Thursday, February 25, 2016

Top 6: Protean, Anomiak by Gabriel Almer

Strings of ever-shifting symbols run across this serpentine creature's scales and disappear in a flash as they converge at its horned iguana head.


Protean, Anomiak CR 5
XP 1,600
CN Medium outsider (chaotic, extraplanar, protean)
Init +4; Senses blindsense 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft., detect law; Perception +13
Aura entropic cipher (30 ft., DC 15)

DEFENSE
AC 18, touch 14, flat-footed 14 (+4 Dex, +4 natural)
hp 51 (6d10+18), fast healing 5
Fort +5, Ref +9, Will +7, +4 vs. language-dependent effects
Defensive Abilities amorphous anatomy, freedom of movement; Immune acid, polymorph; Resist electricity 10, sonic 10; SR 16

OFFENSE
Speed 30 ft., fly 30 ft. (perfect)
Melee 2 claws +9 (1d4+3) and gore +9 (1d6+3) or tongue +9 touch (glossolalia)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft. (15 ft. with tongue)
Special Attacks devilbane, unravel
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 6th; concentration +8)
Constant—detect lawtongues
3/day—dimension door (self plus 50 lbs. of objects only), erase
1/day—divination

STATISTICS
Str 16, Dex 19, Con 16, Int 11, Wis 14, Cha 15
Base Atk +6; CMB +9; CMD 23 (cannot be tripped)
Feats Alertness, Combat Reflexes, Lunge
Skills Bluff +11, Knowledge (planes) +9, Linguistics +9, Perception +13; Sense Motive +13, Stealth +13
Languages Infernal, Protean; tongues
SQ sound mimicry (sounds and voices)

ECOLOGY
Environment any (Limbo)
Organization solitary, pair, or babble (3–6 plus 1–2 naunets and 1 imentesh)
Treasure standard

SPECIAL ABILITIES
Devilbane (Ex) An anomiak's natural attacks deal an extra 2d6 points of damage against creatures with the devil subtype and automatically bypass any DR these creatures might possess.
Entropic Cipher (Su) An anomiak's aura transforms all mundane or magical writings within 30 feet into incomprehensible scribbling. This cipher functions similarly to an illusory script (Will DC 15, CL 6th) concealing the original writing, except that any attempt to read the cipher triggers a lesser confusion effect on a failed save (in place of suggestion). Enciphered writing becomes readable again after 24 hours. Magical items and attended objects receive a DC 15 Will saving throw to resist the aura's effect. Any object that succeeds on its save but remains in the aura must continue to save each round on the anomiak's turn. Save DCs are Charisma-based.
Glossolalia (Su) Curse—tongue; save Will DC 15; onset immediate; frequency 1/day; effect victim loses its ability to speak or use telepathy (if any) and can only babble incoherently, as if affected by fumbletongueUMcure 1 save. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Tongue (Ex) An anomiak can make a touch attack with its tongue that causes glossolalia. This attack has a reach of 15 feet.
Unravel (Su) Whenever an anomiak successfully erases a mundane or magical writing, the nascent energies explode into a warpwave (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary 2 213) affecting all creatures in a 5-foot-radius burst (Reflex DC 15 negates). The save DC is Charisma-based.

When devils succumb to the entropic energies of Limbo, the plane absorbs their fiendish essence and gives birth to a new sub-race of proteans known as anomiaks. Released from an eternity of servitude to Hell, these strange creatures obsess about overthrowing infernal rule. Often treated as neophytes by other proteans, anomiaks make up for their lack of shapeshifting abilities with the uncanny power to distort language, subvert logic, and dissolve contracts, allowing them to unravel the foundations of Hell itself. Left to their own devices, anomiaks playfully combine sounds and syllables into new words and phrases that mortals find impossible to pronounce, let alone comprehend. Some scholars speculate that the multiverse itself speaks through their seemingly erratic ramblings.

Anomiaks sometimes share physical features with devilkind, such as bat wings or cloven hooves, as if to mock their infernal origin.



Jacob W. Michaels

Congratulations to the Top 6 monster designers; we had a lot of great entries, but these rose to the top. For my comments, I'm including what were, for the most part, my stream of conscious thoughts as I read each monster (edited slightly for public consumption).

A search on the name seems to be completely made up. Description's good. The rest of the write-up on the other hand is excellent. Love that we finally got a non-devil (NOTE: this was the first non-devil that was submitted to the contest). And I really love the idea of "the uncanny power to distort language, subvert logic, and dissolve contracts, allowing them to unravel the foundations of Hell itself." That's playing with what we wanted to see in this contest, without a doubt. I get some idea how to use these things, and I think it'd be a lot of fun to run one of these and make up words like strategery.

