Ssel Asha - Ancient Naga Temple — Steven Helt

Ssel Asha - Ancient Naga Temple


Round 4: Design an encounter

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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Ssel Asha – Ancient Naga Temple
==========
The mythical ruin of Ssel Asha tempts seasoned explorers across Avistan. According to legend, a single secret temple to the mysterious goddess Sivanah stretched underground across the entire continent. More accurately, several temple networks were connected by deep caverns and eldritch waypoints. The most well-recorded of these hidden temple complexes is Ssel Asha, but word of the site only survives because recent encounters reveal a possible location.

Centuries ago, the church of Sivanah included several shrines and modest temples among those races who venerated her. The reclusive water naga of the Echo Wood performed their religious rites and studied illusions and divinations not far from abandoned Mosswater. These naga ceased communion with their elven and cyclopean counterparts at the demand of Istrothel, a charismatic spirit naga who overtook and renamed the temple, remaking the site and its inhabitants into a dark reflection of their former practices.

Years of isolation ensued, and none can say what happened to the temple. It exists now as a sunken ruin surrounded by deep forest and wild marshlands. Below the earth, a series of tunnels leads to other shrines and abandoned naga nests, with the whole being defended by powerful phantasms and necromantic magic. Other dangers include a nest of undead water naga, magical traps, duergar siege engineers, and a band of graven guardians watching a hidden portal to an old cyclopean temple. Among the treasures are fantastic weapons, a copy of Mysteries of Shadow (Ultimate Magic 125), and a small fortune in ancient art and coin.

The minions of Ssel Asha do not idly wait for intrusion by the outside world. Deep under the shrine, the naga lich, Istrothel herself, plots to seize land for miles around and reveal her re-animated acolytes to the world. Even now, she works to craft items and conscript servitors who venerate the darkest and most deceptive aspects of Sivanah’s worship. Though the methods of Istrothel and her growing cult employ deadly illusions, the threat they pose to those living near the Sellen is very real.

The Roots of Evil CR 9
==========

The soft earth of the forest gives way to wet marsh, with large pools of stagnant water on either side of the narrow patches of solid ground. Sunken into the mire is an old stone building. Its rusted iron door faces south, but is half buried. Most of the door is covered by mud and grime, but the image of two naga facing away from one another is clear. The top of the temple – now only about four feet above the ground – bears mud-caked windows of opaque colored glass. The windows are only about a foot high. The stone roof appears sturdy despite the rest of the building’s appearance.

In recent months, news from the Echo Wood has become very strange. Rangers and remote settlers tell traders (and pirates) of bizarre monster sightings – eyewitness accounts of creatures unknown to the region. The Wood is a large forest with its share of abandoned towns and older ruins, and the alarming reports finally gained the attention of the Black Eagles of Lambreth, as well as their neighbors in the Protectorate of the Black Marquis. Neither country reports closure regarding the strange phenomena, but both report human casualties. The danger and location of these events have scribes and historians discussing the possibilities, with Ssel Asha gaining increasing attention.

The Sunken Shrine

This ancient temple is indeed one entry to the mysteries of Ssel Asha. In its day, the shrine was defended with constructs and servants of the faith in order to maintain its secrecy. PCs can explore this site, including a guarded entry, a simple altar, and an abandoned naga lair, before continuing to explore the eldritch secrets beyond.
The naga themselves do not use doors, but the complex below the Echo Wood once contained humanoid and monstrous servitors, and frequently hosted elven and Azlanti visitors. The doors are rusted and covered in mud, but functional.

The windows display a string of ancient runes that stretch across the perimeter of the old shrine. While they bear only enough minor magic to prestidigitate a soft glow of rainbow colors, a magic aura spell describes them as strong evocation magic, as with a prismatic spray spell. Without magical aid, it is impossible to see through an unbroken window into the shrine. The dim light from the windows adds 5 to the DC of any Perception checks.

The buried door at location A can be opened only if excavated, an act that will doubtless be interrupted by the leechroot. The door is stuck (DC 28 to break open) and opens to the inside.

The double door at location C has sunk with the entry to the shrine. The stairs behind it are raised a few feet such that a Medium-sized creature will have to dig out or squeeze through.

Creatures: A deadly leechroot remains hidden just under the surface of the mud near the front door (Area A). The thing operates only when stimulated, waiting until someone approaches the door, or burrowing around the building in an effort to attack and feed. The leechroot can attack the party at the door, from any square in the ground outside the temple, or at area C, where the broken wall gives way to soft earth.

