|Kalervo Oikarinen RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8|
|1 person marked this as a favorite.|
Bellflower in the Dark
The Bellflower Network has come upon intelligence it cannot ignore. With the help of the PCs, they perform a raid to free a group of halfling slaves from the yoke of the Aspis Consortium. When the Chelish forces led by an agent of Thrune are about to corner them, a journey deep underground offers a path to freedom. Can the PCs lead everyone through the darkness of Nar-Voth or are they devoured by the things that lurk beneath Aspodell Mountains?
Bellflower in the Dark is a subterranean adventure designed for four 5th-level characters. By its end, the characters are expected to reach 7th level.
Several mysterious disappearances and cattle mutilations have plagued the settlements near the southern Aspodell Mountains. Most chalk it up to monsters and criminals that stalk the night but there is something far more sinister crawling beneath the earth.
The Myrhill Mine was abandoned by the gnomes of Brastlewark when disappearances scared away the miners. This coincided with a mining shaft piercing into a network of caverns below. Rumors spread of the mine being haunted as those who dared delve too deep never returned.
Recently, the Aspis Consortium acquired the mine and found that the ominous reputation still scared away any prospective workers. The consortium decided to use halfling slaves as miners since they could move easily in the cramped tunnels made by the gnomes.
The Bellflower Network has leaped into action after it learned of the dismal treatment of the slaves working in the mine. Smuggling so many slaves at once is difficult but the network is confident that it can hide them by dividing the slaves into smaller groups.
An agent of Thrune named Kylaria has been tracking down an escaped hafling slave called Jakali. She acts as if she’s enforcing the queen’s will but her true motivations are far more personal. Kylaria has received word from her informants that Jakali has been spotted near Brastlewark. She has appropriated a large detachment of Chelish troops from a nearby citadel to aid in her hunt.
The Bellflower Network has reached out to allies that share its sentiments on slavery to help with the raid on the Myrhill Mine. It might contact the PCs due to their past actions against slavery, because one or more of them are Bellflower operatives, or thanks to a recommendation from a mutual friend.
The PCs meet with Nija (CG female gnome bard 4) in Brastlewark, a city on the eastern border of Cheliax. She’s a Bellflower tiller, a person that escorts slaves between hideouts. The halfling in charge of the operation is called Jakali, and he awaits in a hideout outside the city. After the PCs agree to help, she leads them through less traveled paths to the hideout. The PCs can learn about the history of the Myrhill Mine from Nija who is originally from Brastlewark.
Jakali explains to the PCs that the plan is to strike under the cover of darkness, and no one must be allowed to escape or summon help. Once the slaves are freed, they are escorted back to the hideout in smaller groups, which are then spread to other safe houses throughout the region.
Chapter I: Shattered Chains
The PCs and the Bellflower tillers approach the mine ready to begin the raid. Jakali wants to prevent the guards from raising any alarms, even if it means killing them.
Kylaria has connected sightings of Jakali with several earlier slave breakouts. She has identified the mine as a likely target for Jakali, and she’s employing magic to observe the mine in case he decides to strike.
The PCs have a limited amount of time to perform the raid before Kylaria arrives with the Chelish force. The PCs have a chance to notice the approach of the torch-bearing riders, which gives them more time to prepare. The mountain path is blocked by the soldiers, so it cannot be used to escape. At the palisade, Kylaria sends soldiers to alert the closest citadel while she leads the rest to trap Jakali and his allies inside the mining camp.
The slaves are split into two groups with about dozen members in each. The first group is of Avistan origin, and they are bossed around by a large halfling called Robul (NE male halfling rogue 4). The second group is from the jungles of Kaava Lands. These cannibalistic halflings are led by a woman named Mireri (CN female halfling barbarian 5). The tribesmen feel indebted to their liberators, so they remain friendly for now.
The original plan has become all but impossible. The prospect of a slow death in the mines makes the slaves unwilling to surrender. The Bellflower tillers share the sentiment. This leaves the mines as the best point of defense.
The boarded-up shaft offers an avenue of retreat if the PCs can fend off the Chelish soldiers. Kylaria pursues Jakali at all costs. Eventually, the PCs and the former slaves are forced to retreat into the caverns below.
Any supplies and equipment the PCs manage to find during this chapter helps their survival in Nar-Voth.
