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Isgeri Blood and Orphans’ Tears


Round 5 - Top 4: Submit a full adventure proposal

1 to 50 of 66 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Jatori

Isgeri Blood and Orphans’ Tears

Introduction

An urban, investigative adventure designed for four 4th level characters, Isgeri Blood and Orphans’ Tears takes place in the Isgeri town of Logas. Using the fast XP advancement track, the characters should reach 5th level by the end of the adventure.

The Goblinblood Wars left many Isgeri children orphaned. In the years since the war ended, unchecked banditry and the growing presence of undead throughout the land have done nothing, but add to the ever-growing number of homeless youths. Only the church of Asmodeus responded to the crisis; establishing monasteries across Isger, offering food and shelter to the orphaned children. Those taken into these orphanages found themselves indoctrinated into the faith. Many of them aspire to join the priesthood, the Hellknights, if male, or the Sisters of the Golden Erinyes, if female.

Agents of the Asmodean faith have little trouble gathering up the homeless children and orphans that find their way to the city of Logas. The offer of a warm meal and bed are often enough to lure a hungry child to the monastery orphanages. However; the children of Logas have recently begun to avoid the church and its clergy. There has even been an increase in the number of cases of children attempting to escape from the local monastery and return to their lives on the streets. The orphaned children of the street now sing a strange rhyme referring to The Lady, the orphans’ protector, and Kasteron, who punishes those that would harm the orphans. Since the rhyme was first heard, a priest of Asmodeus, directly involved with the orphans, has been found murdered.

Isger is a country filled with opportunity for adventure. The PCs may be visiting the country, and find themselves stopping in Logas, for any number of reasons, including:

  • Isger's economy relies on the trade routes that run through the country, connecting the wealthy markets surrounding Lake Encarthan to those based around the Inner Sea. PCs may find themselves crossing Isger as part of a mercantile endeavor, as caravan guards, couriers or as entrepreneurs.
  • The Sisters of the Golden Erinyes, an all-female Asmodean monastic order, base themselves in Isger. The sisters practice their own unique martial art known as Hamatulatsu. PCs, especially monks, looking to learn more about the style may attempt to visit one of their monasteries.
  • Undead infestations threaten areas of Isger. The Isgeri government is offering rewards for any meaningful assistance. Logas provides an ideal opportunity to resupply before heading north to wight-infested Finder's Gulch or south to the quarantined zombie-filled village of Gillamoor.

Part 1: Arrival at Logas

The Goblinblood Wars may be over, but the goblinoid threat still lingers, within and below the Chitterwood. While en route to Logas, the PCs encounter Kalvik and Dalith, merchants from Druma. The merchants are happy for the company, since it has been a number of hours since they last saw any of the highway patrol. While traveling with the merchants, the PCs get the impression that something watches from the woods. The watchers are in fact goblinoid scouts, acting as spotters for a group of hobgoblins some distance further down the road. The hobgoblin raiders have set an ambush for travelers. The raiders begin their attack by igniting a line of prepared flammable material across the road, in an attempt to separate the group. This combat will involve defending innocents while facing a tactically minded foe with superior numbers, attacking from multiple directions. To make matters worse, the merchants’ horses, not trained for combat, are prone to panic and bolt.
If either Kalvik or Dalith survive the encounter, they promise to reward the PCs once they reach Logas. If both die, it does not take long before the PCs encounter the Isgeri highway patrol. The patrol offers to help with the dead merchants and transporting their cart, so that it reaches Kalvik or Dalith’s estates.

The City of Logas (LN large town; population 4300)

Isger is located dangerously close to the Chitterwood. Rows of fresh goblinoid corpses hang from pikes along the town’s walls. Every now and then, seemingly at random, a trebuchet hurls a large rock, from behind the walls, into the forest.

Isger is a large town, bustling with activity, but there hangs a constant sense of unease and nervousness about it. The frequent firings of the trebuchets are a grim reminder of the dangers that lurk just beyond the town’s walls. As the PCs move through the town, they will have opportunity to learn the following with a Diplomacy (gather information) or Knowledge (local) check:

  • There have been three brutal murders recently baffling the local guard. A baker, a child-catcher from the orphanage and, most recently an Asmodean priest are among the victims.
  • There has been a recent increase in goblinoid ambushes along the Chitterwood’s borders.
  • The orphaned children of Logas can be heard singing a new rhyme as part of a game that only they seem to understand. At this point of the adventure, the PCs have the chance to hear the first part of the rhyme:

Lady keep me safe this night
Far away from goblin sight
Lady keep me safe in bed
Hidden quiet, warm and fed

While the PCs explore Logas, a boy bumps into and attempts to pick the pockets of one of the PCs. If the theft is spotted, the boy will attempt to run and a chase through Logas will ensue. If the PCs fail to notice the theft, once they do learn of the theft, possibly much later, a successful Diplomacy (gather information) check can tell them who the likely culprit may be. The PCs can then track the boy down, whom, when confronted, will attempt to run.

Chase through Logas: Chasing the boy takes the PCs through Logas’ small market area, a poorer neighborhood, between lines of laundry, until he reaches one of the his many hiding holes.

Barely an adolescent, the boy, named Warrim, is one of Isger’s many orphans. Almost any of the chase witnesses can tell the PCs that the boy belongs in the Asmodean orphanage. If the PCs require additional motivation, a Logas local can suggest that there may be a reward for returning Warrim to the orphanage. If the PCs fail to catch him, the local guard captures Warrim when he attempts to fence his stolen goods. Once informed of his capture, the PCs may collect their property from the Logas Asmodean temple. If the PCs capture Warrim and then let him go after retrieving their property, they are later called to the Asmodean temple since they are now considered friends of the orphans. If the PCs do not manage to meet any of the above criteria, news of their earlier battle against the hobgoblins will eventually reach the temple, who will then seek them out based on this news.

Part 2: The Devil You Know

Brother Aleric (cleric of Asmodeus 5), currently the most senior member of the Asmodean clergy in Logas, oversees the running of both the temple and the attached orphanage. He thanks the PCs for returning Warrim safely, if applicable, and invites the PCs to listen to a proposal.

Aleric informs the PCs of the strange behavior recently displayed by the orphans, both those in the orphanage and those unfortunate enough to remain homeless. The orphans now believe that life on the street is better than the life offered by the Asmodean faith. There must be some truth to it, since hunger normally brings the children willingly to the temple. Under different circumstances, this would not have concerned Aleric, but the recent behavior of the street children and Essana’s death are definite cause for worry.

Aleric asks the PCs to investigate the matter, citing that they stand more chance, than the Asmodean clergy or Logas guard, at successfully engaging the orphans in conversation. Warrim is a known bully and not popular with most street children; his recapture by the PCs does little to harm their investigation.

Though Aleric acts as if the children are his only concern, he remains a cleric of Asmodeus. The recent events in Logas threaten his standing and reputation within the church, and perhaps his own life, should he be targeted to share Essana’s fate. If needed, he will not hesitate trying to manipulate the PCs, using whatever information he has on hand.

Part 3: Investigation

The adventure now becomes an investigation, with the PCs gathering the clues necessary to track down the source of the orphans’ strange behavior and potentially Essana’s killer. This part of the adventure allows the PCs to learn more of the orphans’ mysterious protector and avenger, told from their point of view.

Speak with dead:If the PCs think to ask, or require additional direction, Aleric can cast speak with dead (CL 5) on Essana’s corpse, allowing the PCs to ask the corpse two questions. Essana worked directly with the orphans and played a large role in their education. Known as a strict and cruel taskmaster, few of her students, if any, liked the woman. If questioned about her death, Essana explains that the murder took place in one of her classrooms. Essana’s description of the murderer paints a disturbing picture – a faceless man, with badly burnt forearms, hands, lower legs and feet.

A successful Heal check reveals that she was bludgeoned to death with a heated object, as evidenced by several burns.

The orphans: The PCs cannot hide their relationship with the Asmodean temple for long. The investigation may become more difficult as it progresses, unless the PCs take steps to distance themselves from Aleric and his clergy. For every orphan the PCs return to Aleric, excluding Warrim, decrease the starting attitude of all other orphans by one level.

During this part of the investigation, PCs will have opportunity to interact with multiple NPCs, each requiring a different approach. If successful, the PCs will begin to piece together the unique folklore that the street children have created for themselves:

  • The orphans believe that a kind, benevolent, motherly spirit looks after them and leads them to sources of food and safe hiding places. They refer to this spirit as The Lady. The Lady makes none of the demands that the Asmodean church enforces on those in its care. She only wishes for the children to grow up into kind, loving people. If you know The Lady’s real name, you can call for her and she will fly to you, wherever you may be. However, only a select few of the older children know her real name.
  • The orphans also talk of a protector that makes the adults listen and behave as they should. The protector is called through singing the rhyme, which allows him to read the minds of the singer and identify the bad adults.

Of the many orphans that the PCs may meet, a few are able to offer more information:

Warrim: Warrim does not really understand the songs and games of the younger street children, but he can be convinced to tell the PCs where they can begin looking. Warrim is also very vocal about his dislike of the Asmodean orphanage, freely listing many reasons.

Carmin: Carmin, only seven, believes that she caused the baker’s death. The baker, Mister Olvus, was known for giving day-old bread to any orphan that came looking. Carmin remembers accidentally thinking of a tasty biscuit, which Mister Olvus gave her as treat once, while singing the rhyme the day before he died.

Pontius Rat: Pontius believes that his current financial situation is little more than a minor setback. His great-aunt should be coming down from Elidir, any day now, to return him to the life he deserves. The boy tries to give the impression of class and dignity, but the local slang keeps finding its way into his speech. Pontius witnessed the murder of Varx, the child-catcher – the man once responsible for rounding up the street children. Pontius does not volunteer the information easily, but, when he does eventually speak, his account matches the description given by Essana’s corpse.

Freia: Many consider Freia as one of the informal leaders of the Logas street children. Given her standing, she is not easily contacted. She only makes herself available at a later stage, once the PCs have proven themselves as friends of the children or to negotiate a truce, if the PCs are known to drag captured orphans back to the orphanage. As one of the older orphans, now nearly an adult, she originally thought of the concept of the two protectors. On a particularly harsh winter night, she concocted the tale in order to comfort the younger orphans. Freia based the motherly spirit’s character on a woman that looked after her when she first arrived, parentless, in Logas. The woman, Cataline, died while helping Freia and other orphans escape a fire that tore through parts of Logas towards the end of the war.

