Paizo Top Nav Branding
  • Hello, Guest! |
  • Sign In |
  • My Account |
  • Shopping Cart |
  • Help/FAQ
About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Pathfinder Society

Pathfinder Beginner Box

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Pathfinder Comics

Pathfinder Legends

Chris Mortika's Haga


Round 3 - Top 16: Create a Monster Stat Block

1 to 50 of 74 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

This enormous raptor dives out of the skies and lands before you.  It has two heads, resembling an eagle and a vulture, and its golden feathers smell of sandalwood.

Haga CR 6
XP 2400
AL NE Huge magical beast 
Init +10; Senses low-light vision, true seeing, Perception +17
=====
Defense
=====
AC 15, touch 12, never flat-footed (+2 Dex, +2 insight,  +3 natural, -2 size)
hp 60 (8d10+16)
Fort +11, Ref +13, Will +10
SR 16
=====
Offense
=====
Speed 15 ft., fly 80 ft.
Melee 2 claws +16 (2d6+8), 2 bites +16 (1d8+8/x3)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 10 ft. 
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 8th; concentration +13)
At will--comprehend languages, foresight (self only), 
1/day-- speak with dead, true seeing
=====
Statistics
=====
Str 27, Dex 15, Con 15, Int 12, Wis 20, Cha 16
Base Atk +8; CMB +18; CMD 30
Feats Alertness, Flyby attack, Improved initiative, Snatch, Wingover
Skills Fly +9, Knowledge (religion) +5, Knowledge (any) +5, Perception +17, Sense Motive +14; Racial Modifiers +4 Perception
Languages Common, Azlanti
=====
Ecology
=====
Environment any mountains
Organization solitary
Treasure none
=====
Special Abilities
=====
Haruspicy (Su) A haga has the gift of foreseeing the future through killing an intelligent creature and examining its entrails, a full-round action.  After the examination, each head may cast a divination effect, with a percent chance for success equal to 78 plus the victim’s Wisdom bonus. (This is an exception to the rule regarding multiple divinations).

Prophesy (Su) A haga reveals the results of each double-divination only once, through a prophetic fugue.  Its heads speak simultaneously, the eagle pronouncing auspicious omens, the vulture lamenting terrible, but avoidable doom.  Any listener may choose to attend either revelation, but must make a DC 15 Intelligence check to hear the prophesy clearly.  One aspect of the haga’s prophesy is a well-kept secret: those who make the check must save (Will, DC 21) against a subtle suggestion of the haga’s choosing.  Anyone, including the victim, may attempt a DC 25 Sense Motive roll to notice the influence, and a DC 20 Perception check discerns the subtle odor of sandalwood about the victim.

Visions of Death Although ageless, haga can die of misadventure, and its foresight extends to its own death. Before a haga dies, it sends word to its brethren, describing the deadly encounter and identifying its killers. Other haga begin any future encounter with the killers well-prepared and hostile.
=====
When Aroden, the god of innovation and human culture, died, there was none more distraught than Enhaga the Plumed Prophet, Aroden’s enormous eagle companion.  Inconsolable, Enhaga tore at his own flesh until, by end of day, he had shredded himself to pieces.  Eventually, those pieces grew into huge two-headed birds, who scattered to nest amid the great mountain ranges.  Each haga looks into the future with four keen eyes, the better to see both its hopes and dreads.  And each nurtures a touch of malice in its heart, a fury towards a culture that would dare outlive its god.

When presented with a haruspic sacrifice, a haga attempts to wrestle it to the ground with a claw and then deliver a coup de grace, slicing it open with one slash of its beak.  If the sacrifice or any companions dare to put up a fight, the indignant haga grows wrathful and takes wing, attempting to swoop in with a passing bite --or an opportune snatch and drop down dangerous mountain terrain-- while otherwise keeping safely distant.  If reduced to 15 hit points, a haga will turn to flee.

Despite the danger, some foolish tyrants and generals are desperate enough to request a haga’s counsel, and send emissaries into the mountains.  If the querent is lucky, those emissaries also serve as unwitting sacrifices.  A haga so petitioned arrives at the querent’s gates shortly thereafter, speaking its prophesies while artfully suggesting reasonable-sounding actions that lead the listeners to their disgrace and ruin. After the listeners have acted on the haga’s advice and influence, the bird sometimes returns to survey the battlefields and smoking ruins.  There it arranges the bodies of the dead in artful patterns, elaborate and sublime when seen from above.

Contributor

Not sure how this thing's Initiative bonus is +10.

You can't just declare that a monster is "never flat footed." If I catch it asleep, or zap it with hold monster before it gets a chance to act, it's helpless; while it's technically not flat-footed, the stat block should list its flat-footed AC just in case some strange circumstance requires it. Saying it's never flat-footed means that Flatfooterian, an epic-level monster and Demon Prince of Sneak Attacks, can't catch this CR 6 monster flat-footed, which is weird. I realize it's from the foresight ability (and giving a 9th-level SLA at-will to a CR 6 creature is really out of the ordinary).

SR is normally CR + 11 so CR-appropriate PCs have a 50% chance to affect the creature with spells.

Fly speed needs a maneuverability.

There's an extra comma at the end of the first SLA line, and an extra space after the -- in the second one.

The senses line lists true seeing as if it's always active, yet the SLA section only lists that once per day. You should only list something in a monster stat block if it's constant or auto-renewable.

The Monster Statistics by CR chart (Bestiary page 291) shows that this guy's hp and AC are lower than normal for its CR, and its attack bonus and damage are WAY high for its CR (average damage 55 compared to 25 on the table). That could easily kill a 6th-level PC in one round.

How often can it use its Haruspicy ability? Over and over? Its Prophesy says it only reveals the info once, but that's just per divination.

There's no SA or SQ line for the Haruspicy, Prophesy, and Visions of Death abilities.

This is a difficult monster to stat up within the CR 6 limit, and I suspect you selected it to show some design chops for a difficult challenge, but I think the nature of this creature as described in R2 is too powerful for a CR 6, and you'd really need to tone down its role and abilities if you really wanted to keep it CR-appropriate.

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

This is a plot device coated in a monster shell. Sure, it's got everything a monster needs, but every one of its abilities are aimed to affect a non-combat encounter. While you certainly can have that and there's plenty of examples of other class features and monsters that go that route, as a combat encounter, this brings nothing new to the table.

Sean's already hit a bunch of my obvious statblock concerns (though there are some capitalization issues and missing punctuation). Which brings me around to the flavor. I think this gets a bit continuity heavy. I don't have a problem with playing with established world elements, but creating a new wrinkle to one of the biggest name myths and mysteries in Golarion in a monster description is a bit awkward. Especially so when the death of Aroden confounded the working of prophecies in Golarion and then we get a creature that is all about fortune telling. So that's a little wonky. Not out and out wrong, but it did make me raise an eyebrow.

The idea and use of a scary, prophetic, giant, two-headed bird and how it might play in a campaign comes across in this, and that's cool, but I'm not sure that I really needed the stats for this. At its root, the concept feels like something a skilled GM can handle with good storytelling and some hand waving and the stats and story here don't do a great deal to make it feel like much more than that.

