Monday, December 5, 2016

HBM3 Top 5: Eon-Scarred Probe by Jeremy Corff

Hovering silently in the air, this construct is composed of three broad segmented tentacles connected to a central orb with a flickering red gem in the center. The limbs writhe and twitch to some unknown song, and it has an air of unimaginable age.

Eon-Scarred Probe CR 10
XP 9,600
N Medium Construct (robot)
Init +6; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception + 10

AC 23, touch 13, flat-footed 20 (+2 Dex, +1 dodge, +10 natural)
131 (13d10+20 plus 40 hp force field)
+4, Ref +6, Will +10
Defensive Abilities hardness 10; Immune construct traits; Resist acid 10, cold 10, fire 10
Weaknesses vulnerable to critical hits and electricity

Speed 10 ft., fly 60 ft. (perfect)
Melee 3 slams +20 (1d6+ 6)
Special Attacks binary laser array, song of alien stars

Str 22, Dex 15, Con --, Int 8, Wis 19, Cha 1
Base Atk +13; CMB +19 (can’t be tripped )
Feats Alertness, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Weapon Focus Slam, Hover, Wingover
Skills Fly +15, Knowledge (history) +5, Linguistics +7, Perception +10
Languages Aklo
SQ self repair

Environment any
Organization solitary
Treasure none

Binary Laser Array (Ex): As a full round action, a probe can beam a message from its laser array once every 1d4 rounds. The beam always starts at an intersection adjacent to the probe and extends in the direction of the probe's choice. The beam is a 200ft line that deals 12d6 fire damage. Those caught in the line can attempt a DC18 Reflex save to take half damage. Invisible creatures are immune to damage caused by the laser array.

Force Field (Ex) An eon-scarred probe is sheathed in a layer of shimmering energy that grants it 40 bonus hit points. All damage dealt to a probe with an active force field is reduced from these hit points first. As long as the force field is active, the probe is immune to critical hits. A probe’s force field has fast healing 10, but once its hit points are reduced to 0, the force field shuts down and does not reactivate for 24 hours.

Self-Repair (Ex) A probe’s nanites heal it of damage at the rate of 10 hit points per hour. Once per day, as a full-round action, it can heal itself of 60 points of damage.

Song of Alien Stars (Ex) As a move action, an eon-scarred probe can emit a barrage of scrambled psychic impressions. All creatures other than probe within 60 feet must succeed on a DC 15 Will save or be confused for 1 round as they experience garbled fragments of alien life and culture. This is a mind-affecting effect. Once a probe begins its song it can maintain it as a free action every round, necessitating another save for all creatures within the range.

Eon-scarred probes are first contact robots sent forth by their long forgotten creators millenia ago to travel the cosmos and find alien life. Originally built to find sentients and communicate the culture of their progenitors via their laser array and pre-recorded psychic messages, unfortunately millions of years, travel through the expanse of space, and exposure to forces unimagined by their makers have left the probes warped. They still seek out sentient life to make first contact, but the recordings have long since become mind jarring gibberish and the laser array is extremely ill suited for communicating with organic life. Invariably the sentients either defend themselves from the hazardous attempts at communication, or flee the inexorable pursuit of the robot only to be tracked down and 'contacted' into oblivion. Once the probe has finished it departs and resumes its search.


I’m going to be going over these monsters as if I was doing a quick development pass on them to note what is strong in the entry and what I’d need to address for a full development of the monster. This is usually the first step I take when developing a monster. I start with the descriptive text at the top of the statblock and then read the flavor text at the bottom before I go through the actual statblock. Then I do a quick look to see if it’s hitting the numbers it needs to in regards to table 1:1 in the Bestiary. After that I check out the special abilities and feats and skills and see how they all work with one another.

The descriptive text make this sound like an eerie and strange robot. I'd like to see art of this thing.

The monster’s numbers are about where they should be for a CR 10 creature. Its melee damage is low, but it makes up for it with the lasers.

The formatting for the force field isn’t standard.

I like the idea of a robot that has been transformed over time. I like that it is off model, but it still tries to do what it was intended to do.

