Round 3: Create a Bestiary entry

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Hodge Podge

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Covered in wicked spines, this starfish-like beast hungrily flails its ten appendages. Each one ends in a beady red eye, fixated upon the creature's prey.
Bristlecraw CR 7
XP 3,200
N Large aberration (aquatic)
Init +10; Senses all-around vision, darkvision 60 ft., blindsense 30 ft. (120 ft. underwater); Perception +9
----- Defense -----
AC 21, touch 15, flat-footed 15 (+6 Dex, +6 natural, -1 size)
hp 68 (8d8+32); regeneration 5 (cold or fire)
Fort +11, Ref +15, Will +15
Defensive Abilities split (piercing and slashing, 15); Immune acid
Weaknesses vulnerability to cold and fire
----- Offense -----
Speed 20 ft., climb 20 ft.
Melee bite +13 (1d6+4), 10 arms +8 (1d4+2 plus grab)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks constrict, self-eviscerate
----- Statistics -----
Str 19, Dex 22, Con 18, Int 3, Wis 19, Cha 10
Base Atk +9; CMB +15 (+19 grapple); CMD 31 (47 vs. trip)
Feats Combat Reflexes, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Stealthy
Skills Climb +13, Escape Artist +13, Perception +9, Stealth +13 (+18 when mimicking); Racial Modifiers +4 Climb, +5 Stealth when mimicking
Languages understands basic Aquan, empath 30 ft.
SQ amphibious, buoyant, compression, freeze, mimic
----- Ecology -----
Environment warm coastline, forest, swamp or water or underground
Organization solitary, pair, or cluster (3–5)
Treasure incidental
----- Special Abilities -----
Buoyant (Ex) A bristlecraw cannot swim, but it is able to adjust its buoyancy to rise or fall in water to a maximum of 30 ft. per round. It can walk underwater at its full speed.
Grab (Ex) A bristlecraw can use its grab attack against foes up to one size category larger.
Mimic (Ex) At will as a full round action, a bristlecraw is able to change its color, arm arrangement, and needle patterns to mimic local flora, rock formations, and similar natural objects. It gains a +5 competence bonus to Stealth checks made to hide in plain sight. It can make itself appear up to one size category smaller.
Self-Eviscerate (Ex) At will as a standard action, a bristlecraw can push its digestive tract out of its body cavity to entangle and digest foes. Treat this as the entrap ability (DC 14, 1d4 minutes, hardness 3, hp 12) which deals 1d6 acid damage per round. The bristlecraw cannot perform a coup de grace on the target. Damaging the organs will harm the bristlecraw, but will not cause it to split. If the organs are destroyed, the bristlecraw cannot reuse this ability until it is fully healed. The bristlecraw cannot use its bite attack when using this ability, but it can retract its viscera as a swift action.

These opportunistic omnivores reside in moist, tropical climes throughout Golarion. They readily eat anything from detritus on the seafloor, to a fisherman's hard-earned catch on his own ship, to unsuspecting humanoids on land. They are fond of using their natural cunning to capture meals in novel ways. They often mimic wild fruit or flowers, climb trees, or bury themselves under loose layers of sediment and simply wait for prey to arrive.

A bristlecraw strikes at the opportune moment, lashing out with its arms in an attempt to grab its prey. It will use its self-eviscerate ability on the foe, continuing to constrict it. If threatened while feeding, it will temporarily release its grapple and fend off those who would deprive it of its meal.

Bristlecraws are often hunted, or even farmed, for their spines, exoskeletons, and edible roe. Despite this utility, they are seen as dangerous pests at best. They can produce sexually, laying polyp-like young, or asexually by severing one of their arms.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

Hey, Chirs...welcome to Round 3. This carousel doesn't end until you either fall out of the competition or win the whole thing. You've been chugging along with some consistent designs so far. Let's see what you've given us this time around.

Wall of Text:


First off, going into monster design, a freelance designer has to recognize certain basic elements of the game...the give-and-take of all the variables upon which it's mechanically founded. The most important defining characteristic (which has a trickle down effect) in monster design is its Challenge Rating (CR). The rules for Round 3 already told you what that would be...i.e., CR 7. Thus, the "test" for this round isn't just determining if you can cook up a really great idea for a monster. It's also to see how well you can interpret what a CR 7 monster is meant to have, mechanically-speaking, that distinguishes it from a CR 6 or a CR 8 monster.

So, what are the trickle down effects you need to know for a CR 7 creature? In general, its AC should be around 20. Its hit points should be around 85. Its best saving throws should be around +10 and its weaker saving throws should still be around +6. The damage curve potential for a combat-focused CR 7 monster should be around a +13 attack inflicting an average of 22-30 points of damage per round if all its attacks manage to hit an opponent. Even a less combat-focused CR 7 monster should still have around a +10 attack and the DCs for any special abilities or SLAs should be a DC 17 for a primary power and a DC 12 for a lesser power. There's still wiggle room within these numbers, but typically, if you make one of those things higher or lower, you want to offset it with a variation in one of the other statistics above.

