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RPG Superstar 2015

Doom Comes to Dustpawn


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

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Liberty's Edge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2012 , Star Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

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Doom Comes to Dustpawn

An unknown expedition to the stars returns to its point of origin—the unsuspecting village of Dustpawn. Strange disappearances and a blazing object in the sky mark the beginning of trouble for the sleepy village. Can the heroes save the villagers from fiery doom, reality-warping creatures that view the citizens merely as experimental animals, and a horrific threat from beyond the stars?

Doom Comes to Dustpawn is a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game adventure for 9th-level characters, who will advance to 10th level by the adventure's conclusion, which brings the characters directly into conflict with an emissary from the Dark Tapestry.

Adventure Background
Several centuries ago, a cabal of wizards interested in the mysteries of space constructed a craft to travel to worlds beyond Golarion. The group chose a launch site several miles west of Dustpawn, a quiet area where they would not risk discovery. They boarded the star-faring vehicle with their familiars, their apprentices remaining behind to magically receive and document their findings. Five years into the venture, shortly after the craft passed Akiton, communications suddenly ceased. Unable to reestablish contact, the apprentices assumed their masters had died, and moved on with their lives.

Unknown to the apprentices, the craft’s passengers had survived, continuing to record their observations and transmit them back to Golarion. They reached Aucturn and then reversed course for home, intending to present all their research to the astonished masses on their return. Unfortunately, the final planet on their itinerary undid their plans; their craft brushed against a planar breach, exposing the passengers to the Dark Tapestry, its bizarre energies forcing each wizard to merge with his or her familiar. As their bodies and minds warped, the gestalt beings went mad and turned on each other. The mission leader, in a brief moment of lucidity, triggered an emergency spell to place the ill-fated voyagers in stasis. Using a powerful staff imbued with an incredibly powerful word of recall, he shunted himself and four others to their launch site days ahead of the returning main craft. These survivors, still irradiated with dark energies, sought secluded areas near Dustpawn to regroup, unaware their subconscious desires would warp their new-found sanctuaries. The hybrids began abducting townspeople to their lairs, either to transform them into similar creatures or conduct bizarre experiments upon them. Meanwhile, the forgotten craft still hurtles towards Dustpawn, the creature known as the Emissary from Beyond following in its wake to turn the unsuspecting village into a beachhead for an incursion by the Dark Tapestry.

Delayed by the chaotic magic encountered during their journey, the wizards' communications suddenly pour back to Golarion, specifically to their apprentices’ descendants. The first sign of impending doom comes from those afflicted with apparent madness, as years of information floods into their minds.

Getting the Characters Involved
The party may travel to Dustpawn for several possible reasons:

  • Dalviss Crenn, or an associate of one of the characters with an interest in the stars, excitedly contacts the party to inform them about a meteor that will crash in Isger. He beckons them to Dustpawn, the village closest to the meteor’s expected landfall.
  • When the first victim exhibits signs of madness, alternating between reciting obscure data about the planets beyond Golarion and attempting to bash her own skull to stop the voices, Alyssia Turpin contacts the party cleric.
  • The missing halflings found an item during an earlier excursion into Dustpawn's mines. They had arranged for a meeting with the party to sell the item.

Act I: First Contact
When the PCs arrive in Dustpawn, they see the descending ship burning brightly in the sky. The townspeople treat new arrivals warily due to the recent rash of disappearances and Laura Mulvayne's bizarre behavior. Either Dalviss Crenn or Alyssia Turpin greets them.

Dalviss prattles on enthusiastically about the object making its way to Golarion and guides the characters to his makeshift observatory. While at Crenn's observatory, a character succeeding at a DC 30 Knowledge (arcana, nature, or planes) check learns the amount of time remaining before impact. A subsequent DC 30 Perception check informs the character the meteorite will strike Dustpawn. With this advance warning, the party gains the opportunity to evacuate as many villagers as possible.

Alyssia takes the PCs to a home where they hear Laura Mulvayne lecturing, suddenly stopping, and then screaming and throwing herself against the walls. When Laura lectures, she speaks in monotone about the planets in detail, almost too fast for the characters to keep up. During or after this encounter, characters may attempt a DC 35 Knowledge (history) check to remember the cabal who traveled the stars, and a subsequent DC 30 Knowledge (history or local) check reveals the victim’s relationship to one of the original apprentices. Ten minutes after the party arrives, Laura becomes placid and spends a few seconds to look at everyone in the room. She then unleashes a primal shriek that potentially stuns the characters, and her features bubble and shift as she transforms into a chaos beast. This encounter may alternately take place after Dustpawn's evacuation or the crash landing.

sidebar:
For added tension, the DM can designate any or all the PCs as unfortunate descendants of the apprentices. The maddening information flow and the Emissary's intrusions cause Wisdom damage once per day, unless the afflicted character succeeds at a DC 25 Will save. However, he also gains a temporary bonus for the day to Knowledge checks—also allowing him to perform untrained checks without the usual limitations—pertaining to the planets and the Dark Tapestry.

Two hours after the party arrives in Dustpawn, the craft enters the atmosphere, breaks up, and crash lands in Dustpawn, setting the village center ablaze. After the characters battle the blaze and rescue trapped townsfolk, they have the opportunity to explore the craft, where they discover a handful of stasis pods bearing bizarre hybrids that perished in the crash. Searching the craft rewards characters with partial transcriptions about the planets and the information that five creatures escaped. For several days after the crash, a dark haze that blots out the sun covers Dustpawn.

Investigation of the disappearances reveals the missing as: a pair of fishermen; a group of halfling explorers; and a goat herder, his wife, and their entire herd. The fishermen, currently prisoners of the Toad King, routinely fish the Conerica River for a week before bringing their catch back to Dustpawn. They were due back two nights prior to the party's arrival, and the delay has raised suspicions in the village. Meanwhile, the halflings became victims of the Warren during one of their many trips to the spent mines outside Dustpawn. While they normally keep to themselves, they carouse at one of the local taverns after they return from spelunking, so regulars notice their absence. Finally, the herder and his wife fell victim to the Night Hunters. Neighbors only recall hearing the bleating of goats as if something carried them through the skies, but they neither heard nor saw anything else. Individually, the villagers would regard the disappearances as unfortunate accidents, but the cumulative events set them on edge.

As the characters search for missing Dustpawn residents, they may encounter the following events in any order (with the exception of Emissary from Beyond, which occurs last):

Act II: The Toad King
One trail leads to Conerica River, where the expedition leader, now transformed into a human/toad combination (using boggard stats with increased Int and 8 wizard levels), instinctively relocated. The creature's presence warps reality to suit it, so a growing area centered on the creature has transformed into a stinking bog, complete with quicksand and a host of toads singing of the stars. Wishing to remake others in its image, it grabbed the two fisherman and spirited them away to its underwater lair. There the toad king uses its ability to warp flesh to slowly and painfully transform its victims.

The characters must traverse the newly formed swampland to reach the toad king and stop its depredations. On the way, they contend with hostile terrain, a rain of poisonous toads, and a mobogo compelled to serve the toad king. They must then discover the route into the creature's lair and reach its grotto before its victims succumb to the foul experiments.

sidebar:
Due to the reality-altering nature of the creatures in this adventure, their lairs are treated as mildly chaotic-aligned.

Act III: Followers of the Emissary
Various members of Dark Tapestry cults find themselves drawn to Dustpawn as the Emissary's presence grows stronger. Most travel to the village to receive the Emissary's promised gift of power and rebirth, but a handful decide to add to the mayhem in preparation for the creature's arrival.

On a return trip to Dustpawn, the party notices a group of cultists on their way to the village. The cultists lie, claiming they want to help with recovery efforts after the crash and the fire. The cultists' leader owns a seed of madness, a new magic item that bestows greater powers of persuasion upon the bearer and causes his targets to become confused. If the party allows the cultists unfettered access to the craft, they try to murder any NPCs who remain at the site, since they are unfit to bear witness to the majesty of the Dark Tapestry. The cultists will fight only if cornered but will otherwise flee in an attempt to sneak into Dustpawn. Interrogating a captured cultist provides the PCs with the first warning about the Emissary’s arrival.

The characters must also deal with new arrivals of other tormented descendants of the apprentices, who, like Laura Mulvayne, alternate between intoning facts streaming to them from the wizards' mission and screaming in agony. If the party works with these victims, they may discover a means allowing them all to share the burden, with each speaking in turn and gaining temporary relief while the others speak.

Act IV: The Warren
Two of the escapees, close friends before their transformation, journeyed to Dustpawn's abandoned mines. A gnome/rat hybrid (apply wererat template to an 8th-level wizard, except it does not inflict lycanthropy) and a halfling/bat mix (use sabosan stats, except with increased Int and 5 wizard levels). The pair viewed the resident goblins as useless for their purposes and exterminated them, but the rat creature grew intrigued with the possibilities the halfling explorers presented. The pair ambushed the halflings as they finished exploring one of the mines and imprisoned them in a previously goblin-infested mine. While the bat creature does not care about the humanoids, the rat creature experimented on them, vivisecting one, and stitching together two of the remaining victims into a gruesome flesh golem joined at the back of the head, which grants the frightful creature an extra slam attack.

