano and home of the Ashscar orc tribe. Since time immemorial, Ashscar raiders are a menace to this gloomy land and the screeching of their bone-forged sleds is greatly feared by the people living from the rich harvests the volcanic soil produces. A sled is built from the carcass of an orc’s ancestor and reinforced with bones taken from the region's fierce beasts. Racing it down the mountain to capture more fiery sacrifices, is the greatest joy and honor for an orc warrior.

The PCs braved this hot and hostile environment to seize the Brazen Juggernaut, an ancient magical statue and a centrepiece of the ongoing adventure. After sneaking or fighting their way through the orcish settlement, the heroes crammed the oversized, two thousand pounds heavy idol into the only vehicle capable of moving this behemoth.
Nearly 15 ft. long and 10 ft. wide, the sled of the tribal shaman is as much an object of prestige as it is a vessel. Constructed from the bones of a manticore, adorned with the skulls of the clan’s greatest leaders, and fitted with adamantine lined vats it is capable of bearing this impressive load.
The encounter starts when the PCs guide the sled into one of the ash coated half-tunnels formed from solidified lava, which act as the orc’s high speed paths to the volcano’s base. There, they begin a murderous chase with sled driving, battle hungry orc warriors on their heels.
(Note: This is likely the end of a series of encounters without the chance to rest for the PCs)

OUTLINE AND REFERENCE
Round 1, start – Three sleds manned with a total of six Ashscar orcs chase the PCs (see Ancestral Riders).
Round 2, start – Two Ashscar orcs attempt to board the PC’s sled. (see Ancestral Riders)
Round 2, end – The volcano emits a low growl. (see Volcano!)
Round 3, start – Karak crosses the PC’s path. (see The Flaming Mane)
Round 3, end – An earthquake shakes the mountain. (see Volcano!)
Round 4, start – Karak slams into the PC’s sled. (see The Flaming Mane)
Round 5, end – The PC’s lava channel splits. (see Obstacles)
Round 8, end – The lava tunnels terminate in a ramp. (see Obstacles)
Round 9, end – The volcano erupts. (see Volcano!)

SETUP AND PLAY
Light: Gloomy daylight. No concealment or light sensitivity.
Sound: Orcish war cries and the sled’s high pitched screeches.
Important rules: Avalanches, Bull Rush, Climb, Difficult Terrain, Trip Attacks, and Tactics below.

At the start of the encounter, draw the large sled on the grid and allow the PC’s to place their characters anywhere on the vehicle. Point out, that the craft can only be steered from one of the top squares (marked in red) and that all of its spaces are difficult terrain.
After that, place the three orc sleds according to the tactical map, with two orc warriors on each sled (you could use small pieces of cardboard to represent the sleds).
During the encounter, the small sleds move at a speed of approximately 300 ft. per round and the large sled at approximately 270 ft. per round. Illustrate this movement by moving the sleds only according to their relative distance and only at the end of a combat round.
Usually, this means that the small sleds are placed 30 ft. (6 squares) closer to the large sled after everyone has acted in the current round. Sideway movement is only possible for the small sleds. Each round they can move 5 ft. (1 square) to their left or right. In addition, they do not need to use their full speed and may move less, if they want to.
Because of the half-pipe nature of the lava canals, the heavy sled rests at the centre of the course. It cannot move sideways or reduce its speed, although steering it has other benefits as described in the Tactics section.

TACTICS
During an unusual fight like this, several additional options are available to the PCs and their opponents. The most likely ones are described here.

Steering the large sled: A PC located on the front square of the sled (marked in red), can spend a move action to influence the movement of the vehicle. If the PC makes a successful Ride check (DC 15), he can increase the sled’s speed by 10 ft. for the current round (only one such check can be made per round).
If the PC tries to use the brakes in an attempt to reduce the overburdened sled’s speed, it suddenly jerks and the rarely used brakes rip off, trailing a shower of sparks behind. They were not meant to stop a vessel that heavy and there is no easy way to end this hellish fast trip.
Leaving the large sled unguided has no effect since its extreme weight and broad construction stabilize it enough that it will make the trip on its own.

Steering a small sled: A small sled can be steered by weight shifting from any of its squares. Every round, this requires a move action and a Ride check (DC 10) by one of its passengers. Failure results in a crash that removes the sled as well as its riders from the encounter. The crashing riders also take damage (see Falling off). Ashscar orcs usually succeed on this check automatically.
A well steered small sled is 30 ft. faster than the large sled and can move an additional 5 ft. sideways (not diagonally) during a combat round. Sled movement never provokes attacks of opportunity.

Falling off: Creatures falling off a sled take 2d6 points of damage (Reflex save DC 15 for half damage) and are likely unable to continue to participate in this encounter.

Attacking from a sled: Attacking works as usual, sleds are too open to provide any kind of cover.

Jump over: When adjacent to an empty square on a different sled, creatures may try to board the vehicle. Jumping off their sleds requires a move action as well as a Jump check (DC 15). This is a very risky manoeuvre and failing the jump check causes the creature to fall off (see above).

Bull Rush: A character being bull rushed, or shoved from the large sled in a similar fashion, has one last hope of catching himself. Succeeding on a Reflex save (DC 15) allows the character to cling to the sled (see below).

Clinging to the shaman’s sled: Creatures holding themselves at the side of the sled are considered to be climbing (Wall DC 10). They move at the vehicles speed and remain in the nearest empty square adjacent to the sled. Climbing fully onto the vessel requires a move action as well as a Climb check (DC 10). This provokes attacks of opportunity.

Attacking the sleds: The small sleds have a hardness of 5 and 40 hp. The shaman’s sled has a hardness of 8 and 300 hp.

ANCESTRAL RIDERS
Read or paraphrase the following text:

Everything is in rapid motion. Waves of smoke wash across your vehicle as it dashes through the steep, ash filled lava channel, trailing a cloud of grey dust behind. Suddenly, there is the echoing sound of primal war cries, and a split second later, three small sleds skate into view. Despite the motion blur you can clearly see the bloodthirsty warriors behind you and you instantly realize that only a few heartbeats separate them from their target.