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

Note: In my view, this round is more than just making a stat block in a vacuum. I don’t think just seeing if you crunched out the rules properly is the right way to judge a good entry for this round. Instead, I think it’s about taking a concept from someone else and delivering on it mechanically. If a concept has four stated powers, I want to see you execute those four powers somehow unless you have reconcepted the creature. Of course you need to then execute that stat block properly. Sean, Wes and Jason are way more qualified than I am to talk about the nit picks and issues with the stat block. So what I am going to look at is how you took the concept you chose and how executed that concept with your stat block. Because really, that is what freelancing is all about–getting an assignment from someone else and delivering on it.

Initial Impression
Well, you definitely found everything that was “combat” about this thing and pumped it up. You also changed it to add a vulture angle to it, which I like. But my gut tells me this thing is just not a CR 6 monster. OK, it’s more than my gut. It all of me. Let’s take a closer look…

The Execution
Sean and Wes have given their thoughts and are far more qualified than me to address those issues. I have to admit I see some serious issues as they do.

But here are my thoughts:

First off, I just don’t see this as a CR 6 creature. Heck, it’s practically a roc and that’s a CR 9. Now, granted, a roc is Gargantuan and this isn’t. But a CR 9 roc doesn’t have all these abilities. And this thing, for some unknown reason, is actually a better flyer and aerial combatant than the roc—with Wingover and Snatch. The roc doesn’t have those. So I just don’t think it fits at the CR 6 power cap for this round. I concede that the creature description as submitted has those abilities but that is just more proof that the creature is not CR 6, not justification for their inclusion here.

Plus, maybe I missed it, but I don’t remember the original having a vulture head. Now, I like some of the change that brings. I like the fugue power and the roleplaying aspects of that with the vulture head speaking one way and the eagle the other. But that’s not what the original creature was. The original creature is a majestic raptor with twin eagle heads. I happen to agree that your version is an improvement, but you run the risk that the voters don’t like it. Though I give you props for a bold change.

Chris, I know I said you could write last round but that is a bit over the top. Though you don’t know this, I made the suggestion that we not include Golarion stuff this round when we judges were discussing the rules for this round. Your creature is a perfect reason why I was concerned. I think you over did it, to your detriment. I was worried people would be sucked into trying to “Golarion up” their submission and wind up doing what you did—hurting your submission. You only got 700 words and I think you could have used those words better.

Final Thoughts
Chris, I liked the idea of your phial if not its execution, and I liked your creature’s idea and your writing, if not its execution. Are you seeing a pattern here? I think you ran aground on the same shoals here. I like what you tried to do with this creature—I think you improved its concept with the vulture head. But the execution doesn’t quite make it. I don’t think its CR 6 and I think you over-indulged in the writing. That said, I give you props for taking a shot on a creature that was going to be hard to do, and I also think you improved on the initial concept, which is difficult to do. But that said, I have to judge this on this round’s merits and on that I can’t recommend your advancement. I’m sorry. You are a really creative guy, no doubt. But I have to pick 8 of the 16 and I think you just missed it. I wish you had picked a different creature because I think you have the chops. That has happened a couple of times this round. I think too many people got cute and said "I'll show them by taking something that isnt CR 6 and I'll make it work, and by doing that I will really stand out." I don't think that payed off for you. Hopefully for you the voters will see it differently, if they keep you around I won't mind because I think you have talent. Certainly you are a talented writer. But a freelancer has to be more than a creative writer. You have to make the right design choices, and I dont think you did (though I would use your monster in my game, if that matters). Sorry to go on and on, but I wanted to advance you and I just can't give you a recommend.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND this for Top 8.

Paizo Employee Lead Designer

I am going to leave the flavor analysis to the other judges here, but from what I saw, the concept was interesting.

Unfortunately, the stats here are a bit of a mess.

- Initiative is incorrect.
- AC and hit points are low for its CR.
- Saves are incorrect, unless I am missing something.
- SR is nonstandard (it is usually 11 + CR, which would be 17 in this case).
- Attack bonuses are missing the size modifier and the damage is a bit to high for the CR.
- There are one too many feats (should have four).
- The three special abilities do not appear in the stat block.
- Visions of death appears to be flavor only, and should either include a bonus or be cut and added to the flavor text.

I think that just about sums up the obvious issues. I am not sure where this one went wrong, but I think this one would take quite a bit of work to fix. The idea is interesting and that might make it worth it, but that is generally not a good situation for us to be in.

I give this monster a D+.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Thanks to the judges for your comments. In particular, Clark, thanks for your kind words and advice.

I look forward to discussing the math next week.

Andoran RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Dementrius

Chris, you are one magnificent bastard for even attempting this. Thank you.

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

The haga was my favorite monster from last round, and I give you big props for taking a stab at it even with the CR cap. I also don't mind that the creature is a plot device with a monster shell; I think that's a perfectly valid way to use a monster. Heck, dragons in Golarion are often much the same, but they're iconic enough that we stat them up anyway just on the off chance somebody wants to lay the smack on a plot device.

But... the judges are right and I think this guy is too far out of balance to make a legit CR 6. The fluff abilities (like vision of death) should go in the fluff section, not listed as special abilities, unless they have some combat relevance. Balancing low hp with massive attacks isn't a great way to balance - just because it's a glass cannon doesn't mean it can't blow PCs to kingdom come. The minor mechanical nits are not killers individually, but there are enough of them that they add up.

Congrats on making top 16, but I have a feeling this may be where your joyride ends.

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

I was mightily impressed that someone was willing to try to tackle the mighty haga, a CR 15+ monster if there ever was one, with the CR 6 cap. I was not, however, mightily impressed with the statblock. The phrase "glass cannon" was already used in an earlier thread, and it truly does apply here. The AC is really sad and the hit points a bit low, but the damage output is very high (and the attack bonus doesn't account for the size penalty to hit) and I don't know how it got those saves.

The splitting of the haruspicy and prophesy abilities was confusing and unnecessary. I was unsure of what the "double divination" of the prophesy was referring to at first.

There are design elements I will defend, though. I think it's fine for these guys to have foresight--it's a pretty lousy 9th level spell, and it's flavorfully appropriate. It's also why these guys are never flat-footed, even against Flatfooterian (which I imagine pronounced "flat-foot-TER-ian", but I digress). And I like the big Pathfinder push in the flavor text. I may be alone in that, but it's not a bad legend, and it makes the haga new to the world, which is interesting.

All in all, though, this stat block leaves me cold. I had high hopes for you in this round with the lantern thralls, and I'm sorry to be disappointed. This monster does not have my vote.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Brave choice Chris. I loved the Haga from last round, but I didn’t think I’d see it statted up here … I just didn’t think it would work as a CR6 monster. I think you’ve had a great stab at it, but I don’t think it quite gets there. I think you kept the flavour of the monster, and did justice to its abilities as much as you could within the framework of CR 6.

I’m just not sure that this will be enough to get you through to the next round, but I hope you make it, I’d like to see what else you’ve got to give us. Good luck.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

I gotta say I absolutely love the vulture head... pure stroke of genius. Your writing is spot on as usual.

Good luck Top 16 Brother!!

Star Voter 2013

F. Wesley Schneider wrote:
This is a plot device coated in a monster shell.

Do you feel the same way about the elemental weirds?

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka A Man In Black

roguerouge wrote:
Do you feel the same way about the elemental weirds?

You mean, one of the most infamous TPKs-in-a-box of 3e? You do him no favors comparing his work to the elemental weirds.

