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Cult of the Ebon Destroyers


Round 5 - Top 4: Submit a full adventure proposal

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

Cult of the Ebon Destroyers
Enough!
Too long have the secret Vudran cult of killers known as the Yast-Maala (Ebon Destroyers) gone unpunished for their crimes of murder and assassination. Too long has the Isle of Jalmeray suffered from their deadly machinations. The Thukur of Jalmeray has outlawed the cult, and received in response an ultimatum stating that if he doesn’t revoke his edict, he and his family will die before the month is out.
Now is the time to bring down the Ebon Destroyers!

A Pathfinder module designed for four 8th-level characters. Using the medium XP advancement track, characters should achieve 9th-level by the end of the adventure.

The adventure starts with intrigue and espionage in the slums and palaces of Niswan. A perilous trek through the dense jungle and rugged hills of southern Jalmeray leads the PCs to the Ebon Destroyers’ hidden temple headquarters, carved into the side of a mountain cliff face. Here they battle the cult leaders in the depths of the diabolical shrine. Finally, the heroes must swiftly return to Niswan to save the Thukur himself from the last and deadliest of the cultists.

Adventure Background
In the many Mahajanapadas (kingdoms) of Vudra, the cult of Yast-Maala has a long history. They are organized cabals that infiltrate, rob, and ritually murder. These horrendous cultists are devoted to the Kalavei, the evil Vudran goddess of darkness, deception, and death. Their killings are in her name: cultists put out their victims’ eyes and cut off their tongue as an oblation to their goddess, showing their victims were unaware of their killers’ evil nature, and couldn’t cry out against them.

In Vudra, the cultists often join caravans, sometimes in several small groups to allay suspicion, waiting until they befriend the travelers and gain their trust. In the dark of night, at prearranged places, they strike, using garrotes or their bare hands to stealthily and systematically strangle their victims. The bodies are disposed of, and entire caravans disappear without a trace.

On the Isle of Jalmeray, the cult’s activity has been growing. Two weeks ago, one of the Thukur’s favorite cousins disappeared. With the help of divination magic, his corpse was found bearing the Yast-Maala’s ritual sacrificial markings. Incensed that the Yast-Maala would dare strike at his family, Thukur Kharswan called on the Maurya-Rahm (his legion of advisors and administrators), and demanded that they outlaw the cult and prohibit the worship of Kalavei. Soon after, the Thukur received the Yast-Maala’s death threat.

Worried for their leader’s safety, the Thukur’s advisors are employing every means possible to find and destroy this cult. Little are they aware though, that one of the Yast-Maala has already deeply infiltrated the Maurya-Rahm itself. Lord Naasim, one of the most loyal and influential advisors, recognizes how pervasively insidious this cult can be, and is seeking independent foreigners to help in the search.

Act 1: Scintillating Colors
The characters are in Niswan during Holl-Yatra, the ‘Festival of Colors’, and the whole city is celebrating. Many wear robes that were once white, but are now smeared and painted a myriad of colors. The normally reserved Vudrani rub multi-hued powders on each others faces and yell exuberant, joyful blessings. Grinning children splash each other with dyed water. The air is a heady cloud of fragrant flavors, and sounds of music and folk songs are all around. Mouth-watering delights are generously available, as well as large mugs of Thandi, a local drink, to wash them down.

The PCs could be in Niswan for many reasons; Jalmeray is renowned for its martial training colleges, and scrolls of unusual lore are widely available for the right price. They may have escorted a dignitary to the festival, or simply come to the city for the celebration itself.

The adventure starts as errand boys and girls scamper through the streets, reciting a message to each group of revelers. A youngster stops in front of the PCs and addresses them in Vudrani, and then in Common. “The zikhin has escaped from the Menagerie. It’s the Thukur’s magical sacred peacock. Please stay inside, or if you’re brave, catch it, but please don’t harm it.” At this moment, a large flightless bird with intensely dazzling plumage appears at the end of the street.

Whilst on display for the festival, the throngs of people and loud noises frightened the highly-strung zikhin. It broke loose and now runs wildly through the streets. Viewing the clashing, flickering patterns of a zikhin’s colorful tail plumage can either temporarily blind, or cause strange and dangerous behavior in nearby creatures. The zikhin normally suppresses this ability, but in its agitated state, anyone close who can see the creature may be affected.

The PCs pursue the panicked peacock through crooked and crowded streets as it leaves chaos behind it. They need to calm and capture the bird, but magically confused citizens may assail them, and blind or befuddled citizens putting themselves in danger could distract the PCs. When the PCs return the peacock to the palace, they receive grateful thanks, and a reward if the zikhin returns unharmed. Their actions also produce a palace audience. If the PCs accidentally kill the zikhin, eliminating the cult becomes their chance to redeem themselves.

Act 2: Dangerous Investigations
Servants show the PCs into a languidly luxurious sitting room; the Thukur sits at the far end of the room, painting a canvas whilst watching his baby son. The PCs speak with Lord Naasim, one of the Thukur’s most trustworthy advisors. Naasim is a pleasant host, and compliments his guests on their resourcefulness in recovering the zikhin. He explains about the cult of Yast-Maala and the threat to the Thukur’s life. Naasim reveals his suspicion there may be an informant in the Thukur’s guard, as current investigations into the cult have uncovered surprisingly little. He hopes that as outsiders to Jalmeray, the PCs may have advantages in uncovering the cult, and asks if they would consider giving their assistance. Naasim invites the PCs to name their price, cheerfully bargaining with them until they reach a consensus. He requests that they report only to him.

Naasim provides letters of introduction to several people who have knowledge of the cult. Pravezak, the Thukur’s spiritual counselor, knows much about the many deities of Vudra, including the cultists’ dark goddess, Kalavei. Prince Kanvar is a great student of Eastern history, and Varanassi, a high-caste merchant, is well acquainted with current regional politics. Lastly, Lord Mahindra is the city’s rumormonger.

The adventure now becomes investigatory, with the PCs gathering information about the Yast-Maala and discovering clues to their whereabouts. Speaking with Naasim’s contacts, they learn much of the cult’s background. Several of the contacts promise to contact the PCs if they discover more. As they investigate, the cult takes a series of measures against them, which can also provide the PCs with clues.

  • Warning
    In the street, an errand girl hands the PCs a note. The note promises death if the PCs keep interfering. The note’s ink is an uncommon dark purple, used in the dyeing of fine cotton and silk. On close inspection, the abnormal, flamboyant style of the handwriting reveals the writer has unusual hands, with long or very flexible digits. Lankesh the rakshasa (see below) wrote the note.

  • An Arrow
    As they return to their quarters, an arrow shoots towards one of the PCs. The sniper, Utkroza the garuda (see Silk Mill), flees and is likely to get away. A silken note tied to the arrow reads: “This is your final warning!” The arrow’s feathers come from the garuda himself and are identifiable. The silk of the note is distinctive, and traceable to its manufacturer.

  • Dead-End
    After resting, the PCs find the corpse of Mahindra, strangled, with his eyes and tongue cut out, on the front steps of their lodgings. A successful Heal check shows Mahindra died elsewhere. A close examination reveals traces of silk strands on the bottoms of his sandals.

  • Conflagration
    The PCs continue their investigation; on returning to their quarters, they find a note apparently slipped under the door. The whole place is a trap; moving the note triggers a fiery explosion which combines with highly flammable oil secreted in their quarters setting the entire building ablaze.
    PCs who question the neighbors obtain descriptions of several mill-workers who earlier delivered a crate to their quarters.

  • Dismissal
    While the PCs are out searching for clues, a young messenger finds them and says that Lord Naasim requires their presence. Following the messenger, they arrive at Naasim’s townhouse. In his parlor, a frowning Naasim tersely greets the PCs and explains that their services are no longer required. He states abruptly that the ringleaders of the cult are in custody. Found to be several lower ranked officers of the Thukur’s guard, they have confessed all. He tosses a bag of coin on the table and bids them good day. He leans back dismissively, waiting for them to take their money and go.

    Certain things about ‘Naasim’ might bother the heroes: the sudden change in his demeanor, that he doesn’t bother bargaining over the payment, or even the unnatural angle of his fingers as he tosses the bag on the table. If they see through the lies and disguise of ‘Naasim’, he reveals his true form, a bat-headed rakshasa, and attacks. Lankesh the rakshasa is an adhura - a novice adolescent (CR 8), and an exile from the East. After defeating him, the PCs discover the real Naasim is missing and his servants are dead. The PCs also find notes on the rakshasa’s body that reveal the location of the cultists’ hideout in the city: a silk mill in the low-caste district of Niswan.

    If Lankesh’s charade is successful, then it is only later, when the PCs hear of the disappearance of Naasim and his servants that they realize their mistake. They have lost valuable time and it’s much harder to track the cult to the silk mill.

Act 3: Silk Mill
At the silk mill, the PCs are confronted by the ‘mill-workers’ who are cultist rogues wielding exotic vudrani weaponry. The fighting takes place amongst the jumble of looms, silk racks, and vats of dye. Utkroza, an evil garuda, shoots arrows from high in the rafters.

Garuda:
A winged, eagle-like humanoid, with birds’ claws for feet; large eyes and a serrated beak dominate the face. Those native to Vudra commonly wear loose robes and golden jewelry. Usually noble-spirited and impetuous, garudas use bows or fight furiously with beak and claw.

The head of this group of cultists is Sarpini, a dark naga. In the mill’s mulberry gardens the PCs fight her, as well as a pair of low level monk acolytes. After securing the hideout, the PCs find Naasim imprisoned in the basement. They also discover a crude map showing the rough location of the cult’s temple headquarters near a small village in the hills of southern Jalmeray. Questioning prisoners reveals that there are three cult leaders; each a master of the School of Unfathomable Darkness, an obscure, secretive discipline of martial arts.

