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RPG Superstar 2015

Fort Walmor, The Slavers' End - Adam Donald

Fort Walmor, The Slavers' End


Round 4 - Top 8: Design an Encounter With a Map

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8 aka shiverscar

2 people marked this as a favorite.

EDIT FROM THE JUDGES: Please read this information about playtesting these encounters. We've also added hyperlinks from the encounter's short stat blocks to the full stat blocks in the PRD so you have the information you need to run the encounter.

Fort Walmor, The Slavers’ End
==========
Fort Walmor was a small depot for traders and treasure hunters travelling Sargava and the Mwangi Expanse. Situated at the eastern edge of the Laughing Jungle on the Lower Korir River, the fort was founded by the Rivermen's Guild to provide a much needed outpost for supplying ships and explorers headed further into the wilderness and moving goods back downriver to Port Freedom. The fort's manager, Bryon Hawthe, took a share of every bit of wealth that travelled through his warehouses and still sent enough trade to his masters to keep them happy with his methods. Treasures plundered from deep in the Expanse provided ample income, but the fort's most lucrative source of wealth for Fort Walmor was the slave trade.

The slaver barge Merrow's Scowl docked at Fort Walmor with a hold full of human cargo and strange plunder from the tribal homes of its captives. The captain of the ship, Pollus Loire, was particularly entranced by a strange and eerie idol in the shape of a demonic ape. The night the Merrow's Scowl arrived marked a violent and brutal slave revolt. The slave pits emptied, liberated slaves boiled out the docked ships. Guards retaliated with savage force. Every living soul in Fort Walmor fell upon one another, slaves turning on slaves when the last of their oppressors was slain, fuelled by ancient tribal enmities. When the sun rose the next day, Fort Walmor housed only the dead. Worse, the stones and timber of the fortress -- already permeated with the pain, anger, and sorrow of a slave camp -- came to house the concentrated rage and vengeful fury of the last fateful night of its inhabitants. The first unwary travelers that attempted to dock all met with terrible, violent ends. Fort Walmor is known locally as The Slavers’ End and is widely regarded as a cursed place, haunted by the souls of angry dead.

The strange idol brought into the fort by Captain Pollus was a minor artifact, called the ire of Angazhan. Though only marginally intelligent, the cursed artifact attempts to influence the emotions of living creatures around it, driving them to acts of brutal savagery. The idol rests in the former garrison, where the intelligent undead that stalk the ground pay strange homage to the artifact that engineered their fall and rebirth.

Several groups are currently contracting adventurers and explorers to investigate the fate of Fort Walmor. Chief among them is the Rivermen’s Guild, hoping to reclaim treasures languishing in Bryon Hawthe’s warehouses first and foremost and perhaps re-establish Fort Walmor as another crucial outpost in their river operations.

Traveling upriver to The Slavers’ End is difficult, but not impossible, and offers the best protection from heat dangers. Characters that risk the overland route will have to contend with the dense terrain of the Laughing Jungle and the risks the greater than 90°F daytime temperatures cause. For additional information, refer to the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook Overland Movement (pg. 171), Forest Terrain (pg. 425), and Heat Dangers (pg. 444).

The Merrow's Scowl (CR 4 or 7)
==========
The interior of the Merrow's Scowl is dim and rank with the sickly-sweet smell of rot. Foodstuffs piled high against the walls of the ship have long since spoiled and become fertilizer for strange and unpleasant looking molds and fungi. The bottom of the ship has dissolved into the damp, silty mud of the Lower Korir River. Your first steps into the hold cause you to sink into muck; this provides the mixed blessing of allowing you to walk upright, but impedes your movements at the same time. Four support struts hang tenuously from the crossbeams above, connected by a corroded metal shaft that runs through them, anchored to the stern and aft. Rusted manacles hang from the rod, dangling into the muddy riverbank. Wedged awkwardly into the stern is a crumbling makeshift altar.

The eerie sound of drumming emitted by the haunt is easily audible outside the wreck of the slaver barge and characters that enter hold easily identify the altar as the source of the sound. Characters that approach the altar see a ghostly after image of the demonic ape idol that once adorned it, the ire of Angazahn. The image winks out as soon as the haunt triggers and does not reappear. The altar was constructed by Captain Pollus shortly after the idol began to have an influence on him. He hid it carefully among the tightly packed goods and visited it under the guise of surveying their supplies and the condition of the slaves.

Treat the mud that holds the remains of the Merrow's Scowl as shallow bog (Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 427). The mud has sifted inside the ship and holds it fast against the surprisingly mild currents of the river. The support struts provide a +2 bonus to Armor Class and a +1 to Reflex saves to creatures fighting across them on a diagonal. The hull of the ship is deteriorating quickly in the humid climate of the Laughing Jungle; halve the structural hit points and DR of the wood for any attempts to break it.

Creatures: Two of the three undead in the wreck of lie in wait beneath the mud near the entrance, while the third hides closer to the haunt's proximity. The creatures bury themselves completely, granting themselves total concealment. When the shrieks and screams that accompany the haunt's activation fill the hold, the creatures rise and attack. The bloody skeletons attack the nearest PC, regardless of which PC the Savage Madness haunt targets with its murderous command. The juju zombies flank and kill those that appear unaffected by the haunt's confusion effect. Both the bloody skeletons and juju zombies defend themselves if unearthed or assaulted before the haunt has been triggered.

