Crow Brother's Cloak


Open Call: Design a wondrous item, magic armor, or magic weapon

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 9 aka LightSprite

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Crow Brother's Cloak
Aura moderate transmutation; CL 7th
Slot shoulders; Price 8,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.

Description
This flowing, black silken cloak glitters with an iridescent sheen like a crow’s wing. When the wearer moves, the fabric seems to dance on the air, as though longing to take flight.

With a command the cloak dissolves into a swirling murder of crows, which faithfully surround their master for up to 13 rounds per day. These rounds need not be consecutive. The crow swarm (treat as bat swarm (see Bestiary)) acts immediately. The swarm deals no damage to the wearer and provides concealment as long as he remains within it. It is a free action to recall the swarm into cloak form. Once per day the wearer may choose to merge with the swarm as a swift action, granting it his mental stats and hit points, otherwise treat this as a polymorph effect. Rounds spent as part of the swarm count towards total rounds per day.

If the swarm is reduced to 0 hit points, it returns to cloak form immediately and cannot be transformed again for 24 hours. If the wearer is merged with it when this happens then his body drops to the ground and the swarm returns to cloak form.

Construction
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, beast shape II, summon swarm Cost 4,000 gp

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

Liked this one, reminded me of a game I used to play

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka John Benbo

Great item and congrats, Kalyna!

The Exchange

This is great. If one were to do a Pathfinder version of the Wizard of Oz, this is the Cloak the Scarecrow would have after becoming King of Munchkinland, like in the Dark Oz comics.

Dark Archive

I liked this and voted for it often; my only question was - if the wearer's body drops to the ground, do they benefit from Featherfall, or do they take falling damage? As written (and looking at requirements) I would assume they take any applicable damage, but it would have been nice to call out.
Congratulations on making the Top 32!

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Kalyna! Welcome...to the Top 32!

As one of the judges who'll be along for the entire ride of the competition, it's my duty (and pleasure) to offer up some commentary on your winning submission, as well as a bit of advice for the challenges to come. First up...your item...crow brother's cloak...

Okay. I like the name. It could have just been a crow cloak or cloak of the crow, but by spinning that just a bit differently and including "brother" in there, it gives the reader just enough pause to further their imagination on what it might involve. There's a mystery to it that draws you in.

Mojo. The descriptive text immediately captures the image of this item. Growing up in the country, I've found plenty of crow feathers before and there's a very distinctive element to them which you capture perfectly. So, you've left a great calling card with your writing ability alone in describing your item. Great job! You go on to describe the effects of the crow swarm, the concealment it offers, the ability to merge with it, and so on. Lots of mojo on display in this design.

Cinematic. Major visuals for this item. Not just in its activation, but also all the scenes where you can imagine it being used...whether as a getaway, a distraction, a furious swarm-on-swarm battle, you name it. Major props on creating an item with this level of dramatic presentation.

Usefulness. Well, as designed, it has loads of usefulness. You can conceal yourself with the swarm, have it deal damage to your enemies if you engulf/overlay something with your movement, fly if you choose to merge with the swarming crows, and so on. In many respects, it has too much usefulness for the price, and it's starting to border on Swiss-army-knife type of item. Thematically, it all works together. But, design-wise, it could probably benefit from a bit more definition and tightening of the nuts and bolts.

Mechanics. This item covers a lot of ground by simply relying on the pre-defined elements of a bat swarm to define the crows. That's a smart choice to keep it tight so you don't have to ramble explaining a bunch of additional game elements. In addition, there are crow swarms defined in the game, but they weren't available in the PRD (as far as I can tell), so you did the right thing confining yourself to something that's more easily at hand with the bat swarm instead. You also treat the merging ability as a polymorph effect, granting the swarm the user's hit points. That's an interesting design choice that elevates the swarm's effectiveness, carrying it forward as an ever more powerful item as someone advances in level/hit points. That also makes it difficult to get a handle on pricing it. If the cloak produces an uber-swarm when merged with a higher level character (who has more hit points), but a lesser swarm when a lowly 1st level character suddenly puts it on, it's an ever-changing value. For instance, lets say there's an adventuring party of 4 PCs and they all have variable hit points, even though they're the same level. A party would always give this cloak to the barbarian so he can uber-swarm whatever he's fighting, rather than giving it to the low hit point wizard who needs protecting. It becomes a strategically-used item and not necessarily in a good way from a design perspective. A better way of approaching it would likely involve a pre-defined set of stats for the swarm, and a consistent, pre-defined price as a result, regardless of who's wearing it or merging with the summoned crow swarm.

