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From Time's Depths


Round 5 - Top 4: Submit a full adventure proposal

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RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

From Time's Depths

Synopsis
A millennia-old artifact resurrects an ancient city from the depths of the sea, and the race is on to plunder the riches of a forgotten age! The heroes must overcome dangers past and present, including bloodthirsty pirates, hungry sea creatures, and the city's horrific last living survivor if they wish to uncover the mystery of the resurfaced city and survive to tell the tale.

From Time's Depths is an exploration-oriented dungeon adventure for 6th-level characters. The PCs should be 8th level at the module's conclusion.

Adventure Background

Spoiler:
Long ago, the aboleth rulers of Azlant became tired of the increasingly arrogant nature of their human subjects and plotted to destroy them. However, there was a risk that some of Azlant's aboleth-trained mages - particularly the powerful spellcasters in the great academy-city of Uthua - would escape destruction and wreck terrible vengeance. To avoid complications, the aboleths resolved to destroy Uthua first.

The aboleths summoned the Starstone and an enigmatic entity dwelling nearby, the starstone scion. They sent the starstone scion just prior to the Starstone's arrival, sending Uthua to the bottom of the sea. With Azlant's most powerful mages entombed miles underwater, the Starstone crashed into Golarion, destroying Azlant utterly.

However, the starstone scion had an unforeseen effect on sunken Uthua – its impact partially severed the city from the normal flow of time, causing small areas within the city to endlessly repeat the events occurring just prior to the catastrophe.

Adventure Hook: Mysterious Map
Before the adventure begins, the party acquires a blank metallic scroll and a small crystal pendant. Depending on the circumstances, they might win one or both of the items in a game of chance, steal them from a dying pirate, or receive them from a mysterious patron. When the crystal is exposed to magical illumination and held near the scroll, magical Azlanti writing points the way to a city of great magical power near the northeastern tip of the sunken continent. Wearing or holding the pendant also grants the user the ability to understand and communicate in the ancient Azlanti language.

The adventure begins after the PCs have deciphered the strange map and chartered a vessel to the sunken continent of Azlant.

Opening Scene
As the party's ship navigates the treacherous rocky outcroppings near Azlant, a vessel is spotted on the horizon that resembles one of the swift cutters piloted by the hostile Mordant Spire elves. Unfortunately for the PCs, these are no mere elves – when the vessel spies them, its sails flare blood-red and display a horned skull with two crossed barbed tentacles, the symbol of the notorious pirate that men call the Devilfish.

The Devilfish (male half-fiend ogre witch):
The enigmatic figure known as the Devilfish is one of western Avistan's most notorious pirates. If one believes the whispered tales told in rum-soaked coastal taverns, his mother, an ogress from the hills of the Devil's Perch, consorted with a minion of Hell and was gifted with a son. The child escaped to Cheliax's capital where he received training as a Hellknight before he deserted, slaughtered an admiral, and commandeered one of the Navy's prize ships with the aid of a murderous tribe of sahuagin.

The truth about the Devilfish is terrible enough. He stands ten feet tall with a bristling black beard, red longcoat, and a giant black cloak concealing his massive diabolic wings. He delights in his bloodthirsty reputation and chose the name of one of Golarian's most feared ocean denizens to better sow terror in his wake. While the Devilfish does possess the cruelty common to all ogres, he is somewhat more cautious and far more cunning than most. One of his favorite tricks involves setting hapless adventuring parties on the trail of fabulous riches, then swooping in to overpower them once the exhausted explorers try to return home with their spoils.

In combat, the Devilfish is capable of withering foes with hexes from afar, or slicing them in two with his razor-sharp falchion while his archeopteryx familiar swoops in to deliver debilitating spells. His crew consists of combat-seasoned sahuagin skilled in the use of weighted nets to entangle “little fishies”, the term they reserve for their unfortunate victims. The Devilfish's current ship, the Frenzy, was stolen from the Mordant Spire elves and has proved quite useful in helping him plunder Azlanti treasures without interference.

Combat:
Once the Devilfish reveals himself, he launches a dragonnel (ToH 170) from the deck of the Frenzy. The creature quickly approaches the PC's ship on great leathery wingbeats, and as its shadow falls over the ship, four sahuagin dive from its back(taking 10 on their +15 Swim checks to avoid damage from falls up to 150 feet) and the dragonnel drops a large smoke-bomb. Hidden by the choking smoke, the sahuagin divers climb on board while the dragonnel descends. When the dragonnel reaches the deck, a four-armed one-eyed sahuagin - the Devilfish's vicious bosun Bloodgill - leaps from its back. Unlike the nets carried by the sahuagin divers, Bloodgill's nets have trailing ropes attached to the dragonnel. An entangled PC must escape the net or cut its trailing rope before the dragonnel takes to the air, or climb up the rope and goad the angry reptile back to the ship.

Uthua Rises:
At a dramatically appropriate moment during or after the battle, the starstone scion senses the pendant and triggers a massive earthquake. The Frenzy flees as massive waves rock the PC's ship and giant slime-encrusted buildings break the water's surface. For the first time in five thousand years, Uthua, ancient wizard-city of the Azlanti, escapes its deep ocean prison.

Exploring Uthua
The water around Uthua is too shallow for the ship – the PCs need to row, fly, or swim to the city, with a half-submerged columned temple offering the easiest point of entry. Most of the city bears the mark of its time in the ocean depths - pulsing growths and bone-white corals cover its paving-stones and decaying walls, and the grotesquely bulging bodies of strange fish litter the streets. However, in small areas called timestorms, Uthua appears as it did in ages past.

Timestorms:
Created by the sleeping starstone scion, a timestorm is a reflection of an event that occurred long ago when the strange creature destroyed Uthua. The events within a timestorm endlessly repeat, unfolding exactly the same as they did in Uthua's final hours. Outside entities are free to enter, exit, and interact with the timestorm, though they cannot remove the original objects or creatures from the area. The timestorm counters minor alterations with small coincidences, but events involving the timestorm's major actors - like saving a life, killing someone, or altering a similarly important occurrence - turn the timestorm into an imperfect reflection of past events, erasing it and freeing the trapped souls inside. The ethics of a timestorm are not straightforward – is killing in a timestorm an evil act if it frees souls from endless recursion?

As the PCs explore Uthua, they will discover timestorms and other strange sights in the ruins of the ancient city. Listed below are some of these areas:


  • The ruins of a large central structure containing a strangely helpful timestorm-trapped aboleth that realizes it doesn't precisely exist

  • The wreckage of a gutaki(PF#7 81) enclave, its hideous octopus-like inhabitants reduced to bloated waterlogged zombies that can barely move

  • An unfortunate timestorm in which Azlanti guards are torn apart by an enraged mob of escaped elven experimental subjects

  • A forest of abandoned white worm-tubes

  • Inside a timestorm in Uthua's Great Library, a mage screams for his apprentices to grab a scroll while monolithic shelves crash down, killing many of the youths

  • A titanic sea serpent in its death throes, tormented by swarms of flesh-eating crabs while it spasms and thrashes

As PCs enter timestorms, they will eventually meet Oguuth, Uthua's last living survivor.

Oguuth (black pudding id ooze sorcerer)
Before Azlant fell, Oguuth was one of Uthua's most respected mages. He received instruction from the aboleths themselves, absorbing both their incredible arcane knowledge and incomparable selfishness. When the Starstone tumbled towards Golarion, others tried to stop the meteor's inexorable descent, but Oguuth sought only to save himself. As the city sank, Oguuth's protective wards held, but they could not fully withstand the crushing blackness of the deep, transforming him into a hideous mass of corrosive protoplasm.

Trapped in the ocean depths, Oguuth found his new body abhorrent, but discovered that he could assume the guise of his previous human form – an obese smooth-shaven man with imperious mien – by staying within the strange timestorms created by the creature in the crater at the city's center. The long press of time and the restrictions of his amoeboid body have robbed Oguuth of social graces and much of his magical knowledge, which now manifests at a lesser, almost instinctual level. Oguuth only converses from within a timestorm in his human form, and goes to great lengths to hide his inhuman nature from visitors.

The first time the party enters a timestorm with Oguuth present, he is eager to make small talk and to hear news of the outside world. If questioned, he claims merely to be part of the current timestorm, a lie that will wear thin as the party repeatedly encounters him. If the PCs do not yet realize that timestorms are erasable, Oguuth can be tricked into revealing it. Once the party attempts to erase a timestorm, Oguuth reacts poorly, fleeing into a nearby crevice (or casting invisibility) if the party appears likely to succeed and reveal his true form. If the PCs become suspicious about Oguuth's presence in so many timestorms and confront him, he mutters something about protecting his treasures in the crater, and disappears a final time.

Listed below is an encounter that may feature Oguuth.

The Speech:
In a timestorm within Uthua's ruined amphitheater, an Azlanti demagogue rallies citizens against the tyranny of their aboleth rulers. If the party attempts to alter events, there are three obvious courses of action: kill the speaker before he finishes the speech, convince the crowd (using the pendant or some other means to speak Azlanti) to ignore the call for rebellion, or simply disperse the crowd before the speaker incites them to action.

If Oguuth is present, he observes the speech with a wistful look on his face. He flees at the first sign of violence, but speaks alongside the demagogue if the PCs attempt to rally the crowd.

When the timestorm dissipates, the now-ruined amphitheater appears, covered in fibrous orange polyps. A dripping hole in the floor gapes from behind the speaker's stone podium.

Monsters of Uthua:
Because Uthua has recently risen from the ocean, most combat occurs out of the water, and most aquatic fights happen in waist-deep or shallower water.

Listed below is a sampling of the creatures PCs might encounter while exploring Uthua:


  • Ghosts of long-dead Azlanti soldiers who regain their living appearances when they pass through a timestorm

  • A wounded albino giant squid fleeing a ravenous pack of lacedons

  • Hounds of Tindalos (PF#4 82) who harry PCs entering their timestorm lairs

  • Swarms of blind white scavenger crabs eager for a chance at fresher meat

  • The dreaded thesselmoray(ToH 407), an eight-headed moray eel

  • A tribe of skum with the features of deep-sea fish, including the hideous Deep Mother

NEW MONSTER: Skum, Deep Mother
Faced with a lack of females to carry on their kind, the skum of the deep ocean trenches resort to an unpleasant ritual in which an individual ingests prodigious quantities of fluid extracted from the glands of female fish. Over time, the now-feminized skum grows to enormous size, with a bloated ovoid body, a sprawling quadrupedal posture, and a yawning toothy maw capable of swallowing a giant squid whole. The atrophied bodies of male skum hang from her corpulent form, and a long filament projects from between her eyes, terminating in a glowing orb.
In combat, a deep mother relies on the magical abilities projected from her orb to blind and stun prey so she can swallow them without resistance. The creature can swiftly shrivel the body of an attached skum to heal and regain her orb abilities, and other skum can latch on to her if she requires additional sustenance.

The Final Goal
Whether the PCs desire the starstone scion's power, the riches stored in its crater by Oguuth, or the release of the souls trapped by Uthua's timestorms, they must find a way to access the crater containing the starstone scion, currently blocked by a massive timestorm replaying the entity's destructive impact. If the party recovers one of the ancient artifacts Uthua's mages tried to use to prevent the catastrophe and they successfully activate it, they can “avert” the scion's arrival, erasing the timestorm. Alternatively, the PCs can discover Oguuth's secret tunnel into the crater.

Finale
Once the PCs successfully enter the crater they find the starstone scion: a gigantic humanoid form with a vaguely fetal appearance. Small timestorms are scattered through the chamber; Oguuth stands in one of them, surrounded by priceless Azlanti treasures. He beseeches the PCs not to awaken the scion, as it will destroy the last remnant of his and Azlant's past glory (in that order). If the party attempts to awaken the starstone scion despite Oguuth's entreaties (or they take the Azlanti artifacts in the chamber), Oguuth snaps and steps out of the timestorm, revealing his present form, a hideous oily amoeboid mass with the screaming silhouette of a human face. Before the confrontation, Oguuth split himself into several pieces; as one piece steps from the timestorm, two of the others ooze from cracks in the chamber, muttering curses in disquieting synchrony.

Combat:
One piece of Oguuth blocks access to the starstone scion and readies to counterspell while the two others alternate between spells and melee attacks (each piece of Oguuth draws from the same set of spell slots). All three of the ooze pieces will attempt to grab PCs who move near the starstone scion.

Awakening the Scion
The starstone scion can be awakened if a PC touches it for three consecutive rounds, a task made easier if Oguuth has been defeated. Each round of sustained contact causes the starstone scion to glow more brightly, until the eyes in its oversized head open into perfect circular voids. As Uthua's timestorms cease, the creature gazes at the PCs and unfolds several delicate gelatinous wing-flukes. Wordlessly, it vanishes in a pulse of phosphorescence, and each PC within the chamber gains the blessing of the starstone scion. If Oguuth is alive when the starstone scion awakens, he flees the scene and his surviving pieces(including his hidden fourth piece) merge together before seeking their revenge (see Aftermath below).

Blessing of the Starstone Scion:

Spoiler:
Three times during his or her adventuring career, a PC can utilize a fraction of the starstone scion's power as a swift action. Time briefly pauses, giving the PC an additional standard or move action with the restrictions of the time stop spell. After the action is performed, time (and the rest of the PC's turn) proceeds normally.

Aftermath
Shortly after the starstone scion departs, a shudder reverberates throughout the chamber – another earthquake is sending the city back into the depths! The PCs must race for Uthua's only standing tower as the water rises.

At the tower's apex, the PCs see a ship approaching, but it is not their own – the Devilfish has returned to steal the fruits of the party's labors. Before the tower sinks completely, his crew extends a gangplank, laughing at the party's predicament and telling them they can come aboard like men or like fish. The PCs can fight (see Combat) or attempt to parlay with the Devilfish, but Oguuth is not quite finished with those who destroyed the final illusion of his humanity. When Oguuth split himself, one piece hid while the others pleaded and fought, and it follows the PCs up the tower before latching on to the Frenzy. As the PCs fight or bargain with the Devilfish and his crew, Oguuth dissolves through the hull and bursts onto the main deck, howling for revenge.

