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Abzirael Ul-Shadai, the Cackling Whirling


Round 3 - Top 16: Design a villain

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Cheliax RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Contributor

Abzirael Ul-Shadai, the Cackling Whirling

In the World before the World that is,
Yha-El-Hial, Gleaming King of Wind & Sun,
contested mightily against
Surtu-Bal-Rashad, Horrid King of Flame & Sorrow.

On the eve of Great Battle, Yha-El-Hial sent his most cunning vizier,
his silver-tongued mage Aishrak-Fazil Qurim, called ‘the Unlit Sky’,
to make counsel with the strange, coiling enemy of his enemy,
the whispered blasphemy called Lilit-Ram-Tha.

In darkness, Fazil drank the secrets of the Efreet.
In darkness, Fazil breathed the weakness of his foes.
In darkness, Fazil paid the Serpent blood, water and life.
In darkness, Fazil escaped, and flew Victory to his King.

And in darkness, Abzirael Ul-Shadai was brought forth,
born to end All the Worlds.

These things, I also saw.

- Account of Ish-Horam the Select,
Fragment from the Testament of Seven Metal Mountains

Thirty feet tall and weighing 20,000 pounds, the vast alabaster giant called Abzirael Ul-Shadai possesses thick, blood-caked claws, a mouth full of sharp, yellow teeth, haunting, sky-blue eyes and thick coils of wiry black beard. The spawn of a uniquely non-good Djinni and a forgotten, multi-gendered Elder Demon of Insanity & Foulness, this ancient beast once again wanders the world, bestowing dark favors to war-leaders and despots.

Spoiler:

Abzirael Ul-Shadai, the Cackling Whirling
CR 16 [CR 5 Djinn, +7 (5 Outsider HD, 8 non-associated class levels w/ Elite Stat Set), +3 Half-Fiend, +1 size increase]

Male Half-Fiend Advanced Djinni Pyrokineticist 5 / Rogue 3
CE Huge Outsider (Air, Extraplanar)
Init +11 [+7 Dex., +4 Improved Initiative]; Senses Darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +22, Spot +22

DEFENSE

AC 32, touch 19, flat-footed 25
(+4 armor, +4 deflection (from unholy aura), +7 Dex, +9 natural [+3 Djinn, +3 Size Increase, +1 Half-Fiend, +2 magic], -2 size)
hp 224 (12d8+84 from Outsider), (5d8+35 from Pyrokineticist), (3d6+21 from Rogue)
Fort +24 (including+4 from unholy aura) [Djinn +8, +4 Pyrokineticist, +1 Rogue, +7 Con], Ref +26 (including +4 from unholy aura) [Djinn +8, Pyrokineticist +4, Rogue +3, +7 Dex], Will +15 (including +4 from unholy aura), [+8 Djinn, +1 Pyrokineticist, +1 Rogue, +1 Wis.]; +4 bonus on all saving throws against fire and heat spells and effects.
Defensive Abilities: Evasion (Ex), Nimbus (Ps) (see Special Qualities), Unholy Aura: blocks possession and mental influence, just as protection from good does; secondarily, if a good creature succeeds on a melee attack against Abzirael, the offending attacker takes 1d6 points of temporary Strength damage (Fortitude save DC 23 negates); DR 10/magic; Immune acid, poison; Resist cold 10, electricity 10, fire 10; SR 28

OFFENSE

Spd 20 ft., fly 60 ft. (perfect)
Melee 2 claws +29 each [+17 BAB, +13 Str, +1 Weapon Focus, -2 size] (2d6+13 + 2d6 fire on one claw + 2d6 sneak attack, if applicable) and bite +26 [+17 BAB, +13 Str, -2 size, -2 secondary attack] (2d6+6)
Ranged (60ft.) bolt of fire +22 touch [+17 BAB, +7 Dex, -2 size] (5d6 fire + 2d6 sneak attack, if applicable)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks
Air Mastery (Ex)
Airborne creatures take a -1 penalty on attack and damage rolls against Abzirael.

Smite Good (Su)
Once per day, Abzirael can make a normal melee attack to deal extra damage equal to his HD (+20) against a good foe.

Whirlwind (Su)
Abzirael can transform himself into a whirlwind once every 10 minutes and remain in that form for up to 7 rounds. In this form, he can move through the air or along a surface at his fly speed.

The whirlwind is 5 feet wide at the base, up to 30 feet wide at the top and up to 50 feet tall. Abzirael controls the exact height, but it must be at least 10 feet.

Abzirael's movement while in whirlwind form does not provoke attacks of opportunity, even if he enters the space another creature occupies. Another creature might be caught in the whirlwind if it touches or enters the whirlwind, or if Abzirael moves into or through the creature’s space.

Creatures of Large size or smaller might take damage when caught in the whirlwind and be lifted into the air. An affected creature must succeed on a DC 29 Reflex save when it comes into contact with the whirlwind or take 3d6 points of damage. It must also succeed on a second DC 29 Reflex save or be picked up bodily and held suspended in the powerful winds, automatically taking 1d8 points of damage each round. A creature with a fly speed is allowed a DC 29 Reflex save each round to escape the whirlwind. The creature still takes damage but can leave if the save is successful. The save DC is Strength-based and includes a +3 racial adjustment.

