I love the animal lord. It’s a concept that is richly represented in folklore and fiction (especially, my gut tells me, short fiction, but I may be making that up.) It makes sense in the game—in a world suffused with divine magic and nature deities (not to mention an overabundance of super- and supernatural predators), surely animals need their champions. And around the gaming table in your living room, it’s an easy way to transport players into a more mystical realm. PCs used to tangling in the grimdark milieu of slavers, daemons, and seugathi may find encounters with Seamus O’Finnegan, Leprechaun for Hire, too twee to take seriously. But when the Lord of Owls calls a meeting at the Stone Table, you don’t ignore that invitation.
I also love this excerpt from the Bestiary 3 description:
[W]hen an extant animal lord strays from its charge or otherwise fails, the force that created it might create a replacement to send against the fallen animal lord to challenge it in a combat to the death, with the victor claiming the right to rule or a chance at redemption.
Those are stakes. To an animal lord, a successor appearing unasked-for is the ultimate insult. I want PCs in the middle of that fight, and I don’t much care which side they take.
That said, I’m very willing to go further than the standard description in the Bestiary 3, especially for a more mythic or high-level campaign. For instance, I can easily picture an entire nation of leopard lords (or at least a ruling class or family composed of them, à la Marvel’s Black Panther). That might explain, for instance, why a province of hunters hasn't been overrun by the magocracy next door, or why explorers have never returned from a particular deadly savannah. In some campaigns, “There can be only one” is exactly the story you want to tell, but the second I need a race of crocodile lords I’ll throw that rule out the window…
The Leopard Kingdom is no poetic name—the nation’s ruling clan is composed entirely of leopard lords. They tolerate travelers in their domain along the Chopana River, as it is the fastest way to get men and arms to the Protean Storm and the war against Chaos raging there. But any foreigner who tries to travel more than 15 miles from the river will receive a stern, likely lethal visit from one of these shapechanging rangers and her charmed companions.
Takar was a god once, back before an asteroid drove his people to near-extinction. Now he is not even a deity, just a dinosaur lord who is born, matures, ages, dies, and is born again in an endless cycle of reincarnation. He still watches over his charges, though. In his current incarnation as a monk who can take the form of a stegosaurus, he works to save a hidden valley of pterosaurs, stegosaurs, ceratosaurs, and awakened parasaurolophuses from drow exploitation.
Verdun was once the wolf lord, bearing the token of a savage nature deity. Then he was injured while under a curse that trapped him in wolf form. He was found by a blacksmith and nursed back to health, and the experience caused him to reëvaluate everything he knew about humanity. After the curse was broken, time spent in the form of a man—first learning to read and play music, then poring through old tomes and swapping tales with bards—exposed him to tales of his predecessors, whose bloody work had undone human progress at crucial junctions in history for centuries. Verdun had had enough. He renounced his heritage and has spent the past 80 years as far from the woods as possible. Now his savage god has sent a new wolf lord to kill him, an assassin who also recruits a team of adventurers to help him do the job. But when Verdun catches wind of this, he plays on the adventurers’ sympathies to get them to switch sides. (And if that doesn't work, he’ll try money. Lots of money. He is a wolf, after all.)
—Pathfinder Bestiary 3 14–15
Now I want to see the adventures of Seamus O’Finnegan, Leprechaun for Hire.
Speaking of folklore and fiction, you may remember I veered into literary criticism last Thursday, because I’d encountered a series (and an author) too compelling not to discuss. The bad news is, it turns out the two books that sparked my very mixed review represented him at the height of his powers. Also in my stack of library audiobooks was the first book in his most well-known series, and it is—and I mean this without malice—a crime against fiction. Avoid at all costs.
Also: I MISSED FREE RPG DAY. Completely spaced. I normally go to the comic/game store right after my radio show, but I took artisticlicensetokill to the zoo and completely missed it.
I don’t usually ask stuff of you guys, but if any of you are willing to part with your Pathfinder Free RPG Day module, I know a certain blogger who is very sad he doesn’t have a copy. I wouldn't say no to any Free RPG Day products with Mage or Star Wars the cover either. [Edit: I just got an email from the professional and prompt Katina Mathieson at Paizo and she says I can buy the Pathfinder module legit on July 1. Crisis averted!]
(Also, though I’ve mentioned this before and had nary a nibble, I am always looking for issues of Dungeon from the 1e and 2e years. If you have some that need a good home, holler at me and we’ll work something out.)