The Crystallized Shrine


Round 4: Design an encounter

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka DeathQuaker

The Crystallized Shrine
==========
As the earth slowly shifts and mystic forces twist the Darklands, a subterranean river in northwestern Nar-Voth has gradually drifted and drained, evacuating caverns and leaving behind new places to explore. Recently, in an area a few miles from the troglodyte complex of Kuhvoshik, the river has lowered enough to reveal a scintillating crystal cavern—and a xulgath ruin, a relic of the troglodytes’ progenitors. The ruin is a sacrificial shrine to an ancient Abyssal creature. This shrine is only the top of a ziggurat, but the rest of the temple remains buried. The crystal deposits that have grown upon it while it was submerged stretch and distort the ancient, horrific image of the beast etched upon the altar, ominously emphasizing that the ancient power once served here is not, perhaps, entirely put to rest; indeed, cavern is rapidly filling with a strange, magic-distorting energy. Troglodytes scout the area in hopes of reclaiming their ancestors’ property. Deadly predators also seek out the shrine, intending to devour the curious and gain power from the shrine’s corrupt energies.

The Crystal Maw (CR 10)
==========
Acting on the reports of traumatized and severely battered Pathfinder Society scout, the PCs are seeking out the shrine to investigate and to destroy the altar before its corruptive energies grow. What the PCs learned from the scout is only that teleportation seems to fail, that other magic in the area gets “twisted” and that this effect is spreading, and that “the crystals will eat you.” They enter at area A.

The damp tunnel you have been following finally widens into a broad, echoing cavern filled with a faint stench of river slime. The eerie glow of red crystals dominate much of the cavern and reflect dazzlingly off the river. Ahead, past a stone column, the silhouette of a stone terrace topped by the altar you are seeking rises up, encased in more glowing red crystals that uncannily reflect the shape of a giant, fanged mouth carved into the stone eons ago.

The area is unlit save by the red crystals, which emit dim light out to 10 feet.

The tunnel and cavern’s gray stone floor is considered a natural stone floor (Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 412). Beyond, the shrine’s brown floor is considered ordinary dungeon floor. All the cavern’s floors, walls, and ceilings are wet and coated in slimy flora (+5 to all Acrobatics and Climb DCs).

Red crystals on the floor cost four squares of movement to move into and deal 1 point of slashing damage per square moved through. If a creature is bull rushed or otherwise thrown into the crystals along the wall, it takes 1d6 slashing damage. The crystals are too numerous to effectively remove from a square by non-magical means, though small pieces may be broken off (10 hardness, 15 hp/inch of thickness). Broken red crystal becomes a chunk of oddly colored quartz; its glow fades within the hour.

The edge of the nearby river is five feet wide and, while the water is only one foot deep, it is very slippery, requiring creatures who move through the area to attempt a DC 13 Reflex save or fall into the deeper part of the river. Beyond the edge, the river drops off to a 30 foot depth, which is undiscernible from the surface. The slow waters conceal unpredictable currents. Should a creature enter the deep water, it must attempt DC 20 Swim checks to stay afloat and maneuver.

The stone altar is on a platform 10 feet above the floor. Outside the stairs, climbing the platform requires a DC 20 Climb check.

In area B, blood is spattered on the floor. A DC 20 Survival check reveals there was a fight roughly a day ago between several reptilian humanoids and a large, oddly shaped creature. There are no signs of any bodies.

Creatures: Drawn to both the crystal environment and the shrine’s dark, corruptive energies, a geomaw has recently settled in. The red crystals grant the geomaw a +5 circumstance bonus to Stealth checks and the geomaw can move through the crystals unhindered. While the geomaw is adjacent to the crystal, its blood lantern ability extends to a 40 ft. radius and the Will save DC increases by +2. While the geomaw recently enjoyed a meal of troglodyte scouts, the altar’s influence has enhanced the geomaw’s hunger and it is ready to feed again. It hides amidst the crystals in area C (DC 40 Perception check to notice), ready to ambush anything that comes near. It is aware a troglodyte scale-rider and its mount retreated and saw that troglodyte lay its trap, but the geomaw had been too busy digesting its comrades to stop it. It has since lost track of the scale-rider and prefers to wait for new prey.

