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Astrumal


Round 2 - Top 32: Create a monster concept

1 to 50 of 53 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Andoran RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Draconas

Astrumal

Description: A roughly spheroid, asymmetrical abomination about five feet in diameter that floats unsteadily above the ground. A rock-like, black shell encases its bulbous body but fails to contain the obscene swells of flesh spilling forth from cracks in its left side. From these bulges spring forth numerous large, twitching, crustacean legs and pincers. A vertical strip splits its shell down the middle to form a wide, tooth-ridden maw.

Astrumals are aberrations with an insatiable hunger that hail from the vast dark gulfs amongst the stars, slowly floating between worlds. Their bodies emit varying waves of magnetism that draw and push them between places until they reach a new planet rich with life and metals. Due to their highly magnetic natures, astrumals usually crash land in the midst of one of the polar icecaps. While intelligent, the astrumal is slave to its hunger and consumes everything it comes across in a ravenous frenzy until there is no more to be had. Entire solar systems have been slowly devoured by the endless appetite of the astrumals.

Powers and Abilities: The astrumal’s body radiates a constant aura that repels or attracts all metal around it. The aura can be altered at will but it cannot be suppressed and gives the astrumal some innate magic ability dealing with metals. Completely without normal sensory organs, the astrumal can detect its surroundings using its magnetic field. While it can defend itself with its limbs, the astrumal primarily uses these to grab and drag prey to its mouth. The bite of an astrumal is particularly deadly because of the highly corrosive saliva it uses to break down metals in its diet. An astrumal’s exoskeleton is made to withstand the heat of entry to a world and thus resilient to damage from both weapons and fire.

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

A cool OGL replacement for the beholder--an otherworldly, world-hopping, spherical aberration that crash lands onto planets to slowly devour their resources: everything good about beholders from Spelljammer but without their goofy ships. I liket hepropulsion method between planets too--reminds of the Yuzhon Vong (sp?) techniques in the Star Wars novels without behind a blatant pastiche.

Contributor

I'm always cautious about effects that rely on magnetism because anytime it's thrown at a PC, you need to calculate the weight of the metal on their body--it's not like it's a pre-calculated stat on the character sheet. And you have to know how much metal they have to know what effect a magnetic pull or push has on them.

That said, I think this is a cool, enigmatic monster that will confuse the players when they see it--it doesn't look like anything else out there and nobody's going to be able to predict its powers.

"Entire solar systems" is a bid of hyperbole, though. ;)

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

I really like that these are aliens. That's an idea that you don't see too often in fantasy RPG and we've been trying to play with a bit in Pathfinder. I don't really get the beholder vibe off of these even with the floaty ball monster angle, which is nice. They almost remind more of the langoliers, going around eating up the world like they do.

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

Initial Impression: Weird spheroid, insectoid alien evil guy.

Concept (name, overall design choices, design niche, playability/usability, challenge): B-
Boy, I don’t know. This is a bit sci-fi. It presumes solar systems and aliens. The rules want setting neutrality and they also say a submission shouldn’t be “science fiction, steampunk, or some other genre creature that could not reasonably be a part of a standard fantasy roleplaying game.” I’m not sure this monster fully runs afoul of that restriction, but it’s close. I will agree it’s not a clear violation. The voters will have to determine how much to grade you down for this. I guess the “dark gulfs among the stars” gives it the suitable Cthulhu rather than sci-fi flavor that makes it OK. But then the whole metal and magnetism thing makes it too sci-fi for me.
That said, it’s a neat monster and it has some design things that are good—it is intelligent and evil and it wants destruction, meaning it is a monster that is on a collision course with the PCs. That type of conflict shows good design.

Execution (quality of writing, hook, theme, organization, use of proper format, world neutral, quality of mandatory content—description, summary of powers): C
The writing is not bad, but neither is it great. The content is there. I share the other judges’ concerns about magnetism. Ugh. No thanks. Plus isn’t acid bite a bit cliché at this point?

Tilt (did it grab me, do I want to use one in an adventure?): C
I can’t see using this guy. Well, not in D&D anyway. Maybe in Traveller.

Overall: C+
The metallic bug alien just isn’t doing it for me.

Recommendation: I DO NOT recommend this creature advance.

Andoran RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Draconas

A big thank you to the judges for your time and critiques.

Now quickly, everyone vote for the Astrumal while I distract it with this juicy, discarded monkey-pony! Do it soon before it devours us all!

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

This has a definite scifi/weird-fic edge, which I think is more blessing than curse. I wouldn't use it in EVERY world I've run, but I would definitely use it in Faerun or Golarion.

The idea of having the PCs witness a meteor fall (only to have this thing float out of the crater) is growing on me by the minute.


I haven't read through all the entries yet. But the Astrumal seems like everything a good aberration should be. Utterly alien with an unique ability which characterizes it. But yet is not too cumbersome or weird. Just creepy awesome :)

I would use the the astrumal. Fine work Joshua, you have my vote.


Good drop in for an Expedition to the Barrier Peaks campaign set in Numeria. Whenever anyone decides in the next couple of years when that AP series is going to be launched, THIS should make an appearance. Someone uncovered it in an excavation and ... they awaken. Some heads are gonna roll ... roll ... roll ...

You got a campaign hook here, folks. They can even reoccur.

