Astugr Lighthouse


Round 3: Design an encounter

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Astugr Lighthouse
==========
The town of Skjoldmur has long been the funerary mecca of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings. Mourners deliver their dead to the Skjoldmur clerics of Gorum, who perform last rites over the departed before escorting them to their final resting places on the island of Orthost. Given the necromantic power saturating the Isle of the Dead, no sane Ulfen will deliberately spend the night on Orthost, so a hasty departure from the island following a funeral is just as important as the funeral itself. Considering how treacherous the shores of Broken Bay can be, it is no surprise that Skjoldmur’s citizens harbor deep respect for the building designed to guide mourners safely home: Astugr Lighthouse.

Astugr Lighthouse is a weather-worn granite tower that looms over the town’s surrounding walls from a bluff of hazardous rocks adjacent to Skjoldmur’s bay. It is lit with a blazing eye of fire that illuminates the coastline, for the people of Skjoldmur favor a traditional fiery beacon over a magical one, believing that fire repels Orthost’s restless dead. The lighthouse is owned, operated, and inhabited by an equally impressive family: Hargulf Astugr, his wife Isold, and their 5-year old daughter Talbot. The Astugr family has manned the lighthouse from generation to generation since its construction centuries ago—some even say that the original family matriarch, Forelda Astugr, remains in the lighthouse and protects its namesake family to this day—and they have never once failed to maintain its beacon. This illustrious history of sound service has earned the Astugrs great respect and recognition from the people of Skjoldmur.

Unfortunately for the Astugrs, their lighthouse’s radiant beacon caught the eye of a dark soul: a member of the Gorum priesthood named Skimir White-Eye. Originally a hostage taken from a raid as a child and conscripted into serving the clergy, Skimir’s cowardice caused him to buckle under the brutal treatment and ridicule of Gorum’s faithful. Although he wears the armor and mouths the prayers to the Lord in Iron, Skimir’s soul truly belongs to Charon, the Horseman of Death and the rightful lord of Orthost in Skimir’s twisted mind. Eager to curry the Horseman’s favor and to take revenge, Skimir devised a plan to punish the Gorum priesthood (and with it the people of Skjoldmur), with Astugr Lighthouse as the centerpiece for his treachery. Skimir bided his time, studying the lighthouse, researching its guardian, and learning about the daemonic servants of Charon. Then one dark afternoon, when most of Skjoldmur’s clerics and warriors were summoned to Orthost for the burial of a famous raider’s young son, who suddenly perished after eating a horsemeat sausage laced with one of Skimir’s deadliest poisons, Skimir made his move.

The Lighthouse Weeps (CR 5)
==========
The normally brilliant sunset is obscured by a ceiling of thick gray clouds, and the streets and buildings are wrapped in a churning shroud of falling snow. The eye of Astugr Lighthouse burns strikingly against the iron sky, but its radiant blaze dances almost frantically, weeping tears of black smoke that are swiftly dispersed by the biting, frigid wind. The sound of distant sobbing is muffled by the snowfall.

Just as the insignia on the last funereal longboat’s sail faded from view, Skimir put his plan into motion, activating a scroll of control weather stolen from the temple archives to conjure a vicious snowstorm and drive most of Skjoldmur’s citizens inside. As the storm brewed, Skimir cast two lesser planar ally spells to call a pair of lacridaemons, promising the fiends that if they snuffed out the lighthouse’s beacon then they could bind and hang the two Astugr parents out in the snow to die of exposure. The proposed sacrifice delighted the lacridaemons, so Skimir warded himself and each daemon with resist cold spells to protect them from the touch of the family’s guardian, wary of the dangers posed by the Astugrs’ house spirit.

Skimir led the daemons (concealed by their own invisibility spell-like abilities) to the lighthouse, and while the fiends quietly slaughtered the lighthouse guards, Skimir paralyzed the Astugrs with Extended hold person spells and ripped Talbot screaming from her bed, with their guardian spirit all but powerless to stop them. Skimir gagged Talbot and carried her back to a hidden lair in town, eager to inflict upon her the same torments that he himself suffered throughout his own stolen childhood, leaving the lacridaemons to claim their sacrifices and douse the beacon (in that order, by the selfish fiends’ insistence). The daemons lashed Hargulf and Isold together in only their nightclothes and strung them over the edge of the lighthouse facing the sea, where only the uncaring ocean could see them. Now the daemons wait, watching contently as the freezing winds strip the life from the lighthouse keepers (a sacrifice made all the sweeter by the desperate screams of their helpless guardian spirit), before they extinguish the beacon and return to Abaddon.

The Lighthouse: The stairs lining the lighthouse interior are steep, acting as difficult terrain that makes running and charging impossible and adds 4 to the DC of Acrobatics checks. The roof is brightly illuminated and warmed by the beacon, which provides total concealment to creatures standing on opposite sides of it and inflicts 1d6 fire damage to anything that touches it. Creatures can stand adjacent to the flames without getting burned, but they take fire damage if moved (such as by bull rush) into one of the burning squares. Each square of the beacon burns self-sufficiently, but can be smothered with a full-round action. The wind and snow impose a -4 penalty on Perception checks and ranged attacks on the roof of the lighthouse, and automatically extinguish unprotected flames (except for the beacon, which is massive and well-fueled enough to burn despite the inclement weather). The roof is surrounded by an iron railing, providing a +4 bonus to CMD to avoid being pushed or thrown off of it. Hargulf also keeps an alchemical silver handaxe hidden under his mattress on the second floor.

