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RPG Superstar 2015

The Scarlet God


Round 5 - Top 4: Submit a Pathfinder Module™ adventure proposal

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Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4

The Scarlet God
A power-hungry sorcerer, her adventuring companions, and a band of giants have overrun a monastery of Desna and captured its priests. The sorcerer plans to open a long-sealed portal to the dreaded demi-plane of Leng, where she intends to sacrifice the priests to awaken an entity of inconceivable evil. Can the heroes survive the horrors of Leng and stop the sorcerer before she can rouse the Scarlet God?

This adventure is for four 9th level characters. By the end of the adventure, PCs should reach well into 10th level. The adventure includes a gazetteer and special rules for adventuring in Leng.

Adventure Summary
Responding to a plea for help, the PCs arrive at a monastery of Desna recently sacked by giants. As they infiltrate the ruined monastery, the PCs learn the giants were led by a sorcerer who has captured the Desnan priests and taken them into the catacombs below the monastery for some fell purpose. The PCs follow the sorcerer into the ancient catacombs and discover she plans to sacrifice the priests to awaken a terrible evil entity. To their horror, the PCs find the sorcerer has already absconded with the priests through a portal to Leng. The PCs must follow the sorcerer through the portal, track her across the cold plains of Leng, and ultimately confront her before she can sacrifice the priests to awaken a long-slumbering evil.

Background
The Argent Veil cult thrived in what is now northern Taldor during the early half of the Age of Destiny. Led by a coven of night hags, the cult grew from a few pesh-addicted hedonists to hundreds of murderous zealots in less than a year. The cult owed this rapid ascendancy to a pact with a small group of denizens of Leng and their captive deity: an entity called the Scarlet God.

The Argent Veil received wealth and arcane lore in exchange for a steady supply of mortal slaves, which the denizens of Leng used as fodder for their ever-hungry god. Though essentially mindless, the Scarlet God was a conduit to alien intelligences that lurked in the unknowable depths of the Dark Tapestry. As a by-product of its awful feedings, the creature wept an ether-like substance that the denizens of Leng consumed to access to a vast and terrible repository of forbidden knowledge.

Several baku, long troubled by the Argent Veil’s rise to power and connection to the hated night hags, decided it was time to destroy the cult. Unable to defeat the cult on their own the shrewd baku recruited others to their cause, and soon an army of Desnan priests, wild kellid tribesmen, and fey from the Verduran Forest marched on the cult’s main temple. The temple fell in a single day and the night hags were each put to the sword. The victors discovered a one-way portal to Leng in the catacombs below the temple and soon deduced the cult’s ties to the denizens of Leng and the existence of the awful Scarlet God. Unable to destroy the portal, for it magically repaired itself after sustaining damage, the victors merely sealed the catacombs and then constructed the Monastery of the Vigilant Star over the site.

This proved fatal to the denizens of Leng. Without mortal slaves to placate its hunger the Scarlet God eventually consumed its former care-takers, who were unable to flee due to their unnatural addiction to the Scarlet God’s arcane weepings. Completely without food, the Scarlet God soon fell into a deep, unnatural slumber and now lies dreaming in its tower in Leng.

Naevia
The estranged daughter of a Taldan noble family, Naevia absconded to Absalom at a young age where she quickly lost herself in the city’s dark underbelly. One evening as Naevia sat in a drug-induced haze in an illicit pesh den, a stranger approached. The stranger was a sorcerer who somehow recognized Naevia’s untapped sorcerous potential. He spoke of Naevia’s hidden talents and offered her a chance to claim her destiny by becoming his apprentice. Naevia agreed and soon began her apprenticeship.

Under the sorcerer’s tutelage, Naevia became a gifted spell-caster. During her apprenticeship, Naevia gained access to her master’s library of blasphemous tomes. She read of Leng and of the entity known as the Scarlet God. Soon after this discovery, Naevia dreamt of a tower on a vast desolate plain in which lurked a great scarlet entity full of wisdom and dark promises. The Scarlet God was reaching out to her. Beguiled by the entity’s promises, Naevia slew her master and dedicated her life to waking the Scarlet God.

Naevia recruited a group of mercenary-minded adventuring companions and they traveled as far as Vudra and Tian Xia seeking information about the Scarlet God. Naevia’s investigations eventually pointed her toward the long-destroyed Argent Veil and their connection to Leng and the Scarlet God. Further research led Naevia to track down and capture one of the bakus that helped destroy the Argent Veil. Naevia tortured the baku for information, and after months of abuse the poor creature told Naevia everything it knew. Now armed with the location of the Argent Veil catacombs and the long-hidden portal to Leng, Naevia enlisted the aid of a band of giant mercenaries and set her plan into motion.

Adventure Outline
Part 1: The Monastery
It is early winter, and the PCs are in the snow-covered foothills north of Fog Creek in northernmost Taldor. One or more of the PCs might have friends or relatives among the priests of the Monastery of the Vigilant Star and are heading there to visit, or perhaps the PCs received an invitation from the high priest of the monastery to attend the Ritual of Stardust as honored guests. Alternately, a noble from Yanmass could have hired the PCs to investigate a series of giant raids against settlements and travelers in the region.

The adventure begins during a snowstorm when the PCs stumble across Peliria (Acolyte, GameMastery Guide 304), a young halfling acolyte from the Monastery of the Vigilant Star. She is severely wounded and out of spells. The PCs have only a few minutes to question her and learn about the giant attack before a shadow falls from the sky. A young adult white dragon lands in their midst and attacks. An ally of the frost giants, the dragon has tracked Peliria since she escaped the carnage at the monastery the day before.

Monastery of the Vigilant Star:
This ancient monastery is atypical of most Desnan temples. Instead of a structure built for stargazing and quiet contemplation, it looks more like a small motte-and-bailey castle. The monastery is protected by a watchtower and curtain wall that surrounds a courtyard containing a two-story stone priory and four wooden buildings (barn, storehouse, servants’ quarters, and guard barracks).

The PCs arrive at the monastery at least a full day after its fall to the giants. They find the curtain wall breached in places and the main gate shattered. A ghastly collection of severed heads, bloody torsos, and hacked off limbs dangle from crude hooks along the wall’s length. Smoke from several smoldering buildings fills the air, and the priory’s upper floor has collapsed. Giants infest the courtyard and monastery ruins.

The Hootenanny: Twenty ogres fill the courtyard, celebrating their victory in typical ogre fashion around a huge bonfire. A few survivors of the massacre are here as well, though they are in shock due to the ogres’ brutal handling. If rescued, they tell the PCs the giants were led by a sorceress who captured the priests and took them into the catacombs below the monastery.

Pappy Slerg: The one-eyed patriarch of the Slerg family (ogre barbarian 6) and his snow tiger (dire tiger variant) retired to the watchtower overlooking the courtyard. Pappy keeps his two malformed sons (blind degenerate ogres, Classic Monsters Revisited) on chain leashes.

Hill Giants: Five drunken hill giants are inside the partially collapsed barn. Having consumed a prodigious amount of wine from the monastery storehouse, the giants are currently sickened and staggered.

Frost Giants: Two frost giants began celebrating with the ogres, but found their allies’ festivities too vulgar. They now rest in the ruined monastery’s main hall.

Thrannus: Thrannus, an evil cloud giant, sits brooding in a chamber off the main hall absently strumming his lute. He’s the leader of the mixed band of giants, and wields Rivenglaar, a gargantuan-sized +2 human bane greatsword. Thrannus is beginning to reevaluate the wisdom of accepting Naevia’s gold, especially since the monastery’s treasury was rather underwhelming.

Part 2: Ancient Catacombs
After the PCs defeat or evade the giants, they can descend into the Argent Veil catacombs. The catacombs are crumbling with age and many corridors and side chambers have collapsed. If PCs stray too far into these areas they risk triggering cave-ins (Cave-in/Collapse, Core Rulebook 415).

Several of these chambers comprise the inner sanctum of the Argent Veil’s leaders, where the night hags gathered to scheme and perform vile acts of cooperative magic. The long-dead hags haunt these chambers as witchfires, though they are bound to separate chambers.

Following the central hallway, the PCs discover a huge cavern. The cavern’s floor drops into a chasm, several hundred feet deep and 100 feet wide. A five-foot wide stone bridge arches over the chasm and leads to set of double-doors. Three of Naevia’s adventuring companions, Nars, a Varisian cutthroat (Slayer, GameMastery Guide 267), Thorvoard, an Ulfen mercenary (Viking, GameMastery Guide 281), and Sudacar, a Keleshite wizard (fire elementalist wizard 10) guard the bridge. These men have adventured together for years and are confident they can defeat the PCs.

The Portal Chamber: Through the double-doors is an immense circular chamber, dominated by a 20-foot tall stone archway—the one-way portal to Leng. The portal is a minor artifact that magically repairs itself if it sustains damage. Due to the chamber’s connection to Leng, the PCs feel a palpable sense of unnatural dread and wrongness here.

The PCs enter in time to watch Naevia, her four remaining adventuring companions, and the 12 shackled Desnan priests slip through the portal. Naevia offers the PCs a contemptuous sneer as she vanishes.

Alharo: Muzzled and shackled (dimensional shackles) nearby is an abused baku named Alharo. After Alharo led Naevia to the monastery she intended to slay him before departing for Leng, but she was distracted when the PCs arrived. Alharo is friendly toward the PCs, and if they release him he becomes helpful. Alharo was one of the bakus that participated in the destruction of the Argent Veil and he knows a great deal about the cult, its ties to Leng, and how to operate the portal. Alharo knows nothing about the Scarlet God other than its ties to the denizens of Leng that were once allies of the Argent Veil. Because he was Naevia’s prisoner for months, Alharo knows a great deal about Naevia, her companions, and her plans to rouse the Scarlet God. Alharo reminds the PCs the portal is only a one-way route to Leng, and they’ll need to find another way to return to Golarion. He quickly adds that Naevia owns at least one plane shift scroll.

