Monday, November 28, 2016

Here Be Monsters 3: From Beyond the Stars observations

It's always interesting to see how people interpret themes, as oftentimes game designers find themselves mining similar territory for their creations. It's a trait we've seen many times in Paizo's RPG Superstar, and it holds just as true in this contest.

In this case, we noticed a few similar features in many of the monsters submitted: tentacles and eyes (or lack thereof). For what it's worth, having one of these commonalities didn't hurt a monster's chance to make the Top 5 -- at least one monster with one or more of these features made the cut.

Nearly a quarter (7) of the submitted monsters had tentacles of some sort. I feel like we can thank the Cthulhu mythology for that, though that's mostly a guess: The tentacled monsters in this competition weren't all Cthulhu-esque and actually seemed to mine a wide range of inspirations.

We also thought we noticed a trend toward monsters with just a single eye, leading to the quip that in space, no one needs depth perception. Crunching the numbers for this blog post, though, it turned out that it was a little less of a trend than we thought as we were going through them: It turned out only four creatures had a central orb. (I think, as happens with Superstar voting to winnow down the magic items, sometimes you feel like you see something and just become hyper-aware of it, leading to the perception that thing is occurring more often than it does.)

Finally, we also had a similar commonality with naming: "Void" was a popular choice, with four monsters submitted with some variation of it in the name. "Star" came in second place, appearing in three monsters' names.

Here Be Monsters 3: From Beyond the Stars stats

One of the things the Swords for Hire crew really enjoys about running contests is seeing what kind of entries we'll get. While the first Here Be Monsters had a more wide-open theme (contestants were asked to pick a monster from a fan wish list for the not-yet-published Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 5 on the Paizo forums), the second (Hell Breaks Loose) and third contests have had a more unifying theme. That's seen competitors tend to focus on similar areas in their designs, though there's still plenty of variation.

Creature types

Of the 26 monsters submitted for From Beyond the Stars, nearly half (11) were aberrations (which probably isn't surprising as the theme almost screams aberration). Outsiders (5) took up the No. 2 position, while we also had a scattering of constructs (3), monstrous humanoids (2) and oozes (2). A single fey, humanoid and undead were also submitted, but we received no animals, dragons, magical beasts, plants, or vermin.

The subtypes were pretty limited; one of the constructs had the robot subtype, a couple of the outsiders carried the phantom subtype, and we had one incorporeal and a couple shapechanger monsters, but there were no swarms or troops in this year's submissions. Edited to add: I realized as I was going through the entries again that there was in fact a swarm; my apologies.

Challenge rating

The (mean) average CR of the submitted monsters was 8.15, while the median average is 7 (I think; I don't have much call to do math anymore, so I'm operating from memory here, folks).

The lowest CR we received was 3, while our high submission was 18.


Seven of the nine possible alignments were represented, with the consensus apparently being that space creatures are neither chaotic good nor lawful neutral.

Twelve of the monsters were evil, with three of those chaotic evil, one lawful evil and the rest (8) neutral evil.

Two monsters were good, one of them lawful good, the other neutral good.

The remaining monsters were neutral, three of them chaotic neutral, and nine of them true neutral.

For those of you who, like Mikko, prefer to see your alignments in tables, here are the same statistics:



Kiel asked in the comments about the sizes of the entries: They were all 590-610 words, as required in the rules. Wait, what? Oh, wrong type of size. (See, I like bad jokes...)

The monsters ranged from Fine to Huge, though most of them (11) were Medium. Six creatures were Small, while five were Huge, four were Large, and one was Fine.

And, yes, for those of you who note the oddity in that set of statistics, those numbers are in fact doublechecked and are correct.


We'll have some more details on the contest entries in the next couple days, taking a fun look at some of the areas we saw some parallel design from our competitors.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Here Be Monsters 3: From Beyond the Stars begins NOW

Look to the skies, for there are monsters coming!

Here Be Monsters III: From Beyond the Stars, the third season of the annual Pathfinder RPG monster design contest from Swords for Hire Development, begins Nov. 9!

We're calling on game designers to create a single monster with the theme "From Beyond the Stars" —Cthulhu-ian horrors, alien aberrations, despotic robot invaders or whatever your mind may envision. Entries will be judged by the Swords for Hire team, consisting of Paizo contributor Mikko Kallio, accomplished freelancer Jacob W. Michaels, and RPG Superstar Mike Welham.

The Top 5 entries will go on to be judged by special guest judge Adam Daigle, a Paizo developer who has designed and developed hundreds of Pathfinder monsters, before going on to a public vote to determine the grand winner.

In addition to invaluable feedback from Adam and the other judges, the Top 5 contestants will each receive copies of Swords for Hire's Villain Codex I: Foes for Fledgling Heroes and Villain Codex II: Adversaries for Advanced Heroes, published by Outland Entertainment; as well as any one PDF of a Legendary Games monsters product (Mythic Monsters or Beasts of Legend). 

