Monday, October 9, 2017

HBM4 Top 5: Gorviel by Jeremy Corff

This shaggy beast has a mix of simian and insectile features.  Hunched forward, knuckling about on long forearms that end in hooked claws, a massive hump of bone and chitin rests between its shoulder blades. A furious buzzing accompanies the creature, as well as a sickly-sweet musk. 

Gorviel CR 4
XP 1,200
N Large magical beast
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +7
Aura heart of the swarm (5 ft.)

AC 20, touch 11, flat-footed 18; (+2 Dex, +9 natural, –1 size)
hp 60 (6d10+12)
Fort +8, Ref +7, Will +2
Immune mind-affecting effects;

Speed 30 ft., climb 30 ft.
Melee 2 claws +9 (1d6+5 plus trip), gore +9 (1d8+5)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks chittering roar

Str 20, Dex 14, Con 17, Int 2, Wis 10, Cha 6
Base Atk +4; CMB +10; CMD 21
Feats Cleave, Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills Acrobatics +6, Climb +17, Perception +7

Environment Warm forests
Organization solitary
Treasure none

Heart of the Swarm (Su) As an immediate action the gorviel can fill the air around it with a swarm of its beetlish brood, which expands into all adjacent squares. This cloud moves with the gorviel, and the ever-shifting swarm provides the gorviel with partial concealment from ranged attacks. Creatures other than the gorviel and its swarm within the cloud at the beginning of their turns take 1d6 points of damage. Any creature damaged by the swarm must succeed at a DC 15 Fortitude save or be staggered for one round. The save DC is Constitution-based. Area-effect attacks that deal 10 or more points of damage to the gorviel destroy its swarm cloud for 3 rounds, after which a new brood matures in the hump and the gorviel can unleash its cloud again. When a gorviel dies, its swarm disperses and the individuals soon perish on their own.

Chittering Roar (Ex) As a standard action, a gorviel can unleash a terrible chittering roar, affecting all creatures in a 15-foot cone. Any creatures in the area of the cone must succeed at a DC 15 Fortitude save or be dazed for 1 round and deafened for 1 minute by the cacophony. A gorviel can use this ability once every 1d4 rounds. This is a sonic effect, and the save DC is Constitution-based.

The boundless life energy of the primal world provides fertile soil for many of nature’s stranger creatures, allowing unusual traits and beasts to thrive, and one such is the gorviel.  What possibly started as a mutualistic relationship between hive insects and primeval apes may have developed further over many centuries, or perhaps the creature was simply created as is in an experiment by some deity only to be later abandoned as a concept. Whatever their origin, the gorviel are common enough in parts of the primal world now.

The hulking form of the gorviel mixes traits of mammal and insect throughout, with chitinous armor and shaggy fur, as well as a face that combines the long horn and eyes of a beetle with the nose and mouth of a great ape. This body is both a mobile hive and queen mother to the colony of beetle-like males that live in its massive hump.  A self-contained family, the gorviel roams the forests of the primal world, feeding on nuts, fruit, and any prey the queen and her brood can incapacitate. When conditions are right and food is plentiful the gorviel will build a nest in bushes or bramble and birth a new queen, ceding a portion of her insectile host to the offspring, then abandoning them and moving on to new territory.  The young gorviel matures quickly, reaching full size in a few months and replacing her swarm as she grows.

Opportunistic hunters, gorviel engage their swarm at the first sign of conflict.  They open combat with their chittering roar ability, then rush to close with foes. Once in melee range they use their long arms and claws to trip enemies until all threats have been worn down by their hungry brood.  When all prey has been thoroughly pacified, the gorviel and her swarm settle in to feed on the remains, stripping the carcasses down to the bone as they feast.

Jacob W. Michaels:
Hey, Jeremy. First of all, welcome back to the Top 5 to our defending champion. Let's look at what you've given us this time around: 

We kick off with a creature with a nonsense word name, as far as I can tell, but one that's easy enough to pronounce. The descriptions' nicely visual, and I like that it brings in smell and sounds, involving other senses, though it might be a little longer than usual. I think it's a good write-up as well, which tells me as a GM how to use this monster. They do seem a little one-note -- they're pretty much going to be combat opponents -- but write-up-wise they do feel like it would be a memorable note.

I was a little surprised to see it as CR 4. I was expecting something a little higher based on the write-up. There are a few stat block errors, as well -- semi-colon after immune, five even attributes (should be three even, three odd)... Some of your numbers are off as well (Adam has more details on that); maybe this originally was higher than a CR 4?

Let's look at your special abilities:
I like heart of the swarm, though stagger seems a little odd. Maybe the typical swarm distraction ability was deemed too dangerous? At CR 4, that could be a good call. Good to see the swarm potentially being suppressed after area of effect attacks; that's good attention to detail and gives players more options of tactics to use.
Chittering roar, however, is a little disappointing. It's a fine, solid ability, but it's just not quite as interesting as I wanted from the excellent ability name.
All in all, good job, and I'm curious to see what the voters will have to say.
Mike Welham: 
Welcome back to the top 5, Jeremy! I liked this creepy combination of ape and hive insects. Its immunity to mind-affecting effects makes sense given that it has a more vermin-like mind. Its main ability, heart of the swarm, is an impressive ability and I like that you kept the pseudo-swarm’s impact limited to spaces adjacent to the gorviel. Otherwise, it would have been too overpowering. I think this could have inflicted the nauseated condition (per a swarm’s distraction ability) rather than the staggered condition.

