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Mushti's Beguiling Oddities - James Olchak

Mushti's Beguiling Oddities


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

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4 aka OamuTheMonk

1 person 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.

Mushti's Beguiling Oddities
==========
Located in the city of Solku, Katapesh; Mushti's Beguiling Oddities was a premier destination for traders from across Garund. Designed to resemble an ornate Thuvian mausoleum, the shop was constructed of striking white stone, and covered in whimsical statuary and arcane symbols. Its windowless edifice and iron doors also helped keep its contents secure. During his shop's operative years, Abu Mushti collected exotic trophies from the Mwangi expanse, objets d'art from Jalmeray, and mysterious relics from Thuvia, keeping his shop stacked with treasures suited to occult tastes. However, in 4699, an explosion of blue-white fire destroyed the topmost floor of the shop, presumably killing its proprietor. Although Mushti's was looted, an assortment of brass lamps, shrunken heads, bone jewelry, and other curious artifacts still rest inside beneath a thick layer of dust.

Since Mushti's disappearance, his shop serves mostly as a waystation for a rotating assortment of gangs, smugglers, or other criminals needing a convenient place to hide from the forces of law. The shop's basement is currently inhabited by members of the Pallid Way, worshippers of Urgathoa that trade in exotic diseases. Their leader, Iriona, has acquired the "Red Fury of Segang," a terrible beast of Jalmeray which carries a maddening sickness from a faraway land.

Rooftop Entry (CR 3 or 6)
==========
The second story of this tomblike building has been demolished by some unknown force. The roof is missing entirely; broken pillars, a partially fallen chimney, and other rubble litter the remaining housetop, which rises 20 feet above ground level. The still-standing sections of the second floor exterior wall are scarcely four feet high. A fallen tree leans against the building's east side.
The Pallid Way cultists have driven iron spikes into the fallen tree, creating a practical ladder to access the second floor. The floor, although sturdy, creaks and groans, causing Stealth checks upon it to be made at a -5 penalty. The giant spider lurking in the chimney is fat and complacent, and does not attack unless disturbed. However, if the cultists on the first floor detect invaders (Perception +8), either on the second floor or at the front door, they ignite a specially prepared smokestick within the fireplace. The smokestick, saturated with an oil of haste not only drives the spider out of the chimney, but affects it as if the oil had been applied directly.

Creatures: The smoke-irritated spider lunges out of the broken chimney in her displeasure attacking the closest character, whether on the second floor or at the front of the building. For high tier play, two advanced spiders emerge from the chimney, although only one receives the haste effect.

Low Tier (CR 3):
Giant Black Widow (1) CR 3 LINK
Giant Caveweaver
XP 800
hp 37 (Bestiary 2 256)

High Tier (CR 6):
Advanced Giant Black Widows (2) CR 4 LINK1 LINK2
Giant Caveweaver
XP 1,200
hp 47 each (Bestiary 2 256)

Sarcophagus Room (CR 4 or 7)
==========
A red glow suffuses this morbidly decorated shop floor. Four fifteen foot stone pillars support the vaulted ceiling, each of them containing an alcove, approximately ten feet above the floor. These alcoves each contain a lifelike statue of a winged humanoid, glowering toward the center of the room. Two heavy iron doors stand at the building's southeast corner behind a makeshift barricade; they are locked, barred, and held in place with iron spikes driven into the walls. An oversized fireplace dominates the southern wall. Several decorative sarcophagi stand along the walls, along with some cobwebbed shelves. The room's most distinctive feature is an enormous sarcophagus, standing nearly thirteen feet high. The front of the massive coffin depicts an imperious fire giant in regal armor. The giant's eyes are the source of the rooms glow.
The front doors are secured with a good lock (DC 30 Disable Device), barred, and spiked shut by the cultists; unless exceptionally burdened they use the second floor to enter and exist the building. The giant sarcophagus (whose eyes are enhanced with continual flame) conceals an elevator to the basement, large enough to carry one large or four medium creatures, to a maximum of 2200 pounds. A lever inside causes the elevator to travel the thirty feet to whatever floor it is not currently on. Unfortunately, the lever itself is trapped; unless a secret catch is turned, poison needles spring out into the user's palm.

Creatures: The bulk of the cultists lair in this room. In preparation for intruders, they hide within the smaller sarcophagi. They wait until the glyph of warding is triggered (or they are discovered), at which point they attack. The low tier cultists begin by throwing their tanglefoot bags, and team up on entangled characters to maximize opportunities for sneak attack. The high tier cultists use similar tactics, trying to entangle targets, or tripping them with their guisarmes.

Low Tier (CR 4):
Cultist (4) CR 2 LINK
Human Rogue
XP 600 each
hp 16 each (Burglar, Gamemastery Guide 265)

High Tier (CR 7):
Cultist (5) CR 3 LINK
Human Rogue
XP 800 each
hp 30 each (Slaver, Gamemastery Guide 266)

Trap:
Glyph of Warding CR 7 XP 3,200
Type magic; Perception DC 28; Disable Device DC 28
EFFECTS
Trigger spell; Reset none
3d8 acid, all non Urgathoa worshippers within 5 ft, DC 18 Ref save half

Trap:
Poisoned Needle lever CR 3 XP 800
Type mechanical; Perception DC 20; Disable Device DC 25
EFFECTS
Trigger touch; Reset manual
Effect Atk +10 melee (4 needles; 1hp each, plus black adder venom)

The Red Fury's Lair (CR 6 or 9)
==========
This large, dusty basement is completely dark, and has a harsh, chalky odor. Stacks of rotting crates are piled throughout, and a wall of iron bars turns the southern end into a sizable cage. A monstrous statue stands on the east side of the room, between two pillars. The ceiling is twenty-five feet high.

