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RPG Superstar 2015

The Haunter of the Hills


Round 3 - Top 16: Design a villain

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

The Time of the Auroch People, 580 years ago…
The shamaness Kaltia squirmed fruitlessly, struggling to free herself from the priests’ grip. Her efforts only caused her grim-faced captors to hold more tightly as the bowl of anathema was carried forward.

“For your betrayal of your clan… Drink!” intoned the priests. Vile liquid poured into her mouth, making her gag. Death claimed the shamaness, but oblivion was denied her.

The Aurochs People were not a merciful folk.

KALTIA, THE HAUNTER OF THE HEIGHTS, LAST OF THE AUROCHS PEOPLE CR 6

Female dwarf vampire druid 4
NE Medium undead (augmented humanoid)
Init +7 [+3 Dex, +4 Improved Init.]; Senses 60’ darkvison; Listen +22, Spot +22

DEFENSE

AC 24, touch 13, flat-footed 21
(+3 bracers, +3 Dex, +8 natural)
hp 38 (4d12); fast healing 5
Fort +4 [+4 base], Ref +6 [+1 base, +3 Dex, +2 Lightning Reflexes], Will +8 [+4 base, +4 Wis]; +2 vs. poison, +2 vs. spells or spell-like effects, +4 vs. spell-like abilities of fey
Defensive Abilities +4 AC against opponents with the giant type, stability, +4 turn resistance; DR 10/silver and magic; Immune undead immunities; Resist cold 10, electricity 10, resist energy spell (fire 10)

OFFENSE

Spd 20 ft., climb 20 ft.
Melee masterwork sickle +9 [+3 base, +1 masterwork, +5 Str] (1d6+5) or
slam +8 [+3 base, +5 Str] (1d6+5)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks +1 on attack rolls vs. orcs and goblinoids, blood drain, children of the night, dominate, create spawn, energy drain
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 5th):
At will-gaseous form
Spells Prepared (CL 4th):
2nd (3/day)Ñ barkskin, fog cloud, resist energy
1st (4/day)Ñ detect animals and plants, obscuring mist, produce flame x 2,
0 (5/day)Ñ detect magic x 2, light, resistance, mending

TACTICS

Before Combat Kaltia will generally prepare for combat by casting barkskin and resist energy (fire) upon herself: These spells are reflected in the information above. She picks her fights carefully, choosing to fight where her spider climb ability and alternate forms will allow her to easily escape.
During Combat Her vampire powers are her strongest abilities, so she will primarily rely upon them. Her fog cloud and obscuring mist will be used to neutralize foes with powerful magical or missile attacks.
Morale Kaltia is a skittish opponent; she prefers to “hit and run”. When she faces effective resistance, she will leave, planning to return soon, fully healed.

STATISTICS

Str 20, Dex 16, Con -, Int 15, Wis 19, Cha 14
Base Atk +3; Grp +8
Feats Alertness, Combat Expertise, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Improved Disarm, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes
Skills Appraise +2 [Int] (+2 to appraise stone or metal items), Bluff +10 [+2 Cha, +8 vampire], Concentration +8 [+2 Cha, 6 ranks], Craft +2 [Int] (+2 to craft metal or stone items), Diplomacy +6 [+2 Cha, 4 ranks], Handle Animal +6 (+4 when handling her Animal Companion) [+2 Cha, 4 ranks], Hide +11 [+3 Dex, +8 Vampire], Jump -1 [+5 Str, -6 20 ft. move], Knowledge (nature) +11 [+2 Int, 5 ranks, +2 Survival synergy, +2 Nature Sense], Listen +22 [+4 Wis, 7 ranks, +8 Vampire, +3 Alertness], Move Silently +11 [+3 Dex, +8 Vampire], Search +10 (+12 to notice unusual stonework) [+2 Int, +8 Vampire], Sense Motive +12 [+4 Wis, +8 Vampire], Spot +22 [+4 Wis, 7 ranks, +8 Vampire, +3 Alertness], Survival +15 [+4 Wis, 7 ranks, +2 synergy, +2 Nature Sense]
Languages Common, Druidic, Dwarven, Giant
SQ alternate form, animal companion, nature sense, stonecunning, undead traits, wild empathy, woodland stride, trackless step, resist nature’s lure, vampire weaknesses
Combat Gear masterwork sickle; Other Gear bracers of armor +3

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Alternate Form (Su)The Haunter can assume the shape of a bat, dire bat, wolf, or dire wolf as a standard action.

Animal Companion (Ex) The haunter has a disease-ridden Dire Weasel as her animal companion. It is a hideous creature named Ghuld.

Blood Drain (Ex) The Haunter can suck blood from a living victim with her fangs by making a successful grapple check. If she pins the foe, she drains blood, dealing 1d4 points of Constitution drain each round the pin is maintained. On each such successful attack, the vampire gains 5 temporary hit points.

Children of the Night (Su) Vampires command the lesser creatures of the world and once per day can call forth 1d6+1 rat swarms, 1d4+1 bat swarms, or a pack of 3d6 wolves as a standard action. These creatures arrive in 2d6 rounds and serve the vampire for up to 1 hour.

Create Spawn (Su) A humanoid or monstrous humanoid slain by a vampire’s energy drain rises as a vampire spawn 1d4 days after burial.
If the vampire instead drains the victim’s Constitution to 0 or lower, the victim returns as a spawn if it had 4 or less HD and as a vampire if it had 5 or more HD. In either case, the new vampire or spawn is under the command of the vampire that created it and remains enslaved until its master’s destruction. At any given time a vampire may have enslaved spawn totaling no more than twice its own Hit Dice; any spawn it creates that would exceed this limit are created as free-willed vampires or vampire spawn. A vampire that is enslaved may create and enslave spawn of its own, so a master vampire can control a number of lesser vampires in this fashion. A vampire may voluntarily free an enslaved spawn in order to enslave a new spawn, but once freed, a vampire or vampire spawn cannot be enslaved again.

Dominate (Su) The Haunter can crush an opponent’s will just by looking onto his or her eyes. This is similar to a gaze attack, except that the vampire must use a standard action, and those merely looking at it are not affected. Anyone the vampire targets must succeed on a Will save (DC 14) or fall instantly under the vampire’s influence as though by a dominate person spell (caster level 12th). The ability has a range of 30 feet.

Energy Drain (Su) Living creatures hit by the Haunter’s’s slam attack gain two negative levels. For each negative level bestowed, she gains 5 temporary hit points. This ability can be use once per round.

Fast Healing (Ex) The Haunter heals 5 points of damage each round so long as she has at least 1 hit point. If reduced to 0 hit points in combat, it automatically assumes gaseous form and attempts to escape.

Gaseous Form (Su)As a standard action, the Haunter can assume gaseous form at will as the spell (caster level 5th), but she can remain gaseous indefinitely and has a fly speed of 20 feet with perfect maneuverability.

Nature Sense (Ex) The Haunter has a +2 bonus on Knowledge (nature) and Survival checks.

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

Spider Climb (Ex) A vampire can climb sheer surfaces as though with a spider climb spell.

Stability (Ex) A dwarf gains a +4 bonus on ability checks made to resist being bull rushed or tripped when standing on the ground (but not when climbing, flying, riding, or otherwise not standing firmly on the ground).

