Beneath the Storm-Veiled Spires

Round 5: Submit an adventure proposal

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 4 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

14 people marked this as a favorite.

Beneath the Storm-Veiled Spires
In the flooded city of Hyrantam, the Lirgeni residents find themselves trapped between two perilous threats: a thunderbird allied with a coven of hags ruling above, and increasingly vicious attacks from oceanic monsters lurking below. The terrified Lirgeni believe their salvation lies in Hyrantam’s ruins, and ask the PCs to scour the drowned city for resources to help them survive. As the PCs explore the flooded Lirgeni capital, they uncover clues connecting the coven’s schemes with the influx of aquatic predators, and must search the city for weapons and allies capable of challenging the city’s volatile overlords.

Beneath the Storm-Veiled Spires is a Pathfinder RPG adventure designed for 5th-level characters. PCs on the medium advancement track should reach 8th level by the adventure’s conclusion.

Adventure Background
Throughout the Age of Enthronement, the people of Lirgen used their knowledge of astronomical patterns and prophesy to read the heavens and guide their civilization to prosperity. When Aroden died and the Eye of Abendego blotted out the stars, some members of the Saoc Brethren frantically tried to apply their auguries to the hurricane’s wind patterns in a desperate bid for deliverance. Though their efforts ultimately failed to save Lirgen, the Brethren’s storm readings helped guide countless refugees to safety.

Over a century later, a storm hag (Adventure Path #72: The Witch Queen’s Revenge 90) named Byurka found documents describing the Brethren’s attempted storm auguries. Intrigued, she wondered if her mastery of storms could allow her to change the Eye’s wind patterns, and thus control the fate of those touched by the hurricane’s influence. She gathered a coven of like-minded hags and traveled to Hyrantam to perfect the Lirgeni philosophers’ haphazard storm auguries.

When they arrived in the Sodden Lands, Byurka found that the territory around Hyrantam was already claimed by Aeassra, a thunderbird drawn by the Eye of Abendego. Rather than compete with the powerful beast, the hags used flattery and the promise of tribute to entice Aeassra into an alliance. With the thunderbird’s aid, the coven began extorting the Lirgeni survivors residing atop the Hyrantam ruins. Now the beleaguered locals bristle under Byurka’s demands for food, Saoc artifacts, and other offerings, but lack the resources necessary to confront the hags. Instead they eke out a living by sending tribute to the Augur’s Throne, a floating Saoc tower that now serves as the coven’s lair.

The Lirgeni’s situation deteriorated further when the hags started experimenting with storm auguries. Manipulating the weather created far-reaching consequences below the waves, driving maritime creatures into ravenous frenzies. The Lirgeni don’t know what is causing the surge in monster attacks, and they desperately seek adventurers bold enough to rid them of the violent sea beasts, the thunderbird, and the ruthless storm coven.

Hooks: A storm augury convinces the hags that a passing ship (with the PCs as passengers) contains great danger, so they send Aeassra to sink it. The PCs wash up in Hyrantam, where the coven continues to investigate and harass them, wary of the ship’s survivors. Alternatively PCs may approach Hyrantam investigating Lirgeni distress signals or rumors of hidden treasures lost in the drowned city, but foreigners attract the hags’ attention. Regardless of their circumstances, the PCs arrive to find the Lirgeni struggling to make ends meet without angering the thunderbird or falling prey to sea monsters.

Key Location: Hyrantam:
Lirgen’s once-magnificent capital, Hyrantam flooded in the storms born from the Eye of Abendego, leaving only the highest spires and observatories above water. The surviving Lirgeni natives now live atop these towers, traveling via crude rope bridges and pulley systems. Most of the city remains submerged, claimed by aquatic monsters who know little of the secrets hidden within.

Chapter I: Red Tide Rising
Intrigued by the newcomers, the coven uses divinations and dream spells to sift through the PCs’ thoughts and motives. The Lirgeni explain that contributing to their tribute will likely cause the hags to lose interest in the PCs, allowing them to escape. The Lirgeni typically gather offerings from the city ruins, but the rash of monster attacks has left them terrified. They ask the PCs to search the flooded city for offerings and help find a way to repel the aquatic predators.

Exploring Hyrantam functions as a sandbox, where PCs can investigate rumors and high-profile locations within the city. Possible sites include:

  • Aphelion’s Manor: The ruined mansion of a renowned Saoc leader, currently sheltering a lizardfolk tribe chased from their home by the Terwa Lords in the south. By aiding the reptilian refugees and repelling the giant elasmosaurus hunting them, the PCs earn the lizardfolk’s allegiance and insights into the mysterious attacks.
  • Bolide Academy: A magical university with breathable air trapped within the complex. PCs can recover documents describing links between weather and oceanic disturbances, as well as accounts of Lirgeni auguries (including storm auguries). Fighting the water naga that resides within may break the academy’s airtight seals, forcing the PCs to salvage resources before the flood ruins them.
  • Saoc Planetarium: Once used as a public forum, performance hall, and place of worship, this domed structure now serves as a killing arena for adaro. PCs can learn about the storm’s influence on their activities by deciphering their crazed writing and witnessing their ritualized feeding frenzies.

PCs will also face scripted encounters above and below the waves. Sample encounters include:

  • Eryssala, an oceanid driven into a rampage by the hags’ storm manipulations. Calming her may offer articulate insight into the impact of Byurka’s auguries.
  • Rescuing Lirgeni from frenzied adaro. Their corpses contain evidence of enhanced power and madness triggered by the magical storms.
  • Presenting tribute to the coven, which may give clever PCs a chance to learn more about Byurka’s machinations from the hags themselves, or reduce their suspicion (see below).

Exploring Hyrantam may attract the hags’ attention. A suspicion mechanic tracks how well the PCs avoid unwanted scrutiny, with certain actions increasing or decreasing their score. High suspicion reflects the hags’ growing concern over the PCs meddling in their affairs, and triggers retaliation. As the PCs’ suspicion score increases, the hags’ responses escalate from conjured storms (interfering with other encounters and skill checks) to skirmishes with the hags’ whaitiri servants (see below), culminating with assassination attempts against the PCs, or even imploring Aeassra to hurl thunderbolts at the PCs during their travels.

New Monster: Whaitiri:
A monstrous humanoid that releases a lethal thunderclap when exposed to electricity. It can use its thunderclap to deal sonic damage to nearby creatures or disrupt other sound-based effects, such as bardic performance. Whaitiries can fly, but only in strong winds, giving them a fascination with storms and magic that other humanoids use to alter weather patterns.

The PCs should reach level 6 by the time they finish exploring the ruins. Their search should uncover clues that the monster attacks are linked to the hags’ machinations, motivating the Lirgeni to plot a revolt against the coven.

Chapter II: In the Storm's Shadow
Exploring Hyrantam reveals that the hags’ experiments with storm auguries create artificial winds currents, churning the ocean depths and driving sea creatures into the shallows. The chaotic environment alters the monsters’ behavior, triggering ravenous killing sprees. Armed with this knowledge, the PCs realize they must stop the hags to restore stability in Hyrantam, but they cannot enter the Augur’s Throne while it remains shielded by Aeassra’s storms. Challenging a thunderbird directly would be suicide, so in order to access the coven, the PCs must prepare a trap for Aeassra by gathering weapons, tools, and allies from Hyrantam’s ruins.