Act 4: Journey
Naasim provides elephants and a guide to help the PCs make their way south. In the thick jungle, they come across a small shrine tended by a dirty hermit and holy man named Citraka. He offers blessings in exchange for food or a few coins. If they accept, he paints the centre of each PC’s forehead with a smelly resin he claims will open their mystical third eye. The truth is that Citraka is an evil, flesh-eating savage who transforms into a dire were-leopard. The resin’s stench makes it easy for him to sniff them out when he stalks them that night. The cult pays him with living ‘meals’, to ensure safe passage through his territory.

The PCs reach the village on the map. The villagers welcome them and offer food and a place to rest. However, they are under the sway of the cult and try to strangle the PCs while they sleep. By interrogating villagers or by finding the well-disguised trail leading from the village, the PCs are able to follow a concealed path up into the hills. In a valley, the PCs come across an unmarked mass grave of the cult’s victims, haunted by a vetala. A landslide started by a malicious earth spirit impedes the PCs, but they eventually discover the cult’s temple headquarters set halfway up a mountain cliff face.

Vetala:
A ghostly, evil spirit that inhabits corpses and animates dead bodies. The corpse it inhabits doesn’t decay. Hostile to the living, they drive their victims mad, and attack with animated corpses. Performing proper funerary rites over its mortal remains puts a vetala to rest.

Act 5: Temple of Kalavei
The PCs storm the cliff-side temple to defeat the cult and its leaders. In the entrance hall, a throng of monk acolytes mob the PCs, but flee when they realize they are outmatched. A four-armed asura (variant beatific one, Pathfinder #9), an infernal representation of Kalavei, defends the main temple.

The first of the masters is Ikrimah, the Master of Mysteries, an ascetic wizard/monk. He resides in a series of tunnels known as the Web of Secrets. Sensing the PC’s approach via alarm spells in the Web, Ikrimah prepares by enhancing himself with a large amount of spells. In the tetrahedric chamber at the Web’s center, the PCs find Ikrimah floating cross-legged in midair, protected by a sphere of pure energy. He finishes with his most powerful martial transformation spell, transfiguring himself into a finely-tuned instrument of destruction. Ikrimah uses alchemical smoke to obscure the chamber as he emerges from the sphere; he’s well-trained to fight using senses other than sight. If badly wounded, a preset spell turns him invisible and he attempts to magically flee.

The second master is Deepti, the Shadowed Master of the Hail of Death. She is a shadowdancer monk specializing in thrown weapons. Upon encountering the PCs, she withdraws and keeps her distance, showering them with flaming chakram disks and explosive beads as she seeks to lure them through the cult’s dimly lit training corridors and into the grand training hall.

The hall is a large open area, four stories high, each story connected by ladders or ropes. Deepti has the ability to walk on walls, granting her exceptional mobility here. In the centre of the area is a large chasm with more than a dozen thin stone pillars rising out of it. Deepti leaps with perfect balance across the tops of the pillars, quickly jumping in to strike and then springing away. If near defeat, she fakes a fall into a deep pit. Using her slow fall ability and a convenient net to halt her descent, she makes her escape via a hidden tunnel.

Finally, in the cult’s large fighting arena, the PCs confront Zaafira, the third master. She is the War Master of Black Destruction, a monk/oracle of battle, and the cult’s spiritual guide. She and any other surviving monks make a stand here. She attempts to parley, describing the cult’s grand history, and offering the PCs valued places as Yast-Maala members. If they refuse, she challenges the PCs to a one-on-one duel to resolve the matter. Zaafira negotiates carefully as she intends to honor the terms of the duel.

When the PCs defeat the last of the cult’s leadership by either duel or battle, the remaining cultists in the headquarters flee or surrender. The PCs find prisoners that the cultists intended to sacrifice, including an angelic devá of peace (half-celestial) named Jalissa. In gratitude, Jalissa gives them her Padma blossom, which she hid when captured.

Padma blossom:
This perfect lotus flower formed from pink jade offers purity and spiritual calm. Whilst grasped, the blossom grants its holder a +2 competence bonus to concentration checks and suppresses the following on its holder: morale bonuses, fear effects, and the confused condition. Twice per day, the bearer can cast calm emotions.

But the threat from the cult isn’t over. By examining the cult’s records, interrogation of cult members, or talking with Jalissa, the PCs discover that the real leader of the cult is the Grand Master, whose true identity is Pravezak, the holy advisor to the Thukur!

The PCs must return swiftly to Niswan to stop Pravezak before he assassinates the Thukur. Jalissa has the power to call forth a Vidana - a celestial magical flying device shaped like a swan with a palanquin atop it - to fly back to Niswan. Also, Ikrimah possesses a scroll of teleport that the PCs could use to return.

Act 6: Save the Thukur!
The PCs rush to Niswan. They need to inform Naasim, and he exclaims that the Thukur and his family are in spiritual consultation with Pravezak right now. They hurry to the Thukur’s palace, with Naasim able to convince the guards to let them all through. In the wide multi-story meditation chamber, the PCs confront Pravezak.

Both Naasim and Pravezak hurl accusations and the palace guards are uncertain who to believe. The guard captain tries to have the Thukur and his family escorted out. With his sinister plans unraveling, Pravezak tries to assassinate them all. He hurls down crystal gems to summon forth elementals and attacks. Pravezak is a high level monk, his body infused with the power of the raw elements. In combat, he swathes his limbs in fire, cold, or lightning. He uses abundant step to teleport to the chamber’s various levels and slow fall to leap safely down.

With Pravezak’s defeat, the Ebon Destroyers’ power in Jalmeray is broken.

Conclusion
Thukur Kharswan rewards the PCs profusely. Wealth, fantastic objects, and exceptional pets are all available; even offers of a spouse from Thukur’s household are a possibility. The Maurya-Rahms’ blessings can secure a candidate’s entry into Jalmeray’s greatest monasteries. Lastly, the Vudrani people are great storytellers, and word of the PCs’ heroic deeds spreads to every Vudrani throughout the Inner Sea, presenting many opportunities in the future.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

This adventure proposal is set in an interesting location that we've not seen much done with yet, and doesn't get in over its head by trying to do too many things at once. I really like this proposal... ESPECIALLY since it goes somewhere new that I've been interested in seeing developed for a long time.

The Basics
Level: Another mid-level adventure. Disappointing.
Location: EXCELLENT! This adventure proposal's location is easily the most interesting of all four; there's not much been done with Jalmeray yet, and this opens up some really neat possibilities for exploration.
Plot: Feels pretty tightly focused and doable in 32 pages, and isn't overly complicated.

The Good
1) The investigation aspect of Act 2 is really neat sounding. THIS is where the adventure should begin. I especially like the element where the PCs are "dismissed" by the guy who hired them. This whole section feels very fun to run AND to play.

2) Bat-headed rakshasa! Excellent. Always good to see non-tiger headed rakshasas. Although I don't think he needs to be a "novice." Having him be a full-on rakshasa is okay.

3) The Silk Mill fight sounds really neat; an unusual location with exotic flavoring. I'm not too sure on calling it a "Silk Mill," though. Is that really what a silk production site is called?

4) The Garuda: I'm always a fan of using real-world myth as the source for new monsters. I have a hunch we may have already done something with a garuda, though… or if we haven't, DO have plans. I could be wrong, though, and introducing the garuda as this module's new monster makes a LOT of sense. In fact, I'd rather have the garuda be in charge of the group of silk cultists instead of a dark naga, since that increases the new monster's presence and justification in the adventure. The dark naga can be demoted to mook.

5) Traveling to the cult village on elephant back is REALLY neat and flavorful. Great choice!

6) I like Citraka's presence… but he doesn't need to be a dire were-leopard. Especially since the game doesn't currently have stats for a dire leopard. He should just be a normal wereleopard; after all, you can just give him more class levels to make him whatever CR you need him to be.

7) I like the fact that there are three bosses in the cult. This gives the PCs a reason to explore more of the temple dungeon since they won't be only going to one location. HOWEVER, I worry that this might too closely follow an adventure we published several years ago... see "Three Faces of Evil" below.

8) I like how the three bosses of the temple each sort of tie into the three aspects of their goddess. I'd like to see this element played up even more, though, likely with a change or two to Kalavei's areas of concern to make her less like an assassin god (that aspect being covered already to a large extent by Nocticula and Achaekek).

9) I also like how unique and interesting each of the boss rooms are. Memorable fights!

10) Perhaps most importantly, it feels like this adventure proposal is something that could be done well in 32 pages! Well done!

The Bad
1) Title: The title is actually okay… it uses the "of the" construction which is overused, and "Ebon Destroyer" is a pretty bland name and doesn't really mean much or tell me what this cult actually is. That, and the word "Ebon" is pretty overused when it comes to fantasy RPGs, and immediately makes ME think of the Ebon Triad… something that the adventure's construction only reinforces, unfortunately (see "The Three Faces of Evil," below). Certainly, nothing about this title screams "This is a great and exciting adventure set in Jalmeray!"

2) Acts: Again, I prefer dividing adventures up into parts or chapters.

3) Kalavei: While Vudra is indeed the land of a thousand gods… I always get nervous when we introduce new deities to Golarion. Kalavei sounds pretty similar to Nocticula in several ways. Not sure if that's good or bad or merely interesting. What I do know is that Golarion already has a pretty well-established assassin cult: the Red Mantis. They even have a fortress based on a mountain on a tropical island. Feels weird to have such a close analogue with the Cult of the Ebon Destroyer. I suspect that reworking Kalavei to be a different type of evil goddess would solve a lot of my concerns here.

4) Start Sooner: While I like the zikhin chase, it has little to do with the adventure. I'd rather start the adventure with the PCs being hired to stop the cult than waste time detailing an encounter (however fun that encounter might be) that has nothing to do with the adventure's plot. All of Act 1 feels tacked on and extraneous.

5) Grammar: Watch the grammar. For example, the sentence, "Found to be several lower ranked officers of the Thukur's Guard, they have confessed all," is confusing and awkward; WHO was found to be an officer? Also, watch out for British spelling vs. American spelling. It's "toward," not "towards." And "center," not "centre."

