Saturday, 30 December 2017

The Monster Man contest: winners!

Well, it's been a heck of a ride, but the first Monster Man contest is finally over. Our eight finalists have been submitted to the judges, and the scores are back. Let's see how our finalists have done!

Now remember -- these eight finalists were selected from 28 entrants, and they're all going to receive some finalist goodies from our sponsors, so in this case, "they're all winners" isn't just something people say. It's really true!

Here, in no particular order, are the honourable mentions, with the judges' comments for each:

Puschel Wuschel by Herr Zinnling and Lina (aged 9)
"Would use this in a horror adventure, taking advantage of their ability to turn on those they live with."

"They're cute, they're fluffy, they glow in the dark, and if you annoy them they will EAT YOU! Who doesn't enjoy a bit of tough love?"

"The only encounter that put a big beaming smile on my face. It has also got the best name of the bunch."

Bear-Owl by Richard Scott

"Because after you've made your Owl Bear you've got some very specific spare parts left right? The idea of this thing swooping down on completely unsuspecting travellers is genius. It's a drop-bear owl!"

"High shock value, with its frightening visual of being dive-bombed by bear-headed bird monsters."

"I like the Vancian background to this creature - I can see it emerging from Rialto the Marvellous’ manse. It’s a terrifying one-shot encounter."

Fuggag by Aaron Oliver

"Clever idea to modify a golem, providing means for independent/intelligent piloting of a golem’s stats."

"Yeah, I remember these guys. Definitely classic monster stuff. I'm sure there are many people who have placed these over the heads of dolls and other toys to create monsters, totally unaware they were creating the dreaded Fuggag!"

"When the competition was announced, it was these little finger puppets that came to mind, so this is a monster that really fulfils the brief from my point of view. I like the idea of them controlling Golem like creatures too, like some kind of parasite, using the appendages of other creatures to make up for their puny efforts."

Glowber-tuttle by Kit Chapman

"The adorable little turtle that explodes with excitement. Amazing. Get one of the adventurers to find the cute little thing in a cave somewhere, have them journey together through all kinds of perils and get really attached to the little pet, then have it explode with joy! A suitably heartless prank for a DM to pull."

"Almost more of a trap or hazard than a creature, and can be re-used the same way as green slime or hazardous fungus: As the players encounter successive groups of these creatures, they develop tactics to avoid the danger."

"A very convincing ecology for these innocent looking creatures. I’m sure that adventuring parties would be willing to adopt them for their practical application in dark spaces. If there was a thrilling encounter and the Glowber exploded, it would brighten up the situation!"

Kafka by Kevin Chenevert

I should say as a personal note that this entry came within a razor thin margin of getting into the top three; it literally could not have been closer. Bad luck to Kevin for missing out, but I think it speaks to the excellent quality of all the entries!

"Clearest writing and organization of all the entries, and matches pretty well with the other giant insect power levels. Extremely useful monster across a range of levels. Great implications for different sorts of tactics and encounter types. Has plenty of “replay value,” especially once the players find out how to use the psychic gel."

"Giant insects are gross. The imagery that can be conjured up by an eloquent DM around a lair of flies and bugs is far worse than the grottiest goblin den. Add to that pack-hunting cockroaches that will swarm in the darkness overhead and suddenly drop silently upon their victims and you truly have the stuff of nightmares. Reminds me of that hideous BBC footage of snakes hunting as a pack, it's terrifying when it comes from animals you don't expect it of."

"Extra points for the clever name. A horde of giant cockroaches makes me shudder just thinking about it."

So congratulations and many thanks to our honourable mention finalists. And now, the moment you've all been waiting for: your Monster Man 2017 Contest winners!

Third Place Winner: Thurible Cat by Eric Nieudan

"This creature would make a perfect encounter for a temple. The ash-like breath is my favourite feature and an imaginative interpretation of an ‘infusion’."

"Nicely fills the design role of a non-living, non-undead guardian monster. Strong theming, great sketch, and good implication of baiting adventurers into waking it from its dormancy."