Additionally, monsters should be built around the non-standard array for their ability scores (i.e., 11, 11, 11, 10, 10, 10) before applying racial adjustments. These adjustments should always come in even-numbered increments (i.e., +2, +4, +6, etc.). That means for a basic monster design, you should end up with three odd-numbered ability score values and three even-numbered ability score values.

Okay. With all that serving as your baseline, let's see where you've taken us...

Creativity Factor:
It's a weird, multi-tentacled aberration with a penchant for ambushes by blending into nature with its mimic ability. The low Intelligence pretty much relegates it to a predator with enough elevated instincts to come up with creative methods of tricking its prey.

Good, initial, read-aloud, descriptive text.

The split ability is something you'd normally associate with oozes. Applying it to this aberration raises some complicated considerations. For instance, if it splits, how many tentacles go with each creature? Or do they both sprout ten appendages and keep right on grabbing and constricting you?

I didn't really care for the self-evisceration ability. It's got a high gross factor, which some gamers might enjoy just to freak out players. But, having it entangle and inflict ongoing acid damage in addition to the ten tentacle attacks with the grab and constrict abilities, goes a bit too far, I think.

This beast kind of suffers from "kitchen sink" syndrome. It's amphibious so it can go anywhere. It can see in the dark, 360-degrees around itself, and has blindsense (just in case). It can regenerate. It can split. It can entangle/grapple you in not one, but two different ways. It's got reach. It can do an average of 48 points of physical damage in a single round if all its attacks hit in addition to any ongoing acid damage to anyone it's entangled with its innards. It can also use the mimic and freeze abilities to set up first strike ambushes. And, it's got the compression ability, just to throw one more thing on top of this SAK monster. In short, I think it goes too far. And it lacks focus and refinement.

Mechanical Considerations:
Just because I'm OCD, I did a very quick number crunching of your design using the spreadsheet Paizo provides us as freelancers. I thought it was important to do that just to give some kind of assessment on your technical skills. I ran into a few things that seemed off to me. You might want to go back and double-check the following:

- The saves seem completely wrong for this creature. I'm showing Fort +6, Ref +10, Will +10 (which would be appropriate for a CR 7 creature), but you've got an extra +5 bonus across the board. What gives?

- The attacks seem completely different, too. The best the bite attack could come up with is +9...based off a +6 BAB, +4 Str, -1 size. And the 10 arm attacks (which should be tentacles from the sound of it?) came in at +4 after the -5 penalty for being secondary attacks. Additionally, you've apparently given the bite and arms the damage code for a Medium creature. They both should be higher for a Large creature.

- The constrict ability is missing a damage code.

- Looks like you forgot the -4 penalty to Stealth for Large creatures. And the Climb skill should receive a +8 bonus since the monster has a climb speed.

- The BAB, CMB, and CMD are overstated. Should be +6, +11 (+15 grapple), and 27 (43 vs. trip), respectively.

A few missteps here, but nothing too extreme. For the most part, you're solid. You still need to alphabetize the list of abilities under Senses. The constrict special attack needs a damage code. And I'm not sure what it means to "understand basic Aquan" does that differ from knowing actual Aquan?

Bottom Line:
There really wasn't much here to get excited about. It feels like a grab bag of universal monster abilities with a gross-out self-evisceration ability in an attempt to lure in votes for going gonzo. Maybe that's a harsh way of looking at it? There just wasn't anything here that made me stand up and take notice where I could say, "That's really innovative!" either from a mechanical or flavor perspective. The self-evisceration ability comes close to that, but I think it's overkill to add that on top of a grab/constrict creature.

Given all that, I DO NOT RECOMMEND this monster design to carry you through to the next round. But don't despair. The voters could still see it differently. Some designs advanced last round without my recommendation. If you do make it through, however, I want to see you put something together for the encounter round that works on every level...mechanically, flavor-wise, and innovation. Apply as many of the lessons you've learned here as possible and make sure you give us something Superstar.

Looking back across your earlier work, I liked your scent of the savored sting and was one of its foremost supporters. I also recommended your organization for the Pure Line and thought you explored just the right amount of innovation in linking up to the Azlanti backstory in a way that didn't go overboard. If you can bring more of that while properly assessing the game balance of your designs with some professionally polished presentation, you could keep your run going. Best of luck in the voting.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Chris, good job advancing to Round 3!

What I am looking for:I’m a big picture guy more than a minute details guy. I don’t think just seeing if you crunched out the rules properly is the right way to judge a good entry for this round. Of course you need to execute the stat block properly. Luckily, Sean, Neil and others are way more qualified than I am to talk about the nit picks and issues with the stat block so I will leave that to them. My comments to you will be more “big picture.” For me, I want to see a monster that is fun and playable—a monster that leaps of the page and makes me find a way to incorporate it at the game table. That, to me, is a superstar monster. So here we go…

Initial Impression: Mom said not to pick up the starfish. Now I know why...

The Concept (name, overall design choices, design niche, playability/usability, challenge): B-
This monster has some real limited play opportunities. By the time PCs are ready for CR 7 monsters, they are past hunting down Sigmund the Sea Monster and his friends on the beach. That said, it is different and I like the self-eviscerate ability. Limited play use. Some overlap into off limits ooze zone.

