Saturday, April 12, 2014

Serpent's Stash part IV: Fleshbinder

In 2011, I made the "top 36" in RPG Superstar, i.e. I was an alternate. Just like everyone in the top 32, the alternates also created archetypes and the judges commented on them. Around that time there were no official summoner archetypes, so any similarities between my entry and the synthesist archetype published later that year in Ultimate Magic are coincidental. Which archetype do you think is more balanced, this one or the official synthesist?

Archetypes was probably my favorite round 2 challenge in RPGSS, but sadly, as far as I've understood, they no longer intend to use archetypes in RPGSS because they don't test the designer's ability to write adventures.

Fleshbinder (Summoner)

A fleshbinder forges a pact with an immortal being that dwells beyond the stars, merging its strange flesh with his own to harness otherworldly powers. As he grows more powerful, he may also enhance the creatures he summons with matter drawn from the realms of insanity and nightmares.

Fleshbinding (Su): Starting at 1st level, a fleshbinder receives a pool of evolution points he may use to give himself abilities and powers as though he was an eidolon controlled by a summoner of equal level. The fleshbinder's class level determines the size of the evolution pool and the maximum number of natural attacks, but he receives no other benefits associated with eidolons, such as an armor bonus or darkvision. Spells and effects that add or change evolutions affect a fleshbinder as though he was an eidolon.

A fleshbinder may only choose evolutions available to eidolons of the biped base form. The fleshbinder may add evolutions to his appendages as though he had chosen the limbs (arms) and limbs (legs) evolutions. At the GM's discretion, other options may be available to non-humanoid races and races that have other appendages than those mentioned above.

A fleshbinder may suppress or resume his evolutions as a standard action. The evolutions are automatically suppressed if the fleshbinder is unconscious, asleep, or killed. The evolutions do not interfere with the fleshbinder’s ability to use the summon monster I spell-like ability or its later improvements.

This ability replaces eidolon and life link.

Alien Augmentation (Su): At 2nd level, a fleshbinder may divert one point from his evolution pool to add evolutions to all creatures he summons with the summon monster I spell-like ability and its later improvements. At every even level thereafter, the number or points he may divert in this way increases by one, to a maximum of 10 points at 20th level. The fleshbinder may not choose any evolution he could not possess himself, and if a summoned creature does not meet the requirements for an evolution, it is unaffected by that evolution. In other respects, this ability functions as the summoner’s aspect ability.

This ability replaces bond senses, shield ally, maker’s call, transposition, aspect, greater shield ally, life bond, merge forms and greater aspect.

True Augmentation (Su): At 20nd level, a fleshbinder loses 1 point from his evolution pool for every 2 points (or fraction thereof) diverted with the alien augmentation ability.

This ability replaces twin eidolon
The judges' comments:

Neil Spicer (RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor), Sunday, 12:28 PM

A better name for this summoner archetype might be Fleshbender as opposed to Fleshbinder, considering what it does. This is a bold design choice. You're cutting out the primary underpinning of the summoner class by doing away with his eidolon. That's a much bigger step than taking away animal companions or familiars, as eidolons are far more integral in protecting a summoner.

In its place, you're granting a summoner the ability to apply eidolon evolutions to himself as if he was an eidolon. And I'm not sure that's all that well-balanced in game terms. I think eidolon evolutions go a step beyond what a PC class should normally be able to grant itself. But, there are some intriguing possibilities in what you're suggesting. Maybe if you toned this down and weakened a summoner's eidolon or stripped away the summoner's other class abilities to allow himself to benefit from a handful of eidolon-affecting spells (like a small evolution boost or eidoon curing spells) so he can apply them to himself would be okay.

Also, I think the evolution enhancements to all creatures summoned via summon monster spells is a bit far. That potentially boosts a lot of creatures to make them a lot more potent and that could be a game changer in most battles.

Bottom line for me is that I think this is pushing the envelope too far for a summoner archetype. And I DO NOT RECOMMEND this archetype design to advance to the next round.

Ryan Dancey (The Most Dangerous Man in Gaming), Sunday, 03:05 PM
Total Points: 5 Points
Recommendation: Recommended for advancement
Comments In Detail
Name & Theme (1 point)
Great name - great theme matchup
Mechanics (1 point)
You're using the existing eidolon mechanics and that's a good (safe) choice.
Putting them into summoned creatures is also good - it reinforces that this is still a summoning class and not a way to just amp yourself up into a killing machine.
Awesomeness (1 point)
This is the only submission to earn a full 5 points from me in this review. Not only would I use this archetype myself, I'm actually intrigued enough to maybe make up a few PCs just to have on hand if a 1-shot breaks out.
Template (1 point)
Good use of the template.
Context (1 point)
Take away the eidolon and you're taking a massive risk. Is this still an archetype of a Summoner or have you just created a whole different class?
Frankly, (amazingly) I think you managed the former not the latter. And what's even more impressive you've created something that works as both a GM tool for a killer NPC, and as something that I can see players wanting for their own use - and you could end up with wildly divergent outcomes as a result. That's pretty darn impressive.

Mark Moreland (Developer), Sunday, 05:36 PM
This is a very well-designed archetype with a clear, memorable focus. It's actually very similar to something we've got coming in a future supplement of our own, though different enough that I'm not accusing you of hacking into our server to take a peek. Honestly, I can't see anything to criticize here, mechanically, but the writing could certainly be tightened up, as Neil mentions. The most egregious oversight in my book is the "20nd" that made it into the final paragraph. That's just poor editing and not something I'd expect of a Superstar.
All considered, though, I RECOMMEND this archetype for advancement. You're the second alternate that I really wish were in the Top 32 based on your archetype alone, so even if no one above you drops out to facilitate your move into the actual running, you should be proud of this. Best of luck and I hope to see you in the contest in the future.

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