Here's my rejected submission for scenario 45. I'd love to get some feedback, especially after reading Josh's explanation of his decision to use an established writer for this scenario rather than any of the open call submissions.
A quick note: after I submitted this scenario I noticed a couple things I would have altered, but I left them as is for a better critique. Thanks in advance for any replies.
The Labyrinth Orb is a magic item recently recovered by the Pathfinder Society among the ruins outside Absalom. It contains a library of valuable lore which is protected behind three tests, each a highly complicated maze. The first test is a maze of lines etched around the outer surface of the Orb. When traced correctly, a portal opens into the second test, an extra-dimensional labyrinth. At the its center is the last test, a door opened by tracing another maze on its surface. Each maze must be completed within a few minutes. If any are navigated incorrectly, the Orb creates all new mazes, making the tests very difficult to complete.
After many failed attempts to pass these tests, the Pathfinder Society has entrusted the Orb into the care of Nuar, the Minotaur Prince, hoping that a minotaur’s cunning instincts might be the key to unlock its secrets.
Luthar Cray, a tragic villain born of obsession and despair, was just a young cleric when his god, Aroden, died. He immersed himself in the study of prophecy wherein he sought the answer to Aroden’s return, eventually joining the Harbingers of Fate. But as the years passed, prophecies continued to fail, and Luthar became obsessed and desperate. When a plan he devised to burn the Seventh Church on a holy day was exposed, Luthar was arrested. But his expertise on prophecy was still valuable to the Harbingers, and they arranged with the Council for him to be locked away in the Tombs of the Living rather than a prison cell. There he continues his studies, receiving reports and updates on potential prophecies, and directing agents.
When Luthar learns through one of his agents about the Minotaur Prince and the Labyrinth Orb, he recalls an obscure prophecy:
“The Lord of Labyrinths will lead the way for fate to destroy the maze.”
Believing Nuar to be the Lord of Labyrinths, himself to be Fate, and the Orb to be the maze, Luthar orchestrates the Prince’s kidnapping and the theft of the Orb through a conjurer named Adremis. Bringing him to his chamber in the Tombs of the Living, Luthar intends to force Nuar to help him activate the Orb, then somehow destroy it to make the prophecy come true.
After the Minotaur Prince goes missing, the Pathfinder Society sends the PCs to reclaim the Labyrinth Orb from the Taurean Embassy. There they fight off a summoned fire elemental left by Adremis to destroy any evidence left behind. Afterwards, they find a note from Grandmaster Torch warning Nuar about a spy at the Embassy. The note implies that Torch will, for a price, reveal who it is.
Motivated to protect a business investment he has with Nuar, Torch reveals to the PCs who the spy is and that he works for Luthar Cray, and directs them to a secret entrance to Luthar’s chambers in the Tombs of the Living.
The PCs enter the Tombs through old passages left unstable from the great earthquake that struck a decade ago. A pair of damaged caryatid columns guard the entrance.
A deep fissure spewing sewage cuts across the passageway, requiring climb or acrobatic checks to cross.
In Luthar’s chambers, the PCs encounter Adremis. Disguised as an acolyte of the Tombs, he has been left to guard the portal to the second test of the Labyrinth Orb, recently opened by the Prince.
Entering the portal, the PCs must overcome a magical trap that casts confusion.
Following a bloody trail, the PCs track Luthar to the library at the center of the Labyrinth. With him is the battered and bleeding missing Prince. The PCs must prevent Luthar from shattering the crystal that holds the maze together, and return both Prince and Orb to the Pathfinder Society.
