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Tarvin Haddon, Agent of the Grim Harvestman


Round 3 - Top 16: Create a villain stat block

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RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Jatori

Tarvin Haddon, Agent of the Grim Harvestman
Portrait: Portrait 25

Description: Before you stands a gruff-looking labourer. Yet, despite his simple attire and manner, there is a hint of scheming intelligence behind his eyes.

Motivations/Goals: Tarvin wholeheartedly believes in the teachings of his religion: every accidental and tragic death, even those engineered by his own hand, adds to the strength of the godling Zyphus. He hopes to see Zyphus, the Grim Harvestman, become powerful enough to one day strike down Pharasma, rival god over the domain of death.

Schemes/Plots/Adventure Hooks:
Tarvin has perfected the art of looking and acting the part of a simple, menial labourer, granting him access to sites where he can apply his knowledge of engineering, tools and traps to deadly effect. Posing as a miner, he has infiltrated a mining site and orchestrated numerous fatal accidents. Others now fear that the mine is haunted.

There are growing concerns about a possible death cult meeting in the local cemetery. Recently, an investigating inquisitor was found crushed beneath a statue of the Lady of Graves.

Tarvin CR 5
Male human expert 2/rogue (trapsmith, APG 135) 4
NE Medium humanoid
Init +3; Senses Perception +8 (+10 to find traps)
===== Defense =====
AC 17, touch 13, flat-footed 14; (armor +4, Dex +3)
hp 32 (6d8+4)
Fort 1, Ref 7, Will 3
Defensive Abilities careful disarm, evasion, trap sense +1
===== Offense =====
Spd 30 ft.
Melee mwk dagger +6 (1d4+1/19-20)
Ranged dart +7 (1d4+1/X2) or mwk dagger +8 (1d4+1/19-20)
Special Attacks sneak attack +2d6
===== Tactics =====
Before Combat Tarvin would rather avoid direct combat, preferring to dispatch foes using engineered accidents. If combat is inevitable, he does his best to define the battlefield beforehand, setting traps and sabotaging the environment.
During Combat Tarvin is an expert at using the environment against his foes, luring them from one trap to another, using his wands to create diversions when needed. Tarvin is a cautious opponent and even if an opportunity to deliver a sneak attack presents itself, he will only attack if he considers it safe to do so. In addition to any traps and obstacles set before combat, Tarvin can set the traps listed under his combat gear using his quick trapsmith rogue talent.
Morale Tarvin will attempt to flee if caught unprepared for battle or if his foes manage to best his gauntlet of traps. He will use his wands and potions to aid in his escape.
===== Statistics =====
Str 13, Dex 16, Con 10, Int 16, Wis 8 , Cha 12
Base Atk +4; CMB +5; CMD 18
Feats Deft Hands, Extra Rogue Talent, Quick Draw, Skill Focus (Use Magic Device).
Skills Acrobatics (Dex) +10, Bluff (Cha) +10, Climb (Str) +10, Craft (Traps) (Int) +12, Disable Device (Dex) +16, Disguise (Cha) +10, Knowledge (engineering) (Int) +12, Knowledge (local) (Int) +8, Knowledge (Religion) (Int) +7, Perception (Wis) +8 (+10 to find traps), Profession (Builder) (Wis) +5, Sleight of Hand (Dex) +12, Stealth (Dex) +12, Use Magic Device (Cha) +13
Languages Common, Halfling, Kelish, Osiriani
SQ rogue talent (cunning trigger, quick disable, quick trapsmith), trapfinding +2
Combat Gear oil of arcane lock, potion of cure light wounds, potion of invisibility, wand of grease (3 charges), wand of ghost sound (8 charges), wand of obscuring mist (2 charges), arrow trap (CR 1), poison dart trap (CR 1, including greenblood oil (1 dose)), caltrops, smokesticks (2), tanglefoot bag (2); Other Gear +1 studded leather armor, masterwork dagger, 5 arrows, 4 darts, disguise kit, masterwork thieves’ tools, masterwork trap-making tools, masterwork backpack, unholy symbol of Zyphus

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Alright, Jerall. Welcome to the round of the Top 16. The competition gets pretty fierce in ever-escalating intensity from here on out. And that's no different in how the judges review your stuff. So I'm going to dive under the hood a little and mark through this thing like I'd do if I were an editor. My comments are mostly going to come instream as I review things. And I'll spoiler them for length:

Spoiler:

Okay, first up, let's talk about your choice of villain. You're going for a murderous trapsmith, which the APG doesn't describe as necessarily evil or villainous. So, you're giving us your own spin and interpretation of what would make such an archetype villainous. And I think it's a good niche for defining a plausible villain. But what did you do to elevate your concept by drawing upon that archetype?

Well, first let's look at the descriptive text, motivation, and schemes. Honestly, I'm a bit underwhelmed here. You gave us 23 words in 2 sentences. I'm put off by the jarring description of "Before you stands..." as this isn't a place where I expected read-aloud text. In general, you should avoid 2nd person when at all possible. There are times when it gets used, but the descriptive text for a villain isn't really the place. I DO like what you've done in having this villain take inspiration in the religion of Zyphus by creating "accidental" deaths as his victims trigger his well-placed traps. I think that's a nice, innovative use of Golarion canon...though I'm not up-to-date on the notion of Zyphus wanting to strike down Pharasma. Regardless, the bottom line for me is that I can envision plenty of villainy resulting from this character concept. His schemes and plot hooks seem appropriate. But I'll go ahead and say I would have liked to see more in all of these sections...particularly the descriptive text. And, as I'll point out a bit later in my feedback, I think you left plenty of words on the table that you could have used for that.

