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Hassaldor's Span


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

1 to 50 of 51 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8, Contributor

Hassaldor’s Span

Verick Hassaldor was a Chelaxian wizard five centuries before Aroden’s death. Precociously gifted, Hassaldor became obsessed with legends of the Varisian Runelords, leading to a lifetime of study and adventuring within the frontiers of Varisia where he excavated countless ruins, catalogued numerous recovered items and even learned some of the Runelords’ secrets at magecraft.
When Hassaldor retired from adventuring he built his fortified manor where he had already spent most of his life - in the coldest peaks of Varisia’s Kodar Mountains. Although his adventuring was done, Hassaldor’s mind remained sharp. He put his abilities to use creating a wealth of magic items for sale, personal use and simple curiosity. As Hassildor’s workshop grew so did his household, staffed with artisans and tradesmen to aid the industrious wizard. This growth spurred more and more people to seek Hassaldor for his craftsmanship and his knowledge of ancient Varisia.
Over the years Hassaldor grew increasingly eccentric. In addition to payment, Hassaldor demanded his guests solve an enigmatic riddle or complex puzzle before he would treat with them. Five years before the aging wizard passed he completed his masterpiece: Hassaldor’s Span.
Hassaldor’s manor was built on the far side of a steep ravine called Windshorn Pass. He demolished the existing stone span and erected an elaborate double-sided drawbridge, housing the machinery to raise and lower it in a gatehouse on either side. Hassaldor’s Span is fifty feet long and splits in the middle, both sides lowering when either gatehouse is activated. Whenever the wizard concocted a new riddle, or puzzle he would key the bridge’s lowering to the answer. Although ways existed to circumvent the bridge, Hassaldor considered such efforts “cheating” and would not deal with those that would not solve his riddles.
When Hassaldor died his craftsmen tried to persevere, but without the draw of the wizard’s reputation visitors dwindled and the workshop could not be sustained. They sealed the manor, took what they could carry and left. Rumors of the treasures they had to abandon have spurred adventurers into the Kodar Mountains ever since.
Hassaldor’s Span remains, and his last challenge still governs passage across Windshorn Pass.

Race Across Windshorn Pass

As the path levels out, the tall rock-face that bracketed your ascent all day begins to give way to a clearing where the path makes a sharp, westward bend. North of the turn, low, rocky hills dotted with pine trees fade into the approaching dusk. Although the falling snow muffles your footfalls and breathing, you can already hear the howling cry of Windshorn Pass ahead. Finding shelter from the elements will not be a mere comfort tonight, but a necessity. Rounding the bend you see a squat, stone gatehouse attached to one half of an ornate drawbridge that connects both sides of the yawning ravine below. Across the chasm, a duplicate building adjoins the second half of the drawbridge. Both sides of the bridge stand bolt upright, like the spears of steadfast watchmen, still standing guard after centuries.
Through the haze of falling snow you see the silhouette of a building beyond the gatehouse on the opposite side.

Creature: A warband of 10 bugbears has adopted Hassaldor’s Span as an ambush site, having watched the PCs approach. They use the small hills and trees for cover and surprise. The leader, Crackjaw, is a sorcerer that acquired an almost spent wand of Invisibility Sphere from a victim. Crackjaw and 2 bugbears are invisible in area 1, when the ambush begins. He sends them to attack the PC’s rear, cutting off retreat, while the rest of his band attacks from the north. Crackjaw stays invisible, and directs battle rather than engaging. If the fight turns against his band, Crackjaw abandons them without hesitation.
Creature: After three rounds of combat a chaitrakhan attacks, having crept down from the rocks above area 1. Crackjaw is the target as the chaitrakhan’s heat sense pierces the bugbear’s invisibility, and the sorcerer is not engaged in combat. When Crackjaw is attacked, the GM reads the following:

A blood-curdling scream cuts through the sounds of battle. Turning to look you see a massive, cat-like creature covered in blue, armor-like plates viciously shaking its head. As it does, drops of blood fan across the snow until you hear a crunch and the screaming stops. Another bugbear materializes suddenly, its twisted neck clamped in the ice-cat’s jaws. With a final savage shake, the beast drops the goblinoid’s body and approaches.

The chaitrakhan’s arrival sends the bugbears fleeing. Additionally, a DC 10 Perception check detects the roar of other chaitrakhan nearby. A second creature arrives 1d6 rounds after the bugbears flee. Two more arrive 1d6 rounds after that and so on until all six pack-members arrive.

The Gatehouse area 2
The gatehouse operates both halves of Hassaldor’s Span, the doors and windows long gone. Upon entering the GM reads the following:

A slab stands tilted towards you atop a stone pedestal. Small, depressible tiles sit in two rows of five. The top row is numbers 1-5, one number per tile. The second row is numbers 6-10. Upon approaching the pedestal a ghostly voice speaks in common:
“Those seeking to cross Windshorn Pass must see and think not as expected. Press the tiles in sequence, all will be used and no tile more than once. Remember that numbers are, sometimes, just words...”

To lower the bridge the PCs must enter a 10 digit sequence. When a tile is depressed it remains so until all ten tiles are pressed. If the sequence is correct, both drawbridges lower in one full round. If the sequence is incorrect, all 10 tiles elevate to their original position. Entering the 10 digits is a standard action.
The numbers on the tiles are misdirection. The true sequence is alphabetical; the first letters of each number (i.e. “o” for one, “tw” for two, “th” for three, etc) establish the number’s place in the sequence.
Thus the sequence is:

Eight, Five, Four, Nine, One, Seven, Six, Ten, Three, Two

Time and the elements have degraded the stone of the pedestal exposing the bridge mechanism. 3 successive DC 25 Disable Device checks bring the two halves of the drawbridge within 10’ of each other, allowing the PCs to jump across. The gatehouse on the opposite side area 3 contains a duplicate tablet, and can also be operated through 3 successive DC 25 Disable Device checks. But if the PCs cross the span by any means other than solving the bridge riddle, they will find their exploration within the manor much much harder.

Hassaldor’s manor is a short way up the hill. There, the PCs can take shelter from the elements and begin searching for something more valuable than any item Verick Hassaldor ever crafted: his diary. For within this journal Hassaldor recorded the last known location of one of the most powerful artifacts the Runelords of Varisia ever forged: the legendary Sable Prism.

Bugbears (9) CR 2
XP 600 each
hp 16 each (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 38)

Chaitrakhan (1-6) CR 6
XP 2400 each
hp 42 each (RPG superstar 2010 round 3)

Bugbear sorcerer 3 CR 3
XP 800
hp 32 (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 38)

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

Story/Set-Up
I hate to say it, but the set-up for this is kind of RPG cliche #1: The Wizard Did It. Why is there a dungeon on the hill, why does the bear have an owl's head, why are we on this adventure? The Wizard Did It. Now, this is more than a two dimensional, tasteless interpretation, but the jumping off point is pretty humdrum and that drags the whole concept down. That being said...

