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The Rotting Kremlin


Round 4 - Top 8: Create Golarion location with map

1 to 50 of 57 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka DankeSean

The Rotting Kremlin
==========
In the south of Irrisen, between the Marbleflow River and the Hoarwood, a walled hilltop tower overshadows a small thatched village. Even at a distance, the tower looks decrepit beyond measure, yet it still stands, as it has since the time of the villager's grandfather's grandfathers. The once-gilded dome rises a hundred feet; below, three shorter minarets cluster in the courtyard. These smaller towers hold carillon bells beneath their eaves, and occasionally bright pealing rings through the valley. The sound brings no joy to the villagers; rather, every parent weeps. For here, the sound of bells means that Koschei the Deathless has chosen a new bride.

Centuries ago, the powerful ogre mage Koschei raised this tower with the aid of his twelve druid sisters, collectively called the Scarlet Doves. Tales proclaim him a general in the Winter War, granted this feif for his services; other stories promote him as an upstart, puissant enough to defy even Baba Yaga and her spawn, who claimed his own dukedom. Whatever the truth, he enjoys semi-autonomy; paying taxes to Whitethrone, but otherwise rarely bothered by the queen or white witches. His serfs fail to appreciate this; many would prefer being beholden to the jadwiga rather than Koschei. More than half of what food they can produce goes to the tower; taxes are crippling; all lawbreakers are given to the Scarlet Doves as sacrifices for their rites in the Hoarwood. Worst of all, every few years Koschei selects a bride from the fairest daughters of the village. They are lavished with gifts and finery for a month-long engagement before being brought before their groom- and never seen again. Their exact fate remains a mystery, but days or weeks later Koschei drapes his tower with black crepe, announces himself a widower, and mandates a year of mourning.

Koschei is called 'Deathless' because he has removed his life from his body and hidden it far away, granting immortality until it is found. His sisters seem unaging as well, though rumor says they can be killed. The tower itself seems to reflect the decay that should long ago have claimed the family; it looks thrice its age, the walls crumbling. Those who have been inside report chambers and furnishings mouldering with grime and dust. This persists until Koschei walks into a room; in his presence, the halls are filled with finery; tapestries mend, air clears, and surfaces shine with gold and polish. Koschei seems unaware of this effect, or of the true condition of his home; strangely, mentioning either to him invites a bone-shattering rage. The learned of the village suggest his immortality preserves the original condition of the tower in his presence while hastening the decay of the rest. Regardless, the tower defies expectations, showing no inclination to collapse, simply deteriorating where it stands.

Freedom eludes his vassals; attempting escape is certain doom. High among Koschei’s servants is a huntsman of great skill who enjoys little more than tracking down fleeing subjects and presenting their heads to his lord. Heroes who come intending to overthrow Koschei must first get past this guardian; he has yet to fail. Hoarfrost Throat-Tearer is his name, and no less than threescore adventurer’s heads adorn the tower walls.

The Courtyard Maze (CR 9 or 12)
==========
The gate’s hinges cry out their age as it swings open onto a vast courtyard, the flagstones crumbling as much as the kremlin walls. The three bell towers stand at the center of the yard, surrounding a dirty white fountain. Beyond, a flight of stairs rise to the tower doors. The view is suddenly obscured as vines spring up across the bailey, instantly growing and forming themselves into dense hedgerows. They are in as poor a state as the rest of this place; their leaves are withered and frost-coated, their roses brown and dry. They still bear long, sharp thorns, however. Regardless of their condition, they look well-tended, forming neatly squared walls around a flagstone path. Wolves begin to howl somewhere beyond the hedges.

The courtyard walls are 20 feet tall, with a climb DC of 25. The hedge maze is described under Hazards. It forms automatically when uninvited guests pass through or fly over the courtyard walls. It is dismissible with a password which Koschei, his sisters, and Hoarfrost know. It will otherwise last for 9 hours before fading away.
The fountain (1A) is sculpted of bone, depicting twelve ogre women clustered together, a steaming red liquid splashing from the carved hearts they each hold in their hands. Contrary to expectations, this is not blood, but wine. Wine mulled with bone marrow and spices, but wine nonetheless, with a distinctly meaty flavor. The marrow-wine acts as a potion of false life (CL 14th) and also has additional effects upon the imbiber’s movement through the maze. The vines shift aside for anyone who has drunk marrow-wine in the past day, allowing them to pass without taking damage. Moving through the hedge in this fashion only counts as moving through difficult terrain. The fountain fills daily with enough marrow-wine for up to twenty draughts, but only one draught will affect a creature in a 24-hour period. Marrow-wine removed from the fountain loses all effect if not consumed within a minute.
The minarets (1B) are 50 feet tall, and hollow inside; a spiral staircase leads up to the carillon. At the top of each, unseen servants hold the bell ropes and watch the courtyard.

Creatures:
Hoarfrost Throat-Tearer (R3) is in the kennels (area 2) with his pack; as soon as the maze forms he releases them and begins hunting. He and the worgs all drink marrow-wine daily; the temporary hit points are counted in their statistics. Using scent, the worgs track the party, making an effort to keep hedges between themselves and their quarry. If the party becomes separated by one of the traps, the pack use this as their cue to attack, focusing on whichever group has smaller numbers. Otherwise, they wait for an opportune moment, preferably tyring to catch the party moving around a corner. The pack splits and runs through the hedges, half attacking the front of the party and half attacking the rear. Hoarfrost himself waits a round to attack, casting magic fang on himself before bursting through the hedge in the middle of the PC’s formation, attempting to savage spellcasters in action. The worgs coordinate their attacks, flanking opponents where possible; both worgs and Hoarfrost will gleefully attempt to bull rush an opponent into the thorns if the opportunity presents itself. If two worgs die, the pack breaks off the fight and retreats; continuing to harry the party with hit and run attacks. If all else fails, they make a last stand in the center of the yard, attempting to hit the party from all sides before they pass into the open area. Hoarfrost fights to the end here; death being kinder than the punishment for failing Koschei.

Tier 7-8 (CR 9):

Hoarfrost Throat-Tearer CR 7

Worgs (6) CR 2
XP 600 each
hp 41 each (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 280)

Rage Worgs (2) CR 4
XP 1,200 each
hp 82 each (NPC Guide 39)

Tier 10-11 (CR 12):

Hoarfrost Throat-Tearer CR 7

Rage Worgs (6) CR 4
XP 1,200 each
hp 82 each (NPC Guide 39)

Advanced Winter Wolves (4) CR 6
XP 2,400 each
hp 85 each (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 280)

Hazard: All hedges are 10 feet high. They are identical in most regards to a wall of thorns; magical fire will burn away a hedge, but will only burn as many squares as the spell would affect; the fire will not spread to adjacent hedge squares. (Minimum one 5-foot square for spells without an area.) The hedges are persistent magical effects cast at 9th level. A successful dispel magic removes a 10-foot section of wall.

Trap: Locations marked on the map create additional hedges when a creature passes through them. These are designed to separate large groups; they are primed when a creature enters a square containing one and activate the moment that creature leaves the square. These walls are 10-by-10-by-5, completely filling the pathway they intersect. Anyone standing in this space, or walking five feet or less directly behind the one who triggered it, is caught inside, as per a wall of thorns spell. Unlike the normal hedges, these walls only last 90 minutes.

