Round 2: Create a Bestiary entry

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

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This short, vaguely humanoid creature seems to be carved out of wood, with angular limbs, knotholes for facial features, and a tussle of curly “hair” reminiscent of lathe shavings. It leaves a trail of white sawdust wherever it moves.

Timberjiff CR 2
XP 600
CN Small fey
Init +3; Senses low-light vision; Perception +7

----- Defense -----
AC 16, touch 14, flat-footed 13 (+3 Dex, +1 size, +2 natural)
hp 18 (4d6+4)
Fort +2, Ref +7, Will +4
DR 5/cold iron; SR 13
Weaknesses vulnerable to fire

----- Offense -----
Speed 30 ft.
Melee 2 claws +6 (1d3+1)
Ranged pellet +6 (1 plus sawdust)
Special Attacks death throes, sawdust
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 4th; concentration +5)
3/day—warp wood (DC 13), wood shape

----- Statistics -----
Str 12, Dex 17, Con 12, Int 9, Wis 10, Cha 13
Base Atk +2; CMB +2; CMD 15
Feats Blind-Fight, Weapon Finesse
Skills Acrobatics +10, Craft (carpentry) +10, Perception +7, Stealth +14, Use Magic Device +8 (+12 wooden wands); Racial Modifiers +4 Craft (wood), +4 Use Magic Device (wooden wands)
Languages Sylvan, one language common to the timberjiff’s home city

----- Ecology -----
Environment any urban
Organization solitary, pair, or gang (3-6)
Treasure standard

----- Special Abilities -----
Death Throes (Su) When a timberjiff is slain by any type of damage other than fire damage, its body combusts into a plume of wood scraps, subjecting all adjacent creatures to its sawdust ability.
Pellet (Su) A timberjiff can pack and throw a pellet of compressed sawdust as a standard action. If it hits, the pellet deals 1 point of bludgeoning damage (this damage is not modified by Strength) and affects the target struck (but not adjacent targets) with the timberjiff’s sawdust. The pellet has a range increment of 20 feet.
Sawdust (Su) Whenever a timberjiff is damaged by a slashing weapon, wood shavings splinter from its body, forcing the attacker to make a DC 13 Fortitude save or be sickened for 1 round and have its vision reduced to 10 feet for 1 minute. Spending a full-round action to wash one’s eyes with water ends this effect. Attackers that are not adjacent to the timberjiff when it is damaged are not subject to this effect. The save DC is Constitution-based.

Timberjiffs are city-dwelling fey that are born when magic-infused trees are harvested and processed into building or crafting materials. Like many fey, timberjiffs are mischievous by nature, and they enjoy tormenting those who use the lumber that brought about their creation as a means of “avenging” the felled trees. Timberjiffs pay little mind to their victims’ relationships to the wood; they are equally likely to open leaks in the roof of a home built with fey timber, where the residents are oblivious to the origins of their home’s construction, as they are to steal and warp the tools of the lumberjack who cut down the magical tree in the first place. Their synthetic origins make timberjiffs craftier than most fey, however, and they have great respect for art, fine architecture, and magic items that are made from wood.

Timberjiffs are particularly prominent in cities throughout the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, springing from lumber harvested in Grungir Forest and living in alleys and basements near the wood that birthed them. Most Ulfen see them as a nuisance, but skilled whittlers and woodcarvers sometimes trade their wares to the fey in exchange for information or favors.

Webstore Gninja Minion , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Hi Christopher! I'll be one of the judges for this round, and I'll be looking at a couple of key points for your creature: flavor, GM usability, and how well it fits into the world of Golarion. For some background, I helped found the Wayfinder fanzine before I started working for Paizo, and these are all points that I took into consideration when selecting articles for the magazine. In addition, I oversee every third-party Pathfinder Roleplaying Game product that makes its way onto Paizo.com.

Who doesn't need more fey in their game? There's a lot to draw upon from mythology, and I like their origins. It does feel more like a forest or rural creature than an urban creature, though, as it would seem they would manifest at a lumber mill (which is rarely in a city proper). I'd like to see more examples of "mischievous" though, and I'd question your wording choice of "synthetic origins" as it implies something different that the spontaneous manifestation of your creature. And why are they okay with wooden architecture, when one of the things they like to do is warp the timbers of peoples' homes?

There's not room for it in this entry, but I would like to have seen if there were different abilities depending on which piece of magical lumber it originated from.

GM Usability
Spell Resistance 13 for a CR 2 creature? Yikes. This is going to be very sad-making for some characters, and seems a bit much at this level, but nuglub gremlins have the same SR for a creature of the same challenge rating. The abilities are all very usable and straightforward, which I certainly appreciate. I'd be curious what happened if more of these creatures teamed up together—what kind of damage can they do in larger groups?

