Monday, February 13, 2017

Kikimora


(Photograph comes from the Paizo Blog and is © Paizo Publishing.)

I’m thrilled that the Reign of Winter Adventure Path and Bestiary 5 introduced us to more Eastern European fey.  Particularly because so many of these fey are just the right amount of troublesome.  It’s really easy with fey to go too twee (this was a problem in 1e AD&D) or too grimdark and murdery (I love Paizo’s tooth fairies, but not every GM will).

The bird-beaked kikimoras, then, are a Goldilocksian just right.  A kikimora will torment his or her adopted family for months and even years, making the house appear dirty, sending illusionary (and real) swarms of vermin, or breaking things in order to be offered bribes to fix them.  Worse yet, kikimoras drive away potentially helpful brownies and house spirits, then go about ruining the reputation of these charitable creatures by posing as mean, mercenary versions of them.*

If all this sounds relatively harmless, remember again that this is for years.  (A redcap’s attentions may be fatal, but at least they’re over in a night or two.)  And when the fey aren't masquerading as brownies, they’re playacting as ghosts…and the prices most exorcists charge will likely beggar a poor family. Even once the fey is identified, its extradimensonal hidey-hole makes it exceedingly difficult to flush out.  And even if the poor farmwife could corner the kikimora, a fight with a CR 5 nasty house spirit is likely to be fatal to the average peasant.  But that’s the good news: Fighting a kikimora is a perfect job for journeyman adventurers.

The other reason I like the kikimora is that it’s a relatively powerful domestic terror.  That makes it perfect for nonstandard, magic-light, or slow-progression Pathfinder campaigns such as the Hogwarts-inspired school of magic or modern private school adventure seeds I sometimes post.  And while I’m not the biggest E6 fan around (E6, for the uninitiated, is a take on D&D/Pathfinder that caps out around Level 6, before wizards and clerics get too reality-bending), a kikimora is a truly mystical creature and a proper threat in such a low-powered campaign.  Heck, in most campaigns Baba Yaga is a Mythic (Pathfinder) or Epic (3.0/3.5) encounter…but I can easily see a low-magic campaign where she’s simply an Advanced kikimora with some scores to settle…

A kikimora tormented a local brickmaker for years.  Then one day he spotted the sigil she used to mark her hidey-hole scrawled into the baseboard.  Thinking quickly, he left out a growler full of barley wine.  When the growler disappeared, the bricklayer quickly bricked up the wall in front of the baseboard, gambling he could have her sealed in before the drunk fey would notice.  Years later, adventurers investigate the bricklayer as part of a murder case/exorcism (the victim was bricked up in an alcove and left to perish, and his starving spirit still thirsts for blood).  If during their search the adventurers dismantle the suspicious-looking, out-of-place wall in the man’s home, they release a kikimora driven to near-berserk fury from her long years of confinement and boredom.

On the lam, a gang of redcaps demand aid and shelter from a kikimora, citing ancient fey compacts and invoking the Queen of Air and Darkness.  The kikimora reluctantly agrees to hide the redcaps on her humans’ farm, but this becomes more and more difficult as their bloodthirsty natures take hold and local villagers begin to go missing.  If adventurers find her in the redcaps’ company, the kikimora is honor-bound to fight to the death (or at least until she can plausibly slip away via invisibility).  But if they encounter her separately, the bird-beaked fey (who knows she has a pretty sweet setup already) may agree to ally with the adventurers…for the right price.

Having achieved notoriety in the newspapers for averting a horrible dirigible crash at the London Aerodrome, adventurers are hired as private security for the maiden voyage of the new Geistzeppelin.  An already-difficult voyage involving a prickly captain, some would-be saboteurs, and a Sicilian magician’s pet girallon becomes even moreso when it turns out that a kikimora stowaway is loose on the magical zeppelin, courtesy of a hidey-hole glyph scratched on the Russian ambassador’s steamer trunk.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 152

*Weird.  For some reason I’m having a really hard time avoiding comparisons between these Russian fey and certain misinformation campaigns, fake news websites, and Russian-supported U.S. presidential candidates…  Something about replacing noble and beneficial institutions with kleptocratic mockeries of the same  Crazy, right?

My readers: You’re going to use any mention of fey as an excuse to link to that one issue of Dragon Magazine you always link to, right?

Me:  …No. 

Me: You don’t know me. 

My readers: Whatever.

Me: (Aw yiss.)

