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DQ, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading your very thoughtful and delicate reply. Everything you said made a lot of sense. Especially about competition vs. collaboration — the competition is fun, but it would be a totally different kind of fun to build something collaboratively with a crew like this!
Also, for all that the competition can indeed be isolating, it's also given me an opportunity to have some great exchanges with other contestants, present and past, whom I might not otherwise have gotten to know at all. You people are even making me toy with the idea of a visit to PaizoCon (though don't tell my wife!)
And the "chin up" is appreciated, but don't worry, I'm fundamentally doing great. I've been having a blast the whole way through, and don't regret a minute. It just gets harder to wait through the downtime each round, and there's less and less distraction here on the boards to be had. But happily, my life provides other distractions in spades, most of them welcome ;-)
I'm not sure why, but I'm finding this wait harder. Jacob said something in one of his Sword for Hire blog posts about being kept awake at night by RPGSS-related thoughts, and I've definitely been feeling that way much more this round than before. This obsession is much more unpleasant when there's nothing happening on the messageboards, too.
How long do you and the company like to go between adventure module treatments of the same sort of thing? For instance, since you published No Response from Deepmar in 2012, how long would you typically want to go before you do another derro-themed adventure? (This is not, alas, an innocent question.)
Steven Helt wrote:
Believe me, I would have loved to do a treasure entry, but 1,400 words was pretty confining to begin with. Give us that 100 words back, and I'd have been willing to spend it on treasure!
Steven Helt wrote:
This definitely got my blood pressure up. Then I went and double-checked the rules, and found this:
2015 Superstar Rules wrote:
So you're using the same rules we are, right? Right?
EDIT: It would be extra cruel to BOTH cut our word limit by 100 words AND ask us for a treasure listing too. I think?
Btw, I keep looking at the list of contestants still in the race and at everything we've collectively submitted so far, and I just keep thinking, holy cow! that's a lot of great stuff from really strong contenders. It's an honor to be in such company, and if (heaven forbid!) I shouldn't make it to the next round, it'd be a comfort knowing I lost to such strong designers. (Feel free not to beat me, though :-)
And I have to say, I'm surprised not to already be seeing the "Just submitted my encounter 15 minutes after the beginning of the round!" posts; we seemed to have some speed demons in previous rounds. I'll probably submit by tomorrow night, but only because Friday morning is crazy busy and I don't know that I'll be able to find time for fiddling then.
Yeah, I hear that. As I was telling one of the esteemed former (and future!) contestants who is giving me feedback, I tend to start out very purple and then progress through increasingly lighter shades of lavender. And I have, finally, managed to get down under 1,400 words, but I don't think I'm done yet. If I can trim a bit more fat I can add a couple other details I'd like to include. But we're getting pretty close to bone....
I can talk now, right?
The big thing is to thank everyone for their feedback — yes, EVERYONE! I never assumed my monster was for all tastes, and if people hating my monster leads to cool links to South Park cartoons, hey, I can live with that.
There are certainly some things I'd do a little differently if I had a re-do, though I think I got the essence of the monster across well. And like, I imagine, a lot of the contestants, I really wish I had had another 50 words to play with. (An early draft I sent Jacob (Michaels) had 10 special abilities/weaknesses to choose from, which, he pointed out, is more than Cthulhu has. I forget how many words it clocked in at, but it was A LOT.)
As for the details, here are spoilered items you can read as you wish:
The first draft was a neutral creature called a Terpsichorean, but the switch to the Darklands required a revision. Thunderfrog nailed it: I took the French word for the chief ballerina in a ballet troupe ("coryphee", with an accent over the first "e" I don't know how to code), switched the accented vowel for an "a", and voila, we have the Coryphae. But I wanted it to be pronounced like its namesake, hence the pronunciation guide in the write-up. I went back and forth on that, and I knew some people would object, but what can I say, I hate not knowing how weird monster names should be pronounced, and the thought of people pronouncing it wrong really bugged me. (It still drives me nuts that no one is sure how to pronounce "drow" — like "crow" or like "cow".) Can't say I regret that choice, whatever the judges say. Also, being a Classicist, I know about the Corybantes, but they were never in my mind when I renamed the monster. I can't see the harm in another connection to manic dancers, though!
The dancing scene in Legend was mentioned, and I remember that scene clearly (beautiful imagery, no?), but I confess I was inspired not by that but by the dancing scene in Labyrinth. I am well aware that some of you will now feel compelled to despise me, but hey, my daughter loves that movie with the burning heat of a thousand suns, and it would make her happy. That's worth some contempt from strangers in my book :-)
I also got some mileage out of the fey in the wonderful novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which every lover of fey should definitely check out.
