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The Trap Smith's Vault (rejected submission)


Scenario Submission Talk

*

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game Subscriber

Feedback appreciated...

The Trap Smith’s Vault

Dwarves from Highhelm tracked the infamous rogue and trap smith Torra Darkgold to her hideaway near Falcon’s Hollow. When their expedition becomes trapped, the Pathfinders must race the Lumber Consortium to the site and survive Darkgold’s deadly traps to uncover the trap smith’s prized secrets.

Introduction

Torra Darkgold is no conventional dwarf maiden. Although she grew up in a respected and wealthy merchant family, she displayed a disregard for authority and a love of pranks that confounded her elders. Some say it was her early contact with other cultures. Others claim it was idleness and boredom. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t long before Torra absconded with a significant portion of her family’s wealth.

Torra began stealing from nobles and merchants. At first her targets were dwarves of the Five Kings Mountains, but eventually she travelled throughout the Inner Sea region. Torra particularly enjoyed tweaking the nose of her victims by stealing heirlooms and other symbols of power and prestige. She has even snatched a few interesting finds from the Pathfinder Society.

Torra maintains hideaways in several countries, including a vault in the woods near Falcon’s Hollow. She also uses this retreat to design traps, a craft she developed after a close encounter with bounty hunters. Unfortunately for Torra, a dwarf cleric of Abadar visiting Falcon’s Hollow recognized her when she passed through town. The cleric and her companions decided to track Torra and return with the location of her lair.

The dwarf party succeeded in finding the vault, but were unprepared when a forest drake attacked and slew the cleric. The others retreated into the vault, suffering further injury from the trapped entry corridor. The party’s wizard resorted to sending a whispering wind to The Sitting Duck tavern, hoping that other adventurers would hear it and send help. When both Pathfinders and Lumber Consortium agents hear fragments of the message, the race is on to reach the vault.

Summary

Unfriendly Lumber Consortium scouts and lumberjacks comb the woods between Falcon’s Hollow and the vault. Perceptive and stealthy parties may avoid them entirely with repeated successes. Persuasive Pathfinders may scare them off with intimidation or avert combat with bluffs or bribery. If made helpful, they warn the party about the local forest drakes. If not, they attempt to follow the Pathfinders to the vault.

The forest drake, wounded by the dwarves, waits outside the vault along with the cleric’s body. Pathfinders must fight or run for entrance corridor (automatic arrow trap, CR 0/0/3 by tier).

The expedition survivors (ranger, wizard, and unconscious rogue) are holed up inside the first room of the vault. They are suspicious of strangers, but respond favorably to healing and the return of the cleric’s body and gear. If made friendly, they share what they know about Torra. They will not accompany the Pathfinders into the vault due to fatigue and depleted resources.

A locked door separates the dwarves from the second room of the vault, where Torra keeps statues and other cumbersome trophies. It is guarded by a statue of Torra she received from an admirer. The statue attacks those who do not unlock the opposite door within a limited time.

The third room of the vault contains Torra’s trap-making workshop. There appear to be several doors, but three of four are experimental traps (magic, melee, and pit traps, CR 0/2/5 by tier). An optional encounter with a mimic may also take place here.

Beyond the workshop lies Torra’s personal chamber. The trap smith has fled down a secret escape tunnel with much of her portable wealth, but her accomplice Mudrym Runerock remains to deal with intruders.

Encounters

This information was laid out in a table in the doc

Tier 1-2 Encounters


  • 1. Ranger 1, Warrior 1 x2 (CR 2)
  • 2. Forest drake (young, wounded) (CR2)
  • 3. Ranger 1, Wizard 1 (CR 1)
  • 4. Small earth elemental (CR 1)
  • 5. Medium animated object (CR 2)
  • 6. Wizard 3, small earth elemental (CR 3)

Tier 3-4 Encounters


  • 1. Ranger 1 x2, Warrior 1 x6 (CR 4)
  • 2. Forest drake (wounded) (CR 4)
  • 3. Ranger 1, Wizard 3 (wounded) (CR 3)
  • 4. Caryatid column (CR 3)
  • 5. Mimic (CR 4)
  • 6. Wizard 5, small earth elemental (CR 5)

Tier 6-7 Encounters


  • 1. Ranger 4 x4 (CR 7)
  • 2. Forest drake x2 (CR7)
  • 3. Ranger 5, Wizard 5 (CR 6)
  • 4. Caryatid column x3 (CR 6)
  • 5. Mimic x2 (CR 6)
  • 6. Wizard 8, small earth elemental x3 (CR 8)

Conclusion

If the Pathfinders succeed, they will recover numerous heirlooms stolen by Torra. If they fail, she returns to empty the vault before moving to another hideaway. Pathfinders may also earn the enmity of the Lumber Consortium and/or the respect of Highhelm.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

A cheeky, prankster dwarf maiden... this is different and I like it!

