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Durgal Maldar "the martyr eater"


Round 3 - Top 16: Design a villain

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RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, Contributor

A young man pushes himself through the crowded marketplace. Ignoring the cheerful appeals of merchants, brushing past children clutching their mother’s skirts, he finally reaches the most congested part of the bazaar. There, his fingers trembling ever so slightly, he pulls a leather book out of his tattered clothing. With one final scornful look at his surroundings he kisses the holy sigil on the cover and opens it.
The explosion threshes through the crowd. A rain of blood, shattered limbs and less identifiable chunks of what were once people falls upon those fortunate enough to have stood just a few extra paces further away. As smoke pours from the freshly made crater stunned survivors shriek the names of the missing and realize they shall never feel safe again.
Elsewhere, the malign intelligence that sparked this atrocity smiles and waits for the feast...

Durgal Maldar, “the martyr eater” CR 14 (CR 1 (Ghoul) + 3 (Clr) + 4 (Sor) +6 (Mystic Theurge) )

Male Ghoul Cleric 3/Sorcerer 4/Mystic Theurge 6
CE Medium undead
Init +5; (+5 Dex modifier) Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +6 (2 skill ranks +4 Wis modifier), Spot +9 (5 skill ranks +4 Wis modifier)

DEFENSE

AC 29 (10 + 4 mage armor +2 ring of protection +2 +5 Dex modifier +4 natural armor (+2 ghoul +2 amulet of natural armor +2 +4 shield spell) touch 17, flat-footed 24
(+4 armor, +2 deflection, +5 Dex, +4 natural, +4 shield)
ranged attacks 20% miss chance (entropic shield)
hp 103 (122 with empowered false life) (15d12+0); (6.5 x 14 +12 at 1st level)
Fort +6 (+0 ghoul + 3 clr + 1 sor + 2 mystic theurge), Ref +9 (+0 ghoul + 1 clr + 1 sor + 2 mystic theurge + 5 Dex modifier), Will +19; (+3 ghoul + 3 clr + 4 sor + 5 mystic theurge + 4 Wis modifier)
Defensive Abilities +2 turn resistance, DR 10/adamantine (stoneskin 100 hp); Immune Undead Immunities; spell immunity (lightning bolt, searing light), absorbs 108 hp worth of fire damage (protection from fire (9x12)

ring of counterspells (disintegrate)

OFFENSE

Spd 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee bite +9 (+8 BAB + 1 Str) (1d6+1 plus paralysis) and
2 claws +11 (+8 BAB +5 Dex (Weapon Finese) -2 (Multiattack) ) (1d3 plus paralysis) Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks rebuke undead (3rd clr) 10/day (3 +7 Cha modifier) (+2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (religion) ),

Spells Known (CL 10th):
5th (4/day minus 1 extended and empowered false life) (3 from sor levels + 1 bonus spell due to Cha modifier) baleful polymorph (DC 22) (10 +5 spell level + 7 Cha modifier )
4th (6/day minus 1 stoneskin already cast)) (5 from sor levels + 1 bonus spell due to Cha) charm monster (DC 22) (10 + 4 spell level + 7 Cha modifier +1 Spell Focus (enchantment) ), stoneskin
3rd (8/day minus 1 extended cat’s grace already cast) (6 from sor levels + 2 bonus spells due to Cha) explosive runes (DC 20) (10 + 3 spell level + 7 Cha modifier), slow (DC 20) (10 + 3 spell level + 7 Cha modifier), suggestion (DC 21) (10 + 3 spell level + 7 Cha modifier +1 Spell Focus (enchantment) )
2nd (8/day minus 2 extended mage armor and extended shield already cast) (6 from sor levels + 2 bonus spells due to Cha) cat’s grace, false life, scorching ray (ranged touch +13 (+8 BAB + 5 Dex modifier) ), web (DC 20) (10 + 2 spell level + 7 Cha modifier )
1st (8/day) (6 from sor levels + 2 bonus spells due to Cha) charm person (DC 19) (10 +1 spell level + 7 Cha modifier +1 Spell Focus (enchantment) ), disguise self, mage armor, magic missile, shield
0 (6/day) (6 from sor levels) acid splash (ranged touch +13 (+8 BAB + 5 Dex modifier), daze (DC 18) (10 + 0 spell level + 7 +1 Spell Focus (enchantment) ), detect magic, ghost sounds, mage hand, message, prestidigitation, ray of frost (ranged touch +13) (+8 BAB +5 Dex), resistance

Spells Prepared (CL 9th):
5th break enchantment (D), plane shift (DC 19) (10 + 5 spell level +4 Wis modifier) (1+1 from clr levels)
4th freedom of movement (D) (already cast), inflict critical wounds (DC 18) (10 + 4 spell level +4 Wis modifier) imbue with spell ability, Spell immunity (lightning bolt, searing light) (already cast) (2+1 from clr levels +1 bonus due to Wis)
3rd dispel magic, inflict serious wounds (DC 17) (10 + 3 spell level + 4 Wis modifier), meld into stone, protection from energy (D) (already cast), speak with dead (3+1 from clr levels +1 bonus due to Wis)
2nd death knell (DC 16) (10 + 2 spell level + 4 Wis modifier), enthrall (DC 17) (10 + 2 spell level +4 Wis modifier +1 Spell Focus (enchantment) ), hold person (DC 17) (10 + 2 spell level + 4 Wis modifier + 1 Spell Focus (enchantment) , invisibility (D), silence (DC 16) (10 +2 spell level + 4 Wis modifier), undetectable alignment (already cast) (4+1 from clr levels +1 bonus due to Wis)
1st bane (DC 16) (10 + 1 spell level +4 Wis modifier +1 Spell Focus (enchantment) ), comprehend languages, cure light wounds x2, entropic shield (D), sanctuary (DC 15) (10 + 1 spell level +4 Wis modifier) (4+1 from clr levels +1 bonus due to Wis)
cure minor wounds x2, guidance x3, mending (6 from clr levels)

D domain spell; Domains Luck, Trickery.

