The Prison Colony of Saran

Round 2: Design a country

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Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 8

The Prison Colony of Saran
"Prison in a Globe"
Alignment: NE
Capital: Hope [pop. 1,500]
Notable Settlements: Skrag [pop. 2,000], Keep of the Exiled King [pop. 500]
Ruler: Mayor Abigail Fairchild (Human, F, Pal 8 [Fallen]) (Legitimate), Rasputin the Black (Dwarf, M, Rog 7/Ftr 3) (Rebel)
Government: Meritocracy/Authoritarian

Description: Saran is the penal colony for the Solarian Empire, located upon a finite demiplane within a globe of clear glass 6 inches in diameter. The climate is temperate and seasonal, enclosing a 50 mile diameter space with mountains and heavy forests to the north and a span of sea to the south. The demiplane is like the Material Plane in all respects except for no connection with the transitive, inner or outer planes. Only two portals connect Saran to the Material Plane; a Two-Way portal near the western edge and a One-Way portal at the center of the globe.

History: The globe enclosing Saran was crafted by the mad Gnome Druid/Wizard, Kaynis Treehugger, who populated it with many different animals and monsters to study their interaction within a closed system, lost and was found about 500 years ago within the lair of a green dragon. Considered a novelty item in the Imperial Treasury for 150 years, Saran was established as a penal colony 331 years ago by Emperor Justus IV, to replace expensive Solarian prisons while avoiding divine prohibitions against the death penalty.

The first 200 prisoners were sent in with basic tools and a one month supply of food. Order came after half the prisoners had died from infighting, grudges, gnoll or hobgoblin raids and when a half-elf woman named Sadina (convicted of adultery) seized the remaining supplies and began a rationing system. Those who cooperated for the well being of all received more food and less food was given to those who would not follow her.

After a year of careful rule and 1,000 additional prisoners later, a moderate agricultural village had been formed with meat and dairy coming from herds of Bison. Other goods were raided as needed from trade caravans between the two native hobgoblin cities. Realizing the indefensible location they inhabited, Sadina collected many warriors from the prisoners, instigated a war and captured the lesser hobgoblin city of Grondish. Sadina renamed the city, Hope, where the prisoners permanently settled. Fully rehabilitated, she led the prisoners of Saran for twenty years, preaching cooperation and redemption until she was assassinated by her eldest son, Steven the Vile. Her assassination fanned the flames of chaos in the streets as murder, robbery and rape ensued. Steven incited the people to riot and destruction, promising personal freedom in anarchy; but, eventually, his younger brother Robert the Pure and Sadina's remaining supporters drove the anarchists from Hope into the Hordelands. There the anarchists proliferated while the gnolls and hobgoblins posed a continued threat to Hope's security.

Years later Solarian emissaries came to see what had become of their penal colony. They were so impressed with the City of Hope and the rehabilitated prisoners, they established a consulate around the now active Two-Way portal within the city, where individual prisoners could petition for parole or pardon every 10 years. They also brought in a complement of Solarian soldiers to aid the people of Hope against the evil forces beyond the city.

Current: Prisoners are regularly sentenced to Saran and arrive through a mist filled stone ring in the center of the Hordelands carrying a one day supply of food; prisoners and their descendants are exiled here with the chance of parole, but have no access to magic save for native sorcerers or Solarian Clerics. A signpost declares to new arrivals their options: 1. join bandits and nomads in the Hordelands preying upon other new arrivals and each other; 2. become petitioners in the city of Hope; 3. be captured by the forces of Rasputin the Black and pressed into slavery toiling within the metalworks of the Pit.

North, within the Harmonia Woods strange monsters and gnolls hunt and prey upon those prisoners who try to reach the mountain wall. South, upon the Sea of Tears, a special floating fortress, the Keep of the Exiled King was built by Emperor Rightus III and anchored near the sea wall. Originally built to house his older brother, it is now home to countless political undesirables. Supply ships travel there monthly from Hope.