As with the toad king’s habitat, the creatures’ lair has reconfigured itself to accommodate their wishes. On approach to the warrens, the characters encounter large snakes that fled the newly inhabited mine and must negotiate with a large contingent of displaced goblins that blame Dustpawn for their problems. The tunnels have become cramped and difficult to traverse for Medium or larger creatures, and traps the goblins set to keep intruders out have become deadlier. A deathtrap ooze, drawn to the newly transformed dungeon, now haunts its passageways. Even more dangerous than the numerous traps, the rat creature attracted ticks, which reproduce at a prodigious rate due to the chaotic energies that infuse the hybrid. The tick swarm pours out of various tunnels in the warren to protect its new host. The party must then defeat the flesh golem and the lair's owners to rescue the surviving halflings.

Act V: Restless Spirits
Several wizards perished during the first days of madness. While their shattered bodies entered stasis along with the remaining crew, their spirits roamed the craft. They grew bitter as they realized the futility of the journey and envied the survivors. One day after the crash, these doomed spirits rise as spectres, hoping to lash out at their fellow travelers. Denied their revenge, they instead attack villagers in Dustpawn, and the party must intervene again to save the townspeople. Since no sunlight penetrates through to the village, a GM may stage this encounter after the party returns from one of the other excursions.

Dalviss Crenn returned to his observatory shortly after the crash. His telescope still trained to the craft's trajectory, he looks through it and spots the Emissary, which in turn notices him. Dalviss breaks under the strain of the Emissary's attentions and surety of Golarion's oncoming doom. He requests the characters return to his observatory to show them the inky blot that follows the same path as the fallen craft. After a mental assault by the Emissary—something the characters should easily survive—Dalviss cackles and maniacally proclaims nothing the party does will stop the Emissary. He then attempts to commit suicide by throwing himself from the observatory.

Act VI: Night Hunters
The final survivors, an elf/owl gestalt (use stats for a giant owl with 5 wizard levels) and a half-elf/cat combination (apply weretiger template to an 8th-level wizard), escaped southwest to reach the foothills where they would have freedom to hunt. Rather than engaging in monstrous research, this pair merely wishes to revel in hunting intelligent prey. To that end, they captured the goat herding couple—along with the goats for food. On a daily basis, they drop the couple off together or separately, give them a couple of hours to attempt escape, and then harry them until they drop from exhaustion. When the characters enter the creatures' domain, the pair delights in the possibilities of superior prey.

The land has changed significantly where the two creatures lair. A giant tree towers over a clearing, surrounded by acres of tall, reedy grasses that grasp at intruders. As the characters approach the great tree at the center, giant owls harass the party from above, dropping some of the remaining goats on their targets, while a dire tiger stalks them on the ground. The owl creature roosts at the tree, while the tiger hybrid lazes at the base playfully batting at the kidnapped couple. Once the characters draw near, the owl creature announces that it has hostages and proposes a contest: a race to find the couple, one character versus the cat. If the characters refuse, the cat creature slays its captives, and the two creatures spring into action, working together to take down individual foes. They hope to leave some of their victims unconscious so they can hunt them later.

Act VII: Emissary from Beyond
By the time the characters deal with the last gestalt creature and return to Dustpawn, any surviving characters who receive the flood of communication learn the terrible fate of the crew. If the any of the wizards’ descendants still survive, the party gains circumstance bonuses during this encounter. As this revelation presents itself, the Emissary from Beyond arrives at the crash's epicenter. It proclaims the site as the locus for a gateway through which its masters from the Dark Tapestry will emerge, and it commands all in the village to offer their bodies and souls to their new lords. During the adventure's final battle, the PCs must keep panicked villagers out of harm's way as the Emissary's touch transforms the ordinary NPCs into chaos beasts. Additionally, cultists work to defend their master from harm, even voluntarily accepting the creature's touch.

Emissary from Beyond:
A new monster, this aberration possesses powerful transmutation abilities. It renders all terrain in a 30-foot radius sphere around it as difficult terrain, and three times per day may perform a coup de grace to transform its victim into a lesser chaos beast (using the young template).

Conclusion
Assuming the characters dispatch the Emissary, Dustpawn will eventually return to normal. The villagers give the ship's wreckage a wide berth, letting weeds reclaim the land. Any areas formerly inhabited by the mutant creatures revert to their normal states as well. If any of the creatures still live, they prove to be a continuing source of fear for the citizens of Dustpawn. Any characters afflicted by the stream of information find relief when the Emissary meets its demise, but they retain residual knowledge.

If the party fails to defeat the Emissary, it converts the citizenry into an army of chaos beasts, creating a cancerous blot in Isger—one that will slowly spread out and consume the lands around it.

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

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Hey Mike! 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 comment in James' entry for more information on this.

Initial Impression

Opening up the pitch attachment and reading it the first thing I check is the name. “Doom Comes to Dustpawn.” Not bad but not the best. I’m not saying every name has to be old school like Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl or Tomb of Horrors, but there is a reason those names are timeless. A great name usually includes the key location or the main bad guy. A good name shows me you found the beating heart of your adventure. I also don’t like the name “Dustpawn.” I keep wanting to say “Dustspawn.” It doesn’t roll trippingly from the tongue, as they say. None of the titles really grabbed me this year, so its probably all a wash. I'm just pointing out that that is the first thing publishers look at and it matters a lot.

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

Now the quick once over. What am I getting?

• Looks like a possible crashed starship adventure—that could be a classic like Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, so that has my interest. Looks like it doesn’t have the same sci-fi tech of robots and lasers like that classic module, though. This is more of a mad space wizards kind of adventure.
• I like the immediacy of the idea of a crashing starship. Talk about a problem that the PCs are going to have to deal with. Urgency creates tension and good adventure!
• Mad space wizards, warped from the Dark Tapestry. Interesting idea.

Inside Info: The Importance of Knowing the History of the Game: It is KEY to know the history of the game of D&D and all the modules that have come before. You can be excused for not knowing every Dungeon adventure or third party adventure, but you have to know all the published TSR modules. Why? Because publishers do. This submission is a perfect example of that. The second I read this submission (or James or Mona or anyone) we will all immediately think of the classic Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, an amazing classic module that has a crashed spaceship and a way for the PCs to meet robots and access laser weapons. If you don’t know about these classic modules, you run the risk of having your work rejected just because you are inadvertently treading on old ground. A freelancer really needs to do his or her homework into the past history of our game. Plus, particularly with adventure design, I think it is vital to know the old adventures and how adventure design has changed over the years. Very few publishers, for example, would publish Tomb of Horrors now in its current form (I would, of course, but I am way old school and because Gygax is the man) because it highlights many of the things that have fallen out of favor with modern design ideas (save or die encounters, the goal that it is unbeatable by all but the very best).

Freelance Tip: I’m not saying you have to own a pristine copy of Wee Warriors’ Palace of the Vampire Queen (the first ever adventure module published and by a third party to boot!) but it would serve you well to go to the Acaeum and spend some time learning about the history of old adventures because all of the publishers know and understand them and will compare your submissions to them.

I really like some of the premises here. I, for one, would love to see some fun references to things from Expedition to the Barrier Peaks without being cheesy. Many of the concerns that a spaceship adventure has (future tech) don’t seem to be present here, which is clever and fun. By the way, good hooks for the PCs. James’ entry didn’t really have that and I thought that was a mistake.

Alright, I’m interested. So I turn now to your outline with high expectations…

Act I

Wow. This is a good start. The ship crashes pretty much right away and you can explore it right away. No long travel. But the real issue is not just what they find but the people who are missing and what is going on with the passengers. By the end of Act I, there is a crashed ship, a dark cloud over the town and the PCs have already been inside. Great. Plus, you have a fun mix of combat, roleplaying, interaction, skill use, story, investigation, mystery—the whole works. That shows me you understand what it takes to have a great and truly epic adventure. I’m impressed.

I keep reading, but as a publisher I am probably already considering emailing you to tell you I am interested and want to see more of this…

Act II

I love that right after a spaceship crashes the PCs go on a pretty standard “monster lair” kind of encounter, except with raining frogs with apocalyptic imagery. That’s good stuff. The warping and the rescue angle of the plot is really cool.

Act III

More great stuff! I really like that cultists are drawn to the town rather than the PCs having to go hunt them down. Good twist on the classic cultist adventure plot. I have to admit, I am already wanting to play in this adventure, and that is one real good way to hook a publisher. We are all gamers, too. So when you send something we want to play or run, you are half way home. Mike, you’ve already got me there.

