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Mwana, Queen of the Slithering


Round 3 - Top 16: Design a villain

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

She hates your people, your gods, and your laws which have befouled her blessed home with corruption and decay. Her scaly children dream of a return to ancient ways -- to hunt, to devour, to rule their world as they did long ago.

MWANA, QUEEN OF THE SLITHERING CR 14 [2 humanoid hit dice + 1 level adjustment + 11 druid levels]

Female Lizardfolk druid 11
CN Medium humanoid (reptilian)
Init +0 [+0 Dex]; Senses Listen +11, Spot +11

DEFENSE

AC 25, touch 10, flat-footed 25
(+6 armor [+5 from armor +1 enhancement], +0 Dex, + 9 natural [+5 racial +4 enhancement barkskin])
hp 114 (2d8+11d8+52)
Fort +15 [+7 class +4 Con +4 resistance], Ref +10 [+3 humanoid hd +3 class +4 resistance], Will +17 [+7 class +6 Wis +4 resistance]
Defensive Abilities freedom of movement (automatically succeed on grapple checks to resist being grappled and to escape grapples or pins); resist nature’s lure (+4 saving throws against spell-like abilities of fey), ring of counterspells (greater dispel magic); DR 10/adamantine (stoneskin absorbs up to 110 points before being discharged); Immune to poison, movement impairing magic, detect thoughts, discern lies, any magical attempts to discern alignment; Resist acid 10

OFFENSE

Spd 30 ft. [30 ft. modified for medium armor and longstrider], air walk, freedom of movement, tree stride.
Melee +1 longspear +12/+7 [+9/+4 bab +2 strength +1 enhancement] (1d8+4) [+2 strength x 1.5 for two-handed +1 enhancement] and
bite +12 [+9 bab +2 strength +1 enhancement, -0 for Improved Multiattack] (1d6+2) [1d6 for Improved Natural Attack (bite) +2 strength x 0.5 for secondary natural attack +1 enhancement] or
2 claws +12 [+9 bab +2 strength +1 enhancement] (1d4+3) [+2 strength +1 enhancement] and
bite +12 [+9 bab +2 strength +1 enhancement, -0 for Improved Multiattack] (1d6+2) [1d6 for Improved Natural Attack (bite) +2 strength x 0.5 for secondary natural attack +1 enhancement]
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks wild shape 4/day (11 hours)
Spells Prepared (CL 11th):
6th—greater dispel magic, transport via plants
5th—commune with nature, stoneskin, tree stride
4th—air walk, flame strike (DC 20, x2), freedom of movement
3rd—call lightning (DC 19), contagion (DC 19), greater magic fangi, poison (DC 21), water breathing
2nd—animal messenger, barkskin (x2), bear’s endurance (x2), bull’s strength
1st—charm animal (DC 17, x2), faerie fire, longstrider, speak with animals (x3)
0—cure minor wounds (x2), detect magic, know direction, light, purify food and drink

TACTICS

Before Combat Mwana uses her metamagic rod (extend) and casts stoneskin, tree stride, and freedom of movement. She uses her 2 lesser metamagic rods (extend) and casts greater magic fang, barkskin, bear’s endurance, bull’s strength, and longstrider. She also casts speak with animals to efficiently communicate with her minions and air walk to enhance her mobility in combat.
During Combat Against competent enemies, Mwana prefers to keep as many minions between herself and her adversaries, remaining at a distance to call down fire and lightning. She will use the effects of airwalk and tree stride to keep her distance. Should she be forced into melee, she will wild shape into megaraptor form and engage. If she faces a challenging foe and victory is crucial, she will use her scroll of summon nature’s ally IX, though she is aware of the danger of mishaps.
Morale She will flee if her minions and animal companion are defeated or immobilized, if most of her buff spells are dispelled, or if she has taken more than 60 points of damage. She saves her transport via plants spell for just such an escape. If Mwana plans a subsequent attack on foes that have defeated her before, she will use her potions of blur, heroism, shield of faith, and displacement ahead of time.
Base Statistics If Mwana is caught without her buff spells, the following changes apply to her statistics.

    AC 21, touch 10, flat-footed 21
    (+6 armor [+5 from armor +1 enhancement], +0 Dex, + 5 natural [+5 racial])
    hp 88 (2d8+11d8+26)
    Fort +13 [+7 class +2 Con +4 resistance]
    No longer under the effects of freedom of movement, no immunity to movement impairing magic, no DR.
    Spd 20 ft. [30 ft. modified for medium armor], no longer has air walk, freedom of movement, or tree stride
    Melee +1 longspear +10/+5 [+9/+4 bab +1 enhancement] (1d8+1) [+1 enhancement] and
    bite +9 [+9 bab -0 for Improved Multiattack] (1d6) [1d6 for Improved Natural Attack (bite)] or
    2 claws +9 [+9 bab] (1d4) and
    bite +9 [+9 bab -0 for Improved Multiattack] (1d6) and [1d6 for Improved Natural Attack (bite)]
    Str 10, Con 14
    Grp +9 [+9 bab]
    Skills Jump -1 [+5 ranks +4 racial -6 movement penalty -4 ACP], Swim +1 [+5 ranks +4 racial -8 ACP]
    Languages no longer has speak with animals.

STATISTICS

Str 14, Dex 10, Con 18, Int 12, Wis 22, Cha 13 [Elite Array; +2 Str, +2 Con, -2 Int from race; +3 Wis from advancement, +4 Wis from periapt of wisdom, +4 Str from bull’s strength, +4 Con from bear’s endurance]
Base Atk +9/+4 [+1 humanoid hd +8/+3 druid levels]; Grp +11 [+9 bab +2 Str +0 size]
Feats Animal Affinity, Eschew Materials, Improved Multiattack, Improved Natural Attack (bite), Multiattack
Skills Balance +5 [+5 ranks +4 racial -4 ACP], Diplomacy +6 [+5 ranks +1 Cha], Handle Animal +14 [+5 ranks +1 Cha +2 Animal Affinity], Jump +7 [+5 ranks +2 Str +4 racial -4 ACP], Knowledge (nature) +16 [+11 ranks +1 Int +2 synergy from Survival +2 nature sense], Listen +11 [+5 ranks +6 Wis], Ride +4 [+2 Animal Affinity, +2 synergy from Handle Animals] Spellcraft +7 [+6 ranks +1 Int], Spot +11 [+5 ranks +6 Wis], Survival +19 [+11 ranks +6 Wis +2 nature sense] (+21 in above ground natural environments) [+2 conditional synergy from Knowledge (nature)], Swim +3 (+5 ranks +2 Str +4 racial -8 ACP].
Languages Aquan, Common, Draconic, Druidic; speak with animals, helm of comprehend languages and read magic
SQ animal companion, hold breath, nature sense, resist nature’s lure, trackless step, venom immunity, wild empathy +12 [+11 druid levels +1 Cha] (+8 magical beasts) [-4 conditional modifier], woodland stride
Combat Gear 2 elixirs of fire breath, 2 lesser metamagic rods (extend), metamagic rod (empower), metamagic rod (extend), 2 potions of blur, 2 potions of displacement, 2 potions of heroism, 2 potions of shield of faith +2, scroll of heal, scroll of summon nature’s ally IX, wand of cure light wounds (50 charges); Other Gear Cloak of resistance +4, diamond and granite dust worth 2000 gp (enough for 8 uses of the stoneskin spell), dust of tracelessness, handy haversack, helm of comprehend languages and read magic, periapt of wisdom +4, +1 wild dragonhide breastplate of acid resistance, +1 longspear.

