A creature from Aztec myth and Equestrian pony tales, the ahuizotl is sort of the leucrotta of the swamps: similarly intelligent and with a similar talent for vocal mimicry, plus a nasty grapple attack (courtesy of a tail-hand) to boot.
The entry also offers a lot of tidbits to help you construct interesting encounters as well. For instance, lair choice: “Flooded caverns” are a dime a dozen in RPGs, but “a sunken mass of trees” might be tricky to map but fun to play/make tactical choices in. Adventure springboard: A mutilated body missing just eyes, teeth, and nails is somehow more terrifying than a corpse missing whole limbs. And monster combos: Ahuizotls often attract will-o’-wisps or bully boggards, lizardfolk, swamp people, etc.
But in the end, it all comes back to the voice. Swamps are dangerous enough, but hearing the voice of a loved one or someone in need is likely to make even those who should know better run heedlessly toward a watery grave.
An ahuizotl has worked out a deal with a cabal of wyrwoods. Disguised as witch’s dolls and warning totems, they guard the creature’s mangrove home while he keeps outsiders, particularly wizards, from discovering the constructs’ existence.
A juvenile black dragon moves into the local swamp…but the marsh’s resident ahuizotl is not about to be displaced as the resident top predator. He marshals his boggard neighbors into helping him up his body count, hoping enough mutilated corpses will make him seem more powerful than he is and scare the dragon into leaving. He also drives away as much game as possible, forcing the dragon to hunt in human lands. Either way, travelers near swamp now have much to fear.
A local ahuizotl is renowned for lurking under piers and beside riverboats, memorizing voices it can later use to draw victims into the bayou. Because if its habits, the magical beast might also be the only witness to a murder. When an innocent man is blamed for garroting a local faro dealer and tossing him into the river, he begs adventurers to find the ahuizotl whose eavesdropping might testify to his innocence.
—Pathfinder #34 80–81 & Pathfinder Bestiary 3 10
Scott Purdy's ahuizotl in the Bestiary 3 strikes me as slightly possum-faced. Let me be clear, this is not a criticism; in fact, now I want to see a Revolutionary War-themed Pathfinder campaign…something like The Swamp Fox crossed with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell…with possum-faced ahuizotls menacing the Carolina swamps…
(Speaking of which, one of my now-best friends started out as a random roommate found on Craigslist when I moved to Baltimore. Given all the history here—we could walk to Fort McHenry—the following soon ensued:
Me: “Blah blah blah the Revolutionary War blah blah blah.”
British roommate: “Oh, is that what you call it then? We always called it the American War of Independence.
Me: “‘The American War of Independence’? That’s nice. I like that.”
British roommate: “Well, what did you suppose we called it? ‘The War of Perfidious American Treachery’?”)
I don't usually talk much about the Pathfinder Player Companion books, because they are (by design) very targeted affairs, and your mileage will vary depending on how engaged you are in that month’s theme.
But every once in a while one demands some extra attention. (For instance, I gave my two cents on Animal Archive here.) Most recently, The Harrow Handbook made me sit up and take notice. THH devotes its entire 32 pages to the role of the Harrow deck in Golarion, including varying setups for different kinds of divinations, new Harrow-using archetypes for several classes, and (my favorite) a system for using Harrow cards to generate PC backstories.
This book is not for everyone. In fact, it’s probably not for most people. I can’t imagine using this book with my most recent gaming group, for example. We were an oversized group of 5–6 PCs, with players who loved adventuring but were indifferent when it came to worldbuilding. The Harrow might have been a great excuse to theme a dungeon, but messing with it on a regular basis at the table would have been spotlight-hogging.
But when I think back to my grad school gaming group—four hours of gaming or more every week with just a GM and one other player, all three of us so lore-obsessed that we could spend hours discussing how the Samedi fit into the Cappadocian clan lineage…man, what we could have done with this book! I want to use it for character creation right now.
So. The Harrow Handbook. Not for everyone. But if you even suspect this is a book for you, then it’s really a book for you. Plus, I like supporting a book that’s taking a risk. Even if I never use it, I’d still rather have THH on my shelf than a safe choice like Elves of Golarion III: The Re-Re-Elvening. Inventiveness like this should be rewarded.
I was a hair late to my show Saturday—a race I didn’t know was happening briefly boxed me inside my neighborhood—so there’s a minute of dead air at the start of this file. Give it a fast-forward and enjoy! I sound pretty good, if I do say so myself.
(As always, if the feed skips when you listen, try letting it load and then Save As an mp3. Link good till Friday, 6/20, at midnight.)