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The Lost Ziggurat of Amar Zedas


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

1 to 50 of 62 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

1 person marked this as a favorite.

The Lost Ziggurat of Amar Zedas

Rising above the choking crimson dust of the parched and scorched wasteland looms an edifice of immense proportions. A gigantic three-stepped ziggurat, constructed from a seemingly innumerable amount of earthen bricks. The turbulent winds of the mana wastes howl forlornly around the desolate structure, giving it a domineering appearance, while it holds a still vigil over the barren landscape. The ziggurat stands as a monument from a distant age.
Three vast ramped stairways all lead up to a massive gatehouse; two ascend from either side of the front facing, the third climbs straight towards the apex, entering the middle of the gatehouse. The steps continue from the gatehouse towards the top of the ziggurat where a tall fluted building awaits.

Located deep in the mana wastes between the borders of Geb and Nex, the Lost Ziggurat of Amar Zedas is a myth recounted by the residents and locals of the surrounding regions. Supposedly struck down in the cataclysmic war, the ziggurat is said to only appear at times of significant astrological convergence. It is unknown whether this phenomenon is caused by unstable fluctuations of the mana waste, or is the result of great eldritch energies unleashed between the two nations in the distant past.
The ziggurat appears for only a few days during the conjunction of certain stars. At all other times, it fades from reality, and the knowledge of the times at which the ziggurat is due to appear has almost been forgotten.
Whether the site originally belonged to the land of Nex or Geb is now lost to history. What is known is that the edifice was built as an astrological observatory, as well as a temple dedicated to a regal and destructive aspect of the god Nethys. The ziggurat was fought over numerous times; Gebbites supposedly occupied the ziggurat during the early days of the war, but abandoned it as the area became more and more magically unstable.
Atop the ziggurat is a shrine to Nethys with an open air observatory on the roof of the building. The interior of the middle tier contains priests’ quarters and places for personal contemplation and research. In the distant past, there were entrance passages to allow egress from this level directly outside but these have long since been filled in. The lowest internal level is made of stone, not brick, and appears to be the ruins of an even older structure; it contains a series of chambers build to a sacred spiraling ratio of mystical confluence.
It is said that if a powerful individual can perform an intricate and exacting ritual known as the Rite of Sublime Illumination at a preordained time within the ziggurat, then knowledge and understanding of universe is granted, albeit if only for a brief moment.
Each brick of the structure is magically treated to prevent weathering and erosion. The ziggurat is rumored to contain horrors from the time when the two archmages battled each other, deadly traps that require the victim to speak fluent Ancient Osiriani, and spirits of priests that cannot rest until they unravel one last conundrum.

1. Upper Temple Shrine
The walls of this ancient shrine are made of glazed midnight-blue brick. The polished bricks are so cleanly cut that only a thin crack marks the spaces between them. The ceiling rises forty feet above, and square tiles of dark slate line the floor. The center point of the chamber is a barren altar, formed from a single block of black jasper. To the north and south of the altar, thirty feet high soaring archways open into side chambers. Facing the altar from the east is an austere granite throne on a raised dais. Against the wall on the north side of the dais is a bed frame, and on the south wall is a table, both made from polished dark onyx. A pale statue made from gray alabaster bows in symbolic supplication before the throne. It is man-sized, and carved to resemble a soldier in dressed in antique cuirass and crested helm. Dust lies thick, and the very air is stale and lifelessly still, emphasizing the feeling of long sealed secrets that pervades this sanctum.

The featureless main doors lack a locking mechanism, but are sealed shut. Pitch and plaster block the gaps in the tightly fitted masonry, forming a near airtight seal. Each door requires a DC 28 Strength check to open. The bed, table and throne are for the use of the patron deity of this shrine (Nethys), should he choose to manifest in physical form. The altar radiates dim universal magic despite receiving no rites for thousands of years. The two areas to the north-west and south-west once held offerings and ritual objects but are now empty.

Creature: The bowing statue is an ossuary golem; a construct of ancient Gebbite origin set to guard this chamber against the enemies of Geb. This ossuary golem has orders to attack any creature that comes within 30 feet of it that doesn’t present a symbol of Geb towards the throne. It single-mindedly attacks a target until it destroys that foe. It pursues fleeing enemies throughout the interior of the ziggurat and as far as the stairs leading down to the second level of the outside of the ziggurat.

Trapped inside the golem is the wight of an antediluvian magus of Nex. Captured during the war between Nex and Geb, the Nexian was magically transfigured into a vicious undead creature, and then incarcerated in the stony prison of the ossuary golem for untold millennia. Driven irrevocably mad by this ordeal, the creature screams horrid curses upon Gebbites in ancient Osiriani while attacking all living creatures if freed from the golem’s stony shell. It focuses its attacks on those wearing symbols of Geb. If Zarek, the ghostly priest from area 13, is present in the chamber when the PCs free the wraith, it attacks him to the exclusion of all others.

Ossuary Golem CR 5
XP 1,600
hp 26 (+50) (RPG Superstar 2010)

Development: The altar in the middle of the chamber is where the first part of the Rite of Sublime Illumination must take place.

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

Story/Set-Up/Location
The magical ziggurat in the Mana Wastes (capital "M", capital "W"), unexpected but pretty neat. I don't really associate the Mana Wastes with having a lot of religious ruins, especially not ziggurats, but it doesn't bust anything and who knows, Nethys worshipers are weird cats.

Encounter
Pretty basic. This is pretty much RPG cliche #3: The statue is really a monster.

