Blackwood Drake

Round 3: Create a Bestiary entry

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9 aka Matt Duval

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Golden pollen motes drift in the sunlight around this dragon, while its scales blend seamlessly with the foliage.

Blackwood Drake CR 4
XP 1,200
N Small dragon
Init +7; Senses blindsense 30ft., darkvision 60ft., low-light vision; Perception +11

----- Defense -----
AC 17, touch 14, flat-footed 14 (+3 Dex, +3 natural, +1 size)
hp 37 (5d12+5); fast healing 1
Fort +5, Ref +7, Will +5
Defensive Abilities pollen cloud; Immune poison, paralysis, sleep

----- Offense -----
Speed 30 ft., fly 90 ft. (good), climb 30 ft.
Melee bite +8 (1d4+2 plus poison), 2 claws +8 (1d3+2)
Special Attacks poison, pollen burst

----- Statistics -----
Str 14, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 13, Cha 10
Base Atk +5; CMB +6; CMD 19 (23 vs. trip)
Feats Alertness, Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative
Skills Climb +18, Craft (nest) +15, Craft (traps) +11, Fly +15, Knowledge (nature) +11, Perception +11, Sense Motive +11, Stealth +15 (+19 in forests), Survival +9; Racial Modifiers +8 Climb, +4 Craft (nest), +4 Stealth in forests
Languages Common, Draconic, Sylvan
SQ nurturing pollen

----- Ecology -----
Environment temperate forests (Andoran, Taldor)
Organization solitary, pair, or clutch (3-5)
Treasure double

----- Special Abilities -----
Nurturing Pollen (Su) Plant creatures exposed to the blackwood drake’s poison gain fast healing 1 for 1 minute. Plants in the area of the pollen burst ability gain the effect of plant growth (drake’s choice of effect).
Poison (Su) pollen cloud or pollen burst—contact or bite—injury; save Fortitude DC 13; frequency 1/round for 4 rounds; effect 1d4 Dexterity damage. Any creature whose Dexterity reaches 0 while poisoned is transformed into a living, mundane blackwood tree, leaving behind any equipment. This is a permanent transmutation effect; cure 1 save. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Pollen Burst (Ex) The blackwood drake can release a 10ft. radius burst of pollen, centered on itself, as a standard action. Creatures inside the resulting 10ft. radius spread are poisoned. The pollen lingers for 1 round; it otherwise acts as obscuring mist. After using this ability, the drake is no longer surrounded by its pollen cloud and cannot release a pollen burst, losing both for 1d4 rounds.
Pollen Cloud (Ex) Golden pollen drifts off the scales of a blackwood drake. This pollen poisons any creature that makes a melee attack against the drake. Creatures wielding weapons with exceptional reach may ignore this ability.

Blackwood drakes are reclusive and territorial, but friendlier than most of their larger cousins. They once nested widely in Andoran, but have been pushed deep into the Verduran Forest by advancing civilization. Their natural pollen rejuvenates plants, but is toxic to other living creatures. Trees around a drake’s lair are gnarled and twisted, resembling humanoids and animals, creating a disquieting grove.

Swift, sharp-eyed, and clever, blackwood drakes rely on stealth and harassment, hounding opponents until they flee or succumb to traps and poison. They use overgrowth to guide enemies into snares and deadfalls.

Blackwood drakes make defensive compacts with treants and friendly fey, and welcome them in their territory. They grant safe passage to druids of the Wildwood Lodge and may act as local guides if properly flattered and bribed.

These creatures live alone or in mated pairs, sometimes with several hatchlings. Newborns mature and leave the nest after a year.

Blackwood Drake Nest: Blackwood drakes build elaborate nests in their namesake trees, naturally blending with the surrounding flora. A typical nest can hold up to 10 small creatures. Spotting a nest requires a Perception check opposed by the drake's Craft (nest) check. The approach is guarded by one or more traps.

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

Initial Impression: A plant/pollen/poison-themed pseudo-dragon creature! This is awesome! What plant-based druid is not going to want one as an animal companion (well, so long as they can cast 3rd level spells)? This is a wonderful submission and is clearly one of, if not THE, best entries this round.

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 a little territorial dragon that makes weird tree nests and has poison pollen.