Unfortunately, the tie-in to the setting feels a bit tacked on (especially by putting it at the end of your descriptive text). I'd like to have better reasoning for having the Grungir Forest as your selection, rather than perhaps Darkmoon Vale (where lumber harvesting is much more severe).

Final Thoughts
I like this creature, but I want the ties to Golarion to be stronger—there's nothing about it that really ties it to the setting. I do not recommend this monster for advancement.

Goblinworks Lead Game Designer

Hi Christopher, I'm Lee Hammock, the lead game designer on Pathfinder Online. Before that I did lots of d20 freelance work, but I'm probably going to be leaving mechanics to the more up to date judges and concentrating on story, overall balance, and how I could see using them in a game.

I'm not crazy about monsters that punish me for hitting them like I'm supposed to, and this one seems extra punishing. Sickened and partially blinded (why see only ten feet? Isn't there some standard effect that could be used here?) seem a bit much. Sickened seems pretty terrible on it's own. Also the spell resistance seems a bit much for the CR.

I like the background, but it needs more meat. What sort of magic trees? The example in the Grugnir forest is great and all, but there are so many types of magic trees some wider examples to tie it more to the setting would be helpful. Also I think you missed some opportunity for some pathos or at least sympathy with the monster by making them so uncaring about their victims; if they actually tried to stop the people responsible, or maybe collect all the pieces of their former tree to try and rebuild it in a an ultimately futile effort, I think you'd have more room for interesting stories rather than random angry wood fey rampage. It's similar in concept to the shattered dryad entry, but I feel that monster makes better use of it's word count to give a more interesting motivation and background.

It's a close one, but I think this is a Should Not Vote For.

Paizo Employee Developer , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Congrats on making it to this round! May you have the luck and talent to push all the way through to the end!

”How I Judged These Monsters”:

When I develop a monster for the Adventure Path bestiaries, I print out the monster entry, and then go through it in a quick pass, marking up the page with notes and highlighting any problems that I need to address later when I really dig into it. Much of the time I’m circling things in the stat block or flavor text and leaving a quick note. Most often, this quick note pass is performed while I’m writing out art orders for the monsters so I can make sure that the description I give to the artist is what the final monster will be. This is where I make note of any changes I plan to make (some of which I’m sure frustrate some of my freelancers from time to time).

I’m going to judge this round in a similar manner to how I’d treat a monster I ordered from a freelancer if I asked one of my freelancers to just send me something within the same parameters that you’ve been given. My review isn’t anything personal, and since tone is difficult to communicate online sometimes, imagine my comments and critiques read in a friendly and nudging way. To heighten the experience, imagine my comments on your monster written in purple ink. :)

The blue italicized first line in my review was my gut reaction from reading the name with no context whatsoever. It was a fun guessing game I was playing while reviewing the monsters, so I included that note for everyone’s enjoyment. (Spoiler Alert: I was wrong a lot.)

And now to the monster!

Something made of wood or that lives in the woods.

Nope! It’s a wooden fey creature. The name certainly interested me enough to want to know more about the critter.
Nice descriptive line.
Sickened feels wrong to me for the condition used in the sawdust ability
I wrote the twigjack, so I certainly have some fondness for woodlike fey.
Nice tie into the world
Built in hook and flavor that makes the creature approachable for GMs.
A couple of weird things with the language line and the wooden wands thing. These aren’t things we typically do, but it’s not necessarily bad.
The monster is urban and does have a tie to Golarion. It wouldn’t take much time to develop.

I do recommend timberjiff for advancement.

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

I love fey and it's a cool sawdust fey!

Wow...every one of its abilities subjects creatures to its sawdust ability. I don't think that's bad, but for example why is the pellet subjecting the target to the sawdust ability since it's a hard pressed pellet?

Also, in death throes, you say it combusts into a plume...combust does not mean explode. It means it is consumed by fire...and in which case it shouldn't be subjecting the killer to sawdust.

Overall the flavor fell flat for me and the mechanics just didn't do it for me either. I can't vote for it.

RPG Superstar Season 9 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Full Disclosure: Chris is my brother and I have proofread this monster (and any subsequent entries). Therefore I will not critique any entries from the other active contestants.

That being said, I agree with all of Adam's comments. I loved the idea for this monster the first time I read it, and I still do; I could totally see myself using a timberjiff in my campaign. Way to go!

I didn't have a lot of time for item reviewing this weekend, so I'm doing monsters instead. First I'll look at how the monster's basic rundown fits the monster creation table, then general theme and abilities.

