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Karuuk Soulrender, The Unrelenting Embrace


Round 3 - Top 16: Create a villain stat block

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013

Karuuk Soulrender, the Unrelenting Embrace
Portrait: 11
Description: Ominously glowing eyes and midnight skin suggest Karuuks unholy nature. His jagged snarl and hulking shoulders seem average for a vicious orc with an anger issue, but when his anger abates his demeanour changes to that of an inquisitive and polite gentleman. He is a curiosity among the orcs of the Hold of Belkzen; a vampire cheiftan who fancies himself an intellectual. His tribe, the Ashen Skulls, paint their faces with Karuuks enemies. He has a propensity for turning his rivals into vampire spawn and then staking them out for the morning sun.
Motivations/Goals: Immortality has given Karuuk a different perspective than those of the other orcs within The Hold, the petty squabbling over resources has grown tiresome. Karuuk sees himself as a vampire first, and an orc second. Not one to throw away a valuable resource, he has retained and even expanded his tribe, but to him they are merely a weapon. His real motives lie in reclaiming a time of ancient glory. In his early years as a vampire, Karuuk captured, dominated and interrogated dozens of men and women from neighbouring nations.It was in this way that he learned of the Whispering Tyrant, his rise, fall and the roll the orcs of the Hold of Belkzen had to play. He eagerly awaits the prizes and power Tar-Baphon will bestow upon him when he succeeds in prompting his release.
Schemes/Plots/Adventure Hooks: Karuuk Soulrender is an ideal villain for parties adventuring out of Lastwall into either of it's northern neighbours. He's particularly fond of compelling information concerning the wards which protect Gallowspire, and is regularly dispatching his unholy horde into Ustalav to test the tower's defences.

Karuuk Soulrender CR 9
Male vampire orc aristocrat 1/ barbarian (brutal pugilist, APG 78) 7
CE Medium undead (augmented humanoid)
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60ft., low-light vision; Perception +12
===== Defense =====
AC 22, touch 14, flat-footed 18; (+1 armor, +1 dodge, +3 Dex, +7 natural,)
hp 85 (7d12+1d8+36); fast healing 5
Fort +8, Ref +7, Will +4
Defensive Abilities channel resistance +4; DR 10/magic and silver; Immune undead traits; Resist cold 10, electricity 10
Weaknesses vampire weaknesses
===== Offense =====
Spd 40 ft.
Melee slam +14 (1d4+7 plus energy drain)
Special Attacks blood drain, children of the night, create spawn, dominate (DC 16), energy drain (2 levels, DC 16), improved savage grapple, pit fighter, rage (19 rounds/day), rage powers (animal fury, scent, strength surge), savage grapple
===== Tactics =====
During Combat Karuuk begins by dominating a heavily armored opponent and ordering them to kill their party's spell caster. He then rages, grapples the cleric or rogue, quickly establishes a pin, drains blood until dead, he then grapples new opponent.
Morale When below 20 hp, or if in melee with four or more foes he will attempt to escape using gaseous form. He then waits to heal, consumes potion of Fox's Cunning and returns to combat.
===== Statistics =====
Str 25, Dex 16, Con --, Int 13, Wis 10, Cha 16
Base Atk +7; CMB +14 (+20 grapple); CMD +27 (31 vs. grapple)
Feats Alertness(B), Combat Reflexes(B), Dodge(B), Greater Grapple, Improved Initiative(B), Improved Grapple, Improved Unarmed Strike, Lightning Reflexes(B), Power Attack, Toughness(B)
Skills Acrobatics +13, Intimidate +13, Knowledge: History +8, Perception +12, Spellcraft +2, Stealth +12, Survival +10
Languages Common, Orc
SQ change shape (dire bat of wolf beast shape II), gaseous form, shadowless, spider climb
Combat Gear amulet of natural armor +1, bracers of armor +1; Other Gear 4 potions of Fox's Cunning, 3,600 gp in assorted trophies and tomes of lore concerning Gallowspire.

Dark Archive 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!

On an incidental note, I love seeing this romantic name next to that cartoon image.

While I’ve seen several of the elements of this character more than once before, they are classics for a reason. I like the cruelty of staking his vampire-spawn foes in the sun, but I would like more explanation of his desire to be civilized. Did he get this impulse from the vampire who created him? Or did it happen over time as he questioned his captives? Considering that one sentence describing a representative character influencing his life could have done the trick, this is an unfortunate lost opportunity.

Ultimately, while I like several of the superficial aspects of this villain, he doesn’t make a compelling individual.

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

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Okay, Nick. You've made the Top 16, but you should know the competition gets pretty fierce in ever-escalating intensity from here on out. That's no different in how the judges will 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 please take them as constructive criticism. I've spoilered them for length:

Spoiler:

So, let's examine your choice of villain. A vampire orc barbarian? You've got my attention. And you've chosen an appropriate portrait. As soon as I skim the stat-block, I'm a little surprised to a level of aristocrat included. I'm having trouble imagining a society of orcs where they've established an aristocracy. And, including a level of aristocrat immediately starts to threaten my willing suspension of disbelief. There's nothing mechanically wrong with including such an NPC class. I just think it's out of step with what you're designing here.