Combat:
Once the battle begins, the Devilfish hurls his choking cloak at a nearby spellcasting PC, then attempts to cast misfortune hex on a dangerous-looking melee character. If the hex succeeds, the Devilfish challenges the PC to single combat, using cackle (a deep booming laugh) to prolong the effects of the hex during the fight. If the PC accepts, the Devilfish stays true to his word and directs the crew not to interfere (though he will cast debilitating spells like bestow curse on the PC if the battle goes poorly). His crew gangs up on other likely targets, tossing weighted nets before using their Precise Strike teamwork feat (+1d6 damage while flanking).

When Oguuth joins the battle, he eschews spellcasting for the more personal approach of grabbing and dissolving the PCs one by one. He defends himself against the crew if attacked, but prefers to focus on the PCs.

New Item: Choking Cloak

Spoiler:
This fine rayskin cloak has an elaborate golden clasp engraved with images of tentacles dragging screaming sailors to their doom. When worn, the cloak attempts to suffocate its wearer unless they quickly utter a command word or slip from its grasp. Once per day, the wearer can toss the cloak at a nearby creature – on impact, the item assumes the form of a cloaker and immediately attempts to engulf.

Victory:
As the PCs stand victorious aboard the rapidly sinking Frenzy, a sail appears on the horizon – the party's ship has returned. Upon their return, the PCs may find themselves bombarded by sages offering large sums of money for their insights into Azlanti culture....that is, assuming anyone believes their story in the first place!

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

Pirates, and aboleths, and Azlant, oh my! Folks really seem to dig this idea, we’ve seen a number of requests for adventures in this vein and we’re drawing on many of these themes for the upcoming Pathfinder Module: From Shore to Sea. So kudos for hitting on a part of the setting that definitely has a good deal of public interest. Lets see what we’ve got…

Background
Thank you for not writing a novel here. The aboleths double-cursed one of Azlant’s most magical cities and now there’s weird time vortexes. Azlant, aboleths, ruin, boom. Gotcha. This sets up some new elements for the adventure, though I have to wonder if we really need a magical alien no one’s ever heard of when we’re already dealing with the strange powers of the aboleth and the high magic of the Azlant – especially when it doesn’t look like this guy’s getting set up as the module’s new monster.

Adventure Hook
As a reason for the PCs to start their adventures I totally don’t buy this. There’s just no assurance that the characters will actually go on the adventure. As trite as the old “A guy comes up to you in a bar” adventure hook is, it works, as you have an employer, the challenge is explained, and payment is promised. Here, you have nothing but a map a minor magic item and the hope that the PCs’ curiosity is enough to see them hire a ship and head into the middle of the ocean. In mategame terms this is probably fine, as the players will likely recognize this as an adventure hook and set off, but as a compelling way to hook characters in a living world, not so much.

Adventure
Totally uninterested in the Devilfish dude. This seems like filler between the hook and the real adventure at the cool sunken city. I understand that you want to and should have some encounter between the coast and the meat of the adventure, but an ambush by a crazy ship full of monsters feels really “Wahoo!” to me.

How Uthua rises also leaves me really cold. So the pendant you have does this? Why does the pendant matter again? It really seems like a portable plot device: it points you there, it raises the city, and it lets you speak with the things there, and has no other background. It’s the most important item in the adventure and conveniently laden with a host of absolutely necessary abilities yet has no role besides being relied upon to make the adventure work. This is a significant problem.

Once you’re in the city, things get cooler. I’m fuzzy on how the timestorms work – whether they’re static or whip up and cause effects – but seeing moments from a city’s ruin through the lens of the folks who suffered it is pretty cool (So cool, if fact, that we made it a major element of Pathfinder #15: The Armageddon Echo :P ). I really like the encounters with things drug up from the seafloor, especially the worm-tube forest: creepy!

Oguuth poses another problem. I think you underestimate how difficult it can for NPCs to escape from and save their “big reveal” secrets from PCs. Rarely can you count on a mysterious NPC to appear, get away, appear, get away, appear, and have a climatic fight – and reveal that he’s been a big monster all along. If the PCs manage to reveal him early, or even worse, reveal and defeat him, your climax relies on having him in monster form – twice actually with the extra ship ending – and an early beat down pretty much ruins that. Oguuth’s ability to split himself up might help solve that, but every time he splits he gets way weaker. (By the by, id ooze is a type of gray ooze, not black pudding – am I missing something here.) Illusions, or even just timestorm memories of him might work better, but whatever the case, this needs some reworking.

The idea of a giant squid fleeing lacedons in low water is REALLY creepy! I hate to say it, but in several cases your random encounters in the city feel way more interesting and exciting than the more scripted stuff. I’d love to see more of the city, more for its Azlanti and risen underwater ruin aspects than for the starstone scion aspect.

Finale I’m not sure why the PCs would know about or care about the starstone scion, especially as he looks more like a monster than something helpful. I could really see many PCs taking a “nuke ‘em all” approach to this battle. The blessing the scion can give them is a neat component and extra rules elements like this can be neat, but I don’t see any PCs wanting to spend a lot of time touching this thing to wake it up. Also, like I said before, I’m dubious of Oguuth’s ability to keep his secret and survive to this point.

Extra Finale End the adventure before this. The idea that the Devilfish survives and comes to save the PCs, is a deus ex machina. Then that Oguuth somehow actually survived and comes back to attack again is too gimmicky. Then that the PCs’ boat – ostensibly with the devoted crew the PCs hired – sails in to save them again is another deus ex machina. Rough. All of this sounds great in a script, but as an adventure it robs the PCs of their control of the game, likely has the break the rules to get Oguuth back, and leaves the PCs needing to be rescued (twice) – which never feels very heroic.

New Monster
Adding new subspecies to existing monsters is rarely the way to imaginative and memorable creature design. At best, your new monster is never going to be as high profile as the most standard version of its kind. It also raises the question, if there’s all these other types of, say, chokers, why doesn’t the choker description mention the 30 other varieties? So even there such elements just feel tacked on. Explaining in the text that something is new, rare, a mutant, whatever, might alleviate some of this, but 9 out of 10 times its better to create something entirely new and let it swim without tethering it to some hypothetically cooler monster - as such usually just weighs both down.
In this case, I get that skum are related to aboleth and aboleth play a role in all of this, but I’d still rather see something entirely new that an additional type of skum. In fact, if you didn’t use skum in the title and still had these things be the huge horrible fish-things skum mate with I’d be all about them.

A Word on Word Count
The most important difference between writing for your home game and writing for publication is that you need to think in the terms of a format. In the case of a Pathfinder Module, your format is a 32-page book. It will not be 33 pages, 38 pages, or 61 pages. It will not have bound in poster maps, cut out handouts, plastic miniatures, or a life-sized bust of the main villain. What you’ve seen in the line is what yours is going to look like. So word count and economical use of that amount becomes real important. These days Pathfinder Modules are clocking in around 20,000-ish words (Sean can probably give us an exact count on this). At the beginning of a project that sounds like a lot, half way through not so much, and by the time you hit 25,000 words and still have 5 encounter areas left to write you’re trying to convince yourself that your editors will appreciate all the “extra content” you’ve provided! (This is patently untrue. Imagine reading the Hobbit and then having someone tell you its your job to make the story awesome, by cutting half the chapters – not easy, not fun.)

The reason I’m going on this tirade is because you’ve got a number of elements in here that are going to eat up a lot of room. While I love that you’re drawing on parts of our world and tons of Pathfinder content (even some that aren’t released yet), a lot falls outside of what we consider the “Core”. Look at a volume of Pathfinder Adventure Path. We don’t give you the stats for standard orcs, or chimeras, or zombies – those are on the Bestiary. At the same time, we don’t explain what the Dodge feat does or what a longsword is, those are all in the Core Rulebook. We assume that everyone has those handy and can reference them all we want. Beyond the game elements included in those, though, you can’t assume your audience has and knows every other Pathfinder-related product. So that means that if you want to include an element from outside the game’s core assumptions, you have include – aka reprint – the rules required to make that element useable. So, giving this a brief glance, that means that we’d need to run complete statblocks and ability descriptions for a dragonnel, devilfish, hounds of Tindalos, thessel-anything, and, as we can’t assume players will have the Advanced Player’s Guide a description of every witch ability pertinent to a half-fiend ogre (who’ already going to need his own statblock). Taking generously low estimate that each of these might take up about 300 words (the witch stuff would likely need way more), for just these five elements we’re talking something to the tune of 1,500 words. When everything’s introduced, explained, and properly referenced that’s nearly 10% of your word count going to essentially reprinted material.

So, while it’s cool to bring in elements from other parts of the game – and you totally should - make sure you’re careful as these are the first places your word count can really balloon out of control and the first place an editor’s going to look and say “Thesselmoaray, that could just be a giant eel and turn a full-column statblock into a Bestiary citation. Lose it!”

Overall
There are some issues here.

Scripted: Several parts of this outline makes this feel more like a script than an adventure, with the PCs walking from significant event to significant event with no real control over the outcome (interrupted fight with the Devilfish, meeting Oguuth, the climax, the second climax).

Scale: I think this tries to do way to much in 32 pages: get the quest in a relevant feeling manner (doesn’t currently exist), get to the site, present an entire city, have an adventure there, escape. So I think this needs to scale way back.

Does it Matter?: The PCs get the adventure, go the city – raising it in doing so – have adventures, and sink the place. So? By the end nothing seems to have changed, except that the PCs might have more treasure and experience. No one from the city requested their help, a “monster” trapped(?) there might have been saved – but he seemed find with napping, and the lost city is still lost. I’d like there to be a bit more relevance and sense of accomplishment by the end.

Repeat?: Typically this is more a concern for the editors behind the scenes than the authors, but this contest puts us in a somewhat tricky situation. This adventure has two major elements that are (or soon to be) available in other Pathfinder products: Azlant ruins and undersea action come up in From Shore to Sea and vision from a city ruined by the fall of the Starstone is a crux of Pathfinder #15: The Armageddon Echo. I’m not suggesting that Mr. McGee is attempting to crib from either of these works, but when we’re looking at new products to print, we have to consider our new offerings in relation to our old, and I have a concern with this that – as it currently stands – it hits on elements we’ve already covered. This is not a deal breaker or an insurmountable problem as it has many of its own differences and merits, but it’s something significant hat needs to be addressed.

So yeah. Some really neat ideas here, and I love, love, love all the creepiness of the ocean floor consuming a magical city for a few thousand years than bringing all that to the surface to have adventures in, but there would need to be a serious revision before I’d be comfortable giving the “get writing” order.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Overall, while there's some really neat ideas in this proposal (I love me them sunken cities!), there's a LOT of issues with it as well. Too many issues for me to be comfortable recommending this proposal.

The Basics
Level: We've done several modules already for 5th–8th level. I'm a little disappointed to see one for 6th level.
Location: Excellent location choice; not something we've seen too much of yet.
Plot: An interesting plot, but there's WAY too much going on here for a module.

The Good
1) Underwater Stuff: I quite like underwater adventuring. It's neat! Good to see a lot of it showing up in this adventure.

2) Naval Combat: Related to the above, I really enjoy nautical elements for adventures, and starting this one out with a shipboard battle is pretty cool.

3) Rise of a Sunken Island: This is a neat element, but it's also a HUGE element. This should be the start of the adventure. Exploring a city that's risen from the bottom of the sea really appeals to my Lovecraftian tastes.

4) Encounters on the Island: There's some really neat sounding encounters on the island. Bonus points for using gutakis here! Also, the forest of worm tubes is really cool sounding, as is the idea of large dead sea monsters that the PCs can encounter but not have to worry about fighting because they're dead.

5) Oguuth: I really like the idea of one of the NPCs the PCs meet being Uthua's last living survivor… but see "The Bad" below. I also quite like the fact that the PCs don't have fight him but can solve their encounter with him via diplomacy or other methods.

6) Exploration plot: I like the idea of an adventure where the PCs aren't on a mission; they're just there to explore a site. Feels refreshingly old-school.

7) Timestorms: Despite my concerns about timestorms poaching on the plot of "Armageddon Echo" (see below), I think that they give a really interesting method to show off key NPC villains to the PCs. The PCs can encounter the NPC in a timestorm and even kill him and he'll still be around for any later encounters that need him… assuming I'm interpreting the way they work correctly… Neat!

8) An encounter with a big-bad-end-guy who can split himself up into multiple foes is a really neat idea.

9) Having hounds of Tindalos show up in an adventure where there's time stuff going on is perfect. Well done!

10) Great title! Feels pulpy and Lovecraftian. AND It avoids using "of the" in the title, which is the most-overused construction in a RPG adventure title.

The Bad
1) Recycled and POTENT Theme: While I do like aboleths, we've already got a module in 2010 (From Shore to Sea, which is also for mid-level adventures) that works with aboleths, Azlant, and a slimy threat from the sea. This is a very unique and powerful theme, and not one I'm particularly interested in visiting two years in a row.

2) Aboleths: Aboleths are fun monsters, and I appreciate that lots of folks are interested in what we're doing with them, but they're also one of the few monsters for which we have long-term plans to use in the setting. As a result, I'm always wary about overexposing them too soon, or worse, developing them in ways that won't allow us to use them in our top-secret plans for the future. Also, they didn't rule Azlant. They manipulated it, but Azlant was ruled by humans.

3) Starstone/Earthfall: The whole starstone element of our setting isn't something I want to start developing in a mid-level adventure. This topic requires an adventure path at least, and more likely it requires some HIGH level adventures. Furthermore, it took too long for the proposal to actually explain what the starstone scion is and WHY the wizards of Uthua summoned it.

4) Azlant: While we don't know MUCH about Azlant yet, but we DO know it wasn't destroyed utterly by Earthfall.

