Besmara's Chosen


Round 2: Create a new organization

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka FaxCelestis

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Besmara’s Chosen
Alignment: CN
Headquarters: Starfall, under the Inner Sea
Leader: Malcolm the Quick
Structure: Loose naval hierarchy
Scope: Regional
Resources: The paikea (pie-keyah) named Starfall, a dozen paikea/whale half-breeds, and plunder worth millions of gold.

More than a pirate fleet of moderate size, Besmara’s Chosen has something different: their home is an airtight fortress built on the back of a dominated paikea named Starfall, a giant whale over a half mile in length native to the Plane of Water. A dozen similarly-dominated paikea/whale half-breeds sport extradimensional spaces built into harnesses in which small crews and raiding parties travel silently underwater. Besmara’s Chosen terrorizes the coastal cities and merchant ships of the Inner Sea, safe from retribution thanks to their unique fleet.
Structure and Leadership
Starfall is ship, home, and war-machine: nearly all of the pirates of Besmara’s Chosen have quarters on Starfall, and when assaulting a land-based target Starfall surfaces to use ballistae and spell turrets to support raiding parties. Combat prowess is prized over any other skill, with animal handling skills playing a close second. As such, the crew has a diverse racial breakdown: all major races are represented as well as several exotic ones. Spellcasters, while uncommon, tend towards leadership roles.
Goals
In grand pirate tradition, Besmara’s Chosen's primary motivations are power and wealth. They have plans to bring more paikea to the Prime Material and to find a type of half-paikea that breeds true. So far, they have been unsuccessful in both tasks despite all efforts: due to the paikea’s immense size, a gate spell will not suffice, and finding suitable mates for the paikea is nigh impossible. Being successful in either of these goals would allow Besmara’s Chosen to vastly expand their territorial control and begin raiding areas outside the Inner Sea. Malcolm is personally driven by the goddess of pirates, Besmara, who has given him the paikea and chosen him as her emissary, giving him orders to find the starstone buried at the bottom of the Inner Sea.
Public Perception
Besmara’s Chosen are instantly recognizable by most sailors of the Inner Sea: whale-borne pirates are memorable and their swift smash-and-grab tactics inspire dread and terror. Malcolm himself is a well-known name in the region: merchants and pirates alike know him as “Besmara's Proxy” and have seen him use powers that are beyond the ken of most pirates.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Welcome to RPG Superstar, James. The contest takes a completely different 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 then where I think you still have room for improvement. So, let's see you've given us...

Um. Wow. O_O

Okay. You went way more radical and gonzo than just about anyone else in this round. You've basically got a pirate organization from below the sea, treating a half-mile-long, extraplanar, god-given whale with an airtight fortress on its back as a base of operations?

Boomer...? Is that you...?

Ahem. Sorry. It's just that you remind me of someone I know. ;-)

Besmara's Chosen certainly isn't your typical organization. But you've met the design goal of making something antagonistic. I'm just not sure it's the type of design most GMs would feel comfortable injecting into their campaigns. And there-in lies the rub. When freelancing in the RPG industry, it's just as important to develop ideas which can work within the framework of a publisher's rules or campaign setting, as it is to design new and innovative stuff which pushes the envelope. Personally, this goes too far for my tastes.

Additionally, I'm guessing Golarion is new to you as a campaign setting? You've made a reference to the Starstone buried at the bottom of the Inner Sea. And yet, within the campaign setting, the Last Azlanti, Aroden, raised the Starstone from the sea a long time ago and installed it in a cathedral in Absalom. It now serves as a core element in Golarion's history and lore. And, more importantly, it enables mortals who pass the Test of the Starstone to ascend to godhood. So, I get the sense that maybe you skimmed a few things in the Inner Sea World Guide, but never got enough information to recognize when you were outside the bounds...and that includes the design work here on an underwater pirate fleet that uses whales as submarines.

So, given these serious missteps, I'm going to have to say that I DO NOT RECOMMEND this organization to advance you to the next round.

