Pathfinder miniatures. Very cool! I wish you luck.
I love the idea of syncing minis releases with Adventure Paths. The prices are expensive but not unreasonable for well-painted figures.
Whoever suggested a Froghemoth is right on the money. I'd also love to see an Eye of the Deep, given that it's in the Tome of Horrors as open game content. Feel free to make an Ossuary Golem, too! ;)
Like I said, I don't fault the contestants for this round. You play the hand you're dealt and that's that. I'm just not convinced archetypes were a good choice for an early round.
MaxAstro, I"ll second your comment about inaccurate criticism. If I remember my New Argonauts sourcebook correctly, SKR removed heavy armor from fighters, and balanced it by giving them free Combat Expertise...in other words, the same thing he dinged one of the Fighter archetypes for. Now, it's possible I'm remembering that wrong, as it's been a while since I read NA, but that was my impression.
I don't feel comfortable recommending any of the archetypes for advancement - they either have issues with style, balance, or are conversions of 3.5 PrCs (didn't Complete Divine have a similar Evangelist?)
However, I think that's more the fault of the round choice than the contestants - the APG covers archetypes quite thoroughly, and there isn't much design space out there that's worth covering (and isn't an already-existing 3.5 PrC).
Alexander MacLeod wrote:
Oh dear, Alex - your proposal sounds a little too much like "Dino-Pirates of Ninja Island" (www.dino-pirates.com). We might have to hoist the dreaded Amber Flag...
(If you guys haven't checked out Dino-Pirates, you should do it. It's awesome and hilarious. Hilariously awesome, one might say.)
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, but when you have to remember 1000 pages of rules, it's nice to take memory shortcuts and know that monster racial skill bonuses are generally +4 or +8.
This is very true from a developer's point of view, and creates a nice easy to remember shorthand.
That being said, 90% of my 3.5 players thought that monster skill bonuses were generated out of the ether - it's not something most people ever think about one way or another, even if they read the statblock carefully.
If you really, really get the PF/3.5 monster design process, most of those fiddly rules hide the fact you can pretty much do whatever you want if you have to -- check out WotC's 3.5 MM3 for perhaps the clearest example of this process taken perhaps a little farther than it should go. Some of the HD/ability score combinations in that book are craaazy...
From Time's Depths
From Time's Depths is an exploration-oriented dungeon adventure for 6th-level characters. The PCs should be 8th level at the module's conclusion.
Long ago, the aboleth rulers of Azlant became tired of the increasingly arrogant nature of their human subjects and plotted to destroy them. However, there was a risk that some of Azlant's aboleth-trained mages - particularly the powerful spellcasters in the great academy-city of Uthua - would escape destruction and wreck terrible vengeance. To avoid complications, the aboleths resolved to destroy Uthua first.
The aboleths summoned the Starstone and an enigmatic entity dwelling nearby, the starstone scion. They sent the starstone scion just prior to the Starstone's arrival, sending Uthua to the bottom of the sea. With Azlant's most powerful mages entombed miles underwater, the Starstone crashed into Golarion, destroying Azlant utterly.
However, the starstone scion had an unforeseen effect on sunken Uthua – its impact partially severed the city from the normal flow of time, causing small areas within the city to endlessly repeat the events occurring just prior to the catastrophe.
Adventure Hook: Mysterious Map
The adventure begins after the PCs have deciphered the strange map and chartered a vessel to the sunken continent of Azlant.
The Devilfish (male half-fiend ogre witch):
The truth about the Devilfish is terrible enough. He stands ten feet tall with a bristling black beard, red longcoat, and a giant black cloak concealing his massive diabolic wings. He delights in his bloodthirsty reputation and chose the name of one of Golarian's most feared ocean denizens to better sow terror in his wake. While the Devilfish does possess the cruelty common to all ogres, he is somewhat more cautious and far more cunning than most. One of his favorite tricks involves setting hapless adventuring parties on the trail of fabulous riches, then swooping in to overpower them once the exhausted explorers try to return home with their spoils.
