The Ooze Imperium


Round 4: Design thematically linked monsters

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Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

Electric Jelly

The electric jelly was definitely not an afterthought. When I decided on the theme (ooze), the electric jelly was my first creation, because I wanted a “base” creature (a “normal” ooze, as it were) as a foundation. Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do with a normal ooze (look at the SRD/MM: virtually no tactics, no ecology, etc. – just eat and eat and eat). The brain ooze and the palanquin have all the special abilities and story, but the electric jelly connects them to their roots. Is it that different from other oozes? Maybe not, but different enough that players who have fought one too many black puddings, gray oozes, ochre jellies, etc. in their gaming careers might be surprised. It was mainly inspired by the electric eel, and I thought that coupled with the electrolytic poison instead of normal ooze acid would make it stand out. But apparently I couldn’t get past the “it’s just one more ooze” hurdle.

Erik Mona wrote:
Also, I think you might want to take another look at the language in the Split power. Under what circumstances does an electric jelly split? When it is hit at all by slashing or piercing weapons? Does it have to do this? It just seems weird that shooting a Medium-size ooze with an arrow would force it to split into two weaker creatures. What if I've got manyshot and rapidshot and light it up like a Christmas tree?

The Split ability was taken directly from the black pudding’s Split ability in the SRD. But that is a valid point. Maybe it would be better to state that it is immune to damage from slashing and piercing weapons, but a slashing or piercing attack that inflicts a minimum amount of damage (6 points? 10 points?) causes it to split.

Mevers wrote:
I do however like the Electric Jelly. It is a well designed, flavorful, ooze. But really, as other's have said, it just seems tacked on, and do we really need another ooze creature? Also, I think it was a mistake to go with this one first. Why not lead with the Brain ooze, clearly your "head" creature, then move into the palanquin, and finish off with the electric jelly? Rightly or wrongly order communicates priority and importance, especially in lists. Note how many times people (and especially PCs), in the absence of any other compelling reason simply work through a list of things from top to bottom. Simply dropping the Electric Jelly to the bottom would have improved this entry.

I led with the Electric Jelly because it was my base creature. The theme is ooze, start with a basic ooze that everyone is familiar with. The brain ooze is the centerpiece, so it goes in the middle. And the palanquin builds off the brain ooze, so it comes last.

Varianor wrote:
Now the Electric Ooze. Hmm, hmm, hmm. I like the zappy surprise. Most players aren’t going to be expecting a rolling ball to touch them like a man exiting a carpet on a cold winter’s day. But a primary attack that they can only use randomly? That’s worse than zombies. It’s poison attack is surprising and effective – though a Fort DC 18 is really high for CR 4.

The randomness of the electric pulse was an attempt to limit the power because I didn’t want a stun attack every round. (The lethal shock ability of shocker lizards, for example, is limited by the need for multiple individuals). But the electric jelly can still slam every round, reducing its victim’s save against the electric pulse when it can generate it again.

As for the poison save DC, I think that’s a failing of the rules. Fortitude save DCs are based on Con, and oozes have high Con scores. Any ooze is going to have a high-DC Fortitude save. To weaken the power, I suppose you could remove the Dex damage and just have the penalty to Fortitude saves.

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
Maybe Electric Jellies could bestow some kind of advantage upon a 'Brain Ooze' master in an adjacent square, such as using up their 'electric pulse' ability to allow their Brain Ooze master to fire off some kind of 'psychic bolt' ranged attack which makes them particularly favoured minions for Brain Oozes during attacks on enemy positions.

That’s a really good idea. I’ll try to work that in somehow. Then again, it would add another special ability, and make things even more complex. :)

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

Brain Ooze

To those who didn’t like an ooze with a brain, I did go back and forth on making it an ooze or an aberration. Ultimately, to keep the theme tighter, I chose ooze. And oozes can have brains, they are just “usually mindless” according to the SRD.

Regarding concerns about CR 6 being too low for a “mastermind,” the mind flayer could be considered a mastermind and is CR 8, so it’s not too much of a difference. And brain oozes really aren’t designed to be encountered alone; they are usually encountered riding a palanquin, which would give you a CR of anywhere from 2 (for a kobold) to around 20 (for a titan), plus an additional CR 6 for the brain ooze itself once its palanquin is killed. I tried to highlight this in the tactics section; if you’re fighting a brain ooze alone, it probably just lost its palanquin.