Execution (quality of writing, organization, Golarion-specific, use of proper format, quality of content—description, summary of powers, rules execution, mechanics innovation): B
A bit disjointed on the design, but I like the core self-eviscerate power a lot. That alone makes me lean to a superstar nod. However, it’s a good thing you can’t give this thing monk levels and really take grappling to a whole new level. Ouch! This thing does do a lot and there are some mechanical questions here for me.

Tilt (did it grab me, do I want to use one in an adventure?, mojo, just plain fun factor): B
Despite some of the reservation I have about this creature, I like it. It is fun and gross. But it just doesn't knock me out.

Overall: B
I’m not sure if my personal like for this creature can overcome the other problems it has.

Recommendation: I DO NOT RECOMMEND the voters consider this monster to advance to the Top 8.

Your scent of the savored sting caused me some concerns. In fact, I called it the “swiss army knife of Calistria.” I thought your Pure Line was a step forward.

Here is the problem from my standpoint: I see the same swiss army knife issues here in this creature in that it is a bit of an unfocused “all that and the kitchen sink” kind of monster. It troubles me to see the same issue I identified with your round 1 item crop up in your round 3 entry. This one is up to the voters.

The competition is tight and whether I recommended your monster or not you have done a great job and I wish you the best of luck!


Welcome to Round 3! I'm posting this little blurb at the top of my reply for everyone. FYI, I'm not going to crunch all the math in your stat block, for several reasons. One, I don't have an hour for each monster. :) Two, I'm sure you've been very diligent about this and if anything is wrong, it's probably only off by a little bit. Three, if you were writing this for publication in a Paizo book, you'd be using our stat block spreadsheet, which takes care of the math for you--your job is to understand the rules and bring the mojo. Four, Neil's going to scrutinize that stuff because he is a machine. :) My focus in this review is on the overall coolness and balance of your monster, with an eye on how efficiently you put it together and a spot-check of stat block elements that catch my eye.

Giant freaky starfish? Go on...

It's aquatic and amphibious, so it can hunt on land or in water, okay. But it can't swim?That's weird. I understand the idea that a normal starfish doesn't swim, and normal starfish enlarged to giant size shouldn't be able to swim, but this thing can walk on land at speed 20 feet, which means its legs move at a pretty good pace, so it should be able to swim a little bit. Even elephants can swim. I don't know if "it can't swim" means "it deliberately has no swim speed" or if that means "nope, can't even make swim checks." If the later, that's a really big limitation for a water creature, and will really hinder it in underwater combat. The bouyant helps, but it's still limited to vertical movement, like levitate.

I understand why you gave it the split ability, but I think it wasn't a good choice for this monster. If this splits, does each half have 5 arms, or 10? Does each grow its own special swallowing stomach? And so on.

I like the self-evisceration (IIRC that's how some of starfish actually eat), but I don't know why it mentions coup de grace.

I don't know why it's vulnerable to cold AND fire.

"Empath" in Languages isn't explained.

I like the idea of a giant predatory starfish. It would make sense as an aquatic threat that can sometimes go on land. The mimicry makes sense, too. But you built in some clunky mechanics (buoyant in particular) that could have been simpler and easier, and added some things it doesn't need at all (Int 3, language, empathy, vulnerability), which makes it a little jumbled.

It's a giant killer starfish ("there's nothing fishy about it!")

Stats are ok for CR7.

Not at all a fan of Buoyant. I think that this is effectively giving "flight" to an underwater opponent. I think it's better to mimic the actual creature and not have this capability.

I'd actually like to see the Mimic ability give an even bigger bonus. Sea life is extremely good at this trick. I've less than a foot from stuff I'm actively looking for while diving and been unable to see it.

Unfortunately the Self-Evicerate power is weaker than it should be. It sounds really gross but doesn't deliver much punch. I'd have liked to see it work really well against armored opponents (in real life this is an ability developed to help sea stars eat things in hard shells). Combine Grab with Self-Eviscerate on a knight in armor and you've got a scary experience!

You did a yeoman's job of converting a starfish into a monster, but you didn't bring much to the table. Starfish regenerate, change their appearance and they extrude their stomach to eat stuff. What did you add to this entry? The Buoyant special ability.

Not a lot of value on your part other than doing some research. Not real SuperStar.

I give this entry a C.

I recommend that you do not vote for this designer.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Hodge Podge

Judges, thanks for all your feedback! :)
Like last time, thanks to everyone in advance for your comments and (hopefully) votes! I'll see you all next week.

(Note: I'm sure Lansfale is a nice place, but I still hail from Lansdale. :p)

No one commented on it having split *and* regeneration? It could be real fun if party starts to hacking at this without having source of fire or cold magic at hand.

Dark Archive

You had me at 'self-eviscerate.'

Neat creature, thematically best suited for an aquatic or shore-based campaign, but certainly usable in a darklands sea, or whatever as well.

Chopping it down to five or six tentacles (and perhaps upping the damage a die dize) might make it a little easier to run (rolling for ten plus attacks per round sounds like a pain, from a GM perspective), and modifying the creature to be vulnerable to cold *or* fire, to represent an arctic species (resistant to cold, vulnerable to fire) and a tropical version that breeds around deep sea geothermal vents (resistant to fire, vulnerable to cold) could mix things up a bit.

