Creatures of Shadows over Vathak: Abyssal Elk (5e)
This pdf clocks in at 2 pages, 1 page for the new critter, 1 page for editorial/SRD/etc., so let’s take a look!
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The abyssal elk is a boss-style critter for a horror setting, and comes with a pretty hefty hit point tally for its challenge of 5. It has an animal-like focus, gaining double proficiency bonus on its 3 skills; the creature has a frightening aura (thankfully with a brief frame where you’re not affected: On a successful save, you can’t be affected by it for 1 minute) that also can cause short term madness if you bungle the save particularly badly. Abyssal elks have an array of innate spellcasting abilities, with the DC listed, but not the spell atk value, and it should be listed, since the critter has innate spellcasting that requires attack rolls.
The passive creature features are missing the italics in the feature names, but are otherwise correctly formatted. Speaking of missing italics: The Melee Weapon Attack and Hit sections in the attack sequence are missing their italics, but the damage value is correct. Weird: The one attack of the creature seems to calculate its attack bonus with Dexterity, but the damage inflicted with Strength; either that, or, more likely, it’s off by 1. Why is that more likely? The DCs for the abyssal elk’s aura are off by 1, considering its proficiency bonus and most sensible ability score to calculate it.
1/day, these creatures can swallow life-force, dealing necrotic damage to all targets of their choice within 30 ft., healing as much damage – nasty surprise incoming.
Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, but on a rules language level, the italics are missing from some features and parts of the attack sequence. As noted, I’m pretty sure that there’s a glitch in atk and DCs. There may be a hiccup in the math, but it might also be a weird (and nonsensical) design-decision. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the critter-artwork by Rick Hershey is really cool and has a Darkwood-vibe I very much enjoy. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
Ismael Alvarez’ abyssal elk is a bit of a lost chance, as far as I’m concerned. The creature has an amazing artwork, a cool concept…and doesn’t do that much with it. It’s a nasty boss, yes, and its 1/day screw-you-feature made me chuckle, as it lets the GM go for phase two without necessarily being TPK-evil…but it’d have been nice to get some lair actions or additional, unique tricks. The execution of this critter does not live up to its potential. For the low asking price, it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a brute-style boss with a nasty surprise. My final verdict will be 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo and the low price.
You can get this critter for a single buck here on OBS.
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