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Brike Isle - Steve Miller

Brike Isle


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

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 4 , Star Voter 2014 aka MillerHero

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.

Brike Isle
==========
Nestled among much larger islands of the Ironbound Archipelago, Brike Isle is a tiny islet and home to a village of Dwarves, Ulfen, and Varisians. The land gently slopes toward the center, steepening near the summit, which is only about 40 feet from sea level.

The Sacrifice of Brike (CR 3 or 6)
==========
The party suspected that the witch’s plan was to perform a mass sacrifice to her dark patron, yet they did not know where or how she would implement it until they entered a sea cave below Brike. She had used a legendary artifact of destruction, the sphere of annihilation, to carve out a massive cavern within the foundation of the island, leaving only a few pillars to support the tremendous weight of the remaining rock above. When she held forth her talisman, directing the black void to pass through the few supports left, the PCs knew the islanders above had little time before their island would be destroyed in one quick catastrophic collapse.

Returning to the surface, the air is filled with the smell of fish and the sound of gulls’ cries. A small island lies ahead, hosting scores of villagers going about their business, mending nets, repairing huts, or carrying baskets. A few of them are speaking well-know Taldane, but others are conversing in a more lyrical or guttural tone. Adjacent to a shattered hull, a spellcaster is immersed in an incantation. Unfortunately for the villagers, the height of their islet looks significantly shorter than the massive cavern below. Though the impending catastrophe is unavoidable, keeping the islanders alive will thwart the witch’s plan; however, there are only a few longboats at the simple dock. How many islanders can be saved from sacrifice?

Two rounds after the PCs arrive, Brike sinks 5 feet and continues sinking 5 feet per round for the remainder of the encounter. Lines on the map indicate the new waterline for each round. 100 inhabitants are currently on the island. Use the Dwarf Fighter and any of the human miniatures for them; however, every islander need not be represented. For individual statistics, use the Village Idiot (GameMastery Guide 308) substituting Climb +5 for Profession (fisherman) +3.

Five boats are docked and each has a maximum capacity of 10. One boat on land has been destroyed, but is currently the target of a make whole spell. Another boat on land has been mostly repaired, requiring only a little more attention. Finally, three of the longhouse roofs can serve as boats as well.

For any PCs that are not of a race that grants a swim speed, assume the Mordant Spire Elves have loaned them a minor talisman of the sea (see below). Animal companions, special mounts, eidolons, etc. can use these as well. Familiarize yourself with the swim skill special rules for creatures with swim speeds. PCs can pull a boat at their swim speed.

Talisman of the Sea, Minor
Aura faint transmutation; CL 3rd
Slot none; Price 14,000 gp; Weight
Description
This charm decorated with a fin and gill motif allows its possessor to utilize alter self at will, but only to polymorph into a humanoid with the aquatic subtype such as an aquatic elf, gillman, locathah, or merfolk. This does not grant the size bonus to ability scores.
Construction
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, alter self; Cost 7,000 gp

The first round that a square is covered in water it is considered calm water (Swim DC 10). In successive rounds a tremendous undertow makes swimming difficult for those without swim speeds; Stormy water (Swim DC 20). Any debris and NPCs in this zone are pulled underwater.

Reward creative thinking if the players propose a task not listed below, but consider assigning a DC comparable to the examples.

What else can the characters can do?:

  • DC 17 Spellcraft to identify the spell being cast from a scroll is make whole (completes round 4).
  • DC 10 Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate convinces 10 villagers to obey. For every 10 by which the result exceeds the DC, 10 more villagers comply.
  • DC 15 Craft (ships) to repair the damaged boat near the treeline with two full-round actions.
  • DC 15 Knowledge (engineering), Profession (engineer, sailor, or shipwright), or Craft (ships) to determine that the three rectangular longhouse roofs are essentially inverted longboats lashed atop the walls and that they are seaworthy. Failing this check by 10 or more, incorrectly determines that all the roofs are seaworthy.
  • DC 15 Disable device check to remove a roof in one round and invert it. This can also be accomplished with no skill check, but requires two standard actions.
  • DC 15 Knowledge (arcana) to identify the fountain’s spout as a decanter of endless water.

Designer Notes:

  • With many moving parts in this encounter, the round breakdown helps organize the action.
  • Draw the new waterline at the beginning of each round.
  • Erase anything more than five feet deep.
  • Draw boats separate from the map so that they can be moved easily.
  • Though possible, the PCs are not expected to save every NPC. The challenge is to save as many as possible.
  • Given the significant penalties for underwater combat, much of the action in this encounter takes place on the surface of the water rather than underneath it.

Round Breakdown

  • Rounds 1 & 2: PCs are not hindered by monsters. Islanders are suspicious of the aquatic-looking PCs; add 10 to the DC of any skill checks attempting to influence villagers for these rounds only.

  • Round 3: Brike begins to shudder and sink. Water covers the land up to the dashed line marked ‘3’. Villagers not being directed are in shock and spend the round balancing. Monsters emerge on their initiative (see below). A DC 20 Intelligence check will successfully predict that the island will be completely covered by round 10. Failing this check by 10 or more yields a false prediction that island will be covered by round 6.

  • Round 4: Water is now at the dashed line marked ‘4’. The dock is covered; moored boats are buoyed up, their bows dipping down, but still afloat. Adelain’s spellcasting is interrupted unless she was ushered elsewhere. If she has moved above the round 4 line, the make whole spell completes and the destroyed boat is returned to functioning condition. Villagers not being directed retreat uphill.

  • Round 5: Water reaches line ‘5’. All boats still attached to the dock founder and are pulled underwater. It takes a DC 25 Swim check to successfully pull a sunken boat back to the surface. If the PCs haven’t determined which longhouse roofs are seaworthy, Adelain informs them. Villagers retreat.

  • Round 6: Water advances. The two longhouses below this elevation are flooded but still intact; roofs are still salvageable. Villagers retreat.

  • Round 7: Water advances. The damaged boat near the treeline begins to float (and take on water if not repaired). The two submerged longhouses (and the lodge) break apart under the increased buoyancy and the roofs become useless as rafts, if not previously removed. Villagers retreat.

  • Round 8: Water advances. The westernmost longhouse is flooded but still intact. Villagers retreat.

  • Round 9: Water advances. The westernmost longhouse roof is destroyed if not previously removed. The leaking damaged boat sinks if not yet repaired. Villagers retreat.

  • Round 10: Water completely covers the island. Villagers climb trees.

  • Round 11: Trees are covered. NPCs not in a boat or raft are swept under.

Creatures: Dangerous creatures lair in sea caves lying just east of Brike Isle’s dock. When the island shudders, powerful currents sweep these creatures to the surface. In the low tier, a constrictor sea snake emerges on the dock, attacking any nearby creature, which it presumes has disturbed its lair. In the high tier the witch’s minion, a dominated scrag, is ordered to surface and prevent anyone from escaping.
If unengaged, assume the snake kills one villager and that the scrag kills three villagers each round.