In combat, the Devilfish is capable of withering foes with hexes from afar, or slicing them in two with his razor-sharp falchion while his archeopteryx familiar swoops in to deliver debilitating spells. His crew consists of combat-seasoned sahuagin skilled in the use of weighted nets to entangle “little fishies”, the term they reserve for their unfortunate victims. The Devilfish's current ship, the Frenzy, was stolen from the Mordant Spire elves and has proved quite useful in helping him plunder Azlanti treasures without interference.
As the PCs explore Uthua, they will discover timestorms and other strange sights in the ruins of the ancient city. Listed below are some of these areas:
As PCs enter timestorms, they will eventually meet Oguuth, Uthua's last living survivor.
Oguuth (black pudding id ooze sorcerer)
Trapped in the ocean depths, Oguuth found his new body abhorrent, but discovered that he could assume the guise of his previous human form – an obese smooth-shaven man with imperious mien – by staying within the strange timestorms created by the creature in the crater at the city's center. The long press of time and the restrictions of his amoeboid body have robbed Oguuth of social graces and much of his magical knowledge, which now manifests at a lesser, almost instinctual level. Oguuth only converses from within a timestorm in his human form, and goes to great lengths to hide his inhuman nature from visitors.
The first time the party enters a timestorm with Oguuth present, he is eager to make small talk and to hear news of the outside world. If questioned, he claims merely to be part of the current timestorm, a lie that will wear thin as the party repeatedly encounters him. If the PCs do not yet realize that timestorms are erasable, Oguuth can be tricked into revealing it. Once the party attempts to erase a timestorm, Oguuth reacts poorly, fleeing into a nearby crevice (or casting invisibility) if the party appears likely to succeed and reveal his true form. If the PCs become suspicious about Oguuth's presence in so many timestorms and confront him, he mutters something about protecting his treasures in the crater, and disappears a final time.
Listed below is an encounter that may feature Oguuth.
If Oguuth is present, he observes the speech with a wistful look on his face. He flees at the first sign of violence, but speaks alongside the demagogue if the PCs attempt to rally the crowd.
When the timestorm dissipates, the now-ruined amphitheater appears, covered in fibrous orange polyps. A dripping hole in the floor gapes from behind the speaker's stone podium.
Monsters of Uthua:
Listed below is a sampling of the creatures PCs might encounter while exploring Uthua:
NEW MONSTER: Skum, Deep Mother
Faced with a lack of females to carry on their kind, the skum of the deep ocean trenches resort to an unpleasant ritual in which an individual ingests prodigious quantities of fluid extracted from the glands of female fish. Over time, the now-feminized skum grows to enormous size, with a bloated ovoid body, a sprawling quadrupedal posture, and a yawning toothy maw capable of swallowing a giant squid whole. The atrophied bodies of male skum hang from her corpulent form, and a long filament projects from between her eyes, terminating in a glowing orb.
In combat, a deep mother relies on the magical abilities projected from her orb to blind and stun prey so she can swallow them without resistance. The creature can swiftly shrivel the body of an attached skum to heal and regain her orb abilities, and other skum can latch on to her if she requires additional sustenance.
The Final Goal
Awakening the Scion
Blessing of the Starstone Scion:
Three times during his or her adventuring career, a PC can utilize a fraction of the starstone scion's power as a swift action. Time briefly pauses, giving the PC an additional standard or move action with the restrictions of the time stop spell. After the action is performed, time (and the rest of the PC's turn) proceeds normally.
At the tower's apex, the PCs see a ship approaching, but it is not their own – the Devilfish has returned to steal the fruits of the party's labors. Before the tower sinks completely, his crew extends a gangplank, laughing at the party's predicament and telling them they can come aboard like men or like fish. The PCs can fight (see Combat) or attempt to parlay with the Devilfish, but Oguuth is not quite finished with those who destroyed the final illusion of his humanity. When Oguuth split himself, one piece hid while the others pleaded and fought, and it follows the PCs up the tower before latching on to the Frenzy. As the PCs fight or bargain with the Devilfish and his crew, Oguuth dissolves through the hull and bursts onto the main deck, howling for revenge.