Advanced Leechroot CR 5
XP 1600 each
hp 42 each (R3)
AC 22
Melee 2 tentacles +9 (1d6+7 plus bloody sap and grab)

Within the sunken entryway (Area B), six bases house moss-grown statues, or their remains. The three intact statues, each a stylized naga with barbed spears, are caryatid columns tasked with attacking any creatures who enter the shaded squares, taking advantage of the illusory defenses that the trespassers trigger at the same time.

Caryatid Columns (3) CR 3
XP 800 each
hp 36 each (Bestiary 3 46)
Melee mwk longspear +8 (1d8+6)

Traps: The door at area C bears a magical trap worthy of the corrupted masters of illusion in the tunnels beyond. When any creature steps into the shaded area in front of the door, a phantasmal web targets as many creatures in the room as it can. This proximity also triggers the caryatid columns to attack.

Phantasmal Web Trap CR 6
Type magic; Perception DC 30; Disable Device DC 30
----- Effects -----
Trigger proximity (alarm); Duration 9 rounds; Reset none;
Effect spell effect (phantasmal web (APG 235), DC 17 Will save to disbelieve, DC 17 Fort save each round or become nauseated); multiple targets (up to 9, no two of which may be more than thirty feet apart)

PCs affected by this spell see monstrous spiders advance amidst a sudden network of sticky webs – an hallucination common to those returning to civilization from the Echo Wood.

Development: Unless destroyed, the leechroot burrows through the ground from area A to C and attacks a living creature within 10 feet of the door. It abandons this routine only if its bloodthirst ability senses an isolated living creature outside. If it pulls a victim underground, the leechroot focuses on that victim until dead. The leechroot never leaves the shrine, so it will attempt to feed on any living creature exiting the building.

The complex beyond the shrine has illusory holes in the floors and walls (marked by a circled X), each door leading to another shrine area, a naga nest or other dangerous location. The curved tunnels cause no injury, but do deposit a Medium or smaller creature into a hallway or room on a lower temple level. Istrothel dispatches a naga sorcerer once every few weeks to determine whether the first temple has been infiltrated, and to recharge the phantasmal web trap, if triggered. Any bodies are taken into the depths below to be interrogated via speak with dead, and then re-animated for slave labor.

Areas D and E are usually unoccupied, but are maintained by any naga patrol visiting the surface shrine. Area D is a resting chamber with two pieces of naga furniture, a curved wooden bed with a fresh silk pillow, and a spiraling coil used as a lounge. Under the bed is an arcane locked coffer (DC 30 to open) containing a many-layered veil (R1). In the center of the naga coil is a round table with an obsidian bottle. The bottle holds an ounce of fermented purple worm poison (Core Rulebook 560), a favored beverage of the dark naga who last patrolled here.

Area E is a kept shrine. The rune-inscribed circle in the center allows a supplicant to pray to one of three aspects of Sivanah. The shrine in the north wall is the most recently used. A DC 25 Knowledge (religion) check identifies the goddess invoked at this shrine as Sivanah (ISWG 230), while the aspect focuses on trickery, deceit, and dark magic.

Cartographer

Very nicely drawn map reference, clear and concise. I like all the little details in here, the items on the shelves and the use of clean line-work and different colors really help to call out each individual detail in the map.

I do like that you included a phantasmal web in here as well, not something you get to draw in a map every day.

I would enjoy drawing this one up, sunken in the swamp and the very organic details like the Leech root and the plants surrounding the outer area of the temple grounds. Great work on this map!

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Initial Impression: Awesome! Again, this is a location AND an encounter, just what the task calls for. Very Mines of Moria to have the tentacle monster at the door hidden in the muck. Nice. Old school. I expect no less. You advanced the leechroot to pump up the encounter level, which is a good idea. Good use of a mix of monsters, the leechroot, the carytid columns (an old school fave, which as you know made their way to Pathfinder via Necromancer's Tome of Horrors, nice work) and then the phantasmal web trap which while not as well integrated as it could have been is still awesome.

This is a Recommend for sure. To me, this one and Pools of Iridescence are the two clear best.