The cage is secured with a good lock (DC 30 Disable Device). For a low tier party, the statue is the leader of the Pallid Way, Iriona, gargoyle. The Red Fury is a mangy, balding manticore with sunburned pink skin. It slouches in the eastern corner of its cage in a drooling trance, having been heavily drugged for transport. However, if disturbed (even by the sounds of combat), its ferocity immediately surfaces.

Creatures: Iriona uses her freeze ability to lure targets close, then attacks, taking to the air to avoid flanking. The sounds of combat rouse the Red Fury, who fires spikes at the party from behind the cage bars (which provide partial cover). After the first round of combat, Iriona uses her chime of opening to release the Red Fury, so it can join the combat in melee.

Low Tier (CR 6):
Iriona, Gargoyle CR 4 LINK
XP 1,200
hp 42 (Bestiary 137)
In addition to her standard gear, Iriona carries a chime of opening with 5 charges remaining.

Red Fury, Drugged Diseased Manticore CR 4 LINK
XP 1,600
hp 57 (Bestiary 199)
Drugged (Ex) The Red Fury has been drugged, and is sickened.
Disease (Ex) Sikari Rage: Injury save Fort DC 17; frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect as the spells confusion, rage cure 1 save. The save DC is constitution based.

For a high tier party, the statue is the petrified form of the Red Fury, a Chimera. Once it is restored to life, the Red Fury's flesh is revealed to be a nearly hairless pink, the color of a fresh welt. Its three mouths howl in agonized ire. The Pallid Way's leader, Iriona, is a medusa.

Creatures: Iriona, having locked herself within the cage, hides in its western corner until the party nears the Red Fury, at which point she fires her stone salve-tipped arrow to release the creature from its petrified state. She avoids affecting the Fury with her gaze (treating it as an ally), and supports the creature's attacks with poisoned arrow fire from within the cage. If forced into melee combat, Iriona primarily attacks with her gaze, trying to end the skirmish quickly.

High Tier (CR 9):
Iriona, Medusa CR 7 LINK
XP 3,200
hp 76 (Bestiary 201)
In addition to her standard gear, Iriona carries an arrow tipped with a glass bulb filled with an ounce of stone salve.

Red Fury, Diseased Chimera CR 7 LINK
XP 3,200
hp 85 (Bestiary 44)
Disease (Ex) Sikari Rage: Injury save Fort DC 17; frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect as confusion, rage for 1 round cure 1 save. The save DC is constitution based.

Development:Both versions of the Red Fury of Segang are carriers of Sikari rage, a fast-acting disease from the distant land of Vudra that inflicts a livid madness on its victims. The disease is transmitted by each of the Red Fury's natural attacks. A successful casting of remove disease, heal, or other malady-curing ability upon the Red Fury removes the disease from its system, and leaves the beast exhausted. (Pathfinder AP 9)

Cartographer

Very nice map reference sketch here, I love the hand drawn ink-work on this map, it really is very well drawn and stylized. The hatching around the basement level is especially nice. I really do enjoy seeing a nicely hand drawn map from an author, it has more feeling and real emotion infused in the paper and ink.

One thing I really like is the use of wall thickness, a very nice thing to see that is often not in most map references. Extra points for the little sarcophagus "skellys", very cool stuff.

Great looking map reference, ready to be worked on with no confusion as to where everything goes, and lots of unique keyed items to draw. Great work!

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

LOVE the old school map. Heck, that map would have made a Chaosium product back in the day.

If this whole Superstar thing doesnt work out you might get some 3P map jobs from this :) But I have a funny feeling this superstar thing just might work out for you.

Cool and fun location. Neat encounters and locations. Classic feel, which I like. Gargoyle and mangy manticore--that's fun.

STRONGLY RECOMMENDED

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Welcome to the Top 8, James. Looks like your experience from last year is really paying off for you. 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:

- Mushti's Beguiling Oddities, huh? It's an intriguing enough name for an encounter location. Reading further, we learn it's more of a front and the remains of a ruined location repurposed by a collection of Urgathoan cultists engaging in a bit of monster- and disease-collecting. Interesting setup.

- The map is beautiful. It's hand-drawn to a level that borders on artistry. Really well done here. But this contest isn't Cartography Superstar. So, let's see what you've got for us on the encounter itself.

- "Located in the city of Solku, Katapesh; Mushti's Beguiling Oddities was a premier destination for traders from across Garund." I don't think the grammar of this first sentence works out very well for you. The semi-colon isn't the proper break you're looking for...and throughout your writeup, I see that you rely overly much on semi-colons in a lot of your design. In most cases, they really aren't warranted. There are better ways to restate many of these sentences.

- Additionally, you spend a long paragraph telling us plenty about the location's original history, but I didn't really see much of it that's all that relevant to the actual encounter. Only the shorter, second paragraph really establishes for us what this encounter is all about. And, sadly, I don't think you spent enough words here. I need to know a bit more about the Pallid Way, what they're using this location to do, what their current goals entail, and what's brought the PCs into conflict with them or led them here. What's the catalyst for having them involved in visiting this location, much less the individual encounter you've selected from within it.

