Burnt Apple Haven

Round 4: Design a villain's lair

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8

Burnt Apple Haven
After the Bumpy Apple Company burned at the hands of a mob, Rustin Harp retreated from the local area with the few survivors and their remaining possessions. Finding an isolated spot, they set up their burned wagons and ruined carts for the last time, creating a sanctuary for those deemed too monstrous for the outside world. Here, Rustin preaches the word of Lamashtu to his followers, teaching them to rise up and take revenge on those who would shun them.

1. Common Area (CR 7)
A collection of decrepit wagons encircle a campfire. Despite evidence of crude repairs, each bears extensive fire damage. Strewn about the area are piles of refuse, the remnants of wagons too badly broken to be fixed.
This is the main living space for residents of the Haven. The wagons are used for sleeping and storage.
Creatures: The majority of the residents are in various locations about the campfire. When confronted with intruders, they will leap to the attack without any coordinated tactics.
"Artus the block head": Derro CR 3
A master of self-mutilation and grotesque "body magic", Artus has an incredible tolerance for pain which gives him DR 5/-
hp 16 (MM 49)
"Zakka the starfish boy": Choker CR 2
The strong kuo-toan blood in his veins grants Zakka the Aquatic subtype (with a swim speed of 30ft), the amphibious special quality, and a +5 alchemical bonus to his CMB checks for grappling.
hp 16 (MM 34)
"T'Senna the sword-swallower": Xill CR 6
hp 32 (MM 259)

1a. Snake Charmer Wagon (CR 9)
The interior of this wagon has long since burned away, leaving it a mere husk. A small, dirty pile of bedding lies along the east wall and a large wicker basket sits in the northwest corner.
This is the residence of one of Rustin's more prominent followers; the spirit naga, Abilashah. As one of the most powerful residents, she is the warden of any present prisoners. She sleeps in the basket while her "charmer", a charmed servant whom she keeps as a pet, uses the bedding. To hear prisoners located in area 1b, a character must succeed on a DC 20 Perception check (DC 5 if the prisoners yell for help). Another DC 20 Perception check to search the northeast corner reveals the trapdoor that leads below. It is locked (Disable Device DC 20 to open), Abilasha's servant has the key.
Creatures: Abilashah hates the light and prefers to stay in her wagon. At the sound of combat, Abilashah casts invisibility and fly on herself then hides in the rafters. She uses ghost sound to make the basket seem occupied and instructs her servant to play his flute. Once an intruder enters and attacks the charmer or the basket, she drops from the ceiling to attack. If her servant dies, Abilashah will try to replace him by using her charming gaze.
"Abilashah": Albino Spirit Naga CR 9
Abilashah has ghost sound instead of cure minor wounds. She has fly and vampiric touch instead of displacement and fireball. As an albino, she suffers from light sensitivity.
hp 76 (MM 192)
"Snake Charmer": Goblin Warrior CR 1/3
Abilashah's current servant is a goblin.
hp 5 (MM 133)

1b. Cell
This chamber is dug out of the earth. Rotten scraps of food are the only sign of use.
This is where prisoners captured for sacrifice are kept.
Creatures: Four 1st lvl commoners kept as prisoners.

2. Big Top Temple (CR 10)
The once bright colors of this grand canvas tent are now worn away. Rows of wooden chairs face south toward a stage that has been converted to a horrific altar. The pavilion is supported by a tall centerpole.
What housed the main attractions of the Bumpy Apple Company now serves as a temple of Lamashtu for Rustin Harp and his disciples. This is where Mhonda leads fervent worship to the goddess of monsters, ending in sacrifice. It is also where Rustin Harp delivers rousing speeches on vengeance and taking pride in deformity. The altar is designed to hold a prisoner captive for sacrifice. With the insertion of a special key (Mhonda's unholy symbol), the trapdoor to area 2b falls open and the altar tips the body into the pit. The door closes 1 round later. Activating the mechanism without the unholy symbol requires a DC 20 Disable Device check.
Creatures: Mhonda spends all her waking hours here, either in prayer to Lamashtu or rehearsing her sermons. Grigor the ogre is here most of the time as well, learning the religious rites in hopes of becoming a cleric himself one day. Also present is the Eater; a mutant bulette that spends the time between feedings asleep in its cage under the altar (area 2b). When the alarm is raised, Grigor prepares to free the Eater (see Bringing down the House). He stays near the centerpole and rages when the first intruder is within reach. See Mhonda's statistics for her tactics.
"Mhonda, the bearded lady": Female Dwarf Cleric of Lamashtu 8 CR 6
As Rustin's cohort, Mhonda serves as his second in command. She is obsessed with the satyr.
Description: Mhonda has dark braided hair, a full beard, and Rustin's name carved into her collar bone. Her fullplate armor also serves as a brace for her twisted and broken legs.

