Monday, April 24, 2017


The lusca has a long history in Caribbean folklore as a oh who are we kidding it’s Sharktopus.

(Illustration by Bryan Sola comes from Gizmodo’s io9 and is © Paizo Publishing.)

It gets better.  The Pathfinder version has three heads.  So it’s a Cerberu-Sharktopus!

Okay, seriously, the lusca is actually a Caribbean cryptid.  But since there aren't many details on it besides that it’s an octopus-like creature, I can see why Isles of the Shackles author Mike Shel (or one of his developers/editors) Sharktopused it up.)

At this point you already know whether you’re going to use the lusca or not—you’re either the kind of GM who takes one look at that illustration and starts cackling evilly, or you’re the kind of GM who will never use the lusca and wishes the other GM would stop cackling so you can read your Bullfinch’s Mythology.  Whichever one you are, I wish you Godspeed.

Actually, three more notes, one or all of which may even sway the Bullfinchers.  First of all, if you can’t handle a Sharktopus in your game, there’s no reason you can’t reskin it.  A lusca would be an amazing servant of Dagon, Cthulhu, or some other aquatic power, especially with a template or two overlaid on top. 

Second of all, I’m really interested in the fact that this is such a nasty but practically nonmagical creature.  (What few spell-like abilities it has could easily be explained as natural phenomena.)  There’s something interesting to me about a monster this horrific not being the servant of a god, not being the creation of an arcane madman, not being a very magical creature, just existing.  That’s creepy.  (Of course, any sailor who comes across one will probably think they’ve upset a deity or two anyway.  You can imagine whole island societies falling into chaos just because a lusca swam by at an inopportune moment…)

Finally, this is yet another one of those monsters where you are about to close the book, and then you look again at the stat block and realize…it has languages listed.  Including Common.  It has Int 13.  It can talk.  And that’s a whole different level of Sharktopus…

One of the Red Lusca’s heads is dead—killed by a harpoon.  The other two, sadly, are quite alive, ravenous, and out for revenge.  If the halfling refugees are to be safely smuggled out of devil-tainted Satheriel, Red Lusca needs to die before the flotilla is launched.

Dirigibles are the main mode of transportation on the archipelago-continent of Quina.  In part this is because the floating ore hydrus is so plentiful, and in part because the fauna of the Quinan seas are so deadly.  But when a quest demands a party of adventurers travel to the Shores of Brass, they must go by boat—there is no guarantee they can carry enough hydrus to stay aloft—and that means braving the lusca-teeming seas.

The tritons of Maribus are not the benevolent coral sculptors of most worlds.  Instead, they are coldly militaristic (lawful neutral), their centurions keeping the aboleth and sahuagin hordes at bay while demanding tribute and trade monopolies from the surface lands.  Eventually this leads to a protracted war with the Coastal League of Bartag, and—thanks to the efforts of some impertinent but doughty adventurers—a tenuous peace.  But when the Maribean dictator sends a lusca to the treaty signing, he is clearly trying to restart hostilities.  The same adventurers must somehow keep the lusca from disrupting the signing, devouring the delegates, and sinking the floating tribute-city.

Isles of the Shackles 53 & Pathfinder Bestiary 5 161

April is the cruelest month…for blogging.  Sorry, guys.  My schedule lately has been like Tetris…I clear out my schedule only to have new obligations come down faster.  (Including an apartment-building fire—not mine! *knocks furiously on all the wood*—but still very scary and time-consuming.  It’s been that kind of a month.)

I can’t complain too much though, given the big news.  Speaking of which, my Blogger readers don’t know yet, so: Hey guys, check out the big news!

Yet again it’s Monday.  Yet again I’m posting last week’s radio show absurdly late.  But at least it’s posted—the previous show didn’t even get posted at all—and this time, Hanson and Third Eye Blind are involved.  For reasons.  You’ve got from now till midnight (Monday, 04/24/17, U.S. Eastern) to grab it, so stream/download it now.  (Also, no show this Tuesday because I’m probably filming on Wednesday and have an early call time.  See you next week, hopefully.)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Lotus Tree

Sometimes, you go looking for enlightenment.  Sometimes, enlightenment goes looking for you.

