Realm of the Fellnight Queen


Round 5: Submit an adventure proposal

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Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

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Realm of the Fellnight Queen
An Evil Mist Heralds An Ancient Foe

Introduction:
The hardy gnome race crossed into Golarion from the primal First World during the Age of Anguish, leaving behind all they once knew. But when a shunned gnome bleachling travels a forgotten path to the realm of his ancestors, he unwittingly releases the sinister Fellnight fey imprisoned there millennia ago. Their dark queen, Rhoswen, now turns her gaze upon the forest town of Bellis, weaving a cloying mist among the trees and trapping all behind a veil of shadow. Can the player characters brave the mist and stop the queen before she permanently makes them part of her domain?

Realm of the Fellnight Queen is a wilderness adventure for four 7th-level characters. By the end of the module, characters should reach 9th level. This adventure includes details on the town of Bellis, the surrounding Verduran Forest, and a pocket dimension of the shadowy First World starting to fuse with Golarion. The PCs must track down the cause of the ethereal mist binding Bellis to the fey realm, rally the good creatures of the forest to defeat the queen’s army, and ultimately storm her palace to reactivate an ancient artifact capable of saving the town and once more imprisoning the Fellnight fey.

Adventure Background:
Two years ago, Tenzekil Braybittle, an obsessive gnome beekeeper living in Bellis, fell on hard times. Winner of the past six honey-harvesting competitions, it surprised the whole town when he lost to a newly-retired, half-elven ranger named Elyin Ursage. Crushed by the outcome, Tenzekil fell into a deep depression. This magnified the Bleaching – an affliction suffered by all gnomes upon losing their zeal for life. It rapidly aged him, blanching his hair, skin, and eyes – further alienating him from his friends.

In time, the Bleaching led Tenzekil into madness, strengthening his connection to the First World while simultaneously bringing him strange songs upon the night breeze. He gave up his farm to wander the forest in search of the siren call. And, without knowing it, he stepped between worlds, emerging in a colorless realm of shadow and mist. The music and lights of a distant thorn-wrapped palace drew him. And there he met with Rhoswen, the dark fey queen of the Fellnight Realm.

Rhoswen welcomed Tenzekil as an honored guest, charming and entertaining him while commiserating over his poor condition. She offered to stave off the Bleaching and give him the means to avenge himself against his enemies if he would but perform a small service for her. After agreeing, Tenzekil accompanied the queen to the very edge of her realm and was shown the feyward, a line of magical wardstones laced with cold iron ringing her domain. She asked him to gather as many as his pack would hold and to carry them back to his home, depositing them in the deepest pool he could find.

Tenzekil did as she asked, though the stones burned him with every step. When at last he reached Golarion, the gnome flung his charred pack into the first pool he could find. Seeing his reflection in the water, he realized the traumatic journey had transformed him into a bleachling, making him immune to further effects of the affliction. But Tenzekil’s mind and personality changed, too. The queen’s music whispered once more as a great mist rose from the water, expanding through the forest. With a geas laid upon him, Tenzekil listened for her next instructions – to lay waste to the good creatures of the forest and make way for her arrival on Golarion.

Adventure Outline:
Act One – ’Til Death
This adventure starts with the PCs arriving in Bellis for the outdoor wedding of Elyin Ursage – either attending as family and friends of the bride and groom, by crashing the event to take advantage of the couple’s hospitality, or after delivering a gift from distant relatives who couldn’t make the ceremony. However, the celebration quickly falls apart when a badly wounded dryad uses her tree stride ability to emerge from the giant oak tree at the center of the dance area, stumbling among the revelers and eliciting gasps of surprise from the crowd.

“Please…you must help us!” the young dryad implores, “They came from the shadows…inside the mist! My sisters are dying! They’re cutting down our trees!”

The PCs have only a few moments to calm and question the sobbing dryad about her ordeal, learning that dark fey creatures have appeared in the forest, viciously attacking every good creature. Then, a sudden horror clouds the dryad’s face as somewhere deep in the forest Rhoswen’s minions finally destroy her tree and she collapses, dying in their arms.

Swarms of bees suddenly follow the dryad’s warning, released into the crowd by Tenzekil (bleachling gnome druid 7) to sow further chaos. The gnome targets his rival Elyin first, directed by his queen to eliminate any heroes capable of challenging her. Even after the bees disperse, Tenzekil has three Fellnight warriors (Fellnight gnome fighter 2/rogue 2) attack.

Fellnight Creature (Template)

Spoiler:
Any evil fey, humanoid, monstrous humanoid, or magical beast can inherit the Fellnight creature template. The template changes the creature’s type to fey. It also grants damage reduction 5/cold iron, darkvision, a +4 racial bonus on Stealth checks, and a collection of spell like abilities: 3/day–ghost sound, invisibility, silent image; 1/day–darkness, see invisibility, suggestion. Caster level equals the Fellnight creature’s character level. The save DC’s are Charisma-based.

The warriors fire blowgun darts tipped with shadowfein poison, eroding their victim’s Dexterity, slowing movement, and if untreated, painfully transforming them into thorny, immobile plants. Tenzekil joins the battle too, but as soon as the PCs get involved, he uses his own tree stride ability to escape and reassess the town’s heroes. Rhoswen, too, learns of their involvement after scrying the attack from the safety of her palace.

Following the opening encounter, the PCs have a chance to recover and consult with the townsfolk about the slain fey. Many also recall the bleachling gnome who led them, and Elyin can specifically explain Tenzekil’s history with the town. Word soon arrives, however, of an unnatural fog rolling in from the forest to fill the town’s streets. Most party-goers take this as an ill omen and immediately return home. Those who risk leaving Bellis entirely, come under attack by strange creatures in the forest. The survivors who return bear the transformative signs of shadowfein poison and tell frightening tales of monsters in the mist. During the ensuing panic, Elyin and the town council ask the PCs to find the source of the mist and the evil fey, suggesting they seek out the arch-druid, Devarre, for an explanation.

Act Two – Lost in the Mist
Braving the forest, the PCs face different encounters based on which direction they explore. It quickly becomes clear the woods have substantially changed from when they first arrived – tangles have grown thicker, trails and roads are now impassibly overgrown, and a perpetual twilight provides the only illumination of the eerie mist. Their first likely encounter involves the ruined dryad grove. More Fellnight warriors stack the ruined trees together, burning them while torturing Fira, the lone dryad survivor they captured. If the PCs rescue her, Fira gladly rewards them with a potent fey treasure – the first bloom of the spring dryad, which could serve them well later in the adventure.

First Bloom of the Spring Dryad

Spoiler:
When placing this single bloom behind an ear or within one’s hair, the user can produce enough magical pollen to coat an area with glitterdust up to three times per day. In addition, once per day, the user can target a single creature with deep slumber. The flower’s heady fragrance also grants a +2 bonus on Fortitude saves vs. scent-based effects.

Next, the PCs should discover the grove of Devarre (human druid 10). Unfortunately, a gossamere wraith serving the queen now inhabits the druid’s body, controlling his actions. At first, the arch-druid welcomes the adventurers, seemingly unperturbed by the changes in the forest. During their conversation, they may suspect something unusual about his behavior. However, if they fail to unmask the gossamere, the wraith forces Devarre to mislead the heroes. He sends them off to supposedly investigate other forest sites that might explain the mist and appearance of the Fellnight fey. But, in reality, these encounters just further endanger their lives – such as a will-o’-wisp that leads PCs into a sinking quagmire, shamblers attacking from the mist, and a pack of shadow mastiffs that pick up the PCs’ scent.

If challenged, the gossamere eventually directs Devarre to attack the PCs, but its debilitative effect on the druid’s Wisdom score, causes him to lose access to many of his most potent spells, making the fight easier. The PCs still have to drive off the gossamere if it abandons his body. And, even if Devarre survives, the experience leaves him too weakened to aid them with anything more than half-delirious information about the mist’s true origin and the nature of the Fellnight fey.

Gossamere Wraith

Spoiler:
A gossamere wraith results when a nixie’s vengeful spirit reforms after being slain by a chaos beast. Thereafter, it wanders as an undead mist with both the air and water sub-types. Unlike a regular wraith, a gossamere cannot spawn more of its kind. Its touch results in Wisdom drain rather than Constitution and, like a nixie, it can cast charm person three times per day, lasting up to 24 hours. A gossamere can also inhabit the body of a charmed, helpless, or dead creature of Small, Medium or Large size by filling its lungs. Inhabiting a dead body allows the gossamere to animate it as a zombie of the appropriate size. Inhabiting a living body allows the gossamere to control its actions as if using dominate monster on the victim. Gossamere wraiths fear natural sunlight and flee from it unless hiding within another creature.

If the PCs slay Devarre, the remaining forest encounters can still aid their search for the source of the Fellnight mist. Magical divinations, goodly fey, or speak with animals can put the PCs on the right path. They also have an opportunity to gather a wealth of information from the ghost of a drunken treant named Vinroot, provided they can convince him to stop animating combative trees long enough to talk.

