Friday, May 29, 2015


On Golarion, the one eyed, four-armed stone demon Moxix is the Drinker of Human Hopes, one of the powers that accelerated Ghol-Gan’s slide into depravity, madness, and cannibalism.  To that end, he’s well served by a number of abilities that batter the mind and crush morale.  His physical crushitude—a bite, gore, and four slams each hitting at +29—ain’t bad either.  Even his seeming vulnerabilities simply end up being a testament to his dark nature—for instance, when grievously wounded he gushes blood like an overfed tick, causing foes to slide and weapons to slip out of their wielders’ hands. 

Oh, and his acidic breath weapon causes cannibalism.  You failed your save?  Whoops.

As written, Moxix is bound to an island peak and is the reason for that particular isle’s reputation for madness and disappearances.  Here are some other non-Golarion options for this literal icon of horror:

The great stepped temples of the Tolchec people are supposed to be stairways to the gods.  The Tolchecs have forgotten that these temples began as prisons for demons, with signs and glyphs worked into the stones to keep them trapped.  When a Tolchec governor uses the stones of a crumbling temple to rebuild his palace, he does not realize he is freeing Moxix from his stone cage.  Worse yet, Moxix’s sign begins appearing in the nearby settlement—not just on the stone blocks removed from the temple, but on cobblestones and bricks throughout the town—and people begin to grow confused…despairing…and hungry.

The Moxix of Malan hates the cyclops race he resembles.  Once an elf of extraordinary power who felled giants as if they were trees, he was cast down and condemned to death when his cannibalism became too brazen for even the libertine Malan elves to ignore.  When a dark whisper found him in his cell the night before his execution, Moxixelodrix was only too happy to strike a bargain.  When the axe fell, Moxixelodrix’s blood poured onto the stones…and the stones rose up as the demon Moxix.  Driven into the wilderness (but only after a great slaughter) he found brutish cyclopes waiting for him, calling him “Master.”  He slew them…and the next batch…but the third group he spared, deciding he can tolerate the beasts until he has brought doom to the elves first.

Strange icons depicting a one-eyed figure begin appearing in the markets of Tau-Resh.  No one knows their provenance, but those who own them eagerly display them.  Then an order of masked priests begins denouncing the icons as blasphemous and attempts to confiscate them.  Things get stranger when a paladin that touched one of the icons wakes up feebleminded, and at least one of the masked priests is revealed to be a snake-man.  Investigation reveals an odd push-pull of forces at work—Moxix has awoken and seeks to resume his role as the Drinker of Human Hopes, but his serpentfolk followers jealously guard the power he offers.

Inner Sea Bestiary 32–33

Jason Nelson gets the credit for adding Moxix to the Inner Sea Bestiary.  Meanwhile, I should note that in the PFSRD Moxix is genericized as a “Stone Demon” and has no description; you’ll need the actual ISB for details on his history.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


The morrigna is a masked, spider-silk-clad psychopomp that acts as an investigator and sometime assassin for the Powers of Death. Whereas other psychopomps seem to have well-defined tasks, territories, or bailiwicks, morrignas get to take a more freelance approach to their duties, acting on their own recognizance as they scour the planes.

Having witnessed an apparently masked and blind morrigna see and fight through her spider servants’ gleaming eyes, an adventuring party of drow took her for an avatar of their demonic queen and swore to serve her.  These neutral evil drow now hunt down those whom they deem offensive to her spider sight, especially wizards, monks, and other folk who have artificially extended their lives.  Interestingly, the morrigna seems to tolerate the drow and even accompanies them on some of their hunts.  Do the drow now execute the morrigna’s will, or has she fallen under the spell of their bloodlust?

Even angels aren't above a little hustling for souls.  Psychopomps, however, consider a deathbed conversion to be the thumb on the scale of justice.  When a noted slaver pays a conjuror to have an angel called to his sickbed, the conjuror hires adventurers as insurance.  Should a morrigna appear, it is their job to hold off the psychopomp for the crucial few seconds needed for the confession and last rites to be recorded in the Register of Dooms.

Adventurers are charged with escorting the bones of a saint to their new resting place.  There is only one problem: it turns out the saint isn’t dead.  He’s that rarest of things, a good lich, and the vessel holding his remains is no coffin but rather a palanquin.  Obviously enemies of the faith would go to great lengths to end the saint’s existence if it were publicized, and even followers might consider his existence a blasphemy.  But the adventurers’ first hurdle is defending the saint from a morrigna determined to send his soul Beyond.