Location
I can't think of an encounter in recent memory that utilizes a draw bridge, much less a magical-guarded, frozen drawbridge. Neat. Points for creativity there.

Encounter
Things are good here and then get bad and then get good again. The bugbears are an interesting choice that I wouldn't have high expectations for, and as soon as I saw that they were invisible bugbears at that my knee jerk "these two things do not go together" reaction started to fire. But, with the tactics described and the explanation of the leader and his wand this ended up being pretty neat. So kudos on making a pretty typical goblinoid ambush feel interesting.

Then the chaitrakhans roll in. According to this, there is no way the PCs can defeat the bugbear boss in fewer than 3 rounds, no way they can detect the ambush, no what they can see the chaitrakhans coming. The way this is set up means that for the read aloud text to happen the encounter must unfold in a very specific way or a major piece is worthless. That might not be the intention, but the way the encounter is described, that's how it appears. It's also the reason you so rarely see dramatic read aloud interludes in published adventures. The designer can't write encounters as if he were creating elements just for his party or hand wave elements of the rules like he might at home, he's writing for thousands of adventuring parties and needs to take a wide variety of skills, tactics, and other specifics into account. While the surprise ambush of the second group of monsters is neat, having the read aloud interlude banks on too many uncontrollable variables, and although it's very cinematic, takes too much control out of the PCs' hands. This is a case where you just have to rely on the individual GMs to come up with a cool description of the chaitrakhans' appearance and account for the encounter perhaps not running exactly as planned.

After that, however, the way the chaitrakhans trickle in from round to round is nice. So good stuff there.

Read Aloud Text
Aside from my issue with the mid-encounter read aloud text, the descriptions we get through are too specific. They account for a very specific type of party coming to the encounter by a single way. The PCs have to be walking, they have to be cold, they have to have footfalls, they have to be breathing - and none of these elements are definites in every party. What if there party is flying? What if they have magical resistances? What if they're riding within a giant flaming robot mammoth. The text cannot assume anything about the characters, only the environment and what basic senses can detect. I don't mean to open the door for every contradiction - "How can you assume the party can SEE then, huh!?" - but every time you make assumptions about a party you're opening the door for that PC who interrupts the GM's reading to remind everybody that he's immune to cold, or forces the GM to rework the description on the fly.

"Upon approaching the pedestal a ghostly voice speaks in common:"

This gets you into even more trouble, as it directly assumes player action. ("Whoa whoa whoa! I said I just looked in. Don't go in there! There's a ghost!)

Creature Use
Spot on. Chaitrakhans are icy pack hunters and here we see a pack of hunters in the ice. Nice.

Map
This is a perfect example of how a little text on a map could turn a troubled handover into something far more useful. This map is clean and pretty clear, but there's some hidden trouble. Is that a ravine there or a ditch? Is that a river of water, sewage, a crack in the earth? Are those trees on the map (and should they take up space) or just decoration? You're not doing the map handover for publication, you're doing it to make sure the cartographers have something they can easily turn into a print-worthy map.

Also, this plays on a major pet peeve of mine: square buildings. Unless we're talking shacks, or trailers, or sheds, buildings are not square. Of course there are exceptions, but think about the building you're in right now: I'm going to bet not square. It's just not the way things get laid out architecturally, and it makes for boring buildings on maps.

Oh, and I hate to harp, but how do you get into those buildings? And if you're supposed to be able to have adventures inside them why can we only see the roofs?

Other
I typically hate puzzles and riddles in RPGs. Typically they just seem like ways for the GM to feel smarter than the players or, if the PCs can't figure it out, bring a game to a halt. But this puzzle not only feels solvable, but there's a way around it if they don't want to deal with it. So nicely done there.

"...one of the most powerful artifacts the Runelords of Varisia ever forged: the legendary Sable Prism."

Avoid the compulsion to claim a special place for your new idea. Take Dracula for example. Dracula: cool, cunning, scary, awesome. But imagine that in 2010 Bret Stoker comes along and wants to tell us all about Dracula's Dad! Who's way cooler, more cunning, scarier, and more awesome! Not buying it. In fact, abjectly rejecting it. If writers and readers really take to your idea, then they'll make it the biggest bested thing in a story, they don't need the author flat out saying what's most powerful, biggest, or coolest, that will work out itself.

Overview
A fine attempt, but the base idea, the pacing of the encounter, and especially the map drag this way down for me. There are some truly elegantly handled elements here, but they sadly don't outweigh the issues that would need to be rewritten or the map that would need a good deal of work before going over to a cartographer.

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

Initial Impression: Jesse’s clichéd “mad wizard” builds a bridge and I think I like it. Looking close, what will we find…

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

Let’s just get this out of the way up front: I’m giving you a pass on the mad wizard angle. If there is a single, long-established, well-respected cliché for fantasy content existing where it shouldn’t, it’s the “made by a crazy wizard” cliché. Time honored, tradition tested, classic. That would be like complaining that the bad guy is an evil wizard or evil cleric or a demon or extra-planar evil or that the bad guys want to rule or destroy the world. Yes, we’ve seen it a million times before, but it’s a part of the machine that makes this whole thing go. Move on, folks, nothing to see here. Next we’ll be complaining about mines made by dwarves. Of course I am teasing my pal Wes a bit with this, but this is my way of saying I’m not dinging you for the wizard bit. Love you, Wes!

Now on to your location. A drawbridge. An abandoned drawbridge. With a puzzle. Boy that could either be good or it could crash and burn.

I think you actually missed it, but I don’t know how much to penalize you. I think Hassaldor’s estate is the location or that chasm is your location and the span should have been your encounter area. I think that would have worked better, for instance calling your location Windshorn Pass. Windshorn Pass is your location, and it is unique for the presence of Hassaldor’s mansion and Hassaldor’s Span, with the span being your detailed encounter area. But that’s not what you wrote. I can’t impose my version of your submission and grade you against that. But I still think that would be the better way to do this. Since the bridge itself isn’t really that much to write home about. The bridge is only 50 feet long, it’s hardly some really cool landmark in and of itself. If you are going to make a bridge, make a freaking bridge. My view is borne out by the fact that the details of the bridge are in the encounter, not the location description. Plus, if the idea is that the PCs have to cross the bridge to get to the mansion, where the action and the treasure is, then half the world (the half coming from the road on the mansion side) don’t have to cross the bridge to get there.

But the idea of a magical span is cool and workable. It has the chance for adventure. My problem is that your chosen location is not where the PCs have to go to have that adventure (even though you do detail an adventure at the bridge).