But the voting public sometimes rallies around gonzo ideas. We've had an entire nation of blink dogs voted through before. So, maybe whale-riding pirates can be as well? A lot of folks really liked your spellbreaker gauntlets. So it's possible the strength and appeal of your earlier work may also see you through. Either way, if you do advance, please study the campaign setting a little further and develop your ideas so they fit the existing setting a bit better. Good luck in the exit polls.

Contributor

Paikea? Is that a new creature? I don't remember seeing that in any of our Bestiaries. So you've created a new half-mile-long extraplanar whale, and dozen half-paikea/half-whale crossbreeds, all of which serve as mounts/ships for pirates, using big extradimensional spaces so everyone can ride them while they're submerged. That's... well, that's pretty high fantasy, and I don't have a problem with it in general (Chris Perkins's campaign had 300-foot-long living dirigible "soarwhales" with gondolas that people ride), but I don't think it really fits Golarion. Ditto with the references to "spell turrets."

"Malcolm the Quick" isn't a particularly exciting name for a pirate leader. And Golarion isn't so much for deities choosing a mortal as an emissary and giving them billion-pound monsters as servants. And the Starstone hasn't been on the floor of the Inner Sea for thousands of years, as Aroden himself raised it up when he created the Isle of Kortos (where Absalom is).

You aimed high with this one, but I think your inexperience with Golarion hurt you--this organization isn't appropriate for the setting. Read up on the setting more, even if it's just one country so you know it really well and can write for it, and try again next year!

I do not recommend this organization for advancement.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

James, 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: Wow. Extra-planar whale pirates with a fetish for animal husbandry and a leader named Malcolm?

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
I am the first to say swing for the fences and you sure tried. But sometimes you just catch the bottom of the ball, pop it up foul and the catcher gets a hold of it and you are out. That's what happened to you, in my view. But at least you went down swinging. The name doesn’t tell me anything about this group. I had no idea what I was going to get—and I sure had no idea I was getting THAT!

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
Even I can spot the Golarion-specific issues you have with this submission.

Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor, are you showing Superstar mojo?): C
Didn’t grab me. I thought it was gonzo for gonzo’s sake.

Overall: C
If Boomer was good gonzo, this is bad gonzo. Sorry, man.

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

James, your spellbreaker gauntlets were really cool but raised some concerns which seem to have raised their head in this round more plainly. I’m glad we gave you a shot and I think you should be proud you took a big swing. Perhaps the voters will see it differently. Good luck to you!


I loved this entry. It's wahoo crazy over the top creative. I hated this entry - it's just another boring pirate faction.

Without the ILM special effects, you've got pirates. Not real SuperStar.

With the ILM special effects you've got a tentpole experience that some folks would kill to have in their campaigns. Half-mile long whales? Dudes in magi-tech compartments riding smaller whales? That's some damn good visuals.

You didn't but I would have upped the ante, having this group be extraplanar raiders from the plane of Water who have found some reason to be on Golarion; that coupled with the sheer size of the concept would have taken this up to Epic Level in my book.

But you didn't do that, and what I am left with is a pirate faction. And a boring NPC named "Malcolm". And a whale named (For no apparent reason) "Starfall".

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.

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka FaxCelestis

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

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka moon glum

This is my 2nd favorite entry. I DM a hom ebrew game, and what I look for when I consider using something is sheer coolness. I can make up spell turrets and paikea (have you been assembling furniture of late?), I don't have a starstone, so that is no biggy. But I do have a long running pirate game with numerous entities from other dimensions and universes. This works great for something like that. Even an squadron of imperial man-o-wars might have trouble with these guys though, so there is a balance issue. None the less, coolness trumps. You got my vote.

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

I can get behind the very basic concept: underwater pirates on a carrier. The execution, as they note, is pretty flawed, especially for Golarion.

I think this organization needs the aboleths as a patron or ally. Perhaps exploring for a remnant of the Starstone that was rumored to still be down there.

