Darkblight Fallow


Round 4: Design an encounter

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Darkblight Fallow
==========
Long has the Darkblight tainted the inner reaches of the Fangwood in Nirmathas, each newly corrupted plant plunging the forest deeper into the coils of Cyth-V’sug, Demon Lord of Fungus. Unbeknownst to most surface-dwellers is that the demonic rot has so saturated the soil that it now drips down into the yet-uncharted tunnels of Nar-Voth winding beneath the Fangwood. Most subterranean fauna fled the rot, sensing its fiendish influence, but the dread glutton Bidryllisus took the blight’s appearance as a blessing from her demonic patron. Bidryllisus cultivated the blight in a sizable chamber, where it blossomed inside the underground flora and matured into a massive tree of rotten fungus. The wicked fey dubbed her putrid garden “Darkblight Fallow,” and commenced her mission to spread the blight through the surrounding passages, facilitating its growth in the soil above.

In her endeavors to groom the fungi, Bidryllisus has begun capturing creatures and turning them into living fertilizer for her garden (as well as ripe fonts of terror to sate her own hunger). Her most recent victims are three Nirmathi spelunkers—Kedvan, Baltus, and Corolai—who she caught exploring an overgrown entrance into Nar-Voth near the Fangwood’s heart. The three humans, now implanted in the fungal stalks to be painfully digested, desperately await aid.

The PCs arrive here at the request of the explorers’ families, who worry for their missing loved ones. The PCs’ investigation leads them to Darkblight Fallow.

Blighted Soil (CR 9)
==========
The wet odor of mold hangs heavy in this massive chamber, exuding from the moist, dark soil at the lowest level. Colossal fungi bloom from the ground and cling to the rocky walls, as though bowing to the chamber’s centerpiece: A gigantic toadstool with fleshy tendrils that curtain its rotten, festering stalk. A bloodcurdling moan, laden with despair, disrupts the chamber’s stillness for a moment...then silence.

All inclines other than the one leading to the chamber’s northwest exit slope steeply, and all vertical surfaces require DC 15 Climb checks to scale. The floor is soft and moist, negating the first 1d6 points of falling damage but not affecting movement. Bidryllisus’s phosphorescent fungi shed dim light throughout the Fallow.

Some of the room’s fungi create stores of acid within their stalks, used to digest any hapless insects that crawl into their tubers. Creatures can shoot spouts of acid from these caustic tubers as a standard action. To do so, the creature must occupy the tuber’s square (which provides cover against ranged attacks and area-effect spells) and make a ranged touch attack (with a –4 non-proficiency penalty) to aim the tuber and forcibly expel the acid. These attacks deal 4d6 points of acid damage, and can target any creature in the Fallow to which the tuber has a line of effect. Small creatures receive a –2 size penalty on the ranged touch attack, since their size makes it difficult to manipulate the Medium-sized tuber. The tubers need time to replenish their acid reserves, requiring 1 round to replenish one damage die (4d6 over 4 rounds maximum). A DC 20 Knowledge (dungeoneering) or Knowledge (nature) check reveals the fungi’s ability.

Creatures can grab, hold onto, and hang from the dangling strands with a DC 10 Acrobatics check and at least one free hand. As a full-round action requiring two hands, a creature may swing between strands or jump from a strand to another surface with an Acrobatics check (DC equals a long jump of the same distance, made with a running start due to the creature swinging to build momentum). The swinging creature may move one additional square for every 5 it surpasses the Acrobatics DC, brachiating between strands.

Creatures: Bidryllisus resides on the platform in the middle level’s southwest corner, feasting on fear-saturated mushrooms blooming from Corolai’s forehead. Upon realizing the PCs’ intrusion, she sprays acid from the nearby tuber, then climbs along the cavern walls to other tubers to continue her ranged assault. Bidryllisus takes no non-proficiency penalties for using the tubers, and mainly targets druids and healers. She capitalizes on cover whenever possible, and uses her fungous snares to ground flying targets and impede climbing ones. Bidryllisus avoids melee, using her spell-like abilities and dread burst to escape hand-to-hand combat.

Bidryllisus’s efforts to further expand Cyth-V’sug’s influence caught the demon lord’s attention, and he conjured three fiendish fungus leshys to help the fey tend to her crop. One leshy begins combat in each level, as indicated on the map. The leshys try to limit the PCs’ mobility and ranged efficacy, obstructing pathways to Bidryllisus and bombarding intruders with puffballs and tuber acid. The leshys take no non-proficiency penalties for using the tubers, although they suffer the –2 size penalty for being Small. The leshys target ranged combatants and spellcasters.

