The Golden Watch

Round 5: Submit an adventure proposal

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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The Golden Watch

A retired cadre of lifelong adventurers, the Golden Watch, meets every year to embark on their latest "one last adventure". As the aged travelers prepare for their annual reunion in Cassomir, one of them disappears amid signs of foul play. Concerned for their missing friend, the Watch asks the player characters to locate and retrieve him before their anniversary celebration becomes a mournful wake. The challenges before them will test every bit of their mettle as they fight to save the Watch and rid Cassomir of an insidious evil.

The Golden Watch is a Pathfinder adventure module for four or more 5th-level characters. The PCs will solve the mystery of a missing alchemist, encounter a horrifying conspiracy, and battle a bizarre assortment of deadly creatures in order to protect every member of the Watch. By the adventure's conclusion, a party on the medium experience track could reach 7th level.


For Taergan Flinn, nothing is more frustrating than growing old. In his prime, the half-elf was a fearless adventurer and brilliant alchemist, part of a band of traveling companions that amassed considerable wealth and experience together. When the time came for some of them to settle down, Flinn resisted. He proposed the five friends keep their personal and professional relationship alive by meeting once per year for a challenging excursion. The affair became known as the Golden Watch, a retinue of retired adventurers who took up a cause on each anniversary of their adjournment.

Over time, even this failed to sate the wanderlust of the middle-aged alchemist. Moreover, the ennui accompanied other irritants - Flinn's body began to complain of the long decades of rugged life and long nights in the laboratory. He became aware of the rigors of aging his friends had endured for years, for the first time facing a foe he felt helpless against. In the year between each reunion with the Watch he searched for the secret of magically restored youth, enlisting apprentices from Cassomir to assist in research and document his discoveries. Finding little success, he brooded on what measures he might take to slow the aging process.

Enter the fiend Anobaith. For centuries, the erodaemon has delivered broken souls to Abaddon by arranging for elaborate and humiliating betrayals to crush the will of her ill-fated marks. She approached the aging Flinn with a macabre offer: the secret of restoring his own youth in exchange for the lethal betrayal of his remaining companions. Flinn scoffed at the idea at first, insisting he would retrieve his friends and slay the daemon for her treachery. Anobaith plied her unholy gifts, seducing the alchemist with her wilting kiss and reminding him of the passions of youth. Eventually, the ache in his bones and pang in his heart sapped his judgment, until one sad morning he reconsidered. An old friend, the most venerable human in the Watch, died peacefully (and to Flinn, feebly). Looking past the friends and family he knew at the wizard's wake, Flinn saw the daemon waiting for him and accepted her offer.

For nearly a year, Flinn has plotted the events that unfold in The Golden Watch. He stages his own disappearance, with the ultimate goal of luring his former companions to Anobaith’s lair to die, then plans to announce his presence once they are defeated. In exchange for long life and vitality, he will give his daemonic benefactor the shattered faith of his lifelong friends. They will risk their lives to save him only to die broken-hearted as a result of his betrayal.

Getting Involved
There are several approaches to get player characters involved in The Golden Watch. The Watch could hire them as simple mercenaries or the PCs could be asked by the Pathfinder Society to safeguard the respected old-timers. The members of the Golden Watch may have saved one of the PCs during their prime and ask for a favor in return. The PCs may be friends, relatives, or associates of the Watch, or owe them a significant favor. Perhaps more interesting would be for the PCs to actually be the members of the Watch. With just a little modification, the adventure suits a few characters of advanced years, desperate to save their missing friend right up to (and even during) the final confrontation.

Act I: Old Friends And New Enemies

The adventure begins in the Taldan city of Cassomir, at an expensive inn called the Sword Point. Two members of the Watch are staying here until their annual reunion ends in a week's time. These human veterans are "Igneous" Crandel (old NG human male fighter 7), known in his day for smiting foes with his flaming burst warhammer, and Branda Freen (old CG human female rogue 8), who once chose her own wedding ring by stealing it from the mausoleum of a corrupt Galtan noble. The two grow concerned over the failure of their friend Taergan Flinn to appear for the event he orchestrated. They prevail on the PCs to visit Flinn's townhouse, and ask them to visit a fourth member, Dern Fosimuth, who since last year has been committed to an invalid home. The two strongly suspect that someone means harm to the remaining members of the Watch and doubt their ability to solve the mystery themselves.

The retired adventurers are grateful for any help the PCs offer. They promise to reward each PC, upon safe delivery of Flinn, with coin and treasures from their personal stores. The veterans also offer their services as mentors or contacts as long as they are able.

It's immediately clear that finding Flinn will involve some danger, as the interior of his residence shows clear signs of violence. Significant encounters here include an eerie downstairs basement and a locked study. The study includes a bag of holding containing three cacodaemons (Bestiary 2, 64) waiting in ambush - deadly harbingers of things to come.

Returning from the townhouse, the PCs witness a violent dispute over a broken oath between twin brothers - a sign of Anobaith's ruinous influence. Other encounters include an attack in town by ethereal echoes - the spirits of Anobaith's recent victims - and a haunt that imparts a murderous command (Ultimate Magic, 230).