The Exchange Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

This entry starts well, by choosing nagas as a theme and a classic underground temple theme. It starts poorly, with a history that frankly bores me and is not very helpful until it starts hinting at a naga lich in the last paragraph. As a developer, I'd probably keep the "hidden network of caverns" and the naga lich, and ditch a lot of the rest of that.

But then you get to the meat of things, and it starts to click pretty quickly. The naga statues are PERFECT misdirection for the caryatid columns, the marsh ground it a great match for the leechroot (and you advanced it, which is nice) and I think the phantasmal web is a strong design choice to keep PCs off-balance.

There's little misses here throughout, like an urge to provide connections to the Azlanti that seems out of place, and word choice problems. (For instance, if a ruin is really "mythical" it is quite hard to explore!). The map is only so-so (and I speak as someone who wishes he had more talent in mapmaking himself).

I don't think this is a slam-dunk, but it is a more exciting pulp adventure locale than some of the others, and it commits to that pulp adventure theme wholehearted and with clever touches that will pay off in play.

So I say, RECOMMENDED to advance to next round.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Steven, congrats on getting to this round. You’ve been one of the front runners to me, but there are no passes for prior performance this round. Let’s take a look at your submission.

Initial Impression: You saw my initial thoughts, above, and I still think you rocked this like a hurricane.

Concept (name/title, is it actually a location and an encounter, design choices, usability, conflict and interaction, is it memorable): A+
Great location for adventure, awesome encounter, great choice of Round 3 monster, really fun trap. That was the task and you freaking nailed it. There isn’t much more to say than that. That is what a Superstar designer does—he takes the assignment and delivers gold. You did. I have one comment: try to think even a bit more cinematically. Make the ground unsteady, change elevation in parts. Imagine you are a movie director and envision the action scene from your adventure filmed by Michael Bay. I’m not criticizing this submission as much as I am helping you for next round. This is a killer submission and I’d hire your ass on the spot if you sent me something like this back in the Necromancer days.

Map (legible, encounter keyed to the map, exciting and memorable location, well integrated, all necessary info for cartographer): A-
Good solid map. Again, could use a bit more cinematic production. That said, it’s solid and sets up a great encounter, which is what this is supposed to do. This isn’t map superstar, it’s RPG Superstar and you delivered a great map for a fun location. When Rob says he would enjoy drawing something, listen to him. He is an amazingly talented cartographer and I could see him having a mapgasm doing the prismatic trap.

Execution (use of mandatory content, trap execution, monster integration, etc., quality of writing, proper presentation): A+
Once again, I sound like a broken record. Great work. Some guys this round tried to outsmart themselves and went for more unusual monsters thinking they would stand out by being different. You didn’t. You just picked one of the most kick ass monsters and worked it into a great encounter. A good designer does that. A good designer doesn’t get in his own way. The point isn’t to prove you can do something cool, it is just to do something cool. If you understand what I am saying then you already get it. In other words, don’t waive your hands shouting “look at me doing something cool,” instead just do something cool.

Tilt (did it grab me, is it unique and cool, do I like it): A+
Hell yeah.

Overall: A
Steven, this is great stuff. Nice work. Clearly one of the two best this round.

Steven, the cloak was great, your second round archetype was really good. I didn’t recommend your monster, but this contest has a history of letting one misstep pass if a person has a great prior history and I am glad the voters gave you a chance because I think you killed it. Good luck to you. I think you have a chance to win this thing.

I STRONGLY RECOMMEND this entry advance to the Top 4.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Steven, welcome to Round 4!

Good map. It's no work of art, but it doesn't have to be--it needs to be clear enough that the developer can use it and the cartographer can easily interpret it, which you've accomplished. You use clear lines and colors to indicate and illuminate what's on the map.

Nice history here (though it goes on a bit too long), and hints of what lies beyond this location. You have a lot of "back in the day" references, which are nice for the GM but if that information isn't available to the PCs almost wasted (there's an old AD&D adventure that spends a paragraph describing the incredible treasures that used to fill a treasure room... which have since been looted and now there's nothing there but dust and cobwebs).

Nice use of the advanced simple template on the leechroot to bring its CR closer to the caryatid columns. Nice feel for the location. Nice trap.

Overall this is a strong submission with just a few little problems that are easily fixed. I do recommend you advance to the next round!

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

Clark Peterson wrote:

... Tilt (did it grab me, is it unique and cool, do I like it): A+

Hell yeah....

Agreed. Congratulations Steven!

