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False Tomb of the Crawling Pharaoh


Round 4 - Top 8: Design a Golarion location and map

1 to 50 of 84 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

False Tomb of the Crawling Pharaoh

In a forgotten courtyard within the Necropolis of the Faithful lies a most unusual tomb. Its defaced obelisks reveal no secrets, and no ghosts roam its confines at night.

The tomb's still-unbroken magical seal proclaims: “Behold the False Tomb of the Crawling Pharaoh. He does not abide within; his beasts have devoured him whole, and his soul screams in the void beyond the horizon. Let no man enter and let no record be kept, that eternity may erase all memory of our enemy."

No other writings directly mention a pharaoh by this name, and Osiriontologists debate the truthfulness of the seal's inscription – is it accurate, or merely a deception to discourage weak-willed thieves?

Those who probe deeper into the tomb's mysteries may discover the following:
Knowledge(History) DC 20: Despite the lack of reliable historical information on the Crawling Pharaoh, a few scholars claim that a half-burnt scroll of questionable provenance alludes to his reign. The scroll describes a cursed, deformed ruler who crawled on his belly and blasphemed against sun and stars before he died and was replaced by a pious king.
Knowledge(Nature) DC 15: The tomb's seal is made from a strange metal that is not of terrestrial origin.
Knowledge(Religion) DC 20: The top of each obelisk lacks the common Osirian inscriptions honoring the sun and stars. Unlike the rest of the structure, which has clearly been defaced, it seems these inscriptions were never carved in the first place – a grave and peculiar impiety.

Auspicious Starfall (CR 8, 4,800 XP):
You didn't arrive in time.

The mad sage was successful, and now his charred corpse lies before the false tomb's seal. You can still make out his final incantation, traced into the desert sand in words of flickering green flame:
OPEN ARE THE DOUBLE DOORS OF THE HORIZON
In an empty patch of southern sky, a green star flares and hundreds, then thousands of shooting stars fill the night. There is a sudden impact, and a star lands in the courtyard, hardly fifty feet from where you stand. The ground hisses and steams as the star rises slowly from its crater, and the creature's spherical form is inexplicably split by a slavering vertical maw.

The stars hunger tonight.

This encounter features several timed events – resolve the listed event or call for Perception checks at the beginning of the round before PCs and monsters act. Do not draw areas R1 and R2; they will come into play shortly.

Round 2:
Perception DC 5: A meteor just hit the large obelisk (O2) – cracks run its length and it will surely fall soon!
Perception DC 25: The obelisk leans northeast and will fall here (the DM should draw the outlines of area R1).
Any player who succeeds at the DC 5 Perception check may attempt either a DC 25 Craft(stonework) or DC 15 Knowledge(Engineering) check, which reveals the same information as the DC 25 Perception check, and also indicates that nothing is likely to stop the obelisk from falling, due to its immense size.

The astrumal notices the obelisk and unless prevented, moves back towards its crater on its turn, withdrawing from combat if necessary.

Round 3:
The large, hollow obelisk (O2) falls and shatters, dealing 6d6 damage (Ref 15 half) to anyone in area R1(including combatants flying below 50 feet) and breaking open Tombs (T2) and (T3). Dense rubble (Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 412) fills Area R1 and replaces (O2) and parts of (T2) and (T3). Call for Perception checks.
Perception DC 15: The southwestern tomb (T3) is empty, but in the center of the northeastern one (T2), linen-wrapped figure lies on a bier, clutching a golden serpent staff.
Perception DC 32: The staff is actually a gilded cobra, a deadly construct guardian that fires bolts of flame from the rubies in its eyes.

The figure in (T2) falls apart if disturbed or damaged, which sends the staff clattering to the ground. On initiative count 12, the gilded cobra attacks.

Round 5:
Perception DC 5: Another meteor has struck a small obelisk (O3), which looks ready to fall!
Perception DC 25: The obelisk will fall south (DM should draw area R2), breaking open the last intact tomb (T1).
Any player who succeeds at the DC 5 Perception check may also make a DC 25 Craft(stonework) or DC 15 Knowledge(Engineering), which reveals the same information as the DC 25 Perception check, and also indicates that a stone shape spell or feat of strength might stop the obelisk from destroying the tomb.

A stone shape spell stabilizes the obelisk (O3). A DC 25 Strength check causes the obelisk to fall in a direction away from the PC, creating a 40 by 10 foot area of dense rubble (as area R2). The obelisk cannot damage the False Tomb or its seal.

The astrumal avoids the falling obelisk; the cobra ignores it.

Round 6:
The small obelisk (O3) falls at the beginning of the round unless prevented as above. The obelisk deals 4d6 damage (Ref 15 half) to anyone in area R2(including flyers below 15 feet) and turns the area - including most of (T1) - into dense rubble. A second gilded cobra is hidden (Perception DC 32) in the center of the now-destroyed (T1); it attacks on initiative count 12.

Round 9:
Perception DC 10: The green star in the southern sky has grown very large.
Perception DC 20: The green star has grown bigger because it is about to hit the pyramid's seal – time to find cover!

Neither the astrumal or cobras react to the incoming star.

Round 10:
An atonal keening fills the air and the green star slams into the False Tomb's seal!
All creatures within 100 feet of the seal take 3d6 fire damage (Reflex DC 15); creatures adjacent to the seal take 8d6 damage (Reflex DC 15 half) and receive no save against the fire damage. The burst of fire spreads around corners and ignores all but total cover, which is treated instead as normal cover (+2 to Reflex saves). Green light and dust is everywhere; all combatants are blinded for 1 round.

Creatures:
Astrumal CR 5
XP 1,600
hp 45
The astrumal lands before combat begins, at (A). It focuses on living targets, ignoring gilded cobras. It pulls weak-looking PCs close for a bite, and pushes dangerous ones away, ideally into dense rubble. If surrounded, it uses shardstorm.

