Monday, July 18, 2016

Emotion Ooze

There are times I have all the tools I need for this job.  Other times…not so much, especially when it comes to movie monsters.  Once you get below top-tier sci-fi and fantasy films, I’m pretty weak—for some reason I never got the steady diet of B movies and Saturday-afternoon UHF marathons that many of y’all did.  And horror movies I’m hopeless at (because I hate them).  I even missed the Slender Man reference in the Inner Sea Bestiary, despite the monster being called the thin man!  (I feel well within my rights to blame the art in that case, but still, jeez.)

This time, though—for once—I caught the reference.

Emotion oozes are the ooze from Ghostbusters II!!!

All together now:

A young etheric dragon has become trapped on the Material Plane.  The gout of ectoplasm that got trapped with him and the esoteric energies the growing dragon gives off have combined to form pools of emotion oozes reflecting the dragon’s psychological state—despair, fear, and anger in particular.  Unfortunately, the dragon is not immune to the oozes’ compulsions, and its behavior grows more and more erratic.

The countess of Rostovy was said to bathe in the blood of virgins every new moon.  In truth she bathed only in her own jealousy, stewing in the emotion until the stew became literal—a jealousy ooze that devoured her entirely.  The ooze still dwells in her sumptuous bathing chamber, but it moves through the palace pipes to foster mistrust and hunt new prey.

Officially, the Forgotten Crusade has ended.  The Rose Cardinal unmasked the Peacock Cardinal, branded and executed her as a heretic, erased her proclamations from the Book of Bulls, and announced that the crusade formerly known as the Third Crusade was not only anathema, but actually had never occurred at all.  This last fact in particular caught the besieged and besieging armies facing off at the Bleak Pedestal completely by surprise.  By all rights the demoralized crusaders should have returned home…but still they soldier on a decade later, as do the defenders (who are watered by a natural spring and can be resupplied by sea).  The reason for their persistence is occult in nature.  The glories and atrocities of the Second Crusade were so extreme that the caverns below the Bleak Pedestal are slick with the slime of emotion oozes attuned to zeal, dedication, and hatred.  These oozes’ unnatural compulsions have wiped all thought of parley or retreat from the minds of the combatants.  And so the Forgotten Crusade lumbers on until someone—perhaps a party of adventurers—disrupts the oozes’ manipulation.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 108–109

My dad took me to see Ghostbusters II in the theater.  Ditto the 1989 Batman, which came out a week later.  (In my memory, we saw BM first, and then GB2, but I might be wrong about that.)  I was just blown away because we didn’t see a ton of movies in the theater and almost never on school nights, so the fact that I got to see two movies within a week or two of each other was mind-blowing.

(BTW, talk about fortuitous timing for this post!  Haven’t seen the new Ghostbusters yet, but I plan to!)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Elder Deep One

Back in April we covered the deep one and the deep one hybrid.  If you felt something was missing…well, the alphabet is as cold and unyielding as the lightless depths where deep ones dwell.

But now, finally, the elder deep one rises from the murk!

Aside from being much larger (Gargantuan) and more powerful (CR 14) than ordinary deep ones, three abilities set the elders apart.  The first is their Mind Reflection (Ex) ability.  Able to not just resist, but actually reflect mind-affecting effects back to their source is a fearsome advantage.  The wrong spell cast at an elder deep one could easily take out a party’s caster (and now that Occult Adventurers is on the shelves, parties are packing more mind-affecting magic and powers than ever).  Second is their Devastating Strike (Ex).  I don’t care what level your character is—when the monster starts taking apart entire buildings, it sends combat into a whole new realm.

But it’s their Deific nature that really stands out.  Elder deep ones can grant spells; despite not being gods as sages understand the concept, and despite only being CR 14, they still can channel divine energy to those that venerate them.  Elder deep ones even grant domains.  They even have associated divine weapons! (They probably can’t actually hear prayers per se…but there must be at least some tether there, so who knows?)