When Oguuth joins the battle, he eschews spellcasting for the more personal approach of grabbing and dissolving the PCs one by one. He defends himself against the crew if attacked, but prefers to focus on the PCs.
New Item: Choking Cloak
This fine rayskin cloak has an elaborate golden clasp engraved with images of tentacles dragging screaming sailors to their doom. When worn, the cloak attempts to suffocate its wearer unless they quickly utter a command word or slip from its grasp. Once per day, the wearer can toss the cloak at a nearby creature – on impact, the item assumes the form of a cloaker and immediately attempts to engulf.
It's sad to see you go, Ben.
I really liked your Gut-stone, and your Churjir stats were bang-on perfect, with some clever abilities to boot.
I remember reading the Top 32 items and going "hmm, this Bruck fellow is one to watch out for." That's still true, by the way - I suspect we'll see you again, and I wish you the best of luck!
Thanks for the kind words, everyone!
I'm hard at work on the final challenge at the moment, but when I get a chance to breathe again, I'll talk a little bit more about this round, including alternative ideas I discarded, the "green star" (non)controversy, and why iron cobras rule.
In between rounds, you may also have fun Googling the phrase (use quotes!) "open are the double doors of the horizon" - look out for a Wikipedia article and a youtube video, in particular. ;)
False Tomb of the Crawling Pharaoh
In a forgotten courtyard within the Necropolis of the Faithful lies a most unusual tomb. Its defaced obelisks reveal no secrets, and no ghosts roam its confines at night.
The tomb's still-unbroken magical seal proclaims: “Behold the False Tomb of the Crawling Pharaoh. He does not abide within; his beasts have devoured him whole, and his soul screams in the void beyond the horizon. Let no man enter and let no record be kept, that eternity may erase all memory of our enemy."
No other writings directly mention a pharaoh by this name, and Osiriontologists debate the truthfulness of the seal's inscription – is it accurate, or merely a deception to discourage weak-willed thieves?
Those who probe deeper into the tomb's mysteries may discover the following:
Auspicious Starfall (CR 8, 4,800 XP):
The mad sage was successful, and now his charred corpse lies before the false tomb's seal. You can still make out his final incantation, traced into the desert sand in words of flickering green flame:
The stars hunger tonight.
This encounter features several timed events – resolve the listed event or call for Perception checks at the beginning of the round before PCs and monsters act. Do not draw areas R1 and R2; they will come into play shortly.
The astrumal notices the obelisk and unless prevented, moves back towards its crater on its turn, withdrawing from combat if necessary.
The figure in (T2) falls apart if disturbed or damaged, which sends the staff clattering to the ground. On initiative count 12, the gilded cobra attacks.
A stone shape spell stabilizes the obelisk (O3). A DC 25 Strength check causes the obelisk to fall in a direction away from the PC, creating a 40 by 10 foot area of dense rubble (as area R2). The obelisk cannot damage the False Tomb or its seal.
The astrumal avoids the falling obelisk; the cobra ignores it.
Neither the astrumal or cobras react to the incoming star.
Gilded Cobras (2) CR 3
Why I chose the Astrumal
The Astrumal was one of a handful of monsters that really grabbed me last round (Slithering Horror was another favorite of mine), but unlike the Horror, the Astrumal had a problematic power set and seemed to be definitely in the CR10+ range. I did a quick draft of the Horror (short version: it spit people out as a reaction to taking damage and it could projectile vomit a swallowed opponent into other foes) but it just didn't quite feel "Superstar" to me.
I decided that taking a difficult monster, figuring out its core theme, and making that work at CR 5 would be more "Superstar"-esque. Plus, it was a chance to really fire up the creativity, and being creative is one of my favorite things about RPG design.
The essence of the Astrumal, and abilities
When I read the Astrumal entry, the theme of "ravenous living meteor with magnetism powers" made the biggest impression, so I first tackled the magnetism angle. Magnetic powers have a whole host of fiddly rules issues and have a very "sci-fi" feel to them (as Clark noted) so I tried to find a way to give the Astrumal the feel of magnetism without turning it into an actual magnetic monster. One other issue with "real" magnetism is the issue of what happens if the Astrumal faced a party of druids, monks, and barbarians with hide armor and stone weapons - it had to be able to still put up a fight! (That being said, I did do one "real" magnetism draft where the Astrumal would use magnetism to pull arrows out of an archer's quiver, then fling them everywhere, but sadly the power was way too fiddly).