Polished. You nailed the template. I'm seeing a lot of improvement in that regard this year, I appreciate anyone who puts in the extra attention to detail to secure that. To me, it means you're better prepared to give this a real go as a potential freelancer, because I know you'll make your developer's job that much easier.

Other than that, this was a really evocative entry. It might have a few design hole in there, and reach a bit further than its price warrants, but you did a solid job with it. The thematic elements also really elevate this item from a sheer coolness/mojo angle, and that could bode well for you in appealing to the voters as you go forward. So, congratulations once more, and good luck in the competition! Let's see what kind of creativity and detail you can bring to your map for Round 2.

My two cents,
--Neil

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Congratulations Kalyna!

I'm a big fan of witches, and this item immediately struck a cord with me because I love the "bursting into a murder of crows just before the death blow" imagery (the Crones in Witcher 3 captured the visuals quite well). I remember seeing this come up against at least one other crow-related item more than once, and your item consistently impressed me.

Can't wait to see what you conjure up in round 2!


Your beautiful imagery conjured the vision of dark, possibly vampiric, figure on a hilltop. With a swirl of his cloak and the cawing of crows he's away and untraceable...

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

Congrats on making the top 32. I've got a soft spot for crow based items, so this definitely speaks to me. The abilities are fun, and different than some of the other "animal cloaks" like cloak of the bat or manta.

Only misstep is the price - swarms are pound for pound better than other animals you can turn into/summon, especially flying ones. But that's the easy part to fix, the creativity is the hard part.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 9 aka LightSprite

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thank you to everyone for your kind words and sage advice, I'm so glad that my concept came across (:

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka primemover003

Congratulations Kalyna on making the Top 32! Indeed the price is a little low for an item that provides flight, an area attack, and immunity to single target spells. Even if the duration is just a little over a minute, that's two or three combat encounters and perhaps a bit of utility time. But the theme and effect are tight and Vrock full of flavor. Bring that mojo to your map and we may just see you in the next round.

--birds of a feather, Vrock together

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

Voted for this one when it came up.

One of the best descriptions in the contest. Particularly like the bit about the cloak seemingly longing to take flight.

I agree with others that it might be somewhat overpowered, but that's relatively easy to fix.

The visuals and flavor more than make up for any minor faults. It's very much an item that fits into the game.

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

I'm not sure what about this bugs me - perhaps the gender specificity of the name? Admittedly not much. It feels a little hackneyed to me, but I am notoriously contrary. I think I read the name and want something to tie that specificity more openly to the item, rather than a tenuous "kin to crows while possessing this cloak".

The middle paragraph could do with breaking into two paragraphs - for two concepts - there are a bunch of acion types in there that begin to bunch up in my brain.

Congratulations Kalyna - just watch the gender specificity and "stats". All things that an editor will clean up for you, but shouldn't need to. From now on. ;)

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka thornnm

I found this cloak creepy and reminiscent of The Birds, so I loved it!! Looking forward to seeing your map in Round 2!

RPG Superstar 2014 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7 aka Belladonna Blue

Welcome to the Top 32, Kalyna! Your submission has overcome the magic item horde and the many culls to emerge at the top of the heap. Congratulations!

I'll be one of the judges for this first round, offering my humble commentary which I hope will be helpful to you moving into Round 2. I will be considering each item based on three factors: functionality (does the item fill a useful niche within the rules?), mojo ("wow" factor--would I point out this item to someone else, or immediately get some cool concept to go with it?), and writing (is the formatting and text clear and error free? Is the prose interesting and evocative?)

Combining these elements successfully is, I feel, key to defining that elusive "Superstar" quality that we all want to see.

So you know what I'm looking for, now let's move on to the good bit: your crow brother's cloak!

