Thursday, April 30, 2015

Leaf Ray

Oh, hell yeah. 

I’m breaking form and actually including a picture (gasp!) for the leaf ray because a) this seems to legitimately be from artist Dave Melvin’s DeviantArt page, so I can give credit where credit is due, and b) because this illustration just perfectly sells this monster.

It’s a plant monster.  That looks like a ray.  That looks like a leaf.  With a poison stinger.  That can implant a seed that will grow into a new leaf ray tree.  Killing the host in the process.  Oh, and the leaf ray changes color (and poison ability damage!) with the seasons.  Awesome.

Utterly plausible, yet utterly fantastic at the same time.  Best of all, it’s a CR 1 monster.  PCs can fight these on their very first adventure!  If you want to show your players that your fantasy world is not a reheated Middle-earth, leaf rays are a perfect way to go.  (I explore this thought more fully in the “Sagari” entry).  It’s also a perfect way to make tropical islands, haunted greenhouses, or far-off jungle planets all a bit scarier. 

And what’s that?  A newbie player lost her first character to goblins in a dungeon?  Well, when the rest of the wounded party comes out of the dungeon and are swarmed by leaf rays, and her newly rolled-up druid or elven archer saves the day, you’ll make her feel badass for life.

Leaf rays are a common woodland hazard in Maliar.  To combat them, Maliar’s gnomes craft thorny or spiked armor, and its druids are as much wardens of the few safe paths as they are protectors of the woodlands.  Another side effect is that other creatures that change color with nature, such as dryads, are little trusted.  Even Maliar’s elves are likely to skewer a dryad with arrows on a chance encounter, fearing she will speak with plants and send dangerous leaf rays their way.

A bitter brownie takes a dislike to the new mistress of a manor house.  His anger boils over when she hosts a party—including some adventurers—and the guests’ horses and carriages disturb the grounds he tends (even if lately his work has been sloppy).  Sneaking into the great hall, the brownie hides winter leaf rays in among the logs on the andirons.  The plant creatures rise up and attack when the guests are called in for dinner.

The pony-riding shoal halflings of Dove face numerous threats, including grindylows, bugbears, foul weather, and smugglers and rumrunners.  Life becomes even harder when conquistadors from Sevarre begin planting leaf ray trees up and down the coast—ostensibly to support the dunes, but in reality to drive out the locals so the Sevarren can hunt for gold unmolested.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 179

Holy crud, how did I not Google “lampad”?  I mean, I know I was a little distracted that day, but still.  Turns out they are a thing, and madness is in fact associated with them.  (I still stand by my post though, what with their crying and forlorn wails and all.)

Also earloffife writes:

Another explanation for lampads: Dryads are connected to their trees, and nixies to their rivers…when those things are harmed or polluted, the dryad or nixie suffers as well. In a tabletop RPG world, where every hole in the ground deeper than ten feet houses some unspeakable monster than wants to eat you and your entire family…a cave spirit kind of has good reason to be moody or insane.

Finally: Welp.  Hopefully this stuff will see the light of day again though.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Lava Drake

One of the most powerful drake species, lava drakes know exactly how dangerous they and their environments are.  It’s no wonder they are so arrogant in their dealings with humanoids and crave worship from beings like kobolds.  When you can bathe in lava that reduces other creatures to ash, of course you’re going to have a superiority complex.

Lava drakes should always attack from surprise, and ideally land right in the middle of the party—spewing pyroclastic vomit, shaking magma off itself like a dog after a bath, and generally causing as much damage as possible.

Lava drakes are hunting dwarves in the southwest passages of Dunatar.  They seem to be holed up in a particularly treacherous set of tunnels on the seventh level.  The only way to circle about and flush them out would be via the locked chambers used by the embalmers’ guild, but strangely they refuse entry to all, even in this time of crisis.

A lava drake “gardener” tends a collection of magma oozes in his tropical volcano home.  Once they grow to a sufficient size, he waits for a rainstorm and then lures the oozes aboveground to be petrified.  Storing their stony forms in various pools and hot springs near his lair, he releases the ravenous magma oozes to harry the flanks of anyone who he deems a threat.