To the East, the great stone-walled hobgoblin City of Skrag is strangled by the adamantine fist of the insurgent dwarf leader, Rasputin the Black (sentenced to Saran for unleashing several steam-powered engines within Sulair's Temple of the Sun). Here monsters, hobgoblins, natives and felon slaves are forced to craft siege engines, weapons, armor and steam-powered monstrosities to be used against Hope. In the West, led by Mayor Abigail Fairchild (a fallen Paladin seeking atonement), Hope stands as a beacon for the rehabilitated seeking parole and eventual return to Solaria.

DM Secrets:
Rasputin the Black is preparing to unleash war upon Hope using steam-powered siege engines, iron-clad monsters, hordes of hobgoblins and slaves; intending to drive through Hope, capture the portal to Solaria and escape beyond with his army to enact revenge upon the Emperor and Solaria.

Kaynis Treehugger died centuries ago, but he kept a tree-tower magically hidden within the Harmonia Woods in order to observe his experiment; many secrets and treasures are hidden within.

The Keep of the Exiled King holds Maximus I, the elder brother of the ruling Emperor Cleon II, who was believed killed during a hunting accident when he was 16.

A hive of Formians have spread throughout the mountain wall and are ready to expand their colony to the surface of Saran.

Nesting in the mountain wall are the last known pair of Rocs, all others hunted to extinction through the Emperors' sport.

The Prison Colony of Saran is an Imperial Solarian secret. Not one of the allegedly paroled prisoners has ever left the demiplane, but were instead murdered and used to fuel the furnaces heating Hope.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Submission checklist:

Submitted on time? Check.
Submission is a "country"? Check. Pretty darn close to not being a country. But on our stated criteria, I think it passes muster just barely. It is more than a city. Not much, but it is. And it would seem to justify its own entry in a gazetteer of the world in which it is set.
Submission contains all of the mandatory content as required by the contest rules? Check.
Submission is within the word limit? Check. 998.
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.
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.

The Exchange Kobold Press

Much as I like "bottle" scenarios, this is a prison, not a country. The empire that made it is a country.

I'm finding it hard to find anything to suggest that this country deserves a vote. It's not hitting the mark with tools for the DM, evocative names and locations, or a powerful theme.

Not recommended.

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

Right off the bat I find that I dislike the names used in this entry. Abigail is hovering right on the edge of real world names acceptable in a fantasy context, while Fairchild is over the edge completely. And then we come to Rasputin, who is a mondo-famous figure from history, and I'm already disposed against the entry before I'm even done with the introductory shapshot. That's not a good sign.

I also have some stylistic concerns. You capitalize Gnome, Druid, and Wizard in the first sentence of the History section, which is punctuated by a REALLY lame name in the case of "Treehugger." That is such a lame, generic name for a druid that it can be found on one of those terrible AD&D trading card sets TSR farted out in the mid-1990s. Except there at least the author had the wisdom to mask the name into something like "Tre'huger the Druid." Neither approach is admirable, and I'm disappointed to see it taken here, especially since I liked the elemental quiver and thought the charges of unoriginality were unfounded. I'm sorry to say there is unoriginality aplenty in this entry.

You also don't need to capitalize "Two-Way" or "One-Way" when discussing portals.

The construction of the first History sentence could use some polishing. You should probably have put a period after "within a closed system" and then modified the last part of the sentence into its own.

Incidentally, when a would-be prisoner narrowly escapes banishment to this magical prison, is it referred to as "beating the Saran wrap"? You've got to be more careful with names that sound like something else, especially when it's the name of the country itself.

Why is Bison capitalized?

Again, the names do not get better as the entry goes on. The city of Hope does not improve things, and the names Steven the Vile and Robert (!) the Pure really pull the reader out of the fantasy world and into the cubicle at work. Emperors Justus and Rightus, while more fantastic in nature, are still aiming way too low, and by the time I got to the Harmonia Forest I'd pretty much already given up on this entry entirely.