After gathering enough clues, the PCs should learn the mist originates from the pool where Tenzekil tossed the wardstones. Accessing it requires a long climb over large rocks amid a series of waterfalls within a deep gorge. After arriving, they must then battle the mist-concealed nixie, Arvormeigh (nixie rogue 7), and her water elemental companions sent by Rhoswen to protect the pool. While the elementals take vortex form to drown the PCs or sweep them onto the rocks at the bottom of the falls, Arvormeigh charms those who resist or snipes at them with sleep and memory-loss arrows she stole from some pixies. If the PCs succeed in removing the wardstones from the pool, they greatly reduce the emanation of the mist, but find they cannot fully disperse it yet.

Leaving the gorge, they run headlong into Tenzekil again. Guided by Rhoswen’s scrying, he brings an army of Fellnight warriors to retake the wardstones. The PCs face the choice of fighting against overwhelming odds or running from the vengeful gnome. During the running battle, a grace of unicorns comes to the party’s aid. Their leader, Palombier, offers to carry the adventurers to safety before Tenzekil can cut off their escape, teleporting them to a conclave of goodly fey, wood elves, and magical beasts intent on countering Rhoswen’s incursion.

Interlude – A Gathering of Strength
After joining the conclave, the PCs receive a much-needed chance to rest. This also presents a logical stopping point to advance the PCs to 8th level before taking on the remainder of the adventure.

During their visit, the PCs have a chance to address the conclave, using their Diplomacy skills to convince the more reluctant attendees to fully oppose the Fellnight queen. They can also gain assistance in analyzing the wardstones, discovering their purpose for locking away creatures susceptible to cold iron – such as the Fellnight fey. The PCs may also gather information from the good fey to learn more about the First World and the evil origins of the Fellnight realm, including Rhoswen’s probable intentions.

Later that evening, Rhoswen continues to scry upon the PCs, growing more concerned with their success against her minions – especially after learning of their alliance with the good creatures of the forest. She afflicts the party with nightmares in the hopes of weakening them so they cannot aid in the coming battle. Once the other fey become aware of the otherworldly assault, they take steps to protect the PCs from her evil influence by warding them with nondetection.

Sensing the queen obviously fears the PCs, Palombier proposes they face her directly in her own palace while the other fey engage her army on the battlefield. He explains only fey and magical beasts can find pathways to the First World, but his unicorns will voluntarily carry them there if they’ll stop Rhoswen’s evil from taking root in Golarion. Riding the unicorns certainly makes their task easier, but the conclave can also help identify the way by providing them special potions to temporarily grant feysight. The rest of the PCs’ research indicates they must repair the ring of wardstones with those reclaimed from the pool. Then, after fighting their way into the queen’s palace, they can reactivate the feyward with the crook of Cihldurine, a magic staff wielded by Rhoswen herself.

Act Three – Into the First World
The final part of the adventure takes the PCs down an ethereal path into the First World. As they cross into the Fellnight realm, they quickly attract the attention of the queen’s riders – dark Fellnight gnomes astride evil blink dogs. If the PCs rode the unicorns into the First World, a harrowing chase scene ensues. The queen’s riders fire poisoned shadowfein darts to slow down the unicorns and close on the heroes, hoping to forever trap them in the queen’s realm.

After outrunning or overcoming the queen’s riders, the PCs must then find the gap in the feyward and reset the missing stones. The disgraced Tenzekil awaits them here after Rhoswen threatens to allow the Bleaching to resume if he doesn’t stop the heroes once and for all. The PCs can opt to fight him or make one last appeal to convince the gnome to abandon the deceitful queen and gain his assistance in accessing a secret entrance into Rhoswen’s palace. Otherwise, they have to win their way past the thorn-wrapped gates and guardians on their own.

Next, the heroes get to storm Rhoswen’s imposing spine-filled palace. A variety of horrors wait inside. Topiary gargoyles defend the main courtyard. Barbed assassin vines threaten to pull intruders into yawning pits beneath the leaf-strewn passageways. Smoky belkers slip from room to room via tiny gaps in the chitinous, thorn-ridden walls. And deadly traps summon greater shadow conjurations of chaos beasts, shamblers, and Large earth elementals to battle for their queen.

After overcoming these obstacles, Rhoswen herself (Fellnight elf sorcerer 13) finally awaits them in the throne room. Empowered by the crook of Cihldurine, she wards herself from harm and summons more shadowy minions to her side.

“Challenge me in my own realm, will you?” Rhoswen confidently sneers, “This is the best they could send? They seek to ruin my moment of triumph with weak upstarts such as you?!”

She directs their attention to a massive scrying mirror alternating images of the ensuing battle between the good creatures of the forest and her Fellnight army…as well as the citizens of Bellis huddled in their homes with the shadows of the First World closing around them.

“My realm will overlay yours. This prison can no longer hold me,” she claims, “And you cannot stop me.” She makes a fist with her thorn-spiked gauntlet and raises a gnarled, crooked staff to strike. “Your sad tale ends with nothing more than the pleasure I’ll take in shattering your minds and bleeding you dry!”

In the ensuing battle, Rhoswen relies primarily on her shadow conjuration and shadow evocation spells to put as many creatures and obstacles between her and the PCs as possible. Then she focuses on bending any weak-minded heroes to her will with charms and compulsions. To stop her, they must wrest away the crook of Cihldurine and use the staff to release a wave of energy powerful enough to re-invoke the wardstones. Upon doing so, the magic of the stones immediately draws any of her forces still within the mist back to the Fellnight realm, locking them within the feyward and disorienting them long enough for the PCs to make their escape.

Crook of Cihldurine

Spoiler:
This crooked, rough-hewn darkwood staff influences shadow conjuration and shadow evocation spells. By expending additional charges, the wielder can increase the shadowy substance used to form such spells by 10% per charge up to a maximum of 50% real. Within the Fellnight realm, the staff can also raise a wall of shadow from the specially-treated wardstones to imprison evil fey creatures with the same effects as a binding (hedged prison only).

Conclusion:
Provided the PCs succeed, Bellis avoids the terrible fate of playing host to a newly-returned Fellnight realm. They lock away Rhoswen and her minions once more, forever earning them the gratitude of the townsfolk, including Devarre and Elyin. The ranger puts in a good word for the heroes wherever their travels take them next. Those willing to stay and make their homes in the frontier town quickly receive offers and discounts from the people to curry their favor. Even the fey prove willing to share their magic and ancient knowledge with any spellcasters or bards among the party – offering to help locate rare spell components, exotic familiars and animal companions, or even long-lost mysteries of the forest realm.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Initial Impression
Well, I already love the title. I think this is the best title.
Gnomes. Uh oh. Not a huge fan.
Yes, I like the fey, and evil fey are cool. But I think this one may have more of the silly gnome fey than I like... We'll see....

Starts with a wedding? Hmmm. Not sure my normal gaming group would go for that. Very Shakespearean. But not sure my guys would bite. Dont get me wrong. I like the roleplay starts. In fact, I think the Demonscar Ball from SCAP is one of the best adventure moments I've ever had. But a wedding start. Hmmm.

Riding unicorns? Ugh.

Ok, I'm over my faerie aversion.

The three act structure is good.
It has Pathfinder ties.
The palace seems like a great fight, maybe even too hard for the level if all the things described show up.

Not sure this one is as epic or big as the other two.

I like the blink dogs, though :)

I really want to think about this one.

The Exchange Kobold Press

There's a lot to like here: the First World and the bleachling elements are due for some time in the spotlight, the use of the dryad's death to make a point to the PCs, the mystery of the fog and the way that the PCs are kept at the center of the action, most of the time. I'm not entirely clear on how the ghost of a drunken treant *stays* drunken, but I'm willing to play along. It sounds like a thoroughly entertaining encounter.

But there's at least five or more caution flags for me. Things like chase scenes are tough to pull off (and I'm not sure it will happen at all; most parties will confront the gnomes/blink dogs chasing them rather than fleeing). The use of the possessed arch-druid could go either way; handled badly, the party will just be left confused. I'm not sure whether the "fey army" elements are going to work, exactly, and riding unicorns could be more humorous than sense-of-wonder stuff if the party includes, oh, a dwarf or a lizardman or something. The use of shadow evocations and conjurations is a bit of a bookkeeping nightmare, honestly. Finally, there may simply be too many locations for a 32-page adventure, though some of them may not require full mapping.

It's a bit of a gamble, this pitch. I think it's a strong one, and your sense of pacing and plot is convincing enough to make me think that you can pull this off. The text flows smoothly from point to point, and I feel confident you can drop a few of the random clue-finding encounters if needed. There's plenty of action as well as some roleplaying set pieces, and it hangs together.

Leaning toward recommended, but I haven't read the others yet. And I suspect the level of competition will be very sharp indeed.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

I really like this adventure's use of the First World, the roleplay-heavy first encounter, and the sinister mist that fills the world and transforms the surrounding woodlands into another realm. Of course, I'm a huge fan of the Stephen King story "The Mist" (both short story and movie)... but this is different in some interesting ways.

