The Green Barrow

Round 4: Design a Golarion location

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Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

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The Green Barrow
Dreega wants nothing more than a daughter of her own. She lived a secret life to that end. She walked the streets of Oppara in Taldor, attended temple there and worshiped Calistra. She's devoted to the goddess of revenge, like her mother and older sister before her. Her mother had in fact raised them both into the faith. Dreega had high hopes of securing the attentions of a quality Taldor male, through the seedier side of her faith. No ordinary street rat would do. She wanted her child to be as near perfect a specimen of her race as possible.

Unfortunately, the handsome, intelligent males she coaxed into loving her pierced her veil of deceits time and again. Her last failure ended disastrously, sending her fleeing from the capital. She killed her would-be lover this time too. The secret of her race was also out. She could never return. Dreega is a green hag.

She fumed with renewed hatred for the attractive Taldor people. She hated them even more now, because she'd failed to extract from them the one thing she wanted most. She returned home to the company of her mother, Greedla. Dreega was pleased to find that her mother's deranged mind had produced results on a venture of her own. Greedla labored over what seemed little more than a slimy green seed. Her mother's research was a success, as she lived in a sickly specimen grown from the seed, a living underground plant chamber. Nearing doddering old age, Greedla wanted security. She wanted to spend her decrepit years in relative comfort, safety and privacy. The next specimen would be healthier!

Dreega's sister Koora also paid the hags a visit. Dreega regaled Koora with her story, stoking her fury at being so denied. During one night of drunken ranting at the audacity of the Taldor, Koora mentioned a peculiar insect newly appearing near her home, tearing through armor as claws through flesh. The fey there called them ardorwesps and they were deathly afraid of them. Koora was surprised to find that the insects shared their faith. They let her pass on her vile errands, deigning even to communicate with her upon occasion.

It wasn't until next morning, whilst nursing a dreadful hangover, that Dreega concocted a sinister plan, combining the two discoveries with her knowledge of Taldor history and politics. She would bring the smug Taldor to their bloodied knees, exacting cold vengeance upon them. Old arguments betwixt the hags forgotten, Greedla and Koora were eager to help. They decided to form a green hag coven. They would help Dreega exact revenge and capture a male to make her with child. Had Calistra provided them with the means? Dreega thought so and her faith was never stronger.

Dreega knew of a forgotten barrow in a nameless forest between the otherwise deforested Taldor nation and their sworn enemy, Qadira. The barrow would hide the activities of their twisted plan. The coven enslaved three mite tribes living in caves near Koora's home, bringing them to the barrow. They forced them to dig beneath the burial chamber. The coven planted the last of Greedla's seeds, praying to Calistra for everlasting vengeance.

The resulting chamber was indeed healthier. The hags christened it "The Green Barrow," in mockery of the forgotten noble family interred in the sepulchers above. Koora allied the coven with five ardorwesps, promising them armor, flesh and fertile gore in which to increase their number a hundredfold.

The coven is working toward the fall of nearby Fort Zimar, the only obstacle between Taldor and Qadira, and open war. Dreega also wants a strong, young soldier that'll give her a daughter. The coven's been delicately probing Qadira for allies, calculating that the right contact could join an attack against Zimar, inspired by the defenselessness the ardorwesps can inflict on Taldor's soldiers. The lair is now eight chambers strong, with plans set to grow more, readied with hives of ardorwesps. Should the hags succeed in loosing them on Zimar, chaos and unreasoned vengeance are sure to follow.

Bower of Toadstools
The walls of the dim chamber here are alive! The displacement of air is evident, as the thick green membranes forming walls breathe in and out. Except for the smell of loam, the air is crisp and pure. Mottled toadstools surround the ladder descending from the burial chamber. Soft grasses thrive here too. Insects droning in the darkness are also ever-present. A pile of glowing fungus lights the way through darkness toward a great living green chamber. Beyond is a ball of luminescent blue floating in midair, roaring generously with a waterfall filling a streambed. The aroma of myriad herbs, flowers and spices completes a heady breeze. Bracken and shrubs dot the way ahead. A giant praying mantis tilts its head to one side, considering. Behind it, working in the grass and shrubs, are pitiable gnarled blue creatures, dressed in rags, toiling in the dirt.

The glowing fungi at the edge of the bower provides yellow light equivalent to an everburning torch. The floating blue light of a gate (see area 3) provides illumination equivalent to a sunrod, which spills slightly into the bower. All gaseous effects, such as smoke or stinking cloud, dissipates in half the time due to the quick purification provided by the living walls; this is advantageous to the ardorwesps.

Creatures: Ardorwesps patrol the dim air above the bower. They're not nearly as confident as the green hags that the complex won't soon be discovered and attack on sight. Enslaved mites work here and a giant mantis dines on mites dead from overwork. Harmless frogs, lizards and insects are also on its menu.

Hazards: Toadstool spoors are moderately poisonous when disturbed (inhaled; DC 16; initial 1d4 Con, secondary 1d4 Con plus sickened for 1d4 rounds). Hacking into the living walls (hardness 6; 70 hp; no break) alerts the hags instantly as they're linked to the entire living lair. Green goo gushes from a breach, slicking the grass in the adjacent 5 foot square as though grease were cast, lasting 1d4 days before absorption. Beyond is impenetrable rock and soil. The hags arrive 6 rounds later accompanied by their toad guardian (see area 6).

Developments: The ardorwesps agreed not to implant the enslaved mites though, as fey, they make ideal hosts. Prior agreements dissolve should intruders attack and the ardorwesps do whatever it takes to defend their new home. The mites refrain from combat unless pressed into battle by hobgoblin overseers standing on a bridge in area 3. They come running, bored and eager for some killing. They arrive in 2 rounds, upon hearing a fight. The mantis joins the fray too, just for the chance of dining on something new.

