Guillowed – 599 Words


Round 3: Create a Bestiary entry

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka CalebTGordan

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Covered in dirt and blood, this headless humanoid in the finery of a noble gropes the air in front of it with hands of bloody bone.

Guillowed CR 6
XP 2,400
LE Medium undead
Init +8; Senses blindsight 60 ft.; Perception +9

----- Defense -----
AC 19, touch 14, flat-footed 15 (+4 Dex, +5 natural)
hp 78 (12d8+24)
Fort +6, Ref +8, Will +8
DR 5/slashing Immune undead traits

----- Offense -----
Speed 30 ft.
Melee 2 claws +15 (1d4+6)
Special Attacks summon guillotine

----- Statistics -----
Str 22, Dex 18, Con —, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 15
Base Atk +9; CMB +15 (+19 grapple); CMD 29 (31 vs. grapple)
Feats Body Shield (UC), Chokehold (UC), Deceitful, Greater Grapple, Improved Grapple, Improved Unarmed Strike
Skills Bluff +18 (+21 with steal head), Diplomacy +14 (+17 with steal head), Disguise +13, Intimidate +17, Perception +9, Sense Motive +9, Stealth +13
Languages Common, Infernal (can't speak unless using steal head)
SQ steal head

----- Ecology -----
Environment any urban
Organization solitary, pair, or mob (3–5)
Treasure standard

----- Special Abilities -----
Steal Head (Su) A guillowed is able to attach any humanoid head severed by its summoned guillotine to its neck. When it does this it gains the effects of the alter self spell to appear as the previous owner and is able to steal aspects of their identity. As long as the guillowed wears the head, it knows (and can speak) the languages known by the victim and basic information about the victim's identity and personality, yet has none of the victim's specific memories or knowledge. Additionally, the guillowed gains Bluff and Diplomacy as class skills while a head is attached.
Summon Guillotine (Sp) A guillowed can summon a ghostly guillotine made of force as a standard action. The guillotine appears adjacent to the guillowed and looks like the same one that took its own head. The guillotine is a weapon that deals 2d6 points of damage and has a x3 critical, but it is not designed to be wielded and cannot be used to make normal attacks. If the guillowed begins its turn grappling a pinned creature it can use a full-round action that provokes an attack of opportunity to maintain the pin and perform a coup de grace with the guillotine. Creatures killed by the guillotine are decapitated by the falling blade. The guillotine remains summoned for five minutes, but the guillowed can dismiss it as a free action at any time.

Guillowed are the result of a malevolent entity inhabiting the improperly buried bodies of those executed through decapitation. Their hands torn to bony claws from digging their way out of unhallowed graves, the guillowed wander the land seeking to take the lives and heads of anyone in a position they can use for their own purposes. They are found almost exclusively in Galt, where decapitation with guillotines is a popular form of execution. Some guillowed seek to create more chaos in Galt, while others seek to end the rebellion, but all of them are ruthless, cunning, and devious. It isn't uncommon for one to have a network of followers they treat as highly expendable, and all of them have a healthy collection of heads preserved and hidden away for their work.

The destruction of a final blade can create a guillowed of greater power, and a few of the older guillowed summon an executioner with a greataxe instead of a guillotine. It is rumored that the only way to permanently destroy a guillowed is to trick it into wearing the head that belongs to its body.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Taylor! Welcome back for Round 3! This is the round where we temporarily set aside your earlier tests--i.e., a magic item "calling card" to showcase your potential, and a map to literally draw in the viewer so they can connect with your vision for an inspired gaming experience at the table. Instead, this go-around, we're testing your skill with monster design--one of the most important skills a freelancer can have--and, it'll be measured from the ground up rather than relying on class levels or special templates to make it stand out. This is absolutely vital to a great designer, because new monsters are always needed, and always in demand. Even if you don't necessarily go on to win the entire RPG Superstar competition, you can still make a significant enough impression in this round to serve you well in securing future freelancing opportunities, whether with Paizo or Pathfinder-compatible third-party publishers.

So, with that in mind, I'm going into these monster evaluations looking for a handful of insights into what your design choices and overall execution tell me about you. Aside from just a useful, compelling monster, I want to see how creative you are in selecting a particular concept and bringing it to life with your words. I also want to see how you match that with an accurate stat-block, and I want to ascertain how well you understand the mechanics which distinguish one monster creation from another, both as a combination for incorporating existing rules into your design, as well as being innovative enough to invent all-new material which others may eventually reference for their future designs, as well. Essentially, it's one thing to create a competent monster for the game table, but it's quite another to transcend that, and create something truly iconic and ground-breaking. You do the latter and you'll definitely be on your way to the next round.

First up, let's evaluate your monster's name: the Guillowed. I'm not sure I'm major fan of this naming convention/style. I get the sense you were going for a harrowed undead courtesy of the guillotine. But, the French pronunciation of "ghee-oh-teen" combined with "-owed" feels kind of mashed together. I completely understand what the name is meant to convey, but I'm not quite sure it works for me. On the other hand, many others may find it perfectly acceptable. It's purely an individual preference. The only reason I'm bringing it up is more to coach you than anything. Names are hard. What satisfies half your audience will also leave the other half unfulfilled. So, my advice would be to keep searching through a variety of names until you fairly certain it'll appeal to "most of the people, most of the time" and that's usually the safest choice.