- Reading deeper, it's becoming evident to me that you really haven't given us what the assignment called for. Instead, you went above and beyond to give us way more than what was asked of you. Rather than a single encounter, you've described three of them in the same location. Some of them are somewhat dependent on the choices the PCs make. And, there could be overflow from one encounter location to another if the cultists raise the alarm or notice the PCs' presence. But, I really think you failed at wisely spending your word count. If you'd set up this location and then focused on just one area of the map to detail everything we need to know about it and the encounter in that single room, you'd have been able to cut out the other encounters and focus on shoring up the rest of your writeup...e.g., all that information I'm missing about the Pallid Way and the PCs' reasons for being there. You could also expand further on the creatures and traps/hazards involved in that encounter. As described, you had to go a lot more sparse just to fit in all three encounters.

- Now, that said, you did do a decent job of presenting each of the three encounters you gave us. You squeezed in more than most could have pulled off by trying to incorporate three encounters in your limited word count. I like the spiders hiding in the chimney. And the cultists hiding in the sarcophagi, ready to jump out as soon as the glyph of warding goes off. Even the gargoyle/medusa with the diseased manticore/chimera could make for an interesting battle just because of the monster "mix" you chose here. Those are some decent adversaries and some interesting elements to introduce in the battles that could take place. But, the encounters themselves are all a bit shorter than they otherwise could have been if you'd focused your writeup on just one. That would have allowed you to broaden the situation and make it even more compelling, dynamic, and entertaining. Or, dare I say, more Superstar?

- I'm not sure about the application of oil of haste via a smokestick. There's not really a precedent for that in the game. And I'm not certain it's a good idea to introduce a new medium for applying oils in that manner. It's a novel way to kick off the encounter to have the smokestick drive the spiders out of the chimney and into the PCs, however. I think you could have achieved that without the haste effect. Even so, I understand why you wanted to introduce it. That power-up elevates the encounter to make it more than just "fighting some spiders."

- Typo: "The giant's eyes are the source of the rooms glow." Missing an apostrophe...should be "room's glow"...

- Your CR structure for these encounters at the lower tier is a CR 3 rooftop battle with a spider, a CR 4 fight against a handful of cultists, and then a CR 6 battle against a gargoyle and a manticore. So, I'm assuming we're looking at a four-man party of 4th level PCs to venture into this lair? That way, it's a CR-1, CR, and CR+2 progression as compared to their APL. That can work. But be careful. Most PFS scenarios are instituted in a way that you can play up, which means a 3rd level PC might also go through this adventure and that last encounter could come off way more deadly than intended.

- Failure to proofread: "...they use the second floor to enter and exist the building..." Should have been "exit"...

- Improper reference of game terminology: "...large enough to carry one large or four medium creatures..." Should be Large and Medium.

- Spacing problems: "Effect Atk +10 melee (4 needles; 1hp each, plus black adder venom)" needs an extra space between 1 and hp. "Development:Both versions of the Red Fury of Segang are carriers of Sikari rage..." needs an extra space between "Development" and "Both."

- You've failed to italicize references to the Bestiary, Bestiary 2, and Gamemastery Guide. Your Development section also makes a call out to "Pathfinder AP 9" but I'm not sure what that's for...so, you really need to specify and include whatever material you wanted that to reference.

- Much like the oil of haste-in-a-smokestick, I'm also worried by the concept of an arrow tipped with stone salve. Like most wondrous items, it takes a standard action to apply the ointment to the flesh of a petrified creature. Simply shooting a statue with an arrow that has a container of stone salve on the end of it, doesn't really qualify as "applying" it to the affected creature. So, the encounter setup isn't as plausible as it could otherwise be in the medusa/chimera pairing at the higher tier.

- I'm really torn on this one. Aside from the superlative map-work, I think the encounter designs are a little lackluster. They're basically three combat encounters...mostly playing out how you'd expect them to. The most innovative aspects (i.e., the oil of haste-in-a-smokestick, the glyph of warding, trapped elevator lever, and stone salve arrow trick) are either kind of run-of-the-mill in terms of generating a compelling, interesting situation...or, suspect, in terms of how well the rules support some of the interpretations you've made. I really think you didn't spend enough time ramping up a single encounter with clear, compelling description of the location, situation, and adversaries in a way that makes them leap off the page. Instead, it comes off more workman-like with very little that I'd view as memorable and compelling.

- The execution is mostly there. But you also had some significant missteps. The imagination and creativity is reasonable. And it's been that way for you all throughout the contest. Ultimately, it's going to depend on how well you measure up to your fellow competitors, as I don't find enough here to really compel me to support it. But, neither do I find enough wrong here to completely recommend against giving you a shot at writing a Pathfinder module or a PFS scenario. With further guidance, you could prove effective. But, I also worry whether or not you can learn to reference proper game terminology and produce a polished product worthy of a professional freelancer. Given that this is your second run at RPG Superstar (and assuming you've followed along at least throughout last year), I think that's a significant and legitimate concern. And I think everyone should weigh it in determining whether or not to vote for you to advance to the Top 4.

So, given all that, I'm going to put myself ON THE FENCE for this round. I'll leave it up to voters to decide if the glass is half-full or half-empty for you with this design as well as the promise you hold forth as a potential adventure designer.