The big hurdle this adventure would have to overcome is the fact that we haven't said much at all about the First World... there'll be some more info in the upcoming "Guide to the Great Beyond," but not a LOT. Certainly not much in the way of rules for this strange dimension. I love the idea of the First World, but setting an adventure there is tricky, since you'll end up having to use a lot of your word count to talk about the First World itself.

It does amuse me that we have two interesting cases of parallel development here with "Last Ride of the Mammoth Lords," poison that turns you into a plant, and a new type of wraith as a new monster. I see parallel development like this all the time in adventure proposals... it's weird. Makes me wonder if there's any validity to the notion of a shared collective unconsciousness...

Things I Like about this Proposal
First World: Again, the First World is really cool. I'd love to see it explored, and this adventure certainly does that.
Bleaching: We haven't done much with bleaching and bleached gnomes yet, and this is a great way to explore that topic.
Tenzekil: I actually really like this NPC. A failed beekeeper driven to depression and madness is really unique, and has a fun mix of creep-factor (bees are scary!) and whimsy (he's a bee keeping gnome!) in there that really gives the character a cool Grimm's Fairy Tales type vibe. Great NPC!
Wedding Opening: This is a really cool way, I think, to get the PCs into the region where the adventure begins. If this proposal wins, I'd suggest expanding this scene into its own encounter, and present numerous types of events, contests, and what not to give the PCs a chance to get to know the town and its citizens, so that when peril does befall them, the PCs are more inclined to help.
Dryad Warning: The dryad's warning is neat, especially how she dies during the warning because her tree is destroyed. That said... see below for the part of this that I didn't like.
Recurring NPCs: I like that the PCs are introduced to Tenzekil in the first fight, but having recurring NPCs meet the PCs is always tricky. PCs are really good at killing NPCs who are supposed to still play roles later in the adventure. This encounter, while cool and important, is tricky to pull off, and done wrong can shift it into the "Things I Don't Like" category...
First Bloom of the Spring Dryad: This is a neat, flavorful, but not overwhelming magic item. Make sure there's more scent-based effects in the adventure for this item to help with... there didn't seem to be a lot of them in the proposal.
Rhoswen's Palace: This is a neat sounding encounter area. I worry that the rest of the adventure's bulk won't let this area feel like a proper palace, though, since "palace" to me says something with a lot of rooms, and if each room is an encounter (as it probably should be... at the very least every OTHER room should be an encounter), there just won't be room in 32 pages to do this location justice, I fear, if there's all that other stuff going on.
Maps: There's a lot of locations in this adventure... but my initial examination makes me think we can get away with only 3 to 4 pages of maps. Which is at the upper end of what, generally, a 32 page adventure can support.
Encounters: My estimate gives this adventure 20 encounter areas, which is about right. It might be too high, considering that a significant part of the module will be taken up talking about rules for the First World, though...

Things I Don't Like about this Proposal
Fey as a Prefix: Using the word "fey" as a prefix to make up new things gets under my skin. I'd rather see a more creative name for something like the "feyward," for example.
Fey-Themed Modules: Fey-themed modules are a tricky beast. They're relatively uncommon, but when they do occur, they always seem to be set in a forest. As a result, fey adventures tend to blur for me. Why can't there be a fey adventure set in mountains, or a swamp, or a desert, or the arctic tundra? There's more to the First World than forests.
Fellnight Template: There are too many templates in the game, I think. Especially when you take into account Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary, which we get a LOT of use out of at Paizo. Further compounding this problem, we've had similar "evil fey templates" show up in Paizo products a fair amount. I don't think we need another one. Furthermore, the traditions of the fey have a LOT of real-world mythology to them, and those traditions have more resonance to me than a brand-new fey creature template. And at the very least, there's already a lot of nifty evil fey out there to choose from—perhaps not in the SRD, but certainly in other open source books or Pathifnder itself.
New Fey: As an expansion of my previous comment... we already have a LOT of fey to choose from, especially if you look beyond the SRD (which is, admittedly, light on the fey) and to Pathfinder products, open D20 products, and especially to real-world myths. Let's not abandon these sources when we do fey stuff in favor of brand new fey templates.
Dryad Warning: Having the dryad disrupt the wedding is unnecessary and over the top. She's not really directly connected to Tenzekil, after all, and he's going to attack the wedding with his minions anyway. Having a creepy gnome and a bunch of evil fey attack a wedding and then having creepy mist roll in to isolate the town once that battle is won is more than enough to get the adventure rolling. The dryad's dramatic entrance, warning, and death is overkill; her tragic scene is better served as an encounter in the woods once the PCs get going.
Gossamere Wraith: I'm not fond of this new monster, mostly because there's not really anything it does that a ghost doesn't already do. My suggestion would be to just use a ghost for this encounter.
Shadow doesn't equal Fey: There's a lot of shadow stuff going on this proposal, with shadow mastiffs and Rhoswen's shadow magic. The plane of Shadow is where this magic comes from, not from the First World. In fact, in some ways, you can think of the First World almost as the opposite of the Plane of Shadow; its a version of the Material Plane that's SUPER vibrant and bigger and more grandiose, rather than muted and dull and smaller, like the Shadow Plane. The shadow elements should be replaced in this adventure.
Vinroot: This name triggers my pun alarm, since the word "vin" is French for "wine," and vin is close to the word vine. When this name's applied to a drunk treant, I make the sour face and get annoyed. On top of which... I'm not even sure treants CAN get drunk... as amusing as an encounter with a drunk treant sounds. Also... I'm not sure making him a ghost adds anything at all to the adventure, especially since you already have what basically amounts to a ghost with the Gossamere Wraith.
Unicorn Deus Ex Machina: The unicorns rushing in to save the PCs from the big fight at the halfway point in the adventure seems way too convenient and reeks of deus ex machina to me.
Pathways to the First World: I'm not sure that fey and magical beasts SHOULD be the only ones who can find a route into the First World... especially since this adventure proves that wrong by having a gnome (a humanoid) find a way into the First World. This is a great example of the type of pitfall that setting an adventure in a largely undefined realm like the First World can get an author into.
Evil Blink Dogs: Why? There's PLENTY of evil dog monsters to choose from. I'm not a fan of playing monsters against their alignment, especially when the difference is so huge. Evil blink dogs, lawful lillends, chaotic devils, or good aboleths... off-alignment monsters, when they appear, should be the FOCUS of an adventure, I think, because they're so unusual. They shouldn't be minor elements in a minor encounter.
Rhoswen: Wow. Assuming that the fellnight template is at minimum a +1 CR bump, that means Rhoswen's a CR 14 menace... at the very least. She's also got a powerful magic item, and if she's encountered with lots of minions... I don't see this encounter coming off at anything less than EL 15, which, at the end of an adventure when we can assume the PCs have used some resources up already... is a TPK waiting to happen for 8th level characters.

Final Reaction: I really love the opening encounter, the First World elements, the NPCs, and the final encounter area in this proposal, but there's a lot of little problems vexing it as well. Worse, setting it in the First World might be biting off more than the adventure can chew. I'd rather the first time we really do something big with the First World be able to handle it with enough space... and I'm worried a 32 page module won't have enough room for that.

Contributor

I like the First World aspect and the use of gnomes as villains.

Nice use of the swarms of bees. "I'm covered in beeeees!"

I like the possessed druid. The "undead form of a nixie killed by a chaos beast" is a little weird, you could probably do without the chaos beast part of it and just have it be a unique type of ghost.

I like the assistance of the other forest folk and how they can handle the mass battle against the queen's army, leaving the PCs to handle the hard stuff.

Nice use of nightmare and nondetection.

Ha! Evil blink dogs. :)

I think the 13th-level queen would be a very hard challenge at 9th level, might have to tone that down based on playtesting.

I think this is within the capacity of a 32-page adventure; should it run a little long, it shouldn't be too hard to trim out some of the less-critical encounters or trim where the forest creatures talk about the First World to make it fit.

Overall, I like the proposal!

And because I went last, I can reply to some of the other judges' comments. ;)

Re: Clark, I don't have a problem with the wedding scene. If the GM can't find a reason for the PCs to be at this town (which happens to have a wedding going on), he should hang up his GM hat. If the players are the sort to have their PCs pickpocket everyone, their characters should have been arrested long ago.

Re: Wolf, I agree that a chase scene may be trouble, and if the designer runs into trouble designing it, it would be the first thing I recommend they cut. Likewise, if the adventure runs long, I'd probably cut it unless it was done REALLY well.

