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Avinash, Master of the Catspaw Marauders


Round 3 - Top 16: Design a villain

1 to 50 of 111 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | next > last >>
Osirion RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

The scent of death,
The sound of screams,
The paw, the claw, the fang, the growl!
Your pounding heart
Like music seems
When black cat banner’s on the prowl!

- Catspaw Marauder battle chant

Garbed in black astride a powerful charger, baleful eyes glowing but face beshadowed under a thieves’ cowl, Avinash leads the notorious Catspaw Marauders. His garb and ensign—a fanged cat’s head, black on crimson, paws raised to strike—and his many returns from defeat have earned the sobriquet of ‘the black cat.’ Unbeknownst to all, this dark rider is one of many who have worn the cowl and borrowed the name of Avinash from his true master: a lean, muscular, coal-black stallion with piercing golden eyes and wickedly barbed and serrated brazen hooves, a nightmare devious and cruel, magically disguised as a simple warhorse, wholly unremarkable beneath his infamous rider.

AVINASH, Master of the Catspaw Marauders CR 15 [5 base for nightmare, +3 for half-fiend template (11+ HD), +7 for 7 associated PC class levels, no adjustment required for elite array when combined with associated PC class levels]

Male nightmare rogue 2/blackguard 5
Chaotic Evil Large outsider (evil, extraplanar)
Init +3 [+3 Dex]; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +13, Spot +18 [see skills section for math]
Aura despair (-2 to enemy saves, 10 ft., no save)

DEFENSE

AC 36, touch 16, flat-footed 33
(+6 armor, +4 deflection, +3 Dex, +14 natural, -1 size)
Fort +22 [+4 blackguard levels, +5 Cha, +5 Con, +4 outsider HD, +4 resistance], Ref +20 [+1 blackguard levels, +5 Cha, +3 Dex, +4 outsider HD, +4 resistance, +3 rogue levels], Will +17 [+1 blackguard levels, +5 Cha, +4 outsider HD, +4 resistance, +3 Wis]
Defensive Abilities aura of despair, dark blessing, evasion, smoke, unholy aura; DR 10/magic; Immune direct mental control, poison, possession; SR 23 [base 10, +13 total HD] (25 vs. good spells or spells used by good casters)

OFFENSE

Spd 40 ft. (8 squares), fly 90 ft. (good)
Melee 2 hooves +19 [+12 base attack, +8 Str, -1 size] (1d8+8 [+8 Str] + 1d4 fire) or 2 claws +19 [+12 base attack, +8 Str, -1 size] (1d6+8 [+8 Str; claws provided by half-fiend template] +1d4 fire) and bite +14 [+12 base attack, +8 Str, -1 size, -5 secondary natural weapon] (1d8+4 [+8 Str, halved for secondary natural weapon])
Ranged -
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks command undead, flaming hooves, smite good, smoke, sneak attack +2d6
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 13th):
3/dayÑdarkness, empowered poison (DC 19 [+4 level, +5 Cha]), unholy aura (DC 23 [+8 level, +5 Cha])
1/dayÑblasphemy (DC 22 [+7 level, +5 Cha]), contagion (DC 18 [+3 level, +5 Cha]), desecrate, unhallow, unholy blight (DC 19 [+4 level, +5 Cha])
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 5th):
At willÑdetect good
Spells Prepared (CL 5th): While Avinash has the spellcasting ability of a 5th level blackguard, he is unable to cast spells with verbal or somatic components because he lacks the ability to speak or make complex hand gestures. Hence, he does not prepare spells.

TACTICS

Before Combat Avinash will use see invisibility (from his hand of glory) on himself and unholy aura on himself and any nearby allies (including his rider). He will then use empowered poison and ‘hold the charge’ in preparation for his first melee attack. If able to choose the site of a battle, Avinash will unhallow or desecrate the area.
During Combat Avinash uses blasphemy and unholy blight against groups of enemies (especially if good-aligned). In melee, he moves tactically to set up flanking sneak attacks and Cleave opportunities. Avinash will use etherealness on himself and elite allies to bypass barriers and guards and engage enemy leaders directly.
Morale If his rider is killed or incapacitated, Avinash will try to keep the rider in the saddle, or failing that to recover the body, and will flee ethereally, saving higher-level followers if feasible.
Base Statistics When not using unholy aura, Avinash’s defensive characteristics are as follows:
AC 32, touch 12, flat-footed 29
(+6 armor, +3 Dex, +14 natural, -1 size)
hp 129 (6d8+2d6+5d10+65)
Fort +18 [+4 blackguard levels, +5 Cha, +5 Con, +4 outsider HD], Ref +16 [+1 blackguard levels, +5 Cha, +3 Dex, +4 outsider HD, +3 rogue levels], Will +13 [+1 blackguard levels, +5 Cha, +4 outsider HD, +3 Wis]
Defensive Abilities aura of despair, dark blessing, evasion, smoke; DR 10/magic; Immune poison; Resist acid 10, cold 10, electricity 10, fire 10; SR 23 [base 10, +13 total HD]