Two violet fungi also inhabit the bottom level. The fungi maintain their positions and attack any non-leshys that come within their reach (possibly including Bidryllisus, although she knows to avoid them). The fungi pursue targets no further than ten feet from their starting positions.

Embedded in the fungal stalks are what remains of Bidryllisus’s captives, now immobile masses of flesh completely overgrown with luminescent mushrooms and tubers, their limbs all but entirely eaten away. Once the doomed explorers realize that salvation may be nigh, they shriek for help. An adjacent PC can calm one of the humans with a DC 18 Diplomacy or Intimidate check as a standard action. Helping Kevdan (bottom level, southern stalk) affords the PC a trained Knowledge (nature) check with a +10 bonus to learn about the Fallow’s denizens, as Kedvan rattles off all he’s learned about his abductors. Assisting Baltus (bottom level, northern stalk) persuades him to tell the PC how to fire the caustic tubers, eliminating that PC’s non-proficiency penalty. Corolai (middle level) has no information to give the players, but once calmed she tells the PC that her corroded arm still grips a masterwork cold iron shortspear, which may help in defeating the fey once it’s extracted with a DC 12 Strength check. The fungi will finish killing the captives 20 rounds after the start of initiative (DC 15 Heal or Perception checks reveal this).

Bidryllisus, Dread Glutton CR 5
XP 1,600
hp 52 (Round 3)

Fiendish Fungus Leshys (3) CR 2
XP 600
hp 15 each (Bestiary 294, Bestiary 3 177)

Violet Fungi (2) CR 3
XP 800
hp 30 each (Bestiary 274)

Kedvan, Baltus, and Corolai, Crippled Superstitious Mercenaries CR —
hp 9 each (currently 3; NPC Codex 80)
Speed 0 ft.
Str 1 (drained), Con 2 (drained), Cha 4 (drained)

Trap: The fungus caps in the middle level have sensitive membranes, which Bidryllisus has conditioned to open upon contact for feeding. The northern and southern stalks contain trapped explorers, but the eastern cap is armed to swallow anything that tries to cross it.

Hungry Fungus Pit Trap CR 5
Type mechanical; Perception DC 20; Disable Device DC 20
----- Effects -----
Trigger location; Reset repair
Effect 3d6 falling damage plus digestive enzymes (identical to sassone leaf residue poison), victim is considered grappled inside the bottom level’s eastern fungal stalk (CMB +4, CMD 14, hardness 5, 40 hp). Creatures still grappled after 1 minute become pinned, being slowly digested by the fungus. Creatures may make DC 15 Climb or Escape Artist checks to crawl up and out the stalk once they are no longer grappled.

Development: If the PCs fail to defeat the Fallow’s defenders before the humans die, Cyth-V’sug bestows his blessing upon Bidryllisus, granting her the blighted fey template (Inner Sea Bestiary 6).

If the PCs successfully dispatch Bidryllisus and her minions, they must quickly decide what to do with Kedvan, Baltus, and Corolai. Setting fire to the fungi would eradicate the Darkblight that has infested the Fallow, but the humans would surely perish if they remained trapped. The PCs can extract the explorers with DC 20 Strength or Knowledge (nature) checks as a full-round action (failure inflicts 1d6 points of damage on the trapped explorer), but only potent magic can restore their health and mobility.

Furthermore, the Darkblight has since spread from the Fallow to several nearby sections of Nar-Voth, causing an emergence of other fungal growths and numerous blighted subterranean fey. Being the only ones privy to this outbreak, the PCs bear the responsibility of exterminating the blight before it contaminates even more of the Darklands.

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

Welcome to Round Four of RPG Superstar 2015! You've worked hard and pleased the voters to get here, and your chance to get into the finals depends on whether you took risks and pulled off a big idea. Let's see how it goes!

I'm looking at each entry as a developer, as a GM, and as a player. If you can please all three of those crowds, you are a Superstar!

Encounter, Location, Prose It's really smart to tie Nar-Voth to the surface world the way you did. No one else took that strategy and you've clearly given surface PCs a reason to come down to the Darklands and die horribly. Bidryllisus' gambit also turns your location into a specific, unique place, one that has to be visited to get to the heart of a growing (ahem) problem.

You included rules for nonproficiency and size penalties into the acidic tuber rules, but forgot to include a range increment or maximum range. Can I burst a tuber and spray collected acid in a cone? a line? Can I land the acid in an arc? Can I seriously squeeze a tuber and launch acid 90 feet diagonally?

