Review my creature? - Part 1


Advice


Hello everyone. I've been running a campaign for a large group of players for a while now and have begun taking to designing my own creatures. I just wanted to submit one of the custom creations I came up with here to see whether or not you all thought the creature in question was balanced for it's intended CR. Thanks ahead of time!

((Just to clarify real quick; the "Alternate" bit in the creature's Armor Class and Damage Reduction section is referring to the alternate rule set for using armor & natural armor as DR rather than as part of the armor class.))

Necrotic Knight (CR 7)

XP: 3,200 Alignment: Neutral Evil Size: Large Type: Undead Subtype(s): (Elemental, Evil, Giant)
Initiative: +3; Senses: Low-Light Vision, Darkvision 120ft; Perception +14

DEFENSE

AC: 25 (Alt: 15) Touch: 15 (Alt: 15) Flat-Footed: 22 (Alt: 12) [+6 Armor, +3 Dex, +4 Natural, +3 Profane, -1 Size]
HP: 68 (8d8+32) Fortitude: +6 Reflex: +5 Will: +9 DR: 10/Magic & Silver (Alt: 10/Magic & Silver, 10/Armor)
Immunities: Ability Drain, Bleed, Critical Hits, Damage to Physical Ability Scores, Death Effects, Disease, Energy Drain, Exhaustion, Fatigue, Flanking, Massive Damage Effects, Mind-Affecting Effects, Non-Lethal Damage, Paralysis, Poison, Precision Damage, Raise Dead, Reincarnate, Sleep Effects, & Stun.
Weaknesses: Positive Energy (1.5 times more damage taken), Resurrection, & True Resurrection.

OFFENSE

Speed: 30 feet. Space: 10 feet. Reach: 10 feet.
Melee: +1 Great-Axe +13/+8 (3d6+8/x3 plus 1d8 negative energy)
Special Attacks: Baleful Scream (40 foot cone, 7d8 negative energy damage, Will DC 18 for half, usable every 2d4 rounds), Necrotic Channeling (4d6, DC 18), Necrotic Strikes (1d8 negative energy), Necrotic Touch (4d6), & Siphoned from the Living.

STATISTICS

Strength: 20 Dexterity: 16 Constitution: - Intelligence: 14 Wisdom: 16 Charisma: 18 Base Attack: +6 CMB: +12 CMD: 25
Feats: Greater Weapon Focus (Great-Axe), Power Attack, Vital Strike, Weapon Focus (Great-Axe), & Weapon Specialization.
Skills: Climb +16, Intimidate +15, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) +10, Perception +14, Ride +11, & Swim +13.
Languages: Darkfolk, Necril, Undercommon.
Special Qualities: Does not Breathe, Does not Eat, Does not Sleep, & Undead Traits.

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Baleful Scream (Su): A Necrotic Knight can exhale a horrid scream of pain and agony affecting creatures in a 40 foot cone in front of it. This attack causes 7d8 negative energy damage to living creatures and allows a DC 18 will save for half damage. Additionally, creatures who fail this save become panicked for 1d4 rounds while creatures who make the save cower in fear for 1 round. A Necrotic Knight can unleash a Baleful Scream once every 2d4 rounds. Baleful Scream has no effect on undead creatures.

Necrotic Channeling (Su): A Necrotic Knight can release a wave of negative energy similarly to a cleric. However, this energy can only be used to harm living creatures (the Necrotic Knight still benefits from its “Siphoned from the Living” special ability when channeling). A Necrotic Knight causes 4d6 damage to each living creature in a 30-foot radius centered on itself. A Necrotic Knight can channel in this way up to 7 times per day. Creatures damaged by the energy gain a will save (DC 18, or 24 inside Desecration) for half damage. This is a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

Necrotic Strikes (Su): A Necrotic Knight's melee attacks possess a rotting festering aura about them, causing an additional 1d8 negative energy damage with each attack.

Necrotic Touch (Su): A Necrotic Knight can cause wounds to living creatures by touch. With one use of the ability, a Necrotic Knight can deal 4d6 hit points of negative energy damage. A Necrotic Knight can use this ability 8 times per day. Using this ability requires a successful melee touch attack and doesn't provoke an attack of opportunity. A Necrotic Knight only needs one free hand to use this ability. Alternatively, a Necrotic Knight can use this power to heal damage to undead creatures, healing 4d6 points of damage. Using Necrotic Touch in this way is a standard action, unless the Necrotic Knight targets itself, in which case it becomes a swift action. Living creatures do not receive a saving throw against this damage.

