Wignalzik and Sons Lumber Camp — Nicholas Herold

Wignalzik and Sons Lumber Camp


Round 4: Design an encounter

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka Demiurge 1138

Wignalzik and Sons Lumber Camp
==========
The Verduran Forest holds many wonders, and none is as wondrous as the Quaking Grove, a portal to the First World that sits near the border between Taldor and Andoran. Recently, however, the Quaking Grove has been corrupted by the cult of Decied, the Harbinger of Famine and the daemonic patron of invasive species and ecological disasters. By building a number of secret shrines throughout the Verduran Forest from the bones of slaughtered fey, Decied’s forces have caused the Quaking Grove to randomly open portals into forests throughout Golarion and beyond. Now, all manner of destructive creatures have flooded into the Verduran Forest, overturning the natural balance of the forest’s ecosystem and endangering all of those who rely on the forest for their homes and livelihoods.

One of the most recent arrivals via the Quaking Grove is the treant Nageia, pulled through the portal from the Valashmai Jungle of southern Tian Xia. The arrival of such a powerful invader did not go unnoticed by Decied’s cult, who sent one of their members to take him under their wing and direct him towards mayhem. The cultist, a spiteful gnome engineer named Amaia Sixfingers, convinced the confused treant that his displacement is due to the activities of the loggers of Wispil, a gnomish community built in the heart of the Verduran. The first victims of Nageia’s wrath were the lumberjacks of Wignalzik and Sons, a lumber camp north of Wispil where Sixfingers worked as quartermaster. Four days ago, Nageia used animated trees to tear the buildings down to their foundations and planted them in the ruins of the camp as a message to any who would dare exploit the forest.

One of the shrines to Decied is hidden in Amaia Sixfingers’ office (Area 6), so she has convinced Nageia to leave some of the buildings intact and serve as a guardian. Nageia follows this request without hesitation, as the gnome has convinced him that she is on the verge of discovering the means to return him to the Valashmai Jungle. Nageia now waits in ambush in the lumber yard, eager to have the opportunity to battle more hated lumberjacks.

The Yard (CR 10)
==========
The stillness of the forest is interrupted by the buzzing of flies in this wide clearing. The clearing holds what once must have been a bustling lumber camp, but is now little more than ruins. Multiple wooden buildings lie utterly destroyed and fully grown trees emerge from the wreckage. To the south, two lodges remain at least partially intact, although a mighty yew tree emerges from the eastern wall of one of the buildings. The shell of a large barn sits at the eastern edge of the camp, its roof torn off and a strange tree grows impossibly from its center. The broken bodies of gnomes litter the lumber yard. A garishly colorful hand-painted sign lies broken in two pieces amongst the ruins: “Wignalzik and Sons”.

The broken planks and rubble throughout the yard count as difficult terrain. The standing buildings are all made of wood (hardness 5, hp 10) and have windows of oilpaper (hardness 0, hp 1). The barn stands twenty feet tall and it is now completely open to the sky. The roofs of the office and bunkhouse are ten feet high. The trees throughout the camp stand eighty feet tall—the large branches depicted are fifteen feet off of the ground. Creatures in these branches are treated as having concealment due to the thick foliage.

Creatures: The “strange tree” growing from the center of the barn is in fact the treant Nageia. He dislikes the confinement afforded by walls but has taken a position inside them based on Amaia Sixfingers’ suggestions. Nageia destroyed the roof to allow himself to stand upright and enjoy some sunlight while he waits for more lumberjacks to kill. A DC 17 Perception check is required to determine that Nigeia is in fact a treant before he moves. A mated pair of argopelters (R3) lair in the trees growing inside the ruined camp. The argopelters have also been brought to the Verduran Forest by the Quaking Grove—these strange ape-like creatures first dwelled in the pine forests of Arcadia. Nageia has adopted the argopelters as pets, and the aggressive argopelters respect Nageia’s capacity for violence.

During combat, Nageia first animates trees to come to his aid and then focuses his attacks on enemies carrying axes or wielding fire. He knows about the traps Amaia Sixfingers has set (see below), and uses bull’s rush maneuvers to push opponents into them. Nageia is driven solely by revenge and fights until slain. The argopelters leap from tree to tree and run along the roofs of buildings, harrying enemies avoiding melee with the treant using thrown branches and lumber plucked from the ruins. If Nageia is killed, the argopelters flee, using tree stride to escape into the surrounding forest.

