Rimesoul Nexus – 1388 Words


Round 4: Design an encounter

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

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Rimesoul Nexus

Flip-Mat: Pub Crawl
==========
In Chillblight, the wicked fey city in Irrisen, all transactions eventually trickle down to Bazza’s Isle. Controlled by the satyr city councilor, Bazza the White, Bazza’s Isle is the center of a lucrative money-lending and pawnbroking empire. No enterprise there is more profitable, or more vile, than the Rimesoul Nexus, a large bazaar along the eastern edge of the island. The Nexus is one of the largest markets for mortal souls in the Inner Sea, frequented by depraved fey and villainous outsiders alike. Most of the souls are stolen or once belonged to slaves, but one small establishment, Essence Exchange, caters to those mortals desperate enough to put their own souls down as collateral for a loan. If the loan is not repaid in time, the borrower’s soul is immediately forfeit. Essence Exchange, like most places on the island, belongs to Bazza, but because of its low volume, it is operated by a cowardly and greedy forlarren named Varvara.

The PCs enter Chillblight posing as foreign merchants in order to find Olesya Boykova, an important member of the Heralds of Summer’s Return they were hired to smuggle out of the province. They discover that two weeks ago, Olesya’s husband was arrested and imprisoned at the Trident Coliseum. Panicked, Olesya borrowed money to bribe the jailers to free her husband before he was killed in the games. Unfortunately, the only thing of value she had as collateral was her soul, and she has since defaulted on her payments to Essence Exchange. Olesya is now a captive at the Exchange, and the PCs must rescue her before Varvara sells her soul to settle the debt.

Frozen Assets (CR 9)
==========
The frigid air at the Rimesoul Nexus rings with the sound of cruel fey laughter and the cracking of ice on the Frozen Road. Three rundown buildings cling to the hard-packed snow at the edge of the market, one crumbling into the water below. The building to the north bears a faded sign above its southern door which reads: Essence Exchange, no soul turned away!

The top of the map points north and each square is 5 feet.

The buildings are all 8 feet tall and made of wood, and all doors are unlocked, simple wooden doors. The western building is a well-appointed waiting area reserved for buyers. The northern building is Varvara’s office where she receives prospective borrowers. The small room is tidy and businesslike with a desk, tables and chairs; the large room is a nightmare of hacked-up bodies. The large room of the southern building is used as storage. It is filled with valueless junk except a helm of underwater action Varvara misplaced that can be found with a DC 20 Perception check. The small room is stacked with the frozen corpses of a dozen former borrowers.

The sturdy wooden docks stand 10 feet above the 20-foot deep icy water, each with a ladder reaching down to the surface. A metal cage hangs beneath the last square of each dock. Above each cage is a trapdoor and an oversized winch that can lift the cage above the dock. A character standing adjacent to the winch can, as a full round action, raise the cage 10 feet, or, as a swift action, release the winch causing the cage to plummet into the water. All the cages are locked and made of iron (hardness 10, hp 30, break DC 24, Disable Device DC 25). The center dock’s cage is a Drowning Cage Trap containing a very life-like mannequin covered in furs. Succeeding at a DC 25 Perception check while inspecting the mannequin reveals the ruse. The water is very cold and deals 1d6 points of nonlethal damage from hypothermia per minute of exposure.

Creatures: A night hag (Bestiary 1 215) named Nadezhda currently occupies the waiting room under the guise of a beautiful, white-haired Irriseni woman. She is here to buy, but Varvara recently doubled her prices to meet a new quota set by Bazza and Nadezhda is weighing her options. She is not interested in fighting on Bazza’s turf and simply turns ethereal and leaves if attacked. She is currently unfriendly to the PCs; if she is made indifferent, with a DC 23 Diplomacy check, she is annoyed enough at Varvara that she will divulge information about the Exchange if asked. She knows where the prisoners are held and what guards them but nothing about the trap. She can tell the PCs which cage is Olesya’s if they can describe her.

The forlarren Varvara resides in her office when the PCs arrive. She fawns over anyone entering, assuming they are customers, but is suspicious of visible weapons or questions about her captives. She quickly calls for the redcap guard if she thinks there is danger; when threatened, she makes a Sleight of Hand check to hide a small ledger on her person.

A redcap guard named Sevimbum waits in the backroom of the office. He half-heartedly hacks up corpses of old borrowers between fits of manic giggling, but he always comes if called or if he hears a fight break out in the office or at the docks.

Varvara hired the twin fossegrims, Black Harp and Last Kiss, to guard the docks. One brother always invisibly patrols the water beneath the cages while the other rests nearby at the bottom of the river. They attack anyone on the docks they don’t recognize.

Currently two human female captives hang below the docks waiting to have their souls collected, with Olesya in the southern cage. Both women are gagged, covered in furs, suffering from hypothermia and nearly impossible to tell apart without opening the cages.

