Deadfall Dweller

Round 3: Create a Bestiary entry

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

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The frozen tree line is disrupted by the sight of a fallen trunk rising up on dozens of barbed branches. It clicks loudly and advances like a shambling, frost-covered spider.

Deadfall Dweller CR 5
XP 1600
N Large magical beast
Init +5; Senses darkvision 60 ft., lowlight vision; Perception +7

----- Defense -----
AC 18, touch 10, flat-footed 17 (+1 Dex, +8 natural, -1 size)
hp 57 (6d10+24);
Fort +8, Ref +6, Will +3
Immune cold
Weaknesses vulnerability to fire

----- Offense -----
Speed 30 ft., climb 10 ft.
Melee bite +10 (1d8+5 plus poison), 2 claws +10 (1d6+5)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks entrap (Fort DC 16, 1 minute, hardness 3, hit points 6), spittle (+7 ranged touch)

----- Statistics -----
Str 21, Dex 13, Con 16, Int 5, Wis 12, Cha 10
Base Atk +6; CMB +12; CMD 23 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Toughness
Skills Climb +17, Perception +7, Stealth +1 (+9 in forests or swamps), Survival +2; Racial Modifiers +8 Stealth in forests or swamps
Language Sylvan (cannot speak)
SQ freeze

----- Ecology -----
Environment cold forests and swamps
Organization solitary, brood (2-5), or ruin (6-12)
Treasure standard

----- Special Abilities -----
Entrap (Ex) A creature hit by a dweller’s spittle must succeed at a DC 16 Fortitude save or be entangled in frozen mucus for 1 minute, or until that creature takes any amount of magical fire damage. A creature that fails its save while already entangled by this ability becomes helpless for 1 minute.
Freeze (Ex) A deadfall dweller may take 20 on Stealth roles so long as it is within a forest or swamp, and it holds perfectly still.
Poison Bite—injury; save Fort DC 16; frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect 1d3 Dexterity damage; cure 1 save.
Spittle (Ex) Each round as a free action, a deadfall dweller can emit a stream of freezing spittle at one target within 30 feet. On a successful attack, the target takes 1d6 cold damage, and may be entrapped.

Deadfall dwellers are dangerous ambush predators most commonly encountered in the chilled marshes and frozen forests of northern Avistan. Whether native nightmares or mutated products of the spreading Worldwound corruption, dwellers make their homes among frozen groves of trees, where they exercise a unique form of camouflage. Hungry deadfall dwellers fold their many stick-like legs and collapse against a larger trunk or simply lie on the ground. Some are clever enough to push over weak trees or spread dirt and debris over their bodies to enhance their disguise. When a warm-blooded creature happens by, a dweller straightens its legs to pursue and bellows out a line of icy mucus that freezes prey in its tracks. The creature then advances to attack with poisonous bite and powerful claw until it can eat at its leisure.

Deadfall dwellers reproduce by immobilizing prey with repeated applications of their poison, and then implanting 1-2 eggs within the paralyzed host. The host dies within hours as the larval dwellers consume the moisture in the host body. Witnesses claim the resulting frost-rimed husks resemble standing tree-trunks.

Most deadfall dwellers display a mottled white-brown carapace – the better to fit into their typical surroundings. A few have been reported in warmer climates, with darker green coloring. An average dweller stands six feet tall on its many legs and weighs 600 pounds.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

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. :) 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.

Okay, your monster is an ambush predator that looks like a fallen tree. Interesting and unexpected.

Stat block nitpicks: It's "low-light vision," not "lowlight vision."

Entrap: Needs to say the DC is Constitution-based.

Freeze: It's "rolls," not "rolls." (Insert joke about "roleplaying" vs. "roll-playing.")

Spittle: It should say "1d6 points of cold damage."

The egg implantation should be a fully-described ability, like that of the xill, including how to remove the implanted eggs.

I'd like a little more info on what this creature looks like when it's not pretending to be a dead tree. The intro flavor text describes it as "spider-like," but I don't know if that's a loose interpretation of its legginess or if it's really shaped somewhat like a spider in its combat form.

I like this monster. I like its disguise and its abilities.

I DO recommend this monster for advancement.