The hags advance their plans once intruders are routed. The ardorwesps are encouraged to implant every mite in the lair. In just 72 hours all mites throughout are dead, replaced entirely by ardorwesps.

Ardorwesps (5) CR 3
XP 800 each
hp 22 each (RPG Superstar 2010 Round 3)

Mantis, Giant CR 3
XP 200
hp 30 (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 200)

Mites (6) CR 1/4
XP 100 each
hp 3 each (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 207)

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Initial Impression: Looks good, let's dig in...

Location (new Golarion location, name, overall design decision for location, advenuture possibilities, playability/usability, niche, challenge, format and writing): B

Here is my concern, you created an NPC not a location. Now, sure, you do deliver a location entry but I think that was secondary to the NPC you created. Not sure I will ding you, but I had to note it and leave it for the voters to consider. Holy cow, you spend the bulk of your words on the NPC before you even get to the location. That leaves you with precious few for the encounter. That said, I really like the encounter location itself.

Map (necessary material for a cartographer, presence of mandatory content, quality of design decisions, playability/usability of the map, interaction with encounter): A

Now this is a great, great map. I think the quality of your map will help you overcome the issues with your location. If anything, your map may have TOO much detail. But as a developer I'd way rather have that problem than some of the barren maps from this round.

Encounter (monster choice; read-aloud text; challenge; details; quality of design choices; interaction between encounter, map and location; format and writing): B

The read aloud text overdone and not your best. The encounter is good and uses the setting well. I love the choice of the wesps.

Tilt (gut reaction, do I want to use it, other unique positive or negative circumstances not covered above): B+

I loved the map and I think the location really grabbed me. I want to use this.

Overall: B+

Richard, I loved the needled and your monster and your version of the slithering horror was fun. Keep this up, you are doing great. I have to say, while your location was cool, the "created an NPC not a location" problem plagues this entry. I do think you did enough to advance, however. Nice work.

Recommendation: I DO recommend this entry advance to the Top 4.


There is some real disjointed writing here – mainly a lot of choppiness, coming mainly from the short, concise, statement-like sentences along with a lot of passive voice. Also, from the first paragraph you totally get that something is up with Dreega, but to have it spelled out so bluntly at the end of the second paragraph ruins the effect.

The plot here also runs pretty long. The concept of three green hags with grossly maternal plots probably doesn’t need eight paragraphs of lead in. I know there’s more than that, but the main concept could be far more concise and get us into the more interesting adventure related elements.

A growing barrow temple full of molds and slimes – weird and very different.

There’s not much in the way of encounter description here really. There are some monsters, but we don’t get much on what they’re doing or how they react to the PCs - aside from everything dog piles on if combat starts. I’d like to see more in the way of interesting tactics or using the environment to better effect.

There’s also a lot of environmental elements thrown in here that don’t seem like they’d have much roll in a combat or are conspicuously undefined. The gates for example – no idea where they go, how big they are, etc, etc. The details about the walls and goo that comes out are cool, but feel more like set-up for the entire dungeon and not just this encounter. It’s neat, but I would have liked to see more to make this one event shine.

Read Aloud Text
First, this has some of the same disjointed writing issues I noted in the set-up. There’s a lot of very interesting descriptions and some great word use – so not bad writing at all – but the craftsmanship needs refinement.

Another trick is that this defines the monsters in the area, which is usually a no-no. What this description says is that the PCs will always enter this room and find mites working away and a mantis. No matter what. They could have been exploding shrieking dolphins right outside the entrance for three days, but as soon as they head in here, the mites and bugs are like “Oh! We didn’t know you were coming!” So that’s kind of poor. In read aloud text it’s best to keep to descriptions of the location and leave the more dynamic elements (like the PCs and actions of the monsters) left to the players and GMs to define. That way, the GM doesn’t need to customize the text on the fly if he choose to have the creatures here doing something else.

Creature Use
The ardorwesps are just kind of here too. They don’t seem to have any special connection to the place aside from the tangential relationship between the hags and Calistra. Really, the ardorwesps here could be giant wasps, or spiders, or chokers and they wouldn’t really feel any more or less connected.

The creature use in general varies pretty significantly, we’ve got hags (monstrous humanoids), mantises (vermin), mites (fey), hobgoblins mentioned (humanoids), and ardorwesps (variable, but probably magical beasts or outsiders). That’s quite a family. A tighter theme and more logical connection between creatures would be nice.

Fine map here. Clean and pretty clear, though there’s a few questions I could see cartographers having. Mainly, are those bent walls between rooms meant to be doors, and – this is huge - what elements are meant to be terrain and what are decoration? Remember, you’re not putting together an art piece for publication, you’re putting together a technical drawing that will allow an artist to create a useful map. Some decorative elements are nice, but don’t let them impede the clarity of your work. Campaign mapping programs give you the ability to create really great maps for your home game, but can get you into real trouble designing for publication.

There’s some neat ideas here and a very neat design for the map, but in both the implementation of the encounter and the map itself things get pretty muddled.

Contributing Cartographer

I would give this map reference a grade of B.

Nicely done, very clear and maybe too much detail?

I would narrow down what is an actual terrain feature and remove some of the extra details in each room for a less cluttered look?

Nice work!


The main problem here is you used 450 words describing an *NPC*, and then added an oh-by-the-way of 100 words describing their lair... and most of that description is about mites, ardorwesps, and planted seeds. I don't know *anything* about what this location really is.

This really feels like you threw a bunch of monsters together all in one place... and then added a note about the hags showing up a few rounds later. Oh, and the nearby hobgoblins. This is a mess for a GM to run, especially once the hags arrive.