So, let's take a look at the stat-block. First off, I notice your CR is calculated wrong. Levels in an NPC class like Expert only count 1/3 and you actually round down any fractions. So, 2 levels in Expert actually contribute nothing to the CR. Only the 4 levels in Rogue do. Thus, his CR should be 3, not 5. You also need to designate his subtype as a humanoid...i.e., "humanoid (human)" is how it should read. After that, I notice some other inconsistencies in how you've used the stat-block template. When outlining your AC explanations, it should be "+4 armor" rather than "armor +4"...and your saves should include a "+" before each value. I'm also not sure that "careful disarm" should appear among the Defensive Abilities. You probably could have cited that under Special Qualities instead.

Your values for AC and hp and saves are all spot-on after you factor in his favored class bonus as a rogue. And your Melee and Ranged attack info is all accurate (however, you don't need to list a critical multiplier for his darts since "x2" is the default).

Looking through the Tactics section, I notice you haven't really described a "Before Combat" element, as this section is typically reserved for spells or one-use magic items that would impact a stat-block, rather than generalized info about an NPC's preferences. That stuff typically gets shared in an encounter setup rather than the Tactics section. I think you would have been better served to pull this information up into his descriptive text. Or, at least, cut this text so you could have elaborated there. As for the rest of the Tactics section, I would have liked to see a clearer explanation of which traps he used under what circumstances or something a little more exciting and innovative or interesting...all with an eye towards highlighting his cruelty toward his victims, including those who got trapped rather than just injured by them.

I double-checked all stats for the ability scores, level increases, feat selections and skill points. Everything works out fine math-wise. However, you unnecessarily included the named abilities for each of your skills. That used up 14 words, I think, which you could have rescued and used to enhance your villain's descriptive text, motivation, and schemes. This is a pretty egregious error, too, as that's a throwback convention to lists of skill names under 3.0/3.5 and not a Pathfinder style in any published stat-block by Paizo.

I also did a quick check on your Gear selections vs. the expected wealth of a CR 3 creature and it looks fine. You may have actually underspent. I wasn't as happy to see some of your gear selections, though. Obviously, you went for a few wands with his Skill Focus (Use Magic Device), but I think you could have toned that down to just one or two of them and saved some more words. Same goes for the listing of traps. You could have just given him multiple traps of the same kind and made that his favorite kind. All of this would have given you more room to elaborate on the more vital information the reader needs to really get into the villainous aspects of your character concept.

For the purposes of this round, I'm going to assess each villain according to concept, evocative description/flavor, appropriateness of the applied archetype, interesting/villainous tactics, and mechanical execution of the stat-block. So, here's how I'd rank this one:

Spoiler:

Villain Concept: Excellent
Flavor Text: Poor
Appropriate Archetype: Good
Interesting Tactics: Average
Stat-Block Execution: Poor

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Despite a good core idea, your missteps on the technical aspects of stat-blocking and limited descriptive text and tactical flavor causes me to NOT recommend this villain to advance to the next round. But best of luck in the voting.

Cheliax Contributor

Congratulations on reaching Round Three. My job is to comment on your character concept, not the rules. Also, I’ll leave typos and low-level writing issues to the mercies of the other judges.
I’m hoping to see villains with a compelling motivation and clear goal. I’ll try to point out both strengths and weaknesses before making a simple yes/no recommendation. Good luck in the voting!

I like that Tarvin’s physical description undermines his bombastic appellation.

His motivations and goals are a bit slender. What’s in it for him? Why does he believe so fervently in these teachings? Without connecting his history or personality to the god’s cult, it’s like saying “he’s crazy.”

The hooks are good. I particularly enjoy the subtlety and mundane nature of Tarvin’s crimes. Connecting these more firmly to his motivation, you’d have something really substantial.

You have been weighed and measured:
Alas, I vote not to advance this one.

Contributor

I like the idea of a saboteur of Zyphus using his knowledge to increase the number of "accidental" and pointless deaths in the world. And I like that he's low-level.

His description spends a little too much time talking about his god and Pharasma, not as much about his history and motivation.

Nice use of traps to prepare the environment for battle (especially as he's mainly a lone gunman and won't have buddies to back him up).

I'm not sure how he really benefits from those two expert levels. I understand it could be part of his backstory, but we don't have any info on that backstory. As a character the PCs will eventually fight, those two expert levels really hurt his combat ability make him less effective as a rogue, sneak, saboteur, and trapsetter in general.

His saves need plus signs.

CEO, Goblinworks

Summary: .5 Points
Recommendation: Not recommended for advancement

Jerall my approach to this round was as a brand manager. I'll leave the detailed mechanical analysis to the others. If I were in charge of the product this villain would appear in, I'd be thinking the following:

Did you follow the instructions?

You picked a subdued looking guy and gave us a flavorless subdued guy. I guess you followed the instructions but wow am I underwhelmed by the result.

.5 Point

Is this villain memorable and will it add value to my IP?

This is one of those characters that exists off-screen. Where do all the traps in a dungeon come from? Someone like this makes 'em, probably.

But what am I going to do with him? Maybe he's a Joker-like presence who chortles and takes some kind of gloating satisfaction as the "accidental" deaths rack up. It's not like he's going to run out every time one works and scream "GOTCHA More Glory To Zyphus!" or something.

Being the guy who makes the traps might be a good occupation in a sword & sorcery fantasy world, but it doesn't make for great IP value.

0 Points.

Does the villain's concept make sense within the IP?

Essentially the whole concept hangs on the very slender thread of this Zyphus metaplot. I just don't think many players would figure this out without extensive help from the GM, nor would they really "get it" once they do figure it out. (I can even see players who would refuse to believe something so banal and be convinced that mind-control, demonic possession or something else was "really at work", which could either be great storytelling or a rathole down which the GM's campaign could vanish.)

Either way, I'm not feeling it - its obscurity masquerading as depth.

0 Points.

What's the twist? (All great villains have a surprise within them)

No twist that I can see. He's a murderous son of a b#@@@, but not much else interesting is happening here.

