Chris Nichols

Round 1: Deadstring Shears
Round 2: Iolandis


Round 2: Design a country

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka CNichols


"Guardian Against the Wound"

Alignment: LG

Capital: Landamir (pop 83,300)

Notable Settlements: Fort Paxnoble (pop 30,400), Thenthoyal (pop 187,900), Archstaff (pop 49,700), Sondril (pop 63,200)

Ruler: King Aldin Kethamos I

Government: Governance is split between the Privy Council and the Common Council, both of which may draft laws, put forth proposals, and perform other governmental duties. All decisions of the Councils are subject to the approval of the king, who can accept or reject such decisions as he sees fit.

The Privy Council consists of the Mage Royal, the High General, the Commander of the Wound, the Intellgencer Royal, the Lord Exchequer, the High Admiral, the Magistrate Royal, the Lord Speaker (a liasion to the kingdom's churches), and the Consort Royal (currently Queen Tasha Kethamos).

The Common Council has thirty members, consisting of ten representatives from the largest communities in Iolandis, ten representatives from the nobility, and ten representatives selected anonymously by the king and Privy Council based on merit (supposedly). Community representatives are elected by vote of all community members who have served in the Iolandan military, while noble representatives are elected by a private election among the noble families.

Description: The kingdom of Iolandis has for generations stood as the most vigilant of the guardians of the Great Wound, the terrible wasteland created by the destruction of mad magelords of Yammat. Otherwise a peaceable kingdom of forests and fields, Iolandis keeps its citizens ready to defend themselves at a moments notice - a policy that has saved the kingdom more than once.

Thus, every able-bodied citizen is required to spend two years in the Iolandan military. Starting at age 16, citizens are trained as soldiers at either Fort Paxnoble or Archstaff, depending on their aptitudes. Those with talents toward arcane or divine spellcasting train in the academies at Archstaff, while those whose talents lie more toward physical combat train at Fort Paxnoble. After a year of training, recruits spend a year in the Wound, stationed at the various watch-towers and garrisons along the Fourth Wall. After their two years are over, soldiers are discharged, free to return home or re-enlist. Re-enlistment comes with a decent salary and a five-year shift, plus increasingly dangerous assignments. Even after discharge, citizens are expected to keep their skill honed; most communities hold a monthly training day for this purpose.

The reason for this aggressive military footing is the horror housed within the center of the Great Wound. The Yammati destroyed themselves by violently opening a planar tear leading to Outside. The explosive force of this disaster destroyed everything for hundreds of miles and brought about the Century-Night. Since that time, things from the Angled Darkness have festered within the Wound, slowly spreading outward from the heart of the Wound. Four rings of great walls have been built by gods and men to contain the spread of the psuedonatural horrors. Two of these rings have been overrun and the third is threatened. Worse, at times the things from outside sneak beyond the walls, appearing mysteriously to menace the heart of Iolandis. These unwholesome visitors also have brought the psuedonatural sickness (see below) with them, a deadly infection that most Iolanders are terrified of.

DM Secrets: The land where Iolandis now stands has been home to many nations in the past - the empire of Laoque, the undead kingdoms that flourished during the Century's-Night, the fueding kingdoms of Pasther and Joulaunt, the Machter Tyranny. Each has left it's share of dungeons and other secrets hidden beneath the surface of everyday Iolandan life.

Psuedonatural Sickness - Contact; Fortitude save (DC 18); Incubation 1 day; Damage 1d4 temporary Constitution. After six failed saves, the infection's alien matter overwhelms the afflicted creature, which gains the psuedonatural creature template. The original infected creature is effectively dead and cannot be brought back by anything short of a wish or miracle spell.

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. 643 words!?! That is our shortest by far...
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?
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

The material provided here doesn't match up with my expectations for useful flavor: the government, the obligatory service period, and even the prior kingdoms and illness all seem less useful for a DM setting up an adventure.

Those things provide a decent backdrop, but ... the only hooks I see are "fight the monsters." Which is certainly a classic hook, and yet I think this same premise could be more powerful if it focussed on what PCs are likely to see and do.

