Cermyk the Widower


Round 2: Create a villain concept

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Cermyk the Widower
Male human vampire sorcerer 8
Description:
It is said that the most savage nightmares spring from the mind of a child, and in the Barony of Elbe they know this to be true. Here, high in the mountains, is Silver House, the twisted dwelling of one of the most depraved creatures to walk the land. Here, all folk lock and bar the doors each night. Here, young maids are seldom let out of sight for long. For this is the home of Cermyk the Widower.

Terrible tales concern Silver House and its infamous master. At a young age Cermyk showed a powerful aptitude for dark magic, which his family indulged, drawing tutors from sundered lands, men with black lips and ashen skin. Cermyk surpassed them all, gaining in knowledge and power as he sent each mentor away.

Then came the Night of Blood, when the moon was swallowed whole and the sky was lit with ruddy glow. The commoners huddled in their houses as witch-lights danced near Silver House. They covered their ears as fitful screams sounded from the blood-lit heights. At dawn, the baron’s men who tremblingly ascended to Silver House found only the dead. When they pieced together the bodies, only Cermyk was unaccounted for.

It was on the next Night of Blood, a decade later, that maidens began to disappear before their wedding day. Some ran away on their own, escaping harsh parents or unwanted grooms. Others were snatched from their bedrooms, spirited out through windows. One after another, taken to Silver House. Here, they wed Cermyk in terrible pageantry, his boy-face predatory with ashen skin and black lips. Yet no bride can slake the hungry lust within him. Lust for love, for power, for childhood wasted and adulthood never to come. And when their shrill screams wetly cease and he has taken his fill of them, Silver House is cold and lonely and silent until Cermyk the Widower takes another bride.

Motivations/Goals:
Cermyk’s motivations are those of insane child, full of want and empty of remorse. If left unchecked, he will continue his predations of the people of Elbe. His goals come and go with the capricious flight of a child’s fancy. Often he will stray far afield, seeking the perfect wedding gift, only to return empty handed, or more often, with gifts for himself, elfskin-bound tomes, the cherubic head of an infant preserved in strong wine, or similar bauble which caught his fancy.

Adventure Hooks:
Arriving in one of the local villages as evening falls, the party finds the innkeeper and his wife distraught. Their daughter has not returned home and they fear that she has become Cermyk’s newest betrothed. Can the party reach Silver House in time to disrupt the wedding?

The party is on the trail of an ancient tome and its last owner remembers selling it to an ashen faced young boy over a decade ago. Does the group dare the catacombs beneath Silver House to recover the tome?

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Initial Impression: The widower? OK, I guess I get it with the vampire angle. But that title isn’t really grabbing me. I love the undead in general and vampires and liches specifically, so let’s see where this goes. At least it’s not a human druid again.

Word Count: 500.

Concept (name, title, is it actually a villain?, overall design choices, playability): C-
The Good: Hmmm. I like some of the grisly design choices of a child vampire. All right, now I get the whole widower angle...
The Bad: Tell me how this is truly a “villain” and not just a monster with a name and a couple class levels? Where are his real motives and villainous plans? That is the danger of a monster villain. You run the risk that you let his monster-ness be a substitute for villain-ness. Check out our otyugh submission, for instance. Yes, he is an otyugh. But that isn’t the end of his villainy. This is really just a vampire who likes to abduct hot babes on their wedding night. And really, what vampire wouldn’t? But that comes from his monster-ness not his villain-ness, if that makes sense to anyone other than me. Of course, being a fan of overly-sexually-suggestive Hammer vampire flicks, I like this vampire as a monster in an adventure. But I am not feeling a villain here.

Execution (quality of writing, hook, theme, organization, use of proper format, quality of mandatory content-physical description, motivation/goal, scheme/plot, presence of any disqualification criteria): B-
The Good: Writing is good and creepy, if a bit overdone and melodramatic. But that all got paid for with “when their shrill screams wetly cease and he has taken his fill of them”. That I liked a lot. Just on the verge of soft-core but that is a fine vampire tradition.
The Bad: The hooks are weak, but that highlights that this really isn’t a villain at all. It is just a vampire. One with a name and a backstory, yes. But still just a monster.

Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor and setting): C-
I loved some of the writing. But this one fails to be a villain.

Overall: C-
It’s a unique vampire, not a true villain.

Recommendation: I DO NOT recommend this villain submission for advancement, and, in keeping with my first round comments, “it’s too bad, too.”

From the author of the ancestral reliquary. Perhaps the voters will see more villain and less monster. Good luck!

Contributor

I didn't get the chance to read this entry until after Mr. Peterson had commented on it - - and when I read his comments, I tossed aside what I'd written to simply say: Clark, you have said what I was going to say, more vividly than I could have.
And we're in precise agreement, so much so that I could only sound like an echo. So let your words stand for me, with (I'm afraid) the same recommendation: sorry, no advancement for this one. It's a vampire.
Lovely writing (yes, over the top here and there, but I can live with that). I've enjoyed reading the grisly bits several times over. Yet no amount of lush writing can disguise the fact that this is . . . a vampire.
So, nix on this one, and yes, it IS a pity. Me, I'm waiting for the movie . . . (As the pitiless moon falls on their bared curves, the brides murmur longingly, through wetly bubbling lips, "Cermyk . . .")

Contributor

Another bad guy where we don't really know why he is the way he is. His motivation is merely stated, not explained.
And he's insane.
And all he really does is steal brides. Nothing really versatile about him.
A spoiled immortal child isn't much of a villain.
And I didn't really "get" that he was still a child until Clark pointed it out.
He doesn't do anything to plan against or thwart the PCs, he just kidnaps brides and the PCs have the opportunity to react to that.

Rec: do not advance.

The Exchange Kobold Press

That Description section isn't much of a description. Most of it is backstory that should have been done in half the space. What matters for a villain is what he's up to, more than his past.

All that said, he's a pretty classic Anne Rice child-vampire. Ick. Not a fan of villains in child form; it just crosses a line for me that I'd rather leave alone. Almost all the text follows well-worn paths of black magic, vampirism, a missing child, and a village huddled in fear. It's fine, as far as it goes, but it's not exactly an original take on the vampire legend, either.

I wish this one had used that Description word count on improving the Hooks/Adventure Seeds instead. The ones given are pretty tired. The text really needs a breath of originality, even just a single tangent or design twist that takes it out of the typical vampire genre.

Recommendation: Not recommended.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

I would like to thank the judges for their consideration of my entry.

I will refrain from further comment in this thread until voting closes except to say:

VOTE FOR CERMYK!!!


Loved "Here, they wed Cermyk in terrible pageantry" and the "wet" part that Clark mentioned. This sounds like a module but not a career villain. Sounds like he's just begging adventurers to come kick his butt. Good luck!

Star Voter Season 6

So... a vampire child weds these damsels. Depending on how old he is, we're working in very icky child-as-seducer territory. I wonder whether a publisher would print this... That said, there'd be some nice difficulties for the PCs, killing a monster that looks like a child or a young teen.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

Beautifully and evocatively written, I must say. But it seems more like the sample page of a book on Amazon.com than something I'd be using in one of my games. At least not as a BBEG. Maybe as someone to occupy the PCs while they had strayed into the wrong village or needed to level up before getting back to the real plot.

Scarab Sages Marathon Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Card Game, Rulebook Subscriber

For some reason this makes me think you want to write the next Ravenloft module - Young Strahd.


Okay, I was a fan of 'The Haunter of Hills' last year, which was another vampire, although the contestant last year didn't do enough to make it clear to the voting public in general that The Haunter was a villain, not just a monster, and he didn't make it to the next round.

Yes, the writing of this entry is evocative, but I'm seeing this entry as a monster fight at the end of a 'horror' adventure module, not as a villain.

Will this villain cause the PCs grief?
Not unless he manages to kill a couple of them in a fight or kidnaps a relation (and the latter is a dangerous and risky gambit to use as a DM).


Sounds like a great horror movie... but something of a one-trick pony otherwise. Seems to suffer from what a lot of the villains are suffering from - the inability to travel/influence things beyond his little meted out world. So, as long as the players aren't wandering through his town, it'd be hard to engage them with him.

