Acererak

Steven T. Helt's page

RPG Superstar 2013. RPG Superstar 6 Season Dedicated Voter, 7 Season Dedicated Voter, 8 Season Dedicated Voter, 9 Season Star Voter. Organized Play Member. 3,237 posts (4,692 including aliases). 3 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Organized Play character. 24 aliases.



Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

The Four Horsemen Blog has been very well-received and we're grateful for everyone's support. To support our weekly blog, we've partnered with Rogue Genius Games to offer a brand new .pdf product each week. These products are related to our monthly blog theme, so for example this month we are adding a strong horror element to creature types we wish were scarier. Check out our first few offerings below. We'll update this thread with new products and hope to see you here talking about them!

Gruesome Aberrations!

Gruesome Fey!

Gruesome Oozes!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

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My friend and RPG Superstar Top 16, BJ Hensley, is a total polymath. In addition to fun Pathfinder design, she does web design, cartography, editing, and is a well-connected marketer. She also acts as herald to my writing group, the Four Horsemen.

It is my great pleasure to herald her for a change. BJ's new line of adventures falls under the brand Playground Adventures, and she's launched a new web site to bring us family-friendly adventuring suitable for roleplayers of all ages.

Please drop by and check out her site. Also, come back here and bump the thread. Tell her how much you need family adventures in your life and thank her for making that vision happen!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

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The Four Horsemen design team (Tim Hitchcock, Steven T. Helt, Stephen Rowe, and Dan Dillon) has had a great year. We've individually and jointly worked with a lot of companies, including Paizo, Rogue Genius Games, Legendary Games, Kobold Press, and more!

Today, we partnered with our friends at Rogue Genius Games and d20pfsrd.com to launch the Four Horsemen Blog. Every week, we'll bring you advice and tips regarding your home game. Available topics include current events that might inspire homebrewed adventures, ongoing campaigns and how to keep them alive, treatments for your PCs, advice for those behind the screen, and more.

It's October, so we kick off the blog with a horror theme! This week Stephen Rowe (Pestilence) discusses strategies for making monsters scary for even seasoned adventurers! Check it out, and then come back and talk it over!


The Four Horsemen are have teamed up with our favorite third-party publishers to host our inaugural Four Horsemen Open team tournament.

Want to get enough prize support to make your ticket free, just for showing up? Suppose that support only came from publishers or designers you already recognize? Suppose you and your friends sat down for a game at Gen Con and your GM turned out to be the owner of a quality publishing company, and actual Horseman, an RPG Superstar, or an Iron GM World Champion?

Bring your gaming friends form home and advance to our final round to get prize support from Paizo, ROgue Genius Games, TPK Games, Kobold Press, and Adventureaweek.com. Sit before the owner of these companies and more as you battle your way through encounters hoping to be named the Four Horsemen Grand Champions!

Tickets for this event are available at GenCon.com, and the event code is RPG 1568710. We look forward to seeing you!

Of course, try to solidify your party, ask us questions, or comment below!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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The Top 16 have presented their monsters, and hopefully are hard at work brainstorming encounters and drafting their eventual pitch should they make the final round. Congratulations to this year's Superstar Top 16! You've earned a special place in the eyes of voters and publishers, but the contest moves forward and you've no option to rest just yet!

As one of the encounter judges for Round Four, I wanted to offer a few of the things I'll be looking for in the next round's entries. I can be a bear of a judge, so I'm boiling down what I'm looking for to a few specific criteria.

First, double check your prose, formatting, etc. I care a lot more about mojo and unique ideas (as you'll see below), at this stage in the game there are no excuses for formatting mistakes. Your professionals preparing a professional pitch to THE GREATEST publishing company in table top gaming. So don't let me be distracting from your great ideas by a glaring formatting mistake!

Second, my role on the Four Horsemen is as much developer as anything else. I'd like to see a project I feel would come together easily. Offer synergy in the motives of your villains or other NPCs. Make the flow of the game smooth.

Third, I got into this gig primarily as a GM. I love my time behind the screen. I want encounters that come to life and excite me as host to a bunch of dudes. Whatever the rules for the encounter, including terrain, CR, monsters, really anything, give me an encounter that I can't wait to throw at players. Great encounters set a stage everyone can immerse in—the environment impacts the combat, the creature threats are at home, the traps use local materials and strategies. A believable encounter that belongs in an adventure.

Finally, we all begin as players. Players play in games and without them no adventures would be sold. So let's see encounters that players will walks away from with fond memories. And maybe a little bit of panic.

Remember, this is not just any "write us an encounter" talent search. This is RPG Superstar, and a decent encounter that seems to suggest a decent adventure will not do. Excite the GM voters, scare the player voters, and give us something really unique and synergistic. Looking over the body of work, you're all capable of delivering one of the most competitive rounds of Superstar ever, so good luck and get kraken!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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So I've looked over each map and read the judges' comments as they deliberate whom to recommend.

I just have so say, as a group of contestants, you lot have just done a fantastic job. I confided to some friends that I thought this round was the absolute toughest round 2 in the contest's history. I thought on one hand we'd have a great round two because a looot of people were gonna learn a loooot of things about maps and design. I had a little concern becuase I feared such a difficult round might really throw some contestants, this being unlike anything we've seen in the contest before.

Well, I know a lot of entrants are gonna learn cool stuff about maps and design. And some seasoned designers are gonna learn. And the voting public is gonna learn, so that makes this one of the neatest round of Superstar ever.

But I have to give full credit to the congregation: these maps are really cool! Places that make me want to adventure, places where the map tells a story and inspires me to make a character and get down there FAST.

Y'all have done a great job with this round and I am just so impressed.

And no kidding..very grateful I didn't have to compete against you!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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I want to congratulate everyone who submitted items as a contestant in RPG Superstar 2015! The twist in round one isn't just new ground for contestant, but judges and fans of the competition since the very beginning are excited to see what YOU have wrought!

Over the years, the Paizo forums, and the Superstar community in general have become a closer family, and as a result a lot of us know each other. Maybe you're a designer. Maybe you're a repeat top 32 contender. Maybe you have helped entrants hone their skills as a lay judge and constructive critic for years now. Maybe you've always watched from a distance and this year decided you can [b]go the distance[/i] instead!

Spoiler:
That's right. I totally mixed a [b] and a [/i] tag.

Whomever you are, this year could be the greatest year of Superstar ever because of you. Be kind to the entrants, but be honest in your feedback. Be good sports, but compete to win!

I'm honored to be a judge in this year's contest, and I'm so impressed by some of these entries this year. Really great job!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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If you're ears are burning, you might be a Superstar contestant. Judges are reading your items and getting excited for the contest!

If your ears aren't burning, why haven't you entered? I've seen some cool items so far, but in my opinion the field is wide open. Get motivated! Have confidence! Get your entry in before the deadline and show Paizo and their fans what you've got!


We've partnered with our friend at Rogue Genius Games to offer another in the "Gruesome" creature line of books—the Genius Guide to Gruesome Dragons.

We're very proud of this book, and you can get it here for a discounted price at Paizo.com!

As always, any book we write that succeeds in terms of sales and buzz gets free additional content, some of which our fans are already privy to!

Please grab a copy of the book, and then send us a message at facebook.com/fourhorsemenofficial so we can give you access to free Pathfinder design work!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

Hey, there friends. I'm writing to make you aware of an awesome kickstarter offered by Louis Porter, Jr. Games. We don't see announcements for third party publisher sales in this thread much, so I don't want to abuse it, but this product is particularly germane to fans of the RPG Superstar competition.

