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Rejected 43 Critique away


Scenario Submission Talk


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Please critique. Note I left out the encounters section, I feel its trite to add it...
I used werewolves, I was worried about the probability of a PC attaining Lycanthropy, but then I noticed that "Afflicted Lycanthropes" Cannot pass on the curse of Lycanthropy....

The Fury of Falcon’s Hollow

Spoiler:
A werewolf savages the cut-yards of Falcon’s Hollow, leaving the half-eaten corpses of lumberjacks in its wake. Luna, a lone Druid afflicted with the curse of lycanthropy, is the cause of the grisly deaths. Guilt stricken, she provides cures for the unsuspecting townsfolk’s many afflictions. Using forgotten fey magic she atones for her monthly rampages. Curious about Luna’s supernatural cures, the Pathfinder Society dispatches agents to assess her uncanny herbal remedies. Remedies the Society correctly believes come from a prized book penned by Baba Yaga’s descendant, the witch Ulizmila.

Tragically, Luna’s ministrations have invoked the wrath of the Blackblood Covenant, worshipers of Urgathoa who spread diseases throughout the town. Seeing Luna as a threat to their plan, they kidnap her, and discover her secret—lycanthropy. Delighted, they harvest the girl’s affliction, and they plan to gorge upon the townsfolk of Falcon’s Hollow in a feast that would make the Pallid Princess proud. When the PCs begin their search for Luna, they become the town’s only hope for survival.

NOTE: The werewolves are “afflicted lycanthropes”, so they cannot pass on the curse of lycanthropy.

Summary

The adventure begins as the PCs approach an abandoned cut-yard outside of Falcon’s Hollow. Soon the heroes discover the bodies of lumberjacks torn apart by ferocious fangs. Suddenly, the bodies contort into a tormented hybrid of man and wolf. Werewolves attack the party.

The PCs enter Falcon’s Hollow and find windows boarded up, shops closed, and axe-wielding lumberjacks patrolling the streets. As the players investigate Luna’s whereabouts, a man approaches. Secretly a covenant member, he attempts to inflict the group with slimy doom. Feigning friendship, he warns the PCs about Luna’s lycanthropy, and offers them a silver dagger. As he continues his counsel, howls echo in the distance and the meager militia springs into action. Luna’s animal companions charge into town attempting to rescue their mistress from her kidnapers. The PCs must decide whether to defend Falcon’s Hollow from dogs/wolves/dire wolves.

After the attack, the PCs find respite within the town’s inn. Interaction with NPCs allows the PCs to gather information about the ravaged cut-yards, the mysterious diseases, and the missing girl Luna. A group of lumberjacks confronts the party, implying they are the source of the trouble. One of the lumberjacks, also a covenant member, goads his friends on. Unless the PCs take actions to diffuse the situation, a brawl ensues. During the encounter, any PC with Knowledge (religion), or bardic knowledge notices the provocateur’s tattoo marks him as a worshiper of Urgathoa.

OPTIONAL ENCOUNTER: That night, the covenant assaults the PCs while they rest. Surviving the attack, the PCs discern more tattoos.

At dawn, the heroes spy ashen-faced men with wheelbarrows loading the disease-ravaged dead into wagons bound for a pyre. The wagon’s driver bears the same unholy mark seen the night before. The PCs can use Intimidate, Diplomacy, or Bluff to gain the location of the covenant’s hideout, or they can follow the wagon to an abandoned warehouse. Entering the warehouse, the PCs discover a shrine. From festering heaps of rancid flesh piled up in offering, a shadow/greater shadow claws forth to attack the PCs.

Finally, the PCs locate Luna tied to a silver table hidden within the warehouse. Near death, Luna warns the PCs of the covenant’s plans to use her affliction to infect themselves with lycanthropy. A growl in the shadows reveals a large Urgathoan werewolf. Festering sores weep upon his matted fur, and a frothy foam drips from his gaping, hungry maw. Drenched in drool, he attacks the heroes!

Conclusion

With success, the PCs retrieve Ulizmila’s writings, and defeat the Blackblood Covenant. With failure, the covenant destroys Ulizmila’s book, and the downtrodden township of Falcon’s Hollow falls victim to a ritualistic feast of Urgathoan werewolves.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Larcifer wrote:
Please critique.

In the interests of assisting a friend, I shall endeavor to do so for you, good sir. ;-)

Larcifer wrote:
Note I left out the encounters section, I feel its trite to add it...

No biggie to me. I'm not sure I'd include it either. But if I did, I'd make sure I used the best shorthand method possible to explain to Josh how the tiers scale up.

Larcifer wrote:
I used werewolves, I was worried about the probability of a PC attaining Lycanthropy, but then I noticed that "Afflicted Lycanthropes" Cannot pass on the curse of Lycanthropy...

Personally, I think it's probably okay to use a single werewolf as an adversary, but I'd shy away from including a lot of them.