6) Notes and Maps: Finding notes on a dead body that broadcast the next location is kind of lame. Much better to have actual clues on the body that the PCs need to use their brains on figuring out where to go next, ESPECIALLY considering that the adventure's already set things up to favor investigations. Same goes for finding maps. You can find a map ANYWHERE. It's MUCH more satisfying to find a secret hideout and to use something that is logically part of that hideout to move on to the next stage in the adventure other than simply finding a map. Make the fact that the PCs go to the Silk Mill be a KEY factor to their progression rather than merely a map-delivery device.

7) New Monsters: We try to keep the new monsters in modules to a minimum of one monster per adventure these days. There's thus no room for both a garuda AND a vetala. Fortunately, the vetala isn't a particularly unusual monster; you can achieve the same effect by using ghosts. Or just cut the vetala encounter entirely from the adventure, since it doesn't really add much but a (admittedly flavorful) encounter to the overland journey.

8) Beatific One: I like the inclusion of a beatific one, but it's unnecessary to make it a variant. It's already unusual enough. If it's not appropriate due to CR, pick a different monster. Or maybe consider changing the level for which this adventure is written. (this last would make me happier, honestly, since the world has plenty of 8th level adventures already).

9) Three Faces of Evil Parallels: There's a fair amount of parallelism between this adventure and "The Three Faces of Evil," which we published back in Dungeon #125 several years ago. Namely, the use of the word "Ebon" and the construction of a dungeon with three cult leaders living in three wings of the dungeon, one wing of which features a fighting arena. I'd need to see more variety and more differences between this adventure and "Three Faces of Evil" if this adventure wins.

10) Deva: Remember, the word "deva" means something specific in Pathfinder: it's a race of good outsiders. You can't call Jalissa a "deva" unless she's actually a deva.

11) Padma Blossom: There's nothing under the spoiler link for the Padma blossom, apparently; it doesn't do much when I click it.

12) False Climax: I'm not sure I like the false climax that sends the PCs racing back to save the Thukur. It feels anticlimactic. And if this adventure ended up having problems with word count, this would be among the first elements I would cut.

Final Thoughts
Overall, this is a very solid adventure proposal. I quite like the combination of investigation, exotic overland stuff, and dungeon crawling, and none of it feels like it would get short-shifted in a 32 page adventure… primarily by limiting its scope to one exotic location rather than several exotic locations. The adventure has a false start and a false ending… but between the unnecessary bird chase at the start and the false climax at the end is a solid adventure.

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

Matt, nice work on this. You've done a really good job this whole contest.

I have some concerns here. I really don't like the name. And at first I thought this might be a bit much, but I think once you trim out the unnecessary first chapter (I absolutely agree with James that chapter or "act" 1 is unnecessary and should be removed) this is doable in 32 pages.

This is full of fun. The investigation, the silk mill fight, the naga, monks, third eyes, evil hermit switcheroos, this is all very unique and cool. And it wraps up nicely. This is a great example of an adventure proposal.

Well done.

I DO recommend this proposal be considered as the overall winner of RPG Superstar 2010.

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

Whoa. There is a lot of very neat stuff in here. My biggest concern is that there might be too much. Let’s see here…

Adventure
You’ve got a lot going on here, an urban encounter, a mystery (likely requiring a description of all of Niswan), an urban “dungeon,” some overland encounters, an actual dungeon, and than a race back for a final encounter with the cult’s boss. There’s a lot going on here, and a lot that’s very neat, but make sure it’s not too much. I think the cultural elements in the city fascinate me the most, and fighting a cult in an exotic city is pretty cool. Focusing on that aspect with the dungeon at the end would let you focus on the major points of note, cutting out much of the interesting but less relevant stuff.

One of my favorite parts that Naasim is not really the big bad guy. As soon as I saw that there was a hidden boss I assumed it would be the guy who’s been your friend the whole time – a total cliché that gets introduced into troublesome, half-clever stories way too much. So nice touch there. The religious adviser feels like a really good choice if nothing gives him away too early – like a detect evil spell. That might be a trick, so just something to consider.

The PCs becoming targets of the assassins and having to do some actual detective work is also very cool, if you consider how investigations using magic work. If any part of the mystery can be unraveled with a simple spell, this whole section fails, so careful there.

The three bosses of the cult are also neat, but not terribly necessary. A cool dungeon involving the three could be fun, but I’m afraid this could be a place for you to lose track of your word count real easily. That being said, I especially like how each of the bosses have challenges associated with them aside from their stats, so good design there.

The climax is also pretty cool, though having to go far to save the Thukur could slow this way down (another reason I think keeping the whole thing in the city would be good). I really like the idea of keeping the Thukur and his family on hand for the last battle, having to fight around them and keep them from harm. For some reason when I first read this I thought that Pravezak dropped everyone down into some lower area – which is a total misreading – but the added element of having to split the group to tend to wounded non-combatants while facing off against the actual villain might make for a really memorable climax.

Fantasy and Other Cultures
One of my biggest concerns about this adventure is also one of the elements I like most about it: that it immerses itself so deeply in Jalmeray’s culture, which is to say, Indian culture. The trouble is that no editor currently on staff at Paizo is anything like an expert on Indian culture or Hindu mythology, and aside from three books in my office and Wikipedia, our research options are limited. It’s easy for us to fact check and make judgment calls on European fantasy—we’ve all been raised on it and work in that world everyday. When it comes to fantasies based on other cultures, things get trickier, as even though we aren’t experts without a doubt some of our readers are. Thus, we’ve got to be especially careful, not just assuming that every “made up” word or name is actually made up, and that – at best – cultural elements are being used properly and – at worse – there’s nothing insulting or offensive in the text. This adds quite a chore to the editor that trickles down to the author, as I would expect to see every “foreign” term cited and explained whether this is a Golarionism or an actual part of India’s society or mythology. I’d also like the author to write a sidebar citing several of his sources of research in part (proving to us that he did his homework and in part because I and others would be interested).

In other words, any work so heavily rooted in the fantasy, society, mythology, and (most seriously) religions of a culture other than those we’re used to working with means we and the author have to pull double duty, making sure everything meshes with not just Golarion’s continuity but also the related real-world culture. Thus, get ready to do your homework and be prepared to explain nearly every non-English word to the editor. Do this, and we could be on to something pretty cool. Half-ass it and we’ll hear about it and not only won’t we be happy, but it’s your name on the cover.

Other Elements
The name sucks. For as much coolness as is in here, there “[Scary Word] of the [Color] [Scary Word]” mad-lib totally doesn’t cut it. That needs to be brought up to snuff.

Little details, the Festival of Colors, that the Thukur is painting and watching his son, the note-bomb, the silk mill, riding elephants, the smelly resin, the vetala, involving the Thukur’s entire family in the final conflict, all of these are fantastic details that help to make the adventure feel like parts of a living world and not just components of a RPG adventure. It’s rare to see these come out in an adventure, much less an outline, so well, well done. I was surprised and instantly intrigued.

There’s a lot of great Indian-themed choices in here, and I particularly like the garuda, asura, the captured angel (!), and hints at the beginning of a full Vudran pantheon (we’ve suggested and danced around this for a long time and this seems like a great place to start bringing things together). The rakashasa are okay, though a little predictable and the hands giving away his true form is pretty much done in every adventure including these guys. The were-leopard is also a little iffy and might not be necessary, though I do like him using the resin to track folks.

Space
With six “acts” and 32 pages, we’re talking fewer than 5 pages to a section after all the usual table of contents, new monster, etc, etc, that needs to be in here. Seems tight. So from the beginning, keep your word count in mind and make sure you’re working to stick to it. A lot of freelancers expect to be thanked for the “extra value” they’ve provided us by giving us half-again or even double the words we need. Not the case. Every word over means a word from elsewhere we need to cut, which can be just as difficult as having to write the words ourselves. Remember, good writing and ideas are only half the job, precision is what distinguished between the fans and the professionals.

Overall
I quite like this proposal. It tries to do a lot and the cultural aspects are both cool and dangerous, but in general pretty cool. Trimming some of these ideas back so you can develop the necessary components and the details that already make this stand out is going to be the trickiest part. As this deals with so many aspect of Golarion that we haven't touched yet, this also needs to be an adventure that has a good deal of explanation and really fires on all cylinders as far as cool new world content and bringing together elements from a lot of different places that already mention Vudrani culture goes - as we'd be beholden to these choices in later products dealing with Vudra. But after loading the author up with sources to reference, assuring the research into Indian myth that needs to happen, and getting a revision dial back some of the anticipated length issues, I could see being really excited about this one.

Contributor

From a GM's perspective:
I have what I call "name dyslexia"--it's hard for me to grok unusual "foreign" names, and all of the new names you've put in this proposal (Yast-Maala, Kalavei, Thukur, Maurya-Rahm, Holl-Yatra, zikhin, adhura, plus all the named characters) are making me dizzy. But maybe that's just me.

I like the garuda (though if they're usually noble-minded, I'm wondering why this one hangs out with murder cultists), the naga, the monk opponents, the tricksy were-leopard, and the thematic battles with the Masters,

"Ebon Destroyers" sounds more like a teenager-founded death metal band than a cult of murderers (to me, at least).

From a player's perspective:
There's a lot of mistaken-identity stuff going on that may get a little confusing, but the bad guys keep trying to attack the PCs, so even players who aren't that good at unraveling mysteries will have clear pointers as to what they need to do. The encounters presented here are interesting, more than just the standard battle-in-a-square-room, and the adventure presents a lot of cool bits of Vudra lore and flavor--enough to make the adventure exotic, but not so much that the player needs to read a few pages on Vudra just so they know what's going on here.

Conclusion:
I have a small concern that the garuda and vetala's monster entries will eat up some of your available space, and the wereleopard, asura, and will have to have full stat blocks, which also eats up space.

Based on other available sources, we'd probably need to change some of the monsters so they don't require unique writeups (again, a space-saving measure).

You can tighten up the beginning and end of the adventure so it's more focused--the bird-chase isn't particularly strong, and while I like the battle at the end, getting the PCs there after the false "end" at the conclusion of the battle at the temple could be stronger. But overall, this is a strong submission.


I like the overall plot and setting. I think it stands to give a really good experience for players to be somewhere this exotic.

