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Matthew McGee's Astrumal


Round 3 - Top 16: Create a Monster Stat Block

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Astrumal CR 5
XP 1,600
N Medium aberration
Init +6; Senses blindsight 100 ft.; Perception +0
=====
Defense
=====
AC 22, touch 16, flat-footed 16 (+6 Dex, +6 natural)
hp 45 (6d8+18)
Fort +7, Ref +8, Will +4
Defensive Abilities void body; Immune falling damage, fire, cold
=====
Offense
=====
Speed fly 20 ft. (perfect; cannot fly higher than 5 ft.)
Melee Bite +10 (1d8+7 plus 1d6 acid)
Special Attacks embed lodeshard(+10 ranged), lodeshard control, shardstorm
=====
Statistics
=====
Str 20, Dex 23, Con 17, Int 4, Wis 9, Cha 6
Base Atk +4; CMB +9; CMD 25
Feats Great Fortitude, Improved Natural Attack(bite), Weapon Focus(bite)
Skills Fly +23
=====
Ecology
=====
Environment any
Organization solitary, pair, or shower (3-6)
Treasure none
=====
Special Abilities
=====
Void Body(Su) An astrumal emits pulses of magical energy that function as entropic shield but prevent it from flying more than five feet from the ground. It does not breathe or take nonlethal damage from starvation or thirst.

Embed Lodeshard (Su) As a swift action, an astrumal can launch a lodeshard with a range increment of 30 feet at a single target without provoking attacks of opportunity. On a successful attack, the lodeshard deals 1d4 piercing damage and becomes embedded. An embedded lodeshard can be removed with a DC 15 Heal check.

Lodeshard Control (Su) An astrumal may make a CMB check as a move action against a living creature within 60 feet with an embedded lodeshard. If the check is successful, the creature is pushed 30 feet away from the astrumal or pulled 30 feet towards it. Creatures pushed or pulled in this way do not provoke attacks of opportunity and stop if the push or pull would move them into a solid object or creature.

Shardstorm (Su) As a standard action, an astrumal can violently recall all embedded lodeshards within 60 feet. Each creature with embedded lodeshards takes 1d4 slashing damage for each shard recalled from its body, and creatures adjacent to the astrumal take 4d4 slashing damage as all of the astrumal's lodeshards briefly orbit its body before reattaching to its armor plates (Reflex DC 16 half). The save DC is Constitution-based.

Astrumals hail from the dark places between the stars and exist only to consume. They will digest anything given time but prefer to devour living creatures. An astrumal's spherical form is split in half by a vertical toothy maw, and flesh grotesquely bulges out from underneath the armor plates that protect the creature from the hazards of the void. The armor plates of an astrumal are covered in lodeshards – tiny metal slivers attuned to the creature's unusual magical energies and used to deadly effect when embedded in living prey. Creatures that look like an easy meal are pulled into biting range, while enemies capable of hurting the astrumal are pushed away. If beset by multiple foes, an astrumal discourages its attackers by briefly releasing a swirling vortex of lodeshards.

An astrumal is usually encountered emerging from a smoking impact crater, but the creature's endless hunger leads it to a variety of locales. Astrumals make poor allies due to their insatiable appetites and inability to communicate, though they tolerate the presence of other members of their kind if prey is abundant. The astrumals' single-minded focus on consumption is said to have delighted a one of ancient Thassilon's rulers, who went to great lengths to acquire the dangerous creatures for use as guardians and entertainment.

Paizo Employee Lead Designer

Let me start off by saying that I like the concept of a creature that can manipulate the battlefield like this. It could make for a really fun encounter, especially when paired up with other monsters or interesting terrain.

There are, however, a few odd decisions floating around in here (get it, floating... Ugh, nevermind).

- The creature has blindsight, but it should have darkvision 60 feet as well, due to it being an aberration. Unless of course, it does not have eyes, in which case it should probably have some sort of gaze immunity, or some note to that effect.
- Void body grants entropic shield. I can see why this was done, but it is a bit irritating to have to go and look up that effect. Especially considering that it is always on. This should have been summarized in the monsters block.
- I am not sure if there is a limit to the number of loadshards that it can fire out. Do they regrow if lost? Does the shardstorm always do 4d4 damage, even if it is only recalling one shard? If that is the case, then in some circumstances, it makes more sense for it to fire out one shard and use its shardstorm ability every round to damage adjacent creatures (a great option if it is surrounded, but I am not sure how realistic the ability is).

All and all, I think the math here is mostly solid. The creature is a bit limited in what it can do each round, but I think it does its trick well.

I give it a B

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

Contributor

Sight ranges are usually in 30 ft. increments.