I'd be remiss, however, if I also failed to mention your earlier work for others to consider. Your rajah's silhouette really showed your creativity. You've demonstrated that pretty consistently throughout the contest. Your Cold Hearth Lodge also had some popular elements to it. Enough so, that at least one fellow competitor mentioned it his own design for this round. So, kudos for your inspiring work. Meanwhile, your hushfoot bocan is what got you here. That's three rounds worth of awesome potential. So, no matter the outcome of the public voting, recognize how much you've done and be very proud of it. Best of luck in the voting (and playtesting).

Contributor

James, welcome to the Top 8!

I love your map. Love love love it. It's the sort of map I would draw. Heck, it actually LOOKS like a map I would draw. And, because I go out of my way to make my map turnovers cartographer, friendly, this means I heartily approve of your map and I think any cartographer who got this as part of an assignment would think it's the bee's knees. I was all set to type something clever about finding work as cartographer, but Clark beat me to it!

I really like the custists using a smokestick to apply the oil of haste to the spider. Is it the standard way of doing this sort of thing? No. Is it something the PCs should be able to replicate? Maybe. Is it something they could replicate on their first try? Probably not. But I think it's clever and a neat twist, and it's okay if villains can do things that PCs can't easily duplicate.

I agree with Neil that the stone salve arrow wouldn't work, any more than oil of cure light wounds on a sling bullet or whip should be able to heal the target.

I would have liked to see more about the cult and less about the history of this shop.

I liked the description of the Sarcophagus Room (it should be "room's glow" at the end, though).

The real problem here is you describe encounters in several areas--but you were only supposed to describe one encounter. You're not breaking any rules (technically, the R4 rules don't say "only one tiered encounter"), but I think you hurt yourself by doing this because in describing multiple encounters you spent words that you could have used fleshing out one primary encounter.

Overall, despite that goof, I think this is a good entry--while each individual encounter isn't very robust, overall you've created a neat location to explore over several encounters. If this were an actual adventure, you'd devote the appropriate amount of space to each encounter, and you'd fill in each with the right details. If you had focused on one tiered encounter instead of several, I think this would be a GREAT entry.

Paizo Employee Developer

Hi James, 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 like the location name right off the bat. It evokes a merchant's store, which alone is boring, but with the words Beguiling and Oddities, it feels like there's some potential for cool in there too. I'm eager to see what's next.

And you deliver the one-two punch with that map. Dang that's a nice looking turnover. All your symbols are clear, you have a lot of room for PCs and NPCs to move around, and I wouldn't have any questions from a cartographer working on it. Great work. You've impressed me twice so far, so let's see how you did with the location and encounter, shall we?

Well, the misuse of a semicolon in that first sentence did bring me off my cloud a little bit. I know folks like to use em-dashes and semicolons to break up the routine of commas, periods, and parentheses, but if you aren't sure how to use them, it's better to use the more commonplace, boring punctuation you know you can get right.

Neat backstory, though Thuvia seems a strange choice for a place in Katapesh in terms of its style and featured collection. Osirion I could totally see, but Thuvia just doesn't have the same connection to a place like Solku as either the Mwangi Expanse (the second word of which should be capitalized) or even Jalmeray. Not a deal breaker and an easy enough fix in development that it's not a big deal, but I did scratch my head when I came across Thuvia in this background.

Moving into the encounter--er, encounters-- let's see what you have…

Your encounter headers should have some indication of what encounter area they refer to (such as A1, A2, and A3) as GMs need that to quickly go from the text to a single location on a map that is likely on a different page entirely. You used a semicolon correctly in the first encounter's read aloud text, so that's good. The oil of haste smokestick is creative, for sure, and I'm ok with the rules gray area for it, if only because the results are interesting and there's a chance the PCs can avoid it if the cultists don't notice their approach, but I wouldn't kit bash much more liberally than that, and especially not more than once in a given adventure or encounter area.

In the second encounter, I could use a bit more explanation of how the elevator works, especially how it somehow knows what level to travel to next. Is it a mechanical or magical elevator? It's anachronistic in either case, but we've done mechanical elevators before, and as long as there's some explanation of how it works, I think players and GMs will buy either method of operation. It just needs to be stated. You should mention the glyph of warding somewhere in the room description before the creatures section, as the cultists act when it goes off, but the GM has no way to know when or where that should be. Both traps can be included in a single "Traps" section after the creatures since they're both the same in both subtiers, but I'd put in a sentence or two describing them specifically before jumping to their statblocks. And both statblocks should be styled; as it is they're just plain text. I would expect you to know by now to bold and italicize the elements within them that should be styled.

In the final encounter (I still can't believe you did three encounters) you should only have a single Creatures section which includes information on both tiers and then put their tiered stats below that. In either case, I'm not completely sold on the monstrous cult leader angle, and think you'd have a stronger narrative for the location with a human(oid) cultist. You have the monster part covered with the manticore, and I can believe a cult of humans would follow one of their own kind way more than following a gargoyle or medusa. Here you have another rules kit bash, and one that doesn't work the way you intend. The smokestick was neat but this one just goes too far with the economy of actions.

You went above and beyond with three solid encounters and a phenomenal map with this round, James. That said, you made a number of errors that I'd really expect a freelancer working for me to catch before turning in an assignment, so you need to up your game in the next round. I RECOMMEND this submission for advancement to the next round, but with the note that you must proofread and look at the vast catalogue of existing published Pathfinder material to see how we do even the smallest things. The ability to parse small stylistic details and emulate them consistently and without needing to be told each of them by a developer is what really makes a superstar. Best of luck in the voting, James.