Forlarren CR 2
XP 600
hp 18 (Bestiary 2 125)
Tactics
During Combat After sounding the alarm, Varvara tries to flee with the ledger.
Morale If brought to 4 hit points or less, Varvara begs for her life.

Redcap CR 6
XP 2,400
hp 60 (Bestiary 2 233)
Tactics
During Combat Sevimbum steers any combat to the docks to receive help from the twins and to use the narrow walkways to avoid being surrounded. If he thinks the PCs are here to save captives, he jumps to the cages and drops them into the water.
Morale Sevimbum is insane and fights to the death.

Arctic Fossegrim (2) CR 4
XP 1,200 each
hp 41 each (Bestiary 4 114)
Resist cold 10
Tactics
During Combat The brothers use enchanting music on PCs and follow that with drowning touch. If this proves ineffective, they use hydraulic torrent to push PCs from the docks into the water and attack them. They cast mage hand and drop the cages into the river if they think that will bring the PCs into the water.
Morale One of the twins flees if his brother and Sevimbum are defeated.

Human Captive (2) CR —
hp 13 each (currently 9) (NPC Codex 261 Seasoned Trapper)

Trap:
Drowning Cage CR 4
Type mechanical; Perception DC 20; Disable Device DC 20
----- Effects -----
Trigger touch; Reset manual;
Effect Any creature attempting to open the cage sets off the trap. The door of the cage clamps down on the creature’s arm, giving the creature the entangled condition, and the weighted cage drops into the water below taking the creature with it. A DC 20 Reflex save negates the entangle, and a DC 16 Strength check allows an entangled creature to stay on the dock. The entangle can be escaped with a DC 18 Escape Artist check or a DC 24 Strength check.

Development: If Varvara survives the encounter, she covers up the robbery out of fear of reprisal from Bazza; if Varvara dies then Bazza begins searching for thieves. Nadezhda does not forget the insult if attacked and begins plotting to steal the PC’s souls. If the PCs stole the ledger, they now have a list of people in debt to Essence Exchange to do with what they wish. Olesya is grateful if she survives, and has knowledge of a plot by the Cold Sisters to demoralize the Heralds in Irrisen. She implores the PCs to take her and her husband to Whitethrone to help warn the other resistance leaders. If Olesya dies, the Heralds will be caught unawares by a brutal series of executions of its members.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Mark! Welcome to the Top 8! All your hard work has paid off for you, and now you find yourself on the cusp of having a shot at the top prize. From here, you've got a major opportunity to really impress a lot of folks and secure yourself some bonafide freelancing opportunities, not just with Paizo but other third-party publishers, as well. The trick lies in putting forth your best work to show us that you belong. By this point, you should have learned a lot of lessons, and now, we need to see how well you've incorporated them and how well you've learned to apply them. In fact, encounter design is the primary precursor to adventure design, since it incorporates your storytelling ability, how to synergize your idea with a playable map, your stat-block ability, and a host of other elements of game design which really start to bring it altogether. So, let's go through your encounter and see what you've got.

Name: Naming still matters, even at this stage of the game, and you've gone with Rimesoul Nexus for your location, which seems okay given the purpose it serves with the backstory you've created for it. Meanwhile, we've got Frozen Assets as your encounter name, which feels a bit lackluster and pun-like. Based on the setup for what transpires during this encounter, however, I'm not sure what else to suggest.

Creative Ideas: You've poured a lot of creativity into the nature of this location and the type of work the inhabitants of the Rimesoul Nexus are engaged in. Strangely, I think the night hag is probably the most interesting element, though, and she departs once she's provided information to the PCs (just because?) and has no interest in any combat which takes place there. Instead, we're left with a lowly forlarren, a couple of fossegrims, and a murderour redcap to really sell the piece, all of whom feel kind of underserved in relation to the amount of interaction and detail established for the night hag. So, this kind of feels more like a missed opportunity than a highly creative encounter situation. I think it would have been stronger if the night hag were the featured villain...even a younger one at CR-1...who just visited the Rimesoul Nexus in an effort to haggle for a soul for one of her gems. That could have creatively sold the piece more for me. That said, you did invent some cool names for the fossegrims and there's a definite “style” to how you've portrayed the Irrisen fey that shows off their sinister, sadistic nature.

Writing Ability: You've relied on passive verbs quite a bit. Basically, any derivation of the verb “to be” that shows up as “is”, “are”, “was”, “were”, etc. should be considered for rewording/reworking into something that flows more dynamically and actively to draw in the reader. Everything is organized well, however. And, you've taken a lot of care in making sure you've defined all the physical features of the location. This is a common element in adventure design, and it's good to see that attention to detail.

