Feer's Crossing — Pedro Coelho

Feer’s Crossing


Round 4: Design an encounter

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

Feer’s Crossing
==========
Before Drezen fell to the powers of the Abyss, the northern bridge was one of the main passages over the West Sellen River and into the lands claimed by the Worldwound. After the loss of the fortress-city, the Second Crusade turned the bridge into a border keep. The crusaders named this new fortification Feer’s Crossing, after the fallen general Eoghan Feer, and placed a wardstone within its walls. Today, a small garrison is responsible for holding the keep and performing the necessary prayers and rituals to maintain the wardstone working. The old stone crossing has long been dismantled and replaced with two drawbridges that connect both margins of the Sellen. Once an important passageway to the north, the keep now lowers its bridges on rare occasions; far from major settlements, the stronghold seldom receives travelers. This isolation has proven to be a serious liability: a deadly ooze infestation slaughtered the garrison over the course of a few days, and news of the massacre may have arrived too late.

Recently, an egelsee cocktail found its way into the water well. Using its addictive glob, the creature lured guards into the well, where it feasted undisturbed and multiplied. The spawned oozes soon climbed out and took over the whole keep. With the yearly wardstone ritual approaching, the remaining soldiers sent a call for help and barricaded themselves inside the chapel, trying to perform the ceremony in time. The oozes broke down the door and drank each last of them dry. With nobody left to tend to the wardstone, it has now become vulnerable to the abyss’ forces.

Word of the keep’s forsaking reached both sides of the border at about the same time. In the Mendevian city of Kenables, messengers warned prelate Hulrun about the situation. The prelate dispatched an elite team to move in quickly and protect the wardstone, with a new garrison marching behind. On the Worldwound side, border watchers spotted the empty battlements and reported back to Aponavicius, mistress of Drezen, who sent forth her own human troops. As both armies race to occupy the keep, Aponavicius already has the upper hand: her special team was the first to arrive, and now makes preparations for the incoming Drezen army.

PCs arrive at the site as the Mendevian elite team. From outside the walls, they can see the lowered bridge and the enemy army fast approaching from the other margin. They must save the wardstone and stop Aponavicius’ invasion.

Bridge Bulwark (CR 11)
==========
In the bridge ward, read or paraphrase the following:

The main gate is wide open, and the lowered drawbridges invite the approaching army. Outside, the cold river roars on its way southwest. The ward looks empty. On the south wing, a circular bastion overlooks the keep; from the ground, it is possible to spot the tip of a catapult stationed above it. Near the bastion, the water well emanates a foul odor. On the opposite side, steps lead up to the splintered doors of a small chapel, where an armored man and a winged minotaur block the entrance. A faint chant comes from inside the building.

In the wardstone chapel, read or paraphrase the following:

Tapestries depicting the victories of the Second Crusade hang on the chapel’s walls, while the shriveled bodies of a dozen soldiers litter the floor. A fallen Mendevian man in ceremonial robes holds a religious tome. Eight hooded figures stand in a circle around the wardstone, chanting an unholy tune.

A DC 15 Knowledge (religion) check reveals that the cultists are reversing the wardstone’s magic, but their ceremony can be disrupted using the tome on the floor.

For purposes of calculating hit points and area, the Drezen army has 500 veteran soldiers (guard, Pathfinder Game Mastery Guide 260). It begins the encounter 280 ft. away from the main gate, advancing 20 ft. per round. Catapult attacks or damaging spells cast against the army reduce its speed by 20 ft. as soldiers scatter and regroup. Frontline soldiers carry a magic ram that deals 3d6+18 points of damage to walls and gates; twice per day, the ram works as a dispel magic spell (CL 5) when used to strike a magical barrier.

