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RPG Superstar 2015

Mind Reaper


Round 2 - Top 32: Create a monster concept

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Coldfire

Mind Reaper
Description: While many monsters haunt the shadows, the Mind Reaper uses the light to captivate and destroy its victims. Made of what seems to be light itself, a Mind Reaper is in fact an evil creature that pries open cracks from the Ethereal plane to harvest the living.
These micro rifts appear on the material plane as light refracting off of moisture in the air, or off odd surfaces. Many mortals mistake the light of a Mind Reaper for natural light only to realize their mistake after it is too late. On the Ethereal plane, a Mind Reaper becomes visible as a humanoid shape made entirely of undulating light, as if a sharp wind is constantly rippling through its form.
It is unknown what the Mind Reapers were before they became what they are, or if they ever were anything else at all, as no known true conversation with one has ever taken place. Every Mind Reaper shares an intense fear of darkness and will retreat from anything that could quench their light.
Powers and Abilities: Mind Reapers all operate with the sole intention to literally drain the essence from a mortal’s mind from their body. This grim task is accomplished after opening a minute rift to the material plane. Once opened a Mind Reaper will play with the light it creates to attract a mortal’s attention. As soon as its victim has begun to focus on it, a Mind Reaper will trap the mortal’s mind inside a mental prison of the victim’s own fears. After this occurs, a Mind Reaper siphons the mind of its victim into its own essence then seals the rift. There is nothing left of the victim but a mindless empty husk on the material plane.

Contributor

I'd prefer that the creature's physical description appear earlier in the writeup--it's not until the 5th sentence that I know what the think looks like in its true form. I can't get an accurate mental picture unless you tell me what it looks like.

The "or if they ever were anything else at all" is awkward and I'm not entirely sure what Nick meant when he was saying this. Is he suggesting they were they some other kind of creature before this, like a shred of a ghost or spawn or immature form of something else? Or is he trying to make me wonder if they spontaneously generated from nothingness? It's just a weird sentence.

The first sentence of the Powers section is also awkward: "to literally drain the essence from a mortal’s mind from their body." It's draining the essence from the creature's mind, or its body, not draining the target's mind's essence from its body.

I like how this creature attacks, though, but I wonder how vulnerable it is to attacks while it is doing so. Is it safe on the Ethereal Plane, or can enemies strike at it through the rift?

Here's some advice on the use of the word "will."

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

Names are tricky things and this one runs right into that fact. This one's a bit on the extreme side - sounds like a Dethklok title. When thinking about monster names, it tends to be a good idea to think about either what the monster calls itself (that's where most of your made-up word names come from) or what other creatures call in (a lot of your descriptive names). This one probably falls into that second category, but if someone else dubbed the creature that, the namer must have been pretty metal.

I'm also a little concerned that to most creatures, this thing won't look any different than a will-o'-wisp - a weird light that attacks those who get close.

The angle of opening actual rifts to another plane is pretty unusual, but I like that way more than most Ethereal creatures' "pop-in, pop-out" technique. I wonder if this portal can actually be used to go to the Ethereal, or at the very least, grab one of these buggers and drag it through to the Material Plane, where the PCs can beat it on their own terms.

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

Initial Impression: Evil light creature. Interesting idea. Let’s see how it plays out...

Concept (name, overall design choices, design niche, playability/usability, challenge): B-
You got us your twist right away, and I like that: this guy is an evil light creature, not your normal evil creature of darkness. Its good to get your concept right up front. “Don’t bury your lead,” as they say, and you didn’t. The problem is, I don’t think you know what your creature is or what it looks like and you use that rather tired “no one knows what they are or were” dodge. That’s usually a sign of poor design–“I don’t have to answer that question because no one knows!” I’m trying to think of your monster in terms of an eventual art order for it and I just have no idea how to envision it. That’s a big problem. I’m also not sure where this creature fits on the power curve. Grabbing a mind and bailing to the ethereal plane is either death for a low level party of a forced plane hop for a higher level one. But if the PCs are high enough level to deal with the plane hop, then this creature is probably not much more than a planar speed bump.