Siphoned from the Living (Su): Any negative energy damage a Necrotic Knight inflicts to living humanoid creatures heals the Necrotic Knight for one half the amount of damage it inflicted rounded down.

ECOLOGY

Environment: Bogs, Burial Mounds, Catacombs, Cemeteries, Cold or Temperate Forests, Crypts, Desecrated / Unhallowed Churches, Dungeons, Evil Temples, Graveyards, Marshes, Swamps, Ruins, Underground.

Organization: Solitary, Pair, Patrol (2d2 Necrotic Knights + 3d2 Necrotic Soldiers), Band (2d2 Necrotic Knights + 3d4 Necrotic Archers + 3d6 Necrotic Soldiers).

Treasure: +1 Great-Axe (Living Steel), Mwk Breastplate, 3d2 onyx gems (25 GP), 7d10 silver pieces, 20% chance for 1 black pearl (500 GP).


The first thing that comes to my attention is the Necrotic Knight's relatively low hit points and high damage; this is a bit of a glass cannon monster. This isn't necessarily a problem, but you should be mindful of running too many of these in a single encounter since they're desperately weak to area of effect damage and can potentially be overwhelming with a few lucky rolls.

In terms of abilities, baleful scream is much too powerful. It deals too much damage for an area of effect ability that has a secondary effect and doesn't have friendly fire concerns. The secondary effect of panic is also very powerful, almost on par with a 4th level spell, and as such is too strong for something that also deals damage. Inflicting the cowering condition (even for a single round) on a successful save is completely inappropriate. I would say drop the damage to 5d6, reduce the panic to frightened, and reduce cowering to shaken.

Other than that it looks fine and is within reason for a CR 7 monster.


Dasrak wrote:

The first thing that comes to my attention is the Necrotic Knight's relatively low hit points and high damage; this is a bit of a glass cannon monster. This isn't necessarily a problem, but you should be mindful of running too many of these in a single encounter since they're desperately weak to area of effect damage and can potentially be overwhelming with a few lucky rolls.

In terms of abilities, baleful scream is much too powerful. It deals too much damage for an area of effect ability that has a secondary effect and doesn't have friendly fire concerns. The secondary effect of panic is also very powerful, almost on par with a 4th level spell, and as such is too strong for something that also deals damage. Inflicting the cowering condition (even for a single round) on a successful save is completely inappropriate. I would say drop the damage to 5d6, reduce the panic to frightened, and reduce cowering to shaken.

Other than that it looks fine and is within reason for a CR 7 monster.

Wicked! Thank you for the feedback! The changes on the scream make sense now that you point that out and I feel the monster is better suited with your recommendations. I'll update my notes.


I agree with Dasrak, tone down Baleful Scream, a lot. I think on a successful save, they should just take half damage with no additional shaken/cower effect.

Also, having 10 DR on a CR7 creature is pretty high. Reduce that to 5 DR/magic.


Ryze Kuja wrote:
I agree with Dasrak, tone down Baleful Scream, a lot. I think on a successful save, they should just take half damage with no additional shaken/cower effect.

1 round of shaken is pretty tame, and is reasonable on a successful save. With that said you could definitely tone it down further than what I suggested, and removing the shaken would definitely be the next step if you want to do that. There's a lot of subjectivity with abilities, and you can aim for different levels of power.

Ryze Kuja wrote:
Also, having 10 DR on a CR7 creature is pretty high. Reduce that to 5 DR/magic.

Remember that DR 10/magic and silver means you need either a magic or silver weapon to bypass it. At this level range the vast majority of physical attacks will be magical, so it's not nearly as powerful a defense as it looks and mostly protects against unbuffed animal companions and summoned monsters.


Dasrak wrote:
Ryze Kuja wrote:
Also, having 10 DR on a CR7 creature is pretty high. Reduce that to 5 DR/magic.
Remember that DR 10/magic and silver means you need either a magic or silver weapon to bypass it. At this level range the vast majority of physical attacks will be magical, so it's not nearly as powerful a defense as it looks and mostly protects against unbuffed animal companions and summoned monsters.

