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Round 2 - Top 32: Create a monster concept

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka riatin


Description: Fearmongers are a species of magical, intelligent, plants whose appearance resembles that of a humanoid Walking Stick. Their coloring can range from a deep brown to a woody red and their skin bears a wood grain pattern. Most who have seen a Fearmonger never realize they have gazed upon something other than a pile of brush, a shattered log, or a broken wooden chair. If their camouflage is compromised, they extend their many appendages to give themselves a more threatening appearance. Though physically weak, a Fearmonger’s powers of manipulation and domination are formidable. The ideal habitat for a Fearmonger is in the woodpile of a dwelling or any location where refuse wood would be deposited and nearby traffic would be sparse. Fearmongers tend to settle near towns or cities where a large population can be influenced. Unlike other plants, Fearmongers do not gain their energy from the sun, but rather from the fear their minions spread, harvesting the clouds of paranoia, depression, and dread that pervade their territories.

Powers and Abilities:The Fearmonger’s reputation as sowers of fear and hysteria are well earned. Using haunting dreams which they inflict on potential victims, these plants both test the will of their prey and reveal their location, enticing the subject to investigate, bringing them within striking distance. Then, with powerful mind controlling magic they dominate their minions and send them forth into the community to commit crimes of horror which include ritualistic murder, rape, arson, vandalism, and kidnapping. In many cases the minion is captured or killed only to have the crimes resume days later by someone unrelated to the first culprit, this often confounds local constables and enhances the community’s fear.


Description is fine, I can easily picture this creature.

My one problem with this creature is I don't understand why it would have these mental powers. Plants get their food from sunlight; the small proportion of Earth plants that don't use photosynthesis are all parasitic or predatory on other creatures--whether they leech food from fungi, or eat bugs and such. That's because photosynthesis is remarkably efficient and the "food" is plentiful; even plants like the Venus flytrap use carnivorous methods to compensate for the poor nutritional value of their soil, but they're still photosynthetic. A plant-creature that's non-photosynthetic, yet feeds on mental fear seems like it's given up a free source of food for an especially difficult-to-create-and-harvest one. I could see an outsider or a fey doing this (and a fey plant-like monster would be cool) but not a plant (unless a druid or wizard created this thing to prey on civilized folk, but that's an overused explanation for a creature's existence). I'd be more likely to accept this creature if it grew some sort of fruit, and that fruit had psychoactive properties that made people hostile, but it's just weird that a plant (immune to mind-affecting effects) would develop magical powers over things it can't conceive of.

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

This is another creature with a pretty EXTREEEEME name. Remember, when naming creatures, think about dubbing them either what they call themselves or what other beings call them. This one's name sounds like it was named that to be scaaaaary, and maybe it's just the jaded horror fan in me, but anything that comes across as actively trying to be scary instantly fails. In many cases, I'd rather have a weird made-up word than a name that sounds like a metal band.

I also disagree with Sean about the description. Maybe it's the capitalization on the "Walking Stick" but are we talking more a humanoid piece of wood or the bug? I guess it's just that walking sticks don't have a specific shape to my mind that sets them apart as being different than normal sticks, and as soon as you make that humanoid, it's pretty much just a wooden dude... so I don't know, I got a bit lost here.

Also - and sorry to be so down on this - I don't get a good idea of why these things are doing what they do. The feeds off fear thing doesn't feel like a good fit for a humanoid walking stick, or much of any plants really. I could be convinced otherwise, but the description doesn't do any convincing.

All that being said, the idea of a wooden person hiding in your lumber pile with no other intent than to give you bad dreams is pretty creepy.

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

Initial Impression: A scary stick? Going to have to see how this works out...

Concept (name, overall design choices, design niche, playability/usability, challenge): C
The name is a problem. Names either come from what a creature calls itself or what others who have encountered it call it. I don’t think this name fits either of those.
Worse, this monster makes no sense. Why is a plant luring people to then go back and do evil? This creature is a weak excuse for a mystery adventure. That’s a story hook, not a true monster.

Execution (quality of writing, hook, theme, organization, use of proper format, world neutral, quality of mandatory content—description, summary of powers): C
This creature is poorly explained. And, unlike Sean, I can’t really visualize it other than its one of those stick bug things. I’m not saying all monsters have to look awesome, but at some point you have to make an art order for your creature and this thing is just underwhelming. Its mind control powers are also poorly explained. Yes, I know this is just a pitch, but I’m not getting it.