Act IV

Some more fun twists on really classic monsters, and I love that. A gnome wererat-thing, a Halfling werebat-thing, a flesh golem plus a tick swarm. Sometimes in an attempt to be different people load adventures with never-before-seen monster. While that is new, it separates the adventure from common experience. Twisting standard themes or using standard monsters in new ways, in my view, has more impact because the PCs have fought the normal versions of those creatures before and so these twisted ones seem even cooler than wholly new monsters. That is fun design.

Act V

You are doing it again! You are using standard undead that have been a part of the game since the beginning, specters, but using them in new, fun ways with interesting back stories. That is really fun and great design, in my view. Great pacing, too.

Act VI

More of the same goodness. Good roleplaying chances in this act and also some fun combat.

Act VII

I’m seeing here in Act VII something that happens a lot in submissions. The early bits are all detailed and the later bits aren’t quite as worked out or detailed. In the end, though, it is a good conclusion.

Here is the problem I see and the thing I would be thinking about as I read this as a publisher—this adventure is almost like a mini-campaign in seven acts. I’m not sure this all fits in a 32 page module, and I’ve made a few of those (including written them). This is a lot of stuff for 32 pages. One of the biggest concerns is the number of locations and encounters. That means lots of maps, which also eats up space. Granted, this isn’t as over the top long as Boomer’s submission in 08, but I have that concern. The size issues, though, can be handled in development and, in my view, shouldn’t preclude this submission from consideration.

Still, I like this. A lot. At first I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. I said, “uh oh, spaceship adventure, this might be a problem.” But it wasn’t. The spaceship was a precursor to an invasion.

In the end, adventures are all about plot, locations, encounters, enemies and rewards. I think this adventure has all of those at a Superstar level.

Recommendation: Mike, I’m pleased to say that I RECOMMEND this submission be considered by the voters as a potential winner for RPG Superstar 2012. I think you have had a great run in this contest and have been a great example of how contestants learn and grow. If there is a contestant that is peaking at the right time, it is you. I wasn’t big on the raptoring gloves, and you know my thoughts on the Monster Reformation Alliance. But the Phasic Ravager was a home run and I also really thought you did great with the Thanatopic Amphisbaena. In the end I recommended Tom's over yours as the final winner, but I think both of your submissions are clearly superior to the other two. The other reason I gave Tom the nod is body of work.

It’s up to the voters now! Good luck! Win or lose, I am certain we will be seeing more from you on the covers and credit pages of RPG books in the future.

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 my favorite title of the four finalists. It hooks my interest without being overly spoilery, and is easy and fun to say out loud. THAT SAID… we'll probably need to change it if we move the adventure out of Dustpawn… (see below)

Location: We've not yet done much with Isger, and seeing an adventure set there appeals to me. Alas… this adventure's plot isn't really all that appropriate for Isger, which is better suited to warfare and political and classic plots than an Invaders from Space plot. An adventure that relies so much on outer space and threats from beyond, in my opinion, is better served being set in a more familiar setting, so that we aren't "wasting" an opportunity to develop more about a new region by overshadowing that region with aliens and mutants and spaceships.

Plot: I quite like this plot. It reminds me of the Quatermass movies, particularly the "The Quatermass Xperiment." It also reminds me a bit of one of my favorite Ramsey Campbell stories, "The Tugging." There's a fair number of areas of concern, though, but the basic plot line is pretty cool!
The Good
1) The title and basic plot line of the adventure proposal, as I mention above, are quite strong. They're pretty unusual for a fantasy RPG adventure… but not that impossible or unusual for a Golarion adventure. They come close, but don't overstep the bounds of what we can do with the setting, which is a bonus! And the parts that DO have problems can be adjusted (see "Development Concerns").
2) More Dark Tapestry stuff! I blame James Sutter. This one, though, uses the Dark Tapestry in a much better way than "The Scarlet God," with it being tied to outer space rather than to Leng. It also gets the fact that while the Dark Tapestry has Lovecraftian stuff in it… it's not ALL Lovecraft all the time.
3) I love the time-delay warning effect, having the warning from the wizards come back to Golarion after things are already in motion. Done right, this can give the PCs a timer to get things done in preparation for the alien's arrival.
4) The imagery of goats bleating as if something carried them through the skies is very cool and spooky.
5) The scene in which Dalviss gazes upon the Emissary and becomes its puppet is really cool… but keep in mind this is a Pathfinder adventure. It'd probably be more interesting to have him transform into a mutant on the spot and attack the PCs rather than just trying to jump out a window.
6) The element of keeping wizardly descendants alive through the adventure so they can help combat the Emissary at the end of the adventure is really cool; adds a fun mini game and gives the PCs a reason to go on the preliminary quests.
7) Using your new monster to stat up the Emissary is a great choice. Rather than have it turn folks into "lesser chaos beasts" (which, as outsiders, are more suited to outer planar stuff than they are to Dark Tapestry stuff), it should apply some sort of mutant template; the same thing that ends up getting used on other characters in the adventure (see #12 in "Development Concerns").
8) One element that's not all that explicit in the adventure I'd like to see punched up is the countdown. The Emmisary's coming… and if the PCs don't get things ready by killing of the advance mutants it sends out and don't save the wizard descendants from succumbing as well, then they should have a tougher fight. Timers in adventures are tough… since you have to allow for the PCs to recover resources… but they can be fun too!

Development Concerns
1) As I mention in Location above, setting this adventure in a place we've only mentioned and not a place we've already established is a concern. The fact that this adventure takes place in Isger is kind of irrelevant. If this adventure wins, I'll ask for it to be relocated, either to a region that's less distracting (such as Andoran, Varisia, Osirion, Cheliax, Ustalav… somewhere we're more familiar with) or to a region that's more thematically in sync with a space invaders plot (like Numeria or the Sodden Lands… in fact, I quite like setting this in or near the Sodden Lands in a remote village on the region's border…)
2) Alas… the most difficult part for me to reconcile in this adventure proposal is the idea that a cabal of just any old wizards from Isger got together to build a spaceship. There are elements in the Sodden Lands and in Numeria where such a plot would make a LOT more sense… and I'd like to see more details about what KIND of ship these wizards built. Because the more magical and less technological this achievement is, the better!
3) We've deliberately limited the reach of teleportation effects in Golarion specifically to enable plots like this adventure proposes… but we haven't done the same for communication. Sending is a 5th level spell that allows communication across planar boundaries, and as such would also allow for communication between those on Golarion and those in space. Dream would work as well. Things to keep in mind as problems to solve if you want to maintain a communications blackout as a key part of this adventure's background.
4) Keep in mind that the Dark Tapestry is not on another plane. It's very much a part of the Material Plane, and as such a planar breach isn't required to expose space travelers to it.
5) Word of recall is not a wizard spell, and as such isn't the right spell to afford an early return to Golarion to the space travelers. And if there IS such an escape route… seems like the wizards would not have waited to use it.
6) The events in this adventure's plot are pretty huge… As with "The Scarlet God," you'll need to devote a not-inconsiderable amount of word count talking about the Dark Tapestry and its effects—shortcuts like saying "Just use a boggard" won't cut it for me. This adventure could be a challenge to fit in 32 pages without sacrificing some of the content.
7) I much prefer adventures that don't waste time giving multiple hooks as to why the PCs are in the area or would want to go on the adventure. It's much better to just assume that the players and GM DO want to go on the adventure. One hook is more than enough; save the rest of those words for actual adventure content! :-)
8) You introduce groups and NPCs often without context; the first time you mention an NPC or group, you should alway contextualize that character or group so that the reader knows what you're talking about.
9) This is an adventure for 9th level characters. A lot of the DCs for skill checks and saving throws are VERY high; makes it very easy for the PCs to miss key checks. If you want something to be a likely outcome (such as the PCs being able to help evacuate a town before it gets hit by a falling ship), make sure that the DCs are on the easy side. Table 1–1 in the Bestiary has some good examples of what CR monster's saving throw DCs should be; you can use these numbers for things like the save against the Emissary's mental intrusions (A DC 25 save is something that a CR 18 monster would be proud to have!)
10) The dark haze that blots out the sun above Dustpawn after the ship crashes wouldn't last for "several days" unless there was something weird and magic going on. If this effect is only there to enable the spectres in Act V to function… it'd be better to do away with the haze entirely and use different undead instead.
11) The more I think about it… the more I think that the best way to present this adventure's events is to have the ship crash into the village before the adventure begins; then have the PCs travel to the town to investigate it. This allows the Dark Tapestry influence a chance to leak out of the contaminated ship in a less awkward way than having to utilize the "powerful staff with a word of recall" deus ex machina element. This also gives the chance for "disappearances" to start happening. Perhaps instead of having the ship crash into town, it could crash into a remote part of the hills… that's a pretty classic trope for these types of stories; then the PCs arrive in a town beset with strange vanishings and tales of a "falling star that fell down in the woods a week ago…"
12) One of my primary concerns with this proposal, other than the adventure's location, is how the mutants are presented. Simply "faking" it by saying "use a boggard" or "use a wererat" feel kind of lazy. It's okay to build unique monsters to fill roles like this… but frankly, I think that the idea that something from the Dark Tapestry would result in humanoid/animal hybrids is a bit weird. That feels a lot more like an invasion from the First World than one from deep space. If this adventure wins, we'll need to figure out what to do with all those mutants—there's plenty of cool templates out there and other options, but I'd rather not see them manifest as animal hybrids. Animal hybrids are just not the right flavor for the Dark Tapestry.
13) Mobogos are not really meant to fill the role of minion; they're mostly meant to play the role of weird boggard "god." It's a little weird to have one show up here in the role of minion to a "fake boggard" in my opinion.
14) I like the idea that the Dark Tapestry energies are warping reality… but I'd rather see a unique mechanic in effect here rather than merely call it "mildly chaotic-aligned."
15) The spell glibness (or potions made of it) is probably a more elegant way to give the cultists a big bonus to talk circles around the PCs and other townsfolk than making up a new item like a seed of madness.
16) One of my minor problems with setting this adventure in a town like Dustpawn is that it "wastes" established adventure hooks. It's better to set an adventure like this in a town we've not said much at all about. Killing off/displacing the goblins in the nearby mines kind of "ruins" that adventure hook for anyone who wants to run a lower level game, in a weird sort of way.
17) Also, at 9th level, goblins are pretty irrelevant. Moving the adventure out of Dustpawn would help to distance the adventure from goblins. And frankly… goblins are a STRONG flavor; they tend to change the tone of an adventure. Into something more darkly comic than I think this adventure needs. I'd recommend losing the goblins entirely from the adventure for these reasons.
18) Based on your previous entries, one of the greatest challenges you'll face, Mike, if this adventure wins RPG Superstar is the maps. This adventure would require several maps; mines, villages, and more... and those get complicated. A map as simplistic as the one you did for the Thanatoptic Amphisbaenea won't fly—we would need to completely redraw a map like that in-house before sending it to a cartographer. Which is a pretty significant speedbump to the process—redrawing maps can cause significant delays not only in the adventure they're being redrawn for, but in any other products whoever has to take a few days redrawing the maps should be working on.
If this adventure wins, I really suggest using a different mapping style... it's fine to get a friend (or even someone from these boards, frankly) to draw your maps for you if you don't feel up to the challenge of mapping the really interesting locations you've come up with for your adventure.
I'm only bringing this up because, frankly, at this point I think that the map turnover will become the MOST difficult part of this adventure's development, and if this adventure wins, I'd like to minimize the impact that will have as early as possible.
19) Finally... there's a fair amount of organization concerns; how to present the information, in what order, and all of that. Nothing unusual, honestly... but the adventure's unusual construction and topic and plot DOES make it a bit more difficult to develop than a normal adventure... and thus more difficult than normal to accurately gauge whether or not there's too much or not enough info here for a 32 page adventure.

