Friday, August 30, 2013

Sky Dragon

Okay…you know we’re both thinking it.  So let’s just get it out of the way, shall we?

Anyway, sky dragons are the preëminent aerial dragons—they may never even touch the ground in their lifetimes—and this fact, along with their lawful good natures and celestial emissary ability, means they practically blur the line between mortal and celestial creatures.  Most adventurers who encounter sky dragons will hopefully be on the receiving end of their beneficence—the hero who befriends a sky dragon gains an ally who can turn him into a near-celestial and blast his enemies out of the sky—but if you want to use sky dragons in a more adversarial role, the adventure seeds below should be a good start.

PS: One imagines that sky dragons’ battles with the evil underworld dragons are legendary.

Also, despite being dragons, these guys are apparently born aloft.  One wonders if they’re ovoviviparous or if Mom just a really secure grip…

The Khan is coming, bringing a horde of several tens of thousands to smash the Wall of Destiny.  But his mount is a sky dragon escorted by three kirin…in which case, his intentions must presumably be noble…which puts adventurers charged with preserving the Wall and protecting the emperor in a tight spot.

The aerial might of Zenoa must never be threatened.  So ingrained is this policy that Zenoans declare war on any other nation that develops air power, regardless of intent or alignment.  Even sky dragons are not immune, for though they represent no nation, their grounding breath is considered a profound threat to the Zenoan Storm Griffons.  The Zenoans will marshal rangers, dragonslayers, and irregulars of all kinds to form hunting parties the moment a sky dragon is sighted.

No collector has ever obtained a sky dragon egg.  But the ifrit shogun of the Wyvern Clan insists that he will possess one before he dies, and he offers titles and land in the once-secret Valley of Opals for in return for such a prize, with no questions asked beyond verification of the egg’s provenance.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 98–99

Happy Labor Day Weekend!  If you’re looking for the skunk, he’s hiding out with the giant skunk.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Wait, sorry, wrong link.  My bad.

In D&D 3.5, skum were the piscine servitors of the aboleths.  They perform the same role in Pathfinder’s Golarion, but there they have more agency—as the aberrant fish lords have turned inward, they have left the skum more and more to their own devices. 

Of course, you don’t even need the aboleths to use skum in your campaign; they’re good amphibious adversaries no matter what.  And their need for human sexual partners to reproduce automatically brings them into conflict with surface civilizations.  Which means what starts out as an ordinary kidnapping scenario can take a very dark turn (and an especially Lovecraftian one) once your PCs discover that skum are involved.

The skum of Glassmere inherited the worship of the Dark Destroyers from their now-deposed aboleth masters.  The irony of subterranean creatures that have never seen the stars worshipping Powers from beyond them is not lost on the fish-men.  To remedy this, Glassmere skum make an annual pilgrimage to the surface to gaze upon the blackness of space.  Along the way they raid human and svirfneblin settlements for masterwork weapons and breeding stock.

A ceratioidi grande dame of crime has found a new way to recruit heavies into her organization: She implants the parasitic males under the skin of human “recruits”—typically fascinated captives—before caging and lowering them into nutrient-rich baths.  The resultant skum provide compliant muscle for the fishy crime family’s more valued ceratioidi members, who have begun to spread their operations through the Bog Cities of Least Coast.

Despite the South having won both the American Civil War in 1863 and the Couatl Rebellion of 1877, the Underground Railroad has endured, with gnome rebels smuggling human and dwarven slaves North year after year.  Now though, the Railroad has broken down.  Slaves and their conductors have started to go missing, and the disappearances seem linked to the glum, watery-eyed inhabitants of a sleepy Massachusetts town known as Innsmouth.

Pathfinder Bestiary 253

Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’s Neonomicon is a decent cheat sheet for a Lovecraftian skum adventure.  Be warned, though: He explicitly set out to put Lovecraft’s racism and sexual discomfort on the surface, and he delivered.

