The Starpearl Tower


Round 5: Submit an adventure proposal

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 4 , Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Snowblossom

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The Starpearl Tower
When a changeling girl is taken by a coven of hags, a call goes out for her rescue. The coven matron locks her away in the Starpearl Tower and awaits the new moon. The hag intends to conduct a ritual to bring forth the corruption that has lain dormant in the girl’s soul since her birth. Can the adventurers brave the dangers of the Sodden Lands to save an innocent before she succumbs to the curse of her dark heritage?

The Starpearl Tower is a Pathfinder adventure designed for 5th-level characters; PCs should reach 8th-level by its conclusion.

Background
Fourteen years ago, the hag Velika seduced a paladin of Erastil named Heveril, corrupting him with her dark influence. His fall from grace was almost total and he committed much wickedness with his lover, but when she coaxed him in the end to take an innocent life he was overwhelmed with guilt and disgust both for himself and for Velika. He begged Erastil for forgiveness, swearing never to kill again. He wandered the mountains as a hermit for months until fate led him to the struggling village of Jula. He settled there, swearing to protect the villagers as penitence for his crimes.

Meanwhile, Velika gave birth to Heveril’s daughter and hatched a plan to use the child to bring him back under her influence. Velika and her two hag coven-sisters left the infant in Jula where Heveril had established a small church to Erastil, and come to be known by the locals as “Father.” The hag queen knew that the changeling babe would one day feel the calling to return to her. Though she mourned the loss of her beloved child, she focused on preparations for the return of both her daughter and her former lover, confident that they would all be reunited.

Heveril took the child in and named her Calla. He raised her alongside the other orphans in his humble church, but as she grew older he gradually became certain of her parentage. He kept the secret to himself and prayed every night to Erastil to help her overcome the destiny of her blood. Calla grew up to be kind and compassionate, though she longed to know her true heritage. Over time, however, her mood grew pensive and her temperament volatile. When finally she came of age the call was too strong and she was unable to resist its pull. She stole away in the night, drawn to her mother’s summons.

Getting Involved
PCs start out in the village of Jula in the Sodden Lands. There could be a variety of reasons for them to be there; they can be locals of the village, travelers passing through the area looking for work, or visiting friends in the area.

Corruption System
Throughout the adventure, PCs have the opportunity to influence Calla. Velika’s insight into danger alerts her to the PCs presence. She frequently attempts to scry on the PCs to prove to Calla how violently the outside world treats monsters like her. Several encounters have the potential to lower or raise Calla’s corruption level, dependent on the actions of the PCs. Each day that passes also increases Calla’s corruption to reflect Velika’s growing influence over her.

Chapter 1: The Caves of Salt and Blood
The adventure starts as Father Heveril emerges from the church of Erastil and raises an alarm. He announces that one of the orphans under his care is missing and he requires assistance in bringing her home. If PCs do not initially volunteer, Father Heveril approaches them directly offering them payment in return for their aid.

Father Heveril clarifies that Calla, the missing girl, is a changeling he found as an infant. He explains that hags transform their changeling offspring into beings like themselves through a dark ritual carried out under the new moon. The new moon is a mere week away.

Father Heveril does not reveal that he is Calla’s father, and instead tells the PCs of a sea hag by the name of Emelda who lairs in the coral caverns beneath Jula. He believes Emelda is involved in Calla’s disappearance.

The PCs depart for the sea hag’s lair, but are waylaid by bandits that also call these caves home. Further inside, they encounter a territorial dispute between vodyanoi and boggard factions which they have the chance to influence. After that is resolved, the PCs discover a fossegrim residing in the sea hag’s pool which they must deal with before entering the underwater caverns below. The PCs explore the beautiful, labyrinthine coral caves, which are home to giant sea life such as alpheid shrimp, sea anemones, and seahorses. They can make skill checks to use the seahorses as mounts for the remainder of the chapter.

Once the PCs reach Emelda’s lair, they find her ready for them thanks to Velika’s warning and hidden traps greet them at the entrance. Inside, they face the sea hag herself along with her ceratoidi guard and pet nycar.

Upon Emelda’s defeat, the PCs have a chance to interact with Calla through an enchanted mirror. This interaction affects Calla’s corruption score. After the connection abruptly ends, an enslaved nixie comes forward to tell the PCs about the three hag sisters. She believes Calla is Velika’s daughter and retrieves a starpearl from Emelda’s corpse. The nixie gives the gem to the PCs, explaining it is one of two keys they need to enter Velika’s lair – the Starpearl Tower. The nixie offers to heal them and invites them to stay for the night. In the morning she escorts them to the sea hag’s enchanted boat which takes them to the holder of the second key – a storm hag named Crescentia.

New Monster: Giant Alpheid Shrimp (CR 3)
This colorful aquatic creature is an oversized shrimp with a disproportionately large claw. It uses this claw both to defend itself and to fire stunning bolts at its prey. It is often found lurking among coral reefs and other submerged structures.

Unique Treasure: Starpearl
These black pearls are roughly the size of an average human adult’s fist and flecked with specks of silver, making the surface appear as a miniature reproduction of the night sky. They impart knowledge based on the current Cosmic Caravan constellations in the sky, granting bonuses on select skills and opening skill unlocks. It also acts as a luckstone when the constellation of the holder’s birth is in the sky and can cast guiding star once per day.

Chapter 2: Eye of the Storm
The boat steers the PCs out to the stormy sea. They must contend with a sea drake who attempts to capsize their boat before they arrive at their destination – a graveyard of ghost ships, clustered together within a cove. Though the graveyard is supernaturally protected from the brunt of the storm by Crescentia’s magic, the PCs have other dangers to overcome. At the entrance of the cove, PCs encounter a distraught merrow who they can either choose to help or fight before continuing to the ghost ships.

The ship graveyard is home to a crew of draugr, a shark-eating crab, and a number of reefclaws. After navigating through the mass of rotting ships, the PCs come face to face with the Crescentia, her incutilis-controlled servitors (including the young offspring of the merrow they previously encountered), a lacedon, and, if they aren’t careful, a swarm of jellyfish waiting just under the weakened floorboards. The defeat of the hag earns the PCs the second starpearl they need to access the gates to Velika’s lair. Another enchanted mirror gives PCs a second chance to interact with Calla and affect her corruption score before her image disappears.

Chapter 3: Confrontation with Destiny
With both starpearl keys in hand, the PCs sail through the storm to the rocky isle that houses the Starpearl Tower – an ancient astronomy tower from the fallen nation of Lirgen. This relic is now the domain of the star hag, Velika, and her wicked followers.

Two karkinoi guards await the PCs at the gate, ready to attack. Once they have been defeated, the PCs use the starpearl keys to open the enchanted portal gate and enter the tower. On the ground level, the PCs encounter a pair of enlightened contemplatives who guard the secrets of their deceased Lirgeni masters. They test the PCs with a series of puzzles so they may prove themselves worthy to move further into the tower. If they fail, they face a cephalophore guardian. If they pass, they receive temporary sanctuary to rest.

On the upper floors, they must contend with creatures from the void such as newly hatched lunarma and a fiendish mothman who hunts the PCs at the star hag’s command. At the top floor, PCs enter an observatory with a massive armillary sphere. Floating in the center of the quickly spinning bands, Velika reveals the truth of Father Heveril’s involvement along with his sinister past. She explains her desire to use Father Heveril’s affection for Calla to lure him back to the tower so they can be reunited as a family. Velika refuses to allow the PCs to take Calla, and will fight to the death with her witch underlings at her side.