So, with that in mind, lets dive in:

Feedback:

Spoiler:

Larcifer wrote:
The Fury of Falcon’s Hollow

Okay. Let's start with the title. It's a classic "The A of the B" kind of title. Can't go wrong with that. But have you found the heartbeat of your adventure and included it in your title? It tells us where the adventure takes place...i.e., Falcon's Hollow, but I don't think that you really needed to do that. I would have preferred a title that's a bit more evocative. Using the word "Fury" helps...but it's not associated with anything that leaves a reader with much more than a simple generality.

Having read through the rest of your submission, it seems to have a focus on "nature" with the druid angle and her ability to prepare special "remedies" from Ulizmilla's book. You've also got the Urgathoa angle with "disease" and lycanthropy at play. So, I might suggest a title along the lines of "A Natural Remedy" or "A Cure For All Ills" or something like that. I think that piques the reader's interest a bit more than a generic title like "The Fury of Falcon's Hollow."

Why have I spent so much time talking about the title of a PFS scenario? For a couple of reasons. One, it's the first thing you get to lead-off with in your submission. In fact, it's the first thing Josh gets to see before he even opens your attachment, since it's included in the title of your email to his in-box. So, you should make the most of it. If you can grab someone's interest with the title of your piece before they even get into it, you buy a bit more patience from them as they start reading your introduction and the overall pitch. They immediately want to know how the title ties into the story. And if it does so in a really neat, slightly humorous (but cool!) way, that gives it an extra wow factor. So, if you can hook them there, you're well on your way to having a successful submission.

Secondly, a good title is also going to help sell your adventure to everyone who plays or runs PFS scenarios. If the content matches the title and delivers a really entertaining adventure, it becomes that much more marketable. It creates a memory that's tied to that name. And your name is listed right under it. So some of that memory and "feel good" aspect translates to you as the author, which helps your name recognition on future pitches and ideas. So, never underestimate the power of a good title. It is always the "promise" of what you intend to deliver as an author. So spend a lot of time on it. It's important.

Larcifer wrote:
A werewolf savages the cut-yards of Falcon’s Hollow, leaving the half-eaten corpses of lumberjacks in its wake.

Great lead-off sentence to your introduction. Why? Because you immediately get into "what" is going on...what's causing it (though you haven't told us who yet)..."where" it's taking place (both the lumberyards and Falcon's Hollow)...and a little bit about "who" or "what" it's affected so far (i.e., the half-eaten lumberjacks).

Larcifer wrote:
Luna, a lone Druid afflicted with the curse of lycanthropy, is the cause of the grisly deaths.

Good. This builds on letting us know "who" is behind everything. You used passive voice here, though. Watch out for that creeping into your writing. A good way to rephrase this into a more active sentence would be to say, "Luna, a lone druid afflicted with the curse of lycanthropy, caused these grisly deaths." You don't even need "is the cause"...just translate it into a different verb like "caused." Or, if you wanted to go with something more fanciful, you could say she "fashioned" or "accidentally caused" their grisly deaths.

Also, the name "Luna" for a lycanthrope is probably a bit too coincidental. I'd recommend going with something different, lest you tip off the heroes too quickly about her status as a werewolf. Presumably, she's keeping it to herself, after all. So don't hamper those efforts with a name that gives it away.

Larcifer wrote:
Guilt stricken, she provides cures for the unsuspecting townsfolk’s many afflictions. Using forgotten fey magic she atones for her monthly rampages.

Hmmm...you're starting to lose me here. As a reader, it's hard for me to imagine Luna as guilt-stricken and yet all she plans on doing to atone for her monthly rampages is to just provide (free?) cures for the townsfolk for other ailments. Somehow those two ways of describing Luna don't fit together. If she's really guilt-stricken and knows she's a werewolf why hasn't she told anyone or sought help?

What might be better is if you write the scenario so Luna doesn't even know she's the werewolf. Instead, she's as worried about the lycanthropy outbreak as anyone else. And, she's working really hard to apply Ulizmilla's book on remedies to try and cure everyone in the event they become infected by it. She'd probably even encourage the PCs to hunt down the source of the problem for her..while admitting she's been unsuccessful on her own (because everytime she goes out in the full moon to hunt the werewolf, she becomes one!).

Next up, I've got a bit of an issue with the notion that Luna is using "forgotten fey magic." That sounds like sorcery to me, as most fey rely on sorcery as the source of their magic. And yet, a druid uses divine magic, not arcane. Were you planning on making Luna a multiclass druid/sorcerer with the fey bloodline? If so, I'd suggest you indicate something like that in your proposal so it comes across more strongly. Otherwise, you might potentially confuse your audience in the pitch.

Larcifer wrote:
Curious about Luna’s supernatural cures, the Pathfinder Society dispatches agents to assess her uncanny herbal remedies. Remedies the Society correctly believes come from a prized book penned by Baba Yaga’s descendant, the witch Ulizmila.

I really, REALLY like how you wove Ulizmilla into the storyline. That little element from D0: Hollow's Last Hope is cool. And I think it's great to bring some piece of that into your proposal since it involves Falcon's Hollow and the surrounding countryside.

