Hecataeus, Master of Constructs


Round 3: Create a villain stat block

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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

roguerouge wrote:
What happens when two people with this feat use it on the same construct successfully?

I am not sure a test of wills between a PC and NPC over who the golem whomps is a bad thing. Seems tens, if you can describe it with flavor.

As noted in the discussions above, it's not this iteration of the feat that's awesome, it's the idea. You can raise the DCs,observe that a construct 'boss' is unlikely to be affected, and make it publishable. But the idea behind the feat is good design and good flavor.

Maybe a die roll takes an iron golem out of the combat, but then maybe you waste a round and get the golem's attention if you blow it. Then the golem erases you. Also, the feat doesn't do much good against all those dragons, aberrations, fey and undead. Lots of feats are tough on a creature type, but limited in usefulness.

Anyhoo...it's better than Arcane Poison or the Fleshgraft feat by a long shot.


With regard to the discussion of the 'Command Construct' feat, the feat has a pre-requisite of three other feats; whilst I agree that giving intelligent constructs such as homunculi either a save or immunity would be an improvement, I am not currently of a mind that this feat is a problem with regard to power level, given the character resources which must be invested in it and the possible consequences of blowing a roll.

And I like Steven's idea of two opposing wizards with this feat standing there, striving with their wills and shouting commands, trying to order a construct back and forth. (Opposed Knowledge (Arcana) checks?)


(Forum ate the long reply, so this is the abridged version.)

roguerouge wrote:
First it would be useful against stupid or uninformed construct makers. They are stupid or uninformed because they would hear of this feat that directly relates to their specialty. As a result the smart ones would build in fail safes and counters, which is what I referenced earlier.

That assumes that it's something that can be countered in the first place. You might as well ask why necromancers don't try to make their undead immune from turning - it's just a weakness of that particular type of creature.

More generally, this isn't just a "make constructs go away" feat. I think there are several ways that a DM could use it creatively.

For instance, you could throw in a golem to provide some unexpected, but unreliable assistance to even the odds a little in an otherwise very tough fight. Or perhaps the PCs come across a portecullis or some other obstacle that's too heavy to move on their own, unless they risk activating that dormant golem they found a couple of rooms back. Or a golem could even itself work as a key to a door or mechanism, if the PCs are able to control it properly. There's plenty to work with here.

roguerouge wrote:
Track is another example of a self-defeating feat, I've ranted at some length on the uselessness of Track because DMs will inevitably give parties without witnesses a Search check, a Gather Info check, or a guide to make Track superfluous. After all, a good DM or adventure designer will never say, "I guess the bad guy gets...

I don't quite follow your argument there. Who would ever run an adventure that requires Track if the PCs don't have that ability? But on the other hand, if they do have it, it only makes sense to give them an opportunity to use it from time to time - again, they did pay an opportunity cost to get it. Command construct doesn't seem much different.

Star Voter Season 6

Steven T. Helt wrote:
roguerouge wrote:
What happens when two people with this feat use it on the same construct successfully?

I am not sure a test of wills between a PC and NPC over who the golem whomps is a bad thing. Seems tens, if you can describe it with flavor.

That part wasn't a criticism, just an actual question. I kept thinking of 1950s sci-fi:

"Attack, Tobor! Attack!"
"Go back, Tobor! Back!"

ad infinitum until commercial break.

Star Voter Season 6

roguerouge wrote:
Track is another example of a self-defeating feat, I've ranted at some length on the uselessness of Track because DMs will inevitably give parties without it witnesses, a Search check, a Gather Info check, or a guide to make Track superfluous. After all, a good DM or adventure designer will never say, "I guess the bad guy gets away... [snip]
Lanfranc wrote:


I don't quite follow your argument there. Who would ever run an adventure that requires Track if the PCs don't have that ability? But on the other hand, if they do have it, it only makes sense to give them an opportunity to use it from time to time - again, they did pay an opportunity cost to get it. Command construct doesn't seem much different.

Why would you waste a feat, when a DM will let ranks in Search or Gather Info (illegally) accomplish the same thing? Imagine you're the player of a barbarian who's convinced by his peers to take Track because the party's going to need it. Imagine how irked you'll be when you could have taken a feat that's actually vital in mission-critical circumstances, rather than used only when the DM remembers to throw you a bone for taking a superfluous feat.

And, yes, turning and favored enemy are other examples of feats that depend on DM fiat to be worthwhile. That's the whole rationale for why Pathfinder changed the rules for Turning so markedly and added Favored Environments to rangers.