Creatures trapped in the whirlwind cannot move except to go where Abzirael carries them or to escape the whirlwind. Creatures caught in the whirlwind can otherwise act normally, but must make a Concentration check (DC 15 + spell level) to cast a spell. Creatures caught in the whirlwind take a -4 penalty to Dexterity and a -2 penalty on attack rolls. Abzirael can have only as many trapped inside a whirlwind at one time as will fit inside the whirlwind’s volume.

Abzirael can eject any carried creatures whenever he wishes, depositing them wherever the whirlwind happens to be.

If the whirlwind’s base touches the ground, it creates a swirling cloud of debris. This cloud is centered on Abzirael and has a diameter equal to half the whirlwind’s height. The cloud obscures all vision, including darkvision, beyond 5 feet. Creatures 5 feet away have concealment, while those farther away have total concealment.

Those caught in the cloud must succeed on a Concentration check (DC 15 + spell level) to cast a spell.

While in whirlwind form, Abzirael cannot make melee attacks and does not threaten the area around him.

Spell-Like Abilities (CL 20th), [DCs= 10+spell level +Cha. mod., 5]:
At will—invisibility (self only)
3/day—darkness, poison (DC 18), quickened invisibility (self only), unholy aura (DC 23)
1/day—1/day— blasphemy, (DC 22), contagion (DC 18), create food and water, create wine (as create water, but wine instead), desecrate, destruction (DC 22), horrid wilting (DC 23), major creation (created vegetable matter is permanent), persistent image (DC 20), summon monster IX (fiends only), unhallow, unholy blight (DC 19), wind walk.

TACTICS

Before Combat: If possible, Abzirael first engages in parlay while using invisibility and in gaseous form, employing persistent image to create a decoy. If surprised, he immediately casts unholy aura, a quickened invisibility, and activates hand afire as a move-equivalent action.
During Combat: Once battle is joined, Abzirael power attacks for as much as possible - from invisibility, so as to gain both bonuses to hit and sneak attack damage for his first, fiery claw attack - against the closest target each round, taking no more than a five foot step so as to retain a full attack. He uses quickened invisibility after his attacks each round until his uses are expended, then switches to whirlwind form and offensive spell-like abilities, using nimbus to prevent melee attacks against him and to increase the save DCs of these effects.
Morale: If reduced to 50 hit points or less, Abzirael flees using wind walk, commonly summoning 1d3 vrocks to cover his retreat.
Base Statistics As noted above, without unholy aura active Abzirael's deflection bones to AC and his saves are reduced by 4. If dispelled during combat, he will immediately attempt to recast the spell.

STATISTICS

Str 36 [15 base from Elite Stat Set, +1 Hit Dice dependent ability score increase, +8 Djinn, +4 Half-Fiend, +8 size increase],
Dex 24 [13 base from Elite Stat Set, +1 Hit Dice dependent ability score increase, +8 Djinn, +4 Half-Fiend, -2 size increase],
Con 24 [12 base from Elite Stat Set, +2 Hit Dice dependent ability score increase, +4 Djinn, +2 Half-Fiend, +4 size increase],
Int 18, [10 base from Elite Stat Set, +4 Djinn, +4 Half-Fiend],
Wis 13, [8 base from Elite Stat Set, +1 Hit Dice dependent ability score increase, +4 Djinn],
Cha 20 [14 base from Elite Stat Set, +4 Djinn, +2 Half-Fiend]

Base Atk +17 [+12 Outsider Hit Dice, +3 Pyrokineticist levels, +2 Rogue levels]; Grp +42 [+17 BAB, +13 Str, +8 size, +4 Improved Grapple]
Feats Improved Natural Attack (claws), Improved Grapple, Improved Initiative (B), Multiattack, Power Attack, Quicken Spell-like Ability (invisibility), Weapon Focus (claws), Wild Talent

Skills
Appraise +19 (+21 with alchemical items) [15 ranks Outsider, +4 Int.], Balance +9 [+7 Dex., +2 synergy], Concentration +30 [15 ranks Outsider, 8 ranks Pyrokineticist, +7 Con.], Craft (Alchemy) +27 [15 ranks Outsider, 8 ranks Pyrokineticist, +4 Int.], Diplomacy +28 [15 ranks Outsider, 6 ranks Rogue, +5 Cha., +2 synergy], Escape Artist +28 (+30 when escaping from rope bonds) [15 ranks Outsider, 6 ranks Rogue, +7 Dex.], Hide -1 (+39 when invisible and immobile, +19 when invisible and moving) [+7 Dex., -8 size modifier], Intimidate +13 [8 ranks Pyrokineticist, +5 Cha.], Jump +15 [+13 Str., +2 synergy], Knowledge (Psionics) +19 [15 ranks Outsider, +4 Int.], Listen +22 [15 ranks Outsider, 6 ranks Rogue, +1 Wis.], Move Silently +22 [15 ranks Outsider, +7 Dex.], Psicraft +14 [8 ranks Pyrokineticist, +4 Int., +2 synergy], Sense Motive +25 [15 ranks Outsider, 3 ranks cross-class Pyrokineticist, 5 ranks Rogue, +1 Wis.], Spellcraft +19 [15 ranks Outsider, +4 Int.], Spot +22 [15 ranks Outsider, 6 ranks Rogue, +1 Wis.], Tumble +13 [6 ranks Rogue, +7 Dex.], Use Rope +22 (+24 with bindings) [15 ranks Outsider, +7 Dex.]