By the way, sorry for last week’s utterly pathetic posting schedule.  A slow recovery from being sick and some bad time management decisions undercut me all week.  If it’s any consolation, I also had to skip two radio shows, so everything I love has taken a hit.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Khala


Over time, one-off dragon species have become one of my favorite monster categories.  I love their wildness and their weirdness, how they harken back to early folktales and myths, and how each one’s set of abilities and characteristics is a surprise instead of checkboxes on a five-dragon matrix.

So naturally I’m delighted by the khala, a female water dragon from Bulgarian mythology.  Introduced to Pathfinder via the Golarion’s dark, vaguely Slavic fairytale land of Irrisen, the khala has added supernatural cold to her portfolio as well.  A three-headed, snake-like, ice-spewing beast, she brings winter with her wherever she goes.  Even her bite is laced with a poisonous chilling disease.

The presence of a khala implies both history and corruption, because there is a warping in the race’s past.  Somewhere back in the distant strands of time, they were prouder wyrms and their lands more beautiful or fertile places…but no more.  Khalas tend to linger in the same regions as witches, hags, cruel magical or military tyrants, and frost giants…anywhere where decades or centuries of cold, corruption, coercion, and control have worn down the land and its people.

There’s also the mystery of how khalas reproduce, and the fate of their male zmey counterparts.  Ecologically minded adventurers might wish to see the zmeys restored; defenders of civilization might wish the khalas wiped out completely.  Other dragons might fill in for the zmeys as well—the flame-spewing, multinecked gorynyches seem a particularly good fit.  But the demise of the zmeys might also serve as an origin for the cursed taninivers or the mysterious damned azi as well…

A mysterious wood has grown up around Dun Harrow, hiding the ancient fort and its renowned, possibly magical stone carvings.  Even the weather seems to linger chill and stormy over the surrounding shire.  A khala has used repeated suggestions to take a dryad queen as her lover and force the fey’s kinswomen to reshape their forest as she desires.

When the shattering of the Sphere of Black Omens corrupted the Elflands, Par Tarthelion suffered the worst.  Its crystal towers grew dark and cracked; its trees turned thorny and brittle; its rivers ran with blood and the weeping of sores.  And when the cold winds blew from the north, no longer held at bay by elf weather magic, Par Tarthelion’s guardian green dragons shriveled and split, each one transforming into—or was it birthing?—a khala.  If there is one small consolation, it’s that the nightmarish beasts cannot breed, the guardian greens all having been female.  At least, that is what the elven exiles hope…

When the Bohemians left the poor, overworked foothills of their homeland in search of the rich plains of the American Midwest, they brought their work ethic and their mournful songs…but also their nightmares.  Through possession, subterfuge, and the mysterious Grey Roads of the Otherlands, hags, soulbound dolls, dybbuks, ice devils, and the terrible khalas all found their way to the Great Lakes region.  Canadian gnomish settlers and furriers report that monsters hold the northern shore of Lake Huron, and Lake Superior is nearly entirely overrun.  Adventurers who were running guns to the Lakota Indians and the Lake Crowfolk tengu tribes now find themselves being offered pardons if they will go with a U.S. Army detachment to drive the khalas out of the Great Lakes.

Irrisen: Land of Eternal Winter 59 & Pathfinder Bestiary 5 151

Irrisen pluralizes khala as “khala”; B5 uses khalas.”  I like the former but went with the latter for consistency.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Ketesthius


The ketesthius is the classic wolf-headed sea serpent you find scrawled in the corners of old maps.  Since Pathfinder already has plenty of sea serpent-y beasts, this one clearly needed a hook…and boy did it get one: an extradimensional stomach so big entire ecosystems can live in there!

Of course, now that I think of it, I’m kind of surprised that we don’t have more monsters with magic/livable stomachs.  It’s not exactly a fantasy trope (aside from maybe Pinocchio), but as a cartoon trope it’s one of the most common and enduring ones there is.  (Seriously, name me a cartoon character who hasn’t being carried inside a whale, air whale, space whale, or a whale-like robot/starship at least once.)

If you're a GM, you’re probably way more excited by what you can put inside the ketesthius’s stomach than you are about anything else in its stat block.  Hell, I’d be tempted to waive the bite damage if it gave me an excuse to dump PCs inside.  Who cares about a +22 bite/claw/claw routine when you can make a dungeon out of intestines?