Gilded Cobras (2) CR 3
XP 800
hp 20 each (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 182)
Ranged ruby bolt +4 ranged touch (2d6 fire), range 30ft.
The gilded cobras move within range of the nearest PC and fire ruby bolts. If engaged in melee, the cobras bite instead.

Development:
After the green star falls and the PCs defeat the monsters, read or paraphrase the following:
As the dust settles and the eerie green light fades, the tomb's entrance stands open. The seal is gone, and there is no trace of the fallen star. Overhead, the rain of stars fades, restoring the desert's nighttime calm. In the silence, you can hear a faint rasping noise - something is stirring within the tomb.

Something big.

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

Finally.

I have to admit, I have been less than impressed with many of the submissions this round.

I don't think I am going to even have 4 that I think should advance. That's too bad.

This one, though, is clearly a great submission.

More detailed review on its way...

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

Initial Impression: An awesome submission. Matt, it sure makes me happy I gave you a pass last round based on the strength of your prior work. It sure looks like you delivered this round. Let’s take a look…

Location (new Golarion location, name, overall design decision for location, playability/usability, niche, challenge, format and writing): A-

Matt, I think you made the right choice to put more words in your encounter and fewer in your location. The map, if done right (and you do it right), can really help tell the story of the location which then lets you use more words on the encounter. When I discussed Matt Goodall’s Lost Ziggurat I questioned if perhaps a tighter location would have made a better submission, I think your entry proves the point I raised there. I think your submission shows what can be done with a bit tighter scope but with the same content. I love the game content in the description of the location with the Knowledge DC checks. Yeah, that is a 4E style choice, but it’s a good one. I’m going to ding you a bit because I think you skimped just a tiny bit on the word count allocated to the location. I could have used a bit more. That’s why it’s an A- and not an A.

Map (necessary material for a cartographer, presence of mandatory content, quality of design decisions, playability/usability of the map, interaction with encounter): A+

Now that is a map. Contains everything. Classic. Sets up the location. Visual. Wonderful. It even shows the stuff you need for the encounter. And better yet, it gets you geeked to run an encounter set in this location, which is what all great maps do. Your map made me have a flashback to the first time I saw the maps from the Desert of Desolation modules or Ravenloft or the first Dragonlance module. The first time I saw each of those I just couldn’t wait to run the adventure. You map does that. Heck, that might get you some cartographer work.

Encounter (monster choice, challenge, details, quality of design choices, interaction between encounter, map and location, format and writing): A-

Great encounter. The first four submissions I read all failed (though one tried, it just tried and failed) to do what I think was being tested—design a great encounter in a great location, with the greatness of the encounter coming in part from the greatness of the location. Yours does just this. The submissions I didn’t recommend to advance all had encounters that could have happened anywhere. Your encounter could pretty much only happen here. And that is why it is great.

I also LOVE that you start us mid-adventure. We commented during last year’s Superstar contests about liking that structure. It implies adventures before and after and yours does this very well. It’s clear you did your homework (either that or you have natural game).

The use of the astrumal and the cobras was well done. The timed events were really nice, too. Great, exciting pacing. Reminiscent of Christine’s Chase on Charred Ground encounter submission from the first year of Superstar. Your writing was a bit too over the top in points, though. But I won’t ding you much for that.

Tilt (gut reaction, do I want to use it, other unique positive or negative circumstances not covered above): A+

Astrumals in a meteor shower fight. Nice. Loved it.

Overall: A

Matt, I recommended you advance last round despite some issues with your submission because of the strength of your prior work. I am glad the voters agreed. I think you delivered the kind of “no questions about it this time” follow up entry that you had to bring. While it is up to the voters, this is the kind of entry that should be a hands down winner.

Recommendation: I STRONGLY recommend this entry advance to the final 4.

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

Story/Set-Up
The Golarion element of this is very light. While there’s a few name drops, these feel more like frosting than an integral ingredient of the location. What I do quite like is the us of the Knowledge check so the PCs can actually learn and have insights about the background, as too often this info feels merely like extra fluff for the GM. (By the by, “GM” never the proprietary “DM.”)

Location
An Egyptiany tomb. Meh. The Egyptiany tomb of a nameless heretical pharaoh. Okay. The Egyptiany tomb of a nameless heretical pharaoh being struck by meteors. Sold.

Encounter
Nicely handled. The ongoing events and evolving dangers make this a very dynamic encounter and make the monsters feel alive within their environments. But you’ve got to unclench a little bit. While the way elements are scripted to work from round to round is very cool, and drawing on the PCs’ skill checks will really make the players feel like part of the encounter, you can leave some control to the GMs. You don’t need to set the cobra’s initiative or tell the GM to draw on the map (they might or might not have) for example.

I’d also like to see the author be a bit more careful on the editing side. There’s a lot of missing spaces and non-standard abbreviations in here. Oh, and pretty much any time you feel like you should use an exclamation point in your design it’s probably best to take a deep breath and let things settle for a minute - and then not.

Read Aloud Text
There’s a world of difference between the first block and the second. The first line of the first one lets the PCs know that they ultimately had no control over the flow of the adventure. That’s poor. While all GMs know the PCs are ultimately their pawns, the trick is never letting them know that and this breaks the RPG fourth wall right away. The last sentence is also more pulp sci-fi than descriptive element and really has no place in text meant to convey what the PCs see.

The second block, though, is spot on.

Creature Use
Unexpected but work well. The added gilded cobras are nice touches.

Map
Clean, clear, and simple. If anything there’s probably more details than the cartographer needs. This can be a pain, as if we sent this right to the artist they’re probably add in the notes on the height of the walls and the PF RPG reference, which we don’t typically do on maps and are really elements for the text to cover. Any easy fix, but something that an editor would need to go and Photoshop out before sending this on.

