Wealwood Manor - Nathan Ross

edited June 2018 in DesignFinder Chat

This once elegant manor home has fallen prey to both time and neglect, slowly crumbling as it settles into the riotous weeds and vegetation that engulf it. Behind the manor looms the Wealwood, demesne of the fey. Its twisted roots and crooked branches have already begun reclaiming the building, seemingly from the inside out.

Yet the manor does not appear abandoned, not entirely. Well trodden tracks lead to the front doors and a large stable stands at odds to the manor, its surroundings cleared of vegetation. A faint light flickers through the windows. No horses are stabled within however. Instead cages of varying sizes are stored, wrought of cold iron.


In centuries past a group of siblings, those who would later become known as the Vilruks, came to the edge of the Wealwood. At this time the border of the wood was a desolate place; the dread fey which inhabited the wood would brook no mortal neighbour. Those who passed too close to their realm simply vanished, their fates unknown. But with wit and grace the Vilruks struck pacts and bargains with the many fey of the woods, and a peace was brokered. As the lands bordering the Wealwood were settled, the Vilruk family was granted title over the land, from the very edge of the Wealwood to what would one day become the township of Orrer’s Haining. And at the edge of the wood they built their home and seat of power, Wealwood Manor.

As the years passed, a kinship grew between the fey of the woods and those peoples who had settled at their borders. In time, some of these fey left the woods and became house spirits, that they might better watch over their favoured few.

Current Events

The current Lord Vilruk is a recluse and derelict in his duties, caught up in the grief of personal tragedy while his family home falls to ruin around him.

A restless spirit now dwells within the manor, its essence permeating the walls. Its ethereal form can sometimes be seen as it flits past windows in search of something, though it torments any who venture within.

An unknown force has agitated the fey of the wood. Their unearthly cries and drums echo throughout the countryside each night. Rumors are whispered of darker secrets within the Wealwood, of which the Vilruk line has never spoken.


  • The description explains some of the manor’s history and the founders’ dealings with the fey, and how those interactions resonate to the current day. It does a good job of showing how the manor is currently in a state of decay and provides a sense of dread and melancholy surrounding the manor. However, there are some disconnects between the past and the current day, and provides nothing to latch onto for the reason for the change in outlook from the fey. Some discussion about possible causes for the recent tension among the fey would help potential GMs devise encounters. The text indicates the presence of haunts and the map outright shows the location of haunts, but there isn’t enough detail to determine the nature of the haunts. Did Lord Vilruk kill a bunch of fey and they’re driving him mad while keeping him alive? Is it related to the force agitating the woodland fey?

    The map does a great job of conveying a manor house and the legend describes all the objects drawn on the map. The notes do a good job of detailing some environmental details and allow GMs to decide how to adjudicate things such as how easy it is to notice the rotted stairs indicated by “N2.” In addition to the special notes, the shattered glass near the tree shows some of the signs of neglect, but I feel like there were other opportunities to show this on the map (for example, the upper floor could have an obvious hole in the floor where the wood disintegrated from rot).

    The text is reasonably clean. There are a few spots where confusion set in for me, or there was superfluous information. One example is the clause “those who would later become known as the Vilruks.” Wouldn’t they have already been known as the Vilruks? Were they orphans who took the name Vilruk?

    Overall, this stands up as a potentially interesting haunted location, with the twist that someone is still alive within its confines. There are some glitches in the writeup and some of the information is left too vague to give GMs hooks to work with. Ultimately, I’m making a weak recommendation that this does not advance.

    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!

  • edited June 2018

    Wealwood Manor presents an interesting haunted home in a fey-filled woods that evokes dark fairy tales. I'm very intrigued by the fact that the main location seems to still be living and fey as much as what we would usually expect from a haunted house. I think there are a few adventures that could take place here -- including figuring out what's wrong with Lord Vilruk, the source of his tragedy, possibly a rescue or cleansing, etc. I like that there's as much chance for role-play here as roll-play -- an adventure in this location could easily involve social skills in some rooms and could play out in different ways depending on what the PCs do. And there are enough hints dropped about the Wealwood that I could see whatever takes place in the manor being a prelude to a deeper exploration of that larger location (where are/what happened to all those people who used to go missing?). I'm not sure this even needs the restless spirit mentioned in the Current Events -- I think being "haunted" by the still-living-but-seemingly-barely-so Lord Vilruk would have been enough, along with the fey and the woods themselves.

    The map is generally clear and interesting. I really like that it's got several options for how it could be entered (multiple doors on the first level, as well as various windows), and PCs have different ways they could move through various sections, especially downstairs. Upstairs is a little more piece-meal -- perhaps a secret door between two of the bedrooms might have been interesting or maybe the tree in the northeast room breaches the wall on the second level? I like that the home is not a simple square, and that the levels aren't the same sizes. It looks like it includes some thickness for the exterior walls, though maybe the interior walls being just a hair thicker might have helped. That said, I don't know that it really needed to indicate linens/cleaning supplies, as those usually aren't denoted on maps. I do wish the stable had been shown on the map, as it was indicated in the write-up and I think the map is of a size that it would normally be included.

    Still, all in all, I think it shows the ability here to create a location that allows for adventures and a map that's got solid potential and could be polished up into a gem by a professional cartographer. I do recommend this for advancement.

  • Congratulations, Nathan. 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 a haunted estate abutting an active forest of restless fey could make fora memorable adventure. Though your writing needs strength and flow, your background information sets me up to learn about the manor house and grounds, and why there are iron cages in the stables (presumably for capturing fey).

