Pathfinder’s version of the popobawa, the popobala is a cyclopean bat-winged (duh) shapechanger that thrives on strife and fear. What’s particularly interesting is that it thrives on social unrest in particular. Plenty of tropical creatures feed on blood or fear (the manananggal and the larabay (the latter from Isles of the Shackles) come to mind), but the popobala’s appetite is larger in scale: It prefers social upheaval such as a society’s first elections, first contact with outsiders, women rising to power, racial conflicts, war, and so forth. Which is appropriate for a CR 15 creature…and which makes the need for adventurers all the more dire, since it is a rare villager who can stand up to such a beast.
Speaking of CR 15, popobalas actually leave the body count of a much weaker creature.
If you’re interested in really giving the popobala character, check out its full description from Pathfinder Adventure Path #40: Vaults of Madness (reprinted (legitimately, I think) here). But the gist is that popobalas prefer a terrified populace to a slaughtered one. They rarely kill their victims, choosing instead to leave them traumatized so that the tale spreads to their neighbors. In fact, it’s often the act of standing up to a popobala that puts its victims at risk—that’s when the flayings start.
(And don’t forget, for a nasty combo try pairing the popobala with other monsters or effects that cause characters to be fatigued, staggered, shaken, etc., so that the popobala gains fast healing. Just off the top of my head, an Advanced version of yesterday’s poltergeist would do nicely. You can probably come up with much better combos—and you should tell us about them in the comments—but whatever creature you choose, it would have to be subservient to the proud popobala.)
A long-fingered foreign harpist becomes an object of suspicion when popobala attacks are reported. The suspicion is right, but for the wrong reasons. The harpist is a penanggalen witch who hopes to bind the popobala in a ritual honoring the Hunter Behind the Hedge. But she did not account for the keen powers of deduction of the local townsfolk. Now she must defend her innocence while keeping her dark hungers in check…and a party of fellow foreign adventurers would make excellent assistants and patsies in these efforts.
The imams of Port T’Walar have been lobbying for women’s rights in the city-state—an effort blessed when they summoned an agathion to lead them in public prayer. Outraged at this intrusion into his domain, a popobala riles up T’Walar’s poor workingmen against the effort by posing as a cleric of the rival genie-worshipping Four Towers sect.
The island nation of Pakau is constantly beset by troubles—vandalism, fire, plagues, and witch hunts. Ever since rescuing them off a sinking ship, an adventuring party’s patron has kept them busy hunting wererats, ghuls, adaros, and devil-worshippers. But the sharp accusations of a cyclops and the investigation of a halfling paladin/inquisitor team point toward a disturbing conclusion: The party’s patron has been a popobala all along, eliminating monstrous rivals even as it causes ever-larger societal disasters.
—Pathfinder Adventure Path #40 84–85 & Pathfinder Bestiary 3 221
Like the chupacabra and the mothman, the popobawa is particularly interesting in that it’s such a recent cryptid—dating only back to the ’60s (at least in terms of Western awareness), with 1995 standing out as a big year. That’s practically yesterday.
I was about to type, “Hey Paizo, can we have some more shetani in the next Bestiary?” but it looks like that’s already been covered and answered for now. Until then, based on what Wikipedia has to say, popobalas also might have ties to (or more likely rivalries with) genies or divs.
Oh, the pony? Hell yeah we covered the pony.
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