Leviathan's Terror

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

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka mechaPoet

6 people marked this as a favorite.

Leviathan’s Terror
Aura faint evocation and necromancy; CL 5th
Slot none; Price 35,105 gp; Weight 16 lbs.
This +2 ominous harpoon is carved from a bleached whale bone, and bound with the spirit of an ancient beast that rumbles with a low, mournful call each time the barbed tip strikes. Holding the weapon fills the wielder with the nerve to face even the most imposing foes, granting her a +2 morale bonus on saving throws against the Frightful Presence ability. She also does not take the usual –4 penalty to use the Intimidate skill on a target larger than her.

Three times per day the wielder of leviathan’s terror can call on the spirit in the weapon to bind it to herself, swelling her musculature, draining the color from her skin, and turning her breath to rolling fog. Infused with the spirit of a defeated behemoth, she can bellow a mournful wail as a standard action. She makes an Intimidate check to demoralize each enemy that is at least one size category larger than her within 30 feet. She also draws on the spirit’s massive strength, gaining a +1 size bonus to CMB and CMD, and increasing her effective size category for the purpose of attacks and abilities that limit their use on larger creatures (such as tripping creatures of a larger size category) for 5 rounds.
Requirements Craft Magic Arms and Armor, doom or scare, enlarge person, howling agony; Cost 17,705 gp

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka surfbored

I had six items on my keep list, and this was one of them. Well done!

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

One of my keepers! Good job.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Great Job, this was my #1 favorite item that I saw. I hope somehow I get to see more of your work.

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Congratulations for making it in!

Big fan of the flavor here - nothing specific I would add to this. Well done!

Good luck in future rounds!

Marathon Voter Season 9


This was probably my favorite weapon from the competition, and it's all about the flavor. In almost every single sentence you really hammer home that sad and mournful theme, and it's an absolute winner. I can't hear a whale's call without thinking it just seems a little sad, and to tie that into a harpoon really ratchets up the feels.

The real capstone of "flavor done perfectly" is that even when giving players a form that is stronger and gives an intimidate check, you make sure to say they are intimidated by the "mournful wail" to tie it all back to the wonderfully sad and depressing theme. A designer who is not quite at superstar level might have lost that feeling of sorrow you get for the slain beast, and instead just played to the power fantasy of the player, or reversed directions and skinning it as the beast's mighty revenge. You held the course and the theme paid out big because of it.

While I don't want to wish others ill luck by saying I desperately want to see your map, I will say with confidence that I fully expect to see more of your work, either in this/future seasons or elsewhere. Best of luck.

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

Stephen Stack wrote:
Leviathan’s Terror

Congratulations Stephen!

Harpoons are not a common weapon, so you get points right away for being outside the box. That it sets the theme for the item is another point. +2 morale bonus (& later size bonus) is not very exciting, and it is too limited an effect (only frightful presence?). Again this fits into the theme so it works well enough, I just wish it hadn't buried the lead.

I think the tight theme pulled you through, Nice work!

Congratulations & good luck on the maps. :)

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

This seems to be my day to congratulate you, Stephen. As I mentioned to you, I really liked this item -- good imagery and effective use of a less-common weapon. As Curaigh notes, it sets the theme for the item really well.

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

By far my favorite weapon in the Top 32+4, and one of the best items to execute a theme. Fantastic work, best of luck to you, and I hope you're eventually able to share your map-round entry.

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

Stephen Stack wrote:
Leviathan’s Terror

Congratulations for making it into the Top 36!

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!

Publishable — So this is what Ahab should have done after he caught Moby Dick! Weapon base powers are "ok" -- the "3x per day" aspect makes me think either a) I want to have a bunch of these or b) so I use it like a few times, then leave it aside? Its an ok item, but not "amazing" to me personally. Solid write up, good formatting, and I like the use of "her" etc. for the item. Well done!

Dang another one I missed! Sorry, I must be going blind. I will do your template fu soon as I can.

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.

Leviathan’s Terror

The Good: vivid description, interesting theme, clever turn around of frightful presence.

