Land of the Stained Peaks


Round 2: Design a country

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Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8

First sentence: It would be better to head the article with the name of the country as everyone else did. It makes the name seem less of a throwaway.

Very much like the main premise, the visuals and the various permutations of grim industry. I didn't get much sense of the dwarves' culture apart from some tantalising hints like the communal tombs.

The country doesn't provide much at all for many of the standard PC races or for arcane magic.

DM Secrets: Placement of a wererat is very nicely judged. The Scorched Ones don't fit, somehow.

It's well-written and evocative. I'm uneasy about the depth of development beyond the visual. I'll review it later in comparison to the rest of the entries.


Overall, this entry had some of the best writing combined with ideas that I saw. Incredibly strong stuff. One of my five votes.


delabarre wrote:

I'm going to be the contrarian here. While this is in my top ten picks, it didn't make the cut for one of my five votes.

My problem is this: this reads like someplace that a PC would want to stay the hell away from. There was no compelling reason for a PC to want to go there, and if he grew up there, his life's goal would probably be to get out and live someplace nicer. That would be the first module: "Escape From The Stained Peaks." "You and your companions are in the bar comparing skin lesions, when you decide to form a group and march the hell out of Zaraten Gura before you all die of poison or political intrigue. What do you do next?"

Wow. You and I are entirely different people. To me, what you're saying is "Mordor is an incredibly awful place; therefore, why would the hobbits want to go there?"

the whole point of D&D is fantasy adventure, you know, and the locales the PCs are in aren't usually vacation hotspots. I mean, look at STAP - the PCs spend a nice amount of time on the Isle of DREAD - not exactly Bermuda. And yet, the adventures work very well.

This write-up, to me, tapped into that. It was a place so menacing that characters KNEW they were in a bad place; as players, it's the type of thing we love.

I imagine, in my Eberron game, the characters don't really want to be in Karlakton (a city on the border of the Mournland that has undead police and a bunch of doomsday cults), but the Players are absolutely loving it.

While this entry isn't my favourite (that goes to the Prison Colony, and the Were-Elephants), it's easily on my top five. It's the best-written, and best thought-out entry of the 32, as well as one that could actually be inserted into a homebrew with comparitive ease.

Scarab Sages Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

This is my favorite of the Round 2 submissions, it gets my first Vote.

I love the rusted towers with the iron stalactites!

Great country.

Dark Archive

Ogres trading with Dwarves! Bugbears and black-scaled kobolds as the 'orcs and goblins' of the setting! Points for not giving us the bog-standard race mixes. The land itself, poisoned by it's own mineral riches, is evocative, and that too work for me.

The word 'rust-cicles,' not so much. :)

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Awesome spin on a Dwarven kingdom. Loved the evocative language...rusticles! Also loved the imagery of a land overworked by Dwarven crafting so that it effects the land and its habitants in a negative way. I'd love to see one of those rust-inspired monsters (maybe even a new derivative of the rust monster itself?) in a future round...but you'll need to get past the villain stage first! I sincerely hope you do. Ride that golden ticket as far as you can...

My two-cents as well as my vote,
--Neil


I'm not a huge fan of the name, but that is the only complaint! The rest sounds like a great place to visit and get into trouble! LOL!

Good luck in the next round!


Ok, I have a couple of things to say:

1. I love dwarfs (I also happen to have a rather nice goatee). They have always been one of my favorite races to play and I always felt that they got the short end of the stick most of the time. Way to go on re-envisioning them without having to deviate from the basics.

2. Great writing and good job packing that full of useful information. I don't think there was any wasted space in there.

Great job and you definitely have my vote and I am so glad that I finished off with this one.

Star Voter Season 6

My biggest fear upon hearing about this contest was that no one of any real talent would make it to the next round.

My fears have been allayed.


Place your votes.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

This entry made better use of language and imagery than any other entry. I completely agree with the passages that Erik and Clark cited! Well done! I too like the different spin on dwarven lands. Giving the landscape an inherent flaw and danger has always appealed to me. It reminds me of Elantris and the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, one of my favorite authors. I anticipate that James had a lot of crunch in mind when he wrote this entry, such as listing the stats of varoius plants and animals that have become "rust-tainted." This one made my top five.


...Russian steampunk dwarves. Interesting. For me the language started to veer towards turn-off, in spirit of "marzipan in barnacle-claimed tureen".
A great entry, I admit, but still borderline for me.