A1. Bridge ward
A2. First drawbridge (Leght 55 ft., Hardness 5, 100 Hit Points)
A3. Second drawbridge (Leght 55 ft., Hardness 5, 100 Hit Points)
A4. Bridge tower (Height 30 ft.)
A5. Right wall walk (Height 20 ft.)
A6. Left wall walk (Height 20 ft.)
A7. Siege bastion (Height 20 ft.)
A8. Wardstone chapel
Doors marked (a.) are strong wooden doors (locked, Disable Device DC 20).
Gates marked (c.) and (d.) are large wooden gates.

Creatures: After killing the garrison, most of the egelsee cocktails plunged into the river and wandered away looking for more food. Two of them crawled back to the water well, but the recent movement has disturbed them. They climbed up to the well’s rim and can be noticed with a DC 18 Perception check.

Led by the bandit Ezemael, Aponavicius’ team includes the half-fiend minotaur Montaug and the wizard Vannara. Their task is to escort a cabal of cultists (8 acolytes, Pathfinder RPG Game Mastery Guide 304). The demons of Drezen have taught the cultists how to conduct a ritual that can ruin the vulnerable wardstone.

The group lowered the bridges and made preparations to protect their stance. Vannara defends the bridges from the siege bastion (A7) with her cythnigot qlippoth familiar. Ezemael and Montaug block the chapel’s door. Inside the chapel, Aponavicius’ cultists hurry to conclude their diabolic mission.

Trap: Ezemael booby-trapped the left mechanism of both drawbridges with tangleburn bags. Attempting to raise the bridge springs the trap.

Development: To win this encounter, the PCs must protect the wardstone, defeat Ezemael’s team, and raise or destroy the drawbridges to prevent the invasion. The encounter begins when the PCs enter the bridge ward.

The cultists ignore the PCs and do not fight. They need 5 turns to finish the ritual, but can be delayed. As a standard action, a PC can use the religious tome and make a DC 22 Knowledge (religion) check to cancel one turn of the cultists’ chanting. The ritual can continue as long as there is one cultist ready. If the cultists complete the ritual, the chapel starts falling apart as the wardstone loses its magic; anyone inside the building takes 4d6 damage from falling debris (DC 20 Reflex save halves) for the next 3 rounds.

The egelsee cocktails attack the nearest creatures in the ward. Vannara casts invisibility before the combat starts and attacks from the siege bastion, readying dispel magic spells to counter spells that target the cultists or the bridge. Ezemael and Montaug block the chapel’s door and protect the ritual. Ezemael attempts to trip his enemies. Montaug bull rushes anyone trying to approach.

Unless slowed down by attacks, gates or other obstructions, the army enters the second drawbridge (A3) in the 9th round, and the first drawbridge (A2) in the 12th round. A bridge cannot be raised if the army is already over it. In the 15th round, the army enters the keep. If it enters the keep, the encounter ends, and PCs should flee. The army does not pursue fleeing enemies.

To raise a bridge, two creatures must operate the opposed drawbridge mechanism on the bridge’s sides. Each operator takes one mechanism and makes a DC 10 Strength check each round as a full-round action. It takes three pairs of successes to completely raise one drawbridge. The DC increases to 15 if the army reaches a bridge before it is completely raised; on a failed paired check, the frontline soldiers force the bridge down and advance.

To destroy a bridge, the PCs can employ the light catapults (Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 435) in the siege bastion (A7), using alchemical fire canisters as ammunition. Six canisters fill the box in area A7. A bridge struck by a canister takes 4d6 fire damage and catches fire. A fireball or similar spell can ignite the bridge. Vannara puts out the fires using sleet storm. The army withdraws from a burning bridge and cannot swim through the river.