Stonecunning (Ex) This ability grants a dwarf a +2 racial bonus on Search checks to notice unusual stonework, such as sliding walls, stonework traps, new construction (even when built to match the old), unsafe stone surfaces, shaky stone ceilings, and the like. Something that isn’t stone but that is disguised as stone also counts as unusual stonework. A dwarf who merely comes within 10 feet of unusual stonework can make a Search check as if he were actively searching, and a dwarf can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can. A dwarf can also intuit depth, sensing his approximate depth underground as naturally as a human can sense which way is up.

Trackless Step (Ex) The Haunter leaves no trail in natural surroundings and cannot be tracked. She may choose to leave a trail if so desired.

Vampire Weaknesses Like other vampires, Kaltia tolerate the strong odor of garlic, recoils from a mirror or a strongly presented holy symbol, and cannot enter a home or other building unless invited in. She is also unable to cross running water, although she can be carried over it while resting in their coffins or aboard a ship.

Wild Empathy (Ex) The Haunter can improve the attitude of an animal. This ability functions just like a Diplomacy check made to improve the attitude of a person. The druid rolls 1d20 and adds her druid level and her Charisma modifier to determine the wild empathy check result.

Woodland Stride (Ex) The Haunter may move through any sort of undergrowth (such as natural thorns, briars, overgrown areas, and similar terrain) at her normal speed and without taking damage or suffering any other impairment. However, thorns, briars, and overgrown areas that have been magically manipulated to impede motion still affect her.

Winter’s winds almost obscured the quavering voice beyond the hut’s iron portal. ”Please, open the door for poor Kaltia! I’m so cold! Sooo very cold!”

The Winter Nights Are Long
When winter’s first snowfalls arrive, the people of Zavaten Gura’s isolated highlands fear the snow more than the season’s deathly chill. Huddled in their huts of stone and unyielding iron, they shiver through long nights, dreading the arrival of the Haunter of the Heights.

A being of insatiable hungers, the Haunter craves the blood of the living, descending with the first snowfall to claim their warmth. An apparition of ancient death, she appears as the frozen corpse of a dwarven woman, desiccated by the mountains’ frigid air. Her withered features are those of the Aurochs People, the land’s earliest inhabitants. A ragged shroud, stained with rust-tinted gore, is her only clothing; a blood-painted sickle of ancient iron, her weapon.

Priestess of the Aurochs People
When dwarves of the southern lands first settled in Zavaten Gura, the Stained Peaks, their hunger for land set them against the Aurochs People, native tribes of migratory herdsmen. Few of Zavaten Gura’s mountain valleys are suitable for grazing, for many are tainted with subtle toxins. The Aurochs People called these places “gods-blighted”; those who disturbed them risked the gods’ anger. Where the Aurochs People saw danger, the newcomers saw opportunity; mines soon dotted the land.

A shamaness named Kaltia sought peace between her people and the newcomers. She offered friendship, but her deeds were seen as treason by her kinsmen. They condemned her to drink of the bowl of anathema, an accursed draught that transformed her into a night-dwelling horror, unable to leave the snow-covered heights. Perpetual cold claimed her soul, and only living blood brought ease to her frozen flesh.

The rifts between her people and other dwarves are nearly forgotten, but Kaltia, eternally accursed, still hunts with the snows.

The Curse of the Frostblood
The hellish curses laid upon Kaltia transformed her into a vampire and bound her to remain in lands covered with snow, just as other vampires cannot cross running water. She can enter structures, but such places must be surrounded by snow. If she violates this restriction, she suffers an effect equivalent to a geas/quest spell. (Treat her curse as equivalent to a miracle from a 17th level caster for the purposes of break enchantment or similar remedies.)

”Ahhh… Warm,” the Haunter purred, as she spit the blood into her hand and smeared it onto her withered skin.

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

Initial Impression: neat back story for a monster. NOT a villain, however. Will the real neat back story and some good writing overcome the fact that this entry is not a villain? I consider this a failure to meet the judging criteria. But not an auto-reject.

The Exchange Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

I love the backstory, but with only 500 words to work with for goals, motivations, and plots, I think you made a mistake spending the majority of that wordcount on an origin story, regardless of how strong it is (and the backstory is very strong).

I'm also largely in agreement with Clark that this is a terrific monster and a sucky villain (if you'll forgive the pun). Choosing a dwarven vampire druid is a great premise, but she's too constrained to DO much against the PCs except in winter, and given her reputation among the natives, it's unlikely she can plot much against them.

Where's the motivation beyond the next pint of blood?

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

Word count: 495.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

The writing here is generally excellent, which fits in well with your prior submissions. I think you are definitely one of the favorites at this point, and a lot of people are going to be excited to see a villain that uses your captivating setting from the previous round.

I come to this submission with very high, possibly unfairly high, expectations. And I regret to say that those expectations were not met.

I get that the Haunter is an interesting character, but I could have used a lot more in this entry that told me how to use Kaltia in a campaign. The best of these entries provide two or three potential hooks to incorporate the villain into the campaign, but this one doesn't really provide much of any advice in this area, and the submission is poorer for it.

I also think the stat block needs some work, particularly in the department of attention to detail.

Make sure that you stay consistent with titles. In the Alternate Form ability description you capitalize Haunter. In the very next section, Animal Companion, you do not. In the first sentence of the Fast Healing section the Haunter is a she. In the next sentence it's an it. Why the difference? An editor is probably going to catch those mistakes, but editors (and publishers) prefer it when the writer doesn't leave the mistakes to be caught in the first place.

The Vampire Weaknesses section is so sloppy I'm going to copy it verbatim so you can see what I mean:

Vampire Weaknesses Like other vampires, Kaltia tolerate the strong odor of garlic, recoils from a mirror or a strongly presented holy symbol, and cannot enter a home or other building unless invited in. She is also unable to cross running water, although she can be carried over it while resting in their coffins or aboard a ship.

"Kaltia tolerate"? "Although she can be carried over it while resting in their coffins or aboard a ship"? I understand the nature of cut and paste so I can understand how this type of error happened. What I can't understand is how it happened in an RPG Superstar submission. Did you not proofread this?

The bit at the end that says she must remain on snowy ground "just as other vampires cannot cross running water." But she can't cross running water, either. Says so right in her stat block (and two paragraphs above). I'm not sure that contrast was the best choice.

I don't know. I am pretty underwhelmed by this. Your popularity and the strength of your previous submissions (not to mention your excellent writing skills) are going to keep you alive through this round, but please pay more attention to proofreading and the little details in the upcoming rounds.

I grudgingly support the advancement of this entry to the next round, but I know the author can do better work than this.

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

Villain Concept (name, title, is it actually a villain?, design choices, playability?): C+
The Bad: This is a cool monster, not a villain. In fact, I am so convinced that this is not a villain, I am noting that this is a possible violation of the submission requirements. Not enough to auto-reject. But I would be remiss if I didn’t strongly raise the issue.

Stat Block Execution (proper content, proper format, good math, generally mistake free?, not abusing word count?): B-
The Bad: Erik is right on with his criticisms. To me, those are editing issues but still they get deductions. I feel that Erik hit it when he said your attention to detail wasn’t really there on this one. Tactics were underwhelming.

