Hands of the Harridans


Round 2: Create a new organization

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 aka Grendel Todd

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Hands of the Harridans
Alignment: CN
Headquarters: Woodsedge, Galt
Leader: Y'metari, Matriarch of the Kindly Coven
Structure: Loose network of like-minded vigilantes
Scope: National (principally those nations overlapping the Verduran Forest)
Resources: Safe-houses and caverns scattered throughout Galt, Taldor and Andoran (most under the eves of the Verduran Forest), and an expansive network of assassins, vigilantes and witches

A young maid seduced by a local noble complains to the old woman in the cottage at the edge of the wood. The Noble's heirs are poisoned, and he cursed with impotence. A cuckolded husband complains to a traveler at the inn that he can't take a stand against his wife's magistrate lover. The adulteress and her lover are burned alive during a tryst the following week. The Harridans hear the cries for vengeance, and their Hands respond.
Structure and Leadership
Led by a scattered collection of elders, mostly hags and witches living on the fringes of civilization, these “Harridans” gather together in sewing circles and gossip about who merits their association’s attentions. The younger, more active “Hands” are a motley assortment, working alone or in groups of three (called "Furies") who visit their seniors, listen to what they suggest, then see to it punishment is meted out. So far this loose organization has kept authorities from recognizing them as a threat, but Y'metari's guidance has led to the creation of yet another tier, the Nag's Army, a vile mix of bandits, mercenaries and less savory creatures brought together to implement grander acts of retribution.
Goals
Their core belief is that all are entitled to vengeance. When local authorities do not act or go far enough in punishing those who have wronged others, they act for those who cannot or will not act for themselves. Their methods favor excessive retribution, irrespective of who may get caught in the crossfire. Though many members are devotees of Calistria and Gyronna, faith does not dominate their perspective though it may flavor their methods. With the concentration of leadership at Woodsedge, the Harridans have been increasingly active in Galt, the raw number of outraged citizenry drawing them like moths to a flame.
Public Perception
While most authorities see them as vicious vigilantes, the general public's opinions are mixed. Many find their views of revenge for everyone attractive, especially in Galt, given its' recent bloody history.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Welcome to RPG Superstar, Ian. Time to bring your A-game, as that's pretty much the only thing that keeps you alive from round to round. The contest takes on an entirely new spin at this level. And, as judges we're here to comment on your work, both in the hopes of guiding you in honing your game design skills, and also to help the voting public assess how you measure up. With that in mind, I'm going to talk a bit about what you did well here and where I think you'll still need to demonstrate growth. So, let's see what we've got...

A loose-"knit" sewing circle of hags and witches who exact vigilante vengeance on behalf of those who feel they've been wronged. Okay. That's going to take a moment to process (in a good way). I actually do like the idea of a series of allied covens working together to accomplish a higher goal. I'm just not sure exacting vengeance for those who cannot or will not act for themselves vaults the group into a particularly antagonistic role that'll bring them into conflict with the PCs of a given campaign. I guess it all depends on whose vengeance they're carrying out. The way you've phrased it, it sounds like they're mostly benevolent, even if they're a bit draconian in their methods. If you'd framed it more in terms of them exacting vengeance even for evil-aligned individuals who fell victim to do-gooder PCs and the long arm of the law, I think you'd have gotten more mileage out of it. That way, they become a group of outlaw witches who enjoy acts of spite and vengeance regardless of right and wrong. I think that would flavor them up a lot more, as well. And it would play to the mercurial nature of hags and witches, in general.

I also find it interesting you've got them based in Galt...particularly, Woodsedge. That town is on the border with Taldor and Andoran, and described as the one place of "sanity" in Galt, where they're a lot more supportive of the nobles who've fled the guillotine. Having a spiteful coven of witches operate in that environment gives them ample opportunity to clash with the Gray Gardeners and whatever government du jour happens to be in power as they take on acts of vengeance on behalf of the displaced nobles. That's actually a pretty wise choice on your part. I'm just not sure it elevates the Hands of the Harridans all that much. You've got the Nag's Army interwoven in there, too, but I kind of wish you'd stayed more focused on the witches. That's your big sell here. And you could have used more words to prop them up as a full antagonist with more long-reaching plots than just their operations out of Woodsedge. I think you could have gone larger with it.