5) Mage: This is a 2nd edition term that doesn't have much meaning in Pathfinder. It's overuse in the proposal feels weird. Don't be afraid to use words like "wizards" or "sorcerers" because doing so gives us more information than does using generic or out-of-date words like "priest" or "mage."

6) Time Warps: While I like the idea of the time warps, I'm a bit concerned that this, combined with the presence of aboleths and Azlant, makes this adventure proposal have TOO many similarities with Pathfinder Adventure Path #13's "The Armageddon Echo." Especially when you consider that you're in an ancient city with chances to look through time to see that city before Earthfall. Too similar.

7) It's better to have the PCs gain the blank metal scroll and small crystal pendant DURING the adventure, not before it begins; same goes for the PCs' discovery of how these items work and what they contain. You're writing a one-shot module here, not part 3 of a series. Don't put "load-bearing" elements of the adventure outside of your adventure. If you don't want to have the PCs discover and figure these things out, it's better to have an NPC do this and then approach the PCs for help. And for that matter… these elements seem kind of wasted if all they do is serve as a "start" button for the adventure to begin.

8) The Devilfish: This guy's not doing it for me. First, we've already used the word "devilfish" for something in Golarion; it's a scary octopus monster. Naming an NPC "Devilfish" is like naming an NPC "Octopus" or "Wyvern" or "Bulette." It's a little weird. Second, the choice to make this guy an ogre is weird, especially considering how ogres in Golarion work. I have a hard time envisioning the Hellknights accepting an ogre into their ranks. Especially an ogre with obvious hell-taint; Cheliax isn't very fond of people who consort with devils in this way. Stacking witch levels on top of that feels weird and out of place and like an obvious attempt to capitalize on the new class. Nothing about a half-fiend ogre hellknight screams "witch" to me. And in the end… this whole encounter feels completely tacked on and irrelevant to the rest of the adventure, especially with it showing up again at the end of the adventure after the climax occurs.

9) Ship Full of Monsters: Golarion is humanocentric, and whenever I see things where we have a lot of monster races thrown together in a situation where things would have worked just as well with humans I get a little annoyed. It's a bit too over-the-top to have a a ship with a half-fiend ogre witch, a dragonell, and sahuagin (including one with four arms) all at once. ONE of those involved with a nautical encounter is plenty.

10) One Weird Island too Many: As much as I love the idea of exploring a weird island, we've done a lot of this already with "From Shore to Sea" which also involves aboleths and skum and a weird Azlanti ruin on an island.

11) Oguuth: Like the Devilfish, this guy's a bit too over the top. An id ooze is also not a black pudding; its a gray ooze. It's not really a template you can apply to any ooze, it's a specific KIND of gray ooze. Also, black puddings aren't aquatic; they'd drown just like a human if they were trapped on a sinking city. This guy should have either been a new monster or something else entirely. Modeling him as a black pudding id ooze just doesn't work for me.

12) Timestorms: I mentioned this above… but these timestorms, while a very interesting storytelling element, feel too much like the Armageddon Echo. So much that it's weird to me that there's a different thing that does the SAME thing. I would have been less annoyed had there been some sort of element that ties the timestorms more strongly to the effects that cause the Armagedden Echo… but those effects are so localized in Varisia that I'd start feeling weird if they showed up elsewhere.

13) New Monster—Skum Deepmother: As a general rule, I would rather see legitimate new monsters and not new monsters that are variants of existing monsters. The best way to make a variant existing monster is to find a template or class combo that lets you do what you need to do. Further complicating this fact is that all skum are male. The idea of a "deepmother" skum is counter to the whole idea of what skum are in Pathfinder. I'd rather not undo that element by creating something like the Deepmother, which would remove the need for skum to raid coastal settlements deep-one style for breeding stock. The starstone scion is a MUCH better choice for a new monster… but (see below) not for a 6th level adventure.

14) Giving a PC the ability to use time stop, even if it's only three times EVER… is way too much power to award mid-level characters.

15) Even at the end of the adventure proposal, I still don't really understand what purpose the starstone scion fills. Why did the aboleths summon it? If they wanted to create timestorms… why did they want to do this? "Just to set up a neat adventuring location ten thousand years later" can't be the right answer, but that's sorta what it feels like.

16) Too big in scope: There's a LOT going on in this adventure. Too much to cover, I think, in a mere 32 pages, especially since there's a lot of new content (Azlant culture, time distortion stuff, several very complex stat blocks, lots of encounter ares) that will take up a lot of words.

17) Maps?: Difficult for me to gauge how many maps this adventure would need. I suspect it could be done in 2 or 3 pages (which is what a module is limited to) but I fear that it might not.

18) Wrong Level: A lot of the encounters in this adventure sound like instant TPK territory for a 6th level party. Perhaps worse, a lot of the encounters in this adventure, along with its entire plot, feels high level. Frankly, I think this adventure would be wasted on mid-level characters. An eight-headed giant moray eel, for example, is going to be doing something on the level of just over 100 points of damage a round on average, which is the amount of damage I'd expect to see a CR 18 creature doing. Furthermore, this adventure is STEEPED in significant world lore. It would make a pretty interesting capstone to a campaign with "find out about Earthfall" as its overall plot. It's too huge to use in a mid level adventure, I think.

19) The Starstone Scion: This feels like a relatively MAJOR addition to one of the most IMPORTANT historical events in Golarion's timeline. It feels a bit weird to find out about this thing in the course of a 6th-level adventure, when there's been no foreshadowing done over the past several years. As a result, it feels a bit too tacked-on to me. A more elegant way to introduce it, I think, would have been to have this creature's appearance in the city be an unanticipated result of the abolish magic that brought down the sky. This would ALSO solve the problem as to why the monster's in the city to begin with; the aboleths didn't summon it (and thus don't need a REASON to do so) if it just manifests. And finally… by italicizing its name and describing it the way you have, it's unclear to me if this thing is a monster or an artifact. It feels MORE like it's a monster, and thus it needs to have a monster stat block. As I mentioned above, this feels like a MUCH better new monster than a skum deepmother. And my interest in this monster increases even more if it's not just a crazy monster the aboleths summoned for reasons never fully explained, but that it's a weird time monster that appears as a result of Earthfall, similar to how the Hounds of Tindalos show up to investigate time stuff.

20) Complicated: The proposal wasn't easy to get the full gist of on a simple readthrough. Could have been organized better.

Final Thoughts
I certainly like the themes in this adventure, but those themes are pretty huge. They're not appropriate for a 6th-level adventure, and neither are several of the encounters outlined. Makes me worry that the author doesn't have a strong grasp on what sorts of plots and encounters are appropriate for mid-level play, honestly. I suspect that this isn't the case, since none of the RPG Superstars get to the top four without knowing a LOT about how the game works, and thus I'm sure you could weave this adventure into something cool for 6th level play… but it's going to be a tough sell.

Furthermore… the themes in this adventure are too close for my taste to two other relatively unusual adventures we've published or will soon publish: "The Armageddon Echo" and "From Shore to Sea."

Finally, I like the idea of a site that's just there to be explored… but too much of this proposal seems obsessed with the Devilfish and stuff going on with Oguuth. The most interesting part of this proposal for me were the parts detailing encounters with OTHER stuff on the island.

This adventure could be fun, but if it wins, I would want to see it developed into a much higher level adventure and would also like to see some elements that further separate it from the two similar adventures I list above. It also needs to be more tightly focused on the island itself. Devilfish is unnecessary to the plot. And there's so much weird new stuff going on here that you'll end up having to devote significant parts of your word count not to the adventure itself, but to how the adventure's elements work.

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

Matt, I thought going into this round you would likely be our winner. But I can't recommend this proposal. As outlined above, there is too much here. I agree with the comments above. Had you just done this as a "sunken island of Azlant" adventure, it would have worked better for me. This also needed to be about level 9 to 10. Not 6.

Matt, I wish you the best of luck but I DO NOT recommend this proposal.

Good luck!

Contributor

From a GM's perspective:
I don't know who created this mysterious crystal and map. It's a Macguffin, and if the PCs ask about it, I won't have answers.

The Devilfish has an interesting backstory, but it's a backstory the PCs probably never learn.

I'm pretty sure there is an old D&D or RPGA adventure featuring an underwater city that rises and sinks. Or was that a desert city?

These timestorms and other random encounters are pretty neat and spooky.

Sahuagin referring to their prey as "little fishies" is cutesy and makes me wince.

I don't get what the starstone scion is; it's an enigma that apparently helped destroy the city (why not just throw another rock at it, or did the aboleths known about its powers of time-warping and thought those powers would help destroy the city when a simple rock wouldn't?). The players are going to see it and go, "WTH?" and I'll have to agree.

From a player's perspective:
Mysterious map, check.
Jerk ogre-demon pirate king, check.
Crazy island rising from the ocean bottom, check.
Lots of cool stuff to fight, check.
Time loops, interesting! Check.
Weird godlike marmalade baby, WTH?
Whoah, that fat guy just turned into an ooze! WTH?
The city is sinking again, of course. Check.
It's that bastard ogre again. Whoah and blobby guy is back!

Conclusion:
Any time you mention the Starstone, it's going to set off some alarm bells here. It's a big world-defining thing, and adding anything to it gets you a lot of intense scrutiny.

Dragonnel, as a TOH monster, is going to require a full stat block, eating up valuable words in a non-critical encounter. Likewise for gutaki, hounds of tindalos, and thesselmorays. You have approximately 20,000 words for the entire book, and every word you use regurgitating a stat block from another source is a word you're not spending to present something new and awesome with your adventure.

Timestorms remind me too much of the Armageddon Echo, which we did in the Second Darkness adventure path.

Everybody wants to write about Azlanti stuff because it's mysterious--but that doesn't mean it's always a good idea to write about it. And whether you knew it or not, this adventure has some parallels with From Shore to Sea, which also features an Azlanti ruin, aboleth stuff, and skum. And your proposal is for a 6th-level adventure... and personally, if we're going to reveal some serious ancient Azlanti stuff, I'd want to target a higher-level gang of PCs so we could show some of the serious and powerful magic they had.

Unfortunately, this adventure resembles a cross between two other adventure's that we've published, and the hook to get the PCs involved (the map) isn't very strong and isn't explained, and the multiple sequential endings means the PCs aren't getting away on their own moxie, they're getting rescued, then rescued again.


Without sounding really rude, I was really pumped about this until the adventure started. Pirate battles, a city rising from the sea, odd time effects. That all had me glued.

Unfortunately, after that it felt like a standard dungeon crawl. Don't get me wrong, you present and hint at a really interesting place with many areas not following the rules of time.

In the end though, they are in a city to loot it, but somehow get sidetracked to killing the Oguuth and erasing timestorms instead. I think I would have much rather seen this work like stepping into memories or echos of souls where they experience what happened, and all of that like the haunts in Rise of the Runelords. I think that would have created a better vessel to reveal the past and create Oguuth as a villain instead.

I do like the choaking cloak. It is about time there were some items that were cursed.


I'm somewhat busy at present, and will be back later in the week to give this a proper reading, but my initial impression (based on a brief read through, so which will have likely missed points) is:

Too much going on on too large a scale for a party of 6th level adventurers.


Unfortunately, the explanation as to what the Starstone Scion was and where it came from left me wondering why the Aboleth summoned it in the first place. Then, on taking a closer look I realized that it was the Star Child from Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey, 2001 (and other books in that series), which pretty much killed it for me in how it was used in this adventure.

I think James is onto something in how it could be better used

James Jacobs wrote:
A more elegant way to introduce it, I think, would have been to have this creature's appearance in the city be an unanticipated result of the abolish magic that brought down the sky. This would ALSO solve the problem as to why the monster's in the city to begin with; the aboleths didn't summon it (and thus don't need a REASON to do so) if it just manifests. And finally… by italicizing its name and describing it the way you have, it's unclear to me if this thing is a monster or an artifact. It feels MORE like it's a monster, and thus it needs to have a monster stat block. As I mentioned above, this feels like a MUCH better new monster than a skum deepmother. And my interest in this monster increases even more if it's not just a crazy monster the aboleths summoned for reasons never fully explained, but that it's a weird time monster that appears as a result of Earthfall, similar to how the Hounds of Tindalos show up to investigate time stuff.

But a different treatment of such a central figure in the adventure would basically require a different adventure.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

I like this one as well. I've heard that aquatic adventures are problematic, but I think this one is more aquatic-flavored than truly aquatic. I'm not crazy about the timestorms idea, but it kind of grew on me the more I read through the proposal.

I really liked the Devilfish as a villain. The black pudding sorcerer... again, at first I kind of rolled my eyes, but he gradually kind of grew on me too, especially the element where he is separated into several pieces. This might be mechanically tricky, but not impossible to do.

I think you had a perfect amount of backstory - enough to ground the story, but three quick paragraphs and then right on to the action. You weren't writing a history text; you were writing an adventure background. Good job there.

The hook is nice and functional, versatile enough to be dropped anywhere and not requiring the PCs to start in a particular place.

The "ha ha, it's an ancient lost city full of neat stuff but YOU CAN'T HAVE ANY" is a classic DM trick and it does accomplish the desired goal (showing neat stuff but without going Monty Haul on the treasure), but it also feels kind of cheap. Sure, there's another Paizo adventure out RIGHT NOW that uses it, but that goes to the "parallel development" issue that James mentioned in one of the other threads.

All in all, I like it. I had some reservations about some of the elements you used, but I think in the end they work. Also, I like that you have a suitable climax with a real resolution, plus you have a James Bond style epilogue that brings the secondary villains back around one more time, with a last stab from the main villain.

This is the second of four that I've read.


When I read the word "Azlant" I immediately began skimming the proposal and when I read the word "Starstone" I shut down completely. There is a fantastic Open Design Pathfinder RPG mega-adventure almost ready for launch and as a patron for that, I can say that I'm about done with all things azlant.
Sorry, dude - I cannot vote for this proposal.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber

Hmm... I'm not sure how I feel about this one Matthew.

