Round 2: Design a country

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I love it I could spend an entire campaign here. See ya in the next round!

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

This is a very attractive and engaging writeup. I had some questions, but most were answered within the text.

The name's unoriginal, but disguised enough to work.

The floating palace has been done many times. It's not particularly well explained when and how it was made to float. Not contributory, I feel.

It deals with arcane magic well, which many of the submissions haven't, but otherwise suffers a bit in diversity and breadth.

Possibly keep this.

I don't think I could add any accolades that Wolfgang Baur hasn't already covered in his initial and succinct response.

This entry was tightly written, professionally organized, internally consistent, contained compelling adventure fodder and fired up my imagination.

That's pretty much hitting all criteria for my vote there, folks.

Also, did I read that right? This is a society ruled by a cult of mage chicks? Really?

While that doesn't quite have me roasting weenies at the OMGWTFBBQ, it did come from far enough left field and was inserted in such an understated fashion that it made me quirk an eyebrow and make a puppy-dog face in pleasant surprise.

Anyhow, yeah... you've got one of my votes.


Dirk "Darkblade" Stabbity Stab-Stab McStabberson

"As Momma McStabberson used to say... When life stabs you in the back you take that knife and stab life right back in the back... of its' back... the backmost part... y'know... um, where its vulnerable?" - Dirk

Very good. I really liked the flavor text at the beginning, most importantly I think the description of the country lived up to it.

I'm afraid that scrolling down the list of entries, waiting for the first words to come up, I saw the word 'Ziggurats', went 'meh', and moved on to see if I wanted to take a look at the next one.
However I'm *trying* to somehow read all 32 of these entries before voting, so have come back anyway to take a look at it.
Ziggurats in jungle and god-kings?
It reminds me a lot of the pyramids in the Mungoda Jungle in the Dragon Warriors world (I suspect there must be a tradition for this engrained in fantasy- others have mentioned India but the Incas and the myths of El Dorado was a real world example more in my mind) and I LIKED that. All it needs now is a portly middle-aged sorceror with a metal claw hand, a flying carpet, and an oriental aristocrat with his entourage to complete the scene... ahem.

Do I like Iskandria? Yes. Am I going to vote for it? Don't know. I'm only about half way through the list so far and Sir Wulf and Russ T are both in contention for my votes as well.
I only hope that you haven't burnt yourself out with this one, though, and have some left in the tank for the next round if you make it through.

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

Awesome adventure seeds lay scattered around this entry, just waiting to sprout!

Made my top five!

Place your votes.

This one was a tough one not to put in my top 5, nothing I can pin point and I would drop it into my campaign in heart-beat. Great job.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Just wanted to spread this comment about - a great job on all these entries to all the competitors. Many have be inspiring and interesting to read.

I have been reading these out of order, and this entry fell around 12th in my reading. I apologize if I repeat what has been mentioned.

The feel I get from this definetly pulp-style adventuring, which could be good for a different take on fantasy gaming. That may also have some players feeling that the action is less fantasy mythos and more a D20 modern style adventure with some fantasy monsters and spells thrown in.

Some folks have equated Egyptian themes, but I felt there was more of a Maya/Central American theme (Ziggurats in the lush jungles; god-kings guarding ancient treasures and secrets) with a touch of a Cambodia/Southeast Asia/Indian feel (Grand cities and monuments within a jungle climate; names and titles like Rani, Jhansi, Sadhrakand, etc). This makes it feel more distinct than some of the more generic fantasy jungles you'll encounter.

Overall, you have painted a country of lush colors; high-adventure; and the potential to meet some interesting characters - sexy sorceresses as villains in the Sisterhood; cunning monsters in the hobgoblins; ancient relics in the pyramids; and strange allies in the Charlatans - to name a few.

There are some places that evoke a certain quality for a campaign or game world. Generally, it falls as:

a) Some place your players/PCs GO TO - for adventure, quests, missions, etc
b) Some place your players/PCs are FROM - this is their home and can be used as the basis for their background
c) Some place your players/PCs want TO STAY IN - they can adventure there; live in that society; and generally the game can be based there long term.

In this case, I tend to lean towards (a), but also see potential for (c).
It is very much in my top 10 right now, and the fact that it's the first one I have commented on only strengthens it to be one my votes.

I like this one. Yeah, some of the names are a little torturous, probably to give this more of an eastern feel, but honestly, even though I don't love the names, they do help to convey the idea that this isn't a "middle ages Europe" style nation.