Both versions of the Savage Madness haunt manifest by filling the hold of the ship with the howls and shrieks of a bloody melee. Creatures affected by the haunt see their allies as Mwangi tribesmen with exaggerated demonic features or slavers garbed in infernal armor and wielding flaming whips. If no creature is in the haunt's proximity and the haunt has not yet been neutralized, the sounds of battle cease and the drums resume.

Low Tier (CR 4):

Savage Madness (CR 2) LINK
XP 600
CE persistent haunt (5ft. by 10ft. area in front of the makeshift altar)
Caster Level 2nd
Notice: Perception DC 15 (The sound of rhythmic tribal drumming, emanating from the altar)
hp 9; Trigger proximity; Reset 1 week
Effect When this haunt is triggered, the sound of brutal, bloody battle erupts from the altar, punctuated by shrieks and maddened ululations. Creatures affected by the haunt suddenly perceive allies as howling demonic savages or infernal oppressors. A single creature in the haunt's area is targeted by a murderous command spell (save DC 11).
Destruction The altar must be exposed to the noonday sun and anointed with holy water.

Bloody Skeletons (3) CR 2 LINK
Skeleton
XP 200 each
AC 18 (+4 armor, +2 Dex, +2 natural)
hp 6 each (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 250, 251)
Melee scimitar +2 (1d6+2), claw -3 (1d4+1) or 2 claws +2 (1d4+2)
Gear chain shirt, scimitar

High Tier (CR 7):

Savage Madness (CR 5) LINK
XP 1600
CE persistent haunt (10ft. by 10ft. area in front of the makeshift altar)
Caster Level 5th
Notice: Perception DC 15 (The sound of rhythmic tribal drumming, emanating from the altar)
hp 22; Trigger proximity; Reset 1 week
Effect When this haunt is triggered, the sound of brutal, bloody battle erupts from the altar, punctuated by shrieks and maddened ululations. Creatures affected by the haunt suddenly perceive allies as howling demonic savages or infernal oppressors. All creatures in the haunt's proximity are targeted by a confusion spell (save DC 16).
Destruction The altar must be exposed to the noonday sun and anointed with holy water.

Juju Zombies (3) CR 5 LINK
Zombie
XP 1600
AC 22 (+4 armor, +4 Dex, +1 dodge, +3 natural)
hp 15 each (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 2 271)
Gear mwk chain shirt, mwk short sword

Development: The loud clamor the haunt produces when triggered acts as an alarm for the more intelligent undead dwelling within the fort. Alerted creatures prepare for the arrival of interlopers. If the sounds of the haunt persist for a minute or more, even intermittently, undead shamble from the fort to investigate, starting with the creatures currently inhabiting the slave pit (3).

Cartographer

Good Looking map reference, I like the fact that everything is on the map sketch that is needed to get right to work drawing this one up. The map is very clearly rendered and clearly labeled. I appreciate the nice looking Map Legend/Key using the standard mapping symbols. I especially like the zoomed in detail inset of the slaver barge.

One thing that seems unusual to me is the missing grid inside the buildings, no big deal I assume that a grid is supposed to be there, but still something to make note of. Also I would zoom back a bit to show the surrounding jungle.

This is a good basic encounter map, with no real surprises or challenges for the cartographer, fairly easy to complete in a short amount of time. Good work!

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Welcome to the Top 8, Adam. You've been coming on strong this year and now you've found your way into a unique position. From here, you've got a major opportunity to really impress a lot of folks and secure yourself some bonafide freelancing opportunities, not just with Paizo but other third-party publishers, as well. The trick lies in putting forth your best work. Show us you belong.

So, with that in mind, I've made a point of really combing through everyone's designs this go-around. You should have learned a lot of lessons up to this point. Now, we need to see how well you've incorporated them and how well you've learned to apply them. In fact, encounter design is the primary precursor to adventure design. It incorporates your storytelling ability, your map-making ability, your stat-block ability, and rolls up enough other elements of game design skills that it really starts to bring it altogether. So, let's go through it and see what you've given us...

Spoiler:

- First Fort Walmor sounds like an interesting location, especially since it's sub-titled as the Slaver's End. I'm interested to see where it goes from there.

- You've got a reasonably good map. Very visually appealing. I was confused at first, however, as to which location on the map this encounter referred to...then, just based on the name, it became evident it must be location #2. Still, the number on the map should be included in the location's title line in your write-up just to make it clearer.

- Decent inclusion of Golarion content.

- You're using a lot of passive voice, though. Try and avoid as many conventions of the verb "to be" as you can. So, go back and highlight just the places where you used "is"..."are"..."was"...and "were" etc. If the majority of your write-up is relying on those types of verbs, you need to work on replacing them with more active verbs to make your prose read better and come across as more evocative.

- The premise for this encounter...i.e., a demonic idol of Anghazan enraging and confusing creatures reads a lot like the PFS scenario for Mists of Mwangi, only here we have slaves being impacted by it in the backstory and PCs being targeted by it when they come across the altar, whereas in Mists of Mwangi it was monkeys and an ape from the city's zoo/menagerie made violent by it. Either way, there were enough parallels here that it didn't feel exceptionally innovative or new to me. Even the rhythmic drumming noises were duplicated.

