The catrina is Pathfinder’s take on the Day of the Dead’s Catrina (specifically, La Calavera Catrina, though notions of a Lady of the Dead may stretch back as far as Aztec times). She—though truly she has no gender and can appear as male—is one of the more joyful and welcoming psychopomps, calming the newly dead to ease them into the great procession of souls.
Combat encounters with a catrina should be extremely rare, but if adventurers try to stall her in her duties, she will fight back, compelling creatures to sample her kiss of death. Parties might also lock horns with a catrina if she is tricked by some outside force (perhaps a devil or demon manipulating her into claiming the wrong soul), or goes rogue in some fashion (possibly claiming souls too early, especially spirited ones who will enliven some deathly parade). More likely adventures will encounter a catrina on her turf. If adventurers travel to the realm of Death before their appointed time, a reception of catrinas will likely be one of their first encounters. The result might be a charming garden party under the boughs of long-dead trees, a spirited parade (possibly aboard a float with a skeletal krewe on hand), or a harsh interrogation, all depending on how well the PCs behave.
Whatever adventurers expected of the Land of the Dead, this is not it. Instead of a looming fortress or the Halls of Judgment or an endless line of souls passing through great gates, they find themselves in a parlor upholstered all over in velvet, with paper silhouettes on the wall and ferns in every corner. Skeletal hostesses offer them cordials brought by animate tea tables. All goes well until the party asks too many questions or tries to leave. “It is not your time yet, mortals,” says the reception of catrinas, as the animate furniture begins to circle like a hyena pack. “You are an interruption. So you wait here, in the Sitting Room. And if you will not sit…we will make you.”
In a land torn apart by two revolutions in ten years, an aging prelate believes he is all that holds the country together. For all the best reasons, he seeks ways to stave off death another year. He (falsely) believes anyone who steals a catrina’s flowery gown is immune to her touch, and he hires adventurers to accomplish the deed for him.
When firearms come to Mazatano, the catrina who invisibly watches over the region’s March of Joy is appalled. In the week leading up to the festival, she begins secretly using her kiss of death on any person carrying the strange new weapons. As her body count grows, her dereliction of duty begins to tarnish her soul, and her choice of victims grows more and more indiscriminate. Finally, it is the custom in Mazatano for the catrina to briefly manifest (that is, shed her invisibility) at the high priest’s behest during the March’s culmination. If she is not stopped before then, the catrina will make sure this year’s parade ends in a spectacularly dramatic fashion.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 4 218
This week I’m going to try to get through the backlog of reader mail and comments I’ve gotten lately. (Keep sending stuff! I read everything. But my schedule sucks, so replying can be hard sometimes.) Regarding catfolk, the ever-prolific dailycharacteroption noted:
I’m actually surprised you didn’t bring up the difference between the Bestiary 3 and ARG art for catfolk. (The former being much more catgirl-esque while the latter resembling a more feline look.)
In my personal setting, I actually have an explanation for this beyond the simplicity of multiple artists’ interpretation. The latter being the norm in more isolated catfolk communities, while the former are actually human-catfolk half-breeds that, while technically a half-human race, are functionally no different than the ‘purebreed’ catfolk, in a departure from the half-elf and half-orc formula of mixing traits of the two parent species.
Your interpretation works for me! (In fact, with one or two rare exceptions that’s how half-elves worked in “basic” D&D.)
The more prosaic answer is that I try to write these entries at work over lunch and in between jobs, then I double-check everything and post when I get home. Since I don’t lug the books to work, the art only sometimes factors into my description. (And as you’ve probably noticed, I tend to consider the art, in the words of a famous pirate captain, “more what you’d call ‘guidelines’” anyway.)
In other comments from last week, both ohgodhesloose and dr-archeville range the planes to figure out the carnivorous crystal, and vee-charlotte prods the weaknesses of the cannon golem while dr-a tries to modify it.
(Link good till Friday, 9/12, at midnight. If the feed ships, Save As an mp3 and enjoy from your desktop.)