Read Aloud Text
Decent, but on the long side. I think you go a bit too long on the architectural specifications and don't delve into the realm of evocative prose quite enough.

Creature Use
Good place for the ossuary golem, and not at all the expected spot, but the tie in to Geb and the high magic of that whole region is pretty cool. Nicely done.

Map
Dude. Overboard much. Three levels, top-down views, side views, cut-away views. Wow. All very first edition in style too. The only thing these are missing are those extra details. We've got a lot of rooms with names but no ideas of what's in them, which is kind of a shame. A cartographer typically isn't going to go throw in extra details and embellishments if you don't so a chair here, a bed there, a pit full of screaming larvae, all would have been nice additions.

Overview
Not shabby. A neat location despite some wordy and unremarkable descriptions. Shockingly - I'd like to see a more detailed map. What we've got here is a lot of vantages we wouldn't commonly use in an adventure and a few pretty sparse treatment of levels we would use. The location is cool, but it's ultimately a mummy pyramid adventure with not a mummy and not a pyramid.

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

Initial Impression: Cool! Matt brings us a seriously old school ziggurat promising undead, treasure and adventure! Of course, you had me at “undead.” But then you go and slap on a “disappearing city” vibe a la Moorcock and now I am hooked. Let’s look under the hood and kick the tires and see if this is all a shiny paint job or if this is a car I want to buy…

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

This is pretty ambitious in scope. But that doesn’t bother me. The project was a Golarion location. The fact that you only get to detail one encounter doesn’t mean you can’t do a big location. And I like your location. Locations as I have said before exist as places for adventure and yours screams adventure. That said, I do think a slightly smaller scope would have made for better and tighter design. The best example of this is Jzadirune from the first Pathfinder AP (Shackled City). The first adventure in that AP had this underground gnome city that was way too big and over-detailed. It was way bigger than its theme and purposes for the adventure required it to be. Your location may have a bit of that. You use your read aloud text here as a lead in to your location. Now, I’m not going to ding you, but the format uses the read aloud text as part of the encounter description. Luckily you used it there too. Which says to me you should have skipped it for the location and just worked that content into your description. The location info and the read aloud text is well written. All in all, this is a great location for adventure. It does everything a good location should do, though perhaps a bit bigger in scope than it needs to be.

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

First off, big props for the old school map style. But I have to say you overdid it. Each map you provide is an art order or map order and that costs money. I only needed one of the four plan/elevation style views. I know, you are showing off a bit and there is no limit in the contests so I get that. But you really overdid it. I’m marking you off for that, because a freelancer wouldn’t do what you just did, but I’m not marking off much. The maps are pretty good. I’d love to consistently have gotten that from freelancers. What you don’t give us are details. While I love the first edition vibe, I don’t like the first edition mistakes. We’ve evolved (even me). Barren maps with just walls and numbers don’t cut it. Cartographers aren’t writers. They can’t be counted on to add in the details. So it’s nice to see that sort of stuff from the writer. Sconces, flourishes, filler. That said, the great cartographers add that stuff (heck, I used to send text to my cartographers and they would fill in details from the text, but you can’t count on that). Plus, not seeing those details on your map implies to me that you didn’t think that stuff through. You can always tell an author isn’t using a map as an afterthought when that map has details. Now, I could have given you a pass for the stuff you didn’t detail, but even Room 1 (your encounter) is pretty much devoid of details beyond the most basic. That’s a miss, in my view.

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

Ouch. That read aloud text is a bit on the bad side. I don’t need an entry from Architectural Digest. The text needs to set up the encounter and provide some immediacy. Big miss. Now, that said, I love—let me say that again, LOVE—that you worked the ossuary golem in. Nice job. However, this really is little more than a “monster in a room.” This is basically orc and pie, with the pie prohibited by rule (no treasure description permitted, I know). I can’t give a good grade to an encounter that is basically: “In this room is an ossuary golem.” That could be anywhere. Why is that encounter HERE? What about the map and location are you using to make this encounter distinctive and cool? Other than choice of monster, this encounter has nothing to recommend it.

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

Love the ossuary golem. Love the ziggurat. You hit me in my first edition bone and I liked it. I’ll admit, I’m biased towards liking this.

Overall: C+

Matt, like our other Matt you are really killing me. I liked your vambraces and the churjiir and your version of the chaitrakan was really good. In my last review of your work I said “keep this up and you just might win this thing.” But not with stuff like this. Sorry, man, I really am. The encounter was too generic and the flaws in the map, despite the good base location and the first edition goodness, just is not good enough.

Recommendation: I DO NOT recommend this entry advance, which bums me out.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

LOCATION
Minor ding: You used the OOC/readaloud text tag to describe the Location, but that's not part of the provided format. If you look at our adventures, we don't normally provide read-aloud text for an entire area--the initial read-aloud description normally appears in the first encounter at the site.

I don't normally like "this site only appears at certain times/conjunctions" sort of sites (I always worry that the PCs might end up trapped forever, or won't be able to get to it again if they have to retreat), but this one is neat.

There's a bit of what we call "GMing the GM" here--hinting at stuff but not revealing it to the GM (the person who'd need to know how it works). To an extent that's a way of opening an area for development by the GMs, but it can also be frustrating if you don't tell the GM that's the point of the reference. I realize your word count hinders you here--you can't overexplain things.

ENCOUNTER
Wow, that's a lot of read-aloud text (176 words) for one room. It's almost a quarter of a page. That's a lot for a GM to read out loud (most room descriptions are no more than 50 words).