It seems to me though, that the assassins don't really feel like assassinating much. If they have infiltrated so highly into the palace then they probably know that there is a lot of outside investigation. That to me, would escalate the assassination. Also, there are an awful lot of warnings the PCs can get from the assassins without much else. I would rather see a serious attempt on their lives than just arrows, notes, and such.

The last thing is a personal gripe of mine. I wish there were less cult/temple encounters. They are so heavily done, and while I realize that it makes the most sense because cults do tend to congregate at temples, I would like for it to change up a little.

For example, I would have really liked that this temple be in use for many people and the cult happens to run it. The PCs enter and have to figure out what to do in a temple that is full of innocent people. I would also like to see a more puzzle based challenge to something like this or the clues.

Despite my nit-picking, this is a really solid submission. Good job.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber

Wow, another adventure using Vudra, but staying in Vudra for the entire adventure, COOL! I've been wanting to see more done with this region since Curse of the Crimson Throne introduced several elements of Vudrani culture and mythos. Nicely done.

Matt, this proposal seems pretty tight, maybe a little trimming here and there (which James has already recommended I see), but otherwise this has a lot of potential adventure goodness.

I really liked how you utilized the oracle class (multiclassing with monk no less) for one of the villains. Neat!

Your proposal is my third read (and as I stated elsewhere, I'm reading by alphabetical order... by first name). After I read everybody's proposals, then I'll consider my vote (and maybe a 2nd read before I cast my vote).

No matter what Matt, you have a lot to be proud of. You've impressed the judges, and perhaps more importantly you've impressed US, the paizo community, with your submissions, imagination, and ability. Well Done!

Dean; The_Minstrel_Wyrm


Yes! Yes! YES!
Love many things about this proposal - the festival, the intrigue, the assassins, the frantic pace of what must be accomplished - you wrote a winner, Matt!
I will gladly vote for this proposal!
-g-


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:

Hmm. Menagerie reference.
I don’t get the ‘we must have outsiders (in the ‘not from around here sense’) to save us’ thing, or at least not given that this is presented as being partially an investigation story. Outsiders don’t know who to go to and ask about things when pursuing leads. Locals may be more likely to clam up when someone strange shows up, asking questions. And word will go around a lot more quickly if it’s a group of outsiders asking things, putting those under investigation on alert. About the only reason the ‘outsiders’ thing makes sense with is in the context of ‘not knowing whom to trust’.
I’m unclear on why a group of evil death-goddess worshipping killers whose allies have tried to assassinate the PCs en route to their lair then proceed to nice and honourably line up to be picked off by the PCs one by one, instead of combining forces for a big fight.
At the moment this strikes me as too staged.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I like the opening at the festival: It's very vivid and gives the PCs a good reason to be in the city. Maybe I just have a very contrary group of players, though, but I don't think you should assume the PCs will volunteer to chase down the peacock; I can see my guys deciding it's not enough action and going to check out the nearest tavern to look for someone to hire them.

I really like the investigation part of the adventure. I assume Mahindra dies after the PCs have talked to him. And again, maybe it's just my group, but I wouldn't count on them figuring out Naasim was an imposter even after his disappearance; they might just think he was a big jerk who got what was coming to him after being so dismissive of them.

I like the trickery with Citakra, but as with Pravezak and the fake Naasim, a simple detect evil (or paladin in the party) will prevent the PCs from being taken in.

The kidnapping of Naasim is the big plothole to me. This is a cult of assassins who murder people in horrible ways. Why would they kill everyone else, but when it comes to the important NPC, they just take him prisoner? It tests credulity that Naasim would be held alive, unless the cultists have a clear and obvious reason that they need him alive. If you can't provide that, then I'm sorry but the nice NPC has to die horribly. All he does the rest of the adventure is hold the PCs' hands and provide them with things (elephants, access to the Thukur) that it would be more interesting if they had to do for themselves.

Osirion

Initial thoughts, before reading anyone elses thoughts;

Quote:
cultists put out their victims’ eyes and cut off their tongue as an oblation to their goddess, showing their victims were unaware of their killers’ evil nature, and couldn’t cry out against them.

Up until this, I was fearing a Kali riff, with ritual strangulation. Nice detail, and nice veering away from a cliche.

Quote:
Many wear robes that were once white, but are now smeared and painted a myriad of colors. The normally reserved Vudrani rub multi-hued powders on each others faces and yell exuberant, joyful blessings. Grinning children splash each other with dyed water.

Cool, and nice backdrop for an action scene.

Quote:
The PCs pursue the panicked peacock through crooked and crowded streets as it leaves chaos behind it.

Alliterative overload?

Quote:
a bat-headed rakshasa,

Yay for non-tiger headed Rakshasa! On the other hand, they are traditionally the foes of the gods, so one serving a cult to a goddess seems a bit off. Something about Jalmeray / Vudra screams 'must include a Rakshasa,' I suppose.

Quote:
Temple of Kalavei

So, the three masters come at you one at a time, like in a Bruce Lee movie, or an MMO 'dungeon?' Oy.

Quote:
Whilst grasped, the blossom grants its holder a +2 competence bonus to concentration checks and suppresses the following on its holder: morale bonuses, fear effects, and the confused condition. Twice per day, the bearer can cast calm emotions.

Good luck rooting around for your magic jade flower-thingie while confused or feared... Unless this item has some other property, I don't think anyone is ever going to conveniently happen to be holding it when they get hit with an effect it can suppress.


Set wrote:


Quote:
Many wear robes that were once white, but are now smeared and painted a myriad of colors. The normally reserved Vudrani rub multi-hued powders on each others faces and yell exuberant, joyful blessings. Grinning children splash each other with dyed water.

Cool, and nice backdrop for an action scene.

This is an actual festival in India, called Holi celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and others. I thought it was a nice touch to add.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
I have what I call "name dyslexia"--it's hard for me to grok unusual "foreign" names, and all of the new names you've put in this proposal (Yast-Maala, Kalavei, Thukur, Maurya-Rahm, Holl-Yatra, zikhin, adhura, plus all the named characters) are making me dizzy. But maybe that's just me.

Not just you. They all start to blur together for me after a certain point.

I like having one character, preferably a foil, with a distinctive or unusual name. But when they're all like that I just can't keep track.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
gbonehead wrote:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
I have what I call "name dyslexia"--it's hard for me to grok unusual "foreign" names, and all of the new names you've put in this proposal (Yast-Maala, Kalavei, Thukur, Maurya-Rahm, Holl-Yatra, zikhin, adhura, plus all the named characters) are making me dizzy. But maybe that's just me.

Not just you. They all start to blur together for me after a certain point.

I like having one character, preferably a foil, with a distinctive or unusual name. But when they're all like that I just can't keep track.

+1. I have the same problem with the names in the Mastrian Slash. Just looking at them, I know I'll never pronounce them the same way twice. In practice, they'll all end up with nicknames or being called "that guy who hired/spoke to/attacked you."

Cheliax

Joana wrote:
gbonehead wrote:
But when they're all like that I just can't keep track.
+1. I have the same problem with the names in the Mastrian Slash. Just looking at them, I know I'll never pronounce them the same way twice. In practice, they'll all end up with nicknames or being called "that guy who hired/spoke to/attacked you."

Do you want all the Indian/Sri Lankan inspired Vudrani to be called Steve, Billy Bob, and Tordek?

I think there is a level of laziness here - if you WANT an adventure in Jalmeray, bother to learn a few names! Otherwise set it in Andoran.

Note I am half Indian, so I get annoyed that some people put a lot of effort into pronouncing 'Bjorn' and 'Kraken' correctly because it is in the western fantasy mythos - but couldnt be assed if it is outside their normal sphere of influence.

I would have been offended if the names werent accurate. Check out the Translations of the names - they are all mainly sourced from Sanskrit. This is alevel of detail that will make this adventure good - from said Indian perspective - it is NOT done with just gaming mythos, but has clear research in it.

- Will get round to a full review later, just felt I needed to comment on that NOW, as I am someone who is NOT western normative in pronouncing names. Its really not that hard, especially when you consider all the other non-standard names in fantasy that are accepted because they are within the expectations of the mythos.


Caedwyr wrote:
Set wrote:


Quote:
Many wear robes that were once white, but are now smeared and painted a myriad of colors. The normally reserved Vudrani rub multi-hued powders on each others faces and yell exuberant, joyful blessings. Grinning children splash each other with dyed water.

Cool, and nice backdrop for an action scene.

This is an actual festival in India, called Holi celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and others. I thought it was a nice touch to add.

That seems unfortunate. :( Golarion is not the diskworld, which can blatantly rip off real world names, people, and events and wave a banner around proclaiming it in the name of satirical humour.


James Jacobs wrote:
That, and the word "Ebon" is pretty overused when it comes to fantasy RPGs, and immediately makes ME think of the Ebon Triad… something that the adventure's construction only reinforces, unfortunately (see "The Three Faces of Evil," below).

Made me think of the Crystal of the Ebon Flame.


I think the amount of research that went into making this proposal have a true feel for Vudran culture and mythos is evident. It is Paizo after all who made Vudra (and Jameray) be an Indian analog. This fellow is just making use of that fact. That he delved into sanskrit to come up with names is for me a huge plus. And no I am not in any way, shape, matter, or form Indian. I am however a fan of use of different cultures to give necessary texture to region specific adventures.

Shadow Lodge

gbonehead wrote:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
I have what I call "name dyslexia"--it's hard for me to grok unusual "foreign" names, and all of the new names you've put in this proposal (Yast-Maala, Kalavei, Thukur, Maurya-Rahm, Holl-Yatra, zikhin, adhura, plus all the named characters) are making me dizzy. But maybe that's just me.

Not just you. They all start to blur together for me after a certain point.

I like having one character, preferably a foil, with a distinctive or unusual name. But when they're all like that I just can't keep track.

Its no different than learning to pronounce the names of all the Pathfinder gods, or of any fantasy name. Trying to pronounce some of the pathfinder gods STILL gives me issues, but you trudge through and do it anyway. Especially after reading the post where the names have all been derived from sanskrit, just shows the amount of research put into this. +10 to _metz_'s post, he makes some good points.