Next, let's examine your creativity in describing and explaining what your monster is all about. "Covered in dirt and blood, this headless humanoid in the finery of a noble gropes the air in front of it with hands of bloody bone." That's a powerful visual. I'm also a fan of the single sentence read-aloud text. You build in just enough detail to physically describe everything about your monster and give it some animation. Well done. As I read further into the paragraphs describing the creature, I'm struck once again by the singular designation of its name in relation to the manner of its death (as well as its special summon guillotine ability). Part of me is wishing you hadn't tied it so closely to the guillotine. I understand why (i.e., the Galt connection to the final blades). I'm just thinking more mileage could have been given to this creature if it was a headless undead that could summon any type of ghostly beheading mechanism if it successfully pins its victim. That way, in Galt, you can see the guillotine being summoned, but in other nations, it might just be the ghostly executioner with the greataxe. Both would simply be ghostly manifestations, but equally valid for defining the physical manifestation of the guillowed's ability. And, in that manner, you could give it a more general name associated with just being a headless undead that's slightly different from the dullahan. In fact, the whole notion of replacing a dullahan's summon mount ability with a guillowed's summon guillotine ability is a nice twist, along the same lines as a cavalier swapping out his mount class ability for something different via an archetype. As for the rest of your creative endeavor in this monster design, I like it. The innovation is there. You're doing some very thematic, interesting things with the steal head ability. It's a compelling creature concept.

So, what about the mechanics? In the interests of time, I didn't try to number-crunch everything, but a couple of things caught my eye. As a CR 6 creature, you've given it a decent AC and number of hit points, but the DR 5/slashing will actually extend its survivability a bit further than comparable creatures. Of course, most party include someone with a slashing weapon (and usually multiple someones), so it's probably a wash. Its attacks, however, are really up there. At +15 for 2 claw attacks, it's well above the high-end of +12 for your typical CR 6 creature. Magnifying that problem is the significant boost it gets on grappling, so its CMB is going to much higher, too...and, since its signature ability hinges on that, you've probably edged it a little too high for the given CR, and it should probably be dialed back a bit. Its damage, on the other hand, is a little low for a monster filling a combat role. Even if both attacks hit in any given round, it's doing about 17 points of damage, which is on the low end for a CR 6 creature. You could probably do with a bit of juggling here to get things back in sync, but obviously, the big whammy here is the possibility of pinning a victim, summoning the guillotine, and then decapitating them...to which, no amount of round-by-round damage really matters. So, this is a hard balance to strike. As for the special abilities, I've already indicated my thoughts on widening the summon guillotine to including the ghostly executioner for variety (rather than pinning that to a greater version of the creature). I'd almost recommend ratcheting this undead up to a higher CR rating and then giving them some kind of assassinate ability with a death effect rather than relying on 2d6 points of damage via a coup de grace. Most PCs encountering your guillowed at the necessary APL wouldn't go down on a single hit with that type of attack, so it kind of clashes with the executioner vibe I think you were going for. I do absolutely love the steal head ability. Giving an undead creature the means to generate different personalities by swapping out a few heads is a creepy, awesome touch. The only thing missing here is I would've liked to see a limitation on how long the head can be used in this manner. That way, it's constantly on the move to acquire new heads, but guillowed with class levels might be able to extend the "life" of a given head by casting gentle repose or something...which could also make for a nice spell-like ability if you wanted to grant them that staright up. Regardless, I like the ideas here. The execution could have taken a couple of different design paths and probably made the end result stronger, but you've still got time to improve on that. One last opportunity which I think you missed out on would be the last line of text about a means for destroying a guillowed by tricking it into wearing its own head. Mechanically, I'd love to see some rules put in there about pinning a guillowed and forcing it to wear its own head, thereby forcing it to make a save or suffer its own death-like effect.

Next up, the presentation. Everything looked pretty tight here. You got the bolding, italicizing, alphabetical ordering, and placement of everything right. You even appropriately designated the uppercase identification of the Body Shield and Chokehold feats from Ultimate Combat. Nicely done.

Bottom Line: This was a nifty creature concept. I like the dullahan comparison, but with a twist. Some innovative abilities got showcased/imagined. The professional polish is there. The desciptive text reads well. And, while there are some small mechanical choices that might warrant a closer look, this turnover shouldn't require too many changes during development. Therefore, I'm happy to say I DO RECOMMEND this designer advance to the next round. I'd like to what more you can bring to the table.

Paizo Employee Developer , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Congratulations for making it to Round 3! Your item worked for enough people to make Top and you mapping skills got you through Round 2, and now folks get to see your monster. Like previous years that I’ve judged this round, I’m approaching judging the same way I would do a pre-development pass on a turnover one of my freelancers sent me. I start at the descriptive text at the top and then work my way through the statblock looking for errors or weak spots that need to be addressed in development. Then I read the flavor text and see how it is all integrated. My final judgment is not only based on errors or lack thereof. Some of my comments are just personal preference, so please don’t take anything personally. We just have different tastes.

Now on to your monster!

