Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shark-Eating & Shipwrecker Crabs

The giant crab/crab swarm entry in the Bestiary gestures toward larger crab varieties in a table (and The Daily Bestiary’s entry way back in November 2011 speculated about them as well).  But the Bestiary 3 is nice enough to save us the trouble of statting up the shark-eating and shipwrecker crabs ourselves.  As with most Advanced species, each has a special ability worth noting (darting and powerful claws, respectively, as well as the usual constriction).  But it’s the size and hit points (a Colossal 14d8+126 for shipwrecker crabs) that will really get players’ attentions…

Adventurers become trapped in a cove by shark-eating crabs, only to find they are not alone.  A hunting party of adaros became trapped there as well when their shark companions were devoured.  The adaros propose teaming up to escape the cove, but as the effort is underway a storm begins brewing, sending the adaros into a rain frenzy.

A kraken returns from a five-year-long vision quest to a rude awakening—ignorant Easterners have colonized his home island.  (The local Western and gnome natives have centuries-old taboos against approaching his domain.)  Outraged, the leviathan sends shipwrecker crab minions to tear down the Easterners’ wooden palisade fort.  Even if the kraken’s hold on the crabs is broken, they will still revert to instinct and merely switch their attention to the ships in the harbor instead.

Not all giant crabs are of the hard-shelled variety.  When the skyship Osprey’s Hammer goes down in the shoals, it carries the magical communications rig for the entire Zephyr fleet.  Adventurers who go looking for the sunken vessel will find a nasty surprise—it is currently the home of a shipwrecker hermit crab, which wears the entire ship on its back like a giant shell.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 60

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


By now you’re used to me making apologies for my less-than-comprehensive knowledge of the Cthulhu Mythos, particularly The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.  But I don’t need to make apologies today, because it’s patently obvious that the planet-hopping slimy horse-facedbird-lizard-things known as shantaks are awesome.  Surely you can find a use for planet-hopping slimy horse-faced bird-lizard-things in your campaign.  Did I mention these planet-hopping slimy horse-faced bird-lizard-things can fly between planets and even stars?  And that one can carry (and extend its immunities to) a passenger as well?  Or that these planet-hopping slimy horse-faced bird-lizard-things, like so many of Lovecraft’s creations, have weird fears and superstitions (of nightgaunts, gargoyles, and harpies, for instance)?  And did I mention that shantaks are planet-hopping slimy horse-faced bird-lizard-things?!?  No?  I’ll reiterate: Planet-hopping slimy horse-faced M-----F---ing bird-lizard-things!!!

A pair of shantaks harries a party through a mountain pass.  Should they head straight, they become trapped in a box canyon and must fight their way past the bird-creatures.  Should they turn south, the adventurers can escape through the Gargoyle’s Mouth.  North also offers an escape route of a more extreme variety: The party will blunder into the nightgaunt-haunted hills of the Demiplane of Blasphemous Hope.

A crime syndicate begins smuggling strange artifacts and narcotics-spewing beetles into the city of Eastmeer.  This contraband comes not from a neighboring country, but from the Antelope, a planet whose eccentric orbit sends it wobbling through the summer sky.  Shantaks shuttle the syndicate members back and forth, kept in check by the guild’s Filthwing harpy allies.

Asuras abscond with the virgin princess who is the reborn symbol of the Dawnlily faith—taking her not to one of the Hells, but into the void of space.  When no mage can offer passage between the stars, adventurers are forced to turn to the strange denizens of Leng.  They rent shantaks to the party at exorbitant prices…but even then passage is not guaranteed; the party must cajole the beasts into harness.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 244

Shantaks feature prominently in (and on the cover of) the module The Moonscar, which I reviewed here.

The never-turn-your-back-on-him-he’s-planning-something uwtartarus pointed out a wrinkle to the shambling mound I’d overlooked:

Also the Harrow Deck of Many Things (i.e. my way of ruining my campaigns) includes a card that gives a character the ability to interrogate plants (speak with plants spell-like ability?) but then causes the local vegetation to spawn an angry Shambling Mound, which has been my exposure to the druid-golem.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Shambling Mound

There’s actually not much for me to say about the shambling mound.  It’s a classic, to say the least—it dates back to TSR’s The Strategic Review #3 from 1975, which means it puts almost every other monster’s pedigree to shame.  Shamblers have been used in any number of creative ways in published adventures—as animate leaf monsters, kelp piles, refuse heaps, elf slayers, alien vegetation, etc., etc.  Want feats and variant monsters?  Check out Dungeon Denizens Revisited for shamblers that spit lightning, spew spores, or release centipede swarms at death.  Shambling mounds are in that monster sweet spot where they have been done well and in many ways but without being done to death.

