Friday, January 31, 2014


On their own, vemeraks are powerful subterranean horrors.  But they are also harbingers and hangers-on—the pilot fish and remoras of truly titanic monstrosities.  In Golarion, such beasts are the spawn of Rovagug; in your world they might be behemoths, Colossal (and likely mythic) chaotic evil dragons, kaiju, or the greatest aberrations.  (Atropals from 3.0/3.5 would be another great set of candidates for vemeraks to be found in the vicinity of.)  So if you find a vemerak underground in some impossible hidden realm, kill it.  If you find a vemerak aboveground, kill it quickly so you can run from whatever worse thing is on its way.

Also, the vemerak is truly an aberration.  An acid breath weapon that devours the living but leaves undead untouched?  A spell-resistant spore cloud?  The ability to turtle its limbs beneath it and create earthquakes?  These are not natural creatures in the sense any druid or sage would recognize.  This lets you, the GM, put them in weird places and death traps with little to no regard for biology—pure vileness might sustain them as well as any mortal food.

A fiendish thunder behemoth walks the Rivermarch, calving vemeraks from some dark recess as it goes.  A troop of angels arrives to head off the behemoth, but their divine mandate will not allow them to contend with the vemeraks, because of the mortal cultists of ruin who quickly flock to them.

The Company of the Marlin believed they’d found a way around the vemerak of Jaxon’s Sepulcher: die.  The explorers had a minor artifact that would turn them into wights and back in relative safety, allowing them to bypass the vemerak’s acid breath.  But they neglected to factor in the reason behind the vemerak’s presence in the first place: a geyser of dark energy that overpowered the feeble artifact and ensnared the temporarily undead company permanently.  It warped them as well, so now anyone who gets past the vemerak must also face a three-headed devourer.

The tower elves of Tal Meigh (see the Advanced Race Guide) have studied vemerak sightings for years, and they have extrapolated a pattern not unlike the mystic circles the elves themselves use in their callings.  They also whisper the name of a scorpion-like beast of legend said to sleep not far from the heart of that pattern: Bezravnis.

Into the Darklands 62–63 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 278

Full details on the vemerak can be found in Into the Darklands, a glorious book from Golarion’s 3.5 days.  Bezravnis is one of the new kaiju in the Bestiary 4; we’ll cover it soon enough.

By the way, if you’re looking for the velociraptor, we’ll get to it when we swing back around to the styracosaurus…so you have plenty of time to get used to the fact that it has feathers…

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Veiled Master

Veiled masters are shapechanging aboleth sorcerers—half noble, half spy—who can steal your memories just by biting you. 

That pretty much tells you all you need to know, right?  If you hate aboleths, you’re already out of the pool.  If you love aboleths, now you have a super aboleth to serve up without even doing any leveling math.  Start with skum…a couple of cultists…one aboleth…aboleths galore…maybe even a mythic aboleth for a particularly brutal encounter…and then just when your players thought they could retire their potions of water breathing…BOOM: veiled master walking around on land.

But why tease the veiled master at all?  After all, somewhere around levels 12 to 14 is the perfect time to do a major shake-up and unveil a campaign’s real stakes.  What if you just skipped ordinary aboleths altogether and sprang veiled masters on the party as part of a big campaign twist?  “Wait—this was never about dragonkin/hobgoblins/the Onyx Legion.  Those crazy fish have been pulling the strings the whole time!  That one dungeon we fought skum in wasn’t a side trek…  It was a clue!  And we missed it!”

Rooting out a cabal of doppelgangers has occupied much of a party’s career.  But as they dig deeper, the monstrous humanoids have grown more piscine, more lamprey-like, and more deadly.  When the adventurers finally report all this to the mages’ guild, the Guildmaster’s secretary pulls them aside to congratulate them…and report his suspicions about the High Transmuter.  In truth, he is a veiled master, and he has decided to throw them against his rivals in the guild to throw them off the scent.

A temple complex devoted to the elements is under siege from foes without—including buzzing mi-go—and within.  Investigation reveals that the Monks of Earth, the temple scribes, have turned their library into a glyph-covered alien temple, while the Monks of the Falling Water cavort with skum.  Trapped in the complex with them, the dueling Fire Callers and Wind Walkers must put aside their differences and seek help…but a veiled master is determined to keep that from happening…

Aboleths and fey hate each other—because the elders of each race remember when their respective species first ruled the rough draft of the world.  (And because time and space were twisted in the breaking and remaking of the world, both races are—and aren’t—correct.)  When adventurers help a grove of gathlains preserve a faerie book of genesis, a veiled master steps in to coerce them into rewriting the book in the twisted runes of the Old act that may rewrite time itself…

Inner Sea Bestiary 56–57

I should mention the veiled master comes from James Jacobs (and Erik Mona) via the Inner Sea Bestiary. 