CE Medium Humanoid (Dwarf)
Init +1; Senses darkvision 60ft; Perception +3 (+5 vs taste and touch based checks)
AC 24, touch 15, flat-footed 23; (armor +9, deflection +3, Dex +1, natural +1)
hp 47 (8d8 + 8)
Fort +8 (+10 vs poison or magic), Ref +4 (+6 vs poison or magic), Will +10 (+12 vs poison or magic)
Spd 20ft.
Melee +1 falchion +9/+4 (2d4 +4/18-20), masterwork handaxe +9/+4 (1d6 +2/x3)
Special Attacks aura of madness (DC 16), channel negative energy 4d6 (DC 16), scythe of evil, touch of evil, vision of madness
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 8th)
1/day-- align weapon, touch of idiocy (DC 14)
4/day-- lesser confusion (DC 13), protection from good
Spells Prepared (CL 8th)
4th-- summon monster IV, unholy blight (DC 17)
3rd-- bestow curse (DC 17), blindness/deafness (DC 17), contagion (DC17), dispel magic
2nd-- cure moderate wounds, hold person (DC 15), shatter (DC 15), spiritual weapon
1st-- detect good, divine favor, doom (DC 15), sanctuary (DC 14), shield of faith
0-- bleed, detect magic, guidance, read magic
Domains Evil, Madness
Before Combat Mhonda drinks her potion of cat's grace and casts shield of faith. If there's time, she will cast detect good to determine which PC makes the best target for her unholy blight.
During Combat She will cast with summon monster IV. She then alternates between channeling energy and targeting the PCs individually. To boost herself and allies, she will cast divine favor and use her scroll of prayer.
Morale When only Grigor and she remain, Mhonda will order the ogre to knock down the centerpole of the tent (see "Bringing down the House"). She will escape in the confusion and recover nearby. If the PCs survive, she will attack with desperate vigor. She now fights to the death, consumed with her devotion to Rustin.

Base Statistics Without her spells, Mhonda's statistics change to:
Init -1;
AC 19, touch 9, flat-footed 19; (armor +9, Dex -1, natural +1)
Ref +2 (+4 vs poison or magic)
Str 14, Dex 8, Con 12, Int 12, Wis 16, Cha 14
Base Atk +6/+1; CMB +8 (+12 vs bullrushes and trips)
Feats Extra Turning, Improved Turning, Selective Channeling, Spell Focus (necromancy)
Skills Heal +11, Knowledge (religion) +9, Sense Motive +11, Spellcraft +9
Languages Common, Dwarven, Sylvan
Combat Gear potion of cat's grace, potion of cure light wounds (x3), scroll of cure moderate wounds, scroll of entropic shield, scroll of prayer; Other Gear +1 falchion, +1 fullplate, cloak of resistance +1, amulet of natural armor +1, masterwork handaxe, silver unholy symbol

"Grigor the strongman": Ogre Barbarian 4 CR 7
Grigor is a full-blooded ogre, but was born with an under-developed head. This makes him appear as an overly large and ugly human.
hp 79 (MM 199)
"The Eater": Mutant Bulette CR 7
This landshark is made even more monstrous by a vestigial twin protruding from its side and underbelly.
hp 94 (MM 30)

Bringing down the House: To set up, Grigor must take a special rope attached to the centerpole and connect it to a metal loop at the altar's rear. Given the command, the ogre breaks the centerpole, which is rigged to fall away from the altar. This breaks open the cage and releases the Eater. The collapsing tent blinds and hinders everyone inside. The bulette, with its tremorsense and burrowing, is unaffected.