Description (quality of writing, hook?, theme?, organization, contains all mandatory content—physical description, motivation/goal, scheme/plot?): C+
The Good: Come on, does it get better than this? I say, no. The quotes, the evocative writing. Your writing is so close to cheesy yet somehow so brilliant. In the end, “brilliant cheese” is probably about as good a description of good roleplaying content as you can find. Great tie in to the prior country submission. Very strong. The writing is just so good.
The Bad: Dinged for passive voice and some cut and paste issues. Plus, can you guys please fix that silly replacement character issue that a couple of you have going on. It really is distracting. In the end, all that brilliant writing was wasted, because I don’t think you delivered the mandatory content. Where are the plot hooks and the schemes and the goals beyond just being a monster? As WB says: “What is the motivation here beyond the next pint of blood?” Just like this isn’t a villain, I think you are dangerously close to not providing the mandatory content. Not an auto-reject, but close.

Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor and setting?): C
The Good: I like this NPC and would use her, as a monster.
The Bad: But she isn’t a villain. I’m sorry. Despite the cool writing, this thing didn’t deliver.

Overall: C+
Can great writing and two amazing prior submissions cover up a monster NPC that isn’t a villain and is sorely lacking in mandatory content?

I am not recommending you. But I have a funny feeling that you will be the Blink Dog of Round 3—the thing I say no to that the voting public gives a pass. And I have to say, you would probably deserve it. Your prior entries are so strong, you have probably bought yourself one round where you can stumble and get a pass. Stained Peaks was so great. And I loved the leash. Though I cannot recommend you, I do hope the voting public gives you one more chance. But if you get that chance, you better bring something that is just total undisputed coolness in the next round.

NOT RECOMMEND for Top 8

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

I sorely underestimated how much time I needed for some parts of this, so I did not finish proofreading properly. It's not a mistake that I'll make again.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

Sir_Wulf wrote:
I sorely underestimated how much time I needed for some parts of this, so I did not finish proofreading properly. It's not a mistake that I'll make again.

I feel you, bro. Time was short and I had a family commitment in the middle of it. Even though I spent all Monday morning working to polish it... well, I know what you mean.

Love the background and flavor and working it in as part of your country, BTW.


Keep on learning from your mistakes, and know that you have a solid fan base!

Liberty's Edge

I don't know the difference between a monster and a villain...
I loved the old twist on the inviting the vampire into the house....
"I'm cold; please let me in...."

I really like this one a lot, I like the Aurochs people, I'm starting to see a certain power in linking each entry to the previous one.

While I believe some sort of plot on the part of the Haunter would be helpful, I don't think it's entirely necessary. I think the Haunter does an excellent job of invoking fear, and does so rather interestingly.

It's the whole "unknown evil in the wilderness" thing that gets the heebie jeebies going. I think it also provokes a yearning (in me anyway) to use this villain somehow; to come up with a hook or a plot of some sort. I think that's good.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

A female dwarf druid is a pretty cool take on a classic (even over-done) villain like a vampire. And I always like to see a well done low CR villain … although in this case I kind of have to suspend my disbelief a little that this low CR “local legend” type monster has survived all these centuries … not quite sure about that.

The writing and back story are great, and I like the tie in back to the Stained Peaks. To me, this is a good tie in that does not seem forced.

I do agree that this falls dangerously close to being a monster, an encounter, even a legend – but not a villain. In fact, it may cross that line. I can think of ways I can use Kaltia as a villain, but there are few if any indications, hooks or ideas in your entry.

As a counter-point to this, I am getting a very strong vibe of the titular character of CJ Cherryh’s “Rusalka.” This gives me some excellent pointers as to how I could use Kaltia as a villain – albeit a fairly unconventional one (and some may still argue that Cherryh’s rusalka does not meet the criteria of a true villain). That whole “I’m cold, let me in, warm me up” sort of thing is awesome, and there’s definitely some good villainous potential there.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Sheyd

You have managed to make a vampire that both has a reason to exist and is evocative enough for me to want to use (BIG task there since I loathe vampires) this isn't a villain. She is a great, absolutely great monster encounter, a legend worthy of induction into any campaign but she isn't what I'd call a villain. Unless the Players are moving through her region she isn't going to impact them at all. She doesn't seem to have goals beyond her next meal.

The Aurochs People are cool and the linking of your entries is a very nice touch.

I'd love to support this entry I really would. While I do like it and you have clear talent this just misses the mark on Villain for me.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015 aka Steven T. Helt

Mechanically, I think CR6 is a little low. I know druid4 plus vampire2, but you have an AC of 24 (tough for optimal fighters to hit), stacked with a decadent number of resistances, immunities, save bonuses, and after all that, DR 10 (magic AND silver) and fast healing 5. Also, barkskin only works on living creatures (does help with that AC problem). To not get this during design is the kind of stat mistake that drops games a notch. Imagine a beloved PC is killed by a 'cheating' NPC. Now what do you do? Return the character to life? Better to do it right the first time.

Another design flaw I see is that druid doesn't really come into play. A class should have as much bearing on the actions and personalities as anything else. We got 'shamaness' (I hate that word. Is it even real? Why can't shaman be gender neutral? Webster didn't help me. Who's with me?), but nothing about her 'druidness' before or after the conversion. Not even in her tactics. She might as well be a super powerful dwarf vampire expert 2 and only be cr3. Gads.

Vampire-druid has promise, but you don't live up to it. We need a spoiled connection to the land or something. And also: given the affinity vampires have for creatures of the night, you miss a big opportunity for a cinematic animal companion. I would go with a gruff-talking worg.

Finally, this is not in any way a villain. There's no goals, no stronghold or lackeys, and no plot, other than (and good job here), your vampire had a Tepes-like tragic creation story. This is a few cure moderate wounds spells from a dead monster and a curse lifted.


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

Quick thoughts:
+1 for being low CR, shows style IMO
+1 for a good origin
-1 for not enough PC hook

The fatal flaw here to me is that she's just a roving monster. She could be more - with the ability to create spawn the sky's the limit, but that's not even hinted at here. In fact, even her motivation is a cipher to be projected from the origin story.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber
ancientsensei wrote:

Mechanically, I think CR6 is a little low. I know druid4 plus vampire2, but you have an AC of 24 (tough for optimal fighters to hit), stacked with a decadent number of resistances, immunities, save bonuses, and after all that, DR 10 (magic AND silver) and fast healing 5. Also, barkskin only works on living creatures (does help with that AC problem). To not get this during design is the kind of stat mistake that drops games a notch. Imagine a beloved PC is killed by a 'cheating' NPC. Now what do you do? Return the character to life? Better to do it right the first time.

Another design flaw I see is that druid doesn't really come into play. A class should have as much bearing on the actions and personalities as anything else. We got 'shamaness' (I hate that word. Is it even real? Why can't shaman be gender neutral? Webster didn't help me. Who's with me?), but nothing about her 'druidness' before or after the conversion. Not even in her tactics. She might as well be a super powerful dwarf vampire expert 2 and only be cr3. Gads.