Pathfinder Adventure Path #48 88–89 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 219

The full entry on the morrigna comes from Pathfinder Adventure Path #48: Shadows of Gallowspire.  Morrignas seem to owe their name to the Morrígan of Celtic myth, dusted with suggestions of other Triple Goddesses (especially the ever-spinning Fates) and a healthy dose of straight-up fantasy elements including summoned spiders (shades of Egypt’s Neith maybe?), magical fetishes, and anime-style defensive mummy wrappings.  In other words, you don’t need to have read the Táin Bó Cuailnge to get the most out of these psychopomps—“spider-obsessed bounty hunter of Death packing inquisitor spells” will do fine for the CliffsNotes version.

Hey all, just a heads up: Tomorrow if all goes well I board a plane to Seattle and then hop on a cruise to Alaska.  I should have no problem getting the “Moxix” entry up, but after that next week is a big question mark—I don't know how regular (or expensive) Internet access will be aboard ship.  My goal is to keep posting—March’s unexpected computer troubles put me two weeks behind, and that was before I had two more Bestiaries looming on the horizon.  But we’ll see what happens and I hope you’ll bear with me and reblog from the archive like mad.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Monkey Goblin

(Image comes from artist Brynn Metheney’s page and is © Paizo Publishing.)

Pathfinder’s goblinoids have a certain elasticity about them…and I don’t mean their rubbery skin.  In addition to the usual goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears, Pathfinder’s goblin race exhibits variants that seem to be barely genetically possible, like murds, koblaks, goblin snakes (if you believe some sages), and of course the prehensile-tailed monkey goblins. 

And really that’s all you need to know—that these beasts combine the worst features of goblins with the flexibility and acrobatics of monkeys.  Oh, and they're usually raging barbarians and demon worshippers.  They’re also prone to burning down their own forests, but whatever, details.  Actually the worst part about them is that the tend to live in already dangerous jungles—in Pathfinder’s Golarion, that’s Mediogalti Island.  So after your PCs have escaped the temple of the assassin god, they still have the choice of dealing with a jungle full of dinosaurs, girallons, and weretigers…or facing down these jerks. 

The best part about them?  You can play them as PCs, of course.  That can only go well.

No-Tail was born a freaka monkey goblin without a tail.  His tribemates have made no secret of the fact that they intend to sacrifice him to Oran-Ochob, the Ape Eater, when he is “ripe”—that is, of age.  Fleeing his tribe, No-Tail attempts to join a band of adventurers, repeating his sob story over and over again to win their affection.  Of course, he fully plans to sacrifice his new friends to Oran-Ochob himself.  Surely the demon will finally grant him his tail then.

A warband of monkey goblins prepares for a great feast.  But the meal lacks a rare delicacy the war chief has demanded.  Fortunately, some adventurers come tromping along just below their arboreal encampment, and the man-things just so happen to have the delicacy on hand—their spellslinger’s familiar.

A monkey goblin witch doctor has always eschewed the demon worship of his shaman rival.  By some unlikely miracle, he manages to commune with daemonic powers instead, and something in the darkness sends him a gift: two cacodaemons.  Barely able to cage the beasts, let alone control or train them, he is desperate to find meals for the ravenous outsiders.  Monkey goblin adventurers may come across the witch doctor capturing goblin whelps to feed to the daemons, while adventurers of other races may find themselves caught in net traps or hunting snares the witch doctor has set to catch big game.

Inner Sea Bestiary 16

Monkey goblins come from the demented mind of Rob McCreary.  I’m sure I mean “demented” as a compliment.  Pretty sure.  Also, I still like the goblin snake for its connection to Pathfinder’s wild and weird early days.

I finally listened to one of your broadcasts—the most recent Saturday morning show—and it was great! Looking forward to the new show!

Thanks, man!  It’s apparent that the audience for my blog and the audience for my show do not by and large overlap at all, so messages like yours are the best!