0 Points.

Paizo Employee Developer

Hey Jerall! Congrats on making it into the top 16. I'm approaching all of this round's entries with a developer's eye, as the man who will ultimately be developing the winner's Module and the top 4 contestants' Pathfinder Society Scenarios. So let's assume you're one of those four designers and this is a villain you base your adventure around. What's my reaction when this comes in as your idea for a villain for your big adventure?

Well, you've certainly matched the art well. This guy's grim and simple looking; perfect for a secret saboteur bringing people to an "accidental" death.

Be careful with the use of the second person in what I am interpreting as read-aloud text. The description should be just that, and shouldn't assume anything about the PCs or their perspective or actions. In general, you should only use "you" in boxed text when you're actually quoting an NPC who is speaking directly to the PCs.

In general, I really like the idea of someone orchestrating deaths for Zyphus's benefit, even if the accidents themselves aren't really accidents. I also like that he's low-level, and would make a decent foe for a 2nd- or 3rd-level adventure, perhaps even the final boss of a longer, AP-length installment. We set a limit and you decided to go with something lower, using those extra words cut from a smaller statblock in a more detailed description. Wise move, and one that paid off for you, I think.

You've got some Queen's English in there, though, so be careful. As an American company, our products use only American spellings for consistency's sake, and going through a whole manuscript to weed out those extra "u"s and swap out "s"s for "z"s can be time consuming.

Moving on to the stats, most of the math looks good, but you've got a few small issues that could be improved. First, your saves should have plus or minus signs before them. I know they're all bonuses, but without a symbol there, a GM has to figure it out on the fly. Also, you have some embedded parentheses that should be brackets in the equipment, and get a little wordy with passive rather than active voice in the tactics. I do have to commend you for including his trapmaking gear in with his wealth, as darts and spikes and poison are expensive and could easily be overlooked. Someone who fights with traps should have those traps calculated at least somewhat into his stats, and you've done that here without making him just a trap component carrier.

All things considered, I like this one, and would have to do only minimal work in development to make this one ready for publication.

Final verdict: I RECOMMEND this villain for the next round, and wish you the best of luck in the vote.

Paizo Employee Designer

Howdy. I’m Stephen, and I will be one of your guest judges for this round of RPG Superstar. I’m looking at the stat block purely based on what I consider fun or interesting to run. I have a little experience with that. That means the villain should be evocative, clear, effective, and big extra credit points go for interesting. There’re a lot of good villains out there, yours needs to stand out is some way.

This guy seems like the groundsman in a Scooby-Doo episode—the last person you expect to be the bad guy, unless you’re familiar with the trope. To do that well, he needs to be subtle, and you’ve tried your darnest in the stat block to accomplish that.

You know, I’m going to give you big props for giving that a shot, and doing it as well as you did. I’m concerned about how effective he will be at his role in the story, because good traps are so reliant on good adventure design.

This is a villain that needs more words, but done well could create a really fun and fantastic murder mystery at lower levels. He would be an excellent villain for a group of 2nd level characters, chances slim when the characters reach 3rd.

I want to see the encounters that compliment this fella. That’s why I’m going to recommend advancement.

Hopefully I get to see what you got. Good luck, Jerall.

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

Neil Spicer wrote:
First off, I notice your CR is calculated wrong. Levels in an NPC class like Expert only count 1/3 and you actually round down any fractions. So, 2 levels in Expert actually contribute nothing to the CR. Only the 4 levels in Rogue do. Thus, his CR should be 3, not 5.

Really? I thought NPC class levels counted for -1, not 1/3rd level, so his CR would be 4. The CR is still wrong in the stat-block, but I am curious.

So, this is another villain I'd really like to like, but I can't quite bring myself to. I love Zyphus. He's my favorite evil god, and I was disappointed at how cartoony his cult was portrayed in that Pathfinder Society adventure a while back. So having an appropriately subtle and sneaky Zyphus-worshiper is an immediate plus in my book.

Unfortunately, the description as read-aloud text puts things off on the wrong foot, and I think too much time was spent on Zyphus and not enough on Tarvin. Why does he worship Zyphus? What's his end-game, other than "more deaths"? The hooks are amusing and the stat-block competent, but I feel a little let down by this guy.

Still, kudos for picking a low-level threat. I am currently on the fence about tossing a vote this submission's way.


I like this guy, i see alot of enviromental encounters depending on the traps and For me that has always been fun. I think players are also used to traps placed in abandoned passage ways and whatnot rather than being rigged so the local Smithy collapses and that changes the feel of things into a crime drama or something more horrific depending on what has been trapped.


I like this guy. I would like more info on his motivations, and only the 2nd plot hook might work, but neither works if this guy is smart enough to skip town.
Looking at his wisdom score he might be arrogant enough stay in town.

Spoiler:
This one is in the probably folder.

Star Voter 2013

I like the concept here a lot. This would be a really fun, memorable villain to square off against. I really like that you gave him a wand of grease (a very nice, clever touch for an engineer to have!). This could really pose some nasty challenges for the PCs :)

Osirion

I love the idea of a character who is making use of skills, in this case, craft-trapmaking, to function as a villain. Much like the Gentleman Rake, he's getting a job done without extensive use of magic, and that's kinda refreshing.

He does seem better suited to an investigative minded campaign, but I could see 'local heroes' of Sandpoint, in RotR, or Westcrown, in CoT, or [name of your town here] in Kingmaker, running around trying to find out how these 'freak accidents' keep happening and killing off townsfolk. There's a particular scene at a mill in Rise of the Runelords which could have just as easily been the result of some sort of arranged accident causing the victims to fall between the grinding stones or something, if one wanted to go that route.

With a little more planning, he could even arrange for his contraptions to be cobbled together with items stolen from a known rival of the intended victim, so that, if the accident is discovered to be 'no boating accident,' someone else, who might have some sort of obvious motive, ends up taking the the fall, ending the investigation neatly and leaving him in the clear.


