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The Lost Winery


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

1 to 50 of 55 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

The Lost Winery.
The ruins of the lost winery lay near the eastern bank of the East Sellen River, in Galt. Sitting on a hill with an excellent overlook of the river, the winery remains as it was when the builder, a priest of Cayden Cailean, disappeared nearly fifty years ago.
The priest, a retired adventurer named Deucalion, chose the land for its proximity to the exotic flora of the River Kingdoms, pledging to ‘build a distillery and winery as a temple to the Drunken Hero, and making the finest wines and spirits Golarion has ever seen. Spirits so fine that Aroden would come back to the dead for them.’ His dream remains unfinished. Deucalion disappeared when working on the wine cellar himself, the only sign of his passing a charred hole in the floor and a spilled tankard of wine.
Without Deucalion’s direction (and gold) the construction slowed to an eventual halt. The winery remains incomplete, open to the sky. The crumbling interior was to be richly done with mosaics that are half filled and pitted and wrought iron stair cases that now stand rusted and leading to a second floor that was never completed. The entire site looks like it has been laying abandoned more than the mere half century; wood rotting where it was delivered; vines clinging to half finished stone walls as if trying to tear them down; previously cleared fields already being reclaimed by the woods. The front doors of the winery hang on their rusted hinges, hidden by grape vines grown wild, as if the vines were guided by an intelligence trying to keep others out. Occasionally sounds of activity are reported by travelers, a rasping buzzing sound or other stranger sounds, but no one who has returned has found the cause of the noises. More people though just don’t return.
The site remains unclaimed to this day. Even the bloody revolutions of Galt have not touched the land. Nor will the elves of neighboring Kyonin claim the place as their own, though they keep close watch on it and the occasional band of adventurers who decide to explore the ruins. The elves are more than content to let fools kill themselves.
This does not preclude people from trying to explore the ruins, as rumors still persist of lost and abandoned treasures waiting to be found. Stories of an undiscovered cache of gold, to pay the workers, are most common. Even grander are the stories of Deucalion’s weapons from his adventuring days, or maybe even relics sacred to Cayden Cailean hidden in the ruins. Treasure seekers have returned empty handed, or not at all.
Darker rumors are also whispered. They say that the Deucalion unearthed something while digging his wine cellar, an evil that dates from before the fall of the Starstone. Those darker rumors are true. The hill on which the winery was built entraps a fallen shrine to Calistria. The elf priestess who maintained the shrine cursed her goddess for abandoning the world as the land shook from the Starstone’s impact, and she welcomed death with open arms. Calistria, however, is not one to let go so easily when spurned. The goddess called up the earth to swallow the temple, ending the priestess’ life while denying her the mercy of death. She remains there still, trapped in the dark wandering what has become her tomb, praying for an absolution that will never be given. Calistra’s children guard the ruins, to insure their mistress’ punishments continue.

A Bitter Feasthall

This room, maybe once intended as the central feasthall, is open to the sky. The ceiling has collapsed rotted timbers no longer able to bear the weight. The floor seems stable enough, though a circular hole in the northwest corner has collapsed into the depths below. The edges of the hole are blackened and charred, as if from a great heat. The air unnaturally still, and a cloyingly sweet scent hangs in the air.

With a DC 18 Perception check, the party can hear the droning of the ardorwesps in their lair below the collapsed floor. There’s a 10% chance of one of the ardorwesps coming up through the hole in the floor every minute. The ardorwesp also get to make perception checks to hear the characters (with a -2 for 20’ of distance)
Creature: Ardowesps make their lair in the massive space originally meant for the wine cellar. They enter and exit through the blackened hole in the ceiling/floor, and have a pair of tunnels they have dug out through the side of the basement wall. If they hear the PCs, they will come out in force, hoping a show of strength will be enough to drive the intruders away. If this fails the ardorwesps will attack, preferring initially to paralyze and implant apparent spellcasters. They are not above bull rushing small characters into the hole in the center of the room. They will take advantage of the terrain, using Flyby Attack to avoid staying in melee. If the party deploys smoke effects, the ardorwesps will retreat, possibly using bull rush on any confused ardorwesps to remove them from the smoke effects. Because of their affinity to Calistria, they will attack intruders displaying symbols of Calistria in self defense only. The ardorwesps will retreat if one is killed, or if two or more are reduced to 5 hit points or less. They will not abandon their home for long, taking advantage of the entrances to their lair to make hit and run attacks or attack pack animals and mounts left on the surface.
Trap The hole in the center of the floor is an after-effect of a flame strike cast by Deucalion in his final battle. While the floor is safe as it is, any damaging area effect spells cast in the room have a percentage chance equal to the spells level times 10 of collapsing the entire remaining floor, dropping anyone standing in the room into the wine cellar, a fall of 20 feet.
________________________________________________________________
Ardowesps (4) CR 3
XP 800 each
HP 22

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

Story/Set-Up/Location
This is very Golarion, which is super cool. Not only that, but it's recognizable, "core" Golarion. I don't need to have read every page of Seekers of Secrets or Into the Haunted Forest to use this, I know the gods and I'm good to go. So that's really nice. And it plays with the ideas correctly: a cleric of Cayden Cailean makes a brewery, Calistra smites a mouthy priestess, Kyonin elves let fool adventurers get themselves killed - all spot on.