Stat block nitpicks: Your Senses entries need a space between the sense and the ranges. Ditto for ranges in the pollen burst ability.

Fast healing 1 at CR 4 is trivial. The creature has 37 hit points, so that much fast healing isn't going to have any effect on a typical combat. Only if the drake makes hit-and-run attacks will it have any effect, and that's kinda sad for PCs because it means they're getting worn down by a creature until the final battle when the drake is at full hp.

Craft (nest)... that's just odd. Creating nests doesn't have any game benefit for the drake. It's not like Craft (traps), which it can use against the PCs. Beavers don't get Craft (dam), they just make dams. And you gave them a racial bonus to it, which is just an extra level of "no game or flavor benefit." It doesn't need ranks in this skill for the monster to be good at the skill because the skill doesn't do anything. The nest can hold up to 10 small (Small?) creatures... does it drag creatures back to its lair, or is this a setup for an encounter where there are a bunch of Small fey lairing with the drake?

Pollen is reproductive material from plants. The drake isn't a plant, and it doesn't use its "pollen" for reproduction, it's just a poisonous irritant. You could replace every instance of the word "pollen" in this entry with "dust" and it would be valid (and wouldn't be using the wrong word).

This is an Int 16 creature, which means it is a genius compared to a human. A young gold or silver dragon has Int 16, so you're saying that this little drake is as smart as 50-year-old dragons of the smartest types of standard dragons.

Nurturing Pollen: I'm not sure what the "drake's choice" text refers to. Does the drake decide whether to give plant creatures fast healing OR to give normal plants the effect of plant growth? Why is it one or the other?

Poison: Its poison turns creatures into normal trees? That's weird.

There is a LOT of poison-related stuff being thrown about on this monster. Pollen burst means a poison save. Bite attack means a poison save. Attacking it with a non-reach melee weapon means a poison save. True, the DC is only 13, but a typical melee character is probably going to make 1-2 poison saves per round, which means they're likely to fail once per round, which is 1d4 Dex damage, which brings you closer to the Dex-0-become-a-tree special ability.

There are some neat ideas here, but I'm boggling on some technical aspects and choices of some of its powers, which make me hesitant to recommend this monster.

I do NOT recommend this monster for advancement.

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

Initial Impression: A drake? Really? RPG Superstar Mike Welham did a whole Book of Drakes with Adam Daigle, so yeah, this seems like a popular choice.

On further review, I'm left with decidedly mixed feelings. The whole pollen thing is just a misuse of a plant-specific word. Either you don't know that pollen is specific to plants, or you know and don't care. Either way, it's an odd language choice.

The nests don't bother me as they bother Sean, but it's not clear to me that you're adding much beyond some basic ecology here. I was hoping for a connection to treasure, a neat hook to restoring tree-form-PCs, something player-centric.

I *do* like a poison that transforms creatures into trees. That's fantastical and odd and (provided there's a way to turn them back) possibly a neat twist to an encounter. However, as a permanent effect it is essentially a death sentence at this level; unlike petrification, there's no clear path back to humanoid. This is a big design problem.

Drakes are popular, but this one has enough issues that I do NOT recommend it for advancement.

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

Matt, good job advancing to Round 3!

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. There are only a couple submissions that I think don’t make the grade. This was a strong round and 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. My view remains the same. To me, this one is CLEARLY in the top group, no question.

Design (name, overall design choices, design niche, playability/usability, challenge): A+
I love the big picture design choices you made here. D&D (except 4E) has a long tradition of cool monsters like this that aren’t so much direct opponent, though they work as one, as they are part of a larger system. They have stories and backgrounds and they inspire GMs to create adventure settings and encounter locations and sometimes whole realms (4E only cares about effects on the game table during combat, a horrid mistake). While I have a great love for a good fight, I think it shows Superstar mojo to create this little toxic pseudodragon-type monster. Brilliant!

Execution (quality of writing, organization, Golarion-specific, use of proper format, quality of content—description, summary of powers, rules execution, mechanics innovation): B+
There are some stat block nit picks, I agree. We’d talk about Int 16 and the use of the word “pollen” and maybe finding a different word like “spores.” But to me, those are development notes, not fatal flaws. What you do, you do very, very well.