Low Tier (CR 3):
Snake, Constrictor Sea CR 2 LINK
Venomous Snake
XP 600 each
hp 19 each (Bestiary 255)
Environment temperate aquatic

Adelain the Able CR 1/2 LINK
Human Druid
Acolyte (GameMastery Guide 304)

High Tier (CR 6):
Scrag CR 5 LINK
Troll
XP 1,600 each
hp 63 each (Bestiary 268)

Adelain the Able CR 4 LINK
Human Druid
Hedge Wizard (GameMastery Guide 296)

Development: Any villagers still in the water on round 11 are swept under and assumed dead. Rowing the boats to Three Hag’s Rock takes a little over a half an hour, where the surviving villagers disembark and recover from their ordeal. Eventually they seek refuge on other islands in the region, and begin spreading word of the PCs’ heroics.

Word of your valiant efforts to save the inhabitants of Brike Isle spreads throughout northwestern Avistan. When in the Land of the Linnorm Kings and Varisia, you gain a +2 circumstance bonus on all charisma-based checks when you mention the Brike Isle refugees and how you assisted them.
This boon can be used once for every 10 islanders saved.

Cartographer

Really nice map reference here, very well designed and thought out. Everything is present on the map sketch needed to get right to work drawing this map.

One thing I would include would be a small side view to show the rising water and land elevation, always a nice detail. I know there are the water elevation lines on the plan view, but a small inset side view could be squeezed in there as well.

I can't really say anything that needs to be changed here, it is a great looking location map, very nicely drawn, and labeled, with eye pleasing muted colors. Very nice work!

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Welcome to the Top 8, Steve. You've been coming on strong in the competiton 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:

- Brike Isle? Okay. Could be interesting. Is that pronounced like "bike" or like "brick"...? I don't know. I'm going with "bike." Even so, the name isn't really bowling me over or anything. You could have done a little more here to jazz it up and get us excited just by the encounter's name. Pressing on...

- Awesome map. Good use of outlining, color, elevation markers, legend, and zoom outs. This is a picture that immediately gets me interested in reading what your location and encounter will entail. Really well done here.

- "Nestled among much larger islands of the Ironbound Archipelago, Brike Isle is a tiny islet and home to a village of Dwarves, Ulfen, and Varisians." Smart move to incorporate this into the Lands of the Linnorm Kings. Good use of Golarion canon. You can lowercase "dwarves" when you reference them. They don't have to be a proper noun like Ulfen and Varisians.

- "The party suspected that the witch’s plan was to perform a mass sacrifice to her dark patron, yet they did not know where or how she would implement it until they entered a sea cave below Brike." This is a really odd way to start off an encounter description. I get why you chose to do this...i.e., you wanted to give some sense of what's transpired prior to the PCs arriving at this specific encounter. Still, it came off kind of forced to me. I think you could have handled it differently and pulled in the reader better. Much like wondrous item design, you really should always tell us what it is first. And that goes for an encounter setup, too. So, a lead-off line like this is the equivalent of jumping into your item's mechanics before describing it. Instead, you should spend some time describing Brike Island and the aspects depicted on your map. Tell us how many people are there. Tell us what's been going on. And then tell us the reason for why the PCs have come there. You needed more buildup here to ease the reader into understanding what your encounter location is all about. Later, when you start describing one of the sub-locations on the map, then you can give us the information for the actual encounter. Here, it feels more like you rushed past the location description to jump straight into the encounter description. And I felt like that was a mistake as your entry would've been stronger if you'd gone the other way.

- "She had used a legendary artifact of destruction, the sphere of annihilation, to carve out a massive cavern..." Whoa. That's a bit much to suggest for a CR 3 or CR 6 adventure. If you'd suggested that a high-level witch had once used a sphere of annhilation to create such caverns long ago and now someone else was trying to knock out the remaining columns holding the island aloft, that could have worked. But, to suggest that the villain in this overall adventure is capable of using an actual sphere of annhilation and just drop that into such a low-level situation goes too far, I think. Granted, you're probably trying to say the witch won't be dealt with until really far down the road in a larger campaign or something. Even so, this feels like too much of a reach. You could have gotten just as much mileage out of some charmed beasts to tunnel out island's core and it might have been more believable.

- Typo: "A few of them are speaking well-know Taldane..." should be "well-known"...

- "How many islanders can be saved from sacrifice?" is a dangerous setup. The PCs could easily decide to save none of the islanders and completely short-circuit the encounter. Selfish characters would just fight off the island's population for one of the boats and make their own retreat to take on the witch at a time and place of their own choosing. There's no buy-in here. You can't just count on PC altruism. If you're going to construct an encounter around this kind of premise, you've got to give them a more compelling reason to personally get involved with trying to save everyone.

- "100 inhabitants are currently on the island. Use the Dwarf Fighter and any of the human miniatures for them; however, every islander need not be represented." First, I'd advise that you almost never lead off a sentence with a number. Just say "A hundred inhabitants..." Secondly, why doesn't every islander need to be represented? How many of them can squeeze into a 5-ft. square? How much room is left for the miniatures representing the PCs as the island sinks? This will become important since you've also got a combat encounter taking place in the midst of the chaos. And even the monsters will need some space on the map, too. As well as the boats and rooftops they're trying to use for the evacuation. Obviously, it's a bit much to introduce 100 miniatures on a playing mat. But, you might have been better served to mark some areas on the map where the panicked crowd takes up a lot of space...maybe as a mob inducing difficult terrain?

- I didn't really care for the minor talisman of the sea, as much. You portrayed it well. But the challenge for this round wasn't to give us another wondrous item in the midst of your encounter description. I understand the thought process involved...i.e., you're giving the PCs more tactical options by including it. But, for the Mordant Spire elves to loan them a 14,000 gp magic item at CR3 or CR6 seems a bit extreme. And, if they loaned one to each of the PCs (which seemed likely from the descriptive text), that's even worse. Guard against handing out plot device items like this in your designs.

- I'm also not all that happy with the long list of stuff we get in the "what else can the characters do?"..."designer notes"...and round by round break down of the sinking island encounter. It just isn't written out and presented very well the way you'd expect an actual encounter to read in a PFS scenario. The round by round stuff is useful, however...even necessary to properly convey the sinking island and diminishing footing. I think the designer notes could have been pulled off into a sidebar as a means of assisting the GM with running the encounter. And the long list of skill check DCs to pull off other stuff should be written more in-stream in paragraph form than just plopped down as organized bullet points. I don't think this presentation really showcases your encounter design strengths. It comes across more like the outline notes for a GM to run the encounter...not what you'd read in the actual final product. Maybe that's harsh? But it's still my opinion.

- The actual combat elements of the encounter seem a little underwhelming. An entire island is sinking and we're supposed to see some sea creatures swept out of their caves...but all we get is a single constrictor sea snake or a scrag? That's kind of anti-climactic. Sure, the real challenge is in rescuing the island's inhabitants and repairing or creating enough makeshift boats to see everyone to safety. But I wanted to see the PCs fight something that would rock! Instead, the snake is only a CR 2 and the scrag is CR 5. Was the inclusion of a friendly NPC like Adelain supposed to push that up to a CR3/CR6? Or were the environmental conditions applying a CR +1 to the situation? I'm not sure it's really balanced all that much...i.e., the snake or scrag would go down pretty quickly with four 3rd or 6th level PCs fighting it off. Neither would last very many rounds into your countdown. And, that'd leave plenty of time to still deal with the boats and save everyone. I just don't get the sense of urgency or hard choices I'd like to see in the encounter. There's not enough here that the actual fight lives up to the epic promise of what you initially described in the setup.