STATISTICS

Str 26 [base 14, +8 racial (nightmare), +4 template (half-fiend)], Dex 16 [base 8, +4 racial (nightmare), +4 template (half-fiend)], Con 20 [base 12, +6 racial (nightmare), +2 template (half-fiend)], Int 16 [base 10, +2 racial (nightmare), +4 template (half-fiend)], Wis 16 [base 13, +1 level-based ability increase (12th level) , +2 racial (nightmare)], Cha 20 [base 15, +1 level-based ability increase (8th level), +2 racial (nightmare), +2 template (half-fiend)] [note: base ability scores are elite array, as stipulated in the SRD when advancing a monster by adding PC classes]
Base Atk +12 [+6 outsider HD (6), +5 blackguard levels (5), +1 rogue levels (2)]; Grp +24 [+12 BAB, +8 Str, +4 size]
Feats Cleave, Empower Spell-like Ability (poison), Improved Sunder, Leadership (cohort: Barzel Yuguan (aka “Avinash”), 10th level half-orc ranger; followers: the Catspaw Marauders (low-level orc, human, and half-orc warriors)), Power Attack
Skills Balance +2 [+3 Dex, -1 armor], Bluff +15 [+10 ranks, +5 Cha], Concentration +20 [+16 ranks, +4 Con], Diplomacy +18 [+9 ranks, +5 Cha, +4 synergy (Bluff, Sense Motive)], Disguise +20 [+5 ranks, +5 Cha, +10 with disguise self from ring of chameleon power] (+22 [+2 conditional synergy (Bluff)] when being observed and acting in character), Handle Animal +10 [+5 ranks, +5 Cha], Hide +17 [+9 ranks, +3 Dex, -1 armor, -4 size, +10 ring of chameleon power], Intimidate +16 [+9 ranks, +5 Cha, +2 synergy (Bluff)], Knowledge (history) +4 [+1 rank (cross-class), +3 Int], Knowledge (local) +4 [+1 rank (cross-class), +3 Int], Knowledge (nature) +6 [+1 rank (cross-class), +3 Int, +2 synergy (Survival)], Knowledge (nobility and royalty) +4 [+1 rank (cross-class), +3 Int], Knowledge (planes) +12 [+9 ranks, +3 Int], Knowledge (religion) +8 [+5 ranks (2 ranks cross-class), +3 Int], Listen +13 [+10 ranks, +3 Wis], Move Silently +11 [+9 ranks, +3 Dex, -1 armor], Profession (soldier) +10 [+7 ranks (1 rank cross-class), +3 Wis], Search +10 [+7 ranks, +3 Int], Sense Motive +12 [+9 ranks, +3 Wis], Spot +18 [+10 ranks, +3 Wis, +5 eyes of the eagle], Survival +11 [+8 ranks, +3 Wis] (+13 [+2 conditional synergy (Knowledge (planes) and (Search), respectively] on other planes or to find or follow tracks), Swim +6 [+8 Str, -2 armor]
Languages Abyssal, Celestial, Common, Orc (languages understood; Avinash cannot speak); telepathy
SQ astral projection, detect good, etherealness, trapfinding
Combat Gear +2 chain shirt barding, military saddle; Other Gear eyes of the eagle, hand of glory, ring of chameleon power

SPECIAL ABILITIES
Avinash’s natural weapons are treated as magical and evil-aligned for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.
Astral projection (Su): This ability functions just like the spell of the same name (caster level 20th); Avinash can use it at will.
Aura of despair (Su): Avinash radiates a malign aura that causes enemies within 10 feet of him to take a -2 penalty on all saving throws.
Command undead (Su): Avinash can rebuke or command undead as a 3rd level evil cleric. He can rebuke or command undead 8 times per day [base of 3, +5 Cha]. His turning check is 1d20+7 [+5 Cha, +2 synergy (Knowledge (religion))] and turning damage is 2d6+8 [+3 blackguard level -2, +5 Cha] and he can command up to 3 HD of undead at a time (usually a shadow). Issuing mental commands to commanded undead is a standard action.
Dark blessing (Su): Avinash applies his Charisma modifier as a bonus on all saving throws.
Detect Good (Sp): At will, Avinash can use detect good as a spell-like ability, duplicating the effect of the detect good spell.
Etherealness (Su): This ability functions just like the spell of the same name (caster level 20th); Avinash can use it at will, bringing up to 6 companions.
Evasion (Ex): Avinash can avoid even magical and unusual attacks with great agility. If he makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, he instead takes no damage. He must be in light or no armor and carrying a light load to use evasion and cannot be helpless.
Fiendish servant: Marandi, fiendish heavy horse (7 HD).
Flaming hooves (Su): A blow from Avinash’s hooves sets combustible materials alight.
Smite good (Su): Avinash can smite good a total of 3 times per day, once due to his half-fiendish heritage and twice due to his blackguard levels. When using his blackguard smite good ability, Avinash adds +5 [+5 Cha] to his attack roll and +5 [+5 blackguard levels] to his damage roll with a single melee attack. When using his half-fiend smite good ability, Avinash gains no bonus to the attack roll but a +13 [13 total HD/levels] bonus to damage with a single melee attack. Regardless of which version of the power is used, the smite attempt is wasted if the attack misses or if the target is not good.
Smoke (Su): During the excitement of battle, Avinash snorts and neighs with rage. This snorting fills a 15-foot cone with a hot, sulfurous smoke that chokes and blinds opponents. Anyone in the cone must succeed on a DC 18 [base 10, +3 outsider level (halved), +5 Con] Fortitude save or take a -2 penalty on all attack and damage rolls until 1d6 minutes after leaving the cone. The cone lasts 1 round, and Avinash can use it once as a free action during its turn each round. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Because of the smoke he gives off, Avinash has concealment against creatures 5 feet away and total concealment against creatures 10 feet or farther away. The smoke does not obscure his vision at all.
Sneak attack (Ex): Avinash inflicts +2d6 damage [1d6 for rogue 2, 1d6 for blackguard 5] with his attacks any time his target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus or not) or when he flanks a target. This extra damage is not multiplied on a critical hit.
Trapfinding (Ex): Avinash can use the Search skill to locate traps when the task has a DC higher than 20.