Andoran Contributor , Star Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

I'll have to think about this one some more. On the one hand, I think you came dangerously close to the no sci-fi requirements of this round (it's the focus on the magnetism that keeps bringing me around to this notion), but the judges didn't auto-reject it, so they were fine with it. So, on the other hand, you took a risk, and your creature is a quintessential aberration--otherworldly, inexplicable, etc. I like those elements a lot, and I like that you took somewhat of a risk.


I don't know if "technically" all submission were supposed to conform to "100% generic fantasy world" (whatever that is), but Golarion itself includes solar system(s), and like Wes said, I think the Astrumal fits well into that 'borderline alien/cthulu/pulp' flavor that seems ONE of the tangents that intersect Golarion, without out and out going overboard - it's still a monster that you can discover in a cavern and fight, though with alot of plot possibilities beyond that. And like Greg says, it seems like THE PERFECT 'replacement' for Beholders, very much in line with Paizo's approach of making something that CAN stand in for a certain role, yet is completely different from it's background to specific abilities.

Magnetism abilities COULD be hard to adjudicate, and for this to work in print it would have to work in a simple, direct way... but given this is just the description, I'm not going to judge it for crunch that could POTENTIALLY be bad.

I like the bit about landing at polar areas, it concisely establishes a premise for where you would encounter them, an extreme environment in itself. I imagine exploring remnants of an ancient civilization/power that retreated to under the ice-covered poles, and then discovering this new abomination (while dealing with the awakened ancient powers). Or even approaching it from the reverse angle, and have a civilization retreat to safety at the Equator, where these creatures could not go because of the neutral magnetism.

I likes.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Sollir

Josuha, I think we need to give you the reward for the creepiest/most disgusting creature description, the mental image I have of the Astrumal is quite frightening. Besides the looks, you've got a cool, mean monster on your hands. Magnetism is an interesting ability and one that can be very potent vs. some adventurers, I imagine this creature would be the opposite of a golem-fighters would have a hard time with it, but spellcasters would probably be just fine. First impression is that I would really love to see more on this monster.

Alien origins are interesting, as other folks have mentioned. It may be crazy, but I want there to be a backstory involving Astrumals having to leave their home planets due to intelligent mastermind rust monsters =). Hey, a DM can dream, can't he?

Good job on your concept and good luck this round Joshua!

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

These guys are very pulp. I was sold on the description of the rocky carapace with tentacles and teeth protruding from its cracks. And since I'm a big fan of meteor strikes with alien horrors emerging from the crater (waves to the Martians, the Colour out of Space and the Thing), I should like these guys.

But I'm not a huge fan. I'm not sure exactly why, but they're not singing to me. It might be the magnetism; I've seen a number of magnetic critters, which usually work the same way. Repel or attract metal objects/people wearing metal, deflection bonus against metal weapons. The acid bite's also not the most inspiring.

These guys are tier 2 for me. I like them to a degree, and I could see them rounding out a monster book, but I don't think of them as Superstars.

But keep watching the skies! Keep watching the skies!

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

This was the second entry that I read, and it's really growing on me. I think you've got one of my votes.

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

Acidic bites are a classic for a reason.

I kind of like the magnetism bits. It sounds like it would have the pull and push special abilities, and that reminded me of the Batrachian Helm, which was one of the most fun items in the first round. It might be fun for it to use Pull as a swift action to close on the paladin in shiny armor, then go all Full Attack on her. I can also see this thing being smart enough for Improved Disarm and Greater Disarm, and using its magnetism powers to make those feats even more impressive. Especially if it starts wielding the weapons it steals in its crustacean claws.

Anyone got a stick?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I like almost everything about this submission. The concern I share with the judges is that for the magnetism ability - but it should be possible to design that in a way that is NOT dependant on calculating armor weight (maybe just use categories like light, medium, heavy armor?). Show us how you can do that in the next round, please :). Best of luck to you!

Qadira

Joshua Kitchens wrote:


...
Their bodies emit varying waves of magnetism that draw and push them between places until they reach a new planet rich with life and metals.

...

The astrumal’s body radiates a constant aura that repels or attracts all metal around it. The aura can be altered at will but it cannot be suppressed and gives the astrumal some innate magic ability dealing with metals. Completely without normal sensory organs, the astrumal can detect its surroundings using its magnetic field.

Okay, I'm not very knowledgeable about the game systems, so I don't know if this stuff has been dealt with prior, but I do have a few issues with the magnetic thing.

- Waves of magnetism? A creature may have a magnetic field, but I highly doubt it emits magnetic waves. The only waves that contain a magnetic field component are electromagnetic waves, and electromagnetic waves would not cause an attraction between the emitting object and other objects (the magnetic field is inherently oscillating).
- To have the attractive/repelling force that this creature has, the magnetic field has to be pretty powerful. When the field changes from one to the other, this should induce a rather large voltage in anything in the area that can carry a current (like, perhaps a metal object?). That could always be a fun added affect.
- Has anyone considered that some metals (like copper) are not magnetic?


Joshua Kitchens wrote:

A big thank you to the judges for your time and critiques.

Now quickly, everyone vote for the Astrumal while I distract it with this juicy, discarded monkey-pony! Do it soon before it devours us all!