Languages Abyssal, Auran, Celestial, Common, Ignan; telepathy 100 ft.
SQ add all special qualities here, listed alphabetically: plane shift, telepathy 100 ft.
Combat Gear Bracers of Armor +4, Amulet of Natural Armor +2 Other Gear Abzirael carries no other treasure

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Abzirael's natural weapons are treated as magic weapons for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.

Bolt of Fire (Ps)
Abzirael can launch a bolt of psionically manifested fire at any target in line of sight within 60 feet. This effect is treated as a ranged touch attack and deals 5d6 points of fire damage.

Evasion (Ex)
Abzirael can avoid even magical and unusual attacks with great agility. If he makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, he instead takes no damage. Evasion can be used only if he is wearing light armor or no armor. If helpless, he does not gain the benefit of evasion.

Fire Adaptation (Ex)
Abzirael possesses a +4 bonus on all saving throws against fire and heat spells and effects.

Hand Afire (Ps)
Abzirael can activate this ability as a move-equivalent action. Flames engulf one of his hands (but do him no harm). Such attacks deal an extra 2d6 points of fire damage.

Nimbus (Ps):
Once per day, as a move-equivalent action, Abzirael may cause flames that harm neither him nor his equipment to engulf his entire body. While he is aflame, his Charisma score increases by 4 (causing the DC of all his spell-like abilities to increase by 2) and he can make melee touch attacks for 2d6 points of fire damage. If he is struck in melee, the attacker takes 2d6 points of fire damage. This ability lasts for up to 5 minutes.

Plane Shift (Sp)
Abzirael can enter any of the elemental planes, the Astral Plane, or the Material Plane. This ability transports Abzirael and up to eight other creatures, provided they all link hands. It is otherwise similar to the spell of the same name (caster level 13th).

Trap Sense (Ex)
Abzirael possesses an intuitive sense that alerts him to danger from traps, giving him a +1 bonus on Reflex saves made to avoid traps and a +1 dodge bonus to AC against attacks made by traps.

Though he has the Rogue ability of Trapfinding, Abzirael possesses neither the skills nor the patience to implement it successfully; similarly, he does not use the Pyrokineticist ability Fire Lash, finding other uses of psionically manifested fire more directly efficient.

Rumors tell that a trio of foolish treasure seekers freed the Ul-Shadai from his unmarked tomb after dozens of millennia of confinement, bound thrice in salt, silver and cold iron beneath the sands of Carnamach. According to tales, the Burning Djinni granted each one of his rescuers a single wish:

The first, a mage, asked for knowledge – and was promptly slain, for in death all things are known.

The second, a warrior, asked for strength – and was devoured whole, for now the soldier and Abzirael are one, and Abzirael’s strength is legend.

The third, a thief, asked only to be spared – and was left, unmolested, deep in the catacombs.

Now, the Cackling Whirlwind strides the globe, seeking to make sense of a world that has moved on during his long absence. Abzirael’s eons-long imprisonment at the hands of the ancient mage Xomauji the Storm-Scholar and his apprentices has weakened him considerably – and made him deeply curious about the state of world he once ruled.

Were it not for his god-complex, unclean appetites and occasional violent psychotic breaks from reality, Abzirael could make a fine ally for PCs – when it suits him, the Burning Djinni is by turns charming, witty, courteous and even generous.

Abzirael woos and tempts black-hearted leaders, – employing persistent image to create a suitable “representative” while watching using invisibility and in gaseous form. PCs might encounter the Ul-Shadai on one of his many tasks – Abzirael offers, in exchange for blood fealty, a bond of three services to those who prove their worthiness to him. Thus, he flies on errands about the world, gleefully completing assassinations, thefts, arsons and other acts of horrifying violence.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Initial Impression: Nice use of psionics. Not a fan normally, but it works. And that is wierd, because it has worked several times now and I really don't like psionics. My main gripe is the name. Is it the "Cackling Whirling" or the "Cackling Whirlwind." You use both at different times. Personally, I like the latter. Still formulating my reviewing standards. But this is a villain. You are so over the top, but in a good way. I'm glad you didnt change. Boomer, you have talent my friend.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Word count: 481.

Qadira Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

Firkdingblast, I spent half an hour writing up my response, and the post failed. &*%$# To repeat myself:

I think the flavor here is wonderful, and though it's still over the top, it's easier to digest because of the Arabian/desert theme. The subgenre matters. I also really, really like the story of the three wishes. Though it does nothing to advance the villain's role in the present day, it is fun reading.

However, by that point you've spent a lot of the 500 words alloted for description, schemes/plots, and motivation on poetry and backstory. This choice comes back to hurt your entry later.

Clinton Boomer wrote:
Abzirael woos and tempts black-hearted leaders, – employing persistent image to create a suitable “representative” while watching using invisibility and in gaseous form. PCs might encounter the Ul-Shadai on one of his many tasks – Abzirael offers, in exchange for blood fealty, a bond of three services to those who prove their worthiness to him. Thus, he flies on errands about the world, gleefully completing assassinations, thefts, arsons and other acts of horrifying violence.