I kept expecting somebody to mention the Baobhan Sith, another fey that uses dancing, but though I knew about that monster, I built the coryphae to work very differently. So it's just as well no one mentioned it.
this willowy humanoid...:
Saw this one coming. I myself didn't like calling it a "humanoid", for exactly the reason the judges gave: it makes the reader expect a humanoid-type creature. Somewhere along the way, in this thread or another, someone suggested "figure" instead, and that's certainly a superior choice. Wish I had thought of it :(
Yep, should be 27. I left out its BAB. Oops.
Several people commented on how hard it would be to take these guys out — between DR 10, a decent AC, evasion, a high Reflex save, and "cut in with care", they're hard to hit. (An early version had a special ability called "dance all night" that granted fast healing when they were dancing too, but I dropped that as overkill.) But I always knew this monster wasn't going to be dishing out damage the way other monsters typically do, so they needed to be durable enough to last a while if they were going to have any chance at posing a threat. And since, as elegant fey, I wanted them to be a bit on the frail side and not have loads of hit points, that meant making them hard to damage in the first place. In retrospect, I probably should have left the DR at 5, but otherwise I think their defenses are about right.
It's true that they can't hit hard, but I was following the lead of classic fey like the nymph (who's close in CR) in that regard. Also, I was hopeful that some people at least would see "cut in with care" as a sort of back-door offensive ability; instead of the coryphae dishing out the damage directly, they'd let the players do that for them. In fact, I really like that image, and enjoy imagining the face of the first player who accidentally chops into his buddy who's been swept up by a coryphae. It would push the players to seek other ways of dealing with the threat than just charging in with axes flying, which, to me, is a really desirable outcome.
Also, I can understand why people were calling the coryphae a one-trick pony, but I'd also point out its SLA's, which give it a few other solid options beyond dancing.
A couple people suggested that this monster is the sort that could have extra abilities develop when they work in groups; I also had that thought, and had a special ability for the original "Terpsichorean" version of the monster that worked that way, but I just didn't have enough words to play with.
This ability is of course the central element in the monster's design. From the start, my goal was to make a monster that confronted the PC's with an unusual sort of threat, something cinematic that would also not be just your typical slog to see who runs out of hp first. The trick is to make it a serious threat without making it overwhelming, and keeping the effect simple enough that the GM can easily track it. Earlier drafts were a lot more complicated (and wordier); I had a system tracking how many rounds a coryphae had danced with you, with new effects (fatigue, charm, exhaustion, etc., some triggering immediately, some triggering once you stopped dancing) kicking in with each successive round. Too complicated, out it went. The word limit kept what remained from being as clear as I'd like. Some basic things I'd like to clear up: (1) I intended the domination effect to take the place of the usual coma at Wisdom 0, but should have said so, or made Wisdom 1 the trigger point and not let the Wisdom damage take anyone below that level. (2) If the coryphae succeeded at claiming a partner, the partner would go wherever the coryphae took it, effectively granting it whatever movement abilities the coryphae enjoyed for the duration of its "partnership". (3) When PC's are moved around by the coryphae, they do provoke AoO's (just as the coryphae do). (4) The coryphae needs to make a new CMB check each round to continue dancing with a captured partner.
I know that's a lot of unclarities to clear up, but like I said, I really wished I had another 50 words to play with. Hopefully people still saw the potential enough to vote for it, and if anyone ever wants to use the coryphae at their own table, hopefully this clears some things up.
a couple random bits:
I had intended the monster to have a couple of weaknesses: "dependent on music", which would have reduced the DC's of all its abilities if the coryphae couldn't hear music, and "connoisseur", which would have staggered it (and thus removed enchanting dance as an option) if it observed a non-coryphae make a DC 25 Perform (dance) check. And it had a special ability called "contagious skill" that gave its partners an increasing bonus to Perform (dance) checks the longer they danced with it, to make it easier for them to hit that DC 25 the closer they got to being dominated. Again, just not enough words to play with!
Again, thanks to everyone who took the time to read my monster's write-up and comment on it; every comment, positive or negative, helped me obsess a little less throughout the week. I'm especially grateful to those who tried to speak up for it and clear up misperceptions while I was unable to speak for myself. And a big thanks as well to those who voted for it! Hopefully there were enough of you to get me into Round 4!
I'm trying to keep a sock stuffed in my mouth (harder than I expected), but I hope I can at least say that I'm really enjoying this round, and am learning a lot -- and not just from my own map's feedback. This whole contest is just such a boon to the gaming community in general, and everyone who dreams of designing fantasy RPG's in particular. Like a free, public master class in game design for the world. I know Paizo benefits from this, but it's also an act of great generosity.