Looking through your descriptive text, I also notice a few grammar concerns. One, it should be "Karuuk's unholy nature" with an apostrophe. Also, you need to drop the Queen's English..."demeanour" should be "demeanor"...and you've misspelled "chieftain" as "cheiftan"...and "role" as "roll"...and you've got some spacing issues after one of your periods...and all that is just in the first two paragraphs. So, I've got some serious concerns that you didn't spellcheck or proofread enough. And you had an entire week to work on this...?

Okay. If I look beyond these flaws and typos, the core of your villain concept is sound. A vampire with an interest in returning things to long-lost days when the orcs of Belkzen once sided with the Whispering Tyrant. I can buy off on that as a decent villain.

But, let's move on to the stat-block. Uh-oh. I see some mis-steps here, as well. First, I think the CR is off. A level of aristocrat only counts 1/3 as much as your typical CR bump, so it rounds down. And the vampire template raises everything by +2. But with no racial Hit Dice, an orc barbarian with the vampire template should be 1 less than what you've listed here.

Also, this is a barbarian and apparently, you haven't presented his stat-block for when he's raging...which, judging by the tactics you've given him is the most likely scenario. Even if you had statted him properly, you'd be way over word count by having to include a Base Statistics line. However, when I look at the ability scores you've given him, it's apparent that you've either miscalculated an orc's racial bonuses layered with those provided by the vampire template in conjunction with the elite ability score array...or, you've presented his ability scores as if he's raging rather than when he's not...and, even then, they're wrong. I went back and number crunched a vampire orc barbarian and I can't duplicate the stats as presented. And so, that breaks a number of the other derived statistics (like his saves, hit points, AC, etc.). The skill points are also a little off. And that's after I assign him an Int score that's the same as what you've presented here. I suspect you may not have fully accounted for all the vampire's "racial" bonuses...as you haven't included his Bluff or Sense Motive skills at all.

So, at this point, I'm coming to the conclusion that you've misfired on both the descriptive text and the stat-block in some pretty serious ways. And I'm going to be honest. This just isn't ready for primetime. There would be a lot here that a developer/editor would have to correct. And that's increasing the workload of those who are normally supporting you as a freelancer...which isn't something you want to become known for...

So, 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: Good
Flavor Text: Poor
Appropriate Archetype: Average (just don't see an aristocrat favoring brutal pugilist)
Interesting Tactics: Average
Stat-Block Execution: Poor

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: I think it's fairly easy to see that I do NOT recommend this villain design to advance to the next round. You had a good core idea, but your execution really let you down here. Best of luck in the voting.

Contributor

I like the concept of the savage orc "civilized" by the vampire's immortality and +2 bonus to Int and Wisdom.

The idea of him having a level of aristocrat is pretty funny--I could see him trying to fit in with nobles in other countries but making horrible gaffes because he doesn't have any ranks in Diplomacy, Knowledge (nobility), or Sense Motive.

There are some comma, punctuation, and grammatical problems in the description section.

There are some rules questions about what's going on with the stat block.

Paizo Employee Developer

Hey Nick! 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 feedback would I give if this were part of your adventure proposal when we begin the pre-writing development process?

First, I'd be immediately worried that your final turnover would be a lot of work to polish into a publishable adventure, disregarding anything related to the villain himself. You have a lot of Anglicized spellings in here, as well as some missed elementary punctuation errors like possessives without apostrophes and "it's" instead of "its." As a developer, I have to spend a lot of my limited time correcting these errors as I see them, and that's time that could be better spent turning A- material into A+ material before it goes to print. So I'm immediately concerned at how much time I'm going to need to spend on your final manuscript, even before i get to the actual meat of your villain.

So once I'm past the initial shock of seeing what looks like it might not have been proofread, I find a fairly straightforward concept of a vampire orc barbarian who has become civilized, or at least tries to be. But I don't really get the civilized aspect of him from his description or his stats. You added a level of aristocrat, but that seems strange from a native of a barbaric land of monsters. It's a standard motivation for mid-level villains: amass power to free an even bigger evil. I'm just not sure I buy it as a Superstar proposal.

Moving on to the statblock, there's a lot of weird going on here. Neil mentioned much of it above, and I'm sure Stephen will go even more into detail, but this is setting off another flashing red alarm light for me, because now I fear I'm going to have to rebuild each and every statblock you turn over because I'm not sure I trust this one.

As the guy developing this, I'm scared. I can't recommend a submission for advancement that already has me mentally blocking out extra development time for something that's not even assigned. You played it safe with your concept here and then made some lazy or careless errors in both your writing and stats.

FINAL VERDICT: I DO NOT recommend this villain for advancement. Best of luck in the voting.

