Joel Flank

Round 1: Bodyguard's Vest
Round 2: Ulmlinzi-Kiwanja


Round 2: Design a country

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

“The Land where Men Guard the Earth”
Alignment: CG
Capital: None
Notable Settlements: Rainbow Downs (pop. 1,700), Port Katarine (pop. 350)
Ruler: Lesedi, Mistress of the Jungle’s Will
Government: Decentralized tribes that share the same culture and beliefs. Each is led by a Chief, who is often the religious leader of the tribe as well. All tribes honor the Mistress of the Jungle’s Will, who gives guidance on issues affecting more than one tribe.

Description: The Mlinzi people live in the tropical paradise of Ulmlinzi-Kiwanja, an isolated stretch of jungle far from civilized lands. They live in harmony with the land, and while different tribes have their own unique customs, they generally get along together due to their shared values.

Beyond the territory immediately around a tribe, the jungle holds dangers common to untamed wilderness: wild animals and dangerous monsters. Common threats include carnivorous apes, digesters, dire boar, jungle athach, and krenshar.

Explorers led by Captain Karl Kaverson discovered this country 100 years ago, and were awed at the natural beauty and perfect climate of the land. They were further surprised to discover that while the Mlinzi lived in peace with each other, they savagely attacked the newcomers, slaying many, while showing no regard for their own safety. It was through the actions of Captain Kaverson’s wife Katarine, that they learned why the Mlinzi attacked them without provocation.

Through stealth, Katarine observed that the Mlinzi each wore an anklet made of rainbow colored wooden beads. When one Mlinzi encountered another, they immediately glanced at the other’s anklet, as if to verify that it was there, and only afterwards, would they greet each other. They performed this ritual even with close friends and relatives. Katarine also discovered the greatest treasure of Ulmlinzi-Kiwanja, the rainbow trees. Rainbow trees grew only in the deepest parts of the jungle. Not only where they taller and mightier than the largest of oaks, but their bark and wood was rainbow hued in intricate swirling patterns. Katarine took a branch of rainbow wood back to her fellow explorers, and used it to carve enough beads to make anklets for the entire group.

On their next meeting with the Mlinzi, the explorers were greeted instead of attacked. They learned of the Mlinzi belief that any intelligent creature in their land would be possessed by the demons of the earth, unless they wore a protective anklet. Only the anklet could stop the demons from seeping up from the very ground itself, and flow through a person’s feet and transform them into one of the dread demon-ridden.

The Mlinzi took the visitors to Rainbow Downs, a huge stand of rainbow trees surrounding a clearing. Within the clearing was a large village, inhabited by Mlinzi of all tribes. This was also the abode of the Mistress of the Jungle’s Will. Katarine negotiated the right to found a small settlement on the shore of the ocean, and from there harvest rainbow wood for trade to civilized lands, in exchange for trade goods. Port Katarine was founded within the year, and gradually grew into a small settlement, which had some of the comforts of home to the explorers and their retainers.

Port Katarine has kept the location of Ulmlinzi-Kiwanja a secret from the rest of their homeland. However, demand for the exotic rainbow wood grows, and the riches it could bring an adventurer who discovered its source and opened the market would be boundless.

DM Secrets: The Mlinzi have their superstitions for a reason. Before living memory, the earth grew weak, and the demons of the earth ripped through the ground, and spread forth into the land. They wreaked great slaughter upon the Mlinzi’s ancestors, and only through the combined efforts of the priestesses of the Jungle’s Will were they able to strengthen the earth and imprison the demons below it again. A great rainbow appeared as the demons were bound, and infused the nearby trees with its colors, creating the first rainbow trees. Now the Mlinzi regard the rainbow trees as sacred due to their protective abilities against demons.

However, what was once broken cannot be restored to its full strength, and the demons of the earth strain at their bonds constantly. While they cannot physically breach the planar seal, they can seep through the ground and flow through the feet of any sentient being that walks upon the earth nearby. Anyone who walks within a mile of the sealed planar rift must make a DC 20 Will save or become possessed by one of the demons of the earth. Wearing an anklet made of rainbow wood prevents such possession. A possessed creature’s alignment changes to chaotic evil, and it is under the complete control of a demon of the earth. This effect follows the rules for magic jar regarding interactions with other magic.

With the exploration of remote parts of the jungle by prospectors, adventurers and their native guides, several demons of the earth have escaped their captivity by possessing hosts. One of these is Damarus Kane, an entrepreneur, who often returns to his home country to recruit guards and explorers to bear the risks while he enjoys the profits of their labors. He currently resides in Port Katarine, and now that he is possessed, he is encouraging more and more lumber operations. He hopes to destroy as many rainbow trees as possible, and export their wood far away. This will grant more of his brethren their freedom and allow them to bathe the land in blood and gain revenge on the Mlinzi.