I'm not a fan of Split, in any event, and wouldn't have gone with that here. Allowing a severed tentacle/arm to continue fighting like a weak constrictor for X number of rounds, could be funky, as a compromise, but would require some sort of 'targetting limbs' option, which is probably a can of worms best left closed...

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka SmiloDan

Set wrote:

You had me at 'self-eviscerate.'

Neat creature, thematically best suited for an aquatic or shore-based campaign, but certainly usable in a darklands sea, or whatever as well.

Chopping it down to five or six tentacles (and perhaps upping the damage a die dize) might make it a little easier to run (rolling for ten plus attacks per round sounds like a pain, from a GM perspective), and modifying the creature to be vulnerable to cold *or* fire, to represent an arctic species (resistant to cold, vulnerable to fire) and a tropical version that breeds around deep sea geothermal vents (resistant to fire, vulnerable to cold) could mix things up a bit.

I'm not a fan of Split, in any event, and wouldn't have gone with that here. Allowing a severed tentacle/arm to continue fighting like a weak constrictor for X number of rounds, could be funky, as a compromise, but would require some sort of 'targetting limbs' option, which is probably a can of worms best left closed...

I agree that 11 attacks a round is WAY too many attacks for a GM to roll every round. 5 or 6 would have been better.

Split is also weird for this. Maybe use the "sunder hydra heads" rules to simulate severing tentacles.

Star Voter Season 6

I agree, with Set, I saw self-eviscerate and just swooned. The monster isn't overly powerful for a CR 7 creature, not when compared to some of the things submitted this year, so I wouldn't be too worried throwing this at my party.

It's just too much a Giant Starfish to me.

This is by far my favorite monster concept: a giant semi-intelligent monstrous starfish that can crawl on land. I got a wonderful mental image of a bristlecraw grappling a panicked elephant or rhino, stampeding through the jungle. And the eye at the end of each arm is a great, creepy detail.

But there is some serious mechanical weirdness in here. The "aquatic creature without a Swim speed" threw me for a moment, but I guess it kind of makes sense. However, it's an aquatic creature! Even if real starfish don't swim, this is a giant semi-intelligent monstrous starfish! It should at the the least have the Swim skill, perhaps with a +4 racial bonus. PCs should not have an overwhelming advantage, underwater, against an aquatic creature.

Drejk's point on the monster having split AND regeneration is key. Those two abilities don't make any sense at all together, mechanically. In general, split is a terrible idea for this monster, for reasons pointed out above. Regeneration makes more sense.

Also: Dex 22...? What about "monstrous starfish" says "superhuman speed and agility"? That helps with the CMD, I guess... But this monster's save are insane. It almost automatically saves against any spell 7th-level adventurers can cast.

Thrusting out its intestines to digest prey is a cool detail, but I don't think it works mechanically well in combat. If you wanted to do that, it'd be better to make it a grappler par excellance, I think. And 11 attacks per round is WAY too much.

SO. This is by far my favorite monster concept by far. It is probably the only monster idea from this round that I would like to use in my game in the near future. And I'm certainly going to overweight the neat flavor and neat concept over some mechanical infelicities. But the mechanical issues are pretty serious: I think this monster has to be completely rewritten to be usable in a game. That's a serious strike in a "Superstar" competition.

I'd like to vote for this critter, but I'll have to think about it some more first.

More problems: It has 10-foot reach, like a giant, rather than 5-foot reach, like a horse? Why?

It has Int 3? What's wrong with giving it Aquan?

OTOH it would be a great monster for a salt marsh or swamp...

My criteria for deeming a monster voteworthy:

1. Can I drop this into my home campaign and still do something interesting with it outside of Golarion? Sure. It's a basic creepy crawly but a good one.

2. Does this monster inspire me to design an encounter just for the purpose of featuring it? Meh. I can think of lots of situations where I'd like to use it, but it seems like the kind of creature I'd work into a random encounter just for the opportunity to play around with it.

3. Will my players think the monster's physical description is cool, or will they laugh it off of the table? They'll probably like this, especially when the dawning moment of realization hits them that they walked right into it because of its camouflage-like mimic ability.

Additional Thoughts: I like the idea behind self-eviscerate, but I'd like to see it do more damage and possibly affect more than one small/medium target at a time. Maybe if you reduced the number of attacks and upped the damage on that ability, it'd have more zip. (10 attacks is also going to take a lot of time to resolve at the table - that's almost double the number of rolls I'd make when full-attacking with an adult dragon!)

I'm not entirely sure this is a Superstar monster, but I do rather like it despite that.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2009 Top 4 , Star Voter Season 6 aka raidou

Chris, this is definitely a monster I could see myself using. Couple of quibbles but overall I feel like a group of these would be a memorable encounter.

Here's what I like:
- monster name exactly fits the description. The name "bristlecraw" will now and forever conjure up the image of a giant, spiny, aberrant starfish.
- its mode of ambush is clever and feels realistic for a creature like this.