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

Steven, your quicksand cloak was top of the heap in Round 1, and your naming and style for the floodwalker were awesome, though it was part of a huge wave of water-based archetypes.

So what have we hear? It's one of the large class of ambush predators this round, with a decent name and interesting concept. You barely hint at its appearance, leaving that up to the artist (a fine call, art usually fixes the image in a reader's mind faster than a paragraph of text ever will).

The mechanics here are a half-step behind where they might be (as Sean points out), but that's mostly fixable with development. (Helpless for a full minute is probably too long, for instance.)

The design concept is clear enough: A disguised monster in the forest, though, with freezing spittle. It is distinctive and easy to imagine in play, with got high utility and a possible horror payoff (describing the egg implantation on some luckless PC).

One word of advice, though: I think you can manage on your strong concepts and engaging language in the first few rounds, but you definitely want to watch the rules, grammar, and mechanical language if the voters move you ahead to the next round.

I DO recommend this monster for advancement.

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

Initial Impression: Surprise! Frozen, spitting, camouflaged tree-stump/spider thing is all up in your grill! A good monster makes you find ways to get it on the game table and this one does that for sure. It seems perhaps you have some experience designing for other editions because I see some old school creep into the way you describe things. To me, those are development notes, not fatal flaws. BUT to be a Superstar you have to eliminate those going forward.

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

Steven, you made Round 3! Nice job.

Now that I’ve read all 16 entries, I can say that there are some real strong entries here—more strong entries than spots, unfortunately. Some good submissions won’t make the cut. I am only going to recommend 8 of you since only 8 can advance. In close cases, I took into account your prior work.

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 and Wolfgang 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…

You got my Initial Impressions above. Steven, I’ll admit yours was in that last group vying for my last recommendation. If I’m being honest, this is not the strongest submission but your prior work is so strong I had to take a long look at this one.

Design (name, overall design choices, design niche, playability/usability, challenge): B
Good name, relatively straight forward design niche to pick the ambush monster. You spin it with the cold element. But, again if I’m honest, this isn’t a big swing homerun.

Execution (quality of writing, organization, Golarion-specific, use of proper format, quality of content—description, summary of powers, rules execution, mechanics innovation): B-
Execution errors are present. I’m perhaps a tad forgiving on these kinds of errors, since I think at this stage you are budding superstars, not full-fledged superstars. Plus, I have a soft spot for older editions and I see a lot of your errors coming from that. However, two things concern me: first, the number of those errors; and second, I called you out last round for those kinds of errors and I don’t see improvement. In fact, I said “But you better improve your mechanics in Round 3 if you make it.” You made it, but I see the same issues.

Tilt (did it grab me, do I want to use one in an adventure?, mojo, just plain fun factor): A-
This is a solid monster, and I like it quite a bit, but I need more to overcome the other flaws.

Overall: B
Steven, this is a tight contest. I called on you last round to improve your mechanics and I didn’t see that, which makes me sad. Your work in the prior rounds really deserves attention and maybe the voters will weigh that more heavily than I am. I certainly wish you luck but there are only 8 spots and I cannot look past the flaws here. The fact a monster this good gets a pass from me speaks to how competitive this round is.

Final Verdict: I DO NOT RECOMMEND this monster advance.

Your quicksand cloak was without a doubt one of my all time favorite items from any of the years of Superstar and I thought your Round 2 archetype was amazing. In fact, it was the strength of that prior work that almost convinced me to promote this entry over others. But based just on the Round 3 submissions I found I couldn’t do that, and I am sorry to say that. However, this contest has a history of allowing a misstep and maybe the voters will see it that way. Certainly the other judges do, as I am the lone naysayer here.

Good luck!

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

Ok this monster is getting no love in the comments and that is just wrong. Clark not for nothing but I have to disagree with you on this one along with 2/3s of the judges. This is a fun ambush preditor that I know I can give my PCs fits with (and will I assure you.)

In fact I'll make a promise this will be added to the fun that is carnival of tears!

Scarab Sages

I personally like this creature.

The 1 minute of helplessness is the only thing that stood out to me before I read the Judges comments (which they also noticed), as being way to powerful.

