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Wreck of the Mastrien Slash

Round 5 - Top 4: Submit a full adventure proposal

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, 2010 Top 4 aka Alexander MacLeod

Wreck of the Mastrien Slash
What Could Be More Important Than Family?

Vindar Salashi did not bat an eye when a mysterious foreigner began wooing his daughter. He did not shed a tear when he learned of their hasty elopement. But, when he discovered that they had made off with his most prized ship, the Mastrien Slash, the merchant lord cried for blood. Now, the pair of young lovers have run aground in the necromanctic realm of Geb, and the man asking the heroes to mount a rescue cares more about recovering his lost property than he does about the fate of his only offspring.

Wreck of the Mastrien Slash is a tropical wilderness adventure for 8th-level Pathfinder Roleplaying Game characters, who should be well into 9th-level by the adventure’s conclusion. The PCs sail out of Jalmeray, but the adventure itself takes place in the southernmost part of Geb and includes encounters in the Bay of Mermaid’s Tears, a tidal salt marsh complete with grounded shipwreck, the plantation and manor house of a Gebite aristocrat, and a tangled ruin deep within a mangrove swamp.

Adventure Background
A year before her ill-fated attempt to destroy the undead kingdom of Geb, the pirate queen Mastrien Slash gave birth to a son fathered by the only elven member of her seraglio. When word of the petrification of Slash’s army at the hands of Geb reached her matriarchal capital, the paramour fled with the child to Jalmeray, fearing death at the hands of those left behind by the pirate queen.

Several generations removed from his infamous ancestor, the half-elven Vudrani guilder Vindar Salashi has lived a life of ease made possible by riches acquired through smuggling, blockade running, and trade with Geb. Content to give his only daughter, Mihalyi, anything she wanted, Salashi thought nothing of her tryst with a visiting Minkai dignitary until he was informed one morning that the two of them had disappeared.

More important than the loss of his daughter, at least to Salashi, is the fact that she took the key to his success as a smuggler—she stole his folding boat, the Mastrien Slash. Built from darkwood and enhanced to sail twice as fast as a usual craft of its kind, this folding boat can be recognized by its prominent, untarnished nameplate (written in Vudrani) regardless of the shape it takes. So angered was he by this theft that Salashi did not stop to think that the culprits might not know the folding boat was anything more than a fancy darkwood coffer full of silken flags.

Well-payed diviners kept Salashi appraised of his daughter’s passage south, and of the storm that drove her ship ashore amid the salt marshes and mangroves of the Bay of Mermaid’s Tears. As a good number of his personal treasures disappeared at the same time as his daughter and her lover, it took him nearly a week to call in enough favors to find the PCs and mount a mission to return his stolen ship to him.

What Salashi has not discovered is that the man who ran off with his daughter and his ship is no man at all, but an ogre mage calling himself Lord Utsuro. Having been banished from Tian Xia, this crafty oni has spent years wandering from court to court posing as a foreign emissary. Utsuro was just as put off by the undead of Geb as most other visitors, but has taken to the gloomy mangrove swamp and marauding the nearby plantation with the usual zeal of his kind.

The plantation just west of the salt marsh where Salashi’s ship wrecked and north of the mangrove swamp now claimed by Utsuro is owned by Sawba az-Zarqa. A swaggering, loutish aristocrat, az-Zarqa was given his lands as much as a reward for his services to the Harlot Queen as to simply get him away from Mechitar. The growing of sugar cane and manufacture of syrup, molasses, and rum do not interest this skeletal grandee in the least; he would rather be pursuing the favors of his kyton bodyguard (or any beautiful woman, for that matter). However, the recent attacks by the sly oni have grown to a point where even az-Zarqa can no longer turn a blind eye.

Adventure Outline
One week out from the banner-draped Jalmeray port of Niswan, the first hazard the PCs must overcome is the tropical climate of Geb. The hot weather requires a Fortitude save every hour during the day (Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 444), though this is easily negated by endure elements and the like. However, the adventure takes place during the rainy season, so the party will also have to deal with 2d4 hours of rain each day (Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 438), in addition to a small chance of a fierce storm lashing the area.

The captain of the ship that Vindar Salashi has provided the party as means of transport will not approach to within more than a mile of the coast of Geb, and so the PCs will need to either fly, swim, or row a ship’s boat across the last of the bay—the later two choices resulting in a confrontation with a number of hungry sharks. Beyond the ocean waters, the shore of the Bay of Mermaid’s Tears is a large crescent of salt marsh, home to swarms of crabs, leeches, and gebflies.

Gebfly Swarm
Known to scholars as Axanir flies after the forest where they are believed to have originated, each gebfly is a translucent, silvery insect about half the size of a human’s thumb with a distinctive skull-like marking on its back. Loud-buzzing clouds of these dangerous magical beasts plague the veldts, coastal salt marshes, and river valleys of southern Geb. Their scimitar-like mandibles easily tear the flesh of both the living and the dead, and thanks to their supernatural abilities, they can often be found in symbiotic relationships with sentient undead.
Powers and Abilities: In addition to painful bites and the spread of disease, the area covered by a gebfly swarm constantly acts as if under the effects of a desecrate spell. Finally, the swarm can channel negative energy like a cleric, and is healed by negative energy as per the death’s embrace ability (Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 43).

It is in the salt marsh that the PCs can find the wreck of the ship which brought Mihalyi Salashi and Utsuro to Geb. This wreck is not, in fact, the Mastrien Slash, but a Nexian merchantman comandeered in Niswan by Utsuro. The PCs can find evidence of the crew’s murder, and with some successful skill checks, can determine that two people escaped the wreck about a day before a second group showed up to pick through the ship. The survivors were the oni and Salashi’s daughter, while the group that showed up a day later were the servants of the local plantation owner, az-Zarqa. No corpses can be found, as they were all taken by az-Zarqa’s people to be animated.

From the salt marsh and shipwreck, the party must either make its way up a small escarpment to the sugar cane plantation of az-Zarqa or deep into the flooded mangrove tangle now claimed by Lord Utsuro. The plantation is on alert, due to the oni’s week of troublesome attacks, and will likely take the PCs to be the perpetrators. Unless they use clever bluffs, disguises, or diplomacy, a party exploring the fields of sugar cane on their way to the main house will be set upon by giant glitterscale geckos, yellow-musk zombie field-hands, and the plantation’s Gebite overseers (druid/necromancers).

At the main house, the adventure can go one of two ways. Kick-in-the-door combat can ensue if az-Zarqa is not dissuaded in his belief that the PCs have been behind the attacks on his people. Even though he is only an aristocrat, the skeletal champion’s guile, traps, high ranks in Use Magic Device, and skilled kyton bodyguard can provide a fine combat challenge. On the otherhand, for those who take the more challenging route of diplomatic interaction, quick use of the proper skills can turn the meeting with az-Zarga into an invitation to dinner and the offer of a safe place to spend the night and heal up as honored guests. It is also here, within az-Zarqa’s abode, that the folding boat the PCs seek can be found amid other loot taken from the Nexian ship.

Should the PCs have dinner with az-Zarqa, each course will provide its own minor culinary dangers (posion, disease, traps, unliving foods, and the like) with an equally minor reward for those who manage to make it through. Sometime during the meal, az-Zarqa will try to get the PCs to solve his mysterious marauder problem. At the conclusion of the meal, the plantation’s owner will present the party with a full bottle of his finest Second Soul rum. Parties who opt to do battle with the plantation’s denizens can find this magical liquor secreted in the main house.

Second Soul Rum:
Second Soul Rum
moderate necromancy; CL 10th
Slot —; Price 2,500 gp; Weight
This distinctive Gebite gold rum spiced with cinnamon and pepper is typically found in small earthenware jars holding up to four doses. Fermented with a touch of spirit moss and distilled through a bound soul, second soul rum grants its drinker 1d10+10 temporary hit points for 10 hours. So long as the drinker has any of these temporary hit points left, he suffers only half the normal result of any ability damage, ability drain, or energy drain attack he is subjected to.

Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, false life, creator must have 5 ranks in the Craft (distillation) skill; Cost 1,250 gp

An investigation of the mangrove swamp proves at least as difficult as the journey through the salt marsh. Hungry and venomous reptiles make up the majority of the tangle’s lesser threats, while a handful of will o’wisps will try to lure the PCs towards a deadly giant flytrap. If the party survives to reach the lair of Lord Utsuro, they find that the oni has settled in the ruins of some ancient building, so cracked and decrepit that it is hard to say where building ends and the swamp’s largest mangrove begins.

Battle here will have to take into account the deep bog and crocodiles below the thick roots (upon which a successful DC 16 Acrobatics check will allow movement at half speed and a DC 21 check allows full speed), cover from ancient stone walls, and flight limited by the overhanging branches wherein dwell numerous cat-eyed mangrove vipers (advanced venemous snakes). It is here that Utsuro is holding and tormenting Mihalyi Salashi, manacled to a tree with her legs dangling within easy reach of the crocodiles’ jaws. Once he tires of taking the form of her Minkai lover to regale her with tales of his most recent attacks, the oni plans to remove the pearly white spindle ioun stone he forced on Mihalyi, thereby depriving his new pets of plentiful snacks.