Here's what I don't like:
- not entirely sure why this needs to be an aberration. I feel that aberrations should have some weird and terrifying cosmic power or origin. This creature feels much more like a magical beast.
- how much constriction damage does this thing do? That's an unfortunate omission.
- the buoyancy thing seems overly limiting and I'm not sure it adds much to the feel of the creature. I think I'd have preferred you dropping this in favor of using your word count elsewhere.

Other thoughts:
- I won't hold this against you, but there's a lot of modular work required here to make this monster function properly. You have to be ready to reference the Entrap, Freeze and Split special abilities from some other book(s), then figure out how they will apply here. This is a monster that takes a little bit more prep-work (or willingness to slow down play during combat) than you might expect.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Uhh, this idea could have been so cool, but then it wasn't. Ten grapple attempts per round means you're going to always have something grappled. Or *everything*.

If you had instead broken this monster down into ten independant tentacles that were more like hydra heads, okay - but as it stands a careless party might wind up with everyone fighting their own *ten grapple attempts a round* monster. And GMs don't want that at all, because in a worst-case scenario that means they might have to roll four monsters times eleven attacks, ten of which have grapple potential. And that's eighty dice per round - a gamestopper if there was one.

Frankly, if I saw this monster in an adventure, I'd hand-wave it away and replace it with something else. Like a necrotic reef.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka Demiurge 1138

So it's a giant starfish, with Starro-style eyes at the end of each arm? Cool. Unlike Neil, I think the vast suite of defensive abilities make sense, given the theme. Starfish are scary critters, after all. However, I don't think they were thought out all the way through. Split doesn't reduce each of the clone's max hp, just their current hp. So regeneration means that they can heal back up to full, and the encounter just got much much harder. I agree that there should have been some consideration as to how split works with a creature that has an anatomy. Does each half get half the arms? Or do they grow a bunch of new arms right away quick?

Speaking of those arms, having ten attacks with grab riding on them is pretty darn terrifying. There's a reason Paizo boosted the kraken to CR 18! You probably would have been better served giving it one "arms" attack, similar to a decapus or devilfish. I really like the self-evisceration ability, though. It's a good use of the entrap mechanics, and a neat reference to how real-world starfish hunt.

As Neil pointed out, there's a lot of computing flaws to this beastie. Both the saves and the attacks are way off.

In summary, although this entry inspired me to figure out how to get a giant murderous starfish into my games, it did not make me want to use this giant murderous starfish. I will not be voting for this entry. Best of luck with the voters!

I really like the concept 'giant starfish' and I really like the name Bristlecraw for it.

I see this an an example of 'more is less.'
there seems to be too much going on with this creature in way of mechanics.
But I really like the concept, and i would love to throw something like this against my players.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Epic Meepo

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Disclaimer: In the Top 32 Guildhall, Chris Scaeffer gave me express written permission to tear into his monster, even after I promised that my criticism would be as harsh as I felt necessary. Accordingly, I'm not going to hold any criticism back in this review of his bristlecraw.

This monster starts out okay, then collapses under the weight of its absurdly long list of abilities.

Here's an itemized critique:

Name I keep wanting to call this a bristleclaw.

Defensive Abilities This monster has eleven attacks per round and can split into as many as four copies of itself. That means the GM could be rolling forty-four attacks per round from just this one monster. No, thank you. Split is creating way too many attacks per round on this monster.

Languages "Understands basic Aquan" should be "Aquan (can't speak)". Also, perhaps I'm just missing something, but where does empath come from? Is that an actual monster ability somewhere?

Special Attacks/SQ/Special Abilities So this monster has all-round vision, blindsense, regeneration, split, grab, constrict, self-eviscerate, amphibious, buoyant, compression, freeze, mimic, empath, and eleven attacks per round. You needed to stop designing about halfway through this list, because there's way too much stuff going on here. When designing a monster, less is more, and this monster could use a lot less.

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Looking in the PRD, there does not seem to be a universal monster rule entry for "empathy" - looked in all three beastiaries.

The Carbuncle has empath 30 ft. in the language block in it's entry, but then has it clarified under special abilities:

PRD wrote:
Empath (Su) Carbuncles possess a crude form of telepathy, allowing them to transmit mild impressions and remembered sensations to other creatures. This form of telepathy cannot convey language or hinder a target in any way (such as by transmitting pain). Thus, a carbuncle can relate a feeling of fear or the faint smell of leaves, but cannot directly warn an ally of a monster or tell of a treasure under a dirt mound.

Unfortunately, this does not appear to be anything standardized in the rules, so it looks like the bristlecraw would need to include a similar (or modified) entry. And I only found this by searching the PRD for empathy (would maybe have been easier if I was looking for empath, but I misread it). Plus there are a ton of other empathy entries, like mites with their vermin empathy, girtablilu with their Scorpion Empathy, ettercaps with their Spider Empathy, and jackalweres with their Jackal Empathy (among other things).

Did I mention that I now love the PRD? And I don't even play Pathfinder!

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Phloid

Giant killer starfish that can be split like an ooze and regurgitates its stomach. I'm not feeling it. There are some good things but overall it just doesn't have the mojo. I don't care for the name. Where is the claw? The mechanics are a bit on the boring side and there is nothing really innovative about them. Buoyant is the closest if comes and it is just not exciting. Split on a creature that has a certain number of arms is just weird. I know that starfish can be split and regenerate into two individuals, but I don't see this happening in a single round of time. Overall, I just wasn't impressed enough and it got cut from my votes.