However, there's also another major NPC from Hollow's Last Hope that already runs an apothecary in town selling herbal remedies to everyone. Is Luna related to her in someway? How'd she come by Ulizmilla's book in the first place? It's great that you've got a hook like to foster the Pathfinders' interest in investigating Luna. But, I think you need to tie it off better by providing another sentence of background that explains bow Luna came to possess this book and how she's using it aid the townsfolk. Personally, I think a nice touch would include a reason for why Luna keeps the book hidden from everyone else. Is it cursed in some fashion? Is that how she contracted lycanthropy? One of the best things I think writers can do is to look for ways to weave story elements back in upon themselves so that everything ties together. Cause and effect, basically. Having Ulizmilla's book of cures afflict someone with a hard-to-cure disease like lycanthropy if they've stolen it from the witch works really well, I think.

Larcifer wrote:
Tragically, Luna’s ministrations have invoked the wrath of the Blackblood Covenant, worshipers of Urgathoa who spread diseases throughout the town. Seeing Luna as a threat to their plan, they kidnap her, and discover her secret—lycanthropy. Delighted, they harvest the girl’s affliction, and they plan to gorge upon the townsfolk of Falcon’s Hollow in a feast that would make the Pallid Princess proud. When the PCs begin their search for Luna, they become the town’s only hope for survival.

I'm following along with your intent here, but I don't think you set up enough credibility for the Blackblood Covenant. How exactly do they become aware of Luna's "threat to their plan?" What exactly is their plan? How does her secret affliction of lycanthropy help move their plans forward? All they want is to please the goddess of disease and gluttony by changing all the townsfolk into werewolves so they'll feast on everything in the area? Disease and gluttony rolled up into one nice package, right?

That's cool. But, give the leaders of the Blackblood Covenant a reason to be doing this in Falcon's Hollow. Perhaps their leader is Luna's estranged sister, recently returned to Falcon's Hollow after becoming involved in Urgathoa's cult abroad? Or maybe the Blackblood Covenant covets Ulizmilla's book, which also contains information on afflictions and not just cures. That way, they're after the same prize as the PCs. Setting up conflict like that goes much further in tightening your storyline and series of encounters than having them see Luna as a threat to "their plan."

Larcifer wrote:
NOTE: The werewolves are “afflicted lycanthropes”, so they cannot pass on the curse of lycanthropy.

I think this is an important distinction to make if you're going to risk including lycanthropy in a PFS scenario. And you cleared it up with only a single sentence out of your precious word-count. So kudos on that.

Larcifer wrote:
Summary - The adventure begins as the PCs approach an abandoned cut-yard outside of Falcon’s Hollow. Soon the heroes discover the bodies of lumberjacks torn apart by ferocious fangs. Suddenly, the bodies contort into a tormented hybrid of man and wolf. Werewolves attack the party.

This seems like a poor choice for a first encounter. It sounds as though you're suggesting Falcon's Hollow is already severely ravaged by several werewolves. But, I think your scenario would be stronger if you ratchet up the tension one small step at a time. Let the story play out more slowly. Give the PCs a chance to meet and converse with Luna first to ask about her unusual skills at curing everyone's ills with such potent natural remedies.

Then, have Luna impart some of the information about an obvious werewolf in the vicinity and her concern about making sure she's prepared to combat lycanthropy if it breaks out among the citizens of Falcon's Hollow. Get her to enlist the PCs aid, promising them more information about how she so easily cures so many illnesses with the help of a special book in her possession...but only if they can help her ensure the safety of the townsfolk first.

This gets your players (and, by extension, their PCs) more invested in what's going on. They arrive in Falcon's Hollow with one goal in mind. But then, they realize to achieve that goal, they're going to have to accomplish something else first. And, along the way, the story takes shape around them.

Larcifer wrote:
The PCs enter Falcon’s Hollow and find windows boarded up, shops closed, and axe-wielding lumberjacks patrolling the streets. As the players investigate Luna’s whereabouts, a man approaches. Secretly a covenant member, he attempts to inflict the group with slimy doom.

This scene seems very arbitrary. I can appreciate you're giving the PCs a chance to meet one of the "villains" in the adventure in a social situation first. But what prompts this guy to approach the PCs in the first place? Just because they're asking about Luna? That comes off kind of weak to me. I think it's cool that you have these Urgathoans, who probably know Luna's a lycanthrope even if she hasn't figured it out yet herself. And, now, rather than oppose her skill at curing all the diseases and illnesses they've been spreading in Falcon's Hollow, they're content to sit back and enjoy the irony where she's about to create more carnage as a result of her own secret affliction than they could have pulled off in their wildest dreams.

Once the PCs show up and start trying to actually hunt down and stop the suspected werewolf in the area (at Luna's request), the Urgathoans would realize the PCs might aid Luna in realizing it's her...and that she might cure it herself with the aid of Ulizmilla's book. So, that's a better reason for putting them into conflict with the Blackblood Covenant. I just think that sort of development should come much later...after they get a chance to meet and interact with Luna.

Larcifer wrote:
Feigning friendship, he warns the PCs about Luna’s lycanthropy, and offers them a silver dagger. As he continues his counsel, howls echo in the distance and the meager militia springs into action. Luna’s animal companions charge into town attempting to rescue their mistress from her kidnapers. The PCs must decide whether to defend Falcon’s Hollow from dogs/wolves/dire wolves.

