Swords for Hire contest: Villain Codex IV


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Thanks to the response to Villain Codex I: Foes for Fledgling Heroes, Villain Codex II: Adversaries for Advanced Heroes, and Villain Codex III: Enemies for Epic Heroes, Swords for Hire Development (Mikko Kallio, Jacob W. Michaels, and Mike Welham) and Outland Entertainment have decided the world needs more evildoers.

We're happy to announce we'll be publishing a fourth volume in the series, Villain Codex IV: Monsters for Meddlesome Heroes!

After seeing the interest in monster villains — from archon pyschics to yeti kineticists — in our last volume, we'll be going back to that well, adding 14 monstrous villains to the ranks of the CR 3-14 villains that were published in Villain Codex I and II.

The fourth Villain Codex will feature 12 opponents of CRs 3-14 for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Finished villains will be 600 words, including a stat block and a description of the villain, his/her motivations, plus potential plots, lairs and minions, making them perfect for a GM to simply drop into an adventure when she needs a statted-up opponent or to build an adventure or even campaign around

How to pitch:

Right now, we’re looking for your best ideas. Send us up to three pitches, each no more than 200 words long, that describes your villain and potential plots, as well as expected build. Please include at the top the villain’s name, race (a monster from any Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary), gender, alignment and class.

Also include the villain's CR; a range of CRs is fine at this point, and we will assign your final CR. Villains should be setting agnostic. If they use a bar as their headquarters, feel free to name it, but don’t put it in a city in an existing campaign world.

Villains should have clearly stated and unquestionably villainous goals. Most CR 3-14 villains can have a range of goals, from something just somewhat dastardly at lower levels to potentially nation-devastating at the upper ranges.

Mikko previously offered some advice about pitching and making a villain that remains useful. You can check that out here.

Remember, part of the pitch is a test of your writing skills. We want to be excited by your villain and have some idea of what her particular brand of villainy is, as well as knowing that you'll be able to get these ideas across in limited space.

Keep in mind that NPCs will only be 600 words, and we want their particular brand of villainy to be clearly fleshed out. As such, we're less likely to accept villains with a companion (such as an animal companion, eidolon or phantom), as there's simply not likely to be much space for them.

You're welcome to use templates as well (including degenerate and young, which reduce CR, and may help you design the lower-CR villains).

How do I submit?
Please send your pitches to swordsforhire.dev@gmail.com with your submission in the body of the email (NOT as an attachment).

How many pitches can I submit?
You can submit up to 3 pitches, each of which should be no more than 200 words.

What books will I be able to use?
Villains will be limited to rules from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, GameMastery Guide, any Bestiary, Advanced Class Guide, Advanced Player’s Guide, Advanced Race Guide, Occult Adventures, Pathfinder Unchained, Ultimate Campaign, Ultimate Combat, Ultimate Equipment, Ultimate Intrigue, and Ultimate Magic.

Keep in mind, you should aim to not use *all* the books for your villain — you want them to be easy to play, which means GMs shouldn't need a half-dozen tomes on hand to keep track of all the options for one NPC. Villains should aim to be Core +1 book; any more will lessen your chances of being selected. For purposes of this product, Bestiary monsters are considered core.

All right, I’m ready to get started! When you do you need this by?
Pitches are due by the end of the day (Eastern time) June 17. We’ll get back to you and let you know if your pitch has been accepted within a week of that date. Finished villains will need to be submitted by July 4.

More questions and answers:

If I submit, will I get published?
Unfortunately, not necessarily. We’re including 12 villains in this Codex, so only the best selections will get published. Any pitches that are accepted become property of Swords for Hire Development, which retains sole ownership.

Will I get paid?
We’ll be paying a flat rate of $6 per entry that we publish, which will work out to about 1 cent per word. We prefer to pay via PayPal, but have made other arrangements if need be.

Wait, I have more questions!
Go ahead and ask. We’ll be happy to answer.

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I feel like I need to stat up my own arch-nemesis... Mikko himself!


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Mike Kimmel wrote:
I feel like I need to stat up my own arch-nemesis... Mikko himself!

Unfortunately, Mike, you have to limit yourself to CR 14 maximum for this one. I'm not sure that's enough to get the job done.

Grand Lodge Contributor

Heheh. :-D Not sure what my CR is, but I'd like to point out that I'm a human (as far as I know), and we're looking for monstrous villains this time. :-)

Anyway, looking forward to reading your pitch(es), Mike! (And everyone else's, too!)


Plenty of monsters who can seem to be human out there.

And that amnesiac archetype can be awfully useful...

(More seriously for half a second, we did have a villain in VC3 using the amnesiac archetype, so probably not a good choice for VC4, as we'll not want to repeat.)