Location - Myrhill Mine
The Myrhill Mine is located in the Aspodell Mountains near Brastlewark, and it’s owned by the Aspis Consortium. A single winding path leads to the mining camp that lies some ways up the mountainside. The camp has a wooden palisade for protection, and a single guard tower looms in the middle. A couple of hastily renovated buildings have been repurposed as barracks for the slaves and the guards, while a new two-story house has been set up for the management. The entrance tunnel of the mine descends down to a hub area filled with minecarts and crisscrossing tracks. The hub has a locked door that leads to a storage room, and several mining shafts extend deeper into the mountain. The shaft that breaches into the caverns below is boarded up.
Encounter - Kylaria’s Wrath
Kylaria catches up to the group in the hub area of the mine. She goes straight for Jakali, unless the PCs intervene. The avenue of escape could still be boarded up if the PCs haven’t had enough time to break through. Carts, lamps, and other mining equipment can be used to attack or repel the Chelish troops. If Kylaria falls, with her last breath she orders her men to collapse the entrance, and bury Jakali inside the mine with her.
Chapter II: The Dark Walk
The PCs, accompanied by the Bellflower tillers and the freed slaves, find themselves near the beginning of the Dark Walk, a relatively wide passage through a system of caverns that descends towards the ruined city of Garganstel. Its surface entrance has collapsed long ago, leaving only the way down. Nearby stands an ancient Azlant obelisk that was left as a sign for any refugees that might follow. It describes a safe haven that awaits at the end of the journey. Several other fragments of Azlant knowledge lie scattered throughout the Dark Walk.
The group must deal with the environmental dangers of Nar-Voth while searching for resources that help them survive there. Several paths lead around collapsed areas, each with their own dangers. Thirst and starvation are a threat if magical or mundane methods can’t provide water and food.
The Avistani and Kaava halflings are at odds with each other, leaving The PCs in the middle to negotiate. Robul has a criminal past, and he’s ready to play dirty to get whatever he wants. The gratitude the cannibalistic halflings feel for their liberators has its limits but at first their culinary practices remain focused on the denizens of Nar-Voth. Jakali is torn between his past and his current role. He is fond of Nija, however, so convincing her goes a long way in winning his support. Jakali himself has the most sway with the Kaava halflings due to his past. Lost friends and other hardships affect the relations within the group. Unless the PCs defuse rising tensions, it could spark infighting or even violence.
As the group moves along the Dark Walk, they draw the attention of the derro. While the PCs are exploring, the derro kidnap Nija for her gnome heritage and take her to their lair. This has a profound effect on Jakali, pushing him towards his past self and Mireri’s point of view.
The Dark Walk is roughly split into three sections, each with their own characteristics. First the group travels through fungus-filled caverns, where the PCs might stumble into a horrid dread glutton (R3) garden. The restless dead, such as deeplits (R3), and bands of darkfolk roam the pitch black mazelike passages that the group encounters next. The last stretch of the journey has packs of narriks (R3) with the occasional geomaw (R3) hunting within its crystal-filled caves.
At the end of the Dark Walk awaits a gate to the ruins of Garganstel. The gate is warded by ancient Azlant magic, and it’s guarded by a pair of gloaming hounds. The PCs must disable its wards and defeat the hounds. Any fragments of Azlant knowledge the PCs have gathered helps with this task.
A gloaming hound is a magical beast that embodies the interplay of light and dark. It can reflect light that hits its surface to blind its opponents. In the dark, the hound’s form seems to fade almost out of sight.
Location - The Dark Walk
The Dark Walk is a passage that a group of ancient Azlant refugees took after Earthfall. Its width varies from 30 feet down to as narrow as 5 feet. Several parts of it have collapsed, including the original entrance in the southern Aspodell Mountains. The passage rises and falls into shafts, making travel through it treacherous. Several smaller passages ranging from fifteen to two feet in width connect the Dark Walk with the surrounding caves. The Dark Walk ends in an enormous cavern which holds the ruins of an ancient Azlant city known now as Garganstel. A similar passage runs north along the mountain range, connecting Garganstel to the rest of Nar-Voth. Traveling the entire length of the Dark Walk takes around two weeks.
