Friday, December 26, 2014


A patchen is a hate-filled, horrifying creature with—

Wait, I got that wrong.

A fachen is a hate-filled, horrifying creature with one eye, one arm, one leg, and one mouth full of terrifying teeth.  (Seriously, just looking at it risks a fear effect.)  It is a creature out of a campfire tale—the cautionary variety, where the child who strays off the path doesn't make it out alive.

While Paizo’s fachens are aberrations, they come from Scottish folklore, and fey-themed adventures set in the highlands and burrens (or just over into the Otherworld) are still probably the most natural fit for fachens.  (And if you need to beef up the CR, the fey creature template wouldn’t be a bad way to go.)  But I could easily see them in a Gothic horror campaign as well (particularly if you need a good nighttime scare for a party that’s not yet up to werewolves and dullahans) or in a truly weird underdark (see the “Azruverda” and “Dossenus” entries for more in that vein).

I mention faeries and fairy tales a lot in this blog—at least three times already just this entry—but I rarely talk about fables.  Thanks to their nearly impossible forms, there’s a surreality about fachens that recalls The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Gulliver’s Travels, and the Earthsea novels.  I’m not suggesting your adventures should be fables themselves—99% of the time adventures should serve the group, not some lesson or allegory—but if you’re looking for that more magical, free-floating, anything-might-be-on-the-next-island feel, fachens are a perfect way to go.

A pukwudgie has stolen Judge Stormtower’s infant son.  The judge turns some adventurers out of prison to find his heir before the boy is consumed.  The crafty pukwudgie makes sure his escape route intrudes on a fachen’s territory, expecting that the hate-filled beast will make short work of any pursuers.

A wise woman foretells that adventures will “face a fear that is not their fear nor their face” after following “in the footsteps of a man who has never walked.”  At the next island they come to, a fachen strikes.  Hidden among the fachen’s treasure is a single magical boot that will nevertheless prove useful as the party’s journey progresses.

Fachens who dwell in an area long enough will be assigned a name and personality by the locals.  Hoppin’ Jax haunts at least three different crossroads, drawn to the cries of lawbreakers staked there to die of exposure.  (As he mostly attacks criminals and travelers, the locals regard him almost fondly, though still with a shudder and the sign against evil.)  The Blade of Bile hacked up three King’s Guards last spring; his pursuers lost him down the Stone Giant Stairs and the bounty on his head is as yet unclaimed.  The orchard-destroying Old Marg was finally brought down by hunters a few years back after it killed the earl’s prize peacocks.  Yesterday morning a fresh peacock body was found, slain exactly the same way as Old Marg used to…

Pathfinder Adventure Path #63 88–89 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 95

Pathfinder Adventure Path #63: The Asylum Stone has the full entry on fachens.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Executioner’s Hood, Lurker Above & Trapper

One of the things that sets Pathfinder authors apart is their ability to synthesize (a talent I’ve mentioned here before) and rationalize.  There are a lot of writers and publishers out there who owe their existence to one edition or another of the world’s oldest role-playing game, and almost all of them try to recapture certain elements of the original dungeon crawl experience.  But while these other publishers seem to be obsessed with 1e rule tweaks and TPK potential, Pathfinder writers actually spend time making those dungeon crawls make sense. 

So where you once had three (admittedly classic) monsters—the executioners hood, lurker above, and trapper—that were all vaguely similar ambush predators, Misfit Monsters Redeemed’s Colin McComb saw them as three stages in the life cycle of one monster: the lurking ray.  That makes sense!  Not only that, it’s elegant.  Suddenly three semi-believable monsters become one totally plausible species.  Suddenly dungeon ecosystems are more rational places.  And suddenly your PCs have even more to fear.

The ancient temples on Polau are rumored to be haunted, and the natives give them a wide berth as well.  Those who come too near are sometimes found headless; more often than not, they are not found at all.  It turns out that the temples are positively infested with lurking rays, particularly lurkers above.  Able to hunt in the jungle by night and retreat to the temples during the day, these manta-like creatures grow fat and powerful at every stage of their life cycle.

