The Penumbral League


Round 2: Create a new organization

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka Monkster

The Penumbral League
Alignment: NE
Headquarters: Shadow Absolom
Leader: Argrinyxia, the Shifting Lady of Ebon Scales
Structure: Loosely knit organization of independent agents
Scope: regional
Resources: imposing treasury and magic within the Ebon Citadel; network of contacts throughout Nidal; the patronage of the Umbral Court; safehouses in Nidal and scattered throughout the Inner Sea.

Spoken of in equal parts reverence and terror by the populace in the streets and dark alleys of Pangolais, the “Dark Heralds” are a recent addition to the lands tainted by the shadow realm. These rogue-sorcerer fetchlings are among the few outsiders allowed to walk unmolested though the Umbral Court’s realm, as they offer a valuable service – diplomacy. Seen as universally Neutral and nearly devoid of emotion, the League has quickly insinuated itself into the aristocracy in any number of roles – messengers, counselors, arbiters of disputes, diplomatic envoys, etc. Though the Heralds are careful to conduct themselves with humble dignity at nearly all times, few doubt that beneath their placid exterior lies a dangerous threat – and an even darker purpose.
Structure and Leadership
The League’s base of power lies within the Ebon Citadel, a forbidding monstrosity of black granite within Shadow Absolom. It is presided over by Morlith, an arch-sorceress, who answers directly to Argrinixia and is her eyes and ears in the League. It is here, under Morlith’s watchful eye that league candidates – gifted kayal sorcerer rogues – are indoctrinated to the League’s real purpose, and once trained to her satisfaction, are sent to the Material Realm.
Goals
Divination has revealed to a select few that the concentrated infusion of shadow from several generations of living on the Plane is causing failing health among the fetchlings, and an influx of human blood from the Material Plane is needed to restore the balance. In their humble guise, the League is perfectly positioned to locate and snatch ideal humans to join their ranks (willingly or not) – typically those who show promise as a sorcerer or thief, or demonstrate other traits desired in a kayal.
Public Perception
The League safehouses are known as places where adversaries can meet and parley with little fear of violence, for no one would dare invoke the fell magics of a Dark Herald. It is believed by most (mistakenly) that the symbol of silvery-grey balance scales all League members wear reflect their passion for neutrality and justice.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Welcome to RPG Superstar, Greg. Get ready for a whirlwind ride. The contest takes on an entirely new spin at this level. 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 peer into the shadows and see what we've got...

The Penumbral League with a headquarters on the shadowed reflection of Absalom is a really cool idea! Unfortunately, you misspelled Absalom by calling it Absolom--not just once as a simple typo, but multiple times. So, your attention to detail gets immediately called into question here. And there's some other proofing mistakes in here, too. "These rogue-sorcerer fetchlings are among the few outsiders allowed to walk unmolested though the Umbral Court's realm..." is disappointing to see at this stage of the game. You also spelled your villain's name differently in just the handful of places you mentioned it. As a potential freelancer, you've really got to make sure you double-check everything...both the references you make to game terminology or campaign setting material, and the actual phrasing and proofreading of what you write.

Setting that aside for the moment, I love some aspects of this organization, but felt letdown by others. For instance, I love the notion of diplomatic rogue-sorcerer couriers between the Shadow and Material worlds. I really like the Nidal tie-in. In fact, I almost wish you had solely positioned this organization in Nidal rather than reaching across to Shadow Absalom. But, it's not too much of a stretch, as any definition of an organization with ties between the shadows and the Material Plane probably ought to have a presence in the most populous settlement on the Shadow Plane. I also like how you've featured fetchlings in this organization and given them such a prominent role, but I would have liked to see you widen the membership a bit more and give us some hints towards other creatures and minions within their ranks.

I also wanted to see more of a goal for the Penumbral League. Creatures from the Shadow Plane are typically deceptive and dangerous. Cold and calculating. And sometimes completely monstrous. I'd like to see something more than just a focus on abductions to help solve a health problem among the fetchlings. I think you need more here to do this organization justice. I'm also uncertain that there's any basis for defining a shadow-infused condition that would affect fetchlings in a negative way. They've already adapted and stabilized as a unique species after being infused with that exact essence. So, I think you're potentially going off and dropping an element of additional definition into the ecology of the fetchling that isn't necessary or even appropriate for this assignment or their place in the campaign setting.

From a writing perspective, I also have reservations. You rely on a lot of passive voice. As a result, your writing isn't as evocative as it could be. And it flows in a more disjointed fashion than I'd like to see. As an example, let's just take your last statement. "It is believed by most (mistakenly) that the symbol...all League members wear...reflect their passion for neutrality and justice." That could easily be revised to: "Many mistakenly believe the symbol...all League members wear reflects their passion for neutrality and justice." Generally speaking, you want to avoid leading off sentences with "It is..." That's a pretty good indication that you're venturing into passive voice territory. You can use it sometimes. But it came up enough in your writing that I noticed it. And that's a problem. Additionally, you had some subject-verb disagreement in there, as well. Coupled with some of your other issues I described earlier, I'm just getting the sense that you haven't yet honed your writing to the level you'll need as a freelancer.