And then enlightenment punches you in the face with a tree branch and steals your hope for all time.

Lotus trees are one of the odder monsters in Bestiary 5…not because they are particularly outlandish, but because they exist as monsters at all.  In folklore, we tend to think of lotuses in connection with the lotus-eaters of the Odyssey, the navel of Vishnu, or the flowers that would spring up in the path of the Buddha.  In other words, themes of dreams, peace, calm, reflection, etc.

We don’t think of a CR 20(!) plant monster that can dish out up to 176 points of slam damage in a round, not to mention permanently charm a victim (with a mindwipe chaser), trap them in a microcosm, or choose from any number of other nasty mental effects.

In most high-level adventures, the lotus tree will probably be a role-playing encounter (“I respectfully seek an audience with the tree”) or a hazard (“We have to dig for the treasure in the Dream Lotus Grove without getting snared”).  It might even be a decent guard or penultimate bad guy, standing in as a kind of dreamy Cerberus for the right nature deity or fey power.

But at CR 20…with a neutral alignment, off-the-charts (23–30) mental ability scores, and a number of ways to bend minds and communicate with minions…why not make a lotus tree the Big Bad of your campaign?  Forget dragons and neothelids—there’s no reason the great mastermind behind it all can’t be a suspiciously lovely tree.

Adventurers must rescue a long-last war hero from the clutches of a lotus tree.  The famous tactician was fleeing the sacking of Tarkus when his trireme ran aground and the lotus tree, who does not approve of war, stole his mind.  The adventurers must first win over the tree, then convince the tactician, who has become a pacifist monk in the intervening years.

A lotus tree grove intends to resurrect the Queen of Thorns, an unnamed and long-deceased nature deity.  Certain adventurers have been encountering the trees’ minions since their first adventure, when they drove a mad druid out of their hamlet.  Now, years, later, they know the truth…but not in time to stop the lotus trees from unearthing the dead nature goddess (now a zombie-like plant kaiju).

Sailors who dare to sail the Far Western Ocean sometimes come across the Blessed Islands.  Each one is a strange and unique place, such as Jackdawlun, home to the jackdawmen (short-beaked tengus with the Claw Attack racial trait and the Scavenger’s Eye feat; see the Advanced Race Guide) or the Isle of Derig, populated by hopping fachen.  While these and a handful of others are well known and even charted, there are other Blessed Islands that exist only as rumors—an island populated by tigers and singing mists, a chain of islands that echo the parable of the 12 Carpenter Saints, a hungry island that eats travelers with its fanged caldera, and more.  These more elusive islands are actually the psychic creations of the native lotus trees.  They probe men’s minds for the paradises and purgatories of their dreams and then provide them…allowing just enough of their thralls to escape with stories that will draw new and more interesting minds on the next year’s tides.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 160

I’m not as familiar with the Occult Bestiary as I’d like to be—I like the classes, the themes, and the esoteric planes, but I’m shakier on the powers and phrenic pools and everything else mechanical.  I have realized one thing, though: I have absolutely zero ability to guess how powerful psychic spells are. 

When it comes to arcane magic, I get it—charm monster is going to be beefier than charm person.  Ray of frost grows up to be cone of cold grows up to polar ray. 

But I can't read psychic spells at all.  I quail in fear at id insinuation or oneiric horror…and then discover they're 2nd-level spells.  Meanwhile the harmless sounding microcosm…is a 9th-level spell that “Trap[s] creatures in a veiled mindscape permanently, causing their bodies to waste away in the real world.”  WHOOPS.  Pardon me while I hide all my character sheets forever.