If you’re new to this blog, the show he’s talking about is here (and the link is good through Friday).  Or you can try this looser jam from last night.  Listen, enjoy, and share!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


In myth—or at least in Wikipedia, which is practically the same thing—the Monaciello is a faerie from Southern Italy that frequents monasteries, abbeys, and villas.  As is usual for faeries, he’s a trickster fond of pulling pranks (made especially easy by Naples’s many underground passages), but with a habit of revealing treasure to those in need.

In Pathfinder…well, we’ve got plenty of benevolent fey already, so the monaciello has been upgraded to a full-blown chaotic evil gremlin with a habit of tormenting the clergy.  That said, they're not as destructive as many of their kin (though I’m sure weeks, months, or even years of harassment take their own toll on a monaciello’s victims) and if you can wrest the gremlin’s magic bag from it, you’ve got a decent chance at a hefty payout in gold coins.  All in all, that makes the monaciello a worthy first foe for a novice band of adventurers, and a flavorful side encounter even for more experienced low-level parties.

The abbey’s prizewinning ale has been tainted!  The abbot fears that the new brewmaster, a young man only recently appointed to the job after the death of Maester Bryan, may have inadvertently offended the abbey’s resident clurichaun (a variant leprechaun).  In truth, the clurichaun was easily slain weeks ago (his sorrow over Maester Bryan’s death having left him even deeper in his cups than usual) by a dastardly monaciello.  The gremlin has been masquerading as the clurichaun ever since, adding mold to the barley, soiling the hops, and making the new brewmaster’s life miserable.  The otherwise talented but inexperienced lad does not even know the “clurichaun” is an imposter, but the steam mephits who occasionally use the brewery as a sauna do.

Adventurers are sneaking invisibly into a monastery when they are caught by the monastery’s resident mischief-maker himself: a monaciello.  Hearing a noise where there should be none, the monaciello casts glitterdust over the party and then flees, raising the alarm.  For good measure, he dumps out dozens of stolen coins and other goods from his magic bag to make the adventurers look like thieves as well as trespassers.

One monaciello is bad.  An infestation is much, much worse.  And the infestation that currently dwells in the aqueduct system of Bartolo is well dug in, crafty, and protected by rats and venomous snakes.  In a fair fight, adventurers could easily exterminate the fey.  But in the crowded cramped tunnels of the aqueduct, the environment favors the gremlins.  Besides, extermination is not the goal.  Getting back as many pages as possible of the gold-leafed, illuminated Proverbs of the Seven Martyrs is—and bloodshed will only make the fey more likely to hurl the priceless book into the sewer and flee.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 144

Comments!  Anon weighs in on mi-go and Lovecraft stories.  Reader ohgodhesloose references gargantua, another classic “basic” D&D family of monsters.  OGHL also suspected my third mockingfey adventure seed had something to do with current events in Russia.  Total coincidence.  Actually, I was thinking more about the various traditions prohibiting idolatry (in certain Christian faiths and Judaism), the prohibition against depicting Mohammed in most Islamic traditions, and aniconism in general.  Since I wasn’t trying to make any kind of religious statement, a tsar/tsarina seemed like the right kind of monarch to be able to pull off a similar kind of countrywide prohibition in a fantasy context.  Whether the royal family is simply responding to the nation’s religious fervor, wholeheartedly supports it, or is simply manipulating it to their own political ends is up to you.

With the Monday holiday throwing me off my game, not only did I forget to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race (gasp!), but I also forgot to tell you that:

It is also my LAST Saturday radio show for a good while. (I’m moving to Tuesday nights this summer.)  Which makes it…a COLLECTOR’S ITEM!

(Link good till Friday, 6/29, at midnight.  If the feed skips, Save As an mp3.)

All joking aside, this is kind of a big deal for me.  To the best of my memory, I’ve had that time slot since December of 2007.  Setting aside the few months between when I stopped DJing professionally and restarted DJing for fun, I’ve been DJing Saturday mornings since 2004.  (And I think in 2003 I was on Sunday mornings—my memory is fuzzy on when I made the switch.) 

In fact, excepting grad school, if you count my college job rocking the reference desk and Maryland Youth Symphony Orchestra in my teens, I’ve had something scheduled on Saturdays since my sophomore year.  Of high school.  That’s 17 of the past 21 YEARS. 