CEO, Goblinworks

Issues:

How long is a ruined shop going to be allowed to stay a ruin? Especially if its regularly invested with criminals?

History of building is meaningless given the nature of the submission. Wasted words.

Who are the Pallid Way and why do I care?

Typos. Inexcusable at this level.

Commentary:

Why are the PCs here? What are they trying to accomplish?

You decided to present 3 encounters instead of one. You got it all in under the word count so I'm not going to dock you for it.

The spider fight is old and tired. The PC with the best ranged damage abilities (who is flying) zap the spiders with spells and ranged attacks, facing no threat. When PCs are in the open, you have to think in 3D once they have access to fly (i.e. when the Wizard reaches 5th level).

Cultists are a pushover at these CRs, have no meaningfully interesting tactics or abilities, and will fight in a confined space where the wizard's fireball will do most of them in.

So the real value you're adding is the fight vs. the cult leader and the chimera. That fight is dependent on a bunch of factors out of your control.

It is in the dark, which I like. The opponents are big and dangerous, which is good - they'll live through the first couple of rounds of combat. They work well together, so there's opportunities for interesting tactics and surprises that may throw the party off balance.

I like the use of the disease which is a good twist; it forces the cleric to make interesting choices.

I'm a little bit leery of the use of the stone salve in this situation for the same reasons described by Neil. This is a minor issue through and worst case can be hand-waved away by something added in development. Your approach is logical and not strictly forbidden by the rules.

Recommendation:

I recommend that you vote for this designer.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I like the set-up. Simple and elegant. I like the map - very old school. I like the encounters - spiders and a diseased manticore! FAWESOME!

Good luck!

Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Very nice. Having the Fury be a drugged, diseased manticore or a diseased chimera depending on CR is a nice touch... I really get a feel for this encounter(s). Well done James!

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The map art is excellent, and the overall location interesting. Personally, I don't care that this was made into three encounters rather than the one called for, but it really could have been just the last one in the basement. I agree with most of the judges' comments above, but overall, this is my favorite entry so far.

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

Awesomesauce James! That map is made of pure, old skool, win! Even the whole PCs infiltrate a cult hidey hole feels OSR.

While I'm impressed you squeezed three tiered encounters into your word count I agree with the judges in that you should've focused on one of them. That being said, with just a little work this encounter site is a nice few hours of gaming in and of itself!

--Vrock the Vote!


I like this submission. It isn't really a single encounter, given both the spiders and the cultists before you get to the Red Fury, but it is still solid. Personally, I would have dropped the cultists and stuck with the spider as the "optional" encounter if the PCs failed their stealth checks. Otherwise, most of the judge's comments echo mine.

I will try and run this against my players, not sure which version to run yet.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

Congrats! I love the map, it has major old school mojo. The smoke stick thing is fine for me and as one extended encounter this works. The only thing I have to complain about is you don't have the encounters keyed with the map, they need to be labeled 2F, 1F, B. But then again White Wolf printed book after book with "see pg(XXX)" in them and they waz profecinals. I wont get on you for the typos, that's what editors are for.

Sczarni

Love this map! Reminds me of Heroes quest (hero quest in the US). Best map this round. Encounter was great and combat could be interesting if the players use no real tactics. Leaves alot for the imagination (isn't that what this is all about?). Vote for this one for sure. Playtesting it tommorrow in our own campaign


Lovely Hand drawn map.
I think you are stretching the rules having 3 encounters and what amounts to a CR range of 3-9, but since the judges say it is OK, then I'll let it pass. Maybe it would have worked if you had made it a warehouse, so it would be more like a single encounter in a large room rather than 3 encounters in different rooms.
I like the monster pairings in the last encounter!


Interesting, and the map is great. I'll probably want to playtest this, especially to see if the multiple encounters thing brings somethign to this or if it's just a waste.

Neat work!

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

Hey, a medusa...you might get my vote just for that. :-D

Good job, James.

Star Voter 2013

Your map makes me jealous, I really want to be able to make maps like that, and I'm really impressed with how you turned this round on it's head by presenting almost a scenario in an area than simply an encounter. Now, as has been mentioned above, you could have wasted a lot of words with that, but it's got enough mojo in it to likely secure my vote.

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.

Mushti's Beguiling Oddities

The location - what did you bring to Golarion?
A shop in an existing city - doesn't immediately shout superstar. But... it has cool visuals, it has just enough intriguing history, it's in ruins and inhabited by a gang of plague cultists... yeah that's pretty good. Self contained and interesting - good work.

The encounter - do I want to run this fight on your map?
Well, these fights, I guess. That's three encounters, and I'll need to decide whether it is fair to play test all three encounters or whether I should pick just one. The second encounter has some formatting issues with the traps, and I'm left to work out which trap goes with which tier (not too hard but shouldn't have to do it). The final encounter is the most interesting, and I wish you had used more words to make it a little more dynamic. I like the way you've kept the statue and cage constant but swapped round which one is Iriona between tiers. I would expect the save DC for Sikari Rage disease to change between tiers.

The writing - how effectively have you crafted those words?
Good work. It's active energetic writing, no 'wills' and not much passive voice.

Summary
Good location, good map. Encounters are diluted because you didn't focus your words on one great encounter, but the linked areas show some real promise for next round. That might be real smart, or it might blow up in your face.