As I read the other powers, I pictured several ways of using this creature.

Like a croc that camoflauges in the water to look like a log, or that twig insect that is cousin to the praying mantis, sitting still in a thick branched swamp tree waiting as it's prey walked underneath it...

Obviously, the twig insect wouldnt pounce or spit on anything, but the camoflauge ability is what really spoke to me. Pardon... the "freeze" ability.

If I come away with only one concern mechanically, then I am definately liking the creature. The fact that this was only 1 of 4 that inspired my imagination to run away with me, well, that means this gets my vote.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

Steven, I'm afraid this monster just doesn't excite me. The idea of a fallen tree getting up and chasing me on spidery legs is a little creepy, but... It doesn't make me want to jump up and use it. It feels like random encounter material, not like "I must use this!"

I don't even have any real complaints. There have been some mechanical bits commented on already, but for the most part I just see this as another monster. Nothing really special, which is a huge let down from your previous work.

President, Jon Brazer Enterprises

My own take on this monster:

Flavor: Its cool enough that I would probably use it as a random encounter monster in my (now ended) Kingmaker game, however, I don't believe it to be exciting enough to be remembered long, if at all. I could easily see this in a Bestiary, but it is not grabbing me or making me say, "OMG, I must use this TODAY!" B+, maybe an A-.

Crunch: This monster is without a doubt balanced. All its number are right where they should be. Lets take a closer look at the numbers.

Attacks: Spittle should be listed as:
Ranged spittle +7 touch (1d6 cold plus entrap)
Also "Each round as a free action" is a swift action.

entrap (Fort DC 16, 1 minute, hardness 3, hit points 6)
This is cluttering up the stat block. This should be:
entrap (DC 16, hp 6)
Type of save, duration for the effect on the player and hardness (no mention of a break DC) belong in Special Abilities section.
While we're on entrap, helpless is WAAAAY too harsh an effect for a CR 5. The duration should be something closer to 1d4 or 1d6 rounds instead of hard and fast (and much larger) 1 minute. And I'd allow a save each round. Player's don't like to be out of the loop for long.

No actual mechanic on implanting eggs. Once eggs are implanted, its an instant death (an hour or so later). Not cool. There need to be saves that deal Con damage or something.

Skills: This is probably the single biggest area where a new monster designer gets tripped up. And you did. Total skill points: (2 + Int)/HD => 6 available skill points.
Climb +17, => +5 Str, +3 class, +8 Climb speed => 1 skill rank
Perception +7, => +1 Wis, +3 class => 3 ranks
Stealth +1, => +1 Dex, -4 size, +3 class => 1 rank
Survival +2 => +1 Wis => 1 rank.
So yes, you used all the skill points, but a monster entry is suppose to be an AVERAGE monster of its kind. This one is not an average monster. It is a specific monster. All average monsters have either fully funded skills or are split evenly between funded skills (typically the case when there is 1 rank/HD). The fix would either be remove the 1 rank from Climb and Surival and give them both to Stealth (recommended) or to increase Int.

Special Abilities: Entrap (Ex) See above.
Freeze (Ex) Gargoyle ability. Meh.
Poison Meh.
Spittle (Ex) it spits and does damage. Plenty of other monsters do that.
So aside from entrap, I'm not seeing anything here that stands out.

Conclusion: All your numbers are good but I'm not seeing anything really wowing me. Add to that the problems listed above and those listed by others and I'm not exactly impressed with this monster. B- to C+.

Final Analysis: Its a good monster, just not a great one. I can't call it a Superstar monster.

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

Naming: So-so.

Cool Factor: I'm not feeling this one. It's fine for Bestiary 4, but I'm not seeing a spark here. I don't see players getting excited about it or remembering it for long.

This round is full to the brim with plant related killers. You could stock a full forest adventure with just these monsters, which doesn't bode well for their designers' chances. While there are a lot of really good ones, they have to be truly superstar to stand out here. Saying that, I think the Deadfall Dweller does just that. It's yet another ambush monster, but such a fun one to run. Anybody who remembers being scared by the forest scene from Snow White is gonna love taking it out on this guy... On that note now I wanna run this for a group of younger players...

Grand Lodge

All these plant type creatures could make for an interesting book.