Overview
Very cool. Great map, cool scripting, interesting monster choice and use, and all coming together to make a very cinematic scene. I just hope the author knows a bit more about Golarion than this is showing.

Cartographer

I would give this map reference a grade of B.

This is a perfect example of a good map reference. Everything is clear and easy to see. The isometric map view is a reminder of all the of the Ravenloft and DragonLance maps I have drawn.

Maybe, instead of the isometric view, a before and after view would be more useful?

The map key is clear and concise, and the map sketch has all of the information needed to produce a finished map with minimal effort on the part of the cartographer.

Nice work!

Cartographer

A worthy sketch to begin from. The color and tone assist in the setting and the subject matter of it being desert-like and sandy. I agree with Rob about the before and after setup being a need to get the point across to carry through the adventure visually. The height spec might be the limiting factor in producing this map from a top down, but would benefit from an isometric execution. The key is clear and the inclusion of a grid are very important to the GM's placement of creature and adventure components. B+

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

LOCATION
You don't really provide much information about the Location. Not even anything like, "a series of defaced obelisks and small Osirian mausoleums flank the entrance to a strange sealed metal door in a pyramid that merges with the cliff wall." The net result is I have to read the entire entry to know what this place *was*, even though part of that description is how the location is now damaged and more is about how it will soon be even-more-destroyed. In a normal product you'd have more words that you could use describing things for the GM, then supplement that with the Knowledge check results for the players, but as it is the GM doesn't have necessary base information.

ENCOUNTER
Encounter names don't have colons in them.

The read-aloud text, while evocative, still doesn't describe what the location looks like.

The stuff about the mad mage is interesting but it's a little jarring for me because I don't know who you're talking about--it presumes I've read lead-up material to this encounter, which doesn't exist because it's not part of the contest. It's really a weird artifact of the contest--should you write as if this were part of an actual adventure, or should you write knowing that the readers are only getting to see this snippet? I'm not dinging you for this, I'm just pointing out my reaction to it.

I assume round 1 is the landing of the "star"?

In Knowledge (engineering), "engineering" is not capitalized.

The round 2 entry says the astrumal moves back to its crater to avoid the falling obelist, but at that point nothing in the text tells you that the creature has attacked yet; even the Creature entry doesn't say "it attacks in round 1."

I'm actually a bit confused about the vector of the falling astrumal. There's dense rubble north of O2, but I don't know if that has anything to do with the astrumal. There's a hole in the wall south of O2, but I don't know if that's the direction the astrumal came from. When are all these meteors falling? Round 5 says "another meteor has struck a small obelisk" but as that's to-the-player text and not explain-to-the-GM text, I don't know if that happened in round 5 or if the players don't get a chance to notice it until round 5.

I don't know what a "gilded cobra" is. I see the page reference to the iron cobra in the Bestiary, but there's no variant there that's a gilded cobra. I can piece together that this is a new variant you've created (which the R4 rules allow), but as with much of what's going on in your encounter, it's not clearly defined for me--and if I have to piece it together, I know we'll have many readers who'll need a clearer explanation of what's going on. Even something like "... a gilded cobra, a variant iron cobra made of gold that shoots fiery rays from its eyes" would have helped. I can piece together that's what this thing is, but in a packaged adventure it should do that sort of legwork for me.

MAP
This is a really busy map, and all the colors make it a little confusing for me.
I didn't realize the border of the map is actually a high wall. I'm guessing the rubble in the southwest part is actually a broken part of the wall, but as it's shown on the map it could actually be rubble on top of the high wall.

As I said earlier, I don't know where the astrumal came from (an arrow on the map would help). Likewise, I assume the meteors are coming from the south (based on some of the descriptive text) but I don't know if that's due south, southwest, southeast, or some other angle (again, based on the hole in the outer wall and the location of the astrumal crater suggests they may be coming from the southeast).

For tactical maps like this one, we usually use 5 foot squares because that's what a GM will use for a battle map scale; using 10 foot squares runs the risk of the GM drawing everything at the wrong size. I bring this up specifically because I assumed the scale was 5 feet, and the 100 ft. radius blast of the big meteor made me wonder, "well, isn't that pretty much this entire encounter area?," which would be true if the map's scale was 5 feet per square; then I checked the scale and found it was 10 feet. People expect 5-foot squares on tactical maps (rather than 10-foot squares), just as they expect country map scale to be in miles rather than leagues.

OVERALL
This is a complex encounter and I don't feel it explains enough for the GM to run it easily. While a GM should take time to read through an adventure and see how each encounter works, a GM who's short on time may play through this adventure one encounter at a time, and this one would make the game screech to a halt because the necessary information isn't presented in order.


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

Name: 9/10
Maybe its just that I'm a sucker for Nyarlathotep references, but I love the name. Makes me want to find out more.

Description: 8/10
The description is a little short compared to other entries, but I still wanted to go exploring.

Map: 8/10
The R1 and R2 areas are a bit distracting, but I liked the 3/4 view and really felt I could see how the place was laid out.

Encounter: 8/10
I liked the use of the astrumal. I'm not as certain I like the round by round instructions, most encounters don't do that. Still, sounds like something I'd like to use against my players. I like that they arrive too late for a ritual.

Overall: 4,608
This scale is all numbers multiplied. Rated in the top 4, I want to see what you can do.

Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Matthew McGee wrote:

False Tomb of the Crawling Pharaoh

... Let no man enter and let no record be kept, that eternity may erase all memory of our enemy.[/i]"
...

Isn't a tomb built to KEEP the memory? Especially one with obelisks, smaller tombs, and a 30 foot wall?

