Behind the Emerald Spire, with Lisa Stevens and Wolfgang Baur

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Emerald Spire Superdungeon is the largest Pathfinder Modules product ever produced, a record that's unlikely to be taken from it anytime soon. With its release in just a few short weeks, we want to make sure it gets the attention and celebration it deserves. At 160 pages, with 16 levels (by 16 different authors), eight brand-new monsters, enough material to take players from 1st to 13th level and several major mysteries, there's a LOT of Emerald Spire features to highlight!

We won't be able to cover all the superdungeon's twists and turns (and wouldn't want to spoil the fun or players looking forward to discovering the superdungeon's mysteries for themselves), but over the next few weeks these blog posts will tease a few of the Emerald Spire's secrets, preview some of its amazing art, and giving a few of its authors a chance to talk about superdungeons, inspiration, and what they cooked up for the biggest Pathfinder Module ever.

This week we asked some leading questions of designers Lisa Stevens (who wrote the 1st level and just happens to be Paizo's CEO) and Wolfgang Baur (who wrote the 11th level and is CEO of Open Design and a legendary TSR designer).

How do you define a "Superdungeon"? What is your favorite dungeon or superdungeon experience in your personal gaming history?

Lisa
I define a Superdungeon as one whose exploration basically takes up an entire campaign. Or at least the vast majority of the campaign. I don't buy into all this parsing of superdungeon vs. megadungeon. They are all the same in my book.

My favorite superdungeon is Temple of Elemental Evil for 1st edition AD&D.

Wolfgang
I would say it is any dungeon big enough that you never really need anything else; that is, you can start at 1st level and run an entire campaign in it. I think that Undermountain is probably my favorite for the maps, but there's an argument to be made that the Underdark is a superdungeon. You can, after all, run a campaign entirely underground and never bother surface dwellers, and I have to say I've loved the Underdark since I first encountered it in Gygax's D series with Trampier art. And I haven't stopped loving superdungeons. I'm playing in one now, an old-school thing called the Barrowmaze. Good fun, fairly deadly, rules-light.


Illustration by Ben Wootten

What is your level of the Emerald Spire Superdungeon called? What theme, if any, does the level have?

Lisa
I nabbed the first level, which is called The Tower Ruins. I wanted to play around with goblins, so I used my super CEO powers to make sure I could. :)

The Tower Ruins are the part of the dungeon that rests above ground. When I was designing it, I wanted to make a level that would be fairly easy to be implemented in Pathfinder Online, which I have also been focusing a lot on lately. My hope is that we can at least have my tower ruins inserted into Pathfinder Online sooner rather than later because the various enemies are mostly already built for the online game. Then, as we have time, we can open up lower levels a level at a time.

My theme was basically, what would goblins do if they found this cool ruined tower level? What insanity would they cook up?

Wolfgang
My level is The Tomb of Yarrix, and it has a very clear theme: it is all about the entomb of some eldritch horrors from beyond space and time, and the non-standard geometry required to make sure that things *stay* entombed. That always seems to be the problem, frankly, and tomb-designers have a lot to answer for if adventurers ever want to call them out on it.

This level does warp space and warps time, at least a little, for some oddball encounter effects. The Tomb of Yarrix holds some bizarre new creatures and energies, one of which is revealed in a slightly roundabout way in the Deep Magic tome of spells. And the tomb's treasures are similarly antique and obscure. There's a mix of weird with strange, and this sort of theme made it easy to work with a few of the more out-there monsters from the Bestiaries.

All in all, it's sanity-blasting fun and a squishy change of pace from your average tomb.

What where the inspirations you drew on for your Emerald Spire level, and what are you hoping players get out of it?

Lisa
Believe it or not, my inspiration for my level came from the classic D&D module, Dragon Mountain. In that adventure, kobolds were put into an environment where they have the advantage against the bigger and better equipped PCs, allowing the little buggers to really strike fear into a party. I wanted to try to do that with goblins. My level has a little twist that gives the resident goblins a pretty decided advantage against most adventurers. I wanted players to have to really think a bit outside the box, and use brains rather than brawn to overcome those pesky goblins.

I also put little glimpses into goblin psychology into my level. Little bits of treasure to make you scratch your head because they're odd, but there's a story behind everything. I'm hoping that GMs are able to bring those little stories to light in order to flesh out these goblins as more than hp pincushions.


Illustration by Ben Wootten

Wolfgang
The Tomb of Yarrix borrows its tone from Clark Ashton Smith and his inevitably doomed evil high priests, and it's loaded with the ancient and the macabre. There are cultists, ancient evils from beyond the mortal realm, and a cult that has fallen out of history, but whose adherents still seek to bring just one more extradimensional monstrosity out of hiding. There's music that Must Not Be Sung.

The Tomb happens to fit almost perfectly into the Wasted West of the Midgard Campaign Setting, which was one of its other inspirations, largely because that region is all about imprisoning ancient Walkers and dimensional tricks. It's where a lot of the clockwork and time magic of Deep Magic comes from.