Vampire-druid has promise, but you don't live up to it. We need a spoiled connection to the land or something. And also: given the affinity vampires have for creatures of the night, you miss a big opportunity for a cinematic animal companion. I would go with a gruff-talking worg.

Finally, this is not in any way a villain. There's no goals, no stronghold or lackeys, and no plot, other than (and good job here), your vampire had a Tepes-like tragic creation story. This is a few cure moderate wounds spells from a dead monster and a curse lifted.

Scarab Sages

Some folks really took pains to tie their villains to locales described in the previous stage, and the results were dazzling. I was about to get mad that this monster was taking advantage of that trend, trying to slide by clinging to the coatails of one of the absolute best of the last batch--then I saw it was your locale. Ugh. Now I just feel bad.

As flavorful as the Stained Peaks were, this vampire dwarf lady just isn't. She's a vampire. She sucks blood. She doesn't even seem to particularly fit into the Stained Peaks, coming from some long ago died off culture that only gets a name. It's just a shame.

Then there's the whole Imhotep thing. Why would you ever punish your worst criminals with eternal life and the ability to hunt the living? Well I guess I know what happened to the Aurouchs...

Well I hope you make it. I've loved everything you've done up to this point. Can't vote for you this time around though. Sorry.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

my first thought was that you need to have 5hd to be a vampire, if not you are just a vampire spawn. Mate if it was that easy everyone would do it!

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I agree with several of the posters here. This seems to be more of a monster encounter and not a villain, IMHO.

I really like the Stained Peaks, and this left me underwhelmed.


ancientsensei wrote:
We got 'shamaness' (I hate that word. Is it even real? Why can't shaman be gender neutral? Webster didn't help me. Who's with me?),

I ran the Shaman's Crucible for some time during the heyday of EverQuest. The plural of shaman is shamans, and shaman is gender neutral (if you must use a feminine form, Shamanka suffices). It was adopted whole cloth from a non-Latin root and the "man" portion has nothing to do with gender.

Tied to the Stained Peaks, I would have liked to see her have more of the qualities of a Vampire / Rust Monster.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6, Contributor , Dedicated Voter 2013

mwbeeler wrote:


I ran the Shaman's Crucible for some time during the heyday of EverQuest. The plural of shaman is shamans, and shaman is gender neutral (if you must use a feminine form, Shamanka suffices). It was adopted whole cloth from a non-Latin root and the "man" portion has nothing to do with gender.

Shamanka is more correct, but shamaness sees relatively frequent use. English has a tendency to create new words, and this is a good example of one that isn't correct historically, but is used enough to have validity.

I like the origin story here a fair bit. I also think she has a lot of potential as a recurring hit and run foe, since at the CR given the party is unlikely to have an effective way to catch her.


Russ Taylor wrote:
but shamaness sees relatively frequent use.

True, but then so do “ain’t,” “irregardless,” and “shamen.” Not knocking you, just saying...doesn't make it right.


Yeah, I'm a bit underwhelmed by this one. I kept looking at it, waiting for the "wow" to kick in. But I just saw "Dwarf vampire. Druid."

No real fascinating Animal Companion. The Icy setting is good (I like arctic settings... what can I say, I'm Canadian!), but it really wasn't enough. I dunno if you could do it, but I think even some flavour text that set her apart from other Vampires would've worked - maybe instead of drawing blood, she drew warmth from those she inflicted, and her Vampire Spawn were somehow tied to that (those always searching for heat, but were denied it somehow).

I guess I just saw Game Rules (which seemed good, btw) and a fairly average story put together.

On the plus side, I do see this as a villain, and one that is probably a lot more plausible than many of the moustache-twirling villains we often see in D&D. The fact that PCs can empathize with her makes her a bit cooler, if you ask me. So, disagreement with Clark there - sorry, Clark. ;)

Also, I *love* how this is a low CR critter that is also a "local legend" - it gives lower level PCs something valuable to do in the game, rather than just fighting goblins who decided to terrorize some shoe merchant or something. Not every terror in the wilderness has to be a CR 17 beast. After all, isn't the Sandpoint Devil from the first Pathfinder around CR 6 or 7? Local Legends being fairly low CR work fine, for me.

Anyways, I'm not a huge fan of this one, but I still might put a vote in for you, simply because if you didn't make it through this round, it'd be an absolute shame. A tragedy, even. So there.


Very bland entry.

I get an overwhelming sense of 'just coasting' from this entry, and that annoys me greatly.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Loved--LOVED--the Stained Peaks.

While this villain may not be an earth-shattering home run, it's just so solid, well-written and fits with the existing setting I consider it a shoe-in. You get my vote.

You need to be designing role playing games, even if it's not with Paizo, and I will be *yoink*-ing all of the creations you've submitted. Please take that in the complimentery vein in which I intended it. (Vein...see how I did that?)

At very least, please come to my town and DM our games each week. Please?!? I'll pay you....


I'm not sure what to do here. The monster is really neat, and I'll use her.

But she's not a villain, she's a monster.

But... I'll use her. She's a NEAT monster...

argh. Lemme see who else might get a vote...


Sir_Wulf wrote:

The Time of the Auroch People, 580 years ago…

[i]The shamaness Kaltia squirmed fruitlessly, struggling to free herself from the priests’ grip. Her efforts only caused her grim-faced captors to hold more tightly as the bowl of anathema was carried forward.

“For your betrayal of your clan… Drink!” intoned the priests. Vile liquid poured into her mouth, making her gag. Death claimed the shamaness, but oblivion was denied her.

Nice opener. I liked this. The writing shows imagination and promise, yet it could be a lot tighter. (Example: "Kaltia squirmed fruitlessly, unable to free herself from the priest's grip. Her grim-faced captors held on tightly while the priests brought the bowl of anathema orward. ...Vile liquid gagged her. Death claimed the shamaness. Oblivion denied her petition.")

The concept is good (is it just me or are there some common themes here on this round) and different. I like the primitive backstory. She does seem a little light on items for a high level character. It ties in with the prior entry, but I felt a little disappointed actually given the previous high quality. The writing does need work once you get to the meat of the text. There's a lot of passive voice. I will reread this before deciding on my vote.


Dungeon Grrrl wrote:

I'm not sure what to do here. The monster is really neat, and I'll use her.

But she's not a villain, she's a monster.

But... I'll use her. She's a NEAT monster...

argh. Lemme see who else might get a vote...

Yes, that's exactly how I feel. I really like the flavor, and she's a great monster, but I don't feel that she's a villain. She's limited to a particular geographic region, and she doesn't have any motivations beyond blood to make herself warm.

You've already said that only blood can warm her, so even though the whole "having to stay in the snow" thing is kind of neat, allowing her to go into heated buildings or even to tropical jungles doesn't really lift her curse in any way. It ends up being more limiting than cool, I think. And I mean limiting to the DM, not limiting in a game-balance kind of way.