Anyway. This is a badly-statted gargoyle with some plot device powers. I have little interest in Golarion and this makes no effort to speak to anyone but someone steeped in Golarion lore.

What little is left is uninspiring. It's an oracle who's a jerk. The only way to work it into a plot is to have the villains hold the idiot ball.

The revelation requires three rolls to cast Suggestion on people. That's super-clunky.

Visions of Death is vague and doesn't have an Ex/Su/Sp tag.

I have no intention to vote for this. If this were the preview for a monster book, I would assume that book was less monster book and more setting book, and not the sort of setting book I'm much interested in even setting aside my indifference towards Golarion.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Thank you for stat'ing this one up. Sure there are some missteps, but you put an oracle out there that doesn't necessarily need to blow the doors off to function.

I love the choice of bird head, and the suggestion effect tied to the smell. I can see where you're headed and I like it. I'm hoping I can help get you to the next round!

-Ben.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Jared Goodwin wrote:
This is a badly-statted gargoyle with some plot device powers. I have little interest in Golarion and this makes no effort to speak to anyone but someone steeped in Golarion lore.

I'm a little curious about this statement. Seeing as how you made it into the RPG Superstar Top 32 yourself, Jared, what would you have done if you'd made it to the end...even won the title...and then been asked to write the winning adventure module (which would presumably be set within Golarion)?

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Jason, thanks for your analysis; I agree with a lot of it, and I look forward to discussing how the Haga functions once voting is over.

Demiurge, you bring up some good points, too, and I'm sorry you feel I have let you down. Hang on for a day or two and I'll be happy to explain some aspects of the thing. (But Sean is right about the flat-footed thing, I think.)

Mothman, thanks for the kind words and the luck. I appreciate your support, and I'm looking forward to an opportunity to justify why a monster like the Haga has to come in around CR 6.

Jared, thanks for your honest review. It was perhaps more helpful than you thought. I hope that someday you do indeed encounter some of my design work in a product of some sort, and that I win you over.

Terraleon, I'm glad those bits spoke to you. And thank you for your vote!

Thanks again, all. Years ago, someone wrote that game designers needed something like a writer's workshop, or the professional comics artists who attend conventions and look through up-and-coming art students' portfolios, offering advice. "We need editors and developers to look at the design and vivisect it in front of the designer." That's what people need, in order to improve, and that's what I'm getting out of this round. That, and something else, which I'll talk about after voting closes.

Be righteous to each other.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 aka flash_cxxi

I wasn't sure the Haga could be done in anything under CR 12 and I'm afraid that while I applaude your attempt Chris, I'm afraid that you still haven't won me over with your Stat Block.

You never know though, I haven't finished reading all of the entries yet so with 6 Votes you amy still squeeze your way through.
Good Luck! :)

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Craig,

Thanks for your kind words. If you feel you can trust me, I'll ask for your vote. I look forward to explaining why, once I can speak more freely.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka A Man In Black

Neil Spicer wrote:
I'm a little curious about this statement. Seeing as how you made it into the RPG Superstar Top 32 yourself, Jared, what would you have done if you'd made it to the end...even won the title...and then been asked to write the winning adventure module (which would presumably be set within Golarion)?

Steeped myself in Golarion lore. Just as if the assignment were to be something with an otherworldly horror theme, I'd sit down and read a bunch of horror and do some research to get the mood and the tone right, despite the fact that I'm not a big fan of horror. Has every work project you've ever done been entirely tailored to your pre-existing interests?

Let me elaborate on what I meant. From the position of a Golarion outsider, this feels like something that exists to fill in a gap in the setting, to stat up some sort of plot device. That's only interesting if I care about the plot it fits into, because beyond that specific plot niche this isn't useful to me. The suggested plot is "Evil NPC smacks down evil NPC", and this is a character who has no suggested interest in any plot other than hiding on top of a mountain and brooding or punishing people who bother it. The only way to involve it in the plot is to have a villain learned enough to know about these obscure creatures and who doesn't care about throwing away minions, but not learned enough to know they wreck anyone who comes to them for help and also incapable of getting divinations without traveling to the proverbial mountaintop.

Mr. Schneider is correct: "The idea and use of a scary, prophetic, giant, two-headed bird and how it might play in a campaign comes across in this, and that's cool, but I'm not sure that I really needed the stats for this." When the stats would need a complete rewrite to be usable and the description of the scary, vengeful oracle isn't inspiring, what's left?

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Jared Goodwin wrote:
...I'd sit down...and do some research to get the mood and the tone right, despite the fact that I'm not a big fan....Has every work project you've ever done been entirely tailored to your pre-existing interests?

First, I'm not being snarky. I was just genuinely perplexed by your statement. But to answer your question...

Every project I've ever done already had my interest. By that, I mean I look at companies whose products inspire me. So, my pre-existing interests are developed (or tailored, if you will) before I get involved with a project. The projects aren't tailored to meet my pre-existing interests.

Instead, I spend a lot of time absorbing a publisher's campaign world, understanding the themes in their product lines, and learning the format they use by poring over their pre-existing products. Then, after I've done that to my own satisfaction and feel confident I'm ready, I find a way to approach a publisher (using whatever door they make available) so I can hopefully write for them.

But that's just my two-cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka A Man In Black

I wasn't being snarky either. There's a difference between being interested in the house style and the tone of a set of work, and being interested in the minutiae of the associated setting. I can enjoy Star Wars just fine without needing to know about the details of the associated canon, and if someone were trying to sell me something with Star Wars on the cover I'm more interested in the quality of that work than whether it fills some gap in Star Wars canon. The same goes, moreso, for Golarion material; while this may have a fascinating place in Golarion canon if you're already interested in Golarion canon, it doesn't sell itself as anything but a Golarion gapfiller.

The best RPG setting writing is both part of an interesting whole and also atomic, composed of ideas which are interesting on their own. This isn't just because there are lots of gamers who aren't interested in Golarion/Eberron/Freeport as a setting and just want the monsters/adventure/spells/whatnot, but also because nearly every book is ideally a jumping on point for gamers who are entirely new to the setting. Paizo's flagship products, the adventure paths, walk this line: while Paizo would love to also sell you a pile of Golarion books, they also rely on selling adventure paths to people who don't care one whit about the parts of Golarion that aren't part of the story.

This contest was to make an interesting monster, with integration into Golarion as an option. That says to me that the emphasis was not on finding a loose thread in Golarion to expand on, but instead to create something which is interesting on its own, not merely as an extension of a pre-existing interest. If you're going to attach a whole setting to a creature, you're going to have to sell me at least the parts of the setting related to the creature, and this doesn't do that. This doesn't make me interested in Golarion, because the only Golarion story it suggests is villains doing self-destructively stupid things for no good reason.

I'm not a published RPG author, nor am I likely to become one in the near future, so I can't speak from experience about actual writing-for-hire. I don't know how I'd approach Paizo or any other publisher with an interest in getting started working for them, and how I would have handled the Superstar assignment would have depended greatly on what I was asked to do since (I assume) it's less of a pitch and more of an assignment. I can only speak with authority as a consumer of RPG material. From that viewpoint, NPCs doing things to other NPCs for no good reason does not strike me as one of the themes in Paizo's product lines, nor is it something I'm interested in buying. If there is a theme central to Paizo's work present in this monster, it's one I'm not seeing.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Jared Goodwin wrote:
...I don't know how I'd approach Paizo or any other publisher with an interest in getting started working for them, and how I would have handled the Superstar assignment would have depended greatly on what I was asked to do since (I assume) it's less of a pitch and more of an assignment.

