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Vale of Rohthang's Rest


Round 5 - Top 6: Design an Encounter

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

VALE OF ROHTHANG’S REST

EL 9 (10 if combat includes Grinaker)

ARRIVAL

A rocky valley opens before you at the crest of Rohthang’s Tor. The walls of the vale are glazed with icy cascades and the floor carpeted with deep snow, heaped into drifts along the valley’s sides and its western end, where a small hillock rises, surmounted by a leafless oak and the standing stones of Rohthang’s dolmen. Overhead, the skirling gale seems to echo with a wordless ethereal song of loss and longing.

The white dragon Grinaker hides at G1 within an invisibility sphere (Spot DC 23 if using see invisibility. He is the pet of Keshavarzi (see below), who keeps the dragon charmed to ensure the dragon does what he is told. Grinaker keeps watch on the approaches to the valley. If he notices the party’s arrival with his keen senses, he will quietly fly (Listen DC 23) to alert his master at G2, then continuing on to his den at G3.

Creature: Grinaker, elite young white dragon, 96 hp.

Spoiler:
Grinaker, elite young white dragon CR 5
CE Medium dragon (cold)
Init +1; Senses blindsense 60 ft., darkvision 120 ft., keen senses; Listen +14, Spot +14
Aura -

DEFENSE

AC 19, touch 11, flat-footed 18
(+1 Dex, +8 natural), Dodge
hp 94 (9d12+36)
Fort +10, Ref +7, Will +8
Defensive Abilities -; DR -; Immune cold, paralysis, sleep; Resist -; SR -

OFFENSE
Spd 60 ft. (12 squares), burrow 30 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor), swim 60 ft.
Melee bite +11 (2d6+2) and 2 claws +6 (1d6+1) and 2 wings +6 (1d4+1)
Ranged -
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks breath weapon

TACTICS

During Combat Grinaker uses his versatile movement in combination with Spring Attack; his favorite tactic is to Spring Attack while burrowing. He uses Dodge against his primary target if making a full attack or breath, or the nearest other enemy if using Spring Attack. He saves his breath for when he can affect multiple targets.
Morale As long as Keshavari is alive, Grinaker will fight to protect him. If his master is killed, Grinaker will flee if below 10 hp.

STATISTICS
Str 15, Dex 13, Con 18, Int 6, Wis 14, Cha 6
Base Atk +9; Grp +11
Feats Dodge, Improved Natural Attack (bite), Mobility, Spring Attack
Skills Hide +13, Listen +14, Move Silently +13, Spot +14, Swim +10
Languages Draconic
SQ cold immunity, darkvision 120 ft., icewalking, keen senses, vulnerability to fire

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Breath Weapon (Su): 30-ft. cone, damage 3d6 cold, Reflex DC 18 half.

Icewalking (Ex): As the spider climb spell, but only on icy surfaces. Always in effect.

SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD

One round after the party enters the valley, read the following:

As you hunch forward through the biting winds, a shaggy dire wolf, gray coat tinged with silver, rises from a snowbank behind the dolmen. Striding slowly but purposefully towards you, it dips its head respectfully and addresses you, first in Sylvan and then in Common: “I am Keirn. Why do you come to my mistress’ valley?”

“Keirn” is actually Keshavarzi, a greater barghest serving the Horned Conclave. In dire wolf form, Keshavarzi claims to be have been awakened by the nymph Cirstea, Rohthang’s beloved, and to watch over the valley to honor her memory. Keshavarzi is knowledgeable and a skilled enough liar to answer most mundane questioning, and divinations must overcome his misdirection spell (Will DC 16). Keshavarzi will question the party himself, make a false show of reluctance and suspicion, but a DC 15 Diplomacy check is enough to “persuade” him to let PCs approach Rohthang’s dolmen at G2, though he will request they come one at a time, “to honor the dead.”

If the party exposes his deceptions, he escapes by dimension door to Grinaker’s Den; proceed to Barghest Betrayal.

Creature: Keshavarzi (“Keirn”), greater barghest (hp 67), see SRD.

Spoiler:
Note: Keshavarzi speaks Common, Draconic, and Sylvan, in addition to Goblin, Infernal, and Worg, but his Climb check is only +11.

Possessions: Keshavarzi wears boots of the winterlands (these merge with his dire wolf form but reappear in his hybrid or goblin forms). In hybrid form, his attacks are: Melee: +1 Large greatsword +14/+9 (2d8+8) and bite +8 (1d8+2). (With bull’s strength: +1 Large greatsword +16/+11 (2d8+11) and bite +10 (1d8+3)). Ranged: longbow +10/+5 (2d6).

ROHTHANG’S DOLMEN

The thick stones of the dolmen rise from the snow on the front of the hillock, the lonely standing starkly behind it. Keirn says, “Mistress called the rockbrothers to make it for her beloved.” Atop the dolmen’s slab, laid in perfect repose under a glaze of crystal-clear ice, is the shrouded form of Rohthang himself.

To retrieve the shroud of old souls, the party must penetrate the enchanted ice coating Rohthang’s body, which is infused with the power of Cirstea’s immortal spirit. It radiates strong abjuration, evocation, and necromancy. The ice is impervious to physical harm and to any spell or supernatural effect created by an evil creature or any creature under a charm, compulsion, or possession effect. Those not evil or under mental influence may breach the icy barrier as they would a wall of force. In addition, channeling positive energy sufficient to turn a 12 HD undead creature will cause the ice to recede for 1 round.

If speak with dead or commune with nature is cast within 5 feet of the dolmen, the spell will not have its normal effect, but instead will awaken Cirstea’s spirit. A DC 20 bardic knowledge or divination spell may suggest this course of action. If PCs contact Cirstea’s spirit, they may converse with her in Common or Sylvan (+2 circumstance bonus to Diplomacy checks if speaking Sylvan). If PCs explain their need for the shroud, a DC 30 Diplomacy check will convince her to open the icy barrier and allow the PCs to take it, after which she will reseal her lover in her eternal embrace.

If PCs ask Cirstea about “Keirn,” she will deny knowing him. If he hears this (Listen +16) and suspects the party will turn on him, he will escape by dimension door to Grinaker’s Den; proceed to Barghest Betrayal.

Note: Jagoda has attached a hag eye to the trunk of the oak overlooking the dolmen, allowing her to observe the valley looking eastward from the tree. It is difficult to see (DC 28 Spot check if standing at the base of the tree) but radiates faint divination magic.

BARGHEST BETRAYAL

If he maintains party trust, Keshavarzi will stand next to a PC trying to break the ice and will try to grab the shroud in his jaws as soon as the ice is breached. Roll initiative if a PC reaches for the shroud at the same time. If a PC grabs it first, “Keirn” will whine that he wishes “one final scent of his mistress” and attempt to snatch it away (treat as a disarm attempt, provoking an attack of opportunity if the PC wishes). He will then dimension door to Grinaker’s Den. PCs have 3 rounds to react after he disappears, during which time Keshavarzi will:

Round 1: If he has the shroud, command Grinaker to deliver it to the Horned Conclave in Hjordis. He will then resume his hybrid form and ready his sword. If he does not have the shroud, Grinaker will accompany him to ambush the party.
Round 2: Cast invisibility sphere on himself, move toward PCs (full speed over snow with his boots, Move Silently +9). Grinaker will burrow under the snowdrifts (Move Silently +8).
Round 3: Cast blink (speed reduced to 30 feet), move towards PCs.

