The Pools of Iridescence — Scott Fernandez

The Pools of Iridescence

Round 4: Design an encounter

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8, RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka primemover003

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The Pools of Iridescence
In the hard land of Numeria stands the walled village of Lackthroat. Travelers flock to the village to partake of its abundant and affordable vices. One such luxurious indulgence is the Qadiran style bathhouse known as the Pools of Iridescence. Tall pillars line the long halls and music echoes from its tall ceilings. Light spilling in from the high windows illuminates brilliant mosaic scenes of marids and sirens playing along the glistening, tiled walls. Fed by a magnificent, arched aqueduct, the heated and perfumed waters ease the pain of long miles from weary muscles and calm the frayed thoughts of the battle weary. For a fee, one can choose to bathe in whirlpools created by summoned water elementals or bask in saunas heated by steam mephits.

The strong, supple, and well-practiced hands of the Pools’ attendants are second only to the ministrations of its most recent addition, the “Aromamancer” Majet. The gnome sorcerer claims her prescriptions of mineral laden mud baths or sessions of leeching draw ill humors from the body and restore tranquility with the application of exotic, essential oils. Many of Lackthroat’s most prominent citizens frequent the Pools of Iridescence to socialize, trade gossip, and receive daily treatments from Majet.

The truth however is always more sinister than idle rumors let on. Majet hails from the capital of Starfall where her family of perfumers had fallen in vogue with the Black Sovereign’s court. Exposed to the bizarre, addictive serums and tonics by members of the Technic League the impressionable youth soon manifested sorcerous abilities and the manipulative arcanists indoctrinated her into their cabal. Piqued by multiple addictions, Majet’s intrinsic gnome curiosity fixated on the pursuit of the “perfect” drug. Auspiciously she happened across reports of an ooze-like creature encountered near the Egelsee River whose mere touch brought about symptoms of withdrawal within hours of contact. Intent on finding, capturing, and studying the creature she needed a suitable location for her research and hired on at the Pools of Iridescence. Majet quickly assembled an alchemical laboratory and quarantined the unusual amalgam creature in a cistern below the facility.

Majet has since translated her research into a drug made from denaturing newly split cocktails in a series of alchemical baths and distilling the result. While not as powerful as direct contact with the ooze, the drug produces an effect only the Aromamancer’s special treatments are able to sate. Bribing the lax authorities of Lackthroat with the coin, influence, and secrets she pries from the subjects of her secret experiments, Majet has yet to arouse undue suspicion in a town where living in excess is the norm.

Taking advantage of her short stature, the gnome inconspicuously observes potential victims from within the heated open spaces of the bathhouse’s interior walls using bars of seer’s soap (R1). Majet uses spells to take the forms of several distinct human bathhouse attendants to eavesdrop, leave the Pools unnoticed, or even recommend the Aromamancer’s treatments as the answer to any or all mental or physical maladies. Chosen victims receive exclusive invitations to the Aromamancer’s suite where she subjects them to drug laced balms, incense, and oils beginning a slow cycle of dependence intent on siphoning off more than just impurities. Majet also employees strong handed enforcers (LE male monk 2, Initiate Gamemastery Guide 274) posing as masseurs to keep troublemakers away. She feeds persistent addicts unable to afford her remedies to the ooze in order to produce more young and more of the drug.

Majet’s latest mark is Yala of Aramor, daughter of the Battle-Chaplain of Gorum's holy citadel. Sent to the Pools of Iridescence for pampering before her journey to Starfall, her scheduled arrival in the capital is far overdue. The battle princess is fated to become one of the Black Sovereign’s many concubines. If she is not presented as tribute to Kevoth-Kul in the next fortnight, the barbarian king threatens to withdraw his troops from the citadel. The Battle-Chaplain and his faithful would then be left to fend off the foul demons of the Worldwound with only the Lord in Iron for support.

The Boiler Room (CR 8)
Beyond the doorway a grated iron platform stands above a murky basin filling with runoff from the pools above. Across the turbid, waist deep water, another wider platform holds a bubbling alchemical lab, a man sized iron sarcophagus, and an immense steaming copper boiler laden with control valves. Pipes of various diameters connected to the boiler snake across the curved ceiling overhead and into the murky waters below.

