|Daniel Rust RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8|
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.
A once idyllic country retreat, Crimsondale Villa has lain in ruins for decades. Surrounded by vineyards on the slopes of the hills north of Woodsedge, the villa was the private bolt hole of Baron Loric Jurard before his execution by patriotic citizens during The Red Revolution. The Baron was murdered in his own dining room and his body left to burn as the villa was set alight around him. A sometime affiliate of Cold Hearth Lodge, the villa contains the ashen remnants of the Baron’s trophies – three preserved chimera heads cling to the dining room walls and a unicorn’s horn lies amid the wreckage.
Baron Loric was a cruel and elitist man. Legendary for his short temper, he beat his servants frequently and treated his wife with contempt. He often used the villa as the base for his many affairs with the servant girls he employed. The surrounding hillside has many shallow graves that contain the bones of mistresses that displeased him and were quietly removed from his life. On the night of his death, Loric’s wife discovered the Baron with his latest dalliance, the servant girl Yvette. In a fit of rage, he beat Lady Jurard with his bull whip and locked her in the wine cellar. Before he could return to where Yvette was hiding upstairs, the mob was upon him and the house was ablaze. Yvette died in the fire and Lady Jurard died days later, still in the locked cellar.
The Haunting of Crimsondale(CR 6 or 9)
Rushing through the overgrown vineyards, the mob howls for blood. Two young women flee from their pursuers, exhausted by their efforts and ready to collapse. As they reach the refuge of the abandoned villa and push the door closed behind them, the light of a fire flickers into life on the second floor.
Vena Estaranth is the daughter of a noble émigré, returned to Galt to fight against the excesses of the Revolutionary and the Gray Gardeners. Teaming up with Ana Milos, a commoner disgusted by the actions of her compatriots, the pair has been working alongside the PCs to undermine the violent policies of the local citizens’ council through acts of sabotage and counter-propaganda.
The PCs, Vena and Ana had planned to hijack a shipment of revolutionary pamphlets on the road outside Woodsedge. The attempt went awry when ruffians working for the local council stumbled over Vena and Ana and gave chase. The PCs set off in hot pursuit and the chase has led them to the doors of Crimsondale Villa. Vena and Ana have just set foot inside and closed the doors behind them (they are at locations D and E). The mob has separated, half of them attempting to enter through the main doors (at point F) and the others making for the windows (points G). The PCs gave pursuit and have just arrived in the grounds at point L.
All squares outside the villa are considered difficult terrain due to the overgrown vegetation. All doors and walls are fragile and have half the number of hit points they would normally have. Rubble within the building represents remnants of long damaged furniture and is considered difficult terrain and provides cover.
Low tier (CR 6):
Baron Loric Jurard, Variant Ghost CR 2 LINK
hp 73 (Bestiary p144)
Weaknesses: If both haunts in the villa are neutralised, Loric descends into the ground beneath the villa (below whichever square he happens to be on at the time) and falls into a torpor until at least one haunt is reset. If both haunts are destroyed, so is Loric.
Other special rules: Loric is cursed with a particular impotency as a ghost and has only one attack power, Malevolence, which he can only use on targets he believes to be of noble bearing (this includes any character wearing clothing at least as expensive as a courtier’s outfit or metal armour that is kept well polished. The GM may determine other characters as having an air of nobility as appropriate. Vena Estaranth is always deemed to be noble in Loric’s eyes and he attempts to take control of her if no appropriate PC is nearby). Loric will not attack noble characters after successfully using his Malevolence power, but will attack all commoners. He attacks nearby ruffians first as they remind him of his own murderers. He will attack other characters if he cannot reach any ruffians.
The Baron’s body lies amongst the rubble in the dining room at point H. His bones are charred but a DC 15 Heal check reveals he actually died from a very sharp blade stroke to the neck. His skull lies several feet from his body at point J.
Ruffians - Foot Soldiers (6) CR 4 LINK
XP 135 each
hp 8 each (Gamemastery Guide p265)
Vena Estaranth - Noble Scion CR 2 LINK
Seelah, Human Paladin
hp 20 (Gamemastery Guide p288)
Ana Milos – Half-elf Barmaid CR 1/2 LINK
hp 7 (Gamemastery Guide p302)
High Tier (CR 9):
Baron Loric Jurard, Variant Ghost CR 2 LINK
hp 73 (Bestiary p144)
Weaknesses and special rules: As above.
Ruffians - Guard (7) CR 7 LINK
XP 400 each
hp 19 each (Gamemastery Guide p260)
Vena Estaranth - Noble Scion CR 2 LINK
Seelah, Human Paladin
hp 20 (Gamemastery Guide p288)
Ana Milos - Barmaid CR 1/2 LINK
hp 7 (Gamemastery Guide p302)
Yvette CR 2 LINK
NE haunt (10 ft. by 5 ft. area of burned bones); persistent
Caster Level 2nd
Notice Perception DC 10 (to hear crackling of flames and quiet, pained cries for help after event 3 has happened)
hp 9; Weaknesswater deals 1d4 damage per gallon (or part thereof) to the haunt; Trigger proximity; Reset 1 week
EffectWhen this haunt is triggered, a blackened and burned female form appears, wreathed in flame and screaming for help. Gobbets of flame fly from the burning figure as a scorching ray spell (+2 ranged touch, 4d6 fire) each round at the range listed for that spell.
DestructionThe bones must be removed from area 6 (scattered across points A) and given a proper burial.
Lady Jurard CR 1 LINK
NE haunt (5ft. by 5ft. doorway); persistent
Caster Level 1st
Notice Perception DC 10 (to hear sobbing and knocking on the door after event 2 below has occurred)
hp 4; Trigger touch; Reset 1 week
EffectWhen trapdoor B is opened, an emaciated figure lunges forward desperately, screaming for help. This has the effect of a cause fear spell (save DC 11) on the character who opened the door. She remains there screaming and crying for help as long as the haunt remains active.
