The Grandbridge Squires

Round 2: Create a new organization

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 aka Stormfriend

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The Grandbridge Squires
Alignment: NE
Headquarters: None
Leader: None
Structure: League of wealthy businessmen, operating via gentlemen’s agreement
Scope: Regional
Resources: Money, information, trade agreements, legitimate employees, lawyers and tame politicians.
In 4606 Aroden died, the Eye of Abendego formed, the Worldwound opened and storms wracked the Inner Sea for weeks. As the end times had clearly come, a group of businessmen dining in Oppara decided that they might as well enjoy it and play along. Using their combined wealth and influence they quietly spread as much chaos and conflict as possible, whilst profiteering almost by accident. But the apocalypse never came and what started out as a destructive and nihilistic endgame quickly turned into a highly profitable and successful venture. Cooperation on such a scale combined with their skills at intrigue allowed them to punch far above their individual weights and expand across the Inner Sea.
Structure and Leadership
Membership is by invitation only, with members treating each other strictly as equals and accepting majority decisions. Most of their employees are honest workers who have no idea what their masters are planning, although the group’s legal and political teams wield the law like a weapon and are far more clued up on their objectives. Secrecy is vital to effectively manipulate markets, provide each other with alibis, and offer apparently independent advice to their targets. Yet such advice always leads to conflict despite the supposed best intentions of all involved, resulting in bankruptcy, imprisonment, riots, death and any other opportunity to profit.
The Squires aren’t just interested in gaining wealth and power and having fun in the process, they’ve begun to see conflict as an art form. Plots can hatch over years or decades and the beauty of the plan is as important as the results. Until the apocalypse arrives every well executed feud should be savored like a fine wine. Indeed, the ultimate act of perfection would be to engineer a conflict so great and complex that it ushers in the end of days itself.
Public Perception
Every member takes care to be seen as a fine upstanding member of his community. Their businesses are well run, with good reputations and good people. The few who speak against them are either prosecuted for slander or accused of lunacy and locked away. Those who actively oppose them are crushed: financially, politically and personally.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Welcome to RPG Superstar, Andrew. Sometimes it pays off to be on the alternate list! You and Benjamin have your opportunity now just like anyone else in the Top 32. So, it's game on. You need to bring your best stuff, though. Leave nothing behind. The contest takes a whole different spin at this level. As judges we're here to comment on your work, both in the hopes of guiding and honing your game design skills, while also helping 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 still have room for improvement. So, let's dive in...

It seems you've given us an all-boy's club of the wealthy elite in Taldor who like playing political games for wealth and influence...which is, pretty much, exactly what everyone in Taldor is doing these days. ;-) But you've also expanded the Squires' goals to include "conflict as an art form." And, while that's all well and good, this entry came off feeling a little unfocused to me. I used this term elsewhere in my feedback on another entry, but you're writing in what I call "glittering generalities." It's basically lots of generalized terms that sound or look good on the surface, but there's very little of substance behind them. For instance, from this write-up, I've got no sense of anyone who actually belongs to this organization. Just a bunch of guys who join by invitation-only, who must trace their roots back to the guys who started the whole thing in Oppara at the death of Aroden. But not a single named individual. Not even a family name upon which to hang this plot hook.

Lots of times, in RPG writing, there's this tendency to hold back information as a writer. To describe mysteries in general terms in a way that you feel is entertaining the reader and leading them along. But, when that path doesn't lead anywhere and there's not enough material for a GM to actually use with your creation, you've left them hanging. You're keeping secrets from the ones who need answers the most. As freelance writers, we pretty much do everything we can to avoid doing that. It frustrates a developer to no end if they have to come back through your work and add meaningful names, places, and details that you either didn't feel confident enough to include, didn't think about, or forgot. I'm not sure if you fell into any of those categories, but the end product...what you've written half-finished. It's a first draft. Or a skeleton of generalized information about an organization of wealthy guys who engineer conflict for their own bored entertainment. And, while useful on its surface, you need to go deeper than that to give us something we can actually use in the game.