Lastly, as the adventure location is close to the Field of Maidens, it is likely that the PCs will discover some of the pirate queen Mastrien Slash’s scouts and skirmishers who were not with her main army at the time that Geb transformed them all into statues. Most of these statues have not weathered the years well, and several of the trapped warriors’ spirits have gone mad. Found in numerous places throughout the salt marsh and the mangrove swamp, these statues now house allips (Pathfinder Bonus Bestiary 4) that leak from cracks in the stone, though az-Zarqa also has a fairly intact “maiden” in his bedchamber that houses a ghost. While these encounters are likely to be purely combat, characters who discover the few patches of spirit moss growing in the northern reaches of the mangrove swamp can attempt to calm the spirits, converse with them, and possibly gain their aid or work out a way to release them.

Vindar Salashi (CN male half-elf rogue 8)
Known as nothing more than a well-to-do spice merchant among his Vudrani neighbors, Vindar Salashi is a descendant of the pirate queen Mastrien Slash, and has more in common with his infamous ancestor than he would like to become public knowledge. His looks favor his human side, with caramel skin and black hair pulled back behind his slightly pointed ears. Though wealthy, Salashi does not wear showy clothing or flashy jewelry. He has acquired a real knack for haggling from years of dealing with other guilders, and is known to be almost as good a sea-captain as he is a merchant.

Salashi is motivated heavily by greed and self-interest, but he is not a cruel man. If he is made aware that his daughter was seduced by a monster, and told of what Mihalyi suffered at the oni’s hands, Salashi welcomes her return (or is reduced to tears by word of her death). Whatever the situation, the Vudrani half-elf never fails to put on his best manners in front of those who could further his desires.

While he can tell the PCs all about his daughter and the mysterious emissary from Minkai with whom she ran away, Salashi is loathe to say anything about what he knows of the lands of Geb for fear that someone my connect him with those who run the periodic blockades to trade with the Domain of the Dead.

Mihalyi Salashi (N female half-elf expert 4)
Mihalyi is the only daughter or Vindar Salashi. Her father’s selfishness at first made her work hard to master the skills of a fine merchant in order to gain his praise, but in recent years she has come to believe he will never love her as much as his wealth. Tomboyish in both looks and dress, Mihalyi does still decorate her forehead with an opal in the traditional way of Vudrani women.

Though she does not have his substantial experience, Mihalyi knows almost as much about the spice trade in Jalmeray as does her father. It was this knowledge of Salashi’s business and Niswan’s docks that allowed Mihalyi and her would-be lover to make off with the Mastrien Slash in the first place. She sees her current predicament as yet one more terrible effect of her father’s greed, rather than something her own naïveté got her into.

Mihalyi tends to put on a stoic, self-sufficient face when in over her head, and her stubborn refusal to ask for help and tendency to take credit for the actions of others can be a bit off-putting. She also tends to whistle absentmindedly when nothing is holding her immediate attention. Having endured the marshlands and the torments of Lord Utsuro for a week now, Mihalyi is well versed in all the dangers in the area.

Lord Utsuro (LE male ogre mage)
The exiled ogre mage calling himself Lord Utsuro has spent the past few decades making his way west across Casmaron to the Inner Sea, alternately terrorizing the countryside and posing as an important dignitary from the realm of Minkai so that local lords would provide for his every whim. His true form, that of a red-skinned giant, still has a burning paper charm fixed to his forehead, marked with the Tien symbols that deny him access to his ancient homeland.

While his usual powers of trickery and charm will not work for him among the undead masters of Geb, the land is rich with opportunities for pillage and destruction. He has ceased using his charm monster ability on Mihalyi, instead using it to convince the nastier beasts of the local marshes to attack az-Zarqa’s plantation. Ursuro is unlikely to give up such easy pickings without a fight, though only a challenge to his personal honor is likely to get him to play fair.

If he discovers the party before they learn of him, Utsuro will follow them invisibly, using his spell-like abilities to further the plantation’s residents’ mistrust of the PCs. If discovered, he will try to convince the party that az-Zarqa has captured or killed Mihalyi and ask for their aid in destroying the skeletal champion. Should the party surprise Utsuro in his lair, he will make parley as difficult as possible, demanding costly and humiliating offerings for even the privilege of talking with him.

Sawba az-Zarqa (NE male human skeletal champion aristocrat 10)
When he was alive, Sawba az-Zarqa was one of the most lecherous courtiers the Cinerarium has ever seen. As many of his fellow aristocrats were surprised that the Harlot Queen granted him unlife as reward for his services as were relieved when she granted him this most distant plantation to get him out of Mechitar. Though az-Zarqa’s body is now naught but bones, he still wears the silks and turban common to his station, and several gold teeth flash from his rictus grin.

Competent enough to run his large estate, az-Zarqa leaves the everyday duties of the plantation to his numerous overseers. He prefers to spend his endless hours dabbling in all sorts of magic, planning grand parties that few of his fellow nobles deign to attend, and making a play for any young lady that does not know his reputation well enough to stay well away. Deep down, az-Zarqa is miserable with his lot (both as plantation owner and as an undead), simply going through the motions to keep up appearances. But, his pride will not let him back down from any perceived affront.

The plantation’s master is quick to jump to the conclusion that the PCs are to blame for Utsuro’s recent depredations, but just as quick to apologize and offer the hospitality of his home should the party be patient enough to explain things to him. Should they take him up on this, az-Zarqa is happy to expound upon his own history and tell them all he knows about the shipwreck and the surrounding marshes (especially if one of the PCs is an attractive woman).

Paizo Employee Creative Director

This is a very interesting proposal that promises a very sandboxy adventure experience in an interesting location, but that is hampered, unfortunately, by poor organization and some missing info.

The Basics
Level: Another mid-level adventure. Disappointing.
Location: Geb is an interesting location, and the tidal salt marsh makes for a really flavorful site. Good choices!
Plot: I like the open-ended nature of the adventure, and of how the PCs get to make up the plot on their own based on their actions and personalities. But I also would like a LITTLE bit more structure... how is the adventure expected to end? What are the ramifications?

The Good
1) Right off the start, the idea that the PCs are hired to find a man's missing boat and that the man really doesn't care much about his missing daughter is intriguing and interesting. Especially when it's revealed the guy's a smuggler, and that his daughter accidentally made off with his livelihood.

2) Tidal salt marsh! This is a neat area to set an adventure. Good choice!

3) Making the stolen boat a folding boat is really neat. Makes it easy to transport once you hit land, and forces the PCs to keep going after the stolen boat even AFTER they reach the boat's destination. Well done! Of course, unless the PCs know they're looking for a folding boat, this might end up causing some confusion… It certainly confused me! Tricky ground...

4) Making the main bad guy an ogre mage is interesting. These guys are so often used as mooks or minions that it's refreshing to finally see one used as a primary villain… which is really what they're supposed to be used for anyway!

5) Setting the adventure near a Geb plantation is also interesting, since it gives the PCs multiple factions of could-be bad guys to deal with. Handling the plantation as somewhere the PCs can either dungeon crawl or use diplomacy to interact with is neat.

6) Including the Field of Maidens is a nice touch. I like especially how az-Zarqa has a maiden statue hidden in his house.

7) This proposal feels very tightly focused, and I'm confident it can be pulled off in 32 pages without feeling compressed or rushed.

The Bad
1) Starting Point: It shouldn't matter WHERE the adventure begins. Hard-wiring a start point at Jalmeray is unnecessary; you should be able to start this adventure from anywhere.

2) Parallel Development: The start of the Serpent's Skull Adventure Path begins in a very similar way; with the PCs sailing into the tropics on a ship and then going on adventures in Garund. These similarities are pretty superficial, but they still concern me a little bit.

3) At 8th level, hot weather isn't a big deal for PCs. This is hardly a hazard at this level, and so shouldn't be given much more than a cursory mention. Dealing with constant rainfall is more interesting, though… especially if this is set during monsoon season and the PCs have to cope with frequent heavy winds and storms.

4) Yellow Musk Zombies: These wouldn't be used by a Geb plantation owner; yellow musk zombies are loyal only to their creator plant, and they're not REALLY undead so they can't be controlled by a necromancer. It's much easier for a necromancer to use normal zombies.

5) Dangerous Dinner: I'm unclear WHY az-Zarqa would serve his guests poison and diseased food. Is he purposefully trying to kill the PCs? Why would he do this if he wants to hire them to help with his marauder problem? If it's just him showing off how weird dinners in Geb are, then it shouldn't be set up as a trick to hurt the PCs.

6) Wasted Words: I don't need a full magic item stat block in the course of an adventure proposal; this wording could have been better put to use in the proposal.

7) What Ruin, Now?: I like having the oni settle in to an old swamp ruin... but it would have been nice to know what KIND of ruin it was. Simply calling it "some ancient building" doesn't cut it.

8) Sudden Oni Hatred: Why does the oni suddenly start treating Mihalyi bad? I'm a bit confused as to the oni's plot, I guess. It'd be more interesting if, by the time the PCs get to him and his girlfriend, she were more or less still enthralled by him. Makes it a bit more interesting and complicated, especially if the Oni has actually developed legitimate feelings for the woman. And if the woman herself were kinda evil... that'd add a delightful wrinkle to things as well. Maybe I'm just tired of the "save the beautiful woman from the monster" cliche, though.

9) Allips: Allips are not really good choices for mid level adventurers; they do no damage and are easy for clerics to blast apart. Might be more interesting to see these as wraiths or even specters or shadows. Actually, ghosts might be the best choice, since you can customize them nicely and they don't have to be evil if they're ghosts.

10) Gebfly Swarm: Is this going to be the new monster in the adventure? Seems a little underwhelming to be a new monster...