Wolfgang Baur wrote:
Some of those abilities are very interesting (ooze metamorphosis) but some just seem complex for complexity's sake (paralysis, why?).

Why paralysis? Because I wanted something a little different from standard ooze acid and engulf. And if a brain ooze dissolves everything it touches, it’s going to have a hard time finding a palanquin, much less possessing it. The gelatinous cube has paralysis, so I took that ooze trait and gave it to the brain ooze to help it find and possess a host.

Erik Mona wrote:
In the "create host" power you say that the enzyme "permanently reduces" the victim's Intelligence. I think what you _mean_ to say is that the enzyme causes ability drain. But the very next power ("Intellect Drain") seems more like it should be damage, even though you specifically say drain. Well, you say drain in the title of the power, anyway. Does that count?

Yes, the “create host” power is ability drain. I don’t know why I expressed it that way except to make it clear that it wasn’t temporary ability damage.

The intellect drain power is ability damage, and is clearly expressed in the spell description for touch of idiocy. But I can see the confusion from naming the power “intellect drain.” I was just trying to find something that wasn’t “mind blast.”

Erik Mona wrote:
Either way, a creature capable of draining 2d6 points of Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma each round and an Intelligence-draining 60-foot ray is probably not really a CR 6 creature.

Not sure where the 2d6 per round comes from (unless it’s a mis-type). But the ability drain of the create host ability was never intended to be used in combat. The numbers were simply to provide mechanics for how the brain ooze creates a host and how long it will take, rather than just saying “it destroys the victim’s mind,” which would inevitably lead to questions of “How?”

As for an intelligence-draining ray too high for a CR 6 creature, touch of idiocy is a 2nd-level spell. If a 3rd-level wizard can cast it, why can’t a CR 6 monster? I made it a ray instead of a touch, but a touch attack roll is still needed.

Erik Mona wrote:
The Ooze Metamorphosis power strikes me as problematic because the CR 6 creatures can create any kind of ooze imaginable, presumably including the CR 30 genius loci from the Epic Level Handbook.

That was a conscious design choice. I wanted to provide an origin for all oozes, not provide a way for different creatures of widely differing CRs to be used together. Yes, a CR 6 could create a CR 30 genius loci, just as a CR 2 human wererat could theoretically “create” a CR 18 storm giant wererat, but why would it other than to explain the genius loci’s or storm giant’s origin? Normal encounter design rules (and DM common sense) still apply. If you have a 6th-level party confronting a CR 6 brain ooze, you wouldn’t add a CR 30 genius loci to the encounter, any more than you would add a CR 6 brain ooze to an encounter with a CR 30 genius loci.

Charles Evans 25 wrote:

I'm going to be somewhat picky here, and say that I'm not completely convinced by the mechanics of the 'Ooze metamorphosis' ability of the Brain Ooze.

As I read it, at present, sufficient Brain Oozes can turn a Toad (a tiny animal) into a Gelatinous Cube (a huge ooze). Where does all the extra 'stuff' come from? I'd like to suggest that the (normal) size of the end result creature can not be larger than the (normal) size of the base creature, unless these Brain Oozes are carrying out weird hypergrowth effects as part of their transformation ritual.

That’s a good point, but it does highlight my earlier point that every little thing in 3.5 needs to be outlined in mechanics (thereby making something more complex with 13 special abilities!) to address every possibility or question. I assumed it would be obvious that a living creature is turned into an ooze of the same size category. It could even be expanded to say that enough creatures of one size will make an ooze of a larger size, using something like x4 swallow whole mechanics: 4 Tiny creatures make a Small ooze, 4 Small creatures make a Medium ooze, etc.

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
I'm not a fan of the limitations of the Brain Oozes' abilities with respect to other oozes, either. I know that Brain Oozes have a *lot* of abilities already, but some sort of method of making sure that they can't be randomly attacked/eaten by other oozes that they encounter if their 'rebuke/command' quota is already full would make sense to me. Something like an aura that automatically pacifies any uncontrolled mindless oozes that approach within 10ft of a Brain Ooze or a Palanquin currently controlled by one or more Brain Oozes.

Good idea. I might have to add that (but that would add another special ability! :) )

Charles Evans 25 wrote:
As a final point, I take it that the abilities of a Brain Ooze to rebuke/command other oozes increase with HD (or even class level)? (I look forward to clarification on this point, once voting is over and you are freer to respond to queries/comment.)

