City of Blood & Chains

Round 4: Submit an adventure proposal

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

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City of Blood & Chains

Corentyn, situated where the Inner Sea meets the Arcadian Ocean, boasts a flourishing slave trade.The Order of the Chain oversees these dealings, but the Hellknights are not incorruptible. Resistance groups and criminals take advantage of their greed to smuggle slaves through the city. When a ruthless crime lord implicates the PCs in the murder of several Hellknights, they uncover a plot to destroy the resistance from within.

City of Blood & Chains is a Pathfinder module designed for 3rd-level characters. PCs on the medium XP advancement track can expect to reach 4th level by the adventure’s conclusion. In the adventure, the PCs must navigate the criminal underworld of the Chelaxian city of Corentyn to clear their names of a brutal crime, find the true culprits, and foil a mad zealot’s insidious plot.

Adventure Background
Even before he went mad, Drachius Vilario’s devotion to Cheliax was fanatical. As an Asmodean Inquisitor working with the Hellknight Order of the Chain, he rooted out corruption and eliminated resistance organizations within Corentyn—especially those which worked to liberate slaves. Six months ago, he discovered that several Hellknights were accepting bribes from Sorenia Lorict, a freedom fighter from Andoran working undercover as a city guard. He learned the Hellknights were on the payroll of the bugbear crime lord Borza Eyegrinder. Eyegrinder and his men made a tidy sum in Andoren coin smuggling slaves through the ancient tunnels under the Arch of Aroden.

When he learned of Vilario’s investigation, Eyegrinder captured the inquisitor and tortured him for weeks, then dumped his body in the sea beneath the Arch. Vilario survived—racked with pain, disfigured, and dangerously insane.

In the ruins at the base of the Arch, Vilario encountered a sect of Arodenites, the delusional worshippers of a dead god. He overpowered the cultists, cutting the eyes from their leaders in an echo of Eyegrinder’s favored punishment. With the cultists forced into his service, the seeds of Vilario’s plot were born.

Vilario remains devoted to Cheliax. Taking on a false persona—that of a smuggler called Bloodcoat—he has identified the corrupt Hellknights and manipulated them into turning slaves over to him. Deep in his sanctum, he puts the Eyegrinder’s lessons to use on the slaves, experimenting with the power of pain to shape their minds. He means to bend them to his will, to serve as spies amongst the slaves of Corentyn and root out those who oppose the iron law of Cheliax.

Sorenia Lorict has learned that the slaves whose freedom she so dearly bought never reached their destination. She has set a meeting with the corrupt Hellknights to confront them. Unfortunately, Eyegrinder has discovered the traitors and made arrangements for their elimination. The adventure begins as Sorenia and the PCs arrive at the scene of their grisly demise.

Getting Involved
Sorenia asks the PCs for their help in confronting the corrupt Hellknights and learning the truth about the missing slaves. The PCs might be fellow freedom fighters, former slaves, sympathetic Chelaxians, hired mercenaries, or skilled adventurers with a reputation for getting things done.

Part One: Fleeing the Scene
The PCs flee the scene of a crime they didn’t commit, avoiding arrest by Hellknights and establishing a hideout beneath the streets.

The PCs travel with Sorenia Lorict (NG female fighter 2/rogue 1) into the foggy Warehouse District. As they near the condemned warehouse where they are to meet with Sorenia’s contacts in the Order of the Chain, she cautions them to be wary of the Hellknights, who stand above the law.

Darkness shrouds the interior of the warehouse, save for a single dying lantern. Beyond the mouldering crates which clutter the floor, five Hellknights lie dead upon the floor, partially stripped of their distinctive armor and bound with chains. Their bodies display signs of torture—severed digits, bloody gashes, and empty eye sockets. Before the PCs have time to take in the scene or search for clues, two dottari (Chelaxian city guards, GameMastery Guide 260) arrive, accompanied by a Hellknight in training (guard officer, GameMastery Guide 261). Sorenia urges the PCs to flee; the Hellknight is violently disinterested in any protestations of innocence.

Once the PCs escape or defeat the guards, Sorenia takes them to a hidden entrance which leads to ancient tunnels running beneath the streets of Corentyn. The sound of Hellknights in full plate armor filters down from the streets as the PCs flee.

Sorenia leads the PCs beneath the West Drenches district, widely considered the most unruly part of town. Here she parts ways with the PCs, heading to the surface to gather information. She provides directions to Marcellus’s Mercantile, a general store that serves as a front for the underground liberation movement. There the PCs can rest and plan their next move.

At the safehouse, the PCs encounter Marcellus (NG male shopkeep, GameMastery Guide 284) and his assistant Limm (CG male halfling rogue 2), an escaped slave disguised as a human child. They allow the PCs to stay and rest, and can provide information, but are reluctant to get too involved lest they jeopardize their operation.

Part Two: The Streets of Corentyn
The PCs avoid detection while investigating the warehouse incident and the missing slaves.

Corentyn quickly grows hazardous for the PCs. Krezzik, a wicked imp in Eyegrinder’s employ, observed their actions at the warehouse and has spread rumors of their guilt. Squads of dottari patrol the streets at increased intervals. Citizens are far more distrusting than usual, and even the greediest shopkeepers avoid the PCs. If they linger in the streets, citizens point and whisper, or approach the Hellknights to turn them in. Every exit from Corentyn is heavily guarded, and the warehouse—scoured of all useful evidence—swarms with angry Hellknights.

The events detailed in Part Two can occur in the recommended order below, or another order the GM feels is appropriate. If the PCs get stuck, the GM can have Sorenia or Marcellus discover a useful piece of information leading them to one of these encounters.

Encounter 1: The Priest’s Haunt
The PCs learn that an unscrupulous judge named Magnessa Alazonn (LN human cleric of Asmodeus 5) was helping the corrupt Hellknights and taking a cut of the profits. In the evening, she frequently sits in a secluded, rubble-filled courtyard outside Gallows Walls (Cities of Golarion 15) to listen to the screams emanating from the quarantined district. A master of giving and accepting bribes, she is willing to help the PCs only if they approach her properly. Using Knowledge (local or religion), the PCs can determine how to bribe Alazonn; if they fail to follow the proper procedures, or resort to force, she attempts to chase them off with magic. However, she is a coward at heart and surrenders if seriously injured.