The best appeal for my vote I've yet to read. The astrumal is some definitely spooky goodness. I'm not much of a fan of TEH ALIENZ in my fantasy tabletop game, but I'd make an exception for this one if the stat block grabbed me.

Andoran RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Draconas

Some wonderful questions there that I can't wait to get into discussions about when voting is done. Thanks for the comments everyone and keep voting!


Praise:
Uber points for originality. I can't honestly say I've seen anything quite like this. This is a nasty unstoppable creature with no motive, only an aching hunger that will not be sated. The potential to mess with metal objects sounds fun, but may be too complex.

Concerns:
The description is not quite clear. I can't see this thing. It's shelled, but not, there's things "spilling forth" from all over the place. The behavior is solid, but consuming even a small moon seems like an arduous task. Perhaps if they work in packs, but it is described as a solitary creature, and, well, wouldn't they eat each other? I think it has been said, but the metal mechanics could be tough, and would lead to a lot of arguments between players and DMs.

Overall:
I can't really "see" this creature. The description begs for clarification. The (balanced) insane devourer is a really nice idea, but the overall execution doesn't come through. The magnetic aspect is neat, but could turn annoying as the player's weapons are all taken from them, leaving them defenseless. The story hooks are there, but the creature is not quite developed enough to be the sort of terror it is advertised as.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

As others have said, the originality is damn high with this entry. It is skirting a boundary, but like the Judges, I wouldn't have disqualified it either.

Furthermore, while this is setting neutral, I can see it in Golarion. That's just my opinion, but I think Golarion is a fantasy setting that could handle these things.

They do remind me of the Langoliers, but that is not a minus to hold against them (not with me anyway). I'm a proud Stephen King fan.

Like others, I think magnetics can be tricky, but that doesn't mean it can't be done.

I wish you the best of luck and hope to see you in Round Three! I love bold ideas!


Okay, given that the size of these creatures is described as only being five feet across, but that apparently Astrumals are capable of stripping solar systems bare, I imagine that these arrive in large numbers. Very large numbers. And I have some concerns about the ease of use of large numbers of monsters with the Powers and Abilities described in a campaign unless it is an epic or at the very least high-level campaign. This is a natural disaster from outer space.
Consequently, I don't think it's likely to have much use as an encounter except in high-level campaigns, or not unless lone scouts ahead of an invasion are arriving, or the survivors in the wake of one which was beaten off are being mopped up.

My overall impression is of a high-level menace from outer space, a category of creature of which I am unfortunately not very fond.

Thank you for submitting this entry however.

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

I like these guys. Good name, description is squicky but not over the top. They *feel* like alien horrors from beyond the stars because they *are* alien horrors from beyond the stars.

I'll agree that magnetism does put you in a potentially sticky place as far as game mechanics, but it could also be easily enough resolved as having a push/pull attack or just a telekinesis effect with a bonus on the roll if you are attacking a metal object or a creature in metal armor (or a penalty if you're not). The magnetic senses just work like blindsight/blindsense. Just because the mechanics CAN be obnoxious doesn't mean they have to be. I'll agree that it's a touchy subject, but not an insurmountable one.

I like, though, that these creatures seem to have an internally consistent ecology, like the re-entry shield carapace. If you existed the way they do, you'd pretty much have to have something like that.

Overall: I think this is a rock-solid monster. The writing doesn't explode with flavor but it's fair enough and tells us the info we need to know for a flavor text piece about a monster we've never met. I like the potential of it, and while it does drift close to sci-fi land, it doesn't really go over the other side. Some people just won't care for this style of critter in their fantasy game, but I'll put these in the "I'll think about it" pile for a vote.


I also wanted to say the name was spot on, which I can't say about every entry. In a way, it's obvious( Astro = Star, Mal = Bad), but it works and feels just like a monster I would actually see published. We already see borderline "SF" themes in Paizo APs, I could see this creature being an aspect of an AP.

I disagree with Charles Evans, there's tons of ways to include these in an adventure without having the entire planet swarmed by them. The lifecylce could normally proceed by being started by a single, or few, individual entities who then REPRODUCE until the world is consumed... which could take thousands of years. Or the PCs could discover a remnant of an invasion that was DEFEATED by a previous civilization, this one (or few) example somehow surviving in a buried pocket in the ice (etc). Many possibilities.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka DankeSean

I'm a fan of these too. Stuff like this makes me miss Spelljammer. Not coincidentally, one of my favorite AP installments was the Second Darkness one with the space monsters in the bestiary; I think these would fit in there really well.


Joshua Kitchens wrote:

Astrumal

cut for space

This is the tenth 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.

Oooh, a fat, magnetic beholder-cousin. Wow. I like the opening imagery and description. This is really, really neat. Oh lord, this is Boomer-esque! It’s a fantasy Galactus in asteroid form. Now, it may be a bit comic-book like in the description since we’re dealing with one fantasy world usually. We’re not too concerned about other worlds unless we’re going into Spelljammer territory. Still, it’s a neat story.

