Aka, If it bleeds, we can kill it!
(i recommend putting this clip on in the background.)
Imagine the following.
Your party is being stalked by some unseen foe that has just managed to decimate an entire village and its fighting force with some fiery form of magic missile. This ‘wizard’ is an absolute beast in hand to hand combat and it has managed to stay invisible throughout the entire ordeal. Having a seemingly impossible acrobatics skill and perhaps even multi classing a few levels in monk for having such an impeccable physique. Earlier when you tried to find this person, they manged to trick you using a form of ghost sound to mimic the parties cleric. A master of multi attack, fist weapons, staves, glaives…..throwing weapons like stars, chakrams, nets, daggers and traps that not even your base 14 perception and survival combined would pick up. Seemingly leaving no trace in the wild, so perhaps also having a class in druid or ranger, though the sheer amount of strength and knowledge of weaponry would suggest a fighter or a barbarian.
At last, during the final confrontation, this familiar, subtle shimmer of invisibility steps forwards and reveals itself while your GM has a big grin on their face. The spell lifts and a creature appears, being described as a 7 ft tall alien like humanoid with dreadlocks and 2 sets of mandibles. It roars out, holding out a wrist blade on one hand and a bloodied skull & spinal column in the other. It’s the Predator. From the movies. In your pathfinder game.
Yes…you heard me…
For whatever reason, your GM put together this horribly broken and dangerous amalgamation of stats, perks, feats, skill points and abilities, just to make his abomination a plausible match for the iconic creature.
And it’s now standing before you.
While cool, (come on, its the god damn predator!) it’s also horribly meta and might not even work in your setting or would just break any and all immersion for your players if not handled right. You’d have to give a damn good reason for that thing to be there, since its presence opens up a whole new door of possibilities and questions.
Perhaps the most important question for your players will be
‘ Can we kill it and take its stuff?’.
Well, ‘if’ your GM statted out this creature, chances are high it has a health pool. So, yes…it is possible.
If a creature has a health pool, players will figure out a way to kill it.
Its really that simple. No matter how big, scary or from what mythos the creature is from. People have even statted out Cthulhu for heavens sake.
And while imposing and nigh impossible to kill….. now it can bleed….therefor it can be killed. No matter how straightforward or how unconventional the means, players will eventually figure out how and leave your once proud demi god creature of the void in shambles……and claim its valuables.
Why? Think of the loot it may hold. Or in the worst case, the bragging rights (even in the case of a TPK).
And people are still surprised that players are willing to sacrifice their PC’s just for a shot at glory to be able to take down such a creature.
Never underestimate your players, EVER !
On a similar note, somehow knowing that a threat has a stat block, like a health bar (especially knowing the exact numbers), makes a threat a lot less intimidating since it’s no longer up to a players imagination and speculation but rather their intuition, reasoning and planning.
If it bleeds, it can be killed. If it can be killed, it has life points. If it has life points it has stats somewhere. And if it has stats, the threat that it imposes can be measured. Incredible feats or events performed by a threat would either need to meet the required stats (thus usually making it overkill to keep it being imposing and basically stripping any hope that your players had in killing it) or can be left in the dark void that is GM story telling.
Imagine an earth quake hitting the players village. Scary right? Their HQ, tavern, favorite brothel or even their newly built castle may be at risk of collapse. Now imagine that the players would know the exact magnitude of the quake and could deduce that ‘Oh, it’s just a level 1 quake. No worries guys. This wont even knock out a window.’ Less scary…and ultimately pointless.
Which means that most GMs would rather overkill their creations to strike some much needed fear and add tension to their players experience.
A description does more than a stat block ever will to create a tense atmosphere. So never stat something that is simply a story element or the equivalent of a force of nature. Or just something that the players aren’t meant to take down.
On the topic of adding cool, rad and absolutely meta NPC’s or objects. Try and avoid it unless you know what your doing. To give an example.
Never have a familiar character like ‘Emperor Palpatine’ actually show up in your star wars game, and have him open for any and all interaction with your players. They would actually ram their damn space ship into the guy if they get the opportunity. Their reason? Well, they can end the war and possibly the Sith in a single blow. Or think of the eternal bragging rights on “how they killed ‘the emperor’ that one time”. (Despite the fact that in character, they possibly don’t even know that the Emperor is a Sith. They don’t care, they will make up a reason.) The same will equally apply to ‘good guy’ characters like Luke Skywalker, despite possibly being on the rebels side. Think of the bragging rights.
A better way to include an NPC with such importance in your game is to have them be unreachable. Like only be seen as a glimpse, via hologram or on a screen somewhere. Or simply by finding snippets of information that mention them. Those are cool little additions and will add flavor to your game.