Yeah, the control ooze power should scale with HD. The power was based solely on a 6 HD “normal” brain ooze because I didn’t think about advancement. So the power should read:

Control Ooze (Su) A brain ooze can attempt to rebuke or command any ooze within 60 feet a number of times per day equal to 3 + its Charisma modifier. This ability functions as an evil cleric’s rebuke undead ability, except that it affects only oozes, not undead. The brain ooze is considered to be a cleric of a level equal to its HD + 2 for purposes of rebuking and commanding. A brain ooze can command any number of oozes whose total HD do not exceed twice the brain ooze’s HD at one time.

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

Palanquin

As I mentioned in my comments for the brain ooze, I didn’t design brain oozes to fight alone. Hence the concept for the palanquin. Normal oozes are the foot soldiers, and palanquins are the tanks. And the brain oozes control everything from safely inside their tanks.

Mevers wrote:
This goes as well for the Palanquin. While the idea is cool, and I think you pulled it off very well, as a DM I hate running encounters with creatures that can posses others. Can they do it in combat? If so, what happens if they manage to posses a PC? If they can't, what happens to the host if the "possessor" dies? Or what happens to the possessing creature if the host dies? Does damage to the host damage the possessor? What about area effect spells? Can you actually damage one without damaging the other? As you can see, there are just too many questions, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to figure out the answers, especially when there are a number of other critters I can run.

Almost all of your questions are, in fact, answered in the 13 special abilities of the brain ooze!

Can they do it in combat? Yes they can, but it should be clear from the “create host” description that it really shouldn’t be attempted, as it takes a minimum of 1d4 rounds plus the time to drain the mental abilities. This was also mentioned in its tactics (“A brain ooze willingly enters melee combat only if its palanquin candidate has been separated and it has time to complete the create host process.”) but perhaps it should have been made clearer.

If so, what happens if they manage to possess a PC? The PC’s mental ability scores are reduced to zero and it gains the Palanquin template, completely under the control of the brain ooze. See Create Host and Ride Palanquin abilities.

What happens to the host if the "possessor" dies? Or what happens to the possessing creature if the host dies? See Symbiosis.

Does damage to the host damage the possessor? What about area effect spells? Can you actually damage one without damaging the other? Again, see Symbiosis: “The palanquin template makes them effectively one creature.” Just as a PC’s brain doesn’t take separate damage from attacks or area effect spells, neither does a brain ooze riding a palanquin. Kill the palanquin, wait for the brain ooze to come out, kill the brain ooze.

And this again highlights one of my problems with 3.5: you have to detail every possibility to try and address every question, and you end up with a list of special abilities so long no one wants to read them to find the answers to their questions! :)

(No offense to you Mevers; this is my frustration with the game, not you. Thanks for reading and commenting.)

Varianor wrote:
I was happy to see the palanquin template as the third entry. This is a solid, unified submission in my mind. The theme works incredibly well together. That said, this last critter had a few too many duplicate abilities with the host, as well as more combat boosts like extra standard actions and an intellect drain and the acid blood spray. I suspect that your home game is a pretty high-powered one as even a palanquin is nasty. If the creature merely enhanced the abilities of the host, that would be a better point in the design.

Actually, my home game isn’t high-powered at all (see my comments on Boomer’s entry about my concerns with using his creations). But I didn’t complete one crucial step in creating a new monster, namely playtesting. I wanted to, but I just didn’t have time with the holidays, so you may be right that it’s high-powered. That said, there are duplicate abilities because the brain ooze is inside the palanquin. It didn’t seem logical for the brain ooze to lose all its mental abilities after it possessed a host. And just enhancing the abilities of the host seems like a pretty “meh” template. A template should add something, IMO.

Regarding the extra standard actions, note that a palanquin gets an extra action only if there is more than one brain ooze controlling it, which means the base creature must have multiple heads (such as the sample ettin palanquin). A normal one-headed palanquin does not get an extra action. This was inspired by the unique NPC ability vestigial twin from DMG II, which adds +2 to CR. Since the template already adds +2 to CR, I decided the extra action was only worth another +1, but maybe it should have been +2.

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

And all those previous posts are longer than my actual entry! Whew!