Her desire for warmth could be broadened a bit to make her more villainous. She was cursed for wanting peace with the newcomers, and the newcomers presumably were responsible in some way for the disappearance of the Aurochs People. She has long since realized the error of her ways, and believes the curse will be lifted if the newcomers are driven from the Peaks and her people avenged. Since she knows she is not powerful enough (yet!) to drive them away by force, she spies on the community leaders and tries to manipulate them through blackmail, intimidation, and her domination ability with the goal of causing so much internal strife and chaos that they leave or kill each other (more or less "over the top" depending on taste). She also has a campaign to cause fear in the common folk, knowing that fear may drive them away and turn them against their leaders (that's where the fun door-to-door "let me in" thing comes into play). It's a long term scheme that she's barely getting started on, but she's undead...she has all the time in the world.


Notes to self: Dwarf-druid-vampire. Sounded really cool made me think of the ice hag chick from Myth 2. But reading it didn't really excite me. More of a 1 time monster and for that I would rather see new monster than stacked classes and templates.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

Unfortunately I have to agree with the judges. I really liked your country and voted for you. Thus I came to this entry with high hopes. It is well written, but it's not a villain.

That could cost you my vote.


Vivid monster but limited and somewhat half-realized...borderline vote.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Aotrscommander

James, you're killin' me. I thought Stained Peaks was easily the best last round. If I had any hair on my boney skull I'd be tearing it out. (Actually, I did tear the hair out of several Elven prisoners...)

Dammit.

I have to really reluctantly agree with the judges. This is a superlatively flavoured entry and I can see it working really well as a foreshadowed legendary menace in the Peaks.

Heck, you managed to get me to like it despite it being a vampire! That's like...impossible! (Though the touch of reflavouring really helped!)

But.

Despite twisting it everyway in my head, it didn't just scream 'mastermind villain' to me. She doesn't seem the sort of schemer that a villain needs to be, really. I can't see her becoming a recurring villain easily.

You've sort of done what I did with Kerpiquan; excellent flavour but not quite hitting the mark of what was the intended target.

Sorry, man. I feel for you. I was really hoping you'd blast through this round.

(Should I note if Kaltia had been a Lich you'd have had my vote there and then, regardless?)

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka JoelF847

ancientsensei wrote:
Also, barkskin only works on living creatures (does help with that AC problem).

Wow, good catch. I don't think I ever noticed that little restriction on barkskin, and I can't say I'd hold that against someone, but thanks for pointing it out. It does make undead druids a bit weaker in general.

As for the Haunter, I have to agree that a) it's a monster as presented, with no villain goals at all, and b) it's pretty standard as a vampire. With such low levels in druid, there's not a whole lot different from any other vampire.

Good luck making it to the next round, but I'm afraid you don't get my vote for this one.

Scarab Sages

I wanted to like this entry, and to some extent I really do. But, I hate that I keep asking myself, "Is this a villain or just a bad guy?"

You're clearly one of the best writers in the competition, and you're certainly creative. I liked the bit about being bound to snow-covered lands. It was a nice touch. Kaltia's history and curse takes her beyond stereotypical vampire.

I'm also really interested in the Aurochs People. But that's the beginning of my dilemma. I'm not sure if I like Kaltia on her own, or if I like this entry because it gives more details about your country.

I think you have a lot of potential, and I really want to see more of your creations. Since I liked your previous submissions so much, I don't think I'm going to hold the bad guy/villain thing against you.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

Lost my comments. I'm going to check back on this one, though I have serious reservations.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 aka adanedhel9

I'm going to agree with a lot of things said here. "Where's my drink?" is not a fantastic villian motivation, even for a vampire. I think you could have started with either the druid part of the "Last of" part to give her a stronger motivation. Make her a crusader against the miners or the keeper of some forgotten knowledge; give her a reason to interact with the PC's beyond "I vant to drink your blood!"

I do really enjoy the local legend flair Kaltia has. I can really see a group of Stained Peak dwarves, huddled around a fire, telling their children (and the PC's) stories of the monster in the snow... and then something knocks on the door...

James, I loved the Stained Peaks; and I think Kaltia makes a great addition to that setting. But it leaves something to be desired as a villian.


Sir Wulf:
Russ and Rob bagged my first two votes, and Kotalya eventually secured my third, for her designer. This villain of yours has a certain amount of character, but as you will be painfully aare by now from prior posts, a lot of the readers are having difficulty seeing it as anything other than a 'one off encouner', as has been said of several of the other entires in this round as well. Where are her ambitions? Doesn't she thirst for revenge against the invaders/despoilers of her homeland? Or even just to bring 'all year winter' so that she can go anywhere that she wants? Some sort of control weather item, or even a few more levels so that she could cast control weather would exptend her usability, and supply DMs with a tool to creep their PC's out... "oh look: it's only just the start of winter and suddenly it's snowing, down here in the village in the valley.... your dwarven hosts huddle together, terrified that this sudden blizzard may in fact presage the arrival of a terrible monster that stalks these parts, known as 'The Haunter of the Hills'...", and so forth.
It's Christmas, and so you get my fourth vote.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

I would like to say thanks to those who supported my hopes in this contest, and I'm sorry that my villain didn't uphold the expectations of those who liked Stained Peaks.

Some of the criticism that I've received has been very valuable, and I'll try to remember what I've learned in future endeavors.


I can't believe this one didn't make it. My GOD. The best contestant was just knocked out... yikes. My condolences, man.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

Since I’m out of the running, I might as well post a revised version of Kaltia, one that takes advantage of the feedback and information I received during the round. My wintry vampire may not have been the best, but I’d hate for people to think I didn’t learn from my mistakes.

KALTIA, THE HAUNTER OF THE SNOWS

The Malediction
The Hierophant’s fury echoed across the chamber. “You allied yourself with those who steal our lands, Kaltia Oathbreaker! For your betrayal of the People of the Aurochs, you shall taste of the Bowl of Anathema!”

The dwarven shamanka struggled against the priests’ grip as powerfully-built dwarves brought forth the heavy necromantic vessel. “Drink!” intoned the priests as they forced her mouth open.

“I bind you to the winter’s frigid snows, warmed only by the blood of our land’s enemies!” continued the Hierophant. “Never shall you rest until the newcomers are destroyed! Never shall your hunger be satisfied, save by the heart’s blood of those who invade our land!”

As she gagged on the necromantic elixir filling her mouth, death claimed the shamanka, yet oblivion was denied her.

The Aurochs People were not a merciful folk.

An apparition of ancient death, Kaltia appears as the frozen corpse of a dwarven woman, desiccated by the peaks’ frigid air. Her withered features are those of the long-decimated Aurochs People; a ragged shroud, stained with rust-tinted gore, is her only clothing.