New Monster: Star Hag (CR 9)
In their true form, these gaunt creatures appear as emaciated old women with solid black eyes and wild, pale hair, streaked with black. They have a connection to the void and use the stars for divination. Their cold and breath-stealing powers are made more dangerous by their uncanny ability to know when danger is near.

New Location: The Starpearl Tower
The Starpearl Tower was originally a remote observation tower for some of Lirgen’s greatest astronomers. Since the destruction of the great nation, it has since fallen into the hands of a hag coven whose leader uses it as her lair. The structure is composed of five floors and features an extensive library, living quarters, laboratories, and an impressive observatory. The main gate is a magically warded portal and can only be accessed by matching the constellations on the surface of two starpearls with the ones programed into the gate, making it difficult for unwanted guests to enter.

Conclusion
Once Velika is defeated, the PCs find Calla in the room beyond. She is conflicted about the events that have occurred. The PCs must convince her to turn away from her hag heritage if they want her to return to Jula. The results of their diplomacy checks are modified by Calla’s total corruption score. If they succeed, the locals declare the PCs to be heroes. Father Heveril apologizes for his deception and offers them humble payment from the church’s coffers. Calla thanks the PCs for rescuing her, regretful for her mother’s fate but happy to be spared from transforming into a monster. If not, or if the PCs do not reach Calla before the new moon, she could become a new threat to the area, replacing the slain hags and starting a new coven.

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

Well done, Crystal! 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’m not normally a big fan of portmanteaus, but I kinda like Starpearl. The title sounds more like an article than an action-packed adventure title, though.

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.

• I love hags, and I really like the setup and background. I like that you took a barely-mentioned piece of canon and expanded it to give a reason why Heveril fell. I only wish that you had mentioned the type of hag Velika is at the beginning instead of making me read down to find that out. Edit: I see now that she is a new type of hag. You should have mentioned that she was a star hag at the beginning, saying something like: "Velika is a rare type of hag called a star hag (see below)." I'm also not sure how I feel about introducing more types of hags. Each new one waters down the stock, in my opinion... even though I really like hags. I admit, I think star hags are a cool idea.

• It also would have been a good idea to bring up the Starpearl Tower in this introductory material. There's no mention of the thing the adventure's named after until the third part. Sometimes you need to front load information for the reader.

• The hook for the PCs is kinda weak, but I totally admit that it's tough to come up with a number of reasonable beyond what you provided... especially in the Sodden Lands.

• Having a corruption subsystem sounds neat, but be careful, subsystems like that can make or break an adventure depending on well-executed they are.

• It's sometimes dangerous to put an adventure on a timer, but a week seems like a comfortable enough span of time.

• You mention that the coral caves are beneath Jula, but I'm not sure if Jula was a coastal settlement before the Eye formed and flooded much of this land. I wonder if enough coral could grow in 100 years. Plus, where the place is situated, these caves would be totally underwater, unless Jula’s on a bluff (which I guess we’ve never really said, but it doesn’t feel that way to me).

• Vodyanois are CR 5, so two of them make for a CR 7 encounter, a potentially tough encounter for 5th-level characters, but it seems that the boggards are the real threat here since vodyanois aren't as aggressive. It would be nice to know more about that conflict, because it seems like a place where the PCs could use diplomacy more than combat. The boggards are only going to be a threat if they are in numbers or have levels. Also, a single fossgrim is a weak encounter for PCs at this level unless there is more going on in the encounter or the fossegrim has class levels.

• A sea hag is only CR 4, a ceratioidi is CR 3, and a nycar is CR 2. All of these are weak encounters for 5th-level PCs. I expect that they have class levels, but without calling that out in the pitch I have to take it for face value.

• Same goes for sea anemones (CR 2), and while you're getting closer with the seahorses, the CR 3 one is Large and the CR 5 one—the only CR appropriate monster here—is Huge, so you're going to need some space to use this monster. Now, you mention that they can be used as mounts, so it's clear that the seahorses aren't combat encounters, so their CRs aren’t that important. However, are these seahorses already trained as mounts? You mention using skill checks to be able to use them as mounts, but which skill checks? Handle Animal and Ride make the most sense, but if they aren't trained as mounts, you'd have to use Handle Animal to train them, and that takes 3 weeks.

• Convenient nixie story-progressor is convenient. Also, why is there an enchanted boat? Why does a sea hag have a boat? Sure, not every creature with a swim speed wants to swim everywhere, but this strikes me as odd. How is the boat enchanted? Is it just on tracks to go to her sister?

• I like pistol shrimp, so the new monster is cool. (even though I secretly—oops, not so secretly—wanted something a bit more fantastic. You'd also need 2–4 of them in an encounter to make it CR appropriate, so keep their size in mind.

• The starpearl is thematic and interesting. (Even though it seems more like a Lirgeni thing more than a Yamasan thing... it's at least in the neighborhood of the theme of the region.) I especially like the inclusion of the Cosmic Caravan element.

• Where did the enchanted boat take the PCs? You mention that they go out to sea and go to a shipwreck graveyard that's in a cove, but where is the cove? Is this a tiny island out in the gulf?

• I'm assuming that the distraught merrow is a salt water merrow, otherwise a normal CR 3 merrow has some of the same monster selection problems as some of the previous encounters.

• A single lacedon is way too weak of a challenge, but the rest of those challenges seem fine if given the proper numbers of enemies. One thing to keep in mind if this pitch wins is that storm hags aren't currently in the PRD, so you'd have to reprint the whole statblock in the adventure, which takes up extra space. The positive side of that is that since you're already reprinting the whole statblock, you could easily add a class level or two to Crescentia (or other modifications) to bump her up a bit (even though CR 7 is a suitable fit at this point where the PCs are likely 6th-level).

• I like the mirror glimpses and chances to affect Calla happen after the defeat of the sub-bosses. It keeps people focused on the ultimate goal.

• For the final part, depending on where they actually sail, the starpearl tower should be northeast so that it'd actually be in Lirgen.

• Including the enlightened contemplatives here is weird. First, like the storm hag, these aren't in the PRD so you'd have to include a full statblock. Second, these things have been firmly linked to Kaer Maga, so they're more than a thousand miles away from home in lost Lirgen. The idea of them testing the PCs with puzzles sound cool, though. I like that you also provide a spot for the PCs to rest before facing the final encounters.

• Lunarama and a mothman seem a tiny bit out of place. I can feel the lunarama more than the mothman.

• Something else to keep in mind if this wins is to make sure that Velika has some minions in the final fight. A CR difference of 1 isn't enough for a final boss. You should aim to make that encounter at least a CR 10 fight.

• Starpearl Tower being five levels with an extensive library and whatnot might be tricky to put onto just one full-page map.

• I enjoyed your conclusion and like that even failing creates a new adventure hook for future parties. I like the negotiation with Calla and how the overall corruption system affects the endgame even if they defeat the bosses.

