Is it just me, or are mirrors underexplored in fantasy gaming…and maybe fantasy storytelling in general? Lots of TV shows have episodes with mirror worlds or mirror antagonists, but they’re always one-offs or brief Lewis Carroll homages. I’d love to see a campaign setting where the Mirror World/Plane is a serious player…but off the top of my head, I don’t know any. (Thoughts from you all? Maybe Zelazny’s Amber books? (...Which I have to confess I still haven’t cracked. I know, I know; I’m as appalled as you are.))
Maybe because it’s hard to know what to do with mirror worlds and mirror monsters. A simply reversed mirror image world is boring, but if you go fantastic it’s hard to get out of Through the Looking-Glass’s shadow. And meanwhile, in the hands of any tactically minded GM a mirror monster has the potential to be massively OP, as it could strike from literally anywhere a mirror shines. It’s hard to even imagine a campaign world where every mirror hides a hungry outsider. (Although I’d imagine living with bad hair days would be a small price to pay for safety.)
Pathfinder’s soulsliver solves this problem by being low-powered (only CR 2)—deadly enough for an ordinary victim, but not so deadly for an adventurer. So the challenge is less in fighting a soulsliver and more about identifying it and isolating it so it can’t take full advantage of its mirror travel, perfect copy, and spell-like abilities. And as only the wealthy or powerful are likely to have ready access to mirrors in a medieval-esque world, that limits the soulsliver’s menu of victims to a reasonable, not-campaign-destabilizing level (though servants working alone in their masters’ chambers ought to still beware).
So like doppelgangers (who might be related to them) soulslivers are a scourge of civilization, urban predators who prey on the wealthy and powerful…just the sort of people who have the most to lose from interlopers walking around with their faces, and who are likely to hire adventurers for protection.
That still leaves the Mirror World, which Bestiary 4 describes as “an aspect of the Plane of Shadow, with reversed and grossly distorted creatures and scenery from the Material Plane.” That seems like a good enough excuse for you to pull out the Advanced Bestiary and start template-izing, not to mention throwing in the Lewis Carroll-inspired monsters from Bestiary 3. I could also see the Plane of Mirrors as a transitive plane, where mirrors hang like stars and pathways wind like ribbons between them. (I feel like I probably stole that from Teen Titans or Justice League Unlimited or The Wheel of Time, but whatevs.) Or maybe you’ve got your own vision for the Demiplane of Mirrors…in which case, tell us in the comments.
Soulslivers are creations of the shaes—doppelgangers dipped in magical quicksilver and trained to hunt in the shape of their victims. Not all those who move in Shadow appreciate the shaes’ assassins, however. Shadowdancers consider it a sacred duty to kill these monsters, and these rogues and bards will set aside tribal differences and even the most violent vendettas when a soulsliver is suspected of being loose in the mortal world.
Every mirror in the world of Faern leads to the Specularium, a single city-sized cathedral of polished glass and silver. Soulslivers are the deacons of this glittering basilica, peering into mortal worlds for victims upon which to sup. They believe that feasting on the right mortals will get them closer to understanding the ways of the Old Ones. Joining them in their worship are various other denizens of the cathedral mirror-city, from lay morlocks to ecclesiastical doppelgangers, huecuvas, and (most disturbingly) Aklo-speaking elves…
The colonizer never truly knows what he does to the colonized. On Arkhan every child knows the simple charms that make a mirror safe to use and the rhymes that banish soulslivers—which by now are considered merely old wives’ tales. But when Arkhan explorers reached Davross, they made gifts of their fine mirrors and gems to the local human and catfolk tribesmen, never thinking to teach them the customary protections. Now an entirely new continent is open to the soulslivers, and they feast with abandon.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 4 250
The Carroll-inspired The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror was one of Gygax’s last efforts for TSR, apparently. And from some of the reviews I’ve read, the recently released and much-celebrated A Red & Pleasant Land has some mirror action as well.
A lot of the best stuff in the 3.0 Manual of the Planes (which I dig) was hidden in the Appendix, including the Plane of Mirrors, mirror constellations, the mirror walking spell, and the dangers of meeting up with your mirror self. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the 3.0 Fiend Folio’s nerras, one of the new races created for that book.
Also, some readers may recall my first aborted attempt at an RPG blog was in 2008; it was focused heavily on brainstorming new subraces. I wrote this and this about mirror elves.
I hope you like Counting Crows. Because this show has a lot of Counting Crows.
The Hot August Music Festival is happening this weekend, and to psych myself up for the concert I steered off our usual indie rock road right into a folk/country/Americana gulch. Enjoy some Shakey Graves, Marah, Hollis Brown, and yes, lots of Counting Crows. Here’s the link.
(And if that’s not your bag, don’t worry—I promise to be back in the world of indie rockers and girlpunk next Tuesday.)
(Link good till Monday, 8/17, at midnight. If the feed skips, Save As an mp3 and listen from your desktop.)