DestructionThe bones must be removed from the stairs in area 8 and given a proper burial.
Vena takes up a position blocking the hall at point C, while Ana rushes up the stairs towards the light in room 6, calling out for help. Half the ruffians attack Vena, the others move to climb through windows at points G. The ruffians attempt to kill the two women, turning on any PCs that come near.
During the battle the following ghostly manifestations occur, beginning at the start of the first round after a PC enters the villa. They happen one per round in the following order, but if event 4 is triggered, it takes precedence over any other event which is postponed until the following round.
The villa is suddenly illuminated by ghostly torches in wall sconces and filled with the noise of manly laughter, the barking of hunting dogs and the smell of cooked meats.
The lights go out suddenly and the sound of vicious whipping is heard throughout the building, accompanied by harsh laughter and female pleas for help. A ghostly figment of a middle aged woman well-dressed in the fashion of 40 years ago, rushes through the building, pursued by a tall, aristocratic man with a bull-whip, before disappearing into the darkness.
The smell of burning fills the building and crackles of flame turn into roars. The room fills with smoke, affecting the room as an obscuring mist spell for one round. Cries of pain are heard throughout the building.
The first round following the triggering of either haunt
The ghost of Baron Loric appears at point C or as near as possible. A tall middle-aged aristocrat, with a cruel and arrogant look on his face and clutching a bull-whip, the Baron is dripping blood from a wound that extends around the circumference of his neck. He immediately moves to take control of the nearest aristocratic character and begins to attack any non-noble within sight.
The unicorn horn
A relic of one of Loric’s hunts, a unicorn horn lies amongst the rubble at point K. Loric will not approach within 10 ft. of any character holding the horn.
|Robert Lazzaretti Cartographer|
Good basic map design here, clean and concise. Again I appreciate both the Map Legend and the numbered descriptions on the actual map. This really saves so much time of referencing back and forth when drawing the map.
The main floor and second floor relate to each other, it is not entirely clear on the map sketch that the trap door in the kitchen relates to the wine cellar entrance. Also I noticed that there is the mention of difficult terrain all around the building within your text, but no effort to show this on the sketch. It would have been nice to see some sort of indication of this on the sketch.
This is a good basic encounter map, maybe investigate a more unique floor-plan for this villa, and perimeter, avoid the predictable boxlike design. Nice Work!
|Neil Spicer RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor|
Welcome to the Top 8, Daniel. You started out really strong this year. And now you've found your way into a unique position. From here, you've got a major opportunity to really impress a lot of folks and secure yourself some bonafide freelancing opportunities, not just with Paizo but other third-party publishers, as well. The trick lies in putting forth your best work. Show us you belong.
So, with that in mind, I've made a point of really combing through everyone's designs this go-around. You should have learned a lot of lessons up to this point. Now, we need to see how well you've incorporated them and how well you've learned to apply them. In fact, encounter design is the primary precursor to adventure design. It incorporates your storytelling ability, your map-making ability, your stat-block ability, and rolls up enough other elements of game design skills that it really starts to bring it altogether. So, let's go through it and see what you've given us...
- Crimsondale Villa sounds interesting enough. It gives us a hint towards future bloodshed, perhaps? But "villa" comes off as a bit ostentatious when we later learn it's primarily a "small cabin." Those two descriptions kind of clashed for me. I had one image in my mind based on "villa," but then it turned out to be something different.
- On top of which, I kind of felt like the map was a bit lackluster. It's labeled well enough with the key and everything, but your walls are drawn as singular, straight lines with virtually no width (which is normally an indication of wall thickness). If each square is 5 feet, these walls are paper thin. So, get in the habit of drawing out 2-ft.-wide stone walls. Or 1-ft.-wide wooden walls. Or whatever makes the most sense for your structure. A designer has to get out of the habit they're used to using at the gaming table. You need to think larger than just the quickest, most expedient means of depicting things to keep a game moving along. You're designing with the GM in mind now. And, to create believable designs, you need to give something plausible to your cartographer to help you pull it off.
- Nice effort working in the Cold Hearth Lodge with the chimera and unicorn trophies. I thought that was cool.
- Good call to work in the Red Revolution and the Baron's downfall. Woodsedge, however, is the one region in Galt where the population is a bit more sympathetic to the cause of displaced nobles. So, I'm unsure if this is the best town to imply a mob burned his villa/cabin down around him. Likewise, with such a small location (as depicted on the map), it seemed a bit odd for the Baron to have a dalliance with his servant girl in such close surroundings where his wife and other retainers could much more easily discover him. The backstory seems completely plausible if the villa is estate-sized. But a 2-story, marginally multi-room cabin with a cellar feels too compressed to buy fully into the story as you've described it. In other words, the premise for your encounter's backstory and the map itself seem mismatched.
- "Rushing through the overgrown vineyards, the mob howls for blood. Two young women flee from their pursuers, exhausted by their efforts and ready to collapse. As they reach the refuge of the abandoned villa and push the door closed behind them, the light of a fire flickers into life on the second floor." This read-aloud text feels forced, more like you're writing a story than providing the necessary scene-setting for what the PCs should be able to discern when they begin the encounter. I think you'd have been better served to simply explain that Vena and Ana's plan went awry, the PCs picked up their trail, and they've now followed it to this villa with the mob close on their heels. Describing it as if it's happening now with the mob mixed in feels like too much story crammed into too tight of a space for a single encounter lifted from this location. Additionally, if it's truly a mob that's after Vena, Ana, and the PCs, they really should have figured more prominently in the encounter than just six ruffians in the stat-block. This was probably a chance to invoke some of the rules for mobs out of the Gamemastery Guide if you wanted to do it full justice. Somehow working that into your writeup would have really elevated the encounter.