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Animal Companion (Ex) Gar (deinonychus, 6 hd) is a loyal companion. If Mwana releases Gar from her service, she may gain a new companion by performing a ceremony requiring 24 uninterrupted hours of prayer. This ceremony can also replace an animal companion that has perished.

Hold Breath (Ex) She can hold her breath for a number of rounds equal to four times her Constitution score before she risks drowning.

Nature Sense (Ex) Mwana gains a +2 bonus on Knowledge (nature) and Survival checks. This bonus has already been included.

Resist Nature’s Lure (Ex) She has a +4 bonus on saving throws against the spell-like abilities of fey.

Trackless Step (Ex) Mwana leaves no trail in natural surroundings and cannot be tracked. She may choose to leave a trail if she desires.

Venom Immunity (Ex) She is immune to all poisons.

Wild Empathy (Ex) Mwana can improve the attitude of an animal. This ability functions just like a Diplomacy check made to improve the attitude of a person. To use wild empathy, Mwana and the animal must be able to study each other, which means that they must be within 30 feet of one another under normal conditions.

Wild Shape (Su) Mwana has the ability to turn herself into any Tiny, Small, Medium, or Large animal and back again four times per day. Her options for new forms include all creatures with the animal type, so long as they don’t exceed 11 hit dice. The effect lasts for 11 hours, or until she changes back. Changing form (to animal or back) is a standard action and doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity. Each time she uses wild shape, she regains 11 hp. Mwana often takes the form of a megaraptor in combat. When she does so, the following changes apply to her statistics.

    Large size
    Init +2 [+2 Dex]; Senses Listen +9, Spot +9
    AC 28, touch 12, flat-footed 26
    (+6 armor [+5 from wild armor +1 enhancement], +2 Dex, + 10 natural [+6 natural +4 enhancement barkskin])
    Fort +14 [+7 class +7 Con], Ref +8 [+3 humanoid hd +3 class +2 Dex], Will +11 [+7 class +4 Wis]
    Defensive Abilities she no longer has ring of counterspells or immunity to detect thoughts, discern lies, or magical attempts to discern alignment. She also no longer has resist acid 10.
    Spd 70 ft. [60 ft. modified for longstrider]
    Melee talons +16 [+9 bab +7 strength +1 enhancement -1 size] (2d6+8) [+7 strength +1 enhancement] and
    2 foreclaws +16 [+9 bab +7 strength +1 enhancement -0 for Improved Multiattack -1 size] (1d4+4) [+7 strength x 0.5 for secondary natural attack +1 enhancement] and
    bite +16 [+9 bab +7 strength +1 enhancement -0 for Improved Multiattack -1 size] (2d6+4) [2d6 for Improved Natural Attack (bite) + 7 strength x 0.5 for secondary natural attack +1 enhancement)
    Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
    Special Attacks she gains the pounce special attack.
    Spells she cannot cast spells with verbal or somatic components in animal form.
    Str 25 [21 + 4 for bull’s strength], Dex 15, Con 25 [21 + 4 for bear’s endurance], Wis 18 [loses the effects of the periapt of wisdom +4]
    Grp +20 [+9 bab + 7 Str + 4 size]
    Skills Balance +11 [+5 ranks +2 Dex +4 racial], Jump +32 [+5 ranks +7 Str +4 racial +16 movement bonus], Listen +9 [+5 ranks +4 Wis], Ride +6 [+2 Animal Affinity +2 Dex +2 synergy from Handle Animals], Spot +9 [+5 ranks +4 Wis], Survival +17 [+11 ranks +4 Wis +2 nature sense] (+19 in above ground natural environments) [+2 conditional synergy from Knowledge (nature)], Swim +16 [+5 ranks +7 Str +4 racial].
    Languages Mwana cannot form intelligible words, but may understand languages normally.
    Gear all of Mwana’s gear melds with her and becomes nonfunctional while she is wild shaped.

Woodland Stride (Ex) Mwana may move through any sort of undergrowth at her normal speed and without taking damage or suffering any other impairment. Woodland stride does not overcome thorns, briars, and overgrown areas that have been magically manipulated to impede motion.

DESCRIPTION

Manifestation and Mien
Before we could comprehend her terrible visage, her flesh melted and became all teeth, and claws, and death.

The scales of this supple creature glisten darkly, bound beneath oily black dragonhide. Her yellow slitted eyes reflect primeval pools of venom, aflame with madness and bloodlust. She moves with the sensual grace of a predator and speaks with the whispering sibilance of a viper.

Motivation and Method
A plague fell upon us, of poison, madness, and paranoia.

She has answered the dreaming call of the spirit of the swamp, giving birth to antediluvian horrors. She plans to one day lead her beloved children out of the swamp, to cleanse the world of the stagnant filth of civilization and return it to its lush primordial state.

To realize this goal, Mwana starts many subtle plots but has little patience to see them through. When she grows bored, she allows them to run their own wicked course. If she becomes frustrated, she unleashes the Slithering in a frenzy of thunderous rage upon her foes.

Minions and Machinations
I begged for mercy as their scaly limbs pinned me down on the edge of the ooze-covered pool. Something stirred in the greasy depths -- something hungry.

Mwana leads a tribe of lizardfolk who fervently serve the spirit of the swamp. They protect the swamp and its numinous spawning pools with unwavering zeal. They strike out from their primitive village to gather the fresh warm blood of sacrifice and awaken their queen’s sleeping children.

The swamp’s unfathomable will has claimed some of her lizardfolk tribesmen, infusing them with primal spirits. These new lycanthropes are able to shift between lizardfolk and dinosaur or crocodilian form. Mwana has sent many into nearby settlements to infect their leaders, transforming them into agents of the Slithering, craving the collapse of their own civilization.

She has awakened countless ancient beasts -- dinosaurs and giant crocodiles – stirring them from their eons of rest beneath the swamp. She calls upon them when she tires of her more slippery schemes.

Mwana uses the common reptilian inhabitants of her domain -- snakes, crocodiles, turtles, and lizards -- as guardians, spies, and venomous assassins.

She has discovered the overgrown ruins of an alien temple within her swamp, beneath which something truly horrible slumbers. Her agents travel to the ends of the earth, seeking the lore necessary to awaken this leviathan.

Malevolent Metaphor
The dreams of the swamp
Ancient and forgotten by men
Except in their fevered nightmares.
The Slithering returns.

Mwana represents the dissolution of civilization and a return to wild. She symbolizes our prehistoric fear of the fangs of the serpent, the claws of the beast, and the battering winds of the coming storm.

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

Initial Impression: I wanted to like this. I did. And I knew if I didn't I would get busted and someone would say it was a blink dog carry over. But it isnt. I just think this isnt that special. It is a lizardman druid with a big big BIG heaping of some whipped cream dolloped on top in the form of some over-the-top writing (what, did you go to bed and wake up in Boomer's body?). The heavy ladels full of whipped cream cover up what is basically a pretty ordinary monster with a pretty ordinary theme. I'm going to sleep on this one. I don't want to seem unfair.