Drawbridge Trap CR 4 (2)
XP 1,200 each
Type mechanical; Perception DC 20; Disable Device DC 29
----- Effects -----
Trigger touch; Reset none
Effect tangleburn bag; DC 20 Reflex avoids; multiple targets (all targets in a 10-ft.-square area); drawbridge mechanism’s checks DC increases by 2

Egelsee Cocktail (2) CR 5
XP 1,600 each
hp 52 each (R3)

Ezemael CR 6
XP 2,400
NE male highwayman
hp 57 (Pathfinder Game Mastery Guide 259)
Skills Add craft (trapmaking) +11, remove Disguise

Montaug CR 6
XP 2,400
Half-fiend minotaur
hp 57 (Pathfinder Bestiary 171)

Vannara CR 6
XP 2,400
CE female conjurist
hp 45 (Pathfinder RPG Game Mastery Guide 279)
Wizard Spells Prepared add dispel magic (2), sleet storm and solid fog, remove dimension door, haste, stinking cloud, summon monster III
Familiar cythnigot qlippoth (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 2 221)

Cartographer

Very nice map reference here, looks like maybe it was done in Dundjinni? or another popular map editor or PS.

I would definitely add more shadows and contrast to the finished map, other than that it really is all here in vivid color and texture.

Great work!

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

Initial Impression: Can there really be three cocktail entries this round? Wow. And the Dundjinni map is great (I love that program myself). BUT the b~!%#in-ness of the map from an artistic standpoint is not the goal--let Rob do that--the goal is to make an amazing, interesting and awesome location and this one is a tad bland (when you look past the great map making). However, you use it to great effect with very good dramatic tension and conflict.

Also, this is the first submission I read that did something smart--it used multiples of the round 3 monster, thereby raising the encounter level and letting you design for higher level PCs. If you just use one of the round 3 monsters you are stuck with a lower encounter level. Nice work.

You also run into the "npcs with an ooze" problem I have mentioned before. You run the risk the NPCs outshine the ooze, but I think it is within acceptable limits.

This one is likely a top 4 recommend from me despite the blandness of the location.

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

Pedro, good work getting this far. I have said before that I couldn’t win this contest, so you all should take great pride in what you have already accomplished. But you aren’t here to do that, you want to win this thing! So let’s get to your submission and see how it stacks up.

Initial Impression: Having read the others, I still feel the same way: real good encounter with a somewhat bland location. Luckily, good tension and creativity gives you the nod for my final recommendation.

Concept (name/title, is it actually a location and an encounter, design choices, usability, conflict and interaction, is it memorable): A
Once again, an ooze encounter. But yours is perhaps the least forced. Memorable, tense, exciting, good big picture design choices. Good balance of location and encounter. People will remember this place and the fight here, which is the hallmark of a good designer. I think, though, you could have gone bigger with your vision. In the end, it’s just a plain bridge and surrounding buildings. That’s not “big idea” enough for me. I offer that as a suggestion should you advance. Think bigger. I do like that you suggest a larger adventure from your location and encounter.

Map (legible, encounter keyed to the map, exciting and memorable location, well integrated, all necessary info for cartographer): B-
Pretty! But pretty isn’t the task. This isnt Cartography Superstar, so I won’t be blinded by the fact you made such a pretty map. Instead, despite it being pretty, I thought it was a pretty bland location. Funny that your prettiest element was also, in my view, your weakest when judged by what your goal was. We don’t need freelancers to turn in pretty maps that are print ready, we need them to create and detail awesome locations that our professional cartographers can then turn into awesome maps.

Execution (use of mandatory content, trap execution, monster integration, etc., quality of writing, proper presentation): A
Solid, memorable submission with good interaction of the required elements. You have the “NPCs with ooze” problem that others ran into, but I don’t think the NPCs outshine the oozes here. Good work upping the level of the encounter, as I noted above.

Tilt (did it grab me, is it unique and cool, do I like it): B+
I like it quite a bit, even with the somewhat lackluster core location.

Overall: A-
Pedro, I think You have shown consistent growth over the course of this contest. I called on you to improve early on and you have. While you aren’t one of the front runners you could well come up on the outside and win this thing if you advance. But to do that you are going to have to swing big and really find a big idea. Go back and read the top 4 entries from the first two years of Superstar and see the big ideas they found.

I RECOMMEND this entry advance to the Top 4.