• The descriptive text is fine, but I’d eliminate the action of groping the air.

• Hit points are a bit high, especially with DR involved, but it’s probably not a huge problem. The attack bonus is equivalent to a CR 8 creature, but the damage output is equivalent to a CR 4. These two should be closer to the mark.

• Steal head is a weird ability, but I kinda like it. I especially like the idea that it can (somewhat clumsily) try to imitate the victim. I think you should have taken a different approach with the Bluff and Diplomacy aspect of the ability, though. Making them class skills when attached is a tad bit clunky, and there’s no indication of what the creature’s current status is with the skill bonuses. I would have went with just a flat bonus to the two skills while a head is attached.

• The summon guillotine ability is a neat and flavorful idea, but the execution (ha!) could use some work. I don’t think it needs to be called out as being a weapon, especially since you call out that it is not designed to be actually used as a weapon. This is one of the times that you can just flat out say what it does without having to tie it to an existing rule. The biggest thing it can do is coup de grace, and you call out that it needs to be grappling a pinned creature, but what is its combat maneuver bonus and combat maneuver defense? I’m assuming that the guillowed would be helping restrain creatures for the summoned guillotine, but that’s not entirely clear. It’s also mentioned that the summoned guillotine provokes attacks of opportunity, but there’s no information about its AC or hit points. If a PC could take that attack of opportunity, what would the player need to roll to hit it? As written, the ability needs all of that information. Seeing that you’ve bumped right up against the maximum word count, I’d hazard a guess that the incomplete wording in this ability was a result of you trying to be more concise in your writing. I feel you. I’ve been there, however I think this hurts your submission a bit. I do like how it synergizes with the other special ability. That kind of thing is always neat to see.

• The flavor text is clear and is what I’d expect with an undead resulting from Galtan execution. I even like that they form groups of followers, and I like that you addressed that they keep spare, preserved heads on hand. The final paragraph is neat too, as it gives ideas for a variant and mentions how to destroy them.

• While the place has a lot of buzz on the messageboards, which I suspect will garner favor with folks who are into Galt, it’s not my favorite location in Golarion. I also felt that your special ability mechanics need a bit of work, but your flavor text was fine.

This was a decent effort, but it didn’t fully win me over. I do not recommend this designer to advance to the next round.

Paizo Employee Editor

Welcome to the top 16! Great job getting this far! Now let’s take a look at your monster.

First off, the name has me scratching my head. I get that the first half comes from “guillotine,” but I’m not so sure about the second half. I think going simpler with a slightly more obvious “guillotined” would give readers an idea of what they are about to see.

Overall, though, I enjoy the concept. There is some small overlap with the dullahan (another headless undead), but the dullahan doesn’t get to steal its victims’ heads! I can see some juicy adventure hooks based around that ability.

Mechanically, I have some issues. The +15 bonus to its claw attack seems a bit high for a CR 6 monster. I’m not sure why this monster knows Infernal; just because it has a 13 intelligence, doesn’t mean it needs to speak a language other than Common (see the ghoul for an example). It’s going to get languages from stealing heads, anyway! And speaking of the steal head ability, I would have had it grant a racial bonus to Bluff and Disguise while wearing a victim’s head, instead of making Bluff and Diplomacy class skills.

But most of all, I have concerns about the summon guillotine ability working in play. The monster is going to need to first spend a standard action to summon it, before starting a grapple and then pinning a victim. I assume both monster and victim need to be adjacent to this guillotine for the ability to work, and that might be difficult in a hectic combat. Granted, you don’t want this ability to happen to PCs too often, as a coup de grace is a nasty thing. I think I would have made the appearance of the guillotine as part of the special coup de grace action and perhaps given the potential victim a saving throw.

In the end, the concept of this monster wins out over my problems with it. I weakly recommend this designer to move on to the next round.

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka CalebTGordan

Thank you for the comments and recommendations.


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The name is terrible, steal head needs a duration, and the summon guillotine should just be a supernatural attack it can used on a pinned opponent that deals damage and triggers a CDG check.

That said, this is a really neat creature. You know what it really needs? Desecrate 1/day, treating any guillotine or site of execution as an altar. Also, channel resistance. Vengeful, persistent undead like spectres often have it.

Good luck!

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

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There's hints of this being another creature-wearing-another-creature, but here it's much more superficial. Instead, this guns for familiar mythmaking territory: headhunting headless undead.

Aside from the dullahan being headless, there's little to compare. The guillowed isn't mounted (and doesn't even have ranks in Ride), doesn't have the same soul-harvesting motivations or links to Hell, doesn't wield weapons or wear armor, trades channel resistance for more thematic slashing DR, doesn't have fast healing, doesn't have SR, doesn't have an aura, and doesn't share a combat style (being a stronger grappler despite having a lower CR).

And then there's steal head...

If anything, it probably shouldn't even keep the one other prominent thing it does have in common with the dullahan (lawful evil alignment) considering its links to Galt; chaotic evil, or even chaotic neutral, would be more fitting for wronged victims of law-disregarding executions who need decapitated heads just to speak.

I'm not sure I'm reading the summon guillotine ability the same way as Adam.