Final Thoughts
You did something pretty impressive here; at first glance, I was honestly prepared to really not like the adventure, since the idea of spaceships is something I'd rather limit only to Numeria. But the way this plays out feels so much more like an alien invasion than anything to do with technology that by the time I finished reading… I was impressed. That said… there ARE some concerns, and the fact that the adventure itself is so unusual is high among them. Still… we've had a fair bit of success in the past at mixing sci-fi and fantasy. I'm intrigued, I can't lie. There's some really interesting seeds of not only Dark Tapestry development here, but what could be some really fun adventuring as well.

I recommend "Doom Comes to Dustpawn" for consideration as the winner of RPG Superstar 2012!

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Mike! Welcome to the final round! It takes a lot of effort to reach the Top 4, but this is your shot! As a competitor in RPG Superstar, that's all you can ask. The difference lies in what you make of it. This round gives you a real chance to translate your success into an actual freelance assignment. Hopefully, you've had a lot of fun along the way, because this competition should be just as entertaining as it is nerve-wracking. I've been looking forward to what kind of adventure proposal you've cooked up.

So, as you probably know, I like to break my commentary for the final round 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: Dust Comes to Dustpawn

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've learned by following along in prior years) 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. Doom Comes to Dustpawn. I like it. It's not your average, run-of-the-mill, X of the Y title. It's got a nice ring to it. And, given the subject matter of the adventure, it's very appropos, while also avoiding giving away the entire plot. 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. Thus, your adventure's name needs to evoke 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.

So what about the rest of the pitch? I think you presented it cleanly enough. I could follow things reasonably well. But 7 separate acts seems like a bit much. And that's magnified a bit by the additional text you'll need to explain various aspects about all the Dark Tapestry stuff the adventure includes. I don't know. It's hard to gauge quite honestly. I have a feeling this could be a bit bigger in scope than you might be able to pull off. Regardless, you've got some strong ideas in this concept. The Dark Tapestry is certainly something I'm sure Paizo fans would like to see treated up in an adventure. I felt the same way about the First World while working on Realm of the Fellnight Queen. The trick is in knowing how much to chew off. I went for a demi-plane carved off the First World so I could just focus on a smaller aspect of it. And you're kind of doing the same with how you're bringing an aspect of the Dark Tapestry down to a single corner of Golarion. That's a smart approach. I get the sense you reined in some of the more gonzo aspects of your prior designs, but still propped up your adventure proposal with something that's right in your wheelhouse, so to speak. No matter what, your developers will have to guide you a bit on how far to run with this idea. I think it's entirely possible they can help you spin something worthy of the Superstar crown out of it.

From a cartographer's point of view, you've given us the equivalent of five maps. We've got the Dustpawn town map, the crashed ship, the swamplands and underground lair for the human/toad, the abandoned mines with the gnome/rat and halfling/bat, and the grassy field and giant tree with the elf/owl. That's quite a lot, but you can hopefully save room by making a few of them half-page maps rather than something larger. Otherwise, you'll have trouble fitting all that in a 32-page module. The good news is I didn't get a sense those locations were super-heavy on actual encounters, so you should still be able to get away with a rough estimate of 20 or so encounter locations.

From a Golarion canon standpoint, I was thrown off a bit at seeing these spacefaring wizards and the ultimate crash site of their ship take place in Isger. This could get a lot more play in Numeria or the stargazing civilization that once belonged to Lirgen which now lies in the Sodden Lands. Much like James, I think the latter is probably the best fit for it. That would also allow your adventure to lend some insight into the wizards who once called that place home. It's much better unexplored territory than what you originally envisioned.

The last thing I examined was a bit of analysis around the appropriateness of your implied encounters. But, quite honestly, it's difficult to assess that. You've gone with a lot of mutant creatures and the Emissary from Beyond that'll all pretty much have their own unique stats and stat-blocks. So, I've got to fall back on your sense of monster design to determine how much I trust you'll build suitable encounters to support the adventure's plot. Given that I feel your monster design skills are probably your strongest asset, I'm okay with that. Also, I trust Paizo's developers will ensure your turnover is properly calibrated for the average party.

One thing that worries me, however, is that you've still got a lot of small missteps in your thinking sometimes which gets magnified by the big reaches you strive for in your designs. In essence, there always seems to be a bit too much wahoo or gonzo at play in your thought process. For example, the DC 35 and DC 30 Knowledge checks in Act One to recall bits of information about the spacefaring cabal is really high, even for 9th level PCs. It's almost a throwaway, because the information is far more likely to be unavailable to them. I also didn't care for the chaotically-aligned imposition of the Dark Tapestry elements on a part of Golarion. That's really not necessary, and it's not how interplanar traits would really work within the game. I saw this as an overreach rather than something innovative. Additionally, you've chosen to go with hybrid mutant-ized NPCs to describe the Dark Tapestry's effects, but done so with some strange mechanical choices to explain them. You're having to do a lot of ill-advised mixing-and-matching of various templates and adjustments to existing creatures to form your stat-blocks. And, as much fun as that exercise might be (i.e., crafting workable monsters from those baselines), I'm not sure it represents the best way to go about this element of your adventure. It's far better to do these things up as their own standalone new monsters. Maybe that's really what you intended all along. But the way you describe and present it in your proposal, it comes across as more troubling than innovative. If you can learn to harness your wahoo impulses and just focus on clear, proper designs, I think it'll serve you better.

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: The Emissary from Beyond is your primary villain. And, what I like the most about it is how it serves as the catalyst for many of the other adversaries. You can see the Emissary's impact and handiwork throughout the adventure. And, as a result, you immediately know something worse is on the way. The villain also has goals that the PCs should immediately want to oppose. It's a definite threat, localized at first, but with the potential to have more far-reaching effects if left unchecked. And I like the element you wove into things where the PCs could be descended from some of the original spacefarers who ran afoul of this thing in the Dark Tapestry. That serves as an immediate draw. Really well done on that.

