Alamal, The Skinfin Surgeon CR 7 - Matt Roth

Alamal, The Skinfin Surgeon CR 7

XP 3,200

Male gillman alchemist (vivisectionist) 5/fighter (free hand fighter) 3 (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Player's Guide, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Race Guide, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Magic)

NE Medium humanoid (aquatic)

Init +4; Senses Perception +10

===== Defense =====

AC 23, touch 16, flat-footed 17 (armor +5, Dex +4, dodge +2, natural +2)

hp 63 (8 HD; 5d8+3d10+21)

Fort +9, Ref +10, Will +4; +4 vs. poison, +2 vs. non-aboleth enchantments, –2 vs. aboleth enchantments

Defensive Abilities elusive +1, preserve organs 25%; Resist poison resistance

Weaknesses water dependent

===== Offense =====

Speed 30 ft., swim 30 ft.

Melee +1 rapier +11/+2 (1d6+7/18-20)

Ranged liquid blade +10 (1d6+6 plus poison) or dagger +10 (1d4+6/19-20)

Special Attacks deceptive strike +1, sneak attack +3d6

Alchemist Extracts Prepared (CL 5th; concentration +8)

2nd—blurcat's graceprotection from arrows

1st—deathwatchexpeditious retreat (2), true strike (2)

===== Tactics =====

Before Combat Alamal drinks his extract of cat's grace and a strength mutagen if expecting combat.

During Combat Alamal uses skirmisher tactics, using sneak attacks with Vital Strike and quickly moving. He draws foes into the water by disarming them or with alchemical fire.

Morale If reduced below 10 hit points, he flees along the coast.

Base Statistics Without his extracts or mutagen, Alamal's statistics are Init +2; AC 19, touch 14, flat-footed 15; Reflex +8; Melee +1 rapier +9/+4 (1d6+5/18-20); Ranged liquid blade +8 (1d6+4 plus poison) or dagger +8 (1d4+4/19-20); Str 14, Dex 14, Int 16; CMB +8 (+11 disarm); CMD 20 (23 vs. disarm); Skills Stealth +7, Swim +17

===== Statistics =====

Str 18, Dex 18, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 14

Base Atk +6; CMB +10 (+13 disarm); CMD 24 (27 vs. disarm)

Feats Brew Potion, Combat Expertise, Dodge, Improved Disarm, Improved Iron Will, Iron Will, Throw Anything, Vital Strike

Skills Bluff +9, Craft (alchemy) +13, Knowledge (nature) +13, Perception +10, Profession (surgeon) +10, Stealth +9, Swim +19

Languages Aboleth, Aquan, Common, Elven

SQ amphibious, cruel anatomist, discoveries (bleeding attack, preserve organs), hybridization, mutagen (+4/–2, +2 natural armor, 50 minutes), poison use, swift alchemy

Combat Gear alchemist's fire (2), liquid blades with blue whinnis poison (2), potions of cure moderate wounds (2), tangleburn bags (2); Other Gear +1 chain shirt+1 rapier, daggers (3),cloak of resistance +1hat of disguise, alchemy crafting kit, formula book, 139 gp

===== Special Abilities =====

Hybridization (Ex) Alamal applies perfected hybridizations to himself. He gains the following:

Elven Beauty: Alamal resembles a half-elf, reducing his swim racial bonus to +4 but increasing his Charisma score by 2.

Mantis Shrimp Strike: The damage dealt by melee and thrown attacks increases by 2, but all iterative attacks suffer a –4 penalty. This damage bonus doubles when used with Vital Strike.

Shark Ferocity: All 1s on sneak attack damage dice are treated as 2s.

The people of Roston know the handsome half-elven merchant that graces their town, but none suspect him to be the mastermind behind the town's disappearances. Not even the monks within Bower Monastery have made the connection between the reticent merchant and the sadistic doctor of Skinfin Grotto. Only his eyes, a stark, piercing gray, belie the truth that the Skinfin Surgeon and Alamal are one and the same. A magical guise hides the scars of forced evolution, letting him choose targets with impunity. For those that see his true form, glistening pearls in noble crests upon his mail leave no doubt to Alamal's lineage.

Born into nobility, Alamal's skill in both martial arts and natural sciences saw him catapult through the ranks of undersea academies. No matter how much he excelled, the world above always glittered with opportunity that evaded him. The desire to rectify these inequities drove him to increasingly vile experimentation to merge life above and below the waves into one perfect form. One death too many saw Alamal exiled, cursed to a half-life on the shoreline.

