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Sarkun


Round 3 - Top 16: Create a villain stat block

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Sarkun
Portrait: Portrait 30
Description: A stone-skinned man steps from the shadows, his rocky hide painted with tribal symbols. He grins maliciously at you, revealing ruined teeth. Then the torches go out.
Sarkun is a shoanti tribesman in his prime, but his skin is pale from years of dwelling in caves. He bears tattoos and fetishes that mark him of the Skoan-Quah.

Motivations/Goals: In his youth, Sarkun became lost in the Mindspin Mountains for many months, returning with a deep reverence for them and the darkness at their core. But reverence has turned to obsession as he seeks to keep any from defiling them.
Sarkun has found the morlocks of the mountains useful, and incites them to aid in the destruction of mountain settlements. When not raiding he prefers to lair near creatures that have tremorsense, using them as unwitting guardians.

Schemes/Plots/Adventure Hooks: Hellknight patrols are being harried by a stone man, and morlocks have been seen lingering around Citadel Vraid in the Mindspin Mountains at night.

Their mine collapsed, the town of Copperhold is attacked nightly by crawling men.

Word spreads that the angered spirit of the Mindspin Mountains hunts travellers in its passes.

Sarkun CR 9
Male shoanti (Skoan-Quah) druid (cave druid) 10
NE Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +16
===== Defense =====
AC 23, touch 12, flat-footed 19; (+5 armor, +2 Dex,+4 natural,+2 shield)
hp 65 (10d8+20);
Fort +10, Ref +6, Will +11
Defensive Abilities resist subterranean corruption; DR 10/adamantine; Immune poison
===== Offense =====
Spd 30 ft.
Melee +1 klar +10/+5 (1d6+3)
Ranged mwk shoanti bolas +10/+5 (1d4+2)
Special Attacks wild shape 3/day
Domain Spell-Like Abilities (CL 10th; concentration +13)
6/day—touch of darkness (5 rounds)
Druid Spells Prepared (CL 10th, concentration +13)
5th—stoneskin, summon monster V(D), transmute rock to mud
4th—freedom of movement, rusting grasp, shadow conjuration(D) (DC 17), spike stones (DC 17)
3rd—deeper darkness(D), meld into stone, poison (2, DC 16), quench (DC 16)
2nd—barkskin, blindness/deafness(D) (blindness only, DC 15), chill metal (DC 15), soften earth and stone, spider climb, summon swarm
1st—magic stone (3), pass without trace (2), obscuring mist(D)
0—detect magic, flare (DC 13), guidance, light
D Domain spell; Domains Darkness
===== Tactics =====
Before Combat Sarkun casts stoneskin, barkskin, and drinks his potion of darkvision before combat.
During Combat Sarkun will manipulate the battlefield to his advantage by hampering vision with quench and deeper darkness, and movement by using soften earth and stone, spike stones, and transmute rock to mud. He utilizes his mobility spells, like freedom of movement, as needed.
Morale If Sarkun’s stoneskin ends or he is reduced below 20 hp, he will flee using obscuring mist to cover his retreat before using meld into stone to heal and regroup.
Base Statistics Without barkskin, darkvision, or stoneskin, Sarkun’s stats are: Senses low-light vision; AC 19, flat-footed 15; DR n/a
===== Statistics =====
Str 14, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 16, Cha 8
Base Atk +7; CMB +9; CMD 21
Feats Aspect of the Beast (nightsenses), Blind-Fight(B), Exotic Weapon Proficiency (shoanti bolas), Improved Shield Bash, Martial Weapon Proficiency (klar)(B), Natural Spell, Stealthy
Skills Climb +13, Escape Artist +2, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +15, Knowledge (nature) +13, Perception +16, Stealth +12, Survival +18
Languages Common, Shoanti, Druidic
SQ cavesense, eyes of darkness (5 rounds), lightfoot, nature bond (Darkness domain), tunnelrunner, wild empathy +8
Combat Gear 2 potions of cure moderate wounds, potion of darkvision; Other Gear +1 hide armor, +1/+1 klar, 3 masterwork shoanti bolas, cloak of resistance +1, holly and mistletoe, 28 gp

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!

This villain falls close to a common stereotype—the druid preserving nature to a homicidal extreme—without adding a new specific element to make it richer. Connecting Sarkun more explicitly with the morlocks might have been a good way to go. Does he owe them his life? Did he learn their ways? Does he admire something about them?

Most importantly, what does he want? If he returned after his ordeal, did he simply fail to re-connect with the sensibilities of his people?

Ultimately, Sarkun is too much stereotype, not enough individual.

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

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Alright, Ryan. Congratulations on making the Top 16. But, the competition gets a lot harder from here on out. And that's no different in how the judges will critique your stuff. Let's see what you've got and brace yourself as I dive under the hood to mark through this thing like I'd do if I were an editor. My comments are mostly going to come instream as I review stuff, and understand that anything I point out is meant to improve you and your designs. I'll also spoiler everything for length:

Spoiler:

Well, I was wondering how you'd pull of your chosen portrait with a Shoanti human. I guess you're going for stoneskin as the ultimate explanation for the rocky exterior of this mountainous "cave" man. From your description, I'm immediately put off by it being italicized read-aloud text. If this were a "design an encounter" round that would be appropriate. But, when villains get showcased in most Paizo products, descriptive text avoids the narrative voice. It should just be straight reading and description of their appearance and origin. Regardless, I'm not going to ding you too hard on it. You've told us what the guy looks like, so let's move on.

