Spiroskek


Round 3: Create a Bestiary entry

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka DeathQuaker

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The rear limbs of this elk-sized insectoid loop into a large chitinous sphere. The creature swiftly propels itself forward on this “wheel” while scanning the area with glittering eyes for new prey.

Spiroskek CR 6XP 2,400
NE Medium magical beast
Init +8; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, tremorsense 60 ft.; Perception +12

----- Defense -----
AC 19, touch 14, flat-footed 15 (+4 Dex, +5 natural)
hp 69 (8d10+24)
Fort +9, Ref +10, Will +6
Defensive Abilities wheel barbs; Immune poison, disease

----- Offense -----
Speed 40 ft., Climb 10 ft.
Melee bite +12 (1d6+4 plus bleed), 2 claws +12 (1d4+4)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks bleed (1d6), monstrous momentum
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 8th; concentration +11)
At will—silent image (DC 14)

----- Statistics -----
Str 18, Dex 19, Con 16, Int 9, Wis 14, Cha 17
Base Atk +8; CMB +12; CMD 26 (30 vs. bull rush, drag, reposition, and trip)
Feats Combat Reflexes, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Nimble Moves
Skills Climb +12, Perception +12, Stealth +10, Survival +4 (+12 when tracking); Racial Modifiers +4 Perception, +8 Survival when tracking
Languages Aklo (cannot speak), Spiroskek (clicks and gestures)

----- Ecology -----
Environment underground (Darklands, Nar-Voth)
Organization solitary, pair, or nest (3–6)
Treasure standard

----- Special Abilities -----
Monstrous Momentum (Ex) While a spiroskek’s wheel-limb can push the creature forward on its own, the spiroskek can push off with its forelimbs, giving it extra momentum while running or charging. If it activates this ability when charging, it can move up to triple its base speed. If the spiroskek successfully hits during this charge, it can immediately attempt either a bull rush or an overrun combat maneuver at a +4 bonus to the check; this does not provoke an attack of opportunity. If using monstrous momentum while running, the spiroskek moves up to six times its base speed and does not provoke attacks of opportunity. This effort renders the spiroskek staggered during the following round.
Wheel Barbs (Ex) The spiroskek’s wheel-limb is covered in tiny barbs that lay flat while it moves but spring out reflexively in order to help keep the creature upright. These grant the spiroskek a +4 bonus to CMD versus bull rush, drag, reposition, and trip maneuvers, and to Acrobatics checks to avoid falling on slippery terrain.

Wise Darklands-dwellers learn to listen for—and flee from—the faint, eerie “skek-kek-kek” noise that a spiroskek's “wheel” makes when turning rapidly. These purplish-black carnivores of Nar-Voth prefer hunting intelligent prey for the challenge such creatures provide. Certainly, generations of devouring derro, fey, and duergar has caused the spiroskeks to develop improved stamina and a little mystic skill. Spiroskeks enjoy hunting through tricks and ambushes, using their silent image ability to change terrain slightly to confuse a chased target, conceal ambushes, and steamroll prey onto hidden jagged rocks or pits. Many spiroskeks dwell in tunnels near slaver paths to target slaver sorties, as some meat arrives pre-captured. Other spiroskeks have developed a taste for fey and patrol treacherously close to the Endless Gulf in hopes of catching a denizen of the Court of Ether. Such fey-eating spiroskeks sometimes gain bizarre colorations or mutations due to their unusual diet. Spiroskeks are intelligent but have little culture; they communicate in a language of mandible clicks and bodily gestures, which they use to give warnings and exchange tales of successful hunts. Normally loyal to their nest, spiroskeks consider other creatures, even other rival spiroskeks, either enemies or prey.
Spiroskeks are 5–6 feet tall and weigh approximately 170 pounds.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Congratulations on making the Top 16 in RPG Superstar! I'm Mikko Kallio, an RPG design blogger, freelancer, and former RPG Superstar finalist. Some of my freelance work involves designing monsters for Paizo's Adventure Path bestiaries. I'll review your monster much like I do when a fellow freelancer asks me to have a look at an assignment they're going to turn in.

Name and concept

I like the name; onomatopoeic names are probably more difficult than English-language ones, but I think spiroskek works really well for a creature with a chitinous wheel that spins so wickedly it probably leaves skid marks whenever it accelerates or brakes.

Descriptive line

I like the descriptive line, I get a pretty good idea of what the creature looks like and the details are interesting and described in a dynamic fashion.

The concept is really interesting, an insectoid motorcycle that hunts in the lightless corridors of Nar-Voth. It's easily one of the most imaginative concepts this round.

Stat block

Climb should not be capitalized when it refers to a climb speed, instead of the Climb skill. Space and reach should not be included in the stat block if both values are 5 ft. Other than that, the formatting looks good.

Its stats are quite close to the target values for its CR.

