Tuesday, June 3, 2014


The zuvembie is an undead creature who has traded its mortal life for power over nature, wild creatures, and the weak-willed. In life, most zuvembies were likely druids, shamans, witches, adepts, hedge wizards, or mystically minded rangers—people on the outskirts who fit in better with nature even before they were wronged by human society.  But anyone with a thirst for vengeance who has made the right preparations might undergo the transformation.  No longer able to speak, zuvembies are all the more disturbing for their silence and their silent power over the animal world.

Witch doctors protect their nonmagical neighbors from the hexes and curses of witches.  But when a newly established temple to Teelar brought hospital-trained clerics to shaman Asos’s village, the witched doctor saw his client base fell to almost nothing.  Embittered at his loss of status, he underwent the zuvembie transformation and now haunts his former neighbors and the hospital grounds.

Zuvembies often develop symbiotic relationships with local carnivorous plants and other hazards.  A zuvembie in Tev dwells in the shade of a yellow musk creeper, where the combined effect of its corpse call and the plant’s pollen are particularly hard to resist.  And in Hollyhock, a zuvembie serves the half-fiend dryad that charmed him and then took his life.

Messenger pigeons are essential to Carmenport’s economy.  That makes breeders easy prey for local toughs and organized gangs.  When Old Michael had his territory, his birds, and finally his home stolen by the Dullahar brothers, the despondent man turned to desperate measures to regain the birds he loved and exact a measure of vengeance.  Now the Dullahar brothers are in hiding and Carmenport’s birds, bats, snakes, and even its feral dogs are Old Michael’s to command.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 289

The zuvembie was created by Robert E. Howard in his short story "Pigeons from Hell," published in Weird Tales in 1938.  (I know this because a blurb in the Undead Slayer’s Handbook told me so!  “Yes, I’ve read a poem.  Try not to faint.”)  Wikipedia has some interesting notes about how the literary origins of the term allowed publishers to work around Comics Code Authority BS.

Also, the Tzitzimitl and Vouivre entries are now up.  Good luck pronouncing either.

One of my readers left a comment I want to tackle:

I really like your adventure seeds. The hints of possible worlds and settings you give are extremely creative, but I fear that (judging by the posts on Paizo's own message board) they're going to be wasted on some players. The point of Dungeons & Dragons has always been to make up your own stuff, but there’s a scary number of Pathfinder players who seem to want to be told what to do. Notice that we're getting a Numeria book next month – not that Numeria isn't awesome, but if you can't make your own story out of "Conan vs. robots," a book isn't going to help you.

Obviously I appreciate the kind words—thank you, truly!—and obviously there’s a lot I want to disagree with in this comment, particularly the divide between D&D players and Pathfinder players.  Not that that’s anything we haven't heard before; 1e players used to say that about 2e players all the time, and Greyhawk fans tossed it at Forgotten Realms fans.  I’d need to see a profundity of evidence before I’d ever believe that “a scary number of Pathfinder players […] want to be told what to do.”

Keep in mind every GM has their interests and their strengths.  There are tons of reasons a GM would lust after a Numeria book.  I’m a pretty prolific idea generator, but I am not a stats guy.  If you want to save me the work of trying to figure out robots on the fly, I will buy that book.  Plus, creating your own setting and stats and adventures takes time—time a lot of GMs (especially the ones with families) don't have.

And I also love setting books.  I literally have every Pathfinder setting book, and am actively seeking out the few 3.5 setting books I don't have, as well as a few choice gems from third-party publishers and my favorite 2e settings like Planescape, Dark Sun, and Spelljammer.  (Heck, I just shelled out for a battered Midgard Campaign Setting book, despite a mixed track record with Kobold Press products and despite a to-read pile that is literally so high I won't get to it till 2015 if I’m lucky.  Plus I’ve barely cracked Razor Coast.)  So why would I settle for just my take on Conan vs. robots when I can have my take, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, the sheens from Dragon #258 (a landmark issue that single-handedly brought me back to Dragon during college), and Numeria?  Four settings are way better than one.

Also, if there’s one thing the Golarion authors are good at doing it’s synthesis.  Any setting can pick and choose favorite elements from fantasy, sci-fi, and myth.  The Golarion setting’s secret sauce has always been picking the best elements and (this is the hard part) recombining them in interesting ways.  For instance: Turning the typical RPG land of Faerie into the life-infused First World suddenly explains why trolls that regenerate and the trolls from Billy Goats Gruff can be one and the same.  That’s a deft move right there, and Paizo does that kind of thing all the time.  So I have faith that their Conan vs. robots will be worth it.  If a Pathfinder fan is enough of a fan to be on the Paizo message boards, he or she probably feels the same.

So you can love published/official works and still be an advocate for creating your own settings and DIY GMing.

BUT.  But.

Let’s suppose the reader’s thesis is 100% accurate.  My blog may be “wasted on some players”…but some is not all.  The rest will appreciate it, and that’s enough for me. 

Plus, if you want to more Pathfinder GMs to be do-it-yourselfers, you have to model good DIY behavior.  That’s what this blog tries to do.  Growing up, I got to see lots of examples of “The book says elves are like this, but I want them to be like this!” and they blew my mind.  Now I’m paying it forward.  It’s my turn to blow some other kid’s mind, if I’m lucky and I work hard enough.

And, on that fitting note, let us say goodbye to the letter Z.  We have completed our first trip through the alphabet.  A whole new journey beckons, and I hope you’ll stay with us for the voyage. 

Tomorrow, dear readers, we fish up the abaia.

1 comment:

  1. I strongly disagree with the commentator! I almost never run Golarion, but not only do I buy the setting books (eagerly awaiting the Numeria book! and Occult Mysteries? Wow!) but I pick up the Adventure Paths too! While the bestiaries frequently end up having the last year and a half's AP monsters, not all make the cut and I need all the monsters I can get!

    Plus Science Fantasy is integral to the D&D hobby, I earnestly try to divorce my campaigns from the Tolkien-derivatives expectations of my players, to stress the Mieville and Vance and Howard stuff! So I urge my brother and sister Dungeon Masters/Game Masters/Story Tellers to give the Paizo material another shake! You never know when you find another good idea/seed for your own homebrew campaign!

    Good luck on your To-Read pile, mine is a series of piles that move around my abode in various states of partial-reads.