All I have to add, then, are these simple thoughts: They are smarter than any clump of vegetation has any right to be.  They understand Sylvan.  And they crave elf flesh, which is weird for any plant creature.  And weird means adventure opportunity…

A chance mutation breeds albino shocker lizards with exceedingly sharp teeth, but that are vulnerable to electricity.  To compensate, they live in symbiotic relationships with shambling mounds—the mounds feed on their leavings and protect them from the electrical attacks of their kin, and the lizards attack any creature that threatens their host.

A centaur druid uses shambling mound allies to drive “two-legs” out of his forest, bolstering them with call lightning.  But as the mounds get larger they get more aggressive, hungrier for humanoid flesh, and hooked on the electrical charge—a very literal and deadly buzz.  After the shamblers wipe out a wild elf encampment the centaur never intended for them to trouble with, he tries to cut them off…only to have the lightning-emboldened Plant creatures take him prisoner to continue feeding their addictions.

Elves do not talk about where they came from…other than to obliquely refer to it as the First Handsome Home.  In actuality, their world was this world, only unbent.  On the verge of losing their nation, their minds, and their very race itself to the Adversary, a plantlike ancient evil, elf archmages bent the flat world into a globe in order to contain It.  The sprouting of shambling mounds millennia after this event is the first sign that the Adversary stirs in Its prison…

Dungeon Denizens Revisited 58–63 & Pathfinder Bestiary 246

As mentioned above, Jason Nelson’s chapter on shambling mounds in DDR has lots more info on shamblers, including more feats, variant creatures, and their planetary origins far from Golarion.

Friday, July 26, 2013


I’m at a disadvantage writing genie posts.  Since I didn’t play Planescape or Al-Qadim, I’m always approaching them with less background knowledge on hand than I’d like.  The good news is, Pathfinder’s shaitans are not D&D’s dao, so it’s okay that I’m starting from scratch.   Dao were evil slavers whose gem-mining operations in the Great Dismal Delve truly lived up to the name.  Presumably shaitans aren’t saints—they are lawful neutral, described as proud and boastful, and their name has inescapably dark antecedent—but they aren’t as grim as their D&D cousins. 

They’re still nasty fighters, though.  Unless PCs attack from aloft, they’re attacking the shaitan on her home turf.  And a few bull rushes combined with some bad saves could easily leave a party temporarily encased in solid stone—bad news if your spellcasters are the first to get engulfed, or if your PCs can’t handle the 5d6 damage cost of getting expelled a few minutes later.  Meanwhile, stoneskin makes her tough and plane shift makes her hard to pin down.  In other words, good luck.  (And that’s not even taking into accounting a shaitan pasha’s ability to grant wishes to non-genie allies).

One final thought: With the other genies, it’s pretty easy to mentally just transpose the Arabian Nights onto the Elemental Planes: djinn live in cloud palaces, marids in undersea palaces, efreet in brass palaces, etc.  With shaitans that doesn’t work so well.  Thanks to their stone glide and metalmorph abilities, they don’t need to provide doorways, hallways, or even air in many parts of their domains.  So as a dungeon designer, it’s not enough to dump a bunch of onion-domed towers underground to represent a shaitan’s home.  Other models are close at hand, however—I’m thinking, for instance, of the dark, hemmed-in vision of Tangiers that appears in the film version of Naked Lunch, and the cave complexes of Cappadocia in Turkey are perfect.

A county literally has its foundations rocked—not to mention ripped apart—by shaitan miners.  They see nothing wrong with their actions, as their permits are all in order.  The question is, who signed them?

Just as sea captains will impress able-bodied hands sailing under the flags of enemy nations, shaitans will sometimes press rival elemental creatures into service in their mines—mephits and azers especially.  While not the outright slavery of the efreet, it can still mean months of arduous, backbreaking labor.  The leaders of an azer settlement object to this high-handed treatment, and seek adventurers who will help organize a resistance against the earth genies.