Conclusion: I think this is a great story overall, but you really need to punch up your game with encounters and rules if you win this. This pitch contains a bunch of elements that appeal to me. This is the second Jula-based adventure that I've read and I'd love to see more involvement with the Knights of Abendego in this one as well. I like that you used Father Heveril as a plot point, but you ignored other things going on in Jula. Since the settlement only has 200 people in it, omitting the influence of the Knights of Abendego feels like a misstep since they've already been established as a plot hook for Jula (along with Father Haveril). If this wins, I'd like to see it either have some element of conflict with the Knights of Abendego—or at least their leader Ajbal Kimon—or be moved to a different location in the Sodden Lands. If it were my call, I would not green light this adventure, but I will say that this is my second choice.

Scarab Sages Developer

Comments from our other two judges are coming soon!

Liberty's Edge Assistant Developer

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Congratulations Crystal! Not only for making it to the final round, but for having the good foresight to share a name with a judge! 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

Spoiler:

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.

Originality
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.

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

Development
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).

Clarity
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]

Originality
This is a fairly by-the-numbers “rescue the princess” scenario, but the water and space theme help make it a little more memorable. Nothing is really wowsers about it, but it hits a lot of strong heroic tropes.

Setting
This is easily your weakest element. This scenario does not feel even remotely connected to the Sodden Lands, aside from a few names that could be swapped in madlibs-style. Nothing really feels associated with the storm-wracked post-apocalyptic setting we’ve established the Sodden Lands to be, and instead it feels like a random adventure that happens to use the Sodden Lands as a backdrop. Fine if you’re writing a generic adventure, bad when you were given specific instructions about where to place the adventure.

Development
This would be a bit of a challenge to develop. The addition of a corruption system adds a new rules element to be developed and for GMs to track. Also, you mention that Calla watches the PCs’ interactions with other creatures and that shapes her opinion on humanity, but the adventure generally lacks encounters where the PCs make moral choices that could influence her perceptions; I really like the idea, but it’s not implemented.

A lot of the encounter CRs are too low (reeflclaws, even in large lumbers, won’t pose much of a threat to level 6 adventurers, for example). You use a lot of non-PRD monsters, so we’d have to reprint their statblocks here, which quickly eats into your word count. There’s also the question bugging me: If Calla is high enough level to scry on the PCs regularly, why does she need rescuing? Does she use a magic item? Which one? And does that powerful a magic item end up in the PCs’ hands?

Clarity
The adventure is presented very clearly.

Part One
I’m not sure why Crescentia thinks her plan will draw out an aging fallen paladin rather than strapping young adventurers in the first place, and I’m also not sure why Father Heveril would specifically go to the PCs. I’m also not sure why the PCs are in Jula to begin with, as it’s mostly a refugee town.

The encounters in Emelda’s lair seem appropriate. It’s nice to see ceratoidi again. That said, the enslaved nixie bothers me; you say she heals the PCs but nixies don’t have healing powers.

Part Two
Sailing adventures on a stormy sea is cool, but another lair fight with more aquatic monsters and another water-themed hag feels like a replay of Part 1 with no real standaouts.

Part Three
I have mixed feelings on this last part, the first being by 5th level PCs can fly, so why go through the tower at all instead of just flying up to the upper floors? Heck, why even bother retrieving the second starpearl to unlock the door? Do they need both starpearls to navigate to triangulate the tower’s position?

I like that the tower changes up the kind of monsters you encounter, but there’s no real explanation for why monsters from Akiton or the moon are just hanging out in this Sodden Lands building.

Unique Treasure
The starpearls are cool and flavorful, but magic items that change their bonuses based on the time of years or phases of the moon or time of day tend to be a pain in the butt for GMs.

New Location
The tower seems unremarkable. It was an observatory, which makes for a neat monster lair, but nothing about it makes it seem like a new superstar location we’d dedicate a spread or two in the back of the book to detail, and once the PCs clear it out, it seems unlikely they or anyone else would really want to reclaim it, as it’s just a crumbling, rain-soaked building in the middle of nowhere.

New Monster
A giant mantis shrimp is a cool idea for monstrous vermin, but it’s not especially superstar.

The star hag is neat as well. I love hags. But Pathfinder hags tend to follow a theme of “unreasonable and cruel natural forces that threaten pearl-clutching civilizations,” or “festering hatred from human cruelty.” You could embrace this with something more like a starfall hag (for strange and inexplicable things that fall from the sky), or some sort of astrology hag (for false prophecies and manipulation), but just a stargazing hag with vacuum powers feels a little out of theme. Understanding design themes behind broad monster groups like hags or drakes can be a bit arcane, but it’s important for building a coherent world that feels like it runs off the same rules for everyone.

Final Verdict
For all my complaining, this is a descent adventure pitch that just needs some extra TLC to make it fit the setting better and tie together some of the themes. It has some very strong adventure tropes at its core, it just needs a little extra help. If this were a freelancer pitch, I would kick it back with notes and watch to see a revision, rather than not work with you again. I weakly do recommend this adventure for advancement.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Crystal! 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: The Starpearl Tower

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. The Starpearl Tower. It avoids the traditional X of the Y title. And, it gives us an immediate idea of the presumed iconic location where it takes place...i.e., a "Starpearl tower." I like it. You're immediately causing the reader to wonder what a "starpearl" tower is like and what's so special about it. By including "star" and "pearl" in there, you're immediately tying together the sea and the nighttime sky, and you proposal goes on to live up to the imagery that the adventure's title conjures in the mind's eye. Well done.

In fact, naming is one of the most important elements in adventure design. 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 think you succeeded here. For old school gamers, The Starpearl Tower could become as iconic as The Ghost Tower of Inverness if you play your cards right.

So what about the rest of the pitch? I think you presented very cleanly. Your lead-in summary wastes no time in telling us what it's about, who's involved, what's happening, and what's at stake. In fact, that's almost the same kind of rundown newspaper journalists are trained to use for the lead-in paragraphs of their columns. Hit the reader with the "who, what, when, and where" right up front. Then, once you've given them the basics, expound on them as you present the rest of your story. So, you're wise to take this approach. You hit your marks, and I'm interested to read on.

The rest of your pitch is just as solid from a structure standpoint. There's an adventure background section. You separated it out into appropriate chapters that help move the story along. You've got your new magic item, location, and monster. You've got a short list of ideas for getting the PCs involved (though I'd like to have something more definitive here). And, you've provided a decent conclusion/wrap-up to close things out. Structurally, you've put together a decent adventure pitch. From a content perspective, I'm also intrigued by the choices you've made. Hags are always great story movers when it comes to adventure opportunities. You can use them in a variety of ways, and your adventure hinges on the idea of introducing a new one with a "star hag." And, you've got the requisite changeling in danger as she starts hearing "the call" of her mother. It's a very fairy-tale-esque way of building an adventure premise, and it's a rock solid, proven tradition to draw upon.

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 an entire coven of hags as a triumvirate of villains, but it's the star hag that's calling the shots. This is a smart call. You're basically setting up a recurring theme of "hags" in both your villain and your minions (which I'll touch on later). And, their impacts can be felt across the entire plot. In fact, your main villian has a sense of evil about her that pervades the entire plotline. And, the corruption system demonstrates it even further. Nice touch.

The Locale(s): There's a fair bit of variety here. We start in the town of Jula, get some overland encounters and side caves, eventually find our way to the sea hag's lair, and then venture into the Starpearl Tower. It's a bit ambitious as you may run out of map space to do everything justice. But, from a storytelling perspective, the progression is solid and you've brought forth the promise of a compelling adventuring site with the tower at the end. I think it holds together, but your developer would have to guide you a bit in tweaking your outline to ensure everything can fit.