A social club for magi and musketeers features an ornate rug that is actually a trapper held in magical stasis.  The boisterous members take little notice of the rug, but if the club’s vaults are ever robbed, the stasis ends and the trapper will attempt to consume whoever passes through—ideally (but not necessarily) the thief.

A natural stone bridge over an underground river hides an executioner’s hood.  When raft- or skiff-going travelers get hung up on the rocks beneath the bridge, the hood strikes.  Drow who know about the bridge’s predator sometimes hang truculent slaves there.  When the slaves’ families go to retrieve the bodies, they themselves often fall prey to the executioner’s hood.

Misfit Monsters Redeemed 46–51 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 186–187

See more on the lurking ray in Misfit Monsters Redeemed.

I spent much of today watching Island Hunters on HGTV.  I think it shows in that first adventure seed.

And yeah, I totally buy the lurking ray’s life cycle of young executioner’s hoods growing into male lurkers above and female trappers.  If Schistosoma in our world can sustain a life cycle that involves snails and humans, with puddles as a vector for infection, lurking rays seem downright mundane.

If Christmas is your thing, I hope it was merry; if not, I hope it was awesome in whatever way you wanted it to be.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind…

King of the faeries, king of the alder trees, or the origin of the Harlequin figure—the erlking of myth may be all these things and more.  And then there’s the dark child-killer of Goethe’s poem and Franz Schubert’s classic Opus 1…which if you've ever seen a night episode of Tiny Toons, you already know all about.

Paizo’s erlking is a more straight-up defender of the woodlands, an angelic fey being with leafed wings instead of feathers who is a blur (or rather, a blur) on the battlefield.  On his own he is formidable, with cold iron and ironwood weapons, bleed damage, and humanoids as his favored enemies.  He is also a tactician who can move the very earth, animate plants and summon nature’s allies to his cause, and lead the centaurs, satyrs, and treants that flock to his banner (not to mention any hamadryad consorts he might have, along with their courts).

But never fear…the potential for that dark child-killer is still there.  Tucked away in his spell list are black tentacles and finger of death…not your standard repertoire for a defender of nature.  And his deflection vs. evil/protection from evil could just as easily be against good.  So if you want a “king of the forest” per the Bestiary 4, you have it.  If you want “the aggressive, dangerous, and vengeful aspect of the wilds,” you have it.  And if you want Goethe…that finger of death fires 1/day…

Having done a hamadryad a great service, adventurers receive a boon from an erlking that they may travel through his lands unimpeded.  This magical shortcut has proved invaluable before.  But now as they use the faerie king’s roads in a race against their enemy, the erlking himself appears to accuse them of trespassing.  A powerful, bloated Advanced hyakume has stolen the erlking’s memory of the boon, and to proceed the adventurers must fight the fey or retrieve the stolen recollection.

An erlking has a mighty artifact: a cauldron that will raise the dead.  If adventurers attempt to steal it, they must not only defeat the tunche the erlking has set to guard it, but also prevent the hasted erlking from climbing inside it.  Should the fey king slay himself inside the cauldron, he will destroy it irrevocably.

When colossi fight, the land loses.  Adventurers hurry to find the last components to awaken a stone colossus before a rampaging flesh colossus and a necromancer’s army destroy the nation.  But just as the adventurers complete the ritual, an army of fey and woodland folk attack, led by an erlking determined to cripple both sides before his beloved forest is destroyed.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 94

Before the Bestiary 4 came out, I used references to the mythological erlkings at least twice before.  Also note the connection to the Mabinogion in the second adventure seed.  (Erlkings are kings of alder trees –> Alders are associated with Bran –> Bran once owned just such a cauldron that Efnysien would go on to destroy –> Adventure seed –> Profit!)  (And to Metroplex in the third…transformation cogs, anyone?)