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

Artistic merit, luckily for you, is not a criteria. As hand-drawn maps go, that one isn’t horrible. It does suffer from some poor elements—poor marking, unclear features, generic square buildings, L curve road which seems silly, 50 ft. bridge over a chasm which just seems incorrectly proportioned. But this has what is needed as a general matter for a cartographer to make a good final map. What I wanted this round, and what I am not seeing, is a really cool setting for an encounter. The bridge is one, but the surrounding terrain isn’t—it’s pretty generic other than the bridge.

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

Wow, this is the first one I have read that really spends substantially more words on the encounter. I think that is smart. The problem for you is what you do with those words. You make a few of the truly fatal mistakes of encounter design. Sorry about that. You can’t—just CAN NOT—presume PC actions and reactions in read aloud text and adventure set ups, and you do that not once but three times. You can’t just walk the PCs into the encounter. Most groups, veteran groups anyway, will say “Hey, wait a minute, we didn’t go around the bend. The rogue went up ahead invisible to scout it out and he went along the hill, not right in the middle of the road.” You just can’t force that set up on them. It is a very common mistake, but it is fatal. Then the chaitrakhan ambush, which apparently the PCs have no chance to notice. That’s not going to fly.

I like what you are trying to do—you are trying to set up a fun, epic hammer and anvil battle with the PCs squeezed between the bugbear bait and the chaitrakhan pack attack. Great concept, and I reward you for that. But you just don’t get to do it how you did it. Then you cap it off with what I have to admit is a reasonable puzzle. Those can be groan inducing adventure killers, though like the “mad wizard” they have a long tradition in gaming. Your puzzle is pretty fun, though, and solvable. The main problem is that your encounter doesn’t make any fun use of the bridge and its puzzle. It is an after the fact add on. The bridge is up during the fight and I don’t see any way it can be lowered during the fight. Now, what would be cool is if the PCs thought they could get across the span and during the fight someone started to raise it and the PCs had to deal with a fight on a slowly rising drawbridge. Now that would be epic. But as you’ve done, it you took the coolest part—the drawbridge—and put it up and out of play for the whole encounter. Not sure that was the best choice.

I like what you are trying to do, I really do. But that execution just doesn’t work. Sorry, Jesse. I like your monster choice, though.

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

I like the idea of the bridge fight and the use of the chaitrakhans.

Overall: C+

Jesse, I’m a fan of the snapleaf and your chaitrakhan (which makes its return here) was great, and your version of the Lahamu was very good. Though in that review I said I thought you were a bit sloppy there. I think the same thing here. I think your location and map were good, but had some flaws. But the way you structured that encounter just killed you in my view. I’m sorry, man. Good luck and the voters will decide.

Recommendation: I DO NOT recommend this entry advance.

Cartographer

I would give this map reference a grade of B.

This location could be cool, but the sketch itself is poorly realized.

More details are needed.

Why no effort made to show the interior of the buildings?

Also the lay of the land is somewhat ambiguous.

Good, unique idea for an adventure location. I would include a side view inset for increased interest.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

LOCATION
This entry is fine, though the "I'm a crazy wizard who does crazy stuff and you gotta do my riddles if you want to learn whatever meager knowledge my crazy brain has left" has been done. A lot.

ENCOUNTER
We try to avoid using "you" in read-aloud text, especially if in presumes actions by the PCs. Unfortunately, we are not as successful at this as we would like, but keep it in mind.

Don't capitalize spell names (such as "Invisibility Sphere").

The possessive form of PCs is PCs'. When you say, "He sends them to attack the PC’s rear," that means the bugbears are attacking the rear of a specific PC. If you want the bugbears to attack the rear of the group, you'd say, "He sends them to attack the PCs’ rear."

I assume Crackjaw is moving to the rear of the party along with the other bugbears, as invis sphere only has a 10 ft radius? And I assume he casts it on himself so that when he flees, it remains on him?

It's sorta weird that your encounter actually has another group of monsters attacking the initial group of monsters, and the invisibility thing is sort of just a set up to show how cool the chatraikans are. Especially as the guy who can use the wand doesn't get his own stat block (oops! rules say don't include such a thing) and gets killed by another monster without any intervention from the PCs. Also, the encounter doesn't say that the frostcats attack the PCs. And a potential encounter with 9 bugbears and 6 frostcats is a lot for a GM to juggle.

I don't like puzzles that rely on a word's English spelling, or synonims, or palindromes, or anything like that because the character's aren't speaking or reading English. Also, Paizo's books are translated into other languages, and this sort of puzzle doesn't translate literally--they'd have to rework it to suit their language.

MAP
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 1527x1275 pixels, which is 15"x12" 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.

The map is also a strange mix of overhead and horizontal perspective.

The text and the map do not say how deep the ravine is.

It would be nice to see what the interior of the gatehouses look like, rather than the roof.

OVERALL
The Location is pretty basic, the Encounter seems more like the setup for a cinematic event than a fight the PCs have to deal with, and the Map has some problems.

Cartographer

After reading the adventure scenario, I have several questions about the terrain. What is the height of the bridge in relation to the river or ravine? Do the buildings sit on the ledge or do they have land surrounding them for ambush? Is the road leading to the bridge elevated or is this an open path with no features on either side of the road. I clearly see that the adventure is focussed on an ambush, but it is also important how the players reach this point visually. There is a grid and markers to indicate which building goes with it's accompanying encounter. However, this is where my confusion grows. I would like to see the inside concept for the buildings and some carryover comments to their embellishments. If there is a puzzle and artisanship mentioned the adventure, this concept would most likely be continued through the environment. The sketch is clear and could be made into a clear map with most of these questions answered. C+


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

Name: 7/10
Not really inspired. Wouldn't make me investigate more if I saw it on an area map.

Description: 8/10
I do like a place that has history, and it sounds like there are other parts to discover in the area.

Map: 7/10
The map is clear, but it isn't all that interesting. Good use of color though.

Encounter: 7/10
I don't know, there's something about a bugbear encounter that just feels regular to me. It's a solid encounter, but it just doesn't wow me. Number puzzles don't really excite my group either.

Overall: 2,744
This scale is all numbers multiplied. Not in my top 4. I've enjoyed your work throughout the contest though. Good luck!


Hmm. I don't recall seeing mention of The Sable Prism anywhere before in a Paizo product, so assume that this is invented for the purpose of the contest. Otherwise this entry seems to step fairly lightly with regard to issues of canon, although I note there seems to be internal conflict in the entry between 'Hassaldor’s' and 'Hassildor’s' over the wizard's name.

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 - Your map is ok, but not quite Superstar material. I like the clear numbering and the use of color, but you have a strange mix of unrelated cliff symbols and hill symbols going on here. And I'm not sure what to make of the big open area to the right of the ravine and below the cliff-marks. Is this a field? Another ravine? Grade = C.

2. Quality - Very good background. This is good, solid writing. However, the structure of the encounter text is a little confusing. The two separate areas of read-aloud text sort of makes this feel like two encounters smerged together. Still, I think the encounter would be fun and memorable. Grade = A (but just barely).