For the purposes of RPG Superstar...

Spoiler:
...if you make it to the final round, you get to pitch an idea for an adventure you'd like to write. It isn't an assignment, though the developers do work with you to recast certain elements they want to tweak. But, on the whole, it is more of a pitch and less of an assignment.

Regardless, Paizo will certainly place it somewhere in Golarion. If you don't choose to do so in your adventure proposal, they'll work that out with you later. In year one of the contest, there wasn't a whole lot defined about Golarion (or it was relatively new), so the contestants designed their pitches to be more generic. In year two, I think all but one of us purposefully used Golarion content in our pitch. And, the top two vote-getters (me and Eric, according to the exit-polls), reaped the benefits of that from the voters who had developed a pre-existing interest in Golarion by that point.

At any rate, I understand your perspective. It just seemed strange to me at the time when you posted your original statement that someone would venture into a contest like RPG Superstar and make the Top 32 with a chance to eventually win the prize...which is the opportunity to write a Pathfinder adventure module...and yet have no interest, or take little inspiration, in Golarion as the base campaign setting where that adventure would eventually be placed. But I understand what you mean a little better now that you've clarified your position.

Thanks,
--Neil

P.S. Apologies to Chris Mortika for the thread-jack. I'll abscond from further discussion.

Star Voter 2013

Jared Goodwin wrote:
roguerouge wrote:
Do you feel the same way about the elemental weirds?

You mean, one of the most infamous TPKs-in-a-box of 3e? You do him no favors comparing his work to the elemental weirds.

Anyway. This is a badly-statted gargoyle with some plot device powers. I have little interest in Golarion and this makes no effort to speak to anyone but someone steeped in Golarion lore.

What little is left is uninspiring. It's an oracle who's a jerk.

My, aren't we touchy?

Most-infamous TPKs of the third edition is a bit overboard for a creature offered fairly high praise over on Enworld. I tend to agree with them that having a handful of creatures not designed to be killed for their stuff is a cool feature, not a bug.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka A Man In Black

roguerouge wrote:
Most-infamous TPKs of the third edition is a bit overboard for a creature offered fairly high praise over on Enworld. I tend to agree with them that having a handful of creatures not designed to be killed for their stuff is a cool feature, not a bug.

I'm all for "monsters" who are people you talk to or puzzles you solve instead of punching dummies you beat up. The problem is that if the only possible interaction with a particular entity is talking to it, there is little need for stats. This includes both the high end, where you don't need stats for anything that the party is meant to be incapable of fighting, and the low end, where you don't need stats for anything that is meant to be incapable of fighting the party.

Elemental weirds in MM2 are a study in failure in this area. You have a reason to talk to them, true, but their mechanical stats are little more than "lol you die" since they're under CR by somewhere between six and eight. There's very little reason to ever use their stats, since combat with them is suicidal and their divination powers are essentially unlimited. It blows my mind that CR 12 creatures with SR, high DR, elemental immunities, an anti-melee save-or-die defense, and spellcasting as an 18th level sorcerer are offered high praise anywhere.

This errs on the opposite side. This is a creature that is meant to rub shoulders with the plot movers and shakers, and yet it has no ability to interact with them mechanically other than to dispense divinations or fly away. It's a non-combatant, whose only viable combat strategy is to realize that it's about to be attacked and remove itself posthaste. Now, that's at the levels of "foolish tyrants and generals"; at its own level, it's hitting harder and more often than an ettin or kyton while flying, which makes me wonder if it's not dialed up a bit high on the melee damage scale.

Sometimes, a plot device is just a plot device. If you don't want the PCs to mess with your plot device, it's not a good idea to clothe it in mechanics that exist only to allow the PCs to mess with your plot device.

Star Voter 2013

I get you, although I tend to file Elemental Weirds under the heading of "Dragon" which the designers admitted were intentionally given a CR that was 4 under their capacity due to their status as signature monsters for campaigns, settings and the game. Since the weird is virtually required to be a signature feature of a setting that it's in, as oracles generally tend to be, I look at their power level as being of a piece, right down to the sorcerer levels.

(OT: And, interestingly, there's astonishingly few dragons in published adventures despite their iconic status and when they are used, it's usually juvenile or adult at oldest. Ancient dragons function a lot like Weirds in that way.)

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Jared,

I look forward to discussing the design decisions behind the Haga with you, once voting is over. And, if you want to throw a vote towards a monster that the PCs "talk to, or solve", or at least towards an entry that makes you consider deeper issues of critter design, I'd be grateful.

Roguerouge,

I'm glad the conversation's engaging.

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

roguerouge wrote:

I get you, although I tend to file Elemental Weirds under the heading of "Dragon" which the designers admitted were intentionally given a CR that was 4 under their capacity due to their status as signature monsters for campaigns, settings and the game. Since the weird is virtually required to be a signature feature of a setting that it's in, as oracles generally tend to be, I look at their power level as being of a piece, right down to the sorcerer levels.

(OT: And, interestingly, there's astonishingly few dragons in published adventures despite their iconic status and when they are used, it's usually juvenile or adult at oldest. Ancient dragons function a lot like Weirds in that way.)

It's true, since of course most big dragons are simply too high-CR for the adventures that sell well enough to get printed.

Additionally, as far as Paizo is concerned, Golarion is being built as a world where dragons are rare and their interactions with people are limited. There are exceptions, of course, as in CotCT and the country of Hermea, but they are precisely that: exceptions.

Spoiler:
I had inserted a dragon or three into the Vigil entry for Cities of Golarion, figuring a handful of good dragons would be likely allies for the crusade, which spawned an interesting conversation with James, Sean, Wes, etc. about how and when dragons should appear in published products, what their role is in the campaign world, whether Golarion even HAS baby dragons or whether all dragons are old and hardcore badasses, how they interact with other races, etc.

Home DMs, go crazy! For the written supplements that create the assumed baseline for Golarion, though, Paizo is going to be very strategic about placing them only in places where they really make sense and aren't just stand-ins for the "generic tough monster" niche.


Neil Spicer wrote:
Jared Goodwin wrote:
This is a badly-statted gargoyle with some plot device powers. I have little interest in Golarion and this makes no effort to speak to anyone but someone steeped in Golarion lore.
I'm a little curious about this statement. Seeing as how you made it into the RPG Superstar Top 32 yourself, Jared, what would you have done if you'd made it to the end...even won the title...and then been asked to write the winning adventure module (which would presumably be set within Golarion)?

Just because he said he has no interest in Golarion doesn't mean he couldn't write about it. He is correct however, this is a monster stat block which is supposed to be world neutral so it can be used in many "other" settings. I agree 100% about not making Golarion specific stuff since it is a just a stat block. Setting specific monsters are used with adventures and have flavor text in their description to assist in running said monster during the adventure. Core bestiary monsters for a game that is based off of OGL should stay world neutral. I digress anyway thats my two copper.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting Subscriber

While I won't claim to be as knowledgable as others on the mechanics of the creature, I liked the some of the elements you created for this creature.

Although I can see concerns about it remaining more background neutral, the Golarion origins is cool to me!