As such, I DO NOT RECOMMEND this organization to advance you to the next round.

However, I want to make it clear that I think you've had some awesome ideas so far for the competition. You obviously have an interest in the Shadow Plane and all things based on shadow with your shadow box and now the Penumbral League. Many of the judges really dig the mojo you're tapping into with your ideas. If you can harness that with some improved writing ability and a greater attention to detail in your work, I think you could develop into a much stronger competitor. We'll see if the voters agree. Best of luck in the exit polls.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Greg, 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: An interesting core shadow concept but with some serious proofing errors.

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
Neil makes a good point--spellchecking through a word processor is NOT the same as editing and proofing. That was a pretty big mistake. It shows a lack of freelancer readiness. BUT this process is about growing, so let's look at your core idea. I have to admit I like it, particularly when measured against the other entries this round. Lucky for you there are a couple I am on the fence on, and I think yours is stronger even if only slightly.

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
Neil is right about lacking good goals, and when you talk about issues with the fetchlings I don’t think you are talking so much about goals as you are detailing why the PCs will likely come into conflict with the organization--an element you include that I have felt is seriously lacking in many of the other submissions. So while I'd like clearer goals, I applaud you including ways the organization will come into conflict with the PCs. But here is what you do well—you tease, you evoke, you suggest. All those things are huge skills for a freelancer. When word count is tight, you have to convey something interesting with just a few well-chosen adjectives. For instance, “the Ebon Citadel, a forbidding monstrosity of black granite within Shadow Absolom.” Sure, it’s not much, but look how many other entries didn’t even do that. I think this is a sign of a freelancer in the making. And you didn’t just give your main NPC a name, you gave her a cool title. Very Gygaxian. I like it. I mentioned the proofing issues above, but I have to mention them here, in Execution, too. I have to admit, Greg, though I want very much to look past the editorial mistakes I find that I am not able to. I think they are significant enough to suggest strongly that you aren’t quite ready yet. Not sure if you had an outside interference or if the time crunch of round 2 just got you. It’s too bad, too, because I think you did some things very well here.

Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor, are you showing Superstar mojo?): B-
I liked the core idea and you did some things well. But there is simply no way those errors can be passed as Superstar. I’m sorry about that.

Overall: B-
The lack of proofing does in a submission that might have been a marginal pass.

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

You know I saw some mojo in your shadow box, and I still believe you have the goods. I’m sorry you were done in with some things you will likely be disappointed with yourself for doing (or not doing). But keep your head up. Believe me, we have all had one of these (well, except maybe Neil, but he is a construct). This smacks of some outside influence or problem with the turn around. It hurt you here, but it is fixable and I am sure you will. Good luck!

Contributor

I don't see how a "universally neutral" group of diplomats is a good choice for an antagonist organization (sure, they kidnap people... to join their ranks within the powerful organization, how mean!).

You spelled the leader's name "Argrinyxia" in the header and "Argrinixia" in the body text. Misspelling your own made-up fantasy names is a pet peeve of mine--if you can't be bothered to synch up your proper names, you're putting the responsibility of that on me. Likewise, the other spelling and problems that Neil and Clark pointed out indicate you're not quite ready.

I do not recommend this to advance.


Huge buildup. Awesome concept of these guys running around being the Bene Gesserit of Shadow....

and then the big reveal: Fetchlings need women!

Oh, what a letdown. The whole point of this organization is to get some fresh blood into the ranks? Not SuperStar.

You say the leader of this group is Argrinyxia. But not really, it's really Morlith. Argrinyxia has a whole city to run, so she delegates this group to Morlith. Who, having built up reputation suitable to get the group into the inner sanctum of politics and power, uses it to steal babies.

I recommend that you do not 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

My favorite part of this entry? It made me look up alot of Golarion lore.

Was perplexed about HQ in Shadow Absalom and working in Nidal...

Silver Crusade

Um.. Am I the only one that thinks that this is the reason that the PFS Scenario The Penumbral Accords exists?

If so, that's a way better backstory and we should review it for a PFS scenario.. If not. It's okay.

Status: On Reserve List--Would fit better in a PFS setting, not a PFRPG setting.

Contributor

I'm generally tickled pink when someone takes a shine to something I created and runs with it on something of their own, and using Argrinyxia in this case as leader of your organization is no different. This is the second NPC from that page in TGB that has popped up in RPG Superstar (Inva Ebonblade turned up two years ago). Very cool! :)

However when you're working with pre-existing concepts, it's really -really- important to synch up name spellings, and especially for something like RPG Superstar, it's something that you should have noticed during your editing and corrected.

So I'm tempted to agree with what Sean and others have said about you having good concepts, but needing a bit more polish in a few areas if you're going to move on. That said, on concept alone I'm keen to see where you'll go if you do in fact move into the sweet 16.

Star Voter Season 6

I like this group. I feel like they need to be a little more evil to justify that alignment though. They come off as almost LN to me.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Here's my tuppence for this round.