It has a heck of a lot going on, but I also enjoy underwater adventuring, but it can be difficult to accomplish, or do it well. I think with a lot of trimming and tightening up on your Golarion-specific elements (Aboleths did not rule Azlant) and perhaps some additional cuts or revisions (I really LIKED Devilfish... but instead of a half-fiend ogre... what if he were a half-fiend sahuagin? I think that would be a lot better. I mean, the sahuagin have always been known as "Devil-men of the Deep" or "Sea Devils", so to me Devilfish would make a much better half-fiend sahuagin than as the monster presented). ***Oh, and when I said "always" I realize that was more during 2nd Edition, but the sahuagin did have an awesome sourcebook and adventure trilogy back in the day.***

I think I'll sleep on this one, come back and read it again. (As I may re-read all the others too).

No votes cast yet my friend. Today was strictly reading what you proposed.

Matthew, whether or not I vote for you, you have a lot to be proud of. You made it to the final 4 after all! That's an achievement in and of itself. Good luck in the future, with all your endeavors!

Dean; The_Minstrel_Wyrm

Contributor

hedgeknight wrote:

When I read the word "Azlant" I immediately began skimming the proposal and when I read the word "Starstone" I shut down completely. There is a fantastic Open Design Pathfinder RPG mega-adventure almost ready for launch and as a patron for that, I can say that I'm about done with all things azlant.

Sorry, dude - I cannot vote for this proposal.

Clarification: From Shore to Sea is a 32-page adventure, just like all of our Pathfinder Modules.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Sean K Reynolds wrote:


Clarification: From Shore to Sea is a 32-page adventure, just like all of our Pathfinder Modules.

It is, however, totally awesome and about to launch. That part was spot on.

-Ben.

Scarab Sages

I'm not gonna ding you for covering something that is coming up in The Shore to the Sea, since I'm gonna presume that you are not a starstone scion and haven't been to the future and read it already. It would be a hopeless task to try and anticipate which parts of Golarion aren't going to have adventures released for them someday, and signing up for Wolfgang's Open Design wasn't part of the contest requirements, that I saw, anyway.

On the other hand, there is a bit too much going on here, and you've inadvertantly bumped into my biggest pet peeve ever in adventure design, the adventure location that blows up / ceases to exist / sinks into the sands / sea at the end of the adventure. Such a freaking cliche, the self-cleaning adventure location. (Used in Entombed with the Pharaohs, the Slave Lords adventures, various Dungeon adventures about some red dragon with a floating crystal citadel, or a dragon's graveyard, etc.)

"I found a Lost World full of dinosaurs that's been here for 500 million years! Oh, but twelve hours after I set foot on it, a volcano blew up and destroyed it... What are the odds?"

I like the overall concept here, especially the surreal timestorm encounters, but, between the 'glimpse into the past' (Armageddon Echo) and 'get out before the city sinks!' (Entombed with the Pharaohs), parts of it have that less-than-fresh feeling.

I like that you *didn't* feel compelled to shove a living Aboleth into the adventure.

The Starstone Scion might work better if the entity was created by powerful magics at the moment of Earthfall, as diviners in the city had, despite Aboleth precautions, figured out that *something* bad was happening, and begun working on a powerful ritual of some sort to 'buy them time' to either stop what was happening, or to at least get their butts to safety. Perhaps these magics, combined with planar portals opened up to wherever they were trying to evacuate to, resulted in the formation of the Starstone Scion, a ball of magical forces made up of temporal manipulations, planar rifts and the anguished screams of the thousands of Azlanti who didn't make it, or some nonsense like that, which slowly has become sentient over the centuries.


Pathfinder Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Matthew McGee wrote:
The adventure begins after the PCs have deciphered the strange map and chartered a vessel to the sunken continent of Azlant.

In other words, the scoll and pendant are entirely unnecessary. Making up a backstory about where the PCs got the items, who made them in the first place, and why they even exist is less elegant than simply cutting to the chase. For instance:

Matthew McGee wrote:
One of his favorite tricks involves setting hapless adventuring parties on the trail of fabulous riches, then swooping in to overpower them once the exhausted explorers try to return home with their spoils.

I like the Devilfish. Pirates are always fun. So why not just have the PCs stumble across a "treasure map" he's planted which is really an ambush? Whether he used an ancient map he found in some treasure trove somewhere that actually happens to pinpoint Uthua unbeknownst to him, or whether both ships just happen to be in the right place at the right time, a coincidence is no more poke-full-of-holes-able than an unexplained ancient relic that just happens to fall into the PCs' hands, especially if there's enough action going on at the moment of reveal that the players are too busy to question it. For instance:

The Devilfish attacks. The crew of the PCs' ship, well aware of his fiendish reputation, tries to outrun him. We have a chase on the open sea, we have a dragonnel dropping sahaugins on the deck to occupy the PCs, when, OMG, what is that up ahead, an entire ancient city rising out of the sea? The Frenzy, farther back, manages to change its heading in time, but the PCs' ship is damaged as it runs aground on the outskirts of the city. As the crew begins to make repairs, the PCs go to explore the city.

Now, here's the meat of your proposal. The stuff you run into in Uthua is the part that, more than any of the other proposals, makes me think, "Oh, I want to run that." Cool, cool stuff. I love the mise-en-scene: the "strangely-helpful aboleth that realizes it doesn't precisely exist," the worm-tubes, the dying seaserpent, the tricksy sorceror with a secret who wants the PCs to think he's a ghost too. They rock. The problem is that, as written, the PCs don't necessarily have anything to do with them, other than sightsee. What's their motivation to try to dispel the timestorms? How are they to discover they even can? Same goes for the scion: apart from being another MacGuffin like the scroll and pendant, how are the PCs to know they can wake it by touching it for three rounds? or even that that's what they should do?

So, give the PCs some motivation to dispel the timestorms and "solve" the puzzle. Maybe they meet people in the timestorms who aren't Azlanti but sailors from over the centuries. Maybe they discover that if they aren't off of the city by sunset or whenever it once again sinks beneath the waves, they are doomed to be trapped in the timestorms as well, reliving Uthua's doom forever. Maybe Oguuth wants more company for his more presentable self, as everyone in the timestorms now has heard all his stories innumerable times and won't listen to him anymore. Yeah, it's a little Brigadoon, but it gives the PCs a ticking clock to drive them to do something. And then, once the PCs are off of Uthua, you could still have the Devilfish coming back to plunder whatever loot he thinks they might have found in the ancient city and the final battle with Oguuth.


Pathfinder Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Set wrote:
The Starstone Scion might work better if the entity was created by powerful magics at the moment of Earthfall, as diviners in the city had, despite Aboleth precautions, figured out that *something* bad was happening, and begun working on a powerful ritual of some sort to 'buy them time' to either stop what was happening, or to at least get their butts to safety. Perhaps these magics, combined with planar portals opened up to wherever they were trying to evacuate to, resulted in the formation of the Starstone Scion, a ball of magical forces made up of temporal manipulations, planar rifts and the anguished screams of the thousands of Azlanti who didn't make it, or some nonsense like that, which slowly has become sentient over the centuries.

Oh, I like that. Instead of being some extra bang from the aboleths, the situtation was caused by the mages of Uthua trying to protect themselves, some kind of huge timestoppy thing to preserve their city that went horribly wrong.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Aelryinth

The author should NOT be downgraded for writing an adventure that happens to dovetail with something else you are coming out with. The correct way to approach it is to Tie It Together, NOT to shake your fist at him for coming up with the idea.

So, shame on you judges for that!

Sean, the rising/sinking island you're thinking of exists in Greyhawk. It's one of the 'great mysteries' of the Southern Seas that rises and falls according to the moons there. Heck, you might have been the one to write about it...

==Aelryinth

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Aelryinth wrote:

The author should NOT be downgraded for writing an adventure that happens to dovetail with something else you are coming out with. The correct way to approach it is to Tie It Together, NOT to shake your fist at him for coming up with the idea.

So, shame on you judges for that!

Even authors we hire to write stuff for us who accidentally suffer from parallel design. I'm just treating these contestants the same way I treat all of our authors and designers in this regard. Shaking my fist at designers who get hit with parallel design (either on purpose or accidentally; doesn't matter to me) is part of what I get paid to do, and is why I'm a guest judge for this round, after all! If this proposal wins, we'll make it work. Just pointing out that it's a significant issue with the proposal is all.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

James Jacobs wrote:
Aelryinth wrote:

The author should NOT be downgraded for writing an adventure that happens to dovetail with something else you are coming out with. The correct way to approach it is to Tie It Together, NOT to shake your fist at him for coming up with the idea.

So, shame on you judges for that!

Even authors we hire to write stuff for us who accidentally suffer from parallel design. I'm just treating these contestants the same way I treat all of our authors and designers in this regard. Shaking my fist at designers who get hit with parallel design (either on purpose or accidentally; doesn't matter to me) is part of what I get paid to do, and is why I'm a guest judge for this round, after all! If this proposal wins, we'll make it work. Just pointing out that it's a significant issue with the proposal is all.

I'll chime in here as well... because it's true!

The first time I ever got stuff published in Dragon I had been in touch with Jesse Decker, who was in charge of stuff like that at the time. Half the stuff I pitched had either just been done recently or was in the pipeline to do soon. Whether it was good stuff or not was immaterial; they were not interested in repeating themselves.

Heck, my first Dungeon adventure, I had placed a chuul; James was editing the adventure for Dragon and emailed me back saying to change it cuz they had had a rash of chuuls lately.

I pitched a Gamemastery adventure idea to Paizo recently, what I thought was a very neat adventure idea, but tragically when Paizo's new product announcements came out there was a similar adventure on the schedule from Monte Cook. I absolutely stand behind my adventure pitch as being fun and interesting and would make a great exciting module, but it will probably be a non-starter (or get put in the deep freeze for a year or two) because of parallel design.

It's just a fact of being a freelancer. It's not fair, but it's reality.

That stated, it's a bummer of a coincidence that it should impact this contest, because there is an aspect of Superstar that is a CONTEST and not a straight pitch. You want to be judged on the merits of your pitch itself, not how well it meshes with Paizo's product schedule. However, that's the place where you, the voting public, get to overrule the judges if you like.

James, Wes, and Sean might look at the Paizo schedule coming up and say "Man, not another [whatever] adventure!" You, the voters, can say, "That's YOUR problem, dudes. This is the guy we love and the idea we wanna see, so winner, winner, chicken dinner. Make it happen!" And if that's where the votes fall, then next February or so this will be the adventure we'll be seeing.

It's a lesson worth learning, to beware of going down roads too well traveled, but voters, vote for who you like, and we'll sort it out down the road.


I am re-posting this...

I voted for Matthew McGee's From Time's Depths

I really enjoyed it, thought it had a real sandbox feel on the island. I also felt the judges weren't too fair on their assessment...I felt they were saying no to his idea, because it parallels with something that's suppose to come out soon. There were also points, such as the background information and the id ooze(Which can be a template), where apparently the judges skimmed.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Bigmancheatle wrote:

I am re-posting this...

I voted for Matthew McGee's From Time's Depths

I really enjoyed it, thought it had a real sandbox feel on the island. I also felt the judges weren't too fair on their assessment...I felt they were saying no to his idea, because it parallels with something that's suppose to come out soon. There were also points, such as the background information and the id ooze(Which can be a template), where apparently the judges skimmed.

It's worth keeping in mind that we, the judges, are not the ones who pick the winner. You, the voting public, are. Our job is to provide feedback and help inform the voters.

You'll note that I had plenty of other comments about this proposal (and all of the others)... the fact that there's parallel design going on here does NOT equate to an instant loss at all. But it's important to point out.

As Creative Director... I have no interest in being fair to authors. I have to be fair to Golarion first, and that means pointing out the warts as WELL as the awesomeness in any proposal. I didn't skim the proposal (as I would hope my extensive post would prove). And while I'm aware of Green Ronin's id ooze template from the Advanced Bestiary, in the core Pathfinder rules, the id ooze is a variant gray ooze as well. In fact, MOST of the time in Pathfinder, an id ooze is a variant gray ooze. There certainly could be exceptions, but I personally prefer having an id ooze be the gray ooze variant and not a template that can go on any ooze.

Anyway... as I said above and as Jason Nelson said above that, if you disagree, vote! ANY of the adventure proposals that made it to this round could make kick-ass modules. I certainly have my favorite, but that doesn't decide which one wins, and no matter WHAT adventure wins, I'll do my best to see it through to publication as the best adventure it can be.

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

After some consideration, I voted for this entry. None of the others really grabbed me and this struck me as the one I'd be most likely to purchase and run.

However, I think it will need a LOT of editorial guidance. I think the Starstone Scion is worth stripping out entirely and replacing with something less likely to cause Sean's veins to bulge. I like the Skum Deep Mother. I like the underwater aspects, but I agree that it does need some sort of PC impact switch. Saving a trapped person who may have information on ancient Azlanti secrets would be a good catch.

I don't have the same aversion to this and Shore to Sea being too similar, after all it'll be nearly a year between Shore to Sea and the publication of the 2010 Superstar Module. That's enough time to build up a taste for more undersea mayhem.

The Exchange

The task was to write a proposal for a 32 page scenario. That trap is one you fell into big style.

I would have put money on you winning after last round. The sheer volume of ideas and cleverness is incredible but there is just too much of it. This is a monster adventure and one I'd buy.

As for the Shore to Sea and the Armageddon's Echo issue, I doubt the votes will care. I certainly didn't. But perhaps in the future the last round could in some way guide the participants so that this does not happen. Much like the Pathfinder Society Open Call saying no vampires. I know someone could and should look at what is being published before they submit a new idea but still James' argument isn't really our problem in this competition it's his.

Maybe the last round should be "write a proposal for Geb or Ustalav or whatever with no islands rising out the sea covered in weird mythos."