Powers:
*attracts or repels metal (cool)
*some innate magical ability dealing with metals (what?)
*alternate senses (consistent with its bizarre aberration existence, okay)
*limbs drag people to its mouth (those must be mutated eyestalks. ;) )
*highly corrosive saliva (yay, it drips acid spit!)
*exoskeleton… (uh, a little bit scientific here again, “skin” might be a better choice)
*…resists weapons and fire

Summary: This one is cool. Definitely going into my “read again and seriously consider pile”. I can see this bearing down on a party. “Nom, nom, nom, burp!” I guess I would like to know more though – it devours a world one bit at a time. So does it grow? If not, what happens to the waste? I would love to have an idea of its CR. This one should probably be pretty high up there. Mind you, these are good questions, because I have a good idea of the monster and what it does and what threat it poses. Now I want details!

Why does this critter really work for me so far out of the ten I've looked at? Because it's monstrous, I can easily envision it, and I can see it tearing into a party.


Quandary wrote:

I also wanted to say the name was spot on, which I can't say about every entry. In a way, it's obvious( Astro = Star, Mal = Bad), but it works and feels just like a monster I would actually see published. We already see borderline "SF" themes in Paizo APs, I could see this creature being an aspect of an AP.

I disagree with Charles Evans, there's tons of ways to include these in an adventure without having the entire planet swarmed by them. The lifecylce could normally proceed by being started by a single, or few, individual entities who then REPRODUCE until the world is consumed... which could take thousands of years. Or the PCs could discover a remnant of an invasion that was DEFEATED by a previous civilization, this one (or few) example somehow surviving in a buried pocket in the ice (etc). Many possibilities.

Hmm. I don't know if I edited it after you started posting, but I did consider in encounter use the possibility that the odd advance scout might be encountered before an invasion or the off survivor encountered after an invasion was somehow beaten off. As currently written the flavour of the monster screams 'invasion from outer space in vast numbers!!!!' at me though, which can be good but isn't quite my cup of tea.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka DankeSean

Charles Evans 25 wrote:

As currently written the flavour of the monster screams 'invasion from outer space in vast numbers!!!!' at me though, which can be good but isn't quite my cup of tea.

That's not the impression I got from it; the text felt like it was saying these are pretty much rare, individually encountered critters, and that 'given enough time', even one could devour a whole solar system. Which, as SKR points out, sounds very much like hyperbole, since that's a LOT of mass even for a constantly devouring maw with a limitless appetite to suck down, but in any case, I didn't feel like this was pitching for hundreds of millions of Astrumals to be chewing up the system all at once.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Sean McGowan wrote:


That's not the impression I got from it; the text felt like it was saying these are pretty much rare, individually encountered critters, and that 'given enough time', even one could devour a whole solar system. Which, as SKR points out, sounds very much like hyperbole, since that's a LOT of mass even for a constantly devouring maw with a limitless appetite to suck down, but in any case, I didn't feel like this was pitching for hundreds of millions of Astrumals to be chewing up the system all at once.

I agree with Sean here. I think one can make too much of a single descriptive sentence. I think the author was just trying to make his pitch as exciting as possible.


PhysChic wrote:


- Has anyone considered that some metals (like copper) are not magnetic?

Stuff like that is generally ignored. While platinum and gold have roughly the same atomic weight, they are both heavier than silver and MUCH heavier than copper. Yet, a coin weighs the same and is roughly the same size, no matter what it's metal may be...

I just heard myself. Gods, I'm a nerd! Next I'll be trying to calculate the atomic weight of mithril and adamantium by trying to compare it to steel.

Josh:

You had me and then you lost me. This critter is unique in it's appearance, yet feels right considering it's resemblance to the beholder. That's good stuff there.

However, I had a couple of concerns.

1) You said that the creature often crash lands in the polar icecaps due to it's magnetic poles. That assumes that whatever world the DM is using even has magnetic poles. I can't think of any world that even mentions them in their campaign setting. Also, it assumes that even if there is a magnetic pole, that it lines up nicely with the world's axis (Earth's does not, although it is close). It even assumes that there is a polar icecap. All that is really a minor point, and I spent more time on it than intended. I'll move on to bigger issues.

2) Where you lost me was saying that these things eat entire solar systems. That doesn't make sense. Even if you had millions of them, they could not eat an entire solar system. What goes in (to the mouth), must come out somewhere. If you are going to explain this monster with a semi-scientific description, don't dismiss the matter it eats by saying that it dissapears by "magic". You can't have your solar system and eat it too.

3) Related to the above issue: if they eat everything in the system, then there is no magnetic field to move them to the next solar system.

4) My final problem was that you said they can eat "everything it comes across in a ravenous frenzy", but it apparently only wants to eat metals. Indeed, it's entire existence seems to depend upon metals, since it uses them to move itself via it's repel/attract power. It seems to me that you are trying to be both Galactus and a rust monster.

Sorry. I really wanted to like this, but I think you went too far. Dial it back a notch or two and I think you have something here.

EDIT: Man! The rest of this post doesn't sound any less nerdy.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

The "devours entire solar systems!" line gave me kind of a Warhammer 40k line, what with the throw-away hyberbole. "The tyranids that have entered our galaxy are only a tiny fraction of the hive fleet!" "Orks would surely take over the galaxy if they all united!" "The Imperium contains OVER ONE MILLION INHABITED WORLDS!" Also reminds me of illithids, what with their "took over the multiverse, held it until doomsday, then went back in time to do it again" shenanigans.

Honestly, I kind of just ignored that line. Though if the author could somehow make it believable (without creating a monster that disrupts the game world in an undesirable way) that would be awesome too.