- I almost missed the inclusion of Adelain. Mention of him is kind of buried in the read-aloud text (though not by name) and eventually the round by round breakdown. Normally, an encounter location description lays out more prominently who the players are...i.e., creatures and NPCs...and how they're supporting or opposing the PCs. But your writeup jumped so swiftly into the situation that you really don't get a chance to frame everything well enough for the reader to understand Adelain's role. You sort of have to piece it together as you read along. And I think your design could benefit from making sure you focus each paragraph on detailing exactly what's needed in each section of the encounter. The normal setup goes: location description, explanation of how the PCs arrive there, any overarching elements that'll come in play across the entire larger locale, then some read-aloud text to set the scene, then your first location within the greater locale, some more read-aloud text just for that location, add anything you need to describe for stuff that's not readily apparent to the PCs, but which you need the GM to consider, a paragraph detailing information about the creatures/monster/NPCs who are there...why...and what role the play, same deal for traps/hazards/haunts, then the actual stat-block listings for all those things along with any combat tactics they might employ, followed by a paragraph on any further developments that arise out of various actions or inactions by the PCs. Try to structure your encounter locales and locations in that fashion and it'll come off more organized for you.

- "Word of your valiant efforts to save the inhabitants of Brike Isle spreads throughout northwestern Avistan. When in the Land of the Linnorm Kings and Varisia, you gain a +2 circumstance bonus on all charisma-based checks when you mention the Brike Isle refugees and how you assisted them." This comes across more like read-aloud text, but it isn't set aside as such. Maybe you meant to put the OOC tags around it? Also, it should be "Charisma-based"...not "charisma-based." I expected you guys to have learned the proper presentation of game terminology by now. This is either a typo on your part, or you still need to work on that.

- "This boon can be used once for every 10 islanders saved." I'm no expert on PFS boons, but this seems exceptionally generous to me.

So, given all that, and despite what I'm sure comes across as a laundry list of nitpicks, advice, and critique...I'm tentatively going to RECOMMEND that you advance to the next round. At the very least, I think you've got what it takes to become a potential adventure writer. I think a Paizo developer can adequately guide and train you to correct most of the missteps here. And I'm confident you'll have what it takes to bring us some compelling, interesting ideas down the road. At the very least, I want to see what kind of adventure proposal you have in mind.

I'll also call everyone's attention to your earlier work for consideration during the voting. Your night monarch vardo had a high degree of creativity to it. You've demonstrated that over and over throughout the contest so far. I thought your Arcadian Interceptors went off the deep end a little bit, but it was fairly imaginative and still well-written. Then, your necrotic reef really raised the ante, establishing one of the more inspired monster designs of the round. Altogether, that's some pretty good stuff. And now, it's paired with Brike Island...an encounter challenge where the very location is changing over the course of encounter itself. No matter how the voting works out, you should look back and recognize just how much awesome stuff you've accomplished so far. And I wish you the best of luck and hope to see you in the final round.

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

Now THAT is an MAP!

That said, hold on, a sphere of annihilation in a CR 3 encounter? Hey, I like TPKs as much as the next guy but wow!

Dont like the name of the location.

I'm less worried about the "save the victims" angle. I am presuming this is part of a larger whole and the thing that gave the PCs the "buy in" has already happened.

Again, some glaring typos. More than I would have expected for superstar at this stage.

I have to admit, first I was put off by the lack of the big combat. But there is no reason every encounter has to be the big combat. Your "rescue" stuff is pretty good.

Leaning towards recommending this, but I am on the fence. This one is going to come down to how it playtests and that is for the voters to decide.

ON THE FENCE

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Steve, welcome to the Top 8!

That map is pretty over the top! There's a lot going on, but everything is clearly identified and readable. Though after the second zoom-out map I was wondering if you'd just keep zooming out to a view of the whole continent, the whole planet, the whole solar system, and the Great Beyond. ;)

I like how your encounter begins in media res, providing just enough information to evoke a strong sense of urgency and a clearly magical origin to this pending disaster--and I must admit the witch's plan is clever! (Though I agree with Neil that an introductory sentence to the GM, before the encounter starts, would help the GM prepare for what's coming. "Tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them."--Aristotle)

Introducing the magic item was a surprise--it's not forbidden by the rules, so it's okay to include it, but it was surprising to see it. Instead of a magic item, you could have just said that the Mordant Spire elves cast some weird spell on the PCs, allowing those exact same effects, and wouldn't need to use as many words (and wouldn't have to deal with the PCs returning or stealing the magic items).

You have planned for a lot of possibilities with this encounter--magically fixing boats, turning longhouse roofs back into boats, advising the GM on how to draw and update the map, and so on. This shows a lot of forethought and attention to detail. In a published adventure or scenario, this would appear as a sidebar rather than part of the running text, but you didn't have the option or tools to present it as a sidebar, so that's fine.

Adelain's CR isn't really relevant to the CR of the encounter. She also just came out of nowhere in the middle of the entry, but I can assume that if this were a full adventure, the PCs have been here before and the GM would have been told about her in an earlier part of the book.

The Development section refers to "you" as if the PCs would be reading it or the GM would read it aloud to the players.

What I really like about this encounter is that while there is typical monster stuff going on, there's non-combat stuff that PCs can help with, which means that talk- and skill-focused PCs can have a major role in saving the villagers--it's not just a matter of killing all the monsters in a certain amount of time.

The writing needs some polish here and there, and I think you need to tighten things up in a couple of places, but overall I think this is a very memorable encounter.

Paizo Employee Developer

Hi Steve, 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!

Starting out, I think your title could be stronger. What's a "brike"? Is it just a funny name you just made up? While sometimes locations have nonsense names, in RPGs they are typically more evocative if they're somewhat descriptive. At the very least I know this is an isle, so that's good. But the name of your location could have been better.

Looking at your map, I'd need to do very little to get this off to the cartographer. I can think of very few notes I'd need to make that the map itself doesn't cover, as you have used color and symbols very well without cluttering the map. We generally don't show topography and elevation in maps, but in the case of this adventure it's vital to the sinking island. I think your map is the strongest part of this encounter submission.

One of the easiest locations to create whole cloth in an established setting like Golarion is a small island, so you're relatively safe in that choice. The backstory of this particular island is a much less safe risk, and one I think you misstepped on. The in media res backstory is off-putting and does more to confuse the reader than get them in the action. What party? What witch? Are we still talking about this island? A sphere of annihilation?!?! 3rd and 6th level PCs are dead after encountering someone of enough power to have one of those. I get that you're going for a ticking time bomb scenario with this setup, but your choice of specifics has me nervous that you may not have the best grasp on what a non-CR'ed level-appropriate challenge is. There are other methods of justifying a sinking island other than one of the game's most powerful magic items.

Moving into your read-aloud text, I find very little description of the location, which is what read-aloud text should be. Boxed text should very, very rarely include creatures, their placement, or actions, but that's most of what you have here. There are also several rhetorical questions that don't really fit the tone of what read-aloud text is supposed to be in an encounter.

