Steelhawks


Round 2: Create a new organization

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Steelhawks

Alignment: LN

Headquarters: Hall of Blades, Absalom

Leader: Talenger Vyse

Structure: Free Market Meritocracy

Scope: Regional

Resources: Forges, warehouses, and weapon stores throughout the major cities of the Inner Sea

The Steelhawks' goal is simple: to be the greatest arms dealers on Golarion. Having originated in Katapesh, their name pays homage to the "steel hawkers" of the Lower City Bazaar. The Steelhawks pride themselves on providing high quality weapons and ammunition, as well as armor and gear. They also sell magical weapons, or can arrange for Steelhawk mages to enchant equipment. Always trying new and exotic weaponry, they see any war fought on Golarion as both business opportunity and field testing. Their symbol is a hawk with wings made of sword blades.

Structure and Leadership
The Steelhawks' base of operations is the Hall of Blades in Absalom, which houses one of the most extensive weapon collections in the Inner Sea. Standing within the organization is determined by a complex hierarchy of challenges and duels, as well as successful weapons trafficking. Rank and file traders are simply called "Hawks." Whether alone or in caravans, Hawks travel well-armed, carrying several items to sell, including local specialties produced by the nearest Steelhawk forge. After selling some or all of their wares, they may return to receive a commission and resupply. Their mainstay, however, is taking and filling custom orders.

Goals
Key to the Steelhawks' success is their ironclad neutrality. They have no qualms about war profiteering, but they make it clear in any conflict that they are an unaligned third party and will sell to both sides. With the addition of new trade routes to Tian Xia, however, Talenger Vyse now dreams of dominating all arms trade across Golarion. With black market sales, bribes and threats to secure government contracts, and even going so far as to engineer the outcome of battles by hiring out Hawks as mercenaries and then covering up their involvement, Vyse is leading the Steelhawks away from neutrality and down an increasingly darker path. This has caused bitter dissension, shaking the faction to its very core.

Public Perception
Their goods may be slightly above the reach of an average citizen, but the Steelhawks are still known far and wide for outfitting the armies of nations as well as adventuring heroes. It's common knowledge that challenging a Steelhawk to a duel and winning will earn you a temporary discount.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Welcome to RPG Superstar, Chad. The competition takes a decidedly different twist at this point. 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 discuss what you did well and where I think you still need additional development. So, let's take a look at what you've given us to work with...

First off, I like the organization's name. It's the type of name you could slip into a conversation between PCs and NPCs and let it hint toward's the organization's nature on the name alone. With "steel" in the title, you figure they're at least a martial, heavy-metal kind of outfit. And a predatory bird like a "hawk" builds up an image of a group that's likely very aggressive. Unfortunately, I'm not sure you live up to that image very well with how you've described the Steelhawks.

I went into your write-up expecting a violent, war-like group. Then, I saw they were arms dealers and I still thought maybe we'd get something like that. But then, you framed them in a much more passive role (at least initially), always maintaining neutrality, selling to both sides, and mostly interested in profit, not conflict. Let me say that again. Not conflict. And that's actually what you want in an antagonisitic organization. Now, you redeemed a fair amount of that by going on to describe the darker turn their leader has started to implement by literally manufacturing wars and conflict to ensure they continue to have an active market in which to sell their wares. And, they're taking a more direct hand with their own well-trained, well-equipped mercenaries. That's good. It's very good. But you really should have led with that material. That's your best stuff. But instead, we got a slow build-up to it that painted a completely different image.

I mentioned elsewhere in one of the other reviews the importance of organizing your ideas before you set out to write. I suggested sometimes you get your best mileage by crafting a single, summarized statement about your topic. In other words, if you only had a single sentence to describe this organization, would you spend time talking about their neutrality and focus on profits? No. You'd distill it down to the most immediate threat the organization presents so you could clearly describe their role in a campaign. Right? That's what you need to lead with. When you spend only one sentence to describe your topic, it forces you to quickly find the core of your idea. You don't have to use that actual sentence in your eventual write-up, though. Just let it be your outline. From there, you need to make sure that everything else you write supports that characterization. And build it in layers, widening out as necessary to go back and touch on their origin or talk about their current activities or their future goals or change in philosophy over the years.

