Friday, February 13, 2015

A Monster's Essence

As I review the many excellent monsters submitted by this year's hopefuls in the RPG Superstar 2015 contest, I am reminded of just how much there is to consider when appraising and judging a Pathfinder monster. Much more than there is for items and maps, I would argue. Creativity and imagination play a huge role, and then there's style, accuracy and clarity of writing to consider, along with factors such as balance and mechanics. It is a given that some of these aspects can be judged objectively, while others can only be appraised subjectively.

In recent and not-so-recent posts here on A Sword for Hire, Mikko and Jacob have both done an excellent job discussing and addressing the many aspects of a great Pathfinder monster. I can't add anything to their expertise in that area, other than to describe my approach.

When I vote in RPG Superstar, I like to aim for and maintain some objectivity, but admit that my choices are primarily driven by subjective judgments. In the map round, I used a composite scoring system to sort the maps, but even with a system of points, the score that I called creativity was heavily weighted and clearly subjective.

When it comes to monsters, I typically scan the entry, and have to be rather engaged and enticed by the monster's read aloud text and special abilities before I more deeply analyze its stats and longer description. For me, solid stats, mechanical perfection, and a detailed ecology aren't going to fix what didn't grab me in the first place, but instead should pad a monster whose essence is cool, clever, amazing, or frightening.

I hope you enjoy these photos of one of my favorite classic monsters.

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