The vengeful orcs of the Ashscar tribe will do everything in their power to liberate their shaman’s sled from the outlanders.
At the beginning of the encounter, they already caught up with their prey and only a few feet stand between them and their prize. During their turn, they will attack with thrown javelins (targeting obvious spellcasters first) and try to close with the larger vehicle. Shouting angry cries of war the orcs will switch to melee weapons as soon as they are close enough and some might even try to jump onto the larger sled (see Tactics).
At the start of the second round, two additional Ashscar orcs will leap from the sides of the lava channel onto the PC’s sled. They make a Jump check (DC 18). If successful, place them on the sled, otherwise describe their fatal failure and remove them from the encounter.
If any orcs are alive and on their own sled at round 8, they finally break pursuit, knowing that they are unable to make the jump over the lava stream.

Spoiler:
This brutish humanoid’s skin is ash grey and covered with hundreds of artfully cut scars. He brandishes a gigantic, axe and his eyes are as black as the steel from which his weaponry is forged. Fuelled by an unearthly fury, the scars on his skin glow with hot, orange light as he charges into the fray.

Ashscar Orc CR 1
Fiendish orc warrior 3
CE Medium humanoid (extraplanar, orc)
Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen -2, Spot -2

Defense
AC 14, touch 10, flat-footed 14
(+4 chainshirt)
hp 23 (3d8+3 and 1d8+3 temporary)
Fort +4, Ref +1, Will -1; +1 against fear effects
Resist cold 5, fire 5; SR 8

Offense
Spd 30 ft.
Melee masterwork greataxe +8 (1d12+4/x3) or
shortsword +7 (1d6+3)
Ranged javelin +4 (1d6+3)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks smite good

Tactics
Before Combat Ashscar orcs quaff a potion of aid before combat. Their stats have been adjusted for this effect.
During Combat Orcs gang up against a single individual, striking it down with their heavy axes before choosing another victim. If facing an especially difficult opponent, they try to bull rush him off the sled.
Morale Ashscar orcs perceive death differently. They never flee battle.
Base Statistics hp 16, masterwork greataxe +7, shortsword +6, javelin +3, no bonus on saves against fear effects.

Statistics
Str 17, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 8, Wis 7, Cha 6
Base Atk +3; Grp +6
Feats Skillfocus (jump), Skillfocus (ride)
Skills Jump +4, Ride +9
Languages Common, Orc
SQ light sensitivity
Other Gear chainmail, 3 javelins, masterwork greataxe, shortsword,
Special Abilities

Light Sensitivity (Ex)
Orcs are dazzled in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.

Smite Good (Su) Once per day the creature can make a normal melee attack to deal 3 extra points of damage against a good foe.

VOLCANO!
As described in the adventure, the theft of the totem has caused the volcano to wake from its uneasy slumber.
At the end of the second round, the mountain emits a low growl. Any character can make a Knowledge (nature) or Survival check (DC 15) to realize that the volcano is about to erupt. Characters aware of that fact are not surprised by the earthquake that shakes the mountain in the third round.
At the end of the third round, the ground shakes violently. Any character standing upright has to succeed on a Reflex save (DC 15) or fall prone. Creatures aware of the earthquake gain a +4 competence bonus on this save.
At the end of the ninth round, the volcano finally erupts, annihilating the (mostly evacuated) orc settlement, filling the lava tubes with molten stone and showering the region with a hail of stones and ash. Creatures at the top of the mountain (up to point 4 on the map) are treated as if within the bury zone of an avalanche (see DMG) while those between point 4 and 8 are in the slide zone.
Characters at the bottom (past point 8 on the map) of the mountain only take 2d6 points of damage (Reflex save DC 15 to avoid). If the heroes are subject of the more severe effects of the avalanche, increase the Encounter Level to 9 and award XP for a CR 7 threat.

THE FLAMING MANE
The orc known as Karak the Flaming Mane is the shaman’s son and feared for his combat prowess, cunning and fiendish powers. He yearns to prove his worth to his father by reclaiming what was taken by the PCs. Racing along an alternate route down the mountain, he catches up with the PCs later in the encounter.
During the third round of combat Karak’s alternate course features a jumping ramp that catapults his sled across the PCs’ path. He can easily be seen by anyone on the large sled and the orcs fight especially reckless this turn.
At the start of the fourth round, Karak’s path meets the hero’s route again and this time he proves his daredevil nature. In a stunning manoeuvre, he crashes his sled down on the top of the PC’s vehicle, while catching his own fall with his wings. Everyone on top of the craft takes 1d6 points of damage. Place Karak on an empty square of the sled. If there is no such square, move an Ashscar orc to a clinging position on the sled.

Spoiler:
This winged orc is a living inferno. His clothes are ablaze and everything except a heavy black breastplate is on fire. Untouched by the heat of the flames, the creature grins gleefully and in his clawed hands a barbed chain quivers, hungry to flay the flesh from his opponent’s bones.

Karak, the Flaming Mane CR 5
Half-fiend orc fighter 4
CE Medium outsider (native, orc)
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen -1, Spot -1

Defense
AC 18, touch 12, flat-footed 16
(+5 breastplate, +2 Dex, +1 natural)
hp 49 (4d10+20 and 1d8+3 temporary)
Fort +9, Ref +3, Will +0; +1 against fear effects
DR 5/magic; Immune poison; Resist acid 10, cold 10, electricity 10, fire 10; SR 14

Offense
Spd 20 ft.; fly 20 ft (average)
Melee +1 spiked chain +13 (2d4+11) and bite +7 (1d6+3) or
2 claws + 12 (1d4+7) and bite +7 (1d6+3)
Ranged javelin +7 (1d6+7)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks smite good

Spell-Like Abilities (CL 4):
3/day--darkness
1/day--desecrate

Tactics
Before Combat Karak used potions of aid and bear’s endurance before combat. His stats have been adjusted for these effects. Also, he drenched himself and his clothes with oil and lit it on fire. The fire burns during the entire encounter, dealing 1d3 points of damage to Karak (no damage because of his fire resistance) and anyone grappling him.
During Combat Karak knows that his spiked chain is a superior weapon. Every round he uses it to trip (+11) his opponents, possibly earning attacks due to his Improved Trip feat.
Morale If reduced to less than 20 hp while fighting a melee threat, he uses his Combat Expertise feat to full effect (-4 attack +4 AC).
As a last resort, Karak uses his wings to leap off the sled. Although he is unable to match the sled’s speed, he will follow the PCs and attack them in the Ash fields (point 9 on the map), utilizing his flight and reach.
Base Statistics hp 41, +1 spiked chain +12, claw + 11, bite + 6, javelin +6, Fort +7, no bonus on saves against fear effects, Con 16.