- There's a lot going on here. Too much for the assignment. You're wasting too many words trying to describe the entire location as one big encounter when, basically, all we needed was a single room in this villa where the PCs would be challenged by something dangerous which would help carry off a dynamic, compelling encounter. Instead, we've got a mish-mash of every possible creature that could be possibly present itself throughout the entire villa. Six ruffians/foot-soldiers, a variant ghost, two NPCs, and two haunts. It's overkill. You'd have been better off focusing things on just the ghost encounter with some extenuating circumstances if your two NPCs had become affected by the haunts in a way that made them adversarial. Or, you could have simply had the mob enter into the equation and defined how they reacted to the ghost's appearance and created difficult terrain as the PCs had to push through them to try and save Vena and Ana from the Baron. I think you'd have gotten enough mileage out of that to still give us something compelling and vote-worthy.
- As for the variant ghost, you've designated it as CR 2 when a typical ghost is CR 7. Such a design twist might be swingable, but not without a full stat-block. This is completely the wrong way to present the Baron's stats. We need way more detail than the few references and weaknesses you've tried to string together. I can't even begin to assess the CR of the overall encounter design, because I can't determine if the variant ghost at CR 2 is legitimately constructed or not. This is a serious misstep here!
- The whole Development section is a bad idea, poorly presented. If you want to describe a Development in the context of an encounter, you usually want to explain something that happens as a result of the PCs' actions...typically by doing something elsehwere on the map, or, as a result of handling the encounter in an unexpected/different fashion. Instead, you've used the Development section to lay out an entire timeline for the encounter with timed events that take place at certain intervals. That kind of information needs to go up higher in the encounter's description, presumably as a result of the Baron's ghostly appearance or the activation of one of the haunts. Even then, it's atypical encounter design and you need a strong eye for carrying that off in a way that doesn't railroad an encounter. I don't think you've lead anyone by the nose too badly here. You've just put the blow-by-blow in the wrong place.
- There are a lot of spacing problems in your writeup. Several words got jammed together...e.g., "5ft."..."The Haunting of Crimsondale(CR 6 or 9)"..."Weaknesswater"..."EffectWhen"..."DestructionThe"... Really careless proofing/spellchecking here. At this point in the game, you should be way beyond this kind of error.
- Most of the creative thought behind this encounter is interesting from a storytelling perspective. But the map didn't wow me, particularly since it doesn't really live up to the location's description. The stat-block presentation is really flawed. The encounter itself just isn't focused very well. And the attention to detail and execution of the assignment is disappointingly poor.
So, given all that, I have to say I'm disappointed. I thought you had a real chance to get to the end-game of this contest. But, with all the missteps in the actual design considerations, presentation, and encounter setup, I'm forced to say I DO NOT RECOMMEND this encounter to advance you to the next round. It's possible the voters may view things otherwise. And, for your sake, I hope that's the case.
If it helps, I'll go ahead and call attention to your earlier work for everyone's consideration. Your elixir of resurgent flame was one of the first truly innovative designs we've seen in awhile, making use of new rules elements from the words of power system and I think it got all of us excited to see what you'd do next. Your Annointed Choir of the Rapture showed some promise, but also had some concerns. It got you through to the next round. And then, your laru brought us a really compelling fey creature design. So, there's no doubt you've got talent. If anything, I'm only judging your design for this round with my recommendation here. Not you or your future potential. Regardless of how the voting turns out, I think you should certainly recognize just how much you've accomplished here and you should be very proud of it. Best of luck in the voting (and playtesting).
|Clark Peterson Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge|
Map is boring, location not that compelling--its not even really a villa for goodness sake. I think that is a fail for the design task this round. It is supposed to be a location with an encounter.
While this may be more than a campsite, its not a lot more. To quote from the FAQ:
Can I do a Location that contains just one Encounter, such as a campsite ambush?
Yes, but that wouldn't be a very exciting entry.
Also, I've noted throughout this round that there are just way too many typos and editing mistakes for this level of superstar. This one, too.
To me, this one just doesn't cut it and I don't particularly care if it playtests well. Sorry to say that, Daniel. I thought you'd done a really good job this year. This one just didn't have it.
|Sean K Reynolds Contributor|
Daniel, welcome to the Top 8!
Your map lines are clear and recognizable, your handwriting on the map is readable, and you made good use of tags to note features on your map. Using a little color would help make this map stand out and identify key things for the developer and cartographer.
The baron is a murderous jerk, and the reader isn't going to have any sympathy for him. However, this place seems a little small for a noble's villa...
I can't say I like the idea of the baron appearing as a CR 2 ghost. If his stat block says he's a ghost, and you're referencing the Bestiary ghost entry, then he's an AC 17 incorporeal monster with 73 hp, and that alone makes him more than CR 2, even if he can only use malevolence. And killing his host body just means he is a ghost again and can take over another one and repeat, until the PCs are worn down by attrition.
This is a really complex encounter. For the low tier, you have 6 enemy ruffians, 2 friendly NPCs, 4 PCs, 2 different haunts, and a body-hopping ghost that's going to change the allegiance of various PCs every time it hops. I think this encounter can quickly dissolve into chaos at the game table... but I suppose the playtesting will determine if that's the case.
|Mark Moreland Developer|
Hi Daniel, 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!
First thing's first: your location name. Simple and easy to grasp. I like it. I get it's a villa and that's ultimately what I need to know. Those get named all sorts of things, so I'm less concerned if I don't know what or where Crimsondale is. You're off to a decent start.
Before I move on, I'm looking at the map so I have an idea what the text refers to, and I'm instantly disappointed. You have a whole page, yet most of it's blank. And it's so square. I can easily read what's going on in it on all levels, but I'm confused by all the letters and numbers. I see that numbers identify the rooms, so what are all those letters? We generally don't provide sub-locations within maps to indicate where in a given room a particular element is, and that's what I suspect these will be, but despite all that free space, there's no key to indicate what many of the map's elements are. This is a serviceable map, but not one that is particularly inspired and likely one I'd need to clean up before sending to a cartographer, if only to remove some of the unexplained clutter (or to explain it).