= Monster meets the target statistics for its CR
+ Monster exceeds the target stats for its CR
++ Monster greatly exceeds target stats for its CR
- Monster's stats do not meet target stats for its CR
-- Monster's stats are greatly below target stats for its CR

hp: -
AC: +
High Atk +
Low Atk n/a
High Dmg --
Low Dmg --
Primary Ability DC: =
Secondary Ability DC: n/a
Good save: ++/+
Poor save: +

The low hp are balanced by the the higher AC, but the damage output is pretty meager for a creature of this CR. The special abilities are good, but don't really offset its inability to dish out the damage. Even the description calls them simply a "nuisance."

The Golarian tie-in is interesting, though I'm a bit fuzzy on how common it is for trees to be "magically infused," in the Land of the Linnorm Kings in particular.

Sawdust: Good, but I agree that sickened isn't the way to go. I might have listed the penalties and made it a pain effect, having it come from the splinters digging into the eyes and other tender areas, maybe even go so far as having a failed save mean temporary blindess, mitigated to the dazzled effect on a made save.

Pellet: I'd forgo the point of damage and make the concentrated attack up the DC on the saving throw.

Death Throes: Again, we've got another variant on the same ability. While this provides for a tight theme, it makes the timberjiff a bit of a one-trick pony.

Overall, the timberjiff is sound mechanically, with some interesting abilities, but doesn't quite have the "wow" factor I'm looking for. I really liked your wondrous item though, so a vote in your favor isn't out of the question.

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

Wasn't quite sure what to think based on the name, but- like with the agoravore- I like the idea of nature vs. civilization behind this one (maybe I'm biased, because that was sort of the idea I was working with, too?)

In any event, I like these guys, and think they would be a lot of fun to throw at a party!

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

Congratulations Christopher,
I am trying to keep reviews simple to get through them quickly.
Creative: Furniture that has a grudge against the user. I've seen gremlins do this, but the wood itself? Nice.
Fun to GM: sawdust seems to happen a lot; as an attack, when attacked, when killed. That will get old fast so I'd limit one version or another, but with a couple of these I can get a big bang from the early rounds.
Golarion Tie: OK, but a little forced.

Good luck! :)

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

Though you may not be able to find a bigger fan of your Bonedancer Bodhran, this creaure doesn't wow me. It reminds me too much of an angry Pinocchio with a grudge.

I do like the on-theme abilities, (although the "every hit" of sawdust might be a bit much) but beyond that the concept itself feels a little forced.

Not sure why it has Weapon Finesse - I see the high dex, but beyond that I don't see it grabbing weapons...

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

I've given this round a lot of thought. I've read over all of the monsters, done some deliberation, and come to my conclusions. That said:

Conceptually, I quite like this monster. I don't particularly agree with the complaints about its Golarion ties--the Grungir Forest is a perfectly logical name drop for fey-haunted woods being brought into contact with civilization (although I agree that Darkmoon Vale would also be a good place to put them). The visual of them being made of sawdust and wood shavings is neat, and reminiscent of the twigjacks without striking me as derivative.

The sawdust-themed abilities are perhaps, a bit of overkill. Having them do it as a ranged attack, when struck and when slain is pretty gnarly. Unlike some of the judges, I do like the "blinded to a certain range" thing. Darkvision has a limited range of sight, as do oracles with the blindness curse. It's less mean than full blindness (with, which how often they can inflict it, is pretty fair).

I fell in love with the concept for this monster, and its special abilities are on-point with that theme. I will be voting for this monster--I feel it needs a little more love than the voting public seems to be giving it. Best of luck!

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

It might not be fair to compare these and the shattered dryad, but it's kind of inevitable. And honestly... I like these more. The name is great, the origin and ecological niche they fill is interesting, and they seem kind of fun. My only issue is, as others said before me, the over-reliance on the one sawdust ability. It's not the most creative set of abilities I've seen this round (and in this area, the dryads come out ahead.)
But it might very well get my vote for the concept and overall execution, even if the powers are a little flat. Definitely in the top half of the entries I've seen.

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, I liked the entry. The background and origin is good, but also agree that I don't get the connection with the Land of the Linnorm Kings, I was expecting Darkmoon Vale, as the best known logging site in Golarion.

While I liked the sawdust ability to restrict vision range, it's not all that useful to the timerjiff since it's ranged attacks do a paltry 1 hp of damage. If it was a ranged threat, and restricted its enemy's ability to attack back at range, that would have been a much better and more interesting combat.

As a more mischievous than evil monster, I'd have liked more examples of what it does and what motivates it other than (hey it's a chaotic fey). If it's harassing someone, other than killing it, what can you offer it via diplomacy to get it to stop?

Also, not sure why it would have blind fight as a feat, since it relies on sawdusting its enemies, rather than an area vision effect like darkness or fog, where blind fight would stack the deck in its favor. Point blank shot or something that enhances it's ranged attack would be more appropriate, or alternatively skill focus stealth, to make it more of a sniper.

