Face in the Crowd

Round 2: Create a Bestiary entry

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka burrahobbit

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Face in the Crowd CR 1
XP 400
CN Tiny Aberration
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +7

----- Defense -----
AC 14, touch 14, flat-footed 12 (+2 Dex, +2 Size)
hp 7 (2d8-2)
Fort -1, Ref +2, Will +5

----- Offense -----
Speed fly 15 ft. (good)
Melee Bite +3 (1d4-3 plus possession)
Space 2½ ft.; Reach 0 ft.
Special Attacks possession, facewalk

----- Statistics -----
Str 5, Dex 14, Con 8, Int 13, Wis 15, Cha 12
Base Atk +1; CMB +1;
CMD 8 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Weapon Finesse
Skills Escape Artist +7, Fly +15, Knowledge (local) +10, Perception +7, Stealth +7; Racial Modifiers +4 Knowledge (local)
Languages Common

----- Ecology -----
Environment Any urban
Organization Solitary
Treasure None

----- Special Abilities -----
Possession (Su) A face in the crowd that hits a humanoid creature of 1 HD or less with a bite attack may immediately attempt to possess that creature (DC 12 Will save negates). The face in the crowd vanishes and is entirely absorbed into the possessed creature. This ability is similar to a ghost’s malevolence ability, except that a face in the crowd may possess a single creature for a maximum of 5 consecutive rounds. After 5 rounds, the face in the crowd assumes its natural form, adjacent to or directly above its last host. If a creature possessed by a face in the crowd is rendered unconscious, the face in the crowd may attempt to facewalk (see below) as an immediate action; if it fails to do so, or if no suitable target is in range, it reverts to its natural form. A creature that has succeeded on a Will save to resist possession is immune to that face in the crowd’s possession ability for 24 hours. The save DC is Charisma-based.

Facewalk (Su) Once per round as a standard action, a face in the crowd currently possessing a creature may transfer its possession effect to another humanoid creature of 1 HD or less within 5 feet (DC 12 Will save negates).

An expressionless mask of flesh floats through the air, desperately seeking the crush of a crowd.

Faces in the crowd in their natural forms are flattened ovoid masks of flesh with two milky eyes and a small mouth filled with needle-like teeth. Although they can survive indefinitely in this form, time spent not possessing a humanoid is constant agony for them. They prefer to facewalk through huge urban crowds, never assuming their relatively weak natural forms if they can help it. They relish causing chaos and violence (for example, by possessing a target in a crowd, striking a passerby, facewalking to that person to retaliate, instigating a riot, then facewalking away). They are, however, careful of their self-preservation: a face in the crowd will almost never seek to kill or incapacitate all nearby potential victims, always leaving at least one to which it may facewalk before its possession ends. Likewise, faces in the crowd prefer to quickly steer possessed victims toward groups of other humanoids.

Faces in the crowd lurk throughout the metropolises of Golarion, including bustling Absalom, the revolution-wracked towns of Galt, and especially the unruly cities of the Hold of Belkzen, where they can often indulge in their chaos-making for extended periods without anyone noticing that something is amiss. A face in the crowd’s flesh tone and facial features gradually shift to resemble those of a race or people common to the city it inhabits, and it retains vague memories from those it has possessed, making it well-versed in local lore.

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

Hi Sam! 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.

This creature seems tailor-made to cause paranoia and confusion in a group (players and NPCs alike). Given their Intelligence score, I would like to have seen more motivation than just wanting to sow a little confusion. (Does it feed upon the sensation of panic from its host? Does the host remember being possessed, or is it a blank? Can a subject be willingly possessed, and if so, does that increase the duration of the of the possession? Can the face give a bonus to Disguise checks if the host were willing?)

GM Usability
I would have liked to have had some method of evicting the face in the crowd, but with its short possession time, not sure that it would be a factor. These kinds of creatures have the potential to annoy a group really fast, and takes the right kind of situation to pull it off well, and I would have liked to see a better idea of *how* to use them. Do they make good spies, or not? What happens when you punch the possessed to force out the face in the crowd?

I like how you worked in its favored locales--Absalom is always an obvious urban locale, but it would certainly work well in Galt or Belkzen, as you pointed out. With a little reworking, they would be excellent aids to assassins and followers of Norgorber--or even assassins themselves.