Tilt (did it grab me, do I want to use one in an adventure?, mojo, just plain fun factor): A+
This is a big time home run for me. One of the best, and maybe even THE best, of the round. I love this and I love what it says about you as a designer.

Overall: A
Matt, you rocked this monster big time, in my view. I’m surprised this isn’t a consensus choice of the judges but that’s why we have three of us.

Final Verdict: I STRONGLY RECOMMEND voters consider this monster to advance.

Your soap was a favorite of mine and I fought to have you in the top 32 and the Everbloom Monk was one of my favorites of Round 2. You didn’t get a unanimous judicial recommendation so I really hope the voters see what I see in this great submission!

Good luck!

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

I like this one from start to finish. Great props for making a drake, and fitting it so beautifully into the required forest (or river etc) theme. I accept the judges design peeves and pay a few of them - specifically I'm worried that marrying this as a familiar with nearby plant and poisoner allies could get heavy either synergistically (nurturing pollen) or theme wise (poisonpoisonpoisonpoison).

The intro flavor text is incredibly evocative and the description text makes me want to meet one and make a new friend! I love the thoughts and the little details that went into this - a nest-building drake? Fabulous theme and flavor. The fact that this little critter can create a mini-forest to dwell in by the fact his/her poisoned victims turn into the kinda tree he'd/she'd like to hang out in is so beautiful.

I also like that the Pollen burst leaves the attacking capabilites somewhat constrained making it a risky move. Much better than claw/claw/bite, claw/claw/bite, breath, claw/claw/bite... etc....

Nice work Matt, your creative abilities are definitely shining through each of the rounds....


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I strongly disagree with SKR; the pollen transforming creatures into ordinary trees is what's absolutely wonderful about this drake. I can't tell you how many fairy tells and modern movies I've seen that use transforming people into plants as punishment/horror, and it honestly fits perfectly into the drake's theme of bolstering the natural world; its making more trees, isn't it?.

I'm not crazy about the Craft skills; typical drakes don't really have manual dexterity in order to craft traps and crafting nests is bizarre; typically the craft skills possess actual benefits, so if I were publishing this monster I'd expect you to reallocate those skill points.

I don't like how you handled the description of the two pollen abilities and the poison. I would have italicized the poison and placed it separately under Pollen Burst and Pollen Cloud with a few minor adjustments.

That said, this is a monster that I will likely be using in my home games. The concept is cool, the monster looks fairly solid, but above all its this stellar poison that fits so wonderfully with the drake's theme that really sold it to me. It takes balls to try to make a Troll 2 dragon; it takes a Superstar to make the result amazingly epic.

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I personally don't see how the three potential poison saves are any worse than a ghoul's three paralyzing attacks at CR1 at the same DC or a shadow's strength draining touch attacks that don't even allow a save at CR 3.

Star Voter Season 7

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This is a permanent transmutation effect

This is a situation where words mean different things in different contexts, and the context here isn't clear.

A "Permanent" spell is one that stays in effect until dispelled. An "Instantaneous" spell is one that has a permanent effect but can't be dispelled because the magic itself is gone. Since this is a supernatural ability, it's not clear whether you were referring to the spell duration of "permanent" or the general meaning of the word. If the former, you should explicitly state the DC to dispel the spell (since it's based on caster level, which supernatural abilities don't normally have). If the latter, then don't call it a "transmutation effect", which is a spell term - just say that the victim "is permanently turned into a tree" instead.

Shadow Lodge Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7

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I am so stealing this for Kingmaker.

Shadow Lodge Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9

What you have convinced me of, is that though you have some rough edges mechanically, but they only need a little tweaking. For example, I'd have had your everbloom monk move more abilities like AC to Cha along with the ki pool. I'd make some word choice changes, like spore to pollen.

These seem like easy things to pick up on/have edited in fixed/learned.

On the other hand your ideas ROCK and that is not something that can always be taught/learned.

Right now, you are the one person here that, unless you screw up majorly, will have my vote.

Star Voter Season 8

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sean K Reynolds wrote:

This is an Int 16 creature, which means it is a genius compared to a human. A young gold or silver dragon has Int 16, so you're saying that this little drake is as smart as 50-year-old dragons of the smartest types of standard dragons.