(Also, how does such a slow-acting, practically benevolent digestive system even work?  It must operate on the thousand-year scale of a sarlacc.  Actually, the most likely answer is that the ketesthius is essentially a carrion or filter feeder, with the live creatures in its stomach doing it the courtesy of either consuming each other or expiring from starvation, after which the resulting nutrients can be absorbed at leisure.)

Then again, CR 13 is nothing to sneeze at.  When you need a shipping lane bottled up or a coastal city tormented, the ketesthius is compelling terror, even setting aside its magical gullet.  If I were forced to compare, I’d say Bestiary 5’s cetus is probably the better combatant, good as the penultimate or final challenge of a given adventure, while the ketesthius is a better side trek encounter on a long sea voyage, or even an adventure opener if its stomach leads somewhere particularly interesting.

Also, given the ketesthius’s high CR, the average party who interacts with one will almost certainly be packing extradimensional gear of their own.  It’s up to you whether this is a problem you hand-wave away, a potential escape route for magic-poor parties, or an excuse to recreate the end of Jaws…with your PCs and their bags of holding standing in for the oxygen tank.

Adventurers hunt a ravenous ketesthius that has recently disrupted shipping up and down the Saffron Coast.  The creature shows the marks of having fought with a giant cephalopod, which may indicate a kraken drove it this close to shore…or is even directing the wolf-serpent’s actions.  Any adventurers who wind up inside the ketesthius find half-chewed tentacles to support this theory…as well as an aged dragon turtle, nearly albino-white after centuries of slow digestion, who is desperate for either freedom or the sweet release of death.

Engulfed en masse by a ketesthius, an already debased deep merfolk tribe has struggled to both survive and hold on to its identity inside the creature’s extradimensional stomach.  Breeding is carefully regulated, a tradition of ritual sacrifice has morphed into ritualistic cannibalism, and the tribe’s mingled reverence and fear of the Old Ones has expanded to include their gluttonous captor.  Adventurers who find themselves in the merfolks’ domain will likely have to fight their way out (and out of the ketesthius as well).  Before they do, though, they may pick up some useful information, as the deep merfolk have preserved lore and rites pertaining to the Old Ones that no land-dweller recalls.

Reports on the landscape inside a ketesthius’s stomach vary from account to account.  Some describe, as one would expect, dark seas within cramped rubbery chambers, islands of flesh peopled by desperate victims, or even bioluminescent coral reefs.  Yet more fanciful tales exist of wolf-serpent stomachs that hide a sleeping ocean giant’s bridal chamber; a fey stone circle complete with centaur seer; a demiplane of sliding cubic chambers peopled by mites, pixies, and worms that walk in bishop’s regalia; and at least two gates to planar realms: one to Pandemoniak, the other to the Violet City of Loss.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 150

The Pathfinder team had to dig—or get playful with Greek, I’m assuming—to come up with the ketesthius’s name, because Google is giving me nothing.

As a monthly reminder, The Daily Bestiary is committed to being a free resource for Pathfinder and 3.5 fans.  Want to help the blog grow?  Reblog and/or tell your friends.  Want to do more?  Feed its author’s imagination.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Kawa Akago


Ah, Japan.  Fourteen centuries of Shinto (plus however many centuries of unrecorded animist beliefs, myths, and ritual practice before that) have given us a rich spiritual lens through which to see the world as an animate landscape, where even the most mundane objects can possess a kami or shin of their own.

Which seems, y’know, pretty charming to us Westerners when this perspective gets filtered down to us as, say, anthropomorphized girl versions of our favorite desserts.  But it gets a little creepier when we start talking about one-eyed umbrella monsters.  Or about kawa akagos, lily pads that have been, per Bestiary 5,  “spiritually fertilized by fragments of the restless spirits of drowned children.”  Now that’s a worldview that bites back.