The Plot: I like that you give a sense of many different areas surrounding Jula that the PCs will get to interact with. Even the graveyard of ships has an eerie quality to it that comes across as a memorable opportunity. The corruption of the changeling also has a compelling plot to it so that the PCs are potentially racing against time to save Calla from herself. I think the plot could be made stronger if you included some encounters where the PCs can see evidence of her deteriorating psychology. Even having her in the final encounter alongside Velika, assisting her as another potential adversary the PCs have to face, might be a good touch...especially, if you give them multiple ways of undoing Calla rather than just slaying her. I think it's also great that the PCs get a chance to start taking apart the hag coven piece-by-piece. And, they get to acquire the necessary keys to open the normally insurmountable Starpearl Tower, giving them a very iconic location full of mystery to adventure through. You've got a lot of strong elements which collectively elevate the plot beyond just a "go here, do this, fight that, get XP."

The Minions: This could use a little more punching up, but in general, I like the additional hags as minions to Velika. And, as I mentioned earlier, Calla could even be another "hag" minion joining her mother at the end, depending on how the corruption plays out. But, aside from that, I think additional, recurring minions under the thumb of the hags would help...preferably something that can resurface again and again in various ways for the PCs to see their influence on the land, thereby giving the PCs another compelling reason to get involved.

The Reward: The reward is basically the starpearl in the adventure's title, and the PCs will need to acquire a couple of them to even venture inside and resolve the plot involving Calla and Velika. These items have some unique enough powers that they can live beyond the adventure itself, and you can envision the PCs cherishing them not only for their abilities, but also the continuing potential of using them as keys to the Starpearl Tower, possibly using it as a fortified base from which to have a lasting impact on the Sodden Lands. So, it's kind of like a double-reward as a wondrous magic item and a future landholding for the PCs.

Conclusion
There's a lot to like here. It may be more than you can deliver, but I'm intrigued. A big part of the adventure proposal round is demonstrating your ability to construct an interesting storyline that'll hook both the GM who reads it, and the players when they experience it. And, I think you've got enough elements here to accomplish that under the guidance of your developer. Special attention may be warranted to tie in the Starpearl Tower even more to the history of the Sodden Lands and give it a more important role in the campaign setting. And, some attention will likely need to be paid to the map count and monster adversaries (with their class levels).

But, 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 proposal moves them. And, if you win, it'll take a fair degree of collaboration with your developer to truly bring to life the promise you've held forth with this pitch. But, if you don't win, I think you've still got enough of the freelancer skillset to make a mark in the industry if you apply yourself. You've demonstrated those capabilities over the various rounds of the competition. So, no matter how the voting comes out, more opportunities may come your way. You just have to make the most of them.

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

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

Congratulations Crystal and good luck in the voting!

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Certainly plenty of ideas here for a great underwater campaign. I love the corruption system and the back story. Good job and good luck.

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!

I like that you’re fleshing out the backstory of Heveril

Never kill again? Like people or monsters? I feel like living in the Sodden Lands there is a good chance he’s going to be killing at least some boggards, if not Sodden Scavengers.

Would a hag “mourn the loss of her beloved daughter”? That seems very uncharacteristic for a hag.

Speaking of which, what kind of Hag is she anyway?

Still digging this backstory for Heveril.

These hooks are definitely the weakest of the four. Being local is fine I guess, if the PCs are being made just for this adventure, but no level 5 PC is looking for work or visiting friends in the Sodden Lands. I get the feeling that very few people live here by choice unless they’re evil, crazy or both.

I’m wary of adding subsystems like this to adventures. I appreciate that interacting with Calla may make a final set of diplomacy checks easier or harder, but I don’t think I need corruption to track this.

On top of a known hag lair seems a poor place for a tiny human settlement, also where are the Knights of Abendego?

Bandits in the Sodden Lands are probably Sodden Scavangers, I wish you had called them such

Wow, even more monsters in this cave below a tiny settlement, how has Jula not been overrun?

Seahorse mounts are cool in theory, but I’m not sure they’d work well in practice. Are the PCs going to be underwater for large portions of this adventure? What kind of skill checks and penalties would you use? Are the seahorses already trained to be mounts? By who?

The shrimp doesn’t do anything for me.

I really like the magic item, probably my favorite of the 4.

What boat? (Nevermind, I found it, it just wasn’t mentioned for awhile) Why does a Sea Hag need a magic boat?

I LOVE LOVE ship graveyards, one of my favorite kinds of places to do basically anything. Are they actually ghost ships though? Or just ships full of undead?

Why do the undead and incutilis work with the hag? Is that common?

Influencing Calla via in the mirrors is pretty cool, if a little convenient.

Is there really no way to get inside without these two pearls? You can’t break down a wall, dispel magic, anything?

Contemplatives, sweet! My module proposal actually have a rogue group of these guys serving as villains! But why are they in this hag’s tower? Just throwing in a couple aliens from another planet as a throwaway encounter seems wasteful. (As a side note I see Adam mentioned them being related to Kaer Maga, and I could find nothing setting them in that city. I know they have links to the Red Gate in the Mwangi Expanse, but that’s the only Golarion link I’m aware of).

Once again, is family really that important to hags? I suppose this hag could be super unique in her desire to have a family with a human and her daughter.

Another new monster, but this one doesn’t do much more for me than the last.

I like the tower as a location, but if the only way to get in is to use two star pearls to unlock the door, then why did each of the hags only have one pearl? Why wouldn’t they have the keys required to access the tower which was the headquarters of their coven?

I like the conclusion, especially the idea that even if they defeat Velika they may still fail to save Calla if they’re jerks about the whole thing.

In conclusion:

You have a pretty great story here, and a trio of cool new locations to explore. I think perhaps you might actually have 1 too many adventure locales actually. The problems I see are reminiscent of problems in earlier rounds, and that is that your mechanics aren’t as solid as your writing. Still, your writing has been excellent enough so far to carry you to the final round. I don’t think I’ll be voting for this adventure because I think it would take a lot of development work to punch up the encounters to make them interesting and challenging, but I still think you wrote something that will become a great adventure if you win. Good luck in the final voting.


Before I comment on this, isnnt the changling the baby that is left behind, not the one that is taken?

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Mark Griffin wrote:
...(As a side note I see Adam mentioned them being related to Kaer Maga, and I could find nothing setting them in that city. I know they have links to the Red Gate in the Mwangi Expanse, but that’s the only Golarion link I’m aware of)....

Mark, thanks for pointing this out. I'm in error here mentioning that contemplatives are connected to Kaer Maga. I got a couple of James Sutter creations flipped in my head and was thinking of caulborn when I made that statement. Thanks for catching that and mentioning the proper link on Golarion.

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Mark Griffin wrote:


Bandits in the Sodden Lands are probably Sodden Scavangers, I wish you had called them such

Yeah, I assume that's who she meant too. Should have name dropped that.

Mark Griffin wrote:


Wow, even more monsters in this cave below a tiny settlement, how has Jula not been overrun?

Maybe because of their badass paladin guardian Father Heveril, whose will the hag queen now seems to be trying to break by corrupting his daughter? You point that out as incoherent, whereas it seems to me to tie together nicely.

Mark Griffin wrote:


Contemplatives, sweet! My module proposal actually have a rogue group of these guys serving as villains! But why are they in this hag’s tower? Just throwing in a couple aliens from another planet as a throwaway encounter seems wasteful.