While some of the "god-king" idea has been done before, I like the spin that this entry had. The idea of a sorceress worshiping an evil god taking over the "god-king" nation appeals to me, and I like the idea of an an all female based order of spell casters. Its such a staple of fantasy, but in d20 material, it really isn't used as often as other fantasy tropes are.

I liked the presentation on this one, and it seemed pretty easy to just flow through, without much pulling me out of absorbing it.

I do think that the names could have probably been more exotic and eastern without making them quite so contorted, but overall, I like this. Its fairly easy to work into an existing campaign, and it gives you a lot of hooks to work with. Plus, it sets up an adversarial situation that still allows the PCs to operate in the nation without diving straight into being the opposition.

Just to confirm that I have now completed my read through, and will be putting an 'x' in the Iskandria box. Thanks for stirring up the memories of Dragonwarriors days, even if your inspiration was somewhere else.

So I like this and pulp, jungles, and ziggurats are fun.

The "suspicion of arcane casters" is starting to wear on me as are the hobgoblins - I'm just seeing them in too many entries.

I kinda wish there was more going on here though. Sure, jungle ziggurats open up lots of opportunities, but I'm not sure how much of that is the author's doing. Is this as/more interesting than Xen'drik from Eberron? I'm not sure.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

Who doesn't like god-kings? (Other than sorceresses and their hobgoblin mercenaries.)

Nobody, that's who!

Very nice Rob! I have to admit I'm a sucker for anything that gives a nod to the Annunaki. Like Erik, I really liked the opening paragraph, it really grabbed me.

Lots of great stuff here, but I've gotta wonder what everyday life is like in Iskandria. Are they completely self-sufficient and isolated, or is there a flow of trade? With all this treasure, I'd be surprised if neighboring nations haven't tried invading already...or have they?

Great stuff, and definitely on my short list so far.

Sovereign Court

I like Iskandar! Er, Iskandria.

I would suspend a couple things that seem plucked from literature - The hobgoblin ribcage fort seems almost out of Perdido Street Station, and Jack vance had a Vermillion or some such Legion in Dying Earth. Minor quibbles. I can see the players groaning, "More monkey goblins! Don't they ever stop coming?"

Very clever - in fact I'm only voting for you - it's that good.

Tio wrote:
I WAS disappointed that I didn't learn more about Monkey Goblins though... but I'm hoping that is going to be in the monster submission.


Scarab Sages

This is definitely one of my favorites. What's not to like? You've given us monsters to defeat, treasures to plunder, and mysteries to unravel. Were I an adventurer, I would certainly travel to Iskandria.

It's creative and well-written! You've got my vote!

Great job Rob this gets one of my 5 votes.

I am glad I continued reading through the entries. Good, solid, with lots of room for a GM to sink his teeth into.

Okay, nine more entries to read and time is running short.

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

Thanks to everyone for their comments and critiques (and votes!). I really appreciate everything everyone has said, and I hope there's still some interest after this round is over for me to respond to questions and criticisms.

I hope everyone's having a lot of fun with this contest (I know I am!) and I hope to see you in the next round.

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

Rob, I want to thank you for creating a wonderful country, and also say that if I don't make the next round (which I'm not expecting to at this point), I will blame you in part for doing a jungle nation which far surpassed mine. :) You crammed a ton of cool stuff into your country - I think you somehow warped space to use more than 1,000 words. I'm looking forward to what you come up with in future rounds of the contest.

Grand Lodge

SargonX wrote:

Thanks to everyone for their comments and critiques (and votes!). I really appreciate everything everyone has said, and I hope there's still some interest after this round is over for me to respond to questions and criticisms.

I hope everyone's having a lot of fun with this contest (I know I am!) and I hope to see you in the next round.

I hope you do respond to the questions asked.

btw, you are free to do so now.

start any time

like now would be a good time to start

or now

or now even

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

Thank you again to everyone who took time to read my country and made comments and critiques.

And now that voting is over, I can take some time to respond to some of those comments.

SmiloDan wrote:
This isn't Egyptian!!! It's Indian!!! Jangala is the Sanskrit root for jungle; rani is a Hindi term.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for that. Yes, most of the flavor and inspiration came from India (as well as some Middle East).

