Archibald Graveleaf


Round 2: Create a villain concept

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8 aka OgeXam

Archibald Graveleaf
Male human druid 12

Description:

Archibald is in his late thirties and has fiery red hair and a full beard. His left eye is milky white while his right eye is a bright emerald green. He stands six feet half feet tall with broad shoulders and has a distinct earthy smell. He wears thick furs and carries a scimitar on his side.

Motivations/Goals:

Archibald has been the spiritual leader and protector of the Ebonbark valley for over 300 years. During that time, he has stopped goblin hordes, imperial conquests, and even an environmental plague. The folk under his care are strong, hearty people who excel at hunting and survival. He has devoted his entire existence to ensuring the balance and prosperity of the valley.

The people of Ebonbark Valley do not know Archibald's true age, but suspect that he must have a pact with Fey to be so spry. They think that Archibald (his current name) has been their protector for over 50 years, and that his "father" before him guided the people for over a century. They don't suspect the truth.

Long ago, Archibald began to realize that his work would eventually have to end, but he couldn't find a suitable successor. Obsessing about his ailing health, he sought a way to stretch his life span. The elves lived for hundreds of years and that was considered natural, so why not him? After years of research, he discovered a way to harvest the life force of creatures to take years off of his life. At first, this seemed unnatural - unholy even, but then he rationalized that if he took only the sick or crippled - like a lion or wolf does - then he was simply "re-purposing" the life. He was putting it to better use for the good of all, for the good of his pack.

He devised a subtle way to ensure a supply of lives. With his role as healer and leader of the natural world, the folk in the valley looked to him as a divine figure. He used his divinity to influence their customs. They now abandon the weak, sick, or crippled, leaving them to be taken by the river.

Archibald continues to believe that he is working for the greater good of the valley. Any slight injury or threat to the valley or its inhabitants brings his wrath quickly and brutally.

Schemes/Plots/Adventure Hooks:

The PCs are sent into Ebonbark to find out what happened to Venture-Captain Herald Swiftshield, who sought to retire someplace remote and quiet. Communication with Swiftshield has ceased and the Pathfinder Society has hired the PCs to find out what's happened. Little do the PCs know that Swiftshield had looked deep into the darkness of the valley and had discovered its horrible secret.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Initial Impression: Bland. A human druid with a far too real-world name.

Word Count: 466

Concept (name, title, is it actually a villain?, overall design choices, playability): D
The Good: It is minimally a villain, in that this is the end NPC that would be encountered in an adventure.
The Bad: OK, so he’s a druid who wants to live forever. He is a villain by accident. If the PCs never go visit his vale, they never know this guy. A villain should be an active antagonist for the PCs–he should be working against them. This guy doesnt. He’s content to sit in his vale and suck the life out of animals and weak creatures. Sorry, its just not evil enough and not active enough. Poor concept. Villains want to take over the world, or take your magic sword, or destroy your home town. They create an urgency of action for the PCs. This is really just a human NPC who the PCs might fight.

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): C-
The Good: Competently written if not knocking my socks off.
The Bad: The description section is uninspired. Red hair, an earthy smell, a scimitar and David Bowie eyes? I don't think that is enough. The submission, while competent, is not particularly well written, but no fatal flaws either. The Motivation section is overdone. You could have said the same thing with fewer words, leaving yourself more room for other sections of the submission which were lacking (description and hooks, I’m looking at you). Plus, put the evil up front. It takes a while before you even know this is a bad guy. Now, a twist is cool, but if you twist me you better make it pay off. This twist wasnt that great. And just one plot hook or adventure idea? Not enough.

Tilt (did it grab me?, is it unique and cool?, do I like it?, flavor and setting): C-
I don’t want gonzo. But at the same time, a mid-level human druid is not baking my cookies. This failed to grab me in any way.

Overall: C-
Competent if uninspired writing dragged down by a bad overall concept of a villain that really doesn’t have an active agenda to oppose the PCs.

Recommendation: I do not recommend this villain submission for advancement.

Sorry to see this. I loved the Dread Trinket a lot (in fact, I golden ticketed it). Perhaps the voting public will see it differently than I do. That has happened before! Good luck!

Contributor

Initial Impression: On the bland side.