Drake racing, using beasts with clipped wings, is a dangerous but intoxicating sport.  Heats are run according to size, typically featuring shadow, river, and forest drakes.  Scandal erupts when a new racing concern enters lava drakes in the forest drake class, particularly as that stable’s hands have also not been shy about throwing their weight around.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 78

I’m showing my Baltimore pride with a secretly Preakness-inspired adventure seed there.

By sheer coincidence Pathfinder Adventure Path #92: The Hill Giant’s Pledge showed up at work today, featuring Russ Taylor’s “Ecology of the Drake,” an overview of all the drake species. 

A small but passionate crowd of pulp fans dig the lashunta.  Filby hooked us up with their inspiration:

Quick note that the lashuntas (or at least their women) are based on the Cupians from Ralph Milne Farley’s 1948 novel, The Radio Man. The Cupians were basically humans from Venus with antennae that let them communicate telepathically via radio waves. They were also oppressed by the ant-like Formians, which were lifted wholesale into D&D and made the transition to Pathfinder relatively unchanged.

Have you seen this Old Venus compilation, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois? Looks like a lot of people are giving the genre some love right now.

I have now—thanks!

Also, heads up!  I am going to have a contest!  Where you can win a free RPG hardcover!  Keep an eye on these posts over the next few days!  I’m not saying that to draw out the suspense; I just haven’t decided what the contest will be yet!  Exclamation marks are fun!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Lashunta—specifically lashunta women—are the classic planetary princesses from pulp novels: almost human (save for their distinctive antennae), mentally gifted, and as beautiful as their men are brutish.  When you want to combine the beauty of elves with the ruggedness of dwarves…when you want a civilization that rides dinosaurs one minute and scribes mystical scrolls and uses mind magic the next…and when you want a PC to lose his or her heart to a doomed love with a woman from another planet…you turn to the lashunta,

The elven kingdom of Venderel is in an uproar after the crown princess gives birth to a daughter with antennae.  The uproar becomes a tumult when the Quartz Palace’s elfgate opens and a lashunta war party rides through on their drakes as if straight from one of the elves’ old epics, banners flying and demanding to collect the heir to the Mantis Throne.

Adventurers are locked in a prison cell with a bestial man whose accent and aspect are strange.  But when the prisoner telepathically organizes a jailbreak and mage hands the keys into the adventurers’ palms, they’ll have to decide quickly whether to trust him…especially when he directs them not out of the prison complex, but deeper inside it…

When their spidership crashes, adventurers must find their way across a lush planet.  A ratfolk caravan offers assistance, but charges the adventurers with nursing another refugee back to health.  This refugee lashunta is a magistrate’s daughter.  She recently discovered that the Jadeheart Magisterium has fallen to necromancers, and the lashunta bone priests hunt her even now on their skeletal steeds.

Inner Sea Bestiary 25

Another James Sutter creation, lashunta were teased during the Second Darkness Adventure Path and their homeworld of Castrovel is explored in Distant Worlds.

If you’re following the news from Baltimore, today was quiet; fingers crossed for tonight.  Continue to refuse to believe anything you hear or read or (especially) watch on TV unless it’s coming from someone on the ground who knows the city.  I continue to recommend Baltimore’s own City Paper.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Lampads don't make any sense.  And that’s awesome.  Because how you make them make sense can be the seed that sprouts any number of adventures.

But wait, let me go back and start from the beginning: Dryads have their oaks.  Nymphs have their glades.  Nereids have their deceptive currents.  So naturally caverns need a nymph of their own.  Thus the lampad.

But…why are they insane (and insanely beautiful)?  Caves aren't insane.  Why are they constantly crying?  If they love the places they guard, why do “their forlorn cries ring the belly of the earth,” according to Bestiary 4?  See why I say they don't make sense?

But when we start answering those questions, suddenly, presto—we have readymade adventure hooks.  Take the crying: Maybe they cry in echo of the dripping that creates stalactites over eons…or maybe lampads embody or have become infused with the spirits of those who got lost and perished underground.  Or maybe they were dryads who ignorantly allied on the side of the elves who would one day become the drow, and were cast down with them?  Or maybe the first lampad, like the oread Echo of myth, was spurned, and her sorrow has been imprinted on the race.  (And if the spurner was divine, servants of that god or demigod might want to beware these cave nymphs.)

