Friday, October 31, 2014
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Sometimes the gods of the alphabet are particularly kind. Or perhaps particularly cruel. Because we celebrate this Halloween-een with the ultimate Great Old One: Cthulhu.
Yes, that Cthulhu.
Not Cthulhu, comma, star-spawn of. We’re talking the real, CR 30 unknowable herald of the end times himself.
Colossal size. 36 Hit Dice. Mythic power. Able to cast spells like wish and implosion and summon CR 20 servitors every day. Whole paragraphs of immunities and resistances and fast healing. Not that it matters, because Cthulhu barely even exists in Euclidean space, so you won’t hit him. And even if you did, he’s immortal. Plus you’re already insane from when his nightmares went rooting around your brain. Or just because you looked at him. Assing you didn’t die just for coming within 300 feet of him.
Want to know more? There’s a whole role-playing game named after him, with about a million editions and publishers, including the d20 conversion by Monte Cook himself and John Tynes. Not to mention the horror section of your local library or comic shop. So you don’t need me to tell you why the Dreamer in the Deep is a monster lover’s monster. Hell, you can buy Cthulhu plushies.
So all I’ll add for GMs is that a little Lovecraft goes a long way. The Mythos are so much more well known than they were in 1981 when the Call of Cthulhu game was launched by Chaosium. But in some ways that familiarity also makes them more manageable and less horrific. Not every adventure needs to name-check R’lyeh and cultists crying “Iä!” (As good as it was, I felt Alan Moore’s Neonomicon was a little guilty of this, cramming every Lovecraft reference it could into four issues.) You could have Cthulhu be the climax to your entire campaign and never call him by that name unless the players put the right pieces together. (He is supposed to be ineffable, after all.)
As for players…well, if your PCs are fighting Cthulhu, you’ve done something wrong. Really wrong. At worst, you should be fighting his many watery cults, or his star-spawn, or battling maybe just one of his terrible arms reaching through a mystic portal that you’re hurrying to shut. (Even a single claw has 40 feet of reach and attacks an entire 10-foot square, not to mention reeks of his unspeakable presence). There are demon lords who aren't as deadly as Cthulhu—if you believe Lovecraft, Dagon(!) serves him, not the other way around. So if you’re fighting Great Cthulhu himself, it's because you blew it—you stopped none of the vile sacrifices, failed to close any of the portals, got all the wrong books out of the library, and you didn't rescue a single princess from any of the castles. The End Times are upon you.
That said…you’re playing Pathfinder, not Call of Cthulhu. There are no Sanity Points to worry about unless your DM house-rules them in. Wishes, miracles, empyreal lords, and the gods themselves are yours to call upon. Your PCs may experience insanity, horrific wounds, multiple deaths, even annihilation beyond all divine intervention. But it’s still a Pathfinder game.
So if the dice and the stars are just right…you might just win.
(For a little while, anyway. The Dreamer can always awaken another millennium.)
The heavens are in disorder. As Good and Evil exhaust themselves in war, various neutral and nonaligned factions begin to throw their weight around. Divs erupt from the deserts and the seas to claim territory once held by the servants of the gods. Demodand nurseries crop up on several worlds. Outer dragons return from the void to engage in nervous discussions with couatl lords. Amid all this chaos, a party of adventurers stops a pleroma from destroying the world…but in doing so, they unknowingly allow a dark cult the aeon meant to destroy to flourish. Once the cult completes its rites, it is only a matter of time before Great Cthulhu awakes.
Early in their careers, novice adventurers discover a metal construct of unknown origin, which in turn leads them to a sunken complex full of alien artifacts. With the support of their lord and patron, they lead several forays into the complex, eventually unearthing strange artifacts, ray guns, specialized armor, and new metals (see the Technology Guide). They even lead an exodus of newly animated androids to the surface world to take their place in humanoid society. Their discoveries eventually launch whole new fields of science and bring wealth and cybernetic technologies to their hometown and their lord. …But this power comes with a price. Pollution, greed, and fell magic all follow in the wake of the technology boom. Shantaks and gugs arrive in darkness to hunt, drawn by the thrumming electrical fields. And then the complex’s power stores begin to run out. As the dynamos sputter and die, the technology begins to falter…and so do the containment shields that hold a very dark portal deep within the complex closed.