Nageia, Treant CR 8
XP 4,800
hp 114 (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary pg 266)
Alignment neutral

Argopelters (2) CR 4
XP 1,200 each
hp 32 each (R3)

Trap: The doors to areas 6a and 7 have been trapped with a favorite device of Amaia Sixfingers—a grasping contraption of saw blades, springs and leather thongs she calls a “metal mantis”. Even the slightest touch to one of these doors will set off the trap.

Metal Mantis Trap (2) CR 4
XP 1,200 each
Type mechanical; Perception DC 20; Disable Device DC 16
----- Effects -----
Trigger touch; Reset manual; Bypass hidden switch (Perception DC 25)
Effect Atk +15 melee (4d6+6) plus +15 CMB vs. CMD to grapple a Medium or smaller target; CMD 25.

Development: In the unlikely event that Nageia is taken alive, the hostile treant can be convinced to talk with a DC 26 Diplomacy check. If made indifferent, he reveals that he is an unwilling traveler from a distant land taking revenge on the wicked people who brought him here. He refers to Amaia Sixfingers as “the little woman”, and explains that she has promised to help him return home after he takes his revenge. Nageia considers his arrival from the Quaking Grove and its location to be an important secret; any Diplomacy checks made to ask him how he arrived in the Verduran Forest gain a +10 to the DC.

A DC 20 Heal check made to examine the slain gnomes indicates that they were killed four days ago by piercing damage as well as blunt force trauma—Amaia removed the crossbow bolts she used to supplement Nageia’s assault. A DC 17 Survival check is sufficient to find Nageia’s tracks, leading from the north and then arcing around the camp. These tracks eventually lead to a small limestone cave seventeen miles away; Amaia is hiding here guarding another of Decied’s foul shrines. A DC 23 Survival check finds the tracks of a small humanoid having moved throughout the camp and around the doors to 6a and 7; these were left by Amaia two days ago as she set the metal mantis traps and removed evidence of her presence.

Cartographer

Sometimes clean and simple is best, in this case the map reference works fine to convey the information needed to create a scene in my mind.

The wall thickness is a nice thing to see in the buildings and simple clean icons are easy to read and you do leave plenty of room for artistic discretion on the part of the cartographer.

Good job on the map!

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

Initial Impression: I think your treant is the focus of this encounter, not the argopelters. I think you missed the design task with this. The argopelters are tack-ons. I will read the others, but I don't think this one is going to get a recommendation.

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

With the Lumber Consortium and the Lumb Camp, apparently Lumber and Alchemy are the themes of this round for RPG Superstar 2013.

On first glance, this location doesn't do much. A demon of ecological disasters? A confused jungle treant from Tian Xia? It feels muddled and I'm not sure that a crazy gnome cultist makes this a clearer, more playable location.

That said, you do have a consistent theme, the image of a destroyed lumber mill works as a location, and even if the argopelters *should* be the focus (per the rules of this round), it is cool to see a jungle treat. There's creativity here, some good turns of phrase, and I get a sense of where it is headed.

Unfortunately, the rules are the rules, and the argopelters are not the focus of this location. I do NOT recommend this location to advance.

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

Nicholas, welcome to Round 4. Your first two rounds were great, I thought your monster wasn’t your best. Let’s see how this submission shapes up.

Initial Impression: You saw my initial thoughts, above. Having read the others, I’m sorry to say my thought hasn’t changed.

Concept (name/title, is it actually a location and an encounter, design choices, usability, conflict and interaction, is it memorable): C
Mildly boring location. A lumber camp isnt really what gets the blood pumping. I think you buried your lead. I think this is really a hidden shrine. That would have been a better angle.

Map (legible, encounter keyed to the map, exciting and memorable location, well integrated, all necessary info for cartographer): C
The map is serviceable, but nothing spectacular. It is plain and doesn’t suggest a great setting for a location or for an encounter. If I got a module full of these I would yawn. Not Superstar, I am afraid. And I don’t mean that you didn’t use mapping software or that you didn’t make it pretty.

Execution (use of mandatory content, trap execution, monster integration, etc., quality of writing, proper presentation): D
I already mentioned above that I thought your main monster was the treant and the argopelters were just tack-ons. To me, that is a failure of the task of the round.

Tilt (did it grab me, is it unique and cool, do I like it): C
I liked the treant, if only that was what the task actually called for that would be good. But it wasn’t.

Overall: C-
Nicholas, I am so sorry to have to give this critique. I think you simply failed to complete the task properly.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND this entry advance to the Top 4.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Nicholas, welcome to Round 4!