Andoran Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

I was really pulling for the monkey hat, but this is the one getting my vote. Well done.


(edited, tidied up summary)
This seems to me to be one of the stronger two entries in this round, so I am going to be extra-critical of it as there is a chance it may end up as a module.
First of all, 8th level characters have access to an array of interesting spells and abilities some of which may drill holes in this adventure. Clerics have divination, sorcerers and wizards have locate creature and sorcerers and wizards and druids have scrying. If the party levels up, mid-adventure, the clerics gain access to scrying too, and contact other plane comes into play on the sorcerer and wizard list. Then there is detect thoughts, and even the ubiquitous detect evil at will of a paladin. Just on divination alone, parties at this level have the power to sidestep traps and ambushes, and if they reach ninth level before the Journey stage kicks in, overland flight (if a sorcerer or wizard puts it on their spells known list) will bypass Citraka.
Eighth or ninth level PCs have their own accommodation options, too, rope trick first and foremost amongst these and a perfectly sensible logical option to take when out in dangerous territory hunting a murder cult. Even if the PCs do stop at the village to check for directions, between Sense Motive checks, a paladin (if present) detecting evil and natural player paranoia (ramped up by now if the hermit/were-leopard thing played out on top of the earlier switcheroo with the rakshasa-pretending-to-be-Naasim) the chances of the villagers getting to pull the strangle-them-in-their-sleep routine seem to me to be somewhat limited. (And in any case, if you're going for treacherous archetypes, why don't the villagers try the get-them-blind-drunk-then-kill-them-when-they're-helpless gambit instead?)

With regard to story, I would concur with those who have expressed some doubt as to the hook into the adventure, where PCs may simply ignore the notes about the escaped bird - after all they're 8th level PCs, why do they need to go chasing after an escaped peacock?
I have also already commented on the somewhat unlikely manner towards the end in which the masters of a murder cult conveniently line up to be picked off one-by-one. The assumption that the PCs will come storming in the front door of the temple (especially if scrying or arcane eye reveals many cultists there) seems to me to be somewhat shaky too. Some groups of PCs practically never go in the front door if they can help it, preferring to look for side-entrances or secret escape routes which they can sneak in through instead, on the basis that this makes for a better chance of catching the occupants by surprise.
And why do you mention that the thukur is playing with his son when the PCs first meet him? The thukur having an infant son is something I expect to figure strongly if you bring it up in a proposal. Like Chekov's gun, I expect it to go off. Except in this case it doesn't, which I think was a big mistake. I know that Paizo have guidelines with regard to children and what happens in adventures, but in this case I think you could have risked playing to one more archetype, and set the whole thing up with the murder-cult (who have an agent in the palace to provide intelligence after all) abducting the infant, then issuing their deadline. This sets up the thukur not knowing whom to trust, his suspicion that even someone quite close to him is a spy, and the need to have someone from completely outside who may not already be in the cult's employ to investigate. But, on the other hand, this might not be quite so saleable in shop-shelf terms, so maybe with an eye on bigger picture you were right not to go that route.

My overall impression is that this is a draft proposal for a bouncy bouncy action adventure (probably one of the bounciest I have seen in a while), which may require some reworking. Nevertheless it currently seems to me to be one of the strongest two entries of this round, and there is at least a sense of overall direction and drive to the entry - even if the logic seems somewhat crazy at times.

My thanks for your submissions in this contest.

Qadira

Matt, I hope this one gets written. I will buy it like a shot. You have written a good story, sure it has holes but they will get fixed and they aren't as large or nasty as some of the others have.

Above all the way you wrote it is very clear and concise. Well done.

My vote is already won.

Cheers

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

I feel your pain on the names, Sean. My group would need a cheat sheet to keep them all separate. And yes, I know they're historically or linguistically accurate. The fact still remains that this is fantasy and if I wanted to play a game that has historically accurate Indian names, I'd probably be buying my modules from Paizo's Indian counterpart.

At the end of the day, my measure is whether or not I'd buy this module and would my group play it. I just don't feel it on this submission; I don't get that 'grabs me by the face' feel from it.

Andoran RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

GUT IMPRESSIONS BEFORE READING JUDGE'S COMMENTS

  • I would drop the jarring one-word 'Enough!' subtitle; it's mostly annoying.
  • Yet another 8th level adventure. Pity.
  • The mountain temple complex is just, well another dungeon really. It reminds me of Thulsa Doom's complex in the first (crappy) Conan movie and not in a good way.
  • "Mahajanapadas (kingdoms)"; just say kingdoms. I see you're going for an Indian sort of flair, but I'm not initiated much into that culture so much of what you're trying to do is lost on me. I think it would have been better to take a more tourist approach so I don't feel as alienated in the culture.
  • The proposal has too many parenthetical asides and definitions; make the things in parenthesis what you actually want to say.
  • The background is appropriately brief, thank goodness.
  • As a player, at 8th level I would absolutely hate being relegated to being a glorified bird catcher? So, what, Ace Ventura wasn't available?
  • I don't think such a pervasive and heinous cult would be as hard to find as you make out, which destroys my suspension of disbelief.
  • "bat-headed rakshasa"; hate it. Is it a cat? Is it a bat? Catbox or cave?
  • Why does the cult suddenly turn to kidnapping Niswan? I don't get that. I mean they're supposed to be bad-a** ritual murderers and here they are in a silk mill holding him what, hostage? And with his adviser being the real bad guy, who's going to pay the ransom if there even is one? Also, where is the rest of Niswan's family? Here's a chance to setup an interesting family. It would be more interesting to have Niswan's third cousin be the bad guy, rather than someone so high profile as an adviser. This all just doesn't seem believable.
  • I like the silk mill; now that would be a unique combat location, but you squandered it by having no silk-related monsters. Instead we get a dark naga and an eagle headed dude? I don't get it. C'mon pull out some spiders or worms. Right here is where you should have invented a new silk-slinging monster.
  • Garuda: ugh, there are plenty of bird headed humanoids without inventing yet another one. Again, I don't get it. I'm starting to see heavy use of animal headed monsters and I'm not sure why? I guess it goes with the Indian cultural mumbo jumbo?
  • "Naasim provides elephants." Ugh. As a player, at 8th level, I really hope I can get my own ride.
  • "Your not putting that smelly crap on my forehead!" As a player, that's pretty much what I'd say.
  • Vetala: plenty of undead already and this one doesn't seem to do anything new or all that interesting.
  • This thing is 6 acts long, for just a mountain cult and surprise run back to the palace?
  • "with a large amount of spells": which you demonstrate in the next few sentences, but why led the reader around by the nose ring?
  • "Deepti, the Shadowed Master of the Hail of Death" Ugh. The Cheeseburger of Ultimate Doom and Suffering...
  • Padma blossom: no show; the button doesn't work for some reason?
  • "offering the PCs valued places as Yast-Maala members" Huh? As a player, there's not a snowball's chance in hell I'm going over to the dark side at this point. To Zaafira: So, you're about to lose, because I killed two of your masters, and you're now offering me a place in your failing ritual murder cult? Are you high? No, really you've been smoking something, haven't you? And a recitation of a 'grand history' is all you have to offer?! I'm kicking your sorry a** just for boring me to death, lady!
  • "The PCs find prisoners that the cultists intended to sacrifice, including an angelic devá of peace (half-celestial) named Jalissa. In gratitude, Jalissa gives them her Padma blossom, which she hid when captured." Huh? Where the frick did she come from? Why?
  • "a celestial magical flying device shaped like a swan with a palanquin atop it - to fly back to Niswan" Ugh. What? As a player, I'd be embarrassed to ride this back to town. It would be like arriving in a pink beetle (the car, not the monster).
  • The NPCs are 2-dimensional cardboard strawmen. I get no sense of character from anyone in the adventure at all. You never bring me to care about any of these people in the least.
  • The plot is threadbare and highly implausible, improbable. I sort of like the surprise that the adviser is a cult leader, and the race back to town to save "the man" is cool, but why would a major NPC give up such an advantageous political position? And where was he when the new law was declared? I think he might have been able to cool passions over a dead cousin; dead wife, no; dead cousin, yes. I still think an obscure family member, or the family doctor would be a much better choice. You could have pulled off a Dune with a Dr. Yueh like character. Or...! Make it an evil version of Disney's Jasmine, the wicked daughter, and make the adviser look like the bad guy on purpose.
  • The Indian flavor is just lost on me, I'm afraid. I've never been to India (my family and I dine Indian once in a while) and the cultural aspects of the adventure have by the 6th act just annoyed and alienated me.
  • I really hate the monster choices in this.
  • Overall I find the adventure hard to stomach. The plot is weak, the settings are dull (except for the silk mill), the NPCs are colorless, and the names just kill me; the NPCs could be fixed were it not for so many animal-headed or jarring monster choices. I realize this is probably cultural, but I really dislike this element. It sounds like you might have been going for something mythic, but I'm just not feeling it. As a player, I'd buck everything about this adventure and I'm killing the dude putting smelly stuff on my forehead before he even gets to hunt me! As a GM, I'd pass on even buying this.

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

Jalmeray again? Interesting. Hey, it's a neat location and hasn't been visited that I know of by Paizo's adventures, so why not? Heck, we had two Osirion adventures in the 2008 Final Four.

Investigation, with some interesting minor bad guys (I like the wereleopard with the faux 'blessing' bit). Some politics, disguise and deception (though I think the rakshasa bit, while genre appropriate, is maybe a little too cliche and easy to see through). I'm not really buying the "warning shots" from the cult, but as an old Al-Qadim fan it's the sort of thing holy slayer societies might do, so... maybe. Not a strong point but I'll let it go.

Somebody probably already pointed out that the "padma blossoms" spoiler is broken/empty - I haven't read any of the comments for the entries before making my own comments.

Like in the sunken city adventure, I do like that there is a final act reprise with the real main villain after you think the battle has been won, a nice James Bond/"from Hell's heart I stab at thee" moment.