Functionality and Usefulness
Swarms are good. Very good. Your item utilizes them in both a defensive and offensive option, which increases its flexibility and usability. I feel like cool cloaks are still an underserved niche, making me appreciate this more. The main problem (already pointed out) is it is entirely too good for the price, and providing a level-variability effect on a fixed-price item is asking for trouble. Magic items with variable effects also have variable price points with good reason. Luckily, this is easily fixed by giving the swarm-merge fixed stats. The cloak is interesting and functional on its own merits without introducing the polymorph effect.

The Cool Factor/Mojo
I am a little torn here because the cloak is undeniably cool. I have a soft spot for crows and gothic flavor, making this immediately strike me in a positive way. The flexibility of the swarm usage points to good design mojo, as does the calling-out of rules effects such as the swarm being reduced to 0 hp, what happens to the wearer, when the cloak reforms, etc. I appreciate seeing those details.

Where I have trouble is this item reminds me very strongly of a few I've seen before, but I can't quite place it. (I recall 2014 had a strong "swarm" theme, which might be where I'm getting it.) This is not something that's against you, as nothing like yours has made Top 32 before, but it does make me hopeful to see something fresh in the next round.

That said, you easily achieve what design mojo should: there's a legion of players who will read this and, if they don't already have a character they want to put this on, they'll have a whole concept for someone who does.

Prose and Editing
You have professional polish free of errors, which I deeply appreciate. The writing is clear and enjoyable to read. The cloak is flavortastic and there's a lot of gothic PCs out there who will be all over this. Your writing serves the mechanics and don't get in the way. All excellent hallmarks of a good designer.

Overall
Cool imagery + great writing + polished text + useful effect + item flexibility = you can see why you're here. Close up the rules loophole and this is pretty publish-ready. Moving forward, when you're contemplating deviating from the way magic items usually work, really analyze why they do or don't do something before moving forward. This is hard to remember when an effect is really cool, but it'll also help develop a stronger understanding of not just what the rules are, but why they work that way.

By reading your comments, you'll see you captured a lot of interest with your writing, item utility, and cool imagery. You have all the necessary ingredients to move forward with a lot of confidence.

I am honored to have been allowed to provide feedback this year. I look forward to your entry for Round 2, Kalyna, and I expect to see a fresh map with the creativity and appeal you achieved here!

Congratulations again!

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

The crows surrounding you and providing concealment is cool, but the ability to merge with the swarm really sold me on this item. Awesome idea! I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with in the next round. Good luck in the rest of the competition.

Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Victoria Jaczko wrote:
Where I have trouble is this item reminds me very strongly of a few I've seen before, but I can't quite place it. (I recall 2014 had a strong "swarm" theme, which might be where I'm getting it.) This is not something that's against you, as nothing like yours has made Top 32 before, but it does make me hopeful to see something fresh in the next round.

Almost every conceivable crow-related power has been done in The Crow comic book franchise. Maybe it reminds you of that?

RPG Superstar 2014 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7 aka Belladonna Blue

TotalAnarchy wrote:
Victoria Jaczko wrote:
Where I have trouble is this item reminds me very strongly of a few I've seen before, but I can't quite place it. (I recall 2014 had a strong "swarm" theme, which might be where I'm getting it.) This is not something that's against you, as nothing like yours has made Top 32 before, but it does make me hopeful to see something fresh in the next round.
Almost every conceivable crow-related power has been done in The Crow comic book franchise. Maybe it reminds you of that?

Oh, the crow imagery is well and good. It's specifically the swarm effects providing concealment and merging with the swarm that are making me feel like I've read this before. I don't think there's an issue of originality, I just think it's entirely possible I read "101 things you can do with a swarm in an item" while voting in 2014 and haven't shaken 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

Congrats, Kalyna. Really liked this item -- one of my favorites -- and could definitely see using it in one of my games.

Marathon Voter Season 9

Congrats on making the Top 32!

As has been said, you made a wonderful item that is probably way to underpriced. But it is undeniably a great item. I like the flavor, I like how you detail a lot of the corner cases and effects, and I like the writing style. Maybe the double parentheses should be done away with, but I can't claim to know for a fact that's not how Paizo likes it. You knocked it out of the park. Looking forward to your map.

Best of luck in all future rounds!