- A DC 25 Perception check reveals the rope is not a real guidewire.
- Breaking the centerpole requires a DC 23 Strength check. Due to Grigor's familiarity with the system, he gains a +5 circumstance bonus to the check.
- Those within the collapsed tent are considered blind to anything beyond 5ft. In addition, they suffer as if though struck by a net attack, except the tent does not move. They can escape simply by exiting the tent.

2b. The Cage
The dark pit beneath the altar extends 20ft into the ground and reeks of decay and filth. The remains of past sacrifices are spread over the floor.
If it has not been released, the Eater is in its cage. When the trapdoor from area 2 opens, the bulette expects food. It will wait for 1 round before attacking the nearest creature.

3. Caravan of Curiosities Entrance
This "building" is constructed from a number of wagons. Ruined lettering appears on the side, naming it the "Caravan of Curiosities"
Once hosting the sideshow, this place now serves a more sinister purpose. Prisoners are forced to make their way through the building where they suffer mutilating effects from the traps inside. When the survivors emerge, they must parade in front of the residents in a mockery of a sideshow. The haven residents take great joy in calling out every taunt and jeer they remember from their own lives. The least disfigured of the survivors is then fed to the Eater in area 2b in a sacrifice to Lamashtu. The others are given a choice: join the victim, or join the Haven.

3a. Feature Showcase Room (CR 8)
The walls are made from wooden posters depicting sideshow performers such as "Zakka the starfish boy".
The Haven residents are depicted here, as are others who did not survive the mob.
Traps: On entering the room, the entrance door slams shut. Insanity mist is released from containers behind the posters.
Insanity Mist Trap CR 8
3b. Hall of Oddities (CR 10)
Empty display cases line this room. Tarnished labels indicate it once exhibited persevered creatures with bizarre abnormalities.
Rustin disposed of the original exhibits long ago. He considers the caravan's victims to be his latest attractions. A DC 20 Perception check reveals the secret door to area 3c. The caravan exit is obvious from the inside. From the outside, a DC 25 Perception check is required. It will only open with Rustin's key.
Traps: Hidden about the room are slots that hold acid-coated blades, hooks, and spikes. All of them are barbed and jagged; designed to tear and mutilate flesh.
Chamber of Blades Trap CR 10
Each target hit takes an additional 3 points of acid damage.
3c. Lamashtu Shrine (CR 11)
This room is still charred and black from fire with no attempt at repair. A grotesque shrine to Lamashtu dominates the south wall.
This is Rustin's abode. He keeps it this way as a constant reminder of the night he learned that ugliness is more than skin-deep.
Creatures: Rustin Harp is waiting for the PCs (see statistics). He becomes shaken if threatened with fire.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Initial Review

Again, I bet you are shocked that another person picked Rustin! I think this version is not as good as the other Rustin submission. It just fails to capture the unique qualities of Rustin. Its a lair with Rustin in it, rather than a lair that highlights Rustin and what he is about. I'm going to have to think more about how to describe that difference. The foe choices and the design ideas here are simply inferior to the ones made in the other Rustin submission, in my view. More to come...

Initially not in my Top 4.

Final Thoughts

James, I loved the claw. Not the biggest fan of your villain. I thought you took a great risk here with Rustin. Too bad the other Rustin submission was so good. It will be up to the voters to judge your body of work. But based on this submission alone, it is NOT RECOMMENDED.

The Exchange Kobold Press

This is in the unfortunate position of not being quite as good as the other Rustin entry, and breaching OGL requirements by mentioning the kuo toan blood of the choker/starfish boy. That's a big no-no in OGL material, and really not a superstar sort of mistake.

That's easy to fix, in this instance. However, the bearded lady etc are just not what I want from yet another carnival. It's a non-period premise to begin with (circus acts with sideshows and so forth were an invention of the 19th century, when the railroad made them possible), and so it has to meet a higher bar.

Not recommended.

Malhavoc Press

It's rough when you do a lair for the same villain as someone else, because naturally you go head-to-head with that entry before you're ever compared to the others, and it seems hard as a judge to do anything but choose one or the other. And this lair for Rustin isn't as imaginative as the other one.