Preparing the trap builds upon the sandbox established in Chapter 1, with the PCs searching the flooded city for resources, but their new goal encourages them to explore different areas. The PCs may have explored some of these areas when investigating rumors during the prior chapter, but they must now complete specific objectives in preparation for the battle with Aeassra. The hag’s suspicion mechanic becomes paramount, as the PCs must keep a low profile to maximize their chances of completing their preparations before facing the thunderbird. Furthermore, random encounters become more prevalent and dangerous as the rampaging sea monsters grow bolder. New sites include:

  • Broken-Mast Bay: Hyrantam’s harbor now shelters a graveyard of derelict ships crippled by the Eye of Abendego. In order to recover siege weapons capable of piercing Aeassra’s storm aura, the PCs must brave the draugr-haunted ships and face the sirens who rule the bay.
  • Hyrantam Public Works: The city’s advanced water purification system used metallic apparatuses that could be repurposed into massive lightning rods. Salvaging the equipment will require the PCs to defeat the traps and clockwork guardians that still defend the mechanisms.
  • Northern Waterfront: Aeassra wasn’t the only creature drawn to the Eye of Abendego; the young sea dragon Kaijong built a lair in Hyrantam, hoping to restore balance to the Sodden Lands. Though the eager dragon needs little convincing to oppose the hags, recruiting him to go along with the PCs’ plan and remain inconspicuous requires more finesse. Persuasive PCs may also earn access to some of Kaijong’s hoard, including his jetstream bow (see below).
  • Starfield Market: The locathah tribe that settled in the flooded agora struggles to resist the frenzies caused by the hags’ auguries. If the PCs can calm the aquatic humanoids they may earn extra manpower to aid in their preparations. Undiplomatic PCs may need to hunt a powerful monster to prove their worth to the locathah matriarch.

New Treasure: Jetstream Bow:
This +1 adaptive composite longbow creates a wind tunnel around its arrows, converting ranged attack penalties from strong winds into bonuses and allowing arrows to pierce a wind wall.

The PCs should reach level 7 by the time they finish preparing their trap for Aeassra.

Chapter III: Hunting the Storm
Once equipped, the PCs must prepare for Aeassra’s arrival. Successfully keeping their suspicion score low allows the PCs to fully utilize their resources, as described below. High suspicion means Aeassra attacks prematurely, and the PCs must triage their preparations, with lower priority contributions only partially affecting the battle with the thunderbird.

The battle plays out as a series of consecutive, potentially overlapping encounters where the PCs race to stymie damage from the storm while attacking the thunderbird as she flies overhead, raining thunderbolts on the town’s defenders. Completing the lightning rods lessens or removes the risk of being struck by lightning from Aeassra’s storm aura.

Encounter 1: Aeassra’s thunderbolt hits a Lirgeni tower, blasting apart its foundation and causing the building to begin sinking. If the PCs recruited the locathah, they reinforce the tower and increase the time before the tower collapses. This encounter may happen more than once as Aeassra targets different towers.

Encounter 2: Whaitiries and lightning elementals join the fray shortly after the tower starts falling. If the PCs recruited Kaijong, he kills some of these reinforcements before they arrive.

Encounter 3: Aeassra lands to fight the PCs herself. If the PCs recovered the siege weapons, the thunderbird begins the encounter with significantly fewer hit points. Thorough exploration of Hyrantam outfits the PCs with equipment specifically geared towards fighting a thunderbird, including magical beast bane weapons, a wand of protection from energy,and the jetstream bow.

With the thunderbird defeated, the PCs can invade the Augur’s Throne and confront the coven directly. The floating observatory contains Byurka’s elite advisors, including a whaitiri with shaman class levels, a charmed brineborn marsh giant, and a nightmare lord lightning elemental. Furthermore, the levitating structure’s magic has become unsteady, causing the tower to tip if too many creatures cluster to one side.

Defeating the hags resolves the oceanic disturbances, freeing Hyrantam from sea monster predation. The PCs may wish to continue exploring the drowned city, or work with Kaijong to restore balance to the storm-wracked coast, possibly opening Hyrantam to recolonization and salvation.

Paizo Employee Developer , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Well done, Nick! You fought through the competition like a champ, and now you’re at the final round. This is the time to reach for the prize and get to see your adventure in print. Seeing your name on the cover of something sitting on a shelf in your local game store or retailer is a pretty amazing experience.

I judged this round focusing on the fact that this round decides which of these four pitches becomes a product on our schedule here at Paizo. I went with my gut and knowledge of the region in which the adventure takes place. (I wrote the Abendego Gulf chapter of Lost Kingdoms, and built upon one of those elements in Undead Unleashed). I also went into judging this round thinking about how this round not only impacts a new writer’s career, but also our business here at Paizo. Voters are going to determine a product that will instantly go on our schedule and will begin using company resources, so I’m thinking about things from a development standpoint but also keeping a keen eye on the question: Will it sell?

So on we go...

Title: I don’t like seeing a hyphenated word in a title for things unless there’s a good reason, but the title is evocative. (It also has the same verbal structure as Monica’s adventure from last year.)

Breakdown: Here I go through the pitch and give my thoughts as I come to them. This is how I would markup a document for any pitch that one of my freelancers would give me.

• Your introduction and background both sound good and make some sense. I like the separation of the aspects of sky and water that look like sub-themes of the adventure. I do wish that you worked with some of the elements that are already placed in Hyrantum, but I understand that you want to make something new. I don't know how I feel about the Augur's Throne being a floating structure. My kneejerk reaction is to change that element, because there's nothing that's ever been hinted at that kind of thing in Lirgeni society or cities or whatnot.

• I'm cautious about the thunderbird element. While they are certainly associated with storms and lost Lirgen is certainly storm-wracked, I don't 100% feel that they fit the terrain. Regardless, enough parts make sense that make me realize I'm probably overthinking it. I do have concerns about the CR of the creature, but I'll see how that plays out as I read on.

• Your hooks are fine. It's tough coming up with good hooks for abandoned regions.

• I like the sandbox element for Part 1. The lizardfolk tribe is an encounter that's not all about combat, and the water naga is CR-appropriate. I also like the idea of a sunken encounter area that has air (even if it's awfully convenient—like why would they build it that way unless they knew it'd be submerged one day?). Using adaro makes total sense, but you're going to have to use numbers or give them some class levels to make them suitable challenges for the PCs. The rest of the scripted encounters sound fine too, and it's a nice touch that they're not all combat encounters. The only thing that worries me is that many of these locations seem like big places, and you're already chewing through your map budget. I can think of ways to whittle it down, but as written Part 1 is already going to need 3 half-page maps at a minimum.

• Including subsystems can be tricky, but the suspicion mechanic seems interesting. I can see players second-guessing the impact of their actions once they know that it's a thing. It also helps increase the motivation for the PCs because now it's personal!

• Your new monster sounds interesting, and it fits the themes of the Sodden Lands really well. My only concern with it is its name. We'd be essentially taking a Maori deity and making it a creature.

• I realize that you made siege weapons the thing to find since it pierces the thunderbird's storm aura, but I worry that the PCs will be taking penalties to use it, and the thunderbird can kick their ass between reloads. Although, maybe they’re supposed to be used in the background, operated by others in the settlement.

• Using old sites with new objectives is smart as it doesn't chew up map resources. However, in Part 2 you introduce a whole bunch more locations that are going to need maps. There are ways around this, but it's something to keep in mind when designing adventures.

• Draugrs in a tangle of shipwrecks with sirens running the show sounds like fun, and the public works encounter sounds fun as well. I like the diplomacy aspect of the dragon encounter, but I worry about the PCs having a CR 8 helper. I like the idea of calming and recruiting the locathah.