Looking through the motivations and plot hooks for Sarkun, I'm left kind of underwhelmed. There's just not a lot of villainy behind this dangerous druid. Yes, he went off into some caves and somehow absorb a bit of their inherent darkness into his own soul. He's an evil guy. He doesn't want interlopers in the highlands. He hangs out with nasty morlocks for fun. Still, there's not a compelling motivation behind what he does and there's nothing all that horrifying or terrifying about his villainous goals. Thus, he comes off far more like a dangerous encounter than a true villain who's actively carving out his niche in the world of Golarion. Put another way, to me, a villain is someone who's bringing evil into the world through his own progressive actions...not someone waiting in the mountains for PCs to eventually encounter him or hunt him down as the next bit of XP to be harvested for their advancing career as adventurers. And that's how Sarkun feels to me.

But, let's set that aside and take a look at your stat-block. First off, I think you should present him as a "Male human (Shoanti) druid (cave druid) 10" rather than specifying the Skoan Quah and lowercasing Shoanti...but maybe that's just me? You need to lowercase "Humanoid"...his flat-footed AC should be 21 instead of 19...and hit points should be 73 instead of 65...looks like his Speed should be 20 ft. in hide armor...your spells look solid along with the Darkness domain selection...and you got all the ability score math, BAB/CMB/CMD, and feat selections (including bonus feats) right. Your skills are mostly right, but his Stealth should actually be +14 rather than +12 (i.e., you pick up a +4 bonus for the Stealthy feat with 10 ranks in it rather than the typical +2). You should also alphabetize your languages (so Druidic should appear after Common and before Shoanti). And, you've got plenty of wealth to cover all his gear. In fact, you've way underspent on this villain and could have ramped him up even higher with a few more choice wondrous items.

As far as your Tactics go, they're okay. Nothing earth-shatteringly awesome or innovative. Just your basic manipulation of terrain and illumination. Doesn't seem like he has much (as defined in his Tactics) that makes him much of a threat beyond that. As a CR 9 villain (and presumable BBEG), I also don't get the sense that he'd last very long against a party of PCs. So, I think he's missing some mojo in the threat department.

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: Average
Flavor Text: Average
Appropriate Archetype: Good
Interesting Tactics: Average
Stat-Block Execution: Average to Poor

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: There's really just not enough to elevate Sarkun to what I would consider a true villain, both in descriptive text and his stat-block choices and encounter tactics.

As such, I do NOT recommend this villain to advance to the next round. But best of luck in the voting.

Contributor

Stony druid to explain the stony skin. Interesting!
Another cave druid this competition. Interesting!

Style issue you may not have noticed: We don't use "you" in readaloud text because it can often presume actions by the PCs. You could have cut "at you" from that sentence and preserved the meaning.

"Their mine collapsed, the town of Copperhold is attacked nightly by crawling men." You're burying the subject of the sentence (the town) and have a disagreement between that subject and the word "their."

Given that he works with morlocks, I would have liked to see more spells that he would cast on his allies.

CEO, Goblinworks

Summary: 0 Points
Recommendation: Not recommended for advancement

Ryan 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 one of the most unusual images. The rock-like look and glowing blue tattoos need to be explained. Stoneskin only lasts 100 minutes per casting. The blue glowing tattoos aren't described meaningfully either.

0 Points.

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

This is a bog-standard "stay off my lawn" druid. Adds no value.

0 Points.

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

The character went into the wilderness and came back ... changed ...

But why? And the change was what? And there's this written alliance with the morlocks but nothing backing that up. Neither the motivation nor the mechanics seems to be working.

0 Points.

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

I don't see any twist. This is just a druid NPC who doesn't like outsiders in the lands he considers his protectorate.

0 Points.

Paizo Employee Developer

Hey Ryan! 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?

An interesting choice, making this stone giant into a Shoanti. I'm a little hesitant after seeing this decision, as I'm not sure how well that will fly in print when the art should match the words as closely as possible, but let's see.

You use the second person in your description, which we try not to do in read-aloud text, as it automatically assumes PC action. Only use "you" in boxed text when an NPC is quoted talking directly to the PCs.

Ok, lost in the wilderness, returns ... a morlock loving cave druid? Not what I expected, and not really justified. Simply being lost in the mountains and then having reverence for the dark places within seems a poor reason to become a villain. I think most druids want to protect nature from encroaching civilization, but that doesn't make them evil. I'm not sure I buy this.

Moving on, I'm puzzled by his used of creatures with tremorsense as "unwitting guardians." What does that mean? And where's Copperhold? This is Varisia, one of the most developed regions of the Inner Sea. There are plenty of towns that are already on the map. No need to make a new one.

I think this guy would need a lot of additional development to flesh him out into a well-rounded villain instead of a simple stereotype, and story development like that can often take longer than simply reworking a statblock.