The original map turnover is too large. The contest rules state

2. Your map should be either one half-page (8.5" x 5.5") or one full-page (8.5" x 11").
3. Your map must be approximately 72-100 dpi.

At 100dpi, that means the turnover map should be no larger than 850x550 pixels or 850x1100 pixels. The original turnover map is 1999x1522 pixels, which is 19"x15" at 100dpi. While this level of detail is nice for when you're creating a handout for your players, or self-publishing a location, when your goal is to give this to a cartographer, all that "room" means you're tempted to cram extra details into the site, and the cartographer doesn't know which details are just for decoration and which ones are critical to the room. I'm not suggesting the entry should be disqualified for this mistake, but it is a mistake that should be noted.

The map is also WAY too complicated. This is a piece of art, not something a cartographer could use as a reference to create a map. It's really pretty--but really confusing. You should have spent less time on the map and more time on the text, because writers are paid for their text, not for their maps.

This is a Location that's an NPC's backstory, an Encounter that's complex and doesn't really have the creatures work together to do anything cool, and a Map turnover that's going to make the cartographer cross-eyed.

Wow. A LOT of detail to digest. The key alone tell a story. I think this could be simplified with adventure setting text and texture on the map execution as opposed to a label for each ground feature. Certain items could have simple callout on the outside with a line pointing to them as opposed to having an item take up space on the key. The key is a nice block to put info, but should be used as an encyclopedia to the map. Basic map elements are pretty obviously spotted; water, fire, rocks, bones, treasure...but it's the gaming specific encounters that require a callout. I like the 3/4 view of the barrow as this adds to the setting the players are about to enter. The detail is nice, but a little daunting to digest for a sketch. i do agree about the odd curved wall door/entry execution into each room. If the walls are done that way to work with the environment, then that should be noted, otherwise a lot of play questions come up with field of view, is there a door there, squeezing, etc. This would be a good start to work from. A-

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Name: 7/10
Simple name, doesn't really inspire me yet.

Description: 8/10
It takes a little too long to get to the actual location. It was an interesting read, but probably a bit too much back story that is beyond the scope of the area.

Map: 9/10
Very nice looking map. A lot of little details to inspire. I know it's too much for a turnover, but I still like it a lot.

Encounter: 8/10
It seems like everyone loves the Ardorwesps this year. A solid encounter I'd use against my characters.

Overall: 4,039
This scale is all numbers multiplied. Good, but not quite good enough. I have enjoyed your work throughout the contest. Good luck!

I believe that several of the times that you use 'Taldor', you in fact mean 'Taldan' (the correct adjective form).
Taldor is not 'otherwise deforested' apart from the trees on the border with Qadira; extensive areas of northwest Taldor are covered by the Verduran Forest.
Zimar is a heavily fortified garrison town (population 17,540 according to the 3.5 Campaign Setting, by the way, so it's going to need a lot of ardorwesps to make an impression on the population) but does not feature the word 'Fort' in its name. Nor is Zimar the only obstacle to a Qadiran attack on Taldor. The satrap of Qadira either needs an excuse which voids a pact a previous satrap made with Taldor at the conclusion of the last conflict between the two nations, or permission from his overlord the Padishah emperor (or at least of the emperor's man-in-Katheer, the vizier Hebizid Vraj).
Although to be fair, the Campaign Setting does not go into so much detail on the current uneasy peace between Taldor and Qadira and I am drawing on the Guide to Qadira for this last observation.)

Star Voter Season 6

I really loved this map, although I am confused as to where the two ladders go (in rooms 2 and 8), since there is only the one ladder in room one.

And the story of hags didn't inspire me very much.

But, I also voted for this entry - good job with a very interesting map!

Dark Archive

Hmmm... I like the quality of the map, but not the map itself -- I feel that it's a bit too "simple" as all chambers are "teardrop-shaped". Otherwise it's a very good adventure location, and I just love anything that is connected to Hags.

I really liked your previous submissions, but I don't like this one nearly as much. I've posted on some threads that I love well-designed, visually aesthetic maps, and this just doesn't work for me. Sorry, Richard.

Your description of the toadstool spores looks like it's using 3.5 poison rules, not PFRPG poison rules (e.g. there's no Frequency or Cure information).

I think I know more than I need to know about Dreega for this encounter, especially since she may or may not even be IN the encounter. I like the map, very well detailed and original; I don't see too many living lairs in games, and the layout is rather nice, if a bit of a headache for the cartographers. I don't understand the cosmology, though; I see the need to use the andorwesps (someone pointed out to me the need to use a creature from round 3), but why hobgoblins? They seem to be more-or-less casually tossed in. Likewise with the giant mantis: I can't see the andorwesps living in harmony with that, at least not based on the way they've been described throughout this contest. This kind of reminds me of some of the third-party one-shot adventures that came out with 3rd Ed; nice theme, good maps, but monsters randomly jumbled together just to fill space. I would have liked to see less info about Dreega and family and more about the lair itself.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

Thank you for your support and please vote for my entry! If you have questions, I'll be happy to answer them once voting for this round is closed.

this is a good map and some great background info. The encounter and location could use some work. I get the feeling you had some trouble getting all the elements you wanted to into your submission and ended up cutting some vital parts.

Star Voter Season 6

Richard A. Hunt wrote:
They would help Dreega exact revenge and capture a male to make her with child. Had Calistra provided them with the means? Dreega thought so and her faith was never stronger... Dreega also wants a strong, young soldier that'll give her a daughter.