The first section of the Dark Walk connects to caverns filled with strange fungi. Any recent explorers or their remains can be found in this area. It ends in a sheer drop of 60 feet that marks the beginning of the middle section.
The midsection spreads into a maze of smaller passages before coming back together at a 80 feet high cliff. It has no source of natural light, and a dark underground lake has formed at its center. Many of the original Azlant refugees lost within the maze now haunt its lightless reaches.
The crystal-filled last section is more craggy than the previous sections, and its rocks have sharp, jagged edges. Intermittent tremors make this section more unstable, increasing the danger of cave-ins. At its end resides the entrance to Garganstel.
Encounter - Breaking Point
The mental strain of the journey in Nar-Voth has reached a boiling point. If the PCs cannot calm everyone down, the ensuing conflict could lead to violence between the different factions. This task is easier or more difficult based on the past actions of the PCs.
Chapter III: At the Ruins of Madness
As the PCs enter Garganstel, the city seems abandoned. Shortly after, an eerie, unhinged song can be heard echoing within the city. If the PCs investigate, the singer is the previously kidnapped Nija, who sits trembling on the ground with a slight blue glow to her eyes. This shakes Jakali to his core.
Brain mold, also known as cytillesh, covers the column roof over the city. Spores drifting down from above gradually affect the group’s sanity, inducing paranoia and hallucinations. Anyone that succumbs into madness runs away from the group, chased by imagined threats.
The derro take advantage of the madness and kidnap stragglers for Xyraga’s experiments. As monsters, real and imagined, move in the shadows, the PCs must explore the ruins to find a way to protect everyone. Before they attack, the derro stalk the PCs, darting in shadows and disappearing into cul-de-sacs with hidden entrances.
One of the buildings houses a deliberately damaged artifact that the PCs can attempt to repair with parts found throughout the ruins. If repaired, it has enough power to destroy cytillesh inside the building, but in its prime, the artifact could clear the whole city of brain mold.
The PCs must prioritize between finding a safe place for the remaining people and trying to save those that have been kidnapped. The mongrelmen slaves are a potential source of help if the PCs can look beyond their frightful appearance.
When the PCs find one of the entrances into the derro lair, the derro try to draw them into an ambush with luring boots. The PCs might stumble into Xyraga’s laboratory while exploring the lair or the mongrelmen may have told them about it. If the PCs try to escape to the surface without visiting the laboratory, Xyraga goes after them accompanied by her cytilloid monsters.
Location – Garganstel
Garganstel is an ancient Azlant city under the Aspodell Mountains founded by refugees that had to flee the surface after Earthfall. Eventually it was abandoned and fell into ruin. The city is carved into a gargantuan rock column located in the center of an enormous cavern. Two narrow bridges connect the ruins to the outer wall of the cavern, though only one of them remains unbroken. The column roof over the city is covered in cytillesh, a fungus that glows with an eerie blue light, giving the ruins below a ghostly appearance.
During the last century, a tribe of mongrelmen resettled the ruins of their ancient forefathers. A decade ago, Garganstel was taken over by derros, who enslaved its mongrelmen residents. The derro have carved their lair within the column so the ruins seem abandoned. Secret tunnels with a blue glow connect Garganstel to the nearby surface settlements like Brastlewark and Alvis, as well as the surrounding cave systems.
Bonus Location - Scaly-Eye’s Hideout
Mother Scaly-Eye’s hideout is filled with strange crystals that destroy brain mold. If the PCs befriend the mongrelmen, she allows them to use this cave as a safe haven. She can also provide crystal charms that help protect the PCs from the mind-warping effects of cytillesh.
Encounter - Xyraga’s Laboratory
The PCs enter Xyraga’s twisted laboratory. It resides within a large pillar in the middle of the city. The laboratory has multiple terraces with connecting walkways and ladders. Brittle vats filled with bubbling, hazardous liquids clutter the area. The roof has an entrance to the glowing tunnels that lead to the surface.
Xyraga commands her cytilloid creatures to attack the intruders while she uses her mind-twisting alchemical attacks from afar. If she defeats the PCs, she offers them a deal where she gets rid of Mother Scaly-Eye, and the PCs and the rest of the group can leave intact save for some lost memories.