I'll just cut to the chase: the Cross of Fire Saga adventure path features THREE notable Superstar authors. I won the contest in 2013, and helm the project as developer. The author of our second adventure in the series is none other than Victoria Jaczko, the contest's reigning champion. The designer for the fourth adventure is my good friend and 2013 finalist Scott Fernandez.

Three current Paizo contributors as authors, plus a handful of other designers handpicked by me to make this thing everything you'd expect.

Please go to the Kickstarter page and look it over. If you have any questions, I'll have the designers available to answer them here, as well as on the event's Facebook page.

Thanks for your time. Please back us and get these great adventures for a great price!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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Howdy, gang! I am always super grateful for the RPG Superstar competition and the knowledgable fans that keep it fun and competitive.

I wanted to let everyone know that I have put together a team of designers and we have embarked on an insane amount of design work for the Pathfinder game. Please check out our Facebook page for fun and news. Also, a lot of our material will be released through Rogue Genius Games, so check out their pages, too.

Of special note is the Rogue Genius Talented Bestiary. With a system for easily designing monsters from the ground up to get exactly what you want, we are rebuilding the game's classic monsters. To manage this Gargantuan task, we have teamed up with other Superstar notables. We have added 2013 finalist (and my good friend) Scott Fernandez. Scott was easy to convince. All we had to do was promise he could redesign the vrock!

We've also added 2014 Top 32 contestants Tyler Cowart and Clay Clouser. As a team, we will bring you re-imagined monsters and give you a system for designing your own monsters worthy of the Pathfinder game and its Superstar fans!

Come celebrate with us! Tell us what you want in a system for creature design!


We'll use this thread to answer questions and provide teases for everything the Four Horsemen produce for our friends at Rogue Genius Games.

Please come here to discuss things with the Four Horsemen, or visit us on our Facebook page.

And always, bring us your funny comments and photos about the FOur Horsemen. Our skin is pretty thick.

Well, except for Pestilence. His skin....yeah, never mind.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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The Golden Watch

A retired cadre of lifelong adventurers, the Golden Watch, meets every year to embark on their latest "one last adventure". As the aged travelers prepare for their annual reunion in Cassomir, one of them disappears amid signs of foul play. Concerned for their missing friend, the Watch asks the player characters to locate and retrieve him before their anniversary celebration becomes a mournful wake. The challenges before them will test every bit of their mettle as they fight to save the Watch and rid Cassomir of an insidious evil.

The Golden Watch is a Pathfinder adventure module for four or more 5th-level characters. The PCs will solve the mystery of a missing alchemist, encounter a horrifying conspiracy, and battle a bizarre assortment of deadly creatures in order to protect every member of the Watch. By the adventure's conclusion, a party on the medium experience track could reach 7th level.

Introduction

For Taergan Flinn, nothing is more frustrating than growing old. In his prime, the half-elf was a fearless adventurer and brilliant alchemist, part of a band of traveling companions that amassed considerable wealth and experience together. When the time came for some of them to settle down, Flinn resisted. He proposed the five friends keep their personal and professional relationship alive by meeting once per year for a challenging excursion. The affair became known as the Golden Watch, a retinue of retired adventurers who took up a cause on each anniversary of their adjournment.

Over time, even this failed to sate the wanderlust of the middle-aged alchemist. Moreover, the ennui accompanied other irritants - Flinn's body began to complain of the long decades of rugged life and long nights in the laboratory. He became aware of the rigors of aging his friends had endured for years, for the first time facing a foe he felt helpless against. In the year between each reunion with the Watch he searched for the secret of magically restored youth, enlisting apprentices from Cassomir to assist in research and document his discoveries. Finding little success, he brooded on what measures he might take to slow the aging process.

Enter the fiend Anobaith. For centuries, the erodaemon has delivered broken souls to Abaddon by arranging for elaborate and humiliating betrayals to crush the will of her ill-fated marks. She approached the aging Flinn with a macabre offer: the secret of restoring his own youth in exchange for the lethal betrayal of his remaining companions. Flinn scoffed at the idea at first, insisting he would retrieve his friends and slay the daemon for her treachery. Anobaith plied her unholy gifts, seducing the alchemist with her wilting kiss and reminding him of the passions of youth. Eventually, the ache in his bones and pang in his heart sapped his judgment, until one sad morning he reconsidered. An old friend, the most venerable human in the Watch, died peacefully (and to Flinn, feebly). Looking past the friends and family he knew at the wizard's wake, Flinn saw the daemon waiting for him and accepted her offer.

For nearly a year, Flinn has plotted the events that unfold in The Golden Watch. He stages his own disappearance, with the ultimate goal of luring his former companions to Anobaith’s lair to die, then plans to announce his presence once they are defeated. In exchange for long life and vitality, he will give his daemonic benefactor the shattered faith of his lifelong friends. They will risk their lives to save him only to die broken-hearted as a result of his betrayal.

Getting Involved
There are several approaches to get player characters involved in The Golden Watch. The Watch could hire them as simple mercenaries or the PCs could be asked by the Pathfinder Society to safeguard the respected old-timers. The members of the Golden Watch may have saved one of the PCs during their prime and ask for a favor in return. The PCs may be friends, relatives, or associates of the Watch, or owe them a significant favor. Perhaps more interesting would be for the PCs to actually be the members of the Watch. With just a little modification, the adventure suits a few characters of advanced years, desperate to save their missing friend right up to (and even during) the final confrontation.

Act I: Old Friends And New Enemies

The adventure begins in the Taldan city of Cassomir, at an expensive inn called the Sword Point. Two members of the Watch are staying here until their annual reunion ends in a week's time. These human veterans are "Igneous" Crandel (old NG human male fighter 7), known in his day for smiting foes with his flaming burst warhammer, and Branda Freen (old CG human female rogue 8), who once chose her own wedding ring by stealing it from the mausoleum of a corrupt Galtan noble. The two grow concerned over the failure of their friend Taergan Flinn to appear for the event he orchestrated. They prevail on the PCs to visit Flinn's townhouse, and ask them to visit a fourth member, Dern Fosimuth, who since last year has been committed to an invalid home. The two strongly suspect that someone means harm to the remaining members of the Watch and doubt their ability to solve the mystery themselves.

The retired adventurers are grateful for any help the PCs offer. They promise to reward each PC, upon safe delivery of Flinn, with coin and treasures from their personal stores. The veterans also offer their services as mentors or contacts as long as they are able.

It's immediately clear that finding Flinn will involve some danger, as the interior of his residence shows clear signs of violence. Significant encounters here include an eerie downstairs basement and a locked study. The study includes a bag of holding containing three cacodaemons (Bestiary 2, 64) waiting in ambush - deadly harbingers of things to come.

Returning from the townhouse, the PCs witness a violent dispute over a broken oath between twin brothers - a sign of Anobaith's ruinous influence. Other encounters include an attack in town by ethereal echoes - the spirits of Anobaith's recent victims - and a haunt that imparts a murderous command (Ultimate Magic, 230).

New Monster - Ethereal Echo CR 4

Spoiler:
Vestigial remnants of souls who die in despair, ethereal echoes are restless spirits who felt powerless or heartbroken at the moment of their death. They roam the material plane, always near one of two or three fetters they recognize as meaningful to them in life or death. Ethereal echoes radiate an aura of sadness, forcing the shaken condition on living creatures who fail their save. They gain power and become corporeal as they deal Charisma damage to their victims, until an incorporeal menace becomes a dangerously tangible threat.

