|Nick Bolhuis RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6|
You're map is extremely chaotic, lots of colors, the grid looks like rectangles rather than squares, buildings don't line up to the grid. This could have been done a lot better. I'm not sure if it's because its obviously a computer generated thing, perhaps it would be clearer if it were hand drawn. It also seems like you're struggling to include details that aren't really important. Things like the different sky metals, which "island" is which part of which golem, these things don't seem inherently important to me. Now, I'm not a professional cartographer, so perhaps these things are important, but your encounter doesn't really make use of being on the head, or hand or whatever of either golem, so it's doesn't really seem like if matters which part is which. I would think that stating that each "island" is a part of some colossal submerged golem and leaving it at that would be good enough for a cartographer to make it look good. When I'm looking at these submissions I tend to look at the map first and try and make sense of it without reading any of the entry, and in this case there was simply too much going on. I feel that a good map should present itself without much textual explanation, and that just not the case here. You even have things (like the Xorn lair) which have no relevance to the encounter and don't really seem to enhance the location any, they really only clutter up the map.
That said, I think you're encounter is great. I'm a little worried that an unscrupulous group could just fireball the ritual and be done with it, but this is a fringe case. My primary concern is with how soft the "star" seems to be, and were I to run this I would certainly jack that up. I'm digging the tactics of the enemies here, pushing their foes into the tar and such. I also really like that the villain you chose is not strictly the target of the encounter, and that offing him doesn't really help the PCs with their goal. Countdown encounters can be a lot of fun, but you really need to be careful of dealing with PC failure, and I think you've done a good job here. You've provided a DM just enough info about what happens in the event of a failure. The downside here is that if the PCs are going to continue with this story the
DM needs to change gears to address the inevitable end of the world for verisimilitude, and whatever they were doing before needs to sit on the back burner for a while.
I also really like you're location. The lake of tar with giant creepy body parts sticking up is really evocative. I think you're background could have used a lot of work and seems much more forced that it needed to be. This could really be anywhere in the world, and to place it in the mana wastes and tie it to the whole Geb vs. Nex thing didn't really need to happen for me to buy it. To include such an epic background either seems fake, or makes the PCs seem helpless due to their significantly reduced level.
In all I feel like you had an amazing starting idea, developed it to the point of being finished, and then didn't really know where to stop. The map seems like a bit too much, the background seems like a it too much. In all though I think this is a really solid idea, and am looking forward to seeing what you can come up with for R5. I'm pulling for you here despite some reservations. Best of luck
|Jerry Keyes RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka surfbored|
I had a little trouble reading this map, and I thought it was going to get even worse after reading the encounter. But it was just the opposite, the encounter cleared up the map tremendously and I started thinking about how I might GM it.
Looking at the cartographers' statements, it seemed clear they had enough information to turn this into a fun, artful piece, and that was important.
I didn't get a whole lot of the background, probably because I'm still not very familiar with Golarion lore, so I can't grade on that topic. However, the encounter description itself is quite good and a unique setting.
Reusing rules (e.g. treat the tar as quicksand) is an EXCELLENT approach since it gives new flavor without having to learn new rules - a bonus for both the GM and the players. I wish you had done the same thing with the elementals (tar instead of earth).
Having multiple ways to succeed is the sign of a good encounter. And you deliver here. Having multiple focus points is another sign and once again you delivered.
All-in-all, a very successful encounter with lots going on.
(BTW, you can pump 60 points of positive energy into the conduit easily if you happen to have a Martyr's Tear lying around!)
|Nicolas Quimby RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro|
Things like the different sky metals, which "island" is which part of which golem, these things don't seem inherently important to me.
You even have things (like the Xorn lair) which have no relevance to the encounter and don't really seem to enhance the location any, they really only clutter up the map.
Which parts belong to which golem is incredibly important! Not mentioning that would have meant a lot more ways for the final map to not match the text or to get 'scrambled' by the cartographer, and the entire point of including a map is to see if you can avoid those sorts of pitfalls.
Likewise, the map is supposed to be bigger than the featured encounter; there might be a half dozen encounters here, but he's only supposed to give stats for one of them. There should be a lot going on in the map- how many Pathfinder APs include maps on this scale and then only write one encounter for them?