That being said, impressive idea and well thought out.

Keep up the good work.

Star Voter Season 6

The creepiness factor of this monster immediately grabbed me. Especially for a group of not-so-observant characters, having this thing suddenly jump out at them would give a satisfactory thrill to any GM, I wager.

As others have mentioned, I too would have liked to have seen a bit more descriptive text on how exactly this creature looks. That being said, if there had already been a picture attached to it, I likely wouldn't have noticed the lack of more visually descriptive text.

A 5 Intelligence seems perhaps a wee bit high for this monster to me. Or, alternatively, I would have liked to have seen a little more description on how it might use it's cunning to its advantage. This is a very small complaint though.

Overall, I quite like this creature and would've been tickled to have randomly encountered it with one of my PCs (I still would, even if the surprise of it being new is not there anymore)

Definitely gets my vote!

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

So, despite my not liking this monster, I've decided - based on your prior work - that you deserved my last vote. I hope for something more interesting next round.

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

Overall, this is a competent monster, well done, works together, internally consistent logic about its abilities and actions. That being said, I'm not seeing anything that's particularly grabbing me that's too different from other monsters - and this blends into the pack. That being said, it has a provisional vote but is in danger of being beat by something else I read.

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

@Steven Helt: As others have noted, this is a sound monster, though not particularly interesting. Ordinarily, I'd have no problem voting for a sound but boring monster, especially this round, as I have votes to spare. But as the judges have observed, your nit-picky grammatical and and mechanical errors, though small, are starting to pile up.

I'm on the fence about this monster; if I decide to use all of my votes this round, I may vote for it, as it isn't bad, but I'm not sure it belongs in the same category as the six monsters I'm definitely voting for.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka DankeSean

This isn't in my top tier this round, but I still like it. (Plus that tier has only about three entries, so you're still in the good books.)
I kind of like that this feels like a melding of old school design and more modernish sensibilities. At first, I'll admit, i found that offputting; I started reading the entry and thought I was seeing a new rendition of the mimic/trapper/wolf-in-sheep's clothing, etc. Then it turned out to be some kinds freaky spidery predator. A little weird, but given time and a reread, it grew on me; it's kind of like if an ecologist took all those 1st edition camouflage monsters and gave it a semi-naturalistic real world makeover.
I'm still a little on the edge on this one, but given your contest track record so far, (one of the top two magic items, IMO, and while the floodwalker just missed getting my vote, it was a good enough entry that I felt bad about not having nine votes to use.) this has a really good chance of beating out a couple other fringe entries to make my top eight.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

I am grateful for the feedback and comments. I hope voters support me on the strength of big ideas and trust I'm trying to learn from each round.

It's maybe a common mistake for inexperienced designers, but I think where I messed up the most this round is intentionally picking more obscure UMAs to demonstrate a grasp on the rules. Using entrap hascreate criticism and confusion for me. I hope after these remarks, a judge or designer will respond and help me understand my mistake.

Concerning entrapment, I saw three costly things. The concern over a duration of one minute, the helpless condition, and the failure to describe it a Con-based. My thought was that the PRD sample for the UMR was ten minutes. It sounds like a lot, but I reasoned it's not much different from paralysis - more than a few rounds and either the party waits out their friend's incapacitation, or it's TPK. Also, as listed, a creature has to fail entrap twice to be helpless. Finally, the UMR lists the ability as Con-based, So I hope I can get some feedback as to when to duplicate universal info or not.

As regards not swinging for the fences, guilty. I had three really fun ideas ready to go when the rules broke, and I immediately had to start over. I tried to pare down one of my concepts but ended up starting over. I went with creepy and cold forest, and specifically looked for abilities (entrapment and freeze) you don't see very often. In retrospect, it seems pretty dumb to cobble a mo ster together from mechanics up instead of concept down.

If I make it next round, I'll keep with my cinematic focus and not have any simple errors mounting up.

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

Congratulations Steven,

Like others the flavor on this was a week keep. But it is solid enough that I would love the GM to throw it at me and something I could throw at my players for its area. Overall: gp. This did get my vote, but not a true grabber. Swing for the fences. I want to see you go far. :)

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