TACTICS

Before Combat Durgal habitually casts undetectable alignment, an extended mage armor, and an extended and empowered false life at the start of each day. When trouble approaches he uses the time bought by his followers to cast stoneskin, spell immunity (lightning bolt, searing light), protection from energy (fire), freedom of movement, an extended cat’s grace, an extended shield and entropic shield in that order.
During Combat All things being equal Durgal prefers to eliminate elves and clerics first, but he never lets this bias put him at risk from other opponents. Durgal typically begins with a spell that hampers multiple opponents, choosing between web and slow depending upon which he deems more likely to affect the most foes. He tries to stay out of melee combat for the first few rounds, using his slippers of spider climbing to good effect, and targeting spellcasters and archers with baleful polymorph or charm monster respectively before following up with magic missile and scorching ray. Once he deems his opponents sufficiently softened up Durgal moves into melee, unleashing his web if has yet to use it since his freedom of movement spell allows him to strike at his leisure. With his multiple attacks, and the risk of paralysis with each one, Durgal enjoys going toe to toe with an enemy, so long as he manages to make it a solo duel. When necessary he uses enchantments like suggestion and hold person to keep his target’s allies from joining in. Durgal never uses his good fortune granted power to reroll an attack, he always holds it for a crucial saving throw or skill check (particularly Concentration).
Morale Durgal has no compunction about fleeing when things turn against him. If he goes two consecutive rounds without harming an opponent, or ever falls to less than half his hit points, he draws upon the spells he holds in reserve to help him retreat and adjust his strategy including sanctuary, invisibility, and meld into stone. When he reaches a safe place he heals himself with inflict critical wounds and inflict serious wounds. If unable to avoid his opponents, or he deems them too formidable even after healing himself, he flees to the Negative Energy Plane via plane shift and plots his revenge.

Base Statistics Dex 21 becomes 17 without extended cat’s grace, Cha 24 becomes Cha 20 without cloak of charisma +4)

STATISTICS

Str 12, (10 +2 ghoul racial bonus) Dex 21, (13 +4 ghoul +4 extended cat’s grace) Con -, (8 eliminated due by undead type) Int 14, (12 +2 ghoul) Wis 18, (14 + 4 ghoul) Cha 24 (15 +2 ghoul +1 4HD +1 8HD +1 12 HD +4 cloak of charisma +4)
Base Atk +8; (+1 ghoul + 2 clr + 2 sor + 3 Mystic Theurge) Grp +9 (+8 BAB + 1 Str)
Feats Ability Focus (paralysis), Empower Spell, Extend Spell, Multiattack, Spell Focus (enchantment), Weapon Finesse (claws) (15 HD=5 feats, Multiattack 1, Ability Focus (paralysis) 3, Weapon Finesse (claws) 6, Empower Spell 9, Spell Focus (transmutation) 12, Extend Spell 15)
Skills Bluff + 14 (7 skill ranks (+3 clr +4 sor) + 7 Cha modifier), Concentration +13 (13 skill ranks (+3 clr +4 sor +6 Mystic theurge), Diplomacy +24 (13 skill ranks (+3 ghoul +3 clr +1 sor +6 Mystic theurge) + 7 Cha modifier +2 synergy with Bluff +2 synergy with Sense Motive), Disguise +17 (+19 to stay in character) (+7 Cha modifier +10 hat of disguise) (+2 synergy bonus from Bluff to act in character), Hide +10 (5 skill ranks (+5 ghoul) +5 Dex modifier), Intimidate +9 (+7 Cha modifier +2 synergy bonus from Bluff), Knowledge (arcana) +8 (6 skill ranks (+6 sor) +2 Int modifier), Knowledge (religion) + 8 (6 skill ranks (+3 ghoul +3 clr) + 2 Int modifier), Listen +6 (2 skill ranks (+2 ghoul) +4 Wis modifier), Sense Motive +10 (6 skill ranks (+6 mystic theurge) +4 Wis modifier), Slight of Hand +7 (+5 Dex modifier +2 Synergy bonus from Bluff), Spellcraft +4 (+2 Int modifier + 2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (arcana) ), Spot +9 (5 skill ranks (+5 ghoul) +4 Wis modifier)

Spoiler:

(15 HD, 1st (ghoul 4 +2 (Int modifier) x 4) Diplomacy 2 ranks (4 points cross-classed), Hide 4 ranks, Knowledge (religion) 2 ranks (4 points cross-classed), Listen 2 ranks (4 points cross-classed), Spot 4 ranks) 2nd (ghoul 4+2 (Int modifier) Diplomacy 1 rank (2 points cross-classed), Hide 1 rank, Knowledge (religion) 1 rank (2 points cross-classed) , Spot 1 rank +5 total) 3rd (1st clr 2 +2 (Int modifier) Bluff 1 rank (Trickery Domain makes class skill), Concentration 1 rank, Diplomacy 1 rank, Knowledge (religion) 1 rank), 4th (1st sor 2 +2 (Int modifier) Bluff 1 rank, Concentration 1 rank, Knowledge (arcana) 2 ranks) 5th (2nd clr 2 + 2 (Int modifier) Bluff 1 rank, Concentration 1 rank, Diplomacy 1 rank, Knowledge (religion) 1 rank) 6th (2nd sor 2 +2 (Int modifier) Bluff 1 rank, Concentration 1 rank, Knowledge (arcana) 2 ranks) 7th (3rd clr Bluff 1 rank, Concentration 1 rank, Diplomacy 1 rank, Knowledge (arcana) 1 rank) 8th (3rd sor 2 +2 (Int Modifier) Bluff 1 rank, Concentration 1 rank, Diplomacy 0.5 ranks (2 points cross-classed), Knowledge (arcana) 1 rank) 9th (4th sor 2 +2 (Int modifier) Bluff 1 rank, Concentration 1 rank, Diplomacy 0.5 ranks (2 points cross-classed), Knowledge (arcana) 1 rank) 10th (1st Mystic Theurge 2 +2 (Int modifier) Concentration 1 rank, Diplomacy 1 rank (2 points cross-classed), Sense Motive 1 rank) 11th (2nd Mystic Theurge 2 +2 (Int modifier) Concentration 1 rank, Diplomacy 1 rank (2 points cross-classed), Sense Motive 1 rank) 12th (3rd Mystic Theurge 2 +2 (Int modifier) Concentration 1 rank, Diplomacy 1 rank (2 points cross-classed), Sense Motive 1 rank) 13th (4th Mystic Theurge 2 +2 (Int modifier) Concentration 1 rank, Diplomacy 1 rank (2 points cross-classed), Sense Motive 1 rank) 14th (5th Mystic Theurge 2 +2 (Int modifier) Concentration 1 rank, Diplomacy 1 rank (2 points cross-classed), Sense Motive 1 rank) 15th (6th Mystic Theurge 2 +2 (Int modifier) Concentration 1 rank, Diplomacy 1 rank (2 points cross-classed), Sense Motive 1 rank) )