Crap!  It’s already Monday, and I didn’t post last week’s radio show!  This installment was a total seat-of-the-pants affair—I had to spend my usual prep time doing my taxes—and it…um, shows.  So if you like a college radio show that definitely sounds like college radio, with indie and hip hop and country and whatever all crammed together uncomfortably like strangers in a cab, this is for you!  Stream/download it now, because you’ve got a little under an hour (till midnight tonight, Monday, 04/10/17) to grab it.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Lotus Leshy

(Illustration by Daniel López comes from the Paizo Blog and is © Paizo Publishing.)

Why create a lotus leshy?  That, I think, is the most interesting question about these flower-faced homunculi. 

I use the term “homunculi” on purpose.”  Most leshys have clearly been created by fey or druidic masters to serve certain servitor roles: as assistants, gardeners, gamekeepers, guards, and the like.  In this, they resemble many constructs of similar power and ability created by wizards.

Lotus leshys, on the other hand, are clearly meant for higher purposes.  Certainly, they serve a role in guarding specific sacred pools and lakes. But they’re also strikingly intelligent (Int 16) and superhumanly wise (Wis 19).  In fact, in most cases they’ll probably outstrip their humanoid creators in raw mental talent, if not formal schooling.  So, why create a servitor who is bound to be smarter than you?

First off, many druids are loners or outright hermits.  A lotus leshy is excellent companionship and a source of conversation, albeit one the druid can still command—never a bad thing for a nature priest who has trouble with social graces.

Second, leshys are amazing companions for druids (and clerics and monks for that matter) of a philosophical bent.  When you’re probing the mysteries of existence, you need someone to explore and ask the hard questions with. Lotus leshys serve as a metaphysical bridge between the natural world and their humanoid masters.  They are also boon companions for meditative activities like sitting zazen or creating sand mandalas.

Third, leshys help masters who have sworn vows of nonviolence.  Most Pathfinder campaigns take place in worlds where steel and spells matter more than soft words.  That makes vows of nonviolence all the more laudable and profound…but having a lotus leshy around (with aura of tranquility, seed spray, and dream pollen at the ready) helps stop fights before they start.

Finally, legacy.  Not every druid is part of a circle.  Not every apprentice is ready to wear her master’s stole and shoulder his burdens when it’s time for him to pass on.  A lotus leshy can be the repository for a lifetime of natural and metaphysical study, quietly tending its sacred pools until the right student passes its way, ready to learn, question, challenge, and blossom into mastery.

The Pool at Nuar is only a minor holy site—just one of the Seven Dwarven Teachers lectured there—but the lotus leshy who minds it is devout, practicing the bhāvanā of the Still Pool and mentoring pilgrims.  The leshy mistrusts goblinoids, though, so as long as adventurers travel with their hobgoblin guide they get a cold reception (and possibly even an enforced nap or two).

To atone for a past sin, a cleric’s master gives her a water lily floating in a jug to deliver to a shrine 300 miles away.  The lily is actually a lotus leshy tasked to quietly spy on and occasionally test the young cleric to see that her contrition is sincere.

After invaders murdered the blossom kami Glorious Hatsue, chopping her down as surely as they chopped down her cherry tree.  All that was left of the toshigami was a handful of lotus leshys she enchanted to watch the many ornamental pools that filled her park.  The shock of Hatsue’s murder—not to mention the ruination of her beautiful park during the lean years of occupation afterward—turned most her servants reclusive and fearful.  But one of the lotus leshys believes she is the heir to Hatsue’s park—perhaps even the kami’s reincarnation—and she seeks revenge.  The philosophical questions she asks reveal a dark nihilist streak, and many of those she engages in conversation end up suspiciously drowned

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 157

Greetings from Oklahoma.  Specifically, Ft. Sill in Lawton.  Last time I was here I was 5.  TWA was still a thing.  Datsun was still a thing.  Auto-flush toilets and the Internet were definitely not.  We live in magical times.

