Monday, September 22, 2014


Did you ever watch The Fifth Element and think, “Man, I wish I had Zorg’s mini-elephant thing, only blue and with claws!”?  No?  Well too bad, because this is the monster for you!

Cerus (possibly short for “cerulean”?) are blue, cat-sized, elephant-like creatures bred for the rich by mages and alchemists.  Mostly I think of cerus as set dressing.  They're a reminder to PCs that they're in a magical world in town as well as in the dungeon.  “The wizard’s solarium is a riot of papers and scrolls.  A telescope sits in one corner next to a golden cage.  Inside is a tiny blue elephant covered in spikes.  Because, duh, wizard.”  Especially if PCs have just crossed the border into a magocracy or ventured across the sea or you’re trying to go from a low-magic setting to high—it's a great way to highlight that they've crossed from Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest into Aladdin’s Baghdad.

But if you’ve got a player who wants a really interesting familiar…if you’ve got a player who really likes tweaking dice rolls with a little extra good or bad luck…if you need a MacGuffin for a shaggy dog (spiny elephant?) story of an adventure…or if that wizard’s solarium described above is the chamber the PCs are robbing, not visiting…then the ceru is ready to go from set dressing to companion/combatant. And just think how much fun it will be to kill a PC with the Con damage from an intelligent poisonous lap elephant…

Criminals steal a ceru belonging to the wife of an important minister.  Unprepared for the magical beast’s nasty temper and nastier spikes, they lose the ceru down a sewer.  Adventurers are recruited to find it, but they aren't the only ones looking.  In addition to the original gang of criminals, who are still hoping to recover and ransom the ceru, sewer doppelgangers see an opportunity improve their lots in life—first by replacing the adventurers, then the minister and his wife.

Rumors persist of a formula for a reliably fertile ceru.  Unfortunately, whatever ingredient promotes the beast’s fecundity also robs it of its sweet nature.  Adventurers arrive at an island breeding facility only to discover the breeders dead and the grounds overrun with very intelligent, very evil cerus.  Worse yet, the ceru bull plots to escape the island, and he intends to commandeer the adventurers’ skiff.

After a mage dies, his pseudodragon familiar plots to keep his tower out of strangers’ hands by marshaling the mage’s many pets and companions in its defense.  He manages to organize a pipefox, several warty ooze mephits, a band of sprites and their leshy bondservants, a giant skunk, and a litter of cerus in fending off intruders.  All of the combatants are basically good-hearted but scared of change and suspicious of outsiders.  They don’t realize that their ferocity in defending their homes might get them—or someone else—killed.

Inner Sea Bestiary 9

By the way, cerus were statted up in the Inner Sea Bestiary by Jim Groves.  We can only assume his next project is the petite lap giraffe.

I hope you’re wasted and ready, because it’s time for another radio show!  Re: Scottish independence: I didn't have a horse in the race. But most of my friends and my favorite bands did—and that horse was a Shetland pony. In honor of them, here's two hours of music, including a six-song Scottish super-set. Also enjoy new music, Chris Walla's last song with Death Cab for Cutie, and more.

(If the feed skips, let the page load and Save As an mp3.  Link good till Friday, 9/26, at midnight.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm a long-time follower of your blog and I emerge from the ether to comment on this article. In the Jurassic Park novel, Hammond (a cut-throat business man who gets eaten by scavenger dinosaurs, not a gentle grandfatherly man) has a small elephant the size of a cat that he uses as a demonstration and proof of concept for the commercial viability of genetic engineering.
    Also, thank you for all the insight and laughs.