The PCs can learn the following information from Alazonn:

  • The corrupt Hellknights work for Eyegrinder, a bugbear smuggler known for eating the eyes of his enemies.
  • Recently, the Hellknights began working for a man called “Bloodcoat,” a fact they concealed from Eyegrinder.
  • The Hellknights were in the business of finding slaves to smuggle out of the city—for both the resistance and slavers wishing to avoid tariffs.
  • A number of city guards, former crewmen, and corrupt Hellknights serve Eyegrinder as enforcers and spies.
  • Alazonn does not know the whereabouts of either Eyegrinder or Bloodcoat, but she suggests the PCs talk to Nixthiro, an information broker in the West Drenches, to learn more.

Encounter 2: The King of Secrets
The PCs visit Nixthiro to learn more about the criminal element in Corentyn. Nixthiro, a filth dragon (R2), rules over a ragtag group of urchins and ruffians from his “throne,” a pile of detritus blocking one of the city’s waste-dumping aqueducts. Though arrogant and greedy, the self-styled “King of Secrets” is always willing to trade in information and trinkets. Nixthiro demands deference from those who would treat with him, and tasty offerings please him as well.

For a price, the PCs can learn the following information:

  • The bugbear Borza Eyegrinder is a former pirate and a smuggler. The rumors about his appetite for eyeballs are true.
  • Eyegrinder employs an imp alchemist, Krezzik, who serves as poison-maker, spy, and torturer, as well as Eyegrinder’s personal chef.
  • The last person to go snooping around Eyegrinder’s operation—an Asmodean Inquisitor no less—was tortured and dumped in the sea.
  • Eyegrinder’s smuggling operation is small but lucrative. He makes his profits by undercutting Corentyn’s tariffs.
  • Nixthiro does not know where Eyegrinder himself hides out, but he directs the PCs to the Bloody Barrel, where they can find Eyegrinder’s recruiter, Lorvel Prete.
  • The city’s newest slave smuggler, Bloodcoat, is extremely secretive. Nixthiro knows little about him, but suspects Eyegrinder is displeased by the competition.

Encounter 3: Nowhere to Hide
While traveling beneath the streets, the PCs notice a young woman (beggar, GameMastery Guide 300) following them. A former member of the Thin Wisps (thieves guild, Cities of Golarion 23) named Elia, she is now an unwilling spy for Krezzik. When the PCs notice her, she flees through the maze of ruined streets, leading them past a makeshift collapsing wall trap (new trap) protecting her hideout. She lives in squalor with a sullen earth mephit (Bestiary 202) named Plodlum. They are not hostile and put up little resistance, unless the PCs harm Elia, in which case the mephit retaliates.

The PCs can use Diplomacy or Intimidate to learn the following from Elia and Plodlum:

  • An imp regularly visits Elia to give her assignments, threatening harm if she disobeys. He forced her to follow the PCs, warning her not to trust the “vicious murderers.”
  • The imp has never revealed his name, but he has peeling, blotchy skin and carries numerous strange bottles.
  • Elia doesn’t know where to find the imp. He always comes to her, appearing out of thin air or whispering orders from the darkness.

Encounter 4: The Bloody Barrel
The Bloody Barrel, one of the rowdier establishments in the West Drenches, is more arena than tavern. Here, sailors, soldiers, thugs, and slaves beat one another senseless in front of jeering crowds for the chance to win a bit of coin. While the bouts follow the strict rules and regulations of the city, serious injuries and even deaths are fairly routine. Eyegrinder’s goons are frequent customers (and combatants) at the Bloody Barrel, and he uses the bouts to recruit enforcers. His lead recruiter is his old first mate, Lorvel Prete (NE dealer, GameMastery Guide 301), a greasy individual with a taste for mind-altering substances and berating his muscle-bound underlings. The PCs must rough up a trio of these thugs (street thugs, GameMastery Guide 265) to gain entry to Prete’s back room. Using intimidation or force, the PCs can convince him to reveal Eyegrinder’s location: the Bilge Guzzler, docked near the Warehouse District.

Part Three: The Bilge Guzzler
Seeking to find the missing slaves and confront the true murderer, the PCs go to Eyegrinder’s hideout. After defeating Eyegrinder and his crew, they discover clues leading them to Bloodcoat’s lair.

Eyegrinder’s old smuggling ship, the Bilge Guzzler, hasn’t set sail in years. Moored near the Warehouse District and exempt from inspections thanks to hefty bribes, it serves as Eyegrinder’s hideout. He conducts most of his business elsewhere, and only his most trusted toadies—primarily former crewmembers—know he resides there.

Krezzik (LE imp alchemist 2) and a pair of assassins (skulking brutes, NPC Codex 144) ambush the PCs in the Warehouse District on their way to the Guzzler. At the ship, the PCs find five crewmen (NE shipmates, GameMastery Guide 294) patrolling the upper deck. Any disturbance alerts Eyegrinder (NE bugbear fighter 3) to the PCs’ presence, allowing him ample time to prepare an ambush in the shadowy quarters below.

After defeating Eyegrinder, the PCs are free to search his cabin. Amid the jars of pickled eyes, severed fingers, and other disturbing trophies, they discover bloody Hellknight helmets, as well as a map of the Warehouse District clearly indicating the crime scene. Of possibly greater interest, they find a map of some ruined tunnels which lead beneath the Arch of Aroden to Bloodcoat’s lair, along with half-formed plans to storm the tunnels. By now it should become clear that Eyegrinder had the Hellknights killed for dealing with Bloodcoat, and that the slaves can only be saved by infiltrating the hidden lair.

Part Four: In the Shadow of the Arch
The PCs follow Eyegrinder’s map to Vilario’s underground lair, confront the fiendish creatures and crazed cultists who call him master, and face the inquisitor himself in a climactic battle overlooking the raging sea.

The map from Eyegrinder’s cabin leads the PCs through the ruined streets beneath Corentyn to the Arch of Aroden. Large, crumbling stone doors serve as the entrance to the temple of Aroden where Vilario first enslaved the cultists. A hell hound (Bestiary 173) guards the entrance. Inside the temple, near the altar where Vilario tortured his Arodenite victims, the PCs face a haunt that sickens them with memories of excruciating pain (new haunt) and heralds the arrival of a pair of hollows (new monster), the reanimated bodies of two of the cultists who died under Vilario’s blade.