If Keshavarzi can approach the party undetected, he casts crushing despair (DC 18 Will) as his surprise action.

A wave of despair rolls over you as an inhuman figure covered in midnight blue fur shimmers into view, with a wolfen face and burning orange eyes. He seems almost to fade in and out of view from moment to moment, but as he hefts his notched greatsword the familiar voice of Keirn the wolf rumbles darkly, “Time to feed,” followed by a savage howl.

If Grinaker is present, he breathes as his surpise action.

At his side is a panther-sized dragon with oversized jaws, its crest and scales a shimmering white.

LAKE OF BROKEN DREAMS

The sea hag Jagoda lurks beneath the ice with 3 ogre (merrow) zombies. They swim beneath the PCs, Jagoda watching events unfold through the hag eye. When Keshavarzi attacks, each zombie attempts a Strength check (+10 bonus, break DC 21) as a surprise action to burst through the ice from below. If all 3 fail their checks, PCs simply feel a series of tremors in the ‘ground’ at their feet. PCs may attempt a DC 15 Survival check (DC 5 if the PC possesses stonecunning) to realize that they are standing not on the ground but on a frozen lake. On a successful check, a zombie bursts through a section of ice as large as itself (10 feet square). Jagoda follows the first zombie to break through.

The ground erupts in a shower of ice and freezing spray as a hulking humanoid with vacant eyes and rotting scales crashes through the ice with a roar, revealing a frigid lake below. A hideous cackling harridan with an eyepatch, lank green hair, and pustular yellow skin crawls up from the murk as well, glaring malevolently.

Creatures standing where the zombie emerges fall into the water on a failed DC 14 Reflex save; success means they are pushed into the nearest square adjacent to the zombie. The squares surrounding the holes in the ice are littered with slick icy rubble. A creature in such a square must make a DC 17 Balance check to move (half speed) that round; a result of 12 or less results in falling prone (balancing creatures are flat-footed unless they have 5 ranks of Balance). Creatures with icewalking or boots of the winterlands ignore this effect.

Note: Swimming creatures treading water have improved cover (+8 bonus to AC, +4 to Reflex saves) from attackers on land. Freedom of movement negates this for melee attacks.

Tactics

After the surprise round, each creature acts as follows:

Keshavarzi: Cast mass bull’s strength on round 1, moving to threaten a spellcaster, then making full attacks in subsequent rounds, using his boots to make 5-foot steps where opponents bogged slowed by the terrain cannot.

Jagoda: Use evil eye on rogues or warriors for 3 rounds, then claw attacks on underwater targets or spellcasters.

Zombies: Continue to burst through the ice if failed previous attempts (or if targets move too far away). Use slams against adjacent prone targets or longspears against targets 10 to 20 feet away.

Grinaker: If present, he will use his speed to Spring Attack, flanking opponents when possible and staying out of full attack range. He will use his burrow speed if fighting in the snowdrifts and will attack flying or swimming targets as ordered by Keshavari.

Keshavarzi and Jagoda will fight to the death. Grinaker may flee if Keshavarzi is killed.

Creatures:

Jagoda, sea hag: hp 19, see SRD.

Spoiler:
Note: Unlike most hags, members of the Horned Conclave are lawful evil.

Possessions: Jagoda wears boots of the winterlands and a silken eyepatch sewn with tiny silver pearls (70 gp) and carries a pouch of 6 yellow pearls (50 gp) and 17 gp.

Ogre (merrow) zombies (3): 55 hp each, see SRD.

Spoiler:
Note: Ogre (merrow) zombies have land speed 30 feet, swim speed 40 feet, and wield Large longspears (damage 2d6+9).

GRINAKER’S DEN

At G3 is a den shared by Grinaker and Keshavarzi, dug into the deep snowdrifts in the southwest corner of the valley (DC 20 Spot check to notice the opening). Here Keshavari keeps his sword, a Large longbow with 20 cold iron arrows, and a patchwork bag sewn from his victims’ scalps, containing 209 pp and 2 blue quartz (50 gp). The floor is also strewn with 1400 cp and 53 cheap rock crystals (1 gp) as a bed for the dragon.

CONCLUSION

If the party recovers the shroud, they can bring it to Highlord Tosavainen. If Grinaker takes the shroud to the Horned Conclave, the PCs will need to travel to Hjordis within 48 hours if they wish to prevent the desecration of the shroud by Umadhure.

XP AWARDS

Keshavarzi and Grinaker are CR 5, Jagoda CR 4, the zombies CR 3, but because of the tactical challenges combat xp awards should be doubled. Award xp as CR 9 for obtaining the shroud of old souls from the dolmen, CR 11 if the party prevents Keshavari from stealing it.

TACTICAL MAP DETAILS

Cliff face: These icy rock faces are 30 feet high (Climb DC 30). Climbers failing a DC 15 Fortitude save at the start of their turn will fall (unless using spider climb).

Frozen field: The valley floor is actually a frozen lake (ice 6 inches thick, 18 hit points, break DC 21) covered in snow a foot deep. Each square costs 2 squares of movement and Balance and Tumble DCs are increased by 5.

Severe wind: A severe wind blows eastward through the valley. Listen checks and ranged weapon attacks suffer a -4 penalty. Creatures on the ground suffer no other penalties, but those flying are blown eastward (DC 18 Fortitude save negates, made at the beginning of each turn): 1d6x5 feet if Large or Huge, 1d6x10 feet if Medium, 2d6x10 feet if Small or less (plus 2d6 buffeting damage) or in gaseous form. Freedom of movement obviates the need for this save.

Flying spellcasters must make a DC 10 Concentration check to cast spells. Flying creatures suffer 1d6 cold damage per minute from the wind chill, and all of their metal items are affected as chill metal (no save for either effect).

Snowdrift: The snow piled atop the ice here is 5 to 15 feet deep. Each square costs 4 squares of movement and Balance and Tumble DCs are increased by 10.

Qadira Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that no DM alive is going to read that first readaloud text as written: "echo with a wordless ethereal song of loss and longing" I mean, seriously?

I focus in on the readaloud because that's the bridge between the DM and the players. If the readloud sets the stage well, the rest of the encounter can roll smoothly into play. If the readaloud brings a round of giggles and snorts, the whole following encounter suffers.

So, yeah, watch it with the wordless ethereal songs.

With that out of the way, I'm very happy to see a dragon encounter, especially with the nasty "honor the dead" twist from the barghest ally.

There's problems with the narrative flow, though. "To retrieve the shroud of old souls," is the first mention I've seen of WHY the party is here. It's a bit awkward to hear it this late in the text. The DM should be briefed on goals or a summary at the start. See any Pathfinder adventure and you'll see that sort of summary for the whole adventure; it's the same story for a mini-adventure or single encounter.

And the more I read, the more confused I get. A sea hag lurks beneath the ice with some merrow? Wha? That's unexpected. I'm not getting how this encounter hangs together, or where it fits into a larger adventure.

That's trouble. That's a failure to design a clean action sequence and the likely alternates. There's lots of tactical goodness here, but at the larger level of story and strategy, I'm left confused. Not 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?): B

The Good: Oooooh, a dragon encounter! Finally! Probably the consistently best naming of all the submissions (except for Monkey Goblins Attack!, of course). This would be one hell of an encounter. Definitely part of a larger adventure.

The Bad: Monster choice is cool, but a bit funny. A barghest has a white dragon pet and they hang with a sea hag? Huh? Most likely memorable, but can’t say that it is for sure. Funky monster choice alone doesn’t make something memorable.