The entry wrote:
If the guillowed begins its turn grappling a pinned creature it can use a full-round action that provokes an attack of opportunity to maintain the pin and perform a coup de grace with the guillotine. Creatures killed by the guillotine are decapitated by the falling blade. The guillotine remains summoned for five minutes, but the guillowed can dismiss it as a free action at any time.

I'm not sure how that translates to

Adam Daigle wrote:
It’s also mentioned that the summoned guillotine provokes attacks of opportunity, but there’s no information about its AC or hit points. If a PC could take that attack of opportunity, what would the player need to roll to hit it?

It sounds pretty firmly like

  • the guillowed can pin a creature to the guillotine
  • it can use a full-round action to maintain the pin in order to perform a coup de grace on the pinned creature
  • that provokes an attack of opportunity against the guillowed, not the guillotine

In any case, look at my last name and guess why I like this theme so much. It's in my blood! It's also an entertaining and thematic concept that does neat things without being too similar to existing headless undead. RJGrady's suggestions would work well here, they're not big changes to make, and the concept wins out for me.

Paizo Employee Developer , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Garrett Guillotte wrote:
I'm not sure I'm reading the summon guillotine ability the same way as Adam.....

You're absolutely right now that you point that out.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka moon glum

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This was one of my top 4. I don't believe I have ever before seen an undead creature that summons a guillotine to chop of someone's head. Also, it has a Disney's Haunted Mansion vibe, which is a great thing. I would like a miniature of this thing with the accompanying translucent guillotine.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

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I'll also point out that Neil's concern about 2d6 not being a threat to PCs is unfounded. coup de graces are automatic critical hit, and the guillotine has a x3 critical multiplier, so you're taking an average of 21 damage and making an instant death save against an average DC of 31. A Level 6 fighter with 18 Con (total bonus +9) would still need a natural 20 to pass that.

Sure, it needs plausibly four rounds (summon, grapple, pin, kill) to activate it so it probably will never happen, but... if the rest of the party is distracted? it can kill anything.

So really the problem is totally off in the other direction. If it hits a PC, they're dead. Hell, it could routinely kill a 20th level fighter with this ability. I mean, they probably can't grapple them, but still. It's a weird balance.

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

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Guillowed
How I’m rating monsters:
Creativity: does this seem innovative and original or does this seem contrived? How is the description?
Sneaky bit of treasure in that these stumble around in their noble finery, nice choice. Undead was this year’s monster trope but no one else is walking round with social skills and a new head which gets high marks from me 8/10 for me.
Marketability: are the choices you made smart and marketable to a voting public? Does the name pop?
Name is mediocre but I was hard pressed to come up with something better. I agree with Neil’s assertion that taking it away from the guillotine would have been a good move still overall this would sell 7/10
Trade craft: did you format correctly and scale correct to Paizo standards?
No dings on this for me. The brutal bit of grapple coup de gras is avoidable by a bunch of builds 8/10
Encounter worthy: as a GM is this easy to use and reuse?
The smartest bit is that this can be a recurring villain by running off decapitating someone new and returning to plague the party once more. With it’s superior social skills it can wreak havoc in a non combat sort of way. 9/10
8 out of 10: I’d call this the 2nd best undead though that’s not a ding the undead category had some great entrants this year..


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Coming at this monster as a GM who would have to run it, I am REALLY getting hung up on the Summon Guillotine spell-like ability. I have copied it below for convenience:

Quote:
Summon Guillotine (Sp) A guillowed can summon a ghostly guillotine made of force as a standard action. The guillotine appears adjacent to the guillowed and looks like the same one that took its own head. The guillotine is a weapon that deals 2d6 points of damage and has a x3 critical, but it is not designed to be wielded and cannot be used to make normal attacks. If the guillowed begins its turn grappling a pinned creature it can use a full-round action that provokes an attack of opportunity to maintain the pin and perform a coup de grace with the guillotine. Creatures killed by the guillotine are decapitated by the falling blade. The guillotine remains summoned for five minutes, but the guillowed can dismiss it as a free action at any time.

First, we have a spell-like ability. Already I'm confused, because I am given no information about the monster's spellcasting ability. What is the caster level when my players dispel it? What ability score am I using for Concentration checks if the monster casts defensively or is hit by a player while summoning it? What happens when he tries to use this spell-like ability while grappling, which is a situation he will likely be in? A lot of important information appears to have been left out here.

Second, it seems like this ability will almost never work in combat. It takes four rounds to use (1-Summon; 2-Grab; 3-Pin; 4-Guillotine). In the course of four rounds, the monster needs to: a) not die; b) not be run off by crowd control; (e.g. turn undead); c) not moved from being adjacent to the guillotine (e.g., bull rush); and d) not have his opponent freed from him (e.g. grease spell). And those are just some concerns I have off the top of my head. A party of four 6th level PC’s will have a host of tricks at their disposal to prevent the bad guy from ever using this power.

Third, how do my players interact with the guillotine? Can they move it? Can they occupy its space? Can they block another PC from being placed in it? Can someone with a better fortitude save sacrifice themselves in place of another PC by sticking their head in first? I can’t tell because there isn’t enough information about the guillotine itself.