How about the insanity: Both Pathfinder’s Golarion and 4e D&D feature gods of chaos, suffering, and destruction trapped deep underground.  Perhaps their emanations have poisoned these fey along with the earth.  Or maybe lampads are too close to demiplanes and dimensions like Leng or the Far Realm.

Anyway, you see where I’m going with this.  Reconciling these fey’s backstory with their abilities and Bestiary 4 description is easy and makes your world a richer place.

PS: If, like me, you wish that Pathfinder’s oreads more closely resembled the mythological ones, the lampad is an easy way around that.  Pretty much all the abilities can stay the same, just make Insane Beauty (Su) into something like Dazzling Vista, Weep (Su) into Haunting Echo, etc.  Bam—instant mythologically correct oread.

Outnumbered by ghouls, adventurers are saved by the well-timed and well-slung magic stones of a lampad.  The weeping fey will not speak to the adventurers, but she leads them to a grotto where they can rest and heal from a magical spring.   In the morning she acts as if she has never met the adventures, giving them the full blast of her insane beauty.  She has also stone shaped away the exit they entered by, forcing them to exit down a twisting passage that leads to a black subterranean harbor frequented by even stranger sailors.

A lampad and her will-o’-wisp companion haunt the pass at Achin Tor.  The pair create ghostly lights to lure explorers into pit traps and blind crevasses.  The insane, constantly sobbing fey has begun to resent the will-o’-wisp’s endless diet of fear and terror, but would need convincing to turn on her aberrant ally.

An evil faerie queen is still a queen.  And when reports reach the Queen of the Eighth Hour that her lampad subjects have gone mad, she alone sends representatives to investigate: namely, mortal adventurers who owe her a favor.  The journey takes them to a kingdom of underground fey and sentient mushrooms ruled by an albino lampad.  It is soon apparent that drow demon worship has so polluted the earth that the lampad race is going mad.  The adventurers need to save the albino lampad and report this back the Queen of the Eighth Hour without getting embroiled in a demon/faerie war.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 178

Today got stupid.  I’m fine.  I continue to say don't believe the hype.  For current news and updates, follow Bay.  Speaking of which, you may have seen him today on MSNBC and BBC and similar outlets all afternoon/evening.  Photographer Joe is still out there, despite certain occupational hazards.  Follow him here.   Most of all, please withhold judgment—on the protesters, on the looters, on the cops, on the city.  Whatever you’re hearing, it’s probably wrong. 

At least I didn't spend the last year of my life working on Baltimore’s new tourism campaign.  Oh wait…

Written earlier in the day….

So, how was your weekend?  Mine was completely uneventful.  But since you all seem intent on reblogging it anyway, why not enjoy listening to my radio show as you do so?  Featuring a lot of new music from Matt and Kim, Pins, Wet, Annabel, and Holychild.  Stream or download it here.

(Link good till Friday, 5/1, at midnight.  If the feed skips on you, use the Save As function to grab the file as an mp3 instead.)

Friday, April 24, 2015


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!

Thursday, April 23, 2015


This is a dragon that vomits wasps.

Let me say that again.


I feel the need to emphasize how awesome the korir-kokembe is because the monster’s entry does not do it any favors.  (I try to keep this blog pretty positive, so let’s just say that the korir-kokembe’s art, while technically correct, could work harder to inspire.)  What’s missing is the sense of just how magical and creepy this thing is. 

The korir-kokembe lives deep in the jungle amid the rivers and marshes, forming a symbiotic relationship with the vermin there.  The insects actually nest in the dragon’s gullet, poisoning its bite and serving as its breath weapon.  That’s amazing!  As someone who still can't shake the images of botflies nesting inside human flesh from my college Biology in the Tropics class, I find the image of a dragon allowing a whole wasp colony to congregate in its gullet just beyond cool and creepy.  Add to that several nasty insect swarm-related spell-like abilities, and some pretty savage claw/rake/grab/constrict combos, and you have a hell of a mid-level monster.