The Locale(s) – Well, I've already established that I think Isger is the wrong place for the adventure. “Doom” should come to some other locale in Golarion, and the descendants of Lirgen seem like the best fit to me. Looking past that, I like how you establish a “base” from which all the other locations can be reached. After the PCs assess the crash site at Dustpawn, they can get drawn into exploring all the other regions where the hybrid mutant creatures have set up their little fiefdoms from which they threaten the town's inhabitants. I also like how each one of them is different. Aboveground swamplands? Check. Underground mining tunnels? Check. An open field with a great tree and flying opponents? Check. In the meantime, you've got continued threats cropping up in Dustpawn itself to deal with, including the cultists, the attempted suicide of Dalviss after he gazes upon the Emissary from the observatory, as well as the spectral wizards who emerge from the crashed ship. There's the potential for a lot of play with repeated use of some of your mapped encounter locations. And I like that element to your design.

The Plot – You know, initially, I saw the theme of this plot and thought, “Oh, no...crash and burn!” That's because a sci-fi inspired scenario utilizing the Dark Tapestry could run afoul of so many design pitfalls if you don't approach it the right way. Paizo hasn't really done that much with the Dark Tapestry yet. And, including a group of wizards interested in exploring the stars via a magical “spaceship” and having them all come back “changed” from some kind of Event Horizon-esque experience could trip so many problems. It's a niche area to explore...meaning, it'll appeal to some gamers and not at all to others. Luckily (or perhaps, smartly) enough, I think you're really wise in capitalizing on the new release of Paizo's popular Distant Worlds sourcebook. A lot of people are poised to take inspiration from that. And, if you can link up to it, more power to you. There's a very Expedition to the Barrier Peaks vibe that could get touched upon here. And, who knows? Maybe that helps serve as a test bed for the public's appetite for a Numeria-based adventure path down the road? It's a pretty stellar idea to reach for something like this...and, throughout this competition, you've shown yourself to be capable of that. Not all your ideas stick, however. You always seem to potentially alienate half your audience with your choices. But, you often have some really awesome ideas that bring just enough mojo that they could work. In my opinion, you tread close to the line almost every time. Whereas I thought your Monster Reformation Alliance overstepped it, this idea was kept in check just enough to keep it appealing.

So, if you win, I think you really need to listen and learn from your developer. Be willing to adapt. Go back to the drawing board with this adventure concept and alter it to meet some of James' suggestions. A returning “starship” from ancient Lirgen crash-landing in the Sodden Lands as a harbinger for an Emissary from the Beyond could work. But it'll be up to you to make it work. And therein, I have some worries (which I'll touch more on below).

The Minions – I like where you're headed here. The Emissary can pretty much create his own minions as a result of the horrors unleashed on those who gaze upon him or otherwise cross his path. That's good mojo for a villain to have. And, it's got great potential for hanging some inspiring minions off of him. I think you need to find a better way of characterizing them, though. The hybrid mish-mash of templates and baseline creatures with class levels isn't really doing it justice. You need to pump it up more. That said, you've got a really great vehicle here for defining a variety of memorable minions which players could wind up reminiscing about for years to come.

The Reward – I didn't really find much of a pay-off for your adventure. At least, not in the sense of a reward that'll last the PCs for the rest of their adventuring career. Sure, they'll earn the gratitude of everyone from Dustpawn. But, surely there'd also be something they could salvage from the crashed starship? Whether it's ancient lore from the wizards who originally built it...or (what I'd prefer) something the wizards obtained while exploring the Dark Tapestry and were bringing back with them when tragedy befell everyone. You had the opportunity to introduce something completely alien and fantastical here, but dropped the ball. This adventure needs something compelling that PCs can take possession of after running the gauntlet of adversaries from the Dark Tapestry. In fact, you could very easily make this object the focus of the entire adventure...and even put its name in the title to make it more of the centerpiece to the whole story, including the adventure's backstory. If I were in your shoes, I'd definitely take things in that direction.

Conclusion
Okay. That's probably a lot to absorb, and I'm sure everything didn't come across as positive in my review. Even so, there's still a lot to like in this proposal. I think you did a decent job with it. But, like I feared from some of your earlier designs, I think you took things a bit too far in some areas. And, I think you missed some golden opportunities, as well. That's really my biggest fear here, Mike. I'm not always won over by your execution or the direction in which you take your ideas, but I can often see the seeds of some really awesome possibilities behind your imaginings. In some ways, that might make you a better “idea guy” than a true freelancer workhorse. Or, maybe put a different way, I'm still unsure of your ability to deliver the goods on some of these big ideas you have. What I do trust, however, is that you'll always bring the big ideas and you'll get better as you gain more experience. Also, I trust Paizo's talented developers to help you refine your ideas in ways that support their IP as effectively as possible. If I have any advice for you, it would be to work harder on making their job easier. Anticipate when you should zig instead of zag. Think through your ideas and keep accumulating enough experience to ultimately think like your publishers do. Don't just push to create the type of things you'd use for your home game. Make sure everything fits their world and make sure you're handling everything the way they would. You don't have to be a carbon copy, though. Still bring your own ideas and push the envelope where it makes sense to do so. Just make sure you're doing it in the most supportive manner possible.

So, where do I stand in the end? I have to say, initially, I didn't want to support this proposal. I thought it would go too far off the reservation and I worried you might not have the follow through to carry it off. But, by the end, I started to come around to the possibilities. I know you've already got some freelancing experience. You're mature, motivated, and dependable. And, I think your chosen subject matter here gives you a unique opportunity to help Paizo elaborate on areas of the campaign setting they haven't touched upon too strongly yet (i.e., the Dark Tapestry and the Sodden Lands). As a result, I DO RECOMMEND this adventure proposal for consideration as the ultimate winner of RPG Superstar 2012. I championed Tom's The Scarlet God as well, as I think he's got the chops to deliver the goods, and that adventure outline holds equal promise. But who knows? The voters may favor Steve's underwater romp. Or James' disease-driven revolution in Galt. It'll be interesting to see which adventure the public favors most. Regardless of how things go, I'm actually really proud to see how far you've come. I wish you the very best of luck in the outcome. And, no matter what, I'm certain you'll make the most of this experience and your opportunity to design something new for Paizo.

My sincere two cents and best wishes in your future freelancing career,
--Neil

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.

Wizards building spaceships is weird. LIke, seriously weird. They can fly, create magic items that compensate for empty space, teleport, and scry... but these guys chose to build a spaceship. That's strange.

Given how people tend to have multiple children, I'm surprised that after several hundred years there aren't a large number of descendants dealing with these voices. I guess most of them aren't on the right "frequency" and aren't hearing the voices (or there are more, and they're in other countries, and you can use them as a plot hook to get the PCs to travel to the source of the problem).

It's odd that you don't give names to any of these hybrid creatures. I don't know if that was an oversight or if you did it to show they lost some aspect of their old identities when they were fused.

I think with some additional guidance before you start writing this adventure, it could turn out pretty cool. Assuming that happens and those changes are made, I do recommend you vote for this adventure proposal.

CEO, Goblinworks

As the years have passed people are much less interested in pastiche content - they tend to not want their science fiction and their sword & sorcery fantasy to get mixed up. The market for that kind of content is a small niche. From a business perspective, I'd be hesitant to greenlight this pitch as presented.

If the "spaceship" content were just converted to "outerplanar travel", however, those problems go away. So the bones of the submission could survive development, depending on how the rest of the content holds up.

I read the title several times as "Dustspawn" before realizing I was mispronouncing it. Not a fan of the name of the town.

Adventure Background

A classic mistake many designers make is to write a novel not content for a game. You've effectively done this - you've created a multi-hundred year plot. Why? Why not just have the whole thing happen in the space of a couple of weeks? Those hundreds of years mess with your whole plot. Why are the descendants of the wizards still around? They should have scattered to the winds. After hundreds of years, "descendants" will include thousands of people.

Why does the "mission leader" send himself home and then slink off into the bushes?

The material about the planets of Golarion's star is intentionally left vague by Paizo. Its unlikely they'd want to produce that content as a part of an adventure scenario.

"Wizards build device to explore planes. Device malfunctions and Dark Tapestry afflicts them. Someone triggers emergency exit but not in time to save crew. Device returns home, Wizards warped by their experiences. Town endangered." That's a TRPG adventure hook, not a novel.

Act 1

A DC30 Knowledge check is going to be tough. The intelligent characters at 9th level will have roughly a 50/50 chance. That character is unlikely to also be the wise one too, so the follow on DC 30 Perception check is likely to fail.

Is this information that we need for a scenario pitch? Either you want the PCs to be trying to evacuate the town, or you don't. Making it a coin flip (or worse) means that we don't know what the "normal" experience will be when this scenario is played.

Pick and pitch one idea: The town gets evacuated, or not.

The DCs for the history lesson are very hard - about 25% chance to "remember" the wizard space program. So in effect you're saying that remembering the wizard space program is unnecessary to the scenario. So don't do it. Again, either decide that the PCs know this stuff, or are ignorant.

Making a PC an arbitrary victim of madness sucks. Any time you inflict something on a PC that they had no opportunity to avoid or mitigate, you're writing a novel, not an adventure scenario.