3. Creativity - Crackjaw is an awesome name and a very cool villain. (Consider him stolen!) Adding the chaitrakhan is a nice touch, but it sort of feels like it's coming out of nowhere to attack poor Crackjaw. Why Crackjaw? I'm also not digging that the bugbears seem to automatically see the PCs approach. I love the idea of a drawbridge as the location, I can't remember if that's been done before. The "need a riddle to pass" schtick strikes me as a little Monty Python. Grade = B.

4. Wow Factor - Do I want to use this location/encounter? Yeah I dig it, but I would completely redraw the map and (don't hate me!) get rid of the riddle schitck. Grade = B.

Final Grade = 3.0, a B.

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


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I like the dramatic elements in this encounter. The ambush, the puzzle. Nice job. I agree that there are some issues with this entry, but nothing major. In all, I like it.


I must have been half-asleep last night. Whilst the modern day area is Varisia, the pre-earthfall empire was Thassilon, and the adjective appropriate to describe things pertaining to Thassilon should be Thassilonian.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8, Contributor

Everyone, thanks for the feedback both positive and constructive, particularly, Wes, Sean and Clark. Some of your suggestions for improvement echo feedback I've gotten as a GM from my players and getting it from the three of you as outside observers makes it all the more important.
To the community members that have already been proactive enough to comment, much appreciated as well.
Like I said last round, whether I go forward or not I'll be using your notes in any future design endeavors.
Thanks so much
Best Regards,
-QGJ


It was nice to see the chaitrakhan get some play, but I think it would have been better to either have them drawn by the sounds of battle, or just to eliminate the bugbears completely and make them the primary threat. Why would the bugbears be here anyways? From what you described, very few visitors ever come by the manor any more, so what do they stand to gain sitting out in the cold waiting for who knows how long for someone, ANYONE, to show up? Raise the danger level of the elements with some high winds (possibly grounding potential flyers) and bitter cold (still might not bother those resistant or immune to cold, like aasimar) and imclement weather. Nothing like new snowfall to cloak the approach of the frostcats (nice nickname, Sean), and having the eerie howl of a hunter rise above the wind...especially with nightfall fast approaching. Avoid directing the party actions, but still bring out your encounter point; use it as a possible salvation from the impending threat. I would agree with Clark that the chasm itself is more likely to be the encounter point, with the manor becoming the goal, and the drawbridge a secondary challenge to get to it. Of course, you have to convince the party why they need to use the bridge (but don't force them, in fact NEVER force them, to do something; otherwise, they're just more NPC someone else is running).

Yeah, that makes the encounter more of a cliche, but as Clark said, the whole "mad wizard" thing is pretty cliche as well, and sometimes that's what works.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
I don't like puzzles that rely on a word's English spelling, or synonims, or palindromes, or anything like that because the character's aren't speaking or reading English. Also, Paizo's books are translated into other languages, and this sort of puzzle doesn't translate literally--they'd have to rework it to suit their language.

I have never understood this line of reasoning. Puzzles are a staple of many adventures, and to strike wordplay-based puzzles from the GM's repertoire seems unnecessarily limiting. Taking Sean's attitude to the extreme case, we would then have to forbid any player handout printed in English (or the appropriate language for the players in question) because the characters aren't speaking or reading English. Should we then devise, say, a separate language - complete with alphabet, grammar and syntax rules, and so on - and use that language exclusively when playing a campaign in that region? I don't think it's a problem at all to jointly agree among players and GM that while they will be doing all of their communicating in English (or whatever their native language happens to be), the PCs and NPCs are all conversing and reading in the appropriate game language suitable to that campaign region. And therefore, when the PCs are up against a word-based puzzle, we can all just assume that while the players are reading and solving that puzzle in English (or whatever), their PCs are dealing with the same puzzle concept in their own appropriate language.

As for the concern that Paizo products are translated into other languages, I'll grant that this is a more relevant issue, since - to give two of Sean's examples - synonyms and palindromes aren't going to necessarily translate well between languages. (Although they've translated some of Shakespeare's plays into the Klingon language, while preserving the iambic pentameter structure, so it's probably not impossible - but I digress.) However, I would argue that in this particular case, the concern is negligible; the puzzle's solution consists of simply spelling out each number and then activating them in alphabetical order. While it's true that Jesse's specific solution was given in English, and that the, say, German solution would be a different one, it's not going to be difficult at all for a German GM to derive the appropriate German answer to the puzzle. (Actually, I imagine it would be the task of whoever's translating the Paizo product into German in the first place, but the concept still stands.)

Johnathan

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

I'm going to pass on voting for this entry.

As already noted, the map is somewhat rough, and leaves out some important details. The lack of interior views of the buildings was particularly problematic, since that leaves the reader guessing what their layouts may be.

Also, the encounter seems a bit arbitrary. I'll give you a pass on bugbears setting up an ambush on a supposedly-remote bridge. But the chaitrakhans just happening to show up at the exact same time as the PCs? That's seems unnecessarily arbitrary to me.

I can see how the encounter might be salvaged. The hungry chaitrakhans might have been stalking the PCs for a few days. They might be driven to attack during the bugbear battle by the scent freshly spilled blood. A set-up like that could justify their arrival. But that wasn't written into the encounter as presented.

All of that being said, I think you've done a great job throughout this contest. If you take the feedback you've gotten in Superstar and spend a little time polishing up your design skills, I could definitely see you getting published in the future.


The map is not as helpful as it should be. It indicates the shape of the path, the orientation of the chasm, the location of the bridge, and the approximate location of the bugbears; it does not however indicate the depth of the ravine, it leaves me with questions (as one of the judges has raised) as to why the path is the shape that it is, and I am very dubious that the buildings with the winch mechanisms are correctly placed for the most effective means of raising/lowering the two halves of the bridge. I would have expected the winch mechanisms to either abut the ends of the bridge (with an arched access or other passage to the bridge through them) or to take the form of twin towers flanking the road at each end of the bridge and maybe with an overhead driveshaft connecting the pair of towers at each end.
At twenty feet wide (at least where it runs north/south) that's a pretty broad mountain path by the way. Too broad I would be inclined to say without specific indication that it is used frequently by (or was at least made by) larger-than-human creatures.

As others have already commented you fall into some traps with your read aloud text by assuming particular actions by PCs.

You do not state which version of the Chaitrakhan stat block from Round 3 you have used. I have to work out from the CR given that it is likely Matt Goodall's.

You put effort into the encounter, but do not take into account the Stealth vs Perception of the initial approaching Chaitrakhan. The bugbear Crackjaw (even assuming he's busy watching he battle) should at least get a chance to hear the approaching Chaitrakhan (even if it's coming from out of his line-of-sight) and any PCs looking around for the source of the comments being shouted to their bugbear attackers should certainly get a chance to notice it.