In some ways, I like the idea of an encounter where a druid's animal companions and friends are trying to save her, despite the fact that she's suffering from lycanthropy. But how do they find her? Does she still "smell" the same to them now that she's a werewolf or do they no longer view her the same? Is she able to call them with a wolf howl and they still know it's her?

Personally, I think the ease with which the PCs learn that Luna's a werewolf...i.e., by the Urgathoan merely telling them so...lacks the punch to really make the adventure pop. The delivery of this kind of revelation is much better served by putting clues in front of the PCs for them to decipher on their own. Letting Luna tell them about her suspicions that a werewolf is stalking people in town is okay, because she can't tell them who. That immediately puts the onus on the heroic PCs to figure it out. By having the Urgathoan tell them, it robs the PCs of a chance to accomplish that themselves.

Lastly, I'll note that your final sentence in this paragraph ends a little oddly. "The PCs must decide whether to defend Falcon’s Hollow from dogs/wolves/dire wolves." By including "whether" in there, I'm left wondering about the alternative. You don't touch on that. What if they decide not to defend the town? What happens then? You've left this open-ended. And not in a good way.

Larcifer wrote:
After the attack, the PCs find respite within the town’s inn. Interaction with NPCs allows the PCs to gather information about the ravaged cut-yards, the mysterious diseases, and the missing girl Luna.

I think it's a good idea to always include an information-gathering scene in a good story-driven adventure. This scene does that. Having it come on the heels of the odd animal attack doesn't quite thrill me as much. It's logical, of course, to start asking questions. But, since the Urgathoan already told them Luna's a werewolf, they've received their best piece of information right up front...or I should say, too soon. The rest of the information gathering is kind of anti-climactic in a way.

If you had gone with the PCs meeting Luna and her being the one that shared concerns about a werewolf in the area...but asked the PCs not to alarm the townsfolk by mentioning it directly...it could set up an information-gathering encounter among the lumberjacks to start fishing for information about strange attacks in the wilderness, and then you could logically drop the bit about the cutyards. Then, the PCs would naturally go there to investigate. From a story standpoint, I think that pushes your adventure idea along with a stronger purpose and more natural, organic growth from encounter to encounter.

Larcifer wrote:
A group of lumberjacks confronts the party, implying they are the source of the trouble. One of the lumberjacks, also a covenant member, goads his friends on. Unless the PCs take actions to diffuse the situation, a brawl ensues.

Now, I love this idea! Having the lumberjacks start suspecting the PCs as the source of the town's troubles is awesome. In fact, assuming several of the lumberjacks work down at the cutyard during the day, I'd make that the encounter waiting for them when they go there. Have some distraught, suspicious, vengeful-minded lumberjack who's brother died under Luna's teeth and claws accuse the PCs as the ones responsible because they're the new guys in town. Then, a brawl could believably break out if the PCs don't diffuse the problem.

Larcifer wrote:
During the encounter, any PC with Knowledge (religion), or bardic knowledge notices the provocateur’s tattoo marks him as a worshiper of Urgathoa.

This feels a bit tacked on. Clearly, you're going for a clue by having them notice the tattoo marks. It lets them know there are Urgathoans about...and that would immediately allow the PCs to put two-and-two...or lycanthropy-and-disease-mongers together, causing them to suspect the cult is behind everything. The ironic twist is that they aren't the source of the problem, of course. But the PCs won't know that until they track down the cultists.

But, having said that, having one of the lumberjacks be a worshipper of Urgathoa seems really odd to me. Lumberjacks don't strike me as a particularly religious lot...and doubly so when it comes to a goddess of disease, gluttony, and undeath. So, my recommendation would be that you find a different way to drop the clue about the Urgathoans. Presumably, they don't just have a shrine in Falcon's Hollow. But they do have to come and go from the town to wherever they've made their lair. Sometime after the lumberjack brawl...or during their conversation if they manage to diffuse the situation...let one of the lumberjacks note that the PCs aren't the only new arrivers in town. That way, they can describe the Urgathoans they saw someplace in the forest. That would make for a more natural transition to the next encounter, I think.

Larcifer wrote:
OPTIONAL ENCOUNTER: That night, the covenant assaults the PCs while they rest. Surviving the attack, the PCs discern more tattoos.

What's with the "optional" encounters? Was that a recommendation from Josh about PFS scenarios? I've seen him discuss how there shouldn't be any "random" encounters and how every encounter should be tied into the adventure with a purpose behind them for moving the plot forward. And, in fairness, your optional encounter is tied to your plot since it involves the Urgathoans and reinforces the clue about the tattoes. But, I still don't perceive a good reason for why the Urgathoans take such direct steps to get into conflict with the PCs. Urgathoa is also a goddess of the undead. So why not have them attack the PCs via the proxy of a host of skeletons or zombies or something in the forest when they go to investigate the cult's activities? To me, that makes more logical sense. And brings up a more logical adversary in the form of the undead creatures as an extension of your villains.