    Your map is fine. One sure thing about maps is that a talented cartographer can take your bright white paper and pink highlighted featured and turn it into a dilapidated estate with moody colors. Cartographers are just amazing and I'm jealous of their talent!

    Unfortunately to me your location raises half-questions and refuses to answer them. It also seems contradictory. The long-lived fey didn't want mortals anywhere near them, but over time the mortals prevailed so hard that some of the fey literally domesticated themselves. Not only do i struggle with that, but then, the barn is full of wrought iron cages, which sounds a lot like fey holding cells.

    The aging patron suffers from personal tragedy, but we don't know what it is. A restless spirit wanders through the walls, but we don't know who or why. When you design adventures, you have to answer all five senses (how does my adventure look/smell/feel/taste/sound?). Similarly, you have to answer the basic journalism questions (who/what/when/where/how?). If I say the Vilruks pretend to have struck a bargain with the fey, but really did Something Awful to gain their compliance, and that as Old Man Vilruk nears death, he knows the secret is about to get out and the entire countryside is about to get wild-hunted...well.. am just trying to connect the bits you've given me. You might have something totally different in mind, but I can't know.

    Your submission has some potential. Fey losing it on mortal neighbors can cover a range of genre...high fantasy, emotinal drama, horror. But you leave all the questions unanswered.

    Good luck in voting, and if you should advance, I hope this critique helps you.

  • 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.
  • Just wanted to say thank you to the judges for some really in depth feedback I can use going forward.
    Am looking forward to hearing more feedback and thoughts from the public and other contestants (I am assuming we are free to comment and discuss other contestants' work).
  • You are free to comment and discuss other contestants' work, as long as you don't elaborate on your own design/design decisions. (That said, just remember that criticism of others could be looked at poorly by voters if it's seen as intended to hurt your competitors' work to boost your own.)
  • I want to echo what motteditor just said. The year I advanced in Superstar, I was as excited to read and offer feedback for the entrants as ever (love that contest and this one. But I was advised by some folk I trust to lay off the feedback. We can't (always) control how people choose to perceive us and you don't want to be seen as stuck on yourself or offering criticism so others will reconsider their support for an item. I immediately took to limiting my comments and offering moral support for other contestants, I knew some of them, but that context was not readily apparent to a hundred thousand voters I never met.

    Love that you guys are digging the feedback and showing great sportsmanship!
  • Congratulations on making your Round 2 submission.

    First, from a how-much-does-the-cartographer-have-to-work/guess-what-you-intended standpoint of cleaning up your map, your map covers the bases pretty well. I don't think they'd have any problems.  Most of your map is explanatory, only the chairs would probably be significantly altered to suit the artistic style. As mentioned by another, the linen/cleaning labels on the closets probably weren't needed, but it doesn't bother me at what would be a making-sure-we-know-what-that-space-is-for phase of map submission.

    Second, from an exciting encounter or location standpoint, I can certainly come up with numerous ideas and things to fill a map of a manor with just from looking at this map. As for whether this map is set apart from any other manor or large house map I could find or make (not just tweaking things a little for personal story reasons), this has some good uniqueness to it.

    At its base, this map is a large home meant to house several encounters and has a few specific points of flair and interest laid in (the baby toy, footprints, etc.) and some clear signs of neglect, especially the garden/conservatory with the broken glass and the rotting main stairs. There are some rooms and sections that give me good ideas for encounters just looking at them, but then there are others that just make it any other house (neither good nor bad), meaning, it's a room. I could put something in there, but that encounter would be just as cool in any other room on pretty much any other map. ie. one creature isn't going to seem more exciting in this map's bedroom by the stairs than any other bedroom.

    Longer version 
    For my critiques, I place less emphasis on the backstory of a map except where it pertains to features of that map and why. I don't see anything here that I need any fey, noble, or Wealwood backstory to clarify.  Realistically, just telling me it's a neglected falling down house would allow me to understand everything from broken windows to rotting stairs to the broken greenhouse.

    Your map is believable and clean, I can see all the rooms and without any labeling can pretty much figure them out, bedrooms (obviously with beds in them makes it easy), kitchen, dining room, sitting areas, etc. Other than the absence of a privy or washroom for bathing or cleaning, I feel it's pretty complete and realistic. Possibly one of the linen closets could be converted or a 5 by 5 room could be dropped or placed anywhere due to the open layout you have. Even assuming the heavy use of personal chamberpots or the presence of an outhouse or privy (not pictured like the stables), there'd still likely be a washroom.  Not a big deal, just for future reference.

    Like motteditor mentioned, a secret door would have been 'cool'.  In fact, it's one a few things I feel can be added to almost any story/map to make it even cooler (a crappy story will still be crappy, it'll just be cooler). A mysterious stranger and the mention of tarot cards are a couple of others, but granted, not everything can fit everywhere. This map and manor could certainly have used the addition of a concealed or secret door, even with no description or explanation (though it should be placed logically), that would evoke a viewer and GM's imagination of possibilities.

    Other than that, possibly a mention of where the rotting stairs might collapse into, like a basement or cellar might be helpful.  I see no mention of a basement or cellar (and I wouldn't expect you to fit one with the size of the map and your manor size), a mention if one is there would help. Otherwise, I guess the stairs just drop them on the first floor, which is also okay, but not as cool as dropping a poor PC into a cellar or basement and the others having to climb down or find the entrance.
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