New Monster: Hollow (CR 2)

A hollow is the risen body of a person who died after being blinded by some horrific accident or torture. Unable to see, they rely on sound to locate their victims. When they hear a creature nearby, they grapple it and drain its vision, temporarily regaining their sight and leaving the creature blind. A humanoid slain while blinded in this way soon rises as a hollow.

Nearby, the PCs discover Ursius (LN human witch 4), the leader of the cultists, who foolishly believes the patron who grants his spells to be Aroden himself. Vilario also blinded Ursius, but the cultist survived, unable to escape past the hell hound but safe from the hollows, who ignored him due to his blindness. He tells the PCs of Vilario’s appearance and the cruelties which followed. He knows that Vilario makes his lair in the crumbling ruins above. Ursius may also tell the PCs of the shrine below, where the cult keeps its treasures—particularly if they convince him they are devout believers in Aroden’s eventual, triumphant return.

Bonus Location: The Sinking Shrine

A large portion of the ruined temple to Aroden sunk below sea level long ago, and much of it lies knee-deep (or worse) in stagnant water. Numerous hazards infest the ruins, from giant vermin to submerged passages, but the most dangerous is a clever mimic (Bestiary 205) which disguises itself as a statue of Aroden within the shrine, speaking to the cultists in a deep voice to demand tributes of treasure and food. The cultists have left their “god” many gifts over the years, including numerous potions, ancient coins, weapons, and several pints of silverlight oil.

New Magic Item: Silverlight Oil

When used as fuel in a lantern, silverlight oil produces a bright light which repels creatures that are vulnerable to silver. Such creatures become sickened within the illuminated area and must succeed at a Will save to remain there. Possession of silverlight oil is a crime in Cheliax due to its effectiveness against devils.

An accuser devil (Bestiary 2 84) serves Vilario as a scout and spy. It attacks the PCs as they navigate a treacherous sloping passage, using magic to hinder their progress. It fights until near death before teleporting away, then uses its infernal eye to show Vilario the intruders. As is common practice, Vilario kills the devil so that it cannot reveal his activities to others.

Two lemure devils (Bestiary 79) guard the final approach to Vilario’s lair. Fallen columns, narrow passages, and doorways blocked by crumbling stone all serve to hamper the PCs’ progress as they battle their way past the devils. Vilario’s four most devoted cultists (NE prisoners, GameMastery Guide 270) attack the PCs in the inquisitor’s meager living quarters, fighting with suicidal abandon to please their master.

Finally, the PCs confront Vilario in his torture chamber. The room is ringed with dozens of prisoners chained to the walls, to one another, or lying feebly on the floor. Though most are slaves and cultists, the prisoners include a pair of Hellknights, who wrongly suspected that Bloodcoat was behind the killing of their fellows. Parts of the western wall have crumbled, revealing the cliffs and sea beyond—providing a convenient method for disposing of corpses and other waste.

Drachius Vilario (LE human inquisitor 7), in blood-drenched black robes and an iron mask which mark him as an Asmodean Inquisitor, relentlessly attacks the PCs. Many of the chained prisoners are mad with agony or desperate for freedom. They reach out to grasp at the clothes and limbs of any PCs who wander too close, while shying away from Vilario when he comes near. This, along with the crumbling western walls, adds to the challenge of the encounter.

With Vilario’s defeat, the PCs free the prisoners and prevent his plot to infiltrate the slave community. Sorenia, now armed with detailed maps of the tunnels, can begin smuggling slaves to safety without involving corrupt Hellknights or criminals. The rescued Hellknights quash the investigation into the PCs and promise to look the other way regarding Sorenia’s operation.

Congratulations, Mike! "City of Blood & Chains" is a strong proposal, and I enjoyed the opportunity to read it.

It's often tricky to incorporate a NPC in the party without having the NPC become a giant "go THERE next" beacon for the GM. I think the adventure would be stronger if Sorenia didn't actually accompany the party in Part One.

I also worry that the ultimate villain, Vilario, feels like something of an afterthought or a side quest--I just don't buy the idea that he wants to infiltrate the slave-liberating scheme by torturing people into becoming his agents. I sort of feel this adventure would be better without Part Four: There is a fine story to be told between Hellknights, the resistance, and the bugbear crime lord, and I would like to see that emphasized. (Vilario might work just fine if he's a still a Hellknight, and could be the primary Hellknight villain the PCs have to worry about.)

Some of the things I liked best about "City of Blood & Chains":
- It's very sandbox-ish, and offers the players a lot of room to choose their path through the story.
- Setting the PCs up as wanted criminals is a great deal of fun. Yours is the only one of the finalist proposals that does this, and you pull it off well.
- There is a good mix of monsters and NPC villains -- urban adventures are often light on honest-to-gosh monsters to fight. I especially like the bugbear crime lord.
- The bugbear's ship is an excellent bad guy lair, and would make a great setting for an adventure climax (if you went that way).

While I feel that "City of Blood & Chains" is burdened with some backstory it doesn't need and the wrong ultimate villain, I think it does possess a lot of potential. There is an interesting and evocative situation to work with, a couple of strong characters, and a lot of room for player decision points -- with work, this could be a great adventure. I like to reward the potential of an adventure proposal, not just the proposal at hand. So, with that in mind:

I recommend "City of Blood & Chains" as my second-place choice for winner of RPG Superstar 2014.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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First of all, congratulations on making it to the final round! That's an accomplishment in and of itself! My review of this 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 City of Blood & Chains

The Basics
Title: This is a good title... but we don’t want the ampersand in the final title if this adventure wins—it’ll change to City of Blood and Chains if that comes to pass.

Location: Corentyn is an excellent choice for this adventure, and the adventure’s plot fits well within the character level requirement.

Plot: The adventure’s plot seems to me to be better suited for a short story or novel than an adventure. Mysteries are one of the hardest adventures to design, after all, since you have to ride a thin line between giving the solution away and being so obscure that no one can solve the mystery. With this adventure’s relatively linear structure, it seems to me to fall on the too-easy side. Furthermore, several characters seem to be acting at odds to their alignment or expected role in the game.