And that’s perfect for the unexplored regions where korir-kokembe live!  Going into the jungle should mean going into a place where the normal rules don't apply (particularly if your campaign is the default faux-Europe of most RPGs).  In the jungle, you don’t eat the fish; the fish eat you.  In the jungle, the crabs are in the trees and the snakes swim in the water.  In the jungle, the clean disciplines of arcane and divine magic are blurred by shamans, oracles, and witches.  And the dragons?  Damn right they vomit they vomit insects.

A powerful worm that walks defies every attempt to destroy it.  Adventurers discover that they can weaken the abomination’s magic via a ritual anchored by spell components sympathetic to the worm that walks’s own energies.  To that end, the adventurers must retrieve the wasp nest from the gullet of a korir-kokembe—which means carving it out of the dragon.

In the Khanderhai Jungle, the vaulting trees form networks that stretch kilometers into the air, with elves in the canopies, gnomes in the dusk layer, and drow on the permanently shrouded forest floor.  The drow feel a kinship with the spider-spitting korir-kokembe, and bring them prisoners as sacrifices so that the drow may ply the rivers without fear.

Fire ravages the Tukari lowlands, spurred on by rogue elementals and summoned fiends.  Out of options, the Tukari locals beg adventurers to help them breach the Palisade, an ancient natural dam located some miles upriver, so that they can flood their burning fields.  Only the Palisade is not natural at all—it was constructed by a family of ancient korir-kokembe, and the insect-riddled dragons are furious at seeing their carefully constructed swamp disturbed.

Inner Sea Bestiary 23

Reader comments!  I was rightly called out for not mentioning (A)D&D’s crabman/yurians when we covered karkinoi.  (No excuses; I was just short on time that day.)  A couple of you have kitsune stories.  Also, lots of you weighed in on Korada and especially on trials for upper-level monks. I think most of you are where I’m at—a nice idea if used sparingly and if it’s tied to role-playing, not mechanics (especially level loss), except for mythic trials, where that kind of encounter is already built in.  Check out the whole thread, and thanks for commenting everyone!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Neutral good monsters are nearly impossible to write antagonistic adventure hooks for.  (“He’s devoted to helping others!  He must be stopped!”)  A neutral good CR 26 outsider, exponentially more so.  (“He’s an immortal champion of peace, kindness, and forgiveness!  He must be stopped!”)

Thankfully, the empyreal lord Korada gives GMs an out: He’s a monk and a martial arts master.  Which means that there are plenty of reasons PCs may seek him out and vice versa: to test their worthiness, to learn a new fighting style, as the last trial before becoming grand master of a monk order, etc.  He’s also got the gift of foresight, so perhaps he has reasons of his own to fight the party—maybe to temper their steel, teach them humility, distract them from a path that will lead them to ruin, or even injure them so that they cannot attempt a trial above their abilities. 

And yes, he’s part monkey and has a dash of trickster in him…so he might just aggravate PCs into fighting him for kicks.  You can't trust monkeys, even monkey empyreal lords.

On their way to face one of the terrifying rakshasa rajadhirajas, adventures take a detour through Nirvana.  On the grounds of a city-sized palace, they are pestered by a vanara four different times in four different gardens—always while they are trying to solve some puzzle or fend off an attack.  Finally, they must fight the vanara himself.  The monkey man is in fact Korada, and the four trials (and his jibes) were meant to prepare the adventurers for their fight against the nascent rakshasa immortal.

A powerful monk failed to challenge his master before the old man died in his sleep.  So while the monk may be the most powerful of his order on the continent, and perhaps even in the world, tradition denies him his master’s title.  He and his adventuring companions must thus seek out Korada himself.  Only after facing the empyreal lord in single combat and using a move the agathion has not seen will the monk be able to take his master’s place.

On their way to confront a devil, adventurers are faced with an unusual antagonist: Korada, the Open Hand of Harmony.  He asks the adventurers to turn from their path; if they refuse, he regretfully begins combat, pulling no punches.  The devil is a fallen angel that Korada is determined to redeem…and if the adventurers dispatch him before his conversion, the devil’s immortal spirit will be lost to evil forever.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 90–91

Neutral good or not, any creature that casts mad monkeys (see Ultimate Magic) at my PC is going to die.  (Primates set off my uncanny valley alarm.  Also they throw poo.)