The pivotal encounter in Act I is at the Healing House, a combined infirmary and orphanage, where the younger are put to work serving the elderly. The PCs find the fourth Watch member has deteriorated rapidly in the last year, but they also learn that Flinn purchased the facility several months ago. Death has claimed a number of patients since then, and poor Dern has suffered a leg amputation and spends most of his days in a poisoned fog.
With the party's help, Dern manages to rasp out his suspicion of Flinn's plots against the Watch, crippling the aged priest so he wouldn't intervene. To prevent any interference, Flinn has three dark slayer (Bestiary 3, 75) spies posing as patients until his gambit is complete, and he can return to slay Dern himself. The slayers attack unless the PCs are very subtle about their discovery.

To increase the scope of the adventure, it's possible to relocate a few of the Cassomir encounters to Hope's Hollow - a small town a few miles north.

Optional Location: Hope's Hollow

Spoiler:
The name on the sign outside this town has been vandalized with red paint to read "Hope Is Hollow". Once a rapidly growing road town, Hope's Hollow is a broken place - the natural result of an onslaught of manipulative fiends or other conniving influences. The town has suffered significant losses in population and productivity, as the trust its citizens once placed in one another has completely dissolved. A residual presence of the town's corruptors exists to push the town further over the brink, for whatever dour ends they pursue.

Hope's Hollow is a tough place to adventure. Stores are closing, duels break out in the street, and very few trust their former lover or clergy, much less inquisitive outsiders. Such a town might complement any ongoing campaign, but in The Golden Watch, Hope's Hollow serves well to expand the mystery or sandbox opportunities available to the player characters. Multiple episodes revolve around betrayal and loss, and allow for additional adventuring between Cassomir and the Verduran Forest, as the influence of Anobaith spreads and the poor people of Hope's Hollow add to her list of unholy trophies and soulless servitors.

At the end of Act I, the PCs discover that Flinn has cleverly sent word to his friends about his "kidnapping". Igneous and Branda depart immediately, leaving behind a message and a few useful bits of gear (holy or outsider bane ammunition, a few scrolls, and the two witching watches from their dead and invalid members). Aware that the older couple is heading into a trap, it's up to the PCs to follow them into the Verduran Forest to rescue them.

Unique Treasure - Witching Watch

Spoiler:
This new magic item is unusual in that it is a single timekeeping device separated into five mechanical parts. Each part is worn on a golden chain by a different person. The whole watch has a small number of charges per day (renewed each day at midnight), used to activate the spells haste, age resistance or threefold aspect. The watch can be activated by anyone wearing one of its pieces, and the activation affects any other wearers of the watch within 30 feet.

Act II: Bitter Manor

Anobaith maintains an old manor property in the woods north of Cassomir, where the wild Verduran Forest is divided by the southern Sellen River. The gardens and crypts of Tristeza House, abandoned when its last occupants poisoned one another in an attempt to dissolve a mutually unfaithful marriage, serve as both outer defense and trophy case for the erodaemon. The expanded property is nicknamed Bitter Manor by those residents of Cassomir who know of it. The actual estate house is called Tristeza.

Following Igneous and Branda, the PCs must fight through the outer defenses of Anobaith's lair. Signs along the way, including a few breadcrumbs left by Crandle and Freen, confirm the party follows the correct route.

As the PCs work their way toward the manor, they must contend with a haunted wood and the menacing gardens of the larger estate. The woods outside hold a number of threats, including ettercap and spider lairs. Though they provide no emotional nourishment, Anobaith is intrigued by spiders because some mated pairs are known to destroy one another. These monsters attract the attention of a pair of spider eaters (Bestiary 3, 255 ), who are just as happy to attack the PCs if there are no spiders available. The forest also contains deadfall dwellers (R3) and deformed calibans (R3). The latter are actually failed clones of the alchemist Flinn, who considered using younger bodies to house his aging consciousness.

The property abuts the Sellen on the north and west sides, where additional threats include a flight of harpies, and a haunt - the manifestation of a suicidal act by a betrayed maiden. The PCs will experience the scene, which tempts them to hang themselves over a cliff with ephemeral rope - actually stepping off the side into the river below. On the east side of the property, a pack of yeth hounds roam for prey to frighten and chase down a steep ravine.

The gardens outside Tristeza House are as deadly as they are darkly beautiful. Challenges include pit traps disguised as graves, and a number of dangerous guardians, such as a pair of heucuva (Bestiary 3, 150), who died as traitors to their faith, and a forlarren (Bestiary 2, 125) druid who acts as curator for the traps and monsters here. Several mausoleums and gravesites provide clues as to the current purpose of the estate, confirming suspicions that the Golden Watch remains in serious danger.

Act III: Tristeza House
Tristeza House serves Anobaith as a literal death trap. The dilapidated mansion literally exudes an atmosphere of horror, owing to scare traps and guards and wards effects. Mechanical and spell traps threaten in several locations, but equally dangerous are the daemonic or captive monsters the daemon surrounds herself with. The PCs must outwit a shadow mastiff (Bestiary 3, 241) lest he alert the entire grounds to their presence. They are stealthily followed around the house by Shulvan, a wererat rogue who fed on his own wife when he became a lycanthrope. Two vulnudaemons (Bestiary 3, 63), an attic whisperer (Bestiary 2, 34), and an advanced ethereal echo linger in the opposite wing of the house, endangering all who explore there. In the lower levels of the house, a venedamon (Book of the Damned 3, 60), provides magical support and Flinn (old NE half-elf male alchemist 7) has two students available to help finish off his friends. A powerful alchemical golem (Bestiary 2, 135) stands guard outside the room where Crandle and Freen wait bound and gagged until Anobaith decides they have forsaken hope. Anobaith presents a deadly climactic challenge to the party, with her favorite tactic being to summon ceustodaemons (Bestiary 2, 65) to defend her, hamper the PCs with a quickened crushing despair, and teleport away to ambush the survivors.

Sample Traps

Spoiler:
Meat Hook Trap - CR 4
In the attic, a thin wire releases a rusted meat hook on a rope, which makes an attack roll. If it deals damage, it makes a CMB check to carry the target through the small window, where they take falling damage and land outside.

Taxidermy Trap - CR 4
In a creepy old trophy room, dust-covered animal displays include a trapped bear, which launches a needle connected to a thin tube. If the target is struck, the trap immediately begins to pump embalming fluid into her. This section includes rules for embalming fluid (combining Strength and Con damage) as a poison.

The final two encounters begin with a choice for the PCs. They must either prevail on Flinn to abandon his plan to murder his lifelong friends, providing a moment of intense role-play capped by a difficult Diplomacy check, or they must destroy him and his alchemist students before rescuing their charges. The adventure closes with a climactic battle against Anobaith.

Anobaith

Spoiler:
As a CR 11 erodaemon (Book of the Damned 3, 46), Anobaith will be a daunting encounter for the PCs, even if they have reached 7th level. However, the strength of Anobaith's abilities are in manipulation and controlling the details of a combat. Her tactics and abilities make her deadly, though she is less challenging in melee combat, particularly if the PCs are equipped with the holy or outsider bane weapons at the end of Act I, or if the PCs persuade any members of the Watch to assist them.

Once Anobaith is defeated, the Golden Watch determines to make future anniversaries little more than vacations or memorials, and reward the PCs generously for their efforts, including the gifting of the rest of their witching watches. Authorities in Cassomir reward the party for eliminating the threat of Tristeza House and offer the party right of first refusal before they auction the property.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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Ssel Asha – Ancient Naga Temple
==========
The mythical ruin of Ssel Asha tempts seasoned explorers across Avistan. According to legend, a single secret temple to the mysterious goddess Sivanah stretched underground across the entire continent. More accurately, several temple networks were connected by deep caverns and eldritch waypoints. The most well-recorded of these hidden temple complexes is Ssel Asha, but word of the site only survives because recent encounters reveal a possible location.