Jason Rice wrote:


1) You said that the creature often crash lands in the polar icecaps due to it's magnetic poles. That assumes that whatever world the DM is using even has magnetic poles. I can't think of any world that even mentions them in their campaign setting. Also, it assumes that even if there is a magnetic pole, that it lines up nicely with the world's axis (Earth's does not, although it is close). It even assumes that there is a polar icecap. All that is really a minor point, and I spent more time on it than intended.

I don't think there's anything wrong with assuming a roughly Earth-like world, even for world-neutral writing. Compasses appear in the player's handbook.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

How did the author respond to the challenge? Flows well as an integrated description. This is the first entry I've seen that strongly suggests a Golarion reference.

How does it stack up


  • as an opponent? I haven't seen a magnetic aura used in a while. I don't know what "magic ability dealing with metals" means. Otherwise it has a fairly standard vicious bite.
  • as something other than an opponent? Very clear origin, geographical location and motive. For 5' spherical creatures to consume whole solar systems, I really needed to know how they reproduce.
  • in relation to other monsters? Its strongest affinities are with Golarion-specific extraterrestrials and apocalyptic themes, which I find problematic.
  • in relation to the author's item? Different in many ways, though the locket also has a strong setting connection.
  • in itself? A well-conceived aberration with nicely interlocking abilities.

This is a good-quality design but has a couple of flaws that I can't overlook. At this stage I'll have to put it aside.


Jim Groves wrote:
Sean McGowan wrote:


That's not the impression I got from it; the text felt like it was saying these are pretty much rare, individually encountered critters, and that 'given enough time', even one could devour a whole solar system. Which, as SKR points out, sounds very much like hyperbole, since that's a LOT of mass even for a constantly devouring maw with a limitless appetite to suck down, but in any case, I didn't feel like this was pitching for hundreds of millions of Astrumals to be chewing up the system all at once.
I agree with Sean here. I think one can make too much of a single descriptive sentence. I think the author was just trying to make his pitch as exciting as possible.

I may not like invaders from outer space, but thousands of these things moving from world to world leaving barren husks behind is imagery that does invoke a certain grandeur, even to me. If you strip away imagery of swarms of these things moving through space like galactic locusts, plunging from the skies in fiery dozens as grim-faced defenders marshal on the ground at the icy wastes of the poles to beat off the next wave; if you strip away the imagery of hordes of the things that not only want to eat your sword and your armour, but also the magic rings on your fingers (and any nails in your boots if applicable) before moving on to ultimately drink the firey molten core of your world dry and then go somewhere else leaving you on a barren husk of a planet; if you want to strip away all that, then it seems to me that what you're left with is a monster that's pretty much a hybrid of a xorn and an old-edition swordslug as a random encounter that barely constitutes five minutes at the office for a mid-level adventuring party. The wizard fires a couple of lightning bolts at it, the fighter loses his sword, but is specialised in bar-room brawling anyway so moves in to pummel it with his bare hands, and then they all have to listen to the rogue whine for ten minutes about the way it ate her daggers and about the lack of treasure random encounters seem to have these days whilst the cleric bandages everyone up and silently prays to her deity that PLEASE could she be granted the patience to not put 'something extra' in the stewpot tonight given the way that these ingrates never seem to notice or thank her for what she does....

The menace from outer space theme is what gives this entry its oomph and puts it into consideration for votes, I think.

Edit:
And it currently appears to be doing reasonably well in the exit polls I see... :)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
I may not like invaders from outer space, but thousands of these things moving from world to world leaving barren husks behind is imagery that does invoke a certain grandeur, even to me. If you strip away imagery of swarms of these things moving through space like galactic locusts, plunging from the skies in fiery dozens as grim-faced defenders marshal on the ground at the icy wastes of the poles to beat off the next wave; if you strip away the imagery of hordes of the things that not only want to eat your sword and your armour, but also the magic rings on your fingers (and any nails in your boots if applicable) before moving on to ultimately drink the firey molten core of your world dry and then go somewhere else leaving you on a barren husk of a planet ...

You do realize the submission didn't give you any of that imagery, right? It teased you into coming up with it yourself. ;)

Which is actually a lovely counterpoint to the complaints about "hyperbole"; that sort of grandiose throw-away line could be seen as silly or ill-considered, but on the other hand, it definitely gets the reader's imagination working on an epic scale. And that's a huge plus.

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

My thoughts on the astrumal...

The Name: It's a classic nonsense name, but it seem to have real world roots that make it more plausible than the typical gibberish names that get assigned to weird monsters.

The Description: I had a hard time picturing this monster, starting with the sentence that mentions the left side of a sphere. Since I'm not sure what that means, I can't really picture where this creature's limbs are located. Beyond that, the "entire solar system" hyperbole clashed greatly with the pseudo-scientific taken elsewhere in the description. One can be pseudo-scientific or one can be over-the-top, but one can't easily be both at once.

The Powers: I don't like magnetic powers. Either you have to get extremely detailed in areas where the rules have never been detailed before, or you have to just hand-wave things and call it virtual telekinesis, at which point you've lost all of the real-world science you tried to build in by invoking magnetism.