One final thing I love about these erlkings: their use and mastery of ironwood weapons and armor.  I grew up on the metal-loathing druids of “basic” D&D, especially the druidic knights of Robrenn from Dragon Magazine #177, and Paizo’s erlkings harken back to that magical issue.

Need Christmas music for tomorrow?  Nudge, nudge.

Finally, I have to thank you all for the early Christmas gift: 2,000 Tumblr followers!  For a text-only blog, that’s huge.  Not only that, it's double where we were as recently as July.  1,000 followers in only 6 months?  You guys are great.  Again, thank you—and keep sharing!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Emperor Walrus & Walrus

The largest of the pinnipeds, walruses are an important source of meat and blubber (and ivory for more merciless parties).  They also make excellent animal companions in coastal campaigns. 

The Gargantuan emperor walruses…well they’re on another scale altogether.  But something has to eat all those shark-eating crabs, right?

A wikkawak witch doctor takes walrus form to evade capture, courtesy of a magical belt.  Her disguise is not perfect however, thanks to a blotch over one eye in both forms.  But to male walruses she appears as one of their herd, and they will rise to her defense while she makes her escape.

Adventurers take advantage of a polar ice bridge to lead a beleaguered people to new lands.  Once the ice bridge melts, the folk will finally be safe from their enemies.  But along a particularly thin patch, they arouse the ire of an emperor walrus herd.  The great beasts lumber to attack.  Worse yet, their bulk threatens to crack the ice.  Adventurers need to calm or subdue the beasts before they destroy a major section of the bridge.  Particularly observant adventurers may also discover later that the emperor walruses seem to have focused their rage on a certain family clan long rumored to be tieflings.

In order to get help from a shaman adept in the ways of the Spirit World, adventurers must first bring her “a gift”—emperor walrus ivory.  She claims she needs the ivory to construct a magical sledge.  In truth, she is constructing a powerful tupilaq she intends for dark purposes…and the doll’s first victims will be the adventurers, so no one can connect her to the difficult-to-obtain ivory.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 271

Among the scholars who have weighed in on walruses: one J.R.R. Tolkien.

Something seems off in the Bestiary 4 description of the emperor walrus, given that a 45-foot-long elasmosaurus is only Huge but a 20-foot long male emperor walrus is Gargantuan.  Maybe because of its bulk?  But that’s the kind of nitpicking I leave to the message boards…the point is, it’s ginormous!

Monday, December 22, 2014


Looking for an explanation for that impossible dungeon or demiplane?  Does your subterranean world need a maker?  Do you long to recreate Marvel stories of beings like the Celestials, the Collector, or the Beyonder in a fantasy context?  The elohim is your monster.

An elohim’s drive to experiment and tinker with environments almost inevitably means that it’ll come into conflict with adventurers, at least at first.  And with an outlook so alien that the neutral alignment is only a rough approximation, getting the outsider to understand the consequences of its actions may be difficult for heroes stuck in the mortal good-evil/law-chaos frameworks.

One thing’s for sure though: any creature with the ability to terraform, create demiplane and create life(!!!) is by definition truly mythic…perhaps nigh unto a god.  How will your PCs react to that kind of power…or brazenness?

Stellar explorers widely assume that the asteroid known as the Honeycomb is a formian outpost, given its hivelike appearance (and the fact that no ship to enter it has ever returned).  In truth, the asteroid belongs to a quite different insectile being: an elohim.  The mythic outsider has painstakingly constructed the asteroid as a base for its experiments, with each chamber of the Honeycomb featuring its own biome.  Some of the lost ships’ crews may be found here as part of the exhibits.

A god is kept alive only by the prayers of his worshippers, who are in turn sustained in an artificial vault deep in the earth.  A mythic xiomorn (see The Emerald Spire Superdungeon) has kept them there, preserved from the enemies that overran the rest of their culture millennia ago.  But when a curious elohim begins to tamper with the xiomorn’s domains, the outraged earth creature threatens to destroy his works rather than seem them ruined.  The weakened god begs a powerful band of adventurers to save his people—and by extension himself—before the mythic meddlers snuff them out altogether in their power struggle.