Spoiler:
KALTIA, THE HAUNTER OF THE SNOWS CR 7

Female dwarf vampire druid 5
NE Medium undead (augmented humanoid)
Init +7 [+3 Dex, +4 Improved Init.]; Senses 60’ darkvision; Listen +22, Spot +22

DEFENSE

AC 23, touch 13, flat-footed 21
(+3 bracers, +3 Dex, +6 natural, +1 amulet of natural armor)
hp 33 (5d12); fast healing 5
Fort +4[+4 base], Ref +6[+1 base, +3 Dex, +2 Lightning Reflexes], Will +8 [+4 base, +4 Wis]; +2 vs. poison, +2 vs. spells or spell-like effects, +4 vs. spell-like abilities of fey
Defensive Abilities +4 AC against opponents with the giant type, stability, +4 turn resistance; DR 10/silver and magic; Immune undead immunities; Resist cold 10, electricity 10, protection from energy spell (fire)

OFFENSE

Spd 20 ft., climb 20 ft.
Melee masterwork sickle +9 [+3 base, +1 masterwork, +5 Str] (1d6+5) or
slam +8 [+3 base, +5 Str] (1d6+5)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks +1 on attack rolls vs. orcs and goblinoids, blood drain, children of the night, dominate, create spawn, energy drain, wild shape
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 5th):
At will- gaseous form
Spells Prepared (CL 5th):
3rd (2/day)- protection from energy, sleet storm
2nd (3/day)- pass without trace, resist energy, warp wood
1st (4/day)- barkskin, chill metal, obscuring mist, produce flame
0 (5/day)- detect magic x 2, light, resistance, mending

TACTICS

Before Combat Kaltia prepares for combat by casting protection from energy (fire) upon herself, then pass without trace, barkskin, and resist energy (fire) on her wolf companion, Ghaulain: These spells are reflected in the information provided. Kaltia picks her fights carefully, choosing to fight where her spider climb ability and alternate forms will allow her to easily “hit and run”, such as on mountain trails or near barriers such as cliffs. She often approaches potential foes disguised via wild shape: Appearing as a stray goat or similar innocuous form, she draws close without arousing suspicion. More wary foes will face a summoned pack of the “children of the night” to weaken them before her true attack: Watching from concealment, she assesses her foes’ magical abilities before engaging them.
During Combat Kaltia’s preferred tactics could be well described as “divide and conquer”, cutting off some foes with sleet storm or obscuring mist while she deals with others. If she faces foes with powerful magical or missile attacks, the sleet storm and obscuring mist will be placed to neutralize their best attacks, but she prefers to have clear lines of sight when her foes are weak-willed warriors susceptible to her domination gaze. Ghaulain, her lupine animal companion, is sent to attack spell casters, grappling them to prevent casting. Kaltia’s wand of rusting grasp is reserved to weaken structures sheltering opponents, allowing her to send wolves in to attack those inside after bars, bolts, and nails rust away. Similarly, warp wood is generally used to destroy barred doors, shutters, or roof beams.
Morale Kaltia is a skittish opponent who prefers “hit and run” tactics. When she takes more than 20 hp damage, she falls back, letting her quick healing restore her. Some foes are clearly more than she can handle: She flees from such opponents as soon as she realizes she’s overmatched, retreating to one of several seldom-used alternate lairs.

STATISTICS

Str 20, Dex 16, Con -, Int 15, Wis 19, Cha 14
Base Atk +3; Grp +8
Feats Alertness (B), Combat Expertise, Combat Reflexes (B), Dodge (B), Improved Disarm, Improved Initiative (B), Lightning Reflexes (B)
Skills Appraise +2 [Int] (+2 to appraise stone or metal items), Bluff +10 [+2 Cha, +8 vampire], Concentration +10 [+2 Cha, 8 ranks], Craft +2 [Int] (+2 to craft metal or stone items), Diplomacy +6 ]OOC][+2 Cha, 4 ranks][/OOC], Handle Animal +5 (+4 when handling her Animal Companion) [+2 Cha, 3 ranks], Hide +11 [+3 Dex, +8 Vampire], Jump -1 [+5 Str, -6 20 ft. move], Knowledge (nature) +11 [+2 Int, 5 ranks, +2 Survival synergy, +2 Nature Sense], Listen +22 [+4 Wis, 7 ranks, +8 Vampire, +3 Alertness], Move Silently +11 [+3 Dex, +8 Vampire], Search +10 (+12 to notice unusual stonework) [+2 Int, +8 Vampire], Sense Motive +12 [+4 Wis, +8 Vampire], Spot +22 [+4 Wis, 7 ranks, +8 Vampire, +3 Alertness], Survival +13 [+4 Wis, 5 ranks, +2 synergy, +2 Nature Sense]
Languages Common, Druidic, Dwarven, Aurochian (Dead tongue of the Aurochs People)
SQ alternate form, animal companion, nature sense, stonecunning, undead traits, wild empathy, woodland stride, trackless step, resist nature’s lure, vampire weaknesses
Combat Gear masterwork sickle, wand of rusting grasp (13 charges); Other Gear bracers of armor +3, amulet of natural armor +1, ball of withered mistletoe, ragged shrouds, tarnished silver horn (worth 40 gp, Kaltia uses it to call Ghaulain when they are far apart)

SPECIAL ABILITIES

  • Alternate Form (Su)Kaltia can assume the shape of a bat, dire bat, wolf, or dire wolf as a standard action.

  • Animal Companion (Ex) A gaunt, hideously-scarred wolf named Ghaulain accompanies Kaltia as her animal companion.

  • Blood Drain (Ex) The Haunter can suck blood from a living victim with her fangs by making a successful grapple check. If she pins the foe, she drains blood, dealing 1d4 points of Constitution drain each round the pin is maintained. Each successful attack grants her 5 temporary hit points.

  • Children of the Night (Su) Vampires command the lesser creatures of the world; once per day, Kaltia can call forth 1d6+1 rat swarms, 1d4+1 bat swarms, or a pack of 3d6 wolves (as a standard action). These creatures arrive in 2d6 rounds and serve for up to 1 hour.

  • Create Spawn (Su) A humanoid or monstrous humanoid slain by Kaltia’s energy drain rises as a vampire spawn 1d4 days after burial.

    If she instead drains the victim’s Constitution to 0 or lower, a victim with 5 or more Hit Dice will return as a vampire. Lesser victims return as vampire spawn. This new vampire or spawn is under Kaltia’s command until she is destroyed. Kaltia may have up to 10 Hit Dice of such thralls; any spawn that would exceed this limit are free-willed. While her enslaved vampires may create enslaved spawn of their own, Kaltia seldom permits that, fearing the creation of vampires outside her control.

  • Dominate (Su) Kaltia can crush an opponent’s will just by looking onto his or her eyes. This is similar to a gaze attack, but requires a standard action; those merely looking at her are not affected. Anyone she targets must succeed on a Will save (DC 14) or fall instantly under Kaltia’s influence, as though by a dominate person spell (caster level 12th). This ability has a range of 30 feet.

  • Energy Drain (Su) Living creatures hit by Kaltia’s slam attack gain two negative levels. For each negative level bestowed, she gains 5 temporary hit points. This ability can be used once per round.

  • Fast Healing (Ex) Kaltia heals 5 points of damage each round so long as she has at least 1 hit point. If reduced to 0 hit points in combat, she is forced to assume gaseous form and attempts to escape.

  • Gaseous Form (Su) At will, Kaltia can assume gaseous form (caster level 5th). She can remain gaseous indefinitely, with a fly speed of 20 feet with perfect maneuverability. Assuming gaseous form requires a standard action.

  • Nature Sense (Ex) Kaltia’s druid levels grant a +2 bonus on Knowledge (nature) and Survival checks.

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

  • Spider Climb (Ex) Kaltia can climb sheer surfaces as though with a spider climb spell.