More on Korada’s worship and boons is in Chronicle of the Righteous.

My first exposure to the monk class was in Best of “Dragon Magazine” Vol. III, courtesy of “He’s Got a Lot to Kick About” from Philip Meyers, which offered ways of reworking the rather insane 1e AD&D monk class.  I still don't know much about the class as it was written, but I gather that above certain levels, monks actually had to compete with other monks to advance—that was actually a required mandate of the class (along with level freezing for failure)!  Obviously I don't want to go back to those dark days…but every five levels or so...?  Might be a fun role-playing thing.  And it seems perfectly reasonable that to achieve the level of Grand Master of Flowers, a 20th-level monk/champion might have to go a few rounds with the lord of the Dream Lotus.  Old-schoolers in the audience, what do you think?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Kitsune were introduced as a PC option in Dragon Empires (a book I highly recommend and need to write more about) and fleshed out in the Dragon Empires Primer and the Advanced Race Guide.  Now that they’ve been properly statted up in Bestiary 4, we finally get to talk about them…and man, do I love these guys.

As PCs, kitsune are awesome for players who like a character who is withholding some secret from the group.  Sure, in large doses this can be annoying (the “My character is secretly lawful evil/worships an evil god” trope is kinda old at this point) and even party-destabilizing (see below).  But hiding the fact that your nimble thief or arcane trickster is actually one of the fox folk?  That’s baller!  Especially if it opens up adventure doors that would otherwise remained closed (“The kami won’t let us into the Forbidden Forest? Let me talk to him…”) or lands the party in hot water in a fun way (“Listen, guys, about those ninjas…they maaay have been after me pleasedon’thateme”).

And if you’re really want your kitsune to be one of the magical fox folk of Japanese mythology, ARG’s Realistic Likeness and Magical Tail feats are perfect.  How perfect?  Given enough feat slots, yes, you can become a nine-tailed fox.  Like I said: baller.

As NPCs, kitsune will rarely be the primary antagonists.  They’re far more likely to be adventurer sparkers or complicaters—the bard that only reveals hints in riddles, an old fisherman who has a secret, the thieves’ guild that has already made off with the artifact the PCs were planning to steal. That said, when a kitsune is the villain, expect her to always have another blade and another magical ability up her sleeve, as well as two backup plans and three escape routes if her plots don’t go off as expected.

A rollicking band of tanukis settles in a nearby village, bringing lots of good fellowship but also lots of hijinks in its wake.  A kitsune oracle fears the presence of so many veiled (and not-so-veiled) tanukis puts her own identity at risk, so she works to drive them out of town.  Rather than interrupt their marathon sake binges, the tanukis talk adventurers into sorting out who is behind the trouble.  Meanwhile, the tanukis’ presence has also lured a pack of powerful ghouls that plan to turn the village’s revels into a charnel feast.

A black-furred, four-tailed kitsune uses her ability to twist stories to drive human against tengu.  She seems intent on harvesting the discord and misery she creates, though by what means and for what purpose is unclear.  Given that she has also begun training as a shadowdancer, the Umbral Plane may be involved.

The fanak are the large-eared fox folk of the desert lands.  Due to their natural shapeshifting abilities, genies regard them as kin to jann, calling them “the little cousins; free elementals regard them kindly as well.  The fanak have little regard for those who would clutter the wild spaces with pyramids and tombs, though, and they feel free to rob these places.  Thus tomb guardians like girtablilus and maftets hate them, though sphinxes find their riddles droll.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 175

Looking for the killer seahorse?  Of course you are.  But we covered it back here.

And moving from fox folk to coyote folk, are any of you reading The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw?  Because it is awesome.