I will probably not be voting for this submission on its merits. I will definitely be voting for you based on your previous work. You got a bye from me for the awesome spellbreaker gauntlets, and you definitely used it.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6 aka Evil Paul

I loved the speakbreaker gauntlets, best magic item of the round. But I'm afraid I'm only voting based on the contents of each round and this is just a little too out-there. It doesn't fit with the rest of the tone of Golarion. It might work in an off-the-wall Faerun home campaign, where the PCs are all 17th level, and form an intercontinental rock band with the power of magic.

I might still change my mind before the round is out. The spellbreaker gauntlets might punch through my barriers and steal a vote. But it's not working for me right now...

Dedicated Voter Season 7

Sounds a lot like the Acanti (space whales) from marvel


A Paikea is just another term for the humpback whale (why in Baator did none of you judge people google the term?), so I'm not sure why you felt the need to use it; I could see trying to play off the mythological aspects (ala Whale Rider) but in practice you barely scratched the surface.

You've got a lot of potential inherent in the idea, and could have taken it pretty far (play up the religious aspects, make it more churchy and give it a bit more of a direction; it has a goddess behind it, after all), but it strikes me that you got the basic concept, got a bit of fluff, and then tried to coast through.

You've got my vote (when the site will accept it), but I know you can do better and I expected more from you.

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

Gonzo entry of the round! I would have preferred it to be space whales though...

They don't even need weapons, they just need to ram a ship.

Silver Crusade

So minus the bad referencing the Inner Sea Guide.. I really, really LOVE this organization. Although I love it more because it reminds me of Dr. Who via--planar travel and living under the sea.

Status: Voting! Although in revision, you will need to get an Inner Sea Guide to get your facts straight concerning both Besmara and the Starstone Legend.

P.S: I personally am from Vacaville and we do have a game shop in Vacaville that has Pathfinder books and Pathfinder gamers, so if you need to borrow a copy, buy a copy James or talk about Pathfinder in general, message me at the end of the round!


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Scale of epicness of that fleet seems to be closer to Planescape/Spelljammer games than Golarion.

Damn, now I am sad that Pirates Of The Dark Waters weren't finished...

Liberty's Edge

This is an epic, out there concept. I like the creativity behind the idea, for me it does not fit well into the Inner Sea of Golarion. I’m also not certain how this one would play out in a typical game; the whale creatures seem like high level, even epic level threats; I imagine each one would have a crew numbering in the dozens, but surely these crewpersons all wouldn’t be high level, so how would this play out? Is it intended that the PCs fight the whales, or are they more like living bases to be infiltrated?

In reference to ‘starstone’ at the bottom of the Inner Sea, I am wondering if the author actually meant to refer to more generic star metal that may have ended up at the bottom of the sea after Starfall, rather than The Starstone? Either way it is a misstep, just maybe not the one people are supposing.

Not a fan of 'Malcolm the Quick'. I would have liked a more epic soudning name to go with this concept.

Good luck with this round James.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

Man, I wanted to like this one. It's certainly the gonzo-est. But the Golarian stuff is just too off.

I'd like to see you in the sweet sixteen, but I wonder how well you'd be able to deliver on a Golarian adventure...

Star Voter Season 6

Crazy man, just crazy. I'm not sure about the details of this organization, but I'd love to see what you do with a full adventure proposal.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Wow. Hm. I'm one of the people who don't like crazy things in their campaign settings. There's always few submissions that tries to win votes with just going over the top and bringing something crazy into the game. When taking the extraplanar whale out of the submission, this is a group of pirates which Golarion already has (Shackles pirates faction). I think many will appreciate the craziness and give you their vote, but I'm rooting for the more normal ones =). Good luck!


What is a paikea? I googled it and checked the prd. The idea of sky pirates is cool, but I also like game terms and animals that are actually in the game. If you had said a paikea was creature X with the advanced giant template I would have been ok with that. Now if I decide to have my players kill this paikea thing I have to make it up, and the stats for it.
If you are going to base a submission around something then it should exist in the game.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

It seems to me like you went right past organization and made a campaign setting. I don't see this organization being introduced without having a huge impact on any campaign world.