Execution (quality of writing, hook, theme, organization, use of proper format, world neutral, quality of mandatory content—description, summary of powers): B-
See my comments above on where this fits on the power curve. I have a funny feeling this submission was a big idea (“hey, I’m going to do a light monster! It will attack from the ethereal plane!”) but then a first draft of that idea. I’m not sure you fully found the monster or developed it properly. I just don’t think you have worked this thing through all the way. The trap the soul power has the same problem. The one thing you seem to have worked out is the cool special effects of the pop-in/pop-out attack.

Tilt (did it grab me, do I want to use one in an adventure?): C+
I don’t really know what this monster looks like, what it does, how I would use it or why I would use it. The thing I like about it–and the big design idea behind it–is the “light = bad” concept that busts most monster stereotypes.

Overall: B-
I don’t think your good idea was fully developed.

Recommendation: I DO NOT recommend this creature advance.

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

As mentioned, this is an interesting spin on monster stereotypes. It kind of strikes me as something that would appear on an old episode of Dr. Who where they could shine a reflection onto the set and call it a wormhole to the Ethereal while having someone suddenly go brain dead as a result. I think its a cool concept and a killer monster at low level, but as Clark mentioned at higher levels it's toast, so I'm not sure where it belongs.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Orange Toque

F. Wesley Schneider wrote:
sounds like a Dethklok title.
Quote:


but if someone else dubbed the creature that, the namer must have been pretty metal.

F. Wesley Schneider, I am in love with you.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

I feel like I'm almost seeing an awesome monster here. There are great flavors here that taste great together: the formless energy-being from beyond, the 'door of light' opening, the whole light/pattern theme and the fact that it mentally entraps people as soon as they notice it.

There's something missing in the presentation, though, like those themes aren't woven together tightly enough. I'm not sure if I can put my finger on it.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 , Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Demiurge 1138

This is the second monster I've read, and it's the second one that's reminded me of another monster that's already appeared in Pathfinder. The "alien light that kills" was already done in PF 5's shining child of Thassilon. But the mind reaper's shtick is clearly different from the shining child's, and shadowy monsters are a dime a dozen, so I'm willing to put that aside and judge this critter on its own merits.

First of all, not a huge fan of the name. Like F. Wesley Schneider said, it's a bit OTT. It's reminiscent of the mind flayer, but doesn't really fill that niche, so someone who's familiar with the mind flayer might come to it hoping for an alien mastermind and instead get an extraplanar predator. I'm assuming these guys aren't masterminds, because I definitely didn't get that vibe from the text.

I like the sound of these guys--they attack through dimensional rifts, lure people in with the promise of warmth and safety (or by a harpy like lure. Or both!), then drive them crazy with fear and feed on the sweet, sweet mind candy. The rift idea is a little odd, but I'm willing to work with it; perhaps the reaper effectively has cover against anyone except for an ethereal/blinking opponent, because it has to be attacked through the window in space.

Unfortunately, the writing itself isn't very good. Sentence structure is generally stilted and odd, and the flavor text is full of "no-one knows, isn't it mysterious" kludges. I like the hook more than, say, Clark did, but the actual writing leaves me feeling flat. You don't have my vote.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8 aka Tarren Dei

Nick Waln wrote:
It is unknown what the Mind Reapers were before they became what they are, or if they ever were anything else at all, as no known true conversation with one has ever taken place. Every Mind Reaper shares an intense fear of darkness and will retreat from anything that could quench their light.

I've often been tempted to do this -- create a sense of mystery by not revealing something about the creature explicitly. I think in previous years one of the judges railed against that or perhaps it was somewhere else on the boards.

Still, I like the image of this creature. It could be fun.

Liberty's Edge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2012 , Star Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

I like the evil light monster. It's a nice inversion on the stereotype. You had some passive voice in the write up which detracts from the evocative description.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Sollir

This creature has several cool things going for it. The basic premise of an evil monster made of light is a classic that isn't used much in D&D (the will-o-wisp would be the only competitor, though that creature is less humanoid). I like the mini-portal ability and attacking in an odd way-intelligence drain. I think I'd like to know why it devours intelligences though there is an air of mystery to the critter that I like.

The execution could use a little tightening but all in all I think you've got a nice monster concept Nick.

Good luck!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Demiurge 1138 wrote:
it's the second one that's reminded me of another monster that's already appeared in Pathfinder. The "alien light that kills" was already done in PF 5's shining child of Thassilon.