Mikko reminded me we should let you all know about our previous villains, so you don't duplicate them. The previous race/class breakdowns have included (obviously two characters of the same class can be very different, especially once you throw in archetypes):

The list:

half-elf bard/master spy
dwarven fighter
halfling inquisitor
yeti kineticist
advanced lantern archon psychic
vampire medusa unchained rogue
half-orc bloodrager/dragon disciple
giant awakened iron golem slayer
mimic mesmerist
human vigilante
advanced human druid
dragon cavalier
changeling witch
elf wizard
nagaji mesmerist
tiefling skald
ratfolk alchemist
halfling unchained summoner
dhampir occultist
dwarf cleric
human investigator
human fighter/shadowdancer
elf psychic
human paladin
half-elf arcanist
human ranger
human ghost alchemist/aristocrat
gnome shaman
half-orc monk unchained/ninja
human bard
gnome sorcerer
human druid
dwarf fighter/gunslinger
halfling swashbuckler
half-elf summoner unchained
elf magus/swashbuckler

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Not gonna lie - I seriously want to pick up VCIII right now just to find out how you guys made a lantern archon a villain.

Also, spent a bit of time yesterday looking through Bestiary 4 for ideas, joked around about combining a template with a monster plus maybe some class levels, but the more I joked about it the more serious the pitch became. Looks like I now have another thing to do before Origins.


Would it help to know that the lantern archon was also the Amnesiac Pyshic?

The Exchange

Glad to see my first, second, and third choice monsters aren't on that list!

And I don't know if Mikko is evil, which makes me question Mike's alignment...

It's probably one of those "two heroes misunderstand each other and fight until they realize they're both good guys" things. Only like, well written.


Quick note: If you could list which Bestiary your monsters are from, that would be much appreciated. Thanks!

The Exchange

My ideas are all from Bestiary 1.


Sorry, I mean list them with your pitches (so if it's a monster we don't recognize off the top of our head we don't have to go searching through all of the Bestiaries).


This sounds awesome!

I have a few ideas, and one important question: are we allowed to change choices about the monsters themselves, namely the feats already granted to them by racial hit dice?

Contributor

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I do love a contest...

Grand Lodge

Does "monster" mean it has to have racial HD? Like, you're not allowed to use a kobold or an orc, but you're than welcome to use a pixie or ogre.


Bigrig, I want to discuss your question with the other judges, so we'll get back to you on that ASAP.

Kevin, if they're in the Bestiary they're fair game. That said, while I realize monsters like orcs and kobolds are certainly very popular and have an important place in our games, I think they're easier to make up on the fly for a GM (and already have more stat blocks out there if you need to grab one).

So, speaking only for myself, I'll give a little more weight to monsters that are NOT solely based on their class levels. Now, if you give me a kobold/goblin/orc/whatever that's just so awesome we have to publish it, we absolutely will. But I think the bar will be set just a touch higher there than if it were a pixie or ogre.

(On a similar note, I wouldn't expect us to go for a race/class combination that's featured in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Monster Codex, so you may want to make sure you keep an eye on that as well.)

Grand Lodge Contributor

I agree with Jacob that we're probably slightly more inclined to select villains that have some racial HD than kobolds, goblins, and other 0 HD monsters, mainly for the reasons Jacob mentioned. For example, it's a lot easier for a GM to create a mechanically interesting 4th-level kobold sorcerer (or find a stat block online or in Paizo books) than use a CR 2 monster with just 1 class level (or 2) *and* make it an interesting challenge that feels different from the standard version of the monster.

But ultimately, if a pitch is really good, we'll probably accept it even if it is another kobold sorcerer.

As for Bigrig's question, I'm going to email Jacob and Mike about it in a minute.


An oddity of a question: Mythic books weren't cited for the list of accepted books, but mythic monsters exist in Bestiary V. Does this mean the mythic rules are fair game?

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motteditor wrote:
Go ahead and ask. We’ll be happy to answer.

Do all 3 pitches have to be in the same email, or how do you prefer them? :)


Austin, another good question that I want to confer on with Mikko and Mike.

Curtisin, having all three pitches in the same email makes it a little easier for us, but if someone has one great idea now and sends it in and then gets another one next week and sends a second email, that's fine.


And the judges' having conferred, we have answers:

* Changing a monster's skill ranks and feats is OK because they represent the typical member of the race, and our villains are most definitely exceptional individuals. Obviously we'll have the full stat block for each of the villains, so this shouldn't be overly confusing to GMs using them.

HOWEVER, Racial bonus feats (such as a a worm that walk's Diehard or a juju zombie's Improved Initiative and Toughness), racial skill bonuses, and such, on the other hand, are more deeply rooted in the monster race's genetics and culture. They CANNOT be changed.