ENCOUNTER 1 – The Embassy
Tier 1-2: small fire elemental
Tier 4-5: medium fire elemental
ENCOUNTER 2 – Meeting with Torch
Tier 1-2: role-play with Torch
Tier 4-5: medium fire elemental
ENCOUNTER 3 – Entering the Tombs
Tier 1-2: caryatid column *3/4HP, missing one arm
Tier 4-5: caryatid columns (x2) *3/4HP, both missing limbs
ENCOUNTER 4 – The Fissure
Tier 1-2: climb/acrobatic check
Tier 4-5: climb/acrobatic check
ENCOUNTER 5 – Luthar’s Chambers
Tier 1-2: Adremis (Conjurer 3)
Tier 4-5: Adremis (Conjurer 6)
ENCOUNTER 6 (Optional) – Trap
Tier 1-2: Confusion trap (DC 16)
Tier 4-5: Confusion trap (DC 18)
ENCOUNTER 7 – Blood trail
Tier 1-2: Tracking/Perception
Tier 4-5: Tracking/Perception
ENCOUNTER 8 – The Lost Library
Tier 1-2: Luthar (Ex-Cleric 3/Bard 2)
Tier 4-5: Luthar (Ex-Cleric 4/Bard 3)
|Mark Moreland Developer|
Thanks for putting your submission up for critique. Please take the following as constructive criticism so that you may have better success in future attempts.
Some of the flavorful setting elements here seem disjointed as well, like a former follower of Aroden, a deity who died over a hundred years ago. I assume the follower is an elf or half-elf but either is a strange fit for the god of humanity. The Harbingers of Fate are an awesome organization, but they seem forced here, as does the Pathfinder Society's involvement. In general, I get the feeling that the scenario is name-dropping proper nouns from the setting rather than really building a solid adventure within it. Much of what you've got here hinges on specific NPCs, history, and organizations, and while all that is what makes Golarion so awesome, they should never overshadow the PCs and the immediate adventure. If this were moved from Absalom and the Minotaur Prince were swapped for a generic macguffin, would the adventure still be enough to motivate the Pathfinder's on?
You've got an interesting artifact here, but you spend a ton of word count on how it works when what's most important is what the PCs experience going through the adventure. Even if they were solving the mazes themselves, how exciting would it be to solve the problem with a simple intelligence check or even worse, have players sitting around actually following a maze. It would make a cool entry into a magic item book but seems wrong for the hook of an adventure.
I make this suggestion every time people submit and it could just be a pet peeve of mine, but you waste soooo much word count with repetition of encounter details. The same word count could be better used to tell the story the PCs will experience as they move from encounter to encounter and less on CRs, DCs, tiers, and the same monster name used multiple times. You only have 750 words to hook Josh on your adventure. Do you really want to use seventeen of them on "Tier 1-2: caryatid column *3/4HP, missing one arm / Tier 4-5: caryatid columns (x2) *3/4HP, both missing limbs"? You spend only 28 words in the body of the text to this encounter. You could add over 50% more words to tell me why the columns are there, their tactics, and evoke the scene. Does "Tracking/Perception" need to be listed twice? If the adventure summary lists that they are tracking a blood trail, make it sound like something every PC will want to be a part of. If it's not that important a part of the adventure, maybe it would be reduced to a single skill check mentioned in the background of a cooler encounter. In either case, now they just suck up several sentences worth of words which could make the reader say "that is f!&*ing awesome!" No one says that about repetitive lists of monster names, CRs, and DCs.
Josh has said that he can teach people rules but can't teach people how to write, so the next comments may not be as relevant to his actual decision-making process, but if you put mechanics in there, expect them to be taken into account. In this case, there are some weird balance issues, like one tier doing RP while another fights? How will that be written in the scenario? Will it really be two different encounters? You've also got details about the caryatid columns missing limbs, I assume so that they are a lower CR--why not use an existing template to alter their stats? Do single skill checks constitute encounters (namely tracking or jumping a fissure)? If they are full encounters, can eight encounters fit into a 4 hour convention time slot?
In general, I think you've got some really cool stuff here. I think that, if developed, it could be a really memorable adventure. But the pitch doesn't grab the reader by the balls and make them want to play it RIGHT NOW, which is what it needs to stand out among the competition and get developed in the first place.
Again, I hope you take this as constructive criticism, and remember that I'm just another guy like you and it's Josh who makes the calls. I hope this is helpful and that you keep submitting to future open calls. Best of luck if you do!