Finally: Can you find skum on plateaus?  How about lakes of fire?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


There’s a novel to be written about skulks.  They fascinate me, at least.  Their paranoid, almost Bizarro-esque  Opposite Day mindset—cowardice is bravery, bravery is foolishness, human industry is laziness, stealing is a good day’s work—is one I could read for pages and pages and pages, if it were done well.

Come to think of it, I think that novel already was written—by Faulkner.  It was The Sound and the Fury, and skulks are an entire race of Jasons.

Obviously, most PCs are never going to get to know skulks to that degree.  To them, skulks are just outskirters—is that a word?...I think it should be a word—joining the list of scavengers, skulkers (duh), and sneak thieves that dwell on the outskirts and in the cellars of human society, like derros, chokers, doppelgangers, and wererats (and perhaps changelings, if you’re a 3.5 player).   Low-level parties need to beware them as threats, and higher level parties should be mindful that their open displays of wealth don’t draw the greedy eyes of skulks with class levels.  On the other hand, skulks might be useful snitches if properly motivated—paranoid people see an awful lot, especially when no one can see them…

Spur’s Boys only number twelve members, but already the tribe is beginning to fracture.  They had a good gig following drunks back to their homes, murdering them, and then squatting until the food ran out.  But then Weeble coshed the Lord Mayor’s son but let him get away, and now the law is after them.  Breadknife wants Weeble left dead for the humans to find but won’t say so yet, because as long as Weeble stays alive Spur looks weak.  And meanwhile Shurl is in secret talks with a doppelganger who swears it’ll teach her lock picking if she helps it replace the Lord Mayor.  The doppelganger needs a ruckus to make the switch, and the easiest way to separate the Lord Mayor from his guards would be if Shurl makes sure that a fight between the skulks and some clueless hired adventurers spills out into the streets…

Most adventurers know skulks as dungeon dwellers and urban sneaks, but they are equally adept in forest settings.  Skulks are especially abundant in the Thrushfall Forest, though they avoid the two small elf nations in the Deep Thrushfall.  Instead they stick to robbing trailers on the outskirts and trailheads.  Half-elves are their favorite targets, as these tend to be loners and bastards no one will miss.

Amon of the Book is the Head of Illusions at the Kingfisher School of Charms.  All illusionists are assumed to have secrets, but even the other two pattern casters on faculty haven’t yet realized he is a skulk.  He keeps his paranoia in check with alcohol, but he still assumes every other shapechanger is a potential enemy, and he goes to great lengths to expose even harmless shifters (like druids) to the public.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 248

For more on skulks in the Greyhawk setting, check out Roger Moore’s “Legacies of the Suel Imperium” in Dragon #241.  I also gave that article some love back when we covered the derro.

(If you do follow that link, forgive the occasional typo.  As I’ve said before, trying to edit a BlogSpot entry causes more problems than it solves, so I have to just grin and bear the little slipups.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Yesterday we had the bespoke suit of undead that is the skeletal champion.  Today we have the off-the-rack option: the skeleton.  Still, off-the-rack can look pretty good…and with a little tailoring (an animated hill giant or triceratops, perhaps, or perhaps a burning or bloody skeleton) it may be just what your adventure calls for.

That said, every PC above 1st level knows to beware any skeleton she sees in the dungeon, tomb, or temple.  So it can be fun to think of ways to camouflage them, or to make them natural consequences of a supernatural world…

The Museum of Natural Philosophy and Wonders Most Ancient is under renovation—and new ownership, as it is currently being occupied by a death cult.  While most of the specimens have been removed during the construction, pteranodon skeletons dot the ceilings of the Great Hall.  Worst yet, they can fly—what look like canvas drop cloths are actually makeshift wings that mimic the dead beasts’ membranes, keeping the undead aloft.

