|Michael Pruess RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 aka Flak|
Hi everyone! Thank you for all the support that got me to Top 8, to this round. And I've said it elsewhere, but huge congrats to those who continued beyond this round: you guys did amazing work. I'm not going to burn too many words defending my entry here, largely because I do think that those who advanced put forward significantly better content than I did. That said, there were a couple points in the judges' criticism that felt off to me. One was Wolfgang's reaction to the 'modern' element, which I've discussed with him in another thread. The other was Clark explaining to me that I had 'outsmarted' myself and I was 'trying to show I was creative and clever.' I may have failed to be creative and clever (?), but I was definitely trying to be more than show! To be honest, I found those remarks to be a bit condescending, for whatever it's worth. :)
Moving on, I've got two points to make about my entry.
A couple misunderstandings that hurt my entry:
• First of all, the entire complex is underground. Not sure why people had any difficulty with that, though I'm sure it's my fault to a large extent. I could have done better work with my inset. It's true. Then again, if you read even the first sentence of the location description you see that the complex is underground. ;)
• The main 'realism' problem I seem to have in my entry is that it doesn't make sense from a logistical standpoint to cart trees up a spiral staircase. I totally agree, and I think that I may have shot myself in the foot a bit by even having stumps at all (more on this below), but one thing that I meant to get across—and that seems to have been lost—was that this was not a full-scale lumber production operation. This was one of many experiments the Consortium was running to research and develop new avenues of lumber production. It wasn't an ideal setup for producing lumber and it wasn't supposed to be. Again, I could have been clearer; but the word "experimental" is in the encounter title, and the location is a "laboratory." I basically do not think this is "a lumber camp" as some of you derided it.
Neither of these misunderstandings makes up for the gap between my entry and the top four, and I hope no one mistakes my comments as coming from a place of bitterness. I just want to elucidate my intentions for those of you who care :)
A possible improvement to the 'location':
An underground forest. There's something cool about that, someone pointed out to me after my entry went public, and I thought, yeah, you're right, there is. I think one thing I could have done to vastly improve the location would have been to expand the 'lumberyard' section, possibly getting rid of the upper level entirely, and remove all the stumps and holes. By making the encounter one part of a larger forested cavern-dungeon (possibly with many more captive drakes throughout), I could improve the sense of size/importance of the location. And the unnatural underground forest could have probably carried me a bit further. At least, it seems cool to me. And it was definitely part of what I thought was cool about my entry when I was making it. All the lumber stuff kind of flowed naturally from it, and served to tie it into the world (my mistake, since apparently Andoran isn't sword-and-sorcery enough for many O_o), contrary to beliefs that I tried hard to force a drake encounter. But at the end of the day, I see I could have pared that tie-in down a bit, or possibly removed it entirely.
All this said, the "location/not a location" question feels more like a toss-up than anything. Clark got to sound very wise with his "the question is whether THIS complex is a Location" line, but it didn't even approach the bar for constructive criticism, and it didn't mean much (neither to me, nor to many of the people who posted in this thread). Ziv said something pretty nice about my entry, which basically summed up how I myself felt:
I'm not really seeing the big issue with is-a-location/isn't-a-location. It would have been nice if you managed to hype up the general location a little more, but the location is also pretty clear to me as-is, and has obvious potential for interest, originality, and playability. You made clear what the location was, you made its relevance clear, and you detailed its central encounter. It might be a small location, or a focused one, which is fine by me. (It might not have been seen as inspiring or interesting or fun to play by some, which is also fine by me.) As far as I'm concerned, you're good.
As Ziv said, if people didn't find my location inspiring or interesting, that's totally fair, legit, and fine by me. I personally agree! I found it less inspiring/interesting than a few of my competitors' entries. No sour grapes there—they earned it, and I didn't. But I do think it's that simple, and wrapping that concept up in the package of mysticism that surrounds RPG Superstar and its judges seems unproductive. I know that the judges have a show to run, and that inscrutable beard-stroking professionals going, "hohhhh, young one, know you the fabled concept of the Location?" adds a lot to that show, and I can respect that. But I want audience members and prospective RPG Superstar contestants alike to see it for what it is, lest they mistake it for the fostering of talent. Which it's not. :P
Looking forward, I will continue to make Pathfinder homebrew materials. Assuming anyone watching this contest didn't think my Round 4 performance was bad enough to outweigh my previous three rounds of success, thank you for that generosity. If you have a homebrew or 3pp project, and are looking for partners/content/etc., I'm available! I have worked long and hard as a core member of the Multiclass Archetypes project, and I also have a site full of homebrew stuff if you're interested in what I've made. I am very interested in maintaining my involvement in this sphere, and in the possibility of ramping it up. So yeah, I'll be around!