They seem to be caretaking this ancient center of Lirgen astronomical knowledge, no? Seems like a perfect fit to me, not a "throw away" at all. Perhaps they once helped the Lirgen astronomers here study the stars they hailed from?

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This next post I'm putting both here and under Storm Veiled Spires, for reasons which will momentarily become obvious:

With all due respect to Chris Wasko, I don't think Beneath the Storm-Veiled Spires is quite the slam dunk he thinks it is. That said, and with all due respect as well to the other fine contestants, from where I'm standing this is a two horse race: It's Storm Veiled Spires vs. The Starpearl Tower. Both are strong entries. Nick Wasko is a muscular writer with a lot of good ideas, and his presentation was clearly the most polished. That said, I still think Starpearl Tower is the winner here, and I'll tell you why.

In many ways, these two entries are like diametric opposites. They use a lot of the same villains and environments, but where Storm-Veiled Spires is hard, loud, raucous and in your face, Starpearl is soft, quiet, elegant and enigmatic. This is not a critique of either of them; these are matters of taste. Comparing the two is like asking whether Fury Road is a better action movie than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. They're simply trying to do different things. For instance, it's my habit to prep a lot of music as a GM, and If I'm running Storm-Veiled I see myself prepping a lot of this kind of thing. For Starpearl, it's a lot more of this. But, de gustibus non est disputandum.

The point is, I think you have to consider the best and worst case scenarios here. Either one of these could be a wreck if developed poorly. Storm-Veiled Spires would be a chaotic and arbitrary-seeming mess culminating in a "cinematic" boss fight that feels forced and/or falls flat completely. Starpearl would be a plodding cakewalk through trivial (if pretty) environments. Fine, either one could go wrong. Personally I'd rather be mildly bored by a bad Starpearl than confused and frustrated by a bad Storm-Veiled, but that's neither here nor there because what we really need to consider are the best case scenarios.

Storm Veiled Spires could be an action packed, exciting, fun game that approximated an experience like God of War or Skyrim. But at the end of the day, as much fun as you've had, I think it winds up being a forgettable pastiche, an entertaining summer blockbuster. Empty calories. But Starpearl might just be downright poignant. The best case scenario there? Neil already said it best: "For old school gamers, The Starpearl Tower could become as iconic as The Ghost Tower of Inverness if you play your cards right." Read that again if it hasn't quite hit you what a significant thing that is for a judge to say. Ghost Tower of Inverness was rated by Dungeon Magazine as one of the top 30 adventures of all time. Forgive the hyperbole in this next bit, but even if I'm wrong about its limitations, a well developed Storm-Veiled Spires has the potential to be a full on Skyrim type of experience. But a well developed Starpearl Tower? Man, you might just get the Legend of Zelda. 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.

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

Erick Wilson wrote:
Maybe because of their badass paladin guardian Father Heveril, whose will the hag queen now seems to be trying to break by corrupting his daughter? You point that out as incoherent, whereas it seems to me to tie together nicely.

A level 4 NPC fallen Paladin is probably CR 2? I'm not sure that's bad ass enough. Either way it was a minor point, and the problem would be easily solved by moving the caves.

Erick Wilson wrote:
They seem to be caretaking this ancient center of Lirgen astronomical knowledge, no? Seems like a perfect fit to me, not a "throw away" at all. Perhaps they once helped the Lirgen astronomers here study the stars they hailed from?

I just don't understand why the Hags and the Contemplatives are capable of sharing the same space. They are extremely different in alignment and motives. Also, as far as I know there are no contemplatives on Golarion anymore. There of course still can be, but if you were going to add them I think they should get a lot more emphasis than this. Maybe I feel this way because they were central to my module's plot, but I think these weird aliens deserve a better reason for being here and more of a spotlight.

All of the points you answered were minor, these were things I would suggest changing but aren't game breaking.

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

Mark Griffin wrote:
Erick Wilson wrote:
Maybe because of their badass paladin guardian Father Heveril, whose will the hag queen now seems to be trying to break by corrupting his daughter? You point that out as incoherent, whereas it seems to me to tie together nicely.

A level 4 NPC fallen Paladin is probably CR 2? I'm not sure that's bad ass enough. Either way it was a minor point, and the problem would be easily solved by moving the caves.

Did they print stats on Heveril somewhere? His level isn't given in the Inner Sea Guide entry about Jula. Why must he be level 4?

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

Erick Wilson wrote:
Did they print stats on Heveril somewhere? His level isn't given in the Inner Sea Guide entry about Jula. Why must he be level 4?

Huh. You're right, his stats aren't written down anywhere. I read that he was level 4 in Charlie's module and then internalized that to be fact. That's my mistake. However I still think that the caverns should be moved away. Even if you have a bad ass fallen paladin leading your group, it's unwise to have such a tiny settlement right on top of a deadly dungeon.


Quote:


Further inside, they encounter a territorial dispute between vodyanoi and boggard factions which they have the chance to influence.

What if that takes more than, oh, say, a week? A nitpick to be sure, but that jumped out at me. I think I would probably say the new moon just happened, the hag was ready to turn Calla, but some annoying happenstance delayed the ritual, buying the PCs the time they need. Also, close misses feel scary, so there's that.

Okay, so what we have here is a fairy tale. An evil fairy tale. I like how the foundling child reverses the usual trope of her being royalty. In this case, she's actually the monster, or could be. I like it. I like it a lot.

I'm actually not sure about the morally constipated paladin. Ok, yes, the fall and rise thing feels right. That part is well done. I think it just might be more convincing if, at some point, he decided to do something more active, but some circumstance or threat prevents him now. Maybe his old hag lover has been scrying on his daughter, and every so often, she visits physically and leaves threatening, stalkerish signs that are obvious to the paladin but not to anyone else. Maybe she's found a way to poison him, that helped lure him into evil before and leaves him vulnerable now. I tend to imagine that most paladins who fall and become evil, psychotic villains do not successfully repent; those that do, I would imagine to have something exceptional about them. Someone who has come back from the dark should be really, really formidable. The hag ought to be more afraid of him, I think. This is a guy who could probably coup de grace her with a coffee mug. But maybe I'm over-thinking this, maybe he really just has a thing for hags, which conflicts with his alignment and drives all of this.

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RJGrady wrote:
I tend to imagine that most paladins who fall and become evil, psychotic villains do not successfully repent; those that do, I would imagine to have something exceptional about them. Someone who has come back from the dark should be really, really formidable. The hag ought to be more afraid of him, I think. This is a guy who could probably coup de grace her with a coffee mug. But maybe I'm over-thinking this, maybe he really just has a thing for hags, which conflicts with his alignment and drives all of this.

No, I think you're spot on. It feels like that's exactly what she's going for. Heveril here is like Russel Crowe from The Quick and the Dead. The hag can't kill him (and anyway doesn't want to since he was a fun evil lover), but just maybe she can break him for good by corrupting his daughter and turn him back to evil. Then you've got a hag/anti-paladin Bonnie and Clyde team from Hell terrorizing the Sodden Lands.

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

The backstory information reminded me a lot of former superstar module, Daughters of Fury.
Including the main npc being the offspring of a female hag/orc and a male paladin/knight.
Also the early chapters of fighting the lesser sisters/hags before the confrontation with the evil mother seemed similar in theme.