It also changes the dynamic. If one of my PCs is afflicted, I'm getting real serious about fixing that problem. To the exclusion of everything else going on.

And Then...Nothing!

You've turned the focus of the whole setup - the spaceship - into a meaningless prop. That's bait & switch and players hate it. The folks who decided to buy this pastiche scenario came expecting robots, lasers, aliens and crazy magitech. Instead they get ... astronomy lessons?

Fail.

Acts II, IV, VI

3 segmented adventure experiences that will rise or fall based on how well they're developed. No credit.

Acts III and V

The idea that the Cthulhu cultists are coming to the village, and that NPCs are getting corrupted by exposure to the Emissary adds another element to the pastiche. I actually like this bit, because it can provide enough threat to make the PCs sit up and take notice, but the way you've presented it buries the lede.

Act VII

Your Big Battle At The End has virtually no content, despite the fact that it could have been an epic confrontation. Why don't you have the cultists involved, a bunch of chaos beasts rampaging through the village, while some villagers prostrate themselves before their New Gods, others go mad, still others take up arms against the dark heresy, etc.

Problems

No real villain. This is a HUGE drawback. You've got adversaries, but your "villain", the Emissary doesn't show up until the very end and as presented is just sword fodder.

There's no agency here - this is just a natural disaster; a series of unfortunate accidents.

Judge's Verdict

Weak scenario, needs extensive development, commercially suspect, poorly presented.

I do not recommend that you vote for this designer.

Marathon Voter 2013

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Wow.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

This is very strong. I can see a party of 9th-level PCs having a terrific time with this.


This is going to get my vote. I also appreciated how the situations are presented and timing of events is listed, but there isn't a scripted order that the PCs are expected to follow in resolving the adventure. This isn't a railroad, and it isn't a sandbox. It's a series of events and opportunities and the GM will have a lot of freedom as to how things will play out, while still having enough guidance as to not be completely left on their own. Also, the adventure is structured as to allow varying levels of success and failure.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2015

Wow. Someone really likes their Mike Mignola. This is as close as I've ever seen a module get towards creating a BPRD or Hellboy plotline.
Mike Welham, have you ever read 'Conqueror Worm'? There's a number of similarities in the plot here.

If I was a PFS player and sat down to play this module without having any idea of what to expect, I'd be blown away with it's awesomeness. This is a challenge worthy of 9th level characters.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

This just looks like a hell of a lot of fun.


This has my vote. I usually don't enjoy my Sci-Fi and my S&S touching, but this one is mixes it just right so that I am looking forward to playing it! Good Luck Mike!!!

Silver Crusade Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber

I get a strong feeling that this adventure was inspired by both the Distant Worlds book and Mass Effect. Which is to say: I dig it.

This one is getting my vote.


The name "Dustpawn" has GOT to change. Other than that, this gets my vote.

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

I have to admit, Mike, that some of your earlier works made me think we just weren't quite interested in the same style of gaming. I was getting ready to dislike this when I saw the sci-fi elements in the start of the background, but I think I agree with Neil in that you managed to restrain it just enough that you didn't turn me off.

I've just given everything a first read and want to ruminate more, but I do have one immediate complaint. "Laura." I like the name Laura. It's my girlfriend's name, in fact. And that's actually the problem. I hate real-world names in my gaming. All your other names are wonderful fantasy appellations that I like, but "Laura" just pulls me straight out of sword and sorcery world and right back into the real world. If you get the chance to publish this, please, I'm begging you, change that name.

(And now I'm going to go back to just thinking about all four pitches before commenting more.)

Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Criminy... I'm leaning toward voting for Tom's, but the more I read this one, the more I'd rather play Mike's.

I'll have to think a lot harder about this round than I figured I would on first glance.

Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014, Dedicated Voter 2015

All 4 of these have elements I like, some real thought will be required to settle on a vote.

This one sort of turned me off right away with the "The Doom That Came To Sarnath" title similarity, but it does sort of deliver on the promise that similarity brings up.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

If this sees publication, I BEG that the concept of the wizard/familiar fusions be handled gingerly, and not revealed too early or offhandedly. Don't even say "the wizards and their familiars entered the ship" (though that's a great line for the pitch, it would make things too obvious in the adventure. Familiars are so often invisible accessories that it draws attention when you mention them).

I think it's a really great head-scratcher because the players have a fair shot at making sense of it. A wizard that's a rat, a wizard that's an owl, a wizard that's a frog... EVERYONE has read the familiar list in the core rules or PHB. If they make the connection then it demands speculation, makes them think, makes them discuss and imagine, rather than just letting their eyes glaze over as they wait for the reveal. Awesome. And even if they don't make the connection, then the connection is still there, tickling their imaginations the whole time. Even more awesome.

Travelers going into space and coming back warped or twisted is a genre convention (for a lot of good reasons!), and there's something deliciously Lovecraftian in that moment when the dots connect and the light goes on and the hero suddenly understands the madness that he is looking upon.

(Cue 500-word ramble concerning the structure of Lovecraft's pros. Seriously, it may seem minor or obvious from the synopsis, but I think Mike did something really cool here).


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Neil 'Wall Of Text' Spicer wrote:
You know, initially, I saw the theme of this plot and thought, “Oh, no...crash and burn!” That's because a sci-fi inspired scenario utilizing the Dark Tapestry could run afoul of so many design pitfalls if you don't approach it the right way. Paizo hasn't really done that much with the Dark Tapestry yet. And, including a group of wizards interested in exploring the stars via a magical “spaceship” and having them all come back “changed” from some kind of Event Horizon-esque experience could trip so many problems. It's a niche area to explore...meaning, it'll appeal to some gamers and not at all to others. Luckily (or perhaps, smartly) enough, I think you're really wise in capitalizing on the new release of Paizo's popular Distant Worlds sourcebook. A lot of people are poised to take inspiration from that. And, if you can link up to it, more power to you. There's a very Expedition to the Barrier Peaks vibe that could get touched upon here. And, who knows? Maybe that helps serve as a test bed for the public's appetite for a Numeria-based adventure path down the road? It's a pretty stellar idea to reach for something like this...and, throughout this competition, you've shown yourself to be capable of that. Not all your ideas stick, however. You always seem to potentially alienate half your audience with your choices. But, you often have some really awesome ideas that bring just enough mojo that they could work. In my opinion, you tread close to the line almost every time. Whereas I thought your Monster Reformation Alliance overstepped it, this idea was kept in check just enough to keep it appealing.
Clark 'Big Daddy Orcus' Peterson wrote:
I think you have had a great run in this contest and have been a great example of how contestants learn and grow. If there is a contestant that is peaking at the right time, it is you. I wasn’t big on the raptoring gloves, and you know my thoughts on the Monster Reformation Alliance. But the Phasic Ravager was a home run and I also really thought you did great with the Thanatopic Amphisbaena. In the end I recommended Tom's over yours as the final winner, but I think both of your submissions are clearly superior to the other two. The other reason I gave Tom the nod is body of work.

DISCLAIMER: All bold and highlighted fonts are my emphasis.

It's time, folks. We've been demanding it. We wants the preciousssss. Neil knows. Not only that, he felt the same vibe I did when he name dropped Event Horizon. I am a huge fan of that movie and managed to see the premiere before it was debuted to the public on Friday back in 1997. Fifteen years later, I still get chills down my spine when I get to this scene. In addition, Mike also pulls in some his own Lovecraftian mix. It's like he's giving us a lower level version of Elder Evils to use in an adventure. He gives us the sense of urgency that something has to be done, or something worse is coming. But he's not railroading or sandboxing the adventure; he's giving options to allow certain stages to be flexible based on the decisions of the party before they get to the "boss scene" confrontation at the end with the Emissary.

Touching on what I mentioned, the 2012 hype is in full shift. December is coming, just like Winter is Coming for AGOT. Nibiru / Planet-X hype abounds. End of world hype thanks to the Mayans and people running off the reservation thinking THEY. KNOW. THE. TRUTH. Giorgio Tsoukalos Ancient Alien memes are all over the place. The pulse is there. The red button is being flirted with to be pressed.

Interesting thing about Mike is that he's not predictable in his design choices aside from trying to do some things a bit gonzo in his own way versus what Boomer pulled off years ago. Neil points out correctly that Mike is able to alienate one group of folks while he has another set of fans that gushes at about everything he presents. In the background, there's probably a designer at Paizo channeling his own Simon Cowell. "Seriously? Who the hell is advancing Taylor Hicks here? Did these people not see this abomination that was the Monster Reformation Alliance?" But Mike can throw curveballs. You look at each thing he's done and it's not the same pattern and/or choice related to the previous round. He's not the aquatic guy. Nor is he creepy horror guy. And he doesn't even resemble the guy who did some book about drakes.