Maybe its the power of facial hair in your avatar, but when Ziv comments, I always pay attention.
It's funny - when I see someone without an avatar, or with one that's obviously fantastical, I make no inferences as to that person's appearance. But when someone has such a down-to-earth avatar as Ziv's, I find myself assuming that that avatar actually approximate's the person's face.
Congrats top 4! Looking forward to your round 5 entries. :D
Wolfgang Baur wrote:
Thanks for the response, makes some sense :)
I guess my assumption was based on the utter lack of a caster level before 4th level, which to me suggests that they're not casters at all until that point, and noncasters tend not to have spell lists. Do you know if there's an official ruling on this anywhere? I totally agree that your reasoning is grounded in the text.
Edit: My questioning here has nothing to do with my comprehension of how wands work. On that issue, I'm on the same page as you are, and as the rules are.
Hi Clay, I think I can kind of understand where you're coming from, and I'd be pretty down on myself in that position as well... but chin up, really, I think you presented a sweet entry given both A) the ridiculous pace of this contest & B) the things that came up in your life. I like what you submitted, and sure, it could have used more polish, but still. People were 'gentle' because you earned it. :)
Well personally I'm waiting to see the results before I post in my thread. But I'm always excited to see the thoughts of the other contestants on their own work, and I guess if people want to ask questions or discuss things it previously would have been bad form to discuss (such as alternative ideas for this round), they now can. But maybe everyone's busy working on their round 5 entries :)
Oh! Though while I have your attention, Wolfgang, and since this isn't particular to a single entry of mine, I was wondering what your thoughts are on terms/concepts that are "too modern." Two rounds in a row you got on my case for it -- "cocktail," "board of directors" -- yet in both cases I was using terminology employed in Pathfinder's rules and setting materials. The board of directors in particular was just a reference to established Golarion canon. So I understand that there are simply elements of the rules/setting that you don't like, is that correct? And if so, is there some rubric that we should use to guess which parts of Pathfinder you judges don't like such that we might avoid them?
While I think the rules here are pretty clear (that bombs are treated as weapons, and thus eligible for infusion with the alchemical weapon supernatural ability), there is one glitch to consider.
Creating AND throwing a bomb is ONE action.
Advanced Player's Guide wrote:
Drawing the components of, creating, and throwing a bomb requires a standard action that provokes an attack of opportunity.
As far as I know, you cannot take a move action in the middle of a standard action. You can take the move action before your standard action, in which case you don't yet have a bomb to work with, or you can take it after your standard action, in which case you've already thrown your bomb.
At 6th level, you can use alchemical weapon as a swift action, which I still think cannot interrupt your standard action used to create and throw the bomb.
At 15th level, you can use the ability as a free action. As far as I know, you could at this point use alchemical weapon in conjunction with the bombs ability. But also 15th level is post-PFS, right?
Hope this has been helpful.
Basically, I think that bombs count as weapons, pretty clearly by RAW, but still don't work with the grenadier's alchemical weapon ability due to the timing of the abilities.
edit: Cheapy and Belafon got there first. :)
Elghinn suggested we speak for ourselves, so I'll just say, as far as I can tell MCAs are just archetypes. They're just more detailed than many, and thus we provide fine-grained explanations of what is changed, along with a progression chart (normally only presented alongside full classes or alternate classes). Calling our work something different - multiclass archetypes - is both a way to explain our mission and to brand our content, but I think that's about it. The name doesn't mean much else.
So yeah. They're just archetypes.