Some cool ideas here but I'm stumped as to how I could introduce this into my game.

Shadow Lodge

You had me at "giant whale over a half mile in length native to the Plane of Water." However, that's called an avanc. Alternately, you could change it out with a dragon turtle. I think I'd love to see a dragon turtle, with its shell transformed into a whole city, the architecture all scales and plates.

But there's a few Golarion-specific things to keep in mind: The Starstone has been sitting in the city of Absalom for millennia. What do these guys think of the Eye of Abendego?


Really, I just have "Duuuuude" running through my mind. I liked other organizations, but boy do I love the whales in this one. You have my vote. Good luck :).

Star Voter Season 6

I love the concept of a group of pirates riding a giant whale into battle. It is something that fits into my mind as part of a magical world, but not so out there that its unfounded.

Unfortunately, other than that cool part, too much of this is then just dropped. I find the religeous aspects poorly defined, and the pirating too generic.

I may vote for you.


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I voted for this entry with no reservations.

This is probably my favorite organization in Round 2. Yes, there are missteps; yes, you need to school yourself on Golarion 101. But those mistakes are fixable, and not everyone can come up with ideas this cool. I may even swipe this concept for use in my home game.

I am assuming that the paikea is simply another name for a whale, perhaps with a template or two lain on top - but if not, I'd sure like to see stats for these in round three as a tie-in. (Of course, your time might be better spent making something else that has broader appeal. But I suspect that you built the paikea into this round's entry to set yourself up for a monster in the next, and if so, then that shows forethought on your part.)


Wow. Wacky and wild. But kinda just pirates with better toys too.

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

I've got a personal reaction to this entry. In the run-up to the Top 32 announcement, I wrote about five organizations just in case I should make the cut and need one quick. One of those organizations had some similarities to this entry, and do you know what I did? I junked it. Despite being totally in love with the idea, I decided that it was too big a risk to try to slip it into Golarion, despite all the hedging I tried to do to make it acceptable. (I'll post that entry in the Round 2: Home Edition thread after the 6th, incidentally, to see whether others agree.)

While I can appreciate the creativity and courage behind this one, discretion would have been the better part of valor, particularly when dealing with the Inner Sea, which is the part of Golarion with the greatest amount of established canon for you to trip over. This was a bad risk to take, which makes me less sympathetic to the entry.

I also agree with Ryan and Saint Trickery that these pirates have little more than giant whales going for them. While there's potential for cool visuals and encounters, there's no special dramatic hook to make this group interesting from a story perspective. In the future, I suggest that you never let an entry rest on the strength of a cool gimmick. Once you've got the gimmick, pat yourself on the back and go to work building fundamentals to add substance to the glitter.

The spellbreaker gauntlets are great, so you may get a pass in this round. Good luck!

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

I like the creativity of the whale, but it's just too big. To get at what I mean, think how the Golorian suddenly had sky pirates with a sky fortress floating above Cheliax.

It would change the flavor of the campaign world.

Your whale is a skyfortress.


I know almost nothing about golarion, and I can see why your work could be not so well received by most, but I liked it. I would have voted for this entry anyway, the fact that your item was one of the best from the previous round seals the deal. You get my vote.


Drejk wrote:

Scale of epicness of that fleet seems to be closer to Planescape/Spelljammer games than Golarion.

Damn, now I am sad that Pirates Of The Dark Waters weren't finished...

Drejk pretty much said what I thought. Now I'm in the mood to jam something from Gojira's From Mars to Sirius

Tweak a couple names, and you can make this a plug-and-play into almost any setting. I realize that this round wants someone to be Golarion specific, but damn if you don't have some gonzo-mojo here.

Pirates? Don't see why there's a complaint there. There's a Pirate AP coming up. If pirates are tiring and typical, then why the upcoming AP? I beg to differ. If that nomenclature is tiring, we could easily call them Dark Water Marauders.

YMMV.