Origin: Avinash was spawned from the unspeakable obsession of his mother, the succubus Bethania. Some said she loved her nightmare steed, Skurtu, entirely too much, but in the Abyss all things are possible and nothing forbidden. Her experimentation bore its tainted fruit in Avinash, her tender affections imparting even the demonic gift of telepathy, and her beastly child imbibed with its mother’s milk the lessons of guile and deception, that temptation was as delicious as destruction.

Goals: While cunning and intelligent, Avinash has no grand schemes. His wild spirit is ruled by lusts for power, wealth, corruption, anarchy, and slaughter. Through his namesake, Avinash serves dark patrons, paid to sow terror and harrow the righteous. He loves challenging those who cherish justice, honor, and mercy, though never in a fair fight; ambush, betrayal, and plundering homes and butchering the defenseless while their champions have been led away—these are his joy.

Avinash entices cohorts with power, respect, and fulfillment of dark desires, a thieves’ cowl hiding their identity and Avinash’s planewalking granting access to almost anything, anywhere, or anyone they desire. Some lead double lives for a time, but are drawn to ever-deeper darkness in life. Even in death, Avinash claims their corrupted larval souls before finding a new catspaw.

Adventure hooks: An NPC ally of the PCs is recruited by Avinash as a cohort. Hired by a ruler or LG church to destroy the Marauders (or seeking vengeance for their atrocities), the PCs capture, kill, or unmask the black rider, their former ally, and interrogation or divination reveals the true Avinash.

The kingdom is plagued by deformed, cannibalistic horses. Avinash and his fiendish companion have sired a line of demon-tainted horses to serve the Marauders, but their visits to other herds and farms have left tainted offspring everywhere. PCs must discover the source of this plague; Avinash will sacrifice his companion if needed to take the blame.

PCs defeat an evil wizard who had been hired by Avinash to research a wearable metamagic device. When Avinash returns to check on his progress, he finds the wizard’s lair plundered and begins tracking the PCs seeking revenge.

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

Initial Impression: The gag that the villain is the horse not the rider made me chuckle out loud. Nice twist. Just as you had me going "yeah, yeah, Dread Pirate Roberts," you side swipe me with the horse. Nice :) Not sure the conflicts and hooks are the best, though.

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

Word count: 500.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

All right, this is pretty clever. Conceptually I like the idea of the horse being the villain and the rider being his pawn. That's novel, and it's an appreciated twist that would be truly meaningful in the campaign. So kudos there.

I do think that layering on the levels of rogue and assassin is putting it on a bit thick, especially as it results in a clunky stat block that probably packs too much punch into a tight place. I like this guy as an idea, but I'm not sure it's vital to his concept that he has 13 different special abilities. I'm not really sure any of the classes are vital to his concept, but without them I suppose he's just a monster from the Monster Manual with a cool story. I dunno. It seems almost like too much to me.

I would have appreciated more information about the rider, since that's the "face" of Avinash that the PCs are going to deal with, at least at first. I like the idea of leaving him an enigma and keeping it as a role that pretty much anyone can play, but I felt like a little more information about how to handle this as a GM would have been helpful.

Also, I am not feeling the adventure hooks, I've got to say. The first hook, the old "friend in need" stand-by, is competent but not incredible. The second one about the tainted horses is just sort of stupid, and the third one is probably the best, even if it is a bit brief.

But none of that disqualifies this one as a real contender for me. I am going to grudgingly go through the stat block a bit closer, but my first impression is that this is a solid keeper on conceptual grounds at least. The origin story, with the succubus and the horse, is some pretty demented stuff, and I'm all for rewarding dementia.

Qadira Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

Mechanical fireworks are only interesting if they serve a story.

This premise is interesting, and I loved the opening with the cowl and the Dread Pirate, just as Clark did. But there's zero story interest later, and the horse is just barely a proper villain. He has no goals or motives other than "It's eeeeevil, muhahahaha!". That's pretty weak sauce for a major villain, along the lines of all those insane wizards that show up in adventure queries all the times.

