James L. Sutter’s Distant Worlds gave us Brethedans, from the Golarion setting’s Jupiter-like analogue Bretheda. With the publishing of the Bestiary 4 (and the loss of their capital B), brethedans are now ready to float into your campaign.
Dwelling on great gas giants, these jellyfish-like creatures are famous for their adaptability—a brethedan can swap resistances, attack types, and damage dice in only a round—and for their ability to combine, allowing them to share hit points and adaptations. It is likely this communal pooling of stamina, abilities, and resistances is what allowed brethedans to tame the great space whales, the oma (as well as survive the electricity and acid-laced swallowing process oma travel necessitates).
With all that said, you don't need a campaign about space whales and planetary exploration to find a use for brethedans. The telepaths also could be found on the Plane of Air, and they make outstanding subterranean aberrations for anyone looking to create a more alien underworld. (See my rant in “Azruverda” for more on that subject.)
Adventurers are exploring a gas giant in their dirigible when brethedans make contact. Unfortunately, the aberrations at first assume the explorers’ dirigible is sentient as well…and their attempts to cajole a reaction end up piercing the ship’s air envelope.
Every year the Aerochase takes pilots in their ornithops along a new winding course through the canyons and sea caves of Fairview. On the line are bragging rights, a decent purse, and a rare treasure: permission to buy farmland in the space-squeezed archipelago. This year’s ’Chase, the most ambitious ever, takes racers past some barely explored islands. Racers are surprised when strange flying jellyfish manifest and attempt to parley with them midflight. Any racers who crash amid the crystal caves may find a bizarre underworld where the creatures number in the thousands.
Brethedans sometimes bond with other creatures, particularly the species with whom they share their gas giant homes—but not exclusively. In Kaarsh, a group of curious brethedan explorers tried bonding with an omox demon. The connection with the amorphous fiend, while brief, tainted the flotilla (as per the fiendish template), and now the brethedans seem to be unknowingly driven by the Abyss’s whims as well as their own.
—Distant Worlds 59 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 23
Over time I’ve become more and more struck by just how big a deal Pathfinder’s early adoption of pulp sci-fi (as far back as the Second Darkness Adventure Path) really was. For all their grandeur and ambitiousness, Spelljammer and Spelljammer: Shadow of the Spider Moon were simply high and low fantasy (respectively) spread across a universe. And while there have been plenty of crashed spaceships to explore and even some one-off mini-campaigns (like 2e’s Tale of the Comet, Dragon’s sheens, or Polyhedron’s Iron Lords of Jupiter minigame), they’ve always been limited in scope. Whereas in the Golarion setting, the stars, planets, alien races, and pulp technology (and even some cybernetic technology) are real, do matter to the setting, and will continue to be so. That level of commitment to marrying the disparate genres sets Golarion apart pretty significantly. Kudos to Sutter et al.
Speaking of which, my recent plane flight at least helped me catch up on some Pathfinder books, including the People of the River and People of the Stars Player Companion issues. I actually liked them for very similar reasons: Both were useful refresher courses on places we’ve been before but haven't visited recently, both had a nice mix of player-focused lore and crunch that was new without totally burying you in feats and options, and both were episodic enough that someone unfamiliar with the Campaign Setting books could still pick and choose feats and archetypes for a home campaign. As always your mileage may very with Player Companions depending on your campaign’s needs, but I was a fan of both (and was especially thrilled to be back in space again).
Meanwhile, I just got through the second of two big projects that had me working to midnight some nights and through both of the past two weekends. Things are still up in the air, what with Labor Day travel coming up, but I hope to get to some of the great reader comments and questions that have come my way. I promise I do read everything you send me, even if my response time isn’t always the best—so keep writing and sending!