Stay away from awkward language like "unbeknownst", particularly since you use it incorrectly in the sentence. Distracting language is hard for readers, which in this contest means hard on voters. Much better to just say "Unkown to most surface dwellers..."

Otherwise, prose is clean, with fewer awkward or passive phrases than most others. Encounter structure conforms to Paizo's appearance and style, so GMs will understand what they're looking at the first time they read it.

Is it original? The entry is equal parts whimsical (fey and giant mushrooms) and horrific (people caught in the mushroom stalks, acid-spraying tubers). That combination is fun and uncommon.

Do I want to run it? I'd run this as part of a larger adventure, sure. Your text hints at adjoining caverns and other wonders, so from this encounter, I can foresee additional encounters with fey, outsiders, undead, and bizarre fungi.

Do I want to play it? From a player's perspective, this could be a really fun encounter. The ability to communicate with the dying hostages would need to seem less like a contrived "hey, over here!" spoiler for my Stealth checks.

Overall: Not including the range for the acid tubers is a big whiff, but having the terrain play a part in a three-dimensional combat is good design. The location and plot tell a good story. Clear prose and the best encounter formatting of the round make this a top-half entry.

Recommendation: I recommend this entry advance to the final round of RPG Superstar 2015.

Scarab Sages Modules Overlord

Map: Visually, this is a series of circles. A lot of thought clearly went into how to use terrain in this encounter, but more time making it interesting to view would have helped a lot. GMs want cool things too, and often something as simple as getting a kick out of a visual aid goes a long way.

Trap: The trap is interesting, appropriate, threatening, and very much in keeping with the encounter.

Monster: Bidryllisus is absolutely the star of this encounter, and she's used well. She's a solid choice, and connects very nicely the themes of decay and underground threats.

Encounter: There are some very nice tie-ins leading up to this adventure, from using Cyth-V'sug as Bidryllisus' patron to giving the PCs a logical reason to go looking for the Darkblight Fallow itself. There are some mechanical and language issues with details of the encounter itself, but the basic structure is sound and it wouldn’t be much work to clean it up.

Tips: Watch the details. If you create a weapon, make sure you address things like range increments. Try to figure out what players or the GM might need to know that you haven’t told them. You can never cover every possibility, but the top 2-3 obvious questions should have answers.

I do recommend this encounter for advancement to Round 5.

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

Hey Christopher, congratulations on making it to the top 8.

I am the developer of Pathfinder Society Organized Play and the Pathfinder Society Open Call, 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, but I have attempted to distill my feedback into several major 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 Criteria:

Setting: Does your encounter fit in Golarion? Is it an encounter appropriate for Nar-Voth? Is the CR appropriate for the setting and the encounter? Is it clear how a GM might use this encounter? How effective is the map?
NPCs, Creatures, and Traps: How well did you incorporate the Round 3 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)? Does the trap fit the encounter? Does the trap add to the encounter?
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
I like the use of Fangwood’s blighted fey above to corrupt a piece of Nar-Voth below. It’s really easy to consider just one piece of the Golarion picture, but it’s much more interesting to remember and imagine how neighboring powers and regions interact with one another.

The adventure hook is pretty basic, but it gets the job done. I would be much more intrigued if the PCs were tracking down the spelunkers as more than just a heroic favor. Are the NPCs carrying some relic the PCs need? Does one of them know a secret the PCs desire? Admittedly, these are less heroic reasons, but they’re also more creative than straightforward search and rescue.

There are lots of little mechanical touches in the environment that make this an interesting place to adventure, including the squishy floor and the weird acid hoses (see Style below). Watch out when introducing concepts that appear on the map but haven’t been mentioned in the text, like the dangling strands. It took me a moment of rereading and then finally looking at the map to know what you were talking about. Consider saying “Strands of ropy fungus hang like vines from the central growth” to let me know what we’re discussing and where it is.

The map is mostly clear, but the may different levels and gradually changing elevations make this a tough map to comprehend at a glance. That could be to the GM’s disadvantage.

NPCs, Creatures, and Traps
A dread glutton makes sense, given it’s already an evil fey creature and its composting hobby makes good use of drained victims. Bidryllisus has enough background to make her interesting without eating up a lot of word count. What is a “fear-saturated mushroom,” anyway? I don’t know, but I kinda want to know. It’s also morbidly cute that Bidryllisus can earn a template for winning.