That’s a lot of hikes to miss out on and BBQs to be late for.  That’s a lot of spontaneous road trips that didn’t happen.  (It’s also a lot of sleeping in and cartoons missed, but let’s fantasize that I am a well-rounded human being, huh?)  Point is, I love DJing and hope to keep doing it for a long time…but I am pretty excited to find out what Saturday mornings look like from the other end of the radio.

Monday, May 25, 2015


Let’s not mince words: Mogaru is Pathfinder’s Godzilla.

You read that correctly.  GOD.  ZILLA. 

Naturally, there are cosmetic differences—Mogaru, known as the Final King, has two tails, for instance.  But the essentials are the same.  If you have ever thought, “Man, my magus is so powerful she could take on Godzilla,” welp, now’s your time to put up or shut up.

Pro tip: Bring the bard along.  Make that pretty boy be useful for once.

I’ve never actually seen an entire Godzilla movie—my media teacher who first exposed me to monster movies stuck with the Universal monsters, and even my viewing of Godzilla’s most recent incarnation got interrupted.  (Godzilla is no match for hospital visiting hours policies.)  But I know enough to know there are all sorts of adventure styles and themes you can explore with Mogaru, from straight-up “Kill the monster” adventurers…to luring Mogaru into fighting another kaiju or similar big baddie…to exploring themes of environmental or magical devastation…to simply fighting evil aliens, outer dragons, and other threats from beyond the stars.  Pick your favorite Godzilla movie to use as inspiration and start designing. 

One last note: Kaiju, like dragons, are assigned an element—Mogaru’s is water.  Aside from a handful of classes (like the elementalist mage) and a supplement or two (like Blood of the Elements), elemental ties haven’t been explored much in Paizo.  But I can imagine campaigns where the elements do matter—where Mogaru might have more in common with, say, marids and black and bronze dragons than he does with other kaiju.  I can imagine campaigns where elementally aligned PCs may have to try to rouse and direct Mogaru—or destroy him—based on the dictates of their elemental bloodline, house, faith, or school of magic.

Adventurers fought the void dragon O’tar’nesshth—and lost.  Now the dragon known as the Last Aurora lords over the capital like an alien god.  As the adventurers try to collect resources and allies for a second attempt, word reaches them that a beast from legend has awoken—and it is headed straight for O’tar’nesshth. 

Marids are capricious, chaotic folk, mirroring their favored ever-changing element of water.  Most sages suppose this is the reason that their race boasts so many shahzadas, yet cannot unite under a shah.  But there is another reason—a curse—that binds the marid race.  Whenever a single marid ruler grows too powerful, the Final Shah awakens from his watery slumber to remind the genies that the Plane of Water has only one king.  Which brings us to the present day’s crisis: A pending marriage could bring three planes and fully half the marid race into an alliance.  Adventurers are hired to disrupt the nuptials before Mogaru wakes.

Mogaru is renowned for his hatred of air kaiju—his many battles with Agyra alone are legendary.  But does his hatred extend toward other great Powers of Air?  With the vrock armies of the Abyss pouring into the skies above the Serpent Gulf, there’s no time like the present to rouse the great dinosaur and find out.  Especially when the vrocks’ general shows up: Pazuzu himself.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 170–171

PaizoCon happened this weekend, and like you I was watching the announcements as they poured forth.  To answer your question: Yes, I am whimpering with terror at the announcement that Bestiary 5 is coming out, with 300+ new monsters in tow.  Then again…those preview images look pretty dang cool…

Friday, May 22, 2015


Call me a purist, but a lot of fictional fey* don't work for me, particularly if they stray too far from the templates established by Northern Europe and the Slavic countries.†  If you’re going to make a fey up, it at least needs to be something thorny or moth-wingy or goat-footy.  This would explain, for instance, why I was down with shimmerling swarms, splinterwaifs, and thorns from 3.5 (from Monster Manual III, if you’re curious), but never warmed up to the orca-like ocean strider (MM II).

That’s one of the reasons why I love James Sutter’s mockingfey—because it breaks down some of my parochial and pedantic crankiness.  The mockingfey is clearly not from some fantasy Ireland—it’s got a parrot body! lives in the tropics!—yet it works because it still has that fey feel as a pointy-eared prankster.  (The wickeder larabay from Isles of the Shackles also pulls this off.  Maybe I just have a thing for pointy ears.‡)  The ability to turn into a miniature, gibberish-spouting, pantomime double of whatever creature it is currently mocking?  Totally fey and totally awesome—and straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon (in a good way).