The Great Civil War is a disaster. Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia are spell-blasted ruins. Bloody Kansas is bloody no longer under the iron rule of a Jesuit blue dragon. Lincoln’s latest resurrection cost the Union a wish and a chunk of California. Despite errant clockwork automatons devouring most of Boston, New England’s titans of industry continue to pump out sabers, wands, guns, and dirigibles. The Southern forces, depleted of young men, slaves, tengus, and even the zombies of all of the above, seek refuge in the worst kind of arcane rituals. Using spells stolen from Indian shamans, they discard summoned elementals in favor of entities from beyond the stars. And at a lecture hall at Yale University, a paleontologist with a fascination for the occult remarks that a number of old prophecies need to be reëxamined, taking the geology of the North American continent into account—particularly since so much of it was once covered in water. “Perhaps the sunken city of R’lyeh is not so sunken after all,” he tells the crowded room. And perhaps he is right, because 500 miles to the southwest, Confederate cultists continue their chanting. This much is certain: Something is rising in Raleigh.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 4 138–139
I’m pretty sure my first exposure to Call of Cthulhu was a review of Cthulhu Now in Dragon Magazine. Apparently Chaosium turned out some killer supplements and adventures back in the day.
Regarding yesterday’s post, AlgaeNymph wrote:
I've always thought crucidaemons looked like EDI from Mass Effect 3.
Dear AlgaeNymph, please stop exposing my utter ignorance of all things video game-related. Hate you forever, Patch.
(Seriously, people, I’m in bad shape. The last game system I had was an Atari 2600. My parents refused to let me have a Nintendo and I’ve been behind ever since. You know when I beat Zelda? Grad school. On a freakin’ emulator.)
Now that I have Googled EDI…I’ll be in my bunk.
Meanwhile, carthagian-chronicle went even deeper:
See I’ve never thought of most of the daemons obsessing about anything. They are nihilist 1st and foremost and above all the most infinitely patient of all the evil outsiders. They are united in that one goal of a dark and dead universe and missing 4 heroes to leave a world of pitiless killing devices that senselessly and dispassionately maim, kill, and make mortals doubt the very existence of good is more than enough.
Like in my mind a Crucidaemon lays a minefield it doesn’t rue that 4 PCs managed to find their way through it but revels (as much as a numb nihilistic entity of oblivion can) that all the mortals that rely on the trail it cuts through will now suffer and die. And unless someone actually takes the time to get rid of everyone of those mines it will continue to pay dividends for a long time, potentially the rest of time as the sufferings collateral ripples out through the community.
That to me has always been the defining point of the daemons’ pathology. Other outsiders use the suffering of others as a means to an end, for daemons the suffering is the means and the end until eventually you cease wanting to be as much as they do. As long as the painful nothing continues they are winning and that is what makes them so terrifying. At best you are a bit and uninteresting player in their long campaign.
I totally see your point. I’ll counter it with this, though: A) We know that crucidaemons obsess over mortals who escape their clutches because we’re told so in at least two canon sources (Bestiary 3 and Horsemen of the Apocalypse). Some daemons may be infinitely patient—thanadaemons in particular—but crucidaemons aren’t. B) Also crucidaemons are CR 15 creatures. It is a rare, truly exceptional mortal that can escape the clutches of a 17-Hit Dice, insanity-hurling outsider. To have such feeble insects defy her has to shake the daemon out of her complacency. The first time a crucidaemon faces a mortal, it’s nothing personal…but the second time, it is. C) Finally, daemons are a fallen lot, as Todd Stewart has indicated in HotA and on this very blog. The loss of the Oinodaemon has left them directionless and flawed. Maybe they should be infinitely patient beings…but lacking direction, divided into four warring camps and/or left to their own devices, and longing for oblivion in a multiverse teeming with life…what’s left for them but to burrow deeper into their own obsessions?