Actually, I'm not sure where all the Egyptian comments came from. I guess a lot of people think ziggurats=pyramids, and if they're also tombs, they must be Egyptian. The same goes for Clark's comments about my "Egyptian theme." I stated in my item thread that the original inspiration for the coin belt came from the old Basic set gazetteer of the Emirates of Ylaruam, but the flavor and abilities were more inspired by the gypsy-like Varisians of Golarion. And as for my avatar, it was the first "hot chick that's not Seoni" that I saw (I just hope no one confuses me and Christine!). In any case, it is interesting to see what ideas people bring with them that I didn't have when I was creating things.

But back to Iskandria:

Most of the inspirations suggested by posters were interesting, but none of them were correct. I've never played (nor do I own) any al-Qadim or Jakandor books, though I have heard of them. I don't know what Dragon Warriors is. Of course I'm familiar with Deserts of Desolation, but again, the desert/Egyptian theme was never in my head.

The real inspiration (and the god-kings and ziggurats) came from ancient Mesopotamia, but I thought it would be interesting to have the ziggurats be both temples and tombs at different times in their existence. Names were primarily taken from India and Arabic, and while ziggurats in the jungle really evoked for me the temples of Cambodia and the exotic feel of India, I can understand that step-pyramids in the jungle would also lend itself to Mesoamerica.

Tio wrote:
Also, I love Iskandria (and voted for it) cos it basically means Alexandria, which means it was founded by Alexander the Great.

I like my history ancient, so Iskandria does in fact mean Alexandria (Iskander is the Arabic form of Alexander). Alexander didn't really found Iskandria of course, but I threw it in there as a sort of "easter egg" for other Alexander-philes.

As for hobgoblins, I'm not sure what all the hoopla was about that. I only counted 6 countries total that mentioned hobgoblins, and I would say that only in Iskandria and Malar did they play a major role. In my case, I chose hobgoblins because I think they are woefully underused (especially compared to orcs, goblins, etc.), and as LE militaristic types, would make the best mercenary humanoid army.

BiggusGeekus wrote:
A sorceress queen with an all-girl army of high charisma spellcasters? They even live in a jungle so it's pretty hot out all the time. Somebody was thinking about what the cover art might look like! I have no real strong feelings about this, but it was avoidable (just include the lads) and its clear pandering. While the author has clearly demonstrated an ability to keep the (majority male) audience in mind, there is such a thing as subtlety.

Believe it or not, that thought never even entered my head. I guess I was so focused on telling a good story that I never even considered this angle. Having said that, if my jungle sorceresses attracted some votes, so be it. And I would have no issues with any cover art that might focus on that, as long as is at least one ziggurat behind them! :)

Ragwaine wrote:
I was kind of laughing that the city of 1000 streets only had a population of 7000 (7 people per street), unless I read that wrong.

You did read that wrong.

Iskandria wrote:
Other settlements include the port of Muiu Thral (pop. 17,200), the City of a Thousand Streets; Sadhrakand (pop. 7,300), a bustling trade city nestled between the Viridian Jungle and the Sadhar Plain [snip]

The semicolon after City of a Thousand Streets shows it refers to Muiu Thral; Sadhrakand is a bustling trade city, etc. Although it probably would have been clearer if I had written:

Muiu Thral, the City of a Thousand Streets (pop. 17,200);

Basiliv wrote:
With all this treasure, I'd be surprised if neighboring nations haven't tried invading already...or have they?

Remember the treasure is all inside the ziggurats. And to make a real-world parallel, I don't recall anyone invading Egypt just to take what was inside the pyramids. And keep in mind that until 10 years ago, the ziggurats were sacred and under the magical protection of the god-kings' bureaucrat-priests, not to mention the guardians placed there to guard the tombs. I guess to me it seems there are better uses for armies than tomb-robbing.

Radavel wrote:
Will there be a god-king PrC?

As god-king is really just a political/religious title, I would have say no. However, the Charlatans of Almudin might make an excellent PrC...

I addressed most of the questions I saw and comments I felt the need to respond to, but if you have any other questions (or if I didn't address yours), feel free to make a post and I'll do my best to answer it.

I'll be making another post later with some design commentary as well as things I had to leave out.

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

Design Commentary and Deleted Scenes

First off, Iskandria didn’t come from any homebrew setting of mine; it was created whole cloth for the contest. Inspiration came mainly from history as detailed in my previous post.

Like everyone, I think, the 1000-word limit really forced to cut a lot of information. My opening “flavor” paragraph was originally twice as long, describing the travails of the explorers trekking through the jungles (fighting monkey goblins, for instance), and just throwing out some more imagery to set the scene. But I am very pleased that people liked it – I thought it would be more interesting to start with a story than a boring description of government. (I still have the original opening paragraph, BTW, if anyone’s interested in seeing it.)

