Portrait Phantom

Round 2: Create a Bestiary entry

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Morphemic

The well-dressed officer moves in a bizarre manner, revealing itself to be a flattened form that resembles a painted portrait. Despite its thinness, it raises a sharp-looking sword.

Portrait Phantom CR 1
XP 400
CE Medium undead
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +0

----- Defense -----
AC 13, touch 13, flat-footed 10 (+3 Dex)
hp 13 (2d8+4)
Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +3
Defensive Abilities flatness; DR 10/slashing; Immune undead traits

----- Offense -----
Speed 30 ft.
Melee Falcata +3 (1d8+3/19-20/x3 plus flattening) or touch +3 (flattening)

----- Statistics -----
Str 14, Dex 16, Con -, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 15
Base Atk +1; CMB +3; CMD 16
Feats Stealthy
Skills Escape Artist +7, Stealth +10 (+14 when using portrait blend); Racial Modifiers +4 Stealth when using portrait blend
Languages Common
SQ portrait blend

----- Ecology -----
Environment any urban or ruins
Organization solitary, pair, or company (3-12)
Treasure none

----- Special Abilities -----
Flatness (Ex) A portrait phantom’s body consists of a thin layer of paint, though it can move freely in three dimensions. The use of perspective in the painting gives it an appearance of near-solidity. This visual distortion causes attacks against the phantom to suffer a 20% miss chance.
Flattening (Su) A creature struck by a portrait phantom’s touch or weapon attack must succeed at a Fortitude save (DC 13) or suffer a flattening effect. The affected creature’s body thins and loses solidity, causing 1d4 points of dexterity damage due to the trauma of this transformation. Additional hits with this attack cause the target to become progressively thinner and more portrait-like. The flattened creature’s cognition changes to better interact with two-dimensional objects – it ignores the phantom’s miss chance due to flatness and its damage reduction. A flattened creature regains its normal body shape after 10 minutes, but the dexterity damage remains. The save DC is charisma-based.
Portrait blend (Su) A portrait phantom can merge its body with any painting or portrait by walking into it, becoming an immobile part of the scene portrayed. Entering or exiting the painting requires a standard action. While merged with a painting, the phantom may not be directly attacked, but any damage done to the painting will also damage the phantom.

Consumed with yearning for their long-decayed original bodies, portrait phantoms are spiteful spirits that seek to inflict their flattened condition on others. Among the most vainglorious of the numerous military officers and petty nobles portrayed in paintings throughout the cities of Taldor, they retain a spiritual attachment to their portraits. Though the portraits represent the nobles at the height of their physical excellence, a phantom is never satisfied to be attached to a mere image of its former glory.

A portrait phantom can remain dormant for decades or centuries, whether stored in a dusty cellar or displayed prominently in a public gallery. It becomes active when it encounters a person that reminds it of its former life, who becomes its target. Once so awakened, the phantom typically seeks to make its target feel the anguish of flatness before slaying him mercilessly. Occasionally, multiple portrait phantoms that were painted together may awaken simultaneously to oppose a common enemy.

Goblinworks Lead Game Designer

Hi Mark, 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.

After reading this I'm having flashbacks of Young Sherlock Holmes, and then I feel old.

I like the idea behind this monster, portraits coming to life, but the whole idea of them wishing to force flatness on their victims is really weird. Are they really that upset about being flat? Or at their upset about being dead? I would figure being dead would be more upsetting since they are the spirits of the people in the paintings, so the motivation for the creature feels really weird. If the spirit were more some Far Realms thing or other deep weirdness taking advantage of the situation I could see the whole “make things flat” motivation, but as it is written it just seems odd.

Now all that said, I like the stats. I especially like how victims of Flattening become immune to the miss chance of Flatness. A group of these would be a really interesting fight. I do feel like the concept is over ambitious for the word count allowed and the CR, as much as I like the mechanics.

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!

This name jumped out at me from the list. I wanted to read it right away, but I’m going through these in order.

A few minor formatting errors. Keep a close eye on that moving forward. (Not capitalizing Dexterity, Charisma; capitalizing falcata.)
At the start I wasn’t a fan of it being undead, but I warmed to it.
That DR is stout for a CR 1 creature, especially so since its hit points are pretty much on target already.
I like the flavor of this monster. It makes me think of the painted creation template from Gallery of Evil. I especially like the ties to Taldan nobility.
The flattening ability is cool, but it could use some work with its mechanics language. I’m not a huge fan of how much ability damage it does, nor that the cool part of the effect goes away after 10 minutes, but the crummy part sticks around. Ability damage for a CR 1 creature should be handled carefully. Also, if the victim is flattened and can ignore some of the portrait phantom’s protections, what’s stopping the victim from gaining the same protections?
The monster is urban and has a tie to Golarion. This monster would take a little bit of development.

I do recommend portrait phantom for advancement.

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

Hi Mark! 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.

Undead portraiture jealous of the third dimension...Interesting concept, and could be a fun take on the "living portraits" popularized from the Harry Potter novels. Much like Lee, I am reminded of the stained glass knight from Young Sherlock Holmes, which is pretty awesome. However, the creature's motivations need some work, because I can't really think of a place for them with how it's written currently.

GM Usability
You could have saved some word count with declaring that the portrait phantom is considered to have concealment because of its flatness defensive ability. As it stands, the explanation feels a bit awkward, and re-using a combat mechanic that already exists would be better in this instance. I am concerned about its damage reduction and CR balance, and ability damage at a CR is definitely a red flag.

I like how you've tied them into the setting, and using them in noble houses, museums, and other such locations would be a fun way to add encounters to Yet Another Long Hallway in a mansion.