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

Word count: 496.

Qadira Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

Another leader of the lizardfolk!

The other is Andrew Black's medusa. Should be interesting to see how people compare the two. Since a voter complained last time I dared to compare two similar things, I'll resist the logical approach to judging this one and will not compare it to the competition.

Mechanically, this entry is pretty sound for CR 14, and I like the use of the metamagic rods. On the other hand, you have given Mwana a TON of gear. That makes an already complex caster more complex. Good thing the Tactics section is clean and helpful.

Flavor and plot-wise, the were-reptiles are ok. Mwana is a generic sort of pseudo-African name. The mechanics of running lycanthropy in particular are a huge pain in the neck. It eats up tons of space, requires too much DM attention to the various forms, and it's just one of those things about 3E that makes me long for 2E stat blocks.

None of which is your fault, but man, did it have to be lycanthropes?

The hints at dinosaurs and Slithering are all pretty coy; there's no meat there. You don't commit to those decisions. Hints aren't quite a super hook, and there's nothing really *wrong* with the entry. But it's a bit too familiar and vague about its premises. The "M" subtitles are a little too cute.

Ultimately, I don't want to spend a night running Mwana as an encounter, much less as a major villain. Maybe Erik can figure out what spark it's really missing to make it click.

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

Unlike WB, I won't be too shy to compare the two lizardfolk-themed entries. I thought Andrew's medusa was better.

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

Villain Concept (name, title, is it actually a villain?, design choices, playability?): B-
The Good: Has a hook and gets right in your face with conflict. "She hates your people, your gods, and your laws which have befouled her blessed home with corruption and decay." That is nice.
The Bad: Blah. Too cliché. I thought Andrew’s medusa was better in the same vein. I have said that the magic of a villain is not from the gonzo multi-classed template stat block mess. But that said, I don’t want to be bored either. Lizardfolk druid not as cool as medusa cleric.

Stat Block Execution (proper content, proper format, good math, generally mistake free?, not abusing word count?): B+
The Good: I love metamagic rods. I think those are killer items that are often overlooked. Like oil of bless weapon, I just don’t know how every PC doesn’t have a bunch of them. Workable minions. Tactics seem fine.

Description (quality of writing, hook?, theme?, organization, contains all mandatory content—physical description, motivation/goal, scheme/plot?): C-
The Good: Some evocative writing, but like Boomer at his worst it doesn’t have any depth or meat to it.
The Bad: I’m sticking with my original review: at its core a very ordinary monster NPC with pretty common and tired motives, dressed up with a heavy helping of over-the-top fluff writing. I think you used lots of words to not say very much. Spirit of the swamp, lead children, cleanse world to primordial state, etc. There is just no meat here. It’s “all sizzle, no steak,” as they say in Texas. Or is it “all hat, no cattle.” I can’t remember which. Plus the alliteration of the Ms is too much. I know, as an old school Judges Guild guy I can’t jam you up that much for “Motivation and Method” and “Malevolent Metaphor” but come on. Plus, unlike Andrew, you finished bad. That lame poem and the summary (which might have been nice earlier in the submission) that is basically a one line synopsis of the creature. Just fizzles out.

Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor and setting?): C
The Good: Well, a lizardfolk druid is kinda cool.
The Bad: Didn’t grab me. Just fluff heaped on a pretty boring creature.

Overall: C+
Generic creature with fluff poured all over it.

Erik, given the issue with the blink dogs, I was really hoping you would help me out and bring something in this round that was just indisputably good. But in reviewing your submissions I am finding a thread that disturbs me—good initial idea but just a bunch of fluff that isn’t that creative and that doesn’t stretch things at all. I thought the blink dogs suffered from the same problem. The cool choice was the dogs, then the rest was kinda just real simple, obvious fluff. Same thing here. Mad lizard guy wants to cleanse the world of civilization and return it to a primordial state. Not that original. Then the extra stuff you add on just doesn’t have much to it.

NOT RECOMMEND for Top 8

PS--I want you to know, I dont have it out for you or anything. I have been pulling for you. I liked the charts item. I thought blink dogs was a misstep and I wanted you to recover and deliver. If my reviews of your work seem to be agitated or frustrated, please dont take it personally. If I am frustrated, it is because I see so much talent in you and I dont really think you are showing us everything you have. BUT its the third round. I thought you got a pass last round and didnt bring it again this round. I'm not sure you get another one.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

I thought the bit of descriptive text at the top was handled well, and gave me an idea of what I was dealing with conceptually before being tossed straight into the stat block. I appreciate that.

"Buff spells" is jargon best left out of stat blocks and game writing in general. It would be like referring to attacks of opportunity as "Oppies" or something. Since the word "buff" is not in the rules, many readers are not going to immediately understand what you're talking about. Be aware of which terms are game rules and which are table talk, and try to keep the latter from seeping into your professional submissions.

I appreciate that you included her wildshape stat block. A lot of writers forget that when it comes to statting up druids, which often turns into a major editorial pain in the ass.

The double M construction of the headers in the last bit calls a bit too much attention to your cleverness and distracts, in my view, from the submission itself. I'm not even sure all of the headers are necessary, so the impression it leaves is that you're really impressed with your own cleverness. More impressed with it than I am, anyway.

You're a very talented writer, though I think you slip into self indulgence too easily (hey, me too, brother, so don't take it as a complete condemnation).

You've done many of the things I look for in these submissions. Underlings give Mwana staying power, she's clearly motivated to interact with the outside world (and thus the PCs), and overall she's a fairly interesting menace.

"Swamp-dwelling lizardfolk who wants to bring back the old days" is a surprisingly pedestrian concept for the madman who brought us the blink dog nation. I think it's perhaps too safe for my tastes. I could have used something a little less familiar and a little more awesome.

Still, you hit the major points well and I must commend you for a good submission.

RECOMMENDED FOR ADVANCEMENT TO THE TOP 8.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

Thanks to all the judges for the feedback, it is appreciated.

Clark Peterson wrote:

PS--I want you to know, I dont have it out for you or anything. I have been pulling for you. I liked the charts item. I thought blink dogs was a misstep and I wanted you to recover and deliver. If my reviews of your work seem to be agitated or frustrated, please dont take it personally. If I am frustrated, it is because I see so much talent in you and I dont really think you are showing us everything you have. BUT its the third round. I thought you got a pass last round and didnt bring it again this round. I'm not sure you get another one.

I was pulling for me, too, so that's at least one thing we have in common to make up for our obviously different tastes! I thought my Ghost Hound Kinships were great, and I'm going to go on the record as being 100% behind the Queen of the Slithering as well.

I dig Mwana and I hope the voters will agree!


amusingsn wrote:

and I'm going to go on the record as being 100% behind the Queen of the Slithering as well.

I'd rather be behind her than in front of her...


I like this one. And I must admit I liked the Blink Dogs too. I can quite easily see a whole story arc in a campaign trying to fight off this girls plots.

While I have only read 5 entries thus far, I think one of my votes will stay on Mwana.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Sigh...I really liked the Blink Dog Nation and while I was not thinking you would give us another 'gonzo' I was hoping for something with more Bang!

borderline liking. Reminded me of Lady Vashj from WoW.

I like druids a lot, but why lizardfolk? She could be of any race really without changing the flavor of the villain.