But let's see how that statblock looks, shall we?

First, his ethnicity and tribe don't belong here. Here's a "Male human druid". On the following line, his type should be lower-case. Only size is capitalized. Then you've got some missing spaces in the AC breakdown.
Moving into his tactics, he can't cast stoneskin, as he lacks the material component to do so. That means his illustration really doesn't fit as it depicts a guy who remembered his 150 gp worth of diamond dust. Then I see he hampers movement with deeper darkness; he certainly does—including his own, as darkvision won't work in magical darkness. Oops!

Overall, I think you fell into some pretty big holes while trying to navigate this one, Ryan. You tried to push the limits of what you could do with this piece of art, and I think you made some poor choices. This would require quite a bit of development to tidy up, which isn't something I can really support, as the guy who will have to work extra hours to do so.

Final verdict: I DO NOT recommend this villain for advancement. Best of luck.

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.

Nice art pick, and an interesting story for the pick. I really wanted to like this one because it started so well.

I’ll echo what Mark said about the read-aloud text. Don’t tell PC what they do. They hate that.

The stat block goes a little shoanti crazy; you beat us over the head with it. I don’t need to know in the stat block which tribe or even what human race he is, especially since he is not a very typical member of his race or tribe. That all goes in the background sections.

I do like his escape routine, not only will it be effective sometimes (and escape routines rarely are when you have a determined group of PCs hungry for information or XP) it’s a good fit with the character.

Overall, though, I do not recommend for advancement. Good luck in the voting, Ryan.

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

Missing the material components is a big one for me. It's easy to do, but it's also something that can be missed as a product goes through editing, so it's important to get it right the first time. He does have the divine focus, but I don't see a spell component pouch. It's possible that none of the spells he has picked have it, but it's still a good thing to have on any caster.

I wish you'd spent more words on the introduction, in particular how he's using the morlocks. When I'm looking at a drop-in NPC, what I want is enough to hook into and use him in a plot.

I would have liked a more expansive tactics section. And I would definitely go ahead and throw freedom of movement into his pre-cast spells. Usually if you don't have it up, it's too late when you need it. And he likes battlefield control, so he should like moving through it.

I do like the spooky underground druid. NPCs who went made in the dark places of the earth are some of my favorites.

Spellcasters are tricky in a tight word count, and I think this may have tripped you up. Good luck in the round, but with only 4 votes I'll have to spend them elsewhere.

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

Another entry with the description in the form of read-aloud text. I also agree with the assessment that he seems more like a random encounter than an established and establishable villain. The morlock association seems sort of random; it could very much stand to be fleshed out further.

This one strikes me as sort of workmanlike, and as such, I don't think I'll be voting for it.

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

Ack. You've run headlong into my dislike of druids. A quick review of previous rounds shows that druid villains who want to kill the encroachers is actually a pretty common theme. It's also a theme that rarely advances.

While I don't see any particular disconnect between stat block and stated description, I don't find that description interesting. I would not want to run this villain in any story for my PCs.

Sadly, I won't vote for this. It's a pity, since I was rooting for you as a fellow underdog.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 aka Lord Fyre

Dave Gross wrote:

This villain falls close to a common stereotype—the druid preserving nature to a homicidal extreme—without adding a new specific element to make it richer. Connecting Sarkun more explicitly with the morlocks might have been a good way to go. Does he owe them his life? Did he learn their ways? Does he admire something about them?

Most importantly, what does he want? If he returned after his ordeal, did he simply fail to re-connect with the sensibilities of his people?

Ultimately, Sarkun is too much stereotype, not enough individual.

** spoiler omitted **

Yes, this is the exact trap that I fell into. :(

But, it is a valid problem.

Even so, I can judge the character on his own merit, so I expect that I will be voting for you.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Thanks for the comments and critiques.


I really wanted to like this because it's a druid. However, I don't like the motivation. I wish there had been some kind of event or process that caused a foundational shift in the villian other than the development of a deep reverence.

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

Big ups for the cave druid, and clever to use stoneskin to explain the stone giant face, but expensive components are important to account for in the gear.

I was interested to see what you would do with the morlock connection. Alas, pretty much nothing, unless the morlocks are the "crawling men" from the last hook.

More to the point, though, this guy is just okay. Kind of generically evil cuz he's evil. As someone said, a standard "git offa mah lawn" hostile druid. You can use him in an adventure, but he's just another faceless cog in the villainous machine.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013

I considered stoneskin as a treatment for this image when I was looking over what cool things I could take away from the images, but I came to the conclusion that as a temporary spell it really shouldn't define the villain unless he has it on all the time. To do this you would need to have him only appear at the end of an adventure, prepped for battle, and you'd really need to play up his minion use to make him a decent threat in this regard. Alternatively, you could have him pop up several times (always with stoneskin) and then have a shocking reveal that he's actually a powerful spell caster whose really just a human. However, to do this, you'd need to make him some other kind of threat in the first few encounters to throw the PC's off the trail, and be sure he can make a clean getaway. Both of these treatments would eat a huge amount of your word count, and neither are really treated here. It's a cool idea, but makes for an unfortunate disconnect when considering the art vs. concept angle. After that he's kind of light on flavor, like other have said, your typical mean old man who wants to keep kids off his grass. You could have done a lot more with morlocks and summoned earth elementals to make his threat seem more real, always with him slipping out the back to fight another day.