Tilt (did it grab me, do I want to use one in an adventure?): C
I just don’t want a mind controlling stick bug.

Overall: C
Maybe in a specific adventure as a story hook this works, but as a monster in a book of monsters to stand alongside the pantheon of classic monsters, this one fails.

Recommendation: I DO NOT recommend this creature advance.


{And, unlike Sean, I can’t really visualize it other than its one of those stick bug things.}

Well, that IS what I picture this looking like. :) I mean, most look like sticks, but there are some that look like OH MY GOD GET IT OFF ME GET IT OFF ME GET IT OFF ME YAAAAAGGHHHH!

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

This monster explains the age-old question of "What's the deal with that guy in the Saw movies?" It was all that crazy old dude's coat rack standing in the corner the whole time. That having been said, and this is a kind of cool devil-made-me-do-it monster in a completely off-the-wall kind of way. There also seems to be a lot of monsters in this round that feed off of people's psyche. It would be difficult perhaps to use in anything other than a one-shot basis (once you figure them out, you evenutally burn down the town--which their victims may just do for you), but it has a cool Mievillian feel for that one really creepy encounter when it unfolds itself from your wood pile and eats your face.

So, this is what happens when Logue & Pett gets into a locked room and decides to take Daigle and turn him into a twisted fiendish aberrant SpoooOOOooooky walking preying stick? Hm....

Liberty's Edge Contributor , Star Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

More plant monsters are always good. Maybe it's because I've read too many comic books, but Fearmonger sounds like a Captain America villain, rather than a good monster name, to me. There's also a disconnect between the "food" it gets and the way it obtains its food. It seems like it would have one of its thralls carry it off to the next community to continue its spree, but the description is not clear.

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

This guy is sort of weird as a plant, but I agree with the China Mieville comparison. The weird spindly monster hiding in the woodpile, turning people into monsters and feeding on the chaos they create is a pretty good hook for me. I'm sort of imagining them as looking somewhere between being made of sticks and the walking stick insects, which gives them a pretty neat look in my head.

But again, it's weird as a plant, and not a plant mimic. Although Sean bringing logical evolutionary theory into D&D is kind of silly, it's the kind of silly that I indulge in a lot. And a plant switching from getting effortless sun--or somewhat more work from corpses--to fear which requires lots of cultivation is sort of odd.

Make it a fey and it would almost certainly get my vote. As is, I'll have to think about it.

Also, are they selling fear?

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Sollir

Not enough plant monsters in D&D and less intelligent ones, so kudos for that immediately. I have to admit I agree with the judge's qualms about the name of the creature-imagining 'fear monger' and then realizing it's shaped like a walking stick was an odd sensation. Naming anything-monsters, NPC's, etc... is probably the DM duty I am the worst at, so I can empathize. Past that, I really like the fact that their appetite is for the fear that they sow. Come to think of it, you call them 'sowers of fear' in the first sentence of the Powers & Abilities section, maybe that would make a good name or nickname for them.

I think pinning down the intelligence score will determine how I'd use them as a DM-as I can see ritualistic murder from their minions (sort of as a weird way of expressing their fear/or the sign of an alien intelligence), but 'vandalism' and 'kidnapping' imply more of a long-term planning sort of mind.

All in all, this monster has all the makings of a much despised creature (in the best possible sense) for PC's and an interesting adventure seed (pardon the pun), good luck RC, I hope you do well in the round!

Dark Archive Star Voter 2013

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

{And, unlike Sean, I can’t really visualize it other than its one of those stick bug things.}

Well, that IS what I picture this looking like. :) I mean, most look like sticks, but there are some that look like OH MY GOD GET IT OFF ME GET IT OFF ME GET IT OFF ME YAAAAAGGHHHH!

hey that thing looks cool

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

How did the author respond to the challenge? Strong concept of what they do may not work so well (in mental association or in the rules) with what they are.