Freia never intended that the rhyme be anything more than a comfort for her fellow orphans. Many of the works attributed to The Lady are actually the result of Freia’s hard work. Since hearing about Kasteron and the murders, she has cried herself to sleep every night while calling for Cataline, The Lady’s true name, to come rescue her. Unlike Kasteron, Cataline never arrives. Freia will point the PCs towards Cataline’s house (see part 4).

The second verse: During their investigations, the PCs will have the opportunity to hear more of the children’s rhyme:

He hurt me, she hurt me
Kasteron hurt them back
Take them away
Kasteron hurt them back

A debt repaid: If Kalvik or Dalith survived the hobgoblin ambush, they seek the PCs out and pay them the promised reward. They are a useful source of grown-up gossip, which may or may not help put the conversations with the orphans into a proper context.

The monster beneath your bed: At some point during the PCs’ investigations, Kasteron, the Chitterwood Bogeyman attacks the PC that has most relied on threats when dealing with the orphans or, if no PC fits that description, he attacks the PC that has otherwise had the most interaction with the orphans. The Bogeyman will attack at night when the PC is most likely to be asleep. The Bogeyman’s unique physiology allows it to squeeze into the smallest of spaces, which in turn allows it to lie in wait beneath the victim’s bed or inside a cupboard. At this point, Kasteron does not push the attack for too long before escaping, preferring to use hit and run tactics against well-armed PCs.

New Monster - The Chitterwood Bogeyman (NE medium fey): Born within the dark reaches of the Chitterwood and given form by the nightmares of countless Isgeri orphans, Kasteron has adopted the children of Logas as its own. Summoned by song and rhyme, Kasteron hunts down those that threaten its new foster family.

Kasteron appears as a genderless, featureless humanoid with badly burnt and charred extremities. The joints of its long limbs bend at impossible angles, lending its movements an alien and frightening quality. The ability to discorporate into ash, burning or not, grants Kasteron access to secured rooms and a means of escape, if necessary.

Part 4: The House that Cataline Built

Several ruined houses, long ago gutted by fire, stand clustered together near the town’s southern wall. Many of the buildings show signs of occupation, either by stray animals or the undesirable element of Logas’ citizenry. One building, however, shows no signs of such activity and stands eerily empty.

Haunt: Cataline’s ghost still haunts the ruins of her old house. The ghost still believes that there are children that need rescuing from the fire that consumed her house. Her presence has turned the building into a haunt, which manifests as a ghostly fire. To destroy the haunt, and put Cataline’s ghost rest, the PCs must locate one of the fire’s lost victims, a child’s skeletal remains, and remove it from the building.

In the basement of the building, a collapsed wall allows access to a series of tunnels, once planned for goblin sappers during the Goblinblood Wars. Luckily, for the citizens of Logas, these tunnels were poorly constructed and a series of mistimed explosions and cave-ins cut off the goblins before they could bring down the town’s walls. Kasteron now lairs within the remaining tunnels and the PCs must venture through them if they hope to put an end to him.

Burning Skeletons: The remains of victims caught within the tunnels stalk the twisted passages. Animated by the same force responsible for Isger’s many other undead infestations, these skeletons also embody the fires that consumed the building above and part of the Chitterwood.

The Final Verse: During the exploration of the tunnels, the PCs will encounter a message carved into the walls of the tunnel:

Before you turn off your light
Better lock your cupboards tight, tight, tight
Kasteron's here
When you look under your bed
Scream in fear as you are dead, dead, dead
Kasteron's here

Kasteron: Kasteron relies on hit and run tactics, harrying the PCs throughout the tunnels, attempting to lead them towards the burning skeletons and other hazards of the tunnels. Defending its lair, Kasteron fights on until destroyed.

Treasure: Kasteron has a small horde of knick-knacks, taken from the citizens of Logas, including pieces of clothing, tools and a selection of children’s toys. Though most of the items are completely mundane, one child’s toy has been warped by Kasteron’s constant handling. The toy grants its carrier a small piece of the bogeyman’s power.

Conclusion:

With Kasteron defeated, the murders come to an end. Aleric is rightly pleased at the outcome and rewards the PCs appropriately. Some days later, children are heard singing a new rhyme, which, based on the PCs’ actions throughout the adventure, paints them either as the new Lady or Kasteron.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

First of all, congratulations on making it to the final round! That's an accomplishment in and of itself! My review of the proposal (as with the other three adventure reviews) focuses primarily upon how the adventure fits into the Inner Sea region, and how interesting the adventure sounds as a whole. I'm going to present feedback with very little sugar-coating as well, since I've always held that frank and honest feedback is more valuable.

Unless otherwise indicated, all of our adventures (Adventure Path or module) use the medium XP track. Not a big deal, really, since none of our modules are on a "budget" to ensure that there's enough encounters to level up a party… but good information to know nonetheless.

The Basics
Title: Good job avoiding the trap of the dreaded "of the" construction for titles. Alas, you fell into another trap; using a made-up word in the title. We all know what "Isgeri" means (at least, I suspect most of us do), but the average customer would not. More importantly, the distributors and buyers won't know. If this adventure wins, it'll need a new title. "Orphans' Tears" might work, actually, on its own… although that brings up the specter of "Kids In Peril," which is a tricky subject on its own (see below).
Location: Isger! Woo! Whether you realize it or not, you've set your adventure in one of the regions I'm personally most keen to explore that we haven't yet done much exploration of. That this adventure proposal makes excellent use of an established, but relatively undefiled, location is great.
Plot: Urban-based mystery adventure that takes advantage of established game lore. Very interesting! The adventure proposal is a bit confusing in places about exactly HOW the plot plays out, introducing NPC names without context and holding secrets from the reader perhaps a few paragraphs too long in places… but that's nothing that can't be easily addressed and fixed if this wins the contest.

The Good

Spoiler:

1) You have a good grasp on what kind of dangers face folks in Isger. Trouble with Cheliax. Goblinoid. It's war-torn. There's lots of undead. Displaying this knowledge in your proposal goes a LONG way toward convincing me you know the region well enough to write an adventure set there, and that's Very Important.

2) By setting the adventure in a relatively "normal" region, you can focus more on the adventure itself. You don't have to spend chunks of the adventure providing new rules or other supplementary information about things that aren't yet covered by the game. Wise choice of location.

3) This adventure has a good, pre-built region (Logas) to serve as a two-page encounter area on pages 30–31 of the adventure. Often, we need to build these elements at Paizo, but this one looks like it's got it already going in from the start.

4) Nursery rhyme element: This is really cool and fun. I'm kind of a sucker for this kind of element, and it's easy to write bad nursery rhymes. The rhymes you include in the proposal, though, are well written and don't fill me with the urge to re-write them at all… which is what usually happens when game designers include poetry in their adventures. (This is more the case with the first rhyme… the later ones aren't quite as good, but they're heading in the right direction.)

5) Investigation adventures are fun. But as we've recently learned in developing six of them for the Carrion Crown adventure path, they're also among the HARDEST things to write. Done well, though, they're really really fun. The adventure outline makes me think you have a pretty good handle on the mystery element of this plot… but it's still something to watch out for.

6) NPC Names: Naming NPCs can be tough. It's unfortunately easy to name NPCs things that are silly or sound accidentally profane or just don't sound appropriate at all. Your NPC names are all really quite good.

7) Interesting description of a bad guy—a man with hideous burns… but I'm afraid it feels a bit too much like Nightmare on Elm Street. I'll probably ask to have the murderer's description altered if this adventure ends up winning.

8) New Monster: The Chitterwood Bogeyman is an interesting monster. We'll probably need to work to change its name, since we actually have some plans for the word "bogeyman" in an upcoming product… but at the same time, it might be possible to dovetail this one into that project. That said… this monster seems like it might already exist—it feels kinda close to a choker or a faceless stalker. Maybe one of those monsters would be better suited for this role, which would open up the new monster for something else?

9) This adventure plays with a lot of expectations. That can be a good thing; the obvious bad guy at the start is the Church of Asmodeus, but that they're not is a cool twist. That said… maybe it's TOO cool of a twist… it's a little weird to tweak bad guy and good guy roles too much; see #9 of the "Not so goods" for more details.

The Not-So-Good

Spoiler:

1) Children in peril. This is an age-old trope, one that storytellers have used as long as there have been storytellers. Alas, it can be a tricky subject as far as RPG adventures go. We've done a lot of kids-in-peril plots before, to the extent that we try not to go there that often anymore if possible. That said, I think that you handle the "children in peril" theme pretty maturely in this proposal. It's something to watch out for, but I think you're on the right track here.

2) The "You meet some travelers on the road and join up with them" bit is kinda cliche. So is the "Start the adventure with an ambush on the road" trope. I'd rather see the adventure hit the ground running in Logas, with the PCs already in town. Avoiding the whole preliminary, and largely unnecessary, ambush scene gives you more words to spend on the actual adventure.

3) The adventure's start feels a little rocky. It's certainly intriguing, having a cleric of Asmodeus hire the PCs to help them find missing orphans, but it's also tricky. You'll need to make sure that there's a way for characters who DON'T want to work for the church of Asmodeus to start the adventure. It looks like there are several ways… but still… getting this adventure going seems like it's gonna be a little tricky.

4) Who's Essana? The adventure proposal just drops her name in there without any introduction. Is she a dead orphan? A dead headmistress from an orphanage? A prior Asmodean priestess? Is she one of the recent murder victims? It certainly reads like she's the murdered Asmodean. This same problem pops up with Cataline; she kind of comes out of nowhere, but at least you explain her role fast so it's not that confusing.

5) Casting the priesthood of Asmodeus in a non-confrontational role is a risky move. Remember that to most adventurers, Asmodeus is the bad guy. It's probably best if the adventure presents two possible affiliations for the PCs to work for/represent; the Asmodean church OR Logas itself. If you only pick one… it's best to go with Logas. Forcing the PCs to work for or with the Asmodean church is a great way to tell a lot of PC groups "This adventure's not for you, since you're not playing evil characters."

6) The speak with dead element is interesting… but it's not something the PCs can do at 4th level. Placing such an important bit of clue-gathering in the hands of an NPC is not good; it removes the PCs from the spotlight. I'd much rather have the body mangled to the point where a speak with dead spell wouldn't work anyway; this way, the PCs aren't forced to sit sideline on an obvious line of investigation.