Special effects creator Tommy Wentworth aspired to be a playwright, but his gift for puppetry and flash bangs couldn’t save his flat, hackneyed prose.  He turned to plagiarism only to be caught by the author, whom he silenced with an improvised garrote.  In the months since this first murder, several more writers have vanished, and the evidence is mounting that Wentworth is to blame.  Adventures hoping to confront him must first negotiate the dungeon-like warren of prop rooms under the City Playhouse.  Among the complex’s many hazards are wax dummies that appear to animate and attack when intruders’ backs are turned.  The dummies are actually skeletons (the missing playwrights, in fact) that Wentworth animated and covered in wax to both cover up his crime and serve as bodyguards.

Since the butchery of the Summer War, the dead do not lie quiet in Vadz.  In a fortnight they rise from were they fell, eternally weeping blood, never to rest unless slain by blessed energy or holy water.  On the western border, where the Quiet Inferno raged, things are even worse—there the skeletons burn, starting wildfires that rip through the dry grasses, scorching all in their path.

Pathfinder Bestiary 250–251

Monday, August 26, 2013

Skeletal Champion

Any GM who’s seen the agile, indefatigable skeletons of Ray Harryhausen has wanted to hurl them at PCs—why should zombies have all the fun, right?—and skeletal champions have that added oomph skeletons are so sorely missing.  Skeletal champions aren’t just smarter and tougher, but they can have class levels as well.  So it’s an out-of-game math problem—what’s the coolest combination of abilities and races/monsters you can come up with?—and an in-game story problem—and what fell forces (or undying obsessions of their own) could bring these creatures back from death at nearly full strength?

The Skull Lords of Himmelstadt husband their resources carefully.  To prevent enemy clerics from blasting through their ranks, they hide two skeletal champions in every platoon of skeletons.  When a cleric presents herself to channel energy against the undead, the lifeless fighters cut her down.

Taberion Powell’s promising career as a wizard was hobbled by his racism—when word got out of his disdain for nonhuman intelligent creatures, no library or mage circle would support him.  He turned to adventuring to access the spellbooks that eluded him by conventional means, but his casual disregard for nonhumans continued.  The blink dogs he poisoned now serve him as skeletal champions, grisly flickering manikins of their former noble selves.

Whoever said “There is no honor among thieves never met a halfling assassin.  Having had to struggle to survive and prosper, these rogues and killers are intensely loyal to their friends and fellow guild members, going so far as to surrender their bodies for reanimation after death.  Every halfling assassins’ guild is guarded by “the boys in the Bone Boxes”—skeletal champions who slip from carefully concealed coffins to cut down intruders from behind.

Pathfinder Bestiary 252

Looking for the skaveling?  We covered them back when we did mobats.

Lots of new readers lately—hey all!  I think wholerealmstavern gets the salute for getting us to the big round 400, and thanks to the rest of you for visiting, reading, reblogging, and otherwise enjoying yourselves.

Regular readers may have noticed no radio show lately—cons, traveling, and other obligations have had me off these past three weeks.  But this week, The New Indie Canon came back to...station maintenance!


So sadly this Saturday the music took a back seat to helping my operations manager troubleshoot, and my usual insistence on new music went right out the window. Casual TNIC fans can skip this week; diehards (I love you!) should skip to Minute 19—due to technical reasons the first chunk of the show is silent.

(The usual drill applies: If the feed skips, Save As an mp3 and enjoy in iTunes.  The file is good—even if this week “good” is a relative term—till Friday, 8/30, at midnight.)

Friday, August 23, 2013


A quick Googling seems to indicate that the siyokoy is a Philippine monster not too dissimilar from the eponymous Creature from the Black Lagoon.  So Pathfinder’s eel-like version admittedly may not be canon…but it’s still pretty cool. 

I always like medium-to-high CR monsters that can be deployed without a lot of flipping through the spell lists or reading special ability mouseprint.  The siyokoy is just such a tussler—it’s a CR 10 damage dealer with a stunning electrical tail slap and over 100 hit points on its side, end of story. 

(Okay, wait, so this story has an epilogue: Also, note the DR 10/slashing.  If you’ve got a GM who’s strict about underwater combat rules (where slashing weapons tend to stumble), you’d best have a freedom of movement option handy.)