• The new magic item sounds neat.

• Part 3 sounds really dynamic and I like how the PCs' actions earlier in the adventure has an impact in the finale, but I worry how it would play out. I also have the same concerns I have for the previous parts of the adventure: maps. Sandbox adventures are cool and a lot of fun, but they take up a lot of map resources or you just provide encounters and hope the GM is fine with drawing their own maps. In this part alone, the PCs have multiple locations for encounters before even getting into the floating observatory (which would need a map).

• The nightmare lord lightning elemental is weird. I'd totally change that to something else.

• The part about the levitating structure's magic going faulty seems awfully convenient, even though I admit it adds some dynamic to the encounters there.

Conclusion: I like this pitch. It seems like a lot of fun and it fits the themes and challenges of the Sodden Lands. The only real criticism I have is: What is the Star Savior doing about any of this? What about his rusalka rogue lover? What's up with the tribe of skum that have been terrorizing Hyrantum. I realize that I might be being a bit precious because I was the one that dropped those hooks into the Abendego Gulf chapter of Lost Kingdoms, but it would have been cool to see you go with some of those themes. That said, there were a lot more things that were right than wrong with this pitch. If it were my call, I would green light this adventure.

Scarab Sages Developer

Comments from our other two judges are coming soon!

Your prose is captivating. Every word is vital. I really enjoyed every one of your submissions and wondered if you may have used up all your creativity during the competition. Now it looks like you saved the best for last. I look forward to seeing this published and will seek out any work you do.

Liberty's Edge Assistant Developer

Congratulations Nick! You’ve obviously got a lot of love for the world of Golarion, and a passion for design! Being able to please professional judges and the general public says a lot about your talents, and at this point all of you should consider yourselves primed and able to work in the industry, regardless of who wins the final accolades.

My judging philosophy


I’ll be looking over these pitches based on a few things, including originality, how well if fits the setting provided, ease of development, and clarity.

What the “wow” in this pitch? This may be how interesting and new the overall concept is, or how you’ve used the rules to present new challenges.

How well do you know the Sodden Lands, and how well will the players know them after playing your adventure?

How much work will this be to spin into a final, published adventure? Are your maps from previous rounds clear? Do you have a good grasp of the existing rules? Are you introducing new rules elements for your adventure and will they be fun or an added layer of complexity for its own sake? Are you accounting for the new capabilities of 5th-level PCs (like flight).

How well do you present and organize your ideas? Half of writing an RPG adventure is being able to provide the GM all the tools and information she needs clearly and concisely, so she can present them to the PCs as needed. You can be a great fiction writer, or a great rules monkey, and still have problems tell people what they need to know to run an adventure.

New Location
What stands out about your new adventure location?

New Monster
Is your monster fun, original, and relevant to the plot?[/b]

I like the title. Also, lots of hags in this round for whatever reason; maybe appealing to the hag-obsessed judges, or maybe everyone agrees with Adam and I that hags are awesome. And the idea from saving a ruined city from its new monster overlords sounds intriguing. That said, the adventure’s core concept of a storm hag hoping to take control of fate by controlling the storms around the city does not work on Golarion/ We call the current era the “Age of Lost Omens for a reason, and that’s because any attempt to read the future automatically fail, and any concept of fate or destiny or controlling events has gone completely out the window with the death of the god of fate. Byurka might THINK she could learn to control fate, but she wouldn’t be able to predict anything about a passing ship or learn about future events.

This definitely embraces the post-apocalyptic style of the region, with brutal, powerful rulers claiming the ruins of a once-great civilization.

The biggest complication to development here is going to be cramming so much into a shorter-than-normal adventure. Roleplay-heavy encounters tend to eat up more wordcount than combat encounters, and there’s a lot going on here, especially with the new suspicion mechanic. I’m a little wary going in, as you don’t explain how you intend for the suspicion mechanic to work.

The adventure is presented fairly clearly. It’s well-edited, but the organization is a bit haphazard, and I as a GM don’t necessarily know why the PCs are supposed to do a given thing at a given time (the locathah are a great example of this).

Part One
You’re putting a LOT of activity in chapter one, exploring three distinct locations, learning the lay of the land, fighting random aquatic monsters, and possibly attracting hag attention.

Part Two
At 6th level, challenging a thunderbird might not actually be suicide, though it would be an incredibly challenging encounter. You might rather play up that challenging the thunderbird AND the ruling coven would be suicide.

I like all the encounters here; there’s a lot of creative ideas, but again I worry there’s too much going on. No one location will get very much time or attention. And I’m not especially sure what the locathah bring to the party; they feel tacked on.

Part Three
I see here what the locathah do, but there’s no real way the PCs would expect to need aquatic workers to shore up collapsing towers when fighting a giant bird.

That said, you start off chapter 3 with what feels like it should be the boss encounter, and then there’s a short dungeon crawl and a fight with some hags.

Unique Treasure
The jetstream bow is okay. It’s potentially useful in this adventure, but given how rarely weather conditions play a factor in games, I imagine it’s going to end up sold off as soon as PCs leave the Sodden Lands.

New Location
This is an expansion on a pre-existing location rather than a whole new location, which is fine and how modules usually work. That said, your review of the location doesn’t offer any new hooks or clarification to Hyrantum, it just restates what is already available in the Inner Sea World Guide.

New Monster
When we steal from mythology, we generally don’t steal specific gods by name (Egyptian pantheon not withstanding), and then turn them into mook-level monsters. The monster you’ve made actually sounds fun and creative and I want to see it, but we’d change the name first thing.

Final Verdict
I good mix of creative encounters, but some very unclear motivations/progression of events. I’m very much on the fence with this one, but I think the core premise of using their weather-control to try and hijack fate pushes this one just to the side of not approving this adventure for advancement. Or maybe it’s something that can be tweaked enough to not be a problem? Am I allowed to be neutral as a judge? I’d definitely kick this outline back for revisions.

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.

A couple of campaign setting inconsistencies perhaps, but this proposal more than makes up for them with a triple dose of concentrated, deionized awesome. Premise details can always be tweaked to better fit the setting, and maps and encounters can always be scaled back in development, but when it comes to cinema, plotline, Sodden Lands appropriateness, and raw adventure, I resolutely believe that this is objectively the strongest proposal this season.

Biased? Perhaps. But my conviction remains, and I couldn't be prouder of your performance throughout this contest. As far as I'm concerned, this is a swish, touchdown, home run, and every other winning sports analogy put together, and I sincerely hope the voters agree

Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka mamaursula

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I expected nothing less from the other Wasko. Good luck in the voting!

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Nick! Welcome to the Final Round! This is it! An opportunity for you to pitch a (mostly) independent idea for an adventure, win over the voting public, and get a signed contract with Paizo to bring it to life. As someone who's lived that dream, I can tell you that it's a very, very cool experience. And, provided you apply all the lessons you've learned throughout the competition, you can use this contest as a platform for really getting your name--and your work--out there. So, relish the opportunity, soak in the feedback, and, whether or not you win it all outright, take the broader experience of RPG Superstar with you as you pursue whatever freelance opportunities come your way.

Based on prior years, you may know that I like to break my final round judging commentary into two halves. The first assesses your pitch...meaning, how well you sold your ideas within the proposal itself. I think it's important to take a look at that because it gives us a more complete sense of your vision and how well you're able to convey that to your developer (and the broader RPG community) to win them over and green light your work. It also offers a glimpse into how you'd structure your actual adventure, giving us a sense of your capabilities as a storyteller and how well you can tap into elements that will get people excited.