CEO, Goblinworks

Summary: 1 Point
Recommendation: Not recommended for advancement

Nick 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 the orc and you delivered an orc (mostly).

1 Point

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

He's a psuedo-intellectual vampire orc aristocrat barbarian. I'm just going to let that hang out there a moment to get the stink off it.

A vampire orc, ok. A vampire orc barbarian, ok. A vampire orc barbarian who wants to rekindle the ancient pact with the old lich ruler of the nearby country? Ok.

You should have stopped there.

The whole sub-concept of being a psuedo-intellectual and an aristocrat caused you to waste wordcount you should have used elsewhere and turns this into a risk of becoming a joke entry.

He "turns into a polite gentleman"? Really? He lives in a squalid orc nest. How "gentlemanly" can he really be. I have this mental image of an orc in a velvet smoking coat with an ascot. I wish I didn't.

0 Points

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

No, not really. Orcs aren't supposed to be psuedo-intellectual aristocrats.

0 Points

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

The twist is that he's a psuedo-intellectual aristocrat. Unfortunately.

0 Points

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.

I found the initial concept of this intriguing. It immediately reminded me of Carnegie in The Book of Eli—he smartest of the barbarians. But I felt like you could have done that with just an orc. No need to muddle the water with True Blood.

If the little mistakes were swimming in a sea of awesome, I would overlook them, but Karuuk is just too scattered to be an effective villain. He is sly and intelligent one minute and a mindless killing machine the next. His extremes are a bit too extreme.

He needed more flavor, less thump.

I do not recommend for advancement. Good luck in the voting, Nick.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013

Thanks for all the feedback judges! All good stuff I'll be sure to take to heart. Things considered this could have gone better but that's my bad. Thank again!

Remember to vote everyone!


Nick, I thought your champion of philosophy was a great take on the cavalier. I also liked your assassin's rose, though it had some elements that gave me and other gamers I know pause. And I even like the concept of a vampire orc. Too many designers want to remake Count Strahd, and should stop trying.

But dude, Dancey hit the nail on the head about the "vampire in a smoking jacket and ascot" visual. This is an orc chieftain and undead bloodsucker who turns his enemies into vampires and stakes them out for the morning sun. He should be the vicious, animalistic villain that the other bad guys are terrified of... especially if he decides to encroach on a civilized enemy's territory. The hook you presented made me want to work a character like this into Carrion Crown eventually, but I wouldn't do it as you presented here.

And Mark makes a very good point about your presentation. I edit freelance material for my own work, and I'd think the same thing he did of this if it popped into my inbox on a dreary morning with no caffeine - and I didn't bother to break down the stat block like he did.

Every time you write something for a paycheck, assume that the guy who gives it a yay or nay for publication will have had five hours or less sleep and no coffee when he receives it.

It was an interesting idea that caught my attention, but you tried to make an orc into Dracula. He ought to be like something out of 30 Days of Night, but WORSE.

Good luck to you in the voting, and keep working on your prose.

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

I agree with the judges that the switch from mad orc bruiser to genteel vampire is a bit too dramatic. Your writing in the flavor-text portion was confused and confusing, and the grammatical errors were noticeable and distracting. Vampire + grapple machine has some nice symmetry, so I get what you were trying to do, but the stat-block falls flat in delivery. I can tell there's some confusion there.

I will not be voting for this entry.

Scarab Sages

I'm gonna jump off the bandwagon for a second to say that I like this idea. Some of the more fun villains in cinema are the brutes who put on a veneer of civility and sophistication, and then go all 'Hulk smash' when they are provoked, revealing their true colors. (Several of Al Pacino's iconic roles, for instance.)

I like the idea of an orc who has become smart enough to recognize the failings in his brutish people, and seek to be more than a simple thug, and yet be held back not only by his culture, upbringing, surroundings, etc. but also by his new violent vampiric impulses. He sees the other races building great civilizations, and is surrounded by his own thuggish kin, squatting in the ruins of something built by another race, and pretty much turning it all to crap.

He wants more. He covets the fine meals and the soft clothes and the clean women, but hasn't the faintest notion how to overcome his people's natural inclinations to tear down, instead of build up, or, for that matter, his own... (Although, like most evil leaders, he'd be far more inclined to notice his followers failings than his own.)

I could love this idea, in a sort of 'gray hulk,' kinda way.

My only quibble is that I would have preferred to see a better stat-block, and some explanation of how his Pugilist archetype plays into his tactics. I can go look it up, to see what it offers, but I'd rather have that called out in a write-up that I'd be using.

The mechanics are kind of a mess, and that detracts from what is, at least to this one viewer, a gem of an idea, a savage who wants to rise above, but is frustrated by the material he's got to work with.

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

I find the idea great. I will definitely add this guy to Carrion Crown.

However, I find him a little mechanically lacking. The aristocrat level does not do much other than add a little backstory that could just as easily be explained in a skill section. Perhaps he could give up his favored class hit points for Knowledge (nobility).