So my guess is that Abzirael's plots involve tempting the PCs (who likely refuse) and/or working through a caliph or other minion. That's great, but there's not enough meat here telling me what Abzirael is up to. That is, he's a great monster, but a lousy Big Bad for a long-term Arabian campaign, because I don't know what he wants. Most great villains have a powerful urge or motive like revenge, murder, power, or a love of black sorcery for its own sake. Abzirael is described as curious, but curiosity alone isn't enough to make a villain.

In other words, you spent some of those 500 words poorly. You're missing at least a sentence and possibly a whole crucial paragraph telling me what makes Abzirael Ul-Shadai a villain worth importing into my campaign and plotting around, rather than just a really good monster for a one-shot fight. I'm sure you could do it, probably in 50 or 75 words. But it's not here.

I think you may want to consider your design choices more carefully, to what best suits a DM's needs. A major villain needs to do more than look cool and have great mechanics. This entry is so close to greatness. But it falls crucially short.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Wolfgang Baur wrote:

I think the flavor here is wonderful, and though it's still over the top, it's easier to digest because of the Arabian/desert theme. The subgenre matters. I also really, really like the story of the three wishes. Though it does nothing to advance the villain's role in the present day, it is fun reading.

However, by that point you've spent a lot of the 500 words alloted for description, schemes/plots, and motivation on poetry and backstory. This choice comes back to hurt your entry later.

A major villain needs to do more than look cool and have great mechanics. This entry is so close to greatness. But it falls crucially short.

I agree completely. And, like Wolfie, I LOVE the three wishes bit. But you only had 500 words on purpose and you need to find a way to control yourself and make some key decisions. This entry is so close to greatness. In my view, it is still enough to make top 8. But you are getting closer and closer to having to pay for some of your indulgences.

My full review to follow, but really what can I add to Wolfgang's comments? It sure is a pleasure (and a bit humbling) to judge alongside guys like Erik and WB.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Villain Concept (name, title, is it actually a villain?, design choices, playability?): B+/A-
The Good: A psionic djinni half-fiend rogue. It’s a good thing it all worked, because that could have been a train wreck. I have said, and I will say again, that gonzo multi-classed templated nightmares don’t make villains—story makes villains. Your entry is close to that nightmare, but in the end I believe your villain is only that way because it serves the story you are telling of your villain. I also like that he is a parlay first, fight second kind of villain.
The Bad: Where is the direct conflict here?

Stat Block Execution (proper content, proper format, good math, generally mistake free?, not abusing word count?): B-
The Good: You had one of the whackiest stat blocks to do and I thought you got it right. While gonzo creatures aren’t necessary, they do let you show your stuff. An example of showing your stuff, for instance, is how you say “Though he has the Rogue ability of Trapfinding, Abzirael possesses neither the skills nor the patience to implement it successfully; similarly, he does not use the Pyrokineticist ability Fire Lash, finding other uses of psionically manifested fire more directly efficient.” That is good stuff. I also liked the tactics section.
The Bad: I’ve changed my mind. That “show” button is a little silly. Hide secrets, not stat blocks. But I won’t mark off for it. You could have used better formatting for the stat block. I thought your stat block is one of the weakest just from a clarity, bolding and heading organizational standpoint.

Description (quality of writing, hook?, theme?, organization, contains all mandatory content—physical description, motivation/goal, scheme/plot?): B
The Good: What can I say that I haven’t said about you. Your writing makes me jealous. I wish I had as much flavor in my writing as you have in your little toe.
The Bad: Looking back on my comment on your country, I noted: “I think your enthusiasm got a bit carried away. If you reigned that in a bit you likely would have had more room for the DM content. Sound and fury is not necessarily good design.” And later: “If you had dialed back the writing just a tad to give yourself more room for DM secrets and added a bit more crunch, this would have been a no-questions-asked A+ from me. As it is, it is still really strong. But exhuberance only gets you so far. This one needed a bit more meat.” Same problem here, Boomer. Wolfgang is right. You spent your 500 words not in the smartest way. I thought your submission was weak on goals and plans and how a DM actually implements this guy. A big drawback. But, that said, I think I know what this guy wants. You still should have spelled it out and done less goofing around.
Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor and setting?): A
The Good: I want to run this villain. It makes me envision whole campaigns where fighting him is the final point. And if that isn’t a villain, I don’t know what is.

Overall: B+
A solid and creative entry with brilliant writing, though lacking some key details.

Boomer, I have to admit that it is tough for me to critique you. Of all the contestants, while you don’t always deliver the best entry, I am convinced that you are one of the top 3 in raw talent. No question in my mind. It is hard for me not to just focus on that talent and give you great marks. It might actually lead me to being overly-critical of you. I have to really work hard to critique what you actually submitted. And I feel it is only fair to disclose that bias I have. I can honestly say I am a fan of your work. And I am one picky mofo. There are not a lot of people that I would say I am a “fan” of. But talent like you have can be a blessing and a curse. It brings high expectations. It can also lead to sloppiness. You don’t have this thing in the bag. It is time for you to really focus.