I like the use of the ossuary golem, players may expect the statue to come to life, but *what* it is should surprise them. I like the backstory for the golem and wight, too.

MAP
The map is a bit over the top. The three internal floors should be the focus; the outside/cross-section/angled views are helpful to a cartographer but he may think he's supposed to draw all of that stuff, too--stuff that you could instead make an art piece that you could show the players. By cutting that stuff (or noting it's not needed on the map), the actual map layout of the rooms can be larger in the provided area).

Also, ditch the lavender background--if someone needs to make notes on the map, the regular grid is fine. :)

I think you were hindered a bit by my example outdoor map, which doesn't show a lot of details, leading you to believe that minimal details are better for interior maps as well. As Wes said, adding large features like tables, chairs, and so on to rooms makes them look more realistic. However, I can see how you'd want to focus on the part of the map for your Encounter, and if you were writing this as a complete adventure site you'd include similar details in all the other rooms.

I'm also wondering at the composition of these various map pieces; some of them look hand-drawn, some look like they're computer generated. Did you use software on some of this, but ended up drawing the lower level by hand because the software wasn't able to make a round room?

The original map turnover is too large. The contest rules state

2. Your map should be either one half-page (8.5" x 5.5") or one full-page (8.5" x 11").
3. Your map must be approximately 72-100 dpi.

At 100dpi, that means the turnover map should be no larger than 850x550 pixels or 850x1100 pixels. The original turnover map is 2317x1638 pixels, which is 23"x16" at 100dpi. While this level of detail is nice for when you're creating a handout for your players, or self-publishing a location, when your goal is to give this to a cartographer, all that "room" means you're tempted to cram extra details into the site, and the cartographer doesn't know which details are just for decoration and which ones are critical to the room. I'm not suggesting the entry should be disqualified for this mistake, but it is a mistake that should be noted.

OVERALL
This isn't bad. It's not great, but there are no catastrophes that (as a developer) would make me want to punish punish you. As part of a full project, I'd send this back with some comments and I'd expect the final version to be nicely improved.

Cartographer

I would give this map reference a grade of C.

There are too many views. Narrow the views down to a 3/4 and a plan view.

Hmmm, lavender is an interesting choice of a background color.

The use of a legible font is nice versus the usual illegible scrawl.

The maps themselves are pretty basic and bland. Some notes with room descriptions will help make the finished map look more interesting.

Overall, nice but more details on the actual rooms and less multiple views of the ziggurat.

Cartographer

I just made a ziggurat temple so this is kind of neat, but a very large art order for sure.

If the exterior of a setting is REALLY necessary to get the point across that a description couldn't do, then that would be the place to include a possible 3/4 view, otherwise the 3 other views would not be included or even commissioned. I'm not thrown back by the lavender background, this is just a sketch. With 20 rooms of interest in the key, there should be content called out as well; flames, coffins, boxes, tables, bones, traps, etc., something else of interest. These details might be called out in the adventure text, but also need to be included in the map turnover. This is all good flavor to enhancing the game experience visually and set the mood with the players. This also might be the only place the players get an art asset to aid them in visualizing the setting and mood that the GM envisioned. I add a lot of details to my maps, but having a basic array of rectangles to work with will get exactly that in return; a basic map. The map turnover would probably benefit from more space devoted to the adventure path and building structure than the exterior. C.

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

Robert Lazzaretti wrote:
Hmmm, lavender is an interesting choice of a background color.

Ha! I thought that too. Not that there's anything wrong with lavender - if you like that sort of thing. :P


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

Name: 9/10
A great legendary name that makes me want to know more.

Description: 8/10
I really like the opening view of the ziggurat. Definitely makes me want to go inside.

Map: 9/10
Love the map. I really like the 3d view, really brings the whole thing together.

Encounter: 8/10
I like the use of the Ossuary Golem. A solid encounter that I would use.

Overall: 5,184
This scale is all numbers multiplied. My top rated area. I really want to see what you can do!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Thank you to the judges for their responses and advice. I will keep all of these things in mind and will do my best in the next round, if I advance. Please feel free to comment on what you liked and what you didn’t, it all helps.

Vote one, Ziggurat! :-)

Cheliax

I think the criteria for judging is a bit off from what I expected. But that is the choice of the competition.

I look at this map, and I see - 'He has only done the first room because he was only asked to do one encounter'.

Three days is not a lot of time to come up with something like that, and I have to say of all the maps presented, it is the one that really grabs me. It is simple for the DM to draw, and at the same time is 'exotic'.

Now, I would want to play an adventure here for the following reasons:

1. It is not generic - notice how many other folk used the obvious Calistria hook? BORING.
2. The Ziggurat is cool - and it evokes a lot of Babylonian awesome for me
3. In a module proposal, this could be the core for an entire module itself, and that impresses me. Given time to do each room and no monster restrictions, this would be fantastic. (I am the first to say that I did not think much of the 16 statted monsters)

I think the Golarion fluff is nicely executed here - enough allusions to the past but enough ambiguity to allow for some fun.

The Nethys connection makes perfect sense to me, after re-reading the stuff about his destructive aspect, his nature as the god of magic, and the whole Nex/Geb thing...

I applaud this attempt to make something NOT obvious, it is ancient WITHOUT being an egyptian rip-off, it is GOlarion without going for the obvious Calistria connection, and it is the location for an ENTIRE adventure - with hints of a plothook, reason for being there, and much more to come.

I dunno, but from a DM perspective it makes me happy in my pants, whereas a few of the others haven't.