Statistics
Str 24, Dex 15, Con 20, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 8
Base Atk +4; Grp +11
Feats Combat Expertise*, Combat Reflexes*, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (spiked chain), Improved Trip*, Skillfocus (ride)
Skills Climb +10, Intimidate +2, Jump +10, Ride +12, Tumble +2
Languages Abyssal, Common, Draconic, Orc
SQ light sensitivity
Combat Gear cure moderate wounds potion (2); Other Gear breastplate, 3 javelins, +1 spiked chain
Special Abilities

Light Sensitivity (Ex)
Orcs are dazzled in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.

Smite Good (Su) Once per day the creature can make a normal melee attack to deal 4 extra points of damage against a good foe.

OBSTACLES
Any character steering the sled at the end of the fifth round, has to make a difficult choice. Read or paraphrase the following text:

As your sled screeches around another curve in the lava tube, the view clears and reveals a split in your path. The channel on your right hand side is filled with a cloud of choking ash, while the one on the left hand side seems to be composed of shiny black and very smooth stone. Within the blink of an eye, you have to make your choice!

Allow all PCs to make a Spot check (DC 20, characters with stonecunning gain a +4 circumstance bonus on this check). Successful characters realize that the stone’s blackness is oil that leaks from the ground since the recent earthquake.
Depending on their choice, the sixth and seventh round of the encounter is affected by the terrain they travel through. If the sled was not steered in the fifth round, choose the path it takes randomly.
The right path is filled with clouds of ash. All creatures have to hold their breath and are blinded during the two rounds. The DCs of any checks required to steer a vehicle are increased by 4 during this time.
The left path is slick with flammable oil that covers all vehicles and creatures travelling through it. Any source of fire (including the Flaming Mane) instantly ignites the oil. It burns for 3 rounds dealing 1d6 points of fire damage per round.
At the end of the eighth round, the lava tubes terminate in a ramp that launches the PC’s sled across a burning lava stream. The sled takes 4d6 points of damage and comes to a surprisingly soft halt in the nearby ash field (difficult terrain). Continue combat at the base of the flame-spewing mountain until the PCs defeat their opponents, then jump to “Concluding the Encounter”.

CONCLUDING THE ENCOUNTER
If the PCs’ escape is successful, the eruption of the volcano will distract the orcs for a few days until they regroup and attempt to strike back. They are eager to reclaim sled and statue, and believe that only these items will calm the fire god’s wrath. If Karak was killed, his father will seek bloody revenge and abuse the orcs' blind faith for his own vendetta.

Treasure: Due to its unusual construction, the orc sled can be used as an impressive sled or carriage (see PHB, transport) or it can be sold for 2000 gp to an interested collector. If Karak was killed, his +1 spiked chain likely got entangled somewhere on the sled.

Ad Hoc XP Award: Fighting these well equipped orcs on their home terrain is significantly more difficult. Award +10% XP for any defeated orc and also award XP for orcs that were simply outrun instead of being killed.

ADAPTING THE ENCOUNTER

Spoiler:
  • This encounter also works in other environments. A snowy mountain with tubes of ice or a mud covered hill with dried riverbeds and a mudslide.
  • If there are more than four adventurers, you should increase the size of the shaman’s sled.
  • This encounter is challenging for a party of 6th to 7th level. You can increase the challenge by advancing the monsters, but spellcasters of a higher level might circumvent most of the encounter’s dangers.

Qadira Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

This is more than an encounter; given the shaky nature of D&D's chase rules, it's practically an entire mini-game. Props to you for choosing a difficult encounter style to write up!

The encounter map and elements start off a little slow, with more backstory than is really required, and rather little to set the stage for the players. It's clearly incumbent on the DM to come up with the hook or readaloud that starts this encounter, because the first flavor text provided is in "Ancestral Riders", after setup, tactics, and the outline.

The heavy weight of setup here actually makes this encounter less fun to read, but probably makes it much more playable. As a design choice, I'd recommend putting at least some flavor or readaloud text closer to the start, to hook the DM and get him or her excited about running the encounter. This hook is the promise to the reader, and it should be EASY to write for this encounter; something like the Ancestral Riders text works.

Though the sequence shows this is a fairly literal railroad encounter, I don't think that entirely bad. You've given the encounter plenty of internal momentum, using the relative movement of the sleds, the half-fiend orc on fire, leaping between sleds, plus the driving choice of two paths. Not to mention blowing up a volcano. Yes, a bit of a cliche, but why not go all out?

All the elements for an exciting encounter are there, waiting for the DM to bring them to life. Recommended.

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

Encounter Concept (name/title, is it actually an encounter?, design choices, usability?, conflict and interaction?, is it memorable?, part of a larger adventure?, monster choices?): A

The Good: You’ve got to be kidding me! A flaming orc sled chase down an erupting volcano? I love it! Very cinematic. Another Christine “big idea.” I love the bold chase mini-game feel. Memorable beyond any doubt. Tons of interaction and conflict. It’s tense and fun.