If I didn't address your specific question or comment, or you have any other questions, feel free to post them now. I promise to answer them much more succinctly :)

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

One other thing about the ray-style touch of idiocy is that it is a self-limited power. It doesn't inflict ability drain or damage. It imposes an ability score penalty, just like ray of enfeeblement does to Strength. The key distinction there is that ability damage & drain can accumulate, but penalties don't stack with themselves, so if you get hit with the ray twice, the first penalty (and the effect duration) overlaps the second. Now you might get better rolls the second time than the first, but you can get shot with the ray a billion times and never lose more than 6 points of Int, Wis, and Cha.

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

Jason Nelson 20 wrote:
One other thing about the ray-style touch of idiocy is that it is a self-limited power. It doesn't inflict ability drain or damage. It imposes an ability score penalty, just like ray of enfeeblement does to Strength. The key distinction there is that ability damage & drain can accumulate, but penalties don't stack with themselves, so if you get hit with the ray twice, the first penalty (and the effect duration) overlaps the second. Now you might get better rolls the second time than the first, but you can get shot with the ray a billion times and never lose more than 6 points of Int, Wis, and Cha.

Huh. I didn't realize that. I wanted something like feeblemind, but not as powerful, so went with touch of idiocy. But I see now that what you say is correct. Unfortunately, to me, it doesn't seem powerful enough now.

I guess for those concerned that 1d6 ability damage to three abilities each round is too powerful, it's fine to leave it as touch of idiocy. But I think I'd rewrite the power completely to make it more the way I intended (stacking ability damage).

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

Congratulations, I'm glad to see you made it to the next round.


One thing which which bothered me (but which I didn't like to make too much of a fuss over before voting concluded) were the physical changes to a Palanquin (film over skin, etc) which would make attempts at 'infiltration' by brain oozes using such Palanquins somewhat more difficult.
No doubt Brain Oozes to be sent on infiltration missions get sent on training courses to learn useful tips to avoid detection.

Tip #1: Never attempt to use as a Palanquin anyone who apparently washes on a regular basis, unless there are convincing circumstances available which will allow you to claim that your host has acquired some sort of 'rotting condition'.

Tip #2: For that matter, it's still probably safest not to use as a Palanquin any 'dry skinned one' unless environmental and lighting conditions means that the changes to the host are likely to go unremarked upon.

Tip #3: Some lizard races are fine though. But only if accepted or at least tolerated in the social situations that it will be your primary objective to penetrate.

And so on....

Edit:
Congratulations on making the next round.

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

Did you just say "the social situations that it will be your primary objective to penetrate"?

Uh huh.

Is that what the kids are calling it these days? You, sir, have a dirty, dirty mind... :)


Jason Nelson 20 wrote:

Did you just say "the social situations that it will be your primary objective to penetrate"?

Uh huh.

Is that what the kids are calling it these days? You, sir, have a dirty, dirty mind... :)

???

<Total incomprehension>

Evidently something I said that means something completely different in American English.


Charles Evans 25 wrote:

Evidently something I said that means something completely different in American English.

Not at all - I'm British, and I can see what Jason's getting at! The sentence can be read two ways: that your primary objective is to penetrate social situations, in which lizard races must therefore be acceptable; or that your primary objective is simply to penetrate, and this must therefore be acceptable in social situations. The former is what you intended; the latter is how Jason interpreted it. :-)

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

Callum wrote:
Charles Evans 25 wrote:

Evidently something I said that means something completely different in American English.

Not at all - I'm British, and I can see what Jason's getting at! The sentence can be read two ways: that your primary objective is to penetrate social situations, in which lizard races must therefore be acceptable; or that your primary objective is simply to penetrate, and this must therefore be acceptable in social situations. The former is what you intended; the latter is how Jason interpreted it. :-)

Yeah, which means only one of us has a dirty mind and it's not you. There is nothing inherently nasty about discussing 'social penetration'... :)


oozes... OOzes... OOOOZZEESSSSS!!!!!!

I love oozes as you probably guessed, but I was a bit disappointed by the electric ooze because it seemed a bit plain. I liked the idea of a posonous ooze though.

The brain ooze/palaquin is a much better concept. Oozes that can ride in a host without any sign leaves me with a number of plots involvong these oozes. I also love the image of an ooze crawling through its victims mouth and nostrils to reach the brain. The host template idea is also very cool.

Overall- good crunch, good fluff, bad interaction between the two (13+ special abilities are hard to read even if I only have to remember four)

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