The East Wing - Stephen Michael Kosey

edited June 2018 in DesignFinder Chat

A shimmering gem amidst the plains, the city of Mauclaire sits at the intersection of three of the region’s major trade routes. With commerce as its lifeblood, Mauclaire is controlled by a council of guilds of merchants and craftsmen, whose decrees control the flow of goods and caravans through the city. The Glassworker’s Guild, under the leadership of the gnomish Grandmaster Reynard, leads a coalition of guilds to control the city’s markets. Those who oppose its dictums quickly find themselves unable to do business in the city or harassed by criminal actors until they comply.

The Glassworker’s Guild’s center of power is an old, refurbished mansion at the heart of the city. Formerly a home to aristocrats, the mansion now serves as a massive and opulent guild hall. The West Wing and Center of the guild hall serve as living spaces and social areas for the Guild’s members, while the East Wing serves as a working space and administrative center.

There are two entrances to the East Wing. The visitor’s entrance brings clients from the other sections of the Guild Hall to a reception area. The industrial entrance grants direct access to the Glassworks. Within, the Guild’s craftsmen create wonders of glass ranging from delicate jewelry to magnificent sculptures. The two areas are easily connected by the Sculptures Room, a display area for the finest masterpieces of the Guild to be shown to clients. These areas, while not accessible to the public, are designed with clients in mind, and the Guild will occasionally escort clients through them to see their commissions.

The remainder of the East Wing is forbidden to outsiders, under the pretense of protecting the Guild’s trade secrets. While partially true, it is equally true that the Guildmaster is paranoid, believing that both other guilds and some of his own criminal underlings are seeking his demise. To that end, he has had the hallways and offices resized for small creatures and had multiple upgrades made to the physical security of the wing’s doors and walls. In the experimental glassworks, craftsmen have built glass golems to protect the wing, and the Grandmaster has hired Jocelyn Lucrece, a former adventurer, to serve as a chief of security loyal to him alone. Between the presence of the Guild’s guards and their Guildmaster’s paranoia, the East wing has become a fortress from which Guildmaster Reynard controls Mauclaire through coercion, calumny, and coin.


  • Congratulations, Stephen. Putting yourself out there to compete in anything is hard, and designing RPGs is hard. Particularly designing adventure settings or locations. You have to be able to suggest some ideas about personalities, plots, terrain, and more, and have GMs chomping at the bit to add your location to their regular game. Let's see how you did!

    I believe in positive feedback and honest criticism that should make you better at every part of this gig. So to start positively, I want to say that your writing is exceptional. Beautiful, detailed, and without a bunch of wasted overflowery language. There are a few instances of passive voice but overall the best prose I've seen in this contest so far.

    My critical feedback is that you commit to using cleaner, stronger lines when you create a map. It's very easy to get lost in your map, with the different colored squares and rectangles. I understand that you're including a ton of features for a cartographer to use, and that is marvelous. But distracting your cartographer is also an issue.

    Glass golems are popular today! In an environment where one type of creature is featured several times, it's smart to reference variations on that theme. You wouldn't want PCs fighting a criminal underworld full of 6th level rogues with no way to change it up. A handful of lesser glass golems and 1-2 variants with special abilities keeps the game new for the PCs and allows the encounters to be different.

    I might prefer the stakes and the scale to be a little larger than one house in a guild, but it is the guild's HQ and you allowed for some different motivations for any PCs the adventurers meet. It's such a well-written entry and I wish you luck in this competition.

  • edited June 2018

    This adventure location starts by introducing its surrounding areas and describes its importance to the city of Mauclaire. You do a great job of defining the Glassworkers’ (minor quibble: I think the guild should use the plural form of Glassworkers, like Thieves’ Guild, rather than Thief’s Guild) Guild’s influence in the town before jumping to your location’s description. A GM who reads the description would get a reasonable understanding of the hierarchy in the location and potential threats in the glass golems, the guards, and former adventurer Jocelyn Lucrece.

    The map does a great job of detailing individual rooms. The glassworks has all the expected equipment, and I like the variety of objects in the sculpture room. It also backs up the description of Reynard’s paranoia by including a panic room. I’ll preface this by saying I’m not a map expert by any stretch of the imagination, but, while the individual rooms come together nicely, the overall map comes across as far too busy. I get that the colors (indicated in the map's legend) denote various features, but the variety of colors pulled my attention in many different directions. That could just be a case of ADD kicking in for me, though. All the same, I think a cartographer can work from this, and the note on the map provides a nice level of instruction for the map’s overall feel.

