I think this part of the contest is the most complex, since now the participants had to create full adventure proposals with a plot, encounters, background and opposition. How is it turned out ? I think we received mixed results.
In the earlier turns I only talked about my favorites, but since we have only four entries now I share my opinion on all of them. From my three last round favorites two advanced to the top 4, so I have high hopes for their submissions.
So, lets see what we have here…
Rescue Under the Steaming Sea (Steve Miller) – Honestly, I was surprised when Steve Miller become one of the Top 4, as his round 4 encounter was very underwhelming with some strong conceptual problems (like the Sphere of Annihilation in a low level encounter) Now, he is adding insult to injury by expanding that encounter without changing anything what was a problem before, and adding even more errors during the process.
He practically introduced all of his round 2, 3, and 4 submissions into the adventure, which feels both forced and lazy, even added more weird things without context (like a whale sage). The adventure lacks a true villain, and the mastermind behind this is too high CR (between 20 and 25) to face even as a follow up. Also, since the whole thing is his plan, and it’s intended to elevate him to godhood why he doesn’t manage the things personally? Maybe this is the weakest top 4 entry this year. Would I play this as a player ? – 2/5 (not really), Would I use this adventure as a Game Master ? – 1/5 (never)
The Unsheathed Revolution (James Olchak) – I think this adventure idea has some mojo in it : a group of cultists create a curse spreading though metal which turns it’s victims to loyal undead warriors. While I think that it could use some changes, and several of the opportunities created were passed I still like this entry.
Turning the metal weapons into intelligent magical items by the curse (albeit temporary) is a nice twist, and sentient mechanical traps sounds even better. These could make some very interesting encounters! The non-drider major villain is also interesting. On the other hand the other encounters don’t seems to be interesting enough, but it could be enhanced easily. Also, this is the only adventure out of the four which don’t feature some strange, almost never visited location (like under the sea or Leng) Would I play this as a player ? – 4/5 (yes), Would I use this adventure as a Game Master ? – 5/5 (definitely !)
The Scarlet God (Tom Philips) – As in round 4, Tom Philips demonstrated again that he could design memorable encounters and locations. Now he provides an adventure idea with an old school feel, with giants, catacombs, an evil sorceress and strange beings. And what’s even more, part of the adventure visits the strange and alien Leng, and it’s filled with interesting encounters.
The submission is not without it’s errors, as the final confrontation with the so-called Scarlet God is underwhelming, and “save or die” effects from the environment are pretty bad design decisions. There are also some smaller errors – like non-Leng Lovecraftian horrors on Leng – but nothing unmanageable. The only thing what makes me sad, that the judges mentioned that they would change many parts (including the whole Leng angle) to something entirely different, but I hope they would keep the feel of the adventure. Would I play this as a player ? – 5/5 (of course !), Would I use this adventure as a Game Master ? – 5/5 (definitely !)
Doom Comes to Dustpawn (Mike Welham) – While most of the judges really appreciated this submission I tend to agree with Ryan Dancey on this one : “Weak scenario, needs extensive development, commercially suspect, poorly presented.” It’s really sad, because at the start it had some promise.
It’s all starts with a space program, as a group of wizards travel into the stars in a spaceship built by them, but they get warped by the Dark Tapestry and came back as evil familiar-wizard hybrids. Well, it’s strange that wizards build something like that, instead of using spells or magic items, but it’s still awesome. So what’s the problem ? That’s it’s only used as an excuse to create several unrelated monster lairs around the village with animal-human hybrids. No space technology or strange magics… even the spaceship is only a prop without details. HUGE letdown. Also, there is no real villain to fight, and whats even worse : no real plot or agency here.
Even the final fight is weak, as it’s implied that the major villain is chasing around villagers in the middle of the fight to turn them into Young Chaos Spawns. Also, it don’t makes any sense, as if starting a Dark Tapestry invasion was this easy (the Emissary just visits a small isolated village and transmute/kill the villagers) then it would be already started. Would I play this as a player ? – 3/5 (has some interesting combat encounters at least), Would I use this adventure as a Game Master ? – 2/5 (maybe if I don’t have anything else at hand, which is highly unlikely)
I guess after reading all of the entries my vote goes for Tom Philips, but I would gladly use the adventure proposed by James Olchak too.
If you would like, you may take your vote here.
Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros