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RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4. 33 posts. No reviews. No lists. No wishlists.


RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

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::tips hat::

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Wow, Tom. Your entries were awesome back in 2010, and they're still great today.

You've got a vote from me. I can't wait to see your final round adventure!

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

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Good monster choices? FROGHEMOTH.

(and if you're feeling generous, an Aboleth)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

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! ;)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

This is my favorite, and has my vote.

The Golarion-specific issues don't concern me - this is RPG Superstar, not Golarion Superstar.

I like the sandbox nature of the adventure, and a clockwork "World's Fair" is awesome. Good luck!

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

There are definite issues with some parts of your entry, but this is by far my favorite of the eight. I look forward to reading your adventure proposal.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

My entry last year - which made the cut to the finals - used Inkscape. I would strongly advise generating your map that way.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

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 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.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

I'm not claiming that the design space is utterly exhausted, merely that we're clearly in the area of diminishing returns already. Most of the "archetypes" we're seeing are either incredibly niche or just not that doable mechanically.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

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).

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

I was too busy with work to officially judge anything for this years' Superstar, but I just wanted to stop in and say that your item this year is probably my favorite of the round. Good luck!

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Alexander MacLeod wrote:
gbonehead wrote:
Everyone DID see Clark's last minute addendum to the rules, right? The one that said any event with monkeys gets 5 bonus votes?
I should be good with my proposal for The Robot Dinosaurs of Pirate-Monkey Island (May Contain Ninjas), so I'm not worried!

Oh dear, Alex - your proposal sounds a little too much like "Dino-Pirates of Ninja Island" ( 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.)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

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...

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Enjoy, guys! I certainly had fun! :)

Once more into the breach, everyone...

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

From Time's Depths

A millennia-old artifact resurrects an ancient city from the depths of the sea, and the race is on to plunder the riches of a forgotten age! The heroes must overcome dangers past and present, including bloodthirsty pirates, hungry sea creatures, and the city's horrific last living survivor if they wish to uncover the mystery of the resurfaced city and survive to tell the tale.

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.

Adventure Background

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
Before the adventure begins, the party acquires a blank metallic scroll and a small crystal pendant. Depending on the circumstances, they might win one or both of the items in a game of chance, steal them from a dying pirate, or receive them from a mysterious patron. When the crystal is exposed to magical illumination and held near the scroll, magical Azlanti writing points the way to a city of great magical power near the northeastern tip of the sunken continent. Wearing or holding the pendant also grants the user the ability to understand and communicate in the ancient Azlanti language.

The adventure begins after the PCs have deciphered the strange map and chartered a vessel to the sunken continent of Azlant.

Opening Scene
As the party's ship navigates the treacherous rocky outcroppings near Azlant, a vessel is spotted on the horizon that resembles one of the swift cutters piloted by the hostile Mordant Spire elves. Unfortunately for the PCs, these are no mere elves – when the vessel spies them, its sails flare blood-red and display a horned skull with two crossed barbed tentacles, the symbol of the notorious pirate that men call the Devilfish.

The Devilfish (male half-fiend ogre witch):
The enigmatic figure known as the Devilfish is one of western Avistan's most notorious pirates. If one believes the whispered tales told in rum-soaked coastal taverns, his mother, an ogress from the hills of the Devil's Perch, consorted with a minion of Hell and was gifted with a son. The child escaped to Cheliax's capital where he received training as a Hellknight before he deserted, slaughtered an admiral, and commandeered one of the Navy's prize ships with the aid of a murderous tribe of sahuagin.

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.

Once the Devilfish reveals himself, he launches a dragonnel (ToH 170) from the deck of the Frenzy. The creature quickly approaches the PC's ship on great leathery wingbeats, and as its shadow falls over the ship, four sahuagin dive from its back(taking 10 on their +15 Swim checks to avoid damage from falls up to 150 feet) and the dragonnel drops a large smoke-bomb. Hidden by the choking smoke, the sahuagin divers climb on board while the dragonnel descends. When the dragonnel reaches the deck, a four-armed one-eyed sahuagin - the Devilfish's vicious bosun Bloodgill - leaps from its back. Unlike the nets carried by the sahuagin divers, Bloodgill's nets have trailing ropes attached to the dragonnel. An entangled PC must escape the net or cut its trailing rope before the dragonnel takes to the air, or climb up the rope and goad the angry reptile back to the ship.

Uthua Rises:
At a dramatically appropriate moment during or after the battle, the starstone scion senses the pendant and triggers a massive earthquake. The Frenzy flees as massive waves rock the PC's ship and giant slime-encrusted buildings break the water's surface. For the first time in five thousand years, Uthua, ancient wizard-city of the Azlanti, escapes its deep ocean prison.