Solidly RECOMMENDED for Top 8

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

In the first edition Deities & Demigods, in the Chinese mythology section, lived Ma Yuan, the Slayer of the Gods. This guy had a three-eyed Tyrannosaurus head, four arms, and a rock that could change into any weapon he wanted. He stood 70 feet tall, and is known to have killed 10 minor deities.

Basically, Ma Yuan is Clinton Boomer's spirit animal.

Clinton, you magnificent bastard. Only you could give us a 30-foot-tall 20,000-pound villain made of alabaster. Your campaigns must be absolutely insane, and I for one commend you for it. There is a real zeal and bravery about your submissions that is sure to attract a lot of support from voters. I think people will keep you around just to see what you'll think of next, which is an absolutely essential trait in an RPG Superstar.

I love the poem at the beginning. I love the bravery of the submission in general. I love the multi-gendered elder demon of insanity and foulness. I love how you used Christine's excellent country from the previous round, and created a villain that actually fits in that setting quite well.

I don't love the title. "Cackling Whirling" is one "ing" word too many. Despite my admiration for your audacity, this sort of balls-to-the-wall turn-it-up-to-11 gaming isn't really my style, so while I appreciate your gonzo approach it isn't right for my own campaigning and probably wouldn't be my first choice as a consumer.

But I am really digging this submission, and give it my whole-hearted endorsement into the next round.

I can't wait to see what you come up with next.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Yeah, but Wolf, that poem was killer.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

I'm with you. The poem was amazing. And the three wish thing.

I dream of being able to write like that.

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Contributor

Without risking a DQ, I will only say that I will subsequently remember to proofread my Subject, as well as my Text.

I thank the judges deeply for their comments, their insight and their critiques - and I am humbled both by their attention to my writing as well as the improvement that has resulted in my work.

I look forward to discussion and criticism from the voting public!

Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

thatboomerkid wrote:

Without risking a DQ, I will only say that I will subsequently remember to proofread my Subject, as well as my Text.

I thank the judges deeply for their comments, their insight and their critiques - and I am humbled both by their attention to my writing as well as the improvement that has resulted in my work.

I look forward to discussion and criticism from the voting public!

I came to this one first, for a reason.

And it did not disappoint, in the least.

Add me to the list of the jealous.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter 2013 aka exile

I just realized something, something very sad. I am the anti-Boomer. Where he is all over the top madness, I write the gaming equivalent of travelogues for places where no one wants to visit. Good luck for the rest of the competition man.

Chad

Qadira Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

Erik Mona wrote:
Yeah, but Wolf, that poem was killer.

Yeah, if the word count had been 1,000 or 1,500 words, I would have said "no problem!", keep the poem! But sometimes you gotta make trade-offs.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka unfettered

Erik Mona wrote:
while I appreciate your gonzo approach it isn't right for my own campaigning and probably wouldn't be my first choice as a consumer.

I have to agree with Erik on this one. For me, I like your style, but at the end of the day I would probably buy a different product.

That said, you are over the top and audacious and that can be a blessing in this competition. Your PSA's and board presence certainly help as well.

Well done.


Ok, he is an awesome bad-guy and his background fluff is awesome but I have no idea how to use him in a campaign. No hooks, no motivations, no grand goals, nothing. Just a souped up monster. I don't need another one of those.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

Clark Peterson wrote:

I'm with you. The poem was amazing. And the three wish thing.

I dream of being able to write like that.

We're not worthy. Great stuff, Boomer, especially the three wishes. And viva la gonzo...

... of course, coming from the person who brought you the aforementioned tricked-out nightmare, you can take that for what it's worth! :)


Clouds Without Water wrote:

I came to this one first, for a reason.

And it did not disappoint, in the least.

Add me to the list of the jealous.

Ditto here. Unlike Erik's tastes, your stuff is right up my alley. I'd love to play in one of your games, but moreso, I'd love to run an adventure with your imagination supplying the source material. And that's what this is all about.

There's a few textual missteps (don't know if they were errors, oversights, or what), but I figure you're already hip to them.

This guy reminds me distinctly of a cross between THIS and THAT. Kaboobie FTW.

Very, very likely to get my vote. Kudos!

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

OMG its what Genie from Aladdin could have been if he were evil.

(sarcasm aside) I find myself liking this one, poem and all. I did find myself wanting to see more motivation and maybe some actual ongoing plots however...this puts this BBEG on the cusp for me.


If I had an Arabian campaign, I could no doubt find a number of places for this djinn to appear as he travels around doing services for the various evil people who swear him loyalty. He could keep popping up wherever the PCs go, and they would have a terrible time figuring out his motivation because he would be acting on the requests of many different villains. On the other hand, I don't see what his overall plan would be, or his reason for gathering loyal followers to himself.

I appreciated the Spoiler for the stat block - it allowed me to keep reading the flavor without the huge interruption of all those numbers, and then come back to the stats later. I wasn't as excited about the poem. It was an interesting introduction to the villain, and very suitable flavor, but all those names were too much. "I just bleeped over them," as Linus (in Peanuts) says about "The Brothers Karamazov." I also kept comparing those long names with the one in the subject, wondering when that particular name would finally come in and if I would recognize it when it did.

I like "The Cackling Whirlwind;" it's just too bad that title didn't make it into the Subject line.