Give me a little time to think about this guy. I'm on the fence.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 aka The Leaping Gnome

Ryan Dancey wrote:
I have this mental image of an orc in a velvet smoking coat with an ascot.

Who told you about my alternate villain?

Sovereign Court

"The Unrelenting Embrace"...awesome. And then you hit me with the bit about him turning enemies into vampire spawn and staking them out for the morning sun. What?! I'm awake and paying attention now, despite only being halfway through my morning mocha. That is just a beautifully wicked tactic, and screams "villain". In fact, I'm now dreaming of capturing an important NPC, vampire spawning him, and watching the party try to rescue the NPC before he's toast.

I actually love the conflicting aspects of Karuuk Soulrender -- the desire for aristocracy versus the brutal pugilist.

Got my vote!

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

Personally, I find the idea of a barbaric orc vampire pining to be taken seriously as a gentleman's gentleman highly amusing.

The problem is, that's not really what Pathfinder is going for in flavor and tone. It drifts too close to the line of camp. It's not that Pathfinder has no sense of humor; it's that the devs are wary of stuff that feels like a joke. We remember the bad old days of stuff like "Gargoyle" and the rather tragic "Castle Greyhawk."

A guy like this doesn't HAVE to be a joke, but he ends up reading like one. At the very least, he inspires a WTF? reaction in the reader, and takes them out of the notion of this person being a serious, legitimate adversary.

As usual, Neil has nailed down the stat block issues in detail, so I'll not repeat analysis there.

I think this guy could be fun in a home game, but it's not Superstar stuff for a published product.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

Oh, I don't know if it's really too campy for Pathfinder.

A half-orc granted immmortality who is trying to strive to be above his coarse surroundings could be played as tragic rather than camp. It doesn't *have* to be Batman the TV Show, it could be The Dark Knight.

And personally, I found Falcon's Hollow and the whole "Lumber Consortium" thing in D0 Falcon's Last Home to be rather campy. Certainly as much as an orc vampire who wants to be more :)

Anyways, I don't think this was one of the top entries, but it definitely got one of my votes.

Shadow Lodge

It gets my vote, too. Disappointing in some aspects, but the archetype and wondrous items were both fantastic.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

I think the fact that he's kind of a joke can be a good thing. The PCs will likely underestimate this guy and be taken by surprise when him and his minions (once his CR is fixed and 1 more barbarian lvl added for the leadership feat) beat the crap out of them.

vote given. good luck.


This guy reminds me of Beast from the Xmen. He's a monster, but he can be a gentleman.

I don't see anything that is strikingly creative, but at least this villain has a goal other than to be evil for evil's sake. Reclaiming past glory is a believable driver for his actions.

I'm on the fence on this one. I think it's an OK villain, but nothing spectacular.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6, Contributor , Dedicated Voter 2013

A cultured orc's a fun trope to play with. Unfortunately, vampire, one of the more overused monsters in Pathfinder. And a half-orc barbarian. I realize orcs are supposed to be barbaric, but submit a half-orc barbarian for a contest is a lot like submitting a halfling thief. You really need to nail the execution if you're going with something predictable. The mixture of nobleman and Vlad the Impaler does work a bit, but honestly, a cultured vampire is just as much a trope as a bestial orc, so this sort of winds up trapped in the middle ground rather than genre busting.

The stat block errors sink the remaining chance of this hapless would-be noble for getting one of slots. But I'm just one vote, and it does look like he's got his boosters too.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Yeah .. no. His hero-worship of Tar-Baphon gives him depth beyond a few of the other entries, but this is too rough for my vote.


I don't like the aristocrat/barbarian thing going on. I like the concept you were going for but I don't like the implementation.

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

I could look past the aristocrat barbarian thing (reminds me of a game I played with Logue a few years ago), if there was just a tiny bit more fluff on how he came to that. Even if it was just the raw Wisdom increase from the moment he rose from the dead, tell me that he stood for the first time as a vampire and realized there was something more. Or talk about the Eastern European style upper society that the evil rulers of Ustalav used to be. But don't just assume a level of aristocrat and claim he wants something more. I can even take the Tepes-like staking of his enemies and other barbarism in combination, if you'll just smooth it over a little for me. If you don't you're wasting word count on something unnecessary and unbelievable.

But the killer for me is the stat block execution. If I voted for you to move on, I'd be looking at an underdeveloped, flawed mess of an encounter. If I bought an adventure by you, it might take an extra few months for it to come out. Other entries might not have as good a raw idea in terms of what a villain is, but they have pretty good stat blocks, and I only get so many votes. Seems unlikely this one will outdo the better concepts with well-presented rules.