11) Ties to Canon: While it's cool to tie elements of adventures into deep world canon, it's not as cool to do so just to do so. There needs to be a compelling reason to involve deep world canon, and there's nothing in this adventure that justifies linking the primary NPCs to Mastrien Slash.

12) Missing Ending: This proposal just sort of fizzles out. Is there a climax to the adventure? There should be some sort of finish to the adventure... merely setting up a situation without an expected resolution is fine, but there needs to be SOME sort of text talking about the adventure's wrap up. It almost looks like you just ran out of word-count in your proposal without any words about how to end the adventure.

13) Vindar Salashi: Why do you devote so many words to this NPC in the proposal? He doesn't really have much of a role in the adventure, after all; he's just the guy who hires the PCs. If he were to show up at the end of the adventure or something, that'd be a different story, but since he doesn't... I'm a bit at a loss as to why you spent so much time talking about him. In fact, I'm a bit confused as to why you chose to spend so much of your proposal describing the NPCs... I would have rather seen a more organized description of the types of encounters the PCs are destined to face in the adventure.

14) Wait... he's a SKELETON?: If one of your major NPCs is something weird like a skeletal champion, you need to reveal that as soon as possible. On my first read-through, I went through the entire proposal thinking Sawba az-Zarqa was a living human, and got to like him as a living human. If he's a skeleton, 99% of PC parties are going to attack him. It makes no sense for a skeleton to have dinner or seek pleasure with a living creature, either. In fact, my opinion of the whole plantation element PLUMMETED when I found out az-Zarqa was a skeleton and not a human. Way too wacky. I'd require him to be turned into a living person if this adventure gets accepted... or barring that, I'd require the whole plantation to be presented as nothing more than a dungeon crawl. And since I actually kind of like the diplomacy angle... al-Zarqa needs to get some flesh on his bones.

15) Grandee: We tend to prefer to avoid titles that are too heavily rooted in real-world societies. Better to use the word "nobleman" than "grandee" in every situation, since Geb is not Spain or Portugal.

16) Where do the Undead Come From?: Az-Zarqa (boy is that name hard to type) isn't a necromancer... who does he use to raise and command his undead plantation workers? Why isn't this NPC mentioned at all? Are these the "druid/necromancers" you mention? Also: Druid/necromancer is a weird combo that, flavorwise, doesn't make a lot of sense. You'll need to do more than mash two classes together to explain this one. With some good flavor, this could be a cool combo... but that flavor is missing from the proposal.

17) Aristocrat Bad Guy: I love the idea of making a main bad guy nothing more than an aristocrat. A LOT more than making him also a skeletal champion. If he's an aristocrat, it's okay to punch up his level even higher; he doesn't really get any abilities other than hit points and increased attacks for higher level, after all.

Final Thoughts
I've no doubt that this proposal could turn into a great adventure... but before it would go anywhere I'd ask you to "redo" the entire proposal. I would want to see more about the locations and encounters the PCs are going to face, and less about the NPC motivations and backgrounds and the magic booze. I'd also love to see an expected route for PCs through the adventure; I know it's a sandbox adventure, but it needs to be organized SOMEhow. And perhaps most importantly, I need to know how things wrap up, and what the ramifications of the PC choices are.

An intriguing adventure proposal to be sure, but this one needs a fair amount of work still. Yet the ideas are solid and there's some neat stuff going on in here. This is my second favorite of the four proposals... but only if az-Zarqa becomes a living creature. If he stays a skeletal champion, I'm not NEARLY as interested in this proposal.

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

Alexander, thanks for your hard work in this contest. I think you have provided some really great moments. The ardorwesps, in particular, were really great.

However, I can't recommend your proposal. James does an amazing job detailing the issues and I agree with nearly all of them. And while he gives the nuts and bolts, I want to take it bigger picture.

I don't know why the PCs get involved and I don't know how it is supposed to end. I don't see the final resolved confrontation here.

I think you found a great setting for adventure, a great location. But the story isnt there. A successful pitch has to have that. Yours doesn't.

I DO NOT recommend this proposal.

Good luck!

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

Looks like some pretty neat locations here. I like how folks really seem to be gravitating toward Garund this year. Lets see what we’ve got…

Ooof, this is a long one. So here’s my question. Aside from the GM who would read this, how do the players learn this information in the adventure and what bearing does it have on the encounters to follow? It’s a common trend among adventure designers to write half a novel as a background, but then giving little more motivation than “A guy hires you! Do what he says for money!” At more than 500 words even in proposal form you’re looking at a background here that is going to dominate if not fully consume one of your precious few 32 pages. So just a heads up: if you’re going to have a big background, make sure it has bearing on the adventure, make sure there are ways more than just the GM can learn about it, and make sure the PCs have a reason to care.
Oh dude. Holy revenge of the adventure background, Batman! We’ve got another 1,000 words of character background at the end! This is WAY too much. That 500 words just jumped to 1,500 words, totally filling two of our 32 pages—and after we’re talking 2 pages for a new monster, add, maps, art, table of contents, etc, etc, space for actual adventure is shrinking fast. All of this character stuff should be built into the adventure background, and it should all be much, much shorter.

I love, love, love that you took weather into account from the get go. Way too often this sort of detail is totally overlooked, or only brought up as a plot device. Such details can go far to make even a mundane setting feel realistic and well thought through.
You’ve got quite a trick here with your interaction with az-Zarqa. If the PCs choose to fight him, every word you write about the elaborate meal is wasted space. If they choose to eat, then entire “dungeon” of his house is largely unnecessary. It tends to be best to err on the side of detailing an entire location as if the PCs were going to rampage through it—a pretty safe bet in a plantation populated by undead, evil outsiders, and other monsters. You might give a sidebar on what az-Zarqa does if the PCs talk their way through things, but I’d avoid wasting word count elaborately presenting both results of a binary decision. Making az-Zarqa a little less reasonable—an aggrandized skeletal farmer has a lot of reason to be pissed after all—might also help.
Oh. It’s over. So why is the whole plantation part important? Say, my PCs land in Geb, they get to the plantation, they slaughter the dead things there, then the futz around until a good Survival check or something leads them into the mangrove swamp where they encounter Lord Utsuro in his lair and kill him. The plantation is the major focus of this proposal, but has a lot of potential to be nothing more than an elaborate sidetrack. The way it’s presented and how the characters are each given their own thorough bios (and the loaded line about the “more challenging route of diplomatic interaction,”) it’s obvious you’re trying for a subtler route than I proposed, but I’m not thinking you’re going to get that as written. There’s just too many chances for the PCs to start swinging their swords and not stop. Then there’s really nothing here to suggest how the encounter with Lord Utsuro is climatic. You fight him, save the “princess,” and, I assume, head home to live happily ever after? Rather than explaining how things end we get the suggestion of another encounter with allips, so we might never know how Slashi reacts to his daughter’s return.

New Monster
Gebflies rub me the wrong way. While I like description of them and ecology, I’d like these more as just a bit of flavor on normal regional insects with no magical properties. As soon as we start talking about them being able to desecrate and channel energy, they begin to feel far less believable and pretty “meta.” They’re just too transparently monsters meant to buff undead. It’s like a tree that bears potions of cure moderate wounds instead of fruit or a “drow dragon” that breathes a special kind of dark fire that hurts everything but drow. The idea here isn’t as ridiculous as those examples, but it’s obviously as creature that is built to utilize a very special rules effect—sort of a buzzing spell effect in this case—and can’t make use of the majority of its abilities, and thus can’t stand on its own, without a specific type of companions.

I’m afraid there’s more of a novel here than an adventure. Aside from having a lot of background details it doesn’t sound like the PCs are likely to discover during the course of an adventure, the proposal has a favored path that I’m not sure most parties would take. There’s some very cool ideas in here, and there’s no doubt I’m totally on board for a Geb adventure with undead plantations and haunted swamps, but I would have liked that to be the focus.


Looking at this from a GM perspective:
Having the intro in Jalmeray isn't really relevant--you should be able to start this anywhere, as the adventure isn't about Jalmeray, it's about going to Geb where the action is.

If Salashi has well-payed diviners to track his daughter's location, why can't he just have someone teleport to her?

The Gebflies don't really excite me--they're just a swarm with a couple of magical abilities relating to undead. I get the Geb-undead connection, but the swarm monster is just not wowing me enough.

Az-Zarqa... I don't know why he has a kyton bodyguard. Geb doesn't feel particularly kyton-ish to me, and a 10th-level aristocrat skeletal champion is a more dangerous foe than a CR 6 Kyton. I also don't see how he's lusting after anything, because he's a skeleton. Or why he holds feasts, because he's a skeleton.

It's a little weird that the *item* the PCs want is in the hands of the aristocrat, and the person is in the hands of the oni. Strictly interpreted, the PCs don't need to interact with the oni at all--if they kill az-Zarqa, they can get the folding boat and leave the daughter to her death, which is weird. I'm not sure which one's supposed to be the MacGuffin in this adventure.

The end bad guy is an ogre mage. That's neat. He has a lot of abilities that can make life difficult for the PCs in the lead-up to the final conflict with him. Though I don't know why he decided to start torturing his lover, other than "he's evil."

However, the final conflict is probably with the oni, not the skeletal champion... and an oni is CR 8. This adventure is for 8th-level characters, who should be "well into" 9th level by the time they reach the adventure's conclusion. They'll kill him very quickly (even if he has crocodiles to help), and that's anticlimactic.