Template use looks pretty good. It's missing the constrict and grab special attacks that proteans are supposed to have, as well as change shape, though the latter is called out in the write-up. These things are pretty tough -- they line up with the standard numbers for CR but also have fast healing 5 and SR. That said, if they're anti-devil, I think it's possible they'd end up as tenuous allies for a typical party, instead of definitely a threat to be fought.

Devilbane's a fine, thematic power though not likely to come into effect for most PCs. I'd have liked to see it maybe extended to devil-born tieflings, infernal bloodline characters and others with some sort of link to Hell (like the legalistic oracle curse).

Entropic cipher on the other hand could really mess with players who use scrolls. Fun power. Makes me want to go look at the infernal contract article in the recent Hell's Rebels path to see how they would interact.

Glossolalia is fun too. It could get annoying (there's a reason "mute" is not given as an oracle curse intended for PCs), but it's not a super high save DC and you get to make it again every day.

Warpwave's again fitting (though you can't use page numbers for Paizo books unless you're writing for Paizo).

Mike Welham

Congratulations on making the Top 6! I'm just going to jump into the monster and give my feedback.

The description gives me a great idea of what to expect with this monster. It only covers one sense, but it does so in a very evocative way. Proteans are always CN, and the shifting symbols back up the chaotic nature of the creature.

The stat block looks clean. Its save bonuses, attack bonuses, damage, and save DCs conform to the CR. I appreciate that the damage skews toward the low end, since this is not a martial creature. It does extra damage against devils, of course, but that doesn't typically affect PCs. The spell-like abilities fit the creature's concept. It has the typical abilities for a creature with the protean subtype, except for grab, constrict, and change shape, but not all proteans have all protean abilities (because they're so chaotic, evidently). You also reference their lack of shapeshifting to fit them into protean "society".

The special abilities are where the anomiak really shines. They all fit thematically and they have some cool and unusual effects. I really like the idea that their chaotic nature makes them a living Tower of Babel. Having its erase trigger a warpwave is a terrific choice.

Their origin works very well for me, and I like that they become obsessed about defeating their former kin. Devilbane and their subverting of words and text make them truly formidable foes for devils, but they also make terrifying encounters for non-devils (especially spellcasters).

This was my personal favorite submission of the bunch.

Mikko Kallio

Thanks for submitting a monster, and congratulations on making the Top 6! Below are some comments on your entry.

The description is evocative and gives me a pretty good idea of what the creature looks like.

The stat block looks correctly formatted except for the semi-colon in Skills, and the comma before fast healing should be a semi-colon. I also noticed that the em dash in 1/day—divination is italicized, which makes it look slightly different from the other em dashes. That is a very small mistake, but since your formatting is already almost perfect, I wanted to mention it so you can make your stat block formatting even better in future entries you write. Also, it's often the smallest mistakes that are the easiest to miss in development.

Its stats seem appropriate for a protean that opposes devils, language, and logic. I like it that it has Combat Reflexes and Lunge as they make the creature more interesting to fight than just giving it +X feats. I also very much like it that it's a tongue attack that causes glossolalia; there is some delicious irony in that.

I think it's uncommon for the Organization line to list stronger creatures as a "plus". Usually it's minions, I think. Besides, no other types of proteans seem to form groups with proteans from different castes, so I think it's quite un-protean-like for the anomiaks to band together with naunets and imenteshes. At any rate, babble is a great name for a group of these creatures.

Devilbane seems appropriate, but I'm not entirely convinced that it should be an Ex ability. A naunet's very similar adaptive strike, for example, is a Su ability.

Entropic cipher is a very evocative and thematically appropriate ability. It probably won't have a major effect in a combat encounter, because scrolls are the only type of writing the PCs (or devils) are likely to use during a fight. After the fight, of course, it's going to inconvenience the party if the wizard tries to use his spellbook.

Glossolalia, on the other hand, is likely to make life more "interesting" for spellcasters, and even if a PC doesn't rely on words to use her abilities, it's going to cause interesting RP in the party. (Anybody remember Haley Starshine from the OotS?)

Unravel is another evocative and thematically appropriate ability, and an interesting variation on how the warpwave is triggered. However, I'd probably make it a Fort save because you're trying to resist a transformation.

I think you chose the concept for the monster very well. Most of the entries we received were either denizens of Hell and/or allies of Hell, and I really like it that you didn't pick the most obvious option. However, I'm not entirely convinced that a protean--a being of purest chaos--could form from something lawful like devils.

The entry describes their goals pretty well, but I'd probably include something that a GM could use as plot hooks or encounter ideas with a normal party of PCs. Maybe these proteans oppose any creatures that carry books or scrolls (maybe they can even smell paper or papyrus from afar?). These creatures could also potentially be temporary allies for PCs who are also enemies of Hell. Giving them a dual role as potential enemies and allies of PCs would make them a lot more useful for GMs than a creature that only attacks devils and cares little about anything else.

A monster entry should include the creature's weight and height/length, by the way.

Despite the minor flaws, this was one of the most polished entries we received this year.