Centuries ago, the church of Sivanah included several shrines and modest temples among those races who venerated her. The reclusive water naga of the Echo Wood performed their religious rites and studied illusions and divinations not far from abandoned Mosswater. These naga ceased communion with their elven and cyclopean counterparts at the demand of Istrothel, a charismatic spirit naga who overtook and renamed the temple, remaking the site and its inhabitants into a dark reflection of their former practices.

Years of isolation ensued, and none can say what happened to the temple. It exists now as a sunken ruin surrounded by deep forest and wild marshlands. Below the earth, a series of tunnels leads to other shrines and abandoned naga nests, with the whole being defended by powerful phantasms and necromantic magic. Other dangers include a nest of undead water naga, magical traps, duergar siege engineers, and a band of graven guardians watching a hidden portal to an old cyclopean temple. Among the treasures are fantastic weapons, a copy of Mysteries of Shadow (Ultimate Magic 125), and a small fortune in ancient art and coin.

The minions of Ssel Asha do not idly wait for intrusion by the outside world. Deep under the shrine, the naga lich, Istrothel herself, plots to seize land for miles around and reveal her re-animated acolytes to the world. Even now, she works to craft items and conscript servitors who venerate the darkest and most deceptive aspects of Sivanah’s worship. Though the methods of Istrothel and her growing cult employ deadly illusions, the threat they pose to those living near the Sellen is very real.

The Roots of Evil CR 9
==========

The soft earth of the forest gives way to wet marsh, with large pools of stagnant water on either side of the narrow patches of solid ground. Sunken into the mire is an old stone building. Its rusted iron door faces south, but is half buried. Most of the door is covered by mud and grime, but the image of two naga facing away from one another is clear. The top of the temple – now only about four feet above the ground – bears mud-caked windows of opaque colored glass. The windows are only about a foot high. The stone roof appears sturdy despite the rest of the building’s appearance.

In recent months, news from the Echo Wood has become very strange. Rangers and remote settlers tell traders (and pirates) of bizarre monster sightings – eyewitness accounts of creatures unknown to the region. The Wood is a large forest with its share of abandoned towns and older ruins, and the alarming reports finally gained the attention of the Black Eagles of Lambreth, as well as their neighbors in the Protectorate of the Black Marquis. Neither country reports closure regarding the strange phenomena, but both report human casualties. The danger and location of these events have scribes and historians discussing the possibilities, with Ssel Asha gaining increasing attention.

The Sunken Shrine

This ancient temple is indeed one entry to the mysteries of Ssel Asha. In its day, the shrine was defended with constructs and servants of the faith in order to maintain its secrecy. PCs can explore this site, including a guarded entry, a simple altar, and an abandoned naga lair, before continuing to explore the eldritch secrets beyond.
The naga themselves do not use doors, but the complex below the Echo Wood once contained humanoid and monstrous servitors, and frequently hosted elven and Azlanti visitors. The doors are rusted and covered in mud, but functional.

The windows display a string of ancient runes that stretch across the perimeter of the old shrine. While they bear only enough minor magic to prestidigitate a soft glow of rainbow colors, a magic aura spell describes them as strong evocation magic, as with a prismatic spray spell. Without magical aid, it is impossible to see through an unbroken window into the shrine. The dim light from the windows adds 5 to the DC of any Perception checks.

The buried door at location A can be opened only if excavated, an act that will doubtless be interrupted by the leechroot. The door is stuck (DC 28 to break open) and opens to the inside.

The double door at location C has sunk with the entry to the shrine. The stairs behind it are raised a few feet such that a Medium-sized creature will have to dig out or squeeze through.

Creatures: A deadly leechroot remains hidden just under the surface of the mud near the front door (Area A). The thing operates only when stimulated, waiting until someone approaches the door, or burrowing around the building in an effort to attack and feed. The leechroot can attack the party at the door, from any square in the ground outside the temple, or at area C, where the broken wall gives way to soft earth.

Advanced Leechroot CR 5
XP 1600 each
hp 42 each (R3)
AC 22
Melee 2 tentacles +9 (1d6+7 plus bloody sap and grab)

Within the sunken entryway (Area B), six bases house moss-grown statues, or their remains. The three intact statues, each a stylized naga with barbed spears, are caryatid columns tasked with attacking any creatures who enter the shaded squares, taking advantage of the illusory defenses that the trespassers trigger at the same time.

Caryatid Columns (3) CR 3
XP 800 each
hp 36 each (Bestiary 3 46)
Melee mwk longspear +8 (1d8+6)

Traps: The door at area C bears a magical trap worthy of the corrupted masters of illusion in the tunnels beyond. When any creature steps into the shaded area in front of the door, a phantasmal web targets as many creatures in the room as it can. This proximity also triggers the caryatid columns to attack.

Phantasmal Web Trap CR 6
Type magic; Perception DC 30; Disable Device DC 30
----- Effects -----
Trigger proximity (alarm); Duration 9 rounds; Reset none;
Effect spell effect (phantasmal web (APG 235), DC 17 Will save to disbelieve, DC 17 Fort save each round or become nauseated); multiple targets (up to 9, no two of which may be more than thirty feet apart)

PCs affected by this spell see monstrous spiders advance amidst a sudden network of sticky webs – an hallucination common to those returning to civilization from the Echo Wood.

Development: Unless destroyed, the leechroot burrows through the ground from area A to C and attacks a living creature within 10 feet of the door. It abandons this routine only if its bloodthirst ability senses an isolated living creature outside. If it pulls a victim underground, the leechroot focuses on that victim until dead. The leechroot never leaves the shrine, so it will attempt to feed on any living creature exiting the building.

The complex beyond the shrine has illusory holes in the floors and walls (marked by a circled X), each door leading to another shrine area, a naga nest or other dangerous location. The curved tunnels cause no injury, but do deposit a Medium or smaller creature into a hallway or room on a lower temple level. Istrothel dispatches a naga sorcerer once every few weeks to determine whether the first temple has been infiltrated, and to recharge the phantasmal web trap, if triggered. Any bodies are taken into the depths below to be interrogated via speak with dead, and then re-animated for slave labor.

Areas D and E are usually unoccupied, but are maintained by any naga patrol visiting the surface shrine. Area D is a resting chamber with two pieces of naga furniture, a curved wooden bed with a fresh silk pillow, and a spiraling coil used as a lounge. Under the bed is an arcane locked coffer (DC 30 to open) containing a many-layered veil (R1). In the center of the naga coil is a round table with an obsidian bottle. The bottle holds an ounce of fermented purple worm poison (Core Rulebook 560), a favored beverage of the dark naga who last patrolled here.

Area E is a kept shrine. The rune-inscribed circle in the center allows a supplicant to pray to one of three aspects of Sivanah. The shrine in the north wall is the most recently used. A DC 25 Knowledge (religion) check identifies the goddess invoked at this shrine as Sivanah (ISWG 230), while the aspect focuses on trickery, deceit, and dark magic.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

Oklahoma has great gamers and designers. Greg Vaughan lives in Oklahoma City and Owen lives somewhere nearby there. This year we had two Top 32 in RPG Superstar. We might not be North Carolina just yet but we're working on it.

Tulsa specifically has two great local game stores (Top Deck Games and Wizards Asylum) who sell Pathfinder products, and I was pleased to find fun and clever gamers in the Tulsa area after moving from one of gaming's great Meccas, Central Indiana.

I say all of this to drop the subtle hint that I live in "Tulsa" and not "Tusla". All in good fun. : b

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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The frozen tree line is disrupted by the sight of a fallen trunk rising up on dozens of barbed branches. It clicks loudly and advances like a shambling, frost-covered spider.