The adventure proposal doesn't really have an end. I presume you can bargain with the skeleton and get him to hand over the boat if you stop the attacks on his plantation, which means you need to kill the oni, but the proposal doesn't come out and say that. Instead it spends a lot of words describing a new magic item and various character personalities. It's like sending Sam and Frodo to Mordor, and while they're at the foot of Mount Doom, you mention that Gollum is creeping up on them, then start describing the personalities of those three characters, and never say what happens to the Ring.

Looking at this from a player perspective:
Some guy's daughter has run off with a bunch of his treasure. They've gotten far away because he's short on cash, and now he's managed to scrounge up some "favors" to get us involved. Sounds like one of those, "do this mission and I'll pay you once you bring back all my treasure" sort of missions that makes non-good PCs wonder why they don't just keep this loser's treasure for themselves.

The group ends up on a plantation, and odds are they get attacked by a weird menagerie of monsters (geckos, plant zombies, and druid/necromancers). And the plantation boss is an undead skeleton. Who is an arrogant jerk. But if we manage to talk him around to our side, he'll make us a dinner of disgusting food that may kill is. Double jerk. And then he'll give us what we want (the boat? which is inland?) if we stop the attacks on his plantation. Personally, I'd kill him and salt the earth here just to show my contempt for this guy, I don't bargain with evil skeletons, especially ones that try to feed me poisonous crap.

One way or another, we're pointed toward the swamp, and manage to find the missing daughter, who's about to be fed to some crocodiles. And then this ogre mage shows up and wants us to bribe him for the "privilege" of talking to him? Time to bypass roleplaying and start rolling some damage dice. Oh, the ogre mage was your boyfriend, lady? What kind of weirdo are you? Oh, you didn't know he was an ogre mage? And he just decided to torture you? You have great taste. Are you coming back to Jalmeray with us? Because your dad's real interest was getting his magic boat back, not you.

First, Sean's pet peeve, you're using the word "will" far too much.

There's a lot of weirdness in this adventure, from the motivation to the villains, to confusion about what the PCs are supposed to do, to reasons why the PCs wouldn't just start killing everyone on the plantation--or let the oni wear everything down until they could sneak in and take the folding boat back. I think there's a salvageable adventure here, but it needs some work.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber


I like this adventure proposal, for me it brings to mind a lot of "Golden Voyages" moments from the Al~Qadim adventure boxed set of the same name.

Although the judges all have valid points, I truly believe you've got some AWESOME stuff here, and tightening up on those missteps will certainly go a long way to making this a SUPERSTAR Module.

I (sort of ) understood the aristocrat to be a skeleton, but was also confused as to why he was hosting a "deadly" dinner for the PCs. (Unless he gets some sort of vicarious pleasure from watching the living eat and "enjoy" the meal).

Still and all, a very intriguing adventure proposal.

No votes to anyone yet (and yours is the first I've read), so let's see what the others have come up with.

Whether or not I vote for you, Good Luck in all your future endeavors!

Dean; The_Minstrel_Wyrm

I'm not an expert in all of the things that are already out there, but I can say that I've never read or played a game like what was presented here and that, to me, is fantastic.

I think the choice of environment makes for a really unique experience that very few adventures are brave enough to present. While it may be true that mid level adventurers aren't going to be as bothered by environment than your lower leveled group, I would put money down that at least half of them would be in dire straights right from the start. I've never seen players or GMs pit the players against nature like this adventure threatens to do. I think that very distinction will make for a more intense experience.

The plantation to me steals the spotlight of the show. The miserable undead aristocrat sets up such a powerful figure in the game that will make the players remember him and the encounter with him for a long time. Sure, most players will probably burn his fields, kill him, and set his house on fire. That is completely expected, mundane, and would be quickly forgotten. However, fighting your urges to kill everything you see, and actually engaging him would set up a memorable experience. I can very well imagine the whole scene in its decadence and being put in a tense moment where the tension could be cut with your steak knife.

I saw there were some concerns with the poison meals and whatnot. That is great to me too. To me, the aristocrat is miserable with his eternal life, and to suddenly have mortal guests arrive would surely stir some emotion in that bag of bones. I can very well imagine his jealousy at their mortality and freedom, and find some amusement at putting them in harms way at the meal.

Anyway, I think those are the best points of this adventure, and while the Ogre Mage is not a super memorable villain, who says he needs to be? You've got a much more powerful character to make a memorable experience with in the plantation.

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I think this pitch might work better without the father-daughter pair that ostensibly sets it up. I don't really get why the ogre mage ran off with the daughter. At first, I thought it was to get the folding boat, but he doesn't even end up with the treasure. If he was CE, I could see him seducing and torturing her just for giggles, but since he's lawful, shouldn't there be some motivation?

It would be more interesting if he kidnapped her to use as bribe or distraction for the lusty skeleton (an odd concept, but kind of like the skull that wants a drink of wine near the end of The Last Unicorn, I guess -- a disconnect between living habits and undeath): Knowing aw-Zarqa's weakness, Utsuro provides him with a new plaything to distract him from his plantation duties and give him more free rein to get whatever it is he's stealing. (Honestly, I'm really not clear on what exactly he wants from the the skeleton.) That's probably how I'd tinker with it, were I to run it. And for the squick factor, I can't say whether having one's feet gnawed off and regenerating repeatedly is any worse than being pawed by a lecherous skeleton who doesn't realize he's not all there anymore for a week. Plus, it lets you use the more flavorful location of the plantation as your endgame instead of "some ancient building."

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:

This reads as if it could be an extended version of a PFS adventure. Indeed I am slightly concerned that it could be too short. I suppose it depends how much detail goes into the mangrove swamp, which I suppose is the really big location here.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas


  • The title leaves a lot to be desired and doesn't really peak my curiosity. I also thought of 'sash' instead of 'slash' and thought maybe the adventure was going to deal with a magical garment of some sort, rather than a folding boat?
  • I hate Vindar Salashi by the first paragraph. As a player, I also wouldn't work for him, since he cares more for a ship than his own daughter. He's a total pig. As a GM, I'd be unable to play such an unsympathetic employer. As a father, I find him reprehensible. I wonder how old Vindar is, because as a man grows older, I think gold and treasure don't mean near as much a daughter's love.
  • His ancestry doesn't seem to have any bearing which means the name of the ship doesn't seem to bear on the adventure which adds to the disappointing title. These details are just sort of lost in a sea of Golarion nouns which feel glued on.
  • "Pair of young lovers"... ugh, cliché and too immediately Shakespearean and turns out not to be true, which is a disappointment.
  • "necromanctic"... misspelled, but also in the same sentence with the two young lovers, which struck me as an unintentional pun.
  • Mass petrification of an entire army? Oh and later some of them managed to slip away? This stretches plausibility.
  • So they took Vindar's check book AND his ship which caused a delay? Surely, he has other resources he could muster? I mean he sounds like a real resourceful gangster type guy.
  • I hate the ogre mage villain too; he's just uninteresting, with no goals or real agenda, just a 2-dimensional meanie.
  • "skeletal grandee" Oh, later we find out he's a skeletal champion, gotcha. I like him better than the other two villains, but he's still a 2-dimensional stereotype of a dead guy that misses life's pleasures.
  • The rum's sort of neat, but below what 8th level characters might expect.
  • How do the PCs get involved at all?
  • I think the contest has had enough insect creatures. The gebfly seems a punish name for an insect in Geb. It's also not that interesting. Existing monsters and NPCs used cleverly could do the same thing. I think you could have made an interesting, imaginative jungle creature here instead.
  • "some ancient building" is sort of vague.
  • I feel sorry for Mihalyi. Egad, doesn't anyone love her enough to save her? Where are her friends? Where's her mother? I'd find the adventure far more interesting is she were the client. I find the oni's torture of her to be gratuitous and 1-dimensional. There's no real reason for it other than to be mean for no reason.
  • The weather as an opponent is dull in an adventure proposal.
  • I like the idea of a plantation as a setting, but it seems more like a cardboard back drop. It's just there.
  • I also like the idea of an Indiana Jones-style slog through the jungle, but the idea seems squandered on a 2-dimensional plot, a few cardboard backdrops and 2-dimensional villains.
  • I have a soft spot for the folding boat, but it seems to get lost, being that it's the actual the goal of the adventure. I still want to see some sympathy for Mihalyi.
  • Druid/necromancers would make interesting villains, but there's no details in the proposal outlining where you plan to take this. If you'd have invented
    a new jungle creature to go along with them, made the jungle seem more "alive" (which would take more than just a giant flytrap and some bugs), and invented a heinous druid/necromancer cult of some sort into which genuine lovers fall, then you'd have an adventure!
  • Overall this proposal strikes me as 2-dimensional, lacking depth of plot and character, with several points of implausibility. The monster mix is all over the place. As a player, I'd kill every evil thing in sight, save the girl, keep the treasure, keep the boat and head for the high seas. I'd probably find Mihalyi a new home, just out of sympathy.

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

I like the basic principle of this adventure, but it fizzles a bit at the start and (more dramatically) at the finish. At the start, you've buried your lead in too much detail about the NPCs and their personal history. Keep deep background to a minimum; focus instead of the foreground background that connects to the action of the adventure and when, where, and why the PCs become involved. I don't mind the Jalmeray tie, but if this guy is a high-rolling merchant then PCs should be able to come across an adventure hook in any port city, either to go TO Jalmeray (to visit Salashi) and then go to Geb, or to bypass Jalmeray entirely and just contact Salashi or a representative for him, and go from wherever they are to this location in Geb.