Languages Celestial, Common; (14 Int=2 languages)
SQ Darkvision 60 ft., undead traits, +2 turn resistance
Other Gear amulet of natural armor +2 cloak of Charisma +4 hat of disguise, ring of +2 protection, ring of counterspells (disintegrate), slippers of spider climbing, 6 holy texts each bearing an empowered explosive runes spell, 1000 gp worth of diamond dust (material component for stoneskin) , tuning rod (focus for plane shift, simple robes.

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Ghoul Fever (Su) Disease-bite, Fortitude DC 18, (10 +1 ghoul +7 Charisma modifier) incubation period 1 day, damage 1d3 Con and 1d3 Dex. The save DC is Charisma based)

Paralysis (Ex) Those hit by Durgal’s bite or claw attack must succeed in a DC 20 Fortitude save (10 + 1 ghoul + 7 Cha modifier +2 Ability Focus) or be paralyzed for 1d4+1 rounds. Elves have immunity to this paralysis. The save DC is Charisma based.

Good Fortune (Ex) (Luck domain granted power) Once each day reroll a roll just made before calculating its success or failure.

Only one meal excites the jaded appetite of Durgal Maldar, the torn flesh of zealots willing to martyr themselves for causes he claims to champion. Carrying holy scripture soiled by explosive runes spells (empowered to make them just that much more lethal) his dupes blow themselves up in the middle of crowds, believing his lies that their murder of innocents shall somehow deliver them unto paradise. Afterwards, when the screaming ends and the grieving begins, Durgal dispatches followers to scoop up the remains so that he might feast.
Emaciated, sporting feral teeth that put a shark to shame Durgal rarely has the luxury of showing his true face to the world. He typically uses his hat of disguise to make himself fit his audience’s preconceived notion of how a holy man should appear. Whether donning the guise of a tiny bald man in saffron robes who radiates serenity or a wild-eyed hermit scoured by desert wind preaching Armageddon’s fury Durgal adapts his look and demeanor to match the stereotype. He makes a single concession to the realities of his true self, heavy cologne that masks the carrion smell wafting from his undead body.
Durgal exploits the angry souls who live in the shadows of every society. Preaching sermons calculated to arouse their resentment he uses enthrall to drive the message home and waits for those affected most deeply to approach him. Then, drawing upon his personal magnetism he slowly, over the course of many private prayer sessions (and Diplomacy checks), transforms them from malcontents into suicidal murderers. He uses imbue with spell ability as the final hook, giving his victims their first taste of divine magic.
Though he cares not a whit for the causes he espouses, sometimes, to his amusement, Durgal touches upon a vein of true discontent and sparks a revolution. PCs using their investigation skills to ferret out the driving force behind a campaign of suicide bombings could easily find themselves suddenly plunged into the first clash of a civil war. If so, exposing Durgal as a monster might prove the only way to keep the peace.

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

Initial Impression: Ugh, the stat block. I said to use brackets for a reason. I'm not sure why he chose to ignore that instruction. The stat block is a choppy mess. And that spoiler section--I don't want or need a level by level breakdown, I just want to see the math per skill. Though I guess I can't bust on him too much for that since it is totally extra. I like the concept of a ghoul villain, but the suicide bomber thing is a bit too "ripped from the headlines." Maybe others won't feel the same way I do about this, but it turns me off. That said, there is conflict here. This is a villain.

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

Word count: 492.

Qadira Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

Ugh the stat block for another reason: there's lots of niggling little errors. Why does he have 15 HD rather than 14? Why is the web spell DC 20 instead of 19? Maybe I'm missing something, but ... some of the numbers seem off. Plus the "Combat Gear" label seems to be missing. It leaves an impression of sloppiness.

Worse, the tactics section seems off. Is this seriously a CR 14 monster that debates between web and slow spells as its big attacks? 11th-level characters are going to shrug that stuff off. This villain needs better firepower or smarter tactics. Baleful polymorph is in there, but I suspect since it is after "the first few rounds", he'll never get to use it.

The comma splice right after the stat block doesn't help elevate the level of writerly craft on display here. In fact, it stopped me dead and made me thank my high school English teacher. It's a rookie mistake, and you're not a rookie.

The flavor sections aren't hugely better. "the explosion threshes" is an odd word choice, but ok. The whole suicide bomber motif just seems in poor taste. I don't play fantasy games to be confronted with the tragic and moronic deeds of real-world zealots. While I think a religious zealot does make a good villain, this one just seems too close to home. And suicide bombing cannibals are just kind of a downer.

Bleah, this villain just leaves a bad taste for me. Sorry, Hal, I'd never run this guy.

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

Villain Concept (name, title, is it actually a villain?, design choices, playability?): C+
The Good: Creepy, I’ll give you that. The PCs, if they ever learn of him, will want to whack him.
The Bad: Its hard to read this entry for me without thinking about real world events. That’s not what I want from fantasy gaming. Maybe others won’t hold that against you, but I do. Plus, while a ghoul mystic theurge is a cool idea, is this really what a ghoul mystic theurge would be doing? Going toe to toe? It just isn’t working for me. Despite these negatives, as I see them, a ghoul mystic theurge sure is cool.