Song of alien stars is a cool ability, but you didn’t call out what the save DC is based on. That ability has a chance to mess with the PCs, but thankfully the save DC is low.

The self-repair ability is a good thing to add and it helps support the idea that these things have been out in the void of space for a long time, but are still ticking.

The lasers and force field ability are fine. There’s a little bit of the language that could be tightened up, though. All in all, this is a pretty solid robot.

Congratulations on making the Top 5! Here’s some feedback on your monster.

The name is very good: It’s both descriptive and evocative. The description gives a pretty good idea of what the creature looks like. However, there are a few things that could be improved. Instead of “is composed of”, I’d recommend a more dynamic and evocative verb, e.g. you could describe how the limbs “protrude” or “emerge” from the body. “Air of unimaginable age” suggests it looks or seems ancient, but ideally, the description should “show” why it looks ancient (countless welded seams crisscross its slightly bent, time-worn armor plates?) rather than just “tell” us it is so. In other words, because the description should be usable as read-aloud text, “show, don’t tell”.

The stat block looks mostly ok, but there are a few formatting errors. “Construct” should be lowercase. There are extra spaces here and there (e.g. Perception + 10). The force field is incorrectly formatted. Robots in Bestiary 5 seem to have the vulnerabilities formatted in a different way. Em dash should be used in “Con --”. Weapon Focus should have parentheses around “slam”. Hover should be listed immediately after Dodge.
As for the special abilities, binary laser array shouldn’t have a colon after (Ex). A hyphen is missing from full-round action. Although the “messages” the robot sends are explained in the write-up, it’s a bit confusing that the attack is called a message in the ability description. Line-shaped attacks are described in the CRB, so mentioning that the beam starts at an intersection, etc. isn’t necessary. “200ft line” needs some punctuation. The robot subtype entry in Bestiary 5 mentions that invisible creatures are immune to lasers, so that’s redundant information. I like it that the laser is line-shaped, but otherwise, it’s mechanically a very basic ability.

The force field ability is also explained in the subtype entry, so it’s probably unnecessary to repeat all that information in the monster entry. Self repair makes sense for it to have (otherwise it would have been destroyed eons ago). The song is a fun ability that the players won’t see coming. Requiring a new save every round means a lot of rolling, but on the other hand, it’s more merciful than making a PC confused for 5 or more rounds on a failed save. Anyway, while I like the ability because it makes this robot different from other robots, mechanically it’s basically just a “Spell in a Can”. I would prefer to see a bit more innovation in the special abilities of a monster.

The write-up quite succinctly tells everything I’d need to know about the monster as a GM. Along with the monster’s name, the background and flavor are my favorite parts of this monster. (By the way, “millenia” is misspelled, one n is missing. Using a spell-checker is recommended!)

While I find the monster’s special abilities a bit too conservative, a bit too safe for a contest where you want to show off your skills, overall, I think the eon-scarred probe is a very well-written monster with a great name and some excellent flavor. Thanks for submitting this monster!

First of all, Jeremy, welcome to Here Be Monster's Top 5, and congratulations.

I love the concept of this monster, turning the concept of a friendly communications probe into a dangerous encounter. While it's somewhat of a one-note monster — in that it's meant to fight and isn't really going to have a dialog with a PC or plan some devious, larger encounter — I think it doesn't feel that way because of its "motivation" (and a good GM could certainly use it as a forebear to something later in a campaign, though at its CR that might not be as much of an option). The write-up is strong and gives GMs enough information to run this, and I love the prhase " 'contacted' into oblivion." I chuckled about that all day after I saw it.

Looking at some other facets of the monster, I think you've got an evocative name, with "eon-scarred" really pushing the imagination (though I suppose one could quibble over how characters would know something is scarred by eons as opposed to a random encounter with a dragon or somesuch). 

I was excited about getting a robot as I think there's a long history of tech in fantasy gaming (my earliest memory of gaming was " Expedition to Barrier Peaks"). Stat-wise, I do wonder whether it maybe has too much staying power for its CR with the force field and hardness, but that's mostly standard for robots, and is balanced a bit by the damage from its slams coming in below expected for its CR.