- Introducing a "minor artifact" like the ire of Anghazan (cursed or not) might be a bit much for a CR 4-7 encounter scenario. I guess it all depends on what else it can do...and how valuable it might be...and whether you bring it out again elsewhere in your overarching storyline. Here, you've gone with some kind of afterimage of it and I'm not entirely sure what that means. Also, the term "artifact" gets tossed around a lot when writers only mean something really old. But the word has an in-game meaning that can have people expecting something that's more powerful than the typical magic item. I took it to mean the ire of Anghazan is an artifact-level magic item.

- Repetitive, awkward writing: "Characters that risk the overland route will have to contend with the dense terrain of the Laughing Jungle and the risks the greater than 90°F daytime temperatures cause." A developer would revise this down to something more like: "Characters who risk the overland route have to contend with dense terrain and heat exposure (see Core Rulebook, pgs. xx, xx-xx)."

- Read-aloud text shouldn't make assumptions about what the PCs do...i.e., "Your first steps into the hold cause you to sink into muck; this provides the mixed blessing of allowing you to walk upright, but impedes your movements at the same time." There's no guarantee anyone will walk into the hold at all. They could fly across it, levitate, send a flying familiar to scout it for them, etc. Or, they could bypass it altogether or just use clairaudience/clairvoyance to view what lies inside the ship's hold. You never know. So, you shouldn't assume. Instead, read-aloud text should just focus on describing the room. If someone chooses to go inside, you need to include enough information after the read-aloud text so the GM knows what might impede them or, in the case of creatures who lair inside the room, what might attack them.

- Proofreading problem: "...characters that enter hold easily identify the altar..."

- "after image" vs. "afterimage"

- "The support struts provide a +2 bonus to Armor Class and a +1 to Reflex saves to creatures fighting across them on a diagonal." Why? I've never heard of terrain or dungeon-dressing granting bonuses to anyone's AC or saving throws before. They can apply penalties in certain situations. And high-ground can give you bonuses on attacks. But this seems ill-advised.

- "The hull of the ship is deteriorating quickly in the humid climate of the Laughing Jungle; halve the structural hit points and DR of the wood for any attempts to break it." Okay. So what's the normal structural hit points and DR of the ship's hull? Even if it's just general wood, a call out reference to the CRB would have been useful here for the GM. Or, at least some kind of upfront discussion about the ship's environment when first introducing the encounter location.

- More proofing problems: "Two of the three undead in the wreck of lie in wait beneath the mud near the entrance..."

- "...the Savage Madness haunt..." No need to capitalize this as it's not a game term.

- "The bloody skeletons attack the nearest PC..." and "The juju zombies flank and kill..." really ought to be information in a Tactics line within a stat-block (even if it's just an abbreviated stat-block), rather than the descriptive text of the encounter.

- Still referencing game terminology wrong by referring to 5ft. and 10ft. when it should be 5 ft. and 10 ft.

- Nice design touch to bump up the bloody skeletons by giving them chain mail and unbroken scimitars, unlike the skeleton entry in the Bestiary. Same deal with the elevated juju zombies.

- Bad design habit: Missing commas in the XP values. Should be XP 1,600.

- Not a tremendous amount of innovation here. It's a good, basic encounter. The haunt overlay to inhibit the PCs as they fight the skeletons or zombies, and the shallow bog as difficult terrain, are the most unusual aspects here. Not sure it's Superstar. But it's serviceable.

- CR-2 adversaries don't pose much of a challenge within the intended tier of this encounter. As such, it doesn't come off as the best encounter location to highlight from the overall map. You were batting for a single rather than a homerun. And, at this stage of the game, I'm not sure that's going to be enough to get you through.

So, given all that, I have to say I'm disappointed. I thought you had some really strong stuff in the competition and a real chance to move forward again in the contest. But, with all the missteps in the presentation and encounter setup, coupled with the somewhat lackluster elements of the actual encounter, I have to say I DO NOT RECOMMEND this encounter to advance you to the next round. It's possible the voters may view things otherwise. And, for your sake, I hope that's the case.

To further things, I'll go ahead and call attention to your earlier work for everyone's consideration. Your flask of liquid sunlight was one of my favorite Top 32 items. I really liked the concept and was excited to see what else you'd do in the contest. Then, your Red Bastards took an area of Golarion and gave us something new and interesting. It wasn't my favorite design of the round, but it was enough to advance. Finally, your pyrebloom was absolutely inspired and an indication that you could be very good at monster design. So, there's no doubt you've got talent. If anything, I'm only judging your design for this round with my recommendation here. Not you or your future potential. Regardless of how the voting turns out, I think you should certainly recognize just how much you've accomplished here and you should be very proud of it. Best of luck in the voting (and playtesting).

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

I think this is a relatively dull location and encounter and submission, I'm sorry to say. This is just not superstar stuff in my view.

Adam, I'm not sure what happened here for you. Maybe you felt too limited by the content you had to work with. Or maybe you weren't familiar with the format. Problem is, the weaknesses you are showing hear relate to how well you would likely do as a winner. And that is a problem.