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
What if the iron maiden was not just a fanciful turn of phrase, but was actually inspired by a real entity? If that were the case, there’s no question that the iron maiden would be an homage to the original mistress of torture and traps, the crucidaemon.
The crucidaemon’s evil is the indifferent evil of the torturer who never questions an order and the indiscriminate evil of a bear trap or land mine. Unlike a devil, who tortures to punish and ensure submission, a demon, who tortures to ruin and maim, or a kyton, who tortures in pursuit of artistry and transformation, the crucidaemon tortures purely to prolong the agony so long that even her victims’ very souls give up hope for an afterlife. A victim who expires and then goes to Heaven—or Hell—is an unacceptable loss to a crucidaemon. She wants her victims chasing only oblivion.
That’s not to say crucidaemons don't take pride in their work—they do, to the point of obsession. Which means that if your PCs escape a crucidaemon’s trap complex, they better kill her on the way out…or she’ll just come back to throw them into a far worse nightmare next time. That’s how horror works, right? There’s always a sequel.
Adventurers are hired to retrieve an important dissident from a remote prison colony. When they arrive, they find all is not well, even by labor camp standards. A suspicious number of the guards are grimspawn tieflings (see Blood of Fiends). Strange gray fogs roll into camp, sapping memory and vitality. The infirmary has been given over entirely to juju zombies. Whoever the commandant of the prison was, he or she is long dead—or transformed. A crucidaemon runs this place now.
After being overwhelmed in a demodand’s citadel, a party of adventurers find themselves stripped of their gear and thrown into a dank oubliette to await the lord’s pleasure. Salvation comes from an unlikely source: a crucidaemon nemesis from a previous adventure. Utterly obsessed with the adventurers since they escaped her clutches, the crucidaemon refuses to let them die at the hands of “muck-covered Abyssal savages.” But while she helps with their jailbreak, she is also constantly taking notes on their tactics and weaknesses. Moreover, she tries to rig their final escape from the citadel (such as by choosing the right planar portal or substituting alternate spell foci) so that the adventurers land back in her lair on Abaddon.
Barricades have gone up in the streets. The doors to the debtors’ prison have been thrown open. The guillotines have been torn down. Revolution is in the air! But the authorities have circle mages on their side, able to call down fire and summon beings from across the planes to restore order. One such summoned crucidaemon is particularly effective, turning the rebels’ own barricades against them. Some she rigs to collapse; others she covers in greater glyphs of warding set to explode. Already fragile, the rebellion will collapse is she is not stopped.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 3 62
“Iron Maiden? Excellent!”
A wee bit more on crucidaemons can be found in Todd Stewart’s Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
If kytons owe inspiration to the Hellraiser franchise, do crucidaemons recall, say, the Saw films? I don’t do horror so I have no idea. Your thoughts?
I’m no expert (I only read Avengers Spotlight as a kid, and not the main Avengers titles), but the crucidaemon in the Bestiary 3 looks an awful lot like Marvel’s Jocasta. I wonder how Machine Man feels about whips and chains…?
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
At long last, the criosphinx. The ram-headed perennial Nice Guy of the sphinx dysfunctional family tree.
As we’ve discussed before, plenty has been written about the mating habits—or should I say, mating schemes—of the criosphinx. So let’s skip that and instead look at the bigger picture. Criosphinxes probably have to be very careful in how they claim, mark, and defend their territories. A criosphinx wants to be well known enough that he is respected and so that any local gynosphinxes hear of his presence. Yet he does not want to be so well known or feared that caravans or wealthy travelers avoid his toll routes, or worse yet, that he attracts some do-gooder knight or greedy blue dragon’s interest. As a result, encounters with a criosphinx tend to involve a fair amount of bluffing and intimidation (hence the criosphinx’s bonuses in those skills) as he tries to quickly size up the situation and whether to bluster, fight, or flee.