Creatures: Forelda, a disir who manifests as a lithe woman with radiant white hair, has been desperately trying to rescue her family, but the daemons’ bolstered cold resistance and her insubstantial nature have rendered her efforts futile. Unwilling to abandon Hargulf and Isold, Forelda has been sending out frantic cries for aid via telepathy to any sentient creature that passes within 100 feet of the lighthouse, but the eldritch storm, the daemons’ unnerving aura of sobs, and the absence of most Skjoldmur authorities for the funeral have kept the wary Ulfen away. If the PCs respond to Forelda’s plea, the disir assists them however she can, mainly by setting up flanks, attacking summoned reinforcements, using her aura of fate to assist her allies and impede the daemons, and trying to afflict each lacridaemon with cursed fate. Forelda knows the location of Hargulf’s axe (above) and readily discloses this information if asked.

Meanwhile the lacridaemons are anxiously waiting for their sacrifices to succumb to the brutal weather so they can douse the beacon and return to Abaddon. If they detect activity in the lighthouse’s lower levels, they do their best to hide themselves (having already used their invisibility spell-like abilities) and bombard the intruders with their own telepathic “pleas,” trying to discredit the disir and confuse the interlopers. Once the intruders reach the top of the lighthouse, the lacridaemons attempt to summon more of their own and focus their attacks against those trying to assist their dangling sacrifices. Each daemon fights to the death so long as its companion lives, but if one is defeated then the other attempts to smother the lighthouse beacon before teleporting away. The Astugrs hang 20 feet from the lighthouse roof, far from the warmth of the beacon, and if left unattended they will die of exposure in 5 minutes.

Forelda Astugr, Disir CR 4
XP 1,200
hp 37 (Round 2)

Lacridaemons (2) CR 3
XP 800 each
hp 30 each (Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Book of the Damned, Vol. 3, 48)
Resist cold 20

Development: If the lacridaemons are defeated, the Astugrs can be stabilized with a DC 20 Heal check; casting any cure spell or endure elements adds a +4 circumstance bonus to this check. At this point, Forelda beseeches her new comrades to find Talbot (unfortunately Forelda does not know who Skimir is or where he might have taken the child). Should the PCs prove reluctant to rescue Talbot, or act dangerously toward the Astugrs, Forelda becomes panicked and may lash out against her former allies. Failure to intervene results in Hargulf and Isold freezing to death, the lacridaemons extinguishing the beacon just as the funeral retinue departs from Orthost, and Forelda being driven violently mad with fear and remorse. The driving snow and winds make reigniting a functional beacon extremely difficult (a DC 28 Survival check), especially considering the bereaved disir’s aggression.

Liberty's Edge Digital Products Assistant

Hi! I’m Crystal and I’m one of your judges this round. I’ll be looking at your encounter not just as a GM and writer, but also as a professional cartographer, to see how much fun it would be to run and if the map helps or hinders the experience. For a little background, I’ve been writing for RPGs since the late 90’s, and am the author of The Harrowing and Pathfinder Adventure Path #80: Empty Graves, and I try to apply the standards of pitch, challenge, fun, and map design to my own writing just as I’m applying them here.

Criteria Details:

Pitch
Is the idea clear, evocation, and easy to sit down and run without a lot of extra prep time. If it needs extra prep time, is it worth it? This also includes whether or not the formatting adheres to Paizo’s standards.

Challenge
Is the challenge level-appropriate? Does the presumed challenge players face match up with the numerical CR? If not, is there a good reason why not?

Fun
Is the encounter going to be memorable, or is this just a speed bump on the way to the treasure room?

Map Design
The map doesn’t need to be vitally important to an encounter, but it should never, ever ruin an encounter. And if the map or environmental elements can add to the flavor of an encounter, or give players more options, all the better.

Pitch
While the background is good and flavorful, this is a lot of set-up and description for “fight two daemons on a circular platform.” And so much of the introductory text focuses on the Isle of the Dead that I didn’t realize on my first read-through that the lighthouse was actually located in Skjoldmur. This is another situation where the prerequisite Round 2 monster is a questgiver rather than an opponent or a companion, which feels like a cheap out for including a new monster. This encounter is also a prelude to the “boss fight” that most of the descriptive text is dedicated to describing, and the encounter would be better served just rolling in that boss fight. Sicne the lacridaemons aren’t a core monster, their full statblocks should have been included.

Challenge
The daemons have some minor protections, but nothing unbalancing since the start out resistant to cold. The encounter area doesn’t really help or hinder them, so the Cr-as-written is fine. Any fall from this roof will inflict 9d6 damage, and probably be an instant death for 3rd level characters, so some callout to handholds or rigging to give players an extra attempt at catching themselves wouldn’t be amiss.