Mechanics/Gameplay: This writeup relies on a lot of lesser CR creatures to boost the overall encounter. But at CR 9, we're probably looking at 7th level PCs taking on this fight, and none of the individual creatures are on the same threat “level” as the PCs themselves. So, it's probably going to be a fairly “easy” CR 9 encounter for them. It might have worked better if you went with a single “major boss” monster and a lesser “lieutenant” to accompany them rather than spending so much of the encounter XP on lesser threats that won't really pose a concern.

Professional Polish: You did a very good job here. Everything is in its place. In fact, this is one of the most properly structured encounter designs for the entire round.

Recommendation: Taken altogether, I felt like this submission had some strong elements going for it, and some other things holding it back. The backstory is appropriate for Irrisen, but the creatures in charge of it are less appropriate for the encounter CR and the most memorable element is from an NPC monster that doesn't hang around. The writing could also use some shoring up, but the professional polish is spot-on. So, I'm going to put myself ON THE FENCE. If the voters see you through to the next round, bring the heat with your adventure pitch.

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

Hey Mark, 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:
As a developer who works on many adventures, I’m always considering how much I would need to work on an encounter to develop it and prepare it for publication. It’s certainly important for a contestant to create something that wows the judges with creativity and flair, but a submission can tip into the “recommend” or “don’t recommend” depending on how much editing and general revision is necessary.
Setting: Does your encounter fit in Golarion? Is the CR appropriate for the setting and the encounter? Is it clear how a GM might use this encounter? Have you clearly explained or referenced existing rules for any hazards and terrain features included in the encounter?
NPCs, Creatures, and Traps: Do the foes you selected contribute to the encounter and its theme? Do they feel natural or forced? Do your NPCs fit the location and provide enough context for a GM to run an encounter from start (a hook) to the end (when the PCs question any captives)? Do any traps or haunts fit the encounter? Do they 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
Hmm, and Irriseni fey community with a soul market—unexpected but not out of the question. I don’t know what value fey find in souls, and I’m curious to learn what the underlying motive of this large bazaar is. It certainly has a very Witchmarket feel to it, for good or for ill.

I appreciate your tying the encounter into Irrisen further by including the Heralds, and the rescue mission makes for a fairly straightforward and easy to grasp scene. Thank you for including the note about the PCs posing as merchants, as that answers the question of how they got in without being enslaved by fey.

You provide lots of really good information about the hazards, heights, depths, and mechanics of the environment, making it pretty easy for a GM to get a sense of the many structures on the map.

NPCs, Creatures, and Traps
I saw that there was a night hag in a CR 9 encounter and got excited, only to learn that she’s barely a part of the encounter. Unfortunately, as an evil outsider in a city of fey, she’s still among the last living creatures that a typical group of PCs would want to parley with; fey tend to be more approachable than soul-harvesting hags. If attacked, she then blips away. Instead, the PCs’ nemesis is a CR 2 forlarren. While that makes an unexpected and interesting salesperson, the forlarren serves only as a distraction who runs off with a ledger that the PCs don’t have enough context to care about; they’re here for a rescue mission, not for industrial soul espionage. This would have a much greater impact if they had a solid lead that the book is important.

The redcap makes an amusing bodyguard and abattoir attendee. The fossegrims help to prevent the PCs from sneaking up through the water, but I’m not sold on their being an active part of the scuffle with the other two fey. I instead see most groups dispatching the redcap and forlarren before walking outside to try to rescue the prisoners (triggering the fossegrims’ attack). Keep in mind that the enchanting music ability only works if the target can both see and hear the fossegrim, so they’re going to have a tough time luring a PC outside during that first fight.

The trap and decoy are cute, but I doubt they’ll be relevant until the PCs encounter the fossegrims, further dividing up this one encounter into two.

Numbers
All of the numbers seem reasonable for a group of mid-level PCs. I have my doubts about how the CR quite adds up—referenced above—and I am concerned that the individual fey aren’t going to present a reasonable threat to a mid-level group despite their collective CR adding up to 9.

Style
Your parentheticals are good, and your text reads pretty well. Be mindful of condition terminology, such as in the trap’s effect line wherein a PC should be able to “end the entangled condition” rather than “the entangle can be escaped.” On a related note with the same example phrase, police your use of passive voice.

Final Thoughts
I’m unsure how I feel about the soul market itself, but you certainly have a good sense of how twisted fey can be. The way that you’ve set up the encounter makes it likely that it will take place as two combats that both ignore a really appealing foe: the night hag. With more context, the night hag negotiation could be really fun, as could recovering the ledger. As it is, the players won’t know enough to prioritize either of those.

I do not recommend this encounter for advancement to the final round.

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

Thank you judges for your feedback, and thanks to anyone who takes the time to read through all the encounters and vote.