PCs are used to pirates and cultists and plant monsters and whatnot when they go ashore, but fey aren’t usually high on the “Watch Out For” list…until now.  Then again, there are whole parks in the greater London area taken over by the descendants of escaped parakeets…so why not sic mockingfey on PCs in your urban campaigns, too?

A mockingfey lass approaches an adventurer, take her form, and begin urging her to come help in what looks like some epic struggle.  Eventually, her pantomime improves enough to reveal that her friend or pet or some loved one is caught in a bear trap.  If the party agrees to help, they discover the “friend” is really an owlbear—a wounded and highly enraged owlbear.

Adventurers come across an island in the Plane of Shadow, one of the kind known as a “gleam,” where a badly sealed rift to the Material Plane lightens the umbral atmosphere.  A jape of mockingfey dwell there, having been drawn in ages ago when their curiosity about the rift got the better of them.  The mockingfey are mostly content to mock the party, but if any of the adventurers agree to escort the fey back to the Material Plane or the Fey Forest, the jealous mockingfey patriarch will do his best to make their lives miserable until they leave his domain.

Caught in a wave of religious extremism, the empire has outlawed the depiction of human figures in art—pictures of the royal family in particular.  This extends to any kind of stage acting or pantomime as well.  So when adventurers are invited to meet the tsarina and their mockingfey familiar decides to take on her majesty’s form, it goes poorly for them…

Inner Sea Bestiary 31

*By “fictional” I mean straight-up made-up fey, rather than fey from actual folklore.

†That said, I’m still intrigued by the decision to make certain creatures not fey—kami and manitous especially.  Kami I get—they have their own origin story and deserve their own subtype, plus that would also make oni fey, which feels wrong.  But the nature-defending manitous are still a bit of a surprise as native outsiders rather than fey—a point I’ll have to explore more when I catch up on the belated “Manitou” entry.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mist Drake

Mist drakes are less openly aggressive than most drakes,” Bestiary 4 tells us—but that just means they attack when they know they have surprise and cover on their side.  And when you can create your own fog bank, hide (at +15!) even while being observed, and then burst out of the mist with the usual drake speed surge, there’s no need to be open about any of your actions.

The High Way is the only way to cross the great marshes and swamps of the Turling Delta.  Set on pillars sunk deep into the muck, this road meanders through the wetlands for miles.  Mist drakes and medusas are the most common threats found along the road.  Mist drakes burst out of the fog without warning to tail slap or bull rush travelers off the High Way and into the water.  The medusas alternately rob, seduce, or even aid travelers, but in every case they make a custom of leaving token offerings to the drakes to appease their greed.

“The Ripper Returns!” cry the papers, and all of fog-shrouded London huddles in terror.  But while the strikes are surgical, the lacerations are not.  Bobbies soon conclude that beasts are responsible for the recent string of Whitechapel murders, not a serial killer.  They're right—a rampage of mist drakes has found the damp streets of London to be a surprisingly fertile hunting ground.  Meanwhile, other nefarious urban monsters are using the chaos caused by the drakes to cover up for their own indulgences.  In particular, a magistrate who has managed to hide his ghouldom from his peers has begun a hunting spree, as have a cult of sinspawn, with the drakes taking the blame for both.

After the Breaking, the city of Venitar split into its component cities—the City of Fog, the City of Spires, the City of Shadows, the Burning City, the Riven City.  The sages say that each city sits in its own demiplane, slightly out of phase with each other and the normal world.  The citizens know only that they now live in a city empty of four-fifths of its people, that only wayangs may move between the cities freely, and that any attempt to escape more than five miles from any of the five Venitars earns the wrath of the drakes that prowl beyond the cities’ walls and farms.  Mist, spire, shadow, fire, and river and rift drakes all hunt the borderlands, making unraveling the mystery of the Breaking—or even simply escaping—a deadly challenge.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 79

Again, if you have not yet done so, read, read, read Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities.

Before we get to the contest, anomalitstic asked:

This isn't monster-related but will you be at PaizoCon?