Well, this is the second rape scenario of the round, albeit one that's more explicit than implicit and is more central to the plot. I'll write the same thing here that I wrote about Alexander McLeod's submission:

That's a serious ick for most players + really delicate and dangerous role-playing for the DM. I didn't like the use of X-rated material in Crisis of Freeport and I don't like it here. You think Paizo had to do damage control after Crown of the Kobold King? That would be nothing next to publishing this encounter. In a professional context, I would hope that an editor would point this out to you. Unfortunately, I get to be the one to bring it up, which I'm not really happy about doing but can't in good conscience see a way to remain silent.

The adventure trope "Save the princess from rape" is not one that I wish to see added to my game or the hobby and the fact that the princess is a male soldier is deeply irrelevant to me. I want you to think about whether you'd submit this concept if the hags were men and the soldier was a female. If you wouldn't then you need to think about the implications of your decision here.

No vote from me.

Star Voter Season 6

On the positive side, that's an outstanding map, albeit one I have concerns about its playability. If you advance to future rounds, I'd also advise you to think about what parts of your villains' back story the players are going to interact with and how. I'm not really clear how the PCs are supposed to find out about a lot of your opening paragraphs. Great reading for the DM? Yes. It needs to be clearer how it ends up on the table though.

I don't see how the map is unplayable. It looks very playable to me; it is clear and well-labeled. Looks good.

Also, every AP and module I own has a ton of NPC backstory that the players will never know. Often, this seems like filler or wasted space to me, but I don't see why Hunt should be penalized for something every other author does.

Star Voter Season 6

Barbarossa wrote:

I don't see how the map is unplayable. It looks very playable to me; it is clear and well-labeled. Looks good.

Also, every AP and module I own has a ton of NPC backstory that the players will never know. Often, this seems like filler or wasted space to me, but I don't see why Hunt should be penalized for something every other author does.

Well, these are clearly peripheral issues to me, but... Look at the scale of that map. Even single room encounters are going to require a LOT of space. That's a good thing tactically. But, eyeballing it, the encounter areas look big enough that running this encounter will require me to move the table and put a couple of maps on the floor. I don't have a particular problem with that, but some DMs did last year.

As for the back story, part of it is that it's very passive. If Hunt really wanted that NPC background to be actively engaged with by players, he'd have had his encounter been with a pregnant green hag with the rest of her coven protecting "her baby" with the soldier manacled to the wall in a state of undress in the other room shouting feebly for help. It would have been just as Blue, but at least it would have been character background the PCs were interacting with.

Edit: Alternatively, if we wanted to use the ancient back story, a Knowledge: Local check might allow the PCs to recall this scandal, which is still pretty passive and requires a player to think to ask for a Knowledge: Local check during the encounter.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32, 2012 Top 4

Congrats once again on making the Top 8! I'm going to review all 8 submissions using the same criteria. I'm not reading any other comments beforehand, so apologies if I repeat something another reviewer has written.

1. Map - In my opinion, this is the best map of the bunch, and not just because you used a computer app to generate it. You've got everything clearly marked and plenty of "dungeon dressing" eye candy. If I had a complaint it would probably be that you went a little overboard, because there is A LOT going on in this map. But, I'm a freak for a good map and I enjoyed gazing at it for several long minutes. I'll stop short of calling it a cartographer's wet dream, but I definitely dig it. Grade = A

2. Quality - Your writing is ok, but you ramble a bit. As I read through the intro, I kept saying to myself, "Ok, pal, get to the point!". A few minor quibbles: it's Calistria not Calistra, and if you're from Taldor you're a Taldan. If you're going to write for Paizo, you need to study up on that free Campaign Setting PDF they gave you. Grade = B

3. Creativity - Ok, you're giving me a coven of warmongering green hags that want to bring down Taldor by ingniting a war with Qadira? Sold! I like your encounter well, especially the toadstool spore hazard. I'd probably drop the giant mantis, as it seems a little like filler. Still, there's good mojo here. Grade = A (but it's a low A)

4. Wow Factor - Your long-winded intro sort of turned me off from most of the background fluff, but I LOVE the idea of warmongering green hags trying to bring down Taldor. Your map is absolute Superstar material. To be honest, I'd probably steal your map and hags, and then make my own backstory. Grade = B

(Post mortem comment: What?! No Slithering Horror? Gasp!)

Final Grade = 3.5, a solid B.

After I review everyone else, I'll cast my vote. Good luck!

Dark Archive

Tighten up the backstory about the Hags, and this could be gold. Calistrian Hags, allied with Ardorwesps, is genius. Plots to instigate conflict between Taldor and Qadira? Hags seeking mates? Neat. Mites? Cool, not used as much as they should be. Giant Praying Mantis? Meh. That one feels out of place, and the barrow is getting a little 'busier' than I would prefer.

Love the 'living lair' concept, and the walls that purify the air, alert the hags and / or drop grease-effects when wounded.

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

I'm going to be passing on this entry.

Unfortunately, you've executed one of my biggest pet peeves: a map with a bunch of unnecessary curved rooms. Okay, so this is an organic dungeon. I get that the rooms won't be perfectly square. But a whole bunch of extremely giant, teardrop-shaped rooms are just never getting drawn at my table. That's the sort of map I hand-wave by saying, "You're in a large, irregularly shaped chamber roughly the size of this battlemat." All of the artistry that went into making that pretty map is wasted.

I might have overlooked my knee-jerk reaction to the oddly-shaped map had the rest of your entry been flawless, but I think you mismanaged your word count. As others have pointed out, the back story of your hags is way too long and drawn out. This round, you were supposed to emphasize the location itself, not create an NPC who, oh, by the way, happens to live in this location over here that's also kind of interesting. I wanted to be wowed by your location and its residents, not by just the residents.