I'm voting for this one mostly because i can relate back to a character I had years ago. I used similar tactics and really enjoyed the whole meld into stone idea and what not. Got my vote keep up the good work.


I like the combat tactics. They use the dark and cave themes well. In fact, I think that's the strongest part of this entry.

Unfortunately, as others have said, he's just a cave druid.

I think this has potential, but it's lacking anything resembling a villain. Still, not a bad start, it just needs more.

Unfortunately, I can't vote for it as it stands. Best of luck with the voting.


Obviously I'm biased; I love druids, caves and Anry so its' anyone's easy guess where at least one of my votes is going. ;)

Seriously though, I like how the druid is open-ended, leaving the GM to pop Sarkun into an adventure as needed. He may be a 'git off my lawn' druid, but honestly, most of them are. That's the druid thing, the archetype, the stereotype, even.

Spells ate up a lot of your word count, unfortunately; without that restriction you could've put a lot more into his backstory and motivations.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

He's a druid NPC with a favourite spell. The author hasn't developed anything more than that for me to respond to this entry.


Ryan Marsh wrote:

Sarkun

Description: A stone-skinned man steps from the shadows, his rocky hide painted with tribal symbols. He grins maliciously at you, revealing ruined teeth. Then the torches go out.
Sarkun is a shoanti tribesman in his prime, but his skin is pale from years of dwelling in caves. He bears tattoos and fetishes that mark him of the Skoan-Quah.

Motivations/Goals: In his youth, Sarkun became lost in the Mindspin Mountains for many months, returning with a deep reverence for them and the darkness at their core. But reverence has turned to obsession as he seeks to keep any from defiling them.
Sarkun has found the morlocks of the mountains useful, and incites them to aid in the destruction of mountain settlements. When not raiding he prefers to lair near creatures that have tremorsense, using them as unwitting guardians.

Schemes/Plots/Adventure Hooks: Hellknight patrols are being harried by a stone man, and morlocks have been seen lingering around Citadel Vraid in the Mindspin Mountains at night.

Their mine collapsed, the town of Copperhold is attacked nightly by crawling men.

Word spreads that the angered spirit of the Mindspin Mountains hunts travellers in its passes...

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?
No. He keeps company with morlocks. Morlocks. You don't want any precious little poppet around that sort of company, or certainly not until or unless she's old enough to defend herself from being popped into a cooking pot.

Should a succubus tip off any organisations as to the identity, location, and/or activities of this person?
Well I suppose the hellknights would like to know about Sarkun, but to be frank I enjoy watching hellknights get their posteriers booted down mountainsides too much to want to spoil Sarkun's party in that way. That said, I regard morlocks as rather degenerate undesirable life-forms - and somewhat on a par with evangelists when it comes to dinner party company - so I'm not inclined to put myself out to assist someone who spends most of their time with morlocks either.

How much money would I lend this person?
Not more than a thousand gold at any one time, and only on condition of it being used to make hellknights on an unpaladinly disposition look like clowns.

Other comments? (including fruitcake rating where appropriate)
To be frank, I'm feeling rather ambiguous about Sarkun. The only thing it seems to me which is remotely villainous about the fellow is the company that he keeps.
I grant his methods may not please strict moralists, but the man looks to me to be essentially a freedom fighter boldly resisting an order of military oppressors whose members all too often tend towards Asmodeus worship. For those able to overlook the morlocks (although that may prove very difficult for anyone who has sat through a thirteen course dinner party next to one), that might even make the man a hero in their books.

Rating on the Gulga-Bracht supersuccubus scale of villainy:
2 (person not quite sufficiently motivated to rate as a 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.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Ask A RPGSupersuccubus wrote:
Ryan Marsh wrote:

Sarkun

Description: A stone-skinned man steps from the shadows, his rocky hide painted with tribal symbols. He grins maliciously at you, revealing ruined teeth. Then the torches go out.
Sarkun is a shoanti tribesman in his prime, but his skin is pale from years of dwelling in caves. He bears tattoos and fetishes that mark him of the Skoan-Quah.

Motivations/Goals: In his youth, Sarkun became lost in the Mindspin Mountains for many months, returning with a deep reverence for them and the darkness at their core. But reverence has turned to obsession as he seeks to keep any from defiling them.
Sarkun has found the morlocks of the mountains useful, and incites them to aid in the destruction of mountain settlements. When not raiding he prefers to lair near creatures that have tremorsense, using them as unwitting guardians.

Schemes/Plots/Adventure Hooks: Hellknight patrols are being harried by a stone man, and morlocks have been seen lingering around Citadel Vraid in the Mindspin Mountains at night.

Their mine collapsed, the town of Copperhold is attacked nightly by crawling men.

Word spreads that the angered spirit of the Mindspin Mountains hunts travellers in its passes...

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 omitted ** ;)

If a sister succubus seduces this villain...