For three straight years a criosphinx has flown into the Palm Agora on Midsummer’s Day to trade riddles with the debaters and pundits who loiter there. He pays for the puzzles with rings woven into his beard and hung on his horns. Once the last ring is gone, he retreats into the mountains to woo with what he has learned. Now it is Midsummer’s Day again, but the locals’ awe at his appearance has worn off. After overhearing jokes at his expense—something about him “having the horns of a cuckold already”—the criosphinx goes mad and begins goring citizens in the street.
Adventurers are tracking a thief who ran off into the desert with their treasure and a string of their camels. After two days they come across the camels, currently under the eye of a criosphinx who intends to eat them. He offers to use speak with animals to find out more about the missing thief, but his price his high. The adventurers must part with at least half of the stolen gold once they recover it, or they must agree to hobble a nearby gynosphinx so that the criosphinx can “rescue” her.
A novice druid is being terrorized by a criosphinx. The criosphinx intends to set himself up as an oracle at a nearby oasis, and the presence of a wise young woman who can also speak with animals threatens to upset his plans. Worse yet, the criosphinx’s trumpeting and threats have caught the attention of a mated pair of desert drakes, who are hungry for meals and tribute for themselves.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 3 252
More on sphinxes can of course be found in Jonathan H. Keith’s chapter in Mythical Monsters Revisited.
Also I am still sick. Please send Theraflu. Preferably via sylph courier.
This week my radio show had the misfortune to fall right in the middle of a new board installation. So the computer copied the wrong chunk of time, my voice was barely audible in Mic 2 (Mic 1 wasn’t even functioning), and things were generally FUBAR. Still, a show is a show, especially since I spent a major chunk of it celebrating 20 years of Smashing Pumpkins’ Pisces Iscariot. If you don’t mind your music with a side of technical glitches, fast-forward through the nine minutes of dead air at the start and enjoy!
(As always, if the feed skips Save As an mp3 for better results. Link good till Friday, 10/31, at midnight.)
Monday, October 27, 2014
Folk who live by the sea tend toward independence and are careful about the company they keep. Those who live above the waves know how hard and dangerous making a living from the sea can be, and only let good men and women into their trust. Those who live under the waves see said dangers up close, and have a too-keen-appreciation for their place in the food chain.
Small wonder, then, that sea mages and priests turn to coral golems—capable, resilient assistants that can stand firm against a summer squall yet cut with the precision of a scalpel…or a barracuda’s jaws.
Avida is an undine—literally born of the sea, courtesy of a spirit of sea foam and shoals that saved her mother from a storm. Being a healer lets her be in the human world but somewhat apart from it—a convenient role for a woman marked by the salt water in her soul. She created her coral golem servitor as a surgical aide, but she is ready to direct it in self-defense…especially after a local guild master blames her for his son’s death and sends ignorant adventurers after “the brine witch.”
The White Sand Desert of Nestor is a stark-white, gleaming tableland that was once the basin of an inland sea. The master of the Black Needle, an obelisk-like tower that is one of the only landmarks in the trackless desert, has put the unique features of the area to good use. A coral golem made from harvested fossils guards the courtyard surrounding the Black Needle, and before attacking it has orders to unstopper a decanter of endless water, ensuring that it always has a healing pool of water to fight in courtesy of the salty soil.
Lacking the ability to cast a geas, a sorcerer used the tabard of a famous holy guide (see the Advanced Class Guide) to animate his coral golem. (A marid ally supplied the limited wish.) Adventurers who destroy the golem can take up the tabard but will be influenced by the geas laid upon it—a geas demanding they finish the task that got the guide killed in the first place.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 4 131
Edit: Thanks for your patience on this entry. Original post: No post today. I have a fever. If you need me, I’ll be over here moaning.