My bigger issue is scope and scale. SIX acts? Dude, the two AP modules I've written, which are 50% bigger than a Gamemastery mod, only have four. You also have a large number of complex unique NPCs (the three masters, the secret boss back home) and new monsters, which is going to eat up your word count in a hurry. It's too much.

Why is this an issue? Well, on the face of it, it's better to start with too many good ideas and cut the ones that don't fit than to start with too few and try to stretch them out (yeah, like that ever happens with most of us!). The thing is, though, in a contest like this what it encourages is a "shotgun" approach to design, as in "let me throw out as many cool ideas as I can think of, in the hope that voters will vote on the basis of the cool ones and forgive the clunkers."

Try this (and this is for anybody, not just directed at you):

Contestant A presents 5 ideas, 4 great and 1 blah.
Contestant B presents 10 ideas, 5 great and 5 blah.

Who gave the better proposal?

Is A better because they gave you 80% great ideas, not 50%?

Is B better because they gave you 5 great ideas, not 4?

You could make an argument for either, and maybe the beauty of a voting contest is that people will differ on which of the above they think is better. I will tell you that learning to self-edit and polish your product during the writing phase will make life easier on your editors and make you more likely to get more opportunities to do stuff in the future.

All of the above said, I do like the adventure. It's a bit linear, but that's okay. An adventure CAN be linear, as long as it doesn't FEEL linear when you're playing through it. This is the fourth of four that I've read, and I still don't have a clear favorite. I'll have to think on them some more before casting a vote.

Contributor

_metz_ wrote:


Do you want all the Indian/Sri Lankan inspired Vudrani to be called Steve, Billy Bob, and Tordek?

THANK YOU FOR MOCKING MY DISABILITY! /CRY


I really like this one. It does a good overall job of fitting the parameters of the contest. At the moment you are in the top 2 for me.

Osirion

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
_metz_ wrote:


Do you want all the Indian/Sri Lankan inspired Vudrani to be called Steve, Billy Bob, and Tordek?
THANK YOU FOR MOCKING MY DISABILITY! /CRY

[tangent] What's with that 'Sean' business anyway? Every time I see Sean Bean in a movie, my friend go off on whether his name should be Shawn Bawn or Seen Been.

Darn foreign names! Like Ian! Yanno how many people in the south called me Eee-Yawn? [/tangent]

Seriously, though, I appreciate that he didn't pick Indian names that were hard or had a bunch of syllables. With the exception of that word for kingoms (shamalamadingdong? I don't even remember), everything seemed nice and easy. Not like like that character from the Freeport Trilogy named 'Bill' Sangalapulatele. :)


_metz_ wrote:
Joana wrote:
gbonehead wrote:
But when they're all like that I just can't keep track.
+1. I have the same problem with the names in the Mastrian Slash. Just looking at them, I know I'll never pronounce them the same way twice. In practice, they'll all end up with nicknames or being called "that guy who hired/spoke to/attacked you."

Do you want all the Indian/Sri Lankan inspired Vudrani to be called Steve, Billy Bob, and Tordek?

I think there is a level of laziness here - if you WANT an adventure in Jalmeray, bother to learn a few names! Otherwise set it in Andoran.

Note I am half Indian, so I get annoyed that some people put a lot of effort into pronouncing 'Bjorn' and 'Kraken' correctly because it is in the western fantasy mythos - but couldnt be assed if it is outside their normal sphere of influence.

I would have been offended if the names werent accurate. Check out the Translations of the names - they are all mainly sourced from Sanskrit. This is alevel of detail that will make this adventure good - from said Indian perspective - it is NOT done with just gaming mythos, but has clear research in it.

I have to agree with the substance of this post. We live in a multi-cultural world, and since Golarion is even more multi-cultural I would expect a broad range of ethnic name types. Just like it would not make sense to "Americanize" the names of characters from Tian Xia, it does not make sense to Americanize Vudrani names. It's also a little bit insulting to the reader to assume they require the dumbing down. Many people get irked when Hollywood takes a historical/story set in a different place or culture and remakes the event featuring all Americans, set in America. This is the same.

Speaking to Matt's Entry, I noted that he was careful to not have multiple similar sounding names or words. That should help with the confusion for those not familiar with the languages involved.


For those who cannot see the PADMA BLOSSOM....

This perfect lotus flower formed from pink jade offers purity and spiritual calm. Whilst grasped, the blossom grants its holder a +2 competence bonus to concentration checks and suppresses the following on its holder: morale bonuses, fear effects, and the confused condition. Twice per day, the bearer can cast calm emotions.

For whatever reason, the spoiler works for my computer.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Jason Rice wrote:
For whatever reason, the spoiler works for my computer.

I was able to view it as well. Not sure why everyone else said it came up blank for them.


I was very hot and cold with this submission. Some of the things I loved, others I disliked.

Things I loved:


  • It was clear to me that you did some research on India. For what it's worth, I "got" Mahajanapadas. I used the name Mahajanapada for an Indian-influenced area in a homebrew Rolemaster campaign I ran several years ago.
  • I also loved the festival. In fact, I loved the whole beginning. If this is going to be the first adventure set in this area, you absolutely NEED stuff like this to set the stage. As a customer, I would want to see more of this type of stuff, rather than see it get cut out of the adventure. Take away great flavor like this and you might as well set this adventure anywhere.
  • Elephants. Nuf Said.
  • I’m getting a Tibet-vibe from your journey into the mountain monestary. Then again, maybe it's just me.

Things I disliked:


  • yet another rakshasa. Does every indian-based adventure have to have one of these?
  • minor nit: I would prefer a weretiger to a wereleopard. Leopards have a wider range in the real world than tigers, so tigers seem more Indian-specific to me, and therefore seem a better fit. Again, this is minor, as both are technically appropriate.
  • yet another evil cult. Been there, done that. Why can't they just be assassins? What is the purpose of handcuffing them to an evil god?
  • as another reader pointed out, if these guys are assassins, then are they really going to warn their intended victims?

I was on the fence with the three bosses. On the one hand, I like creatures that take advantage of their terrain. On the other, these combats seemed too much like a video game, where each level has a boss with a unique gimmick at the end.

I haven't decided if this will get my vote.


The padma blossom thing seems to be a firefox/explorer thing. It works on explorer but not on firefox.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

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

The HTML is broken.

I'm guessing the original submission had an unclosed italics tag '[' i ']' before the spoiler. In the HTML, there's a spurious HTML italics tag '<' i '>' before the DIV section for the spoiler.

When I get rid of that extra italics tag it works for me; before that it did not.

Edit: Probably because there's italics IN the spoiler, so the Firefox HTML engine may eat the HTML tags until it sees the close-italics. Firefox doesn't like crossed tags much, as I recall.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Caedwyr wrote:
_metz_ wrote:
Joana wrote:
gbonehead wrote:
But when they're all like that I just can't keep track.
+1. I have the same problem with the names in the Mastrian Slash. Just looking at them, I know I'll never pronounce them the same way twice. In practice, they'll all end up with nicknames or being called "that guy who hired/spoke to/attacked you."

Do you want all the Indian/Sri Lankan inspired Vudrani to be called Steve, Billy Bob, and Tordek?

I think there is a level of laziness here - if you WANT an adventure in Jalmeray, bother to learn a few names! Otherwise set it in Andoran.

Note I am half Indian, so I get annoyed that some people put a lot of effort into pronouncing 'Bjorn' and 'Kraken' correctly because it is in the western fantasy mythos - but couldnt be assed if it is outside their normal sphere of influence.

I would have been offended if the names werent accurate. Check out the Translations of the names - they are all mainly sourced from Sanskrit. This is alevel of detail that will make this adventure good - from said Indian perspective - it is NOT done with just gaming mythos, but has clear research in it.

I have to agree with the substance of this post. We live in a multi-cultural world, and since Golarion is even more multi-cultural I would expect a broad range of ethnic name types. Just like it would not make sense to "Americanize" the names of characters from Tian Xia, it does not make sense to Americanize Vudrani names. It's also a little bit insulting to the reader to assume they require the dumbing down. Many people get irked when Hollywood takes a historical/story set in a different place or culture and remakes the event featuring all Americans, set in America. This is the same.

Oh, the names are certainly appropriate. They're just not going to still be "historically accurate" by the time I and my group get done mispronouncing them time after time and eventually alight on a completely inappropriate and probably demeaning nickname. And, to be fair when bringing Hollywood into the equation, a movie is aural, which means we'd all end up pronouncing the name correctly but having no idea how to spell it. As GM, I would certainly appreciate a phonetic guide in brackets after each name, at the very least.

And I certainly don't mean to suggest that the contestant should be penalized for actually doing the research to produce a culturally-sensitive and historically-accurate proposal. I'm just reporting from the point of view of the group I game with. They don't really care about learning more about Hindi culture; they just want to kill monsters and take their stuff.

That said, if a non-Western GM were to pick up a product based on European fantasy and had issues with remembering/spelling/pronouncing names like Geraint or Gawain or whatever, I wouldn't be at all offended if he chose to change the names to something that tripped off his tongue more naturally. I'd rather make things easier on the GM than "educate" him in Middle English nomenclature.


@Joana: What each group does with the module is not really my concern, since I hardly can go and play "pronunciation cop" with each person's game. All I'm asking for is not penalizing this entry for choosing background appropriate names, and railing against the suggestion that the author would have been better off using "more common" names instead.

Contributor

Caedwyr wrote:
@Joana: What each group does with the module is not really my concern, since I hardly can go and play "pronunciation cop" with each person's game. All I'm asking for is not penalizing this entry for choosing background appropriate names, and railing against the suggestion that the author would have been better off using "more common" names instead.

...which isn't what I suggested at all.

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

Jason Rice wrote:

I was very hot and cold with this submission. Some of the things I loved, others I disliked.

Things I loved:

[list]

  • I also loved the festival. In fact, I loved the whole beginning. If this is going to be the first adventure set in this area, you absolutely NEED stuff like this to set the stage. As a customer, I would want to see more of this type of stuff, rather than see it get cut out of the adventure. Take away great flavor like this and you might as well set this adventure anywhere.
  • +1 to this.