New Monster - Ethereal Echo CR 4

Vestigial remnants of souls who die in despair, ethereal echoes are restless spirits who felt powerless or heartbroken at the moment of their death. They roam the material plane, always near one of two or three fetters they recognize as meaningful to them in life or death. Ethereal echoes radiate an aura of sadness, forcing the shaken condition on living creatures who fail their save. They gain power and become corporeal as they deal Charisma damage to their victims, until an incorporeal menace becomes a dangerously tangible threat.

The pivotal encounter in Act I is at the Healing House, a combined infirmary and orphanage, where the younger are put to work serving the elderly. The PCs find the fourth Watch member has deteriorated rapidly in the last year, but they also learn that Flinn purchased the facility several months ago. Death has claimed a number of patients since then, and poor Dern has suffered a leg amputation and spends most of his days in a poisoned fog.
With the party's help, Dern manages to rasp out his suspicion of Flinn's plots against the Watch, crippling the aged priest so he wouldn't intervene. To prevent any interference, Flinn has three dark slayer (Bestiary 3, 75) spies posing as patients until his gambit is complete, and he can return to slay Dern himself. The slayers attack unless the PCs are very subtle about their discovery.

To increase the scope of the adventure, it's possible to relocate a few of the Cassomir encounters to Hope's Hollow - a small town a few miles north.

Optional Location: Hope's Hollow

The name on the sign outside this town has been vandalized with red paint to read "Hope Is Hollow". Once a rapidly growing road town, Hope's Hollow is a broken place - the natural result of an onslaught of manipulative fiends or other conniving influences. The town has suffered significant losses in population and productivity, as the trust its citizens once placed in one another has completely dissolved. A residual presence of the town's corruptors exists to push the town further over the brink, for whatever dour ends they pursue.

Hope's Hollow is a tough place to adventure. Stores are closing, duels break out in the street, and very few trust their former lover or clergy, much less inquisitive outsiders. Such a town might complement any ongoing campaign, but in The Golden Watch, Hope's Hollow serves well to expand the mystery or sandbox opportunities available to the player characters. Multiple episodes revolve around betrayal and loss, and allow for additional adventuring between Cassomir and the Verduran Forest, as the influence of Anobaith spreads and the poor people of Hope's Hollow add to her list of unholy trophies and soulless servitors.

At the end of Act I, the PCs discover that Flinn has cleverly sent word to his friends about his "kidnapping". Igneous and Branda depart immediately, leaving behind a message and a few useful bits of gear (holy or outsider bane ammunition, a few scrolls, and the two witching watches from their dead and invalid members). Aware that the older couple is heading into a trap, it's up to the PCs to follow them into the Verduran Forest to rescue them.

Unique Treasure - Witching Watch

This new magic item is unusual in that it is a single timekeeping device separated into five mechanical parts. Each part is worn on a golden chain by a different person. The whole watch has a small number of charges per day (renewed each day at midnight), used to activate the spells haste, age resistance or threefold aspect. The watch can be activated by anyone wearing one of its pieces, and the activation affects any other wearers of the watch within 30 feet.

Act II: Bitter Manor

Anobaith maintains an old manor property in the woods north of Cassomir, where the wild Verduran Forest is divided by the southern Sellen River. The gardens and crypts of Tristeza House, abandoned when its last occupants poisoned one another in an attempt to dissolve a mutually unfaithful marriage, serve as both outer defense and trophy case for the erodaemon. The expanded property is nicknamed Bitter Manor by those residents of Cassomir who know of it. The actual estate house is called Tristeza.

Following Igneous and Branda, the PCs must fight through the outer defenses of Anobaith's lair. Signs along the way, including a few breadcrumbs left by Crandle and Freen, confirm the party follows the correct route.

As the PCs work their way toward the manor, they must contend with a haunted wood and the menacing gardens of the larger estate. The woods outside hold a number of threats, including ettercap and spider lairs. Though they provide no emotional nourishment, Anobaith is intrigued by spiders because some mated pairs are known to destroy one another. These monsters attract the attention of a pair of spider eaters (Bestiary 3, 255 ), who are just as happy to attack the PCs if there are no spiders available. The forest also contains deadfall dwellers (R3) and deformed calibans (R3). The latter are actually failed clones of the alchemist Flinn, who considered using younger bodies to house his aging consciousness.

The property abuts the Sellen on the north and west sides, where additional threats include a flight of harpies, and a haunt - the manifestation of a suicidal act by a betrayed maiden. The PCs will experience the scene, which tempts them to hang themselves over a cliff with ephemeral rope - actually stepping off the side into the river below. On the east side of the property, a pack of yeth hounds roam for prey to frighten and chase down a steep ravine.

The gardens outside Tristeza House are as deadly as they are darkly beautiful. Challenges include pit traps disguised as graves, and a number of dangerous guardians, such as a pair of heucuva (Bestiary 3, 150), who died as traitors to their faith, and a forlarren (Bestiary 2, 125) druid who acts as curator for the traps and monsters here. Several mausoleums and gravesites provide clues as to the current purpose of the estate, confirming suspicions that the Golden Watch remains in serious danger.