After Naevia uses the portal, the PCs cannot activate it again for 24 hours. After months of abuse, Alharo is mentally unstable. Though he‘s obsessed with stopping Naevia and rescuing the priests, he fears Naevia too much to confront her. Unless coerced with magic, Alharo does not accompany the PCs.

Part 3: Leng
After the PCs enter the portal, they appear in the midst of a vast featureless plain. It’s very cold and there’s a light dusting of rime covering ground, but there’s no wind. The sky is dark and full of unfamiliar stars. The sense of dread and wrongness the PCs experienced in the portal chamber is magnified a hundred times here. Each PC must make a Will save or remain shaken while they remain in Leng.

Though Naevia’s party arrived at least 24 hours earlier, it’s easy to follow their tracks. Visible on the farthest horizon, in the same direction Naevia headed, is a tiny black dot. This is the tower of the Scarlet God and it grows steadily larger with each passing hour. Shortly after they begin traveling across the blasted plain, the PCs notice a dark cloud moving toward them. Moments later, a huge void mote swarm overtakes them.

Void Mote Swarm:
Void mote swarms are composed of thousands of tiny jet-black particles of living energy, a form of terrible alien life found in regions touched by the raw madness of the Dark Tapestry. Individual void motes are harmless, quickly disintegrating when separated from its swarm-mates. As a swarm, however, void motes develop a predatory intelligence and a hunger for living flesh. Void mote swarms feed on life-force and sanity, often reducing victims to gibbering mad-men before turning their bodies to lifeless husks.

Several hours later, the PCs encounter the half-human Faelnak (half-fiend Beggar, GameMastery Guide 300), a slave that recently escaped from the denizens of Leng. The PCs only have a few minutes to speak with Faelnak before a gug slave-tracker finally catches up to him. Due to the featureless terrain, the PCs spot the split-faced giant when it is 200 yards away.

After an encounter with a pair of hunting shantaks, the PCs finally track Naevia to the tower of the Scarlet God.

Part 4: The Tower
The tower is made of huge irregular-shaped blocks of glistening black stone, though the exact height, diameter, shape, and structural details appear differently to each PC. One sees a tall, slender tower with multiple spires, while another sees a squat, blockish building with a single rounded apex. The tower is windowless with a 20-foot square open entryway on the ground floor. The area beyond the entryway is supernaturally dark, and light sources only extend a dim radiance of light to a distance of ten feet. This effect also hinders darkvision.

Four beings dressed in tattered robes stand in the tower’s entryway. They are denizens of Leng, who recently forged an alliance with Naevia. They remain utterly silent and fight to the death to keep the PCs from entering the tower.

Devouring Geometry:
The tower is a work of alien architecture infused with dangerous energy emanating from the Scarlet God. Each hour the PCs remain inside the tower there is an increasing chance one of them is targeted by a devouring effect. A character targeted by this effect that fails a DC 19 Fortitude save appears to turn a corner inside the tower and disappear. The reality-warping influence of Leng has snuffed the character out of existence. Nothing short of a wish or the direct intervention of a deity can bring the character back to life.

As the PCs enter the tower they each vanish into their own personal labyrinth. Nothing allows them to remain together or communicate. The labyrinth is different for each PC. Some encounter long twisting halls and spiraling staircases, while others encounter steep, curving ramps and claustrophobic passages. The oppressive feeling of isolation and terror is overwhelming. Each PC must make a DC 18 Will save or gain the sickened condition for 1d6 hours.

The PCs simultaneously emerge into a chamber with dozens of oddly angled walls and alcoves. Here the PCs find Naevia’s sole remaining companion, Renzer (half-elf Celebrity Bard, GameMastery Guide 273) standing in a corner, giggling and babbling to himself. Naevia’s other three companions were destroyed by the tower’s devouring geometry. Moments after the PCs arrive four hounds of Tindalos emerge from different angles in the room and attack. After the PCs defeat the hounds Renzer begins shrieking and foaming at the mouth. He attacks the PCs and fights until slain.

A spiral staircase leads from this chamber up to the Scarlet Fane.

When Naevia entered the tower, the Scarlet God sensed her and shielded her from harm. Thus, Naevia and her captives did not experience the labyrinth effect nor were they targeted by the tower’s devouring geometry.

The Scarlet Fane: This large chamber is dominated by a 20-foot tall obelisk of oily red stone. The 12 Desnan priests are lying on the floor in front of the obelisk, drugged and incapacitated. Naevia (human destined bloodline sorcerer 13) is here as well, and she fights to the death to protect her new god.

If Naevia is slain, the obelisk dissolves into a hideous mass of bloody goo as the Scarlet God comes to terrible life. At its strongest the Scarlet God was essentially a nascent Great Old One, however due to its long slumber and lack of sustenance it is considerably weakened. In its current state, the Scarlet God is a young fiendish carnivorous blob. It cannot use its reactive strike ability and suffers from the staggered condition.

Scepter of Ravening Madness:
Naevia’s ebony scepter functions as a +2 light mace when used in melee. Three times per day when it successfully strikes a foe, the wielder can use a swift action to cause the victim to suffer terrible waking nightmares. The victim must make a DC 20 Will save or take 1d6 Wisdom damage and gain the confused condition for 1d6 rounds.

Conclusion
With the death of the Scarlet God, the tower’s reality-warping dangerous effects (the personal labyrinth and devouring geometry effects) cease. When the PCs search Naevia they locate two plane shift scrolls among her possessions which they can use to return to Golarion. The ancient and untouched treasury of the denizens of Leng is located in a chamber adjoining the Scarlet Fane.

Assuming they succeed, the PCs have accomplished a heroic feat by destroying the Scarlet God. If the PCs rescued the Desnan priests and return them to Golarion, they promise to share their divine magic and knowledge with the PCs. The PCs are welcomed as honored guests of the monastery for the rest of their lives. Three months after returning the priests to Golarion, the PCs receive a significant payment in gold from the monastery as thanks for their heroic efforts.

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

Hey Tom! Glad to see you in the Top 4! Let’s take a look at your submission…

What you will get from me: I am a third party publisher—specifically one known for adventures. And in my role as a third party publisher of adventures I have read hundreds upon hundreds of adventure proposals sent to me by freelancers. I don’t work for Paizo and I am not a freelancer. This contest isn’t Paizo Superstar, it’s RPG Superstar, and many of the contestants (particularly the top 4) may go on to publish adventures and material not only for Paizo but for other third party publishers. I can’t give you the Paizo insider slant like James or the freelancer slant from Neil. What I can give you is a critique of your submission in real time and stream-of-consciousness, just as if I was reading and reacting to an emailed pitch I received from you back when I was actively producing Necromancer Games adventures. Hopefully that will let you inside the mind of how a third party publisher actually reviews pitches since many of you may go on to do freelance work for third party companies after your Superstar career. My notes in italics below are my impressions as I read through your submission.

In my review of each of the four submissions for this final round I’ve included some side observations and tips. I don’t repeat them in each one for space reasons. Instead, I placed them in the submissions where they seemed most appropriate.

Inside Info: The Importance of the Initial Impression: The first thing I do when I get an adventure proposal is scan the pitch to see “what kind of adventure is this?” See my comments in James’ entry for more info on this. No need to repeat myself.

Initial Impression

Once again, I start with the name. Your name is very much like the title of a Conan story and thus is seriously old school (not surprising for you, see my comments to your Sisters entry). Not sure it is super evocative. I have no idea what I am getting with that title but yet it says adventure and it seems to relate to a main bad guy, which appeals to me.

Name aside, let’s see what this darn thing is about and if I want to publish it…

Background and Summary

Now the quick once over. What am I getting?

• Sorcerer, giants
• Portal to another plane (Is Leng on another plane? Isnt it just in space?)
• Plan to rouse ancient god
• Leng, Leng and more Leng

Know the History of Paizo’s Adventures: See my comments in Mike’s Doom Comes to Dustpawn for more. My comment here is a corollary of that one: You need to know not just the history of the game, but specifically what Paizo has made in their prior Adventure Paths. A couple elements here are directly a part of Hook Mountain Massacre from the Rise of the Runelords AP. Yes, that was their first one and maybe you weren’t a Paizonian then, but you need to educate yourself on that stuff. That said, though you might not know all the Paizo stuff, it is clear to me that you know classic D&D modules very well since I get the impression you have chosen to be inspired by them, which I approve of strongly.

I’m not sure I would ever believe I would say this: there might be too much Leng here. Sure, its awesome. But I feel like you went overboard on the Lovecraft. HPL is like spice, a few dashes is enough. Dumping a whole jar of chili powder in your recipe is overkill. I feel like you did that here to some degree. But dang if you are going to use spices, old school Conan and Lovecraft are the spices to use, in my opinion. So I guess I don’t mind that much. But it is something to be aware of and, if you win, James will likely work with you on it.

That said, I like the Argent Veil and I like your NPC, Naevia (though you have to change her name, too close to Nivea the lotion). You’ve set up a fun foe.

My other big concern is this: “The adventure includes a gazetteer and special rules for adventuring in Leng.” I am not sure you really have room for that. But luckily Leng should be detailed elsewhere, so you may not need to have this stuff in there.

Let’s see what you do with all this…

Outline

Part 1: This is the part in the spoiler that I refer to as being too similar to Hook Mountain Massacre. But I think James can work with you on that. Plus, it doesn’t have the same Deliverance vibe that HMM had, so I think that while it is similar, it is different enough. Promises some fun, old school combat, which I like. Almost a Steading of the Hill Giant Chief-lite. Nice. Plus the Monastery map will likely be fun. And with the snow setting, this strikes me more as G1 and G2 than it does Hook Mountain Massacre. Which is fine with me.

[Edit after reading James' comments: I think this adventure is much more Steading of the Hill Giant Chief than it is Hook Mountain Massacre, given the other parallels here. I think this adventure would be designed and would play out much more like the former than the latter and when published would read just fine. I had the same initial concern as you, but taking the adventure as a whole, I don't think that is fatal.]