Why else do I love this monster?  Two subraces included right in the description with differing temperaments for PCs to encounter.  Plus the eelfolk have an archaeological obsession with the sunken ships and cities of surface dwellers, paired with a striking taboo against dwelling among the ruins (and doesn’t that just reek of portent!).  There are lots of eeeeevils below the waves, but not a lot of bona fide mysteries.  Siyokoys provide the latter in spades.

Exploring a sunken city, a party of adventurers stumbles upon siyokoy artifact hunters.  The reef siyokoys hunt them during daylight but retreat at nightfall, for they hold the ruins taboo after dark.  This may be the prudent strategy—the moonlight reveals streets that were not previously there and second-floor colonnades that vanish by dawn.  Also with dawn comes the return of the siyokoys, now bringing a bed of reinforcements.

Chancellor Mur’gelik Senge is a bloated hulk of a deep siyokoy whose vast, gulper eel-like belly often hangs heavy with the corpse of his latest meal—sometimes one of his rivals.  To his people, he is the only thing standing between them and destruction at the tentacles of their great kraken overlord.  In reality there is no kraken—the “chancellor” uses their fear to keep them docile and excavating a temple decorated with dragons this world has never seen.

The siyokoys on Y’tenerth are a created race.  When the Severed Oracles pulled a comet from the sky and sunk half of Unjar, the shogunate district of Moaka appealed to the empyreal lords to be saved.  They were turned into eelfolk and escaped the majority of the cataclysm.  Centuries under the waves have slowly diminished their memories and their love for the agathions who saved them, but they still have a fascination with the sunken remnants of the empire they left behind.  This fascination does not extend to a tolerance for surface dwellers who might be after the Severed Oracles’ prognosticating magic.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 246

I saw Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3-D in 5th grade.  For anyone growing up in Columbia, MD, media teacher, free-outdoor-movie shower, and all-around evangelist for film Mr. B. was/is an icon.

Speaking of free outdoor movies, I forgot to mention that yesterday I caught the last 45 minutes of The NeverEnding Story at a free showing last night.  They still look like good, strong hands…

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Way back when we covered harpies, I mentioned that most of the powers ascribed to them actually belong to sirens…and now here we are 13 months later with the real thing.  

Sirens actually aren’t that much more powerful in terms of CR (5 to the harpies’ 4), so the differences are largely a matter of weaponry (harpies wield them, sirens rely on their more powerful songs and bardic powers) and style (sirens don’t stink, but are still dangerous menaces).  Speaking of which, check out Pathfinder #14: “Children of the Void” for the original two-page entry on sirens, including three very dangerous Golarion-specific examples that recall the original sirens of myth. 

To add some contrast, the sirens in the following adventure seeds are slightly less lethal, but no less troublesome.  The average chaotic neutral siren may be hunting for men rather than meat, but she’s still quite willing to lure, drown, and otherwise dispose of anyone who gets in her way…

A previously benevolent siren has begun luring sailors to smash their ships against her home reef.  A recent magical hurricane terrified the osprey-feathered bird-woman into a pact with Noyereth the Drowner, and now she joins two sea hags in offering sacrifices to the capricious nature power that sailors refer to as “Milady Boathook.”  While not a hag herself, the siren appears to have enough innate magical power to complete the sisters’ coven—unless a yet unreported fourth party is involved…

A romantic siren seeks a life mate—and with a lifespan of centuries, only an elf or half-elf will do.  Naturally, she has her heart set on young Prince Cerwytharen, and the fact that his absence from negotiations could respark the Clockwork Wars is immaterial to her.

Most sirens lair in cliffs above the shipping lanes, where they can pick and choose from likely passersby without putting themselves at risk.  Melisande lairs in her bar, the Sauntering Siren, holding court with her two mockingfey mascots while her all-female waitstaff sling drinks.  She claims to be a victim of hard times, having been driven from her home by a vicious larabay (see Isles of the Shackles).  This is true enough, but Melisande is no victim.  She uses her captivating song to ensnare patrons and loosen their purse strings, the local thieves’ guild has her on the payroll as an informant, and her ship-captain husbands end up dead on an almost comically regular basis.