To me, I think that approach would have served you better. It would have allowed you to jump straight into what this organization is really all about. A bunch of dastardedly trouble-makers and con-artists, selling arms to anyone and everyone they can dupe into needing what they're selling. And, in the meantime, they've got powerful wizards back at the home office capable of crafting magic items. And, they've got a whole bunch of well-trained mercenaries more than capable of demonstrating the proper use of all those weapons they're peddling. That's good stuff. And that's the idea you came up with. So, I applaud you for that. It's the kind of organization you could see having an influence all across Golarion.

It is, however, kind of a niche player. There are other far-reaching mercantile groups like the Aspis Consortium that have their hand in all kinds of commodities. Not just weapons. If war is the catalyst for creating a marketplace for your Steelhawks, I would have enjoyed seeing you widen their business dealings to include other lucrative enterprises which fit that backdrop. Do they deal in "luxuries" for soldiers on the front lines? Everything from liquor to companionship could fall into their area of expertise. What about logistics for shipping and maintaining supply lines into a region that's at war? What about protection services to safeguard a cache of the same equipment they sold you? How about just ordinary garrison troops to guard a kingdom while its main army invades a neighboring land? And, once they've created that kind of in-road and beachhead into a new market, what other services can the Steelhawks start "hawking" to the general population while they're there? To me, your entry would be stronger if you touched on some things like that.

But who are we kidding? You clocked in exactly at 400 words on this thing. You used your maximum wordcount. Exploring any of those additional topics would have required more words. I think you had a few to spare, however, if you had cut out some of those references about their neutrality or their mainstay of taking custom orders. None of that's particular relevant to the aggressive mercantile group you created.

Now, in terms of your writing skill, I like it. It flows well. You impart the information about your organization very clearly. It isn't as concise as I'd like to see it, though. For instance, as you describe their goals, you state: "Key to the Steelhawks' success is their ironclad neutrality. They have no qualms about war profiteering, but they make it clear in any conflict that they are an unaligned third party and will sell to both sides." That's a bit repetitive. I think you could revise that back down to: "The Steelhawks have no qualms about war profiteering, selling to both sides as an unaligned third party." Your original statements took up 37 words. That revision uses only 17 and yet it tells us pretty much the exact same thing. It saves you 20 words you could spend on another bit of descriptive text to tell us something else about the Steelhawks. So, I'd encourage you to look back on your writing and recognize areas where you're getting repetitive or taking more words to say something that could be conveyed in less. If you tighten up things in that regard, you'll leave yourself more room to be creative with additional material.

So, what's my verdict here? I like the basic premise. I could see the Steelhawks in play. I do think there are elements which need revising/expanding, though. But I also think you have potential. Unfortunately, I just don't think you went far enough with this organization to develop concrete situations where we can imagine it being antagonistic to PCs and serve up multiple plots in an actual game. Some of it's there. Just not quite enough to sell it that strongly.

So, for now, I'm going to put myself ON THE FENCE.

I'll leave it to the voters to decide if they enjoy this offering enough to send you through to the next round. I think your gloves of reconnaissance had quite a bit of popularity, so maybe you get through? I wouldn't mind seeing you take another swing on the next round's assignment. That's why I spent a good deal of time here trying to define some things for you which I think might help your designs. Best of luck in the exit polls. And I hope to see you on the other side.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Chad, 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: Unaligned third party arms dealers. I’m not seeing the conflict or the antagonist here.