Exploring Uthua
The water around Uthua is too shallow for the ship – the PCs need to row, fly, or swim to the city, with a half-submerged columned temple offering the easiest point of entry. Most of the city bears the mark of its time in the ocean depths - pulsing growths and bone-white corals cover its paving-stones and decaying walls, and the grotesquely bulging bodies of strange fish litter the streets. However, in small areas called timestorms, Uthua appears as it did in ages past.

Created by the sleeping starstone scion, a timestorm is a reflection of an event that occurred long ago when the strange creature destroyed Uthua. The events within a timestorm endlessly repeat, unfolding exactly the same as they did in Uthua's final hours. Outside entities are free to enter, exit, and interact with the timestorm, though they cannot remove the original objects or creatures from the area. The timestorm counters minor alterations with small coincidences, but events involving the timestorm's major actors - like saving a life, killing someone, or altering a similarly important occurrence - turn the timestorm into an imperfect reflection of past events, erasing it and freeing the trapped souls inside. The ethics of a timestorm are not straightforward – is killing in a timestorm an evil act if it frees souls from endless recursion?

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:

  • The ruins of a large central structure containing a strangely helpful timestorm-trapped aboleth that realizes it doesn't precisely exist

  • The wreckage of a gutaki(PF#7 81) enclave, its hideous octopus-like inhabitants reduced to bloated waterlogged zombies that can barely move

  • An unfortunate timestorm in which Azlanti guards are torn apart by an enraged mob of escaped elven experimental subjects

  • A forest of abandoned white worm-tubes

  • Inside a timestorm in Uthua's Great Library, a mage screams for his apprentices to grab a scroll while monolithic shelves crash down, killing many of the youths

  • A titanic sea serpent in its death throes, tormented by swarms of flesh-eating crabs while it spasms and thrashes

As PCs enter timestorms, they will eventually meet Oguuth, Uthua's last living survivor.

Oguuth (black pudding id ooze sorcerer)
Before Azlant fell, Oguuth was one of Uthua's most respected mages. He received instruction from the aboleths themselves, absorbing both their incredible arcane knowledge and incomparable selfishness. When the Starstone tumbled towards Golarion, others tried to stop the meteor's inexorable descent, but Oguuth sought only to save himself. As the city sank, Oguuth's protective wards held, but they could not fully withstand the crushing blackness of the deep, transforming him into a hideous mass of corrosive protoplasm.

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.

The Speech:
In a timestorm within Uthua's ruined amphitheater, an Azlanti demagogue rallies citizens against the tyranny of their aboleth rulers. If the party attempts to alter events, there are three obvious courses of action: kill the speaker before he finishes the speech, convince the crowd (using the pendant or some other means to speak Azlanti) to ignore the call for rebellion, or simply disperse the crowd before the speaker incites them to action.

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:
Because Uthua has recently risen from the ocean, most combat occurs out of the water, and most aquatic fights happen in waist-deep or shallower water.

Listed below is a sampling of the creatures PCs might encounter while exploring Uthua:

  • Ghosts of long-dead Azlanti soldiers who regain their living appearances when they pass through a timestorm

  • A wounded albino giant squid fleeing a ravenous pack of lacedons

  • Hounds of Tindalos (PF#4 82) who harry PCs entering their timestorm lairs

  • Swarms of blind white scavenger crabs eager for a chance at fresher meat

  • The dreaded thesselmoray(ToH 407), an eight-headed moray eel

  • A tribe of skum with the features of deep-sea fish, including the hideous Deep Mother

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
Whether the PCs desire the starstone scion's power, the riches stored in its crater by Oguuth, or the release of the souls trapped by Uthua's timestorms, they must find a way to access the crater containing the starstone scion, currently blocked by a massive timestorm replaying the entity's destructive impact. If the party recovers one of the ancient artifacts Uthua's mages tried to use to prevent the catastrophe and they successfully activate it, they can “avert” the scion's arrival, erasing the timestorm. Alternatively, the PCs can discover Oguuth's secret tunnel into the crater.

Once the PCs successfully enter the crater they find the starstone scion: a gigantic humanoid form with a vaguely fetal appearance. Small timestorms are scattered through the chamber; Oguuth stands in one of them, surrounded by priceless Azlanti treasures. He beseeches the PCs not to awaken the scion, as it will destroy the last remnant of his and Azlant's past glory (in that order). If the party attempts to awaken the starstone scion despite Oguuth's entreaties (or they take the Azlanti artifacts in the chamber), Oguuth snaps and steps out of the timestorm, revealing his present form, a hideous oily amoeboid mass with the screaming silhouette of a human face. Before the confrontation, Oguuth split himself into several pieces; as one piece steps from the timestorm, two of the others ooze from cracks in the chamber, muttering curses in disquieting synchrony.