A secret splinter sect of the Mlinzi has arisen, in response to the despoiling of the jungle and the rainbow trees by outsiders. They call themselves Spears of the Jungle’s Wrath, and have been attacking and driving off woodcutters, and sabotaging their operations. So far, their efforts have resulted in only limited success, though they have been able to mask their attacks as those of marauding beasts and other dangers, and have kept their existence a secret.

The Exchange Kobold Press

I don't know about this one: it seems more like the premise for a jungle adventure than a country that PCs would visit.

The lack of a central government isn't fatal, but the tribes and their secret are sort of a one-shot deal. Once you've peeked behind the curtain, there's not a lot more to do with this country. It's a one-trick-pony, rather than a setting with depth.

Not recommended.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Submission checklist:

Submitted on time? Check.
Submission is a "country"? Check.
Submission contains all of the mandatory content as required by the contest rules? Check.
Submission is within the word limit? Check. 1000.
Submission is free of inappropriate content in violation of the "taboo" guidelines? Check.
Submission does not use content from a source other than those listed? Check. Check.
Submission does not reference a published campaign setting? Check.
Submission does not include maps or art? Check.
Submission is a suitable setting for roleplaying with the d20 system? Check.
Submission is not a "joke" or otherwise completely fails to meet the minimum requirements of the competition or other contest rules? Check.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Fluff (writing, grammar, style, evocative prose, etc.): B-
Nothing special.

Crunch (basics, rules issues, depth of the setting, details, etc.): C
No real crunch, other than a few implied nuggets.

Design (choices made, format, naming, originality, theme, balance--ie, is the submission heavy in one part but lacking in another?): D
The Good: Not much. The submission follows the format, makes no major gaffes and is balanced between the description and DM section. But that minimum competence is not enough.
The Bad: I get really bored with idyllic people that live in harmony with the land. Ick. Rainbows? What, are My Little Ponies going to come out of the jungle too? And maybe some kittens? The design and content choices here are suspect. Essentially a “great white hunter finds forgotten tribe” theme, which is a bit jarring. Captain Kaverson and Katarine sound more like an Edgar Rice Burroughs or even older pulp Tarzan-style background material. Then the rainbows. Yikes.

Play (setting for adventure? campaign? is there conflict? are there play limitations?): D
Sure, you could play Tarzan here. Or maybe Rainbow ponies or something. But I’m not sure whatever you would be playing would be d20-based epic heroic fantasy.

Tilt (my personal take, is it evocative? do I want to play there? does it capture my imagination?): D
This one totally misses it for me. Big time.

Overall: D
Rainbow pygmies and the great white hunter dance with demons in a country that just doesn’t come together.

Maybe I am missing something and I am just not getting it.


Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

At first I was pretty underwhelmed by the whole rainbow tree thing and I thought that yet another native culture bowing down to godlike foreign invaders was fairly insulting. Then I read the DM's secrets section, and the submission started to gel for me some more.

My problem with this submission is that, basically, you've got a very peaceful society that doesn't really lend itself to adventures, or at least not enough adventures inspired by the text. There is the threat of the demons (which is interesting), but is that really all there is to it?

The entry is too one-dimensional to be of great interest to me. I appreciate tackling a primitive culture and I do like certain aspects of the demon legend, I just wanted more to sink my teeth into.

I do not recommend that this entry advance to the next round.

I would like to have seen the DMs secret portion up front and obvious and not hidden behind the "idyllic jungle land" veil. It's a neat idea.

This is my seventh review of the 2nd round submission entries.

First, I'm going to come right out and flatly disagree with Mr. Mona. You may see a "peaceful society", sir, but I see a country suitable for low level adventuring. There's nothing wrong with good oriented nations where nobody terribly important is a secret agent of evil. In fact it makes sense to have at least a few of these lying about.

However there is a way to write a country up and a way to set up an adventure. This entry is a way to set up an adventure. A pretty good adventure, actually. Lots of tie ins and a nice cultural background. But we're ultimately talking about a kingdom submission that has over six paragraphs about these anklets.

The author did choose to make his population nomadic and that's always a little hard to write up. But that doesn't rule out landmarks other sites of demonic influence and perhaps even some sort of jungle-based fey that attempt to play off the humans and demons against each other in order to preserve the forests. There was potential with this idea and maybe if the author had more time it would have been explored. But as it stands now, I'm left feeling a little let down.