I don't think silent image quite fits the concept. It feels a bit tacked on. While the ”a little mystic skill” is mentioned in the description, I don't think it's enough to justify the ability. That said, it does make the spiroskek more than just a melee combatant, which is I do like.

I don't like it that they have a language of their own; it's another language that no-one else can use, and any PC that invests a skill rank in it is unlikely to use it a lot. Canto (Into the Darklands) would have been a natural choice, though I'm not sure if the language has been mentioned in any recent sources.

Special abilities

I think the weakest part of the entry are the special abilities. I'd imagine that the triple speed while charging and 6x speed while running is largely useless in Nar-Voth. It's quite fast even without the ability, and it may be hard to find a lot of places where it can move more than 80 feet in a straight line. A zig-zag charge would have been a much more useful ability. The ability to make a free bull rush or overrun maneuver is, however, very useful if not wildly imaginative.

Wheel barbs is just a variation of the dwarves' stability and similar abilities, but definitely thematically appropriate.

Description

The description has some useful information that could be used as ideas for encounters. For insectoid creatures, they're really quite intelligent, and I would have preferred that they had a culture (if an utterly bizarre one) and some social interaction with other creatures. As-is, they only seem to care about catching prey. I think creatures with human-level intelligence do need other pastimes, too.

Verdict

Despite the minor flaws, I think there's a lot of mojo in this monster. I want to see what you come up with in round 4, so I weakly recommend this entry for advancement.

Scarab Sages Modules Overlord

NOTE TO VOTERS: There was a template error for some contestants that placed name, CR, and XP all on one line. That is not a contestant error, and they should not be penalized for sticking to the template we told them to use.

I am not a fan of the name, but I don't hate it. It just doesn’t do anything for me.

The concept is right on the cusp of gonzo. Biological creatures having wheels need more explanation for me. Something in its history that tells me why this is so different from any other form of magical beast I've ever seen. For a construct, or even outsider, the concept doesn’t put me off so much, and even an aberration would seem a more natural choice.

On the other hand, magical beasts can be "merely bizarre in appearance or habits," and this certainly qualifies. And it is creative, and if such a critter is anywhere the Darklands is a good choice.

If there were lots of serious errors in the stat block, I'd be opposed in a heartbeat. As it is, I think I prefer a creative near-miss to a safe and boring run-of-the-mill choice. If this was just a little weirder it'd lose me, so do not take this as encouragement for being constantly bizarre and off-the-wall. Your creativity get you the nod this time, but if you get through I want to see proof you can also do things that feel more normal within the context of Golarion.

I weakly do recommend this monster for advancement to the next round.

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!

My Judging Process:

I’m treating these like a pre-development pass.

When I develop a monster for the Adventure Path bestiaries (or anything really), one of the first phases is where I print out the monster entry, and look it over, 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-making 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 figured the best way to judge this round is to treat it like my normal day-to-day work and do what I mentioned above. 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. Some of the things I comment on might seem nitpicky or overly critical of a small element, but I blame that on my job. I’ll probably even use terms that aren’t that familiar outside of publishing. :)

One thing to keep in mind is that nothing in my review here is 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 all of these comments scribbled in purple ink on a sheet of paper containing your monster.

I start by googling the name to make sure that it isn’t something already existing, a weird term that could mean more than one thing, or isn’t secretly offensive or illegal.

Then I read the flavor line under the monster’s name.

Then I work my way down the statblock looking for anything that stands out or is in the wrong place or is formatted wrong. Most of these comments are just things that jumped out at me from a glance and are super easy to fix while I’m developing a monster. (I don’t get annoyed at my freelancers for these little typos and oversights unless it gets really sloppy or persistant.) During this I also look at how much the stats match up to Table 1–1 and how different elements of the design account for numbers that are off the average. During this part I often have questions about why a decision was made or why the creature has this element. I jot these down. Many times I figure out the decision once I read the flavor text and go back and scratch those notes out.

This leads me to the flavor text. This is the part of the monster where I get to see how well the designer can write. (One of the reasons I often test new contributors with monsters is that it pairs up design and writing in a nice compact package.) I also look at how the designer used the tight wordcount. This round’s rules used pretty much the same wordcount that we’d use for one of those monsters, and it can be difficult finding the right balance of flavor text and statblock. Too much flavor can sometimes result in a boring creature mechanically, but when 90% of the turnover is statblock, the GM doesn’t have much to go on for how to run the critter.

In judging, I also go back and evaluate some of my critiques and revise after looking at the monster again with fresher eyes.

I notice that I say “probably” a lot in my reviews. When I use that word I pretty much mean that I’d either really think it over and research a few things more than I normally would before making a particular change. This would certainly include me turning around in my chair and getting feedback from other developers (including any editors that heard me in the next cube over).