I really liked the concept. He's simple, he's delusional, and he has a pretty neat strategy I love employing. I run games riddles with power gamers who can down a well made NPC fast because they do stupid amounts of damage. When you throw traps down, it makes the fight that much tougher, nothing slows the party down like dropping their healer 30 ft into the ground especially at CR 3.

I think the design is flawed with the expert classes, but there's something to be said about low level villains. To me, he's not really villain enough though. He's basically a sociopath who likes to watch people suffer and die pointlessly. There's a ton of potential here, especially if he was a higher level and had some pretty cool traps to back him up too. I could really see him as a minion guarding (unknowingly) a powerful undead's tomb or something of that nature. He'd certainly pose as a memorable encounter, that's for sure.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

I don't particularly like passive villains, which is what this guy is. As a GM, I don't think he'd be particularly fun to play in combat. With a little work, you might be able to engage the party trapfinder in a battle of wits, but that's still not quite enough for me.

Why not give him a few levels in Round 2's Saboteur rather than Expert? Perhaps focus him more on killing a specific favored enemy for his death god.

I'm not wild about it, but I won't go and say that I would never vote for it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Unfortunately, this is heroic fantasy. Unless this guy gets a bunch of cronies, he's in for a quick fall.

Recommending on good flavor basis with caveat: needs a lot of friends.

Regards,
Ruemere


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

As a GM, I don't like running murder mystery sorts of things which is the only way I see this villain panning out. Now in a story I would love this villain, he's a walking OSHA nightmare. In a game however I just see it becoming bogged down (which is why I don't like murder mysteries in game, though I would love to be proven wrong).

This does have my vote for this round.

Osirion Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

A working class villain is an intresting approach. Although I think his motivations anc character are a bit bland, I think he makes a good villain for a low level urban adventure and a large constructions site where he does his dastardly deeds would make an impressive adventure scenery.
Since I immediatly got ideas of how to use this villain, I voted for him.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

What I like about this villain, is that he appears to be a good villain for a low-level adventure. But the truth is that he is perfectly capable of featuring in a higher level adventure with PCs being around level 6 to 8: this is not a villain designed to square off against PCs in a fair fight. He's the "butler" that is present in many scenes but takes no pro-active part in them; instead mayhem and trap-death ensue because of his antics off the screen.

The beauty here is that although he's a low-CR entity, his trap-crafting skills elevate him. He can easily craft CR5 traps, or CR8 traps, or even CR11 traps - in other words, he can always be relevant and an annoying "invisible" thorn in the side of the PCs that are distracted with other adventures.

A hook that could make Tarvin a more public figure: Tarvin runs a competitive obstacle course that is unusually lethal - but still draws contestants due to the promise of fame and riches.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Demiurge 1138 wrote:
Neil Spicer wrote:
First off, I notice your CR is calculated wrong. Levels in an NPC class like Expert only count 1/3 and you actually round down any fractions. So, 2 levels in Expert actually contribute nothing to the CR. Only the 4 levels in Rogue do. Thus, his CR should be 3, not 5.
Really? I thought NPC class levels counted for -1, not 1/3rd level, so his CR would be 4. The CR is still wrong in the stat-block, but I am curious.

Short answer: Yes. Really. But I don't mean that literally. The reference to "+1/3 CR" tracks back to Paizo's stat-block spreadsheet, not the CRB.

Long answer:

Spoiler:

I crunched these stat-blocks using the spreadsheet Paizo provides all freelancers and expects them to use for their designs. Basically, it serves as the method by which you can "show your math"...which wasn't required this round, but I wanted to look under the hood and see how well these designers understood the numbers game and the proper presentation of a stat-block's variables.

So, to your question, when you layer on class levels along with NPC class levels, there's a complicated calculation of which levels are worth what as you total up the CR for a creature. Essentially, for NPC class levels, it takes three levels in an NPC class before the CR ticks up another point. Two or less and it winds up rounding down.

I've had cause to recently build a few stat-blocks along these lines. And, mapping out the end results of a character with regular class levels and two NPC class levels in something brings it in line with many of the values you'd expect for a creature of the resulting CR. It's especially useful to give some of your weaker multiclass spellcasters a boost by tacking on a couple levels of an NPC class to boost their BAB, saves, hit points, etc. a bit and actually bring them more back in line with where a single-class NPC would normally be.

Anyway, sorry for the long answer. This isn't something you'd necessarily expect an amateur designer to know. I certainly didn't realize the ramifications of the interplay between these types of class levels and the final CR until I got into doing more design that relied on them. Regardless, the bottom line in this case was that the CR seemed off. So I checked it.


My initial reaction in reading the fluff was 'Yes, someone used the saboteur!' I was then a little let down with the trapsmith only in the crunch. I agree that one or two levels of saboteur would have been better than the expert levels, but that might have run you long in your stat block.

I really like the bad guys that you can introduce at low levels that can easily scale up as recurring villains, and this guy fits the bill. He might not be a boss encounter as is, but his potential in later adventures and throughout a campaign makes him one of my favorites this round.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013

I like it. Sure, the judges may be right about things like stat block issues but the overall package seems pretty good to me.

His gear is a nice array, though a little eclectic. I can see you tried to give him access to all the spells and tricks he might need to do his thing. The problem here is that when the PC's seem his using a wand of whatever, they secretly say "woo-hoo a wand of whatever! I can use that!". When they get this wand and it only has once charge they feel kinda ripped off. At that point you might as well just give him potions.

As for the hooks, they are well thought out, but the "haunted" mine comes off a little scooby-doo for me. I can't speak for other groups but when my players are told that there is a ghost hunt, and then it turns out to be just a guy, they're a little miffed that there was no monster.

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

Your concept here is interesting, as this is a total behind-the-scenes villain, someone the PCs may meet and not suspect. It's a novel bad guy... but maybe there's a reason for that.

I'm on the fence here, mostly because of the CR issue. As a CR 5, this guy is not even going to be a speed bump. His traps will be more annoyances than lethal hazards, and he will go down like a punk as soon as an appropriately leveled PC gets him in their sights.