Final Thoughts
The creature does not particularly wow me, and not because of its CR. I just don't see a reason to use it over a doppleganger or dark stalker, and the chance of annoyance factor to a party is not worth it (to me). I do not recommend this monster for advancement.

Goblinworks Lead Game Designer

Hi Sam, 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.

This is an interesting idea, but I think is suffers from trying to shoot for such a low CR. The short duration of the possession, the hit dice limitation, etc, all make this creature of really limited usefulness to the GM. It's not a direct threat to PCs after first level, and won't be able to possess people of mechanical importance (though possibly of story importance) to the PCs after a few levels. Plus the short duration keeps it from really creating paranoia since it can only hang on a few rounds. If this thing could possess people for hours, maybe limiting the times per day it can do so, I think it gets much more interesting than just jumping from person to person in quick succession. If these were somehow summoned or created creatures so magically skilled anarchists could release them into a crowd, then I think the short duration works better and the story would be more engaging. Creatures creating chaos for the sake of creating chaos is really not that interesting. As it is their drive of causing chaos seems really hampered by their limitations, such that they wouldn't be that interesting.

I would say 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!

I dislike the name of this monster. Things like this don’t make for good monster names, but maybe reading further will redeem it.

There is no descriptive flavor text that appears in every monster entry we publish. (Oh, I found it between the statblock and the favor text... not where it’s supposed to go)
aberration isn’t capitalized (nor is any creature type) (or the word size in AC breakdown)
The idea of a creature that can hide in a crowd is neat, but this monster doesn’t really do anything else, which leaves it a bit boring. I’m not fully convinced it even does its main job that well.
Hit points are low and AC is a tiny bit high.
This is certainly a city monster, so you nailed the design spec regarding that.
I like that you explained the racial skill mod in the flavor text.
The monster is urban and has a tie to Golarion. This would take some time to develop.

I don’t recommend face in the crowd for advancement.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Darkjoy

I kind of like the concept but the execution needs some help.

Aberration - I don't know if that is the right choice for the monster, it feels more like a spirit than a real-life monster.

The worst thing for a monster is to have a cool ability and never being able to use it because the poor monster is dead....
The face in the crowd suffers from that, everyone who is aware will get an attack of opportunity and your monster has average hp, roughly equal to a sword swing, that is not good.

Your possesion is too limited, 5 rounds is nothing.

First review, so I can only say that there are 31 more to go.

Your monster is not super, but very salvageable. Adding an extra HD or changing its type and adding an extra power for when it facewalks, leaving the victim with some added bonus (I mean suffering ;>) would make this better.

I am with Maurice on this - interesting idea (flying face that possess humanoids) but execution needs much-much work.

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

Sam, I fear you may have made the same mistake as last year: going with a concept that may be interesting in fiction but does not translate well into game mechanics. This monster creates a frustrating situation; possessing a PC and making it fight the rest of the party is no fun for players—at least not in my experience.

I'm not a fan of the concept, I agree that its motivations are lacking and there are a few missteps here and there (like the descriptive text in the middle of the stat block). However, I believe this idea may find its niche among voters. Good 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

I'm torn. I think the idea is massively cool, and the monster's appearance is creepy and disturbing. Like others, though, I wonder about the long term issues involved, though; having to change hosts every 5 rounds maximum or else suffer excruciating pain seems a fairly non-sustainable existence; how do they sleep & rest?
That said, I don't see this so much as a possessing threat to a PC group; I mean, that's one tactic, but storywise I could see it being more interesting to have them literally jumping from body to body in a crowded marketplace and the PCs having to pursue it from host to host as it plays tag. It could make for a fun (if frustrating) chase scene. (And as to why the PCs are bothering chasing it; that's a hook included in the monster description; they're really good at retaining info and Knowing Stuff.)
Not sure where this sits for me, votewise; I'll have to re-evaluate later, once I've read the rest, but I do kind of like it, or at least the potential it represents.

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

Congratulations Sam,
I am trying to keep reviews simple to get through them quickly.
Creative: dopplegangers for lower-levels, Yes. face walk is a tradition of possession-critters, but the physical form is interesting.
Fun to GM: Possession isn't clear, or rather moveing from one to the other it would be simpler if the possessed simply had to succeed on a bite attack. It would save you a lot of words too.
Golarion Tie: Feels a little tagged on, but I can see such a thing thriving in Galt and Belkzen. Well played.