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

The Good: Competent and well done.

The Bad: Could have used elevation information for the cliff face on the map. It is a bit sparse.

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

The Good: Other parts are well done.

The Bad: I think you needed some better intro text to set this encounter up. That is a real big mistake, in my view.

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

The Good: Competently and professionally written.

The Bad: I’m not as bugged by the read aloud text as Wolfie is. I’d read it as is, most likely. Yeah, someone would tease me, but I’d still probably do it. That said, it could be better.

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

The Good: This was the best part, in my opinion—my gut really wanted to like this encounter. I said “cool” when I saw the map and the dragon and the tie in to the shroud of old souls. I just dug it right away.

Overall: B

In any other round, this would get a recommendation from me. I would publish an adventure that had this stuff in it (with some editing). But this is the top 6 in RPG Superstar and the fatal flaw of the lack of proper up front content fail to set up this encounter in a way that a Superstar should. I just can’t recommend this one fully, but I think it is better than "A Prayer for the Fallen" and better than "A Precarious Shrine" so it gets my hesitant final nod for the top 4. I do think the other three (Boomer's, Christine's and Rob's) are clearly better.

Hesitantly RECOMMENDED for Top 4.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Well, for starters I think this is a very cool entry and I can see myself using it. I like the mix of monsters, I LOVE the use of the shroud of old souls, and there are a few moments (notably the zombie merrow and the hag sliding along the bottom of the frozen lake's ice, tracking the PCs' movements) that make me want to play this thing right now.

That said, I think you're sort of stretching the concept of a single encounter to fit in several encounter areas and a couple of different fights. Charitably, they are one fight that comes in two or three waves, but jamming so much stuff in here makes me think you are trying to stack the deck in your favor a bit more than you maybe have to.

Fortunately, almost every bit of the encounter(s) is really cool. The writing is excellent, the imagery is great, and I had a good time reading the submission. The map is acceptable, if not the loveliest I've seen.

I think you ran into a little problem with context. Wolf notes how strange it is that the motivation of the encounter--snagging the shroud--is first mentioned several paragraphs in well after a couple of different bits of boxed text, which is not where I'd have put it. Also, who is Umadhure?

But these are minor nitpicks on what is otherwise an excellent submission.

I recommend Jason Nelson for the final round of RPG Superstar.

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

Well, one yes, one no, and one okay. Could be better, could be worse.

I'm glad that the judges liked the parts that they liked and sorry they didn't like the others.

That said, I thank the judges for their comments and welcome any and all comments from the members at large. If frozen lakes and tricksy barghests or even those accursed "ethereal wordless songs" are your bag, VOTE FOR ME!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013 aka Core

Well written? Yes

Is it an encounter? Several

Would I use it? In the right context

2/3

I enjoyed the writing for the most part and don't really agree with the judges in that regard. I can't see how they can bash your writing and praise Boomer's; he has far, FAR more errors in his grammar. That makes no sense to me. (nothing against you Boomer)

Feels like more of a mini-adventure than an encounter and I suppose that is my main issue with this. In fact you could extrapolate on this and really make a full adventure out of it. Which is bad I suppose since I do not think that is what this round was about.

Decent idea, I just wish it was slimmed down a bit to one encounter.

Shadow Lodge

I really liked this encounter but the hag and her marrow threw me. It would be better to understand, up front, why this place has received so much monstrous attention. I was able to discern why the barghest and dragon were there (strange bedfellows to be sure, but I like the way it plays) but the hag and her helpers just didn't seem to fit in at all. I believe you wanted to add something unexpected to the encounter to unbalance the PCs and keep the encounter from being too vanilla but the hag just didn't do it. What might have worked better is to set up a third power group, antagonistic to both the PCs and the barghest/dragon pair. Perhaps this group and the barghest's have reached an unsteady détente and the PC's arrival and attempt to claim the shroud has precipitated an all out battle. Having a third, opportunistic group attack both groups would have blown the combat wide open and created a scene of carnage and confusion on the cold, high ice. Providing this information to the DM ahead of time would have truly made this encounter great.

I am going to have to weigh this one against Christine's and Rob's to determine which will get my second vote.


I think I liked this more than the judges did. I can see where adding a little bit more to the intro to make it obvious why each of the monsters is there would be warranted, I think it makes for a very memorable encounter as is.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Finally! Dragons!

I like the tactical use of the ice.

Wish there was more backstory to tie in the hag, but I guess its all related to the Horned Society.

A blurb like, "The Horned Society has sent several of its top agents to recover the shroud of old souls...etc," near the beginning would have wrapped things up pretty well.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Sheyd

Ah a Dragon (A white one to boot!) AND a hag! Toss in a Bharghest and you sold me right there. Three of my favorite monsters. Consider it stolen though... Jason, Guy... I'm with Wolfgang on that read aloud section. Not gonna use THAT part.


Strange monster combo. It reminds me of the a free adventure on WotC called "The Sea Witch" featuring a partnership of a barghest and a sea hag.


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

So this one is a little confusing for me. I read it several times and had to keep asking "Who? Why?"
There's no background here about why the PCs are here, and since there's no word limit I'm not sure why. C.

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Contributor

I, for one, LOVE that this scenario feels like Encounter #17 of Part 6 of the third major quest of the sequel to the previous Adventure Path, "Against the Horned Society".

Certainly, you've promised more than you deliver - but not, I think, more than you CAN deliver, given the space to stretch. Space, like, say . . . a full adventure.

Rockstar.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6, Contributor , Dedicated Voter 2013

Important note: it's Horned Conclave, not Society. Horned Society is WotC PI :)


Opening text is a bit overdone, using some words I'm unfamiliar with and a string of descriptors that don't really gel into an image for me.

It would have been a good idea to establish right off the bat just what the context of this encounter is. It takes far too long for me to learn just what the heck is going on, why the PC's should care or even be here, and I never get a feeling of why the shroud is needed or who the heck this dude is anyway.

The map is pretty cool (NPI), with a little variety of terrain but overall a little empty. I expect putting a few holes in the ice, however, will spice that up in a hurry... though why aren't the locations of the holes-to-be marked? And just how is a strong wind getting down into this 30' deep gorge, anyway? Howling above the gorge I can buy but down on the surface, not so much.

Creature mix seems a bit too wild and unconnected. I like both halves of the encounter, but they just don't mix well.

Overall I could take or leave it.

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

Russ Taylor wrote:
Important note: it's Horned Conclave, not Society. Horned Society is WotC PI :)

Well said. Wouldn't want the IP lawyers after me!

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

thatboomerkid wrote:

I, for one, LOVE that this scenario feels like Encounter #17 of Part 6 of the third major quest of the sequel to the previous Adventure Path, "Against the Horned Society".

Certainly, you've promised more than you deliver - but not, I think, more than you CAN deliver, given the space to stretch. Space, like, say . . . a full adventure.

Rockstar.

Thanks Booms. That was more or less the idea - AN encounter in the middle of an adventure. A short intro would obviously have gone a long way, but sometimes you out-think yourself. Stupid brain... :)

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

Phased Weasel wrote:
Strange monster combo. It reminds me of the a free adventure on WotC called "The Sea Witch" featuring a partnership of a barghest and a sea hag.

WTF?

You have got to be kidding.

Well, I thought I was being original...