As for the physical location, that's cool too. I haven't seen many breweries used as adventure sites. However, the location's description and map don't really seem to follow through. It says it's a winery, but the map reveals no casks or fermenting tanks, there's no mention of bottles or old wine, there's a bit about grape vines, but that's it. If it weren't for the description there's nothing in the map or encounter to make me this this wasn't a guard house, a cineplex, or a space station.

Encounter
This is pretty basic: the PCs make noise, monsters come out. Nothing too revolutionary here. The weakened floor is a nice touch, but the "spell level time 10" mechanic is a bit wonky. A set damage amount would work fine.

Read Aloud Text
Spot on. Descriptive, interesting, evocative, employs a variety of senses, and doesn't assume the PCs' choices. Great!

Creature Use
First off - and this is major - the creature is called an "ardorwesp." The
text flip-flops several places between the creature's name and "ardowesp." I understand that this is close and a typo that spell check won't catch, but those are the mistakes an author has to be most attentive of. Sure, you can say that it's the editor's job to catch that - and to a degree it is - but I promise you, the less work you make an editor do, the more likely they are to want to use you again. And also, if we're talking about something like this going into an adventure, it's your name on the cover and any mistakes make you look bad first and foremost. So good writing habits start at home.

Map
Ooofda. This is not pretty.

Major point #1: There is no grid. That has never cut it, and the improvised scale doesn't help.

Then, the features and walls seem randomly arranged, kind of like what I would expect from a dungeon map in Diablo. I mean, right off the foyer there's a hall that goes a few feet and dead ends in an altar. There's a secret door connecting a room with the hall that leads into the room. And there's a few rooms and alcove that have obscure purposes at best. The map is pretty clean, but its layout is confusing despite the absence of eraser marks and squiggly lines. Were I cartographer, I wouldn't know what to make of many of these rooms, which would just lead to a barren map. Being a ruin, I would expect some piles of rubble, some broken walls, and some elements of the structure's former use, but that's not here.

And I hate to harp on the subject, but there's also two major pet peeves this sets off. First, the building is square. That's ridiculous. Unless we're talking a trailer, a shack, or a shed, buildings are simply not square. The building you're in Right Now is NOT square. So there's no reason your dungeon should be. That's just either laziness or poor planning. Second: the stairs don't work like stairs should. In this case, the last step of one of these stair ways ends in a wall. The other, in the north west, goes nowhere, even upon reaching the second floor the last step would end in a wall. Stairs need to work with the space they're in, not just get crammed in the corners and have landings built in. This is more of a probably with multifloor structures, but even here we see how they can be tricky.

Overview
The map here is really really rough and that drags the whole submission way down. The ardorwesp encounter is also pretty bland. That being said, all of the description and read aloud text is good stuff. The author needs a lot of work as far as adventure design goes, but as for someone to write world and story elements, he's pretty close to there.

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

Initial Impression: Matt brings us a lost winery, unfinished and open to the sky. I like the idea, but man that map worries me. Let’s take a closer look…

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

The winery description is cool and well written. You have a nice voice here. Good balance between size of location description and encounter. While perhaps a smaller location than what you could have made, this is a good, manageable size for a location. I like the unfinished room. It reminds me of the time I went to Greece and then traveled to Iraklion in Crete. Many of the buildings of that city had been bombed out during WWII and never rebuilt, but the city just used their ruined hulks as open air restaurants. I always that was cool and would make a great adventure location. You kind of used that idea and I like it. I like that you find what is cool about a location—a location has to be a setting for adventure. Just designing a location which has no chance for adventure would be a failure. But you give us the classic—an abandoned place with possible lost treasure. A fantasy classic. I also like the dark background. Great work. This is the strongest aspect of your submission and I give you high marks. Your location itself is fun and memorable.

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

Matt, this is a big miss. It fails on so many levels. No grid. Poorly drawn. We don’t expect artistic merit, but a cartographer has to be able to make a final map from this. As it is, that map would suck. I’m sorry to say it. It is also sorely lacking in detail and character. Plus, when I look at it I have no idea it is a winery. You need to translate the theme and idea into the setting and the map. I really think you failed to do that just about as badly as you could. I have a funny feeling you have a story behind this (but please don’t say until after the round).

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

The read aloud text is good if a bit stale. Don’t forget all the senses. But you do a good job of not presuming reaction by the PCs in read aloud text, which is a big no-no and a big mistake by newer authors (I used to do it a ton until someone helped me with it, so I know what I am talking about). The writing in the encounter section is markedly worse than the writing in the location description above. That’s a common problem. Writers feel free to write well in the more creative parts of an entry, but tighten up in the nuts and bolts sections like encounters. Though it is a common mistake, you’ll find the best writers don’t do that and I don’t think a Superstar would either. Your encounter, too, fails to live up to the promise of the location. You need to maximize the things that make your setting and location unique and cool. If your map had marked the locations of vines and casks you likely would have included what you could do with those things in combat, which is what this encounter cries out for. And that hole needed more than just a one liner. The cool thing is also that unstable floor. You should have played that up, made the encounter a process of staying off the floor, climbing on wine casks and fighting the adorwesps from the casks and vines. Now that would be memorable! As it is, this is a simple “hear the PCs, charge in and attack.” That’s just not good enough. You failed to maximize the potential of your cool location. That said, I like that you did the wesp ambush and not the "big ticket" encounter that lurks below. That was a good decision since you couldn't do that one in the word count provided. Though I thought you should or could have teased that more in the encounter.

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

I still really like the winery and its backstory (see, I can like backstory where it is relevant!). I wanted this to be better.