Aberrations should have darkvision unless they don't have eyes (given that this thing floats in space, it probably has eyes and can see, otherwise it's completely blind to the planetary bodies more than 100 feet from it).

I haven't been doing all the skill math on any of these creatures, but this one's Perception +0 at the top of the stat block caught my eye. Either this creature has 0 ranks in Perception (in which case it has a modifier of –1 from its Wis 9), or it has 1 or more ranks in Perception (in which case it has at least a class skill bonus of +3, giving it at least a +2 overall). So either way, the listed Perception is wrong.

In the Special Attacks line, you need a space before the opening parenthesis.

Improved Natural Attack is mainly used for advancing an existing monster; if you want your new monster to have a better natural attack, just give it the better damage.

The problem with saying its environment is "any" is that "any" includes a lot of environment types you may not have intended: ocean, planar, underground, and urban. It reminds me of the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual, which had "Environment: any" for both the iron golem and the death knight, leading designer Bill Connors to say, "so you could be flying a mile in the air, heading to a cloud giant's castle, and pass Lord Soth flying by with an iron golem under each arm." So... don't say "any" unless you really want this creature to hang out with aboleths, marids, and morlocks. That said, I could actually see this creature landing anywhere, though you still couldn't encounter it high in the sky (well, you could, but it would be plummeting past you...).

Embed Lodeshard: I like how you use this ability to bypass the "how much metal am I wearing" math problem that can bog down magnetic monsters.

Lodeshard Control: Good use of push and pull. I'd have liked to see a note about the benefits of multiple shards embedded in a creature (bonus to the CMB, perhaps?).

Shardstorm: I like the explanation for this power, and makes the monster a little more versatile.

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

Nicely done. I really dig the flavor to this creature. Choosing to make this come from space and be an aberration rather than something more tradionally magical or planar grabs on to some of the sword & planet elements we've been playing up with Golarion and are one of the things that I think make the world feel just a little different from a hundred other campaign settings. So good call there. On top of that, this thing feels alien and like it's from space with it's weird but interesting lodeshard abilities. Points for finding a cool theme and carrying it through on both the description and abilities.

The lodeshard are interesting, but ill advised abilities, though, primarily in that they're a bit of pain for GMs to run. They're just one more thing for GMs to track. Does the fighter have a shard in him? The wizard? The cleric? Who does, who doesn't. It's no worse then creatures with poison or whatever have you, but it is a hassle which a simpler system might make the creature easier to run.

Overall, though, I quite like this guy.

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

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
Matt, I think you might have walked into a trap on this. I didn’t like the other incarnation of this monster. My first pass says that you reconcepted this creature and that might just save you. So let’s see what you did, shall we...

The Execution
Sean and Wes have given their thoughts and are far more qualified than me to address those issues. That said, here are my thoughts:

An Astrumal, as described in the initial concept, has the following powers and in parenthesis I put the things I expected to find in the stat block as a result:

* floats unsteadily above the ground (some hover or flight)
* numerous large, twitching, crustacean legs and pincers (multi-leg and pincer attack)
* wide, tooth-ridden maw (bite attack)
* 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 (some kind of intergalactic travel power)
* consumes everything it comes across (a need to consume and some ability to devour more than just a mouth)
* 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 (magnetism power)
* Completely without normal sensory organs, the astrumal can detect its surroundings using its magnetic field (maybe some magnetic blindsense)
* While it can defend itself with its limbs, the astrumal primarily uses these to grab and drag prey to its mouth (some type of grab or grapple attack and follow up bite)
* The bite of an astrumal is particularly deadly because of the highly corrosive saliva it uses to break down metals in its diet (corrosive bite, perhaps part of the “need to consume” power)
* 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 (resistance/DR/armor)

That’s a pretty long list. And, frankly, it gives me concerns that you can do it at CR 6 or less. So let’s see what you did.

You got rid of most of the problematic magnetic powers and replaced them with entropic shield. This gets rid of some of the problems of the magnetic powers nicely, and puts this thing more in range of the CR of 5 that you give it. But that is a big change to the creature. Then, you give it this brand new lodeshard power from out of nowhere. At this point you have really reconcepted this creature. The rules allow that, but beware: the voters advanced the Astrumal and it will be up to them if you strayed too far from the creature they liked.