So no vote for you. Best of British in the future.

Cheers

Contributor

Aelryinth wrote:

The author should NOT be downgraded for writing an adventure that happens to dovetail with something else you are coming out with. The correct way to approach it is to Tie It Together, NOT to shake your fist at him for coming up with the idea.

So, shame on you judges for that!

I'm "downgrading" him because the existence of From Shore to Sea has been public for a couple months now. Ditto for the Kingmaker adventure path. If someone proposed a 32-page adventure that was similar to one of the announced Kingmaker adventures, I'd ding him for that. It's like submitting a movie treatment to a get-your-movie-made competition, and there's an asteroid-hitting-Earth movie everyone's talking about coming out in two months, and your treatment is another asteroid-hitting-Earth movie. (I don't think Matthew copied the idea for this from From Shore to Sea, I'm just pointing out that parallel development happens and it's something publishers try to avoid.)

This competition's adventure is coming out in *February* of next year, about eight months after From Shore to Sea hits the streets. If this (1) were presented as a sequel to FSTS, or (2) were higher level than FSTS so you could play this one after that without a sequel-like link, then that would be interesting. But this is another Azlanti-island-based adventure (so it seems repetitive), and it's at the same level as the one we're already publishing (so you can't really play it as a prequel or sequel as presented), and it's coming out six months after FSTS (so it's not like you could link the two adventures together in some island-hopping simultaneous mega-adventure, at least not if you wanted to play FSTS right away), and it has the time-replay aspect from Armageddon Echo (so it's a retread of an existing adventure concept).

If we published this adventure, we'd have a lot of annoyed subscribers who'd email and post saying, "I already got an adventure much like this six months ago." We've gotten complaints about that before. And those complaints are a problem I'd rather not repeat.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

I didn't think there was a clear home run in this group, one adventure that really knocked my socks off. All of them have some neat points, and all have some problems, some worse than others.

In the end, I went back to body of work and looked at what people have come up with earlier in the contest, because RPG Superstar is of course a contest with a prize of getting to write ONE Gamemastery module, but it is also about digging around and finding freelancers with talent, imagination, creativity, and all the rest of the designer's skills that might be a good addition to Paizo's stable of freelancers writing not just adventures but also sections of PF Companions and Chronicles books, rules bits for hardbacks, and on down the list.

So, looking back at what folks have done earlier in the contest, added to an adventure idea that I think is solid and workable (though, as many have pointed out, would work better if you kicked the expected PC level into the teens), my vote goes to:

Matthew McGee

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

GUT IMPRESSIONS BEFORE READING JUDGE'S COMMENTS

  • The title is a little weak.
  • Great introduction! I especially like it that you briefly enumerate the monster challenges that lead to the ultimate goal. This wouldn't work for every introduction but it works for this one.
  • Oh, boy are you brave. As brave as I am! Bravo! My own unseen adventure proposal swims the waters of the same cannon.
  • Yes! I love 6th level adventures because player characters are just on the cusp of reaching a high, coming out of infancy, so to speak, in their careers. Very refreshing to see a lower level adventure.
  • Did the aboleth rule Azlant? I don't think they ruled it. I thought they just brought humans out of barbarism to see what they'd become. I could be wrong here.
  • Tired of seeing the word 'scion' in everything Paizo.
  • "partially severed the city from the normal flow of time, causing small areas within the city to endlessly repeat the events occurring just prior to the catastrophe" *oh my!* Nice! Something adventures rarely do is play with time very well, because it's dangerous territory.
  • Yours is the only proposal that's clear on how the characters get involved. Thank you for including an adventure hook, as I think this is important. As a GM, I also like it that I can slip it in anywhere.
  • Azlant is 1,000 miles West through the Arch of Aroden so we're in for big sea voyage off the map and that concerns me. This happens in Savage Tide too. I'm a fan of Savage Tide, but it's an adventure path so you may have overscaled yourself. I researched this bit of cannon for my own adventure proposal too, but avoided the long sea voyage.
  • "male half-fiend ogre witch" Huh? I personally hate this many stat combinations, but I know others love it. "one of western Avistan's most notorious pirates" So what's he doing way out here? Also, he stole two ships, one from the Cheliaxian navy (a "prized" ship no less) and one from the Mordant Spire elves? Why? And where's the first ship? And why are the elves letting him get away with this? The Mordant Spire elves as supposed to be grimly bad-a**?
  • Combat: I like the first combat, but not necessarily the choice of monsters. Where did Devilfish get a dragonnel? Devilfish has wings himself and is about 10 feet tall? Why doesn't he just drop the bad guys off? The dragonnel just seems odd here.
  • Uthua Rises: okay this is a great visual, but how does a sunken city suddenly rise? Also, the map for this is probably going to be huge? I would have chosen a smaller ruin here, an outpost, Azlanti fortress, temple or something like that. You're starting to lose me here.
  • Timestorms: I read through this several times because I really, really wanted to understand how this works. I understand the repetition of an event clearly, but this confused me: "counters minor alterations with small coincidences". Alteration isn't a reference to a type of magic here but that's where my mind went first, causing me to do a double take. It sounds like rescuing someone from a time storm is sort of like popping them out of a causality bubble, but then you mention ethics? That seems like a digression? I personally prefer to leave morality and ethics up to the GM, as the difference between right and wrong are up to him and player argument.
  • Timestorm List: Oh, this is really dangerous territory. No one was supposed to have survived the fall of Azlant and here's a chance to save some of them? That could have some pretty big world-altering effects. Helpful aboleth? I can't see it. Forest of tube worms? I would have chosen a word other than 'forest.'
  • "stop the meteor's inexorable descent" I didn't think Azlant had any warning at all, so this goes against cannon?
  • "crushing blackness of the deep, transforming him into a hideous mass of corrosive protoplasm" Okay I dig Oguuth; this is just the sort of weirdness that appeals to me too: he survives as a pool of ooze. Nice! But I don't like it that he can assume his old form, unless it's just the shape (i.e. he's a human looking black pudding).
  • The Speech: okay nice visual. I get a Greek orator sort of vibe from this, but I'm not real sure what the point is? And here we have an entire crowd of Azlantians to save? Whoa. I think that's sort of world breaking. If I were transported back to the middle ages, for example, I may not know how to invent the bicycle but I bet I could draw it well enough to change history. Here we have a whole crowd of citizens from an advanced civilization! No telling what they might be able to say about their former culture! I think the fix is simple though: let them be released to the afterlife with gratitude instead. This would also be a very novel way to award XP!
  • The Speech Monster List: Seems sort of like random encounters and I think at this point you're trying to do too much. You've already got a big city, you skipped over a 1,000 mile sea voyage and now we have a list of encounters. Your monster choice is okay though, which is more than I can say for two of the other entries.
  • Deep Mother: I both like and dislike this monster. I love the name! However, I don't see skum being this inventive and scientific with their own destiny and this seriously changes the decline of their 'civilization.' "glands of female fish" is also sort of a lame way of explaining it. I'd rather see this development be exceedingly rare, if not just a one-time thing.
  • Okay by this point I'm wondering what happened to Devilfish? Where did he get off to? All he provides is an interesting encounter and then sots off? No, I think he should return and harry the PCs as they go about town rescuing folk (which, by the way, they have no motivation for doing, beyond the 'kindness of their hearts').
  • Finale: So now Oguuth can split himself? Huh? So, laying in a crater is a giant sleeping baby? Ewe. So then it just disappears? That's sort of a let down. So is the sinking of the city. I'm missing something here, I just know it. What about all the people that were rescued from the timestorms?
  • Ah, so there's Devilfish. But he's rescuing the PCs? Huh? What if they take him up on his offer and don't fight. You seem to assume there's going to be a fight?
  • Choking Cloak = Necklace of Strangulation in cloak form. Not real new and a really late introduction in the proposal that doesn't link anywhere?
  • Victory: Huh? Thud.
  • Overall: I really wanted to like this adventure, but ultimately it's a flight of fancy with some real organizational problems. I also think that 6th level could be way too low for some of your monster choices. This also has some serious canonical problems and implications too. I still want to know what happens to the people rescued from the timestorms? I do get a much better sense of NPC characterization than in the other proposals, but it doesn't rescue the tangential plot and fantastical wandering. There are some great elements to this, but the 'adventure' is more of steam of consciousness brain dump, almost brain storming. This could be a great adventure with some tightening and direction, but I think it'd be a huge editorial undertaking to better direct your ideas.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
If this (1) were presented as a sequel to FSTS [From Shore To Sea] ...

Would that have been allowed? Could a contestant pitch "Return to Bloodsworn Vale" or some other follow-up to an existing module? I will admit that if this pitch were a sequel to FSTS I'd be more inclined to vote for it. As a patron to FSTS, I'm inclined not to vote for it because of the retread of material, even if it is unintentional. I'm just curious if pitching sequels is kosher, though it is probably a risky maneuver. A sequel pitch can draw on the original's popularity, but may not stand up to the extra scrutiny that would entail.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

deinol wrote:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
If this (1) were presented as a sequel to FSTS [From Shore To Sea] ...
Would that have been allowed? Could a contestant pitch "Return to Bloodsworn Vale" or some other follow-up to an existing module? I will admit that if this pitch were a sequel to FSTS I'd be more inclined to vote for it. As a patron to FSTS, I'm inclined not to vote for it because of the retread of material, even if it is unintentional. I'm just curious if pitching sequels is kosher, though it is probably a risky maneuver. A sequel pitch can draw on the original's popularity, but may not stand up to the extra scrutiny that would entail.

Anything is possible... sequels and/or prequels included. Of course, if you happen to pitch one for a module that we would rather not revisit, or if you happen to pitch one for a module that happens to have been a TERRIBLE seller, or if you happen to pitch one that we've already got plans for, or if you happen to pitch one and then totally mess up the continuity with the module, you'll be done before you start. It's a LOT riskier, in other words, than just doing something new that can be all about YOUR take on Golarion and not your take on someone else's take on Golarion.

Contributor

James Jacobs wrote:
Anything is possible... sequels and/or prequels included.

Yep (you'll note the R5 rules don't prevent you from doing so).


I love the concept of an underwater adventure that uncovers a lost portion of Azlant that has never been discovered by surface dwellers because it was at the bottom of the ocean. I particularly like the hints at strange underwater sights and denizens. I can see myself using these ideas to come up with a rather high level adventure for when my PC's decide to make a pact with the Runelords instead of trying to eliminate them. Obviously it would mean lots of work for myself, but less so perhaps if the majority is already done. I can see a lot of potential here that won't be present in the "Shore to Sea" that has been mentioned previously as quite frankly it isn't of the right level for what I need. The ideas presented here if organized well and tightened up could make for a very compelling high level adventure (mid to high teens), one that involves a lot more role playing as opposed to just hack and slash. I would really emphasize the elements that allow for true discovery by players on what the ancient world was really like, and how powerful wizards can be brought down.


Man, I hate to say it, but I really didn't like this pitch. It has way too many strikes against it, and I doubt I would ever buy this adventure if it gets published. It pains me to say that, because I liked the Ossuary Golem and your changes to the Astrumal.

I will say that in my eyes, you are responsible for parallel development that was published before this proposal, you should not be marked down for things that are not yet published.

Unfortunately, you still went down a road already traveled. It sucks, I know. I've seen several things I created weeks, months, and even years ago get published by other people, but those are the breaks. If it makes you feel any better, I would probably hit this landmine myself, since I only own 1 adventure path and a handful of other books.

Aside from that, I still didn't see much I liked. You messed with THE defining moment in Golarion (something I think deserves an AP), I didn't like the pirate, I'm not a fan of ship combat, you altered cannon about skum (they require the theft of women to propagate), How the timestorms worked was unclear... I could go on, but I don't want to sound like I'm picking on you.

Unfortunately, this will not be getting my vote. Congrats on advancing, and I wish you the best in your future work.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka DankeSean

[Disclaimer- I'm trying to get down my initial thoughts unvarnished by other people's opinions, so I'm posting without having read any responses, including the judges. I will almost certainly be redundant in many places, especially since I took a full day and a half to reply. Apologies if I'm restating anything obvious.]

Whoo, boy, this one definitely pulls out all the stops. Azlanti. Aboleth. Atlantis rising from the sea. Events of the past trapped in a horrible state of semi-stasis that the party can actually affect and change, if they are so inclined. And the most disturbing black pudding anyone is ever likely to encounter. Matthew, I think you threw everything into overdrive for this one, and it's paid off. This is just one nonstop array of fantastic and exciting piled on top of one another. In my eyes, one of the two contenders for the crown from this round, and deciding between this and Jim's will be tough.

I like that's it's a big sandbox style adventure featuring your classic 'lost city'. Yeah, one could argue that's a well that's been deeply drawn from over the years, but y'know what? That's because it's a trope that works well. And I think this is flavored differently enough from stuff that's come before that it holds its own against the best. Spacewise, this might be packed tightly into 32 pages, but if Wolfgang Bauer's "Crucible of Chaos" , (which has pretty much the same presentation of a lost city) can fit in that space, I don't see why this can't. I'm not a huge fan of the map and pendant already both being in the party's possession at the start of the adventure and things starting at the conclusion of the journey to find the city, but given the space limitations, that's a concession I guess just has to be made. Also not sure how big a fan I am of the pirate encounter; maybe because I'm a fan of the Mordant Spire elves and I got teased by your mentioning them and then they don't appear. Curses. I guess there's less moral dissonance involved in fighting and killing pirates than stern protectors of old Azlanti ruins, but an elf fight bookending the adventure could have been just as fun. Just sayin'. :-)

Timestorms are just awesome. They're like the standard little 'ghostly images of the past that happened in a Bad Place' things you see in a lot of adventures, but they're REAL. And you can CHANGE them. That's just cool. Plus they help to give an already open ended adventure even more open ends. The number of long or short term subplots that could be introduced by these are pretty impressive.