I appreciate how there are multiple ways to overcome the scouts, lumberjacks, and expedition survivors rather than forcing combat.

The experimental traps in the third room sound cool. I would like to see them explained in more detail though. Also, what is the mimic doing in the workshop and how does it relate to the overall plot?

For the final battle do the Pathfinders get to fight Torra or just her accomplice? This is a little disappointing if she escapes no matter what. It makes sense that a clever villain would have a secret escape tunnel, but clever PCs could find a way to cut off her escape.

For Tier 1-2, I know you were looking for a low level replacement for the caryatid column, but I don't think the PCs should be fighting earth elementals twice in a short period of time. Also, is the earth elemental in the final encounter something the wizard summons? It would make more sense if she summoned it during round one of the fight. I'm not sure why it would be around all the time.

Overall, I like the idea of the PCs chasing after a thief stealing from the Society. This is a scenario I would enjoy playing. Good luck on your future submissions.

*

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game Subscriber

Thanks for the feedback, Elizabeth!

I suspected it was hazardous to make a scenario about Torra and then have her slip away at the end. It sets up the possibility of a sequel at the risk of deflating the initial scenario. I gambled that there could still be a climax and adequate rewards if the party dealt with one of her sidekicks.

Given the title I knew I'd have to spend some time thinking through the traps, and it was a lot of fun to study the new rules for calculating trap CR in the PRPG. I decided not to detail the traps as they'd be different across tiers, but that may have been a mistake.

My initial thought on the traps and the optional mimic encounter is that it would be very easy for GM's to add an additional door (mimic) to the room if there was enough time left in the scenario. I hadn't pinned down the relationship between Torra and the mimic, but I was leaning towards saying it worked for her in return for payment.

The earth elementals with Mudrym Runerock were a late addition when I decided that a solo wizard did not present an adequate climax for most parties. My concern with summoning is that it doesn't last long at low tiers and it robs Mudrym of an action. Perhaps they were summoned by one of Torra's stolen items.

** RPG Superstar 2012

I like your scenario, Derek. It has a lot of good things going for it--multiple ways to "solve" encounters, a rivalry with another group, interesting NPCs, and a diverse set of encounters.

The critiques I have are nitpicky. First of all, I didn't see a direct connection to the Pathfinder Society. You imply some hooks, but there isn't anything that said "here's why the Society wants the characters to chase down Torra." The traps should be combined with the encounters in the list of encounters for consistency's sake. They are part of the encounter and would affect the overall CR. At least, it seems like other Pathfinder Society scenarios are laid out this way.

I enjoyed reading your scenario, and I wish you the best of luck with future scenario submissions!


I really like this scenario. The idea of following a dwarven thief in the hinterlands and facing her trapped vault is one of those premises that immediately gets both a DM's and players' imaginations going. I also admire anyone who takes dwarves outside their normal expectations (they're one of my favorite races).

I think that the story is missing something, though, one more complication or angle. As it is now, it's a very straight forward plot: She was stealing from the society, society sends people after her, those pathfinders go through her trapped vault and recover items (but not her). We never got to hunt her down really, or be duped by her. I think she needed more presence in the adventure.

And take my critique as the opinion of an unpublished upstart, but I would have liked to have seen some sort of complication that stretched the boundaries of your multiple-solutions-to-scenarios further. Maybe you could have played more with the Lumber Consortium hot on her heels, or her having stolen a specific relic too desired for her to safely keep, or given the option for Pathfinders to more-cleverly rob the robber. I think if there was just a little more dynamic woven into the plot, it would have carried it that much further.

I'm also not sure Torra would be a completely acceptable name. I know you had no intention of likening her to the Torah, but some people get funny about that sort of thing. I don't though and maybe I'm nitpicking.

Great submission and I would have played it. I bet the art would have been pretty cool, too, and traps never get enough love so it was good to see them in your submission. Best of luck in then next open call!

