The Bargemen's Union

Round 2: Create a new organization

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 aka Anonymous User 191

The Bargemen's Union
Alignment: LE
Headquarters: First Chapter House, Kerse, Druma
Leader: First Regent Harlan Mulne, and the Board of Trustees
Structure: Business syndicate
Scope: Regional
Resources: Chapter houses in most port cities, hired muscle, vessels operated by members, informants in most large businesses
Originally founded by merchants plying the waterways of Avistan to protect their interests after the House of Thrune gained control of Cheliax, the Bargemen’s Union has grown to be much more than that. It quickly developed into a fraternal brotherhood dedicated to improving its members’ fortunes in all areas of life, with little regard to the fortunes of others. Today, it has not yet taken control of all river and lake traffic around the Inner Sea, but through guile and intimidation it sees that goal as possible.
Structure and Leadership
The most basic level of the Bargemen’s Union is a ferryman and his vessel. He plies his trade, pays his dues, and accepts protection and other services (such as information) from the Union. Occasionally he will do a favor for another Bargeman or for the Union itself; frequently this favor will be illegal in one nation or another. The next level is the chapter house, which is presided over by a regent and serves as a meeting place and a clearing house of information. The highest level is the First Regent and the Board of Trustees, which meets yearly in Druma to set policy and address issues that affect the Union and healthy trade on the waters.
The Bargemen’s Union is motivated by profit and the betterment of its members, and only its members. As a multinational organization, it considers its own code of conduct more important than the laws of any one nation, but will obey those laws to avoid trouble, although much effort is geared toward circumventing laws not agreed to by the Union. Some members place their own needs above the needs of the membership; this, however, is contrary to Union policy, and is grounds for dismissal from the organization, generally delivered at the end of a dagger.
Public Perception
Do to the pains the Union takes to appear as a legitimate business concern, it is, depending on who is asked, a heroic group that rescues endangered citizens, a cabal organized to circumvent just laws, a necessary evil that provides reliable water traffic, or a dangerous and highly unscrupulous menace.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Welcome to RPG Superstar, Jim. It's game on now. The contest takes 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 and where I think you'll still need to demonstrate growth. So, let's see what we've got...

A Bargemen's Union, huh? My mind immediately went to Razimiran's Faith Barge Union, but that's obviously not what we've got here. Instead, you're tapping the merchant-minded Druma to host this organization. And, while I prefer that to Razmiran, it might be a better idea to select a different name for them.

The underlying core of your idea here is a potentially antagonistic union. It's an interesting form for your organization to take as opposed to a more generalized mercantile group like the Aspis Consortium. Your choice brings a different structure and shape to the inner workings of the organization. However, it still runs into many of the same issues as most business-driven organizations. How much conflict can you really squeeze out of them? It's really dependent on how far-reaching you make their goals. The Aspis Consortium is everywhere, in direct conflict with the Pathfinder Society and a host of other groups. But your Bargemen's Union really seems much more isolated and insular. Yes, as a multinational organization, it can bump up against the laws of the land in certain places, but that's not especially sinister. Plain old smugglers can achieve much the same role, so I was looking for more here.

In terms of your writing, I thought it didn't flow as well as it could. You use a lot of comma separators to string together a lot more pieces of information than you probably should. And I think rephrasing some of those sentences would do a lot to clean up the text and make it more natural in how it reads. You also appear to have hit a common problem a lot of writers face. You mean to type one thing and then your brain substitutes a homonym for it instead. For instance, in the last sentence of your writeup under Public Perception, "Do to the pains the Union takes..." should be "Due to the pains the Union takes..." Also, that entire sentence is an example of what I mean about the comma separators and flow of language. "Do to the pains the Union takes to appear as a legitimate business concern, it is, depending on who is asked, a heroic group that rescues endangered citizens, a cabal organized to circumvent just laws, a necessary evil that provides reliable water traffic, or a dangerous and highly unscrupulous menace..." is a single sentence of 50(!) words. That's an eighth(!) of your entire wordcount. And, just judging by the information you're trying to convey there, you really need a couple of sentences to do it justice. So, be conscious of that element in your writing and see what you can do to offset it.