On the writing side of things, I think you've still got some work to do. The introduction has more of a cinematic voiceover quality to it, and that's not really a style that always works as well in what you need as descriptive text to introduce and define your organization. Think of it in terms of a newspaper article. In that very first pararaph, you want to answer as much of the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How questions as you can. The opportunity for narrative text like what you've given us here is usually something you'd want to see in a sidebar, read-aloud text, or even the blurb on the back cover of an adventure or sourcebook. Instead, I think a better approach (especially with such a limited word count) when dealing with this kind of assignment is to make sure that initial paragraph comes charging right out of the gate with the information the reader needs. Tell us who or what the Hands of the Harridans are. Tell us where they're from and what they're doing. And give us a hint as to why it's important and relevant to the conflict an antagonistic organization is bringing to the table. If you can clearly establish that from the very start, it serves as a perfect foundation from which to then layer in the flavor your narrative introduction is trying to convey. As-written, the narrative doesn't work as well, because you haven't established much of a frame of reference for us yet. And that's what I'd have preferred to see.

So, taken as a whole, I DO NOT RECOMMEND this organization to carry you on to the next round.

However, there's still a lot to like here. You definitely have creativity and the seed for something that could be a quite useful addition to the campaign setting. You just needed to find the heart of that good idea, present it as clearly and cleanly as possible, and then widen it out from there. Your fate is ultimately up to the voters. I thought your silhouette of the phantasmagoria showed real promise in terms of its underlying idea. And I think the same can be said for your vigilante witch coven, too. Is it enough to keep you around for another turn in RPG Superstar? I don't know. But I wish you the best of luck in the exit polls.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Ian, welcome to Round 2!

What you are getting from me in this critique: This round is all about conflict and story. I think the best organizations create interesting and compelling groups that will come into conflict with the PCs. My comments, and my recommendation, will focus on how well you do that. My comments will also focus on writing and use of your allotted content in achieving your goals. What you won't get from me: I don't have the total Golarion-fu that Neil and Sean do, so I will leave to them whether you got the nitty gritty details of some of the setting stuff to them (though apparently I did have enough Golarion-fu to know its Pharasmin not Pharasmian, you know who you are).

So here we go!

Initial Impression: Hags in sewing circles are bad, bad news. But are they good design? Let’s see…

Concept (name, title, is it an organization?, overall design choices, is the organization and antagonist and does it create direct conflict for the PCs?, playability): B-
The Good: I like the initial concept of retribution for all. And hags are awesome. Old school for sure.
The Not So Good: I can’t make up my mind if the whole sewing circle thing is lame or totally inspired genius. I also don’t like that you expanded this to include mercs. This entry is way better with just the hands. As neat as I see the initial idea, when I really think about it I’m not sure that it is any more innovative than any witch—there will always be a good person who gets so desperate they go to the witches, for love, for a missing item, for a dream, whatever. So as much as I dug the concept initially I am not really sure how it is different from any witch coven or bunch of hags cackling over a boiling cauldron full of toil and trouble. So I think some reflection caused me to cool on this.

Execution (quality of writing, hook, theme, organization, use of proper format, quality of mandatory content, did you milk your idea for all it was worth? did you use your allotted space well?): C+
We only have one NPC and no lairs or locations named. That is a miss. I also really think your lead paragraph is a poor choice with the "back of the movie case" writing. There is a place for that, this is not it. I dont think this is as well crafted as the other entries I have recommended.

Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor, are you showing Superstar mojo?): C+
Came up short for me, though I sure did see some interesting things there. You have promise, it just didn’t come all the way out for this one, for me.

Overall: C+
Sewing may never be the same for me, but this one just doesn’t have enough to make the cut in my view.

