Scourge Vial


Open Call: Design a wondrous item

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Locke1520

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Scourge Vial
Aura faint transmutation; CL 5th
Slot none; Price 1,200 gp; Weight
Description
Hurling this crystalline, ember-filled vial at an enemy causes the vessel to erupt in a burst of smoke and burning ash that coalesces into the shape of a fire-blackened skull with burning eyes. Wreathed in oily, acrid smoke and trailing hot embers, the skull corkscrews around the target uttering biting insults and dire curses. The black smoke left in its wake causes watering eyes and wracking coughs.

When the vial is thrown with a successful ranged touch attack, the skull torments a single target of Large size or smaller. The skull moves with the target, its chaotic orbit distracting in combat. Any combatant in melee with the target is considered to be flanking with the skull.

The skull’s trailing smoke and embers are blinding. The target (and any creature occupying the same space as the target) is effectively dazzled. Furthermore, each round the target must make a Fortitude save (DC 14) or become sickened by the smoke. Creatures with the scent ability suffer a -4 penalty to this save, while creatures with the fire subtype are immune to the sickening effect. The skull and smoke dissipate in 5 rounds.

If the initial attack roll fails, treat the vial as a splash weapon to determine where it shatters instead. If there is no valid target in that square the skull shrieks before dissipating harmlessly.
Construction
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, magic mouth, pyrotechnics; Cost 600 gp

Paizo Employee Developer

Basically an item that lets you flank an enemy without really flanking. Flanking, dazzled, and sickened is quite the effect for something that costs 1,200 gp, though this is offset by the fact that it's a single-use item. I dunno, I still think there's a lot going on, but not enough to get a reject.

Weak keep

Publisher, EN Publishing aka Russell Morrissey

Flanked, dazzles, and sickened. Cool visuals, but that's quite a lot of stuff to track.

Weak reject.

Paizo Employee Associate Editor

The flavor and effects are tightly linked, which is nice (I like the nod to creatures with the fire subtype, for ex.). Free flanking may make this strong, though, on top of being dazzled and sickened.

Weak keep.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka MythrilDragon

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Man, you are going to be busy! CONGRATS!

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

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This was, far and away, my favorite in voting--I feared it ever coming up against my own. The flavor is great, I like the decision to make it a consumable, I like the risk/reward, and coming at it as a GM, I didn't see the bookkeeping issues being worse than most ranged touch attacks that do anything more than damage.

I'm sorry to see it get a weak reaction from the judges, but this is on my gaming table this week and I'm already rooting for Andrew in the monster round.

Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka mamaursula

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Congratulations sweetheart, it was worth every freaking time I had to read it. Even at 3am when all I wanted was a drink of water and to go back to bed. This monster better be awesome.

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

Voted for this item nearly every time I saw it, based almost solely on the strong writing style. Good luck in the rest of the rounds.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka motteditor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

LOL, mama. I apologized in advance to my fiancee today that if I did make it into the contest, I'd be leaping into and out of bed half a dozen times a night as inspiration struck me and I simply had to look up something at that very moment.

Congrats, Andrew!

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 7 aka devilfluff

This item grew on me every time I saw it. By the end it was on my short list, top 5.

Congrats! Good luck!

Scarab Sages Contributor

Good stuff! Congratulations!

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

While I like the item overall, and the descriptive text is top notch, I was a bit surprised that it gives the auto-flank "condition" from distraction - I expected that it would work more like a swarm's distraction ability, which nauseates and causes the target to lose actions therefore, but doesn't treat it as flanked.

I think it's a mistake to have something give flanking like this if that thing doesn't have the ability to attack. Even spiritual weapon doesn't grant flanking, but needs a more powerful version, spiritual ally to do so.

I think a better rules interpretation for a chaotically orbiting smoking skull would be to have the target treat all targets as having concealment and taking a 20% miss chance. It's also an effect I'd rather inflict on someone - it's really not that hard to get flanking - either through your actual allies, or a summoned creature, etc.

That being said, the overall package is good, and with your obviously strong writing, you should do well in future rounds. Good luck!

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

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Well done, Andrew.

Spoiler:
Now let's see that monster.

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

Great job, Andrew. Can't wait to see what you bring for round 2.

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Neil Spicer wrote:

Well done, Andrew.