Now, I do like the location's backstory, but the specific events on the night of the baron's death seem somewhat trite. Another cheating noble and his wife and mistress returned from the dead? Not bad, per se, but not necessarily superstar.
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. The PCs need to know where they are, not get a description of what their allies are doing. The GM can handle that, and if this is part of a larger adventure, which it sort of assumes, those NPCs may be dead or otherwise not in the picture. If you just describe where the PCs are and what's around them, the GM can put the necessary NPCs and monsters where they need to go.
All the information about the PCs' past actions, where the mob is positioned, and where the allies NPCs are standing is extraneous and could be summed up or simply left out/placed in the Creatures or Tactics sections rather than use up word count here. The setup should include information about the location (like the difficult terrain mentioned at the end of this section) but the rest of this stuff should be somewhere else, if it's in the encounter at all.
And then the Creature's section has very little aside from stat blocks. This is where you should talk about where the NPCs are, their stories, their actions, and those of the monsters. I think your CR calculations are way off, since you've got two haunts--are these in both tiers? I can't tell based on the lack of explanation about them other than their stat blocks--as well as 6 CR 4 ruffians in the lower tier (a CR 9 encounter by themselves) as well as a CR 2 ghost that isn't really a CR 2 ghost because it refers to a higher CR monster in the Bestiary, and then the 2 allied NPCs that there aren't rules for applying either way to the CR calculation.
Is this supposed to be multiple encounters? That's the only explanation I can come up with for why these elements are all together in this one location with such a low assumed CR. If so, that wasn't the challenge, and if not, then I would seriously worry about an entire adventure like this that I'd have to develop. Such a turnover would likely take significantly longer than normal to clean up and would almost certainly result in delays to the product coming out on time, not to mention a cascading delay of later products.
Finally, the encounter ends with a strange Development section that's really more tactics, and even then is more about the NPCs than the PCs or the foes they'll be facing. I'm not really sure how to interpret the Events, as those aren't something we typically do in encounters and thus I don't have any reference for where they should go, but Development isn't the place. And the unicorn horn should be in a treasure section (and should have some value) while the fact that Loric won't approach should be in his Creatures writeup or tactics.
There are several really neat elements to this encounter, but in the end, it's a mess and not one I can recommend for advancement. I do recommend you really look at how we present encounters in our published adventures in terms of where we place what information. I DO NOT RECOMMEND this submission for advancement to the next round, but if you find yourself in the top 4, you really need to bring your A-game and show that you're a superstar. Best of luck.
|Ryan Dancey CEO, Goblinworks|
A bolthole (one word, or two words with hyphen) is a secret place used to escape detection in the event of hostile attack - it's an old-fashioned panic room. It can also be used to describe an emergency exit. You've misused this term.
Why won't your two NPCs end up triggering the haunts? Or one of the seven NPC ruffians who are going to enter this building so quickly that they'll effectively fill it in almost no time?
CR7 opponents with 19hp? Seriously? The PCs may opt to just ignore them, since they're unlikely to do any serious damage even if they hit someone, and the wizard may simply lightning bolt them to remove the nuisance.
You've created a terrible tactical situation. You have layer 1: the house and its hazards, then layer 2: the NPC friends of the PCs, then layer 3: the ruffians, and finally layer 4: the PCs.
The "fun" part of this encounter is the haunts and the ghost. In order to get to the fun, the PCs have to basically cope with a small space full of YOUR characters. This is a classic error of designers who shift the adventure away from the PCs and onto their own story elements.
There's very little Golarion content here. You're leveraging the troubles in Galt as backstory but it is utterly unnecessary. The downfall of arrogant nobles is a time-worn tale and doesn't require the psuedo-French Revolution to provide it as a hook. No interesting use of any Golarion IP at all beyond that.
In the end this is likely to be such a cakewalk that its going to be perceived as a bump on the road in whatever adventure it appears in. This is not SuperStar work.
I do not recommend that you vote for this designer.
|mamaursula Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014|
Daniel, I'm not actually allowed to read the entries because Andrew tells me we may be play testing them, but I am allowed to browse the comments. I noticed that no one has given any feedback beyond the judges and it's nice to get fan mail. So I wanted to tell you congratulations on making it to the Top 8. That is quite an accomplishment. As I have said in other rounds before, I know you and the other Top 8 contestants are in the middle of a whirlwind of brainstorming, writing, designing, panicking, revising and then passing out as you hit that final "Submit" button.
Good luck to you and keep creating!
|Ed Zoller 52|
Almost all of your entries were great! This one is a disappointment. Small map, many things to run as a DM and all for a brief 2 round combat session in my opinion for the level this is designed for. Sorry no vote here. Loved the choir though, using it in my own Kingmaker/Crimson throne campaign as a sotry arc.
|Ed Zoller 52|
Alright. I've read through all the entries and many of the comments and I find it interesting that the judges seem to be generally leaving negative feedback, with only a couple recommending entries forward and the expected differences of opinion. My group got together and played through several of the encounters, yours included, and I'm basing my comments on what we experienced.
I'm a huge fan of everything you've done thus far and really think you deserve to win. While this entry wasn't your best (the twisted-fae is my favorite), it's still well thought out and capably executed. I've seen enough experienced professionals produce crap to say that if this is the worst you're going to do, you're Gary reborn.
1st- The visual element. While not as ornate as many battle maps I've seen, I do appreciate the clear-cut, understandable layout. The use of numbers, the map key, and everything are extremely well done and my group had no problem understanding everything once the encounter was over and it was revealed. My DM, the god of battle maps himself, is used to more ornate maps, but appreciated the ease of use and accessibility your map offers - not every DM is experienced enough to handle some of the more complex maps presented by others.