Geomaw CR 7
XP 3,200
hp 85 (R3)
Tactics: It will ambush the first PC it perceives, hoping to swallow it and activate its blood lantern ability. If surrounded, will try to position itself or use combat maneuvers to drive foes into crystals or toward the exploding crystal trap.

The surviving troglodyte, along with its giant chameleon mount, hides just west of the main cavern (area D). It cannot be tracked back to its position because of its favored terrain ability. Afraid of both the geomaw and returning to his clan-priest to report failure, he has remained in hopes something else may come along and kill the geomaw. The scale-rider laid a trap near the altar to cover his retreat and use against intruders.

Troglodyte Scale-Rider CR 6
XP 2,400
hp 69 (Pathfinder RPG Monster Codex 216)
Tactics: The troglodyte will attack only if the PCs or geomaw--or both--appear sufficiently weakened. He most likely will attack the PCs as soon as they dispatch the geomaw, before they have a chance to regroup. If the trap has not yet been discharged, he will try to draw the PCs toward his trap with taunts. The troglodyte can also set off the trap by throwing a javelin at it (versus AC 5), which he will do if the PCs appear to notice and try to disarm the trap. If the tide turns quickly against him, he may surrender, preferring to beg the PCs’ mercy over his clan-priest’s.

Lizard, Giant Chameleon CR 3
XP 800
hp 20 (34 maximum) (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 3 186)

Hazard: The shrine emits corruptive energies that twist and obstruct magic, and this power is slowly growing.

The Blood Altar’s Blight (CR 3): The evil energies emanating from the altar have turned the entire cavern into an area of minor spellblight (Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Magic 94). Also, throughout the cavern, all conjuration spells have a 50% chance of failing, except for conjuration (summoning) spells with the evil subtype, which function normally. This failure chance also affects creatures trying to teleport into the area; they are bounced to their starting location if they fail, taking 1d6 bludgeoning damage. Checking for spell failure happens after the caster attempts a save against spellblight.
Ending the blood altar’s blight requires destroying the altar—fortunately, the altar is hollow because of the monster’s maw. The altar, including the crystals encasing it, has 10 hardness and 500 hit points. Magical effects such as soften earth and stone are effective. Once the altar is destroyed, conjuration magic immediately no longer fails, but the area of minor spellblight takes three days to dissipate.

Trap: The scale-rider has rigged this trap (trigger area marked T on the map) to blow if any creature nears the altar’s platform or if the scale-rider triggers it, spraying dislodged crystals into the targets.

Exploding Crystal Trap CR 6
Type mechanical; Perception DC 25; Disable Device DC 29
----- Effects -----
Trigger location; Reset none
Effect explosion (1d6 fire damage plus 2d6 slashing damage), DC 20 Reflex save for half damage; multiple targets (all creatures in a 5-foot-radius burst)

Development: If the PCs destroy the altar, a passage is revealed that, if cleared out, leads to the temple below. If the troglodyte scale-rider surrendered to the PCs, he refuses to lead them to his clan and prefers death before revealing this information. He may negotiate for his services as a guide and provide what little he knows about the altar: that it is an ancient shrine to a qlippoth lord--and that destroying the altar has likely aroused its ire.

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

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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 The prose hints at a larger adventure, with the map only revealing a sacrificial altar atop a much larger buried structure. This is a great example of how a few details create the illusion of more danger, more adventure, and make the story feel more complete. I don't know about anything below the shrine, but I'm already filling it with possibilities. When you get a developer thinking of a follow-up project, or a GM thinking about the goodies down below—that's good design. And it only takes a few words to do it!

Pathfinder products typically don't refer to the party in second person in boxed text. It can be challenging to not use that perspective and still try to describe what the PCs see and hear, but that's the approach they've chosen. It's a great habit to write third person and avoid slipping into that perspective, which also helps avoid the temptation of instructing or controlling PCs during boxed text "You gasp as a herd of zombies shuffling your way".