Fun
You can’t really pull the Astugrs up until the daemons are defeated, so that aspect doesn’t really add anything to the encounter. Beyond that it’s fighting two monsters on a circular platform.

Map Design
The map is very detailed, but 90% of it is wasted space since the PCs have no reason to explore or otherwise interact with the rest of the lighthouse, and the final encounter area on the roof is the least developed and least visually interesting area. This encounter doesn’t need a map and the map adds nothing to it.

The encounter is mechanically sound, but dull. It would be fine as part of a larger adventure, but doesn’t scream superstar on its own. I do not recommend this encounter for advancement.

Cartographer

Nice map reference, side views are always cool but not always needed. I don't think there is anything here that has not already been done before.

I do not recommend this encounter for advancement.

Paizo Employee Developer , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Hey Christopher, congratulations on making it to the top 16.

I am the developer of Pathfinder Society Organized Play, which means I see lots of short adventures and self-contained encounters over the course of a year. It’s a developer’s job to read through, revise, and fact-check pretty much everything, so it’s tough to boil down what I’m looking for into a couple of clever headers. Essentially, I’m approaching this round like I would a scenario turnover, which involves marking up a copy of your encounter and providing feedback on what you did and how you might improve—my teaching experience in action.

My Style:
Since tone is a little hard to express while in this medium, I encourage you to read my comments in a friendly way; it’s how I intend them. As I warn many freelancers, I ask the question “why” a lot. Sometimes I do this because I am legitimately confused. Sometimes I do this to get the freelancer thinking in a certain way. Sometimes I know what the answer is, but I want to illustrate that there’s not enough information for the GM to understand what’s going on.

That said, this is a tough round, for we’re going from 16 to four contestants.


My Criteria:

Setting: Does your encounter fit in Golarion? Is it an urban encounter? Is the CR appropriate for the setting and the encounter? Is it clear how a GM might use this encounter?
NPCs and Creatures: How well did you incorporate the Round 2 creature into your encounter? Does it feel like a natural fit, or was it forced? Does the creature have a chance to shine? Do your NPCs fit in the location? Do their motives make sense? Is there an opportunity for roleplaying (appreciated but not essential)?
Numbers: Are all of your statistics and calculations correct? Are your skill check DCs reasonable?
Style: Did you watch Paizo’s styles, both in terms of writing and formatting? The more closely a writer can match Paizo’s styles in the turnover, the easier it is for me to develop. The easier it is for me to develop, the more eagerly I assign that author more work.

Setting
We have a benevolently haunted lighthouse being attacked by daemons. Sounds like a good time. Your background information shows good attention to the entry in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Lands of the Linnorm Kings, and the overall feel for the adventure has some Ulfen flavor without beating me over the head with gratuitous Viking stereotypes.

Fighting some daemons on top of a lighthouse is pretty neat, but in development I would probably find myself wanting something more to add to those bottom three levels. The PCs are unlikely to fight anything in those areas, and it seems there’s nothing of plot importance on floors one and two. What’s more, there are corpses marked on the ground floor map, yet I don’t see any reference to them in the text. I would aim to provide at least some basic descriptions of these areas in your final turnover.

NPCs and Creatures
Skimir White-Eye has just the right amount of background to define his need for vengeance without eating up valuable word count with information the PCs might never learn. I like the choice of daemonic patrons, for Charon’s a great fit for a town dedicated to ferrying the dead to the afterlife. I would reinforce what Skimir hopes to accomplish with an extra clause or sentence establishing that an extinguished lighthouse would cause the returning funereal ships to crash.

I also approve of your use of the disir, which serves as an ally in an otherwise difficult fight. This frees you up to bolster the enemies’ numbers while still maintaining the Round 2 creature’s spotlight. I am pleased to see that Forelda can go berserk and attack the PCs under certain circumstances. One part the recent events puzzles me, though. If Forelda is able to inflict her cursed fate ability despite the daemons’ cold resistance (as implied by her combat tactics), why has she not already done so?

The daemons’ reasons for not having extinguished the lighthouse’s flame are good, and I know I had to reread that part later just to make sure that there was a reason. The daemons’ strategy of having a telepathic shouting match with the disir is amusing, though I suspect little would come of it; nonetheless, it provide me as a GM with some extra opportunities for interaction and another chance to play up the haunted nature of the site. I find it a little strange that the lacridaemons do not try to summon more of their kind, as this ability typically lasts for an hour.

Numbers
Your CR calculation is good, even though it’s difficult to account for the disir’s involvement. I’m not entirely sure how you arrived at DC 28 for that final Survival check, but it seems about right, given the circumstances.

I don’t quite understand how reviving the Astugrs is supposed to work. The Heal DC is 5 higher than I would expect to stabilize someone, and the idea of stabilizing someone in Pathfinder rules suggests that he is bleeding out as opposed to incapacitated by nonlethal damage. I would list the family members’ hit points and present nonlethal damage total, as that would make it a bit clearer how one revives the NPCs according to the larger rules system.

Style
Overall, your writing looks good. I’ve spotted a few minor grammatical errors, but they’re rare enough that the text comes across as polished.