Even though most of my comments are very “stream of consciousness,” I spent a good amount of time with each of these monsters, typically an average of 30 minutes on each submission. Some more than others. I also did all of my reviews blind without seeing the other judge’s comments. I didn’t want what they had to say influence me. I apologize ahead of time if we end up being repetitive.

And now onto the monster!

• I like bugs, so we’re off to a good start here!

• When listing things, like in your Immune section, you should alphabetize them. (It’s a pretty good idea to alphabetize pretty much anything unless there is a better way to organize the information or there is another precedent.)

• The description certainly helps me visualize the creature and the image that I have in my mind is certainly weird. I tend to like weird.

• I like the wheel barbs special ability and it helps me visualize the monster.

• There’s nothing in the flavor text about why it has a bleed attack with its bite. I can imagine claws and a bite on a bug, but that bleed should be highlighted in some way to reinforce why it’s there other than just adding to the damage output.

• In the speed line, climb shouldn’t be capitalized.

• This monster hits all the numbers it should for a creature of the CR.

• In the languages line: we use the contraction instead of “cannot.”

• The monstrous momentum ability is fun and solid. I’d only have to shore up a tiny bit of the wording. The only thing I’m not totally clear on is whether it’s staggered only after using the run function of the ability or if that applies to either use of the ability.

• The flavor text is clear and gives solid ideas about how to use the creature. The bit about the ones that eat fey having different appearances and mutations leave it open for a GM to make their own variants of this monster depending on the campaign.

• This is a cool monster and it’s done well. The only thing I don’t like about it is the spell-like ability. It’s described how the creature uses the ability, but for some reason I’m not buying it. It doesn’t seem to pair well with the monster, but I keep going back to question it and keep making justifications, so maybe it’s not that off.

I do recommend this monster to advance.

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

Cockroach-riding-a-pillbug. Wow... what did I just read? There's one book I read long ago, sci-fi. It had a "naturally evolving wheel-based creature" and I wasn't a fan of that then and I'm still kind of not. Now, this is a magical beast, so I mean it could have had that as a magical augmentation or something... what the heck?

Somehow, if it were an aberrant I'd just shrug and be like "way to go, you made an aberrant design I'd not seen before"

The mechanics and story are filler quality. I think the only way I could really decide whether I like this thing or not is if I saw a picture and it was better than my "cockroach-on-a-pillbug" image now.

Star Voter Season 6

This was the second monster I read. (Ladies first...)
I'll just be giving my initial impressions:
I like the name! Spiroskek is fun to say and seems to fit.
It's somewhat unbelievable, but hey, it's a magical beast, so that probably makes sense.
The concept is pretty cool. I like thinking of it as an "insectoid motorcycle" as Mikko suggested, and, unlike Lucas, thinking of it as a cockroach/pillbug combo actually makes it seem even cooler...and creepier... to me.
I'm not sure if the special abilities quite live up to the potential in the concept, but overall, I think this monster is well done.
Good work! :)

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

I'm still having a little trouble picturing exactly how the monster's lower limbs can rotate like a wheel. I think I might like the concept a little more if this were a surface based creature, rather than an underground one. Rolling around at high speeds would only be a useful trait in large, flat caverns and tunnels, and I imagine those would not be terribly common underground. Maybe in Sekamina or Orv more than in Nar-Voth, which I imagine consists of at least as many natural, jagged, rough and height-variable tunnels as ones carved out by denizens of the realm (or the Vault Builders)- not to mention all the stalagmites and such.

It is definitely creative, and I like that it is an insectoid, because I think that there should be more Darklands insects out there.

Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Nice - you sold me with the "skek-kek-kek". Very cool monster, well done!

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

14th monster I have seen.

That is one weird steamroller you made there.

It's almost boomer-esque in gonzoness.

It is difficult for me to grade, so I am going to withhold a ranking, it is just too WTF for me.


I like it. I can picture a small group of them circling around a panicked party...

"An insectoid motorcycle" -- how long before a player attempts to capture one and use it as a mount?

Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Congratulations on making the Top 16! :D

This is one of those monsters that doesn’t do anything new but creates something new out of established abilities. The imagery here is both unique and imaginative. This is a very cool monster to visualize, especially in motion.

I like the tie in to Nar-Voth, making them a dangerous predator with territorial tendencies that hunt the other sentient creatures of the Darklands. They are exceptionally mobile and their abilities have been added in to enhance that. The only problem I have with their ability set is that silent image, while explained, doesn’t really seem to fit in with the overall creature.

Overall I am impressed with this design and I will be voting for this entry.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

You lost me at wheel on a monstrous humanoid.

Silent image seems tacked on and the monster seems way to fast for navigating Nar-Voth.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

Name- Spiroskek. Doesn't bring anything to mind immediately, but fits once you read the text. Unique name that works.

Description- The image stands out, but I'm not totally clear on it. Is it 'riding' upright on the wheel? How does the sphere rotate if it's attached to the rest of it? Art would clear this up of course.