So, from a writing standpoint, you had the core of a good idea. What you wrote also reads reasonably well. The idea just wasn't focused well enough, and neither was the language you used in describing it. I thought you did a good job of relating a moment in Golarion's history to reasons for why your organization formed. But Aroden's death occured over a century ago in the current timeline. Every original member of the Grandbridge Squires would have passed on by now. Who replaced them? Their sons and daughters? Outsiders who received an invitation? As a reader, I kind of have a hole in their history that goes unfilled. And I need to know those things so I can understand how the organization functions and exists today.

Here's my advice for you: When faced with a writing assignment that requires the generation of an idea, you want to make sure that idea is as clear and concise in your mind as possible before you start writing. Then, take it slow. Write down a single sentence that encapsulates that entire idea. Doing that forces you to distill it down to its most meaningful parts. It cuts out the possibility of rambling, because you can't do that in a single statement. Well, you can...but it becomes a run-on sentence. That's okay though. Sometimes, even a run-on sentence can help. You don't have to use it in your actual write-up. As long as it serves the purpose of organizing your thoughts, it can lead to build your introduction of that idea in a more clear, concise, and definitive manner.

In the case of an organization, that sentence needs to state who/what your organization is...where it exists...what it's why. Sound like a lot? Try this: "The Grandbridge Squires exist as a group of bored, decadent nobles from Taldor who actively entertain themselves by orchestrating conflict across the Inner Sea through bribery, coercion, and business arrangements via paid intermediaries and unwitting servants." That's 36 words out of 400 that can serve as the basis for leading off your discussion. And, by getting that kind of definition out of the way from the very get-go of your write-up, it strengthens your ability to draw in the reader. They've already got a working image of who and what you're talking about. And, you can layer further information from that point forward about the organization's specifics which they can then process as connective segments to the overall whole.

So, what's my verdict on this entry? Unfortunately, just going by what you've given us here, I have to say I DO NOT RECOMMEND this organization to advance you to the next round.

However, it's really up to the voters to determine if they want to put you through. I think your sticky pugfoot really resonated with a lot of people. Many put it in their Top 5 favorite item submissions. That item took a lot of creativity that seems lacking here in the Grandbridge Squires. You took a swing and I'm not sure you this round. But, if you make it through, I've hopefully given you a lot of food for thought, above...advice which I hope you can incorporate to strengthen your writing, if not for Round 3, then perhaps for next year. Best of luck in the exit polls.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Andrew, welcome to Round 2! By the way, not only are you an alternate who got a shot, but you got my golden ticket, so I am looking forward to this one!

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: Cool chaos and ruin Illuminati-style organization seems like a good idea, but is the execution there?

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 Good: I really, really like the core idea of your organization. This chaos and ruin Illuminati-style group is very cool. Great idea.
The Not So Good: Maybe it was the fact you were an alternate and you didn’t devote the same time to your organization but this submission seems not fully done. I know the turnaround time is hellishly short as it is, and for an alt that is even harder. But you know what, a superstar freelancer needs to be able to do that. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that you had some time constraints or other things that got in the way of you taking this past a first draft. Maybe I am wrong, but that is what this feels like—you found a killer idea and just didn’t have the time or couldn’t really find the way to execute it right. Man, I feel like I am piling on, and I don’t mean to do that, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I really felt the name was a big miss, too. You have this Illuminati-type bunch of power brokers sowing chaos and ruin and they are the “grandbridge squires”? That sounds like some bunch of prissy, foppish bards’ name they come up with for their badminton team. Come on, this is an organization that needs an Illuminati-style name or at least something cool and mysterious and powerful. From reading the name of the group to reading the first full paragraph, it was a shock to say the least. The name really does not convey what this group does. Now sometimes that is ok, you need a secret society name. You don’t call yourselves “The Agents of Ruin,” for goodness sake; but it’s got to be more than the name you chose.