Incensed by this insult to his attempts at perfection, Alamal vowed to use his exile to its fullest. Abandoning all pretense of morality, his experiments have grown increasingly ambitious. Dozens of failures match each success, but this does not dissuade the followers he has promised new—more meaningful—lives beneath the sea when he reclaims his titles. Undergoing a personal metamorphosis, Alamal moves forcibly closer to the perfect specimen. With such perfection, it is only right to bring both sky and sea to heel. Shedding his sea-borne shackles is the first step towards his evolution.


  • edited July 2018
    Hello Matt, and welcome to the Top 8!

    I’m looking at three primary aspects when reviewing the villain. First, I want to see a strong motivation for the villain. The villain has to have a compelling reason for what he/she/it does beyond “I’m eeeevil.” Next, the villain has to have some kind of plan to achieve its goals. The PCs should have a reason to hear about the villain and seek the villain out. A villain that just waits for its victims/foes to show up is unexciting. This is also where I’ll look at the villain’s suitability for the chosen location. Finally, the stat block has to support the above two points. I’ll consider mechanics and formatting as well when reviewing the villain.

    I like Alamal’s motivation. He wants to combine surface forms with undersea forms to create the perfect specimen. There is a lot to work with here, and it makes sense for him to reside in Skinfin Grotto. I imagine him experimenting on his subjects, figuring out what works, and applying that to himself. I would have liked an understanding of his ideal specimen, but that is a minor quibble. A GM could be left to decide that for him- or herself.

    Alamal’s plan is a little more passive, beyond the given abductions and surgery, which is still plenty enough to get PCs involved. It’s not clear if he directly abducts his victims or whether he has others do that for him, and I’m not sure how his alter ego as a reticent merchant helps him select his victims. Finally, I would have liked to see his master plan once he achieves perfection. Is he going to lead an army of perfected specimens to overthrow the leadership in his former society? Is he simultaneously going to do the same on land?

    The stat block supports his motivation and plans. It makes sense for him to have more focus on the vivisectionist archetype than the free hand fighter archetype, and the free hand fighter archetype supports his background as skilled in martial arts. I am at a loss about the hybridizations. I don’t see those anywhere in the PRD, nor in any other source (which would have been cause for disqualification) so it seems like these have been added to be unique to this character. They are fairly powerful abilities, with minimal drawbacks for the benefits (an ability score bump is worth more than an effective –4 on Swim checks, and Alamal prefers Vital Strike in combat, so the penalty to iterative attacks will rarely come into play). They are enough for Alamal to be 1 CR higher (which still keeps him in the CR range listed in the rules and could have been indicated with a quick note, similar to higher CRs due to exceeding wealth). Also, the names of the sub-abilities should have been italicized.

    Overall, Alamal has a very compelling motivation coupled with a weaker set of plans. The stat block makes sense for him, but I have some issues with the hybridization special ability. I think you took a risk going with a location you didn’t originally design, and you met the challenge by creating a villain suitable for the location. Despite my concerns with the additional special ability, I recommend Alamal advance to the next round.

    Most of the above is subjective. The voters may take a different view than mine on your villain. All the villains this round have been great, and many are a handful of edits away from excellence. Good luck in the voting!
  • Hello! I’m Ron Lundeen, a developer for Paizo Inc. and a frequent freelancer for several Pathfinder publishers. Congratulations on making the Top 8!

    When looking over a villain, I keep in mind the player perspective—more specifically, how the players at a table will interact with the villain. Are the mechanics of the villain sufficient to create a good encounter? Could a plot centered on finding or confronting the villain feel particularly heroic? Will the villain’s actions convey its motivation and goals?

    Let’s start with an initial rule: Google all your names. Al-Amal, as it turns out, is an Islamic school in Minnesota, and therefore makes a terrible—and terribly politically charged—name for a sadistic villain. Some of the other named villains in this round share names with an uncommon Magic the Gathering card, a Skyrim shopkeeper, and a minor Tolkien character, but you’ve submitted a name that I’d absolutely have to change in development.

    Although villains aren’t built the same way as monsters, it’s handy to look at the table on page 291 of the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary and check their stats. Monster Statistics by CR gives the expected toe-to-toe fighting ability of an opponent of a particular CR—with the caveat that NPCs often struggle to have as many hit points as the chart expects. Your villain meets these expectations well; his hit points are a little low and his AC is perhaps a little high, but he’s otherwise a reasonable fight for an opponent of CR 7.