Act III: Tristeza House
Tristeza House serves Anobaith as a literal death trap. The dilapidated mansion literally exudes an atmosphere of horror, owing to scare traps and guards and wards effects. Mechanical and spell traps threaten in several locations, but equally dangerous are the daemonic or captive monsters the daemon surrounds herself with. The PCs must outwit a shadow mastiff (Bestiary 3, 241) lest he alert the entire grounds to their presence. They are stealthily followed around the house by Shulvan, a wererat rogue who fed on his own wife when he became a lycanthrope. Two vulnudaemons (Bestiary 3, 63), an attic whisperer (Bestiary 2, 34), and an advanced ethereal echo linger in the opposite wing of the house, endangering all who explore there. In the lower levels of the house, a venedamon (Book of the Damned 3, 60), provides magical support and Flinn (old NE half-elf male alchemist 7) has two students available to help finish off his friends. A powerful alchemical golem (Bestiary 2, 135) stands guard outside the room where Crandle and Freen wait bound and gagged until Anobaith decides they have forsaken hope. Anobaith presents a deadly climactic challenge to the party, with her favorite tactic being to summon ceustodaemons (Bestiary 2, 65) to defend her, hamper the PCs with a quickened crushing despair, and teleport away to ambush the survivors.

Sample Traps

Meat Hook Trap - CR 4
In the attic, a thin wire releases a rusted meat hook on a rope, which makes an attack roll. If it deals damage, it makes a CMB check to carry the target through the small window, where they take falling damage and land outside.

Taxidermy Trap - CR 4
In a creepy old trophy room, dust-covered animal displays include a trapped bear, which launches a needle connected to a thin tube. If the target is struck, the trap immediately begins to pump embalming fluid into her. This section includes rules for embalming fluid (combining Strength and Con damage) as a poison.

The final two encounters begin with a choice for the PCs. They must either prevail on Flinn to abandon his plan to murder his lifelong friends, providing a moment of intense role-play capped by a difficult Diplomacy check, or they must destroy him and his alchemist students before rescuing their charges. The adventure closes with a climactic battle against Anobaith.


As a CR 11 erodaemon (Book of the Damned 3, 46), Anobaith will be a daunting encounter for the PCs, even if they have reached 7th level. However, the strength of Anobaith's abilities are in manipulation and controlling the details of a combat. Her tactics and abilities make her deadly, though she is less challenging in melee combat, particularly if the PCs are equipped with the holy or outsider bane weapons at the end of Act I, or if the PCs persuade any members of the Watch to assist them.

Once Anobaith is defeated, the Golden Watch determines to make future anniversaries little more than vacations or memorials, and reward the PCs generously for their efforts, including the gifting of the rest of their witching watches. Authorities in Cassomir reward the party for eliminating the threat of Tristeza House and offer the party right of first refusal before they auction the property.

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

Initial Impression: The plot revolving around another adventuring group is a problematic choice as it leads to the "Elminster effect," where they PCs are reminded they aren't really the best heroes. Plus, the story arc is a change not in the PCs but in the NPC adventurer group. But that said, the plot seems interesting and what I love here are the rewards! I love adventures that give cool things rather than money or conventional magic loot, like in this adventure you can get a group HQ which is super cool plus a really killer team magic item. Nothing is worse than a killer adventure that ends with the PCs getting one cool magic sword. Great, what do the other 4 PCs get. The rewards you give here really show some serious design mojo. Great work. I have to admit, though, some naming choices threw me--Hope Hollow, Healing House, too many manors and houses. Just felt kinda clunky to me. Let's see how this plays out. A really solid submission--in fact, it may be the best formatted and most professional in that it really solidly contains all the stuff a developer/publisher needs to evaluate what the adventure is going to really be, and that counts for a lot. Didn't initially appear to be the best but we will see how it sorts out after I can really chew on them for a bit. Great work, Steven!

Paizo Employee Creative Director

First of all, congratulations on making it to the final round! That's an accomplishment in and of itself! My review of the proposal (as with the other three proposal reviews) focuses primarily upon how the proposal fits into the Inner Sea region, how interesting the proposal is as a whole, and any potential changes/trouble spots we’ll need to have addressed should the proposal end up winning. I'm going to present feedback with very little sugar-coating as well, since I've always felt that frank and honest feedback is more valuable.

Feedback for The Golden Watch

The Basics
Title: I’m not all that fond of it. It is, in fact, my absolute least favorite part of this proposal. It makes me think of that old movie, “The Girl, the Gold Watch, & Everything,” that seemed to be playing on TV every other weekend while I was growing up. It certainly doesn’t sound like the name of an exciting adventure, unfortunately. I’d like the title to change to something like “Heartbroken,” or perhaps "Tears at Bitter Manor," if this proposal wins.

Location: Cassomir is a fine choice for location. Folks have been asking for more adventures set in Taldor.

Plot: Very interesting and engaging plot! I love the gloom and doom the adventure has. Very moody. I also like that there are cool locations to explore in the classic sense of the game’s traditions—haunted houses are always fun, even when they’re “haunted” by things other than undead.

The Good

  • 1) I really REALLY like the central plot hook that gets this adventure going; it’s a classic story trope but not one I’ve seen done in an RPG adventure. That said, it comes with a bevy of complications that make me realize why I’ve not seen it done in an a RPG adventure, as detailed below in Development Concern #1.

  • 2) Oooh! Daemons are involved! Excellent! We don’t have enough adventures where daemons get major screen time.