The Buzz: Several people have mentioned that this creature makes a great beholder replacement, but I'm not seeing why. I suppose both are spherical, but astrumals and beholders otherwise seem distinct from one another. I also see lots of people decrying astrumals too sci-fi. That may or may not be true, depending upon the execution of their magnetic powers, but I suppose I could also see them working in a Spelljammer campaign. Either way, they are very specific to some setting assumptions that don't fit into standard D&D-style fantasy.

The Vote: I like the solid theme of this monster, but it's not one that I am going to vote for. The genre niche the monster fills is too specific for a contest such as this. Also, I prefer to keep my monsters as far away from pseudo-scientific magnetism as possible.


Joshua Kitchens wrote:

Astrumal

a weird, magnetic nautilius from outer space, devouring entire solar systems due to it's insatiable hunger. You certainly went for the big ideas with your entry. Your description suggests that these things are a serious threat to all life, heck even the whole planet. A really epic challenge. But it's just a 5ft floating sphere with some magnetic powers and a corrosive bite. This should be bigger, more awesome with unbelievable, fantastic powers.

Like some before me , i don't like SFy aspect of this monster. While I can live with alien lifeforms secretly living among the normal races, or having established their own society, I don't want this kind of invader from outer space in my fantasy setting. In my eyes they could fit in nearly every setting, but are very alien and kind of unfitting for the standard fantasy kind.

Creativity/Innovation:
You certainly went for big here. Your ideas are as weird and new as an astrumal would be, crash-landing on earth's north pole, crushing Santa's house, eating all the cookies. (and the elves)
You might even have gone too far. this might be too new, too strange, too alien to fit in the existing world of pathfinder-monsters.
Someone point out that they might be a good replacement for the beholders, but I don't think so. I takes more than being a floating ball ( and eyes rays for that matter) to stand in for the beholders.
I also think that you have a bit of a disparity between the flair and the powers of this monster. While your description paints a picture as a world devouring horror from beyond the stars , its powers seem rather tame and nearly mundane.

Tilt:
This one didn't grab me. Its both not being comfortable with adding this to my world and it not living up to the epic expectations it gives me at first. With the description and concept you swung for the fence, but with the powers you tried to reign yourself in and be sensible instead of going way out there. And thats rather sad.

I'm not considering this for a vote. maybe something else will devour my world, but this will have to drift on a bit longer.

Star Voter 2013

"the obscene swells of flesh spilling forth from cracks in its left side." ugh its like obese people wearing too small of clothing. Hello Astrumal, nobody wants to see your fat rolls ;) Why only the left side?

"From these bulges spring forth ... crustacean legs and pincers." why does it have legs? And why are they on it's side?

"A vertical strip .. down the middle ... (forms it's) tooth-ridden maw" Is this one giant mouth that encompasses the whole circumference of it's body? this part of the description lacks size of the legs and pincers

"Their bodies emit varying waves of magnetism that draw and push them between places until they reach a new planet rich with life and metals." Hmm magnetism. Can the left side of the body use the magnetism? 'waves' should probably be 'degrees','fields', or some combination. Im not sure a 5' creature should have the ability to magnetically push/pull itself to planets light years away.

"Due to their highly magnetic natures ... (they) crash land ...(on) the polar icecaps" Ok I understand the rational behind this but if they can push/pull themselves between stars would they really crash land? And how would they leave another planets magnetic pull if a planet can force them to crash land? 'polar icecaps' should probably have been 'magnetic poles'.

"While intelligent, the astrumal is slave to its hunger and consumes everything it comes across in a ravenous frenzy until there is no more to be had. Entire solar systems have been slowly devoured by the endless appetite of the astrumals." Why does the king of consumption need to exhibit any intelligence, and why wasnt it illustrated in the submission? What does it consume? Does it eat the star/sun? Do they eat each other?

"The astrumal’s body radiates a constant aura that repels or attracts all metal around it." Does magnetism radiate? Is magnetism an aura? Can the aura be seen via magic?

"Completely without normal sensory organs" how does it know where other planets are? How does it find the polar caps to crash on?

"While it can defend itself with its limbs, the astrumal primarily uses these to grab and drag prey to its mouth" does it really need legs and pincers when it has magnetism and a huge mouth?

"The bite of an astrumal is particularly deadly because of the highly corrosive saliva it uses to break down metals in its diet." Alternatively the bite could have been so strong and powerful as to crush any material down to respectable size for consumption, and to avoid the cliched acid bite. Is metal the only thing that it eats?

"An astrumal’s exoskeleton is made to withstand the heat of entry to a world and thus resilient to damage from both weapons and fire." the exoskeleton is made? If the creature can travel in space it is also resilient to cold, the vacuum of space, and an airless environment. Without normal sensory organs this creature is also immune to sonic weapons, and one would also assume poison

nice description, and design of an asymetrical creature. A creature as powerful to magnetically propel itself in space, would probably be powerful enough to pull the iron and other metals right out of the body of a human. I beleive as submitted this entry falls to much into the SciFi realm where you can nuke it from orbit. To bring it into a medieval/fantasy RPG setting the creatures magnetism needs to be scaled back to a 30' range which then breaks the entry as posted. I also believe the concept is flawed in its consumption, and if that is scaled back as well you have effectively changed this entry

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

FireHawk wrote:
Without normal sensory organs this creature is also immune to sonic weapons

Sonic effects are based on vibration, which will affect any physical object. In fact, they frequently deal increased damage to certain types of objects. No need to hear them.