Nick Bolhuis wrote:

Karuuk Soulrender, the Unrelenting Embrace

Description: Ominously glowing eyes and midnight skin suggest Karuuks unholy nature. His jagged snarl and hulking shoulders seem average for a vicious orc with an anger issue, but when his anger abates his demeanour changes to that of an inquisitive and polite gentleman. He is a curiosity among the orcs of the Hold of Belkzen; a vampire cheiftan who fancies himself an intellectual. His tribe, the Ashen Skulls, paint their faces with Karuuks enemies. He has a propensity for turning his rivals into vampire spawn and then staking them out for the morning sun.
Motivations/Goals: Immortality has given Karuuk a different perspective than those of the other orcs within The Hold, the petty squabbling over resources has grown tiresome. Karuuk sees himself as a vampire first, and an orc second. Not one to throw away a valuable resource, he has retained and even expanded his tribe, but to him they are merely a weapon. His real motives lie in reclaiming a time of ancient glory. In his early years as a vampire, Karuuk captured, dominated and interrogated dozens of men and women from neighbouring nations.It was in this way that he learned of the Whispering Tyrant, his rise, fall and the roll the orcs of the Hold of Belkzen had to play. He eagerly awaits the prizes and power Tar-Baphon will bestow upon him when he succeeds in prompting his release.
Schemes/Plots/Adventure Hooks: Karuuk Soulrender is an ideal villain for parties adventuring out of Lastwall into either of it's northern neighbours. He's particularly fond of compelling information concerning the wards which protect Gallowspire, and is regularly dispatching his unholy horde into Ustalav to test the tower's defences....

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?
Ah, an undead orc with manners. Whilst some villains aspire to insane, unachievable goals like godhood, this one aspires to bettering himself in a social sense. (And to unleashing a millennia old undead tyrant, but that's not so important from the point of view of the question currently under regard.)
It depends how much he's capable of keeping it together? I'd need to spend some time studying him before recommending if he's suitable society for a young alu-fiend.

Should a succubus tip off any organisations as to the identity, location, and/or activities of this person?
By Orcus' wand, no. Orcs like this are fascinating experiments which need to be observed carefully in isolation from as many outside influences as possible. Well, in the short-term they do; at some point it will become clear whether or not Karuuk is making any progress towards his self-appointed goals, and at that point it's a case of put him in touch with a sympathetic demon lord or two, or notify a group who specialise in exterminating undead to put him out of his misery. But 'short-term' for a succubus is long enough to get material for four or five books of observations (naturally cutting Karuuk in on some of any profits made if he comes through with shining colours - honour amongst aristocrats and all that).

How much money would I lend this person?
In this case, and given the purses of some publishers with whom I am well acquainted, I could go up to four hundred thousand gold in the interests of seeing what he does with it, how much and how soon he repays it, and gathering various other material for the books I envision writing about this fellow. Of course good manners would require that I partially explain my motivations when lending (and from the book writing point of view it's useful to see how much he understands and how he takes that news...)

Other comments? (including fruitcake rating where appropriate)
The turning rivals into vampire spawn then staking them out in the sun is of course absolutely delicious and convinces me that Karuuk rates as more than just a villain with a tribe (an equivalent of a minor organisation) - and may cause some actual mayhem one day. I'd like to believe that this is partially motivated by scientific curiosity as to aspects of the vampiric state, but it seems more likely to me that he does it purely for the fun of it. So still some way to go there, perhaps. (As a personal observation, having fun and learning things is of course much more useful than just having fun, except on rare occasions involving specialists in summoning magic, evangelists, servants of Asmodeus and/or expendable servants of Lamashtu that the Demon Queen isn't too likely to miss - well those plus a few more categories, but my general point stands.)
I'm a bit ambivalent on the Whispering Tyrant thing. Whilst he was a gracious host who threw some absolutely astonishing dinner parties, I'm sad to say that he tended not to see eye to eye with too many paladins and took a perverse delight in ensuring that many met as exquisitely painful an end as possible - which was something of a tragic waste in my opinion. I know he had an empire of evil to run, but if he was that short on time and energy to spare paladins, he could have simply employed some succubi. But nooo he was all into devils - and look where that got him with the last king of Ustalav: that worked out well, didn't it? The she-devil he sent to infiltrate the royal household double-crossed him. Hah!
But, I won't hold Karuuk too much to blame for aiming to better himself and his tribe and bring a little anarchy to the world by unleashing an undead wizard king of sometimes questionable taste. There are a number of books in this and a fascinating experiment to observe here, after all.

Rating on the Gulga-Bracht supersuccubus scale of villainy:
5 (villain with plans for modest mayhem)

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.

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

I saw this villain as a gem in the rough. Some people hated the "sophisticated orc" aspect, but I think you should've taken it even further (but without the vampire -- I hate vampire villains).

In fact, I think I agree with a lot of Set's points. I could see Karruk getting frustrated while trying to teach etiquette to the other orcs, shouting "No, that's the salad fork!" while jabbing that same utensil into the forehead of the offending minion.

Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, he tries to impress cultured "guests", failing and becoming more and more agitated, resulting in a slowly rising temper until everyone in the room knows its time leave. Role-playing opportunities abound!