Deadfall Dweller CR 5
XP 1600
N Large magical beast
Init +5; Senses darkvision 60 ft., lowlight vision; Perception +7

----- Defense -----
AC 18, touch 10, flat-footed 17 (+1 Dex, +8 natural, -1 size)
hp 57 (6d10+24);
Fort +8, Ref +6, Will +3
Immune cold
Weaknesses vulnerability to fire

----- Offense -----
Speed 30 ft., climb 10 ft.
Melee bite +10 (1d8+5 plus poison), 2 claws +10 (1d6+5)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks entrap (Fort DC 16, 1 minute, hardness 3, hit points 6), spittle (+7 ranged touch)

----- Statistics -----
Str 21, Dex 13, Con 16, Int 5, Wis 12, Cha 10
Base Atk +6; CMB +12; CMD 23 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Toughness
Skills Climb +17, Perception +7, Stealth +1 (+9 in forests or swamps), Survival +2; Racial Modifiers +8 Stealth in forests or swamps
Language Sylvan (cannot speak)
SQ freeze

----- Ecology -----
Environment cold forests and swamps
Organization solitary, brood (2-5), or ruin (6-12)
Treasure standard

----- Special Abilities -----
Entrap (Ex) A creature hit by a dweller’s spittle must succeed at a DC 16 Fortitude save or be entangled in frozen mucus for 1 minute, or until that creature takes any amount of magical fire damage. A creature that fails its save while already entangled by this ability becomes helpless for 1 minute.
Freeze (Ex) A deadfall dweller may take 20 on Stealth roles so long as it is within a forest or swamp, and it holds perfectly still.
Poison Bite—injury; save Fort DC 16; frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect 1d3 Dexterity damage; cure 1 save.
Spittle (Ex) Each round as a free action, a deadfall dweller can emit a stream of freezing spittle at one target within 30 feet. On a successful attack, the target takes 1d6 cold damage, and may be entrapped.

Deadfall dwellers are dangerous ambush predators most commonly encountered in the chilled marshes and frozen forests of northern Avistan. Whether native nightmares or mutated products of the spreading Worldwound corruption, dwellers make their homes among frozen groves of trees, where they exercise a unique form of camouflage. Hungry deadfall dwellers fold their many stick-like legs and collapse against a larger trunk or simply lie on the ground. Some are clever enough to push over weak trees or spread dirt and debris over their bodies to enhance their disguise. When a warm-blooded creature happens by, a dweller straightens its legs to pursue and bellows out a line of icy mucus that freezes prey in its tracks. The creature then advances to attack with poisonous bite and powerful claw until it can eat at its leisure.

Deadfall dwellers reproduce by immobilizing prey with repeated applications of their poison, and then implanting 1-2 eggs within the paralyzed host. The host dies within hours as the larval dwellers consume the moisture in the host body. Witnesses claim the resulting frost-rimed husks resemble standing tree-trunks.

Most deadfall dwellers display a mottled white-brown carapace – the better to fit into their typical surroundings. A few have been reported in warmer climates, with darker green coloring. An average dweller stands six feet tall on its many legs and weighs 600 pounds.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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Floodwalker (witch)
Throughout the Sellen River basin, drowned spirits and malicious patrons like Zyphus and Hanspur grant power to those who bring the dangers of the river onto dry land.
Class Skills: Remove Fly from the floodwalker’s list of class skills. Replace it with Survival and Swim.
Spells: A floodwalker replaces some of her patron spells with the following: 4th—aboleth’s lung, 10th—suffocation, 16th—seamantle.
Drowning Aura (Su): Beginning at 1st level, any creature attempting to hold its breath within 30 feet of the floodwalker uses air as if engaged in combat or similar activity, even if that creature only takes move actions. At 5th level, maneuvering in water is more difficult for her enemies. Add 5 to the DC of any Swim checks made within 30 feet of the floodwalker, and double penalties for fighting under water. The floodwalker may exempt any creature within this aura from these increased penalties. This ability replaces a witch’s first-level hex.
River Stride (Su): At 4th level, the floodwalker’s familiar takes no penalties for movement or combat in water and may walk on the surface of water and other liquids as if under the effects of a water walking spell. At 8th level, this ability extends to the floodwalker herself. The floodwalker (and her familiar) chooses at the beginning of each round whether this ability is active or suppressed, allowing her to walk on water or to swim normally. This ability replaces a witch’s 6th-level hex.
Dire Baptism (Su): Beginning at 10th level, a floodwalker gains strength from her patron when creatures die from lack of air. Whenever a creature with an Intelligence of 3 or higher drowns or asphyxiates within 30 feet of her, she gains the benefit of a death knell spell for one hour. If a floodwalker physically drowns such a victim (holding a grappled or helpless creature under water until it dies), the bonuses gained from this ability are doubled. Benefits from multiple baptisms do not stack, but each baptism begins the duration anew for the appropriate bonuses. This ability replaces a witch’s 10th-level hex.
Hexes: The following witch hexes complement the floodwalker archetype: blight, swamp hag, water lung.
Major Hexes: The following major hex complements the floodwalker archetype: weather control.
Grand Hexes: The following grand hex complements the floodwalker archetype: natural disaster.

Scarab Sages Contributor , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

Is there a link where we can see specific rules for previous years? I'm interested in prepping for future rounds (fingers crossed!), and I'd like to know what kind of twists. Frex - did a previous year forbid a final proposal from including the previous round's encounter in it?

Scarab Sages Contributor , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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Given two entries, I've adopted the following procedure. I'm interested in knowing how you are evaluating items.

A correctly formatted item gets a read before a poorly formatted one. This doesn't mean the poorly formatted one is screwed necessarily, but someone who can use the template correctly.

A big idea with flaws is better than a cleaner item that isn't original or just strikes me as bleh. A neat idea with so many flaws it shouldn't have been attempted is probably still screwed.

Thus far, I see a lot of bad items stacked against bad items. I'm trusting the system and voting even though I don't want to support really bad items. But sometimes, I cannot bring myself to put a vote next to either one.

Mediocre writing does not immediately kill the item in my view. Some things are just hard to express with beauty. Bad writing is a death knell.

A great cinematic item has an edge, but a poorly designed item that would look great in a movie has no such advantage.

If an item has a bunch of unnecessary fluff, I skip over until I get to some mechanics. If an item buries mechanics in its paragraph of backstory, I hold the item responsible for not keeping my attention.

Any other principles helping you get through a stack of items?

Scarab Sages Contributor , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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Quicksand Cloak
Aura faint transmutation; CL 5th
Slot shoulders; Price 30,000 gp; Weight 2 lbs.
Description
This long, mottled-brown cloak seems heavy and feels damp to the touch. The exterior of the cloak disguises an extradimensional space filled with water, dirt and debris, resembling natural quicksand. Each time a creature of the wearer’s size (or smaller) attempts to grapple the wearer, it must succeed at a DC 15 Reflex save or be engulfed by quicksand (Core Rulebook, 427). In lieu of the grapple attempt, and every round trapped in the cloak’s extradimensional space, the trapped creature must make a Swim check (DC 15 + 1 for each consecutive failed Swim check) to climb out of the cloak, landing prone in a square adjacent to the wearer. Crawling out of the cloak provokes an attack of opportunity from the wearer. A creature that fails a Swim check by 5 or more submerges and begins to drown.

A quicksand cloak left on the ground with no wearer behaves as a patch of quicksand filling two 5’ squares. Creatures trapped in the cloak can attempt to swim out of it whether the cloak is worn or not. Though the quicksand space may contain debris or decayed bits of drowned victims (without increasing its weight), a quicksand cloak of any size only has enough room to trap one creature at a time. If a creature dies and is not pulled out of the cloak, the body becomes a part of the cloak’s debris and remains until removed.

