Monday, February 10, 2014

Violet Fungus

(Before we get started, I want to encourage you to stick around for the whole post: We have tons of reader mail to cover!)

The violet fungus is a common subterranean hazard.  It’s a danger in and of itself, especially if the PCs are inexperienced.  (“Well if it’s a plant, we’ll just pepper it with arrows from here, then—wait, what do you mean it’s headed straight for us?”)  But more likely you’ll encounter it in a nasty combo: the fungus plus the troglodytes or vegepygmies or whatever else was lying it wait until you’d had several Str and Con points shaved off your scores.

A grove of violet fungi hides yet another danger—great purple-bodied myceloids.  These are not the usual spore-spreading slavers, however.  If adventurers will aid them against a tribe of local morlocks, the mushroom creatures promise to free them—maybe even uninfected.

In his yearly ceremonial role as Lord Autumn, a viscount reviews choice produce at the High Harvest Festival.  At one stand, a farmer unboxes all manner of mushrooms…including a violet fungus kept iced down to render it inert.  Before anyone can react, the farmer rips off one of the fungus’s tentacles and whips the viscount with it repeatedly.  During the (unsuccessful) hurry to save the noble, the farmer succumbs to rot himself before he can be questioned.  What—or who—drove him to this act?  The fungus might offer clues…provided it is not allowed to thaw and reanimate.

On the road to the dark elf city of Jarpannus, membership in the Purple Mark, a league of subterranean rangers, virtually guarantees acceptance in any cave caravan.  One of the prerequisites for joining is to fight a violet fungus.  Simply defeating the mushroom is not enough—the would-be ranger must survive the rot to prove his fortitude and willingness to endure disfigurement in the service of his clients.

Pathfinder Bestiary 274

I suppose this is just a hazard of the phylum, but man, the violet fungus in the Bestiary is a rather…adult-looking specimen, don’t you think?

I’m way behind on reader comments—February brought a return to 12-hour workdays—so let’s tackle some of those.  Forgive me if I don’t do my usual hyperlinking to the original comment/commenter; for time reasons I’m sacrificing links in favor of cut-and-paste to give more folks their say:

From uwtartarus:

I think it is interesting that Vespergaunts (aww... yiss! more Dark Tapestry critters) can grant wishes, but unlike genies or glabrezu, they can straight up use their own Wish spell-like ability.  That could be a way to generate a great reversal on the heroes just as they think they have won.


And jenna-darknight speaks truth:

While I’ve always had mixed feelings about Lovecraftian horrors in D&D, I’ve got to say that the Pathfinder guys really have done a good job with the monsters they have included.  They’re difficult to deal with, even if you are prepared, and just generally awful.  Also, by the time they’re likely to come into play most adventurers have gotten jaded to the standard horrors.  Skeletons and the like don’t hold any terror anymore, but throw something coated in eyes within eyes who speak in the voice of a thousand screams and basically should not be are a great way to throw them for a loop.

She also does one of my favorite things in the world, which is propose a campaign out of the Core and just one splatbook:

3.5e’s Lords of Madness, while really designed for Aboleths, Mindflayers and Grell, lends itself very nicely to the Lovecraftian horrors of Pathfinder, especially the feats and PrCs (I’m partial to the of the Keeper of the Cerulean Sign myself).  One could easily build a campaign out of that splatbook and the Pathfinder horrors.

…and now I have a terrible terrible idea for a Gaslight Ustalav game I need to go write down.


Meanwhile, some of you are being way too nice to me.  From regurgiturd:

I think I’d really enjoy running in a campaign of your creation. Keep the ideas flowin, this great!

Dawww, you are too kind.  You actually don’t want me as your GM; it’s been so long since I’ve been behind the screen that I’d be clumsy and slow and awful.  But I totally volunteer to sit around brainstorming with your GM, preferably by the fire over big glasses of porter.