The Bad: My head says I should critique you for picking orcs. You could have done something more memorable here. But somehow my heart disagrees and loves it. I’m going with my heart on this one. Not marking you off for it much. Others may not agree. Also borders on the cliché, but it doesn’t bother me really. Not marking off much for that either. Those two little dings move it from an A+ down to an A.

Map (well done?, legible?, encounter keyed to the map?, exciting and memorable location?, well integrated?, all necessary info for cartographer?): A+

The Good: Really fun. Not just an overhead room shot. Perfectly done to show the encounter and how it proceeds. The map was fit to suit the encounter. Frankly, when I saw the map I rubbed my hands and said “oh boy.” I thought Wolfie’s biggest criticism (that the front text wasn’t the grabby, which I agree is true) is overcome by the fact that the map grabbed me.

The Bad: None.

Crunch (mandatory content such as EL, XP, reward, appropriate read aloud text, format choices and organization, stat blocks, monster selections, tactics, etc.): A

The Good: You have always been good with the rules crunch and you don’t disappoint with this one. Great format, great rules stuff, great mini-game, great stats, very good read aloud text.

The Bad: The reward is a bit weak.

Writing (quality of read aloud text, publishable quality?, over/under-written?, quality of description): A

The Good: Not quite as inspired and beautiful as Boomer’s text, but it is solid and competent and very clear and well done.

Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?): A+

The Good: Totally rad! The second I realized what this entry was I was dying to read it and run it. That is what a good encounter should do to a DM.

Overall: A

Christine, I’m not sure if anyone has been as consistently solid round after round as you have been. That is quite an accomplishment.

Strongly RECOMMENDED for Top 4

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Forget everything I said about your non-native English use being a problem for you. It turns out that hard work and natural brilliance have trumped that concern, and I am 100% certain you will be making it into the final round.

This is a very exciting submission. I love the idea of a sled race down a lava tube, I appreciated your attention to context and setting up the encounter, and I'm loving imagining this encounter in my mind. I'd love to actually play it and see how it works, which is true of only this submission and Rob's Monkey Goblins. I'm _willing_ to run all of the encounters in this round. But I'd _love_ to run this. By the time orcs start leaping from the sides of the lava tube onto the PCs' sled I was already completely sold on the encounter.

Oh, and then you throw in an erupting volcano. Brilliant!

The map is well done, and the few errors are easily correctable by editors.

I think you have an excellent chance of winning this whole contest, and I think this submission is tied with Rob McCreary's as the best of the round.

I STRONGLY recommend Christine Schneider for advancement to the final round of RPG Superstar!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013 aka Core

Well written? Yes

Is it an encounter? Almost a mini adventure

Would I use it? Yes

2.5/3

I am partial to this entry and Monkey Goblin one, I think they are the best. This one is good since it a memorable encounter that the party will likely be talking about for months/years to come - even if they all die. I wish it was a bit more free-form instead of a linear set of events. Give the PCs some more choice in paths and whatnot.

Your other entries I have been 'meh' to me, but this one does indeed stand out to me. The background was particularly strong. Orc trial of manhood, good stuff. Nice work.

Oddly enough I ran something similar to this about 8 months ago for my group. I used a mine cart ala Indian Jones & the Temple of Doom but I am pleasantly surprised how similar these ended up being.

Shadow Lodge

This is a great encounter and the only thing that prevents me from giving it a complete endorsement is the amount of railroading I would have to do to ensure the chase went off as planned. My party would likely try to ensure the destruction of the orc sleds before taking the shaman's sled or would hunt the orcs first and secure the village before risking a ride down the mountain.

I am going to have to see how the others stack up before finalizing my thoughts on this.


I have to play this encounter. It is so full of action, and not close to any encounter I have played before. I thought about including a chase in my adventures, but with this setting it might actually work out well. Awesome.


Just awesome. This is teh first one I read-and the others better be damn amazing to keep up.

We're designing characters for a new campaign tomorrow and I think we'll mess around with this afterwards. Nice work.

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

RAD, a word Clark used.

Yeah, totally rad!

This is very well done! I haven't even read the other ones yet but this is going to be hard to beat.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter 2013 aka Eyebite

Awesome.

This is the first one I've read as well. This will be a tough act to follow. Very very well done.

Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

You have not let me down yet. Awsome! You are my pick as of now to win the whole shebang. Good luck!

Taldor

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

Christine, you totally blew me away with this. Great entry.


Very nice, this was by far my favorite submission of round 5. Not much that I would change other than the name Ashscar. Reminds me of the "grouch" from Sesame Street too much I guess.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Caveat: This is only the first submission I've read, but I'm hooked.

It would love to run this encounter and am already trying to figure out how I can use it in (at least) one of my many games.

Based on C.Schnieder's previous work, I am likely to vote for this one.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka carborundum

Awesome! A flaming sled chase off a volcano? I am so going to use this!
I'll save it for my savage tide campaign and drop it in when they go see Zotzilaha.

Thank you! Get's my vote and quadruples the coolness of a volcano encounter by topping it with a chase - ROCK!


I love this thing!!! I've written some chase scenes/mechanics for my campaigns and I really like what youve done here. The orc lighting himself on fire was a very nice touch.


Erik Mona wrote:

Forget everything I said about your non-native English use being a problem for you. It turns out that hard work and natural brilliance have trumped that concern, and I am 100% certain you will be making it into the final round.

What did Kruelaid say about your English, girl? "That's what editors are for."

Your work is excellent and I'd suffer the extra editing any day to have you around.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

Dashing down the tube.
In an bone orc-crafted sleigh
Over heroes bodies go
Growling all the way
Leader on fiendish wings
Makes a scary sight.
Look here they come to a cliff
Oh how they wish they'd flight!

whoops! wrong turn
Watch them burn
Sizzling flesh horray!
Watching all the pinkskins burn
Love adventurer flambe!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Sheyd

This Is SO COOL!
Great entry, wonderful concept, great execution. Definately got my vote.


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

I totally love this. Inventive, uses core rules but isn't afraid to add a little, and fun galore for PCs. Best of the batch this round!