Much as I did with gnomes, I once poked fun at a few of my friends for liking leshies, but I find they’ve really grown on me. A trio of fiendish fungus leshies and a pair of violet fungi help give the dread glutton some friends, split the PCs’ attention, and give everyone something to smack and feel good about smacking. If I’m reading the map correctly, it seems the violet fungi are placed along the assumed “spiral staircase” that works its way around the room. If so, good job placing these where the PCs are actually going to care.

At first I found myself asking why I cared about calming the prisoners, but you’ve done a good job of providing each with a means of helping the PCs win the fight. It’s rare that an encounter can present both a pitched battle and an opportunity for the party face to shine.

The trap works well for the theme, and it’s not particularly deadly for its CR (assuming the sassone leaf residue only applies once and not every round).

Numbers
The CR here checks out about perfectly, and there aren’t any particularly strange considerations or circumstances that would throw off the calculation.

Style
I love the opening read-aloud text but for the closing ellipses. Somehow it doesn’t seem so fitting after the earlier text, and I felt like “before fading into silence” would have been better—minor, minor quibble.

One of the most important paragraphs to clean is the one about firing acid from the fungi. There is stylistic shorthand that you can use here, such as describing the tubers as “Medium” earlier or combining the various penalties a creature might incur into one sentence. I would move the part about occupying the same square ahead of the standard action. There are lots of adjustments I would consider during development, and by the end of the process, I probably would have rewritten the whole paragraph.

As a GM, I much prefer having the creature’s tactics show up in the stat block in a tactics section, much like how our other publications present the information.

Be mindful of your comma use when constructing compound sentences and complex sentences; there are some comma + conjunction combinations showing up in complex sentences that only need one of the two linking elements. Also, give the end of the captives paragraph another read, as it suddenly breaks from the stylistically fitting language you have used earlier.

Closing Thoughts
You chose a theme (blighted underground fungus), and you stuck with it from start to finish, from lowliest creature to trap to mastermind. The map is complicated but decipherable, and there’s a reasonable but still somewhat urgent timetable that keeps the action moving.

I do recommend this encounter for advancement.


BEEP BOOP for more information PLEASE SEE:

Darkblight, which infects the Fangwood in Nirmathas; Cyth-V'sug, the oldest demon in the Abyss and a favorite deity among many Darklands' races; humanoid fungus leshys; flesh-rotting violet fungi; blighted fey, who have succumbed to the Darkblight; and fey-harming cold iron.

The dread glutton was Kalervo Oikarinen's Round 3 monster.

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

Nothing like a string of trifectas to round out your RPGSS experience. I couldn't be happier!

Congratulations and best of luck with the voters!

Per usual, I'll withhold any comments until after voting closes.


This encounter has logic and plausibility on its side, for all the weirdness. I might have liked some info on what kind of treatment could be provided for the captives. Overall, well put together.

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

8th review:

whowee, that is some strong triple stength Superstar that you are delivering here.

This will get my vote!

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

This is my second favorite encounter. it looks like a lot of fun, and the map is really cool and interesting.

Hope to see you in the top-4!

good luck!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka John Benbo

I like the interactive environment with the acid tubers.

Being able to get information from the captives during the fight is a cool idea. For my group, I'd probably have to play it up a bit as they would be more likely to kill all the monsters first and then worry about the captives (if they didn't "accidently" set them on fire first).

Good work on this!

Edit: Forgot to mention- there's a couple of uses of the word "that" which is a pet peeve of mine. You can usually find ways to expand "that" and save on word count.

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

Christopher Wasko wrote:
Darkblight Fallow

Well done Christopher!

Map: +, hard to read but explained in the text well enough. overall fun with various movements, and
Monster (homefield advantage):++ Definately taking advantage of the terrain.
Trap: + Not sure 'falling' counts when entering the stalk, but being grabbed by one definitely works as a trap.
Tactics: ++ Yes, though I think this would take a lot of prep for me to remember all of the intricacies.
Challenge my players: + Yes, unless they have a fly or spider climb handy, which at level 9 is likely.
Memorable: ++ especially if one gets trapped by a mushroom or they have the chance to brachiate.

Star Voter Season 6

Curaigh wrote:


Trap: + Not sure 'falling' counts when entering the stalk, but being grabbed by one definitely works as a trap.

Check out the text again and look at the map. You definitely do fall into the trap from the top of the fungus stalk! :)

Star Voter Season 6

RJGrady wrote:
I might have liked some info on what kind of treatment could be provided for the captives.