2nd- The set up- I LOVE revolutions/insurgencies and the plot- the PCs working with the rebellion- immediately had my attention. It's great, adds some confusion to the fight and honestly you had my support on the spot. It's a variations from the standard "Go here, collect this, kill these, return" hack-and-slash dungeon crawl that requires a great deal of intelligence and role-playing and I'm impressed by your utilizing this. It may not appeal to everyone, but to history/warfare buffs/professionals, its a big draw.
3rd- The bad guys- I really enjoy your monsters and the unique twist you seem to bring to the table, and the Baron in this is another example of such. I play a well-dressed wizard who is of minor noble blood and was targeted by the Baron, which confused me as the larger threat was arguably our Cleric. Afterwards the reason for this was made clear, but to experienced gamers throwing a twist like that keeps the game interesting (come'on, who hasn't slaughtered at least 50 ghosts on here? If you don't make them unique, they're boring), and for new gamers it keeps the game full of wonder and excitement (remember way back before we all had memorized the Monster Manual?). So, major points on that. The confusion caused- the two ladies arrive, ruffians in pursuit of them, the PCs in pursuit of ruffians, ghosts already there and generally hating everyone- was genius. In our play-through we were confused, I was for pulling back, others for destroying everything and the paranoid cleric who thought our friends were witches who summoned the ghosts and demanded we burn them immediately. Cue Monty Python Witch scene. The deliberate confusion to the PCs played out brilliantly, making what could have been a much easier encounter and making it more difficult by far. Our DM had no problems running the bad guys and keeping track of everything. So, props there as well.
4th- How it played out. Most importantly we, the PCs, won. That's always a plus. What makes it better is that it wasn't an easy victory, and we were still paranoid and frightened at the end, searching the grounds for more monsters, jumping at anything, etc. The fight was exciting and one of the best I've played through in a long time.
5th- Criticisms- The map could have been larger, though I'm assuming out buildings were totally burned down in the fire it would have been good to leave the foundations of them around, and expand the main buildings a bit. Still, I don't have as many issues with the size as some of the others.
There were editing problems, though as someone who has played through Gary's "Hall of Many Panes," I'm used to far worse from the creator himself, so it's not a huge deal.
The variant Ghost should have probably been a higher CR, though since it engages the ruffians as well the sheer opposition to it makes it easier than if it had been a standard ghost fighting a standard party, and as this variant is significantly weaker than a standard ghost, I can see lowering the CR to a 3 or 4.
6th- Summary- While there were some slight issues with this encounter, I believe that when its actually played through those problems are completely redeemed by the talent you've continued to exhibit throughout this contest. The twists, ingenuity, design and overall conception make this one of my favorite entries. When considered with the other amazing ideas you've brought to the table which have kept you consistently in the top (according to comments at least), I can tell you have a tremendous amount to offer Paizo and it would be a shame if you were not hired.
I strongly recommend this entry.
|RonarsCorruption Star Voter 2013|
What a complex encounter! I mean, it's the only one where the PCs are really invested in what might be going on (ally NPCs under attack), but the encounter itself is... complex. The GM has seven? Ten? threats to deal with at any one time, plus two, or maybe one friendly NPCs. Plus, you're suggesting the PCs might want to, perhaps, bury some bones in the midst of battle to keep this ghost off their tails.
I dunno, this one I have to see how playtesting goes - if people say it can go smoothly, I'd vote for it, but I don't predict so.
Burying the bones doesn't have to occur in the middle of the fight- there's always something you have to do with haunts to make them go away forever, but you can neutralize them for a while in the usual way. It's not an immediate combat threat, it's more of a week later the PCs go "Hey, why are the lights back on in the villa? I thought we got rid of the ghosts..."
|Ed Zoller 52|
Playtested this today. I was wrong. It didnt take 2 rounds, it took 1. More time reading it than anything else. Both haunts were eradicated by a positive energy burst. Again anything under 10 HP die quick. Both haunts destroyed, took out the only thing that had any HP at all. DC 11 fear is nothing for 1st level members, this was for much higher members. Only damage spell was scorching ray. Did I miss something? No vote here.
I feel like you misunderstood the assignment here. Instead of creating a location with an encounter, you detailed multiple encounters in one location and the whole thing turned out to be a jumbled mess.
Too much of a jumbled mess, not getting my vote.
This doesn't excite me at all, and I love horror. I think you spend too much time telling a story (and a pretty stale one) and not enough getting the PCs into a story. I loved your choir, which was way sexier than this.
|Tels Star Voter 2013|
|Will Cooper 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.
The location - what did you bring to Golarion?
A ruined villa in Galt with a blood-filled past, surrounded by shallow graves.Interesting location fit for a few encounters or one act of an adventure. I am missing a visual impression of the villa. A point to think about; your location text has 25 words describing what is there now, and 222 words describing the history of the villa. Was that ratio deliberate? If you had counted up along those lines, would you have changed the balance? One other nitpick, it might have been nice to help out those of your readers not immersed in Golarion; not everyone will immediately know where Woodsedge is, or what the Red Revolution was. Helping new readers easily understand where your creation fits into broader Golarion lore widens your appeal.
The encounter - do I want to run this fight on your map?
Wow, there's a lot going on here. A ghost (who I expected to be the main antagonist but is only CR 2, so obviously not), two NPCs, six ruffians, and two haunts. As a GM I am already concerned about my ability to keep everything moving with 9 creatures, plus the PCs, plus the haunts. There are interactions between the haunts and the ghost, there are timed events, there's an anti-ghost item for the players to find. That feels like a lot. I admire your ambition, but perhaps this would have been better structured as a series of encounters, culminating in a dramatic and memorable encounter with the ghost? The ambition is not supported by your technical execution in terms of organising the information that the GM needs. I said this to someone else, and it applies here: buy 5 or 6 PFS scenarios and really analyse how Paizo does encounters. It will help.