The bridge seems an interesting location - is perhaps one of the strongest aspects in concept of this entry - but unfortunately you fail to use it in the encounter. It effectively represents a dead-end that PCs fighting first a bunch of bugbears and then waves of Chaitrakhans have their backs up against.

My overall impression is of an interesting basic concept, but which sadly falls short on the development side.

Thank-you for submitting this entry.

I don't know, if you leave things here, that you will get much further on this basis with the RPG industry. It seems to me that you have some talent, but I feel you need to polish and hone your skills. Attend seminars at RPG conventions you go to or buttonhole any available designers and adventure writers to talk with them; make submissions to Kobold Quarterly or PFS. I think you still have lot that you can learn and/or need to practice.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Richards wrote:
I have never understood this line of reasoning. Puzzles are a staple of many adventures, and to strike wordplay-based puzzles from the GM's repertoire seems unnecessarily limiting. Taking Sean's attitude to the extreme case, we would then have to forbid any player handout printed in English (or the appropriate language for the players in question) because the characters aren't speaking or reading English.

That's a specious argument. Nobody's expecting us to create a new language just for gaming and only write and speak in that.

However, there *are* sayings in English that (1) are anachronistic, (2) rely on Earth history and therefore don't make sense in a non-Earth world, and (3) are especially reliant on nuances of the English language. I think as a publisher we should avoid those things, because

(1) Something like "The buck stops here" only makes sense in countries where "buck" is a synonym for "dollar," and Golarion doesn't use dollars, so a sourcebook that had a character using that term would be awkward.

(2) Likewise, "Remember the Alamo!" is an Americanism, and makes little sense outside the USA, and even LESS sense in a world where there is no Alamo. Sure, you could hand-wave it and say, "oh, the character is just referring to something equivalent to the Alamo massacre in Golarion," but that just means it's "okay" to have a guy in an otherwise-serious campaign that talks like a California surfer "because that's the equivalent of what people from Rahadoum talk like, dude."

(3) Translating palindromes and such, which you already commented on. Some word puzzles are easier to translate than others; I'm just saying it's a bad path to start walking down. Puns also fit in this category.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

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

I'm just not a big fan of puzzles in general, except in rare situations.

Especially in something that's intended to have a wide audience. Nothing like "hey, solve this magic square to enter the cave" to bring an adventure to a dead stop.

Not that I encountered anything like that when I was in a Pathfinder adventure trying to enter a cave of the dwarven kings by pressing random buttons on a cave wall in an specific order or anything, with no clues, a dwarf who had no idea, and damage every time the wrong ones were pressed ...

The worst case I ever saw was one where there was a secret door with seven little tiles that you had to put into it in order, and they were digits, and the seven digits were 8 .. 6 .. 7 .. 5 .. 3 .. 0 .. 9 ..

I kid you not :)

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

gbonehead wrote:


The worst case I ever saw was one where there was a secret door with seven little tiles that you had to put into it in order, and they were digits, and the seven digits were 8 .. 6 .. 7 .. 5 .. 3 .. 0 .. 9 ..

I kid you not :)

Wow. Just, wow.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
That's a specious argument. Nobody's expecting us to create a new language just for gaming and only write and speak in that.

Hence my use of the phrase, "Taking Sean's attitude to the extreme case...." I'm not advocating that we need do this, or implying that you're advocating that we need do this, just pointing out just how far into the realm of silliness this attitude can be taken. My whole point here is that it shouldn't matter if a puzzle is based on the English language (or any language), since we can all agree that the PCs are all using whatever in-game language is appropriate.

Plus, getting all bothered about the PCs not speaking English means that you really shouldn't use rhyming riddles, another staple of RPG puzzles (a staple you yourself put to good use in Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad)...unless you assume that the rhythm, cadence, and rhyme patterns are similarly replicated in the language the PCs are using, in which the case becomes moot.

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

However, there *are* sayings in English that (1) are anachronistic, (2) rely on Earth history and therefore don't make sense in a non-Earth world, and (3) are especially reliant on nuances of the English language. I think as a publisher we should avoid those things, because

(1) Something like "The buck stops here" only makes sense in countries where "buck" is a synonym for "dollar," and Golarion doesn't use dollars, so a sourcebook that had a character using that term would be awkward.

(2) Likewise, "Remember the Alamo!" is an Americanism, and makes little sense outside the USA, and even LESS sense in a world where there is no Alamo. Sure, you could hand-wave it and say, "oh, the character is just referring to something equivalent to the Alamo massacre in Golarion," but that just means it's "okay" to have a guy in an otherwise-serious campaign that talks like a California surfer "because that's the equivalent of what people from Rahadoum talk like, dude."

(3) Translating palindromes and such, which you already commented on. Some word puzzles are easier to translate than others; I'm just saying it's a bad path to start walking down. Puns also fit in this category.

I agree with everything you've said there...but it's largely irrelevant to the case at hand. You seemed to be "dinging" Jesse's puzzle because its answer is based on the English spelling of the numbers 1-10; I, in turn, was just pointing out that

(1) the fact that the GM and players are using English to work on the solution to this puzzle is irrelevant if we all agree that the PCs are working in their appropriate language; and

(2) the puzzle, as written, has an elegant solution that transcends any individual language: push the buttons in alphabetical order of the numbers 1-10 as they're spelled out as words. The fact that different languages will have different solutions doesn't matter; the players are solving it in their native language, and the PCs are solving it in theirs.

Obviously, we have different views on the appropriateness of language-based puzzles. I can see your point (and agree completely) on the inappropriateness of building puzzles based on English axioms, puns, anachronisms, and historical facts that haven't happened in the game world, but I have no problem with using the English language as the basis for a puzzle, if it makes sense that the in-game language would follow suit.

Jesse's puzzle, I contend, meets that requirement.

Johnathan

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

I think that rather than dominating the discussion of this entry with a debate about the appropriateness of language-based riddles, I'm just going to drop this topic.


One of the things I like about encounters, or overall campaigns for that matter, is when the players have to think and interact with the environment and the story of the campaign. That said, I like when there's some sort of riddle or puzzle to solve, or when role playing furthers a story, as opposed to just hack'n'slash. I like being asked to figure something out based on clues and interviewing NPCs... so, I do like that this entry has a riddle. I also like the bridge location. I agree with Clark that there's a missed opportunity to make the bridge more central to the encounter, but that's something I think (based on Jesse's writing in past entries) could be fixed on a second edit. I understand that Superstar is about finding someone who may be able to do that sort of thing right out of the gate however. The thing I like most about all of Jesse's entries to date has been his ideas... yes, his work may need more spit and polish to be up to professional level, but I think his ideas are creative and exciting... they get me excited about gaming again.


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

Not a lot to this. I think I remember this same "guardhouse at bridge over a chasm" from a number of 1e/2e setpieces, and it's not adding a lot of "zazz." Sorry man.