Beyond their disturbing origin, kawa akagos have a few more creepy tricks up their tendrils.  A kawa akago can move about on land just enough to ambush victims, and the nettles in its blood-burning fangs deliver a painful strike that only water can relieve—neatly herding its victims into the water where more kawa akagos await.  The kawa akago can also speak a little Aquan and wail once a day with a disturbing shriek that may or may not be the cries of those aforementioned drowned children.  Finally, a kawa akago that gorges enough on sentient creatures can become a blood lily, a truly evil plant monster capable of psychic magic.  In fact, there’s nothing stopping your players from meeting a blood lily mesmerist or psychic the next time they go strolling by the river…

Obviously most kawa akagos will be met as random encounters or as part of some swampy side trek.  These seeds have them acting in concert with some wicked friends:

The kappa Sokka the Lame is a particularly nasty old amphibian rogue.  He is well practiced in startling horses so that they go lame or fall into the river where the kappa may feast upon them.  As this has led to the demise of more than a few of the horses’ riders, the lily pads near Sokka’s favorite bridge have become kawa akagos.  The kami who live near the bridge lament this state of affairs, but an ancient compact with one of the turtle-man’s forebears prevents them from directly interfering.  They may, however, display certain signs to (or play tricks on) local adventurers, hoping to lure them into a conflict with Sokka and his plants.

Most ghouls live in graveyards or sandy necropolises—but most ghouls aren’t Count Julian Myer.  He hides in (somewhat) plain sight on a palatial estate, snatching up trespassers or sending a loyal tiefling servant (too foul-smelling to eat) out to “pick up a delivery.”  One of the ways into the ghoul’s well-guarded house is genius and grisly at the same time: Adventurers can cross the giant lily pads that cover the moat as if they were stepping stones…provided they feed the resident kawa akagos first.

The green hag Calamity encouraged the growth of kawa akagos around her barrow, reasoning that the carnivorous plants would protect the sunken back door of her muskrat den-like lair.  What she did not account for was how spiritually nourishing the plants would find her home.  The kawa agos grew fat on the taint of her magic and the shed wisps of the souls of her victims, and soon blossomed into full-fledged blood lilies.  Calamity now fears her psychically charged water garden, and is making preparations to move when adventurers stumble onto this fraught domestic arrangement.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 149

As you may have guessed from clicking the links above, we covered the kasa-obake back here.

Sooo…I overworked myself into being sick.  Again.  (What is it with Web content producers and illness?  I’m becoming the Randy Milholland of RPG blogs.  I even have a beard now.)  Which means I never got around to posting last week’s radio show.  (Feel free to gasp in horror if you share my pain.)

This was a completely unplanned, seat-of-my pants show.  And it ended up being a lot of fun, because listeners came out of the woodwork to make requests.  You’ve got till midnight U.S. Eastern tonight (Monday, 01/30/17) to stream/download it, so grab it now!  Also, no radio show tomorrow—doctor’s orders.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Karkadann


Like the unicorn, the karkadann is a magical beast, in this case resembling an oryx with a frontward-facing horn.  Also like the unicorn, a karkadann has healing powers, particularly mastery over poison. 

Unlike the unicorn, the oryx is an ass—and I don’t mean the donkey kind.

Note: Okay, we have to get this out of the way first.  While Paizo’s karkadann resembles an oryx, in Persian and Arabic the same word is used for rhinoceros.  It may even be that the conflation of the mythical unicorn and the real rhinoceros is how the pernicious tradition of using a rhinoceros’s horn for medicine got started.  So let’s say this right now: Real rhino horns have no magical or medicinal properties.  And the maiming, mutilation, and murder of rhinos, tigers, elephants, and other endangered animals are among the most barbaric practices in the world.  Cultural differences and differing social norms are no excuse for nearly wiping out whole species, and every government and its citizens should work to bring an end to such trades.  So while I may talk about the uses of a karkadann’s horn in a flippant way here, I in no way condone any version of the practice in real life, and nor should you.

You’ll never catch a karkadann mooning over virgins or acting as a gentle steward of the forest like one of those fancy-prancy unicorns.  Karkadanns are hardy creatures of the plains and deserts, and they are mercenary to the core.  If you want a karkadann’s help, be prepared to pay up.  And whether it’s gold, magic, or favors, chances are the price is going to be a good 10% more than you can afford.

But then again, maybe that’s the plus side to the karkadann.  To get a unicorn’s help, you need to beseech and prove your good-heartedness and maybe perform a side quest or two.  But to get aid from a karkadann, you just need to pony up.  And if he raises the price too high or gives you attitude, well, you can always put a knife to his throat (keeping an eye out for the dimension door escape attempt) and point out that the gods look unfavorably at those who deny mercy when it’s needed.  You might also remind the karkadann that its horn is just as valuable severed off as it is sitting upon the brow where it currently resides… 

In other words, after all that sucking up to unicorns, isn’t nice to run into a talking animal you can just smack around until it behaves?