The door leading to this room is locked (hardness 5, hp 15, Break DC 16, Disable Device 20). The ceiling rises 10 feet above the platforms and the wet masonry walls require a DC 25 Climb check to traverse. The pipes overhead (hardness 10, hp 10, Break DC 24) are held by iron rods in the ceiling’s mortar requiring a DC 20 Climb check to hang from and support up to 250 pounds before falling. The filthy water in the room acts as a deep bog. The iron sarcophagus (hardness 10, hp 60, Break DC 28) is secured with an average quality padlock (Disable Device DC 25) and can be lowered into the water as a move action and raised using two full round actions on the chain winch along the wall.

Creatures: The gnome sorcerer Majet along with two of her water mephit minions have Yala of Aramor (N female human aristocrat 4, Noble Scion Gamemastery Guide 288) unconscious and locked in the iron sarcophagus preparing her for immersion with the egelsee cocktail. Should intruders enter the room Majet orders the mephits to delay them with their ranged spell-like abilities. She moves to the boiler controls and readies an action to trigger the trap when the PCs get into range of one of the nozzles along the ceiling. The egelsee cocktail moves to attack any creature in or on the water, surfacing to bring its stench aura to bear. If no creatures enter the water, the mindless ooze waits 1 round before using its glob attack against the nearest creature. If the PCs make it across the water, Majet or any surviving mephits drop the iron sarcophagus into the water where its occupant immediately begins to drown (at initiative count 0). They then attempt to escape out the secret door (Perception DC 20) behind the boiler leading to area 4.

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

Majet, Tainted Sorcerer CR 3
XP 800
hp 28 (NPC Codex 161)

Water Mephit (2) CR 3
XP 800
hp 19 each (Bestiary 202)

Trap: The steaming copper boiler (hardness 10, hp 20, Break DC 28) magically heats the pools and rooms in the bathhouse above. However, with a turn of the correct control valves it can release a limited number of steaming blasts each day from one of six nozzles along the pipes on the ceiling. A successful DC 27 Disable Device or DC 20 Use Magic Device check activates the trap remotely. A failure by 5 or more randomly activates the trap (roll 1d6 to determine the point of origin). A sundered boiler or broken pipe discharges the highest available burst and disables the trap until repaired.

Steam Pipe Blast CR 3
Type magic; Perception DC 27; Disable Device DC 27 (DC 20 nozzle)
----- Effects -----
Trigger special (see text); Duration 1/ round for 3 rounds; Reset automatic (24 hours); Effect spell effect (fire breath, Advanced Player’s Guide 221, first discharge 4d6 fire damage, second discharge 2d6 fire damage, third discharge 1d6 fire damage); multiple targets (all targets in a 15-ft. cone).


Very very nice map reference here. Good use of line-work and color and simple details. the use of wall thicknesses again, so great!

I like the building design, and the boiler room sounds fun to draw, lots of good stuff going on in there.

cool compass rose too.

Very nice map reference.

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

Initial Impression: Great map, great set up, great trap use, and while you have an NPC (though generic) that threatens to be the highlight over the round 3 monster I still think the cocktail is the highlight here, particularly when coupled with the fun trap. This is great and cinematic.

This is a Recommend from me for sure. To me, this one and the Naga Temple are the two clear best submissions this round.

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

Scott, nice work so far. You know I’ve been a fan.

Initial Impression: You saw my initial thoughts, above. Having read the others this one is still clearly one of the two best. That said, I have a few concerns.

Concept (name/title, is it actually a location and an encounter, design choices, usability, conflict and interaction, is it memorable): A-
Great name, good location, good encounter. I have to admit, this is a bit more plot than it is location or encounter, but I am chalking that up to encounter set up. Look at how you divided your word usage. So much is in that first section that the second section, the encounter, seems a bit short. I think you could have done better there. The other real concern I have is that the monster has to share the spotlight with the NPC. That is a difficult design choice, but unlike others you pulled it off well. I think the funky ooze is the star of the show. But you need to be careful. A good designer doesn’t outsmart himself and try to show they are creative by picking something strange and making it work. Instead, just do something cool. But yours feels organic, not forced. I like it. Getting back on point, this is about as “James Bond” as a D&D encounter gets. Nice work.

Map (legible, encounter keyed to the map, exciting and memorable location, well integrated, all necessary info for cartographer): A+
Now that is a map, baby. ‘Nuff said.