I DO like the "Bottle City of Kandor" vibe you're shooting for with this entry, but I'm afraid the substance of the submission falls far short of my hopes and expectations for the contest. I appreciate the hard work you put into this submission and the good nature with which you've met criticism of the elemental quiver (which I liked), but I cannot in good conscience recommend this entry for advancement into the next round.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

The boys beat me to this one, too. So an abbreviated review from me.

Fluff (writing, grammar, style, evocative prose, etc.): B-
Spots of good writing. Some grammatical issues.

Crunch (basics, rules issues, depth of the setting, details, etc.): C-
No real crunch to speak of.

Design (choices made, format, naming, originality, theme, balance--ie, is the submission heavy in one part but lacking in another?): C
Names leave something to be desired. OK, I’ll go farther. Some of the names really blow. The real problem I have is that I don’t think you got it. You never focus on what the heck the PCs would do here. It seems abundantly clear that the reason PCs would come here would be because they are imprisoned here, for whatever reason, or they need to free someone who is a prisoner here. Yet your submission doesn’t focus on that, it makes the all-too-common mistake of giving us a long history lesson. You didn’t use the space you were given to detail this country in a way that is relevant to the PCs or DMs who will use it.

Play (setting for adventure? campaign? is there conflict? are there play limitations?): C+
Could have some fun play, but that is for the DM to invent. It certainly isn’t here in the description.

Tilt (my personal take, is it evocative? do I want to play there? does it capture my imagination?): C+
The funny thing is that I don’t mind the rather unusual idea of a glass prison globe country. I think it is cool. You just told us a story of its history, instead of providing us with what we need to play in it.

Overall: C+
Like the globe itself, I think this submission is a bit of a novelty item. But I have a funny feeling the voting public will like it. I don’t know why…


I wonder if perhaps this submission was inspired by the same mistaken belief that "gonzo gets you advanced" that afflicted the blink dog submission. I dont know.

Scarab Sages Marathon Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Card Game, Rulebook Subscriber

While the execution might need a little work, and it is hard to see this as a full country, it does seem like a nifty adventure idea.

This one made me think of a sci-fi novel maybe Farmer's -Riverworld- and then the woman's solution to the chaos reminded me of a Bujold story that the same thing happens on a prison planet.

The only name that really bugged me was the treehugger and that was in a, "oh no he di'int" kind of way. It seemed kind of strange that government of the outside country would send in troops to help but then secretly kill anyone that got out on "parole".

World in a bottle is easy to remember but the overall picture didn't wow me.

Extradimensional imprisonment is a pretty common idea in comic books...I kick myself for not thinking of using it in fantasy myself.

I really love the idea, and I think it definitely qualifies as a country. With a diameter of 50 miles, it has twice the area of Luxembourg and about 30 times the area of Liechtenstein, both real-life countries. It has a government and resources separate from the empire that uses it as a prison.

That said, the execution was poor. Even if the rest of the entry were great, I'd be tempted to not vote for it on the basis of the names alone. The DM secrets were pretty lackluster and could use a lot more fleshing out.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 8

Thank you Wolfgang, Eric and Clark. I appreciate this opportunity and relish your very blunt and honest feedback. That is what I wished and hoped for; so for me, you have not disappointed. Here's hoping that the public likes what I provided, but if not then life goes on and I shall still have the memories. Thank you everyone for any votes you send my way. Enjoy!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6 aka exile

I like the idea of prison colonies a lot, but this one is just a little too magic heavy for my personal tastes.


I think this idea has quite a lot of merit. What is the main objective here? Is it the grammer or an exciting adventure that has excitment and intrique? So what, if he used a lame name.."treehugger". What is really important is the fact that I would definitely remember for years role playing in this type of setting because it is interesting and different. This world isn't the same boring medieval setting that's been done over and over by a thousand different writers.

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

I agree. The basic idea here is very cool. The execution is lacking in many ways, but I do like the Bottle City idea.