And she'd be isolated. I did not catch hints of incursions into her swamp draining it...or the reverse.


I think maybe a brush with 'gonzo' made you choose something a little more main stream here which is too bad. I didn't much like Blink Dog Nation but I certainly respect your 'cahones' for submitting it. In the end I suppose most people will choose between medusa and lizardfolk and for me the name "Mwana, Queen of Slithering" alone tipped things in that direction. Overall I thought the writing and everything else was incredibly solid here and wouldn't be surprised if you end up in the upper 50%.

Osirion

This is sort of my first full readthrough so we'll see where the votes go. I was really really happy she was a lizardfolk. I was reading the name and going. Hoo, I hope his badguy isn't a snake. Good for you.

Unlike everyone else I really kinda' wish you could have done the lizardfolk/werealligator thing. I get the impression that's where you were headed but the SRD thing held you back. I also really enjoy the motivation that she's ultimately looking to return her lands to their primal, pre-incursion state. I've always thought druids were creepy--more essentially bad guys than good guys. It's nice to see that.

Trouble with Mwana is I'm not sure even you really know what you want her to be. On one hand she's like this antideluvian beast-god of the jungle, ruling from her dark swamps on a throne made of vipers. On the other hand, she's this frustrated thrashing thing that can't get a plan together and stick with it. She's 11th level so either way might work. Either she's a hulk-smash Growler type beastie who is what she is because she's super tough and doesn't have to think, or she's a malevolent godlike being--a sortova' Lamashtu-esque leader of scalykind. It feels like you thrashed back and forth between the two.

And yeah, the high prose feels a little weird here too. I like it, but it seems out of place. She doesn't feel like all the huge descriptors really fit all that well.

And then there's the magic bling and fat loot. Aside from the fact that it's technically a necessary evil of canon to give high level guys more junk then they'd ever ever have in order to keep to the whole wealth per level thingie--it just doesn't feel like her way of doing things. Metamagic rods feels arcane, and civilized. Her stuff feels too much like it's for utility and not enough like it's for flavor. It'd be nice to have seen some stuff that was a load more savage and awful.

All together it creates this weird mishmash image of a primordial beast-goddess with a cult, but who can't get her ideas and plans together, but who isn't ragey enough to fight her own battles either, and who uses a bunch of civilized crutches and teleportation away from the heroes gimmicks to avoid a fair fight. It just leaves me going, so who is this Mwana?

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I think this one is a competent – even strong – entry, but it doesn’t quite zing for me. I must admit that I’m not that sold on villains who are essentially the head of an army – although this is a pretty cool army.

I like the evocative title – Queen of the Slithering, but it ended up jarring with me a little; in my mind, lizardfolk, dinosaurs and crocodiles do not slither … yeah, not quite sure about that.

The writing was in the high competent range to me. I quite liked the “MM” theme, but I think the Malevolent Metaphor probably just tipped it over too far – from clever to trying a bit too hard.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Sheyd

The first thing that pops to mind 'Let's put Mwana and Kalyani in the same setting!' The resultant fight would make for a great campaign setting in my mind.

Lizard folk Druid hating all aspects of civilization and wants it destroyed... Okay I can get behind that. Solid villain concept, she is definately going to make the players have to destroy her. The one thing that did sort of bounce through my mind though... 'If she hates civilization so much, where'd she get the rods from?' True she could have easily taken them as loot and plunder but for someone who hates so vehemently I would have imagined her to be more self-sufficient in her magic items. True this does not in any way detract from the character. I like her but it did pop to mind.

Alliterations cause me cringe and your 'MM' brought a wince. Yes it's a cool turn of phrase but I've seen so much of it over the years I just 'bleh' a little bit each time I see one. Only minor points off in my view but still.

Overall I do like the villain though she is a bit of an 'oft seen' theme. I'm on the fence with this one. I'll have to come back to it after I've seen the rest.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

My turn to have a post eaten *sigh*

To sum up. Multiple Metamagic rods was a majorly munchkin turn off.

While I'm majorly molified by the concept, it seems mysteriously mediocre in its development.

I'm afraid as much as I Mwana vote for her, I must move my limited votes elsewhere.

I saw the mighty majesty of the ghost plains, but this seems to be a moderate misfire.

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

may I commend matthew morris for his briliant brandishing of alliterative illustrations in the previous post. After all, he makes poigniant points.

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

Seriously: you had me at blink dogs, but this submission is a step down. You only had to be in the top 8 of this round: something a little riskier would have paid off again, and then you get to design your own monster, where your originality might have really paid off.

The lizard is mundane, you have to have a villain people will be talking about for weeks. No one is going to ask off for monday nights to oppose the lizard man druid who wants to destroy civilization. A real villain is insidious. I am not even that pleased with Mwana as an NPC.

I do like the name, and it looks like the statistical stuff is servicable. I just don't want to plan a campaign around this villain. I want to take the dark god and the leviathan elements and replace the rest. Like the medusa, the best elements of your villain are not the villain themselves.

Congratulations on making the round of 16. That is something to be proud of, and I hope you get to keep that tag (and bragging rights) until the next superstar begins.


I have to admit that I enjoyed Matthew's post more than the villain. I've decided I don't have time to read everyone's posts so and I didn't leave myself great notes last round so I'm just going to kind of post to myself. Ignore me.

Lizard (wo)man druid with swamp entity. Holy stat blocks Batman! My head's kind of spinning from all those magic items and the 500 spells she casts on herself before battle. Love that first sentence or two.


I don't know about the rest of you but I do like this one. Most of the time when any DM (at least the DMs that are around where i live) throws in lizardfolk they are the dumb minions or brutish random encounter tribesmen. So to see one with such zeal (maybe it just how he worded this villain)is refreshing. BUT I'm not done reading the other entries so who knows if this one will be in my top 5.
All i can imagine for the rods is some crude petrified vines, just because something can/is a civilized thing doesn't mean there can't be a SAVAGE version. I do agree she does tend to be stretched on both ends of the spectrum (a destructive force of nature and a calculating antediluvian jungle goddess) but it works. She can terrorize a group of PCs with her plans and after a couple of failures she goes primal and tries to destroy them. Oh, and the were-dinosaurs ...ugh! as a DM thats just a pain to deal with (so many stats, when they change forms) but I still see myself using it. Mmmm... as of now my vote is maybe.


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

Quick thoughts:
-1 for being more monster than villain

I guess this villain seems to me to be like the dozens of "never heard of ya" minibosses slaughtered in Dwellers of the Forbidden City, etc. "The swamp is filled with crazed lizard men who have a powerful Queen? Who knew?" The writeup's good but it's such a cliche I can't get behind it.


I'm afraid the writing here becomes too indulgent. Clever, indulgent writing isn't good writing most of the time. Sometimes skill can save it, but it didn't work for me here. I like the stat write-up, but I feel this is pretty hollow all-in-all for an RPG tool.

I'm not too fond of this one, sadly.


Grimcleaver wrote:
Metamagic rods feels arcane, and civilized. Her stuff feels too much like it's for utility and not enough like it's for flavor. It'd be nice to have seen some stuff that was a load more savage and awful.

That is my only sticking point with this submission. Keep it swampy, icky and slimy.