The Good

  • 1) Hellknights! Interesting to see these guys get into multiple submissions this year. The idea of a corrupt group of Hellknights working inside an established order is an interesting idea... but see Development Challenge #2 below.
  • 2) The fact that the PCs are fugitives is a great element to explain why they have to go on the adventure and do the work of solving a murder/mystery themselves rather than leaving the work to the city’s actual guards and resources... but setting things up so that the PCs are fugitives can be really tricky... see Development Challenge #6 below.
  • 3) Part Three and Four are the strongest sections of the adventure as presented, with a good range of challenges and opportunities and interesting locations to face and explore.
  • 4) The Hollow is a cool idea for a vision stealing undead creature... although the name needs to change to something more appropriate for what it actually is. (Especially since the word “Hollow” is used as a general classification for undead in Dark Souls.)
  • 5) A mimic masquerading as a talking deity statue/shrine is a cool idea, but as mentioned in Development Challenges below, I’d like to avoid associating it with Aroden.

Development Challenges

  • 1) There’s not a lot going on in this adventure—a typical adventure of this length should have enough going on for PCs to cover at least 2 or 3 levels, if not 4.
  • 2) While I like the idea of there being a small group of corrupt Hellknights who are accepting bribes, I don’t like the idea that they’re working with the freedom fighters. This sets the “corrupt” Hellknights up as good guys, not bad guys. Especially when you throw in eye-eating bugbears and the like. Rather than have these corrupt Hellknights helping to smuggle slaves to freedom, they should be working to smuggle slaves to a fate worse than slavery—to be sacrifices or torture victims or whatever of the bugbear and other shady groups who need slaves for their nefarious deeds. This does mean that the role of Sorenia Lorict needs to change—she should be concerned that someone seems to be freeing slaves but those slaves are ending up going missing or worse, rather than actually have contact with the Hellknights or being involved with the situation.
  • 3) Borza Eyegrinder is a cool bad guy... but he’s a bugbear, and someone who eats eyes and who’s a bugbear, he’s not a good choice for someone to be liberating and freeing slaves. He should be a bad guy, not a slave liberator.
  • 4) Aroden and his worshipers are an INCREDIBLY powerful theme—to the extent that including them tends to overwhelm storylines because folks are so eager to squeeze more info out of Paizo regarding Golarion’s biggest mystery. This adventure’s focus as a mystery needs to remain focused on the plot, and adding in distractions like Aroden worshipers causes too much distraction. The Aroden cultists in this adventure don’t have to be worshipers of Aroden—they can be worshipers of any group, or even just a non-religious group, since their only role is to provide Vilario with minions. It’d be best if they changed to some other group so that the adventure remains focused on the plot. Aroden isn’t something I’m comfortable exploring in this adventure, in other words.
  • 5) Someone who works as an undercover slave liberator in a society where slavery is legal is pretty much the definition of chaotic good; Sorenia Lorict’s alignment should change to chaotic good.
  • 6) The initial scene where the PCs are set up/misunderstood/framed as the murderers is something that works great for a story, but not so great for adventures. It’s the type of railroading that tends to break adventures—it’s not quite as bad as the “PCs must be captured in this scene for the rest of the adventure to work,” but it’s close. There’s an expectation among players that encounters are designed so that they’ve a chance to win, after all, and starting an adventure with an encounter that turns the PCs into fugitives is really tricky. We’ve tried this before, with the first adventure in Council of Thieves, and it was a hard sell to the customers.
  • 7) In fact, the opening of this adventure, with the PCs being essentially chased into the sewers of a Chelish city by Hellknights is VERY similar to the start of Council of Thieves, which I’d rather not echo.
  • 8) The halfling assistant at the safehouse needs a name change. Limm is too close to “Lem,” the name of our halfing bard iconic.
  • 9) Sections in adventures are Chapters, not Parts.
  • 10) Magnessa Alazonn should be lawful evil, not lawful neutral. Her personality can absolutely remain the same, with her accepting bribes and helping PCs if they approach her right, but she should represent Asmodeus as a proper cleric. The one-step-alignment rule is really more appropriate for PCs and for NPCs whose whole point and theme are about near-heretical beliefs, and having her be a heretic of Asmodeus isn’t appropriate for her role in the adventure.
  • 11) Again... the corrupt Hellknights need to be bad guys. They shouldn’t be helping slaves gain their freedom and a better life; they should be cashing in on selling the slaves to a WORSE life.
  • 12) Keep in mind that Corentyn is a human city, and that non-human citizens, while they certainly can exist, are going to be a strict minority. That should echo in this adventure. We’ve already got a bugbear playing a key role in the adventure; adding in a filth dragon and an earth mephit starts to make Corentyn feel too varied to me. I’d like to limit these “monster NPCs” to as few as possible, keeping them to roles where it makes sense to have them. Particularly in the case of something like a filth dragon, which is a brand new monster that doesn’t even yet have a niche or role in Golarion... introducing a new monster like this needs to be done in a more important to the plot method. And earth mephits are VERY unlikely to just be slumming it in the city and hanging out with beggars.
  • 13) The entirety of the second portion of the adventure feels too linear, and also feels just too short. Four encounters is not enough to support an entire central portion of an adventure—it’d be better if these were four GROUPS of encounters, which would help boost the adventure’s contents significantly.
  • 14) There’s a lot of use of GameMastery Guide stat blocks in here—I’d rather keep that to a minimum, if possible, since it’s more valuable to have NPCs designed for specific roles in adventures when we can. Especially when the adventure feels like it’s going to be light on wordcount anyway due to there being an unusually low number of encounters. This is also an excellent way to build your adventure’s personality and theme... further, it gives us things to illustrate that are unique to the adventure. If there’s only a couple of unique stat blocks in an adventure, we don’t have enough art opportunities.

Final Thoughts
This adventure has an interesting plot, but it’s the type of plot that’s really difficult to turn into an adventure. The first half of the adventure, particularly part 2, will need a LOT of work to get into a place where it won’t feel like a railroad with the PCs being forced into the roles of fugitives and then forced to follow a series of events that hand out clues. The inclusion of Aroden elements further overcomplicates things, and alignments for NPCs are too loose and awkward considering their actual in-world roles and motives. And while the last two parts of the adventure are pretty meaty, the first half feels way too short with not enough to do while simultaneously feeling too complicated. Finally, the over-reliance on generic NPC stat blocks results in a shortage of new and adventure-specific characters for us to illustrate.

I do not recommend "City of Blood and Chains" for consideration as the winner of RPG Superstar 2014.