Here's my limb and I'm going out on it: I have absolutely no issues with "The Crazy Wizard Did It" scenarios. Like Clark said, it's tried and true and (more importantly) it's something we can all understand and accept from the very get go. As a GM, I don't have to spend a year and a half explaining to my players what the hell's going on. A lot of the time, they don't care anyways. The McGuffin is, ultimately, irrelevant to GETTING TO THE GAMING and if that's because the Crazy Wizard Did It or because this demon wants to rule the world, that's totally fine by me. When can I stab something? Personally, I think Owlbears are some of the most ridiculous creatures ever thought up (I'd be curious to see how an Owlbear equivalent would have fared in a Superstar contest today; maybe I'll enter next year with my "VultureLion" and see what happens...) but they're so ingrained in the system these days that they're almost...comforting.

I feel the same way about the use of the bugbears. It's an interesting alternative and what I think it could do to my players is create a sense of misplaced comfort. "Whew! Just a bunch of bugbears. This'll be easy... Uh, Paladin, did YOU just make a growling yummy sound??" Maybe it is a little forced (spoken parts of adventures has been done before but I've always been somewhat ambivalent about actually speaking them out loud in the past), but it's the effect of that forcefulness that I like. I'd totally use that.

I do think that some of this adventure possibly assumes too much, like Wes pointed out; we're walking, leaving footprints, etc. But on the other hand, if all of my party is flying then its up to me to figure out something to either bring them to the ground or engage them in the air. I realize that's not what this competition is about, but I guess since I'm so used to tweaking adventures to fit the party I know I'll be running with I don't mind that so much... I wonder, if an encounter was laid out allowing for every possible party configuration, would it be judged as too vague?

I love puzzles. So do my friends that I play with. Some people don't but I do, even if I suck at some of them. This one is difficult until you see the answer and then it's almost a forehead slapper. I love that. And there's a backdoor with the skill checks. I don't see a problem at all with it. Well done.

The map and the parts of the adventure dealing with terrain are missing some elements, I think. Precisely, why can't we just go the freak around? How far North and South does this chasm go? How deep is it? What's at the bottom? I think besides those details and some others, the map's what the map should have been at this point. It gives me the idea of the adventure and let the cartographer make it prettier, more detailed, an isometric drawing or a plan view or what-have-you. It's a fifty-foot bridge, it's ten feet from the bridge to the gatehouse. Got it. Next?

I certainly don't disagree that some opportunities were missed here and what is here could be cleaned up a little more, but I like so much of what Jesse's done already that I want him to continue on just to see what else he comes up with. Game on.


Further Comment:
Depth of the chasm would also be useful to know since there is a possibility that bugbears and PCs at any rate (who aren't looking for their next meal) may try to bullrush things into it if at all possible.
What's the morale of the Chaitrakhan's?
What about the effect of slippery conditions underfoot on fighting? (There's snow falling and it's not slippery underfoot?)
This entry could have done so much more.

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: 3
The personal bias factor! Am I a fan of your work in prior rounds?
I haven't been blown away by your work so far, but I haven't been turned off by it either.

Location: 1
Is this a compelling and memorable place to visit?
It's a coded drawbridge. That's kinda neat. The context, though? An everyday geographical feature, an everyday road, and an everyday abandoned wizard's lab. The drawbridge just isn't enough to make the rest look memorable.

Encounter: 3
Clever? Exciting? Devoid of GM headaches and player annoyance?
The ambush is kind of cool. I honestly wish you had left it at that. The chaitrakhan twist seems to be there only so you could use your creature (warning: this will be a recurring theme). The "one every 1d6 rounds" mechanic is frankly a pain; there are enough things counted round-by-round already. It's a grudging necessity, not remotely fun. Also, except for the initial kill, none of it strikes me as sensible behavior for pack hunters; exactly how much can six of them eat, anyway? On the upside, it does create some slight tension in trying to get the drawbridge down -- IF the chaitrakhans, or for that matter the chasm, are actually a challenge for the PCs.

Plot: 1
Is this encounter well-connected to a plausible larger adventure?
"Seeking treasure in the abandoned wizard's lab" is what happens when there ISN'T a plot to follow, and every piece of this encounter is only a speed bump on the way to that idle passtime.

Round 3 Tie-In: 1
You had to use a round 3 monster. How much does that matter?
Not one bit, which is particularly painful because you picked your own creation. Worgs, an assassin vine, rival bugbears... could have been anything. You wanted to play with your own toy, and I sympathize; but I think it hurt you badly overall.

Golarion Tie-In: 1
This has to be a Golarion location. How much does that matter?
You drop a few names, but they don't stick. You could replace every single Golarion reference here with equivalents from nearly any other world, and it would fit just fine. Even the particular location in Golarion which you selected has very little relevance to your backstory; all of this could be picked up and moved to, for instance, Irrisen. Hell, you only put it in a cold place so you could use the chaitrakhan.

Map Quality: 2
Is your map clear, concise and useful?
It's a bridge. There are apparently some very small hills with spearmint growing on them. Granted, this is an open-terrain encounter and the map doesn't need to be too complex; if it weren't for those hills and the oddly L-shaped road, this might have ranked higher.

Text Quality: 2
Is your text clear, concise and useful?
This reads like someone explaining something in person. Not a prepared lecture, just conversational; the words come out as you think of them, and some of them are only there because you talk that way. It's an idiom that works for forum posts but is entirely wrong for published material, especially on the technical side. Bonus points for thinking to include a few DCs, though.

Final Rank: 8th
Total Score: 22
To be honest, I'm disappointed that you won't be able to enter again next year; I think you made real progress through the first three rounds, and with another year of refinement you could make a very strong showing. Unfortunately, this round is an unmitigated crash-and-burn and you can't come back. Still: I hope you don't give up on the whole career path. Top 8 is a badge of honor all by itself; you've got a foot in the door.

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

Lief Clennon wrote:
To be honest, I'm disappointed that you won't be able to enter again next year; I think you made real progress through the first three rounds, and with another year of refinement you could make a very strong showing. Unfortunately, this round is an unmitigated crash-and-burn and you can't come back. Still: I hope you don't give up on the whole career path. Top 8 is a badge of honor all by itself; you've got a foot in the door.

Is there a reason he won't be able to enter again next year that I don't know about?

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

James Martin wrote:
Is there a reason he won't be able to enter again next year that I don't know about?

The Top 8 finalists from previous years aren't eligible to compete in Superstar, per the contest rules.

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

Eric Morton wrote:
James Martin wrote:
Is there a reason he won't be able to enter again next year that I don't know about?
The Top 8 finalists from previous years aren't eligible to compete in Superstar, per the contest rules.

Oy! Missed that one, I did. Still, I suppose that makes sense. And it sort of makes getting knocked out in the last round a little less of a disappointment.