Christine, you've been my favorite since you blew me away with "Theocracy of Carnamach." Your English has dramatically improved over the course of this contest and you've had big idea after big idea.

I have to disagree with the "railroad encounter" critiques, I think you went with a very cinematic approach and it paid off big time. The events prior to and after this encounter are outlined in a serviceable manner, but I wanted some information on the Brazen Juggernaut (although I loved the tribal flavor text.) Outlining the encounter makes this very easy to run and you give us rules for all the funky stuff that can/does happen. The image of a fiendish flaming orc catapulting over the PCs with raiders jumping onto their sled all while rocketing down a lava tube is good, having him crash his sled onto theirs during a volcanic eruption is genius.

You defiantly have my vote this round and it is going to take a major coup for you not to get my vote for the win.
I can't wait to see what you come up within round 6.

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Wow and wow. Absolutely fraggin fantastic. I need to run this!
This is the first encounter I've looked at but right now I think this will be a hard one to top.

Andoran Star Voter 2014

Whee!

Gorgor! Kill kill!

Kablooie!

Whee!

Just awesome. Nice map.

Osirion

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

This is the first thing in this entire contest that I block copied for use in my game.

Very well done. Exciting stuff!

Gary

Qadira RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 aka Sect

I'd like to note that one of the most memorable gaming experiences I've had, Living Greyhawk at GenCon '06, involved a ride in a rocket powered mine cart that was developed by a gnome. Sheer insanity, and we all agreed that it would be the best TPK EVER if it crashed.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Awesome. It starts off with sheer brilliance and then Karak the burning orc shows up to make it still better.

I have some small mechanical doubts about the 'split in the channel' round, would like to see some more PC skill checks and consequences from the final jump and I wonder if the pressure will ease a bit in rounds 7 and 8 when the PCs may have defeated most of the available orcs. I suspect I would want to add one or two more small sleds. That's a very easy thing for a DM to adjust though.


Wow, this is the design equivalent of landing a crit with a scythe.

Qadira

In former rounds, I read your entry first. This time, I spared it until the end, to give the other authors the chance to get my attention before I would be blown away by your entry.

Unluckily, it didn't work, cause the only thing I know for sure at the moment is that you have my vote. This round has shown us a lot of high-quality design and I'd love to run all of the encounters.But your entry stands out of the crowd and in the meantime I've come to think that you have a BIG chance to win the whole thing.

Andoran

I like it. Regardless of the original concept intended to lead up to it, I can envision a number of different scenarios that could use all the work you've done on this thing. Minor tweaks and cosmetic changes are all I'd need to make.


Matthew Morris wrote:

Dashing down the tube.

In an bone orc-crafted sleigh
Over heroes bodies go
Growling all the way
Leader on fiendish wings
Makes a scary sight.
Look here they come to a cliff
Oh how they wish they'd flight!
whoops! wrong turn
Watch them burn
Sizzling flesh horray!
Watching all the pinkskins burn
Love adventurer flambe!

LOL! Very nice...


I really want to play this adventure. Wonderful!

Andoran RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka JoelF847

Another great entry, Christine! Sure it's a bit cliche and railroaded, but that's because it's effectively running an encounter that is a railroad on a track (or lava tube in this case). And while it would be cliche in a movie, in D&D it's rare to have a chase encounter, and even rarer to have a great one with lots of great tension increasing elements, like you've produced here. Where's Indiana Jone's character sheet, because I want to play through this encounter!

This is the first I've read, but I have a strong suspicion that it's my first vote.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

This is imaginative and very well laid out. the sequencing is spot on. I do have a strong issue with it however:

No "Boss" Encounters: The purpose of this round is to design an interesting intermediate encounter, not the "boss" encounter of the adventure. Otherwise we would have a bunch of encounters with red dragons or Orcus or Tiamat or Kyuss, etc. That is not what this round is about.

(This is very obviously the capstone of the adventure on the mountain. The dungeon blows up at the end.)

No new monsters, items or other new content: This is not an item or monster creation round. Do not create new feats or powers or poisons either.

Considering the amount of text neccesary to deliniate it's properties, the sled is close to being an item in my view.

This is beautiful and masterfully written with very strong visuals and a compelling momentum. I like it a lot. I will not vote for it though. A lot of the joy of this competion for me has been in finding out more clearly than ever what my tastes are. I really respect your output of ideas and the clarity with which you format your submissions. They are not to my taste, but I want to see your works published. I want you and Boomer and Samuel Kisko (Despite his sarky little jabs) and the Macleans to write and get published.
The long tail is here. Use it.


Nothing but respect for my icon-sister!

I love it. It is my favorite. I will vote for it.

Now, let me talk about about why Necro-Clark's heart won't let him chide you for using orcs.

There are going to be orcs in DnD games. They're iconic. They are also somewhat dull and overdone. When people run into orc encounters, they think "Ho-Hum, more orcs."

But not with THIS encounter. Sure, they're just orcs. But the ENCOUNTER is so over-the-top action fun NO ONE could fell it is ho-hum. The environment IS the encounter. using something more interesting than orcs would TAKE AWAY from the genius of this design. Plus, it let's you use orcs in a fun encounter, so you have them in your DnD game without boring anyone.

Second, if the PCs are too high level this encounter is probl;amatic. If they can do teleport circle, or polymorpph into giant flying creatures, or have portable holes, or any of a number of other things, part of the fun is gone. this workls best for characters who should be fighting orcs. It is a genius middle-action piece, preceeded by the fights and sneaking in to get the statues, and followed by the big land race, or the inevitable night battle when the orcs catch up to whatever fortification the players throw together.

In short, unlike most encounters, it is perfect the way it is. I am actually floored.


Dungeon Grrrl wrote:
There are going to be orcs in DnD games. They're iconic. They are also somewhat dull and overdone. When people run into orc encounters, they think "Ho-Hum, more orcs."

The first thing I thought when reading this is: Losels!

And since I am running the SCAP right now, it is probably going to happen. :)

What's better than half-ape/half-orcs careening down an erupting volcano amidst a steaming jungle?