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): C-
The goal of this round is not to create any organization. Were that the case, this one would be fine. The Steelhawks (even with that rather generic, clichéd name) would likely make a book of organizations. But the instructions said to make one that would be an antagonist (even if not villanous). This fails in that task. "Key to the Steelhawks' success is their ironclad neutrality." This is simply, by its design, not a group that will be an antagonist to the PCs. Now, the PCs may have to kill a few from this group on their way to taking on an actual antagonist group, but that isn’t enough. This is RPG Superstar, and this entry simply doesn’t meet what I believe to be the minimum necessary for this round. Neil dug the name. Maybe I am more sensitive to the horridly overdone Forgotten Realms style names of “Waterdeep” and all other “two words together as one” names. Sure, there is a fine tradition of that in fantasy gaming, but this one felt forced. Sorry, I’m not trying to pile on and I’m sure this isn’t the review you were hoping for. Please remember, I am not judging you, I am simply evaluating this individual submission. Even Kobe Bryant misses freethrows, as I often say.

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
There’s just not much here. They are neutral arms dealers. OK. Not really any evocative NPCs. No cool locations (Hall of Blades, generic). Maybe I am wrong, but this looks like what I turn out when I am up against a time deadline and I have massive writers block—when I just have nothing, nothing is coming to me, and I just grab the last thing I can and whip it out ‘cause I have to. If that’s not what happened, that’s OK, but I’ve been in that position and this is the stuff I come up with when I just got nothing and my muse is on a coffee break. A whole lot of Neil’s “glittering generalities.”

Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor, are you showing Superstar mojo?): C
I’m sorry, it didn’t. Probably no surprise.

Overall: C
A neutral group that fail to provide the needed conflict and “antagonist” role.

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

Chad, I wasn’t a fan of your gloves, per se, but I saw something in you and I really was interested to see what you could bring in Round 2. I was optimistic. If you hit the wall I think you did, sorry about that. It’s happened to all of us at one time or another, believe me. Sometimes you dip into that well and it’s dry. You can’t force creativity. Unfortunately, freelancers have to learn how to do that to some degree and your submission here says you might not be ready yet. That said, the best thing you have going for you is that I am not recommending you. Several others (Think Blink!) have used that to catapult themselves into the subsequent round, but I don’t think this is a blinkdog nation. Good luck this round!

Contributor

This isn't an antagonist organization--you'd have to work really hard to make these guys opposed to the PCs.

I do not recommend this to advance.


One of the instructions for this round was to present an organization that could be an adversary for the PCs.

This group fails that test.

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.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

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


The writing is very good, but they are not antagonistic organization.
Status-will come back to it.

Marathon Voter Season 6

I recall that the Far Cry games were centered around the idea of a weapons dealer organization. Just their existence and the subtle influence towards war is enough to make them potentially adversarial. I can definitely see where Chad Bartlett was coming from when he thought this could be an adversarial organization.

These guys only care in profit. They don't care about the many deaths they cause or they aid in. They'll intentionally destabilize a region, just to drum up sales.


This comes across as a solid group for a campaign setting, but when reading it, it didn't jump out at me as some group I'd see a party coming into conflict with. My opinion on this is that you should have used public perception as the primary place for talking about their neutrality and brought up more about how they go about engineering conflicts for their own profit.

I do admit to liking the imagery of the group, even if it didn't really set me ablaze.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

The judges hit this right on the head. It isn't quite there as an adversary, though it has the potential. I think that it would have been better to have them be a few years more developed, where the majority of the members and leadership are into manufacturing war.

I will probably not be voting for this submission on its merits. I will probably not be voting for you based on your previous work.

Silver Crusade

Although I like the organization. You didn't follow directions. Neutrals can't have enemies... Which was the whole point of the mission friend.

But I would love to see this organization in a Pathfinder Society module. It would be interesting to interact with them for a short time. And of course, I would love to buy special exotic Scimitars from them as well.

Status: Like--But not enough to vote for.


Honestly, adversarial or not I just find them boring. They're like any other slightly evil merchant group ever.