What, exactly, IS the climax of the adventure? Defeating the ogre mage and getting the folding boat back? I'm not sure I'm really feeling it as being very climactic. It's *just* the OM. Where are his mooks? Does he have servants?

Go to swamp.
Find old building.
Defeat ogre mage without falling down into croc pits/snake-filled trees.

Maybe if the ogre mage is killed something about the enchantment of the field of maidens turns his body to stone and turns him into a vengeful ghost that will rise and pursue the PCs back across the sea to Jalmeray or something. Just... some more tension in the final act.

I like a lot of the bits and pieces you use here; it feels very New Orleans to me, in a good way, but I don't think this is going to be the one.

This is the first of four I've read.

Without reading any other comments, I read your adventure...and was bored before I got out of the background section. It just didn't capture my interest and if I were a player in this, my character would refuse to be hired to track down a man's daughter and her husband.
Alexander, you've been my favorite through this entire competition, but I cannot vote for this proposal. Sorry man.

Scarab Sages

Random thoughts, having not read anyone elses posts;

Now, the pair of young lovers have run aground in the necromanctic realm of Geb,


Well-payed diviners kept Salashi appraised of his daughter’s passage


The PCs can find evidence of the crew’s murder, and with some successful skill checks, can determine that two people escaped the wreck about a day before a second group showed up to pick through the ship.

Should detail what sort of skill checks and what DCs for which information.

cat-eyed mangrove vipers (advanced venemous snakes)

A tiny little awesome detail, I love this.


Gebfly Swarm

Description: Known to scholars as Axanir flies after the forest where they are believed to have originated

Cool concept, but this first sentence is awkward. Perhaps a comma after 'flies' would help break it up and make it clearer that 'flies' isn't an a verb.

a full bottle of his finest Second Soul rum.

Also neat.

az-Zarqa leaves the everyday duties of the plantation to his numerous overseers. He prefers to spend his endless hours dabbling in all sorts of magic

Cool character, but he should have some Bard levels, at least, if he's 'dabbling in all sorts of magic.' Not much dabbling a 10th level Aristocrat can get up to...

Also, not in love with the name. Al-Zarqa or Ab-Zarqa or something, perhaps. Two z's in a row just isn't flowing well for me.

His true form, that of a red-skinned giant, still has a burning paper charm fixed to his forehead, marked with the Tien symbols that deny him access to his ancient homeland.

Another freaking awesome little bit of detail! There are little flashes of mad creative genius here, in the details.

After reading the other comments, this adventure might be better by having the merchant be from Jalmeray, but, thanks to his boat being stolen, could be encountered *anywhere,* desperate for the return of his boat (and, daughter, perhaps), so that he can get home. Desperate and living off of the favors of his merchant buddies, who aren't thrilled to have a free-loader who suddenly can't pay his debts hanging around, Vindar has a more urgent need for adventurers to retrieve his boat.

Az-Zarqa would make a perfect Ghoul, retaining both hungers and meat on his bones for other fleshy pursuits, and I still think he should have some spellcasting capability.

This would be a good place to introduce some sort of item that allows a non-Cleric to channel undead for the purposes of controlling undead, or to have some sort of undead overseer introduced, allowing a Gebbite 'aristocrat' who isn't an evil Cleric or Necromancer to run a plantation (and one who *is* to run a plantation with even more skeletal workers than their class levels would normally allow).

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Set wrote:
cat-eyed mangrove vipers (advanced venemous snakes)
A tiny little awesome detail, I love this.

Given the other two spelling corrections you made, I'm surprised you didn't point out that it should be "venomous" here.

Also, note "comandeered" instead of "commandeered," "other hand" as one word, "posion" instead of "poison," and missing hyphens in "will-o'-wisps." All seven of these typos would be caught with a spell check. (MS Word may not actually know to spell "will-o'-wisp" correctly by default, but it would at least bring it to your attention as a word it doesn't know—and therefore as one you should check yourself.)

Definitely points off the submission for not spell-checking. If I received an unsolicited manuscript with many more obvious typos in so few words, I'd consider tipping it straight into the trash. If it were solicited, that author would be "on notice."

I also have to say I'm not really happy about the word "slash" in the title; it has a different connotation these days. Honestly, I think we'd have to change the title.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Vic Wertz wrote:
I also have to say I'm not really happy about the word "slash" in the title; it has a different connotation these days. Honestly, I think we'd have to change the title.

Wow, I have teenagers ages fourteen, a fifteen and eighteen in the house and I didn't know that.

Learn something new every day :)

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Vic Wertz wrote:
I also have to say I'm not really happy about the word "slash" in the title; it has a different connotation these days. Honestly, I think we'd have to change the title.

Well, really, the Mastrien Slash isn't even the boat that ends up wrecked. I imagine the title went with an earlier version of the proposal in which the ship actually wrecked, and he didn't change it when the story changed.

I love the "Heart of Darkness" feel to this one, a plantation in a mangrove swamp with undead added? Nice. The previous difficulties mentioned by others not withstanding, I do think it could easily be made into a compact 32 page adventure module.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I read through all four submissions and I finally decided to vote for this one. I was really torn between this and the Cult of the Ebon Destroyers but I really felt this grabbed my attention right away and it was something I would want to play or run.

This just seems to imply high adventure to me! The use of the weather is just great and pulls you into the adventure and grounds it, making it part of a living world.

There does need to be some adjustment to the motivations of the villians and hook. I agree that the plantation owner works better as a flesh and blood human. Also, I want a little more from the oni than just "rescue the damsal in distress".

But, this still feels like an adventure that could be very memorable!

Good job!

It sounds devilishly fun!

Vic Wertz wrote:
I also have to say I'm not really happy about the word "slash" in the title; it has a different connotation these days. Honestly, I think we'd have to change the title.

You ruined my joke about Mastrien Slash fiction. Boo.

The Exchange

Alex, you were the guy I most wanted to win. I loved that Ardorwesp. And I would have voted for you if this scenario proposal was more clear cut. But it wasn't my favourite and I think the beginning and the end let it down.

But I followed Rob McCreary in year one and he has always been a "safe pair of hands" just like you. Good luck with the competition and I hope to see you going from strength to strength afterwards.


Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

Oh starcross'd lovers trope, I hate thee most of all. Sorry, but this was a great submission that was killed by the backstory for me. I wanted to like it. I mean, I like pirates, I like wrecks, I like old secrets. But it just didn't catch my fancy. I think you focused too much on the personalities and not enough on creating the action for me.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor


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 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:


Alexander MacLeod wrote:

Wreck of the Mastrien Slash

What Could Be More Important Than Family?

Okay. Interesting title. I know others feel that using "X of the Y" in a title is overused, but I don't buy that. Some of the best and most memorable titles rely on it. It doesn't bother me to see it used as long as it's used well. Here's some details I really like about your title. The very first word is "Wreck"...which is both a noun and a verb when used in its proper context. As such, it immediately conjures up imagery for me. I can see a shipwreck lying on the bottom of the ocean or I can envisioning one playing out as a ship crashes on the rocks. So, in my book, you've got a good title here.

Having said that, however, I'm not as keen on the "Mastrien Slash" element. The word "Mastrien" is okay, but it doesn't tell me anything from an imagery standpoint. It's a hard proper noun...which presumably refers to a ship's actual name. So, that's okay. The "Slash" element when applied to a ship kind of conjures up imagery of a sleek vessel cutting through the waves. But, it also conjures some less pleasant imagery. I agree with the judges that it would probably work better if you renamed the ship to something different.

Alexander MacLeod wrote:
Vindar Salashi did not bat an eye when a mysterious foreigner began wooing his daughter. He did not shed a tear when he learned of their hasty elopement. But, when he discovered that they had made off with his most prized ship, the Mastrien Slash, the merchant lord cried for blood. Now, the pair of young lovers have run aground in the necromanctic realm of Geb, and the man asking the heroes to mount a rescue cares more about recovering his lost property than he does about the fate of his only offspring.

I think this bit of teaser text misses the mark slightly. It's offering too much background. And, it takes too long to get to the crux of the matter with the revelation that a) somebody stole this guy's ship, b) it's really important to him (even moreso than his own daughter), and c) he's hiring someone to go get it back for him. I often find it useful when crafting paragraphs like this to go back and ask myself, "What am I trying to convey here?" And, if there are extraneous bits and pieces of background explanation and text that keep getting in the way of conveying the core message that paragraph is supposed to deliver, I trim it out. Then, I follow-up with another paragraph later on that dives back into further explanation, if necessary, to bring those elements back into play. Meanwhile, it makes the information come across more cleanly.

For instance, instead of starting out with Vindar Salashi not batting an eye when a mysterious foreigner wooed his daughter...or crying when they eloped...I'd suggest you start straight out with the fact that "Hey! Somebody stole this guy's ship! And it was his own daughter and her fiance who used it to leave the country and elope. They never realized the importance the boat held for her father's smuggling career. And now he's calling in resources to go get it back--and he doesn't care what happens to his daughter in the process." To me, that's enough teaser text to set the stage. Then, you can dive into the adventure background and explain where the ship it's run aground on the shores of Geb...and so on. No need to drop that into the teaser text, in my opinion.

Alexander MacLeod wrote:
Wreck of the Mastrien Slash is a tropical wilderness adventure for 8th-level Pathfinder Roleplaying Game characters, who should be well into 9th-level by the adventure’s conclusion. The PCs sail out of Jalmeray, but the adventure itself takes place in the southernmost part of Geb and includes encounters in the Bay of Mermaid’s Tears, a tidal salt marsh complete with grounded shipwreck, the plantation and manor house of a Gebite aristocrat, and a tangled ruin deep within a mangrove swamp.