Always enjoy the read. :)


My first though, oh... a KOML (keep off my lawn) druid... but a cave KOML druid... with a fairly big "lawn".

"Keep off my lawn" druids do get overdone as evil druids, its a passive state for an evil druid. The active side is a "how the hell did you get on my lawn" druid, who follow up with "get off lawn now, or die." It's the same with evil warlords as a general rule. If they have a kingdom, they kill you for not bowing to them. If they don't have on yet, they're out to take ours.

Does Sarkun stand out among the grumpy tree huggers and warlordy types? Well he's got a fairly big lawn there, bigger then most forest druids tend to have. What really catches me is him being a cave druid. This is not a typical (but logical) place to find a druid. It's actually probably the most aggravating place to encounter a KOML druid. PCs go into dungeons. Where are dungeons? Underground. Where is there much underground to explore/plunder? In mountains. What will Sarkun do when he finds PCs blundering about his caves being all Monty Haul? Probably turn his stone skin to lava from pure apoplectic rage.

This is a villain who is apt to not only be reoccurring, but to keep on the PCs even after they leave his mountains. After all, there are few forces more despoiling to underground environments then adventurers.

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

I remember the first time I proposed an evil druid bent on destroying civilization, I had never heard of one before. But then no one in my group ever ran canned adventures or played druids. It was immediately clear to me how that was an easy trope. The next time I had to write a bunch of evil druids (Ascension of the Drow), I stayed far away from that plan.

Not that someone couldn't provide such a druid as a villain and have it be compelling, but it would take a lot of fun detail and uniqueness to pull that off. Your villain has almost no detail, and the statistics have numerous, meaningful errors. Seems like you'd do better with a second attempt, and I'm happy to critique a director's cut after this round ends.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Steven T. Helt wrote:

I remember the first time I proposed an evil druid bent on destroying civilization, I had never heard of one before. But then no one in my group ever ran canned adventures or played druids. It was immediately clear to me how that was an easy trope. The next time I had to write a bunch of evil druids (Ascension of the Drow), I stayed far away from that plan.

Not that someone couldn't provide such a druid as a villain and have it be compelling, but it would take a lot of fun detail and uniqueness to pull that off. Your villain has almost no detail, and the statistics have numerous, meaningful errors. Seems like you'd do better with a second attempt, and I'm happy to critique a director's cut after this round ends.

Look forward to it.

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

Ryan,

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

Concept: Well, it's a bogeyman. I've got to say, it's not a concept I find terribly exciting, and I don't feel you've sold it to me as being any more interesting than any other bogeyman-type creature. Still, it's a solid concept, and bogeymen certainly have their use :)

Plot Hooks: Solid, but again, uninspiring. Typical "there's something scary out there!" hooks, fitting for a bogeyman, but not really doing anything to intrigue the players or give them a sense that there's something really awful out there.

Mechanics: I love battlefield manipulations :) Also very well-suited to the archetype.

Use of Archetype: Pretty good. The archetype is clearly referenced in the description, it determines the entire location in which Sarkun might be encountered, and it certainly affects the nature of any battle with him.

Use of Portrait: Let's be honest here: if I've dinged you up until now for the bogeyman trope, then I've got to give you props because this is a spectacular bogeyman portrait. I'd be afraid to have that thing out at night.

All in all, I feel this is a very solid entry, which fulfills the requirements well. I'm really missing something intriguing and exciting about this one, something to set it apart from similar monsters and from other entries in the round :P But in Superstar I give a lot of credit for "solid" and "fulfills the requirements well" - that's not easy, and it's extremely important to the nature of the contest.

Wishing you lots of luck! :)

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Standback wrote:

Ryan,

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

Concept: Well, it's a bogeyman. I've got to say, it's not a concept I find terribly exciting, and I don't feel you've sold it to me as being any more interesting than any other bogeyman-type creature. Still, it's a solid concept, and bogeymen certainly have their use :)

Plot Hooks: Solid, but again, uninspiring. Typical "there's something scary out there!" hooks, fitting for a bogeyman, but not really doing anything to intrigue the players or give them a sense that there's something really awful out there.

Mechanics: I love battlefield manipulations :) Also very well-suited to the archetype.

Use of Archetype: Pretty good. The archetype is clearly referenced in the description, it determines the entire location in which Sarkun might be encountered, and it certainly affects the nature of any battle with him.

Use of Portrait: Let's be honest here: if I've dinged you up until now for the bogeyman trope, then I've got to give you props because this is a spectacular bogeyman portrait. I'd be afraid to have that thing out at night.

All in all, I feel this is a very solid entry, which fulfills the requirements well. I'm really missing something intriguing and exciting about this one, something to set it apart from similar monsters and from other entries in the round :P But in Superstar I give a lot of credit for "solid" and "fulfills the requirements well" - that's not easy, and it's extremely important to the nature of the contest.

Wishing you lots of luck! :)

Thanks very much :)

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Dave Gross wrote:

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!

This villain falls close to a common stereotype—the druid preserving nature to a homicidal extreme—without adding a new specific element to make it richer. Connecting Sarkun more explicitly with the morlocks might have been a good way to go. Does he owe them his life? Did he learn their ways? Does he admire something about them?