I thought this, too, but then I glanced up at the stat block for the captives and saw their ability scores were drained. So, typical restoration magic should do the trick. :)

Star Voter Season 6

Steven Helt wrote:


You included rules for nonproficiency and size penalties into the acidic tuber rules, but forgot to include a range increment or maximum range. Can I burst a tuber and spray collected acid in a cone? a line? Can I land the acid in an arc? Can I seriously squeeze a tuber and launch acid 90 feet diagonally?

I agree that specifying that a caustic tuber can hit a single target each round and including a range increment would have been better fitting with Pathfinder's style.

However, even if the style isn't perfect, I do believe the author does a sufficient job of addressing the questions.

The encounter states, "Creatures can shoot spouts of acid from these caustic tubers ... These attacks ... can target any creature in the Fallow to which the tuber has a line of effect."

So, a spout as a ranged touch attack against a creature anywhere in the fallow within line of effect certainly seems to imply that the answers to Steven's questions are, "No. No. No. Yes."

It may be unrealistic to assume acid shoots 90ft. from these caustic tubers in a perfectly straight line that doesn't spray any other targets, but that's what the author says, and, really, is that any more unrealistic than an underground Darkblight Fallow tended by a Dread Glutton? :)

Star Voter Season 6

This is great!

This is the first entry I've had a chance to fully read and critique, but it would be hard not to vote for this one.

I love the location. It took me a moment to figure out what I was looking at, but once I saw the little beautifully-drawn side view of the fallow, it clicked, and all the map pieces fell into place, with nice attention to detail. Well done!

The villain makes sense, and the atmosphere is a great combination of beautiful and horrible, which works well for evil fey.

It's interesting that both you and Monica grabbed that design space, including live human plant food, and I think both of you did it well, each giving your own twist.

As an English teacher, I do have one little nit-pick:
"Her most recent victims are three Nirmathi spelunkers—Kedvan, Baltus, and Corolai—who she caught exploring an overgrown entrance into Nar-Voth near the Fangwood’s heart."
"Who" should be "whom."

However, overall, this is a great, well-thought-out encounter with an interesting 3D environment, and carefully crafted enemy tactics.

It might be somewhat difficult for a GM to be well-prepared for this, at least compared to a standard monster-in-a-square-room encounter, but I think it would be worth it!

I want to play or run this! :)

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

I don't have time right now to give a detailed review so I'm just going to write something quick.

This isn't getting one of my 2 votes but would if I had 4, here's why:

-Map is interesting and well considered even if it isn't an artistic acheivement.
-Monster choice also not my favorite from R3 but the theme is tight and well fitted. You suffer slightly for my liking Monica's better...
-The best part of your encounter is the levels and how they interact.
-You came in with one of the stronger prior round resumes for me.

Stuff to work on:
-Leshys are a speedbump at best. What hurts you the most for me in this entire encounter is that this might drain some resoources but my murderhobos are going to have an easier time murderhoboing it then I want in a CR 9 encounter...

I still expect to see you in top 4.

Star Voter Season 6

John Compton wrote:
Watch out when introducing concepts that appear on the map but haven’t been mentioned in the text, like the dangling strands. It took me a moment of rereading and then finally looking at the map to know what you were talking about. Consider saying “Strands of ropy fungus hang like vines from the central growth” to let me know what we’re discussing and where it is.

In his defense, in the introductory read-aloud text, the author does say, "the chamber’s centerpiece: A gigantic toadstool with fleshy tendrils that curtain its rotten, festering stalk."

In related news, I seem to like defending great submissions by people I don't know when those people can't speak for themselves. :)

Star Voter Season 6

I forgot. I was planning to post this with each entry I comment on:

My Comment/Voting Process and Rationale for this Round:

Composed on Wed. 2/25:

Last round, I just barely had time to read and comment on all 16 monsters before voting closed. I make my comments right after carefully and thoroughly reading an entry, while the information is still fresh in my mind. After starting to read and comment last round, I really wanted to be fair to all 16 entries before voting, so I really pushed myself that final Monday to finish.

This round, due to an even busier family week and no Monday off work, I may not have the time to give all 8 encounters full consideration.

So, my plan is this:

At bare minimum, read, critique, and consider the three encounters earning triple judge recommendations (Brian's Gloomsworn Path using the Gloomwasp, Monica's Hanging Gardens using the Dread Glutton, and Chris's Darkblight fallow also using the Dread Glutton), and, if I don't have time to evaluate more encounters before the deadline, I will simply choose my two favorites from those three encounters for my votes.

If I have the time to read, critique, and consider two more encounters, I will add the two encounters that each earned one judge's recommendation into the mix for my vote consideration. (Steven also recommended Scott's Barca's Haven using the Wimblewyrm, and Owen also recommended Kalervo's Fellforge Chapel using the Geomaw. I don't think John recommended a fourth encounter for advancement.)