Be mindful about where you place each piece of information in the text. Your first two paragraphs of running text in the encounter area would be better placed in the background (with slightly less detail) or in the Creatures section. In that way, you could remove the “The Lighthouse” sub-header, as that area description should really follow the area’s read-aloud text.

Closing Thoughts
This encounter works well. It’s self-contained, presents a Round 2 creature in a clever way, and has plenty of action.

I do recommend this encounter for advancement.

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

Super solid intro. You've got my interest piqued. Love a good lighthouse.

One of the Four Horsemen! Yes!!

Ok, I can buy the character background.

Although at this point I'm starting to ask why the PC's are here. Are they here for the funeral?

Vicious. This is close to that line with children. I don't know yet if that will affect my vote.

Wow, some cool use of the disir and the lacridaemons.

Overall, I like this. It's got daemon's, a really cool use of the disir and the daemon's trying to counter it, a race to save 2 people and a quest hook for a 3rd. I'm still on the fence about the child. The biggest problem you have here is that you don't mention why the PC's are here in the first place. Weak keep for now but leaning to a keep.

Shadow Lodge Star Voter Season 6

Crystal wrote:
It would be fine as part of a larger adventure, but doesn’t scream superstar on its own.

I don't understand this - isn't this round of "design an encounter" intended to be part of a larger adventure?

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

Yes but this encounter has to stand on its own. Which it doesn't without whatever has been written for the other parts of this encounter. The prize for this contest is to write a module...not an AP.

RPG Superstar Season 9 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

I know I'm biased, but I absolutely love the atmosphere of a my character being bombarded with a telepathic shrieks for aid while being haunted by a lacridaemon's weeping aura. Plus I will always sign up for dueling fiends atop a lighthouse beacon in the midst of a blizzard. Even if Chris weren't my brother this entry would earn my vote.

Once again I won't comment on other entries; good luck to all and may the best designers triumph!


This has my vote. i was directed here by a friend, and after talking with my group, the four of us decide that you sir have our vote. i put them through 3 of their choices, and yours was one. they liked yours best, so cheers mate, best of luck!

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

I like the setup, but I'll echo headkase's comment - you don't include any reason for the PCs to be involved in this problem, which is a real critical flaw. Sure, the fight might be interesting, and the setup is great, but the PCs have no real reason to care unless they're already involved in this encounter for a possibly unrelated reason.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

To add to the comments about why are the PCs there, more importantly, if they're in town, why aren't they at the funeral, which seems to be where the movers and shakers in town are?

As for the encounter itself, I felt a bit too much word count was spent on the background, especially when most of it described the-villain-not-appearing-in-this-encounter. More of that space should have been spent on the lighthouse, and making the whole structure more interesting, with short sentences describing what's going on in other rooms without giving a full encounter. Maybe the corpses from the attack were animated on the way out in the ground floor, and a glyph of warding left on the 2nd floor or something?

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

The Good: Except for that last line with the poisoned horse meat killer intro.
The Bad: The r2 monster is not the star of the encounter
The Ugly: Where's Skimir? He should be down a bunch of spells thus in the Cr range the PCs can beat and you spent the entire intro making me want to go a few rounds with him.
Overall: 6/10 It's good but you wrote a check with the intro and gave us a less compelling encounter.


I just learned about this contest, being a long time Pathfinder player but never actually having an account (my GM takes care of all the published stuff, I just come to play). I'm looking through some of the entries, both from this year and the last couple years, and I thought I would contribute some thoughts.

As a player, I'm pretty conflicted about this entry. Personally, I think this might be among the most exciting an cinematic encounters of the round, but the judges and voters have quite a few problems with it. Maybe it's because I'm just a player, rather than a GM, but I'm not sure I agree with some of the criticism. For example, a lot of voters say that it was a huge flaw in your design that you didn't include a reason the PCs are there. None of the judges this round commented on that, and I looked at the encounter entries from last year and only one of the top four entries had an explicit reason for the PCs to be there, so I don't know how critical that really is. I guess for me, the PCs are there because they want to play (I know that's why I'm there), so that should be a given.

I get where Crystal and some of the other voters are coming from with their criticism of the map. Boiled down, this encounter is indeed fighting two monsters on a circular platform. But as a player I'm not sure I've ever thought of an encounter in its most-reduced state. To me, this is fighting two mysterious daemons (I did have to look up the lacridaemon on the PFSRD), who are dangling innocents off a 90 foot tower and threatening to put countless more in harm's way if not stopped, on the top of a giant lighthouse around its flaming light in the midst of a snowstorm, all with a benevolent ghost as an active ally (which Crystal didn't like but I think is really cool). That all seems pretty awesome to me, and I think my GM would sell this encounter to me that way rather than "you fight two monsters on a circular platform."

I do wish there was more in the rest of the building, like others have said, especially since the map is so detailed. But looking to last year, Steven Helt's submission was really just one encounter in a room, too. If I'm reading the rules right, the idea was to give us a location, and one encounter in that location, which is exactly what this is.