Worse, the mechanics don't quite fit. The hit point entry is *missing* entirely in the Defense section. And sure, I get the chain barding and the eyes of the eagle. But tell me, how does a horse use a hand of glory, exactly? Or how does it use a ring of chameleon power? It's kind of a stretch in both cases.

This one isn't working for me. It's a perfectly good monster, but not selling me as a villain worth that much stat block.

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

Villain Concept (name, title, is it actually a villain?, design choices, playability?): B
The Good: You got me with that twist. The horse as villain is really cool. Good name. Good creature. This COULD be a really neat villain, hypothetically—I mean really neat. You didn’t deliver on it though.
The Bad: Ouch. This hurts: “While cunning and intelligent, Avinash has no grand schemes.” Imagine writing: “While cunning and intelligent, Darth Vader has no grand schemes.” See what I mean? We want VILLAINS!!!!! I have to give you props for the surprise factor of the horse being the bad guy, but I’m not sure this does what it is supposed to do. This is real cool background for a monster, it isn’t a real villain in my mind. The conflicts and the hooks are weak for the same reason—not a good villain.

Stat Block Execution (proper content, proper format, good math, generally mistake free?, not abusing word count?): C+
The Good: That is one whacky stat block. You got to show your stuff, that’s for sure.
The Bad: I don’t like the levels and the funny items. I think they highlight my point above—I think you are stretching to find a way to fix the main problem of your submission that this is a neat monster, not a true villain. I have said that gonzo multi-classed and templated nightmares don’t make villains—story and conflict do. Well, here we literally have a multi-classed and templated “nightmare”. You are just dressing this up for the sake of dress up. I get the template, not sure it is needed to fit the story. But the class levels? Hmm. Feels like dress up for dress up’s sake (compare Boomer’s djinn, which is complex but works for the story and villain). You know, this kind of goes back to the question you asked on the form about new slots and monster villains and what you can do. I think you pushed it here with the barding and the hand of glory and that sort of stuff and you know it. And no hit points? Come on...

Description (quality of writing, hook?, theme?, organization, contains all mandatory content—physical description, motivation/goal, scheme/plot?): B
The Good: Ewwww! A succubi and a nightmare. You are my kind of twisted evil first edition freak!
The Bad: OK, yes, Boomer gets good marks for silly poems and stuff. But his are good. I think we could have done without the intro poem. Hooks are a bit weak.

Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor and setting?): A
The Good: Doggone it, I just really like this freaking evil horse! I gave 100 reasons why it is a problem, but I just like it. And that is what my “Tilt” category is about. Irrational, yes. Against my own logic and critique, yes. But there it is. I like it.
The Bad: It isn’t a villain, but it is so original.

Overall: B
Bad horsie irrationally overcomes a host of problems, or does it?

If there is a guy whose prior work should guarantee you a pass for a weak entry, it is you. The Phial and Bereket are absolute killers. This was a misstep. I think you got too cute on this one. But I think you deserve a chance to go to the next round. That said, this is round 3 and if the voters wanted to say no more passes, I wouldn’t be able to disagree. I am going to break my normal habit. Normally I recommend or don’t recommend only on the strength of the submission. If I did that for you here, I would not recommend your villain. However, I am going to recommend you for top 8. This may be the blink dogs of this round.

RECOMMENDED for Top 8, but just because I irrationally like it and based on the strength of the author’s prior work.

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

Wolfgang Baur wrote:


Worse, the mechanics don't quite fit. The hit point entry is *missing* entirely in the Defense section. And sure, I get the chain barding and the eyes of the eagle. But tell me, how does a horse use a hand of glory, exactly? Or how does it use a ring of chameleon power? It's kind of a stretch in both cases.

Damn you, cut and paste! When I reversed the placement of the spell-modified and un-modified 'defense' sections, oops... My fault for not noticing.

I'm sure I can't say anything more about the design of the monster, but I hope it is safe to point out that a horse does have a neck to wear an amulet and the ring goes on the hand.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013 aka Core

Yup, good job on the twist. I'm about 1/2 way through the entries and I think I like this one the best thus far. You could write an adventure around Avinash which is pretty much what a villain is all about.

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

Jason Nelson 20 wrote:
I'm sure I can't say anything more about the design of the monster, but I hope it is safe to point out that a horse does have a neck to wear an amulet and the ring goes on the hand.

Yeah, that is probably enough. :) Not sure about the hand though...

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

Well, mixed reviews from the judges. Love the idea, overdone stat block and ongoing villainy potential... maybe not so much.

It's funny, when I saw Clark's comments yesterday about some creatures being just uber-monsters instead of villains and I wondered if I had done enough to talk about my entry's motivations and plans. I sent some friends the flavor text and they seemed to think it was 'villainous' enough in the long-term adversary sense, but I still kept wondering what I could've taken out to put more in about that. Like, oh, I don't know, my fun little battle chant that I kept debating whether to keep or dump... alas, 34 words that could have been better spent--ARGH!

Hey, I still like the idea and the concept and think Avinash could and should stand tall in the land of the villains (or at least the neat monsters masquerading as villains) and I hope people out there like the baddest little horsie in the world.

Well, as Clark says, if last round was all about 'Think Blink,' what should you do in round 3?