Re: James, I don't mind the new fey type--the rules say he's supposed to introduce a new monster. I also don't mind it taking place in the First World; we haven't said much about it, so that lets us push the edges of things in an adventure that touches on it. Perhaps the queen's realm is a demiplane (or a prison plane). Perhaps she turned to shadow magic and as a result her realm broke off and is now part of the Shadow Plane. Lots of cool stuff we could do, if only to get people to beg for more info on the First World.
And I don't mind the evil blink dogs; I'd much rather see "this monster is like a blink dog, but evil" as a shorthand way of introducing a new monster than to spend a page or two or a writeup for a new monster that's basically an evil blink dog... especially when we know that blink dogs usually being LG is just silly. :p

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Again, its nice this year that we don’t have to exclude submissions for external reasons like including too much stuff for a 32 page adventure. All the submission in my view are “doable.” Sure, some could use some trimming. But this year it is all about the quality of the content. I’m going to refer to some stuff from last year just for reference, but the contest here is between these 4 contestants not last year’s contestants. Any reference to last year is for comparison’s sake only. So here we go…

Neil’s Relm of the Fellnight Queen

Great title. Let’s start there. Very evocative and well done. I was expecting that from you. I will admit, I think you are the most polished, professional and “ready to be a superstar” of the whole group. You don’t always have the most pure magic, but from a polished and “ready now” standpoint, I think you are clearly the best. And your title shows that. You know how important that is and you nailed it. You found the beating heart of your adventure—the realm of the fellnight queen. Perfect. Its seeping into our world and the PCs need to do something about it. Well done.

But the question isn’t are you the most polished and ready, the question is who submitted the best adventure proposal. So let’s see…

First off, this is a faerie adventure. Nice working going for something different. But these are hard to do. And they don’t have universal appeal. So there is some risk here. Some people want to play D&D with a harder edge and the fey don’t always deliver. In fact, there is a big group of gamers who will literally not touch that kind of adventure. So from a publisher standpoint you are possibly limiting the appeal of this adventure just by your content choice. It’s a niche product, potentially. Not sure that is Superstar. And I will admit, I am not a huge faerie fan. That said, a well-done evil fey adventure is needed and could be a hit. So with all that on the table, let’s get to it.

Good summary, great background, good use of bleaching, great First World reference. Has a very “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” feel to the backstory. Not sure if everyone will agree, but a witch lures a “child” into doing some evil. I don’t know. In any event, it’s not a bad thing.

I’ve chewed on this wedding intro for some time. Something bugged me about it and I couldn’t put my finger on it. But I think some of the comments from my fellow judges helped. Now please understand that I LOVE a great roleplaying encounter. I though the Demonscar Ball from SCAP was perhaps one of the most fun D&D sessions I have ever had in over 30 years of playing D&D (and this from an old school dungeon crawl devotee and dyed-in-the-wool grognard). I think I just hated the dying dryad gag. I am certain you can pull off the roleplaying riffs necessary to make this wedding work as an encounter. In fact, it is pretty bold to start with a roleplaying encounter up front instead of the customary “roll initiative” way to get things going. Now, I am a fan of the “roll initiative” approach, but this one may just work well for you. The good part is that you actually do both. You can do the wedding as much or as little as the DM wants. It can be a great way to impart info and start some story ideas. But if the group doesn’t want to do much of that, you throw the bees and fellnight warriors right at the PCs. Just dump that dryad and the intro would be much better, in my view.

Then comes the mist and the adventure really begins in earnest. Great structure, by the way. In fact, I have to admit all the submissions this year really used excellent act and scene structure. Very well done all around.

The dryad, the first bloom, the gossamer wraith all are really great and could be excellent encounters. Fun, organic. In the end, an adventure is a pre-constructed and pre-determined chain of events. What you want is to have an organic growth of story and actions that make the adventure feel just the opposite—that they were not pre-constructed or pre-determined. And these encounters do that. They feel like they grow naturally from the story.

The wardstone, Tenzekil, the mist, more warriors. Good repeated use of an antagonist. This adventure feels like good classic literature. I first mentioned Shakespeare in my initial comments. Then Lewis’ Narnia. You use some strong literary elements and devices to good effect.

I LOVE the interlude. That is a great idea before the adventure into the other realm and the palace. Very well done. Ugh, I don’t like unicorns. But I will concede that if we are going to have a good-fey versus bad-fey throwdown, then unicorns are going to get into the mix. It makes sense. But it is perhaps your weakest element and I would suggest you consider something different and a bit less cliché.

Now we go into the fey realm…

I LOVE the evil blink dogs. I don’t care about templates and this and that. Just say they are evil and get over it. The fun of evil fey is they are a perversion of what is good. So evil blink dogs works fine for me. In fact, I love it!

I also really like the roleplaying possibilities of getting the gnome to turn against the queen. Again, very literary.

Ah, the “spine-filled palace.” Good stuff. Real good stuff. “A variety of horrors wait inside. Topiary gargoyles defend the main courtyard. Barbed assassin vines threaten to pull intruders into yawning pits beneath the leaf-strewn passageways. Smoky belkers slip from room to room via tiny gaps in the chitinous, thorn-ridden walls. And deadly traps summon greater shadow conjurations of chaos beasts, shamblers, and Large earth elementals to battle for their queen.”

I’ll admit, I really want to run this. My mind conjures up a super-cool map of the palace. I can’t wait to see what that would look like! This has the chance to be an excellent and very memorable encounter location.

More literary references, with the “mirror, mirror on the wall”-style scrying mirror for the evil fey queen.

An excellent and epic finale. I will admit, this is probably the evil fey adventure that we have been waiting to see all these years and have never yet really seen.

Final Thoughts

I think you delivered an epic and wonderful adventure. Though I am not a huge fan of the faerie, I think you did it right. You tapped the wonderful literary inspirations for the fey without descending into stereotypes and clichés (well, except for the unicorns, but that is easily fixed). I think this is a terrific adventure proposal, though I have to say I was not initially that predisposed to want to support a fey adventure, and one that has a gnome in it at that! I also happen to think this is a very professional presentation, which I expected from you.

But let’s not stop there. Let’s take a look at your body of work. Neil, Neil, Neil. You are, in a way, the Jason Nelson of this year’s competition. I really thought last year Jason had all the professional chops to be the Superstar. I thought he was the most polished, professionally. He didn’t always have the A+ magic of Boomer or Christine (his creativity was A but not A+), but his stuff was so polished and professional and in the real world of writing that counts for as much sometimes. You are the same way. Lucky for you, you also have a dash of that magic just like he had. You have that A creativity too. And, lucky for you, there isn’t a Boomer or Christine in this competition (though Kevin is close). For many reasons, I think this year we valued professional work over just pure gonzo creativity and I think that has showed. And I also think you are the best of the bunch this year (and that is not to say you aren’t creative, you are absolutely). I loved – LOVED! – the last leaves. It was universally liked by the judges. Gulga, of course, was a smash hit. I thought you rested on your laurels in the second round and didn’t do much to improve Gulga, though. I told you then to put your foot back on the gas pedal. And you delivered in the following round with your lair for Sharina. Now, I didn’t recommend that lair to advance, but not for lack of quality and presentation and professionalism. I liked your swing for the fences approach. You took a big chance. You did what I asked and put that foot back on the pedal. And now this adventure proposal. Again, you took a chance. What you delivered was great and you delivered it very professionally.

I think your work has been the most consistently excellent and the most consistenly professional. I think you are the most “ready now” to be the RPG Superstar for 2009. Your biggest challenger in my view is Kevin. I recommended his adventure proposal for consideration as the winner and I will do the same with your proposal. I must say, though, that as between the two I think you adventure proposal is slightly better and your body of work also is slightly better.

As a result, I RECOMMEND this submission for consideration as a potential winning submission, and further that Neil’s submission, when taken together with his overall body of work and his high level of professionalism in presentation and current readiness to be a freelancer, cause me to recommend that Neil be selected as the overall winner for RPG Superstar 2009.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16 aka Mark Thomas 66

Not usually a fan of Fey related adventures but this is truly impressive. The use of the forest, and searching for clues give classes like the ranger and druid an opporunity to shine.

The storytelling is consistent, the 3 act style gives clear pacing and you've included a lot of great DM direction as well as options and If/Then's.

We all knew you were the one to beat and we all fell before your pen.

Awesome work Neil.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 aka Lord Fyre

James Jacobs wrote:

Fellnight Template: There are too many templates in the game, I think. Especially when you take into account Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary, which we get a LOT of use out of at Paizo. Further compounding this problem, we've had similar "evil fey templates" show up in Paizo products a fair amount. I don't think we need another one. Furthermore, the traditions of the fey have a LOT of real-world mythology to them, and those traditions have more resonance to me than a brand-new fey creature template. And at the very least, there's already a lot of nifty evil fey out there to choose from—perhaps not in the SRD, but certainly in other open source books or Pathifnder itself.

New Fey: As an expansion of my previous comment... we already have a LOT of fey to choose from, especially if you look beyond the SRD (which is, admittedly, light on the fey) and to Pathfinder products, open D20 products, and especially to real-world myths. Let's not abandon these sources when we do fey stuff in favor of brand new fey templates.