It's a testament to his amorphous nature that he's stuck it out this long. Instead of Taylor Hicks, I can think of another guy who's more in the media right now that is very alienating. Or to put it in perspective:

WELHAMING <strikes feral honey badger pose>

This is tough, because I have been a HUGE FAN of Tom's body of work three years running. I've voiced as such over the years. I even liked his proposal. A lot. Tom's chops resonate a lot of things I enjoy in my TTRPGs. But two things: 1) Tom does have a niche he tends to follow and there's an expectation that he'll deliver it. He has his fans, myself included. While Clark remarked on his body of work as a reason for his recommendation, what one also has to keep in mind is where you do not see Tom go outside of his niche often. Without looking, can anyone think at the top of their head what was provided that wasn't the "creepy horror niche" we've grown to expect and enjoy (or at least me)? So, I admit it does make me wonder what he is capable of outside of that niche he's taken serious ownership over the past three years. 2) No offense to James Jacobs, but when I read his designer concerns, I was crushed. Ultimately, the Creative Director is going to have a big say in what's going to happen with the outcome of the adventure pitch. Tom, like Mike, knows the pulse. And he wasn't privy to insider knowledge on what Paizo was doing with Shattered Star. It, in a sense, derailed his pitch. Sure, there will be alterations to make it more accommodating to the Golarion setting, but I'm very concerned whether I'd still be able to recognize Tom's voice in the module as a whole. Felt bad for him, actually, upon reading that. It sure sounds like he would be perfect for a hands-on-deck support to fill in some of the niches for the upcoming Shattered Star AP; there's no doubt. I definitely see a future for Tom being a freelancer with Paizo.

I expect there to be some changes done with Mike's proposal and I would not be surprised to see it in the Sodden Lands as I suspect that depending on the outcome based on Neil's test-bed comment, it would be a good estimator to potentially unleash what could be in store for a Numeria-based AP.

Why ... Mike even offers a prelude. Did anyone pay close attention to how he left his conclusion open-ended?

Mike 'Honey Badger' Welham wrote:

Assuming the characters dispatch the Emissary, Dustpawn will eventually return to normal. The villagers give the ship's wreckage a wide berth, letting weeds reclaim the land. Any areas formerly inhabited by the mutant creatures revert to their normal states as well. If any of the creatures still live, they prove to be a continuing source of fear for the citizens of Dustpawn. Any characters afflicted by the stream of information find relief when the Emissary meets its demise, but they retain residual knowledge.

If the party fails to defeat the Emissary, it converts the citizenry into an army of chaos beasts, creating a cancerous blot in Isger—one that will slowly spread out and consume the lands around it.

Bolded for emphasis.

Not necessarily an AP, of course. But a potential companion module to follow-up on the possibility that the party was not successful. And if we've all been following Mike since the first round, anything's possible.

Badger's got my vote.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015 aka DankeSean

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Wow. I'll admit, I thought this was going to end poorly- this was the last proposal I read, and I'd seen mention of your proposal being an outer space themed adventure in comments on the other entries. Given that, I entered this expecting a way too ambitious 'I'm going to explore new territory' type entry. But it's not. You bite off exactly as much as you can chew. You're not expecting to somehow be able to fit in 5,000 words on outerspace or other planets; you smartly keep it completely confined planetside. Honestly, for purposes of a proposal, I think it was smart to present the hybrids like you did, showing that you're NOT going to try and invent the wheel. If your developer says 'Give me something better than boggards and lycanthropes' then great! If not, you've shown you can keep it lowkey. (Though I am glad that James wants something better than boggards, because I think these guys do deserve that much extra.)

In short, this blew me away. I've always said that,in the final four, nothing else matters but your proposal; at this point, it's all about what's on the table and not what you've done in past rounds. And, while I haven't thrown many votes your way prior to this- I think I voted for the phasic ravager, but that might be the only one-this wins my vote completely on its own merit. Good job, best of luck.

And I am now really happy about being a backer of Sailing the Starlit Seas, because even if you don't get the title here I know at some point I'll be getting topnotch spacey goodness that you're involved in regardless.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Liking this a lot. (Vote 1 Numeria Adventure Path...)


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

+1 on changing the location (to Lirgen?) and town name.

I like the wizard/familiar mutants. While some have said that it wasn't Dark-Tapestry-weird enough, I think the point is that the energies took what was available and mixed it all up. Any "alien" influences would have been to the mindset of the wizards, who have now become either predators or amoral experimenters of some sort.

The desperate bleating (and other things?) from the night sky as kidnapped goats are carried away to their doom ... that's quite an amusing image.

I also like the impending and inescapable doom of the crashing starship. It lends a sense of urgency to the whole affair, something which a "somethin' crashed in them thar hills and nothin's been the same since" introduction doesn't do.

There is potential here for a far larger adventure than a "mere" 32 pages. If anything, it feels like the early stages of a "Distant Worlds"-focused AP. I'd happily buy this adventure, either as a single module or as part of an AP.

The Exchange Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

As a player i would want to stop the crash - teleporting on the ship if needed (to see what is in it) which if the GM allows doesn't stop the game. Feather fall stops a crash...

How is this madness cured? Protection from evil? Remove curse? I don't see an adventure for 9th lvl players. Feather fall and the appropriate remove x spell should save them. Wait why didn't the wizards protect them selves when it started to go crazy up there... The ship and everything is to distracting and the questions are unanswered so, remove it and just use astral projection or something having their bodies become corrupt while they are out.

Neat adventure for lower level players Or for players who are the leadership of this town.

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

Mike Welham wrote:
Doom Comes to Dustpawn

Pretty nifty, sir, pretty nifty indeed!


GeneticDrift wrote:

As a player i would want to stop the crash - teleporting on the ship if needed (to see what is in it) which if the GM allows doesn't stop the game. Feather fall stops a crash...

How is this madness cured? Protection from evil? Remove curse? I don't see an adventure for 9th lvl players. Feather fall and the appropriate remove x spell should save them. Wait why didn't the wizards protect them selves when it started to go crazy up there... The ship and everything is to distracting and the questions are unanswered so, remove it and just use astral projection or something having their bodies become corrupt while they are out.

Neat adventure for lower level players Or for players who are the leadership of this town.

Quote:

Feather Fall

Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Targets one Medium or smaller free-falling object or creature/level, no two of which may be more than 20 ft. apart
Duration until landing or 1 round/level

Hope you have some way of getting on the ship, shrinking the spaceship and some really good timing.

Also,

Quote:

Teleport

School conjuration (teleportation); Level sorcerer/wizard 5, summoner 4, magus 5, witch 5

This spell instantly transports you to a designated destination, which may be as distant as 100 miles per caster level. Interplanar travel is not possible.

Also, the ship would fall in the category of "seen once", which would mean that teleporting to the ship is not a sure thing. Especially since it is moving at a high speed. Without access to more accurate teleportation magic, I'm not sure I'd want to risk it. Also, the range is fairly limited for the distances involved, so again I hope your players have some really good timing and some really good luck.

And even if they do prevent the crash, that doesn't eliminate the Wizard/Familiar hybrids from being a problem or the arrival of the Emissary from Beyond.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

Well done, Mike! Tackling an adventure that used space was a risk, but it paid off.

Personally, I see an influence of films like Event Horizon in this concept: people traveling in to space to conduct studies and experiments who come into contact with a force beyond comprehension that warps them. Only this time, they come back home.

The timeline (hundreds of years) makes sense to me, because of the distances involved. Sure, wizards can scry and do all sorts of things, but it's not the same as first-hand knowledge. As Sean McGowan pointed out, Clockwork Gnome will soon be providing all sorts of fun options for space travel, but those options don't have to be retroactive...perhaps they just weren't available on Golarion when the wizards embarked on their journey.

Teleportation is risky in the extreme and doesn't get you to other planets. Yes, there's interplanar teleport, but there are huge risks involved there, as well. If the wizards aren't of high enough level, they can't cast it, themselves, and have to wait until they can learn it. Heck, they may even have chosen conjuration as one of their forbidden schools. If they can't cast it, they have to rely on items to cast it for them. Items can be lost or destroyed and would leave the wizards stranded. Sometimes, it's okay to let people make decisions that don't make perfect sense for those familiar with all the options in the rules. We see otherwise smart people, especially groups of them (like this cabal), making dumb decisions all the time in real life, don't we?

Using descendants of the wizards to pass information can be a good clue and a fun hook. I kind of like James Jacobs' idea to shift the more recent timeline around, but I liked the idea of having the wizards' return heralded by people spouting off astronomical information is fun. If the ship crashes first, the PCs don't have an opportunity to interact with the folks babbling about elliptical orbits, gaseous anomalies in an otherwise stable atmosphere, the number of moons orbiting a given planet, etc.

As to why there aren't thousands of the wizards' descendants involved in this, I'd imagine that in the mobile society of Golarion, many of them moved away. It's possible that the bloodline needs to have a certain strength for the connection to work, which would be easier for people who continued to live in the same region for several generations. Alternatively, I think there is HUGE potential for fun stories about "unexplained" situations in which a person thousands of miles away suddenly gains a profound interest in astronomy, begins acting strangely, and descends into madness just before turning into a chaos beast. Heck, since there's really no limit on how far in advance the spaceship's information and influence begin to flow back to Golarion, that could be a lower-level adventure scenario for players who aren't of high enough level for Doom Comes to Dustpawn.