The PCs lead the survivors through the twisting tunnels into a Bellflower safe house near Alvis. If the PCs helped the mongrelmen, they can act as guides. The whole mongrelman tribe joins the group, if they are promised a safer place to call home.
|James Jacobs Creative Director|
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 Bellflower in the Dark
Title: An interesting title, but nothing about it really screams “Darklands” to me on its own. The cover art will have to work a little harder to get that across. Beyond that… the title doesn’t really intrigue me all that much… it doesn’t feel particularly adventurous. But it’s not a bad title. I think something utilizing “The Dark Walk” would have been better.
Location: With its ties to the Bellflower Network and Cheliax, this makes the module one that could work well with the upcoming “Hell’s Rebels” Adventure Path… but that’s not automatically a good thing. Setting an RPG Superstar pitch so that it aligns with an upcoming Adventure Path might SEEM like a good idea, but it’s a bit disappointing from my side. I’d rather have seen a different location explored, since “Hell’s Rebels” will have plenty of Cheliax at about this time for folks. Fortunately… this is a relatively minor concern, since this is actually a Darklands adventure. The less time it spends on the surface in Cheliax, the better. Now… that all said… this adventure spends far too much time not in the Darklands. One of the goals of this years RPG Superstar adventure was to focus on Nar Voth, and spending an entire chapter outside of this region is wasted time. I’d like to see Chapter 1’s contents much reduced, if not omitted entirely, in the final adventure, so more focus can be placed on the Darklands. Moving the entire mine down into Nar Voth could do the trick, I suppose, and allow the bulk of the chapter to stay. In any case… whether you deliberately or accidentally chose to ignore the adventure proposal requirement to focus on the Darklands, it’s still a bit troubling to see so much time spent OUT of the Darklands in Chapter 1.
Plot: Although I do like survival adventures… this whole plot isn’t really enough to hold my interest for the whole adventure—it all just seems like a line of underground encounters that must be endured after the PCs are forced into danger by an overbearing encounter. The PCs themselves don’t have a good reason to WANT to go to Garganstel… it’s just a place that they have to endure. That’s not very fun. If this adventure wins… it’ll face some serious restructuring to make the plot into something more satisfying other than “survive.”
1) Bellflower Network! It’s good to see this group get a role here; I particularly am intrigued by the idea of seeing how the group and its agents function outside of Cheliax in an area like Nar Voth.
2) Jakali is a really interesting NPC. Always refreshing to see a bad-ass halfling!
3) An adventure where the PCs are tasked with protecting a number of low level wards in a hostile environment is certainly an interesting and unusual idea. We did something similar in the first Wrath of the Righteous adventure, of course, but switching it from 3 wounded NPCs up to a whole swarm of halfling slaves adds an interesting mechanic and element to game play. It COULD get complex and awkward… but it’s a neat idea worth trying out. Especially with the two groups being at odds in this way.
4) I do love survival themed adventures… but the higher level you get, the harder they are to pull off. I set the survivalist plot for “Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv” as a 1st level adventure for this precise reason. It should still work for 5th level characters… but with access to things like create food and water and daylight, a lot of the potential for this element is lost. An interesting element nonetheless… just not sure it’ll work out as well as one might hope.
5) Tracking the total health of the group via survival points is a good idea, and a handy way to avoid making the GM track dozens of separate stat blocks for all the slaves.
6) Luring boots are a cool idea for a magic item.
7) Garganstel is a very interesting sounding location. While I’d prefer to explore an established Nar Voth region that hasn’t yet been detailed more… Garganstel sounds fun.
1) Linking cattle mutilations to derro has been done before in “No Response from Deepmar.” It’s a cool link that really plays well to what we’re doing in Golarion with derro… but it’s been done. And in Cheliax to boot. With links to a mining concern. If this adventure wins, I’d like to see the author come up with a different element to stand in for the animal mutilation angle. It’s just too similar to Deepmar.
2) Any plot element that relies too heavily on forcing the PCs to take any particular action is sketchy; PCs are notoriously good at being stubborn and resisting being pushed into areas by adventure text. Being forced to retreat into a known deadly zone (Nar Voth) by an overwhelming force (Chelish soldiers) while defending a mine is a cool idea for a story, but for an adventure, it’s railroading in a way that a lot of players don’t appreciate and get frustrated by.