The layout is confusing, but that isn't what I'm looking at- heck, I don't have to edit you!

Sure, the overall motivations can be cliche', as some have said, but I think a well-executed cliche' is very useful- plenty of room for the creative use of NPCs, minions, red herrings, and there's a sense of simplicity and familiarity. That makes her easy to use in a game and build a story around.

I've read 6 so far and this has one of my votes...at this point.


I think you may have unfortunately fallen into the shadow of other contestants, and thus will be judged as 'like that other one' rather than on an even playing field.

That said, I'm not especially wowed by this entry in it's own right. Tribal/druid lizardwoman in a swamp with a bunch of reptilian followers; okay, but what's the twist? ...oh, there isn't one.

And the MM stuff is just seems utterly pointless, a distraction at best. If you had named her "Mwana, Matron of the Marsh" it would at least have something of a point though it would still have been a lame choice.


This entry (and it isn't the only one) suffers from a problem with following the rules format too literally. In other words:

Ugh...for the love of crap. Giant…stat…block…first = bad idea. Snore!

It makes it difficult to scroll through to the meat!

The little intro blurb had a nice ring to it though, and bonus points for working in, "antediluvian."


My big problem with this one was the "before the fight" tactics - how many rounds of buffing were involved? That's just a little too insane, I'm afraid.

Lizardfolk Druid is alright, I suppose. What I think happened was, after all the attacks of being too crazy with the blink dog idea, you went too far back on the pendulum this time around, and stuck in "safe" territory.

I'm ambivalent - I don't know if I like it or not. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing great, either.

I, for one, love the "M and M" titles, though. That was kind of cool.


The writing style was not for me.

I was somewhat lukewarm towards Ghost Hounds, I am even more towards this entry. Nice idea which doesn't really go anywhere.


amusingsn wrote:

She hates your people, your gods, and your laws which have befouled her blessed home with corruption and decay. Her scaly children dream of a return to ancient ways -- to hunt, to devour, to rule their world as they did long ago.

MWANA, QUEEN OF THE SLITHERING CR 14 [2 humanoid hit dice + 1 level adjustment + 11 druid levels]

Female Lizardfolk druid 11
CN Medium humanoid (reptilian)
Init +0 [+0 Dex]; Senses Listen +11, Spot +11

DEFENSE

AC 25, touch 10, flat-footed 25
(+6 armor [+5 from armor +1 enhancement], +0 Dex, + 9 natural [+5 racial +4 enhancement barkskin])
hp 114 (2d8+11d8+52)
Fort +15 [+7 class +4 Con +4 resistance], Ref +10 [+3 humanoid hd +3 class +4 resistance], Will +17 [+7 class +6 Wis +4 resistance]
Defensive Abilities freedom of movement (automatically succeed on grapple checks to resist being grappled and to escape grapples or pins); resist nature’s lure (+4 saving throws against spell-like abilities of fey), ring of counterspells (greater dispel magic); DR 10/adamantine (stoneskin absorbs up to 110 points before being discharged); Immune to poison, movement impairing magic, detect thoughts, discern lies, any magical attempts to discern alignment; Resist acid 10

OFFENSE

Spd 30 ft. [30 ft. modified for medium armor and longstrider], air walk, freedom of movement, tree stride.
Melee +1 longspear +12/+7 [+9/+4 bab +2 strength +1 enhancement] (1d8+4) [+2 strength x 1.5 for two-handed +1 enhancement] and
bite +12 [+9 bab +2 strength +1 enhancement, -0 for Improved Multiattack] (1d6+2) [1d6 for Improved Natural Attack (bite) +2 strength x 0.5 for secondary natural attack +1 enhancement] or
2 claws +12 [+9 bab +2 strength +1 enhancement] (1d4+3) [+2 strength +1 enhancement] and
bite +12 [+9 bab +2 strength +1 enhancement, -0 for Improved Multiattack] (1d6+2) [1d6 for Improved Natural Attack (bite)...

Good opener. I read this right after the Large Medusa entry. This writer has good prose skills. That counts a fair amount with me. This villain seems heavily item dependant, and I wonder if she has more gold than NPC standard. (Though I don't think that was mentioned in this contest's rules, so it may be irrelevant.)

There seems to be a lot of potential lurking within this concept - evil lizardfolk cultess in a swamp - and there's a tantalizing reference to "the Slithering" and the reptile lycanthropes. I feel like I wanted more. This has a huge Lost Worlds feel to it that could be good.

Osirion

I love the idea of using Awaken to tinker with things, so a Lizardfolk Druid who is using that spell to cause trouble is just my cuppa tea.

The flavor sentence at the top of the entry reminds me of the sorts of ancient simmering resentful villains that Conan usually ends up chopping in half while they rant about how their civilization was ancient when yours was still playing in the mud. Very cool.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

I appreciate all the feedback thus far, both positive and negative. The fact that you've taken time to comment is not lost on me, so thank you.

I have to admit that I mightily mystified by a few of the critical comments this round, as opposed to criticism of the Ghost Hound Kinship last round, which I largely understood. I hate to beg for more of the voters time here, but I really do want to take something from this contest and this round more than the previous two seems to hold more weight in the actual game design writing in which I am interested.

I understand the comments about the indulgent writing style and so forth, and I really do appreciate you all sharing your critical opinion of that (and feel free to chime in some more on that, I don't want to limit your comments). What would further help me is more feedback in how you think this character works or does not work, in terms of plot, theme, flavor and mechanics, as how you think a villain should work in a D&D campaign. Feel free to compare positively or negatively in relation to other submissions if you wish.

Don't take this as an attempt to restrict your comments, I want you to be comfortable in saying whatever you like, and all your feedback is appreciated. I'm just making a request on the sort of thing from which I would learn the most about what people need in terms of game design.

At the risk of being recurringly and repetitively redundant, I really do relish your remarks and reviews so far, I do realize you aren't required to write them (forgive me, I couldn't help myself). I still have more to take from this, so please keep them coming!


Erik,

That's a fair request. For me, some of the writing choices obscured the more important aspecst of the villain. The headers don't help when I'm trying to look for hooks, motivations, and backgrounds.

So, the entry makes me struggle to figure out how to use this villain. That's not a great organizational choice.

Beyond that, lizardfolk villains leading more lizards is very, very done. I'm not sure there's enough new here to justify my interest. And the entry makes it hard for me to find what might be new.

Might I use this villain? Maybe, but I'm not sure. The entry isn't communicating the usefulness or cool factor of this villain.


amusingsn wrote:

She hates your people, your gods, and your laws which have befouled her blessed home with corruption and decay. Her scaly children dream of a return to ancient ways -- to hunt, to devour, to rule their world as they did long ago.

MWANA, QUEEN OF THE SLITHERING

Wow! This hits it out of the park for me again Erik. This makes three for three that your entry has been one of my top two.

Some have said that the underlying concept here ("Lizard Queen bent on bringing down civilization in favour of swampy wilderness"), isn't a terribly original idea. I agree to a point but think it is excellently executed which is what makes it such a winner with me.

While I was reading through the submission I could immediately envision how she could be fit her into any of the campaigns I would run (I mean, every campaign world has large tracts of swamp land somewhere) and that's a real strength. I will also note that Onuyaka, who appears to be the strongest contender for one of top spots, is also based on an unoriginal concept: the "Behind-the-Scenes Spy Master" concept.

