I’m pretty sure that’s a herd of pegasi right there. Or is it a flock…?
(Yes, another pic from Otakon 2012.)
Pegasi have it rough in gaming. Because as mounts go, they have their limits—no claws, no breath weapon, no spells, not even a unicorn’s gore attack. Bellerophon may have ridden Pegasus to attack the Chimera of myth, but in the game a CR 7, 6d8-breathing chimera only needs two good rounds to demolish the 34 hp steed. Any PC that wants to do serious dogfighting is going to look for a griffon, dragon, or even a simple hippogriff first.
That’s why I’m glad Pathfinder tries to put some magic back into the pegasus. First there’s its detect good/evil ability—always a nice touch. Then there’s the pegasus champion—perfect flight maneuverability and fire resistance 10 go a long way toward making it a useful mount, and immunity to petrification is a nice mythic touch.
But I think a lot of what’s needed for a great pegasus encounter comes from the GM. Make it happen early in the campaign, while flight is still a rare and precious thing, and before the monsters that PCs are likely to encounter can just swat the winged horses out of the sky. Make the attempt to befriend them an actual role-playing encounter (with XP rewards to back it up), not just a series of Diplomacy checks. Make riding one feel like an accomplishment and a reward. And even at higher levels, perhaps earning a pegasus’s services can allow parties a certain benefit—access to a certain hidden cliff face, secret air deity temple, cloud castle, and the like—that no griffon or even a dragon could give them.
Also, I am totally in favor of using pegasi as a bit of a moral lesson for neutral and especially evil PCs. I make no secret of the fact that I like my games heroic in flavor…but even setting that aside, too often non-good PCs are just an excuse for “Let’s see what I can get away with” play—for instance, hired mercenaries plus negative channeling combined with death knell being a typical egregious example. Neutrality in these cases ceases to be about role-playing or conviction; it’s about metagame convenience. So I’m totally in favor of letting pegasi be conveniences in the service of good. Let good PCs skip a few harmful levels, get to the sacred spring early, or otherwise get an advantage their nongood counterparts don’t. Choices have consequences. And for a game that spends a lot of time spelling out exactly what happens when a paladin or cleric falls, we don’t spend enough time talking about how to reward them for being stand-up and righteous dudes. A ride on a pegasus isn’t a bad start.
Then again, obviously one easy way to tweak your pegasi is to tweak their alignments (and the alignments they can detect). I remember as a young D&D player borrowing the AD&D Desert of Desolation compilation, and my mouth forming an O of shock when I ran across the pegasi-riding dervishes in that book…
A cataclysm rends the land of Pennarin in twain. Fresh from having rescued an elven princess, a party of adventurers finds themselves on the wrong side of a brand-new canyon and a hobgoblin army. The elves suggest securing the services of a rumored herd of pegasi on the far side of the forest, but even they are not sure where the magical beasts might be found.
Through her priestesses, the goddess of zephyrs and fortune, Zephenia, offers a boon to those who do her will: a magical ribbon that can transform into a bridle fit for riding a pegasus champion. Able to hover in place like a hummingbird and turn on a ducat, these steeds are invaluable allies for spellcasters and knights alike. But the bridle does not compel the pegasus’s obedience—that must still be earned.
The shaggy pegasi of Annwl respond only to druids, barbarians, and green knights; they scorn to carry those of extreme (non-neutral) alignments or who stink of too much metal. The fierce flying destriers of Marduk carry only the lawful, especially cavaliers and Knights of the Lash. The pegasi of the Blasted Lands only consent to carry creatures that bear the same taint as themselves. More than one well-meaning samurai or paladin, out of supplies and surrounded by enemies, has received an aerial rescue from one of these beasts, and only too late realize what it signifies—that the taint of the Blasted Land has claimed them.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 225