Hi, Mike! I enjoyed reading "City of Blood & Chains" and thought it was an excellent proposal. I have a few comments for you to consider, both for this proposal and for future writing. I’m approaching my judging from the perspective of a freelancer who’s had to learn some hard lessons over the years. I hope my comments encourage you and help improve your writing as you continue in the RPG industry.

First off, Drachius Vilario is an excellent bad-guy name. There’s no doubt that this man is a bad dude, and not because he’s into fudging his tax returns or tearing the tags off of mattresses, either.

I wish Vilario was more distinct, though. I thought Eyegrinder had a stronger motivation and personality overall (as well as a badass name). I'm generally in favor of cutting the backstory as much as possible and focusing on the PCs’ opportunities instead, but in this case Vilario could use more fleshing out (pun intended). If he had a previous connection to the temple of Aroden, for example, or a personal reason for believing the legal slave trade was vital to Cheliax’s stability, that would make him a more well-rounded villain. Maybe he was a slave himself once and by working hard and making himself indispensable, he rose to the position of Head Bad Guy and therefore believes slavery is a good way of weeding out the weak and strengthening the strong? Something like that makes him extra-twisted beyond the whole “tortured to insanity” bit.

Overall the NPCs were complex creations with varied motivations and allegiances. Maybe too varied in some cases. The first paragraph of the adventure background could have laid these loyalties out more clearly. The line:


Six months ago, he discovered that several Hellknights were accepting bribes from Sorenia Lorict, a freedom fighter from Andoran working undercover as a city guard. He learned the Hellknights were on the payroll of the bugbear crime lord Borza Eyegrinder.

made me think at first that Sorenia and Eyegrinder were working together. It took me a few more paragraphs to untangle that the Hellknights were working for Eyegrinder but double-crossing him by also accepting bribes from Sorenia (at least I think that’s what happened?) So they’re Hellknights (generally evil types) working for Eyegrinder to help him avoid slave tarrifs but then secretly also working for Sorenia to help her smuggle slaves out, am I getting that right? Did Eyegrinder not pay enough, maybe? Or after a while perhaps you get tired of finding mushed eyeballs mixed into your sack of gold.

Your encounters are a good mix of roleplaying and combat, with a variety of interesting opponents (I love the mephit. Plodlum! You really have a gift for names). I like how you considered how the environment could add to combat, as in the final encounter with Vilario. The final encounter seems extremely dangerous for a group of 3rd-level PCs (a 7th-level villain plus environmental dangers) but I see everyone else made their ultimate villain 7th-level or higher as well so I guess it’s something the kids are doing these days. Whippersnappers. In my day, average party level +2 was good enough.

You mention the events in Part Two can be done in another order, but the one you have laid out seems like the most logical. Another order would require skipping over events or moving straight to Part Three (for example, if the PCs go to the Bloody Barrel right away, there’s no reason for them to visit anyone else). To make the encounters more relevant, they can offer the PCs something besides leading them to the next “step” in the investigation. For example, if Alazonn says, “Nixthiro knows where Eyegrinder hides himself; the two have had dealings in the past. I’ve heard Nixthrio keeps a close eye on Eyegrinder’s defenses and knows the best routes into his lair,” the PCs still have a reason to visit Nixthiro even if they learn about Eyegrinder’s barge.

Your title, “City of Blood & Chains,” is okay but a little generic. I hate saying this because titles are my bane. I haven’t seen ampersands in product titles before so you might consider removing it. Words like “blood” “evil” “darkness” and so forth are very common in roleplaying writing and figuring out a jazzier noun can help immensely. Try to relate the title to the events of the adventure; maybe something like, “The Eyes Have It”?

No. No don’t name it that.

I actually like your title for Part Four, “In the Shadow of the Arch.” Or even “Shadow of the Arch.” Arch is a good word that doesn’t appear it titles very often. And it’s shorter, and shorter titles tend to fit better on pages and show off more artwork from what I understand. Or something about freedom…because the slaves are getting freed (or not) and also the PCs are fighting to stay free because they’ve been falsely accused. “Bloody Freedom” maybe because they have to buy their liberty with lots o’ killing. Oh! “Blood-Bought Freedom”! It’s perfect. Take that suggestion with a grain of salt, though, because I always have to go through a dozen titles before one sticks.

You write clearly and concisely without being boring. A little more flexibility in the earlier encounters and a stronger villain would make this adventure great. Congratulations on your excellent entry! I recommend “City of Blood & Chains” (alternate title: Blood-Bought Freedom) as my first choice for winner of RPG Superstar 2014.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Mark D Griffin

First off, congrats on making it this far, you've been a favorite of mine since round 2. I wanted to write a couple of things before I forget them.

I agree with James that there aren't really enough encounters here for a module, but I suspect that may have something to do with this line in the rules:


The following topics are to be considered mandatory:

1. The Module's Name
2. The recommended starting level of the adventure (3rd), and the level most PCs will be when they complete it successfully (in most cases this is 3rd or 4th level).

Emphasis Mine

When I read that line, I thought it seemed weird that the contest rules seemed to think you'd only level once (or not at all) over a module. My guess is that you took that line to heart, unlike your competitors, to your pitch's detriment.

Second, I agree with Amber in that I'm not sure about the exact allegiance of the dead Hellknights. At first it seemed like they worked for Sorenia and Eyegrinder together, but later it seemed like that wasn't true. It wasn't clear basically.

I'll come back later and say more about what I did and didn't like.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Mark D Griffin wrote:
R4 Rules wrote:

1. The Module's Name

2. The recommended starting level of the adventure (3rd), and the level most PCs will be when they complete it successfully (in most cases this is 3rd or 4th level).

Emphasis Mine

When I read that line, I thought it seemed weird that the contest rules seemed to think you'd only level once (or not at all) over a module. My guess is that you took that line to heart, unlike your competitors, to your pitch's detriment.

That is a bit of legacy text from when the modules were only 32 pages. One of the competitors brought this up to me during the R4 design period, I discussed it with James Jacobs, and we privately sent all the Top 4 the following update:


When a Pathfinder Module was 32 pages, it was reasonable for it to cover about 1–2 levels worth of adventuring. Now that they're 64 pages, it gives Paizo (and the author) more flexibility in determining the level range for an adventure. In an Adventure Path, there's a specific requirement for what level the PCs have to be when they finish the adventure (so they're the right level to start the next adventure), but the Modules don't have that limitation. For example, The Dragon's Demand covers 6–7 levels and Wardens of the Reborn Forge covers 3 levels.