The grand prize winner will receive even more stuff! Our generous Third Party Publisher sponsors have agreed to provide the following:
  • Legendary Games:  A signed Mythic Monster Manual .
  • Rusted Iron Games: PDFs of the Spooky Gardens: Autumn Special and Frozen Gardens: Winter Special.
  • Zenith Games: A PDF copy of the Colossal Creatures Bestiary.
  • And finally artist Hugo Solis has agreed to provide a large color illustration of the winning monster.
  • Also, special thanks to sponsor Tommi Salama, who has again provided Here Be Monsters' contest logo.


  • Nov. 9: The contest begins NOW!  
  • Nov. 26: Submissions are closed at 2 p.m. Pacific standard time. Our judges (Mikko Kallio, Jacob W Michaels, and Mike Welham) convene to determine the top 5.
  • Dec. 7: The top 5 entries are revealed along with comments from Adam, Mikko, Jacob, and Mike. Public voting begins.
  • Dec. 14: The voting ends and the winner is revealed shortly after!

Contest Rules

Contest entries must adhere to the following rules.
  • Your monster must be 590-610 words.
  • Each entrant may submit one monster.
  • Your monster must be designed for the Pathfinder RPG, and you must use the monster template (you can find it here for Microsoft Word or Open Office).
  • PLEASE send your monster in the BODY of an email, not as an attachment; .docx files especially are problematic as my word processor strips random spaces out of them, which makes it look like errors in your monster.
  • Your monster entry must be appropriate for the contest theme "From Beyond the Stars." (See the FAQ below for more details.)
  • Your monster may not have class levels or templates.
  • Your monster must be setting-neutral.
  • Your monster's CR must be at least 1 and may not be higher than 20. Please note that you only have 600 words, and higher-CR monsters may eat up all your words with describing special abilities, which could leave you limited space for describing it.
  • Your monster may use feats, spells, and other resources available in Paizo's Pathfinder PRD. Your monster may not, however, have mythic ranks.
  • You must submit your monster via email to before the deadline 2 p.m. PST Nov. 26. Include the monster's name in the subject line of the email.

Additional Judging Criteria

Following the guidelines presented below maximizes your chances of winning.
  • Your monster's concept is something new and creative or puts an interesting spin on a classic theme.
  • Your monster's name and read-aloud text are evocative.
  • Your monster's stat block is correctly formatted. Use any recent Pathfinder RPG bestiary product published by Paizo as your style guide.
  • Your monster's statistics are balanced against other creatures of the same CR. Refer to the Monster Creation chapter in the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary for instructions.
  • Your monster has interesting new special abilities with reasonably simple and elegant mechanics.
  • Your monster entry includes compelling lore about the monster which helps GMs use the monster in adventures and campaigns.

Frequently Asked/Anticipated Questions

Q: Who's allowed to submit a monster?
A: Anyone! It doesn't matter if you've never made a monster before or if you're a well-known builder of beasts—you're eligible to enter. Also, the contest is international, so you're eligible to enter regardless of your location (PLEASE NOTE: International competitors may need to pay shipping costs for any print products they win in the contest).

Q: What kind of monsters are you looking for?
A: How you interpret the From Beyond the Stars theme is up to you; consider Iron Gods, Strange Aeons, and what is known about Starfinder at this point good sources for inspiration, though of course, the mechanics should be compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the monsters should be setting-neutral, as mentioned in the rules (and below).

You may also get some insight from the judges' comments on previous monsters, which you can find right here on A Sword for Hire. Mikko, Jacob, Mike W. and Adam all judged the top contenders of Here Be Monsters 2,  while the original contest (you can find it in September 2014 in the older posts sidebar on the right side of the blog) featured Mikko and Jacob along with Mike Kimmel and Sean K. Reynolds as the judges.

Q: Can I set the monster in Golarion or another campaign setting?
A: No. We do not have the rights to use anyone's intellectual property. Monsters should be developed to be setting neutral. 

Remember that Lovecraft's works are in the public domain, so references to mi-go or the starspawn of Cthulhu are fine, but references to creatures like Stargate SG-1's replicators are NOT.

Q: Where will my monster be published/shown?
A: The top 5 monsters will be revealed on Mikko Kallio's A Sword for Hire blog.

Q: Do I get to see the judges' comments if I don't make the Top 5?
A: Only comments on the Top 5 monsters will be revealed; Jacob typically offers to share his comments with any contestant who asks (this will happen AFTER the winner is revealed so as to not detract attention from the Top 5). Other judges may make the same offer.

Q: What happens with my monster after the contest?
A: We'll be using hold monster spells to keep your monsters contained for judging, but afterward we'll be releasing them back in to the wild (i.e. you keep all rights to your creations).
A Sword for Hire