Star Voter 2013

Lief Clennon wrote:
FireHawk wrote:
Without normal sensory organs this creature is also immune to sonic weapons
Sonic effects are based on vibration, which will affect any physical object. In fact, they frequently deal increased damage to certain types of objects. No need to hear them.

Very true, but with being able to pass the vibrations of orbital entry and no ears I would think that gives them a greater defense. :)

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

This one almost got my vote. Next year, we need more votes for round 1--like 6!

I like how it's a tipped over nautilus with all its creepy bits on its sinister side. Maybe there are "good" versions with all their creepy bits on their right side....or, being monstrous, just opposed to the Astrumal....kind of like the Blood War IN SPACE!!!!!

They're not magnetic.....they're "mag"netic, mag being short for magic, and magically manipulate metals of all kinds.

Andoran RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka JoelF847

This is a very creative monster, and is walking in the footsteps of one of the more interesting directions that Paizo has started to go, exploring fantasy space in a more 'horrors from beyond' sense rather than a spelljammer sense. Kudos to you for exploring in this direction. That being said, I'm not seeing that the Astrumal lives up to it's hype. For a creature that given enough time it can eat an entire world or solar system, it sounds more like a mid-tier threat, maybe CR 8-10 to me. Yes, the magnetic powers are likely to seriously mess with a typical party, and it's resistance to weapons (DR 10/- ?) is sure to slow down lots of attacks, but it sounds like against monks, druids, and spellcasters it's got an acidic bite and good AC and that's it. If rust monsters or xorn haven't eaten a world from the inside out, I don't see why these guys could.

That being said, if the metal/magnetism powers are done in a creative way, without a lot of bookkeeping, and making an encounter with one of these an interesting and different type of fight than most, then I can see this as a worthy addition to a bestiary. Unfortunately, it's in the 2nd group for me - I'd probably vote for it if I had more votes, but with only 4, I'm going to have to pass.

Paizo Employee Developer

This monster has a cool, mythos-scifi bent to it that I think works really well. I also like the strange image of it you evoke with the physical description. Certainly one of the most creative entries so far in the contest. Great job and best of luck in later rounds!

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Orange Toque

Does it grab me visually: Yeah. It’s weird asymmetrical body and twitching crab legs made me perk up and say, I want to see this. Love the touch about landing in the polar ice caps because of their draw to magnetism.

Would I use it in game: Probably not. My games tend to ignore that there is anything at all in outer space (although this creature is making me think that I should reconsider that). If I played more of a sci-fi/fantasy hybrid, I would totally throw this in.

Would my players enjoy an encounter with it: Someone in full plate would soil themselves when they found out what it can do. An astrumal would strike terror into the hearts of players with its creepy description and powers. They would love it.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 aka flash_cxxi

I just can't get past the Astereater from the Spelljammer Setting when thinking of this Monster.

No Vote from me.
Sorry and Good Luck. :)


Very well described and a cool monster, but unfortunately I felt it was more sci-fi than fantasy. I wasn't a big fan of Spelljammer. My fantasy fiction leaves the stars and planets as turf of deities. So, in this case, it goes low on my list.

Ken


Now that voting has closed, I'd just like to say that I reluctantly concluded that the original intention was not of vast hordes of astrumals teeming through space, and so this one dropped out of contention for my votes. I concur with other posters, that the idea of a couple of these stripping solar systems bare seems pretty silly.
On the hypothetical teeming note did anyone else think of Marvel's Ultimate Galactus series?

Andoran RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Draconas

A Dissection of the Astrumal

When I was brainstorming monster concepts for Round 2, I was, of course, trying not to tread over ground already covered in the extensive history of D&D and RPGs in general (I did not know of the Astereater from Spelljammer when I was creating the Astrumal. That was a shock to say the least when you mentioned it and I went to look it up, Craig.) and secondly, to build a concept around a mechanic that isn't often used. So I found myself browsing through the monsters and spells when I came across Repel Metal (or Stone) and thought, 'Hey, I've never really seen this used that often. Maybe that would make a cool monster ability." The rest of the concept grew from there as I tried to figure out what kind of monster would rely on this ability as a core power.

I wasn't really trying to make the astrumal to skirt the line of the Sci-fi restriction. That was the furthest thing from my mind when I was writing it up. I was more heavily influenced by the Cthulhu mythos (which I don't consider Sci-fi but Horror Fantasy instead), the many types of beholder-kin that exist, and the akama from PFAP #14 "Children of the Void".

Now I'll break down my thoughts on the Astrumal based on some categories that came up again and again.

---Ecology and Society---

Joshua Kitchens wrote:
"Entire solar systems have been slowly devoured by the endless appetite of the astrumals."

Yeah, I'll admit this was probably adding alittle too much to the entry and was somewhat hyperbole. Some of the advice I got while showing it to some friends was that the concept needed alittle extra spice and the line sprang from that comment.

Now on the encounter rate of the astrumal, both sides in this thread are right in a way. Being intelligent and always hungry, the astrumals don't generally get along well with one another, seeing each other instead at worst as rivals and at least as un-invited dinner guests. This means you'll usually only see one or two at most within a few miles of each other.