Recommendation: I DO NOT recommend this organization submission for advancement.

Ian, the silhouette was cool and I was looking forward to your round 2 entry. You took a good shot here. I don’t think you hit the wall or ran out of time. You didn’t have the first draft problem, to me, that plagued some other entries. You just made some creative choices that I didn’t think measured up. That’s ok. If you go on to freelance that will happen tons of times. I think you have promise and though I didn’t recommend your advancement it is up to the voters and I wish you the best of luck!

Contributor

Your introductory paragraph is a list of "cinematic" examples of what the group does, not a descriptive paragraph. None of the organizations in the Inner Sea World Guide do that.

I like the idea of this group, though I think you should have kept the focus on the hags and not introduce the mercenary group. You could also have made these witches more antagonistic; maybe they extract a horrible price from those they help, or get a little hex-happy in doling out an "appropriate" level of vengeance. I don't think this is quite ready.

I do not recommend this to advance.


This crazy b%*+& runs something called the "Kindly Coven"? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

This group shows a classic designer's paradox.

1: Either the targets of their acts are so inconsequential that the authorities never care (i.e. it's a poor-people's justice system)

or

2: They're so effective that they can strike at anyone they wish, and do.

The problem is that once they escalate to #2, they're going to be destroyed. In other words you can blow up a lot of stuff in foreign lands and get away with it, but if you order planes flown into the World Trade Center, you've started the countdown to your own death.

As a designer you're thinking small-scale, often about a story you want to tell. But when your creation gets out there in the world people will start using it in ways that you didn't think about. By not building some kind of limitation on range of action into this group you've essentially put it into the category of "too effective to be allowed to exist".

My other issue with this is that a lot of the concept of this group is implied by various bits and pieces of the canon already (Witches, Gyrona, Furies, Vengeance). You've synthesized that together into one cohesive organization but I think in some ways (likely because it avoids the trap described above) having that stuff remain disconnected serves the IP better.

I do not recommend that you vote for this designer.

EDIT FROM SEAN: Competitors, remember this item from the Round 2 FAQ, which reminds competitors about the rule against commenting about their own submissions. We're pasting this reminder into the last judge comment for every organization just to make sure all competitors see it and remember.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

Intro reminded me a bit of the Postman (book not movie). With the women culling the unfit males. I can see using this org.

Liberty's Edge

This is an interesting idea. I love hags (if it gets cold enough), I love the name The Kindly Coven (I wish you had named the organisation that) and the idea of the sewing circles. An organisation based around indiscriminate revenge is pretty cool too, but I don’t think you’ve explained to us enough as to really why the group has this goal. Why are the hags who lead the group (hags typically being evil) so focused on this twisted ideal of justice?

This and some other problems in the execution of the idea leave me on the fence about this one.

Good luck going forward Ian.


Ryan Dancey wrote:
This crazy b$$%! runs something called the "Kindly Coven"? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

That name is *very* appropriate to the topic of vengeance:The Kindly Ones.

I might vote for it just because that sort of trivia and the fact of that they may easily and reasonably become antagonists for the party while not being outrightly evil or even being wrong. Might.


This got one of my votes this year.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 aka Grendel Todd

Thanks for your observations and commentary, it's proving quite educational. I'll definitely keep it in mind if I advance (and failing that, should I find myself involved in future competitions). For those of you who like the organization, please give it a vote. I'll happily chat more about it once voting is done and the contest has moved on.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

So it's like the A-Team of witches?

Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka OwlbearRepublic

First off: Top notch concept. You typed "sewing circle"... and then you looked at it hard... and then you didn't delete it, which took guts. And it's awesome.

I agree that the Nag's Army is a distraction from your core idea. Leaving that aside, the distinct Hands and Elders are a nice touch, since they open up the GM's options to write different sorts of encounters and adventures using this group. I do wonder where all these Hands are coming from, though, which leads me to my critiques.