Part 2: Once again, very classic. This is very “dungeon beneath the giant lair” that you find in the classic Giant modules (Hill, Frost and Fire, G1-3). Except instead of finding a clue to the drow, in this adventure we find a portal. Given your old school roots, it is clear to me this is no coincidence and that your adventure has conscious parallels to the modules I have referenced. As president of Necromancer Games, I am drooling right about now. I’ve pretty much already made up my mind to publish this—I get classic Giants module fun with what promises to be a Conan style wizard hunt mixed with Lovecraftian goodness? Sign me up!

Of course, in 3E with all the stat blocks for monsters these are going to have to be much smaller in scope than the respective above ground fortress and underground caverns from any of the classic Giant modules. I trust you will take that into account, because you still have parts 3 and 4 and only a total of 32 pages to do them in.

Parts 3 and 4: Once again, Leng. I personally think you overdo it with the Lovecraft here. But I know James and company would dial that back. In the end you get an awesome fight with Nivea (see, I can’t resist, change that name), a summoned god-monster in an old school battle. If I wasn’t already salivating, I am now. This is exactly the kind of adventure I would DIE to publish. You are living up to the honorary Grognard award I gave you in the prior round. I love the void motes and the locations, such as the Scarlet Fane (once again, a nod to the classic modules). The scepter is also a cool magic item.

In the end, adventures are all about plot, locations, encounters, enemies and rewards. You deliver the goods on all fronts, in my opinion. This is like a modern, mini-GD series module with some Conan and Lovecraftian spice dumped in. I think it is totally doable and would be an amazing, epic adventure for the ages. Great enemies, great locations, great plot.

Recommendation: Tom, it is my pleasure to say that I RECOMMEND this submission be considered as a potential winner for RPG Superstar 2012. I’ve only recommended two—this one and Mike’s Doom Comes to Dustpawn. I think these two are the best of the four by a clear margin.

As between those two, I personally recommend this submission to be the actual winner for a number of reasons. First, the old school vibe personally appeals to me. But second, and more important, I think you have had a more consistent run. Let’s review your body of work: the feywhisper crown was a huge hit, as were the Sisters of Chana-Zhol. Your slaughterhound was one of my all time favorite submissions from any year of RPG Superstar, and that is saying something, and Eightfinger's Tomb also showed me a ton of talent and mojo.

I think you have without a doubt been the best and most consistent through the entire competition and that deserves to be rewarded.

[Edit after reading James' comments: I am also 100% convinced you could easily rework this adventure to meet any of the external factors regarding Leng and other things that James raises as concerns in his comments. You have shown the most consistent freelancer mojo and I have no doubt you could easily turn over changes from development. You didn't know about those things when you wrote this and I'd hate to see that held against you by the voters.]

It’s up to the voters now! Good luck!

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Tom! Welcome to the final round! It's been a long journey for you...and not just this year...but the past few years, as well, where you hit the ceiling and missed advancing to the later rounds of the competition a couple of times. But no more. This is it! And I suspect those prior experiences certainly helped you get here. Your work has consistently stood out this year and I hope you've had a lot of fun along the way, because this competition should be just as entertaining as it is nerve-wracking.

So, for the final adventure round, I like to break my commentary into two halves. The first assesses your pitch...meaning, how well you sold your ideas within the proposal itself. I think it's important to take a look at that because it gives us a more complete sense of your writing ability and how well you're able to present your ideas in order to win support for your work. That goes for the judges, the voters, and eventually the gaming community-at-large. It also offers a glimpse into how you'd structure your actual adventure so it conveys information to the reader in a useful, inspired manner.

The second part of my assessment will dive into each major element of your implied adventure and whether what you've presented here includes all the relevant pieces to hopefully make a great Pathfinder module. More than anything, that's really the goal here. While your pitch may demonstrate you've got the professional polish, creative writing ability, and organizational skills to entrust you with this type of assignment, it's the core ideas of your adventure which will convince voters to select your proposal as the one they most want to see on store shelves and available for purchase on Paizo's website. So, with all that in mind, let's get down to business...

Feedback for: The Scarlet God

The Pitch
Okay. This is the part where you need to sell your proposal to us...which means, you need to write well enough to convince us you know what you're doing with strong, purposeful design choices. That includes the underlying storytelling, pacing, and plot of your adventure; the choices you make with regards to the level requirement/CRs for each encounter; the number of maps you'll require for your chosen location(s); your sense of Golarion canon vs. how best to support the intellectual property of your publisher; your sense of scope and scale so you can fit everything in 32 pages; and so on. Basically, your adventure pitch should convince us you've got a good head on your shoulders when it comes to adventure design, and that you're the man Paizo (and the Paizo community) should entrust with this opportunity.

Hopefully, the prior rounds of this year's competition (as well as what you learned in 2011 and 2010) helped develop an understanding of these things for you. Personally, my approach has always been to study what Paizo already does with their Pathfinder modules...i.e., how things are structured, how each adventure premise innovates around some new idea, and what kinds of limitations they put on you as a writer/storyteller. Likewise, I believe it's important to study the winning adventure proposals from prior years of RPG Superstar to get a sense of how they "sold" the readers, judges, and voters. If you can pick up on all those elements and adapt your proposal accordingly, you'll be light-years ahead of most would-be designers.

So, the first thing I notice when I read your submission is the adventure's intended name. The Scarlet God. That title conjures up some decent imagery. Nothing overpowering, but also nothing super-definitive about it either. A scarlet god could be anyone or anything. So, I'm not completely sold on it yet. Naming is actually one of the most important elements in adventure design. That's because it's the first thing people are going to see when they come across your module on the shelves. Your adventure's name needs to be evocative enough to create a powerful image in the reader's mind so it makes them want to pick it up and read what lies behind the cover. One of the most useful tricks for selecting a powerful, evocative, or even iconic name is to name the adventure after one of two things: either, 1) the name of your primary adventure location (e.g., The Temple of Elemental Evil, White Plume Mountain, Tomb of Horrors), or 2) your primary villain (e.g., Queen of Spiders, Scourge of the Slave Lords, Crown of the Kobold King). The names of these adventures resonate because they draw upon the things your players will almost certainly remember and reminisce about after playing them...i.e., the cool location where it took place, or the awesome villain they faced. If your adventure name can tap into one or both of those things, you're on the right track.

Now, a title like The Scarlet God seemingly points out your intended villain. It tells me we're probably going to be facing "a scarlet god" somewhere in your adventure. And, as long as that villain gets served up in an inspiring way, the adventure's title can really take on an iconic status. Unfortunately, I didn't come away with that impression based on your pitch. The Scarlet God has too little information ascribed to it to really make it stand out, but I'll get into that more below. For now, your adventure's name is serviceable, but it's a “base hit” moreso than a “homerun.”

So what about the rest of the pitch? I think you did a good job on your presentation. Everything's nice and orderly. There are several good examples from prior years of the competition to follow on that and you clearly did your homework. You also structured things well from a storytelling sense. However, I did feel like the adventure's summary was kind of rehashing the synopsis text in the first paragraph, but at least it helped round out some more definition for what you're proposing to do. Meanwhile, I thought the adventure background had a lot going on with it...everything from the baku vs. the Argent Veil hags to denizens of Leng, their captive Scarlet God, some Desnan priests with fey allies, Naevia's rise to power, a bunch of allied giants and ogres. It's kind of all over the place in terms of the number of factions in play. But there's some strong stuff in there. I'll touch more on that when I assess the core underpinnings of the actual adventure.

From the cartographer's standpoint, you've given us the equivalent of four (maybe three-and-a-half) maps. We've got the monastery, the catacombs under it, an overland journey through Leng, and then the Scarlet God-tower thing. The monastery, catacombs, and tower sound like they could be pretty involved if you want to do them justice. Maybe a single page map to define the first two...a half-page map for the plains of Leng...and then a full page for the tower? Sounds workable.

The primary worry I might have is whether or not you can hold yourself to the equivalent of 20 separate encounters in your 32-page adventure and still do each of those locations justice. Believe me, I ran up hard against that concern with Realm of the Fellnight Queen during my run. I felt like I had it planned out pretty tightly, but in the writing of the adventure, it definitely became clear I'd have to rein back the scope of what I had in mind. Overall, I think your two major adventuring sites (i.e., monastery/catacombs, Leng-based god-tower) with an overland planar journey in between is do-able. But barely. And it's really going to depend on how much you elaborate on your gazetteer for Leng itself. This is a super-ambitious proposal. Of the remaining competitors, however, I have to say if I think any of you could pull this off, it would be you. Your work's been consistent enough that I'd be interested in seeing you give it go...but only under the guidance of your Paizo developer and creative director. The gazetteer, for instance, may need something more than just a planar discussion of Leng. You may be counted upon to detail an actual city/town within Leng as an optional encounter location for the GM to use. If so, that's going to take up a fair amount of text, too...not just for the appendix, but also the space you'd need to devote to having an encounter take place, even if it's just a social one.

From a Golarion canon standpoint, I liked all the background with the Desnan priests and monastery, but it seemed a little odd to place that in Taldor. According to the Inner Sea World Guide, the faith of Desna isn't especially prominent there. So, something like the Monastery of the Vigilant Star seems a little ambitious to airdrop in that part of the world. You could possibly spin that by saying it's a contributing reason to why the monastery is somewhat forgotten and remote. Maybe even make it a ruin of the last known bastion of Desna's faith in Taldor, which Naevia rediscovered and found some giants/ogres already occupying it. That way, she could have struck a deal with them to explore the catacombs, whereby she'd have been at the location long enough to study the secrets of the night hags and the portal which the priests of Desna tried to hide from the world. That way, the rest of the baku vs. nighthags stuff holds up. And the denizens of Leng and the Scarlet God all seem workable, too.