I don't like monsters with an endless list of abilities, so I tried to distill "magnetism" to a few flavorful abilities. I went through a lot of drafts at this stage. I liked the idea of the Astrumal embedding a piece of "metal from spaaaaace" into a target, who would then be vulnerable to being pushed and pulled around. Originally, the astrumal fired off pieces of its armor plating at targets, losing AC until it pulled them back in. This turned out to be very problematic - what if the fighter stuffs a plate into a bag of holding? what if the barbarian throws a plate into lava? etc. - so I reconcepted the plates into tiny shards of metal. Now the Astrumal could have thousands of them, so keeping track of "ammo" wouldn't be that relevant. I briefly considered having the "lodeshards" also count as the cursed item known as loadstones, but I thought that was doing too much.
Void body became a catch-all ability that contained both an entropic shield ability and made sure the Astrumal couldn't fly too high, to stop it from flying high in the air, pulling a PC towards it, then dropping them. There was also a nod to suffocation and starvation rules - the Astrumal still feels hunger, but it can float forever in space without starvation, thirst, or lack of oxygen killing it.
I also gave the Astrumal immunity to falling damage to assist in its meteor schtick, along with immunity to fire and cold to deal with re-entry and space, respectively. Since the astrumal can only freely fly outside of a gravity field, when it gets close to a planet, it "falls" until it hits the ground, leaves a crater, and then its hovering kicks in (and yeah, I really should have spelled this out using my extra 100 words). How does an Astrumal leave a planet? Standback hit the nail on the head - the Astrumal has to finish eating enough of the planet that the gravity field disappears, allowing the Astrumal to freely float away. (I should have spelled this one out too!)
I designed its damage to be right at the average values for a CR 5 monster. For either of its two standard actions, it deals an average of 15 damage(bite) or 10 damage(shardstorm), which left 5 damage unaccounted for. A lodeshard does 1d4, and pulling out a lodeshard also does 1d4, which averages together into 5 damage. Granted, the shard-removal damage doesn't trigger until a shardstorm, but it is built into the "DPR" calculations.
I hope you've enjoyed your look into the inner workings of the Astrumal, and should I be fortunate enough to make the cutoff for the next round, tune in next week for my latest creation! Thanks again for your comments and your votes, and if you have more questions, don't hesitate to ask.
Thanks for the comments, guys!
I hope you enjoy my take on the Astrumal - as always, if you like it (and/or my portfolio of work so far), vote for me!
Once the voting period is over, I'll talk about why I chose the Astrumal, explain some of my design decisions, and answer any specific questions folks have.
Astrumal CR 5
Embed Lodeshard (Su) As a swift action, an astrumal can launch a lodeshard with a range increment of 30 feet at a single target without provoking attacks of opportunity. On a successful attack, the lodeshard deals 1d4 piercing damage and becomes embedded. An embedded lodeshard can be removed with a DC 15 Heal check.
Lodeshard Control (Su) An astrumal may make a CMB check as a move action against a living creature within 60 feet with an embedded lodeshard. If the check is successful, the creature is pushed 30 feet away from the astrumal or pulled 30 feet towards it. Creatures pushed or pulled in this way do not provoke attacks of opportunity and stop if the push or pull would move them into a solid object or creature.
Shardstorm (Su) As a standard action, an astrumal can violently recall all embedded lodeshards within 60 feet. Each creature with embedded lodeshards takes 1d4 slashing damage for each shard recalled from its body, and creatures adjacent to the astrumal take 4d4 slashing damage as all of the astrumal's lodeshards briefly orbit its body before reattaching to its armor plates (Reflex DC 16 half). The save DC is Constitution-based.