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Actually, I dont think there has been a "boring medieval setting" that I've read yet..

I like the idea, and this would be a neat adventure locale. Don't know if its a country really, though.


What an eyeopening concept and oxymoron to think Hope exists but only to end up a victim of eternal greed. Alas, the battle will go on, and hope will prevail so this country has my vote...there is struggle enough for all!

Hmm... I think there is more to this entry than it is given credit for. The Prison Colony of Saran absolutely is a country. Yes, it's small, but it maintains its own government, supports itself and in every other way is completely independent of the Solarian Empire. If the Solarian Empire ceased to exist, the Colony would still continue on.

Have you guys noticed the variety of prisoners? Rasputin is a war monger, a fallen paladin (seeking atonement) rules the capital, which was founded by a woman who committed adultery. I think this says volumes about the Solarian Empire, and gives Saran another level of intrigue.

I think all of the contestants have done really well with their submissions. They had to create a country using only 1000 words. I've read a few other submissions and the DM secrets are usually lacking. I think they tried to give options for play, but also left it open for the DM to do what he/she wants.

Having said all that, I see an incredible potential for political intrigue and player interest. It's a different kind of setting, definitely gritty. There are several reasons why players would come here: Roc feathers could be an important spell component to a new spell that a PC or powerful wizard is developing, there is ancient treasure and secrets to be had and of course, freeing the "elder brother of the ruling Emperor Cleon II" would certainly turn the entire world upside down. There's tons of stuff for PCs to do but yes, they would only come here for that purpose (unless they got caught breaking laws in Solaria, in which case they are screwed... or are they?).

Just my thoughts.

Yeah, all due respect to the judges, but I think they're totally wrong on this one. The second I started reading this, I thought to all those great "penal colony" stories I loved as a kid - Barry Longyear's "Infinity Hold", or the movie "No Escape" with Ray Liotta. Both of which are organized locations with a story all their own.

Regarding the names - I personally like real-world names, like Abigail and Richard. I think it helps ground the fantasy just a little bit. While some of the names kind of blow (Treehugger, or Emperor Justice... and I can totally see "beating the Saran Wrap"!), they really didn't stand out to me too much.

I'll be voting for this one. I really see just a whole lot of adventure potential here.

This said "sci-fi" to me way more than fantasy. Naming has already been mentioned. This is an example of "cool idea needing better execution".

I've just gone through all 32 entries... and this one was one of my favorites. (I've got ~8 I've shortlisted to read through again before voting)

I'd just like to note (not that you can answer with the rules) that I one thing that stood out for me in both your item (Elemental Quiver) and now the country submission is the comic book vibe.

For me, thats a good thing. And I know Eric at least picked up on it in his comments on both entries. Hopefully others like it as well, and its an element I'd say to continue to run with in future rounds if you can.

F'ing Brilliant, what else can I say. The Idea is incredible, Kid Rock would like to play this campaign! Never mind that the names are from incredible works of literature and history. You people are fools if u dont recognize them! Even my wang knows where the names are from! much respect Nyucka.

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

Hey, Wik, you might want to read my comments again. My main problems with this entry have to do with the aquality of the writing, not whether or not the place is a country or if there are opportunities for adventure.

It is, in my view, obviously a country, and it's one of the more interesting core concepts to boot. I honestly think it is such a cool concept that it's going to garner a lot of votes on the strength of the concept alone. But I don't think the writing is good enough, and so I'm withholding my recommendation.

I too disagree with the judges on almost all of their "grading" accounts.

Grammar could definitely be cleaned up.

As far as the country thing goes, this is definitely a country. Multiple cities and locations, culture, heroes and villains. So what if it was originally intended as a prison. That is what the British originally used Australia for (even though it had its own population, as does Saran) but it certainly is a country. If it is a size thing, how big is Great Britain?