    Your errors in the stat block are quite minor; “armor +5” should be “+5 armor” and so on throughout the AC line, the ranged attack with the dagger should be on the next line down (there’s always a return after an “or” in Melee or Ranged entries), liquid blades and alchemy crafting kit should have UE superscripts, but these are small and easily remedied in development. A technically correct stat block is very much appreciated, and it’s the kind of thing that has developers look at you for further rules-heavy work.

    I don’t like the fact that 4 sources beyond the Core Rulebook are required for this one villain, but I acknowledge that after the initial “hurdle” of the ARG, APG, UM to get the race and classes, the extracts, feats, and gear are substantially all from the Core Rulebook. I won’t hold that against you here, but I’d mention it in feedback if I were developing this—try to limit the number of books a GM has to have open on the table at one time to run an encounter to only 2 or 3.

    Your hybridization special ability was the biggest risk you took here, and I don’t think it paid off. You wanted to give this villain some unusual abilities based on his role in the cult and his backstory, but those don’t always need to be embodied in new rules (and, in fact, almost never are). If they are embodied in new rules, it’s important that they be easy to apply and sensible for the villain—after all, the rules are only going to see the light of day during the encounter with this one unique character. Unfortunately, your hybridization rules feel quite scattered in their application (and their placement: they’re both Special Attacks and SQ, so it’s not clear where to list them): -4 to Swim in exchange for +2 to Charisma feels really unbalanced to me, even when this villain doesn’t even rely on Charisma that much (he relies on his magic hat instead); adding extra damage only when using Vital Strike is fiddly; and it’s not clear to me whether changing sneak attack 1s would also change the weapon damage dice, too (unfortunately, rapiers use d6, so GMs are likely to roll them all together). Further, your Base Statistics doesn’t seem to include all these hybridization rules anyway.

    This villain’s backstory provides him some motivation, but it’s not something the PCs will ever see or experience. They might have some revelation encounter where they learn that the handsome merchant is a vile vivisectionist, but that wouldn’t be because the villain confronted them—the PCs would have to have an awful lot of initiative of their own to investigate this. A villain operating in the shadows isn’t effective unless he comes out of the shadows in a way that involves the PCs, and this villain doesn’t ever do that. In fact, until I went back and read the Embracing Bower/Skinfin Grotto entry another time did I realize that this villain is maybe kidnapping people the PCs care about—his actions should be more foregrounded.

    In all, I do not recommend this entry to advance.

  • First of all, Matt, congratulations on getting to Round 3. Ron and Mike have already offered some fantastic feedback, so I'm going to try not to duplicate what they've said.

    You introduce what sort of seems like a mad scientist in Alamal, the Skinfin Surgeon (and while rhyme and alliteration can be overdone, I think that's a really good "title" for your villain). Mad scientist is a classic villain for a reason, and I think it makes sense for the location you've chosen (I think it would have been very easy to have statted up Rakaz'greh, the incubus from your Forsaken Mission, so I give you credit for taking on a harder challenge). Unfortunately, I think there are some missteps here, largely in the second paragraph. Alamal's motivation feels off to me. What are the opportunities that evaded him on the surface and how were they inequities that he couldn't accomplish them (were other gillmen given these opportunities that he wasn't)? I'm reading it as he is jealous of surface dwellers' ability to exist on land, but I guess that just doesn't strike me as a strong motivation when presumably there's just as vibrant a world/civilization underwater where most surface dwellers can't go. I have the same problem with his exile -- didn't he want to be on the surface? If so, how is now being there a half life (other than he still has to constantly submerge himself)? That then plays over into what I think his real villainous plan, which I feel you somewhat glossed over -- reclaiming his titles underwater. For me, it feels as if this villain should have been exiled because he wanted to perform these hybridization experiments so that he could launch an invasion of the surface world; once he was kicked out, his plan then would have basically reversed so that he now needs to create hybrids from surface dwellers to reclaim his title.  

    I didn't do a full dive into the mechanics of the stat block, but tried to do some spot checking, and your stat array appears to be slightly off. An NPC with class levels should start with an array of 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8, but even accounting for Alamal's racial modifiers, extract, mutagen, hybridization and levels, one of the stats doesn't seem to add up (Wisdom or Charisma, depending how the base array was allocated). Otherwise, though, I think the stat block -- which is a complicated one -- looks good. The others have noted some concerns about the hybridization ability, which I share; I'm OK with adding in the concept, though don't know if I love all your choices, but I think it probably should have noted that it increased Alamal's CR by 1.

    Consdering all this, I do not recommend this to advance. That said, this round especially I had a lot of difficulty deciding which entries should get my recommendations, so other voters may disagree with me.

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