It might not be a problem with this encounter, but there's an example of something for designers to be careful of. The geomaw has a higher attack roll than a creature of its CR normally does. You've created a dynamic that adds +2 to the save DC of its primary ability and increases the radius of the effect. Because your creature is already a tiny bit better than the chart lists for a CR 7 monster, beware complications that will affect the outcome of the battle even more. They can turn a challenging fight into a TPK as an unintended consequence.

I'm conflicted by the idea of a survivor waiting out the battle to pick off the winners. On one hand, it's very coincidental, which is usually stretches immersion. Oh, we got here just in time to fight both sides, when tomorrow we might have only had the geomaw. I've heard more than one developer lament when encounters depend on unlikely timing. Then again, you gave the tracks and other clues, and allow that the troglodyte may not fight at all if he escapes notice. I like that if he feels he might have to fight, he throws a javelin to set of his trap.

Avoid language with passive or auxillary verbs. Substitute "The PCs are seeking" with "The PCs seek". Active language keeps interest and saves word count. In the same way, strengthen active tone by removing the word will from you vocabulary (except as it applies to Will saves). Finally, when describing possible future actions, describe them in present tense and list reactions as certainties, not possibilities. "If the tide turns quickly against him, he surrenders..."

Is it original? Like the crystal labyrinth, use of sharp crystals that alter the combat is both a nice touch and an old school move. Some will like the addition of a lone survivor who attacks the party or joins in against the geomaw. Some will be critical of the coincidental timing.

Do I want to run it? I could run this as a fun encounter, sure. I'd go a little easier on the constant slime and crystals than the text describes to keep combat moving. Troglodytes smell awful, so I'd need a contingency in case the party has scent or another way to detect him without tracking.

Do I want to play it? I feel this encounter is designed essentially to punish PCs for whichever active skill they didn't invest ranks in. Do you suck at charging, swimming, climbing, or acrobatics? You're gonna fall into a river and die. Those encounters can create excitement if the issue is with 1-2 PCs or a portion of the map. Hazards that effect all PCs and exist across the entire map, in addition to multiple combatants, slow down game play and might be viewed by some as a sort of "gotcha" and not be remembered fondly. Develop a reputation as someone who designs tough, but rewarding encounters that challenged the party—maybe even killed a PC or two—but ultimately was fun and survivable.

I will reiterate...the initial backstory makes me want to make a character and brave the so-so encounter just to get into the altar's maw and explore down below. It definitely has some promise built into it.

Overall: As a developer, I'd have to send the material back to clean up lots of language and adjust the encounter to be more fun and with fewer things to keep track of. I think everything I'd want to fix about this encounter can be taught, so you have potential. But other encounters got more things right. Good luck with the voting.

Recommendation: I do not recommend this entry advance to the final round of RPG Superstar.

Scarab Sages Modules Overlord

Map: This is a solid map, with lots of cover and terrain for PCs to interact with. I wouldn’t use two different tones of red to convey two different things, as it's too easy for them to visually blend together for the cartographer. There's a bit of dead space in the middle, which could have been used for all the map legend info, but it's a good starting point.

Trap: It's a trap. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's neither interesting nor a good way to reinforce the feel or theme of the encounter. It feels like this trap is here because the contest required you to add it.

Monster: The geomaw is a good choice for this encounter, and it's strongly linked to the map and tied to the plot. That said, there's nothing that makes the geomaw a better choice for this encounter than any burrowing creature of the right CR.

Encounter: There's a lot of coincidence going on, and very little chance the PCs will ever understand why they stumbled into this stand-off. That's a fairly serious problem, because the PCs should feel like they are the stars of the narrative of any adventure they're in. The encounter has a lot of bonuses for the monsters you put in it, but few of them feel natural or likely. There's not much going on here than a potentially 3-way fight, which is fine, but not amazing.

Tips: If you are going to have a backstory, find a way for the PCs to not only know what it is, but get involved in it. A solid storyline that gave the PCs move involvement on what is going on, and more goals than "survive" could have elevated this encounter to a new level.

I do not recommend this adventure for advancement to Round 5.