Also, if you’re new to The Daily Bestiary, we covered the aboleth way back in the dark days of 2011—back when I didn’t even write intros to the monsters (I went back later and added them) and I hid my ranting in the comments.  Of course, I didn’t even tell anyone about the blog until letter D or E (I was worried I couldn’t stick with it) so back then the blog was basically me on my loveseat.  Writing to myself.  In the dark.

(Don’t feel too bad for me.  I distinctly remember finishing the Accuser Devil entry and going to a happy hour.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I don’t have particularly strong vegepygmy feels, but old-school players love these guys.  (Clearly they’ve been to the Barrier Peaks and I haven’t.)  Originally vegepygmies were the products of a crashed alien spaceship, according to the world’s oldest role-playing game (the same spaceship that gave us the froghemoth and the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing).  In Paizo’s Into the Darklands, they got an amusing retcon as the product of drow sporecrafting gone wrong—so wrong in fact, that the drow had to summon demons just to drive the fungal creatures away.

Whether your vegepygmies are alien, manmade, or natural, they remain frightening because of their ability to turn victims into plant creatures like themselves…and because of the generous, voiceless manner they go about it.  To vegepygmies, the conversion is a gift, and that’s almost creepier than if they were menacing about it (the way their cousins the myceloids are).  Also, their reverence for (and willingness to use and repurpose) bits of their former corpses is nicely gross and unsettling.  Like Star Trek’s the Borg, they are after assimilation and procreation, and they don’t see why everyone shouldn’t embrace their fungal existence.

Since the Clockwork Murders, there have been bounties out for free-willed constructs—and the bounty on Oakson of the Fourth, a wyrwood criminal, is higher than most.  Following his trail leads adventurers deep below the sewers to a tribe of vegepygmies.  There they find the vegepygmies have a new chieftain: Oakson.  When the wyrwood failed to succumb to their spores, the awed vegepygmies accepted the wooden construct as one of their own.  He has been busy, too: May of the newer vegepygmies show signs of having been birthed from the magistrates that condemned Oakson for his may crimes.

A party of adventurers escorts a Terran-speaking sage to a trox settlement to broker a deal over nearby land and water rights, only to find themselves netted from above by half-orc sky raiders.  Aboard ship, the trox begin to panic—not because of their predicament, but because the ship shows signs of a corruption that is almost, but not quite, rust.  The slavers picked up russet mold at their last port of call, and soon the first half-orcs begin to fall ill…

Vegepygmy religion—when it exists—is an odd affair.  They have a superstitious fondness for their host bodies and work to protect the russet mold that is omnipresent in their communities.  But well-established colonies with exceptional leaders may turn to the worship of other intelligent plants or fungi, outsiders, or even actual deities.  In the later case, their pantheons are largely topsy-turvy affairs, where powers of fungi, decay, death, darkness, and water are venerated, while deities of healing, light, and alcohol are seen as adversaries.  (This is not because vegepygmies are evil per se, it’s just that their values are alien to the mammalian experience.)  Captured adventurers openly displaying holy symbols of these powers may find themselves used as props in crude morality plays set to percussion, where pantomime bringers of water, darkness, and glorious decay ward off the hated brightness and its medicinal servants.

Pathfinder Bestiary 273

Remember my call for more Core +1 books?  (That is, single books that, when added to the Core Rulebook and the Bestiaries, served up rules/setting/monsters combos that could be the basis of an entire campaign, in the vein of Ghostwalk or Oriental Adventures?)  Well, I put my money where my mouth was. 

To get my mind off my plumbing woes—and to give myself a reward for submitting some important documents to my insurer—I just ordered Razor Coast from Frog God Games.  FGG is the next best thing to Paizo, Nicolas Logue is a known quantity, the reviews were good, and it has a Wayne Reynolds cover.  So I went for it.  (And yes, I ponied up for the print.  I hate reading PDFs.)

Speaking of which, I told myself I wouldn’t look at the bundled PDF and would wait till the book arrived, but not three hours later I peeked anyway.  It’s a hair different than I was expecting (more like the mother of all sandbox adventures than a setting sourcebook), but so far it looks very cool, is well designed, and I love the little asides and sidebars.