Demographically, I gotta ask how a city of almost 190,000 people survives a plague like this. It's MASSIVE by fantasy/medieval standards, and seems like an epidemic waiting to happen. So why isn't that in the DM Secrets section?

Overall, this seems like a strong adventure premise and a weak country premise.

Not recommended.

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

Iolandis is a cool name for an RPG country. Good job there. The pronoun form, "Iolandan," also sounds good enough. So well done there.

Again I am intrigued by similarities between elements of this nation and the (as yet unfinished) Pathfinder Chronicles Gazetteer. In this case the "Wound" is similar to a location called the Worldwound that I was all pleased about naming, thinking I was sooooo original. Phooey.

I think the emphasis on the detailed government description and the first couple paragraphs of the description section put a lot of frankly sort of boring minutia up at the top of the entry, and that's probably a mistake. I suspect too much space here focuses on government, which is something that might be better elaborated upon in a format where you are not limited by such a brutal word count.

I like the pagragraph that rattles off a bunch of interesting place names and concepts in rapid-fire succession: Great Wound, Outside, Century-Night, and (especially) Angled Darkness. At first I was going to ding you for using the term "pseudonatural," but there it is in the SRD thanks to Deities & Demigods (thanks, Deities & Demigods!). So good form, there.

I'm unsure that the pseudonatural sickness sidebar (is it a sidebar?) is all that helpful, as those words could have been used describing what daily life is like in Iolandis. I get a sense of the military element of the nation and what's going on directly around the Wound, but I don't have much of any sense about what the people are like, what non-Wound elements are going on in the country, and what sorts of adventures take place there.

The end result is that the entry reads like a one-trick pony, and ideally a country is robust enough to handle a couple of things going on at once.

Also, while you have a good gift for naming things, the quality of the writing itself could use some work. There's an awful lot of the dreaded passive construction going on here, and I noticed at least one possessive that's missing its apostrophe. Ideally these things don't jump up at an editor when he's reading a manuscript, so I'd mark off some points there.

Overall i think this is a decent submission. The Wound gives you a built-in adventure hook and the evocative place names leave me wanting to see more from the author. But I wish there was more meat on these bones, and I wish I had a better sense of what's going on in Iolandis _besides_ the big obvious adventure hook at its heart.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Fluff (writing, grammar, style, evocative prose, etc.): B-
Competent. But you waste a lot of words on the government section. I’m a bit shocked you wasted words on government but then only wound up using less than 700 words in your total submission.

Crunch (basics, rules issues, depth of the setting, details, etc.): B
The Good: There are some interesting things suggested by the names and some juicy nuggets. I like the crunch of the sickness.
The Bad: Needed more crunch on the wound.

Design (choices made, format, naming, originality, theme, balance--ie, is the submission heavy in one part but lacking in another?): C+
The Good: I like the names, and that is a good start. The wound is cool. And your DM section, while very short, is sure loaded.
The Bad: Ugh! What are you doing starting with all that boring government stuff! We said, change the format if it helps your submission. You didn’t take that to heart. As a result, you wasted a chance to grab me with your content. Some submissions are about the government and the conflicts created thereby. Yours isn’t. It’s a boring LG government with laws and councils and people who want to do things on merit! Hooray! Those were a bunch of wasted words, which, in this round, are precious. And then you only use less than 700 words for the submission? I don’t get it.

In the end, I think this submission is more about the wound—a geographical feature—than it is about the country. That is not the design task here.

Play (setting for adventure? campaign? is there conflict? are there play limitations?): B-
The Good: Kill the monsters, explore the wound!
The Bad: Problem is, that is all there is.

Tilt (my personal take, is it evocative? do I want to play there? does it capture my imagination?): C
I like the wound, but the country is blah.

Overall: C+
A cool geographical feature surrounded by a boring country in a submission that uses less than 700 words and wastes a good deal of those on boring government.


Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

Yeah, in retrospect the fact that it's so far under the word count is a disappointment.