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

First entry I read, and boy did it bring the game. This is really simple and elegant, seeming to almost glide seamlessly like a naga through its own design path. The plot is perhaps slightly verbose, but simple and elegant in and of itself as I said. It sets up the premise nicely. I really liked the rumor of one grand interconnected shrine. Priceless.

I love the synergy of the theme and the creatures - as was remarked above by one of the judges - naga/caryatid columns. Props for caryatid columns. Grognard cred right there.

Great mechanic work to advance the leechroot as has been discussed and I liked the phantasmal web trap as a trap and not a haunt. The development in the Creatures section is simple and concise, if slightly underwhelming. I'd like to have seen something intelligent (even programmed undead) here to liven things up a bit, but ultimately that is probably unnecessary as per the plot...

I particularly liked that the areas outside of the main encounter are detailed too, and not without a nice degree of design thought. The whole entry is, for me, tightly written, very oldskool and doesn't try to do too much without a good reason. This almost the inverse of Feer's Crossing, which attempted grand cinema and succeeded, this attempts oldskool shrine-invasion and succeeds admirably. And that's another point in your favour Steven, retreading much loved and much trammeled ground is brave in its own fashion. Some might decry that it is safe to do the iconic or cliched here, but if you do it right it stands head and shoulders (because nagas have no arms) above all the attempts that failed.

Very well done Steven!!! Loved the map too, oldskool to a T. (Though I don't see one here on this map. Oh well.)

Liberty's Edge

Wolfgang Baur wrote:

The map is only so-so (and I speak as someone who wishes he had more talent in mapmaking himself).

He's not kidding - I've seen his map turnovers :)

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

I've not had time to read and comment as much as I would like on prior rounds. But we're at the sharp end now where reputations are forged, and it's time to pay real attention.

What I like:
- flashbacks to Icewind Dale - a very good thing
- the location has legs enough to support an entire chapter of an AP
- the leechroot stars in the encounter and is perfectly placed and used

Problems:
- I wish that the edges of the buildings had some sinuous curves
- yeah, really that's all I got :)

Overall:
- nailed it

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6 aka Transylvanian Tadpole

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Clark wrote:
Imagine you are a movie director and envision the action scene from your adventure filmed by Michael Bay.

Encounter starts with someone casting fireball, ends with someone casting fireball. In between, several more fireballs are cast. Encounter should take place at sunset for cinematic lighting.

Clark, with much love as a judge who was kind to my wondrous item and archetype, but surely our superstars can find better directors for their cinematic inspiration! :-)

As for Steven, you had me at naga.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Card Game, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
James Conder wrote:
Clark wrote:
Imagine you are a movie director and envision the action scene from your adventure filmed by Michael Bay.

Encounter starts with someone casting fireball, ends with someone casting fireball. In between, several more fireballs are cast. Encounter should take place at sunset for cinematic lighting.

Clark, with much love as a judge who was kind to my wondrous item and archetype, but surely our superstars can find better directors for their cinematic inspiration! :-)

As for Steven, you had me at naga.

You forget the entire <I>Necklace of Fireballs</I> scattered across the room to explode seemingly at random...


Heh. I like the domestic touches, describing what naga funrature looks like. Those kind of small details appeal to me. You get a vote from me.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

While overall I did like your encounter, I did have a few problems with it:
- A lot of your prelude focuses on stuff that isn't here. Other shrines, naga nests, a cyclopean ruin, things that happened long ago and don't matter much any more... It's entirely possible these things could actually relate to the adventure this is in - but at first glance they seem like padding to make you think of other cool things.
- there's a very good chance PCs will actually have this room as two seperate encounters. step just outside the door: monster! Everyone stops and fights the first guy. Then, fifteen feet further in, trap and more monsters!

That second one is a pretty big flub, because it either means you designed one pretty boring encounter (without a trap) and a second more interesting one (without a monster from the previous round) or somehow expected the party to move more than ten feet inside when fighting the leechroot, which is a bit unreasonable. You could have very easily made the leechroot live in the same squares that trigger the traps - it would give some more brilliant misdirection with the magical trap and the totally unrelated thing leaping up from the ground.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

RonarsCorruption wrote:

While overall I did like your encounter, I did have a few problems with it:

- A lot of your prelude focuses on stuff that isn't here. Other shrines, naga nests, a cyclopean ruin, things that happened long ago and don't matter much any more... It's entirely possible these things could actually relate to the adventure this is in - but at first glance they seem like padding to make you think of other cool things.
- there's a very good chance PCs will actually have this room as two seperate encounters. step just outside the door: monster! Everyone stops and fights the first guy. Then, fifteen feet further in, trap and more monsters!