Friday, October 24, 2014
Many devils are about contracts. The phistophilus, or contract devil, is really about contracts. The scribes, librarians, and record-keepers of Hell, these devils are in fact literally draped in documents, and they use these scrolls as whips in a way that a human librarian could only dream of. (That’s not even including their gore or impale attacks.)
With their ability to offer three wishes or the services of another devil, in the mortal world they are truly iconic examples of the bargaining power of Hell, the crimson dealmakers who seems to arrive at the most opportune moments to strike a bargain. When encountered in Hell itself, on the other hand, they are the symbols of a bureaucratic, legal, and recordkeeping system more byzantine and convoluted—yet utterly ordered—than anything else in existence.
A contract devil serves an infernal duke of broken vows and undeath. Mortals who sign his contracts do not immediately forfeit their souls upon death, but instead reanimate as jiang-shi vampires, each with a copy of the implicating document nailed to its head. The contract devil is always accompanied by at least two of these hopping vampires at all times.
A good-natured rogue used the last wish in his luck blade to restore a friend to life—never realizing the sorcerer had once signed away his soul to a contract devil. Now the sorcerer has vanished and the rogue is on the run from bearded devils sent by the phistophilus to punish his interference. The attacks will not stop until the contract devil is defeated or the rogue serves up a suitable soul to make up for the truant sorcerer.
A party’s barrister is defending their claim to a magical artifact when he is stolen away by a plane-shifting contract devil. “He’s been subpoenaed as an expert witness,” is all the devil says before sweeping the man away. With the artifact impounded and their case in jeopardy, the party has little choice but to go to Hell and rescue him, arriving in the granite city of Archvilius. Researching the right precedent to guarantee their friend’s release in Archvilius’s many libraries is possible, but would take months. With the aid of the right tiefling law clerk, however, they will learn that the contract devil has rivals who wish to see him humbled—so much so that they might even forgo the usual price of a soul for their aid.
—Pathfinder #12 86–87 & Pathfinder Bestiary 3 76–77
Thursday, October 23, 2014
We are pleased to have reached the contemplatives. / After hints in various sourcebooks, these cerebral beings were fully introduced to the Golarion setting in Distant Worlds as the Contemplatives of Ashok, a race of highly evolved monks. / Their inclusion in the prosaically named “Bestiary 4” implies that there may be similarly evolved entities on other worlds, though these lack the designation “of Ashok.” / Indeed, we are led to understand that in primitive cultures such as yours, imagery of telepathic brains is so common as to be a trope in your “science fictions.” // We pause for an aside: We reject, utterly, however, the common assumption in these works that such entities will necessarily reveal themselves to be unemotional or manipulative “monsters.” / Such prejudice cannot be borne. // Little more than brain-sacs, contemplatives rely on their profound intellects and spell-like abilities to interact with the world. Long evolved past your primitive human notions of morality or ethics, they are nevertheless rarely combative unless their long-term ends justify force. / You can be sure however, that many contemplatives develop formidable skills as spellcasters, and even the basest contemplatives can unleash a torrent of magic missiles. // Another aside: We are sure, at least. / The scale and scope of your comprehension have yet to be measured. // Let it also be known that a life spent communicating telepathically causes groups of contemplatives to have a largely…shall we say, shared perspective on life—something short of a hive mind, but communal enough that they prefer to speak in the first-person plural “we.” / Clearly, we approve, and look forward to the next step in the contemplatives’ evolution—on Akiton and on worlds across the multiverse. //
The barbarian sacking of the Opal Monastery has awakened a contemplative to the awful vulnerability of its withered frame. It seeks to craft a sturdier shell to house itself. With most of its fellows dead, there is no one to dissuade the contemplative from stealing corpses—or even committing murder—in the quest for raw materials for a carrion or bone golem chassis.
