Monday, July 2, 2012


Harpies are the original charming monsters.  (Well, not actually.  In fact, D&D/Pathfinder harpies actually owe more to the myths of the sirens than they do to Phineas’s tormentors.  Still, I still remember the harpies from the sample dungeon in the DM’s book from the red Basic Set—along with the strict instruction not to let the PCs in until they were at least second level…)

Kyliss has traded the marshlands for the city, becoming a fighter and a sellsword in her own right.  She lives and works out of the half-orc quarter, where her skills are appreciated and her rank odor is not a detriment.  She now schemes to join the assassins’ guild, but so far no invitation has been forthcoming.

Many harpies like conversation with their meal.  Tessandra takes this further than most.  Not content with simple travelers, this highly intelligent bird-woman has made a study of captivating philosophers, mathematicians, and chess masters—particularly loners and eccentrics.  Those she cannot get to easily (such as university professors) she corresponds with, hoping to one day lure them to the wastes.  In the meantime, though, her epistolary education has made her a reasonable scholar and chess player herself; her first paper is soon to be published.

Harpy nations are rare—the feral creatures squabble so often that most only join flights when forced to for protection.  But the parrot-feathered harpies of the Southlands are more gregarious, forming preening matriarchies that lord over the native humans, goblins, and nagaji.  They will leave travelers unmolested if paid in magic items.

Pathfinder Bestiary 172

Blogging from the beach!

I feel like I’ve covered this somewhere before, but let’s repeat it: It is a universal law that if a creature’s femaleness is core to its nature, the world of fantasy art will eventually make it sexy by default.  We need a name for this—“fantasticabimbofication” or “manga goggles” or “DeviantArtificiality.” For now, I’m calling it “harpy syndrome.”

Harpies used to have the bodies of vultures—vultures! (maybe on a good day eagles)—and the heads of women (maybe on a good day the busts and arms of women, too, and if I recall my ’80s illustrations correctly, those arms held handaxes).  But by 3.0 we were getting sleek and sexy bird-girls, and that tradition has continued in the Bestiary: “Save for the tattered wings and taloned feet, this creature resembles a feral woman.”  Er…really?  We are talking harpies, right?  Sigh.  At least they still “reek with the stench of consumed victims”…

I love Pathfinder art.  But the Bestiary’s harpy looks like she waxes and sees a personal trainer, and that’s just wrong.  (No matter what Hesiod says.)

Classic harpy syndrome.  She better at least have gingivitis.

Edit: I should have mentioned that Jonathan H. Keith does a great job tackling the harpy in Mythological Monsters Revisited

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