The writing - how effectively have you crafted those words?
Location text has some strong evocative language, but also some weaker writing. 'The Baron was murdered [...] the villa was set alight' - by who? Why? Then 'He often used the villa as the base for his many affairs...' words like 'often' and 'frequently' and 'sometimes' can be useful but if overused they take all the pace and urgency out of the text. Use them sparingly and deliberately; they are often(!) a sign of writing that has not been thoroughly revised. As a quick test, delete them from your sentences here, and consider whether it changes the meaning. It doesn't, so the words were wasted.
An interesting but underdeveloped location, with an ambitiously complex and dynamic encounter that I think I would struggle to run. Good to see this level of ambition, and I hope voters reward the intent. Fascinated to see the playtest feedback on this one. Good luck!
|MicMan Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014|
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)
High tier (CR9)
EASE OF RUNNING THE ENCOUNTER
The directions are mostly clear. I felt that I could run the encounter with the given information with only minor assumptions. I ruled that "half of the rufffians" ment 3 enter through the door and 2 each through the windows.
CHALLENGE OF THE ENCOUNTER
Description of the fight:
Well, this fight was over fast. The party beat the ruffians initiative. The trigger happy Rogue used his beloved Wand of Lightning Bolts (CL6) to fry the three ruffians at the door, smash the door and hit Vena Estaranth too (she made her save though). The archer ranger easily killed the two at the left window and, just for the sake of it, the Oracle of Wind used a minor Fireball from his Necklace of Fireball to dust the ruffians at the right window. Then the Barbarian boomed "come out pansies, we have got them"...
At this point I judged that Ana Milos was so striken with terror that she had run upstairs while Vena bolted the door to avoid her being killed by the Lightning Bolt! Vena stepped through the wrecked door out of the house to complain to the Rogue.
The Rogue weakly tried to defend herself from the verbal attacks of Vena while Ana entered Room 6 and triggered hount Yvette, eating a Scorching ray which killed her on the spot...
Vena and the party heard the diing scream of Ana and the Rogue and the Ranger both passed perception checks to pinpoint the source. The Rogue then promised to make up for her hurting Vena and climbed the outside wall to peek through the window seeing the haunt of Yvette and the lifeless scorched body of Ana.
Much discussion ensued where the party was divided between rescuing the body and calling it a day but Vena tipped the scales (railroading the party a bit) and thus our Rogue was climbing for the window a second time supported by the Ranger. There the Rogue taunted the haunt (?!) to scorch him but her good touch Ac prooved to high while the Ranger grabbed the body of Ana and flung her out of the window. As neither Rogue nor Ranger had any resemblance of noble being I ruled that even if I had involved Loric, nothing would have really happened.
The encounter was not at all challenging. The PCs did the obvious and managed to avoid most of the content (which they have specialised in, but here you go).
FUN OF THE ENCOUNTER
Most of the fun of the encounter came from Vena (as a Paladin) accompanied by a Cleric has fled from seven "pushovers" and ate a friendly fire Lightning Bolt only to be ridiculed afterwards by the Barbarian and turning her fury on the Rogue.
The encounter explicitly states that the ruffians are about to enter and that is a big mistake as a crafty party will own them in one round easily! Had I played this to the letter of the setup Ana would have killed by the Lightning Bolt as well at the very doorstep and the party would have no reason to enter the house at all!
Hmmm... One playtester seems to think it was very good, the other 2 not so good.
MicMan - your players would have killed one of the NPCs they were supposed to be helping if you hadn't stepped in, and nearly killed the other one if she hadn't made her saving throw. Are you sure they knew what they were supposed to achieve in this encounter? I imagine any encounter is going to be pretty easy if you just blast anything in sight, friend or foe.
Despite the judges' opinions against this encounter, this one is my favorite.
Unlike some of the other entries, it's very clear why the Player-Characters are here from the beginning. They've reached the Villa moments before a pursuing mob tries to kill Vena and Ana. Time is of the essence if they don't help the two women before they're overcome by the angry townsfolk (ruffians). That's the first instance of setting the players on the edge of their seats.
The horror factor of the haunts and the ghost accelerates the scene into further action and makes things even more tense. I like how the haunt events are paced. The whole scene is very cinematic. I also like how history is repeating itself with a mob descending on a house inhabited by two women who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There are some points of contention, however. A villa is a much larger home. "Crimsondale Cottage" may have been a better title.
The map could use some work. Be consistent and circle areas A and C like you did with B. There's a second A on the upstairs map (room 6), which confused me.
That said, good work. You have my vote!
|MicMan Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014|
...MicMan - your players would have killed one of the NPCs they were supposed to be helping if you hadn't stepped in, and nearly killed the other one if she hadn't made her saving throw. Are you sure they knew what they were supposed to achieve in this encounter?...
Yes, they were. The problem is that, as presented, the Ruffians are on the verge of breaking in and the two damsels bar the (weak) door.
What the PCs saw was several enemies and no friends. The fact that the Lightning Bold smashed the weak, half broken door and also hit one ally was something the Rogue didn't really expect or else she may not have done that.
For my tastes this encounter relies too heavily on some sort of scripted behavior. If just a little bit goes wrong chances are good that large parts of the encounter don't even happen. It would have been better to start the encounter with the Ruffians already inside the house but that feels very railroady and many players hate that.
|Anthony Adam Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014|
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 eats half a point - although the scale is present in the key, it is buried between lists of text.
Map Fu eats half a point - the little L shapes above the cellar aren’t in the key and so are confusing - we discover later in the text that this is the PC starting area, so simply label it as such would have saved the GM some cross referencing time.