Dedicated Voter Season 9

Rimesoul Nexus:
Background:

Pretty good first paragraph – I’m told exactly where the setting is; there’s adequate information about the key players fey, outsiders, Bazza, and Varvara.

Second paragraph: The Heralds of Summer’s Return are something the reader might not be immediately familiar with, but is easily discovered via a google search. While the backstory about Olesya and her husband is nice, it’s something that should have been in the preceeding paragraph. This paragraph should have been about the party; why they came to Chillblight, why the Herald’s hired them (instead of liberating Olesya themselves), and what they’ve done so far in preparation for the conflict at the exchange. This would have done a lot to pull readers, GM or player, into the setting and give everyone a better understanding of the job ahead.

All of this would be better served with the use of active phrasing, putting the player or GM directly into the shoes of the major powers.

Encounter Write Up:

Gives me all the information I need about the buildings and their constituents. It’s odd that all the doors would be unlocked; one would expect some sort of storeroom for the souls-both of which I’d expect to be locked.

The helm of underwater action feels random; I get that it would help a party to not die from the trap, but I don’t see why Varvara would have it to begin with.

I would have liked to see more done with Nadhezdha; giving her more development, and agency in the plot could have saved your CR designation while providing players with a deeper insight into the campaign to follow.

Otherwise this looks like a fun session; I like how much freedom the party has to run around and explore your setting. That said it’s not a CR 9 encounter area, even if all the major combatants gather together (which is unlikely given how geographically separated they are) they add up to a CR 8 opponent. I think this would be fun at level 6, trite at 7, and doable at 4+ (playtest pending).

So on to the voting rubric:

Is the general premise interesting and believable? Yes; we have a wonderful little romp through *not* Narnia, with a nice, dark little soul collection angle.

Does the setting description bring me into the gameworld, so that I see the encounter through my character’s eyes (or the NPC’s eyes if I’m the GM)?

Yes, as the GM; there’s a lot of good description for me to read, and I think I could pull the party into the setting without doing a lot of prep ahead of time.

Do I have adequate descriptions of all the different setting pieces to run the game without a hitch (objects, setting, NPCs, enemies, traps)?

Yes.

Does the encounter draw the party into a conflict on their own terms, give them agency up to the climax, and allow a conflict resolution ideally setting up or concluding a larger plot-arc?
• Are the conflicts leading to the climax varied in nature?

Yes; There are a couple diplomatic interactions, one or two main fight sequences – which can be avoided with stealth, and a puzzle (which cage is she in?) combined with a trap.

• Are they thematic?

Yes.

• Are they difficult enough to entice players without
overshadowing the climax?

They are neither difficult for an appropriately leveled party, nor do they necessarily build to a climax.

• Is the climax appropriate?

The climax is likely either an all out brawl, or a tragic drowning scene involving the trap; neither is particularly thematic to the soul stealing concept, but the trap works for the location.

• Does it encompass (and/or respond to) different avenues pursued by the players?

Yes

• Is it challenging?

No; possibly if the trap triggers, then the party gets ambushed, and the redcap comes out.

• Does it set the tone for a memorable resolution?
In itself, no; by way of the extended plot lines it opens up, very much

yes. I would want to continue playing in a campaign to see what comes after this.

• Is the resolution thematic and appropriate to the challenge (both difficulty and nature)?
Yes.

• Does it encompass (and/or respond to) different avenues taken by the players?

Very much so.

• Is it fulfilling (to the plot, to the characters, to the players, to the NPCs and setting)?
Yes.

Are the NPCs, Monsters, Traps, Enemies and Allies introduced in a way which supports the overall encounter and leaves me interested regardless of being player or GM?

No: This is pretty much in the GM’s hands; there’s enough description for me to run things, but because the setting is so open my individual skill (or lack thereof) will be a contributing factor.
Are the maps well labeled (clarity/concision)?

Yes; I would have included the mannequin trap information in the same space as the information about the two captives, since that makes referencing things easier.

Does the description support/is it appropriate to the map?

Yes.

Is everything organized well, so that I can find anything I need in a moment and figure out its placement in game?

Mostly; room for improvement.

Does the encounter teach me something new about Golarion, and the encounter’s specific setting?

It references a number of things I wasn’t familiar with, and presumably builds upon them with the soul trading theme.

Can I play through and enjoy it without extensive background knowledge; if not is this knowledge included for me?

Yes; presentation could have been improved to make room for a brief description of the Heralds (freedom fighters).

Does the encounter inspire me to do better in my own games and if so is it easily adaptable to them (as Player, GM, and Designer)?

Average; easily adaptable to be run in them.

Did the encounter surprise me (good or bad)?

No (perhaps players will feel differently); the premise (soul collecting fey) did surprise me, in a good way. It would be interesting to see how you integrated this element into Irresen as part of a larger plot.

Does the environment play a part of the encounter, and is it well integrated?