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

Jesse, I give you big props for finding a good balance between detailing the encounter vs. giving the background. You give us a good paragraph or so on the location, and then you move on and give us the encounter. This is the first of four that I've read that did that.

The map is okay; the use of color is helpful, but it's missing a lot of detail - building interiors, terrain lines for elevation, or just in-text description of the depth of the ravine, height of the snowbanks/ice walls around the road, etc.

The bridge puzzle is one I like, though slightly problematic for translations into other languages (as in, they'd have to change the order of the correct numbers based on the local language - in English it'd be one sequence, in Spanish another, in German another). The thing is, at this level there is ZERO reason for the PCs to bother with the bridge. The only reason people used the bridge in the Olden Days was because the wizard wouldn't give them the time of day if they didn't play along with his eccentric little games. Now that the wizard's dead and they're just there to sift the rubble and look for phat lewt, they have no incentive to indulge the wizard's eccentricity. If the drawbridge doesn't come down, a level 7-9 party has a jillion ways to get across the chasm and never have to bother with the fun little puzzle. This feeds back into the map question, because one obvious way across - to climb down, across, then back up - is impossible to figure without knowing how deep the chasm is.

Spoiler:
In the 2008 contest for my encounter area, I set it up on a frozen lake, with monsters busting through the ice from beneath. BUT, I also had to recognize the same challenge as you - how do I make the PCs stay on the ground? You called this place "Windshorn Ravine" - why not impose a constant strong wind effect that made it virtually impossible to fly across for regular-sized PCs? This was a place you might have picked up a trick from looking at past years' Superstar entries and seeing if one had bits you could borrow or take inspiration from in solving level-appropriate PC end-arounds for your encounter.

The setup for the encounter I actually think is very neat - bugbear ambush, then a few rounds later "there's always a bigger fish" and the chaitrakhans pop up and start eating the bugbears. Monster-on-monster action is rare, so you get points for creativity there.

The big killer, of course, is the scriptedness of the encounter. In writing it up, you can't anticipate PC actions. Your flavor text has to be action-neutral, and your tactical text needs to anticipate more than one PC approach to the encounter. You can't and don't need to anticipate EVERYTHING, but at a level where PCs are going to meet an encounter with this many monsters, you certainly should account for flying PCs.

Now, whether that scriptedness is fatal, I don't know. I'm half inclined to vote for you just for not killing the entry with flavor text and giving the right level of attention to the encounter, but the other half of me isn't sure if what you gave us in that extra word count on the encounter is quite Superstar stuff.

P.S. I have no problem with "the wizard did it" - yes it's cliche, but it's also standard reasonable stuff that the PCs will buy and move on with the adventure.

Does it win points for originality? No.

Does it work well enough in a campaign? Sure.

Then again, "does it work well enough" is not the same thing as "is it Superstar?" So, writer beware. In this contest, you gotta take your best shot and not just rely on stuff that works okay.

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

I've got mixed feelings about your entry. On one hand, the location itself is pretty cliche as pointed out by others - but honestly, it would make a great adventure location, and cliches are cliche because they work. Something that just doesn't work never gets overused to become a cliche. So, in terms of originality, not a great choice, but in terms of proving a potentially fun adventure location, this works. (I personally like adventures that feature a mix of puzzles and riddles instead of just combat and NPCs - thought not everyone does.)

The encounter itself is the most interesting of the 3 I've read so far - and while it does assume too much about the PCs actions, a re-edit could fix a lot of that - a little more space devoted to specifying that the bugbears easily see the PCs if they're climbing or flying up to the ledge, and perception checks, etc, combined with their actions if the PCs don't follow the most likely course would clean that up. I was a bit put off by the fact that Crackjaw skirts the rules of this round since his stat block is too complicated for the R4 rules. It would probably have been better to have him just be a bugbear that has ranks in UMD and skill focus in it to use the wand. It would also make it easier for him to become a 1 round kill for the ice cats without the extra hp.

While the encounter was a fun twist, as others have pointed out, the technical details were on the weak side. I actually thought your map was well drawn (and I know I couldn't turn something in by hand that looks half that good), but more details on it and a legend would have helped immensely. The same goes for the encounter - terrain details, depth of the chasm, cliffside are pretty necessary. Who doesn't want to bull rush someone off the edge in any encounter where you have the option?

So, to sum up, this was a solid effort, and I could see enjoying running or playing in the adventure set in this location, but overall some of the technical issues and lack of originality on the location itself hurt it.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8, Contributor

Joel,
Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciated your assessment.
Thanks to everyone else as well for their reviews.
Regards,
QGJ


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, in the event that you do not make it to Round 5.


This map, location, and encounter have significant problems that combine to make this entry arguably the worst of the round.

The encounter with the chaitrakhan pack occurs before the party even reaches the titular Hassaldor's Span. It does not involve the drawbridge in any way. Also, presumably, the bulk of the encounters in this part of the implied adventure take place in Hassaldor's Manor, not on or around Hassaldor's Span. So why would the map you submitted even be included in the published adventure? It wouldn't. It's a waste of space, money, and cartographer talent.

Moreover, it's not a very good map for reasons that have already been pointed out: mix of horizontal and vertical perspective, perfectly square buildings, no interior layout for the gatehouses, ambiguous terrain features, etc.

In writing the encounter, you make some very problematic assumptions. Six chaitrakhan are a CR 11 encounter. Even an underleveled party (let's say APL 8) could have the tools to completely bypass this encounter. You assume the party is traveling by land, but they could be traveling by air at this point thanks to wild shape, air walk or fly spells, or flying mounts. You assume the party cares about the cold, but they could easily be immune to environmental cold at this point due to actual cold resistance or more likely endure elements effects. You assume they can't detect the invisible bugbears, but they easily could with a variety of divination spells. You assume that nine bugbears could last three rounds against the party, but the party spellcasters probably have some area-effect damage spells that could one-shot them. In addition, bugbears in Golarion are solitary or small group serial killers, they don't really form warbands as described in this encounter.

You also sort of snuck a second encounter into your submission with the puzzle to lower the bridge.

Sorry, no vote.

EDIT=Added how Golarion bugbears differ from standard DnD bugbears.

Andoran

Mr. Benner -- Hassaldor’s Span

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 (49pts)
Catchy, attractive, etc.
Not a 'I wanna see what happens next' name but not a 'Oh this is terrible I don't wanna read at all' name either.

Writing (9pts)
Well written in general, interesting, etc.
Oh boy, here comes the tough part. It wasn't THAT well written I didn't finish reading the whole thing, it's just not 'Superstar'.

Map (16pts)
Useful, read-able, clear, etc.
Clear: Yes. Useful: Kind of. Clear: There really wasn't much to read. You have to read the description to know what the map means. If someone just has the map, it's not all that useful.

Creature (25pts)
Surprising, well-used, etc.
Bugbears, COME ON. Chaitrakhan, Good. Surprise: Ok.