A greedy xorn devoured a magical bejeweled pheasant statue, then sought refuge in a shaitan settlement.  Adventurers hired to track down the xorn and retrieve the statue (if it hasn’t already been digested) will need to contend with the legalistic genies to get safe passage…and if they need the use of the genies’ earth magic as well, they can expect to owe some pretty hefty favors.

Pathfinder Bestiary 143

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Shaggy Demodand

It’s our first demodand!  Are you excited?  I’m excited.

First of all, these are monsters with some history.  They date back to the 1e Monster Manual II—likely owing their name to Jack Vance’s deodands.  In 2e they were relabeled as gehreleths (a fact, by the way, that I did not know until prepping this entry—I’d wondered what happened to those guys!) and (I presume) got much more attention thanks to the Planescape setting.  Demodands/gehreleths were the wardens of the prison plane, the Tarterian Depths of Carceri—resentful guards just as trapped as the prisoners they minded.  In 3.0/3.5, the returned to the name demodands in the Fiend Folio and, best of all, they had (spoilers—katerinasfire: earmuffs) a huge role in the first Dungeon Adventure Path, Shackled City.

In Pathfinder the focus has shifted.  Instead of jailors, now demodands are oozy failed creations courtesy of the thanatotic titans.  They are symbols of an aborted universe that might have been, an alternate belief system undermining the forces of both good and evil.  (Note especially the faith-stealing strike and heretical soul abilities.)  They are also symbols of the tenacity of life, but life gone horribly wrong—of rutting in the dark, of spawning, of young marinating in their parents’ putrefaction.  (Of course, if you still love demodands as wardens, that works, too.)

Shaggy demodands (also known as shator demodands) are the most powerful of the described demodands—nearly as mighty as the titans themselves.  This means they might be their titan masters’ right hands, generals of terrifying Abyssal armies…or eager to foment their own plans throughout the multiverse.  After all, the titans rebelled against the gods.  How long before the demodands get similar ideas…?

After being weakened in a battle with a fiendish umbral dragon, an Elysian titan is captured by a shaggy demodand.  The demodand begins siphoning off portions of the Elysian titan’s power to grant spells to his vile cultists, who revel in their newfound, god-untainted powers causing mayhem throughout the city.

A shaggy demodand known only as the Cestus runs a gladiatorial arena in the seventh layer of Absalom.  He specializes in pitting celestials and other outsiders against exotic mortals armed with weapons that cause their divine opponents the greatest pain.

Dr. Parotoidus is a shaggy demodand who runs the Placitorium, an asylum known throughout the Planes for its extreme treatments of hopeless mental cases.  Only the doctor’s signature—or his death—can release a patient once they’ve been admitted into his care.  Except even that is not enough—the shaggy demodand is not actually the institution’s head, but its first patient.  The real heads, a brother and sister pair of tengus and a sentient spell of imprisonment, have built up the asylum to create an outlet for the demodand’s aberrant and reality-threatening desires.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 69

3.0/3.5 fans, demodands are a great excuse to whip out the Book of Vile Darkness.  Not only are the Book’s vile spells and exotic poisons fantastic in the toad-like hands of the demodands, but the divine-spell-stealing ur-priest prestige class would be perfect for representing a demodand-worshipping cult leader.

Syringesin is back!  I was worried we’d lost him.  And vanadies rightly points out that the shae feature in the module The Midnight Mirror.  (Of course, I love TMM for the positively ruthless lurkers in light…)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Shaes are among the coolest-looking new outsiders to arrive in the Bestiary 3, and they bring new life to the sparsely populated Plane of Shadow.  With masterwork falchions, a tidy list of shadow-related abilities, and heat-sapping strikes, they should make a nice challenge for low-level parties (with added class and prestige levels keeping them relevant in high-level play). 

They’ll also certainly be a role-playing challenge even if no swords are drawn—their superior attitudes and too-casual treatment of their human harems (and fetchling get) should aggravate and even outrage morally-minded PCs.  While some may be found out in the wilderness of the Plane of Shadow, honing their bodies and minds in the pursuit of perfection, most—already convinced they are perfect—will congregate in the shadow cities that mirror the Material Plane, enjoying the attention and special treatment they feel is their due.