This one does bug me a bit, because we don't know the age of the example statblock, or its lifespan.

If one assumes its an adult, and has dragonish lifespan, then it's already 100+ at this point, and suddenly 16 is totally reasonable.

I like it.

Scarab Sages Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7

I really like this one. The strange poison of the pollen gives it a distinct 'fairy tale' feeling.

This gets my vote.

Good luck with the remainder of the contest!

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

ITs between this and the yellowtoungue hulk as my favorite this round, outstanding submission.

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

This has great flavor and looks fun to use. I'm fine with pollen, but maybe have the cloud just "sicken" and the bust have the poison punch.

Like orthos, totally yoinking for my kingmaker game. Love the submission, wonderfully executed, unique, and full of magic and wonder. It's critters like this that keep me coming to the game table for over 30 years! Bravo!

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

Naming: In keeping with the type. Not really exciting, but that's how these things are named.

Cool Factor: Pretty decent. I think the pollen complaints are overstated. It's a little forest dragonthing with pollen-like magic spores that are called pollen for flavor. Moving on.

These are cool, maybe more as allies than enemies though. Not a huge fan of turning things into trees, that seems a little cheesy to me, but that's probably personal taste.

It's wrong to say the craft nest has no game effect- there's a perception check against it to spot the nest, so it does help them to have the bonus. Maybe not the best way to have handled it, but there is a use for it.

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'm torn on this one. On one hand, it's super cool black drank with golden posion dust and clouds. All good stuff.

On the other, the permanant transformation at this level is way to harsh - and doesn't note the direction pathfinder has gone in for petrification and death effects - they aren't as deadly. Most of the classic petrification monsters are temporary, or have built in antidotes (bathing in their blood). This seems like something a high CR monster would have, and you downgraded it to fit the CR requirements instead of making a monster that really fit the CR. That's a big miss for me.

For the poison, your entry only says it's for the pollen cloud or pollen burst, but presumably it's also the same poison for the bite. I'd prefer to have that explicitly in the poison entry.

Finally, it's a woodland protector with a neutral alignment - so if the PCs aren't lumberjacks, I'm not seeing a lot of uses for this creature in play. I'd prefer it to be aggresively terretorial, or a prankster like fey are, or something that gives a bit more hook to engage with the PCs. If it were good, it could be an ally or patron even, but as neutral, it doesn't have a lot of motivation to interact with PCs (unless they're druids I guess). How does it interact with the lumber barons of Andoran? Give me something to work with here is what I'm looking for.

So far, this has a provisional vote for me, but I have a lot of entries left to read.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

This is a really neat monster, though of course there are some strange things going on. I think they've all been touched on, though - turning people into trees is neat, but... how is it fixed? Craft (nest) is a strange skill to have, but I can that you mean for it to be the sort of creature that makes nests (though, it woul;d have been better to just say that).

Finally, everyone railing against pollen. I think the perfect word here would be scale - like the powder that's on the wings of butterflies and moths and stuff. The problem with that word is that it would be confusing to say the scales are covered in scale.

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

@Matthew Duval: First off, yes, "pollen" was a very poor word choice, but it can be changed to "spores" with relative ease. Craft (nest) was a bit silly, but it does have an obvious mechanical effect, though it might have been easier to base the DC to perceive the nest on a simple Survival check. And the poison produces a rather nasty effect when it reduces a creature's Dexterity to 0, but a CR 2 shadow's incorpoeal touch attack produces an effect just as nasty when it reduces a creature's Strength to 0. At worst, the poison might have to have its duration or amount of damage reduced. So I think there are a few rough edges on this monster, but nothing that prevents it from being used at the table. At most, you'd need a line editor to make a few word substitutions. And the overall concept is really cool.

Accordingly, this monster gets the Epic Meepo seal of approval, and will be getting one of my votes this round.

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

I mostly love this entry. I do, however, hate the poison effect for the reasons given by a bunch of posters before now. In all fairness, I do like the notion of turning its enemies to wood, I just dislike the being reduced to 0 dex here is fatal with no possible reversal, unlike most dex-based ability damage. But that's a workable flaw, for me. Otherwise, I love the concept behind these guys. An almost definite vote for me.