7) Seems like there's not a lot of monster variety for the PCs to fight. That's probably okay for most of the adventure, but when the PCs move into the haunted house and the old tunnels, there should be more things to fight. Maybe even some hobgoblins?

8) I'm a little confused at how the Chitterwood Bogeyman works, and how he's the main bad guy of the adventure. Putting his entry at the end of part 3 might have been partially responsible for the confusion, since it makes Cataline's ghost seem like it's supposed to be the main bad guy.

9) Good bad guys and bad good guys. This adventure messes a bit with expectations, putting bad guys (the church of Asmodeus) in the role of allies and good guys (Cataline, a woman who protects children and still tries to do that in undeath) as bad guys. Kinda weird. It'd be a bit more compelling to me if there were a way to, perhaps, turn things back on the church of Asmodeus.

10) Kasteron feels like he WANTS to be a really neat, memorable bad guy, but he needs more background and more personality, and frankly, he needs a bigger role in the adventure. To a certain extent, Cataline steals a fair amount of his thunder.

Final Thoughts
This is a very strong proposal. My only major concern is that the church of Asmodeus is painted in too friendly a light. They probably should NOT be the primary group that the PCs are expected to work for. It's okay if they're presented as a creepilly friendly group that the PCs might have to interact with on the road to solving the mystery, but making them the ones the PCs work for is a recipe for player revolt.

Of the four adventure proposals, this one is easily my favorite. You really have a great grasp on the feel of Isger, and your adventure feels like it'll fit in a 32 page 4th level adventure very well. And on top of that, it's not a completely over-the-top premise, which is refreshing. It'll need a different title, and I'll want to see a MUCH more detailed outline that addresses some of the confusing elements, and I'm not convinced having the Asmodean church not be the bad guy is a good idea… but overall, this adventure proposal looks VERY promising. It certainly feels the most appropriate for a 4th level adventure of all four of the proposals.

Paizo Employee Developer

Well Jerall, this is it: round five. Reaching this point is an accomplishment in and of itself, and you should be proud to have made it this far regardless of the outcome. Win or lose, you’ll be writing an adventure for Paizo, be it this proposal or a future Pathfinder Society Scenario, so congratulations on that! Now let’s see what you’ve done with your final challenge of RPG Superstar 2011. As the developer who handles both the Pathfinder Society and Pathfinder Module lines, I’ll be looking at this from the perspective of the guy who has to fix your mistakes and turn the adventure from an A– to and A+ before it goes into edit and print.

Spoiler:
Title: Definitely this adventure’s weakest element. First, the average gamer scanning the shelves at the store isn’t likely to know what Isgeri means. They’re going to think, “I must need to know more than I do for that book to be useful to me,” and move on. Title fail. Even if they read the whole thing, orphan’s tears are sad, not fun. I want an adventure about being a hero, not helping console a poor, parentless child. Title double-fail. Now luckily, titles are easily changed, and we would certainly bounce a few ideas around in-house or ask you to do so if this wins, cause we couldn’t publish this with the proposed title.

Location: Isger, one of the many oft-overlooked landlocked nations of central Avistan. Good choice. There’s a lot going on there, and you seem to have picked up on those and blended them together fairly organically. Logas is also a great place to set this, as it already exists on the map, and any chance we get to develop an existing dot before we add a new one is a chance we’re going to capitalize on. Just as Matt Goodall’s adventure allowed us to expand on and explore Niswan in Jalmeray, this would be an excellent use of the location appendix on pages 30–31. It’s also a small enough city that a short adventure like this can really do it justice without feeling like only half the city’s been detailed for GMs or players that want to explore it beyond the scope of the adventure.

Themes: While I’m generally in the “no child endangerment” camp as far as adventure design or development goes, this one seems handled very maturely, and in a way that it’s not really even the children that are in danger. I mean, they’re already orphans, and that’s established for Isger, so you’re not just taking a character that could be any age and deciding to make them a child orphan to make them vulnerable. It’s the adults that their rhymes end up killing by summoning Kasteros who are really endangered here.

There’s also the creepy nursery rhyme theme, which I love. Adding little bits of life to the setting really helps make Golarion seem like a real place, and having them play such a vital role in the adventure drives home just how creepy some real-life nursery rhymes can be. I’d love to see it actually play a larger part in the adventure and investigation, perhaps even influencing the title in some way. Death’s Rhyme or something like that. Just spit-balling, of course. Anyway, cool way to tie the horror elements of the adventure to the prevalence of children.

Encounters/Challenges: There’s not a lot in here for combat PCs to do. There’s the fight at the beginning (see below) and then some fights at the end, but most of the adventure as proposed is a social character’s game. There are plenty of opportunities to put in combat encounters as part of the adventure, and I’d liked to have seen more of that, but they’re easy enough to add as you write if you know you need to. As far as the encounters themselves are concerned, they all seem fairly level-appropriate, though 4th level PCs can’t cast speak with dead, so it probably shouldn’t be in there at all. The same way you wouldn’t put them up against a CR 12 dragon that they have to watch a higher level party of adventurers fight, don’t give them a challenge that they need to watch someone else solve. Let the PCs be the hero, is what I’m saying.

Scope: 4th level is about when PCs should start making an impact on the local scene. Before that it’s menial adventuring saving a farmer’s crops from goblin scavengers or clearing the town’s stores of dire rats. Now they get to start putting down serial killers and saving the town from riots or invasion or such. And you do a great job of allowing the PCs to solve a single mystery here, gaining them significant prestige in the city, with the potential to keep moving up from there. Great scope for an adventure of this level. Kudos on that.

Format: The town of Logas makes a perfect choice for the 2-page appendix for the back of the module, so you chose well in setting the adventure there. I also see a clear new monster candidate in the Chitterwood bogeyman, though the name would likely change to something less region specific. A whozitwhatsit could exist in any dense, goblin infested forest, for example. It makes it more useful to GMs who might not be running this specific adventure.

Specifics: This adventure should really start with the PCs already in Logas. The ambush on the road seems distracting and doesn’t help tie the PCs to the actual plot. If they’re already in Logas, either natives of visitors who’ve been there a while, they will be more likely to feel connected to the people there and to want to stop the murder of locals and the problems affecting the orphan population.

I like the idea that the ghost of the benevolent woman is still helping the orphans in death, but she should mistakenly take the PCs for a threat to her charges and be a combat encounter, or not be the focus of the final location. Kasteron’s cool, but should probably be encountered elsewhere, as he feels like an add-on.

The PCs should also have several lines of investigation each step of the way. Charting the options as a flow-chart is a great way to handle investigative adventures and are a must, as they are the toughest to write and develop. I’d also like to see a hook that didn’t involve the Church of Asmodeus, as a lot of PCs will simply see that as the bad guys getting what they deserve.

Perhaps the most important bit of feedback I can give on this proposal is this: don’t hold back information from the GM (or judge, in this case). While saving the big reveal for a big Wow moment is cool for the players, those reading the adventure should see all the cards on the table from the very beginning. Thus, we can see the big picture as we read about the different clues and such along the way, knowing the whole time what the endgame holds. It shouldn’t be outlined at the end of the adventure or even the end of the overview, that The Lady is a ghost and Kasteron is a bogeyman. These should be prominent parts of the introduction and should be the spine to which all the other story elements are grafted.

Final Thoughts: This is a strong proposal with a few fixable elements. The title would definitely need to change, but other than that, you show an understanding of the setting as well as how to craft a good low-level investigation. Making an adventure like this fun for all types of characters and players is a challenge, but I’m pretty sure you could handle it. Now let’s see what the voters think, shall we?

Best of luck, Jerall. I look forward to working with you in one form or another in the coming months.

CEO, Goblinworks

Recommendation:

Not recommended for advancement.

What I see On the Shelf:

A module with a title that means little to me but hints at endangered kids. Historically, that trope sells really poorly.

How do I illustrate that title? Studies show that a huge percentage of the reason people buy products is because of the cover presentation. The villain isn't an orphan and when confronted there's no orphans present. And I'm certainly not going to have a cover featuring some scared little kids.

This is a key difference between a Pathfinder Society adventure and a commercial product. The former doesn't require much in the way of shelf presentation and many people will play it just because its available or the only scenario offered at the right level. The latter has a much higher bar - and that's the Superstar Bar.

You didn't clear it.

What's the GM load:

This adventure could be run with a fairly limited prep. It will work for parties of varying types. It could be scaled down to to 3rd or up to 5th level fairly easily.

That's good design.

Will the players enjoy this adventure:

In a word, I think "no".

First, the use of the Asmodeans is a big red flag. Either you have to impose a GM anachronism to just tell the players "its OK, they're Really Really Really not the bad guys I promise" (and even then some players will refuse to believe it), or you'll be coping with a constant stream of paranoia directed at the wrong target, leading to endless red herrings and time wasters. Inexperienced GMs may eventually give in and warp the plot so the Asmodeans are the source of the troubles just to stop wasting time.

Second, the Thinkers will be driven nuts with the rhyme. They'll want to know all the verses (especially once they know there's at least two). They'll parse it for anagrams, hidden codes, and other clues. Every. Single. NPC. They. Encounter. will be asked about it. Every kid they meet will be interrogated. The less they get from it the more frantic they'll be.

Third, what are the Power Gamers doing throughout most of this adventure? They fight some hobgoblins in a no-connection boring road ambush. Then they sit around waiting for someone to hit while a lengthy investigation involving children (who they're really not supposed to hit) goes on. Eventually, someone gets attacked by the villain (but the module stipulates a person who is unlikely to be the Power Gamer, and if they're in separate bedrooms the Power Gamer may miss the fight altogether).

Then more investigation and finally a fight at the end. Kasteron "relies on hit & run tactics", but I assure you that the frustrations of the Power Gamers (and probably the Thinkers) are going to be vented on him and its highly unlikely he'll be able to escape the first time he strikes.

In fiction, this would be a tight, suspenseful story. You'd become vested in these children as they try to find a space between scary forces beyond their control. You'd want to assemble clues slowly as you try to out-guess the author. And then there's be a tense, cat & mouse game under the ruins of the burned neighborhood ending in a satisfying conclusion.

In a roleplaying game, this scenario could tear apart a group. That's a bad thing to sell into a disintegrating market.