If I do end up with enough extra time, I will happily read, critique, and consider the three remaining entries, but it's possible I won't have a chance to fully read and comment on them until after voting closes.

Although not ideal, I think this system is at least fair, since I'm using the weight of expert opinion to select the pool from which I choose my votes.

That said, when I vote, I'll be looking for a mix of exciting ideas with technical proficiency, with some consideration given to entire body of work.

Cheers!

..........................

Also, unlike Steven, I think "unbeknownst" is a perfectly good word to use. :)
However, Steven is right that it was used incorrectly.
To fix the sentence, cut out "is that" and replace those two words with a comma.

Star Voter Season 6

John Compton wrote:
What is a “fear-saturated mushroom,” anyway? I don’t know, but I kinda want to know.

I assume Christopher is referring to the following ability in the Dread Glutton entry.

So, credit goes to Kalervo, but props to Christopher for calling it out in an evocative way!

----- Special Abilities -----
Dread Burst (Su) A dread glutton can make glowing mushrooms grow out of a creature within 30 feet that is infected with its spores (Will DC 16 negates). An affected creature takes 1d6 points of Charisma damage as the fungi burst and release drained emotions. This is a mind-affecting effect. If the affected creature is currently shaken, frightened or panicked—any creature within 10 feet of it also gains that condition for 1d4 rounds (Will DC 14 negates). This is a mind-affecting fear effect. The save DCs are Charisma-based.

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

This and the (Gloomsworn Path) is pretty much the only encounter I actually really thought was interesting to read and looked like a lot of fun to run.

The crippled mercenaries fate - to burn or not to burn the fungi; Bidryllisus' motives and method are great reading and the encounter location itself is definitely thematic and inspired.

And what a trap. Digested to death by fungi!

Nice one Christopher!

Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The map is creative and is somewhat clear. I got confused at first; the map requires careful study before getting a solid grip on the location. The cross-section side view is a godsend and really helped bring the whole encounter setting together.

This location is great, easily the most imaginative of all eight entries in my opinion. The towering mushroom taking up the central part of a terraced fungus garden is amazing! Add in that the central fungus actually gets involved in the movement of the combat and you have a spectacular looking visual image combined with a threatening and challenging encounter zone. Well done! The connection between the surface world and Nar-Voth isn’t used enough and here it used to very good effect. The Darkblight of the Fangwood is an interesting aspect of Golarion and I like the way this makes that part of the ground beneath the forest.

I like that in order to get to the dread glutton the PC’s will have to climb their way around hostile fungi and potentially over a trap or swing from dangling fungal tendrils. The trap is well designed and original; the idea of a fungus acting as a pit trap is rather ingenious. Bidryllisus moves about using cover and the various dangerous fungi as ranged attacks, making this a very dynamic encounter throughout.

However a party of ranged combatants and access to a levitate or fly spell could reduce the challenge of the encounter quite a bit. Many encounters are visually appealing when designed from the traditional action/adventure set up of non-magic using heroes swinging and fighting their way over hostile terrain. The design of Pathfinder and other fantasy games with high magic often make these type of encounters—no matter how well thought out—speed bumps rather than memorable fights. Add in that many of the monsters here have relatively low hit point totals and the battle could be reduced to just the dread glutton fairly quickly.

The developments are very well thought out and the touch of giving the dread glutton a reward for “winning” is really cool. This encounter feels like it could be the climax of a low to mid-level adventure or a mid-point highlight of a larger campaign. A lot of further ground comes from this location and sets up a region that makes the reader want to know more about this area of Nar-Voth.

This was a toss-up for me and I was hard pressed deciding between this and my other two favorites. In the end I liked the other two entries better so I won’t be voting for this entry. But I really hope it makes it through to the next round.

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

I like this encounter overall, and think I'll give it my second vote. In particular, giving enough minions to give the villain a chance to shine is always good, and also really liked the three dimensionality of the map.

That being said, there were some things I didn't love. I really was looking for a map of a larger encounter site, with a detailed encounter of part of it. Not sure if that's anyone's fault by my own pre-conceived thoughts, but for what it's worth, that's really what I was looking for. You hint at the end that there's other infected caverns, but a) they seem to be beyond the scope of the Darkblight Fallow, and b) how will the PCs actually learn about them (and not all PCs will see it as their responsibility to do something about - they can rescue the prisoners, go home and get a reward presumably.)