How is this country not playable? There are numerous conflicts mentioned in the description as well as a great amount of potential for a DM in the secrets section. How specific do you want the entry to be? The design is for a country not modules ready for play. It wouldn't take much as a DM to create a series of adventures and quests based on this description.

This country could even be ported into other worlds for anyone to use considering the dimensional status and allows for expansion of anyone’s campaign.

I would urge the judges to look at this entry as a whole and see the tremendous potential available.

Gets my vote.

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

General Gorshank wrote:
F'ing Brilliant, what else can I say. The Idea is incredible, Kid Rock would like to play this campaign! Never mind that the names are from incredible works of literature and history. You people are fools if u dont recognize them! Even my wang knows where the names are from! much respect Nyucka.

Names that come from real world history are often a design mistake in a fantasy world, because they pull people from the fantasy.

Please don't call people you disagree with fools. We try to keep these boards as friendly as possible.

The Exchange Kobold Press

Well, I'm willing to admit my initial impression was wrong: it's a country, and the Australia example won me over. It's pretty weird country, but hey, we're talking fantasy.

I'm glad to see that the strong concept is winning some voter support for this one. If those folks all vote for it, it might make it through to the next round.

But I have to say, without stronger execution on the basics (prose, naming, DM utility), it's going to be tough to stay ahead in future rounds. I stumped pretty hard for the elemental quiver, but I'm a little disappointed by this country. Maybe it's the comic book vibe.

I suspect different contestants will thrive or struggle with different rounds. I'm seeing this as a struggle round for Joseph.

Erik Mona wrote:

Hey, Wik, you might want to read my comments again. My main problems with this entry have to do with the aquality of the writing, not whether or not the place is a country or if there are opportunities for adventure.

It is, in my view, obviously a country, and it's one of the more interesting core concepts to boot. I honestly think it is such a cool concept that it's going to garner a lot of votes on the strength of the concept alone. But I don't think the writing is good enough, and so I'm withholding my recommendation.

Sorry, I was more referencing Baur on the "Not a country" bit. I was disagreeing with YOU on the use of real-world names (I like 'em!) ;)

I kind of agree on the writing just a tad, but the idea is so strong that it makes me want to see what else can come out of the designer. Really, this entry, along with Beria and Carnamach, are my faves so far. Of the three, this one is the poorest-written, but the idea just screams at me.

P.S. I ran a mini campaign in a setting somehow similar to this one, and it turned out GREAT. Personal experience tells me that domains such as this work great in actual play.

The short rebuttal first.
Consulates are diplomatic offices set up by one nation in another's territory. So by that strict definition, it would seem that all involved consider Saran and the Solarian Empire separate entities, same as the Australia and the British Empire example mentioned above.

The longer commentary.
There's a fine line between cool creative names, and the names that are just so "whatever" that I don't even bother trying to remember them. Thus, I firmly disagree with the posters who, in my perception, keep harping on it.

If I read correctly, the "Treehugger" character is long dead. In all likelihood, he wouldn't play an even mildly significant role in most any game. After all, I wouldn't think that Al Capone or Robert Stroud were all that concerned about who built Alcatraz.

There shouldn't be a concern about pulling people a little bit away from the "fantasy." In fact, I submit that letting players get too involved in the fantasy aspects takes away from the overall social gaming experience. Who among us hasn't had a fellow player get overly dramatic after their character had some horrible fate befall them? And who among us didn't roll their eyes at their histrionics?

Stop whining, get up, go get a drink--grab me a beer while you're at it--and roll up a new character.

Creativity is all well and good, when it adds something to the game--Rasputin is fairly easy to remember, and unless one is clueless about Russian history (or doesn't know about Hellboy), then you have an idea of what you're up against. Ditto for Abigail, a name that evokes two first ladies and Dear Abby.

Conversely, those names that are creative for the sake of showing off... "All hail The High Prince of Glenlivet Nokia, the Grand Poobah of Gollum Golems, His Royal Majesty Therup <deep breath> Denpray the Fourth." Inevitably, I call them "Bad Guy."