Liberty's Edge Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Reckless Ratings

Concept3
(Is this villain villainous?)
Content4
(Grammar, Format,Spelling, Etc.)
Coolness1
(Would my players be impressed by this? Am I?)
Credibility3
(Does the villain’s motives make sense?)
Clarity3
(How good a sense of how to stat this villain do we get?)

Scores out of 5 and completely based on my opinion only.
Total Score14

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 aka Gamer Girrl

Evocative, creepy, horror filled ... and a vampire. There's nothing here that says more than the fact he's a vampire to make him a villain, and that's a given. Sorry.


Like the writing but not the villain. And one might point out that Elbe is a rather well-known river in Germany, so that was a bit jarring...


I'll chime in and say that this is one of the best-written entries that I've read so far (I'm about 3/4 of the way through the entries). Congratulations as to that.

That said, this is a pretty standard monster that you've reduced by a few age categories. It's a great monster, but it's not going to last long as an enduring villain, as most PCs are going to hear "missing young women" and "creepy house of a noble" and start sharpening stakes.

CR

Liberty's Edge Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8

Adding a vampire template to a villain [check] fleshing out said vampire...eh no? - I dunno, and that is what tanks it for me.

Using children was a big plus, i like dark stories, but come on, why would her parents encourage the DARK ARTS /thunder crash.

It's creepy, but not in the right way.


This was very well-written! Kudos to that.

However.

This is a discount, off-the-shelf villain you can pick up in any Villains R Us on Christmas Eve, and not the holy-smokes-i-better-pick-it-up-2-months-ahead-of-time-because-its-gonna-se ll-out-villain. Sorry. You could've had my vote but you needed to kick Cermyk up another notch or two.

Liberty's Edge

Paul... I will think about this... I am a fan of vampires... and you write well... but this was done 20 years ago in a lot more efficient& scary way with Strahd von Zarovich... except of course Strahd is not a child... nor be have like one...

why does the town people haven't burned the place by day already? with Strahd I know... but with a vampire kid? lets go and torch the place

i would go and see... i read the concept and liked him... but because I LOVE vampires... or kill them... whatever cames...

and why is he not rising his brides to torment the town?

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

An episode of the short-lived Moonlight worked on the child vampire riff, one of the vampire twists that still has some life in it. It wasn't wonderful, but it focused on the horror of being trapped just short of adulthood for decades and even centuries. That's an element I feel could have been put into play here. As it is, the villain's age is non-central enough to the submission that it has to be picked up in pieces in the flavor text - it's not until the last few sentences that it is really clear to me that you're describing a child, and in terms of a readers, the last few sentences are well past the glazing over point if your interest wasn't already caught.

My advice would be to play up what's sassy in your entry. The kid vampire is the best part of the hook, run with it early, and show how it makes your villain what he is. It should not be a secondary element - the entry could be rewritten with the vampire as an adult with minimal changes, and that's not a strong selling point.

There's a good idea in here, and potential for a D&D vampire archetype that isn't played out. Keep at it!

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

The writing was nicely creepy and squicky for a vampire but... this guy is a set-piece encounter.

He basically never leaves home. He has no real reasons for what he does other than "he's crazy, he's a spoiled brat, and he's EEEEeeevvil." So, he's a sorcerer, but what does he use his magic for? He learned all these evil magic tricks from far-off lands... but he just flies around and yoinks young maidens for his carnal (literally) pleasure. What does he do that any other vampire doesn't do?

Engaging the PCs with him requires a plot magnet, and it seems like he wouldn't follow the PCs after they defeat him the first time (and that's the beauty of vampires, that they are so hard to permanently kill that they are the perfect annoying recurring villain) because his backstory is tied too closely to his own house. He needs to be more flexible and dynamic, or he's just a monster with a name and a lair.

Marathon Voter Season 9

I didn't like the Ancestral Reliquary and while i am not a huge fan of Cermyk i feels i should step up and say a little something in his defence. It is only fair after the slating i gave the Ancestral Reliquary.

Firstly, i really dig the name. So you know, thats one good point. :)

Secondly, clark said that he thought that Cermyk lacked depth to his motivations. While i agree some what, i would say the same is fairly true of Dracula. He is a beast, driven by his basest desires and with very little in the way of a plan or motivations beyond A, wanting to move house and b, Get his drink on with every beautiful woman he meets, yet dracular is an amazingly vivid villain.