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

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
As an archaeologist by training, I really like the extended geological lifetime of this site, including the centuries of exposure to crystal-forming waters—what a pain to excavate! I feel this shrine fits nicely in Nar-Voth, though I think it might be stronger if the troglodytes were not quite so sharp at recognizing the ruins as those built by their ancestors; the potential for a gradual discovery as the PCs later explore the temple seems stronger that way, though it might not fit this encounter quite so well. Likewise, I think the qlippoth discovery shouldn’t be something the trodlodyte just knows, no matter how cool the discover is (personal preference).

The map is very sharp, well labeled, and believable (from the “hey, this cave isn’t a bunch of straight lines” perspective). I am not confident that the northern branches of the caves are going to see much use in this encounter, as most of the action takes place on the southern half of the map.

NPCs, Creatures, and Traps
Our geomaw has favorable terrain that increases the radius of its fascination effect, and I like that. I’m not as big a fan of the bonus on its Stealth checks, which knock the Perception DC from “very difficult” all the way to “virtually impossible,” especially once you factor in distance penalties. The latter classification certainly helps to force the encounter to happen as you want it to, but it also leaves little room for the PCs to be clever about the situation. On a related note, the geomaw’s tactics suggest it knows about the trap; is it smart enough to know what the trap is and how it works?

The troglodyte’s tactics make sense, though I’m a little sad not to see how a geomaw and troglodyte mounted on a chameleon might synergize. From a design perspective, I am ambivalent about this choice.

The exploding trap confuses me because of a discrepancy between its trigger area and the radius of the explosion. Stepping on the south end triggers a 5-foot-radius explosion, but should that prevent the same from happening on the north end? Is each “T” on the map its own trap? If so, shouldn’t the higher number be reflected in the stat block? These are big questions that I can’t quite figure out, and as a GM I don’t know how to run the trap.

Numbers
The CR 10 listing is deceptive because of the troglodyte’s tactics, making it unlikely that the PCs face both at once. Sometimes it is appropriate to list a lower CR and include a single sentence in the encounter that says “This encounter’s Challenge Rating is lower due to the staggered arrival of the combatants.”

Style
I like that you cover a lot of the checks and questions about the hazards before I even have a chance to ask them. What is the DC to climb the altar? Can I break the crystals? Is the slippery rock harder to tumble over? I have the answers in here. Nice.

Avoid using future tense (frame things in the present), and avoid second-person in read-aloud text.

The RPG Superstar template doesn’t require it, but I recommend splitting your tactics entries into three subheaders: Before Combat, During Combat, and Morale. This helps the GM find the critical information quickly while also helping parse an expected order in which things should happen.

You have some wonky sentence construction popping up, but the way it’s happening suggests it’s just something another read-through might catch—not an endemic problem. See “immediately no longer” for an example.

Closing Thoughts
The location is far more interesting to me than the encounter is. Here the geomaw does what it tends to do: wait for prey to wander in reach. The troglodyte does not build upon this encounter so much as end it, so there’s not a lot going on for the first half of the combat that leaves me wowed by the geomaw’s involvement. I’m also not confident about how the trap works, which does not work in this submission’s favor.

That’s a shame, because your writing is among the cleanest and most style-aware of any of these submissions. I can see you doing well with a commissioned project in the future, but I do not recommend this encounter for advancement.


This reminds of a frustrating video game boss fight, where some cinematics start, the enemy life bar appears, and it's not clear to me what I should be doing.


BEEP BOOP for more information PLEASE SEE:

Troglodytes, also known as xulgath, a reptilian race commonly found in tribes around Nar-Voth; the Abyss, home of most things Abyssal; the Pathfinder Society, a gang of tomb raiders and well-meaning murder hobos who often need rescuing; and the powerful qlippoth lords of the Abyss.

The geomaw was Brian J. Fruzen's Round 3 monster.

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

7th review:

I am not going to ding you for the geomaw choice but I now consider that monster overused in all the other encounters I have seen it.

I have to agree with RJGrady here, there is lot's of stuff described but very little meat to this encounter.

Shadow Lodge Star Voter Season 6

Owen wrote:
If you are going to have a backstory, find a way for the PCs to not only know what it is, but get involved in it.

