Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Lewis Carroll is beloved by fantasy fans, but we don’t think of him as a monster designer.  He is, to put it bluntly, silly.  (For which we adore him…but no GM trying to craft a boss monster encounter is going to choose the Mock Turtle over Smaug.)  So it’s not surprising that, aside from vorpal swords and two looooong out-of-print adventures, Wonderland hasn’t had much of a presence.  (I was 5 at the time, so I’ve never even seen one of the EX modules.) 

Entire Pathfinder’s jabberwock.  Paizo did the right thing here.  CR 23 is not silly.   The Dragon subtype is not silly.  It’s so not silly Paizo even gets away with putting in burbling and whiffling as special abilities.  Then they doubled down and put it on the damn cover.  That takes some cockleshells right there.

So yeah, the jabberwock?  Not silly.  Pretty awesome, in fact.  (And since it’s one of the Tane, it even has some equally nasty cousins…)

You also don’t have to confine your jabberwocks to Wonderland or Faerie.  I’ve tried a few other options below:

The Clockwork Emirate is a land of marvels—free-willed golem and construct townsfolk, djinn tavern keepers, ghoul acrobats, and strange, shadow-cloaked ascetics that speak with birds.  To become the emir or a judge, the Emirate has a strange custom: one must survive being beheaded with a vorpal sword.  (This tends to insure the hegemony of the nation’s construct citizens.)  When the sword is stolen by a jabberwock just days before the old emir rusts solid, the land of marvels is thrown into chaos.

Mere weeks after the czar is presented a glistening, jewel-encrusted egg, reports begin to trickle in from the border states of whole villages having been razed.  Human, gnome, and ratfolk refugees begin clogging the Eastern Road.  Then his trusted bogatyri come racing to the capital with news that their sky dragon mounts have been driven from the air by a terrible beast.  It turns out the egg is the egg of a lesser jabberwock, and her fury will be terrible if it is not returned.

Adventurers escaping from Hell find the door to the Celestial Stairway barred to them.  Instead, the try a desperate gambit—climbing the trunk of the World Ash.  But to do so, they must face the malicious beast that gnaws on its roots: Níðhöggr.  Rumored in legend to be the Father of Linnorms, the beast is actually a jabberwock of appalling size, strength, and powers of ice and acid.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 168–169

We’re on the letter J!  I’m excited.

I love traditional conceptions of the Demiplane of Faerie.  But I have to hand it to Golarion’s First World for being a really nice, surprisingly elastic concept.  It fits fey, gnomes, and the Tane effortlessly.  It even explains why trolls regenerate!  And I hope we spend more time there in future.

Bu the way, does anyone know where they got the name the Tane from?  The closest I can come up with is the Táin Bó Cúailnge, and that’s pronounced “Toin” anyway.

On another note entirely, my friend B. pulled off yet another City Paper cover story, so let’s all browse that, shall we?  (Note for my more squeamish readers: This one covers some adult territory you may not be comfortable with.)

(By the way, I know most of you are here for monsters, not my music or transgendered prostitutes or anything like that.  And more skeptical readers might be rolling their eyes at some of my links as pure name-dropping.  But here’s the thing: for such a big city, Baltimore is really a series of small towns, and it’s really easy to get to know people.  So even when I’m egregiously name-dropping, I’m really not; I’m just celebrating people I know and like who are making and doing neat things.)

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