Execution (use of mandatory content, trap execution, monster integration, etc., quality of writing, proper presentation): A+
I already mentioned above I thought you had really tight monster and trap integration. This is also very well written. Can I just say, I loved that you worked in the seer’s soap, too. That was a brilliant touch.

Tilt (did it grab me, is it unique and cool, do I like it): A
Really, really good stuff.

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

Scott, the crown was great, the Forecaster was really good and you know I loved your monster. I think you really did good this round and I think you have a chance to win this thing. Good luck to you.

I STRONGLY RECOMMEND this entry advance to the Top 4.

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

First Impression: Very longwinded background at 700 words, but strong writing carries it. The gnome seems to be the heart of this just as much as the gearmen are the heart of the Vise, so I'm not sure why Clark didn't rake you over the coals here, but strong writing and smart design shine throughout.

The title hooks me immediately. It has a cool feeling that makes me curious for more. The long background could be a good deal shorter, but you have the chops to carry it off, and almost all of it is about the present-day and has an influence or meaning for the encounter. However, you do rob wordcount from the encounter (which feels choppy and short-shrifted) to do it.

I'm basically critiquing your choices at a very high level of design: I am quibbling with the tradeoffs you made here, but underneath it all is a strong sense of place for the location, a strong set of mechanics and fun, playable stuff.

I agree with Clark that you have a real chance to win this whole thing, if you keep sharp and bring great stuff like this.

I DO RECOMMEND this entry to advance to the Top 4.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Scott, welcome to Round 4! :)

Another Lackthroat/Numeria entry, interesting. :)

Nice use of seer's soap.

Nice use of the sorcerer's abilities to pretend to be other employees so she can spy on guests.

Nice tactical setup for the encounter, and a good use of multiple creatures and an innocent victim to endanger should the sorcerer want a distraction to allow her escape.

Nice details and use of color on map, it's quite readable.

Overall, well done! I do recommend you advance to the next round!

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

Wolfgang Baur wrote:
The gnome seems to be the heart of this just as much as the gearmen are the heart of the Vise, so I'm not sure why Clark didn't rake you over the coals here

An excellent question, my kobold friend! :)

The reason I didn't is because as I read this encounter, the gnome just drops the captured "princess" in the bubbling water in the iron sarcophagus and beats feet out the back door. It's all very "Goldfindger". The PCs aren't supposed to fight the gnome here, or that is my belief anyway. So that makes the focus on the ooze and the trap, which I thought were great. That was my thinking, thus no coal raking for you!

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

5 people marked this as a favorite.

Fair enough. I'm certainly a fan of this entry, and I think many voters will be too.

Oh, and it also goes to prove what kobolds have been saying for centuries: gnomes are EVIL! :)

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Loved this to bits, and surprised to see the eerie similiarity between the intro of this and the Vise, and the further similarities of the two locations. Haply the encounters differ enough.

A little lengthy on the convoluted plot, and use of gnomes is a blanket turnoff from this shortrace-ophobe, but really those are either smallminded personal angsts of mine or little things that the developers can trick up. (Dev: "Whaddaya mean I can't make the villainess a were-drider? She can still get down low to spy! Back to your pit freelancer!")

Great use of Numeria as a location angle and the trap is a..... blast!

Extra props for the map. Wonderful and guides the action in a pleasant easy to follow way that will aid the GM in tweaking and adding in his/her own flourishes. Lots of room to move!!!

Nice use of the signature monster, I don't really agree that it's a toss up between the NPC and the signature monster - they are part and parcel and the gnome doesn't outshine the creature, though perhaps she outshines the plot. Water mephits are also a logical and useful addition.

Great work Scott! Thanks for making a wonderful encounter in an interesting location.

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:
- the encounter provides a great set piece with a villain and a chance to monologue or negotiate and interesting tactical options
- very thorough encounter design giving everything the GM needs - terrain effects, DCs, etc
- neat new trap that fits perfectly in the location

- you spent many more words telling me about the plot and the villain than you spent telling me about the location - perhaps you were practicing for round 5?
- a 'development' section would have let you show that you can chain encounters together in the way that will be needed next round

- great encounter, well written sketch of an intriguing location, your obvious skill at writing plot and characters will probably entice enough people to give you a shot at the adventure

Great work. You get a vote from me.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka SmiloDan

I'll be honest. I think the map is pretty, but I'm really confused by it. Is that boiler room to the left a separate building? Or a level below the the rest of the map? And if so, how is it connected to the upper level?

