Time Thief

Round 2: Create a Bestiary entry

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 aka Peter J

This humanoid seems to flicker in and out of existence. Its smoky black fingers are unnaturally long, and one hand fervently grasps an hourglass filled with golden sand.

Time Thief CR 4
XP 1,200
CE Medium undead
Init +6; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +5

----- Defense -----
AC 16, touch 16, flat-footed 13 (+3 deflection, +2 Dex, +1 dodge)
hp 24 (4d8+6)
Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +5
Defensive Abilities incorporeal; Immune undead traits
Weaknesses Borrowed Time

----- Offense -----
Speed fly 40 ft. (good)
Melee incorporeal touch +3 (aging, see below)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks Timesteal
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 5th)
At will—ethereal jaunt

----- Statistics -----
Str 10, Dex 14, Con --, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 16
Base Atk +3; CMB +3; CMD 15
Feats Improved Initiative, Dodge, Skill Focus (Stealth)
Skills Fly +6, Knowledge (religion) +5, Perception +5, Stealth +9, Sense Motive +4
Languages Common

----- Ecology -----
Environment urban
Organization solitary
Treasure none

----- Special Abilities -----
Timesteal (Su) A target hit by a time thief's Timesteal ability instantly ages 2d6 years.
Borrowed Time (Su) Time thieves each possess an ethereal hourglass (AC 16, incorporeal, 12 hp). Any damage to the hourglass prevents the time thief from using its ethereal jaunt ability. Destroying the hourglass instantly slays the time thief and restores all aging caused by that time thief's Timesteal ability.

Often mistaken for a shadow or similar type of undead, the time thief was once mortal, but has entered into a bargain with creatures of other planes to avoid it's death. Time thieves seek to evade the natural ends of their lives by stealing life from other living beings. However, unlike most undead, the time thief attacks the victim's timeline, the amount of time the gods have allotted them to live. Their victims are often left incapacitated by sudden aging, caused by the time thief's Timesteal ability.

The appearance of the time thief suggests how recently it has "fed" on the stolen time of others. If the time thief appears old, and most of the sand is in the bottom half of the hourglass, it is likely to be actively hunting for a fresh victim. Conversely, a young appearance and sand in the top half of the hourglass indicates that the time thief has recently stolen time from someone. Regardless, the stolen time is used up very quickly (a decade stolen is at best a month of continued existence), and the thief will soon be on the hunt again.

Time thieves are almost always paranoid, and guard their hourglasses of stolen time jealously, as it is the source of their existence. They hop back and forth between the ethereal and material planes frequently, whichever seems the safest at the moment. In combat, they make hit and run attacks, sneaking up behind a helpless or otherwise preoccupied opponent to make a few Timesteal attempts, and then withdraw to the ethereal plane. They seldom fight to the end unless desperate or cornered, though they may also try to slay anyone who knows the secret of their hourglass and has tried to destroy it.

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

Hi Peter! 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.

Time-flavored creatures are always a sticky area to explore, as it often treads into a realm of GM fiat (and headaches). While I really like the idea of this creature, there are some questions regarding its appearance and flavor text that I find questionable. How does a shadow appear young or old? Why undead? If it's seeking to "evade the natural ends of their lives," hasn't that already happened if they're undead? This creature would perhaps be better suited as an aberration, construct, or outsider. I want to know more about why it steals time, other than "it lives longer."

GM Usability
Wow, a creature that ages its targets every time it hits? At CR 4? And no saving throw? And its only weakness is an item that it carries that's incorporeal. I would be incredibly hesitant throwing this at a lower level group. What if they can't kill the creature? How long does the age stealing for the victim last? Is it permanent until recovered?

There's nothing about the time thief that ties it to the world of Golarion or an urban setting.

Final Thoughts
An interesting concept, but I think the concept is too big for the CR range specified for this round of the contest, and the extra whammy of no ties to Golarion is another mark against it. I do not recommend this monster for advancement.

Goblinworks Lead Game Designer

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Hi Peter, 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.

Wow, aging up to twelve years in one attack at CR 4 with no save? That seems way overpowered. While yes, it can be reverted if you kill the Time Thief, all the stat recalculation until then would be a nightmare (in addition to the real possibility it could kill someone). Plus it's incorporeal, can jump to the ethereal plane, and uses hit and run tactics on top of everything else. The core idea is neat and I'm a big fan of timey wimey stuff, but it just seems like a heavy handed implementation of it and something that is definitely more suited to higher level play. Plus nothing makes it Golarion focused or particularly urban.

Does damage to the hour glass stop it from using ethereal jaunt permanently? If so, how does it repair the hourglass? If you reduce the Time Thief's hit points to 0, is it not dead? The description of the hourglass indicates it is not, but there seems to be no way for it to recover from dying without the hour glass being destroyed. Also including some sort of info as to how players could find out about the hourglass would be nice as I certainly wouldn't assume I kill an undead by breaking what's in it's hand.

I'm putting this one down as 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!

This thing has the same name of a Rogue Genius class and a quick google hits on two novels and Thief of Time is a Terry Pratchett book. Not something that kills an entry, but in development I would change the name to avoid any possible confusion (not that a monster is like a novel or class).