All in all, I’m psyched.  I’m all about books like this—hell, one day I’d love to see my name in one—and after my tirade two weeks ago, I wanted to support the creators who are making them (and best of all, printing them).  I can’t wait for more.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Man, it’s amazing what the right adventure can do.  I never gave vargouilles a second thought when I first came across them in the 3.0 Monster Manual (though they’d apparently been flapping around the world’s oldest role-playing game since the 1e Monster Manual II.)

But then came Russell Brown’s “Mellorn Hospitality” in Dungeon #107.  In that adventure, the elves of that town are so used to fighting off vargouilles that they actually wear alchemically treated scarves to protect themselves from the creatures’ kisses.  That one detail (and how badass Andrew How and Arnold Tsang made the elves look) brought vargouilles instantly alive for me.

And what a monster!  A flapping head with a paralyzing shriek, poison bite, and the coup de grâce: a kiss attack that turns the vargouille’s victims into vargouilles themselves.  Sunlight or a mid-level light spell will pause the transformation…but you’d better find a remove disease stat.

These attacks plus their unique appearance make vargouilles flexible monsters that can fit into almost any campaign play style or genre.  In a straight-up generic European-based fantasy campaign, they serve as scary low-level monsters from another plane.  But if your campaign has more of an Irish feel, you could serve them up as minor banshees based on their shrieks.  In a Mediterranean campaign, they might be the spawn of the beheaded Medusa.  They fit perfectly into an Asian-influenced setting right along with the body-abandoning penanggalen and manananggal.  Gothic horror?  They’re a vampire’s minions.  Aliens-style bug hunt?  A vargouille-kissed militiaman’s metamorphosis is arrested by dawn…but by nightfall he is back among friends and family when the transformation hits. Steampunk or New Weird fantasy?  They nest under bridges and near crematoriums, lapping up the entropic energies of the sparkrail power stations.  You get the idea.  And since they’re from another plane, following a vargouille back to its lair might take you to another realm entirely…

Adventurers come across a dark folk smuggling party.  The dark stalker leading the gang wastes no time with parley.  Instead he hurls a wriggling bag of somethings at the interfering adventurers and then flees.  The bag bursts as it lands, and out spills a cluster of enraged vargouilles who attack the first creatures they see.

A hag is determined to claim her changeling daughter, currently sweeping the floors of her foster parents’ inn.  On a blustery winter night the hag strikes, unleashing vargouilles harvested from the local cemetery to strike at the inn.  With the roads impassible and dawn far away, it’s a race against time as adventurers try to stop the vargouilles before the entire household and its guests are consumed.  In the course of the investigation, several of the guests turn out to be more than they appear as well…

Gloomtown is a large Shadow Plane settlement that borders the Realm of Despair.  Populated by fetchlings, night gnomes, and oracles and div callers of many races, it is a trading town where no deal ever goes as smoothly as it should, and where the down and out are left behind to drown their sorrows. Most never live long enough for said drowning to take place—vargouilles are common in Gloomtown, nesting in carnivorous trees by day and hunting by night.  They make short work of the unwary, and the Plane of Shadow offers little light to arrest the transformation of those they kiss.

Pathfinder Bestiary 272

That issue of Dungeon I mentioned is worth tracking down, by the way—it has a Shackled City Adventure Path installment, stats for the eponymous Evard (spoiler alert: black tentacles are involved), and a Freeport bonus adventure in the Polyhedron side of the mag.  Even that issue’s “Downer” is worth mentioning for a bit of Underdark surgery and a glimpse at one of the coolest bars this side of the Mos Eisley Cantina.

A great discussion about psychopomps is going on in yesterday’s comments (and is reminding me I need to get the delayed shinigami entry up).  See what folks are saying here.

Meanwhile, my pipes are frozen.  Again.  This winter is a thing.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Named after an Etruscan power of the afterlife, the vanth is one of the most iconic psychopomps: skeletal shape, black wings, bird mask, and, of course, a +1 adamantine scythe.  Vanths are found in the usual places, as well: gravesites, mausoleums, battlegrounds, etc.  (Though often they’re invisible—a good thing, since their fear aura leaves those under 10 Hit Dice shaken.)