(Actually, now I’m back in Maryland, but I wrote most of this in OK.  I was hoping to post every day I was away but I was busy with my family, so that didn’t quite happen.)

Looking for the locust plague swarm?  It’s back this way.

Edit: Once again, apologies to my Blogger readers, who only get a few hours to download this.

Am I losing my edge?  That’s for you to decide as you enjoy Tuesday night’s radio show.  Since it was my (belated) birthday radio show, I spun songs to work out a little aging anxiety and remind myself that a) life is awesome, b) my friends are great, and c) I was there!  Enjoy classic Beta Band, some Socalled, new Mother Mother, and more.  Stream/download it now through midnight (Monday, 04/03/17).

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Living Mirage

To someone seeking far-off wonders or desperately needed water, mirages already seem cruel.  So a living mirage—a creature that not only misleads such seekers but also feeds off them as well—is downright horrific, siphoning streamers of blood and fluids from its confused and terrified victims, who die in agony just as they reach the objects of their desires.

Most explorers never reach the Blackstone Sphinx.  Magnetic deposits in the sand befuddle lodestones, and landmarks are few and far between.  But really it is the explorers’ own hopes and dreams that do them in.  Many spot the Sphinx miles before they should, and rather than question their luck they run straight into the desiccating embrace of a living mirage.  Worse yet, their dying frustration and desperation often traps their spirits in undead forms of fear and confusion, such as allips and worse.

An enchanted isle lies at the tip of the Finger Bone Keys—according to rumor that is.  But sailors had best beware, the stories go, because fierce seaweed (treat as Advanced) kelpies protect the island’s secrets.  Actually it is the island itself that is deadly, for it is the home of a living mirage.  The kelpies are merely opportunists who try to snatch a share of the mirage’s victims.

Exploring a giant vessel that fell from the sky long ago, adventurers come across a kind of nursery chamber in one of the habitat pods.  Adjusting a dial causes the picture-walls to show a variety of fanciful and exotic scenes.  Soon phantasmal images begin appearing in the room as well—animals and fey with whimsical shapes that match the scenery.  These are actually holograms projected by a field of tiny nanobots.  Unfortunately, the nanobots have not been charged since the crash, and after five minutes the nanobots’ programming switches to molecular harvest mode, consuming all those in the room in the same fashion as a living mirage.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 159

Everyone like the reference to Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt” there? #thanksmiddleschoolenglishclass

Also props to Bestiary 5’s authors for Ooze-type creatures that aren’t oozes—a smart move.

Regarding yesterday’s post, a reader alerted me to some of Pogo’s recent (2015) writing.  Sigh.  And sigh again.  (Nope, not linking.  MRA stuff.)  Given the amount of time he’s spent with Disney heroines, let’s hope he’s spent some time with—and learned something from—some flesh-and-blood women in the years since.

Monday, March 27, 2017


Most aeons are experienced by mortals as avatars of contrast and opposites: light and darkness, beginnings and endings, freedom and fate, and so on.  Closer in apprehension to the Monad itself, lipikas know that these opposites are merely points along the same rippling sine wave of existence.  Moreover, lipikas are the Lords of Karma and the guardians of the Akashic Record, ensuring that the psychic truths of every moment are faithfully recorded and that karmic cleansings or stains are properly apportioned. 

But since the Lords move in mysterious ways, that means powerful adventurers can easily fall afoul of them.  Lipikas have their own imperatives and their own agendas—as Bestiary 5 says, “A lipika is just as likely to chastise a righteous person for her charity and goodness as it is to scold an evil creature for its misdeeds.”  All adventuring parties will know when they encounter a lipika (at least at first) is that karma is being adjusted…but not how, why, or where they fall in the accounting.

Adventurers raise a sunken island nation, capturing the imagination of the multitudes and royalty alike.  After helping to reactivate the risen capital city’s power system, the sellswords are on hand as their lord uses genie wishcraft to build a bridge of crystal and song to connect the island to the mainland.  Just as it is about to be completed, a lipika arrives to shatter the bridge, broadcasting visions of future disasters rippling across the multiverse due to the karmic resonances the wishcraft bridge is destined to transmit.