I see what you were going for with this ability, however it feels very unfinished to me. It feels like a lot of what should have been in the “Summon Guillotine (Sp)” write-up got chopped off at some point during the editing process, which makes this ability nearly unusable both mechanically and practically.

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

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I like the close comparison to the dullahan, but I like how this monster has more RP potential and could really mess with the party. Fun times ahead!

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

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I like the name, myself, and the description is a really powerful visual!

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

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In the interest of sharpening my skills I'll finally be chiming in on entries! I do a stream-of-consciousness style of review (just like my other critiques) and I will do my best not to read other folks' comments so as to not be influenced one way or the other. I believe creatures serve more than just a combat capacity, and removing choices from players (such as forcing them only into combat with a specific creature) is not Superstar design. Plus, who doesn't like outwitting/outsmarting/etc. a creature?

Guillowed

The name works for me. It makes me think of a guillotine so I'm hoping to see some flavor in that direction.

Good intro, although I'm not a fan of specifying that it is in the finery of a nobleman. I would have cut that and used it to add a description that hits on another sense like smell.

CR 6! Bold choice for this round, I would have expected most everyone to grasp at the higher CR range allowed.

Undead cool, blindsight makes sense thematically.

Even though it still surprises me, Jacob W. Michaels pointed out to me on another undead that HD is pretty high so its not a surprise here to see double its CR in HD.

Defense looks good. I like how DR 5/slashing is thematic (of course a beheaded thing should be weak to slashing weapons). Although I could have seen bludgeoning OR slashing as early guillotine prototypes were basically knocking heads off as opposed to actual cutting.

Offense seems good.

Summon Guillotine is a flavorful Coup de Grace ability. It's not something that comes up much in games, especially with NPCs performing them so a flavorful way to encourage an intelligent creature to do so is a plus. I'm sure this will be divisive. Many folks will point out that creatures encounters are over fairly quickly, and they'd be right, but with the feats you've given for Improved and Greater Grapple...this creature's built to do this in ~2-3 rounds. Encountering a mob of these? That's gonna be a terrifying encounter for any party. That said...folks don't normally take too kindly to things designed to ACTUALLY kill their beloved characters. I personally like danger in my games, and at CR6 this isn't too far away from spells and such that restore life. You've wisely decided not to make it so the corpse can't be ressurected so good. It would have been nice if the blade could use the non-blade side to do force damage as an attack though.

Stats look good and I would expect good CMB and CMD from a creature designed to pin and CdG.

Love the languages and that you point out it can't speak unless wearing someone else's head. The way it's written kind of implies that it only can't speak Infernal unless using Steal Head, but I'm not sure if you should have specified the not speaking part up front or at the end as you did. Actually...I probably would have made the not speaking an SQ and defined it there...but you were close to word count.

Steal head is gross...in a good way. With this things Cha, Disguise, Diplomacy, and Bluff...I can totally see it using some influential person's head and wearing clothes to cover up its body and being a mastermind type. I would have liked to see a time limit for how long it can wear a decapitated head. It doesn't have spells or abilities that preserve the decaying flesh and that would spark some thoughts on situational bonuses to figuring out this is an undead wearing someone's head. Nice ability.

Your descriptive write up is great. I like how you tie in the bony clawed hands to digging their way out of graves and the flavor is good. You mention collections of heads...Love it...now I can see stories where it the party finds its stock of heads and realizes what's going on. I'm torn on creating a greater guillowed. It makes perfect sense, but without room to actually stat it up here that may detract for some. I also LOVE that you mention tricking it into wearing its own head. Great encounter hook. Wish it was an SQ that it is destroyed permanently when tricked into wearing its own head but I think you again ran into word count issues.

Overall, this is a very flavorful undead that has many applications and uses. Combat (and an actual danger of dying), RP, mastermind, story hooks, and so on. I feel you hit it on the head with this creature. Be careful if you proceed to not suggest too much that you can't stat up because of wordcount. I'm fairly certain this is getting a vote from me.

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

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I gave Taylor some feedback during development, so my comments are going to be limited on this one...

I like the name -- I think it worked. For some reason, I read it as gill-owed, which sounds good to me; even then, if I read it more as gee-ode, I still think it works. It gets the core concept of the monster across, IMO.

I think the descriptive text works well.

I like the write-up -- I think digging their way out of their own graves creates a great image that shows their tenacity that would inform their use as a GM. I like that they're political operators -- makes sense for such a Galtan undead -- and not just combatants. I think the last sentence gives great gaming opportunities -- where do you even FIND their original head?! Could you imagine having to search through a series of skulls to find just the right one?! That could be an adventure unto itself, especially if the guillowed knows what they're doing and tries to stop them.

Kiel Howell wrote:
I'm not sure if you should have specified the not speaking part up front or at the end as you did.

"Can't speak" comes after the listing of languages in the bestiaries, so this is probably the right location for it.

ETA: Oh, and this is the first lawful evil monster in Superstar, so now we're just waiting for a LG monster to have all the alignments represented.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

Overall, this seems like a very niche monster, pretty much a specialized undead I'd only think to use in adventures set in Galt. On one hand, I like the connections to being beheaded, and having the ability to decapitate their enemies and use their heads to gain additional abilities. On the other hand, for an undead "avenger" I think the summoned force guillotine is a bit silly and goofy. As a spell that a spellcaster can use, sure that works for me, but as an undead, I see them having more direct powers than a) a force construct - reskinning this as ectoplasm instead of force would help a lot here and b) a bit cumbersome to use. I'd rather it simply be more along the lines of once it establishes a pin, it can take a full found action to coup de grace the foe which summons a blade chopping down from above.