I can see you targeted the sweet spot of adventuring (i.e., the 6th-9th level range) in which PCs start coming into their own and can actually stand toe-to-toe against most villains and monsters without risking death on every combat roll. It also opens up a certain array of monsters, spells, feat chains, and magic items you can bring into play as a designer that usually prove attractive enough to catch everyone's interest. As such, it's a smart choice for someone who wants to win votes. Also, really interesting and compelling low-level adventures (and their proposals) are harder to do. And high-level adventures risk a smaller audience, because a lot of players and GMs just don't take characters that far in their adventuring careers. That's why I think so many of the final adventure proposals in RPG Superstar grade out in these level bands.

Personally, I have no problem with it. But I can see it becoming repetitive enough that eventually someone's going to make themselves really stand out by taking the risk of crafting a low- or high-level adventure. And they'll score points with the voters because of the change of pace and the degree of difficulty involved.

Next, I notice you've chosen to involve Jalmeray (though only tangentially) and Geb for this adventure. Kudos on finding an area of the Golarion campaign setting that hasn't been explored too much. As long as it's a region that captures the imagination of lots of voters, I think you're golden here. And, from what I've been able to tell, I think Geb's got enough traction that it can play well for you. In addition, you're describing an outdoor setting with a tidal salt marsh, a mixed encounter area with a plantation and manor house, and a bit of dungeon crawling with a tangled ruin in a nearby mangrove swamp. I think these are good terrain and locale choices. I can envision some cool maps and possible encounters. So, let's see what you did with them...

Alexander MacLeod wrote:
Adventure Background

I won't quote the entire text from the adventure background, but I think all of it is adequate. You've certainly drawn on Golarion canon where possible. We get a sense for where this folding boat came from...its historical signficance...and its 'sentimental' value to Salashi (whose given name is quite close to 'Slash" I noticed--not sure if that was intentional or not). As others noted, paying a bunch of diviners to chart his daughter's course in the ship could just as easily ensure the ability for him and his own minions to go retrieve it with a handful of teleport spells. So, you might want to rein back on the amount of magic he has at his disposal and just say he received word of its appearance off the coast of Geb. That way, it's a bit more plausible that he hires a bunch of seafaring, rabble-rousing PCs to go fully track it down and bring the boat back to him...or at least, send word of its full location so he and his minions can teleport in and retrieve it themselves.

Now, having Salashi's daughter become involved with an ogre mage is an interesting choice. From a villain aspect, I like that element. He should have plenty of tricks and abilities to really challenge the PCs. But, to get to him, the PCs will have to go through az-Zarqa's territory to find the shipwreck. Like many others have pointed out, I think it would be cooler to recast az-Zarqa as something other than a skeleton. If you still want to make him an undead, you could make him a ghoul. That way, he's still intelligent...still flesh-and-bones...and could still host a pretty 'interesting' dinner party. Maybe not the complete gross-out, but something memorable just the same. As for his kyton bodyguard, I suggest setting that one aside. It seems out of place. Maybe az-Zarqa could be fully living rather than undead and make his bodyguard into a ghoulish companion instead?

The only other element that seems a bit contrived here is the relationship between Utsuro and az-Zarqa. If the the ogre mage is attacking az-Zarqa's plantation, it seems a little quick for him to be doing that after just shipwrecking on the coast of Geb and moving into the mangrove swamp. Has the ogre mage made his home there prior to meeting Salashi's daughter? If so, that's more understandable. But I got the impression the couple just wrecked the boat on the shore and have only now settled into the mangrove swamp. So, at this point, I'm left with trying to understand why and how Utsuro would intentionally go about antagonizing az-Zarqa, rather than merely masquerading as a visiting dignitary again.

Alexander MacLeod wrote:
Adventure Outline

Okay. So there's this sense of climate and weather hazards the PCs could face right from the get-go. Presumably, they're sailing to Geb? Any chance for oversea encounters? No. Apparently, the ship's captain gets them safely within sight of Geb and then leaves it to them to find the rest of the way there. Seems kind of odd...even contrived. This opening scene doesn't carry enough "BANG!" to it. I would have liked to see something to get the blood pumping relatively soon. And a shark encounter while rowing across the Bay of Mermaid's Tears isn't quite getting the job done. As such, I think you missed an opportunity to lead with a solid punch to both your adventure and your proposal.

Alexander MacLeod wrote:

Meh. I'm neither blown away nor completely put off by the concept of this new monster. There's certainly some decent tie-in's to the thought of swarms of flies infesting Geb whereby they follow around the walking dead and have some kind of interplay with them. But, they come across like their sole reason for being is to form a symbiotic relationship with sentient undead. And, personally, I'd rather have just seen them as more of a natural occurence...something that doesn't have a mystical or supernatural connection. It's just a natural outcome and consequence of having so many undead bodies walking around in Geb.

Alexander MacLeod wrote:
More Adventure Outline...

Okay, next up, we have the tidal salt marsh to explore. We find out the shipwreck isn't the one they're looking for...but there's evidence some people survived...but a complete absence of dead bodies. In Geb, that's not necessarily a surprise. But you don't really have much of a clue to drop to get the PCs to go anywhere else. Instead, they're faced with further exploration in an ever-widening circle...or an attempt to track the trail of those who left the shipwreck or removed the bodies.

Presumably, they eventually head towards az-Zarqa's plantation. I'm not entirely sure why the PCs would choose the "kick in the door" approach to assaulting az-Zarqa's stronghold, but you've given them that option. Granted, you're indicating the plantation is "on alert" due to Utsuro's atrocities...but I'm still finding it hard to understand why the ogre mage would call attention to himself so quickly after shipwrecking on the coast of Geb with his fiancee in tow. The pieces just aren't fitting logically in my head in terms of how the story and plot is crafted. Thus, I'm finding it unusual again to imagine az-Zarqa's guards and servants setting upon the PCs as soon as they approach his plantation. I'd be more keen to see the adventure spun as an investigation...where they wander away from the shipwreck with more questions than answers and they find the nearest home so they can ask its owner about the wrecked hull down the coast.

Next, I'll agree with the point one of the previous judges made about the yellow-musk zombies as field-hands for az-Zarqa's plantation. They're not undead. Geb uses zombie slaves in their fields. So, the yellow-musk is out of place. I'm also not overwhelmed by any "cool" factors among az-Zarqa's minions. There's not battle or terrain feature in any initial encounter that conjures up a great cinematic moment. So, I'm still waiting for that first "BANG!" scene that really hooks everyone if I'm a GM running this type of adventure.

Moving on, I really like the notion of a dinner party with az-Zarqa. This scene could present a great "creep out" vibe as you showcase some of the cultural differences of Geb's people. As a Gebite NPC, az-Zarqa is a canvas upon which you can paint a great picture for everyone that reinforces not only the themes of the campaign setting's depiction of Geb, but also the themes you showcase in your adventure. You could even showcase a scene where az-Zarqa dotes on a zombie or ghoulish 'daughter' of his own who died an early death, but he had her animated so she could linger on by his side...and then juxtapose that with how Salashi could care less about his living daughter in the clutches of an ogre mage. That kind of literary element can sometimes help elevate an adventure as one more plot thread woven into the greater adventure for PCs (and, by extension, the players) to experience and absorb.

The one element I don't like about the plantation location is how easy the PCs can come by the folding boat...since it lies among the items looted by az-Zarqa's minions from the shipwreck. An interesting way to spin these types of situations is to make it so that the folding boat is seen (maybe in the hands of his daughter who's playing with it), but he refuses to just give it up, unless the PCs agree to solve his problems with the ogre mage in the mangrove swamp. Now granted, they could flat out try and take the boat by force, of course, but such a move should be fraught with enough danger and risk to fully dissuade the PCs. That way, you keep the story on track so the PCs can go check out the mangrove swamp.

Also, I'm not real keen on how you envisioned the dinner party playing out. I don't see a reason for az-Zarqa to assault the PCs with course-after-course containing diseases, poisons, etc. That alone would set any band of PCs against him and give them reason to wipe out his plantation, take the folding boat, and leave Salashi's daughter to her doom.

Alexander MacLeod wrote:
Second Soul Rum:

This new magic item is basically false life in a bottle with some added protection (half-damage) against ability damage, ability drain, and energy drain attacks. Obviously, this plays a role later in the adventure when (and if) the PCs come across the allips from the Field of Maidens. But, allips aren't a real big challenge to PCs of this level. So, the added protection of second soul rum isn't really all that warranted, despite the great synergy you've got going from a flavor perspective with the rum, soul distillation process, and the mangrove swamp and plantation setting.

Alexander MacLeod wrote:
Final Adventure Outline...

Honestly, the mangrove swamp encounters and location didn't do much for me. By this point of the adventure, you need to be ratcheting up the tension. Present a challenge greater than anything they've faced up until now. And, though Utsuro will certainly provide a tactical and physical challenge for them, I just don't get a sense of his lair that's all that compelling. Instead, I'm far more interested in creepy az-Zarqa than I am about Utsuro. Perhaps worse, I'm just not getting a sense of Utsuro's goals as your primary villain...or why the PCs would care about them. And that's a major missing element for me. One of the most important aspects of adventure design is coming up with a compelling, interesting, and threatening villain. Utsuro doesn't do it as he's presented in this outline. As such, many of the other aspects (such as the Plot) start to go off the rails a bit and the adventure pitch loses its cohesion.