Rating: Thumbs Down

Liberty's Edge

Janes Jungle. This one spends way too long on the anklet thing, and the demons of the earth for my tastes (without ever really explaining what a demon of the earth is). I feel like there is more depth to this country, but as presented it comes across as a bit of a one trick pony. And when I read Captain Karl I think Captain Kirk.

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

Solomon Kane is a classic pulp explorer adventurer, if memory serves.

This entry... I actually sort of liked the "demons of the earth" concept, but too much time was spent on it. The rainbow trees? I'm trying to picture them in my mind and it's just not working for me.


Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

I'm predisposed to jungle settings. And I can see the logic of the rainbow being tied to magic in a primitive setting. But there's still a bit too much rainbow. And the demons don't come across as inspired. I like it, but not enough I don't think.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Darkjoy

Can I use it: No
Is it entertaining: No, way to many names start with a K.
Is it original: No

Final verdict: Rejected.

I was intrigued by the title "Mistress of the Jungle's Will", but not by the country itself. Way too much wordage was used on the discovery of the country.

Also, I think Rainbow trees and wearing rainbow anklets is a bad idea. Players will spend most of the game mocking this.

I liked the idea of the demons trapped beneath the jungle.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I can easily imagine this to be the background section of an interesting DUNGEON adventure but I have some problems to judge it based on the fact, that this entry is to describe a country.

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

Well...I know different gamers have different tastes, but there's not a compelling portion in this entry for me. It's a lot like a jungle version of the plains barbarians a few entries back. I am sure at home you have adventure ideas galore, but they aren't here.

Congratulations on making the top 32.

This one just doesn't do anything for me. I think that there's way too much time spent on the meeting between this explorer and the natives (who don't really interest me either) and not enough time spent on more important elements (such as what are the demons of the earth?). Also, the explorer captain and his wife are kind of boring and I don't really care for the whole rainbow tree thing. The names also kind of bug me. I don't really care for names like 'Ulmlinzu-Kiwanja'. I don't like how it sounds and it is too long, complicated and weird to be spoken often or remembered by the players.
The writing is pretty good and although you spent a long time on the first encounters with the natives, the entry flows and is easy to read.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 aka adanedhel9

I actually kinda like this one. It's not fantastic, and we do get a lot of unnecessary history instead of useful plot hooks. But the root concept does intrigue me.

I actually liked this one. I agree with the complaints that it concentrates too much on history and is a bit of one-trick-pony but does indeed in my mind serve as interesting setting for series of low-level adventures.
It has nice Tarzan-y pulp appeal and the names are best I have seen so far in this contest...
And it amused me to read the description "The land where men! guard the earth!"

Oh, and Clark: it has kitties, or at least krenshar.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

Thanks for all the feedback and constructive criticism. I look forward to commenting in more detail at the end of this round.

It strikes me that this is a very external description of this place. We get the outsiders' point of view. I don't see why it's important how and who discovered the place. If the author had concentrated more on the country itself rather than its discovery by another country, something better could've been made of this.

And rainbow trees... yeah, I agree with the others on that. Not only is it kinda Care Bears, but I have a hard time reconciling "demon-filled jungle" with "rainbows."

Place your votes.

I do think there is more room for adventure in Ulmlinzi Kanja then people have given it credit. It has the longest line of suggest encounters of any entry I have read thus far.

Joel Flank wrote:
Beyond the territory immediately around a tribe, the jungle holds dangers common to untamed wilderness: wild animals and dangerous monsters. Common threats include carnivorous apes, digesters, dire boar, jungle athach, and krenshar.

Personally the anklets don’t bother me. And besides how many people haven’t been in one adventure or another that has called for the collection of something rather silly. Much of the criticism seems to be over aesthetics which seems kind of unfairly harsh.

Easily within my top ten, but am still undecided on exactly how the chips will fall.

I like the anklet/demon backstory, but it'd be stronger if the country had just recently been "discovered" and Katarine was still in charge; now it's kinda wasted backstory. Jungle cool, demon thing cool. Needs some more gaps filled in, it's "boring" only in the same way that colonial Africa or the Amazon was boring, which is to say not really if you're there :-) - has good pulp possibilities.

Call me a cynic, but for some reason having rainbows and rainbow colored trees just feels a little too . . . well, fair tale, and less epic fantasy or sword and sorcery to me. I do like the fact that the "superstition" really does have a basis in fact though.

I wish there was more on the actual culture of these people, aside from the demon possession, the priestesses, and the trees. It would be great to see a hidden tribesman that was possessed, and created fake beads to hide among the others, to have a demonic mastermind plotting evil, or perhaps the seed of evil in the explorers.