What do I take away from this:

Virtually nothing. There's no meaningful new magic items or generically useful monsters. The location is generic. The NPCs are either dead or cardboard. There might be some value in continuing the stories of the older children but that's totally GM dependent.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Welcome to the final round, Jerall! It's been a pretty long journey and I hope you've had a lot of fun along the way. For the adventure proposals, I decided to break my commentary into two halves. The first assesses your pitch...meaning, how well you sold your ideas within the proposal itself. The second assesses your implied adventure and whether what you've presented here includes all the relevant pieces to hopefully make a great Pathfinder module. That's really the ultimate goal. And that's what the voters will select (i.e., the adventure they most want to see published so they can play it). So, with that in mind, let's get down to business...

Feedback for: Isgeri Blood and Orphans' Tears

Spoiler:

The Pitch
Okay. This is the part where you need to sell your idea. You have to present all the relevant information to help us understand what you plan on writing if given the opportunity. And you need to make sure your proposal meets all the requirements according to the rules...i.e., just enough material so it will fit in a 32-page module, includes a new monster, has appropriate encounters (and a villain) for 4th level PCs, etc. All of those prior rounds of the competition hopefully developed a sense of these things for you...as well as any self-study you might have done by reviewing Paizo's other modules.

First, I have to say I'm not a fan of the title. "Isgeri Blood and Orphans' Tears" just doesn't scream Superstar module to me. As some of the other judges have pointed out, it's not going to capture the imagination of anyone browsing the bookshelf. It just doesn't conjure up interesting images in the reader's mind. So, you need to revamp it if you take the prize. Personally, I think you need a name that either highlights your adventure location or your adventure's villain (not so much his name as a title or description). That'll stick with the reader and help them get some idea of what your adventure is about.

Setting that aside, I think you've actually got one of the best presentations among the four proposals. It's structured well. You've tapped some very useful (and under-utilized) elements of the campaign setting. You gave multiple hooks to get the PCs involved (though, I'll admit I wasn't crazy about all of them and kept looking for something stronger). It's also a much more appropriate adventure for 4th level PCs than some of the others. To me, that lets me know you have a feel for what "plays" at the various levels of adventure design. I also like the creativity you invoked by describing the city of Logas for us...dropping in some information-gathering options...and the poetry involved in the nursery rhyme (though I'm normally not a fan of those). I thought there were some points in your pitch where it got confusing (e.g., Essana's death, identifying Cataline as the ghostly caretaker of the orphans, and Kasteron as the bogeyman). In an adventure proposal, you want to present names like these (and the role they play) as early as possible. Don't save them up until the end. And don't hide them from the reader (or the judges) in the interests of a "big reveal" down the road. In other words, lead with your best stuff.

I think this adventure has plenty of room for a 32-page module. It's very investigation-heavy, though. And the subject matter might not be all that appealing to most gaming groups. In some areas, I thought you needed more punch...more drama and cool, cinematic scenes and sequences to play things up. But, you've got an interesting mix of encounters...an understandable plot...and there's plenty of room for your developers to help you embellish and enhance these things in ways that will push this up another notch.

In terms of your new monster, I like that you feature it as your main villain. That'll certainly help make it more memorable. But, like James, I thought he needed something more potent to play up his villainy. More backstory. More refinement and polish. And something that would feature him a bit more throughout the adventure as the PCs gather clues about his murderous activities. Or, maybe give us a secondary villain (someone from the church of Asmodeus?) to whom he's connected to weave some further plot threads together.

The Adventure
In my advice for RPG Superstar, I've written before about five key elements in adventure design that Erik Mona and James Jacobs once shared at a GenCon seminar on "Writing for Dungeon Magazine" and I think they'll be a useful mechanic in assessing what you've proposed. Basically, they include the following: a memorable villain whose goals are a legitimate threat; a unique and interesting set of locales that provide for cool maps and memorable encounters; a compelling and interesting plot wherein the villain's goals become something the PCs will want to oppose; some interesting and entertaining minions who have a credible reason for working with the villain and existing/encroaching upon the set of locales; and an interesting and worthwhile reward that the PCs (and their players) will cherish for the rest of their adventuring careers. If you can achieve high marks in as many of those areas as possible, you could have a real winner on your hands. So, let's see how you measure up:

The Villain - Your villain is your new monster...a fey bogeyman based on the fires of the Chitterwood. I'm not exactly sure how (or why) the nursery rhyme summons him. But it's certainly creepy and fraught with the opportunity for lots of villainy. I liked the ability to discorporate into ash. That could be a lot of fun for showing him to the PCs in an early encounter and then having him fade away and slip through the cracks in the walls before a group of 4th level PCs can really stop him. On the negative side, I think you needed more backstory for Kasteron to help round him out. For instance, I would have liked to see him have some kind of history with Cataline and the fire at her old house...in addition to the Chitterwood...or even some kind of association with the church of Asmodeus (which also deals in hellfire). Personally, I think you could drop the fey angle entirely and reach for something a bit more devilish in nature (someone who made a pact with Asmodeus and gained some hellish power over fire?)...or even a cursed undead (an ashen wraith created from someone who burned to death, maybe?)...who feels some kind of kinship with the orphans (perhaps he himself was one before being burned or ruined in the orphanage?). Look for some stuff like that to weave a tighter reason for your villain to be...and to help make his goals a more prominent threat to the region that the PCs will want to oppose.

The Locale(s) - As Mark and James have both pointed out, you managed to do the smart thing (knowingly or not) by selecting a region of Golarion that hasn't been fleshed out too much yet. To me, that's Superstar. Rather than just drawing up an adventure inspired by what Paizo has already produced, you're blazing a new trail. That shows designer chops. And I respect that tremendously. I also like the map implications of your locale choice. I can envision Logas and the surrounding environs (including some portion of the Chitterwood), the town itself with the Asmodean orphanage including places throughout the city where the orphans fled/hide, Cataline's burned-out house, and eventually the partially-collapsed tunnels created beneath the city walls long ago by goblin sappers. Very cool adventure locations. Lots of potential for terrain effects, traps, haunts, and ultimately--memorable encounters. That's what you want in an adventure. And I can see that coming together for you.

The Plot - The plot still needs some work. It feels half-baked to me. Too much investigation and not enough combat. I think you need to spice things up by enhancing your villain's backstory. Give him a stronger reason for being in Logas and Isgeri. Same thing goes for the role the church of Asmodeus would play. I really think you missed an opportunity there. And, as James mentioned, a lot of players will assume the Asmodeans are the bad guy. Give them one. But make sure it's not the penultimate villain. Make it a secondary one that somehow contributed (consciously or otherwise) to Kasteron's existence and the orphans' decision to go back to the streets. Give the PCs a chance to interact with that guy, make him both a source of information (or mis-information) and a menace. The orphans should hate him. Same goes for Kasteron. Put them at odds with the PCs caught between. And that also goes to your adventure hooks. I think you need stronger reasons for the PCs to be there. I'd even go so far as to suggest having them focused on locating a specific orphan they've come to claim/return to some extended family member trying to reunite with them. Bottom line, I think you can do more here.

The Minions - Hmmm. This needs work, too. I didn't get a very good sense of conflict in your adventure proposal...which the other judges have cited as a general lack of combat. And I agree with them. I think a good adventure proposal (and adventure overall) needs to include at least three unique, interesting combat situations before the final confrontation. At least one to kick things off...and you tried to do that with the goblin/hobgoblin ambush, but that felt misplaced. I agree with James that I'd rather see you focus the action on the city right away. Forget the merchants and the travel sequence of getting there. After that, give them another combat encounter somewhere in the middle to test the PCs against some minions of the bad guy. And then a third combat that helps them establish the final clues to put it altogether so they understand the full extent of what they're up against. Then, take your adventure into the heart of enemy territory and Kasteron's lair. And give us another three distinct encounters that will take place there. I love the burning skeletons you've hinted at (maybe some of them are the same goblin sappers who perished in the explosioin that collapsed their tunnels?)...but give us something more to relish here. And make it memorable.

The Reward - The big pay-off in this adventure is the good deed of helping all the orphaned children. But I'm not sure that's enough. Sure, the church of Asmodeus might reward them, but would anyone really trust a "reward" from them? Most might think there'd be strings attached...or "contractual" obligations. I actually think you should go bigger with it. Drop something into your backstory and your adventure hooks that set the PCs up for a bigger gain. Maybe a new magic item that Kasteron is using to carry out his reign of terror? Or a benevolent item from Cataline? Or some longer lasting reward or recognition from the inhabitants of Logas? Or maybe all of these things? But turn it up.

Conclusion
For the most part, I like this adventure proposal...in that, I like how you pitched it and many of the design selections and choices you made. It's the best "scoped" adventure for the level requirement you were given. And, your designer chops in delivering on that, tells me you just might be the most "Superstar ready" competitor this year. But, as Clark once pointed out in the year I competed, it's not just about who's most "ready" for the title. It's about who proposed the best adventure. And, as Ryan pointed out, it's also about who proposes the most commercially viable (i.e., consumer-appealing) adventure. I'm not sure you've given us that (yet), but the voters will certainly decide.

Given that, I'm not sold on what you've given us here as the strongest overall adventure...and that's because it lacks some "oomph" in a few key areas regarding your villain's backstory and motivations...as well as the minions and other adversaries throughout the adventure. I also think the plot needs tightening up a bit to draw in Cataline and the church of Asmodeus more strongly into what's going on...i.e., not just part of the backstory, but they should also play an ongoing role in the adventure as it proceeds. I think that'll give the PCs (and players) more stuff to consider and interact with...whether in social situations or combat situations. A lot of this material, however, is stuff your developer (Mark) would no doubt work with you on. So, I have to balance that as I consider things.

In the end, I'm going to say that I DO RECOMMEND this adventure proposal for consideration as the ultimate winner of RPG Superstar 2011. But I'm going to do so by putting it alongside Sam's "Grasping at Shadows" as I think it provides more of the "oomph" I'm talking about in terms of actual adventure, yet it lacked some of the professional polish in presentation that you've demonstrated here in the proposal. It'll be very interesting to see which adventure the voting public favors the most. And I wish you the very best luck in the outcome. But, no matter how things turn out, I'm certain you'll make the most of this experience and your opportunity to design something new for Paizo.

My sincere two cents,
--Neil

Contributor

This caught my interest because I wrote the updates/expansions to the Isger section in the new campaign setting.