Well I have to say I've voted for you consistently every round since I discovered this, and I'm not stopping now. You're the only one I can say that I've voted for every round, and the reason is that you've consistently delivered the goods. I'm quite sure you'll be moving on, and I personally hope you win it based on your consistently good entries.

This is my favorite encounter for this round. I love chase scenes, but they're very hard to execute properly. This one looks like it could be executed properly. I don't know how soon I'd be able to fit it in to my own campaign, but I'm sure going to try. :)

Osirion RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

First of all, why would anybody hassle you about using orcs when we have two entries using GOBLINS? If anything is more tired and cliche than orcses it's goblinses--why are they getting the love? Besides, at least your orcs are fiendish/half-fiends. I thought it was an excellent use of an iconic D&D monster and I for one was happy to see orcs finally get some love in this contest. Actually, it's funny that it should be until the 5th round of the contest before two of the most basic D&D monsters of all - orcs and dragons - finally showed up.

All that aside, this encounter is completely awesome. I saved it til last because everyone kept talking it up and it did not disappoint. As Wolf alluded, a chase in D&D is one of the hardest things to do well. You pulled it off masterfully. It's exciting, tense, it has things for PCs to do, it's dynamic on several levels - chasing orcs, missile-firing orcs, jumping/bull-rushing orcs, sled-riding-flaming winged devil-orcs. Oh, yeah, and it's down the side of an exploding volcano.

I've voted for you every round and you make it easy to vote for you again. There were things to like in every entry, but yours goes beyond rock-solid to hot Hot HOT!!!

Take a bow, Ms. Schneider. As a game designer, you are (in American sports parlance) "on fire!"

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

This round is the same as the others; I've been saving Boomer and Christine's entries for last.

I'm guessing it's going to come down to those two, and man, it's going to be a tough choice with that last vote.


I see what looks like it was inspired by a 'bob-sled run' idea, and I think it might have been safer (although less dramatic) to leave it in an ice setting.

1) Lava tubes are effectively subterranean channels which convey lava. They are *tunnels*. They have *roofs* to them. Your description makes it clear that the mountainside channels in your encounter have no roofs. (Describing them as half-pipes- another term associated with winter sports I note- the orc shaman being able to get the 'jump' on the PCs from the air, etc, etc.) I can put this one down to maybe a translation error from a German concept that includes possibly channels open to the air.

2) Eruption mechanics & 6 second rounds. First, before I go into maths, I'm disappointed that you affect to be presenting a volcanic eruption situation and you reference avalanches in the DMG for crushing damage/burial damage, but leave it there. Firstly, it doesn't apparently occur to you that volcanic eruptions are *hot*. Where is the fire damage? Secondly (and slightly more forgiveable) where is the poison gas? Nasty, violent, explosive eruptions come with noxious gases associated (and sometimes worse). Poison gas associated with Vesuvius' eruption in the first century AD is believed to have accounted for the Roman statesman Pliny the Elder.

Now for the maths, where things are going to get nasty. Your eruption is going from 'warning signs' in round 2, to explosive violence in round 9- thats somewhere in the vicinity of 3/4 of a minute. Okay; there's a really annoyed deity/nature spirit stoking this up in a hurry, so I'm prepared to believe that. Based on the way that the course zig-zags, and the travel speed (270 ft.round) of the PC's sled, I'm going to estimate that the minimum distance from the village at what I take to be 'ground zero' for the eruption to location 8 is at least 800 feet in a direct line. You seem to indicate that effects of the eruption are capable of sweeping across this entire area during round 9. Some things in nature associated with volcanoes do move this fast, and if I were an angry deity/nature spirit I would certainly go for unleashing one of these jewels of geological phenomena on absolutely everyone to make quite clear just how displeased I was. They're called pyroclastic flows (AKA nuee ardentee)and can achieve speeds of over 100 miles per/hour. A pyroclastic flow is not going to really care about a break in the slope of the volcano, however, or a 'river of magma' and will simply sweep across to do the same thing to PCs at the point which you indicate they could have reached by round 9 as it has done to everything else in its path. Dungeon Magazine #146 had a Campaign Workbook on volcanoes which tried to put some game statistics to such forces of nature; I am slightly surprised that none of the judges mentioned this source to you.
In case you're interested (I realise Dungeon #146 may not have been available in your country, or of sufficient interest to you at the time to merit your buying it), I'll summarise some of the game effects that a pyroclastic flow has:

DC 30 Fortitude save to avoid instant total disintegration for non-fire immune creatures, 12d6 fire damage and 8d6 crushing damage on a successful save.
Poison Gas: DC 25 Fortitude save, 2d6 Con initial/secondary damage.
Characters are automatically buried beneath the surface for 1d6 nonlethal and 3d6 fire damage each round whilst trapped. Characters who fall unconcious must make a DC 15 Constitution check each minute or take 1d6 lethal damage until freed or dead.
(ECL 16 by the way, which I realise presents a conflict of CR for this particular level of adventure).

3) You write that the PCs have to transport the totem in the sled. By the time that they have reached the bottom of the volcanic cone, jumped a lava river, and buried their sled in a soft pile of ash (Is ash really that soft and cushioning? I would have thought that so close to the source heat would tend to weld ash grains together to form Tuff, but let's say that it's some magic in what is after all a shaman's sled, enchanted for safety and comfort.) they have moved not much more than 270 feet * eight rounds, which doesn't seem very far, and have just lost the use of the only vehicle (sleds aren't designed to move except under gravity, and downhill) in which they could move the 2000 lb totem. And they're stuck now, in the middle of a wasteland, next to an erupting volcano. What was the point of that in the greater context of things? If the idea was that stealing the totem would cause the volcano to erupt and destroy the village then why aren't the PCs expecting trouble on the way down? (They need knowledge(nature) checks to notice an eruption is about to happen, to 'brace' themselves for a circumstance bonus in the earthquake next round.) Like Russ, you appear to me to have failed to give proper context to the encounter. (Yours is the second entry that I am going over in detail, and I am starting to suspect that none of the entrants have supplied sufficient context to their encounters in terms of outling them in the context of the larger adventure.)