The second part of my assessment will dive into the proposed adventure and whether what you've presented here includes all the relevant pieces to hopefully make a great Pathfinder module. More than anything, that's really the goal here. While your pitch may demonstrate you've got the professional polish, insights, creative writing ability, and organizational skills to entrust you with this type of assignment, it's the core ideas of your adventure which will convince voters to select your proposal as the one they most want to purchase and play at their gaming tables.

So, with all that in mind, let's get down to business and see what you've proposed...

Feedback for: Beneath the Storm-Veiled Spires

The Pitch
Okay. This is the part where you need to sell your proposal to us...which means, you need to write well enough to convince us you know what you're doing with strong, purposeful design choices--a skill you should realize by now plays an important role in pretty much everything you bring to the table if you want to stand out as a Superstar designer. This can include the underlying storytelling, pacing, and plot of your adventure; the choices you make with regards to the level requirement/CRs for various encounters and how they'll likely play out at the table; the number of maps you'll require for your chosen location(s); your sense of Golarion canon vs. how best to support the intellectual property of your publisher; your sense of scope and scale so you can fit everything into the required page-count/word-count; and so on. Basically, your adventure pitch should convince us you've got a good head on your shoulders when it comes to adventure design, and that you're the man Paizo (and the Paizo community) should trust with this opportunity.

Hopefully, the prior rounds of this year's competition (as well as what you've learned by following along in prior years) helped develop an understanding of these things for you. Personally, I think the best approach is to study what Paizo already does with their Pathfinder modules...i.e., how things are structured, how each adventure premise innovates around some new idea or theme, what kinds of limitations they put on you, and what kinds of opportunities they grant you as a writer/storyteller. Likewise, I believe it's important to study the winning adventure proposals from prior years of RPG Superstar to get a sense of how they "sold" the readers, judges, and voters. If you can pick up on all those elements and adapt your proposal accordingly, you'll be light-years ahead of most would-be designers in convincing folks to give you a chance.

So, the first thing I notice when I read your submission is the adventure's intended name. Beneath the Storm-Veiled Spires. I can't say I'm completely won over by it. The main element is the "storm-veiled spires" and even with all that, it doesn't really provide a lot of clarity about the adventure beyond "storms" and "heights" of some kind. Naming is one of the most important elements in adventure design. And, that's because it's the first thing people are going to see when they come across your module on the shelves. Thus, your adventure's name needs to evoke a powerful image in the reader's mind so it makes them want to pick it up and read what lies behind the cover.

One of the most useful tricks for selecting an evocative or even iconic name is to include either the name of your primary adventure location (e.g., The Temple of Elemental Evil, White Plume Mountain, Tomb of Horrors), or the name of your super-memorable, awe-inspiring villain (e.g., Queen of Spiders, Scourge of the Slave Lords, Crown of the Kobold King). The names of these adventures resonate because they draw upon the things your players will almost certainly remember and reminisce about after playing through them...i.e., the cool location where it took place, or the awesome villain they faced. If your adventure pitch can tap into a name that contains one or both of those things, you're on the right track. And, I'm not sure you succeeded here. There's nothing super-iconic about the Storm-Veiled Spires as a unique location. The Augur's Throne is probably a more potent named location for the adventure, and it also hints towards the hag "rulership" of the region. Or, in a pinch, if you gave the coven a definitive name of its own, you could call the adventure by the same title and I think that would get you more mileage.

So what about the rest of the pitch? I think you presented the cleanest written text in the proposal. By that, I mean it reads well. Your writing chops are on display, and you're giving the solid impression that you can be trusted to produce a publish-worthy turnover with solid ideas and execution based on your prior contest submissions and this proposal. Your lead-in summary, however, lost me a little bit. At first, I was struggling to tell if the coven truly rules over Hyrantam, or if they're just an exterior threat. But, once I got deeper into the proposal, it became clearer what you intended. You've also used an appropriate chapter-based structure and effective bullet points to outline encounter setups, their contribution to the overall plot, and various options they can present to the PCs to widen the story.

The rest of your pitch is solid. You've made good use of appropriate adversaries, interweaving them with possible PC alliances, depending on how they approach each encounter. There's a healthy mix of sandbox versus railroad dungeon-crawling, but you keep it freeform for the most part. There's a segment of the gaming public for whom that style will appeal, but it's also a much harder component to deliver on when you've got a limited word-count to do it justice. But, you've demonstrated a significant talent over the course of the competition in taking on challenges. So, I'm mostly convinced that you could pull it off.

The Adventure
I've written many times before in my advice for RPG Superstar about five key elements which I believe are vital to good adventure design. In fact, I like to use them as a good barometer for assessing how well a proposed adventure will hold up in terms of providing a memorable, entertaining experience. Those five things boil down to: 1) a memorable villain whose goals are a legitimate threat which credibly prompts the PCs to act; 2) a unique and interesting set of locales which provide cool maps, memorable encounters, and innovative tactical/terrain situations; 3) a compelling and interesting plot wherein the villain's goals encroach on the PCs' world in a sustained, threatening manner where they get to become heroes at the center of attention throughout the adventure; 4) some interesting and entertaining minions and NPCs who have a credible reason for working with the villain, existing within the chosen locale(s), and create recurring problems for the PCs; and 5) an interesting, worthwhile reward which the PCs (and their players) will cherish for the rest of their adventuring careers. If you can achieve high marks in as many of those areas as possible in your design, you could have a winning idea on your hands. So, let's see how you measured up:

The Villain: We're looking at another coven of hags as a triumvirate of villains, but it goes the extra mile in holding forth an even more potent threat with the thunderbird. Your proposal spends a lot more time outlining how the PCs need to amass the alliances, knowledge, and resources to effectively combat the latter moreso than the former. And, in many ways, the thunderbird comes off sounding like it's the "villain" rather than the allied hags. So, your proposal doesn't quite do justice to the hags enough that they pervade the plot and the locale in a way that puts them front-and-center. Sometimes, as writers, we have a tendency to fall in love with a certain creature choice or NPC design and, like side characters in a novel, they can start to take on a larger role than you'd originally envisioned. I'm wondering if the thunderbird developed in a similar fashion as you were crafting this proposal. Regardless, I wish there was more "hag" in the villain presentation than "allied thunderbird."

The Locale(s): This is the real challenge. Your locale is about as widespread as it can get. The entire city is the element the PCs will truly invest in, as they'll have an entire sandbox of mini-locations within to explore. It plays a vital role in securing what they need to affect the outcome of the adventure. But, you've also got the Augur's Throne, and prior to that, the sunken locations with the storehouse of knowledge they need. These are all cool, but you've jammed in so many places that you're going to struggle to pull them all off when you get down to judiciously spending your map space and word-count. All in all, I'm intrigued by the idea of setting up the adventure as an "explore the city to get what you need to fight the villain(s)." Becaues of the ancient Lirgeni elements, It even has a bit of a Crucible of Chaos feel to it--the early adventure Wolfgang Baur penned which presented a crashed Shory city to explore--except, in this case, it's a flooded city instead. I like that element, but I'm just worried that you won't have the space to do it justice, because of how much you're depending on so many sandbox elements to sell it.