You actually don't explain who Essana is—the text says there is a murdered baker, child-catcher, and Asmodean priest, but your text later starts talking about Essana as if it's already explained that she is the murdered priest (which I was able to figure out from the context about her classroom and that you give the names and professions of the other murder victims).

I like your new monster, but the name isn't really exciting, especially if this is to be more than just a unique creature.

I think the PCs' motivations for getting involved in this adventure are weak. On one side, you have the orphans, who legitimately need help, but their first interaction with the PCs is to steal from them, which means the PCs are going to be annoyed by them. On the other side you have the church of Asmodeus, which is evil, and many PCs aren't going to want to help an evil church, even if that evil church is providing food and shelter for orphans.

The only real reason the PCs might volunteer to help is because an innocent baker was killed by this mysterious assailant--they probably won't care that the child-catcher is dead (orphans are jerks, taking kids to the devil-orphanage is pretty jerky, too) or the priestess is dead (devil-worshipers are jerks, and people who are mean to children are jerks). Even if Brother Aleric asks the PCs to get involved, the PCs are likely to say, "dude, you worship Asmodeus, I think you have bigger problems, maybe you should pray to Iomedae for help, as the Prince of Darkness doesn't seem to be doing a good job of keeping you Hell-lovers alive."

Even the bogeyman's reasons to attack the PCs are really suspect. Option 1 is he attacks the PC who's "relied the most on threats" when dealing with the orphans... yet ignores Brother Aleric and plenty of other people who probably have treated the orphans poorly. Option 2 is he attacks the PC that has had "the most interaction with" the orphans... which could be the PC who's been healing them and providing them food.

This uncalled-for attack means the adventure becomes, "okay, I'm annoyed at both sides of this issue, but now the monster is attacking us directly so we should kill it and get out of town... or maybe just get out of town and let these jerks figure it out on their own." And because he attacks and then flees, the PCs get a sense of what he can do, so when they confront him again in his lair (where he doesn't have any minions, just other incidental creatures he can lead them to for extra damage), it's basically an everyone-versus-solo-boss fight where the PCs have the right spells and defenses prepared, so he's going to die quickly.

To me, there's very little motivation for the PCs to get involved or stay involved, and the final battle isn't going to be climactic.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I have to say, up till this round I don't think I've voted for your entries. That said, I really liked this adventure proposal.

Good luck in the voting, Jerall.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

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

After reading the proposal, and then the judges comments, I think it would be good if this got developed into a module to have the PCs meet an ex-orphan (possibly even ex-hellknight or ex-hamatulatsu) - the interplay there might form an interesting counter-point and could be an alternate plot-motor.

Oh! And I like that at the end a new nursery rhyme forms that reflects the actions of the PCs. That's cool!

Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Jerall Toi wrote:


The Final Verse: During the exploration of the tunnels, the PCs will encounter a message carved into the walls of the tunnel:

Before you turn off your light
Better lock your cupboards tight, tight, tight
Kasteron's here
When you look under your bed
Scream in fear as you are dead, dead, dead
Kasteron's here

I have to re-read the proposal before I decide how I would vote, but I would like to point out that the first line is an anachronism (even in a D&D world), as there are no turn on, turn off style electric lights. It would feel better to say, "Before you put out your candle's light."


Having run "Crown of the Kobold King" I can speak from experience when I say that the Kids in Peril trope is one that many players find way too overdone. I liked the rhyme, but also must agree the wording of the first line doesn't work in Golarion.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka John Benbo

Ok, I already said on Sean's pitch that I broke my vow of silence. There is a lot of things I like about this proposal. I love the idea of the rhyme, the bogeyman, and everything going. Great stuff. Actually, Jacobs already mentioned the Nightmare on Elm Street theme with the villain. That ties nicely into the rhymes, and I wouldn't mind if the villain remained like Freddy, cuz Freddy is cool. In fact, I would like to see some of the people the PCs investigate die of "mysterious" circumstances right after the PCs talk with them. My one reservation with this pitch has already been mentioned by the judges, it needs to be rebalanced between investigation scenes and action scenes. Speaking of children, because I have a film degree, I always remember this one thing my nephew said to me when he was about six about movies because it struck me as so fundementally true and perfect and I hadn't even thought of it. We were watching Disney's "Three Musketeers" and he started getting fidgetty during the "slow" or nonaction scenes. So I told him more action was coming and he said, "So, there is action, and then some talking, and then some bigger action, and then a little talking, and then even bigger action?" I was like "Wow, at six years old, he deconstructed the perfect action movie." That is what this adventure needs, some action, a little bit of talking, and then bigger action, and some more talking, etc. until we get to the big action climax. I think after the judges comments, Jerral could make that an easy fix. Also, I actually like the name the most out of the four pitches.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
moon glum wrote:
Jerall Toi wrote:


The Final Verse: During the exploration of the tunnels, the PCs will encounter a message carved into the walls of the tunnel:

Before you turn off your light
Better lock your cupboards tight, tight, tight
Kasteron's here
When you look under your bed
Scream in fear as you are dead, dead, dead
Kasteron's here

I have to re-read the proposal before I decide how I would vote, but I would like to point out that the first line is an anachronism (even in a D&D world), as there are no turn on, turn off style electric lights. It would feel better to say, "Before you put out your candle's light."

Or just "Before you put out your light," which preserves the structure and allows for things like lamps and torches.


I like the adventure. It's the only one of the 4 that I can see my level 4 character handling, and having fun.


Ryan Dancey wrote:


Third, what are the Power Gamers doing throughout most of this adventure?

Who cares?

I really hope power gamers are NOT the subsection of the fan base anyone is interested in catering to above all others. I can suggest a lot of things power gamers can go do with themselves, but most cannot be politely stated.

There are a lot of very good criticisms about this proposal, by all of the judges. The Asmodean church is one everyone touched on that I completely agree with ... but really, how about we show almost no interest in the possibility of power gamers being bored by a campaign?

I really love a campaign that actually involves critical thinking or even some simple investigative guesswork on the part of the party. I don't at all feel that the inclusion of such an aspect into an adventure is a valid point of contention.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber

I have to agree with much of the above. I was reading along, waiting for the twist – and then there was none.

I really don't think either the GM or the players would enjoy this adventure proposal as written (they're killing the protector of the orphans? RLY?). Sorry, but that rules this proposal out of consideration for me, despite the fact that it is in principle a very nicely written outline with lots of good points.


Dumb Paladin wrote:
Ryan Dancey wrote:


Third, what are the Power Gamers doing throughout most of this adventure?

Who cares?

I really hope power gamers are NOT the subsection of the fan base anyone is interested in catering to above all others. I can suggest a lot of things power gamers can go do with themselves, but most cannot be politely stated.

There are a lot of very good criticisms about this proposal, by all of the judges. The Asmodean church is one everyone touched on that I completely agree with ... but really, how about we show almost no interest in the possibility of power gamers being bored by a campaign?

I really love a campaign that actually involves critical thinking or even some simple investigative guesswork on the part of the party. I don't at all feel that the inclusion of such an aspect into an adventure is a valid point of contention.

+1, I love what Dumb Paladin said and how he said it.

:)

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Dumb Paladin wrote:
...how about we show almost no interest in the possibility of power gamers being bored by a campaign? I really love a campaign that actually involves critical thinking or even some simple investigative guesswork on the part of the party. I don't at all feel that the inclusion of such an aspect into an adventure is a valid point of contention.

I couldn't disagree more with this statement. Ryan absolutely makes a valid point. It's an immutable fact that there are always going to be different gamers with different playing styles out there. And power-gamers are a subset of them. Whether or not you don't personally care for their playing style doesn't mean that a commercial product doesn't need to consider them as a part of the consuming public who buys and plays these adventures.

As a professional freelancer/writer/whatever, I think it's very important to consider every possible type of player that might use what you write for the game. I'd never advocate for writing an adventure that's purely meant to appeal to the power-gamer. But I'd also never advocate for writing an adventure that's purely meant to appeal to the thinkers who only want to solve puzzles, mysteries, and do a bunch of investigation. And I'd never advocate for writing an adventure that's purely meant to appeal to the character actors who only want to roleplay all night long and never pick up a set of dice.

Instead, it's far, far better to shoot for pleasing "most of the people, most of the time" when writing a commercial product like an adventure. Like it or not, the power-gaming community (or hack-and-slashers, call it what you will) make up a significant part of the gaming community. You want to give them opportunities to enjoy the game, too. So, you need to throw them a bone. Same goes for all the other playing styles. Thus, the way Ryan has assessed this proposal, by looking at it from the angle of every possible player, is very pertinent, in my opinion.

Put quite simply, he knows what sells. He's got a ton of experience knowing what sells...and why. If you want to go out and just write adventures for yourself and your group's preferred playing style, knock yourself out. But if you want a gaming company to only produce adventures oriented toward your preferred playing style, good luck convincing them to consciously trim their market by doing so. Like it or not, this is still a business. Not a series of vanity projects for individual playing styles.

Now, that said, there's nothing that says you mix things up and appeal to the majority of playing styles that are out there. And, there's nothing that says you can't experiment a little and produce an adventure with a signicant roleplaying element (say, the PCs having a chance to act out a stage play in Council of Thieves, maybe?)...but you also maximize your appeal when doing such an adventure by ensuring you include a decent dungeon crawl with some fights. And some puzzles and mysteries for the thinkers.

Let me put it this way. Paizo produces some of the best adventures in the game, period. I don't think anyone disputes this. It's their bread-and-butter. But they do so with an eye towards making sure there's something for everyone in those adventures. They experiment now and then. And they're especially good at listening to feedback from their customers who play these adventures. Then, they adapt accordingly. I think that's a wise approach. And, what Ryan has shared here is exactly the approach I believe they've been applying for some time now. Thus, I firmly support what he's shared here with his analysis.

My two cents,
--Neil


Neil Spicer wrote:
Instead, it's far, far better to shoot for pleasing "most of the people, most of the time" when writing a commercial product like an adventure. Like it or not, the power-gaming community (or hack-and-slashers, call it what you will) make up a significant part of the gaming community. You want to give them opportunities to enjoy the game, too. So, you need to throw them a bone. Same goes for all the other playing styles.

A fair point, only it doesn't seem as if many adventures cater for most of the gaming types. It seems more that the adventures are for power gamers, and yes, it's fun, but not something you need all the time. Although this could just be because of those I game with :)

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Dumb Paladin wrote:
Ryan Dancey wrote:


Third, what are the Power Gamers doing throughout most of this adventure?
Who cares?