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

The Good: Balanced mechanics and a cool origin story.
The Bad: my first reaction to the name was it's peanut butter on a wooden spoon.
The Ugly: I'd drop the SR on this monster it is completely unneeded.
Overall: 8.5/10 - I strongly disagree with the judges this is one of the stronger entries for me and sure to get my vote. An aside on the Goleran comment- it's truly one of the weaker criteria for a public vote in my opinion. I'll take a decent monster with some style and a weak tie to Goleran over a weaker entry with a strong tie in.

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

I like the timberjiff's origins, and its abilities support its background perfectly. The sawdust sort of blinding and choking a timberjiff's attack is a neat visual.

I'm not convinced that this is an urban creature, since it could be just as easily encountered in a secluded cabin nowhere near habitation than it would be encountered in an urban center. I appreciate the Golarion tie, but, based on its origins, it seems like a better fit in Darkmoon Vale.

Good luck in the voting!

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

My sincerest thanks to all the judges and voters for your compliments and (more importantly) your criticisms! This is the kind of feedback I need in order to improve my own skills as a designer. A couple of responses to some of people's general misgivings about my creature:

Several people mentioned the issue of the timberjiff's lack of diversity regarding special abilities. On the one hand, this was partially by design. As a GM, I get very frustrated when I'm using a monster so bogged down with different special abilities that I lose track of them during gameplay, and have to halt the game's progress in order to double-check a monster entry or kick myself after a session because I forgot a pivotal ability that could have changed the trajectory of an entire encounter. GMs have a lot on their minds during gameplay, so I wanted to create a monster with only one full-blown unique special ability that the GM had to remember, then just remember when to apply that ability. On the other hand, as Jeff Lee said:

Again, we've got another variant on the same ability. While this provides for a tight theme, it makes the timberjiff a bit of a one-trick pony.

In hindsight, I totally agree with this criticism, and will definitely walk away that much wiser as a result.

Some people commented on the timberjiff's SR, which seemed steep. I used the standard formula for determining a creature's SR (11+CR), and double-checked this with the nuglub gremlin to make sure I wasn't off-base. Some folks felt that having the SR at all was a bit much, but my response to that is that A) I felt that a fey creature should have SR, and B) I wanted there to be something to offset the timberjiff's vulnerability to fire. Furthermore, I have a particular love for teaching the game to new players, which means that Knowledge checks to determine monster abilities pop up a lot in my games, and nothing is more disappointing to me or my players than a high Knowledge roll that reveals, "This monster has no special strengths or vulnerabilities, just hit it with your sword until it's dead like a good adventurer." I wanted to make a creature that had special rules for fighting it, reminiscent of the rules for fighting or outsmarting specific creatures in fairy tales (especially given that my monster was a fey). Use cold iron weapons, but not axes or slashing weapons. Use fire, but not magical fire. Those sorts of things.

Several people noted the timberjiff's meager damage output. On the one hand, I agree with this analysis; I think the little guy needs more punch too. On the other hand, I was trying to make a creature that was more of a nuisance than an actual threat. Threats get eliminated from inhabited settlements pretty quickly, especially low-level threats; nuisances are more likely to be swept under the administrative rug and left to the locals to deal with. In a similar vein, I agree with those of you who criticized the timberjiff's feats. My original feats were Great Fortitude and Point-Blank Shot, but I didn't want a ranged attack that only was supposed to deal 1 point of damage to be affected by PBS and I didn't want all the timberjiff's saves to be exceptionally high, so I switched them to Weapon Finesse (to give it a high attack modifier to combat its low damage output) and Blind-Fight (since the timberjiffs are not immune to their own sawdust ability, which could mean trouble for them if they are in a group and one gets feathered with a cold iron arrow!).

Some folks questioned the urban-ness of the timberjiff, which springs from processed wood. I actually have a lathe and a woodshop in my home (indeed, it was the inspiration for this monster), and in my experience the most common place most people interact with processed wood is in settled areas. Yes, the trees are cut down at logging camps, but they are processed into building and crafting materials closer to civilization, so it made sense to me to have the timberjiffs spring from a construction timber or a lathe block far from the forest where it was harvested.

Quite a few people wondered why I put the timberjiffs in Grungir Forest rather than the Darkmoon Vale. My response to that is...yeah... In hindsight, Darkmoon Vale makes way, way more sense. I think I made this choice because I was recently writing a homebrewed adventure path that takes place in the Lands of the Linnorm Kings (which is, incidentally, one of my favorite Golarion regions), so when I needed a place where fey trees were being cut down and made into stuff, Grungir Forest was the first spot to pop into my head. Now I know to really comb through the Golarion setting to zero in on the best possible places for my submissions.

Once again, thanks for all the comments, both supportive and critical! I feel I am learning more about game design than I ever could have hoped from this experience, and I hope that my learning continues to the next round! Best of luck to all the entrants; this was a really wonderful crop of critters, in my humble opinion!

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