Larcifer wrote:
At dawn, the heroes spy ashen-faced men with wheelbarrows loading the disease-ravaged dead into wagons bound for a pyre. The wagon’s driver bears the same unholy mark seen the night before. The PCs can use Intimidate, Diplomacy, or Bluff to gain the location of the covenant’s hideout, or they can follow the wagon to an abandoned warehouse. Entering the warehouse, the PCs discover a shrine. From festering heaps of rancid flesh piled up in offering, a shadow/greater shadow claws forth to attack the PCs.

Ah! Now here's your undead minion of the Urgathoan cultists. But, I can't help wondering what they're doing with all those disease-ravaged bodies they're collecting. And why not have them animate the bodies into zombies instead? That would make more internal sense to me than having an encounter with a shadow. The new Pathfinder Bestiary also includes a template for plague-bearing zombies, so this would make them even more perfect for this encounter.

As for following the wagon to find the Urgathoan shrine, that seems kind of easy. Wouldn't the cultists take more steps to hide their activities than that? The tattoes are already a bit of a giveaway. So they don't seem to be all that careful in what they're doing. From a consistency and credibility perspective, I think that's holding you back a bit.

Instead, I think you could have used this encounter differently. If, as I suggested earlier, you allowed one of the interviewed lumberjacks to put the PCs onto the trail of the Urgathoans and that caused them to venture into the forest to confront them...I'd probably follow up the fight against the undead with another battle to take down the priests. Then, you could make it so the moon came out while they're in the wilderness...and they could meet Luna in werewolf form on their way back. That kind of encounter would quickly let them know it wasn't the Urgathoans behind the lycanthropy. So the PCs still have their work cut out for them. Even if you don't have them encounter Luna herself, they could find another victim of one of her attacks and then track the werewolf back to Luna's home or something. Either way, it brings them full circle. I think that would be better way of structuring your encounters in layer-upon-layer so each one builds off the other.

Larcifer wrote:
Finally, the PCs locate Luna tied to a silver table hidden within the warehouse.

Boy...that's got to be one valuable table. Will that be part of the treasure allotment at the end of the scenario? ;-)

Larcifer wrote:
Near death, Luna warns the PCs of the covenant’s plans to use her affliction to infect themselves with lycanthropy. A growl in the shadows reveals a large Urgathoan werewolf. Festering sores weep upon his matted fur, and a frothy foam drips from his gaping, hungry maw. Drenched in drool, he attacks the heroes!

Hmmm...this is an interesting turn of events, of course. An Urgathoan wishing to willingly become a victim of Luna is perfectly fine. If you went with my earlier idea about the PCs trailing or tracking Luna back to her house, I'd probably spin this encounter as the Urgathoans laying a trap for Luna (possibly even her sister, if you used that angle). They would want to get a sample from Luna's blood to infect themselves and get "closer" to their goddess. And, that way, when the PCs think they're finally going to have to fight a werewolf, they wind up trying to rescue one from the Urgathoans instead.

That means, the PCs don't have to face the potential of fighting a werewolf (or even contracting lycanthropy), because the Urgathoans will already have subdued her. The grand finale would then be free to focus on the true villains of your scenario...i.e., the high-priest leading the Blackblood Covenant. Once the PCs defeat him, they'll be faced with a moral dilemma. Do they slay Luna while she's restrained and put an end to the werewolf attacks on Falcon's Hollow? Or do they try and use Ulizmilla's book to cure her? They should have options then in how the adventure ends based on their choices.

Larcifer wrote:
Conclusion - With success, the PCs retrieve Ulizmila’s writings, and defeat the Blackblood Covenant. With failure, the covenant destroys Ulizmila’s book, and the downtrodden township of Falcon’s Hollow falls victim to a ritualistic feast of Urgathoan werewolves.

I'm cool with the PCs retrieving Ulizmilla's writings. I think it's the strongest element in the end-game of your proposal. I'd recommend making it so they need to defeat the Blackblood Covenant so the book doesn't fall into their hands...not because they want to destroy it. Rather, I'd make it so the book contains more than just information on how to cure diseases. I'd suggest it also contains information on how to synthesize lycanthropy (and cure it!) in a way that the Urgathoans will find infinitely useful. Once the PCs save Luna and she realizes the danger such a book poses...and that organized cults like the Blackblood Covenant will stop at nothing to get it...then it makes more sense that she would willingly give it up to the PCs and the Pathfinders.

One thing that probably hindered you a lot in this proposal, though, is the notion that werewolves and lycanthropy is having such a profound effect on Falcon's Hollow. You're flirting with the "don't break our world" rule by describing a potential end-game where "Falcon's Hollow falls victim to a ritualistic feast of Urgathoan werewolves." That's potentially too extreme if it impacts a known part of their world in that big of a way.

Okay. All in all, I really liked much of what you included in this proposal. Whether or not Josh was ready to bring werewolves and lycanthropes into a PFS scenario, I have no idea. But I thought you had a lot of good elements in the pitch. I think your language could be stronger in some areas. I believe your work would benefit a lot more by finding ways to weave your encounters tightly together and round off the edges of your story better. Make sure your stuff is more interconnected. And watch out for going too extreme on the impact your villain's plan might have on the world if the PCs fail and the bad guys succeed.

