Round 2: Create a monster concept

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RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Orange Toque

Does it grab me visually: Nice backstory for the creature! The visual on this one is very weird, especially with the different colored teeth. I love the idea of his slaves dancing around him and crying out against reality.

Would I use it in game: Maybe. I would really have to work on describing this to my players without them all thinking of the Cheshire Cat. However, the pack of insane thralls behind it could help with that. I don’t know. I like what it does and where it comes from, but a floating mouth monster just doesn’t really do it for me.

Would my players enjoy an encounter with it: They would love dealing with the thralls after killing the liesinger. I love that you make the slaves happy about learning the “truth.” It makes them much more fun to deal with.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Thanks as always! :)

I am particularly interested in what people think of the form I chose for it, and have been paying close attention to those comments.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 aka flash_cxxi

Writingwise I thought your descriptions were brilliant (although I'm not sure I really like the way the creature is picturing in my head).

As for the actaul Monster... I wasn't as impressed.

While I agree that I'd like to see how you'd go with more description heavy material, I'm not sure it's enough to put this into my Keep file.
Sorry and Good Luck. :)

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8

Beautiful prose, and well edited. Problem is that as a gm I cant grasp its abilities other than minions. Why use this creature and not a commanding bard?

Wow this is really creepy, but also really weird. It is a bizzare monster that I might employ once in my campaign and never again. I think it's cool, but to me the monsters that win this contest should be something I can't wait to introduce to my campaign.

Good style though.


RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

I'm running on little sleep now and will come back to post here tomorrow, but I will say that the "rarely violent unless provoked" bit was the line I most regretted.

I meant the word "violent" in only the literalest sense: its not that these creatures avoid confrontations, merely that they do not try to injure anyone except as a last resort. They want to take you alive.

Was that obvious from the text? Only if you're Nic Quimby.

In my head there were easily a half dozen different ways this could act as an antagonist to the heroes, but I took those ways for granted (assuming that they were 'obvious' and giving them little thought), neglecting my duty as the author to SHOW the readers how and why my creation was relevant to their games. That was a total rookie mistake, and one I wouldn't repeat.

Also, "lie singer" was my placeholder name for the creature throughout creation. But during that process my editor started calling them "liesingers" (as in "lice-ing-ers"), and the sound of it grew on me. I was tempted to make it "lysinger" or somesuch but the judges and voters of the past have expressed a dislike for cutsie y-substitutions.

If anyone has any thoughts or questions, feel free to post. I'm quite happy to be able to respond to them directly now. And, as I've said countless times before, thank you all for your comments, your criticisms, your insights, your consideration and your votes.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8

Nicolas Quimby wrote:

Also, "lie singer" was my placeholder name for the creature throughout creation. But during that process my editor started calling them "liesingers" (as in "lice-ing-ers"), and the sound of it grew on me. I was tempted to make it "lysinger" or somesuch but the judges and voters of the past have expressed a dislike for cutsie y-substitutions.

It's not so much that it's cute, but that I would have been baffled entirely as to what you meant. It was obscure enough when spelled conventionally.

Commiserations. I suspect you may have split such 'weird mouth monster' vote as there may have been with the Rictus and lost out that way. If it's any consolation, there will be the *whooomph* of goblin bombs exploding at a number of tables in coming months I think, to judge by the posts your item thread received... ;)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 aka tejón

It's a damn shame you didn't advance, Nic. My decision on which monster to stat up would be a whole lot easier if you had. :)

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Thanks. :)
But I get the feeling that someone is going to have a lot of fun messing around with the brown urus, which wouldn't otherwise be there.

The other upside is that, believe it or not, the liesinger was a narrative concept springing from a cool mechanical idea, rather than the other way around. And if I had gone forward, might never have gotten to share the mechanical idea without looking like I was trying to one-up another contestant.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Here's the full-length feedback I started working on yesterday, arranged by who I'm replying to (and also topic, since many times several posters or judges raised the same issue).