Unfortunately the execution of this entry fell flat, but I see the possibilities here.

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

Nick,

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

Concept: I like the image of a genteel vampire orc - the vampirism gives you great justification for that. His punishment for rivals is deliciously cruel. On the larger scope - this is a solid concept, to the point of being generic: "this bad guy would like to release the ancient lich and unleash a reign of evil upon the world once more." I could see this as the basis for a pretty epic campaign; I don't feel, though, that such a campaign would make much of the villain himself. He'd just be the Big Bad at the End; until you got to the end, he'd just be a placeholder.

To summarize: this has some nice stuff, but it's very generic, by which I mean easily interchangable with lots of other Big Bads.

Plot Hooks: Given what I said above, I would really have liked some more concrete hooks - specific cool adventures that would bring Karuuk into play. Something unique to sell me on this particular villain.

Mechanics: No particular comments; nothing jumped out at me here.

Use of Archetype: Not impressive. The archetype doesn't tie into the character concept in any distinct way; he could have just as easily been without the archetype, or used a different one. This is particularly disappointing as I would imagine this villain featuring physically only for climactic battles; I don't think the PCs would feel the presence of this archetype as very significant at any point. It doesn't inform Karuuk's personality, plans, or methods. In short, it feels like this is in to satisfy the round requirement, and not because it's actually meant to add something to the character.

Use of Portrait: Very nice :) The vampire orc twist is a good one, and is a great interpretation of this portrait.

All in all, I think you've got a very solid entry here, with good presentation, and some very nice details. But I think you've missed some key targets for this round - a unique villain whose schemes and influence on the PCs would be exciting and memorable, and significant use of an archetype. I'm not sure where I'll be for the final voting, but if you'll be up against equally solid entries whose villains did a better job of hitting those notes, then I'm afraid Karuuk will be at a disadvantage against them. Part of this contest is getting people excited about using your particular creations; I'm not seeing much here that seems aimed at doing that.

Wishing you lots of luck! :)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Dapper, sophisticated orcs have been a running joke at my table since I was 15, which may color my perception of this (and not in a good way). I like that you went with a vampire to make that happen, because it does increase your mental facilities while giving you a lot of time to think, and the trappings of aristocracy are strongly associated with vampirism... But I still think it needs more support. What does it mean to be an "inquisitive and polite gentleman"? If the concepts of "politeness" and of the "gentleman" exist in orc society, then it would be very different from what the words mean to us. If not, then this implies a strong infatuation with other races. I mean, it would basically make him an orc who acts like a human, and I don't think that was adequately explained.

I will dissent from Standback on this one, in that I think the Whispering Tyrant connection was a good decision. It fits the character, fits the world, and is a useful device for DMs looking to transition into a high-level game (assuming they haven't already been foreshadowing the tyrant's return, which may be the case). As the author himself noted this guy is a really great fit for a Lastwall-focused game, because he ties together the two main enemies of the region.

This gets my vote.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Though after reviewing my votes, I also have to say that this is my personal least-favorite name of the round, if not the entire contest.

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

Nicolas Quimby wrote:
I will dissent from Standback on this one, in that I think the Whispering Tyrant connection was a good decision. It fits the character, fits the world, and is a useful device for DMs looking to transition into a high-level game (assuming they haven't already been foreshadowing the tyrant's return, which may be the case).

I don't know that I disagree with you on that :P My line about "the basis for a pretty epic-level campaign" was meant along much the same lines, if I understand you correctly.

Nicolas Quimby wrote:
As the author himself noted this guy is a really great fit for a Lastwall-focused game, because he ties together the two main enemies of the region.

I'm not well-steeped in Golarion goodness - could I ask you to expand on this? I would like to hear more, please. :)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Standback wrote:
Nicolas Quimby wrote:
I will dissent from Standback on this one, in that I think the Whispering Tyrant connection was a good decision. It fits the character, fits the world, and is a useful device for DMs looking to transition into a high-level game (assuming they haven't already been foreshadowing the tyrant's return, which may be the case).
I don't know that I disagree with you on that :P My line about "the basis for a pretty epic-level campaign" was meant along much the same lines, if I understand you correctly.

Good point. I think what I meant to disagree with was the idea that that part is 'generic' (and really, I'm not disagreeing with that so much as excusing it because I think it's really cool and appropriate. :) ).

Standback wrote:
I'm not well-steeped in Golarion goodness - could I ask you to expand on this? I would like to hear more, please. :)

Neither am I really, but I think I know the basics:

When the Whispering Tyrant was defeated, Lastwall was formed to maintain a vigil on his Fortress of Evil and make sure he never returned. It's always been a military nation, relying on support (and volunteers) from other nations and staying focused on its mission. The problem is that the Tyrant really seems to be good and dead; fortunatley, Lastwall also borders a major pass out of the Hold of Belkzen (Golarion's orcland). If not for that it would be home to a lot of really bored paladins.