And what is under those masks…?

Adventurers seek the expertise of a plane-hopping hunter at his exclusive club, only to discover that the lounge sports some grisly trophies: the masks and falchions of slain shaes.  Coincidentally, a strike team of shae shadowdancers and assassins arrives just after the party does, seeking revenge.  Now the adventurers are trapped in the club under assault from both sides—the club members believe they are accomplices, and the shaes assume everyone in the building is culpable.

A shae arrives at the doors of a monastery with a challenge—that his ascendancy can beat any representatives the masters send to face them.   The shaes seek to prove that their pursuit of self-mastery outperforms the narrow lawful path of a monk.

A duchess comes begging adventurers for help.  Her 16-year-old daughter has run off with a shae dancing master.  Finding the pair will take them to the Plane of Shadow and the dark mirror image of their own city.  There they will find numerous other women the chauvinistic shae has spirited away, now eager to return home, and a fetchling who claims to be the 16-year-old, abducted and transformed long ago…but surely that is impossible…?

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 242

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Shadow Mastiff

You have to like shadow mastiffs.  It’s just required.  This is one of The Rules.  I don’t care if you don’t like hell hounds (too fiery) or werewolves (too people-y) or yeth hounds (what’s the first thing you’re going to notice when spotting a flying naked dog from below…?—’nuff said).  But you have to like shadow mastiffs.

Why?  They’re big black dogs…almost.  (Sort of like the things in Ghostbusters were almost dogs.)  With spiky black tails.  With panic-causing howls.  And with a flat 50% miss chance in anything but direct sunlight.  (And as someone who love, loved, loved playing an eldritch knight with blur on tap, let me tell you that when the dice are going your way a 50% miss chance plus good AC can make you nigh invulnerable.)  And since they’re found all across the Plane of Shadow and the evil Outer Planes, not to mention being in reach of any mage who can muster lesser planar ally, they can combo with half the evil monsters in the Bestiaries.

Plus, shadow mastiffs have had a fantastically evocative role in Pathfinder’s Golarion setting.  They were a big part of the reason that the entire city of Westcrown shut down at night (at least before the events of the Council of Thieves Adventure Path).  We already know I’m a sucker for using endemic monsters to make cities memorable: You don’t want to overdo it—every town shouldn’t have its own signature baddie—but when applied with restraint it’s a great tactic, and the shadow mastiff is a perfect candidate.

And let’s not forget that they come in larger sizes, too…

The huecuva Father Bertram St. Croix died of the pox, caught from the very ladies of the evening he so frequently sermonized against (and so violently visited, usually with coins swiped  the offering ewer).  Now flanked by a pair of shadow mastiffs he found waiting loyally at his gravesite, he hunts his former parishioners for obeying the vows that he so flagrantly flouted.

Pride goes before the fall, or so the saying goes.  Certainly many azatas are saying this about Everem Dygalion.  A consummate huntsman and hound breeder, he is convinced he can command any canine pack—including evil canid outsiders.  Currently his favorite project is a pack of shadow mastiffs that he is confident he can bring to heel.  Barred from bringing them to the celestial planes, he has established a lodge and kennel in more neutral (in every sense of the word) territory.

The Huge shadow mastiffs of the Deathless Jungle are not mastiffs at all, but rather ebony allosauruses.  Instead of baying, these creatures emit terrible roars, and their tail slaps can level young trees.  They also hunger for the flesh of living mortals.  The Deathless Jungle is place of joyless regeneration—petitioners return at each waxing moon to be hunted again—and the shadow allosauruses prefer more substantial fare when they can get it.

Pathfinder Bonus Bestiary 16 & Bestiary 3 241

I would totally play in a Ghostbusters-based Pathfinder campaign, especially a cleverly disguised one.