Concept: More of an opportunistic villain than a "prime mover" for a campaign. As portrayed, I learn nothing of his techniques for taking lives (such as, most importantly, PC lives), only that he wants to live forever by taking the lives of others. Which makes him almost more the trash collector (dangerous to down and wounded PCs, or creatures who stray alone into the wrong place) than an active villain who engages the PCs. If there had been some indication of traps for formidable life sources, or a plan to key on and lure PCs who come near, this could have made Archibald more of a villain and less of a background hazard character.

Execution: Competent writing, but no sizzle (nothing that inspires me as a DM to use this character as a villain), and outward description rather than favored speech, tactics, daily habits, or anything else that I can use as a DM to make this guy "come alive." No hooks, no diabolical (or otherwise!) plans. Sigh.

Tilt: I can always see a use for any character, given a sufficiently detailed setting and enough active subplots on the go, but this writeup doesn't ignite any desire to use Graveleaf. He's an uninteresting Billy Goat Gruff if the PCs wander across his bridge, and a non-factor (as presented) if they don't.

Overall: A one-trick concept that isn't sufficiently developed to make this a lasting or memorable PC foe. We are presented with no ongoing agenda beyond "take that handy life."

Recommendation: Sorry, but not recommended for advancement.

Contributor

Here we have a nice protector of an area, everyone looks up to him, and the only bad thing he's doing is stealing the life force of people who were sick/dying and thus going to die anyway. The very description of the NPC points out that this is analogous to what happens every day in nature.

Thus, he's not a villain. He's certainly not an adversary for the PCs; they're only going to be at odds with him if one of them ends up sick and the villagers decide to leave them at the side of the river. He's not going to proactively seek them out. He's not really much of a plot device.

Rec: do not advance.

The Exchange Kobold Press

Mr. Greenwood nails the problem: he's not a "prime mover" for a campaign. Graveleaf might make a decent suspect in a short mystery adventure, but that's about it.

From my perspective, he just lacks a villain's ambition and drive. He controls no great forces (he's purely local), no great powers, and wants to realize no great dreams. He does, in fact, murder, but... That's not enough for a major villain of the category I'd like to see in RPG Superstar.

Recommendation: Not recommended for advancement.


After seeing the opening description of Archibald, reading that he had stopped all sorts of horrors and really looked after the people of his valley, I was expecting a really big dramatic twist.
Something like he was a fallen archon or a fiend in disguise, with insidious plots to work from this seemingly happy little base. I was still half-hoping to find the twist somewhere as I read the last sentence...

I don't know if you were hurried for time, or not expecting to advance to the next round; in the item round you seemed to be hinting that the dread trinket might be tied in to further entries from you... Well where is it???? Is this the guy who invented it? It seems unfortunately out of character for what we do see of him.

Will this villain cause the PCs grief?
Unlikely. Not unless he has some really incredible lifeforce-sucking item which you didn't take the opportunity to tell us about. As one of the judges commented, Archibald seems appropriate as a suspect in a 'mystery' type session rather than as a direct antagonist.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 aka Gamer Girrl

No twist ... no reason that he's a villain. So he's culling those that would have died. Seems totally in keeping with a druid's mores and values. Sorry.

Scarab Sages

I agree with the rather bland execution, but not so much about some of the villainous qualifications. Maybe I have a different take on this, but perhaps this will give a slightly different perspective...

First, I think that using the very people you swore to protect as chattel is pretty freakin dark. Yes, he only restricts himself to the "crippled and weak", but if I read that right, he actually has deliberately and systematically engineered their culture to sacrifice those people. I wonder if living in isolation would cause them to have more cases of inbreeding too, which would conveniently lead to more imperfect peeps...

Yes, it's a bit bland otherwise, but I think it's suitably dark and also presents a difficult moral quandary for the party. I thought of an abusive home - where the father is clearly hurting the family, but he also provides for them. Do you call in DFACS to break up the family? Either way, if the party confronts him, they would have to deal with a devoted group of his followers that might see him as a god. Do they convince them of the evil he has done? It's not that simple.

I'm not sure if I would vote to advance this one, but I can say that I'm a bit disappointed in the lack of nuance in the reviews so far. Since when do villains have to be Sauron-esque "take over the world" types? Not all villains have to be Evil, as in the Fruits of the Devil Evil either. I prefer my villains with a shade of grey and prefer to give my players tough choices to make about what's right or wrong.