Special Abilities- The special abilities are mostly combat manuever bonuses. Logical, but not super-exciting. The silent image interaction feels like it's the key there, but it's not quite gelling for me.

Nar-Voth appropriate- Not especially. The backstory helps, but the concept itself doesn't feel closely tied to the Darklands. In fact, a monster that make a unique noise as it moves is at a disadvantage there. On the other hand, a fast moving monster in Nar-Voth could cause a lot of trouble. A little counter-intuitive, but it's a niche that something should fill.

Mojo- The idea of it, yes. Certainly imagination and theme at work here.

Will players remember in 6 months- Probably. It's one of the weirder things they'll have come across.


I like the visual creativity and the color. I don't like the awkward description sentence at the top. Silent image seems like a Cousin Oliver; why exactly does it have this ability? As an underground creature, rather than a simple speed increase, it would benefit more from the ability to ignore terrain when charging, and perhaps even to charge along walls.

Considering the nature of the contest, I have to take into account everything I've said above, and tack on one more thing. This is supposedly a creature living in a natural environment. But only civilized creatures hunt for "challenge;" predators and hunters living in small groups will not engage anything they can't easily bring down, or that brings in a lot of food for each kill. Something that purposefully hunts intelligent prey, and does not live in a populous, wealthy society that will reward it with fear, respect, and material benefits, is headed for extinction.

Overall, there is a lot of creativity here, brought down by a lack of thoughtfulness in development. As such, there is no way this is Superstar material.


This is the 8th monster entry I've read. (Halfway there! Yay!) First impressions are positive. What?! A living insectocycle? Neat! Let's dig in and see how this breaks down.

Name: I like it. I also like that you put thought into why it has that name.

Description: Clear, but I'd probably steer away from "elk-sized." Elk vary in size. I'm pretty confident that bull elk are firmly in the Large-sized category, rather than Medium. That said, I wish this thing was large. I'm have visions of morlock insectocycle gangs kekking through the Darklands that I want to play out properly.

hp: Just about on target for the CR.

AC: On target for the CR.

Attack: On target for the CR.

Damage: Average damage is on the low end for its CR. Troubling, since it is primarily a predator. The bleed helps up this a bit. We'll see if the special abilities balance this a bit.

Primary Ability DC: n/a

Saves: Slightly high or right on target for its CR.

Feats: Good selection that fits the theme.

Skills: With its Int score, as a magical beast, it should have 8 skill points (1 per HD). Doing the breakdown of skills, I'm coming up with 9. Survival seems the odd one out, as it is not a class skill for magical beasts, so it would need an extra rank to be +4 (2 ranks + Wis modifier). Personally, I think it should have Swim, if only for the image of it using its wheel-leg as a paddle wheel.

Spell-Like Ability: It fits, given the description of its hunting techniques.

Special Abilities:

Monstrous Momentum: Here's the crux of the creature, and where I feel it has its greatest triumph and its biggest stumble. It's a solid ability, but I don't think it does enough. This thing is a predator in an area where things tend to be tougher and more dangerous than they are on the surface. First, why is this thing not Large-sized with the trample ability? In conjunction with monstrous momentum, that would make it a truly fearsome opponent. If the bleed ability had been tied to a trample attack, it would be a lot more fitting (spikes on the wheel put a bunch of holes in overrun opponent.) As it is now, a mere overrun without any damage isn't very scary. Or it could remain Medium-sized and have some sort of damage multiplier for the sheer momentum of its attack. If there'd been that kind of follow-through here, I'd be sold. I get that it has tactics to use this in conjunction with the environment, and that's good, but if the environment isn't right, or the PCs change the environment, then it goes from dangerous to merely annoying.

Wheel Barbs: Excellent, though I wish they'd been incorporated into the offense as well, as noted above.

Background: I like the way the monster has been placed into the ecology and made to sound like it belongs in Nar-Voth. Well done.

Overall, this is a really cool idea that falls just short of the mark. If it had been given abilities that really nailed the fast, deadly predator aspect, it would be a shoe-in. That said, it's still a contender. Writing is solid, formatting is sound, and I encountered fewer missteps here than with some of the others I've read thus far. Good luck to you!

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

I think one of the ideas behind this monster that's kind of lost in the noise is that it would use silent image to mislead prey about where to position itself (near a pit or spiky wall hidden by the illusion, for example), then Bull Rush that prey into the trap. Maybe that's how those abilities are intended to play off each other.

Marathon Voter Season 8

Congratulations on making it to the Top 16!

I don't like the wheels, to be honest. The way I'm imagining this creature, it seems more like a Pokémon than a Pathfinder monster. And for a Pokémon it would be a cool one, and some of that bleeds into Pathfinder, but it still doesn't match the rest of the game.