To Sean K Reynolds (RE: size changing):
Sean K Reynolds wrote:

I like the origin of this weird monster.

The ability to change from a Tiny to a Large (Huge?) monster is going to make its stat block an orchestra of pain and frustration, as each size is going to have different size mods to its AC, CMB/CMD, ability scores, and so on. Even if you hand-wave most of that stuff ("it's magic, not really bound by physics") you'll still need to take its size into account for AC.

I intended for its main statblock to assume maximum size, with the tiny (or, technically, fine) mouth being an "alternate form". This ties into some ideas that were simmering below the surface but which I didn't really dare bring to bare in the first round; on one hand the liesinger is the crazed and dangerous pied piper leading a troop of maniacs and monsters, but on the other its the small floating grin which appears to the street preacher at night, eerie but nonthreatening, convincing the man that he has been pursuing the wrong heaven. Letting it assume the size of a human mouth gives it some creepy non-combat utility which the 12-foot yawning jaws simply don't have.

Just the same, I've been reviewing the alternate form and polymorph rules since reading this, and (in the event that I got to stat the liesinger) am not sure if that would be worth keeping. It would be a hassle to hammer out.

To F. Wesley Schneider (RE: art and imagery):
F. Wesley Schneider wrote:

Also, when creating monsters, make sure you're thinking about not just how you imagine them looking, but how other would - especially artists tasked with depicting them. I feel like an illustration of this thing might be a real gamble, ranging from a scary huge mouth with a speary tongue, to something smaller, smiling with a mouth full of razor-sharp, half-sucked Jolly Rancher teeth. Hummm.

Though either of those images would work for me, my editor actually had very specific ideas about how its lips should be chapped and pealing and black blood should be running down over its brightly-colored teeth.

Most people seem happy with my writing, but I'm still not sure if I hit the right note with the physical description. Maybe I was trying too hard to keep that part brief?

To Clark Peterson (RE: conflict and usability as an antagonist):
Clark Peterson wrote:

The problem, though, is conflict. You should be very careful of monsters that “are rarely violent.” Sure, the mastermind and schemer is great, but insane creatures are a problem. Monsters, by definition, are the conflict of fantasy roleplaying. Thus, designing a monster that is by definition not violent, and perhaps too crazy to actively scheme against the PCs is a bad design choice. This monster seems to only be encountered as an accident or happenstance, and that’s not Superstar.

You'd have to go out of your way to stick this thing in an adventure, and even then it wouldn't have much purpose other than random mayhem.

These (along with other judges comments to the same effect) were great, eye-opening insights.

In my head, the liesinger was a foe who could be easily used as an aggressive wandering monster OR as an (insane yet cunning) schemer, no to mention the capstone of countless possible "missing person" or "weird cult" plots. But I just flat-out failed to bring all that to the reader.

to Charlse Evans 25 (RE: underdark):
Charles Evans 25 wrote:

I'm not sure either by what you mean by 'underworld' - do you mean underground, that this thing hangs out in the places that criminals do, or the lands of the dead?

You're right- bad choice of words. But I meant "dungeons/tunnels/underdark/etc".

to Andrew Sun (RE: chaotic outsider):
Andrew Sun wrote:
I'm a big fan of Lovecraft and one of the problems I've always had with D&D is that chaotic outsiders (and even lawful ones) are poorly represented, as far as seriousness goes. Instead of awe-inspiring angels or fearsome demons you mostly get Jetsons-esque robots or rainbow-colored frogmen. While you didn't spell out that this is a chaotic outsider per se, it did strike me as an effective one, both visually and conceptually.

Yea, that was definitely one of the conceptual flavors I was playing with- an avatar of cosmic chaos which is more than just "I can cast chaos hammer!"