What sets them apart is their sheer neutrality—no planar power, from angels to demons, is above a vanth’s suspicions—and their single-mindedness.  These psychopomps are so dedicated to harvesting souls that they will team up to fight astradaemons with more than double their Hit Dice.  Other deathly shepherds can be dealt with or distracted—a valkyrie might like a good fight or be persuaded to return a valiant hero to life, while a shinigami can sometimes be swayed or corrupted (being lawful means being part of a system, and that implies appeals processes, red tape, and sheer good ol’ corruption if you’re brazen enough to try it).  But vanths are beyond all such concerns…and when they deem it time to collect a soul, they allow nothing to get in the way.

A daemon pursues an adventuring party through a portal into Purgatory.  They are saved when a flock of vanths arrives to drive the daemon away.  Unfortunately, the daemon had one final trick up its sleeve: Anyone damaged by its melee attacks now appears dead to the spiritsense of a psychopomp.  As soon as the daemon is dealt with, the vanths turn on the unlucky members of the party, attempting to take escort them deeper into Death’s Realm.

The underworld of Port Holly is in uproar as rival factions attempt to find a “black bird” said to have been recovered from a templar order’s treasure ship.  The truth is even more outlandish: the black bird is no jewel-encrusted idol, but a casket containing a bound vanth.  The psychopomp is furious at its imprisonment and is anxious to get its treasure (a magic lamp containing the soul of an important templar) home to the Place of Judgment.  If freed, it will attack with fury for a handful of rounds, then attempt to escape back to Purgatory.

Shaymen Silverblade is a swashbuckling magus (with more than a little rogue in his past) whose exploits would make him famous all on his own.  But it is his sidekick, a skeletal vanth, that sets tongues wagging.  Having cheated death one too many times through various tricks and contingencies, Shaymen finally earned a personal visit from Purgatory.  His glib tongue must have been as quick as his blade, for the resulting deal he struck is now legend: that he would eschew all future resurrection attempts and surrender his soul willingly at his next demise—provided the vanth seeking his soul protected him until that time.  So now “the Silver Blade” has his “Sable Scythe” at his back, and his exploits have only gotten brasher.

Pathfinder Adventure Path #47 88–89 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 221

More on vanths can be found in Pathfinder Adventure Path #47: Ashes at Dawn.

Have a new radio show for your Monday!  Featuring Beck’s new track “Blue Moon,” the Hold Steady’s new track “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You,” and The Beards’ indescribable “You Should Consider Having Sex With a Bearded Man.”

(If the feed skips, let it fully load, then Save As an mp3 and enjoy in iTunes.  Link good till Friday, 1/31, at midnight.)

Friday, January 24, 2014


“Simba!”   —Noted vanara cleric

Vanaras date all the way back to the Hindu epics, and they migrated into 3.0 D&D in Oriental Adventures—part trickster, part mystic, mostly monkey.  Pathfinder’s vanaras continue in this vein; they’re presented in the Bestiary 3 and the Advanced Race Guide as the simian versions of Ewoks—treetop villages, rope bridges, lead by a cleric, oracle or monk, etc.—but with the bonus of a prehensile tail.  (The Advanced Race Guide also offers some variant races, monk archetypes, and other player options as well.)

Vanaras are a great “replacement” race—to make a campaign or locale instantly more exotic, you can easily swap them for halflings, gnomes, or elves.  They’re also fun to role-play—you can model them after everyone from the apes in Disney’s The Jungle Book, to Marvel’s Beast, DC’s Ultra-Humanite, or even your favorite kender.  (Not to mention the characters from a certain Planet of the Apes.)

As monkey-men, vanaras straddle the line between human and animal perfectly; they also straddle the line between wise man and fool, mystic and rogue, civilization and the jungle…and (thankfully rarely), the line between right and wrong.  The following adventure seeds detail a few of those rare malevolent exceptions.

An adventuring party is visiting a vanara treetop village when it receives the worst news: the charau-ka (see Pathfinder Adventure Path #40: Vaults of Madness) are coming.  The village wavers between resistance and flight when the decision is taken from them: the village cleric reveals himself to be allied to the evil ape-men’s demon patron, and he demands the party be handed over as a sacrifice.

The tree stranger vanaras of Torum are scholars (see the Advanced Race Guide); often they outnumber the human sages who attend the city’s many lectures.  But a rift has emerged between two rival schools, and previously peaceful academics now brawl in the streets.  The catalyst for the violence seems to be a document of questionable provenance and a ravishing vishkanya bard.