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Contributor

Jason Nelson 20 wrote:
Russ Taylor wrote:
Important note: it's Horned Conclave, not Society. Horned Society is WotC PI :)
Well said. Wouldn't want the IP lawyers after me!

Dammit! I was THIS close to getting it right, and then someone else said "Horned Society", and then . . .

I'm an idiot. But a well-meaning idiot, which has to count for something!

Andoran

How would a blowing snowstorm affect the utility of an invisibility sphere? Would snowflakes turning invisible as they entered the sphere increase the chance of noticing it?


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

I think the sole weaknesses of this piece are the result of a misunderstanding.

This drops the reader straight into the middle of something, and he uses some subtle hints to colour in what is outside the scope of the competition entry format to depict. It is all there, just not spelled out. It takes a bit of work to get to.

The hag and Merrow are there to cut off escape, should the barghest fail. The dragon serves the barghest. The den is temporary and none of these creatures live here. The adventuring party is here to retrieve the shroud and use it to bring back Rohthang. The horned conclave has sent the hag and barghest and their respective minions to grab the shroud of macguffin. The conclave cannot gain access to the shroud as they are evil. they cannot charm their way to it either. They need the party to open the sleeping beauty popsicle stand.

The gale is there to nerf any party members of this level from casting the popular (and annoying) Fly. That keeps them on the ice so that the merrow and hag don't just become arrowbait in a protacted round of icefishing.

It is all there and narratively very solid.

Here is the misunderstanding. The contest rules state:

4. Context: The submitted encounter should be considered to be a part of a larger adventure. As such, references can be made in the submission to things that might exist outside of the encounter that are not fully described.

So the author did not lead anyone through by the nose or write an intro, assuming that grace would be given. He solved these problems in some very elegant ways.

The shroud is a known item.
The enemy belongs to an organisation with an evocative name.
The vale is named after the guy who is trapped in the shroud.
The barghest's lies fill in a lot of the backstory in a truly ingenious way, allowing the author to use broad brushtrokes to create context.

Any lack of clarity comes primarily from following the competion rules, IMHO.

This gets my vote and I cannot praise it enough for subtlety.
The same problem plagued the "Terram" submission. Expecting the audience to extrapolate or infer is risky.

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

I cant agree with that at all. The rules are open ended--the most open ended we have had. We said: do it how you want, make it like its part of a larger adventure and use content that you would see in a published adventure as your guide.

The bottom line is: that amount of content setting up the encounter is just not enough for a published adventure. Look at Pathfinder adventures or old Dungeon adventures. You have to set up key encounters. And notice that some of the better submissions did exactly that.

This was not an instruction issue.


This reminded me of people who you don't know very well talking about their friends and family with no explanation. "Then Earl came around the corner and boy was he surprised to see what Heather was doing with that goat..." But you have no idea who Earl or Heather are.

So it wasn't a very enjoyable read but it is a pretty cool part of a larger adventure. This is the first one I've read, but I excepted the entries to be more "encapsulated", like something you would stumble across.

I'm not a fan of dragons, especially small ones, so I'd probably change that to something else and maybe make it for lower level characters by having the hag wait until the battle with the barghest was over. So instead of a bunch of allies you've got multiple factions waiting for some friendly adventurers to get the shroud for them.

I like the tactical impediments. I tripped over the writing 3 or 4 times, seemed to have some missing words, maybe clumsy sentences.

I posted at the same time the person mentioned rule #4. So my comments about encounters being more "encapsulated" don't really apply.


My post comes about a half-hour too late, as Taliesin Holye summed up my point very well in the previous post.

This seems like it's part of a larger adventure. That's how I read the rules for this round.

As a 1-shot encounter, yes, it's very confusing. But it's not a 1-shot.

You're getting one of my votes, Jason.

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

Overall, I liked this one, but had some reservations, which pretty much mirror previous comments. Mainly, the setup comes piecemeal throughout the encounter, instead of all at the beginning. Great use of terrain and water dangers with the zombies breaking through the ice though! This could be a very leathal encounter for those who's stength is dropped by the hag's appearance, and then have to swim!

However, there's a big mechanical problem I have, which is how does the sea hag control the zombies? After reviewing her entry in the SRD, I don't see any undead control or rebuking abilities at all, nor animate dead spellcasting abilities.

This entry has my possible vote, but I've got three more to read still.

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

Taliesin Hoyle wrote:

I think the sole weaknesses of this piece are the result of a misunderstanding.

This drops the reader straight into the middle of something, and he uses some subtle hints to colour in what is outside the scope of the competition entry format to depict. It is all there, just not spelled out. It takes a bit of work to get to.

The hag and Merrow are there to cut off escape, should the barghest fail. The dragon serves the barghest. The den is temporary and none of these creatures live here. The adventuring party is here to retrieve the shroud and use it to bring back Rohthang. The horned conclave has sent the hag and barghest and their respective minions to grab the shroud of macguffin. The conclave cannot gain access to the shroud as they are evil. they cannot charm their way to it either. They need the party to open the sleeping beauty popsicle stand.

The gale is there to nerf any party members of this level from casting the popular (and annoying) Fly. That keeps them on the ice so that the merrow and hag don't just become arrowbait in a protacted round of icefishing.

It is all there and narratively very solid.

Here is the misunderstanding. The contest rules state:

4. Context: The submitted encounter should be considered to be a part of a larger adventure. As such, references can be made in the submission to things that might exist outside of the encounter that are not fully described.

So the author did not lead anyone through by the nose or write an intro, assuming that grace would be given. He solved these problems in some very elegant ways.

The shroud is a known item.
The enemy belongs to an organisation with an evocative name.
The vale is named after the guy who is trapped in the shroud.
The barghest's lies fill in a lot of the backstory in a truly ingenious way, allowing the author to use broad brushtrokes to create context.

Any lack of clarity comes primarily from following the competion rules, IMHO.

This gets my vote and I cannot praise it enough for subtlety.
The...

I thank you for your insightful and well-written comments. If I were Boomer, I'd say "I could just kiss you on the lips RIGHT NOW!" :)

As always, I will be happy to go into greater detail in responding after voting is done about what people have said on both sides of this issue (and I think that Clark and the folks on the other side of the question from what you have written do have a point as well).

Meanwhile, please keep the comments coming and vote for me!

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

JoelF847 wrote:

Overall, I liked this one, but had some reservations, which pretty much mirror previous comments. Mainly, the setup comes piecemeal throughout the encounter, instead of all at the beginning. Great use of terrain and water dangers with the zombies breaking through the ice though! This could be a very leathal encounter for those who's stength is dropped by the hag's appearance, and then have to swim!

However, there's a big mechanical problem I have, which is how does the sea hag control the zombies? After reviewing her entry in the SRD, I don't see any undead control or rebuking abilities at all, nor animate dead spellcasting abilities.

This entry has my possible vote, but I've got three more to read still.

On the mechanical issue I can only say to look again, and if you don't find it I can explain after voting is closed.

Thanks for the comments and vote for me!


I like this. I really do. But it just seems like a bit much for "one" encounter. It honestly seemed like it should be a series of encounters (or a full Sidetrek from older Dungeons) not just the one encounter that the rules stated. I might steal your dragon stat block though since I'm about to design one of that CR for an encounter soon.

The competition this round is tough, with several good entries, and I only have two votes. I hope you move on since I've liked your other previous work, I can't vote for you this time.