That second one is a pretty big flub, because it either means you designed one pretty boring encounter (without a trap) and a second more interesting one (without a monster from the previous round) or somehow expected the party to move more than ten feet inside when fighting the leechroot, which is a bit unreasonable. You could have very easily made the leechroot live in the same squares that trigger the traps - it would give some more brilliant misdirection with the magical trap and the totally unrelated thing leaping up from the ground.

Hi Ronar, your comments spurred a couple of (counter-)thoughts:

- Steve's location is all of Ssel Asha, which is a naga mega-dungeon. While I agree there's a little too much background, it is at least the beackground of his location.
- He then focusses on one particular 'gateway' into Ssel Asha as the environment for his encounter. This is just a small shrine in the middle of the party's investigation.
- I originally had the same thought about the encounter - that it's really two encounters, one outside with the leachroot and another inside. A couple of re-reads convinced me otherwise, but I think our joint confusion probably means that Steven has explained his encounter somewhat poorly.

The key to the encounter is that the party DOES NOT enter through the door at point A, because it is mostly buried. Instead, they enter through the broken area at point C. As they enter they trigger the trap. Meanwhile the leechroot uses its burrow ability to move to point C and attack from below ground (in the same squares that trigger the trap, exactly as you suggested! how cool is that?).

One problem is that a key sentence to decipher the encounter is buried in the development section:

Steven Helt wrote:
...the leechroot burrows through the ground from area A to C and attacks a living creature within 10 feet of the door. It abandons this routine only if its bloodthirst ability senses an isolated living creature outside...

Another problem is that Steven only mostly blocks off the obvious but incorrect door at point A - it's buried and needs some undefined degree of excavation plus a DC 28 Strength check to open. The encounter would be much clearer if he'd just said "the door at A is blocked and the only entrance is through the collapsed wall at point C".

Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

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Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
James Conder wrote:
Clark wrote:
Imagine you are a movie director and envision the action scene from your adventure filmed by Michael Bay.

Encounter starts with someone casting fireball, ends with someone casting fireball. In between, several more fireballs are cast. Encounter should take place at sunset for cinematic lighting.

Clark, with much love as a judge who was kind to my wondrous item and archetype, but surely our superstars can find better directors for their cinematic inspiration! :-)

As for Steven, you had me at naga.

Slow might also be cast... how better to run in slow motion?

(edit: added quote for clarity)

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Will Cooper wrote:
Steve's location is all of Ssel Asha, which is a naga mega-dungeon. While I agree there's a little too much background, it is at least the beackground of his location.

See, I didn't read it that way at all. I assumed that his location was this temple and all the details on the naga mega-dungeon were the background explaining what this place was. Thinking of this temple as a single encounter location in a larger mega-dungeon is a very different way than I originally thought about it.

Will Cooper wrote:
The key to the encounter is that the party DOES NOT enter through the door at point A...

But the problem is still that the leechroot will attack entirely outside - it's not going to pass through the solid stone walls, is it? And even if it just goes after the last PC to go in, or the first one out, it feels entirely separate from the encounter in the other room.

Also, there's a comment about it never leaving the temple, despite not being in the temple, which is weird phrasing. Never leaving the vicinity of the temple is what it should do.

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

Hi, Map Fu is soon returning after a brain transplant.

I will be re-doing reviews of the maps for all of you with the following slant - hopefully more in line with the set task. The statement below is to aid you all in deciding whether my feedback is something you wish to take note of or not.

a) The encounter area will be treated as a flip mat design - scale isn't needed on flip mats, nor are labels (see b) - this is based purely on the two pirate/ship flip map products I own for reference, so hopefully I will be close to the mark on these reviews.

b) Although flip mats dont show a key, a key if vital for the map to be handed to a cartographer to represent accuately the "dungeon dressings" in each area if he/she were to produce a formal flip mat from your design.

c) I will be looking at the basic encounter area construction, noting interesting or features to be considered, height of area, effect dispersals, and so on.

d) Is the map all encounter with too little location element - by location, I am expecting a small overview of the encounter area in relation to local geography, approach to entrances/buildings, close to roads, cities, etc, i.e. a placement of location rather then a snippet of the world.