"I love tea, and I actually have this infuser (along with a sloth, elephant, pug, manatee, pig...) so I'm good to feature this beast in an adventure right now! What attracts me to the Thurrible Cat is the great black and white illustration- exactly the kind of re-imagining that would have graced the pages of an ancient monster manual. The feeding of the temple cat gives strong suggestion for it featuring in a quest. The party stumbles upon an ancient and derelict temple. As they breach the main sanctuary they become aware of a low purring from the darkness... the Thurrible Cat lurches forward, its innards cold, and demands fire...."

Second-Place Winner: Great Wight Shark by Chris Webb

"Shudder. I’ll not look at the CBBC magazine in quite the same way again. The glow in the dark appearance with the blood is really unsettling. I like the idea of the undead shark haunting dried up water ways. The iridescence would strike fear in an adventure party prior to it appearing."

"At the other end of the spectrum this is something out of a B Movie so terrible it's great. Sharknado anyone? Even better, this horror came from a kids' magazine! The lore that these spectres haunt the paths of long-dried-up waterways is wonderfully atmospheric. I can imagine a group of adventurers who stop for the night at the "Millwheel Tavern" and admire the great stone wheel which now resides as a table in the bar. The barkeep tells them the tale of how this used to be a thriving watermill but the local lord had the river dammed to make a private boating lake. At night they spy an eerie glow out on the moor... of course, the tale has to end with the local lord getting a just demise in the jaws of the beast!"

"Evocative visuals of semi-ghostly flying sharks! Easy to imagine, and sure to trigger a visceral reaction in the players. Great modeling too! I like how the entry forces the referee to think about environments/terrain where they creatures might dwell. The entry even has evocative suggestions for yet more creatures; I’m a sucker for creature name wordplay."

And our grand prize winner ... Afelyn by James Baillie!

As another note from me as contest organiser, this was a bit of an odd one. It wasn't a toy per se, and James asked me if it was OK to include given that fact, but I figured that the ethos of the contest was, in so many words, "eh, what the hell," and I signed off on it. And I'm glad I did -- the judges loved it! 

"Tremendously-useful background material. The entry has enough content for three separate “backstory reveal” items in a module that revolves around the creature. I really like the ties to nature, and the fantastical shifting of seasons."

"Normally, when monster designers create encounters, they focus on the ecology and not on the narrative possibilities. This entry stands out because it is so evocative: lots of ideas spring off the page. There was something about it that reminded me of the Fiend Factory about creatures from the Land of Faerie. A very magical and mystical creature that I can imagine shambling from the undergrowth. Extra kudos for the accompanying tale and plot hooks (I’m going to steal a couple of those)."

"With my love of Celtic/folkloric creatures and fairy tales the Afelyn really floats my boat. I love that it's not a plastic thing but a (totally free) natural form which has been added to and given a background appropriate to its origins. It conjures up in my mind something between the Mystics from Dark Crystal and Arthur Rackham pixie illustrations. As a herald of autumn I like that the rules have given it a withering ability and made it especially powerful against the undead - the enemies of natural order. I'm not sure what size the Afelyn is imagined at but I see it as either a very small creature able to hide in piles of leaves and tree stumps or as a very large creature which could be mistaken for such things. Of course, being a nature spirit it could be BOTH these things. I can see a great campaign where some adventurers have to find where the Afelyn is dwelling and convince it to move on so that Spring will come around again."

Congratulations to James and to all our entrants, and many thanks to everyone who participated: our sponsors for their generosity, our judges for their expertise, our contestants for their creativity, and everyone who voted for supporting the contest. The monster contest has been a great success, and I'm already cooking up our next contest, which will have a slightly different theme, for later in 2018. 

If you want to learn more about our sponsors, check out the Sponsor Hype Page!

And of course, don't forget to listen to Monster Man for that good monster content and for announcements of upcoming contests and so on. 

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  1. What a great contest! Thanks for organising this and happy new year! Karl

    1. I had a great time doing it -- not that *I* actually did all that much!

  2. I just received a very cool little bugbear mini from Otherworld Miniatures today, as my finalist prize for my Fugag entry.
    Thanks to everyone involved in that!
    Here's a photo:

    1. I'm hearing that rewards are starting to arrive (and have seen one in person, since there's a finalist in Cambridge). It's very gratifying!