The last thing I examined was a bit of analysis around the appropriateness of your implied encounters. You've got a villain with class levels in Naevia, so you can make her whatever you need to fit the bill. She's mutable enough that I'm not worried about anything there. If the ogres and giants appear in great enough numbers at the monastery, they too should provide an adequate challenge, especially if you create a common foot-soldier version with a level or two in fighter, barbarian, etc. Other than that, I see you've got a white dragon encounter to kick things off. I'd prefer to see you use the adult version that's already statted up for you in the Bestiary so you don't have to create a long stat-block for a young adult white dragon. It should still be a CR-appropriate APL+1 encounter. The frost giants at CR 9 and cloud giant at CR 11 make sense as two really difficult encounters before venturing into the catacombs. Once we get there, however, I'm not as keen on the heavy-handed use of so many Gamemastery Guide call outs to save on stat-block space...i.e., the Varisian cutthroat using the slayer pregen and the Ulfen mercenary with the viking pregen, etc. I understand why you needed to reach for that. I'm just not a fan of introducing that many scripted NPCs to create artificial room for the rest of your adventure write-up. You've basically done the same thing with Peliria and the acolyte pregen, your half-fiend beggar Faelnak, and Renzer the celebrity bard. Some of these guys (especially the half-fiend!) deserve an actual stat-block in the adventure. But, if you include them, you'll be even further challenged to make room for everything you're attempting to do with this proposal. Ultimately, your developer will guide you here, either by saying it's acceptable, or by helping you trim away parts of the adventure so full stat-blocks can be provided for your NPCs. As a writer, be conscious of overusing this trick. I thought many of you overdid it last round and I'm disheartened to see it continue here to this degree.

Moving on. The one thing that really has me concerned is the devouring geometry of the god-tower. It's essentially a DC 19 Fortitude save every hour or be snuffed out of existence by the reality-warping aspects of the Scarlet God's resting place. Let's examine that for a moment. Even for a 10th level PC (assuming the party has leveled up) with a good Fort saving throw, a decent Con modifier, and maybe a cloak of protection, that's going to be a hard DC to make. Essentially, even the high-end fighter or barbarian will fail it around 40% of the time. Do you really want a 60-40 chance that the front-line melee guys eat it every hour they spend in the tower? This problem gets magnified if you're dealing with a character class with a poor Fort saving throw, almost assuring that half the party is eradicated before even reaching the final encounter. So this really needs to be reined in.

Lastly, the Scarlet God itself is a CR 13 young, fiendish, carnivorous blob. Provided your PCs level up somewhere by the middle of the adventure, that'll come off as an epic APL+3 encounter. While vicious, it's also a solo battle. So, that potentially offsets some of the concern. Unfortunately, it sounds like it comes right on the heels of their encounter with Naevia, so it's unlikely they'll be at full strength for it. And, if they've had any difficulty dealing with the devouring geometry, this could have full-on TPK potential written all over it. So you may need to rein things back here, as well.

The Adventure
In my advice for RPG Superstar, I've written before about five key elements in good adventure design. Erik Mona and James Jacobs once shared this perspective at a GenCon seminar on “Writing for Dungeon Magazine” back in the day, and I've always found it extremely useful in plotting out compelling adventure scenarios. So, it's my hope that it'll also serve as a good metric for assessing how well your adventure holds up. Essentially, if you can address the following five things with as much “awesome” as you can muster, you've got a winning adventure proposal on your hands. Those five things boil down to: 1) a memorable villain whose goals are a legitimate threat which credibly prompts the PCs to act; 2) a unique and interesting set of locales which provide cool maps, memorable encounters, and innovative tactical/terrain situations; 3) a compelling and interesting plot wherein the villain's goals encroach on the PCs' world in a sustained, threatening manner where they get to become heroes at the center of attention throughout the adventure; 4) some interesting and entertaining minions and NPCs who have a credible reason for working with the villain, existing within the chosen locale(s), and create recurring problems for the PCs; and 5) an interesting, worthwhile reward which the PCs (and their players) will cherish for the rest of their adventuring careers. If you can achieve high marks in as many of those areas as possible in your design, you could have a real, winning idea on your hands. So, let's see how you measured up:

The Villain: I didn't quite feel like this came across strongly enough. As the title of your adventure, the Scarlet God could be viewed as the overarching villain. But, in many ways, Naevia comes across that way instead. The PCs certainly spend more time chasing her and dealing with her plans than the carnivorous blob at the end. What I'm truly missing is the compelling motivation that puts either of these “villains” at the core of the adventure's premise. Naevia is presented as the primary (almost recurring) villain who gets way more screen time than anyone. And yet, she doesn't quite leap off the page as someone particularly compelling which the PCs can come to hate. If this were the villain round of RPG Superstar, neither of these two concepts (i.e., Naevia or the Scarlet God) would probably win my recommendation...not in how you've presented them, at least. Punched up and properly tweaked, they could definitely bring the awesome, though. It just didn't come out in this proposal, and I think some of that is a result of how you've structured the plot, which I'll touch on below. I also think it's because your villain isn't quite pervasive enough. We don't feel the Scarlet God's impact (or even Naevia's really) across each part of the adventure. And I'd like to see you find ways to weave more of their presence thoughout the storyline.

The Locale(s) – I like how you matched things here. We get a brief introductory encounter on the way to the monastery in an open field with a dragon chasing after a lone survivor. That ought to start things off with a bang. Some information sharing from the Desnan cleric about what's befallen his colleagues. Then, there's an assault on the above-ground monastery to put the smack down on some giants, a series of catacombs below, and a portal into Leng. From there, we get another overland planar journey with a mirrored encounter where a half-fiend is being chased/hounded by a gug slaver...additional information sharing about the god-tower...and then another assault on another stronghold. I'm not as keen on the duplication involved in those two scenarios, but the actual adventuring sites are quite appealing. The devouring geometry and planar traits of Leng should make for some interesting hazards. But, what I'm really missing here is something to jazz up the battles that take place in all these locations so they're more involved than just plunking down some mini's on the battlemat and having at it. I think you could have benefited more by viewing your locations in cinematic terms. What physical traits of these adventuring locales will make the combats there any different from the other locations in the adventure? Is there difficult terrain involved? Are the PCs faced with flight-capable foes they can take on in the air themselves? Is there a water-based, lava-based, snow-or-ice-based hazard to present? Any elevated terrain? What about traps, curses, or haunt-like effects? It would be more interesting to see some of these things in the middle of your routine combat encounters! You can really punch things up to make them more memorable for players and GMs if you spend some energy toward anticipating and building in those types of situations. It's what'll lead them to be talking about your adventure for years to come.

The Plot - The plot is fairly straightforward here. And I'm not sure it's woven in all that tightly (in storytelling terms) with the PCs. You could probably stand to do a little more here. If I had to parse it down, there's too much “go here, encounter harried individual who can provide additional plot points, fight some creature chasing them, get the information, proceed to the next area and attack it until the PCs have cleared everything.” The information about Naevia and her goals are doled out in a somewhat contrived and uninspired manner. And that's causing her status as a villain...or even the Scarlet God's threat as the ultimate end-game villain...to come off far too weak. Instead, I think you need to layer in more interaction opportunities or situations where the PCs could learn more about the Scarlet God and Naevia in ways that don't just rely on trailing her swathe of destruction and priestly abductions across two planes. For instance, if the PCs were invited to stay overnight at the Desnan monastery before Naevia abducted her sacrificial lamb(s) and had a chance to interact with her in a social situation...or even just the priests themselves, who explained something about the purpose of the monastery in guarding the portal to Leng...those kinds of things would help create a wider sense of how the information the PCs need actually comes to them. Additionally, it would give them less of a hurry-hurry-hurry mentality from the start of the adventure all the way to the very end. It would also give them time to invest in some NPC relationship-building, which would further serve the story when the action gets underway by giving the GM/players more motivations from which to draw upon during the adventure. After all, if they've met and befriended one of the priests Naevia abducted, they've got a greater reason (and a more credible one) for pursuing her. Always look for ways to widen your adventure design so they include room for that type of thing and your overall plot will be stronger for it.

The Minions – I don't know about this part. The giants in the mountains of northern Taldor coming under Naevia's sway to attack the monastery seems plausible to me. But even your adventure proposal acknowledges the mercenary-minded monsters aren't all that enamored with the results of their carnage at her direction. Even Naevia's adventuring band are mostly chewed up by the devouring geometry or come off kind of cookie-cutter and red-shirt-ish in the various encounters. So, the minion angle doesn't really work for me that much. What I'm missing here is an actual night hag or even a denizen of Leng who's working with Naevia to awaken the Scarlet God. Or, if you're looking to cast Naevia as the minion to the Scarlet God's villain, the latter needs more screen time within the adventure's plot to drive home its threats and ultimate goals as opposed to Naevia's...even if it's just examples of the “god's” handiwork or additional minions serving him. Basically, a good minion should give you further insight into the nature of the villain itself. None of Naevia's minions really do that for me. And Naevia herself doesn't do that for the Scarlet God either.

The Reward - The major pay-off here seems to be Naevia's scepter of ravening madness and the “untouched treasure of the denizens of Leng.” The scepter would certainly become the envy of anyone interested in wielding it. A +2 light mace which can inflict 1d6 Wisdom damage and the confused condition for 1d6 rounds three times per day if you fail a DC 20 Will save is some strong mojo. Most CR-appropriate creatures for 10th level PCs would fail that at least 50% of the time. Some even more often than that. So, this scepter might be threatening/rewarding the PCs a little too much for the adventure's level. I'd suggest scaling it back a bit and carefully sorting out the actual treasure the denizens of Leng stored in the god-tower. It might be more interesting to place something specific to Leng as the iconic reward of this adventure moreso than the weapon Naevia wields.