Vanaras are prized sailors on ships.  Unfortunately they also make fearsome pirates.  Between the earthbergs of Hearthome and Nightwood, the airship captain Sable raids at will.  Her specialty maneuver involves sending her ship into a barrel roll so that her agile crewmates can drop into the riggings of opponents’ ships.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 280

I knew all the craziness of this winter meant things were getting away from me, but I cannot believe I missed this show.  *forehead slam*  Should have bought tickets the second I heard about it.  Damn.  Meanwhile…

Happy birthday, Dungeons & Dragons.

I heard about Dungeons & Dragons from my first friend in Maryland, Vince, and first saw the early red box books (the one with the sorceress and the serpent) and the 1e Monster Manual over at my friend Kevin’s house, in the basement lair of his older brother.  I played my first game with a dude from my Cub Scout troop.  And eventually I would ask my parents to buy the Elmore cover red box Basic Set. 

Even more fatefully, I bought a copy of Best of “Dragon Magazine” Vol. III and Dragon Magazine #140 (another Elmore cover) sometime in fifth grade at the toy store in the mall. This began a love affair that would last (with a slight interruption in college, coinciding with some rough years for TSR and WotC) until the magazine ceased print production in the 300s.  I subscribed to Dungeon briefly in sixth or seventh grade (and now bitterly regret not keeping it up) but Dragon I never subscribed to as a kid—going into the hobby store to look for the new issue week after week was too much fun.

My playing has always been sporadic (going to private school, I lived far from any game-playing friends), but my reading never has.  I feel in love with D&D sourcebooks and gazetteers and box sets and snapped them up.  I stuck with D&D for familiarity and cash flow reasons, but I would steal glances at AD&D books as well—my middle school library accidentally got a copy of Forgotten Realms Adventures and I devoured ever page on the bus—and I tore through Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms and Dark Sun and Spelljammer novels at a terrifying pace.  We also weren’t allowed TV in the summers, and so I began to re-read my Dragon and Dungeon issues cover to cover and back...again, and again, and again.

College was the low point of my D&D engagement—TSR was in shambles and I had too much else to do, though I did get at least one summer campaign in with an elf cleric who got seduced by a weretiger in Ravenloft.  Then 3.0 happened just as I was entering grad school.  I resubscribed to Dragon and Dungeon, and for the first time I had money and time and wasn’t playing the neglected stepsystem and had neighbors to share books with.  So I bought the 3.0/3.5 books—lots of them—and I read and I talked and I played.  I even sent in two articles to Dragon: one got rejected, one (a barghest ecology) got returned asking for revisions, which stupidly I let slide due to a move and being disenchanted with the mandated “Ecology of” article format at the time.  Chalk it up to a low Wisdom score on my part.

I won’t get into my disenchantment with 4e—I had just stopped DJing professionally and was at a career crossroads, and I just had a sense that I didn’t have the heart for a new system.  Then Paizo began releasing Pathfinder and I was blown away.  I peeked at the 4e books…didn’t like what I saw…bought one or two and really didn’t like what I saw…and pretty much walked away.  I had plenty of holes in my 3.0/3.5 collection to fill, and new material coming from Pathfinder every month.  Soon I even stumbled upon a Pathfinder gaming group near work and played through most of Age of Worms, a combination of Shackled City and Kingmaker, and a few homebrews.  Pathfinder was all the D&D I needed.  I was set.

That said, D&D has a huge share of my imagination, my bookshelf, my hours of reading, and my memories of friends.  (I wouldn’t spend a week recommending decade-old D&D books to my Pathfinder readers if I didn’t.)  The debt I owe to Gary Gygax and everyone who came after him—especially to Roger Moore, Bruce Heard, Barbara Young, and Ed Greenwood—is huge.  They took me to worlds I never knew existed.

So happy 40th birthday this weekend, Dungeons & Dragons.  Funnily enough, it feels like I’m saying happy birthday to myself.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Vampiric Mist

The vampiric mist is one of the game’s faux vampires: a blood-draining creature whose depredations might make your PCs fear the worst.  All the better, then, that these mists are CR 3—your experienced players will be even more scared than your newbs if they think you’re throwing a vampire at them at only 2nd or 3rd level…

I also dig that vampiric mists are aberrations, not undead or elementals (and speak Aklo to boot).  That means they might not just be random menaces, but actually part of some larger aberrant plan…

A ghost ship coasts into Oarlock Bay, carrying little but rotted stores, rumors of treasure…and rats.  Hundreds and hundreds of inbred, cannibalistic rats.  The miasma of squalor and death also attracts a vampiric mist.  Should adventurers encounter it before they have cleared out most of the vermin, they may have a difficult time cornering the blood-gorged aberration.