And villains don't have to March Yonder and Conquer to be good - they can be site-based or home-grown. Old haunted houses make for excellent adventures and ghosts make wonderful villains, but they rarely endanger anything beyond a couple of miles away. I think back to my favorite Dungeon module of all time - the Ghost of Mistmoor - and the villains there were 2 humans that were misunderstood, 3 ghost girls that were actually good, and a dark cleric that was trapped in the house (though evil). Absolutely zero threat outside of the walls of the house.

Heck, remember Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Who cared about those tribals? They sacrificed a few, and no problem to anyone else. The idea here, it seemed, was for the party to enter the valley in search of some VC, then realize the evil that is being committed. Could be more interesting, but it works.

Actually, the more I think about this guy, the more I think of Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, or Apocalypse Now, based on the novel. Travelling upriver further into the dark wilderness to defeat a guy that was seen as a god... But what does Conrad know about villains? His villain just stayed put and posed no threat to anyone outside of the jungle...

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

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

Reckless Ratings

Concept3
(Is this villain villainous?)
Content2
(Grammar, Format,Spelling, Etc.)
Coolness3
(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

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

The villainy is close here. A bit of a twist on it, and he'd work for me - as the years go on, it takes more and more stolen life to stay the ravages of time. A druid who once acted as an angel of mercy now seizes upon any excuse to condemn, and has left behind a barren, lifeless valley in search of rich life elsewhere...coming upon a city, the teeming masses ripe with illness and infirmity, his fingers itch with anticipation at decades more of life...

Anyhow :)

That would be villainy. This guy's close, but not there for me. But a druid as an angel of mercy killer gets aa thumbs up for cool.


I'm intrigued by the concept, but I would have liked to see more indication as to what else the villain has planned beyond extending his own lifespan. As Russ commented, as it stands right now, he's really not a major threat to anyone that isn't crippled or already dying.

The collusion of the townsfolk is interesting, but it doesn't quite reach the level of villainy that I would need to get the PCs moving. With a bit of tuning this could be a serviceable villain though, so I hope you make it through to the next round and that we can see further submissions.

CR

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

OgeXam wrote:

Archibald Graveleaf

Male human druid 12

Description:

Archibald is in his late thirties and has fiery red hair and a full beard. His left eye is milky white while his right eye is a bright emerald green. He stands six feet half feet tall with broad shoulders and has a distinct earthy smell. He wears thick furs and carries a scimitar on his side.

Motivations/Goals:

Archibald has been the spiritual leader and protector of the Ebonbark valley for over 300 years. During that time, he has stopped goblin hordes, imperial conquests, and even an environmental plague. The folk under his care are strong, hearty people who excel at hunting and survival. He has devoted his entire existence to ensuring the balance and prosperity of the valley.

The people of Ebonbark Valley do not know Archibald's true age, but suspect that he must have a pact with Fey to be so spry. They think that Archibald (his current name) has been their protector for over 50 years, and that his "father" before him guided the people for over a century. They don't suspect the truth.

Long ago, Archibald began to realize that his work would eventually have to end, but he couldn't find a suitable successor. Obsessing about his ailing health, he sought a way to stretch his life span. The elves lived for hundreds of years and that was considered natural, so why not him? After years of research, he discovered a way to harvest the life force of creatures to take years off of his life. At first, this seemed unnatural - unholy even, but then he rationalized that if he took only the sick or crippled - like a lion or wolf does - then he was simply "re-purposing" the life. He was putting it to better use for the good of all, for the good of his pack.

He devised a subtle way to ensure a supply of lives. With his role as healer and leader of the natural world, the folk in the valley looked to him as a divine figure. He used his divinity to influence their customs. They now abandon the weak, sick, or crippled, leaving them to be...

This sounds like a slighty twisted NPC, not a Villain with masterful goals and a clear agenda that clashes with the PCs.

Liberty's Edge

Russ Taylor wrote:

The villainy is close here. A bit of a twist on it, and he'd work for me - as the years go on, it takes more and more stolen life to stay the ravages of time. A druid who once acted as an angel of mercy now seizes upon any excuse to condemn, and has left behind a barren, lifeless valley in search of rich life elsewhere...coming upon a city, the teeming masses ripe with illness and infirmity, his fingers itch with anticipation at decades more of life...