4) Why do any pursuing orcs, 'know that they can not make the jump over the lava river', whilst the PCs sled apparently can? The pursuing sleds are carrying lighter burdens and capable of acheiving faster speeds. Is this again because some sort of magic is woven into the shaman's sled? If it can fly, then why don't the PCs fly it out of the village instead of sliding down the mountainside in it, allowing themselves to be chased? Or are they supposed to be doing all of this, with thefts of a sled and a totem, followed by a highly visible 'catch me if you can' chase, as part of a diversion?

5) If this is all part of a diversion or distraction that the PC's have been hired to create (and there have been highly successful, or at least published adventures already built precisely around this premise) then why on earth haven't you told us that as part of the context?

Apologies if some of this has seemed a little harsh, after all the praise that everyone else has been heaping on you, but I have *seriously* studied geology, and some of the basic errors that you have made have irked me so much- the little 'avalanche' that wasn't even hot especially- that I've started picking away in a frenzy.

You are the second entry that I have looked at so far in detail. I may very well end up coming back and voting for it anyway, despite mistakes that make me want to tear my hair out.

If your original idea was a bob-sled on ice, (and by the way, as a question with nothing to do with this round, how did those orcs get their enormous sleds back up the slope?) I think you would have ended up being a lot technically better in sticking with it.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

I do agree with the previous poster that how the orcs get the sleds back up is a bit of a puzzler, as is how the PCs are supposed to move the shaman's sled with the 2000 pound statue once it's on flat ground. The first question I doubt players would really care about - the sleds are THERE and it's their escape route. Moving the giant statue once you're down the mountain... that one could be a real problem.

That said, the encounter just seems like it would be extremely fun to play, if you can hold your suspension of disbelief, and because chases of any sort are so hard to do (much less to do well) in D&D and I think this one just works, and I think that's why I gave it the thumbs up.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

I think think the large post complaining about the physics of the volcano eruption is off mark.

I get into arguments all the time about things like this with players, especially ones who are engineers (like me) or the like.

There is a pretty important key to remember here: this is a game, not a simulation. There is a big difference between the two.

There is not and should be no attempt to match actual physics. There are games out there that do that - if you want to play a game that has actual true-blue Newtonian movement during outer space combat you can find it. If you want to play something that attempts to simulate what would actually happen if two people hacked at each other with swords, you can do that too - but you will not be playing D&D, and your life will be brutish and short.

If you're under water, you do not take massive damage - for the most part you take it when you go back up, and it's nothing as pretty as 1d6 damage per minute if you fail a save. Extreme cold causes permanent damage (and thus should probably do Con drain), not hit point loss. Burns are nasty and should linger. Catching on fire is Very Bad and should cause Dex drain. Things that do damage in the real world probably don't cap at 20d6. Many poisons are automatically fatal no matter what you do. The list goes on and on.

It should not be so off the mark that you play and go 'huh? how the hell does that work?' but other than that it's fair game.

Now, that said, questions such as "how the heck do they get the sleds back up" and "how do they get them moving in the first place" are valid, and could stand some clarification, but I get ... agitated when I hear people complaining about the physics of a D&D game.

My game universe is flat. So all the people that think they know things based on a round planet with a horizon, etc., are wrong. I have a vague idea in my head of how the atmosphere works, but it has nothing to do with gravity, etc. I mainly came up with it because I expect my PCs will someday try to fly up a mile or two to see what's going on.

The biggest place I get into this is when people argue about how things like feats (and Reflex saves) 'work', and then based on how they 'work', make arguments based on that - you see this all the time during discussions of Reflex saves. They're rules, folks. You get a Reflex save when you're unconscious because that's the rules - because it's a game and it's intentionally tilted in favor of the players. Otherwise they'd all be dead within a few games.

</rant>


Chase on Charred Ground

Best map! Best map, hands down. Props for that.

Wahooo! You have to sled down a volcano? I’m glad I hit this one last. I liked the tipping boat, I enjoyed the combat on the icy lake, and I thought the light and shadow kolyarut chamber cool. But this wins. Right here. Oh wait. Gotta read the rest of the entry.

There is one potentially fatal flaw here. Oh wait. No it’s not! The idol weighs 2000 pounds. Now, does the cubic footage exceed shrink item’s limits? It isn’t quite stated, although implied. I would like to have seen that detail provided because my players would work hard to avoid this excessively cool and fun chase scene. Now, some additional flavor reason for why the PCs can’t just roll this down the mountain would help. (Maybe their patron wants it undamaged.)

I really like the round-by-round chart. That helps run something complex like this.

I note the Falling Off comment, however at this level there’s good odds of someone having fly. That would let them pick up a fallen comrade and get back to the sled.

I do think that the Ashscar orcs should be a bit higher level. If this is meant for 5th-6th level PCs, the odds of one of those javelins hitting is minimal. Damn though, Karak is awesome. I love him crashing down on top of the PC’s sled.

The one thing missing from this encounter is a little analysis of high level spells that could affect the fight. If it’s intended for 7th level, might a party wizard have a wall spell? That could affect things substantially. Fireballs can take out opposing sled operators and passenger easily. Do the half-pipes provide partial cover from this?

Overall this was my favorite. It read like something in the middle of something else. It took a new tack that I have not seen in D&D encounters, tied it all together, gave good detail on running it, and put it out there. I found myself wondering if you had playtested this or not. I couldn’t tell, although it seemed possible. This really hit the high note and is the first one that I read that’s getting my vote. Now I just need to decide on one other. Well done!

For purposes of this review, I did not read other’s comments.


Taliesin Hoyle wrote:

I do have a strong issue with it however:

No "Boss" Encounters: The purpose of this round is to design an interesting intermediate encounter, not the "boss" encounter of the adventure....