Now we get to the meat of the encounter: the sinking island. I love the cinematic nature of this, but it's a SUPER ambitious encounter to pull off. You are off to a good start with the simple explanation of how and when the water rises. Then you get into talking about where the villagers are, which should go in the creatures section. Even though the PCs don't face them as opponents, they are creatures and should be treated as such. I'm confused by why you'd suggest they don't need minis. It seems to me that the placement of the villagers is of prime importance, since saving them is supposedly the purpose of the encounter. I get that most GMs would never even think to run an encounter with over 100 minis; perhaps that should serve as a red flag that your encounter is too large in scope or that you need a rules subsystem to manage the unrepresented villagers in some way.

The next two paragraphs are full of awkward language that again makes me think things are too complicated. "One boat on land has been destroyed, but is currently the target of a make whole spell" and "For any PCs that are not of a race that grants a swim speed" are both particularly awkward. Then the PCs get this 14,000 gp item that seems to be mostly a gimmick to allow 3rd- and 6th-level PCs to take on this level challenge? We already did the wondrous item round; this isn't the place for them, and it shows me that this is less an encounter and more a little segment in a much larger plot that is probably more than any PC its written for can handle.

What else can the characters do? I get that you're trying to give some options here, but the players need to know what their options are, and I don't see any way other than the GM just reading off a list of options to them for the players to have a clue. This is what the read aloud text should do: give the PCs information on what resources are on hand so they can come up with their own actions. The DCs in this section should be in running text instead of bullet points in place of some of the complex rules you have elsewhere.

Follow that with designer notes, and I'm seriously wondering what could be next. Designer notes are not part of an encounter, especially not one in a contest in which you aren't allowed to comment on your designs. These just seem really out of place here and completely unnecessary. I expect a superstar to put all the information a GM needs in the encounter itself and not in a sidebar. If your encounter needs this much meta advice to run, it's likely too complex.

And then comes the round breakdown, which really put me off. You'll note we don't do this very often in print, and that's because it tends to limit GMs more than actually assist them in running games. Playtesting will be the true metric for this, but my guess is that people won't find it as helpful as a simple hazard would be. If this were part of an adventure I was developing, the first thing I'd do is simplify this into three sentences at the most. You already tell us how fast the island sinks and your map indicates the various levels the water rises to, so I don't know whether the rest of this is necessary.

Finally, we get to the Creatures section. At this point, these seem completely extraneous. Your encounter takes none of the (fairly severe) environmental conditions or non-combat elements into account in establishing the CR and I think that's a mistake. Would a druid and a snake or a scrag and a druid make for good encounters for PCs of these levels? Probably. But we'll never really know because the encounter is so much more than them and they seem to have been added as an afterthought.

I'm also confused by the boon at the end. That wasn't part of the assignment, but it is indicative of how much you bit off with this challenge: too much. There's always the temptation with this contest to wow everyone with something completely over-the-top, and I'll admit that when someone goes over the top and does it well, it almost always pays off for them. In this case, you simply had too much going on and it was organized inefficiently and lacked any sort of cohesion. At the end, I still have not idea who the witch is or what the story is behind this location or encounter.

In the end, I admire your ambition but I am concerned at your ability to reign in complexity and the off-the-wall elements. I DO NOT RECOMMEND this submission for advancement. If you make it to the next round, Steve, you'll really need to take a hard look at what fits within the scope of an adventure and how we present information within published material. Best of luck in the vote.

CEO, Goblinworks

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Issues:

Island Name sucks. NPC name sucks.

Typos and grammar mistakes. Inexcusable at this level of the competition.

A round is 6 seconds long. This entire encounter takes 1 minute to resolve. That's simply way too quick.

It takes six seconds to remove a roof?

Why does the wizard get more powerful in the higher CR tier? Do you expect the PCs to fight the wizard?

Magic item is too much power for these CRs. Don't band-aid the players. If they ended up in a seaside adventure and can't cope with swimming, on their heads be it. You soaked up a lot of words and added an unrequested (and overly-expensive) item into your submission instead of focusing on adding value per the assignment.

Commentary:

I get the fact that you're bringing us into this in media res, and that you just don't want to have arguments about why the island is sinking. However the backstory you've provided suggests a really bad adventure design. How can a witch with a sphere of annihilation possibly be a reasonable challenge for a party of CR3-6? It raises more questions than it answers. Something simpler like a volcano or an earthquake would have suited your purposes better.

Overall, you've provided us with an encounter where the primary adversary is death by drowning. That doesn't seem SuperStar to me. The PCs are opposed by one monster during the chaos, so I have a hard time focusing on it; many parties will figure out a way to basically put it "on hold" while they try to rescue villagers and won't even bother fighting it until the island is submerged. Your timing is way off as previously noted. I suspect you thought a round lasted a minute or more, but as written its impossible to really play this to any kind of satisfactory result.

In play you're going to have GMs pulling their hair out trying to deal with 100 villagers, and the actions of the PCs trying to affect those villagers. I wouldn't want to run this encounter. It would take most of a game session, and the outcome is mediocre at best - a poor return on time invested by all participants.

You've got the bare minimum Golarion connection here to fulfill the requirements of the round. Couldn't you have found ways to make better use of the gigantic canon of material at your disposal?

Recommendation:

I do not recommend that you vote for this designer.

Star Voter 2013

I am sorely tempted to write my own scenario around that glorious map. It could be awesome. But sadly, this was not that awesome scenario. Really disappointed.

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

I'm still just reading through these, but per dictionary.com:

Brike\, n. [AS. brice.] A breach; ruin; downfall; peril. [Obs.] --Chaucer.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hmm, this scenario is an awful lot like the board game "Atlantis - Escape from the Sinking Island" or its earlier incarnation "Survive" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_from_Atlantis). That said, it is very refreshing to see an encounter that isn't just tactical map of a room with some monsters deployed in it. The map itself is very well done.

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

Z, I *LOVED* the game Survive (or as my brother and I used to call it: sharks and whales). Great reference.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Inspired tactical set-up. Love the encroaching water. Foes seem underwhelming.

10 points for Brike. Every time Ryan Dancey sees something other than "descriptive noun-noun" or "noun-descriptive noun" he rushes to Google it and freaks. From a safe "sales" point of view, not "weirding" out the "poor" reader probably makes sense. Mark Moreland asks if Brike is a funny name you came up with?!? Perhaps he means "did you make the (unsubjectively funny or not) word up? Lets leave the spectre of Greenwoodian naming conventions behind. They're boring, contrived and uninspired, and have done more to retard creativity and spawned more B-grade novels, games and tropes than any other part of our beloved passion. Just my 2 cents of Rantraging Pompousthought. ;p

Dedicated Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

Congrats! Very risky type encounter I will wait to see if anyone who play tests it has any luck pulling it off. I don't see any need to have 100 minis all you have to do is keep track of the math. So many village idiots moved to boats each round -5 per round eaten by monster. First round with 4 PC say 50 are moved to boats that takes the ones at the dock. Round two investigate the other two boats find that you can fix one and help with casting for second one maybe see roofs as boats and start that. Round three and four take down roofs and or kill monsters. round five be told roof are boats and start that if have done then move 30 village idiots on to roof boats. round six if broken boats are fixed move 20 of village idiots on to them. Round seven get roof boats down if not done already and move last of village idiots on to them or wait for everyone to die.