Also, several of my readers have liked The Daily Bestiary’s format enough to try their own hands at it.  (And they’ve all been really great about given this blog a shout-out in the process—thanks, guys!)  I’m not sure if I’ve given yogior props yet, but go check out Daily Planescape for a TSR/Planescape-centric take on the form.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Shadow Giant

Today we return to the Inner Sea Bestiary to look at shadow giants, courtesy of Greg Vaughan.  Shadow giants apparently arose on the Plane of Shadow, but have made their way to Nidal. Of course, you can reverse that trend—shadow might be exports from your world to the dark mirror plane.  They might even be the dominant species of giant in the multiverse period.  After all, the number of cyclopean ruins in your average Pathfinder/3.5 world vs. the number of giants doesn’t square.  So maybe the giants weren’t all killed or driven to extinction—maybe they just migrated…

Likewise, while the textbook shadow giant has a Central American (especially Aztec) feel, you can drop in any cultural overlay (real or fictitious) you want.  The fact that shadow giants can wield an exotic weapon of your choice with perfect skill makes them an ideal excuse to dig through Ultimate Combat or Ultimate Equipment and find the grimmest implements of destruction you can get your hands on.

The Embersfall shadow giants disdain close combat despite the advantage their energy-draining strikes would give them, preferring instead to hurl whirling hunga mungas.  The Tem Nesic clans have no such compunctions, using chain spears to trip up opponents and then drag them closer for a draining.  The feral Nightclaws go even further, refusing all melee weapons in favor of monk attacks, wrestling moves, and the curved iron claws of a tekko-kagi.

Laird Randall is more than “just” a highland shadow giant sorcerer.  He is also an ambassador and negotiator of great repute, happy to spend one of his day’s shadow cloaks to make a grand entrance and put his rivals on the defensive.  The fact that he uses the swirling shadow cloak to smuggle in greater shadow retainers and assassins doesn’t hurt his bargaining position either.

On Morbion, drow created the first shadow giants, wanting to mark their slaves with the same cursed ebony skin.  The shadow giants retaliated, sacrificing dark elf after dark elf to an obsidian lens to rob the drow of their ability to walk under the sun without pain.  Since then the drow have fled underground and the giants to the Shadow Plane.  They still hate each other, though.  Adventurers struggling with either drow or shadow giant adversaries might be approached by a stone giant spirit caller who recommends that they seek the aid of their foes’ ancestral enemies—but with a warning that allying with such evil creatures is always risky.

Inner Sea Bestiary 15

Grimnoir digs the shadow demon…or is eating a cupcake, judging by all those “Mmm”s.  Anagrammaton digs the seugathi.  Thanks for commenting!

Every week I say that my show is “The Best New & Independent Rock, Pop & Folk in the Capital Region”…and then this week I start things off with The Band’s “Chest Fever”?  Clearly I am sending mixed signals.  Download it, though—there’s a whole block of TV Girl in it for you if you do. 

(Remember that if the feed skips in your browser, you can always Save As an mp3 and enjoy in iTunes.  Link good until Friday, July 26, at midnight).

Friday, July 19, 2013

Shadow Demon

This ought to make my old-school readers happy: Today we talk about the shadow demon.

Shadow demons apparently owe their 1e existence to White Dwarf and the Fiend Folio, and they snuck into 2e via Ravenloft.  I first encountered them in 3.0’s Book of Vile Darkness, where they blew my mind because they weren’t a tanar’ri subspecies (nor were they obyriths or loumaras).  I loved that they were outside even demon society—almost pure expressions of the Abyss’s power to create…creatures of darkness too insidious to be rooted out even by the tanar’ri’s numberless hordes.

In Pathfinder, shadow demons are spirits of envy personified. They are the darkness of covetousness, resentment, and jealousy given shape, shadowing the successful champion and the bitter loser alike.  They are distinguished by their speed and mobility, their powers over darkness, their vulnerability to sunlight, and their hallmark: the ability (and need, as dawn approaches) to possess other beings.  Shadow demons might be found ruining the reputations of the respected, or whispering in the ears (and granting their vile powers to) the disaffected.  It is bad enough that they possess and despoil the innocent, but at least in those cases the demon must hide evidence of its existence.  On the rare occasions they possess a willing host, however, the two minds working in concert can achieve new heights of villainy.

A cave outpost of the forces of Light is under siege by a haunt of shadow demons from the bowels of the earth.  Surrounded, the defenders pray for two things: that the sun will rise and peek over the lip of the cave mouth, or that sunburst-wielding reinforcements from the Goldmorning Priory will arrive.  Neither seems likely to occur in time.

