(Image comes from artist Dave Melvin’s DeviantArt page and is and is © Paizo Publishing.)
Man, what is it with horse-headed evil things? The Mares of Diomedes, kelpies, nightmares, leukodaemons… Maybe it’s because horses retain a certain lively, sometimes wicked spark that has been snuffed out of other herbivores we’ve domesticated. Or because the balance of power between horse and rider can shift so quickly—one minute you’re the master, the next just helplessly along for the ride.
Or maybe it’s because horse skulls are just freakin’ creepy.
Anyway, the tikbalang is a creature from Philippine folklore that, like so many creatures in folklore, likes to lead travelers astray. The Pathfinder version has got a number of magical talents to aid it in its endeavors, from the usual illusory effects right up to and including banishing victims into an extradimensonal maze. And then of course it can puncture you with its spines, trample you, or simply devour you (after “pack[ing your] mouth with leaves and moss to stifle [your] screams”—a nice little tidbit from Bestiary 4).
Unlike many other similar creatures in folklore, there’s no one good way to ward off a tikbalang’s attention. Bestiary 4 mentions that it can be “bribed or mollified […] with offerings or the performance of strange rituals, such as singing a song, wearing a shirt inside out, or giving the monster bread and honey”…but the exact offering can change day to day with no explanation or advance warning. One imagines that peasants who live near a tikbalang rely on an assortment of these rituals to satisfy the creature, as well as their own familiarity with the jungle and basic good luck. Out-of-town adventurers will likely have to rely on the old standbys: swords and spells.
Adventurers must traverse the jungle along a narrow path that just barely holds the wild at bay. Worse yet, tikbalangs haunt the path, always spying for an opportunity to lure the gullible into the underbrush or even seize a victim and pull him up into the trees. Fortunately, a shaman the adventurers befriended secures them the services of an exceptional guide: a chain-smoking kapre. The plant creature serves the forest first, however, and if the adventurers show disrespect to nature the kapre will leave them for the tikbalangs to hunt…or worse, join the tikbalangs in tormenting them.
A particularly sickly tikbalang (for simplicity’s sake, use the Young template) haunts a moss-hung forest tainted by necromancy. But the monstrous humanoid’s infirmity has not stopped it from racking up a body count. Its specialty is leaving the beheaded bodies of its victims for their friends to find. Thanks to the forest’s vile taint, many of the absent heads have reanimated as beheaded (use stats for shrieking medusa head from Pathfinder Adventure Path 43: Haunting of Harrowstone) that follow the tikbalang like hungry hounds.
Adventurers transport a cleric to his new post, a monastery above a sugar cane plantation, only to find the town in fear. The rapid expansion of the settlers’ farms has disturbed and displaced the strange fey known only as thin men. For revenge the thin men have lured a tikbalang and his soucouyant bride to the settlement, promising them man-flesh aplenty. Now new dead turn up daily. If the adventurers succeed in slaying or coming to terms with the tikbalang and the thin men, the blood crone will attempt to steal away on their ship to spread her evil to new lands.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 4 260