Conclusion
Okay. For the most part, I do like this adventure's premise and what it could become under the skilled guidance of your Paizo developers. I'm not as enamored with some of the bits and pieces throughout, as I don't feel you took things quite far enough in some key areas. That said, there's still some decent potential here. Leng probably holds a fair amount of interest among the voting community. A lot of folks have been pushing for more planar adventures. So, maybe you've struck a chord with this idea. It's risky, though. Paizo might not be ready to delve that deeply into Leng itself. This adventure concept could serve as a decent launching pad for it, but it appears James has already committed to moving it elsewhere. So, you'd need to develop a different planar location/entity/backstory. I think most of my recommendations, above, still hold water, however. You'd just need to adjust things accordingly. That's actually one of the strongest skillsets a freelancer can have...i.e., when your initial idea/outline doesn't meet the design objectives of your publisher, how well can you adapt to their feedback? You're experienced enough already with your prior work (both as part of Team Gruntwork and your earlier runs in RPG Superstar), that I think you're still pretty well-suited to roll with the punches here. I also think you've “scoped” everything pretty well for the level requirement you were given in this adventure and that tells me you know what you're doing enough to be able to make such adjustments. Basically, your attention towards including CR-appropriate encounters with memorable adversaries is strong. And, of all the remaining competitors, I get the sense you may have the skills to deliver best on the promise your proposal holds forth.

So, in the end, I'm going to say that I DO RECOMMEND this adventure proposal for consideration as the ultimate winner of RPG Superstar 2012. I trust that you (in cooperation with your developers) can make the necessary adjustments to keep the underlying structure and pacing of the original proposal while recasting it to better meet Paizo's goals and current product schedule. But who knows? I also recommended Mike's Dust Comes to Dustpawn as I think he defined the important elements of his adventure just a bit better. Or, the voters may favor Steve's underwater romp instead. Or even James' disease-inspired revolution in Galt. It'll be interesting to see which adventure the public favors the most and whether or not you're given the chance to make adjustments to this one. Regardless, however things go, I wish you the very best of luck in the outcome and your future freelancing career. No matter what, I'm certain you'll make the most of this experience and your opportunity to design something new for Paizo. You've done a lot of great work this year. And I'm glad to see it pay off for you by finally reaching the Top 4.

My sincere two cents and best wishes,
--Neil

Paizo Employee Creative Director

First of all, congratulations on making it to the final round! That's an accomplishment in and of itself! My review of the proposal (as with the other three adventure reviews) focuses primarily upon how the adventure fits into the Inner Sea region, how interesting the adventure functions as a whole, and any potential changes/trouble spots we’ll need to have addressed should the proposal end up winning. I'm going to present feedback with very little sugar-coating as well, since I've always felt that frank and honest feedback is more valuable.

The Basics

Title: This is a pretty good title (despite my various concerns with the Scarlet God itself, who I feel needs to be the new monster in this adventure); it feels fun and pulpy and evokes the proper Lovecraftian tone that the adventure itself embraces.

Location: We’ve not done enough with Taldor, so setting part of the adventure there is a good thing. And I’m a huge fan of Leng—setting an adventure there is a GREAT thing in my opinion... but it’s not a good thing for this adventure, alas, since we’ve actually got Leng plans for later this year.

Plot: The plot of The Scarlet God is fun... but not groundbreaking. A race to defeat cultists from awakening a deadly god is pretty standard for plots, and that means that this adventure will need to work EXTRA HARD on pretty much all other fronts to distinguish itself from being just another “fight the cultists” adventure. That said... it does happen to be a plot line that I myself happen to quite like.

The Good
1) This adventure fits into the themes of Golarion pretty well. It doesn’t make any false assumptions, nor does it introduce awkward new continuity or try to re-invent established canon. It FEELS like an adventure that could take place in Golarion, and that’s a huge advantage in that it means it’s really easy for us to develop—we don’t have to rebuild fundamental parts of the adventure’s set-up in order to make it work.

2) I love the fact that the denizens of Leng eat the wastes of the Scarlet God and in so doing absorb its terrible knowledge. Very gross and freaky and cool.

3) Baku are cool, and it’s neat to see them in the adventure. That said... see “The Not-So-Good” #5 below.

4) Having the slain hags still lurking in the area as witchfires is a nice touch.

5) The devouring geometry element is neat... although save or die effects are not really something we want to embrace in Pathfinder.

6) I do quite love Lovecraft stuff... but see the final note under the Not-So-Good below...

Development Concerns
1) Unfortunately, two elements of this adventure are VERY similar to elements from adventures in the later part of the Shattered Star Adventure Path—the 4th adventure in Shattered Star is going to feature the exploration of a monastery that’s been invaded by (among other things) giants led by a crazed spellcaster eager to get to a hidden source of power below the monastery, while the 5th adventure builds off of the Leng themes we first introduced back in Rise of the Runelords, and includes a lot of Lovecraftian elements and Leng stuff. In fact, that volume of Pathfinder is going to feature a gazetteer of Leng if I play my cards right. And since those adventures are scheduled to come out, pretty much, a month or three before the RPG Superstar 2012 winning module is set to be published, this module will end up looking like too much of a good thing. As a result: if this module wins, I WILL require you to change the antagonists of the invading group from giants to something else, and I WILL require you to move the final part of the adventure from Leng to some other location in the multiverse. Just a heads up for people who might vote for this module simply because they want Leng stuff—you’re getting Leng stuff later this year no matter what, so this module’s Leng focus needs to change. To Tom—it’s unfortunate that this is how it worked out—parallel development happens a lot more often than one might think. And when it does, we generally have to pick which of the two projects to go forward with and which one to abandon or completely rewrite/change so that it’s doing something different. In this case, since I’ve already got authors writing and finishing the adventures for Pathfinder #64 and #65... they were there first, and thus that’s who gets to play with Leng during winter in 2012/2013. There’s a fair amount of other Leng stuff that’d need to change (monsters like gugs or hounds of Tindalos that, despite being associated with the mythos, aren’t really “Leng” monsters, or the fact that there’s a fair amount of established Leng canon that isn’t covered or is missed, or that the Dark Tapestry actually doesn’t really have much of a connection to Leng at all), but since, if this adventure wins, the Leng element needs to go away completely—I’m not going to belabor those points. Too much.

2) Another unfortunate similarity—retaking a fort that’s been taken over by giants, particularly a bunch of brutal ogres who use hillbilly type themes, isn’t a plot we’re really all that eager to revisit. Pathfinder #3’s “Hook Mountain Massacre” is about a fort overtaken by ogres, and since we’re reprinting Rise of the Runelords this year, that adventure’s going to be fresh in folks’ minds again. Might be good to replace the ogres in this adventure with something else—trolls, perhaps, or even ettins.

3) Night hags are an unusual choice to use as the old cult leaders, since they’re more associated with the Abyss or Abaddon or Hell than they are with Leng. That said, Leng’s gotta change, so if you end up putting the Scarlet god in one of those planes, that actually works out perfect.

4) Replacing the denizens of Leng might be tricky—tieflings with class levels is probably the way to go.

5) Baku are not really a Taldor OR a Leng monster. They’re from Japanese mythology, and as such are more associated with Minkai on Golarion. If you keep the baku here... you’ll need to explain what they’re doing on the opposite side of the world, and the more baku that are involved, the more weird that could get. That said... a baku is CR 8, while a night hag is only CR 9. Baku are pretty tough customers, is what I’m saying, so you’ll need to do a bit more than just say they were “unable to defeat the cult on their own” to explain why the baku needed to build an army to fight the cult. Now... ALL THAT SAID... since Leng, and thus the dream elements, of this adventure will likely need to change, the baku may end up having to be changed as well...

6) A lot of the things you have Naevia doing make it sound like she’d be better statted up as a wizard, not a sorcerer. She becomes an apprentice, studies old books... wizard stuff, not really sorcerer stuff.

7) When the Scarlet God cult’s right here in Taldor... it doesn’t make a lot of sense why Naevia would have to travel as far as the opposite side of the world to learn about the Scarlet God.

8) It’s okay to mention the GameMastery Guide stats for minor NPCs whom the GM might need stats for but don’t really have a “load-bearing” role (such as nameless city guards who might help or hinder the PCs). For actual named NPCs, though... it’s always better to custom build them and have full stat blocks to match the fact that they’re unique characters.

9) If you’re going to put an evil cloud giant in an adventure, he should have more to do than sit brooding in a chamber absently strumming a lute.

10) Staged events (such as having the PCs arrive just in time to watch Naevia and her minions & prisoners step through the portal to Leng) are INCREDIBLY tricky to pull off. What happens if the PCs somehow manage to prevent her from entering the portal? The second (and more interesting) part of the adventure never happens! And what happens if the GM is forced to basically say “you can’t stop her—she and her prisoners get away even though you did a REALLY good job getting to her!”? The PCs lose trust in the GM and start (rightfully) muttering about railroads.

11) Dimensional shackles are an expensive item to just throw out there in a 9th level adventure.

12) Having the PCs not be able to be accompanied by the baku they just rescued feels a little anticlimactic. Would it be more interesting to allow the baku to come with them? Probably... especially if the adventure’s built so that it assumes such an alliance so that if the PCs eschew the baku-aid, they’ll have a harder time of it. Since baku are neutral, this actually gives you a great chance to throw in an ally that won’t self-select to not want to associate with certain character types due to alignment, after all.

13) I’m really not a fan of the void mote swarm. Not only does it have a relatively dull name, and not only is it kind of boring looking to illustrate or describe, it also feels to me to be too much like a certain antagonist from the TV show “Lost.” Furthermore, we’ve done a similar monster already, in one of our earliest modules—“Seven Swords of Sin.” Seems like a wasted opportunity to do something a LOT more interesting with your adventure’s new monster...

14) The Dark Tapestry is code in Golarion for “Deep Space.” It doesn’t really have much to do with Leng at all, aside from both regions having Lovecraftian elements. That’s not enough to make it logical for monsters and themes from one to invade the other... unless that’s specifically what the story’s about.

15) The encounter where the PCs are each thrown into a different labyrinth seems to me to be difficult at best to run at a table where the players are all still in the same room.

16) Not letting the PCs fight against Naevia’s NPC minions is anticlimactic. Similarly, an encounter with a lone bard is pretty underwhelming, since so many of their strengths only come to the fore when they’re in a group.