In any case, that makes any deep one or deep one hybrid allied with an elder a potential adept, cleric, or worse.  It means that deep one elders are closer to gods than even mythic PCs, without ever facing a mythic trial.  It means they have direct access to hierophanies that bypass everything humans know about mortality and divinity, and that puts them within hailing distance of the terrifying Great Old Ones and their nigh-incomprehensible Outer Gods.

Most terrifying of all, that might mean all the deep ones’ dread prophecies and assertions—that this reality is a horrible accident, and that one day the Outer Gods will return to tear down existence itself—might be true.

Interrogating a terrified devil reveals to adventurers that the Great Old Ones are indeed real…and worse, their worship thrives.  Soon the adventurers are caught up in a conflict between cultists of slumbering Bokrug and graffiti-scrawling cloaker followers of the King in Yellow.  Each side of the conflict is directed by a deep one elder, one of whom has bound the devil’s fraternal twin.

Legendary elder deep ones like Mother Hydra typically live far beneath the sea—but not all.  At least one seems to have claimed an ancient dwarven citadel, where it rutted under the waterfalls with an umbral dragon to create terrible, quivering half-dragon spawn.  Another conquered the Flying City of Adar, then mummified itself so it could watch for signs and portents far up in the atmosphere.

The hunt for a mesmer who skipped bail in Baltimore has led a party of investigators through some pretty odd turns, including battling moonshine juju zombies in the Shenandoah Valley, attending a hill giant circus run by lamias, and purging a hound of Tindalos from a university hospital.  Now the trail has led to New Orleans—just in time for Mardi Gras.  But there is something different about the krewes lining up for the parades and extravagant balls this year.  There is more magic in the air than usual, the fey floats have disappeared completely, and many of the krewes that remain have a distinctly fishy look to them.  Investigation reveals that nearly all of the non-fey krewes have been infiltrated by deep one hybrids.  Worse, the secret societies’ rites and rituals have been twisted into prayers to a deep one elder, who now stirs beneath New Orleans’s swampy sewers.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 69

If you’re looking for a more physical vs. magical threat, try the kuo-toa leviathan from the 3.5 Underdark book (my review here).  If you’re looking for more about fantasy krewes, the Scarred Lands setting (see that same link) has you covered.

I still haven’t had the time to write up any thoughts about my PaizoCon experience.  (To give you some idea of what my life’s been like in the past month and a half, tomorrow will be my 11th straight day of work.)  But since I missed anomalitstic’s New Orleans game, guess which adventure seed is for him?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


(Image comes from artist Nikolai Ostertag’s DeviantArt page and is © Paizo Publishing.)

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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


The “Occult” in Occult Bestiary means a lot of things, but there’s enough overlap with the RPG world’s classic psionic territory that we were bound to get a few flying brain monsters.  (We’ve already done the cerebric cyst, and the enlightened contemplative—an upgrade of these guys—is coming soon.)

Too many aerocerebra would be too much of a good thing, so it’s nice that the egophage has preëxisting ties to another monster, the intellect devourer.  When one of those nasty body-stealing brains gorges on the right eldritch substances (midnight milk is the mutagen of choice on Golarion), it gets a boost in psychic power and gains the ability to fly, its legs becoming tentacular appendages.  The resulting creature is thus even more able to insert itself into humanoid society (and humanoid crania, for that matter).  As they are more mobile than their lesser kin, they are more likely to leave the intellect devourers’ hidden cities in search of new bodies and sensations.  Fortunately their innate egoism and hedonistic desires usually distract them from being the effective spies and infiltrators for their race they might otherwise be.

Adventurers encounter a flying brain deep in the underworld.  The disembodied organ claims to be a monk who has transcended his physical body—a claim seemingly backed up by his yeti manservant, equally calm and serene despite being so far from home.  The flying brain encourages the adventurers to rest and train with him at his lamasery, where his true children, a ravening pack of young intellect devourers, are eager to claim their first host bodies.  Any adventurers who escape the intellect devourer young will have to face the claws of the possessed yeti.