    The text is clean with very few instances of passive voice and no obvious grammatical errors. I like the bit of alliteration at the end. There’s some word repetition in the description (for example, “Mauclaire is controlled by a council of guilds of merchants and craftsmen, whose decrees control the flow of goods and caravans through the city,” followed shortly by “…leads a coalition of guilds to control the city’s markets.”). For future submissions, if you’re not already doing this, I’d recommend reading the text aloud, so you can hear how it sounds.

    Overall, I consider this to be a fun adventure location with plenty to offer GMs to challenge player characters. While the map was distracting as a whole, I thought you gave a lot of consideration to individual elements, and it reflects the themes you set out in the description. I would recommend this advance to the next round.

    I’m only one voice among many, though, and the voters may see something different, or have different criteria they use to make their determinations. Good luck in the voting!

  • I wanted to read and comment every entry before I gave a thumb' up or down recommendation. I am supporting FOUR entries to advance from this round based on map, adventure potential, and quality prose. And I can't recommend this one to advance based on my comments above. It was close though.
  • edited June 2018

    I think it was a risk to drill down to one section of one building in an entire area of an adventure location, but I think the prose lets it work. It sets up a city controlled by warring guilds and then "zooms in" to the headquarters of one of the more powerful guilds, letting that glimpse inform the larger area that's been created. I like that a lot. That said, despite the strength of that writing, while I can see an adventure in this location, I can't say that it has me dying to play one or leaping to come up with plots. It's just a little too mundane for me, I think, though I could certainly see some groups really loving the slightly more down-to-earth feel of it. The names are simple and straightforward, but I can believe that's what people would call this location (that said, I don't love Jocelyn as a name for an NPC as it has too much of a real-world sound to me; even Reynard is skirting the line for me, though I realize I tend to be more strict about wanting "fantasy" names than others).

    The map is a little distracting with all the colors, but I think it's got good details for a cartographer to make the publishable version. There are various ways through the building and spaces that are likely large enough for combat. I do find it a little frustrating that it's a plain rectangle -- we're only seeing one wing, so perhaps the building as a whole would be a more interesting shape, but considering this was once a mansion, I'd expect various bump-outs and more nooks and crannies along the exterior walls. Even each of the rooms inside is a standard rectangle; I don't count myself as an expert mapper, but that's an area I think it's really important (albeit difficult) to break away from. I think the map fails to match the prose at points, especially as the text indicates areas made especially for Small creatures, but the map shows 5-foot-wide hallways throughout. That might have been fixed by simply allowing for more wall thickness, which this is lacking (especially on the exterior walls). The map notes indicate thick walls in the panic room, but the weight of those lines don't seem to be any different than elsewhere. Finally, I'm very curious about the janitor; his/her office is bigger than the guildmaster's (even if we assume the panic room was "carved out" of the guildmaster's office, they were about the same size). Humor aside, it's one of the things to watch out for, as it messes with the internal consistency of the map. Along those lines, I feel like it also needs some area for raw ingredients (but I like that it remembers to include bathrooms, which often get forgotten).

    I'm afraid for me, this just doesn't quite grab me enough to overcome the missteps. I do not recommend this for advancement.

  • Congratulations on you completing your Round 2 submission.

    First, from the standpoint of providing a clear map for submission to a cartographer for publication, you've done well. Like the others, I would be lying if I said that when I first scrolled down to look at the map the array of colors didn't send me reeling, but that's okay. Once I got my bearings, was able to find the key for color-coding and determining desks from chairs, I was able to take in all the various objects. The fact that you've labeled shelves, statues, tables, walls (with thickness) and the rooms themselves without managing to obscure each other was impressive. While the fact that you note cramped hallways and thicker or thinner walls while using the same width lines or hallways, I think I can understand that you've denoted areas for the cartographer themselves to illustrate to their artistic style. As noted, this isn't about your map-drawing ability (though it is about your map-designing ability), but your ability to convey what you envision as succinctly and easily as possible to the one who will ultimately draw it. I think for the most part it's clear enough.

    Second, as a location for providing an exciting encounter, I think this fits on a few levels. As a potential location for a fight in a building full of glass sculptures (which may be animated golems) there's some good potential and the differing forms of sculpture are a nice touch to keep from the basic humanoid golem possibly. Broken glass, vases, and sculptures make for great descriptions in a battle. Shattered glass on the floor wrecks stealth attempts and may function as caltrops (though typical footwear should be sufficient) or adds damage to anyone crawling or knocked prone.  You've got some forges, some hotter than others, you've got tables of tools spread around for cover or obstacles, and you even have a couple of chandeliers to drop down onto someone. Then you have the smaller, cramped spaced to give advantage to the smaller sized defenders in that area, adding a bit more challenge and tactics to the whole map.

    At its base, this is a solid depiction of a location as you've described it and I don't see any glaring inconsistencies or problems. The backstory didn't get too overwhelming and the writing explained a lot of what was actually pertinent to the location provided.
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