I think Mwana's goals are interesting and reach far enough that they would naturally produce both small and large scale conflict in the regions surrounding her domain. I can see many ways her various half-completed machinations can be used to catch the PCs attention as they meander off along in random self-propelled directions.

I also thought your formatting, especially the description, was one of the best. And unlike several others, I really dig the aliterative nature of your headings - it created an interesting cadence in my head as I read it that really appealed to me which enhanced the entry as a whole.

I really hope you progress to round four - you obviously think along lines I like to see in my campaigns and I am already salivating in anticipation of seeing three new monsters from you.

:-j(enni)


I thought your stat block was fantastic, by far it was the best laid out and easiest to read of all the entries -- not sure what your division of time was between stat block and description but if I had to guess I would say you spent too much time on the stat block and not enough time on the description.

To me this was a pretty basic encounter-type creature that was buffed up and made for an interesting foe but from the description and considering the CR nothing grabbed me and said yeah this would make for a great adventure villain.

I don't remember if you ever read Tomb of the Lizard King (I2) but at the time layering vampire with a lizardman was pretty "gonzo" for AD&D. Something that is very memorable to those that played the adventure. I am not saying that your entry couldn't be that but it's not something that is easily recongnizable from the description.

And as I said above I am really not sure I wouldn't put this in my top 8 (I think I would just for the great design work on your stat block) but we only get 4 votes.


To be fair, I2 , the S-series, and the recent Ecology of the Lizardfolk would have made even an awesome lizardfolk piece pretty hard to standout as original for me.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

Thank you for the additional feedback and especially for the support!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

Number 5. Lizardfolk, lead by this druid. I'm not sure about what to do with her. Was the Medusa better? I dunno, but I'm not really getting this entry.

Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Good name. Simple, easy to remember and fear. I wanted to like her, I realy did. I like lizardfolk. She's just too bland. Sorry. (And I know making her a half-dragon would have been to much of a cliche'!)

Andoran RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka JoelF847

Erik, I have to echo the "loved the charts and the blink dog nation, but wasn't impressed with your lizardfolk druid." crowd. I was looking forward to reading your entry to see what you came up with that would make me think "that's something cool and different which I'd never have thought of", and instead got a cliche.

That being said, it's a very well done cliche, with good tactics, but I feel that she's more a bad guy than a villain. I would have loved to see some hooks aside from the implied "lizardfolk are attacking cities, go kill them and their leader" and "you're exploring the swamp and run into some lizardfolk and their leader". What exactly is she doing to kill off civilization? What are her lizardfolk lycanthropes doing to further these plans?

Also, I think you're off on the CR. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong.) You buildt an ECL as if she was a PC with 2 for racial HD and +1 LA, but she's a foe, and uses CR rules. Lizardfolk have a base CR of 1 and if you add 11 druid levels you get 12, not the 14 you have by using HD plus LA. I'm not reading these entries with a fine tooth comb for the math, but CR is pretty important of a guide as to how to set up encounters that are the right challenge - it's hard enough with some wacky CRs out there for some monsters.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 aka adanedhel9

The "destroyer of civilization" concept, while perhaps a bit cliche, is a strong start here. I'm not quite sure that you followed through, though. The fact that she isn't patient enough to follow a plan to completion makes it hard to use as a real villian. She certainly could be a villian, but I think she'd come off more as a pest than a serious threat.

I love the use of lycanthrope; while I agree with the judges that they can be mechanically cumbersome, I really enjoy using were-critters - especially if they are unusual (were-dinosaurs! awesome!). Having them infect the nearby populace is brilliant, from a plot-hook perspective, but I'm not sure that it makes complete sense - does the personality of an afflicted lycanthrope change (excepting full-moon time)? If all she's doing is spreading chaos, fine, but I don't think she can expect servants out of the infected.

The mass of buff spells is a little odd. I can certainly appreciate that she's a powerful spellcaster and that she can use all these spells to prepare for battle, but it does seem like an awful lot. I'd prefer those split up a little, or maybe prioritized.

I'll echo the others on the presence of "civilized" equipment. I think you could've fixed that with a little bit of flavor text or by giving Mwana a Craft feat of her own.

I'm on the fence on this one, Erik. I like a lot of your ideas, but I think there's enough flaws to distract from the good.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

Joel and Joe, thank you for the insightful comments! I very much appreciate the time you took to elucidate some specific issues.

I will likely make a lengthy post at the end of then round explaining my design choices, in both fluff and crunch, so be sure to check in here at the end of the round. And keep the comments coming, they're very helpful.

In the meantime you should all vote for Mwana or she'll send lizards to poop in your cereal! (Those aren't crunch-berries!)


amusingsn wrote:
What would further help me is more feedback in how you think this character works or does not work, in terms of plot, theme, flavor and mechanics, as how you think a villain should work in a D&D campaign. Feel free to compare positively or negatively in relation to other submissions if you wish.

The prose is quite good. She's a potent opponent on a single level. As a villain, she's tied to an area and her mission and not easily to opposing the PCs - unless they decide to oppose her.

I think there's a low incidence of actual villains in D&D (at least the dictionary definition and my mental picture, which includes villains of the deepest dies, nemeses for the PCs, etc). The Big Bad Evil Guy (or Gal) is probably a better design goal for a contest like this. So in that, the system itself suggests goals that are in opposition to what you are doing here. BBEGs invariably die once the party encounters them, unless they have a dimension door or other equivalent to get out. Villains continue. (However PCs often dislike ongoing opponents that they can't remove and hence I often don't use villains.)

All that said, I can definitely use something like this in my games. (Except that I'm one of those "arrogant" types Monte Cook blogged about recently who writes all their own material.) You have good plot setups. There's an intriguing background - except that I want to know more - and you've got some cool stuff like were-reptiles.

My comment with respect to "theme" though is that primitive = reptilian is almost overdone in D&D. It's becoming a tad cliched. (Thanks to N1: Cult of the Reptile God and other adventures.)

That said, this was a good entry, and had I more than 4 votes I would have voted for you.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

It's very good to see this entry starting with a strong statement of the villain's nature and motivations, though it doesn't make as much sense on second reading.

CR is incorrect: humanoid hit dice do not count 1 for 1 towards CR and level adjustment is not relevant. She should be CR 12.

She seems to use a great deal of her powers and resources on several methods of escape if things go badly. Effective villains plan for success, not failure.

Good to see a full stat block for her typical wild shape. Tactics are good and clear. She had better have plenty of warning to cast so many buff spells.

The Manifestation and Mien section could be summed up quite easily as "Female lizardfolk". Not a clever use of the word count.

Motivation and Method is too vague to convey any single plot that she might try to enact. Again, mostly wasted text. The alliteration would be attractive if there was more real content behind it.

The only real meat in this description is in her retinue of reptilian lycanthropes and prehistoric creatures, which, given that none of them derive from her character abilities, I'm not prepared to count for much.

Malevolent Metaphor is pop-Jungian filler that, again, doesn't help me as a DM to plot out anything that she might actually do.

She's a reasonable druid NPC in an interesting adventure location (not particularly due to her own abilities), without anything that really stands out as a villain. Not voting for this.