I also get how several people criticize the fact that the villain is not in the encounter. I agree with GM_SolSpiral that after reading this I'm chomping at the bit to take this sucker down, and it stinks that he's not here. But I actually think that helps this entry. Like I told Mike on his Floating Bazaar entry, I think an encounter is just a building block for an overarching adventure, and I think this entry has that more than any other this round. I want to go scour the entire town of Skjoldmur for Skimir after reading this, and I think that is more compelling than an entirely self-contained encounter, since I think the idea of this round is to find the people most equipped to write a whole adventure. Last year, the judges really liked the hooks of a naga lich who didn't appear in the encounter and a gnome sorcerer who booked it out of the encounter as soon as it started, so I guess I'm more in that camp. Like Crystal said, this encounter is a prelude to a later boss fight, and I don't necesarily think that's a bad thing.

I watched your podcast today, and you mentioned that you think you're a good storyteller. From reading this entry, I would agree and I really hope I get to see what kind of a story you can tell in round 4.

Wow, this was a lot more than I intended to write. I guess it's because I'd really like to see this entry advance, and it seems to be a bit of an underdog right now. Good luck!

Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

First Impression: Great intro! I love lighthouse encounters--the creepier the better! And this one is pretty creepy! I like the map, too. Background is interesting, but most of what you wrote is not terribly relevant for the actual encounter.
Upon reflection: If the PCs are on the island for the funeral, how do they even learn about this encounter? The PCs also neither encounter the real villain of the story (Skimir), nor do they learn anything about him. I also thought that the rules states that you were supposed to use the Round 2 monster as the star of the encounter, but here the dsir is essentially an NPC and the enemy is daemons. Echoing what Crystal said, you drew a nice map, but the PCs are just going to race up the stairs and fight the daemons on a platform, making this boil down to yet another "fight a monster in a room" encounter. I think you would improve the encounter by providing another way to rescue the family. Or maybe there's something in the lighthouse that the PCs could use to drive off the daemons, forcing them to search the place while the clock runs out.
Overall: Great intro and setup, but the actual encounter is a let-down. I'm not sure you followed the spirit of the Round 3 rules, in that the Round 2 monster doesn't play a prominent role in the encounter. That said, I like the premise, and I might just crib the gist of the encounter for my Skull and Shackles game. C+

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

John Compton wrote:
I find it a little strange that the lacridaemons do not try to summon more of their kind, as this ability typically lasts for an hour.

FYI John this was in the Creatures section.

Christopher Wasko wrote:
... the lacridaemons attempt to summon more of their own...

Paizo Employee Developer , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Michael Eshleman wrote:
John Compton wrote:
I find it a little strange that the lacridaemons do not try to summon more of their kind, as this ability typically lasts for an hour.

FYI John this was in the Creatures section.

Christopher Wasko wrote:
... the lacridaemons attempt to summon more of their own...

My intention was to point out that they could have summoned reinforcements before combat begins.

Astugr Lighthouse wrote:
Once the intruders reach the top of the lighthouse, the lacridaemons attempt to summon more of their own and focus their attacks against those trying to assist their dangling sacrifices.

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

Well done Chris,
Is the encounter fun?
Is the encounter difficult to interpret? Is that HH outside of the building... Ah I see now :) not difficult & I like the map. I did wonder why the fire wasn't extinguished BEFORE the demons were paid though...?
Does the monster fit? Yes, on a necromantic isle, a spirit watching over the local family makes a lot of sense. However this encounter is about the lacridaemons. Why a 7th level BBEG (or more since he cast LPA twice.) is aware of the disir (gives his minions cold resistance) yet leaves her around to aid the PCs & possibly foil his plans. EDIT: John pointed out the disir as ally instead of enemy, which still meets the criteria so I willnae hold it against the encounter :)
This way to Dragathoa (I like to see beyond the encounter :) Not a whole lot here, but obviously the history, named, motivated and kidnapping all point to a different BBEG.

Good luck!


Can we just stop to appreciate how well written this is? I love the set up, the descriptions, and the overall atmosphere going on in this. I mean, this is a hell of a creepy town. Does anybody want to date the kid who grew up on the coast next to the island of the dead? "What does your dad do?" "He ships dead people to their graves and prays they stay there." "Let's not go back to your place." That is great because it is scary but not overly gritty as in, urban-setting-rife-with-crime, which is what I see in a lot of the other entries.

My favourite part of the whole thing is the villain. Most of the other entries have a dastardly villain, out to get treasure, or fight people, or looking for trouble. Your guy Skimir is a cowardly little rat who uses poison and goes after children. I mean, as an upper level cleric, he could have protected himself from ghostly grandma and gone after the parents himself, but he prefers to take the cowardly route and not get his hands dirty. Instead, this petulant bully born of bullying decides to test his mettle against a five year old. I mean, Talbot could turn out to be fantasy version of Honey Boo Boo which would have Skimir on his knees by the time the PC's find them, but it is so compelling the way it is written!!! This weak tea ratbag wants to take out his painful childhood on a little girl.

Based on his cowardice, it totally makes sense why there are no traps in the building. He is doing things from his perspective, the perspective of a coward. The demons shrieks would be more than enough to keep him away, so he assumes that the townspeople, who he has known for a while, will act similarly. He does not know that the PC's are in town, so why would he plan for them?