So, what's my final verdict here? Well, I like the notion of an antagonistic union in Golarion. I'm just not sure I feel like strongly championing this one. You've got the seed of a cool idea. It just didn't have enough refinement around it to make the group "pop" as something GM's would rush to use in their campaign. In short, it doesn't have a Superstar quality to it.

As such, I'm going to have to say I DO NOT RECOMMEND this organization to advance you to the next round.

However, the real decision is in the hands of the voters. Some of them really enjoyed your cloak of the swashbuckler and may want to see what else you can bring to the monster round. If you make it through, however, I want to see some distinct improvement in how you structure your writing. And I want to see some ideas with a higher "wow" factor to them. Best of luck in the exit polls.


This one just didn't grab me. It's a business syndicate with the goal of "profit and the betterment of its members"... except they're evil and more beholden to their own code of conduct than local laws. There aren't any strong hooks for GMs to get the PCs involved--at least, not anything that makes these guys more suitable than any other group of merchants. You had an opportunity by making the HQ in Druma, but don't mention the Prophecies of Kalistrade or anything else particularly Drumish. The "basic unit" of this organization is the bargeman, who's not trained for fighting and not going to be any threat to the PCs. There's not anything particularly evil or antagonistic about them other than "they break laws if they have to."

I do not recommend this organization for advancement.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Jim, 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: Eeek. Board of Trustees? Union? Ruh-roh, Raggy!

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
Board of Trustees? Really, what is this, Pencils and Paychecks? Come on, fantasy it up! I get the business syndicate but you have to show more creativity than that. This is Superstar. These are basically just greedy merchants. This doesn’t need an organization. Any GM comes up with this. This doesn’t inspire story or conflict.

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?): D
Writing is choppy, needs better flow. This was a bunt, at best. You needed to swing for the fences and take some risks. Maybe this just isn’t your area you are comfortable with. I know there are some things I do better writing than others.

Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor, are you showing Superstar mojo?): C
Sorry, no. Not this time.

Overall: C-
Didn’t make the cut. Again, my guess is the short time frame had an impact here. Some people have trouble with that quick turn around. Maybe I am wrong, but that is what it feels like. The idea seems to simply never have come to you in its fullness.

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

Jim, the cloak was cool and I know you have a ton of good stuff in you. Sorry that for whatever reason this one just didn’t come together. It’s up to the voters now. Good luck!

Started thinking it was going to be the Spacers Guild from Dune. Ended up thinking it's an actual ferryman's union. Booooooooring.

Not SuperStar.

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.

I like the idea to a certain extent, but they are not antagonistic enough.
status-come back to it for later review.

Silver Crusade

Although I like the general idea of the organization (Think "The Godfather" with Boats instead of drugs and gambling), but there's something missing from the organization. It doesn't have the legal "power" that the Corleone family had in their own syndicate. It's more like a Greek Fraternity that's just has a "blood in and blood out" clause..

Status--Close. But Not Quite..

Drats I was really hoping for you to tie this in with the infernal ferryman... instead it comes off as just another union.

I mean don't get me wrong it's easy to use... but its easy to not need to as well.

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

Looks like you took the Wikipedia article on the Freemasons, switched out all the proper nouns, and inserted it in.

That said, I really liked swashbuckler's cloak.

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

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

I read this and couldn't help but think of Han Solo on a barge. Smugglers willing to shoot first...

Looks like another evil corporation. The twist is they're on boats.

And overall even if they controlled all of the trade in Cheliax they'd likely get destroyed for their troubles as it seems the organization never took into account the various navies in avistan. They protect their interests in Cheliax but how? What leverage do they have? Boats? Yeah, I think a lot more thought could have been put into this.

Grand Lodge

I love the concept and can think of variations to use in my own game, especially as a group that moves into the area or arises naturally during Kingmaker.

However, as others have said, it doesn't feel all that antagonistic. Not on a level where they can be re-appearing villains anyway. I think to be truly SuperStar it has to be more of a universally useable thorn, whereas this seems like something very particular to a specific plot.

I think, given some editing, it would be a good freelance entry to a specific adventure, but it doesn't have that POP that SuperStar needs.

I think I see some good potential though, and would like to see what you have given another go.

EDIT: To sum up... it looks less like a villainous group and more like a plot device. A GREAT plot device, but not what Round Two is looking for...