One of the encounters in Tomb of Yarrix also goes back to C. A. Smith's ability to make things horrific without necessarily being deadly. There's a set of nests... well, I won't spoil that encounter, but let me just say that if this level of Emerald Spire doesn't get at least one "ewwwww" out of your players, I'll be very surprised.

Many thanks to Lisa Stevens and Wolfgang Baur for giving us a peak at goblins with a twist, and encounters that bend space and time! There's much more Emerald Spire to talk about, but the rest will have to wait until next week's post, when at the least we'll take a look at the superdungeon's "fire level," and maybe a few more snippets as well.

Owen K.C. Stephens
Developer, Pathfinder Modules

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Tags: Ben Wooten Ben Wootten Emerald Spire Interviews Pathfinder Modules
Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Ooo what's the green line going all the way to the bottom of the map? The tower? Emeralds being mined? A font of magic?


Pretty sure the green line is the 'Emerald Spire'?


Thanks for the preview! Really looking forward to playing in this one (I usually run things, but my spouse is planning on GMing this one once we get our copy).

Mark Sweetman wrote:
Pretty sure the green line is the 'Emerald Spire'?

Yup, that'd be the Emerald Spire. It ties the whole place together.

Cheers!
Landon

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Sorry for being sorta vague, while I kinda guessed it was the Emerald Spire I was curious as to what exactly it was, man-made architecture? Crystalline architecture? Energy focus/nexus? Green liquid runoff? The way it spreads out at the bottom is what piqued the question.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Oh oh oh, is the Emerald Spire also a Star Tower?

Paizo Employee Modules Overlord

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Rysky wrote:
Sorry for being sorta vague, while I kinda guessed it was the Emerald Spire I was curious as to what exactly it was, man-made architecture? Crystalline architecture? Energy focus/nexus? Green liquid runoff? The way it spreads out at the bottom is what piqued the question.

Those are *exactly* the kinds of questions we were hoping people would ask! :D

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
Rysky wrote:
Sorry for being sorta vague, while I kinda guessed it was the Emerald Spire I was curious as to what exactly it was, man-made architecture? Crystalline architecture? Energy focus/nexus? Green liquid runoff? The way it spreads out at the bottom is what piqued the question.
Those are *exactly* the kinds of questions we were hoping people would ask! :D

GRAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!! Now I have to buy this book to figure out this map...


Emerald Spire sequel, levels 13-20? :)

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Kevin wants now.

Contributor

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Yay for first Owen employee post.

Paizo Employee Modules Overlord

1 person marked this as a favorite.
jimibones83 wrote:
Emerald Spire sequel, levels 13-20? :)

I never say never, but I am really happy with how this wraps up both the various plots and the physical space of the dungeon. I wouldn't want to suggest a follow-up just to reach an arbitrary number of levels (especially since it's 16 levels of dungeon for 13 levels of adventuring as it is). I suspect that sort of thinking is what leads to movie series where the 2nd or 3rd movie sucks, or things get really weird in an effort to "keep things fresh."

That said if we had a great idea for continuing the Emerald Spire, and we could fit it in the schedule, we certainly wouldn't refuse to go back just because we've done it once. :D


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please please please tell me that non-standard geometry does not translate to 'maps at 10ft scale laid out diagonally'


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Landon Winkler wrote:


Yup, that'd be the Emerald Spire. It ties the whole place together.

That's why the Dude from the Big Lebowski keeps his rug on top of it!

Paizo Employee Developer

Lamontius wrote:

please please please tell me that non-standard geometry does not translate to 'maps at 10ft scale laid out diagonally'

Since each level of the dungeon has a pre-printed Pathfinder Flip-Mat that corresponds to it, any 10-ft. scaling or diagonals would already be converted to 5-foot squares and drawn for you.


Thanks guys, this just reaffirms my faith in backing this project! Carry on...


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Rysky wrote:
Ooo what's the green line going all the way to the bottom of the map? The tower? Emeralds being mined? A font of magic?

I'm kind of hoping it's some super duper green firehouse pole that one can slide down for twenty minutes without hitting the bottom.

Getting up after that would kind of stink though. ...Unless, there is a reverse gravity effect at the bottom that shot people back up.


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Mark Moreland wrote:
Lamontius wrote:

please please please tell me that non-standard geometry does not translate to 'maps at 10ft scale laid out diagonally'

Since each level of the dungeon has a pre-printed Pathfinder Flip-Mat that corresponds to it, any 10-ft. scaling or diagonals would already be converted to 5-foot squares and drawn for you.

the time I would have spent at a computer drinking, doing math and printing will now be spent drinking, praising the name of Mark Moreland and building him a hair doll


The Emerald Spire is looking and sounding exceedingly awesome! My group stinks at being all together at once, this might be an awesome thing to run on the side with the people I can actually count on showing up when the others do not.