Stat Block Execution (proper content, proper format, good math, generally mistake free?, not abusing word count?): D
The Good: Hmm. Not much.
The Bad: This is a disaster. There are math issues. The tactics are whack. Disregard of the bracket requirement led to a messy stat block. Ugh. This is perhaps the worst stat block in this round. The point of the round wasn’t so much really even the stat block. We wanted to see if you could work with one. In my view, I don’t even mind some mistakes. They happen, even in official products with good editors. But they shouldn’t be a mess—and this one is. At least you don’t abuse the word count and try to jam content in here.

Description (quality of writing, hook?, theme?, organization, contains all mandatory content—physical description, motivation/goal, scheme/plot?): B+
The Good: The writing is good. The hook up front is well done.
The Bad: The “ripped from the headlines” suicide bomber issue I mentioned above.

Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor and setting?): C+
The Good: Ghoul mystic theurge. It had such a promising start...
The Bad: You know already.

Overall: C+
Cool initial idea descends into an all-too-real-world downer and some weird tactics for the creature.

Hal, sorry buddy. This one didn’t rise to the Superstar level for me. Reviewing your entries, I am now seeing an overarching problematic theme that I didn’t see before that is clearly continuing to haunt your submission, in my view: an inability to divorce yourself from the modern world. I thought the Nausea Pill had a naming issue, but really it was an inability to see past a modern item—pharmaceuticals. Your country’s “Under New Management” tag had the same “too modern” plus all the heavy focus on taxation issues. The same issue of the intrusive modern world obviously was a big problem for me with this submission as well. I don’t know. Maybe others won’t feel the same way. But if you do advance, despite my recommendation that you not advance, I want to encourage you to find the escapism and magic of fantasy roleplaying. Looking over your entries, I don’t think your entries have captured that.

Taxes, prescription meds and suicide bombers are just not what epic fantasy roleplaying is about in my view.

NOT RECOMMEND for Top 8

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Well, no one can accuse this entry of not being topical. Opening with a suicide bomber vignette certainly got my attention, though I'm sure it is bound to rile up some readers.

I really liked your tactics section, and I think we're heading into a part of the competition where your practical and professional experience writing for the game are really going to start paying off for you. I kept getting a vision of how a battle with Durgal might play out based on things you included in the tactics section, particularly the double-boffo combination of web and freedom of movement. That followed by the suggestion that Durgal likes to fight one-on-one had my mind working on the creepiness of such an encounter, and that's probably the first time so far in this round that the tactics have genuinely excited me. So good on you for that. Wolf and Clark are dead on about some of the stat block errors, though. I don't mind a few of them here or there--we'll catch that stuff in editing, generally, but some of these mistakes surprise me from an author with your experience. Be aware that your past professional credits mean that the judges and the voters are going to hold you to a higher standard, and mechanically I'm not sure you make the grade here.

Once we get to the creative "meat" of the submission, I've got to once again say that I think the suicide bomber element is going to piss off some people, and it's borderline crass given the current world political situation. That said, everything in the world is fodder for fantasy games, and some people will no doubt really appreciate it. On its face I think it's sort of a lazy choice, but you've immediately erased all of my problems with it by introducing the idea of the ghoul dispatching minions to collect the lumps of flesh for delicious, scrumptious eating. That's absolutely perverted, and I love it.

I think I would have appreciated a bit more in the way of adventure hooks here. The one you do suggest (PCs investigate suicide bombings) is kind of obvious. How about if a friend or relative falls under Durgal's dark tutelage? How about something else? The more hooks you provide, the more likely it is that the reader is going to see something he likes.

I agree with Clark that you should have used brackets in the stat block. With the parenthesis approach, I can almost guarantee that an editor is going to let at least one of those "show your math" bits into the final document. It'd probably be noticed on the galley pass, but when an author's choice actually makes a submission more difficult to edit, that's almost always a bad choice.

The core concept here is pretty strong, even if it is a bit too easy and "ripped from the headlines". I don't think it's as deep as it could be, but I think this guy is an interesting villain who meets the criteria of the contest. I am very interested to see what the general public thinks of a suicide bomber villain, though. That may end up costing you, or it may not.

For me, it probably doesn't, because I'm enthralled by the idea of Durgal's servants scooping up body chunks for his later enjoyment. I wish I had more to hang my like of this submission on than that (ok, the intro text is pretty evocative), but I don't.

So I'm going to tentatively say: RECOMMENDED FOR TOP 8. But I have a sneaking suspicion I'm going to be in the minority, and that I'm giving you too much credit for cannibalism.


Well I don't think that you're going to get too many arguements that this guy is a villain, but I don't know if people are going to be able to see past the theme and want to vote for this. The (intentional?) irony of this being a 'ghoul' may get this through.


I like the villain but the theme of his villainy is to narrow. If he were instead to intentionally causes strife and war so as to fill the graveyards. All just to evsure his meal card is full then that would be a different question. As is, the suicide bombings are only there to cook martyr's flesh. Why the explosions then? Why the carnage? Wouldn't the villain be happier causing people to die in less obvious ways? Say in a poison kool-aid kind of way? It needs more.

Preferring martyr flesh, that I can believe. But a ghoul with jaded pallet and specific culinary tastes? You have gone beyond me.

The stat block leaves much to be desired. But I definitely like the idea. Just not this specific execution of it.


I like it. Real Villains do Real things.


I'm still up in the air on this one.

Personally, I'm mainly glossing over the stat block on all the entries, that's a little bit of fine detail that isn't going to overly influence my voting decision in this round. I am deciding based upon who creates the most compeling villians. I want to read an entry and immediately think "I want to run this guy against my PC's!!"

Which is why I'm undecided about this one. I like fairly gritty campaigns, where evil villians do truly evil stuff, including astuff that would get you DQd from this comp for including! So I'm not put off by the gruesomeness of the suicide bombing or collecting the bits for food. However - as Calrk says it is very topical, and I suspect if I encountered suicide bombers in a fantasy game it would probably wrench me out of my 'suspension of disbelief' mode, having such a modern and topical subject shoved into my face.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hmmm, mixed feelings on this one. I like a ‘good’ ghoul villain, and I like the idea of a ghoul who likes to eat dead holy-men (while at the same time causing destruction, harm to innocents, and ruining the reputation of said holy-men … I think this is the “point” of the suicide bombings).