The Plot: This felt a bit more contrived at times than I'd have prefered. The basic premise for how and why the PCs get drawn into Hyrantam are okay, but a bit too convenient. The adventure proposal could use a stronger hook to truly invest the PCs in its outcome. What might sell it more strongly is if the PCs were venturing there to begin with, arriving as treasure-seekers of a particular Lirgeni artifact which brings them into contention with the coven. Having something like that in addition to the storm-wracked ship sinking off the coast and stranding the PCs in the city helps give them more reasons for going through the adventure than just the pleas of the locals asking for their help. That trick works for good-aligned PCs, but the neutral ones sometimes need a selfish reason to go along, and it's useful sometimes to examine your hooks with that in mind so you can present a variety.

From there, I like how the adventure plays out. You've got a nice organic flow happening with all the various locales within the city's sandbox where the PCs can garner resources and alliances to pull off the lofty effort to unseat the tyrant hags. I'm not as keen on how prominent the thunderbird elimination becomes such a focus. It might be better if that could be exchanged for a handful of creatures in service to the hags (see my comments under Minions, below) which are more CR-appropriate, but recurring in a way that the local inhabitants of Hyrantam fear them, but the PCs can capably handle them over and over again as they try to interfere with their efforts. That way, the hags come into focus much more strongly as the true villains and the thunderbird doesn't overshadow them so much. That might also free you up to define more knowledge and resources the PCs need to oppose the hags in the Augur's Throne which they reclaimed from the ancient Lirgeni...i.e., the PCs might need some artifact from that bygone civilization to access the Augur's Throne and face down the hags on their own terms.

The Minions: The minion in this adventure proposal is basically the thunderbird, but he's a bigger threat (individually) than the hags, and I think that's a misstep from an adventure design perspective. You could probably still pull it off regardless. And, if you're truly married to the idea, it'll be up to your developer to guide you on it if you get voted through as the winner. But, for me, I feel like the other creature encounters never quite establish a true lesser minion for the hags to use to exert their influence over the region. Even something as simple as a stormwracked gargoyle template would do wonders for giving them their own "flying monkeys" (a la The Wizard of Oz to harass the city and the PCs). Something like that would help punch this up in ways that would give the PCs a consistent lower level threat to cut through on their way to challenging the hags once they secure enough resources from the flooded city to do so.

The Reward: The reward is basically the jetstream bow, but, like Crystal, it doesn't feel iconic in a way that it'll stay in the PCs' magic item inventory beyond this adventure. To really punch it up, I think you need a different Lirgeni artifact for them to recover from the flooded city...something important that plays a role in moving the plot forward as an item they can use to access or influence the Augur's Throne...and yet, something that's so useful and cool that the PCs will want to identify with it by keeping it with them long after the adventure is over. A hard-won item like that is often its own reward, especially if it's got a legacy the PCs can learn, embrace, and renew by using it in the course of the adventure and beyond.

There's a lot to like here. Hags are a compelling, useful villain, but I think you undersold them a bit in comparison to the thunderbird and the greater threat it poses to the city. Like Adam, I fear you have bitten off more than you can deliver, but some people thought the same thing with my adventure proposal back in 2009 and I still had a clear enough vision and plan that I felt I could come through on it. Based on your performance throughout the competition, I think you're wired the same way, and I'd be curious to see how the final product would come out with the guidance of a Paizo developer.

So, all in all, I'm going to say that I DO RECOMMEND this adventure for consideration as the winning proposal for this round. It'll be up to the voters to decide how much your pitch and contest performance moves them. If you win, it'll take a sustained effort to truly bring to life the promise you've held forth. Trust, listen, and learn from your developer. But, if you don't win, I think you've demonstrated a significant enough freelancer skillset that you can make your mark in the industry if you want to give it a go. No matter how the voting comes out, more opportunities will come your way. You just have to make the most of them when they do. And that's why it's going to be more important what you do after RPG Superstar than during it...whether that's in writing this adventure for Paizo, or delivering a different awesome product for someone else.

My sincere two cents and best wishes on your future freelancing career,

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

I’m going to assume that you are, like I was, impatiently waiting on the other side of this screen for anyone to write something about your creative endeavor. That way you know someone read it and really thought about it before casting their votes. So, now that I no longer have a horse in this race, I wanted to provide some feedback for the final four. I’ve already skimmed all the entries, and now I’m going to take notes while doing a more thorough reading. This is the kind of feedback I’d give if I were sent this for comments, so I’ll probably be nitpicky. Keep in mind you did a great job getting here, and your proposal is also great. With some time and elbow grease, every one of these proposals could make an excellent adventure. So on to the notes!

Just reading your background I’m already running into a rather large problem. Where is the Star Savior, his rusulka lover, and the army of Skum? I imagine those two powerful NPCs are in the CR 12-15 range, and one of them has minions. Seems like they could easily handle this problem without the PCs (and don’t exactly appear to be good guys themselves).

Storm hag is a cool choice for a monster in the Sodden Lands, but at only CR 7 is it an appropriate villain for PCs who will be reaching level 8? (It certainly isn’t someone who could challenge the established leaders of Hyrantam)

I’m curious what other other 2 hags in the coven are.

Can a trio of mid level hags really do much to affect weather patterns of the Eye of Abendego?

Of your hooks, I like coming to Hyrantam for lost treasure, because that actually makes sense give the region’s history. A boat passing by would probably make the PCs pirates, which is okay, but Hyrantam doesn’t actually appear to be located on the coast. It’s appears to be about 25 miles inland on the Frogmarch River, and I get the feeling not too many boats are just “passing by” there.

You have excellent chapter titles.

Prompting the PCs to find tribute to get the hags off of their back is a good way to get them into the ruins quickly, and this is a great place to have some sandboxy stuff.

You have some really cool locations and encounters in this sandbox, I especially like the magic academy and the planetarium. You might have too many places though, given how much space you have.

I’m wary of adding mechanics like this suspicion counter, but this one doesn’t seems pretty good actually.

I wish I knew what this monster looked like or why is exists, I’m only so so on it with the given information.

Only level 6 after that sandbox? There seemed to be enough encounters in that sandbox for two levels if the PCs did everything.

I get that the PCs learn about storm auguries in the sandbox, but what tells them that the hags are actually performing them other than the fact that they’ve been positioned in this adventure as the bad guys?

Another sandbox with yet more new locations. Some of them are cool, but I feel like you definitely have too many now. Also you have a ship graveyard, which is cool, but one already exists very nearby called Steel Maridoth. Still, I do like the Public Works location.

I love both the name and the visual of your item, however I wish its powers were more useful beyond this particular adventure.

Fighting the thunderbird using all of their prep and with a series of encounters is a pretty cool setup. It’s cool enough that it feels like it should be the culmination of the adventure, but here it leads into a new location with even more bad guys. I’m sure you wrote out more detail about Augur’s Throne but had to cut it for word count, but the fact that you chose to cut that and keep the parts about the Thunderbird tell me you agree that the thunderbird is the real boss here (not to mention almost certainly the highest CR thing the PCs will fight). So the ending leaves me a little cold.