Considering that the thing that stands out the most about this monster is the summon guillotine, and the rest of the monster overall doesn't tread a lot of new ground, this doesn't make the cut for me.

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

Just a quick preface - the point of commenting for me is to force myself into coherent thoughts about the design choices. That might make it feel like I'm being super-critical of a given monster, but that's not my intent.

The name doesn't work for me. Regardless of how legit it is or isn't, it looks awkward on the page. That said, I have a good idea of what the monster is based on the name.

The description is fine, maybe a little sparse. Do all of them have noble finery? Nothing else says they were all nobles in life.

DR 5 could be an issue, except it will be a rare party with no slashing weapons.

Stats, feats, skills all support the central concept. Always nice to see that carried through.

Special Ability names are functional. The abilities themselves are the core of the concept. I definitely get the concern that the process of beheading takes too long for it to actually happen very often.

However...

The real fun is in the process itself. The realization of the players about what's happening and their frantic rush to stop it. There's not so much fun in actually getting their heads chopped off. The fun is in the threat, not the success of the threat. I realize that's a little meta. But it's still true.

As a solitary encounter, one of these will get rolled over pretty fast, I think. But they can come in a mob of up to 5. And they can have followers. (Incidentally, undead or living followers?) So I think we can see what sort of encounter is hinted at here. Get some angry rabble attacking a party, grappling them, pulling a couple of PCs toward guillotines, and the panic is on. Great fun!

One tiny change I'd make to make that scenario work better is to say any creature could pin someone down in the guillotine, not just the guillowed who summoned it, which seems to be how it's written now.

You could make a fun encounter out of these. Maybe not so much solo, but as part of a group, yeah, definitely.

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Boxhead

Guillowed
Name I’m going to assume the name is a play on guillotine, but I can’t help but say Gwillowed…
Gimmick It’s an undead creature from someone who died at the guillotine. Cool.
Description Description matches the gimmicks, it’s an undead creature with no head and bony hands from scrabbling out of a grave.
Usefulness I can put this monster anywhere. I don’t know how often I’d use it, but I certainly can use and reuse it without it getting too stale.
New abilities Steal head is great. Summon guillotine not so much. I have to assume it has the guillotine in play (if it wastes a turn summoning it, the encounter is going to suck). Then it’s going to try to grapple to someone and decapitate them. I feel like it would be better if it summoned as a free (or swift) action, and just acted as a cinematic prop for the ability. Or if it existed all the time.
The rest Statistics are a bit out of whack, but nothing too serious. I like the use of odd feats, and the skills seem appropriate. It’s a neat concept that could use a little polish.

Dark Archive

This is not a bad monster, but I don't love it. The concept is solid, but the mechanics are not. There are some problems with summon guillotine as pointed out above, so I won't go over them all again. I really wish you had included a caster level for us, as it's very much needed. Also, how does a Guillowed preserve its heads? I would have liked to see this spelled out in either a special or spell-like ability, or, if not either of those, then a sentence or two in the description addressing it. I realize you came right up against word count, and I'm not sure if clarifying what's already there would have given you enough to fill in the blanks of this monster. There's not much to cut, so I'm not sure where the words could come from. Hmm.
Overall, I do think this is an interesting concept, and I thought your first two rounds were strong, so I sincerely wish you good luck!


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The monster round is always my favorite, so I'm going to give some feedback on all the entries. Basic run-through using the monster creation rules to see if the numbers line up, then general thoughts and critique. I'm running down the list as I find them. This is the fourteenth monster entry I've read. Only one more to go!

Spoiler:
Basic Stats [+: high for CR; =: within CR range; -: low for CR]
hp +
AC =
Atk +
Dmg -
DC n/a
Saves +/-/-

Abilities for this thing are across the board. Hit points are high. AC is spot on. Damage is awfully low. Saves are okay, but still outside average ranges. DR is in keeping with the monster's thematics, but I have to agree with some other commenters that perhaps turn resistance should have been considered.

I'm not sold on the name. I see the tie-in, but neologisms for a word from another language seems a bit overdone. I feel for you though, since beheaded is already taken. The descriptive text is excellent and sets a really creepy tone for a first encounter with this thing.

Steal head is a creepy and cool ability and ties in neatly with the creature's theme.

Summon guillotine. This thing is a bit wonky. First, it should probably be a supernatural ability, rather than spell-like. Second, I'm also of the opinion that it shouldn't take a round to summon. It's tactically unsound for it not to be summoned prior to an encounter, but having a ghostly guillotine hanging around when the party comes wandering by will certainly clue them in to something not-at-all right in the area. Perhaps make it a swift action following a pin that it could use X times per day.

I'm also puzzled as to why it doesn't have the grab ability. It already has natural attacks, so that seems like a no-brainer (budumtiss!). It would be able to damage its foe and establish a grapple in the same round, making its ultimate attack that much smoother to accomplish.