Hmm. I'm not sure precisely when Nethys became a deity (date not given in the Campaign Setting) thus I can't be sure either if there might be a problem with an observatory dedicated to him having been built by the time of the Geb/Nex war. Nethys becoming a deity is probably far enough back for it not to be a problem though.

Lantern Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'm a little confused by the judging criteria too. Admittedly, I haven't read the brief (not sure if/where that's posted?) But it seems contentants were required to submit one encounter set in a mapped location.

Well, I was blown away when I first glimpsed Matt's map! Overkill, perhaps, but it does place the whole temple shrine into a larger perspective, it really inspires the imagination, ancient, exotic, and makes you wonder what else is down there?

If Matt didn't provide room furnishings and details for the other numbered encounters in the complex, that's because they're relevant to those encounters which haven't been written yet, not this one.

I must say, for anyone wanting a cool map to populate with their own encounters, Matt's ziggurat is a great place to start!

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

DarkWhite wrote:
If Matt didn't provide room furnishings and details for the other numbered encounters in the complex, that's because they're relevant to those encounters which haven't been written yet, not this one.

Which I mentioned in my comments. :)

Cheliax

I like the perspective view -- it's always good to have a visual reference of what the building looks like, and it works pretty well as a hand-out. As others have already said, I think there are too many views, though. I also like the top floor's plan, but the rest of the floors seem a bit too "old skool" for me (not in the good sense).

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

Impressive Map-fu

I am liking this a lot!

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.

1. Map - You certainly have a talent for prespective drawing! I really like the outside cut-away views, but I think you might have overdone it with 3 of them. One would've been fine, then you could have focused more on the interior levels. For instance, I'd like to see dungeon furnishings and more detail on the lower levels. Still, it's a solid map, and one a cartographer should need very little help to turn over. Grade = A (but just barely).

2. Quality - Your writing is just fine, and you do a great job with the flavor text. I really get the feeling I just walked for days through the Mana Wastes to get to this creepy place. The ziggurat has a cool, ominous feel to it that I really like. I'm expecting an encounter with undead, and I'm happy to see the ossuary golem make a [very fitting] appearance. However, it does seem like the golem encounter is just there for the sake of having an encounter. You sort of goof calling the undead imprisoned inside the golem a wight in the first sentence (last paragraph) and a wraith in the last sentence. Oops. Grade = B (almost a C though).

3. Creativity - So this ziggurat does the Brigadoon thing, eh? Feels like a gimmick to me. I do like the backstory connection with Nex and Geb, and it's very cool you've placed your ziggurat in the Mana Wastes (a location that's been needing some love in my opinion). Grade = B.

4. Wow Factor - Do I want to use this location/encounter? I have to admit, I like this creepy, undead-haunted ziggurat-temple. After a few tweaks, I would definitely use it for my home game. I declare: Mojo! Grade = A.

Final Grade = 3.5, a solid B.

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


I like the concept of a tomb that appears and disappears during key times, especially since it requires the party to work quickly to get the job done (considering my group can take up a whole night just battling one encounter), but it does make me wonder what happens to them if they don't get out before the place phazes out? Do they get stuck in limbo, trapped inside until death claims them and they join the ranks of lost spirits? Do they get dumped unceremoniously on the ground where the ziggurat stood (and possibly subject to a LOT of falling damage)? Does the building shift to a new location miles or even planes away from where they were?
I'm also concerned about the overall challenge level of this setting. The use of the ossuary golem implies a CR 6 or less based upon round 3 entries, but this project seems very large-scale, and I don't think filling it with CR 6 or less encounters would do it justice.
And I know this is just being nitpicky, but the bed in the thone room bothers me...
Do gods ever sleep? It just doesn't seem like the appropriate type of furnishings for a god, more like that of the high priest, yet the first room ends up being a combination bedroom/throne room/altar. Most of my experiences with RPG temples and strongholds is the main chambers of the head honcho (in this case, the absent god) are usually the last rooms, not the first. I can see the first room as the altar or throne room, but dump the bedroom aspect; it just doesn't fit for me.

Cheliax

drakkonflye wrote:


And I know this is just being nitpicky, but the bed in the thone room bothers me...

implies CR 6 or less

dump the bedroom...

I wondered about that, and so I googled it: (Bed in ziggurat) and eventually found that in Babylonian culture, it was required to provide a Bed and symbolic food for the patron deity of temples (typically in/near the main shrine itself, in case the God ever visited)

I know I am sick of generic temples, some ancient temple awareness is surprisingly refreshing

Also, you are aware they HAD to use a CR 6 monster from the previous round? (Although I prefer APL 6-8 dungeons myself, you can't teleport straight there, through the walls etc. I think too much of the awesome is reserved for high levels - if I can cast disintegrate ancient stone traps are less scary...)


_metz_ wrote:
drakkonflye wrote:


And I know this is just being nitpicky, but the bed in the thone room bothers me...

implies CR 6 or less

dump the bedroom...

I wondered about that, and so I googled it: (Bed in ziggurat) and eventually found that in Babylonian culture, it was required to provide a Bed and symbolic food for the patron deity of temples (typically in/near the main shrine itself, in case the God ever visited)

I know I am sick of generic temples, some ancient temple awareness is surprisingly refreshing

Also, you are aware they HAD to use a CR 6 monster from the previous round? (Although I prefer APL 6-8 dungeons myself, you can't teleport straight there, through the walls etc. I think too much of the awesome is reserved for high levels - if I can cast disintegrate ancient stone traps are less scary...)