A character name (player or otherwise) is just a little icing on the cake that is a game.

To those who are concerned about that, let me just cut it off the the top for you, and I'll take the rest of the cake for myself. Thanks.

Liberty's Edge

Penal colony in a bottle. I really like the basic premise to this one. As has I think now been fairly firmly established, I don’t have any doubt that this qualifies as a country – a fairly creative and original one, but one with both literary and historic precedence. I’ve been putting together some ideas for a penal colony nation myself, and I think there’s a lot of potential in the idea – and I didn’t think in any way of a demi-plane penal colony!

All right, now the not so good things. I’m pretty much in Erik’s camp on the names, although I don’t think I hated them quite as much as he did. But they are the sort of things I would feel the need to change if I was using this in my home game. I think the entry may have spent too long on history, and I don’t think the quality of writing is fantastic. There were two things that I found quite cringe-worthy – the female prisoner who was convicted of adultery (I realise that this may be intended as a comment on the Empire … but still), and the signpost telling you what your options are when you get there. Urgh.

Great idea! I think it would be an interesting country to adventure in. I also, liked that you only used 1 or 2 sentences for each of the DM secrets entries. Some of the entries are getting too wordy and not providing enough hooks.

Definitely do not use a commonly known, real world name like Rasputin.

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

I stopped reading at "Treehugger".

This entry may go somewhere useful after that, but I'll never know.

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

Additional thought- Saran? As in Saran Wrap?

Are we sure this isn't a joke entry?

Still haven't read more to find out. Opposed on really-bad-names principle. Heh.

Hey, how about that! Between this and the undead country, I'm becoming not as original as I thought...

Erik Mona wrote:
those terrible AD&D trading card sets TSR farted out in the mid-1990s.

Sniff, I kinda liked those cards. Still have some in the spare bedroom closet. I thought it was a cool idea when the only other non-sports collectable card sets were for the "I need something to pleasure myself to" crowd.

although i like the prison colony setting you really have to careful with the names. Players can really get stuck on weak names and this can ruin hours of good roleplaying. On the opposite a cool name adds a lot of atmosphere.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 8 aka Sect

I love the concept, but for this contest, it just doesn't work. Still, I'm thinking about keeping it for a homebrew campaign.

Plus I keep thinking about Riddick, and having Vin Diesel running in your mind is always a good thing ^_^

No go. Sorry.

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: Yes
Is it entertaining: Yes / No
Is it original: Yes / No

Final verdict: Rejected.

While I like the prison colony in a bottle concept, a strong concept alone does not make a winning entry. What strikes me here is that the grammar is off enough that I can believe the author didn't have anyone else read it before submitting. Given that permission was given to have them reviewed (just not in a public forum), I find it frustrating that the author didn't take the time. So many small errors, like the capitalization errors, could have been caught and fixed - SHOULD have been caught and fixed - before it was posted.

The names are just off throughout the whole piece. Treehugger, Abigail, Hope - some bad names I can forgive, but an entry full of them? And I'm sorry - use of a historical name that is so specific it only really refers to one person (Rasputin) hurt this author in my book. Using a similar name to capture the feel maybe... I have the same struggles with names in some of the other entries though.

This is one of the wackier entries, and memorable because of that - but only one of the real risk takers has gotten my vote... and I'm afraid it isn't this one.

I should note that 3 of my top five got in on the strength of what was really just beautiful writing; it is probably my top requirement.

This one doesn't pass that bar.

On the other hand, it is a memorable idea that I may use in a different exectution for my home campaign.

- Ashavan

Star Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Interesting premise, but I just don't think it is useable to my campaign as written.

Indeed, there are some basic writing errors and that obviously doesn't reflect kindly upon your submission; however, I am willing to glance over that a bit -- to be honest I am surprised by the number of people using the passive voice (something I was guilty of in the last contest). . . so grammar has become a minor distinction for me in this contest.