Final Thoughts
Great concept and a fun addition to encounters in a house (or studio), but mechanics need some tightening up. I do recommend this monster for advancement.

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

Congratulations Mark,
I am trying to keep reviews simple to get through them quickly.
Creative: Indeed. Lots of Dorian Grey inspired critters, but I think the 2D is something new.
Fun to GM: Need to know how much dex damage removes the miss chance, but othewise yes, this will be fun. I might add concealment/invisibility if it turns sideways, but glad you didn't try to squeeze that in on your CR 1. :)
Golarion Tie: Taldor vanity. well duh? who else? :)

Nice work, good luck! :)

*shrug* I hate monsters hiding in portraits or mirrors... *shrug*

On a completely unrelated note, I would play Castlevania right now.

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.

Why has this never existed in the game before now?
The idea of a 'painting-monster' is not a new one; in one form or another, it's seen plenty of movie & literary use. I don't ever recall seeing this in a game before now, though, so points for finding an empty area to design in.
That said, I'm not completely sold on these. Mechanically, the Flattening power is just insane. (Although I do really like the secondary effect that suffering from it gives you an advantage over the portrait phantom)A touch attack that deals 1d4 ability damage at this CR seems excessive. And, well, maybe a bit weird too. Weird can be good in many cases, but for me, 'The painting lashes out at Valeros, who suddenly becomes a flatter version of himself' plays out very oddly inside my head.
Also, I'm not sure why these are undead. I mean, I get the 'phantom' part, and the trope of the moving painting fits well with an old haunted house, but I don't see what would turn a dead person into a 2-d walking bit of paint rather than rising from the grave as a corpse or spirit. Personally, I would have either liked to see some explanation as to why someones soul is bound into a canvas (ashes in the paint, maybe?) or else see this as a different creature type (with different motivations) entirely; construct could have been interesting.
The concept is great, and if I vote for this, it will be because that's what brings me back.

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 kind of boring. It does its job but definitely doesn't clock in overtime.

Your first sentence is kind of weird...especially since you specify an officer but the name of the creature is Portrait Phantom.

Does it have to be in a painting? If not that's kind of cool....

Hmm...an undead. Interesting. I don't know yet if I like it.

CR1 and DR 10/Slashing? Yeah a lot of parties are going to have slashing but still...very weird choice and that's a super high amount of DR for a level 1 party.

I'm starting to see a powergaming creature here....

Flattening is kind of cool but I'd be curious as to why you didn't choose Con damage.

A +4 to Stealth with the ability description you've given Portrait Blend (capitalize both words here in the SA section) just don't jive.

I don't buy the story. Why do they become flattened paintings when they die? I think undead was the wrong way to go. A construct may have been better and a CR 1 painting construct would have been pretty cool.

Overall, you have a good idea but execution just falls flat for me. Can't vote for it unless I find an empty slot.

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

Everything is pretty much on target, but that DR is high for a CR 1. DR 5/slashing would have been plenty.

Flatness: Pretty good, but I'd have added something about slipping under doors or through cracks in walls.

Flattening: This is where the weirdness of concept and mechanics meet for me. I buy that they're spirits of the vain attached to portraits of them from life when they were alive and beautiful. I get that they hate the living for their three-dimensional lives. What I don't get is this power. If they were able to somehow drain life--dooming the living to their fate while taking some semblance of life in the process--that would totally sell it for me.

Portrait Blend: Cool little feature, especially if PCs don't know what they're looking for. Good ambush tactic.

So like I said, I love the creativity here, but I don't think you sell it completely. There's just something missing, and it might have done better as a CR 2 or 3 monster. If the flattening effect damaged some stat to the point that it spawned another portrait phantom in some vain attempt to gain life back, that would have been enough to win me over. This still might be creative enough to win one of my last votes. We'll see once I'm done running through the rest.

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

Portrait Phantom
The Good: I like the concept of living art and was considering a graffiti gollem for another project of mine.
The Bad: The 2d thing is a little forced for me.
The Ugly: CR 1 seems off for this critter maybe its the DR 10 slashing.
Overall: 6/10- Its not bad but there's better stuff in this competition.

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 like this monster, despite some mechanical issues. The concept is great, as is the Golarion tie in. I agree with theheadkase that the portrait blending should be a higher bonus to stealth than +4, it's really along the lines of a disguise self type effect, and I would give it a +10. Ambush monsters need to be able to ambush reliably.

The flattening ability is great, but powerful with 1d4 dex damage. Knock the damage down to 1d2, and have the flatness last as long as the damage as was suggested. Finally, I want to know what happens to someone taken down to zero dex from this attack - I know in my games they will become a painting permanently.

Voted for!

EDIT: this also made me think "When Geico commercials attack!", in a good way.

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

Heh, I like this. I think the flattening of enemies is a bit much mechanically, but is awesome conceptually.

Feels like the Portrait of Dorian Gray finally got jack of watching and dissolving and decided to get active in the world. :)

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

I love well-designed two-dimensional monsters, so I'm glad whatever random forces that guided me down the monster list saved this one for last. These seem appropriate for Taldor and certainly would fit in an urban environment (haunting galleries and museums).

I'm strongly considering a vote for the portrait phantom, and I wish you luck in the voting.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Morphemic

Thank you once again to all of you for votes, support, and comments. I still have no idea whether I did well enough to advance, but at least the wait isn't too long. I'm still pretty busy right now, but I'll come back and comment more on my entry when I have time.

There were some incredible monsters this round, so I'll certainly understand if I don't advance.

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