An unusual bardic college teaches songs meant to echo the music of the spheres. Perhaps they are right, as contemplatives float through the galleries and practice rooms as often as students or choristers. One contemplative has been corrupted by its study of the void, and begins secretly murdering students to communicate with dark entities. Can it hide its research from its fellows…or does the telepathy they share open them all to corruption? (And can adventurers identify a perpetrator who is just one floating brain among many?)
Orders of contemplatives are spread across many worlds. The Contemplatives of Ashem study doorways and portals they never pass through, as that would change their observations. The solipsistic Contemplatives of Nudal run visitors through a gauntlet of tests meant to prove that they do indeed exist. The Contemplatives of Raj Takan are pleased to serve a vile rakshasa master so long as he never intrudes upon their celestial observations, even going so far as to serve as his assassins. And the Contemplatives at the King’s Right Hand have a 500-year lease to study the angels in a heaven whose very divinity they can mathematically prove is false.
—Distant Worlds 60 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 41
Inner Sea Combat also has dwarven monks known as contemplatives. Just a coincidence…and yet…there’s always time travel…
Readers with long memories will be reminded of Jonathan M. Richards’s brain-like fungal sapromnemes from the classic Dragon #267. Contemplatives are the real deal that those fungi can only hope to emulate.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
The comozant wyrd is basically living St. Elmo’s fire—a Small elemental of air and lightning (actually a plasma elemental, if you really want to get technical about it) that can appear on ships’ masts, chimneys, and other structures—even spear tips and horns! In fact, that’s one of the odder things about comozant wyrds—they’re tethered (in the Material Plane at least) to objects in a way few other creatures of Air are.
The wyrds can communicate through an elusive combination of empathy and imagery (that might serve as a free divination), or they can communicate via a lightning lash (worth 2d8 damage).
That’s basically all the Bestiary 4 says. Pathfinder Adventure Path #57: Tempest Rising goes into way more detail about their inquisitive natures and strange method of communication. All in all, they’re a great way to add a little confusion to a pirate duel (maybe a plausible way to save the party from a TPK perhaps?), supply a little information if PCs are stuck, or just make the next random encounter in bad weather a little more interesting.
Just don't lie to them—they don't like that, and it’s not wise to anger living plasma.
During a lightning storm, a comozant wyrd appears among the spires and chimneys of Ilvez. As it gambols along the rooftops, it disturbs the nesting storks, Ilvez’s very territorial pseudodragons, and a gang of tooth fairies—all of which make the lives of some adventurers involved in a third-story manor heist much more difficult.
A dead alchemist’s lab contains a strange machine that glows and sparks and seems to contain living lightning in a globe. The “lightning” is actually a comozant wyrd who found itself attracted by the crude machine during a storm and then got stuck in the electrical field. The wyrd views the machine as a prison, and how it reacts to an adventuring party depends on whether their actions cause them to appear as would-be liberators or jailers.
A ship is drawn through a whirlpool into the Plane of Air. A delighted comozant wyrd takes shape on the figurehead. It pays no attention to human crewmen, but is particularly fascinated with any half-humans and members of the more animalistic races (like lizardfolk or tengus) present. Perhaps because of its fascination with crossbreeds, it insists on leading the ship to a settlement of sylphs, motivating the crew with visions or the lightning lash as needed.
—Pathfinder Adventure Path #57 82–83 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 40
And then there’s this St.Elmo’s Fire. The damage is 3d6 Wisdom drain if you’re under 45, 4d6 Charisma drain if you’re over. If you’re exactly 45, the damage stacks.
(I shouldn't make jokes like that, or else someone is going to nail me pretty hard for PCU and Clerks in a decade or so.)
Friends in the news! Occasional bar friend Lauren Shusterich’s new band popped up on All Songs Considered yesterday. And invaluable college friend* Mike Veloso has been hard at work on Fantasia: Music Evolved and just dropped this Lorde remix on Facebook today.