Sczarni

Love the mini game, and I agree that an encounter should not always be static monsters awaiting their demise. The mini game has its faults, but great idea. If Paizo is looking for a designer who is creative, then I think they found one in Steve. Good job, great map. Vote from me


Lovely map and a novel encounter.
It doesn't explain how many villagers the PCs need to save, but I guess that can be up to the GM and how they want to work this into a longer adventure.

Star Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I really like the premise of this one, moreso than any of the others. It is incredibly dynamic. I think the 5' per round sinking of the island is too fast, but otherwise, I think this has some great potential as a scenario.

Star Voter 2013

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I love, love that you made a primarily non-combat encounter being your encounter. It's fun and different. And the map and the huge list of possibilities is awesome.

On the flip side, you present almost nothing but the encounter itself. The lead-in is really weak, the lead-out is similarly, and both introduce game balance concerns.

I would have liked the encounter to play out a little differently, timing-wise. I can see a slow delay, but once the island has sunk would it do so in a single minute? I mean, if it's collapsing through an empty cavern, wouldn't it happen in a matter of seconds? Or if it's collapsing through water or slowly crumbling maybe take longer than that? One minute seems like an odd timeframe.

And with that in mind, since your combat was kinda added-on anyways, I might have liked to see the encounter with no combat at all, and simply having the different levels being different timeframes. Lower level characters get an extra three rounds once the island begins to go under, for instance.

Still, I'm impressed so much by your for building a non-combat encounter that I think I'm going to vote for you on the guts alone.


I'd 86 the tailsmane and replace it with an NPC casting or some other consumable. I'm not concerned about the sphere of annihilation, although natural events like an earthquake or volcano have there merits. So does giving the party a chance to be in the presense of such power. Not all groups play the 1-20 range all the way through so giving lowbies a chance to encounter the sphere is a boon in my book and would make me choose to run this adventure over another goblin slaughter.

It would be better to slow down the sinking. There are some very interesting things that can happen in such a situation that the PCs should have a chance to explore. For example, it takes time for people to load on to the boats and there will be fighting about who gets to be first (making it take even more time).

Getting to a boat and having the party bard or diplomat spend time making people orderly and or lifting their spirits so that they don't turn into a mob (or otherwise get in the way of other obsticles the PCs need to overcome) can take time, but your encounter is so time sensitive that there is no chance to explore that posibility. You could also have the rate of sinking speed up at the very end to allow for both effects.

As a designer don't micro manage the NPC's. As a DM I'll just ignore it. As a designer, help me out by coming up with ideas of things that the NPC's might do, leaving me to decide what they actually do based on how the party reacts to the encounter.

I'm not so concerned about the lead in/out, in my book that's more a part of the senario task and not the encounter task. I regularly pull encounters from one senario and put them in others. Don't listen to those that would ask you to ruin my ability to do that with yours by making the senario ties ins too strong. ;)


Oceanshieldwolf wrote:

Inspired tactical set-up. Love the encroaching water. Foes seem underwhelming.

10 points for Brike. Every time Ryan Dancey sees something other than "descriptive noun-noun" or "noun-descriptive noun" he rushes to Google it and freaks. From a safe "sales" point of view, not "weirding" out the "poor" reader probably makes sense. Mark Moreland asks if Brike is a funny name you came up with?!? Perhaps he means "did you make the (unsubjectively funny or not) word up? Lets leave the spectre of Greenwoodian naming conventions behind. They're boring, contrived and uninspired, and have done more to retard creativity and spawned more B-grade novels, games and tropes than any other part of our beloved passion. Just my 2 cents of Rantraging Pompousthought. ;p

Well said, I agree with everything. I'll just leave this here for everyone:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/brike

Shadow Lodge

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.

The encounter is cool and unorthodox.

I think it would have been nice to make use of mob rules as a way to help deal with the crowds.

Also with PCs needing to move around and handle a bunch of things a slower time scale would seem to be more appropriate.

How can Adelain move while casting make whole? Doesn't this basically require a full round action from her every round? Also neither Adelain seems capable of actually casting make whole.

A sphere of annihilation at level 3?

Did you really need to provide the PCs with a 14,000gp magic item at level 3? This seems way out of whack. Instead using
Touch of the Sea somehow seems much more reasonable. (Potions, friendly caster, spell in a can items etc) This solution doesn't deal with my second, perhaps larger complaint.

This also bothers me because you've also just marginalized anybody who actually bothered to prepare for aquatic adventure (or happens to already have a swim speed for some reason).

What you're saying is: it's okay not to prepare for things, in fact if you don't I'll give you a ridiculously expensive magic item to cover up for your weakness. Don't bother diversifying your Eidolon by giving it a swim speed, don't keep a potion of Touch of the Sea around just in case, just stack the damage output because all your terrain problems will be magically taken care of.

In an encounter that is very non-standard and should be promoting the use of creativity the use of the magic item to give everybody a swim speed (abet at a penalty for dealing with the villages) really kills it for me.

I'm very close to voting for this one, but the talisman of the sea really destroys it for me.

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.

Brike Isle

The location - what did you bring to Golarion?
Well, in 44 words you brought an island that some people live on, which is about to disappear. That, um, doesn't add much to Golarion, does it?

The encounter - do I want to run this encounter on your map?
Very good encounter, and I love that you've gambled and submitted a primarily non-combat encounter that's set halfway through a longer plot. It is a gamble, because it won't be to everyone's taste, but I love it. You've given the GM plenty of help with the things players might do, and table-ready rules to cover them. Not sure I buy into turning roofs into boats in 6 seconds... but I don't care. Some things that might tighten up this encounter: scale back the number of civilians; be explicit about using one miniature per 5 or 10 civilians; give the players some named 'figurehead' NPCs to direct their social skills at. For a good example, see 'Below the Silver Tarn', a season 2 PFS scenario.

The writing - how effectively have you crafted those words?
Actually pretty good at the sentence level, and the read aloud text is strong. My one complaint is an organisational one - that I still have no idea who Adelain the Able is!

Summary
Poor (almost non-existent) location. Great map and novel encounter that would be even better with just a couple of tweaks. Strong entry overall, but I wish you'd used even a hundred words to give us someplace new in Golarion.

Star Voter 2013

I really love what you did here with the map - the zooming feels quite fresh, and there is lots of good detail.


The first thing I did when I started to peruse through these encounters was to look at all the maps. I hadn't read the descriptions, only the title of the encounter location. Out of all them, I thought this map was the most interesting, and it made me want to know what the encounter was there. So congratulations, out of all of the maps (and there are some pretty good maps this year), yours was the first to really capture my attention.

So your's is the first encounter I am reading.

The encounter is very creative and different. It shows that you are willing to take risks and that you have the ability to be creative with your work. Unfortunately, it feels to me as if you bit off a little more than you could chew here. The heart of the encounter is a race against time, but it feels a little too rushed to me. Ten rounds is only one minute, which doesn't seem long enough to repair two boats, flip over three roofs, stop a snake from killing villagers, and convince everyone to stop cowering and get in the boats. It's also a little bit cheesy that there are exactly 10 boats, and each boat can hold exactly 10 people, and there are exactly 100 villagers to save.