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

Jason Nelson 20 wrote:
JoelF847 wrote:

Overall, I liked this one, but had some reservations, which pretty much mirror previous comments. Mainly, the setup comes piecemeal throughout the encounter, instead of all at the beginning. Great use of terrain and water dangers with the zombies breaking through the ice though! This could be a very leathal encounter for those who's stength is dropped by the hag's appearance, and then have to swim!

However, there's a big mechanical problem I have, which is how does the sea hag control the zombies? After reviewing her entry in the SRD, I don't see any undead control or rebuking abilities at all, nor animate dead spellcasting abilities.

This entry has my possible vote, but I've got three more to read still.

On the mechanical issue I can only say to look again, and if you don't find it I can explain after voting is closed.

Thanks for the comments and vote for me!

I'm guessing you're refering to the hag covey ability to animate dead, and there's nothing that says the covey can't send one of their member off with the zombies to do something, but if it's mentioned in the encounter that she's part of a covey, I'm still missing that. If that's the case, this changes a mechanical issue to a incomplete explanation of how the encouter was set up and information on one of the antagonists issue, which is admitedly a smaller issue.

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

JoelF847 wrote:
Jason Nelson 20 wrote:
JoelF847 wrote:

Overall, I liked this one, but had some reservations, which pretty much mirror previous comments. Mainly, the setup comes piecemeal throughout the encounter, instead of all at the beginning. Great use of terrain and water dangers with the zombies breaking through the ice though! This could be a very leathal encounter for those who's stength is dropped by the hag's appearance, and then have to swim!

However, there's a big mechanical problem I have, which is how does the sea hag control the zombies? After reviewing her entry in the SRD, I don't see any undead control or rebuking abilities at all, nor animate dead spellcasting abilities.

This entry has my possible vote, but I've got three more to read still.

On the mechanical issue I can only say to look again, and if you don't find it I can explain after voting is closed.

Thanks for the comments and vote for me!

I'm guessing you're refering to the hag covey ability to animate dead, and there's nothing that says the covey can't send one of their member off with the zombies to do something, but if it's mentioned in the encounter that she's part of a covey, I'm still missing that. If that's the case, this changes a mechanical issue to a incomplete explanation of how the encouter was set up and information on one of the antagonists issue, which is admitedly a smaller issue.

You've hit on the basis of the answer, and I can explain the rest later.

Taldor

I thought this was pretty good, and with the context explained outside the encounter, can work. The hag and zombies were a surprise, and their link to the barghest and dragon could have been made clearer. My only knock. I like the idea of a wintry encounter with a white dragon and getting PCs into icy, instead of hot, water.


Jason, I really like your entry. I found the environment extremely evocative, the creatures you selected are exciting and you made excellent use of a cool magic item. I would also suggest you ignore Wolfie about the boxed text - I loved that sentence about the wind and I'd totally read it as-is.

I also love the fact that your treatment makes it feel, as Boomer put it,

thatboomerkid wrote:
...like Encounter #17 of Part 6 of the third major quest of the sequel to the previous Adventure Path, "Against the Horned [Conclave]".

However, I did find some aspects of the entry a little confusing. The biggest issue was not knowing anything about the Hag and her Merrow until later in the write-up. The worst was that you gave the hag's name and describe her "hag's eye" on the tree but don't tell the DM anything about who she is or how she's involved until the Betrayal section. As a DM, when reading an encounter of this size I expect to see some basic information about the various parties who will or might become involved so that I have some idea of what to expect while reading the details.

Unfortunately, this was enough to keep you out of my top two. You're definitely one of the top four though, and I really hope you move on to round 6!

:-j(enni)

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

This seems quite busy and involves a lot of different creatures and allegiances. It could use a brief summary for the DM at the start.

The terrain sort of makes sense, but it's a bit surprising how combat started on top of a tor and suddenly is on the surface of a frozen lake.

It's jarring to see a sea hag making herself at home in fresh water. A simple name change, with a note to use standard sea hag stats, could help with this.

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

With someone else already hitting on this, I get that the zombies are controlled by the hag covey, and not just the hag, because it takes a covey to make a hag eye. But there's no mention of the actual covey. You could really use a brief intro that states why the PCs are here and defines the bad guys in the context of the adventure.

I have no problem with the map (I rather think its stark barren-ness fits with the adventure feel), nor the spread out nature of the encounter. The whole thing really is one encounter in one location, and your intention is for the big fight to include all the bad guys you mention in one location. That fight requires a lot of set up, but I still like what you've done with the place.

I love the deceptive barghest. The writing is evocative - I can almost hear the wind whip around the PCs. The barghest deserves better uses than 'eats until returns to Gehenna', so I'm glad you've picked 'Keirn' as a traitorous agent of the Horned Enclave. Who is that, again?

While the barghest is the best part of your submission, the rest leaves me hanging. The map doesn't have squares, so I am stuck choosing the point of attack for the merrow, and rewriting the combat maps based on when the PCs encounter the bad guys.

There's no contingency for what happens if the PCs encounter the dragon early.

If the ice can be broken by a single Strength check from a merrow, it seems to me that the ice might just crack under the feet of three or five adventurers. I'm no expert on ice, but I worry that the merrow aren't getting through the fight until the barghest and dragon are dead (AC 19 at less than a hundred hit points...eek).

I am very pleased with parts of your submission, but you really needed to answer some of these concerns with an introduction.

Oh, and to answer someone else's question: I think the snow doesn't become invisible, except for the snow that was in the sphere when it was cast. But whan all else fails, think dramatic!

Congrats on being Top 6. I think my votes are with more complete entries (currently between monkey goblins, lava sleds and dread wraiths with Spring Attack)


Vale of Rohthang’s Rest

The map is a little unclear. The name of the encounter seems hard to pronounce without a guide. My initial readthrough gave me the impression that this was more of a location with multiple creatures and encounters than a single encounter. Some text at the beginning to explain how to proceed through this multi-level encounter would have gone a long way. Why does the party want to retrieve the shroud of old souls anyway? What is it? I don’t think this teaser approach is as effective as it could be.

Rohthang’s Dolmen lacks an effective caster level for the “wall of force ice”. (Nice effect though. Very nice.)

What level group is this intended for. EL 9 is okay and about right, but explicit statements are still good.

Excellent use of the hag eye! (Needs a reference to the MM, but still!) The zombies bursting through the ice has a great feel to it. (This ties into the prior piece you wrote a bit too. Hmm.) How deep is the water though? Does the icy water have any effect to it beyond just providing cover? Reading water effects, I can see this being treated as a chill metal effect on anyone falling into it. Now, onto the ice. The DMG lists double movement costs for ice effects. I think that means that the rubble covered squares should actually cost 4 squares of movement, not two, and the rest of the lake is two.

Now despite a lot of nitpicking, this big encounter has legs. It does seem more like a BBEG encounter though than one en route. I’m not sure that that’s technically against the posted rules, although the pre-posting discussion on Round 5 rules did seem to suggest that this wasn’t ideal. I still like it a lot. It picks up themes from the prior entry, and could easily tie in. That’s good. It has a fair amount of interesting critters, interesting terrain, and a lot of fun things going on. However, they don’t require as much adjudication or further work on them. I don’t think the map quite helps with the encounter. This really could have been boiled down to the fight at the shrine and/or the lake, focused in a little bit, and been tighter. That would in turn have meant a smaller map that accurately reflects the conditions. Here we have a diffuse setup and lots going on. That said, there’s a fair amount of “Gotcha” stuff to terrify players with. That certainly is worth a fair amount.