*Defined as a friend who stays up late enough to listen to your freshman 3–5 a.m. radio show.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Looking like the guy from The Fly dressed for a Renaissance festival (nice job by Dmitry Burmak in the Bestiary 3), the coloxus demon would make an awesome servant for the Lord of the Flies, Baalzebul—except he’s an archdevil. But if you do a simple alignment swap and tweak the coloxus’s resistances and traits to match the devil subtype, you have a perfectly good denizen of Cocytus ready to go.
That said, let’s examine the coloxus demon the way we should: as a demon. Clearly, these demons of vanity buzz far above the ravening Abyssal hordes. They are polite diplomats while on the clock and refined sybarites in their spare time.
So what does that look like? Because it all sounds very devilish. Still, the demon inside the coloxus is always there, lurking. A devil’s hospitality, once offered, is safe as long as all parties hold to the contract’s many codicils, while a coloxus’s guarantees of safety means nothing the moment any witnesses’ backs are turned. Show one a mirror and the aghast coloxus might attack immediately, witnesses be damned.
I did some thinking, and then the answer came to me: The coloxus demon is Dr. Frank N. Furter. In particular, the temper tantrum, murder, and subsequent dinner party of Eddie (not to mention the numerous seductions/rapes and betrayals and human puppetry).* If you ever want to know how to portray a coloxus demon, “The Time Warp” to “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul” is all the blueprint you need.
Adventuring in the Abyss, a party comes across a coloxus demon debating society and dinner club. Their refined airs and immaculate tailoring contrast strikingly with their choice of venue—the ever-regenerating ribcage of a comatose titan they are slowly devouring alive. Pointing this out to them—indeed, mentioning their diet at all, or failing to partake—is considered very rude…and grounds for attack.
A coloxus demon seems to have an entire court of aasimars spellbound. Not one seems to see the fly-faced outsider for what he truly is. An adventurer must find a way to stop him, even as the members of court ostracize her for her incivility toward their new guest.
A succubus wants a coloxus demon rival out of the way. She gives adventurers everything they need to know to defeat him. If the adventurers don’t take the job, the succubus makes sure to update them with every new sin the coloxus perpetrates. (The vain coloxus is especially fond of slaying those who were his rivals in life: singers of Cha 16 and above.) If the adventurers do take the job, the succubus engineers the final showdown to take place in a hall of enchanted mirrors, where every glass the scandalized demon shatters threatens to unleash some trapped menace.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 3 72
*If you are the slightest bit tempted to write me an impassioned email about how Frank’s actions are totes chaotic neutral, I want you to know I love you and I respect your opinion. But you are not invited to my birthday party, because you are a crazy person who doesn’t know right from wrong and I’m worried you’ll poison the cake.
Monday, October 20, 2014
How do we know the colour out of space is a monstrosity beyond all reason?
It spells “colour” with a U.
(That sound you hear is all of my British Commonwealth followers unfriending me at once.)
So, another Lovecraft creation imported into Pathfinder courtesy of the Carrion Crown Adventure Path and the Bestiary 4. The colour out of space is an alien predator that feeds on the vitality of living things around it until they glow with the same sickly light, then fall into ash. Eventually it reaches truly monstrous proportions (25-30 Hit Dice), after which it rockets back into space (though possibly leaving spawn behind).
Then again, you don't even need the stellar origins. Plenty of fantasy novels feature strange radiances and life-leeching entities emerging from blasted cities and shards of obsidian. Call it a radiant shade, a vampiric hue, or a brightblight and you’re good to use the colour out of space in even the most diehard medieval campaign.
A sickly turquoise colour out of space has decimated the mining town of Severed Gulch. Adventures won’t find that out immediately, though. First they will have to navigate the ashen landscape and contend with starving stray coyotes, worgs, and colour-blighted settlers. Undead, especially allips and wraiths, lurk in the mines as well, the result of suicides and accidents suffered in the early days of the colour’s predations. The incorporeal ooze is particularly deadly if faced in the tight confines of the mine, but recently it has become fascinated by a chamber of aquamarines and spends most of its time examining itself in their sparkling facets.