Ah, but we have been tightly limited to the SRD throughout most of this competition. So, not necessarily thinking about all the Fey that are in other products shouldn't be held against Neil.

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

Interesting, this is the 4th I’ve read (no reading other comments), and all of you went for the same sweet spot of level 7-10. I guess that’s not that unexpected; it’s the sweet spot for a reason.

Generally not a fan of “dark and mysterious fey,” but that’s just my personal taste. Let’s have a look and I’ll just get over it. I actually like the nonviolent adventure hooks. It’s a different approach, and it meshes well with the “when good times go bad” first encounter.

Nice use of the themed magic item. It worked to get you into the contest and it works again here.

Gossamere wraith – an interesting idea but a bizarrely specific origin story. It could have just been a ghost and gotten pretty much the same mileage with malevolence. It’s not bad, but can they exorcise it without killing the host? What does Devarre do if they free him from the possession?

I like the desperate encounter by the pool and the unicorn rescue.

EVIL BLINK DOGS!?!?! Noooooo…. But the gnomes riding them should know better than to bother firing poison darts at the unicorns, who are IMMUNE to poison! For confronting Tenzekil, you suggest it is possible to turn him to the PCs’ side, but is it really? Everything up to this point suggests he’s entirely the queen’s creature now. You might set up this possibility for redemption in earlier encounters or info, or else the PCs will just kill him and the option to redeem would be moot.

The palace and final encounter seems like a TPK. A templated sorc 13 with a load of minions and favorable terrain vs. an 8th level party? Ouch. How many elementals and belkers and all the rest are we talking about? That’s a lot of hit-and-run attrition on the way to the final throwdown.

True, you can in theory zap her and all her bad guys if you can get the staff, but can anybody do it? Do you have to be a Sor/Wiz with an 18 prime stat (so binding is on your spell list). When you activate it, all the bad fey are “disoriented” long enough so you can escape. Are they stunned? Unconscious? Confused? Dazed? Can you kill them? Does it affect non-fey allies (like elementals and belkers and assassin vines)? Do you have time to loot the palace? For that matter, you needed the unicorns to find your way in; if the unicorns have been killed, can you find your way out?

Wait, at the end Devarre is alive again? I thought the PCs killed him to get rid of the wraith.

Hmmm… overall, I like it. I think the final battle is overkill for PCs of this level, but the same could be said of the dragon-volcano in the other adventure IF all the dragons team up. A bit more information about exactly who is “on the board” at the climactic battle would help sell it.

Then again, this is a proposal, not the final form, so I can’t ding either of you too hard on that. It’s something I would have liked, but something that will be worked out and refined in writing and development.

I’ll have to think on my vote, but best of luck and congrats on making it this far!


Faeries and gnomes and unicorns, oh my!

Got my vote!

Good luck.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Lord Fyre wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:

Fellnight Template: There are too many templates in the game, I think. Especially when you take into account Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary, which we get a LOT of use out of at Paizo. Further compounding this problem, we've had similar "evil fey templates" show up in Paizo products a fair amount. I don't think we need another one. Furthermore, the traditions of the fey have a LOT of real-world mythology to them, and those traditions have more resonance to me than a brand-new fey creature template. And at the very least, there's already a lot of nifty evil fey out there to choose from—perhaps not in the SRD, but certainly in other open source books or Pathifnder itself.

New Fey: As an expansion of my previous comment... we already have a LOT of fey to choose from, especially if you look beyond the SRD (which is, admittedly, light on the fey) and to Pathfinder products, open D20 products, and especially to real-world myths. Let's not abandon these sources when we do fey stuff in favor of brand new fey templates.
Ah, but we have been tightly limited to the SRD throughout most of this competition. So, not necessarily thinking about all the Fey that are in other products shouldn't be held against Neil.

It certainly shouldn't be held against him... but I looked at these submissions as the guy who'll be greenlighting the winner for publication. If this one wins... the ban on what can and can't be used throughout the open d20 product world goes away. Perhaps a better route to choose would have been to simply make the template a specific new monster, I suppose. I MUCH prefer new monsters as new monsters instead of templates as new monsters.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

I'll echo nearly everyone else and say that the "fey" adventure is generally one I overlook, but this hit all the right notes and makes me do a 180 on my predisposition. This is what a fairy tale (in the most traditional sense of the term) looks like in the dark and gritty world of Golarion! I get flashes of the films Legend and Brothers Grimm while at the same time recognize the C.S. Lewis influence as well. I can see many gamers making their own connections to the tropes you allude to and making this module both evocative and personal for their own players.

Mechanically, I think there are a lot of things that need to be turned down a few notches here, though I think with the plethora of fey available (as James mentioned) you can get the same feel with encounters that aren't auto-TPK's. I think it could also help to use a victory point system to indicate how strong the evil queen is when she is finally encountered such that inspiring the townspeople not to fear or eliciting the help of more good creatures weakens her army. Perhaps more stones returned to the ring. This would make it less dependent on a straight narrative railroad and give groups room to improvise their own methods of handling things. It also makes it less class specific, as others have noted the dependency on sor/wiz to use the staff and end it all.

In any case, Neil, I was rooting for you to deliver the best proposal, and while I like two others enough to want to play them, I like this one enough that I think I'm going to run it for my players whether you win or not. And if that's not the sign of a winner, I don't know what is. You have my vote hands-down. It's been a blast watching you these past few months, and this is the perfect capstone. May the voters be with you!

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

Jason Nelson wrote:

Gossamere wraith – an interesting idea but a bizarrely specific origin story. It could have just been a ghost and gotten pretty much the same mileage with malevolence. It’s not bad, but how can they exorcise it without killing the host? What does Devarre do if they free him from the possession?

Sorry, I wasn't reading carefully; you do answer the fact that they CAN rescue Devarre. My bad.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 aka Lord Fyre

yoda8myhead wrote:
Mechanically, I think there are a lot of things that need to be turned down a few notches here, though I think with the plethora of fey available (as James mentioned) you can get the same feel with encounters that aren't auto-TPK's. I think it could also help to use a victory point system to indicate how strong the evil queen is when she is finally encountered such that inspiring the townspeople not to fear or eliciting the help of more good creatures weakens her army. Perhaps more stones returned to the ring. This would make it less dependent on a straight narrative railroad and give groups room to improvise their own methods of handling things. It also makes it less class specific, as others have noted the dependency on sor/wiz to use the staff and end it all.

Oh! I like this idea.

Anything that reduces the "Railroad" effect (except in Empire Builder), and gives the player's actions more impact on the outcome makes an adventure better!


Ghosts of drunken treants prefer the taste of methanol spirits everytime.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 aka Gamer Girrl

Neil, you have my vote :)

This adventure proposal falls together nicely, everything fits together in a sweet, sweet package. Yes, there are things that can be changed and tightened, monsters that can be taken from other OGL products, and the queen may need a CL trimming, but this is just plain GOOD!

Evil Fey, Bleaching, the First World, classic Fairy Tale elements (Btothers Grimm and Tales of the Sisters Grimmer, come to mind immediately), it's all there. I love, love, love the evil blink dogs, twisting the good onto its head is very appropriate.

There's a wonderful mix of roleplaying, battling, thinking, doing, times the party NEEDS to run (I love the unicorns riding to the rescue!) and times they need to stand. Something for everyone. Excellent job, sir.

Congratulations on the top four, and here's my hope that you take the crown!


No flumphs? Oh well, you gave us evil blink dogs and ghost of drunken treant instead, so I don't mind. And feys and gnomes too.

I like this entry. But I like Mammoth Lords too. I have to think a bit which one gets my vote...

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Aotrscommander

I think this is pretty much the best of the crowd - as I sort of expected, actually!

The plot's good and well-structured. I don't have any problem with Fey - in fact it suprises me pther people do. Fey is just another type of monster as far as I'm concerned, so why people should set them to a more mythological standard than other monsters has always baffled me...

Ditto Unicorns. Though that may be partly because when I redesigned them for my own campaign world, they stopped being shy, forest horsey and became paladins tuck in the form of a - heavily built - shire horse with a +3 sword stapled to thier forehead. And the first PC Unicorn I ran for had a ring of jumping and a +42 Jump check. When you have the image of a thing the size of a shire horse leaping 50' to smash horn-first into the poor victim who doesn't so much die as splash, it tends to supercede any less Awesome images you might have had...

But I'm getting sidetracked.

I think the combat encounters are just about suited to a party of that level. I, for one, think the final encounter is about right (I typically use characters of +50% of the party's level as bosses). She better get some minions in fast though (i.e pre combat), as experience shows that give the PCs a single target (especially a caster) and they'll take them out in one round, even with maxed-out hit points. And don't forget Dispel Magic this time, it'll be absolutely cruical! That said, depending on how much you 'push' the PCs in terms of resources with the pre-battle harrying you might not need to worry so much. (Although a half-way sane party will have one or two Wands of CLW or even better Lesser Vigour by this point...)