I need to revisit all my notes to provide correct and targeted feedback in line with the task set, so please bear with me as I rework and post as I go.

This initial feedback will be on your map only to begin with, time permitting, I would like to come back on feedback on the encounter itself.

Thanks in advance.

Anthony.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

RonarsCorruption wrote:
Will Cooper wrote:
Steve's location is all of Ssel Asha, which is a naga mega-dungeon. While I agree there's a little too much background, it is at least the beackground of his location.
See, I didn't read it that way at all. I assumed that his location was this temple and all the details on the naga mega-dungeon were the background explaining what this place was. Thinking of this temple as a single encounter location in a larger mega-dungeon is a very different way than I originally thought about it.

And that disconnect in understanding, between two intelligent and informed readers, should be eloquent feedback for Steve as he writes and re-writes his round 5 entry.

RonarsCorruption wrote:


Will Cooper wrote:
The key to the encounter is that the party DOES NOT enter through the door at point A...

But the problem is still that the leechroot will attack entirely outside - it's not going to pass through the solid stone walls, is it? And even if it just goes after the last PC to go in, or the first one out, it feels entirely separate from the encounter in the other room.

Also, there's a comment about it never leaving the temple, despite not being in the temple, which is weird phrasing. Never leaving the vicinity of the temple is what it should do.

You're right that 'never leaving the vicinity' is probably closer to the mark. FOr example, it will attack a lone intruder outside the shrine walls. In terms of it getting from the porch (area A) to the inside (area C), I guess it must burrow low enough to go under the foundations :)

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

I'm afraid this encounter really didn't grab me. Mostly nothing here felt very fresh to me - most major elements (ancient temple, statues are actually monsters, spell-trigger trap...) are very familiar, and your use of the leechroot was solid but firmly rooted in the original description. It feels to me like a typical mix-and-match encounter; this round is your first opportunity to show me plot and adventure-building, and I'm left underwhelmed.

That's just me, though, and it seems clear I'm in the minority :)

What I do what to point out is that you've got a lot of really clunky phrasing scattered throughout. This bothered me a lot; some were jarring and some were outright unclear. I don't think I felt this in any of your previous entries; I don't know what to make of this observation, but I hope you'll find it helpful. Here's a lot of the cases that bothered me:

  • The most well-recorded of these hidden temple complexes is Ssel Asha, but word of the site only survives because recent encounters reveal a possible location. I don't see how this makes sense. "Recorded" means somebody was there. When was it recorded if its location isn't known? If its location wasn't known but the records still existed, then word of the site should exist due to the records. Perhaps you meant something on the lines of: The most well-recorded of these hidden temple complexes is Ssel Asha, but interest in the site has only sparked recently, due to encounters suggesting a possible location, or perhaps Recent encounters suggest a possible location for Ssel Asha, provoking more interest and research in the temple than others of its ilk have received. Honestly, I can't really make this out.

  • These naga ceased communion with their elven and cyclopean counterparts at the demand of Istrothel, a charismatic spirit naga who overtook and renamed the temple, remaking the site and its inhabitants into a dark reflection of their former practices. Convoluted sentence with half a dozen subjects. Straighten it out; split it up. Consider: Istrothel, a charismatic spirit naga, overtook the temple. She severed the naga's communion with their elven and cyclopean counterparts, and reshaped the temple into a dark reflection of its former self.

  • with the whole being defended by powerful phantasms and necromantic magic "the whole thing" is very casual phrasing, and jars against the proper, formal tone of the rest of the prose.
  • In recent months, news from the Echo Wood has become very strange. Rangers and remote settlers tell traders (and pirates) of bizarre monster sightings – eyewitness accounts of creatures unknown to the region. "Very strange," "bizarre," "unknown" - these are weaselly descriptions that don't provide any actual detail. If you're going to spend time telling us about the concern and the eyewitness reports, then you want to give us at least a smattering of the actual description - something specific, something that sets this apart from a hundred other "oh, no, there is a [SOMETHING] in the forest!" sightings.

  • Neither country reports closure regarding the strange phenomena, but both report human casualties. "reports closure" is a very odd phrasing. And obviously if it's not over, there are still casualties. Consider: Both countries report continued casualties, and no conclusion in sight.