I think a lot more could have been done with this. So much more. When you have a fairly generic idea like this you need to twist it to make it interesting. Perhaps they were secretly an evil cult to Gorum? Maybe they should have been Razmiran agents out to gather money for their "god" and undermine other agents? I do feel like this could have been made much more unique and cool.

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

Chad Bartlett wrote:
Steelhawks Their symbol is a hawk with wings made of sword blades.

Quite a few real world military units use this symbol. Cool!

What is the level bove "Hawks"? Not listed... I would like to know after the round ends please.


This organization is only neutral in the sense that they'll deal arms to both sides of a war. Since their profession and profitability is based on war, it's in their best interest to ensure that peace never comes - because peace will not provide for them.

That alone can make the Steelhawks incredibly antagonistic.

They may not be a front line adversary, but it'd be incredibly easy for the Steelhawks to make hordes of enemies given their trade.

I like this organization for being several different kinds of gray, with just enough room left for a DM to either use them as legitimate merchants, common arms dealers, or stone cold warmongers.


This is a very good group that the players can come into conflict with. This got one of my votes this round.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Well, Neil's advice is to sit this one out and comment nothing =). Good advice since then you can't say anything wrong.

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, Starfinder Society 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: 5/5

Looks like we are off to a good start, nothing immediately obvious.

Adverserial Potential: 3/5

Yes, their products could indirectly cause issues for the PC's but it seems light on direct confrontation options - I could see them being adversarial if the PC's decide to set up shop against them, or if a ruler makes their activities illegal in his realm.

Questions Arising: 7/10

Who do they employ?
Is this a dwarven organisation (for obvious reasons) or mixed races?
If their scope is regional with ambitions to be the greatest in all of Golarion, what are their expansion plans and timelines?
Who are their greatest rivals? (besides the PCs)

Overall impression: 3/5

I couldnt help it, I immediately thought of the Ferengi - we sell to anyone, anywhere. On the flip side, I rather like the Ferengi, they dont make excuses for what they are.

I think you slipped a little on adverserial potential, but in general, considering the word count limit, it is a tight entry with enough room for GM's to play - see my question section for starter :D

---

Final score: 18/25 - 72%

Liberty's Edge

Interesting group but I can see the potential of several PCs wanting to join such an organization. It doesn't seem to fit with the assigned task. Sorry not vote from me on this one.

Star Voter Season 6

I can easily see PCs working with or against this organization. I can see this group being in just about any campaign. Unfortunately, I find this group just plain boring.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka primemover003

When I first read the name I though immediately of the 80's animated Silverhawks.

That said the arms dealers, war profiteering organization has been done before in other settings and the Aspis Consortium could easily be in this game. I think you made a mistake by making them strictly neutral, evil is the way to go man! Think Zhentarim, think Yugoloths...

--Vrock Broker

Liberty's Edge

These guys could be a relevant organisation in a campaign setting, but as presented they are just not antagonistic or quite interesting enough for me. I also think they cross fairly firmly into the territory already occupied by the Aspis Consortium in Golarion.

Good luck Chad.

Dark Archive

Live and learn. I don't really have much to add that the judges and other posters haven't said already. I would like to see what this organization would look like if you focused on the dark and evil core driving these arms dealers instead of all of the background that made them seem like relatively harmless merchants, but we have to go with what you've given us.

One thing that is confusing to me is the last sentence. Injuring, humiliating, or possibly killing one of them in a duel will get you a discount? I can see where the train of thought left the station but I think it arrived at a different destination than you had planned.

Best of luck to you, sir.


[Snapshot Critique] They seem a pretty stock and standard organization. A bit cliche' -- Arm dealer wants to profit from war and will even instigate war to increase his power/wealth/etc. However, you do throw in some catchy details - how they got their name, the dueling bit, even the symbol for the group seems evocative.

Unfortunately, those cool elements are too minor to overcome the relatively basic or expected nature of the group as presented. If revising, I would recommend working on motivation. It is fine that group was neutral but is slowly darkening their dealings . . . but why? And that answer should be more meaningful than the stock answer of wealth, I think.