There are interesting encounters here (and a nice mix too), but I would like to have seen more aspects of the lair affect those encounters. I also think you do interesting things with tweaking standard versions of monsters (appropriate for a carnival).

I do like that the DM has some help in determining how these encounters work together, but there were times I felt it needed more. For example, the building that is really a series of wagons is fun, but as a DM I would wonder how hard it would be for a group of PCs to bust out of a wagon, and unfortunately the text doesn't tell me. Overall, in fact, areas 1 and 2 seem much better developed than 3, which is unfortunate since 3 is the more out-of-the ordinary.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give this a 6. Decent, but sadly, not recommended.


Problem: the starfish boy refers to kuo-toa, which aren't open content. It's an easy mistake to make (I wrote NOT OPEN CONTENT on the k-t and other non-Open monsters in the MM, just in case I'm flipping through the MM looking for ideas), and an easy mistake to fix. Not sure we want to disqualify him for this; it's not like he built a whole encounter around a mind flayer and changing it to something else would require rewriting the encounter.

Overall, I think this is a decent encounter area, but the things are pretty loosely connected. As with the other Rustin entry, I wonder what happens if someone starts a fight in one part of the compound--the entire site is outdoors and less than a football field long, you'd think everyone would come running.

Mhonda has "twisted and broken legs" braced by her armor, yet she is still able to move at the normal dwarven speed of 20 feet. Again, an easy fix, but I'm not sure what the designer intended to do with this.

Grigor the Strongman is an ogre barbarian 4... but he has no stat block. It's ok to point at the MM or another source if that source has the same stats as the monster you're citing, but if this were a published adventure, the GM would be left hanging and would have to come up with that monsters stats (or the developer would have to do the work for you and create the stat block before it went to the editors). Looking at the Rules for this round, I see that part 3 of the References section is ambiguous (are the parenthetical examples things that CAN be summed up in one line, or CAN'T?), and if that were clearer you would have known not to do this, so I guess I can't gripe about it, but I thought I'd mention it anyway just as a general pointer for designers.

Overall this lair isn't exceptional, and (unfortunately for the designer) it's not as interesting as the other Rustin lair.

Rec: do not advance.

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

The ogre barbarian is part of the SRD
So that isn't really a strike against this entry.

You are the first entry I've read and at first glance it is very passable in my eyes. I'll check out that other satyr entry and see what all the fuss is about.


Darkjoy wrote:

The ogre barbarian is part of the SRD

So that isn't really a strike against this entry.

Wow, my brain completely whiffed on seeing that!

This is why we have multiple people look at things (not just in judging, but also development and editing). my apologies, and kudos to James for using it (though an "MM page 199" reference would have helped for the caffeine-deprived slowbrains out there).

As with the Hecataeus lairs, I find myself in the position of preferring the one that everyone else (so far) thinks is the weaker of the two. Go figure. I liked the weirdness of some of the encounters, and the 19th century freakshow vibe is cool - historical accuracy, my hat, this is supposed to be fantasy! So I kept this one in mind for a while, but in the end, it just doesn't have quite as much as two of the others, and, with only two votes, that's kind of fatal. So I wish you best luck, and hope that others liked this more than the other Rustin lair, as I did... but no vote from me, I'm afraid.

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

A bulette with a vestigial twin? Are you kidding me? That rules!

As surprising as ANY Sharina lair was, we had TWO Rustin Harp lairs? And both with apples in the title. NOBODY saw that coming.

Yet again we have a good entry... but I'm not sure it's quite good enough. Some missing info (smashing into or out of the funhouses in particular) but a lot of fun pieces, freaks and mutants and weirdos all well-used and thematic with the much-improved revision of Rustin.

I like it, but I only gots 2 votes to give.

Initial Impression:
This entry seems to me to be a sort of monastic settlement/temple community out in the wilds where Rustin and his friends hang around doing whatever it is that they do.
It does not fill me with enthusiasm, but I will come back and take a longer look later.

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

Well, I read through this entry, and while in general it looks usable, it didn't inspire me. It took me a while to figure out why, but basically, it's because this is a lair that suggests that Rustin just hangs out, kidnaps commoners, and tortures them. This doesn't do the revised round 3 version of Rustin justice. He has big plans to affect the Worldwound, infecting the water supply, and forging an alliance with bloodthirsty Mwangi apes.