I like the timed-based adventure versus a locale-based adventure, but I think for a single encounter it might have been reaching too far. For example the encounter starts with someone breaking into the seal, so I am not sure what good we get from the text having the inscription warning against opening it. If the time-specific events were listed in the development part of the encounter I could buy it easier. Also the astrumel just happens to show up when the party does and that shouts random encounter to me. Where the time aspect works it works well. I especially like the terrain being different on differing rounds. That is an energetic touch to add excitement and put a little pressure on the PCs. :)

I also need to reread the astrumel, I thought the cobras would have been an excellent meal for it, leaving the PCs to stay out of harm's way.

Good Job, nicely done.


This one doesn't raise any obvious canon issues for me, although I do not have the Osirion book so I am consequently short on primary data regarding the Necropolis of the Faithful site.

Star Voter 2013

I didn't love the map here as much as for the green barrow, but the encounter was fantastically interesting, and the text very evocative. If I were playing this, I would be both curious and terrified to find out what was inside!

Definitely a vote from me.


(edited, concluded)
Okay, I like the map, but I'm a sucker for pretty maps accompanied by '3D' views.

I do not think that the railroad premise that this encounter kicks off with was wise. You start off making it clear that not only did the PCs arrive in time to stop something, but that they just failed to arrive in time - whilst being bang on time for the start of the meteor shower. Yes there are clever ways involving timed portals and astrological conjunctions and so forth that it probably could be set up without looking like a railroad, but there are a number of players around who participate only with very ill grace (and complain about it in hundred plus post threads on the boards afterwards) if they sense that their characters are being railroaded in a major way.

You do not appear to have paid attention to your own map. You state that obelisk O2 falls to the northeast, creating area of rubble R1 and smashing open tombs T2 and T3. On your map the obelisk in a position to do this is O1, not O2.
I also would have thought that R1 would not be uniformly dense rubble, but that the zones around the edges might be considered just regular difficult terrain. This could also perhaps go for the area R2 possibly created if O3 topples.
The toppling obelisks idea is interesting but it seems likely to me that they will describe an arc in falling, and that the heights at which fliers are threatened should decrease with distance from the base of a toppling obelisk.

There were two Round 3 astrumal entries which you could be referring to. From the reference made to shardstorm, I am left to deduce that it is the one which you statted up which you have employed here and not David Posener's astrumal.

Overall this seems to me to be a complex encounter with a number of mistakes made in the presentation of the entry but, nevertheless, it does have some good points and apparent originality.

Thank-you for submitting this entry, and unless railroad concerns do for you, I think it likely that you will make Round 5.

Qadira

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Curaigh wrote:
Isn't a tomb built to KEEP the memory? Especially one with obelisks, smaller tombs, and a 30 foot wall?

In a universe where hostile undead can exist, some tombs and mausoleums exist just to keep dead things where they belong...

Shadow Lodge

Charles Evans 25 wrote:


I do not think that the railroad premise that this encounter kicks off with was wise. You start off making it clear that not only did the PCs arrive in time to stop something, but that they just failed to arrive in time

Clark & Sean I know both mentioned something about this, but I don't see it as railroad so much as picking up a larger adventure scope somewhere in the middle. In the context of this seeming to be a part of a larger adventure/plot, it certainly can appear to be railroading, and is an obvious potential downfall of choosing to use such an encounter.

Looking at it in this light, I have no quarrels with it picking up in mid-story, and it just makes me want to see what else Matthew has in store. Maybe this setting and encounter are a part of his adventure proposal? I would really like to know more about this for sure! I'm torn between this one and Alexander's as my favorites of this round, both are easily miles above anyone else's entry in this round regardless. Very nice work. This one will get one of my votes no question.

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

You will get a vote from me for this, I was blown away by the map and I am a sucker for dynamic combats like the one you describe.

This is very good stuff!

Taldor RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

I have to say, this map and encounter completely blew away the competition for me. Even the "Arriving Too Late" piece doesn't feel forced or railroad-y to me, it feels like a great "start in the middle of the action" moment. I was never a fan of the astrumal, but this encounter makes it interesting to me.

I hope you're already starting your next round, because if this is indicative of the sort of thing you're going to bring to the module, I want to buy it! Congrats for stepping boldly into my first place bet for Superstar 2010.

Star Voter 2013

I'm a geeky fanboy for evolving encounters!

That is all.

Me likey.

Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

delabarre wrote:
Curaigh wrote:
Isn't a tomb built to KEEP the memory? Especially one with obelisks, smaller tombs, and a 30 foot wall?
In a universe where hostile undead can exist, some tombs and mausoleums exist just to keep dead things where they belong...

Fair enough, but more 'warnings' would be necessary for me to play it.

Please note this is not a ding against my vote--just a question :)


From a developer's perspective, I couldn't bring myself to vote for this one. The map is a good turnover--no cartographer would have a problem turning that into a final turnover. But the round-by-round description is bad for two reasons: (1) it would never see print and (2) it railroads the GM into a forced description of what happens nearly every single round so that the GM doesn't feel like he/she has any control over the combat.

I've seen a handful of these round-by-round encounters turned over for Pathfinder Society scenarios and while I'll agree that they're cinematic, they read more like an action movie script and nothing at all like an adventure for a roleplaying game. What I'd rather see is the scene established for the GM with maybe 1 or 2 events that will happen during the combat and then largely leave it up to the GM when those things take place. When the author attempts to assert complete control over any GM's take on running the combat, I always axe that from the turnover and email the author back and say, "Don't do this again."

Give GMs the freedom they deserve and spend your writing time making the scene as cool as possible for him/her.

Andoran

(posted this in the exit pole thread, but think it belongs here instead)

I really liked the "False Tomb". The description could have used a bit more fleshing out and used "Cyclopean" at least once, but I like these sort of dynamic encounters (the tower in CotV is one of my faves).