The other problem here is, while its not a bad entry, and it does have some fun hooks for adventurers, a lot of this just feels like a place the PCs will show up, find out the secret, and move on from, rather than use as a base of operations or work stay around in order to work against the evil growing there.

Its kind of fun, but it never really rises above the classic superstitious tribes really knowing something the civilized folk don't standard set up.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

The realization that the natives are the ones who are trading beads to the explorers tickles me.

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

amusingsn wrote:
The realization that the natives are the ones who are trading beads to the explorers tickles me.

Heh, true, that's pretty funny.

Yea my players (even the gay ones) would have a fit over rainbows and rainbow bracelets. I can't pictured "rainbow-colored" trees, it just made me think of candyland (the board game). I liked the "demons of the earth" and I've ran at least 2 adventures in the jungle this year with a tribal culture that I created but I'm not digging this.

Captain Karl is a character in on the Doodlebops, but if you don't have kids you can't really be blamed for that. You can however be blamed for the number of names that start with K in this entry (unless there's a reason for it but not enough words to explain).

I have to be honest, this entry seemed great. I think many people have hit it on the head when they have said low level adventurers would love this place. I also imagine a party of adventurers finding this place thinking it is some paradise, and then defending against outside evil, and then... all heck brakes lose as the demons overwhelm them. All around good stuff, for low levels or PG gamers kids got to start the RPG addiction somewhere.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

Again, thanks for all of the comments. I'm glad to see that my entry is appealing to some of you, and I look forward to the chance to address some of the criticisms in a few days when the voting is over.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

Phew! Gag order has been lifted, now I can say all of my responses to the various comments over the last week.

First of all, I guess I have a broader definition of a country than someplace that you can base a campaign in, or that your typical PC party would be from. Sure, a country can do all of that, but a country can also be an exotic destination for an adventure or three, before returning to their usual stomping grounds. It seems that I wasn't alone in this assumption, based on some of the other entries. It certainly is true that a country that can provide an entire campaign backdrop may be more worthy of the RPG Superstar status, but I guess the votes will tell.

A bit of general information about my country before I get into specific issues that the judges and others raised. I actually based the country around a throw away idea I had when playing the Amber diceless RPG many years ago, about a shadow where the natives would attack on sight anyone not wearing an anklet. From that core of an idea I developed the rest of the country around that, giving them a reason to care about the anklet. I chose to make the names based very loosely around African languages, using a few internet translation sites to get some more authentic sounding names and words. The country's name is my attempt to translate "Land where men guard the earth", similar to the real country of Bourkina Fasso which means "Land where men walk upright", which has always amused me.

Clark, I can sense that you weren't a big fan of the rainbow trees and rainbow wood. As for My Little Pony, I was thinking of working them in more overtly, but I chose a subtle nod to them by the inclusion of rainbows; plus I didn't want to run into any IP issues since they're not in the SRD. :) In all seriousness though, Clouds Without Water at least saw where I was going, in that rainbows make a good representation of magic for a primitive people. In hind sight, I definitely overused the word rainbow, and should have given the trees a name, and then simply described the wood as rainbow colored. I briefly considered having them linked to couatls, but then decided that it would be too similar to the Silver Flame backstory from Eberron. However, I do stand by the decision to link rainbows in, as there certainly is precedence, such as bifrost the rainbow bridge from Norse mythology, leprechaun’s pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, and the Old Testament’s use of a rainbow as a sign of God's covenant with the Israelites.

I made a conscious choice with making a big chunk of the entry around the history, mistakenly thinking that telling about the country as more of a narrative instead of a dry gazetteer entry would make it more fun to read. In hindsight, I see why this wasn't a good choice, since too much space was spent on the past instead of the present. Also, the overuse of K names wasn't a smart move - oh well, I've learned my lesson to put more time into names.

As for being a "one-trick pony", I'm not sure I fully agree with that. I count at least 3 options for use of my country - 1) simple jungle exploration with monster attacks, etc (which isn't all that exciting), 2) playing off the theme of plundering the jungle for the valuable rainbow wood while dealing with the Spears of the Jungle's Wrath group's attacks, and 3) dealing with the demons of the earth, and their attempt to escape. The three could be linked into a longer series of adventures. I could certainly have fleshed out more that was going on, but don't know if I only provided one option either.

I still hope to write up an adventure set in Ulmlinzi-Kiwanja and have some fun when the players have their anklets cut off or stolen and then have to deal with the natives and/or demons of the earth. I know that if I do make it to the top 16 I'll have to cut the fat and have every line of my entry be chock full of excitement or useful detail.

Thanks again for all the great feedback and for vote for those of you who voted for me.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Spar

Well said Joel, well said!

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