  • 3) The idea of an undead that forms from the soul of someone who dies heartbroken is a good idea... but see Development Concern #7.

  • 4) The Healing House is a really spooky and moody location.

  • 5) Anobaith’s delight in spiders killing each other is a really cool touch of flavor.

  • 6) I love the fact that you picked up a few monsters from RPG Superstar’s earlier rounds! Well done! In fact, the whole cast of monsters you’ve selected for the adventure (daemons!!!!) are pretty solid.

  • 7) AAAH! The embalming bear! AIEEE!

Development Concerns

  • 1) The trickiest part of making this adventure work for me is the idea that a group of adventurers who have been working together for long enough to have multiple “one last adventure” sounds like they’d be pretty accomplished. Certainly above 5th level. Going by the breakdown of class level roles in the Inner Sea region on page 253 of the Inner Sea World Guide, I would expect them to be, at a minimum, “exceptional,” and thus at least 6th level. Probably closer to 10th level. (Your proposal puts them at 7th–8th level, which seems about right to me, in other words.) And that causes a problem—if there’s something that can take out a 10th level character, dealing with that event is not really all that appropriate an adventure for 5th level characters. Furthermore, it’s a bit weird that a group of long-time adventuring companions would turn to a different adventuring party for help, since like any adventuring party, they’ve probably built up a long list of other NPCs who owe them favors and would make more sense as go-tos for help when one of their number gets offed. I honestly think that the best way to handle this adventure might indeed be for the adventure to be presented as a one-shot adventure where the players all play old past-their-prime adventurers. Working this adventure into an ongoing campaign in that way is VERY tough... but for a module, doing it as a one-shot in which the players play pregenerated characters or make PCs specifically for this one adventure is an interesting option. Not sure it’s one that lots of folks would like... but I’m certainly intrigued by doing something like this.

  • 2) If you’re going to have a group of adventurers who’ve all grown old together, and want themes of them all being old to work, they should probably all be of the same race. Remember... by the time a human turns old at 53 years of age, a half elf is still in his prime, 9 years away still from middle-age, much less the 40 years it’ll take him to reach old age. And of course, an old half elf at a minimum age of 93 has probably already mourned the death by old age of any human adventuring companions he once had. A plot like “The Golden Watch” works best (and indeed, only really works at all) if all the members of the group are the same race.

  • 3) Any adventure that features an NPC looking for a way to restore their youth needs to at least pay some time talking about why that NPC hasn’t considered trying to get a dose of Sun Orchid Elixir.

  • 4) Yeah... the idea that two old friends would ask someone else to visit their 3rd friend’s house to see if he’s okay seems really off to me. Development Concern #1 above is significant.

  • 5) Cacodaemons breathe, and so stuffing them into a bag of holding doesn’t work that well. A single cacodaemon has 10 minutes of air in a bag of holding; three at the same time would reduce that to about 3 and a half minutes each. Chances are that by the time the PCs get around to visiting, the poor fiends are suffocated!

  • 6) Erodaemons are CR 11. Fortunately, you’ve got room in this adventure for the PCs to gain a few levels. There may even be room for them to hit 8th level, at which point a fight against a CR 11 foe is tough but not a death sentence. Making sure there's enough encounters to go from 5th to 8th level is definitely doable, especially if the majority of the adventure consists of classic site-based explorations.

  • 7) I don’t like the name “ethereal echo” for the new monster at all. It doesn’t evoke any element of “This is an undead who formed from a heartbroken person’s despair” at all. Furthermore, in Pathfinder, we’ve divorced the ghost and, indeed, incorporeal undead entirely from the idea that they exist partially on two different planes. Undead don’t really have any real thematic connection to the ethereal plane in Pathfinder, and so using the name for this creature is not all that appropriate.

  • 8) Hope’s Hollow is cool, but I’d rather see a place like this feature as a non-optional location in the adventure. If this adventure’s set in Cassomir, its “bonus location” should be a short gazetteer about that city that summarizes the information from “Cities of Golarion” while also providing new info, such as new rumors or the like.

  • 9) Watches are pretty rare on Golarion; rare enough that multiple magic watches owned by a group would be quite unusual. Especially if, as I suggest in Final Thoughts below, the NPCs are reduced in level. The watches don’t seem to really add all that much to the adventure either. New magic items just for the sake of a new magic item aren’t all that great. These watches need a stronger reason to be in the adventure—maybe one of the NPCs was a clockmaker or a tinker who built the watches for his friends? Making these watches into stronger symbols of the whole company’s bond would definitely be a step in the right direction.

  • 10) Ettercaps and giant spiders are enough on their own; no need to add in spider eaters. I’m not a huge fan of encounters where the PCs just happen to stumble upon events that happen right when they arrive. Those should be events, not encounters. Not sure if I made sense there, but the point stands—ettercaps are good enough on their own. Spider eaters as well are too distracting.