A sculptor, long acclaimed the fourth best in the holy city of Ascension, absolutely loathes his competition.  A shadow demon possesses him, causing him to sabotage his rivals’ worksites, murder their assistants with shadow magic, vandalize monuments, and otherwise spread mayhem throughout the sacred city.  Meanwhile, the demon is not content with just possessing people; when not riding the sculptor he seeks magic that will allow him to inhabit and leap between the many sculptures in his thrall’s workshop.  Killing the sculptor is not an option—by now he is so steeped in envy himself that he will rise as a new shadow demon by the following midnight.

It’s a race against time near the North Pole as the brief autumn turns to winter.  A shadow demon must be found and expelled from the ice palace of the royal family of Gelidous before months of darkness take over.

Pathfinder Bestiary 67

Googling “Paizo shadow demon” also came up with this very relevant thread about a shadow demon near-TPK.

“But where’s the shadow?” you ask.  Here at TDB, we’re all about strict adherence to ABC order, and that means we covered the greater shadow and shadow way back here.

Oh, and remember yesterday, when I asked vanadies to elaborate?  He bloody well did.  Worth the read!

(Remember, I’m not currently in a gaming group and have only played a handful of published Adventure Paths (especially Age of Worms, Kingmaker, and chunks of Shackled City) and modules.  So while I’m reading for ideas/story/inspiration, your mileage may vary at the table, and vanadies’s post is a great example of that.)

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Whenever I really need to get something done, I perform rituals to self-impregnate myself and spawn smaller minions.  Coincidentally, that’s just what neothelids do, too.  And that’s how seugathi are born.

Essentially seugathi are Pathfinder’s mind flayers in most everything but appearance, with a maddening aura and wand-slinging instead of brain eating and mental blasts.  If you can get your hand on old mind flayer adventurers, neothelids will by and large drop right in (with the illithids’ spacefaring and from-the-future-ness adding a nice twist). 

Seugathi’s facility with item triggers means they can be magical powerhouses (and their hoards a bounty to the PCs who can bring them down); their worship Yog-Sothoth and other entities from the Golarion setting’s Dark Tapestry means they are up to no good and need to be stopped.  Of course, doing so will only take PCs farther into the earth, where other horrors wait in the dark—including intellect devourers, urdefhans, and the seugathi’s own neothelid masters.

After devouring the minds of several friars, a seugathi has taken to wielding a magical heavy mace and a clerical scepter instead of a short sword and wand.  The prelate of the friar’s order wants the magic items returned and the beast killed—he reasons that as long as part of the clerics’ minds live on in the seugathi, their souls will not rest.

A seugathi has taken control of the derro settlement of Rotwarren—a fact that discomfits the mad humanoids not a bit.  But the creature is using the derros to breed new and stronger varieties and troglodyte and skum soldiers, with aims toward sending them against the subterranean rose elf city of Quartzheim.

Perhaps the strangest seugathi of all is Wormfinger of Bard’s Rock, a spaceport asteroid above Greenearth.  Following internal commands inscrutable even by the standards of its kin, this seugathi turned up one day at the Lucky Linnorm demanding to become a faro dealer.  Due to its aura of madness, it is only allowed to run the high-stakes table in the Gentlemen’s Lounge, where the patrons are assumed to have either the mental fortitude or the wealth to endure its maddening effects.  For his part, Wormfinger seems peaceful, but canny observers say it seems to be looking for something in the displays of probability and chance in the game, and that it frequents purveyors of forbidden goods used in summoning on its days off.

Into the Darklands 58–59 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 xx

I’m guessing uwtartarus will be psyched by this post.  Anyone else use seugathi in your games?

Hey, I’m finally working on my mail/comment backlog!  Reader vanadies was less than impressed with the Serpent’s Skull Adventure Path:

I don’t have much to add here except that I’ve played through Serpent’s Skull, and the first module was good, but the rest were among the worst things Paizo has published. Skip them.