  • Stability (Ex) Kaltia has a +4 bonus on ability checks made to resist being bull rushed or tripped when standing on the ground (but not when climbing, flying, riding, or otherwise not standing firmly on the ground).

  • Stonecunning (Ex) This ability grants a +2 racial bonus on Search checks to notice unusual stonework, such as sliding walls, stonework traps, new construction (even when built to match the old), unsafe stone surfaces, shaky stone ceilings, and the like. Something that isn’t stone but that is disguised as stone also counts as unusual stonework. A dwarf who merely comes within 10 feet of unusual stonework can make a Search check as if he were actively searching, and a dwarf can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can. A dwarf can also intuit depth, sensing his approximate depth underground as naturally as a human can sense which way is up.

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

  • Vampire Weaknesses Like other vampires, Kaltia cannot tolerate the strong odor of garlic, recoils from a mirror or a strongly presented holy symbol, and cannot enter a home or other building unless invited in. Kaltia is only able to cross running water if its surface is frozen, although she can be carried over water while resting in a coffin or aboard a ship.

  • Wild Empathy (Ex) Kaltia can improve the attitude of an animal. This ability functions just like a Diplomacy check made to improve the attitude of a person. She rolls 1d20+7 [+5 druid level, +2 Charisma] to determine the wild empathy check result.

  • Wild Shape (Su) Kaltia has the druidic ability to turn herself into any Small or Medium animal and back again once per day. Her options for new forms include all creatures with the animal type. This ability functions like the alternate form special ability, except as noted here. The effect lasts for 1 hour per druid level, or until she changes back. Changing form (to animal or back) is a standard action that doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity. Each time she uses wild shape, she regains 5 lost hit points.

  • Woodland Stride (Ex) Kaltia may move through any sort of undergrowth (such as natural thorns, briars, overgrown areas, and similar terrain) at her normal speed and without taking damage or suffering any other impairment. However, thorns, briars, and overgrown areas that have been magically manipulated to impede motion still affect her.

At the wizened vampire's side lopes Ghaulain, an ancient, hideous wolf, its life preserved long past its due time by her deathly influence. Ribbons of hideous scar tissue twist across the time-ravaged beast’s emaciated form.
Spoiler:

GHAULAIN, ANIMAL COMPANION OF THE VAMPIRE SHAMANKA KALTIA

Male wolf
N Medium Animal
Init +3 [+3 Dex]; Senses low-light vision, scent; Listen +6, Spot +6

DEFENSE

AC 19, touch 13, flat-footed 16
(+3 Dex, +4 natural, +2 barkskin)
hp 26 (4d8+8)
Fort +6 [+4 base, +2 Con], Ref +7 [+4 base, +3 Dex], Will +2 [+1 base, +1 Wis]
Defensive Abilities evasion, resist energy spell (fire 10)

OFFENSE

Spd 50 ft.
Melee bite +6 [+3 base, +2 Str, +1 Weapon Focus] (1d6+2)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks trip

TACTICS

Before Combat Ghaulain tries to attack from concealment. Given opportunity, his mistress will order Ghaulain to hide somewhere with 100% concealment from the most likely angles of approach, then signal for him to attack when she engages. Her favored signal is a bloodcurdling shriek.
During Combat With his vicious bite, Ghaulain initiates a grapple. The wolf then savagely tears at his foe until he thinks they are dead. Kaltia generally orders him to attack spell casters first.
Morale Stupidly loyal, Ghaulain fights until he is slain.

STATISTICS

Str 14, Dex 16, Con 15, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 6
Base Atk +3; Grp +5
Feats Alertness, Track , Weapon Focus (Bite)
[b]Skills
Hide +3 [+3 Dex], Listen +6 [3 ranks, +1 Wis, +2 Alertness], Move Silently +4 [+3 Dex, 1 rank], Spot +6 [3 ranks, +1 Wis, +2 Alertness], Survival +1 (+4 when tracking by scent) [+1 Wis]

Tricks attack, come, defend, down, guard, heel, stay, and track
Languages none, but he understands orders in Aurochian
SQ bonus HD, Natural Armor adjustment, Str./Dex. Adjustment, bonus tricks, link, share spells, pass without trace spell

GHAULAIN’S SPECIAL ABILITIES

  • Bonus HD (Ex) Ghaulain has two bonus Hit Dice as Kaltia’s animal companion. These grant him a base attack bonus and saves superior to others of his kind, and are responsible for his superior skills and Alertness feat.

  • Bonus Tricks (Ex) Ghaulain has two bonus tricks due to Kaltia’s druid level.

  • Evasion (Ex) If Ghaulain is subjected to an attack that normally allows a Reflex saving throw for half damage, he takes no damage if he makes a successful saving throw.

  • Link (Ex) Kaltia can handle Ghaulain as a free action, or push him as a move action. She gains a +4 circumstance bonus on all wild empathy checks and Handle Animal checks made regarding her companion.

  • Natural Armor Adjustment (Ex) Ghaulain’s natural armor improved by 2 as Kaltia’s companion animal.

  • Share Spells (Ex) At Kaltia’s option, she may have any spell (but not any spell-like ability) she casts upon herself also affect Ghaulain. He must be within 5 feet of her at the time of casting to receive the benefit. If the spell or effect has any duration other than instantaneous, it stops affecting Ghaulain if he moves farther than 5 feet away and will not affect him again, even if he returns to her side before the duration expires.

    Additionally, Kaltia may cast a spell with a target of "You" on her wolf (as a touch range spell) instead of on herself. They can share spells even if the spells normally do not affect creatures of Ghaulain’s type (animal).

  • Str/Dex Adjustment (Ex) Druidic animal companions often benefit from superior Strength and Dexterity.

  • Trip (Ex) If Ghaulain makes a successful melee bite attack against a foe, he can attempt to trip the opponent (+1 check modifier) as a free action without making a touch attack or provoking an attack of opportunity. If the attempt fails, the opponent cannot react to trip the wolf.

The Dead of Winter
When winter’s first snows arrive, the people of Zavaten Gura’s isolated highlands fear the snow more than the season’s deathly chill. Huddled in their huts of stone and iron, they shiver through long nights, dreading the arrival of Kaltia, the Haunter of the Snows.

In life, the shamanka sought peace with those who supplanted the Aurochs clans, now the only peace she craves comes when she pours their warm blood over her withered flesh. Dwarves’ tales speak of frozen shrines hidden among the snow-capped mountains, where Kaltia communes with long-dead spirits. Even worse, they speak of other dwarves who keep to the old customs of the lost Aurochs people, who willingly serve the Haunter of the Snows. Supposedly, some have even sought to undo the ancient malediction that binds her: A curse with the power of a miracle from a 17th level caster.

Winter’s winds almost obscured the quavering voice beyond the hut’s iron portal. ”Please, open the door for a poor old woman! I’m so cold! Sooo very cold!”

In the dead of winter, the Haunter appears, calling her victims into the frigid nights. Soon, her victims return as ravenous vampire spawn, slaughtering their unsuspecting kindred. Entire snowbound hamlets have thus vanished, the spring thaw revealing only rust and despair. Only after the people of the mountain villages are gone will the Hierophant’s curse release Kaltia: Only then will the Haunter of the Snows find peace.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Seriously--a crime. You was robbed.