Final Thoughts
This is a very interesting proposal. I love the use of daemons, and the storyline filled with heartbreak and treachery. I don’t love the fact that the “Golden Watch” are retired adventurers. I think that changing them to be retired soldiers or retired pickpockets or some other profession that involves some low-tier escapades solves the problem; they can all be relatively low level, and thus them turning to actual adventurers (since they are not themselves adventurers) makes a lot more sense. To the erodaemon, the flavor of heartbreak she prefers likely doesn’t require high level or an adventuring lifestyle to satisfy. If these two significant development concerns are addressed, I think “The Golden Watch” has potential to be a really interesting, unusual, moody, and fun adventure.

I strongly recommend "The Golden Watch" for consideration as the winner of RPG Superstar 2013. AAAHH! EMBALMING BEAR!!!!

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

Final Analysis: Steven, I have given all of these a good deal of thought and in the end I believe not only should your submission be one of the two entries that get serious consideration to win this contest, I think yours is the better of the two.

I do have some concerns. It is strange to me that one of my least favorite titles is the adventure proposal I am backing. But there it is (and I should point out it is not the only name change I think you should make, see my initial impression comments). Also, I think a few development tweaks can address the concerns I have without changing the core submission--something I couldn't do with Pedro's, for example. Also, While I think your adventure is an 8 on the coolness scale, I think Matt's is a 9. However, as I noted in the review of Matt's Seven Veils Masquerade, I keep coming back to this: the best adventures seem to come from the most professional proposals and as I mentioned in my Initial Impression: "A really solid submission--in fact, it may be the best formatted and most professional in that it really solidly contains all the stuff a developer/publisher needs to evaluate what the adventure is going to really be, and that counts for a lot."

It comes down to this: I just think your submission shows that you are the most ready to competently and professionally deliver an amazing adventure.

As a result, I DO RECOMMEND this submission be considered as a potential winner of RPG Superstar 2013.

As between the two submissions I have recommended, I personally recommend this submission be the actual winner.

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

Premise and Style: A missing person adventure, with a guild of retired adventurers. Will this work, or is it really about the NPCs?

Writing: Strong, clear prose took me through the pitch without hiccups, questions, or hesitation. I rarely see prose this well-constructed, and it's a strong indicator that the final turnover is going to be easy to develop and edit. So, nailed it for text that communicates effectively.

Novelty/Originality/Cool Factor: Everything in this adventures seems solid and reasonably well-thought-out, even though the number of pure wow moments was modest. Some of this is just a matter of personal preference: while I didn’t much care for the multi-part watch (a complex, fiddly item), Clark loves it. While the ethereal echos don’t do much for me or James as a name, I think they might work in play.

I do really like the Bitter Manor and its use of R3 monsters and the pit-grave traps. The consistency of tone here is a little on the conservative side rather than the wahoo side. That’s good, because not every adventure needs to reinvent the genre, and I’d rather have a good idea well done than an excellent idea done poorly. And often, a good idea grows into an excellent one during design.

The use of house and watch as rewards (as Clark noted) is pretty damn nice, and a pleasant change from the usual gold-and-magic-items.

Entertainment & Plotting: I think this an extremely well-plotted adventure, and I like seeing lines like “Aware that the older couple is heading into a trap, it's up to the PCs to follow them into the Verduran Forest to rescue them.” That is, information that the PCs gather becomes meaningful in future encounters. This is good design because it produces a sense of urgency among the players, rather than requiring the GM to attempt to inject that urgency. You're trusting the players to make decisions, or the GM to work from a premise.

As Clark notes, putting strong NPCs at the heart of a plot does threaten the central role of the PCs, but I think you avoid that here by making one of those NPCs the villain, and the others elderly characters who are asking for help. The levels problem... Well, if the adventurers are ill or simply feeble, they may find themselves unable to address the issue themselves. I sort of want the villain here to be of a longer-lived race than the other members of the NPC party, for the reasons James outlines.

Recommendation: Extremely well structured, readable, strong pitch. As a publisher, I like this pitch a lot. I see a strong foundation to build on and improve.

As a designer, I wish there were one or two more really exciting pivots or keystone moments, the sort of encounters or treasures that make players remember a particular adventure—and that make GMs eager to run it! However, I know from experience that the design of those moments often happens late in the process, when the designer is making connections that were not obvious at the start. Strong, strong contender, despite my wish for more mojo and sparks.

I DO RECOMMEND this adventure be considered for the top slot.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

I think this is a really strong adventure proposal. James has already pointed out some things that can be fixed to make it run more smoothly, but it is a good mix of combat, investigation, spookiness, creepiness, and an interesting villain who (for once) doesn't have a motivation that's revenge, greed, or wanting to take over the world. Also, I like alchemists and you plug in a lot of neat links to the alchemist's work leading up to this adventure, as well as the links to previous rounds of RPG Superstar.

I do recommend people vote for this submission for RPG Superstar 2013!

Paizo Employee Developer

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I can't read this title without wondering if the sequel adventure is going to be called "The Bonnie Situation." ;-)

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

Stealing a page from Clark-narks playbook I'll be posting a first impression then a more in depth review. We'll start with 3 basic questions before moving on reading everything and giving a detailed review.

First Impression:
At its heart roleplaying games are about telling an entertaining story that the players get star in. Does your proposal do that? Ys.

Would I enjoy playing it? Yes.

Would I enjoy running it? Over the hill adventurers and Daemons, sign me up!

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

It is funny that I was concluding a Mythic Playtest on these boards featuring Leukodaemon when this pops up.