This submission really gets the imagination going as to what the lead in to the encounter was and what's going to happen next.

For example, it would fit nicely into a module where the party is hot on the heels of the mad sage all throughout the adventure, and finally catch up to him just before the climax...too late to stop him from unleashing The Crawling Pharoh (BBEG fight hot on the heels of this encounter). In this instance, I'd keep the sage alive and in hiding for the meteor fight, only to be rent asunder by the BBEG as he tries to gloat/claim his reward/presume to speak to TCP as an equal etc...

PS I thought "Voting Booth" would have made for an interesting encounter submission too. :)


So far, most of the entires have been more about location than encounter, whereas this one is mostly about the encounter. An interesting change, but I have to echo what Josh said. While I liked the idea of being dropped into the middle of the adventure as opposed to the beginning, I didn't care for the tight control exerted by the round-by-round play; it doesn't give me as the GM enough playaround, and my players almost never follow a scripted adventure. I would have preferred having options spaced out over a set period of rounds, having columns get struck at random and probable results rather than "this obelisk gets struck and falls right here" format. Still, the encounter was very well presented, and a nice way to bring the astrumel into play (although it also begs the question of how many times can you get away with that). Not sure if it's enough to get my vote, but definitely a contender.


Can someone please explain to me where the gilded cobra comes from? I can't find it on page 182 of my print version of the bestiary.

I have the iron cobra, and the adamantine, darkwood, and mithral variants, but nothing with 20 hp that has a ranged attack.

Is this one an errata which made the pdf (which I don't have) but not the print version?

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Charles -

See my first post in this thread.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:

Charles -

See my first post in this thread.

Ahh. Thanks. :)

In which case, is it a variant of the regular iron cobra, the adamantine cobra, the darkwood cobra, or the mithral cobra? The 'see page 182' unfortunately does not make this clear. :(


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

The combat entry takes some reading to 'get'. I think more explanation of the setup could have helped.
In the end, this is a great encounter with a lot going on. I like it. Mr Frost is right that rather than a round-by-round synopsis it would have been better to include events and leave the decision to the GM when to start what event.

In all, a strong and somewhat unexpected encounter.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber
Joshua J. Frost wrote:

From a developer's perspective, I couldn't bring myself to vote for this one. The map is a good turnover--no cartographer would have a problem turning that into a final turnover. But the round-by-round description is bad for two reasons: (1) it would never see print and (2) it railroads the GM into a forced description of what happens nearly every single round so that the GM doesn't feel like he/she has any control over the combat.

I've seen a handful of these round-by-round encounters turned over for Pathfinder Society scenarios and while I'll agree that they're cinematic, they read more like an action movie script and nothing at all like an adventure for a roleplaying game. What I'd rather see is the scene established for the GM with maybe 1 or 2 events that will happen during the combat and then largely leave it up to the GM when those things take place. When the author attempts to assert complete control over any GM's take on running the combat, I always axe that from the turnover and email the author back and say, "Don't do this again."

Give GMs the freedom they deserve and spend your writing time making the scene as cool as possible for him/her.

I think you're very wrong in your assessment here. If a GM would like more freedom rather than taking the cinematic scene as-is, he can simply leave events out, change the order, dilate the time between, etc.

In my book, this entry was one of the clear top 3, possibly even #1.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4

Congrats once again on making the Top 8! I'm going to review all 8 submissions using the same criteria. I'm not reading any other comments beforehand, so apologies if I repeat something another reviewer has written.

(Preface: The Crawling Pharoah, eh? I'm gettting a serious Nyarlathotep vibe here. Please...please...let it be so!)

1. Map - This is a very good map! I like how the colors you chose (different hues of yellow) evoke the mood and feel of a desert location. I think a cartographer has everything he needs here to turn this baby over. Grade = A.

2. Quality - Matt, you can write, but at times you take it a little over the top. But that's ok, since some of your quotes remind me of a Robert E. Howard story ("a grave and peculiar impiety", "the stars hunger tonight"). That said, I felt that some of your skill checks were a little weird. I didn't like that the player characters can identify the abilities of your gilded cobra with a Perception check. It should be a Knowledge (arcane) check since it's a construct. I also thought the Perception check to realize the green star (another astrumal/meteorite?) was going to hit the Great Seal was a little far-fetched. I could maybe see the player characters realizing it's going to hit the False Tomb, but not the much smaller seal. As for the astrumal - good monster choice there. I saw it as a creature from the depths of the Dark Tapestry, so your choice doesn't disappoint me. Overall, the submission quality is very good, with just a little clunkiness. Grade = B (but very close to a A).

(Note to Paizonians: So is it "Osiriontology" or "Osirionology"? I think I prefer the latter.)

3. Creativity - You definitely channeled some Lovecraft here, which wins extra points with me. I'm one of "those guys" that really likes to see Golarion have more of a Lovecraftian connection. The encounter was very cool, and I LOVED that you started it right in the middle of the adventure. It made me want to know what happened before and what's going to happen next. I also liked the falling obelisks and your helpful round-by-round structure. Grade = A.

4. Wow Factor - You had me at "Crawling Pharoah". I love the location, and you've really made me want to see the entire adventure. There's very little of this encounter I would have to tweak, which is rare for me. You've got some serious mojo, that's for sure. Grade = A.

Final Grade = 3.75, which is a solid B.

After I review everyone else, I'll cast my vote. Good luck!

Andoran Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

I was confused about the map and descriptions not matching up in round2. Does O1 really fall on R1? It says O2 does...but by the map that looks like a mistake.

Regardless this was almost pointless, and nitpicky, as the encounter/map was great, I instantly had the idea to "papercraft" the area, which means right out of the gate I liked this submission before even reading anything about it.

