Elgrim the Withered CR 10 - Nathan Ross


XP 9,600

Male dwarf rogue (underground chemist) 11 (ACG)

NE Medium humanoid (dwarf)

Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +16

===== Defense =====

AC 21, touch 14, flat-footed 18 (+7 armor, +1 deflection, +3 Dex)

hp 97 (11d8+44)

Fort +7, Ref +11, Will +6; +2 vs. poison, spells and spell-like abilities

Defensive Abilities defensive training (+4 dodge bonus to AC vs. giants), discovery (preserve organsUM (25% chance to negate critical and sneak attack damage)), improved uncanny dodge, trap sense +3; Immune cold, nonlethal, paralysis, sleep

===== Offense =====

Speed 20 ft.

Melee mwk heavy pick +9/+4 (1d6/×4)

Ranged liquid ice +12/+7 (1d6+4 cold plus splash)

Special Attacks +1 on attack rolls against goblinoid and orc humanoids, sneak attack +6d6

===== Tactics =====

Before Combat Elgrim favors complex ambushes, attacking with allies and using traps that take advantage of his peculiar immunities. Elgrim prepares a tactically advantageous area using his wand of grease, electricity arc trap and a jury-rigged smokestick and pellet grenade before engaging. He uses his wand of darkness on himself.

During Combat Elgrim maneuvers around the battlefield, luring enemies into traps and triggering these with his cunning trigger talent. He uses darkness and grease effects to sneak attack opponents with flasks of liquid ice. He uses difficult terrain and Nimble Moves to prevent opponents from closing and using a full-attack action. Against opponents with darkvision, he uses his jury-rigged smokestick as a means to gain concealment.

Morale Elgrim is cautious and will retreat if an ambush is going poorly or he is running low on resources, using his potion of invisiblity to ensure his escape. If cornered, Elgrim surrenders and plots to escape at a later point.

===== Statistics =====

Str 10, Dex 16, Con 16, Int 16, Wis 14, Cha 6

Base Atk +8; CMB +8; CMD 21 (25 vs. bull rush or trip)

Feats Armor Proficiency (medium), Extra Rogue TalentAPG (2), Nimble Moves, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot

Skills Acrobatics +14, Bluff +12, Craft (alchemy) +22, Craft (trapsmithing) +17, Disable Device +21, Knowledge (dungeoneering, local) +17, Perception +16 (+18 to notice unusual stonework), Sense Motive +16, Stealth +14, Use Magic Device +12

Languages Common, Dwarven, Goblin, Orc, Undercommon

SQ chemical weaponsACG, discovery (mummificationUM, preserve organsUM), precise splash weaponsACG, rogue talents (alchemical jury-rigging, cunning triggerAPG, quick trapsmithAPG, sniper’s eyeAPG), trapfinding +5, weapon familiarity

Combat Gear electricity arc trap (components), liquid iceAPG (10), pellet grenade (adamantine)UE (2), potion of invisibility, smokestick (2), wand of darkness (5 charges), wand of grease (10 charges); Other Gear +1 breastplate, belt of incredible dexterity +2, cloak of resistance +1, handy haversack containing 30 lbs of thaumatite ore, masterwork heavy pick, masterwork artisan’s tools, ring of protection +1

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

Alchemical Jury-rigging (Ex) By taking one minute to attach fuses Elgrim may jury-rig a single alchemical item so that it functions as a simple trap, with a trigger of either touch or timed and Perception and Disable Device DC of 18. Jury-rigged traps can be triggered using Elgrim’s cunning trigger rogue talent.

A gaunt, desiccated husk bundled in layers of dark fabric, the air around this dwarf is suffused with an unpleasant, alchemical tang.

Born within the Bowels, Elgrim grew up with the familiar humming and knocking of bronze pipes in his ears. A sound that increasingly symbolised all that he lacked, all that he was denied by those who dwelt in easy comfort within the Old City.

Before long, his jealousy and resentment turned to bitter spite.

Elgrim leads the Tinctures Guild, a group of smugglers and alchemists providing cures and concoctions alongside poisons and addictive drugs derived from thaumatite ore. It is one of the more respectable guilds within the Bowels. This position of power however, is only a means for pursuing a larger goal.