You've done some great stuff this year and have a lot to be proud of. I just can't give you the nod on this, though.

NOT RECOMMENDED

Contributor

Adam, welcome to the Top 8!

Neil's detailed comments cover what I was going to say. This is a serviceable but not particularly innovative encounter. You need to tighten up your writing a bit more to catch little errors. Your map is fine, though I would have liked to see more details of the other buildings (I'm sure they're not empty).

Given that the idol was brought into the fort and presumably is still there, I would have thought that you'd focus your R4 submission around the really cool encounter where the PCs actually discover the idol and deal with the cursed undead that guard it, rather than an "establishing shot" encounter where you fight a haunt-echo of the actual MacGuffin.

This encounter gives the PCs a strong hint of what they're facing in this location: an evil idol, mind control, and undead. As an encounter, that's a good thing. As *the* encounter showing off the best part of your location, I think it wasn't the best choice.

Paizo Employee Developer

Hi Adam, welcome to the top 8! I'm approaching all 8 entries this round as a sample of work for four authors who will have a chance to write a scenario or module that I'll be developing if they progress to the next round. That means I'm looking at how well this location could fit into the world and a larger adventure, how well you've tiered your encounter, how much work would go into getting the map prepped for a cartographer, and how much time I'd need to spend on this developing it for publication. Let's see what we've got!

I really like your adventure's title. It's got a proper name, which is risky, but you add to it enough that I'm not left wondering what Fort Walmor is. Obviously, it's the Slavers' End! But now I'm really curious what the story is behind this place. And that's the sign of a good location name: if it makes me want to know more, it'll make PCs who hear it name-dropped want to know as well, and that's how adventure hooks are made.

Looking at the map, I don't get very many answers to my questions that popped up from the location name. I see a fort and a boat, but in all this is a pretty boring map. I think it would be easy enough for a cartographer to map, but it doesn't scream AWESOME at me like I want it to. The lack of detail in buildings and their universally square shape leaves me wanting. Don't be afraid to make interestingly shaped buildings. I also would have just mapped the boat detail as part of the regular map. As it is here, the grid doesn't line up, and it makes it harder to put the detail in the larger picture in terms of how the boat is jutting up out of the mud.

I really like the location background. I could see a whole adventure based around investigating this place and clearing out all the bad mojo lingering there. The Angazhan connection seems overdone, however. I think it's entirely possible to have had the same net result at the location but without the demon monkey element again. There are plenty of evil jungle spirits that would work just fine here without treading on territory we've already covered in extensive detail in a number of existing products that include Angazhan and his cult in some fashion.

You made the classic blunder in your read aloud text of using second person. There are other ways a party of 4th- and especially 7th-level PCs could move around that wouldn't involve them trudging in the mud.

I think the encounter would benefit from some things not being a given to the PCs. For example, the sound of drumming is easily audible and the characters can easily identify the altar as the sound's source. That's nice if you want to make sure they don't miss it, but it removes some of the horror when they explore the ship (which they're going to do because they're PCs and PCs want loot and thus they explore) and then the haunt triggers and they hear drums. And it removes the sense of satisfaction for those PCs who make the proper skill checks and determine where the haunt originates from.

I'm completely baffled by the mechanical benefits of the support struts, and think that can simply be removed, as it's needless complexity and rules already exist for cover and fighting around corners and such. This is a fairly straightforward encounter; don't go overcomplicating it for no reason. Nine times out of ten, the simpler option is easier to develop, takes up less words, and provides the same (if not a better) experience for the player and the GM who has to run it. Similarly, I'd rather you just state what the hardness and hip points are of the moldering wood instead of just telling the GM to halve it. That's a simple enough thing to look up for the GM and include in the text so he doesn't have to search for what is essentially a static value.

Props for including a full haunt stat block (correctly styled, no less) and not shying away from it to save word count. You also did a good job of using abbreviated stat blocks for both the skeletons and juju zombies while still adding the necessary extra information a GM needs. It shows some guts to put larger stat blocks in an encounter like this when you could so easily just provide the bare minimum page reference and hit points to give yourself more words for background and flavor. Striking the balance between words and stats is a tough one, but a vital one for any successful freelancer, and of all the entries this round, I think yours stands out to me most as reaching that balance.

I don't think this is the most innovative entry this round, and I don't think it's the best example of mapping, but I do think it shows incredible promise. And it would, without a doubt, be the easiest to develop were it a part of a turnover I had to get ready for publication. As I said above, I'd rather have simple over complex any day of the week, and you manage to tell a compelling story with some fun adventure elements without the need for new rules elements or extensive descriptions. You used your words efficiently to leave room for the stats you needed to make that story come to life. Ultimately, developing this encounter as part of a larger scenario or module would take me the budgeted amount of time, if not less, leaving me more time for more complex or cinematic climax encounters elsewhere. For these reasons I RECOMMEND this submission for advancement to the next round. While the submission may not scream "I'm a superstar!" it does tell me that you have the trappings to be a freelancer for Paizo. If you make it to the Top 4, I expect you to bring your best while sticking to the elements you've already got down. Best of luck, Adam.

CEO, Goblinworks

Issues:

You're introducing an artifact. That gives me the shivers.

Typos. Inexcusable at this level.