Hunh, you learn something new every day. In that case, I take back my comment about the bedroom with sincerest apologies to Matt. s for the level 6 creature, however, yes, I was made aware of that. What I was saying was the first thing you encounter when you enter a lair often sets the mood for the rest of the adventure, and going up against the ossuary golem and its prisoner tells me that if this is the weakest of many threats (as first encounters usually are), then the party could be in for some serious trouble by the time they get to the BBEG. Then again, I don't know what level range the judges were looking for for encounter and locations, so I could just be off my rocker ;-)

Seriously though, Matt, I do enjoy what you've done in this contest so far. This round just happens to be one of the toughest to judge (and I in NO way envy the official judges their job. Heck, I didn't even make it past the first round, so who am I to judge?

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

drakkonflye wrote:

Seriously though, Matt, I do enjoy what you've done in this contest so far. This round just happens to be one of the toughest to judge (and I in NO way envy the official judges their job. Heck, I didn't even make it past the first round, so who am I to judge?

Thank you for that Drakkonflye, people's comments are one of the big things that make this competition extremely satisfying for me. Also don't think that just because you missed on the first round that you can't design something as good as/better than what is out there. Designing is a skill (or set of skills) and is something that you just have to work at, practice, and learn from. I am still learning and hope to keep on learning. If you enjoy the process, then doing this is part of the fun. Also if you create something and your group has fun with it and enjoys it, then you have won, pure and simple.

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

I'm going to be voting for this entry, though with a few words of caution.

I love the map and its 1st Edition feel, though I agree that it inherits some of the bad things from 1st Edition design. Namely, the large number of poorly-detailed rooms. That being said, the rules for this round were vague about how much detail needed to be included on your map:

If your location is a module-sized dungeon, do you need to account for every since terrain feature appearing in each of the dozen or more encounters involved? Or can you provide a rough floorplan of the dungeon (which is relevant to explorers mapping the dungeon), relegating further details to specific encounter maps that don't appear as part of this entry? You made the second choice, and I can't fault you too much for it.

Be careful about trying to cram in too much stuff, though. Your maps went a bit overboard, and your read-aloud text was a bit wordy. When you're preparing your module pitch, be sure to read through several Paizo modules to get a feel for the amount of stuff you can reasonably fit into them.

Also, the judges seem to be willing to forgive a few extra pixels of map this round, so I will, too. But don't try to overstep any limits in the next round, because I'm not going to be as forgiving when my vote decides who gets a paid contract to write for Paizo.


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

I like this entry for the most part. It has good imagery with the mystery of the lost Ziggurat and makes me eager to explore it. I really like the Ossuary Golem and I think it makes for a good first time. However, the fight itself seems a bit bland. Something to spice it up such as read aloud text after defeating the shell of the ossuary golem would be great - describe cracking of the shell, the ragged and decayed figure that crawls out of that shell, and the creatures ancient Osiriani curses.

This is still good enough to get one of my votes, but I'd like to see some more spice(r) in the next round.

Star Voter 2013

Since I've been the one complaining about how the Ossuary Golem's inhabitant is likely to turn on its creators, I find the use of this monster very pleasing.

The judges are kind of wrong, actually, about your use of the monster: note that the monster in the box has motivations and can be used against other inhabitants by creative players. This is emphatically not Orc with Pie.

You've got an exploration with a time limit, an expandable entry, a good use of a monster and only one competitor brought their A game. Things look good here from this voter's seat.


The Map:
Oooooh. Someone had far too much time on their hands drawing those plan views and elevations (especially with those staircases) out by hand.
Or maybe you've lifted some handouts and maps from the files of your home-game, mounted them on card, and stuck labels on them... Still, if you draw those things for just your home game, I think you still have far too much time. (I hope your players tell you how lucky they feel.)

Okay, nitpicks (sorry about this):

  • You do not indicate directionality of stairs. It took me some puzzling (and a look over the plan view) to realise that the staircase on the southern side of area 1 does not in fact descend, unlike its northern counterpart, but goes up to the 'open air observatory' on the roof.
  • What are those weird 'shafts' or 'pillars' for in the cut away elevation that seem to link levels? I can't identify anything on the maps which seem to correspond to them.
  • What happened to the map of the gatehouse on the external staircases?
  • Hmm, I see kitchens on an internal level, but no indication of any flue or chimney by means of which smoke can be vented. (Important if you have PCs with gaseous form searching for alternative routes in or out).
  • The staircase which (I assume) descends from behind the secret door in room 13 on the middle level does not appear to correspond to the only staircase apparently indicated in the map of the lower level, which opens onto the hallway leading to area 19. My guess here is that you missed a landing out on one of these maps indicating a turn in the stairs.
  • For what it's worth, peering closely at the map of the top level, the table and bed in area 1 seem to me to be the other way around from what you indicate in the text, unless the table comes with bulky legs and an odd pillow shaped protruberence, whilst the bed is a plain rectangular surface. ;)

    The Lost Ziggurat of Amar Zedas wrote:
    ...Whether the site originally belonged to the land of Nex or Geb is now lost to history...

    The detailing of area 1 and the 'present a symbol of Geb' to not trigger the attack, suggests to me that the site belonged to Geb (or at least that the last known owners were Gebbite).

    What are the hardness, hp, etc of the walls and doors? You do not mention these.

    You refer to the Ossuary Golem from Round 3, as if using that entry, but there is confusion in your description of the undead contained within, as you appear to refer to it at one moment as a wight, and at another as a wraith.