The concept of Decied as a daemon of invasive species and ecological disasters is, well, odd. Creating a location that has a portal that opens onto forests all over the worlds feels like an arbitrary construction that allows you to use monsters from anywhere in the campaign without having to come up with a stronger explanation why they're present here.

As Clark and Wolf said, the CR 4 argopelters are mostly incidental to the main villain of your encounter—the CR 8 treant. And for some reason the treant is neutral instead of neutral good (perhaps that's common in the treant's homeland, I don't have the book handy to reference it), but even so I don't think a treant would randomly murder a family of gnome loggers on someone else's say-so (Int 12, Wis 16). As the R4 rules state, "In general, the other monsters shouldn't outshine or trivialize the Round 3 monster you're using."

Likewise, the trap doesn't really play a role in the encounter--if the PCs are fighting the treant and the argopelters, they're probably not going to mess with the doors to the intact buildings. As the R4 rules state, "In general, a trap that makes an encounter more interesting—whether because the monsters have the ability to trigger the trap, or are introduced to the encounter as part of the trap—is better than a trap that just happens to be in the same location as the monster."

I like that you included a Development section to talk about what happens next, though the idea of following a gnome's tracks through the forest for seventeen miles (which is more than the distance a Speed 20 ft. gnome can walk in a day) to her cave lair is a little absurd.

I don't think you've hit the necessary targets for this design challenge. I loved your gorget item, and your huckster archetype, and your caliban monster. I don't know if you had real life stuff interfere with your time during this design task, or maybe encounters aren't your thing--that's fine, I have many freelancers who aren't good at writing encounters but are great at items, monsters, and archetypes. Based on this encounter challenge, I do not recommend you to advance to the next round.

Shadow Lodge Star Voter Season 6

I think that if the argopelters were to activate the trap (ie. if they had some cleverer tactics to do so, if the trap is designed that way - maybe even as a lure?) then the treant could be the unlikely distraction, which could turn this encounter around from its flaws.

I'm wondering if that was the intent?

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.

Things I like:
- the Quaking Grove and the machinations of the cult of Decied make for an interesting premise
- jungle treants are cool - though some more evocative description than 'strange' would have helped
- I like that Nageia has pet argopelters - that helps to tie them into the encounter, and the image of them leaping through cover flinging insults and branches at increasingly angry players while the treant tanks for them is actually pretty cool

Problems:
- you buried the lede (1): the Quaking Grove is a much more interesting locaiton than the unpronounceable lumber yard
- you buried the lede (2): the argopelters get far less mention than the treant and the gnome cultist
- against an APL 9-10 party I'd expect the argopelters to go down almost instantly, leaving this as a fight against a treant in a big square room with a single trap

Overall:
- there is some good stuff here, but your presentation choices and design decisions mean the reader has to dig for it

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

I have no idea where on the map that trap should be - if feels added to the statblock like you realized it was required at the last second. If the treant was, maybe, carving up people with it when you arrived, and it became a crazy "escape the giant tree-monster who had you on a moving conveyer belt or get chopped in half" it would be cool. But it was a... clamp-ey thing that might not even be *near* the encounter, let alone triggered.

You did a decent job of trying to come up with a premise in which you could use the argopelter, but as it was one of the weakest monsters in the previous round, you had your work cut out for you and clearly missed the mark. Especially because there's a chance you're never even going to kill them, they retreat if you beat the main villain, whose motivations are a little muddy to begin with.

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

Congratulations Nicholas,

I think you have hit everything on the head except the Argopelters, there focus is missing. The map is not drawn as nice as some of the others, but it is easily copied (and to be honest, once I draw the published map for my players it will look much worse than this. :) Easy to understand and is intuitive. I loved the trackless step/trap combo. Presuming she did not touch the doors and TSed away, nice!

In the end this is something I could enjoy from both sides of the screen.

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.


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. Yes, it probably isn't the prettiest map, but your job was to convey the necessary information to the cartographer with the skills to make things look glorious, that you have done really well. Nothing missing from the key symbol wise, with maybe the vast expansive white squares - what sort of ground cover should the cartographer place, shingles, mud, grass. And with the buildings being working buildings, I would have expected to see some well trodden paths between them.

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, everything drawn is labelled or referenced from the key. I am confident a cartograher can easily transpose this map to a flip map with little need to query or come back to you the designer, noting the two exceptions above. Nicely done.

