RPG Superstar 2009 Final Round

The RPG Superstar 2009 contest is in its final round!  Open to all, the winner gets to write a Pathfinder module for Paizo.  I just bought the one written by last year’s winner – S1: Clash of the Kingslayers by Christine Schneider!

Let’s check out the finalists.

Realm of the Fellnight Queen, by Neil Spicer

Hmm.  I know my gaming group, and they will immediately start referring to the titular villain as the “fellatio queen.”  It has to to with a bleached gnome following a fey queen’s commands to kill the local good fey in preparation for a Ravenloft-mists-type invasion from the fey realm.

I have to say, a couple things in here seem like a bit of a stretch.  There’s a new monster that’s formed when “a nixie’s vengeful spirit reforms after being slain by a chaos beast.”  That’s a bit… fringe.  One of the encounters is the dreaded “the party should know to flee this instead of fight” kind of encounter.  And there’s a lot of fey and gnomes.  Which is fine, if you’re into that, but in general I wouldn’t tend to buy and run this kind of adventure.  4e’s beating both the fae and shadows to death anyway.  The adventure structure is solid, but I just don’t find it compelling.

Dragonrest Isle, by Kevin Carter

A kind of Isle of Dread with the ethereal remains of a great dragon-on-dragon battle.  It’s definitely more of a “sandbox adventure” than a plot-driven one, which leads to some concerns about “what if they do that out of order” and “how are they supposed to know X except by luck.” For a sandbox adventure it’s a little short on random fun sandbox stuff, but I reckon there’s no reason a pitch needs every random encounter mentioned in it.

It’s pretty generic and not real Golarion-ey, but I think that’s OK, I think some folks overdo it on that front sometimes.  Just because I’m buying a Pathfinder adventure to set in Golarion doesn’t mean I necessarily need it to be so “deep into” the setting that I have trouble changing locales or plot points to suit my campaign.  (And in fact the next two guys get taken to task for not fitting into the rich world backstory.)

The pitch isn’t brilliantly constructed, but the adventure it describes seems fun.

Last Ride of the Mammoth Lords, by Eric Bailey

Poison turns barbarians into crazed plants!   Starts out with RPing with the barbarians and fun barbarian games.  There’s a bit of a wrinkle in that the hook is basically “go save the barbarians even though the barbarians don’t really want to be saved.”  Either you have some barbarian allies along (annoying for the GM) or you’re doing this despite them (annoying for the players).  But then you get to fight Amazons!  Everyone always wusses out and makes Amazons the good guys nowadays.  And a Savage Land kind of setup.  I like it.  I don’t really like big puzzles like the ziggurat, though “Crystal Skull” is fresh enough in people’s minds that it shouldn’t be a stumper.  Jacobs complains a lot about the deviations from canon, but says there is a ziggurat and dino infested savage land in the area – just underground.  OK, seems like a minor change to me.

Thirteen scenes seems like a lot depending on how much each one is developed, but not out of scope.  Doesn’t seem like more than the other submissions.

Denying the Boiling Beast, by Matthew Stinson

Some of the judges dis this title, but at least it’s more interesting than the normal “generic module name” trash out there.  “X of the Y” my ass.  Learn to live a little.  Every module title doesn’t have to sound like Gygax crapped it out.  It’s the one title that actually got my interest.

I like the adventure and its early progression.  The writing here is full of little grammar errors and wonkiness, however, which worries me about the state of the full adventure.

The adventurers get involved with the usual/cliche “guy getting his ass kicked in the city” hook, get hired as guards, and are shortly braving hurricanes and underwater adventuring.  Loads of good ideas; some questionable transitions.  The Boiling Sisterhood etc. are very super cool, but the plot seems like a bit of a mess.  What’s up with the killer owl?  In the end, it’s just too messy, which is a shame because it has a lot of good stuff going for it.

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