    While I'll agree with the judges that this encounter is in no way central to the plot and would be one of the easiest cuts, I think it is also a nice entre into the feel and culture of the world and that says "THIS IS JALMERAY" in a way that just telling the PCs wouldn't do. If we're going to go to an exotic port of call, then by gum let's let it be EXOTIC.

    Maybe a better way to use this set piece, though, might be to place it in the middle of the adventure so that it's an integral part of the flow of the adventure where the assassin cults are attacking DURING the festival. Then you'd still get the exotic goodness, but it wouldn't feel extraneous.


    Sean K Reynolds wrote:
    Caedwyr wrote:
    @Joana: What each group does with the module is not really my concern, since I hardly can go and play "pronunciation cop" with each person's game. All I'm asking for is not penalizing this entry for choosing background appropriate names, and railing against the suggestion that the author would have been better off using "more common" names instead.
    ...which isn't what I suggested at all.

    Nope, you didn't. However, there were calls from others along that line.

    Lantern Lodge

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

    On Vudrani culture - huge props to Matt for the research he's put into this!

    One of the reasons I love Pathfinder is they have the balls to break from the safety of pseudo-medieval fantasy, and actually include regions such as pseudo-India in their games. This is something I've been wanting from popular main-stream D&D products since the beginning of time! Not relegating such cultures to "optional" regional sourcebooks that few GMs will buy and even fewer players will experience, but fold it into the Core where everyone can enjoy it! Many of my friends are are not of European backgrounds, but how can they immerse themselves in a roleplaying game where their cultures are not fairly represented? Pathfinder Society is a great example of a mixed cultural playground where players really get into the roleplay experience with their characters.

    I love the festival, peacock chase, and the flying device shaped like a swan. Sure, it may not suit the kick-the-door-down style of gaming, but there's plenty of opportunity for that elsewhere. I think including elements such as these will appeal to female players, cultural roleplayers, and anyone who enjoys an occasional break from testosterone-fueled combat in their games. The peacock chase in particular, catch it alive, is a great example of this, an encounter where Druids have opportunity to use their talents, and magical peacock has a "pet unicorn" appeal for many gamers.

    Sanscrit names, the festival, and several other details are an example of drawing from real-world culture to add credibilty to a scenario, an approach Paizo often cite as their inspiration for creatures (crypto-zoology and real-world myths vs made-up stuff). One need look no further than Sandpoint in Burnt Offerings to encounter elements influenced by James Jacob's own hometown.

    Several Pathfinder Society scenarios have featured culturally-derived names. I remember an NPC in Slave Pits of Absalom named Pardupishu (or someting similar). It was tricky to pronounce, and took me several attempts before running the game before it rolled off my tongue. My players, OTOH, had less success, and often referred to him as "Push-me-Pull-you". This is fine, and actually provides some levity during the game and makes such characters memorable. None-the-less, I'd impose a minor Diplomacy penalty against players who deliberately mis-pronounce an NPC's name, and a minor bonus for players who successfully pronounce a difficult name correctly, reflecting the NPC taking offence, or being impressed by these foreigners. The minor Diplomacy penalty/bonus might make the difference between provoking a fight or avoiding one. Rewarding players for good roleplaying encourages them to get into character and go with the flow.

    I'm really pleased to see cultural elements like these in mainstream Pathfinder products. Good effort Matt!

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

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

    I came into this entry expecting to not be blown away. Assassin cult. Targeting a ruler. Seen it, done it. And for a little ways into the entry that colored my perceptions, I wasn't being blown away, and then... it just all started clicking. To the best of my knowledge, I don't think there has ever been an adventure with a strong Indian theme before, in all the history of D&D. It was only so long before someone got around to it for Pathfinder, seeing as Vudra has a major influence throughout the Inner Sea. It's shown up piecemeal in other adventures, but aside from random bits of Vudrani culture dropped in here and there, there hasn't been a solid adventure that's just completely drenched in Indian flavor. And honestly, that's way overdue. And you've got that here; that's what makes this proposal sing for me. A Golarion version of the Holi festival. Garuda. Vetala. A freakin' Thuggee cult! This is just awesome sauce all over.

    Now that said, I'm still not in love with the basic plot. In general, the 'assassination plot against the king' feels cliched. Then there are specific elements that stick in my craw: for one, I'm a fan of investigation oriented adventures, but the entire investigation here just feels like a waste of time. They spend days searching the city finding silk clues one by one... and then the rakshasha encounter just drops the location for the hideout in their laps in one big lump. I'm not sure if that's intended as a 'if your players are too baffled by detective work to figure things out, club them over the heads with this' or not, but if I'd spent an adventure session or two trying to narrow down the hideout, and then one encounter just made all the work I'd done to that point redundant, I'd be irked. Also there's the fact that the only active clues the players come across are the ones that the cultists basically give them in trying to dissuade the party from investigating their hideout. Oops? I'm also not sure why they bother to kidnap Naasim rather than just killing him- this is a cult that doesn't flinch away from murdering the Thukur, after all; I wouldn't expect that one of his advisors earns a pass.

    I expected, again, to hate the cult itself, but between your new monsters and the handful of vudrani-themed ones already available to you, you actually managed to make it more interesting than the series of neverending encounters with a bunch of fighter/rogues that I'd thought it might be. Good job there.

    I'm posting my comments before reading any other responses, but I'm sure the fact that your new magic item doesn't show up in the text has earned you some criticism. I'm guessing that was a formatting error, but I'm not personally dinging any extra points off for that. I do hope you repost exactly what the padma blossom is when the voting is over and done with, though; I'm really curious now.

    All said... this isn't, I think, one of my top two picks. It's much, much closer than I'd have thought it would be just based on my initial reaction though. And my vote isn't set in stone; I still have some questions about my top two that I'm hoping to get answers for once I start reading other people's responses, which could potentially work in your favor. Good luck to you; even if you don't get my vote, this is an adventure I would love to see, so I won't feel at all disappointed if you win it.

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

    Jason Rice wrote:

    For those who cannot see the PADMA BLOSSOM....

    This perfect lotus flower formed from pink jade offers purity and spiritual calm. Whilst grasped, the blossom grants its holder a +2 competence bonus to concentration checks and suppresses the following on its holder: morale bonuses, fear effects, and the confused condition. Twice per day, the bearer can cast calm emotions.

    For whatever reason, the spoiler works for my computer.

    Thank you, Jason. That alleviates one of my questions right off the bat. Weird that the spoiler didn't work for everyone.


    Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

    First impression: Huh. Vudra. Not doing much for me.

    Second impression: This is a solidly designed adventure that could probably be done in 32 pages and which features some very memorable encounters (the 3 masters stand out for me).

    You, sir, win this contest. At least, in my humble opinion ;). You didn't bring as much 'oomph' as Watcher did, but you presented your adventure proposal in a way that fit the requirements of the Superstar contest best. Congratulations on your good work!

    I'm giving this a B+.

    RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

    Okay, first and foremost: if this wins, O dear Paizoani, do not cut Holl-Yatra. Move it around, consolidate encounters, sure, whatever; but there's so much (accurate) culture oozing from that scene, I couldn't bear to see it go. Cut the elephant ride, don't cut the festival. Illustrate the festival! Foreign names, funky cults, alternate modes of transportation, all of that can be window-dressed and plopped down anywhere; Holl-Yatra makes Vudra memorable and real.

    Meanwhile, that's why this gets my vote. Mr. Goodall, you know how to bring a culture alive. There are flaws in your write-up, as there were flaws in all of them; and all of them likewise displayed some very strong points. All other things being equal, I probably would have tipped my vote to McGee, but you've shown here that you understand what foreign means: your characters, your setting, they're not just Europe with face paint and window treatments, and neither are they hyperbolic caricatures.

    This verdict was sealed by comments from Paizo staff that they can't fully judge the quality of your Indian flavor because they aren't really familiar with it themselves; I've had enough exposure in recent years to judge it fairly well as a foreign observer, and you've nailed several things that really stick out as not just different at first glance, but deeply and intriguingly different. The stuff that makes a setting not merely foreign in name, but tangibly exotic.

    Golarion has many ostensibly exotic locales. If Golarion's stewards can't really tell how authentic a treatment is... well, then they desperately need someone on hand who can. You not only fit that bill, but know which bits to highlight for a Western audience without dumbing the whole thing down. That wins my vote.

    RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

    Ha ha, oh man, do I love glorious comebacks. Don't get me wrong, the Ziggurat wasn't awful, but I was looking mainly at past work when I voted for you. If Richard Hunt or Benjamin Bruck had taken your place here I wouldn't have batted an eye.

    And then you come and hit us with something like this.

    Put it this way. I still have two other entrants to read. But I will say that this one definitely stands alongside Clash of the Kingslayers and Realm of the Fellnight Queen.

    Intro:
    Ruler outlaws assassin's cult, assassin's cult tells him to either stand down or die. Nice. Clearly, a lot of cocky rogues need their tails kicked here- this is a great setup that immediately inspired the heroes to action.

    Act 1:
    It could be cut, but I really wish you wouldn't. I think it's a very good introduction. Which would you rather read: a story that starts set in a colorful (Ha! Sorry) festival, then unleashes a panicked hypnotic peacock onto the crowd, then has the protagonist catch an important patron's attention by recovering it? Or a story that just starts with a protagonist and then some guy saying "Hi, I'm your patron, we need to fight some assassins"?

    When dealing with the lives of kings, "Why involve the PCs?" is always a challenging question, and you seem to have a pretty airtight answer: their own investigations are going nowhere because the guard has been infiltrated. At the same time, circumstance has dropped a few highly-capable and completely foreign mercenaries into their laps, and they're not going to let the opportunity slip. Makes perfect sense.

    Not much to say about Act 2 other than that I'm also a big fan. This would by-far be my favorite part to run as a DM. "Give me some NPC consultants and have the players interact with them at their own pace" is a model I fell in love with after running one of Monte Cook's free adventures (The Thrice-Cursed Crown).

    Act 3 looks like a pretty fun encounter- I for one am still not tired of warehouse fights. I presume we would see textile equipment and vats of dye playing interesting rolls in combat.