I like gritty, really evil villains who do horrible and evil things … but, I’m not sure that such things are always appropriate for published games, and I have major doubts on topical, emotional, evil and modern real life things like suicide bombings being introduced to my game. I think this is just a little bit too real and topical at the moment. I am severely saddened and depressed when I hear about the latest suicide bombing happening somewhere in the world every couple of days, and I don’t really want to be reading about it in my games too. It’s a good concept, but doesn’t work well for me at this time and place.

I’m not looking closely enough at the stat blocks to see if there are errors, but yeah, this one just looks pretty messy to me.


This got one of my votes--unequivocally. Yes, it's disturbing. Yes, it relies too heavily on topical context. But those are elements that make it as effectively disturbing as it is. Sure, murder and cultists and mad schemes and what can be plenty disturbing, but they don't quite hit home the way this does. A goblin gnawing off the face of a commoner will make most gamers cringe, but encountering this villain will give nightmares.

I will add this caveat: this works in small doses; I, too, am a little put off by what seems to be a trend to not distance the real world from pure fantasy in your entries. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't vote for you next round if this continues. Sometimes a little bit goes a long way....


Eating the dead you convince to commit suicide in a horrific way, cool.

Suicide bombings, uncool.
Uncool, mostly because it seems anachronistic, and likely political.

That said, I think you could have had me had you delved deeper into the Faith of the ghoul. I see you picked out two domains (luck and trickery), but chose to avoid assigning a deity, or more to the point, any reason to bring in motivation based on ethos or faith.

Had the Ghoul been written up with a background pointing to a desire to cause strife, fear, chaos, panic, etc, _then_ there would be more of a motivation for this cat to convince people to blow themselves up into steamy chunks, other than "hopelessness and fear taste GOOD!"

I really like the cover of being a religious figure, it's a shame that wasn't explored more to give a, in my opinion, stronger long-term goal or motivation.
If he seeks to eat people after they kill themselves in some act of futility or revenge, why limit his prey to those who are trying to kill themselves in a crowd? Why not incite jilted lovers, or those who have despaired of some lost goal?

I feel like this concept has a lot going for it, particularly if it were expanded, and dropped the focus on suicide bombings.

Farrell

PS - BIG PROPS to you for not cranking out something cliche' like a vampire! :-)
(and apologies in advance if it turns out another contestant has featured a vampire for their entry!) ;^)

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Sheyd

This entry suffers from Stat-block-overload. I wasn't sure where it ended and the description began. It's a blur of stats and numbers forcing me to dig through it to find what I'd need to run him. This is a negative for me.

The suicide-bomber run in the opening was jarring but we're talking about a villain that feeds off human flesh, he is meant to be jarring. I do however agree this is good in small doses. Too much of this will turn off players.

There is no doubt this guy is a villain and one the players WILL have to deal with. He is good in that he wouldn't be difficult to slip into any existing campaign which is a plus.

While I do give a thumbs up for this villain I'm not certain yet if I'll vote for him. Again I'll come back to this one after I've read some more entries.

Andoran

Great use/twist on the mystic theurge.

They just keep getting better and better. Screw this, I wanna vote for all of them.

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

I like this. Yes such things are current and topical. But the idea of people useing religion for their own gain is timeless.

And I'm sorry I laughed at the idea of some poor dupe saying. "And so the one true god sayth, 'I prepared explosive runes this morning' Wha-"*Boom*

Contributor

Wolfgang Baur wrote:
Ugh the stat block for another reason: there's lots of niggling little errors. Why does he have 15 HD rather than 14?

Ghoul = 2 hit dice; 3 levels of cleric, 4 levels of sorcerer, 6 levels of MyTH. 2+3+4+6=15


As already said, the stat block needs work, but I LOVE the basic idea. Who would suspect that that crazy hermit running around town is really a ghoul using a hat of disguise? And I love the whole "suicide bombing" thing. All in all, I think it's good idea, even if it needs a little work.

This is going on my top 4.

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

Well, how to add to the judges' comments?

First, the unreadable stat blocks, required because you have to show your math, have been hurting my eyes each entry. I keep waiting for someone to have the foresight to put the entry in the left column, and the math in the right, so we can check it if we want to, but read the entry copletely first. Hope someone stumbles on that. Maybe even just footnoting and explaining math in a hidden spoiler. But in any even, yours is the most unreadable. Props to WB for persevering enough to find errors (although CR1 ghouls have 2 hd for a total of 15). I just didn't care to try.

Second, Durgal is one-dimensional and not a compelling villain, except maybe for a sidetrek adventure. I currently play a ghoul PC, and he has his fingers in every pie imaginable. Ghouls are smart, sadistic and supercapable. They have some of the best stat bumps in the game for playable rces and templates. Smaller than vampires, for example, but not a +8 LA. Ghouls can do anything. Yours blows up a marketplace and eats the cultist.

In addressing that limited scope of activity, I do have to come out against the protests of your cafe-bombing theme. Good stories are good stories, and if you have some real-world allegory to model your horror story, well, that's for an individual buyer to decide and I would think you might intrigue as many people ('this guy has balls' or 'this is the kind of villain i need for the party's occupation of Moronia') Also, terrorism isn't a new phenomenon, and finally, your villain isn't really a terrorist. He isn't (that we know of, since his religion isn't defined. Are you trying to hint at Doresain without violating the SRD? You can do better.) fighting for anything, or creating a climate of fear as a profit center. He is eating supper and watching the smoke rise. In a lot of ways, he is less al queda, and more the Joker.

If you're going to use a ghoul, I think you have to reach really far. Either you have a ghoul villain architect of some grand scheme, or you have a ghoul encounter with a cannibal who appreciates collateral damage. Yours is clearly the latter.

Congratulations on making the round of 16.


Mothman wrote:
I like gritty, really evil villains who do horrible and evil things … but, I’m not sure that such things are always appropriate for published games, and I have major doubts on topical, emotional, evil and modern real life things like suicide bombings being introduced to my game. I think this is just a little bit too real and topical at the moment.

Ditto. There are enough fantastical things to do in gaming without bringing in a borderline tasteless element.

Find another way to have the ghoul eat the flesh of the holy-men he's off'ed.