3) I’m not particularly lit on fire by the gloaming hound. We’ve got a LOT of dog monsters in the game already. Nar Voth, and all the Darklands, are an open playground to do something really unusual. Dog monsters just don’t seem to be a good fit.
4) I’m kinda getting tired of having Azlant ruins pop up everywhere. Why not let the ruined obelisk at the start of chapter 2 instead be left by a Darklands race? There are PLENTY to use. In fact… as seen in #9 below… having it be a dwarven tunnel makes a lot of sense.
5) I’m worried that the Dark Walk portion of the adventure will be a slog and/or a railroad. If there’s just one route through from the start to the end with no opportunities for the PCs to make choices on different ways to escape… it removes a lot of the tension about “did we make the right choice at that junction? Are we heading in the safest direction?” from what’s essentially a variant of the “lost in the woods” plot.
6) The idea of there being a Nar Voth tunnel used by Azlant refugees after Earthfall in the middle of Avistan is not that believable. Maybe it was a dwarven route taken during the Quest for Sky? Perhaps the Dark Walk is an old dwarven exit to the surface? That helps in that it implies there IS an exit at the end and that it won’t just lead deeper…
7) Switching the Dark Walk to a dwarven thing lets you replace the derro with duergar, who are not only probably a better choice for a 5th level party to face in large numbers (and who would play well into the adventure’s slavery themes), but would also help to distance more from “No Response from Deepmar.”
8) Switching the derro to duergar would require some reworking of chapter III. Might be cool to figure out some sort of unusual element to hit the duergar with… maybe they’re all haunted or infested by some sort of contagion or the like to make them unusual…
9) It’s too convenient that there just happens to be an anti-fungus artifact in the fungus infested city.
10) Mongrelmen featured heavily in “The Worldwound Gambit,” another adventure where the PCs are trapped in an underground area and have to escort dependents through peril. This is too repetitive; I’d need the mongrelmen changed into another race. Svirfneblin might make sense.
11) Making Garganstel into a dwarven city makes more sense. They WOULD have built cities in Nar Voth, after all. Azlanti MIGHT have… but those would most likely be in Azlant, not Avistan.
A combination survival and escort themed adventure, but set in the Darklands. That is pretty interesting… but the rest of the adventure has a lot of concerns. If this adventure wins, I would want to see the Dark Walk become a Quest For Sky associated route, and the derro become duergar. Unfortunately, the adventure is too linear, both in its plot and in how it forces situations on the PCs.
I do not recommend “Bellflower in the Dark” for consideration as the winner of RPG Superstar 2015.
|Owen K. C. Stephens Modules Overlord|
First, congratulations on making it to the final four! And, thanks. I know I put you through the wringer on a number of the these challenges, and I appreciate the effort you've put into all these rounds. Without your hard work, there's no contest.
Also, don’t take any of the comments below to indicate I think this adventure pitch is bad. It's not. You've proven you deserve to be here, and I am going to respond with straight talk commentary and assume you can absorb that professionally, given how well you've done so far.
Now, on to judging!
Since James Jacobs is ably handling the Big Picture concerns, I can just judge based on how easy I think the adventure would be to develop, and my opinion of the concepts and presentation! I don’t want to ask voters to read too many long comments, so I'll keep my comments concise.
Title: Doesn't do anything for me. I think the instinct that created it is good ' Bellflower obviously speaks to the Bellflower network, and "in the dark" sounds Darkland-y. But the title doesn't parse well, and ends up sounding like it was named by committee. (If you ever catch me at a Con, buy me a drink and ask me to tell you about a product named by committee.)
Background: I see that this is leading to the Darklands, but it's not there yet, and it's not particularly compelling. It has promise, but very little wow factor.
Prologue: While it is true that this is a low-level adventure, I'd still be happier if this set-up sounded more adventures and special, rather than like the kind of operation that happens every month in Golarion.
Shattered Chains: That title has been used a lot, including as the title of a fantasy novel based on another company's game. That's not a legal issue, but something less generic might have helped build the story more.
Timed missions, especially at lower level when resources can be used up fast, are problematic. We could fix that in outline before writing began, but it's another element that needs changing.
So far while these encounters make sense and might well be fun, there's nothing special to set this adventure apart.
The Dark Walk: This is a little more interesting, but it feels like this is more an adventure that visits Nar Voth than an adventure set in or about Nar Voth. The adventure would be stronger if the PCs got here in the first few pages.
