Monday, December 5, 2016

HBM3 Top 5: Void Herald by Eric Hindley

Four writhing tentacles emerge from a central body that is little more than a gelatinous mass wrapped around a monstrous, pulsating eye.

Void Herald      CR 8
XP 4,800
NE Large aberration
Init +2; Senses all-around vision, darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +17

AC 20, touch 12, flat-footed 17 (+2 Dex, +1 dodge, +8 natural, -1 size)
hp 102 (12d8+48)
Fort +7, Ref +8, Will +12
DR 10/cold iron; SR 19
Immune cold

Speed 5 ft., fly 40 ft. (perfect)
Melee 4 tentacles +12 (1d6+4 plus grab)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks enervating grasp
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 12th; concentration +15)
At will—breath of life (DC 18), gentle repose
1/day—symbol of pain (DC 18)

Str 19, Dex 14, Con 17, Int 18, Wis 14, Cha 17
Base Atk +9; CMB +14 (+18 grapple); CMD 27 (can't be tripped)
Feats Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Endurance, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Toughness
Skills Acrobatics +2 (-10 to jump), Diplomacy +15, Fly +23, Heal +14, Knowledge (geography) +16, Knowledge (planes) +16, Perception +17, Sense Motive +14, Survival +17
SQ void hibernation

Environment any
Organization solitary, pair, or envoy (3-6)
Treasure standard

Special Abilities
Enervating Grasp (Su) When a void herald has an opponent grappled with 2 or more tentacles, it can swivel its eye to drain the life force from them. The void herald makes a grapple check with a +2 bonus for each tentacle after the first that is grappling the target. If this check is successful, the void master bestows one negative level on the target. This functions like the energy drain universal monster ability. A successful DC 19 Fortitude save is required to remove these negative levels. If the void herald uses this ability, it loses all-around vision for one round. The save DC for this ability is Charisma based.

Void Hibernation (Ex) Void heralds can enter a state of hibernation for an indefinite period when travelling through space or in other harsh conditions. The void herald encases itself in a gelatinous cocoon, a process that takes 10 minutes. The cocoon has hardness 10 and 60 hit points, and is immune to fire and bludgeoning (including falling) damage. If the cocoon remains intact, the void herald within remains unharmed. The void herald can move the cocoon using its fly speed. The cocoon remains until it contacts a hard surface, such as the surface of a planet.

There are unspeakable things in the spaces between the stars, some of which have untold power. Void heralds serve as ambassadors for these enigmatic entities, exploring new worlds for their masters. They are capable of diplomacy, and often present a friendly and helpful façade. When a void herald speaks, its voice always speaks the listeners native tongue and it seems to come from somewhere a few feet away from the void herald itself. They often have great information, bringing new technologies to a world or other advanced knowledge, such as medicine or engineering. In exchange for its help, a void herald will often ask for a few creatures to act as sacrifices.

In truth, void heralds are sent to test the durability and usefulness of indigenous life for their masters. They can bend the laws of reality to grant themselves power over life and death. They excel at bringing a creature to the brink of death with their energy drain and then bringing them back to life. How long creatures can endure such punishment is vital for their mysterious masters, though few know what fate befalls those deemed suitable by the void heralds.

A void herald is about six feet across and weighs only 120 pounds.


Hi Eric and welcome to the top 5! The void herald is a wonderfully alien monster with the goal of testing the worth of creatures it encounters. If these are the heralds, I can only imagine how terrifying the masters are. This was my favorite of the tentacled monsters.

The stat block looks clean and only has a couple of minor errors. The “Immune” block should be on the same line as the other defensive abilities. You could replace Toughness with a more interesting feat and just bump up the void herald’s Constitution score, which will bring its Fort save up to +8 and has no effect on its enervating grasp, which is Charisma-based. You should have a Language line listing tongues to avoid confusion about the languages it speaks (you spell it out in the descriptive text, and it’s implied by its spell-like ability, though). The final oddity is the void herald being six feet across, yet it is a Large creature.

The special abilities are great and they, along with the spell-like abilities, fit the concept of testing the fitness of creatures on other worlds. I could see them landing on a world filled with undead and testing them just as easily as a world populated by living creatures. It’s interesting that the life (represented by breath of life) and death (represented by enervating grasp) abilities don’t counteract each other. Enervating grasp references “void master” (I’m guessing a name change that missed an edit). The ability should indicate that multiple tentacles grappling a target do no additional damage. Kudos, though, for designing it to lose its all-around vision when it uses the ability. The space travel ability is cool, and, like yours, a lot of good entries took time to show how their creatures get around in the universe. The downside is it takes away a potentially interesting combat ability or more text describing the creatures. Again, this is not an issue unique to your monster.

The void herald has a lot of story opportunity, especially with its “alien benefactor is secretly evil” angle. A lot of players might see a monster with tentacles and assume it’s evil, though. But, hey, flumphs aren’t evil, so it could name drop them. I would imagine the characters getting involved after an unsuspecting settlement has given sacrifices over to a void herald in exchange for advanced medicine.

Good luck in the voting!

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

The void herald is one of the quite many monsters submitted with “void” in the name. The name works, and hints at the creature’s role as an envoy. The description is pretty good, it gives the reader a pretty good idea of what the monster looks like. I’ll point out, however, that there were a number of other flying monsters with a central body and a number of tentacles or similar appendages, such as the eon-scarred probe: “...three broad segmented tentacles connected to a central orb with a flickering red gem in the center...” It’s probably a bit clichéd shape for an aberration / space monster.

The stat block looks very clean. The only thing I noticed is using hyphens instead en dashes in negative values (-1 size). Of its feats, Combat Reflexes looks very useful since it has a 15-ft.-reach.

