Tips For Competitors

Tips For Competitors

Open Call

The best advice probably comes from Sean K. Reynolds’ consolidated advice thread dating back to Paizo’s RPG Superstar competition. Many of these suggestions are strong design advice for any items, and certainly important to the judges in this competition.

Please note: The links on that thread are broken. I’m keeping it listed here as the thread itself contains some good discussion. Below are correct links to the actual pieces of advice.

Round 3

Here are some tips for using the above stat block, and building stat blocks in general.

  • Stat block: An example of a stat block is included with the rules for the round. Please note that it may have some fields that aren’t relevant. Delete irrelevant lines (for example, villains may not have an aura or SR, or may have the standard 5 ft. space and reach, so all those lines could be deleted). Similarly, special abilities at the end of the stat block are only relevant if they have something special that’s not reflected in the usual rules.
  • Ability scores: Use the ability score array for NPCs with PC levels (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8). If the villain is level 8 or more, remember that it will get multiple stat boosts.

    Remember that the guidelines for adding class levels to monsters ( indicate that creatures with class levels receive +4, +4, +2, +2, +0, and –2 adjustments to their ability scores, assigned in a manner that enhances their class abilities.
  • Favored class bonuses: Putting all bonuses in either hp or skill ranks is preferable.
  • Skills: When deciding on your villain’s skills, please remember a few maxed-out skills rather than two dozen skills with 1 rank each is preferable (for space and ease-of-use reasons).
  • Traits: Unlike PCs, villains have no traits (e.g. you cannot choose reactionary for +2 initiative)
  • Gear: You can find guidelines for NPC wealth and gear at A monster with class levels always possesses treasure equal to an NPC of a level equal to the monster’s final CR
  • Balance your villain against monsters of the same CR: The hp, AC, attack bonus, etc. should be reasonably close to the target values for the CR (see even though villains are technically not monsters. There are many NPCs in the NPC Codex that don’t adhere to this rule, which makes them more difficult for a GM to use. For example, the CR ½ barbarian has AC 15 (appropriate for CR 3), hp 17 (CR 1), attack bonus +6 (CR 3), avg. damage output 14 (CR 3), and the save bonuses of a CR 3 monster.
  • Avoid player mentality: This one is closely related to the previous guideline. Designing a villain is not a min/max exercise. When you’re a player, stacking 10 different abilities to kill a BBEG in one round is ok, but you should avoid “I win” buttons in villain design. Moreover, if the combo requires using many abilities from different classes, archetypes, feats, spells, and other sources, the GM may have trouble using the villain’s abilities as intended.
  • Avoid using too many sources: To make the GM’s life easier, only use the Core Rulebook + 1 additional source, or CRB + 2 additional sources if your class combination requires it. When you use resources from books other than the CRB, remember to include the abbreviation for that book in superscript. For example: Precise StrikeAPG.
  • In a printed stat block, the individual listings for the spell-like abilities are indented, but it’s difficult to make that work in emails, so if your villain has spell-like abilities, just use the non-indented format as presented in the sample stat block.
  • If your villain has a new ability, you must explain it in the Special Abilities part of the stat block.
  • If your monster has a common ability from the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook (such as sneak attack) or a universal monster rule from the Bestiary, Bestiary 2, Bestiary 3,  Bestiary 4, or Bestiary 5 (such as grab or stench), you do not need to provide the description of that ability in the Special Abilities part of the stat block (we assume the reader knows how sneak attack, grab, and stench work, or can look them up in the appropriate book).

When in doubt as to how to format part of your stat block, check the NPC Codex and universal monster rules.