Anyhow :)

That would be villainy. This guy's close, but not there for me. But a druid as an angel of mercy killer gets aa thumbs up for cool.

I agree, I liked him... still... I would have to see something darker as he consumes more life and needs more life for less payof, that might have force him to increase his area or ask of the town people for tribute or sacrifices... Iwas hoping to see the Dread Trinket comming into play

still i need to read more


I probably won't be voting for this one, but... I have to say that preying on the sick, the old and the dying for your own does seem pretty damn evil to me. "They would have died anyway?" Yeah, perhaps not if he'd used his healing to help them instead.

I could easily see that gradually beginning to permeate the local society, throwing a pretty creepy atmosphere over the whole valley. ("Hello, people from outside the valley. Oh, your friend is sick? No, we can't permit you to let him rest here. He must be given to the Great Druid. It is for the good of the valley, you understand.")

Just a shame that wasn't more explicit in the entry itself.

Star Voter Season 6

I agree with Tintagel. This is a villain. Unfortunately, the setup takes so long that it takes away from the plot hooks, which may prove the judges' point. You had space for one or two plot hooks and you had to stick the landing. You didn't stick the landing.

Sticking the landing is making one of those sick people really important. Like a village elder or a prophesied one.

Sticking the landing is the party finding out and having to face an entire setting rallying around the villain, like if Bedford Falls rallied around the banker at the end of It's a Wonderful Life.

Scarab Sages

Very good point RogueRogue. This didn't quite follow the rubric. I'm still intrigued by it, though. Heh.


2/10

I like him as a NPC. But a villain? Seems like a normal True Neutral druid with a specific ideology to me. Neutral isn't "unwashed good" after all.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8 aka OgeXam

Thanks to everybody for reading over my entry and giving their honest opinion.

I do hope you still vote for me. It appears that I was way off the mark on what was wanted for this round, but I promise to hit the bulls eye from here on out.

When this round is over I will present a rewrite that takes into account for the input given and not bounded by a word limit. I would like for you to comment on the rewrite if you could be so kind.

I wish all the contestants good luck, and I look forward to either being, or seeing the next round of entries.


I think the description given only scratches the surface of what evil could lie beneath this villain. I'm looking forward to the rewrite without a word limitation.

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

Sorry, but there's just not enough here to catch the imagination or paint this guy as much more than a small-time embezzler of life forces. Yeah, he does kill people, but his plotline is short and straight and most of the time would be verrrrrry oblique to the path of the PCs.

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

steviebomb wrote:
I think the description given only scratches the surface of what evil could lie beneath this villain. I'm looking forward to the rewrite without a word limitation.

I'm not. If you can't sell me a villain in 500 words (which is actually rather a lot), I'm not interested in the longer version. A critical part of gaming writing is writing for space - you've got to be able to communicate an idea effectively in a limited number of words. 500 words is half a column in a Paizo printed product. That's a lot of space to have used and not caught a reader's interest. I'm not saying that this entry isn't interesting - I'm saying that it had plenty of words available to sell an idea.

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

Exactly...you've got one chance to score votes and make an impression. This one doesn't do it. I am not sure how half a dozen Superstar contestants stumbled on the strategy of a VILLAIN that is loved and respected by normal people, has no territorial ambitions, and spends the vast majority of their energies protecting the masses and enduring their prosperity.

Thank God this round is over for me.

As a bit of constructive advice, I want to challenge you to remove the word is from your vocabulary. I have been promised that developers take a close look at how often an author chooses passive verbs like 'is', or past-tense auxillary verbs. Passive voice simply turns people off to your villain. Things are being done to the villain, while the villain is not doing anything to the people around them.

The sardonic phrase "Do unto others before they do unto you" might be cynical, but it's a good mnemonic device for remembering how to present your villains. They should usually be out in front of their ambition instead of having evil or insanity fall into their laps.


This is essentially the same character as the one named after a certain albino elsewhere in this contest. I didn't vote for that, and I can't vote for this either - exactly the same reasons apply.

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

This guy isn't really even as villainous as a goblin raider. That goblin will kill anything it can, while Archie will only kill the weak, sick, or dying, and only then so he can protect nature more. Not good, but not all that evil either.

Also, what's up with the eye. The other villain this round with the dead milky eye has a reason for it, but as far as I can tell, Archie's reason is so that he looks cooler as a villain.


Commiserations.

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