Overall: C+

Matt, it really kills me to write this. I liked the tankard, the lahamu and your version of the caltrop golem was great. Your map dragged this down into unacceptable and I think it showed that you didn’t think through all the things that were cool about this location.

Recommendation: Sadly, I DO NOT recommend this entry advance.

Cartographer

I would give this map reference a grade of D.

I always find it amazing how many map references I have received like this over the years of my map drawing career.

The main problem for me is the lack of a grid, if there was a grid in place with a few minimal details written in this map would be better to work from. The overall written description helps fill in the blanks somewhat but not enough individual room details for me.

I don't ever expect artistic perfection from a map reference sketch, that is my job : )

On first view, I had no feel for this as a winery. For all I knew it could have been a realtors floor-plan for a MLS home listing sales flyer.

To improve this, add more detail and use a grid. Research what a medieval winery would look like.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Unfortunately, a message board bug ate what I have here, and I have to recreate it without all of my usual "comedy."

LOCATION
Don't use Earth mythological or historical names. When you call this priest Deucalion, I think Deucalion. Fiddle with the name a bit if you want to pay homage to it (Theucalion, Vocallian, etc.), but for those who recognize the name, it's jarring, and it's why you don't name NPCs Conan, Elric, Gilgamesh, Robin Hood, or Tutankhamun.

Cursing a priestess with undeath isn't really Calistria's style--she'd be more likely to fill her with lust but leave her unable to feel pleasure, or just give her a bad case of incurable sonic syphilis.

ENCOUNTER
Here's some advice on the use of the word "will."

The damaged floor is nice but the percent-based rule is awkward. Items have hardness and hp, just give the floor a hp total and subtract damage from area spells.

MAP
This map really hurts your submission, and I suspect the power outage that delayed you is part of the problem--you had to rush your map.

If your software doesn't let you make a grid, find a grid file online and use that as your base. If you can't get that to work, draw it by hand on graph paper, then scan it.

Maps must have a scale; the arbitrary line-scale here is not helpful without a grid.

Stairs can't just end at the top in a wall. Human-sized spiral staircases can't be 5 feet in diameter unless you're some sort of engineering genius (fat people and dwarves can't use a 5 ft. diameter spiral stair because the stairs are only 2.5' wide. Heck, I'm skinny with broad shoulders and may have a problem squeezing into that.

The rooms aren't tagged, either with words or numbers, and there are no features to make this anything more than a bunch of boxes.

OVERALL
The concept of the Location isn't bad, the Encounter is fine, but the Map really drags this one down.

Cartographer

This sketch is missing key details. The lack of grid is pretty obvious and makes little sense for laying out the structure to any sense of scale. The scale is referring to a dashed line and not a grid. The spiral staircases are not marked as going up or down. These are ALL important to even begin work on. I realize my job as a cartographer is to breath life into a map concept, but the building itself lacks any realistic layout. Online research to a what a winery might have included is crucial for this map and is necessary for any turnover. This could also be pushed further with notation of interior details; barrels, boxes, bedrooms, desk, or even any crumbled walls if this were to be a believable ruin. D.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

Thank you for your honest comments gentlemen. I make no excuses for my failures, just guess I'll have to figure out DungeonDjinn going forward.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Just practice, practice, practice. Monte used to carry a pad of graph paper to meetings and practice drawing maps ALL THE TIME. Even if you're just doing rectangular rooms, using the graph paper to explore and practice can always help. It's okay if you go through all the tropes of "the shape of the dungeon looks like a dragon's head!" or "the rooms have one, two, three, four, five sides!" Draw an abstract scribble on the page, then draw a dungeon within it (as if the scribble represents the edge of a mountain or especially hard rock). Or outside it. Build a dungeon around a river. Build it on a series of sloping hills (like the Caves of Chaos). I was in an art store this weekend and spotted some 8 squares/inch graph paper and suddenly remembered all these memories of filling an entire 8.5x11 page with dungeon rooms. Sometimes they're going to look stupid, sometimes you'll find something neat that you want to save. It just takes practice!

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

Initial impressions:

I took a look at the map and went: arghhh, compared to Jim and Alexander's (two I reviewed earlier) yours is....bad. Hate to say it but it is.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing. The winery really came alive for me!

Let's see what the other 5 did, but I think the map killed you.


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

Name: 9/10
This is a nice name. Maybe I'm just a sucker for wineries, but I wanted to know why one was lost.

Description: 8/10
I like the idea of the failed winery, abandoned in the forest. I like the scorch marks too.

Map: 5/10
This is what really kills you this round. Compared to all the others submitted, this one stands out as the worst. Sorry man.

Encounter: 7/10
Ardorwesps sure are popular this round. Something bugged me about the mechanic for the floor collapse. The game just doesn't use percents very often. I'd have rather have a d20 + spell level with DC 20 to destroy the floor.

Overall: 2,520
This scale is all numbers multiplied. Not in my top, but I secretly want to see you advance anyway. I've enjoyed your work here throughout the contest. Good luck!

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

The descriptive text here is nice and very Golarion-y, so well done there. However, as with Watcher's entry there really too much of it. In his case, he had a lot of complex architectural elements that he wanted to explain (even though he didn't end up really using them very effectively as part of the encounter). This entry doesn't really even have that to lean on, so the nice description kind of goes on and on.

The map's shortcomings have already been described.

The monsters in this certainly fit the theme of the encounter, but I'm just not feeling their engagement with the location.

It seems like a location description.

And some monsters.