That being said, you've done some great work in this contest, and I could easily see you doing a nice module at some point in the future. There just happen to be a few contestants whose module pitches are higher up on my list at the moment.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

I think "toadstool spoors" should be "toadstool spores."

Nice map! I don't understand the hate on the teardrops, I don't want every darn thing to look the same.

A bit much hag backstory for me. But this is definitely the best entry I've read so far!

The map seems very busy to me. Are there slopes in the complex? Water tends to flow downhill under usual circumstances, so I assume that the Bower of Toadstools at the least slopes very slightly downhill from the ladder end...
You do not make clear in the description where the water comes from. Well, actually you say that it comes out of a ball of luminescent blue floating in midair, and say that it is a 'gate' before fudging the issue by saying that it is properly detailed in area 3 - which of course is not part of this entry. Generally with this sort of feature, common practice is to detail it in the location either first numerically or where the PCs may be most likely to first encounter it, and without details it is difficult to determine if in this encounter there is any way that the PCs can shut it down, or otherwise manipulate or take advantage of it.
The ladder in location 8 is accompanied by a sign which indicates you have an 'open pit' placed there, so I'm not sure if this is an excavation where further developments are planned, an oubliette of sorts to keep prisoners in, or an escape route down into an independent cave system.
It's a bit difficult to discriminate between some of the symbols you've used (especially without zooming in), such as the iron pots and pillars, or the varied blobby brown things.
You use a symbol multiple times in area 5 you don't include on your key (I assume it represents some kind of animal pens) and (as a very minor nitpick) in area 1 there is another unkeyed symbol type in association with the ladder there.
By the way:

The Green Barrow wrote:
...The lair is now eight chambers strong, with plans set to grow more...

As far as I can see from the map - unless the 'Barrow of the Forgotten Royals' is counted as a lair chamber, proper - I only see seven distinct chambers mapped.

On to the encounter. You go into a good deal of back story explaining what the hags' motivations are, and where they got the ardorwesps and mites from, but what about the giant mantis and hobgoblins? Are the hobgoblins merceneries they've hired? If so what did they promise them? Why are they fighting? How strong might be their morale?

The location is interesting, but Dreega's backstory could probably have been cut a bit to free up some more words to describe the location and encounter. (To an extent it is necessary to retain some of Dreega's backstory, I appreciate, as it's why the hags are working together in the first place and created the location, but at this stage you were asked to present a location and encounter, not the fully fleshed out background for a module.)

My overall impression is of a novel location, but of a word budget that could have perhaps been used more wisely.
Still, if I decide to go as far as using all four of my votes for this round, The Green Barrow is a strong contender for my last vote.

Thank-you for submitting this entry.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

Tom Phillips wrote:

Final Grade = 3.5, a solid B.

After I review everyone else, I'll cast my vote. Good luck!

Thanks for your review and the positive vote, Tom!

Richard A. Hunt wrote:
Thank you for your support and please vote for my entry! If you have questions, I'll be happy to answer them once voting for this round is closed.

Ummm, I'm still waiting for the explanation of 'why the Splorudra sits with its tongue out with a pile of rocks or treasure on the end' from Round 2, which didn't make much sense to me... :-?

<hint hint>

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

Darn it - postmonster ate it, and I ain't got time to retype, so unfortunately you get the shorthand:

Good: Very pretty map, interesting backstory for an adventure. Interesting and unusual monster combination.

1. Possibly fudging the rules on how big of a map you were allowed to make (leading to the map becoming too elaborate to the point of not being clear).
2. Waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy too much backstory, especially considering that 90% of the backstory is about creatures we don't get to actually see in this encounter (other than a sidebar about how they might show up a couple of rounds later).

#2 is your real problem, because you spend so much of your word count setting up the entire dungeon, you leave yourself very little space to pay it off in the encounter you actually deliver. The assignment was not to create an adventure proposal, which is what the first 3/4 of your entry reads like - the background setup to your adventure pitch. The assignment was to spend 1200 words giving us an interesting encounter.

The individual pieces are interesting. I like the idea of the lair, the weird shapes, the organic nature of it. I like the grease-oozing walls and the poisonous toadstools. I even like the weirdo monster mix.

The problem is that your encounter is basically "here's my location... and here are some monsters." Because you spent so much times/verbiage on background, you don't have any room to tell us what the monsters really do. How do they use the terrain? Popping toadstools, laying grease slicks? With a neat and inventive location, you had lots of room to make the encounter dynamic, but it ends up feeling kinda flat.

In sum: I know the temptation to explain and backstory it, and looking at the past I was hurt in the encounter round by NOT giving explicit backstory for my encounter; even if the rules didn't explicitly call for it, it gives the reader in a contest a much better sense for how your encounter SHOULD be used, not just leaving them to guess at how it COULD be used.

I've only read 3 so far, so I'll have to wait and see how your mixed bag of good and bad matches up with the other contestants.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Richard I loved your map. That would be one that I'd want to re-create using my collection of colored dry-erase markers and GameMastery's Basic Flip Mats. (Ask any of my players in my Monday night game, I'm a little OCD when it comes to drawing maps for encounters.) :P

Anyway, back to you and your encounter.

Really enjoyed the use of Green Hags and the Ardorwesps (and with Hags getting all sorts of attention nowadays, like in Classic Horrors Revisited
and in CoT "Mother of Flies"), this was really one of my favorites to read through.

I sincerely wish you the best of luck in advancing to the final round, as I'm eager to see what you have in mind for your adventure proposal.


Dean (TMW)

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

The_Minstrel_Wyrm wrote:

I sincerely wish you the best of luck in advancing to the final round, as I'm eager to see what you have in mind for your adventure proposal.