This entry screams rip-off of the Border Kingdoms from the Wheel of Time novels. While I don't think that happened (since there is plenty of evidence that similar things can be created by two separate people in vacuums) there doesn't seem to be much there other than the Wound. The part at the end about there being ruins of many ancient civilizations about just seems tacked on.

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

I like the names for the areas: while some entrants (and non-entrants) are complaining that naming things is the hardest part, I think a superstar doesn't have that issue. Anything I read in preparation for a campaign had better have a list of compelling names, or the RP element is sort fo sacrificed and excitement isn't created.

Unfortunately, you have to be able to live up to the ability to draft great names, and so far, this place doesn't. You have The Wound and little else. And what about politics? To me, a politics paragraph isn't about the infrastructure of the government. It's about the interesting figures who disagree on how to keep their people safe from the enemies boiling out from the wound (and what enemies are those, by the way?). Is ther a faction raising money to buy enchanted weapons so they can push the enemy back into the Depths? Is there a corrupt and cowardly element dealing with the enemy to save their own skin?

Thus far, the fatal flaw in capturing my vote (I acknowledge this is not the most important thing on anyone's mind), is the failure to grab me, hold on and stun me with a brilliant adventure design,and role playing opportunities.

If you think of the Rokugan setting for Oriental Adventures (I am sure there are other examples, and I am also aware Rokugan is more than just an OA setting), you bear some similarities, but miss the opportunity that Rokugan takes full advantage of. At any given time THE ENEMY is the Shadowlands. Beating down the evil that constantly regenerates from that place takes precedence over all else. But the Clans deal constantly with the threat of intrigue and war within. Tradition, culture, history are the real enrichment of Rokugan. There is a whole campaign of adventure outside of the Shadowlands, although once again, that place is the common enemy of all, which is constantly reinforced in culture.

According to a previous post, some submitted magic items were as long as your country submission. You had 300 words to give us culture, flesh out the fantastic location names you offered up, and provide some really sinister secrets. Not only was that a big mistake on those grounds,but remember, if you can't submit pretty close to the words requested by your publishers, they have to sell another add or otherwise fill that content. Will your 32 page adventure only occupy 21 pages?

This is my sixth country I've read. There's some good writing, and some good ideas like the Wound and the conscription.

Liberty's Edge

Wounded. This is another one with a good premise that doesn’t seem to really follow through. I was surprised that it’s so far under the word count, because wading through that government section it seemed much longer. I think the entrant has done themselves a disservice by not better utilising the word count, perhaps by giving us a better idea of the lay of the land and more details on what sort of creatures emenate from the Wound.

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

Not a bad effort, but those other 300 words under the limit could have been put to good use fleshing things out and developing a stronger intro that drew in the reader. I want to know what else is happening in the country besides the Wound, whether the battle has always been a losing one or if the country has pushed back the darkness. I wasn't as tickled as some by the place names (although Iolandis itself is a great name for a country). The one that killed me, though, was "the Fourth Wall." Yes, you explained a reason for it to be called that, but come on, "the Fourth Wall"? Addressing the audience from the stage or the camera. It was an unfortunately an eye-roll moment for me.

I actually really liked the disease, though it is pretty hardcore and could be a total wipeout sickness all by itself in a protracted war, especially in those super-large (by D&D standards) cities. I also liked the info on conscription, service, and leadership, though there was a little too much of it and it could have been moved further back in your entry.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Erik Mona wrote:
I think the emphasis on the detailed government description and the first couple paragraphs of the description section put a lot of frankly sort of boring minutia up at the top of the entry, and that's probably a mistake. I suspect too much space here focuses on government, which is something that might be better elaborated upon in a format where you are not limited by such a brutal word count.
ancientsensei wrote:
If you think of the Rokugan setting for Oriental Adventures (I am sure there are other examples, and I am also aware Rokugan is more than just an OA setting), you bear some similarities

I think these two quotes pretty much sum up my opinion about the shortcomings of this submission. On the upside, I enjoyed the writing. It was coherent, cohesive, and to the point. I also like the names you gave to stuff. I am sorry that you chose to give us so little about what goes on in Iolandis, because it would make for an awesome setting if it had a little more complexity.