The advantage of the Superstar's feat, however, is that it's very useful for NPCs, as opposed to Track, which is always the whipping boy of the plot. I can see myself saying, "Man, I wish this NPC had this feat," while I've never bemoaned the lack of tracking from my villains. I just give them a bloodhound or a low-level specialized expert.


Steven T. Helt wrote:


I am not sure a test of wills between a PC and NPC over who the golem whomps is a bad thing. Seems tens, if you can describe it with flavor.

Actually, the opposed wills wouldn't happen. The construct would simply follow the last order given (the last person to touch him). I really don't like the image that conjures. It essentially de-escilates an encounter to a schoolyard game of "tag".

As I said, I knew I was going to be in the minority. I'm actually surprised someone agreed with me (thanks roguerouge).

Steven T. Helt wrote:


As noted in the discussions above, it's not this iteration of the feat that's awesome, it's the idea. You can raise the DCs,observe that a construct 'boss' is unlikely to be affected, and make it publishable. But the idea behind the feat is good design and good flavor.

This might be the first submission we disagree on. How can you criticize one submission for having a good idea with poor execution, but not another? Based on the judges comments, it appears that the round 1 submissions were full of good ideas with bad execution, and they were rejected. I seem to recall you having a similar sentiment about other submissions. The place for a good idea with poor/no execution was in round 2 when we were voting on concepts. This round I expect play balance. The fact that it could be changed to make it more balanced doesn't change the fact that it's too powerful NOW. A roughly 50% shot (Joel Flank's math) to take out a powerful adversary with one action is just too big. Joel also forgot the stat-bumps, racial adjustments, and Fox's Cunning spell. With that, we are looking at a 75% success rate. Add in one of several magic items that boost intelligence, Bardic help, and Skill Focus, and you might be looking at a 95% success rate. If you happen to roll a "1", just try again. There is no consequence for failure. In many ways, this is the exact opposite of Vashkar. He was ridiculously hard, this is ridiculously easy.

There are other issues. If I tell it to "guard" a door, does that include from me? Am I an "other"? Is the construct's creator? Imagine a Homonculus familiar (Improved familiar feat) attacking it's own master. What if that familiar was delivering it's master's touch attacks. This feat swings from useless to overpowered every encounter, depending on if that encounter has any constructs in it.

Steven T. Helt wrote:


Maybe a die roll takes an iron golem out of the combat, but then maybe you waste a round and get the golem's attention if you blow it. Then the golem erases you.

Lots of ways to avoid that. Gaseous Form is probably the best one. You can't attack while gaseous, but this feat requires a standard action, not an attack. If you make the feat require a touch attack, then you open the door for spells that allow you to make touch attacks at range.

A 95% sucess rate, and no consequence for failure? No thank you.

Scarab Sages

Jason Rice wrote:
This might be the first submission we disagree on. How can you criticize one submission for having a good idea with poor execution, but not another?

Good point, and I agree. I didn't really count off for fixably poor execution; the contestants only had a few days to come up with the new rule element, as they weren't announced until the round 3 rules were posted. I was looking for concept and not being totally off the chart. If fiddling with DCs or adding a one-line exception fixes it, and the idea's worthwhile, it was a good rules element by me. I also judged them based on general usage; new rules that were so narrow in scope that they were basically only usable by the villain in question got poor marks from me. New rules that players could pick and would maybe even want to pick, those were what caught my eye. Hec succeeds on those merits.


Lanfranc wrote:


Can't agree with that. I think a good DM should provide challenges that offer opportunities for the PCs to actually use their abilities creatively. Keeping certain elements entirely out of the game specifically because the PCs took certain abilities to counter is - well, that's just bad DM-ship in my opinion. Not least because the PCs are in fact paying an opportunity cost for having those particular abilities.

If I'm DM'ing, I'm not going to change an entire adventure path, or alter a story, just because a single player picked one specific abusable feat. I'm just going to disallow the feat. Problem solved. I'm trying to tell a story, not cater to one min-maxed game element. When a rule gets in the way of the story, there is a problem with the rule.

How many published adventures have constructs? Yes, there are some, but not many. Are you going to add/subtract constructs in an adventure, even if they have nothing to do with the story arc? Just to appease a player that had other oprions but chose to power game? In my opinion, this feat flawed on many levels.


I've had several negative posts, so I feel I need to re-state my position.