Care to elaborate?  Anyone else who played them want to weigh in?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I’m here to discuss serpentfolk in Pathfinder.  But somewhere behind me, I hear the whispers…and even perhaps the sibilant muttering of forked tongues?...of my old-school-D&D-playing readers in my ear, saying: “Talk about the yuan-tiiiiiiiii…”

So: Serpentfolk have been a big part of Pathfinder since before it was even a game—in the early pages of the Pathfinder magazine Eando Kline discovered to his horror that the serpentfolk of Golarion were waking…and that his (and perhaps all?) ioun stone-topped wayfinders were designed in part to lead explorers to them and speed their reëmergence.  The Bestiary 2 describes them as obsessed with magic, knowledge, and hatred of humanity, whom they blame for their fall—with stats both for more powerful advanced individuals and for inhumanly strong but degenerate examples of the species as well.  Those details, along with certain espionage/subterfuge-friendly spell-like abilities, give you plenty to work with right there.  And if you peruse the serpentfolk-starring Serpent’s Skull Adventure Path in Pathfinder Adventure Path #37–42 you should have more serpentfolk adventure ideas than you know what to do with.

Except.  Except.  The yuan-ti.  They call.  They call you.

Introduced in the 1e module Dwellers of the Forbidden City and the Monster Manual II, yuan-ti were D&D’s original snake-men.  And they’ve slithered around ever since, their culture and many subraces slowly revealed over time, managing to attract the attention of great FRPG writers without becoming overexposed and tired.  They’ve always felt a bit of a throwback to the Robert E. Howard pulp novels of old—with hints of their having arisen from the mingling of human and serpent bloodlines, and their weird Bizarro World naming conventions (purebloods looking the most human while still having clearly snakelike features, while the purely reptilian creatures are called abominations, and the truly blessed are known as anathemas...because that makes sense…?).  Because they originally arose out of human stock (and still need humans for slaves, food, and perhaps mating), they always have a reason to interact with humanity (and that means potential adventures).  And their various subraces and abilities make them excellent for evil infiltration campaigns, cultist scenarios, and straight-up bug hunts at a wide range of levels.  (And don’t forget psionics!  They’re psionic, too!)

What does this mean for you?  Well, if you’re a Pathfinder player, it means there is a mountain of material ripe for the converting.  I haven’t read a lot of the older 1e and 2e books/articles (including their “Ecology” article in Dragon Magazine), but that doesn’t matter, because 3.0/3.5 was incredibly generous when it came to yuan-ti.  They appeared in an excellent Dragon article, “Venom and Coil: The Secret Life of the Yuan-Ti” by Robin Laws, got more subraces in Monsters of Faerûn, and popped up as templates in Savage Species.  In Eberron, they even had good cousins: the feathered, couatl-blooded shulassakar.  Most importantly, they had star turns in not just one, but two of the very best books 3rd Edition had to offer: Ghostwalk and Serpent Kingdoms.

I can’t do those two books justice here.  But I also cannot say enough good things about them or how inspirational they’ll be in your Pathfinder or 3.5 campaign.  Read my previous thoughts here and here, and feel free to email me [dailybestiary at gmail you know the rest] if you want me to rave about them some more.  Trust me: Both those books are a steal, and once you’ve read them, you’ll never look at yuan-ti or serpentfolk the same way again.

Onto the adventure seeds:

No one has seen any ratfolk ragpickers in the streets for weeks.  As the garbage starts to pile up (and as the local fences grow desperate to unload stolen goods), adventurers are finally sent to inquire.  A ratfolk youth comes out of hiding and tells them to check the sewers.  What they find are vishkanya cultists worshipping (and doing a brisk trade in rare poisons with) strange cowled serpentfolk.

In the spirit of draconic cooperation, a gold dragon sends adventurers with a small library of books and scrolls as a gift to the imperial dragon-ruled Kingdom of Heavenly Scales.  The adventurers soon find that the imperial dragon nobles, if they ever existed, are now either captives or myths…that in the Kingdom snakes are regarded more highly than slaves or even commoners…and that the aristocrats (known as the Yuan Tien) are not human at all, but disguise self-wearing serpentfolk dedicated to debauchery, poison, and evil.

Stranded in the jungles of a new continent, adventurers find two breeds of serpentfolk.  The green-snake-headed Mermitz are oracles and clerics with couatl blood in their veins.  The adder-headed Xipotl are diviners and evokers who celebrate powers of fire, magic, and sacrifice.  The two war endlessly by casting fortunes, making offerings or blood sacrifices to outsider proxies, and sending their boa-headed degenerate servants to fight each other above and below the ground.

