It’s been a while—too long, in fact—since we’ve talked about using monsters to help give shape to a setting in the weird fantasy genre (something along the lines of China Miéville’s Bas-Lag or Jeff VanderMeer’s Ambergris, if “weird fantasy” isn’t a term you throw around a lot).
The Spellscar fext, created by Patrick Renie for the Inner Sea Bestiary, is a monster readymade for such a role. While the Spellscar Desert may be a Golarion-specific locale, you can easily imagine fexts arising in Eberron’s Mournland or Bas-Lag’s Cacotopic Stain (or even Toril’s wild magic zones, to pick a more standard high fantasy locale). Fexts work great in steampunk and alternate history fantasy settings as well—they might be the result of industrial or magitechnological pollution…or even nuclear waste! The point is, anywhere magic has gone wrong can be a home for fexts…and their twisted forms and resistance to all but cold iron and glass make them memorable encounters. A borderland where all the toughs carry weapons made of glass is going to stand out for players the way Dune’s Sietch Tabr does with its crysknife bearing Fremen.
By the way, I wracked my brain trying to think of what “fext” might mean—maybe a portmanteau of “fetch” and “vexed,” I thought—but I’d basically written it off as an entry in the “I dunno; it just sounded cool” school of monster design. Turns out I was maligning Mr. Renie quite unfairly—fexts spring from Slavic folklore, complete with their vulnerability to glass. Supposedly many enemy generals from the various wars of that era (the 17th century, to be precise) were even suspected to be fexts, as they seemed mysteriously unkillable. So while the average fext may be an Int 8 brute, an exceptional specimen (particularly one with class levels) could even serve as an enemy commander—one that PCs have a devil of a time taking down…
After the Vargouille Plague of last summer and this spring’s Mushroom Uprising, the transdimensional dye-making city of Mauveine deserves a break. But when a crystal zeppelin from the Demiplane of Wild Magic crashes into the Narrows District, the militia needs every hand it can get to drive off the Splinter fexts.
Caught between the fexts of the Spellblast Wastes and the yrthaks of Sentinel Pass, the outriders of Pelm must come prepared for anything. They shoulder rifles loaded with glass bullets, backed by cold-iron tipped harpoons and weighted nets as insurance in case a yrthak’s sonic lance shatters their ammunition. They are always hiring; ask at the Sign of the Twisted Relic for Jordin Teal or Fatty the xorn.
Grand Marshal Leopold Fox is famous for much: his military acumen, his resolve in the face of danger, and his survival despite seven assassination attempts so far. Other details also set him apart, but only to the close observer—his ashen pallor…his diamond-hard skin…and the hand he keeps permanently tucked between the buttons of his coat, supposedly to hide a war-mangled limb. In reality he hides a clump of cerulean tentacles. The grand marshal is a free-willed, intelligent fext, his medals and victories concealing the fact that he died in a netherbombing on the eve of his first battle—which was decades ago…
—Inner Sea Bestiary 49