I had a feeling after seeing your round 1 entry you were going all the way to the end, and probably win.

I still think your the guy this year.

Nice job!
WW.

Star Voter 2013

OUTSTANDING! I love this! If you have a dynamic battlefield with interesting monsters and great fluff, you can get away with a lot.

I agree with the following: you mean O1 falls not O2, it's a bit of a railroad in the descriptions and the label's a bit confusing. (if it's a false tomb, does that mean he's buried elsewhere and this is all a trap for people interested in messing with things man was not meant to know? According to your trailing text, evidently not.)

Fortunately, all of that is what you pay editors and cartographers for: to clarify and smooth out the rough edges and make it playable. Something METAL draped in awesome with a side of fun is your job here as a writer in this context.

1 vote for you.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

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

I really want to like this entry a lot - it has a lot of cool elements (and I did vote for it, I'll point out, a lot was done in a short time, and it's good). But I've finally put my finger on the things that have been bothering me.

1) This feels more like a part of a module than a location with an encounter, especially given the opening text of the encounter implying that the party was in the middle of trying to stop some madman and failed.

2) It's way overspecified. I'd rather see some general comments about meteors falling, Reflex DCs, and the appearance of otherworldy creatures than a strict schedule I have to attempt to adhere to on top of running a battle.

For example,

Quote:
once the ward is broken, meteors begin to fall upon the area, one every d4+1 rounds, starting with a huge one that hits O1.
  • Small meteors are Reflex DC 25 to avoid, inflict 2d6 damage, and cause d6 points of structural damage, ignoring hardness.
  • Large meteors are Reflex DC 20 to avoid, inflict 6d6 damage on a direct hit plus 2d6 shrapnel damage in a 10 ft. radius, and inflict 3d6 points of structural damage, ignoring hardness.
  • Huge meteors are Reflex DC 15 to avoid, inflict 12d6 damage on a direct hit plus 2d6 shrapnel damage in a 15 ft. radius, and inflict 6d6 points of structural damage, ignoring hardness.
The large obelisks can absorb 40 points of structural damage before falling, and the small obelisks 20 points.

This creates the same feeling of time pressure, but without creating a strict timeline for a DM to attempt to adhere to.

Lots of cool ideas here, and I love the backstory. But I'd have preferred to have seen it as more of a location and less of a weekly serial.

Edit: In fact, I really like that mechanic for dropping meteors on an area. Going to have to use that soon in my home campaign :)


Lukas Klausner wrote:
I think you're very wrong in your assessment here. If a GM would like more freedom rather than taking the cinematic scene as-is, he can simply leave events out, change the order, dilate the time between, etc.

I was speaking solely from a developer's perspective. The round-by-round account of the action would never see print. You'll note I made no value judgments on the writing--I thought about it as a developer, realized it would take forever to develop, and didn't vote for it.

Naturally I'm not assuming everyone will look at the entry from the perspective of a developer. In fact, I hope those of you wanting to play or run a future adventure from one of these finalists won't look at it from that perspective, but after several years of scenario development and adventure design, my perspective on this sort of thing is skewed. :-)

Osirion

This is easily my favorite. It's got stuff going on, a sense of urgency, and some critters that make sense for the scene, but aren't the expected undead / mummies / giant insects associated with egyptian-tome-raiding.

I definitely don't want every encounter to have this sort of 'race against the clock' feel to it, as that gets old fast, but a dynamic location-as-encounter (such as a tower falling into the sea, in Second Darkness) can make for a memorable and cool evening's gaming.


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

Matt,
So far I've enjoyed your work and you've been my favorite contestant. With this entry you've again given us lots of good things. The skill checks through the encounter and location are terrific, especially the perception checks during combat to help with avoiding and/or manipulating the falling obelisks. The battle itself is very cinematic with falling obelisks, an astrumal throwing party members about, and cobras shooting fire - I really like the visual of the battle. The closing read aloud text after the battle is excellent and makes me want to run this encounter for that alone.

However, the opening read aloud text is straight up railroading like I remember from my AD&D days. The Dragonlance and Pharaoh series of adventures by Weis and Hickman are what come to mind. Adventures written like this tend to read well, but when you play them the players sometimes deviate from the railroad and render the dictated events useless or forces the DM to use a heavy hand to get the players actions back inline with the story. That said, I did enjoy the Weish/Hickman adventures despite the railroading - it just took more work for me, the DM, than it should have given better adventure writing.

Another bit that doesn't work well is having the astrumal and cobras automatically see/not see or react/not react to falling obelisks - let the DM make those perception checks just like PCs will have to do and let he DM decide how those creatures react. I think it's ok to dictate when events happen with objects like you have with the obelisks, but when it comes to thinking beings just lay out guidelines of tactics before the battle and let the DM perform the actions as he sees fit.

You're getting one of my votes, but this round a couple of your competitors came out ahead in my mind. Step it up and win this thing!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka Epic Meepo

I will be voting for this entry, though with some serious reservations.

I love the story and I love the maps. I love the dynamic battlefield that changes from round to round. For anyone who thinks round-by-round meteor strikes is too restrictive on the GM, I recommend rereading the storm of vengeance spell. That's an existing effect that applies changing effects on a strict round-by-round timetable.

I also like seeing an encounter from the middle of an adventure. In future years, though, I'd hope contestants using this tactic add a parenthetical note at the start of their encounter briefly summarizing the events that lead up to the current encounter. Something like: "(This encounter takes place if the PC fail to stop a particular mad cultist from reaching the False Tomb and performing a ritual there.)"