A Lastwall game is usually an against-the-orcs game, but there's this foreshadowing in that everyone swears an oath to oppose the Whispering Tyrant, even though it's really just lip service and most don't take the Whispering Tyrant seriously (yet).

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013

Yay! Now I can say stuff.

First lets acknowledge the things I legitimately screwed up on.

I did miss the racial skill bonuses from the vampire template, this was a matter of haste and poor math-checking.

I also should have included his stats for raging, but I'm not sure this is as big a deal as it at first seems to be. Without a constitution, there is no recalculation of hit points, and being undead makes him immune to many effects requiring a Will save (with channel energy being one notable exception). Beyond that, his boost to strength simply adds a +2 to everything he tries to do in combat, +2 CMD, and opponents get a +2 to hit him. Is this a mistake? Yes, is it something a DM cannot negotiate on his own? No.

CR calculation was also incorrect, simply a result of not carefully checking (a holdover from 3.5 really).

Second, I'd like to talk about my ability scores. I feel they are correct, have rechecked the math, and have had others do the same. I do not want this to seem like I am screaming foul, or claiming that and error in judgement has cost me votes in the event that I do not advance (I am writing this a few hours before the results). I will show my math here, and if legitimately wrong please show me where so I can learn from it, because right now I feel I am in the right.

Starting with a base stat line (Str,Dex,Con,Int,Wis,Cha) of 11,10,11,11,10,10.
I then add the Orc Racial modifiers: (+4 STR, -2 INT, -2 WIS, -2 CHA) to get 15,10,11,9,8,8
Vampire (+6 STR, +4 Dex, Con--, +2 INT, +2 WIS, +4CHA) to get 21,14,--,11,10,12
Elite Array (+4 STR, +2 Dex, +0 Con, +2 INT, -2 WIS, +4 CHA) to get 25,16,--,13,8,16
Increase at 4HD/8HD both to Wisdom to get a final 25,16,--,13,10,16

These are the scores I have presented, and I do not see why they are wrong. This then calls into question all derived sats from these ability scores needlessly, casting the entirety of my stat block in an unfavorable light. If these score are not correct please please tell me where they are wrong so I can avoid this trouble in the future. If they are correct, perhaps returning to a show-your-math format for this type of round in future years will avoid this sort of thing. I know the judges are swamped with work from this, and I truly appreciate their efforts. I do not want to call them out from making a simple mistake, instead, perhaps a review of the round format or even the stat block spreadsheet (if one is used in this case) is warranted.

So some milk got spilled, not big deal.

On to my more stylistic choices. Comments on my use of Aristocrat have been many and varied. My earlier drafts for Karuuk had him as barbarian only, though this made me worry that vampire brought nothing interesting to him, and that he might as well be any other orc barbarian (not very superstar). So I got to thinking that the prospect of an eternity of orc-ness may not seem too cool to a newly made immortal, suddenly capable of overcoming yesterdays obstacles with ease. This got him (and me) thinking about his future, the world and his place in it, which he could only hope to learn from outsiders (not many history books lying around in orc-land). So the second draft had him interested in history, namely the lost glory of the orcs in the area, as well as the whispering tyrant and the prospect of prizes gained upon his release. This aspiration was mechanically weak, a few skill points spent on history didn't seem like enough warrant this manner of direction for the character, and he ought to be able to read. So that's how I ended up selling myself on aristocrat, learned PC classes, like wizard or bard seemed like an equally long stretch, and I didn't have the words to fit it all in. It kind of got jammed in there at the end, and seems like it was not the best of ideas.

That said I'm glad those of you who did see what I was going for enjoyed it.

My choice for vampire was much the same, I know vampire can be overdone, and in retrospect I would have been better to go with all out feral vampire than trying to squeeze in some dracula. I did however think that vampire was an interesting treatment for the image, and one that others were unlikely to come up with.

Lastly

Nicolas Quimby wrote:


Standback wrote:
I'm not well-steeped in Golarion goodness - could I ask you to expand on this? I would like to hear more, please. :)

Neither am I really, but I think I know the basics:

When the Whispering Tyrant was defeated, Lastwall was formed to maintain a vigil on his Fortress of Evil and make sure he never returned. It's always been a military nation, relying on support (and volunteers) from other nations and staying focused on its mission. The problem is that the Tyrant really seems to be good and dead; fortunatley, Lastwall also borders a major pass out of the Hold of Belkzen (Golarion's orcland). If not for that it would be home to a lot of really bored paladins.

A Lastwall game is usually an against-the-orcs game, but there's this foreshadowing in that everyone swears an oath to oppose the Whispering Tyrant, even though it's really just lip service and most don't take the Whispering Tyrant seriously (yet).