The monsters don't feel very integrated into the location. Maybe that's because the location, once we get past the pretty background text, is pretty sparse.

In sum: Good background story, bad map, iffy monster usage.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8 aka Zynete

Issues with th map have been mention a lot already. The encounter does feel a bit boring, I could see it in an adventure, but not as the one encounter one wants to show off.

To me, something else that sticks out badly to me is that the backstory seems to try too hard to make the location Golarion-y.

It Golarion-y, but the brief background ends up mentioning three deities, three countries, the fall of the Starstone, and a quote from the priest strongly reinforcing the fact that he was living on Golarion (as opposed to some other planet or plane).

In my opinion, most of them don't have any impact on the area (Like mentioning of The River Kingdoms or Aroden. The Starstone reference feels a bit odd as it picks out a rock that fell about (I believe) 720 miles away over all those other rocks that were falling.

Otherwise, I was happy with background.


Hmm. I'm not very enthusiastic about the idea that the River Kingdoms have something of interest to offer in terms of fruit, or at least not something sufficiently of interest that fruit (or other fermentable stuff) which grows on one side of a river (the eastern branch of the Sellen) in the River Kingdoms can't be grown on the opposite bank in Galt.
Geographically, if the site is on the east bank of the eastern branch of the Sellen, it is likely to be some miles from Kyonin so I'm not sure why the elves of Kyonin would be in a position to have a possible theoretical interest (or lack thereof even) in trying to claim the hill either? Kyonin simply isn't 'neighboring'. The country on the other side of the river is The River Kingdoms, and the elves of Kyonin would have to cross the main Sellen and claim a swathe of Galt before they could get to this location.

And, umm, I mentioned 'ensure' vs 'insure' in my Round 3 feedback.

Taldor RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, 2010 Top 4

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
...or just give her a bad case of incurable sonic syphilis.

When do we get the game stats for this?


Sean K Reynolds wrote:

Unfortunately, a message board bug ate what I have here, and I have to recreate it without all of my usual "comedy."

LOCATION
Don't use Earth mythological or historical names. When you call this priest Deucalion, I think Deucalion. Fiddle with the name a bit if you want to pay homage to it (Theucalion, Vocallian, etc.), but for those who recognize the name, it's jarring, and it's why you don't name NPCs Conan, Elric, Gilgamesh, Robin Hood, or Tutankhamun.

Cursing a priestess with undeath isn't really Calistria's style--she'd be more likely to fill her with lust but leave her unable to feel pleasure, or just give her a bad case of incurable sonic syphilis...

To be fair he doesn't actually say the priestess is undead. Just says that she is not alive but not dead either. Maybe Calistria turned her into an intelligent animated construct or something like that. All those memories, but no nerves now to feel sensations with...

(For some reason I'm thinking of the talking armoire here (Luis?) in Fall-from-Grace's pad in the Planescape: Torment game.)

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Awww, man. I wanted you for top 4. That map's going to smash you. Danggit. Here's hoping.

-Ben.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

undead and wine. I am so voting for this!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

To everyone who's supported me so far, thank you. I ask for your grace and help to getting me past this round so I can show I can make up for my mistakes.

To anyoen who's expecting excuses, let me quote the master,
“I ran out of gas. I, I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!”

Cheliax

I really like this submission. Yes, it would have been nice to have a grid for the map, but I don't feel that is enough to kill the rest. It may be a little more work, but I draw my encounters on battle mats anyway, so if I had to, I'd just set a scale that seemed right for the area. I actually like the % chance to destroy the floor. I know Sean said use the hardness/hp method, and I'm a big fan of Sean, but that just seems a little boring to me. I guess I like the randomness of it. Good luck to you and don't beat yourself up about the map. I'll be tossing one vote your way.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Location

I think this location is great Matthew. I like the style of your writing, and you consistently come up with cool ideas. I can really picture the location from your description.

This is really cool: "wood rotting where it was delivered; vines clinging to half finished stone walls as if trying to tear them down; previously cleared fields already being reclaimed by the woods. The front doors of the winery hang on their rusted hinges, hidden by grape vines grown wild, as if the vines were guided by an intelligence trying to keep others out."

I really like the background and story of your location, and it's obvious you can deliver really solid, creative ideas. The background text and the big idea is really grabbing: an innocuous ruined winery on top of a creepy, scary thing: the buried shrine of a cursed undead priestess.

Map

A lot has been said of the map (maybe a bit too much in my opinion). I agree that the building would be more interesting if it wasn't square, and you could have more detail. The grid thing doesn't seem that big a deal to me. I'm sure your next map submission will take all the criticism into account.

The picture you drew with your words sets a pretty cool scene. I can picture the half-built stone walls crumbling down, the wooden beams rotting into the ground, the sagging, weathered floor, and vines twisting over and through everything.

Encounter

This encounter is cool, and it ties in well with the theme of your location. (It's weird how many ardorwesp encounters there were. Each round seems to have overlaps). I think Clark brought up some of the things that would have made this encounter really stand out. I like your weakened floor, and really using that more would have added to the encounter. Making some areas stable and others unstable would add a nice feature to the encounter. Showing the rubble, broken casks, overgrown vines or other obstacles and terrain features would help make it a cooler encounter.

I like this location a lot. I can see it showing up in one of my games. Your tankard of the cheerful duelist, the lahamu, and your version of the caltrop golem were all top-notch. I'd like to see what you'll do with an adventure proposal, and I think you've got the makings of a superstar.

