Couldn’t think of anything specific to talk about, but figured I’d procrastinate on a real world stuff by chitchatting about how some of the patronage or backer submission process went for various KP projects I've been fortunate enough to participate in. It struck me that it’s been a few years since some of these submissions have gotten out into the wild and was curious to see what people have done with them. If anyone else has similar experience with their submissions, feel free to highlight what you’ve discovered during your process.Tim Baker wrote: ↑Wed Jun 17, 2020 10:36 pmAgreed! I've picked up a few over the years, but not many. Regardless, if you ever want to chat about Midgard, that forum could use some more love.
First up, the Xhkarsh (https://koboldpress.com/tome-of-beasts-xhkarsh/). This was a monster I submitted during the backer open call for the Southlands Bestiary. The artist really did a great job, I’ve seen KP use the art a few times for promotions.
Here are some of questions about the xhkarsh I found online on a recent search.
On the Kobold Press blog (May 2019) -
The answer is any way you can manage. It’s meant to be a nearly unpronounceable approximation of some otherworldly language, taking much inspiration from mythos names. In my head, I sound it out as “Click(or Tsk)”-Khaarshh as if through some voice changer or digitizer with a bit of reverb. The transition between the first click-like syllable and the ‘k’ of karsh almost seemless. It starts rough, mechanical, inhuman, and ends sort of soft, hissy, echoing. Their modus operandi is a hard-soft cadence, basically intrusive snipping and tugging at the strands of fate, but they’re doing it as softly and quietly as possible.“Gates VP” wrote:“So does anyone know how to pronounce the name of this thing?”
When coming up with the name, I was looking for something that visually pops out on text, that looks strange and un-earthly, but with enough pieces that looked almost pronounceable (pieces of Chi/Xhi, Ankh, Harsh, Ash). If we went with something like “xhzctrbtp”, then we run the risk of it being completely incomprehensible and easily forgettable. All things being equal, probably wouldn't have made the cut with a full on gibberish name.
On the Kobold Press FB page (May 2019) -
A person of culture, I see, most excellent. One of the primary inspirations were the Shadows, also the unnamed aliens (solanogen-based lifeforms) from the Schism episode of Star Trek TNG, a tiny bit of xenomorph from Aliens, all in a mythos style wrapper. The mantis shape was probably because at the time I saw some nature videos on mantises hunting prey.“Paul O’Neal” wrote:“They remind anyone else of the Shadows from Babylon 5?”
Can’t find the comment now, but someone asked online if the xhkarsh and thri-kreen were analogous as primates to humans. More like stranded extra-dimensional beings that happened to take after a vaguely similar shape in this reality. A humanoid shape should not be implied to be the most efficient form in most environments.
My goal was to target the CR to be parallel with the mindflayers, so that the xhkarsh could serve as “not-mindflayers” in a situation where the squidies cannot be used. Then built the stats and abilities from the ground up based on the xhkarsh theme and implied background. Probably bit off more than I could chew as a complete amateur. The original submission was for the Southlands Bestiary, built for Pathfinder 1E. The original write up made use of oracle curses for the fate venom/seize strand setup, flavorful but clunky and probably a huge no-no in any official style guide. The 5E conversion by the KP team is much more streamlined mechanically.
Since the original stat-block took most of the word count limit, I could only manage about two sentences between descriptor and flavor text. Really sweated bullets refining those lines as much as possible to get the write-up just within the allotted word count. It’s revealing to discover that with effort, one could relay the information of several lines in the space of one. For instance, this post far exceeds the word count of the original monster submission.
The counterpoint with the skein witches and valkyries was added by the lead designers of the Southlands Bestiary, because at the time, the backer open call submitters did not know the full extent of the monsters included (and it’s not like I had word count allotment to elaborate). That technique used by the lead designers adds nice tie-ins between different monsters in the book and gives them all more context in the grand scheme of things.
Fun aside, these were almost a backer tier lost kingdom submission, a small kingdom secretly run by the xhkarsh to further their goals. Understandably, that concept did not make the first cut for further development. The Southlands already had an actual insectoid kingdom in the form of the Tosculi who were more grounded in the here and now, rather than the disconnected "inscrutable plans from the far beyond" of insect-like aberrations.
If you've encountered the Xhkarsh on your adventures, please share your ordeals here!