Overall I think this a well written proposal, but I am unsure if this will go over well in my gaming group being quite similar to a previous module, but this is still in the running for my vote.

Good Luck


I expressed my concern about hags in the discussion of the Storm-Veiled Spires. In the interest of fairness, I shall also state there that I have some misgivings about a story of a mean old lady seducing a good man and leading him to ruin, then showing up later with a surprise kid and demanding child support. Err, I mean, his soul. :) So, hags, they are tricky.

But... I think this pitch handles the hag a lot better than the other entry in this contest. She's the most active NPC in the story. She is given personal motivations, beyond being just evil. The themes surrounding hags, like dark motherhood, are relevant to the events in the story. She can't be reviled existentially without also, in some light, condemning the innocent victim in the story, according to that person's nature.


I don't even understand why we are talking about this one. It very simply did do the assignment. The whole point was to come up with something that took place in the sodden lands. The sodden lands are very distinctive and yet, next to nothing in this proposal even mentions them. The only way we know we are there is because the author tells us. Other than that, this could take place anywhere that is near a coastal region. I am an anthropology student and if I was given a homework assignment to report on the culture of Chinese immigrants and I instead wrote a great report on main land China, I might get mad props for my writing, but you can sure fire bet that I am getting an F on that report!

It feels a lot like the author already had this idea in mind before she was told where the location had to be and just changed the names of a few places so that it would fit. The whole every creature you fight is some sort of sea life gets really redundant and is really limiting but I think that it may have just been the way that she was trying to incorporate something sodden into the proposal. I mean, the new monster in here is just a mantis shrimp blown up. If I made a really big wolf, there is no way I could pass that off as a new monster, so I don't understand how the shrimp can qualify as one.

Maybe I am overthinking the whole thing and the contest is more focused on what is an interesting read than what followed the rules, but it is frustrating to see three people who worked really hard to work a proposal into the sodden lands and one person who seemed to work the sodden lands into a proposal.


I understand why some people like this and why some people don't. Personally, I don't see it. This is a simple search and rescue mission. It is the plot of like 50% of all classic fairy tales. It is a race to save the princess in the tower. Nothing elegant about it.


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RJGrady wrote:

I expressed my concern about hags in the discussion of the Storm-Veiled Spires. In the interest of fairness, I shall also state there that I have some misgivings about a story of a mean old lady seducing a good man and leading him to ruin, then showing up later with a surprise kid and demanding child support. Err, I mean, his soul. :) So, hags, they are tricky.

But... I think this pitch handles the hag a lot better than the other entry in this contest. She's the most active NPC in the story. She is given personal motivations, beyond being just evil. The themes surrounding hags, like dark motherhood, are relevant to the events in the story. She can't be reviled existentially without also, in some light, condemning the innocent victim in the story, according to that person's nature.

Wait, you have an issue with the hags being powerful and controlling a massive monster in the other proposal, but not with them being needy moms who do anything to get the man?


Harp Rose wrote:


Wait, you have an issue with the hags being powerful and controlling a massive monster in the other proposal, but not with them being needy moms who do anything to get the man?

Wow, you managed to completely reverse what I said about each entry. I said in the other entry,

Quote:


So, a storm hag is a great visual hook, and I like to see tough, female villains getting some screen time.

and in this entry I said,

Quote:


I shall also state there that I have some misgivings about a story of a mean old lady seducing a good man and leading him to ruin, then showing up later with a surprise kid and demanding child support. Err, I mean, his soul. :) So, hags, they are tricky.

So I am really having trouble seeing where you are even getting what you just said. So, I am just replying for clarity. You are of course welcome to completely ignore my comments if you don't agree with them.


I was referring to the two paragraphs before your sentence of approval in which you made the issue very gendered and you willingness to overlook a similar issue in this post. But perhaps this discussion belongs outside of this forum.


If you're issue is with my issue, then yes. But if you see an issue with this entry, feel free to speak up.


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RJGrady wrote:
Harp Rose wrote:


Wait, you have an issue with the hags being powerful and controlling a massive monster in the other proposal, but not with them being needy moms who do anything to get the man?
Wow, you managed to completely reverse what I said about each entry.

I'm with Harp Rose on this one. You said you don't like that this adventure is about a woman seducing a man into procreating and then using the child against him, but then you said that using the theme of "dark motherhood" works. And you said that you liked the other one for using strong female antagonists, but then you said that using hags paints a bad picture of women? I don't follow. I don't think either entry is misogynistic, but if I had to judge, I'd think a theme of "dark motherhood" is more sexist than just having female bad guys


In this entry, the hag is motivated by possessiveness, a twisted kind of love, and a personal history (involving the paladin). She has goals that make sense to the character (turn her daughter to the dark side, get revenge/reconciliation with her pet paladin). She has agency (she is the reason for the backstory, she defeated the paladin before, and she is the driving force of current events); her daughter and the paladin are effectively pawns. Showing the hag a character with individual characteristics and with agency makes her a more identifiable character and therefore, in general, a better one. This mitigates the downside of using a creature type that is entangled in all kinds of negative stereotypes about women.

The other entry uses a hag, a monster associated with negative stereotypes about women, even though another monster or character would have worked fine. Hags seduce men and have monstrous children. The other hag is just there to control the weather and work magic. But by the fact of the hag being present, the concept of evil women who seduce men and produce evil children is ALSO present. But it doesn't move the story. It's just extra negative portrayals of women that don't serve a purpose. It's the side of guacamole you don't want with your swiss mushroom burger. So, she's just there to alter the weather and control fate.

Which is brings us to the second part. She doesn't have individual characteristics. There is nothing about her not suggested by the phrase "storm hag" and implications of something of an academic streak. Okay, she's a storm hag graduate student. Since all her characteristics come from being a storm hag, and storm hags are based primarily on negative portrayals of women, all her known characteristics, beyond weather powers, are, by default assumption, negative portrayals of women.

Now, if she were instead an evil vizier, who was secretly a powerful wizard, that would be an example of a woman breaking into a male-dominated profession.

Tl,dr; this hag, while dipping into tropes that have been steeped in structural sexism, is an interesting and developed character, while that other hag is a two-dimensional stereotype whose motivation is mainly "being evil," with a splash of being a nerd hag. Replacing the hag in this story with a human wizard would require rewriting the plot. Replacing the hag in the other story with a human wizard would just have made it less sexist.


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RJGrady wrote:
Replacing the hag in this story with a human wizard would require rewriting the plot. Replacing the hag in the other story with a human wizard would just have made it less sexist.

So sexism is only okay if it's really important to the plot and the character development? Sorry, I don't buy it.


I didn't say sexism was okay.

I said giving female characters personality and agency was good. I said throwing in gratuitous sexist elements is bad. I am really not sure how you turned that into "sexism is okay."

Sexism is bad.


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This is a really important conversation and it is really tricky to navigate feminism in a fantasy realm with nonhuman creatures. We should definitely be talking about it. But this is not the place. At this point we are disrespecting Crystal and the other contestants. Let's focus on their hard work.

So, is the assumption that if we don't get to Calla in time or if we don't convince her to be good, then we have to fight the hag that she becomes? Wouldn't that be a pretty easy fight since she has no experience being a hag and probably has not been trained in hag stuff and knows nothing about her own powers?