Reports come in of a distant town where all the inhabitants have turned a glowing gray-green. The cause is a young or perhaps stunted colour out of space, whose feeding spreads the usual weird glow but causes fewer deformations or ashen deaths than a typical adult specimen. Nevertheless, the glowing locals are quite addicted to the ooze’s aura of lassitude and do not take kindly to strangers’ questions.
After a meteorite crashes into the City of Cathedrals, chaos reigns, with doomsayers prophesying the end of the world and conservative factions blaming the displeasure of the gods. In the confusion, no one notices a colour out of space slip away from the meteor and into the crypts by the Pages’ Wing. Soon close to a dozen aspiring paladins are dead. Only one adventurer, a former resident of the Pages’ Wing, knows the cause—but not why he knows it. Over the course of the adventure, he will have to face not only the colour out of space, but also the revelation that a yithian has been riding his consciousness, littering it with knowledge from the far future.
—Pathfinder Adventure Path #46 76–77 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 38–39
I haven’t mentioned bleachling gnomes because I believe they’re Golarion IP. That said, if your campaign features bleachling gnomes, perhaps colours out of space might be involved in their origin story, or the colorless gnomes might have some power to defy the alien oozes.
Over the weekend I finished Occult Mysteries. Other people have done far more comprehensive reviews, so I don't need to, but my general feeling is similar to the review I gave The Harrow Handbook—it’s not a book for everyone, but the right group will quite enjoy this. The sections on astrology and using Harrow cards as plot twist cards could easily be dropped into most campaigns. (The sections on numerology and arithmancy, on the other hand, seem best reserved for GM/one-player solo play or side quests—that’s a lot of numbers to crunch.) I always like descriptions of magical (or at least disturbing) tomes, so the section on occult books was a pleasure. And I like the multiple choice “answers” to Golarion’s many mysteries—like many World of Darkness books I used to read, OM is happy to serve up four possible answers to every mystery without ever revealing which is the “true” one. I have this problem (and I suspect many fans are in the same boat) where I love canon and want to know everything about a setting, yet paradoxically hate when all the gaps get filled in. Giving me four conflicting “right” answers is just the right solution for players like me.
I should have Pathfinder Adventure Path #86: Lords of Rust finished by the end of the day. Its looser structure means it’s not quite the page-turning read that Fires of Creation was, but I suspect it will be more fun to play. (Light spoilers ahead, so beware.) FoC was a GM’s dream—a new town to explore, a new ecology (of a PC race to boot), alien familiars, etc.—all on top of a really fresh-feeling dungeon. LoR, in the hands of the right GM, offers players a chance to hang out with the Rippers from Tank Girl, fight chainsaw-wielding bad guys in the Thunderdome, then duke it out with GLaDOS in demon drag. My guess is FoC is going to be the book you’ll enjoy re-reading down the road, but LoR is the adventure you won’t stop talking about for years to come.
Since WMUC's website was down this Saturday, here’s a Spotify playlist with (most) of this weekend’s edition of The New Indie Canon. So it’s everything you love about my radio show without stupid me talking. (Which is best for everyone, really.)
What’s missing? “Half Court Press” by Kitty Craft started off the show. I played “Lizzy Come Back to Life” for soaply (yes, I take Tumblr requests/inspiration!) on the air, but since Spotify didn’t have it I added “Laura” to the playlist instead. “A Hard One to Know” by Benjamin Gibbard and “After Dawn” by Itasca should both come after Pinback. “Learning Slowly” from Purling Hiss should come after Dogbite, and Randy’s Marsh’s “Push” and Taylor Swift’s “Out of the Woods” should sandwich Lorde to close us out on a ridiculously pop note.
Anyway, sorry about the technical SNAFU, but enjoy a solid 90 minutes of mostly new music!