(This is very obviously the capstone of the adventure on the mountain. The dungeon blows up at the end.)

So, umm, volcanoes are now bosses? I don't think so. It seems pretty clear that this is in context and it is going to lead to something else once the PCs get the idol down. I think it's far from the end.

Now, on the geology argument? I hear it. I've said things like that myself. However, in the end, we can't let real world physics get in the way of fun when we postulate a world where with a gesture, some bat guano and a word, fire sprouts in round balls around people. For that matter, where a simple prestidigitation spell can wreak havoc. It's not a fair comparison. Charles Evans 25, how about giving us some ways and justification in which it will work? Sheathing for the sleds? Perhaps the trail up the mountain to the orc village has huge grooves in it from their bringing the sleds back up. We've established that this is a religious thing. That explains a heckuva lot of weird behavior. You do give us some of the lava mechanics. How about more? How about helping define this as 'divine-infused lava' or something?

Anyway, it's very interesting to see that most reactions are short and simple. This is a keeper.


varianor wrote:
Taliesin Hoyle wrote:

I do have a strong issue with it however:

No "Boss" Encounters: The purpose of this round is to design an interesting intermediate encounter, not the "boss" encounter of the adventure....

(This is very obviously the capstone of the adventure on the mountain. The dungeon blows up at the end.)

So, umm, volcanoes are now bosses? I don't think so. It seems pretty clear that this is in context and it is going to lead to something else once the PCs get the idol down. I think it's far from the end.

Now, on the geology argument? I hear it. I've said things like that myself. However, in the end, we can't let real world physics get in the way of fun when we postulate a world where with a gesture, some bat guano and a word, fire sprouts in round balls around people. For that matter, where a simple prestidigitation spell can wreak havoc. It's not a fair comparison. Charles Evans 25, how about giving us some ways and justification in which it will work? Sheathing for the sleds? Perhaps the trail up the mountain to the orc village has huge grooves in it from their bringing the sleds back up. We've established that this is a religious thing. That explains a heckuva lot of weird behavior. You do give us some of the lava mechanics. How about more? How about helping define this as 'divine-infused lava' or something?

Anyway, it's very interesting to see that most reactions are short and simple. This is a keeper.

I acknowledge that it is a fantasy world, and even state that it's possible that if an angry deity/nature spirit is involved that might explain how a volcano goes from 'tensely simmering' to 'explosive eruption' in under a minute.

I consider 'magic' as being a viable explanation for how the Shaman's Sled can survive a crash landing and can jump a lava stream whilst lighter laden, faster, chasing sleds- steered by orcs who *know* and will probably have practised on these sled-runs- are apparently unable to do so; indeed magic is the only logical explanation. I am disappointed, however, that the writer does not supply information about the magic on the sled, when she details it. Maybe I am being unjustifiably high in my expectations of attention to detail because the contest involves the word 'superstar', and some of the candidates (including Christine) have applied meticulous attention to detail in previous rounds.
If you are interested in further information on one writer's take on in-game lava effects, I would like to direct you attention to the 'Campaign Workbook' article on Volcanoes, in Dungeon Magazine #146 which I referred to in my previous post on this thread. (I believe that it may have been written by Wesley Schneider.)
I did not number (as a question) my point about how the orcs get their sleds get back up the mountain; I am curious about it, but it is not likely to be relevant to the encounter.
I would be interested, however, in the question of how orcs riding down a mountainside at 300/ft per second are supposed to collect 'fiery sacrifices' as they do so, which is what the writer seems to indicate as being part of the reason that the sleds exist. Are there some sort of mountain goats (with the elemental[fire] subtype) which occasionally wander across the runs, which sled riders with nets try to capture and swing on board? Or do they stick captives in one sled, set fire to them, and chase them down the mountain in another, in a 'hunt' of some kind?
NB
If chasing captives down the mountain into fire is part of some ritual then you don't need a geological explanation for the 'oil slick' along the left-hand(?) run at rounds 6 and 7. The orcs would routinely prepare runs with oil, to be able to chase their sacrifices down 'tunnels of flame'. In fact a need for several 'tunnels of flame' to be available (for times when sacrifices are plentiful) might explain why the routes diverge beyond point 5; so that there is more likely to be one route available for ritual use, whilst others are being 'reset' after hunts down them have been carried out.

Clarification:
I have double-checked my translation of The Letter's of Pliny the Younger, and in his account of his uncle, Pliny the Elder's Death, the younger Pliny writes of his uncle 'choking'.
So it could have been just poisonous fumes, or it could have been nasty airborne volcanic dust particles getting into his lungs and reacting, to 'drown' him in the resultant mess.

Taldor

I salute Charles Evans 25's strong technical statements, but I still have to say that this is the best entry of all, and that this is the most consistent writer through every round, and I am certainly voting for it.


Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Dungeon Magazine #146

I'm surprised no one else has mentioned this yet. Dungeon magazine isn't in the SRD. It's not OGL. It's off limits for this contest.

The writers only choices were to handwave and use existing rules, or write up a whole new set of rules just for specific lava effects. I think she made the right choice, because it's playeable.


Dungeon Grrrl wrote:
Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Dungeon Magazine #146

I'm surprised no one else has mentioned this yet. Dungeon magazine isn't in the SRD. It's not OGL. It's off limits for this contest.

The writers only choices were to handwave and use existing rules, or write up a whole new set of rules just for specific lava effects. I think she made the right choice, because it's playeable.

Fair point regarding SRD, but I still have serious problems with the idea that a volcano is supposedly erupting with a complete absence of fire damage from being buried in resulting material.

Cheliax RPG Superstar, Contributor aka Leandra Christine Schneider

Hi there!
At first I wanted to avoid posting during the voting time, but I just needed to stop by and say that I (really) enjoy the comments and the discussion they spawned.

I think Realism vs. Fantasy is a big issue on every table and as gbonehead pointed out, it even transcends gaming systems. I will try to reply to Mr. Charles Evans concerns comments as soon as I am allowed to and I admit that he has a point in terms of realism :-)

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