As a CR 3, however, I can see him being an interesting and maddening adversary for a party of 1st or 2nd level characters.

I like parts of this but am not completely sold. Like with the archetypes, sometimes in the effort to avoid making something over the top, we end up making something... under the bottom! This guy is so low-key as a villain that he needs a very specific adventure and environment if he's even going to have a pulse. I think in the end you could use him, and even use him effectively if the situation was just right, but I don't think it's quite Superstar.

Shadow Lodge

Jerall,

Tarvin isn't a particularly spectacular villian, and I would have liked to see a less predictable portrait, but he isn't bad, either. Overall, especially with your Tengu Blademaster and Phlebotomist's Gloves, both of whic have some awesome flavor, I want to see you in round 4 for something steeped in the world of Golarion.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Good low level villains are hard to come by, but i think you nailed it. The fact that he's "behind the scenes" and it might be several levels later before the PCs actually encounter him works for me.

vote given. good luck.


He likes to kill people...don't most villains? I don't think that's all that unique.

As others have said, he would have been better as the the Saboteur archetype from the previous round. He could have mines collapse and kill a whole lot of people at a time, and he never would have been found out. The Saboteur as described was set up to destroy things with intelligent, plot-point reasons. This guy just wants to kill people.

Sorry, I can't vote for this one. Best of luck.


As an indirect villain his stats are nearly moot since if he squares off against the PCs then they have already won. So the fight should be easy. His trap angle allows him many escape opportunities, but that mostly annoys players so it's good that he couldn't really get away, unless the players had to choose between catching him and saving some innocent lives.

Story-wise he's still pretty weak. Since he just wants to kill people by making things look like accidents and since this isn't CSI he can get away with it almost indefinitely, until he targets the players, which he wouldn't since that would draw attention to him. He wouldn't even kill their friends since killing an adventurers friends will draw the adventurers to you.

Since he has no type and no sensible motive he's just boring as a serial killer. That's too bad, since I think this kind of villain is under represented and I'd like to see more like them, but with motives and the ability to defend himself in a fight with a wet paper bag.

You got my vote, but I don't think you'll make it to the next round. Sorry.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6, Contributor , Dedicated Voter 2013

He seems more like a CR 4 than 3 or 5 to me, which leads to a rant....

You can't do CRs by formula. They need to be sanity checked. The books even tell you to do so. A spreadsheet can pop out any number of crazy-bad foes that come in way under or way over what an appropriate CR is.

As far as dumping a few levels that "don't count" onto a NPC to buff them up: that's treacherous ground. You're basically throwing free feats at them (of the free hp and free saves variety), and pretending it doesn't count. If you're using it to fix an NPC who's calculated CR overrates their risk, that's fine, but if you're using it to shore up appropriate weak spots to "challenge the party", that's borderline cheating as an author. I'd hate to see it become common for NPC arcane casters to get 2 levels of warriors just to bump their Fortitude saves hit points. That's what Great Fortitude and Toughness are for. Or just accepting that with great offenses comes a bit of the glass cannon factor.

Note that if I'm turning in a stat block where I deviate from the calculated CR, I'm sure to put a comment as to why I did it.

Coming back to the entry: I like that this a low-level guy, and the one-man cult's kind of fun. I do think he's verging on side-trek rather than adventure plot, because he's really not got much to do once he's uncovered. It's not like you find his minions first or anything. I might be reading that wrong, since there is mention of a cult, but I get the feeling it's just him.

Anyone else think this guy was a natural fit for a saboteur ranger archetype? :)

I have this one down for a vote. With one entry left to read, that means at least one of my three remaining "maybes" gets the boot!


Mojorat wrote:
I like this guy, i see alot of enviromental encounters depending on the traps and For me that has always been fun. I think players are also used to traps placed in abandoned passage ways and whatnot rather than being rigged so the local Smithy collapses and that changes the feel of things into a crime drama or something more horrific depending on what has been trapped.

+1

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Jatori

Thank you, all, for the comments and questions - every one of them is appreciated. I can, however, only properly respond once voting for this round has closed.

Shadow Lodge

Russ Taylor wrote:

As far as dumping a few levels that "don't count" onto a NPC to buff them up: that's treacherous ground. You're basically throwing free feats at them (of the free hp and free saves variety), and pretending it doesn't count. If you're using it to fix an NPC who's calculated CR overrates their risk, that's fine, but if you're using it to shore up appropriate weak spots to "challenge the party", that's borderline cheating as an author. I'd hate to see it become common for NPC arcane casters to get 2 levels of warriors just to bump their Fortitude saves hit points. That's what Great Fortitude and Toughness are for. Or just accepting that with great offenses comes a bit of the glass cannon factor.

Note that if I'm turning in a stat block where I deviate from the calculated CR, I'm sure to put a comment as to why I did it.

First, I agree with you 100%. Based on Neil's comments it makes it sound like I can toss two levels of warrior onto ANYTHING and not change the CR.

That said, my understand is that this competition doesn't really allow for the "Designer comments", so deviating from a formula, however ridiculous said formula might be, is frowned upon because the authors dont have an opportunity to voice their dissention and the judges will just assume they're dumb...

Which is a shame.

Andoran Dedicated Voter 2013

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I really like this guy. Technical aspects of the stat-block aside, I really like how simple he is.

I actually don't mind that his "motivation" is that he's a devout follower. I mean some folks think religion is insanity with rules, but I really like this guy.

I like how simple you make things, and even though your archetype was way too niche except for a campaign that will make use of the Tengu, I have enjoyed everything you've presented so far.

You have won my vote.