Cool description.
Hit points are pretty low for its CR, but the incorporeal makes up for that.
You gave it the incorporeal UMR but you didn’t give it the incorporeal subtype.
If space and reach is 5 ft., you don’t have to include that line. (In this case it would have saved you 4 words).
Its should have three even and three odd ability scores.
Special abilities are not capitalized (unless they start a sentence).
I like that you can destroy the hourglass to fix the aging problem. Aging effects are tricky, especially for such a low CR creature.
I don’t see the value in it being incorporeal and having ethereal jaunt.
This monster has no flavor ties to Golarion. This could have been fixed by mentioning which “creatures of other planes” time thieves made their bargain with or even naming a deity when you say “time the gods have allotted”.
You even had plenty of words to make that connection.
The writing is a bit rough. This is something you’re going to want to work harder on as the contest continues.
The creature is already undead, which means that it has died already, so it stealing to avoid its death is kinda weird.
This monster would be pretty beneficial to casters that don’t care about their physical ability scores.
The monster could be urban, but has no ties to Golarion. This entry would take more time than I’d like to develop.

I don’t recommend time thief for advancement.

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

Congratulations Peter,
I am trying to keep reviews simple to get through them quickly.
Creative: Time-stealing critter is awesome, even if the Fates are not a big part of the game.
Fun to GM: The mechanics fail it for me. The aging process will require additional tracking. Not just for the combat/encounter, but for all the downtimes a campaign featuring one of these will have.
Golarion Tie: err...

Good luck! :)

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

I don't really like this creature. And also, every time I see a creature that can age another creature at will, I think of dragons.

Many Dragons might even seek out time thieves - give them two millenia (sure, the process would take a few days), and become immensely powerful. And then, the time thief has two thousand years of stolen time, and can go off and never bother anyone again. Maybe it would even leave the hourglass with the dragon, for safekeeping.

I'm realizing this sounds like both a point of abuse, and a great plot hook.

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

Not a big fan of the name. Just kinda...eh.

Description is cool.

Undead strikes me as odd.

Hmm...I think I get the connection you are making with incorporeal stuff and phasing in and out of time...but it just falls short.

It's only got 4 HD, how does it have a CL of 5th?

No treasure...really? Nothing with the hourglass? Or the sands in it? Missed opportunity.

Timesteal is a little crazy especially since it's targeting touch AC. A monk wouldn't be able to defend against the aging until high level with timeless body. A low level group would be shattered. If you had mechanics for removing the aging effects via lesser restoration or some such...

Yeah I'm just not buying into the description.

Overall you're a bit too all over the place when it comes to technical, mechanical, and fluff writing. I can't vote for this one.

I didn't have a lot of time for item reviewing this past 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: -
Atk -
Dmg n/a
Primary Ability DC: n/a
Secondary Ability DC: n/a
Good save: -
Poor save: =/=

Low hp are balanced by incorporealness, so that's fine. Will save is a bit low, but it is undead, so that scratches a lot of spells that work off Will.

Timesteal: No save. 2d6 years. Ouch.

Borrowed Time: Breaking or damaging the hourglass would require a ghost touch weapon. Not many of those running around. A party not prepared to fight an incorporeal creature will be completely hosed. Magic missile doesn't work on objects, so let's hope there's a sorcerer in the party to machinegun this thing down.

Ethereal jaunt at will?! That's way over the top.

I was not kind to the time-themed wondrous items in round one. A time-themed monster has me leery right off the bat. There are no ties to Golarion or even an urban environment aside from it saying "urban" in the stat block. The background is very vague and confusing, since by definition an undead creature has already died. If it had been a humanoid, or an outsider, even an aberration, that would have made more sense. This thing has too much power for a CR 4 creature and the mechanics are way out of whack. No go for this one, I'm afraid.

I don't like it that your race is so important a half orc can be taken out of action with just a couple hits but an elf has tremendous resistance.

I think this would have worked better if it just gave a penalty on people who failed a save and caused them to look like the next age category up. Rather then worrying about and keeping track of exact year counts

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

Time Thief
The Good: You break some tropes (fast undead)
The Bad: How is this urban in particular?
The Ugly: Aging attacks went out of style for a reason. Elves are likely not going to care. No save?
Overall: 2/10- Aging is the tool of the a$$hole GM, renders the monster unusable for me.

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

Ah, time-based entries. Luring in unsuspecting contestants since 2007.
I really don't have much to add here that hasn't been addressed. I will say this made me a little nostalgic for 1st edition days when ghosts did aging attacks. But nostalgic in a bad way, because I had a vain character who got stuck 50 years older than he was until he managed to get his hands on a wish. That's not a mechanic I'd want to see return to the game, even with a theoretical way to undo it built in to the monster (since it seems incredibly difficult to break the hourglass.)
Nice idea, but unfortunately, time is a trap.

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

This creature has lots and lots of issues, but the ones that stuck out to me are:

-hey, look, I'm holding an hour glass, and I manipulate time, bet you'd never guess!
-for a time related monster, how does it interact with haste and slow spells, the most common time manipulations in the game?
-aging characters not only is a cheap shot, but the monster's danger varies greatly depending on what race the PC is. Deadly to humans in a few hit (even if they're powerful 20th level characters), but elves could say "gee that tickled."

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

I like the flavor text that describes the creature. That is a cool visual, even though it telegraphs what the characters are in for.

I think you could have done more to demonstrate the time thief's timestealing abilities. As it is, an attack that ages its victims (that takes me back!) does not effectively do this. Also, the ties to Golarion and an urban setting are nonexistent.

Good luck in the voting!

The CR 16 Aeon from bestiary 2 does this exactly

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