Best writing of all the entries, nice job!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

Again, I would like to thank you all for the generous comments and praise. I also appreciate the feedback from those who weren't as impressed; your comments have been very thoughtful and suggest things that could be improved.

If I make it to the next round, I shall try to be worthy of your confidence. (Although I am optimistic, I refuse to assume advancement is a given.)


Thanks for sharing this with Paizo and the rest of us, Sir Wulf. You're on my vote list.


I really like the idea and the writing; pro quality IMO. The only thing that I'm wondering about is the 'why would PCs come here if they're not from here.' "Hey man, this place is a real sh*thole!!!" But, if you wanted to do the Adventure Path style campaign of "you start here and you like it, you like it just fine" it's an awesome place!


I've read all the entries, and narrowing it down to five has been an incredible challenge. This entry, however was by far the best of the lot. Once I finished reading it, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be voting for it. It is incredible! Simply put. If you continue to submit this imaginative and high quality work I think the other folks in this contest (many of whom work I greatly enjoy) are going to have a serious struggle on their hands. You've raised the bar, and while there is brilliance from all of the others, I think there may be only one or two individuals so far that will have the capability to compete with you.

Kudos sir! You have a fan.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

I've heard theories that cumulative lead poisoning may have been what ultimately did the Roman Empire in. I appreciate that theme here.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This has my vote for top 16.


Absolutely masterful. The imagery is top-notch and the feel is just astounding. I'd buy this book in a heartbeat.


I have read them all this was my favorite.


Wow James, very fresh! This is one of the best takes on a Dwarven kingdom I've seen. I'd love to have a source book or adventure based on the Stained Peaks.


You took an overly used theme - dwarven kingdoms - and reinvented it without taking from dwarves their basis of characterization: their dedication to survival, mining, and ancestral monuments.

As I championed in other forums what I sought in a RPG Superstar, this entry definately inspired me to rethink a few concepts about my dwarven kingdoms.

Now, I imagine an old race, clinging desperately to ancient traditions without realizing that with each generation they spiral farther into corruption.


Sir_Wulf wrote:

Again, I would like to thank you all for the generous comments and praise. I also appreciate the feedback from those who weren't as impressed; your comments have been very thoughtful and suggest things that could be improved.

If I make it to the next round, I shall try to be worthy of your confidence. (Although I am optimistic, I refuse to assume advancement is a given.)

I did not want to nitpick, but try not to go over the top with names. For me, a good rule of thumb is to take real names that might embody your theme and change it slightly. Examples I use: Egyus, Romas, and the city-state Argos.

As Erik stated earlier - for some, it is a turn off to use real names. Personally, I do not mind since it evokes descriptive visions and allows me to go to an encyclopedia to learn more about how to run that fantasy country.

With that said, though well received, when I wrote A Question of Loyalty: Guidebook to Military Orders, I wish I instead used new names for historic orders. To bridge the gap between the fantasy prestige classes and their historic counterparts, a simple sidebar referencing the real inspiration is sufficient.

Also, always make them pronounceable. An elven player should be able to pronounce his own homeland.

Overall, you hit the nail on the head. So analyze your entry again - do not copy your method - but learn why people found it fascinating. Then take a chance, and improve your formula. If you make it to the next round, they are not going to want you playing it safe. In addition, despite what people may say, they are not expecting a blink-dog villain (Though, for some reason, that appeals to me now; but still, blink-dogs).

P.S. Watch the passive voice. My advice to all writers, get The Elements of Style, by E.B. White.


Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

wonderful!!

love the russian flavour. Inspiring and makes me hope there will be another competition like this.

well done!


For some reason at first I thought this was just going to be a more or less standard dwarven kingdom, using slavic names and perhaps introducing some more eastern European cultural aspects to them on top of the standard dwarven concept.

What this turned into was an interesting standard dwarven nation, but with some really fun twists. I love the dwarves living above ground due to the poisonous minerals, and the more stern, serious mean that this gives a dwarven nations (a welcome change from RAS style comic relief dwarves with names like Bodhopper Ironlicker or whatever).

Nice change of pace.

Scarab Sages

One of my top picks, and one of the best written of all the entries. You have creativity and the writing skills to effectively present your ideas. I'm normally not a fan of dwarves, but this entry really caught my attention. Great job.


This one SOOO barely missed my top five and, hence, a vote, but rest assured I was mightily impressed, especially by the quality of writing. My biggest gripe was the sheer dour weight of the place. Perfectly appropriate to dwarves, I suppose, but I wanted some sense of hope, of beauty or joy. Instead, I got rusticles.