All in all, this proposal has me the most interested in terms of set up, hooks, and overall intriguing design. Voted.

Dedicated Voter Season 6

Great submission.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka burrahobbit

I love the setup and the execution of this proposal. I can see a lot of cool interactions with the Golden Watch from the get-go (your line about the PCs *being* members of the group sounds like a cool premise for a one-short). Bitter Manor looks like a great location, and that taxidermy trap...nicely done. I agree that there are some issues to look at in terms of the power level and races/ages of the Golden Watch members, but that seems easily addressed, and I got the feeling from your proposal that they're quite old at this point and couldn't undertake this adventure themselves (as Wolfgang noted). Great job!


Really fine job on your submission, Steven. I've been watching your stuff since the Quicksand Cloak, which I thought was enormously clever. I also want to tell you that I love your traps and the name Anobaith is [iawesome.

Best of luck in the voting.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Darkjoy

Very good

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

The Golden Watch


-In the last round, Clark challenged you to think cinematically, resulting in an undeserving bit of sarcasm from me on his choice of director (although I’m sure James will direct you to Werner Herzog. TPK in the jungle, man). Anyway, digressions aside, I immediately detect two cinematic nods in this proposals, namely The Expendables and to a lesser extent, Saw (in Tristeza House). Not necessarily great movies, but good references for adventure writing.
-In many respects, the helping out geriatric adventurers is inspired. What happens to adventurers when they get ‘put out to pasture’ is a fascinating subject, but one difficult to explore in your typical RPG adventure. Of course, it immediately rung alarm bells as well. Babysitting higher level NPCs on their adventure is hardly fun for the PCs, but you deftly sidestep this trap by leaving the old fogies off screen when it matters.
-Running this as a one-off with a bunch of Golden Watch aging, ex-adventurers sounds great fun.
-I like adventurers where complex human relationships drive the action. You did this well.
-The ethereal echo is a very intriguing monster, and definitely the best of the round.
-The adventure is well paced, and of all the proposals probably fits the design brief the best.
-There seems (to me at least) to be a bit of manor house overkill in adventures at the moment. That being said, I really liked the way you dressed up Bitter Manor. Working in the Round 3 monsters was a nice touch, and I enjoyed the reasoning behind the spiders’ presence.
-The sample traps were also a welcome added bonus.


-The title smacks of bad cliché; your golden watch awarded for retiring from adventuring.
-It’s a shame that to make the adventure work, Finn’s betrayal of his fellows has to be aired so early on. The PCs know what he’s up to long before they encounter him. An opportunity missed for a dramatic twist further along in the adventure.
-Hope’s Hollow and the Witching Watch didn’t excite me too much.
-‘Tristeza’ House irritates a pet peeve of mine. Grabbing words from a foreign language is problematic, as it only sounds fantastical if you don’t speak the language. If you do speak the language, it just looks incongruous. Spanish is a particularly bad choice for this, as it’s so widely spoken.
-This is admittedly nitpicking but is it Crandle or Crandel? Plus the abrupt change from first names to last names (of the major NPCs) in Act II confused me, I had to scroll back to the top to work out who Crandle and Freen were.

After Reading Judges’ Comments

Clark – I agree that naming might not be Steven’s strength.
James – Good points about the age disparity between races.
James – the adventuring company is called the ‘Golden Watch’, so surely magic watches make sense in this context?
James – it would be a shame to change the profession of the Golden Watch, I think. Making them adventurers adds a nice layer of pathos to the adventure and some great RP opportunities for the PCs (i.e. this is me in thirty years’ time. Yikes!).

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

After reading all 4 I'm with the judges firmly on this one being the best.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

I liked one of the other offerings, but I am voting for this one.

Good job, Steven. I know you have been at this for a long time. I'm happy to see another writer get a well deserved break. Best of luck!

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka motteditor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I like this one, and am 99 percent sure it will have my vote.

I love that the bad guy is an alchemist, since I think the newer classes don't get quite as much love.

I love the older adventurers: It reminded me a bit of Gail Simone's wonderful "Welcome to Tranquility" comic, featuring a retirement village for old superheroes (and villains).

I can see some of James' concerns, of course, but a few thoughts.

Bump the human NPCs up to venerable and they should have -6 (unless I've been mis-reading the aging penalties the whole time) to all their physical stats. Then you could certainly see why they'd want people to help them.

If they've got an elite array (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8), our eighth-level rogue could get her Dex up to 19 at max (without use of magic, though they would have some of that, of course). Reducing that to 13 is going to be a big penalty, especially when you consider it means her two other physical abilities will now start giving a negative modifier (hurting her ability to both do and take damage).

James Jacobs wrote:
Furthermore, it’s a bit weird that a group of long-time adventuring companions would turn to a different adventuring party for help, since like any adventuring party, they’ve probably built up a long list of other NPCs who owe them favors and would make more sense as go-tos for help when one of their number gets offed.

That's addressed a bit in the Getting Involved section, but the party could certainly be some of those people who owe them. I think if I were planning to run this as part of a campaign, I'd introduce the NPCs early on, making them really fleshed out for the characters when this happens. They sound like they could be great NPCs. There's a lot going on already, but part of me wants to see it starting with the PCs in the tavern when all the Golden Watch is there for a night of revelry before Taergan fails to show for the second night. Let the young PC whippersnappers see how old adventurers get their party on. : )

2) If you’re going to have a group of adventurers who’ve all grown old together, and want themes of them all being old to work, they should probably all be of the same race.