Vote Horse, of course!

(ouch, a nightmarishly painful pun)

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

Jason, careful with the comments please. :)

I agree, vote horse of course (ooo, that hurt just typing it).

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

Clark Peterson wrote:

Jason, careful with the comments please. :)

I agree, vote horse of course (ooo, that hurt just typing it).

Sir, yes sir. Silence is golden. Just like the blazing eyes of Avinash! He wants your vote!

With my pre-emptive thanks to all for reading, let the message board commentary begin...

(well, it has already begun with my dear brother Samuel Kisko, but you know what I mean)

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Yeah, there are a lot of questions that I need to answer for myself before I would be able to run this...

The catspaw marauders, taken as a whole, can be a long-running challenge. What does Avinash have them do? Did he form them, or were they already a plague on the countryside before he found them and took them over?

How does he choose his rider, and how often does the rider change? Do the rest of the marauders know the guy is a fake? (Presumably; somebody's got to go to town to deal with the magic horse barding plot hook.)

What kind of riders does he have available? If a party of 13th-Level adventurers comes wading up against the marauders, and hits the rider as if he were the BBEG, how many rounds does the poor guy typically remain corporate?

Hasn't anybody noticed that it's the horse who is doing all sorts of crazy stuff? (At this CR, the party has access to whole gobs of divination magic, bardic rumormongering, and knowledge (the planes) skill ranks. Not to mention spotting the hand of glory.

For a fiendish creature with no real ambition, good lord but he's spent a lot of time studyng and developing his skills and powers. Would this villain have worked as well at a significantly lower CR?

It's a cute idea, but I wanted to see more than cute.


Clark Peterson wrote:
Jason Nelson 20 wrote:
I'm sure I can't say anything more about the design of the monster, but I hope it is safe to point out that a horse does have a neck to wear an amulet and the ring goes on the hand.
Yeah, that is probably enough. :) Not sure about the hand though...

Sir (Clark Peterson/Wolfgang Baur): 'Hand of Glory' IS an amulet in 3.5. (You may be confusing it with the AD & D Ravenloft items?)

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka SmiloDan

I'm about halfway through the villains, and I LOVE this idea! I think one very important part of this contest is to throw a bunch of great ideas at the masses and see what sticks.

If I wasn't running a seaborne swashbuckling campaign, I would totally steal this villain. I still might; there was a cool scene in The Return of the Three Musketeers or whatever where some riders jumped onto a ship at dock. Might do that with this.


Chris Mortika wrote:


Hasn't anybody noticed that it's the horse who is doing all sorts of crazy stuff? (At this CR, the party has access to whole gobs of divination magic, bardic rumormongering, and knowledge (the planes) skill ranks. Not to mention spotting the hand of glory.

That was my first question too.

I like the concept, and I thought the "cannibal horses" plot hook was pretty cool.

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

SmiloDan wrote:

I'm about halfway through the villains, and I LOVE this idea! I think one very important part of this contest is to throw a bunch of great ideas at the masses and see what sticks.

If I wasn't running a seaborne swashbuckling campaign, I would totally steal this villain. I still might; there was a cool scene in The Return of the Three Musketeers or whatever where some riders jumped onto a ship at dock. Might do that with this.

Thanks for the positive response!

I assume that, like last round, once voting has closed we will have the chance to post 'responses' to questions people have raised, or maybe just more explanation about missing parts of the entry or why I did certain things or to make suggestions about how to use the villain in campaigns. Consider your comments duly noted and I'll get back to you next week. I've already gotten the 'no more comments' warning so my lips are sealed til then.

Vote Avinash 2007

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Yes, once the votes have been counted contestants will have a chance to explain their design choices and (in some cases) defend them. I'm looking forward to that part of the contest. But it hasn't started yet. :)

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

Erik Mona wrote:

Yes, once the votes have been counted contestants will have a chance to explain their design choices and (in some cases) defend them. I'm looking forward to that part of the contest. But it hasn't started yet. :)

Duly noted, my Dark Cyclopean Overlord. I live but to serve...


I hate to say this, because I loved your previous entries, but I have to agree that the execution of this entry was on the poor side. (I have seen another post by you that you had time issues on this submission which might explain it)

Now that being said though, I think it will get one of my votes purely for the coolness of the idea. The horse is the real villian!! Brilliant. With some expansion on the plots/hook front, I can definitely see my PC's facing off against the Catspaw Marauders!! & their evil leader :-)


Like others, no doubt, I was happily surprised when I saw my assumptions were turned on their head. I too initially thought, *yawn*, another Dread Pirate Roberts -- then BAM, turns out it's the mount that's the villain. Very cool! :-D

However, the cool factor went way down for me after that. When glancing through the stat block, and noticing the Blasphemy special ability, I quickly scanned back to the top of the block, looking for hit dice; after all, it would be kinda nasty to have something with too many hit dice pop its Blasphemy and nuke an entire adventuring party. What? Where are the hit dice (and hit points)!? I did manage to find them, eventually, much lower and out-of-place in the giant-sized, some might pun nightmarishly-long stat block entry. :-p
The merits of the concept obviously count, but skill at assembling a stat-block are also part of the contest this round, and what makes a RPG superstar.