In the city of Etaliar, the pursuit of sensation is seen as the ultimate good.  Bards, acrobats, playwrights, storytellers, and even skalds and mediums—not to mention drug-slinging alchemists and prostitutes both sacred and profane—are lauded for their ability to move body and mind.  But misery lurks just beneath the city’s carefree surface.   What seems like a turf squabble between drug dealers is actually an all-out war between amoral hedonists, as a body-stealing brood of egophages muscles in on the rakshasas who secretly run Etaliar.

In the void, egophages come from another dimension.  Unable to cross the boundaries of space-time themselves, they ride the bodies of those they encounter during warp anomalies, treating them as fleshy voidsuits.  Their vulnerability to protection from evil means that no ship with a warp helm will turn away a good cleric or paladin, and all but the most loathsome slavers, reavers, and antipaladins will curb their behavior in order to not offend their protector and his party during warp travel.

Occult Bestiary 26

Speaking of tentacular nasties, re: the dwiergeth Simon Grundy-Reiner writes:

I hadn't realized until no that the dwiergeth was Large. That makes it so much more crazy and alien. I love it!

And I’m way overdue in acknowledging Oh_The_Places_You'll_Go’s awesome comment on the duergar tyrant:

Awesome work on this one, Patch – I enjoy the dark dwarves, too, and I think they deserve a little more love than they usually get. In an attempt to make them more common and developed in my homebrew setting, they play an integral role as the favored mortal creation of the gods. Their task is divinely inspired, and they have a pretty good reason for being reclusive or standoffish that relates to an ancient attack on the world by alien deities. By making pacts with demons, they delve deeper than any other race in order to find malignancies and planar rifts and seal them, thereby preventing the far gods from wreaking havoc.

It's not completely original, but it gives the duergar a pretty necessary niche and a lot of responsibility – and it's why other nations allow them to take slaves. The endless number of workers required for their task means they can't afford to restructure their workforce or economy and risk missing a rift or allowing something through.

Food for thought, though I'm definitely integrating the first and second entries for today into my newest campaign – maybe as the beginning quest!

That’s a really compelling take on them, OTPYG, especially in a setting where the deepest darkest dungeons don’t lead to a fiery core but rather somewhere…else.  (D&D’s 4e Underdark certainly works that way, as does Eberron to a lesser extent.)  Personally I doubt the duergar would make pacts with demons (though they certainly might bind and enslave them instead), but pacts with devils, shaitan genies, and even daemons, certainly!

Oh, and finally, no radio show this week because I’m pulling a late-nighter at work. Blerg.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Eclipse Giant

You all already know my feelings on nonstandard giant types—I’m skeptical, but I try to keep my mind opened at least a crack.  So long as you don’t get too specific—“Behold the mighty karst giant!” or ridiculously off-theme—“Has anyone seen my scroll giant mini?”—I’m okay.  Hence me having no problem with Pathfinder’s taiga giant (legit geographical hook, plus a cool spirit focus for its fluff and abilities).  And rune giants won me over with their sheer awesomeness and the early-Varisia worldbuilding inherent in their creation.  (In contrast, I’m not 100% sure we needed slag giants, at least in the general, though again they work  as part of Varisia’s history.)

So what to make of the sun, moon, and especially the eclipse giants?


I dig them.

Okay, there’s no way I think that these…um…heavenly body giants fit in the same family tree as the Edda/Brothers Grimm-inspired giants of the Bestiary.  But on their own continent, or in a completely separate cosmology?  Heck yeah!  (The Bestiary 5 writers seem to be of a similar mindset, giving the sun giant an atlatl for a Mesoamerican flavor, as well as fluff that recalls both the kind and cruel gods of the Aztecs.)  A barbarian might be used to felling cloud giants in his home fjords, but when he gets stranded in a jungle and comes face to face with an eclipse giant hurling harm boulders, he knows he is far from home.  Or maybe these giants replace the standard giants altogether in your campaign world.  Remember how important phases of the moons were to Dragonlance’s world of Krynn—up to and including in-game affects for PC wizards of the White, Red, and Black Robes?  If celestial phenomena are as important as that in your campaign, eclipse, moon, and sun giants give PCs one more reason to look to—and fear or revere—the bodies in the sky overhead.