To Sean McGowan (RE: not prone to violence, but):
Sean McGowan wrote:
okay, they're not prone to violence. I think the phrasing on that could use some adjustment, but the concept is still valid. After all, even insane otherworldly entities have to react in some fashion when those pesky adventurers come to the village it has under its thrall and try and break up the joyful maypole dance it has the whole town doing, just because it's the middle of winter and the villagers are dropping dead of hypothermia one by one. If those adventurers won't accept the liesingers happier reality, well, clearly they need to be forcibly edited out of the song it's singing...

You were definitely in my head here. To the point where I wanted to thank you specifically for this post, but didn't dare to for fear of clarifying by proxy. But I can now, so thanks. :)

To Lief Clennon (RE: Miyazaki):
Lief Clennon wrote:

Oh, man...

Let me put it this way. If we were pitching concepts to Hayao Miyazaki, you'd have this contest in the bag. We're not, and my votes are precious, but I do hope you advance. Avoiding the pitfalls is something you can learn, and both rounds so far you've shown a rare sort of creativity that makes me cross my fingers for you to get another chance this year rather than next.

I think I know how Boomer felt when people started comparing him to Tarantino. Valid criticism, but still flattering.

To roguerogue (RE: a monster encountered within dreams):
roguerouge wrote:

Fighting disembodied lips and unbrushed teeth, however imaginative, is going to have a very narrow niche at the table. I'd have rather had you EMBRACE the narrow niche and make it feature: a monster encountered in dreams and nightmares. DnD does not have enough of those Nightmare on Elm Street creatures and it could really use them.

I believe it was Wolfgang who, in a previous year, said he was turned off by "dream within a dream" scenarios, what with D&D already being one step removed from reality.

I personally find it to be a fascinating topic, and think that it can be executed well, but I believe that a good monster is supposed to be widely and easily usable by any DM whose fancy they strike. When you're talking about "dreamfighting", you're technically dealing with a subsystem that does not exist in the core rules.

To Joel Flank (RE- good-aligned monsters and usability):
Joel Flank wrote:

I have to disagree with the judges that "rarely violent unless provoked" is bad for monster design. That's true for most animals and magical beasts, and those make fine adversaries. In addition, most of the good aligned monsters are rarely violent unless provoked (or unless you're evil), and don't make good PC adversaries, and they still have their place in the game.

I agree with this. However, the fact remains that the PCs are where the game happens. Monsters need to be relevant to the heroes and usable in games, and a great (let alone superstar) monster needs to be all that much more relevant. You’ll note that even the good-aligned monsters- that is, the GOOD good-aligned monsters- include suggestions on how they might aid or interact with the party.

I deeply appreciate your support, but no matter how you slice it I probably could have done a better job of this. The entry implied lots of ways for them to interact with PCs- I’m glad you saw that too- but not everyone got the hint, and that’s because I treated game-relevance as an afterthought in my presentation.

To varianor (RE: mechanical thralls):
varianor wrote:

Yeah, there’s something grimly strange about this. Oh and hey, it has a troupe of mechanical thralls.

*attacks sanity of foes while inspiring minions (umm, if they’re mechanical?)

That's "maniacal".


It's been said, but thanks again to V and to everyone else who took the time to do a point-by-point breakdown of every monster. That's a LOT of work, but the structured feedback was invaluable.

I AM going to stat up the liesinger, and probably tweak the description and writeup a lot, just as if I were doing an R3 entry on my own creature. For now, however, I think I am going to turn my attention to other writing projects, if only for the sake of conserving momentum.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Charles Evans 25 wrote:

If it's any consolation, there will be the *whooomph* of goblin bombs exploding at a number of tables in coming months I think, to judge by the posts your item thread received... ;)

Also, before I forget, this made me smile.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Hey Nicolas, I think you just missed out. Who can predict 2 mouth monsters? I do appreciate you putting up your ideas behind your monster. I know that you will keep putting your ideas out there. Who knows, by next year, you could be ineligible for RPG Super Star (because by then you might have your name on a hardcover.)
I wouldn't be surprised.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

Posting the stats I have now before I edit the life out of them. Gottay say, I have nothing but respect for the 16 who pulled this off in 72 hours.