As for the specifics, I think the best thing about your entry is the various tweaked creatures to fit the sideshow freak theme. The bulette was genius, though I'd have given the vestigal twin some minor at will psionic power or something - even a cantrip like daze would have been a cool extra for the beast.

My biggest problem with the entry was that for area 3, I don't see any doors other than the secret ones. It's not really clear to me where the PCs can enter one room to another. The other thing that didn't sit well with me was that Rustin seems to just sit in his room and wait for the PCs. There's no indication he interacts with his lair at all, other than a slight reference to giving impassioned speeches in the Big Top. Does he prepare his before combat tactics when he hears one of the traps in area 3 go off? Does he get alerted by trouble in area 1 or 2 and go after attackers?

I felt that the bearded lady stat block ate up a lot of room in your entry, and this would probably have been better word count to use for other things. At the same time, she's a listed cohort of Rustin, so it would be hard to not include her. Maybe avoiding villains with cohorts would have been a better move tactically this round so you didn't need to make a new stat block. As for her's, it's fine, but not too exciting. I did wonder at the potions of CLW instead of scrolls, since she's a cleric though.

I thought that your entry was decent, but not exciting enough to get a vote from me this round. I really liked Count Falconbridge though, so if you do make the final 4, I have high hopes for something Superstar next round.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 aka Gamer Girrl

First off, congrats on making it to the Top 8!

This is the first lair I've read, so I have nothing particular to compare, but while I find this an intriguing lair, I was surprised at seeing so little of Rustin actually in it. That may be because of the word count issue, I know that is pretty tight, but something just feels to be missing, not that I can put my finger on it yet.

I do think you did a very good job on the freaks - nice touch on all the eccentricities for each one!

There were a few sentence/grammar issues, but the only one I couldn't figure out what was missing was "She will cast with summon monster IV."

Not sure you're going to get one of my two votes this time, but we'll see. Good luck!

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8 aka Tarren Dei

I read your entry and I got little tingly shivers running up and down my spine--you know the kind, the kind that you get when reading some of Mr. Logue's creepy stuff.

Then I read all the reasons I should 'like but not love' this lair.

The shivers continued unabated.

Great lair, James.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8

First off I would like to, once again, thank the judges for their comments. Each one helps me improve my skills and makes me realize that I really do want to enter this business. This contest has been a sort of proving ground for me and I feel that it is an excellent springboard, one that makes me strive to better each time.

Second, I would like to thank all those who commented so far and thank in advance those who will do so after this post is made. Again, the feedback from the multitudes is very much appreciated.

I would also like to implore you all to cast your vote for the Haven. It might not be a polished apple but I assure you that I have plenty more in my bushel (is that too many apple references? I can never tell...)

Lastly, and most importantly, I need to thank Matt Banach. This round was to see if we contestants could take an idea in motion and run with it. Well, whether you like my idea or not, it was Matt who started running in the first place. Rustin Harp was his creation and I think it says a lot that when I had to choose, his was the first and only one that came to mind.

Thanks Matt, and thank you everyone.

Liberty's Edge

As map sketches go, this one's pretty decent, in my opinion. The line work is clean and easy to read, and the subtle inclusion of color is enough to note the terrain type without cluttering up the map. The only thing that confused me at first was the forest line--I initially misread that as a river before noticing the "Forest Line" label. Some extra texture to that line or the forest area would help it read as forest right away.

The map legend is very good and the whole thing is legible enough that I wouldn't have much trouble translating this into a publishable map.

As far as villainous encounters go, I like to see lairs with cool and remarkable terrain features; elevation changes, obstacles and overlooks, a mix of open spaces and tight corners--that sort of thing. I'm not sure your choice of villains lends itself to a great deal of that, but I think it's a fine effort and your lair lends itself to some fun adventuring nonetheless.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka DankeSean

I'm a Rustin fan from the past two rounds. Second round he barely missed making one of my votes, and I was happy to see him pass through to the third, where his improvements earned him a vote from me. So while I was sorry to see Matt not make it on to this round, it's nice to see Rustin represented twice over.