I do not like the 'Uthua sinks into the sea when the party is done with it' approach, though. It's just too obvious; I personally would find it more exciting to have reintroduced something to the world permanently. (Although, in all fairness, a chunk of ancient Azlant returning for good might not be something Paizo wishes to do with their world at this point- or ever- so there's that to think about.) And of course it raises the thorny issue of 'what happens to all the un-timestormed people we've been freeing for the past couple of gaming sessions?' Unless the party's been dragging an increasing entourage around with them, presumably they go down with the island, just without the benefit of being locked away in time anymore. Seems a bit of an oops on the party's part...

In conclusion: I like this, that's definite. Whether I like it the MOST this round is the question. I've got some dredging through other responses to help me make up my mind to do. Best of luck to you, Matthew.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I loved the initial description. Sunken cities, exploration, Azlant - can't ever get enough of that, even with 'From Shore to sea' coming out soon. The execution, however, leaves me somewhat disappointed. There are too many holes in this weave: What exactly is the Scion? How and why did the Aboleths use it to destroy Azlant? How do timestorms work (that one's VERY vague)? Also, the only incentive - as described - is the final boon the party can receivy by 'freeing' (?) the Scion. What else is there? No short-term monetary gain? Exciting treasures, ancient artefacts? You could have at least mentioned them in passing. Also, I think the judges are spot-on with their concerns regarding the length of your proposal.

I'm sorry to say that while your previous rounds always held something exciting, in this, the final round, you didn't 'wow' me. As a whole, I would rate this proposal C-. It has potential, but would probably need some serious rewrites.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

This is my oh-so-close runner-up. Everything about the setting is awesome, start to finish. I told Alexander he ignored and mistreated the real star of his write-up; you did no such thing. Your star is the environment, and you treated it right. It's got its own trailer and a fresh box of donuts every morning. Man-oh-man, it's the star and everyone knows it.

Kind of like Tim Curry.

That's as direct a metaphor as I could possibly create, and let me make it clear that I totally love Tim Curry.

Edit: Oh! I almost forgot to mention, you deserve explicit and outspoken praise for avoiding "Noun of the Adjective Noun" in your title.


I voted for this one because:

  • I liked the Call of Cthulhu-style "risen sunken city" as an adventure location.
  • I liked the creative encounters (e.g. the giant squid, the ooze sorcerer).
  • I liked the open nature of the adventure hook, as opposed to "some guy hires you to run errands for him".

As pointed out by others, there are some clunky bits that could use some polishing up (like maybe rewriting some of the Starstone related stuff), but overall I liked it.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

Ok... First of all I liked this one the best, because despite a couple flaws that could be easily hashed out during design I think this holds the most promise by far. Time storms, pirates, sunken island, and a weird ooze thing all really good.

[rant]
The second part, which honestly saddens me a little that I have to point out, is that this is a contest and should be treated as the best one gets the vote. The fact you are saying Paizo has products lined up along these lines and because of that you should not vote for it is against the purpose of the contest. Vote for the best period, because it is the best design / proposal that should win period and not because it some how fits into paizo's release schedule.
[/rant]

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

Victor Miller wrote:

[rant]

The second part, which honestly saddens me a little that I have to point out, is that this is a contest and should be treated as the best one gets the vote. The fact you are saying Paizo has products lined up along these lines and because of that you should not vote for it is against the purpose of the contest. Vote for the best period, because it is the best design / proposal that should win period and not because it some how fits into paizo's release schedule.
[/rant]

I agree. I also don't consider whether it'll fit in 32 pages part of my own judging criteria either. Folks are always batting about with 'too much' or 'not enough' and that's so vague as to be quite meaningless, when considering improvements. Ideas are what they are, big or small, and can morph and scale quite easily.


Dance of Ruin wrote:
How do timestorms work (that one's VERY vague)? Also, the only incentive - as described - is the final boon the party can receivy by 'freeing' (?) the Scion. What else is there? No short-term monetary gain? Exciting treasures, ancient artefacts? You could have at least mentioned them in passing.

Uh... He did mention ancient Azlanti treasures being guarded by the Ooze-Villain in the final room with the Scion. He didn't specifically describe each and every one, but if they don't have powers specifically relevant to the plot, that doesn't seem a crucial bit of info to include in an adventure proposal for what amounts to "loot". I thought he gave a good enough overview of how the timestorms work for the scope of a proposal - they could certainly use more fleshing out in a final module, but this ins't a final module we're judging, it's an adventure proposal, which just needs to outline the main actors, events, setting and plot elements.

I seriously like this one. And I actually think if some of the more extraneous parts which people have pointed out (complained about) were cut, the adventure could very well fit in a 32 page module, while leaving plenty of room to detail the main areas of interest. I think Jim Groves' Dream Thieves will be getting my vote, but good job on this, and good luck!

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Aelryinth

I can understand the not wanting to 'repeat a theme'. However, this is a contest, and it should be judged on the merits of a contest. It can always be presented/rewritten as an aside, extra, bonus, prequel, or sequel to your AP being lined up, or emerge as part of canon material.

Will it require rewrites? quite probably. But as long as the central theme stays solid and consistent, we're good. Adjusting it so it jibes with what's on the current plate is little more then tweaks at the beginning or end of the adventure. Just as complaining about having an item as the hook means little - circumstances of the item can always be adjusted, but the device can be gateway to many other things. After all, there's nothing in this adventure that says this is the ONLY Azanti site that will react to the prescence of the thing! Minor items that are gateways to adventure are part and parcel of many stories.

Is it perhaps overly ambitious? Mmm, probably. Take an editor's axe to it, if need be. The encounter with the pirate can be chopped down. The 'rescue' of their own ship can be prearranged or not...or they can seize the pirate vessel, also if need be. Convenient loss of the adventure locale is also a baseless complaint - how many 20th level characters went back to the Keep on the Borderlands? Only in this case, the characters are now sure that no one else is going to be following in their footsteps, meaning they've had a unique encounter in their gameworld, and not just cleared out another dungeon. Every single 'time node' can be a single encounter, for the most part.

And Canon is there to be 'messed with' - also known as expanding. All it requires is approval from the powers that be. I'd make the Skum Mother a unique creature, not something they can repeat...and tie its origins to eating an aboleth, not fish.

==Aelryinth

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

+1 Aelryinth: couldn't have said it better. I don't judge on the basis of cannon either (though I'll mention it in criticism for consideration). I don't have the best memory for cannon myself. Even Paizo folks have to 'fact check.'


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Quandary wrote:
Uh... He did mention ancient Azlanti treasures being guarded by the Ooze-Villain in the final room with the Scion. He didn't specifically describe each and every one, but if they don't have powers specifically relevant to the plot, that doesn't seem a crucial bit of info to include in an adventure proposal for what amounts to "loot". I thought he gave a good enough overview of how the timestorms work for the scope of a proposal - they could certainly use more fleshing out in a final module, but this ins't a final module we're judging, it's an adventure proposal, which just needs to outline the main actors, events, setting and plot elements.

I know, Quandary. I was looking at it more in the way of: is there a solid hook for the players to latch onto? And that's what I'm missing. I know my players wouldn't jump for an adventure that basically says 'OK, there is an abandoned city. Which may, or may not, contain hidden treasure. Of an unspecified worth. That OK for you?' They don't know about the boon in the beginning (heck, they don't even know about it until they receive it, as I read the submission); all they know is 'ok, maybe there is money to be made'. If that is the only viable hook beside the exploration angle, it should definitely have been given more attention than has been the case here.


Dance of Ruin wrote:
I know, Quandary. I was looking at it more in the way of: is there a solid hook for the players to latch onto? And that's what I'm missing. I know my players wouldn't jump for an adventure that basically says 'OK, there is an abandoned city. Which may, or may not, contain hidden treasure. Of an unspecified worth. That OK for you?' They don't know about the boon in the beginning (heck, they don't even know about it until they receive it, as I read the submission); all they know is 'ok, maybe there is money to be made'. If that is the only viable hook beside the exploration angle, it should definitely have been given more attention than has been the case here.

Hmm. It's interesting that the openness of the hook is a negative for you and a positive for me! If you really need a stronger hook, it should be pretty easy to have the NPC-employer-of-the-week come by and say: "I need someone to explore this mysterious location because there are [rumours/legends/tales] of [ancient artifacts/books of lore/mountains of gold]!"


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

To which my current (rather mercenary) party might reply: 'Why don't you go and do it yourself, then? We're only going if the risk vs. reward factor is working out for us. Guaranteed danger vs. possible unspecified riches? No, thanks.'

Of course, this is taking things to an extreme. But I think a good hook is one that works (almost) with no regard to the actual party composition. And I think that playing a mercenary type character is something that every gaming table sees now and then. If the players are into exploring, they will go. If they aren't, they won't, and the whole adventure hook falls flat.

YMMV, of course :) just pointing out that a 'Superstar' adventure, to me, is characterized by keeping in mind that there are all kinds of PCs out there, and that the adventure should work for each and every one of them.


If I had players I knew would be like that, I would just slip in hints in the previous adventure or two that all the bad guys are working for a resurrected Azlanti conspiracy of some sort. This can be as simple as adding some flavor text to other unrelated adventures, because they aren't REALLY some Azlanti conspiracy, it's just typical psycho-criminal delusion (and I believe the CS mentions how many people may hold theories of their own special connection to Azlant). But if it is un-verifiable one way or the other, they find books in the villains' lair detailing plans to use ancient technology to raise Azlanti again (crackpot books, of course), when something like this comes along they would think it's all coming into place, and they need to investigate given they "know" about the Azlanti plot.


Oh dear. Advice was posted by myself and other more elucidated posters, that you needed to keep in mind that other groups might not react quite like your home group(s) to situations… Oh well, on with the in-depth review:

The aboleths did not summon the Starstone to destroy Azlant. They summoned a rain of meteorites, of which the Starstone was one which fell short and ended up in the modern day Inner Sea region.

The ‘starstone scion’ appears to be some sort of big, bad, scary monster which you have made up, which the Aboleths sent in on Uthua to destroy it. (More on this below.)

The Earthfall event significantly rearranged the geography in the Arcadian Ocean, so I really don’t see how a map from approximately ten thousand years ago before the Earthfall event is going to be any help at all in finding Uthua… unless it’s some sort of ‘always up to date’ artefact map, in which case what’s a mere pirate doing with it? And why in the past few thousand years have so few others apparently discovered what it does?

Umm, wait a moment, now the (6th level) PCs are chartering a vessel and sailing off to investigate. Stop RIGHT there, because that's what the adventure would do for some groups - some PCs are going to simply sell the map and pendant off as fast as possible (especially if they’re artefacts). And have you any idea how much chartering a vessel might cost? Or what kind of investment that might demand of 6th level PCs? This could have worked so much better if you skipped the dying pirate/gambling prize and cut straight to the PCs being retained by someone else who came by the map & pendant as guards/explorers to accompany his/her expedition.

Why does Devilfish attack the PCs’ ship on the way to the location? You specifically stated that his modus operandi is to wait until groups have recovered treasure and are exhausted before attacking. It would make far more sense for him simply to tail them and see where they’re going, maybe fighting briefly and then disengaging if they turned to investigate.

Uthua apparently rises because the starstone scion senses the pendant? The pendant which the PCs might well have sold to someone else or lost before now if this is being run entirely as you originally scripted it? Why does the pendant get the scion’s interest like that and cause it to head up to the surface, dragging a whole city with it anyway? Is it an item which maybe belonged to one of those wizards it was supposed to kill, so since it has to ‘get the job finished’ it heads up to investigate and if necessary swat the pesky mage?
This isn’t the first time that the city has apparently risen, either, in the ten thousand odd years since the Earthfall. Apparently it rose five thousand years ago, shortly before the Age of Enthronement began. That’s interesting (does it foreshadow Aroden creating Absalom?) but unfortunately a throwaway remark of which you don’t make any further use. In theory some organizations (such as the Red Mantis) might have information in their archives on the previous time(s?) this event occurred. And whilst it might have stood very heavily on the toes of the Serpent’s Skull adventure path (which is scheduled to feature Red Mantis involvement) you could have set this adventure up with maybe the Red Mantis being the ones who are ultimately hiring the PCs to ‘go investigate this city’.

Err, wait a moment, the timestorms are created by the sleeping starstone scion? If it’s asleep, how does it know to raise the city because the PCs are coming with the pendant?

Why was an aboleth even in Uthua when disaster hit? It’s not very intelligent to call in an apocalyptic monster to nuke a place and then squat around to wait to be cooked by it. The timestorms seem to indicate that an aboleth was in Uthua however when the monster arrived to smash the place up and sink it beneath the waves.

You appear to assume that for some reason the PCs are going to try and take down the timestorms? Why? What’s their motivation? It makes far more sense for them just to ignore those weird areas and get on with looting. In fact PCs with an interest in ancient lore will have a strong motivation to fight tooth and nail against anyone trying to disrupt timestorms, because once any timestorm is gone the priceless opportunities it offered to gain unique and fascinating glimpses into ancient life will be gone with it.

WHY, WHY, WHY would the PCs even want to awaken the starstone scion? This is a creature which destroyed Uthua in the first place. It’s so powerful that even apparently asleep it can raise a ruined city from the ocean floor. Waking it up, from a PC point of view is the equivalent of going to R’lyeh, opening those doors, and poking Cthulhu with a great big stick just to see what happens next – only given the clues scattered around Uthua that this thing was whipped up by aboleth magic to flatten the city in the first place doing that in pretty much the full knowledge of what you’re doing (which the explorers in The Call of Cthulhu lacked).

The spell-casting villain able to split into multiple pieces to bombard the PCs with spells from several directions, simultaneously, is nice, although it might be a little overwhelming for 6th level characters.

The starstone scion, that big bad monster called in to destroy Uthua, decides not to eat the PCs (despite the fact they have an Azlanti pendant it is very interested in) but to instead thank them nicely for giving it an alarm call before wandering off somewhere else??? That makes no kind of sense to me at all.