Your void body power is solid and a good solution. It keeps the sci-fi elements but tones them down and makes them more magical. I still don’t see a good way this thing travels between the stars and consumes all things. You keep that text, but don’t give it a corresponding power. I just don’t see how this thing comes from space and lands in a smoking impact crater when it moves at a fly speed of 20 ft. and can’t hover more than 5 feet off the ground. You gotta think that stuff through. I think, perhaps, that you should have taken your reconcepting a step further and ditched the space travel stuff since it doesn’t make sense. Sure, you cut a lot of that out, but you left the impact crater thing and that can only come from one place–space travel. That said, I really like your reconcepting. You found a good, playable monster here. I like the lodeshard abilites a lot.

Final Thoughts
Matt, I *LOVED* the helm and the Ossuary Golem was my favorite of the last round. You’ve got the stuff. I think the monster you designed is really fun. I’m not sure it’s the Astromal anymore, but that is for the voters to decide. I’m also torn on my recommendation. You took an idea that wasn’t CR 6 and reshaped it to one that was, and in doing so you changed the monster. But you changed it for the better, in my view. Sometimes a freelancer has to make things fit, and you did that. But I still think this was not the best choice, despite your good work here. I don’t usually do this, but I am going to give you a pass based on your past work. Your two prior rounds were perhaps the strongest of any of the competitors and you deserve a bit of leeway here; plus the monster you statted is fun and awesome.

I RECOMMEND this for Top 8. But I think you used up your pass.


I feel like this captured the theme of the Astrumal as a magnetic battlefield controler without resorting to tedious metal weight calculations. I see that many could disagree with me here but I find it an elegant approach to stat out a difficult ability. There are some technical issues in a few places, the math is a bit wonky in places and I find the wording of the Void body ability to be kinda wonky, but I think it's a pretty good draft that would clean up to be a really interesting encounter to run.


I really enjoyed your version of the Astrumal. From a DM's perspective this monster is going to be really cool to run. I love the abilities and what it has to offer up in the form of battlefield control.

After reading a lot of the other entries this one stands out somewhat as being simple, but fun to run, and not overly complicated or clunky. I also enjoyed the flavor text and how you tied it into Pathfinder.

Overall Great Job!! You will get my vote.

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

Both yours and the other astrumal changed the original monster's mechanical guts to suit their own ends, which I like. Yours has the lodeshard ability, which is nice, and actually fits in pretty well as a CR 5. I agree with the suggestion that there should probably be some sort of a threshold for the number of shards that need to be fired before a shardstorm can be achieved, but other than that, this thing is mechanically solid. Also, Improved Natural Attack is not for base monsters. You designed that thing, you can give it the base damage you want it to have.

Aside from that, this is solid, and I like it. I'm pretty sure you have a vote from me.

Cheliax

Dude! VERY COOL. Stat blocks looked solid, battlefield goodness to mess with players, special abilities are very cool.

I hope to see your work in the next round, Good luck!

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

Top 16 brother Matthew,

Nice job on a cool critter. The shards are kind of cool, the idea of pushing or pulling someone around the battlefield using a little chunk of metal embedded in them sounds... painful.

Nice job and good luck!

Cheliax

Maugan22 wrote:
I feel like this captured the theme of the Astrumal as a magnetic battlefield controler without resorting to tedious metal weight calculations. I see that many could disagree with me here but I find it an elegant approach to stat out a difficult ability. There are some technical issues in a few places, the math is a bit wonky in places and I find the wording of the Void body ability to be kinda wonky, but I think it's a pretty good draft that would clean up to be a really interesting encounter to run.

I agree -- a very elegant approach to abilities that could easily become mechanical nightmares to GMs. There's something that bugs me, namely:

"creatures adjacent to the astrumal take 4d4 slashing damage as all of the astrumal's lodeshards briefly orbit its body before reattaching to its armor plates"

I find that description lacking a bit; after all, I get the impression that this should be "shardstorm" i.e. a bit like 'Blade Barrier'. I don't see that, and "orbiting" equals to me "floating slowly around its body".

I don't think there's anything to fix with 'Void Body', wording or mechanics. However, embedding a creature with multiple shards *should* have some sort of mechanical consequences with 'Lodeshard Control' (+X to CMB, as Sean suggested?). I might also lose the limit on shards it can fire, or include a description whether it can grow them back or not (or does it require to recall the shards it fired?).


The way I read, and understood the Shardstorm ability was that yes it recalls all previously spent shards, but also every shard on its body flies out and spins around the body (an orbit need not be slow, we have satellites that travel around the Earth very rapidly), hence always doing 4d4 no matter how many shards are returning. This also gives it a good self-defence mechanism should it be suddenly surrounded, which I really like.

The Lodeshard Control is fun, easy and makes sense but I agree with Asgetrion and feel it needs a bonus based on the number of shards.