They do pose a danger to a planet because of a few factors:
1) Their individiual life cycles span in the thousands of years.

2) They grow larger as they eat. The metals they digest increase the size of their shell while the organic material swells their innards. The five foot diameter astrumals listed in my entry are just the average size one will be when encountered shortly after reaching adulthood. Older and/or well-fed astrumals can grow up to several times larger.

3) They are asexual beings who spawn a small clutch of new astrumals every time they reach a certain size. Similar to oozes, they shrink somewhat from the loss of bodily material to create their young.

4) A planet with enough life and metals to attract one astrumal, will eventually attract many more in the area. Its only a matter of time before a feeding frenzy breaks out though, generally, if the planet has intelligent life then the threat of the astrumal has become a known issue by the time a swarm of them have shown up.

5) The astrumal excrets little waste, using most of what they eat into their bodies. A good amount of this is burned off by their internal magical charge that produces their magnetic field but enough is left over to increase the astrumals size at a steady rate.

Jason Rice wrote:


You said that the creature often crash lands in the polar icecaps due to it's magnetic poles. That assumes that whatever world the DM is using even has magnetic poles. I can't think of any world that even mentions them in their campaign setting. Also, it assumes that even if there is a magnetic pole, that it lines up nicely with the world's axis (Earth's does not, although it is close). It even assumes that there is a polar icecap. All that is really a minor point, and I spent more time on it than intended. I'll move on to bigger issues.

Most fantasy worlds follow an 'Earth-like' format and since this was supposed to be designed to a generic fantasy setting, that is the basis I used. Now I know not all worlds will follow this layout but generally when talking about inhabited worlds, the poles will be similar to 'Earth' conditions.

Jason Rice wrote:


Related to the above issue: if they eat everything in the system, then there is no magnetic field to move them to the next solar system.

My final problem was that you said they can eat "everything it comes across in a ravenous frenzy", but it apparently only wants to eat metals....

The astrumal doesn't eat all metal of a planet, just the readily accessable ones on the surface and in the upper portions of the crust. There is enough left over with the inherent magnetic fields of a planet's core to let the astrumal push itself off of the planet's surface. And they are not just looking for metal in their hunger but organic material as well. They attmpt to eat everything from grass and trees to animals and dragons.

---Magnetic Aura/Field---

I can see where alot of concern for this ability is coming from but it is easily managable by disregarding weight and instead worry about size. While I don't want to stray into too much of the stats side at the moment, the astrumal's magnetic field would be handled via if the metal weapon/armor/object is medium-size, large-size, etc., up to a point where the object is generally too large to be affected. Also the distance from the astrumal plays a part in the equation. Further away, it only is a mild annoyance (negatives to rolls) while closer it starts to become a hazard.

PhysChic wrote:


1 - Waves of magnetism? A creature may have a magnetic field, but I highly doubt it emits magnetic waves. The only waves that contain a magnetic field component are electromagnetic waves, and electromagnetic waves would not cause an attraction between the emitting object and other objects (the magnetic field is inherently oscillating).
2 - To have the attractive/repelling force that this creature has, the magnetic field has to be pretty powerful. When the field changes from one to the other, this should induce a rather large voltage in anything in the area that can carry a current (like, perhaps a metal object?). That could always be a fun added affect.
3 - Has anyone considered that some metals (like copper) are not magnetic?

1) Probably waves wouldn't of been the best term to use there but for the effect it is a constant aura that both slightly magnetizes metal objects within its range and then either has a strong postive or negative pole at a closer range (pushing or pulling the metal objects to it). The overall ability though is based on the astrumal channeling an arcane charge through its metallic shell so certain real world physics have to be left at the doorstep.

2) This is kinda of where I was going with the innate magical abilities associated with its magnetic field. As it manipulates its aura, it can dish out similar effects as certain spells like 'heat metal', etc., to metal objects close by. A 'shock metal' variant would be a cool alternate ability to add in there for the astrumal, now that you mention it.

3) I debated on adding in ferrous to the entry instead of leaving it at all metals but then I figured, what the heck, this isn't exactly based on science here but on a magic-quasi-sciencific-like ability.

---Physical Description---

The way I described this creature to friends was like if Pac-Man mated with a Xenomorph from Alien(s) then their child had a love affair with a Fiddler Crab. Take it from there for the description.

-------------------------------------------------

If I missed any questions or you have anymore after this, please feel free to pass them along. I'll try to answer as best I can.


Joshua Kitchens wrote:
The way I described this creature to friends was like if Pac-Man mated with a Xenomorph from Alien(s) then their child had a love affair with a Fiddler Crab. Take it from there for the description

Love the descriptive there! Hope to see you in round 3. :)

Andoran RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Draconas

A big thanks to everyone who posted feedback on the Astrumal. You guys really made me think about a few areas I didn't put as much contemplation into before hand.

A bigger thanks to everyone who voted for me! We'll find out in a few hours if the Astrumal was good enough to carry me over into Round 3 but regardless, it's been a blast so far and a honor to compete beside some incredible writers and designers. I salute my fellow RPG Superstar contestants.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Joshua Kitchens wrote:
I salute my fellow RPG Superstar contestants.

And we salute you!

Congratulations on making Top 16!

PS: I liked the Langoliers!

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