Map Fu thumbs up - Key symbols table - well done.
Map Fu thumbs up - area labelling - he likes that.
Map Fu thumbs up - scale of the levels match, and the top floor isn’t different in any dimensionality that would mean the house would tip over or collapse, etc.
Map Fu eats half a point - the letters aren't in the key - he loves that you put indicators of placement into the map to ensure consistency of encounter play, but you dropped the ball in not including a key reference on the map for them. This would make the GM's job so much easier.
Check Point 2: Compass Rose/North Bearing
Obvious, and should be on all maps.
Map Fu thumbs up - The compass rose is present, clearly indicating north.
Map Fu makes comment on an interesting trend he's spotted - buildings are all built with walls square to the compass points - how strange and regimented Golarion's builders must be. He grins.
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 grins at you - you avoided the traps by having a very clear map and not mention room dimensions in your text. Sneaky you, grin.
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 is eating a point here for the restriction of 10 foot on Loric's movement when he appears in the 5 foot wide choke point of the 10 foot wide entry corridor, and only 15 foot from the main doors - a PC enters the main door, crossing the threshold and square c is 10 feet away - ouch, painful. If you are adding movement restrictions, generally they would be in a room where the restriction still allows for some movement and doesn’t shut things down to much - as he's a ghost, it's not so bad in this instance, just something to watch for.
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 - nice level of detail on the map, all rooms labelled, every room has at least one entrance - well done.
Check Point 6: Anything Missing?
Map Fu is assuming B in the kitchen (2) is the trap door and is confused why anyone would have a round trap door over a square staircase - trap doors over stairs are invariably square or rectangular because that is often the shape of the steps they cover.
Having the letters in a letter key on the map would have resolved this much easier than describing in your encounter text - which in turn saves word count for more useful uses.
Map Fu would have liked to have seen the grounds of the villa for completeness.
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.
OK, the first thing that struck me, was this villa is in remarkable condition since it was left to burn in the revolution - I would have expected maybe some holes in the floors of the upper floor - the building felt from the map to be complete. I like the reduction in wall strength - consistent with a fire, so you did well to include that.
I found the Baron's name resonated with "Leoric" for me (from Diablo 1, Level 3 sub area - "The warmth of life has entered my tomb..." - great memories), but that's just my experiences and game playing geekness rebounding off of a name.
I love the way you have the Baron treat "commoners" and "nobles", very fun twist.
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 - which you have done (albeit without a key on the map itself) - Kudos for doing this - it makes GM preparation and encounter set up a breeze.
The next items I found were all the stats and breakdowns I need to run each creature, there seemed to be all I needed here - but I spotted some missing spaces between "Weakness", "Effect", "Destruction" and the descriptive texts for Yvette and Lady Jurard - watch that - this shouldn't happen at this stage of the competition.
The Development section seems to be the encounter sequence of events rather than how to further develop the encounter - I think Development should be a guide to changing the encounter and what you have in here is effectively the standard encounter, I'm not 100% sure but thought it best to mention.
My playtest set up
Wow, I can simply place things where they should be as doors are opened and the encounter begins - very nice indeed.
GM Preparation : Other considerations / thoughts
There's simply not a great deal I can add to this encounter. I did wonder about the immediate grounds in case my PC's are forced to flee and wondered whether they would be chased into the grounds. That might have been worth mentioning and detailing on the map should this situation arise.
GM Prep Score: 19/20 Overall Score: 45.5 / 50
Hi Daniel! Congrats on making it to this round. I'm rooting for you to make it to round five.
I will only have time to playtest one scenario from this round, and I did not select Crimsondale Villa.
You've earned some encouraging comments to balance out some of the less positive criticism you've received.
Your put two NPCs directly into the story. You gave us thumbnail sketches, which is good enough for what this is, and I get the feeling you know these two women; with a few more words, they'd draw me right into the story. A GM must take note. Whenever a designer gives you NPCs, you want to shake that guy's hand. NPCs make the GM's interaction with the party into a role playing game instead of a dice rolling game. Good call, Daniel.
I also like the way the combat elements create an inside/outside tension. The main idea I see is the mob needs to be strong enough to push the PCs into the house, where a sort of role reversal occurs. Now the PCs are besieged like monsters in a dungeon. I like that idea.
You have some great ideas mismatched to party level by an overly simplified mathematical model. Even a superstar sometimes hits this frustration.
Daniel, you wrote an excellent low-level scenario. I'm just guessing, but your idea would work much better with exactly the same CRs and a party maybe 3 levels down. The NPCs should be very close to the PC level if they're going to carry weight--which, as you can tell from my comment above, I would like very much.
You show enormous understanding of the GM's point of view. The GM needs to bring more to this scenario than to most other submissions. That makes the GM more important. I think a mechanical playtest is the worst forum for your encounter. A sympathetic, talented GM who pegs the party level correctly (or bumps up your design correctly) can make this into an unforgettable adventure.
I'd like to see your adventure proposal--especially how NPCs tie in with the bigger picture. If I'm ever in your neck of the woods, I'd like to game with you.
Kradlum raises a great point - the objective of the encounter is to save two of the NPCs, which adds significant difficultly to any situation. The PCs know the NPCs are in the area, which should have limited their ability to use things like lightning bolts, for fear of causing what happened - blasting one of the vital NPCs.
One question to Micman- How does a Rogue 6/Wizard 1 cast lighting bolt? I'm more of a 3.5 guy than a Pathfinder- is there something I'm missing that allows this? It seems a bit overpowered.
I really enjoy having something I have to do other than "kill bad guys," which is one of the things I love so much about this encounter- it's brilliant on several levels and has a lot of depth, and could be expanded in several ways.
Anthony- Love Map Fu.
|MicMan Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014|
...How does a Rogue 6/Wizard 1 cast lighting bolt?...