17) Just because an adventure uses a mythos setting like Leng doesn’t mean you have to use every mythos monster in it. Lovecraft himself didn’t put all his monsters in Leng, after all, so there’s no reason to do the same here—gugs and hounds of Tindalos aren’t all that appropriate monsters. There ARE some we’ve statted up that are, like shantaks (which you included) and moon beasts and Leng spiders (which you did not).

18) The Scarlet God deserves more than just being a variant blob. THIS should be the new monster of the module. That said... we don’t really have “nascent Great Old Ones” in Golarion. “Nascent” is something we’re keeping associated with demon lords. It’s okay to have the Scalret God be a larval or a declining Great Old One. If you go that route (which, again, I suggest you do not due to the fact that Leng’s already got a lot coming later this year), this thing should also have a name in addition to its unique stats.

19) Why does the Leng Portal have to be one-way? The PCs aren’t necessarily going to be without their own planar travel; at 9th level, any cleric in the group can cast plane shift, after all. Having the portal be one-way seems a bit heavy-handed, and unnecessarily punishing to players who don’t happen to have clerics or anyone who can use those plane shift scrolls to get back home...

20) Leng is intended to be a pretty high-level place—the monsters that live there are powerful. Leng spiders, for example, are CR 14—heck, the “baseline” monsters, the denizens from Leng, are CR 8 monsters! I can’t help but feel that an actual journey to Leng should be something “saved” for higher level adventures, say, around 15th level...

21) There’s an AWFUL lot going on in this adventure, even discounting the fact that half of it takes place on a realm we haven’t yet detailed much of. Leng is an entire plane of existence, and while we COULD summarize it quickly... I kind of think doing so would be a missed opportunity. Which is why there’s going to be a large support article (6 to 8 pages) and several new monsters to support the Leng-flavored adventure in Pathfinder #65.

22) Even without the inclusion of a new realm we’ve not yet done much with (and thus that would require a LOT of extra word count to detail), there’s an awful lot going on in this adventure. A whole monastery of giants, an underground dungeon, a planar exploration stage, and an alien tower. You could PROBABLY fit all four of these regions into a 32-page adventure, but it’d be really tough. Adding in the necessity of spending at least a couple pages talking about what adventuring on Leng is like and things get even harder.

23) Lovecraft can be a polarizing element in RPGs. Some folks quite enjoy his themes, but others hate them. I am in the former camp, but I’ve been careful to restrain my urge to Lovecraft up every single adventure we publish, keeping his influence and themes to periodic appearances. The flip side of this is that I’m a HUGE nitpicker when it comes to Lovecraft content, and as a result, any adventure that uses Lovecraft elements is going to, ironically, find itself under greater scrutiny by me than one that does not.

Final Thoughts
In the end... the biggest problem with this adventure is the fact that it uses a setting that is going to be heavily featured in a product a few months before its release. That’s pretty unfortunate, since the adventure itself is pretty nifty, and if it had been submitted in a vacuum, I would be delighted to recommend it for advancement. Alas, the fact that it’s going to be “scooped” means that I cannot recommend it. Again, if this adventure wins, the Leng elements will be changed to another region in the Great Beyond. On one hand, this could be the adventure’s savior, since placing the second half in a region that we’ve already done some work developing can save us a LOT of room explaining how reality works in this new realm, leaving more room for actual adventure content. But on the other hand... we don’t know what that replacement realm is. Which means when you consider your votes for this adventure, you should keep in mind that it’s not a vote for Leng to vote for “The Scarlet God.” And frankly... I think the Leng element is the best part of the adventure... and it's hard for me to say how the plot might fare once all that stuff's cut out.

It's an interesting adventure that would need an average to large amount of development work (depending on the nature of the realm visited in the 2nd half), but the unfortunate parallel development makes it hard for me to recommend. In the end, I do not recommend “The Scarlet God” for consideration as the winner of RPG Superstar 2012 as presented—although if it were rebuilt with different themes and took place in a different location, I would likely change that recommendation.

Contributor

Clark, James, and Neil have already given detailed responses covering most of what I'd say, so I'll just add a few comments.

The tower gives PCs the sickened condition, but I think you mean the shakened condition, because of the fear.

The fight against Naevia is going to be pretty easy because she's alone, so the PCs get four actions to Naevia's one action each round.

And I'd like to reiterate James's comment that this adventure would have to change so it didn't start with giants and the extraplanar location will have to be something other than Leng (IMO it easily could be another demiplane, or even just a weird subterranean network in the Darklands with the Scarlet God as a "local deity"). But that is a pretty easy change, and changing those elements in the writing stage (rather than the development stage) while keeping the overall feel of this adventure is quite manageable.

Assuming those revisions happen, I do recommend you vote for this adventure proposal.

CEO, Goblinworks

I like party vs. party challenges and think it's an underused aspect of the design space. I'm "meh" on Leng.

Adventure Summary

I like the fact that you get right to it. We're in Leng without any waste of time or exposition. The PCs are very likely to follow this lead without much prompting.

Background

OK, sounds cool.

Naevia

Too much backstory - unnecessary and distracting.

Part One

It's Against the Giants! Who doesn't like killing giants?

I wish your merc leader wasn't introduced "strumming his lute". So many easy shots I could take at your expense. So little value added to what could have been a cool villain.

Part Two

Sneak & peek exploration of ruins that leads up to a pretty good fight and all the info you need to bridge to Part 3.

Part Three

Why don't the PCs teleport to the tower?

This isn't really a "part" like the others - it's a prelude to Part Four. I suspect wordcount limited the designer from expanding on Adventures In Leng which should fill this space.

Part Four

Wow - fail a save, die forever. That SUCKS.

Split the party up - that's not fun. Now the GM is running a whole bunch of threads independently - and for all that effort, the PCs may become sickened?

Good fight at the end against A Horror From Beyond.

Problems

Not too many. Good villain. Good end fight. Good motivations for the players. Easy to develop the locations & the adventuring areas.

Some issues with underestimating the power of the PCs. Danger of too many PC deaths. That stuff would be fixed in development and playtest.

Judge's Recommendation

I recommend that you vote FOR this designer!

Star Voter 2013

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Tom has far and away had the most consistently high-quality submissions in the competition (imo, of course). I have loved each one and would have placed him in the top 1 or 2 slots each time. This round is no exception. My vote for Tom is already locked in. Good luck, sir!

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Tom, this looks like great old-school fun. I'd love to either run or play it - or anything else you come up with. Good luck!


This looks pretty railroady to me, and I can see a lot of possible points where a group of players could drive this train right off the tracks. It also feels like a fairly safe "stop the evil cult from ressurecting the evil god" style adventure. It would probably work fairly well as an adventure, but wouldn't be anything particularily memorable.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

The Scarlet God that turns blobby at the end reminds me of the classic Conan story "The God in the Bowl" - no school like the old school.

But DC 19 save or die forever every hour on the hour? Ouch.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This seemed very run of the mill, straight and narrow to me. But the more Ithink about it the more I like it.
Likes:
*Cloud giant playing lute! Sure. We all have a need for creative expression, and when your only other options are sharpen your personbane enlargement or party with boneheads... If only there were a bathing ogre to play to...
*The fact that this will be set somewhere else is sooo exciting. It's odd to think I could vote for a blankish canvas, but with all the other threads here, why not? Okay, no Leng, no giants. Fair enough. That still leaves monastery (or fortified observatory to return to Desna's roots and perhaps link to the Dark Tapestry...) the catacombs and a cold dusty plain reaching to a geometrically challenged tower. I'm already packing my lodestone...
* The NPCs we DO get to see. I like these three guys, grizzled mercs who have adventured for ages... Some Tieflings as suggested to add to this lot would be cool...

Dislikes:
*"The Scarlet God" by itself is... meh... The Scarlet God's Fane/Curse/Weeping Puspile or Weepings/Demiplane/Auspice of the Scarlet God. Something! Or something else entirely, without "xxx of the xxx". Perhaps something referencing the journey "Venture into..." or Nivaea's power/search/quest...
*I second the NPC party criticism re: where are they?!? I (vaguely)remember old school C4 or C5 - a band of merc NPCs were the coolest, meanest badass villains I'd come across, and ever after felt class level characters in synergy were hands down the hardest foes to zilch...If this gets in, lets see them fight rather than die offstage. And leave the bard sane and buffing his mates...
*I agree Nivaea needs more oomph to be a real threat and more jazz to be interesting. Give her some of her NPC allies, and telegraph some despicable cruelty along the way to make the PCs *want* to ice her.
*As I said in my "title" dislike, the Scarlet God finale seems secondary and it all seems to rather be about Nivaea, from the feeling I get from your writeup...

Added thoughts: As mentioned in the cloud giants musings, perhaps the alliance of Nivaea, giants/ogres (inserts/inserts) and NpC party mercs isn't working very well. Involving the palyers in some internecine quarreling would add a much needed layer to this "straight" quest...

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules, Tales Subscriber
Jason Nelson wrote:
But DC 19 save or die forever every hour on the hour? Ouch.

Loving the old school, loved the slaughterhound, think the scene-turned-entire-adventure-tease (last round's submission) was excellent.

Not loving the idea that the plane can scare you (shaken, -2 all saves) leading to a 10% increased likelihood that the geometry will then sicken you (-2 again to all saves) before doing a Save or Die Forever, all while being isolated from the party.

That's all mechanics, though, and likely to be adjusted. I'm just saying I like squished PC's as much as anybody in an RPG, although I like my certain doom to stay in books and movies. :)

The only real standout complaint I have is why does a mindless conduit for the Greater, Older Ones behave the way it does?

Like, on one hand he's the "idiot god" with some (entirely incidental) symbiotic relationship with his cultists, more or less oblivious to them... and then on the other he's got complete control of the local environment, allowing his worshipers to bypass all the security of his citadel/prison? ...and he's a blob.

I have a hard time understanding this, mainly because I always think of any Old Ones, Great or Otherwise, not worrying at all about the success or failure of any mortal, aligned or not. Especially the drooling/babbling god-things from space.