I'm not certain if the guideline is that all these monsters should be "shelf-ready" - just pull them off a random monster table to use any time. This one clearly isn't in that category, but I could see it being useful as part of a bigger story (so I guess it falls into the plot device category). But how is that any different than having a vampire or dragon be the pinnacle of a certain adventure? You aren't going to be pulling them out for every combat either.

Maybe I'm just seeing more to it. Good work, Chris!

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Thanks, guys, I appreciate both of your opinions and your kind words. I hope to see you again next round. Whichever is that case, stop by again over the weekend, and I'd love to discuss the pros and cons of Golarion-specific content.


Dredan wrote:
He is correct however, this is a monster stat block which is supposed to be world neutral so it can be used in many "other" settings. I agree 100% about not making Golarion specific stuff since it is a just a stat block.
Round 3 Rules wrote:
You may make this creature world-neutral (as it was in Round 2) or add information to set it in the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting.

Even though this round is totally dedicated to "just a stat-block", it was specifically called out that adding information to set it in the world of Golarion was an approved design approach. Chris was doing exactly what he was supposed to do when he added that info.

Anyhow, I happen to like the WAY it was done. This isn't just a single stand-offish one-trick puzzle monster, because it has 10 other 'siblings' who are all immediately aware of the circumstances of the others' death. So they will be prepared and ready if somebody tries to come for them all. Further, it seemed fairly strongly implied that all of the Haga dying would in some way advance the saga tied to the death of Aroden... But not forced, so they COULD well be treated as one-off monsters, OR be crucial to an entire campaign arc in ways beyond their mere personal idiosyncracies and abilities, OR anything in between. If I had to pick one word: Evocative.

If you were going to choose the option to tie it in to Golarion lore, you well better make it a worthy addition to Golarion, and I think Chris did that. If I imagine this published within an AP as more of a one-off module, I could well see it being followed up in later material via it's tie in with the Aroden saga. A+

I didn't really have such a big problem with the "technical" aspect of the stat block, though I didn't reverse-derive every stat (nor did I to any of the other monster stats). Foresight seems perfect for the creature despite the seeming Spell Level/ CR disparity, and would account for the never-Flat Footed aspect... I might have even added the Specialist Diviner ability (always act in Surprise Round), myself. The wording about 'double prophecy' and exception to the normal rule was slightly confusing, I would have phrased it more like "as an exception to the rule regarding multiple divinations, each of the Haga's two heads may cast a divination effect, with a percent chance for success equal to 78 plus the victim’s Wisdom bonus." That puts the wording about being an exception directly adjacent to what it's referring to, ensuring the "double-divination" reference is 100% clear.

Re: the supposed mis-match with the creature's attack damage, it doesn't seem such a big deal. Probably the initial way PCs will meet this creature will be connected to it's prophecying, not a random encounter death-match. The description itself mentions Coup-de-Gracing victims to read their entrails, and decent base damage and x3 multiplier seem pretty good at preventing embarassing "failures" with it's key schtick. After dealing with an initial Haga, the possibility is mentioned about dealing with ALL of them. Having better-than-CR-avg. damage output would let them 'scale' better (with the CR advantage of knowing their killers, and preparing, etc), while their less-than-avg. HPs/toughness seems exactly what I would expect from a 'super-diviner' creature. I would expect further Haga to have manipulated "allies" able to interfere with PCs if they actually feel threatened.

I certainly have no problem including this stat-block in my top 6, and recommending it proceed in the Top 8 for next round.

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

Well, at least you have earned lots of praise for attempting to stat something as difficult as the haga in CR 6 or less.

Unfortunately, I agree with many others that attempting to to stat something as difficult as the haga in CR 6 or less was a big landmine that was best sidestepped.

I was also a it put off by the largely-extraneous, Golarion-specific origin story, and by the re-conception of the haga's appearance to include a vulture's head in place of a second eagle's head. As a creature from real-world myth, the haga should stick close to its roots. I'll grant E. Gary Gygax the poetic license he took in changing various mythological beasts to suit his whims, but only because he was largely responsible for starting this hobby we all know and love. Beyond that, I prefer that mythological beasts retain their myth-based appearance when translated into bestiary form.

I'll be passing on the haga this round. This one's just too big to fit in a CR 6 box, and has an origin story that's just too extraneous for my tastes.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Thanks to you both: Quandary, for articulating the aspects of the Haga start block that work for you, and Eric, for pointing out the parts that you see as problems. Come back in a few days, and I'll see if I can in you over on some of the design decisions.

Star Voter 2013

And, for the record, this voter regarded the Golarion connection as a major plus to this submission.


Oh man. :( Chris, I loved the lantern thrall, and I stepped up to defend it against its detractors, but man, did you ever walk into a trap in this round.

The haga has no business being at CR 6 or lower. You should have picked a different monster. Moreover, you miscalculated many of its statistics and generally did not execute the mechanics well.

Initiative is too high; it should be +6. [Dex mod 2 + Imp Init 4 = 6] It's like you gave this monster double Improved Initiative.

True seeing shouldn't be listed in the Senses line unless the effect is constant or at-will.

AC and touch AC are calculated correctly, but are way too low for CR 6. In addition, you still need to calculate flat-footed AC even if the monster is never flat-footed. Flat-footed AC doesn't really mean flat-footed AC; it means AC when you are denied your Dex bonus, like when you are blinded, cowering, pinned, or stunned. There should probably be a different term for it.

Saves are too high across the board. It's like the haga is wearing a cloak of resistance +3 or something. They should be Fort +8, Reflex +10, Will +7. [Fort Base 6 + Con mod 2 = 8] [Ref Base 6 + Dex mod 2 + insight bonus 2 = 10] [Will base 2 + Wis mod 5 = 7]

Creatures with SR always follow the 11 + CR formula as far as I know, so the Haga should have SR 17.

No manuverability listed next to the fly speed.

Its attacks are miscalculated. You forgot the -2 size penalty. They should be at +14. [Base Atk 8 + Str mod 8 - size penalty 2 = 14] Even with the correction, +14 attack is a little too high for a CR 6 creature, and an average of 55 damage on a full attack is way too high for a CR 6 creature.

While noting the creature's concentration check modifier is useful, according to the format, it shouldn't be on the Spell-Like Abilities line.

Foresight is a 9th level spell. Giving it to a CR 6 monster as an at-will spell-like ability is just wrong.

One too many feats.

What does Knowledge (any) mean? Do you mean Knowledge (any one), like an aboleth?

Haruspicy and Prophesy seem like they should be a single ability to me, and Visions of Death isn't an ability at all, it's just flavor text.

I'm sorry Chris. The wrong monster combined with bad mechanical execution means I doubt you'll be in the next round. No vote.

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

Since I'm way behind on R3 reading, I'm going to be briefer than I normally would.

When I first read that this was a write up for the Haga, I expected that this wouldn't be a good fit with the CR6 limit. This goes to show that first impressions are important, since before reading any of your actual entry, I was pre-disposed against it. I'm sure you chose to do this as a challenge and to up the difficulty of your entry, but in this case, I think the decision backfired.

After reading through the entry, my overall impression confirmed my first thought - this isn't CR6. Not only is it too powerful as written for CR6, but I don't think this version does justice to the Haga R2 entry, which made it seem that a Haga is a creature that can influence entire battles and nations, and used its powers of prophecy to shape the future. A CR6 creature can influence small areas, but if it tried to shape an entire nation, the heroes and champions of that nation would likely squash it flat.