Taldor

What's special to make the players say, "Wow, remember when we had to go to the swamp and fight Mwana? Yeah, she was so buffed with a zillion extended spells. Great rules usage there, DM."

Basically, that's what I see - using metamagic to extend buff spells hung on a concept that doesn't stand out - a xenophobic swamp dweller. Why are the PCs fighting her? One of her plots she abandoned (your words) ?

No vote here.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

Thanks to the Paizo staff for running the contest, thanks to the three judges for selecting the Charts of the Shadow Voyage as one of the top 32 items, and thanks to the voters for liking the Ghost Hound Kinships well enough to send me on to this round. I'm going to take a few moments to share with you all what I was trying to accomplish with Mwana and why, and also where I think things went wrong and why.

Design Goals

    1) Have a very good reason to oppose the heroes
    2) Be useable as an antagonist at any level, in any setting
    3) Be thematically consistent throughout
    4) Touch on a fantasy subgenre different than previous entries
    5) Evoke sense of villainous menace
    6) Be motivated and empowered to "recur" as a villain
    7) Sync to a stat block

Motivation was the first thing I addressed with my villain. It is one of my design philosophies that if you make an effort on having everything make sense, internally, that it becomes more intuitive to use as a tool for the DM. Normally, how I would do this would be to focus on the origin/backstory of the villain and lead that up to the main antagonist focus of the villain. In the last round, I noticed that the judges thought that wasting time with the history of the countries was a mistake, so I tried to "learn" from that and didn't bother with Mwana's origins. This was, I think, a big mistake on my part! At any rate, I decided that to make my villain represent the extreme savage side of chaotic neutral, and to exist in opposition to all that is lawful and civilized.

I wanted the villain to be useable at any level, so it was important that the villain be either strong but have some sort of fundamental weakness that prevented her from ruthlessly polishing off her enemies, or be weaker but have a built in reason for the PCs not to ruthlessly polish her off. Thankfully, being wild and chaotic, I thought that she might not be goal oriented enough to personally follow through with every plot she began, and thus I decided to focus on the "starts many plots, but doesn't have the patience to personally direct them all to their conclusion" angle that so many of you didn't like. This was important to accomplish my design goals, and I wouldn't change that even knowing how much it displeased several of you. This would have been a case of "you'll just have to trust me that its better this way."

To make her useful in any setting, I needed to figure out what setting she worked in the most obviously, and then reach out from there. For various reasons tied to number 4 (subgenre) and number 5 (dinosaurs) she had her base of operations placed in a swamp. Since most PCs don't really spend a lot of time in swamps, I needed to have her have the tools to strike out from the swamp, and the reason to do so. My motivation for her (hates civilization) seemed strong enough here, she just needed the tools to do something about it. I decided to go with minions, but her minions would have to be specifically wild to avoid breaking from the "represents chaos" theme. Wild animals would make good minions that fit the theme. So naturally, she ended up as a druid at this point.

I wanted an interesting twist however, on the whole "beastmaster" angle. Interestingly enough, some of my early experiences as a player in D&D involved a DM who loved to use dinosaurs as random encounters. That really annoyed the hell out of me. I didn't think that dinosaurs fit into a fantasy setting at all, and I used to ruthlessly mock him for running his game in the "land of the lost" instead of a fantasy setting. I decided to use this submission to answer the question "Where the hell are all these dinosaurs coming from?" So I ended up with Mwana, Queen of the Dinosaurs as my villain -- and it just naturally fit that she would be a lizardfolk druid.

Still focused on making her useable in any setting, I decided that most PCs spend a lot of time in civilized areas, where wild animals wouldn't be able to work all that freely. I thought it would be nifty if Mwana would use little lizards and snakes to spy on her civilized enemies, and maybe use poisonous snakes to assassinate key targets. I thought about how creepy that could be, with her agents slithering about and striking from the shadows. That wasn't enough however, I wanted to give her agents a more human face. I could have just stuck with lizardfolk, but I wanted more than that. I wanted her chaos-infused madness to be able to infect her enemies like the venom of her slithery servants or the poison-tainted waters of her home. Lycanthrope fit the bill so perfectly here, that again, that was something I wouldn't change no matter how annoying complicated and unwieldy the mechanics are (I might have reworked the mechanics of lycanthrope, however, in the next round. I think something similar to the aspects variant rules for druids could work).

I now had what I thought was a pretty solid villain. A lizardfolk druid who represented wild elemental chaos, and who had the means and motivation to work in any setting and with any level PCs. I looked back at this point and did a theme check. Striking from the unseen shadows, to undo order and return the world to its original primordial and chaotic state. It all fit together very well, in my mind, and was a very simple idea that I thought would be easy for everyone to get a handle on and to be used intuitively by the players.

Here's where I think things started to take a turn for the worse. Subgenre. I decided to focus on the fantasy-horror subgenre. Blood sacrifices to raise ancient sleeping dinosaurs from the depths of the swamp seemed suitably creepy. As a druid, she worships nature, but it made sense to me that she would worship a natural order that doesn't exist anymore. That "ancient spirit of the swamp" existed in the last place untouched by man, deep in the heart of the swamp, beneath its murky surface. She would be the high priestess of this insane natural force, as crazed and nihilistic as any lovecraftian cultist. I felt that the key to the "cool factor" of Mwana was to play up her angle in the role of high-priestess of a long extinct ecosystem. Obviously I failed somewhere here, either in design or execution (I'm leaning toward execution personally), as its clear she didn't stack up against man-eating horses and giant psionic genies when it came to cool.

Just as a note, previous genres "explored" have been dark swashbuckling fantasy (aka pirates of the carribean) and classic juvenile fantasy (aka C.S. Lewis' stuff).

To evoke a sense of villainous menace, I decided to work a lot of flavor into my submission. My themes and concepts were solidly basic and intuitive, in my opinion, giving me more words to work with to inspire the sense of menace in the reader. In hindsight, I should have instead focused on Mwana's backstory. I think the "clever writing" distracted from the submission rather than adding to it. And the alliteration? Well, that pretty much started coming together by itself and instead of breaking it up, I decided to run with it, which seemed to distract from the focus of the submission as well.

The last two goals of my submission came together at about the same time. I had already been keeping the "needs to recur" aspect of the villain from the very start -- it went hand in hand with "should be useable at any level". I think I nailed this, it just didn't seem to be as important to the voters as it was to me.

The stat block was put together after the first draft of the flavor text was written. I had been keeping it in mind throughout the process, but it turned out to be a lot more time-consuming than I expected. There have been some comments that all the pre-combat buffs and such were unrealistic, but my only response is that I've run hundreds of sessions of D&D 3.5, and in most of those, there have been druid PCs, and that is how the druid PCs operated mechanically. Lots of buff spells shared between the druid and their animal companion, and then a mixture of save-or-suck, direct damage, battlefield control, and melee power in combat. But honestly, if Mwana was expecting a fight, she'd cast all those spells before hand, just like PC druids do.