Thorn Trap CR 7
Type magic; Perception DC 30 Disable Device 30
===Effects===
Trigger proximity (alarm) Reset none
Effect Spell effect (wall of thorns, 25 minus AC damage); multiple targets (all targets in a 10-by-5 foot area marked on map)

Development: If Hoarfrost dies the unseen servants in the minarets have instructions to sound the carillon bells for ten minutes. This alerts the inhabitants of the tower; of immediate concern to the party, Veslana and Lubschile, the two Scarlet Doves from the third level, move down to the balcony overlooking the entrance hall (area 16) and wait for intruders.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter 2014

1 person marked this as a favorite.

The image Sean provided was a full-page image at 100 dpi.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Welcome to the Top 8, Sean! You're past the point of no return this year and this is the round where you really get to stretch and show off the talents a designer needs to create an actual adventure. As such, I'm going to do my best to assess it in that light. As always, I have this tendency to give a lot of feedback. And, I want to make sure you understand that anything I point out here or raise in the form of constructive criticism is done in the spirit of wanting to help you improve. But I'm also going to balance that by praising you where you really shine so I can hopefully highlight that for the voters and they can recognize your strengths. To keep this post to manageable levels, I've spoilered the rest of my comments, below...

Spoiler:

First up, I want to give you some kudos on making the most of your opportunity this year. I wasn't the strongest champion of your singing bowl of redoubled clarity...but it got you into the competition again...and you haven't looked back. Since then, you've gone on to give us one of the strongest archetype ideas with your evangelist bard...and (along with a lot of other voters) I thought Lady Rosiline was the most interesting villain of the prior round. You're bringing some serious mojo in this year's competition and it's serving you very well. And, although I've picked a few nits here or there with your designs, your body of work has been really impressive on the whole. So, going into this round I have high expectations of what you'll do and I'm interested in seeing how you meet them with the ever-tightening competition from your fellow contestants. For this round's feedback, I'm going to breakdown my commentary according to the key elements of the assignment, including: your descriptive text, your location choice and villain pairing, your map, and the creativity of your encounter.

The Descriptive Text:
Simply put, you write very well. Your writing is evocative. It draws in the reader. And it resonates with a level of creativity few can match. I have noticed, however, that you've fallen in love with the semi-colon. For instance, the phrasing/punctuation of, "This persists until Koschei walks into a room; in his presence, the halls are filled with finery; tapestries mend, air clears, and surfaces shine with gold and polish. Koschei seems unaware of this effect, or of the true condition of his home; strangely, mentioning either to him invites a bone-shattering rage..." should really be broken up into multiple sentences. In your first four paragraphs, you've got no less than twelve semi-colons. And, though the language flows well enough, I find myself consciously substituting periods or em-dashes to break things up for better comprehension. This is really more of a stylistic thing, but...having written for Paizo...I have a feeling guys like Sean and Mark may want to adapt the punctuation of your writing a little. And, it's better to make corrections for that now than after a manuscript turnover.

I also wanted to touch on the backstory you've introduced for your write-up. While everything is actually really interesting, I was a little surprised to see you describing another villain (i.e., Koschei the Deathless) who is greater than Hoarfrost Throat-Tearer. In other words, you've taken a villain from last round and turned him into nothing more than a minion. A villainous minion, certainly. But not what I expected. That said, you've characterized Koschei very well and hinted at some of the horrors that must await deeper within the Rotting Kremlin...along with the Scarlet Doves. But, along with this stellar creativity, I'm finding myself more interested in those things than the encounter with Hoarfrost. So, in some ways, I think you kind of missed the assignment here a little bit. To me, this round called for an encounter location that featured a villain from Round 3. But, I don't want to ding you too hard on this, because the rules really only required that you use a villain from Round 3. Still, in the interests of maximizing your appeal to the voters, I think you would have been better served to highlight Hoarfrost more than developing an additional villain around which to explain the existence of your location. That said, three of the Top 8 designers selected Hoarfrost as their villain-of-choice...and I actually like what you've done with him a bit better in this encounter. And, whether intentional or not, I think the way you've gone about characterizing this encounter/location and series of villains gives some good hints for the voters at how you'd handle an actual adventure assignment. So, that might just serve you very well...

The Location:
The Rotting Kremlin is an interesting name, but I'm not enamored with it. The use of the word "Kremlin" just conjures up too much iconic Soviet imagery for me. It's not a big deal either way. Just throught I'd throw that out there. I would have liked to see a different name for the structure. That said, I love what you've done with the place! Dropping this location into Irrisen is very appropriate. The words you've spent describing how this place came to be and Koschei's relationship with his vassals and the witch-queens is cool. The fact that he takes a bride every year or so and then mysteriously mourns her death before searching for another is...eerie. Having Hoarfrost as his seneschal and gate-guard hints towards some serious viciousness on Koschei's part. And, the inclusion of his twelve sisters as the Scarlet Doves and druids capable of manipulating the terrain around his home works really well. I also like how Koschei's presence brings the various rooms of the Kremlin to life...but I'm left curious as to how often he's had visitors who have lived to speak of it to anyone.

Bottom line for me, I like the choice of location. I like the creativity and uniqueness of the Kremlin and how the villain's spirit (i.e., Koschei's) seems to pervade the place. I think Hoarfrost fits as a hunter/guardian for the Courtyard Maze. And that helps me overlook my disappointment that he's not the featured villain here. The GM wheels in my brain are already turning with how to imagine and use this location, featuring both the terrain and the structure in conjunction with Hoarfrost and Koschei. So, to me, that's all well-played.

The Map:
It's reasonably solid. Not as pretty or super-colorized as some of the others, if I'm comparing to your competitors. But what's important to me is that you've got enough clearly labeled detail to aid a cartographer in rendering a fully-realized map of this location. And I think you've done that. The choice to go with a courtyard maze is kind of cool. I'm imagining it all heavily laden in snow...which should hopefully aid with backtracking to determine where you've been...although, that bit might sort of defeat the purpose of making people lose their bearings inside it. I'm left a little curious as to what would happen if PCs floated above the maze or flew their way past it. It doesn't appear that anything prevents them from doing so. And, this encounter takes place at a high enough tier that it's very likely such magic could come into play. It looks like you heavily trapped the maze and a development like that could easily circumvent those hazards. I do like the inclusion of elements like the fountain of false life...and how Hoarfrost and his minions use it. The kennels with Hoarfrost's tent outside the Kremlin make sense. And the Kremlin itself has stairs going both up and down with the implication that this site has much more to offer adventurers than a simple chase through a snowy maze.

The Encounter:
First, from the description of the courtyard and the rising thorny walls of the hedge maze, I get the sense that it doesn't close in overhead to form a ceiling. So, again, even if it does form below someone flying over the walls and the courtyard, I don't perceive there's anything stopping them from flying into a belltower and taking the steps down to fountain. So, this could allow PCs to quickly move past Hoarfrost and his worgs to access the Kremlin before he can reach them. Maybe that's not how you meant to describe it, but if I were your developer, I'd probably send this back to you and ask for a paragraph explaining the approaches by air a bit more clearly.