Star Voter 2013

I freakin' love the style of the map. That alone sold me on this already. It reminds me of the old maps from Iron Crown Enterprises, many of which are still favorites.

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

Sly, but that's why the typos are such a problem. I edit copy daily for my job, so I know mistakes get through (and that they can get through despite three or four reads!).

I think it's easy to argue that they're something for the Paizo staff to deal with, but the more that make it through to the editors, the more that will make it through to published products.

I have to admit, I was surprised by the number of typos in this round -- it certainly wasn't just James. As good as the maps are almost universally (and James' is one of the three best IMO), I was very disappointed by the grammatical errors throughout the round. I know they're all kicking themselves for it (I certainly would be), but letting it happen in a contest like this, where everything's analyzed more than they would normally be or at least by a larger audience, seems really egregious to me.


Jacob W. Michaels wrote:

Sly, but that's why the typos are such a problem. I edit copy daily for my job, so I know mistakes get through (and that they can get through despite three or four reads!).

I think it's easy to argue that they're something for the Paizo staff to deal with, but the more that make it through to the editors, the more that will make it through to published products.

I have to admit, I was surprised by the number of typos in this round -- it certainly wasn't just James. As good as the maps are almost universally (and James' is one of the three best IMO), I was very disappointed by the grammatical errors throughout the round. I know they're all kicking themselves for it (I certainly would be), but letting it happen in a contest like this, where everything's analyzed more than they would normally be or at least by a larger audience, seems really egregious to me.

Posted in wrong thread, please see discussion over on the Palace Sumptuous encounter. Discussion still applies here, though.

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

*headdesk* Whoops. Sorry, all. I have no idea how the heck that happened.

Star Voter 2013

I really liked this. Despite the rules, I'm basing my votes on viability of the encounter, and innovation in design. The application of the haste via the smokestick is brilliant, and exactly the kind of thing I like seeing in encounters. There is precedent for the stone salve arrow in Elves of Golarion with their various different arrows. Granted, they are using alchemical splash weapons, but the idea is still sound and I'd let it fly. Either that or I'd change it to a blunted arrow that delivers a stone to flesh spell on the target, which isn't unreasonable either.

Cheliax

Wow! It's an elegantly drawn, interesting map, and the encounters (except for the pushover cultists hiding inside sarcophagi; my players would instantly discover them) are really exciting. I've used fat, lazy giant spiders more than a few times myself, and I don't share Ryan's opinion of them being "old and tired". The smokestick trick is just pure awesome!

Very well done, and I'd gladly run this for my group. I *do* have a soft spot for Urgathoa and her cultists, so that may also influence my opinion a bit. Anyway, you got my vote for this round, James! :)

Cheliax

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
I love your map. Love love love it. It's the sort of map I would draw. Heck, it actually LOOKS like a map I would draw.

Sean, who're you trying to kid here? We've seen maps drawn by you, and we all know they're not this good! ;P


I love this quite a lot. A lot of tactically interesting situations, the hasted spider is very cool, as is the diseased manticore. I will try it out when I get a chance. If that happens before the next round I'll post the results.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Jacob W. Michaels wrote:
*headdesk* Whoops. Sorry, all. I have no idea how the heck that happened.

A typo, of course :)

Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

James, I like what you've done here. Yes, the encounters (THREE of 'em!) are pretty straightforward, but much of that was dictated by the word count, and the creativity displayed using oil of haste unconventionally puts this one into the "win" column for me.

I agree with Ryan that thinking in three dimensions is essential as the encounters get into higher tiers, and that you'd probably have been better served concentrating on one great encounter over three good ones, but this is good stuff. I'm going to try playtesting this weekend, and expect this entry to get a vote. Nice job!


Ok, I GMed a playtest of this encounter on 3/3/12

Player Character Count: 4

Male Human Cleric 6 of Cayden Cailean (Strength/Travel domains) [fairly optimized]
Female Human Rogue 6 [fairly min/maxed]
Female Half-Orc Barbarian 6 [Extremely min/maxed]
Female Half-Orc Abyssal Sorceress [fairly optimized]

Tier: We played the Challenge Rating 6 version of the encounter. Did not test the CR 9 version

Ease of Play:

Overall, I found this to be fairly easy to run. Between the (excellent) map and the instructions, I didn't run into much trouble. The only exception would have been indicators as to the locations of the monsters (Gargoyle and Manticore) in the basement.

Challenge of the Encounter:

The spider, which was intended as a spoiler, didn't amount to much. The Sorceress and the Barbarian blew it away in one round. I thought it was a good touch, though, as it could have been dangerous if the PCs had been more spread out.

The cultists were a nice glass cannon type encounter, as they nearly killed the Sorceress in 1 round. If she hadn't been Half-Orc she probably would have died as they focused fired on her. The tanglefoot bags might have been more effective against a group that relied on mobility, which this wasn't. Closing to melee against the PCs proved to be a fatal mistake for three of them. The fourth was hit with hideous laughter. Too bad for him he didn't get the last laugh.

The traps were a nice touch, as they kept the PCs on their toes.

The final encounter saw the party take some moderate damage, but nothing life threatening. Fortunately for the PCs, they made their saves against the disease. If they had failed their saves, its possible that one or more of them might have died, especially if the Barbarian started hitting friendlies. The use of Fly one the Barbarian pretty much spelled the doom of the Red Fury and Iriona. A less optimized party might have run into more trouble.