Congratulations on making it to the TOP 32; however, I don't think I will be voting for this organization. Best of luck.


Ah, shame. I was hoping by the title that I was going to get some fringe paramilitary group out of Andoran that is operated by a well decorated officer gone rogue, like Ed Harris' character Brigadier General Francis X. Hummel from The Rock.

Instead, it seems I got his co-star, Nicholas Cage, as Yuri Orlov in Lord of War.

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

I think we all see potential in this but I'm putting in ideas the writer failed to do. If this was an org that claimed neutrality but worked covertly to start wars for profit and playing the two sides off on each other then great but NOPE.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Cheapy wrote:
Just their existence and the subtle influence towards war is enough to make them potentially adversarial. I can definitely see where Chad Bartlett was coming from when he thought this could be an adversarial organization. These guys only care in profit. They don't care about the many deaths they cause or they aid in. They'll intentionally destabilize a region, just to drum up sales.

Thanks, Cheapy!!! Those must be binoculars of true seeing! :)

Lady Ophelia wrote:
I would love to buy special exotic Scimitars from them as well.

I'm having the Steelhawks craft you a set of scimitars as we speak! You should see them! They're beautiful. :)

Thomas LeBlanc wrote:
Quite a few real world military units use this symbol. Cool! What is the level bove "Hawks"? Not listed... I would like to know after the round ends please.

I'm glad you like my item, Thomas! I considered having the highest rank be "Lord Champion" and then maybe "High Champion" and so forth, but I don't know what the rank above Hawk is. ;p

shujan wrote:
This organization is only neutral in the sense that they'll deal arms to both sides of a war. Since their profession and profitability is based on war, it's in their best interest to ensure that peace never comes - because peace will not provide for them. That alone can make the Steelhawks incredibly antagonistic. They may not be a front line adversary, but it'd be incredibly easy for the Steelhawks to make hordes of enemies given their trade. I like this organization for being several different kinds of gray, with just enough room left for a DM to either use them as legitimate merchants, common arms dealers, or stone cold warmongers.

Thanks, Shujan!!! Like the comment by Cheapy, I think your eagle eyes saw what I wanted people to see.

Caedwyr wrote:
This is a very good group that the players can come into conflict with. This got one of my votes this round.

Booyah!!! Yours was my first confirmed vote of the round! :) Thanks, Caedwyr! I appreciate the kind words.


Chad Bartlett wrote:

Steelhawks

Alignment: LN

Headquarters: Hall of Blades, Absalom

Leader: Talenger Vyse

Structure: Free Market Meritocracy

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?
They have a badge (the hawk with sword wings) but no indication is given of any uniform or other means of dress.

Does membership of this organisation seem likely to involve regular tea or dinner parties or other appropriate social occasions?
Indicated activities apparently involve moving cargoes around and more moving cargo around, and only occasional recourse to slightly more interesting things such as corruption of government officials. From what's indicated, an active social calendar is not involved. (Probably a mistake, as dinner parties and afternoon teas are useful for corrupting government officials and getting contracts.)

Is the cost of being a member of this organisation likely to be acceptable to a succubus?
No indication is given of any membership requirements, but the overall lawful nature of the organization (despite salacious hints of occasional amusing activities such as blackmail) is a discouragement against long-term succubus involvement, unless it's to mess with too uptight, stuffy, types.

Other comments?
Ick. An organization, and a (l)awful one at that which exists to outfit people who enjoy hitting one another with lumps of vegetable material or metal (one hundred per cent of whom who happen to be not paladins or highly eccentric succubi are as a general rule brainless, useless, irritations). Whilst I'm not opposed to idiots killing one another, an organization which exists to help them do it tends not to get me very excited. About all I usually have to say about this sort of group is that if you're interested in sound business investments, this is probably at the slightly more reliable end of such markets, although don't expect any exciting annual investors' functions.

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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