Construction
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, create water, rope trick, shifting sand; Cost 15,000 gp

Scarab Sages Contributor

We've had two sessions in our game, and Monday we'll have the third, kicking the PCs up to level 8/tier 3. A brief look at my players:

Adam: Human cleric/hierophant of wine (healing, cursing). Adam focuses on variant channeling both positive and negative energy. He causes nausea with a high save DC in living things, which dominated two of the first three encounters.

Clay: Human fighter/guardian. Part of a duo designed to make one warrior extremely tough and another extremely potent. Uses entire build to max AC and then swap positions with his teammate, Chad.

Chad: Builds for high impact damage, using an exotic longspear (2d4, reach, brace) to deal a ton of damage from reach, but with little thought for his own protection. Uses a teamwork feat to swap places in and out with his high AC, high DR companion.

Alex: ratfolk alchemist/trickster. Alex was sick our first session and made his character the second. Monday he starts throwing bombs, but we've already discovered the most useful trickster abilities for alchemists are only available at third level. Will likely take dual path and/or use some of Lucent's suggestions for trickster abilities.

Tyler: human heavens oracle/marshall. Tyler is one of the most subtle and adept control mechanics I've ever seen. Right now, he's using a lot of levitate and mythic color spray. Not much use in the first two encounters, but bad for my invisible stalkers.

Daniel: human monk (zen archer)/champion. Daniel experiments with all sorts of mechanics. He's the mercurial fullblade type. This monk uses a rope dart for great damage.

The game revolves around mythic heroes tracking the escaped god Apsu, who will eventually try to destroy the wirld with water and fire in his bid to reunite with Tiamat. To that end, they had to riddle with the great sphinx, who tested them with combat after every riddle.

The arena is a huge amphitheatre, a circle 200' in diameter. First combat was a group of advanced caryatid columns with longspears. Just the change in weapon gives them more punch. The PCs are surrounded and intitiative is rolled. Everyone is 5th level with one mythic tier.

Tyler levitates Daniel so the columns get rope darted for a reasonable amount. Clay positions himself in front of the party as often as possible, and Chad deals out most of the damage. The combat is pretty tough for the PCs, since the columns have reach, decent damage, and DR 5/-. But Clay's AC and Chad's reach protect the party most of the time. Adam does get knocked unconscious, but there are two divine spellcasters, so Tyler makes sure Adam gets back up and Adam funnels some light healing into the frontline combatants. At 5th level with one tier, no one can hit Clay without a 20. Danial causes great damage, but Deadly Aim lowers the monk's attack roll by enough that he hits inconsistently.

Second combat is four huge anteaters. The idea is supposed to be that the PCs struggle with the terrain and sand trap, while the anteaters hit infrequently but cause immense damage. But it's designed without knowledge of the PC builds and the anteaters are SCREWED when forced to save against Adam's channel ability. So long as he keeps them nauseated (six consecutive turns at least two of them blow their WILL saves vs nausea), the rest of the party gets in some damage, with Daniel and Chad shining again. Even Tyler resorts to a melee attack. High hp and AC keeps the vermin in the combat for a while, but they stumble around unable to attack. They'd have been finished off even quicker if Adam hadn't misread variable channeling. He deals half damage in addition to sickening them. Anteaters get humbled and only deal a bit of damage.

Third encounter is the first one with mythic bad guys. Two advanced, agile invisible stalkers. Their initiative is badass - going on 37 and 17. This allows them to charge and then full attack before anyone else goes, revealing a host of possibilities for monsters, alchemists and rogues. The stalkers are feeling pretty good about themselves and one charges the high AC guy who can't hit anything. The other charges Daniel. I cause a little damage and do better on the immediate full attack. I'm relying on difficult ground and natural invisibility to help, and I plan to use flyby attack to start circling the party and causing damage until they figure something else out. Alas, one guy fails his channel save and becomes nauseous and the other gets caught in a divine color spray. Tyler uses an oracle ability to lower a stalker's effective HD for the purposes of being sprayed and my stalker passes out cold. Still invisible, the stalker occupies some attention while the PCs try to locate it and effect a coup de grace on the helpless target.

So they level up to 8 and 3 tiers for Monday. We've discovered a few things I'd like comment on:

As a GM: designing the next encounters taught me the beauty of mythic templates for my encounter design. Just adding agile or a spellcasting template makes designing mythic and nonmythic encounters faster and easier. A question about mythic templates: do references to the CR indicate the creature's original CR or final CR? Frex, a blue dragon with the arcane caster template will cast more, higher level spells if the final CR is used to calculate the results of the template. My inclination is to use the original CR. My other question revolves around what ELs other GMs are designing for. Six tier 3 characters is almost like 12 other players. They go twice per round if they choose, they gain extra swift attacks, add to their caster level and more. We'll be testing those ideas Monday, but I predict these players will be comfy fighting against CRs 3-5 places higher than their level+tier.

Also, how do you feel about mythic traps? ANyone designing those with or without mythic spells?

As a player: We've debated whether to keep playtesting amazing initiative. Seems like there will be a fix but we don't know what that will be. What are your tables doing for that? Also, my players are asking about reasonable transfers of abilities form one path to another. The guardian wants armor mastery. The alchemist wants wild arcana, but neither path really suits him, and he thinks of Dual Path as punishment. A potential solution is path dabbling, but then that's not available until tier 3 and leaves him stuck with fickle attacks for his first to choices. Not bad, but not every alchemist wants to be built with only fickle attacks or the archmage path. How are your players answering these concerns?

More Tuesday after I throw them dragons, dread wraiths, medusas and magical traps.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

If you are getting yourself a badge at Gen Con or haven't decided to go yet, I wanted to offer two events that still have tickets available, and that I can vouch for as unique and a super-great time. Gen Con event number and times included.

RPG1120287 Iron GM Saturday from noon to 6:30. Come sit a table where you create your own character and your GM is not only COMPETING to give you the best time ever, but also though enough of his/her stuff to pay $20 to enter. One of the best events at Gen Con every year.

RPG1124193 The Devil In Me Friday 4-Midnight. Organized by Iron GM winners and competitors, published authors and rabid players witha taste for the epic. We build the best pregen characters at the convention - powerful, deep and unique. Come experience a game that gives away big prizes, and where the GMs are committed to telling a story you'll never forget. Even better! Same room as the Iron Gm event, so your Gen Con will be as smooth as possible!

I know the economy is tough. I know roleplaying at conventions can be hit or miss. So I want your convention to be memorable, and I want you to decide to go if you're on the fence. These events plus a couple of Pathfinder Society or other events will make you glad you made the trip!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

TOnight's slam dunk competition was monstrous, creative and fun. Normally I don't like the NBA and can't watch many teams or palyers, but this was fun.

Think I'll stat Griffin up and make my palyers fight him.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

Tell your friends! Gen Con is only a few months away and only a few tickets are left for this year's awesome Pathfinder event: Xorvintaal!

RPG1011279 Xorvintaal - the Great Game

Play a unique, well-built PC as adventurers flock for varying reasons to an ancient town in the North. Rumors of dragons playing at politics and gambling their hoards entice willing servitors and free privateers to seek out their own fortunes. Be careful, though. Some players may be joining your table for other reasons.

This event is written and directed by Iron Dungeon Master champions and competitors, Paizo contributors and more. Spend your Firday night with us, and you'll be talking about us the rest of the Con!

Only seven tickets left!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

Shameless bump. Top of mind status! We got your good time right here!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

A lot of you know about Phil, the Chatty DM. His blog on all things RPG has numerous regular readers, and is always useful in terms of DMing advice, current events in gaming, or a good laugh.