My two-cents,
--Neil


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Neil, thank you! I appreciate the time and effort you spent on this. After I get home from work, rest assured, I am going to delve into these pearls of wisdom you have given me. Once more thank you.

To anyone else, please feel free to comment. I want to improve!

Paizo Employee ** Developer

NSpicer wrote:
My two-cents

Neil, you have the longest two cents of anyone I've ever met!

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

yoda8myhead wrote:
Neil, you have the longest two cents of anyone I've ever met!

That's why I use that as my tag-line. It's an inside joke at my own expense, designed to remind myself that I'm way too wordy. Always have been.

Andoran ** Venture-Lieutenant, North Carolina—Winston-Salem

Hoo boy! I don't think I can even come close to the usefulness of Neil's advice.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading your scenario. It skirts Josh's "save the day" trap nicely, and you have a strong reason for the Pathfinder Society being involved ("obtain Ulizmila's writings").

The one thing I'll note as a concern is the lack of variety in your encounters. They're mostly combat, and the one "diplomatic" encounter will most likely lead to combat.

You've got something good here, and, if I remember correctly, you have had a PFS scenario published before. At any rate, I wish you luck with future scenario submissions!

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Larry, Neil has it all covered and I have learned something about effective critique by reading his review.

All I can say Mr Spicer is wow, just wow. I think Robert Jordan's Wheel of time series has less words than your review guy. :) I like it though.

Larry, I liked the idea and I know you know what you are doing. Good luck next call!

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

AngrySpirit wrote:
All I can say Mr Spicer is wow, just wow. I think Robert Jordan's Wheel of time series has less words than your review guy. :) I like it though.

Yeah. I know. :-[

I'm terribly over-wordy (is that a word?). It's a character flaw. One that I try to rein in very strongly when I'm trying to meet word count on a proposal or assignment. But, when I'm just doing a messageboard post, I don't have the same constraints. So I just sort of go with whatever comes out of my head as I type. It's also a way to kill some time at the office until I can get home and continue working on my actual writing assignments from Paizo.

So far, I've given feedback on three of the PFS proposals for #43. I know Larry as a personal friend, having met him at PaizoCon. And, if a particular submission catches my eye (because I read a lot of messageboard stuff when I'm at work, too), then sometimes I feel compelled to comment on it in the hopes of helping someone who obviously has the seed of a really great idea. Also, I believe Josh encouraged folks to provide more peer review feedback for the PFS pitches, since he doesn't really have time to do so himself. So, I'm just trying to help out where I can...but only if I'm moved to do so...and have enough time given everything else going on right now.

Anyway, I did have another thought regarding advice for developing a good proposal...whether for PFS scenarios or full-scale adventures. Awhile back, Erik Mona, James Jacobs, and others gave a seminar on "Writing for Paizo" at a convention I attended. In fact, I think it was "Writing for Dungeon Magazine" at the time. I took down a lot of notes and really applied what they shared. Over time, I sort of added some of my own philosophy to it. But, in the interests of helping everyone here, I thought I'd share it again.

Fair warning: It's another really long "two-cents"...so grab a cup of coffee or something and make sure you've got time to spare to read through all of it.

Five Keys to Really Good Adventure Design:

Spoiler:

I think really good adventures (and hence a designer's pitch to a publisher for an adventure idea) often breaks down across five key areas. These are all points that Paizo's Erik Mona and James Jacobs cited during their own "Writing for Dungeon Magazine" seminar at GenCon a few years ago.

First...make sure there's a memorable, interesting, and unique villain. Avoid cliches. Mad wizards, vampires, dragons, and cult leaders often get overused. Look for something different, if you can, but not so different that it's "crazy" different, because that can turn a publisher off to your idea pretty quickly, too. If you do wind up using one of the more cliched villains, make them interesting in a way that hasn't quite been seen before. But don't go overboard. Weird is still weird. So you have to make a villain different without making him silly. Most of all, however, make sure the villain and his goals are a legitimate threat. Because this leads into developing a compelling plot (and hence, story) for your adventure. And that's what's going to catch a publisher's eye and grab the attention of those who eventually play your adventure.

Second...make sure the adventure takes place in a memorable, interesting, and unique set of locales. This gets back to location, location, location. You can't do anything run-of-the-mill here and really attract someone's interest. If you're going to do an urban adventure, make sure the city or town has some interesting quirk about it. If you're going to do a wilderness adventure, make sure the forest, jungle, desert, plains, or mountains have something unique about them that enhances everything in the players' minds. Feature the terrain. It's there for a reason. And, lastly, if you're going to do a dungeon crawl, make sure the rooms, traps, and encounters all have some memorable element to them. Basically, imagine the adventure playing out like a movie. Put together various scenes or "cool moments" that could take place at each of the locations in such a movie. These will be the locations you need to include in your adventure proposal and writeup. Because these are the locations where your most memorable encounters will take place. As a result, your players will enjoy themselves more if the location somehow impacts their use of skills, magic abilities, etc.