General (16pts)
Anything I didn't mention above
I liked the Chaitrakhan, but not the theme. Sorry, you don't get a vote from me. But hey, what do I know? I'm just 10.

SCORE:115
RANK:8th (Last Place)

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Jesse,

True confession- in Round Three you scared me as much as anybody. :D

That's a compliment. I hope you don't give up, because that would be a waste of some real talent, and this isn't the only way to hone your skills.

You showed a lot of poise in Round One, and frankly as much or more than I could managed.. and I still haven't forgotten that.

I'm hoping you and gracious wife do make it to PaizoCon, have a good time, and that you don't give up designing. You did great! My best wishes.


Commiserations.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

Jesse

I don't suppose it's much comfort, but I am bummed you didn't make it. Your previous submissions were well-done, and compared to some of the other candidates, I saw you as the "surprise" success of this round. I guess that didn't translate in the voting.

I really got into the concept of the location, and the puzzle/bridge idea was well develop (depsite the complaints of it being cliche.)
The map development, and the encounter was were issues cropped up. Overall, it came out a little flat in application.

Best of luck with future endeavors.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Jesse Benner wrote:
A blood-curdling scream cuts through the sounds of battle. Turning to look you see a massive, cat-like creature covered in blue, armor-like plates viciously shaking its head. As it does, drops of blood fan across the snow until you hear a crunch and the screaming stops. Another bugbear materializes suddenly, its twisted neck clamped in the ice-cat’s jaws. With a final savage shake, the beast drops the goblinoid’s body and approaches.

Personally? This is probably my favorite snippet of writing in the whole godamn contest. It may not be flawlessly presented, but no one can say it isn't cool.

I have a confession to make here: based on your item, I didn't think you were going to advance very far. Don't get me wrong, the snapleaf was awesome, but I took it for one of those strokes of inspiration or cool mental images that strike once in a blue moon. Imagine my surprise when your entries kept delivering that ephemeral awesomeness round after round. You actually made me like the Lahamu (my personal least favorite monster before that). The Chaitrakhan totally rocks. And I still think your puzzle bridge and ambush-in-the-snow were pretty cool. There's a hidden challenge in round 4, though. It's not just 'Design a cool encounter" or "design a cool place", it's "show off your adventure-spinning chops so we know we can advance you to round 5".

It's unfortunate that we won't see you in future superstars, but hopefully we'll see more of your work just the same. You've definitely got something here.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 , Star Voter 2014

Nicolas Quimby wrote:
Jesse Benner wrote:
A blood-curdling scream cuts through the sounds of battle. Turning to look you see a massive, cat-like creature covered in blue, armor-like plates viciously shaking its head. As it does, drops of blood fan across the snow until you hear a crunch and the screaming stops. Another bugbear materializes suddenly, its twisted neck clamped in the ice-cat’s jaws. With a final savage shake, the beast drops the goblinoid’s body and approaches.
Personally? This is probably my favorite snippet of writing in the whole godamn contest. It may not be flawlessly presented, but no one can say it isn't cool.

Agreed. That's some nice writing.


Jim Groves wrote:
I'm hoping you and gracious wife do make it to PaizoCon

Hee! Gracious!

I don't get that adjective often...

We have a little gamer at home who will only be 14 months old during PaizoCon, making the logistics of all of us coming to Washington state a bit challenging. I am trying to convince Jesse to go without us this year... It's coming together, so while I don't think we'll get to meet (this time, mwah ah ah!) you may get to roll some dice with Jesse.

Best of luck going forward! I'm super-excited to see your submission for round 5!

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8, Contributor

Jim Groves wrote:

Jesse,

True confession- in Round Three you scared me as much as anybody. :D

That's a compliment. I hope you don't give up, because that would be a waste of some real talent, and this isn't the only way to hone your skills.

You showed a lot of poise in Round One, and frankly as much or more than I could managed.. and I still haven't forgotten that.

I'm hoping you and gracious wife do make it to PaizoCon, have a good time, and that you don't give up designing. You did great! My best wishes.

Jim,

When my wife and I read "the skintaker" we decided that if I ever didn't advance to another round, both our votes would go to you and gladly.
You've proven yourself to be a bolstering competitor, an inspiration to do my best and a gracious gracious person. It is my hope to make it to the con, and if I can we'll have to share contact info. I'd love to roll some dice with the person that my money is on to be RPG Superstar 2010.
All the best, and thanks for the kind words.
-QGJ

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8, Contributor

Erik Randall wrote:
Agreed. That's some nice writing.

Thanks Erik

That means a lot.
Best Regards,
QGJ

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8, Contributor

Alex Martin wrote:

I really got into the concept of the location, and the puzzle/bridge idea was well develop (depsite the complaints of it being cliche.)

The map development, and the encounter was were issues cropped up. Overall, it came out a little flat in application.

Best of luck with future endeavors.

Alex, thanks for the feedback and the nice words. I appreciate that you're able to critique without bashing. It's a rare gift and I hope it serves you well.

Regards,
QGJ

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8, Contributor

Nicolas Quimby wrote:
It's unfortunate that we won't see you in future superstars, but hopefully we'll see more of your work just the same. You've definitely got something here.

Nick,

Thanks for the nice words and for the props to that writing piece.
I have to say that I thought the rich details and ecology of your liesinger made me want to design entire adventures around it, and I had wanted to see you go further as well.
I'll be really looking forward to what you do next year. If you want to find me on Facebook, or if you're going to the con, it would be great to get to know you better.
The outpouring of support from everyone really does soften the blow.
Thanks, everyone, you've turned the blow of not making Top 4 into subdual damage.
All the best
QGJ


Anybody who advances to the top 8 and no longer has to put up with the...privilege, of running the RPG Superstar gauntlet anymore is a winner in my book.

So hats off to all of you guys.

As far as Hassaldor's Span goes, I really like it. Some parts would be challenging to implement, but the basic underpinnings of the encounter are strong. It also has some little seen, even unique, elements to it that would make for an absolutely gripping encounter. I'm thinking specifically of Chaitrakhan hunting both Bugbears and PCs indiscriminately, here.
Really, what better way to instill fear in the heart of a PC than by introducing a beast that works AGAINST one of the GM's other beasts?
In my opinion, the job of a GM is to make the role-playing experience as real as possible for the gamers. And if they're scared - really frightened - it becomes the player who's getting stalked by a ferocious ice kitty and not his character. And this encounter, if done right, will bring the fear by the truckload.
I also think that the environment and locale is so rich in detail that it further serves the GM's duty of creating a real experience out of dice and paper. There are terrain considerations. Weather. Structures. I know that the houses were not flushed out on the map, but who cares? Hassaldor's Span might not have been the most polished of the entrants, here. But it certainly has the highest ceiling of the eight.

I'm using it.

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