This, in my opinion, is the creature's main problem. If the shtick would have been completely original, I could probably overlook the problems in this entry's execution. However, it is a mysterious, extraplanar, rifts-y light creature. Alas, if you take that away, not much of substance remains ...


Nick Waln wrote:

Mind Reaper

cut for space

This is the second monster that I am looking at. I do not read the comments below the entry before posting my opinion. Apologies if this is duplicative of someone else’s entry, in part or whole.

Interesting dovetail to the Echo Drinker that I just reviewed. This creature is “light itself” and pries open “cracks” from the Ethereal Plane to attack. It’s unknown, it fears the dark

Powers:
*it gets to open a minute rift and dangles some sort of light-based lure (okay, sure)
*it traps the victim in a prison of its own fears (well now it crosses from being light-based to a mental monster, a creature of the id so to speak - in general fear-based effects are low-grade and not well done in D&D, so unless you have a really cool idea with awesome execution, it's best to avoid them)
*it turns the victim into a mindless husk (one might interpret this to mean lots of Int or Wis damage)

Summary: This is a Sniper Monster. A DM’s “nyah-nyah” critter. Creatures of light are generally accepted in D&D as belonging to “good” tropes, even though they really aren’t. So I like the idea that this messes a bit with that. However, it doesn’t make sense to come from the Ethereal. If it’s made of pure light, couldn’t it just hide in a sunbeam, and get forced out by a shadow or something? Then it gets confused. If it’s light-based, why does it drain the mind? I think this has some promising writing and one cool idea (minute rifts into the PMP) that goes afield once it gets into specifics. I think if it took the spark of inspiration and approached it again in a different way, I’d like to see what happens.


Praise:
I can see this creature pretty clearly, a rippling sheet of light. That's cool, very cool. It's tricksy, and mean, but can be vulnerable, I could see one panicking as the players figure out it's weakness.

Concerns:
This is an excessively complex creature. I saw the word "plane" far too many times. It seems like it has no material presence, and thus seems impossible to fight unless you move to the ethereal plane. I don't really get the "light refracting off of moisture" bit; does it create a rainbow? I also don't see this being an encounter or an enemy. This thing just shoots out some light, and takes a soul. Although it seems there are simpler ways to go about it, I'll buy it.

Overall:
This creature, like many others, suffers from a lack of simplicity. There are many ideas at play here, and they do not seem to come together cohesively. The idea of living on the ethereal but feeding on the material, and specifically, the way it's executed, seems like a cheap shot. This would be an Ethereal Plane hunt, and would only fit into certain campaign styles.


I have difficulty reading the entry and making out the intentions of the contestant. However, as far as I can determine, the mindreaper is a creature which opens up a hairline fracture between the ethereal and prime planes, shines a light through, and proceeds to:

  • fascinate
  • hypnotise
  • paralyse with a phobia-based mental attack
  • suck the mind out of a victim
    If the players, let alone the characters, have no idea what is going on, then this is particularly problematic. All they know is that a character just had to make a bunch of saving throws (or possibly not) and has just dropped dead. They may try to swing weapons, dispel evil, or dispel magic the shiny glowy line in the air, which will have no effect since it is a rift, not the actual creature, and during which time the same process will repeat to yet another character. At which point the characters may well run away, and your players beat the GM up.
    You say that the Mind Reaper is a afraid of darkness, but I get the impression that knowledge of these creatures isn't exactly commonplace, and in any case attempting to fire a darkness spell through a tiny crack into another plane is something which is rather tricky... And a party may not even have a darkness spell handy, or the caster who does have it prepped is the one standing their have his/her mind sucked out.

    This creature really doesn't seem to have a lot going for it for encounter purposes. It doesn't have any goals or motivations other than eat/drink the minds of characters, and at best it might be the subject of a mystery/monster hunt adventure, where the PCs are called in to figure out just why people are suddenly dropping dead, work out what's causing it, and with appropriate precautions taken hunt the thing down and destroy it.

    My overall impression is of a deadly creature best used only as a one-shot in an adventure which is specifically about identifying and destroying it. The hunting method is interesting but grossly unfair in terms of denying many parties a chance to strike back, which is particularly unfortunate as even if communication were possible the creature isn't apparently interested in doing much except hunting.

    Thanks for submitting this entry, though. I get the feeling that you have tried hard with it.

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

    How did the author respond to the challenge? I liked the description of tiny flecks of light and of the creature constructing a trap of the victim's fears.