In conclusion:

You have some awesome locations and encounters in this proposal for sure. In fact you probably have too many of both, but cutting them down to just the most awesome ones will leave you with some distilled awesome, and that’s just super awesome (let me say awesome a few more times). That said, I think this proposal would require significant rewriting. Something has to be done with this thunderbird/hag dynamic, I just don’t think it’s working out as written. Your biggest fight appears to be with your miniboss, and that’s because your minibosses is actually a much bigger threat than the boss. Even more problematic is that you ignored the extremely powerful players already involved in this city. Lost Kingdoms clocks Hyrantam at a CR of 12, I don’t know if that’s an average, or a suggested PC level, but either way the people who run this place are going to be high enough level to deal with these hags on their own. The rusulka rogue is a CR 15 beast, and her lover is a sorcerer of at least level 12 I’d guess? I think ignoring them means you’d have to do major rewrites or move the adventure, but where would you move it to? If I had to guess, I’d say you didn’t read Lost Kindgoms because you didn’t know the PDF existed? I still love a lot of the work you did here, and I know that all of these problems can be solved, and if this module gets published I’d probably buy it, but because of the large amount of rewriting I think would be required I’ll spend my vote elsewhere. Good luck at the polls Nick, you are a great competitor!

I love this entry, this has my vote for sure. It is really unique and original, but I think that the game mechanics are really well thought out. I love a good sandbox to explore. It is one of the main reasons that I game, so that I can explore. I get why people think that there is too much happening in this, but that is the number on reason I like it. It is totally nonlinear. but at the same time there is an achiavable goal.

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

This is a great entry, but I think it has some big problems that could be easy to miss due its polished presentation.

1. It's really arbitrary. There's nothing in the books about a witch coven ruling over Hyrantum, and if you think about it they'd have to be pretty embedded there with spies and enforcers in order to justify a "suspicion mechanic" of the sort we had in By Way of Bloodcove (or, for old schoolers, City of Skulls). It just doesn't make sense here and it basically changes the fundamental nature of an established Golarion location. Like, he shouldn't have written this mod in this way unless the Inner Sea Guide section on Hyrantum began: "Ruled over by a trio of despotic hags, this ruined city is where..."

2. It's that most frustrating of things: a railroad that pretends to be a sandbox. I mean, yes, you have the option of gathering resources to kill the thunderbird in whatever order you want, but you still have to go around gathering resources to kill the thunderbird. As a player, I can see myself sitting there listening to the Hyrantum locals going "Okay, we have a plan: at these three locations we believe you may be able to find components to build siege weapons and thunder rods to kill the thunderbird..." And I'm immediately thinking "Why do we need to kill the thundbird? It wasn't causing trouble before the hags came. The hags are making all the problems, so let's just go take them out. I don't think the thunderbird can follow us into their fortress. If necessary, we surveil them and then take them out one by one..." etc. The point is, the mod pretty clearly isn't going to allow for me trying these kinds of things. It's a "sandbox" only in the sense that I get to somewhat pick the order in which I get to act out its very carefully scripted encounters (the big thunderbird battle being the obvious example). It doesn't have the courage of its convictions to go genuinely old school and be a real, Dwellers of the Forbidden City style sandbox. That style of adventure in Hyrantum I would vote for. But don't be fooled: this is not that.

3. Your milage may vary, but by 7th level, a lot of parties can just take on the CR 11 thunderbird straight up, especially if there are more than 4 party members. The big set piece combat that seems to be this adventure's raison d'etre could easily fall apart completely. Plus, it just kind of seems like he had this big thunderbird battle in mind and then wrote a whole mod to make it happen.

A lot of cool stuff here. However, I'm concerned that all the resource-gathering gives the PCs too many chances to fail. It's something I ran into in my own 1-20th home campaign.

I'm really not sure about the proposed path. It seems to me that the most obvious, and probably less dangerous, strategy is to figure out some way to waylay the hags. With them out of the way, the thunderbird goes back to just being a problem to its neighbors.

Okay, and now it's time for me to wield my +1 longsword of social justice.

Hags are awesome, but...

I mean, I love them. I just created a couple of new hags recently, I couldn't help myself. But by their very nature, they tend to embody negative stereotypes about women. So, I try to tread lightly when it comes to hags. They are great for doing certain things. But there are other situations where a different monster works just as well, one that doesn't automatically invoke lots of dark stuff about aged women, childbirth, the archetype of the wild flesh-eating monster woman, and so forth. So, Byuka is a storm hag. But in this story, she's a scholar and a local tyrant. So, why not a storm giant or something? Or a tiefling with ice devil origins? An evil gnome. A female human investigator. Something.

The thing is, and this is not on you, personally, but sometimes it's worth looking at broader patterns. And the theme this year seems to be, "Aren't hags really just mean old ladies who need to find a hobby or something?" Because this is one of two entries this year about a hag coming along and deciding to mess with something, mostly to make other people miserable and/or dead. As a wise Granny once said, you have to be careful with all the cackling, because next thing you know it's all gingerbread houses and then the oven.

So, a storm hag is a great visual hook, and I like to see tough, female villains getting some screen time. I'm just not sure hag is the way to go here

A Maori deity, really?

The Maori have had a very rough history with Europeans. That is the last place I would go looking for the name of a monstrous humanoid. Pick a dead civilization, or strong syllables together, or something. Don't do this. I would sooner base a monster on underage textile workers.


Thunderbirds, in Native American myth, are indeed viewed as wrathful and dangerous entities. You know, like thunder. But they are also viewed with a certain level of reverence. Thunderbirds are depicted in a variety of ceremonial ways. I can't fault you for making the thunderbird into a local robber baron, as it isn't completely uncharacteristic. But isn't hiring a bunch of hags as property managers to squeeze the locals kind of... evil?

Thunderbirds are a representation of a natural force. I don't like this depiction.

I'm not saying it's illogical, or it doesn't have precedent, or that this isn't done. Plenty of things in RPGs present real world mythological elements in an unflattering fashion. This particular instance does not pass the sniff test for me. And maybe other people. But right now I'm just speaking for me. Native Americans are a living culture, thunderbirds are actively used in modern iconography, and the PRD goes to pains to present the thunderbird in a way consistent with its traditional origins.

I would be somewhat happier if the hags found a way to curse or control the thunderbird. I would be much happier with a different monster in the role of the hag's big beater.

In conclusion

I just can't enjoy this. Colonialist and to a lesser extent misogynist cultural elements are too front and forward here. I assume that is not at all the intention, and I don't want you, Nick, to feel like I'm calling you out as a bad person. But I'm going to be honest here, and say nothing like this is going to earn my vote or my dollar. You probably were aiming to use some less common, less hackneyed monsters, which is good. But I think you failed to take into account some of the context outside the game world, which is unfortunate. Pointedly, I would not want to see those elements in a published, commercial project.

The moving parts of the adventure have some issues, but nothing that couldn't be worked out in development. But I'm afraid for me the thematics here send it to the back of the line.

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Erick Wilson wrote:
In other words, The Starpearl Tower is the only entry this year that might, just might, have the potential to be an honest to goodness classic. Let's give it the chance.

First off, I thought posting this here was really uncool. You want to support or criticize an entry that's fine, but keep the thread about the entry itself. The Spires thread is not the place to be drumming up votes for Starpearl Tower, in my opinion; put that on the Starpearl thread.

I'm voting for this entry for two big reasons. One, this entry just does more right. Both have great plots, but Starpearl's corruption mechanic is vague, while Storm-Veiled's suspicion mechanic is pretty clearly described, including how it influences the turnout of events. Starpearl's encounters seem both CR-challenged and just kind of random--shrimp, lunarama, mothman, a sea drake out of nowhere?--while every single encounter in Storm-Veiled deliberately forwards the plot (which gives me confidence that this author can pull the adventure off despite the magnitude of content). Starpearl could happen basically anywhere, while Storm-Veiled is deeply rooted in the Sodden Lands (except for the Star Savior and stuff from Lost Kingdoms, although I had never heard of these things until reading the comments because I don't own Lost Kingdoms; I suspect Mark is right that this author probably never read that stuff. Still it could fit in pretty much any Lirgeni ruin, so moving or adapting it isn't a huge deal to me). Plus, the presentation is just better in my eye.