Pathfinder #14 84–85 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 247

On the subject of harpies, it’s been a while since I pointed you to Bruce Heard’s blog, and this is an excellent excuse…

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Sinspawn are a symbol of Pathfinder’s glorious wild and wooly first year, when Varisia offered a new and dark playground for D&D 3.5 to explore.  Like so many things in those early issues, sin was at once both a radically new and perfectly old way of thinking about the schools of magic and about evil in general…and sinspawn were delightfully disturbing and bestial new monsters that were equal parts pulp fantasy and anime.  (Just look at those jaws!)

That said, taking them out of that context takes some work.  Unless you were raised on a particularly grim branch of Christianity or have a deep fascination with Dante and Milton, the Seven Sins probably aren’t top of mind for you on a daily basis.  And sin as an organizing concept takes a back seat to alignment in most RPG worlds.

So: What is sin in your campaign?  Who is crafting these spawn?  What souls or terrible sacrifices do they require?  What makes them so adept with martial weaponry, and is this ability inborn or trained?  And to what ends might this created and sterile—but intelligent and driven—race by put to?

A lamia has found an artifact that will allow her to create sinspawn, and with the aid of her first creation, a lustspawn sorcerer, she is ready to begin building her army.  She has refined the rite as well, using orcs to create vile gluttonspawn skilled with serrated falchions and a penchant for raiding on feast days.

In the sternly cosmopolitan city of Carthex, diabolism is considered as valid as the veneration of saints, and often more useful.  Dark clerics use sinspawn both as minions and as reminders of the danger of indulging in vice without infernal protection.  For instance, they send lustspawn on raids of unregistered brothels, and no sale of platinum can take place without giving Mammon his tithe…or his greedspawn will claim it and tenfold more in the dark of night.

Nobles and heroes in the Jade Empire tainted by dishonor risk possession by an oni or returning from the grave undead.  Common folk risk a meaner but equally horrific fate: transformation into a bestial sinspawn, the type determined by the particular appetite that led each offender off his or her Virtuous Path.

Pathfinder #1 90–91 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 246

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


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

Monday, August 19, 2013

Silver Dragon

Usually the challenge with good monsters is differentiating them from one another—how this good agathion differs from that good lammasu…or that good angel…or that foo manatee…or whatever. 

That’s not a problem with silver dragons.  The members of Draco nobilis argentum have always been shapechangers and meddlers.  As far back as 1e a silver dragon, Silvara (of course), was one of the tragic figures of the Dragonlance setting.  And when Dragon Magazine #146 introduced the new, beefed-up 2e dragons, it was via a group of adventurers trading dragon-slaying tips with a Sterling (again with the obvious names) and Hypatia, who were then revealed to be silver dragons.

Pathfinder’s silver dragons have taken on a new role courtesy of Mike McArtor’s work in Pathfinder and Dragons Revisited: dragonkind’s paladins.  In DR, silver dragons are righteous and often religious warriors with a yearning for restrictions, rituals, and mentors (oddly, from other species—typically gold dragons or lawful good outsiders).  Their craving for missions and mentors means they have lots of excuses to mix it up with PCs, either as allies, rivals, or even foes.

Why foes?  Because silver dragons tarnish easily.  The heavy weight of responsibilities placed on them and their constant struggle against evil sullies more than a few of their souls. And a silver dragon that falls from grace falls far, often “degenerating into strange creatures that resemble draconic crossbreeds,” according to DR.  In other words, if you want your PCs to fight a metallic dragon, silvers are the way to go, and don’t hold back on swapping out abilities or adding templates.  Just as the best blackguards and death knights are former paladins, the best dragon to fight your PCs might just be a silver with its scales and spirit corroded unto dull, lifeless rot…

Craving the spiritual security of strong restrictions and stronger penances, a silver dragon left his lammasu mentor for a more stringent guide.  Now he serves (and bears the marks of) a scourge-wielding cavalier who may be a Knight of the Thorn’s Song…or who may be an erinyes carefully leading the silver dragon down a lawful road that has no mercy or light at its destination.