The trigger happy Rogue used his beloved Wand of Lightning Bolts (CL6)
She has a high enough Cha to be well funded as Wand use can be expensive ;-)
...the objective of the encounter is to save two of the NPCs...
Lets take a look at the read aloud text (which I normally do not use but, of course, did to the letter in my playtestings):
As they reach the refuge of the abandoned villa and push the door closed behind them...
Thus the Rogue was a bit careless (CN and all), which only fits her character (and got her a 5 Minute roasting), but I can see many, if not even most of the PCs reacting like this when presented a chance to roast a great number of opponents before they can even enter!
How I would have presented it:
This way you force the PCs into the building. There is much less chance of them killing all the (very weak) ruffians from the outside.
Well you got a vote, though I'll have to say I find this a little uninspired. I'm lacking something really good. The basics seem fine, but I'm not really eager to run this. However, due to your earlier work and this still be a decent if not exactly amazing entry, I still hope to see you in the top 4.
|Ask A RPGSupersuccubus|
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:
Does the location and situation seem suitable for a succubus in distress (broken fingernails are such a nuisance) to find a Noble Knight?
Conceivably, but in this situation any nobly born knight is a potential liability.
Is there any possible convenient financial gain obvious in this situation for a succubus?
No financial gain is indicated, and what's worse, the premise of the situation seems to be that is working *against* all that lovely anarchy in Galt. Whilst that may be a 'Good thing' in the sanctimonious moralistic sense, it's hard to see how it can be in any other.
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?
Trample, trample, trample, *crash* (splinters flying), trample, *squeak?* (auuuuurgh!!!!!!! defunct baron discovers what has just entered 'his' house), *sploort*, *phwoomph*, *sploort*, *phwoomph*, *sploort*, *phwoomph*, rumble-rumble-rumble-CRUNCH.
The exchange between the baron with nobody handy to possess to try to use to evict the hamster, and the hamster setting fire to everything to try and get rid of the annoying ghost literally brings the house down.
On a non-financial gain side of things, I suppose there's always the unicorn horn, if a succubus is looking for one as an ornament, but I'm surprised (if people have been staying out because it's a 'haunted ruin') that there isn't anything else valuable lying around. granted the ruin's been exposed to the elements for some time, but there ought to be the odd silver candlestick around (however badly tarnished) or the like unless this baron was seriously up to his eyebrows in debt or had some belief about not keeping any precious metals in the house.
Estimated time for four adventuresome succubi to deal with this situation:
This one is going to take several weeks at least, if not months, or centuries. It depends really on how you want to qualify adequately dealing with a baron of (l)awfully Asmodean tendencies. Yes, they will evict him, but on a point of principle they're going to try and drag his soul off to the Abyss, to have some prolonged fun at his expense...
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.
Micman- thanks for the clarification. Though I'm a bit disappointed that there's no way to combine Wizard and Rogue levels for purposes of spellcasting.
|Daniel Rust RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8|
Thanks to everyone who voted for me, in this round and in any other. You've been really supportive and encouraging. Sorry, I didn't quite pull it off this round. It's good to know some people saw things they liked in the encounter, even if it was something of a mess. I really wanted to get a role-playing aspect into the encounter and I think some of you liked that.
Unfortunately the period in which I should have been writing this was just about the busiest period of my working life. My job really got in the way and I had both days and evenings taken up by it. I only really had the last few hours to write the whole thing and I think it showed. At one point I didn't think I'd get anything in, so to get a first draft submitted was all I could hope for. It's deeply frustrating, but there was very little I could have done.
Saying that, I think I would have stumbled over some of the same problems, even with a bit more time. I definitely bit off more than I could chew with the amount of stuff going on in the encounter. Re-reading some published material I can see that this is not really one encounter. It would have been separated into different areas, which would have allowed me to make each element more challenging, rather than trying to force everything into a single CR, making each part too weak for a party to handle.
I hope that I'll be able to show you what I can do in future. I have plans afoot for getting more work out there so if anyone wants more, watch this space or drop me a line.
In the meantime, I'm going to be cheering on the Top 4!
|Will Cooper RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014|
Daniel, congrats on a well deserved top-eight spot. Looked at as a time-pressured first draft, this is very good! Small consolation, I know. I think you are right that the major problem is structural - what constitutes an encounter, in Paizo's terms? Only way to reall get that bone-deep is to read and play lots of the best published material out there. A hard job, but somebody's gotta do it!
Good luck getting follow up work. I'm sure you will if you want it.
|Ask A RPGSupersuccubus|
Ask A RPGSupsersuccubus is posting from the point of view of a CE aligned (very advanced) succubus. She's right out of sympathies at present, and in any case ginormous siege towers tend to leave rather unpleasant wheel marks on the lawn which it takes ages for the grass to grow back in despite of the best efforts of several tanar’ri researchers over the past dozen months into new improved breeds of grass. (Please see the thread of someone who went out in Round 2 or 3 last year if you don't get the siege tower comment; and despite the lack of grass progress, several interesting new forms of triffids were discovered in the past year so all that horticultural research funding money wasn’t completely wasted. The triffids certainly proved useful for disposing of the failed researchers...)
Plus please take as read all the usual disclaimer stuff about gossiping salaciously over a cup of tea and plate of yummy buttered crumpets away from the boards and generally other Chaotic and Evil stuff, kept (barely) in check for now because of Good Manners.
Congratulations on making the top eight. It turns out that that's as far as you're going to get in this contest, but half those who had survived up to this point had to leave, and it turned out you were one of those. (The cut off rate is even more brutal in the next round, with three-quarters not making it, so it could be considered you did the smart thing here... ;) )
And on the positive side, you did introduce us to probably one of the most sophisticated organizations (even if they're apparently somewhat under-budgeted) to grace Round 2.
Best wishes to you and High Chorister Calliana for the future.