Therefore, your adventure doesn't have to be written so the PCs finish at 3rd or 4th level. If you feel your adventure is better if the PCs reach level 5 or higher by the end of it, feel free to make that choice. However, we recommend against broadening the levels too much beyond that (for example, starting at 3rd level and ending at 7th is probably too ambitious for the constraints of this adventure).


So all four competitors were aware of this change as of February 21.

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

Fantastic! Really liked the setting for the final showdown and the hollow is a great monster.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Mark D Griffin

Thanks for the update Sean.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

I could buy one corrupt Hellknight. Maybe even two. But at least five and probably more? That is a bridge too far for me. If it were any other law enforcement organization, I would be squarely in the corner for this entry. Maybe if the Hellknights had decided that the moral concept of freeing the slaves was greater than their oath and allied with their employer out of convenience, I could get behind it...

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

Hey Mike,

I'm going to go through these doing my best not to read any judges/other voters' comments (though I'll admit I've glanced at a few). My thoughts will pretty much be stream of consciousness.

I'm afraid you've got my least favorite title of the four pitches. I think it's the ampersand that really throws me, but I guess it also doesn't really feel apt to me for Corentyn, maybe? I feel like "The Blinded City" or something along those lines/playing with vision might work. I don't profess to be an expert namer, though. :)

Corentyn! I noted in Victoria's comments that I really liked Vigil as a location, but Corentyn was probably my No. 2 choice. It's where I'd have set my module, so I'm excited to see what you've got.

The background seems fine, though having the injured inquisitor take down the cult single-handedly seemed a bit odd and threw me for a few moments. I might also have liked to see Sorenia be part of the Bellflower Network. Corrupt Hellknights seems like a fun area to play with, and I like the take on a perverted Underground Railroad.

I wasn't really a fan of Part I, however. It felt like it came right out of "Council of Thieves." It's tricky, since obviously your module is coming after tons and tons of other published adventures, but this scene just felt a little too similar to my taste (of course, plenty of people haven't played that, and the details will be somewhat different, so maybe others won't see that as a problem).

Part II gets to the crux of the mystery. But I can't decide if I think there're enough clues here. I know you say the encounters can go in another order, but in some ways it feels like a little too much leading and they have to be presented in order (they don't learn of Nixthiro unless they go to Alazonn, for example). Maybe that's just the way it's set up in the pitch, since obviously one of these encounters has to be first? Encounter 3 obviously doesn't depend on the other encounters first ... I think maybe if the pitch had included multiple ways PCs could have learned of each lead, which could obviously be included in the final module, it might have worked better for me.

Oh, and filth dragon instead of guttersnipe? For shame, for shame... (Just kidding on this one.) :)

Part III almost feels like the climax. I'm not sure there's been enough to set up the BBEG previously to make the PCs realize they need to look beyond Eyegrinder. I think Vilario has to show his hand a little bit -- or at least get some more hints as to his presence -- before this point. I like the idea of the new haunt.

The new monsters sound very cool -- I like the idea of targeting vision -- except for their name. I don't think that really works well and I'd expect it to be changed. Still, I think they've got a definite creep factor that I like, even if they have a kind of minor role to play in the whole module. I'm not sure though that it makes sense they ignore Ursius. They hunt by sound, so they'd be aware of him. Is all they're trying to do steal other creatures' vision? If so, what slays their victims (which is what causes more of these creatures to rise)?

Sinking Shrine: Great bonus location, IMO. Who doesn't want to explore a sunken temple to a dead god? That's gold. (Of course, it gets into that problem with bonus locations in that the really good ones make me want them to be part of the module, but that's not your problem.)

I like the new magic item, too, and it seems like something that could easily be adapted to many other types of oils (reminding me of the scrolls that were put into lanterns from Superstar 2012's Round 1). I like the idea of it being illegal in Cheliax; I just wish it was something that could be used in the big climactic fight instead of just against the mooks, though.

And finally, I think you're implying that the finale of the module takes place in Aroden's Redoubt, the crumbling fort atop Aroden's Arch, which is mentioned in "Cities of Golarion." If so, that's awesome -- that was going to be where my module finished. It's an awesome location, and I wish you'd called it out explicitly and had a little more going on there; that's a whole dungeon just waiting to be written up. I just think players would get really jazzed for that scene, fighting amid this crumbling fort high atop the city. It's one of the things that most makes me want to vote for this module, though I'm also doing so assuming I'm judging your intentions correctly.

I've still got two more to go (plus read the judges and everyone else's comments), but right now I'm on the fence on this one. I think there are some cool ideas and I think you may well have been leading the pack coming into this round, but I'm not sure it all quite comes together for me.

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

Mike, congrats on the final round. Overall, I felt that this was both too simple and too complicated simultaneously (I know, really useful advice.) On one hand, I had a very had time understanding who was doing what and allied to whom. By the time I was done reading, I chalked it up to "everyone's betraying everyone and/or double crossing them." At the same time, the adventure seems pretty linear, and made a lot of assumptions on what the PCs would do, and how they'd do it. I know a lot of PCs would just say "this isn't what I signed up for, I choose my adventure to be getting the hell out of town and never coming back."

I thought it was very awkward reading all of the NPC's GameMastery Guide references. Not only did it not make it easy to know instantly what kind of stat blocks we're assuming, compared to just fighter 2 or rogue 3, etc., but there shouldn't be a need for these GM aide stat blocks in a finished product. It's great to use them in earlier rounds of RPG Superstar, when you're constrained to not adding stat blocks all over the place, but you wouldn't use them that way in a read adventure.

Finally, I will echo Isaac's comment about not buying all of the corrupt Hellknights in Cheliax. Hellknights are the most loyal and dedicated Chelaxians around, they're lawful with a capital 'L'. Not only are lots of them in this adventure corrupt, but there's a corrupt judge in town also? Seems that this should be a Chaotic city, not a Lawful one at all. I also had a hard time buying the backstory of the villains. How did Vilario, a 7th level inquisitor get captured by a bugbear in the first place, not saying it's not possible, but doesn't seem likely. Then, once he was tortured and thrown in the ocean, he managed to not be dead? This is the horrible Eyegrinder who takes his victim's eyes (and sometimes fingers). Not only should Vilario be blind at the very least, but I don't see Eygrinder as the type to not be very thorough in making sure people he tortures are dead. I could completely buy Vilario coming back as an undead in these circumstances...but not simply "ha, I was playing possum all along!"

Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7

Big congrats on advancing so far as all your former entries have been favorites of mine.

Alas you chose to include a huge element of railroading that will never work with any of my groups. I simply have too many players that would rather stay and die than to flee into the stinking sewers, especially at 1st level, when a character is still "cheap" to replace, especially that early in the adventure when they don't have the goal almost in reach to force them going.

I feel that you wanted to do an adventure that plays with expectations but imho you chose the wrong expectations to play with. Hellknights are LE and I can see them breaking up with the "L" for personal gain, but never with the "E" yet imho you place your hellknight traitors firmly in the CN region of the alignment scale by helping to free slaves.

The role of the crime lord in there is equally vexing. Isn't he simply a middle man between Sorenia and the Hellknight Traitors? If so why do you suggest Sorenia contacting the Hellknights and not the Crime Lord? And why do we need the Crime Lord after all?

So all in all I see too many holes that my PCs would scoff at for being strange or "unrealistic".

I heard about RPG superstar from a colleague a little while ago and wanted have a look. Since only four are left, I try to comment each. I'm not a designer and so commenting just from player's perspective. I'll focus on three things: fun (memorable combat and so on), variety (use of different monsters, places and so on) and villain(s).

So, to summarize the action in this proposal,...


You have a warehouse fight, a safehouse location, end of part I.

Then a RP skill challenge, which disappointingly only requires one skill check and boom your done... if you happen to have the right skill. Ok another RP encounter, this time you only need bribes, so pretty straightforward and quick to play. And then another RP encounter that consists of a trap and a single skill check... Well I like it there are several RP encounters, but you can talk your way through them with a single check. The last one is definitely the most interesting one of the four, I like the atmosphere,... But I guess a trio of thugs is pretty pedestrian. End of part 2.

Then you have two fairly ok combats and an investigation scene which is really just a search scene. End of part 3.

Then you have three admitteldly more interesting encounters (intersting terrain, etc.) leading up to final encounter.

If I counted right, that's only 7 combats and a number of RP encounters that mostly require one skill check to solve. If you cut the number of combats to half and kept the rest of it intact, you'd have a very nice PFS scenario. But a full size adventure let alone 64 pages?? I just can't see this being a full adventure.

Which is sad because you write well, the text really flows nicely. I didn't get confused like when reading daughters of fury. Of these two that I've read first, I'd still say this one is better, more interesting plot and nice use of terrain and atmosphere. But let's see what the remaining two have...

Good luck in voting!

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

Congratulations again on making it to this level, Mike! Regardless of how things pan out, Paizo will be lucky to have you onboard as writer!

Your writing is beautiful, per usual. I love the narrative element that you wove into your proposal.

I had a little trouble following the overarching plot of the adventure during my first read-through. The wide variety of different organizations at play, between the freedom fighters and the corrupt Hellknights who are still bad and the thieves' guild who frees slaves but is still evil and the mad villain Vilario who is driving the story but not really...I'm worried that this proposal loses sight of the forest for the trees a wee bit.

The silverlight oil is outrageously cool. I wish I had come up with an item concept like that!

A really like the atmosphere of the PCs skulking around the city where they are wanted criminals. I wonder how a run-in with the authorities might pan out mechanically, however...

Your bugbear villain is outstanding. Love the name, his favored method of torture, his motivations, pretty much his whole design. The only thing I don't like is that he's a bugbear. I kind of read Paizo's bugbears as being pretty antisocial, so having one as the leader of a criminal organization is pretty outside of the creature's wheelhouse to me.

Your monster concept for the Hollow is also super cool, although I agree with James Jacobs that perhaps a name change might be in order.

Really, really well done, Mike. You should be very proud of everything you've accomplished, and likely will accomplish in the future! Best of luck with the voters!

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

Congratulations on making it this far, Mike! I've been a bit of a lurker throughout this contest since I didn't want my comments to come across as propaganda on my brother's behalf, so this is the first round where I feel I can contribute my opinions while voting is open. You've been consistently churning out gold throughout this competition, so I'm excited to see what your full adventure proposal will look like.

Things That Got Me Excited:
Setting up the PCs as fugitives was perhaps the best way you could have staged this adventure. As James pointed out, it's a built-in explanation for why the PCs are doing the leg work for this investigation, plus I can already picture a subset of rules for interacting with potentially hostile law enforcement - maybe some kind of "suspicion score" where the PCs have to balance their investigation with keeping a low profile (made more difficult with Krezzik's meddling). It does pose some developmental problems, but I think you are up for that challenge. Perhaps you could draft options in case the PCs are captured, such as escaping their prison or agreeing to act as agents for the Hellknights to investigate the disappearing slaves (while on a very short, tight leash). I'd like to have seen a deeper exploration of Part One (other options, consequences, etc.), but I got enough from it to be excited to see the final product.

Part 2 clearly shows that you have a mind for a good sandbox, which is a valuable skill. There is a wide diversity of encounters available for the PCs, and each one offers a different suite of clues and rewards for a thorough investigation. You may be able to make this even more flavorful by having each encounter offer different red herrings as well, so the PCs must piece together the consistent information in order to track down their quarry.

The new location is interesting in its own right, but also has something to offer to the main story (particularly if the shrine has some type of secret weapon with which to fight Vilario and his minions). Bonus locations that exist completely separate from their associated main plot are a bit of a pet peeve of mine, and I'm happy to see that your location does not fall into that trap.

Things That Got Me Worried:
On my first read-through I had some difficulty understanding this proposal because there are a lot of layers, and they don't line up very clearly. The adventure includes benevolent slave liberators, malevolent slave liberators, Hellknights, corrupt Hellknights, a cult of Aroden, a murderous fanatic, and a partridge in a pear tree - and to make matters worse, most of their goals and objectives overlapped in one way or another (Borza is evil, but freeing slaves like the good guys; the corrupt Hellknights are enemies, but also freeing slaves, etc). I love shades of gray, but this was very hard to follow. I think you would have gotten more mileage from your proposal if you toned down the number of factions at work here and spent more time exploring the ones that matter. For example, you could trim down the plot to a group of slave liberators working with a couple corrupt Hellknights, and then a bugbear crime lord sneaks in on their operation and starts diverting the "escaped" slaves off to some unspeakably horrible fate. As a result, Borza's actions undermine the goals and reputation of the "underground railroad" while drawing more attention to the ever-increasing number of escaped slaves, putting the benevolent liberators at even greater risk of being caught. That way you still work with shades of gray (especially if you have PCs who end up working with the Hellknights, trying to get Borza caught while sparing the underground railroad), but everything is more accessible and you have more room to explore the main factions.