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
The Good: That first paragraph is really good: “In 4606 Aroden died, the Eye of Abendego formed, the Worldwound opened and storms wracked the Inner Sea for weeks ... .” Very nice (though please lose the overused gamer word “whilst”). You set the thing up really well. I mean, after the whiplash of going from the bad name to that paragraph, you got my interest back.
The Not So Good: "Leaders none, Headquarters none"? Really? Two of the coolest things about organizations are the leading NPCs and their cool locations. I think it is a huge design miss to not just not detail them but to specifically say they don’t have them. And then after that first paragraph we are back to, as Neil likes to call them, “glittering generalities.” You use words but you don’t say much with them. No NPC? No locations? No real concrete objectives that would lead to conflict with PCs other than just simply restating the core idea again in a different way. As I said above, I suspect for whatever reason this was a first draft. Whether time constraints or you just never were able to find the way to make this work, this thing just isn’t done.

Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor, are you showing Superstar mojo?): B-
Crazily enough, it did grab me. Unfortunately it shook me like a rag doll, from “ick” for the name to “oh cool!” after the first paragraph, to “ugh” with the rest. But I’ll give you this, it wasn’t boring.

Overall: C+
A cool idea with a bad name that wasn’t properly fleshed out. But boy oh boy is that a good first paragraph.

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

Andrew, I loved the fun of the pugfoot, as you well know. And that matters to me. I also like the big idea you have here. Though as an objective judge, I have to say I do not recommend this submission, you have certainly brought some interesting ideas to the table and if someone looked at your item and at this submission and said they wanted to see what else you have, I couldn’t really disagree with that. But on its own merits, I can’t recommend it. Good luck this round. I think you are going to need it. I’m glad I used one of my golden tickets on you because you brought what I like—the big idea.


These guys really seem CE rather than NE.

I get the whole secret society/Illuminati aspect, but these guys don't really have anything unique to set them apart from other "puppets behind the scenes" groups.

If these guys have underlings, then their Leader entry should be "secret council of businessmen," not "none" (none is anarchy). And organizations are cooler if they have a secret lair the PCs can invade, even if it's a private mansion where they hold decadent parties (otherwise their "lair" is any one of their private homes, and do they like to hang out with each other?). I feel that the PCs investigating these guys will be let down when they uncover the guys at the top; there's not enough of a "coolness hook" to really get GMs wanting to use this group in a campaign.

This has the potential to be interesting, but there's not enough here to be superstar.

I do not recommend this organization to advance.

I don't get it. The end of the world comes and these guys go off the deep end. Then it turns out the end of the world hasn't actually come, and instead of coping with the consequences of their actions in the harsh light of the new day, they turn out to have found a good business plan?

It's been over a hundred years since the death of Aroden!

And now, long, long after the events of those times, they're still somehow making money and good times from sowing "chaos"? There's a bunch of religions for gods of chaos that would love to talk to these guys about a partnership. They should do lunch.

This isn't a useable submission. There's little value here to the IP, and there's nothing a GM can hang their campaign on.

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.

Shadow Lodge Marathon Voter Season 6

I like how you write; I easily read through your submission enjoying the ride so congratulations. It is just a shame there wasn't a little more meat in terms of how to directly steer these guys into the path of the PCs. However, you have shown me enough in your two submissions that you can improve on this and that I'd like to see you go further. As such, I'll more than likely be sending a vote your way.

Best Regards
Herremann the Wise

[ Certainly not deer in the headlights by the way. ;) ]

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

If they are so covert, how can the PCs come in contact? Evil lawyers and politicians are always good enemies, but would quickly reveal their masters.

I like how they have agreements to spread chaos, very NE!

Liberty's Edge

I love the concept of this one, but I feel that the execution really has not done the idea justice. It is a pity; a big missed opportunity in not having a leader or a headquarters (a leader could be a group rather than an individual; a headquarters could be ever changing, or a certain box at the high opera house or something – doesn’t need to be a hidden lair).

Good luck with this round Andrew

Silver Crusade

This is actually a great idea. But I see this again being a great idea or story plot in the Pathfinder Society, but to be eligible for RPG Superstar, not quite. Also the alignment for them is wrong, They would technically be LE instead of NE because they are using "legal" means to crush their enemies and opposition.