It doesn't appear to have languages, but the write-up mentions it speaking in many languages. Well ok, I noticed that it has tongues, but it should still have a Languages line with tongues as the only entry.

I can’t decide whether enervating grasp is just a very complicated way to use energy drain or a mechanically interesting ability. Maybe a bit of both? I’m not sure I understand how this ability works, but I’ll try. In order to use this ability, it has to have an opponent grappled with 2 or more tentacles. How does that work? I didn’t realize that was possible. I know that the grab universal monster ability permits grappling with just the natural attack that it used to initiate the grapple, but the monster takes a whopping -20 penalty on the check. This monster has only a CMB of +18 on grapple checks, so it’s not going to succeed very often, and succeeding twice is nearly impossible. Or maybe I just don’t understand how the ability is supposed to work. In either case, that’s not a good thing, considering that enervating grasp is its only new combat ability.

Void hibernation is a useful ability for a space-faring species, and it’s also a quite flavorful ability. Ultimately, however, (much like space flight and the strife wasp’s auroral transit) it’s “space monster tax” (see the strife wasp entry for a definition). I’ll also mention that in American English, “travelling” should have only one L.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this monster is its write-up, which reveals that despite their monstrous appearance, they are capable diplomats. There is a lot of useful information that helps a GM use the monster in an adventure. I like that they have a lot of potential for RP encounters, and their skills, SLAs, and other abilities support that idea.

Overall, while I think the monster suffers from a somewhat clichéd “floating mass of tentacles” morphology and is a bit lacking in its mechanics, it manages to carve out an interesting, unique niche for itself as an unlikely herald of its mysterious masters. Thanks for submitting this monster!

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 initial description line makes me think of a beholder. That’s a hard legacy to hold down and treads on rough ground for publishers.

The mention of sacrifices in the flavor text is an interesting addition, but it only teases something that doesn’t come to fruition in the rest of the monster write up. How does this come to pass? Furthermore, the last paragraph of the descriptive text mentions mysterious masters, but doesn’t give any context. You shouldn’t hide information from the GM.

I don’t feel that cold iron is a good thematic choice for the DR.

I like that it only has a couple of special abilities. This allows for more flavor text and a monster that’s simpler to run at the table.

Enervating Grasp is an interesting special ability, but I worry that it relies only on grapple checks to affect its victims. I feel like the creatures subject to this should get a chance to save. Then again, enervation is an attack spell and you don’t get a save, so this is probably fine. The swiveling eye bit seemed weirdly detailed at first, but that last sentence of the ability made it make sense.

The void hibernation ability is similar to the akata and I noticed similar language, so good job on that. However, I think that swapping cold for fire fits spacefaring pods of hibernating void heralds better. Also, how do they sense the world outside of their cocoon, especially since they can move the cocoon with their flight?

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

You've created a monster that's firmly "From Beyond the Stars," tying in to great concepts in space fantasy. The trope of interstellar emissaries being sent to test defenses is a familiar one and this mostly does a good job of meeting the expectations of such a monster.

However, while it's very clear how these creatures are meant to be used, I'm not sure form meets function in this case. I think if most PCs or NPCs saw a tentacled eye thing, they're going to assume evil. The "twist" of these things turning out to be bad doesn't feel like a twist, because it's exactly what you'd expect of something that looks like these things do. I think it needed to either have some slightly less vaguely menacing form (or ability to pose with a lesser form/use illusion) OR play on the expectations and have these things actually be decent creatures: The Jessica Rabbit "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way" scene or "Simpsons" How to Cook Humans/How to cook for Forty Humans gag (which works because Kang/Kodos/Serak LOOK evil).

Once again, the stat block looks mostly clean. I do wish the abilities lived up to the write-up a little more; some sort of inspiration/shared knowledge type ability (giving knowledge/future tech, not the class mechanic) might have been nice. How do they bring creatures back to life, since they only have an energy drain. I see they have breath of life, but that's not going to do anything against a creature that they've slain via negative levels (I guess they could drop some negative levels on a creature, then kill them via exceeding their new, reduced hp, but that seems like a lot of effort). Some sort of breath of life-like ability that overcame negative levels might have made more sense.

Part of the problem is you were smart enough to give these things a way to move through space, which isn't (yet) part of the Universal Monster Rules. That's almost 100 words you had to spend on something that most of the time is not going to be used in game play, which is frustrating. It's smart design but it feels like there's better use for those words.



  1. For some reason, I want to reskin this guy as an outer space kyton... I think it's pretty cool, but for some reason (and I'm not sure why), the use as envoy for a multiple creature group annoys me.

  2. Augh, my comment got eaten! A quick redo:

    Congratulations Eric!
    I like the evil alien vizier thing a lot. PCs could have a lot of fun trying to expose a Herald when it positions itself into a peaceful society which it is making prosperous. It could even win the trust of the PCs by using Breath of Life if another monster attacks them! Dastardly, and clearly the monster inspires readers to use it.
    I was unclear about whether it is aware of its surroundings (thus able to navigate well) when hibernating, though I suppose it arrives wherever it needs to by way of off-screen plot.

  3. Congrats, Eric
    I liked the Void hibernation ability. I agree with some of the judges that the mechanics of the grasp could be better, but grab/grappling is one of the more confusing rules systems.
    I thought that this monster should have a decent bluff skill since they seem to be deceptive.

  4. Well done, Eric!
    Your void herald and my own monster have similar cocoon abilities, but your Void Hibernation was well executed and I really want to congratulate you on that; it works well and isn't clunky.

    May I suggest that "They often have great information, ..." would be better written as "They are informative, ...".

  5. I like the concept, but I think at-will Breath of Life is a bit much - maybe Undetectable Alignment (for the facade), a little necromancy (for that "and death" in what it has power over), and reduce breath of life to an X/day power.


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