Actually, I suspect that a lot people care. I know that I care a lot.

I run lots of games at conventions, and very few people are out-and-out power gamers - but virtually everyone likes to kick some butt once in a while. At 90% of the tables I've run for, I'd end up with 3/4 of the people zoning entirely while 1 or 2 players took over the whole thing and had a blast. The other ones would spend the entire game futzing around, chatting, walking off in search of food, texting, etc. - only paying attention for the combats.

Personally, I *love* investigatory adventures. Almost everything I write has a heavy "solve the puzzle/mystery/whatever" element, but it can't *just* be that or it bores even me. Most importantly, an adventure needs to have something for all the characters to do. What's a barbarian going to do here? Or a fighter? Or pretty much any character without lots of ranks in Diplomacy or Perception?

Plus, I completely agree with Ryan's comments about the riddle. Anything that figures that prominently should mean something, and it really doesn't mean much or give out much in the way of clues other than very, very subtle ones, if that.

This adventure, to me, feels more like a novelette and less like an adventure that people would actually play. I could see this being a great story. As an adventure, not so much.

Finally (and I'm donning my flame-retardant suit for this one), I'm getting completely tired of the "here, work with/for/in conjunction with/along side this guy/faction/creature that you'd ordinarily destroy in a second because they're evil" that seems to be such a trope around here. Can't we just have the bad guys be bad guys? I think I'm starting to understand James' insistence on undead always being evil.


My bleeding heart goes out to the orphans. I can't wait to help them.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Cassey wrote:
A fair point, only it doesn't seem as if many adventures cater for most of the gaming types. It seems more that the adventures are for power gamers, and yes, it's fun, but not something you need all the time. Although this could just be because of those I game with :)

I suspect that might be the case. ;-)

We all look through our own individual prisms when assessing the world (or an adventure proposal). That's okay. It's what makes us unique. Paizo (and any publishing company, really) has to widen their perspective if they're going to run themselves as a business that gets to keep on making gaming products for everyone. And, again, I think they do a really fantastic job of crafting adventures with the widest possible appeal. I'm also 100% certain, they'll help Jerall in development so this adventure does the same if he goes on to win.

Lastly, I want to point out that I recommended this proposal for consideration as the winning submission. Jerall's done a good job here with a lot of things. The judges' feedback (including Ryan's) is all meant to help make the end product better. And, as a future professional freelancer, that's what you want and should be looking for in such feedback.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
gbonehead wrote:
Finally (and I'm donning my flame-retardant suit for this one), I'm getting completely tired of the "here, work with/for/in conjunction with/along side this guy/faction/creature that you'd ordinarily destroy in a second because they're evil" that seems to be such a trope around here. Can't we just have the bad guys be bad guys? I think I'm starting to understand James' insistence on undead always being evil.

I'm on the other end here. The church of Asmodeus, as presented in Golarion canon, is not a church of constant blood-drenched rituals, virgin sacrifices and cat-swinging-by-the-tail. There is a reason why the church is the state-religion over numerous territories. This is not because they draw people in with their sadistic sermons.

The Asmodean church is self-serving. Certainly. But to that end it is interested in having a working and controlled society. Panic and excessive fears are counter-productive to its interest in the whole part - as those degenerate into chaos, which is anathema to the church. Their primary enemies aren't Sarenrae and Iomedae - they fight demons first and foremost. The church is the only one that cares enough to set up orphanages for crying out loud. Now. Nobody suggests that the church of Asmodeus in the proposal above is supposed to be likeable, or even "the good guy". But they are a powerful force of order within the city of Lagos.

Having an alternative quest-giver is a good idea, though, and it is also possible to spin the connection with the church in a different way: they might want to solve this "little problem" with devils and violence - and the PCs can try to persuade them to solve it without the need for that. That would also put a (soft) clock on the PCs, motivating them to move and solve - while still painting the church in a suitably Lawful-Evil light.


If canon says the Asmodean church is the big respected church in the area, then I think it was the right decision to try get players to work for them. Nothing stopping the spokesperson for the church being very charming and using the "think of the poor orphans" line to get the players hooked.

Also supporting this is that in character knowledge will acknowledge that the Asmodeans aren't all that bad (in the loosest sense of the word). They want to live in a lawful society just like everyone else even if they have their own selfish reasons. I think even a zealous paladin can lean towards helping the orphans BEFORE taking on the church which is state sponsored and rightfully there.

Star Voter 2013

I want to say that of all of the adventures, this one held my attention the best and made me want to play it. Or rewrite it like I do below, possibly both - but either way it held my attention, and that's the important thing.

This whole adventure has all the right set pieces to be an amazing adventure, but what you really need to put it over the top is a few more strings tying everything together. For instance, Cataline, Kasteron and the church are rather unconnected right now. The only thing doing so is the orphans.

Based on comments so far, I wrote up a short tie-together for everything that I feel the adventure is missing:
The church of Asmodeus is normally bad, but is trying to revise it's image as well as find new recruits by opening an orphanage. In the city, orphans are already cared for by Cataline, so they summon up a bogeyman to torch her house. But her desire to help the orphans is too strong, and she warps the bogeyman into something different - Kasteron as he exists now, an evil flaming bogeyman monster who is forced into helping orphans.

This single paragraph alone makes me re-examine the whole adventure, the motivations of all the NPCs involved, and the orphans all in all. And none of the major players change majorly in their motivations. This would also help to fix the issue with not enough combat, because it would nessicitate another series of encounters after the bogeyman to confront the church of Asmodeus.

Also, you need one more NPC in here, a good person (Freia even) who can act as the PCs quest giver, the person who wants to get things sorted out, and someone to take care of the orphans once the scene is done.

But all in all, this adventure is fantastic, and I loved it.


RonarsCorruption wrote:
Based on comments so far, I wrote up a short tie-together for everything that I feel the adventure is missing...

While you're right, Ronars, that the adventure you've proposed would address the disjointedness of the elements in this proposal, it's also fundamentally different from adventure proposal we've been asked to consider.

I liked Neil's breakdown because he evaluated the "oomph" of the proposals: the meaty, fun, memorable adventure that is there to be had. Basically, I'm more interested in the amount of that oomph in each of these proposals than I am in the needling details of the presentation, if only because I think that in working with the developers, the winner will really learn the polish of the presentation. It's the capacity to deliver on the oomph that, in my opinion, makes the writer a Superstar.

The problems that you've "fixed" are exactly where I see the oomph lacking, you know what I mean?


Hey Jerall, this is a top notch adventure proposal!

I think it fits well for a 4th level party of adventurers in scope and abilities needed. I love the twists in the plot and the investigative feel, but I agree that there does need to be some more fights for the more action oriented PC. I love the addition of the nursery rhymes and the rather creepy feel to them.

If you follow the advice given by James Jacobs and others on how to make this proposal into a complete adventure, it will be a very interesting and different one indeed. Some of the most important advice being, provide alternatives to players who do NOT wish to help the Asmodian church at all. BUT keep the ironic twist of the "evil" church actually helping orphans (for their own reasons per canon, obviously).

Personally, I love turning my players preconceived notions upside down. If the PC's get the wrong ideas and end up offing the wrong people before they uncover the truth, it could put them in danger from the church later on in their careers; not a bad adventure continuation concept in my own humble opinion.

At this point I think your proposal is my top choice. I will have to review all proposals again, several times before I choose.

Good Luck!


This is the first one I've read and I can easily tell that you're familiar with Isger. It's almost a safe place to use as it has hardly been touched and therefore has plenty of room to develop w/o trampling on existing canon. It's also the only one that feels just right four a group of 4th level adventures on their way into 5th. Incidentally, one of my campaigns I'm currently playing in is centralized right here in Isger and I took the liberty of sharing the link with the rest of the PCs and the GM (hi there folks, if you're reading this!) to help them better familiarize themselves with Isger. Obviously, the developers are noticing this too.

Here's the thing with the other three you're competing against. They've made an attempt to go gonzo with certain niche themes, but may have experienced trouble trying to dial it down specifically for a party of fourth level PCs whereas yours seem to play it safe to a degree. It lacks a bit of that oomph! as mentioned by others. On the other hand, it does make it an easy adventure to drop-in a non-Golarion campaign while staying loyal to the Golarion setting. The trick is this: what's going to be on the cover that's going to sell me to pick it up and read the synopsis to want me to throw down my money and run it?

Good luck!


Seemed like a "bar-bell" adventure. with some action on either end and a trail of bread crumbs in the middle.

While I appreciate the notes of what happens if the PCs don't follow the bread crumbs or miss out on some of the rolls. There is still a strong disconnect between what I think I would do as a character and what I would need to do to "solve" this adventure.

I did notice, assuming you fought the hobgoblins (I would imagine most parties would not stand for the "you are being watched form the forest edge" trope, they would charge in there and murderize the scouts, or attempt to do so, spoiling the ambush) everything else comes to you. are there other murders? or do you just sit around town talking to children for the devil priests until the boogieman attacks you? as written, we can hang at the bar and eventually we are attacked by Klastron. and really, what does kicking hobgoblin arse around have to do with the ability to talk to kids and find murderers? When I think of who I should hire to investigate the orphans problem (where they will need to be trusted by the orphans you are trying to recapture), I don't think of strange mercenaries of different alignment who happen to be just passing through. surely the Asmodians understand that their church is seen as wrong by other nations?

Likewise, there are NO clues from the adults? A recent fire? plus we can't hear the rest of the rhyme for a few days? that is the thing that would drive me crazy as a PC. I know there is information that is common knowledge, but it is being specifically withheld.

Breadcrumb trails like this just don't do it for me. As a GM or a player. You would have to hide the burned down house, you have to hide the rhyme, you have to hide older orphans. Investigations are good, but they need to be non-linear, and not feel like your pulling teeth at every turn. I see the party following the GM's leads around, and not really buying into the investigation. As they wander, and they will as there is no real sense of urgency here, he has to throw clues at them (some times violently) to keep them involved.

In regards to the church of Asmodeus... while evil PCs would be willing to help, it is difficult to imagine why others would assist them directly. I mean, really these murders seem like a good thing, right? I would be tempted to leave everything in place, and let the murder whip these priest's into line. In the end, what would we leave behind? an oppressive church and orphans who will be claimed by that church's priest. seems a bad ending all around.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013

Congratz on making the final four! Let's dig in.