As for the complaint of why are the PC's there, who cares? This is fantasy, is that really the line? We have orange haired, spell-casting gnomes who can talk to cats, but the PC's can't be in the right place at the right time? Let's reevaluate that thought here.


Sorry for the double post, but I forgot to mention one of my favourite bits! I love that there is the promise of more with this. This is supposed to be a single encounter and it is, but it promises so much more! Our baddie still has the kid, and may or may not have just trapped all the goodies on the island of the dead (which I bet smells great, by the way, thanks for the sea breeze), and may have just curried favour with the horseman of death. I mean, there is a whole adventure just rescuing Talbot, and even that can be quite full of surprises. Who know's what Skimir is planning with her or what Talbot is even like. I will say it again, would you rescue Honey Boo Boo? Could you stop from snuffing her on the way home? Then there is the bit with Charon. Yeah, horseman of death, isle of the dead, I would seriously consider moving house if I lived in the area.

Obviously, I am not really much of a gamer and a total novice to pathfinder, but maybe that is why this particular adventure, and the one about the Bazaar appeal to me so much. They are not just fighting monsters because in RPG's, you fight monsters, there is a compelling reason for the fight here. Not only that, but I want to fight so that I can further the story. I will be up tonight wondering what happened to Talbot, and like I said, I am not a gamer so I will NEVER FIND OUT.


I skimmed the entries before reading through my favorites, and I agree with FreakedOut - this was definitely the most fun and engaging to read. I was hooked from the intro and I really want to see what you can come up with in Round 4.

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

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I think your prose is great, the background material is great, and the mood of the encounter is wonderful: dark, chilly, haunting.

The thing about a 'design an encounter' round, to me, is that there has to be some terrain, some tactics and development, and something the PCs might really find memorable. I feel this entry pulls you in with a great story, but then says "kill these two appropriately powered daemons and we can all go home til next week". I don't see anything in the encounter that has PCs huddled around the table watching every d20 roll becuase they don't know if they're gonna make it out of this thing. People play the game differently, but when I think "Superstar", that's what I think.

Like Andrew Marlowe, you have done a lot of things right in this encounter, and I appreciate your great prose. But I am hoping some designers in this contest offered that epic encounter feel with their entry.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

Wow, and I thought last round was a learning experience! I feel like I've gained so much from this round, way beyond what I ever hoped. Many, many thanks to everyone who commented, both with support and with criticism, and many thanks to Crystal, Rob, and John for their judgments.

As a general response to people's reactions to the encounter, I tossed the idea back and forth quite a bit about putting more stuff in the rest of the lighthouse. I too felt like the rest of the rooms were underdeveloped. I elected to focus on just the battle on the roof because of the way I read the round rules: "A new Golarion location, a map of that location, and an encounter (which I read as one encounter) in that location." I felt that by putting extra traps and critters in the rest of the building I would be pushing the boundaries of the round rules, which I was already purposefully doing by including the disir as an ally rather than an adversary, so I erred on the side of just one encounter instead.

Leaving Skimir out of the encounter was a conscious choice. I didn't want to eat up a huge number of words statting him out, plus I conceived this encounter as an intro to an investigation to find Skimir and his hostage, as Crystal accurately noted. I entered this round with the objective of writing an encounter that spoke to a much bigger story, rather than an entirely self-contained one, which I now see was a bit off the mark.

Map and setting structure was definitely where I learned the most this round. I conceived this encounter as very cinematic and with high stakes, but never really thought about the structure of the room itself and boiling it down to just a fight on a circular platform. This is something I will definitely take away from this round and use to inform my future design decisions.

I suspected I would get some criticism for not including the round 2 monster as the primary enemy in the encounter. I decided to include it as an ally anyway because I thought it would speak to the urban nature of both the adventure and the disir's design itself, in that not every "monster" is or should be an opponent to be defeated. To compensate for this, I put significant thought into the numbers and mechanics of the encounter itself to be sure the disir was not overshadowed, which may address some of John's tactical questions. Two lacridaemons together is already CR 5, but I left them the option of summoning reinforcements to potentially bring the challenge up to CR 7, which is very difficult for a third level party. HOWEVER, those tables could be seriously turned by the influence of the disir's aura of fate, plus any summoned reinforcements would not have Skimir's cold resistance, so Forelda would be able to meaningfully attack them on the PCs behalf, making her central to overcoming pretty overwhelming odds. I also didn't initially include the cursed fate debuff on the lacridaemons because I thought that trying to inflict it upon them while the PCs were actually there would give Forelda something to do in the first stages of the encounter besides just be a cheerleader.

I honestly did not even consider including a reason for the PCs to be at the lighthouse rather than the funeral. I suppose I took it as a given that, from a storytelling perspective, the PCs should be where the action is. I looked through past entries to use as models and only a couple of encounter finalists included PC hooks, so I didn't think to include one in mine. Definitely not a mistake I will make a second time.

Once again, thank you to everyone who supported my encounter and to those who sought to make it better. I sincerely hope I have the opportunity to present more of my work in the next round, but if not then I certainly have learned a great deal this time around and will put that knowledge to good use in next year's competition! Good luck to all the other top 16! See you tomorrow!