Commentary:

I like the overall setting concept. You'd have been better off just giving a hint of the settlement buildings - your encounter is really the shipwreck. In development I'd make more of the settlement to expand it into something meatier. But the concept is awesome.

Unfortunately there is no challenge here. At the CRs you've picked the party will be able to dispatch of these opponents with ease. It seems like the shipwreck was designed to be foreshadowing of what is to come within the main body of the settlement and that's fine as a plan for a whole adventure but you're being asked to submit a SuperStar idea. And this isn't it. This is the encounter before the SuperStar encounter.

You've introduced an artifact, higher level undead, a cursed and haunted location, all tied in to a crumbling ruin in a jungle. That's enough meat on the bone to drive a great submission. But you've actually given us a short, easy fight in a confined space. The only interesting twist is the potential (low) that a PC is affected by a haunt. Not a winning submission.

Recommendation:

I recommend that you do not vote for this designer.


Quote:
- "The support struts provide a +2 bonus to Armor Class and a +1 to Reflex saves to creatures fighting across them on a diagonal." Why? I've never heard of terrain or dungeon-dressing granting bonuses to anyone's AC or saving throws before. They can apply penalties in certain situations. And high-ground can give you bonuses on attacks. But this seems ill-advised.

I remember that in the environment chapter, trees give a cover? bonus to AC and reflex something when a PC is adjacent to one. That's the precedent I think he's trying to engage there.

Is it okay that I said that? If not delete me or something. I'm always afraid to comment on these.

Contributor

Ice Titan, you're not one of the competitors, so you're free to post your own explanations and/or justifications for the author's decisions. :)

Dedicated Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

Congrats Adam! I didnot find this overly original but what you did is playable and works for me. I wonk get on you for your writing as I can't do better my self. If you had done the boat in detail with multiple levels and used that as the main location it would have been more useable, or stuck to the fort. Great job I still have seven more to read now.

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

Ice Titan wrote:
Quote:
- "The support struts provide a +2 bonus to Armor Class and a +1 to Reflex saves to creatures fighting across them on a diagonal." Why? I've never heard of terrain or dungeon-dressing granting bonuses to anyone's AC or saving throws before. They can apply penalties in certain situations. And high-ground can give you bonuses on attacks. But this seems ill-advised.

I remember that in the environment chapter, trees give a cover? bonus to AC and reflex something when a PC is adjacent to one. That's the precedent I think he's trying to engage there.

Is it okay that I said that? If not delete me or something. I'm always afraid to comment on these.

Yeah small trees provide partial cover but they are usually drawn in a square, not at a grid intersection. But a precedent is in the books.

For a 4th/7th level encounter a "shiny" at the end of deep hole isn't much of a challenge. Something as simple as an unseen servant could retrieve the "idol" from the altar even at 1st level. As PCs grow in power there is a paradigm shift that you have to account for in your Craft (encounter) checks. This would be great at 1st and then 4th levels.

--Vrock to Mud

Sczarni

I always like to see combat teach a lesson in tactics to players. This one is a walk in the park. Nothing more generic than flanking cannon fodder on the players. Maybe up the HP of the Ju Ju and skeletons so 1 barbarian doesn't just cleave straight through them in 1 shot if they surround him/her. Overall seems fairly weak aa an encounter. Not much for the imagination, nor serves any purpose.

Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Dedicated Voter 2015

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Congratulations on Top 8!

Allow me to introduce Map Fu.

He looks at maps as part of GM preparation for an evenings fun and games. Now for the competition, he is going to be ruthless and treat each map as a "finished" product and not a notelet to cartographer.

Therefore this review will be from the stance of preparing for the encounter, general map items and first impressions. I am hoping to collate feedback from my games club at the weekend for playability feedback, but thought some early GM preparation feedback may be useful.

Now, as these are single encounters fleshed out, rather like a main encounter in a module might be, I will be expecting a number of things to be provided - I look to my large shiny Rise of the Runelords hardback. These will be mentioned in first impressions after the map items and are advisory in nature only as they are a personal expectation.

I'm probably only going to get 2 a day done, so please be patient, I will get to you all.

So let's begin...

Map Fu, I unleash you...

Mmmm, points I smell, eat well I will... (anyone else notice the absolute grand master of passive voice is Yoda? :P)

Check Point 1: Visibility

How clear is everything to see?

Map Fu eats a point - the grey 3 on a grey background may hurt vision impaired gamers. Try using fonts with a contrasting "glow", i.e. a white 2 pixel border around the grey number would have lifted it out of the background.
Map Fu eats a point - the trap door was difficult to spot as it almost disappears into the stronger cross hatch of area 3.
Map Fu thumbs up - Key symbols table - well done.
Map Fu eats a point - key symbol doesnt show the brown shading - is it sand or mud - I should be able to tell from the map, but have to deduce from the encounter text that it's likely mud due to being a river side encounter area.
Map Fu thumbs up - scale indicated - nice.

Score: 2/5

Check Point 2: Compass Rose/North Bearing

Obvious, and should be on all maps.

Map Fu thumbs up - The compass rose is on both main and pull out and orient correctly - nicely done.

Score: 5/5

Check Point 3: Directional Integrity

Do you know your left from right, up from down, west from east? If the encounter refers to the east door, is it on the east wall on the map?