I still haven't decided on my top 4 yet, because there are several great entries, but you're definitely in the running.


Alexander MacLeod wrote:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
...or just give her a bad case of incurable sonic syphilis.
When do we get the game stats for this?

Hey, I'll be happy when I can see game stats for drunkenness. Got a player playing the "drunken friar" cleric and have to make it up as I go along how drunk he can get and still do something worthwhile.

And speaking of drinking...
I really like the winery background and storyline for this encounter. Sadly, I wish the map had lived up to the theme. I can't be too hard on that, though; my maps aren't the best either. Still, even if the place didn't have casks and tuns and such to show the winery aspect (it never was finished, after all), there should still be some kind of furnishings, at least a table and chair, writing desk, possibly a bed, assuming the priest resided here while overseeing construction (the part about his disappearance seems to imply he spent a lot of time here alone since there were no witnesses to it).
Also, percentiles are a headache. It's bad enough having to use them to determine a random encounter, but for one that's NOT random, I would much rather give the andorwesps a listen check to hear intruders and have them investigate than have a percent chance they pop out. Likewise with the floor: rather have a damage cap or weight allowance before it collapses than a percentage based on spell damage.


Others have already said a lot about the map. I'll add that from the text it appears both the spiral staircases indicated went up to the second floor, both the regular staircases are indicated to have gone up too... So how was access originally intended to the basement? The only thing I can think of is that some sort of trapdoor and ladder arrangement was in place in the area which got blasted away by the flamestrike.

Generally speaking, it's not the fall of the Starstone as an event which is referred to - it's 'The Earthfall'. The Starstone was a smaller part that came down in the area which shortly afterwards became the Inner Sea. The main event was out to the west where the Azlanti heartlands were.

You present a lot of backstory which positively begs for details to be given of possible results from Knowledge checks or other attempts to gather information about the site. You missed an opportunity there, I feel.

Where's the treasure? Where are the remains/gear of previous treasure-seekers?

Coming back to the map (sorry about this) it really needed the basement and environs detailing too. If the floor collapses under a PC this encounter is going to extend downwards into the basement for certain. The ardorwesps have dug tunnels which they can use as escape routes, or tactically in an attempt to split up and come at the party from several directions. It would be handy to know where those tunnels go?

You put some effort into describing the location and thinking about how a combat might pay out though.

My overall impression is of an entry which has some good points but which fails to maintain a consistently high standard overall.

Thank-you for submitting this entry though.

Taldor RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka primemover003

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Human-sized spiral staircases can't be 5 feet in diameter unless you're some sort of engineering genius (fat people and dwarves can't use a 5 ft. diameter spiral stair because the stairs are only 2.5' wide. Heck, I'm skinny with broad shoulders and may have a problem squeezing into that.

Tell that to whomever built to towers at Casa Loma in Toronto! There are a pair of spiral staircases there that are all of 2.5 feet in radius! And I am a fat dude, with broad shoulders to boot, but I'm nimble dangit!

Great Location, but the Map just killed it and took your pie Matthew. I loved the Tankard and was pulling for you! There's not a lot of supers in this round though, so anything is possible!

--Vrock garden

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Matthew Morris wrote:

To everyone who's supported me so far, thank you. I ask for your grace and help to getting me past this round so I can show I can make up for my mistakes.

To anyoen who's expecting excuses, let me quote the master,
“I ran out of gas. I, I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!”

Was this from Liar Liar?

If so, allow me to quote another great line...

"you got big jugs... your boobs are huge, mama! /suck /suck /suck"

But seriously, I voted for you and as many others have said, your writing is very good, and that is what sold me.

CC

Shadow Lodge

CuttinCurt wrote:
Matthew Morris wrote:

To everyone who's supported me so far, thank you. I ask for your grace and help to getting me past this round so I can show I can make up for my mistakes.

To anyoen who's expecting excuses, let me quote the master,
“I ran out of gas. I, I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!”

Was this from Liar Liar?

CC

Afraid not, it was from the Blues Brothers. Great great movie.

Spoiler:
I cant believe Leia fell for it :)

Star Voter 2013

Awesome introduction to this area. I was initially concerned that this was going to be little more than a stumble-upon location, but you carefully thought out several adventure hooks and seeded them into the description. Background that the players actually experience? Check plus. I have to second the flaws of this submission: a bad spelling error, a hastily scribbled map, and an encounter that is deeply bland. We'll have to see if you get my vote on your writing alone this round, as I've read half the entries and two disqualified themselves for my vote.

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 - Aww, man. Sorry, Matt, but this map just isn't that great. You really should've mapped this out on a grid to give it additinal perspective. Plus, it's in dire need of additional details - rubble piles, vegetation, broken furniture, something! I'm curious to know what the cartographers thought of it. Grade = C.

2. Quality - I'm split here. I LOVE the Golarion history/references to Cayden, Calistria, and Galt, so I'm a fan of your background fluff. However, the writing quality is just not Superstar material. I see a lot of passive voice mixed in here, you're using a few too many adverbs, and there are a some clunky sentences that could've used a thorough dose of self-editing. So an A for the content, but a C for the writing. Grade = B.

3. Creativity - Though the map isn't terribly creative (a plain, perfectly square winery?), your content and encounter works for me. I like the ardorwesp choice, it's very fitting here. Grade = B.

4. Wow Factor - Hmmm. I'm almost feeling it. I LOVE the background material, so I'd probably steal that from you and then completely re-design the winery map. There's a lot of potential here for a memorable and challenging encounter, but I think you just missed the mark. Grade = B (but almost a C).