The Wight-King of Lemoria stirs, and a council of silver dragons is eager to lead an army to war.  In their zeal, they aspire to hold open the Bridge of Seven Spires for their soldiers to cross…and that means thwarting a group of equally good-hearted (if far less noble) adventurers recently charged with demolishing the bridge to hem in the Wight-King’s undead hordes.

When the noble and much-noted Argidox tarnished, it is said that even the chattiest brasses fell silent in horror.  Now the ancient silver dragon has scales the color of rain-washed lead, and instead of control weather he wields plague storms and scouring winds (see Ultimate Magic) instead.

Pathfinder Bestiary 110-111

Back from the beach!  We now resume our regularly scheduled monsters…

Friday, August 16, 2013


One of the smallest agathions, and one of the most animal-like, the silvanshee can pass almost unnoticed in the worlds of men and cats alike.  This makes silvanshees stealthy spies for the forces of Nirvana, excellent guardians of the wilderness, and capable familiars for adventurers.

The Bestiary 2 notes that silvanshees are also called cat sìth or cath sidhe…but traditionally these creatures have a much more dubious reputation in folklore, being faeries, ghosts, or transformed witches.  In your campaign maybe this is just a case of mistaken identities—agathions getting blamed for the crimes of evil witches’ familiars, for instance—or maybe cat sìth/cath sidhe are a separate species entirely.  Swap out the good-aligned elements from the silvanshee stat block for more fey or evil traits (like vulnerability to cold iron or the evil subtype) and you have a perfectly serviceable antagonist ready to claw, taunt, and torment the party, only to vanish the instant before it receives its comeuppance.

When adventurers come into possession of a mystical orb, they also gain a new companion—a magical talking cat.  The cat aids them in all endeavors that aren’t outright evil (up to and including theft—it finds mortal notions of property amusing).  It also refuses to touch the orb but seems inordinately concerned with the well-being of the artifact’s owner, inquiring often about his or her mental state and if he or she has any experienced unusual dreams of late.

Archibald Dawnfoot is a swashbuckling ratfolk eldritch knight with an unusual familiar: a rather querulous silvanshee.  The cat-like agathion spends much of his time complaining about the indignity of having to accompany Archibald on his adventures, and constantly threatens to eat Archibald “like the rodent you are, no matter how overgrown.”  Of course, anyone who has been on the receiving end of one of the silvanshee’s heroic strength-enhanced pounces knows how loyal the agathion really is to his master.

An eldritch lightning strike split a guardian silvanshee from his shadow.  The weakened silvanshee Moss Scratcher guards his forest the best he can, but his evil twin, the genderless Shadowgrim, works to oppose him at ever turn.  Moss Scratcher goes out of his way to befriend adventurers who might be able to aid him, provided Shadowgrim hasn't already turned them against anything feline.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 21

Great role-playing models for less benign silvanshees include Mogget from Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy or, if you want to go downright evil, Cat Sith, the malk from The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.

Edit: Apologies for the tardiness of this entry, especially to Rory and the other readers who have written in asking for it.  Original post: Hey all!  I got a last-minute opportunity to go to the beach, so the silvanshee entry is going to be a tad late.  Thanks for your patience—I promise this, the shinigami, and the completed sepid post will all be up ASAP.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


It’s not fair that the shoki is buried in the Inner Sea Bestiary.  Not only can I not link you to its stat block, but I also can’t show you its amazing picture: a ram-headed man hunched under a snail shell, from which hangs all manner of things (including some burning censers (and a fish!)), and holding a staff with an angry soul locked in its head. 