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

As promised yesterday, the GB&U this year is courtesy of me rather than GM_solsprial (he is busy drawing furiously). So without further ado, our amazing and awesome top 32+4 get the first set of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly critiques, and then on to everyone else who requested a critique in the CMI official thread, or in my shiny The GB&U Season 9 thread.

Crow Brother's Cloak

The Good: I have to admit, I like crows, not wait, I LOVE crows. I am a child of the 90's, and thus crows will always be awesome to me. So kudos for knowing your audience, also, you gave just enough crow theme to be cool, and avoided over complicating your item.

The Bad: I hate to say it, but I have seen this type of item before in other media, not exactly the same, but there is a precedent.

The Ugly: Mean players are going to splatter villains trying escaping using this item, mean GM's are going to splatter PC's using this item. Because of the swarm hits 0 hp rider, clever folk are going to take advantage of swarms vulnerabilities (AoE) and the falling damage they can sock the cloaks wearer with to boot. Situation dependant admittedly.


I will be starting my reviews soon, and they can be bumpy at times, so here's a starter for 10 on Template ...

You nailed it!

Very nicely executed template, and nicely laid out description with sensible breaks made reading a joy and voting a breeze. Well done.

Sorry Fu, nothing to eat here.

*Fu sighs, remembers the heady meals of season 1-8 and moves on...*

Full review to follow in due course.

Paizo Employee Assistant Developer , Star Voter Season 6

Hello, Kalyna, and welcome to the Top 32!

I'll be a judge for this round, and I'm honored and pleased to offer feedback on your crow brother's cloak. I hope this feedback provides some helpful insight to you as you move forward in the competition.

As an assistant developer at Paizo, I'll offer you three levels of commentary that approximate the development process: some first impressions, a deeper look, and some measured feedback.

So, let's get started!

First impressions: A cloak that becomes a murder of crows? Go on ... But seriously, I really appreciate the rich theme and visuals here, and I can imagine all sorts of characters wanting to get their hands on this: tengus, strix, anyone in Ustalav, you name it. And this cloak does a LOT, so folks simply interested in the mechanics are going to be piqued, too.

Deeper look: You do a very nice job of concisely referring to major rules elements, such as treating the crow swarm as a bat swarm. However, there's also quite a bit of ambiguity in places where preciseness, particularly with such a complicated item, is key. For instance, you'd want to give the merged swarm specific statistics, so as not to make this item better for higher-level characters or characters with high hit points. The pricing here is also quite low for what we're getting.

Measured feedback: This is an incredibly creative item -- transmutation cloaks certainly aren't new, but you've managed to make a really flavorful, useful, and fresh item with a lot of appeal. I'd simply watch your mechanical balance going forward and you'll be golden.

That said, thanks for reading, and best of luck in the contest!

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

This is the only item in the top 32+ alternates that I did not see during the voting.

It is a very fun item, it does seem to do quite a bit for the price, but that could be adjusted fairly easily. The description is great and the mechanics are well written.

Good job and congratulations!

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 9 aka LightSprite

Thank you to all those who have posted since my last thank you (= Some very useful feedback in there. Pricing has always been a weak point for me, so more work in that area ahead! And the hit point thing slipped right past me. Otherwise, so happy to be in the top 32... now back to mapping!

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

So many swarm items this season, and it did not help that one of my alternate items had similarities with your own. But you did manage to pull it off in an evocative way with great visuals and a concise crunch.

One thing which is not clear to me though is whether the wearer dies when the swarm is reduced to 0 hp while they are merged.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9 aka Netopalis

Honestly, I voted against this item repeatedly due to the pricing issues. It is indeed quite a cinematic item, but the fact that it was priced so low concerns me if the item ever gets published. I run a lot of PFS games, and I fear we'd see no end of raging barbarian swarms at this price point. This item could easily cost four times as much as it does and still be a bargain.

Dark Archive RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 9

I think this is one of the best RPGSS wondrous items I've ever seen Kalyna. Great imaginative mojo and very astute design. Well done!
I'm honored to compete with you in future rounds.

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Crow Brother's Cloak haiku!

Cloak becomes a swarm.
Risky, merge yourself with it.
Fly away! Don't die!