I commented in the other entry that I thought it had a tighter theme and mood going for it; what I think this has, though, is a more fun gameplay feel to it. The array of freaks and misfits presented here is nicely varied, and while the notion of Rustin and company kidnapping and sacrificing/converting passersby isn't quite as big in scope as Rustin Revised's plans tended to be, the whole idea of putting them through a funhouse of horror is creepily awesome; kind of reminds me of The Killing Joke . (And a solid 'pshaw' to the notion that freakshows feel anachronistic in a fantasy game; hey, it was the guys from Paizo that gave us the Emporium back in the Age of Worms...)

That said, with only two votes... this is a tough call. If we still had four, this would be one of mine, most likely, but is it better than six others? My first impressions say no, but... I'll need to think on it.

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

I remembered one other little thing that bugged me about this entry - it's a nitpick, but it still bugged me. Starfish boy has an alchemical bonus from his bloodline? Huh? Since there's no mention of him using alchemical substances (or examples I can think of that grant permenent alchemical bonuses), I'd make that a racial bonus.

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

Right away, I am not impressed with the prose. It just doesn't flow for me and I find myself wanting to skip ahead. Tighter writing can be fixed during development, but if this round is as tight as everyone seems to think, you need to bring the best toal game.

In a purchased submission, I don't want to see "Four 1st lvl commoners". You're already spending the word count. Be professional and say "Four humans (Commoner 1)" or something like that. Use complete sentences. Instead of 'kept as prisoners', say 'are held prisoner here.'

I can't decide if I like the arbitrary mutations to your NPCs. It might be cheating word count to just "give" the derro DR 5/-. It's also a little strong for CR 3. On the other hand, I have been a big fan of neat little additions that bewilder those guys who read the MMand announce everything the party needs to know OOC. Don't ever do that, by the way. It should end badly for every such PC.

On a related note, you can't mention kuo-toa in Pathfinder.

I have trouble buying a xill as a downtrodden monster who hides out in a burned-out caravan on the material plane.

The reverse snake charmer is kind of tropey, but not a tired cliche. I think it's fun. The look on a player's face when he relizes there's no way the goblin is in charge here - priceless.

I think the idea behind the Caravan of Curiosities had a lot of dark potential that is not fully explored. Cleverly made as disturbing and sad as possible (and possibly including the use of fire and a haunt that made the PCs a part of the night the show was burned down), this could be a dark, dramatic and dangerous scene. If such a thing is ever used, I hope it takes full advantage. One mechanical shortfall: a large number of players will want to just burn or chop their way out of the chambers they might find themselves in. You don't include rules or citations for that.

All in all, you have a few clever plays on the unexpected, and some decent gestures to what Rustin Harp and his company might look like, but the entry is essentially mediocre. Tighter writing, full use of the potential themes you intitiate, and more clever encounters would have gained you full marks.

James F. D. Graham wrote:
...When only Grigor and she remain, Mhonda will order the ogre to knock down the centerpole of the tent (see "Bringing down the House")...

This part makes no sense to me and seems typical of the weaker parts of this entry. Grigor and Mhonda are the only two people mentioned as being in the Big Top (apart from the bulette, and part of the point of the 'Bringing down the House' is to blind/hinder everyone so that the bulette can then be released to eat them) so as soon as the PCs enter that should logically be a 'bring down the house' trigger? I have the feeling that there were supposed to be more people in here that you never told me about.

Also on this theme, aren't Mhonda and Grigor likely to end up stuck under the collapsed tent with the bulette, too? If they have some method planned to avoid this, then you don't make it very clear to me.

Then, as the judges pointed out, there is fact the Kuo-Toa are not open content and the lack of indication how some groups react to sounds elsewhere.

You statted the cohort. I liked that very much, and some of the things you presented the judges and voting public with seem to be very inventive.

This entry leaves me feeling frustrated - and that you have talent, but are somewhat erratic in showing its successful application when it comes to presenting it for public scrutiny.
After this contest is over, please think about going away from serious gaming for a week or two and taking the time to read through and review the comments/criticisms. Then, if you still want a career in the industry, come back to really work at it.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Ezekiel Shanoax, the Stormchild

Mistah J wrote:
Lastly, and most importantly, I need to thank Matt Banach. This round was to see if we contestants could take an idea in motion and run with it. Well, whether you like my idea or not, it was Matt who started running in the first place. Rustin Harp was his creation and I think it says a lot that when I had to choose, his was the first and only one that came to mind. Thanks Matt, and thank you everyone.