As a monster designer, I look forward to this phase of the contest lets see..
I like the fact you looked to the real world to fuel your ideas; I do that myself, quite often as truth is stranger then fiction.
I think you may have tried a little to hard for this. It works on many levels, a bit over the top in others. I actually like can't actually swim, and that can be used to its foes advantage.
In the end..I kinda like this one,and would use it in my home game. I have not decided on my votes yet, but this one is in the running.

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

This is clearly not superstar design. The monster is an amalgam of a few natural traits, converted into a giant aberration. Mechanically, it's disorganized and schizophrenic. Why is it a low-intelligence, empathic starfish? You have dragged down some decent ideas (self-evisceration, bouyancy) with mediocre design and explanation, or just poor choices.

Makes a great first impression with name and read-aloud text, and falters consistently after that. If you amke it to round 4, focus on thight design and synergy. Someone with so many scattered ideas can really muck up an encounter, but someone with only one or two clever ideas can give us an encounter to remember.

Dark Archive

I'm sorry but I can't justify giving a vote to this suicidal pseudo-starfish.

My honest first impression... and it's a really hard one to get out of my head, so I apologize in advance if anyone thinks I'm outta line, as I am in no way saying that this is what actually happened to Mr. Chris Shaeffer, although I am implying & speculating... after I first read through the Bristleclaw submission, it seems like the competitor had metaphorically "bet the bank" on the ooze mechanic, 'split', working together with his self-eviscerate thing. When the news that no competitor's monster could be an ooze, etc., was released he could have just hand-waved his monster to the required CR and it ended up as a starfish-like aberration so that it could retain the 'split'... because it's a starfish... and they do something kind of like that in real life (although a starfish doesn't split like the way the ability description reads).

What puzzles me most is that I can't think of a single existing core Pathfinder RPG aberration that has the 'split' defensive ability (right now off of the top of my head, but I'll look later and if I find one I swear I'll say sorry), I don't think I've seen any type of monster except for oozes possess the 'split' defensive ability; the only other logical monster that would be able to do this would be some strange kind of outsider with the elemental subtype, but not aberration.

OK, so this theory, having been put down onto virtual paper, is something that I know is far-fetched, but IMHO the competitor could have just as well have made his monster an animal... or better yet a vermin, instead of an aberration. Vermin fits better with the "starfish-type-splitting-creature-which-floats-randomly-around-eating-itsel f-to-death", I think. Maybe.

Well Chris, you've made it this far and that is no small thing. I dunno, again I think you can see where my head was at when I first saw your monster submission. I'm not insisting that anything I've suspected or posted here is the "gospel truth", just sharing some feedback with you that possibly no one else did or probably will. I'm just sorry that I can't share my vote with you as well.

Best of luck to you Mr. Shaeffer, in this contest and in all of your endeavors.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Hodge Podge

Thanks for the kind words, Ian! And thanks everyone else for all of your interest, votes, and feedback (once again, ESPECIALLY the negative).

I agree with many of your points, and there's really no arguing them or further justifying many of my design follies in this case. To be honest, this is literally a first draft, which I was never able to give its due process because of an unexpected spike in my workload. As such, I don't expect to progress to the next level. However! I do promise you a fully (and thoroughly) revised version of the monster so that I can do the Bristlecraw some justice. He wants to exist.

I think another one of my failings this time around is that "Vorthos" took up way too much time, as I spent a long time simply researching about starfish and other echinoderms (and also looking to see what monsters were already around. big job.). The "Melvin" in me never got his fair shot at further defining the core idea and trimming the excess.

A downside of the "Vorthos to Melvin approach." :p


I've been feeling under the weather this weekend, so my brain's not up to taking all of your points, organizing them, and responding to them like I have in previous rounds, but I may do that this week. :)

What I'll give you right now is my design notes for my concept behind the monster. It's actually really involved and may explain certain things about the monster that raised some questions. You'll probably see a few things make a lot more sense.

First up, the "Brainvomit" where I just type words on paper as they come:

What kind of animal is ill-represented in Bestiary?
Echinoderms/Starfish. Real world has no land/fresh water-dwelling echinoderms.

Only starfish reference the dust digger. Possible relation? Ancestral to or derived from?
(Would be ancestral to them if anything, these starfish might have burrowed under dry sandy areas and eventually turned into dust diggers)
Dust diggers = Warm deserts. Garund and Casmaron. Specifically: Rahadoum, Thuvia, Osirion, Qadira.
Also in Garund: Jungles, Sodden Lands, Islands, (Reefs?)