Yes and yes.

Effective use of tactics and morale?

Not much on tactics, but the morale blocks are nice and the monster descriptions can give me the rest. I’d need to do a little bit of prep here.

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

This year my intention is to give a first impression on each encounter then run them with a few friends to see if my impression of the encounter changes.

Also I'm not reading any other comments before hitting this with my first impression write up. I'm partly curious how it holds up to my later impression and what the pros have stated.

I'm going Good, Bad, and Ugly with a tentative grade. I'll post final grade after running.

Not quite First impression: **I glanced at this for the author don't worry it isn't getting mercy**

The Good I loved the soul market the first time I saw it and that hasn't changed. I still would have liked a more twisted redcap but word count limits are a problem. I think it is easy to overlook how sinister that trap is and I think at least 1 player will fall into it the way it is set up.
The Bad A level trap to drop pcs into the cold ass water would be a pretty nifty defense, especially if the bad guys baited PCs there and the lever was behind the counter... Sometimes the simplest ideas are better, you could have a 2nd levelr that drops the cage on them while they are in the water...
The Ugly I still think the night hag is a distraction and should be cut... I get why you kept it in but it steals limelight.
Overall The core idea of evil fey dealing out souls on a seller's market sells the hell out of this for me and I think it will resonate with the voters and my players My tentative grade is an A-


I understand word count, but it seems to me like the forlarren in this role should have some class levels or something to bring her up to about CR 4. I want to know a little bit more about her; most forlarrens are feral hunters or serial killers. What makes her such an able entrepreneur?

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

If she used her soul as collateral, why is Olesya waiting to sell it? I think it would be taken immediately and placed for sale.

Why are the buildings unlocked?

I dislike the trap, but the decoy inside is very devious. How would it clamp down on someone opening them? Does a cage get opened by putting the hand inside it somehow? Two saves seems excessive. If you make the Strength check you stay standing on the dock with a heavy cage hanging from your arm? Seems too low for a Medium metal cage with a Medium creature inside it.

What are they targeting with mage hand to make the cages drop? Can the PCs stop it somehow?

Overall, those are very minor points and I enjoyed this encounter.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Thrawn007

RJGrady wrote:
I understand word count, but it seems to me like the forlarren in this role should have some class levels or something to bring her up to about CR 4. I want to know a little bit more about her; most forlarrens are feral hunters or serial killers. What makes her such an able entrepreneur?

I don't have a dog in this fight, other than it's the first round I can't be disqualified from by discussing rules. I agree class levels would have been nice, but unfortunately, creating custom NPC's is really outside of the scope of this assignment. If it's not in a bestiary or codex already, then it really wasn't usable.


Robert Thomson wrote:
RJGrady wrote:
I understand word count, but it seems to me like the forlarren in this role should have some class levels or something to bring her up to about CR 4. I want to know a little bit more about her; most forlarrens are feral hunters or serial killers. What makes her such an able entrepreneur?
I don't have a dog in this fight, other than it's the first round I can't be disqualified from by discussing rules. I agree class levels would have been nice, but unfortunately, creating custom NPC's is really outside of the scope of this assignment. If it's not in a bestiary or codex already, then it really wasn't usable.

Okay, you have a point:

Quote:


Do not use customized monsters or hazards that do not already have a stat block from the PRD if the effects of the variation cannot be summed up by adding one line to the stat block (such as a half-fiend troll, a goblin rogue 5, or an advanced spectre)—normally you would include a complete stat block for such a monster, and you won't have room to do so within the 1,400 word limit for your entry.

So maybe something other than a forlarren. It's just so low CR.

Dark Archive

Thomas LeBlanc wrote:
If she used her soul as collateral, why is Olesya waiting to sell it? I think it would be taken immediately and placed for sale.

From my reading, the soul is waiting to be collected from Olesya, and then presumably sold to the night hag.

Okay, on to my feedback. Since others have hit the formatting and mechanics, I'm going to skip those unless there's something I think needs to be called out. I'll divide my critique into two parts - encounter, and story.

I agree with others that the encounter as written would not be very challenging for the PCs, as they most likely wouldn't trigger everything at once. Maybe if there was a stronger reason for the PCs to go out to the docks while still fighting those inside it would work out, but as it is now, there's no reason for them to go outside while they're fighting in the office, and chances are pretty slim that Sevimbum will ever make it out there past the PCs to trigger the cages. Also, I would hope most characters in this setting would be wary of attracting undue attention, and purposely try not to fight outside. Varvara seems like more of a distraction than a threat, which is probably why she tries to flee at the earliest opportunity. At the level PCs would be when fighting her, there's a very real chance of her dying before she can escape, but at least you give a reason as to why they may try to keep her alive (information). The night hag is the attention grabber in this setup, and she's not even supposed to get involved. I would have loved to see more of her.