Aside from that, I do like it. A hunter insectoid race is a solid concept and making them furiously fast and maneuverable is suitably terrifying. I just wish the actual mechanics would reflect this. Like I wish it had Mobility feat or the ability to charge along the walls, as RJGrady suggested. That would have made it far more suitable for the cramped spaces of Nar-Voth.

The silent image feels odd to me as well. It's mostly cosmetic change, but I think it might have worked better if you had given this creature an extra special ability that would have worked similarly to the spell but with some changes towards making it more suitable for hunting specifically.

All in all there is mojo here, but I'm not convinced the execution is what I want to see in Pathfinder. I'll go with maybe.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Storvik wrote:

I like it. I can picture a small group of them circling around a panicked party...

"An insectoid motorcycle" -- how long before a player attempts to capture one and use it as a mount?

...And now I want to create a blonde dwarf PC, Jax Stoneteller, who rides one of these things. Sons of Anvil Spiroskek Club, Nar-Voth Original.

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

Criteria:

The Monster round is my favorite in the competition as it generally exposes the designers in a way previous rounds do not. 300 words is enough to make an impression but does not tell me much about you as a designer.

The monster round tells me about your gaming ascetic, your attention to detail, and if you have the creative chops to be different. Anyone can make a boring monster it takes a special kind of mind to make a Chimney Troll or a Yellow Tongued Hulk. IS it fair to compare you to my favorites from prior years? Probably not but I'm going to do so anyway.

Format you'll find familiar but shorter than my item reviews. I'm combining bad and ugly and I'm going to be harsh even on the things I like, this is because compliments don't make you better.

Good Solid naming and description. The insect on wheels bit is the hook and you grab me with it in the description. You swung for the fences for sure and it stands out in a good way.
Bad and Ugly Medium was the most boring option, large and this thing scares me, small with another pair of limbs that resemble lances and the natural jouster feat and I'm terrified. Silent image was a weird choice that feels completely out of place on an insect and it took awhile to figure out this is an insect with a total of 3 limbs which doesn't quite work for me I want a minimum of 5 (the wheel can count as 2.)
Overall At this point I've skimmed all the monsters but this stands out as my favorite. You were my fringe vote (vote 8) you're a clear top 4 for me in R3 so you are trending properly. Compared to other years though this is lands at -A for me as I'd want another edit pass before printing it (but hell yes I'd print it.)

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

Creature definitely looks interesting, so it gets points for that, even though it assumes action in the description.

Love the first sentence of the write-up. Now *that’s* evocative and the proper place to allow some action. I’m excited to read on and hope it lives up to the image you’re starting with. And in general, it does. I know how to use this creature and think it could be a fun challenge for PCs. You even set up the idea of variants, which I like. Now I’m hoping the stat block lives up to the billing…

hp =
AC =
Atk =
Dmg = (maybe a touch high with the bleed?)
Abilities =
Saves =/=

Monstrous momentum seems like a strong power. I like that it’s looking for a lesser-used mechanic for the offensive power, and that could definitely be a good surprise to pull on a PC who thinks she’s a safe distance away. Wheel barbs is a little less exciting, though.

So did it live up to the billing? I’m not quite sure. I really wish it had one more power with a little more innovation, something to really set this guy apart from a basic melee combatant, but in general I like it. I think your write-up’s the strongest part, and it shines enough that this will be one I vote for, though I’ve still got a few monsters left to read.

--

Having read others' comments, I agree that it could use a few more passes -- I agree it could have been an aberration or even an Intelligent vermin, along with the ideas of being able to charge along walls or zig-zagging -- would have helped, but the core concept is absolutely there.

This thing has a lot of mojo, definitely the most of any of the creatures I've read so far. I really hope voters take that into account and advance you. If there're some rule/mechanics issues next round, maybe that's time to cut bait, but the spiroskek absolutely deserve to have you keep rolling in this contest (pun intended).

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

Feels like an escapee from David Brin's Uplift universe. I always found those kinda unsettling, I'm all for alien life forms and even gonzo creatures - this works in the Uplift series, but not so much for my (admittedly poor) feeling for Golarion.

Elk-sized feels odd. Something more general would be more understandable.

I'm not getting a steamroller feel from 170 pounds. I guess its all relative to what you are rolling up against though.

I like that there is mention of variants and fey-eaters suffering from mutations.

Bonus points for the wheel barbs NOT being weapons - nice to see not every evolutionary endpoint becomes combat ready - though perhaps a better term could have been used.

I find this confusing:

Spiroskek wrote:
Normally loyal to their nest, spiroskeks consider other creatures, even other rival spiroskeks, either enemies or prey…
Spiroskek wrote:
Spiroskeks are intelligent but have little culture; they communicate in a language of mandible clicks and bodily gestures, which they use to give warnings and exchange tales of successful hunts.

So they are nominally all loyal to their larger nest, but individually consider each other enemies. And yet they exchange warnings and share killstories.