** spoiler omitted **

Neil, surely what you meant to say was

Spoiler:
EXPLOSIVE RUNES!!

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Locke1520

Thank you everyone for the kind words. There were a lot of great items in the queue this year and I'm thrill to have been selected...Now I have a monster to polish.

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

The name is fantastic...scourge is a great word.

I was hesitant about all the things it gave as well. It also reminded me slightly of the Dark Mark from Harry Potter (not that that's necessarily bad).

I upvoted this quite a few times and down voted not that often. I look forward to your beastie!

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Welcome back to the contest, Andrew! This was a super-solid regular up-vote for me, quite a few times. While I agree with the notion that it gives slightly too much bang for the buck, there's no arguing with your visuals and theme here. I'd want a vial that conjures a flaming, floating skull around an opponent even if the skull had no other effect, because it's just so badassed and cool!

Shadow Lodge Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7

I loved the imagery in this one.

Liberty's Edge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2012 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9

I downvoted this initially because I didn't really like the effects, but the item grew on me as I saw it subsequently. The imagery brought me around to voting for this.

Congratulations and good luck in the monster round!

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

I actually voted both ways on this many times. Surprised to see it here but hey, congrats and good luck.


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Template Fu Review 2014 - Andrew Marlowe - Scourge Vial

Template Fu boilerplate: I have yet to make Top 32, therefore much of what follows is from someone learning from your item and may include suggestions you might agree with or not. Please consider anything suggested with your critical designer mind and know that nothing here is personal, it is about your item not you. I try to be thorough every year, taking an hour or more per item, so I hope you find something of value in the review that follows.

Name: A fairly solid name - ties in with the component of the effect rather than the effect itself - because the visual is strong, the name does help recall the item and what it does, I just would have preferred it to concentrate more on what is being provided as a benefit than the source of the visual.
Template Fu scores you 8/10 on this.

Template Usage: The 5th edition change to none; for slot is well caught, emdash rather than dash on weight, spells italicised and ordered alphabetically, the comma separating the two spells is not italicised (well done on that one), cost is half of price. You pass the US Spelling check in Word 2010 without a problem and your template execution is flawless.
Template Fu scores you 10/10 on this.

Game Balance: Wow, a cheap item that lets everyone flank the target. This is so ubah powerful at this cost, I can see GMs having this in just about every thieve's guild they run - it would make taking the thieve's guild proportionately more dangerous and magnify potential backstabbing damage by orders of magnitude without need to moving around. Template Fu loves flowing combats with lots of movement and he says this item actually can discourage movement as the PCs no longer need to jockey for flanking bonuses, so he is eating a point for that, and a couple more for the power to cost ratio, even taking into account it is a one shot item.
Template Fu scores you 7/10 on this.

Cinematics:
Sight - check, a good description of what is seen when the item is used, full of flavor. Not sure about the paragraph break, especially considering in the second paragraph you mention the distraction effect and then the first sentence of paragraph three describes why it is distracting - these two short sentences could have been merged bringing cause and effect together.
Sound - check, the effect can produce a sound, nicely described.
Smell - missed opportunity - you have an item that produces smoke and embers - does it smell like a wood smoke fire, the pits of hell, cloying burnt hair, etc. Your description kind of screams out that smell is a missed opportunity.
Taste - missed opportunity - you have an item that produces smoke and embers, which will get in your mouth, is it dry, oily, gritty, greasy, etc? The more you give to the senses in your cinematics the stronger the associations and memories of your item being used will be.
Touch - check - you throw the item as a touch attack at a target which implies impact, and then from that impact the vial shatters releasing a smokey skull - nice imagery, which could have made your intro stronger if a miniature skull was visible moving around inside the vial before it is broken for example.
Cinematic Summary I found the imagery overall to be very strong with this item. It probably could have done with one more pass through the description to bring related descriptions together.
Template Fu scores you 16/20 on this.

Musings, Meme, and One Step Further:
One thing that struck me as not covered, the item genreates smoke, and if the taregt moves, the item moves with it - so i did find myself wondering if the space they vacate has a lingering smoke that could sicken anyone passing through that space. It's not major, but is something that could come up at the gaming table if the target moves.
From the rules, "Throw Splash Weapon" your last paragraph is kind of stating the obvious for a thrown vial (the first sentence of the rules linked pretty much state what this item is), you could have simplified here and just described what happens if no target is hit by the touch attack. This is one of Sean's great pieces of advice about not repeating the rules in your item, so I felt it worth pointing out.