Also, I'm really not a fan of timed prisoner deaths no matter how long the PCs take to get to the location. They get there with 20 rounds before they die no matter how long they take getting to the encounter? What if they get there and spy for an hour before entering? What if they take 2 days researching the Darklands before even setting out? I'm fine if the villains push a prisoner into a Pit O' Death when the PCs show up, to specifically prevent a rescue, but it's very forced feeling when the PCs get there just in the nick of time no matter what they do.


Great entry Christopher. I love the setting. Good luck.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 8 aka Angry Wiggles

Congratulations on making it to round four!

I absolutely adore the way you handled the theme and content of your encounter. It creates an urgent feel in an area that feels quite real. Your map was a little complex, and it took me a moment to really decipher what was where. Granted, that's not necessarily a problem, as there is a lot going on in this encounter. The way the layers interact also serve to create a three dimensional mental map that makes the area seem all the more realistic once I understood it. This feels properly scary in an unsettling way.

The issue of range increment on the tubers has been noted already, but apart from that, I'm not seeing any glaring mechanical issues. I'm fond of the way you're using the monsters, as well. Even the Leshy feel worthy of concern once they start firing those tubers.

If the opportunity arises, I would like to playtest this with one of my home groups within the next few weeks and give you more feedback.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

1 person marked this as a favorite.

My sincerest thanks to the judges and all those who commented on, supported, criticized, and (most importantly) voted for Darkblight Fallow! I am humbled to be among such universally strong design talent and honored to have received such positive feedback :)

I may return at a later point to expound this fun little space, but for now I'm working on an adventure pitch in the event that I advance. @benjamin wilkins: please do playtest this encounter and let me know what you learn!

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

As promised, I’m back to discuss this entry (now that there’s no risk of disqualifying myself)!

I don’t want to sound dramatic, but I entered this round with some personal baggage. The encounter round was where I got bumped from last year’s contest, where my entry was generally well received for quality of writing but criticized for lacking actual dynamic interest, particularly as far as terrain was concerned. I learned last year that compelling story and prose doesn’t matter if the encounter itself is boring. I pride myself on not making the same mistake twice, so when I reached round 4 this year I came in with a mission: Design an encounter that had the same caliber of storytelling, but was a more dynamic combat set piece that particularly highlighted terrain.

My first concept was Gloomjoy Grotto, an underground wellspring with healing properties that was under investigation by duergar alchemists, but became infested with gloomwasps (my favorite round 3 monster). The PCs—investigating the duergar’s interest in the grotto—would stumble upon a fight with four wasps that had just devastated a duergar research team, leaving only one irradiated bombardier as an unlikely ally for the PCs. The grotto featured numerous bridges and platforms over deep water through a forest of stalactites and stalagmites (which the airborne wasps would use as cover), plus the water itself (which was hyper-refractive and could blind the wasps if properly illuminated with a light source) and a weak ceiling (which the PCs or their duergar ally could trigger with explosives or ranged attacks to drop rocks on the wasps from opposite the stone columns). Any permanent radiation damage suffered by the PCs could be remedied by properly harvesting and distilling the restorative water.

While I enjoyed the encounter setup, an insightful member of my pit crew wisely recommended that my entry should feel more like a climactic final boss than a random encounter, so I tabled the idea (resuscitating it later in “The Hollowheart Conquest”) and began thinking about more “mastermind” encounters. Of all the round 3 monsters, Kalervo’s dread glutton struck me as the most likely to be the ringleader in an adventure, so I starting brainstorming fungus-themed battlegrounds. The first thing to pop into my mind were the colossal mushrooms in Skyrim’s Blackreach superdungeon; I initially thought using this idea was silly, but after a while I realized that a gigantic mushroom could be the centerpiece for a three-dimensional enclosure, which would feature multiple levels in the same room. My 2014 entry also featured multiple levels, but the encounter itself was isolated on the uppermost, least detailed level, so this would be an opportunity to redeem that entry by incorporating all the levels into the encounter (not to mention an opportunity to draw a sideview, which was unhelpful in 2014 yet requested in my round 2 map). The chance to apply so much feedback was irresistible, so I began teasing out the idea further. If you go back to 2014’s contest, you might spot some similarities in the map layouts of Darkblight Fallow and Astugr Lighthouse.