Seeking satori, a member of an adventuring party (likely a druid, monk, mystic theurge, or samsaran) discovers he must first defeat a lipika.  Worse yet, he must do it one-on-one (though his adventuring companions can certainly ward off the Advanced time elementals (see The Tome of Horrors Complete), time and occult dragons, and lesser aeons that might accompany such an august creature).  If the seeker of wisdom has been both dutiful in his studies and in leaving himself open to revelation, he will glean that the “defeat” does not have to be through single combat, but perhaps through the casting of spells and their opposites, a dreamscape philosophy debate, or by beneficially altering the karma of another.  That said, a lipika will likely try to provoke a physical confrontation first, if only to more quickly weed out the unready and karmically stained.

If there is a psychic record of the entire multiverse…might there not also be a psychic eraser?  This is the argument of the sage Algernon Absalos…or at least it was, before he was torn apart in his own study by ravening hounds of Tindalos.  His notes and papers postulate a kind of anti-lipika, to whom the Akashic Record is merely a slate that must eventually be erased.  Adventurers who explore further may find themselves being admonished by the fiery-winged exscinder archons…a sure sign they are on the path of some essential truth…or some truly foul lie.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 8–9

In our world, Lipikas are also the Lords of Karma, but details on where they come from are obscure to the casual Googler.  The name is Sanskrit, and I’ve seen them variously described as gods, devas, and angels.  They’re apparently important in Theosophy, but that is a subject I know zero about…and searching Wikipedia left me, if anything, knowing even less than when I started.

What would a lipika listen to?  With that sine-wave bass, Pogo of course.

Edit: Apologies to my Blogger readers.  Once again you are getting this link late.

Tuesday night I took advantage of UMD being on spring break to play songs that were longer than usual and world beater/Irisher than usual.

Enjoy new music from WHY?, Diet Cig, Sinkane, and Fleet Foxes; anniversary flashbacks to U2, Arcade Fire, and LCD Soundsystem; and some surprises.

Click here to stream/download, don’t panic at the IRS intro PSA, and enjoy!  (Link good till tonight (Monday, 03/27/17) at midnight.)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Liminal Sprite

Okay, I’m warning you up top: This post is gonna go some weird places.  And it’s as pretentious and bloated as a Harvard admissions officer.  So if you keep reading, remember I gave you a chance to bail before I became utterly insufferable. 

We cool?  Okay, here goes…

Guys.  Guys.  GUYS.  You have no idea how excited I am for the liminal sprite.

My paper for my college’s famously hard Religion 101 midterm?  It was on liminality.  The reason I spend Labor Day and New Year’s playing board games?  I made a lifelong friend tutoring a frosh on her liminality paper.  My favorite school mascot?  The Liminal State Bobcats.

So yeah, this is my kind of monster.  Add to that the fact that it’s a fey with a killer backstory, great art, and a low CR, and this just all adds up to “Squeeeee!” territory for me.

Bestiary 5 gives us plenty to work with: These are sprites cursed to rest neither out in the open or inside any building.  This leaves them only liminal (that is, threshold) spaces in which to make their homes—in sheltered doorways; behind shutters; under eaves, porches, and outside stairs; and so on.  That’s an absolutely fantastic fluff detail that also suggests some nice encounter options.  Need a witness to a burglary?  Liminal sprite.  A guardian for a magical gate?  Liminal sprite.  Servant of your world’s version of Janus?  Liminal sprite. 

Liminal sprites also love comedy, so they might hang around actors and theaters, particularly outdoor stages.  The next time your PCs stop into town for supplies, a side quest involving a liminal sprite wielding a girdle of opposite gender could be a delightfully Shakespearean side trek.  They’re also knowledgeable about local events and stealthy as hell (+17!).  And as familiars, their Repartee (Su) ability, which turns the +2 aid another bonus to +2d4, can help a chaotic sorcerer or bard really punch above their weight on Charisma checks.