True, it doesn't use the pollen for /its/ reproduction. But actual nature has created stranger symbiotic relationships than this: a drake that gathers pollen to use as poison, and a plant that deposits its pollen on an animal to spread it further.

Liberty's Edge Contributor , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9

As Wolfgang alluded to, I'm a fan of drakes, so this caught my eye when I saw it. It definitely has some rough mechanical issues, but I think these could be smoothed over in development. I like the flavor you put into the creature, and I want to see what you can do next round.

Good luck in the voting!

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8

Matthew, congratulations on making it this far. You drake is very neat, and it just barely slid out of my top 8 votes.

You have managed to combine a tight theme with a package of interesting abilities. You also tie in Golarion lore nicely. If you do advance, i will be interested to see what you bring to the encounter round.

Good luck in the voting.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9 aka Matt Duval

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Thank you very much everyone for commenting and I'm very grateful to everyone who voted for my drake!

Regarding the pollen, I felt the word choice was reasonable, despite it being a plant-specific product. I could easily see changing it to spores or giving the drake the plant type or plant traits in addition to its normal type and traits for increased verisimilitude.

Regarding the nest crafting, I wanted to have it stand out from other drakes as a constructive creature. It makes traps, it builds elaborate nests, and it rebuilds lost forest.

Regarding the effect of nurturing pollen, I'm sorry there was confusion there. It's meant to be that plant creatures get fast healing 1, and plants receive the effect of plant growth, with the drake choosing between the Enrichment and Overgrowth effects that spell has. That's why I included the parenthetical inside the second sentence.

I included the bit about the poison being a transmutation effect so a creature immune to transmutation wouldn't be affected, and also so that there wouldn't be confusion that it was a polymorph effect. I actually had it as 'instantaneous', but I wobbled over whether that could also be misconstrued. It's something I would be very eager to know the definitive answer about.

For those concerned about the transmutation being too strong for the CR, I would suggest making it dispelled with a caster level check against DC 13. However, I would add a cutoff point for doing so, such as a week, when the season next changes, or when the tree first buds new leaves. Otherwise you get a very horrifying result if someone walks through the area with an antimagic field, temporarily suppressing the effect until they leave...

Alternatively, you could have the effect be removed by embedding a drake claw (alive or dead) in a transmuted individual. That provides a combat and diplomatic solution to the situation.

@Joel Flank: I would have loved to get further into detail about interactions with different factions and possible conflicts, but there just wasn't the space for it. I had 150-200 more words of text in the description in my first draft, much of it about how the drake gets along with logging crews. I feel like its close ties to the highly sought after blackwood trees and its characteristic of being territorial does provide some idea.

I'd be happy to expand on it more, but I might be doing someone's round 4 work for them or accidentally duplicate someone's original idea in parallel, which would be inappropriate either way.

Thank you again everyone for your support and criticisms. I'm learning so much from this experience. :-)

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The "spores" suggestion has been made many times in this thread and it baffles me. Neither pollen nor spores are used by any real animal. Spores grow on their own, while pollen fertilizes the other gamete on plants -- perhaps the flowers on the tree-statues, in order to produce more pollen. :)

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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Prizrak wrote:
The "spores" suggestion has been made many times in this thread and it baffles me. Neither pollen nor spores are used by any real animal.

In game, vrocks are real creatures, and they have spores.

And now blackwood drakes are "real" creatures, and they have pollen. :)

I was objecting to the idea that spores had more biological precedence than pollen. Each of them requires a stretch of reasoning, and pollen is the more appropriate fit for a plant-themed monster.

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

Congratulations and Nice job,
On a three point scale you got keeps. From the overall flavor I liked it, psuedo-dragon-esque and plant flavor: even cooler. I am biased toward dragons of course. :) Spore/pollen/magical dust easily fixable. The nest is misplaced, but does give a hint that this is a bigger idea than just the critter. Overall I gave it pp, and my vote. One of my favorites.

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

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Its too bad the top 8 can only take 1 monster for their encounter... I mean this could basically take 4 other entries and make them deadlier by teaming up with your monster!

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