Honestly I fell in love with this creature immediately when I saw it last round, but I like how you've re-envisioned it even more. I honestly just feel like dropping it into one of my campaigns right now, just as a one off quick adventure night, for a touch of the bizarre and different!

Best of luck Matthew!


p373r wrote:
Honestly I fell in love with this creature immediately when I saw it last round, but I like how you've re-envisioned it even more. I honestly just feel like dropping it into one of my campaigns right now, just as a one off quick adventure night, for a touch of the bizarre and different!

My PCs decided to build a starship out of an apparatus of the crab last week (I call it the Space Lobster). On their way to an orbiting moon during our last session, they passed several astrumals and atropal scions - a little bit of creepy foreshadowing about what's heading their way. I deliberately avoided combat with these monsters because I wanted to see if someone would do a good build of them in this round (and yes, there was a very good in-game explanation for why the astrumals wouldn't attack them - it just isn't germane to this discussion).

This is the build I want to use when the astrumals home in on them this week.

I agree with Clark about the fly speed 20 not correlating well to the "impact crater" flavor text, though I think a lot of this is really semantics that a good GM deals with in-game (I like to think of these creatures as Skee-Ball for the Old Ones, personally - imagine Dagon hurling these things toward a planet). That's probably something you should have written into void body, though.

The loss of the crustacean limbs and the corresponding claw attacks takes away some of the flavor from the original concept, but this thing has plenty of cool left over all on its own.

The lodeshard/shardstorm abilities don't bug me the way they have some other commentators. Here's how I see it going:

Round 1: PCs are roughly 120' away from the astrumal's impact crater. With an Init of +6, it's safe to assume the count goes like this: first 2 PCs, astrumal, 2 other PCs. First 2 PCs advance, one taking a double move action and the other advancing for one move action and using a ranged attack or spell. Astrumal fires lodeshard, hitting an average AC of 17-18 (assuming a roll of 10) against the closest advancing character. Other two PCs begin their advances or fire ranged attacks.

Round 2: Melee hitters close with astrumal, using a charge to move adjacent for a single attack. In the meantime, astrumal gets another lodeshard shot, hitting average AC 18-19, and it can still make a bite attack on that hitter, whose AC is dropped by 2 due to the charge. Casters and ranged attackers do their thing (have the casters figured out that it's immune to cold and fire yet? Let's hope so...)

Round 3: Melee muffin gets his full attack; astrumal fires a third lodeshard AND activates shardstorm, hitting melee muffin and dealing damage to whatever it hit previously with a lodeshard. Remaining characters pelt the thing with their best ranged weapons and force spells, likely putting it down or at least softening it up considerably, allowing the melee muffin to kill it at the start of round 4.

In this breakdown, I really see the charging melee muffin getting the brunt of those attacks. He's closest, and the astrumal isn't that smart, so it likely targets the nearest enemy. So that melee hitter is probably going to end up with 3d4 damage he can't avoid and 4d4 damage he gets a Reflex save against for half. That's considerable damage for a 4th level character - not necessarily catastrophic, but a solid hit, especially when paired with the bite damage he's likely to take in round 2, which would probably make it catastrophic.

Now, where I see it getting really nasty is these things attacking in groups (say a full shower of 6), especially if they can use shardstorm on each other's lodeshards. That way, you've got several astrumal delivering ranged damage to a single target while one works its way adjacent to that target and activates shardstorm - potentially dealing 9d4 damage to a character with a poor Reflex save. Ouch.

Nicely done, and a vote-worthy build in my book.

Cheliax

p373r wrote:

The way I read, and understood the Shardstorm ability was that yes it recalls all previously spent shards, but also every shard on its body flies out and spins around the body (an orbit need not be slow, we have satellites that travel around the Earth very rapidly), hence always doing 4d4 no matter how many shards are returning. This also gives it a good self-defence mechanism should it be suddenly surrounded, which I really like.

Heh, you're correct -- I only recently read 'Seekers of Secrets', so I immediately thought of Ioun Stones orbiting a character's head... hence my complaint. I still maintain that the wording of this ability should be a bit more... er, evocative. ;)

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

I really like how you toned down this "galactus wannabe" to fit within the (IMO unnecessary) CR limit. I can't help but picture this guy wearing your Batrachian Helm, thus doubling its effectiveness. good job.


With regard to comments that this astrumal has a fly of 20, and yet still goes for a crash landing and smoking crater approach to arriing on a world, I suspect a hungry astrumal wants to make planetfall as soon as possible, so why bother attempting to brake in the atmosphere since a crash landing isn't likely to hurt it unless it lands on something sharp? (Although I am a little concerned about the potential implications of the damage implied by such a crash-landing if the PCs are camping out under the stars and this smashes into their midst. Some attempt to assess the implications of the way the creature arrives to anything in the blast area could have been made.)