Template Fu looks at the description and sighs. How many vials are crystalline? You could have stood out so much more without using that meme for vial construction, rather than use crystalline, what if it was made from fused, cracked, translucent fish scales for example.

I am personally very pro mythic at the moment, so you could have amazed me even more with some sort of mythic enhancement, maybe something like infusing the throw with mythic power causes the target to be affected on a successful attack, with extra skulls per mythic power splashing out to adjacent creatures. You chose to go non mythic though, so I respect that choice.

Overall, a very solid item, just one "at game table" concern in my musings.
Template Fu scores you 16/20 on this.

Your final score for this item is 57/70, or 81% - Well done

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Congratulations for making it again, Andrew! Personally, I think this item is much better than your last; I think the other was tighter, but this one's got so much more mojo. The visuals are really cool, and while it may be a bit too powerful with so many conditions going on, the fact that it is consumable makes up for it, especially considering you still have to hit your opponent's square.

Well done!


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This item made me think of UFO Enemy Unknown and its skull-shaped explosions...

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8

The effect is strong but it is a consumable with pretty much balance it IMHO. Great flavor, really good item.

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

Welcome back to the Top 32! I really like this item. The visual is fantastic, and it uses a condition that doesn't get nearly enough love (who's ever had a character get dazzled? anyone?)

Congratulations, and best of luck in Round 2!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka John Benbo

I didn't get to vote as much as I would have liked this year, but I did see this one post-cull and definitely voted for it. As people have said, great visuals and innovative design on this.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Locke1520

Okay with my monster turned in I thought I'd come back and address some of the comments made here.

First of all a Huge "thank you" to everyone who has supported the scourge vial in the voting and here on this thread. I tried very hard to make the imagery as evocative as I could and I'm glad it resonated with voters and judges. So again thank you.

Second on flanking vs. some other ability. Flanking was a conscious design choice. I was intentionally "breaking a game rule" I haven't seen broken by magic yet. Then added the details I thought would make that effect a reasonable possibility.

On a somewhat related note there were earlier drafts where only the thrower could flank or x number of allies. No solution was as simple and satisfying as all allies can flank. Besides, I figured once you've got a couple of PCs on an enemy most of the time the PCs start flanking anyway.

Finally there's the price. Oh how I was sweating the pricing. I was back and forth on this element of the design. In the end it may run a little cheap...but I felt it was pricey enough for an expendable resource to force players to have to make fun choices.

I'd be interested in hearing what other people might have priced it.

Anthony MVP and Template Fu:

I'm a little sad about my Cinematics score of 16. I had intentionally used the word "acrid" to cover scent and taste.

Otherwise an excellent review! Thanks for taking the effort and time to do these!

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

I think you did a great job detailing the cinematics of your item. There's only so much to be done within 300 words, and you had a complex item to stat out too. I particularly like how you interspersed the item's effects with descriptive language. Looking forward to your monster!

Shadow Lodge Star Voter Season 6

This is a rogue/ninja boon item. The whole thing clearly needs tweaking and honestly I'm not sure which way, but whichever way you do it, it's clearly a great addition to the game. I would have liked to see Andrew attempt to write up some slightly alternative mechanics to see what he comes up with.

Which I guess we'll see something quite like that in the next rounds!

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

Congratulations Andrew and welcome back!

I saw this a few times and it usually got the vote because it was better written. I didn't like a skull that cackles and insults. And the flanking thing bothered me because spiritual weapon does not flank. Dazzled and possibly sickened I did appreciate, and it works better against creatures with scent? Cool. But that fact was buried pretty deep.

Still a really cool item and I look forward to your R2 & R3 entries. :)

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

I love love love this item. It reminds me of the skull-spitters from Doom 2, the flavor is cool, the mechanics of the flanking is fantastic, and the other associated conditions are great!!!

A really top-notch and wacky item that out-cools it's own wackiness. Welcome back Andrew, and congratulations. Another cool monster please!!!

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8

1 person marked this as a favorite.

This reminded me of Morte from Torment, which is never a bad thing. :)

Congrats for making it to the top 32!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka MythrilDragon

Today is the DAY, in many ways. Congrats again and good luck!

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