I'm still about 99% certain I'm voting on this based on previous entries and the fact that this is still something I'd totally have a blast running.

100% if you changed the Devouring Geometry to a magic jar-like ability of the Scarlet God and dropped that on the party in combat. Okay so I do like hopelessness. :)


I really liked both this proposal and Mike's - which makes it very hard to decide.

As the Leng connection is proving problematic, what about making it Aucturn instead? It has a closer connection to the Dark Tapestry, and is a semi-hostile environment (really hostile in the long run). Then there would be nascent/larval godlings at both "ends" of the star system (Nergal in the sun, the Scarlet God on Aucturn). Just make sure that that new high priestess has a scroll of Interplanetary Teleport in her back pocket!

It's a pity that the giants would have to be swapped out with something else. On the other hand, I do see where JJ's coming from on that point.

The Devouring Geometry is really nasty. Flavourful, but too nasty for a L 9 adventure. Maybe it should be reduced to a single "trap" which is well signposted (so that anyone who is caught by it has only their own curiosity to blame).

The "individually disparate" experiences in the tower's labyrinth sound nifty, but problematic in execution. I'd reduce it to some suitably descriptive read-aloud flavour text and a few saves against interesting conditions.

+1 on changing Naevia's name a bit.

Also +1 on having more of Naevia's original party to fight the party inside the tower.

There are two separate instances of the party meeting someone, only to have a monster drop in after a mere few minutes of conversation/info-dump. Maybe one of the two encounters could be reduced to finding someone's journal? (That could be suitably Lovecraftian in tone; it's also a call-out to investigative techniques from the Call of Cthulhu game.)

I'd happily buy this adventure - particularly if the location were changed to Aucturn and a few other things were smoothed out.


Tom,

I'm going to have +1 Bellona's post above. I've enjoyed your work this year and I've voted to advance you throughout this contest. Your entries show good polish and a consistent level of quality.

I've been wanting to get more science into my sword & sorcery for a while now. Mike's proposal does that, and I want to support that (so Paizo will make more). So, I'm drawn to that. But your proposal is also very compelling.

With James's commentary about the "significant modifications" due to the unfortunate parallel development, I'm not certain what I'd be voting for. That uncertainty (about the module - not you) steers me away from this proposal because the module has to be written from the proposal.

That said, I'm probably not going to vote for this. You haven't made it easy. But in a choice between "alien invasion" and "extraplanar [unspecified modifications]" - known "alien invasion" wins....barely.

If one of the devs (or James) decided to jump in and say that the extraplanar elements would be converted to extraplanetary - I'd be sold on this proposal. But I don't think they would do that - it might spoil the contest.

Win or lose, I have every confidence that you have a significant freelance career ahead of you.

Best of luck!


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Tom,
This one really nails it for me. It has a really strong blend of old-and-new school.

There appears to be a lot of hesitance about Leng, and one comment saying that this should be extraplanatery instead of extra-planar - I think Leng could handle both easily. What if the information that the cultists were garnering from their god were planar conduits from Leng to other planets? This provides a hook-within-the-story, as well as a neat fear-factor addition.

Also, I think it would be a _nice_ twist if your sorceress self-immolated or the like in death throes, taking the scroll with her. However, the defeat of the Sarlet God would lift the enchantment alteration the founders of the monastery laid on this once _two_way_ Leng portal. The party's success and escape leads to the dim realization that they have just opened a portal to Leng that leads back home...

And maybe I'm just too much of a Sparacus buff, but I like the literary connections Naevia brings up as a villain. Screw the skin-care marketing brainwashers.

Dark Archive

Oh Tom...

If only I had two votes. I love this. Love it. But I also love Mike's.

It's horribly unfair that forces outside your control effectively nullify a huge portion of your entry. I would love to see this module... except that I'm not going to. I would instead be getting something heavily modified and likely watered down, whereas with Mike I know exactly what I'm getting.

That's not your fault. And I seriously hope Paizo sees in you what many of us have seen in you and gives you a shot outside of RPG Superstar.

Failing that, I have no doubt you could climb the SuperStar ranks again next year. Regardless, I wish you luck and hope to see your name many times hence.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Cool write up, Tom.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

This adventure is hands down the WINNER for me! I also love all the fantastic elements presented in this proposal. Not since the wild days of Planescape has there been a creative leap into another plane I actually WANT to see! This isn't just another "save the town" adventure or even another novel trek into the underwater deeps, but a true quest into the unknown to stop some really badass adversaries from changing the world with their evil plans--even if the plane is other than Leng, even if the companions are other than giants. This adventure is about stopping the (re)birth of a god! How cool is that!? "The Scarlet God" definitely gets my vote! Void Motes? Devouring Geometry? Yes! WIN! Man, I really hope we're done with Serpent's Skull by the time this hits the shelves!

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

6 people marked this as a favorite.

I wish we could have two winners this year, or at least two votes.


I love this proposal, almost as muck as Mike's The problem I am seeing is that we won't get this proposal. And as unfair to Tom as that is, I am voting for what I know I will be getting.
Good Luck Tom, this really was an awesome adventure.


'A ghastly collection of severed heads, bloody torsos, and hacked off limbs dangle from crude hooks along the wall’s length.'

Nice! The giant's butcher was obviously setting up shop. Need to let these parts season a little.

The PCs respond with 'Today's special is Revenge!' Half off giants.

Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014, Dedicated Voter 2015

2 people marked this as a favorite.

It's a shame that for many people this is coming down to voting on the adventure itself and not the designer behind it, due to circumstances wholly out of the control of the designer himself.

Feels wrong to me.

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I'm still thinking about all four proposals, but I do wish Tom would be allowed to give some idea -- even if only to say genies and Auctorn (as a completely random explane) -- of what he would replace the giants and Leng with (or perhaps been given that chance before the pitches had been published). It just seems like he's an unfortunate victim of coming up with an idea too close to what Paizo actually had planned, which you could argue is a strong mark in his favor as a designer.

However, in a competition like this, it's hard to say we're going to vote for something when we don't know exactly what we're voting for. If it's too late this year, I hope Paizo will consider something along those lines in the future in case a similar situation happens.


Clouds Without Water wrote:

It's a shame that for many people this is coming down to voting on the adventure itself and not the designer behind it, due to circumstances wholly out of the control of the designer himself.

Feels wrong to me.

Maybe, but to me it feels wrong to vote simply for the designer and not the product. Ryan Dancey's "I would NOT recommend voting for this designer" has rubbed me the wrong way this whole time. It feels like we should be taking their personal opinions on the person behind the product into consideration.I feel that we should be voting for the product the designer produces. I have to say, Tom's admission was fantastic, and I would love to see it, but we won't. Mike's was, imo, better, and I will get to see that. So to me its a no brainer.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Clouds Without Water wrote:

It's a shame that for many people this is coming down to voting on the adventure itself and not the designer behind it, due to circumstances wholly out of the control of the designer himself.

Feels wrong to me.

Well, we've seen plenty of evidence that the top 4 stand a good chance to get work from Paizo, so it makes sense that in the final round you vote for the module you would like to get rather than the designer. In a way, all four of the contestants at this point have potentially "won". They've been recognized as writers with potential and stand a good chance of getting work from Paizo or other publishers, should they want it.


Caedwyr wrote:
Well, we've seen plenty of evidence that the top 4 stand a good chance to get work from Paizo, so it makes sense that in the final round you vote for the module you would like to get rather than the designer. In a way, all four of the contestants at this point have potentially "won". They've been recognized as writers with potential and stand a good chance of getting work from Paizo or other publishers, should they want it.

Agreed. All we have to do is look at the inaugural year (2008) to know this is true.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

At the very least, I can look forward to a PFS scenario that I can grab with "by Tom Phillips" on it.

EDIT: I wanted to clarify. I didn't mean to imply that Tom has lost, rather the Top 4 have already WON.

Rules wrote:
The other three Finalists gain a paid commission to write a 16-page adventure scenario for Paizo Publishing's Pathfinder Society.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Let me frame it this way...

All of these guys (no matter the outcome of this round's voting) will have an opportunity to work on a paid assignment as a freelancer somewhere (and most likely with Paizo). That includes the person who wins this thing. And it includes those who don't. The winner's assignment just happens to be a 32-page Pathfinder module as opposed to a PFS scenario or an article in an upcoming book in the Pathfinder Chronicles product line or the Pathfinder RPG product line. And so on. What matters is what each of these potential freelancers do with that opportunity. If the winner bombs the Pathfinder module opportunity, they probably won't see much work after that. If a perceived "loser" from this year's contest absolutely nails a PFS scenario or contributing article to another Paizo product, I can assure you more work will flow their way.

Thus, as I've repeatedly said before on this subject, it's not simply what you do during RPG Superstar that defines you. It's what you do after it's over. Or, more pointedly, it's what you do with that next assignment...i.e., the real, paid assignment you're given...not simply the ones which keep advancing you round by round. That's the opportunity that matters the most, and all of the Top 4 will have it. It'll just come in different sizes or different packaging based on what the assignment entails. But, it'll come to all of them, regardless.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

Clouds Without Water wrote:

It's a shame that for many people this is coming down to voting on the adventure itself and not the designer behind it, due to circumstances wholly out of the control of the designer himself.

Feels wrong to me.

Seems that way to me as well. Sadness. :(

Someone mentioned that there's always next year, but there really isn't because anyone that makes it to the top 8 can no longer compete, so this is his last shot in this contest.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Dedicated Voter 2015 aka BobROE

Richard A. Hunt wrote:


Seems that way to me as well. Sadness. :(

Someone mentioned that there's always next year, but there really isn't because anyone that makes it to the top 8 can no longer compete, so this is his last shot in this contest.

Yeah, but at this point all 4 of them will be writing something (if they so choose), so we're now deciding which of the 4 proposals we (the fan base) want to see made in a module. And by that logic I have to look at any comments that say "This module will probably not end up like this proposal".

