Thursday, October 18, 2012


The lammasu is another golden opportunity for the creative GM…because it is almost a complete tabula rasa.  Aside from the fact that lammasus are good and verge on arrogant, they’ve basically gone (almost) undefined since 1975.  This is likely because good creatures almost always get less screen time, and most of us don’t know all that much about Mesopotamian beasties in the first place.  (Quick, aside from body type, name a single difference between lammasus and shedus.  I’ll wait.  How about lammasus and androsphinxes, once riddles and sex are taken out of the equation?  No, no, take your time…)

So what will your lammasus be like?  Paternal?  Patronizing?  Arrogant?  Do they attempt to lead the charge of good or nudge from the rear?  (The standard lammasu is definitely a buffer and healer.)  Do they work invisibly or out in the open?  Do they wait to be asked advice or direct other races like chess masters placing pawns?  Shedus supposedly are guardians of gateways, doors, and other thresholds (hence fighting undead, outsiders, and plagues, which all may be seen as invaders of one kind or another)…so maybe lammasus are protectors of those on the road (travelers and caravans, for instance), or ward against slavers or evil humanoids that fall outside the shedus’ purview.  And what about their resemblance to lamias—what if lammasus are the males of the species, who never suffered their fallen mates’ degradation?

Lammasus can also be great mentors for sorcerers, oracles, and other characters whose magical powers don’t come specifically from books or a deity.  In Dragon #280, Monte Cook served up a prestige class known as the eldritch master, who mentored with a creature such as a hag, lammasu, lich, slaad, or titan to learn extra spells and metamagic feats and other abilities at the cost of some spell levels.  PC spellcasters in your campaign might need to consult a lammasu to learn a rare feat, or to unlock certain powerful kinds of magic (3rd level spells, for instance, or the ability to summon outsiders).  This knowledge might come with a price—side quest!—or just getting to the lammasu’s remote lair might be the adventure.

Obviously, all monsters are yours to define, but with lammasus the possibilities are even more wide open that usual.  Have fun!

Finally, nitpickers beware: Note that in the Bonus Bestiary lammasus are listed as casting spells as clerics, in the Bestiary 3 as oracles. 

The following hooks offer some excuses to set the otherwise lawful good lammasus at odds with your PCs:

Scarlet Wing is a truly regal, leonine lammasu determined to drive the orcs out of the Kampar Wastes.  A lifetime of command has made him rusty at the art of diplomacy, however.  When the shedu Aqalmand refuses to spare any of horned lizardfolk and earth elementals he uses to guard the planar gate in the ruined City of the Black Moon, claiming they are needed there, Scarlet Wing, outraged, vows to impress them by force if necessary.

Whatever the truth that lammasus and lamias were once one, the lammasu Pamalberak believes it.  What was an intriguing theory decades ago has blossomed into an obsession.  He now seeks out isolated lamias to “redeem”…and while imprisonment is more merciful than killing them—and prevents them from harming innocents—his experimental efforts at conversion are beginning to cross the line into torture.  His desert brownie servants are becoming alarmed, but respect the magical beast too much to act openly.

After years of training isolated wisdom-seekers in the wastes, the lammasu Ishme has recently inspired a small order of knights.  The knights work in pairs, one paladin, fighter, or cavalier and one oracle or cleric, mutually supporting each other with arms and spells.  They can be recognized by the gauze they tie around their eyes as a symbol of Ishme’s cataract-blurred vision (and the visual impairments many of the order’s oracles suffer).  Recently though, the knights have gotten embroiled in the war between Tarsus and the freedom fighters of Pax Quinn, and in aiding her knights Ishme may find himself fighting those he might otherwise have called “Friend.”

Pathfinder Bonus Bestiary 13 & Pathfinder Bestiary 3 175

Okay, I should give Belinda G. Ashley’s “The Ecology of the Lammasu” from Dragon Magazine #224 some props—she divides lammasu prides into castes like the Defenders, the Enlightened, the Healers, and the Pride Lords.  She also suggests that they are attended by brownies, which personally I think is a fun way to mix English and Mesopotamian monsters, so I used it above.

Speaking of which:

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