Yeah, one of my votes is reserved for this entry. Boomer passes the test on all entries so far in that I'd gladly buy his material to just enjoy the read.


Love the poem - maybe not the wisest use of the word count but... it is awesome in its lyricism, likewise with the three wishes of the adventurers. That and the whole concept is mind-bogglingly bonkers. Love it; it made me giggle with its inventiveness.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Sheyd

Where to start....

Firstly I love the concept and fully plan to -yoink- it for my current campaign, he'd make a lovely 'enemy of my enemy' NPC for the players.

The poem is good, though for my tastes a bit jarring to recite.

The use of Psionics is good without being overwhelming. I'm not a fan of 3.* psionics at all but this is tastefully done which appeals to me.

The stat block looks good, I've always had difficulties deciding non-associated levels and such so I'm glad to see it written out.

I do agree with Erik though on the name, one 'ing' too many for my liking. Love the Abzirael Ul-Shadai part though.

Overall this is what I hoped to see from you and you came through. Definately holding a place in my votes.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Spar

I like it Boomer. Not my usual taste for bad guys (low level magic games, that's me), but... I like it... This will probably get a vote from me.

Oh, and I too loved the wishes.

WC


I really like this guy. I can definitely use Abzirael as a high level campaign villain. I like the poem. I like the three wishes story. I like the imagery of Abzirael flying around, leaving a trail of chaos behind.

I would have liked a little more detail on specific adventure hooks, however. (While I liked the poem and the three wishes story, maybe one should have been sacrificed for more meat, given the 500 word limitation.) I also agree that Whirlwind is better than Whirling.

In any case, you get my vote this round. Keep up the good work.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Wow. What an amazing, messed up (in a good way) concept – and awesome writing. This is some cool stuff. I love that you included a poem. BUT … yeah, not quite sure that there’s enough info here on why and how this guy is a good villain (apart from the obvious – that he would kick ass). I’m sure he could make a good villain – but the information just isn’t there.

The stat block made my eyes glaze a little bit … but I think this is more a general problem with high level stat blocks and having to show working than any specific problem with your entry.

The Carnamach tie in was ... interesting, but it didn't quite gel with the vibe I got from Carnamach - seemed a bit "thrown in."

Having said the above, I feel pretty confident that this entry will breeze through the round on the strength of the concept, writing and Boomer’s personality. Good work.


I wasn't blown away by your first two entries but I thought this one was great, if anything I think it is even more impressive that your were able to convey so much with the 'loss' of words from the poem. Definitely your best work so far in my opinion and I don't really consider it so much 'gonzo' either. Everything fits quite well without hitting the players over the head with it. I think 'Whirlwind' rolls off the tongue and fits far better but thats a small thing considering Abzirael ul-Shadai is a very cool name.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013 aka Core

After looking them all over I think I like this one the best. Which is sort of odd considering I loathe psionics and generally lean towards low powered games in general. It invokes a 1st edition feel to it from something like David Sutherlands DMG cover.

Wish the word count was longer to hear some more about minions and what not. Good job.

Cheliax RPG Superstar, Contributor aka Leandra Christine Schneider

You used Carnamach. Thats so cute :P

I would've liked your entry even without it since I really enjoy*shhh* optimized mechanics...the Pyrokineticist was a nice choice.


High praises for your lyrical writing and great imagination!


Hmmm...

I really find myself wanting to like this entry. I am compelled and impressed by the use of a non-standard type of villain (this is the second entry I've read, and I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that the majority of contestants are going to give us non-standard).

However, I felt like I desperately needed a tall glass of milk after having read this entry. It was too sugary, much too sweet for me. I felt like I was deluged with a lot of candy (and yes, it was GOOD candy), but candy nonetheless. I feel like I was being wowed by prose and sheer, MANIC, grab-you-by-the-body-part I AM FLIPPING CREATIVE here, but... but, I feel let down. For me, it's not all about the pure-insane, manic (yes, repeating this term, as I feel there is a lot of pure mania here, which is good and bad) creation -- I need some meat and detail as well.

I would have been 100% sold had there been more information given regarding how to use this creation.
As it stands, I feel like a naturally-gifted painter cranked out a powerful piece in an instant, and left it to me, the not-so-gifted viewer, to figure out which side is up, let alone how to make sense of it.
I, personally, can craft a few ways to make use of this creation, but, I would have felt a lot better had there been some guidance, as I suspect whatever use I put the Cackling One (Whirling? Whirlwind? Not sure) to, it won't be anywhere NEAR as clever as what its creator came up with, which will be a dis-service to my players. And that, that is why I NEED authors to throw me a bone here; to give me a hint at to what plots and schemes they can lend their villain to, when they create them. I'm sure there were some cool plot ideas when they created this Beast -- now give them to us!! >:-)
Specifically, I didn't find the implied plot hooks anywhere near strong enough, and it's a letdown.
For me, the job wasn't finished.

Farrell

Paizo Employee Modules Overlord

I see what people are saying about poetry and legends leaving little space for other hooks.

But

Speaking only as a consumer, I have a thousand plot hooks in easy reach. I have very little good, villain-specific poetry and mythology I haven't used already. This thing is so colorful, and the color so well supported, I can forgive any other failings as less important than the parts that get my imagination flowing.