Harp Rose wrote:

This is a really important conversation and it is

really tricky to navigate feminism in a fantasy realm with nonhuman creatures. We should definitely be talking about it. But this is not the place. At this point we are disrespecting Crystal and the other contestants. Let's focus on their hard work.

So, is the assumption that if we don't get to Calla in time or if we don't convince her to be good, then we have to fight the hag that she becomes? Wouldn't that be a pretty easy fight since she has no experience being a hag and probably has not been trained in hag stuff and knows nothing about her own powers?

I agree we have adequately covered some of the thematic concerns about using hags in this and the other entry. Moving on.

I had a concern about the timeline, as I said before, because I think it's probably better if the PCs stop the transformation. "Killing the foundling" is never going to be a happy ending.

Quote:


Velika refuses to allow the PCs to take Calla, and will fight to the death with her witch underlings at her side.

So, the fight isn't just Velika and Calla, in the "sad ending" version. The witch underlings should make for a tough fight, especially with guards and other minions.

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Harp Rose wrote:

... At this point we are disrespecting Crystal and the other contestants. Let's focus on their hard work...

Thank you for pointing this out. The comments on this and the other pitches are, in my opinion, inappropriately distracting for the context of this contest.

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

Apologies for the short comment.

Name: It's good, works for me. It's not quite a homerun, but I'm not sure how to make it one.

Item: Not a fan of the luckstone effect trigger. That's a 20k item that you have when DM fiat says so, and that's a huge amount for the PCs at this level. I do like the trigger for a bonus effect, but I'd like it if it was something that was less mechanical bonus and more fluff.


Skill unlocks, although cool, are not core. So that's one thing about the item that might not work great in publication.

Lantern Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Skill unlocks were introduced in Occult Adventures, which is no more different than a magic item calling out a spell used in Ultimate Magic. I think it was a good desin choice and one of many interesting components that caught my eye.

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

Robert Brookes wrote:
Skill unlocks were introduced in Occult Adventures, which is no more different than a magic item calling out a spell used in Ultimate Magic. I think it was a good desin choice and one of many interesting components that caught my eye.

I think there is a different between skill unlocks and occult skill unlocks. My gut tells me she wasn't referring to occult skill unlocks since this would require a special feat or the ability to cast psychic spells to be used (and she didn't say occult, which is important). The regular skill unlocks are from Pathfinder Unchained, and is probably not the best source to draw from. I wasn't bothered by it, because I own PF Unchained and I like the skill unlock system, but I agree that it would probably be best to cut that part or clarify its intent.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Amanuensis

When I read this proposal, I imagined my players staring blankly at the paladin of Erastil for a while and finally asking: "Isn't that what all teenage changelings go through at some point? I'm sure she'll be fine." I'm mostly joking, and my players aren't heartless bastards, but I think the quest hook is a little weak. The girl's disappearance should have a bigger impact - endanger the unstable peace between different local groups or factions, for example. That might also help to strengthen the adventure's tie-in to the Sodden Lands. (I also would have preferred if the changeling's 'calling' were a red herring in place of the main plot, but that is a personal preference.)

I'm unsure about the corruption system. The players probably notice at some point that they are being scried upon, but they have no real agency here and they won't know anything about the girl's internal struggle.


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I like this story because it is simply a classic. It has the noble knight, the scorned woman, and the innocent maiden caught in between. It is compelling for just that reason. You have clear right and wrong, repentance, lost love, revenge and internal struggle. As a lover of fantasy, my biggest problem with this is that this poor kid grows up under her fathers care and he lets her believe that she is an orphan just like all the other kids. He knows about her messed up parentage and could have warned her and protected her but nope, she hits puberty and bam, she can no longer resist. And I have to say, that is another thing that is really bothering me. In fantasy we use the phrase “came of age” to mean one of two things. Ready to marry, or hit puberty. Because this girl is 14 and being raised in a church, I have to assume that it means the latter. Sooooo, puberty=the call of the hag? Basically, her period turned her into a witch? No thanks.

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 Crystal, congrats one more time on getting to the Final 4. Let's look at your module pitch, mostly running through and giving stream of consciousness reaction:

The name works OK for me. I would've liked some verb or ... something ... more to give it a little more oomph, but it sounds like a neat location.

The background and description sounds good. I think you've got a decent story going ... though I saw someone mentioned it reminded them a bit of Daughters of Fury, and I can't completely disagree with that. (I like the names, though -- one of my favorite PCs is named Calla.)

The corruption system sounds interesting (though also somewhat similar to Daughters of Fury and the PCs relationship with the main NPC in that module), though I do worry about the daily increase. Superstar judges have warned us regularly about the concern over setting a timer. Granted, this timer allows a little more flexibility than one that involves timed events. (But then in the next paragraph, I see it looks like the adventure only give the PCs one week to solve this, which gets back to some of the prior warnings judges have given out.)

Chapter 1: Decent enough name. This feels like a solid enough start to the adventure, I guess, but I'm not sure it does enough to tie the PCs in. They get asked/hired to rescue the girl, but there's not really any personal stake involved. I feel like a lot of players would say "well, guess this is what the adventure is, so sure, we'll go along." Granted, that's part of what you do in the game, but I think a good adventure works to get the PCs more of a personal connection/stake in the happenings. I like that you allow some connection with Calla here and throughout the adventure. That helps make her more than just a faceless person to be rescued -- I was originally thinking the scrying would all be secret, but if the PCs are aware they're being watched and judged for their actions, that could be a neat mechanic/factor that typically players don't have to deal with.

I also like the sea horse mounts. That's probably my favorite part, since I think the PCs would have a lot of fun with those.

The new monster doesn't impress me. Even if it's a neat stat block, it's a giant shrimp. Similarly, I'm not that impressed with the new magic item -- it's a rotating skill booster. Superstar kicks off with really exciting magic items, but something like this probably would've been culled early on. IMO, you need a magic item here that can stand up alongside your R1 item and this fails that test badly.

Chapter 2: This IMO is much better. A ghost ship graveyard sounds like a great adventuring locale and I think it'd get players excited.

Chapter 3: I like the star hag -- that feels like a much better new monster to me -- and the choice of monsters for this location really works well for me. We're seeing lots of aquatic monsters obviously in these pitches, and I think going with some void monsters makes a lot of sense with the astronomy aspects of the setting. I think you maybe missed a small opportunity by having the PCs find Calla after the big climactic fight -- I think having her seeing what's going on and perhaps having an effect on the fight (maybe with her decision even coming based on HOW the PCs conduct themselves in that fight) would've been a stronger finale.

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

Renatatatata wrote:
Before I comment on this, isnnt the changling the baby that is left behind, not the one that is taken?

Changeling in this case refers to the race, which "are the offspring of hags and their lovers taken through magic or madness." It's not the replacement for a stolen baby commonly seen in fairy tales (which is what I believe you're thinking of).

Mark Griffin wrote:
The regular skill unlocks are from Pathfinder Unchained, and is probably not the best source to draw from. I wasn't bothered by it, because I own PF Unchained and I like the skill unlock system, but I agree that it would probably be best to cut that part or clarify its intent.

I disagree. I think using new material shows great skill by the designers (and Unchained is one of the next things to be added to the PRD) and I would've liked to have seen more of it. If I buy the new books, I want to see them supported. I think it's a shame that none of the pitches used any Occult material, since I think they certainly would have fit in the Sodden Lands (or more accurately Lirgen), but I suspect the designers were in part concerned about previous requirements that rules references had to be in the PRD already.