Osirion

One of the better options this round I think. I wasn't Wowed by much this round. Other than this dude's hope to defeat a god and a bit of a lack of motivating description, I thought this was a reasonable 'bad guy' that could be used effectively within a campaign with a few tweaks to clean him up. The contest (to me) wasn't to create the most bad ass (high level) baddie it was to create the most interesting and useful baddie that would wow us whilst also being an archetype.
1 vote.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Steven T. Helt

I fully dig Zyphus, and the mayhem his cults might cause o Golarion or anywhere else. I think making a low-level sabateur who worships Zyphus and creates senseless death is neat, but I wonder if a saboteur pleases the god of random death? After all, these deaths aren't random. They were engineered on purpose. To that end, I'd rather see that Tarvin gets orders from a cult intent on forcing panic in the streets. Maybe Zyphus gains power when other people are afraid abd fortune will befall them. Or maybe as long as the death serves no other purpose he gets his power up, in which case the saboteur angle is a equally effective as mass poisonings and such.

In any event, there's not much in the descriptive text and I really want more. I think you have a copelling idea without many details in the execution. There are palces to save word space. Rather than list different traps, just say he has the equipment to build a lot of CR 2-5 traps and reference the CRB, or say in text he uses all kinds of devices to engineer accidents and tehn only list one trap in his stat block.

But, again, at inception, this guy is cooler and more unique than some other entries. I don't know he deserves a vote, but he's worth thinking over.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Steven T. Helt wrote:

I fully dig Zyphus, and the mayhem his cults might cause o Golarion or anywhere else. I think making a low-level sabateur who worships Zyphus and creates senseless death is neat, but I wonder if a saboteur pleases the god of random death? After all, these deaths aren't random. They were engineered on purpose. To that end, I'd rather see that Tarvin gets orders from a cult intent on forcing panic in the streets. Maybe Zyphus gains power when other people are afraid abd fortune will befall them. Or maybe as long as the death serves no other purpose he gets his power up, in which case the saboteur angle is a equally effective as mass poisonings and such.

I think he makes use of this from the scriptures on Zyphus: "cults of Zyphus believe that even though the deaths they help arrange are not truly accidental, these souls are still dedicated to strengthen their patron"

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

I've always thought of Zyphus as the god of death from the "Final Destination" movies. He's a big fan of things that seem like accidents as much as real ones, and his followers honor him by setting up lethal Rube Goldberg situations. I added an inquisitor of Zyphus who kept arranging "suicides" and "accidents" behind the scenes to my Council of Thieves game, and he was really good at keeping the PCs on their toes.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Great to see Zyphus mentioned. This is the most use of NPC classes I've seen so far. The portrait fits well with a villain who can travel unseen among the working classes and betray them with awful accidents.

I'm a bit concerned how he justifies CR 5 with his dagger, low-ish sneak attack and two CR 1 traps. An adventure might have to place him in some environment that he could sabotage to advantage.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka surfbored

Jerall Toi wrote:

Tarvin Haddon, Agent of the Grim Harvestman

The name is sort of middle of the road for me, as it probably should be if he's going to remain under the radar. The moniker that follows is an adequate draw.

Jerall Toi wrote:

Description: Before you stands a gruff-looking labourer. Yet, despite his simple attire and manner, there is a hint of scheming intelligence behind his eyes.

This first paragraph is not good. Ignoring that it reads like boxed text; I would've preferred that his eyes "showed no glimmer of his nefarious schemes", rather than even having a hint. Because, as a GM, how do I show a "hint of scheming intelligence" without alerting the PCs?

Jerall Toi wrote:

Motivations/Goals: Tarvin wholeheartedly believes in the teachings of his religion: every accidental and tragic death, even those engineered by his own hand, adds to the strength of the godling Zyphus. He hopes to see Zyphus, the Grim Harvestman, become powerful enough to one day strike down Pharasma, rival god over the domain of death.

This paragraph is the opposite of the previous one, right on the money. He's a religious zealot, a little overused device but still usable as it feels toned-down. The conflict between gods reads naturally and backing the weaker god adds interest. +1

Jerall Toi wrote:


Schemes/Plots/Adventure Hooks:
Tarvin has perfected the art of looking and acting the part of a simple, menial labourer, granting him access to sites where he can apply his knowledge of engineering, tools and traps to deadly effect. Posing as a miner, he has infiltrated a mining site and orchestrated numerous fatal accidents. Others now fear that the mine is haunted.

There are growing concerns about a possible death cult meeting in the local cemetery. Recently, an investigating inquisitor was found crushed beneath a statue of the Lady of Graves.

Here's the meat that I was looking for. Setting traps in mines is fun for the GM and the players, if done well. Adding the red herring of a haunting gets the players preparing for undead - I love a bait and switch! The crushed inquisitor is a nice bonus and could lead to clues. +1

Jerall Toi wrote:
[STAT BLOCK]

As long as it's reasonably accurate and not too complex to run, I like it. This looks right enough to me, but others can hold your feet to the fire. I'm moving on to the important part, tactics...

Jerall Toi wrote:

Before Combat Tarvin would rather avoid direct combat, preferring to dispatch foes using engineered accidents. If combat is inevitable, he does his best to define the battlefield beforehand, setting traps and sabotaging the environment.

Great feel, but how do I run this? I hope there is more trap description in the rest of the adventure because I don't want to do this work myself.

Jerall Toi wrote:

During Combat Tarvin is an expert at using the environment against his foes, luring them from one trap to another, using his wands to create diversions when needed. Tarvin is a cautious opponent and even if an opportunity to deliver a sneak attack presents itself, he will only attack if he considers it safe to do so. In addition to any traps and obstacles set before combat, Tarvin can set the traps listed under his combat gear using his quick trapsmith rogue talent.

Again, this feels terrific as a description, but I don't see the crunch that I need to actually execute the combat. "Quick trapsmith" was a good choice though.

Jerall Toi wrote:

Morale Tarvin will attempt to flee if caught unprepared for battle or if his foes manage to best his gauntlet of traps. He will use his wands and potions to aid in his escape.