The choice to go with level adjustment instead of the straight CR advancement was purposeful. Druids are pretty damned overpowered as a class, and I wanted her to be as optimized as possible, gear and tactics wise, to give the players the sense that she was not just another monster when they met her. So I made her as an NPC instead of as an advanced lizardfolk. I think her CR probably lines up about right in the end. To defend her gear selections, I purposefully made her very intelligent (especially for a lizardfolk) because I didn't want her to be just a crazy beast, I wanted her to be cunning, purposeful, and adaptable. She's got equipment that she has probably stolen, bought, or discovered, to help her in the execution of her schemes (like the helm of comprehending languages). I found it rather strange that the metamagic rods were selected as being the most "unthematic" of her gear. I can only assume that the word phrase "metamagic rod" sounds kind of like a gizmo and not mystical enough, since no one commented on the wand of cure light wounds or her magic armor or weapon. The fact that she had several rods being seen as strange (or even innovative) also caught me by surprise as they seem like standard gear for this level and it would have struck me as extremely odd for a mid-to-high level caster to not have them. Sort of like having a fighter without a magic weapon, or any druid, cleric, paladin, or ranger not having a wand of cure light wounds or two.

To summarize, I don't think Mwana had the potential to be the top vote-winner due to her simple concept and theme, but I still think she was solid enough to go to the next round if she had been perfectly executed. I should have not wasted so many words on trying to inspire villainous menace and emphasize the themes, but instead used them to annoy the judges with ancient history and exposition. And the alliteration thing was a "major mistake", all things considered.

Between the last round and this one, I got the strong feeling that my game philosophy and experiences are significantly different than the judges (especially Clark!) and most of the voters. I've noted elsewhere that I really didn't think the Blink Dog Nation was that "crazy" of an idea -- in fact, several of the more popular villains submitted by my fellow contestants this round struck me as "kooky" to a level that is way way WAY beyond how I perceived the Kinships to be. I personally thought that having a fantasy villain whose main focus was on returning the word to the Age of Dinosaurs was a bit of a stretch and I was hoping that you all wouldn't think it was too crazy, but I was willing to take the risk! Turns out it was an uncomfortably safe and bland choice!

My tastes lean toward the simple and elegant, and now I have an understanding of why there's not a whole lot of simple and elegant out there in the RPGs -- there's a fine line between that and boring and bland. I think a real superstar will be able to walk that line better than I did. Don't give in to the urge to design upward in complexity. The best ideas are the well-executed simple ones.

Good luck to all the Superstars next round!

Osirion

Erik Anderson wrote:
I've noted elsewhere that I really didn't think the Blink Dog Nation was that "crazy" of an idea -- in fact, several of the more popular villains submitted by my fellow contestants this round struck me as "kooky" to a level that is way way WAY beyond how I perceived the Kinships to be.

Eh, I didn't go for the Blink Dog thing purely because I don't like them. If you'd gone with a civilization of Phase Spiders or a forest kingdom full of Awakened Trees and Animals run by a Druid council, I would probably have been sucked in.

Quote:
I personally thought that having a fantasy villain whose main focus was on returning the word to the Age of Dinosaurs was a bit of a stretch and I was hoping that you all wouldn't think it was too crazy, but I was willing to take the risk!

Perhaps I didn't read it closely enough, but I don't feel that the whole 'age of dinosaurs' angle got played up enough. The were-alligator thing might have distracted me 'though.

Now I'm getting a Mokole feel to it...

Quote:
The best ideas are the well-executed simple ones.

And this is why I voted for Mwana. I can use a lizardfolk druid who lives in the swamps and sends dinosaurs at people. No matter how visually freaking cool a miniature a half-demon advanced-in-size djinni rogue pyrokineticist would make, it's just a little too much to fit into one of my games. As you said, a lizardfolk swamp-dwelling Druid fits into almost any campaign world or setting.


Thanks for taking the time for your significant response.

Erik Anderson wrote:
I personally thought that having a fantasy villain whose main focus was on returning the word to the Age of Dinosaurs was a bit of a stretch and I was hoping that you all wouldn't think it was too crazy, but I was willing to take the risk! Turns out it was an uncomfortably safe and bland choice!

I don't think it was necessarily an uncomfortably safe and bland choice. I think the bigger flaw was that this didn't really come out in your submission.

When I read your reply to the comments, this sentence really jumped out at me, and I thought "Really, that's a great idea, and makes an awesome villain." I thought maybe I had missed it on my original read through, so went back and re read it, and even looking for it, I could hardly find it.

Maybe it's just me, but although I can see hints of these motivation in your submission, they are nowhere near strong enough to jump out at me. You hint at it in a couple of places,

Erik Anderson wrote:
She hates your people, your gods, and your laws which have befouled her blessed home with corruption and decay. Her scaly children dream of a return to ancient ways -- to hunt, to devour, to rule their world as they did long ago.

AND

Erik Anderson wrote:
She has answered the dreaming call of the spirit of the swamp, giving birth to antediluvian horrors. She plans to one day lead her beloved children out of the swamp, to cleanse the world of the stagnant filth of civilization and return it to its lush primordial state.

But you never come right out and say it bluntly. It may be just me, but I don't do subtle well, and so prefer to be hit over the head with it (just ask my wife).

Just thinking about it now, I think it is an issue with most of the submissions. They are too subtle, and not explicit enough. Hoping to rely on hints and suggestions to carry the idea.

If you had of been more explicit about Mwana wanting to return the entire world to the age of the Dinosaurs, you probably would have got my vote.


Erik:
I would like to add that like the previous poster, Mevers, your entry never struck me as having a particularly dominant 'bring back the age of dinosaurs' theme. As far as I recall, reading through it the first time, the fact that she was a lizardfolk druid registered, the fact that she had were-crocodile minions (which reminded me of a Ravenloft adventure, from the 'Children of the Night: Werebeasts' selection, and may have led to my overlooking the 'were-dinosaurs' bit as well) and that she was out to wake up something called 'the leviathan' which I assumed to be some sort of large aquatic monster (possibly from too much CCG experience on my part).

There was nothing that jumped up at me and said 'this girl wants to destroy civilisation and cover the land in dinosaurs'. You may have drawn further scorn from the judges, if you had made this clearer, but you may have got more votes, as well. I was neither a fan nor voted for your round 2 entry, but you might have come into contention for my third vote in round 3, (which ended up going to Kotalya), had you made it clear that you were going for a dinosaur driven theme. (More emphasis on the 'awakened' dinosaur allies, perhaps? Especially pteradacytyls to spy on people/places, which could inadvertantly act as hooks to draw PCs into her schemes: Why have these flying dinosaurs been seen over civilised lands recently? Follow them back to where-ever they're coming on, find out what's going on, and put a stop to it if it needs stopping.)

I am sorry if your having been too subtle on the dinosaur theme that you stated was your intention to convey led to my not giving your entry for this round consideration that it might otherwise have received. I entirely agree with your analysis that the selection of a horror subgenre may not have helped your cause. (Especially not given the limited word count in this round for 'fluff'.)

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

I will add "too subtle" to my list of excuses as to why I didn't get the votes necessary to move on.

I'll also explain why I chose to not hammer people over the head with the "age of dinosaurs" thing.

The idea of dinosaurs running around in a fantasy setting has always struck me as out of place. I thought that if I wrote about dinosaurs too plainly, it would take away from the horror-fantasy feel I was trying to elicit. So I described them in the "fluffy bits" as antediluvian horrors and ancient beasts being awakened from the depths of the swamp instead. I wanted to give dinosaurs a context in the horror-fantasy I was creating.

Obviously, I should have found a middle ground that would have driven the point more clearly.

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