Why did I add the cautionary note above about PCs with secrets?  Because there’s a fine line between a cool backstory and power play.  My favorite Vampire campaign nearly went off the rails when one player 1) revealed himself as Sabbat 2) and then turned on the entire party 3) during a Gehenna game.  Even with the end of the world at stake, this wouldn’t have been as big a deal as it was except a) he had promised the GM he would not do this when he picked a Sabbat bloodline (which is just really bad form) and b) he kept pushing #2 at every opportunity, no matter how many outs he was give to reconcile with the group and rejoin the plot.  It was maddening.  Everybody likes his or her player to be a little badass and have some nice cinematic moments, but this was not the way to go about it.  (Also, don’t piss off the guy who’s been playing his Tremere character for over a decade—that’s a lot of dots and rituals to go up against.  Especially when he’s backed by a Ventrue (yours truly) with a penchant for explosions and who’s gone out of his way to learn Setite Disciplines on top of his Blue Blood ones.  We will end you.  And the GM whose plot you’ve been derailing will let us.)

Monday, April 20, 2015


I love weird underground civilizations.  But not every race is going to have its own subterranean empire.  Some, like the classic Cynidecians, are going to just be stunted offshoots and sports quarantined to a single cavern or two. 

The khaei are one such race.  In the Golarion setting, they are confined to a single area below Kaer Maga and have a connection to the region’s deadly dullahan.  They seem to only exist partly in this reality, obscured as they are in a misty blur and surrounded by the dancing lights they create.  Or rather, maybe it’s this dimension they only partly exist in—because khaei have a truly nasty special attack: They can age their victims up to 10 years.  That’s bad enough when you face one of these twisted humanoids, but since they come in gangs of 3–5 (and villages of 6–30), it pays to be polite.

In your campaign, khaei could turn up wherever you’ve got room for an isolated race possibly unstuck in time.  They may be isolated and few in number, but if they successful age one or two of the PCs, the ramifications could spark many adventures to come.

Of course, there is that line in the description about many more khaei existing in caverns all linked by magical standing stones…  But I’m sure that’s a myth, right?

Exploring belowground, adventurers come across a strange village in a fungal forest populated by wispy, shrunken khaei and elderly examples of several races.  Most of the latter are too infirm to speak coherently, but one (an aasimar who owes his superior Constitution to his celestial forbear) explains that they all transgressed against the khaei in some way and were aged.  They are no longer prisoners per se, but only because their bodies are prisons enough.  He begs for a rescue…but will that be seen as a crime by the khaei?  How will the adventurers safely get a wheelchair-bound man back to the surface?  And what if his “crime” against the khaei was not so innocent…?

Children are disappearing off the streets of Clay Cross.  The case is baffling until some of the missing youths turn up—aged, half-blind, and senile—at a rest home run by local friars.  The friars say the old men appeared a few nights ago, and the friars happened to have enough beds free to take them in.  Working backward from there, adventurers will discover that khaei have been abducting children for years, but the staggering increase in abductions recently points to a deeper mystery.

The Banner of Heaven is a celestial tor, one of the many towers built in space by the August Shogunate to watch specific stellar phenomena.  The Banner was set too close to the edge of a black hole, and the Shogunate has since had to abandon it.  While magic has prevented it from succumbing to the black hole’s pull, the competing pull of forces has ripped the Banner into chunks.  Caught in eddies of ruptured space-time, the largest of these is populated by once-human khaei.  Most of these are harmless, even friendly (they fear leaving the tor would be their deaths but they are glad for the company).  But some have fallen prey to dark voices from the Void, and they plan to capture and convert or sacrifice any interlopers, even if they doom the Banner in the process.

Inner Sea Bestiary 22

These twisted creatures were created by James Sutter.  Are we surprised?  No…no, we are not.

Regarding the first seed, dungeons are pretty much the definition of ableist—too many stairs and locked doors, plus spear traps to boot.  If any of you have badass stories of floating disk-riding disabled adventurers, I’d love to hear them.

As for the third: Seriously, if your campaign doesn’t have an abandoned space station peopled by treacherous khaei, administrators and samurai too stubborn to leave, space manticores, tentacled horrors, and a time dragon nesting site, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

Radio show!  And it’s a good one, honest!  Featuring the usual new tunes plus nods to 10 years of the Decemberists’ Picaresque and Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm, and 20 years of Elastica’s self-titled record, Pavement’s Wowee Zowee, and especially Guided by Voices’ Alien Lanes.  Download it here!

(Link good till Friday, 4/24, at midnight.  If the feed skips for you, pause to let the page load and then Save As an mp3.)