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

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Chris,

That intro was killer, it's something to be proud of and hang your hat on regardless of the outcome. Map was really stunning too.

Sincerely,
Frank Gori

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

I'll echo GM_Solspiral, definitely hit the Blazing 9 threads if you don't progress. You'll get the same level of criticisms, sometimes past Top 4 or even Superstars drop in, and it is a great way to network. I'd love to see what else you can come up with!

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

Thank you, GM_Solspiral and theheadkase. I definitely think I will be more involved with the messageboard community in the future as a result of this contest, regardless of how things turn out. I certainly still have a lot to learn, and I really think this is the forum by which to do it.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

theheadkase wrote:
I'll echo GM_Solspiral, definitely hit the Blazing 9 threads if you don't progress. You'll get the same level of criticisms, sometimes past Top 4 or even Superstars drop in, and it is a great way to network. I'd love to see what else you can come up with!

I've never heard of this thread, but I'd love to get involved! Where can I find it? Also, GM_Solspiral, I am very interested in any council you have for how I can go about trying to submit my work for publishing or editing/revision, since that really seems to be your wheelhouse!

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

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If you check the General Discussion board of RPG Superstar then you will find it.

Here's the Blazing Nine after RPG Superstar 2013

It usually gets started sometime shortly after the contest ends.

***EDIT***
Fixed Superstart to Superstar

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

theheadkase wrote:

If you check the General Discussion board of RPG Superstar then you will find it.

Here's the Blazing Nine after RPG Superstart 2013

It usually gets started sometime shortly after the contest ends.

Terrific, thanks!

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka motteditor

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Hey Christopher,

I'm trying to go through and comment on some/all of the encounters.

First of all, I love the sideview of your map. It's gorgeous, and I can only wish I could draw that well.

I think you had a great location (though I don't know that I really consider it all that urban). It's chilling, no pun intended, and feels like someplace I could see sending a party on a cool adventure (again, no pun intended).

That said, I'd encourage you to work on being more active in your writing, which I think will make it even more evocative. Your second paragraph, for example, has some form of the verb "to be" in each sentence. Looking a the first sentence of your read aloud text, you've picked great, evocative words and phrases in that first and final sentence, and then undermined them with "to be" verbs, which could easily be eliminated. I think the middle sentence works better, using "burns" and "dances" the verb.

I sympathize with your decision not to put more in the lighthouse; I approached my encounter the same way. That said, I also thought it failed a bit in focusing on the R2 monster, and I really did want the stats for the dangling NPCs.

Finally, I definitely recommend the Blazing Nine thread. It tends to be a small group of participants, but a very helpful one.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

Thanks so much for your feedback, Jacob! You've clearly been a frontrunner the whole way through the first three rounds (the chimney troll is marvelous, but between the R2 exit poll and the fact that guttersnipes popped up in two R3 encounters, I'm guessing that your monster was the overall fan favorite; I know I voted for it!), and you obviously have a ton of experience under your belt, so I respect your opinion a lot and really appreciate your giving me advice on tightening up my work.

Thank you for your kind words about my sideview ^_^ I think the stupid thing took me more time to draw than the rest of the map combined. In hindsight, though, I just wish I had put it to more use with the actual encounter content.

I agree with you 100% about my passive writing. I have spent the better part of my 20 years of literate lifespan trying to cull passive voice from my writing, but somehow it still creeps back in. I also agree with your desire to see the Astugrs' stats, especially in conjunction with John's confusion about the mechanics of actually rescuing them. Looking back I would have wanted to put Skimir back in the encounter somehow too, to add more action to the lower levels and to give the encounter some narrative closure (which Crystal and several voters dinged me for). Ultimately I wound up chopping those things due to the word count, which was a mistake. Live and learn!

I defended my R2 monster's spotlight when the voting closed, and I still stand by my instinct to try to feature the disir as an ally rather than an enemy, but I am not so arrogant to think that I'm right while you and three very active and practical voters are all wrong. You, GM_Solspiral, Haladir, and Curaigh all have keen eyes and minds for encounter structure, and you all identified the disir's involvement as not up to snuff with contest parameters, so evidently I did not write Forelda in such a way that she got enough attention in the actual meat of the encounter. I thank you for pointing that out to me, particularly after I wrote my justification for it to really drive home the "That's all well and good but it just didn't work" message, which I need sometimes when I marry myself to an idea. I will definitely not make the same mistake in the future.

I will certainly be involved in the Blazing 9 thread following the end of the contest! I'll admit that I have absolutely no idea how it works, but I will learn. In the meantime, thank you again for all your council, and Blazing 9 or not I would be very interested in collaborating with you in some manner of writing circle or design group. I really like your creativity and your mind for game mechanics, and I feel I could learn a lot from you. Let me know if you're interested!

In any case, congratulations on everything you've accomplished this year, which was quite a lot! I sincerely hope to go toe to toe with you in the 2015 final four =)

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka motteditor

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Thanks again for the kind words, Christopher.

FWIW, I often do a search for the word "will" to make sure I'm not using it in my writing (granted, that's annoying when it comes to Will saves...). You could probably do the same with "is" and "has."