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Oh, my stars and garters, it’s Wednesday and I haven’t posted Saturday’s radio show yet!  This week I played lots of new music and tried to speak French.  One of those did not go well.  Download it, s'il vous plaît!

(Remember that if the feed skips in your browser, you can always Save As an mp3 and enjoy in iTunes.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Sepids are the warlords of the divs, leading the lesser breeds into battle against both genies and the mortals whose oblivion they crave. In addition to being physically powerful, sepids’ array of spell-like abilities is dizzying.  They can also deflect magical rays, making them good mage hunters, and they can literally rain down destruction on opponents.

Sepids’ congenital flaw is that they are also pathological liars cursed (at least in their dealings with mortals; I’m guessing while leading their own troops they have more flexibility) with always saying the opposite of the truth and doing the opposite of what they’ve promised.  They’re ordinarily too intelligent (19) and wise (19) to let this fact trip them up, but in the right setting PCs might be able to turn this tic against them.

A sepid leads an attack on the minaret-studded city of Pesharv.  While his aghash soldiers content themselves with destruction and looting—hating beautiful mortals and their works, they take particular pleasure in molesting and scarring attractive citizens and putting the torch to sumptuous homes—the sepid works to eliminate influential members of the city’s suli minority, hoping to crush the spirits of the genie-blooded populace before rounding them up for deportation and slavery.

Born of the soul of a shaitan, a sepid still gravitates toward creatures of earth as siege breakers.  Currently it has a trio of blue dragons in its employ—the sepid has promised to help them take care of a society of troublesome wizards.  Adventurers might ally with the wizards against the sepid by manning their towers’ defenses.  They might also find a way to use the sepid’s own inability to tell the truth to sow discord among his lawful dragon confederates.

Two sepids guard a passage in the pyramid of the Never Pharaoh.  Bound to repeat a Knight and Knave riddle, one of them has been ensorcelled to always speak the truth—a stricture so against its nature it causes both spiritual and physical pain (they being largely one and the same thing for an outsider).  If the party cannot answer the riddle both sepids attack, but if the party does successfully pass the test, the truth-telling sepid will hunt them later—after having sewed its own mouth shut.

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Edit: This post is a revision because I was slammed schedule-wise.  The original post contained no intro and only the first and third adventure seeds.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Seaweed Leshy

One final sea entry for you: the seaweed leshy!

We haven’t had a leshy in a while, so those who don’t have the Bestiary 3 should know that a leshy is a nature spirit summoned by a fey or plant creature druid to inhabit special plant bodies—like a homunculus, essentially…but still tied closely enough to nature to be a plant, not a construct. 

Seaweed leshys are the most powerful ones so far described, weighing in at CR 3 and with an overproud nature that lends them to mocking their freshwater brethren.  Like most leshys they are stealthy (constant pass without trace, tree shape into Small Seaweed) and can defend themselves in small ways (entangle 1/day, a bludgeoning, blinding water jet).  But their real boon to adventurers will likely be the water breathing-granting air cysts they grow—which might mean life or death (or at least a way of bypassing a troublesome room) in an underground dungeon.

A bed of rare, blue-pearl-producing oysters is tended by a kelp walker (a kind of treant-like seaweed).  When the often-restless plant creature goes on walkabout, a patch of seaweed leshys stand guard instead.

Creations of a nereid druid, seaweed leshys guard a half-sunken island complex.  Their knowledge and air cysts would be useful in negotiating a tricky section of the cave system, but since the adventurers are bearing a token from a freshwater nixie, the supercilious seaweed leshys see no reason to help what they see as the thralls of a positively provincial fey.

The uncle of an adventurer dies, leaving behind as his legacy a house high in the mountains incongruously filled with nautical artifacts from his days as a ship’s captain.  In among the treasures is a flask with a preserved seaweed leshy inside; if watered, the leshy rejuvenates.  It then sets about alternately encouraging the adventurer to finish her relative’s last mission (which failure caused the uncle to settle far, far from shore) and trying to “defend” the house from intruders (including the adventurer herself!) until a successful Heal or Knowledge (nature) check is performed to calm it.

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