Wednesday, October 10, 2012


The kraken is one of those sleeper hit monsters.  It’s been floating around (ha!) for years in the various (A)D&D Monster Manuals/Compendiums as the biggest and baddest of sea monsters (especially since actual sea serpents or even sea dragons haven’t survived in any consistent fashion from edition to edition).  But since late 2e/early 3.0 or so, krakens seem to have taken on new significance as evil masterminds of the deep—rivals to the aboleths in power and even more self-sufficiently arrogant.  They obviously work great as capstone villains to pirate/swashbuckling campaigns, and they’ve adapted equally well to non-Western settings, from Wolfgang Baur’s “Campaign Journal: Scimitars against the Dark” in Dragon Magazine 198 to Pathfinder’s Dragon Empires Gazetteer.  Now they are not just ship-destroying beasts, but also island slavers, undersea emperors, and artifact hoarders.

The kraken is also a great example of how a powerful monster’s spell-like abilities don’t have to scream, ”I am using a spell-like ability!”  Players can imagine fowl weather simply following a kraken the way comets circle the sun without you ever needing to say, “The kraken casts control weather/winds.”  And it might dominate sea creatures and resist energy by pure will alone.  Likewise, for a more powerful kraken, the Advanced Players Guide is simply dripping with spells to swap in or add to the repertoire, from hydraulic torrent and seek thoughts all the way up to mass suffocation and tsunami.

A party of disparate wanderers comes together when they defeat a press gang bearing coins stamped with the sign of a squid.  Defeating the rogue privateers, they launch their careers as adventurers, taking missions up and down the coast.  Along the way, they aid tritons against devilfish marauders, help some knights templar escort a black bird statuette to Angel Bay, and stop a delegation of marsh giants and scrags from allying with the cannibal stone giants and jotund trolls of Gullet Pass.  And throughout all these encounters, the sign of the squid haunts them.  There is a mastermind at work somewhere, whose tentacles seem to be everywhere…

The adoption of black powder has been slow on the world of Chelon for a very simple reason: The kraken Velessimar forbids it.  Rightly identifying firearms as a leveling force that even magicians have cause to fear, Velessimar has done all she can to wipe out knowledge of this technology.  Legions of merfolk slaves, skum chattel, and dominated animals report to her of any nation developing guns, cannons, or mines, and she goes out of her way to destroy coastal nations that dabble in black powder or to engineer the fall of those landlocked governments beyond her reach.

Most krakens are delighted that the aboleth empires of old have fallen.  But they still find themselves compelled to explore and even dwell in the cities of their ancient rivals.  Lurking Appetite is one such kraken; he dwells in the sunken aboleth City of the Open Eye.  In doing so, he has succumbed to the whispers of the Old Ones, the ancient cosmic powers the aboleths served and respected (if not revered).  He now works to expand his skill as a summoner and weaken the boundaries between this world and the Dark Beyond.  Worse yet, he has recently unearthed a heretofore-unknown word of power (Ultimate Magic), boosting his might still further.

Pathfinder Bestiary 184

Above?  Was that a The Maltese Falcon reference?  Yes.

Obviously, for more on the Pathfinder kraken, check out Anthony Pryor’s entry in Mythological Monsters Revisited. 

And a many-tentacled shout-out to Jim Bambra’s PC3 The Sea People Creature Crucible!

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