Island ecosystems are fragile.  Flying island ecosystems, even more so.  When creatures like azure gliders, tumblespikes, and dustshroud rabbits (see Pathfinder Adventure Path  #85: Fires of Creation) begin appearing on Aerius, adventurers are inspired to seek the cause.  Their travels take them to lands they never imagined—other flying islands, the dead-haunted surface, the Belowworld, the Great Sea, and even other planes.  Each adventure they find stranger wonders and evidence of tampering, from owlbears and kamadans to worms that walk and worse.  It is from some of these worms that walk—monks who perch decaying pillars of filth to test themselves against the baking sun—that they are pointed to the elohim whose grand designs are responsible…and who just might save or rebreak the world.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 86

Okay, this is probably my personal obsession with 1990s Dragon Magazine talking, but elohim remind me an awful lot of the FriNn.

Any other candidates for what inspired the elohim?  I feel like there’s some obvious Lovecraftian or Kirby/Ditko inspiration I’m blanking on.  (I blame the season.  Eggnog makes me happy but fat and stupid.)

Speaking of which, I’d love to hear from readers who dig the elohim.  I know that in comics, stories of weird interstellar manipulators and secret lands often leave me cold.  (I dropped Hickman’s run on Avengers for just that reason.)  I’d love to hear from those of you who really get into such stories (any Quasar fans in the house?), and how you might use the elohim.

Finally, the word “elohim” means god or gods…and that grammatically ambiguity gets you deep into the fascinating origins of Judaism and Christianity.  See also monolatrism.

It’s not Christmas until you’ve listened to my Christmas radio show!  Now with musical Easter eggs for Jews!

…The irony of calling anything for Jews “Easter eggs” is not lost on me.

(Also the main Easter egg is the moment around minute 7:10 where I discover one of the RCA cables is out. D’oh!)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Elder Thing

Thank goodness the major Lovecraftian races all hate each other.  Otherwise humanity would be doomed.  (Even sooner than it already is, I mean.)

Elder things, for instance, are an ancient, radially symmetrical race of beings who move from world to world, hibernating during their interplanetary journeys and waking to build great cities both on land and under the sea.  They might have left a more lasting mark if they hadn’t also created the shoggoths as a servitor race.  These monsters eventually rebelled, neatly illustrating why you should never create a CR 19 ooze servant when you’re a CR 5 aberration.  But as they “possess a boundless capacity for war and egotism,” according to the Bestiary 4, they’re not likely to learn that lesson any time soon. 

Speaking of that boundless capacity for war, they are also enemies of the aboleths, mi-go, star-spawn of Cthulhu, and the yithians.  All these factors, along with their clumsy and slow limited starflight, have curtailed their spread.  (According to Wikipedia, they also don’t like ice ages.)  But you have to guess that any race hated by manipulative psionic fish, intelligent fungi, time-travelling super-intelligences, and the children of Cthulhu himself probably isn’t going to be besties with the human race either.

Snow elves explore a domed crystal city not unlike their own.  Their meddling awakens the hibernating elder things within, as well as darker threats—including an immature and hibernation-weakened (but still quite deadly) shoggoth.  If the elves do not seal up the strange city their own civilization might be doomed.  But as the initial explorers accidentally brought russet mold spores back with them, they have their own problems to deal with first.  Though it shames them to admit it, the snow elves need outside help—possibly even from revolting non-elves.

The subterranean city of Dez Muthoin features an unusual proprietor of magic items: an elder thing spellcaster.  It specializes in headgear, cloaks, and other items it cannot wear, keeping useful rings, rods, and similar treasures for itself.  Its familiar is a disturbing ratling who keeps a close eye on newcomers whose magical gear the elder thing may wish to purchase…or steal.