You're basically right here. I see last wall as sort of like a little Minas Tirath, bordering on nations capable of great destruction. The Hold of Belkzen is where the orc tribes are amassed, though they pose little real threat due to lack of true leadership. They had leadership once in the form of the Lich-King Tar-Baphon who had united them under his banner. When he was destroyed they fell back into their original chaos. As for the Lich-King, he was imprisoned beneath his tower, which is now layered with protective and binding magics to prevent any chance of his release or return. These wards are maintained by patrols from Lastwall, though most of Lastwalls troops are concerned with the orcs. Gallowspire, the tower of the lich-king, is actually in the neighboring country of Ustalav, which has this sort of transylvania/ravenloft thing going. At least, that's how I understand it.

So in closing, thanks to everyone who has supported me and my ideas. Hopefully I will advance, but it looks unlikely. In any event I will remain on the boards to hound those who do advance and will certainly be back next year, bigger, stronger, better, older (and probably a little heavier).

Thanks everyone! :D

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Some quick answers for you, Nick...

Nick Bolhuis wrote:
I also should have included his stats for raging, but I'm not sure this is as big a deal as it at first seems to be.

It's still a big deal. In a Paizo-published product, you'll still need to design your barbarian's stat-block in his "rage" presentation and cite the Base Statistics line under the Tactics section to show what he's like when he's not raging. That's standard fare. And, the good news is that the Paizo spreadsheet given to freelancers auto-calculates that for you...though, you can toggle the "rage" effects on or off depending on what you need for a specific encounter. Most encounters with NPCs who have barbarian levels usually include combat. So, the "rage on" switch is the most commonly used.

Nick Bolhuis wrote:
...I'd like to talk about my ability scores. I feel they are correct....

You're good here. See the derro discussion threads for John and Trevor. I explained there how I arrived at some different conclusions based on not using the "+4, +4, +2, +2, +0, -2" method...and some underlying analysis on how that impacts NPC design by choosing that method over building from the elite array.

I do think you're right, however, that in and of itself, commentary about the ability scores in your stat-block didn't represent the primary criticism or feedback related to your design. Still, rest assured that you did fine here.

Hope that helps,
--Neil


Disclaimer:
Ask A RPGSupersuccubus is posting from the point of view of a CE aligned (very advanced) succubus; the clarifications of the Abyssal meanings of ‘sorry’ and ‘commiserations’ which she made in the previous round don’t bear repeating here, but the Abyssal definition for ‘sympathy’ has some mileage for repetition, so (once more) in the language of the Abyss ‘sympathy’ is military jargon for a popular model of half a mile high siege-tower with spiked wheels, ballistae and fireball hurling catapults. (By way of explanation for the latter it’s a demonic joke: ‘See, we have sympathy for your situation’.)

Obligatory End of Round 3 Results Post:

Spoiler:
Congratulations on making it to the top 16. Obviously you didn’t get any further otherwise I wouldn’t be making this post. Still: you can now focus on plotting your triumphant return for a future year (if you feel so inclined), have that nervous breakdown which recent events may have made seem *much* more attractive, and/or get on with any other important stuff you’ve been letting go for the past few weeks – E.G. vaporising minions for not scrubbing the scullery floor properly, paying your dressmaker’s bills (important not to let craftsmen skilled with phase-spider silk go out of business) and house-training that paladin of Iomedae you captured a couple of months ago…
And of course there’s still a statistical chance that your villain, even though he failed to see you (personally) through this round, may show up again in this contest…

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

I know I sounded lukewarm on this, but it's actually really grown on me and I'm sorry to see you eliminated for it. The core concept verged on the screwball, but I think you really made it work in a cool and grandiose way; he really is an orc Dracula, sophisticated and horrible.


Hey Nick, sorry to see you didn´t make it... I really thought you deserved to, especially given your body of work so far (I think I´m more inclined to judge each entrant´s entire body of work and not SOLELY judge only with the current round... if somebody can´t write a decent item or archetype, I don´t think they´re superstar). Certainly the core concept, barbarian vampire nobility, seems a good way to play off of real-world vampire lore, e.g. Vlad the Impaler. I certainly think that the negative response for including Aristocrat was unfounded - who is to say there isn´t hereditary rulers of Orcs to begin with, their parents would likely encourage that, and it´s just a matter if other powerful Orcs can unseat them or not. Real-world Nobility grew out of warriors leading states/armies, so how are Orcs different? The social Class Skills they gain still work the exact same, manipulating Orc politics isn´t mechanically different in-game than manipulating stuck-up Taldoran society.

It looked like you had various technical problems, but I think the core idea was strong. I think the Aristocrat NPC level was a reasonable choice - the NPC class is a way to boost his skills (learned from his Vampire creator) without boosting his CR as much as a PC class (which was your technical error, ironically concealing this side benefit).

Anyhow, you have some strong competitors this year in Sean, Sam, and Artus, so maybe you can learn from the experience and come back stronger next year - like Sean did!

Scarab Sages

I only cast six of my eight votes this round, and you got one of them.

Sorry to see you didn't make it to the next round, but hopefully you'll show us some magic next year!

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