The second reason is body of work. Looking through the contest, This author's work has consistently proven more polished than Starpearl's. I have no doubt that Nick can create compelling encounters that influence later (or are influenced by earlier) events, because that's exactly what he did last round. I have no doubt that he can create a compelling new monster and avoid touchy real-world implications of his cast of characters (@RJGrady) because that's exactly what he did in the monster round. I have no doubt that he can cram an awesome map into a condensed space, because that's exactly what he did (perhaps overly so) in the map round. Basically any concern I have that comes from the pitch itself I've seen fix itself in earlier entries. I don't need to take this entry on faith.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I like what Nick did with the matianak. Unfortunately, body of work or no, this entry is supposed to be headed for publication. Consideration of Nick's overall talent has to take a back seat to the acknowledgment that this is a contest.

1 person marked this as a favorite.
RJGrady wrote:
I like what Nick did with the matianak. Unfortunately, body of work or no, this entry is supposed to be headed for publication. Consideration of Nick's overall talent has to take a back seat to the acknowledgment that this is a contest.

The fact that this is a contest makes body of work even more important, in my mind. Besides, this is supposed to be the first pitch. The title of Steve Helt's proposal changed in publication. Robert Brookes's monster was renamed in Daughters of Fury. Crystal acknowledged that the name of the monster would change if this proposal wins. I'm not worried about the Maori angle, those kinds of things get edited out by Paizo really quickly.

I see your point about the thunderbird, and I actually have some issues with its use beyond the cultural one. The hag misogyny is bit of a stretch for me, though. I saw the storm hags as CR-appropriate, sentient storm-themed monsters rather than deliberate representations of women. I don't see any gendered themes really anywhere in this proposal.

4 people marked this as a favorite.

This one is a close second for me. Like a really close second. This author really went for it with the sodden lands and really hit home. I love the use of divination which I think is really underused. The adapting the divination to storm auguries is a bit of a stretch, but in a good way that the system needs to be stretched. And I love the use of the Thunderbird, because it is fairly neutral but can be turned evil. I would like to see the PCs try to turn it against the hags. I also love the sand box feel and I think there could be a ton a super cool loot hidden around here. I feel like I may be talking myself into voting for this one, lol.

But on a side note, it is SUPER disrespectful to post about one author on another authors page. Especially when you pretend to do it out of some bizarre notion of "fairness."

Sovereign Court Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

I love the strong image of Hyrantam, the city in the spires, that got me really excited.

I also think you brought a very strong design approach, with both sand box and scripted elements. This makes your adventure a resource as well as an adventure, which is why I would pay my hard earned money to add this to my collection.

Your sea dragon is nice. It's funny how we often think of success or failure and not success or greater success. This guy rewards careful players in a way I really like.

Jetstream bow, yes please. Thematic and useful.

I loved your pitch overall, well done and good luck.

Sovereign Court Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Neil Spicer wrote:
Your proposal spends a lot more time outlining how the PCs need to amass the alliances, knowledge, and resources to effectively combat the latter moreso than the former. And, in many ways, the thunderbird comes off sounding like it's the "villain" rather than the allied hags. So, your proposal doesn't quite do justice to the hags enough that they pervade the plot and the locale in a way that puts them front-and-center.

Question. Surely the suspicion mechanic does a lot to keep the hags as the central villains? Sure, there's a big fight with the thunderbird, but the suspicion mechanic makes the hags pervasive. I understand that you're talking about the write up, but I think Nick has managed to engage the players here in a way that makes the hags stand out?

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

Apologies for the short comment.

The name of the proposal is great.

The jetstream bow would become a mainstream bow, because it counters one of the counters to archery. I like the reversal of penalties aspect, and wish it stayed at that, or had a different aspect than breaking through windwalls.

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

Wolf Spirit wrote:

First off, I thought posting this here was really uncool. You want to support or criticize an entry that's fine, but keep the thread about the entry itself. The Spires thread is not the place to be drumming up votes for Starpearl Tower, in my opinion; put that on the Starpearl thread.

So, the more I thought about these two entries, the more inseparable my critiques of them became, until finally I just decided to write one critique that was equally about both, and put it in both locations. And yes, I picked a side, but that's what we're all doing here. It didn't feel to me like I was crossing an etiquette boundary when I posted it in the way I did, and I apologize to Nick if I miscalculated there. It wasn't my intention. I'll ask Chris to delete that post on this page, since I can't do it now.

Well, beside the bizarre conflict that seems to have unfolded here, this entry looks pretty great to me. Some of the entries are creative and some are well written, but this one is both. As I have stated before, I am not a gamer per se, but more a lover of fiction so I was really drawn to this. It is unique and original without sacrificing logic and sense. It is also well written and engaging. I want to see how I could take this as a character and go with it. There is an agenda of stuff to get done but it is interesting stuff, with cool rewards, and it allows you the freedom to go where you choose and do things in the way you choose.

I also like the various different kinds of encounters in here. You need to fight a giant bird, water monsters, chat up villagers, put together siege weapons, and battle the hags. So you have a very wide variety of fights and also some social interactions that could be fun to role play. My only concern there is that the social interactions can be very flat if the people of the town are too eager then it is basically just the pcs saying hello and the towns folk saying shut up and take our money. So it is a bit of extra work on the GM to make that interesting.

I like your hook of a shipwreck, that has a nice flavor to it. And speaking of flavor, I like your big frickin bird. People seem up in arms about the name choice, but whatever, you did not invent the thunderbird, you just used it. It is pretty cool, because it adds and extra element of danger. You have to fight the hags, but they can call in the cavalry at any time. I personally would like to see people negotiate with the bird, but that is just me.

You did a great job incorporating the sodden lands which is good for you but makes the encounter less interesting to me. I just don't find this landscape engaging. All and all I feel like this is the entry that completed the task the best. It needs some

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

Harp Rose wrote:

But on a side note, it is SUPER disrespectful to post about one author on another authors page. Especially when you pretend to do it out of some bizarre notion of "fairness."

I'm not sure what's bizarre about the notion of fairness, and I must confess that at times the etiquette (and for that matter the purpose) of these threads in superstar eludes me. In any event, it was never my intent to disrespect Nick, and I called Paizo and had the post removed.

Unfortunately, this has also had the result of deleting the good things I said about this mod, so I'll just repeat them here: this entry is extremely polished and well written. If developed well, this mod is going to be a blast with some very cool God of War style set pieces. And if its first chapter actually manages to pull off being a genuine sandbox style game of exploring sunken Hyrantum, that could really be a home run.

That said, I have some reservations about it that I've already detailed which make it my second choice. But it was a photo finish ;)

Dark Archive

I think this round will be the hardest to comment on, as the competition was really stiff! Also, this round has the most to take into account, which means my feedback may ramble a bit as I go.

The Name: I like it. It would probably catch my interest, as opposed to my eyes glossing over it.

The Background: As others have pointed out, Hyrantam already has some high level inhabitants, but if you'd never read or heard of Lost Kingdoms, you'd have no way of knowing that (since as far as I know, it's not reprinted anywhere else), and it's not mentioned on the Wiki, so I won't ding you on that. This whole location would most likely need to be changed to another submerged city, but I imagine that's something that would get ironed out in development. Also, as Crystal pointed out, the storm hag couldn't do what you say she's doing in regards to reading the storms, though she could very well believe she was getting accurate readings.
The thunderbird seems to come out of nowhere, but for now, I'm okay with it, as well as the alliance with the hags.