Status: Like-but not enough to vote for.

This strikes me as a group that might feature in a Sherlock Holmes story. Your offering got one of my votes this year.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 aka Stormfriend

Thanks to everyone for the feedback, and especially those who've offered me their votes! I'm not allowed to answer questions or provide any more detail yet, but I'll respond to them all when the voting period ends. Thanks again.

I like it, but I'm not sure if it's enough to keep a vote after I've read the other organizations. Good luck :).

I love your writing style, and for that alone you might get a vote from me. [EDIT: Strike that - you DID get a vote from me.] I like the name - yes, it sounds foppish, but that's probably intentional to throw people off their track and let them operate above-board as a guild. But there's some problems here. I can see the rationale for making the Squires NE - they foment chaos through the use of lawful authority, so I guess it kinda balances out, even if the endgame is a chaotic one.

Here's one thing that perplexes me, though: one of the ways you say they sow discord is by giving other businessmen bad advice that leads them to their ruin. Why, after a hundred years of such a poor track record from the Squires' membership, would anyone bother listening to them any more? =]

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

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I can believe in wizards, I can believe in dragons, but I cannot believe that this organization exists.

The idea of bored, rich people going a little crazy during the apocalypse and deliberately wrecking things just for fun... it's farfetched, but I can go with it. But for highly ambitious and successful people to keep on doing that for a hundred years? And to accidentally find it profitable? Just how do they make money off of sowing discord? Generally speaking, apocalyptic instability is not good for business. These guys have no serious motivation and no flavor to speak of, just a random desire to use their vast resources to screw things up for no reason.

What we have here, then, is not a group of villains but a bunch of jerks.

People did love that sticky pugfoot, so I wouldn't be surprised to see you advance. Good luck!

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka Standback

Andrew, I found your paragraph on "goals" to be chillingly good. Every line there hit home for me - in fact, I really felt you buried your lead by not mentioning the "conflict as art" element earlier on.

I'm forced to agree that this entry has a severe lack of concrete details about the organization. The group is described quite well by the way of generalization, but touches of unique, substantial detail would have made this a much stronger entry - it would have given a GM more to work with.

Best of luck!

Dark Archive

Well, you went from round one with the most interesting name to round two with a rather uninteresting one, so that is a little bit disappointing.

However... I really like your writing style here. Even though the name didn't draw me in, the lead-in paragraph and the rest of the submission was a good read. You also get points for creating an actual antagonist organization, which for some reason not every contestant was able to accomplish this round.

For some reason while reading this I imagined the Golarion version of 'anonymous', all of them wearing Guy Fawkes masks and arguing over what to blow up next in some tavern basement, which also got me thinking that possibly tying this organization to Galt or to Norgorber may have strengthened the entire premise which instead falls a bit flat when the organization has no HQ and no leader.

Even if there isn't a single leader or ruling faction within the organization, it probably isn't a good idea to leave those fields blank in this competition; even if that information should be hard to come by or shouldn't be overt PC knowledge, it should be included to help GMs tie the organization to wherever they are planning their campaigns and adventures. If the organization's scope it regional, what region?

I'm really torn on whether or not to vote for this. I really love the item you submitted, so at this point I will have to reserve judgment until I have finished reading every other submission for this round.

Best of luck to you, sir!

The reason this entry grabbed me, is what Andrew has created is essentially an organization of Professor Moriarities who work behind the scenes to engineer conflict and disaster in order to personally profit as well as for the sheer pleasure in the art of their machinations. The lack of a central leadership is what allows a group like this to be so dangerous, since you can't take them out all in one swoop. On the other hand, it also means that you won't have as many resources thrown at you right away if you choose to oppose them allowing for this group to be used at multiple character levels.

OwlbearRepublic wrote:

I can believe in wizards, I can believe in dragons, but I cannot believe that this organization exists.