Seriously, wow.  Too cool for words.  I want this guy in all my campaigns. 

Wait, let’s back up.  Created by Wes Schneider, shoki are psychopomps—servants of the gods of the dead, who usher souls safely to their final judgment.  (For those keeping track, they were introduced in the Carrion Crown Adventure Path.)  Most of the ones who must interact with mortals go masked, but the shoki, being more concerned with persuading the dead to come peacefully than with dealing with the living, don’t bother with such symbols of office.  They also aren’t much interested in good or evil (and they have protection from both).  They just want to gather their target souls—by force words if possible, by spirit lock if necessary, and be on their way.  Of course, that could be a problem if it’s a recently deceased or raise dead-abusing PC whose soul they covet…

A cleric loses her holy symbol in a pit of acid.  Without the symbol of her faith to fortify her, her ability to channel holy energy lacks focus.  Hearing this, a shoki sheds his invisibility and offers the appropriate charm from the string of holy symbols hanging from his belt…provided the cleric and her compatriots agree to help him round up a troublesome soul.

A shoki and a soul argue at the banks of the River Styx, the psychopomp warning of the terrible things that lurk to snatch up unattended spirits.  Soon the argument becomes violent—first the enraged soul begins manifesting the powers of a ghost and attacks the snail-man, then a mob of hydrodaemons ambushes them both.  Saving the shoki and his charge would be a boon that even a jaded and standoffish psychopomp could not ignore—especially if those that rescued him needed an escort into the City of the Dead.

Adventurers need to reclaim a lost soul.  Divination and a lot of legwork reveal the soul to be in the +2 cold iron quarterstaff of a shoki.  The psychopomp himself has been lurking (with the offensive metal of his staff carefully concealed) in the fey Court of Evening’s Promise, where his snail shell and ram’s horns attract no notice, while he tracks down another fugitive spirit.  He is in no mood to bargain, though, and will attack anyone who reveals his identity or attempts to relieve him of the soul already in his possession.

Inner Sea Bestiary 40

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Shoggti are the tentacled charmers of the qlippoth race.  That’s not exactly a hard title to claim, given that the average qlippoth looks like the result of scorpion having sex with a cancerous colon.  But still it’s significant, because that means the shoggti is still the only one of the qlippoth whose first instinct is to control PCs rather than devour them outright.

That doesn’t mean shoggti are subtle—they are of only average intelligence and their powers are mostly a combination of crude fascination and command effects, with charm person and monster reserved for special targets.  The subtle machinations that are devil or succubus’s stock and trade are beyond them; at best a shoggti resembles Kaa of The Jungle Book if he were born a land squid.  But provided they can lure docile slaves back to the Abyss for dark purposes, that is enough.  A subtler approach would necessitate an understanding of mortals, and that is something no qlippoth could abide.

Otyughs begin bursting up from the sewers to abduct passersby, while more clever mimics lay in wait to foil attempts at retaliation.  Interrogating either of the Wisdom-damaged creatures reveal that they are doing so at the orders of a tentacled creature they revere as “the Master.”

Deep in the underworld of the palm-lined city of Marxis, a shoggti and a serpentfolk priest team up to build a drug-dealing cult and abduct mind-drained slaves.  The serpentfolk, who has spent all his life praying to a sleeping, likely dead god, hates the new world order that humanity represents, and is very sympathetic to the qlippoth’s claim that life was so much better in the time before

A town in an Abyssal forest is comprised solely of imbeciles who tend the abundant (and disturbingly fleshy-fruited) orchard and run a strange mill in the heart of town.  Their shoggti masters live in the trees above the village, mind-wiping any thralls who show too much independence.  The mill, meanwhile, seems to exist only to mulch the fruit, imported demon parts, and the bodies of elderly villagers into a slurry the slurps downriver to some unknown destination.

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My summer work/travel schedule continues to make me slow at replying to messages and comments, but believe me, I read everyone.  Speaking of which, cheers to uwtartarus and Fortooate for digging the spell-bower birds.