I'm not convinced Group Survival is really necessary as a new mechanic. What happens if the PCs manage it poorly? Does it drive tension, or just cause salves to start dying?
Encounters: These are even more interesting – but now the PCs are on a remarkably linear route (literally). There's nothing wrong with a tightly scripted order of events in an adventure, but it shouldn't FEEL tightly scripted to players, and I think this would.
There's some good stuff here, but it feels like a second or third pitch would be needed to start where things get interesting, and change the pace of the whole adventure from there. I think this is a strong first-time adventure pitch, but some of the others were stronger.
I do not recommend "Bellflower in the Dark" for consideration as the winner of RPG Superstar 2015.
I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the finalists. In my role at Green Ronin Publishing I have certainly seen my share of adventure proposals and can say that I think crafting adventures is one of the most difficult parts of designing in the roleplaying games arena. My comments are coming from the perspective of someone who routinely has to weigh in on balancing creative concerns with larger business strategy issues.
With Bellflower in the Dark, freeing slaves is certainly a noble motivation. It's a good start but early on in the proposal we start to see structural issues that give me pause. The fact that both Jakali and Kylara seem to have little connection to the PCs is concerning because it's far too easy to have key events happening "around" the PCs with very little involvement from them at all. I have similar concerns about the divisions between the two sets of slaves as the PCs and their charges are fleeing the forces Kylara brings to bear, specifically that the PCs have no real loyalties to one sub-group or another of freed slaves. If the only reason the PCs are involved is because slavery is bad and they're righting that wrong, if the freed slaves begin acting badly amongst themselves, there's nothing inherent to the adventure ties the PCs to their "mission". These concerns about how linear the plot seems as well as the assumption that the PCs are willing to carry on with the adventure without much intrinsic motivation is something that cools my interest in this proposal. While some of the initial ideas are perfectly fine, I would probably ask for a re-evaluation and resubmission that worked in more opportunities for the PCs to become attached and involved with the NPCs and factions, and that the PCs be given more choices on the way to the finale.
I would hesitate before giving my support to this proposal for RPG Superstar 2015, conditional on some significant revisions to better engage and motivate the PCs throughout.
|Curaigh Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9|
Interesting title, came here second.
That said a flower-even one as intriguing as one that grows in the dark-does not scream "adventure" to me. However, I am familiar with the Bellflower network and taking Golarian's "underground railroad" DEEP underground is an interesting turn. (EDIT: agreed Dark Walk could be better title.) Less Darklands than requested, but it fits this adventure.* I think the premise that an abandoned mine is bought by someone less scrupulous who then run afoul of the reasons it was abandoned is a good one. The NPCs have story, and that means the adventure can too. But, it doesn't yet.
(*I don't personally need a Darklands adventure any more or less than others, but that is a part of the assignment)
Escorting something through the Darklands should be fun, but PCs could quickly feel like babysitters instead of the adventurers they are. Especially with the linear path. I think that aspect can be worked out of it, but it might take some doing. The BBEG is unrelated to the opening sequence & hooks for example. If those two tied together somehow, the plot (is that the right word?) might give random encounters more structure. Chapter III does this well (A. mad fungus > B. anti-fungus item > C hit & run for bits > D. safe area to regroup > E. neighbor find safe area) I wish the whole thing did this.
Overall I think this is quality work and worthy of Top 4. I do think its parts need better relations and some more Darklands to cinch my vote.
Congratulations Kalervo, excellent end to an excellent run. Three-timer back to back is impressive and shows you could be Super Star!
|Feros Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9|
Congratulations on making the Top 4! Well done! I’m going to be very honest and straight up in my review here. Please understand when I seem harsh that this is designed to be constructive rather than to malign. I think all four finalists are excellent designers with many great ideas!
The title is OK, but not all that interesting. Bellflower doesn’t cry out adventure, even if it is the name of an organization dedicated to freeing slaves in a fantasy world. The set up lacks adventure hooks for a wide variety of adventurers. Only those of very good alignment or dedicated to the eradication of slavery have any real reason to be involved.