Specific things that struck me in the write up and I didn't see mentioned by others are:
- there's no explanation why it's bites are x3 crits - unless using a weapon with this crit multiplier, it's normally a special ability for an attack to be anything other than 20/x2
- the odd choice to give a 9th level power to a CR6 creature
- I'm unclear what a double divination does - if they're both successful, do they give different information on the topic? For a creature's signature ability, I also thought it was odd that it has a 78% chance of working only - yes, this is how the spell works, but monster abilities don't have to follow the spell rules, and if you want to use the Haga for prophecy - why include a chance of it not working?
- I thought the multiple checks involved with the prophecy were cumbersome - first you need to check if the divination works (twice), then you need to make a save vs. suggestion, followed by a sense motive check and perception check to notice if anything is wrong (for each creature there). In addition, you don't come out and say that the suggestion effect doesn't allow a creature to automatically know it was the target of a spell, as per the general rules - it's suggested by the sense motive check, but not explicitly stated that this doesn't follow that rule.
- Finally, I didn't thik the tie in with Aroden's death 100 years ago in the game world tied in with the R2 description of the ancient majesty of the haga. The oldest of these things are about 100 years old, so who even knows the don't age and are immortal? How much can they have really shaped history with their prophecies when they've barely been around for most of history? Also, Aroden has been very loosely detailed so far, and while I'm not aware of anything that contradicts this, he never struck me as a big animal friend kind of god, so I thought that "Enhaga the Plumed Prophet, Aroden’s enormous eagle companion" seemed jarring.

Andoran Contributor, RPG Superstar 2012 , Star Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

I'm giving this one of my votes.

I think you stuck your neck(s) out here, and I like what you've done. The fluff for your haga really brings it home for me.

I wish you luck in this round of the contest!


First of all, this stat block strikes me as in no way resembling something which according to the laid-down rules should be CR 6. Others (including Jason Bulmahn) have already commented on the way that the maths of the stat block fails to fall within predetermined parameters, or at least by the accounting (or lack thereof) which you have given in this entry. I can only assume that this stat block is something you have made up 'by rule of thumb' to challenge a party composed of four fighter/paladin/barbarian/ranger types all heavily specialised in ranged weapon attacks and not too fussy about invisibility or needing to get sneak attack damage in. Given this version of the Haga's own relatively low AC and hit points it might go down under that sort of attack, without taking out anyone with the 4d6+2d8+32 damage it can deal in a round (assuming it doesn't crit) - because at +16 to hit in tandem with true-sight, this creature will be hitting most of the time unless a character flukes getting a blinding effect past both the heads (which you should have reflected in you stat block too, by the way).

On to the writing. The writing is - as is usual for one of your entries - evocative. However, you chose to dabble in Golarion mythology, and I do not recall seeing specific mention of Aroden having an eagle companion in the Campaign Setting or Deities and Magic book, so I assume that you made that up for the purposes of an origin story for the creature. You're tiptoeing around the edges of 'don't break Paizo's toys' with that. True, Neil Spicer invented a whole new subset of fey with his adventure proposal last year, but that was introducing something in a relatively unexplored area, whilst you're playing with the mythology of a figure crucial to the history of the past hundred years of at least one continent of the setting.
And where did the vulture head come from? If I tear an eagle into lots of little bits, I would expect anything that resulted to be entirely eagle based, not suddenly popping up bits of an entirely different bird altogether without any explanation.

The being able to see the details of its own future bothered me sufficiently about the Round 2 Haga to knock it out of contention for my Round 2 votes, and you've chosen to keep up that theme by giving your version of the Haga foresight as an at will ability. I've looked over the spell, and whilst the actual numerical advantages of the spell seem very little to me, adjudicating what it does in game and representing that effectively seem a nightmare to me. You held onto the ability and tried to represent it with a spell that I look at and am not quite sure how it should run. (Granted others may not find foresight problematic though.)

My overall impression is of an entry with the usual Chris Mortika excellence of word use, but which on several major counts as far as the monster has been explained fails to follow the usual conventions for generating a stat block.
I am also in some doubt over the origin story.
Some effort has been made to dial back the original Round 2 creature and to cram it into the 'maximum CR 6' constraint of this round, but the monster was fighting the contestant all the way, at least one head is still poking up out of the box, and I suspect that the contestant has come out the worst in the struggle with the haga.

Thanks for submitting this entry though, Chris.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

As has been said many times before: kudos for attempting this. The haga was my favorite creature last round, and I actually expected a few people to try some sort of re-imaging of it just for the challenge; a haga hatchling, or a lesser haga. You went whole-hog!

Unfortunately, I'm also going to join the chorus saying it was a horrible trap, and it hit you hard. But even setting aside the technical issues, I honestly don't like the way you executed the haga conceptually. The vulture head doesn't fit the mystique: it changes the haga from a noble creature of ancient myth, into a Batman villain. Rather than the jealous competitors implied by both their modus operandi and status as a Really Big Predator, the race is apparently a close-knit cabal who care about each others' deaths: to me, this really makes them less interesting. The link to Aroden is just plain contrived, and worse, makes the haga race entirely too young to pull off the mythic things their original description implied; you'd have been better off leaving out a direct Golarian tie, or just leaving it at the language line.

I feel like I should call out at least one positive thing, because not everything here is bad. And I'm not going to take the "good writing!" cop-out, we know that about you already. :) I think that foresight is an awesome addition, perfect haga flavor, and doesn't break CR in any way. As I see it, that spell is 9th-level because if it was any lower level, it would be too good for a caster with 9th-level spells. Beyond the numerical bonuses, its power scales directly with the number of options available to the affected individual. It probably wouldn't be broken as a 3rd-level spell if the caster has no access to 4th-level spells, and as such, I see no problem giving it to a creature with a closed list of abilities.


Charles Evans 25 wrote:
...and I do not recall seeing specific mention of Aroden having an eagle companion in the Campaign Setting or Deities and Magic book...

Correction:

I meant the Gods and Magic book, not Deities and Magic. What comes of attempting Knowledge [arcana] checks whilst fatigued...

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

I like the vulture head, that's just cool. Also the low AC makes a lot of sense for what really is just a bird.

You've said you'll explain, but the Saves are +3 higher than they should be to all I can see. CMD is also two too low (doesn't include the +2 insight bonus).

DC for the Suggestion will save is rather high. DC 16 would be normal, 19 if considering it a mass suggestion. 21 is out of the park for CR 6.. but then that could be the point. It just probably should have included a racial bonus.

Very flavorful text - muddles a bit mixing crunch with fluff, but nice.

Good luck Chris!


Commiserations, Chris.


Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

Mortika,
I just want to let you know that I didn't like the Haga at all before, and you made me love it. Not the success you were looking for, I know, but I thought I should at least let you know.
M.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

This one was a really hard call for me.

As others have pointed out, your mechanical snafus hurt you, but what killed it for me was that you chose to put this in Golarion. Prophecies don’t work in Golarion anymore. That’s the point- the heroes make their own destiny.

Granted, all it does is duplicate divination (a spell which PCs already have, which doesn’t “prophecize” so much as grant useful advice, and which has a maximum temporal range of 1 week). But it dresses that in very prophetic trappings, and those trappings are highly antithetical to the setting.