Map Fu thumbs up - the slight rotation of the compass rose in the pull out is the right amount for the rotation of the pull out - nice detail.

Score: 5/5

Check Point 4: Scale Integrity

Do the map dimensions and shapes match the encounter text dimensions and shapes? Is there sufficient space in the room/area for the content, both encounter and dressings? If there are "pulled out" areas, is the orientation of the pulled out detail correct with respect the base map orientation and dimensions (e.g. a 10' v 10' area pulled out for detailed view doesn't become 15' x 15')

Map Fu thumbs up while holding a ruler - yes the increased size of the boat matches the smaller version with no extra squares creep - well done.

Score: 5/5

Check Point 5: Empty Area Syndrome

Are there any areas on the map that aren't identified in a map key or in the descriptions, having a labelled empty areas is fine if part of the encounter design.

Map Fu eats a point: Everything was clearly labelled, but I would have appreciated some content description for the fort area - the pc's might investigate that first, or investigate it after dealing with the main boat encounter.

Score: 4/5

Check Point 6: Anything Missing?

Map Fu eats a point: The upper deck of the scowl would be useful to pinpoint the entry point to the hold, this is pretty important when you consider some combatants are in hiding near that entry point.

Map Fu eats a point: Some indication of the mud depth from stern to prow would be useful as an aide to determining visibility of buried creatures nearer the altar to those at the stern. A side cut away would probably have served this purpose.

Score: 4/5

GM Preparation : First Impressions.

Having scanned the map, and feeling reasonably good with the information thus far presented, I turned my attention to the encounter description. The first thing I noticed was that the Merrow's Scowl is described as "docked" at the fort - yet the map seems to imply it is part full of river mud and thus "scuttled/sunk". This was later born out in the Merrow's Scowl entry, be careful of consistency.

The entry for the Merrow's Scowl made me refer back to the map when it referred to entering the hold - I realised then when preparing for the night that I had only the hold area of the boat detailed - I really need the deck above to indicate where the hold entry point would be. I would also have liked to see indications of barrels and crates on the pull out of the dock area to assist in running the encounter for terrain conditions and on the fly decisions - PC says "I get up on the crate and run across the barrel tops avoiding the sucking mud..."

OK, this is an encounter map and not an area map, so I expect higher levels of detail pertaining to the set up of the encounter itself - e.g. to see the starting positions of each npc / creature. Especially when the text of the boat indicates two creatures hidden in the mud at the entry point and it doesn't say whether the buried creatures are the juju zombies or the bloody skeletons, or one of each.

The next items I found were all the stats and breakdowns I need to run each creature, there seemed to be all I needed here.

The Development section refers to additional undead, but doesn't indicate if they are more of the same (bloody/juju) or other types. I am assuming you are leaving this bit open to the GM to populate, but some recommendations would make the GMs preparation much easier.

My playtest set up

So for my play test I have assumed/prepared as follows, I have placed the hold opening 10 foot from the stern of the ship, and have used two bloody skeletons near the entry point and the remainder throughout the hold, with the ju ju zombies being either side of the altar. I also will have the PC's docking at the end of the jetty as I wasn't sure what the intended approach direction was.

GM Preparation : Other considerations / thoughts

I did wonder if you could have played with the environment more - if near the estuary of the river, you could have a rip tide change that causes the scowl to toss from side to side making combat inside even more fun - avoid the barrels, stay on your feet, etc, or maybe have some fog affecting hearing ranges and visibility for that eerie spooky effects.

GM Prep Score: 12/20 Overall Score: 37 / 50

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015 aka motteditor

Anthony, do remember that these maps are for the cartographer to make something. While I certainly agree with some of the issues you're looking at, things like color won't matter as much, since players/DMs aren't likely to ever actually see this image.

Quote:
I did wonder if you could have played with the environment more - if near the estuary of the river, you could have a rip tide change that causes the scowl to toss from side to side making combat inside even more fun ...

One of the encounters from the first year of Superstar used a similar mechanic -- a tipping boat -- so Adam may have wanted to avoid doing something too similar.

Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Dedicated Voter 2015

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I know - that's why I stated from the outset...

"Now for the competition, he is going to be ruthless and treat each map as a "finished" product and not a notelet to cartographer."

I'm going to be equally ruthless with everyone, so it should all balance out in the end, and as I am playtesting and needing to prepare from the map, I thought I might as well "catch all" because that's the sort of feedback that might help the cartographers when maps are handed to them.

Yeah, I thought that might be the case on the rocking boat, but I thought it was worth mentioning as a general point of considering environment as an active part of the encounter design as well, for completeness of notes and thoughts.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8 aka shiverscar

Thank you to the judges as always for your criticisms. Thanks to the forum members for all of your comments.

I hope everyone has a great round of playtesting!

Star Voter 2013

I really like the setup here. Good backstory on the area, the minor artifact is kinda cool (though perhaps a little too high power potential for a group this level), and this really feels like something a PFS scenario would do. Go look at this ruined base, find out what's there and bring anything interesting back to the lodge.

But then the encounter itself is kinda boring. The haunt being restricted to those few squares is really disappointing considering the effects of the idol itself, and the undead themselves are uninspiring. Just some zombies and skeletons, basically.