A duergar vampire is an unusual thing, even in the largest spaceport in the cluster.  His request isn’t: He seeks bounty hunters to kill an elder thing.  All dwarves hate the terraforming colonizers, so that’s no surprise.  But that he’s willing to hire living agents straight up, with no domination…?  Well, that’s a scenario that smells of plotting and mystery, make no mistake.  Might even be worth taking the contract just to find out why this particular elder thing, why this dead dwarf, and why now, when fulfilling the contract means running through the 3rd Couatl Fleet blockade to a godsdamned mummy world…?

Pathfinder Adventure Path #46 82–83 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 85

The full entry on elder things can be found in Pathfinder Adventure Path #46: Wake of the Watcher.

Speaking of which, I’m not a huge Gothic horror fan, but I end up recommending Carrion Crown Adventure Path issues a lot simply because they’re useful.  (The first two issues, for instance, have a lot of low-level monsters, variants monsters, and haunts.  And who wants to stat up werewolves or vampires when you can just steal them wholesale from PAP #45 and #47?)  So if you’re looking for how Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones and Outer Gods fit into Golarion, PAP #46 is the issue to turn to.

Regarding einherjar, ohgodhesloose has plenty more to say…including comparing them to Games Workshop’s vaunted Space Marines…

It is really weird to have a blog apparently popular enough for fake blogs to rip off my content.  But it makes Googling myself more interesting.  Wait, no, I meant annoying.  (The best way to push imposter sites down in the rankings?  Recommend The Daily Bestiary on your favorite message boards.)

By the way, I’ll be doing my annual holiday music show (yeah, it’s mostly Christmas tunes, but I try) tomorrow morning live from 10 AM to noon, U.S. Eastern.  Tune in!

Thursday, December 18, 2014


When a valkyrie chooses a soul, it is promoted above the rank of a mere petitioner.  These warriors of prowess and valor become the einherjar, champions for the gods across the multiverse.  Naturally these outsiders are based off of Norse myths of Odin’s warriors fighting and drinking the day away in Valhalla, but einherjar in your campaign could serve almost any god in any culture.  Change their weapons and call them soldiers of the sun or celestial blades or what have you—they’ll be just as indomitable either way. 

Then again, there’s something fun about vikings just being that much more hardcore than everyone else.  When you’re born in a land of giants and linnorms, you can’t help but be larger than life, even in death.

Interestingly, in addition to their other powers of rage and regeneration and so on, einherjar have deathwatch running constantly.  Given that they got where they are thanks to glorious death in battle, don’t expect this will make them go easy on your wounded character.  If anything, they’re likely to think slaying your PC is doing her a favor, since she’ll be that much more likely to join them in the afterlife.

Traveling through a faerie glade, adventurers are stopped by a stag-horned man sitting before a bountiful heroes’ feast.  Those who refuse his invitation receive a sad shake of the head and find the way to their next challenge overrun with brambles and thorns.  Those who accept receive the full benefits of the spell and pick up some intriguing gossip and lore from their host as well.  But they then must face the antlered einherji in combat before they journey onwards, or feel the food turn to poison and curses in their bellies.

The Days of Myth bring old tales alive.  Overnight the great lake of Glimmermere becomes a salty sea.  Longships rowed by skeletal champions and helmed by seven-foot-tall giants are spotted on the horizon.  Adventurers must arrange a defense against the regenerating einherjar and their undead crews before they can begin exploring their newly strange world.

Halfling souls are destined for the hills of Vanaheim.  But one halfling is determined to be reborn in Valhalla, even if that means directly appealing to the gods themselves.  Before he can get an audience with the valkyries, let alone Wōden himself, he and his companions will have to travel to Ásgarðr and face some of the deathless einherjar he so longs to be.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 84

3.0/3.5 fans can find a version of the einherjar in Deities and Demigods; they serve the Norse pantheon and live in Ysgard in the Great Wheel cosmology.  I’m sure there were plenty of mentions in older editions too.