Most importantly, what does he want? If he returned after his ordeal, did he simply fail to re-connect with the sensibilities of his people?

Ultimately, Sarkun is too much stereotype, not enough individual.

** spoiler omitted **

Thanks for the input, I'm going to see what I can do about making him more of an individual in an edit.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Neil, you wrote comments nearly as long as the entry itself. I’m going to break it up and respond to each piece.

Neil Spicer wrote:
Well, I was wondering how you'd pull of your chosen portrait with a Shoanti human. I guess you're going for stoneskin as the ultimate explanation for the rocky exterior of this mountainous "cave" man. From your description, I'm immediately put off by it being italicized read-aloud text. If this were a "design an encounter" round that would be appropriate. But, when villains get showcased in most Paizo products, descriptive text avoids the narrative voice. It should just be straight reading and description of their appearance and origin. Regardless, I'm not going to ding you too hard on it. You've told us what the guy looks like, so let's move on.

I will remember to avoid the narrative for NPC showcasing.

Neil Spicer wrote:
Looking through the motivations and plot hooks for Sarkun, I'm left kind of underwhelmed. There's just not a lot of villainy behind this dangerous druid. Yes, he went off into some caves and somehow absorb a bit of their inherent darkness into his own soul. He's an evil guy. He doesn't want interlopers in the highlands. He hangs out with nasty morlocks for fun. Still, there's not a compelling motivation behind what he does and there's nothing all that horrifying or terrifying about his villainous goals. Thus, he comes off far more like a dangerous encounter than a true villain who's actively carving out his niche in the world of Golarion. Put another way, to me, a villain is someone who's bringing evil into the world through his own progressive actions...not someone waiting in the mountains for PCs to eventually encounter him or hunt him down as the next bit of XP to be harvested for their advancing career as adventurers. And that's how Sarkun feels to me.

The stat block devoured many of my words. I should have gone for a lower level villain, and found a more creative solution to making his skin rocky. In fact, I already have plans for the edit to do just this and allow to help flush out his ties to the morlocks better. This should leave more room for more flushed out hooks.

Neil Spicer wrote:
But, let's set that aside and take a look at your stat-block. First off, I think you should present him as a "Male human (Shoanti) druid (cave druid) 10" rather than specifying the Skoan Quah and lowercasing Shoanti...but maybe that's just me? You need to lowercase "Humanoid"...his flat-footed AC should be 21 instead of 19...and hit points should be 73 instead of 65...looks like his Speed should be 20 ft. in hide armor...your spells look solid along with the Darkness domain selection...and you got all the ability score math, BAB/CMB/CMD, and feat selections (including bonus feats) right. Your skills are mostly right, but his Stealth should actually be +14 rather than +12 (i.e., you pick up a +4 bonus for the Stealthy feat with 10 ranks in it rather than the typical +2). You should also alphabetize your languages (so Druidic should appear after Common and before Shoanti). And, you've got plenty of wealth to cover all his gear. In fact, you've way underspent on this villain and could have ramped him up even higher with a few more choice wondrous items.

Yeah I was unsure on that, so I stuck with it. A gamble in formatting much like Sarkun’s klar.

I am really not sure where you’re getting an additional 8 hp to add on to his hit point total. I used the (4.5 x 10) to calculate the hit points gained for HD. Even if I maxed the first HD, I only get 68 hp.

Stealthy was sloppiness on my part. Needed one more feat and completely forgot about that boost after I raised him to 10th level.

The flat-footed AC mistake was due to my misunderstanding of the rules. In my mind, shields needed to be readied therefore could not be a part of a flat-footed AC.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

Stony druid to explain the stony skin. Interesting!

Another cave druid this competition. Interesting!

Style issue you may not have noticed: We don't use "you" in readaloud text because it can often presume actions by the PCs. You could have cut "at you" from that sentence and preserved the meaning.

"Their mine collapsed, the town of Copperhold is attacked nightly by crawling men." You're burying the subject of the sentence (the town) and have a disagreement between that subject and the word "their."

Given that he works with morlocks, I would have liked to see more spells that he would cast on his allies.

Yeah I really brutalized that sentence trying to make the word count.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Ryan Dancey wrote:

Summary: 0 Points

Recommendation: Not recommended for advancement

Ryan 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 one of the most unusual images. The rock-like look and glowing blue tattoos need to be explained. Stoneskin only lasts 100 minutes per casting. The blue glowing tattoos aren't described meaningfully either.

0 Points.

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

This is a bog-standard "stay off my lawn" druid. Adds no value.

0 Points.

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

The character went into the wilderness and came back ... changed ...

But why? And the change was what? And there's this written alliance with the morlocks but nothing backing that up. Neither the motivation nor the mechanics seems to be working.

0 Points.

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

I don't see any twist. This is just a druid NPC who doesn't like outsiders in the lands he considers his protectorate.

0 Points.

I have to agree. The stoneskin reliance needs to be changed already working on a edit to resolve that issue as well as flush out the change, his ascociation with the morlocks, and push him a bit away from simply SOML druid stereotype.