Blazing Nine is basically just a review circle; Curaigh or someone will start the thread in the Superstar forum typically when the Superstar logo disappears from the left side of the website. People post items and the rest of us give it a good critique (I actually posted a couple monsters last year, so it doesn't have to be limited to items). The idea traditionally is to post an item every month, though I don't know how many people really do that.

I'm happy to collaborate/critique outside the boards as well. Just drop me a PM.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

Jacob W. Michaels wrote:

Thanks again for the kind words, Christopher.

FWIW, I often do a search for the word "will" to make sure I'm not using it in my writing (granted, that's annoying when it comes to Will saves...). You could probably do the same with "is" and "has."

Blazing Nine is basically just a review circle; Curaigh or someone will start the thread in the Superstar forum typically when the Superstar logo disappears from the left side of the website. People post items and the rest of us give it a good critique (I actually posted a couple monsters last year, so it doesn't have to be limited to items). The idea traditionally is to post an item every month, though I don't know how many people really do that.

I'm happy to collaborate/critique outside the boards as well. Just drop me a PM.

That sounds just fantastic, exactly what to do to keep the design chops working during the off season! I am very much looking forward to participating, and judging from the favorites list of theheadkase's earlier link to last year's forum, I'm thinking my brother Nick (who was a top 100 candidate) will also be participating. Looking forward to seeing you there!


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I think it got deleted, but I posted asking if here was a way to follow your work. Meaning, do you have a blog or something where you post encounters or adventures?

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

RufusStoppable wrote:
I think it got deleted, but I posted asking if here was a way to follow your work. Meaning, do you have a blog or something where you post encounters or adventures?

Wow, that's very flattering, thank you! I have an Obsidian Portal account for my homebrewed campaign, but the adventure log is written by my players, not me, plus it's pretty hard to follow the actual storyline and adventure arcs in that medium and the campaign is presently on hiatus. Aside from that, I'm sorry to say that I don't; at least, not yet! Since you asked, I might start up something like that, in which case I will be sure to let you know! =)

It also looks like I'm going to be much more active on the Paizo messageboards from now on. I'll see if I can throw some encounters and adventure pitches into the fire at Blazing Nine and other forums, so there's that too!

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

Christopher Wasko wrote:
RufusStoppable wrote:
I think it got deleted, but I posted asking if here was a way to follow your work. Meaning, do you have a blog or something where you post encounters or adventures?

Wow, that's very flattering, thank you! I have an Obsidian Portal account for my homebrewed campaign, but the adventure log is written by my players, not me, plus it's pretty hard to follow the actual storyline and adventure arcs in that medium and the campaign is presently on hiatus. Aside from that, I'm sorry to say that I don't; at least, not yet! Since you asked, I might start up something like that, in which case I will be sure to let you know! =)

It also looks like I'm going to be much more active on the Paizo messageboards from now on. I'll see if I can throw some encounters and adventure pitches into the fire at Blazing Nine and other forums, so there's that too!

I wonder if I'd be allowed to stat up and post the adventure I pitched for if I made it to the top four. I was pretty proud of it. Does anyone know the rules about that (OGL, copyright, and whatnot)?

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka motteditor

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It's all yours, other than stuff that's intrinsic to Golarion, I believe. "Ironwall Gap Must Hold" is based off what I would have pitched in 2012.

While you're certainly free to just publish your pitch on Paizo or a blog, I'd suggest looking around and seeing if you can publish the module as a whole with a 3PP (again, assuming it's not so intrinsically tied into Golarion that it can't be turned into a generic campaign world). My impression is Adventure a Week was planning to run their Pathmaster module contest annually, so that's one possible venue for it.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

Jacob W. Michaels wrote:

It's all yours, other than stuff that's intrinsic to Golarion, I believe. "Ironwall Gap Must Hold" is based off what I would have pitched in 2012.

While you're certainly free to just publish your pitch on Paizo or a blog, I'd suggest looking around and seeing if you can publish the module as a whole with a 3PP (again, assuming it's not so intrinsically tied into Golarion that it can't be turned into a generic campaign world). My impression is Adventure a Week was planning to run their Pathmaster module contest annually, so that's one possible venue for it.

That is awesome! I'll definitely look into that! The basic premise is pretty generalizable, my only concern is that I designed it to be in Vigil, which is a pretty distinct Golarion specific setting. But now that I think on it, I should be able to finagle around that and put it in a generic setting pretty easily. Does Adventure a Week have a thread here or a link elsewhere? Are they looking for a proposal or a full adventure?

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka motteditor

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AAW's pitch page

Ironwall Gap was originally intended for Lastwall, which is an area I really like -- I was considering an idea this year for Vigil though it never quite came together.

(Honestly, though, in my case, it worked out a little better not setting it in Golarion, as it let me work the terrain exactly how I wanted it to be.)

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

RufusStoppable wrote:
I think it got deleted, but I posted asking if here was a way to follow your work. Meaning, do you have a blog or something where you post encounters or adventures?

I know it's pretty far after at this point, but in response to your question I am now a regular contributor on Mike Kimmel's Freelance Forge page, including the site's upcoming blog. You can check out most of my work there.

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Astugr Lighthouse