I like the entry on the strength of using an unexpected opponent, but the entry itself doesn't tell me how to use this critter as a villain, as opposed to just something to fight straight up. I just didn't find the proffered plot hooks meaty enough -- it seemed to me that they would fit in much better for a throw-away encounter, where not a lot of detail or attention has to be paid to fleshing out the background of the antagonist, _as it relates to the campaign_. I didn't see anything to give me any tips or hints on how to use the Nightmare as an ongoing villain for PCs to struggle against.

I also feel a Ring of the Chameleon won't do near enough to help the Nightmare keep its cover. How could anyone _not_ pick up on the fact that something is up with "da horse", when it spews cones of ash, has flaming hooves, a mummified hand on its neck [yes, I get it that's how it can use a magic ring], and magic spell effects blasting around (with no apparent casters among the cavalrymen), etc? Had the entry stated that the Nightmare suppresses certain of its powers to remain hidden, I would have been fine with that.

I think the author/creator could have addressed these issues, and it's a shame they weren't; I'm not saying it would be an easy task, especially in the parameters of the contest, but that _is_ the point of the contest, right, to show one's stuff? :-)

Farrell

[EDIT -- fixed a grammatical error in my post :-)]


I really dislike "Catspaw Marauders", isn't that the name of the Grey Mouser's sword or dagger? Not sure, but something bugged me about it. I loved your first two entries and I think you took a step backward with this one. In a way I guess it might hurt you because expectations were probably higher because of how solid your first two entries were...so I really hope you make the top 8 but I don't think "Avinash" will make my top 4.

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

Craig Clark wrote:
I really dislike "Catspaw Marauders", isn't that the name of the Grey Mouser's sword or dagger? Not sure, but something bugged me about it. I loved your first two entries and I think you took a step backward with this one. In a way I guess it might hurt you because expectations were probably higher because of how solid your first two entries were...so I really hope you make the top 8 but I don't think "Avinash" will make my top 4.

Wow, a Fritz Lieber reference. I am getting a dim memory that you might be right. I think his sword and dagger had different names, and I think one was Cat's Claw and the other was Something's Paw. It's been ages, though, so don't quote me on that.

Sorry to disappoint but I hope I'll get the chance to rebound in the next round.


I'll reiterate what others have said and mention that I liked your unique hook. I believe that Avinash's secret could really throw some players off their game. They'd likely believe that they're up against some kind of Headless Horseman type enemy that just won't stay defeated.

Although I would have appreciated more original goals and motivations for Avinash, and perhaps some more detail about the Marauders, this was a good enough entry for my vote.

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

Greedy_Smurf wrote:

I hate to say this, because I loved your previous entries, but I have to agree that the execution of this entry was on the poor side. (I have seen another post by you that you had time issues on this submission which might explain it)

Now that being said though, I think it will get one of my votes purely for the coolness of the idea. The horse is the real villian!! Brilliant. With some expansion on the plots/hook front, I can definitely see my PC's facing off against the Catspaw Marauders!! & their evil leader :-)

Glad you enjoyed the concept, and I wished I had more time to spend working on it, but real life is what it is and the kids and I had a great time on our weekend trip up in the mountains. It was beautiful, fun, and nothing went wrong (and on a trip to the mountains in winter, LOTS of things could have gone wrong)--you can't ask for more than that. If that ends up being the difference between advancing and not, I can live with that.

But hey, thanks for the vote in spite of the issues with this round's entry. If I get to round 4 I will try to stage a stunning comeback that would make Rocky jealous!

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Gray Mouser's dirk is called "Cat's Claw." His sword is, of course, Scalpel.

I prefer Fafhrd's weapon names: the longsword Graywand and the poinard Heartseeker.

Fritz Leiber is awesome.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6, Contributor , Dedicated Voter 2013

Erik Mona wrote:

Gray Mouser's dirk is called "Cat's Claw." His sword is, of course, Scalpel.

I prefer Fafhrd's weapon names: the longsword Graywand and the poinard Heartseeker.

Fritz Leiber is awesome.

I always mix up Graywand (Fafhrd) with Grayswandir (Corwin of Amber). Both names I really like. And I like Leiber.

On topic, this entry is solidly into consideration for my votes. The concept of a mastermind horse is a good one. Haven't seen it since Nightmare, one of the Xanth books, and that wasn't even remotely like this entry.

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

Russ Taylor wrote:
Erik Mona wrote:

Gray Mouser's dirk is called "Cat's Claw." His sword is, of course, Scalpel.

I prefer Fafhrd's weapon names: the longsword Graywand and the poinard Heartseeker.

Fritz Leiber is awesome.

I always mix up Graywand (Fafhrd) with Grayswandir (Corwin of Amber). Both names I really like. And I like Leiber.

On topic, this entry is solidly into consideration for my votes. The concept of a mastermind horse is a good one. Haven't seen it since Nightmare, one of the Xanth books, and that wasn't even remotely like this entry.