I really like mephits, they're nice low CR creatures with a few versatile magic abilities.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

An elegesee cocktail in lackthroat? That's some major paralell development there. Still, I think you pulled it off pretty well. You have what appears to be the encounter (the gnome) and what actually is the encounter (the cocktail and the trap) which works really well.

Also, am I the only one who simply doesn't get how those maps work together? I do not get where the connection points are, at all. If the secret door leads to area 4, then does the normal door... open in the fountain of area 5? The river part kinda makes sense (the water flow at least), but the map feels poorly connected as much as it feels awesomely drawn.

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

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game 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.


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

Congratulations Scott,

Nice story set up and the encounter seems a part of the story. I am confused where the trap is. I get that there are six spickets, but which way does the cone go from each? Perhaps straight down, where the area of effect becomes a 20' circle? If so is it mitigated by the waist-high water? Also is the trap ever triggered by accident? If not, this less of a trap and more plot device IMHO. Not a big concern, the GM can decide how she wants to play it. Other than that I think all the necessary points are present. The creature is the focus of the encounter (biggest threat, even if not the smartest) and the terrain favors it. The map looks great (where does the encounter inset interact with the whole map?)

Nice job. :)

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 probably one of the busiest maps this year. The encounter area is large enough for minitaure play without becoming too cramped for tactical play and movement.

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. You have included a key, but there are quite a few symbols included in the map which aren't in the key - I am guessing the round grey circles are pillars, and are the brown rectangles pews/benches/tables/bookcases?

For assisting the cartographer in rendering this flip mat, you should also have included in your key the numbering and lettering. We cannot assume that the cartographer has access to the encounter text, so the more information you provide, the less chance of delays and questions arising.

c) Appreciation of height and scale. Everything seems good and the scale is consistent and noted. However, when looking at the location, I cannot, from just the map, determine where the encounter area is in relation to the location itself. A ghost image in the location would have solved this.

d) Location or just encounter? A nice location clear showing the surrounding features and environment, and an interesting looking encounter area. You nailed this for me here.

e) Environmental Use This map has great deal of environmental potential - I assume the pipes are smashable and carry something nice and odious, the green shading of the encounter area indicates something special about the encounter, but again is missing from the key, I will assume some sort of slimy water - this introduces the chances for mishap and even grappling with intent to drown, and of course, a great place to spring from and gain surprise against the unwary. There is a great deal of potential in the area for some interesting and memorable play choices. Well done.

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

I'm fairly sure you don't need my endorsement to get to round 5 but this was an A play test score.

Gave it the 5th level treatment same as Michael P. I did add an extra mephit and gave the sorceress a wand of magic missile (CL 5 17 charges) just to add some extra challenge. Took 6 rounds as the druid went after the hostage once she went in the drink and the party ignored the ooze in favor of the sorc and the mephits. Move actions costs and ate allot of time, the cocktail ultimately went down with a shocking grasp from the magus (but I ruled since he was in a puddle of water he also took damage and he koed himself!

This was one of the earliest played (2nd right after Michael P's) and it may b=have gotten some benefit form being one of the earlier encounters played as once we dialed in the fights got easier.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8, RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka primemover003

Thanks for the comments everyone. There are only a few questions it seems need to be answered more thoroughly.

The encounter area is underground to the west of the main bathhouse structure. All the pools and fountains in the bathhouse are fed by the aqueduct and drain into the boiler room via the wide sluice in the east wall. You can enter the boiler room either through the secret door from area 4 or from the fountain in Majet's suite at area 5. I tried to fit a secret door symbol in the fountain but it didn't look very good there and in an adventure write up of that area it would include that information.

The trap's nozzles point directly down from the ceiling which means as a forward facing 15 foot cone it covers an area 3 squares by 3 squares above and below the surface of the water. The water would provide a cover bonus to Reflex saves. Yes the trap can be triggered by accident if you fail the Disable Device or Use Magic Device checks. If you damage the boiler or pipes with weapons or by climbing on them it could discharge as well.

--Hot Vrock Massage

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Scott, those are excellent answers to the few things I had been unclear on. Especially the map location. This really feels like something I'd like expanded to a full adventure, so good luck!

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