I like the villain and I like the idea. I think if the martyrs in question weren't blown up in crowds like in real life, it would have had more legs to stand on. What other ways are people martyred? Stoned to death, shot with arrows, beheaded, etc. I think if you had removed the religious angle and made him a rabble-rouser and instigator of riots and rebellions (like you've alluded to briefly) he would be stronger. Think Reign of Terror France rather than the present day Middle East and it would be stronger.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I've just read through about ten of these villains and I'm pretty much seeing gameplay potential in them all. WTG, top sixteen!

The way I see it, suicide bombings are provocative and relevent. Something which many of us have strong feelings about. Provocative = good for the game. Even if there is an anachronistic element, it's nowhere near over the line for me.

The statblocks were a bit hard for me to get through, but I like the idea that PCs could be swept up in investigating a civil war started by one of these bombings, and then, after grilling zealot after zealot up the chain of command, or making lateral leaps from cell to cell, they rise to the top of the ladder and discover a ghoul observing no actual dogma save pure sadistic hedonism. Civil war = a cruel meal that got out of control.

It's like in Die Hard when John McLane discovers Hans Gruber is just a thief posing as a terrorist in order to throw off the scent.


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

Quick Thoughts:
+1 for a good premise
-1 for being too current/political - should have used the same premise but made it not "you know, suicide bomber".

This is a fine line to tread. It's OK to take inspiration from another source, but you really have to change it up to maintain suspension of disbelief. If I used this villain with my gaming group I'd eventually go all suicide bomber because of how many times I'd have to wait to proceed while all the players gibbered on about "Durka Jihad!"

Like the Theocracy of Carnamach in round two - to me, it seems like it was inspired by Princess Mononoke, but it's changed up enough that I'm not 100% sure about that.

This same concept could have gotten 100% better if it was just somehow different. The "martyr" releases a Cloudkill! It's from a scroll so he has to prey specifically on those with Sorceror or Wizard trianing/potential. The bloated green corpses - some are stolen and eaten and others are turned into ghoul spawn. Not too different but different enough to not turn the mind to current events rather than the campaign.

Osirion

I think I'm going to step out from cover here. I roleplay largely in order to explore real world issues and that takes a certain amount of guts. This author's got guts, and it works for me. I don't think there's anything here that's being disrespectful making merriment of awful real world things. I think there's an element of social commentary here, but it's real, gritty stuff that's not glorifying the subject.

I like the idea of a smart, seductive, charletan in a fantasy setting--who shops for martyrs and then preys upon them. I agree that a villain like this could use other tools in his toolbox, but I think there's hints in there that suggest other types of martyrdom for his victims. I like the idea that this villain is a ghoul, for the sake of symbolism as well as making a ghoul that doesn't just feel like a zombie--but is it's own creature. I like that. I agree that the dramatic angle of his tactics is creepy and evocative, something I hardly ever get from stat blocks. Honestly the stat block disorganization isn't a big problem for me, so I'm not going to knock that. At least there was something in there that made me want to read it.

So yeah, this one gets a Grimcleaver vote.


Boy howdy is that statblock a mess!

While the suicide bomber angle is a daring one, I think it also feels like a last minute desperation choice. Folks will definitely be divided on this one, but the 4/16 ratio of votes may well work out in your favor to squeak in.

I'm putting this in the maybe pile... and not at the top of it, either.


Alright. I too hated the suicide bomber part. I was reading it, getting more and more interested, and then... suicide bombers. That's not something I would put in my game, just like I'd never put a rapist, hard-core racism, or anything like that in my game. It's too "real" for me, and I don't like that.

You did a lot well, though -

1) You made this guy more than "and he fights like a demon from round 1 to 5". This is something that works very well as a "behind the scenes" villain idea, which is cool.
2) You went sorcerer instead of wizard, which is great for all of us DMs who haven't memorized all the spells in the PHB.
3) You gave him a GREAT name. "The Martyr Eater"? BRILLIANT.
4) This is the enemy that could be the centre of an entire campaign, which is something a lot of these villains lack. In fact, I think I could easily fit this guy into my Eberron game, and might do just that.

So, yeah, I like this one so far, except for that topical bit. I think Clark's right about the "modern" thing, though. Whether or not you decide to embrace that next round is up to you.


Bloody brilliant! Gritty and violent is the way I run my games. Durgal Maldar fits perfectly into my world. But that stat block does seem to be a mess... Good luck


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This really skirts the edges of "gimmick".

Me, personally? I love the idea. My first read-through of the entry immediately struck me as fresh, original, and captivating.

If I were a player and a DM threw this villain at me, I'd 1) call him or her a rat bastard--which is a compliment! and 2) want to hunt this vile cesspool of depravity down and slay it (him?).

I can see a less...liberal? open-minded?...bunch crying foul and accusing the entry of being a gimmick and/or over(t)ly political.

This is a tough one, so I'll stew on it a bit more before I commit to a vote.

Even if I don't vote for this, I'm absolutely going to *yoink* the idea, which should be seen as a compliment.

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

Hal finally gave us a good name!

I am going to read the other entries and then I'll come back to this one. But I like that this guy is evil, real evil and I would like to destroy this guy for existing at all.

The fact that you can invoke emotion makes this a true villain.

Osirion

Ernest Mueller wrote:

Quick Thoughts:

This same concept could have gotten 100% better if it was just somehow different. The "martyr" releases a Cloudkill! It's from a scroll so he has to prey specifically on those with Sorceror or Wizard trianing/potential. The bloated green corpses - some are stolen and eaten and others are turned into ghoul spawn. Not too different but different enough to not turn the mind to current events rather than the campaign.

This would fix the basic issue about the suicide bombings. I also agree with those who said that Durgal's focus was too limited. In order to remain well fed, he needs to have this happen often, more often than believable. And by believable, I mean "more often than local rulers will put up with it". Most games are medieval/Renn. in time period and rulers at that time would be quite willing to beat down any cult that lead to regular bombings in public places. It's a threat to their power and their pocketbook. That cannot be allowed. And if he travels, word would still spread as rulers tend to have correspondance with each other, if only to deal with taxes and tariffs. Something like this would get them to sit up and put a stop to it, pronto.