  • The thing operates only when stimulated Ow ow ow this phrase hurt my brain. Choose good words, Steven! "Thing," "operates," and "stimulated" are all awkward and unspecific. The undead plant attacks only when it senses a victim,, or for that matter The office stapler correctly staples pages together only when firmly pressed closed.

  • The complex beyond the shrine has illusory holes in the floors and walls (marked by a circled X), each door leading to another shrine area, a naga nest or other dangerous location. The curved tunnels cause no injury... They aren't "illusory holes," they're real holes, which I assume are disguised by an illusion. (You also mention "illusory defenses" somewhere earlier; same problem.) They aren't doors - you just called them holes - maybe they're trapdoors, but that's not what you just said. What curved tunnels? You just said the doors lead into specific areas; you haven't mentioned any tunnels to get there. What you meant was The complex is trapped with numerous holes, hidden by illusions. Anybody falling into the hole slides down curved tunnels, which deposit him in another shrine area, a naga nest, or other dangerous location. At least, I think that's what you meant.

Sorry to be so critical and nitpicky, but I hope my criticism is clear and helpful. I've loved your work so far, and even if I didn't like your entry this round, I'd still love to see you up in the finals - and hey, it looks like you're doing well so far :D Hope this helps, and all the best!


Ok, this is a map review - done in isolation from the encounter, purely to concentrate on visuals.

a) As a flip mat - Looking at other flip mats, every area contains full dungeon dressings, bedrooms are obvious, store rooms full of barrels and crates are obvious. Every area has been decorated, the graphics used seeming obvious in most cases. I particularly like the contour lines in the water showing the depth changes - a very nice touch. This one feels most like a flip mat because it has only a few areas, so isn't overcrowded. My initial impression is that the areas are large enough to enable tactical movement during combat - something I always look for. Well done.

b) Cartographer Instructions The key to the map - although flip mats don't normally show a key, a key is vital for the map to be handed to a cartographer to represent accuately the "dungeon dressings" in each area. Checking your key, thre are some symbols missing, for example, in the top left room, on the right wall, is that a bench with two candles, or is it an altar of some sort, in the top of the room, we see what looks like a book and a "paper plane?". The tufty grass.bull rushes symbol - this too is not in the key. The cartographer receiving your map shouldn't need to refer to encounter descriptions to render your map professionally, so make sure your index is more comprehensive. Include details of the room make up. Include in your index the lettering as well.

A compass rose is present in the encounter map, good information for the cartographer, but I found the style a little confusing. It could be read that North is to the bottom of the page if you assume that the sharp pointy end is the direction indication. Giving this information to cartographer, you need only an arrow, leave "the fancy" to them.

c) Appreciation of height and scale. You have confirmed the scale, that's good. As I have said previously, you haven't tried to put too much into the flip mat size, resulting in a flip mat designthat suits miniature play very well, and at the same time, has room for tactical movement during encounter combat. You also show a good idea for detil by labelling water depth as well - but missed the trick with the underground section - how far underground is it, how much earth is on top? I do wonder if there is an underground water passage between the deep water of the pool and the naga door - the encounter text will likely confirm this, but if not, it is something you could have added for rich feature coherance.

d) Location or just encounter? So we have a building which looks like a temple with some subterranean living quarters. The map nicely forms a location in that sense, but I am unsure on first glance which part of the map forms the encounter, it feels like the whole map is the encounter. If so, you missed the "and" part of the task. I would have liked to have some indication of where this is in the overall scheme of Golarion, this would let me know the style of building - is it vampire gothic cathedral, romanesque white marble shiny church, or arabian mosque. This information, although not part of a flip mat, would also be useful to the professional cartographer and help them to keep everything in theme with your encounter and location placement.

e) Environmental Use This map screams at me to have some sort of flood trap supplied by the pool, but that's just me being Mr Nasty GM. Strange symbosl on the floor, broken pillars, all sorts of weird and wonderful to distract the PCs before pouncing on them with the encounter. I like this area a lot, mostly because of the space provided for the encounters that could be played on this map.

Hopefully some food for thought in there.

Good luck in the play tests and the voting going forwards.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Card Game, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Ziv Wities wrote:


[list]
  • The most well-recorded of these hidden temple complexes is Ssel Asha, but word of the site only survives because recent encounters reveal a possible location. I don't see how this makes sense. "Recorded" means somebody was there. When was it recorded if its location isn't known? If its location wasn't known but the records still existed, then word of the site should exist due to the records. Perhaps you meant something on the lines of: The most well-recorded of these hidden temple complexes is Ssel Asha, but interest in the site has only sparked recently, due to encounters suggesting a possible location, or perhaps Recent encounters suggest a possible location for Ssel Asha, provoking more interest and research in the temple than others of its ilk have received. Honestly, I can't really make this out.