I think you could have pulled this off a little better if you had fewer villagers (20 to 30 with each boat holding up to 3?). Up the number of creatures to make them more of a threat, and then slow down the water a bit. Even these suggestions wouldn't be quite enough to completely fix the encounter, but its a start anyway.

Despite the serious flaws I am seeing with it, and the nightmare that it would be to run, I still really like your creativity and your map is superb. It is refreshing that you were able to come with something unique and not the normal kill baddies and take their stuff encounter that is so common. So, with that said, I am on the fence about this one. I'll have to revisit it once I've read the rest.

Congratulations on making it this far!

Edit: I should note that I do not have time to playtest all eight encounters, and will therefore not be playtesting any of them prior to voting. My opinion is based solely off of reading the encounter, not trying it out.

Star Voter 2013

I love the fact you made the encounter designed, largely, without combat. This is a classic scenario of hero's rescuing villagers, that never really plays out in a fantasy game. This encounter would probably be one of the most memorable encounters a player has gone through, and could largely be one of the defining points of the character himself. I mean, when one stops and thinks about what their characters has really done, it's always, "I killed this guy, and saved the day" or "I killed this thing and took his loot" or "I killed that thing and stopped this from happening". Instead, you've got, "I helped organize the rescue and survival of an island village before it sunk beneath the waves". Very memorable, very awesome.

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

If anyone's interested, I'm running this as a PBP playtest.


The sphere of annihilation is odd and powerful, but that isn't really the point. It's a race to save the villagers of the doomed island. It would be better if that made more sense, but it isn't a deal breaker for me.

I like the fact that this is very creative and the opposite of hack 'n' slash. I do worry that it would be a huge nightmare to run. I guess there's only one way to find out...

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Let me tell you what I REALLY like about this encounter... It's not ALL about the combat.

Pathfinder advertises itself as a ROLEplaying Game, and yet all too often the APs, modules and ESPECIALLY the PFS scenarios have nothing to do with ROLEplaying. In this encounter the challenge is survive a sinking island and save the villagers. This means the players have to think outside the box, will have to interact with NPCs in a way without killing them all off, and yet there is still the threat of certain doom.

There is a reason Man Vs Environment is a tried and true literature theme.

Personally, I like it. If I want to play a Table Top Tactical Battle Game I would be playing Warmachine. In fact one of my friends realized that D&D and Pathfinder have devolved into just combat maps all too often static slug fests and decided Warmachine has better rules for that. He dropped out of PFS and Pathfinder 100%.

I am all in favor of bringing back ROLEplaying.

Is this a hard encounter to run? Well I run PFS games often enough and yeah I can do a quick on the fly read of this and run it. Do I expect to be running 100 NPCs? Oh wait it's NON-combat action... so no I don't. Do I need to have 100 NPCs accounted for on the map? Absolutely not. Even with 100 NPCs this encounter would be easier for me to run than some of the shipwrecks that were the earlier PFS scenarios (BTW GREAT work guys on making the latest season's scenarios SO much better).

So I'll vote for it based on two things that is lacking in the other submissions (and most adventures these days) heroics and uniqueness. Good lord finally something besides yet another combat.

:)

BTW that map is fantastic! I already have some twisted ideas beginning to brew in my head for that map in the forthcoming Skulls & Shackles

Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Steve, I loved the idea, the ambition, and the race-against-the-clock aspect of this. At the same time, I share some of the trepidations Clark, Mark, and Ryan expressed.

But there's gonzo here, and to paraphrase Clark from RPGSS Year 1, there's good gonzo and bad gonzo. (And Clinton Boomer gonzo, which is a whole 'nother thing.) I think this shows good gonzo, and while some of your gonzo will need to be reined in -- and I haven't been a fan of everything you've done this year -- I'm going to try playtesting this weekend and expect I will come away voting for this.

Andoran

While I appreciate the non-combat encounter you've created, the execution of everything that's going on is rather daunting. I'm curious to see how this one play-tests.

Andoran Star Voter 2013

I respect the swing for the fence. One of my favorite adventures from many many hears ago in Dungeon Magazine involved the PCs in a race against time before a cemetery exploded. It really kept the players focused and made for some good fun. This has that feel. Curious how it play tests.

Star Voter 2013

I can't help thinking that the PCs don't really need to do anything to help the villagers escape. Unless they happen to have prepared Mending, Make Whole or Floating Disk (unlikely at best), they're best used in fighting off the monsters. So it is (after a couple of rounds shouting at villagers) largely a combat adventure, albeit in rapidly changing terrain with some NPC victims to worry about and clog up the map.

After all, the villagers presumably know that the roofs are boats and that the fountain is a Decanter, likely have *much* better Craft-Ships and Profession-Sailor than the PCs and have plenty of incentive to get in the boats anyway. They're all treated as useless idiot victim mooks who can't swim, which doesn't really wash.

The initial premise is rather dumb and entirely unnecessary. Much more sensibly, the PCs could have been fighting something in a huge underground cavern, and accidentally collapsed it. No mega-level witches or artifacts are required. And they wouldn't have had to be gifted with 14,000gp magic items to get them there.

In fact, it's implied that the PCs have never been here before, so they'd have no personal connection with any of the NPCs and no real RP reason to save them, alignment aside. Set the whole adventure on the island with this village as a base, with a few real people there and it makes the players want to save them for their own sake rather than for the meta justification of boons and xp.

There's no reason for the scrag to attack on land as it could just pick off the drowning villagers. As any villager in the water is doomed after 1 round, the snake is redundant. IMHO far better would be someone chasing the PCs, who also wanted the boats. Then the PCs would have to keep the various boatfuls of NPCs safe even after they're loaded.

There's an implication that anyone in the undertow is swept away as the water floods the collapsing cavern below, but it's very unclear.

I want to like this - it has the seed of something great - but it fails in too many ways. It could have been very good. Personally, I blame the painfully short timescale imposed by the contest rules which denies any time for analysis or playtesting, especially for those entrants who have Real Lives. Which is an admission that I would probably have done no better.


Hi Steve! Congrats on making it to this round.

I will only have time to playtest one scenario from this round, and I did not select Brike Isle.

You have a pretty good map, although I could improv it. You have some NPCs running around, which I like, and yet 100 Village Idiots is a bit much for me. I can come up with betters details than that on the fly. You really add something in the round breakdown. Looking at it, though, I don't want to run it. It's too complicated and mechanical for me.

Best of luck in the voting!

-Titania

Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

Playtest:
RACE/CLASS/LEVEL OF PCs
5 PCs with 20 point-buy and average wealth from my campaign:
Halfling Oracle (Wind) 7 (ranged combat + utility)
Human Rogue 6, Wizard 1 (two weapon fighting)
Halforc Barbarian 7 (Invulnerable rager - power attack with Falchion style)
Human Ranger 7 (Guide - archer style)
Human Oracle (Battle) 7 (enlarged power attack with Great Sword style)

This means the party is too high in Level but in reality the levels didn't matter much with this encounter.

TIER
High tier (CR6)

EASE OF RUNNING THE ENCOUNTER
The map, while nice, did MISS the information where the villagers are situated. This made the encounter quite hard to run actually because I had to think of a clever distribution beforehand in order to justify the tight schedule (only 10 rounds) and thus the tactical movement necessary.