Narthex Theological College is under assault by a vampire!  At least, that’s what the head chaplain and inquisitors believe.  As more blood-drained brethren and acolyte corpses appear, the accusations begin to fly.  Already several young suspects have been staked through the heart, yet the attacks have not abated.  And the two brothers who did live to tell of being attacked lost faith after their prayers and positive energy failed to affect the “spirit.”  Worse yet, the chaplain’s fearful insistence on burying the unjustly accused victims on unconsecrated ground could create an undead problem where none currently exists.

A party overhears a voonith speaking in Aklo, and the shocked other-dimensional beast offers to guide them through the swamp.  The offer is actually nothing more than a ruse to deliver them to a gang of vampiric mists.  Betraying metal-bound humans to sink in quicksand while bleeding to death appeals to the voonith’s rather singular sense of humor.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 277

Obviously that first seed was ripped from today’s headlines.

Readers respond!  I’m a hair too old, but my brother will certainly appreciate ohgodhesloose reminding us of Kingdom of Loathing’s many vampire species.  That rogue dailycharacteroption writes “Clan Malkavian for life!”—proving that having a compelling blog does not make you sane; I recommend never giving him your crayons.  And dr-archville unpacks Ravenloft vampires for us in detail.  I never got into Ravenloft much except for a handful of novels and one summer campaign in college, so I appreciate it!

Speaking of college and headlines, this guy Matt lived one suite over from me freshman year, and we shared a bathroom.  Depending on your point of view, he must be one of the luckiest or unluckiest journalists in the world—first he was at Ground Zero for Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman, and now this.  …Let’s just say it’s been a rather odd day on my Twitter feed.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


The vampire is a little-known creature of folklore that…

*Shelf above Patch’s head collapses, spilling down copies of Paizo’s Classic Horrors Revisited and Rule of Fear and the Carrion Crown Adventure Path and TSR’s Ravenloft box set and WotC’s Libris Mortis and some Sengir Vampire Magic cards and White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem and Vampire: The Dark Ages and Clanbook: Ventrue and some Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs and Innovation’s Interview with the Vampire comics and a pile of Jim Butcher audiobooks and…*

…Yeeeeahhh, you know what a vampire is, and just how many ways you can spin them. Seriously, even dragons haven’t gotten as much press.

I do like the idea of deciding what your vampires will be like early in the campaign, so you don’t immediately fall into Dracula or Lestat paradigms unless you want to.  I really like, for instance, Jim Butcher’s take on them in The Dresden Files novels: four Courts of vampires, one of which has a couple of squabbling but not overly complicated houses.  It’s nice and tidy and works well for that world.  A similar structure might work in yours, with bloodlines or courts being delineated by species (vampire, nosferatu, vetala, etc.) or special abilities (one family might turn into wolves, another might excel at sorcery).  Also, the genesis of vampires might come from one or several sources (a god’s curse, a devil’s blessing, corrupted fey, arcane experimentation, and so on).

And while I haven’t spent enough time with Mythic Adventures yet to say much about mythic monsters in this blog (I didn’t for instance, mention the mythic treant or troll), I probably shouldn’t let this opportunity go by to mention that a mythic vampire of the 10th rank can drain blood…from 30 feet away.  Oh, and blot out the sun.  For a mile in any direction.  You’re welcome.

The Pharaoh of Dusk delights in using the preconceptions of would-be hunters against them.  Despite his tightly wrapped form, the undead king is no mummy at all, but a vampire.  His “grave wrappings” are actually strips of flesh flayed from the ghouls, ghasts, and ghuls foolish enough to move threaten his feeding grounds.

Quetzatlaka the White Death moves from village to village in the mountain realm of Tutlan, sometimes using his powers to carve himself a place in society, other times existing in the surrounding forest like a fell force of nature.  His swarm form is a flock of bone-white albino parrots with scything beaks.  He fears couatls and will pay a king’s ransom for evidence of one’s death.

Fey vampires are some of the most terrifying undead, all the more so because their dual natures complement each other so well.  Vivyanka is a vampire rusalka who lairs in the Darkgate Grotto.  She specializes in turning swan maidens into her spawn and has ties to the svartalfar assassins of Shriek Cavern far below.