Ugh! I hate when villains are loaded up with potions and wands. It feels like you couldn't get him strong enough on his own, so tack on a utility belt. And once he's defeated I have to pass out three wands to the PCs. If you must, make it just one wand, or figure out a way to build this into the villain and/or his environment.

This is a good low-level villain concept that needs more crunch.


Given how few words there are to work with I think Jerall did a good job. It might just be me, but if one of my low level characters had to encounter this guy it'd be scary - probably because I just run in with 'kill first, ask questions later' as my battle plan ;)


Having just watched the movie "Law Abiding Citizen" this guy piques my interest. A little more work on his back story and motivations and he could certainly be a good low/mid level villain.


Jerall Toi wrote:

Tarvin Haddon, Agent of the Grim Harvestman

Description: Before you stands a gruff-looking labourer. Yet, despite his simple attire and manner, there is a hint of scheming intelligence behind his eyes.

Motivations/Goals: Tarvin wholeheartedly believes in the teachings of his religion: every accidental and tragic death, even those engineered by his own hand, adds to the strength of the godling Zyphus. He hopes to see Zyphus, the Grim Harvestman, become powerful enough to one day strike down Pharasma, rival god over the domain of death.

Schemes/Plots/Adventure Hooks:
Tarvin has perfected the art of looking and acting the part of a simple, menial labourer, granting him access to sites where he can apply his knowledge of engineering, tools and traps to deadly effect. Posing as a miner, he has infiltrated a mining site and orchestrated numerous fatal accidents. Others now fear that the mine is haunted.

There are growing concerns about a possible death cult meeting in the local cemetery. Recently, an investigating inquisitor was found crushed beneath a statue of the Lady of Graves....

Disclaimer:

You should know the drill by now, but in case you (somehow) missed it so far, Ask A RPGSupersuccubus is posting from the point of view of a (very advanced) CE aligned succubus:
Spoiler:
Fairness means both the mortals falling off the plank into the lava at the same time, balance is something a succubus weighs herself on against a sack full of bloody archon feathers to check that she hasn’t been overindulging this month, and logic means that it’s never the succubus at fault – always the incompetent idiot of a second-rate hairdresser who is incapable of living up to a succubus’ expectations. Oh: And always remember it’s a succubus’ privilege to change her mind without any warning…
;)

If a sister succubus seduces this villain or a key henchman and things take their course… Well is this villain likely to be good around a young alu-fiend?
He's a religious fanatic devoted to Zyphus. About the only service he could do an alu-fiend is to expire in a mysterious accident shortly after leaving all his property and possessions to her in his will. Well apart from the religious knick-knacks. His fellow fanatics could have those.

Should a succubus tip off any organisations as to the identity, location, and/or activities of this person?
That depends just how annoying he is in person. But given he's a religious fanatic my threshold's already a good deal lower when it comes to leaving an anonymous note on the offering plate at the temple of Pharasma local to whatever area he's currently operating in...

How much money would I lend this person?
I need a considerable ulterior motive to lend this person any money.
However, on the subject of money one fascinating thought does occur: Is it possible to hire this person as a sort of 'hitman' to arrange for an 'accident' to befall someone else? Granted his religious fanaticism's going to make any kind of dealings with him pretty unsavoury though - and unfortunately that fanaticism's likely right-in-your-face in truly nauseating fashion when it comes to probing his thoughts to check he's not planning a double-cross...

Other comments? (including fruitcake rating where appropriate)
Given the 'scheming intelligence' obvious in his eyes, I sincerely doubt he's actually mastered the art of looking and acting a 'simple menial labourer'. He's intelligent, and too arrogant to hide it successfully, even if he deludes himself into thinking he's doing so. More likely he offers hard-pressed foremen to work for minimal wages, and has mastered the art of knowing when to disappear before any suspicions about him can crystallise.
Fruitcake rating:
Writing as a succubus who doesn't share his devout fanaticism for Zyphus, Tarvin rates a couple of currant buns with regard to his sanity or lack thereof. It might be rational to spend your whole life deliberately engineering fatal accidents if you think that will move your beloved deity up some divine pecking order, but that doesn't disbar it from being crazy too.

Rating on the Gulga-Bracht supersuccubus scale of villainy:
3 (petty criminal or equivalent)

Further Disclaimer:
Ask A RPGSupersuccubus (still with half an eye on Lord Orcus) would once again like to clarify that mortal voters should probably rely on more than just her own (impeccable) assessments in making up their minds on how to vote. Thank You.


You got one of my votes.

Mainly because I like the angle of a worker sabotaging workplace safety. I've had a villain purposefully create a mine cave-in, but I didn't make it his shtick. I think what you've done takes it up a notch and makes this guy unique.

I also like the idea of using Zyphus, as I've not seen him used in anything so far (although admittedly, my Pathfinder collection is somewhat small).

I completely buy the concept of using traps as the game mechanic for engineered accidents. This is thinking outside the box. They are not traps in the traditional sense (there won't be any fireballs or spinning saw blades), but rather sabotaged structures, dangerous spills, and other hazards that may or may not work as hoped (depending on if the victims make their reflex saves). I think it works.

Shadow Lodge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka Benchak the Nightstalker

I love the idea of a trapsmith villain, because it puts a personal face on a vicious but usually random element of adventuring. The PCs finally make their way to the bottom of the 'haunted mine', having been crushed, sliced, poisoned, smashed, bludgeoned, and severely mangled by a seemingly never-ending series of traps, and suddenly here's the guy who did this to them.

The workplace accident/Zyphus tie in sells it for me. Yeah, you might want to tighten up your stat block a little, but that isn't a big issue for me. The idea is a good one, and it's earned my vote.


I like the concept of the villian, but there doesn't seem to be much explanation of his motivations.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

What Swamp Druid said.