How does it stack up

  • as an opponent? Depending very much on their environment, it may be difficult for the PCs even to find the ultimate source of the town's troubles and when they do, they're in danger of being dominated, which always makes things interesting.
  • as something other than an opponent? These creatures are all plot. They might find a way to overcome their likely distrust of others and work with other evil beings as well.
  • in relation to other monsters? I haven't seen many like them, certainly.
  • in relation to the author's item? It ends up being a very different concept than the alchemical waters, working on relationships between characters rather than objects.
  • in itself? I mentioned something of a disconnection between their horrible deeds and their form as flimsy camouflaged plant-men. It could be an evocative contrast or provoke more of a reaction of bafflement, depending how it's handled.

Possible. I'll come back to this one.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

This is one of the few submissions, that, sadly, don't live up to their name. 'Fearmonger'? Wow. Cool. I'm already picturing Riddick's Necromongers or something like that. Sinister. Brooding. And then I read on, and it's ...

... what? A stick-plant-like insect?

Sorry, but you lost me right there :(.

Other than that, I agree that this creature's powers aren't properly justified by its description.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka riatin

Thanks for the feedback from everyone, judges especially. :) Took a few risks, hope you give it a chance.

I like what they do. The dream assailant is a classic D&D troupe, and the new packaging is different. Generally, it's a demon, or a witch, or some undead monstrosity. This is a simple looking brush or branch, and would prove difficult to root out. I could see it as part of some evil fey's playbook.

The name is campy. The idea is campy, and channels B movie horror. I don't see this thing having a "reputation", because it seems really weak. Even if it did manage to find a town to terrorize(they don't sound intelligent), they would never find it because it's a stick. If they did, they would kill it(detect magic would give it away pretty quickly). This is very niche and seems like limited use minion.

I think I am just missing "it" in this entry. I don't like the name(too close to, and it seems pretty weak. As part of a compound plot, it could be effective, but on it's own it doesn't stand up. I can see the simple adventure hooks, but with the rape and murder this creature comes with some very heavy baggage. Overall, I think this monster fits into a niche that is already brimming with evil fey, trickster demons, and incorporeal undead of many shapes and sizes.

RC Higgins wrote:


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

Ah, a walking stick insect, wait, a plant. It looks like disabled furniture. Okay, it’s a creeper monster. It gains energy from fear, depression, paranoia, etc instead of light. I keep thinking this would work better as an insect than a plant, based upon this description. Dunno why.

*inflict haunting dreams on victims (big theme this year!)
*test the will of their prey (huh?)
*incent them to investigate (mm-kay)
*dominate their minions and send them forth to rape, pillage and destroy (Okay. Sounds more like a comic book villain or a character from a novel than something useful in D&D honestly. Lots of dominate monsters out there.)

Summary: This monster is far more of a plot point than a monster. A lot of time is spent discussing it as if the adventure were happening around it. There is one good point in that it really seems to boil down to one central attack (dominate), with some other writing that may or may not pan out (testing the will of their prey). However, just because they can use that spell, what makes them unique or interesting? We don’t really get a motive and it doesn’t seem like something you’d put in a dungeon. Points for having a decent name.

Scarab Sages

The description of the monster is solid. I feel I can see exactly what the author envisioned. Good work there.

As a player, this would be an aggravating monster to deal with. Not challenging, aggravating.

These things would be actively hunted down and destroyed by any culture that worked out what was going on, so I have trouble seeing more than one ever showing up in a campaign.

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

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

{And, unlike Sean, I can’t really visualize it other than its one of those stick bug things.}

Well, that IS what I picture this looking like. :) I mean, most look like sticks, but there are some that look like OH MY GOD GET IT OFF ME GET IT OFF ME GET IT OFF ME YAAAAAGGHHHH!

Wow, great picture!

As for the monster... I'm just not getting it. A plant with some kind of pollen or scent or whatever that makes people scared or crazy I can get. One that just invades your dreams and makes you EEEEVIL, I just don't buy it. Maybe it's a nomenclature thing, like when a plant starts doing that, it becomes an aberration or a fey, like how an animal that gets too exotic becomes a magical beast, or a humanoid that gets all freaked out and weird is a monstrous humanoid. I shouldn't get hung up on that, cuz obviously we have intelligent plants (treants for starters), and there's no particular reason a plant can't have magic dream powers, but...

I guess I'm with Clark - this monster seems to make no sense. It's kind a bizarro hodge-podge of appearance (does it look like a person, a wooden person, a walking stick (cane), a walking stick (bug), a humanoid walking stick (cane or bug)), abilities (dreams, evil), habits (it lives in your woodpile and gives you nightmares).