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber
Quote:
Dwarves from Highhelm tracked the infamous rogue and trap smith Torra Darkgold to her hideaway near Falcon’s Hollow. When their expedition becomes trapped, the Pathfinders must race the Lumber Consortium to the site and survive Darkgold’s deadly traps to uncover the trap smith’s prized secrets.

Instances of the word "trap" in those two sentences - 4.

If I were to write those sentences they'd read a little more like this:

"Dwarves from Highhelm tracked the infamous rogue and trap smith Torra Darkgold to her hideaway near Falcon's Hollow. When the dwarven expedition becomes ensnared in Torra's lair the Pathfinders must race the Lumber Consortium to the site. Once there they must survive Darkgold's deadly traps and uncover her most prized secrets."

Just minor changes but I've separated your second sentence into two sentences and reduced instances of the word "Trap" in those three sentences to 2.

Seeing you use the word trap that much made me think of this:
IT'S A TRAP!.

Frankly I thought the idea itself was awesome, but the internet is full of great resources for expanding vocabulary and written expression. So try to come up with creative ways of saying things. If at all possible don't use the same word in a sentence twice.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Derek Poppink wrote:
Feedback appreciated...

Hi, Derek. I don't recall interacting with you much on the boards, or meeting you at PaizoCon, before. But, I liked the idea you had behind this PFS scenario submission and I thought I'd give you some feedback in the hopes it helps you on the next one. Please keep in mind, it's just feedback. Don't take anything I share too harshly. Use what you can and discard the rest. Here goes:

Feedback:

Spoiler:

Derek Poppink wrote:
The Trap Smith’s Vault

I'll start with the title. I like it. A trapsmith's vault immediately conjures up all kinds of images and expectations about what the scenario will probably entail, but without giving too much away. It also promises a character (or villain) that will hopefully be unique, dangerous, and interesting.

I would suggest, however, that you tighten up "Trap Smith" into "Trapsmith" so it comes across more like a "blacksmith," "locksmith," etc.

Derek Poppink wrote:
Dwarves from Highhelm tracked the infamous rogue and trap smith Torra Darkgold to her hideaway near Falcon’s Hollow. When their expedition becomes trapped, the Pathfinders must race the Lumber Consortium to the site and survive Darkgold’s deadly traps to uncover the trap smith’s prized secrets.

I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed with your opening lines here. I think you could have described it much better just by changing the focus (or subject) away from the "Dwarves of Highhelm" to "Torra Darkgold"...because she's the "who" you need to be talking about from the very onset. She is your most interesting character in your scenario. So, she's the one you need to lead off with. And you can talk about who she wronged and who tracked her down later...after you've told us all about her.

For example, here's a different way of leading off your submission that I think would serve you better:

"Torra Darkhold, an infamous rogue and trapsmith with a history of stealing from nobles and merchants, recently retreated to her hideaway near Falcon's Hollow with a band of fellow dwarves close on her heels..."

By leading things off in this manner, you're telling us about a character (and specifically, your villain) that will play a part throughout the adventure. Whereas, the dwarven expedition that tracked her down doesn't figure all that prominently and aren't nearly as interesting to the reader.

Lastly, you need to read your text aloud to yourself. This paragraph uses the word "trap" way too much. And even the word "track" sounds very similar, so there's a lot of repetitive "sounds" as you read through it. You'd do better to break it up and substitute something different than "trap" on occasion.

Derek Poppink wrote:
Introduction - Torra Darkgold is no conventional dwarf maiden. Although she grew up in a respected and wealthy merchant family, she displayed a disregard for authority and a love of pranks that confounded her elders. Some say it was her early contact with other cultures. Others claim it was idleness and boredom. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t long before Torra absconded with a significant portion of her family’s wealth.

Okay. My first comment focuses on passive voice. You use a LOT of it here. So, my recommendation would be that you learn how to eliminate that from your writing. If you can do that, it'll make everything you write far more compelling and intriguing to the reader.

So, what's passive voice? Essentially, it's any form of the verb "to be"...i.e., "is"..."was"..."are"..."were"..."being"..."has been"...etc. There are other forms of passive voice, but those verbs represent the majority of it. In your introductory paragraph above, you use "is" in the first sentence and "was" or "wasn't" in three more. Basically, you only have one sentence in the entire paragraph that uses "active" voice. So you need to improve on that.

How? Well, here's a revised version to give you an example of how you can reinterpret such sentences by flipping your subject around.