I think the different races can also work well because of that, though. If we make the surviving human Golden Watch venerable, they're at least 70. That means the half-elf has to be 23 years older than them to be old, which doesn't seem completely out of line to me. You could arguably go even farther and say this is the second generation of the Golden Watch that Taergan has adventured with -- which would explain some of the age discrepancy but also add to the despair he's feeling over their impending deaths. Alternatively, you could have Crandel and Freen be halflings, which would bump up their age ranges a little.

I honestly think that the best way to handle this adventure might indeed be for the adventure to be presented as a one-shot adventure where the players all play old past-their-prime adventurers.

I do think that'd be fun too, though. I think art-wise you could have a really cool time showing us old-age versions of the iconics.

Template Fu mini review, one to go...

First, I will say that you have taken the lead for my vote, with only one more proposal to view - this is a very good proposal indeed. That said, I did have some feedback you might find useful.

The name - you seem to have tried to borrow my crown - lol. I am king of bad names and I want my crown back. That said, the reason I am pointing this out is that for some strange reason, probably because there is no cover art in such a proposal, the name initially made me think of a gold fob watch rather than a town watch / mercenary group - I don't know why, it just did. I guess the point is to try to avoid names that could have multiple meanings.

I really love that you picked earlier round monsters, but that said, until they are in print, to make a GM's job easier, you could have suggested alternate core monsters that would be easier to find via the PRD or in the main Bestiaries. This would allow flexibility to the employer to view such proposals as a supporting core proposal in addition to being a vehicle to introduce new content. I don't know about everyone else, but I do find that having monsters spread across multiple modules that become favourite and often used monsters can become a serious pain in the tushy.

That's pretty much it from me, everything else needing to be said has been, so you are in the lead for my vote at the moment, it just depends on that last proposal to view.

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

Steven, I really enjoyed this proposal :) There was a lot I liked here, but two things really stood out for me.

One was the innovative concept of casting this as a one-shot adventure, playing PCs who are members of the Golden Watch. That's a really interesting direction to take a Pathfinder module, and I love it. One-shots often provide the opportunity for somewhat better storytelling and for trying out unusual stuff, since it doesn't need to connect into whatever grand campaign or into established PCs. That's bold, and could be a very interesting direction.

The second thing I really liked was the way you didn't wait until the climax in order to reveal Flinn's treachery. You've got a strong theme of betrayal of trust and of driving people to despair; if you'd hidden the treachery until the very end, it simply wouldn't have been a major part of the story. It's very easy to hold a "surprise" until the very end, and the story doesn't make any sense until you get there, but that makes for a dull, frustrating experience for the players. Your approach will make for a much better game - the PCs pitted directly against a known traitor, the conflict clear and understood. Well done.

I'm a bit concerned that the "play as the Golden Watch" option sounds better than it actually works. I'm not sure if you mean here for the PCs to play as the existing Watch members - Igneous, Brenda, possibly Dern - or for the Watch to be significantly larger, with the PCs as additional members. Either way, it seems to me that playing the earlier acts as Watch members would require major adjustments. The entire "introduction" to the Watch doesn't quite work; Igneous and Brenda don't seem necessary as quest-givers if the PCs are equally involved and concerned; it becomes even more unclear why Dern is the only one Flinn's targeted "early"; and there are additional points which simply don't seem to flow smoothly under the assumption of the PCs as Watch members. If your take the prize, I urge you to consider this point during development and editing - re-read the entire sequence, and make sure everything works well in both play flavors (or explicitly suggest how to run both alternatives).

The one thing that really really bothered me was the "Golden Watch" naming. As James said, this seems like an awful and anachronistic pun - a golden watch for retired adventurers. Customers will be making the connection, even though nobody anywhere on Golarion actually associates watches with retirement. You might want to keep the watch element since you use it elsewhere and elsewise, but please do something to distance it a little. :P

BTW, I had my eye out for the iffy phrasing issues that bothered me in your R4 - and came up empty. Way to go :D

I read this one last and I'm so glad I did. It has my vote hands-down. The retired adventurers bit is wonderful! Also, playing with a new-to-RPGs group, this would be a cool way to show them that the only ways out for their characters are not death or level 20.

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

Wow Steven,

Well plotted Retirement party, reunion adventure, invalid home, are all original plot components. The hooks are great and go beyond the mayor/noble: "save our town". Wonderful villain with motivations a GM can sink their teeth into. A multitude of critters from several sources (great knowledge) and yet they all fit the theme plot. (Maybe too many? Number-crunching needed, but with a couple of days and in-town adventure and two levels gained probably not). Plenty of RP opportunity and great rewards. And the end battle should be great.

Congratulations Steven, you have earned the title of Top 4 and now RPGSuperStar.

I think this proposal is the best of the four, and I wish you luck.

While the others have interesting parts, there are also elements that detract from my enjoyment of the other proposals (and the possible adventure to follow).

You have my vote.