The background text is useful and gives the monster a solid tie to Golarion. Galt isn't my favorite place, but the idea of one of these things working with a desperate band of followers is intriguing.

Overall, I like the theme and idea of the creature. It's got some rough edges, but I like it. I don't know that I like it enough to bump out any of the five monsters already contending for my four votes though. Good job, and good luck to you.

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

So - - "ghee-owe'd." Fair enough. I think I would prefer guillotined or guillotin'd.

I'm not a fan of the technological level this creature represents with the guillotine - it feels like a Scooby Doo villain replete with Scooby Doo slapstick mechanics.

I think this is however a strong entry on the basis that its Golariona is much greater than most other entries and the theme is very strong. I just don't happen to like the theme in the slightest and the mechanics for the guillotine are hampered by a lack of clarity.

As opposed to Eric Hindley, I couldn't use this monster much outside of Galt or a similarly technological/cultural sphere - resigning the guillotine would be hard without ruining the monster's raison d'être. The elder guillowed summoning an executioner with a great axe feels even more Scooby, and would open up even greater cans of worms mechanically.

I also note that your previous round used Galt as its location.

I love the last line - it shows the attention to flavour detail of a good designer which I think that you can be - I enjoyed your First World Witchmarket thread thoroughly and you have done interesting work with Frank Gori's Flying Pincushion Games.

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

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I am going to be rather direct in my feedback.

DO NOT ANSWER ME NOW. DO NOT DQ YOURSELF.

This is a strong entry, full of creepy mojo, that is needlessly restrained to an overspecific execution method.

- The name does not bother me as much as it does other posters, maybe because I am French and I think it might allude to something like "wed to the guillotine" which is a strong concept. That said, it could be renamed Decapitated or, even better IMO, Decollated, to weaken the overly specific link to the guillotine.

- The description is appropriately disturbing, though the noble finery might be a bit too specific.

- I think I like all of its statblock, except maybe for the Infernal (as I do not see where it comes from).

- LE alignment sounds a bit strange too, as I do not really see those as cogs in a machine.

- Steal Head is excellent in both concept and execution, though its crunch could use a bit more polish, as previous posters described already.

- Summon Guillotine should really be a special effect of its ultimate attack after pinning an opponent. And it should not be restricted to the guillotine, but to any blade used for execution by beheading, which would broaden the geographical and thematic range of this undead.

- I love that this undead can be much much more than a combat monster.

- I dislike that it is tied so strongly to Galt. In fact I believe that it has been hinted that the Final Blades (Galt's most famous guillotines) prevent their victims from rising as undead. Which is a bit contrary to this specific undead's existence.

- The last sentence feels a bit like a rip-off from Sleepy Hollow (the movie), though I agree that it is an appropriate way to end such a creature (though as mentioned above, the specific crunch for this is missing).

All in all, this is a very good creature that can be actually magnificent with a bit more polish on its abilities and especially by widening its method of demise/attack. It definitely is in my Alternate list :-)

And after much consideration and comparison with the other 4 monsters vying for my 4th vote, I decided that this one will get it because of the excellent opportunities it offers beyond simple combat.

ONCE AGAIN : DO NOT ANSWER NOW. DO NOT DQ YOURSELF.

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

Taylor Hubler wrote:

Covered in dirt and blood, this headless humanoid in the finery of a noble gropes the air in front of it with hands of bloody bone.

Guillowed CR 6

----- Special Abilities -----
Steal Head (Su) A guillowed is able to attach any humanoid head severed by its summoned guillotine to its neck. When it does this it gains the effects of the alter self spell to appear as the previous owner and is able to steal aspects of their identity. As long as the guillowed wears the head, it knows (and can speak) the languages known by the victim and basic information about the victim's identity and personality, yet has none of the victim's specific memories or knowledge. Additionally, the guillowed gains Bluff and Diplomacy as class skills while a head is attached.
Summon Guillotine (Sp) A guillowed can summon a ghostly guillotine made of force as...

Hi Taylor, another undead in a world I feel already has too many. The saving grace is the solid tie to Galt, well done there.

Creative: -+ Steal head is cool, the Galt ties are solid, & I think the potential greater guillowed with the final blade begs for more.
Useable: +- sure, an undead with a specific attack goal and a way to RP one that was successful is going to be fun. Not sure how much use a summoned guillatone will be in combat, but I would simply change that to the blade or the axeman's axe.
Memorable: ++ Coup d' grace will scare my players. A guillotene of force will scare my players. A decapitated escaped-at-the-last-minute-it-was-close-but-I'm-fine-now cleric will scare my players.
Voting: Weak Keep

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

Hi Taylor, congrats on getting into the top 16!

What I like: This plays on a common bit of folklore--the headless undead--and plays with it in ways we haven't seen in Pathfinder yet. The Steal Head ability provides opportunity for story--it can start in a game as a villain masquerading as one of its victims--and is creepy and cool.

What I struggle with: It relies upon outright killing a PC in a very specific way to use its best and coolest ability. Yes, all monsters are potential PC killers of course, but I balk at a creature whose schtick is essentially to coup de grace a PC under a very specific set of circumstances in order to fully manifest its nastiness. It's also a low enough CR that if a PC did get decapitated by the monster, they would struggle to find a way to raise that PC. Perfect for a Gygaxian style PC-murderfest, but personally not my cup of GMing -- or adventure designing -- tea.