"Torra Darkhold always avoided the conventional life of a stereotypical dwarf maiden. Although she grew up in a respected and wealthy merchant family, she displayed a disregard for authority and a love of pranks that confounded her elders. Some blame it on her early contact with other cultures. Others claim idleness and boredom led her down such a path. Regardless, Torra soon absconded with a significant portion of her family's wealth."

That's how you look for ways to reword sentences so they say basically the same thing, but use active verbs that draw your reader into your story much more strongly.

Derek Poppink wrote:
Torra began stealing from nobles and merchants. At first her targets were dwarves of the Five Kings Mountains, but eventually she travelled throughout the Inner Sea region. Torra particularly enjoyed tweaking the nose of her victims by stealing heirlooms and other symbols of power and prestige. She has even snatched a few interesting finds from the Pathfinder Society.

Okay. At this point, another element of your writing jumps out at me. You already introduced Torra earlier, but now you're spending far too much time (and word count) on telling us more about your NPC villain as if you're sharing her entire background and history and everything that led up to this point. Instead, you need to be laying out the premise of your adventure and what it will entail from the beginning to the end -- not too much about what happened before. An introduction to an actual adventure, would certainly discuss a villain's background, of course. But, an introduction for an adventure proposal should be telling more about your adventure, not the NPC's history. That's because your audience is the publisher, not the GM who's about to run your adventure scenario. You need to tell him what you're going to write about...why it's going to be cool for those who play in it...what the PCs are going to get to do...etc.

So, what's the alternative? I mentioned this in the feedback I gave a few other folks submitting for PFS scenarios. You've got to come out fast and furious in your very first paragraph and jam as much information, as succinctly as you can, in the first couple of sentences, to convey what your adventure is all about. So you need to basically cover these points:

1) An infamous dwarven rogue named Torra Darkgold recently retreated into her trapped stronghold with a bunch of folks hot on her trail, eager to bring her to justice.

2) No one can seem to penetrate her lair's defenses, though plenty of people hope to claim the reward for her capture and/or gain access to the many treasures rumored to be inside.

3) Because she's stolen from the Pathfinder Society as well, the PCs get tapped to brave her stronghold in an attempt to recover an important item before it falls into someone else's hands.

If you can craft an introductory paragraph that lays out that as your premise, you can save your words about Torra's past and the details of what happened to those who tracked her down. Then, you can move into your adventure summary, describing at a high level what kinds of challenges the PCs will face while trying to run the gauntlet of her unique traps. You can follow that with more detailed descriptions of the encounters themselves, presenting their most interesting and compelling aspects...i.e., what makes those encounters extra cool? And then, you wrap up the conclusion. If you can organize your thoughts in that order, I believe you'll present your scenario much better and improve your chances of catching Josh's eye.

Derek Poppink wrote:
Torra maintains hideaways in several countries, including a vault in the woods near Falcon’s Hollow. She also uses this retreat to design traps, a craft she developed after a close encounter with bounty hunters.

This is useful information. But, rather than including it in your introduction, you should save it when describing the first trapped encounter.

Derek Poppink wrote:
Unfortunately for Torra, a dwarf cleric of Abadar visiting Falcon’s Hollow recognized her when she passed through town. The cleric and her companions decided to track Torra and return with the location of her lair....The dwarf party succeeded in finding the vault, but were unprepared when a forest drake attacked and slew the cleric. The others retreated into the vault, suffering further injury from the trapped entry corridor. The party’s wizard resorted to sending a whispering wind to The Sitting Duck tavern, hoping that other adventurers would hear it and send help. When both Pathfinders and Lumber Consortium agents hear fragments of the message, the race is on to reach the vault.

This is a lot of words that don't really add much. There's no reason to spend so much time talking about the adventuring party that managed to track Torra down and all the problems they ran into. Just say that someone successfully harried her so she had to take shelter inside her retreat. They're now stymied by her traps, but she can't easily get out either. Word leaks out. And the Pathfinders want the PCs to take a crack at getting past her traps to retrieve whatever she stole from them. That's all you need to convey in an adventure proposal.