Alexander MacLeod wrote:

Vindar Salashi (CN male half-elf rogue 8)

Mihalyi Salashi (N female half-elf expert 4)
Lord Utsuro (LE male ogre mage)
Sawba az-Zarqa (NE male human skeletal champion aristocrat 10)

This became way too much additional background on your NPCs. In many ways, I think you did yourself a disservice in how you chose to present your information. We don't really get a sense of Utsuro and his goals until way, way down in your adventure proposal. We know he ran off with Mihalyi, but not why. And we don't get a sense of his long-range goals and ambitions or the threat he would pose which would inspire heroes to stop him. You also spend a great amount of words describing Salashi, but he never comes into play as anything more than a benefactor who's buying the PCs' services to retrieve his boat.

As such, the adventure pitch is just way too disjointed in how it presents your idea and where you wanted to take things. You definitely have some good ideas in here...even a couple of great ideas, if truth be told. I just don't think you managed to get everything together with a crisp enough presentation to win over the voting public. And sadly, that means a publisher who received this adventure proposal would have a hard time trusting you to deliver on something that would hopefully become a hot product for them to sell.

Regardless, however, I really think you've got a lot of talent. Really cool ideas. Some really good execution. If you don't go on to win, you still totally deserve the Top 4 recognition and all the freelance opportunities that will come your way. My commentary above is meant only as constructive criticism on trying to help you understand what I took from your proposal and where and how I think you could have made it come across better. Maybe some of that can help you down the road as you work on new stuff.


Scarab Sages

After reading the others over again, I'm voting for this one, because it feels like it would require the least cutting and slashing and burning to turn into a 32 page adventure. It's got it's warts, but the others (some more than others) are filled with neat stuff that's going to have to be ripped up and thrown to the cutting room floor anyway, leaving behind something not quite so neat.

Of the four, this is the one I could see still being recognizable after editing, which, no matter the typos and the contradictory and inexplicable motivations that will have to be dealt with, makes it the closest to a 'done' deal, in my eyes.

That's not much of a compliment, saying that I'm voting for this one because it seems *less problematic* than the other three, but, there it is. On a consolatory tone, as someone whose never made it past round one, my opinion is worth shiny bupkiss. :)


Richard A. Hunt wrote:
Mass petrification of an entire army? Oh and later some of them managed to slip away? This stretches plausibility.

The Field of Maidens is actually Golarion canon:

For example, in 4329, the rogue pirate queen Mastrien Slash led an army of warrior women across Geb’s southern frontier, vowing to end the undead kingdom once and for all. With but a few words of power, Geb turned the entire advancing army to stone, creating what is known today as the Field of Maidens.

Geb was a high-level arcane badass. Now he's a ghost (+ high-level arcane badass).

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

Sometimes I worry that my tastes are... well... too weird.

When the first adventure proposal I read mentioned a skeleton champion aristocrat running a plantation worked by zombies, inviting the party to dine and chat (wasn’t a fan of him trying to poison them, though,) I was like, "E... egad. That is the best thing I've ever heard." I keep wanting to imagine the skeletal aristocrat as an almost Baron Samedi figure, wearing a top hat and fine Taldor suit.

Then James Jacob shut it down, but fast, and that kinda ran my engine down a bit.

I’m not trying to ditch James Jacobs, or Golarion, nor am I even saying whether or not I’m voting for “The Wreck,” I just really think a politely (yet bitterly) run plantation of undeath is an idea and a half of awesome. I’d love an adventure that just ran around that place and negotiating with its lecherous skeleton patron in and of itself. I’d ditch the poisoning bit myself, (at least at first,) to avoid just handing the PCs an easy excuse to kill the bony-fellow, (since “hey, you’re undead,” is hard enough to resist.)

Drakli wrote:

Sometimes I worry that my tastes are... well... too weird.

When the first adventure proposal I read mentioned a skeleton champion aristocrat running a plantation worked by zombies, inviting the party to dine and chat (wasn’t a fan of him trying to poison them, though,) I was like, "E... egad. That is the best thing I've ever heard." I keep wanting to imagine the skeletal aristocrat as an almost Baron Samedi figure, wearing a top hat and fine Taldor suit.

Then James Jacob shut it down, but fast, and that kinda ran my engine down a bit.

I’m not trying to ditch James Jacobs, or Golarion, nor am I even saying whether or not I’m voting for “The Wreck,” I just really think a politely (yet bitterly) run plantation of undeath is an idea and a half of awesome. I’d love an adventure that just ran around that place and negotiating with its lecherous skeleton patron in and of itself. I’d ditch the poisoning bit myself, (at least at first,) to avoid just handing the PCs an easy excuse to kill the bony-fellow, (since “hey, you’re undead,” is hard enough to resist.)

I agree with everything he said.

I wasn't put off in the least by the plantation owner being skeletal. It was mentioned in the second line of his description, and it works for the theme of the region. Also, just because certain parts of the character no longer function, doesn't mean that he can't still be atracted to pretty women. If everyone stopped being attracted to others when...aspects of themselves... no longer functioned, there would be no market for Viagra. I think the lecherous skeleton adds a boatload of creepiness to the guy. I would hope that if this got published, he would remain skeletal, or at the very least, some other unappealing type of undead (NO VAMPIRE).

Also, I'd like to thank you for turning on the light bulb in my head. With one word, you connected the dots, giving me some insight into Nex/Geb that I didn't have before. That word was "plantation". I now see several parallels between Nex/Geb and American history. Specifically an industrious north at war with a slave-owning, agricultural south.

This is one of two proposals that may get my vote. Good job.

EDIT: Just remembered that Pathfinder #2 has an undead romantically obsessed with a PC. While certainly similar, there is a difference between the characters' motivations.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Richard A. Hunt wrote:
Mass petrification of an entire army? Oh and later some of them managed to slip away? This stretches plausibility.

The Field of Maidens is actually Golarion canon:

For example, in 4329, the rogue pirate queen Mastrien Slash led an army of warrior women across Geb’s southern frontier, vowing to end the undead kingdom once and for all. With but a few words of power, Geb turned the entire advancing army to stone, creating what is known today as the Field of Maidens.

Geb was a high-level arcane badass. Now he's a ghost (+ high-level arcane badass).

Ah, okay. I admittedly didn't know that. :)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Marathon Voter 2015 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.]

There's a lot of good in this; it takes the standard 'rescue the princess' approach and then subverts that by making dad a kinda jerk who's more concerned about his boat than the girl. Speaking as a fan of subversions, I like that. The location is fun too; nothing like a nice steamy bayou and mangrove swamps to make the party miss traipsing through a dungeon. And your main NPCs are nicely detailed. Probably TOO detailed, actually, but more on that in a minute. I remember loving your ghost-bard-count from the 2008 contest; even if it didn't net you the votes of the masses, it was a standout for me, at least. Creating well rounded NPCs is clearly another strength of yours, one you didn't really get a chance to show off before now this year.

The bad for me: there's just not enough adventure for me here. Which in a contest where every year most entries need a ton of editing to bring them down to a potential 32-page adventure, feels like a weird thing to say. But, getting back to those NPCs, you spend what seems to be a full third of your word count on them. Was that really necessary? Yes, they're well done and, like I said, this entry's strong point, but it just feels like that word count could have been better used elsewhere. Giving more detail to all the encounters that get short shrift, for instance; or even detailing the two 'main' encounters more; I really, really wanted to know more about dinner with az-Zarqa! That just reeked of potential awesome that didn't get enough development.

In the end, I don't think I can give this one my vote; that's not to say this is bad, though. I think this year all four entries really could be great published adventures; nobody fell on their face this time around. It's just a matter of deciding which is the most awesome; for me, that's not this. Best of luck, though.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I'm sorry to say that this proposal just doesn't pique my interest. It feels like a random hodge-podge of creatures, cultures and elements, and doesn't grab me right off the bat. The hook is rather weak, too.

I'm also not sure this is doable in 32 pages. Your backstory alone is going way overboard.

All in all, I'm giving this a C-.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

I love az-Zarqa. He's the best kind of tragic figure: the one who willfully ignores his own tragedy. Why does he lech and feast? Because that's what he damn well wants to do, and a little thing like undeath ain't gonna cramp his style! Unfortunately, he is irrelevant to most of this proposal. For all of his (in)animus and charisma, he doesn't drive the plot; he just has a MacGuffin in his lap.

The rest falls flat for me. Some good details about the environment, but that doesn't make an adventure. A missing daughter, but she's not the actual mission. An ogre mage who technically starts the plot rolling but can be entirely ignored with no meaningful consequences. An employer who, for all his background, might as well be a stranger in a tavern.

In short, you've got a star but you didn't make him the star. You cast Johnny Depp as Grandpa Joe instead of Willy Wonka. If az-Zarqa were the real villain, or played a meaningful role as a facilitator, or even if he were the employer, the fact that he totally steals the show would be okay: central plot pieces are allowed to do that. But he's just there, kooky yet disconnected, emanating star power but completely ancillary to the actual plot; replace him with Bill Cosby and the module is essentially unchanged... except now nothing really draws me to it.

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

You know, what Lief Clennon said. That about sums it up perfectly.

If the adventure better used az-Zarqa the aristocratic skeleton letch and his (preferably sans the yellow musk bit) zombie plantation, there'd be no contest. I'd vote for it, hands down. As is, I don't think I can.