Sometimes simple motivations, even if they are common to many other similar creatures can be the core of a good villain.


4/10

Hrm. More of a monster with a cute story the locals tell you so that you can go decrapitate him. A bit overwrought, but at least he has a little "zazz."


I don't see this villain as lasting beyond one investigation.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

Ed Greenwood wrote:
(As the pitiless moon falls on their bared curves, the brides murmur longingly, through wetly bubbling lips, "Cermyk . . .")

Oh...erm...I gotta go.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

{2.5 to 5 minutes later}

The writing is pretty good, with some over the top detail and seasoning. However: it doesn't work to say "black lips and ashen skin" in one paragraph and then say "ashen skin and black lips" in the next one. Tells me you have a hard time giving different vampires different appearances and personality. That's odd, because you have made a child.

Also...not psyched about the word "tremblingly". It stops the sentence cold. You escape your over the top writing by having a pretty good rhythm. So don't kill it.

Cermyk is a pretty good name, and the creepy villain child has promise. You should have condensed your origins story and used that space to give us more about his tactics and mindset. If you want to make a child creepier, describe undead or charmed minions like nannies robbed of their will, or a family charmed into treating him like the golden child. ANd show us his dark, mature violent side as well. He isn't just a creepy kid. He's wicked, fast and strong with unearthly charisma.

Not bad, though. On the cusp maybe.


I really liked this sick lil bastard!


I like the idea, and it's well written. But it's just a one-off encounter, like the spirit-of-the-valley thing in another entry. I don't see how this can be made into a long-lasting villain, rather than an (admittedly fairly cool) opponent for a single short scenario. He might even be a memorable one-off encounter, if used well, but that's not really what villainy is about.

So, perhaps a little reluctantly, I can't vote for this one.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

Asides from bascially just being a vampire that the PCs will meet and kill in one adventure, my big issue is how did he become a vampire? The description says he learned dark magic, then the next paragraph has the night of blood where he presumably kills his whole family and retainers. Why'd he do that? Was he insane as a mortal? That's still not a good reason, but I'm left wondering why. Followed up by the fact that, okay, he is a vampire now, but I'm not told how that came to be. Did another vampire come in and kill everyone, but turned Cermyk into one? Did some dark magic of his combined with the bloody sacrifice of his family curse him with vampirism? You don't tell us, so we're left to guess, and that's not a good thing.

Between Strahd and Dracula, vampires as villains have some big shoes to fill, and yours doesn't really offer anything new.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Steven T. Helt wrote:
it doesn't work to say "black lips and ashen skin" in one paragraph and then say "ashen skin and black lips" in the next one.

Damn, I thought that was poetic juxtaposition!

I want to thank everyone for reading through this and for leaving your advice. Rest assured that I have read everything and that I'll take it into consideration the next time I write.

OK, to sum up what everyone has said about my entry so far: Writing - good, concept - blah.

I made a mistake in writing this guy the way I did. I thought he'd make a great centerpiece for a location-based adventure or module, or as something the DM could expand upon. Thus, I presented background (too much) and a few hooks, with some teasers in there about the way this guy operates. Clearly, the judges were looking for something more concrete and long-term. So, my entry was a bit flawed right from the get-go.


Some of the flaws with the entry are things which with diligence, practice, and studying both winning entries and Paizo modules, I feel you may be able to correct for future such contests.
Learn from the mistakes, and then it's just the small matter of somehow getting into the top 32 again...

Still, Casey managed it two years running.

Liberty's Edge

Am I the only one to think this is just another Ann Rice/Twilight series wussification of the classic monster? Adding in the creepy pedo angle and I'm completely disgusted.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

NotMousse wrote:
Adding in the creepy pedo angle and I'm completely disgusted.

You would have been really disgusted with my first draft of him, then. I was worried that one wouldn't get through the inappropriate content rules!

Star Voter Season 6

I wouldn't go quite THAT far, but you'll note that I raised a concern about whether plot-critical acts could be depicted in art direction.

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