Derek Poppink wrote:
Summary - Unfriendly Lumber Consortium scouts and lumberjacks comb the woods between Falcon’s Hollow and the vault. Perceptive and stealthy parties may avoid them entirely with repeated successes. Persuasive Pathfinders may scare them off with intimidation or avert combat with bluffs or bribery. If made helpful, they warn the party about the local forest drakes. If not, they attempt to follow the Pathfinders to the vault.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't see the lumberjack angle. Why do they care about Torra? What could she possibly have stolen from them that warrants racing the Pathfinders (or anyone else) to be the first to risk life and limb to get past her traps and reach her? Is it just rumors of treasure? The Lumber Consortium already has pretty deep pockets. Maybe a better way of spinning their involvement is to use Thuldrin Kreed, the Gavel of Falcon's Hollow, as someone interested in Torra's treasures. Then, rather than sending lumberjacks, he could hire some mercenaries with his own money to penetrate the dwarf's stronghold ahead of the PCs.

Derek Poppink wrote:
The forest drake, wounded by the dwarves, waits outside the vault along with the cleric’s body. Pathfinders must fight or run for entrance corridor (automatic arrow trap, CR 0/0/3 by tier).

This seems like an arbitrary encounter. I get that the forest drake chased the dwarven expedition when they were pursuing Torra. But having the drake involved really doesn't add much to the story. It just feels like it "showed up" and now it's become one of the monsters the PCs have to deal with so they can get past it and take on the encounters that actually do matter.

Derek Poppink wrote:
The expedition survivors (ranger, wizard, and unconscious rogue) are holed up inside the first room of the vault. They are suspicious of strangers, but respond favorably to healing and the return of the cleric’s body and gear. If made friendly, they share what they know about Torra. They will not accompany the Pathfinders into the vault due to fatigue and depleted resources.

I think this encounter is a bad idea. Introducing NPCs and "saving" them only to have them say "we're outta here, good luck!" doesn't add much value. I think a better way of handling this kind of situation is to have the PCs come across someone who braved Torra's traps only to become pinned...and slowly dying...such that they finally perish shortly after the PCs arrive...not because they're just low on hit points, but because there's no way to free them without killing them...and no way to heal them without freeing them.

Derek Poppink wrote:
A locked door separates the dwarves from the second room of the vault, where Torra keeps statues and other cumbersome trophies. It is guarded by a statue of Torra she received from an admirer. The statue attacks those who do not unlock the opposite door within a limited time.

I like this encounter. An animated object makes good sense. It's a decent guardian. And it fits within the story.

Derek Poppink wrote:
The third room of the vault contains Torra’s trap-making workshop. There appear to be several doors, but three of four are experimental traps (magic, melee, and pit traps, CR 0/2/5 by tier). An optional encounter with a mimic may also take place here.

Experimental traps sound intersting, but I'm not sure they'd be enough to hold this encounter on their own. I'd suggest adding something (or someone) else in Torra's workshop. Or maybe a summon monster trap that brings in some uncontrolled beasts for them to fight.

Derek Poppink wrote:
Beyond the workshop lies Torra’s personal chamber. The trap smith has fled down a secret escape tunnel with much of her portable wealth, but her accomplice Mudrym Runerock remains to deal with intruders.

I agree with the earlier comments that you definitely need to have Torra in the final encounter. You've spent all this time in your pitch describing her background and layering all of these encounters and traps to demonstrate her personality, that we need the pay-off of getting to face her at the end. Otherwise, it's all a big disappointment. You can have her accomplice present, too, so she isn't on her own. But Torra needs to be there. I think it's a poor design choice not to include her.

Derek Poppink wrote:
Encounters - This information was laid out in a table in the doc...

That's an interesting way to lay out the specifics of your encounters and how they change at each tier. I'm not sure if Josh would favor or frown on a table format. I'm thinking it's probably not as useful in a table. It's probably better to include the tier explanation at the end of each encounter. Otherwise, a reader may have to spend time going back and forth from the table to your description to put everything together in their mind.

Derek Poppink wrote:
Conclusion - If the Pathfinders succeed, they will recover numerous heirlooms stolen by Torra. If they fail, she returns to empty the vault before moving to another hideaway. Pathfinders may also earn the enmity of the Lumber Consortium and/or the respect of Highhelm.

I think you could make your submission stronger by describing a very specific item the PCs need to recover from Torra's vault. That way, part of the urgency and tension during the adventure is looking for that specific item. And the pay-off is when they finally find it and return it to the Pathfinder Society.

Okay, that's all I've got. Hopefully, some of that proves useful. Best of luck in your next pitch.

My two-cents,
--Neil

*

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game Subscriber

Thanks for the responses, everyone. I'm glad you all liked the scenario's main idea. Hopefully I'll have time to revise it based on your feedback and submit it again in a future Open Call.