He conducts a campaign of terror against the Old City, to strike at them for their wealth and privilege. He attacks the symbol of the Old City’s superiority; the pipes that permeate the Bowels like twisted metallic roots. Using alchemical explosives, Elgrim destroys critical junctures of piping, heedless of the collateral damage inflicted upon the residents of the Bowels.

Though effective at creating chaos in the Old City, his successes are temporary. The damaged pipes soon split and regrow, radiating in fractal arcs and returning power to the city above.

The twisting network of bronze pipes haunts Elgrim’s dreams, burning their topography into his mind. Their destruction is now more than just a goal, it is an obsession.


  • All instances of APG, ACG, UM, UE, and the like were all correctly formatted in Superscript, but this did not translate over to the forums.
  • Hello Nathan, 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.

    Elgrim’s motivation of wanting to destroy the pipes feeding the Old City is strong. I like how his obsession with denying the city above of its advantages have turned him into something akin to a dark creeper or dark stalker, and the layers of dark fabric and unpleasant smell add to this. While it’s a basic motivation, it absolutely fits in with the setting presented for the Bowels.

    His plans are also just as basic, and the description doesn’t marry his role as leader of the Tinctures Guild with his overall plans. The way I read it, it doesn’t seem like he uses the guild to attack the pipes alongside him. I also don’t know how he would react to outsiders (i.e., visiting PCs). Does he attack them as representatives of the Old City or attempt to ally with them to achieve his goal (perhaps offering items from the guild to sweeten the deal)?

    The stat block fits his background as an alchemist and makes sense for his desire to destroy the bronze pipes. This is a minor point, but I would have liked more explosives among his repertoire beyond the pellet grenades, since his description discusses his use of alchemical explosives to sabotage the pipes. For me, liquid ice doesn’t really say “explosive.”

    Overall, I found Elgrim an interesting NPC, with a clear goal. His plans to achieve his goal are not clear enough for me, though, and I needed to get an idea of his interaction with the PCs. You had an unfortunate run-on sentence, so I think an additional proofread would have helped. I do not recommend Elgrim 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?

    I recently finished development on an upcoming Paizo product that has a lot of dark folk in it, so I’ve got dark folk on the brain. And it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to see this sneaky, underground, rag-wrapped villain as a dark folk, and I think that’s awesome imagery.

    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. Here, Elgrim falls short pretty much across the board for a CR 10 opponent. His sneak attack makes his liquid ice more damaging, but not enough to really worry PCs going up against a CR 10 foe. His hit points, AC, and saves are low enough that the PCs won’t have much of a problem with him when they finally pin him down.

    I see that the mummification is an important part of not only Elgrim’s dark folk-like appearance and his defenses. It took me a minute to realize how you got there legitimately, with the 10th level class feature to select preserve organs and the 11th level feat to take Extra Rogue Talent for mummification (using preserve organs as a prerequisite), but it seems to check out. I’m not normally a fan of clever rules combinations just to be clever, but here it seems to be in support of a specific appearance and motivation for your villain, so I appreciate its elegance.

    I don’t love how you snuck in a new rogue talent in as a special ability; we’d normally have a separate section of the book for new rogue talents and then refer to that section in the villain’s stat block (like we did with the Villain Codex), but the audacity of it—and the fact that it works so well for this character and his stats—has convinced me to give it a pass. You omit some details about what the alchemical item does if triggered (automatically hit someone it its space? Make an attack roll? What about alchemical items such as tindertwigs or smokesticks?) If I were your developer, I’d need to create a sidebar or somesuch for the new rogue talent, and expand some details, but I’d definitely do so in order to keep it.

    So how to the PCs encounter this foe? Obviously, someone in the city above wants the sabotage stopped, and the PCs descend to the Bowels and trigger a bunch of Elgrim’s traps before confronting the obsessive dwarf himself. The adventure practically writes itself. But explaining what else Elgrim could bring to bear—other members of his guild, for example, or some actual explosives—might have elevated this entry a bit further.

    In all, I recommend this entry to advance.

  • First of all, Nathan, 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.