Good luck! :)

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

Mmmm name could use some work.

To be honest I just don't have much for this guy...he's kind of bland to me.

It is cool that he has motivations and means to be shifting around a crowd and sowing dischord...but it isn't reflected strongly enough in the description or the abilities.

Overall I just think you didn't swing hard enough or you gambled on something that is entirely too subtle.

I didn't have a lot of time for item reviewing, 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: --
Primary Ability DC: =
Good save: +
Poor save: -/+

Relatively balanced, considering it doesn't actively participate in melee per say, though even with the higher AC this thing could get taken down by a single lucky hit, so it could do with some tinkering.

Possession: Okay, that's kind of a cool ability, but only five rounds? Doesn't seem like a long time to really do much.

Facewalk: Does this need to be its own ability? It's just doing the same thing except jumping from one person to the next.

So the concept has kind of a creepy-cool vibe to it, it has roots in Golarion and is firmly an urban monster. However, like Liz I'm left wondering at its motivations. Granted, it's an aberration and they're hard to understand anyway, but it's like a creepy facewalking teenager that joyrides people instead of cars. I'm not sure that's quite enough to carry it into Superstar territory.

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

Face in the Crowd
The Good: I like you went for CR 1, I like that you went for stealth which makes sense given the assignment.
The Bad: Naming here doesn't do it for me particularly "face walking."
The Ugly: Aberration doesn't work for me, undead makes more sense or fey. Fails to connect.
Overall: 4/10 little on the lower side of middling for me. Make it an ooze that pours into someone's face and controls them and it becomes a no brainer 9 or 10 for me. Little differences go a long way.

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 seems like a good concept, that was crippled by making it CR 1. Even within the range of this round, you could have done a lot more with it at a higher CR. The limit on it's main power of 1 HD makes is useless against any PCs other than 1st level, and while it causes brawls and chaos, I don't see that as a reason for PCs to really care. Lots of cities have brawls regularly without a face in the crowd being involved, and stopping them isn't really a heroic activity. If you want the PCs to have an obstacle of dealing with a brawl in a crowd, just say there is one (cause it's in a low life bar, there's a riot, etc.) you don't really need a monster to be the cause, when the monster doesn't have any other motivations that it could be causing the brawl to cover up.

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

This is cool idea and very much an urban monster, since it requires a crowd to operate. I like the idea of a monster that can turn a crowd into a major obstacle for the PCs without directly confronting them. You also did an excellent job describing how this monster would work in various Golarion locations.

I think the CR could be increased and the effects of its possession/facewalk could be broadened to make them more of a credible threat.

Good luck in the voting!

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka burrahobbit

Now that voting's over, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for your comments and critiques! The missteps in execution are pretty clear. As several people noted, the CR (and the limitations I imposed to ensure it couldn't be exploited) probably ended up dampening the concept and making it less fun than it could have been.

Some people have mentioned motivation, and this was a casualty of the word count. I could have devoted some more time to indicating how these creatures crave contact with human minds and thoughts and feed on powerful negative emotions like hate, fear, and anger. Their own natural form is disgusting, even painful to them: initially I had them effectively drown when not possessing a humanoid. Victims vaguely remember the time of their possession but have no emotional connection to their actions while possessed, leaving them at a loss to explain their behavior and often causing them to appear cold or remorseless.

The time limitation could certainly be eased. I was stubborn on this for a couple of reasons: I wanted to avoid having a player's character taken out of his or her hands for an extended period of time, and I wanted to encourage frequent jumps between hosts to keep this thing around big crowds. A more elegant solution might have been to allow for repeated saves but a longer period of possession, so that there would be plenty of time for NPC possession and the potential to build tension.

If I have the chance, I'll circle back and give some more thoughts on the monster and how it might be used. For now, though, I'll stick to working up my Round 3 entry, just in case. Thanks again for all of your thoughts -- I'm still learning a lot in this contest the second time round, and I hope to have the chance to keep improving in future rounds! I love this contest, and I really appreciate all the feedback!

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