@taig Thanks for the compliments. I'll work on strengthening the connection to the Pathfinder Society and summarizing the traps.

@Paramo I'm glad you liked the dwarf angle. They're one of my favorite races, too, and I couldn't find another PFS scenario that put them in the spotlight. It sounds like there's common agreement that Torra and a specific stolen relic should play a larger role in the scenario, so I'll work on that. The name Torra is straight out of the campaign setting, but I'll consider alternatives. In my opinion, Mudrym Runerock has the better name in the scenario.

@DM_aka_Dudemeister I'll do my best to watch out for repeated words. I added the first "trap smith" shortly before submitting based on feedback from a fellow gamer, but I should have removed the second one when I did. I totally overlooked the fact that I used "trapped" for the expedition.

@Neil Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough critique. I particularly appreciate your comments on the relative importance of Torra vs. the expedition in the introduction and the relevance or irrelevance of particular paragraphs in the summary.

I did have a question on your comment about passive voice. My understanding is that forms of the verb "to be" contribute to passive voice when they are paired with another verb (i.e. "was sent", "are trapped", "is slain"). The use of the "to be" verbs by themselves ("Torra is a dwarf") is not passive, is it?

I like the suggestion to replace the lumberjacks with mercenaries. I felt the forest drake (or another wandering monster) was the best explanation for why the dwarves could not retreat to Falcon's Hollow, but a deadlier trap is certainly an option. I'm concerned that it changes Torra from a neutral adversary to an evil foe (in my mind she is more concerned with keeping people out than killing them). My initial thought was that the third encounter provided opportunities for combat or social interaction, although it's possible that the first encounter is sufficient for that.

Long story short, you've given me plenty to think about for revising this submission and/or writing the next one. Thanks again!

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Derek Poppink wrote:
@Neil Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough critique.

No problem. It helps fill the time at work sometimes. :-)

Derek Poppink wrote:
I particularly appreciate your comments on the relative importance of Torra vs. the expedition in the introduction and the relevance or irrelevance of particular paragraphs in the summary.

I think that's particularly key. A lot of people get wrapped up in trying to tell too many stories about too many other characters, particularly as build-up or background information before getting into describing their villain and overall plot. That's a big design mistake for an adventure proposal...which is very different from how you write a straight-up adventure. You need come out firing with your best stuff to catch Josh's eye. Don't hold back. Tell him who the real villain is...and what they're up to...in your opening paragraph or you will give him a reason to stop reading and move on to the next submission.

Derek Poppink wrote:
I did have a question on your comment about passive voice. My understanding is that forms of the verb "to be" contribute to passive voice when they are paired with another verb (i.e. "was sent", "are trapped", "is slain"). The use of the "to be" verbs by themselves ("Torra is a dwarf") is not passive, is it?

Yes. That's still passive voice. But, it's not like you're constrained and have to remove ALL passive voice from your entire submission. There certainly are times when it's appropriate. Dialogue or read-aloud text, for instance, can easily make use of it. But generally, you should look for ways to eliminate the rest. Instead of saying, "Torra is a dwarf," just look for a way to convey that in the course of talking about something else. Such as, "An infamous dwarven rogue, named Torra,..." accomplishes the same thing, but avoids passive voice. It "shows" she's a dwarf rather than "telling" you she's one. And therein lies the difference.

Derek Poppink wrote:
...a deadlier trap is certainly an option. I'm concerned that it changes Torra from a neutral adversary to an evil foe (in my mind she is more concerned with keeping people out...

Well, therein lies one of your potential problems. Is she a villain or not? If she's only a misunderstood neutral party with a selfish streak, your storyline won't have nearly the same amount of punch to it without a true villain in there. I think you could still have a neutral character like Torra in an adventure, but you'd also need to include a "true" villain that's an even greater threat. For instance, maybe her assistant turned the tables on her, no longer content to toil behind the scenes in helping her construct her traps and wanting to make a name for himself. He could be the one who made the traps more deadly this time. He could even have caught Torra in one and the PCs have to save her in order to find out where she hid the treasure they're trying to recover before her assistant makes off with it.

The bottom line is always include a villain. A real one. With villainous motives and methods. You can play around with the grey "villains" all you want, but only so long as you've included one who's wearing a black hat and living up to the part. That will make your adventures "pop" more, in my opinion.

Another two-cents,
--Neil

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