I don't know if I like this or not, I keep flip-flopping on it.

Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Who I Am:
I'm just some yahoo who plays/runs a lot of PFS. So my opinions come from a PFS perspective. That said, considering winning this round gives you a 3/4 chance to write a PFS adventure, I feel that my thoughts may be valuable.

Is the CR here calculated correctly?

Shouldn't 4 CR 2 be a CR 6 encounter?

and shouldn't 4 CR 5 be a CR 9 encounter?

But you've listed the encounter as 4/7.

I like the name, the map with cutaway is nice, but the encounter area is actually both boring and confined. Also I upon further review it doesn't actually give me a good idea of how exactly it's laid out. How does one get from the top of the ship into the hull? What about coming up through the muck from the bottom?

The read aloud text with "Your first steps into the hold cause you to sink into muck" really bothered me.

The haunt's range is too limited. I would have really liked to see some flotsam or something that gave players an option other than going through the muck.

"The support struts provide a +2 bonus to Armor Class and a +1 to Reflex saves to creatures fighting across them on a diagonal."

There's a term for this: Partial Cover. There's also no game terminology for "fighting across them on a diagonal." While I think I know what you mean, it gets complicated for creatures who are large and/or have reach.

"The bloody skeletons attack the nearest PC, regardless of which PC the Savage Madness haunt targets with its murderous command. The juju zombies flank and kill those that appear unaffected by the haunt's confusion effect. Both the bloody skeletons and juju zombies defend themselves if unearthed or assaulted before the haunt has been triggered."

This should really be split up for the two separate creatures and listed in their tactics block.

What happens if the PCs go sifting through all the muck before triggering the haunt? Do the undead just sit there and take it?

At least the ship didn't have 3 ghouls buried in the muck.

Too many questions left unanswered. I will not be voting for this entry.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

These comments are from a first pass of your encounter, prior to playtesting or reading the judges' feedback or other voters' posts.

Slaver's End

The location - what did you bring to Golarion?
A haunted fort in the jungle with a background of bloodshed. That's pretty promising, and you make sure to give some immediate adventure hooks and some help for the GM on perils of even getting to the location. That's good. I don't get a strong visual sense of the fort; in fact you spend almost all your words on the story of the location. It's actually the story about the idol that makes Fort Walmar cool, not the location itself. That's a bit disappointing, and I wish you had used more words telling me what the location is like now, rather than the gruesome story that many players may never discover or care about.

The encounter - do I want to run this fight on your map?
The map is basic and effective, though it doesn't scream 'come play here' to me. The encounter itself could be fun with one or more characters running mad and an ambush by hidden undead. I have a sneaking suspicion that optimised players will probably make their saves and proceed to demolish the undead quite quickly - but playtesting will show that.

The writing - how effectively have you crafted those words?
A few mis-steps here: ...the fort's most lucrative source of wealth for Fort Walmor was... is particularly clunky. The read aloud text starts very well, with good visuals and use of smell as well as sight to anchor the description. Shouldn't use Your first steps into the hold... in read aloud text - it implies an action that the players may not be taking.

Summary
Some interesting stuff here, but too much history and not enough immediacy in the description. That story telling urge may pay off for you next round. Good luck!


I really like the flavor of this. The drumming and swampy factor put me in immediate mind of Louisiana voodoo. I'm not sold yet, because I am not immediately sure how this plays out. I'm wanting to playtest or at least read some reports.

Star Voter 2013

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I actually really like this encounter as I've used bloody skeletons to really annoy 7th level PCs and almost killed them off. People often forget that bloody skeletons can only be truly killed by positive energy, in the presence of a bless or hallow spell, or by using a vial of holy water on the corpse. In my experience, the PCs will often cast Bless, and then move up to engage an enemy. I don't allow metagame knowledge, so a PC that does something like applying holy water to the corpse of a bloody skeleton, without that PC ever encountering a bloody skeleton, or hearing about one, before, will not be allowed, especially if he had never before applied holy water to undead encountered in the past. If someone were to try this, I would go out of my way to punish him for using player knowledge.

Liberty's Edge

Maybe it's because I'm in a silly mood right now, but I just can't get past the encounter name: "Fort Wal-Mart"? Can you play bingo with the various monsters encountered within? ;)

Sorry about that. Your map is perhaps the most professional-looking of the lot. The missing grid lines in the interior rooms would be frustrating for GMs trying to run combat in them, but the only map I like better than yours is the one for "The Hungry Dragon Mountain."

Liberty's Edge

casiel wrote:

Maybe it's because I'm in a silly mood right now, but I just can't get past the encounter name: "Fort Wal-Mart"? Can you play bingo with the various monsters encountered within? ;)

Sorry about that. Your map is perhaps the most professional-looking of the lot. The missing grid lines in the interior rooms would be frustrating for GMs trying to run combat in them, but the only map I like better than yours is the one for "The Hungry Dragon Mountain."

Oops! I mean "Hungry Mountain Dragon." Hungry mountains instead of hungry dragons... how could I make such an error! ;)


Hi Adam! Congrats on making it to this round. You are on the verge of making it on my top four list to advance to round five.

I will only have time to playtest one scenario from this round, and I did not select Fort Walmor, The Slavers' End.