I think a big part of being the RPG Superstar is knowing which of your characters and ideas have the star power.

P.S.: If someone could somehow manage to swing the idea of az-Zarqa as the employer in an adventure, that would be incredible.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

There's a lot of great elements in your proposal, Alexander. It has problems, as have been discussed, but there's a lot working for it. I would love to see it developed more and given a chance somewhere down the line. I'm sorry I can't give this my vote, but it is a very strong second and I enjoyed reading it!

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015 aka JoelF847

I wasn't too impressed or intrigued by this adventure proposal. First, I felt that I had to slog through the background. It really felt like work to make it to the end and find out about the adventure itself. A great adventure is fun to read through even if I don't know if I'll ever have a chance to run it.

While the setting certainly is interesting and different, the adventure itself (as least the proposal for it) felt a bit boring. Aside from the weather being a hinderance, none of the encounters really seemed that interesting, with the exception of being diplomatic with the skeleton aristocrat. However, as has been pointed out, most PCs are likely to just fight him.

For me what really put me off was the sandbox elements to the adventure. I know some people love that feel, but for me and the people I play with, I think this come across as too boring to bother with. I can see lots of players wandering off looking for the next adventure, and not really caring about the folding boat, the missing lovers, etc. Especially at 8th level. By that point in their careers, they should be stoping big threats (not the biggest, but significant ones), and I don't see anything worthy of 8-9th level characters here.

In fact, I think the adventure would be a lot better with 4-5th level PCs - the weather, the swamp, the swarms, and an Ogre Mage with crocidiles would all be significant threats to lower level PCs.

One thing that stood out as not making sense to me was:

Alexander MacLeod wrote:
It is in the salt marsh that the PCs can find the wreck of the ship which brought Mihalyi Salashi and Utsuro to Geb. This wreck is not, in fact, the Mastrien Slash, but a Nexian merchantman comandeered in Niswan by Utsuro. The PCs can find evidence of the crew’s murder, and with some successful skill checks, can determine that two people escaped the wreck about a day before a second group showed up to pick through the ship. The survivors were the oni and Salashi’s daughter, while the group that showed up a day later were the servants of the local plantation owner, az-Zarqa. No corpses can be found, as they were all taken by az-Zarqa’s people to be animated.

If there's no corpses to be found, how can the PCs determine that the crew was murdered?

From the start, I’m confused by this entry. As far as I can make out from the title and opening paragraphs, Mihalyi stole the folding boat, the Mastrien Slash, to elope in, her father tracked her progress by divinations, the boat was wrecked off the coast of Geb, the father discovered it had been wrecked but the father wants to hire the PCs to retrieve a folding boat which he knows has been wrecked and which therefore may well be quite useless to him?
Then you apparently realise this may be a problem and change your mind several paragraphs in, and say that actually the Mastrien Slash wasn’t the boat that the couple eloped in, but an unnamed Nexian merchant vessel, which has run aground… Oh and the crew were murdered, but all the bodies have gone, but despite the fact that the things most likely to show evidence of murder have gone, the PCs can still find out that the crew were murdered anyway. How? All things like bloodstains will indicate is that bloodletting occurred - maybe a fight. If the PCs find something like a bottle of poison all that proves is that someone left a bottle of poison on board. The Nexian merchantman is a Golarion Marie Celeste run aground, with no crew or bodies anywhere. (Edit: I see Joel Flank has touched on this too.)
I'm not clear either on why the oni did decide to kill the crew? Was it annoyance at their incompetence in letting the ship go ashore?

Anyway, eventually you get ashore and things improve there, although your entry’s very open-ended and vague about what - if anything - is supposed to happen? Someone else has said it has a ‘sandboxy’ feel to it, which I suppose is a good description. The problem here is that half your sandbox (the mangroves) is rendered potentially irrelevant by the fact that the PCs’ mission is only to retrieve the folding boat – they can get the boat back by just going to the plantation and fighting lots of things or sneaking around really well.
The whole plantation setup, by the way, reminds me strongly of some of the Dance of the Dead Ravenloft novel.

My overall impression is that you’re still in ‘design location’ mode from the previous round. I’m not sure that your heart was quite in the process of getting the PCs to the location(s) in the first place, and I feel that you couldn’t quite find the things which you needed to focus on in time to make a really good presentation to your audience - which is unfortunate for this entry.

My thanks, however, for your submissions in this contest, and if you’re not doing so already, may I recommend that you submit a proposal or two (perhaps even an abbreviated form of this) to Pathfinder Society. Josh did post that he had voted for your work last round after all... :)

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Standback

Chiming in late here...

I found a lot to enjoy in this entry. Uncaring father/rebellious daughter clash? Neat! Undead plantation? Neat! Tricky, malicious ogre mage? Neat!

Unfortunately, though the proposal is built of excellent concepts, it never really capitalizes on any of them. The father/daughter conflict never gets a chance to play out. The ogre mage doesn't show up as an interesting player until the final combat. The undead plantation is a total detour from the rest of the plot. It doesn't tie together into a cohesive adventure, and as great as the ideas are, it just doesn't seem playable without a serious restructuring.

I'd love to play around with how the different elements could be tied together. The father/daughter tension really grabbed me; I was looking forward to seeing that as a major element, and I was disappointed on that count, but it'd be great to think how that could be brought back in. If I have time, I might be back with random musings on the subject.

In conclusion, you've shown us great creative chops and a strong sense for compelling, resonant concepts. Structuring those into a solid story - well, an adventure, actually - is a whole 'nother step, and it's a big one. But it's certainly a skill that can be developed and polished - and I very much hope we'll be seeing the results of that process from you. :)

Adventure Background
This is fine in itself, but I think you spent a little bit too much wordcount here for what is mostly irrelevant to the plot itself as would be experienced by the PCs. Summarize the relationships, fine, but you don't need to write this section as if it is the ACTUAL background a GM would read.

Adventure Outline
WHY doesn't the captain approach to the plantation? He's afraid of undead? The wildlife? He's a wanted criminal in Geb? Was this a sudden decision, or wouldn't the PCs have been aware from the beginning? (and found a willing crew, even an undead crew from Geb). After all, the Diviners were well aware of the destination.

It seems like the PCs are expecting to find the Mastrien Slash itself, and that it had been sailed the entire way... But if Daddy's Diviners were watching the entire time, wouldn't they notice the boat doesn't look like Daddy's pride and joy? Why did they steal the folding boat in the first place? The only motive would be purposefully and knowingly stealing the most important part of his business, yet this is NEVER mentioned. ...?

You basically give two options for the PCs to land: thru the swamp, and up an escarpment into the fields. What kind of rum plantation and mansion on a bay like this doesn't have a dock of some sorts? Obviously, landing in plain sight would announce them as NEW visitors and avoid confusion with the Oni's rampage. ...?

And what exactly was the motive of the Oni? Where were they headed before storms came? Nex? further South? It just seems wierd that you describe him as a wandering con artist visiting different courts before his bluff his called, yet once in this location he doesn't seem bothered with getting out of the stinking place, but just goes feral, killing undead servants. Why does the Oni repeatedly attack the undead like you describe him doing? If he likes killing things... well, sending giant animals to destroy mindless undead doesn't really qualify.

Gebflies: cool, though I would have made them DEAD bugs, even better flavor and makes more sense with their abilities.

I'm not sure why the PCs would just sit there and laugh when as-Zarqa is repeatedly trying to poison them and so forth during a meal. Most groups would just start combat, and most of the rest would leave and have nothing to do with the guy.

Finally, at the level this adventure is set at: I don't get the impression you've considered that Locate Object/ Locate Creature are highly likely to be cast from the moment they arrive if any PCs have those spells - and it seems a likely scroll to purchase before they leave, knowing the 'mission'. Really, if these Diviners have followed them the whole time, shoudn't they also know their location in the swamp?

Honestly, I REALLY REALLY like what you ALMOST could have achieved here, a 3-way (even 4-way with the daughter) conflict with the Oni and as-Zarqa seems like a great set-up. Setting up such a 'civilized' con artist Oni begs the question of why there is no face-to-face conflict between him and as-Zarqa, or further motives besides "let's camp out in a swamp and kill zombies while torturing this chick". Why bother setting up the complicated back-story (which the PCs will only be half-aware of) if he's just going to be run as another random-violence monster encounter?

Bringing in the Field of Maidens just seems... extraneous. You mention as-Zarqa is holding one of the maidens/ghosts, but nothing really comes of it. If it was core to what as-Zarqa was up to and how PCs would interact with him, it could have been a good addition, but as-is it feels weak.

You have "the goods", i.e. the ability, so I really hope to see further adventures from you in the future, maybe PFS as others mentioned.


Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

Alexander, dude. You did good. You brought a consistently good game to this contest and I'm sure it wasn't unnoticed by the Powers that Be Paizo. I expect we'll be seeing your name in print soon and I look forward to that day. Thanks for bringing the talent.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014, Dedicated Voter 2015

Congratulations Alexander. You brought out awesome stuff every round. I could feel how close it was every round. Put your stuff out there and I'm sure Paizo will come knocking.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

I avoided 'good but not good enough' posts when the contests was still running. Just the same, I wanted to say that your writing has had a lot of flair all the way through; if these had been posted anonymously, I probably would have pegged this as the MacLeod adventure just from the opening blurb. I won't lie, almost everything here needs more development, but the ingredients- especially the characters- are pure gold.

Congrats on making it this far, and like the others I hope to see your name in print.

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