I would have liked to have seen some more on the senses.

The shardstorm could also have been developed better. Beyond those posed by the judges I have some further questions of my own on this ability: Is there a limit to the number of shards an astrumal can fire off? Does firing off progressive shards reduce/deplete the astrumal's AC? Are shards interchangeable between individual astrumals or specific to only one? Does using the shardstorm temporarily decrease the AC? (As a random observation this latter question recalled to my mind the bladelings of Acheron back in 2nd edition Planescape...)

Comparative to a xorn, given the better saves, immunities, and moderately higher AC, I'm left wondering if putting an astrumal at CR 6 (that of a xorn) would have been better? Although given the lower melee damage output and fewer hitpoints, CR 5 may be about right.

With regard to the problem the Round 2 entry had in my opinion, of stating it stripped solar systems bare, you deal with this by dropping it altogether. You make no indication of how these things originate however, which is something of a flaw for me since it seems that either individual astrumals need to be able to get back into space at some point to go and drop on another world, or there needs to be a constat source of new astrumals somewhere in space.

My overall impression is of a substantial reworking of the Round 2 entry, which much improved (for me) on the original concept, but which still seems to have been 'under development' at the time of submission.
Thank-you for entering this however.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Matthew, I think you chose a really interesting monster, but a challenging one to implement well within the CR limit. I think by changing some of the abilities, you’ve done a pretty good job of it. Sure there are some quibbles, but pretty nicely done overall. Good luck.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Thanks for the comments, guys!

I hope you enjoy my take on the Astrumal - as always, if you like it (and/or my portfolio of work so far), vote for me!

Once the voting period is over, I'll talk about why I chose the Astrumal, explain some of my design decisions, and answer any specific questions folks have.


james knowles wrote:
I really like how you toned down this "galactus wannabe" to fit within the (IMO unnecessary) CR limit. I can't help but picture this guy wearing your Batrachian Helm, thus doubling its effectiveness. good job.

zOMG.

Someday, I'm going to buy an NBA team and make that my mascot. I'll sell little foam hand puppets of a frog-helmeted spiky spaceball with a very Freudian oral cavity to grade-schoolers and blue-hairs.

Life, as I define it, may then end.


Charles Evans 25 wrote:
With regard to the problem the Round 2 entry had in my opinion, of stating it stripped solar systems bare, you deal with this by dropping it altogether. You make no indication of how these things originate however, which is something of a flaw for me since it seems that either individual astrumals need to be able to get back into space at some point to go and drop on another world, or there needs to be a constat source of new astrumals somewhere in space....

That original flavor text about eating worlds could have been restated, but it may have been sacrificed for the sake of word count. It's much better left to the imagination, IMO.

...and personally, I think if you DON'T have an original idea about where magnetic balls of flesh and glass that float in outer space come from, you should have your GMing privileges revoked. But that's me. :)

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Standback

Count me in with the squeeing fans :) I love the idea of this creature tossing the PCs back and forth over the plain... And I love the immediate dread each of those 1d4 damage "Embed Lodeshard" hits is going to evoke. This really feels like a unique monster that'll make for some very exciting battles - way to go :D

A few words about Clark's comments:
I was a bit taken aback by Clark's comments here. Clark, if I understood you correctly, your basic bottom line was "this is Superstar-quality content, but a real designer asked to stat up a creature concept would have to faithfully recreate that particular concept, and wouldn't be able to make the changes you've proposed here - so this is a (borderline) poor entry for the round." (Please correct me if I've misunderstood.)

Now, don't get me wrong, I appreciate the importance of knowing how to flesh out somebody else's concept, and I also very much enjoyed your comments on other entries in this vein (particularly, those who were aiming to do so, or who made less-awesome modifications). But it's strange to me that you're presenting this question as the central issue for this round, because the round rules don't even mention it, and indeed (IMHO) give the impression that the challenge is "stat up the creature or a cooler version of it," which Matthew's definitely managed here. I'm reminded of last years rounds 2/3, the villian concept/stat block, where polishing up the concept and making significant improvements was viewed very positively.

One of the very neat things about Superstar is that it's entirely oriented towards game design - not just cool ideas, but polished, professional execution; certainly the question of "how does this entry translate into real design skills" is crucial. But in almost every aspect, the rules and guidelines are aimed at that goal - in other words, following the rules is a good way to guarantee you're in the right direction. Dinging Matthew for straying from the original concept, when the rules obviously allowed and possibly even encouraged him to do so, doesn't feel right to me. I guess I just think that if this issue was so very crucial, then it should have been mentioned in the rules for the round...