Final Grade = 2.75, a high C.

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

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

Oh, Matthew. Why'd you have to add that map to that wonderful back story?

I'm going to be passing on this entry, with regret. I'm not going to write any big commentary on my decision, since previous posts have more than covered everything I have to say.

Given the strength of your writing, I'd say you have a good chance at getting published in the future. You've certainly done some great work in this contest. Before tackling a full-length module, you just need to refine your map-making skills a bit (or, as the case may be, manage your time better to avoid problems caused by twelfth hour power outages).


Eric Morton has pointed out to me elsewhere that contestants were specifically forbidden the placement of treasure, which seems a bit odd to me, but given that it was in the rules I apologise for and withdraw my question/comment about why isn't there any treasure around? I still think some remains of former explorers would have added interesting dressing to the set though, as it were.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Eric Morton has pointed out to me elsewhere that contestants were specifically forbidden the placement of treasure, which seems a bit odd to me

It's because I didn't want people to waste words describing gold and incidental items that don't normally add much coolness to the encounter or location.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Eric Morton has pointed out to me elsewhere that contestants were specifically forbidden the placement of treasure, which seems a bit odd to me
It's because I didn't want people to waste words describing gold and incidental items that don't normally add much coolness to the encounter or location.

Warning! Off topic:

Spoiler:
[humour] I take it this means there will be no treasure at all during future Sean K Reynolds written or edited encounters, as it wastes words.... ;)

Hmm. Perhaps Paizo could have a 'design a 500 gp exciting item of treasure' round next year? (Then make it a magic item, then make it an intelligent magic item....) [/humour]

Thank you for explaining where that 'no treasure' restriction came from though. It had been puzzling me.


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

On the one hand, I don't buy the "Calistria wouldn't make someone undead" thing, cf. Dungo the ghoul (head) from Second Darkness.

On the other hand - I'm pretty willing to forgive map badness in terms of the technical aspects, but it doesn't say "winery" to me in any way. It looks like a real estate agent's office in a strip mall.


Matthew:
Right now that map (which doesn't even have windows marked on it) is the prime reason you're out of consideration for my top two votes for this round. Something you'd drawn by candlelight on graph paper with a ruler during that power outage which Sean has alluded to would probably have presented better.

:(

Star Voter 2013

Charles Evans 25 wrote:

Matthew:

Right now that map (which doesn't even have windows marked on it) is the prime reason you're out of consideration for my top two votes for this round. Something you'd drawn by candlelight on graph paper with a ruler during that power outage which Sean has alluded to would probably have presented better.

:(

Fortunately, you get four votes.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

Charles Evans 25 wrote:

Matthew:

Right now that map (which doesn't even have windows marked on it) is the prime reason you're out of consideration for my top two votes for this round. Something you'd drawn by candlelight on graph paper with a ruler during that power outage which Sean has alluded to would probably have presented better.

:(

There's an irony here that I'll elaborate on when voting closes, Charles. :-(

At least I still have a shot at your bottom two votes ;-)

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: 5
The personal bias factor! Am I a fan of your work in prior rounds?
You've been the little engine that could through this whole contest, and though you were never on my personal top 4, I've still been rooting for you. (The tankard was actually my favorite thing of yours, but we won't dwell on your ability to create magic items. Say, why didn't Deucalion have one of those?)

Location: 1
Is this a compelling and memorable place to visit?
It's not an abandoned wizard's lab; it's an abandoned alcoholic cleric's lab. Oh! But! It was built over an Indian burial ground! Not quite, but you probably see where I'm coming from. To be honest, it might have scored higher if more of the description were dedicated to what lies beneath; but that's not the focus. This isn't the unlikely portal to an adventure in the catacombs beneath. No, it's just built over an indian burial ground.

Encounter: 2
Clever? Exciting? Devoid of GM headaches and player annoyance?
Terribly straightforward. Others have gone over the numerous ways in which you didn't take advantage of your own setting. There's one rather clunky special mechanic, and you didn't say anything about what happens if someone drops some alchemist's fire down the hole to burn out the hive.

Plot: 2
Is this encounter well-connected to a plausible larger adventure?
Just barely. There's another encounter waiting down below. That one's pretty well sewn-up, though; no further ties to the outside world. (Unless Calistria gets mad at the party for freeing the cleric's soul; but that's not so much a plot, as a lifetime of torturous harassment.)

Round 3 Tie-In: 7
You had to use a round 3 monster. How much does that matter?
High marks on this one! Half of the top 8 picked ardorwesps, and this was the single most appropriate use. They're not just working for Calistria; they're not just helping someone get revenge. They're helping Calistria get revenge!

Golarion Tie-In: 6
This has to be a Golarion location. How much does that matter?
And again, very well done. Ultimately it's all just name-dropping, but it's highly appropriate name-dropping. None of it is essential, but everything fits snugly.

Map Quality: 1
Is your map clear, concise and useful?
We won't belabor this point. I think I see some sketch lines, though, and I have a hunch about that bitter irony you've mentioned. This was probably not what you intended to submit. :(

Text Quality: 1
Is your text clear, concise and useful?
This needs to be trimmed down and rewritten a few times. What you're describing is good, but the description itself reeks of passive voice, I think I recall a few tense disagreements, and Sean already pitched the "will" link at you. There's very little in the way of useful extra info, which may be related to the general underdevelopment of the encounter.