Looking on it, with the exception of the spider, these map with its encounters favored melee groups possessing superior mobility. Ranged heavy PCs would have found it more difficult.

Fun of the Encounter:

My players really liked this encounter. Between the spoiler spider, the ambush from the cultists and the final battle, everyone got to do something and feel good about themselves. I also enjoyed it, as it was easy to GM and presented several different challenges to handle.

Other Comments: This was an enjoyable Round 4 entry. As a single encounter, any one of the three would have been weak and or lackluster at best. But combined they presented an ongoing challenge for the PCs which made for an enjoyable experience. A group which was melee heavy, and also had access to flight magic, had a relatively easy time of this. A party without that kind of magic, or ranged heavy, might have fared worse.


Hi James! Congrats on making it to this round. I foresee you making it to round five.

I will only have time to playtest one scenario from this round, and I did not select Mushti's Beguiling Oddities.

However, I liked studying your map and reading your encounter so much that I must add a few happy comments.

I especially like that fact you exceeded the round expectations by describing multiple encounters, that you put haste on a smokestick, and that you had an arrow dipped in stone salve. Frankly, if a GM can't deal with imaginative creativity that bends rules for sake of fun, I don't want to play with that GM. Far from being mistakes, injecting that sign of personal inventiveness kicks your entry up several notches.

You consistently put forward pro design ideas with flair. Teamed with a pro editor you will become an excellent designer.

I look forward to reading your adventure proposal. More importantly, from a human perspective, I know I would enjoy gaming with you.

-Titania

Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

Finally!

After having playtested most of the other scenarios and found them very easy on my (fairly optimised) PCs led by my experienced "how do we screw the GM most profoundly" players, this happened to be a real challenge.

Alas, I lost my encounter log somehow, so I can only say that my PCs broke a sweat in the final encounter with the Chimera and the Medusa.

One of five Level 7 PCs got confused and one even got petrified, which added a boatload of troubles, but still noone died although two were put to negative numbers.

The encounter was as fun and challenging as I would expect it. The map layout is interesting. It was very easy to run this on a battle mat.

Although I found the backstory not very interesting, imho this was the best encounter of all the submissions.

So you got one of my two votes.

Andoran Star Voter 2013

James Olchak wrote:

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.

Mushti's Beguiling Oddities
==========

sorry for cruddy shorthand. using my phone to log results while play testing. "**#* it, we are doing it live!"

5 PC's
Elf/rog/4
Dwarf/rog/4
Human/cle/4
Dwarf/mon/4
Elf/ran/4

7 out of 10 on easy of play. Unclear what levels for each tier.

The challenge was good and appropriate. Spider nice and tricky. liked the altered tindertwig.

9 out of 10 on fun. well designed and good flow.

Silver Crusade Star Voter 2013

MicMan wrote:

Finally!

After having playtested most of the other scenarios and found them very easy on my (fairly optimised) PCs led by my experienced "how do we screw the GM most profoundly" players, this happened to be a real challenge.

Alas, I lost my encounter log somehow, so I can only say that my PCs broke a sweat in the final encounter with the Chimera and the Medusa.

One of five Level 7 PCs got confused and one even got petrified, which added a boatload of troubles, but still noone died although two were put to negative numbers.

The encounter was as fun and challenging as I would expect it. The map layout is interesting. It was very easy to run this on a battle mat.

Although I found the backstory not very interesting, imho this was the best encounter of all the submissions.

So you got one of my two votes.

I like this submission a lot, but I would like to point out that some of what you are reporting in your playtest can be attributed to the fact that this is 3 encounters instead of 1.

Pathfinder is largely a game of resource management. The other standalone encounters will seem easy because the PCs can blow all of their spells and consumables in the fight, knowing there are no more to follow.

This entry has challenges because the PCs have to manage resources over 3 encounters, making it more difficult by default.

I don't think that takes away from this entry, which is solid and flavorful (and probably has one of my votes), but I think it's worth noting why it may seem substantially more challenging than the other 7.

Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

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 1-2 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 thumbs up - Key symbols table - well done.
Map Fu thumbs up - Key symbols are clearly defined and there is no chance of confusion.
Map Fu thumbs up - scale indicated for map and pull out - nice.
Map Fu eats a point - you were almost escaping that, but the 1f/2f and B were not in the key. We can work it out (extra work for the GM to do) but then he coupled that with no title / map name on the map - in a module or campaign books, the maps are usually easily identified as the writer cannot guarantee placement of map to encounter text in all cases.
Map Fu grins and eats another point just as we were moving on. He points to the stairs in 1F and then in the Key - they match... he then points to the top right stairs in 2F which are different and not on the key. What you needed here was consistency in key item, perhaps adding an arrow to indicate "up / down" on a consistent stair symbol.

Score: 3/5

Check Point 2: Compass Rose/North Bearing

Obvious, and should be on all maps.

Map Fu thumbs up - The compass rose is the map, and he quite likes the idea of merging it with the general map scale - quite nice indeed.

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 - you have used those dashed builders who build along compass lines - ohhhh the temptation of graph paper is mighty indeed.

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 floors all align and are of same dimensionality that would be found in a regular sized building (albeit basements are often smaller so as not to endanger the upper floors integrity, but that's no biggie).

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 thumbs up - there is a lot of detail in each floor, showing some time spent making the maximum information on the map is available to the GM. Well done.

Score: 5/5

Check Point 6: Anything Missing?