Despite everything I like, though, I'm seeing a pattern developing. Last round, I commented that Matthew McGee's Astrumal felt like something of a first draft. I'm also getting that feeling here. The round-by-round events are fairly well executed, but the set-up of the encounter prior to those events felt lacking. What exactly is the astumal's objective here, and what are its tactics prior to meteorites hitting obelisks. Also, the 'gilded cobra' was horribly underdeveloped.

Your definitely going to have to work on that if you want to win my vote in the final round.

Something else that needs work is the overly narrative read-aloud text. It needs to be more functional. More straightforward descriptions of what the PCs see, fewer colorful but irrelevant comments about stars hungering. In the right group, poetic read-aloud text can set the mood perfectly. In the wrong group, it leads to bad jokes for the entire duration of the encounter. "Well, the stars can't have that last piece of pizza. I call dibs." "Max damage! Eat that, hungry stars!" "Dude, I think the stars just lost their appetite." There are enough stupid comments like this at some tables without melodramatic read-aloud text giving everyone even more fodder for dumb jokes.


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

Cool, it's hard to do an "active location" like this, it would take another pass to clean this up enough to really make it super clear to someone what's going on, but I like its direction. Nice map. Vote!

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber
Joshua J. Frost wrote:
I was speaking solely from a developer's perspective. The round-by-round account of the action would never see print. You'll note I made no value judgments on the writing--I thought about it as a developer, realized it would take forever to develop, and didn't vote for it.

Mh. I think I still disagree; I personally would like to have a scene like this in a module. I'd say it would need a bit of reworking, maybe change it from a round-by-round account to a list of suggestions of what might happen in what order, so that GMs can pick and choose, but in principle I really see no reason why this type of encounter would take forever to develop.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

Okay... I have to call something out here.

Matthew McGee wrote:
The tomb's seal is made from a strange metal that is not of terrestrial origin.
and repeatedly wrote:
green star

The Green Star Adept (Complete Arcane, p.41) was a favorite PrC for a couple of local players, to the point where they'd frequently ask if I could introduce green starmetal just so they could take it; so for me, this clicked immediately. As far as I'm aware, this is original WotC property. Now, you danced around it rather carefully; but the fact that you felt inclined to dance at all seems like a major concern from a publisher's perspective.

I'm working on scored reviews for everyone; this is irrelevant to my scoring method, but felt important enough to comment on separately.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I love this encounter. I can see the players talking about this encounter for months to come. Your location is also good. Cliche? Maybe, but you really do something unique with it.

My only nitpick (and yes it is very trivial) is that it's Meteorite, not Meteor; As an astronomer I felt obligated to point that out.

Definitely has my vote. Can't wait to see what you do next round.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4

Lief Clennon wrote:

Okay... I have to call something out here.

Matthew McGee wrote:
The tomb's seal is made from a strange metal that is not of terrestrial origin.
and repeatedly wrote:
green star

The Green Star Adept (Complete Arcane, p.41) was a favorite PrC for a couple of local players, to the point where they'd frequently ask if I could introduce green starmetal just so they could take it; so for me, this clicked immediately. As far as I'm aware, this is original WotC property. Now, you danced around it rather carefully; but the fact that you felt inclined to dance at all seems like a major concern from a publisher's perspective.

I'm working on scored reviews for everyone; this is irrelevant to my scoring method, but felt important enough to comment on separately.

I see your point, but in my opinion this shouldn't affect anyone's vote. The connection is obviously incidental and tenuous at best. An editor could just change it to a "red star" and the issue would be moot.

Good catch Lief! I just hope your "amber flag" doesn't cost Matt any votes. It would be a shame if it does.

Taldor RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

I honestly don't think you could make a convincing case that green star = Green Star Adept. It's similiar yes, but infringement? I don't think it rises to that standard.

Paizo Employee Developer

James Martin wrote:
I honestly don't think you could make a convincing case that green star = Green Star Adept. It's similiar yes, but infringement? I don't think it rises to that standard.

Yeah, mentioning of a red star wouldn't necessarily be an infringement on Anne McCaffrey's Pern though it might cause some people to make the connection. As it stands, there are several canon forms of skymetal, including noqual, which is green, and abysium, which is blue-green. Local legend could easily attribute either mineral to a fabled green star, whether one exists or not, since most commoners don't have any astronomical knowledge at all.


Tom Phillips wrote:


I see your point, but in my opinion this shouldn't affect anyone's vote. The connection is obviously incidental and tenuous at best. An editor could just change it to a "red star" and the issue would be moot.

Good catch Lief! I just hope your "amber flag" doesn't cost Matt any votes. It would be a shame if it does.

It might already have, I think pointing out something vague and trying to associate it with WotC is...I don't know...feels nit pick at the least and petty at the most.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka Epic Meepo

Lief Clennon wrote:

Okay... I have to call something out here.

Matthew McGee wrote:
The tomb's seal is made from a strange metal that is not of terrestrial origin.
and repeatedly wrote:
green star
The Green Star Adept (Complete Arcane, p.41) was a favorite PrC for a couple of local players, to the point where they'd frequently ask if I could introduce green starmetal just so they could take it; so for me, this clicked immediately. As far as I'm aware, this is original WotC property.

Matthew McGee makes no mention of green star adepts, starmetal, or anything that implies the existence of either. Neither does he use Green Star as a proper noun. He merely describes a star that is green in color.

I'm sorry, but your accusation of infringement is incorrect.

Unless you're going to tell me that the astronomy textbook I own infringes on WotC intellectual property because it repeatedly mentions stars that are green and metallic objects of non-terrestrial origin.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber

Matt,

Nice Job with your encounter, location, R3 monster combo.

Considering the turnaround time on this, I think you (and all R4 contestants) did a fantastic job on each of your challenges.

I like that you started the action "in the middle" as it's been said. That kick starts the whole thing, instead of building up to it. Nice.