Final Rank: 7th
Total Score: 37
Matthew, like I said, I have a hunch that this wasn't exactly what you planned to submit. Power outages can do nasty things to a work in progress, especially if you aren't in the habit of saving often. My deepest sympathy if such an event, or for that matter any other time-draining catastrophe, is the reason your encounter seems completely undeveloped and your prose seems like a second draft. Even if not, you've established yourself as having a solid grasp of mechanics and some pretty cool ideas; good encounter flow is an entirely different skill from those other two, and not essential to getting good work in the industry. One way or another, I still hope to see you published this year.


Round 4, Charles Evans 25, fourth vote tiebreak:
1 dice roll (d6):
1-2 Benjamin Bruck
3-4 Jesse Benner
5-6 Matthew Morris
Procedure:
Six sided dice of origin guaranteed Baltic amber rolled from a height of two foot minimum, onto carpeted floor.
Result:
5
Conclusion:
Vote goes to Matthew Morris.

In the end I have other things I should be doing other than spending hours struggling to rank the three entries in contention for my last vote of Round 4 by comparative merits, so I rolled randomly to determine where the vote went instead.
Thank-you very much for your contributions to the contest, and my best wishes for the future, should you not make Round 5.
I would like to add that whilst I was not a fan of your Round 1 and 2 work, your Round 3 work was of sufficient merit - given the mitigating circumstance of your power outage whilst prepping your entry for this Round - to get you into this tiebreak, instead of it being a straight coin flip between Benjamin and Jesse.

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

Matt, I'm afraid your entry is the one I'm most disapointed in. I was really pulling for something awesome from you, and unfortunately, this wasn't it. That being said, I don't think your location was bad, but with the high expectations I had for you, it's the biggest let down for me this round.

I actually quite like the basic concept of the winery, since it's not a very common location in games. That being said, making it a ruined winery over a cursed temple wasn't the direction I would have picked. I think an active winery, with proprietor, workers, customers, etc, which had a good reason for the PCs to be there while something actiony happens would have been really cool. In my head when I read your entry's name, I had a very 3 musketeers style fight happening with swinging from chandeliers, open vats of wine to fall in, etc. But, you do have a good feel for Golarion, and I can certainly see this location fitting in well.

The encounter is relatively lackluster - it's a pretty simple fight with the current residents of the ruin, and while ardorwesps have a reason to be in a ruined temple to Calistria, the fight with them isn't likely to be that different from giant wasps, beetles, or even goblins coming out of the dark hole in the ground. The fact that the encounter is in a winery is completely irrelevant.

As for the map, I'm willing to give you a free pass on that. Yes, it's not up to the standards that were expected, and yes, you have a great excuse (which you haven't been able to elaborate on yet). If the rest of your entry was amazing though, I don't think anyone would care if your map wasn't very good. I know I wouldn't.

Overall, your entry is fine, but it didn't shout superstar to me. Then again, only one entry has this round, so I'll need to go back and figure out the rest of my votes.

Andoran

Mr.Morris -- The Lost Winery
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 (1pt)
Catchy, attractive, etc.
I am not a fan of this name. Sadly, I am going to hand out 1 point only for this.

Writing (81pts)
Well written in general, interesting, etc.
Nice flow, not choppy, nice vocabulary, interesting.

Map (1pt)
Useful, read-able, clear, etc.
Whoopelai. Big miss here. Lack in detail, no grid, and I have to ask you, did you use MS Paint? Because MS Paint is NOT the tool to use to make maps. Stairs in to the wall, it doesn't look like a winery at all. Huge miss. Sorry.

Creature (25pts)
Surprising, well-used, etc.
I don't know why an ardorwesp would be hiding in a lost winery, but I guess it works.
EDIT: Ardowesp? Ardowesp? Who invented the ardowesp. Point deduction for speeling a creature name wrong.

General (25pts)
Anything I didn't mention above
No momentum, I read this one last because of the poor name, sorry. It's not getting my vote. But what do I know? I'm just 10.

SCORE:133
RANK:7th (Ahead of Mr.Benner)

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

Nerrat Dei wrote:

Mr.Morris -- The Lost Winery

[SCORE:133
RANK:7th (Ahead of Mr.Benner)

Does this mean I don't completely suck? ;-)

Thank you for your critique, Nerrat.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Modules Subscriber

Hey Matt, can you talk about what happened on your map? Or do you have to wait for the vote to be counted first?

Like I said earlier, I really liked your write up and voted for you based on that and your prior work.

Thanks, and good luck.

CC

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

How we got here, The Lost Winery.

*sigh* Well lets start with what we got right. Everything got submitted on time.

As to the rest…

Location location location: Cayden gets a bad rap. He’s seen as the god of wine and lechers. A nice gig if you can get it. He’s the god of freedom (‘treedom’ according to Gods and Magic) as well. He’s a cross between Optimus Prime “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings, Megatron.” And Rattrap “Oh yeah, yeah, scout patrol, yeah. Find any new positions?” (I guess that makes Calistra Blackarachnia?) That being said, building a winery and carving out a stronghold in the River Kingdoms made sense. Thanks to the excellent River Kingdoms sourcebook, chock full of ideas. I also wanted to tie it in to my well received tankard.

Monster: Ardorwesp. Well apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought of the Ardorwesp as the winner of the round. The implant mechanic is excellent, and their high intelligence made them the perfect guardians. I also liked the idea of ‘we killed the bugs, now to check the tunnels… aw crap!” Maybe I should have gone with the ice cat, given my stated affection for certain blond Russian demon-sorceresses, but I wrote what ‘felt right’

Luck:
“Anything that can go wrong will, at the worst possible moment.” -Murphy’s Law.
“Anything that can go wrong, will happen to me.” -Morris’ corollary.