I thought that 'DR/Magic or Silver' was the either/or option, whereas 'DR/Magic and Silver' would require both to overcome Damage Reduction, (e.g., a Silver Weapon with an Enhancement, possibly the [3] Silver Darts Spell; etc.)?

Damage Reduction (Ex) or (Su), Universal Monster Rules, Bestiary 1, p.299 wrote:
A few other creatures require combinations of different types of attacks to overcome their damage reduction. A weapon must be of both types to overcome this kind of damage reduction. A weapon that is only one type is still subject to damage reduction.


I'd do something like this:

Melee: +1 Great-Axe +13/+8 (3d6+8/x3 plus 1d6 negative energy) or necrotic strike +12 touch (4d6 negative energy)

Baleful Scream (Su): breath weapon, 40ft cone or 20ft radius, 5d6 negative energy and panicked for 1d4 rounds (Will halves and reduces panicked to shaken for 1 round), no effect on undead, once every 1d4+2 rounds.

Necrotic Strikes (Su): +1d6 negative energy on successful attacks with manufactured weapons, +4d6 with melee touch attack.

--just a little more streamline and easier to run. The breath weapon and channeling are so similar, as are the strikes and touch.
Beyond that, it's a good, solid creature. Just needs a few tweaks in the power department so it doesn't run amok.


Just a word of caution: You've got a Large Great Axe and Vital Strike. That means 6d6+8 for a Vital Strike (29hp average). A normal critical hit will be 9d6+24 (55hp avg) and a Vital Strike critical of 12d6+24. All without adding Power Attack.

That Siphoned from the Living ability will keep these beasties in the fight longer than their base hp would imply. Do you really want them to heal 1d8 every time they hit with the great axe? Healing from the Channel could pretty much amount to pressing the reset button as far as their damage is concerned.


Smallfoot wrote:

Just a word of caution: You've got a Large Great Axe and Vital Strike. That means 6d6+8 for a Vital Strike (29hp average). A normal critical hit will be 9d6+24 (55hp avg) and a Vital Strike critical of 12d6+24. All without adding Power Attack.

That Siphoned from the Living ability will keep these beasties in the fight longer than their base hp would imply. Do you really want them to heal 1d8 every time they hit with the great axe? Healing from the Channel could pretty much amount to pressing the reset button as far as their damage is concerned.

Most level 7 full casters with d6 health are going to probably only have 25-35 HP anyway. 7x3.5 = 24.5 without a Con bonus or Toughness. That thing is going to one shot them with a single Vital Strike.


Ryze Kuja wrote:
Smallfoot wrote:

Just a word of caution: You've got a Large Great Axe and Vital Strike. That means 6d6+8 for a Vital Strike (29hp average). A normal critical hit will be 9d6+24 (55hp avg) and a Vital Strike critical of 12d6+24. All without adding Power Attack.

That Siphoned from the Living ability will keep these beasties in the fight longer than their base hp would imply. Do you really want them to heal 1d8 every time they hit with the great axe? Healing from the Channel could pretty much amount to pressing the reset button as far as their damage is concerned.

Most level 7 full casters with d6 health are going to probably only have 25-35 HP anyway. 7x3.5 = 24.5 without a Con bonus or Toughness. That thing is going to one shot them with a single Vital Strike.

It's worse than that. As a CR7 foe, this is supposed to be a tough but winnable fight for a 5th-level party. At 5th level, even the d10 full BAB types are going to be around 50hp. A critical hit could take out a PC on the first shot and kill them outright if they're already wounded. Also, I left off the d8 of negative energy damage, so increase all the average damage estimates by 4.5.


Smallfoot wrote:
Ryze Kuja wrote:
Smallfoot wrote:

Just a word of caution: You've got a Large Great Axe and Vital Strike. That means 6d6+8 for a Vital Strike (29hp average). A normal critical hit will be 9d6+24 (55hp avg) and a Vital Strike critical of 12d6+24. All without adding Power Attack.

That Siphoned from the Living ability will keep these beasties in the fight longer than their base hp would imply. Do you really want them to heal 1d8 every time they hit with the great axe? Healing from the Channel could pretty much amount to pressing the reset button as far as their damage is concerned.