Adam Daigle

Congratulations on being selected for the top six monsters! Monster contests are a blast, so I hope you had fun coming up with this cool critter. When judging, I’m not going to focus too much on the mechanics and making sure it hits all the numbers on Table 1–1 in the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary (because I’m sure one of the other judges will cover that). Instead, I’m just giving my gut opinions on the monster and focusing on the style and formatting. With that said, on to the comments!

I admit I wasn’t expecting a protean in this batch of monsters related to or associated with Hell. Points for thinking about the theme in a different way.

For the most part, your statblock is pretty clean. The only formatting error that jumped out was that you didn’t move the second option melee attack to the next line and indent it.

I like the special abilities you gave the creature. The devilbane ability is crucial for this protean to even be considered matching the rules for the contest, but the good stuff comes from entropic cipher and glossolalia. Those are fun abilities and I like that they work to give the creature a way to mess with the spoken and written word.

I’m concerned that giving a CR 5 protean a warpwave ability is a bit too much. If the CR 7 naunet protean doesn’t have a way to make a warpwave happen, I don’t think that a CR 5 protean should be able to.

Somewhat related, I’m curious why you didn’t give this protean change shape? While not every creature has to have every ability listed in the subtype, change shape seems like something every protean should have. The CR 2 voidworm even has it. I know that it’s written that its ability to mess with language is to compensate, but I don’t see that as a trade off. It could have both abilities and still fit the listed CR.

This is a fun monster and it was unexpected, though I’m not entirely sold on its fascination with killing devils and overthrowing infernal rule. This is certainly a good effort.

5 comments :

  1. Congrats Gabriel! This is a cool protean! I'll refrain from further comment, because the judges already hit the salient points, but I'm glad to see someone else had the same ideas to mess with written words!!

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  2. Scott 'Curaigh' JankeFebruary 25, 2016 at 7:02 PM

    Very cool, especially the entropic cipher. Nice work with a protean/chaos angle too!

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  3. Good concept. If I used this in my game, then I would take it farther.

    a) Twist writing permanently with a touch. Subtly alters the meaning of contracts, laws and communication. Introduces random curses or other twists into writing-based magic items (with a random table). The spells in spellbooks and scrolls could be twisted with a touch, with another random table of alterations (some of which might be useful).

    b) If target is affected by glossolalia for three consecutive days, then they forget how to speak a random language, and must learn it again as if it were a foreign language.

    Word limits in a contest make this unfeasible, of course.

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  4. Now that the contest has finished, I thought I'd share some thoughts about this creature. I'm really grateful for all the helpful critiques and comments.

    Concept: The fallen angel is a classic theme, but what would a corrupt devil look like? What would be a devil's greatest fear? Twisting language (including legal contracts) seemed like an ideal choice. Sure, other lawful creatures (archeons, inevitables) would find that notion equally horrifying, but to them, laws serve a higher cause, whereas devils use the letter of the law as a means to control and enslave other creatures. Without intelligible speech, Hell would fall into anarchy.
    I was unsure about challenge rating. I guess I could have made the creature on par with more powerful devils (like the Phistophilus), but the comparatively low CR puts it in a good spot as an 'unlikely ally' for PCs and it doesn't play down the threat of Hell (which is always a possible danger with a concept like this). Furthermore, looking at the proteans published in the Bestiary, CR 5 seemed like an empty spot.
    Visually, I imagined these creatures as upright walking chameleons (representing their changeable and chaotic nature and foreshadowing the tongue attack). The proteans' embodiment of the twin aspects of creation and destruction is reflected in its various abilities to manipulate language.

    Name: I might have outsmarted myself here. The name is related to anomia, the ancient Greek term for a state of lawlessness (as it turns out, anomic aphasia is also a medical term for a speech and language disorder, which made this doubly fitting). I thought this kind of linguistic bastardization would be appropriate to name a creature that warps language. Probably too subtle?

    Abilities: In hindsight, including the warpwave seems like a misstep, even if the value of this ability is situational. For a CR 5 creature, I probably should have used a damaging blast effect (sonic seems like the best fit, and it synergizes well with the protean's resistances).
    I couldn't think of a way to include shapechange that would help to reinforce the creature's concept, so I removed that ability (I attributed the constrict and grab abilities to the proteans morphic bodies, so I removed them as well). Proteans are manifestations of Chaos—why should they conform in all respects? That being said, it wouldn't hurt to give the creature beast shape and have it appear as a fiendish version of the animal.
    I would also change the frequency of glossolalia to 1/hour or 1/minute, so it becomes less of a hassle for players who don't enjoy speaking in tongues. Originally, I had planned for the curse to grant some beneficial prophetic abilities as well (in religion, speaking in tongues is a sign of being touched by a higher power), but that would have made the ability unnecessarily complex.

    Thanks to everyone who voted for the anomiak!

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