I still vote you come to my city and GM a game for my tiny little group.

I'll pay you cash monies...

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

While we're waiting for the monsters to be unveiled, I'd appreciate feedback on the revised version of Kaltia.

Did my changes suggest ways she could be used, or should I have laid them out more explicitly? I eliminated some details of her cursed state, relying on the "flavor text" to convey the information; was that choice effective?

The feedback she received generally said, "Good encounter, but a poor villain". Did the revisions address that?


Sir Wulf:
I hope that the following of my thoughts/impressions are along lines that are helpful to you.

1) Technical omissions (?) & improvements implemented.
I note that neither the first version (the actual competition entry), nor the rewrite, included the 'slaying a vampire' bit under the vampire weaknesses section. You included the 'repelling a vampire' part of the text as it stands pretty much in my 3.5 monster manual, but not the whoops, how do you neutralise the fast-healing and get rid of a vampire permenantly bit. From my monster manual, I'd expect to see mention of a stake, and of the effects of sunlight. I know that in your first version you mentioned something about 'curse of the frostblood' in the text. I don't know if this got cut out when you posted the rewrite, or if you intended that because she was only around (in the first version) during the winter that she was immune to daylight during the winter.
I'm also not seeing any details of her lairs/coffins. There is reference that she may flee to one of her lairs, and mention of 'shrines' where she may go at some times, so right now I'm wondering if some of those shrines count as lairs/house coffins (or some delightfully twisted dwarven druid equivalent of a coffin).

On the plus side, I see reference in the rewrite to use of the 'Children of the night' and 'wildshape' abilities' in the tactical section. The bit where PCs spot what is apparently just yet another in a long line of harmless mountain goats up on a crag above them one moment, and are up to their necks in trouble the next is appealing (well to me from a DM perspective, anyway). Especially so if they work out the druid bit but not the vampire connection. (I also spotted and approve of the addition of the divine focus- the mistletoe- to the combat gear.)

2) Activities.
I've studied the flavour part of the rewrite, and also looked at some of the posts by other readers. If I wanted Kaltia to be a villain in a Stained Peaks campaign that I was running, I'd be tempted not to run her as 'a predator looking to survive' but as 'a terrifying guerilla whose diet happens to consist solely of the blood of her enemies'. Her guerilla activities would include (beyond the removal of the settlements of the occupying peoples bit, which she is clearly stated as focussing on already): sabotaging transport routes (weakening iron bridges to the point where any serious weight will collapse them with her wand and/or spells, whilst probably pulling apart wooden or dry stone structures with her bare hands), attacking the occasional supply or ore-trains being shipped by llama (or whatever beast of burden is appropriate to the setting) along winding mountain roads, and dosing freshwater supplies/sources with poisons supplied by her allies or located with the assistance of her own 'knowledge(nature)' and/or 'survival' skills. I'm not certain whether or not the alignment would favour leaving any specific kind of calling cards or written warnings to mark atrocities; she might just as easily go for a technique of occasional acts of terror with no advance warning, nor explanation afterwards from someone who can literally blow away as a mist on the wind, to make it quite clear that 'outsiders' will be hunted mercilessly until they abandon the area altogether.
The tragedy of Kaltia's story is that she has been magically forced to become this monster hounding the people she once tried to befriend...
(The irony is, that those who put her in this position are probably huddled in a tent somewhere up on a mountain ridge leaving Kaltia to do all the dirty work. They may occasionally supply her with orders/magic items (those wands which she can't make herself) but they keep their own precious necks well away from the 'invaders'.)

I don't know if the rewrite of the flavour does enough to counter the complaint made by some of 'it's a monster, not a villain'. The rewrite (which I went to before the other posts) did this time spark the 'aha, guerilla fighter' line of inspiration from me, which is more than I got apart from the great dramatic descriptions reading the first version during the voting, so there may be something extra there now. I voted for Kaltia in Round 3, and would probably vote for this rewrite in otherwise identical circumstances; I don't know, however, if you've conveyed enough to be able to win over doubters who didn't vote for you in round 3.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

Charles, thank you for the detailed feedback! I really appreciate it!

Charles Evans wrote:
I note that neither the first version (the actual competition entry), nor the rewrite, included the 'slaying a vampire' bit under the vampire weaknesses section.

Kaltia's special powers should have included that information. I went back and forth about whether she should be slain in the standard vampire manner; while it would have been interesting for her final doom to require some special actions or materials, that would have violated the contest's prohibition against new powers. Her special powers could benefit from the following changes:

  • Fast Healing (Ex) Kaltia heals 5 points of damage each round as long as she has 1 or more hit points. If reduced to 0 hit points, she automatically assumes gaseous form and attempts to escape. She must reach one of her mountain shrine tombs within 2 hours or be utterly destroyed. (She can travel up to nine miles in that time.) Once forced into gaseous form, additional damage dealt to Kaltia will have no effect. After reaching her tomb, Kaltia is helpless for the next hour, then resumes healing at the rate of 5 hit points per round.

  • Slaying Kaltia Reducing Kaltia’s hit points to 0 or lower incapacitates her but may not destroy her(see the note on fast healing). There are ways to permanently destroy Kaltia: Exposing her to direct sunlight disorients her: She can take only a single move action or attack action and is destroyed utterly in the next round if she cannot escape. Similarly, immersing her in running water robs her of one-third of her hit points each round until she is destroyed at the end of the third round of immersion. Driving a wooden stake through Kaltia's heart will instantly slay her, but she can return to life if the stake is removed, unless her body is destroyed.

Charles Evans wrote:
I know that in your first version you mentioned something about 'curse of the frostblood' in the text. I don't know if this got cut out when you posted the rewrite, or if you intended that because she was only around (in the first version) during the winter that she was immune to daylight during the winter.

I didn't intend to make her immune to daylight, preferring her as a nightmare of the long winter nights. "Bound to the Snows", she is still a creature of winter, but I removed the specific prohibitions from the text: They didn't work that well anyway.

Charles Evans wrote:
I'm also not seeing any details of her lairs/coffins. There is reference that she may flee to one of her lairs, and mention of 'shrines' where she may go at some times, so right now I'm wondering if some of those shrines count as lairs/house coffins (or some delightfully twisted dwarven druid equivalent of a coffin).

I envisioned her lairs as hidden caves within the mountains, secret shrines known only to her and a handful of remaining Aurochs clansmen. Rather than resting within a true coffin, she could be found kneeling in submission before the forgotten spirits of her people.

I particularly liked your suggestions for additional ways that she might carry out her struggle to eliminate the "invaders" of her land.

Mine Overseer Tsolanke looked grim as he reported the news. "Orlof's Pass bridge collapsed last night... We're cut off. Lock up the supplies, the men are likely to start hoarding once they know." As he gazed at the mist-shrouded mountains surrounding the small village, his voice grew lower. "I wonder how long it will be before SHE comes."


Sir_Wulf wrote:
I particularly liked your suggestions for additional ways that she might carry out her struggle to eliminate the "invaders" of her land.

That's a relief to read, as I wasn't sure if this suggestion might be straying too far from how you envisioned her.

Looking forward to seeing the rust-monster treatise.

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