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


I really like this encounter, but as others said, the Hag and her merrows seemed to just come from nowhere when I read it through first. Also, again, it could have done with some set up, but I really like how this encounter actually feels a part of a wider, on going adventure / campaign. This to me was exactly the sort of encounter this round was after.

I would love to play / run the adventure / campaign this encounter is a part of. Fix up the few (pretty minor in the scheme of things) nitpick most of us have, and you have a fine adventure.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I have to disagree strongly with Wolfgang (and, to some extent, Clark) here - this was one of only two entries this round that read easily to me, while at the same time feeling like a real "intermediate encounter" in an adventure. The writing was evocative from the outset, drawing me into the story, while at the same time remaining clean and clear. The author had clearly given quite some thought as to how the encounter would play out, providing relevant information just where it was needed.

I felt that this was by far the best laid-out of the entries - it didn't require me to hack my way through a tangled mess of words, or re-read sections several times, as some of the others did. Taking everything into consideration, this was this only encounter that I wanted to run straight away - and also made me want to know more about the story.

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

Callum wrote:

I have to disagree strongly with Wolfgang (and, to some extent, Clark) here - this was one of only two entries this round that read easily to me, while at the same time feeling like a real "intermediate encounter" in an adventure. The writing was evocative from the outset, drawing me into the story, while at the same time remaining clean and clear. The author had clearly given quite some thought as to how the encounter would play out, providing relevant information just where it was needed.

I felt that this was by far the best laid-out of the entries - it didn't require me to hack my way through a tangled mess of words, or re-read sections several times, as some of the others did. Taking everything into consideration, this was this only encounter that I wanted to run straight away - and also made me want to know more about the story.

Thanks for the positive words. Leave the reader wanting more, that's a worthy goal for any kind of writing!


Spoiler:
Shhhs! I know I wrote on the poll boards that I was gonna vote for Christina and Boomer, but I saw on the polls you weren't doing so hot and since I think they both have a solid chance of getting into the top 4 I dropped one of their sorry arses to give you a vote. <3

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

Avianna wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
Thanks! I'll take 'em any way I can get 'em!

Hmm. Another scanned in map. Upon inspecting the link I find that a grid is (just about) visible).
I'm not too clear on the abilities of normal silk (the non-magical eyepatch the hag has listed as amongst 'treasure') to survive underwater, so am uncertain if this makes sense as a treasure item or not.
If this location were a fjord, the 'frozen lake' could in fact be a sea-inlet, helping explain the presence of the Sea Hag.
I think you might have missed a trick by not putting the Dolmen on an island in the middle of the 'frozen lake' so that the PCs can suddenly find themselves in a situation with undead coming at them from beneath the ice from several directions, but maybe the combat situation, as is written, can be worked to be nasty enough.

Nor am I am completely clear, given the absence of context, if the hag is allied to the barghest/dragon combination or a representative of a different faction. Given that she is prepared to let the barghest snatch the shroud, so that the dragon can fly it off- and that you make no mention of the hag and zombies having any interest in fighting the barghest/dragon- it seems likely that the hag is an ally of the horned conclave. However I would have preferred clarity on this point; I can't be certain if you mean this to be a memorable three-way fight, or a somewhat more unusual than normal 'multiple waves of attackers to wear the PC's down' encounter. A three-way fight [even if those things can be a nightmare to run] with the presented unusual setting would have bagged one of my votes- but I can't be certain that this is what you in fact intended.

I don't understand why the barghest wants the PCs to enter the shrine 'one-by-one', since surely it *needs* them alive, uncharmed, and trusting it, to get the shroud out in the first place. The second the sounds of a fight break out, if the idea is to pick them off one-by-one, it risks blowing the trust and cooperation of the rest.
Or is this the Barghest trying to 'prove' in some way that it can be trusted alone with them, or just random background flavouring the Barghest is adding as part of the role that it is trying to play?

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

Charles Evans 25 wrote:

Hmm. Another scanned in map. Upon inspecting the link I find that a grid is (just about) visible).

I'm not too clear on the abilities of normal silk (the non-magical eyepatch the hag has listed as amongst 'treasure') to survive underwater, so am uncertain if this makes sense as a treasure item or not.
If this location were a fjord, the 'frozen lake' could in fact be a sea-inlet, helping explain the presence of the Sea Hag.
I think you might have missed a trick by not putting the Dolmen on an island in the middle of the 'frozen lake' so that the PCs can suddenly find themselves in a situation with undead coming at them from beneath the ice from several directions, but maybe the combat situation, as is written, can be worked to be nasty enough.

Nor am I am completely clear, given the absence of context, if the hag is allied to the barghest/dragon combination or a representative of a different faction. Given that she is prepared to let the barghest snatch the shroud, so that the dragon can fly it off- and that you make no mention of the hag and zombies having any interest in fighting the barghest/dragon- it seems likely that the hag is an ally of the horned conclave. However I would have preferred clarity on this point; I can't be certain if you mean this to be a memorable three-way fight, or a somewhat more unusual than normal 'multiple waves of attackers to wear the PC's down' encounter. A three-way fight [even if those things can be a nightmare to run] with the presented unusual setting would have bagged one of my votes- but I can't be certain that this is what you in fact intended.

I don't understand why the barghest wants the PCs to enter the shrine 'one-by-one', since surely it *needs* them alive, uncharmed, and trusting it, to get the shroud out in the first place. The second the sounds of a fight break out, if the idea is to pick them off one-by-one, it risks blowing the trust and cooperation of the rest.
Or is this the Barghest trying to 'prove' in some way that it can be...

Good questions, and answers shall be had tomorrow after 12:00.

Sorry to all about the map. The grid did not scan as clearly as I would have liked, even after many tries at fiddling with brightness and contrast (probably should've just redrawn it entirely), but I suppose it's clear enough to work.

I'll be happy to discuss the rest tomorrow! Meanwhile, vote for me! Happy vote, "I liked your past stuff" vote, coolness vote, pity vote, we take 'em all! :)

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

There are some very cool aspects to this encounter: Its intricate detail and descriptions appeal to me (even if the boxed text is a bit over the top), but it also uses monsters that one wouldn't normally expect to encounter together (both a plus and a minus for me).

Unfortunately, it felt like "all these critters are waiting here to gratitously ambush the party". When I play, I dislike encounters where dissimilar monsters have conveniently joined together to kick my butt in unique ways. When my PCs walk into an encounter where the bad guys are prebuffed (with potent minutes/level duration spells), I expect the DM to be able to explain afterward how they were able to coordinate such an ambush.

I originally interpreted the hag and her zombies as members of a different faction than the barghest and dragon, so I had a hard time seeing them all attacking the party without the possibility that they could be turned aginst one another. Later, I noticed that she orders the barghest around. Is she in charge, coordinating the ambush, or are they independent allies, working toward the same goal without real teamwork?

If I overlooked part of the description that clarifies this, please forgive me.