Assuming the PCs find themselves having to traverse the hedge maze, I like how the encounter plays out from there. The fountain's waters let Hoarfrost and worgs slip through the thorns without any harm...which should probably elevate the threat level of the encounter's CR a little due to such impeding terrain. I can see a cool encounter taking place though with howling/growling worgs emerging from the snow and hedge rows to surround the party. Hoarfrost can then make his appearance when he's ready to up the ante. It's good encounter design and could make for both an entertaining and challenging situation for the PCs...while also making a memorable experience for the players. I really like it.

I am a little concerned about the CRs of the encounters, though. At the lower tier, I'm okay with it. The CR 2 and CR 4 worgs aren't going to mean much to 7th or 8th level PCs...but Hoarfrost is on par with them. Even so, this isn't the BBEG encounter I had originally expected for him. At the higher tier, it gets much worse. If the PCs are 10th or 11th (or even 9th) level, they'll own the field pretty easily against Hoarfrost and his minions. I think you should have assessed this better in your design. Typically, for a challenging encounter (which this ought to be), you should shoot for a CR+2 compared to the APL. If you want the villain to have some lasting power, he should be at least the same CR as the APL...and then give him enough CR-1 or CR-2 minions to crank it up to an overall CR+2 encounter. That would get more mileage out of all the adversaries.

Overall Assessment:
You've done some good work here. I'm a little disappointed that Hoarfrost gets depicted more as a minion than the featured villain of your location, but everything makes good internal sense. I like the choice of location and creativity you invested in the backstory. The encounter is tactically interesting, making good use of terrain, spell effects, and minions that all work well with Hoarfrost. So, I think you did him justice within the manner of how you showcased him. I also like the attention to detail you put into describing the site and the various ways to interact with the terrain. But I'd also like to see you ditch the heavy use of the semi-colon. And you need to apply yourself to learning better CR evaluations for your encounters.

However, given everything taken together, I RECOMMEND this encounter for advancing to the next round. Based on all your work to this point, I want to see what you'd do for an adventure proposal. And I like the creativity you're bringing to the table each round. Best of luck in the voting.

Cartographer

Good looking map reference sketch here. Everything is very clear and makes sense at the first glance. Nice clean linework, and simple colors really make it easy to understand what is going on.

There is not really anything I would change here. It would be fairly easy to start work on this immediately without any re-plotting or anything.

The hedge maze is a nice change of pace from the usual dungeon maze or cavern complex.

This map would be fun to draw, great work!

Cartographer

This map is very clear on what it is which is great and I like the idea of any hedgemaze in a map. I wish there were more detail in the courtyard, as it seems pretty open and I wish there was more in the text which would translate to what I could do with it. The Maze is a little simple in the bottom left hand corner, and it would have been interesting to see some only 5 foot wide passages through the maze as well to further confuse PC's. Other than that straight forward and with flourishes this is some cool material.

Contributor

I'm looking at this submission from a developer's perspective.

LOCATION
This is a very evocative description with some interesting backstory. I want to hear more about what's up with this ogre mage. I think it's an interesting twist that you made the R3 villain just a minion to the final villain of this location. One thing you have to keep in mind is that if he is the villain and he's supposed to be a challenging encounter, Koschei is supposed to be even more dangerous, but you're already pressing against the maximum CR available for encounters in these tiers.

I do think the name "kremlin" is a problem. It has so much Russian baggage that you can't help but think of *the* Kremlin. I realize you're riffing on Baba Yaga being Russian and this is an Irrisen encounter, but you need to think about how the readers and players are going to react to the name.

ENCOUNTER
Nice use of scent to track the PCs across the hedge maze.
There are a few places where you have passive voice using the word "will." Crush them!

MAP
Your map is clear and uses color well to enhance that clarity.
I'd normally do a mini-rant here about how mazes don't work in RPG because the players are able to look top-down on the tabletop map, but by level 7 the PCs can do the very same thing to this maze, so that's okay! And you added traps that modify the layout to keep them on their toes. Nice work.

Paizo Employee Developer

Congrats on making it into the top 8, Sean! At this point, I'm judging all the submissions from the viewpoint of the person who will be assigning and developing Pathfinder Society Scenarios to the three runners-up in the next round. Thus my recommendations are based almost entirely on how well I feel you'd do—based on this submission—writing an adventure as a reward for reaching the next round.

First, the location name is a bit of a problem. "Rotting" is fine, "Kremlin" not so much. While a kremlin simply describes a heavily fortified complex in the center of a Russian city, "kremlin" carries a lot more baggage from real-world history than would similar words like "keep", "castle", or "fort", as none of these is immediately identified with a specific example, nor an iconic government from not-so-distant history. All things considered, though, changing the name is not a huge deal, and could easily be carried out in development without taking much time, if it didn't get cause in the outlining phase. So no major dings to you there, but something to look out for.

Moving on to the description itself, I think you've come up with a really evocative location. I like the play between the kremlin itself and the nearby village, as well as some of the flavor elements, like the flourishing/decaying dichotomy of the rooms as Koschei moves about. You've sort of created a new villain, though, as Koschei is the BBEG in this location; Hoarfrost is just a lackey, which is sort of disappointing.

From a stylistic standpoint, I notice a ton of semicolons in this piece. Don't get me wrong, I love semicolons, but like any non-period, non-comma punctuation, they should be used sparingly. In this case, many of them could be full stops, commas, or even em-dashes. Another little nit to pick: "villager's grandfather's grandfathers" should probably be "villagers' grandfathers' grandfathers" unless you mean to say that there's only a single villager. You could also save words there and simply say "for generations."

Looking at the rules behind this, I also notice you have the fountain functioning as a potion of false life—which doesn't exist. Potions may only be made for spells that target one or more creature; false life is a personal spell, and thus can't be made into a potion. Since the use of this potion is assumed for all creatures the PCs face, removing or changing it to coincide with the game's rules would have rippling effects on later statblocks.

Moving on to the encounter itself, I'm not sure this would actually be a challenge to anyone of the target levels. First, in Tier 7–8, you have 6 CR 2 creatures and 2 CR 4 creatures, each of which is merely a speedbump for a 7th-level party, much less one of 9th-level, as the encounter's CR indicates. Sure, throwing lots of minions at a party can really drain their resources and help an otherwise unchallenging solo enemy last a few rounds longer, but in this case, I can't see PCs focusing on the worg's over the main villain. In the high tier, running 10 extra minions on top of the traps (which aren't included in the overall CR of the encounter in either tier) and Hoarfrost overcomplicates the entire thing. If I were developing this, I would likely change the 6 regular worgs to one additional rage worg in the low tier and several highly advanced winter wolves (at something like CR 8) in the higher in place of all the CR 4 and 6 worgs currently in there.

The nature of the maze itself will also make combat with more than one enemy difficult, further decreasing the challenge of the encounter, as the worgs will have to funnel through the narrow passages getting picked off one at a time.

Furthermore, I think you aimed too high on the tiers. With a CR 7 villain, I would have gone with Tier 5–9, granting you a CR 8 encounter at the low tier and CR 11 at the high, and making this single CR 7 foe a challenge to the PCs in both, and allowing him to remain the focus of the encounter, and the most challenging opponent in both tiers. Then again, you aren't really using him as a mastermind villain in the location, so I guess Hoarfrost doesn't have to be the focus of the encounter, but that's generally how to use a named NPC in a fight.

Looking at the map, I can clearly tell what everything is, and you've provided a legible map key. I appreciate that you've made the passages 10-feet wide to accommodate large creatures (like the winter wolves). This turnover would be easy to pass on directly to cartographer without the need to alter much, if anything. Good work in that regard.