First off, the title doesn't really grab me, though it doesn't really offend me either. It's a title, neither great nor horrible.

I haven't really looked into a lot of existing modules, but from what I've seen they seem to use the medium XP advancement, and to indicate that this uses the fast XP and still only results in one level makes me worry that I'm not getting much bang for my buck.

You also seem to be making some writing errors and some leaps may be mistakes, or may be you not seeing what others see because you already know what to expect. For example, in your overview of the town of Logas you repeatedly refer to it as Isger. Also, you reference a slain Asmodean Priestess, and later refer to a slain character by name, but if is not until several such references that I came to realize that they were the same person. Any opportunity for confusion is an opportunity to loose your reader.

On to content: I found my self repeatedly thinking "I wish there were more detail on this", which I'm sure would come in a finished product and needed to get clipped for space, but at the same time leaves too many question marks for me to confidently back the story. I think the core concept is solid here, I like the idea behind the boss monster and the backdrop of the burnt out old house, it's all very creepy. Unfortunately, you seemed to fall short on showing us how your adventure would handle errant PCs, which simultaneously giving as a story with a huge potential for getting off track.
First off I think you painted the church of Asmodeus as far too friendly and approachable. Most good PC's (especially paladins and good clerics) would abhor the idea of helping the church of hell, and to throw them in an adventure where doing just that is the right thing to do, albeit for entirely different reasons should lead to a crisis of faith that goes completely unaddressed here. If the church were more menacing, and the PC's had to grudgingly go there for information this would not be a problem, but you have the devil church presented like every other friendly church in every other adventure. It's a huge waste of potential and causes major problems for many adventuring parties.
The whole investigation thing is hard to pull off. I think there needs to be a lot of hidden railroading to keep the PCs on track, and even more to make them think that the solution is their idea, and not just something that fell, unfulfillingly, into their laps. While these elements may be present in the final product, and whether you have them in mind, it's immaterial is you don't show us here that you can keep us on track, and you didn't.
Most of this proposal focuses on the children side of the story, while the adult side seems to be very under emphasized. This is not strictly a bad thing, but given the child-centric angle you seem to be taking here I was really hoping for more of a Lord of the Flies, Children of the Corn, Village of the Damned sort of feeling, and you didn't really capitalize on it.

You've got a ton of great creepy here, but I think you spent too much effort on things that could have come later (like the rhyme), and not enough time generating the atmosphere you were hinting at.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber

Hi Jerall,

Congratulations on making it into the Top 4!

I think it is rather ironic that each of the competitors submitted an adventure for 4th level PCs. (Wow, what were the odds of that happening?)

While I like the title as is, I've got to acknowledge that James (Jacobs) has a point, the average person might not know what "Isgeri Blood" refers to at all. His recommended title change was good, but as he pointed out "Orphan's Tears" could be a "red flag" to others. I'd like to make a suggestion for anyone's consideration... why not "Of Blood and Tears" or even more simply "Blood and Tears."

Okay, beyond that, Jerall I'd like to say that I think your proposal can pull off what you set up. If I were GM-ing the Council of Thieves AP and my PCs were a little short on xp for some reason, I could "hook" them into this storyline (they are already in Cheliax, they just have a journey to make to get to Isger from Westcrown) and get into the adventure from there.

The judges have all weighed in and have noted all relevant things, so I'm not going to rehash any of that (and besides they all said it better than I ever could).

What I can say and add to this is the following: you have earned my vote. Good Luck!

Paizo Employee Creative Director

The_Minstrel_Wyrm wrote:

I think it is rather ironic that each of the competitors submitted an adventure for 4th level PCs. (Wow, what were the odds of that happening?)

Super high! Since that was one of the few requirements we put on this stage of the contest! ;-)

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
The_Minstrel_Wyrm wrote:

I think it is rather ironic that each of the competitors submitted an adventure for 4th level PCs. (Wow, what were the odds of that happening?)

Super high! Since that was one of the few requirements we put on this stage of the contest! ;-)

Ooof!... heh heh... thanks James... I was hoping to get my "mia culpa" in before someone among the "powers that be" noticed my blurb.

(At least I felt better about my gaff when reading your reply). :)

Jerall,

I'd like to apologize for not knowing my @$$ from a Round Five Rules... if I had then I wouldn't have asked such a stupid and obvious question.

Still voted for you.

Good Luck!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Jatori

Well, here we are - the final round. These last two months (3+, if you include the open call) have been quite the adventure. Thanks to everybody, judges and voters alike, that took the time to voice their thoughts about my submissions. As with previous rounds, I can't reply to any comments pertaining to this round until the polls close. Until then, I do hope that you consider voting for my proposal.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Location: Isger! Woo! Whether you realize it or not, you've set your adventure in one of the regions I'm personally most keen to explore that we haven't yet done much exploration of. That this adventure proposal makes excellent use of an established, but relatively undefiled, location is great.

+1 - I'm particularly keen to hear more about the hamatulatsu sisters!

Star Voter 2013

bravesirrobin88 wrote:
The problems that you've "fixed" are exactly where I see the oomph lacking, you know what I mean?

Oh, absolutely, but no first pass adventure is perfect. And many fully polished adventures are still heavily edited by DMs before or during play. This is just my take on this particular adventure, and I stand by saying this has got the highest potential.

Even taking out the proposed addition, this is still the best use of canon (by far) and the best use of a level 4 adventure out of the four of them (with grasping at shadows being a close second). Sure there's a few logic holes and reworks that would need to happen, but it's still the biggest potential winner, adventure wise.

In the end, it comes down to Jerall knows his DMing, and that is exactly what I would want when buying an adventure. In case you can't tell from my comments, this adventure has my vote by a long shot.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2009 Top 4 , Star Voter 2013 aka raidou

Jerral, I like the moral choices that must be made regarding allegiances with the Asmodean church, and the Nightmare on Elm Street creepiness that this proposal evokes. Your characterizations and descriptions really are top-notch.

What I wanted more of from this proposal is villain motivation. Kasteron is visually and thematically wicked. But as the probable GM of this adventure I don't feel like I have enough information about him to make his defeat really satisfying. Is he actually helping these kids by killing their abusers? I feel like there's a bit too much "read between the lines" here and I'm concerned that I am missing something crucial.

I also feel like there should be more exploration of the burned out home. That's your dungeon in this scenario, where the major conflicts will take place. I want more information about what's down in those tunnels, and then a really killer showdown with the psychotic fey at the end.

Excellent job throughout this competition. I look forward to reading whichever adventure you end up writing!

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

Jerall, I think that you have an uneven result in your adventure proposal. At the high level bird's eye view, I think you did a great job - good location choice, very appropriate challenge for a 4th level party, and a nice change of pace by making this more of an investigation adventure rather than a dungeon crawl or something that's often done. If anything, you fall on the opposite side of the spectrum of many proposals, in that I somewhat feel that there's not enough here to fill out a full 32 page adventure. Luckily, it's easier to add than to subtract, so that shouldn't be a huge problem.

That being said, the devil's in the details, and I think this is where you made some mis-steps. As mentioned by others, there's not a lot of motivation here for many (most) PCs to even go on this adventure. The Church of Asmodeous isn't going to be seen as a friendly or trustworthy patron, and they don't even offer to pay for the PCs services. Furthermore, investigating and trying to stop a killer that kills bad guys isn't really something that your baseline good aligned party is going to want to do. If anything, they might want to find out who's killing orphan hunters and Asmodian priests so they can help them out.

With the first city encounter getting pickpocketed, lots of PCs won't notice the theft, and when they do, they wouldn't consider asking around who might have done it - and just write it off as a loss in the big city. Sure, they'll chase him if they see him, but if they get to an inn, find their purse missing, they'll just tell the watch, and there goes that whole encounter. Maybe seeing the orphan getting kicked by an angry merchant who doesn't want him hanging around, and chasing him down to try to help him would work better.

The biggest issue with the adventure as described is that it seems pretty boring overall, and I like investigations. There just doesn't seem to be a lot of meat to this section, and it's really the focus of the whole adventure. They talk to a few orphans, and only really get a single lead that the rhyme refers to a dead woman. I guess lots of groups will investigate her burned house just because they have nothing else to do, but it doesn't really make a compelling reason to go there.

Also, I think that the potentially most interesting element you describe only hints at what it is - the treasure at the end. Kasteron's toy that lets you have a small piece of his power. That sounds like a pretty cool and unique bit of loot, but I'd really want to know more - you don't need a full write up of it here, but what does it do - let you discorperate into ash? Treat any weapon you use as flaming? I wish you'd told us more about that.

I think that you could take this proposal and give it another round of revision and make a pretty cool adventure, but I'm not sure it's quite ready for prime time yet.

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

I'm with Lorekeeper. The idea of working with the Asmodean Church is one of the things I think is most intriguing. Honestly, I'm just learning about Golarion but I think it's one of the most interesting aspects of the world that I've seen so far.

That said, I can definitely see giving the PCs something to react against in the church. Perhaps Essana had an assistant, who was particularly cruel to the orphans, who the PCs might need to encounter (a red herring to the main plot, but one who is a legit bad guy). Dealing with this person may incur the local church's favor initially, but perhaps later on someone in the larger church decides to take action against the PCs for having taken out their former apprentice or cousin or simply so they understand that they can't act against the church, even a rogue part of the church.

As others have said, I don't think the hobgoblin atack at the start adds much. I'd get rid of that to allow for more details in Logas itself. I think there are a lot of options there, ranging from some orphans who have formed street gangs (think of the dens in Michelle West's "Sun Sword" and "House War" series) to poor little Carmin approaching the PCs because she's afraid she caused the baker's death and doesn't want to go to Asmodean's realm when she dies (OK, obviously that would need some tweaking, but you get the gist).

As for the magic item, I think I'd go back to the church aspect. Give them some legitimate decent magic item but something they may think about whether they really want it because of its connection to a force they could otherwise oppose.

I think this is my favorite, despite the fact that you were the only finalist I didn't vote for in the last round (I liked the Dollhouse a lot, but just couldn't figure out how much of it was because I liked the villain you chose and how much was what you did). I expect I'll vote for this though I'm also still considering the Grasping at Shadows.