But there’s another way to use liminal sprites.  If you remember your college reading of van Gennep and Turner—actually, I think my copy of The Ritual Process is still on my bookshelf somewhere—the original notion of liminality was meant to refer to certain threshold moments in time, not space.  These were transitional phases during rites of passage, or special times of the year, neither sacred nor profane, where the ordinary rules are suspended and society’s low and high temporarily occupy an equal footing.  (The perfect example of this is the move between (profane) Ordinary Time in the Catholic liturgical calendar and the (sacred) Season of Lent.  What falls in between?  Mardi Gras, where we get ready for weeks of repentance by gorging on baked goods and showing our tits.  It doesn't get more liminal than that.  Communitas, bitchez!)

This is perfect for liminal sprites.  Like many outsiders and undead, the best fey not only exist in and of themselves, but also represent or embody a larger something…sometimes a thing (like a dryad’s oak), but sometimes a notion (like the fear of drowning or the joy of the hunt).  The very curse that hampers the liminal sprite ray also gives them a conceptual/spiritual reason for being.  It might even nourish them in some way—I can imagine scenarios where a liminal sprite gets a small bonus during times of ritualized upheaval (like Carnival), certain days of the calendar (like Leap Day), or specific astrological events (such as eclipses).

“But wait,” you remind me, “this is for a game.  That’s a lot of conceptual bull$#!† to hang on a CR 2 sprite.”  And honestly, you’re right. 

But when the party sorcerer’s liminal sprite familiar gets extra antsy or powerful or flat-out vanishes during your game world’s version of New Year’s Eve, you’ve just made that world a little more real.  And if your PCs are planning a Leap Day treasury heist and are agonizing over whether to wait an extra day to recover spells, or go today to take advantage of the ad hoc bonus you’ve announced having a liminal sprite along will confer…but only until midnight…well, suddenly all those ridiculously pretentious paragraphs above have at-the-table, tactical risk/reward consequences.  Not bad for a 3 Hit Dice, size Tiny fey, right?

Gnomish thieves are robbing the citizens of Westphal blind during the summer theater festival.  They pick the pockets of the distracted citizens during performances, then vanish under the stage, where an open manhole allows escape into the sewers.  The gnomes have attracted the attention of a court of liminal sprites, but the faeries are only too happy to guard the portal for the gnomes, so long as they get their cut.  Last night, though, sewer-dwelling derros discovered the open manhole, and now a lot more than treasure is going to disappear into the darkness.

After a contentious year of peasant uprisings and arguments with Parliament, the queen declares a curfew during Winterfeast.  Among other things, this will prevent the midnight crowning of a Lord and Lady of Misrule—conveniently sparing the queen the need to surrender her authority, even if only symbolically, to a couple of upstarts during the week of parades and masked games.  The peasants are disgruntled, even angered, at the news…but the region’s liminal sprites, who delight in the festivities and are spiritually nourished by this time of upheaval, are outraged.  Until a Lord and Lady of Misrule are crowned, the sprites do not intend to let the city have a moment of peace.

In the Polish city of Kraków during King Casimir the Great’s reign, liminal sprites have been delighted to find companionship and shelter under the eaves of Jewish households.  The sprites enjoy eavesdropping on the debates of the rabbis, and they treat guarding the mezuzahs on their neighbors’ front doors as an honored nightly obligation.  So when the day comes that every mezuzah in the Old Town has vanished, and not a liminal sprite is to be found, the concerned Jewish citizens of Kraków want answers.  Acceding to their demands, Kraków’s prezydent hires adventurers to look into the mystery.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 158

The Liminal State Bobcats are a creation of my college friend, Dorothy Gambrell.  (She lived one floor up and one suite over freshman year.)  Webcomic fans will know her as the creator of Cat and Girl, one of the longest-running webcomics to date.  She actually has a Kickstarter going on right now with about 4 hours left, so this is an excellent time to show her some love.