High marks all around. I would've just liked some balance within the 1000 word limit.


I told my boyfriend I wanted one of these entries to scream harsh and technology... obviously hoping for something dwarven that was new and fresh. This one caught my attention! The GM notes about the slaves and the monsters... I was drooling!

On a side note, the alignment kinda threw me for a loop. LN? It seems a bit to evil for me... Where is the good in this country to even it out? I am hoping once the voting it over you might be able to speak on this subject.


Rune Scryber wrote:
Wow James, very fresh! This is one of the best takes on a Dwarven kingdom I've seen. I'd love to have a source book or adventure based on the Stained Peaks.

You received one of my 5 votes!

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

I decided to wait until voting was over to make any comments, but WOW!!! This was definitely my top vote (OK, maybe second after Iskadria :) ). I love dwarves, and would have written a dwarven country if I could have thought of an original way to do it. And holy s@&! did you ever do it! I really can't say enough about how much I loved the Stained Peaks. Brilliant writing, full of flavor, evocative descriptions, everything. I particularly like the inclusion of humans, and how their culture had changed to adopt dwarven mannerisms and language. And my fiancee, who is Polish, loved the Slavic names. For me, it took a little getting used to, but I was digging the Slavic flavor by the time I got to the end.

My hat is off to you, sir. Amazing work. I am positive you will advance to the next round, and if I have the good fortune to do so as well, I'm terrified at the thought of competing against you. Can't wait to see your villain.

Good luck!

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Wik wrote:

Wow. You and I are entirely different people. To me, what you're saying is "Mordor is an incredibly awful place; therefore, why would the hobbits want to go there?"

You asked the right question, but you didn't follow it through to its logical conclusion.

Note that I said "There was no compelling reason for a PC to want to go there." If there had been an adventure hook anywhere near as good as Mount Doom in the entry, this would have automatically gotten one of my votes.

That's what was missing. EDIT: My 5 all had at least one good adventure hook to go along with a good setting description.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

Design Notes
Zavaten Gura was something that I made up for the contest, rather than something from a home game or previous project. My original idea was very different: A country dominated by mountains of nearly solid iron. This triggered research about the environmental effects of mining, eventually mutating into the Stained Peaks. Dwarves weren’t originally part of the picture! They were added when I started speculating about what races would choose to live in such a harsh place. Dwarves, with their ties to the earth and robust constitutions, seemed a natural choice.

I am particularly indebted to Scrasamax, one of the guys from Strolen's Citadel. He was the one who originally coined the phrase "weeping rustcicles" that many people noticed. His feedback helped me make my rough idea into a success.

Deletions and Omissions
The mines of the Stained Peaks are rich, but many of their natural resources are horribly toxic. I removed one export from the peaks: “Kobold Metal” (cobalt) is prized as a beautiful blue pigment. I took the reference out after some of my friends read my rough draft; they thought it was some sort of a gag, distracting from the gloomy “Eastern-European” mood I had sought.

The coast of Zavaten Gura has several fishing villages. Both dwarves and humans share the dangerous work of harvesting the sea’s bounty. Salted away and shipped inland in barrels, this seafood is crucial to the diet of those towns along the great Causeway. Massive amounts of salt are shipped to the Stained Peaks from other lands, for while the “stained salt” of the mountains can be nourishing, many find it unpalatable.

Near smog-shrouded Visheksrad, the dwarves have a college of magic, the Fortress of the Iron Pillar. In this stronghold of mystical lore, dwarven magi study mysteries of iron and stone, seeking mastery over the element of earth. Students travel from distant lands, drawn to this place by the hidden lore of dwarven enchantment. Only the most dedicated of these scholars finish the rigorous studies of the college, eventually learning the rituals needed to tap into the Iron Pillar, a reservoir of magical power unparalleled in the region.

While slavery is permitted within the lands of the Stained Dwarves, it is strictly controlled. In some ways, slaves have more rights than the laborers that dwell among the peaks. These laws were enacted after a slave revolt known as “The Slavstad Uprising”.

Slavstad, among the most intricately crafted of the mountain cities, was originally built with the labor of thousands of cruelly misused slaves. The merciless builders of the original city were from a dwarven clan that believed themselves superior to other dwarves. They refused to feed their slaves properly or allow them shelter from the frigid mountain winds, leading to the deaths of dozens or hundreds. Driven to desperation, the others turned on their masters. Hundreds were killed before militia from neighboring cities responded to put down the revolt. The leaders of the rebellious slaves were executed beside those slaveholders that had survived. This rough justice made it clear that even slaveholders could be killed, if their behavior instigated rebellion. (The name “Slavstad” was a bad call. I misremembered the Russian word for “slave”.)