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

BobROE wrote:
Richard A. Hunt wrote:


Seems that way to me as well. Sadness. :(

Someone mentioned that there's always next year, but there really isn't because anyone that makes it to the top 8 can no longer compete, so this is his last shot in this contest.

Yeah, but at this point all 4 of them will be writing something (if they so choose), so we're now deciding which of the 4 proposals we (the fan base) want to see made in a module. And by that logic I have to look at any comments that say "This module will probably not end up like this proposal".

I prefer to vote for the one I like without trying to analyze how the community feels about it.

Star Voter 2015

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
BobROE wrote:


Yeah, but at this point all 4 of them will be writing something (if they so choose), so we're now deciding which of the 4 proposals we (the fan base) want to see made in a module.

And that's what I needed to make my decision.

Tom you did an amazing job throughout the entire contest. I kinda felt this was a little disappointing though.

That said, I want to see more of your work! Good luck!

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Dedicated Voter 2015 aka BobROE

Richard A. Hunt wrote:


I prefer to vote for the one I like without trying to analyze how the community feels about it.

Ya, I probably should have specified judges comments. I voted for the one I liked the best to.

Shadow Lodge

Awesome!

Liberty's Edge

Tom, you had me until the Devouring Geometry. Sorry, but that cost you my vote. Losing one's character forever due to a failed saving throw is one of many reasons I stopped playing AD&D and picked up Pathfinder.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015 aka John Benbo

This proprosal really grabbed me from the get-go. I like the idea of the villain being part of an evil adventuring party. I'd definitely like to see them included in the adventure. I've actually been reading a lot of the old Savage Sword of Conan reprints so I'm defintely feeling/loving the Conan vibe. I actually like the way Tom presented the final boss- very Conanesque/Lovecraft. I think the saddest part about James's comments is losing the giants. I thought that was a nice touch/homage. I don't care much if it isn't in Leng so that isn't a deal breaker for me.


I really, really want to play in this adventure. Hope it wins...


This is the third submission I have read, and thus far the strongest. I understand the concerns about retreading the ogre schtick from RotRL and the parallel design issues with Shattered Star - but I love Hook Mountain-style hillbilly ogres, and the more the merrier in my opinion. And you could still do something neat with that hook even if you have to change the species of giant involved.

I'm also not put-off by a cloud giant brooding about making a bad deal - so long as he'll pick up his sword and causes some mayhem if he hears trouble outside his chamber. Heck, if there were a viable way to offset his CR (perhaps with aging effects), you could even add bard levels and have him bolster the lesser giants as he enters the fray.

I'm not a huge Lovecraft fan, so knowing that the finale wouldn't be in Leng isn't a dealbreaker for me. This plot can be worked into a lot of different Dark Tapestry-style settings. I'm heavily leaning toward voting for this submission.

Liberty's Edge

I just read the other three submissions and have to say that this is the strongest of the lot. Despite my strong feelings about the "save or lose your character" mechanic of the Devouring Geometry, I must admit that Tom deserves to win this round. It's a shame that his adventure proposal cannot be published even if he wins. Then again, I'm sure that his talent won't go to waste if the judges have anything to say about it.

Good luck, Tom!

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

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His adventure proposal certainly could and will be published if it wins. Its a small matter to tweak the setting from Leng to Auctorn or some other similar locale. EVERY module goes through development tweaks. I think people are overreacting to the comments that things will have to be changed, but of course it is their right to react as they see fit. If you think Tom should win, vote for him. I did. I think his body of work shows he should be the winner and I think any reasonable changes to his module in development will maintain the same feel and fun as his proposal. So this idea that you don't know what you will get is, in my humble opinion, an unreasonable fear. You will get this module with a small tweak from Leng to some other similar setting and from giants/ogres to some other similar monster challenge. The adventure will otherwise be the same.

Bottom line, if you think he should win then vote for him. Let the developers sort out any changes. I think it was right of James to point out the concerns in development that he has, of course, but I dont think people should overreact to them.

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

Clouds Without Water wrote:

It's a shame that for many people this is coming down to voting on the adventure itself and not the designer behind it, due to circumstances wholly out of the control of the designer himself.

Feels wrong to me.

I tend to agree. If you think he should win, vote for him. The adventure could easily be published with minor tweaks that maintain the same feel.


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Dear Paizo,

I would purchase both Doom Comes to Dustpawn AND Scarlet God.

Just sayin'.

re: Scarlet God,.....I can switch it all back to Leng my damn self, Scott-of-the-Antarctic/Sahara/Antarctic style.....

"I want to fight the loy yon!!!"

Star Voter 2013

This ultimately won my vote.

I was torn between this and Doom comes to Dustpawn, but I felt this adventure was a bit more doable for a module (I'll elaborate in the other thread).

I loved the old school feel of it. I'm not worried about the required changes. Based on your prior entries (particularly Eightfingers Tomb), I am confident that you'll make the changes and the final product will be just as good or better.

The death effect didn't bother me. As worded, it sounds like there is only a chance per hour that a PC would have to make a saving throw. So either the effect builds over time or it's random. It was hard to judge how long the PCs would stay in the area of the death effect, but if it's less than one hour, it seems that there is only a small possibility of character death, and the effect is reversible by Wish (not too expensive, if necessary), so I'm surprised people are reacting so strongly to it. It doesn't seem like that big a deal.

Edit: Also, I love the name - it really has a Conan feel to it.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules, Tales Subscriber

I'm voting for this without a doubt.

Eightfingers' Tomb is strong enough to prove to me that even if JJ had said "every single bit of the submission would be replaced" I could expect an adventure I'd want to run and/or play in.

I also don't buy that there can ever be too many Deliverance ogres... I think they're as iconic as Golarion goblins--or should be.

Star Voter 2013

I skimmed the judges commentary and only really read JJs, and skipped over the rest of the responses because this is something I really feel needs to be mentioned.

When the PCs entire leng, they must make a Will save or gained the shaken condition for the entire time they are on Leng. It doesn't state the DC for the Will save, but the key factor is Shaken gives a -2 on all saves.

Then when they entire the tower, they must make another save or gain the Sickened condition, which grants a further -2 on all saves.

Both penalties are untyped, so they stack, so a player could have a potential -4 to his saves. Then there is a chance each hour that someone is targeted by a "save or be removed from all reality" effect. The players without high fortitude saves have a good chance of failing the save, especially with a potential -4 to their saves. So you're looking at losing a wizard, rogue, bard, or other such class with no possibility of saving them. This, in my mind, is a big no, no, and would build hard feelings at a lot of tables.

The only submission of Tom's that I really liked was the Fey Whisperer Crown, but I know that I'm in the minority here. I don't like this entry either as there is a very good chance of killing a character off mid-way through the adventure. This would result in the player spending the rest of the adventure twiddling his thumbs or rolling up a new character as the PCs likely can't afford to restore the dead character to life.

I guess, if I really want to take a look out how your products fare ad a designer, I should buy and read through the adventure, The Ship of Fools, that you helped write for TPK games. But as it stands, you will not be getting my vote for, though I acknowledge you have a lot of fans and are very likely to win.

[Edit] Just noticed Squeatus posted a concern over the possible -4 to the save of permanent death thing.


Ended up reading over all the entries of the Top 4 and overall liked your stuff the most. Voted.

Good luck.


I voted for the one I'd want to play, I prefer this to the others presented.


Don't have time for lengthy analysis. I just want to say: void mote swarm = want!


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James Jacobs wrote:

In the end... the biggest problem with this adventure is the fact that it uses a setting that is going to be heavily featured in a product a few months before its release. That’s pretty unfortunate, since the adventure itself is pretty nifty, and if it had been submitted in a vacuum, I would be delighted to recommend it for advancement. Alas, the fact that it’s going to be “scooped” means that I cannot recommend it. Again, if this adventure wins, the Leng elements will be changed to another region in the Great Beyond. On one hand, this could be the adventure’s savior, since placing the second half in a region that we’ve already done some work developing can save us a LOT of room explaining how reality works in this new realm, leaving more room for actual adventure content. But on the other hand... we don’t know what that replacement realm is. Which means when you consider your votes for this adventure, you should keep in mind that it’s not a vote for Leng to vote for “The Scarlet God.” And frankly... I think the Leng element is the best part of the adventure... and it's hard for me to say how the plot might fare once all that stuff's cut out.

What a ridiculous thing to say.

The pretext for the use of a wondrous items in the first round is so you can discern the contestant over the item more eloquently than other potential entries. Now the release schedule is more important that the writer?

I thought you were looking for Superstar here; not, most relevant release during our fourth quarter.

Your words have real consequences here. You should be ashamed.

In a contest that has been rife with contestant slips (in terms of comments on the forums) I find it inexcusable to see a judge base a conclusion on the line-up of a product schedule--thus affecting the voting--in the final round.

They are all winners isn't an excuse.

Voters have their own right to choose isn't an excuse.

Product schedule is a fact that writers have to content with is NOT an excuse.

This is a contest!

The contestants don't have access to the information you do. They must write in a vacuum (pertaining to the future).

As a preamble to every contest you may say, in big bold letters if you want, all entries may be changed to conform to our publication standards and schedule.

or

Release it on a different date with updated info. Perhaps the year after...slip it in a bit early...anything to avoid maligning a contestant over a conflict of content.

It's pretty simple. That way you won't have to blackball a contestant on the final round...of a contest in your own house.

I hope I am overreacting, but considering the concern displayed for the contestant's posting during the contest (and comments made on other threads)...I don't think I am.

Silver Crusade Star Voter 2013

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I think there are good reasons to vote for both Tom's and Mike's submissions, which I think are the two best of the round. I agree that if people like Tom's entry the best, they should vote for it with confidence that it is going to be a great adventure, no matter what modifications have to be made. At the same time, Mike's entry stands out wonderfully on its own. People should vote for whichever entry out of the four they prefer with confidence that the final product will hold up in quality to the proposal, regardless of how it winds up being modified.

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