That said in a written module I would have NOT played that on a battlemat as it is a bit a stretch of realism that an island would sink within a single minute (as has been noted).

CHALLENGE OF THE ENCOUNTER
Given the very short time schedule and the implication that the villagers are all a bit retarded (inbreeding related problem?) the encounter was challenging because the villagers simply didn't "know" what to do at all and the PCs had even to discover and remind them that the roofs are actually boats...

This and the fact that I choose to attack lone PCs escorting villagers to the boats with the scrag caused some frantic actions and "stress" that I missed in the other encounters we tested so far.

Given that the encounter was indeed challenging but felt very unrealistic.

FUN OF THE ENCOUNTER
It might be my party, but they constantly bickered about how stupid the villagers be ("wouldn't it better for the genepool to just let them all drown - natural selection and all?"). Also it ocurred to everyone that the timing of the encounter was off.

That said the rush to help the "villager babies" was a mad one and indeed funny if it only would have been more justified.

OTHER COMMENTS
Realistically the PCs would not be more than bystanders until the Scrag rises or the villagers requested help with the roof-boats, which seemed cheesy (boats that are used as a roof but can be made seaworthy within just a few seconds?!).

I would have liked it a lot more if there were more definite encounters to be had in a longer stretch of time (an upturned boat that hosts a nest of giant wasps or environmental hazards like eddies sucking down people wading to the boats).

Star Voter 2013

I'm kinda surprised nobody mentioned that before two posts ago - how worthless the NPCs are in knowing how to get out of their own homes in the case of an emergency.

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

I don't think they were expecting their entire village to sink into the ground. Steve calls for them to be retreating to higher ground, which is typically what people do when villages get flooded. That seems like a reasonable response to me. Consider the diplomacy check to convince them that their entire home is being destroyed and they have to get into the boats instead of it just being an unexpected, sudden flood.

Even with the shaking, I'm thinking of a tsunami, where going to higher ground would be an appropriate response in a coastal village. I don't think they'd be considered that stupid for taking that course of action.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

That is debatable.

We don't have a tsunami here, we have an earthquake. The island is sinking which should be noticeable.

Of course there will very likely SOME villagers that will retreat to higher ground, but ALL of them?

Facing an earthquake and sinking ground I would head for the boats.

But even them, screaming "the island is sinking, to the boats, to the boats" should all there needs to be done. For the villagers not believeing the PCs, well tough luck, but you can always pick them up later when you have secured the boats.

What strikes me as very stupid is that in a village full of fishermen noone can apparently swim?!

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Tsunamis and earthquakes are closely related. Talk to a native of Japan and they'll tell you that when they feel a quake, they start watching the water, because an offshore earthquake is going to create waves.


Also, several posters have said that 1 minute for the village to fall into the hole is very fast. In actual fact, it's a bit slow, to about the right speed as to how long it would take for the village to fall into the sinkhole in the real world.

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

We also know that most of them aren't speaking Common (or Taldane), so your cries of "the island is sinking, to the boats, to the boats" is probably gibberish to them.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber
Caedwyr wrote:
...In actual fact, it's a bit slow, to about the right speed...

Exactly.

As I see it we have two ways of doing this scene:

1. Tactical round by round combat with minis and battlemat
This is what was asked from the contestants and the entry is geared towards this approach.
BUT, what you can do in the span of 1 round aka 6 seconds is simply not enough to impact the situation as outlined!
In this approach the villagers must know what to do and do it on their own and only need some help from the PCs (with the Scrag and maybe the roofs) or else the situation becomes strange (such as calming panicking villagers which don't speak your language while running away from you and leading them to the boats in the timespan of 48 seconds).

2. Mostly skill challenges with no tactical movement
This approach can cope with the implied villager reactions but only if you have more time. Knowing that the island will sink within the next hour or so will give the PCs time for Diplomacy, Intimidation, Engineering and any sort of more complex social interactions. In this way the encounter with the Scrag would happen at the very end when the PCs already have convinced the villagers and readied the boats and now only the actual departure is hindered by an encounter.

As given the entry is a mix of both styles and I felt that this was problematic, slow PCs for instance need to full move almost each of the ten rounds just to get around. In my playtest I had to handwave many of these problems for the encounter to work.

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 note-let 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 - Geographical region, local region and encounter zone provides a good overview of the location in general and the encounter detail.
Map Fu thumbs up - Key symbols table, separated out from the map to avoid occlusion of detail - nicely done
Map Fu eats a point - scale indicated for the encounter - but not on the area maps.
Map Fu comments that this is a very clear map indeed, certainly the best of the maps he's reviewed thus far for clarity. Effort and polish clearly shine through on this, we look forward eagerly to the description having enjoyed this map.

Score: 4/5

Check Point 2: Compass Rose/North Bearing

Obvious, and should be on all maps.

Map Fu thumbs up - The compass rose is on the encounter and fortunately there is no rotations in the area maps, so it can be read for all 3, it may have been better to have a small north indicator in the area maps though to be safe. As Map Fu is a meanie, he's eating a point for that.

Score: 4/5

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 - maps are all in alignment and orientation with one another.

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 eats a point - you need to watch your scaling - in the larger scale area - if you examine the boxed zone, the small island in the top left of the boxed area doesnt appear to have water on the east coast as found in the middle scale map. Further the small boxed area in the local zone gives the island a much more rounded east-west bottom width than appears in the encounter scale. Some of this could be due to scanning, but it is something to watch for.

The other thing to be aware of - those are really small buildings - only 10 foot wide, the same width as the average dungeon corridor. I don't live in a very big house, but a 10 foot by 20 foot is around the size of my living room.

Score: 4/5

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: Due to map clarity, the encounter area is very well defined.
Map Fu eats a point: In an open encounter area like this, with buildings, the buildings may become an integral part of the tactics of either side, so the entry points should be indicated with a hollow shell view if they have inner rooms.
Map Fu thumbs up: Starting positions really help the GM prepare for this sort of encounter - nice.

Score: 4/5

Check Point 6: Anything Missing?

Map Fu thumbs up - as far as reviewing the map, everything is present and accounted for bearing in mind the points above. A very clear map raises expectations for GM prep, so lets get moving onto that!

Suggestion: Next time you have an encounter map dealing with height (in this case sinkage), some people may struggle visualising the island with the contour lines, so a side view / 3-d drawing pull out can really help. For me, this isnt needed, the map is very clear, but it is possible other people may scratch their heads a bit.

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.

As a GM, I did get hit straight away with extra work for utilising the encounter as the set up has the PC's returning to the encounter from a prior encounter - for the competition, this is fine as I would expect this encounter to be part of an ongoing expedition. It did set the mood and background lead up for the encounter very nicely though.

Wow, an imposed time limit encounter, there is again some extra effort needed by the GM if using battle boards and miniatures to portray the sinking and shrinking of the encounter area, but this is an interesting element to any encounter.

The attention to detail on the encounter shines again, lists of possible actions, provision of tools to aide the PC's, round by round breakdown of events impacting the encounter - this is a very well thought out design and you have taken great pain to assist the GM to run it well - this is super. The map also indicates starting positions - very nice.