Oguuth has a fourth piece hidden away somewhere else as some kind of insurance against being 'killed'? This explains how he can show up again after any fight in the vicinity of the starstone scion, but you left it rather late in the day to mention this in your proposal. You also appear to assume that the PCs are going to climb the tower as the city sinks (and not run, fly, dimension door or swim for anywhere they may have left a rowing boat) and that they won’t have a chance to notice the vengeful ooze trailing them to sink any vessel which they try to board.

My overall impression is of The Call of Cthulhu meets Treasure Island meets The Armageddon Echo with a pinch of the ‘Mother of All’ from Sea Wyvern’s Wake thrown in. This entry has moments and the ruined city sandbox has been done before by Wolfgang Baur in Crucible of Chaos with some success, but so little of this proposal seems to me to hang together coherently to make a bigger picture that I really doubt that it could see print as an adventure, or at least not without major rescripting…

My thanks for your submissions in this contest.


Charles Evans 25 wrote:

Oh dear. Advice was posted by myself and other more elucidated posters, that you needed to keep in mind that other groups might not react quite like your home group(s) to situations… Oh well, on with the in-depth review:

The aboleths did not summon the Starstone to destroy Azlant. They summoned a rain of meteorites, of which the Starstone was one which fell short and ended up in the modern day Inner Sea region.

I can see your point somewhat, but they could have still wanted to destroy the island first...they tend not to like backlash from the things they do...

Charles Evans 25 wrote:

The ‘starstone scion’ appears to be some sort of big, bad, scary monster which you have made up, which the Aboleths sent in on Uthua to destroy it. (More on this below.)

The Earthfall event significantly rearranged the geography in the Arcadian Ocean, so I really don’t see how a map from approximately ten thousand years ago before the Earthfall event is going to be any help at all in finding Uthua… unless it’s some sort of ‘always up to date’ artefact map, in which case what’s a mere pirate doing with it? And why in the past few thousand years have so few others apparently discovered what it does?

It doesn't say anything about this map being from 10k year ago. Someone or something could have made the map later...To me it seems the hook seems general enough for the DM to use it or whatever he wants to do with it....not ridged

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Umm, wait a moment, now the (6th level) PCs are chartering a vessel and sailing off to investigate. Stop RIGHT there, because that's what the adventure would do for some groups - some PCs are going to simply sell the map and pendant off as fast as possible (especially if they’re artefacts). And have you any idea how much chartering a vessel might cost? Or what kind of investment that might demand of 6th level PCs? This could have worked so much better if you skipped the dying pirate/gambling prize and cut straight to the PCs being retained by someone else who came by the map & pendant as guards/explorers to accompany his/her expedition.

Ok a couple things here. 6th level PCs have any where from 8-12 thousand gold worth of gear, not to mention what ever they have saved up...charting doesn't cost that much./.maybe a couple hundred at the most per PC...maybe even 5-6 hundred at the most depending on how long the trip is.

Besides with a general hook...the idea is that the DM does some work to get the PCs into the module...there are few modules out there that give super in-depth background hooks in a 32 pager...

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Why does Devilfish attack the PCs’ ship on the way to the location? You specifically stated that his modus operandi is to wait until groups have recovered treasure and are exhausted before attacking. It would make far more sense for him simply to tail them and see where they’re going, maybe fighting...

Does it say the "Devilfish" planted the map and pendant? Maybe they heard about the pendant and want it? Either way if they are getting attacked...it could mean to them something is important out there.

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Uthua apparently rises because the starstone scion senses the pendant? The pendant which the PCs might well have sold to someone else or lost before now if this is being run entirely as you originally scripted it? Why does the pendant get the scion’s interest like that and cause it to head up to the surface, dragging a whole city with it anyway? Is it an item which maybe belonged to one of those wizards it was supposed to kill, so since it has to ‘get the job finished’ it heads up to investigate and if necessary swat the pesky mage?

Pendant could be apart of the scion? I don't know, I understand your point though...

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
This isn’t the first time that the city has apparently risen, either, in the ten thousand odd years since the Earthfall. Apparently it rose five thousand years ago, shortly before the Age of Enthronement began. That’s interesting (does it foreshadow Aroden creating Absalom?) but unfortunately a throwaway remark of which you don’t make any further use. In theory some organizations (such as the Red Mantis) might have information in their archives on the previous time(s?) this event occurred. And whilst it might have stood very heavily on the toes of the Serpent’s Skull adventure path (which is scheduled to feature Red Mantis involvement) you could have set this adventure up with maybe the Red Mantis being the ones who are ultimately hiring the PCs to ‘go investigate this city’.

Where does it say/imply that it happened before?

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Err, wait a moment, the timestorms are created by the sleeping starstone scion? If it’s asleep, how does it know to raise the city because the PCs are coming with the pendant?

This is a magical/fantasy game...I am sure something this badass prolly can sense something that is important...or something has connected the two...my point is that this is a game that defies reality a lot of time.

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Why was an aboleth even in Uthua when disaster hit? It’s not very intelligent to call in an apocalyptic monster to nuke a place and then squat around to wait to be cooked by it. The timestorms seem to indicate that an aboleth was in Uthua however when the monster arrived to smash the place up and sink it beneath the waves.

Beats me...this could be a moment for the DM to shine...or maybe it would get explained in the module...maybe he was banished? forward scout? wrong place wrong time? I am sure there is an explanation.

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
You appear to assume that for some reason the PCs are going to try and take down the timestorms? Why? What’s their motivation? It makes far more sense for them just to ignore those weird areas and get on with looting. In fact PCs with an interest in ancient lore will have a strong motivation to fight tooth and nail against anyone trying to disrupt timestorms, because once any timestorm is gone the priceless opportunities it offered to gain unique and fascinating glimpses into ancient life will be gone with it.

Well you have a point....but I would like to think that once they found out about the trap souls someone in the party would like to release them...or like you said someone might want to try and attain knowledge....there are plenty of reasons...this is where some of the sandbox-ness of the proposal comes in...its up in the air depending on what group you have...min/maxers....RPers....mixed....all of the above....you don't even have to finish the time storms...you can go through a secret tunnel straight to the end...

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
WHY, WHY, WHY would the PCs even want to awaken the starstone scion? This is a creature which destroyed Uthua in the first place. It’s so powerful that even apparently asleep it can raise a ruined city from the ocean floor. Waking it up, from a PC point of view is the equivalent of going to R’lyeh, opening those doors, and poking Cthulhu with a great big stick just to see what happens next – only given the clues scattered around Uthua that this thing was whipped up by aboleth magic to flatten the city in the first place doing that in pretty much the full knowledge of what you’re doing (which the explorers in The Call of Cthulhu lacked).

I see your point...but here is the thing...have you never had a PC totally take the game in a different direction...someone will most likely wake the thing up...but then again you might have to railroad it...or the PCs just take the treasure and leave...this is still pretty sandboxed feeling to me.

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
The spell-casting villain able to split into multiple pieces to bombard the PCs with spells from several directions, simultaneously, is nice, although it might be a little overwhelming for 6th level characters.

Yea he is pretty sweet, one of the reasons I voted for Matthew...although I think by the time they face him they will be a level or two higher...

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
The starstone scion, that big bad monster called in to destroy Uthua, decides not to eat the PCs (despite the fact they have an Azlanti pendant it is very interested in) but to instead thank them nicely for giving it an alarm call before wandering off somewhere else??? That makes no kind of sense to me at all.

Is it suppose to make sense? for all we know this is a hibernating Demi-God...or something so powerful beyond comprehension...or it feels nice to finally wake up...I mean I know when I have had some really good sleep I feel real chipper and I wouldn't mind making breakfast for everyone.

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Oguuth has a fourth piece hidden away somewhere else as some kind of insurance against being 'killed'? This explains how he can show up again after any fight in the vicinity of the starstone scion, but you left it rather late in the day to mention this in your proposal. You also appear to assume that the PCs are going to climb the tower as the city sinks (and not run, fly, dimension door or swim for anywhere they may have left a rowing boat) and that they won’t have a chance to notice the vengeful ooze trailing them to sink any vessel which they try to board.

Again I think this is going to be a moment left to the DM to decide whats going on with several options...I mean the fourth piece...metagaming we all know its possible...I think the proposal was just one of the outcomes...although it could have been a little better with what ifs...

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
My overall impression is of The Call of Cthulhu meets Treasure Island meets The Armageddon Echo with a pinch of the ‘Mother of All’ from Sea Wyvern’s Wake thrown in. This entry has moments and the ruined city sandbox has been done before by Wolfgang Baur in Crucible of Chaos with some success, but so little of this proposal seems to me to hang together coherently to make a bigger picture that I really doubt that it could see print as an adventure, or at least not without major rescripting…

I have to disagree with you here...

I am not personally harping on you...its just you made several good arguments and I wanted to counter them some what with my own opinions.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Matthew,

Okay. So, I've been sort of holding back on commenting on any of the adventure proposals, because none of them absolutely grabbed me as the definitive winner. As such, my decision on where to cast my vote hasn't really crystallized for me yet.

Therefore, I'm going to talk my way through the adventure proposal...bit by bit...to sort of reach some stream-of-consciousness conclusions and see where that takes me. Along the way, I hope to offer some advice on where I think a particular element in the proposal helped or hindered each contestants' chances at taking the prize. But really...regardless of who wins this thing, you're all winners, because you're all capable of spinning Superstar-caliber stuff. And we all know you'll get chances to do so as freelancers for Paizo in the near future.

So, without any further ado...buckle in, because here we go:

Spoiler:

Matthew McGee wrote:
From Time's Depths

I like this title. This is one of my favorites. I like how it alludes to the depths of the ocean as well as the timestorms...and the fact that we've got something (like an entire island city!) rising out of time's depths. So, really well done. It's an immediately intriguing title that makes the reader want to read further to find out how the title applies to the adventure itself.

Matthew McGee wrote:

Synopsis

A millennia-old artifact resurrects an ancient city from the depths of the sea, and the race is on to plunder the riches of a forgotten age! The heroes must overcome dangers past and present, including bloodthirsty pirates, hungry sea creatures, and the city's horrific last living survivor if they wish to uncover the mystery of the resurfaced city and survive to tell the tale.

Well. Upon reading this synopsis, the first thing that popped into my head was "From Shore to Sea" exactly as the judges cited. That can't be helped. Of course, once I set that aside, I also considered the fact that pretty much any adventure that deals with the Azlanti and their cities is likely to take you underwater. So I'm not sure you should be dinged too badly for that. The primary thing that's hurting you here is that the release of "From Shore to Sea" is so imminent. That's why your adventure proposal's timing isn't the best it could be. Ironically, if you were allowed to produce this adventure, it would be a whole year before it would actually come out...so there would be considerable distance between the two modules. That said, I'm not sure a fact like that is going to weigh as heavily when the voters consider your proposal. Regardless, the themes and elements you've woven into your adventure's plot all seem very appropriate and interesting on the surface. Let's see what else you have in store...

Matthew McGee wrote:
From Time's Depths is an exploration-oriented dungeon adventure for 6th-level characters. The PCs should be 8th level at the module's conclusion.

Ah...6th level? Very interesting choice. You're getting down closer to the low-level adventures where things are a bit more challenging (and threatening) for the PCs. But you've positioned your level range high enough to also open up a variety of monsters, spells, feat chains, and magic items you can draw on in designing your encounters. And, by incorporating those elements into your proposal, it makes the product more appealing to the imagination of the voting public...as long as you get the right mix of awesome.

Matthew McGee wrote:
Adventure Background

Obviously, I won't quote the entire adventure background. What you've got here is suitably short to give us the gist of what the adventure's about. And you didn't overcomplicate it with needless background and exposition. That will serve you well in saving words to really jazz up your encounter descriptions later on in your proposal.

Out of what you do give us here, I'm a little perplexed about the starstone scion bit. You're really dealing with a very dangerous thing in playing with so much canon...especially something as vital as the starstone and the Azlant history. If Paizo has defined plans about where they intend to take these things, you could be sabotaging your chances by choosing such subject matter. However, I'll also note that I knew I was taking on a similar risk by choosing elements of the First World in my proposal last year. I think there are ways to give yourself an opportunity to craft an adventure dealing with your favorite (and most inspirational) elements of Golarion, but only if you do so by including some "outs" whereby your proposal isn't immediately sunk (pardon the pun) by taking the risk of expounding on such canon.

Matthew McGee wrote:
Adventure Hook: Mysterious Map

Ah. So, right from the get-go, the party receives a MacGuffin that's supposed to lead them into this adventure. I'm not sure I like that. It's a contrived way to get the PCs to move on from their previous adventure into this one. But it's risky unless you make it clear to them what the items do from the outset. If they have to stumble around and figure out the "puzzle" to even find the hook to your adventure, you can shoot yourself in the foot with this kind of design. For instance, it's entirely possible that after deciphering the map, they may decide to sell it rather than chartering a ship to explore the city themselves. So, in my mind at least, this catalyst isn't as strong as it could be for getting the adventure started.

Matthew McGee wrote:
Opening Scene

Okay. We get a Devilfish half-fiend ogre witch "pirate" as our first encounter. Wow. That seems like piling on a lot of stuff to make the encounter memorable. He's an interesting enough NPC with a massive backstory that you had to explain. I'm not sure you did yourself a favor with that. It's far better to spend time detailing the encounters you plan to include in your adventure and what makes them a cool experience for the PCs than spending so many words talking about what makes your NPC cool. Inasmuch as your NPC is what makes the encounter cool, that can still be useful. But I think you went a little too far describing the NPC and not far enough with a cool encounter. You've got lots of adversaries here...and a weird union with the half-fiend ogre, his familiar, the sahuagin, and dragonnel. It all feels kind of mish-mashed to me. Like layer after layer of trying to kick the adversaries up another notch to produce a wow factor that never really coalesces for me.