The first part has nothing to do with Nar-Voth at all and is incredibly linear. While it would make for a great adventure story, it ignores any action the PCs might take to overcome the odds. It requires that the Bellflower raid fails and that the escaped slaves and “rescuers” end up trapped in a mine, no matter what. If the PCs come up with a sensible plan that allows them to by-pass this, the GM would have to be rather heavy handed in keeping the story going. That is too limited from my perspective. While it is a strong narrative thread, its lack of flexibility makes it less than ideal for an RPG adventure.
The second part has a lot of interesting bits. I like the multiple paths and social issues between the two rival groups of freed halflings. This makes for some interesting encounters and role-playing situations. However the cannibal aspect is a little strange, especially since they have supposedly renounced their demon-worshiping ways. And Jakali’s response of returning to those ways because his friend is kidnapped? There is no logical thread there. Conflict could be raised by other, less potentially controversial means. Having one of the rescued Avistani slaves being evil makes even less sense.
The gloaming hound sounds OK, but with the existence of shadow mastiffs it seems kind of redundant. Going with the Azlanti I like: too often designers stick with the well-known denizens of Nar-Voth like the duergar and the troglodytes. This makes for a cool and unique location that can have very different architecture than what is traditional in these areas. The Dark Walk is a very interesting challenge and I like the idea of a score mechanic to gauge how well the party survives. I take it the score affects the boiling point encounter but this is not made clear. A better explanation of the intent of the mechanic would help.
Garganstel sounds like a unique and interesting adventure area. Different architecture could be used to enhance the strangeness. We have derro and mongrelmen, which is a good mix and plays into the Azlant angle when combined with brain mold. However I would have expected more Azlanti inspired monstrosities than derro created cytilloid creatures. Having monsters that are no different from already established monsters except for size and psychokinetic bursts is a letdown. Here is an opportunity to let the imagination roam free and create alien magics, unique traps, and unique monstrous creations. This opportunity was not taken advantage of.
I like that this last section is set up so that it can be run in many different directions. The adventure goes from linear to almost sandbox in style as it progresses from the start to the finish. I would obviously prefer that a more open style of play be available from beginning to end, but at least this keeps a strong narrative line even as it opens up the possibilities.
Having a tunnel from Garganstel to Alvis doesn’t make much sense. It is far too convenient and easy. Having the cave system come out elsewhere and then letting the original plan take-over would have been a better feel in the narrative line. Being able to negotiate with Xyraga should be a good thing, until you remember what kind of people the heroes have to be to be involved in this caper to begin with. The derro take slaves; the PCs are abolitionists. They are so dedicated to abolition they got involved in the adventure in the first place. There really is no logical way that I can come up with that they would agree to help the derro.
Leading the mongrelmen away from their home to live on the surface is also a bit odd. They would be treated terribly by the surface dwellers, so it isn’t as benevolent an act as it might seem. Helping them liberate Garganstel and having a means of powering up the ancient Azlanti artifact to cleanse the city of cytillesh makes a lot more sense.
When I mentioned I like open possibilities, I should clarify that I mean many different routes to the same destination. And in an adventure module that should be to a great climatic battle. While one can exist in Xyraga’s lab, it is not guaranteed. That lack of a strong ending makes the open structure of the third act directionless rather than freeing.
There are some great ideas here and I see a wonderful story in the midst of it. But there are too many issues with this proposal for me to want to run it or play it. I will not be voting for this entry.
|Avatar-1 Star Voter Season 6|
I can't say I understand a lot of the criticisms with this one. Linearity isn't automatically a bad thing; personally I actually like some railroading in adventures. There are some mistakes error, but if they're pointed out, I feel like these are all pretty fixable.
I think I saw in one of the other entries about how the author's idea can be fantastic, but the execution has flaws; the reverse might be true here. Getting the execution right on a flawed idea can be more important, because different people have different tastes in what or how they like to play.
|Thomas LeBlanc RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9|
|CaelibDarkstone Star Voter Season 8|
I'm basically just an average GM, and I spend much more time reading adventures than actually playing them, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.
The Good: This adventure has some really interesting characters (actually, maybe a few too many exotic characters, but that's an easy thing to fix). Special point-based mechanics as a whole tend to be a bit overdone, but the Survival points make sense and are a nice simplification. The escort aspect is a fun addition and I can see wanting to play this as a player.
The Solid: The adventure concept is cool. Not knock your socks off fantastic, but cool.