It doesn't feel like a villain to me. As it's presented, I get more of a feeling of big destructive beastie; it reminds me of the Tarrasque. That said, if more time had been spent on motivation and hooks, it would have held a lot of promise as good villain material in my mind.

And count me as one more who loves that poem. Great stuff there.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Steven T. Helt

You and I have got to sit at a table together and game. The names are better than last round, the origin of the Burning Djinni is well-conceived, and the (sshhh....optimized) mechanics are pretty tight.

I am a serious rp guy - I love moral dillemmae and gray areas and tough choices. I love talking in character and making a stand on principle and having words with fearsome villains. But I am also a powergamer, and I am - at this moment - shotgunning a Dew in your honor.

There. I'm getting funny looks from my wife and kids, but I think you deserved the tribute. And I deserved the Dew.

Seriously, if I win the lottery tonight, Nic Logue is running Iskandria, and we are playing together. How's Monday nights from 6-11?

Now: you don't walk on water. Crackling Whirlwind would have been better (burning djinni, crackling whirlwind). And you misstepped by not providing adventure ideas or a more specific agenda. For my game, Abzirael would be acquiring power, allies and land like a certain demigod we all know and hate. The party would barely escape one of his military victories, refugees would speak of a towering column of flame and hate, and the PCs would be set off on multiple quests to reduce his resources, find his history and weaknesses, etc. I like what someone else said: he also can be introduced as a political player: the enemy of my enemy.

I think your over-the-top style actually appeals to a lot of gamers, and I would be on that list as long as the adrenaline was tempered by great in-character roleplaying and high drama. I would like to see a little of that drama in your future designs, to demonstrate that you have those chops.

Props for referencing Carnamach. I predicted that good entries would make great use of someone else's material. My original villain design went neatly into two of the top 32 submissions, and if I didn't like it anymore, I'd have just made the hobgoblin general in Iskandria. : }

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Ezekiel Shanoax, the Stormchild

WOW.

There's just so much to this guy, I'll just try and format my comments along with the Round 3 FAQ:

* Is a unique NPC; Absolutely. Unique is an understatement - this isn't just a guy there is only one-of, he is a creature that the Universe can only create ONCE (And did so on a dare after WAY too many Jell-O shots, and has sworn never, ever to get that drunk again.)

* Is an individual creature or entity; I think the fluff provided (poems, wishes story, and the little jab about his lack of patience) does a lot to give a sense of WHO the Abzirael is as a "person". I concur that a little more could have been done to flesh out particular schemes and personal goals, but what we have here gives me a good sense of the dastardly many-faced villain this guy could be in any campaign.

* Is as much a plot device as an encounter; I like the hook provided about how Abzirael was once more powerful, and is now out to understand the world that has grown up without him in (over) it. This is a creature powerful enough to be set loose in a game world and likely to quest after the same things the PCs would quest after, but for the nefarious purpose of regaining his own dark glory.

* Is an antagonist for the PCs; Uh, check. Seems like this dude can certainly alternate between being the scheming mastermind crafting illusions and chess games, and being a furious demon of destruction for base-to-base damage-dealing o-god-what-happened-to-the-cleric whuppass.

* Does not have to be a final boss, but he/she/it must be more than just a simple henchman; This guy seems more like final boss to me. Although, he could be the powerful shadow-figure that haunts the campaign as a spoiler while the PCs pursue exploits against a more direct end-boss.

* Must be capable of being a proactive opponent, not simply reactive; Check. Seems like he has a definite albeit general motivation to poke and prod things. Also, I shudder to think of the party that forces Abzirael to react to them.

* Must be capable of independent thought and be able to both come up with plans and take actions to thwart the PCs; Well, he's got an Int score above 10, and enough raw power to make plans and take action to enforce them. I really like the Whirlwind mechanic - I think it's a great way this guy can screw with the PCs by throwing them around the map, surely disrupting whatever they're doing, but unlikely to full-out kill a tough party (and as an added bonus, he has an impressive evasion portfolio, so I wouldn't worry about "losing" him during campaign encounters where kill-or-be-killed isn't the issue).

I'm voting for this hombre. I'm afraid of what he might do to my family if I didn't.

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

The negative to me is psionics.

The positive: very little combat gear/items. I love villians NOT that dont depend on items to save their butts.

Mixed feelings on this one.

Osirion

Wow. Just wow. I don't even know what to say. You're awesome. You've easily become my favorite for this whole competition. Not only that, but I think I'm actually already becoming a fan of yours! You have a solid gift for making me want to buy your stuff before I've even read the whole first paragraph.

I mean I really don't often dig things with Arab themes, but wow, I think right here you've nailed a new Nyarlethotep for D&D.

I really really can't say enough good about this, though pretty much everyone else has said what I've been feeling. Good stuff!

You definitely get a Grimcleaver vote. If I could, I'd give you three. I hope you win this thing.

Andoran

That leadoff prose deal was great. Well executed.
Back to reading the thing now...

That's simply marvellous. Great job.

Oh, yeah. This is the eleventh one I've read, and I'm very certain I'm going to vote for it. It was just a really well written and powerful piece. What a jacked up villain, man. This is the first one I'm really wanting to visualize in my mind's eye. I wanna wanna wanna see Wayne Reynolds draw this guy, hefting a big assed tulwar.