Back when I was taking introductory physics in college and was utterly bored, I was reading the Amber series and would often take them into class and read them instead of listening to the prof (no wonder I got a C in the class). I even jokingly referred to them as "my physics books." I was never a big Xanth fan but I liked Amber a lot. Zelazny had great names in there.

Lieber was okay in my book but not at the top of my list (at that time my faves were Tolkien, Moorcock, and Howard; I've also enjoyed reading Eddings (hey don't laugh!) and Jordan (sad to have lost him recently, though apparently his widow is intending to finish the partially completed final book in the WoT series, but we'll probably never have the final answer to "Who killed Asmodean?")).

Actually, speaking of nightmares and hoary old fantasy authors, I do believe the D&D nightmare comes from Poul Anderson's "Three Hearts and Three Lions" (along with some other iconic D&D monsters), a short book but a really fun read--any of you young uns out there, hie thee hence to the library or used book website and find a copy. You'll be glad you did.

Andoran

OMG--cannibal horses. That's so sweeeeeeeet.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Heh, cool twist. I’m not completely sold on the horse being able to keep up the charade for all that long, but it is certainly a cool idea. Does the horse really have enough motivation to be a true villain though? I’m not sure. Would this idea translate well in a game? I can see my players going “Well we beat that Catspaw guy pretty easy, and then his frikken horse got a tpk on us!? Lame…” Well, I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

The stat block and range of ability might be unnecessarily complicated – maybe it is my bias towards mid and low level play, but I would have liked to see this guy at a lower CR.

As for the hand of glory and the ring – the hand of glory is worn as an amulet around the horses neck (appearing as a somewhat unusual and grisly trophy or decoration, but not that hard to imagine) and the ring is worn on the finger of the hand of glory – which is just what it’s designed to do. It’s an interesting, perhaps even masterful way to allow a horse to wear a magic ring.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Sheyd

Okay this is just TOOO slick of a hook, An Evil Mister Ed? Consider it stolen for the torment of my players.

Is this a Villain? Yeah. It would be one of those 'starts out as an encounter and spawns into a must kill it before it does us in' kind of villains but a villain nonetheless..

"It's not the guy! It's the Horse!!! Oh Shi-" final words of some 'thought he was smart but wasn't' PC. Yeah I can see it now.

You've won me on this one.

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

Sheyd wrote:

Okay this is just TOOO slick of a hook, An Evil Mister Ed? Consider it stolen for the torment of my players.

Is this a Villain? Yeah. It would be one of those 'starts out as an encounter and spawns into a must kill it before it does us in' kind of villains but a villain nonetheless..

"It's not the guy! It's the Horse!!! Oh Shi-" final words of some 'thought he was smart but wasn't' PC. Yeah I can see it now.

You've won me on this one.

I love your quote up there--it made me laugh out loud. Glad you liked the entry, and I hope your players both love AND hate it!


Jason Nelson 20 wrote:


Wow, a Fritz Lieber reference. I am getting a dim memory that you might be right. I think his sword and dagger had different names, and I think one was Cat's Claw and the other was Something's Paw. It's been ages, though, so don't quote me on that.

Sorry to disappoint but I hope I'll get the chance to rebound in the next round.

As it turns out Erik had the reference down cold and I was wrong any way. :)

But honestly even though the nightmare thing didn't jive with me doesn't mean it wouldn't make my top 8 with 4 votes though we have to be extremely stingy so I truly hope you make it to the next round!


I'm not sure I like the story, but you get kudos for making the nightmare the villain...I would've never guessed that the dudes mount is the one I was looking for. The kudos is enough to get you on my top 4, actually. Congrats, dude, for the highly original idea.


Notes: The horse is actually the villain. Doesn't really seem that original to me, nothing is ever as it seems in D&D right? You always get the story and then you get there and it's "not what it seems". Hate the fact that he has class levels. Just can't think of a horse as a master villain, it doesn't work for me.


A band of thieves and assassins secretly led by a nightmare? Awesome, but should have dozens of hooks, motivations and schemes. That's a big hole in this submission (and this round).

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

I do like the horse being the villian. As I think back to the "Simpsons" episode where Bart says, "Nobody ever suspects the butterfly, muahahahahaha!"

A little more background info would have been nice, but I like it.

Maybe instead of using rogue-assassin, a different class would have been a nice twist like bard-eldritch knight or whatever.... You get the idea..


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

Quick thoughts:
+1 for the "horse is the enemy" switcharoo
+1 for hot succubus barnyard sex
a warning for not having at least a sample rider (word limit makes me not dock a point)
Gets one of my votes, and could drop into lots of places

Like the others, I was immediately thinking Dread Pirate Roberts then got countermanded, so that was cool. Even with the word limit, some sample riders etc would have been nice - don't have to stat them or anything, just "Fred, F16, who thinks this is a steed sent to him by Hextor so he can take over the Shires but Avinash is just in it for the killing; as soon as the battle is complete he plans on feeding Fred to his fiendish brood."

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

The double twist is genius. While some yawn about the dread pirate roberts thing, I think it's only cause we're reading the goods. If you present the marauders to the palyers in your game, they don't know that angle yet, and when they figure it out, they'll be wrong. I like the replacable master, and I love the nightmare bad guy. Even better: it is introduced in a way that really creates excitement.