Chapter I: This is a mostly strong chapter. At this level, the PCs should be wary of trying to take on a trio of hags, and this gives a good reason for the PCs to go explore the city ('cause they're certainly not going to just sit quietly). Unlike some others, I have no problem with the suspicion mechanic, as at least one of the PCs should have made their save to know they're being watched, and, if for some reason they didn't, the inhabitants of the city will be happy to tell them 'how it is'.
I'm not overly impressed with the new monster, but I also don't dislike it. I think if I knew more about it, I'd like it better. Names can easily be changed, so I'm not worried about that. I'm not sure how much the people of the city know about what the hags are doing, but I doubt the sea monsters know who's responsible for causing the changes. Getting the PCs to make the connection between the hags and the surge in sea monsters may seem like a bit of a leap at this point (unless they talked to the hags directly when presenting tribute). Even if they did make the connection, why would this suddenly cause the city to revolt, when they've put up with everything else? I can see it taking a lot of convincing to get the average Lirgeni to go along with this, and non-diplomatic parties may never succeed.

Chapter II: This chapter only makes sense if that's what the PCs decide they want to do. Personally, I would try to play the thunderbird off the hags, and break up the alliance. Alternately, a sneaky party may just sneak into Augur’s Throne (I've seen people come up with very creative solutions, negating entire encounters or sections before). Or, if you have a caster, and a scroll, why can't they just d-door (or use their own spell, if they wait to level up again), or teleport? If they gave tribute in the first chapter, they should be familiar enough with the area to make any checks.
This chapter has some cool locations to explore if the PCs stay on the rails you've provided, and can figure out what they're supposed to be doing to negate the thunderbird. I do like your treasure, and think it's the best of all the entries.

Chapter III: As presented, I don't like this chapter. You focus too much on the thunderbird, and only mention the hags at the end as an aside. It definitely feels like you wanted Aeassra to be the main villain, but for some reason chose to go a different route at the end. Why would it even be fighting for the hags at this point? It existed just fine before the hags showed up, and there's no reason it can't return to that same existence after the hags are gone. I would have liked to see more attention on what are supposed to be the real villains of this module, instead of just two sentences.

Conclusion: You started off strong, but ended in a jumble. You only presented one way of achieving the end result, after stating that this should be more of a sandbox type of story. I'm sure the finished module would address some of the raised points, but I only have what's in front of me to go on. You certainly tapped into your inspiration, but didn't leave room for other's inspiration (the PCs) to take hold. The first chapter is strong and well thought out, but by the last chapter it feels forced. Maybe this is because you tried to cram a lot of stuff into this, and it suffered for it. Had this finished at the same level as it started, this would have easily gotten my vote. As it is, it's a close tie for second, due to the the parts of this that I did like. I think with some more revision, this could be a strong module throughout, but as it is here, it's too inconsistent.

As I said in the beginning, all the entries were amazing this year, so even if you don't advance, be VERY happy with your work this competition, and I look forward to seeing what you produce in the future! Good luck!

I think, re-iterating what I said above, and re-reading the comments from the judges and the other other posters, the biggest issue is that there are a lot ways to go, but only one place to get to. It seems very unlikely to me that the final showdown is going to go down like this path presumes. There are a bunch of maps, and I think in many cases, you wouldn't need most of them.

What if...?
- The PCs fail to identity the things they need, and spend days if not weeks wandering around fecklessly.
- The PCs decide to assassinate the hags.
- The PCs devise some other plan to waylay the thunderbird.
- The PCs object to negotiating with the hags on ethical grounds.
- The PCs decide to disrupt the tribute paid to the thunderbird.
- The PCs get wound up in so many side encounters they simply outlevel the thunderbird and hags.

There are a lot of moving parts here.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

When assessing which style was exemplified by each of the 4 designers left in this contest, I was a bit stuck with your case. After reviewing your creations, and especially your encounter in the previous round, I realized that you are the bearer of the classic style.

You give us places, creatures, encounters that we may feel that we have already seen a thousand times. But you breathe in them the feeling of epic adventuring that PCs and players will brag about. And you build this on a foundation of clear system and design mastery.

So let's see if you brought this here.

And the verdict is ... Shut up and take my money !!!

Yes, there are several parts that should be changed and are not really needed :

- true predictions should give way to snitches, paranoia and vague tellings that might have a grain of truth

- floating towers should become precariously perched almost crumbling towers reinforced by magic or monsters

- storm-manipulation influencing monsters directly might become storm-manipulation wreaking havoc with the currents and temperatures of the waters thus driving low-INT monsters mad and higher-Int creatures desperate

Also, I guess you played Jade Regent and maybe had an archer PC who faced a bit too many Wind Wall spells.

But really this proposal is first class and what I expect from a Paizo product. Great job doing this as your proposal.

BTW : I was very happy to see the Adaro here as I did not know about them before I referenced them in my own item (The Nettlefin Sash) that has since become Paizo's IP, as they do all :-)

1 person marked this as a favorite.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Congratulations Nick, well played and from all of us at Flying Pincushion Games we wish you the best in all your future endeavours with Paizo and beyond. Enjoy the summit of the mountain, you are in a place only a select few have been before you.

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Wanted to comment on these before the contest ended, but time was not on my side. Congrats, Nick, for your well-deserved victory!

I loved this proposal, from the title to a lot of the nitty gritty details. Your summary at the start has enough detail to make it feel specific to the region and provide some compelling backstory without getting bogged down in too much background. It makes a lot of sense to use a thunderbird for the Sodden Lands and it's a creature we don't get to see enough of otherwise. Your proposal is clear, well-organized, and easy to follow, and I like that you took the time to outline some PC hooks.

The start of the adventure makes me feel a little nervous. You propose a new mechanic that is going to have to work just right and be easy to pick up to help the game move along (still, your design chops suggest you should be able to pull this off). Starting the adventure in a bit of a sandbox can also be tricky -- it puts a lot of expectation on the PCs to be outgoing and risk-taking to find the things they will need to find; being a GM with players who are often very timid when given the option to simply explore or fashion adventure on their own, so I am prone to worrying about giving the PCs enough hooks---and my players would be the kind who didn't do the "thorough enough" investigation to find the items required to deal with encounter 3 in chapter 3. You do of course provide some scripted adventures so hopefully such things would not be as much of a problem as the anxious part of me worries.

Still there's a lot of really creative encounters, a good narrative flow and build up, and all kinds of different opportunities for adventure here. I look forward to the release of this module!

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

Really like the title; hope it stays!

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I leveled some pretty heavy criticisms against your entry, in a number of different areas. Well, I'm just one person on the Internet, and criticism aside, you are obviously a strong and polished writer. Congratulations on your victory. I really liked your entries from the earlier rounds and I am sure you make the most of this opportunity.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Hi Nick, just stopping by to congratulate you on the win! I'd say welcome to the sleepless world of freelance writing, but you already have experience in the area, so you know the drill. ;)

To write a full Pathfinder module-wow! Well done, I wish you success on your work!

Community / Forums / Archive / Paizo / RPG Superstar™ / Previous Contests / RPG Superstar™ Season 9 (2016) / Round 5: Submit an adventure proposal / Beneath the Storm-Veiled Spires All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Round 5: Submit an adventure proposal