The Gnome Fighter/Rogues might need buffing a tad (or at least some support in the later dryad rescue encounter) so the PCs don't whomp them to quickly (at about half the PC's level, they constitute what I call as 'chaff' encounter - nice way to break in the module, but they'll probably need some stiffening in a real challenging fight.)

Combat challenge is a concern for me in an adventure, by the way, because both of my groups have access to 3.5 in it's entirity and optimise well (and one group in particular works like a team that's been together for 20 years - because they pretty much have!) (WotC's 3.5 version of the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, for example, which I ran recently, was pretty much a cake walk. The PCs went in at one level lower and with level-appropriate gear and broke the module in half. The Crusader could nearly have soled it - and so could a fighter of the same level - just by having a respectable armour class from level-appropriate armour and shields...) So if I have to do a lot of meddling with power-levels, it somewhat defeats the object of getting a module!

So, all that blither aside, you get my vote.

(I really hope to see Gulga out in print doing his thing on day too!)

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What a choice ! Neil vs Kevin ! Dark fey of the first world vs. dragon spirits ! Gulga-Gench vs. 26 Paper Street ! UNCANNY !

Still, while both adventure outlines are MARVELOUS, the "dead dragons" idea was beaten to death IMHO (even in Paizo material). Plus, Gulga still haunts me at night.

You have my vote Neil, BUT I certainly hope I will see some published stuff from the other three finalists.

Liberty's Edge

Very evocative, with fun and unusual enemies, highly memorable scenes that I can picture players reminiscing about years later, and a great sense of style. I very much liked some of the others, but this one gets my vote. Congrats Neil!

The Exchange

Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber

Well silly me, I do like Fey. But I rather say, I like fairy tales. Neil, I will somehow lace your drink at PaizoCon... Beware!

Zuxius


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I voted for this pitch on its own merits.

Then I read all of the comments. Clark Peterson's comments assured me I had done the right thing.

As I said, I voted on its own merits, but I'm particularly glad to hear that your work has been consistently excellent and professional. (I just started following this today, so I haven't read the earlier materials).

I think if I had liked this pitch equally (or even a slight bit less) than another (and had voted differently), that comment of Clark's would make me reconsider and change my vote to this one.

A great idea poorly done (or unprofessionally done) is not a great adventure. Luckily, looks like you've got both the great idea and the skill to do it well.

Bravo!

EDIT: I think my one criticism might be the unicorns. Perhaps a new fey mount might be in order?


Every round so far, I have voted for you without reservation, and then weighed the others for my remaining votes. Oddly, Varrush was my favourite villain. 26 Paper Street was my favourite lair. The lens of the runethief was my favourite item. You and Trevor were my favourite contestants. You impressed me early on with your lucid, clear and flowing prose, and your meticulous sense of structure, you are the first to get my vote every round. Now I only have one vote, and I feel very glad to be giving it to you.

By the way. Unicorns are awesome, and anyone who thinks of them as 'girly' or 'meh' really doesn't seem to get the resonances of mythology. I remember an encounter with unicorns in an adventure when I was ten. I don't remember many games from those days, but my older brother really made the unicorns stand out as a primal, wild force that is barely contained in the flesh, and as creatures of legend and wonder. Dragons are old hat to me now, but unicorns still have some magic. I just hope the unicorns in your published module dont take any s$&# from the party, and that the honour of riding them is apparent.

I notice that your eye for the small details and flourishes is intact in this round. A grace of unicorns it is.


I personally think your talents are wasted on an adventure, and you should be pitching for the Paizo Pathfinder fiction line.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8 aka Tarren Dei

Taliesin Hoyle wrote:
I personally think your talents are wasted on an adventure, and you should be pitching for the Paizo Pathfinder fiction line.

Have you ever read Neil's dialogue? I've been in a couple of PbPs with Neil and his dialogue writing rocks. I agree he could do some amazing fiction.

Dark Archive

Once again, Neil, I think your creativity shines through in this adventure outline. Nicely done.

Liberty's Edge Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8

Had to skip to the comments after getting to act 1.

I think this is going to be my favorite, I loved the Dryad tree striding into the scene, it hooked me right away and now I can't wait to see what unfolds.

Edit 1:
"The PCs have only a few moments to calm and..."
Oh no you didn't... You killed off the Dryad right in front of me! You bastard! Excellent, I now have an emotional tie to this story so soon, very nice Neil. I'm hooked and tied emotionally.

Then come the bee's. Impressive Skywalker. Most Impressive.

Act 2:
Hooked again. A chance to redeem ourselves and save the Dryad. I've got a good feeling about this now, I'm drawn in.

"...ghost of a drunken treant..." Woah! What? That's great, That would be a fun RP moment to roleplay a tree drunk. That's a keeper.

The ONLY thing I really didn't like were the Gnomes on Blinkdogs, had that been 'Fey' on blinkdogs, and left it to the DM's preference I would of felt better about it. And as a purist when it comes to unicorns, I like the elven lass angle myself. I suppose that can be overlooked, but I'd like to see a blurb about why these unicorns would break tradition and allow a non elf rider, never mind a male on their backs.

another edit:
Tenzekil has tons of great things going for him, love 'em. I will love to play him, my PCs will love to hate him.

Otherwise THIS is the story I'd want to buy, this is the winner for me. Awesome proposal Neil, I loved it.


The module proposal leaves me with a number of unanswered questions/minor nitpicks I would hope to see answered/dealt with in a full module.

First, Unicorns. I'm a traditionalist which means I prefer the idea of unicorns that can only be ridden by maidens of certain virtue. This is a minor nitpick.

Second the Staff. Why does the Queen have it? If it has the power to 'lock her back in her prison', then why on Golarion hasn't she destroyed it, or had a servant gift it to a particularly bad-tempered great wyrm dragon on the other side of the world known to take a particularly dim view of would-be looters? The only answer I can think of to this is that it was one of the Queen's favourite possessions before she was locked away, and those who did that to her were sadistic enough to attune the prison to it, just to torment her further.

Third the encounter with the Queen. I think it might work better if the Queen so busy elsewhere (perhaps slaughtering those fools impertinent enough to challenge her forces in battle) and has left a trusted lieutenant in charge at he palace; the battle becomes more important as a distraction, as it means that the Queen (the potential TPK) is elsewhere, and puts a clock on the PCs (they must achieve their mission in the palace before she stops being distracted and comes back home).

These aside, this entry does seem to me to be, in terms of presentation and idea, the best entry in Round 5. I just need to make my mind up now about if I think it will fit into 32 pages, without being damaged very much...

Edit:
On the subject of treants, whilst ents (Tolkien, The Two Towers) are not D&D Treants, I seem to recall that special brews - 'ent draughts' - could affect them in a manner perhaps akin to a plant (or whatever ents are) version of inebriation.

Liberty's Edge Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8

Charles Evans 25 wrote:

The module proposal leaves me with a number of unanswered questions/minor nitpicks I would hope to see answered/dealt with in a full module.

Edit:
On the subject of treants, whilst ents (Tolkien, The Two Towers) are not D&D Treants, I seem to recall that special brews - 'ent draughts' - could affect them in a manner perhaps akin to a plant (or whatever ents are) version of inebriation.

As far as I see it, Plants being alive, can get as hammered as a smurf at a bachelor party. Though I think we agree here :)

Liberty's Edge Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

You have my vote, Neil. I want to see this adventure. My group will want to play this adventure. In the end, this adventure is what the contest is all about. I also look forward to seeing what other projects Paizo slips your way after the contest.

Good luck!

Star Voter Season 6

As part of a process of quantifying judge and voter concerns about whether a proposal has too much for a 32 page module.

Encounters:

Combat: 15 (bee swarms, Tenzekil and minions, saving Fira, will-o'-wisp, shamblers, shadow mastiffs, Devarre II, Avormeigh, queen's riders, topiary gargoyles, assassin vines with pits, smoky belkars, 3 sets of deadly traps, Roshwhen herself)
RP/Skill: 4 (Devarre I, gathering info in act 2, act 2 climb, addressing the conclave)
Could Go Either Way: 3 (Vinroot, running from Tenzekil, Tenzekil in First World)
Wandering Monster Tables: 2 (lost in the mist, counts either here or in combat section; really has to include a wandering monster table for the First World, as there's absolutely no way the party completes this mission in 1 day)
Likely maps: 7 (Bellis, Lost in the Mist, Devarre's Grove, Devarre's 3 mini-encounters, Wardstone pool, First World, Roshwhen's palace and grounds)

It's also incredibly annoying that you don't mark these encounters out more clearly, such as by including a CR. It was a breeze to do this for Eric's proposal.


This is an excellent adventure. Unlike others, I'm a great fan of the fey, and particularly of evil fey - it's always fun to see just how bad nature can get when it does go bad.

Things I particularly liked:
- The overall atmosphere. I don't really like adventures that get too epic, with too much going on, but this strikes a nice balance. Not too overpowered, but the PCs are still doing something that matters to a lot of people. Also good plot that seems to "grow organically", as Clark put it, with good pacing overall.