Then, in the midst of this battle, we have the Azlant city rising out of the depths. And that makes the Devilfish flee...why exactly? I mean, if the PCs can keep their ship around despite the choppy waves and explore Uthua, why wouldn't Devilfish and his minions attempt to do the same?

Matthew McGee wrote:
Timestorms:

This is a somewhat interesting effect. I'm not sure I really get a sense for why these timestorms were spawned by the sleleping starstone scion. But they do make a vivid impact on the adventure's story as it plays out...and provides interesting clues for the PCs to unravel the secrets of the city. Even so, time-based adventures aren't one of my favorite schticks. It often comes off as overused as time travel in fantasy and sci-fi storytelling. So, the inclusion of the timestorms kind of raises my guard a little bit. But not so much that I'm not interested in reading further. You pose lots of ethical questions like whether it's okay to kill a being caught in a timestorm in order to release it from its "prison"...and you're giving PCs the chance to rescue some creatures that were effectively suspended in time for all these years. That's going to create some interesting opportunities for sages to better understand Azlant. And again, you're playing pretty loosely with canon here. If Paizo doesn't want that path tread this heavily, it could pose a problem.

Matthew McGee wrote:
As the PCs explore Uthua, they will discover timestorms and other strange sights in the ruins of the ancient city.

These sights are flavorful and everything, but I'm not sure they convey enough of the sense of majesty that I'd expect in an Azlant city...seeing as how the Azlant are supposed to be the pinnacle of human culture back in the day. I was hoping for something more grandiose and awe-inspiring for PCs to experience.

Matthew McGee wrote:
As PCs enter timestorms, they will eventually meet Oguuth, Uthua's last living survivor.

Wow. Okay, you went for something different in a black pudding id ooze with sorcerer levels. I'll give you that. But again, I'm kind of left wondering why this amount of weirdness. It's bordering on gonzo in some ways. But in a way that puts me off, rather than inspires. You've also got more backstory again for the NPC villain rather than explaining where we go and what's cool about the location...and what's cool about the encounter with this thing. That's what you need to hammer in an adventure proposal so you inspire a publisher to greenlight you...and, in the case of RPG Superstar, so you'll convince the public to vote for you.

Matthew McGee wrote:
Monsters of Uthua:...Ghosts of long-dead Azlanti soldiers...A wounded albino giant squid fleeing a ravenous pack of lacedons...Hounds of Tindalos (PF#4 82)...Swarms of blind white scavenger crabs...The dreaded thesselmoray...A tribe of skum with the features of deep-sea fish, including the hideous Deep Mother

This is a lot of stuff that will require stat-blocks rather than a simple page reference to the Pathfinder Bestiary...and I fear you'd have to spend more time putting together the unique stat-blocks for some of these creatures that you want have as many words to do the ruined Azlant city justice.

Matthew McGee wrote:
NEW MONSTER: Skum, Deep Mother

This creature seems to undo some of the known ecology of the skum from a reproductive perspective. I'm not really sold on it as interesting enough that it adds a lot to the adventure either.

Matthew McGee wrote:
The Final Goal ... Whether the PCs desire the starstone scion's power, the riches stored in its crater by Oguuth, or the release of the souls trapped by Uthua's timestorms, they must find a way to access the crater containing the starstone scion, currently blocked by a massive timestorm replaying the entity's destructive impact. If the party recovers one of the ancient artifacts Uthua's mages tried to use to prevent the catastrophe and they successfully activate it, they can “avert” the scion's arrival, erasing the timestorm. Alternatively, the PCs can discover Oguuth's secret tunnel into the crater.

This feels way too open-ended for me. And, granted, I'm a storytelling GM and designer to the core, so maybe that's just a personal thing for me. You've got a sandbox adventure tucked away in this massive city-site. And I can understand that. But the whole thing is just too "go wherever you want to go" and "decide for yourself what goal you want to set" that it just doesn't come off as a the adventure that makes me say, "Awesome!" Instead, the Final Goal seems completely undefined. And, although there are adventures and campaigns where that's okay...I just don't think it's the optimum style of adventure to present to voting public in RPG Superstar. In fact, I think many of Paizo's fans have come to truly find inspiration in the stories their Pathfinder modules and APs provide. And only recently have they gone with a major sandbox AP like Kingmaker as a bit of an experiment. As such, I think most of Paizo's fans (and thus, the voters for RPG Superstar) are story-centric people. Not all of them. Many enjoy sandboxes, too...but sandboxes that also tell a story. I don't get a sense of a story in this adventure proposal. And therefore, I think that's what's going to hold you back a lot...in addition to the "From Shore to Sea" comparisons.

Matthew McGee wrote:

Finale

Once the PCs successfully enter the crater they find the starstone scion: a gigantic humanoid form with a vaguely fetal appearance. Small timestorms are scattered through the chamber; Oguuth stands in one of them, surrounded by priceless Azlanti treasures.

Now this encounter gets interesting, because of the aspects of a black pudding splitting itself apart while also being able to cast spells as a sorcerer. Tactically, that's interesting, especially since they all draw from the same set of spell slots. That's unique and presents a "WHAT?!" moment for the players. I'm still not certain why the PCs would wind up wanting to awaken the starstone scion and set off Oguuth's wrath.

Matthew McGee wrote:

Aftermath

Shortly after the starstone scion departs, a shudder reverberates throughout the chamber – another earthquake is sending the city back into the depths! The PCs must race for Uthua's only standing tower as the water rises.

Personally, I'm disappointed that a relic this important in Azlant's past has to fall back into the depths and be lost again. I'd have rather seen it stick around. I think you missed an opportunity here.

Matthew McGee wrote:
At the tower's apex, the PCs see a ship approaching, but it is not their own – the Devilfish has returned to steal the fruits of the party's labors. Before the tower sinks completely, his crew extends a gangplank, laughing at the party's predicament and telling them they can come aboard like men or like fish. The PCs can fight (see Combat) or attempt to parlay with the Devilfish, but Oguuth is not quite finished with those who destroyed the final illusion of his humanity. When Oguuth split himself, one piece hid while the others pleaded and fought, and it follows the PCs up the tower before latching on to the Frenzy. As the PCs fight or bargain with the Devilfish and his crew, Oguuth dissolves through the hull and bursts onto the main deck, howling for revenge.

Well, that's certainly dramatic. But, I still don't understand why the Devilfish would have kept his distance right up until the PCs finish everything else and seek to leave the city. This feels very contrived and comes off more like an excuse to give Oguuth a chance to come back when the PCs thought they'd destroyed him. It's one of those "Ha! I'm not dead yet!" moments, further complicated by the Devilfish and his crew who really only seem to be there to give a decent location for this encounter to take place by letting Oguuth burn through the ship's hull.

As such, I'm just not feeling it. I mean it would probably be a great encounter from a combat perspective. I'm just not sure I would appreciate it as a player. It doesn't feel like an appropriate "final battle" for an adventure of this size and scope.

Matthew McGee wrote:
New Item: Choking Cloak

I'm not really feeling this one. It's like a cloaker in magic item form. So, it's a monster in a can. Not very Superstar.

Matthew McGee wrote:

Victory:

As the PCs stand victorious aboard the rapidly sinking Frenzy, a sail appears on the horizon – the party's ship has returned. Upon their return, the PCs may find themselves bombarded by sages offering large sums of money for their insights into Azlanti culture....that is, assuming anyone believes their story in the first place!

Eesh. Very deus ex machina and literally at the very end of the adventure as the PCs are faced with drowning miles out at sea. At 6th level, they're just not going to have the resources to survive unless a ship comes to aid them. So, I really don't like how this ends. In fact, now that I look back on it, I'm not sure 6th level is really all that appropriate for this adventure. If it were a high-level romp, I think it would come together better. At least then the PCs would have the means to save themselves from such a predicament. And, the scale and scope of a massive Azlant city with its powerful enchantments and history cries out for a high-level range rather than 6th.

At any rate, I'd like to say I've been a real fan of your work so far in the competition. I'm actually quite surprised at your choice of subject matter for your adventure proposal and how over-the-top many of these creatures, villains, and encounter choices turned out. No matter what happens, I know you'll be a great freelancer for Paizo, though. You've demonstrated your ability in that regard many times over.

Best of luck,
--Neil


Bigmancheatle:
To respond to and clarify on some of my points to which you responded, and where I feel my further comment might be useful:

  • I can see your point somewhat, but they could have still wanted to destroy the island first...they tend not to like backlash from the things they do...

    I was canon hair-splitting here. The proposal claimed that the aboleths summoned the starstone to destroy Azlant. That is *not* what is in the canon. The canon is that the aboleths pulled down some random rocks from space to take out Azlant, the Starstone just happened to be part of the shower, and the actual Starstone in any case came down nowhere near Azlant.

  • It doesn't say anything about this map being from 10k year ago. Someone or something could have made the map later...To me it seems the hook seems general enough for the DM to use it or whatever he wants to do with it....not rigid.

    If the map and pendant aren't from 10,000 years ago, then why is the snoozing starstone scion even interested in responding to their presence? I feel sure that magical items go across the Arcadian Ocean in ships on at least a semi-regular basis, so these items need to be special and recognisable to it in some way to trigger the outlined response. Granted, the proposal says that the starstone scion responds to the pendant, and so the map might not be from 10,000 years ago; however, if the pendant and map aren’t part of the same package, but the map is a later developed item that somehow sympathetically works with the pendant, then why is the map written in Azlanti?

  • Does it say the "Devilfish" planted the map and pendant? Maybe they heard about the pendant and want it? Either way if they are getting attacked...it could mean to them something is important out there.

    The proposal does say that Devilfish is cautious and cunning, and provides an example of those qualities by showing how he goes after high-value targets known to have weakened resources to repel attacks.
    Sailing around just attacking ships which he knows absolutely nothing about seems to me to show an utter lack of caution or cunning. In a world where a mid to high level caster with a fresh load of spells can leave a sailing ship dead in the water or spread across the sea in a selection of charred pieces, I would expect a pirate with the sort of qualities Devilfish is represented as having to know better than to just charge in at an unknown ship which might have a caster on board who could literally sink him. It seems to me that it is far more cautious and cunning to follow, seeing where a ship is going, and what is being done (such as putting a small group ashore at a mysterious island) before moving in.

  • Where does it say/imply that it happened before?

    The proposal makes it clear that the city was underwater just before the Earthfall event:

    “From Time’s Depths” wrote:
    …They sent the starstone scion just prior to the Starstone's arrival, sending Uthua to the bottom of the sea…

    The current year (according to the Campaign Setting) is 4708 AR. The Earthfall event was in -5293 AR, approximately 10,000 years earlier.

    The proposal makes it clear that Uthua has been continuously underwater for only 5,000 years prior to the events of this proposal:
    From Time's Depths wrote:
    ...For the first time in five thousand years, Uthua, ancient wizard-city of the Azlanti, escapes its deep ocean prison....

    Now granted that could mean that Uthua was on another plane or something else five thousand years ago, just before the current spell in the ocean depths commenced, but it seemed logical to me to assume a pattern of occasional rising (and subsequent sinking), in the context of what goes on in this proposal. True it desn't specifically say that the city has gone up and down, but it certainly implies that something happened five thousand years ago, and immediately before that the city certainly wasn’t at the bottom of the ocean.

  • I am not personally harping on you...its just you made several good arguments and I wanted to counter them some what with my own opinions.

    If you want to defend what is in your opinion a good entry which you’ve voted for, I can quite understand that. :)

  • Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka JoelF847

    Matt, coming into this round you were my favorite, not only for your helm and ossuary golem, but last round, your False Tomb of the Crawling Pharoah was by far the best (IMO, of course). Therefore, I was surprized that in the finals, you didn't knock it out of the park. While I liked a lot of the themes you have in this proposal (exploration, sunken cities, pirates), the execution seems only adequate, and more importantly, doesn't add a lot of new Superstar elements to what's been done before. To compare with the last 2 year's winners, Christine had a monastary that came to life as a giant construct creature while the PCs were inside it, and Neil had a great invasion of the evil fey/first world story. Neither of these were like anything I recall seeing before. Your adventure hits on some cool ideas, but doesn't present anything that's too different.

    To be fair, you tried adding a cool idea to stand out, with the timestorms, but since they seem to pretty much repeat the Armageddon Echo plot device, it's not something all that new (and quite honestly, it's something that's cool once, but I don't feel the need to have 2 adventures in my collection that use that device.) Without having seen From Shore to Sea, I don't know how similar or disimilar your proposal is to that, but using the same theme and level range isn't likely to get a strong positive reaction (as shown by the judges and others).

    As for specifics, I didn't really like the Devilfish background - why'd he have Hellknight training when you describe him as a witch (presumably no fighter or Hellknight levels therefore), and how did he make friends with Shahagin while being trained in Cheliax? That seems out of place. Also, why do Shahagin need to be pirates? Can't they just swim up to a ship from underwater and board it? Also, what's a archeopteryx familiar? I'm pretty sure that's not one of the familiar choices for the witch, and if it's a new one you're adding, then you need to add even more text to support using a witch by defining the new familiar.

    I did like the idea of the last living survivor, and his black pudding/ooze form, even if your description of him doesn't quite jive with the black pudding or id ooze descriptions. If you had used your new monster to stat him up instead, that would have been a lot better (and opened the door to create other spellcasters turned into oozes).

    I was also put off by some of the canon issues that Charles described far better than I could - mainly that the Starstone was a coincidence in Earthfall, not the primary point of it, and adding the Starstone Scion to that story seems tacked on. This could be re-worked as simply a weird space being that was pulled in byt the same aboleth magic that caused Earthfall, and happened to hit Uthua and made weird timestorms, and therefore simply been another weird anomoly with the Earthfall, and not a first strike on the city.

    So, in summary, while I think you'll turn out a great adventure if selected, I can't give you my vote for this round. However, I think based on the strength of your work throughout RPG Superstar, that you'll find lots of opportunity, and I'm looking forward to reading what you write in the upcomming years, regardless of if you win or not.

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