Wow, this is hard to believe. I don't want to play up my inexperience, but let's say I'm hardly a veteran at monster design. And basically all the entries looked strong to me! I feel lucky to be here. Major congrats to fellow Top 8! And to everyone :)
I have, however, created encounters before. Beware my mad skills.
p.s. kind of glad I won't have to worry about this contest in future years. :D
P.S.—past the edit window for my previous post—there is a rogue talent called 'deadly cocktail' and a class feature called 'fiery cocktail'; both uses of the word are basically identical to mine in function. I totally buy Sean's comment about the monster name sounding more like an item than like a monster, but I'm kind of skeptical about claims of the term's anachronism in Pathfinder (either the rules or the setting). Thoughts?
Thanks all for the various criticisms and kudos. Special thanks to those of you (the majority hehe) who were turned off by the name, yet fought through that and took a closer look regardless. I'll respond to individual topics in spoiler tags below.
(This is mostly @Sean)
You could just use the blood drain UMR instead of making an "all fluids" version of it.
I know that technically blood drain doesn't require that the victim have blood. Honestly this seems like overly vague design of the universal monster rule. I see GMs needing to make decisions every time they deploy a creature with blood drain: does this work against creatures without blood? -- to give a low-level example that's not too niche, a player summons a lantern archon. Does blood drain hurt the lantern archon? Technically, yes, but that's counterintuitive, and I would go so far as to say that it's against RAI. I added 'fluid drain' to my monster because A) it seemed like an easy way to add in a sentence that strengthened the monster's flavor, and B) because I didn't want a GM to look at the monster and say, 'oh, it only sucks blood.' So I think my choice is defensible, but I'm curious as to what you think of the issue, Sean! Is it a flaw to edit the UMR as I did? Or would you say it's a matter of word count—if I have the words, it's fine; if I don't, then fluid drain is extraneous and should be cut? I admit that if I'd had a bit more room to work with, I could have further clarified glob...
Glad you guys liked this ability. Up until the day I submitted the monster, all it had to distinguish itself from other extant monsters was the addiction mechanic. Sure, it had stench, and the cute stench+addiction interaction, but that was all there was to it. I wanted something else unique or new, and I'd been wondering about what the ooze should be able to do against PCs with ranged attacks who merely kept 30 feet of distance, 'zoning' the poor critter as it were. Finally glob came to me.
Glob is a neat ability but as written it's not clear if this ability always damages the creature, or only if it misses.
I did intend for glob to injure the ooze on both a hit and a miss; this damage represents it losing part of itself. I could have used clearer language.
The ecology of it creating a new ooze EVERY TIME IT FEEDS is a bit of a setting problem (these things would be everywhere), but easy enough to fix.
I never wrote that it pops out a new one every time it eats, just that once it has eaten enough it makes another. I could have used a few words to specify how many gallons of fluid the thing needs, I suppose. Did anyone else assume that this duplicates itself every time it slurps a drop of fluid? That seems to me a pretty extreme assumption, but I don't know how it looks to other folks. I could have easily not mentioned this detail at all, I guess, to avoid the potential problem altogether, but I was certain someone would come in and ding me for not explaining how they reproduce, since almost every other ooze has an explicit mechanic for its reproduction (splitting, etc.).
given your initial description, I would have also loved if it had some sort of hide bonus while in water. I mean, it makes total sense for a translucent ooze that lives in a river.
I considered it. But honestly I was running out of space and the thing's a mindless rainbow blob, how stealthy should it be? I did consider giving it some kind of bonus-to-stealth-when-stationary-in-water ability, but when you add that kind of specificity you end up using a lot of words. Fluid drain seemed a better use of space to me. It's entirely possible I'm wrong, here. Monster design is far from my forte... I basically went into this challenge with no experience on that front.
Eating the Ooze:
I also found myself wondering what happens to people who try to eat the ooze or the bits it throws...
Yeah, I considered writing rules for that. I considered it long and hard. And ultimately I decided against it. I've seen people go down in flames for making things too gross, and I thought that getting too into detail on mechanics of consuming and passing this thing would enter that territory. So I left it blank, to the GM's/players' imaginations. Ultimately, you're just drinking a bunch of nasty polluted river water when you eat this thing, so the way I would run it is without any mechanical effect other than renewed exposure to addiction. I could see people getting inventive with it though. And hey, if anyone's using my monster in their Round 4 entry, maybe we'll see some of that.