(I do agree that the starmetal key doesn't look necessary. Also you brushed on something else which bothered me about this: the implication that a slowly-expanding tar pit and a portal to the plane of earth is going to destroy the world if the PCs don't stop it. Yes, the PCs could prevent a lot of harm by getting here first, but I feel like there are other powers in Golarion that would step in before things got too far out of hand. I don't mind mass-destruction-scenarios around level 10 but as written I don't quite buy this one.)
|Curaigh Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9|
Hi Sam, I think you did great in designing a location: A lake sized tar pit, an ancient giant golem, and a portal to another plane? I think this is a very memorable location. I did feel that it was more module or even AP length rather than location, but then you only describe one encounter so that is probably OK. An item in a different part of the adventure that can aid the characters this enounter hints at a bigger picture but potentially distracting. However given the villains advantage on the terrain, I think it necessary. Kudos for giving villains a terrain advantage in their own lair. Nice job.
|Can I Call My Guy Drizzt?|
|Matt Goodall Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9|
Just wanted to give my thoughts and advice for the final round. Looking at your entries I get the feeling that you enjoy going for edgy, off-the-wall options. That’s cool, I like that you present ideas that I wouldn’t normally think of. That’s the stuff I want to see in publications. Just be careful to not go too edgy. Also be careful to not step on the toes of canon. Take somewhere in Golarion that will give you the freedom you need to write THE adventure you would like to play (and will fit in 32 pages :-). While you won’t have to worry too much about it in your proposal, do watch your rules fu stuff, and keep things sharp design wise.
I like that you showed us a wide variety of styles of fantasy genre. I’m happily waiting to be pleasantly surprised by the unexpected in your adventure proposal.
|Nicolas Quimby RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro|
Agreed; he's done some edgy, but he's also shown that that's not all he's good at. The Book of Night without Moon certainly takes risks; it's inventive, evocative, and potentially game-altering. But I think the Knave went in the opposite direction; he's a fantasy trope, he could exist in any faux-medieval setting, but he's really good. The Meditant does something which I wouldn't have thought of but which feels obviously iconic now, and the Black Mirror is really what I would consider quintessential high fantasy.
Honestly, I don't know what to expect from this guy in an adventure pitch, but I'm looking forward to it.
|Sam Zeitlin RPG Superstar 2011 aka Ignotus|
Late as usual, I'm afraid, but now that I have a draft of my round 5 entry put together, I thought I'd come back to this thread and respond to comments. The forum is pretty dead otherwise so hopefully this will provide a little entertainment.
So, first up, I want to thank Joel Flank for making a badass villain who could carry any number of crazy, inspiring locations. I love that planar epic/weird feel, and Voracek delivers. The adventure hooks were great as well, and helped flesh out the logistics of his schemes. The summer after I graduated high school, I ran a whole campaign centering around Ogremach, the D&D predecessor to Ayrzul. Evil elemental earth is awesome, and I'm glad I got a chance to play around with it again.
The first major criticism that came up was that I was treading on dangerous territory canon-wise with Nex and Geb both fighting against Ayrzul. Nex and Geb fought for something like 1400 years, so I had kind of assumed there was room for lots of weird, brief incidents like the one I created for the Black Mirror. However, the judges are the people who have to professionally maintain Golarion as a setting, and they're far more attuned to its nuances. I don't need to be told twice that I'm taking too many liberties with canon, and I'll be more careful in the future.
The second big criticism was about not including magic-warping Mana Wastes craziness, and in retrospect I think this was a big mistake and a missed opportunity - especially since haywire magic could have done double duty as a fix for Voracek's lack of air power/range. The one caveat is that the encounter is already kind of pushing the limits of hostile terrain without increasing the CR, and having adverse Mana Wastes effects on top of that seemed like a bridge too far. That said, the Mana Wastes are defined by wild magic, and the Black Mirror should have had some.
The third big thing that came up was the map. I think I got a bit seduced by the fun I was having playing in illustrator, and ended up producing something that was half-way between a map that would serve as a good guideline to illustrators and a finished map. As a result it both looked kind of garish and was too cluttered with things that should probably be left up to the cartographers. In particular, I didn't realize that too much detail on the map leads to communication difficulties between cartographers and developers/editors; that's something I'll definitely remember.