  • A site can be recorded without it's location being part of that recording. Think Atlantis or Shangri-La in the real world. There are writings about those places, but we don't really know where they are (or if they exist in our world)


    Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

    "Recent encounters" cannot retroactively cause word of the site to "survive" the time period between the making of the records and the time of the encounters, any more than recent discoveries in archaeology can affect the transmission of stories and information before the discoveries were made. The sentence literally makes no sense, as an effect cannot precede a cause. Either of Ziv's proposed changes is a vast improvement.

    Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

    exactly, the existing phrasing implied that the writings didn't exist until after someone discovered the temple - at which point they did exist.

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

    Though I agree this could have been stated more clearly, there are plenty of examples with stories coming to light only because of 'recent discoveries.' Rosetta Stone, Ch'orti Majix, Love's Labour's Won, [redacted]*, Isildor's transcription of the one ring.

    *I just couldn't put that D. Brown thing with the others. :)

    RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka theheadkase

    Though I've refrained from commenting on this and last round (because I feel like these are areas I need to LEARN from instead of thinking I already KNOW about them) but this entry really stood out to me.

    The history was nice (for me) but I do agree its a bit long.

    But again, I really like this entry and I might steal for a home campaign!

    RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka GM_Solspiral

    Again doing a recap quick and dirty.

    Cartaiod collums and leechroot got a 12 HP boost from me because I said so. This went up against same 5th level set up as Michale P. Druid triggered trap but made will save, his animal companion a bear smelled the leechroot coming (rolled perception) and got everyone on alert. Magus was targeted but failed to grapple so no drag under. Magus and barbarian focused on leechroot first dropping it pretty quickly, ranger had hard time with archery as rolls went poorly. Combat lasted 4 rounds in all.

    -A trap almost took, if drag under succeeded and trap succeeded this would have been really dicey as is it was challenge enough.

    Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

    With voting closed, I am very nervous about voting. There were some really fun entries and I am hopeful the spooky old-school concept gets a lot of support.

    However, no entry is perfect, and the task is to learn something from every round. I like Ssel Asha a lot, but I know the writing really suffered when I had to hurry to finish the text. Bad time for flu and work to flare up.

    However, I still like a lot of the content, and I wanted to respond to two specific criticisms. First, the poor language that irritated folk: the mythical ancient place that didn't exist until someone discovered it that there's no record of". While the language wasn't really that bad, it was enough to create confusion. And I can see that there were better choices. My goal is to learn to be a writer who needs less and less editing, so these examples of things-to-never-do-again are invaluable.

    Second is the confusion regarding whether the leechroot attacks at A or C, and how entry is gained into the shrine. The leechroot is described as hiding at A, along with rules for what it takes to break open the door from the inside or outside. The leechroot attacks there, conceivably pulling a victim underground to feed. The party is then stuck with excavating the lost member or breaking through the opaque windows (!) to open the door from the inside. While it's true that the columns won't attack as long as the party remains at that end of the shrine, retrieving their buried member allows them to venture to the other end of the shrine. The leechroot is described as never leaving the ground, so instead of going into the shrine, it burrows around where it knows it can attack the doorway. This combined element is what makes both creatures a single encounter. There is plenty of opportunity, unless your party has a bear companion with scent (shakes fist) for the party to have to fight the columns, the leechroot, and deal with the trap. But it's a really tough encounter, too, if you have to deal with all that, especially if your low Will save types blow it. SO some break up makes the game a little easier to manage. As a GM, I want a combat to offer me ways to fudge. I can leave if the party does a lot of damage to my leechroot and make the party fight it again, or I can drag a victim to the water and give them a chance to swim away while the party kills it, if I am concerned this party in front of me just doesn't have the ability to survive all three together.

    Having said that, I am trying to learn to adjudicate things and specify potential developments in the text, and not just write enough information for me to run the encounter. Obviously, if I design the encounter, I know what to do. If there's confusion by multiple seasoned GMs, as Mr. Cooper suggested, I should take that feedback and learn to be more specific.

    Scarab Sages

    I love the smell of nagas in the morning...

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