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

Okay, comment time. I went through a lot of ideas for this encounter, and it was probably the one I was least certain ahead of time how I would approach it because there were so many possibilities, but I knew that I wanted to use dragons some kind of way. Originally it was green dragons, first in a forest encounter with barghests and goblins, then in an attack on a ship with sea hags, then a waterfall, but I was still feeling the cold and ice vibe and ended up going white instead. I think my original concept was a trio of hags with a trio of young white dragons they had raised from eggs. At first it was going to be more of a Tremors kind of vibe, with the dragons burrow-Spring-Attacking up from deep snow, chewing peoples' feet off. I also wanted to make a challenging mid-high (9th-10th ish) encounter with relatively low CR creatures (3-5), and multiple hags made it too much. I really like the barghest as a good punch for the CR creature, especially with allies on the field, and as I kept thinking about snow and ice I had a vision of a frozen lake and something huge and horrible bursting up from underneath and I knew I had to work that in. I kept going back and forth between troll skeletons and ogre zombies, and either way keeping one hag in play to boss them around. I could have gone white dragons bursting up from the frozen lake, but hey, I only had a couple of days to put this together, and a couple of up-til-3:00 AM nights later, you have what you see before you.

(By the way, before I delve into questions, one creepy angle I thought about was having the hags animate the nymph Cirstea as a zombie - a 12 HD nymph zombie! Pathetic in combat but high in creepiness value. Eventually dropped for space and EL reasons, but I thought it was a fun concept.)

1. So, how about some kind of introduction? I mean WTF is going on here?

Well, here's the million-dollar question. As has been debated back and forth, I didn't include an introduction because I understood the task to be designing an encounter that you would find in the middle of an adventure. Looking back through old Dungeon magazines and also one of the newer WotC big adventures (Expedition to the Demonweb Pits), almost none of the encounters that I found had substantial introductions. Now SECTIONS of the adventure had introductions that set the stage for the encounters within, but individual encounters? Not so much. I think one or two 'boss monster' encounters did have recap/intros, but very much the exception rather than the rule.

With that in mind, I quite deliberately created an encounter that had no context-grounding introduction, that assumed you were reading it as part of the adventure "Section 3: Rohthang's Tor," coming on the heels of Encounter 3-1: In the Shadow of Winter (primarily village interaction at the foot of the hills, but with spies of the Horned Conclave around as well), Encounter 3-2: Frigid Ascent (which could be bypassed by teleport, but otherwise was the overland trip up the mountains, moving from the springtime conditions in the lowlands to the magically-maintained winter storms atop the Tor, being accosted along the way by obnoxious koloiaq, with the penalty from their distracting aura persisting once you got to the top of the hill; I ended up dumping that reference when I decided it was just too darn many modifiers on top of the terrain, the wind, possible water effects, etc.). So the vale was Encounter 3-3 of that mini-arc. Having a separate introduction would be superfluous; you'd already have the intro describing what the bad guys were doing there and what the PCs were doing there.

I wrote the text with an assumed narrative flow in the adventure. No direct exposition on what came before or after (but lots of connecting points from before and leading to after). The instructions said "encounter in the middle of an adventure" and "can refer to stuff outside encounter without explanation" and said "refer to published sources for examples." Check, check, and check.

NOW, all of that stated, the reason that Clark and everyone else who said "No introduction? Huh?" have a point is that, even if my interpretation was correct, this is a competition, and good, bad, or indifferent people reading it are reading it in isolation. The people reading are ONLY seeing the encounter and they want to know what it means. They don't get to see inside my head to see the adventure connections, and while they COULD infer them, they might also just feel kind of adrift, like someone said about coming into the middle of a conversation about people you don't know.

To do that, to set the stage for the readers within the context of the contest, I needed to provide an introduction, a sort of 'dramatis personae' as it were, to give them a logical structure on which to hang the encounter and the creatures in it, so that they can examine in an organized way. By analogy, if I wanted them to look at a model skeleton and learn something about anatomy, I can't just drop it in their laps. Honestly, even if the task was to build a skeleton, I also need to build a frame to hold it up and show it the way I want it to look.

So, was an introduction required by the contest? No. It might even have been discouraged, depending on how you read the instructions and what pre-published sources you used as a guide for format and style. But regardless of all of that, it still would have been helpful, and it would have made my submission better to have included it.

Now, the big philosophical question out of the way, on to the nuts and bolts.

2. Hag questions

a. A sea hag in fresh water? Huh? Check the MM entry. Sea hags live in both seas and lakes.

b. Sea hag + zombies = huh? The hag is a member of a covey, the covey casts animate dead, and the hag as one of the casters of the spell is able to command them. I chose merrow (ogres) both because they fit the toughness rating and were strong but also because the MM entry for hag coveys suggests they have ogre and giant bodyguards; seems reasonable that they might 'convert' some of those into undead.

c. Okay, hag covey, but where do you say that? I don't, and I probably should have. There is a mention in Jagoda's spoiler text that says hags who are members of the Horned Conclave are LE (implying multiple hags), and the fact that she has a hag eye, which can only be made by a hag covey, necessitates that she is part of a covey.

Those are pretty subtle clues, though. The bigger answer is that I had originally called the evil organization the Hag Council, which would have made things MUCH clearer that the bad guys are actually a gaggle of evil hags. For some reason I decided I didn't like the way Hag Council sounded and it morphed into Hag Conclave and then Horned Conclave (in part because I also intended for the hags to use hernes as their soldiers and assassins, and I thought 'Horned Conclave' was a good fit for that).

d. So the hag and the barghest, are they allies or enemies? Allies. If anything, Jagoda is technically Keshavarzi's 'boss,' or at least the rep from the Horned Conclave supervising the job. Keshavarzi is tougher and stronger and smarter than she is and probably came up with the whole scheme (I loved whoever said 'sleeping beauty frozen popsicle stand'), but she's there to look out for the Conclave's interests. Keshavarzi is ultimately a hired gun.

3. Map & terrain questions

a. The map is a little empty. It's supposed to be. The encounter has a somewhat open-ended design, as the action can in theory take place almost anywhere in the vale. The hag & zombies float underneath the party, wherever most of the party goes. Keshavarzi (and Grinaker) likewise go where the party is once it is time to attack. I didn't mark a starting location for the swimmers because they can be wherever they need to be. Whenever the combat starts, assume they bust up from the ice directly under the party. I didn't want to pin down the action to a specific combat zone, which is why I included the tactical information for the different snow/ice terrain, in case the battle took place in different places.

b. How high are the cliff walls? 30' - says so in the Tactical Map Info

c. Okay, if they're 30' high then how is this strong wind getting down into the vale? Ummm... magic?

No, seriously. My original concept was that there was a hag covey up there and they manufactured the whole 'eternal winter' on top of Rohthang's Tor as part of their devious plot (coveys can control weather). After sketching it out, though, I felt like I was repeating myself. Not only was it YET ANOTHER Jason villain using disguise self to trick people (see Avinash), but I also used a covey of hags as the main villains in an adventure I wrote for Dungeon a few years back. I did still like the trickery angle but I wanted to do it differently.

So, the answer I hit upon was the spirit of Cirstea the nymph, who encased her lover in the enchanted ice. The magical winter conditions, including the cold and wind and snow, are maintained by essentially a sympathetic magical bond with nature to reflect the cold and desolation of her heart at the loss of her love. So, the wind and cold do not emanate from the dolmen, but they persist within the vale and outside of the vale.

And yes, the wind effect was intended primarily to nerf people who were trying to fly, to ensure that the fun ice terrain effects would come into play and that the swimmers busting up through the ice could become more than just fish in a barrel. Just like the ice and snow was intended to nerf tumblers.