—Pathfinder Bestiary 270–271

No, I do not actually have all those books and media.  (Though I wish I did.)  And those Innovation adaptations of Anne Rice’s landmark novel are gorgeous.  (Hand-painted panels!)

Also don’t forget F. Wesley Schneider’s chapter in Classic Horrors Revisited for a thematic look at vampires in Pathfinder, along with variants and even more special abilities (including the swarm form, which you know you totally want to use).  After that, hit the used bookstore for the 3.5 tome Libris Mortis.  After that, White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade hardbacks.  So much deliciousness there.  Look for Dark Ages in particular.  I know a lot of serious Vampire players love the Requiem reboot, but the sheer sprawling mythologies and monsters of the old World of Darkness seem like they’re right up a Pathfinder fan’s alley.

(I’ve mentioned this before: No matter how much I talk and write about Pathfinder or D&D, I actually have more time behind the table as a Vampire player, courtesy of some neighbors.  I was Clan Ventrue, naturally—it’s the only civilized choice.  Just make sure you make friends with some sorcerers if you’re going to play Gehenna.)

Finally, I should have linked to the Wikipedia page on valkyries yesterday; jenna-darknight had some great notes on the subject as well.


I could have sworn I posted this yesterday, but apparently I didn't.  Apologies!

Figures from Norse mythology, valkyries “scour the battlefields of the Material Plane for warriors of great prowess and legendary renown,” according to the Bestiary 3.  All well and good.  They also “claim the soul of the slain or aid the living to continue the fight.”

And that’s where the problems come in, for all kinds of reasons.  Because valkyries are not angels.  They’re not interested protecting or claiming the good; these chaotic neutral maids are interested in the mighty and the valiant.  Sometimes that will make them allies of your PCs, but it might just as easily set them at odds.

For instance, say the PCs are fighting or have just killed a hated enemy when a valkyrie appears.  If it was a fair fight, the valkyrie might honor them for their victory or collect the slain soul and depart.  But say they got lucky punching above their weight class...or they ganged up on their enemy…or used a dirty trick to make him vulnerable…or he was just a better servant of the gods of battle than the PCs are.  A valkyrie isn’t about to let some upstart mercenaries and tomb robbers dishonor this man…and so she’s liable to heal or give the breath of life to the enemy your PCs just worked so hard to kill.

Or say the PCs are mighty, but one of them falls.  The manifesting valkyrie might not be so keen to allow the PCs’ resurrection. If there is a place reserved for him in Odin’s hall, she’s not about to keep the Allfather waiting.  She will attempt to claim the soul over and above the rest of the party’s objections.

The point is, these are women who serve battle first, might second, and honor third.  When push comes to shove, they’ll display the rough benevolence of grizzled veterans—they’re not demons, and they prize courage and valor—but their concerns are those of another realm, and PCs had best get used to that fact.

Obviously, you can divorce valkyries from their Norse heritage and sprinkle them throughout your multiverse—they could be attending dervishes and aboriginals as easy as sea raiders.  Their preference for flying mounts can lead to interesting encounter combos, as can their natural alignment and choice of patron deity.  A valkyrie might be found in the company of an orc paragon, a demon, a norn, an azata, a fey lord, and King Arthur’s spirit all in the same night—and all while riding an imperial foo lion.  So next time you’re gambling in a planar bar, speak politely to the woman with the feathered helm—she might have unlikely friends.

A party’s warrior is cut down by a demon and then raised—but not before an Abyssal parasite latches onto his soul.  A valkyrie arrives, determined to save the valiant soul by carving out the hitchhiking outsider…but she’s not too concerned about what that would do to the warrior’s body or his chances at a second resurrection.

Dyania left her sisters and hung up her spear to marry Regus, the rogue she found pilfering a mythic troll’s treasure cave.  Regus comes out of retirement for one last score but runs afoul of adventurers…and should they be too rough with him, Dyania will come out of retirement to be rough with them.

Valkyries serving the Lady of Battle ride pegasi or white dragon horses.  Valkyries serving the Wrestler ride unfettered eidolons whose serpentine bodies emulate their lords’ skill at grappling.  Valkyries who serve the Slaughterlord ride ash-gray dragon horses or nightmares.  One of their company is always an Advanced ghast, left behind to consume the bodies of dead warriors so that their spirits remain bound to the Slaughterlord’s service.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 277

Radio stuff!  Last week I took off my show because of the flood in my basement…but then ended up popping by artisticlicensetokill’s Nerd Connection, where naturally we talked about The Daily Bestiary.  Sadly I completely spaced and failed to either record the show for myself or post about it here.  If you’d like AL2K to have me back on, shoot her or me a message and we’ll find another time.