(As an aside, one of my favorite Eberron modules, Eyes of the Lich Queen had a sidebar recommending this very thing. And I always liked that idea since.)

You have earned one of my votes for this round, and I hope you make it to the final round, I'm interested and intrigued by what you might bring to the table for your adventure proposal. Can't Wait.

Good luck!

Dean (TMW)

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Lief Clennon wrote:

Okay... I have to call something out here.

Matthew McGee wrote:
The tomb's seal is made from a strange metal that is not of terrestrial origin.
and repeatedly wrote:
green star

The Green Star Adept (Complete Arcane, p.41) was a favorite PrC for a couple of local players, to the point where they'd frequently ask if I could introduce green starmetal just so they could take it; so for me, this clicked immediately. As far as I'm aware, this is original WotC property. Now, you danced around it rather carefully; but the fact that you felt inclined to dance at all seems like a major concern from a publisher's perspective.

I'm working on scored reviews for everyone; this is irrelevant to my scoring method, but felt important enough to comment on separately.

I'm certainly no lawyer, but it seems like a real stretch to argue that this infringes on IP.

If he had used the term "Green Star adept" or the name "Alhazarde" then I would completely agree with you. Or even if the door turned anyone into a statue or construct. But I think it's excessively cautious, to the point of being harmful to the industry, if publishers relinquish all "green stars" to WotC, merely because they alluded to such a thing in one of their sourcebooks.

I could see you feeling the entry is unoriginal, and as such doesn't get your vote. Personally, I think even that connection is pretty tenuous, but I couldn't argue with your opinion.

To say this infringes on Wizards' IP, however, seems to this non-lawyer like far too much of a stretch.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Matthew McGee wrote:
Do not draw areas R1 and R2; they will come into play shortly.

Do not assume that players are using mats and minis!

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Seth White wrote:
To say this infringes on Wizards' IP, however, seems to this non-lawyer like far too much of a stretch.

I would not be the least bit concerned about this.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

Everyone is doing more dancing, and ignoring the part about having to dance at all. It's not about technicalities, it's about ballparks. I learned a little about this stuff last round, and yes, I might be overly paranoid as a result. ;)

No, this isn't WotC's Green Starmetal. Clearly, there is no legal violation afoot. However, there's a reasonable chance that it's a direct allusion inserted for the benefit of those who might want to easily port the prestige class forward. It's subtle, it's legal, but it's exactly what Tom Qadim said: an amber flag. Watch out; if he stepped this far, might he push the boundary? Time to conspicuously quirk an eyebrow, that's all I'm saying.

And maybe it's entirely a coincidence. Kryptonite is a green star metal, too. I'm certainly not clamoring for disqualification; hell, I'm voting for him. Speaking of which...

In previous rounds, any comments I've made have been directly to the contestants; praise, criticism, advice, etc. We're down to the wire in top 8, so I'm changing that: this review is for the benefit of other voters. As such, I'm using a standardized scoring scheme.

Each of eight categories will be be given 1 to 8 points. To prevent myself from sugar coating anything, these are ranks relative to the other entrants: 8 is the best of the round, 1 is the worst, and there will be no ties.

The final rank is based on the sum of these scores, with the first four categories counting double. (Subjective appeal is harder to fix than technical issues.) Ties are broken by the Momentum score.

Momentum: 6
The personal bias factor! Am I a fan of your work in prior rounds?
The helm was quirky fun and yet surprisingly functional, the ossuary golem wasn't my favorite but definitely caught my eye, and you did a damn fine astrumal. Already on my short list, and no disappointment here.

Location: 5
Is this a compelling and memorable place to visit?
All by itself? Well, it's a pharaoh's tomb. It straddles the fine line between cliche and classic. The inscription says he's not actually in there, and there's a notable absence of certain trappings? Yeah, we'll bump that over to the interesting side of the fense.

Encounter: 8
Clever? Exciting? Devoid of GM headaches and player annoyance?
Hot damn, it's amazing! And to punctuate that, let me say that you screwed several things up in my view. For instance you open with a flagrant declaration of PC failure, and you follow up with the assumption that combat will last ten rounds (though at least those events don't really count on any enemies being alive). Despite several red marks, you've built one of the most exciting, dynamic, action-packed encounters I've seen, and unquestionably the best of this round.

Plot: 4
Is this encounter well-connected to a plausible larger adventure?
The seals have been broken; ancient horrors stir below. On that fence again, teetering precariously but still balanced.

Round 3 Tie-In: 8
You had to use a round 3 monster. How much does that matter?
Clearly, you know exactly which fence you're on. A creature from beyond the stars to herald the emergence of a forgotten nemesis. Well, duh!

Golarion Tie-In: 3
This has to be a Golarion location. How much does that matter?
Flat here... except for the rules of the contest, there's no reason this has to be on Golarion at all. But since it is, obelisks and pyramids are a pretty solid choice.

Map Quality: 8
Is your map clear, concise and useful?
In the iso view the pyramid is lopsided. (Hmm, doesn't seem to have hurt your score.) Here's what I love about this map: it's one of the simplest this round. No rooms at all. A few columns. But they do stuff! This map serves the encounter elegantly. It doesn't have to be architecturally exciting, because there's enough excitement already.

Text Quality: 8
Is your text clear, concise and useful?
There are a few melodramatic throw-away lines in the read-aloud text which came closer to knocking you over the edge into pure camp than anything else here. All the rest is clean, refined, and chock-full of function.

Final Rank: 2nd
Total Score: 73
Benjamin beat you on the technical scoring due to good ol' Momentum, but on the merits of this round alone, you win. Amazing encounter, enticing location, overarching plot: grand slam, dude. Utterly fantastic. Add my vote to your collection, and I'll see you next round!

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