Bottom line is that while I like the idea, it lacks function for me. And with only 5 votes, I cannot say that this entry will garner one. Good luck.

After careful review,
I have come to the following conclusions. The country in this post is evocative. Perhaps, due to the countries planar content, it's not suitable for every single campaign. That's the point. It's a cool niche country. Furthermore; for many players, it's the perfect reality bender needed to make a group of pcs believe they are on a different plane without the world being made of fire...

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I like the idea of the penal colony but I think it needs to be bigger, fifty miles in diameter is pretty small of a place to have a nation of hobgoblins and humans. I was doing pretty good until Steven the Vile and Robert the Pure after that you lost my vote.

A question of play....if the allegedly paroled prisoners became fuel for Hope, does this mean that escapees are gathering forces somewhere and are armed with elemental quivers???

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hm, I would like it if not for the fact that the setting shares too many similarities with the CRPG "Gothic", a german game, so those similarities may be accidental. But I cannot get rid of the feeling that I've already been there.

And then the names... you lost me with Kayne Treehugger.

This is exciting, and I can definitely use it as a jumping-off point for adventures... It's sort of like Australia in DnD. It definitely makes my top 10, I'll have to do some soul-searching to see if it fits in my top 5, though, since the concept is a bit limiting in how it's sort of walled off from everything else.

It could use more access points, escape points, perhaps a pocket plane by someone who figured out to work the magic.


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

varianor wrote:
This said "sci-fi" to me way more than fantasy. Naming has already been mentioned. This is an example of "cool idea needing better execution".

Yeah, I saw this movie. It stars Ray Liotta. Not to imply you ripped the idea from that source - there can be a lot of takes (the snow globe artifact is one example) of this, and when I brainstormed ideas for round 2, I briefly considered a prison demiplane where the 'convicts' were political enemies of a bad establishment. But my idea and yours are essentialy riffs off of Australia, and it doesn't suggest to me quality, unique, heroic adventuring.

Congratulations on making the top 32.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 aka adanedhel9

I'm actually quite surprised at how much I like this entry. I think, however, that my interest is not in this prison-plane, but rather in Solaria. I think this could've been a lot better had the empire been presented as well. (Isn't there a quote somewhere about judging a society by its prisoners?) Of course, that wouldn't really fit with the rules of the competition.

I like a lot of the ideas you have here, Joseph. I actually appreciate the real-world names; I think they do have a certain place in fantasy. But several of the names are just bad, on Earth or the Prime Material. And, as others have said, the grammar issues make this a less-than-stellar entry.

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

The basic concept was always going to restrict how much complexity the author could bring to this location. Unfortunately, he's gone at it mostly as if it was an ordinary country, rather than looking at any of the unique effects of a finite realm that develops solely from what and who is introduced to it.

Bad, bad names.

Bad sentences.

Gnolls, hobgoblins, formians? Where did all of these spring from, in an artificial plane with only two portals in? That might definitely be worth a DM Secret, but I don't see it there.

It has some sparks of potential to make something interesting of the setting, but that's really not enough.

I noticed that a lot of people still seem hung up on the names. I don't fully understand why. I agree with munchies420 in most respects. I think the names give a glimpse of the personality of the NPC (Abigail evokes honor and dignity, Rasputin for the ambitious rebel, and Treehugger was the gnome who built the globe and gathered the animals (gnolls and formians included) and constructed the terrain to study).

I like this country and I think it is very versatile; any DM can pick it up and drop it in his/her home game, which is what most of you plan on doing. Everything you need to run this country is provided. What I don't understand is, you like enough to use it, but not vote for it? Other entries were decent and others were great. The Prison Colony of Saran stands out most to me because it is different. It promises a unique adventure and experience that one would be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

As for lack of originality, I think it would be safe to say that everything has been done before and that nothing is new. Joseph made the "bottled city" different because of his use of political intrigue.

