Monday, October 9, 2017

HBM4 Top 5: Despoiler by Jeff Schultz

This hulking bipedal creature walks around on its knuckles like a gorilla as a thin cloud of smog pours out into the air around it from thick tubes on its back and shoulders. It roars, exposing a toothy maw beneath beady black eyes.
Despoiler CR 8
XP 4,800
CE Large aberration
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +15
Aura smog cloud (10 ft., DC 18)
AC 21, touch 12, flat-footed 18 (+3 Dex, +9 natural, -1 size)
hp 102 (12d8+24)
Fort +8, Ref +7, Will +10
DR 10/magic or cold iron; Immune disease, poison
Speed 30 ft., climb 30 ft.
Melee bite +15 (1d8+8 plus disease), 2 slams +15 (1d6+8 plus disease)
Ranged rock +11 (1d8+12)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks disease, rock throwing (120 ft.)
Str 26, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 9
Base Atk +8; CMB +17; CMD 30
Feats Awesome Blow, Great Fortitude, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Power Attack
Skills Climb +25, Intimidate +8, Perception +15
Languages Aklo
SQ cleansing weakness
Environment any land
Organization solitary, blight (2-4)
Treasure incidental
Cleansing Weakness (Su) The polluted nature of the despoiler leaves it vulnerable to certain spells. A remove disease or neutralize poison spell deals 1d6 damage per caster level and negates the despoilers disease effect on attacks for 1d4 rounds. A delay poison spell does no damage, but does negate the disease effect for 1d2 rounds.

Disease (Su) Despoiling Disease: Bite and slam—injury; save Fort DC 18, onset 1d2 days, frequency 1/day, effect 1d4 Con damage, cure 2 consecutive saves.
Any Medium or larger fey creature killed while infected with despoiling disease quickly rots and bloats over a 24 hour period as it morphs into a new despoiler unless the body is destroyed. Tiny or Small size fey morph into 1d4 boilborn after a 24 hour period.

Smog Cloud (Ex) The despoiler is surrounded by a 10 foot radius cloud of putrid gases that assault the lungs. Creatures within the cloud must make a DC 18 Fortitude save or be nauseated for 1 round. Creatures remaining in the cloud are sickened until they leave and for 1d4 rounds after. Once per day, the despoiler can create an effect duplicating a stinking cloud (DC 18) centered on itself for five rounds. The save DC for both of these effects is Constitution based and a creature immune to poison is immune to these effects.

Despoilers arise in areas of natural beauty that have been tainted by some form of pollution, either natural or magical. The realm of the fey is particularly prone to passageways to other planes and places that taint the surrounding area and can lead to blights of despoilers savaging the area. Despoilers stand 14 feet tall and weigh 2,500 pounds, but they usually seem shorter as they walk crouched over. They appear heavily muscled with thick, scaly smokestacks erupting from their shoulders as well as smaller smokestacks in pairs down to the lower back.

Most despoilers arise from pollutants in the environment around them However, they also possess toxic organs in their body that creates a disease used to poison and corrupt fey. The disease generated by despoilers spreads from the point of impact and moves through the body, liquefying and rotting flesh. While it is lethal to any creature vulnerable to disease, in fey the disease corrupts and twists their flesh and pulls from the ambient magic in their nature to create new organs, cysts, muscle, and flesh that twist the fey creature after death into a new despoiler or boilborn oozes in a relatively short period of time.

Despoilers seem to only care about spreading destruction and pollution from wherever they were spawned. They hate fey above all else and if they feel any emotion asides from rage, it would be glee at corrupting fey creatures. The feeling of hatred is mutual for the fey, who frequently find themselves calling in favors or coercing mortals in order to find someone who can destroy any local blight of despoilers that may arise without leading to even more of the creatures. Despoilers do not ally with other creatures, but have in the past been manipulated or controlled by enemies of the fey to be used as a weapon.

Jacob W. Michaels:

Hey, Jeff. First of all, welcome to the Top 5 of Here Be Monsters. Let's look at what you've given us:

Despoiler's a solid name, leading me to expect some sort of creature that despoils things. Your description creates an interesting visual—I'm curious what's up with the tubes and want to read on—but does assume some action. What if the PCs come across this creature while it's sleeping?

Your write-up is interesting and tells me how to use these things as a GM. I do think it maybe focuses a little too much on another creature type as its primary prey (the PCs typically aren't going to be fey), which always gives me a little pause, but I think you did a good job making it clear how a GM could use them in relation to a story involving the PCs.

The stat block looks pretty good—a couple minor errors I noticed (hyphen instead of an en-dash in the AC line and cleansing weakness should be under weaknesses, not SQ). I like your organization name (though oddly, like another Top 5, it goes straight from solitary to the organization without passing "pair," which is unusual).

Let's look at your special abilities:

Weaknesses are fun to include in monsters, and a sometimes overlooked option. They give players chances to bring different tactics to a fight, which is always good.

The disease is OK, but I think they tend to me to feel a little more generic than some other options. This has the kicker of transforming slain fey, but that's not something that's really going to affect most PCs. Maybe if it included sorcerers with the fey bloodline or gnomes it might hit home a little more.

Smog cloud feels like a little more fun, though still perhaps not pushing the envelope quite as much as possible.