A karkadann appears at dawn to tired adventurers, pointing his horn to a rocky outcropping and saying only, “The treasure lies in there.”  The karkadann’s mystical air is a front, however.  He knows the site is guarded by a fierce girtablilu, and sending greedy travelers in there is a good way to keep his range free of the two-legged pests.  If they limp out of the caves wounded, poisoned, and ready to negotiate for aid, so much the better.

Several desert fey and a bristle of karkadanns have a long-running feud.  Thanks to their magic horns, which bear the taint of cold iron, the karkadanns currently have a narrow edge.  Adventurers might assist either side, but there are no heroes in this conflict.  Both the fey and the karkadanns want dominion over a certain watering hole so they can extort travelers for all they’re worth.

Stubborn camel trader Mustava—known as “the Mule” behind his back (and only behind his back)—is an unusual sight in the market of Damas, for he, too, has hooves.  Once a wild karkadann, the magical beast found city life more to his liking, and his keen eye for ungulates has served him well.  While he may be an unlikely merchant, he has an even more unlikely side hobby—he is the head of Damas’s Gore Boys, a gang of bloody-minded but crafty thieves.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 148

Back in grad school I went to New Mexico in a doomed attempt to see an ex.  We drove down to White Sands National Monument, one of the most bizarre places on earth—made even more so by the tension between us and the ominous stealth fighter (an F-117, I believe) that passed overhead.  We stopped in the park, took in the stark white scenery for a time, and got back in the car.  Just as we did, an oryx—an animal that should only be found in Africa or Arabia—galloped right across our path, inches from our bumper.  (It turns out they were introduced in the ’60s and adapted a little too successfully to the area.)  We just watched it go past, looked at each other, and laughed in disbelief at one of the more magical and surreal moments we’d ever encountered.

Looking for the kaprosuchus?  It’s way back here.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Kabandha


(Illustration by Nemanja Stankovic comes from the artist’s ArtStation page and is © Paizo Publishing.)

Hoo boy.  Now this is an interesting monster. 

With no head and a single eye, nose, and mouth placed in the center of its chest, the kabandha is clearly a monster out of myth and fable.  (Which it is—Indian myth, to be precise.)  And I think for a lot of gaming tables, that’s where it will remain (if it’s even used at all).  The kabandha’s outlandish appearance, so monstrous and childish at the same time, limits its easy application in most game worlds.  Like Bestiary 4’s one-eyed, one-armed, one-legged fachen, this is a monster that most easily fits into your campaign’s Mount Olympus, the land of Faerie, or the kind of fable-packed island chains you find in works like the Odyssey, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Gulliver’s Travels, and the Earthsea novels.  Even according to Bestiary 5, you’re most likely to find a kabandha serving the will of a god or guarding a mysterious ley line.  (They even lay eggs(!) made of stone—yet another fairy-tale touch.)

But why not put them in your campaign, especially if it’s one where the gods regular intrude?  The B5 authors specifically list the kabandha as a cyclops, thus giving it a family tree and a place in the world.  The easy answer is to sequester it along with the rakshasas and the nagas in your world’s take on fantasy India…but why not in your world’s Ireland, Jotunheim, or a homebrew location all your own?  Somewhere out there is a campaign where kabandhas are as common as minotaurs, and I want to see what that looks like.

That said, while we’re on the subject of fantasy India, the original Kabandha was laboring under a curse, and in death he was returned to his original celestial form.  What happens if your PCs kill a kabandha, only to have it return (especially if proper funeral rites are observed) as a manasaputra, angel, samsaran, or some other wise and blessed creature?

An adventuring party’s bard has been given a seemingly simple task: Deliver a cask of nutmeg to Lord Malar and convince him to open up a trade route, so that the spice caravans may travel freely through his lands.  This is a tougher assignment than it seems.  First, Lord Malar is extremely partial to cinnamon; second, he challenges any minstrel he meets to a song contest of deafening proportions; finally, he is a creature the likes of which the adventuring party has never seen—a kabandha of great age and influence—and he regards his stewardship over his lands (and the ley line they contain) as a divine charge.

Some off-duty musketeers are hired as guards for a private auction.  Among the rare books and glittering heirlooms are two seemingly ordinary stone spheres.  The spheres are kabandha eggs, and the musketeers’ security measures (and hopefully, their sense of morality) will be tested when four kabandha parents come looking for their offspring.