One piece of Oguuth blocks access to the starstone scion and readies to counterspell while the two others alternate between spells and melee attacks (each piece of Oguuth draws from the same set of spell slots). All three of the ooze pieces will attempt to grab PCs who move near the starstone scion.

Awakening the Scion
The starstone scion can be awakened if a PC touches it for three consecutive rounds, a task made easier if Oguuth has been defeated. Each round of sustained contact causes the starstone scion to glow more brightly, until the eyes in its oversized head open into perfect circular voids. As Uthua's timestorms cease, the creature gazes at the PCs and unfolds several delicate gelatinous wing-flukes. Wordlessly, it vanishes in a pulse of phosphorescence, and each PC within the chamber gains the blessing of the starstone scion. If Oguuth is alive when the starstone scion awakens, he flees the scene and his surviving pieces(including his hidden fourth piece) merge together before seeking their revenge (see Aftermath below).

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.

Shortly after the starstone scion departs, a shudder reverberates throughout the chamber – another earthquake is sending the city back into the depths! The PCs must race for Uthua's only standing tower as the water rises.

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.

Once the battle begins, the Devilfish hurls his choking cloak at a nearby spellcasting PC, then attempts to cast misfortune hex on a dangerous-looking melee character. If the hex succeeds, the Devilfish challenges the PC to single combat, using cackle (a deep booming laugh) to prolong the effects of the hex during the fight. If the PC accepts, the Devilfish stays true to his word and directs the crew not to interfere (though he will cast debilitating spells like bestow curse on the PC if the battle goes poorly). His crew gangs up on other likely targets, tossing weighted nets before using their Precise Strike teamwork feat (+1d6 damage while flanking).

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.

As the PCs stand victorious aboard the rapidly sinking Frenzy, a sail appears on the horizon – the party's ship has returned. Upon their return, the PCs may find themselves bombarded by sages offering large sums of money for their insights into Azlanti culture....that is, assuming anyone believes their story in the first place!

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

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!

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

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. ;)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4


Thanks for the apology and explanation (and the vote!). I'll comment more on this subject once the round has concluded.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

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:
Knowledge(History) DC 20: Despite the lack of reliable historical information on the Crawling Pharaoh, a few scholars claim that a half-burnt scroll of questionable provenance alludes to his reign. The scroll describes a cursed, deformed ruler who crawled on his belly and blasphemed against sun and stars before he died and was replaced by a pious king.
Knowledge(Nature) DC 15: The tomb's seal is made from a strange metal that is not of terrestrial origin.
Knowledge(Religion) DC 20: The top of each obelisk lacks the common Osirian inscriptions honoring the sun and stars. Unlike the rest of the structure, which has clearly been defaced, it seems these inscriptions were never carved in the first place – a grave and peculiar impiety.

Auspicious Starfall (CR 8, 4,800 XP):
You didn't arrive in time.

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:
In an empty patch of southern sky, a green star flares and hundreds, then thousands of shooting stars fill the night. There is a sudden impact, and a star lands in the courtyard, hardly fifty feet from where you stand. The ground hisses and steams as the star rises slowly from its crater, and the creature's spherical form is inexplicably split by a slavering vertical maw.

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.

Round 2:
Perception DC 5: A meteor just hit the large obelisk (O2) – cracks run its length and it will surely fall soon!
Perception DC 25: The obelisk leans northeast and will fall here (the DM should draw the outlines of area R1).
Any player who succeeds at the DC 5 Perception check may attempt either a DC 25 Craft(stonework) or DC 15 Knowledge(Engineering) check, which reveals the same information as the DC 25 Perception check, and also indicates that nothing is likely to stop the obelisk from falling, due to its immense size.

The astrumal notices the obelisk and unless prevented, moves back towards its crater on its turn, withdrawing from combat if necessary.

Round 3:
The large, hollow obelisk (O2) falls and shatters, dealing 6d6 damage (Ref 15 half) to anyone in area R1(including combatants flying below 50 feet) and breaking open Tombs (T2) and (T3). Dense rubble (Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 412) fills Area R1 and replaces (O2) and parts of (T2) and (T3). Call for Perception checks.
Perception DC 15: The southwestern tomb (T3) is empty, but in the center of the northeastern one (T2), linen-wrapped figure lies on a bier, clutching a golden serpent staff.
Perception DC 32: The staff is actually a gilded cobra, a deadly construct guardian that fires bolts of flame from the rubies in its eyes.

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.

Round 5:
Perception DC 5: Another meteor has struck a small obelisk (O3), which looks ready to fall!
Perception DC 25: The obelisk will fall south (DM should draw area R2), breaking open the last intact tomb (T1).
Any player who succeeds at the DC 5 Perception check may also make a DC 25 Craft(stonework) or DC 15 Knowledge(Engineering), which reveals the same information as the DC 25 Perception check, and also indicates that a stone shape spell or feat of strength might stop the obelisk from destroying the tomb.

