Normally when a “basic” D&D/Known World/Mystara monster comes up in the rotation, I’m all excitement: “Hey it’s the brain collector! From way back when! Let me tell you stories about elementary school!”
Not so with the nightshades. I’ve been dreading this.
Nightshades: They are big. They are shadowy. They are evil. They want to crush all life. End of story. That is the proverbial it. And there are three of them. (Wait, scratch that—four. Counting Undead Revisited, five. As my Yiddish peeps would say: Oy.
I’d rather write about ascomoids.
Even worse, while I don’t have personal experience with nightshades (most campaigns I’ve played in end in the tweens), it seems to me they always show up in published adventures as the penultimate monster—the last big baddie to soak up your spells and buffs before you hit the main man. So all in all, they’re a giant pain (and a one-note one at that).
The good news is, Pathfinder has at least made their origin story interesting: the transfigured remnants of fiends who wandered too far into the umbral wastes of the Plane of Shadow and the Negative Energy Plane. (Let that serve as a cautionary tale for those trying to use these planes to cross dimensions or reach other planets.) And Todd Stewart has done his best in Undead Revisited to breathe some (un)life into these creatures. I’m most interested in his reminder that nightshades often live in the shadow versions of Material Plane cities—so shadowdancers and plane-hopping parties that blithely try to visit these dark mirror cities may be surprised by these terrible foes. And there is always an evil spellcaster, lich, or devourer powerful enough—or foolish enough—to attempt to call one of these dark creatures.
So for more details on nightshades (and stats for the nightskitter), see Undead Revisited. Meanwhile, enter the nightcrawler:
A cabal of horrified vampires enlists adventurers for help. The vampires were aiding a cult of Kieron the Death Eater foment an undead takeover of the city. But when they realized the dark priests intended to summon a nightcrawler, the bloodsuckers rebelled—they want cattle, not corpses.
The duergar city of Delverest is a ghost town—literally. A nightcrawler slithered up through its inky sewers from the Plane of Shadow and annihilated the inhabitants, leaving only shadows, wraiths, dread wraiths, and moaning allips in its wake. For now the nightcrawler is content—the city is empty of life. But it struck during the spring, when flourishing fungi and deadly spores cut off Delverest from all trade. Once the summer caravans unwittingly disturb the nightcrawler’s peace, it will attempt to track the interruptions back to their sources…
Shadow Vienz features all the playhouses of its bright cousin, with masked shae playing the leads instead of human actors. Fetchlings and half-sane derro run the caravan routes of shadow Sember. And fascist kytons rule the imperial streets of shadow Remus, preaching strength and unity through pain. But there is no life in shadow Amberhome, nor any shadow gnomes to mine the seams of jet. Instead a pair of nightcrawlers endlessly circle the tunnels, which are rimed with frost from the undeads’ quickened cones of cold.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 2 200
Eagle-eyed readers will note we covered the Nessian hell hound/warhound way back here.
And speaking of eagle eyes, Todd Stewart must have felt his ears burning—he literally just this minute dropped us off a note about the lurker in light. Check it here.