Writing that drips with flavor.

Gutsy submission for regarding the format, concept, and psionics.

A DM has to do a little work to use it in a campaign, creating hooks and motivations that tie the villian into the story.

Poem drew me in- I'm a Boomer fan because of writing like this.


"Were it not for his god-complex, unclean appetites and occasional violent psychotic breaks from reality" Hey, that describes almost every PC I have known, including me. ~grins~


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

Quick thoughts:
+1 for being cool
+1 for awesome butchness
-1 for psionics (bah)
+1 for the great poem and wish story
Gets one of my votes, for an al-qadim style campaign.

The writeup is short on the specific hooks for a given PC group, but to me it's easy to see the opportunities and I'd almost rather not soil him with lame "generic" hooks. This guy could be a main villain in a "Searing Sands Adventure Path!" or the like.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Yeah, and let me share why I think the three wishes tale is so good. Wolfgang is right, you're investing part of your 500 words on a little story. Does the investment pay off, and if so, how?

It pays off because this villain is inhumanly big and powerful and alien. He's reduced in power by his long captivity, and that just makes him comprehensible. So, how does the DM get far enough inside this ... thing's ... head to allow Abzirael Ul-Shadai to interact with the party?

The story of the three wishes shows us.

It also drops a hint, by the way, as to how the party might re-imprison him. Salt, silver, and cold iron.

By the way, Boomer, when you can talk about this, what does the name mean? I see a word ending in "-el" and "shadai", and I begin to think of Hebrew / Arabic nomenclature.


while I love this dude, I'm highly puzzled by one thing... why Carnamach? what sands were mentioned in the godhead jungle country?

Bereket would have been a -much- more compatible choice.

Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Grimcleaver wrote:
Wow. Just wow. I don't even know what to say. You're awesome. You've easily become my favorite for this whole competition. Not only that, but I think I'm actually already becoming a fan of yours! You have a solid gift for making me want to buy your stuff before I've even read the whole first paragraph.

I'll second this. Whatever happens with the contest, I'll buy a Boomer-written project of whatever sort if it turns him loose to do stuff like this.


I just don't see how this is a villain... the entry even mentions "the PCs might encounter" the guy on one of his many missions... Okay. So they encounter him and either kill him or get killed. I don't see him becoming a Big Bad for the campaign, especially since he seems willing to even grant wishes to the PCs.

Strangely, though, i think I shall still vote for it since it is one of the best written and original baddies of the bunch.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Wolfgang Baur wrote:
Firkdingblast, I spent half an hour writing up my response, and the post failed. &*%$#

I see this in many, many posts on these boards, and there is a simple and useful solution to the problem:

Please, please, please--if someone is going to write a long entry, why not type it in Notepad or Word first, then copy/paste the contents into the messageboard post?

This serves several purposes, the primary that you'll have a second copy if the messageboard fails to capture your content--you'll never lose the first (Word or Notepad) copy.

A strong secondary benefit is that you can edit to your heart's content (Word has spellchecking, among other things) before you commit to posting the final copy.

You could also type a huge entry, but just before you press "Submit Post" copy the contents of the post (highlight the material you typed, press CTRL + C). If the post fails, CTRL-V will paste everything you copied back into a blank entry.


Yeah, I usually CTRL-C anything I'm about to post to the internet in general. Always a good safeguard.


Um. Wow.

I have to admit, I didn't like the first two submissions of yours, I'm afraid. But this one? Friggin' AWESOME.

Huge guy made of Alabastor? That's just COOL. The mechanics work, especially the nimbus mechanic (minor, minor, MINOR nitpick - you refer to the nimbus as being a "special quality", but it's listed and described as a "Special Ability". Not a big thing, it's just 0.2 marks off your technical mark, or 0.4 marks from that pesky Russian judge).

Not a big fan of this guy getting Blasphemy, but that's not your fault. It's just 3e rules getting in the way. Boo.

Not a big fan of the poem, I'm afraid. I think if you had done it in, say, a Haiku, I would've loved it. But you ate up way too much space.

All in all, I like this one, and were it not for the high CR (I never get that high in my games), I'd be using this guy next session.


I initially wrote this one off because it seemed just a big baddie. But Chris and Ezekiel convinced me to look deeper for motivation. Now that I'm convinced the motivation can be teased out of the description, I'm more willing to appreciate the work that went into the mechanics. Overall, nice job--but given the requirements, not "wow" work. An orchestra isn't fantastic just because it can play at a loud volume; villains aren't "wow" just because they are big blocks of whirling alabaster that can reinterpret wishes diabolically. Props nonetheless.


This is the second or third entry where a villain is tied to another contestant’s country, which I find odd. One of them is going to lose, leaving you with a winning country hosting a losing villain, or a winning villain lost in a losing country.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka Darkjoy

At this time I don't know yet, but I am getting a BBEG vibe not a villain vibe.

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Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo Publishing / RPG Superstar™ / Previous Contests / RPG Superstar™ 2008 / Round 3 - Top 16: Design a villain / Abzirael Ul-Shadai, the Cackling Whirling All Messageboards

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