The idea of bored, rich people going a little crazy during the apocalypse and deliberately wrecking things just for fun... it's farfetched, but I can go with it. But for highly ambitious and successful people to keep on doing that for a hundred years? And to accidentally find it profitable? Just how do they make money off of sowing discord? Generally speaking, apocalyptic instability is not good for business. These guys have no serious motivation and no flavor to speak of, just a random desire to use their vast resources to screw things up for no reason.

What we have here, then, is not a group of villains but a bunch of jerks.

People did love that sticky pugfoot, so I wouldn't be surprised to see you advance. Good luck!

Perhaps not wrecking things "just for fun," but for their own self-interest while creating discord for others that can potentially be adversarial.

I see the Illuminati mentioned, which is a good source for the idea here. Ultimately, I believe what Andrew essentially was inspired by was the Bilderberg Group, which makes certain things lacking from being mentioned to make sense. I can accept that the headquarters / location is dynamic. But there should have been at least one individual mentioned to be the equivalent of "Chairmen of the Steering Committee" while the rest of the power players hold to their anonymity. It's like the CIA; you're never going to divulge you belong to the agency aside from the public figurehead / director.

Dark Archive

Just FYI, I have finished voting and this organization was one of my votes. There are some really good things that can be done with them despite my initial displeasure with the name, and the creator of the sticky pugfoot must advance (IMHO).

Hope to see your monster!

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 aka Stormfriend

A few quick answers to the judge's comments:

The Squires have been around for over a hundred years so they're not the same bunch of guys that started it. I was going to include a reference to inheritance after invitation, but some apples fall a little far from the tree and not every descendant would be offered membership, nor even know of their existence necessarily. Similarly minded individuals who weren't part of the original agreement would be invited in though, so long as there was a general consensus that they were able to keep a secret.

When the world was ending the Squires didn't suddenly go public and advertise their conspiracies, but they did openly boast about them between themselves. The minutiae of competition between them seemed to matter a lot less at that point. As they boasted, they realised they could build off the back of each other's plans. Then they realised they could construct multi-part conspiracies involving several of them from the outset, before eventually combining all their resources to pull off the most audacious plots. The key point here is cooperation. They discovered that evil people can achieve far more success when working as a group. As Taldor falls apart through petty squabbling these guys have realised how it can be saved, but they're too busy conspiring to tell anyone else - like true Taldans...

In terms of glittering generalities those were deliberate, partly because of the type of organisation I was describing, and partly because its only a 400 word summary. I don't find the name of the leader remotely useful myself, unless its such a small organisation that the PCs are likely to meet them during the campaign or they have a very public face. I could have created a selection of names, but its much easier to select the most appropriate businessman from an existing campaign and provide him with a backstory and connections to this group. Likewise they don't have a headquarters so None is accurate, and although the ideas suggested such as a box at the theatre are excellent, do they belong in a 400 word summary? In hindsight yes, it would have added some nice flavour, but I didn't think of it at the time! This wasn't a first draft, it was a case of judging what to include and what to exclude for the organisation being described. That's easy enough to change with experience.

Andrew Newton wrote:

The Grandbridge Squires

Alignment: NE
Headquarters: None
Leader: None
Structure: League of wealthy businessmen, operating via gentlemen’s agreement
Scope: Regional


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:
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?
Whilst (being wealthy businessmen) members probably dress well, there is no apparent overall dress-code.

Does membership of this organisation seem likely to involve regular tea or dinner parties or other appropriate social occasions?
It's not specified, but it seems possible.

Is the cost of being a member of this organisation likely to be acceptable to a succubus?
Membership is by invitation only, and whilst it may be assumed to have a requirement of a high degree of social acceptability (which any succubus by definition is), it probably also requires being reasonably rich too (which many succubi setting out to make names for themselves may experience difficulty with).

Other comments?
It seems likely to me that this lot are going to step on the step on the toes of the well-known Aspis Consortium, at which point the Aspis Consortium (who have been going longer and are bigger) will simply squash or assimilate them. Ah well...

Organizations are not being rated except under special circumstances.

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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