Just the same, when I first started reading I thought I was going to have to vote for you, because you really cleaned the creature up conceptually and took it in a direction I liked. You did shed a lot of Posener’s original “Orchestra of Doom” grandiosity, but that was probably a good move if you’re reducing the power level this much. And those are some pretty great non-combat mechanics.

I strongly disagree with the complaints others have raised about that. I understand that some feel that monsters are equivalent to combat threats and should be judged as such, with DMs making up any non-combat abilities. This is an argument I’m particularly familiar with from the 4e crowd (no one take that as a jab; I say it with no vitriol. 4e is a great game. It’s just not the game for everyone).

I am perfectly capable of making up rules on the fly out of combat, yes. I am capable of doing so in combat as well, but that doesn’t mean I always want to. If you can give me a mechanically smooth, consistent, and balanced way to handle something really cool without having to make up rules as I go, then you’ve done me a huge favor, whether we’re talking about a combat encounter or a non-combat encounter.

It was said in the original Haga thread a lot, but monsters aren’t just there to be fought (they're there to be encountered, yes- otherwise they wouldn't need stats- but not necessarily fought). Monsters are denizens of the world, and supporting a monster's roll in the world is just as important as supporting its roll in combat. You definitely succeeded there, and it's a shame to see you go. Hopefully we'll still see you around the forums (and, more importantly, back again next year). :)


Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

Yep. Honestly, I look at monsters first for conceptualization/plot potential, and then secondly as combatants.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

This has been a fantatic experience. I've learned an enormous amount, developed some friendships with my 2010 classmates, and had my time in the spotlight to try and impress some of the Powers that Be. I want to thank everyone who cheered me on, offered suggestions or critiques, or voted for my entries. This whole thing has been humbling, and will be a highlight of my time as a Paizo fan.

Chris Mortika's Haga, Postmortem and Footnotes

Memo to Future Contestants: Avoid Rookie Mistake #7

There's a story told about what happened to Scott Bizar's company, Fantasy Games Unlimited, that caused their implosion from major player in the games market to sad shadow of their former selves. In 1989, they moved their offices across the country, and packed two vans: one with their current inventory, and the other with refuse for a landfill. According to the tale, when they got to their new offices, they opened their inventory truck, and found ... all the garbage that should have been sent to the dump.

Now I know how they must have felt.

People on this thread, starting with the judges, have complained that the stat block doesn't make sense. They're right; when I read their comments, I was confused, then mortified. The stat block I'd submitted was a second draft from earlier in the process, with some of the last modifications and additions. Which led me to investigate and find an infection on my home computer. (It's a Mac, but viruses can indeed happen.) Among other things, it interfered with my updating files that already exist; "Save" didn't work right.

So, learn from my example and avoid Rookie Mistake #7: check the content of your entry, one last time, in the Paizo messageboard window, before hitting "submit".

(That's not to say the intended stat block was perfect. I did indeed miss the size penalty to the Haga's attacks, and Sean is right when he says that I should have included the flat-footed AC; an at-will effect like foresight isn't the same as a permanent continuous effect, and spell-like effects wouldn't work in antimagic fields, for example.) and I'd forgotten to include a note that the Haga's Visions of Death is (Su).)

Why the Haga Must be Pretty Close to CR Six

Some of the major contention with this entry was the argument that the Haga has to have a tremendously high challenge rating, and a CR 6 version is a "baby" or "nerfed" creature. That wasn't my opinion coming into the round. Looking at the Haga, I always felt that it had to be about CR 6, and I'd be happy to explain why.

Something I learned from Greg Vaughn's kind comments in the thread about "Slumbering Tsar": the level of the party determines the particulars of the challenge. I'm running "Slumbering Tsar" as a play-by-post here, and one of my characters wanted to know if the party could see maps of the abandonned city of evil. I said that there are no maps, that it's unexplored territory, and comments from Mr. Vaughn backed up this position. Nobody from the good-guy town of Bard's Gate has ever teleported there, because the PCs are the heroes, and there aren't going to be higher-level NPCs making the adventure trivial for them.

So, if a party interacts with a Haga, where are they in their adventuring careers?

The Haga is a prophesy monster, like the oracle at Delphi. It comes into play when the more-desperate-than-moral kings or generals decide to consult it. And if the PCs are already 9th Level, then the conversation goes like this:
King: I am in desperate straits. I must consult the Haga.
PC Cleric: Hang on. Let me cast commune.
PC Wizard: Or let me whip out contact other plane.
Cohort Cleric: I'd be happy to help out with divination.

So, the Haga has to enter the story before the party gets to that power level. Well, is it possible for the Haga to be CR 15, and just impossibly overwhelming to a 6th-level party? (Much in the way that a Beholder shows up in the first act of the Shackled City AP.) No, because the Haga's death is part of its story, and the PCs, being the protagonists, have to effect that death. They have to be able to fight it.

So, it's glorious and magnificent. Its feather gleam in the light and the populace marvels as it sweeps across the skies, grabbing a sow on the wing. And it's CR 6, the same as a giant lacewing or a wyvern.

And, from another perspective, the Giant Eagle is Large and CR 3. The Roc is Gargantuan and CR 9. There ought to be design space for a Huge bird that's CR 6.

Glass Cannon?

Some commenters compare the Haga against other CR 6 critters, observe that it has poor defenses and a strong attack, and condemn it as a "glass cannon".

The Haga has a strong full attack because it disembowels people to look through their entrails, and I wanted it to be able to full-attack a 3rd-level fighter or a 5th-level sorcerer and get to the gooey center in one round. Which is why the beaks have a x3 critical modifier. But it never gets a full attack in combat.

In retrospect, the Haga's AC should have been a little tougher. I thought about giving it a higher insight bonus (as it foresees its attacker's moves and compensates ahead of time, like in the movie "Next"), but the spell "foresight" only provides a +2 insight bonus, and I didn't want to surpass the advantages bestowed a 9th-level spell. (And compare the 3.5 Ettin to its Pathfinder analogue. The combat benefits of having two heads --such as avoiding flanks-- has been virtually eliminated.) But it doesn't rely on its AC in combat.

The answer to the "glass cannon" issue is the Haga's tactics: it avoids swordplay by just keeping to a distance. It attacks with a single fly-by bite, so it never delivers a full suite of attacks, and it uses Wingover to make sure it can attack every round while remaining at a safe distance on the PC's turn. The party's serious threats are the archers and the mages, not the raging barbarians with greataxes or the sneaky rogues. This is why playtesting suggested tinkering with the Haga's SR, to balance the encounter with a 5th or 6th level party.

Prophesy in Golarion? And Why We Haven't Heard of Aroden's Pet Before

Hydro joins other folks in objecting to a prophesy monster in the Golarion setting. Aroden is dead, and visions of the future died with him.

Well, but not. Harrow readers are still plying their trade, at reduced efficacy. Spells like augury still work. I'd be happy to be corrected, but the way I understand the conceit of the setting, Aroden's death wiped the slate clean; all the old prophesies are no longer reliable, because this is a new age. But divination is still a 4th level Cleric spell, and more powerful spells than that are leading the sages towards tentative new insights into the world to come.