A couple of specific comments I wanted to respond to:
15 rounds says to me "this doesn't happen during combat". I have never seen a combat last 15 rounds.
This was originally 10 rounds. I had to make a decision about whether I wanted the conduit to open during most fights, or just to be a consequence for seriously screwing up. I chose the latter, and so I erred on the side of having a long countdown. 15 might still be too long, however.
Then, if all of these things are connected by wooden bridges, the most obvious tactic of the elementals isn't listed at all - removing the bridges. That would leave the PCs with two options - fight on the side of a giant face, or fight inside the quicksand. While this would make the encounter interesting, the factor of the mana wastes, the poor tactics and the terrible terrain make this something I might start running and then handwave completion because it's too complicated.
This is actually something that was in an early draft of the Black Mirror. I ended up removing it because it would take the elementals several rounds to destroy the bridges, during which the PCs could be whaling on them. I decided it would be more effective for the elementals to use surprise, and rely on their already super-awesome bull rush/awesome blow abilities to control the battlefield.
Also you brushed on something else which bothered me about this: the implication that a slowly-expanding tar pit and a portal to the plane of earth is going to destroy the world if the PCs don't stop it. Yes, the PCs could prevent a lot of harm by getting here first, but I feel like there are other powers in Golarion that would step in before things got too far out of hand. I don't mind mass-destruction-scenarios around level 10 but as written I don't quite buy this one.)
I didn't mean to give the impression that if the PCs failed, Golarion was doomed without anyone else ever attempting to stop it. Other powers and forces would fight Ayrzul, it would just be a lot harder once the Conduit opened, and the longer the Black Mirror has to spread, the harder it would be to deal with. Doing something with an epic feel for 7-11th level PCs, I wanted to make a serious, far-reaching threat, but not one that was "stop it right here, this instant, or the world blows up." I imagined that if the PCs failed, for whatever reason, they or a new group of characters could come back and try to finish the job with the aid of some of the region's powerful factions.
Thanks again to everyone who commented and voted. I really enjoy reading the encouragement, discussion, and critiques.
I know that there is a lot to be considered in this contest. I've read the original post, I've studied the map, I've absorbed as much as I can of the criticism, both positive and negative. And after all that I'm still just left with one crystallized thought:
I want to play this. I want to play this so hard.
The Black Mirror==========
Amidst the barren sands of the Mana Wastes, there lies an inky stain: the Black Mirror, a lake of tar a mile wide. Everything is still here. No bird calls; no errant wind disturbs reflections on the lake’s oily skin. Only the carcasses of the giant golems that fell here puncture the lake’s surface, their desiccated limbs and faces forming islands in a dark sea. Voracek (R3), herald of the dark lord of Elemental Earth, has built his stronghold amidst this desolation. If his plans are not stopped, the power that felled the vast golems will return to smother all Golarion.
During his interminable war with the archmage Nex, the necromancer Geb constructed two enormous golems from the bones of giants and the skin of angels. Geb named them Bane Titans, and at his command the golems destroyed all that Nex could send against them. Fearful of their might, Nex compacted with an extraplanar power: dread Ayrzul, lord of Elemental Earth. Nex promised countless slaves and relics to the Fossilized King in return for his aid against the Bane Titans. Draining his vaults of skymetal, Nex constructed an artifact called the Conduit, through which Ayrzul could manifest his power on the material plane. On the battlefield, Nex’s servants activated the Conduit. Ayrzul’s wrath poured through as a sea of living tar, dragging the Bane Titans to the ground and destroying them.
But Ayrzul betrayed Nex. The Conduit did not close when the battle was won. More and more writhing tar gushed forth from the Conduit, accompanied by Ayrzul’s elemental host. Realizing that the endless tar would soon consume both their kingdoms, Nex and Geb briefly put aside their hostilities to fight the Fossilized King. The two wizard-kings drove Ayrzul’s forces back to the Conduit, and destroyed it. This done, they returned to their endless feud.
Although the tar became inanimate when the Conduit was destroyed, a vast quantity of it still remains, forming the Black Mirror. The lake...