-:Borrowable Echinoderm Features:-
- large range, found in all oceans
- intertidal to abyssal
- specialized feeding behaviors, opportunistic (suspension feeding, predation)
- keystone species
- crown-of-thorns starish has venomous spines all over and is a solitary predator
- can have more than five arms: 6, 10, 11, 15, 16, 24, 50, etc...
- many either swallow prey whole or regurgitate stomach outwards to digest food
- some inject stomachs into bivalves and then use water vascular system to crack shells open (like the thing those guys use to pry open your car door to get your keys out...)
- can hunt prey larger than itself, digesting the food externally
- central nervous ring around esophagus which combines to form brain
- not many well-defined sensory inputs, but they are sensitive to touch, light, temperature, orientation, water status
- tube feet, spines, etc... touch sensitive
- tube feet (esp. near ends of arms) are sensitive to chemicals and scents/odors
- eyespots on the ends of arms (develop into fully functional eyes?), also photoreceptor cells all over body (very hard to blind completely)
- move using water vascular system
- tube feet use adhesive/deadhesive to stick, not suction. latch on in a wave-like motion
- some species burrow/glide quickly
- can reproduce BOTH sexually and asexually
- fragmentation/budding. even the tip of an arm can grow into a full adult
- some are able to change color drastically and quickly, like a chameleon

- modest borrowing/swimming ability
- ability to attach to substrate/surface
- sticky mucus secretion
- tube feet on arms
- Must mate in water. Brood larvae in arm chambers. Female releases larvae which attach to substrate and grow in plant-like fashion until adult.

Sea Cucumber:
- some are armored
- can communicate via hormone signals in water
- can loosen and tighten collagen at will to "liquefy its body and fit through tight spaces"
- can eviserate themselves and release their sticky respiratory organs to entangle predators
- can release a toxic, soapy substance to kill nearby animals
- eye-spots
- some can control bouyancy
- tentacles

Sand Dollar:
- many cilia-covered spines for movement
- rigid skeleton
- burrow/creep through sediment/sand/mud
- able to clone themselves when the population is threatened (doubles numbers, halves size)
- dead shells said to resemble the coins of mermaids or atlantians

Sea Urchin:
- hundreds of tube feet
- tentacles
- gonads are a delicacy (sea urchin roe)
- venomous spines

Brittle Stars:
- can live in brackish water
- can live in abyssal depths
- some have VERY flexible arms, others can only bend down
- some birth live young, others have free floating larval stage
- some species have a dwarf male clinging to the female
- can regenerate arms
- fast/active

(note: also take ideas from that Squid that can look like ANYTHING THE HELL IT WANTS TO)

A small-to-huge sized, land-dwelling starfish. Able to brachiate/climb with ease, and can breathe air and water. Top side lined with small eyes, bottom side lined with thousands of fang-like tube feet. (maybe not)
Driven from Bay of Abendego by the storm. Highly adaptable to new surroundings and able to survive on land. Adjusted in a few generations. (not necessarily. Might have been on land far longer.)
Moist environments. Sodden lands, Mwangi Expanse, Mediogalti, The Shackles, Other coastal areas of Garund. Must have bodies of water nearby to breed.

Sodden lands: Eats Boggards.
Moderate intellect allowing various hunting tactics? Mimic plant/flower. Drop on prey from trees. Beartrap-like ambush.
Lives in groups (clew, brood, colony, pack, bed, swarm, hive?)
Probably considered a vermin? (might be an animal, double check)
Vermin, Animal, Magical Beast, or Aberration?

Get all that? :p

Next up, the actual, full monster concept. All flavor, no mechanics, and way too much to fit into 600 words, but really cool in my opinion:

"Starfish" concept

-Found in oceans all over Golarion (all the way from abyssal depths up to the shoreline), also prevalent on land in Garund.
-Amphibious, and can be found in fresh and brackish bodies of water, wetlands, jungles, and moist caves
-Cannot swim, but they are excellent climbers, found both brachiating in trees and grasping onto ships, flotsam, or rocks
-Can also shallowly burrow under loose/wet sediment: sand, mud, etc...

-They have the ability to change the color and patterning of their skin. Together with their natural cleverness and flexibility, they often pose as local flora in order to lure prey or avoid predators.
-When encountered, they will be a color matching their environment, stone gray in caves, tan on beaches and on the sea floor, and brown or green when in a forest. They can even appear in bright, floral colors.

-They appear as large, highly mobile and flexible starfish, covered with bristly spines on the top and thousands of sticky, wriggling tube feet on the bottom. There is a small red eye at the end of each of its 10 arms.
-They have a mouth at the center of their arms which is comprised of 5 jaw segments. The tube feet near the end of the arms are specialized chemoreceptors which are able to "smell" or "taste" air, water, and food.
-Its digestive and reproductive systems are contained wholly within its central disk. Its central nervous ring encircles its esophagus to form a kind of brain.

They grow at a constant rate of about one foot in diameter per six months. They can generally live up to 10 years.
-Larvae are sationary and attach to a surface via short stalks. They form clutches that look similar to patches of exotic wildflowers. Once grown, they detach from their stalks en-masse and begin to roam freely.
-Young are tiny, ranging from, 1 to 3 feet in diameter, and are encountered as swarms
-Juveniles are small, 3 to 5 feet in diameter, and often roam in packs. They are able to regenerate limbs and reproduce asexually at this stage.
-Adults are medium, 5 to 10 feet in diameter, and are usually in mated pairs or small groups. They can reproduce sexually at this stage.
-Elders are large, 10 to roughly 20 feet in diameter, and are usually solitary, but can live in small groups as well.
-Some older, larger specimens are said to exist.