I like what you're trying to do with the tracking through the hedge-maze and the dividing traps, but I'm not sure it's completely there. You show a real talent here, and in past rounds with creating innovative concepts and neat stories, but the rules elements here are a bit weaker.

All things considered, though, this entry gives me confidence you could put together a fun adventure, be it a Scenario or Module. I RECOMMEND this location for advancement. Best of luck in the voting, Sean!

CEO, Goblinworks

Not recommended for advancement

Lots of great comments from the other judges I won't reiterate.

My issues:

If the contest were "write an evocative description to add to Golarian lore", you'd win hands down. This is a super-cool area and backstory. You're an imaginative writer and you have real talent and flair.

But that's not what this round was about and I think the mechanical problems the other judges have pointed out (especially the mismatch between APL and the environment and opponents) cripples the submission.

I just can't recommend this. I don't think you playtested it, or if you did, you didn't let your players use APL appropriate spells and wondrous items. If you had I think you'd have found how quickly the party could bypass most of this encounter and get right into the Kremlin.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Based on the outstanding-ness of Lady Rosiline, this was the R4 entry I beelined to.

And it completely filled my high expectations... and then some!

This is easily my fave entry of this round- though I also dig (and voted for) The Black Mirror, and The Broken Crucible Foundry...

Great work, Sean!

Star Voter 2014

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

Sean, you've done it again. You've taken an entry from the previous round that I didn't get very excited about and made it awesome. My main complaint with Hoarfrost was that his motivations and plot hooks just didn't speak to me. Making him a minion automatically infuses him with all the awesome story elements of the greater villain, which I think made this an excellent interpretation. It does feel a bit like cheating, but I doubt that's going to cost you my vote.

Your writing style is evocative and compelling, and I really like this Koschei character (in a "lets go kill that guy" kind of way).

Good work and good luck.


I like the story of the village and Koschei. That was very cool.

I don't like the name. I can't stop thinking abou the old Soviet Union whenever I see the word kremlin.

I wish you had made the thorn trap and tent symbols more distinct from each other.

The villian for this encounter doesn't feature very prominently in the write up. It really seems to be all about Koschei.

I love the idea of the maze and the hunting down of the PCs. However, it seems that the encounter will be easier than it should be since the worgs will have to bottleneck in the hedge maze. Since the kennel is so far from the fountain, it doesn't seem as if Hoarfrost can even take advantage of it to attack the PCs from within the hedge walls.


I agree with the earlier comments. Koschei is the villain, not Hoarfrost.

I also have the same problem with this one as with the other Hoarfrost submission, he's a hunter. I don't get the feeling he would like "hunting" his prey in a controlled, contrived maze.

And yeah, Kremlin has too much of a negative, contemporary connotation for the name.

It was a nice attempt, but I think it voilates the rules a little bit in that Hoarfrost really isn't the main villain. And even if he was, I don't think the situation really fits him. (but then again, this is the second time I've made that comment, so maybe I just don't get Hoarfrost's motivation).

Good luck with the voting.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Have Hoarfrost and his worgs track and attack the pc's as they make their way through the kremlin. Now that would've been a cool encounter setup.

Cheliax

This is a great encounter and I look forward to the opportunity to employ it against a future party.

I was surprised that a couple of judges may have misunderstood the use of the wargs in the encounter. Mark Moreland even suggested that they would be bottlenecked by the hedges. As the wargs and Hoarfrost have the stated ability to move through the rows of the hedgemaze due to imbibing the wine of the magic founatin, they are able to hit a group from every side. This was also written into the tactics in the "creatures" section. Coming out of total cover with flanking allies and the PC party being unable to flank their enemies in return makes for an ambush and terrain favoring the antagonists. I'm posting from work without access to resources, but I believe that would add to the overall CR of the encounter.

The only thing I would have done differently would be to make the flagstone paths only five feet wide thus further hampering the invading player characters and making it easier for my mobs to wreak havoc on the party. Then again, I'm an evil GM.

A valid point about overflying the hedgemaze. A thought would be to think larger. Make your hedgemaze a wood, or even an entire forest, that has the party twisted about as they head toward the manor only to realize too late that they are actually the hunted.

Overall, great job!

EDIT: Ooh, ooh! Demesne would be a good Eastern European word to replace kremlin. To you judges: Hold your disparagement. He could have gone with The Krumbling Kremlin.

Osirion Marathon Voter 2014

Paizo Superscriber
Sean McGowan wrote:

Rage Worgs (6) CR 4

Advanced Winter Wolves (4) CR 6

Ok, I posted on another one of these that had a lot of low level monsters.

They never challenge a party, so you have a boring combat with a predetermined result that just needs to be played out since PFS doesn't condone the DM saying "you killed them all, here is their loot" without rolling init.

Advanced Winter Wolf is +12 to hit, this is too low to matter.

I'll use myself as an example. I have an 8th level PC that has put very little money or effort into AC (and he is a combat PC.) His AC is 22 (55% chance to hit.)
My 12th level PC who didn't improve his AC from when he played his last 11th module had AC 29 (20% chace) and didn't even try. Expect AC 34 (on a 20 only) and up from any PC that tried to be a high AC guy.

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

Hi, everyone. Just ducking in to say the standard: Thanks for commenting, and I'll be more than happy to reply and answer once the voting period has ended. See y'all then!

Sczarni

I really wanted to hate this entry for putting the barbarous Hoarfrost into an urban environment, but then the Snow White/10th Kingdom connection with the monarch employing a vicious hunter clicked, and I was hooked. This looks like a lot of fun, though if I were to run it, I would probably have thorn traps trigger above the path on anyone that tried to fly over it, despite the navigation difficulties (which would definitely be mitigated by any AoE fire spell).

All in all, really interesting, well worded write-up, and nice curve-ball with Hoarfrost.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber

Pros: I want to put this location in my version of Golarion. The whole feel is creepy and wrong, but very interesting. You provide a villian, one that my players will feel satisfaction in defeating.
Cons: For the purposes of the contest, the villian I am most interested in is not the one used for the encounter, but he does make a very good minion. I really enjoy your evocative writing, but the run-on sentances (although grammatically proper) do hurt the brain.

You have my vote. Hoarfrost makes a very good minion for Koschei. My only complaint is that I really, really want to know more about Koschei and his sisters.

I hope you pass this round and that when you do, you will provide more background. (Something that made me enjoy Lady Rosiline even more)

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

drayen wrote:

A valid point about overflying the hedgemaze. A thought would be to think larger. Make your hedgemaze a wood, or even an entire forest, that has the party twisted about as they head toward the manor only to realize too late that they are actually the hunted.

Overall, great job!

I could easily see Hoarfrost stalking a wood or small forest surrounding this castle. You could easily use a flow chart style map of encounter areas to provide a running encounter of sorts.

I liked the background of a Bigger bad than Hoarfrost and his thorn maze (perhaps a guards and warded maze?) but again I think my Huntsman is too bottled up. Hoarfrost and the worgs are best utilized in a running battle. Hit hard then fade into the woods: stalk, rinse, repeat.

The tiers are again too high for Hoarfrost to really be effective. He's meant as an end challenge for PC's in the mid levels. Tier 5-6, maybe 7-8 is the best to run him at considering his tactics and equipment.