Star Voter Season 6

Oceanshieldwolf wrote:


I find this confusing:

Spiroskek wrote:
Normally loyal to their nest, spiroskeks consider other creatures, even other rival spiroskeks, either enemies or prey…
Spiroskek wrote:
Spiroskeks are intelligent but have little culture; they communicate in a language of mandible clicks and bodily gestures, which they use to give warnings and exchange tales of successful hunts.

So they are nominally all loyal to their larger nest, but individually consider each other enemies. And yet they exchange warnings and share killstories.

I believe the author is saying that spiroskeks are loyal to other spiroskeks of their own nest, but see spiroskeks from different nests as rivals, enemies, and prey.

I imagine the warnings and kill stories are shared within a given nest.

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

R Pickard wrote:

The rear limbs of this elk-sized insectoid loop into a large chitinous sphere. The creature swiftly propels itself forward on this “wheel” while scanning the area with glittering eyes for new prey.

Spiroskek CR 6XP 2,400

Welcome to the Top 16 R!

The wheel made me think construct, but magical beasts are a favorite of mine. The description does have a bit of a disconnect for me though, because of this wheel. Chariot in a monster is cool, and I like the additions to speed it offers. The attack is kind of ho-hum, but will make for some good fun as anything new like this will confound my players.

Good luck!

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

An insect version of a destroyer droid from the Star Wars prequels? Yes, please!

I think I'd have liked to see this as a Large sized creature, to really bowl people over, but in the darklands, being smaller means it can fit into narrower passages and it's harder to run from, so that makes sense. A Large sized variant on the surface would be cool though.

I also was expecting that the barbed wheel would act like defensive thorns when it's attacked in melee, which would really have made this a melee menace.

I think having a bit more culture to it rather than, it hates everything would make it a more versatile monster to use. Plus, if it views it's own kind as either enemies or prey, a) why would it have a language to brag to them with, and b) doesn't it at least have an exception to mate (unless it buds or something weird.)

Overall, though, I liked the unique concept, and it's intelligent enough that you can use them in all sorts of fun ways, combined with traps, guarding other creature's lairs in a partnership, etc.

Marathon Voter Season 8

How I Judge/Disclaimer:
I'm probably not your "typical" judge of monsters. When I GM, I tend not to use pre-generated creatures and statblocks, preferring instead to build custom foes for the PCs (this is because my houserules remove, most significantly, magic items, excessive wealth, and instant, permanent debilitating effects, like instant death, ability drain, energy drain, permanent curses, etc.). However, I do, occasionally mine extant creatures for ideas, and adapt them to suit my needs.

I would say that at least 75% of the foes my PCs face are intelligent, social creatures with class levels, as I always prefer it when, 1) there is a logical reason for an encounter (I dislike illogical filler encounters when 1d4 darkmantles drop on you just for the hell of it) 2) there are multiple ways to overcome a challenge (such as parley, escape, manipulating the environment, etc.). So, for an actual, legitimate monster to interest me, it needs to have logical reasons to interact with the party beyond "they're close by and it attacks for reasons," and ideally, it needs to create a memorable interaction thanks to a strange ability or behavior pattern.

From the PC side of the table, meanwhile, I'll be judging on how fun it would to encounter this creature. Now, I don't mean "how easy it would be to defeat," I mean how dynamic and exciting facing it would be. There are tons of filler creatures already that you just beat on until someone falls over. I want something involving unusual tactics, but that wouldn't just be frustrating.
Now, on to the monster!

I really don't understand this "wheel" thing at all. And aren't elk large size?

Monstrous Momentum is a nice shock tactic that can catch people unawares with a 120' charge. I still don't understand how the wheel works, physiologically, but you have now convinced me that it's cool enough to just go with it.

I love the Silent Image edition, because it makes the fight much more dramatic and interesting. They are ambush predators, but with interesting twists. I can definitely see charging in from hiding, bleeding the target, then running away at 6x speed through pre-setup illusionary walls or over illusion covered pit traps. That simple addition (silent imge) makes them much more dynamic in battle than a normal creature like this would be.

Their motivation is, well, a little lacking, though. They're just murderous nasty things that do murderous nasty things because. They have 9 Int, 17 Cha, but no meaningful culture? That's kind of a misstep for me, but a minor one.

I like this one, in the end. I have a harder decision than I expected, as the last few I read were all vote worthy.

Star Voter Season 6

Joel Flank wrote:

... if it views it's own kind as either enemies or prey, a) why would it have a language to brag to them with, and b) doesn't it at least have an exception to mate (unless it buds or something weird.)

Just think of them like motorcycle gangs.

The description says they're loyal to other spiroskeks of the same nests.
It's just spiroskeks from rival gangs that they see as enemies or prey.
Personally, I think that's a cool bit of monster lore!