I really like your "re-skinning" already published monsters. I think it's one of the most creative GM solutions I've seen. This is something that Sean K Reynolds has posted about on his Facebook page in the past, and I'm glad you're using it, too.

As for location and placename, I think it's unfortunate that an area that so perfectly fit the geographic features that you needed to pull this off--fairly isolated town, nearby river, built-in dungeons, and an open plain--had already been given a rather difficult name.

I suppose it would have been fine to create your own town, but I personally appreciate the skill of working within the Golarion you're given. I love being able to come up with story ideas that use the countless hooks and locations scattered througout Paizo's books.

Overall, this is absolutely the adventure I want to be able to play. I think that the response you've received speaks to just how marketable this adventure really is.

Just by the fact that you prompted me to sit down and write this wall of text, you can probably guess that your adventure proposal definitely got my vote. If I were writing a Navy performance evaluation report on this entry, I would end it with "AN ABSOLUTELY STELLAR PERFORMER. SELECT THIS CONTESTANT FOR RPG SUPERSTAR NOW!"

Marathon Voter 2013

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Feather Fall would definitely not stop a ship from crashing until much higher levels.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Cheapy wrote:
Feather Fall would definitely not stop a ship from crashing until much higher levels.

Definitely. Given the math in the spell and my assumption that the ship has to be of gargantuan size (at least 30'x20'), the minimum level for casting a feather fall to stop it would be 16. And given the fact that the duration of such a spell would be 16 rounds, you'd have to time the casting in order to make sure that a ship hurtling toward the ground stopped within about 1000 feet of the ground, which would be at about 2.25 seconds before impact (assuming a terminal velocity of 300 mph).

Additionally, assuming the situation even allowed for teleportation onto the ship, teleport is a 5th-level spell, which means that it can only be learned by a 9th-level caster and usually won't be available in an item until PCs are about 7th level.

Combined with the kinds of threats presented here, this is definitely not a low-level adventure.


And stopping the ship from crashing does not stop any of the other events from occuring. The hybrids are still out there causing problems and the Emissary is still on its way to the planet.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Caedwyr wrote:
And stopping the ship from crashing does not stop any of the other events from occuring. The hybrids are still out there causing problems and the Emissary is still on its way to the planet.

You're right. In fact, it could make matters worse, because more of the hybrids would survive if the spaceship doesn't crash. If they come out of stasis, you could have wizard/snakes, wizard/lizards, wizard/weasels, and any other creatures wandering around.


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Paris Crenshaw wrote:
Caedwyr wrote:
And stopping the ship from crashing does not stop any of the other events from occuring. The hybrids are still out there causing problems and the Emissary is still on its way to the planet.
You're right. In fact, it could make matters worse, because more of the hybrids would survive if the spaceship doesn't crash. If they come out of stasis, you could have wizard/snakes, wizard/lizards, wizard/weasels, and any other creatures wandering around.

It's the wizard/badgers you got to really keep your eye out for. ;)

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Urizen wrote:
Paris Crenshaw wrote:
Caedwyr wrote:
And stopping the ship from crashing does not stop any of the other events from occuring. The hybrids are still out there causing problems and the Emissary is still on its way to the planet.
You're right. In fact, it could make matters worse, because more of the hybrids would survive if the spaceship doesn't crash. If they come out of stasis, you could have wizard/snakes, wizard/lizards, wizard/weasels, and any other creatures wandering around.
It's the wizard/badgers you got to really keep your eye out for. ;)

Perhaps...although I'd prefer to see a golem/badger.


I really liked this adventure. After reading the 4 and if was spending my money in the store this is the one I would buy!

Dark Archive

*goes back to read his 2nd round comment*

*eats crow*

*votes*

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

FAWESOME, Mike!


I like mixing a little bit of sci-fi into my bowl of fantasy. A good way put imagination at the forefront of an adventure. Well done.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

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I don't really see it as a mix of sci-fi and fantasy. After all, the urge to learn and interest in the stars is universal, independent of the level of technology. A culture uses what it has available to scratch that itch. Technology developed because a non-magical society developed tools and techniques to advance knowledge. It only makes sense that a magical society would use magic to do the same. That doesn't really make it 'science fiction' to my mind. Mike carefully steered clear of anything having to do with Numeria, the crashed ship, or even gnome technology. This is magical fantasy, pure and simple, even though a journey to the stars is involved.


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

This gets my vote. As it's the module I really want to see published.
Good Luck Mike!


Treppa wrote:
I don't really see it as a mix of sci-fi and fantasy. After all, the urge to learn and interest in the stars is universal, independent of the level of technology. A culture uses what it has available to scratch that itch. Technology developed because a non-magical society developed tools and techniques to advance knowledge. It only makes sense that a magical society would use magic to do the same. That doesn't really make it 'science fiction' to my mind. Mike carefully steered clear of anything having to do with Numeria, the crashed ship, or even gnome technology. This is magical fantasy, pure and simple, even though a journey to the stars is involved.

I stand corrupted. Back story then. Still, me likes the thought. You plan out the journey and use other means to sustain your expedition/travel whilst saving your magic for the important parts. :)


I like the schtick. I read a lot of encounters I wanted to run. I do share James' reservations about the way you use monsters, particularly the lycanthropes-without-lycanthropy and the boggard-as-mutant-frog-man. But the writing flows well and keeps me interested in the story you're laying out.

This scenario does probably fit in better with Numeria, but I understand the hesitation to touch that part of Golarion for fear it will get slapped down by the in-house canon folks. If this submission wins, you may be the first person to do something in that region of Golarion, which will please many people who are interested in that style of game.

This is only the second of this round's submissions that I have read... but I like it a lot.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Emperor7 wrote:
Treppa wrote:
I don't really see it as a mix of sci-fi and fantasy... blah blah blah.
I stand corrupted. Back story then. Still, me likes the thought. You plan out the journey and use other means to sustain your expedition/travel whilst saving your magic for the important parts. :)

Interesting. Do you think wizards would trust others with their lives? I always thought of them as snobby academic types who didn't give others credit for being able to tie their own shoes, much less build a spaceship. That really could be fun in its own right, but probably more as a work of fiction than an adventure. Hmmm... But we digress. Sorry for sidelining of your thread, Taig. :D

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

After reading through all of these proposals, the judges comments and concerns you have my vote. Good job here.


This looks like a lot of fun, got my vote.


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Dear Paizo,

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

Just sayin'.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This gets my vote, although the village does need a name change: it's not just that the name doesn't roll off the tongue, it's that I find it hard to imagine people naming their own village "Dustpawn." :)

Star Voter 2013

This was my second favorite entry. I loved the gonzo nature of the human/animal hybrids, and I love pitting high level characters against Wizards.

What ultimately decided against it for me was the perception that there would be too many similar encounters, and too much sprawl in the middle, as the PCs tackle each of the returning Wizards. I think I'd be happier if Acts 2, 4, and 6 were somehow condensed.

I'm a little torn by the science fiction aspects of it. It seemed that you were including elements of relativistic space travel (the wizards haven't aged, while several generations of their descendants have come and gone), which is interesting is a fantasy setting, but somehow doesn't fully work for me.

I do like the invasion aspect of it, and do like the Event Horizon-esque feel to it.

But, I only had one vote, and unfortunately (based in part on prior work as well), I didn't vote for you. But if you win I won't be at all disappointed - this is really a deserving entry.

Edit: I agree too that the name needs to change - the form of the name is great, but the word 'Dustpawn' makes me feel like I have a speech impediment


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

You know what the warped wizards need? Improved familiars. And not just celestial animals, either. Half-cassissian. Half-nosoi. Half-nuglub! Half-doru! Half-harbinger or augur! Think of the freakiness!


I have a question. We don't play in Golarion.. I see a lot of talk here about the name of the town. Is this an already named town or did Mike come name it?

Star Voter 2013

I've just read through all the proposals, and I've only commented on Tom's as he had she second strongest in my opinion. I love your idea and as a player, and a GM, I would love to participate in this adventure in anyway (playing or running). What I love most about this adventure is the party will feel they've actually done something significant in stopping the Emissary. A lot of times I see adventures having things that culminate in "I killed goblins, orcs, trolls etc. but I haven't really done anything worthwhile. What acts have I performed that will be retold through stories and songs for generations to come?". This irks me as one of the primary attractions I have to TTRPGs is the feelings of accomplishment you can accumulate when you run a hero. If all your hero has ever done is kill dragons, slay orcs, and fight trolls, he's just a paid mercenary. But if he halts the invasion of Evil Gods from outer space and their alien hordes... Well then you've done something worth remembering haven't you?

You've most assuredly got my vote this year, and I look forward to purchasing and/or playing anything you come out with.

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