Originally, I also started with more history, specifically with how Sephrilara usurped the throne and killed Zbad. Then I realized that would take way too many words, and besides, it was the current situation that mattered, not what came before. In other words, characters are adventuring in Iskandria under Sephrilara, not in Iskandria under the god-kings.

I also had more to say about the cities and geography, but who wants to read about geography? That’s what maps are for. And because of word-count, the cities just got the briefest of descriptions.

There was also a lot more I wanted to say about other races and monsters in Iskandria, but had to make do with hobgoblins, dwarves, forest gnomes, and a passing mention of elves in the jungle. In particular, I had a lot more to say about the elves, because they are mentioned in the SRD as the most hated foe of hobgoblins, and what happens when hobgoblins become the main police force/army of a country? Basically, elves originally hail from isolated villages in the jungle, and most elves from the cities have returned to those villages to avoid persecution at the hands of the hobgoblins. Halflings aren’t native to Iskandria, but handle much of the trade along the Widu River.

Other races and monsters (and where they live) that I didn’t have space to mention were:

  • Viridian Jungle: couatls, nagas, dryads, girallons, giant insects, as well as normal jungle animals like crocodiles, leopards, monitor lizards, monkeys, and tigers
  • Banshar Kush/Erm Hyar: giants, razor boars, rocs, cloakers (underground)
  • Jangala Wastes: desert orcs, sphinxes, basilisks
  • Sadhar Plain: gnolls, baboons, hyenas
  • Widu Delta marshes: lizard folk, shocker lizards, stirges

Sorry, kobold fans, never thought about them (they seem too overplayed), but they would probably fit well in the Erm Hyar.

I got some comments about the all-female membership of the Cerulean Sisterhood. I think this stood out more than it would have (or in a different way) had I been able to go into more detail. Originally, the concept was that not only were all girls with sorcerous powers inducted into the Sisterhood and brainwashed, but that all male children displaying the same were killed, in a kind of Biblical Egyptian thing. I think it makes the Sisterhood (and Sephrilara) a bit darker, and provides some motivation for Raj al’Afalani and his rebellion, but I didn’t want to fall afoul of the “taboo” restrictions against violence towards children.

Finally, I also got some comments about lack of crunch. Again, word-count was an issue, and things like basic stat blocks would of course be in a published gazetteer. But I knew this wasn’t for publication, and so purposefully left that information out. I specifically didn’t mention any geography or other countries outside of Iskandria either, because I thought it might be more useful as a generic setting that DM could plop down anywhere and customize to his or her campaign’s needs. For example, Sephrilara’s “dark god of tyranny” was Golarion’s Asmodeus in my mind, but could just as easily be Bane in the Realms or Hextor in Greyhawk.

Oh yeah, monkey goblins. I never imagined that they would get so much interest. I’m actually a little hesitant to reveal anything about them, for fear of disappointing people who might think they’re the coolest thing since sliced bread. I’ll have to think about it some more before I reveal any more about them (then again, I may just be building them up even more).

If anyone has actually made it this far reading through all of the above drivel, congratulations and thank you.

And please, feel free to ask any more questions you like, now that I’m free to respond.

Grand Lodge

I read your entire explaination! I would like to see the expanded version of it please. You could email it to eltjo at wanadoo dot nl.

Yes you are building up the suspense about Monkey Goblins :-D

By the way, a Dutch writer named Louis Couperus wrote a very very cool book called Iskander (about of course Alexander). I read that book over 10 years ago, but perhaps you can look it up somewhere to see if they translated it to English.

Very cool read, heavily recommended.

And Iskander conquered the world into India, so any references to Asia are more then appropriate for Iskandria, which you obviously employed.

Oh, one more question... When will you be starting the campaign in Iskandria and where can I sign up?

The Rise Of Iskander - Benjamin Disraeli
The sun had set behind the mountains, and the rich plain of Athens was suffused with the violet glow of a Grecian eye. A light breeze rose; the olive-groves awoke from their noonday trance, and rustled with returning animation, and the pennons of the Turkish squadron, that lay at anchor in the harbor of Piraeus, twinkled in the lively air. From one gate of the city the women came forth in procession to the fountain; from another, a band of sumptuous horsemen sallied out, and threw their wanton javelins in the invigorating sky, as they galloped over the plain. The voice of birds, the buzz of beauteous insects, the breath of fragrant flowers, the quivering note of the nightingale, the pattering call of the grasshopper, and the perfume of the violet, shrinking from the embrace of the twilight breeze, filled the purple air with music and with odor. A solitary being stood upon the towering crag of the Acropolis, amid the ruins of the Temple of Minerva, and gazed upon the inspiring scene...