- The intro. Dying dryads are always great for setting a scene. Although I did have some reservations here, which I'll get to below.

- The obsessive, yet failed Gnome beekeeper villain. How can you not love him?

- "...the ghost of a drunken treant named Vinroot..." I so want to see this.

- The First Bloom of the Spring Dryad. Good item, and I remember we briefly talked about this way back on the Last Leaves, so it's nice to see it worked in.

- The Queen's palace - very nice description - and the last battle. I like that the PCs don't necessarily have to kill the villain to succeed, or perhaps shouldn't even expect to, since that allows me to use her as a recurring villain.

On the other hand, the only substantial thing that jarred me was the dryad in the intro. It seemed a bit unlikely to me that a dryad, no matter how desperate, would really jump into something as relatively civilized as a wedding in the middle of a town? Wouldn't it be more logical to turn to the local druid for help first? But then it occurred to me that maybe she did exactly that - perhaps she did go to Devarre first, discovered that he'd been possessed, and only then fled to the place of absolute last resort, the big town with all the scary people in it? If necessary, that would also conveniently allow her to drop a hint about the possessed druid. That's how I'd do it, anyway.

So final verdict: Great stuff here, both in terms of design and writing. Definitely has my vote.

Contributor

roguerouge wrote:
It's also incredibly annoying that you don't mark these encounters out more clearly, such as by including a CR. It was a breeze to do this for Eric's proposal.

It's an adventure proposal, not an outline for the adventure.

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

James Jacobs wrote:
I'd rather the first time we really do something big with the First World be able to handle it with enough space... and I'm worried a 32 page module won't have enough room for that.

I think you're overstating the First World issue, because...

NSpicer wrote:
...a pocket dimension of the shadowy First World...

The way I read that, the evil fey in this adventure have been sealed in a pocket dimension. This extradimensional prison was created in the First World, and inherited a few First World characteristics, but isn't actually the First World itself.

So you can use First World villains and themes without having to reveal any concrete facts about the First World. Anything in Neil's adventure that contradicts the First World canon is no problem at all; it's just an unique property of this specific pocket dimension spawned by the First World, not a statement about the whole First World itself.

In short, you get to have your cake and eat it, too. All without requiring any word count devoted to explaining the full details of the First World.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 aka Gamer Girrl

roguerouge wrote:
It's also incredibly annoying that you don't mark these encounters out more clearly, such as by including a CR. It was a breeze to do this for Eric's proposal.

As was noted elsewhere, this is a proposal, they aren't supposed to list the CRs per encounter, but give the overall feel of the story and adventure.

Star Voter Season 6

Sean K Reynolds wrote:
roguerouge wrote:
It's also incredibly annoying that you don't mark these encounters out more clearly, such as by including a CR. It was a breeze to do this for Eric's proposal.
It's an adventure proposal, not an outline for the adventure.

Yes, but in the others it's much easier to tell what the actual encounters are. CRs are one way of indicating what the actual encounters are, not the only way. Given the amount of attention to the number of encounters last year and this year in the general forum and by the judges, one would think that making it easy to see what the encounters are is a valid thing for a voter to praise or condemn.

Certainly, Kevin devoted time to making his encounters easily found. Kevin's was well-presented: I could quickly read through it and see the monsters clearly set out from the descriptive text. To me, the ability to skim a proposal to get the gist of it is an essential way to present a proposal. Blocks of text where I really have to go word by word to even know that there's a monster there is a flaw in the presentation, whatever its other merits. While I disagree with some his choices, the best feature of his proposal is its presentation.

And you dinged Kevin for creating a final encounter that's a TPK and used CRs to prove your point. Had the CRs been in Kevin's proposal, it might have been more apparent to him writing it. It would certainly be apparent to voters in their first read through his proposal.

Eric's had CRs, although he's getting dinged for not being clear enough about monsters that will end up on a wandering monster table. That's a presentation flaw that he's been overly-punished for, in my opinion.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8 aka Tarren Dei

Epic Meepo wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
I'd rather the first time we really do something big with the First World be able to handle it with enough space... and I'm worried a 32 page module won't have enough room for that.

I think you're overstating the First World issue, because...

NSpicer wrote:
...a pocket dimension of the shadowy First World...

The way I read that, the evil fey in this adventure have been sealed in a pocket dimension. This extradimensional prison was created in the First World, and inherited a few First World characteristics, but isn't actually the First World itself.

I agree. I thought the wardstones worked to imprison her there and, as long as they are replaced, she remains trapped in this pocket dimension.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Hmm. I know my gaming group, and they will immediately start referring to the titular villain as the "fellatio queen." It has to to with a bleached gnome following a fey queen's commands to kill the local good fey in preparation for a Ravenloft-mists-type invasion from the fey realm.

I have to say, a couple things in here seem like a bit of a stretch. There's a new monster that's formed when "a nixie's vengeful spirit reforms after being slain by a chaos beast." That's a bit... fringe. One of the encounters is the dreaded "the party should know to flee this instead of fight" kind of encounter. And there's a lot of fey and gnomes. Which is fine, if you're into that, but in general I wouldn't tend to buy and run this kind of adventure. 4e's beating both the fae and shadows to death anyway. The adventure structure is solid, but I just don't find it compelling.

Liberty's Edge

James Jacobs wrote:
Final Reaction: I really love the opening encounter, the First World elements, the NPCs, and the final encounter area in this proposal, but there's a lot of little problems vexing it as well. Worse, setting it in the First World might be biting off more than the adventure can chew. I'd rather the first time we really do something big with the First World be able to handle it with enough space... and I'm worried a 32 page module won't have enough room for that.

you have till january to put something toguether so this module could be a companion for a Pathfinder Chronicles book :P

Liberty's Edge

need to read the rest, but i loved this adventure...

i am not fan of the fae... but i know that they have a dark side... and i have always loved the dark cold fae that appeared in Ravenloft and similar settings...

I like Bellis in general and the idea to get more info of it and of the 1st world is attractive... too big maybe for a 32 adventure so it lefts us with one option ... *cough cough* sorry James... don't be lazy and began working on the 1st world or Bellis :P

more improtantly I liked the ending, well done, a creepy faery tale, very very Grimm's Brothers indeed

I am not fan of the fae... so... if I get to kill gnomes... count me in :D

judt one quiestion.... does this Fellnight Queen has anything to do with the darkfey -Queen already in the Darklands? how would she respond to the fact that someone as somber as her is trying to steal a place in Golarion... even more the damble b~+~+ is going for he surface world when she could do no better than some caves?

:D

food for though

The Exchange

I wanted this to be the best, I wanted you to win and I'm glad to give my vote to Last Leaves, Gulga, Sharina's Theatre and this adventure.

Well done Neil. I hope you win.

Cheers

Star Voter Season 6

Neil, I'm sorry. I've been with you every round, even when you were facing the GULGA backlash. But you don't have me this round. And it's not because you bite off more than you can chew, because I don't think you did. Your hook is gripping. And it's not because you're using fey. I love them.

You don't have my vote because these fey are too mortal. There's no fey in your fey adventure.

There's none of the bizarre, cruel humor showcased in Carnival of Tears. There's none of the logic alien to mortal perspective, showcased in many fey legends. There's none of the fun-house mirror morality so much a part of the fey vibe in fairy tales. There's nothing about the First World-esque dimension that marks it out as a land of the strange and weird. And your good fey are just bland.

The plot is that a fey queen was imprisoned and wants to get out of her dimensional prison. So a stranger wanders into her lands, whom she tempts and corrupts through rewards to weaken the barriers. Then the minion is forced to go on a local rampage, which draws the PCs in. There's even an army.

Everything's nice and logical. Which isn't fey at all. Go back and look at Carnival of Tears.

Spoiler:
The fey there have a comprehensible motive, which isn't true to the myths but is necessary at the gaming table. But their means of revenge is CRAZY. There's no army. Their response to environmental devastation is a swarm of murderous pranks.

Subtract out the adjective "fey" and that queen could be a demon. It could be a lich. It could be a genie. It could be wizard. The template's nothing but abilities in a can. The only thing that marks them out as fey is that there's a druidic vibe to their tactics, with plant references abounding. This proposal really feels generic.

(Although the evil blink dogs are nice. What happens to the rider when they blink, though? And I really see fey as being more cat people, don't you? What about displacer beasts? Anyways... )

In short, I wonder if those voting for you on fey grounds are wishcasting that the module will feature "their" fey. Because it's not there on the page for me. I want to make clear that I feel that it's certainly valid for them to wishcast in this manner, given your track record with GULGA and with writing in-character dialogue.

But if you win and you want me to buy your fey adventure, there darn well better be fey weirdness in the fey adventure.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8 aka Tarren Dei

roguerouge wrote:
In short, I wonder if those voting for you on fey grounds are wishcasting that the module will feature "their" fey. Because it's not there on the page for me. I want to make clear that I feel that it's certainly valid for them to wishcast in this manner, given your track record with GULGA and with writing in-character dialogue.