Dean (TMW)

I'm so glad you enjoyed my entry! I really do hope I get the chance. Thank you for your support! :)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

In previous rounds, any comments I've made have been directly to the contestants; praise, criticism, advice, etc. We're down to the wire in top 8, so I'm changing that: this review is for the benefit of other voters. As such, I'm using a standardized scoring scheme.

Each of eight categories will be be given 1 to 8 points. To prevent myself from sugar coating anything, these are ranks relative to the other entrants: 8 is the best of the round, 1 is the worst, and there will be no ties.

The final rank is based on the sum of these scores, with the first four categories counting double. (Subjective appeal is harder to fix than technical issues.) Ties are broken by the Momentum score.

Momentum: 1
The personal bias factor! Am I a fan of your work in prior rounds?
My reaction has universally been: "Okay, neat, but seriously over the top and not in a good way. Also, um, why?" Furthermore, I will go on record to state that your constant stream of empty self-bumps completely disgusts me. Make comments of substance or make none at all. (Mind you, I got disqualified for the former, so going forward I advise none at all.)

Location: 8
Is this a compelling and memorable place to visit?
...and now I do my spit-take. This is absolutely awesome. The whole place is a giant ventricular tuber? Holy crap. I want to go there. I don't know what more I can say.

Encounter: 5
Clever? Exciting? Devoid of GM headaches and player annoyance?
Walk in and fight, standard this round. Those toadstools make it just a little more interesting. The info about the walls probably doesn't belong in the encounter text, who's going to be swinging at them with actual enemies at hand?

Plot: 5
Is this encounter well-connected to a plausible larger adventure?
You're only getting a 5 because there are a number of complete non-plots in the other entries. There's nothing inherently wrong with yours, but it's pretty simple and doesn't look like it will extend beyond killing the hags.

Round 3 Tie-In: 5
You had to use a round 3 monster. How much does that matter?
Revenge = Calistria = ardorwesps, perfectly good tie-in. I'm a little uncertain about them tolerating the mites' slavery, though... CN and all.

Golarion Tie-In: 2
This has to be a Golarion location. How much does that matter?
"Destabilize a border" is entirely setting-neutral, and you tripped over several of the direct references you did make. But at least you tried.

Map Quality: 3
Is your map clear, concise and useful?
This is entirely overwrought, and if you have one demon left to conquer, that's it in spades. There is such a thing as too much, and you seem to own property there. Strip it down to the basics. That said, the basics are there, hidden in all that clutter; which is to say, nothing important appears to be missing.

Text Quality: 4
Is your text clear, concise and useful?
See above. Entirely too much time spent on character development, and a bit too cute about it at points. However, the important things are all there. Figure out what to focus on.

Final Rank: 4th
Total Score: 52
As the first scoring category should indicate, I really didn't expect to be casting a vote for you this round. But for whatever flaws it may have, nothing about this entry makes me scratch my head in total bewilderment, and the location is a home run. You kept your flair for funky-weird-cool, and solved most of those nagging issues of why-does-it-bother. I will swallow my crow and dutifully pull the lever!

Whilst I would hesitate to say that you had crossed a line with some of your subject material as Roguerouge has said he believes that you have done, that is very much a matter of a difference in my personal perspective to his, and he did raise a good point that there are limits to what can be done in Paizo materials. Hook Mountain Massacre raised a storm in at least one thread on these boards, though even during the days of Dungeon Paizo has shown itself willing to occasionally handle ‘mature’ content with adventures such as the Porphyry House Horror. (Which ended up published as sealed content if I recall correctly.) Keep a cautious eye on things in that regard - along with complaints about railroading it's one of the more contentious issues Paizo modules raise with their customers.

Anyway, onto the next phase of this review: I give you the benefit of the doubt as to missing some of the minutia of canon (and I suspect you’re kicking yourself over the Verduran Forest right now) given the time pressure and the completely unexpected ‘oh by the way concept a Golarion location for us to set your encounter in’ aspect of Round 4. There won’t be so much time pressure on in Round 5, of course, if you get that far, and as Sean pointed out on the general discussion forum there’s little reason for the top 8 not to have gotten work on their proposal well underway already. I’ve addressed elsewhere on this thread whether your word count for this round for this entry was used as effectively as it could have been. Next round the aim is to present an amazing idea as clearly as possible to your audience and to convince them that you can write them a module which they want. A 32 page module – Boomer in the first year presented an amazing chain of events and encounters which unfortunately looked like running to a trilogy, or mini adventure path.
Also keep in mind that what might make sense to you or to your home-group might not make sense to the reader; especially if you forget to put in an important detail which should explain or tie something together.

Anyway, good luck with the rest of the contest and with your future writing, even if you don’t make Round 5. After looking over all the entries again, I have come to the conclusion that you in fact made my top two of entries for this round, and I have therefore put my second vote for Round 4 in the direction of The Green Barrow.

Star Voter Season 6

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Hook Mountain Massacre raised a storm in at least one thread on these boards, though even during the days of Dungeon Paizo has shown itself willing to occasionally handle ‘mature’ content with adventures such as the Porphyry House Horror. (Which ended up published as sealed content if I recall correctly.)

Ironically, Hook Mountain Massacre was the reason I got into Paizo products. The distinction, for me, was the clear movie reference and the fact that it was edited to have no NECESSARY sexual content. Some posters also got upset about the boy with the ball gag in the illustration for Crown of the Kobold King. (I was not one of them.) And Charles is right, there was that sealed content thingy. It was pretty "meh", impossible to role play and even it didn't involve the use of innocents. It's a very variable thing. If you want to do this kind of content, you pretty much have to set it up so that DMs can have it or not have it. It's unavoidable in the two submissions in this round, central to the development in the other one and central to the plot here.