You do a good job of setting up the scene, and the soul market is definitely a place I would want to explore further. This entry comes across as a very small portion of what the PCs could face in the city, and you give us enough background to set up some more interesting encounters. However, I wish you had focused on one of those, as the focus of this round is on one encounter, and it should be the best of the bunch. As I said to another contestant, if I'd rather see what follows than what's in front of me, then the encounter is not the star of this round, which is what it should be.

With only two votes this round, I'm not sure yet if your entry is on my keep list. You obviously have a good idea of what makes for an interesting story, which means I look forward to seeing what you come up with for the next round, and so I wish you good luck!

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

Alanya wrote:
Thomas LeBlanc wrote:
If she used her soul as collateral, why is Olesya waiting to sell it? I think it would be taken immediately and placed for sale.
From my reading, the soul is waiting to be collected from Olesya, and then presumably sold to the night hag.
Mark Griffin wrote:

Rimesoul Nexus

--- Olesya is now a captive at the Exchange, and the PCs must rescue her before Varvara sells her soul to settle the debt. ---

Again a minor point. This encounter was one of my 3 favorites.

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

I'll grant that the Irrisen soul market is a pretty cool set up, and personally I even liked the much maligned insertion of the night hag that doesn't do much. I also like the trap. But then we come to...

The fossegrims: I personally think the insertion of these creatures was a huge misstep on many levels. First, good names or not, nothing about the description of these creatures in the Bestiary makes me think they are the sort of beings that can be hired (in pairs, no less, being solitary) for something so mundane as guard duty. I love the fossegrim, but its use in this way actually makes it seem banal and demystified. Not cool.

Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, as JC points out the way this is set up makes it entirely likely the whole thing will be triggered as two separate encounters, each basically a CR 6. For even a 7th level party, this is likely to be trivial. Also, it's one of those annoying encounters that is actually made more difficult if the PCs try to accomplish it with stealth and finesse (since they run the risk of triggering the fossegrims and trap first, and drawing out the redcap), than if they just kick down the door and start killing (in which case they murder the redcap and forlarren as barely a speedbump, then do the same to the fossegrims, then finally trigger the trap which at that point is irrelevant since nothing is fighting them anymore and they can deal with it at their leisure).

You could say that my main criteria for judging an encounter is how meticulously the author has visualized the way (or ways) that encounter is likely to play out, and on that level I have to reluctantly call this one a fail. Although there are some nice ideas here, at this stage of the contest it's all about execution, and I think in practice this encounter is going to fall flat 9 times out of 10.

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

Congratulations Mark!

Definitely deserving the Top 8 slot, meaning this is a keeper already. Now just to decide how much.

Story: Yes, though I find it a little disconnected to the encounter. If she has already defaulted on the loan, is rescuing her any good?
Character: The most compelling is the hag, who will not be a part of the encounter. But she is very compelling especially if she gets to be a recurring villain.
Player options: not many, starting with the 'arrive in disguise.' They may be able to talk their way into the captive, but without a price it seems only a fight will end it. My PCs will ask about the purchase price of course.
Mechanically right: The strongest aspect of the encounter. A lot of tactics that seem to take a lot into consideration, nice work.
Unfortunately for me, it is not enough to outweigh the other elements.

A keeper, though a weak one. :)

Dedicated Voter Season 9

I've now had the chance to play-test this (7th level party); ran the fossegrims slightly wrong to begin with (I had initially read the enchanting music ability as revealing the form to its target - leaving it hidden to others). Realized the mistake about halfway through the fight and fixed it. This was by far the longest encounter of the four I ran (Gnome's Throw Crossing, Bracken Moor Bridge, Petrified Plain, Rimesoul Nexus), in no small part due to them. I should also have had Black Harp escape after Last Kiss and Sevimbum were killed; this would have saved considerable playtime, but not much in terms of party resources (forgot his morale block).

The rogue (Merisiel Pregen) skulked around the buildings scouting the area, discovering all the doors, the docks, and the cages with the bundled up figures in them. They reported back the all clear and the party (swashbuckler, cleric, kineticist, rogue) moved towards the top dock, jumping the 5' gap between the shore and the first dock to investigate the northernmost cage. Merisiel easily picked the lock, but the fossegrims noticed the click, and Black Harp moved in to investigate while Last Kiss remained in treasure form between the north and middle docks. BH lured Merisiel into the water, and proceeded to kiss/drown her over the next few rounds. LK similarly lured the swashbuckler in to *cough* 'inspect' the jewels.

The Kineticist (Yoon Pregen) lit the treasure chest up with her fire, damaging it and alerting Varvara and Sevimbum to her presence. Around the time Sevimbum came charging out Merisiel and the Swash failed their second fort save, and began drowning. Sevimbum jumped across the narrow gap to attack Yoon, but missed. The Cleric and Yoon focused on him, killing him in about 3 rounds while the other two generally made their fort saves. When he fell low, Sevimbum called out for the fossegrim to help but the cleric called upon the power of his faith and Yoon's childish naivete fended off their amorous song.