If you’ll indulge me for a second: That tutoring session I mentioned above has become something of a story among a different set of my college friends.  The short version is that the frosh originally thought I was horrifying.  To her, I was a drunken weirdo.  (I maybe used to bring 40s to pep band rehearsals.  Whoops.)

But then came her brutal Religion 101 paper.  (To give you context, I didn't have to do any reading for the first three weeks of my 600-level grad school courses because of this same Religion 101 class.)  Turned out we’d both written about liminality; turned out I still remembered the course; turned out my advice on revising her paper helped earn her an A.  We’ve been friends ever since. But her roommate later told me she came back to her dorm saying, “The drunk guy from Band saved my paper and I have to lie down because the world doesn’t make sense any more.”

For any of my high school readers about to go to college, there’s an Alien-esque moral here: In a single room, no one can see you study.  (And later on, you’ll really get to mess with people.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Liavaran Dreamer

(Illustration by Ben Wootten comes from the Paizo Blog and is © Paizo Publishing.)

In the Pathfinder RPG’s default solar system, Liavaran dreamers are relatives of the jellyfish-like Brethedan race.  Residents of a gas giant, the Brethedans sent colonists to their closest planetary neighbor.  After ages of no contact, a second convoy was sent, where they discovered the original Brethedans’ descendants had gone feral, lulled by—or even addicted to—Liavara’s numerous ley lines.  The resulting dreamer is a somnambulant creature more asleep than awake, following the ley lines in a dreamlike state.

None of this seems like the makings of much of a monster, especially since Liavaran dreamers don’t combine like their Brethedan cousins do.  (Even if you mind-link with one, the worst that can happen is that might be temporarily dazzled, too.)  But dreamers still need to eat…and unlike Brethedans, they have an engulf ability, with acid damage and paralysis in the bargain.  They also really, really like their harmonious sleep.  Remove one from its ley line for too long, or reduce it below half its hit points, and you essentially get a raging barbarian of an air jellyfish, liable to crit you into ribbons and/or a bloody pulp courtesy of tentacles that do bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage in an 18–20 range.  Think of them like you would a psychic longhorn—it’s a cow as long as you’re on the other side of the fence, but up close and riled up, it's a bull—and that’s a completely different animal, figuratively speaking.

This blog, however, is setting-neutral.  So if our Brethedans are just brethedans, and our psychic jellyfish aren’t Liavaran, what kind of dreamers do we get instead?

Brethedans are common visitors to the airship-friendly city of Spike—many are even citizens.  So the owners of the Metallos Menagerie should have expected some trouble when they chose to exhibit a flotilla of T’Sharan dreamers.  Still, even the most jaded Spikers were caught by surprise when the brethedans did not just protest the display of their degenerate cousins, but instead rioted and let all the menagerie’s beasts free.  Now wild monsters from three continents roam the Spire City—and the most dangerous of all are the T’Sharan dreamers.  Starved for both meat and the reassuring hum of a ley line, they are hours, if not minutes, away from atavistic fury.

“Don’t split the party.”  Even fledgling dungeon delvers know this.  But when a party of adventurers sets out to kill a psychic parasite, they have to do it on two worlds at once.  On this plane, they have to put down a Medusan dreamer driven mad by the parasite that distorts its precious ley harmonics.  And in the Dreamscape, they have to slay the parasite’s psychic form, that of an ioun stone-juggling munavri rake.  If either half of the parasite persists, it will regenerate in time...and with a vengeance.