You almost lost me by making a half-fiend, evil outsider. I generally believe that is in poor taste. Like a half-blue dragon dragon turtle. Actually, I really like that idea. Never mind. The point is, your story is twisted and unique enough to get by with it. But you almost didn't. And of course, you also almost lost me on changing the nightmare's alignment until the succubus mother came in. Careful.

If I were DMing this villain, I would actually have its 'fiendish companion' be the rider. The fiendish warhorse doesn't do anything for me, except as the possible progenitor of the carnivorous horses. I wouldn't make carnivorous horses a whole adventure, by the way. Maybe just a sickening realization when the party snuck up to the pastures overtaken by the Marauders.

AC 36 is a bit high for CR15. Consider that a stacked fighter might need a 9 to hit with its first attack (15bab+6str+3enh+3feats/other. The odds get very one-sidedafter that, and the rest of the party has even less a shot.

Finally, I might keep blackguard, I might not. Maybe just advance the nightmare's HD. Maybe bard. For sure, it needs better plot devices: I like that it either corrupts virtuous nights and takes them as riders, or that it hunts virtuous knights and seeks to bring them and their people low.

Avinash is a great name. Good work, but polish yourself and watch your design choices. You have a vote until after I see the other half of the entries.


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

Also, I'm not sure why people keep saying rogue-assassin; it's a rogue-blackguard.


I like it. My players would never guess that the horse was the actual villian. It's motives are a little too weak for me to use as a major villian, but it would still be fun to incorporate into a game.

Osirion

This one's trying to be the new Blink Hound and it shows. Again I didn't catch the hint until partway through the statblock, but this time instead of doing the big-eyed double take it was more like "hoo-boy here we go again".

Trouble is, the most unique and interesting thing--the mother, is lifted from ideas hinted at in the Night Hag entry in Dragon Ecologies:

"Few displays are considered more disturbing than that of the affection shared between a night hag and her nightmare."

Other than that, I don't really get a particular sense of Avinash as a villain. I get that he likes to hurt folks and basically do Nightmare stuff, but him as an individual instance of a Nightmare I don't really get.

In some ways I think maybe his mother might have made a better entry.

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

To clarify a comment I made earlier (so that Jason isnt unfairly judged) I sort of gave him grief for the hand of glory and the ring. Well, it actually works. The hand of glory is an amulet, so it can be worn on the neck--and horses have necks. The hand then allows the wearing of a ring. :) Nice work, actually. I just wanted to make sure no one interpreted my comments as "hey, horses dont have hands." Cause, with the amulet, this one does. For magic item slots anyway.

Osirion

This so reminds me of a thread on the CO boards talking about the same theme. (bad guy is not the creature you are fighting but what looks like the support NPC, or something else entirely.)

I like it mucho.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

I dislike that you have applied the half-fiend template to an evil outsider. Isn't it all fiend? I don't think it breaks any game rules it just feels like a cheat. Half fiendish pit fiend anyone?

I like the use of the hand of glory & ring.

still thinking

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka SmiloDan

This also reminds me of the nighthorses from C.J. Cherryh's "Rider at the Gate" series. Nighthorses (and every other native lifeform) are psychic, but they still have animal-level intellect. So they broadcast their feelings, or broadcast they're big bad predators when they're not, or broadcast they ain't there if they are big bad predators.

Thing is, humans aren't psychic, but they can still get the feelings from the broadcasts. Some ride the nighthorses to guard the caravans between towns. (It's a weird Depression-era technology on a planet abandoned (?) by interstellar colonists.) Nighthorses are addicted to human thoughts and feelings. And bacon.

Another possible plothook could be evil psychic cannibal horses.

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

DmRrostarr wrote:

I do like the horse being the villian. As I think back to the "Simpsons" episode where Bart says, "Nobody ever suspects the butterfly, muahahahahaha!"

A little more background info would have been nice, but I like it.

Maybe instead of using rogue-assassin, a different class would have been a nice twist like bard-eldritch knight or whatever.... You get the idea..

I love that Simpsons episode.

As for the rest, I'm keeping notes for a response next week. In the meantime:

Vote Horsie Love 2007


I'm rather disappointed by the lack of actual villainy, and I also think you missed an opportunity in not making his companion be a string of different female riders. such a change might have justified (with a bit of a stretch) dropping the second plot arc in favor of an infestation of young fiendish centaurs and (unrelated, of course) a cave containing numerous female corpses, all apparently dead of childbirth complications.

Still, very good stuff and kudos for making excellent use of a previous round wondrous item.


Nice twist. I grinned. I think my players would be surprised if I ran this game.

First session, they'd kill the rider, and think they'd won.

Next session, the marauders would still be attacking. And they'd kill the rider again ("Didn't we kill him? Hey, wasn't the last one a half-orc? this is a half-elf?")

By round three, they might get it. And then they'd laugh, slap their heads, and have at it.

I like how you mentioned the succubus mother, and how "nothing's forbidden" in her land. Very good set up.

Cheliax RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Contributor

Love it.

Love it.

LOVE IT.

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