China Miéville loves sexual dimorphism—the more extreme the better, particularly with the females being much larger or more dangerous than the males. Two such races, the anophelii and khepri, even got statted up for D&D 3.5 in the pages of Dragon #352. So it’s no surprise we were introduced to ceratioidi in his contribution to the Guide to the River Kingdoms, the nation of Outsea. (They would be properly written up a few months later in Pathfinder #32: River Run Red).
Enough history! Let’s get to it. Ceratioidi are angler fish-like humanoids that hail from the deepest parts of the ocean, complete with their own glowing lures bobbing from the tops of their heads. Most ceratioidi that adventurers encounter are also actually two creatures: a large female and a tiny parasitic male bonded to the female and dwelling beneath her flesh. The two retain their individual minds but are telepathically linked.
This unique mental structure is the source of many of their advantageous special abilities and heavily influences their class choices (Pathfinder #32 mentions wizard/witch casters and rangers being especially popular.) It also raises some interesting role-playing questions. Is the ceratioidi’s dual nature a secret or is it public knowledge? Do they pass as purely female or use “we,” the collective “you,” “it,” and/or “they” pronouns? And let’s also not forget their similarly dualistic leaders, as described in the Guide to the River Kingdoms: great bloated house-sized god/goddess entities that lure sacrifices willingly and inexorably toward their gullets. When your gods live among you, it is both a gift and a burden.
For no real reason—other than that’s where my head seems to default to—I’ve used ceratioidi as organized crime figures in several posts. Here are a few more ways to tackle these undersea creatures:
The great ceratioidi city of Thaumatin perches on a series of shelves leading down into the Ebon Trench. Great diving bells on miles-long chains serve as elevators between the levels, helping surface dwellers and even shallow-water races like merfolk accustom themselves to the gloom and pressure. These diving bells often attract hungry sea monsters and other malefactors, so adventurers are always needed for escort duty. Depending on their level of experience and how far down they travel, volunteers might face ceratioidi outcasts, devilfish, drowning devils, sea serpents, or one of the great krakens itself.
The Proctor of Enchantment at Griffonspur College is a regal ceratioidi. The fact that she is never without her fascinating lure, yet is secretly impervious to mind-affecting effects herself, has played no small part in her meteoric rise over her enchanter peers. (The fact that “she” is actually a “they” is a secret the proctor guards closely as well.) A special bath in her private chambers supplies her with the daily seawater she needs to survive. Triggering a secret catch on one of the faucets also opens a portal to a bioluminescent ceratioidi city beneath the waves.
Ceratioidi fundamentalists rise up and conquer the aquatic elves of Limuleth. They put elven clerics to the spear and force the worship of the Living Mother on the populace. Adventurers are needed to smuggle the Limuleth princess to her half-elf kin in far-off Shoal. Alternately, they can help rebel druids shatter the ceratioidi power base—literally, by awakening the temporal stasis-held Colossal horseshoe crabs upon which Limuleth was built.
—Pathfinder #32 80–81 & Pathfinder Bestiary 3 50
Pathfinder and Merriam-Webster disagree on whether “angler fish” has a space or not. I stuck with the Paizo version, but it hurts like watching Mom and Dad fight.
A peek over at The Daily Character Option reveals the ceratioidi Order of the Deep Lantern. Check it out!
I’ve linked to this before, but…