If you've GM'd a lot of PFS, this should get drilled into you. So much great backstory written into scenarios that players never get to know about.

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

I like that the crystals have an environmental effect on encounter. Also, I have a soft spot for trogs so I'm glad to see them get some love. I do like the idea of the trog holed up Rambo style but the trap may have been better served tying into the stronger geomaw encounter (perhaps on the altar?).

The map is very clean and easy to read.

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

R Pickard wrote:
The Crystallized Shrine

Congratulations R P!

Map: + beautifully done, but the reds kind of blend together. Other color options would be easier to interpret.
Monster (homefield advantage): ~ The geomaw does to some degree, but the troglodyte uses it better.
Trap: + intentional use is good, (for the trog). Expanding the Geomaw's area via crystals is good touch too. The spellblight hazard is the interesting bit here :).
Tactics: ~ as expected.
Challenge my players: only those who rely on magic. Fly spells might not function which keeps the crystal dangers relevant.
Memorable: ~ not so much. PCs will be happy to have found the temple, but the bumps (geomaw & trog) in-between will seem incidental.

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 pretty and interesting. I like the natural shapes of some of the terrain. I think it could have used more of a natural water-flow shape to it since it was uncovered by a shifting water track, but that is a minor quibble. My main problem is that between the blood marks, the wall crystals, and the floor crystals there is an awful lot of red in the map. Colours that are close to one another tend to confuse rather than clarify. Pinks and blacks could have demarked the floor crystals and blood without drifting too far from the proper colours while allowing greater ease of differentiation.

The idea behind the location is well thought out, but ultimately unearthed temples are a standard fantasy trope of RPGs. Add in the troglodytes, probably the single most common foe encountered in Nar-Voth, and the concept can come off as slightly pedestrian. The colour scheme and use of crystals is original and fits the geomaw, but little else. However, the combination of geomaw and red crystals leads to a very interesting visual image that I like a lot.

The spellblight is an interesting addition with the radiation of the crystals causing problems with spell casting. This brings in problems with it though, as it hinders spell casting in a combat situation and spell blights require random rolls and table consulting. These things tend to slow down combat and interfere with the flow of the encounter. The trap is pretty basic and doesn’t add much to the encounter. The terrain is constructed in such a way as to prevent easy movement about the area. While fine for parties that like to stand still and hit foes in combat, any party that likes to move around the battlefield or attempt to do so will have trouble. That tends to make for less that exciting battles.

In the end the geomaw and troglodyte with its mount are just monsters to be fought in difficult terrain with the geomaw having a number of advantages and the party having reduced spell-casting ability. That is a difficult encounter, not necessarily an exciting encounter. To be honest I think the troglodyte and his lizard could have been removed and the geomaw left as the soul monster. It would have fit the scene better. The trap would have to be redesigned but since the trap feels like it was only added because of the contest rules, that wouldn’t be a loss.

On consideration this encounter is simple and difficult rather than overly exciting. As such I will not be voting for it.

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 is not getting one of my 2 votes for a variety of reasons and would not if I had 4 here's a highlight reel of my reasoning:

-Map is good but doesn't change my opinion one way or another.
-Monster choice hurt you in that I don't really the trog and the maw working together to make a singular encounter, they feel tossed together here. It would prolly be a fight followed by a second fight not a singular fight.

Stuff to work on:
-I felt your first 2 rounds were on the conservative side and while I voted for you R2 it was my last vote. R3 you impressed me by takign a risk, this round is not risky and my expectations were raised for you for this round. In my opinion this sin't going to make it but if you do get to top 4 listen to the voice that said "motorcycle bug" and not the one that said "map a town."

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

I like the area you describe in your intro, but I felt like the writing was a little choppy. A missing word -- "indeed, cavern is rapidly filling..." -- doesn't help.

I'm sure you, like the other contestants, were surprised to see so many of you used the geomaw. I like that you worked in the red crystals, and that they provide an extra masking agent. I think that may be one of my favorite interactions with the geomaw, which I think wasn't the best choice for a lot of the encounters.