Overall: I'm just not feelin the love.

A creature that uses dominated minions to stir up the fear it needs to feed on to survive is interesting, but making it a magical plant that resembles a walking stick???? I'm afraid that my first thought regarding walking sticks was of the poles made of some material, often wood, crafted to assist in the process of perambulation. And that was funny. It made me laugh.
This creature is utterly crazy if it resembles that type of walking stick - I'm afraid that the only explanation I can see for how such a creature would arise is interference by a druid or wizard. Some further background giving details would have been nice, but the look on the faces around the table when the players discover what has really been orchestrating the recent reign of terror.... :D

As an encounter this creature has some flexibility. It could be encountered in the context of a mastermind of minions spreading terror, whose accounts the PCs have to slowly pick their way through, or it could be encountered in the context of they're heading into town one day and it simply tries to dominate/recruit them as minions provoking a direct encounter without the layers of intrigue first.

My overall impression is of something which is crazy but fun. I'm still smiling. It seem to me a little like something Boomer might come up with.

Thanks for submitting this entry.

Star Voter 2013

A stick monster is going to have a pretty limited appeal, I'm afraid.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

  • Writing: You did a good job describing the creature and what it does.
  • Originality: This is similar to other creatures/ effects that are designed to cause mayhem by proxy. Consider the Runewells in Rise of the Runelords which served a similar purpose.
  • Mojo/ spirit: I probably wouldn't use this. My big issue with this is that actually catching it is an anti-climax. You catch it and the story is over.

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

    My thoughts on the fearmonger...

    The Name: I'm not fond of singular, real-world words used as monster names.

    The Description: A very awkward description of the monster's physical appearance. I don't necessarily disagree with the idea of a spindly, ambulant plant, but your word choice makes the description confusing. Also, if its a plant, why evoke insect imagery? This thing sounds a bit like one of any number of wonky monsters you occasionally see illustrated on green Magic cards. But then again, I could just be misunderstanding things. I'm not sure.

    The Powers: Setting aside the bizarre description, the fearmonger actually has an interesting set of powers. They aren't entirely unique, but they fill a recognizable niche in fantasy (and horror) gaming.

    The Buzz: Several posters have objected to the idea of a plant that feeds on fear, which I find odd. Animals with wierd powers are magical beasts. Humanoids with weird powers are monstrous humanoids. But in Pathfinder, plants with weird powers are called plants. The "plant" creature type may as well be called the "monstrous plant" creature type, because their isn't a single plant-type creature that resembles any real-world plant. In Pathfinder, real-world plants are terrain features, and thus don't have the "plant" creature type. Accordingly, a vegetable monster with the plant type can be as different from real-world plants as a magical best is from real-world animals without blurring the lines between an game-mechanical creature categories.

    The Vote: While I don't mind a plant with these attributes, I am a bit skeptical of a plant with such an awkward appearance and bland name. I will not be voting for the fearmonger.

    RC Higgins wrote:

    A Plant monster that looks like a walking bunch of sticks? Meh.

    Thats fairly intelligent and feeds on the fears of others? You might have something here. Especially with the first part.

    But thats about what I have to say about this. A bush that hides somewhere totally benign and charms people to do awful stuff to spread fear is not a intriguing monster for me. your description doesn't have a pull on me either.
    This really pretty much is a plot point , a monster that exists only to facilitate a single plot around it. This has a place in a single murder story adventure, called "The Fearmonger" and thats about it. I'll give it a pass.

    I'm not considering this for a vote.


    im not sold on the name either... Im also not to keen on this being a plant and settling places. Creatures settle, plants grow in habitats and environs.

    Again, though, this is a neat monster. Some kinks that oughta be worked out, but it would definately be neat to see this. Im also lazy so wont be repeating my generic complaints about the monster trends i left on the Sensory Stalker.

    This one gets my vote.

    Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015 aka JoelF847

    Between the name, the diet, and the description, I thought that this monster was a bit of a clone of the batman villain Scarecrow, but it's a plant. Unfortunately, that's not too original at this point, and it's methodology doesn't make a lot of sense to me. If it can invade someone's dreams and mentally influence them from a distance, why would it even need to have them come to it to get fully dominated? Being a plant, I agree with Jason that using a pollen or fruit or something would make a lot more sense. In fact, being a plant seems to have absolutely no impact at all on what this monster does. The real downfall of this monster is that it comes across to me as a weaker, more limited version of an enchanter. An enchanter (or sorcerer with dominate person) can do all of the things a fearmonger can do, but a) doesn't have to hide out in the wood pile, and b) has lots of other abilities. Sure, you could compare lots of monsters to character classes - i.e. an ogre is just like a fighter, it hits hard, but for RPG Superstar, I'm looking for entries that are something new and different, not just another way to do something that already exists in the game.