Well we all know about the power outage. That was bad luck on my part. Worse was my incompetence in double checking the restored copy. I had caught ‘ardowesp’ and fixed them all; I didn’t notice that the restore didn’t have those fixes. It also taught me to ensure that I triple check again, to insure my grammar errors are fixed (yes, I’d caught the insure/ensure before the outage). Again, no excuses from me; I frakked up.

Unfortunately the bad luck continued. Charles, your comment about ‘hand drawn under candlelight’ actually wasn’t that far from the truth. I was working on the map all day, even during the power outage, I still have rough drafts on my desk at work. I got it done, as well as a side view and a rough overview of the buried temple, at work took them home and scanned them in. Looked fairly good for being hand drawn, if I do say so myself.

Then I scanned them in at 100 DPI, as the contest required. Disaster. The graph paper disappeared (James, how did you keep the graph paper in there?) and my pencil marks were barely visible (no jokes about the lead in my pencil, please). The side view doesn’t even show up at all. Panicking I pulled it up in the only graphic editing software I had, MS paint. (It’s now about 4:00 EST on Friday). I carefully paint over my faint lines with the paintbrush, to make them nice and strong, then see paint has a ‘display grid’ function. Hallelujah! I am saved. I hit preview and…

The grid doesn’t preview.

Running out of time, (Does Paizo run on the submitted time? Or the time their servers receive it? I don’t know and can’t really e-mail for an answer) I realize I can improvise a line scale and do so. Knowing that my map needs more plastic surgery than Nancy Pelosi, I send it. Better to fail spectacularly than not submit anything, right?

(I realized Tuesday, after reading the reviews, that I could have screen capped the map with the grid, and used that. Putting a band-aid on a sucking chest wound I know, but it would have been something)

To those of you who supported me in previous rounds, I again apologize for the subpar work on this one. While I feel frustrated at myself for the work, I feel worse that I let any ‘fans’ I had down. Win Lose or Draw, I still plan to write <redacted>, just likely have to file the Paizo IP off of it. And no worries, I’m teaching myself DungeonDjinn so the maps should look a lot better. (no graph paper will be harmed in the making of this adventure)

I guess the biggest lesson to learn is ‘map first, text later’

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

Yep, that's what I guessed. It's called "non-reproduction blue" for a reason; for many applications, that's the desired outcome. :P

There are ways around it. They involve more expensive scanners.

Glad to hear you plan to publish either way!

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

That's really tough you got hit with the worst luck right in the 11th hour. I think the map thing really dragged down your entry, and it's a real shame.

I really liked your location and I'm a huge fan of everything you've done so far.

I'll keep my eye out for your work, whether it's for Pathfinder Society open call, Pathfinder 3PP, KQ, or d20 open source.

I look forward to playing through your <redacted> module some time in the future!


Seth White wrote:

I look forward to playing through your <redacted> module some time in the future!

Heck, I'd volunteer to playtest it. :P


Matthew Morris:
Hmm. Sometimes I find if something doesn't seem to scan, fiddling with the contrast options on the program that runs the scanning process produces a much better result.
A couple of years ago I was driving myself absolutely dotty trying to scan in a hand-drawn pencil map, trying higher and higher resolutions, before it occurred to me to maybe try adjusting the contrast, and it scanned in after that like a charm... :)

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Matthew..

When Ben Bruck and I had lunch, he said he wagered anything that you had drawn that map on graph paper.. and when you had to re-scan under pressure of the time limit that the gridlines vanished on you.

And I wholeheartedly agreed with him. In fact I'm only dropping his name because I don't want him to think I stole his words. :D I've cringed on your behalf every time the map has been brought up. The spacing is too uniform. I just couldn't imagine you drawing walls to scale by using a ruler alone.

As for how I did it?

I didn't own a scanner and in this new town I don't know enough people to ask if anybody had a scanner I could use. Or.. for whatever reason I felt too shy to ask them. So I went to Staples and cringed when they told me it would be 6 bucks. On the other hand, when they asked me if I wanted the gridlines to be removed, I was able to cry.. "Nooooo!"
I emphatically told them I wanted the gridlines to be visible, and I kindly asked them to show me the image before I left the store. So I had some out of pocket expenses, but I got what I paid for.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

Jim Groves wrote:
I've cringed on your behalf every time the map has been brought up. The spacing is too uniform. I just couldn't imagine you drawing walls to scale by using a ruler alone.

Yeah. It must have been really tough to read all those comments about that and not be able to respond.

I didn't understand all the fuss about no gridlines. I could see where everything was, and it was obvious that it was all setup with a grid in mind. It seemed like it would be simple enough for the cartographer to just drop a grid right on top -- everything was all laid out just fine.

I think the bigger problem was probably the rest of your map that got lost when you scanned it in. Any details you drew in and notes you wrote down also probably got lost too.

I wasn't sure if you'd accidentally saved the file with the wrong layer or scanned it in and lost your pencil sketches. In this contest little things like that matter, and it's really too bad that happened.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

Thank you gentlemen.

That's life though, dealing with adversity. That's what I was arguing in the round 4 thread.

I thank you all for your support, and again all I can say is I'm sorry I did not live up to your expectations. It's cold comfort, but at least no one paid for my work ;-)

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