Honestly, if we're going that far, how do we have snowdrifts 15' deep but only 6" thick ice? Hey, I wasn¡¦t gunning for realism. I was aiming for a fun and tactically interesting place for an encounter.

d. G1, G2, G3 for locations? Yeah, referencing the giants series (including the OG of cold and ice adventures, the justly immortal Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl!).

e. How deep is the lake? As deep as it needs to be. I don¡¦t think it matters too much. I'll arbitrarily say it¡¦s 15¡¦ deep. If you get dunked in the water, it's deep enough to say SCREW YOU LAND-LUBBER!!! The water is probably equivalent to "severe cold" in the DMG. I probably should've said, but I felt like I was going overkill on the terrain modifiers already.

f. So, is the little hill with the dolmen actually an island? Yes. Top of the tor has this little valley, and in the valley is the frozen lake, and in the lake is the little island, and on the island is the dolmen. Back when I thought of having a herne in this encounter, the dead oak was going to be where he hung his cursed victims.

4. Running the encounter

a. Is this a 3-way? No, 3-way battle I mean!!! Perv! No. Hag is part of Horned Conclave. Barghest works for her/them. Charmed dragon works for him. Zombies work for her. If barghest dies, dragon probably runs away. If hag dies, zombies pretty much kill anything that moves (last instructions probably included not attacking dragon or barghest, but you never know with zombies).

It's not intended to be an encounter in waves. Once battle is joined, all hell (which in this case, of course, has frozen over) is supposed to break loose at once. The signal for start is when K. attacks and becomes visible. At the instant that happens, the dragon breathes (if he's there), the ogre zombies try to bust up through the ice, and the hag jumps out and looks hideodorously ugly, draining Strength. You toss the initiative dice, the barghest buffs up all the bad guys ASAP, and the throwdown commences.

Now if all the zombies fail their Str checks, things get a little fuzzier. The barghest probably holds his mass bull's strength for a round and does something else, full attack or another spell-like ability. The odds of all 3 failing are small, but certainly possible, and if necessary, the merrow could use the same hole. The dragon & barghest would certainly be fighting cautiously if their allies do not pop up immediately, and their probable movement advantage should help them avoid the brunt of the PCs' attacks. PCs will have a hard time getting melee full attacks as their enemies can probably outmaneuver them; ranged full attacks are possible but impeded by the wind.

I actually was a little taken aback when Wolfgang said that the encounter lacked structure as far as alternatives and actions¡Xif anything, I thought I had gone overkill in scripting out the sequence of actions and alternatives depending on what the party did at any number of points and how the events of the encounter would flow (it almost felt kind of flow-chart-ish to me). Yes, it is a ¡¥screw you¡¦ ambush, but I thought I laid out in great detail exactly how the bad guys could arrange for the ambush to happen (how do they see, how do they sneak around, how can PCs detect them--hard cuz they can be invisible and sneaky and leave no tracks)--yeah, it's rough, but if PCs have a question I think it's laid out pretty well for how and why the bad guys could get the drop on them.

b. Why does the barghest want them to go one at a time? Simple. He wants less people to potentially snatch the shroud before him if they succeed at busting the ice, less people he will have to Bluff if he has to talk them through, less people to AoO him if they decide they don't want him snatching the shroud. Also, as someone said he's showing his trustworthiness, laying it on thick in his act as the faithful companion standing guard over his mistress' grave. The fight only happens when the barghest signals it, which only happens if he figures that his cover is blown. At that point, since the dolmen is on a small island in the lake, he wants most of the party down on the ice where his swimming allies can get them, in the unlikely event that an ultra-paranoid party might somehow cast dimensional anchor on him before he dim doors away. If that happens, he wants his allies busting on through the ice and bringing the pain pronto, distracting and attack most of the party while he goes toe-to-toe with whomever is right up in his grill. He can howl as a signal, and the hag eye is the closed-circuit surveillance camera backup in case he is silenced.

c. What level should PCs be? Fair question. I imagine that they will be around 9th level. At least, I wrote it with the presupposition that 4th & 5th level spells would be available, as well as that PCs might have spare wealth enough to have scrolls or items with 6th level spells (for overcoming a wall of force effect; I guess I figured CL was irrelevant for the effect, since it can't be dispelled and its level is irrelevant if you pop it with an effect that destroys a WoF). The Diplomacy check to get the shroud is high, but Dip is also the easiest skill to stack up, and a good Dip character should have at least a 50/50 shot at DC 30 at that level.

d. Would the invisibility sphere make a 'hole' in falling snow? Nope. Things that enter it after it's been cast don't become invisible. Snow would go right through it. People inside remain invisible. Some DMs will rule that the snow would outline them. Some wouldn't. I've seen people run the effect both ways. Personally, I think the spell makes you invisible in whatever environmental conditions you're in. I think the idea that being invisible underwater leaving a 'bubble' where you are is dumb, and by extension that leaving a 'hole' in a snowstorm is also dumb. Do you leave footprints? Yes. Scent? Yes? Can you be heard? Yes. But are you visible because of your environment? I say no. Other reasonable people disagree.

e. What if the party sees the dragon early? The dragon, which can see twice as far as the PCs (4x at night), has blindsense to spot invisible sneakers as well as excellent Spot and Listen checks, is well-hidden and invisible, is almost certain to see the PCs before they see him. But, on the off-chance they somehow sneak up on him, his instructions would be to flee to his den, alerting his boss that it's "showtime" and waiting for his boss to come back with the shroud or with orders to kill.

f. Umm, dude. It's just TOO much for one encounter.

Fair point. It's a complex combat encounter PLUS a diverse set of terrain challenges (which are different for fliers vs. walkers vs. swimmers) PLUS a role-playing encounter (talking with 'Keirn' and possibly with Cirstea) PLUS a puzzle encounter (how do we open the 'sleeping beauty frozen popsicle stand'?).

There was no official word count, but a "strong recommendation" to keep it under 2000 words. Within that, I tried to jam in a lot (and some 700+ words were cut in the process, including, of course, an introduction that I ended up deciding NOT to use ¡V oops!), to make it an encounter that would be challenging and fun, and perhaps most important would have opportunities for different types of characters to shine.

Again, thanks for all that enjoyed (especially Taliesin Hoyle for his eloquent explanation of the encounter) and hope I have the chance to knock one out of the park in the final round.

Jason

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Grats Jason!


Grats! I am really happy to see you in the top 4! :)

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

Avianna wrote:
Grats! I am really happy to see you in the top 4! :)

Me too! :)

Many thanks to you and all!


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

I am really glad you made it. I was worried for a moment. You and Rob have been my favourites, along with Sam Kisko and James Mackenzie.

I have some unsolicited advice for you in the final round.

Don't assume anyone else knows what you mean. Be as clear and explicit as possible.
Put a hook in the very beginning.
Clearly delineate every part of your proposal.
Playtest.
Explain the plot to a non-gamer and see if they get excited.

I want to buy your module. I have full faith that it will be your name on the cover of something I buy, Superstar or no.


Taliesin Hoyle wrote:

I have some unsolicited advice for you in the final round.

Don't assume anyone else knows what you mean. Be as clear and explicit as possible.
Put a hook in the very beginning.
Clearly delineate every part of your proposal.
Playtest.
Explain the plot to a non-gamer and see if they get excited.

Congrats, though you must heed the wisdom of Taliesin to make an impression on the next round. While your content is good, the delivery is not always so...


A Hag, a White Dragon and a Barghest walk into a bar...

The bartender says...

nothing, the bartender is still trying to reconcile a Hag, a White Dragon and a Barghest at the same time!

This was a weird entry. It makes me wonder if you didn't channel a bit of Kisko.

Good luck in the final round. I'm looking forward to your proposal as well!

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