The Bad: I actually work shopped your item along with Frank, and my original complaint stands still, some of the imagery and word choices still detract from the item, may just be my inner 12 year old, but barbed tip just HAS that effect. Also the world mournful gets overused.

The Ugly: Technically because you very strictly call this weapon out as made of bone, it should include that in with the +2 ominous BONE harpoon line. Also because bone has an effect mechanically on the item, it would be important to include this.

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

Jeff Harris 982 wrote:
Technically because you very strictly call this weapon out as made of bone, it should include that in with the +2 ominous BONE harpoon line. Also because bone has an effect mechanically on the item, it would be important to include this.

The bone material rules result in a crummy problem for magic bone weapons. If it had the bone material quality, it couldn't exist because you can't make two-handed piercing weapons from bone.

The better change would be to tweak the description to note the harpoon is reinforced with another material, or tipped with bone (which, I'm assuming, would set off your 12-year-old again), thereby allowing it to exist.

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.

There's something to be said from someone that learns by feedback. You made this a great contender and it was an honor pitting for you on this. I am with Jeff on the inner 12 yr old though. Nice work. Congratulations and condolences on being an alternate.

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Interesting twist on combating big scary things by scaring them. The theme was very tight and everything fit it well.

However all the bonuses are basic numarical ones with specific applications other than counting as larger for the purpose of special attacks (mainly grab and swallow whole come to mind)

That last ability is the only one that really grabs my attention and it is kinda buried at the end.

Quite nice with the theme though.


Silver Crusade RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka mechaPoet

Thank you all for your kind words and critiques! I'm honored to have made alternate, and perhaps you'll be seeing more of me later. I feel like I could have made this item even better with some more editing, and I will try to push myself to even better design in future rounds or competitions. Thanks again for your comments! :D

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

Welcome to the Top 36, Stephen! 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 as you move forward. 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 leviathan's terror!

Functionality and Usefulness
A harpoon! Interesting choice. The name and weapon type had me expecting something more nautical, but you took a different path which I think was smart. Instead of an aquatic or nautical theme, you focused on the sadness of whale song and the size of mighty deep creatures with mechanics that don't require you to be near an ocean to use. Really good direction there.

Okay, so the save bonus vs. frightful presence and the loss of Intimidate penalties against large creatures is neat, if not terribly exciting. But I like that you cleaved close to the theme here rather than doing just a bonus to Intimidate or bonus vs. fear.

The 3/day ability, though, that's the star ability and it's intriguing. Area demoralize, but only against bigger targets which has synergy with the lack of Intimidate penalty and the ominous ability. Then some of the benefits of being a larger creature, but--and I enjoy this--it doesn't actually make the wielder change size categories. This ties in so well with the theme, and not just the slain behemoth theme, but the mechanical one you have going of "fighting stuff bigger than me."

I'd put this on a halfling ASAP. It helps offset some of those problems of being a Small melee character without negating them or blowing past them.

It's a good weapon and I don't see any big mechanical issues. The description would probably get shored up to avoid confusion of bone decoration vs. having any type of bone property.

The Cool Factor/Mojo
The theme here is very spot-on, and you went in an unusual design direction for that theme. You made something that definitely makes me think of deep sea creatures and the ocean and Star Trek IV, but there's no reason a PC couldn't use this harpoon on giants in the middle of a continent.

You didn't go straight for the obvious mechanics. Even on the simple bonuses you put at the beginning, you still innovated them to work with the theme. The demoralize/strengthening effect is an interesting spin on enlarge person and demonstrates restraint. You could have just made the wielder larger, but you chose to spin it differently and add a demoralizing wail. So I see the elements of your construction spells all over this, but I don't see a SIAC here. You made it yours.

Prose and Editing
It reads well and has some emotional resonance to it that's hard to pull off in an item. I do think another word for "mournful" would have benefited you in writing the description.

Quibble: Frightful presence does not need to be capitalized; it's just named and called out as a special ability.

The template use is fine and this has quite a bit of polish. Some of the wording might have used one more pass just for flow, but I found nothing confusing.

You were able to bring this together really well. I like the directions you took in the theme and mechanics, though I wish the main ability didn't take so long to get to. Another editing pass would have taken this up another notch, but there's a ton of thematic mojo and intriguing twists in the mechanics. Whether you move on here or not, do keep designing.

