Thursday, February 25, 2016

Top 6: Hellhorn by Joe Kondrak

Steel fangs and jagged shards of flint protrude from the cavernous maw of this monstrous rhinoceros. Obsidian scales cover most of its tough hide, and the horn on its greasy snout glows red hot.

Hellhorn CR 8
XP 4,800
LE Large outsider (evil, extraplanar, fire, lawful)
Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft., scent; Perception +14
Aura magic circle against good

AC 21, touch 9, flat-footed 21 (+12 natural, –1 size)
hp 105 (10d10+50)
Fort +10 Ref +7, Will +10
DR 5/bludgeoning and good; Immune fire; Resist acid 10; SR 19
Weaknesses vulnerability to cold

Speed 40 ft.
Melee bite +16 (1d8+7), gore +16 (2d8+7 plus 2d6 fire)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks breath weapon (30-ft. cone, mucus, Reflex DC 20 negates, usable every 1d4 rounds), hell-forged horn, powerful charge (gore, 4d8+10 plus 2d6 fire), sparking bite

Str 25, Dex 10, Con 21, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 9
Base Atk +10; CMB +18; CMD 28 (32 vs. trip)
Feats Endurance, Great Fortitude, Improved Overrun, Iron Will, Power Attack
Skills Knowledge (planes) +12, Perception +14, Sense Motive +14, Stealth +5, Survival +14; Racial Modifiers –4 Stealth
Languages Infernal (can't speak); telepathy 100 ft.
SQ unicorn scourge

Environment any land (Hell)
Organization solitary, pair, or herd (3–8)
Treasure incidental

Breath Weapon (Su) A hellhorn can snort forth globules of sulfurous, flammable mucus in a 30-foot cone. Creatures in the area must succeed at a DC 20 Reflex save to avoid being covered in the noxious substance. A creature that fails this save must immediately succeed at a DC 20 Fortitude save or be nauseated for 1 round and then sickened for as long as it remains covered. A creature covered in the mucus that takes fire damage immediately takes an additional 3d6 points of fire damage with no save, as the mucus ignites and burns off (the creature is no longer covered). Otherwise, removing the mucus from a creature is a full-round action that provokes attacks of opportunity. The save DCs are Constitution-based.
Hell-Forged Horn (Su) A hellhorn's horn is as hot as hellfire. As a result, its gore attack deals an additional 2d6 points of fire damage.
Magic Circle against Good (Su) This ability continually duplicates the effect of the spell. The hellhorn cannot suppress this ability.
Sparking Bite (Ex) Once per round, when it misses with a bite attack, a hellhorn can project a shower of fiery sparks in a 15-foot cone as a free action. Creatures and objects in the area (which must include at least 1 square occupied by the attack's target) take 1d6 points of fire damage (Reflex DC 15 negates). The save DC is Dexterity-based.
Unicorn Scourge (Su) A hellhorn can detect unicorns up to 1 mile away with its scent ability, and a unicorn struck by a hellhorn's gore attack cannot teleport for 10 minutes, as though affected by dimensional anchor.

Hellhorns are vicious, infernal rhinos spawned from the souls of malevolent creatures struck down by unicorns. They roam Hell's wastelands in anger and fury, gorging on brimstone and assaulting anything that crosses their path. Exceedingly vengeful, hellhorns yearn to reach the Material Plane in order to torment unicorns by burning their woodlands and searing their hides. Without the aid of potent allies, a unicorn's only chance against a rampaging hellhorn is to flee.

When called by spells such as planar ally, hellhorns require only two things as payment for their service—access to a unicorn's territory, and an allowance of time. Mighty devils sometimes subdue, saddle, and outfit hellhorns for battle. A typical hellhorn is 13 feet long and weighs 7,000 pounds.

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).

Nice description. I can picture it and it looks suitably monstrous.

Interesting origin story. I can buy that. Maybe feels a touch one-note — how often do unicorns make it into games? — but they're certainly iconic creatures and ones that could bring in heroic PCs to help. That'd be a memorable start to an adventure, I think: a unicorn wandering into camp in search of help. And having the big boss of the adventure be a devil with a couple levels of cavalier mounted on one of these? That seems like something I'd remember for a good long time!

Let's look at the stat block and special abilities:
"A hellhorn can snort forth globules of sulfurous, flammable mucus..." Ew! But in a good way. Again, this feels like something I'd remember. Overall this feels like a nice ability. Definitely a different type of breath weapon in a good way. And I'm guessing the ignition aspects will play nicely with sparking bite (though I haven't yet read the latter).

Ah, it does indeed fit nicely with both hell-forged horn AND sparking bite. I like the latter. I think giving it a bonus to when it misses is interesting. On one hand, it kind of sucks if you manage to have it miss you and then it gets to flame you because it missed -- but I've had enough parties wipe out what I thought would be good challenges that I don't mind messing with the action economy a little bit. I wouldn't want to see it in every monster, but in one? I think I'm OK with that.

Unicorn scourge is a little niche, but nothing wrong with it. Fits the theme. Magic circle against good is the mirror of the unicorn's magic circle against evil. Feels like it should be italicized in the stat block since it's the spell name, but it's not in the unicorn's stats. If it weren't for the mirroring, I think I'd want the ability to have its own name (even if it still acted as a magic circle against good) but I can see why the designer did it this way.

I think this would be a fun monster to have PCs encounter, with lots of options for memorable moments.

Mike Welham

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

The description does an excellent job of telling me what the characters will face and covers two of the four reasonably expected senses. Appearing like a rhinoceros fits with its LE alignment, since I can believe that a rhino would be emblematic of something keeping brutal order.