Though, in the interests of running it as smoothly as possible, are there any plans for support products beyond the mega flip-mat collection? Pawns and item/face cards and the like, or would such things made specifically for the mod be superfluous?


Clanky?

Paizo Employee Modules Overlord

2 people marked this as a favorite.
IxionZero wrote:
Though, in the interests of running it as smoothly as possible, are there any plans for support products beyond the mega flip-mat collection? Pawns and item/face cards and the like, or would such things made specifically for the mod be superfluous?

I'll be going over some of those in future blogs, but we have already announced the Pathfinder Campaign Cards: The Emerald Spire Superdungeon.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
IxionZero wrote:
Though, in the interests of running it as smoothly as possible, are there any plans for support products beyond the mega flip-mat collection? Pawns and item/face cards and the like, or would such things made specifically for the mod be superfluous?
I'll be going over some of those in future blogs, but we have already announced the Pathfinder Campaign Cards: The Emerald Spire Superdungeon.

Ydersius Unholy Symbol, hmmm...


Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
IxionZero wrote:
Though, in the interests of running it as smoothly as possible, are there any plans for support products beyond the mega flip-mat collection? Pawns and item/face cards and the like, or would such things made specifically for the mod be superfluous?
I'll be going over some of those in future blogs, but we have already announced the Pathfinder Campaign Cards: The Emerald Spire Superdungeon.

Cool! Must have missed when the Campaign Cards popped up, but that more stuff is coming is good news all around!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This looks really cool! I'm kind of disappointed I didn't jump on the Kickstarter for this one. Guess I'll have to pick it up all the same, now! :D

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Really hoping Kickstarter backers get access to there PDF'S soon.


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

Looks like you can get from level 8 to level 13 somehow.


So, does the elevator have to stop at every floor or can we take it all to the bottom?

On a more serious note, is there any relation in this to the Emerald Chambers, mentioned in the Dead Heart of Xin?

Paizo Employee Modules Overlord

Major_Blackhart wrote:
So, does the elevator have to stop at every floor or can we take it all to the bottom?

Only if you have the right key, and the right code!

Major_Blackhart wrote:
On a more serious note, is there any relation in this to the Emerald Chambers, mentioned in the Dead Heart of Xin?

Not directly, though an inspirational link from ages past might well exist (but isn't spelled out).


Cool. Will there be a strong backstory for the Emerald Spire, like who built it how long ago and why in the module or just stuff hinted at and referenced in generalizations, nothing spelled out exactly.


Gladior wrote:
Landon Winkler wrote:


Yup, that'd be the Emerald Spire. It ties the whole place together.

That's why the Dude from the Big Lebowski keeps his rug on top of it!

:)

Major_Blackhart wrote:
Cool. Will there be a strong backstory for the Emerald Spire, like who built it how long ago and why in the module or just stuff hinted at and referenced in generalizations, nothing spelled out exactly.

I'm only qualified to answer by virtue of having been at a panel last year where they were discussing this, but...

If I recall correctly, the bottom level (by James Jacobs) has the answers about where the spire itself comes from. As for the dungeon, I know at least one person responsible for building it gets a name and an era.

Overall, it seemed like they weren't shy about who lived there and when. Many of the levels were described with their original purposes in mind, so I'd expect the GM and players to get some details that way as well.

Cheers!
Landon

Editor-in-Chief

Major_Blackhart wrote:
Cool. Will there be a strong backstory for the Emerald Spire, like who built it how long ago and why in the module or just stuff hinted at and referenced in generalizations, nothing spelled out exactly.

It's a complete adventure (series of adventures) with a complete background and plot.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4

Man, looking forward to this. C'MON BACKER REWARDS


F. Wesley Schneider wrote:
Major_Blackhart wrote:
Cool. Will there be a strong backstory for the Emerald Spire, like who built it how long ago and why in the module or just stuff hinted at and referenced in generalizations, nothing spelled out exactly.
It's a complete adventure (series of adventures) with a complete background and plot.

Nice... Nice.


Please forgive me if this question has already been asked and answered, but will this be a PFS sanctioned module as well?

Also guys, this looks amazing and my group and I are really stoked about getting our dungeon crawl on! So thank you kindly.

Grand Lodge Global Organized Play Coordinator

Derrick Harris wrote:

Please forgive me if this question has already been asked and answered, but will this be a PFS sanctioned module as well?

Also guys, this looks amazing and my group and I are really stoked about getting our dungeon crawl on! So thank you kindly.

Yes it will be.


I love a good dungeon crawl. It's one of the reasons Shattered Star is probably my favorite so far. That and the material used for the AP.

Grand Lodge

Just can't wait!! *_*

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kevin Mack wrote:
Really hoping Kickstarter backers get access to there PDF'S soon.

Oh yeah.. definitely want to see it come down the pipe for the backers soon. :D


I am so excited for this!

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