A compass rose is present in the encounter map, good information for the cartographer. You might also have stood back having placed it and thought about the effect of your orientation. Assuming an east-west traversal of Golarion's sun, with your map orientation, the office and storage room windows never get any direct light but get light all day, where as anyone sleeping on the right hand side of area 7 is up for a rude awakening by early morning light through the window and no light in the evenings. Most buildings, even those in the country in the real world consider the sun traversing across the windows to provide all day lighting, so with your map, the windows should in the main, be on the left and right walls, assuming the east-west sun traversal.

c) Appreciation of height and scale. You have confirmed the scale, that's good. But the map on the whole is very squared - including the rubble - this may be queried by the cartographer who might suggest making the rubble less uniform and more natural - uniform rubble is a big red flag warning to any adventuring party that something isn't right. You need to consider how much advance warning you wish to give to the adventurers in your map designs - environment can be a big warning or a subtle introducing flase sense of security.

I also find the placement of the bodies very odd. If a working area of gnomes were attacked, I would have expected them to either flee or defend, such that the dead bodies left behind would all be where the combat took place. For me, therefore, the bodies in the barn make no sense - I think if they had hidden there, they would either be found by the adventuring party or would not be there at all.

d) Location or just encounter? The whole map seems to me to be an encounter map rather than a location. Where is this? What approaches are there to the working camp? Is it on the outskirts of a town or village or deep in the forests? Such information would help the GM adjudicate how the players approach the encounter area.

An experienced party is unlikely to try an office door when there is a readily available window, negating their need to encounter your door trap. Being an office, if it is important enough to trap a door in, then the window should be barred at least. There is also a second door into the office, a party could come in via the storeroom window and into the office - again, if you trap one door in an office, you should make other doors trapped and/or make them one way from the office. This preserves the integrity of the trap part of the encounter. The secret area in the storeroom does also stick out like a sore thumb - try to design rooms such that a hidden wall or panel or secret door isn't quite so obvious.

e) Environmental Use A very open air encounter, this provides options for weather to be brought into play. I also wonder on the size of rubble, and whether they can be used as makeshift thrown weapons, so possibilities there too. A GM has plenty here to work with to add variation to play - for example, if the encounter takes place duiring a severe rain storm, a flash flood could cause some muddy slippery fun for all.

Hopefully some food for thought in there.

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

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

Nicholas, I think you've done marvelous work throughout the contest, and I was a bigger fan of the argopelters than most, and I was specifically looking forward to seeing them used in R4. Nonetheless, the argopelters were not a popular monster, and most of the criticism against them was that they were uninteresting and unexciting.

Tackling an "uninteresting" creature can be Superstar showmanship. But it needs to be treated accordingly - focusing on bringing out the creature's strength and potential. Other entries might be able to content themselves with "merely" building a solid encounter surrounding their chosen monster - no mean feat! - but in picking something that's been explicitly called out as unexciting, you really want to justify your choice.

Which is why I'm particularly dismayed at the sense that the argopelters are fairly afterthought-ish here. You literally could have substituted any other jungle monster, and chosen any forest monster with no great difficulty. There are other R3 monsters whose insertion would have a clearer, more unique effect on the encounter, since their special niche and behavior is clearer and more widely-appreciated.

You've stumbled on showmanship, Nicholas. Tsk-tsk.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6

Nick, you really get the argopelter. It's not a stand-up showdown kind of critter. It's a ranged-stealth-mobility skirmisher. While it justifiably didn't advance, it can certainly make for an interesting--and frustrating--encounter. A 10x10 room with an argopelter isn't interesting. A grove of trees with a ground-level trap and argopelters leaping through the canopy pelting you with sticks is definitely interesting.

I like this encounter. You got my vote.

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

The in depth stuff takes too long to write I'm sorry to say so here's some quickies form my playtest.

Beefed this by adding 2 pelters went with same 7th level set up as Pedro. Surprise round for the Treant and pelters was key to this working out. Only unsurprised was druid. Treant and pelters actually koed Ape companion and got wizard down to 2 hp. Inits went to party again for most part and follwoing round saw treant get pounde to kinfling and hawks on pelters to prevent throwing (druid and summoner summoned total of 6.) Trap damaged trollhound. round 2 pelters split as druid healed wizrd back up and hawks continued to make ranged combat tough (attacks of op.)

It was a 3 round combat.

-B overall, was more fun then expected but brutally fast. Again summons prove annoying battlefield control.

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