As for the glowing tattoos. The picture never really said glowing to me, more just painted on. Like warpaint, or the standard shoanti tattoos just placed on stone skin.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

You’re almost as bad as Neil. I’m just going to go through, and find what I haven’t covered from other judges comments.

Mark Moreland wrote:
Moving on, I'm puzzled by his used of creatures with tremorsense as "unwitting guardians." What does that mean? And where's Copperhold? This is Varisia, one of the most developed regions of the Inner Sea. There are plenty of towns that are already on the map. No need to make a new one.

Alright first tremorsense. Thanks to Sarkun’s lightfoot ability for being a cave druid, he cannot be detected by tremorsense. So creatures that rely on it would not realize he is around.

Though Sarkun is a shoanti, I chose the Skoan-Quah for their tie the Mindspin Mountains. The range is not simply located in Varisia. Other regions the mountains touch include: Hold of Belkzen, Molthune, Nidal, and Nirmathas. Also with the limitations of maps at my immediate disposal there were no smaller mining towns noted for me to take advantage of. So there was a need.

Mark Moreland wrote:
Moving into his tactics, he can't cast stoneskin, as he lacks the material component to do so. That means his illustration really doesn't fit as it depicts a guy who remembered his 150 gp worth of diamond dust. Then I see he hampers movement with deeper darkness; he certainly does—including his own, as darkvision won't work in magical darkness. Oops!

I should have a spell component pouch in his gear. As for stoneskin though, the stat block assumes he already cast it, so I did not include it in his gear.

As for deeper darkness, thanks to his ability eyes of darkness he can temporarily penetrate the spells darkness. And thanks to his Blind-Fight feat he has advantages over his opponents even when that runs out.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Stephen Radney-MacFarland wrote:

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.

Nice art pick, and an interesting story for the pick. I really wanted to like this one because it started so well.

I’ll echo what Mark said about the read-aloud text. Don’t tell PC what they do. They hate that.

The stat block goes a little shoanti crazy; you beat us over the head with it. I don’t need to know in the stat block which tribe or even what human race he is, especially since he is not a very typical member of his race or tribe. That all goes in the background sections.

I do like his escape routine, not only will it be effective sometimes (and escape routines rarely are when you have a determined group of PCs hungry for information or XP) it’s a good fit with the character.

Overall, though, I do not recommend for advancement. Good luck in the voting, Ryan.

Thanks very much, Stephen. I'm glad you liked the escape routine. I thought a good escape plan for a villian makes him less likely to simply become a one-stop shop for XP.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Jason Nelson wrote:

Big ups for the cave druid, and clever to use stoneskin to explain the stone giant face, but expensive components are important to account for in the gear.

I was interested to see what you would do with the morlock connection. Alas, pretty much nothing, unless the morlocks are the "crawling men" from the last hook.

More to the point, though, this guy is just okay. Kind of generically evil cuz he's evil. As someone said, a standard "git offa mah lawn" hostile druid. You can use him in an adventure, but he's just another faceless cog in the villainous machine.

Crawling men were supposed to refer to Morlocks.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Steven T. Helt wrote:
Seems like you'd do better with a second attempt, and I'm happy to critique a director's cut after this round ends.

Well depending on how the voting went this may come sooner or later. I always do an edit though. If you check my previous entries you will see the modified versions of the entries based on the critism I got.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Ryan Marsh wrote:
Neil, you wrote comments nearly as long as the entry itself.

Yeah. I have a tendency to do that. Paizo should assign me a word count on my commentary. That might rein me in...

...some. ;-)

Ryan Marsh wrote:
The stat block devoured many of my words. I should have gone for a lower level villain, and found a more creative solution to making his skin rocky. In fact, I already have plans...

This is part of that learning experience thing that this contest brands into you. And believe me, every freelancer struggles with word count. It doesn't matter how long the assignment is...or how many words you're given. You'll always find a way to burn through them. But, there's an economy to it where, professionally, you have to strike the right balance. Sometimes you hit it. Sometimes you don't. Just learn from the times you don't and adjust accordingly.

Ryan Marsh wrote:
I am really not sure where you’re getting an additional 8 hp to add on to his hit point total. I used the (4.5 x 10) to calculate the hit points gained for HD. Even if I maxed the first HD, I only get 68 hp.

Favored class hit points might have factored into it? Or, as I'm starting to wonder, the trusty Paizo spreadsheet might have had a bug in the calculation, because I found more than once where it wasn't rounding or combining things quite like I expected. Thus, the lesson learned is always double-check yourself (and, by that, I mean me, not just you) and don't overly rely on tools and templates to do the job. It's like someone becoming calculator-dependent and no longer having any idea of the underlying equations and mathematics used to derive the answers.

Interestingly enough, I actually considered not trying to replicate stat-blocks to provide commentary on everyone's submissions. But, I felt that would be eyeballing things too much...which could lead to just as many false assumptions about a stat-block's accuracy. Plus, I felt like if I were in the shoes of an RPG Superstar competitor again, I'd appreciate someone going that extra mile to also assess the hard work I put in on the math side of things. So, I committed to giving it a go. I never would have contemplated doing so, however, unless I had Paizo's spreadsheet available. Otherwise, there's just no way I'd have had the time to crunch everything.