-They come in two genders, male and female, which are largely indistinguishable.
-Generally nocturnal, but known to be alert at any time of day
-They begin their lives as a swarm, but the groups get smaller and smaller due to predation as they age, until they are largely solitary.
-They are clever and opportunistic scavengers and hunters, feeding on detritus and decaying plant-matter as readily as any creatures smaller than it (and sometimes larger)

Some of their hunting strategies include:
- burrowing under a thin layer of sand or mud upside-down and acting almost like a bear trap
- mimicking edible plants, flowers or fruit to lure prey
- mimicking plants (or stalagtites) and dropping down on prey unexpected

-They reproduce either sexually, which must take place in water, or asexually, which can be out of water, and involves splitting several of its arms off.
-When bifurcating, both halves will grow into full adults. (This doubles their numbers, but halves their size and reduces their age category by one)

-It is able to "eviserate," which involves pushing it's internal organs out of its body cavity in order to entangle creatures and digest them externally.
-If it is at least a size category larger, it can engulf a creature entirely, wrapping its arms around it to form a coccoon-like shape with the tips of its arms pointing upward.
-If threatened while stationary in coccoon form, either digesting a meal or mimicking a plant, it may harden its outer skin and extend its venomous bristles for protection.
-If it takes sufficient damage, it may choose to release its meal and either fight its attacker or flee.
-They are extremely resilient, able to regenerate lost limbs and hitpoints. Limbs, even the tips, have a possibility of growing into a full-sized adult. Treat the new "starfish" as being half the size and one age category lower.
-They are able to detach their limbs and eviserated organs as a form of distraction in order to escape from predators. Detatched body parts are very sticky.
-They are able to strike with their venomous spiny arms, or grapple with them.

-They have modest natural armor, decent reflexes, and hit point regeneration.
-They are vulnerable to bashing and fire damage, and cannot regenerate damage from these sources.
-They will die if dried or not allowed near a source of moisture for 2d4 days. Feeding rehydrates them.

-They will indiscriminately attempt to attack and eat palatable (non-poisonous) creatures if they are within one size category of them. This includes humanoids. They may attack larger creatures if in a swarm or group.
- Local Garundi tribes value the creature's roe (actually its reproductive organs) as a delicacy. Their spines and exoskeleton are valued in the crafting of arms and armor.
- They often steal onto fishing ships and devour the sailors' catch. There have been reports of sailors who cut them up and tossed them back in the sea regretting it later when their number came back several-fold
- They are sometimes captured and "farmed" as decorations or sources of roe. Farmers take care to cut them to size regularly so that they do not get too large.
- Garundi trolls like to keep them as pets and food.
- They are easy prey when small and young, and thousands within a clutch are eaten before they can grow to a reproductive age.

(By the way, I had absolutely no desire to do an ooze in the first place. The split thing wasn't ideal for me, and I probably should have left it at plain "regeneration 5" and flavored in the growth of new adults via severed parts.)

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Hodge Podge

(P.S. - I like the name Bristlecraw, even though it seems I'm not the only one who has trouble pronouncing it [I keep wanting to call it Bristleclaw too]! I would have named it the "Bristlemaw," but a Google search indicated that the name was taken by something Warhammer-related, so I decided to steer clear. :p)

Well, I thought it has a great name and is interesting, so it got my vote. Better luck next time, Chris.

Chris Shaeffer wrote:

Covered in wicked spines, this starfish-like beast hungrily flails its ten appendages. Each one ends in a beady red eye, fixated upon the creature's prey.

Bristlecraw CR 7


You should know the drill by now, but in case you (somehow) missed it so far, Ask A RPGSupersuccubus is posting from the point of view of a (very advanced) CE aligned succubus:
Fairness means both the mortals falling off the plank into the lava at the same time, balance is an essential feature in a good diet (let’s not look too closely at the use of the word ‘good’ in that context), and logic means that it’s never the succubus at fault – always the incompetent idiot of a second-rate hairdresser who is incapable of living up to a succubus’ expectations. Oh: And always remember it’s a succubus’ privilege to change her mind without any warning…

Maths is Important. How many points is the name worth, and does it successfully ‘Scrabble’ around for extra points?
It gets 18 points, but no extras.

Would a specimen of this creature look good on the cream and scarlet paisley pattern sofa I have in my Druman villa?
It's a spiny giant starfish. It's not going anywhere near my sofa.

What place does this have at a dinner party?
I don't know. Maybe a dead one hung from the ceiling would make an interesting feature to use as a chandelier.

Other comments?
I must say, this thing is pretty nippy if it can manage that sort of speed underwater, at depth, against the water resistance. Are you sure it doesn't possess some sort of magical movement properties?

If this creature were a crime, what sort of crime would it be (expressed in the time honoured culprit/implement/location format)?
Papworth the Fishmonger, with the halibut, in the scullery.

Ask A RPGSupersuccubus – turning hope to ruin, victory to despair, and asking the important questions which really matter since whenever.

Congratulations on making the top sixteen. Obviously at this point your run in the contest is now over bar the tearful speeches and the 'but I will be back, ha-ha, if I feel like it, another year!' comments, but on the positive side you did did make it through to Round 3.

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