Several rounds later Yoon finished off the fossegrim; meanwhile the cleric went about pulling the swashbuckler and Merisiel from the water. Had they been a bit more aggressive the Fossegrims could have wiped the party by themselves (by using their slams to finish off the drowning victims for example and then focus on other land based threats). Definitely a CR9 encounter the way it played out. Yoon spotted the trap cage immediately, so that was a non-threat, and Merisiel easily disabled it. The party rescued both the unnamed northern NPC, and Olesya.

This is a good encounter and will recieve one of my votes; I'd have liked a little more insight into the unnamed NPC and Olesya however, for RP purposes since Varvara and Nadezhda did not come into play.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Petty Alchemy

Hello Mark!

This is the 4th (and final) Encounter I had the pleasure to playtest, thanks to Trekkie running it.

The party was a Cleric (run by an inexperienced player), a Swashbuckler, a Rogue (Merisiel the pregen), and a Kineticist (Yoon the pregen, run by me). We were all level 7, and started each encounter at full strength. I had skimmed all the encounters on the day they were revealed, so there were still a lot of surprises.

With that said, how did your encounter go?

We arrived on the scene and decided to avoid making a stir. Meri scouted the area without going inside, finding the caged ladies by the water. Athletic and sneaky, Meri and Swashy jumped to the cage and Meri picked the lock.

Unfortunately for them both, the water fey put them both under enchantments. Yoon and the Cleric could do nothing to stop them from diving into the water (though Yoon blasted the fey that was a chest, hoping to disrupt what she guessed was an illusion).

The Swashbuckler and Rogue continued to fail saves against the special abilities and drowning for most of the encounter, when the Redcap appeared and leapt at Yoon with his scythe. He had three chances to cut Yoon but missed each time (with terrible rolls), while Yoon personally reduced him to ash, not even bothering to look as he burned to death in the end.

The twin that appeared as a treasure chest died of steam burns, and the other twin tried to woo Yoon since Merisiel and Swashy were both drowning already. She had pretty good rolls, and it was ruled that as a child (especially one that lost her mother to an aquatic threat), she was not attracted to it and got a +4 bonus.

The Cleric cast Freedom of Movement and dove in to channel energy and bring our sneaky folks back from near-death. The Swashbuckler was promptly lured back into the water and started drowning as Yoon had a lot of trouble hitting the twin. Merisiel tossed daggers, but for little effect.

We spotted the trapped cage, and rescued both women.

Reading over the encounter, it looks like we missed our chance to chat with the night hag, which would’ve been interesting. Slight misplay in that the water fey should’ve fled after his brother and the Redcap died (per the Morale section), but he decided he wanted to make out with the Swashbuckler until he died.

Playing Yoon, I had fun. I had my first flammable opponent in the Redcap, which was nice after so many aquatic enemies in both this and previous encounters. Firing into the water proved tricky, but not impossible.

The Rogue and Swashbuckler probably had less fun (I would have less fun if I were in their shoes), as they spent nearly the entire encounter drowning themselves. We had no way to snap them out of it, save for killing the fey.

What might’ve made it better: A guard did show up as we expected when we made a commotion, but it was only one guard.
It was challenge appropriate since half the party was already out of comission, but I think it would’ve been more fun if there were more guards and only one water fey, as we ended up with half the party just rolling saves and skipping their turns.
Alternatively, if Olesya had a spark of badassery and could countersong or something like that, it would've also been very cool.

This was the most dangerous of the four encounters we played, since HP went from full to -1.

There's a good chance I'll be voting for this encounter, but I'll need to read over the others in more depth first.

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

Okay, I've now playtested this (and several other round 4 encounters) and I've somewhat revised my opinion about it, but before I go into any of that, I have to lead with the most confusing thing that came up for me while running this.

What is the arctic template (as in "arctic fossegrims")? There's a 3rd party one on pfsrd, but it seems to work differently and I'm assuming that's not what the author is using. Is there an official Paizo one somewhere? Is it the author's creation? In either case, does it give things mage hand? Was there an errata to fossegrims giving them mage hand? They don't seem to have it in the Bestiary, but they use it in the encounter. Someone help? Am I missing something?

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

Bueller?

Dark Archive

Erick Wilson wrote:
Bueller?

No clue. I didn't even notice that (since I didn't playtest or prep this) until you mentioned it. I'm curious as well!