Chatty Phil has unveiled a unique design project, wherein he discusses adventure design while he sets forth a trope-rich plot and challenges designers and GMs to represent their favorite system by designing his adventure, all to ilustrate the strengths that different game systems have and showcase the great community he has helped build among gamers.

Check it out at chattydm.net

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

Some of these seem out of balance to me, while some seem completely useless. I write about this under the pretext of playtest, because my character in Rob McCreary's Iskandria PBM disdains his own first-level ability. In looking over the other abilities (I have dreams of playing a high-powered Malconvoker one day), I have some questions and concernes about these abilities. Others are welcome to chime in or disagree with me here. Hopefully there will be some comments that Paizo's team find helpful as they continue to design the future World's Most Popular Role-playing Game.

Hey - confirm for me that most of these abilities ahouls be based on wizard level and not caster level. Otherwise, we are really rewarding the multiclass wizard a lot. The inevitable mystic theurge will bring the house down.

Abjurers: First level ability is no good. A standard action for an ability that lasts one round, and likely duplicates a benefit for your party that can't stack? I can't see this getting much use. I think most wizards would rather cast spells. Perhaps if it were a swift or immediate action, or lsated one round per (wizard) or (caster) level.

The rest of the Abjurer's abilities seems fun and balanced. That dude is taking no energy damage though, so it might be a little strong. I'll join a 20th level playtest to find out!

Conjurers are studs. I fear the 20th level ability might be too much. I know it has me licking my chops over the 20 level playtest and thinking 'malconvoker'. Maybe a party of 6 wizards in this playtest. Mmm.

DivinersThe diviner's first-level ability lasts three rounds, and provides a bonus equal to caster level on an ability, attack or other check. Stronger than the abjurer. After 4th level, I fear diviners with Quickened Spell-like Ability: Truestrike. That's hard. As a DM, I am going to frustrate a lot of Diviners by squirreling my wauy out of their 20th level ability. Campaigns must have secrets.

Enchanters Strong bonus for cross-classers! And permanent dominate monster[/b] is STRONG! I'll look up whether this spell has a HD limitation on it, but currently, this SLA makes a strong answer to the debate in that other thread about Cha or Int being used for DCs. Clearly this ability rocks the house, and skying your Int bonus would be a big priority.

Evocation Suck it, warmage! So, meteor swarm deals 24d6+120 points of damage? Sudden Empower, anyone? I think +1/die is sufficient, since at higher levels you deal more dice. I shudder at the thought of quickened magic missiles dealing out 5d4+30 points of force damage. This guy is an even beter argument for keeping SLAs as is, since nothing takes the bad guys to the woodshed like free [i]chain lightnings, prismatic sprays, and meteor swarms The elemental power ability is neat, and not overpowered. Just maybe the rest of him.

Illusionist The specialist ability is clever, useful, and balanced. It also motivates the character to be a real illusionist, instead of a battery of invisibility and phantasmal killer spells. The 20th level ability is fun and not over-powered. I would think we need a rule about bonuses to disguise checks. People often believe their eyes, but some wizards are terrible actors.

Necromancers Hoochi mama! 8 HD/level! Your 7th level wizard can animate 9 troll skeletons (make sure they go on their own initiative!) I played this game before: it's called Diablo 2. And, yes, your screen will also slow down and you'll be dead before you get back up to your normal processing speed. I am not sure how I would fix this. A HD cap just means more humans skeletons to tie up turns. As an NPC, this guy is great. As a PC, I worry about the sanity of players who surround themselves withmore NPC skeletons than actual friends. And anyone who knows me will now accuse me of being that guy, but oh well.
Moving on, grave touch is awesome. Not too powerful, but definitely mean-spirited. I don't like the 20th lvl ability much. I think players should be able to choose humanity despite their crimes against it, and I think anyone that chooses undeath deserves to be vulnerable to positive energy just like the rest of his kin. Also, I have always thought the deck was kind of stacked against undead, so I think of this ability as much a penalty as I do a bonus. But we can have that discussion later.

Tranmuters Another big reward for multiclassers, but then should transmuters be multiclassers? Hmmm. Telekinetic fist is cool..a little untyped damage to throw in, plus it rocks cinematically. Like the staff fight in Fellowship of the Ring. I'd like it to be stated somewhere that these abilities you can use for non-consecutive rounds per day are usable as free or swift actions. Fluid form is boss, just remember that if we're using caster levels and not wizard levels, this class rewards the wizard/fighter type like no other. ("I charge 240 feet with Spring Attack and Two-Weapon Rend.")

Universalists I never had much use for these guys, but having a None of the Above category is reasonable, and the revised abilities I think capture good flavor. Most of your world's wizards might be specialists, but then a few will not. They have no restrictions on spells, and gain awesome bonuses at higher level. The first level ability seems weak, until you realize that the wizard can move away from his target and cease concentrating after he picks a better spot. Also, you don't have to fight. You might just need to have a mage hand handy at will. I question the wish spells. Nothing sees unuse like a 5000 xp component.

Those are my thoughts on the balances of the specialist abilities. Mostly, they refer to beginning or ending abilities. The middle abilities - for the most part - all seem balancd, and to be expected of a wizard with that specialty.

I do think the added abilities are fun and awesome in concept. I think more people might play wizards and clerics, and if you changed 'caster level' to 'wizard level' a few times, they would ride the wizard class all the way up more often. Otherwise, I fear some very verypowerful characters could pick their way through different classes and always outshine their companions.

But I am just me, and I haven't playtested any of this. Tell me what you think.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

Some of these seem out of balance to me, while some seem completely useless. I write about this under the pretext of playtest, because my character in Rob McCreary's Iskandria PBM disdains his own first-level ability. In looking over the other abilities (I have dreams of playing a high-powered Malconvoker one day), I have some questions and concernes about these abilities. Others are welcome to chime in or disagree with me here. Hopefully there will be some comments that Paizo's team find helpful as they continue to design the future World's Most Popular Role-playing Game.

Hey - confirm for me that most of these abilities ahouls be based on wizard level and not caster level. Otherwise, we are really rewarding the multiclass wizard a lot. The inevitable mystic theurge will bring the house down.

Abjurers: First level ability is no good. A standard action for an ability that lasts one round, and likely duplicates a benefit for your party that can't stack? I can't see this getting much use. I think most wizards would rather cast spells. Perhaps if it were a swift or immediate action, or lsated one round per (wizard) or (caster) level.

The rest of the Abjurer's abilities seems fun and balanced. That dude is taking no energy damage though, so it might be a little strong. I'll join a 20th level playtest to find out!

Conjurers are studs. I fear the 20th level ability might be too much. I know it has me licking my chops over the 20 level playtest and thinking 'malconvoker'. Maybe a party of 6 wizards in this playtest. Mmm.

DivinersThe diviner's first-level ability lasts three rounds, and provides a bonus equal to caster level on an ability, attack or other check. Stronger than the abjurer. After 4th level, I fear diviners with Quickened Spell-like Ability: Truestrike. That's hard. As a DM, I am going to frustrate a lot of Diviners by squirreling my wauy out of their 20th level ability. Campaigns must have secrets.

Enchanters Strong bonus for cross-classers! And permanent dominate monster[/b] is STRONG! I'll look up whether this spell has a HD limitation on it, but currently, this SLA makes a strong answer to the debate in that other thread about Cha or Int being used for DCs. Clearly this ability rocks the house, and skying your Int bonus would be a big priority.