All in all, good job, and I'm curious to see what the voters will have to say.
Mike Welham: 
Welcome to the top 5, Jeff! The despoiler provides an evocative description of the effects of pollution on primal areas and ties it nicely to fey. The disease has a story-driven aspect (why are all the fey dying off and where are all these boilborns coming from?), but it is not a purely story-driven effect since it has an impact on non-fey characters, who would form the typical adventuring party. Cleansing weakness and smog cloud nicely fit the monster’s theme.

The stat block is pretty clean (there were a couple of places missing punctuation, but nothing egregious). I would like to have seen cleansing weakness an actual weakness rather than a special quality. The stinking cloud effect for its smog cloud ability seems too conservative at 1/day and 5 rounds. The duration should be longer or it should upgrade to cloudkill, which would not be insta-death for most PCs encountering this.

Overall, I found this to be a cool anti-fey monster, but one that threatens non-fey PCs as well. Good luck in the voting!

Joe Kondrak:
Congratulations on making into the finals! Getting picked by Mikko, Jacob, and Mike tells me you’ve done a good job, even before I read your monster. I’ll do my best to provide constructive feedback and commentary regarding various aspects of your design such as the descriptive text, formatting, rules-language, and anything else that comes to mind. Regarding stats, I’ll weigh in on their adherence to the monster statistics by CR table, but I won’t get as detailed as checking math or counting skill points and feats and such.

The descriptive text includes some good visuals (beady black eyes, walks on knuckles, smog pouring out from tubes), but I’d like a little more info regarding how its body looks (fur, skin, color?). The first sentence is a little long and winding—breaking it up with a comma or using two sentences might help it flow a little better. Saying “It roars” assumes action, which is best to avoid, since a gm may have other actions in mind when the monster appears.

Regarding stats for its CR, it’s right in line with the monster statistics by CR table. The attack bonus and damage are on the high end, but that fits with its “hulking” stature.

The stat block is pretty clean, but there are a few formatting glitches and mistakes here and there. The first thing that jumped out at me was the math in the hit points line. The formula adds up to 78, which is 24 less than the listed total. That happens to be twice its Hit Dice, which leads me to believe you were adjusting its CON and/or considered Toughness. Adjusting ability scores is a great way to get your numbers in line with the CR table, but remember to double-check the relevant stats when doing so. It’s a minor quibble, but remember to use en-dashes rather than hyphens for ranges and penalties (size penalty in AC line and range in organization line). There are 4 even and 2 odd ability scores, but customarily they’re 3 odd and 3 even. I’m not sure if that’s codified, so I understand the oversight—just something to keep in mind for future designs.

A “blight” is certainly a fitting name for a creature like this.  

The special abilities fit the theme nicely. I have a soft spot for special weaknesses like the cleansing weakness ability, so I appreciate that you included that one, and the effects of the despoiling disease are quite cool. For all of the abilities, the rules-language is ok-to-good. None of it is bad, but there is a little room for improvement. Mainly, there are a few typos and formatting glitches that could have been caught with an additional proofreading pass. For example, in cleansing weakness, “…the despoilers disease effect” needs an apostrophe to show possession. In the smog cloud ability, “10 foot radius cloud” should have hyphens, as in, “10-foot-radius cloud,” and there should also be a hyphen in “Constitution-based.”

The flavor text provides plenty of useful information and thoroughly addresses the monster’s role and ecological niche. Nice job on that count. The writing could use a little polish, however. For example, “…organs in their body that creates…” it should instead be “organs…create” or “organ…creates” to maintain subject/verb agreement. And, like in the description, comma placement and/or shorter sentences might help. The content is engaging, though, so I still consider the write-up to be pretty good.

Overall, this is great concept with good execution. The monster’s motivations and mechanics are clear, and it seems easy to use and run at the table. “Anti-fey” is a nice twist on the theme, and one or more despoilers would be a great addition to nature- or wilderness-themed campaigns or encounters. Good job and good luck!

Adam Daigle:

There’s a lot of assumed action in the introductory descriptive text. We typically try to avoid that in the monsters we publish at Paizo, but that’s more of an in-house style choice and isn’t universal.
This monster’s numbers look on point, especially for a full-on combat role monster.
The cleansing weakness ability is interesting, but something rubs me the wrong way mixing disease and poison together in this way. I know they are both afflictions and operate in similar ways and fit the theme of this monster, but delaypoison negating the creature’s disease ability is a little bit jarring. Also, that ability should have gone on the weakness line instead of on the special qualities line. I also think it’s neat that a fey killed by the disease turns into a boilborn, although I admit that might be because I originally wrote the boilborn.
The pollution theme for this monster is tight and makes sense. The smokestacks seemed a bit weird to me at first, but I do like weird, and with the theme of this year’s contest it makes plenty of sense to go weird.
Some of the language and word choices could use some tightening, but the descriptive text about the monster was enjoyable. I can imagine using one of these in an encounter or adventure where some fey come to the PCs asking for help in getting rid of this polluting menace.
Good job making it to the top five and best of luck in the voting round!


  1. I think the theme for this creature is great. The fey world tends to manifest aspects of nature, and having a manifestation of the despoiling of the natural world is a great theme. The way the disease ability affects fey is a nice touch. The smog is good as well, but it seems a bit of a missed opportunity to do something more with it (coughing, vision problems, or something similar.)

  2. Great Monster!
    The good news is you got my vote.
    The bad news is, I have never voted for the winner in the past 3 contests, so my apologies.

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