    I have come to the conclusion that sadly the intention of the entry is stick-insect imagery, meaning that this monster is a plant that resembles an insect pretending to be a plant... :(
    As to the Fearmonger's hunting habits, I am not sure why it lives on the outskirts of town if it creates fear and paranoia and so forth to feed on it? Surely the psychic 'food' will be in greatest concentration actually in the middle of a settlement which it is terrorising and where all the people actually are, rather than on the margins?

    Eric Morton wrote:

    I agree with all of this.

    Demiurge 1138: A monger is a dealer in a specific commodity, or someone promoting something undesirable. I think the use of monger in this context fits both of these definitions.

    RC Higgins: However, just because the name fits doesn't mean it's the best name. For example, you could have also called this creature an Evilplant. Since these creatures are so secretive, there is a good chance that no one has seen them. I would have gone with the other naming convention, and called these guys what they call themselves.

    I thank you for trying to bring in another plant monster (I don't think the game has enough), but I'm just not a big fan of the Fearmonger.

    Paizo Employee Developer

    This one isn't really doing anything for me. While I like the concept of a camouflaged dream invading stick man (straight out of a Guillermo del Toro movie), I don't feel that it was particularly well executed here. I wish you the best of luck in future rounds.

    RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Orange Toque

    Does it grab me visually: I am much more drawn to the adventure that comes with this monster than the monster itself. Unexplained, horrendous acts that don’t stop even when the culprits are caught. That’s fun. But the ultimate villain is a plant. I have trouble with that.

    Would I use it in game: I love what this creature does, I just need a more horrifying creature to do it. But you have me thinking of other ways to do something similar, that’s a plus.

    Would my players enjoy an encounter with it: They would love tracking down the true villain. Then they would be disappointed when they fought a plant hiding in a pile of brush.

    Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 aka flash_cxxi

    To me this just doesn't feel liek a Monster. It feels like an inteligent Weapon. All I can picture is a Quarterstaff when ever I see it. Even when they do "extend their many appendages" I still just see a Quarterstaff with legs and arms.

    I just can't get past that image so it doesn't get my Vote.
    Sorry and Good Luck. :)

    Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2015

    "Fearmonger"Generic name

    "Fearmongers are ... a humanoid Walking Stick." What is a humanoid walking stick?

    "their skin bears a wood grain pattern." Do plants have skin per say? I might have used 'bark'

    "Though physically weak, a Fearmonger’s powers of manipulation and domination are formidable." manipulation and domination of what?

    "The ideal habitat for a Fearmonger is in the woodpile of a dwelling or any location where refuse wood would be deposited and nearby traffic would be sparse." editing

    "Fearmongers tend to settle near towns or cities where a large population can be influenced." Not sure if I like it 'settling'

    "Unlike other plants, Fearmongers do not gain their energy from the sun, but rather from the fear their minions spread, harvesting the clouds of paranoia, depression, and dread that pervade their territories" I like this concept, but I think it could have been edited better.

    "The Fearmonger’s reputation as sowers of fear and hysteria are well earned." how does it have a reputation?

    "Then, with powerful mind controlling magic they dominate their minions and send them forth into the community to commit crimes of horror which include ritualistic murder, rape, arson, vandalism, and kidnapping. In many cases the minion is captured or killed only to have the crimes resume days later by someone unrelated to the first culprit, this often confounds local constables and enhances the community’s fear." I like this, but it should have been in the description I think

    Description lacked the physical size
    I like the concept but Im having trouble seeing a plant do all of this. Im also having a hard time connecting a walking stick to the motivations.


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

    Hey mate, I like that you tried a plant creature. Hard to do, but effective if you can make it happen. As you know the problem is that 'Fearmonger' doesn't feel like a plant and that the mental abilities aren't really plant-like. You also got caught by a lot of people using the mental powers theme, which was just unlucky. I hope you give the next RPG Super Star a go.

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