    Elgrim is a bit of a mixed bag, including in the writing. You start off very strongly with "A gaunt, desiccated husk bundled in layers of dark fabric," which I think is very evocative and sets a picture. But that's then diminished by being a dangling modifier, as it technically refers to the air around the dwarf instead of Elgrim himself.  Similarly, the third sentence is a fragment, which can sometimes be used for dramatic effect but which doesn't work here, I don't think. Moving beyond the writing to the content, I think Elgrim's motivation and plan are clear, though it feels like we're missing something: If he was able to become the leader of one of the more respected guilds, why didn't he come up from the Bowels earlier? How did he get from all that he lacked to what presumably is a pretty well-compensated position (guild masters are typically portrayed as among more powerful/wealthy members of society)? I think you took a risk designing a villain from a location that didn't advance to that round, and I like that confidence to play in an area that you think shows promise, but I'm not sure the master plot of destroying the pipes was the way to direct Elgrim. His mission should be destroying the city to punish it for what he feels is its privileged position. The pipes should be a means to that end goal, but they're set up here as the end goal and I don't think we've been given enough reason to care about them in that way (based on the original location). Maybe if we knew there was more collateral damage that could come in for the PCs to worry about, but as is, I think most would be more concerned about the damage done in the explosions than by the pipes' loss.

    I didn't do a full dive into all the mechanics of the stat block, but tried to do some spot checking, and your block looks good. I like your tactics, which I think would be memorable, though it might be a lot for a GM to keep track of. I think you did some optimization (as Ron points out), which can sometimes be a poor choice for a villain -- it's not hard to make a foe that can one-shot a PC, but that's not necessarily fun for the players. That said, I think you very cleverly went in a different direction here, which was smart. You do introduce a new rogue talent -- and it briefly sent me on a search for some other archetypes to consider if they might work better (alchemical sapper, for instance) -- but as Ron notes it does make sense for this character.

    Still, for me, I'm afraid the errors in writing just outweigh the mechanics considerations with Elgrim the Withered. 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.

  • Thanks to the judges for their excellent feedback. I can see why you had such a tough job making recommendations for this round of the competition.
  • Congratulations on completing Round 3! Whatever happens from here, you've definitely made your mark.

    I am not going into stat block construction or math problems (unless I was really confused or puzzled). The judges are way better at that stuff.  I'll just stick to my impressions on the villain and how he'd fit into a scenario I was using.

    Elgrim is very versatile, I could use him in most underground situations with a little tweaking (obviously the map he's portrayed in uses thaumatite heavily, so that aspect of his character might need work, but that's no big deal). I like how he fits the map location you've placed him in as a whole (The Warrens; specifically the Warrens map created was a goblin lair, but the Warrens as a whole suit him). His temperament might need some adjusting to make him a villain towards any PCs, since he's equally likely to just meet them and maybe even be sought out by them for cures, thaumatite, or poisons as a contact.  So unless he's bombing a busy intersection and collapsing a good portion of the Warrens or endangering others or viewing the PCs as Old City elite in need of a beating, I'd have to come up with a plausible situation for them to clash.

    I was designing a cunning trigger-type rogue myself a short time ago, so I was intrigued by Elgrim.  I also noticed how tough it was to arrange decent traps that could be set off situationally by such a character (since technically they have to create them), so either he had to be a skilled trapsmith or I had to really make the area full of traps in such a way that the entire location probably was built around their existence and presence. So I understand the desire to create the alchemical jury-rigging. It definitely allows a lot more use of simplistic traps and ambushes that he can trigger at his convenience and not rely on enemies being clumsy and setting them off themselves.

    I do like that you incorporated thaumatite into his story (since otherwise I don't know that it does anything or has any actual use). I would almost hope that if you were giving him custom traits or having him able to utilize thaumatite in poisons, cures, and other concoctions that you might as well as have given him a concoction, catalyst, or ability to transform thaumatite into a traplike setting, such as a chemical that turned thaumatite into glue or a poisonous mist or something that would allow utilizing those thaumatite squares on the Warren's map to give them an actual purpose (not that you're responsible for the map).  I mean, if you're giving out new stuff anyway...  It's not a cunning trigger kind of trap, but it would fit with his tactics and alchemical training and methodology, especially if he were working on something that turned thaumatite into an explosive, which might be a big part of his plan to blow a sizable portion of bronze piping up in certain areas and certainly would be of interest to anyone not wanting major foundation damage beneath the Old City.
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