Shapegrifter (Druid)


Round 2: Design an archetype

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6 aka Breelo Babblebock

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Shapegrifter (Druid)

When a humanoid race seeks to disrupt the delicate balance of nature through commerce or war, the shapegrifter uses her abilities to sow the seeds of distrust or to foster the growth of discord. While many shapegrifters infiltrate the ranks of humanoids to incite jealousy, to spy on potential marks, or to take advantage of every race's inherent greed, others follow a more insidious path and become bandits or assassins.

Class Skills: A shapegrifter gains Diplomacy, Bluff, and Knowledge (local).

Liar's Lilt(Ex): At 1st level, a shapegrifter gains a +2 bonus on Bluff and Diplomacy checks. This ability replaces nature sense.

Favored Mark(Ex): At 1st level, a shapegrifter selects a race of humanoids and gains a +2 bonus on Disguise, Knowledge (local), Perception, and Sense Motive checks against creatures of her selected race. At 8th level and 16th level, a shapegrifter may select an additional favored mark. This ability replaces wild empathy.

Spontaneous Casting: A shapegrifter can channel stored spell energy into domain spells that she has not prepared ahead of time. She can "lose" a prepared spell in the order to cast any domain spell of the same level or lower. This ability replaces the ability to spontaneously cast summon nature's ally spells.

Nature Bond(Ex): A shapegrifter may not select an animal companion. Instead, she must choose from either the Charm domain or the Trickery domain, rather than the domains usually available to druids.

Wild Shape(Su): A shapegrifter gains this ability at 4th level, but she cannot use wild shape to adopt an elemental form. Instead, starting at 4th level, a shapegrifter can adopt a medium or small humanoid form as if using alter self. At 12th level, a shapegrifter can adopt a large humanoid form as if using giant form I. Starting at 16th level, a shapegrifter can adopt a huge humanoid form as if using giant form II. The progression of the animal and plant forms is unaltered.

A Thousand Voices(Su): At 4th level, a shapegrifter gains the ability to speak the racial language of the humanoid form taken during a wild shape as if using tongues. This ability replaces resist nature's lure.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Class Skills: This doesn't match the provided format or the sample archetype. You have plenty of words left, don't be afraid to use them to follow proper formatting.

There's also supposed to be a space between the ability name and the (Ex), (Sp), or (Su). The provided format does it correctly.

Favored Mark: "Select a race of humanoids" doesn't really have a precise game definition. For example, if I choose "goblins," should I actually choose "goblinoids"?

Wild Shape: You get this ability at 4th level, and a normal elemental doesn't get the ability to take elemental form until 6th, so I'm not sure why you said "can't take elemental form" the first thing you said after the level intro--you're telling me what you can't do before you tell me what you can do.

You need to capitalize sizes like Medium and Small.

I see this as a "fey druid" sort of archetype, but nothing that really ties it to the River Kingdoms.

I do NOT recommend this archetype for advancement.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Jon, I have a funny feeling you wrote your archetype up before you found out you made the cut and then didn't really change it. This archetype doesn't really tie to the RK at all, at least not explicitly. Formatting problems and you left a good chunk of words on the table.

I sure hope the voters get you in to the next round on the strength of the swarm slurper. But I am judging you based only on this submission.

Unfortunately, I DO NOT Recommend this archetype for advancement.

The Exchange Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

Congrats on making the Top 32, and on choosing the druid for your archetype!

I like the premise fine, the name is clever, but this runs into trouble sooner rather than later. The formatting problems and the sense that this is really an all-new spontaneous casting druid (like the New Paths shaman or something), plus the lack of a sharp RK connection, is just giving me the sense that this isn't a clear, complete design.

Not recommended to advance.


Druid that herds civilized humanoids? Great idea. However, I must regretfully note that in my opinion Urban Druid does that better.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

I think a mention of Gyronna might help a bit.

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

Hi, I like your idea(I had something similar in the works)and I can easily see this in the RK. I like the A thousand voices it work better than what I had for my archetype. Personally I dislike the Urban Druid archetype and you seem to have used it as your inspiration. Good luck

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

a neat play on words being the strongest point of your archetype doesn't bode well, and as you can probably tell - I don't like it particularly much.

Favored mark doesn't scale well.
spontaneous casting would be a lot better than normal - except that it's tied down by...
nature bond - which is now way worse than the existing class feature.

not a bad idea, but marred execution and no RK tie-in.

good luck in this round, and future rounds if you make it!

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka theheadkase

Interesting name, I like that bit of it!

Formatting, you were given a template...this is Round 2. It's not killer but it is even less helpful than in Round 1.

Is this supposed to be for druids who aren't human? I mean...I get that humanoid is broader encompassing than just humans...but this really gives the idea that the player should be a goblin or fey or changeling or some such.

The idea is cool though, I love the idea that a shapechanger is controlling events in the background and there are multitudes of stories about just that.

Your abilities are pretty safe, and I agree with Sean on the "you told me what you can't do before you told me what you can do" point.

I don't have much to say other than I hope the rest of the voters also vote this through. Creative and fun idea...poor execution.

I do NOT recommend for advancement.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8 aka nate lange

your template use needs work; your writing is fair although the way you wrote up "class skills" was poor (why leave off the "as class skills" clause?), and your flavor text could have been thought through better (wouldn't fostering discord only increase the chances of a balance disrupting war?)- i don't really see much connection to RK

i think your game balance isn't bad. you add extra class skills (without taking anything away), IMO the Mark ability is stronger than animal empathy as is the spontaneous casting option; nature bond, wildshape, and 1000 voices seem pretty balanced. overall that equates to a small bump in power, but its into an area that was weak (as opposed to boosting something that was already a strength), and it requires greater MAD to take advantage. Mechanically pretty sound (i think) but you need to work on the other elements where a lot of the other entries didn't have any problems.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

I will give general impressions, but with 3 areas of particular focus that suit my personal interests. Archetype and ability names: do they show flair? How closely tied to the River Kingdom is the archetype? And last but certainly not least, do I want to play this archetype?

