Phoenixes are fiery symbols of rejuvenation, light, and knowledge. The canine-headed, peacock-tailed simurghs’ attributes are more elusive. The myths reference purification and fertility among others, but in terms of Pathfinder (and in accordance with the simurgh’s stat block) wisdom and watchfulness are probably the easiest ones to latch onto. The original simurgh roosted in the Tree of Knowledge, and Pathfinder’s simurghs likewise probably roost in similarly hard-to-reach but important locations. Since their glaring ray, banishing swipe, and radiant feathers abilities also make them terrifying combatants and stalwart sentinels against outsiders, simurghs are probably best used as guardians of important artifacts, undead-haunted tombs, and especially planar rifts and magical locations. When your party starts getting to the level where initial-caps Mythical Things (the Tree of Knowledge, the Well of Wisdom, the Cave of Wonders, etc.) start turning out to be real, a simurgh is likely to be the guard—and while they’re neutral good, they’re reclusive and suspicious, so they may be equally as likely to hand out damage (at least for a few rounds, until they can determine a party’s intentions) as they are boons of mass cure critical wounds.
Also, simurghs may linger in deserts for more practical reasons as well. We’ve talked about the frozen North and the high mountains being places where reality breaks down; the same goes for deep desert. I especially like the idea of simurghs being the experts on entities that elude normal scholars and theologians: ankous, azi, asuras, divs, peris, and the like.
Finally, real fan of simurghs should check out Pathfinder #24: “The Final Wish,” which has an expanded entry and the Crown of the Simurgh, an artifact they can bestow on truly deserving heroes, and Kobold Quarterly #7, which features a CR 12 version of the creature.
In order to defeat a ghul lord of surpassing power, a party needs to coax a simurgh out of the wastes. To do so, the party must face a range of challenges, ranging from easy (submitting to detect evil) to vastly more difficult (surviving three rounds of the magical beast’s glaring ray).
The simurgh Ibn Japheth is a noted expert on azi. Consulting him is problematic, however, as he lairs in a cloud fortress that moves with the sun to keep the div-tainted dragons from finding and silencing him.
Simurghs are known to guard three of the four trees planted by Ahrivor, the Jann Mother: the Tree of Morning’s Blessing, the Tree of Noon’s Prayer, and the Palm of Lover’s Meeting. The Tree of Evening’s Reflection was destroyed in the First Age, and if a simurgh ever protected it, surely it must be dead…or driven mad with the desire for vengeance.
—Pathfinder #24 86–87 & Pathfinder Bestiary 3 245