I was happy to see Sean and Clark respond fairly positively to the addiction. I was fully aware that I was entering kind of dicey territory, and I tried to navigate through it by divorcing the monster's mechanics from whatever roleplay/character implications addiction might have. I didn't want this monster to turn into a statement on substance abuse, or to be 'that funny stoner ooze.' Given that I didn't want those things, maybe I shouldn't have made this particular monster at all—but I thought the mechanics of the addiction attack merited submission. And while I don't have any decrees on roleplay implications in the monster's rules, I see it providing many opportunities for interesting interactions. Many of you agreed with this, which was validating.
But then a few reviewers took some assumptions about the addiction mechanic to an extreme...
So, someone gets hit and addicted, and then says "hmm, there's a Small sized stash of my addiction right here, and I feel great when it attacks me and drains my fluids - so I'm just going to enjoy the high while it kills me. End of addiciton with death.
The ooze hits you, you really like the feeling of it hitting you/draining your fluids, so you what, lie down and let it have lunch?
I understand that addiction is a kind of loaded concept, but I'm going to take it to its roots in an effort to simplify what I see happening with the ooze.
addicted, adj. -- physically or mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects.
There's nothing inherently enjoyable about addiction. You can be addicted to unpleasant things. I imagine having an ooze beat you around is unpleasant. You don't have to like it in the moment and I purposefully did not write in anything that would force players to roleplay enjoying the ooze's assault. All the addiction mechanic does, besides making the ooze smell good, is an hour after you've last been hit by the thing you go into withdrawal. It's not that you want to let the ooze eat you; it's that your body is unhappy when deprived of the ooze's funky fluids. I don't know what kind of adventurer would just "lie down and let it have lunch."
So yeah, I see it as a long-term thing. You might choose to roleplay some attraction to the ooze's attacks as its stench turns sweet, but there's nothing that demands your character sit down and let it kill you. Rather, you defeat the ooze (fairly handily, if you're of appropriate level and have friends) and down the road you're like, "hey, what gives, I need more of that ooze."
I'd maybe make it work as a poison, to more clearly define what's immune to it, how to cure it, and not worry about the addiction sub-rules.
In case you didn't know: A brief glance at the addiction rules reveals that addiction works exactly like disease. So, if you're immune to disease, you're immune. You can cure it the same way you cure disease. Addiction is less a set of sub-rules and more a skin on top of the disease rules. I think using disease makes more sense than poison—that's probably why Paizo's addiction rules are based on disease and not poison. I don't think you need to delve too deep into alternate rules to run this monster.
It slams/globs at you, you get addicted, and then let it attach to you, slowly feeding for days or weeks, all while you go about your business, smelling weird, having a strange shimmying bulge underneath your shirt, and hey, potentially spawning more oozes and infecting more people.
I admit that's a cute image. (Also a gross one.) I could have done something like that. I don't think it's necessarily at odds with what we have right now. I do think parasitic interactions could be a very cool way to go with mechanics for what happens when you try to eat it... food for thought.
Okay, fine, I guess I should say something about that dang name...
A few of you kind of got into my face about the name. On the one hand I deserve that. On the other, it was intentional, and I can defend that intention. I won't waste words doing it here, though, because I think the point is moot. Ultimately it's apparent that the name was a misstep. First impressions matter a lot and the name of the monster is the very first of first impressions. So yeah, I've been kicking myself for that for almost a week now. Yeah. Oops. As the name was the main complaint I received—the only consistent complaint, in fact—I do hope that that one mistake won't cost me the round. That said, the competition is tight, and everyone else put forward very strong entries. No matter how the poll turns out, I'm pretty happy with this little guy, and very honored to receive the approval and votes I did.
I will say that none of the alternate names suggested thus far come close to capturing the meaning of the name I gave the monster. ;)
[disclaimer] I am in the top 16 and might be biased. [/disclaimer]
I think (purely conjectural) the duplicating stems from short turn around time. Though there was more time than in the past, there are always some Top 32 shocked to be there. They find themselves scrambling. Not having time to explore areas, the submission usually comes down to the first idea.
For what it's worth, I was totally shocked to make top 32 and hadn't done any preparation. I think the short turnaround and the setting restrictions certainly make the task harder, but they don't make it impossible. And if the point of the constraints is to up the challenge level, then I think all is in order. *shrug*