I recently had occasion to build a critter in Pathfinder. I figured that this would be a pretty straight forward process. I had a clear concept for the creature, what it was, what it did and its role in the game. I had done some research on the creature as I was loosely basing it on a mythological creature and so I grabbed my Bestiary and got under way.
There is a step by step process to building a critter in the back of the Bestiary that pretty much lays down the law on what needs to be done to create a critter. There is one caveat at the start though and that is the author tells us this can be more art than science. I scoffed at the author’s intent believing how bad can this be? I leaped in and started creating some numbers.
About an hour in and a hundred and fifty page turns, with my iPad open with separate Pathfinder rules laid out and a whole heap of numbers swirling somewhere behind my eye balls I realized that the Author’s statement was 100% correct. Although I had a clear idea of what I wanted, how it would be achieved and the role of the critter there was a lot more to it than that. Largely it came down to the idea that the critter needed to fit a certain Challenge Rating (CR) and that CR had some expectations to it.
There are charts that lay out the statistics expected by CR so you would think that this was a simple task but it is not. For if it were that simple every CR 5 critter would have the same statistics. In fact there would only need to be 20 pages in the Bestiary to let you know what those statistics are and to apply them to the critter you wanted with a touch of flavor.
No, according to role and of course other abilities you need to carefully balance this creation. My Frankenstein if you will (though it was not a flesh golem I was creating). For example was going to be created as a CR 15 critter. At that level it is expected to have around 220 hit points (hp) but due to the nature of the critter(a magical beast) and the constitution of the critter these two combined to give it average hp of 270. That as you can see is a sizable chunk of difference right there.
So I needed to make the critter weaker in other areas to balance this out! In response to this I decided to make it a little easier to hit with a lower armor class (AC). Sitting back and looking at it I thought that this may not be enough though. I could remove more from the AC but then it would be an easy mark. The critter was going to be pretty and poisonous too so I needed to factor in those powers too, not to mention I was thinking of throwing in Damage Resistance (DR) and regeneration as well. It needed a big negative that did not make it an easy kill.
Putting all the powers in I looked at it for a long while. I ummed and ahhhed over the DR and regeneration combination because this makes it a dangerous foe but it fit the concept that I wanted. So how would I achieve the balance? I decided to make this creature have a powerful weakness and started thinking about mythological creatures and their weaknesses. In the longer run I abandoned most of those (silver, sunlight etc.) and decided to make the DR beaten by magical items (fairly standard at that level) and make it susceptible to the Slow spell.
The critter was not insanely fast to start with so I wondered how this would work and be a real impediment. It had a low Will save so it was likely to struggle against the save, maybe failing it somewhere between 30 – 60% of the time, so well worth a mage trying that tactic. And then it hit me. I had not seen this modeled anywhere else (that I knew of anyway) but I decided that the effect of the Slow spell that allowed the critter only a move or a standard action each turn could be enhanced. If it got effected the critter could only use one of those actions once every two turns!
Voila! Art was created and I finally understood what the Author had originally meant. Creating a critter for this game is a work of art and balance. There are a great deal of powers and abilities available for the creator but making sure that these abilities do not overload the creatures apparent threat to the players group is a thing of pure art.
Now, as you can tell I have been deliberately vague as to the actual critter that I have made and that is because I have submitted it to a professional organisation for consideration so I do not want to negatively affect my chances in that regard. On the other hand I am keen to do a full write up of a new critter for you all to use in your own games but I want the critter to come from you, the readers! That is right, I want to create something for you with a concept that comes from you.
If you want your critter to be realized in a Pathfinder format and also used as the focus of a post in the near future on the ins and outs of creation as per the Bestiary you can do one of a few things;
- Put your creature idea in a comment on the blog;
- Put your creature idea in a comment on whatever social media you have seen this blog from but add the #critter tag to the description; or
- Put all the details in an email (including a sketch if you want!) and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
I will use one of the descriptions to illustrate a post but I may convert more than one into creatures. Any that get turned into creatures shall give you the credit for the concept supplied and all of them will be placed on the blog free of charge for use by everyone! So get to it and send me some ideas for critters and keep rolling!