--Vrock the Vote

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

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

I don't think Sean should be overly faulted for opting for quantity rather than high-CR creatures in his encounter. An encounter with 12 CR-2 can be a lot tougher than an encounter with 4 CRs.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

I agree that this should have probably shot for a lower CR bracket. He had a tough call to make, though, because he wanted something that a.) took place in an environment strongly favoring the badguys, b.) let him run Hoarfrost with a respectable-sized gang of minions, and c.) was still only a challenging (not "final boss" difficulty) encounter.

Winter wolves are large, but worgs and rage worgs are medium, so they'll have room to gang up here.

I personally quite like that he hinted at a whole new boss-man here, and that he uses Hoarfrost as the servant or huntsman. If Hoarfrost were himself a scheming mastermind then I would be disappointed, because then he wouldn't be using the villain to full effect, but in this encounter I see Hoarfrost doing no more and no less than what Hoarfrost does best. He's still the star of the encounter, and I think Sean followed both the letter and spirit of the rules in how he used him.


I agree with the comments that the name needs to be changed. Real-world, proper place names don't belong in this setting. It's like creating a location and naming it the Pentagon.

Hoarfrost, as a hunter, works in this scenario. I have no problem with it being an urban encounter for him. However, I do not see him as a lackey. If some dude said, "I'm going to hire you to hunt and kill some people. If you fail me i'll kill you." I think Hoarfrost would rage and try to tear the guys throat out on the spot. His shtick is being an ideal hunter. He's not going to stand for being talked down to or hired to handle some other's business. Then it's just a job.

That's my take on it at least.

Dedicated Voter 2014

My criteria for voting is:
a) Do I like the writing?
b) Would I use this in my game?

I love your writing and think Koschei is a great villian. The picture of Hoarfrost could have just as well been a picture of Koschei, which had me confused for a second. (I don't remember that villain...)

I like the idea of a hedge maze trap with a pool of bloodwine that can be used to bypass it. But the hedges need to go up to a ceiling of some sort. Perhaps they form a 20' thick hedge ceiling as well. That would make sense and help protect the stronghold from flying attackers. It would be fun to see the players faces when they try to use their fly magic to bypass the outer wall, only to find they now have to penetrate a wall of thorns. Which they would do easily enough, but then they would be confronted by the maze and an amped up hoarfrost. I would have to template the worgs (half-fiend em, maybe). Heck, given my players I might have to half-fiend Hoarfrost. Anyway, out of the box, the encounter does not mechanically work, and it doesn't actually fit into my campaign, but its a great idea, and I might well use the idea.

And you used 'carillon bells' in your location, which is very cool indeed. So you got my vote.


I missed the part about Hoarfrost and the worgs drinking from the fountain everyday. Thus, my criticism about them not be able to take advantage of the fountain is wrong.

Dedicated Voter 2014

IndustrialMacabre wrote:

I agree with the comments that the name needs to be changed. Real-world, proper place names don't belong in this setting. It's like creating a location and naming it the Pentagon.

The word 'kremlin' is the Russian word for fortress. Given that of Baba Yaga runs around in this part of Golarion, the word is used quite appropriately in this location write up.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
moon glum wrote:
IndustrialMacabre wrote:

I agree with the comments that the name needs to be changed. Real-world, proper place names don't belong in this setting. It's like creating a location and naming it the Pentagon.

The word 'kremlin' is the Russian word for fortress. Given that of Baba Yaga runs around in this part of Golarion, the word is used quite appropriately in this location write up.

And "Pentagon" is English for a polygon with 5 sides. The name still carries too much mental baggage. No one (as far as I can see) is saying the word is used incorrectly, just that it makes people think of a specific real world thing.

Still, it's easy to see why Sean chose the word for his title, and it's an easy fix.


There are little nitpicks here and there but overall its an amazing entry. Lady Rosiline Mistandre was my favorite last round and again you have brought something awesome to the table.

Dedicated Voter 2014

Shadar Aman wrote:
moon glum wrote:
IndustrialMacabre wrote:

I agree with the comments that the name needs to be changed. Real-world, proper place names don't belong in this setting. It's like creating a location and naming it the Pentagon.

The word 'kremlin' is the Russian word for fortress. Given that of Baba Yaga runs around in this part of Golarion, the word is used quite appropriately in this location write up.

And "Pentagon" is English for a polygon with 5 sides. The name still carries too much mental baggage. No one (as far as I can see) is saying the word is used incorrectly, just that it makes people think of a specific real world thing.

Still, it's easy to see why Sean chose the word for his title, and it's an easy fix.

I actually like that its a kremlin (the Russian word for a fortress that occupies the center of a town). I think its totally appropriate and actually *adds* flavor. It does make you think of the Kremlin, but it also adds an compelling air of foreignness. It reminds you that you are in a different country in a different world.

And you actually could use the word 'pentagon' if you did it right. Just like you can use the words caliphate, pyramid, or the phrase 'leaning tower'. Well, at least, it doesn't bug me. Apparently it bugs some people...

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

Sean, I think you're one of the strongest competitors in the Top 8, and the overall quality of your R4 entry shows that. Unfortunately, for me, by having Hoarfrost being a lackey of the main villain (and not even making it into the first sentence by name of the paragraph he finally gets mentioned in, at that) I fell that you skirted the spirit of the requirements of this round, even if you followed the rules. I'm guessing that you had the idea for your location and tried to shoehorn in a villain from R3, but it still feels a bit forced. I was expecting to read how the Top 8 used a main villain and that's not what I got here.

That being said, you did a great job on just about everything else in your entry, with the exception of the already mentioned CR mis-match to the tiers. I liked the descriptions, the maze and the extra wall traps, and the location and map strongly suggesting lots of cool things beyond what's shown here.

Nit pick time: First, on your map, you have Hoarfrost's yurt as a rectangle. I'm no expert on this, but I always thought yurts were round, and dictionary.com at least agrees with me. Second, you say that if Hoarfrost is killed the unseen servants ring the bells - but how would they know? They're described as being able to do whatever an old Str 3 servant can do, but that shouldn't include x-ray vision out of the minarets to see if someone is killed.

In sum, I think you're talented enough to make the top 4, and it sounds like you're getting many votes to prove me right there. But, my issues will probably keep me from voting for you (but I still look forward to seeing your entry next round if you make it, since I'm sure it will be killer!).


I *like* the use of the term 'Kremlin'. It really fits nicely with the frozen landscape and the totalitarian theme of the Ogre Mage.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 , Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Demiurge 1138

First, my issues. And I do have them. For one thing, the flavor text mentions that the PCs automatically trigger the eruption of the hedge maze. There's no maze at first, but when the PCs enter, it erupts and they do the navigating most-dangerous-game game. Then other sections of maze will erupt to split the party later

But what if they search for traps before they enter the courtyard?

Never assume that the PCs will do one particular action. Especially since the PCs at this tier will have access to flight. In that case, they'll have a big open courtyard and half the fun of this encounter will be lost.

I also feel like Hoarfrost isn't really the threat here. Koschei is, and Hoarfrost is a speedbump with an individual stat-block. That's... not necessarily a bad thing. Your version of Koschei is very interesting, as is his crumbling manor and Scarlet Doves. I'd love to read or play an adventure with him in it. And your writing is great. I love semicolons, so I didn't even notice there were an inordinate amount; I feel that they add a narrative aspect to the text, which works perfectly.