No no, sir - Thank YOU. I am very flattered and humbled to see your entry this round. I love the chances in Superstar for contestants to build on the previous entries and other contestants' work - its a great exercise in collaborative game design, and as others have said, very telling of one's ability to take something that someone else made and expand it. So thank you, Mistah J, I am only too glad to serve.

It seems that you decided to design a Rustin Harp encampment that seems thematically and chronologically close to the Round 2 Rustin, although I know there are some Lamashtu references. He's still amidst the burnt wagons, with some performers still alive. Ok, cool.

The menagerie you have created to populate this little camp is imaginative. Block head, good classic freakshow thing. The starfish boy is my favorite by far - I love that he's an aquatic choker (they don't get enough love). But my second favorite is the Eater - Love the name, Love the land-shark. The spirit naga is good, and a nice choice for one of the powerful threats in the camp; I like the snake-charmer minion angle (Avinash, anyone? - in a good way).

The hall of oddities could have been a lot more 'fleshed' out. I like what you did with making them all empty, and therefore creepy in the absence and the mystery... I'm honestly not sure if you would want specific descriptions (on the dusty nameplates) of some of the things that aren't there. But then, when the PCs are in there gawking at empty cases and the traps... that makes sense.

The insanity-mist trap is very apt for the setting you've tried to create. Good choice.

I would have liked to see more description on the altar to Lamashtu. The players would want to know in what way the shrine is grotesque, since many might be "Lamashtu who?" With the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting being fairly new, all potential Superstars have the opportunity to help shape a largely undefined (sometimes barely hinted-at) world and its people, places, and gods.

One of my favorite elements is the Bringing Down the House element. Initially, there's not a whole lot I thought you could do with a big tent as far making it antagonistic to the PCs... but the idea of being trapped underneath dirty canvas with a ravenous land-shark is instantly cool and has a serious 'oh s$*%' factor for the PCs. That would make a great war-story, and definitely stands out as one of the things that would make a visit to this lair memorable.

I applaud you, James. You have demonstrated one of the most important qualities a game designer should have - a deep and abiding love for my product. I like the expansions you made in a few areas of all things Rustin Harp, and you have my VOTE.

Star Voter Season 6

One thing that people could have done with humanoids with class levels... model them after the iconics. The bearded lady could have said "As Kyra (Runelords 3) but with dwarf ability adjustments and abilities and without _____ human bonus feat." After all, if you can use the monsters and the setting descriptions in those modules, you can yoink the pregens!

I have to say that I like the old school freak show feel. As far as the 18th century criticism, well, take a look at Freeport, with its cannons, grenade launchers and rifles, and that's been incorporated into worlds with the base setting assumptions.

Edit: for the record, I prefer your Rustin.

Star Voter Season 6

DankeSean wrote:
(And a solid 'pshaw' to the notion that freakshows feel anachronistic in a fantasy game; hey, it was the guys from Paizo that gave us the Emporium back in the Age of Worms...)

And Wolfgang wrote "A Gathering of Winds," an adventure set just outside of Diamond Lake.

Is this where the Apple Dumpling Gang hangs out? Not enough description and flavor. What does the "starfish boy" look like exactly? Pass.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Epic Meepo

Well, as I was planning on pointing out in this thread, but accidentally pointed out in another thread due to similarly-named lairs and a few silly cut and paste errors:

I had to read that "breaking down the house" rule several times. At a glance, it looked like a sidebar, so I thought it would be self-contained. But the actual description of what 'breaking down the house' meant was in the tactics section for Grigor. Also, I initially thought that "hampered" was undefined. It took me a moment to realize that "hampered" was just a gloss for "a certain hampering effect which is described below."

Even after figuring all that out, I'm not sure I really understand the rule. Is the special rope already connected when the PCs get there? If not, what sort of action is it to attach the rope to the alter? What is the listed Perception DC for, exactly? Why is the tent acting as a net attack and not a terrain feature that causes entanglement?