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

First Impression: Swings for the fences with a big mass-combat (!) encounter full of armies and oozes! Yow, can he pull this off?

On Review: The encounter all hinges on the PCs as the ones to save the day at the wardstone, which is an awesome focus. It's well done as part of a bigger picture, and the Worldwound is a very cool site to hang your hat on. I like that it leans on Golarion lore without spending 800 words on ancient times; it is about what the PCs need to do.

The downside of this is that the location's cool factor is almost entirely borrowed from Golarion Worldwound lore and setting material. I don't know quite how I feel about that: this is about designing a Paizo adventure for Golarion, but in these rounds I'm happier when I'm seeing new elements of the world. So, minimal points for that.

The killer for me is that this Egelsee cocktail encounter really does clearly uses them in a secondary role: the highwayman, minotaur, and conjurer cultists are the heart of the enemy opposition, not the cocktails. This makes for a very cool cultist encounter, but it is not what was requested in the design spec.

The trap on the bridge is good tactics but assumes that the PCs focus on the bridge to the exclusion of other options. At this level, they might well just use fly or items to avoid it.

There's some rules terms issues here as well (and I'm sure Sean will find more). Things like turns instead of rounds, untyped damage from falling rocks, typos such as "Leght", nothing horrible but little errors add up.

This is not a bad entry by any stretch, and the voters might yet say the cool factor and "big location" design is enough for Top 4. I would not be surprised. However, it's not quite there for me.

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

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Pedro, welcome to Round 4!

Your map looks great. Normally I don't expect this level of detail in a map sketch from a designer, but the computer tools available nowadays allow you to create stuff like this. The only developer problem (and this is a minor problem) with these kind of map turnovers is that if the developer need to change or note something on the map, it's a lot harder to do so when there is so much detail--I'd need to use Photoshop to move stuff on this map, whereas with a line map I could use whiteout and a pen to redraw something on a different place on the map. But Rob likes it, so I'm not really complaining--just remember that the map you send your developer may need to be changed, and doesn't have to look like a professional map in a book.

The use of the approaching army as the timer for the encounter is an interesting mechanic and puts some necessary pressure on the PCs to get things done in a hurry.

There are a few slight terminology errors popping up, but I assume part of that is because English isn't your primary language, and part is because you haven't been given an official document from Paizo saying "this is how you write damage information," for example. That's all stuff I'm sure you can learn--I've seen you improve since your wondrous item submission, so you're obviously good at listening to feedback.

You have a LOT going on in this encounter, with the approaching army, the cultists with the reversing ritual, the drawbridge, the oozes, and the enemy leader working to counter any actions the PCs take. I think this would be a difficult encounter to run, requiring some extra planning by the GM, but if pulled off I'm sure it would be a very memorable encounter. I agree with Clark and Wolf that you're coming close to the other creatures outshining the R3 monster, but this encounter is happening because of those oozes, so that gives them a little more weight regarding their role in this thing.

I don't think this is the best encounter this round, but it is a good encounter, and I do recommend you advance to the next round!

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

Love this to pieces. Sure, the egelsee cocktsil seems a little secondary, and the beleaguered fortress is kinda LotR, but the grand sweep of the premise is wondrous. The cinema inspired by the plot is priceless.
Perhaps Pedro didn't exactly conform to the necessities of the round by overshadowing the egelsee cocktail, but the reasoning is beyond sound - none of this would have occurred without its predation. Nice work in bringing that up to support the other design choices.
Though the fort is perhaps bland, it's situation is anything but - this shows that you can do exciting and ground shattering things with an old fort. The map also very clearly states that this is "Overall Area A", and that there might be a B, C, D etc nearby or as a continuation - this is but an encounter that is part of an overall location.
I agree that the encounter might need a) preparation and b) uses rules for mass combat I might steer clear of generally. These are not in themselves poor design choices at all, instead I think they speak to a highly developed imaginative flair and "design chops" that are willing to push the boundaries and challenge players and GM's alike. I think this is what players, GMs and thus Paizo should be looking for.
I loved the NPCs (remind me of the merc NPC party in ADnD's C4) and I love the tragic backstory the cocktail created.