I've mentioned in a prior post that there's more to this entry than what you may first realize. Everything this author did seems very deliberate to me, from choosing the names to arranging the country's politics. I find Saran is the most intriguing country and will be voting for it.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Starglim wrote:
Gnolls, hobgoblins, formians? Where did all of these spring from, in an artificial plane with only two portals in? That might definitely be worth a DM Secret, but I don't see it there.

It was in there, though I was expecting more exotic creatures that would merit a druid/wizard wizard building a pocket world to study. Hobgoblins and gnolls are a dime a dozen. Seems like Treehugger was more interested in sociology and the founding of civilizations since he picked organized humanoids.

Joseph Yerger wrote:
History: The globe enclosing Saran was crafted by the mad Gnome Druid/Wizard, Kaynis Treehugger, who populated it with many different animals and monsters to study their interaction within a closed system...

The signpost was a red flag for me. First of all, it's kind of a terrible idea, and sounds more like something out of a Choose Your Own Adventure (or Endless Quest!) book than a D&D adventure. "Here are the three things you can do. Enjoy your day's worth of food." Second, it was poorly organized -- giving each option its own line would've been better instead of running them all together with commas (although I get that the author really likes commas). Third, the language used is uninspired and not at all evocative of the setting. Is that really what it says on the signpost? I doubt it would be that dispassionate. And if it is that dispassionate, that's even worse.

Overall, it's a neat idea, but the goal here is to pick someone to write for Paizo, and based on this entry, I'm not interested in reading more of this author's work. It seems like a lot of people are saying, "Oh, I can overlook the writing deficiencies," but it seems to me that that's a dangerously short-sighted attitude.

Although the idea of an extra-dimensional penal colony in a snow-globe is awesome this has some serious problems.

The first is the names: Kaynis Treehugger would elicit gales of laughter at my table and endless jokes about dogs (Kaynis=Canus=Dog), hippies, and which branch of Green Peace or PETA he worked for while Emperor Rightus III would get booed and likely renamed to Emperor Fancy Pants or "Emperor What's his face". They need some effort to be less hokey.

My second issue is that it is only fifty miles in diameter, not all that big to supposedly be housing a hobgoblin nation, gnoll tribes, formian colonies, and the prisoner population on top of mountains, forests, and seas. Oh, and a floating castle of people that don't mingle with anyone in Hope. How does all of that fit in a fifty mile diameter circle? How is the sea not just a lake?

Third, where did the two-way portal come from? Did the empire of Saran (Wrap) make the portal? If so, why haven't any of the prisoners created one and escaped?

Fourth, why would Saran care what happened inside their penal colony if no one could get out?

It is a neat idea but that is about it.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

You had me until "Steven the Vile". After that, it was all I could do to finish the paragraph. "Robert the Pure" and "Rasputin the Black" (I'm skimming by this point) were just nails in the proverbial coffin.

Too bad, too, because, conceptually, I thought this approach had a lot going for it. It seems to capitalize on the "That would be frickin' awesome!" vibe that Paizo has pulled off so well in the past. I hope the author keeps working (and writing), because with a little more polish, this thing could go places.

Of course, since it was submitted as a part of this contest, it's probably Paizo's intellectual property now.

As is, though, it probably doesn't make my top 5.

If I vote for this, it will be on the basis of that last little DM secret. That made me sit up and think the guys who send people here are BAD! (Presumably some of those in authority in Hope are, too, since they must know what goes into their furnaces.)
And with this place being a potential 'ark' having 'the last pair of Rocs' for starters (who knows what other species the gnome may have inadvertantly preserved from extinction?) there are hooks other than 'You have been sentenced by the empire to prison' for getting PCs in. (I think someone else mentioned using a Roc's feather as a spell component hook.)

I will concur with those who have added that at 50 miles DIAMETER it does seem a bit small and pokey, given that you have so many different terrain types listed. I would have preferred to see it a bit bigger on the inside, given the surface area that the marine/freshwater environments will presumably be occupying.

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