Ooh, that beheaded one, that's delightful. I'm definitely going to include that at some point in my campaign.


On another note, I was just wondering what your plans are when you finish up Bestiary 4?  Assuming there isn't another Bestiary out by then (if there is I guess that kind of puts this question off for a bit :P) will you end the blog or move on to other monsters from other sources?

No idea!  Honestly I’m lucky another one didn't come out this year (though the Monster Codex is gorgeous—I’ll have more to say about that once my copy gets shipped from out West).  I’m sure another Bestiary will come out down the road, and either way I’ll play it by ear.  I love doing this blog, but at that same time there are other avenues to explore that can be tough to balance with a daily blog and a demanding career.  I’d love to write about/invent planar locations…I’d like to review/look back at old issues of Dragon Magazine…and I’d like to maybe really dig into creating some Pathfinder mini-campaigns in the style of early-2000s Polyhedron (particularly if I could find the right partners to maybe put that work into some kind of product form).  And it’s also been way too long since I last published any fiction, and that need to happen. 

Trust me that you 1900+ readers are part of that decision.  The best way to tell me to keep writing this blog is to tell me to keep writing this blog the way you already do—with likes, reblogs, and comments.  They best way to tell me to explore other things is to send me comments or emails (spelled out to avoid spam spiders: dailybestiary [at] gmail [dot] com) to that effect as well.  Gertrude Stein said, “I am writing for myself and strangers.”  As long as I am writing for myself I am faithful I will find an audience, but I’m always excited to hear what you delightful strangers are hungry for as well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ectoplasmic Creature

Not all spirits are lucky enough to return to a body, or have the strength of will to become a ghost or spectre.  Ectoplasmic creatures are near-mindless undead whose only form is the gooey ectoplasm that clings to them, a remnant of their souls’ time on the Ethereal Plane.  That’s still plenty enough form to do some damage, though, especially to low-level parties.  (And if you ever wanted Slimer to cause real havoc, this is your monster.)

After a lab accident burned down Findarren Olaf’s lodging house, he was haunted by the ectoplasmic forms of the other boarders who did not survive the blaze.  Now he lives in an abandoned watchtower, where 20-foot-thick walls keep the angry ectoplasmic creatures at bay.  When a particularly persistent shade phase-lurches past his defenses, he seeks adventurers to help him drive off the undead and set their souls to rest.

A vile cult occupies a desecrated temple.  Among the surprises they've left for any would-be crusaders is a baptismal font apparently filled with oil.  Anyone who investigates more closely finds that the oil is actually ectoplasm—causing a patrol of ectoplasmic beheaded (all that’s left of the cult’s many victims) to slurp out of the glistening goo and attack.

As an empire falls into disrepair, its wonders dwindle and decay.  The Grand Menagerie, no longer a prize attraction, has a new head keeper: an alchemist obsessed with “improving” the animals.  The results of his fleshwarping experiments fill many of the enclosures.  But worse yet are the failures.  So many animals have died in agony on his watch that their souls have merged into ectoplasmic creatures of suffering and hate. Manifesting as ectoplasmic chimeras, these conjoined undead creatures hate the living and seek to devour anyone who comes near their territory.  Perhaps the worse is an oozy chimera sporting the heads of a lion, a giraffe, and a green dragon…and a tail tipped with the sobbing face of the zookeeper’s late daughter.

—Pathfinder Adventure Path #43 86–87 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 82–83

I hope you all like Bestiary 4 monsters…because you’re going to a get a lot of them from now on!

The title adventure from Pathfinder Adventure Path #43: The Haunting of Harrowstone and that issue’s “Bestiary” are also notable for the number of low-powered threats and haunts they serve up.  If you’re stuck for 1st-level adventure ideas that don’t involve goblins or kobolds, it’s worth investigating.

A reader questioned me about the Jewishness (or lack thereof) of the dybbuk.  Just so we’re clear, I never claimed they appeared in the Talmud or anything, just Jewish folklore.  Aside from the Wikipedia entry, check out more info here and here. 