So recommending this!!! Well done Pedro!!!

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:
- cinematic location - a keep protecting ancient magic that keeps evil at bay is classic gold for a reason, and will never go out of fashion
- timed events running through the encounter will make this dynamic and memorable
- used the NPC codex to great effect to build an interesting team of opponents
- so many elements and options for the players - catapults, drawbridges, cultists, I'm amazed you fit this many elements in the word count, with rules where needed, and kept it even vaguely understandable

Problems:
- this is a one-use location that doesn't really add to Golarion overall - compare with this entry from last year - which could inspire an entire campaign
- I don't really understand the timing of the encounter. The army takes about 12 turns to arrive. But the cultists only need another 5 turns to finish their ritual. So the army isn't a time limit, it's a distraction? And any time spent firing catapults or raising drawbridges just leads to the PCs losing?
- How on earth are the players going to get past the bandits and the cocktails into the chapel at all inside 5 turns, never mind disabling the cultists or finding the tome etc.
- I suppose that they could just fire a couple of fireballs blindly into the room and move on to raising the defenses, but I don't get the impression that was your design intention?

Overall:
- an epic encounter in an under-developed location. Huge amounts for the PCs to do, but some of the options seem like slightly unfair traps which could deeply frustrate players. This is very impressive and I would like someone to explain to me how it all works.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Card Game, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Wow, that map is lovely!

I think this suffers from trying to fit the entire dungeon into one fight. It would have fit the aim better if the Cocktail fight had been one section of the place, with the rest of the crossing described partially, to give us a flavour of the place.

Still, Given that this is the sixth encounter I've read and I've only seen one I'm definately voting for, Pedro has a good chance of my vote!

The Exchange

I think this is a really neat encounter, and as others have said, the map is sweet. But I just don't see any possible way for 4 adventurers to accomplish all of this given their time limits. They'd almost have to know exactly where to go and what to do the moment they arrived, which is asking a lot.

I think you're setting up a party for certain failure, and that's never fun.

Another note - great idea to conserve word count by using the GMG NPC's and making necessary adjustments. "Remove disguise, add trapmaking" - that's frickin' brilliant.

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

Congratulations again Pedro,

The map is awesome. The location is well developed. The encounter might be difficult and play-testing this will be crucial. Army moves, NPCs, ritual, oozes AND drawbridge. The time-crunch is a great way to build tension. It looks like you have offered many options that players may consider which is great. I like this. Time to put it to the test.


I am torn. I have to say that this is a cool encounter, but I agree with Wolfgang in that the Egelsee Cocktails are outshined by THREE other threats with a higher CR. I'd even go so far to say that none of them are the focus, and that the true focus is the army marching toward the keep.

Despite liking the encounter, I can't vote for this because I don't think it met the design criteria. However, I have a feeling that you will advance anyway, because the artistic quality of the map will give you an edge in the voting.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

This is one of *those* encounters. Where I'd love to play it, and revel in the chaos, but I would hate to be a GM. Last year, I think it was, there was one of these encounters and I rallied against it being too complicated - but everyone loved it. So I'm going to tenatively say this is clearly what people want.

Of course, though you have a huge cinematic encounter and a set piece... you don't really have the same scope to anything else. This feels like a one and done encounter, not so much a part of a larger whole, which it should be.

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Playtest in progress, for anyone who cares to watch.


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. This is achieved very well on this map, nothing missing from the key symbol wise.

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. I notice on the map that the trap has two reference points, one on the end of the drawbridge and one on the drawbridge mechanism. Traps are usually indicated at the trigger point only, so I find myself wondering if there are two traps. Despite this one niggle, 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. Nicely done.