Cassey wrote:
Neil Spicer wrote:
Instead, it's far, far better to shoot for pleasing "most of the people, most of the time" when writing a commercial product like an adventure. Like it or not, the power-gaming community (or hack-and-slashers, call it what you will) make up a significant part of the gaming community. You want to give them opportunities to enjoy the game, too. So, you need to throw them a bone. Same goes for all the other playing styles.
A fair point, only it doesn't seem as if many adventures cater for most of the gaming types. It seems more that the adventures are for power gamers, and yes, it's fun, but not something you need all the time. Although this could just be because of those I game with :)

That's my point, exactly, and thanks Cassey.

Cassey and I aren't into mindless hack-and-slash.

Where's our bone, Neil?

Power gamers should most definitely not be the group you cater to and write adventures for above all others. I actually do not think there is any ONE sub-group of gamers you should focus on more than others. There are plenty of people who like adventures that don't simply devolve into mindless, grinding, hack-and-slash ... and I for one am totally uninterested in ensuring that every adventure cater to this niche of players.

There's plenty enough combat in this proposal for me. The proposal actually takes place in a Golarion setting, which was a requirement that 2 of the other proposals do not meet. The rules did NOT require that the proposal appeal to power gamers or have a minimum of 8 combat sequences ... so no rule has been broken there.

It's a good proposal that's interesting BECAUSE it's not just one endless combat after another over and over and over and over again ...

That's why I'm voting for it.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

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

I think the proposal's job is not to outline every encounter. There's a whole Isgeri city for the characters to explore as they investigate. One or two random encounters in the course of the process can be expected - but should not be mandated by the proposal. Ultimately it is the GM's job to tailor an adventure to suit her group.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Dumb Paladin wrote:
Cassey and I aren't into mindless hack-and-slash....Where's our bone, Neil?

It sounds as though this adventure gives you (and Cassey) your bone quite well. However, I stand by Ryan's assertion that (as-written in the proposal) this adventure seemingly does not give enough of a bone to the power-gamer set. There's just not enough there (yet).

Dumb Paladin wrote:
There's plenty enough combat in this proposal for me.

And yet, there isn't enough for many others, including several voters who have chimed in here and some of the judges. I don't consider myself a mindless hack-and-slasher when it comes to gaming either (whether playing, GMing, or writing one). Yet, this proposal didn't feel like it showcased enough interesting and meaningful combat opportunities. It's entirely possible that Jerall intends for the adventure to do so. It just doesn't come out in how he's written the proposal.

Dumb Paladin wrote:
Power gamers should most definitely not be the group you cater to and write adventures for above all others.

I agree. Thus, my comment that you should strive for pleasing "most of the people most of the time." I would venture to say that the power-gamer set is included among "most of the people." They exist at least in equal numbers to the roleplayers and character actors (like you, me, and Cassey). And both groups tend to outnumber the thinkers and puzzle-solvers.

Dumb Paladin wrote:
I actually do not think there is any ONE sub-group of gamers you should focus on more than others.

Agreed. And, as Ryan attempted to point out here, this proposal potentially caters far more to the investigation-oriented roleplayers and borders on excluding the segment of the RPG market that's looking for an adventure with interesting combats and memorable fights.

Dumb Paladin wrote:
The proposal actually takes place in a Golarion setting, which was a requirement that 2 of the other proposals do not meet.

Actually, I believe they all meet that requirement.

Dumb Paladin wrote:
The rules did NOT require that the proposal appeal to power gamers or have a minimum of 8 combat sequences...so no rule has been broken there.

No, it's not a rule. It's a design choice. The judges don't just give feedback based purely on the rules for each round. We're coaching and advising each designer on how they go about crafting their designs and what they should consider. Ryan has contributed some very pertinent advice. Designers need to be conscious of their audience and helping a publisher reach the maximum number of customers with their products. Thus, it's best to make sure your adventure proposals include enough material to appeal to every type of gamer that you can. That's all he's saying. And it's a good lesson for everyone to learn, not just the competitors this year...but anyone following along, too.

Dumb Paladin wrote:
It's a good proposal that's interesting BECAUSE it's not just one endless combat after another over and over and over and over again...That's why I'm voting for it.

I completely agree with you. It is a good proposal. It's definitely interesting because it's not just endless combat. There's certainly a place for a good, investigation-themed adventure. It could just use some extra "oomph" with a little more conflict and opportunities for PCs to knock heads now and then. That'll satisfy the wider audience of gamers who could potentially buy this adventure when it comes out.

Also, I'd like to repeat again...I recommended this proposal for consideration as the winning submission. And I still stand by that recommendation. You and I are both supporters of this adventure proposal. That doesn't mean I (or Ryan) can't offer some critique regarding elements that might need shoring up a bit to improve upon it.

Lorekeeper wrote:
I think the proposal's job is not to outline every encounter. There's a whole Isgeri city for the characters to explore as they investigate. One or two random encounters in the course of the process can be expected - but should not be mandated by the proposal. Ultimately it is the GM's job to tailor an adventure to suit her group.

Let me speak to this, as well. It's the designer's job to ensure his proposal outlines every encounter that's meaningful, potent, and interesting while making sure at the same time that there are enough varied encounters to maximize the proposal's appeal...both to the judges and the voters. Ultimately, that's going to translate into an adventure with maximum appeal...both to the publisher and the customers.

So, while you're absolutely correct, Lorekeeper, that it isn't necessary to outline every encounter in an aventure proposal, it is important to make sure you're showcasing the encounters that matter and bring the most to your proposal so it will draw people in and convince them to give you a chance to write the actual adventure. That's why earlier I mentioned the importance of leading with your best stuff. You need to push the buttons for every preferred playing style that you can by giving them all something to hang their hat on. That's what will make it interesting to them. That's what will make the adventure entertaining for them. And that's what will make an adventure sell well for your publisher.

Just my two cents,
--Neil

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

Neil Spicer wrote:
Like it or not, the power-gaming community (or hack-and-slashers, call it what you will) make up a significant part of the gaming community. You want to give them opportunities to enjoy the game, too. So, you need to throw them a bone. Same goes for all the other playing styles.
Cassey wrote:
A fair point, only it doesn't seem as if many adventures cater for most of the gaming types. It seems more that the adventures are for power gamers, and yes, it's fun, but not something you need all the time. Although this could just be because of those I game with :)
Dumb Paladin wrote:

That's my point, exactly, and thanks Cassey.

Cassey and I aren't into mindless hack-and-slash.

Where's our bone, Neil?

Paladin, I feel your pain. I agree with Cassey's assessment that most products are majorly skewed in favor the power-gamers and combat-lovers, even though there's clearly a wider community who would love more investigation, intrigue, drama, etc.

I think there are a lot of reasons for this situation. For example, storytelling-oriented adventures are much more difficult to write for a wide variety of parties - individually-tailored campaigns and story arcs make much better stories. And let's face it, D&D is a game which is fundamentally geared much more towards combat scenes than social/dramatic roleplay ("You rolled an 18! That means your touch attack succeeded, so if you manage an opposed grapple check, you can deal damage like an unarmed strike, and he'll have trouble attacking or doing anything else until next round!" vs. "You rolled an 18! That means you convince the queen to let all the ghostpig slaves go free and live happily after for ever more! Just as she signs the proclamation, you are attacked by ninjas!".)

To emphasize Neil's point from a different direction: if you feel that products are overwhelmingly oriented at power-gamers, then clearly Paizo sees them as a central part of their target audience. Less combat might be acceptable; none (or nearly none) would be a severe break from their existing line. So saying "that's really different than what we usually do," or "a lot of Paizo's target audience wouldn't enjoy this" makes a lot of sense simply because you find this so rare. It's valid criticism, that acknowledges the proposal's strengths and merit while noting that, in present form, there's a certain mismatch between this proposal and the line of products it's attempting to join.

Let me cautiously note that if you really feel that Paizo's products are aimed at powergaming, combat-hungry gamers that you feel no connection with, and you honestly feel you're not getting your bone - it may be time to wonder whether you are in Paizo's target audience. You might not be, and that's really perfectly all right. Or maybe the system and source material is great, but the modules and APs aren't for you. No sense complaining to the greengrocer when you're shopping for a goldfish.

Star Voter 2013

as a side-note for the combat versus non-combat, take a look at just the core classes and the number that are combat versus non-combat. Really, the only mostly non-combat class is the bard.

All classes have skills and out of combat stuff, but when you think of it the skills take up less than 10% of the total sheet. Which means that skill-use probably takes up that same percentage of gameplay, even compared to weapons alone that's three times as much space to weapons. That shows how the game is targeted.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

At this point, let's dampen down the playstyle discussion and steer this thread back to assessing the adventure proposal. Everyone's made some really good points and I think the conversation has been worthwhile and educational, but there's no need to belabor it any further.

Thanks guys,
--Neil


As far as playstyle goes, it's not a big bother either way, just as long as my friends and I have fun. That's why I agree with what Lorekeeper said about the GM tailoring what she has to suit her group. To me this proposal has enough combat and investigation to ensure that a group with both styles of play is satisfied i.e. no one falls asleep at the table :o

Osirion

I've voted for you pretty consistently and didn't really notice until now, which I think is a good thing, while thematically it's good, the fluff is nice, but I think it needs more crunch, but with some good old shlacking of some editing it'll be a great module.

Osirion

Fuelharp wrote:
I've voted for you pretty consistently and didn't really notice until now, which I think is a good thing, while thematically it's good, the fluff is nice, but I think it needs more crunch, but with some good old shlacking of some editing it'll be a great module.

Yup Yup.. I voted for this one and yet am still scratching my head a bit. I don't LOVE it but it is acceptable. There are some issues with the church, and other already noted sentiments. However it is a proposal with a limited word count to flush things out sooo I will give it some leeway however the adventure came out very similar to how it is written i would probably pass it by.. That said I did vote for it as the best. I have really enjoyed looking through the work presented and applaud everyone's efforts. I also look forward to seeing some of these writers after the Pathfinder polish has done it's deed.

Regarding combat issues I would agree there needs to be more combat, although limited space due to writing constrictions allows me some pause. Also traps, let their be traps and puzzles.
Cheers

Osirion

Ooops sorry Neil I just commented on the above play style "i've heard enough comments on this part" ditty. Me baaad, very bad, I will go find a nice hole in Cheliax to stew in.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8, Contributor

I love the ambiance of this adventure, and the choice to incorporate the chidrens' rhyme into the plot gives it a level of creepy that stands to last for a long time.
I want to run this adventure...right now.
Make it so...I COMMAND IT!

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8, Contributor

no-seriously-I-really-do-command-it...

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