(And that thing about adherers was a joke, obvs.)

Fortooate dug up some great dybbuk references in fiction and film over here.  AlgaeNymph, meanwhile, had fun mashing up the idea of the ibbur with a certain Golarion notable

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


How appropriate is it that on the first night of Hanukkah we get a monster from Jewish folklore?  (Chag sameach, by the way.)  The dybbuk is a malevolent deceased soul that possesses a living host to achieve its ends.  The Bestiary 3 version serves up exactly that: a malicious undead puppeteer that’s quite powerful (CR 15) to boot (and with some blood-red hands for good measure). 

Unlike ghosts, dybbuks tend to wander widely, and worse yet, they only get meaner over time, reveling in the heartache and suffering they cause.  And a series of special and spell-like abilities make them consummate puppeteers, able to manipulate minds, bodies, and objects with equal facility.  All undead are tormented by their conditions, but dybbuks seem especially eager to spread the torment around—ideally among the societies of the living. 

Whether your campaign takes place on Golarion, a homebrew setting, or an alternate Earth a lot like our own—in any reality, laying one of these monsters to rest is a mitzvah.

Every theater has its ghosts—and its pariahs.  After a series of accidents befalls the Golden Curtain, a local club-footed puppeteer is blamed—for surely only he has the skill with ropes and special effects to have done the deed.  (“And surely he is envious of those whose craft takes them upon the stage, not below it.”)  Innocent but determined not to be arrested (the city’s jails are notorious deathtraps), the puppeteer constructs ever more elaborate snares and traps to foil pursuers.  Meanwhile the accidents continue, courtesy of the dybbuk spirit of a watchmen who failed to prevent the arson that destroyed the Silver Curtain a decade ago.  Worse yet, he has possessed the proprietor of the wax museum next door, giving him an army of animated statues with which to confuse and assault investigators.

A druid committed suicide after an illicit affair caused him to miss the signs of blight descending upon his ward.  He returned as a dybbuk to punish those whose carelessness and pollution brought the blight, but over time the undead druid grew to care more about toying with mortals than cleaning his spiritual slate.  In particular, he torments the family of the woman he once loved so dearly—and who he blames for his downfall.  The dybbuk can be redeemed if he is lured back to the ancient wood where he first took the Green Oath.  But any adventurers trying to do so will have to overcome not only the reluctant dybbuk, but the manitou guardian dedicated to keeping such fell influences out of the forest.

When Georg Schulmann donates his fortune to put a new wing on the synagogue, gossips say he must have been possessed by an ibbur, a benevolent spirit.  A young scribe isn’t so sure.  He contacts adventurers after noticing that the blueprints for the new wing reference designs and sigils no rabbi would approve—including a pentagram, swirling spirals, and references to something called a “shoggoth.”  He begs the adventurers to find out the truth about whether Schulmann is possessed—and by what—once and for all.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 108

Speaking of ibburs, you might be able to construct a homebrew ibbur by making a dybbuk neutral good and swapping its harmful abilities with positive ones.  Even then it will still have the potential to be an intimidating ally…

So apparently the dybbuk’s name comes via Yiddish from the Hebrew word for “adhere”…which makes the dybbuk the Jewish adherer!  Whoa.  I just blew my own mind right there.

Seriously, though, I won’t pretend to be an expert on Jewish folklore (even if I did go to high school right next to Pikesville)—the farthest I go back is Bruno Schulz’s amazing short story collection The Street of Crocodiles.  If any of you know of any good dybbuk tales, please let us know in the comments/reblogs!

3.5 fans will recall that the dybbuk label also got put on a kind of jellyfish-like loumara, a new race of demon presented in Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss.  Slapping the name of one monster on another is a pet peeve of mine, but loumara were a pretty cool idea in general.

And with that dear readers, another milestone.  Today we are done with the Bestiary 3. 