I would love to be.  Unfortunately, through epically bad timing I’m going to be in Seattle the very next weekend instead (I’m going on a cruise to Alaska with my parents and brother), and there’s no way I can justify the time/vacation days/expense to go from Baltimore to Seattle two weeks in a row.  So hopefully next year?  And if you have any good stories from/meet any cool folks at PaizoCon, let me know.

Are a lot of you Seattle folk?  Maybe there’s critical mass for a hangout sometime.

Okay, on to the contest!  (If you need a refresher, the original post is here.)

General thoughts:

1) The overall quality of the entries was pretty high.  So clearly this contest was a mistake, because the last thing I need is competition for this job.  (Fortunately this job is unpaid and healthy-bedtime-killing to boot, but still, I better watch my back.)

2) While it’s dangerous to make assumptions, I think all of the contest entries came from dudes.  (Especially dudes whose names start with J, which just got weird after a while.)  While admittedly this is a male-dominated hobby, I’m a little surprised because female and trans-spectrum readers seem to be some of my most reliable rebloggers.  If I’d noticed the trend earlier I might have done more to encourage non-male entries; since I didn’t, I just want to remind you all that this is definitely your space, too, and your readership is always appreciated.

3) People definitely picked up the gauntlet I threw and tried to give us non-medieval adventure seeds.  Way to stretch and way to keep me entertained.  Thanks!

So let’s share some of these seeds!  (Warning: I have tweaked for grammar/style reasons as I saw fit.  If you submitted more than one entry, I’m including the best.) 

Simon kicked things off really nicely:

Things couldn't get worse for the settlers of Kala. First, a kolzhutar (a variant charybdis) destroyed supply ships, and a seven-headed dragon has been carrying off livestock.  Things are looking up when a ker-kula (a variant dragon horse) offers help.  When it's found brutally mauled after a particularly fog shrouded night, the inhabitants turn their suspicions towards the mist drakes that are frequently sighted near the Mistmarshes.  But their usually nonaggressive nature suggests something darker is at work.

Friggin’ Kazakh folklore?  As the very first submission?  Awesome.  I wish my Kazakh former coworker Aya was still at my firm so I could run this by her.

Josh took us to a modern fantasy India:

On the evening of his arrest, mad geneticist Nolan Singh unleashes his masterwork on the bustling metropolis that is Hyderabad, India.  Paralytic mists rise out of the artificial lakes and rivers that make the city famous.  The city’s people are helpless in its grip.  If hazmat-suited agents could capture the madman, then the people could perhaps be cured, but Singh did not come alone.  His mist drake guard dogs are deadly foes, especially in an environment where the slightest suit breach means failure, or even death.

Jeff knows I’m a sucker for airships:

Shortcuts through the mist are ill advised for airships traveling within the Worldrend. Mist drakes lurk in the fog and pick off travelers from passing ships for food. In some parts of the Worldrend, the magical energies have mutated some of the drakes, which display odd magical variations in their fogburst (nauseating stinking clouds, burning acid fogs, and deadly cloudkills).

Ditto Jacob, who presents this nice ghost ship scenario:

The merchant airships that pass through the Canyon of Vines have gone missing over the last month.  Adventures are hired to see what has happened, only to find all the airships afloat in the canyon, but with no crew.  Before they can investigate further, a fog sweeps in and the bestial roars of mist drakes fill the Canyon.  Are these the culprits?

James should never work for a tourism board:

The fishing town of Soryu has always lived with the deep fogs that plague the coastlines of the feuding Warlord States.  In hushed tones, their elders speak of creatures made of fog that crave the flesh of the living.  They were accustomed to leaving offerings of fish and livestock, and locking their doors on the nights the fog was thickest.  Better to appease the mist drakes, then to end up their next meal.  They grew weary of this practice in time, however.  On the day they were conquered by Warlord Jinkkai and he began stationing patrols around the town, they found the solution to their worries.  When Jinkkai’s men begin disappearing, as did the offerings to the fog, he called for monster slayers from across the Warlord States.  The people of Soryu feasted, knowing that they found a new source of offerings to feed the ever-encroaching mists.

James also does not know I used to know a Buddhist monk named Soryu—he lived next door to my friend Nicole.  Soryu would not approve of these people.