It's the writing and the flavor, not the actual encounter, that is the reason I'm going to vote for this entry. Be on your guard, though; I expect you to shore up your encounter design before you get published.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

You paint a quite interesting setting here, alas the villain you used is not really included all that well. I never pictured hoarfrost as a minion but rather as a stalker.

But here he sits and guards a door...

The design of the encounter is also troublesome. You don't tell me wether the PCs could avoid springing the maze (by searching for traps for instance). You also riddle the room with an obstacle that the PCs can (quite easily) overcome, but the guard can not - not a clever mechanic at all.

Indeed as I see it the PCs can bypass hoarfrost entirely as they zoom towards the other levels.

Star Voter 2013

There's some good and some bad with this submission. The good is that you wrote an interesting setting, and an interesting villian. I love your writing, and would probably read a book of it.

But I do not love your encounter. The biggest problem is that the villain and the setting you spend all that time writing are almost entirely unrelated to this encounter. Sure, it's a cool idea to feature a villain as a minion of a bigger bad, but at this CR, that's not thought through so well. And the fact that so many words are describing someone who isn't going to be featured in the encounter and maybe not even in this adventure is a weird thing.

And further on that point, there's supposed to be a minimum of thirteen ogres inside, each with at least one class level. Even if they each had exactly one class level, and you fought six sisters, six sisters and then the big baddie, that would be the entire scope of the adventure, as this was supposed to be a test of your ability to write a pathfinder society module, not an adventure. Hence the teirs.

And when you look at it that way, this encounter is a terrible failure at what you were being tested for. Every single encounter in this module would have to be combat just to match the description you've given, and your first encounter is already above APL.


Sean McGowan wrote:

The Rotting Kremlin

==========
In the south of Irrisen, between the Marbleflow River and the Hoarwood, a walled hilltop tower overshadows a small thatched village. Even at a distance, the tower looks decrepit beyond measure, yet it still stands, as it has since the time of the villager's grandfather's grandfathers. The once-gilded dome rises a hundred feet; below, three shorter minarets cluster in the courtyard. These smaller towers hold carillon bells beneath their eaves, and occasionally bright pealing rings through the valley. The sound brings no joy to the villagers; rather, every parent weeps. For here, the sound of bells means that Koschei the Deathless has chosen a new bride.

Centuries ago, the powerful ogre mage Koschei raised this tower with the aid of his twelve druid sisters, collectively called the Scarlet Doves. Tales proclaim him a general in the Winter War, granted this feif for his services; other stories promote him as an upstart, puissant enough to defy even Baba Yaga and her spawn, who claimed his own dukedom. Whatever the truth, he enjoys semi-autonomy; paying taxes to Whitethrone, but otherwise rarely bothered by the queen or white witches. His serfs fail to appreciate this; many would prefer being beholden to the jadwiga rather than Koschei. More than half of what food they can produce goes to the tower; taxes are crippling; all lawbreakers are given to the Scarlet Doves as sacrifices for their rites in the Hoarwood. Worst of all, every few years Koschei selects a bride from the fairest daughters of the village. They are lavished with gifts and finery for a month-long engagement before being brought before their groom- and never seen again. Their exact fate remains a mystery, but days or weeks later Koschei drapes his tower with black crepe, announces himself a widower, and mandates a year of mourning.

Koschei is called 'Deathless' because he has removed his life from his body and hidden it far away, granting immortality until it is found. His sisters seem unaging as well, though rumor says they can be killed. The tower itself seems to reflect the decay that should long ago have claimed the family; it looks thrice its age, the walls crumbling. Those who have been inside report chambers and furnishings mouldering with grime and dust. This persists until Koschei walks into a room; in his presence, the halls are filled with finery; tapestries mend, air clears, and surfaces shine with gold and polish. Koschei seems unaware of this effect, or of the true condition of his home; strangely, mentioning either to him invites a bone-shattering rage. The learned of the village suggest his immortality preserves the original condition of the tower in his presence while hastening the decay of the rest. Regardless, the tower defies expectations, showing no inclination to collapse, simply deteriorating where it stands.

Freedom eludes his vassals; attempting escape is certain doom. High among Koschei’s servants is a huntsman of great skill who enjoys little more than tracking down fleeing subjects and presenting their heads to his lord. Heroes who come intending to overthrow Koschei must first get past this guardian; he has yet to fail. Hoarfrost Throat-Tearer is his name, and no less than threescore adventurer’s heads adorn the tower walls....

Disclaimer:

In case you’ve only just woken up to the contest or otherwise (somehow) missed these Round-by-Round reviews before, Ask A RPGSupersuccubus is posting from the point of view of a (very advanced) CE aligned succubus:
Spoiler:
Fairness means Prizes For All Succubi, balance is the process of fine-tuning your harp of the Abyss so that the acoustic resonances are particularly obnoxious to any clerics of Asmodeus who happen to be captive audiences in the vicinity, and logic is a bit like cornflour paste – cast-iron hard work when anyone else touches it, but conveniently gooey and runny to a succubus’ subtle touch. Oh: And Ask A RPGSupersuccubus (still) firmly maintains that it’s a succubus’ privilege to change her mind with neither any warning nor any obligation to bother to explain herself…
;)

How convenient does the estate/property seem to be for the regular delivery of groceries?
Whilst the property appears to be remote from anyone likely to sell a caddy of tea, it does appear to exist within the framework of a feudal organisation, whereby the local peasantry are compelled to provide basic foodstuffs. From whatever food is obtainable in a land locked in a perpetual winter. Which is probably fish and more fish, with the occasional variation of whatever mushrooms you can grow on conifer mulch. I think I see a problem here...

What preparations should a succubus planning to make a social call consider?
This is tricky. The owner of the property is apparently in a habit of occasionally marrying eligible females, who disappear and are at some point to be presumed dead. The owner of the property also has a dozen sisters, who might be offended by the presence of someone too overtly charming, beautiful, and accomplished arriving in their midst. (This might even conceivably explain the disappearance of the owner's brides.)
The important thing, I would say, is to dress down and have a plan for a rapid exit if the owner raises the subject of marriage. Also, Do Not Irk The Sisters. As a succubus you may be a higher life-form than them, but they are unlikely to appreciate this point being raised (or any other kind of jibe made for that matter) and they outnumber you a dozen to one.
Oh, and remember not to mention the fluctuating state of repair of the property, either. Or give cause for any other kind of offence, unless you have half a dozen paladins waiting within call outside the front door to undistress a damsel.

Assuming a succubus comes into possession of the estate or property in question, how much landscaping/redecoration work needs to be done?
Given the indicated dilapidated state of the main building (except in the immediate vicinity of the current owner is present), were half a dozen paladins with shiny swords (or some other disaster natural or otherwise) to befall the current 'immortal' owner leaving a succubus the sole mistress of the estate, a lot of repair work is clearly going to need doing. An important question here is do the local peasants go with the property under Irriseni traditions? If so, they might be so relieved at no longer having to feed a monster and his twelve sisters that they could be charmed (possibly without recourse to magic) into providing a quite willing labour force to accomplish at least basic repairs. Sadly, however enthusiastic the locals might be at having a new succubus mistress, unless there are some significantly skilled craftsmen in their midst, it is likely that a succubus will at some point have to send for outside assistance of some kind to make the place anything other than barely habitable - let a lone a proper venue for hosting the cream of Irriseni society to dinner-parties or weekend hunting events. At some point, if she wants to use this venue as a base for making her way into Irriseni society, a succubus is going to have to dip into someone's pocket. The locals are barely subsisting as it is though, and probably aren't going to be much help here...
The magical hedge-maze would possibly have to go depending on whether the new mistress of the house considered it quaintly charming or rather clichéd. At any rate, it won't hinder someone who can fly.