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka FaxCelestis

Isaac Duplechain wrote:
I think this organization needs the aboleths as a patron or ally. Perhaps exploring for a remnant of the Starstone that was rumored to still be down there.

That would probably have been a better idea to go with. And I was hoping that my implication that there was more starstone at the bottom of the sea would come across, but apparently it didn't. Still, craters are always circular, and the Inner Sea is ovoid, suggesting multiple impacts. While starstone may have been lifted from the bottom of the sea a thousand years ago, there may be more down there. I, however, failed to make that clear, partially due to word count restrictions and partially due to my own failing.

Mothman wrote:
This is an epic, out there concept. I like the creativity behind the idea, for me it does not fit well into the Inner Sea of Golarion. I’m also not certain how this one would play out in a typical game; the whale creatures seem like high level, even epic level threats; I imagine each one would have a crew numbering in the dozens, but surely these crewpersons all wouldn’t be high level, so how would this play out? Is it intended that the PCs fight the whales, or are they more like living bases to be infiltrated?

The paikea is effectively too large to be combated traditionally: it is so immense that any combat will take place on or in it, rather than with it. It's effectively a CR --. The halfbreeds may be more reasonable (and could probably be represented with a Colossal or Titanic creature), and they would certainly be represented as high level threats. I was envisioning a crew of about a dozen per whale, double to triple that for the paikea.

InVinoVeritas wrote:
You had me at "giant whale over a half mile in length native to the Plane of Water." However, that's called an avanc. Alternately, you could change it out with a dragon turtle. I think I'd love to see a dragon turtle, with its shell transformed into a whole city, the architecture all scales and plates.

I felt that using a dragon turtle would've been too Aladdin III. Also, I thought avancs were beaverish rather than whaleish, unless I'm getting my lore mixed up.

Kerney wrote:

I like the creativity of the whale, but it's just too big. To get at what I mean, think how the Golorian suddenly had sky pirates with a sky fortress floating above Cheliax.

It would change the flavor of the campaign world.

Your whale is a skyfortress.

I disagree. The paikea is a unique creature on Golarion: the rest of them are on the plane of water, a place where something of their kind could be expected to be encountered.


I love the concept of the whale riding pirates. ^^
Maybe I can implement it in my campaign once the people get a bit higher in level.

And your gauntlets are cool too. We allow the blocking of spells by sacrificing yourself already as a houserule, because it makes for great gameplay moments :3

Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Congrats, Fax. Good luck on the next round.

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

I really liked this entry, James. Even if some of the particulars didn't hook me, the overall concept did. It's like a submersible aircraft carrier that just happens to be a half-mile long whale. Very imaginative and cool imagery! You totally had me at "spell turrets." Well done!


James Raine wrote:

Besmara’s Chosen

Alignment: CN
Headquarters: Starfall, under the Inner Sea
Leader: Malcolm the Quick
Structure: Loose naval hierarchy
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 especial uniforms or other especial manners of dress are indicated.

Does membership of this organisation seem likely to involve regular tea or dinner parties or other appropriate social occasions?
They're pirates who work for a goddess of piracy, so it doesn't really seem likely.

Is the cost of being a member of this organisation likely to be acceptable to a succubus?
No membership fee is indicated. However, they're pirates, so presumably they're supposed to 'tithe' (although it probably comes to rather more than the tenth often implied by 'tithe') to their leaders. Every fifth Saturday of the month (or Golarion equivalent) one of them probably gets thrown overboard as a ritual sacrifice too, unless they have prisoners they can make walk the plank instead.
All of which is to say, probably not, and that's even before the whole working-for-a-goddess things gets taken into account.

Other comments?
As others have already commented, the Starstone has already been retrieved from the ocean floor, there was only ever one Starstone which came down in the first place, and there is quite possibly a fiendish dinosaur editor snuffling around whatever cave you are currently hiding in waiting to claw/claw/bite you for even daring to suggest otherwise. Read the advice columns from previous years. Don't Mention The Starstone. It's sunk contestants (including in the last four) before now, even in incidental reference.

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

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