Archetype and ability names: Average. Some nice ability names, but nothing ties this to RK

River Kingdom tie: Little to none.

Desire to play: Low. I confess I don't much get this one. It seems like there are better ways to pursue whatever this is trying to do.

Star Voter Season 6

I like the general impression and would play this class. It is fairly well ballanced and fits together nicely. Others have pointed out some problems, but I feel like its nothing that a second pass wont fix. The crunch works, it could just use some better formatting.

I can totally see this in the River Kingdoms. They are people who strive to make sure all the petty kings in the area eventually crumble to prevent civilization from taking a strong hold. People are complaining because it doesn't have a hard tie, but I feel flavorwise it really works. I read your intro and understood exactly how these druids fit in and were trying to protect the wilds.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka surfbored

Jon Haire wrote:

Shapegrifter (Druid)

The name is a clever play on words, easy to remember and easy to say. Your opening text is a mix of great and not-so-great though. For example, the first line is disrupted by the phrase "humanoid race":

When a humanoid race seeks to disrupt the delicate balance of nature through commerce or war, the shapegrifter uses her abilities to sow the seeds of distrust or to foster the growth of discord.

The term is too technical for flavor text and it ruins the artfulness of your sentence. Best to just say:

When people seek to disrupt the delicate balance of nature through commerce or war, the shapegrifter uses her abilities to sow the seeds of distrust and foster the growth of discord.

The second line is then hurt by saying bandits and assassins are more insidious than infiltrators and spies. As worded, your first set (spies inciting) is more insidious than your second set (robbers and killers). So this feels backwards when read.

Jon Haire wrote:

Class Skills: A shapegrifter gains...

I prefer if you give something, you take something else away. Otherwise you're messing with balance.

Jon Haire wrote:

Liar's Lilt(Ex): At 1st level, a shapegrifter gains a +2...

Boring in the Core rules and boring here. Why does the shapegrifter gain this bonus? You have words to spare, so punch up this entry with some flavor like, "...a shapegrifter's continuous interaction with others gains her a +2...".

Space before "(Ex)". This has been a trend on the message boards lately and man does it rub me the wrong way. And it messes with word count!

Jon Haire wrote:

Favored Mark(Ex): At 1st level, a shapegrifter selects a race of humanoids...

More crunch with no taste. Even the bonus is kind of boring. You couldn't think of something more than a skill bonus versus a group or two? Bring us something new, you already gave us a skill bonus in liar's lilt.

Jon Haire wrote:

Spontaneous Casting: A shapegrifter can channel stored spell energy into domain spells...

This is urban druid, almost verbatim.

Jon Haire wrote:

Nature Bond(Ex): A shapegrifter may not select an animal companion...

This is urban druid, weakened.

Jon Haire wrote:

Wild Shape(Su): A shapegrifter gains this ability at 4th level, but...

This is the cornerstone ability for this archetype, and it fits theme, but becoming a humanoid instead of an elemental isn't very creative. Although gaining the new shape two rounds earlier than normal, it's still weaker and certainly less exciting.

At 13th level this ability change is duplicated, which feels a little wasteful.

Jon Haire wrote:
A Thousand Voices(Su): At 4th level, a shapegrifter gains the ability to speak the racial language of the humanoid form taken during a wild shape as if using tongues. This ability replaces resist nature's lure.

An ability that isn't just a plus or swap, even if it is just a spell that already exists, I'm glad to see it -- hunger makes the best sauce I guess. The name even fits nicely with "a thousand faces".

OVERALL: This archetype felt weak to me. The RK tie in is sparse, but that also makes the shapegrifter playable in other settings. I just wish the abilities were as creative as the name.

Good luck!

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

I pretty much agree with the concessus on this one - there's not any RK tie in at all, and the abilities bascially are swapping one class ability for another - these domains instead of the standard, same for spontaneous casting, a bit different skill bonuses, and wild shape to humanoids instead of animals. Nothing's really new here - a Superstar archetype should do something not already in the rules somewhere, or swap something out to replace it with something pretty different.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka GM_Solspiral

Good: Druid with trickery domain and all sorts of trickster goodies, yes please (I actually have a rogue druid player in KM would have loved this archetype.)
Bad: Nothing crazy good or exciting power wise.
Ugly: While you character works in the setting you dodged the theme assignment.
Overall: If I had 16 votes sure, but I have 8 you may very well fall short of the cut as I have 5 locked votes and you're one of 6 contenders I'm considering for those 3 spots.

Star Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8

I really like the idea here, but as others have said, there are some issues in the execution.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6 aka Breelo Babblebock

Sigh..... I have no excuse. I failed to execute this round and I find myself on the sidelines surrounded by filigree. I'll go through the design process on this to give everyone a better idea of what this could have been if I were a better writer.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Jon, that's not the best way to think of it. You didn't fail, you simply came in somewhere about the 17th best amateur designer this year. That's 17 out of somewhere about 900, mind you. Very impressive.

Of course, 17th isn't where you should rest your laurels. Keep working, and next year maybe you'll be in the top 16, or the top 8, or the top 4 - or the winner.

Always keep your eye on the prize.

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