Traveling in the Spirit World, adventurers encounter a kabandha who bars their way.  They are stunned when killing the cyclops does not silence it.  Instead it asks them to perform the proper funeral rites to honor its passing.  If they do so, the pyre hatches a rishi manu, who promises to return to their side for a future combat of their choosing.  If they ignore their responsibilities, the kabandha follows them throughout the Spirit World as a vengeful penanggalen of great power.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 64

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the weirder nuggets in the “basic” D&D anthology accessory AC10 Bestiary of Dragons and Giants was the claim that stone giants, too, laid eggs.

One day we will get a proper India-inspired setting for Pathfinder.  (Looking at BoardGameGeek’s list of such things, the closest we’ve come so far in 3.5 seems to be Mindshadows, from Green Ronin’s Mythic Vistas line.  I gave in to curiosity and literally just ordered a copy since they were cheap, but Lord knows when I’ll have time to even skim it.) 

Until then, as always I highly encourage you to keep an eye out for the excellent Allen Varney D&D Hollow World module Nightstorm (and you want the physical copy because those old Hollow World hex maps are a joy).  I believe a few kits for 2e AD&D PCs (that’s archetypes for you Pathfinder fans) also occasionally tiptoed into Indian territory; they were sprinkled throughout the pages of the Complete Handbook series and Dragon Magazine.  Dragon Magazine #189 is especially worth seeking out for Michael J. Varhola’s “Rhino's Armor, Tiger's Claws,” which looks at Indian weapons.

Finally, I’ve gotten lots of fantastic reader responses to some of our recent posts.  There are too many to list here, but be sure to read what other folks are saying.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Jungle Drake


(Illustration by Ben Wootten comes from the Paizo Blog and is © Paizo Publishing.)

Drakes have been with us in the Pathfinder game since Bestiary 2, with a handful appearing in each subsequent volume.  This familiarity doesn’t exactly breed contempt—c’mon, we love dragons—but it does breed complacent expectation.  You turn to a drake page expecting a speed surge, an environmental ability or two, maybe a special attack, and blah blah blah.

That’s where art comes in.

Show me the GM who can turn to Ben Wootten’s jungle drake and not want to put it in a campaign.  That camouflaged, squirrel-splayed, iguana-toed, archaeopteryx-tailed beauty is begging to be in your game—only it doesn't have to beg, because you already put it in there, probably while I was still writing this.  Last entry I was encouraging you to look past the art as a useful way of rethinking the monster; today the art is 90% of the reason to love this monster.  Just goes to show you: Every monster entry is worth approaching with fresh eyes.

(The art does have one problem—this is a jaguar- or even horse-sized creature (that is, size Large), but it’s painted to look the size of a faerie dragon, based on the surrounding limbs and leaves.  (Maybe it’s a juvenile?)  So remember that the adult jungle drake, while small for a dragon, is still a semi-proper dragon—at least the size of the raptors in Jurassic Park.)

Beyond that?  It’s a drake optimized to work in jungles.  If you’re a tactically minded GM, you can probably wreak a lot of havoc by properly comboing the drake’s woodland stride/predatory grab/speed surge abilities into a really nasty dine-and-dash strategy (particularly against Small PCs, familiars, or pack animals).  An attack by a full rampage could leave PCs wounded, scattered, gearless, and abducted/devoured in short order.

After their dirigible is blown off-course, adventurers have only one chance to make it back to civilization: a forced march through a jungle to a bubbling spring where sailors take on water.  With the monsoon season approaching, the party has two weeks to reach the spring before the last ships depart north, despite the canyons, bugbears gnashers (see the Monster Codex), flame pillars, and worse that stand in their way.  The last challenge is a sprint across an isthmus patrolled by ravenous, grasping jungle drakes.

Divinations indicate a druid was reincarnated as a jungle drake.  Adventurers are hired to escort the druid’s master to him.  They do not realize that the master intends to skin his former pupil and use the hide to craft a particularly powerful variant cloak of the bat (see Ultimate Equipment).

The blue-skinned gnomes of the Tamuti Jungle are known for their worship of totem animals, spirits that both represent and watch over their tribe.  Among the more well-known Tamuti tribes include the Sun Bears, the Jungle Drakes, the Anoa, the Blood Orangutans, and the Oru Man, a two-headed, thin man-like cryptid.  The Jungle Drakes are notorious raiders and nomads, who not only torment their neighbors but also practice the normally taboo act of riding their totem animal into battle.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 100