I absolutely love Borza Eyegrinder as a villain; he cruel, relatively well connected, completely amoral, and his reputation really precedes him. Furthermore, his ship is a terrific setting for the final climactic battle. The big problem is that, from what I read, he's not the primary villain. Vilario seems like a satellite problem compared to the bugbear crime lord, despite the fact that the adventure background clearly sets him up to be the big boss.

To me, a corrupted Hellknight is a big deal. These guys are supposed to be the strictest, most stubbornly Lawful mortals on the face of Golarion, so if you are going to have a few who are flagrantly disregarding their code of honor and overall purpose, you really need to sell it. The corrupt Hellknights you have here seem more like a plot device with little background or characterization, and that just doesn't do it justice, IMHO.

You are an ambitious and engaging storyteller, but I worry that this proposal is a little too big for its britches. The slave liberators, the corrupt Hellknights, the bugbear scumbag, the misguided cult, and the psychopathic inquisitor are all compelling components with lots of potential, but as written they seem a bit insubstantial and haphazardly layered. City of Blood & Chains does a lot right, and if you win I'd love to see what you do with it, but right now I don't think it's the strongest submission for this round.

Best of luck!

Dark Archive

I didn't like the title, either; 'City of Blood & Chains' brings to mind a city book/supplement, not an adventure.

Secondly, the background section was messily written; I had to read it three times to make sense of it. IMO the beginning is weak and forced; my players have seen their PCs accused of crimes they didn't commit so often that they would probably walk out if I used it another time. Also, some lawful characters might insist on talking with the authorities, instead of fleeing or fighting. And, if I'm brutally honest, the whole eye-gouging thing and the name "Bloodcoat" do not thrill me at all.

Come to think of it, IMO this proposal has some striking similarities to Bastards of Erebus...

Shadow Lodge Star Voter Season 6

I think it's usually a mistake to think a bit of railroad is a bad thing. Maybe an adventure like that needs a sidebar to help the GM guide the players, as well as any fallback consequences, but I generally prefer to choose an adventure with railroads rather than a total sandbox.

I prefer dungeon running over roleplaying, if that relates. This includes both quite well.

I especially like the dot points - simplicity of information communicated is so essential. I know this is just a pitch, but hopefully something like that would translate into the adventure.

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

Congratulations Mike!
You've earned this spot and hope we see your work soon.

I am starting with just some quick notes, and plan to add more when I get through all four (especially if the vote is a hard one for me).

I love the mystery to be solved aspect and corrupt Hellknights are definitely not expected. I liked your hooks, yours feel less contrived but enough to get PCs involved.

The whole of part one is fleeing the scene? with a guide? not much for my PCs to do here. I felt a lot of the adventure involved NPCs with a leash on the PCs too ('recommended order,' 'should be clear,' 'after defeating').

Hollow is a good, creepy critter, and has a nice tie-in with the villain Eyecrusher (a convincing villain). The Silverlight Oil is pretty cool as well.

A weak keep from me, but a still a keep.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Arkos

Mike, this looks like tons of fun! I did a lot of research into Corentyn for this competition, and I love the way that it oozes flavor. I expect corruption from the Hellknights in this ancient and broken city. You know the latest remake of Judge Dredd? That's the feeling I get here, and I like it.

I really like your references throughout the pitch. I enjoy knowing exactly who an NPC is, and even if I don't need their stats right now, I might want to in the future. It showed me that you were thinking about all sorts of things the PCs might do while trying to get free of their plight.

At higher levels, I'd see my PCs teleporting away and letting things cool down a bit. I'm not sure if I skipped it, but what keeps the PCs from leaving Corentyn entirely? Especially once they become wanted. What ties them to a desire to proclaim their innocence?

This level is the perfect time to run a mystery and Corentyn is just the kind of city I'd want to place it. This would be a lot of fun, and would be a nice change of pace from the regular "I've hired you to kill all those bad guys" quest. Excellent work, as I have learned to expect from you throughout this competition!

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

Congratulations on being an RPG Superstar finalist, Mike. You've performed really well to get to this point, and I hope you've really taken advantage of the opportunity.

I like the mystery adventure approach. Maybe mysteries are herder for less experienced adventure writers, but they are certainly going to be at their best at these lower levels, when the PCs have fewer divination and enchantment spells to ruin the mystery fun. Also, writing a tougher adventure constitutes swinging for the fences, and I think that should be praised.

I think your location, and the idea of a group of dirty cops work really well together. How many dirty cops is less important to me. I think you're gonna have pockets of Hellknights that are LE, devil-worshiping fascists, and pockets of them that abuse their authority and put Asmodeus on the shelf at home.

Unfortunately, your pitch doesn't realize enough clues, developments, and combats to fill out a full adventure. The move to 64-pages means during adventure writing you'll be asking yourself "what else can I put in here?", and that means the additional content is (probably) extraneous to the mystery.

It looks like my two favorite proposals are On Fertile Ground and Daughters of Fury. But I like a lot of the work you've done here, and I think you're gonna continue to build a freelance future. I'll continue to think about the adventures before I vote.

Good luck, and congratulations on the finals!

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

City of Blood and Chains
The Good: Eyegrinder is fascinating. I dig the choice of Chellax. and the unique monster is cool. I see lots of potential though theres areas that would need tweaking.
The Bad: Mystery angle hurt you this round.
The Ugly: Not feeling the corrupt for good Hellknights.
Overall: I think this is a stronger entry then noted thus far. I'd call it a solid number 1 or 2 but when you factor in all the other rounds I think you should win. Let me make that clearer I recommend Mike Kimmel as the Winner of Superstar

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Big thanks to everyone for their feedback, support, and criticisms! This has been a wild ride and, while it's not over yet, it's been an amazing experience. I've learned so much from each round and I see that I have so much more to learn and improve. Win or lose, trust that this is not the last you'll see of me!

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