    Basically, the encounter is heave open some doors, then fight an ossuary golem, then fight a wight (unless in the latter case a ghostly priest from a different area is present, and I'm not certain in that event if a wight can hurt a ghost) with not a lot else going on.

    My overall impression of this entry is of a highly interesting location, which a lot of effort has apparently been put into, but of a very straightforward encounter (with a creature which was in my estimation one of the more dodgy ones when it came to CR in Round 3).

    I wish you'd used a different Round 3 creature and/or found some way to lend additional interest to the encounter. At present this entry is missing out on my votes... :(

    Thank-you for submitting this entry, and good luck for the future.


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

    Ok, a strength check of 28 to break down the main doors...and no other way in? It's likely a party can't even attain a strength check of 28. Listing the hit points and hardness of the main doors should definitely have been done and probably some alternate ways of getting the door opened should be listed.


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

    I like the external views... This is totally 1e on ice. Which is OK... But I kinda expect a little "more" to my locations now. I bet the OSR crowd would pay good scrip for it though!


    Eric Tillemans wrote:
    Ok, a strength check of 28 to break down the main doors...and no other way in? It's likely a party can't even attain a strength check of 28. Listing the hit points and hardness of the main doors should definitely have been done and probably some alternate ways of getting the door opened should be listed.

    [humour] Portable ram and take twenty as an alternate means? [/humour]

    Star Voter 2013

    Charles Evans 25 wrote:

    [humour] Portable ram and take twenty as an alternate means? [/humour]

    [humour] Stone shape? Disintegrate? Chugging a six-pack of reduce person? [/humour]

    Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

    Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber

    Nicely Done Matt.

    As I've heard said on these boards, your map-fu is strong. That is some impressive detailing.

    I like the Golarion background also.

    All that means to you my friend? You have earned one of my votes.

    Good Luck! I'd like to see what you propose for the final round.

    Dean (TMW)


    Matt:
    I liked your chaitrakhan entry last round, and the maps and images you've presented this round, but you picked the ossuary to use in your encounter. I've had another look over the Round 3 thread for the ossuary, and as a stat block the Ossuary simply flopped.
    The sample creature presented in Round 3 was horribly lethal for CR 5, with damage reduction and area effect waves of negative energy. You had plenty of warning opinions voiced on that thread that it could be an awkward creature in combat and even some leeway in this round to maybe try to slightly fix it by making it a 'variant' ossuary, but you didn't.
    I'm sorry, but in the end I think the ossuary was a sufficiently big mistake that I cannot vote for this entry. I'm fairly confident you've learned a lot from this contest, and maybe in the future we'll see you writing, drawing or mapping for some publication if you feel inclined to keep on trying.

    RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

    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: 4
    The personal bias factor! Am I a fan of your work in prior rounds?
    I didn't like the spellstrike vambraces, but the churjiir had a fun sort of charm, and I think you did a reasonable job with the chaitrakhan.

    Location: 6
    Is this a compelling and memorable place to visit?
    Yes, the temporally-displaced fortress is an established fantasy trope... but I don't think I've ever seen it at the gaming table, so even if it's been used, it's definitely not played out. Definitely memorable! Beyond that it's still just an abandoned temple, but hey, this one lets you glimpse eternity.

    Encounter: 1
    Clever? Exciting? Devoid of GM headaches and player annoyance?
    One fight with one tootsie pop. Nothing interesting about the terrain. If anything kills you, it's this.

    Plot: 7
    Is this encounter well-connected to a plausible larger adventure?
    The PCs have to find out about this, and where and when it appears. Who do they find out from? I suspect ulterior motives. Rite of Sublime Illumination, eh? Just a glimpse? Something interesting will be spotted, but not for long enough to solve whatever problem it causes. Or perhaps their informant followed them, and performs the rite to nefarious ends. Frankly, I feel like maybe I should have ranked you lower here because these are all my ideas, not yours: you're silent on all of those topics. But on the other hand, they pretty much write themselves! It doesn't really matter exactly what plot this is a device for; there clearly will be one.

    Round 3 Tie-In: 4
    You had to use a round 3 monster. How much does that matter?
    Bland execution aside: if you're gonna use the ossuary golem just once in your career, this is definitely the place.

    Golarion Tie-In: 4
    This has to be a Golarion location. How much does that matter?
    It doesn't fit like a glove, but it does fit like a sock. An entirely reasonable placement, if not entirely necessary.

    Map Quality: 4
    Is your map clear, concise and useful?
    This is a Good Enough Map. It suffers from creeping dungeonitis; there are rooms and passages which seem to be there for the purpose of having a map full of rooms and passages. Serviceable, but very bland.

    Text Quality: 3
    Is your text clear, concise and useful?
    I had to read parts of this more than once to unravel the sentences. It's rather cluttered and needs considerable refinement.

    Final Rank: 5th
    Total Score: 51
    You won a tie due to Momentum, and only came up 1 point shy of 4th place and a vote. Despite a lackluster map and encounter, your location is awesome and you have a solid chance of pulling through based on that.

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

    Again, an entry that has a great location, but a lackluster encounter (or vice-versa). I thought the ziggurat itself is pretty well done. Kudos on the great old-school map - I didn't mind the lack of detail on the rest of the rooms, since those aren't in this entry, but their inclusion shows a good sense of what the whole location/adventure site will contain (at least the scope and room names.) As for the lavender color, it also reminded me of some 1st edition module background colors, and I had no problem with it.