Evocation Suck it, warmage! So, meteor swarm deals 24d6+120 points of damage? Sudden Empower, anyone? I think +1/die is sufficient, since at higher levels you deal more dice. I shudder at the thought of quickened magic missiles dealing out 5d4+30 points of force damage. This guy is an even beter argument for keeping SLAs as is, since nothing takes the bad guys to the woodshed like free [i]chain lightnings, prismatic sprays, and meteor swarms The elemental power ability is neat, and not overpowered. Just maybe the rest of him.

Illusionist The specialist ability is clever, useful, and balanced. It also motivates the character to be a real illusionist, instead of a battery of invisibility and phantasmal killer spells. The 20th level ability is fun and not over-powered. I would think we need a rule about bonuses to disguise checks. People often believe their eyes, but some wizards are terrible actors.

Necromancers Hoochi mama! 8 HD/level! Your 7th level wizard can animate 9 troll skeletons (make sure they go on their own initiative!) I played this game before: it's called Diablo 2. And, yes, your screen will also slow down and you'll be dead before you get back up to your normal processing speed. I am not sure how I would fix this. A HD cap just means more humans skeletons to tie up turns. As an NPC, this guy is great. As a PC, I worry about the sanity of players who surround themselves withmore NPC skeletons than actual friends. And anyone who knows me will now accuse me of being that guy, but oh well.
Moving on, grave touch is awesome. Not too powerful, but definitely mean-spirited. I don't like the 20th lvl ability much. I think players should be able to choose humanity despite their crimes against it, and I think anyone that chooses undeath deserves to be vulnerable to positive energy just like the rest of his kin. Also, I have always thought the deck was kind of stacked against undead, so I think of this ability as much a penalty as I do a bonus. But we can have that discussion later.

Tranmuters Another big reward for multiclassers, but then should transmuters be multiclassers? Hmmm. Telekinetic fist is cool..a little untyped damage to throw in, plus it rocks cinematically. Like the staff fight in Fellowship of the Ring. I'd like it to be stated somewhere that these abilities you can use for non-consecutive rounds per day are usable as free or swift actions. Fluid form is boss, just remember that if we're using caster levels and not wizard levels, this class rewards the wizard/fighter type like no other. ("I charge 240 feet with Spring Attack and Two-Weapon Rend.")

Universalists I never had much use for these guys, but having a None of the Above category is reasonable, and the revised abilities I think capture good flavor. Most of your world's wizards might be specialists, but then a few will not. They have no restrictions on spells, and gain awesome bonuses at higher level. The first level ability seems weak, until you realize that the wizard can move away from his target and cease concentrating after he picks a better spot. Also, you don't have to fight. You might just need to have a mage hand handy at will. I question the wish spells. Nothing sees unuse like a 5000 xp component.

Those are my thoughts on the balances of the specialist abilities. Mostly, they refer to beginning or ending abilities. The middle abilities - for the most part - all seem balancd, and to be expected of a wizard with that specialty.

I do think the added abilities are fun and awesome in concept. I think more people might play wizards and clerics, and if you changed 'caster level' to 'wizard level' a few times, they would ride the wizard class all the way up more often. Otherwise, I fear some very verypowerful characters could pick their way through different classes and always outshine their companions.

But I am just me, and I haven't playtested any of this. Tell me what you think.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

Those of you going to MEPACON in Pennsylvania this weekend, don't forget to form a team and try your hand at the DnD CHampionship qualifier!

Does your team have what it takes to compete in the largest DND Tourney in history? Find out this weekend when you play Saresberg, by a certain aspiring game designer and novelist!

Go! Fight! Try not to lose anyone!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

What were the highlights of the contest for the voters,contestants and judges? We all know there were big ideas, great jokes, and helpful critiques. What do you take away from the first installment of one of the best ideas in gaming history?

Formy part, there's of course the fun and friendships. I guess I got to know Booms best of all throughout - but hey, I'm not going anywhere. Literally. It's my day off. There's also that while we awaited judgement of our magic items, I threw together four ideas to flesh out for 'Design A Country', and three of them were eerily similar to nations that were advanced by judges. Including Christine's entry (the most like mine), and Iskandria (my favorite entry of that round, even though during voting I thought Vramaire was my favorite).

As far as actual entries go, though, my absolute favorite ideas and executions were:

5: Let me be among the first to say it. Monkey goblins!

4: A god-like psionic genie who struggles with outer genius and inner chaos. Being his own worst enemy is why the Cackling Whirlwind hasn't acheived all that he ever wanted.

3. A nation of blink dogs defending their homeland, but also the civilized races coming to establish colonies, from a ruthless nation of goblinoids, who employ phase spider assassins to terrorize their lawful good enemies.

2. Iskandria, where waking up each morning is a small victory for the good guys, and the possibility of death-by-scantilly-clad-priestess is as likely as not!

1. A moving monastery, taking the gods' vengeance to an old city, while the PCs inside it try to survive the ride and the encounters within. Shifting walls, opening floors. Man, what I could do to my friends and family with that!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

Congratulations to Christine, Jason, Rob and Boomer on being in the final round of RPG Superstar. Not only am I insanely jealous, I am also very happy to have conversed with you and watched your progress as you outlasted some stiff competition.

I think a lot of us who have been on the outside looking in have also learned a lot. I think watching this contest has made me a better writer and player and DM. I am grateful for the community here, and really looking forward to some exciting adventure proposals.

Congratulations again, and good luck as you ignore the world and lock yourself away to give us your best.

Or, for Boomer, wait til the last minute and throw out another PSA instead. : }

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

Has anyone ever considered the idea of a joint campaign..like where the home campaigns in different places are telling the same overall story, but the parties don't realize that other campaigns are concurrently affecting the world they live in.

So every couple of weeks, the aprticipating DMs have a chat or conference call, compare notes, etc.

It isn't a competition. Maybe to ensure that, each DM runs another DMs important plots. I dunno. I have spent exactly this much time thinking about it.

Then at gencon, or using Insider, different groups can meet and realize what's been going on.

Does that sound dumb to anyone?

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

The site for Gen Con's best event is back up and running. Go there, and make an account, and hang out on the forums while you're waiting for replies (or the Superstar monsters) here! A taste of this kind of gaming, sponsored generously by Paizo, is all you need to want to be involved. You'll love that you were there and talked to great players, GMs, and household names like Nic Logue.

Be Iron! irondm.com

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013

The site for Gen Con's best event is back up and running. Go there, and make an account, and hang out on the forums while you're waiting for replies here! A taste of this kind of gaming, sponsored generously by Paizo, is all you need to want to be involved. You'll love that you were there and talked to great players, GMs, and household names like Nic Logue.

Be Iron! irondm.com

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

Okay, not in too much detail. After all, some of us have to work for a living instead of slacking off and marrying rich (I'm looking at you, Logue!)

So. I thought it would be fun to see what kinds of characters spring to mind when you read the Countries round of Superstar. I'll post some more of mine later (that work thing: catering at 6 in the morning. Jeez.), but I was curious about everyone else's.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

Of course, I am most grateful for God, friends and family, and this wonderful country. But higher and higher on the list as I get to know more people, I am grateful for Paizo, its committment to the best vision there is for the hobby I love, and the fun, friendly community I have found here in recent weeks.

To Paizo, and its wonderful staff: happy Thanksgiving, and a big thank you for all you do for us.

To those of you with big families and bigs plans today, travel safely and best wishes to you.

To those who don't make big plans on Thanksgiving (which in this community I think is a bigger ratio than most), enjoy your friends and hopefully a peaceful day off!

And very important to me: to our soldiers and civilians giving up another holiday to keep the bad guys where they belong, and to allow millions who have never voted before to have a voice: thank you so much, and we look forward to seeing your continued success abroad, so you can get back home to your familes.

Happy Thanksgiving and safe traveling to all of you!

Except the Graul family. They can go to Hell. : }