And regarding the Astrumal's spaceflight, I had a lovely idea which is both absolutely ridiculous and too amusing to keep to myself. Consider: the astrumal can't go above 20 feet, but that's no bother at all, because it never needs to lift off. Spacefaring astrumals are simply those which have finished consuming the planets they were on, until the rocky remainders crumbled, and left the hungry, hungry monster floating in the void...

...until it comes across its next snack.

EDIT: Youch. I see David Posener's already way ahead of me with his version of the Astrumal. Heh.

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

Maugan22 wrote:
I feel like this captured the theme of the Astrumal as a magnetic battlefield controler without resorting to tedious metal weight calculations.

This.

It's magnetism without the magnets - or more to the point, it's LIKE magnetism but it only works on its own metal, so it spikes you with its little anchor grapples and then controls THEM with its eerie astromagnetic powers.

I agree with Jason B/Sean that a note about what happens if it spikes more than one lodeshard into somebody would be a good addition (perhaps +2 circumstance bonus for each extra shard), as would tying the shardstorm damage to the number of shards it is recalling (easy enough - 1d4 per each).

Maugan22 wrote:
I see that many could disagree with me here but I find it an elegant approach to stat out a difficult ability. There are some technical issues in a few places, the math is a bit wonky in places and I find the wording of the Void body ability to be kinda wonky, but I think it's a pretty good draft that would clean up to be a really interesting encounter to run.

I like it a lot. This monster was on the periphery of my votes last round, and your take on it is CR-appropriate and retains most of the interesting features and the design concepts of the original but neatly avoids the trap that so many of the competitors have fallen into:

Monsters that DO TOO MUCH STUFF.

Your monster does just the right amount of stuff. It has a theme and a schtick, and it wouldn't take much mechanical or backstory fiddling to make it come out just right.

Good job. You're on the will consider list.

P.S. I love the "immune to falling damage." Solves that whole "falling from space" problem very neatly without requiring a lot of goofy kludges.

I'll also agree, though, that I'm not sure why the judges have knocked people for straying from the original concept when that was part of the explicit instructions for this round's task. Stat up someone else's creature OR redesign it and stat it up. It may be that their advice is not so much a criticism as a "be careful about hoping for coattail votes from people who liked the idea last round; if you change it too much they won't like it this round." If that's the case, that's certainly a fair warning, but I think it comes across as sounding more like the contestants weren't supposed to do it at all.

Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

You had me with "Shardstorm".

Star Voter 2013

Hm. Can someone tell me how this creature got a +23 on the fly skill? I get 6 ranks, +3 trained bonus, +0 for size, +8 maneuverability bonus for +17.

I really like the Runelord connection. Nice. You need that because you've cut the X-men meets Leng angle. With its INT 4, this creature generates no plot; it's wandering monster only. Of course, few wandering encounters are with semi-sentient meteors, but still. Your reference at least allows for pet of BBEG. Elegant but severely limited story potential

This will play well at the table, especially with the bit of ominousness of a DM telling you to keep track of the number of times you've been hit.

Solid mechanics might get you my sixth vote.

Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

roguerouge wrote:

Hm. Can someone tell me how this creature got a +23 on the fly skill? I get 6 ranks, +3 trained bonus, +0 for size, +8 maneuverability bonus for +17.

You forgot to add its Dex Modifier into your calculations RR, your 17 plus its dex bonus of 6 gives +23 total

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

I'll be considering you for one of my last three votes, but I'm on the fence, and here's why: this is a great (re)concept for a monster, but it feels a lot like a rough draft.

The numbers seem to be about right. Shower is a good name for a group of astrumals. And, most importantly, the loadshard as a fantasy alternative to magnetism is outright brilliant.

However, the void body ability referencing entropic shield instead of stating outright that it provides a 20% miss chance creates an unnecessary need to reference a spell. And the loadshard ability, while awesome in concept, leaves lots of important questions unanswered, as pointed out by other posters.

It's also worth noting that my first reaction to the loadshard pull/push mechanics was, "Oh, it's like the batrachian helm." Fairly or unfairly, it felt to me as though you were falling back into a comfort zone from previous rounds instead of going for something fresh and new. Sure, lots of posters above like the tactical options of the pull/push mechanic, but that's predictable, because they liked a variation on the same theme in Round 1. In future rounds, I want to see you propose a mechanic that is radically different from all of your prior pull- and push-related rules.

Andoran Contributor , Star Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

This will be getting one of my votes.