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

The Development section contains the resolution following round 11, this I would have expected to have been in the round by round section with the longer term benefits and story hooks remaining here. Again, its all present and accounted for.

My playtest set up

So for my play test I took the time to create some Styrofoam cut outs following the shape of the island contours, gridded them so when placed atop one another, we have the basic land formations such that as the island sinks, I simply slide some blue clear Projector Perspex in between the Styrofoam levels creating my water level. I drew on the buildings, trees and the like so that things didn’t slide about to much during this movement. This is going to be a memorable encounter methinks.

GM Preparation : Other considerations / thoughts

I really couldn't think of anything to add to this ecounter at all - very tight design, innovative encounter aspects. I really like this one.

GM Prep Score: 19/20 Overall Score: 44 / 50

Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

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

Oh, not part of the review, but I'm an old school gamer weaned on 0Th Ed, Judges Guild etc.

This map reminded me very much of Judges Guild Wilderness Gazeteers and the Island Map books.

I absolutely loved that old school vibe - wicked, absolutely wicked.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Anthony Adam wrote:

The other thing to be aware of - those are really small buildings - only 10 foot wide, the same width as the average dungeon corridor. I don't live in a very big house, but a 10 foot by 20 foot is around the size of my living room.

Fisherman's huts, or poor fisherman's huts may be this big. They may not have the wherewithal to build bigger, and a lot of "primitive" or "primary industry heavy" folk throughout history and across the world (inuit etc not withstanding)used their domiciles for sleeping in and little else. "Leisure" time, when available was spent largely communally, outside or in larger buildings purpose-built for that. That's the beauty of having no electricity and low technology and a need to eke to survive...

Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Oceanshieldwolf wrote:
Anthony Adam wrote:

The other thing to be aware of - those are really small buildings - only 10 foot wide, the same width as the average dungeon corridor. I don't live in a very big house, but a 10 foot by 20 foot is around the size of my living room.

Fisherman's huts, or poor fisherman's huts may be this big. They may not have the wherewithal to build bigger, and a lot of "primitive" or "primary industry heavy" folk throughout history and across the world (inuit etc not withstanding)used their domiciles for sleeping in and little else. "Leisure" time, when available was spent largely communally, outside or in larger buildings purpose-built for that. That's the beauty of having no electricity and low technology and a need to eke to survive...

Map Fu had considered this, but thought it worth mentioning as one of the buildings isn't a "hut", it's labelled as "Lodge" - which conjures a much bigger building in his mind. It was also worth mentioning purely for everyone else's benefit too.

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

I don't think I'm going to get to finish my playtest of this encounter, as I'm leaving for vacation today and my Internet time is going to be a lot more limited for most of it.

My impression with the playtest is that the players were a little uncertain how to proceed, though I don't think that's necessarily a negative reflection. I think it's just that this is a different scenario than we're used to seeing -- there's not just a monster to kill -- and that takes a little time to figure out the best way to handle it, both as a player and a GM. I think the in media res aspect also made it a little difficult, in that the players and I didn't know if they knew Adelain (forcing me to decide on the fly) -- of course that wouldn't be an issue in a full adventure. They were dong a good job ferrying everyone away from higher ground, though, so I think they were on the right track.

Although there are certainly things I'd tweak (i.e. WHY the village is collapsing), there are a lot of things I like about this a lot. I've recently started running a Savage Tide campaign and this immediately made me wonder how I could convert this to use in that campaign. Rescuing the villagers from a sinking isle is something memorable, the type of thing that shows Steve's creativity. Like with the Hungry Mountain Dragon, IMO, any other problems with the entry can be worked out but the core idea is strong enough I want to see what Steve can bring to an adventure idea.

A couple other thoughts. I know I posted the definition/origin of Brike earlier, but I actually really don't like the name. I think it's the two long I's that just aren't working for me (of course, maybe Brike's not pronounced as a long I?). If the isle or even village were just named Brike, I think that would work, but Brike Isle just sounds odd to me. That's just nitpicking, of course.

Also, I don't know if anyone else will care about this, but you've got an obvious nautical theme running through the contest, Steve. It's possible excitement over Skull and Shackles will continue to help fuel interest but I'd be careful a potential adventure pit doesn't tread on the toes of whatever we're expecting to come out in the next Adventure Path (even if Sean or Vic or someone has said large chunks of it take place not on the water) if you stick with the nautical aspects. Best of luck.

Star Voter 2013

Jacob W. Michaels wrote:
...good stuff... If the isle or even village were just named Brike, I think that would work, but Brike Isle just sounds odd to me. ...

Well, this is the full name of the place, it's not necessarily what people call it. For instance in Canada, we have "Prince Edward Island", and if you called it that all the time it would be quite the mouthful. So, people started calling it the much shorter "PEI"

In this case, if Brike sounds better, then probably that's what people would call it, despite it's 'full name' being Brike Isle.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4 , Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Jacob W. Michaels wrote:
Also, I don't know if anyone else will care about this, but you've got an obvious nautical theme running through the contest, Steve.

I've noticed that, too. I actually like this encounter (and voted for it) but my first impression was "Oh, another sea-themed entry". It's not a dealbreaker, but it bothers me a little that three out of four of his entries went that route.


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. A noble knight will have tried to stop the witch waving the talisman around, and taken a sphere of annihilation to the chest. Or successfully stopped the witch, therefore the island is not collapsing in the first place.

Is there any possible convenient financial gain obvious in this situation for a succubus?
Well yes: approach the witch in the ethereal, snag the talisman and (if it seems possible to control it) the sphere from her - instant profit.

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?
Rampage, trample, splash, squeak, rampage, splash, splash, *squeak*?, splash, *poof*.

Other comments?
Fire-breathing phase doppleganger giant space hamsters do not particularly like getting wet. Or at least not this wet. Seriously though, as with my comment regarding knights, a lot of adventurous sorts are going to Attempt to Stop the Witch either because they're goody two-shoes or because they want that talisman and maybe sphere for themselves. It's assuming rather a lot that the island is going to completely implode (especially if any adventurers drive off the witch before she finishes demolishing stuff), unless you've got a magical contract of some sort with the deity Nethys guaranteeing it.

Estimated time for four adventuresome succubi to deal with this situation:
Twenty to thirty seconds, because the island isn't going to collapse after they've pinched the talisman and the sphere. Or conceivably, several hours, if they stop to negotiate with the witch if she seems amenable after they've taken possession of the items and it seems as if it could be beneficial for the downwards property redevelopment scheme to go ahead.

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.

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

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Good luck Steve. As a Venture Captain you have an interesting position of having a lot of experience with PFS scenarios and modules. Use that knowledge to create a worthy adventure. A module is around 20K words which is about two scenarios in word count, but usually ends up being about three sessions of play and encounters (at least). The old adage: on average 1 encounter per 500 words holds (remember this includes adventure hook and non combat encounters). Try not to go too complex or overly intricate with background. I really like that in previous rounds you have tried to go for something different, but keep it focused, if it isn’t important for the adventure’s plot, don’t put it in the proposal. Hope that helps.

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

Congratulations Steve. That looks like excellent advice from Matt and I won't echo it too much. Balance, conflict, focus, tension. The players' story, not your story.

Good luck.

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