Astrumals hail from the dark places between the stars and exist only to consume. They will digest anything given time but prefer to devour living creatures. An astrumal's spherical form is split in half by a vertical toothy maw, and flesh grotesquely bulges out from underneath the armor plates that protect the creature from the hazards of the void. The armor plates of an astrumal are covered in lodeshards – tiny metal slivers attuned to the creature's unusual magical energies and used to deadly effect when embedded in living prey. Creatures that look like an easy meal are pulled into biting range, while enemies capable of hurting the astrumal are pushed away. If beset by multiple foes, an astrumal discourages its attackers by briefly releasing a swirling vortex of lodeshards.
An astrumal is usually encountered emerging from a smoking impact crater, but the creature's endless hunger leads it to a variety of locales. Astrumals make poor allies due to their insatiable appetites and inability to communicate, though they tolerate the presence of other members of their kind if prey is abundant. The astrumals' single-minded focus on consumption is said to have delighted a one of ancient Thassilon's rulers, who went to great lengths to acquire the dangerous creatures for use as guardians and entertainment.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to check out the Ossuary Golem, with a special thanks to those who voted for it! ;)
Sean suggests that a discussion of mechanics would be unwise at this stage, so I'll unfortunately have to wait on those questions.
My "creative flash of insight" for the monster round was a scene around the table where the PCs defeat a difficult monster, only to have its malevolent spirit reform and continue the fight.
After a few flirtations with a mummy variant that manifested as an incorporeal spirit after its physical body had been destroyed, I decided that a golem would be both more versatile from a DM's perspective and a little bit more fun to design. Golems are typically powered by elemental spirits, so a golem powered by a trapped undead seemed like a fun design space to explore. My Google-fu suggested that the "undead in a box" idea was not that common as a monster concept, so I set to work!
One of the hardest parts was deciding on a name. Ossuary, sarcophagus, coffin, urn, and sepulcher were all words I considered. Sarcophagus had immediate Egyptian connotations, coffin had a similar issue with vampires, and urn seemed potentially insensitive towards those who've had relatives cremated, so they were discarded. I liked the connotations of sepulchre, particularly the well-known quotation from the book of Matthew ("for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness") but on the other hand, sepulchre usually refers to the entire tomb structure, and it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Ossuary was a term often linked to the Capuchin monks (as many of you noticed!), but it also had the more general definition of "receptacle for the bones of the dead" and was a little easier to say than "sepulchre".
Why would an evil/good spellcaster make one of these in the first place?
For evil spellcasters, it's a way to enhance the power of an undead guardian (since both the construct and the undead have to be defeated) and a way to convert an intelligent undead into a creature that is required to follow orders. Sure, that undead could always get free and want revenge, but what threat could a lowly undead minion REALLY pose to such a powerful mage, right? ;)
For good spellcasters, some undead creatures - particularly ghosts(which can reform) and vampires(which often have hidden coffins) - can be difficult to deal with. With an ossuary golem, one can seal the dangerous creature in a container that can a) remain inert for centuries unless disturbed and b) can defend itself if attacked. It's not a perfect solution by any means, but in my experience, imperfect solutions tend to make for better stories.
If you have any more non-mechanical questions, please ask! Do note that if I make it to the next round, there may be a delay before I answer said questions as I frantically work on the next challenge. ;)
Powers and Abilities: An ossuary golem has the extraordinary strength and immunity to magic possessed by other golems, but the imprisoned undead within the construct fuels several potent necromantic abilities. The glowing eye sockets of the golem discharge magical rays that drain the life force of living targets, and opponents who heavily damage the golem's body can cause it to release a torrent of negative energy. When an ossuary golem is finally destroyed, it explodes in a burst of necromantic magic that unleashes the trapped (and often enraged) undead. Ossuary golems are particularly dangerous in groups, as the negative energy they emit can bolster undead freed from other destroyed golems.
Aura moderate transmutation; CL 10th
Slot head; Price 26,000 gp; Weight 3 lbs.
This oily bronze helm is fashioned in the shape of a frog's head. Three times per day, as a swift action, the helm fires an unerring tongue of force at a visible target within 20 feet.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, telekinesis; Cost 13,000 gp