I did like this, but a few times, some of my other keeper picks caused me to downvote this. Glad to see you made it! ^.^

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

Okay now that we have a few days before Top 16 reveals I've decided to comment on my competitors work. First, congrats one being a people's choice top 36. To me connecting more directly with the pathfinder community as an audience is even more impressive then clicking for a group of judges.

I had mixed feelings on this item. It evoked Tim Burton's Batman and the Crow for me in a way that made it feel a little bit hackneyed to me. There was also a similar item this year and a similar item last year as a staff. The merging with the swarm was the main saving grace for me as that was something I had not seen a bunch of before. It got a fair share of upvotes from me but not always it often came down to the pairing. I did at one point get this vs the Armor and it was a close call. Best of luck in the next round.

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

Kalyna Conrad wrote:
Crow Brother's Cloak

Congratulations for making it into the Top 32!

Seeing as that's how I had to start this, you're already a potential "Superstar" so keep that in mind!

That out of the way, I'm going to treat your item the same as if I saw it in the Critique My Item Thread, which means I'll be using the following comments, and assuming you're submitting this item as your "sample" for an Open Call to Fat Goblin Game's Call to Arms book line.

Feel free to disagree with me and DEFEND YOUR CHOICES!

Superstar — I like, though I rarely like the "swarm items" that RPG SS seems to have. Reminds me a lot of the scene in Batman Begins. I'd need to look closer if the polymorph effect needs clarity, it seems like there may be issues there.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

As soon as I saw the name I thought it was awesome and the item that came after delivered.

My one concern is the ability to join with the swarm to give it your hit points, because hit points vary so much across classes and levels it is hard to price an ability like this.

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

Kalyna Conrad wrote:
Crow Brother's Cloak

Congratulations Kalyna!

I think you captured some wonderful imagery which should serve you well in R2. I am reminded of a Batman cartoon opening, though I think Dracula has used something similar. This is not a mark against the item, I think the writing captured it well. I like the swarm around the wearer especially as it grants concealment. Merging with the swarm was less favorable, too MiaC for me, and it has been done before. I think it does answer every question I had while reading it, meaning the design of the item is solid, and it stuck to the theme well enough to avoid SAK.

Well done and good luck in maps & monsters!

Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

Congrats on making top 32!

I really enjoyed your item and voted for it a few times.

Although it wasn't my favourite item in the competition, I have literally nothing to complain about with your item. I love the visuals and the abilities. I think you paired it all together very well and made the item feel just plain cool at the same time. It's adaptable, it's fun and it's useful. I love that it grants concealment to you when the swarm surrounds you, I love that you can merge with the swarm and I love that if the swarm 'dies' with you in it you fall to the ground. It's a bit of a gamble and I enjoy that. You were concise and answered all the questions I would've wanted to clarify, before I even asked them. Well done on being so thorough.

After re-reading it and noting other people's complaints about the 'hp' added to the swarm, I have to point out that I like how you did the item the way it is written. I know this makes the cost difficult to determine and would mean your item is underpriced, but I thought it was awesome.

Best of luck in round 2!

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 9 aka LightSprite

Thanks, Meloriel, that's very kind of you to say. (:

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Congratulations, Kalyna! You’ve earned a spot in this year’s Top 32 with the crow brother’s cloak. I hope my thoughts on your item will be of some use to you. Here we go!

  • Who is a crow brother? This simple curiosity hooks the reader rather nicely.
  • An evocative descriptive opening.
  • You refer to the wearer as the murder’s master, but is it just magic that allows the wearer to control them? I like using Handle Animal, and this could be a good place for it.
  • Merging with the swarm is a neat trick reminiscent of many popular fiction moments. I don’t mind seeing it here.
  • You could just say, “this is a polymorph effect.” You call out the difference to the standard rules.
  • I don’t have any immediate concerns about adjudicating use of this item, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing something that’s bound to come up at a table.
  • This is a great item for a villain, and something PCs would be eager to try out for themselves once they’ve looted it.
  • As it turns out, we all can be crow brothers!
This item grew on me as I wrote this and I’d be excited to see it used at a table I’m running. Anything that works with swarms or creature summoning is a challenge to get right and I think you’re pretty close here. Good luck in Round 2!

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