I'll offer some feedback in the hope that you can sharpen your game. Especially if you make it to round five, I think this will help you make a better proposal. Also I think the judges shot wide of the mark in critiquing your work, so I want to tell you how I see it.

Your map is well drawn but uninspiring. It doesn't set my imagination on fire. The story itself is not enough to draw me in. However, when I looked at your combat encounter, I lit up. Here is something I can use. Bloody skeletons. Juju zombies. Yes. Yes. You hear the evil GM chuckle.

I think you'd make a competitive adventure proposal. I can tell we would game well together.

-Titania

Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

I was going to playtest this encounter but really, even confused my party of 7th levels would handle the Juju-Zombies in one round easily, thus no need to ready my battle mat and minis...

Really, this is RPG Superstar and the encounter is 3 Juju-Zombies and a confusion?!


Disclaimer:
In case you’ve only just woken up to the contest or otherwise (somehow) missed these Round-by-Round reviews before, Ask A RPGSupersuccubus is posting from the point of view of a (very advanced) CE aligned succubus:

Spoiler:
Fairness means Prizes For All Succubi, balance is the process of fine-tuning your harpsichord of the Abyss so that the acoustic resonances are particularly obnoxious to any clerics of Asmodeus who happen to be captive audiences in the vicinity, and logic is very much like cornflour paste – cast-iron hard work when anyone else touches it, but conveniently gooey and runny to a succubus’ subtle touch. Oh: And Ask A RPGSupersuccubus (still) firmly maintains that it’s a succubus’ privilege to change her mind with neither any warning nor any obligation to bother to explain herself…
;)

Does the location and situation seem suitable for a succubus in distress (broken fingernails are such a nuisance) to find a Noble Knight?
Sadly, no. Noble knights in armour do not mix well with jungle climates.

Is there any possible convenient financial gain obvious in this situation for a succubus?
Undead (and ones tasteless enough to associate with Angazhan at that) aren't terribly easy to negotiate with, so it's going to involve a lot of likely highly inconvenient work to get anything done here. And on a side-note, most hairstyles simply do not last in this kind of humid climate.
Basically, this is a dreadfully inconvenient situation.

Purely from a point of view of testing-this-situation-to-destruction what impact is a fire-breathing phase doppleganger giant space hamster likely to have if introduced to it?
Crash, crash, Crunch!!!!
(And good riddance, I must say.)

Other comments?
The chaotic inconsistency to spelling 'Angazhan' is mildly amusing.
But basically, this site isn't really worth the bother for most succubi except from from the perspective of making an impolite gesture at Angazhan. I suppose the odd (both figuratively and literally speaking) succubus who works for Angazhan might regard a trip as something akin to a religious pilgrimage.

Estimated time for four adventuresome succubi to deal with this situation:
Thirty seconds if that. Honestly, it's not going to take Cynthia that long to burn one old rotten barge out with a couple of fire spells.

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


Sorry I didn't get to this while voting was still on, but you know. Life. I figure that some might still find this interesting/useful.

I was a player in Will Cooper's PbP playtest. Here's my perspective.

NUMBER OF PCs

There were four of us, all at level 4, playing the CR 4 version of this encounter.

RACE/CLASS/LEVEL OF PCs

We had an aasimar oracle of life (me), an undine paladin, a human magus, and a human wizard. Again, all level 4. Don't expect to see exactly the same characters in the aliases' profiles as what played the encounter; I know that I've already altered mine, and I doubt I'm the only one.

CHALLENGE OF THE ENCOUNTER

As it happens, it went quickly and expended few party resources. However, it really could've gone either way (cakewalk or PC deaths).

FUN OF THE ENCOUNTER

It was pretty fun! But too short. The magus reached the idol first and failed his save, then tried to kill the wizard. I used a scroll of protection from evil to salvage the near-disaster, and took heavy damage from a bloody skeleton's crit. However, even with that, we won in three rounds flat -- and they would've been down for good, since I'd coincidentally used a scroll of bless at the beginning.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Hey Adam, well done on getting to the top eight. You've shown some real talent, and I hope we get to see more of your work in the future.


Disclaimer:
Ask A RPGSupsersuccubus is posting from the point of view of a CE aligned (very advanced) succubus. She's right out of sympathies at present, and in any case ginormous siege towers tend to leave rather unpleasant wheel marks on the lawn which it takes ages for the grass to grow back in despite of the best efforts of several tanar’ri researchers over the past dozen months into new improved breeds of grass. (Please see the thread of someone who went out in Round 2 or 3 last year if you don't get the siege tower comment; and despite the lack of grass progress, several interesting new forms of triffids were discovered in the past year so all that horticultural research funding money wasn’t completely wasted. The triffids certainly proved useful for disposing of the failed researchers...)
Plus please take as read all the usual disclaimer stuff about gossiping salaciously over a cup of tea and plate of yummy buttered crumpets away from the boards and generally other Chaotic and Evil stuff, kept (barely) in check for now because of Good Manners.

Congratulations on making the top 8. Given the review I gave about this location and encounters, I'm inclined to be tactful about the whole not-making-the-top-four side of things. You did perform commendably well in getting this far, out of hundreds of entrants, but ended up on the sitting-the-last-round-out-as-far-as-entries-go side of the cut.

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