In Pathfinder, kelpies are fey. Let’s pause to celebrate that. Because in too many versions of the world’s oldest role-playing game, they got labeled as plant creatures. And that’s bogus.
(I keep trying to write paragraphs on why that is bogus, but I just come off as pedantic and boring. Instead, look at Wikipedia. If that reads like a faerie or spirit to you, awesome. If it reads like a plant, then good for you…but we cannot ever be friends.)
More reasons to love/use kelpies: 1) You can call them by lots of different names to throw off Bestiary/Monster Manual-reading players: “The nøkken drags you under…” 2) There are lots of adventure hooks in the stories themselves: “The boy tells you his tale while cradling his cauterized stump…” 3) That “eating everything but the heart and liver” thing is just creepy. Finally, 4) like kelpies themselves, kelpie adventures can start as one thing and become something else: A horse race becomes an underwater adventure. A serial killer leaving a trail of hearts and livers turns out to be a wicked fey. A party out hunting a beautiful dryad or nixie is stunned to discover their own horse is the culprit. Etc., etc.
In most cases, you’ll probably use kelpies as random and/or side encounters, working alone or in a shoal of two to five creatures. However, these hooks have them teaming up with other similarly wicked creatures…
An innkeeper in a remote seaside village is happy to lend a horse to out-of-town travelers. The horse is actually a kelpie, who allows itself to be ridden for three days (though it refuses to enter any town larger than a village) before drowning and devouring its rider at the first opportunity. The kelpie pays the strong-willed innkeeper for her part in mermaid gold and other treasures, and so her rooms are stocked with undersea rarities, including several very detailed maps of aquatic elf settlements.
Jenny Gillygeist is a nixie the Autumnwood locals blame for a number of disappearances. A few influential calmer heads—the ranger Longwalker and the druid Twix Erem among them—have kept secret the location of Jenny’s lair, blaming instead an elusive kelpie they have both hunted for the past two seasons. So what is the truth? Is Jenny a victim of prejudice…or a bog nixie who has Longwalker and Twix fooled? And is the treacherous horse-fey Jenny’s rival…or her hippocampus steed and ally?
Adventurers save a clurichaun (a leprechaun who is the spirit of the buttery—that is, the wine or ale cellar) from being eaten by a giant gar. His drunkenly profuse thanks hide his exasperation—the gar was a major image and the party interrupted him faking his own death to avoid collection on his gambling debts. Unbeknownst to him, though, his fey creditors have run out of patience and sent a quickling assassin to deal with him. Surprised by the appearance of Big Folk, the assassin tries to use a gust of wind and other blasts from his rod of wonder to push them into a fen frequented by kelpies. Meanwhile, he goes after the clurichaun…
—Pathfinder Bestiary 2 172
I just had a mountain of five new Pathfinder books arrive today. My work is cut out for me.
Speaking of which, Landon rifled through random tables in the new Magnimar, City of Monuments (p. 51), Rise of the Runelords (p. 395), and the Rod of Wonder Wondrous Effect list from the Core Rulebook (p. 489–490) to offer up: Assassin/Being eaten by a giant gar/Gust of wind.
In addition to that and some nice words over on EN World, he also brought me up to speed on one of our monsters from last year, the death worm:
The Death Worm is a cryptid, a modern legend from Mongolia called Olgoi Khorkhoi. The reason it has all sorts of crazy abilities in Pathfinder is because they're all from different forms of the legend.
And cheers right back! Looks like I’m going to have to take back some of the nasty things I said about it…
Keep sending your random rolls!
Radio show time! The stream ripper was down…again (pausetobreathe pausetobreathe, lettheangeroutandthelovein)…this week, so The New Indie Canon wasn’t recorded for archive. I’ll do my best to put the playlist together on a mix sometime this week.