Great idea and I really like the "eating martyrs" idea (name and concept).

I am pretty much in line with the majority with the suicide bombing idea. I actually sat back in my chair and tried to think of a good reason to like it and I could not. That made me sad. I want to vote for this but right now it is in my wait and see pile (I have more to read).

I like the combinations of classes/feats/magic that can make this villain versatile enough to challenge the parties I DM for.

Still thinking....
Goo


I just noticed something, Hal. He's an evil cleric, so therefore wouldn't he be able to spontaneously cast inflict spells? That would give him a few extra spells to work with.

Cheliax

Well, I really like the idea. Sure, the suicide bombing theme is very gritty and some players might find this distasteful, but I like the fact that Hal created a very memorable villain; one that stands out.
Players will really hate this guy and a well-designed villain should evoke* feelings like these.

Sure, the stat block is messy, but Hal knows his math.
I also would've avoided the spoiler part where its progression is explained level by level, but I understand the notion that led to this. The rules on how to "show the Math" weren't that clear, so he decided to travel on the safe side. I wouldn't blame him for that.

I also would've liked to see a little bit more on background and motivation for this villain. What kind of guy was he when he was still alive and what turned him into a ghoul? Does his past have anything to do with his sick behavior?
These are aspects I'd like to know and these are really lacking in the discription.
But this is my only complaint in an overall imaginative submission.

What impresses me is the wide range of ideas Hal comes up with.
This entry is entirely different from his entries in previous rounds and it shows that he is highly imaginative and not limited to certain themes. In my opinion this is something absolutely necessary for an ongoing superstar.
Well done, Hal, you've got my vote!

* I know that this is not the proper term, but my mind refuses to tell me the right one. I hope it is still understandable what I'm trying to say... :)


Hal Maclean wrote:
Elsewhere, the malign intelligence that sparked this atrocity smiles and waits for the feast... [/i]

Interesting use of a prestige class. Points for making it a ghoul and not a more popular undead. (Lotta undead this round.) The introduction was too long. It could have been tighter and shorter. Ultimately, the last line above failed to use the villain's name. I think it would have been harder hitting. Instead, "malign intelligence" almost depersonalizes the villain instead of getting in his head more. The later writing seems better.

This is a sick, twisted villain bent on destruction. I'll definitely give you that. He's profane, he's interesting. I'm halfway through, and this is one of the best I've seen so far despite some of the writing which needs polish.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, Contributor

holylink718 wrote:
I just noticed something, Hal. He's an evil cleric, so therefore wouldn't he be able to spontaneously cast inflict spells? That would give him a few extra spells to work with.

I don't know if I can answer that one and stay within the rules of the contest :)

But there is a reason why I always give an undead cleric a few inflicts rather than rely upon spontaneous casting.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, Contributor

Wolfgang Baur wrote:

Plus the "Combat Gear" label seems to be missing. It leaves an impression of sloppiness.

Worse, the tactics section seems off. Is this seriously a CR 14 monster that debates between web and slow spells as its big attacks? 11th-level characters are going to shrug that stuff off. This villain needs better firepower or smarter tactics. Baleful polymorph is in there, but I suspect since it is after "the first few rounds", he'll never get to use it.

I didn't think he had anything I'd consider combat gear. Lots and lots and lots of spells, but nothing designed to hurt the PCs. I guess you could maybe make a case for the books with explosive runes on them...

If anyone would care to run this guy as a combat scenario I'd love to hear the results. The tactics struck me as a logical outgrowth of his temperament and abilities and the modeling I did seemed to back that up. But Wolf has a good eye for that sort of thing so maybe I completely fumbled it.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, Contributor

Darkjoy wrote:

Hal finally gave us a good name!

Thanks :) I really wanted to come up with one folks didn't hate.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, Contributor

varianor wrote:
Hal Maclean wrote:
Elsewhere, the malign intelligence that sparked this atrocity smiles and waits for the feast... [/i]

Interesting use of a prestige class. Points for making it a ghoul and not a more popular undead. (Lotta undead this round.) The introduction was too long. It could have been tighter and shorter. Ultimately, the last line above failed to use the villain's name. I think it would have been harder hitting. Instead, "malign intelligence" almost depersonalizes the villain instead of getting in his head more. The later writing seems better.

This is a sick, twisted villain bent on destruction. I'll definitely give you that. He's profane, he's interesting. I'm halfway through, and this is one of the best I've seen so far despite some of the writing which needs polish.

Thanks for that. :)

The only problem with using his name in the final sentence of the intro is that I'd then repeat it in the following line when I begin the stat block. I'm just old fashioned about doing stuff like that two sentences in a row.

(especially when using it to end one sentence and then begin the next)


I wasn't sold on this one, but why not weigh-in on one of the more entertaining debates this round.

I like the concept of the ghoul and how he plays games with his food. I think the weakness here lies in how you describe the bombings. A more abstract and fantasy inspired descrition could have saved you from invoking such a modern image. It's a writing style issue again. There's almost a journalistic or technical aspect to your writing that seems to willfully avoid dipping into creative narrative. Here, you could have used that creative element to distance the concept from real world imagery while still invoking the concept.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, Contributor

propeliea wrote:

I wasn't sold on this one, but why not weigh in one of the entertaining concept debates this round.

I like the concept of the ghoul and how he plays games with his food. I think the weakness here lies in how you describe the bombings. A more abstract and fantasy inspired descrition could have saved you from invoking such a modern image. It's a writing style issue again. There's almost a journalistic or technical aspect to your writing that seems to willfully avoid dipping into creative narrative. Here, you could have used that creative element to distance the concept from real world imagery while still invoking the concept.

That's a really interesting point which I must admit hadn't occurred to me.

Do you think I could have used that approach to retain the grotesqueness (is that a word? :) ) of the scene while at the same time making it a little more palatable?

It seemed an either/or problem to me, but maybe chosing a different style could have solved it. I'm going to keep that in mind if I ever need to try something like this again. Thanks.

Taldor

Won't somebody think of the PRO/CONs!?

PRO:

OMG TERRAR! Awesome. Win. Big points here.