I understand Mikko's concern about nothing really innovative in the stat block but I think this is one of those rare exceptions to the rule of monster creation, in which you can use mostly basic abilities and have them work (that said, I would have loved if the message beam had some sort of linguistic-related kicker to the damage, or something along those lines. Even just a distraction effect might have worked). I think that was probably the biggest missed opportunity here.

Hi Jeremy, and welcome to the top 5! When I read the eon-scarred probe, I thought of the original series of Star Trek. This seemed like hybrid of Nomad and the alien probe from The Voyage Home. You may have had an entirely different set of touchpoints for this creation, though. At any rate, you kept to the “beyond the stars” theme, and I could envision the probe showing up from some faraway world and attempting to contact victims into oblivion. It’s inherently alien, since it is literally incomprehensible to those it attempts to communicate with.

The stat block is relatively clean. We didn’t receive a perfect stat block in any entry, so I tried not to downgrade my opinion unless the stat block was egregiously bad. Construct shouldn’t be capitalized, you’re missing the CMD, the feats have a couple of missteps—it should be Weapon Focus (slam), and the feats aren’t in alphabetical order, and giving it Linguistics requires you to add languages to the Languages section. The force field hp tripped me up, but I’m not familiar with a robot stat block. Once I consulted the Technology Guide, I saw that the format matched yours.

The special abilities are appropriately thematic, and I could see the probe attempting to send a focused message with its laser array and then trying to broadcast a message. I like that you took invisibility into account for the laser (which looks like a standard feature of laser weapons). The save DCs need to list the attribute they are based on. Looking at the numbers, it seems binary laser array is Dex-based and Song of Alien Stars is Int-based. I would have preferred the typical Con-based and Cha-based save DCs for these, and I believe you could bump up the probe’s Charisma, since it has a force of personality. A Con-based save DC would have set it to 16, but you could add a +2 racial bonus to get the DC up to 18.

While the special abilities don’t have a great deal of innovation, the write up and choices you made (robot is perfect for this creature, and the special abilities support the creature’s background) make this monster much greater than the sum of its parts.

Good luck in the voting!



  1. Congratulations, Jeremy! This monster kind of reminds me of Vel'Koz from League of Legends and robots from Fallout, but you've made it in a way that would really fit into Pathfinder.

    The abilities combine well and make for a fun fight, but more importantly I can see players really wanting to figure out what the Probe is trying to communicate, if they can figure out a way to survive communication (such as becoming invisible or getting fire immunity), since it's unlikely the probe will switch to using slams if it's not being attacked back.
    That makes me want to put it into a game, or see it in a game myself.

  2. I think it's neat that invisible creatures are immune to the laser. I like the concept behind the song, but think the DC is too low for the CR, even if there is no limit to how long it lasts. As a GM, I would keep this guy out of sight to annoy the party while they deal with another encounter.

  3. Congrats Jeremy.
    I liked this one a lot. Some of my quibbles were already discussed by the judges.
    One thing that struck me, is that although this is a robot, it doesn't appear to be a robot that can be created. It seems that these started out as something else, and for each one to have 'evolved' exactly the same way over millions of years is a stretch for me. It would be great as a unique monster, but not something you'd ever run into more than once.

  4. You've got the strongest monster name of the lot. I had a pretty good idea of what I was about to read just off the title alone, which I think is particularly hard to achieve. Well done!

    I'm not sold on the "message" part of the laser array. Reading the description paragraph, I like its intended use, but don't buy that the long years would have made the laser more dangerous. Maybe it was intended to inscribe a message on stone or something, that would make sense to me.

    Neat Force Field idea.

    Self Repair seems like a neat idea, I like that it has meaning inside of combat and out of combat.

    Song of Alien Stars is cool, but I think it could be really chilling with some rewording.

    I think you could have played up the mysterious origins of the probe to great effect, without being too specific.

    Overall, a really neat concept.

  5. I like the "misunderstanding" part of this, since it alone seems to be earnest in attempts for peace. However, leaves a few questions: Why was it created to be that powerful, and what happened to their creators? If someone created those robots, then suddenly their world is very interesting.


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