Star Voter Season 6

I quite like this - good original plot, some nice features - but the punning really put me off: watch / witch watch, Hope's Hollow.
The manor and its gardens seem to be unnecessarily stuffed with a random grab-bag slugfest of monsters rather than being a coherent whole that can be analysed and handled intelligently by the more intellectual party. I can see that the monsters have some common thread, but it won't feel like that to the players.
All told, it's my #2 pick and I wouldn't be offended to see it win.

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

Again, some good comments by Mudfoot. Personally I'm not at all interested by the premise here - it's part gopher-work and part signposted investigation. There was too much backstory for me in the submission and the idea of "running it as a one-shot playing the old-fogeys" while interesting, is not what's on offer - I get that changes happen inthe course of writing adventures - from concept through playtest through developers tweaks through edits - no really I get it - but we are voting on what is offered, not how how it might be tweaked. This is a good showing and well constructed, just not my favorite concept.

I like the use of previous round's creatures, but beyond that the investigation seems rather linear and the treasure gained seems rather pedestrian.

Love Anobaith. Great name.

Don't worry about the foreign names thing - whether you used it because it was "fantastic" sounding or not, so much of English is already borrowed it matters little. (Pet peeve of mine is getting called out for using other-language words "inappropriately"! ;p)

I do think it's a cool concept and extra points for going the investigation route (brave considering the problens with that at the levels posited). Good luck and congratulations on reaching the final round of RPGSS 2013!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Ezekiel Shanoax, the Stormchild

Fantastic work, Steven!

I am impressed with the personal and moral roots of the foul conspiracy that drives this adventure - this is an adventure fueled by human weakness, and feels genuine. So no matter what the adventure calls upon the PCs to do, the reason why they must act feels real. Nicely done.

Your writing throughout is excellent. Several great turns of phrase, and good structure.

Love the traps!

You have my vote.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7

I was considering this one. But I think it's the wrong level. I liked the encounters and the general outline, but I can't get on board with veteran lifelong adventurers capping out at 8th level. I would really like it if it were for a higher level party, though, so, Paizo, keep this idea around.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

After reading your adventure, I have to say, I'm not very wowed by anything in it, but I also don't have any major critiques. It looks like a solid adventure, and your hooks (especially the last one) are great.

You also appear to have the best presentation of the bunch, so good on you for that. ;)

I do have to say, however, that much like the debate over the winners in the last year, you've got something that is clearly a diamond in the rough. There's lots of ways to turn this from good to great mentioned above, and your most direct competition isn't as close as last year's rough diamond.

Scarab Sages

Greetings Steven.

It is true that I saved you for my last post. It is because I voted only for you.

Truths (in my opinion):
1) This was the best written submission

2) Your submission was 3rd on my list as far as super cool wow factors on locations/encounters/characters (npc's)

3) It seemed all of the entries had a rough time staying in the 5th level power range, but I believe you would have the easiest time adjusting and presenting a modified version of this to Paizo.

4) Your new monster was #1 on my list, your new magic item was #2 behind Pedro's cloak.

5) Your proposal had the most possibility of pulling in the PC's as written.

6) your EBG was #1 on my list and was the best detailed in personality. (the adventurer, not the daemon)

7) Lastly, although I did mention that your overall submission was 3rd on my list for locations and encounters, you did have my #1 encounter area - the healing house in your proposal. For some reason, I think we have a kindred spirit for coming up with an encounter that seems like it might be a cake walk for the PC's until the big reveal, then the PC;s have a oh s~!$ moment. I like that a lot.

So congrats on your submission, I liked it the most overall even though I think two of the other submissions had more coolness in the adventure location. Those would be Pedro and Matthew in that order.

as a small add-in, my daughter loved your quicksand cloak the best, and said to me after I didnt get in the top 32 again, "Daddy, when will you make something cool like that?"

Ah well, back to the drawing board...

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

Congratulations on making it to the top Steven...

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

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Congrats, Steven.

Now make this adventure rock! :-)

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

Congratulations Steven Helt!!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Congratuations Steven!!

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

Congrats Steven. Good work and a worthy winner.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

/hat tip

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

Thank you all so much. A thousand eeps for all of your Pathfinder characters!

Star Voter Season 7

Congratulations on your victory Stephen! I voted for you btw, I loved the betrayal, the scary mansion, the glory of retired adventures, all of it.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Just had to say that I would love to play this as one of the elder members of the Golden Watch. I know for sure my play group would spend at least the first two sessions reminiscing about their adventuring years. In game. ;)

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 aka Flak

Congratulations Steven!!



An erodaemon as the villain? Double awesome :D

Way to go! You had my favorite item in round 1, and you were the best in every round but the 2nd. I can't way to buy this!

Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7

DarthPinkHippo wrote:
Way to go! You had my favorite item in round 1, and you were the best in every round but the 2nd. I can't way to buy this!


It's funny that the last three contests ended with the person winning that did the (imho) best item.

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

Congratulations - now get to the real work and make this another 'Superstar Shiny!'

*cracks whip*


Scarab Sages

Grats Steven.

Congratulations. Apologies for not dropping by with, umm, reviews, after the first round, but I've been somewhat distracted with other things away from the keyboard. Anyway, well done for making it into the top cut (this time), and for doing it in such style too!

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