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

I don't know of an arctic template, though there is a winter fey template in #68: The Shackled Hut. This appears to be a variant fossegrim, which would typically be conveyed like so:

Arctic Fossegrim (2) CR 4
XP 1,200 each
Varient fossegrim (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 4 114)
hp 41 each

Authors and developers sometimes present variant creatures as a way of defying expectations or fitting a creature into an atypical situation, like giving a *Space Redcap* the no breath ability, starflight, and/or immunity to the vacuum of space. So long as the extra abilities don't add so much that they would qualify as a CR boost, nothing else needs to change. In this case the arctic variant seems to just involve adding resist cold 10.

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

John Compton wrote:
In this case the arctic variant seems to just involve adding resist cold 10.

What about the mage hand? Are we assuming that's part of the arctic variant he's created? How would we know that? And does that also mean, as a matter of precedent, that it's kosher to add spell-like abilities to variant monsters as long as the author does not deem that doing so would increase the creature's CR? And is that supposed to be indicated in any way?

Basically, I'm just not sure how to accurately evaluate what he's done there. It seems like it could be anywhere from a minor formatting error (not indicating "variant" in the stat block) to -if it's supposed to be a "winter fey" as per Shackled Hut- use of material outside the PRD (not sure how verboten that is) to just, I don't know, confusing and arguably exploitative use of the "variant monster" clause from the contest rules (because I don't see why being an arctic variant would give something mage hand, and because it wasn't indicated in any way that that's what was going on).

Granted, it's a 0 level spell, but its use in the encounter is highly tactically significant. If the monster had the spell in question then I would say kudos for making hay with it. But the monster doesn't have it; he just added it, so...I'm just a bit lost about how to regard this.

Dedicated Voter Season 9

A good catch -- since he provided a link to the PRD fossegrim entry I think it's safe to assume that the mage hand line is an overlook along the same lines as the minor formatting error. Since his 'variant fossegrim' information block does not mention such an ability I'd just run the encounter without it until Mark can clarify. It's possible they were originally written with some 'other treasure' which provided the mage hand effect.

Dedicated Voter Season 9

After some thought: The Fossegrims can walk on water with their constant SLA, and they have a very high stealth skill; to avoid using mage hand (if you truly feel its inappropriate), have the brother which isn't masquerading as a pile of gems swim over (invisibly) to the dock with the PCs, come out under the dock (stealth), and drop the cage (if necessary). Note that they only do this as a last resort anyways.

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

Trekkie90909 wrote:
A good catch -- since he provided a link to the PRD fossegrim entry I think it's safe to assume that the mage hand line is an overlook along the same lines as the minor formatting error.

I think you're right about the PRD. I think we can safely assume that he wasn't using the winter fey material from Shackled Hut, and that's good.

If it was just a mistake though, as in he really thought that fossegrims had mage hand, I think it's a much more significant one than leaving out the word "variant." He's accidentally added a spell-like ability to a monster ex nihilo. In a contest like this, that does not look good.

If it was done on purpose, I'm less sure how to feel about it. In that case, it seems less incompetent but it's troubling in other ways. For one, it seems arbitrary to the point of whimsy (since, again, why would being an arctic creature give something mage hand?)- again not a good attitude to design with in this kind of contest. It also seems reckless. He must have known that it constituted, at the very least, a...let's say "unorthodox" interpretation of the "variant monster" clause. Taking risks is good. That kind of intentional manipulation of the contest guidelines is probably not. As you said, he's unable to come on and explain, but again the alternative is the pretty significant incompetence of just somehow thinking the monster had a power it doesn't have.

As a GM, this kind of thing concerns me. In the playtest I ran, one of the more scrupulous PCs ignored a lot of other tactical concerns (like his own safety) in the interest of saving the captive. He saved her, but got killed in the process by the redcap. I even said to the players "wow, that's the most effective use of mage hand I've ever seen," when the thought hit me that it was odd that fossegrims even have mage hand. That's when I looked more closely, and sure enough they don't. Imagine the ire of a player in a PFS game if the same thing happened to them and then they discovered that the monster that dropped the cage in the water wasn't even supposed to have the spell that let them do it. That's potentially one angry player you've got on your hands.

I didn't want to make assumptions, so I was waiting to see if someone could explain what was going on here. Since there seems to be no clear explanation though, I'm going to have to definitely take a pass on this entry based on this issue. There were other things, and I'll post the playtest report after I go do the reports on the other entries, but this issue seals the deal. Not a keeper for me.

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

close one but I ended up voting for this. At the end of the day it has the best core idea.

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

Hey Mark,

I gave you a little feedback, so I'm not going to limit my comments.

That said, I do think you did one of the best jobs of creating a new location for this round, which is one of my favorite aspects of the round. A black soul market (a soul black market?) is a new addition to Golarion and something that could play a role in multiple adventures/encounters. It fits perfectly in Irrisen and feels like a natural thing to add there, which could easily be included in any number of events set in Chillblight.

Good luck with the voters.

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