I did manage to get it in under 700 words; lost some info that I might have otherwise included, but the result I think is a tighter and better-focused monster.

Liesinger CR 6
A vast, grinning mouth hovers eerily before you, lips pitch-black and bleeding and every fang a different color. It bobs merrily to and fro, filling the air with a strange and beautiful melody.
XP 2,400
CN Large outsider (chaotic, extraplanar)
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 feet; Perception +11
Aura Madness Song 50 feet
AC 16, touch 12, flat-footed 13 (+2 Dex, +1 dodge, +4 natural, -1 size)
hp 68 (8d10+24); +5 temporary (renews every round)
Fort +10, Ref +6, Will +8
Immune confusion, fear SR 18
Speed fly 20 ft. (perfect)
Melee Bite +10 (4d6+3)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 8th; concentration +12)
3/day—Hideous Laughter (DC 16), Sound Burst (DC 16)
Str 12, Dex 14, Con 15, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 18
Base Atk +8; CMB +12; CMD 23
Feats Dodge, Mobility, Step Up, Toughness
Skills Bluff +15, Diplomacy +15, Fly +13, Intimidate +15, Knowledge (planes) +13, Linguistics +13, Perception +11, Sense Motive +11
Languages Abyssal, Auran, Celestial, Common, Elven, Gnome, Goblin, Sylvan, Undercommon
SQ Cradle of Lies
Environment any land
Organization Troop (1 plus 4-20 thralls of various races; see Cradle of Lies)
Treasure none
Special Abilities
Madness Song (Su) The liesinger’s song inspires a strange mania of detachment, portraying with demented eloquence the splendors of a place just beyond our sight and dismissing the horrors of the real world as naught but a nightmare. Any intelligent creature within 50 feet of the liesinger attempts a DC 18 will save each round. Failure causes 2 points of wisdom damage but also provides 5 temporary hitpoints and grants a +2 morale bonus to all attack rolls and saving throws for 1 round. The liesinger and its thralls gain the benefits of its song (included in the statistics above) without the drawbacks.
Cradle of Lies (Su) A creature who fails three consecutive saves (intentionally or unintentionally) against the liesinger’s Madness Song suffers a break from reality, finding the liesinger’s fantasy world far more compelling. Such a creature fails all future saving throws against the madness song. It is treated as confused for as long as it hears the song, until its last ties to reality are severed (represented by its wisdom score being reduced to zero), at which point it becomes one of the liesinger’s thralls.
A liesinger is assumed to be accompanied by thralls with a total EL of at least 4 (making it at least an EL 7 encounter). If a liesinger is destroyed, its thralls remain highly agitated and hostile but are confused for 2d4 rounds.
Hover (Ex) The liesinger’s body partially suppresses conventional physics, allowing it to fly with a speed of 20, though it cannot move more than 5 feet from the ground.

All liesingers were once the citizens of a warped and beautiful dream, frolicking through the imagination of a twisted child-god. Eventually their god grew up and abandoned his dream, spilling his bewildered toys into the icy jaws of a rigid and unforgiving reality. Trapped on the material plane, rational angles and humorless physics biting and grinding its very flesh, a liesinger cavorts across the world’s wastelands in a bitter rapture of madness. Its merry troop of maniacal thralls follows behind, dancing and crying out their rebellion against reality.

A liesinger’s song dulls the bite of fire and ice, but its thralls may still drop dead of hunger or thirst without it understanding why. Liesingers know to avoid civilization, but they do send their loyalist minions away to lure in more. An errant thrall is a nervous and pitiful creature with a deeply atrophied capacity to cope with reality, desperate to complete his task that he might return to the song’s embrace. If separated permanently, such creatures may form strange and debased song-cults in their masters’ name.

Liesingers fight only when attacked, cheerily welcoming even armed parties to join their revel. Most are neither malicious nor innately violent, but above all else strive to add more revelers to their troop. They desperately believe that their fantastical world will become real once more if enough creatures are forced to believe in it.

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