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

CNichols wrote:


"Guardian Against the Wound"

Solid basic concept, doesn't really follow through and ends up more or less generic setting. I'd like to see much more about the deeper effects of the Wound on shaping the society. Doesn't feel well thought out in that way.

I do, however, very much like the names Century-Night and Angled Darkness.

The government felt way too British to merit all the words it consumed. Not different enough from even the real world.

It’s not bad. This would be a great entry if it described a town.

It's a very interesting idea to build a country around. It's very disappointing that you didn't use your remaining words to breathe more life to it.


I just read Wolfgang Baur's "how to be a superstar" on his livejournal thing, and he mentions a number of times about how things need to grab you. This entry did. I'm going to explain why.

I think dismissing the government section as "boring" is wrong, and missing the point. As I was reading it, I was seeing this goody-two shoes place, full of pomp and circumstance that screams protocol, orders, hierarchy, and just plain "goodness".

Then, I read about the Wound, a place that defies everything the government stands for. I read about forced military duty upon the people, and how even then they're not holding "it" back. They're just surviving, and they don't know for how long this is going to last. It's a desperate struggle, and at its core, your basic Good vs. Evil that everybody can identify with.

This entry leaves it open so that a DM can take it so much further, and bend the obvious situation of the Good Kingdom vs Overwhelming Evil to his whim. I see the white alabaster walls being chipped away. I see fear in the citizens hearts and on their tongues as they discuss a fort that hasn't reported in. I'm wanting to invent ideas about how members of the nobility, or Common Council could be infected, but nobody knows.

I see a country that I could use as a starting point, and give the PC's a great introduction into thinking "hey, we're gonna fight evil and get treasure in this stereotypically good kingdom", but really springboard it into something Victorian, something Epic, or perhaps something entirely Lovecraftian. Who knows? Me, the DM. Nobody else. That's the way it should be.

I'd be comfortable giving this entry to my players, to read about this country and know what's going on. I wouldn't be comfortable doing that if it listed that this noble is infected, and that the humdinger artifact could stop the Wound.

I don't agree with the assessment of the only hook being "fight the monsters". I don't agree with the assessment of a "one trick pony". I don't agree with a country entry telling me everything that's going on. Players can read too. I do agree with more meat on the bones. I do agree with it being concise, and to the point.

I believe that right now, this entry gives you everything you need to take it, bake it and make it your own.

You've got my vote.

- Bryan

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6 aka TerraNova

Pretty short-grasped for a pseudo-lovecraft setting. I would have liked to know more about how the "wound" affects the actual life and government of this country, rather than just knowing they've got compulsory military service.

I think you could have made this more unique, and more specific to the coolest gadget you have. Play on your strengths, not on laying down the specifics of "mundane life", giving out the cool stuff almost as an afterthought.

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, I think.
Is it entertaining: No, boring read
Is it original: No

Final verdict: Rejected.

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

It has a strong concept from the start that's well described after some initial waffling.

I'm not convinced that the somewhat mixed form of democracy contributes. It doesn't seem a suitable form of government for a vital military command.

I don't like the name 'Fort Paxnoble'.

Misspelling of 'pseudonatural' and 'feuding' and misuse of 'it's' are killers.

Not voting for this.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I like the names and the idea of four walls around the Wound. But as others have mentioned before me, it had been helpful to read more about the people (you would've had 300 words to use for that). And the idea of Iolandis being built on the ruins of former nations doesn't work for me. It feels attached to the country description just for the reason to present some dungeon crawls but you don't get the sense of any historical continuity.

I'm trying to imagine why this submission is 300 words short of the maximum, and I'm only coming up with three possible explanations: audacity, arrogance, or a simple mistake.

If the subtext to this is supposed to be that under the LG veneer of Iolandis everyone is crapping their pants about the Wound, then I would've liked to have seen that brought out a bit more.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 aka adanedhel9

This entry seems... incomplete. The Wound is a great starting point for a nation. But there just wasn't enough beyond that to make this stick.