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.

Round 6:
The small obelisk (O3) falls at the beginning of the round unless prevented as above. The obelisk deals 4d6 damage (Ref 15 half) to anyone in area R2(including flyers below 15 feet) and turns the area - including most of (T1) - into dense rubble. A second gilded cobra is hidden (Perception DC 32) in the center of the now-destroyed (T1); it attacks on initiative count 12.

Round 9:
Perception DC 10: The green star in the southern sky has grown very large.
Perception DC 20: The green star has grown bigger because it is about to hit the pyramid's seal – time to find cover!

Neither the astrumal or cobras react to the incoming star.

Round 10:
An atonal keening fills the air and the green star slams into the False Tomb's seal!
All creatures within 100 feet of the seal take 3d6 fire damage (Reflex DC 15); creatures adjacent to the seal take 8d6 damage (Reflex DC 15 half) and receive no save against the fire damage. The burst of fire spreads around corners and ignores all but total cover, which is treated instead as normal cover (+2 to Reflex saves). Green light and dust is everywhere; all combatants are blinded for 1 round.

Astrumal CR 5
XP 1,600
hp 45
The astrumal lands before combat begins, at (A). It focuses on living targets, ignoring gilded cobras. It pulls weak-looking PCs close for a bite, and pushes dangerous ones away, ideally into dense rubble. If surrounded, it uses shardstorm.

Gilded Cobras (2) CR 3
XP 800
hp 20 each (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 182)
Ranged ruby bolt +4 ranged touch (2d6 fire), range 30ft.
The gilded cobras move within range of the nearest PC and fire ruby bolts. If engaged in melee, the cobras bite instead.

After the green star falls and the PCs defeat the monsters, read or paraphrase the following:
As the dust settles and the eerie green light fades, the tomb's entrance stands open. The seal is gone, and there is no trace of the fallen star. Overhead, the rain of stars fades, restoring the desert's nighttime calm. In the silence, you can hear a faint rasping noise - something is stirring within the tomb.

Something big.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

::tips hat::

From one Matthew to another, thank you! :)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

I'm not seeing an option in the submission form, and I don't want to accidentally *not* submit my map.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Thanks for the EXTREEEEEEME take on Mr. Ossuary! ;)

My mental image of the golem is similar to Mortika's - a gaunt stone golem with glowing eyes and a skull head, body covered in protective wardings to keep the undead trapped inside.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Why I chose the Astrumal

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

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

The essence of the Astrumal, and abilities

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

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

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

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

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


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

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I'm sorry to hear about the DQ, Lief, and I wish you luck in next year's contest.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

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Hop on over to the Ossuary Golem thread if you'd like to take a look at my design notes.

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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.

Design notes:

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. ;)

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Comments will come when I can, well....comment! ;)

I hope everyone enjoys the Ossuary Golem - vote for it if you like it! - and I'll be happy to take questions next week.

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Gary/Sean, has my entry arrived in the R2 folder? Thanks!

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Ossuary Golem
Description: Created by imprisoning an undead creature within a construct's stony facade, an ossuary golem is a deadly combination of necromancy and artifice. Those who defeat an ossuary golem often find victory to be short-lived, as the golem's destruction merely releases the trapped undead. An ossuary golem's appearance varies by culture, but it is usually sculpted as a 7-foot-tall stone humanoid with a head carved in the shape of a skull. The golem's body is covered in protective inscriptions that pulse with magical energy, preventing its undead captive from escaping. Ossuary golems generally contain incorporeal undead like wraiths or spectres, but it is not uncommon to find a mummy or vampire bound within, and some scholars theorize that it is even possible to trap evil outsiders like shadow demons inside a specially prepared golem. The imprisoned creature has no control over the golem's actions, which makes ossuary golem creation particularly attractive to evil individuals who dislike the willfulness of their intelligent undead minions. Even good-aligned spellcasters will occasionally create ossuary golems in order to seal away dangerous undead that are difficult to destroy permanently.

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.

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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.
If the target is an unattended object weighing 250 pounds or less, it is pulled 20 feet towards the wearer. If the target is a creature of the wearer's size or smaller, it is pulled 20 feet towards the wearer with a successful combat maneuver check. If the target is a creature larger than the wearer or an unattended object weighing more than 250 pounds (including structures such as walls), the wearer is pulled 20 feet towards the target.
A pulled target or wearer stops if the pull would move them into a solid object or creature, and creatures(including the wearer) pulled in this way do not provoke attacks of opportunity.


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, telekinesis; Cost 13,000 gp