The big mushroom was the first design, which I revised several times between different concepts and the reveal of the map size limitation (I even took a crack at an isometric view, which was actually pretty good for a first try if I do say so myself!). Drawing inspiration again from Blackreach, I realized that the tendrils dangling from the cap could be used to swing from side to side in an enclosed space, so I added that as a terrain feature. I did my best to make the rest of the terrain appear organic, applying feedback about the natural vs. artificial appearance of my round 2 map to the shape of the walls and the gradual slopes of the platforms. Crystal Frasier also tacked my 2014 lighthouse being too far a fall, so I made the floor squishy to avoid an insta-death should someone fall from the higher levels.

Once I had a map layout I liked, I needed to find a way to make the different levels interact with each other, preferably by using the terrain itself. Looking back at the dread glutton, I realized that it got some flack for being only a ranged combatant (and a feeble, albeit flavorful, one at that), so I decided to give it a way to threaten PCs from a distance in this space so it could avoid melee, especially since its spider climb ability gave it a huge movement advantage. Being the delightfully thematic monster that it was, that ranged weapon needed to be a fungus of some sort, which is how the pieces for the caustic tubers fell into place. I cited the tubers’ range via its line of effect rather than a range increment because I wanted to avoid any questions about spots inside the chamber that might be out of their range; evidently that was a misstep, and not a mistake I will make again.

Now I had a dynamic setting and a flavorful monster, but a good mastermind/boss needs minions. I combed through every fungus-related Pathfinder monster I could find looking for fitting entries, which is how I came upon the blighted fey template in Inner Sea Bestiary, which I just loved. That template became the foundation for the Fallow’s backstory and name, since its connection to the dread glutton’s theme and the Golarion setting were both so strong. I originally populated the Fallow with blighted mites, but the template proved too complex for the round rules. Being a fan of the fungus leshy (which was the template for my round 2 monster in 2014), I threw in some Cyth-V’suggian ones instead, giving them the opportunity to both fire the tubers and prevent the PCs from shooting back by using their blinding puffballs. Violet fungi also fit the bill as obstacles to keep PCs away from the fragile leshys, so I placed them along the room’s major pathways as an added defense.

I now had two remaining sticking points. The first was the rules-mandated trap, which I had not factored into my original design. I needed something that was obviously constructed and deliberately placed by the dread glutton (so that it couldn’t be interpreted as an ambient hazard), but still fit the overall fungus theme, which was a big challenge. I didn’t want to put the ranged-impotent violet fungi any higher up than the ground level, so I came up with another obstacle on the most direct path the PCs could take to the upper level: a pit trap on the second level, which could be converted into a fungus that swallowed and digested creatures walking on it. Even if it didn’t seriously harm PCs, it would set them back to square one for climbing the Fallow (plus make the seemingly dormant fungi in the environment even more flavorful and dynamic). This design also inadvertently laid the groundwork for the captives’ prisons (below).

The last issue was how to keep the PCs from simply retreating into the caves after being met with serious resistance, taking pot shots and recovering at their leisure. This is how the rest of the encounter’s plot emerged, especially since it again gave me the opportunity to revisit and improve upon yet another shortcoming in my 2014 entry: a set of at-risk (and statted) prisoners on the death clock that eliminated the “fight another day” option. Knowing that many PCs need more than just their consciences to spur them to action, I gave each of the NPCs a unique way to aid the PCs in the battle, further encouraging the PCs to communicate with and rescue each of them as quickly as possible. Since I didn’t want to abandon the blighted fey template completely (given the story), but couldn’t include it in the actual submission (given the round rules), I added it as a bonus for the dread glutton if the PCs failed to accomplish their objective, further raising the stakes and making things more interesting. I also put a couple tubers within the PCs’ imminent reach to entice them into crossing the Fallow and entering its defenders’ lines of fire (as well as providing further opportunity for PCs to interact with the environment).

I knew the encounter had some design loopholes: I wasn’t sold on the 20 round timer, and although I touched on Bidryllisus’s response to airborne PCs, I knew that there really wasn’t much I could do to factor for flying, underground adventurers in this space with only 1,400 words. But I thought the entry as a whole was strong enough to warrant submission. Besides the range increment oversight, I’m pretty happy with the result, and I’m thrilled that so many people enjoyed it! Also, shoutout to Russ Taylor, a competitor in the first RPG Superstar contest, whose thematically-linked monsters entry became the Darkblight that spawned this encounter!

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

Nice summary of your thought process Christopher, I shall use it as an outline when my time comes. :)

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6, Contributor , Dedicated Voter Season 6

Shout-out belatedly shouted back :) Glad your encounter got you to the finals.

Community / Forums / Archive / Paizo / RPG Superstar™ / Previous Contests / RPG Superstar™ 2015 / Round 4: Design an encounter / Darkblight Fallow All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Round 4: Design an encounter