The Not So Good: Fitting so many round 3 monsters in such a short space came across as awkward and just routine encounters. The transition from the above-ground slave freedom operation to the trek through Nar-voth was a bit hard to follow. Why is it the only way? Could the PCs come up with a more creative solution here?
Overall, I can see buying an adventure like this if I already had a campaign set in Cheliax or using it if it was part of a subscription. Unfortunately, there is one adventure I found cooler this round.
|Jacob W. Michaels 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|
First of all, congratulations on making the Top 4. Third time was the charm for you. You've got a lot of things in here that I like. I'm intrigued by the idea of the PCs having to escort a group of escaped slaves to freedom/safety, though I do have some concerns.
I think, like Journey into Midnight's, your background is a little jumbled. It feels like you're presenting a bunch of information but not really linking it all together. Most frustratingly, you tell me Kylaria has true motivations ... but then don't tell me what they are (you do fill that in later). I'm not sure if that was intentional to make readers want to continue on to find out, but with a captive audience like you have here, it's not necessary. You also don't give me any idea about an NPC that will show up as a major foe at the end of the module.
Shattered Chains concerns me, since it really needs the PCs to do what the plot demands, and that's always risky. I just recently ran a scene where the PCs looked like they were going to be overwhelmed, but in time were supposed to discover a resource they were unaware of. Unfortunately, they tried to retreat and I had to tweak the timeline to avoid it going off the rails a bit. This scene works if the PCs buy into the idea of retreating, but if they want to do something else, I fear they'll be left feeling they've got no choice in the matter and have been railroaded into Nar-Voth.
I like the survival points mechanic. A different recent game saw my PCs shepherding a group of civilians through a dangerous jungle terrain and I think a survival points mechanic would work well there.
Then we get into the final act and it feels like we're suddenly introducing new elements out of nowhere. Xyraga suddenly shows up out of the blue. I'm not sure how much the Azlant elements really feel like they fit in either -- I think James' suggestion to make it part of the dwarven Quest for the Sky makes much more sense. And as quickly as the new elements occur, it feels like the adventure wraps up suddenly. I think it makes a mistake by having Kylaria, who sort of begins the action, be dealt with too early, so there's no real sense of conclusion to the whole plot and that's a shame. The climactic fight has nothing to do with the events that set the adventure in motion.
Other than the survival points mechanics, I did really like your take on the NPCs. I'm a fan of halflings, and the different approaches here you use for them work really well for me.
|Lucus Palosaari Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9|
I really wanted to vote for your adventure proposal, but in the end, I' m going a different direction.
This is more because the other adventure proposal is "better" but yours is very solid.
But it lacks the scope for what I'd like to see in a module. You get an awful lot of pages to fill in, and while there are things you could keep adding to this, this adventure could instead make a really awesome cross-over event for PFS next season.
And I HOPE that is what they will do with this. You have an ideal set up for an evergreen --- you have a sort of basic beginning that hooks in many members of the Pathfinder Society (especially of course the Liberty's Edge faction), and then you have them doing a very Society-style activity (escort these people to safety), AND THEN you could have say a dozen different "possible" encounters, and the GM gets to choose 3-4 to throw at the PFS party for them to navigate though. Players could go through the adventure three or four times, every time facing different mix of challenges, and it would always be fun.
I sincerely hope that the Powers that Be would consider letting you set up a PFS Scenerio using what you have here (likely heavily modified). Some of the "complaints" by the judges actually become strengths then --- how many Azlanti style ruins has Paizo already made map tiles for? etc.
Great job, and good luck!
|Scott LaBarge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8|
I love it that you centered an adventure on the Bellflower Network, since that's always seemed to me a very flavorful part of the Golarion world that hasn't seen a lot of development in published Paizo products. I don't mind the railroading particularly either, although I worry that your set-up leaves a lot of room for the PC's to go off the rails at the beginning. I like the Group Survival system too, and think that could be fun to apply. My biggest concern, though, is that some of the materials at the end just don't feel particularly well integrated; the derro elements in particular sort of came out of nowhere.
I don't think I'll be voting for this one, but your stuff has been fun to read throughout, and I hope we'll see you start publishing soon!
|Monica Marlowe RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka mamaursula|
|Kalervo Oikarinen RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8|