(Or mostly done, at any rate.  At time of writing, I still need to go back and finish up the entries for the upasunda, yithian, and akvan, the drafts for which are scattered on two computers.  That’s what Christmas break is for!)  That’s (almost) every monster since the ecorche back in January of 2012.  Once again, thanks for sticking with me on this bizarre journey.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Drowning Devil

Before I tackle today’s entry, let’s get the important stuff out of the way first.  This past week I was on vacation bouncing between Portland and Seattle.  And while I was there, thanks to the diabolical machinations of Wes Schneider, I was fortunate enough to get to meet a whole bevy of Pathfinder/Paizo authors, editors, designers, and staff.  I’m hesitant to name names because I’m terrified of leaving someone out, but James Jacobs, Owen K.C. Stephens, Rob McCreary, the Pathfinder Society guys (whose names I really am blanking on), and everyone I met were incredibly warm and welcoming.  Thanks especially to James Sutter for the tour and to Adam Daigle and Wes for a fantastic night of monster talk, old-school (A)D&D reminiscences, Pathfinder wisdom, and general good craic. 

Okay, it’s sarglagon time! 

Just how nasty are these guys?  So nasty they have sea anemones for hands.  (You were expecting tridents?  Lobster claws?  Passé.  Bring on the venomous tentacle punches!)

The Bestiary 4 entry on the drowning devil is by necessity pretty short, so for the real skinny you need to check out Pathfinder Adventure Path #60: From Hell’s Heart.  As you might expect, drowning devils are Hell’s aquatic agents.  But it turns out there’s more to them than that.  They are also determined gatekeepers and guardians, so if you’re thinking about escaping Hell via the sewer system, think again.  Fully eight of their abilities and spell-like abilities affect water in some fashion—even being near one is to enter the crushing presence of the deep—and they can drown a victim at 10 paces.

But just because drowning devils are most adept in water, nothing says they have to remain there.  The mingled devotion and greed inherent in their natures might cause them to take up guard contracts far from their beloved oceans and swamps.  Even weirder, according to PAP #60 sometimes a sarglagon will serve as a kind of fairy goddevil for a tiefling, at the bequest of the original devil who inserted itself into the family bloodline. This means even the most good-hearted tiefling (or sorcerer!) might be shadowed by a faithful but malevolent devil…and freeing this poor soul without offending his diabolic sire or grandsire will be tricky…

An oath has escaped one of Hell’s libraries.  Manifesting in a form similar to a psychopomp (albeit with a papier-mâché mask), it flits about the Swamps of Remorse blindly searching for a way home. Adventurers might return the oath to its owner, or even use it to control the oath-swearer instead.  Either way they have to contend with a pair of drowning devils who have come searching for the truant vow.

Adventurers are hauled before an inquisition for questioning.  A number of people are dead, and all of them were on less than good terms with the party.  Eventually the innocent adventurers are released, but a cloud of suspicion hangs over them—and the murders don’t let up.  It turns out that one of the adventures (or a close ally) has fiendish blood, and the inheritor’s sire has sent a drowning devil to keep a closer eye on his prodigal kin.

Jonatar the Prophet was to bring water to the tribes and unite the Besij.  So believed the multitudes that flocked to his name and the sheiks and Kingdom of Salt pharaohs who tried more than once to have him killed.  Now it looks like someone has succeeded…and the only water to be found is in Jonatar’s lungs.  Someone drowned the Prophet—in the middle of the desert, no less.  Adventures investigating the murder will have to fight desert assassins and fend off corpse-devouring ghuls.  One possible murder weapon is a decanter of endless water…or so it appears, until opening it reveals a watery demiplane guarded by drowning devils.

Pathfinder Adventure Path #60 80–81 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 52

Hi all!  I’m back from vacation.  Hello especially to all you new readers who joined while I was out of town.  This week is going to be more than a little crazy as I try to get back up and running and contend with pre-Christmas crazy, but I’ll do my best to keep the entries coming.