A compass rose is present in the encounter map, and at an angle to the buildings too - not everyone builds to the compass points ;) but at the same time, it makes things more difficult in running an encounter - the GM has to refer to North East, South West etc when describing the encounter areas. I like that you have tried to avoid the "follow the grid lines" mentality, but at the same time I am aware of the effect on the hard working GM.

c) Appreciation of height and scale. You have confirmed the scale, that's good, but unlike other entries, the encounter area isn't given a pull out focus - I cannot tell at first glance if the encounter is taking place over the whole map or in a given room or set of rooms.

Looking to the topmost room, there is debris where a door should be - was it blown in or out? If it rotted in place, there wouldn't be so much debris and the door would likely fall from the hinges to the floor relatively intact, so the debris used indicates to me some sort of force destroying the door into splinters. The splinters wouldnt have fallen in the doorway in this case, they would have blasted away cone like from the point of shatter.

d) Location or just encounter? The whole map seems to me to be an encounter map rather than a location. Where is this? Is it at the sea front or on a river side, does it guard a valley / pass between mountains or just access to a trade route? An inset providing the GM with approach details and the immediate local vicinity would have been useful to provide context for the encounter area. Normally such an inset wouldnt be on a flip mat, but it would also provide context to the cartographer too.

e) Environmental Use Mainly an open air encounter, this provides options for weather to be brought into play. I also wonder what is close to the right hand wall, this information may provide further options. Looking to the "dead body" room at the top again, if the door was shattered by an explosion of some sort, how stable are the walls, ceilings and floor in that room? There are definitely opportunities for the GM to make this encounter really memorable.

Hopefully some food for thought in there.

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

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

Run a 1 shot with a buddy of mine last night, classic beer and pretzel style gaming. I have a fairly large pool of heroic statted NPCs and pcs from my Kingmaker game ranging from 3rd to 7th level, and I had some old characters from my home brew world that were ranging from 7th-9th level. The goal was to playtest off all of these in an all nighter but didn't work out that way. We played out a few. I DMed it he ran 2 PCs I ran 2 NPCs which will be indicated by an #.

These will get the Good, Bad, and Ugly review and a little section on the characters that went in.

CR 11 encounter seemed like it might actually prose a challenge without beefing* to the best of my 7th levels. Bear in mind with the stats rolled out and gear they are prolly about equal to some 9th level characters.

5th level Druid/2nd level halfling Rogue w/cured Trollhound animal companion**
6th level Summoner/ 1st level halfelf Druid w/Ape animal companion***
#7th level halfling Wizard with raven familiar
#4th level Ranger, 2nd level Swashbuckler Rogue, 1st level Swashbuckler**** High Goblin Goblin with Dire Ferret***** animal companion

If you care for * explanations:

* I beef just about everything
** Ruled if you remove the bloodfire fever, they'd gain 3 dex an 2 strength and be less temperamental also they need lots of food. They get standard canine trip attack as well since disease ite was part of their original CR.
*** Summoner build is cheesy has master summoner, druid 1 + boon companion ape, and feats give it arcane bloodline for a compie animal companion that spreads caltrops. this breaks action economy badly.
**** 3rd party version located here build goes shadowdancer next level, can skirmish and melee effectively.
***** Adapted from 3.5 dire weasel, there's a giant weasel in RoW now so huzzah!

I gave both sides 3 rounds of spotting and options to move/act. I let my solo player running 1/2 the party give the orders. Immediately he decided The druid rogue was to use summons to help the party and use her troll hound but her primary focus was to raise the drawbridge while the rest took care of business. This is a perception focused character so the traps were in fact not going to do squat unless she rolled poorly.

3 rounds of prep:

Enemies spot one another, enemy sorc casts sleetstorm on the bridge 1st round, summon monster 3 second, and haste 3rd. Minataur readies vs approach.

PC side: summon monster 3, haste, and more haste from summoner, bulls strength on troll hound, summon monster 3 1D4+1 celestial hawks, and wildshape to hawk form for druid, mirror image, overland flight, and dispel magic from wizard (on the sleetstorm, which succeeded.) After sleet storm is dropped gobo fires 1 shot hits minataur for 5 poits of damage.