* To remain consistent with Villain Codex I-III, we are not going to allow mythic rules (and thus no mythic monsters) for Villain Codex IV.

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Jacob W. Michaels wrote:
Sorry, I mean list them with your pitches (so if it's a monster we don't recognize off the top of our head we don't have to go searching through all of the Bestiaries).

Psst. Jacob, check out the Global Bestiary Index on the PRD.

If you click on the monster from the global list, then you can see what bestiary volume it appears in.


Thanks, Russ.

I'm a BIG fan of the big PRD indexes (especially the spell list one, though sometimes still prefer doing a search on my PDFs), but it still involves doing a little more searching and adding a bit of time per pitch. Based on some of our previous open calls, that can add up.

I'm not going to DQ anyone for not including the source, since I can search for them, but please make me happy anyway, everyone. :)

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that people shouldn't follow the instructions. I just wanted to share that info with you and everyone in general.

I am just about to send you an email with my pitch. (Only thought of one good one so far).

Paizo Employee Rule and Lore Creative Director

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Oooh, OOOH. Time to get some ideas put together. Gonna see if I can go four for four.

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FYI, you guys have seen that Paizo has announced the Villain Codex for release in November right?

Grand Lodge Contributor

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Rusty Ironpants wrote:
FYI, you guys have seen that Paizo has announced the Villain Codex for release in November right?

We're aware. I'm one of the authors of that book.

And we announced the Villain Codex series loooong before I or anyone else knew about Paizo's Villain Codex.

Grand Lodge Contributor

Due to a lot of ongoing projects, I'm not as much involved in the selection process or development of this product as Jacob and Mike will be, but I thought I'd share some advice on pitching.

Something that came up a lot during the selection process (and sometimes, development) of VC I and II was that otherwise perfectly good villains had very unclear or vague goals. Before VC III, we even added a sentence with italics for emphasis about it in the announcement. Let me illustrate this with an intentionally silly example (I like silly examples).

Once Rextor has acquired the artifact, he plans to do a lot of evil stuff with it.

Once Rextor has acquired the artifact, he plans to slaughter 100 bunnies, build a bunny golem, animate it with the artifact, and unleash the madly hopping golem upon the nearby towns so he can use the resulting bodies to build an even bigger golem.

Now, ignoring the silliness of the example, which one of these two sets of goals would be more useful for a GM that is going to use the villain in an adventure or campaign? Which is more evocative? Which helps the GM make Rextor a recurring villain if needed?

Part of the confusion probably results from the fact that we've said the NPC Codex and Monster Codex should be the authors' primary style guides for how to format the stat block. Note however, that while these two Paizo books have intentionally generic NPCs, our villains are intended to be as richly detailed as the 600 words allow so that the GM can use them as-is. The only generic thing about them is the setting-neutrality.

I hope that helps, and sorry that I didn't post this earlier!

Silver Crusade

Cool, glad for the heads up. I'll have to try this again, although I'm a lot busier than I was last competition. It's really awesome to see you running a contest like this again, and it'd be aces to work with some new talented people. Good luck all!


Time to try my luck again :)


How specific would you like the build info for these pitches? A simple Dex-stab rogue might not have that much material, unless you want us to get into feats and talents.


You don't need to be that specific, unless you want to call out one specific feat/talent that you think is really important for the character (for example, maybe she has the rumormonger talent and uses that to further her aims...), or she has Two Weapon Fighting.

Build's important, of course, but I think overall concept generally will outweigh the mechanical aspects.

The Exchange

Jacob W. Michaels wrote:

You don't need to be that specific, unless you want to call out one specific feat/talent that you think is really important for the character (for example, maybe she has the rumormonger talent and uses that to further her aims...), or she has Two Weapon Fighting.

Build's important, of course, but I think overall concept generally will outweigh the mechanical aspects.

To be clear, you're talking about the pitches right? Because I imagine the build would be quite important in the final project?


I guess the monster inherent abilities (like Nymph's blinding beauty, Unearthly Grace and the others) will be fully described in the monsters stat, right?.

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Sorry to go off topic, but its so cool to see Mikko and his contributor tag! Also, for those that might not have picked up the first Villains Codex: HERE!

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Owenstreetpress: Correct. But we're more concerned with knowing the overall concept of the villain and seeing your writing ability than specific feats. Say someone's making a two-weapon fighting villain, you can certainly tell us that she uses two weapons, but we don't need to know at this point that she has Two-Weapon Fighting and Two-Weapon Defense.