The formatting of the stat block is good. I only noticed a couple of minor issues (straggling semicolon, capitalized “Warm,” and special abilities aren’t in alphabetical order). Its AC and hit points are out of range for a CR 4 monster and need to be toned down, but its special abilities have CR-appropriate save DCs.

Overall, I thought this was a nicely unsettling monster with strong ties to the primal world. 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 gives me a good idea of what the monster looks like, and it touches on plenty of other senses, too, which is also good. It is a little long, however. Trimming it down somewhat would be an improvement—anything left out could be addressed in the flavor text below the stat block. There’s an extra space after one of the sentences, which is a very minor issue, but something that would have to be addressed or caught during editing. I know it’s a habit for some people to type that way. If that applies to you, it’s worth the effort to search your document for double spaces before finalizing it.

Regarding stats for its CR, they seem a little high when compared against the monster statistics by CR table. The monster’s hit points, AC, attack bonus and damage are all rather high, without any factors to balance that out (such as poor saves). According to my calculations, its average damage is 27 hit points per round, which is a lot given the level of PCs it’s designed to face. 

The stat block is pretty clean, but there are a handful of mistakes. On a positive note, you used the correct dash for the AC size penalty, thereby avoiding a rather common pitfall. The mistakes include extraneous semicolons (after flat-footed AC and mind-affecting effects), un-bolded XP value, and unnecessary capitalization on “Warm forests.” Also, the math in its hit points line seems off, and to a lesser extent, the same applies to its CMD. As a guess, that’s a result of changing ability scores without re-checking affected stats. It’s always worth it to thoroughly check your math after changing scores/stats. There are 5 even and 1 odd ability scores, but customarily they’re 3 odd and 3 even—just something to keep in mind for future designs. Finally, since it has Cleave, it should have Power Attack (there’s no indication that it has Cleave as a prerequisite-free bonus feat).

I like the special abilities, and having only two of them makes the monster very straightforward and easy to use. Heart of the swarm is a darn cool ability, but the rules-language could be more concise and standardized. As an example, this passage, “Creatures other than the gorviel and its swarm within the cloud…” could be shortened to just “Creatures within the cloud…” or “Creatures that start their turn within the cloud take…” Also, I’d like to see area effects affect the swarm, even when they don’t damage the gorviel directly. Still, it’s a good special ability. Chittering roar is nice, too, but would benefit from a little paring-down, too. As an example, you could probably just say, “…creatures in the area must…” Aside from those kinds of things, though, the abilities are solid and usable.

The flavor text is thorough, and contains lots of interesting and useful information about the monster. From a “content” standpoint, it’s quite good. The only issue I have on that count is that the first paragraph focuses too much on indefinite assertions, and doesn’t get right to the point—that first part should focus like a laser on the monster itself, rather than the primal world and possible origins. For all of the flavor text, the sentence-structures and phrasing are ok, but slightly awkward in places. It’s difficult to explain just what’s needed, but reading it out loud might help identify problem areas. Also, remember to include a line about the creature’s size and weight.

Overall, I like this monster, despite any editing or cleanup it would need. Its underlying concept, its special abilities, and its adherence to the contest’s theme are great. Balance-wise, I think it needs a little adjustment to bring it in line with the stats for a CR 4 creature. Good job and good luck in the voting round!

Adam Daigle:

I love insects, so I really like the theme of this creature. I like its description as well and would like to see the art of this creature. The idea of a swarm living inside of a larger creature isn’t a brand new idea, but I like the execution here.

I think that the descriptive text for the monster was good and gave a clearer idea of how the monster works, both in-world and in play. Most of the writing was pretty good, but there are some parts that could have been punched up a bit.

This monster’s numbers don’t really fit a CR 4 creature. Its AC is a little bit high with nothing to compensate for that. Its hit points are 50% over what they should be for a CR 4 creature, and they’re not calculated correctly. With its Hit Dice and Con bonus the sum should be 51—though the target for a CR 4 creature is 40. However, its attack bonus and damage is fine (if a teensy bit high). Also, using the normal formula for calculating save DCs, this creature’s saving throw DCs for its special abilities would be 16 rather than 15.

I think this monster is a cool idea and the execution was mostly there, but there were numerous mechanical mistakes. That said, as a developer, I find it far easier to correct a statblock than rewrite a bunch of flavor text. Good job making it to the top five and best of luck in voting!

1 comment :

  1. I'm liking the mix of simian and insect features in this creature. That's not something you see much. The swarm ability is a great mechanic. I'll back up the judges that seeing the staggered effect was a bit weird; I'd have stuck with the standard distraction mechanic.


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