Other comments?
According to this round’s presentations, apparently there are at least two – perhaps three – different half-orcs by the name of Hoarfrost Throat-Tearer active in or around Irrisen. This Hoarfrost has apparently had the sense to take up working for a halfway civilised lord, and acts in the capacity of his huntsman. Although the attempt at social integration is something of which I approve, the transition from independent operator to henchman of a significant villain leaves me in two minds over whether this Hoarfrost merits a GB supersuccubus rating of only 3, as opposed to the original Hoarfrost's 4 (it depends on quite how powerful and significant this Hoarfrost's master is).
There is, of course, a demon-lord known as 'Kostchthckie, The Deathless Frost' with strong ties to Irrisen. It's perhaps not going too far in speculation to surmise that the current owner of The Rotting Kremlin perhaps reveres him (or maybe has ambitions to dethrone and replace him).

Property Value:
Run down dilapidated rural property with possibilities for a succubus with the time and money if the current owner can be removed.

Further Disclaimer:
Ask A RPGSupersuccubus (still with half an eye on Lord Orcus) would (again) like to clarify that mortal voters should probably rely on more than just her own (impeccable) assessments in making up their minds on how to vote. Thank You.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Ask A RPGSupersuccubus wrote:
There is, of course, a demon-lord known as 'Kostchthckie, The Deathless Frost' with strong ties to Irrisen.

Having not heard of this "Kotchthckie" before, I Googled him to see if he was a real part of Pathfinder/D&D mythology. I discovered that not only is he a real demon-lord, but his name was directly inspired by a villain of Russian folklore named...Koschei the Deathless. I'm impressed by Sean's integration/interpretation of a rather cool sounding mythical archetype.


Great job, this is the first one I`ve read that made me immediately think `Superstar`.
Judges already brought up the issue with flying over the maze (which is so low, even Jump spells would suffice). The best solution here IMHO is having the walls `sense` over-head passage (perhaps a high Knowledge: Nature check could reveal that no birds fly within 100` of the hedges), perhaps keying the effect to vertical cones above the `vine traps`, so that perhaps not ALL flying PCs would be affected (but that itself is a challenge, by splitting the party). The effect would be `vines reaching up and entangling the flyer, hauling them back down to ground level, buried within the Wall of Thorns`.
I also agree the difficulty could be amped up a bit...

Also, some sort of Confusion effect in the Maze seems reasoble, esp. at the higher Tier. You hinted at Undead aspects (mostly directly related to Kotschie and his Sisters, of course, which aren`t directly part of this encounter), and those also seem ripe for inclusion... Ghosts or Haunts emerging within the Maze, etc... (they can`t attack drinkers of the Marrow Wine?)

I would consider integrating Druids into the `mook encounters` at higher tiers (having them tactically retreat to add-on to subsequent encounters when possible, also informing the other `hunters` of the PCs` tactics), and Hoarfrost himself could be better buffed when he is encountered (courtesy his Druid allies). Maybe Half-Ice-Troll/Giant Templates, or wierd Fey Templates could be added as well (to Hoarfroast and/or his `Lieutenants`).

All in all, still very superstar... I hated your Wondrous Item, but all the rest of your work has been top-notch, so I have no problem saying you can go all the way this year!

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka motteditor

I'm having a lot of trouble making my decision this round, as none of the entries are leaping out at me, but I think this has got my vote.

However, I think it's the "jury nullification" vote of the round, as I'm not super enthralled with the map or encounter. However, the part about Koscheii and the Scarlet Doves was well enough done that I want to see what you can do with an entire adventure pitch (and honestly, I'd be happy if it'll involve this location and those new characters). Plus, I loved Rosiline...

As for this map itself, I kind of loath mazes. I think they're usually just a pain-in-the-butt mapping exercise for GM and players. However, by having the attacks going on through the hedges, you add an element of immediacy. Run the whole thing in combat stages, and it's going to matter a lot more how the PCs get through it and trying to avoid wrong turns. Yes, there are problems with people able to fly over it, but I think those can be dealt with (or just run the area at a lower level.

I do like what you've got of the keep itself, and thought it was a nice touch that the key told us what area the stairs lead up/down to, even though we don't have the maps with those areas. I'm wondering if we'll get to see those areas or if they're just in your imagination at this point?


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

I like this, the "kremlin" name is fine and interesting and the location is interesting. It does need some kind of anti-fly-right-over-it protection, and the party level should be lower - but that's a change made with the stroke of a pen, that's not the hard part. I like it more than a lot of the other entries which may be mechanically sounder but less interesting. I do have some issues with the writing style though, but nothing some copyediting won't fix.

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka Boxhead

Does the villain match the location/encounter/minions

Hoarfrost Throat-Tearer in a Russian fortress in Irrisen? Ok, cool. Oh, wait, he's guarding the garden. Hmph. With worgs and rage worgs. Hmph.

Is the location cool?

Fortress in Irrisen with hedge maze? Ok, seems odd. No ice in the maze walls? I see frost, but why do they spring up? Seems like a reasonable fit for a "fresh" location, but weird for the frozen north.

Is the encounter fun/interesting?

I love the idea of the fight in the hedge maze, but at the listed levels it just seems like it won't matter. I mean, according to the text, a fireball eliminates a 20-ft radius of it. Wall of thorns specifies that it takes 10 minutes, but the encounter doesn't; I assume it would work the same, but time usually doesn't matter to high level PCs.

Anything else?

The map's ok, but the kremlin seems a bit small. I had a huge problem with Koschei. He is already the mythical basis for Kostchtchie, a character in Golarion. As such, tying your Ogre Mage Koschei to the same source just made me draw correlation to the Demon Lord/Giant. That made it worse that he was an Ogre Mage with ogre minions. I probably can't vote for this, sorry.


Pros:

1) Good story.

2) Despite some above criticism, I think this might be challenging to the lower tier. Yes, the PCs have access to fly, but at this level it is unlikely that everyone in the group can fly. Splitting the party is exactly what the worgs want. Also, the fact that they can move through the hedges tips the encounter (just barely) into the challenging column. Without that, I don't think they would be a problem for the PCs.

3) There is just enough going on with the map that I don't think it is too cluttered, nor do I think it is boring. Good job.

Cons:

1) Too much story. While I enjoyed it, I thought it was too much focus on someone other than the R3 villain.

2) I don't think this would be challenging enough for the higher tier. Granted, this wasn't meant to be the final battle, but at 10th and 11th level, most (if not all) of the group has a way to avoid the hedges. As I mentioned above, the hedges are what tips the encounter into the challenging column. Take them away, and this is too easy.

I voted for you last round, but I'm torn on whether I can do that again this round.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6, Contributor , Dedicated Voter 2013

I did wind up voting for this one, but largely off the strength of prior work. It was a decent enough entry, and I wound up picking you out of the other two in contention off you having the best resume. Good luck in making it to the finals!