Round 1: Summoner wins init by a fair amount, Vrash his large size ape charges minataur and has enlarge cast on him as he goes, eldion who has wings, sick umd casts bumble from wand on minatar, and hasted ape gets 2 claw attacks both hit and rend dealing 22 HP to the minataur. Compie familiar trows caltrops in square in from of summoner, summons (lantern archon) hits with 2 light rays and closes enough to hit minataur with passive -2 aura. Minataur gets 1 hitback on ape but misses do to failed will save on bumble.

Next up is Druid in init cycle in hawk she commands her hawks to surround the vanara caster and hold action/attack using flyby attack when she starts casting) as they have more than enough movement this isn't going to be an issue. She then flys into gatehouse mech 1 (left side) I rule there's 4 levers the need to be thrown since its unclear the mechanism that raises the bridge. Troll hound charges minataur does 8 points of damage after hit fails to trip minataur.

By the rolls PC wizard is up next. he pulls out his fireball wand and edges out Vrash to hit both wizard and minataur for 24 points save for 1/2. Wizard saves minataur doesn't, but minatuar has SR17 wiz get thru it, minataur also has DR10 fire, which saves him from going nighty night (he is at 8 hp.)

Next up is our gobo archer, he stays put at end of bridge so he can full attack, he is hasted and has multi shot so he's getting 3 shots. Player asks for a heal check to see how close minataur is to dropping he makes it so I tell him maybe 2-3 normal shots. Player declares first strike on inataur, hits gets roll of 4 + 4 + 3 fire, minataur is uncon. Next 2 shots go at the vannarra wizard and both hit total damage is 22 which puts wizard at 11 hp.

Enemy wizard is up and decides to cast ice storm then move behind cover. This of course triggers readied actions of hawks. To those that know summons there were 4 hawks, they are enhanced with feat that gives +4 con and strength summons and get 3 attacks each. The wizard went down, his ice storm never went off. The familiar leaves, the levers get thrown ending with a PC win. the trap never got thrown as the druid rogue threw all the levers flying in and out, the cocktails got a suprise round, along with the highwayman who callously waited in ambush position and used archery to draw the pcs near the cocktails. The cultist which weren't statted so I ruled them priest level 2's and the main leader a level 5 priest, used cult of gyronna stats from kingmaker 2.

This was too easy but that happens when you throw animal companions, summons and eldions in the mix. It didn't help that both sides had 3 rounds to prep (but I thought that realistic) which favored the side with more casters. It also didn't help that I rolled like crap on initiative for the bad guys.

The good: The cocktails and the highwayman actually did a bunch of damage as a 2nd encounter to the dire ape animal companion. I liked the timer, and I liked the traps (even if they never triggered.)

The bad: Yes my characters are built tough for their level, but aside from the 1 3rd party level in swashbucker and their stat distribution (which I'd call equal to a 25pt buy) they aren't outragiously equipped and they wrecked this encounter without an issue at 7th level. Luck helped but I don't see this going much differently even if you give that minatuar a round or 2 more at most we lose 1 animal companion.

The ugly: I had to ignore that accolytes are warior 2's because they would have gotten steamrolled even harder. This was entirely too easy which actually surprised me a great deal. I though a CR11 was going to be a meat grinder, but well designed 7th level PCs mopped this up neatly.

Overall: Dice luck goes this way at times I'm giving this a B+ I expected this to be allot more challenging I shudder to think what those PCs would do at 9th level.

Marathon Voter Season 6

Oterisk here, victim... er, player in Jacob Trier's unfinished playtest. I played an optimized 20 point buy no archetype fighter 9 with a Heavy Crossbow as the main weapon. The fact that we didn't play through the whole way isn't terribly important, which I will get to later. Besides, getting PBPers to do anything quickly is like herding cats, and I appreciate what Jacob was trying to do.