I *love* that you used a spellblight. I think they're a great addition to the Pathfinder rules, but don't seem to be particularly popular from what I've been able to tell. I'd love to see them get more use.

I also really like the trog's ability to activate the trap. Nice to see that happen instead of it only going off if the PCs get too close.

That said, with only two picks to use, I'm afraid I'm not going to vote for this one. That said, I think the last spot in the Final Four is a pretty open competition between the final five, so good luck.

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'm not really sure what this encounter has to do with an adventure at large. The PCs were sent to check out the anti-teleporting effect (why exactly though?) and then they show up, break an altar, and ding, quest completed. The geomaw just happens to be there, and so does the trog. They can go home and collect a reward now.

The encounter itself is pretty straightfoward. Go in, get attacked my monster, get a few cuts on terrain, then get trap in face from trog (how'd a trog rider make the trap anyway?)

Star Voter Season 8

I rank this submission fourth. The geomaw is used as intended, lurking and camouflaged, even more so because of all he crystals around. The hiding trog is OK, as it has been there for some time. I do not like encounters where PCs just happen to show up at the exact right moment, but that does not apply here. Trap is simply damage and as such not really scary, but made more interesting by possible external trigger. Environment adds to the atmosphere as well as making the encounter more difficult. I do not find a reference that the geomaw is immune to the slashing crystals, which I think it should be, so that is a minus, but maybe I missed something.
I think this is solid work.

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

Congratulations on making it to round four!

I enjoy the layout of the map, particularly when combined with the way that the Geomaw's DR will allow it to ignore a large portion of the damage dealt out by the crystals. The spellblight is also a lovely mechanic to have present, and I'm glad to see you using it effectively.

I agree with some of the above posters that the CR seems a little low, given the staggered arrival of the enemies, but that was actually less of a concern for me than the potential risk brought on by the deep water. I'm fond of the use of it in this way, but I'm not sure it will come up very often. It seems like it will only really be relevant if the players move into the water if they are attempting to place themselves where the Geomaw cannot bull rush them towards crystals. Even so, drowning is a real concern that not enough players prepare for. All of my other comments have been summarized elsewhere.

There's a lot of potential to the contents of the altar's maw, and I would love to see more done with it. Well done!

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka DeathQuaker

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Thanks for all of the very substantive and helpful comments. They have helped me see very clearly where I have done well and where I need to improve.

Not going to do a point by point response this time, but I'll note for those who are perhaps thinking about how to approach encounter design in future competitions... because I know if anyone at all is reading this, it might be a top 8 contestant next year trying to research the round...

It may not seem the apparent source of my issues, but I let the trap twist trip me up (say that 10 times fast)! Not a Superstar thing to do! I had, prior to the reveal, pretty much the whole encounter (expecting the traditional 1500 word limit, a little over 1400 words) drafted, albeit roughly. I knew that I should expect an additional twist like a trap or something. I still did not quite work it in well. The focus was originally much more on the geomaw and shrine itself--and the shrine's effect on the geomaw and environment. There were going to be incidental troglodytes more as set dressing, to help emphasize the idea lots of creatures are being drawn to this place and wanting to investigate it for different reasons. But I needed to have a reasonable source for the trap and this led to me emphasizing the troglodytes' (later, troglodyte) role.

Long story short I ended up with less of a central focus and too many moving parts. I could have scrapped everything and started from scratch, and that's a decision you have to make in situations like these--whether it's easier to try to salvage an idea that ends up not quite working but would take less time to rewrite, or start from the beginning and hope you can produce something as polished in a short amount of time.

I did try to make sure my pre-reveal encounter drafts (I had a few) had some modular, moving parts so I could adjust for any twists... but not enough, it seems. If future Superstars continue in the vein this one did, where rules are not revealed (save in round 5) prior to the voting results, that modularity is something contestants will have to think about when preparing their drafts. So that's my 2 cents as it were... and also something to take home as I think about where to go from here.

I've learned so much from this competition and feel more motivated than ever than to polish my work and get submitting where I can ASAP -- and get back to editing! -- and am grateful for this opportunity. I'm also enjoying the chance to kick back and watch the top 4 in action from here. :)

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