Map Fu forces himself to not eat another point due to lack of map name. I turn away for a second to hear his will power fail him coupled with the sound of munching.

Score: 4/5

GM Preparation : First Impressions.

Having scanned the map, I am well satisfied on what is needed on the battleboard, so I turned my attention to the encounter description.

You quickly got into the set up for the encounter, I like that. I saw three clear sections - that also was very nice, but again, you failed to indicate 1F, 2F or B for each - in this case, I worked it out from the descriptions and the detailed room content on the map, but you must ensure there is no room for ambiguity.

As this is an encounter map and not an area map, I expected to see the starting positions of each npc / creature detailed on the map - however, because of the encounter creature selection and the emergent points for those creatures when coupled with the detail of the map, it is actually fairly obvious, so you escape this one - just bear this in mind on future work.

The Development section refers desease transition and curing, I had hoped to find here some sort of "if the PCs manage to breach the sarcophagus room without alerting the cultists, instead of being hidden, they will be found...." to cover that sort of eventuality.

My playtest set up

So for my play test I have prepared on 3 white boards each room and used peel on peel off glue to place room crates, sarcophagi, etc into each, just in case they end up getting moved during the encounter. No assumptions were needed for placement of creatures. Well done.

GM Preparation : Other considerations / thoughts

The only opportunity in this encounter that I can see you missed is detailing the possibility of escaping NPC/ PC resulting in an outside building chase scene extension. Some mini location map showing the immediate environs of the building would have solved this.

GM Prep Score: 17/20 Overall Score: 44 / 50


I was sold on the map already and when I read the description I wasn't disappointed either. The only thing that makes me wonder is lack of a caster amongst the cultist... (ok, I know, casters require much more space than ready to go NPCs).


You had me at: "...trade in exotic diseases..."

I want to know more about this organization.


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?
Noble Knights are unlikely to be in the vicinity unless they've been specifically hired to explore (or infiltrate) this location.

Is there any possible convenient financial gain obvious in this situation for a succubus?
Financial gain is open to debate, but there's certainly possibilities to loot the building itself for interesting room fittings to add to a villa...

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?
*Scamper*, rampage, trample, crunch, crash, trample, rampage, crunch, crunch, *stomp*, craaaack, stomp, crunch, crash.
Sadly, the hamster didn't make it to the basement (secret elevator thingummies are such a nuisance), otherwise it might have stopped for a game of cards with Iriona and the chimera...

Other comments?
As the hamster rampage demonstrated, it's conceivable that some lair invaders might not make it to the basement if they don't discover the secret elevator thing. They might take it for granted that the only people around were the cultists on the ground floor and that (if they're specifically after her) Iriona was out when they came calling. (Not all villains stay in their lairs one hundred percent of the time. Some do have active social lives and other interests besides evil schemes to pursue.)
Hmm. This location reminds me of a property in another city under use by the Church of Urgathoa I once heard about it, which had a secret basement accessed by an elevator. not to give away any secrets about that place, in an open post like this, but I wonder if there's a branch of the Church which has a thing for secret lairs with basements accessed by elevator?

Estimated time for four adventuresome succubi to deal with this situation:
Several hours, exactly how many depending on just how long they spend 'playing' with the cultists on the ground floor as they try to make up their minds if they want to keep them permanently - and if so, how to divide them up?

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.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4 aka OamuTheMonk

Thank you for your kind words, everyone! I hope to make it to the next round and give you something more to consider!

Cheliax

Ask A RPGSupersuccubus wrote:

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 omitted ** ;)

BOO! HISS! Nobody cares about your opinion; get back to the Worldwound or Abyss or whatever pit you crawled out of! ;P


Asgetrion wrote:
Nobody cares about your opinion; get back to the Worldwound or Abyss or whatever pit you crawled out of!

Actually, I care. While on the surface appearing to make a complete mockery of the contest, (and being hilarious while doing so), these reviews actually ask some pointed questions. Questions such as: "What good is this for a socially oriented character?", "An evil character?", "A really high level character?", Etc. Then again, they say that if you explain the joke, it's not funny. So maybe I shoulda' kept quiet.

Cheliax

Karatorian wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:
Nobody cares about your opinion; get back to the Worldwound or Abyss or whatever pit you crawled out of!
Actually, I care. While on the surface appearing to make a complete mockery of the contest, (and being hilarious while doing so), these reviews actually ask some pointed questions. Questions such as: "What good is this for a socially oriented character?", "An evil character?", "A really high level character?", Etc. Then again, they say that if you explain the joke, it's not funny. So maybe I shoulda' kept quiet.

FYI:
Did you notice the smiley there? As a Chelaxian I have an obligation to mock demons, and this was meant as a friendly jab at RPG Succubus; we've done it before, and there's no bad blood between us (I hope).
Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Hey James, I’ve been liking your ideas so far (and I’ve noticed the subtle Jalmeray/Vudran themes here and there.) I think the main advice I can give is to focus on what you want to show to the audience in your proposal. Don’t get too bogged down in small details, look for what will sell your proposal and burn words on that. Keep bringing the nice flavor you showed in your encounter, and make sure it solidly links to the plot of your adventure. Show us something we haven’t seen before. Good luck, I’m keen to see what you come up with.

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

Congratulations James. There's a wealth of good advice out there, but it's getting late for anything except hard work. Remember: balance, conflict, focus, tension. The players' story, not your story.

Good luck.

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