Initial impression: I liked the setting, I didn't consider it old hat, even though I have played a crusade type PBP before. The setup seemed cool, with the army crossing the bridge and it definitely set a sense of urgency and awesome.

Fight: The bard won initiative and cast haste. I one-rounded the highwayman, even though I rolled a 1. Later when I looked at his stats, I realized that if I could have rolled a crit in the first shot, I would have likely dropped him in two shots.

The ooze would have been a problem, maybe I suppose. I spent the first part of the fight wondering how the ooze would be on their side.

I think it would have been much more fun if the enemy had people up on the walls or towers with bows or even alchemist fire peppering us with minor damage. As it was, we had the upper hand in the fight before anything got serious.

Puzzle: Having the drawbridges trapped was a really cool idea for the party rogue to disarm. We likely would have not checked the first ones, and had another one to fall back on, leaving a nasty surprise without losing the day. A rogue with the Trapfinder rogue talent would be really awesome in this case.

Getting to the wardstone was incredibly easy, even a sturdy wooden door in the way would be better. I don't know how fragile the wardstone is, but a fireball spell in there would have cleared it out pretty easily. As it was, my crossbowman could have taken them all out in two rounds (barring rolling two 1's). I don't see how any group given the importance of waystones wouldn't know to secure it immediately, knowing where it was according to the map and information they were given.

:Final notes This thing has a feel for an epic encounter. We should have probably been level 6-7 for this. I have a feeling we didn't need 4 people at level nine for this encounter. The story was fun, and I was definitely into it, and having not read the encounter beforehand.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8

A quick collection of thoughts from the playtest:

Playtest: Playtest link. Four 9th level PC's (Evoker wizard, Crossbow fighter, combat cleric and rogue/magus), built using 15-point buy and standard WBL.

Initial impression: A potential very cinematic and fun encounter with a lot going. A lot of good thoughts, but fails a bit upon the execution. Not enough to properly challenge a well-built party.

Prep:
This is definitely an encounter that puts a high workload on the GM. Lots of elements to keep track off. If I were to run this at a table, I would definitely have to make sure I collected and printed all relevant stat blocks and other references. Perhaps also a round-by-round overview of events (advancing army, ritual in progress etc.).

The encounter:
The various enemies managed to divide the attention of the PC's pretty effectively. As stated above, Ezemael went down pretty quickly, thanks in part to the wizard getting off haste. I tried to stay as true to the written tactics as possible, so i didn't have the hidden enemy spellcaster dispel the haste, since it was not directly aimed at disrupting the ritual. She never entered the action, something that would probably have made a significant difference if she had.

The minotaur managed to bull-rush the cleric as he approached, but if the tactics had not dictated this, I would probably have gone with a charge to take advantage of his powerful charge ability.

The cocktail also did a good job of using it's various abilities, such as it's glob and addiction, but it felt tacked on, and not at all like the focus of the encounter as it was supposed to.

The cultists wouldn't stand a chance against PC's of this level, and it would be a small matter to wipe them out with multiple attacks or spells. Everything depended on preventing the PC's from being able to target them, and the chapel was too close to the entrance and too small for that. As Osterisk points out, simply adding a physical barrier, such as a closed and locked door would have made it much harder. That in turn could have allowed for more rounds before the ritual was complete.

The trap didn't come into play, but most likely would have, causing some inevitable complication for the wizard.

Verdict:
This is not a perfect encounter, and fails a bit in the execution and in the task of highlighting the superstar monster. But there is a lot of very good elements, a good mix of challenges for all party roles and a definite sense of urgency. It also forces (or at least aims to) the party to divide their attention and make tough decisions. I think that with practice and the aid of a good developer, Pedro can put together a top-notch adventure, and I DO RECOMMEND that you vote for him.

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

Wow, I... thanks. Really, thanks.

I'll comment on the encounter later, let me pull myself together first.

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

Congratulations Pedro!

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8

Yay! Congratulations.


Freakin' awesome :D

Congrats my man!

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