At first glance, the egregore is yet another floating brain monst—WAIT!
Please, don’t scroll to the next entry. Because this is not just any floating brain monster.
I was going to give you a definition of “egregore” (short version: a collective, yet autonomous, group mind) but you’re better off just going to the Wikipedia page. Not only is it a term translated/coined by Les Mis author Victor Hugo, but both as a word and as a concept it has ties to an entire checklist of the obscure, occult, and mythological, including the Book of Enoch, the angelic Watchers, the nephilim, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and the Rosicrucians, among others.
For our purposes though, as a monster an egregore is the pooled collective will of cult, manifesting as a psychic entity made of brains (representations of the minds from which it is formed) and projecting a symbol of the ideals for which it stands.
I’ll say that again: This is the collective mind of a cult turned into a monster. (Through which the cult can cast psychic spells. And it’s got some nasty tentacles made of light. So yeah, be afraid.)
The larger the cult and the stronger the belief, the bigger the egregore, up to and including so-called egregore masters that can hit 25 Hit Dice and Colossal Size. So they next time your adventurers take on an evil cult, they might want to make sure the cultists don’t have time to put their heads together and make ready for them…
Aiming to seize control of the Sun Papacy, the Bishop of Flame works behind the scenes to establish a mystery cult venerating the Sun Lord’s dead aspect, Rha the Searing Spear. If all goes well, their proselytizing will drag the church to the right, favoring his faction in the next election, or he will be appointed to head the inquisition meant to root the schismatics out. Either way the bishop comes out on top…or so he thought, except the cultists have gleaned the secret of creating an egregore. The Bishop of Flame needs adventurers to clean up the mess, without discovering his involvement, before the cultists’ aberration topples the Sun Papacy.
The trading nation of Mezzepor has always had its share of cults. With traders converging on it from all points of the compass, with hurricanes as likely to lash its ports as sandstorms to strike its farms, and with the stony cobbles of three previous dynasties underfoot, Mezzepor is fertile ground for heretics, schismatics, snake handlers, and mystery cults of all kinds. Among the egregores known to have manifested in recent decades include the Ever-Staring Eye, the product of a death cult; the Ouroboros, the creation of cult that intended to evolve (or evolve back) into serpentfolk; and the Thought Tyrant, an egregore master created by a secret society of soldiers and warpriests, which was only brought low by the sudden appearance of near-legendary nephilim. None of these cults were entirely eradicated, so the means to resurrect their respective egregores might still exist.
The elves’ near-monopoly over the Ygg, the multiverse-spanning World Tree, makes them the preëminent information traders, stockbrokers, and spies in space. By communing with branches of the Ygg, their druids are able to share information in real time across the solar system and even into the planes. This makes them vulnerable, though, to misinformation, psychic viruses, and memetic infections and incursions that other races don’t even know exist. Egregores are perhaps the most terrifying of these violent memes. Thanks to the information-sharing properties of the Ygg, any cult leader with access to speak with plants has the ability to direct their egregore to any point along the Ygg (ignoring the usual one-mile limit of the spell), as long as there is another mind linked to the World Tree via speak with plants at the receiving end. More than one elvish spymaster has asked for a report on the destruction of this or that cult, only to have that cult’s egregore burst out of the mind of his treespeaker and begin lashing out with light tentacles and the cult’s channeled psychic spells.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 5 104–105
I might be fudging the rules a bit with that last seed. I definitely don’t care.
Phrases I love from the egregore description in Bestiary 5: “they seem to take the form of brains only because of the conceptual link they represent” and “the egregore’s staring eye and bands of light are more metaphorical than physical.” That’s juicy monster semiotics right there.
Also, how bizarre and cool is it that, thanks to Occult Adventures, a) Pathfinder has rules for phrenology, of all things, and that b) those rules are actually useful when examining the biology(?) of the egregore?
I vaguely feel like my conception of the Ygg owes something to Kevin J. Anderson’s Hidden Empire…but not too much, given that I never finished that particular audiobook. Still, better safe than sorry.