Kostchtchie, the Deathless Frost, does not get the love he deserves. As fantasy fans, we have invested decades in the exploits of Demogorgon (including the Savage Tide Adventure Path); we’ve watched Vecna go from lich to god; we saw Orcus’s resurrection rock the planes themselves; and don't even get me started on Lolth. Yet when the final issue of Dragon printed a list of D&D’s top villains, Kostchtchie was nowhere in sight. (You know who was? A kobold with a shotgun. Instead of the demon lord of frost giants!)
To be fair, Kostchtchie is usually painted as a brute and even a fool, particularly as a) he was tricked into the very shape of the frost giants he once hated and b) he lost a chunk of his soul to Baba Yaga. But still, this is a warrior whose answer to matricide was patricide. This is a champion who grew powerful enough to simply demand immortality. This is a survivor who, at the moment of his greatest humiliation and failure—in the Pathfinder version of the story at least—went to the Abyss to hide. Where he become a demon. And then a demon lord. A demon lord who has managed to subvert the worship of nearly the entire frost giant race.
So he may be a brute by divine standards…but you puny mortals owe him some respect. (Lord knows that at Int 25 and Wis 30, he’s still smarter than me, and I’m not going to mock a guy with Str 48 and a warhammer that can hit AC 73.)
There are hundreds of adventures buried in that backstory. A Kostchtchie-focused campaign might even end up following his trail to near-godhood, from his first murder to his bargain with Baba Yaga to his Abyssal awakening and beyond. In fact, retrieving the lost shard of Kostchtchie’s soul or stopping him from actually reaching true divine status would not be a shabby adventure path by any means.
Some victims never stop trying to win the love of their abuser. Bullied her entire childhood for being female, the frost giant Anyag Karksdottir was determined to prove herself worthy of Kostchtchie. When only silence answer the prayers of this would-be cleric, she turned to witchcraft instead, invoking Kostchtchie’s name but following the whispers of her dark patron. Now at the apex of her power, she seeks to create the Gelid Gate, a permanent portal to Kostchtchie’s realm so that he may send his giants, remorhazes, leucrottas, and ice linnorms to ravage the world. If adventurers time their intervention wrong, they will have to fight Anyag, a Kostchtchie outraged at this female’s intrusion, and the faceless dark power who has been pulling Anyag’s strings—perhaps all at once.
Mythic adventurers find themselves locked in a court battle—on another plane of existence, against Baba Yaga herself. No matter which way the jury seems to be leaning, Baba Yaga eventually concludes the proceedings by demanding trial by combat. Her champion is none other than Kostchtchie himself, so eager at the chance to face the hated witch that he will even submit to her humiliating summons.
Three great powers of Air guard an ever-floating island. Amid the treasures there is a plain cold iron needle inside a jeweled egg inside a live duck inside a hare figurine of wondrous power inside an animated iron chest. In the head of the needle sits Kostchtchie’s soul. Disturbing it will summon a portion of Kostchtchie, as his disembodied arm manifests and begins searching for the lost shard—and crushing those who interfere. Anyone foolish enough to attempt to keep the soul shard will eventually have to fight the fully manifested demon lord, possibly months or even years down the road.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 4 48–49
There’s no way on Earth (or Oerth, or Golarion) I could reference every source where Kostchtchie has appeared. But his Wikipedia page has a thorough rundown. For the one-stop D&D take on him, James Jacobs’s “The Demonicon of Iggwilv: Kostchtchie” from Dragon #345 is the definitive source…and since James Jacobs is also one of Golarion’s architects, Pathfinder players can pretty much feel comfortable using that version except where it explicitly conflicts with Bestiary 4.
It’s also worth going back and finding out more about Kostchtchie’s inspiration, Koschei the Deathless. The third adventure seed draws from those tales.
Thanks for the huge response to yesterday’s post. I should have mentioned that’s a Jason Nelson monster.
Hey, I’ve been sitting on this question from justavulcan for days now:
Less a question about monsters, and more a question about Razor Coast: as a fan of worldbuilding and innovative takes on Pathfinder/D&D conventions, how would you rate Razor Coast? I seem to remember you mentioning picking it up despite the steep cover price, and was contemplating doing the same.
Sadly, I’m really no further into Razor Coast than I was the last time we talked about it in this space. The very things that make it worth picking up (it’s a monumental and pretty gorgeous book) also mean that it’s low on my to-read pile, since I’m not going to just toss it in my bag to read during lunch. And with a full-time job, personal life stuff, and a daily blog, my leisure reading time is short and precious. (Seriously, if you like to read, never ever start a daily blog. Also stay in grad school.)
So I really can't justify recommending a $100 book I haven't read cover-to-cover myself. (I’m very conscious of the fact that I’m a single, childless, fully employed guy; I get to be a lot lazier with my money than most folks.) That said, I’ve flipped through enough of it I can say this:
Do you like pirates and weresharks? If so, this is your book. If that cover image by Wayne Reynolds is exactly what you want in your campaign, get this book.
Are you a gazetteer/travelogue fan? Razor Coast is heavily tied to Port Shaw and its environs. So if you’re looking to read about/brainstorm adventures around a wide range of islands and antagonists, you’re probably better off just going for Isles of the Shackles.
Though this book has a nice appendix and some fun feats and ecologies, it’s primarily a giant supermodule. Do you have a group ready to run adventures for? Get this book. If you’re between groups and just looking for a read, this can be a lot lower on your list.
I know that’s not the most helpful answer, but it’s the best I have at the moment. And as I mentioned last time, a safer investment might be Razor Coast: Heart of the Razor. You get four adventures for $40 (or $20 for just the PDF), which is perfectly reasonable. It comes excellently reviewed, and if you like it, you can feel safe jumping into Razor Coast’s $100 waters.
By the way, I’ve also got Freeport: City of Adventure coming in the next few weeks. Given that you're a pirate fan, I’ll try to deliver a tentative verdict on that as well. Have a great weekend!