I've never written an organisation, so take as much or as little as you deem worthy of note.

My category of scoring this round will be:

Template fu: A small number of points (max 5) - my template fu isnt so strong, and due to reviewing time constraints, I'm only likely to dock points for obvious errors here.

Adverserial Potential: (max 5) How they can get in the way of the PC's, cause them issues, direct conflicts, potential for becoming that campaign within the campaign.

Questions Arising: (max 10) Did I have any questions unanswered? This is the area where I will most likely gaff and occasionaly make an incisive query.

Overall Impression: (max 5) This is an esoteric measurement that simply reflects how you have wow'd this reader taking into acccount any other observations not covered in the prior sections.

---

Template fu: 4.5/5

Mis-spelling Absalom! Had to doc half a point, template fu was hungry. He wanted more, but as this hit you in two categories, he relented.

Tip, with your favourite editor, find the spelling options and look for "personal dictionary" options. If it has such, create a personal dictionary "Writing4Golarion.dic" and add to it all those Golarion cities, countries, areas, organisations as you use them to ensure consistent spelling when writing for Paizo's world.

Adverserial Potential: 4/5

I started being worried for the first few sections with neutrality and justice but then you redeemed quite a bit with their true motives in the Goals. My PCs would so be suitable candidates. I did wonder if their outward perception of diplomats and perceived ethos of neutrality and justice would attract members at odds with the main goals - so some possible infighting options there too, which the PCs would get horrendously involved with of course.

Questions Arising: 9/10

I couldnt think of much to ask, my brain was solidly thinking about how to integrate this into my current shadow based campaign. The only thing I could think of is how the lines communication and internal structure of the organisation would work, but as a GM, I can easily fill this.

Overall impression: 4/5

Absalom hits you again in this score, sorry, but that is a Golarion centrepoint. I loved the shadow theme and could easily work this organisation into foils for my PCs, the adversarial nature brought out nicely in the goals. I'm going to look past the general editing for this round in the hope that if you progress, you will improve your proof reading.

---

Final score: 21.5/25 - 86%

Liberty's Edge

There are some good ideas in this one, but I think the presentation is somewhat of a let down, and the group’s goals are quite bland – I think a lot more could have been done with this one.

Good luck Greg.

Silver Crusade

I hate to say it, but I think that any group that had spent as much time as this one would have building up a reputation of both good will and terror would have bigger goals than baby snatching. This could very easily have been a Shadow Plane version of the Mafia or some sort of cross-plane crime syndicate and it would be a much better group. It just does not grab me as it is currently constituted.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka Monkster

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

Dedicated Voter Season 8

Here we go again, congratulations and the best of luck to you

Ahhh, but I wanted to love this for the name. I do love the name.

But. The language/spelling/grammar monster does NOT approve of changing character names (especially as I'll have to spell them out a dozen times for my "write-stuff-down-to-remember-it" players. It is also, really, really, very much angry and not going to relent about this Absolom of yours. It doesn't like this much passive voice either. And the title you attach to your leader... Not happy grammar monster.
The antagonist level is okay. Hardly great - oh come on they aren't even being that malignant. They're basically aiming for kidnapping people, who probably don't mind all that much. And they're just saving their own lifes. The only way I could use this as an antagonist organization is if I choose to force my players to be overly righteous and goodly, and then turn the switch on them and make them feel totally bad about killing these guys of, bad enough for them to promise to save the poor things from the real enemy *cue dramatic entry of mysterious and greatly powerful shadow monstrosity*. Not good enough to make me want to use it.
I really, really want to love the idea of a shadow plane, shadowy, thieving organization, but their motivations kill them to me. Their just not exiting like that. And I so wanted to love that name...

All in all, I can't justify giving you a vote purely for having probably my favorite organization name or at least one of them. And there's just not much to the rest of the organization. Sad thing that. Nidal and the Shadow Plane excited me.

Best of luck in the voting!


Greg Monk wrote:

The Penumbral League

Alignment: NE
Headquarters: Shadow Absolom
Leader: Argrinyxia, the Shifting Lady of Ebon Scales
Structure: Loosely knit organization of independent agents
Scope: regional

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 indication is given of nifty robes or uniforms, although they do all apparently go to the effort of showing a symbol/emblem to demonstrate their affiliation.

Does membership of this organisation seem likely to involve regular tea or dinner parties or other appropriate social occasions?
Diplomats usually get involved in some quite nice social situations, so yes on this count.

Is the cost of being a member of this organisation likely to be acceptable to a succubus?
Apparently you have to be some sort of shadowy creature to sign up, so membership isn't even a remote possibility for succubi.

Other comments?
So these guys have a primary objective of abducting victims as breeding material, to achieve which end they pose/offer services as diplomats for Nidal? At some point the authorities in Nidal are going to notice these extra-curricular activities (if they haven't done so already) and either politely (or what passes for politely from devotees of a deity who has a fetish for punishment and suffering) ask them to stop, or insist on getting their own cut...

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

Congratulations:
Congratulations on making the top cut in Round 1. Obviously at this point it’s now 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…

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