Your concept whets my appetite to know more about these hags, witches and other self-appointed furies. Why do they do this? How did they meet? A couple of witches sitting around and deciding that so-and-so needs to die is one thing, but to have all these underlings gathered around carrying out the orders demands explanation. Maybe the witches need to spill guilty blood to power a coven-boosting ritual? Maybe they've got a dark patron who endows witches with power in exchange for acts of vengeance? Maybe this dates back to a witch hunt in Galt that drove the Elders to hide in Woodsedge and gave them a taste of powerlessness? As it stands, I have no idea how all these like-minded individuals got together, and no sense of why they keep working at such a dangerous project for no clear gain. It's a major oversight.

The lack of detail really hurts this entry. The idea is strong, but it still seems like just an idea to me, not like a finished product. I may give it my vote despite that serious fault, but watch out for under-exploring your ideas in later rounds. Good luck!

Dedicated Voter Season 8

Congratulations and good luck in the voting.

I wasn't a fan of your item. I'm entirely different on this one. I really, really want to like this. Hell, I kind of like the idea. But I have to agree that there's too many weird things. That said, I'll probably turn a thief on the base idea "sewing circle of hags/witches" and add a number of deviously hidden plots, including loads of changeling children.
The idea has got a lot of potential. Your presentation confuses it and makes it less than it could have been. Most things that needs saying have been said. I doubt one of my vote will find it's way here, but I'm still a little interested in convincing it to. I'll look a little more later. Then we'll see.

Good luck in the voting.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

This one goes immediately on my ideas list for my next campaign. And you got my vote, of course !

Bran


I really like the sewing circle of hags. I don't think the rest works in favor of the entry. Rather the rest works to water down the organization. I also tend to like my antagonists leaning towards the side of evil. I would have liked this entry even more if you'd stuck to the core of a sewing circle of hags plotting revenge against perceived wrong doings.

Nevertheless, you have my vote.


Ian Studebaker-Grey wrote:

Hands of the Harridans

Alignment: CN
Headquarters: Woodsedge, Galt
Leader: Y'metari, Matriarch of the Kindly Coven
Structure: Loose network of like-minded vigilantes
Scope: National (principally those nations overlapping the Verduran Forest)

Disclaimer:

You should know the drill by now, but in case you missed it the first time round, Ask A RPGSupersuccubus is posting from the point of view of a CE aligned succubus:
Spoiler:
Fairness is an adjective applicable to hair coloration, balance is what a couple of mortals rapidly losing it on opposite ends of a plank pivoted on a rocky spire a couple of hundred feet above a slowly rising pool of molten basalt try to do, and logic is one of those things which you could swear is there when you rattle the piggybank but if anyone other than a demon opens it the contents turn out to be a couple of dead wasps and a six week old ‘to do (in)’ list.
;)

Important Note:
There’s a difference between late and fashionably late. The former is what most other beings manage. The latter is what sophisticated, (very advanced) succubi manage.

First impressions always being important, do members of this organization wear nifty robes or uniforms when out on formal business?
No uniforms or nifty robes are indicated. (What is it with all these organisations not having even an informal code of dress?)

Does membership of this organisation seem likely to involve regular tea or dinner parties or other appropriate social occasions?
Sewing circles are a borderline acceptable activity, providing the participants conduct themselves with appropriate decorum and no diabolists are involved.

Is the cost of being a member of this organisation likely to be acceptable to a succubus?
No mention is made of membership fees, and at least on the information gathering side, involvement seems relatively lacking in onerous stuff.

Other comments?
Alas, I've come late to the party on this one, as it's come and gone. This one actually looks like a group I wouldn't mind covertly patronising.

Rating:
Organizations are not being rated except under special circumstances.

Congratulations:
Congratulations on making the top cut in Round 1. Sadly at this point it’s apparent that you won’t be progressing any further this time around, but that means you can at least now relax, sit back, pick up a voodoo doll of your least favourite arch-devil, and start sticking silver pins in. Maybe some of those nice Harridans could help you… ;)

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