    I'm starting to see a pattern in some monster entries of presenting powers and tactics as a narrative: "First it does this, then it does that". Well .. what if it doesn't? Does the concept survive as a playable encounter in a variety of situations beyond a story told in 300 words? A design that becomes trapped by the form of this round would show a similar error, in reverse, to a stat block in words, as I suggested elsewhere. A well-rounded game designer ought to have an idea in mind for a workable addition to the game that either a prose description or a stat block merely express and support.

    How does it stack up


    • as an opponent? Its attack as described should menace low-Will-save characters very effectively and might not be easy for the victim's companions to answer. Some opponents could prove immune to elements of its powers and I'm not sure from the description how the mind reaper would respond.
    • as something other than an opponent? It ambushes and feeds, with not much other motivation. I'm not sure from the text what sorts of areas it favours - presumably, well-lit places - or what grade of darkness would repel it.
    • in relation to other monsters? I have to approve of an evil being that attacks by light, especially if it turns out to be undead - is it?
    • in relation to the author's item? I have to say this is another magical deception attack that seeks to be clever, apparently, for its own sake. At least the creature gets to nibble on a tasty bit of mind-stuff for its trouble here.
    • in itself? I don't think much of the name. Otherwise, there's a lot to like in the concept.

    It's an enjoyable idea, but I'm uneasy about how well it would develop into a working monster.

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

    Evil light monster is a good basis, and I do like the concept of the Ethereal monster opening up a crack and reaching through and trying to pull you through rather than the now you see em, now you don't method of phase spiders and their ilk.

    But... the entry doesn't quite come together after that. It has the "hypnotize, suck your brain, muahahahaaa" angle going for it, but not much else.

    Overall: Kinda leaves me feeling thin.

    Star Voter 2013

    A single color hypnotic pattern that eats your mind. The key mistakes of this monster for me are that there's no way to interact with it, it has limited goals, and its true form is a boring humanoid shape. An ambush predator with no society is essentially a trap creature.

    The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

  • Writing: Your writing isn't decent but it could use some editing and there is a bit of repetition. You could have definitely expanded this entry and made it a little more clear how the party might interact with it.
  • Originality: It seems like the pitch is evil light creature but there isn't enough here to really compare to other creatures.
  • Mojo/ spirit: There isn't enough here to build a stat block.

    Spoiler:
    Writing: My impression of your writing style.
    Originality: Is this creature a unique creation? Does it fill a unique niche in the game?
    Mojo/ spirit: Do I want to see your creature in my game?

  • RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Madgael

    Haven't read any of the other comments yet because I don't want to taint my impression.

    The name kind of left me cold, I'm afraid, but beyond that I really like the basic concept of an evil light monster. And I could see PCs going into fits trying to figure out how to fight the thing, or a mystery-style campaign arc trying to piece together what happened to all it's victims after the fact.

    Perhaps it would be cool if an ethereal creature like this were able to drain the mind by opening the rift directly inside the mind itself rather than just near the victim to distract them? But I guess it's a little unclear to me exactly how it does do it anyway...

    Still... a pretty inventive idea here I am going to have to muse on for a bit more to get my head around. Nice one.

    RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Coldfire

    Thank you everyone for the feedback and honesty. I totally understand all the points and to be honest I did kinda rush this a bit. I should have given it some more time / thought but I bundled it up and submitted it way to fast without thinking it through, which is probably why it ended up like you're all saying.


    Nick Waln wrote:

    Mind Reaper

    Augh. Once I forget to copy&paste my thoughts before posting and the forum comes and eats my post. Or was it the mind reaper, lurking in the interweb, intercepting my critique.

    In essence my post said the following:
    I like your basic idea and would have loved to be inspired by it, but you failed to deliver. Your entry was not tightly designed, and didn't grab me. In my eyes, this really had promise, but you couldn't bring your idea to live. Great idea, bad design.

    I'm not considering this for a vote.

    Scarab Sages

    Trevor Gulliver wrote:
    Nick Waln wrote:
    It is unknown what the Mind Reapers were before they became what they are, or if they ever were anything else at all, as no known true conversation with one has ever taken place. Every Mind Reaper shares an intense fear of darkness and will retreat from anything that could quench their light.