Anyway, this week I was back on my usual time.  There’s still some dead air at the start of the file because the stream ripper is being antsy, but download, skip ahead three minutes and enjoy.

(Link good till Friday, 1/24, at midnight.  If the feed skips, Save As an mp3 and enjoy in iTunes.)

For bonus fun, listen to me do the weather.  Notice no mention of snow.  That’s how crazy-fast this storm developed—Saturday we had no clue; today we’ve gotten almost seven inches so far…

Monday, January 20, 2014


Introduced all the way back in Paizo’s 3.5 era, urdefhans sprang from the pages of Into the Darklands to help people the lowest of Golarion’s subterranean realms.  Creations of the daemons—ironically, to be their allies in destroying all mortal life—urdefhans are now native to the Material Plane, eager to drain the blood of or otherwise murder all of existence.

An urdefhan has lots to recommend it as a creepy bad guy—transparent skin, an iconic sword (take that, githyanki!), a bite that drains blood and strength (and makes the skin around the wound translucent!), and, when push comes to shove, the ability to commit suicide by activating its daemonic pact, bursting in an explosion of negative energy as if it had triggered a giant supernatural lysosome.  Oh, and riding giant undead bats doesn’t hurt either.  Plus while urdefhans are only CR 3, given how far they are below the surface, you can imagine most acquire class levels to deal with their equally dangerous and horrible neighbors. 

So all in all, a worthy new race of evil to stow beneath your campaign world.  Since they want to extinguish all life, coming up with encounter motivations isn’t hard—nine times out of 10, they want to kill the party.

That said, if you’ve got a group that likes in-character role-play, it’s worth it to find an excuse for them to ally with or otherwise coexist among urdefhans, just to you can spend some time with them at the gaming table.  (There’s precedent in the Serpent Skull Adventure Path, in fact.  If anything, urdefhans are easier to deal with than drow, once you prove you’re no victim, because they might actually keep their word for a while.)  Because these guys are weird, and trying to imagine what their society is like is fascinating.  How do you live in a culture that explicitly serves death? Where daemonic half-fiends are probably a common sight and undeath is probably considered a viable career option—perhaps even a preferable one?  How does a society balance the desire to constantly war against the difficult of propagating the species with a nearly sterile population?  Do they rush into battle madly or carefully husband their lives and resources?  Do they serve all the horsemen equally or favor one over the others?  (Or do they mourn the lost Fifth Horseman that created them?) 

I have so many questions.

But hey, if your party never gets to that level of intimacy with the urdefhans, don’t stress it.  There are rhoka swords to clash with, after all!

The werebat Axiol Snub-Nose promises to help smuggle a party of surface adventurers out of a drow mushroom plantation.  The plan is to hide the overlanders in sacks of morels, then load them onto giant bats for shipping.  But urdefhans net the bats, intending to use them for more skaveling breeding stock, and round up Axiol and the party as well.  Is the werebat a victim or was this his plan all along?

An urdefhan colony long devoted to the Horseman of War was recently decimated after a protracted war against the caulborn of the Sunken Spine.  This caused an upswing in the colony’s worship of the Horseman of Pestilence, whose followers moved into the religious and political vacuum.  The remaining urdefhans have already begun to chafe under the new order—though they honor the Lingering Demise’s end goals, they resent the foulness and discomfort of living constantly surrounded by—and infected with—corruption and disease.  This time of upheaval creates excellent opportunities for an alliance with one faction or the other...or perhaps to wipe the colony out altogether…

Crusaders have been abducted!  Worse yet, they’ve been taken over the border into Charon’s Rest—a land like no other, where urdefhans walk in the surface world, ruling over a terrified populace with their half-daemon, vampire, and ghoul allies.  Interestingly, the urdefhan Captain of the Gates has no knowledge of the abduction and will give any would-be rescuers leave to enter.  (Or course, whether other urdefhans will honor the passport is another story entirely.)  And following the trail will lead to another mystery: moon-beasts and other aberrations are gaining a foothold in Charon’s Rest right under the urdefhans’ translucent noses…

Into the Darklands 60–61 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 276

We’re back to adventure seeds!  Are you excited?  I’m excited.  But man, last week was fun for me!  (Mmmm…sourcebooks.)  Hopefully for you, too.