    I think the choice of the mana wastes is a good one, since we haven't seen a lot of that bit of Golarion, and it's therefore ready for some more attention. By tying it into the war between Nex and Geb, it's a good way to give some love to those nations also. The fact that the ziggurat on appears at certain times is also a good way to explain why this adventure site still has it's anceint loot unspoiled. The vagueness of when it comes and goes also is good, since it lets the GM use that as a story element to fit his game. I don't see it as any different from an adventure saying that a pending invasion should occur at the right dramatic moment, instead of on a fixed timetable that might not be right for all games.

    As for the encounter itself, it's a pretty boring, monster in a room, and while I liked the R2 ossuary golem, I felt that the R3 version of it you are forced to use here was a poor choice, since that monster is way overpowered for it's CR. Thematically, it's a good fit, but the fact you chose to use this monster that's not well balanced is a concern. What I liked best is that you mention a scenario with the ghostly priest being present, even though he's from another encounter, which does a great job of fitting your isolated encounter into the location as a whole.

    Your entry is in the middle of the pack for me, but could very well snag a vote - still have a few more to review.

    Osirion

    I had previously only selected three entries, waffling over the fourth.

    And you just got it.

    I personally loathe appearing / disappearing locations, but I set that aside and decided that I like your writing.

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

    In the immortal words of Wes: "Dude. Overboard much."

    I love the 1st Ed style maps and the multiple views; it tickles my Gygaxian bone to no end. However, as far as giving something to work with for the encounter, maybe not so much.

    That was my first thought. My second was that I wasn't sure if the Mana Wastes, a place where magic is dead/unstable, really made any sense for (a) an inherently magical location (although the appearing/disappearing thing makes this feel okay) and for (b) a inherently magical monster that is also a magical prison - the ossuary golem. I mean, the golem could become nonfunctional or its prison escapable... I dunno, maybe I'm overthinking the problem or misremembering the exact properties of the Mana Wastes (if they've even been precisely detailed).

    Overall, your encounter is okay. The balance between backstory and actual encounter is good, but like the observatory, it suffers from wayyyyy too much focus on architectural details that are going to make the players' eyes glaze over and that aren't really relevant to the encounter. Yeah, you want to describe the room, but it's all about balance, balance, balance.

    I might like your encounter more if I were more in love with the ossuary golem as a creature, but overall it's just okay. No major missteps, but nothing crying out for a vote.

    Andoran

    Mr.Goodall -- The Lost Ziggurat of Amar Zedas

    Each mark will be multiplied by itself:
    1 = 1x1 = 1 pt
    2 = 2x2 = 4 pts
    3 = 3x3 = 9 pts
    4 = 4x4 = 16 pts
    5 = 5x5 = 25 pts
    6 = 6x6 = 36 pts
    7 = 7x7 = 49 pts
    8 = 8x8 = 64 pts
    9 = 9x9 = 81 pts
    10 = 10x10 = 100 pts

    and then I add them all up...
    and then I give your ranking!

    Name (81pts)
    Catchy, attractive, etc.
    As my teacher would say, juicy words in the title makes you want to read it!

    Writing (64pts)
    Well written in general, interesting, etc.
    Not the best writing, but I love the history theme and description.

    Map (16pts)
    Useful, read-able, clear, etc.
    First impression: Lavender's a- uh...- interesting color... heh...heh.
    Ok... I love the 3D view in there... but the old-school type was a little overboard... not very well done. Sorry.

    Creature (25pts)
    Surprising, well-used, etc.
    Yes it's surprising, no it's not well used. Golem in a room. Simple. TOO simple.

    General (25pts)
    Anything I didn't mention above
    It would give a player great frustration to have the golem as the only thing to get killed by. Defeat the golem, win the game. Not exciting. Sorry. Grabbing name, interesting description, weird map, poor creature use, just not enough to get my vote. But what do I know? I'm only 10.

    SCORE:211
    RANK:6th (Ahead of Mr.Morris and Mr.Benner)

    Andoran

    From the moment I read the title of the encounter, I wanted to read more. This just evokes "adventurer cool."
    The map was stunning, but as I DM I would have to do a lot of "room decorating," which has it upsides, but a few features would be nice.
    My party always tries to "Save vs Box Text." I need short room descriptions that set a scene quickly. I can fill in locational details, or they can see those on the tactical map.

    Still, this one gets my vote, it is just cool and I would find a place to drop this adventure into a campaign.


    I wanted to wait until after voting to bring up this question, because I didn't want it to influence voting...

    The rules for Round 4 stated that the contestants needed to use a Round 3 Monster. However, the monster statted in that round was the Ossuary, not the Ossuary Golem (that was from Round 2).

    Obviously the judges didn't have a problem with it, or they would have dinged it in the discussion (and why I waited until voting was over to ask about it). But it seems like the use of the Ossuary Golem didn't follow the rules for Round 4...

    Am I misunderstanding the rules for the round? Or was some poetic license allowed to be taken?

    Andoran Contributor , Star Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

    La Femme Nikita wrote:

    I wanted to wait until after voting to bring up this question, because I didn't want it to influence voting...

    The rules for Round 4 stated that the contestants needed to use a Round 3 Monster. However, the monster statted in that round was the Ossuary, not the Ossuary Golem (that was from Round 2).

    Obviously the judges didn't have a problem with it, or they would have dinged it in the discussion (and why I waited until voting was over to ask about it). But it seems like the use of the Ossuary Golem didn't follow the rules for Round 4...