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

The description did actually evoke images of Ankor Wat and Siam to me, but I can see the Mesoamerica connection.

monkey goblins = talsoi?

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Tio wrote:

Oh, one more question... When will you be starting the campaign in Iskandria and where can I sign up?

** spoiler omitted **


Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Rob, excellent work! I wanted to congratulate you personally. What can I say that my A+ didnt already say about this entry. You did an excellent job. If this had been a 1-vote system, you would have gotten mine. Keep up the good work and good luck in the next round.

Marathon Voter Season 9


The Exchange

Shameless threadjack - so firstly apologies to everyone, but Rob's Iskandria is partly to blame.

Tio and Mactaka if either one of you wants to join a pbp now which will have a fair bit of Iskandria in it then let me know on the Gamer Connection under "Your Island Needs You or setting the table."

Could do with one or two more willing victims.

Cheers and Good Luck Rob, I'm rooting for you.

Scarab Sages

I immediately pictured Iskandria geographically between India and Mesopotamia, perhaps where the Indus Valley civilization was. I think that there should have been an emphasis on the interior being mostly abandoned as the culture waned, hence the abandoned ziggurats and the lost city.

I am sddened by there being no love for the kobolds, but monkey goblins more than makes up for it. :D

Thank you for posting the additional information and the design notes, they provide more depth for when I wahoo this country for my own campaign! ;)

Grand Lodge

French Wolf wrote:

Shameless threadjack - so firstly apologies to everyone, but Rob's Iskandria is partly to blame.

Tio and Mactaka if either one of you wants to join a pbp now which will have a fair bit of Iskandria in it then let me know on the Gamer Connection under "Your Island Needs You or setting the table."

Could do with one or two more willing victims.

Cheers and Good Luck Rob, I'm rooting for you.

I'll be posting there shortly.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Awesome job!

This was reminiscent to a lot of Howard's Conan stories where he explores hidden ruins in lush tropical vistas, encountering terrible supernatural creatures and beautiful scantily clad woman. It makes me want to roll up a character right now and start playing.

You've got my vote, for sure.

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

Tio wrote:
Oh, one more question... When will you be starting the campaign in Iskandria and where can I sign up?

dibs! I already made a character for this game!

With regard to Round 6, I will be taking into consideration the level of feedback/responses that contestants have provided in previous rounds to inquiries regarding their entries. Those who write for Paizo officially are usually very good at responding to questions regarding their modules. I would expect a superstar to have shown at least signs that they can handle requests for errata and or clarification. In the event of high quality submissions from at least two, maybe three of the contestants the level of responses (and patience shown) in previous rounds may very well be the tie-breaker for me.

At the moment, I'm checking through the archives before Round 6 is posted to refresh my memory on levels of feedback provided in earlier rounds by those contestants who have reached the final round, and at present you're ahead in my estimation, Rob, for what that's worth.

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

Where's my freaking Iskandria game! My monk in Crown of the Kobold King is finally dead! Crappiest monk ever! Good riddance!

Now, where can I role this bad boy up!

The Exchange

Rob - you have two very willing players already, and probably more once you step forward.

C'mon give us some Iskandy love.

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

It might please you to know that I've recently been in secret negotiations with Rani Sephrilara herself regarding the use of Iskandria in a pbp game on these very boards. I have every confidence that I will receive full licensing rights very soon, and that the Crimson Legion will most likely not have to "interrogate" me about the monkey goblins that recently went missing from the Jhansi Zoo.

In other words, keep your eyes peeled on the Gamer Connection thread over the next week or so! :D

The Exchange

I shall begin thinking about a suitable victim. Though I'll leave the monk to Ancientsensei.

The Exchange

Right I reckon I'd like to play a bard. Probably a human although elf or outcast hobgoblin interests me too. The hobgoblin has a +1 LA so that could be a bit of a problem at first level.

As a generalist that leaves the way clear for the rest anyway.

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

For those interested in an Iskandria pbp, I've started a thread here. But hurry up, it seems to be filling fast!

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

Not a monk. fighter wizard, I think.

Send me an email, Rob - I've a couple of questions for you.

I have never playedPbP before, but I'm in on this game. My favrite new game world that I'm not writing!

: }

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