Star Voter Season 6

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Next round the aim is to present an amazing idea as clearly as possible to your audience and to convince them that you can write them a module which they want. A 32 page module – Boomer in the first year presented an amazing chain of events and encounters which unfortunately looked like running to a trilogy, or mini adventure path.

And last year it sparked a huge debate as James Jacobs dinged three of four competitors on this issue, including the eventual winner. Go take a look through those threads and look at the encounter and map stats for each submission and for published modules. Spicer's module ended up having 7 maps clock in at 5 pages

Star Voter Season 6

Charles, you get four votes this round.

Wow. Your map is beautiful. It's colorful, detailed, and polished. It has an atypical, interesting, and aesthetically pleasing spiralling-teardrops-sort-of layout. But it's way, way too busy. I'm not entirely sure where creatures can actually stand or walk on this map. I have to scour the key again and again to figure out the contents of the various chambers and form a mental image of them. You'd need to halve the amount of different objects and terrain features to get a decent start on cleaning this map up.

The task for this round was to design a location and put an encounter in it. You spent most of your word count detailing the backstory of Dreega. It's good to know why the green barrow exists, but all that detail on the NPC's background was outside the scope of this round's guidelines.

When it comes to the actual location, you mostly let your map do all the talking, and it talks way too much and to too detailed a degree. A cleaner map with some more descriptive text would have served you better I think.

The encounter seems somewhat like an afterthought compared to Dreega's backstory. As F. Wesley Schneider points out, putting the monsters in the read-aloud text is a bad idea.

Despite all that, I think this submission could be revised and cleaned up into something great. As the judges have lamented, there are few great quality submissions in this round. You're on the borderline of getting a vote from me.

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Here's my problem. I think you're an idea man, and really good at it. The Sploruda was awesome and I voted for it easily. But even back then, I cited concerns about the actual writing. I thought it needed to be tightened quite a bit.

This round, your map is awesome. I really think it's a slice of incredible.

But the writing... it still bugs me. Sometimes it reads too choppy, sometimes it seems to ramble.

I hate to say this, but if you win the final prize, I'm going to have trouble buying the module. I don't think I can get into it and focus if the writing doesn't up in ante. Sorry, I don't know any better way of saying 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

First impression: Wow, what a great map! If this round was just create a cool map, you win hands down. That being said, for me, the map is the least important part of this round. A bad map really hurts a location/encounter, but I'm at the point where I simply expect good maps to support the meat of the product.

The problem with your entry is that it seems you've entered an alternate round of the contest. About half of your text is about the villain and her plot for the adventure, and very little actually describes the location. Right there I think you lost my vote for the round, since I don't feel you really met the requirements very well. In addition, I don't find your background particularly interesting. Hags are always allying/enslaving fey to work on a plot to attack nearby civilization, and I don't think your plot adds a lot to this.

The encounter itself is also relatively uninspired. Half your creatures present (the mites) don't seem to actually do anything, other than be there to get implanted by the wesps. In addition, while I like the connections to other rooms by having their inhabitants show up if the fight gets too loud or goes too long, I think you're overdoing it with both hobgoblins and the hags dropping in. Part of the problem is that I'm not seeing how room 3 is in fact separate. On the map it seems to be the same room as room 2, where your encounter takes place. It might have been better to have the entire teardrop be a signle room, and replace the mites with the hobgoblins. All of your other rooms have natural borders that separate them.

Another big miss was using the old 3.5 poison rules. This far into the competition, I am concerned that you haven't embraced all of the changes in Pathfinder compared to 3.5, and even if you can edit things to comply, it concerns me that you would be writing for 3.5, and converting, rather than fully taking advantage of all of the changes and new options in Pathfinder. Another concern with the encounter is the description of attacking the walls. First, as one of the judges mentioned, that's true of the whole complex, not just this room. Also, what does it mean, no break? If the walls can be destroyed by hp damage, why can't they be broken, even if it takes a really high strength check to do so? Also, what happens if 70 hp are done to the wall? Per the map, there doesn't seem to be anything on the other side in most locations. Do you just carve out a 5' deep alcove? Also 1d4 days of a grease affect? That seems like a long time. Way better than you can do with magic, and if this is non magical (as it seems to be), then where do I buy an alchemical version?

Liberty's Edge

Mr.Hunt -- The Green Barrow

Each mark will be multiplied by itself:
1 = 1x1 = 1 pt
2 = 2x2 = 4 pts
3 = 3x3 = 9 pts
4 = 4x4 = 16 pts
5 = 5x5 = 25 pts
6 = 6x6 = 36 pts
7 = 7x7 = 49 pts
8 = 8x8 = 64 pts
9 = 9x9 = 81 pts
10 = 10x10 = 100 pts

and then I add them all up...
and then I give your ranking!

Name (64pts)
Catchy, attractive, etc.
Interesting name. Very nice. Catchy.

Writing (36pts)
Well written in general, interesting, etc.
As Drakli said, the writing bugs me. That's all I can say.

Map (100pts)
Useful, read-able, clear, etc.
Read-Able: definently. Clear: can't be more clear then that!
Useful: Really useful. This is a slice of awesomeness! 100 PTS! Yeah!
That's what I'm talkin' about! (Ok maybe I'm going a little overboard).

Creature (81pts)
Surprising, well-used, etc.
Bingo. Well-used, well developed, surprising.

General (81pts)
Anything I didn't mention above
I didn't like the hag part but I love the map, the name, and the creature use. I love it! You've got my vote!

RANK:3rd (Behing Mr.McGee and Mr.MacLeod).