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

Lady Firedove wrote:
Joel Flank wrote:

... if it views it's own kind as either enemies or prey, a) why would it have a language to brag to them with, and b) doesn't it at least have an exception to mate (unless it buds or something weird.)

Just think of them like motorcycle gangs.

The description says they're loyal to other spiroskeks of the same nests.
It's just spiroskeks from rival gangs that they see as enemies or prey.
Personally, I think that's a cool bit of monster lore!

Hmmm, I missed the loyal to others in their same nest, though only normally. I still stand by the original thought though that they seem very aggressive to their own species for having a language and intelligence. Even motorcycle gangs are fine with other people who aren't really in their sphere of influence. They don't instantly attack some random computer programer, actor, or whomever if they're not a threat to the gang...to take the example a step further (I'm not implying that motorcycle gangs attack people on sight normally.)

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

Brief critiques as I prep for the possibility of advancing, focusing on feedback that is hopefully new and constructive to future designs.
And the gonzo award goes to...the spiroskek, by a landslide! This critter made me think of the wheelie bikes from Kirby’s Air Ride, which is certainly cool and evocative but not particularly believable or spooky. Definitely seems more aberration than magical beast to me, and the special abilities aren’t particularly novel or exciting. Your template- and rules-fu are super solid, though, and like Monica I envy your ability to make old rules shine in new ways.
I hope to see the same creative spark (possibly toned back a notch) and rules cognizance next round, if you advance. Good luck!


I like that it was a wheeler (Return to Oz) that wasn't a wheeler, but my critique of the momentum ability was my last thought on it.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka DeathQuaker

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Thanks all for the feedback and comments. I fully admit I have not designed a lot of monsters in my time so really wasn't sure how this was going to turn out, and even in spite of many--legitimately pointed out--flaws, I am happy with how this turned out, and moreover that many were sufficiently creeped out by it or could see ways to use it. It's interesting to see it compared to a lot of things from pop culture I'm not actually familiar with (except wheelers, but I wasn't really thinking of those). :)

What follows is a lengthy set of explanations and answers to concerns and suggestions mentioned. They are not excuses. Read or not as you desire.

Spoiler:

YOU DIDN'T ALPHABETIZE THE IMMUNITIES None of you will ever understand how very angry I am at myself for doing this, given I only checked the document for consistent alphabetization approximately 800 times, and my friends who checked over my creature didn't notice it either.

How does the "wheel" work? Being a magical creature, it could any number of ways, but I picture it like this: the hind legs of this insectoid have turned in and move on a complex series of turny joints, and have grown large chitinous flaps that come together to make the wheel shape. If you looked with invisi-vision through these flaps, you would see the hindlegs gyrating away to create forward or backward motion.

Although I also dig the idea of a symbiosis or synthesis with a giant pillbug. Why not?

"It's not a magical beast!" So, I did a LOT of Bestiary reading through, and a LOT of examining of magical beasts in particular. I also looked at, for comparison, aberrations, animals, and vermin. Amongst the magical beasts, I read about many truly bizarre creatures, such as a human-faced shapeshifting spider spellcaster (aranea), a elepha-camel that drinks and spews magic (disenchanter), a bull with natural grown stone armor and a breath attack (gorgon), a space whale (oma), and many more. I don't see "huge bug with a spherical hind-limb" to be any weirder than those things (in many cases it's less weird), and no less likely an "evolution" than, say, a lion that's grown a scorpion tail and dragon wings. The PRD says

PRD wrote:
Magical beasts are similar to animals but can have Intelligence scores higher than 2 (in which case the magical beast knows at least one language, but can't necessarily speak). Magical beasts usually have supernatural or extraordinary abilities, but are sometimes merely bizarre in appearance or habits.

The spiroskek fits this; it is more insectoid than animal, but other intelligent insectoids and arachnids are found amongst magical beasts, such as the aranea and ankheg.

It also is much more like an aranea, ankheg, or gorgon than it is like, say, a cloaker or a gug or most other aberrations, whose "bizarre anatomies" tend to not merely stop at something like a wheel-like appendage and be more things like carnivorous eyeballs and flaps of stalactite shaped toothy skin that eat people. I feel strongly aberration would be inappropriate.

It cannot be vermin, because vermin by definition are always mindless, without an Intelligence score (even an ankheg, with its whopping Int of 1, is a magical beast).

No, Rep, I'm sorry, it's just too weird: My magic pruning tool and quaint cliffside town were seen by some as too normal, boring, and safe. I figured I needed to amp it up a little. Can't win. ;) Really, the Darklands is occupied by mongrelmen, vegepygmies, araneas, gugs, and other utterly, twisted and bizarre things. If I was going to make a Darklands creature I felt it needed to be a bit odd and creepy at least. Sorry it didn't work for some.