The astrumal wasn't one of my favorite entries from round 2, but I'm pleased that you've taken the concept and made it work for me. You've also given it a tight set of abilities, and the lodeshard suite is very innovative.

Best of luck in this round of the contest!


I thought the astrumal was a trap, a monster that no one should attempt to stat up at CR 6 or lower. I think you dodged the trap by reconcepting the monster to fit at CR 5. At the same time you cleared up issues that many people thought would make the astrumal difficult to execute mechanically. This creature isn't the same monster it was in Round 2, but I think you've more or less successfully held on to the essential flavor of the astrumal.

The stat block is almost entirely without math mistakes. The only miscalculation I see is that Perception in the Senses line should be -1 instead of +0 due to the creatures -1 Wis mod.

Moreover, the stat values appear to be appropriately balanced for a CR 5 creature. Hit points are low, but AC is high. It also has some relevant immunities and ranged attacks against it have a 20% miss chance. Its attacks are exactly at the guideline value for CR 5, while its damage is just slightly low. Finally, its saves are just about spot on. Overall, this is definitely an appropriate CR 5 monster. It's a little strong defensively, but that will just gives it a couple extra rounds to show off its neat lodeshard abilities.

The lodeshards were brilliant, neatly side-stepping the potential problems of adjudicating the astrumal's magnetic powers against PCs who might be wearing or carrying very different amounts and types of metal. However, you do leave us with a couple lodeshard-related questions unanswered. How many lodeshards does an astrumal have? Shouldn't an opponent with more than one embedded lodeshard be easier to push or pull? Why does Shardstorm always do the same amount of damage no matter how many lodeshards are recalled? Can one astrumal recall the lodeshards of another astrumal? Ultimately, I think these are minor issues that could be easily clarified.

I think you struck a good balance with the lodeshard abilities. You gave the monster some interesting powers that could make for an interesting encounter, and you did it without overcomplicating the stat block. You are probably getting a vote from me.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

I would have given it the ability to ascend at 5 ft. per round, falling immediately if it stops before leaving the planet's gravity well. Hard to fly through space when you can't get to space!

The Golarion throw-away at the end is just that: a throw-away. It doesn't help.

I really like the lodeshard concept, and Wes's concerns don't bother me terribly; if I were to address them somehow, though, it would be to make them only implant for one round. Fly out, immediately push or pull, return; no implant status bookkeeping, no worry of it implanting an entire army who then teleport away leaving it with no shards, etc.

And all I have left is lavish praise. This is one of the best of the round.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

I voted for this.

Star Voter 2014

While I like the flavor and the mechanics of the lodeshard . . . it still does not feel like a CR 5 creature to me. I understand mechanically it fits into that range, but doing so seems to sell the beast a bit short . . .

Still, the whole mechanical features of the creatures are clean and interesting. That hints at promise . . .

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

I'm behind on R3, so my comments will be brief. While I agree with others that you successfully toned down the Astrumal R2 description to a under CR6 version, I don't particularly like that choice. The astrumal had a lot of cool options and powers in the R2 write up, and by toning them down for R3, I feel like this is a shadow of what the monster should be. It isn't necessarily a bad monster on it's own, but I don't feel like it lived up to the original concept.

Furthermore, while the lodeshard is a nice side step around the how much metal does something have on it, I feel that a well designed and described power could have allowed this thing to move creatures wearing any metal armor or made of metal, without the use of the lodeshard. The lodeshard is a great addition to give it options against wizards and rogues and druids though. (and as an aside, you could probably have said it's magnetic field works on anything or most creature types - there's iron in our blood, so it wouldn't be TOO fantastic.) The biggest problem with the lodeshards though is that they're pretty wimpy - only doing 1d4 damage, and delaying the push/pull until you actually hit someone with one. For a CR5 creature, this guy is a lightweight - doing 1d4 damage or 1d8+1d6 acid per standard attack. I think making the lodeshards more powerful (think rail guns) and having them do 3d6 or 2d8 would be more appropriate, and more in line with the CR 5 level of the monster.

I also thought the shardstorm was odd - how many lodeshards does it need out there to do the 4d4 damage? This power could probably be better if it shot all it lodeshards out to 30 feet, then pulled them back, doing 1d6 damage per HD of the astrumal to all within radius, usable once per day.

Finally, I thought the immune to falling damage was odd. First, this thing floats, so when would it ever fall? Second, what about if it's in an anti-magic field and can't float - it still wouldn't take falling damage, not sure why really.

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

Now that I've reviewed all of the R3 entries, I've found I have more vote than I have entries I liked, so I'll be voting for you based on your great R1 and R2 entries, even though I wasn't as big a fan of R3.