I am honored to have been allowed to provide feedback this year. Best of luck moving forward, Stephen, and I'm sure your map is just as imaginative as what you show here!

Congratulations again!

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

One of my favorite weapons. I don't really have anything I dislike about it.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Stephen! 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 should you step up from alternate status to the second round. So, first up...your item...the leviathan's terror...

Okay. The name is a bit too nebulous for my tastes. I'd prefer a magic weapon's name to call out what type of weapon it is. Otherwise, it comes off sounding like a unique weapon or lesser artifact.

Mojo. There's a hint of mojo behind the idea for this weapon. It gives a smaller creature the ability to face down a leviathan, and that's inspiring.

Cinematic. Yes. You can visualize this weapon in use and the mournful wail hits a whole other sense whereby you can hear it in use, too.

Usefulness. It really grants most of its effectiveness against creatures that are larger than the wielder. So, it actually has more appeal for Small-sized characters than Medium ones, just so they can use its effects against more commonly encountered creatures in a campaign. And, for me, that kind of strikes the wrong note. While Victoria mentioned halflings gaining a lot from it, I think the design would be more thematically on point (but even less useful) if you made it so many of those powers would only work on creatures of Large size and higher but who are also at least one size category larger than the wielder. That way, it's not granting halflings and gnomes a big boost against Medium "leviathans"...

Additionally, when I first read the effect granting a morale bonus against frightful presence, I wondered why you'd reach for that rather than all mind-affecting fear effects. It might be a little off theme, but it would give the weapon more use beyond just facing a narrow band of monsters which include that ability.

Mechanics. I thought you showed a bit of innovation (or restraint, really) in this design by not tying it too closely to a nautical theme, and giving the wielder some of the advantages (or reduction of disadvantages) of being larger. I get a sense of the smaller creature challenging a leviathan and the beast being forced to deal with them on a different level as a result of the harpoon's granted powers. Other than that, nothing leaps off the page as an egregious mechanical oversight. The phrasing of some things could be made clearer, perhaps.

Polish. It looks pretty tight. In using the template, you've done your homework and it shows. Within the descriptive text you did capitalize "Frightful Presence" when it doesn't need to be, though. Just be aware of how to properly reference game terms going forward.

Other than that, this item got you very close to the Top 32, and that's because it had some great visuals and innovative effects related to the little guy facing down big monsters, and that's kind of the linchpin for a lot this game. But, that aside, the harpoon still lacks enough mojo to really slug it out with the sexier items that advanced past you. Regardless, congratulations on making it as far as you have, and should you get called up, I look forward to seeing what you've got for us in Round 2.

My two cents,

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

Made my personal keep list, pretty much entirely on the basis of theme and flavor.

I don't have much to add, other than you did an excellent job with your theme on several levels.

Oh, and I can hear exactly what that mournful wail sounds like.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Tothric

Stephen Stack wrote:

Leviathan’s Terror

First impression:

This item oozes feelings. This item, mixes a lot of abilities well. Anyone who wants an example of correctly mixing abilities within the same item.
This item is very close to a "Swiss Army Knife." This item charges the wielder with a lot of power. The Mournful wail is the least "thematic" part of this item: I want the reader to think about this.

The Wail is the least thematic. And when you think of a "LARGE Intimidating creature" the first thing you think of is to a large bone-chilling roar! ominous, +2 save vs Frightful Presence, no -4 penalty intimidate penalty vs large creatures. Then the Roar!
The Roar, triggers another ability, a +1 bonus to CMB and CMD.

While this is a lot of "Little" powers, a lot of minor bonus's, they are built into something quite glorious. The little powers build themselves up together, and build a lattice work of doing great.

If there was anything I could suggest that would have improved this, is a lack of nautical powers. But, you have a Trident, which specifically ignores penalties for fighting underwater. However, I can't think of any other way to improve this. "Leviathan's Terror" could have been any other grand giant monstrosities; but the Trident is the only thing keeping it to the nautical theme.
Would I publish Had I the Power:
You are Top 32, so yeah!

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