    I've often been tempted to do this -- create a sense of mystery by not revealing something about the creature explicitly. I think in previous years one of the judges railed against that or perhaps it was somewhere else on the boards.

    The judges pointed out last year (or in 2008 - I've slept since then) that it is one thing to be coy with your players as a GM, it is entirely another thing to do so when you're pitching a concept. Never make a potential client/employer frustrated that way - it makes you look bad and inclines them to find someone else.

    RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015 aka Epic Meepo

    My thoughts on the mind reaper...

    The Name: A nice descriptive name that doesn't get too carrying away with compound words and crazy adjectives.

    The Description: The "evil light creature" twist doesn't really work for me. In my imagination, I've always pictured evil ghosts and specters as glowing humanoid forms. To say nothing of will-o-wisps. I was also put off a bit by the repeated use of the word "rift," which has connotations tying it to other genres and other gaming systems, and by the "no one knows where they come from" shtick. For future reference, a throw away line that establishes a vaguely defined point of origin (i.e., "the unexplored depths of the Ethereal Plane") is better than one that simply dismisses a monster's point of origin as unknown.

    The Powers: The problem here is that the PCs don't have any real way to interact with the monster. It drops a mental trap on the PCs' from another plane of existence, and the PCs then deal with the trap. Since no description is given of ways in which the PCs can harm the mind reaper through its trap, I am left with the impression that defeating the trap doesn't adversely affect the mind reaper. At which point, why even have the mind reaper. Why not just have a mind-draining trap that isn't tended by an unreachable, extraplanar monster.

    The Buzz: While I don't see the "evil light monster" twist as particularly interesting, I may be in the minority. Several other posters have commented that they like the twist. They presumably don't feel share my feeling that luminous evil creatures have already been done.

    The Vote: Too much emphasis on the monster's lure, not enough description about ways the PCs can interact with it. I will not be voting for the mind reaper.

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

    This almost seems like a monster version of the common rejected wondrous item that lets the PC stay home safely while having a no risk adventure. This is really the fatal flaw with the creature - it sits on the ethereal, launches some magical attacks through a "minute rift", which sounds no larger than inches across, and therefore doesn't allow PCs to fight back, which doesn't make for a very fun encounter. In a way, it's like the vorpal bunny from Monte Python - your only real strategy is to run away unless you have just the right holy hand grenaade (in this case a darkness spell).

    While the premise of an ethereal monster made of light is interesting, the execution doesn't provide a useful monster.

    Paizo Employee Developer

    Cool concept, especially having it open a rift from the Ethereal. That's a nice, unique take on the slew of creatures that live on that plane but hunt on the Material. Some of the writing here, as Sean pointed out, is really awkward and took me out of the flow of reading this. If I have to read something twice to grasp what it's saying, I'm much less likely to continue once I figure it out. I also have to echo Wes's comment about the creature's name, since it seems a bit bland and, yes, metal. If I saw this listed in a monster book's table of contents, I don't think it would grab me enough to make me look and see what it was. Best of luck in the final day of voting and we'll see what you can come up with in future rounds. May the force be with you.

    RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Orange Toque

    Does it grab me visually: “Pries open cracks from the material plane to harvest the living,” is a great line. Using light to attack is nice; I don’t see that very often. I’m unsure of how this thing attacks, though. Just focusing on the creature’s trap allows it to steal your mind. I’m not following the mechanics here.

    Would I use it in game: Probably not. It comes across to me as “jump in, steal mind, run.” No real chance for interaction with PCs.

    Would my players enjoy an encounter with it: No. I’m not really sure how they fight back. And sitting there while a character has his mind sucked away, with nothing but dancing light to clue them in, will be very frustrating to players.

    Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 aka flash_cxxi

    Another one I really do like, just not enough to put in my Keep pile.

    Sorry and Good Luck. :)


    Commiserations.

    Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

    Hey Nick, I hope that you give RPG Super Star a go next year. I do like the formless monster from another plane idea, but I think there could have been some backstory, I remember the Magnesium Spirit from the old Fiend Folio for this reason, it had the backstory of needing to possess a human body to perform a ritual to return itself to its home plane. Also, I think people want to feel that they can wail on a monster with a sword/spell. Figuring out how to even find the Mind Reaper could have been a problem. You did go for it and try something definitely not mainstream, good on you for trying something like that, you never know until you try it.

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