From David:

The people of Danau Atas, a city-state built on an island in a huge, ancient caldera lake, have a symbiotic relationship with the nearby mist drakes.  In an annual ritual, the king plays a certain tune on a flute kept under lock and key the rest of the year, calling the drakes to dance and whirl above him.  But this year, when he sounds the first notes, the drakes react angrily, swooping down on the assembled crowds. Is something wrong with the flute, the king, the drakes—or all three?

(David is also really good at sending questions/comments that get me really excited.)

Connor is a hell of a worldbuilder:

The nation of Vrymr is the economic powerhouse of the Frigid Bowl region of the northern seas because Vrymr Hold is built atop a cave network that leads to the Elemental Plane of Salt; the long winters of the region make extracting salt from seawater a difficult business, and the salt mined from the plane is Vrymr’s chief export throughout the region.  Vrymr is also the premiere naval power of the Frigid Bowl due to a collaboration with the mist drakes that nest in the coastal openings of that same cave network; with their ability to see clearly through mist, fog, rain and snow, a well-trained mist drake navigator is an asset to any ship plying the northern seas—particularly when they can direct cannon fire through the fogbanks that they themselves expel to conceal their ship and baffle their enemies.  Adventurers preparing for a sea voyage could hardly find a more useful crewmate, but finding a ship that can support a full grown drake is a challenge, not to mention trying to entice one away from Vrymr—southern climates disagree with them, and their collective agreement with the Lords of Vrymr forbid them from offering their services to foreign ships. What else those agreements stipulate no one outside of Vrymr seems to know, and no one inside it seems willing to say.

Seriously, all his adventure seeds were like that.

Tumblr (Tumblrer?) justavulcan proposed a similar partnership:

The mist drakes of the Shrouded Coast have long served as companions to the wave-bound oracles who share their lands.  Despite the occasional philosophical difference, the partnerships have lasted through the centuries due not only to similar tactics, but prophetic insights: some say that the masters of the waves can read the future or perform other auguries in the drake-breath.

Another worldbuilder, Jamieson (seriously, the J name thing is getting out of hand) conceived an entire South China Sea-inspired setting and ecology for these drakes.  I can't do his whole post justice here, but here’s a sampling:

The Hanging Library has been under the "official" possession of the Humble Bank of Woodwick for decades, repossessed when its previous owner failed to pay the interest owed.  The matter of clearing out the vermin that came to live in the library, however, was a task left to one of the bank's newer employees—Filin Quirkstone—who decided to introduce four hungry mist drakes to the abandoned hallways and let predatory nature take its course.  The time has come to reclaim the library, built over a series of sea-bound mesas and within a network of lofty caverns centuries ago.  With the drakes and their offspring still lounging comfortably inside, the nearsighted halfling might need a little help in cleaning up the mess. 

That’s some seriously good work—evocative location, bizarrely fantastic and yet weirdly believable scenario, and a great halfling character—and I really want to adventure in Jamieson’s Shanchaoshi campaign.  In fact, I’m calling this the runner-up…and even then it’s a photo finish with the winner.

In the end, though, I think Benjamin narrowly—and I mean narrowly—squeaked out a win:

As a pea soup-thick fog rises off the river Cark, mingling with the smoke of a hundred thousand chimneys and smokestacks, something is butchering the citizens of New Trinovantum.  The Tengu Benevolent Self-Protection Society and the Hippogriff Boys have accused each other.  If the real culprit—a mist drake originally imported as an exotic pet and dumped into the sewers when it stopped being cute—isn't found, the fragile network of treaties and threats that keeps the cities many gangs at peace may be shattered.

As I said, all of the entries were strong—seriously, you guys did great.  What got me about this seed was that it did so much in so little space.  I got a sense of the city, I got a sense of the tone of its people, and I immediately felt like I knew what it was like to live and adventure there.  Cark is a wonderfully terrible name for a river—I imagine it horribly polluted—especially when juxtaposed with the overwrought New Trinovantum.  And how could you not like the TBSPS (tengus!) and the Boys?  (Is their name from a totem symbol or graffiti or a fashion statement or do they own actual hippogriffs?)  Also, I liked that this could be as serious (a mysterious butcher, gang warfare, a city in flames) or fun (a lost pet, sewer drakes, Cockney or Mafia toughs) as the GM and his or her players wanted it to be. 

So Benjamin, send me your details and I’ll mail your prize of Quests of Doom to you.  Everyone else, awesome job, and thanks so much for entering and sharing your ideas with us!