Osirion

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

No stat block errors I can see, though the shard attack should probably be listed under "Ranged".

I don't know if I can stomach a giant rock with a 23 Dex though.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Why I chose the Astrumal

The Astrumal was one of a handful of monsters that really grabbed me last round (Slithering Horror was another favorite of mine), but unlike the Horror, the Astrumal had a problematic power set and seemed to be definitely in the CR10+ range. I did a quick draft of the Horror (short version: it spit people out as a reaction to taking damage and it could projectile vomit a swallowed opponent into other foes) but it just didn't quite feel "Superstar" to me.

I decided that taking a difficult monster, figuring out its core theme, and making that work at CR 5 would be more "Superstar"-esque. Plus, it was a chance to really fire up the creativity, and being creative is one of my favorite things about RPG design.

The essence of the Astrumal, and abilities

When I read the Astrumal entry, the theme of "ravenous living meteor with magnetism powers" made the biggest impression, so I first tackled the magnetism angle. Magnetic powers have a whole host of fiddly rules issues and have a very "sci-fi" feel to them (as Clark noted) so I tried to find a way to give the Astrumal the feel of magnetism without turning it into an actual magnetic monster. One other issue with "real" magnetism is the issue of what happens if the Astrumal faced a party of druids, monks, and barbarians with hide armor and stone weapons - it had to be able to still put up a fight! (That being said, I did do one "real" magnetism draft where the Astrumal would use magnetism to pull arrows out of an archer's quiver, then fling them everywhere, but sadly the power was way too fiddly).

I don't like monsters with an endless list of abilities, so I tried to distill "magnetism" to a few flavorful abilities. I went through a lot of drafts at this stage. I liked the idea of the Astrumal embedding a piece of "metal from spaaaaace" into a target, who would then be vulnerable to being pushed and pulled around. Originally, the astrumal fired off pieces of its armor plating at targets, losing AC until it pulled them back in. This turned out to be very problematic - what if the fighter stuffs a plate into a bag of holding? what if the barbarian throws a plate into lava? etc. - so I reconcepted the plates into tiny shards of metal. Now the Astrumal could have thousands of them, so keeping track of "ammo" wouldn't be that relevant. I briefly considered having the "lodeshards" also count as the cursed item known as loadstones, but I thought that was doing too much.

Void body became a catch-all ability that contained both an entropic shield ability and made sure the Astrumal couldn't fly too high, to stop it from flying high in the air, pulling a PC towards it, then dropping them. There was also a nod to suffocation and starvation rules - the Astrumal still feels hunger, but it can float forever in space without starvation, thirst, or lack of oxygen killing it.

I also gave the Astrumal immunity to falling damage to assist in its meteor schtick, along with immunity to fire and cold to deal with re-entry and space, respectively. Since the astrumal can only freely fly outside of a gravity field, when it gets close to a planet, it "falls" until it hits the ground, leaves a crater, and then its hovering kicks in (and yeah, I really should have spelled this out using my extra 100 words). How does an Astrumal leave a planet? Standback hit the nail on the head - the Astrumal has to finish eating enough of the planet that the gravity field disappears, allowing the Astrumal to freely float away. (I should have spelled this one out too!)

I designed its damage to be right at the average values for a CR 5 monster. For either of its two standard actions, it deals an average of 15 damage(bite) or 10 damage(shardstorm), which left 5 damage unaccounted for. A lodeshard does 1d4, and pulling out a lodeshard also does 1d4, which averages together into 5 damage. Granted, the shard-removal damage doesn't trigger until a shardstorm, but it is built into the "DPR" calculations.

-------

I hope you've enjoyed your look into the inner workings of the Astrumal, and should I be fortunate enough to make the cutoff for the next round, tune in next week for my latest creation! Thanks again for your comments and your votes, and if you have more questions, don't hesitate to ask.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Matthew McGee wrote:
...I did a quick draft of the Horror (short version: it spit people out as a reaction to taking damage and it could projectile vomit a swallowed opponent into other foes) but it just didn't quite feel "Superstar" to me.

It's good that you backed away from this idea. Swallowing an opponent and then using them as a vomited projectile actually is "Superstar"...but Christine Schneider incorporated that into the Guiltgorger giants she used in Clash of the Kingslayers. So, I'm fairly certain you'd have taken a few hits on the use of that ability if you'd used your Slithering Horror idea. Well played...


Matthew McGee wrote:
snip

Very well done Matthew, and those little things I'd mostly figured out in my head (but still would have been nice to have seen on paper). Definitely my favourite of the round, and won my vote immediately! Best of luck in the T8!


Congratulations on making it through to Round 4.

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