My initial response to this was pretty negative, but on reflecting it's actually a neat idea. Zyphus zealot as an unremarkable laborer orchestrating 'meaningless accidents'? That's good. I could use that. But the lack of characterization (motivation, backstory, anything at all to explain his love for the Grim Harvester) really hurts, especially since wordcount wasn't an issue. This tells me that you have a handle on what works and is fun in the game, but lack (or are neglecting) the fundamentals of fiction in general.

For what it's worth, I think this is the coolest of your three entries this year. Possible vote.

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

Jerall,

Best of luck with your villain entry! Here's my thoughts, written before I've read anybody else's.

Concept: There's a core to your concept that I really like: the laborer who's secretly a trapmaster, subtly orchastrating the deaths of countless innocents. That's unusual; it's colorful; it's menacing.

But that core concept is far from a complete villain, and I don't feel that you've gotten the rest of the details well enough to complete the picture.

- The death cult, as a motivation, is very cliche and uninteresting.
- Tarvin's killings, as presented, are random and haphazard; he doesn't have goals that encourage a compelling plot arc with real momentum. This entry would have been miles better if Tarvin were, say, part of the construction crew of some incredible building or monument, and subtly sabotaging construction so that the entire thing would collapse in its grand opening ceremony. Until then, he kills off those standing in his way, or likely to discover his meddling. That would be a scheme. Absent that, there's no progressive threat here.
- Tying into that, the simplest way to run Tarvin - the way you present to us - will have his coolness lost on the PCs entirely. By the time they figure out that the murders are connected (and actual murders), all that's left is finding the culprit, and go beat him up. That's not a very dramatic arc - certainly not for the character you've constructed here. Ideally, the PCs would find out about the existence of Tarvin - not necessarily his identity - early enough to let suspense build about who would be killed next, about dangerous traps triggering, etc.

Oh, one thing more - I really like that Tarvin is a CR 5 villain. That's a great niche for him - a low-level villain who's still very threatining because of his cunning plans and his ability to hide in plain sight. Well done.

Plot Hooks: Servicable, but they add little to the entry. "Gets the PCs on the scene" and little more.

Mechanics: I think you've set up some great battle scenes here, making great use of the trapmaster archetype and the new rogue talents. I'm confused as to how a construction worker gets access to sych a wide array of magic items - I see why he wants them, but it feels incongruous.

Use of Archetype: Excellent - you've made the archetype the core of Tarvin's villainy, and used it to set up great, trap-based combat encounters.

Use of Portrait: Very nice - this portrait is well-suited to a manual laborer, but that's an original interpretation of it - particularly since the idea of a laborer-villain is a nonintuitive one. You did good here.

All in all, I think your villain suffers from some very serious flaws in his basic concept. However, the moment you get past those, I think you've done some excellent work here - a solid submission, with creative, original ideas, and great treatment of your various constraints. And even that concept itself has a lot of potential - it just needs work. It's a shame, because I think a lot of voters won't get past the problematic concept gestalt - really, what you've done here is come up with some great stuff, but (IMHO) failed to pitch in a compelling, enticing manner.

You'll have my vote; now I'll go read everybody else's comments and see if you've got theirs. :)

Wishing you lots of luck! :)

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

Zalaster wrote:
My initial reaction in reading the fluff was 'Yes, someone used the saboteur!' I was then a little let down with the trapsmith only in the crunch. I agree that one or two levels of saboteur would have been better than the expert levels, but that might have run you long in your stat block.

Several people have pointed out that the Saboteur might have been more appropriate here. Thematically, that seems very appropriate, but a lot of the criticism of the Saboteur archetype was that (as written) it only lends itself to sabotaging very specific targets ("complex devices" and war machines). At low levels, the Saboteur doesn't have too much that encourages sabotage. And honestly, does this guy sound like a ranger to you?

One could conceivably write a Saboteur archetype that would have been a great match for Tarvin, but I really don't think the R2 entry was it. Expert makes a lot of sense here, IMHO.


Standback wrote:

Several people have pointed out that the Saboteur might have been more appropriate here. Thematically, that seems very appropriate, but a lot of the criticism of the Saboteur archetype was that (as written) it only lends itself to sabotaging very specific targets ("complex devices" and war machines). At low levels, the Saboteur doesn't have too much that encourages sabotage. And honestly, does this guy sound like a ranger to you?

One could conceivably write a Saboteur archetype that would have been a great match for Tarvin, but I really don't think the R2 entry was it. Expert makes a lot of sense here, IMHO.

My thinking was that as a saboteur he gains a slightly higher avg hp (.67ish), +1 BAB, a bonus combat style feat, favored enemy humanoid(human) likely and better fort and ref saves. Tamper is good against simple devices.

The cons are that he takes a hit to will saves going down to only 1, some skills go down or get lost: sleight of hand goes down but worst of all his UMD goes down some.

All in all, as I'd run him it makes him beefier in a fight at the expense of more reliable wand use and good will saves

Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Standback wrote:

One could conceivably write a Saboteur archetype that would have been a great match for Tarvin, but I really don't think the R2 entry was it. Expert makes a lot of sense here, IMHO.

Nice review, a thought on the Expert levels: it does add some handy additional class skills to Tarvin that make sense. Like knowledge(religion) and knowledge(engineering) - both of which make sense for this character.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Set wrote:
With a little more planning, he could even arrange for his contraptions to be cobbled together with items stolen from a known rival of the intended victim, so that, if the accident is discovered to be 'no boating accident,' someone else, who might have some sort of obvious motive, ends up taking the the fall, ending the investigation neatly and leaving him in the clear.

Would that also count as a two-fer-one?

Osirion

Snorter wrote:
Set wrote:
With a little more planning, he could even arrange for his contraptions to be cobbled together with items stolen from a known rival of the intended victim, so that, if the accident is discovered to be 'no boating accident,' someone else, who might have some sort of obvious motive, ends up taking the the fall, ending the investigation neatly and leaving him in the clear.
Would that also count as a two-fer-one?

If the patsy gets executed (or lynched), then yes, that's sweet, sweet gravy.

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