It's the new rule that I dont like. The overall submission is an improvement over last round. Specifically the adventure hooks. And I really appreciate that the fact that Randy toned down the respect angle.

This is still a "possible" for my vote.


Jason Rice wrote:
How many published adventures have constructs? Yes, there are some, but not many. Are you going to add/subtract constructs in an adventure, even if they have nothing to do with the story arc? Just to appease a player that had other oprions but chose to power game? In my opinion, this feat flawed on many levels.

No... but I am going to write stories that tie in with my players' characters.

So if one player were to build a character who focuses on constructs, I am going to write adventures about constructs from time to time, just like I'm going to write adventures about devils for a Sorcerer with an infernal bloodline, or adventures about a cleric's particular church - in other words, make the adventures relevant for the PCs. That's not "appeasement", that's just doing my job as a DM.

As for "powergaming": Considering a player would have to spend no less that three feats to get here - and item creation feats, too, which my players at least tend not to be too keen on - I don't really see that this is a particular obvious candidate for powergaming.


Lanfranc wrote:


No... but I am going to write stories that tie in with my players' characters.

So if one player were to build a character who focuses on constructs, I am going to write adventures about constructs from time to time, just like I'm going to write adventures about devils for a Sorcerer with an infernal bloodline, or adventures about a cleric's particular church - in other words, make the adventures relevant for the PCs. That's not "appeasement", that's just doing my job as a DM.

...and watch as this player breazes through these encounters. Apples and oranges. You cant compare a rule element with a story plotline. The feat is broken. It's either wildly overpowered or not useful at all.

Lanfranc wrote:


As for "powergaming": Considering a player would have to spend no less that three feats to get here - and item creation feats, too, which my players at least tend not to be too keen on - I don't really see that this is a particular obvious candidate for powergaming.

Granted, the old item creation feats were not great. The XP cost was almost never worth the benefit. However, the new item creation rules don't suffer from this. Pathfinder magic items don't cost any XP.

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

This entry will likely grab a vote for me. I'm not too happy with the level - I prefer mid-level foes - but the execution is good. The judges dropped strong hints that contestants should take the opportunity to tighten the text, and you're one of few who have done so.

The new feat is good. I think it needs polishing, as pointed out in the threads, but it really is an ability that should exist. I rather like it as a feat, and I like requiring Craft Construct to take advantage of it.

Hope to see you advance!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 8 aka Garnfellow

Thanks again to everyone who has stopped by and posted here -- there have been some very interesting comments. As with the last round, I'm reading everything and if I'm fortunate enough to make it to the next round, I'll certainly be bringing this feedback with me.

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

Jason Rice wrote:
How can you criticize one submission for having a good idea with poor execution, but not another?

You kill me. The answer is in the degree of poor execution. This is good idea for a feat that needs some tweaking. Distinct form the design choices that make Vashkar broken, this feat requires only a little work and the right campaign to be fun, vital, and fit right into a core concept. Vashkar needs work in several places, and conceptually is a mediocre villain with improvement over the rd 2 fluff, and mechanical troubles.

Hecataeus is a good concept that still received some improvement. Mechanically, he is awesome..tactics, power level, presentation, and his feat is good, and completes a villain or PC concept. The feat needs a little work. Every part of Vashkar needs work.

And many build elements can be taken to break a campaign or gain an advantage in rare situations. A good DM plays around that. You give them some of what they're designed against to tell a good story, and you offer lot's of stuff they don't have an advantage against, and you offer a few things they are helpless against, and let someone else shine. Combining those makes a better campaign.


Congratulations on making Round 4. And now we get to see Hecataeus' lair, perhaps*? :)
You've set up some high expectations though.

Edit:
* Or perhaps not, depending on whether or not another contestant feels like mapping it.

Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Congratulations Randy!

I voted for Hecataeus for two reasons. First it is Golems. Sure they are mindless, follow orders and cant't take crits, but if anyone was ever freaked out by Harryhausen's has to appreciate them. Hec gives them a brain and purpose even if they are not his golems (thanks to your feat).

Secondly, the clarification/update on why he is villain was simple yet understandable. Nice job.

Star Voter Season 6

Congratulations!


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Charles Evans 25 wrote:


* Or perhaps not, depending on whether or not another contestant feels like mapping it.

I hope so. Been a while since I've seen a good, solid, construct run. I have to admit, an automaton filled environment is always fun for an adventure.

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