Third...make sure there's a compelling and interesting plot. Again, avoid cliches. Rescuing a kidnapped princess, fighting off a humanoid invasion, or putting down an undead uprising are overused plots. You can still borrow certain elements from those situations, but you want to make them different and interesting enough in ways that haven't been done before. Make sure the villain's goal is something the heroes will want to oppose. Provide a variety of hooks for getting the PCs involved and keeping them involved over the course of the adventure. Look for any interesting situations where the plot can twist back and surprise the players. Structure your encounter setup so they build off one another and aid the storytelling. And, most importantly, make sure every encounter serves a purpose in the plot. Otherwise, it's just wasted space.

Fourth...give the villain some interesting and memorable minions assisting him with carrying out the plot. This can be anything from a new monster to shaky allies the heroes could turn against their master. Just make sure they have a credible reason for being in the location where the adventure takes place, associating with the memorable villain you have in mind, and somehow help move the plot in a logical way. Avoid including minions that fail to make sense in relation to all those factors. Otherwise, they just come off seeming out of place and very arbitrary. That being said, it's sometimes a great idea to use monsters or NPCs that are "off the beaten path" or a bit underused in adventure designs, because this can add to your "wow" factor and make your idea "pop!"

Fifth...make sure there's an interesting reward at the end of the adventure. What's the pay-off? Is there a unique and memorable treasure the heroes can acquire? Do they earn some kind of recognition or gift from those who hire them? Are they awarded lands, titles, or commendations that help improve the heroes in the eyes of everyone else in the world? These are the things that players and GMs have fun incorporating into the lives of their characters and future gaming sessions. Just make sure it's something that fits with everything else...i.e., the location of the treasure, the villain's attachment to it, and the plot's dependency on it. A good "reward" can sometimes serve as the entire springboard for why your adventure takes place. So don't underestimate it.

Other elements you might consider when designing an adventure proposal or manuscript include:


  • Great scene ideas for art and illustrations...something to inspire the imagination beyond the mere words of the text.
  • Great maps...something that inspires a tactical analysis of encounters, or that GMs might be able to re-use or raid for other adventures.
  • Great NPCs...something that could live on in a GM's campaign beyond that single adventure.
  • Great new monsters...something a GM could pull into his own adventures or campaign setting.
  • Great challenges...something that lets each character archetype have a chance to shine at what they do best.
  • New rules or rule interpretations...something that introduces a new feat, weapon, spell, magic item, etc. Or, a new way of using an existing feat, skill, spell, or ability.
  • New world-specific information...something that builds onto an existing campaign setting, providing more history/background etc.
  • Scalability...something that provides guidance for how to run the adventure for differently sized groups or different character levels.
  • Integration...something that can stand well on its own, play as part of a series of adventure modules, or be easily dropped into a homebrew game.
  • Great production values...i.e., the cosmetic packaging of the adventure, including special sidebars, GM advice, player handouts, puzzles and riddles, and making sure everything's in the proper format consistent with every other adventure you've seen a publisher produce.

Okay. That's probably WAY more than anyone really wanted from an advice perspective on writing adventures and proposals for open calls. Clearly, you don't have to do every one of those things to get noticed. Just doing a few of them can inspire your readers and convince a publisher to take a chance on you.

And keep in mind I'm most certainly NOT an expert on adventure design. I fail at plenty of those things I cited above in my own pitches and design work. But I still believe it's sound advice, because most of that came directly from the editors/developers of Paizo themselves.

Anyway, just another nickel's worth... (I'll move along now) ;-)
--Neil

Qadira RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8

NSpicer wrote:
AngrySpirit wrote:
All I can say Mr Spicer is wow, just wow. I think Robert Jordan's Wheel of time series has less words than your review guy. :) I like it though.

Yeah. I know. :-[

I'm terribly over-wordy (is that a word?). It's a character flaw.

“I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” Blaise Pascal

Grand Lodge **

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
NSpicer wrote:
Third...make sure there's a compelling and interesting plot. Again, avoid cliches. Rescuing a kidnapped princess, fighting off a humanoid invasion, or putting down an undead uprising are overused plots.

Oh the irony :)


Hey Lar, just to build on Neil's excellent comments:

Quote:
So, I might suggest a title along the lines of "A Natural Remedy" or "A Cure For All Ills" or something like that.

Maybe a little campy but "A sheep in wolf's clothing."

Quote:
What might be better is if you write the scenario so Luna doesn't even know she's the werewolf.

+1

Quote:
Next up, I've got a bit of an issue with the notion that Luna is using "forgotten fey magic." That sounds like sorcery to me, as most fey rely on sorcery as the source of their magic.

Maybe "forgotten witchery". Makes it nice and vague and fits in with distant baba yaga connection. You could also have it set up that the book allows her a feat or ritual to transfers disease from the castee to the caster which as a druid she'd be more resistant to... well mostly anyways, which would in turn explain how Luna caught lycanthropy and why it's not transmitted in the usual fashion to the victims(i.e. afflicted vs infectious)

It'd also explain why the Urgothan's are PO'ed with her (curing their marvelous diseases). And it'd make for an interesting encounter with the family who's son had lycanthropy but had never harmed anyone because they kept him contained/caged and drugged at night. Only now he isn't a lycanthrope any more because Luna took it from him when she was curing what ever disease the Urgothan's were spreading.