    Am I misunderstanding the rules for the round? Or was some poetic license allowed to be taken?

    It looks like it was a typo of sorts. He put in a hyperlink to the round 3 Ossuary.


    Edit: Smurf.

    Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

    The R3 monster was a wight in the ossuary template, which is what Matt used for his R4 entry. The name slip isn't really important to me--especially as I don't like monsters that have names that are identical to real-world words. Calling it an "ossuary golem" is more clear to me than just calling it an ossuary.


    Sean K Reynolds wrote:
    The R3 monster was a wight in the ossuary template, which is what Matt used for his R4 entry. The name slip isn't really important to me--especially as I don't like monsters that have names that are identical to real-world words. Calling it an "ossuary golem" is more clear to me than just calling it an ossuary.

    I figured the judges had a master plan! Thanks for the clarification :)

    Andoran RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

    I just wanted to say that I like your maps, except for the magenta background. ;)

    Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

    I'm glad people noticed that, it was one thing I did worry about with the monster. I, too, did not want to call it an Ossuary.

    Why did I make it such a simple encounter? Yes, it really hurt my entry but I was worried about killing PCs. The R3 Ossuary is way overpowered, which is why I didn't ramp up the encounter with say, shadows coming out of burial urns to attack at the same time (and get healed by the neg energy blasts). I couldn't really power down the encounter, because the Gebbites that left the golem there wouldn't have left it in a bad tactical position and the tomb is sealed, so nothing has happened inbetween. I couldn't leave it damaged, because the golem heals itself :-(

    I did think of trying a different undead in it, but that actually makes the problem worse. It gets more overpowered if you do that. A 'ossuary' wraith seems a lot worse in terms of being the correct CR than a 'ossuary' wight.

    So I put it as the first encounter, which means that if it feels like a EL 7 rather than EL 5 fight, the PCs can beat it and then rest. There is a way to retreat and the golem won't pursue them past a certain point. Sometimes it is nice to have the initial tomb guardian be a tough fight, it makes it feel like there is something worth protecting in the location.

    I'll write more later, one last quick thing about the check to open the doors. It's straight from the core rules, stuck stone doors: DC 28

    Thanks Richard: I should have been shouting: 'Vote 1 Lavender' :-)


    Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
    Matt Goodall wrote:
    ... It's straight from the core rules, stuck stone doors: DC 28 ...

    Straight from the core rules yes, but this is an adventure where the first challenging encounter is CR6 and it's very possible a door like this just can't be broken open by the party that comes accross it. It would have been nice to have an alternate way to open the door or an alternate way to get into the Ziggurat.

    I like your entry and voted for it, and complaining about the door is somewhat nitpicky - it just bothered me. Overall I liked your entry, so good luck Matt.


    With regard to the Ossuary Golem couldn't you have made a couple of minor cosmetic adjustments to the construct aspect AC and the like, twiddled the CR upwards to a level you considered apropriate and said 'variant ossuary golem'?

    Edit:
    The rules did apparently allow variants which could be summarised in one line or so.

    RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

    This is a weird situation, because I don't think that a real Paizo freelancer would ever have to use a roughly balanced first-draft of a monster. And if he did, I don't think he would have to refer to it as a lower EL than it actually is (i.e, list it as a CR5 encounter even though he knows it's much tougher than that).

    How would the judges have responded if he had just said "Ossuary golem (CR 8)", or somesuch?

    In any event, I feel it was a great use of the creature which fit nicely into the location.

    Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

    Eric Tillemans wrote:

    Straight from the core rules yes, but this is an adventure where the first challenging encounter is CR6 and it's very possible a door like this just can't be broken open by the party that comes accross it. It would have been nice to have an alternate way to open the door or an alternate way to get into the Ziggurat.

    I like your entry and voted for it, and complaining about the door is somewhat nitpicky - it just bothered me. Overall I liked your entry, so good luck Matt.

    I didn't mind when people notice things like this, it showed that you were really reading my entry in detail. There were a few small things that I was sure I edited out that snuck back in, that is what happens with 3 in the morning editing. I originally had DC 26, but I checked the Core book and went with the number there. DC 28 isn't that hard to get to, take 20, +3 or +4 from main fighter character, +2 from a crowbar, and a couple of assists should get there. Bull's Strength spell maybe. Also perhaps a +2 circumstance bonus if you chip away the materials sealing the door. I did want it to be a 'heave' moment and feel like an effort when the party finally manages to inch the long sealed doors open.

    Thanks for the thoughts and the vote.

    Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

    Charles Evans 25 wrote:

    With regard to the Ossuary Golem couldn't you have made a couple of minor cosmetic adjustments to the construct aspect AC and the like, twiddled the CR upwards to a level you considered apropriate and said 'variant ossuary golem'?

    Edit:
    The rules did apparently allow variants which could be summarised in one line or so.

    I did think of listing it at a higher EL, but it is breaking the 'normal' design rules of EL = CR for a solo monster with no encounter circumstances.

    I did think of a trying a variant, but there aren't any template or one line variation that I could think of that would achieve the effect of getting this thing back to a CR that it listed at. The examples in the competition rules seemed fairly standard. The only thing I can think of now is to make the Necromantic Backlash happen once per round, not sure if that would count as minor variant.

    Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

    Random titbit of information: 'Amar Zedas' means 'Immortal Knowledge'

    Andoran RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

    Matt Goodall wrote:
    Random titbit of information: 'Amar Zedas' means 'Immortal Knowledge'

    See, now I like this sort of thing. :) In what language?

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