Martyrdom because it tastes good? EVIL!

CON:

Old Man of the Mountain?
Villain.

Dude that wanders around and inspires people on the fly to blow themselves up? Bad Guy.

Explosive Runes? Ruined forever by Order of the Stick.

Ghouls? I like 'em in Call of Cthulhu. I don't care for 'em in D&D.

Mystic Theurge? Hello! I'm a munchkin!

Nnng. I dunno. For once, the pro/con list didn't sum up my feelings enough to vote one way or the other. I'll have to come back to this one.


--
Only one meal excites the jaded appetite of Durgal Maldar, the torn flesh of zealots willing to martyr themselves for causes he claims to champion. Carrying holy scripture soiled by explosive runes spells (empowered to make them just that much more lethal) his dupes blow themselves up in the middle of crowds, believing his lies that their murder of innocents shall somehow deliver them unto paradise. Afterwards, when the screaming ends and the grieving begins, Durgal dispatches followers to scoop up the remains so that he might feast.
--

Okay, partially it's word choice. I'm going to rate some of these from 1 to 10 on where I would have used another word.

martyr (4)

scripture (8)

lethal (5)

dupes (6)

innocents (7)

deiver unto paradise (9)

By switching these with less loaded terms, you could keep the scene, but maybe give some more cushion. One thing that might have worked is focusing more on the details of the scene and less on the motivations.

Or, if you focus on motivation, focus more on why the ghoul does it and less on the nature of his deception.


I think you would have avoid the "it's too current" comments by changing the damage to anything but fire. Explosive runes ice (cold) substitution, cloud kill, or even glyph of warding with lightning bolt attached(in bath house maybe?).

See following replacement:

A young man pushes himself through the crowded marketplace. Ignoring the cheerful appeals of merchants, brushing past children clutching their mother’s skirts, he finally reaches the most congested part of the bazaar. There, his fingers trembling ever so slightly, he pulls a leather book out of his tattered clothing. With one final scornful look at his surroundings he kisses the holy sigil on the cover and opens it.
The blast expands through the crowd. A blast of cold air chills those fortunate enough to have stood just a few extra paces further away. As frost rises from the frozen bodies, stunned survivors shriek the names of their friends and loved ones and stare into the glazed eyes of the ice statues that stand in the middle of the market.
Elsewhere, the malign intelligence that sparked this atrocity smiles and waits for the feast...

I feel that doesn't envoke the same response. But I could be crazy. Though that has never been proven.

Osirion

ArchLich wrote:

I think you would have avoid the "it's too current" comments by changing the damage to anything but fire. Explosive runes ice (cold) substitution, cloud kill, or even glyph of warding with lightning bolt attached(in bath house maybe?).

See following replacement:

A young man pushes himself through the crowded marketplace. Ignoring the cheerful appeals of merchants, brushing past children clutching their mother’s skirts, he finally reaches the most congested part of the bazaar. There, his fingers trembling ever so slightly, he pulls a leather book out of his tattered clothing. With one final scornful look at his surroundings he kisses the holy sigil on the cover and opens it.
The blast expands through the crowd. A blast of cold air chills those fortunate enough to have stood just a few extra paces further away. As frost rises from the frozen bodies, stunned survivors shriek the names of their friends and loved ones and stare into the glazed eyes of the ice statues that stand in the middle of the market.
Elsewhere, the malign intelligence that sparked this atrocity smiles and waits for the feast...

I feel that doesn't envoke the same response. But I could be crazy. Though that has never been proven.

Mmmmmmmm....martyrcicles.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Yeah, if you haven't tasted the roasted flesh of a duped martyr, you just haven't eaten.

If I were running Durgal I'd have him place a hefty satchel of spices around their necks sometime before they self-detonated, that way the dill and tarragon could bake into every charred casualty within the blast zone. He could tell them it was "A gift of fine cooking spice for your glorious afterlife."

I know that's a bit demented, but what am I supposed to do? PG-13 an undead cannibal villain?


The Jade wrote:

Yeah, if you haven't tasted the roasted flesh of a duped martyr, you just haven't eaten.

If I were running Durgal I'd have him place a hefty satchel of spices around their necks sometime before they self-detonated, that way the dill and tarragon could bake into every charred casualty within the blast zone. He could tell them it was "A gift of fine cooking spice for your glorious afterlife."

I know that's a bit demented, but what am I supposed to do? PG-13 an undead cannibal villain?

He he. Actually that works. Have them ingest "sacred herbs", bath in fragrant "sacramental" waters and oils and have them carry a "holy totem" which happened to contain/be made of spices.

Evil and delicious. Ahem, I mean deliciously evil.

Osirion

I don't want a pickle
I just wanna gnaw on my martyr-cicle


So far I have been trying to limit my comments to those that would make into my top 8 if we got to vote for that many but there are some clearly great ideas with this that I think could have been presented better.

First of all your opening is far too strong...the idea of fantastical suicide bombers creating a ghoul smorgasbord is a good one but there is no reason to beat the reader over the head with it right up front. I think you could have easily eased this into the description and would have created a much better gotcha vibe there.

As it is you are putting all your cards up front and once someone gets a bad first impression its hard to get that back.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
ArchLich wrote:
The Jade wrote:

Yeah, if you haven't tasted the roasted flesh of a duped martyr, you just haven't eaten.

If I were running Durgal I'd have him place a hefty satchel of spices around their necks sometime before they self-detonated, that way the dill and tarragon could bake into every charred casualty within the blast zone. He could tell them it was "A gift of fine cooking spice for your glorious afterlife."

I know that's a bit demented, but what am I supposed to do? PG-13 an undead cannibal villain?

He he. Actually that works. Have them ingest "sacred herbs", bath in fragrant "sacramental" waters and oils and have them carry a "holy totem" which happened to contain/be made of spices.

Evil and delicious. Ahem, I mean deliciously evil.

I really like the bath and totem ideas. The dimwitted lamb is a actually a walking BBQ spice rack about to bring savory flavorings to the masses.

Ungoded wrote:

I don't want a pickle

I just wanna gnaw on my martyr-cicle

You are now the offical jingle writer for all cannibal villains.

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