Maybe later you could even have the PC's encounter the local angry pitchfork and ax bearing mob after they've found the family's holding cell in the cellar and plan to put the innocent family to death in the town square for everyone to see.

Quote:
However, there's also another major NPC from Hollow's Last Hope that already runs an apothecary in town selling herbal remedies to everyone.

If the PC's ask, he doesn't have the right herbs to cure the latest wave of sickness in town and has sent someone to get it. Or he's short of the silver powder that he was using in the cure's due to high demand and someone stealing his supply: the urgothan's for their table. The apothecary might also know about the kid who had lycanthropy and was selling the family sedatives to keep him quiet at night while he was in the cage.

Quote:
Personally, I think a nice touch would include a reason for why Luna keeps the book hidden from everyone else. Is it cursed in some fashion?

In addition to the disease transfer maybe it has some nasty embarassing family secrets in it for Baba Yaga's family (inappropriate daliances with visting Chelaxian diplomats and questions about the real lineage of prominent royalty in several countries? Other dark or at least gray magic in it?)

Quote:
How exactly do they become aware of Luna's "threat to their plan?" What exactly is their plan?

Fat urgothan pastry chef moves to town opens a bakery... supplies good food for a year to build up trust and then starts poisoning some of his loaves with disease. Luna cures the kid of filth fever and inadvertantly lycanthropy and starts killing locals. The dead locals due to the violence of their death rise as zombies or skeletons and start attacking mainly trying to track down Luna.

The pastry chef sees undead and lycanthropy wets himself with glee and contacts his superiors to figure out what to do. Over the next few months the people he reports to start arriving and setting up shop and converting a few locals by promising them immunity to the diseases running through town and worshipping some spirit called (insert name) who's really a proxy for Urgotha. (Maybe they don't eat bread on the second weekend of every month. Which is right around when everyone else starts getting ill again.) The tatoo's could be for the proxy spirit so the PC's don't immediately think it's Urgotha. The bardic knowledge check just reveals it appears to be a relgious affiliation with symbols that translate to keeping one's blood from turning black.

Quote:
But, give the leaders of the Blackblood Covenant a reason to be doing this in Falcon's Hollow.

Maybe one of them recognizes the type of healing Luna's doing from rumors and past encounters in the Urgothan church (why wouldn't they keep records of how their enemies have fought them?) and wants the book for it's other political or magical contents or they don't know or care about the book at all.

Quote:
Then, have Luna impart some of the information about an obvious werewolf in the vicinity and her concern about making sure she's prepared to combat lycanthropy if it breaks out among the citizens of Falcon's Hollow. Get her to enlist the PC's aid, promising them more information about how she so easily cures so many illnesses with the help of a special book in her possession...but only if they can help her ensure the safety of the townsfolk first.

I'd actually go a step further and suggest that she thinks there's a cult of Urgothan's in town due to the disease and the undead who semi-regularly attack her shack in the woods. (She's just not aware that they're attacking her because she killed them and have nothing to do with the urgothans... unlike the plague zombies the urgothans are storing in a granary outside of town.)

It also adds to the sense of paranoia the PC's are feeling: Urgothan's and werewolves? Oh my!

Larcifer wrote:

Quote:
Feigning friendship, he warns the PCs about Luna’s lycanthropy, and offers them a silver dagger.

The silver dagger is fine, but he shouldn't warn them about luna being the lycanthrope. Far more entertaining to have have them figure that out on their own.

*

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game Subscriber
NSpicer wrote:
What's with the "optional" encounters? Was that a recommendation from Josh about PFS scenarios? I've seen him discuss how there shouldn't be any "random" encounters and how every encounter should be tied into the adventure with a purpose behind them for moving the plot forward.

Hey Neil,

Yes, Josh is asking for one optional encounter in each submission (and has suggested that the same standard will apply to all Season 1 scenarios):

"d. A brief summary of each encounter—minimum six encounters with one encounter detailed as optional"

Josh wrote optional encounters for scenarios 29 and 30. I'm interested to see how other authors use them.

Sincerely,
Derek

*

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game Subscriber
NSpicer wrote:


Five Keys to Really Good Adventure Design

Thanks for sharing that, Neil. I attended the same seminar, I believe (Gen Con 2006), but I didn't keep any notes (and didn't design any adventures until this month). Villain, location, plot, minions, and reward make a good checklist.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Derek Poppink wrote:
Yes, Josh is asking for one optional encounter in each submission...

Ah. Cool. I would assume an optional encounter still has to tie-in to the rest of the plot, though. It can't just be totally random. In a larger adventure (like a Pathfinder AP, for instance), it would be like one of the set-pieces. Optional. But, if included, fits seamlessly with the rest of the story.

Osirion

Quote:
Yes, Josh is asking for one optional encounter in each submission...

I'm thinking this is to force writers away from more linear thinking in adventure plotting.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

Murlynd wrote:
Quote:
Yes, Josh is asking for one optional encounter in each submission...
I'm thinking this is to force writers away from more linear thinking in adventure plotting.

It's also because sometimes sessions run long or short within the four hour time slot scenarios are designed for. With an option encounter included, it allows GMs to adapt the adventure to the given situation so as to best fill up the time slot.

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