Also, net attacks are already fairly complicated. Saying that the tent acts as a net attack, except for such-and-such, left me with many questions. Does it require an attack roll when it falls on you? If I want to cut myself free, does a section tent have the same hp as a net? How else can someone caught under the tent exit the tent?

I would have preferred it if the collapsing tent were listed as a trap. In many ways, it's just a collapsing ceiling trap that entangles and limits vision instead of dealing damage. Granted, the effect section would be wordier than a collapsing ceiling trap, since you would have to explain how one escapes from the trap once caught. But it still could have been summed up nicely in an easy-to-read trap stat block.

roguerouge wrote:
DankeSean wrote:
(And a solid 'pshaw' to the notion that freakshows feel anachronistic in a fantasy game; hey, it was the guys from Paizo that gave us the Emporium back in the Age of Worms...)
And Wolfgang wrote "A Gathering of Winds," an adventure set just outside of Diamond Lake.

The Emporium was a permanent show in a fixed location, if I recall correctly, not a travelling show.

Would Richard Pett's The Devil Box be a sounder comparison from Dungeon?

The Devil Box was in Dungeon #109.

I've liked your work in previous rounds and you've certainly given me no reason to withhold my vote here. Burnt Apple Haven offers the perfect mix of carnival and macabre.

Also, "bringing down the house" makes me do my happy dance.

As a side-note to the side-show question, wikipedia lays out an interesting history that dates back to the 1600's:

Wikipedia "Freak Show"

If you get a chance, follow the link to Lazarus - that portrait is one in a million!

Cheers and good luck!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Epic Meepo

Like just pretty much everything this round, this is a lair I'd gladly use at my own table. It had a nice mix of encounters, interesting terrain, and solid writing. And I really like what you were going for with "bringing down the house." That's definitely one of those "Why didn't I think of that?" things I'd like to see in a published module.

But as I noted in my above post, I found the "bringing down the house" rules themselves a bit clunky. I absolutely love the idea; I'm not too sure about the execution. Something about the presentation just didn't quite click with me. I don't see too many other people making the same complaint, though, so it might just be me.

At the same time, I almost would have liked the lair to focus more on the "bringing down the house" rules. I think it could have stood to cut an encounter or two in order to focus even more attention on the big top. That would have freed up more word count to devote to answering some of the unanswered questions I felt were raised by the "bringing down the house" rules, and focused the lair more tightly on its most interesting encounter location.

Like everything this round, it was a strong entry. To narrow down my choices in such a tight race, I'm having to hold everyone to the same standard I use to judge published adventures. Unfortunately, this one is just a bit behind a few others, so my votes will go elsewhere.


Round 4, 2011, Calibration (Teaser) Post
Question 1:
Given that this is a decaying carnival buried in a clearing in the middle of some obscure woodland, no. At least not unless you really like looking at trees.

Question 2:
Decrepit, festering, insane follower of Lamashtu fits right into a decrepit location lost in the middle of the wilderness.
Given that the villain is a follower of Lamashtu, I would advise that he be purged from the world with extreme prejudice as soon as conveniently can be arranged.

Question 3:
Now this is Tricky. It's out in the middle of nowhere, and although it's unlikely that the previous tenants will go without force being employed, removing them is highly desirable given their unfortunate choice of deity. With the dilapidated state of the site, it's likely that most of the existing structures will be destroyed in the process of evicting the current occupants, although to be frank anything left standing is likely to be an eyesore that will require flattening anyway.
All of which will leave a discreet clearing miles from anywhere, with probably minimal value for entertainment value unless guests can travel by magic.
Which should be perfect for a nymph ally (with abyssal inclinations) - she's been looking for somewhere remote like this for several months after the survivors of a circle of druids whom she ate violently disagreed with her...

Other comments?
If a succubus does come into possession of this property, it's probably best to get the site exorcised of any lingering traces to Lamashtu. I can recommend some priestesses of Calistria who are likely to prove amenable to an arrangement to provide such a service.

Useful as a new centre of operations for a handy ally.

Further Disclaimer:

Calibration notes:
Whilst this particular entry does lend itself to the current format of the Round 4 entry, perhaps the questions should be revised to account for occupants of a not quite so inimical disposition.

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