In the isolated mountain city of Zopotishto, laborers struggle heroically to keep the mountain passes clear, but the winter storms eventually overcome even the most heroic effort. Cut off from civilization, the hard-working miners and smelters of the city are permitted their one yearly holiday: A weeklong midwinter festival of drinking and debauchery, during which the stoic workmen engage in winter sports and revelry. One of the miners is chosen by lot to become the “Midwinter King”, who is encouraged to play obnoxious jokes on the city’s harsh overseers and rulers.

The mysterious smith-god cited in the "secrets" is called Chernekrov, a creature resembling a black-skinned, winged dwarf carrying a sword of glowing white metal. In all likelihood, this manifestation is actually an erinyes devil of unusual dwarfish physique.

(I had additional information about the monstrous inhabitants of Zavaten Gura, but allow me the indulgence of waiting to see whether I will need the information to compete in further rounds.)

The Names
Some people found the Slavic-themed names hard to pronounce, despite my efforts to eliminate the worst tongue twisters. Most personal names were chosen from those documented among the Viking-Era Rus. Place names were crafted from Russian words, twisted and altered to keep a “Slavic” sound, but distorted beyond recognition. As an example, Utograf came from the German title “Graf” joined with the Russian word for iron (óòþã, pronounced “ootyug”).

Some pronunciations:
Voislav: “Voy’ slaf”
Utograf: “Oo’ toe graff”
Visheksrad: “Vish’ ex raht”
Iyregraf: “Ir’ ye graff”
Tvormir: “Twar’ meer”
Zopotishto: “Zo poe teesh’ toe”
Smeikas: “Smee’ kass”
Bovodport: “Bow voad’ port”
Vioslavov: “Vee oh’ slav off”

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

James, congratulations on making the cut to the next round. I have to say, I am gloating a bit about you. The Leash was not universally well-recieved but I golden-ticketed it to the top 32 and I want to thank you for repaying my faith in you. Boy, have you delivered. This country was truly awesome. I encourage you to learn from this process and keep bringing the excellent content. Good luck in the next round.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6 aka Core

Requesting to use the location of Zopotishto for my villains entry. I like the name and setting is appropriate. It's cool if not :P

The Exchange Kobold Press

Core wrote:
Requesting to use the location of Zopotishto for my villains entry. I like the name and setting is appropriate. It's cool if not :P

You've got a green light on that; the Top 16 can refer to any country from the round of 32 in their Villains entry.

Good luck!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6 aka Core

Wolfgang Baur wrote:
Core wrote:
Requesting to use the location of Zopotishto for my villains entry. I like the name and setting is appropriate. It's cool if not :P

You've got a green light on that; the Top 16 can refer to any country from the round of 32 in their Villains entry.

Good luck!

Thanks.

And I am requesting author approval too, I don't want to use it without his consent.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

Go forth and conquer! I posted more information about the country earlier today: I hope that it works with your idea. If not, we can always make a few changes to the region.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6 aka Core

Thanks. It will mostly be superficial but I'd like the interconnections.


James you really hit a grand slam on this one. I really enjoyed this submission the most. This is easily a very suitable nation which I think can be adaptable to players with modern and fantasy styles.

I would really like to see this in a gazeteer. Heck this nation can get its own box set. Its hard edgy and keeps conventional themes while altering the way they are approached.

I want to know what a villian from this nation is like because even the every day folk send shivers down the spines of outsiders to these lands.

Good luck in the future rounds.


Your entry is far and away the most meticulous, cerebral and elegant one.

Dark Archive

Congratulations, by far the best country we read

-Cheers

amaranta & blundith

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Spar

Hey James,

Just wanted to let you know that I am using Stained Peaks (along with Neil's Vramaire and my land)in an upcoming campaign. I'll keep ya posted as to how it goes.

WC

Scarab Sages

Engaging in a little forum necromancy here, I just read the yahoo articel about the Iron Mountain Mine, and dug it up on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Mountain_Mine). Source of inspiration? Good to use for further development, at least. I especially love the acidophilic aerobic bacteria; gives me ideas for a unique ooze for the Stained Peaks.

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