I don't think skills are a very Superstar area to play around with in a new magic item, but kudos to Crystal for using new rules as far as I'm concerned!


MyAvatarLooksSoFreakedOut wrote:
In fantasy we use the phrase “came of age” to mean one of two things. Ready to marry, or hit puberty. Because this girl is 14 and being raised in a church, I have to assume that it means the latter. Sooooo, puberty=the call of the hag? Basically, her period turned her into a witch? No thanks.

So someone messaged me to let me know that this was not Crystals decision, but is actually a part of the way hags develop. My apologies. As I have stated in past posts, I am not much of a gamer (though I am working on it) and thought that was her concept. I am still really against that idea, but I am much more disposed towards this entry now that I know that. It definitely warms the story back up for me.


MyAvatarLooksSoFreakedOut wrote:
As a lover of fantasy, my biggest problem with this is that this poor kid grows up under her fathers care and he lets her believe that she is an orphan just like all the other kids. He knows about her messed up parentage and could have warned her and protected her but nope, she hits puberty and bam, she can no longer resist.

It is sad. It reminds me of Breakfast on Pluto. Her dad is like right there, but even though she guesses the truth as a teenager, he won't admit it until years later. He's a priest.

So, hags, always good for bringing up awkward topics in RPGs. :)

I'm gathering that many people don't like the same way I do about monster shrimp. Apparently, this is based on a real-world animal, sometimes called the pistol shrimp, which actually does create a sonic stunning attack by snapping its claw. That is completely awesome.

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 this, though it might not catch my eye if I was just walking by a shelf (depending on the artwork). If I was actively looking over the titles, it would probably get picked up to look at further.

The Background: I actually really like this. Changelings! This isn't something you see too often in Pathfinder, and I'm happy to see them get some attention. It does seem a little heartless of Heveril to never reveal his parentage to Calla, especially since he had to know she was going to go through such an ordeal.

Chapter I: I'm not completely sure why Heveril doesn't want to go get his daughter back, unless he's worried he may break his promise? I would have liked to see the reason called out, as it seems integral to the story. As others have said, the one week period seems too short, as this is a module, and not just a scenario. Unless all the locations are less than a days travel from each other, that doesn't leave much time for PCs to do what they need to do and rest in-between (which they would need to do to level up). Two weeks is the minimum time I'd like to see.
You give us a very brief paragraph on the various things the PCs will encounter and see on their journey through the Sodden Lands, but it leaves me wanting to know more (especially about the labyrinthine coral caves!). As this was supposed to showcase the area, taking a few more sentences to bring this to life would have gone a long way towards meeting that requirement, and probably garnered you more votes.
I like that the PCs are able to interact with Calla, and that they know they'll be watched and judged. It certainly adds a level of suspension to the quest. The nixie seems a little random, like it's only there to advance the story. I would like to see a stronger reason for her involvement (or another NPC entirely).
I love mantis shrimp! This monster isn't my favorite of the round, but I do like it. I also like your treasure, though it could get very annoying due to being tied to the holders birth sign (how many of us actually chart out our characters that far?). This is my second favorite treasure of the round.

Chapter II: This is probably my favorite chapter, due in no small part to the ghost ship graveyard. You did't have to spend much of your word count here, because you were able to evoke our imaginations with what you did give us. Good job!

Chapter III: I like that you manage to work some non-water monsters into the module, while embracing the Sodden Land's past connection to the stars. You also made the tower big enough (too big maybe, considering the limited map space?) for the PCs to do some exploring before they find Velika, and possibly learn some more about her. This is your best new monster, even if there are already lots of hags out there.
I don't understand why Velika just floats there and evil expositions the PCs, if Calla isn't in the room. She knows why they're there, and what they're after, and there's no benefit in dragging it out, unless she truly thinks she can convince them to convince Heveril to come to her (and was he really that good, that she still has a thing for him after all these years?). I would also have liked Calla to have to make a decision in the moment, in front of the PCs (support her mother, or not?). Whether she returns after all is said and done, or stays and picks up where her mother left off (I like that you leave that open; a followup adventure maybe depending on how it goes?) can wait until after, but I would like to see the corruption system play a bigger part in the final fight.

Conclusion: Does this entry have issues? Sure. But so do all the others. To me, this entry is the most consistent throughout, with a very solid and natural progression. Throughout the entire contest, your writing has been very evocative, and even when you've misstepped during a round, you've proven that you can listen to feedback, and utilize it. While it's a close thing, this is the in the lead for my vote, as this module sounds like one I would enjoy playing or GMing, and I can't wait to see what you would do with it!

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!

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Through your creations for this contest, you have established for yourself a very strong identity as a designer.

When I think of Crystal Malarsky, I think of a designer who can evoke a gothic atmosphere complete with realistic emotions and relations between NPCs AND mesh it efficiently with a PFRPG piece. And that is something both rare and valuable.

Actually, it is after realizing that I saw you this way that I came to realize that we now have 4 designers, each one with his or her peculiar style, thanks to RPGSS.

On your piece for this round, my very first impression was not such a good one. I expected Crystal Malarky's signature atmosphere and I felt I got Disney.

Thankfully, this soon dissipated, but it does a disservice to your creation that your first sentences create this impression.

The rest is Crystal alright. The Corruption system might not be necessary and Velika's motivation is not clearly disambiguated (motherly love or evil need to corrupt the innocent), but the rest of it flows easily.

That said, my main beef with your submission here is the exact same one I had with your encounter on the round previous :

The Raven Black wrote:
I like this encounter and especially its story and solid RP aspects. But I feel that you are so focussed on telling the story that it ends up detracting from the encounter itself.

I think that, in the future, you should practice even more fervently on how to make the role of the PCs, the impact they have on your story and the relations they established with NPCs more important.

Your work will become even stronger and I know that I eagerly anticipate what you will bring to this industry.

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

Wanted to comment on these before the contest ended, but time was not on my side. Congrats, Crystal, for getting into the top 4!

For whatever reason, your title grabbed me the most--I think I like locations to draw me in, and you did a good job both with title and establishing indeed a sense of place. You have a strong plot and it was easy to see where a went to b, etc. and yet without feeling too railroady. I loved the idea of a star hags (although given the sinister nature of hags, I think I'd prefer it if it were a "void hag") and no, we do not have enough hags. Hags are well used in this story as well.

I would have liked a little more detail both on how to hook in the PCs and why they might care, as well as some more particular encounter descriptions. What IS there is good, I'd just like more. I always prefer an adventure with more focus on NOW than on backstory, and with stories with complex backstories--which this COULD be, maybe--often PCs never even learn half the backstory that the writer has worked so hard to dream up. But it's a good story!

I also worry that in the final encounter, something could go horribly awry just because of a bad roll on a Diplomacy check. Parties normally get multiple attack checks in combat, but one social check (even if with Aid Another) in most intrigue scenarios. I'd want a more robust way to deal with Calla at the end -- while still keeping the possibly dire consequences if the party fails.

You've excelled in this competition with very strongly thematic pieces and this is no exception. Be proud, and I look forward to hearing about your PFS scenario when the time comes.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

This was easily my favorite. Made voting easy.

I liked your entries in every round, always strong, evocative stuff.


I thought this was the strongest, by a lap around the track. Still, people like different things, and weigh factors in different ways. Congratulations on making it this far!

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