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

On Sexual Content: I was quite stunned by vociferous objections to the so-called sexual content in my entry, perhaps even a little insulted by the unfair and damaging commentary, particularly in the face of the silence we as contestants must bear. Addressing those concerns I have only the following quotes to offer (emphasis mine):

"Stories are told of ogres—horrendous stories of brutality and savagery, cannibalism and torture. Of rape and dismemberment, necrophilia, incest, mutilation, and all manners of hideous murder. Those who have not encountered ogres know the stories as warnings. Those who have survived such encounters know these tales to be tame compared to the truth." -- Description of the Ogre, Pathfinder Bestiary, pg. 220

"They are particularly fond of using disguise self to assume the forms of alluring young maidens and then seducing young men away from their lovers or families. In this form, they can infect such noble and upstanding citizens with all manner of debauchery and scandal. Some green hags prefer to reveal their true natures to their lovers at a moment precisely engineered to drive the man mad with horror and shame. Others drag out their dalliances and do what they can to utterly ruin the lives of the men they seduce before showing the broken shell that remains the truth. In the end, the luckiest of these unfortunate lovers end up being eaten by their green hag companions—for the unlucky, their final doom can be much worse, for the cruel imagination of the green hag is vast." -- Description of the Green Hag, Pathfinder Bestiary, pg. 220

"some angels always use a male form, some strictly a female one, and others use either or both, or prefer an androgynous or sexless shape." -- Description of Angels, Pathfinder Bestiary, pg. 9

I take my writing cues from the product and my entry pushes no envelopes or hot buttons that haven't already been pushed - very far from it. Objections noted, however, conscientious objectors may want to do a little more reading and better get to know the game you're playing before casting stones.

[humour] Yes, yes, but what about the important stuff such as how you seemed to have missed half the Verduran Forest? :D [/humour]

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

On Deforestation: I did not miss a bloody forest, Mr. Charles. :) In abject grumpiness at your esteemed self, I hereby direct your final attention to the Pathfinder wiki which says (emphasis mine):

"Taldor was once a land filled with lush forests. However, all that remains of the original landscape is the druid-protected Verduran Forest, located in the nation's northern region. Elsewhere the natural trees have been replaced by grasslands and low scrub growth. During the height of the empire much of this expanse was populated by small settlements, each interconnected by a series of roads and canals. With Taldor's decline, however, many of these small communities have been abandoned. Roads have been reclaimed by nature, and the canal system has fallen into disrepair."

(Joshua J. Frost. (April 2009). Taldor, Echoes of Glory, p. 3-9. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-169-5.)

Now, go look at the "Inner Sea Reigon" (sic) map for the tiny little dot that is Zimar, i.e go South, young man! See the tiny little forests between Taldor and Qadira?

Another thing I do when writing is research, research, research and I did so on this topic as well. But thank you so much, Mr. Charles, for doing such a good job of torping my entry in at least two posts by pointing that I missed a forest when I actually didn't. Perhaps some research on your part would have been nice? :)

So there!!! :D

(Gah, much edited, typos, smurfed)

The Green Barrow wrote:
...Dreega knew of a forgotten barrow in a nameless forest between the otherwise deforested Taldor nation and their sworn enemy, Qadira...

The trouble is that that read to me as if you were saying that Taldor doesn't have any forests apart from that one patch on the border on the 'Reigon' (official CS spelling :D) map.

Darn. Where's a googly eyed emoticon when you need it?
Is the text equivalent O.o ?

Anyway, here's hoping you make the top 4. For what it's worth you did end up in my top two which means I concluded you were good enough to go through even if we hadn't had extra votes this round.
Unfortunately (or actually really rather luckily? ;) ) it's not up to just me who goes through...

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

Okay, I'll concede that I had one work week to whip this up and went from memory while connecting cannon together with a whole lotta other stuff. I could have perhaps said Southern Taldor, but it wouldn't have been nearly as entertaining. ;)

No worries, Charles. Actually of the many commentators, you're one of the most analytical and I do appreciate that. :)

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka AWizardInDallas

On Not a Location: Pish. To that I offer the following children's nursery rhyme:

Here's the church, and here's the steeple
Open the door and see all the people.
Here's the parson going upstairs,
And here he is saying his prayers.

Point being that a location is absolutely drop dead dull without residents. It's who lives there that makes a place interesting, not the bricks that make up the building. So, location: Eiffel Tower. Yawn. Eiffel Tower three aliens at the top waving freeze rays at the general populace? Now it's an adventure location. :)

Hmm, so is the hypothetical location 'the labyrinth of clockwork pointy poison death', built by the crazy mage 'Zonx the needlephobe' a location completely lacking in interest if only the PCs and their henchmen/allies are in there with Zonx's numerous insidious traps, illusions, and puzzles?
It seems to me that there comes a point where locations such as Zonx's labyrinth or your weird underground plant of this round acquire personalities and features in and of themselves sufficient to provide interest, although it might be a different kind of entertainment on offer from that which 'draw swords/sneak attack/dead/loot/interrogate with magic/move on' routines and variations involving residents offer.

Hmm, here the locations are becoming situations or at least aspects of them though.

Further edit:
This is going away from the topic though, and getting dangeously close to 'But you went on about the back story of a trio of hags who weren't even in location 2 and might not even get there!' territory. :)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Charles Evans 25 wrote:

It seems to me that there comes a point where locations such as Zonx's labyrinth or your weird underground plant of this round acquire personalities and features in and of themselves sufficient to provide interest

Signed. You can't pretend that locations aren't interesting on their own. Your location kicks ass, hags or no hags.

The hags add to it, though, and (ignoring that whole "sexual content" debacle) I don't think anyone was saying that they don't. What people are saying is that your entry spends too much time spotlighting your NPC and therefor lacks focus. I'm counting 500+ words before you even mention the Barrow; tighter/briefer intro writing could have cut that in half, without even losing any information.

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