Since I was the one who made the off-hand comment about Neil's in-character dialogue, I feel pulled to respond. I was agreeing that Neil would write excellent Pathfinder fiction. Don't judge his entry based on that.

By 'wishcasting' do you mean judging Neil's ability to deliver based upon what he has done in every round of this contest--bring a high quality of work and professionalism to both his entries? If that's what you mean, then I say 'wishcast'.

Judge his entry based on the quality of his prose--the highest this round. Judge his entry on the clarity of presentation--again the highest. Judge his entry on his professionalism; Neil, throughout this contest and in this round, has shown himself to be dedicated, considerate, and responsible. Judge his entry on whether it makes you go, "I wanna DM that" and "I wanna play that". For me, this was the adventure I wanted to play. Finally, judge his entry on whether or not you think he can deliver.

As for the fey not being fey enough, I look at the promo text for 'Carnival of Tears' and I don't see anything other than a bunch of angry fairies: "They've lingered in their wood, seething with anger at the townspeople for defiling their land. When the carnival arrives, the fey finally see their chance for vengeance." The whacky goblins we loved in 'Burnt Offerings' are mentioned briefly in the promo text for that adventure path: "A band of goblins assaults Sandpoint, and it falls to the heroes to defend the new temple." Yes, the promo blurs are very short but I think the fey weirdness that you're looking for is going to enter at a much more specific level of detail such as tactics, reactions, murder weapons, etc.

Neil's got my vote and it's not because he's a friend. It's because he's the best.


Further Comment:
The palace in Crucible of Chaos was one of the areas I was most disappointed with, in terms of the fact that little more than basically a map was provided and a couple of areas were detailed. It was an area of which so much more could have been made instead of being left to the DM to fill in.
Randy Dorman's vampire-Rakshasa lair entry in Round 4 was criticised by a number of people on the grounds that it didn't feel detailed enough to them to really be a 'palace'.
If you say 'palace' here, you've set a high level of expectations for what people want to see, whether you intended that or not.

Some of the monsters used in this module will require creature entries at the back of the module, because I don't think that they will make it into the PFRPG Bestiary. I doubt that blink-dogs will be in the bestiary; I'm not sure if unicorns will unless they have featured before in several Paizo modules.
Then the new fellnight template will require an entry, and it might be safest simply to come up with a new 'master' fellnight (fey) race anyway, which the Queen and her servants are part of - actual archetypical unseelie fey, as opposed to the other fey 'slaves' whom they 'convert' with the template.
I assume that the queen herself (or a lieutenant) will have an extensive stat block.

This is where some of my concerns regarding page count start to creep in from....

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8 aka Tarren Dei

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Some of the monsters used in this module will require creature entries, because I don't think that they will make it into the PFRPG Bestiary. I doubt that blink-dogs will; I'm not sure if unicorns will unless they have featured before in several Paizo modules.

I thought the bestiary was going to cover the majority of SRD monsters with just a few pulled out for irrelevance. Have you heard different? I figured with '250' monsters, we'd be getting most of them.


Tarren Dei wrote:
Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Some of the monsters used in this module will require creature entries, because I don't think that they will make it into the PFRPG Bestiary. I doubt that blink-dogs will; I'm not sure if unicorns will unless they have featured before in several Paizo modules.
I thought the bestiary was going to cover the majority of SRD monsters with just a few pulled out for irrelevance. Have you heard different? I figured with '250' monsters, we'd be getting most of them.

It's that 'pulled for irrelevence' which could impact this proposal. How often do blink dogs or unicorns show up in Paizo adventures?

Paizo will likely be expanding the dinosaur section of the Bestiary (editor's perogative!) and may be bringing in some creatures from Necromancer's Tome of Horrors.
How far off the bottom of the list of creatures 'endangered' by these additions will blink dogs and unicorns be, unless Paizo have deliberately held back Bestiary space for 'creatures used by the 2009 Superstar'?

Star Voter Season 6

Tarren Dei wrote:
Since I was the one who made the off-hand comment about Neil's in-character dialogue, I feel pulled to respond. I was agreeing that Neil would write excellent Pathfinder fiction. Don't judge his entry based on that.

That's a virtue to his overall record that I'm judging him on. Good monologue and dialogue prompts are gold for a module. I'm totally taking that into account... from prior rounds. That's in no way a criticism of Spicer.

Star Voter Season 6

Tarren Dei wrote:
By 'wishcasting' do you mean judging Neil's ability to deliver based upon what he has done in every round of this contest--bring a high quality of work and professionalism to both his entries? If that's what you mean, then I say 'wishcast'.

Since I feel this is his weakest round, I feel that people are projecting their desires and their fond memories onto the text of this round.

Tarren Dei wrote:
Judge his entry based on the quality of his prose--the highest this round.

We differ here.

Tarren Dei wrote:
Judge his entry on the clarity of presentation--again the highest. Judge his entry on his professionalism

We really differ here. I had real problems with the presentation, as this entry was the hardest to scan to pick out the encounters.

Tarren Dei wrote:
Neil, throughout this contest and in this round, has shown himself to be dedicated, considerate, and responsible.

So have all of the contestants, really. I can't point my finger at any of the contestants in any round and say, "You irresponsible, lazy jerkface! I hates you!"

I'm being humorous, but the character of a contestant is pretty much a wash. I really can't imagine people voting for someone based on their character. And if you do judge someone by their online persona, that's fraught with peril. Go take a look at the faked coma controversy over on Enworld right now. Moreover, I don't buy a module based on the character of the author.

Tarren Dei wrote:
Judge his entry on whether it makes you go, "I wanna DM that" and "I wanna play that". For me, this was the adventure I wanted to play. Finally, judge his entry on whether or not you think he can deliver.

We agree here.

Tarren Dei wrote:
As for the fey not being fey enough, I look at the promo text for 'Carnival of Tears' and I don't see anything other than a bunch of angry fairies: "They've lingered in their wood, seething with anger at the townspeople for defiling their land. When the carnival arrives, the fey finally see their chance for vengeance."

Yes, then the Carnival of Tears proposal would include many of the wacky and strange encounters, which would give it that evil fey vibe. And I'm not making my observation based on the promo blurb. I'm making it based on the three thousand words submitted. There should be more wacky, strange, alien, and twisted than evil blink dogs in 3,000 words.

Again, Neil, I'm really sorry, but if you end up winning this thing, devote a LOT of time to weirding up the fluff.

Star Voter Season 6

Charles Evans 25 wrote:


Randy Dorman's vampire-Rakshasa lair entry in Round 4 was criticised by a number of people on the grounds that it didn't feel detailed enough to them to really be a 'palace'.

If you say 'palace' here, you've set a high level of expectations for what people want to see, whether you intended that or not.

This is where some of my concerns regarding page count start to creep in from....

Seconded. Others looking for why this is important should take a look at the palace in Curse of the Crimson Throne 6. That's a monstrosity of word count, but most of it's needed for the DM to run what happens in there and to provide the DM with suitable descriptions. If the PCs are going to invade the palace in this proposal, they could go anywhere searching for the final battle, so you can't really tone down the map or the encounter description requirements.

It's at the fey palace where I decided that Neil's writing style was hiding more page count than it seemed. I'm okay with that as a voter, but I'm not okay with voters not recognizing that this is a BIG adventure for reasons that go beyond the First World issue.


I have been missing/busy for most of this contest. Wish I had had more time. Okay, I am reading and commenting on entries without reading any judge's comments.

Thoughts on this:

Cons:
*writing, especially at the beginning, could be stronger - tons of passive voice; ideas shine through though.
*Fellnight creatures remind me a lot of Wolfgang Baur's Shadow Fey. They could also be a little more unique.
*Shadowfein poison looks really, really nasty. A group starting at L7 will have difficulty removing those effects if everyone uses it. I like it though.
*Several encounters seem high-powered, particularly a CR 13 sorceress at the end. However, it looks like she's alone. She could actually suffer from Critical Syndrome where a fighter type gets in a good shot or two and wastes her. True, we don't have her stat block. Spells could make up for many weaknessses. However, I've never been a big fan of the solo BBEG in D&D.
*The pitch uses the Maguffin of the staff, but doesn't explain it more. Players have a tendency to want to destroy the stuff that evil enemies use. That said, I think I'm more concerned that the middle seems well thought out and intriguing and the endgame looks a tad short. "Okay, we have our army to counter their army, let's go kill the b~&!# now."

Pros:
*A drunken treant? a fey creature hiding inside/possessing a druid? A massive fight in a forest against fey creatures? Those are very cool ideas.
*I'm intrigued. This has sufficient sandbox elements and a "save the village" not a "save the world" flavor to it that it stands out as an adventure that I might actually read. (I don't read too many adventures, or buy them for that matter.)
*The First World has my interest.
*I love the whole spooky fey fog feel to this.

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