But, regardless, the bottom line for me was that the stat-block critiques were meant to try and improve everyone here as designers...not to simply light your designs on fire and sway the public vote. I think potential RPG Superstars recognize that...both those competing in this year's contest, and those among the voting public who are watching and learning with each round of the competition. And I also think a potential RPG Superstar knows when to batten down the hatches and sail into the wind and the waves, setting aside the critiques they know to be flawed or less helpful without getting dragged down by them. And that goes for whether you advance to next round or fall out and come back for next year's competition. Always...always...learn and grow.

My two cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

If favoured class had been factored that would have been an additional 10 hp. Would have put me to either 75 hp or 78 hp. So its just not working out to what the spreadsheet said it should have been. hehe... Oh well.

Also I gave him bonus Skill ranks instead of Hp.

The critiques never get me down, though I sometimes have to beat down the gut reaction from harsh critism. Then I come back and take what I can from the critiques. Its why both my Wondrous Item and Archetype have editted versions already posted in their threads. And I can guarantee you that advance or no there will be an editted version of Sarkun as well.

Though if I do end up advancing, I won't be working on it until after the deadline for the Round 4 entries.


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…


Dear Mr. Marsh,
The unpleasantness of the obligatory (good manners, you know) 'so long, farewell, auf weidersehen, goodnight' post having been dealt with, have you ever (whilst travelling the planes and multiverses) holidayed on the Discworld? I inquire since there is a mountain (with dwarven mining activities) there known as 'Copperhead', and I saw your 'Copperhold' and wondered...

Yours,

Ask A RPGSupersuccubus.

Postscript:
Since you had expressed some admiration for my posts, even if the news (in terms of relative positioning of where Sarkun ended up in my GB supersuccubus ratings summary) may not have been quite to your liking, I hope that you saw the post I made on what has effectively been the vote-reporting thread for Rounds 2 and 3 regarding Round 3.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Ask A RPGSupersuccubus wrote:

Dear Mr. Marsh,

The unpleasantness of the obligatory (good manners, you know) 'so long, farewell, auf weidersehen, goodnight' post having been dealt with, have you ever (whilst travelling the planes and multiverses) holidayed on the Discworld? I inquire since there is a mountain (with dwarven mining activities) there known as 'Copperhead', and I saw your 'Copperhold' and wondered...

Yours,

Ask A RPGSupersuccubus.

Postscript:
Since you had expressed some admiration for my posts, even if the news (in terms of relative positioning of where Sarkun ended up in my GB supersuccubus ratings summary) may not have been quite to your liking, I hope that you saw the post I made on what has effectively been the vote-reporting thread for Rounds 2 and 3 regarding Round 3.

I most certainly did see the posts there. It has been a long time since I have holidayed in Discworld, but I most certainly have.


I'll be completely honest....as your brother of course lol...I didnt feel, based on your villian, that you should move on anyways. You've been thinking up villians and battle ideas since we were like 7(average age of us both lol) and i truthuflly thought this articular one was underwhelming and uninteresting...

Comming from a guy who has actually admired most of your work and has portrayed himself based on a villian you created that just so happened to based on me. (Venerax Angel) Love that name lol

Anyways good job anyways, I've been meaning to game with you once or twice more before you move away but alas...i am to busy....

Also I'm truthfully suprised you took the time to respond to most of the critism lol

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013 aka Anry

Venerax wrote:

I'll be completely honest....as your brother of course lol...I didnt feel, based on your villian, that you should move on anyways. You've been thinking up villians and battle ideas since we were like 7(average age of us both lol) and i truthuflly thought this articular one was underwhelming and uninteresting...

Comming from a guy who has actually admired most of your work and has portrayed himself based on a villian you created that just so happened to based on me. (Venerax Angel) Love that name lol

Anyways good job anyways, I've been meaning to game with you once or twice more before you move away but alas...i am to busy....

Also I'm truthfully suprised you took the time to respond to most of the critism lol

Your lack of faith disturbs me, brother.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka motteditor

Man, now I totally want to create a villain based on my (non-gaming) sister. Why have I never thought of doing that?


motteditor wrote:
Man, now I totally want to create a villain based on my (non-gaming) sister. Why have I never thought of doing that?

Beats me, my character was a stubborn jack ass that pretty much kept f*%&ing up all his plans(from what i remember anyways)....ype thats me lol

Ryan Marsh wrote:


Venerax wrote:
I'll be completely honest....as your brother of course lol...I didnt feel, based on your villian, that you should move on anyways. You've been thinking up villians and battle ideas since we were like 7(average age of us both lol) and i truthuflly thought this articular one was underwhelming and uninteresting...

Comming from a guy who has actually admired most of your work and has portrayed himself based on a villian you created that just so happened to based on me. (Venerax Angel) Love that name lol

Anyways good job anyways, I've been meaning to game with you once or twice more before you move away but alas...i am to busy....

Also I'm truthfully suprised you took the time to respond to most of the critism lol

Your lack of faith disturbs me, brother.

Well you didn't expect me to be impressed in anyway did u? Heck i could have come up with better concepts than you did through this whole process....i just dont know the nitty gritty details to do something like this.

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