Star Voter 2013

Something I meant to mention in my other comment, was that this round was supposed to be an encounter that featured a villian from the previous round. I really only felt this encounter *countained* a villian from a previous round, and while containing is a form of featuring, they aren't really the same thing.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber

Sean,

I really enjoyed reading this encounter. I think Koschei and his sisters are very intriguing, and I really hope that they are part of an adventure proposal from you. I'd love to read more of your very evocative writing. I'd like to see what Koschei is all about (and his sisters for that matter).

I voted for you and really would like to see you win this. (Well, it's down to you and Cody... I've been pretty pleased with both of your works this year).

Good Luck with the voting this round... although I'm reasonably positive you'll be in next round. :)

~Dean

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka motteditor

I think you could argue that while Hoarfrost isn't featured in what would be the larger adventure at the location, clearly, he's certainly featured in this encounter.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Steven T. Helt

I really enjoy tiered minions that lead us to a bigger, meaner villain, but I do think you dropped th ball her.e It is very hard to care about Hoarfrost at all in thie descritpion. I want the PCs to get through this encounter to get into it with something tougher and cleverer.

I think if you're gonna advance a monster, you have to change its stat block. The advanced winter worgs have better attack stats, saves and treasure. That's work you have to do for a GM purchasing your work. Even if you are only applying the advanced template, a few sgnificant changes in hit, damage and save only takes a few words. You can buy those words back with a simpler description of the Kremlin's origin and bringing Hoarfrost's predecessor down a notch, at least until later in the adventure.

I think being set in Irrisen and being a forlorn fortress in a harsh cold land, there ought to be at least one kremlin in Golarion. Nothingsays the denizens don't refer to all stone strongholds as kremlin in the adventure or setting.


Do like
* The backstory is very interesting and well written, for a different villain entirely. What it does do is make me want to know more about him. I am not sure however that the use of Hoarfrost as a minion of the main villain is in the spirit of this round's challenge. What this does do is give me ideas, so it isn't necessarily bad. This encounter does fit very nicely as an precursor of the far greater villain to come and the larger campaign to rid the region of an oppressive evil.

* The map is well done, it is easy to see where the hedges are and are not, as well as the locations of the other items. The legend clearly tells what the symbols mean and is not overly large.

* I do not have a problem with Hoarfrost being encountered in this place. I do agree that he is best thematically as a guerrilla type encounter. But perhaps we can suppose that he was tracked to his lair, this ruined structure with its magical defenses. The text does state briefly that Hoarfrost's job is to track down the people of the region if they attempt to escape.

Do not like
* Savvy adventurers, seeing they are in a maze will immediately seek a way around the maze. I like the idea someone suggested earlier of having the vines of the maze reaching out to snag would be levitators or flyers over it. Also it works to have the maze periodically change into a new layout, potentially separating party members. Divide and conquer is a well tested strategy that I think Hoarfrost could use in this instance.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

IndustrialMacabre wrote:
Hoarfrost, as a hunter, works in this scenario. I have no problem with it being an urban encounter for him. However, I do not see him as a lackey.

This is a good point. It doesn't hurt or alter his character or function, but it does hurt his dignity a bit.

In the absence of someone more powerful, I think a lot of truly great lackeys could stand alone as great antagonists, and vice-versa. But part of Hoarfrost's charm was his savagery, so casting him as obedient at all (even if he has a lot of autonomy do to what he loves best) may rub some the wrong way.

I feel it works fine, but I think that in some voters' imaginations Hoarfrost would rather die than follow orders.

moon glum wrote:


I actually like that its a kremlin (the Russian word for a fortress that occupies the center of a town).

For my own part, until I got to the comments under my own, I didn't actually know that. I assumed that the word referred to a rank or title and thought that the ogre himself was the "kremlin".

Conversely, if I had never heard the word before I would have gone straight to google and asked. So, maybe that does say something about avoiding real-world titles.

Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Hi Sean,

The hedge maze is a nice touch especially since the villains can effectively ignore it. I tripped up on some of the descriptions (decrepit and well groomed hedges?). What is the point of the tents? Story is strong & use of villains is appropriate too. I agree minion is good choice for building up the potential in the rest of the adventure. Nice job, & good luck!

Andoran

Sean -

As a GM and a player this scenario and encounter look great! I think there is some tweaking to be done with certain specifics (like PC's using flying magic) but the writing is fantastic and imaginative. I love the ambiguity of Koschei's marriages. Do they die? Does he kill them? Are we faced with a totally evil villain or a victim of a curse?

That's what I get anyway. Overall, really nice job and I hope you make it to the top 4!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013

I really like this Sean, despite some initial reservations. However, before we get to the good we must first brave the bad!

I have a few issues with your map, some are nit-picky and some are rather serious.
Nit-pick; I don't like maps where north is not generally up. If its at an odd angle it doesn't bother me, but if it's a 90 degree rotation you could have just as easily rotated the image rather than the compass, especially with a square map. When I look at a location map I always compare it to where it first in the world map, and if I need to rotate one to make the other line up it irks me a little.
Another nit-pick; there is no location 8, which I presume to be a simple omission as I guess its the room just above location 7, but this does show a lack of care.
Serious; your map key references areas 11 and 16, which are clearly not here. This makes me feel like I'm missing something, which in turn makes me feel like I'm short an extra map or it makes me feel dumb, like I'm not seeing that others are. There is absolutely no need to include these numbers, if you simply say that the stairs go up to a second floor balcony and down to a basement it'd be fine. The assumption would be that they are not relevant to this map, and therefore I don't really need to worry about them. To number them make them seem critical to the location, especially when they are no the next numbers in sequence. I'm asking myself: "what are locations 10 12,13,14 and 15? How do I get to them? Why are they less important that areas 11 and 16?"
Serious; Some of the rooms (4 and 8) are completely devoid of detail. Some shelves and a trapdoor down to a cold cellar would drink the pantry to life, and a statue, some suits of armor or some tapestries would do the same for the entry hall. Right now these are just big open rooms, and that sort of kills my suspension of disbelief.
Also, putting Hoarfrost in the employ of this Ogre Lord seems incongruous, since it's not mentioned at all in his description. If you had hinted that this was a recent development, and that he was employed because of his track record at hunting adventurers I could buy it. But to have him be a fixture in this regime seems to throw out his m.o. of kidnapping children and maidens to draw adventurers out.

And now after that dissection: The Good

Your writing is beautiful, it has great flow and is very evocative. I really like the Bigger boss here. His concept is really solid, his sisters and his history fit so nicely together. Casting your selected villain in a secondary role was a huge risk, but I think you totally nailed it. It makes the potential story much bigger than would be possible were he the only villain here, and his flavor fits nicely with the regime you've created.
Your location is also tremendous. When I was considering my own options for this round I strongly considered using Hoarfrost, and hedge-maze jumped right out at me as the place to be. Glad to see someone else saw it too. While I agree that the maze seems very easy for PCs of this level to destroy, I think you used the trap laden maze concept very well. Your mechanic for splitting the party, as well as your means of allowing the monsters greater freedom than the PCs are very sound. I really like the image of the fountain and it's effects.
In all you really managed to cultivate a feel of dark fairy-tale with this location without fretting over mechanical execution. Hedge-mazes that spring into being, rooms that regenerate when their Lord is present, it's all very cool.

You've got my vote. Best of luck !

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