The guillotine idea is cool but a bit clunky in its description. I'd just say that if it manages to pin its target for a full round, the target is decapitated at the end as a force effect, with the image of the guillotine doing it largely as flavor.

I might even move away from the specific guillotine flavor, as they could also be victims of a headsman's axe, etc.

Is it one of the three monster types I've been totally sick of since, oh, about the Bestiary 3 (dragon, fey, or undead)? Yes.

Final Thoughts: It's a cool scary undead, but not something I would want to personally make use of (or even see show up in a module) in most circumstances. The exception is if I was running a game in post-Revolutionary France. :)

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

Congratulations on earning the votes to see you through to Round 3! Here’s what I’m looking for in a monster.

Does it make sense as something that could really exist? Undead spawning from those decapitated by guillotine is a believable situation, and you ensure they’re well-motivated. Nicely done.

Are the abilities exciting to run? I would like to see the look on the player’s faces when one of these picks up the head of their recently deceased companions and affixes it to its own neck. That said, I don’t think summon guillotine is integrated mechanically as well as it should be, given how unusual the ability is.

Does it spark ideas for use in an adventure? An underground crime boss turning out to be one of these could make an unusual and horrifying twist to the end of an adventure. A well-constructed NPC could tragically re-appear as one. Yeah, I think there’s some good ideas that could use this beast.

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka CalebTGordan

I did not make it into the top 8, but I am happy with the work that I did and the lessons I learned. I fought hard, did my best under the circumstances, and put up a good show.

To address this monster:
This went through several rewrites and ended up much differently that how it started out. I do think that I could have done better in the summon guillotine ability, but everything else feels right for me and I don't think I would change very much. I do agree that some of the stats should be adjusted to better fit the guidelines.

Summon guillotine is certainly scary and is meant to really frighten players. The spell-like ability tag should have been, and was meant to be, a supernatural ability tag. If I were to change it based on the feedback given I would remove the ghostly guillotine and have it be a direct attack of some sort. The easiest, but not nearly as thematic, is a "guillotine strike" where the guillowed is able to remove a head cleanly with a coup de grace using their natural claw attack. Of course I would keep the ability to coup de grace a pinned target.

The other way, which would be trickier to write but keep with the thematics, is to have a ghostly blade appear in the air and fall on a target, possibly giving the guillowed a ranged attack. It would be a standard action and give the guillowed a single attack in that round. I would have the guillowed be able to use it as part of a coup de grace on a pinned target as well.

There were a few people that were concerned that a monster being able to coup de grace in the third round was too much. I do not believe so, and it mostly has to do with what PCs are able to do around the same power level. With the Player Companion: Heroes of the Streets there is a new feat called Throat Slicer. This feat has a preresiquite of only a +1 BAB, and it allows someone to coup de grace a helpless, bound, or pinned target with a light, natural, or unarmed attack as a standard action. Once you have Improved Grapple, Greater Grapple, and Throat Slicer you can coup de grace someone in the second round of engagement. This is pretty impressive considering that you can obtain Greater Grapple as early as level 6.

To help people out in action economy:
Surprise Round/1st Round: Grapple with a standard (greater doesn't change the type of action to initiate a grapple.)
2nd Round: Greater Grapple turns maintaining a grapple into a move action. Move action to maintain and pin, and standard to coup de grace.

If a PC at level 6 can coup de grace in the second round of engagement there shouldn't be a problem with a monster that can coup de grace in the third or fourth round of engagement. If there is anywhere that needs an adjustment to prevent frequent PC death it would be in the amount of damage dealt in the coup de grace. If I used the guillowtine strike idea above, the one where the guillowed can coup de grace a pinned target with their claws, that should do it. The DC for surviving a coup de grace would be 24 to 30, instead of the insanely high DCs it is now. That is still high enough that most PCs at level 6 would need a natural 20, but not so high to kill them at nearly every level.

Maybe what could be done is to have the ability still allow a coup de grace attempt on a pinned target but remove the automatic critical hit from it all. That way the DC would be 17 to 20.

No matter what, I would strongly argue that the ability to auto kill through decapitation, and do so on a pinned target, should stay. It can be toned down to make it more survivable, but keeping it allows the monster to be truely terrifying to players. It is also thematically chilling. Imagine bursting into a room only to see one of these ripping the head off a noble with a quick strike, or worse yet watching it grab your spellcaster because you didn't cover your flank well enough and decapitating them before stealing their head!

I alluded to the idea that there could be variations. One such variation I thought of was a guillowed that gained class abilities through the Monstrous Codex class templates when it stole a head. If the head belonged to a druid it would get the druid class template. If it belonged to a fighter it would gain that template. This would further the versitility of the steal head ability and make for a very interesting adventure in and of itself. Imagine thinking you are up against a whole rival party only to discover all that work was done by a single monster.

I do hope that I will get to see the guillowed picked up by Paizo in the future, and I would be excited to see how it would be developed by them.

Good luck to the top 8. I look forward to playtesting a couple encounters.

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