And then fortooate doubled down:

I was sort of extremely thrilled when you mentioned The Dresden Files on here! It's like hearing Joss Whedon talk about how cool Neil Gaiman's work is, or something. :D

Did…did I just get compared to Joss Whedon?  I CAN DIE NOW.  (Actually, no, I have work to do.)  But thanks!

Yeah, I love the Dresden Files, especially on audiobook—I’ve actually never read them, so I don’t know how well they live on the page, but they are practically perfect as listens: excellently paced; great characters; a constant sense of escalation, both in each book and over the course of the series; a rich, coherent modern magical world without being overly complicated—I could go on and on.  I think Jim Butcher should be recommended reading for anyone trying to run a modern fantasy or urban fantasy campaign…the only risk being that the books are so good you might find yourself inevitably trying to replicate them rather than just drawing inspiration from them, which is a very subtle trap.

Speaking of which, one of the things I’ve been very consciously doing over the past few years is expand my fantasy reading/listening.  I may have talked about this before, but a few years back NPR did this flowchart of fantasy and sci-fi books, and I was stunned to discover that I’d read more of the sci-fi books listed than fantasy.  I think of myself as a fantasy reader, but that’s because growing up I read deeply in a narrow band—all the Pern books, all the Dragonlance books, etc.—while in sci-fi I’ve dabbled, but always dabbled in quality.  So the end result is I’ve read many more of sci-fi’s greatest hits, but there are now huge gaps in my fantasy greatest hits that I’m trying to close. 

(By the way, currently in my car is Daniel Abraham’s The Dragon’s Path, which so far is a fantastic listen.  Don’t be fooled by the lame cover.)

(One more note: One of the interesting things about The Dresden Files is how (largely) apparently effortlessly good they are.  I didn’t realize how hard it is to write good modern fantasy until I encountered bad (read: most) modern fantasy.  The entire private eye-who-is-also-a-wizard/vampire/faerie genre in particular is excruciatingly bad.  And while Jim Butcher’s name on the cover is a good sign, a Jim Butcher blurb on the back cover is no guarantee: Beware and be prepared to hit eject on the CD player.)

Where were we?  More reader comments!  Slim Naccache chimes about the viduus:

I definitively LOVE the first idea.  It could make an entire campaign, when you think about Planescape: Torment style.  It works better if you really know your players and the kind of characters they like to play.  Just tell them "Create a character, just a sheet, no background, without alignment, just a class and race."

And AlgaeNymph writes:

Great adventure seeds for Vildeis, Wes Schneider himself would probably have a hard time doing better. 

Which is just crazy talk!  Don’t listen to him, Wes!  You can tell by the comma splice that AlgaeNymph is most likely insane and definitely short one intestine.  (Because he’s missing his…semicolon.  #punctuationjokes!)

I kid because I love.  Anyway, AN goes on to say:

The real reason I'm here, however, is to plug a thread where I discuss my concerns and complaints about Vildeis' stats (among other things): [link]

I’ve heard vague rumblings about Bestiary 4 empyreal lords’ stats being off, so if you’ve heard those rumblings, too, I’ll let AlgaeNymph’s link point you toward the conversation. 

By the way, for the record I spend very little time on the Paizo boards—I simply don’t have the time or mental bandwidth—which means I miss a lot of commentary and controversy, as well as the official, semiofficial, and nonofficial replies.  So if I’ve missed some burning controversy or James Jacobs-related wisdom, feel free to let me know!

I was going to talk about something else I don’t have the bandwidth for, but this post has already gotten crazy long, so I’m going to save it for tomorrow, when we talk about…


(Not really.  I’m intentionally being provocative to get you here tomorrow.  But now that I’ve said it, dare you look away?  See you in 24 hours.)

Oh hey!  I was supposed to be in Illinois this weekend.  That went out the window because of snow—super disappointing, given how much I was looking forward to seeing my family and all the hours reading on the plane—but it means I have a radio show for you. 

(If the feed skips, use Save As to snag it as an mp3 and enjoy in iTunes.  Link good till Friday, 2/14, at midnight.)

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