The stat block looks clean; no errors jumped out at me. Comparing the numbers to the monster statistics by CR show that the hellhorn has a slightly high attack bonus, but its damage (including the extra fire damage from its gore attack) is within range. I have no problem with the high attack bonus, since this is a primarily martial creature. The breath weapon has high save DCs, but the math skews it that way, so I don't have a problem with it, since the abilities aren't immediately devastating (a character gets 2 saves to avoid the nauseated condition, for example). Sparking bite uses Dexterity to determine DC, which brings it in line with the CR. You could have spent skill ranks on Knowledge (arcana) to represent its hatred of unicorns instead of spending ranks on Stealth, which are partially negated by its racial modifier. Stealth doesn't really seem to be something the hellhorn would concern itself with anyway. I'd also suggest replacing Endurance with something up the Power Attack chain (Cleave or Improved Bull Rush), since outsiders ignore some of the effects covered by the feat.

The special abilities fit the theme and back up the description. Hell-forged horn is unnecessary as a special ability, since it is already included in the gore's damage, and you did a great job describing it. This would have given you a few more words to work with in the write-up. Sparking bite is a nifty ability, and I hoped to see that when you mentioned flint in the description.

From the write-up, I see they have a massive vendetta against unicorns. At first, I thought their genesis gave it more of a demonic bent, but I came around to the idea of them being diametrically opposed to unicorns. Despite the focus on unicorn enmity, you did an excellent job describing how characters would encounter a hellhorn other than with respect to unicorns.

In short, the hellhorn is an excellent denizen of Hell.

Mikko Kallio

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

The description describes the creature's appearance in an evocative way.

The stat block looks well formatted;you've even used the right kind of dashes for negative values and such. I thought that magic circle against good should have been italicized, but it appears the vs. evil ability in the unicorn's stat block is not italicized either, so I guess it's not a mistake. The racial Stealth penalty is a bit curious; it appears to have ranks in Stealth. It's naturally loud but smart enough to try to be quiet?

The breath weapon is fun and has an interesting synergy with the sparking bite and fiery horn. Also, having two effects in one makes the hellhorn an interesting opponent; the PCs will have to think ahead and sometimes consider which is the lesser evil, being covered in the mucus and possibly taking some damage on later rounds or spending a whole round scraping it off.

Unicorn scourge isn't going to affect a lot of PCs, though, because it's quite rare for them to have a unicorn ally. I'd probably change the ability a bit so that it also affects other creatures that like to teleport around.

The write-up is well-written and contains interesting facts about the creature. I particularly like the mention of devils using them as mounts--that makes them a lot more usable for GMs than a creature that just hangs out with others of its kind. The write-up is a bit short, though, and maybe if you had tightened up your special abilities a bit, you would have been able to include more interesting lore about these beasts.

Overall, I really like this creature. Excellent flavor and nifty mechanics.

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 just started reading, but I’m behind the idea of a hell rhino. The descriptive text at the beginning is very flavorful and I think this monster could make for some fun art.

The statblock is clean and formatted well. You certainly paid attention to this aspect of design. In addition, the feat choices and universal monster rules you used are all great choices for this kind of monster.

I like the breath weapon and I think you did a good job of including all of the information needed to use the ability. When I first started reading I was thinking, “Man, I sure hope this designer mentions how to get the mucus off.” And then you provided a special and mundane way to do so. (It’s also fun that the easiest way can be involuntary and damaging.)

The hell-forged horn is a nice touch, and it helps get the damage to the right place.

I almost wanted to criticize making the magic circle effect a special ability instead of a constant spell-like ability, but I can see the appeal for having it be supernatural.

I like the flavor of the sparking bite, especially considering the creature’s description, but at first I thought it was a bit too much for this thing to have two area of effect special abilities. Getting a benefit from missing with an attack threw me off a bit at first too, but then I realized that it’s only 1d6 fire for a CR 8 creature, and the imagery won me back.

I really like the unicorn scourge ability, but only because I’m a big folklore monster nerd and know that unicorns have a connection with a miscommunication game of telephone about rhinos, so this is a clever touch. (Thanks Pliny and medieval bestiaries.)

It would’ve been cool to see more information about these things in the descriptive text, but I know how that goes when designing a monster. What you have there is pretty good for running these monsters, however. I like that you included some information about hellhorns and planar ally, and now I want to see a devil mounted on one of these things.


  1. Congrats to Joe also for being our first repeat Here Be Monsters finalist!

  2. Full disclosure, i helped Joe playtest this monster.

    I loved the imagery of the monster, and who can't get excited about a rhino from hell?

    Great Job, Joe!

  3. Scott 'Curaigh' JankeFebruary 25, 2016 at 7:23 PM

    Nice! A rhino is a much more cool anti-unicorn than the 'black unicorns' I have seen before. I like the synergy in abilities too. Well done :)

    Congrats on the repeat too!

    1. Oddly enough, I made a comment about "black unicorns" during my initial pass through the monsters.

  4. I looked forward to this contest since the day the last one ended, and am very pleased to be a finalist. A special thanks to Mikko for organizing such a fun event.

    Judges: Thanks for your thorough and insightful write-ups on each finalist's monster, including my own. They're full of good points, and reading them is like sitting in on a monster-design seminar.

    Other finalists: Way to go! Your monsters are very cool and fun to read—I look forward to seeing them in action at my table. I can see I'm up against some very tough competition.

    Other entrants: Don't be discouraged. Every monster you design improves your skills, so the effort is definitely worthwhile. I suggest that you take advantage of every opportunity to design, and be sure to take advantage of any offers to get feedback on your entry.

    And to the commenters above, thanks for taking the time to leave a note—I appreciate it and it means a lot to me.

  5. Oh, and thanks to publisher Rogue Genius Games, and sponsors Legendary Games and Tommi Salama, too!


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