    Act 4 looks awesome. Way to ramp up the paranoia and sense of the world being against the heroes. Of course, they should expect all this if they've done their homework concerning this god (presuming that the religious adviser hasn't been misinforming them, which he shouldn't dare to for fear of compromising his position. Indeed, I think it would be delicious if he is ESPECIALLY careful to warn the PCs about Kalavei's dastardly followers).

    The Vetala just looks like another generic undead to me- agree that it would be easy to replace.

    Act 5:
    I think there's a disconnect here. Last chapter, Kalavei's servants were back-stabbing lowlifes whose mantra was focused around taking your victims unawares so they can't cry out against you- you make it sound like direct confrontation is a religious taboo here.

    But then we get to the temple and their leaders are all kung-fu skullcrushers confronting the PCs, one at a time, in fair and open combat? Even harder to believe than that these brilliant assassins would let this half-celestial (who, to be honest, feels kind of like a random plot-arrow inserted into the dungeon) survive long enough to out the fourth master, or even worse, let the PCs find their records.

    Perhaps this would make more sense if we had a better description of the new goddess, but right now I think this is one of the weakest elements of the adventure. The fights would be totally sweet, but they also wouldn't make sense, and as a player I would be confused when the trap I was expecting never closed around me.

    Act 6:
    As others have said, this could be cut for space. Personally, I also feel it could be a very intense and awesome climax if handled correctly. I do think that 'handled correctly' might mean coming up with a better way for the PCs to find out about the fourth master and the danger to the Thukur's life. Or perhaps if you were just a bit subtler, providing some hint that there are 4 masters rather than 3 and let them connect the dots through desperate last-minute detective work.

    I still have to read another two roposals, but for now, props on what looks like a fantastic adventure.

    Osirion

    For some reason, I want the prince dude who hires the 'foreign strangers' not to be entirely truthful about why he's hiring them, and for them to be *intended* to stumble around and get into trouble, while his own secret police take advantage of whatever crap they stir up.

    At some point, this would become obvious, as the cult attacks them, and men they may or may not have seen following them join in the fight, and it gets all Big Trouble in Little China, with cultists fighting members of the 'secret police' with the party in the middle, twigging to the fact that they aren't the 'great white hope,' come to save the brown prince, they are the *bait* to draw out the assassins...

    The kidnap-instead-of-kill thing at the end could perhaps be salvaged if the assassins have a very specific reason not to kill him, either believing that they must atone for their failure at the temple by killing him ritually at a sacred site, or, more interestingly, because they intend to use brainwashing / possession / something to turn him into an ally, who will get back up in charge and say, 'Yes, the wicked cult is dead! Never worry about them again. All dead, I say! Investigation closed, this is not the cult you're looking for...'

    Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

    Caedwyr wrote:
    This is an actual festival in India, called Holi celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and others. I thought it was a nice touch to add.
    Charles Evans 25 wrote:
    That seems unfortunate. :( Golarion is not the diskworld, which can blatantly rip off real world names, people, and events...

    Yet we do all the time anyway. It's all a matter of degrees and giving things their own fantasy spin. Galt actually uses guillotines just like they did in revolutionary France - but with a fantasy spin. Vikings raid the coasts in long ships - but with a fantasy spin. The people of the far east practice martial arts - but with a fantasy spin. The idea of having the Vudrani have a celebration that parallels real-world Indian traditions is fine, even a strength, to my mind, so long as (A) this is researched and respectful (as per my lengthy digression above) and (B) it has a distinct fantasy spin. I wouldn't want Adoran celebrating Independence Day on the fourth day of the seventh month with fireworks and cookouts, but if they have a day where they celebrate their independence in a way appropriate to their country and culture, that's great. Just as long as it stays fantasy.

    And, even from what I'm reading in the Wikipedia entry, even just the sentence describing the festival presents some significant differences between Holi and Hol-Yatra.

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

    Set wrote:

    For some reason, I want the prince dude who hires the 'foreign strangers' not to be entirely truthful about why he's hiring them, and for them to be *intended* to stumble around and get into trouble, while his own secret police take advantage of whatever crap they stir up.

    At some point, this would become obvious, as the cult attacks them, and men they may or may not have seen following them join in the fight, and it gets all Big Trouble in Little China, with cultists fighting members of the 'secret police' with the party in the middle, twigging to the fact that they aren't the 'great white hope,' come to save the brown prince, they are the *bait* to draw out the assassins...

    The kidnap-instead-of-kill thing at the end could perhaps be salvaged if the assassins have a very specific reason not to kill him, either believing that they must atone for their failure at the temple by killing him ritually at a sacred site, or, more interestingly, because they intend to use brainwashing / possession / something to turn him into an ally, who will get back up in charge and say, 'Yes, the wicked cult is dead! Never worry about them again. All dead, I say! Investigation closed, this is not the cult you're looking for...'

    This is an excellent spin on the adventure concept; good ideas!


    F. Wesley Schneider wrote:
    ...And, even from what I'm reading in the Wikipedia entry, even just the sentence describing the festival presents some significant differences between Holi and Hol-Yatra.

    I can't speak as to the accuracy of Wikipedia, but it does look to me like it strongly resembles the Nepalese variant information given in Wikipedia at the time of my posting this:

    Wikipedia, Holi wrote:

    ...In Nepal, Holi is regarded as one of the greatest festivals, as important as Dashain (also known as Dussehra in India) and Tihar or Dipawali (also known as Diwali in India). Since more than 80% of people in Nepal are Hindus[6], Holi, along with many other Hindu festivals, is celebrated in Nepal as a national festival and almost everyone celebrates it regardless of their religion, e.g., even Muslims celebrate it. Christians may also join in, although since Holi falls during Lent, many would not join in the festivities. The day of Holi is also a national holiday in Nepal.

    People walk down their neighbourhoods to celebrate Holi by exchanging colours and spraying coloured water on one another. A popular activity is the throwing of water balloons at one another, sometimes called lola (meaning water balloon)[7]. Also a lot of people mix bhang in their drinks and food, as also done during Shivaratri. It is believed that the combination of different colours played at this festival take all the sorrow away and make life itself more colourful...

    Coloured water... special drinks... 'festival of colours'.

    (edited)
    As far as I've noticed most of what Pathfinder takes from the real world is from the past, and done with, or from real-world fiction/myths. Apart from the blood-pig in Escape from Old Korvosa, I'm not sure I've seen much in Paizo products inspired by current actual traditons/events. :-?
    Hmm. I could be buying the wrong products or failing Perception checks though.

    Further edit:
    If this does end up as this year's winning module proposal, I trust that the crack team of editors at Paizo will put a suitably sensitive spin on the festival however. :)

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

    F. Wesley Schneider wrote:
    Charles Evans 25 wrote:
    Golarion is not the diskworld, which can blatantly rip off real world names, people, and events...
    Yet we do all the time anyway. It's all a matter of degrees and giving things their own fantasy spin... The idea of having the Vudrani have a celebration that parallels real-world Indian traditions is fine...

    I'm going to have to play devil's advocate here.

    Sure, I love that Golarion draws upon non-Western mythology. And I respect the amount of research that Matt put into this proposal. That being said, this proposal goes way over the top. Drawing upon Indian mythology is one thing. Cramming every Indian mythological trope you can possibly fit into 32 pages is just ridiculous.

    Imagine, instead of using Indian myth, this were based on Greek myth. Now imagine that this Greek-myth-inspired adventure included every single one of the following tropes crammed into a single story: centaurs offering archery lessons, a cyclops herding cattle, harpies stealing food from a banquet, a golden fleece, a hydra, a medusa, a minotaur in a labyrinth, satyrs getting drunk and flirting with dryads, a nymph that turns into a tree to evade pursuit, titans, dragon's teeth that transform into skeletal warriors, an international athletic competition, a marathon, a sea voyage through a narrow passage that threatens to crush the ship, sirens, soldiers wearing bronze breastplates and carrying javelins, a mountain pass being defended against foreign invaders, a sorceress who transforms her enemies into pigs, political intrigue involving philosophers electing a king, and the infiltration of an enemy city using a trick involving a giant wooden horse. Oh, and every NPC has a proper Greek name, and there's a patriarchal thunder god called Zeusius.

    Somewhere in the middle of that last paragraph, you probably started to get the feeling that I did a Google search for "ancient Greece" and threw every trope I found into a blender. Granted, it probably would make for a kick-ass adventure path, but all of that undiluted Greek mythology in a single, 32-page story gets a bit silly.

    That's the feeling I get about an Indian-themed adventure with a murder cult, a Kali analog, rakshasas, nagas, garudas, devas, magical lotus blossoms, elephants, peacocks, a Holi festival, maharajas, a silk mill, and whatever else all being crammed into the mix. At some point, this drifts from Indian homage into the territory of "let's drop as many Indian names as possible in the limited space allowed."

    Also, Vudra is supposed to be Vudra, not India with the serial numbers filed off. It's bad enough that we regularly get Persia with the serial numbers filed off in adventure modules (as in: deserts, camels, genies, wishes, scimitars, curly shoes, flying carpets, magic lamps, and the City of Brass yet again appearing together in a story). Let's not continue that trend by turning every real-world culture into a caricature.

    Remember, for example, how ogre mages used to appear in all sorts of adventures, not just ones based on Asian cultures? It would be a shame for them to have an exclusively Tian-Xia-based origin story in Golarion just because they now have the word "oni" in their Bestiary description. Likewise, I'd prefer that other creatures from real-world myth not get packaged into neat little real-world bundles that get used only in cultures that resemble their real-world places of origin.

    Golarion is a fantasy world. Mix things up a bit. Let's see some Norse-style ogre mages. Let's see some American-Indian-style genies. Let's see some Lovecraftian leprechauns. This whole "let's create a doppleganger of a real-world culture" thing gets old really fast.

    P.S. My Brahman-caste Hindu friend would like to point out that you've forgotten to include a subplot about mind control poison. If you're going to cram as many Indian tropes as possible into one story, you may as well throw in that time-honored Indian soap opera cliche as well.

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