Eclipse giants are the most powerful and mysterious of these giants.  Eternally peripatetic and able to heal with one hand and harm with the other, they are nomads whose coming brings awe and fear in equal measure.

Adventurers discover the Rookery, the nesting ground for a primitive offshoot of the tengu race.  While savage, these tengus lay eggs infused with a magic that is anathema to daemons.  Adventurers are negotiating with the tengus to claim some of their stillborn eggs, but they are interrupted with dire news.  A solar eclipse is due to occur, and several families of eclipse giants are headed straight for the Rookery with no thought to the eggs they will trample on their way.

He Brings the Stone, He Brings the Balm is the cumbersome name of the eclipse giant eternally on walkabout in the land of the Wallatar.  A tribal nation of oreads, this shamanic people claim the eclipse giant had a hand in their creation.  Even so, they respect but do not revere the giant, as he is known for trampling Wallatar villages and smashing their standing stones in his hunt for rogue dreams and sceaduinar and nightshade incursions.

Most eclipse giant seers are esoteric beings with their heads in the clouds (sometimes quite literally), obsessed with formulae and portents.  Umpalang, on the other hand, is a shrewd investigator whose passion is the ancient ruins of giantkind.  His skill at trapfinding and alchemy make him a dangerous rival for treasure hunters, and while human-sized adventures can scamper through the cracks in a temple façade with more ease, Umpalang’s Gargantuan frame is better suited for navigating through the most dangerous (and most lucrative) cyclopean ruins.  He seems to be looking for something in particular, and rumor has it he is close to uncovering the birthplace of the drow race.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 121

Giants plus drow?  Yeah, I liked Eberron.

One of the most (in)famous professors at my college—which, by the way, may or may not be Ilvermorny (no seriously, we held a capella concerts on that mountain)—was the astronomer Jay Pasachoff, who has probably seen more solar eclipses than any other human alive.  He would have made a good eclipse giant.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Psychic liches need meaty servants.  Psychic stalkers gonna stalk.  Spirit walkers gotta animate.  When psychic damage is enough to both kill a creature and turn its body into a puppet, you get an echohusk—a zombie-like creature animated by and yet vulnerable to psychic magic.  Dread echohusks can even hurl fear, though again they are vulnerable to it as well.

An occultist fumbles during his examination of an ancient skull, accidentally awakening the psychic stalker that had lain dormant inside the bony vessel.  By the time adventurers arrive on the scene, the psychic stalker is long gone, but the occultist and the rest of the museum staff are now echohusks—including the occultist’s bugbear litter-bearers, as well as an ogre caged in the museum as an exhibit.

A wall mosaic of a basilisk is set with a cursed gemstone eye that scorches the body and blasts the power chakra of anyone who approaches.  Those who die in front of the mosaic rise as dread echohusks.  The basilisk mosaic also eerily resembles the Serpent card found in the adventurers’ fortune-telling deck.

The lord of the land is a psychic lich—and he uses echohusks as his bailiffs, tax collectors, and silent heralds.  A party of adventurers have therefore seen these shambling corpses as symbols of a hated authority all their lives.  If they are discreet, they can dispatch these psychic zombies, gaining valuable experience in fighting undead and perhaps learning something about their lich master.  But eventually the lich will notice his puppets going astray, and his revenge will be terrible.

Occult Bestiary 24–25

Tuesday’s radio show was all about fireworks and fun songs.  Stream/download it here till Monday, 7/11, at midnight.