Most level 7 full casters with d6 health are going to probably only have 25-35 HP anyway. 7x3.5 = 24.5 without a Con bonus or Toughness. That thing is going to one shot them with a single Vital Strike.
It's worse than that. As a CR7 foe, this is supposed to be a tough but winnable fight for a 5th-level party. At 5th level, even the d10 full BAB types are going to be around 50hp. A critical hit could take out a PC on the first shot and kill them outright if they're already wounded. Also, I left off the d8 of negative energy damage, so increase all the average damage estimates by 4.5.

Yeah, that's crazy. Tbh, I'd take Vital Strike away from them, and then reduce the Negative Energy damage to 1d4. You're still going to do 3d6+8 + 1d4 damage, which is an avg of 17.5 + 2.5 = 20 damage per strike, and may the gods be with the PCs if he crits because Great Axe is x3 damage. A lvl7 Barbarian with 16 Con would have 7x6.5 = 45.5 health, plus a Con mod while Raging of 5 would be 35HP, so 70.5 health while raging. One crit from that guy is going to be 60 damage on average... so... yeah.

You might think about changing their weapon to a 19-20/x2 weapon instead of a x3 weapon just because of that. That's an instant player death if he crits.


I'm going to have to disagree with you guys on vital strike and damage potential. Its vital strike averages 33.5 damage, which is pretty close to guidelines for one turn worth of damage for a CR 7 monster. The feat allows it to get that damage off with a standard, which is very nice for it and gives it something comparable to pounce in terms of its overall DPR potential when moving. It's a strong ability, but not unreasonable for its CR. It's less dangerous than pouncing monsters like Lions or Tigers. As far as critical hits go, that's just the reality of high critical multipliers and is true for any monster or NPC with such weapons. Swapping out the weapons is ideal if you'd prefer not to live dangerously, but this particular risk factor is just part of the game system and not inherently a balance issue.

If there's an issue here it's more a matter of encounter design. High-damage / low durability monsters that don't need to be adjacent to full-attack are inherently volatile, and in some respects are similar to monsters with save-or-lose SLA's (of which there are several nasty CR 7 ones, I might add). They can swing combat quite substantially when they get good rolls. When designing an encounter you don't want to create a situation where a high initiative roll and a good damage roll can start a snowball, so this monster is dangerous to use as a solo-encounter. Glass cannon monsters are a legitimately useful tool in a GM's kit if used correctly. That high damage can be critical to giving the feeling of immediate danger to individual PC's even when the encounter itself is statistically safe to the party as a whole. I find glass cannons particularly useful as mooks against higher-level PC's, as their high damage output means it's riskier to ignore them, while that lower HP total makes them easier to clean up.


Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

Observations:

  • Baleful Scream People have nailed Baleful Scream's issues above. I'd even consider reducing the panicked on a failed save to 1 round only. 1 round of panicked typically costs a PC 2 rounds of being in the fight: one spent running away and one spent running back. And this is on top of the serious damage.
  • Defenses I think you're at a good balance point on defenses for a bruiser. The low HP is more than offset by higher than average AC and the inclusion of DR. The saves are on the lower side, but considering its extensive immunities this isn't really much of a weakness. This isn't a glass cannon monster.
  • Offenses +13/+8 (23 avg damage) is spot on to where an average bruiser should be for CR7. I would not give it power attack on top unless I wanted it to be punching above its weight class, but I think vital strike is perfectly fair to make it a more mobile threat.
  • Siphoned from the Living This ability grants some incredible staying power, especially when combined with its ability to swift-action heal itself. This gets it 2 HP on average back every time it makes a melee attack, plus a big glob of HP when it uses its baleful scream. I'd change Siphoned from the Living to ONLY work in conjunction with its ability to Channel Energy. This gives the creature two modes of attack: big melee swings but less self healing, and weaker but AoE attack with more self healing.
  • Necrotic Touch If the enemy survives 4 rounds, this swift action self heal is effectively worth another 56 HP! Thats a heck of a lot considering that its defenses are already pretty reasonable. Since it has another way to heal already, I'd consider removing the swift action self-heal entirely, or maybe changing it to standard action only?

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