I think this is the third evil mercantile organization in a row that I've reviewed. I'm wondering if the current state of the global economy is leaking into RPG Superstar. I'm not saying that's a bad thing - it helps connects players to the game world and the idea is universal enough that it fits.

Perhaps because of those conditions, I wanted very much to like this entry. But in the end, I didn't find a hook that I wanted to use. The GM portion of my brain needs to light up with idea when I read about an organization, and sooner is better!

Good luck with Round 2 voting!

Dark Archive

Nothing besides the alignment or the public perception in this submission reads "antagonist". PCs could work with this organization just as much as they could work against it.

That's just my opinion, and not there isn't much else I can say that hasn't been said by the judges or other posters here. Your item has some merit, but there were some flaws with it as well. That being said, I haven't read all of the other submissions yet and so my opinion may change between now and when I've finished voting.

Best of luck to you, sir.

Liberty's Edge

Evil Bargeman Unionist: “Ha ha adventurers! I’ll not give you passage on my ferry this time. How will you cross the river now pray tell?”
Adventurers: look at the wizard, who casts fly.
Evil Bargeman Unionist: “Curses! Foiled again!”

The idea of a ruthless or evil union or consortium is not a bad one, and has been used successfully in Golarion before (The Aspis Consortium and those logger guys in Andoran for two), but this one strikes me as a little on the boring side. I struggle to see an exciting struggle between these guys and a group of adventurers.

Good luck Jim.

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 isn’t so strong, and due to reviewing time constraints, I'm only likely to dock points for obvious errors here.

Adversarial Potential: (max 5) How they can get in the way of the PCs, 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 occasionally 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 account any other observations not covered in the prior sections.


Template fu: 5/5

Nothing obvious leaped out at me, I think it's all cool. Well done on that!

Adversarial Potential: 2/5

I felt disappointed with this one, possibly because after your swashbuckling capes being so evocative - love those duels in the Princess Bride.
From you, I had the half expectation of some swashbuckling pirates type of boating union, instead I found something more militant, less high fantasy.
Unless my PC's were pirates or setting up shipping and the like in this area of the world, I couldn't easily get any adversarial conflicts going with this group.

Questions Arising: 7/10

The adversarial aspects could have been stepped up by mention of opposing groups, sea battles and the like. I would have liked to have seen some sort of opposition detailed, but as it is at the moment, as a GM, I would have lots of work to do to use this organisation.

Overall impression: 2/5

Again, the mundane-ness of a trade organisation hits you on this score. I think your cape may help you get through, but you will have to step up your fantasy wow factor I think. Sorry for a rough ride on this one, but I felt I had to be honest.


Final score: 16/25 - 64%

Shadow Lodge Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9

Good--Trade organization/guild competently executed. You can picture this organization. I do see it potentially having villianous potenial under the right circumstances.

Bad--Alignment LE? They seem self interested (helping rivermen) but not particularly evil. Doing illegal favors and being Lawful? They seem closer to true neutral.
Also, not enough thought given to villianous potential. Also compared to freed eidolon liberation organizations, Gnoll biker gangs etc they come in on the bland side of the scale of boring vs original and fresh vs over over the top.

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

What they said.

Jim Callaghan wrote:

The Bargemen's Union

Alignment: LE
Headquarters: First Chapter House, Kerse, Druma
Leader: First Regent Harlan Mulne, and the Board of Trustees
Structure: Business syndicate
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?
Rank and file (I could pun this as rank and vile, given the mode of dress and smell of most such individuals) members are bargees, wheretofore they presumably wear some sort of shabby working clothes. Suffice it to say that such a mode of dress is very seldom possible to mistake for being nifty, fashionable, or otherwise socially acceptable.

Does membership of this organisation seem likely to involve regular tea or dinner parties or other appropriate social occasions?
Conceivably there might be some sort of once a year event, but it seems unlikely that anyone save the very top members will be regularly engaging in such occasions.

Is the cost of being a member of this organisation likely to be acceptable to a succubus?
Only the occasional highly eccentric succubus is going to want to spend time as a bargee, so basically no.

Other comments?
I doubt this organization can last long without coming to some sort of accommodation with the crusaders who head up and down the Sellen to play their little games in Mendev.

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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