If there is a prophesy monster in Golarion, I think its connection to Aroden have to be addressed. Maybe it came about as a mad arcanist's attempt to replicate Aroden's oracular powers, or Asmodeus' attempt to corrupt the remaining faithful in Andoran. I chose to make it Aroden's pet, because (a) gods have iconic animals, and aside from Andoran's heraldry we haven't heard much of Aroden's, and (b) monsters need to have motivations. Hill giants can get away with simple bestial ferocity, but I wanted the Haga to have a reason for its wickedness. And I thought that Survivor's Guilt was appropriately tragic.

I also picked Aroden, truth be told, because I did want to set the creature in the campaign setting, and "Aroden's death a hundred years' ago" is the first thing people learn about Golarion. It was intended to be sensible to voters with only a glancing familiarity to the world.

Charles objected to my introducing something new to the canon, but a designer can't reference canon in a new invention with inventing new aspects to the established lore. Having said that, Wes is probably right to be twitchy. A freelancer monster entry is probably the wrong place to expand upon the central history of Aroden.

What Kind of Power is "Visions of Death"?

One member of my pit crew is a dyed-in-the-wool storyteller, a "Narrativist" through and through. And he knows exactly what the Haga's "foresight of its own death" means. To him, it means that the Haga has plot immunity from being killed until it's good and ready, the same way he'd rule that a lucky critical early in a campaign can't take out the BBEG and derail the entire plotline.

But that's a DM-level answer to the problem. What's a design-level answer? I didn't want to ignore the whole section of David's concept, but I didn't want to tell the DM "the Haga is unkillable in this encounter unless it foresees its own death. Then it has to die, even if the PCs don't attack." The answer seemed to be: make the visions of death retroactive. There were other kinds of actions a Haga could take if it forsaw the PCs killing it: the next people the PCs encounter could have been corrupted by a Haga's suggestion to attack the party on sight. But inciting other Haga against the party would ensure that future Haga encounters would be different from the first. This power keeps the Haga from being a one-note monster.

A Vulture Head?

The huge eagle before you demands "Why are you come here?" When you answer, a second head rises from the shadows of its breast, a bald vulture's features eyeing you with contempt. "And on whose authority do you ask?" asks the vulture, in a voice dripping with anticipation.

In retrospect, the vulture head was a mistake. I wanted to highlight the distinction between the hopeful prophesies and the despairing, but that was unnecessary. I wanted to underline the fact that the Haga has become corrupt and monstrous, but I think that just having two heads conveys that pretty well. And, as people have pointed out, a double-headed eagle is an iconic figure, and there's strength in that. A eagle / vulture bird thing is just another chimerical thingamabob. As Lief suggets, there are overtones of a Batman villain.

Using the Haga, a Recommendation

So, what does a storyline with a Haga look like? I'd recommend a GM show her players the Haga in "revese".

I. Begin with a scene where the heroes come across a scene of battle. Maybe a war, or maybe something as simple as a bandit assault on a caravan, in which everyone on both sides died. The PCs see a huge two-headed bird re-arranging the bodies of the fallen into an elaborate pattern. It sees them and flies off.

II. The party is dealing with a patron or important official, when the Haga arrives and delivers its messages, and departs. (My suggestion to DMs: write up both the nice prophesy and the doomy one on slips of paper, and if a player says her character is listening to ne or the toher, let her read the appropriate prophesy.) The party finds out what a Haga is, and how people strike bargains with it. They might realize the suggestion and take steps to stop the next tragedy.

III. An official sends the party to "offer a gift, in this box" to the Haga, with both the patron and the Haga understanding that the person holding the box is the intended sacrifice. Or perhaps the party has broken the suggestion from the previous encounter and realizes that the Haga is bad news, and goes hunting. In any case, the party fights the Haga and either kills it or drives it off.

In either case, there's now at least one Haga out there angry with the party, and capable of corrupting powerful patrons to move against the party's interests.

When the PCs do indeed reach 8th or 9th Level, the persistent threat of the Hagas needs to be addressed. Which I leave as an exercise to the reader.

Thank you all, again, for reading this far, for your good wishes, your critiques, and your shared wisdom.


Having been thinking about this one some more it seems to me that this CR 6 Haga isn't an oracle; it's a charlatan, conman, or confidence-trickster.
Everything in the description for this entry is about making a big show of things, but when you come down to it, this Haga is offering a service (divination) which most generals or kings could pay a priest to do for them for under 300 gp. (Or under 600 gp if they needed a second opinion.) Such a king or general it seems to me would often have a priest to hand, whom they could immediately consult, rather than having to wait for a messenger who might not survive the journey to reach the nest of a Haga who might just take the gift and not bother to respond or send back a message 'omens unclear, please send another'.

So, I don't think the CR 6 haga oracle concept works, but a CR 6 creature that puts on a big grand performance, making out that it's offering wisdom unavailable by other means, whilst fobbing the listener off with something that he/she could have found out much more easily does.
It would probably need some ranks in Diplomacy, Bluff, and/or Intimidate to help it with the act, though, although this haga does already come equipped with suggestion, a useful tool for the confidence-trickster.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Charles Evans 25 wrote:

Having been thinking about this one some more it seems to me that this CR 6 Haga isn't an oracle; it's a charlatan, conman, or confidence-trickster.

Everything in the description for this entry is about making a big show of things, but when you come down to it, this Haga is offering a service (divination) which most generals or kings could pay a priest to do for them for under 300 gp. (Or under 600 gp if they needed a second opinion.)

That's one way to play it. But as soon as the Haga delivers his prophesies, you don't want the High Lama of Abadar turn to the Lord Mayor and ask, "That's it?"

Charles, look at the comments regarding Slumbering Tsar: in that case, there are no mages capable of casting clairvoyance to help the party. In this case, the king in question needs the Haga precisely because he doesn't have access to any clerics or mages who are powerful enough to cast this. There simply aren't 7th-Level clerics to be had. (Which is why the PCs can't be high level, either.)

This is an issue with the 3.5 / Pathfinder spell system, rather than the Haga in particular.


The haga isn't in Slumbering Tsar though: it's existing in a hypothetical bestiary, where there might not be a lot of call for a creature which is only useful if there is a plot circumstance that the local king or general is so broke he can't afford a divination (in which case I don't see how he can afford to hire a group of 4th level PCs either) or for some reason there isn't a single 7th+ level divine caster available in the same radius of journey time as it is to the local haga nest.

1 to 50 of 74 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo Publishing / RPG Superstar™ / Previous Contests / RPG Superstar™ 2010 / Round 3 - Top 16: Create a Monster Stat Block / Chris Mortika's Haga All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.

©2002–2014 Paizo Inc.®. Need help? Email customer.service@paizo.com or call 425-250-0800 during our business hours: Monday–Friday, 10 AM–5 PM Pacific Time. View our privacy policy. Paizo Inc., Paizo, the Paizo golem logo, Pathfinder, the Pathfinder logo, Pathfinder Society, GameMastery, and Planet Stories are registered trademarks of Paizo Inc., and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Player Companion, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Tales, Pathfinder Battles, Pathfinder Online, PaizoCon, RPG Superstar, The Golem's Got It, Titanic Games, the Titanic logo, and the Planet Stories planet logo are trademarks of Paizo Inc. Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon, Dungeon, and Polyhedron are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., and have been used by Paizo Inc. under license. Most product names are trademarks owned or used under license by the companies that publish those products; use of such names without mention of trademark status should not be construed as a challenge to such status.