I'm ambivalent on the names. While I think they are fine names, and they evoke the right feelings, I just don't like them that much. To each his own, eh?

Hmm. Interesting idea, decent description but ultimately it didn't particularly interest me. A bit similar problem as with wondrous item, great image but ultimately forcing me to declare "this should have been better".

Dark Archive

This would have benefited, I think, from some crunch, perhaps a pair of regional feats, one to represent fighters against the creatures of the Wound (+saves vs. aberrant attack, bonus to hit them, sort of favored enemy-ish, to represent the training and experience these people have with this constant threat), and another to represent those touched by it's Taint.

Detail on the effects of the Wound on the surrounding area would also be neat. Is some particular bit of local fauna or flora endangered, or even replaced entirely by something from that other plane, like the red plants in War of the Worlds or the alien ecosystem invasion from the Chtorr Wars novels?

Is the government in permanent 'emergency status' because of the unending threat, do they monitor officials with magic to ensure that no insidious corruption or madness has sprouted up, as would seem to be a risk in such an area? Or is it just 'that place way over there,' and a matter of fact part of life, that nobody really bothers to think about (leading to possible corruption, madness and taint lurking underfoot constantly...)?

I've read about 13 so far and this is my favorite. I love the wound and the walls around it. I love all the terms "century-night" made me say, "YESSSS!" The history of past civilizations made me want to know more about them. There is so much potential here.

I do agree about some of the other things they're just overshadowed by how much I enjoyed reading it. The not using all the words thing definitely bothers me but I'm still voting for this one (unless 5 others blow me away and none of them really have so far).

Place your votes.

Starts out boring, but then the Wound is interesting - reminded me a lot of the Shadowlands from Legend of the Five Rings; maybe too much. In general, the entry seems to have less information in it that other entries at the same word count.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

Angled Darkness? That gives me goosebumps.

I like the basic concept, with a kingdom that lives OUTSIDE a wall designed to keep the nastiness IN rather than OUT. Still, that Government section is a tough nut to crack, and it really hit a sour note so early in the entry.

The crunch is good, and that Pseudonatural Sickness is nasty with a capital N. It goes a long way toward giving reason for the harsh policies of Iolandis. Still, this losing battle against a rift to Angled Darkness in the wake of Century-Night doesn't bring the dark, pyrrhic vibe that it should. Instead of Lovecraftian, I get a litany of names (Pasther and Machter Tyranny, I'm looking at you...) that sound straight out of fanfic.

There simply isn't enough here to get a vote, and the word count used doesn't just drip with evocative flavor. With 300 words left unused, I can't abide even a single dull paragraph. Thanks for sharing your entry and best wishes!

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

the good :
Pseudonatural effects and antagonists are always .... ahem, 'good' thing in my book, and some of the terminology you coined for this is evocative. (Colour me happy that it is SRD, id didn't know either !)

the bad :
Iolandis is a pretty boring (if that) place except for its border, and far too pretty, conventional and "been there before" for my taste, especially since we learn little if anything about its everyday life, the people's attitude and how their geographical accident is influencing their mindset. Overall, I found the whole realm far to fairy-pretty and "good" for a country in such an exposed, effectively "under-siege" position, where obviously the pseudonatural is a constant and subversive threat.
I consider the list of government offices useless and a waste of space, especially since no real plot hooks derive from it. Especially since you left out how the country is actually governed or organized, never even explaining why there are nobles, elected governers etc. and how they represent and interact with society. Oh, did I mention that there was no notice as to the Olandian people's composition, attitude to the outside world or even what moral values they emphasize ?

the ugly :
The utter lack of information on the Iolandian peoples' believes, habits, traditions or heritage in combination with the bland, and over-used geographical description make this country appear two-dimensional, card-board cut-out and, to my mind at least, absolutely implausible. This would never see use in a campaign of mine.
Shame that you had 300 more words to spend and didn't

voted against

Sovereign Court

Where's the beef? Then again, it's so open, I could do anything with it. Then again, it's so devoid of grounding the motivation to do so isn't really there. It needs a starter.

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