Small, Medium or Supersize? I most definitely checked statistics for an elk before drawing the comparison and expected most detail oriented enough to question it would do the same; as you can see from the link they are Medium-sized creatures. Cervids do look bigger than they are because of their antlers; I wanted to draw a similar comparison because I pictured the spiroskek's antennae, etc. also giving it "height." In retrospect, perhaps I should have picked a different creature.

I did not want to make them any larger than Medium for this reason: I have run Darklands-based adventures, and high level ones at that. Many high CR creatures are Large or larger. But Darklands are supposed to be full of tunnels, and even larger caverns can be filled with columns, stalactites, and other obstacles. Running fights with Large or larger creatures--using for example the Darklands flip-mat or the Caverns map pack to help provide terrain--I found that PCs quickly had the advantage regarding maneuverability. So I felt what the underground needed were some Medium, maneuverable enemies, and the spiroskek in part came out of this concern. I would definitely not be cool with the spiroskek being made larger. Its momentum is in part the source of its force---force equals mass times acceleration squared, after all. For its Medium size, it could have been heavier; that's one of those things I don't have a good sense of estimating and need to work on.

As for if it is TOO big or awkward or weirdly built to do what it does: tunnels where most adventures take place would seldom be smaller than Medium, because many PCs are not smaller than Medium, not to mention many Darklands residents such as duergar, drow, troglodytes, and mongrelmen. And duergar in particular would probably be pretty good at maintaining travelable passages for its slave caravans, trade groups, fighting sorties, and so on. So I figured a Medium-sized creature would not have trouble maneuvering. And especially not in Nar-Voth in particular, where there appears to be, relatively speaking, lots of passages to major settlements (good hunting grounds for the spiroskeks) connected by the Long Walk. Maybe I misunderstand how it works, but my sense of the Long Walk is it is large and generally smooth enough it could be host to spiroskek speed rallies easily. An early draft did mention the Long Walk and trade routes but I had to cut it for space.

I do dig the concern about there being a lot of difficult terrain in many areas, and in retrospect, rather than nod to that meagerly with Nimble Moves, I should have just allowed wheel barbs to ignore difficult terrain, which would also reduced charge issues with monstrous momentum.

Silent Image feels tacked on: I worried about this; an early draft had nothing like this and a friend commented it needed some mystical abilities to reflect Darklands flavor more, and that if it hunted humanoids and fey, an illusory ability would be appropriate. Another friend commented it needed something to help tie its tactics together. This did it and I felt made it feel more "Darklandy"---BUT I concede this: it should have been a special ability that more limitedly just glamered terrain. I honestly did the spell-like ability because it strained the word count less, and that's not good reasoning.If I could revise this, I would change the ability in this way.

With its mental stats, it should have more culture: I wanted it to seem vicious and thus "uncultured," but in retrospect I agree, and actually I should have built on the idea of an "oral" (well, clicky-vibraty) tradition of hunting stories and so on. I do stand by it being loyal according to nest and not species, but accept one's mileage may vary on that idea. FWIW, I gave it its own language because I don't see it capable of "normal" speech (much like the flail snail has its own written language it scribes with its slime).

Bleed doesn't work/isn't explained well: I imagined the spiroskeks relying on it in the way theheadkase described. But I also concede it's not described well. One thought I've had since is that it should instead have a gore attack (like horns on a stag beetle) which fits in with a creature whose attack is built on a charge.

I wish, as we all do, I had more time---unfortunately the week the top 16 was announced, I became occupied by a number of things entirely out of my control, including having to serve jury duty and being selected for a trial. I've kept Superstar pretty high priority, but even it is beaten by showing up for the trial so I don't get arrested for contempt of court. I actually turned in my monster early because I was afraid on Friday I was going to be in the courtroom without Internet access all day through the deadline. Oh, and yes, I did make practice monsters before the round, but I did not anticipate the "twist" AT ALL (I figured underground monsters had pretty much been done, but I guess that's why making more new ones is a challenge)--so it goes. If this were a real freelance assignment, when the editor/client contacted me about it, I would have immediately explained the circumstances and said I could definitely deliver something but it might lack the polish it deserves, and that if they decided to go with another writer, I'd understand. And with the spiroskek, if you decided it lacked polish and thus decided to give your vote to another monster, I understand.

Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda: If I could revise this creature, it would have the above mentioned gore attack instead of bleed, a more precise terrain glamer, and wheel barbs would allow it to ignore difficult terrain. Nimble Moves would be removed and feats would be rejiggered to include Dodge, Mobility, and Spring Attack (adding any of these as bonus feats as needed).

This has been an especially exciting round, and the competition VERY stiff, so it's just amazing to get this far, even if I go no further.

Star Voter Season 6

Yay! The insectoid motorcycle gang got through! Huzzah!
You had my vote. :)

I think between your map and this monster you've shown you can do both exceedingly useful and exceedingly creative. Great job!

Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Congratulations DeathQuaker! Well done!

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka DeathQuaker

Thank you!

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