Similarly, for VC III, I was immediately intrigued when I saw a pitch that featured a vampire medusa. But even as cool as I thought that was mechanically, if the rest of the pitch hadn't backed it up, we'd have gone with a different villain.

Nicos: Actually, no. Unless there's some departure from the monster's norm (for example, the previously mentioned vampire medusa's children of the night ability was tweaked slightly from the standard vampire's), the standard monster abilities won't be detailed again, as that would take up too much space that could be used for material a GM doesn't already have access to.


Good to hear.


You mention slight tweaking from the monster's norm. In what cases would such fiddling be okay? I had my eyes on an undead bard earlier, for instance, but of course there's no feat or archetype that allows a bard to affect fellow undead (aside from the dirge bard, which isn't super undead-friendly).


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Man, I wish Ultimate Psionics from Dreamscarred Press was allowed. I have a sweet nosferatu dread that my party is going to run into in some not-to-distant ruins.


It's not something we would do very often, though obviously there is a place for variant monsters in the game, which is what these would be.

If you want to include that in your pitch, you can, but I'd say it would add a little bit to the DC, as it were -- your pitch would need to be good enough to justify having a variant (and spending word count on those changes, instead of on more details of its background/goals/etc.).

Grand Lodge Contributor

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My advice on tweaked abilities: If you feel the need to include tweaks, don't make them load-bearing. For example, the vampire medusa got a more snakey summon and polymorph abilities than normal vampires do. But if you remove those abilities, the villain is still perfectly functional. I.e. not a load-bearing tweak.

On the other hand, if I wanted to create a robot vampire, I'd need to change how the vampire template works. If you remove the tweak (because developer says no, or something like that) the whole concept falls apart. I.e. it's a load-bearing feature. Not recommended.

Anyway, if I have to choose between two equally cool villain concepts/builds, I'll invariably pick the one that is easier for the GM to use. For that reason, it's recommended to use only as many non-core options as the villain *really* needs. The same applies to customizations, fewer is always better.

Even a core-only fighter can be really cool if the build uses the feats and abilities in an innovative way, and the villain's story and goals are compelling. What classes, etc. you use is not so important as how you use them.

I hope that helps!


Are you guys sending replies to say you got our submissions this time? I remember that the last two times... (Just a little nervous my submission may have been lost)


I am. I think I may not have yet with the most recent batch, but was expecting to do so tomorrow.

THAT SAID, I will be away Sunday-Thursday, off to see my wife at med school. My email and posting will both be limited. If you get no response (or a short response that's literally just "got it"), it's because I'm using an iPad and on a poor connection -- please don't read anything into the shortness. :)

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How long should we wait before resending pitches, if we don't hear from Jacob? Just like James, I too am worrying it hasn't gotten there, since I sent it on the 9th and there's been no word. ;)

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We got yours, Curtisin. Sorry if I missed responding!

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Jacob W. Michaels wrote:
We got yours, Curtisin. Sorry if I missed responding!

No problem, just making sure. :)

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I feel like it gets easier in some ways the second time around. All three of my test build NPC's came in between 550 and 600 words this time (without doing any editing), as opposed to last time around where my "pitch" was 700 words (without a stat block) for a 600 word villain.


motteditor wrote:


Finished villains will be 600 words, including a stat block and a description of the villain, his/her motivations, plus potential plots, lairs and minions, making them perfect for a GM to simply drop into an adventure when she needs a statted-up opponent or to build an adventure or even campaign around

Are lairs and minions required? Can the villain be a loner?

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Nicos wrote:
Are lairs and minions required? Can the villain be a loner?

With the caveat of me not being Mikko, Jacob, or Mike...

Not all villains from the previous books (at least 1 and 2, since I haven't read #3) have lairs or minions. Loners were definitely in the group. Main thing is to be interesting, and have a good hook that GM's can easily put into their games.

Grand Lodge Contributor

Nicos wrote:
motteditor wrote:


Finished villains will be 600 words, including a stat block and a description of the villain, his/her motivations, plus potential plots, lairs and minions, making them perfect for a GM to simply drop into an adventure when she needs a statted-up opponent or to build an adventure or even campaign around
Are lairs and minions required? Can the villain be a loner?

Lairs are not required--there have been a few "traveling villains" in the previous Villain Codexes. But even then, it may be useful to mention what kind of environment/buildings the villain prefers to stay in so it's easier for the GM to build and encounter that includes the villain.

Minions are not an absolute requirement, either, but having them makes it easier for the GM to create an adventure that has multiple encounters rather than just a boss encounter. One of the villains I designed for the previous codexes has no minions, but his description mentions that he manipulates local gangs into doing things for him. In other words--to quote our announcement--consider what sort of things help a GM "build an adventure or even campaign around" the villain.

I hope that helps!

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