“‘Aether prospecting’ they call it.  You dive into the gas giant’s psychic mantle and come up with tanks full of ley energy.  It’s a gig that pays obscene money; on top of that the aether yields are pretty much essential for most large-sale enchantment work.  We’re talking magical vessels or structures, mind you, not your run-of-the-mill sparkly sword.  You just have to make sure a flotilla of dreamers don’t paralyze you and melt you into goo for stealing their stash, or that one of those oma whales doesn't fry you like bacon as it’s swallowing your ship whole.  But you’re tough enough for the job…ain’t you?”

Occult Bestiary 31

Note that I linked to the Archives of Nethys for stats, since I know Paizo folk tend to be fans of that site.  Careful to avoid copyright issues, the d20PFSRD I usually use for such monsters calls them “sky dreamers.”

If you’re looking for the lesser death, it’s back here in the “Grim Reaper” entry.

No radio show tonight.  Post-snow the roads seem okay, but close to an hour commute each way on ice at night still isn’t the best move.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Leng Ghoul

(Illustration by Miguel Regodón Harkness comes from the artist’s DeviantArt page and is © Paizo Publishing.)

There’s no way I can do justice to Leng ghouls here.  For that, you of course need to turn to the work of H. P. Lovecraft, particularly The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.  For a quicker overview of Leng and how it fits into Pathfinder, Greg A. Vaughan’s “Leng: The Terror Beyond Dreams” has a gazetteer of that nightmare realm, courtesy of Pathfinder Adventure Path #65: Into the Nightmare Rift. 

Here, then, is the short-short version: Leng ghouls are more bestial in appearance than other ghouls, having vaguely canine faces.  They’re also substantially more powerful, weighing in at a mighty CR 10 and packing a nasty version of ghoul fever.  (Also of note: Gugs fear them.  Meanwhile, while normal ghasts are fairly close cousins of normal ghouls, Leng ghouls and the bestial Leng ghasts hate each other with a passion.)

But despite all this, what really sets these undead apart is their intellect: Leng ghouls are civilized, even erudite, with close to genius-level intelligence, all Knowledge skills treated as class skills, and the ability to cast pretty much any scroll.  These are ghouls that, when they’re not trying to devour you for dinner, might invite you to a scholarly lecture or chamber music performance.  You just have to watch out around mealtimes.  (And there’s that nasty habit they have of worshipping the Outer God Nyarlathotep…)

The key hook for GMing Leng ghouls is surprise.  There should always be a twist somewhere in the encounter.  Maybe it’s the Leng ghoul delightedly inviting them to peruse its library.  Maybe the Leng ghoul acts like their friend only to betray them at the last minute.  Maybe the PCs descend into a Leng ghoul’s wine cellar only to find themselves climbing a tower on the moon.  Maybe after too long in a Leng ghoul’s company, the PCs find themselves tainted by the touch of the Crawling Chaos, or invited to be guests of honor at a ball in Hell.  The point is, when PCs encounter a Leng ghoul the adventure should either take a sharp left turn into Weirdsville, or else kick into high gear with the pedal to the floor.  Encounters with Leng ghouls don’t have to be a melee; they might be beneficial, even friendly—but they should always lead somewhere unexpected.

Adventurers arrive at the Kingdom of Ghouls during strange times—a delegation from Leng has just arrived for the first tome.  Expecting to have to slaughter their way through waves of feral undead to reach their nemesis, the fabled Ghoul King, the party members are taken utterly aback to find themselves given tokens of protection and asked to arbitrate trade negotiations between the Kingdom of Ghouls and Leng.

Adventurers are fighting gugs underground when the arrival of a Leng ghoul terrifies the great shaggy beasts.  The ghoul invites the adventurers back to its chateau, an otherwise ordinary-looking villa built into a barren cavern.  The Leng ghoul is a charming host, and only when the adventurers try to leave (and discover the villa now sits on a cliff overlooking an oily sea against a black sky) do they discover the ghoul’s true motivation for befriending them—one that involves a moon-beast potentate, drow flagellants, and a stock market for body parts run by the mercane.

Adventurers have found a scroll they cannot translate, written in hieroglyphics that conform to no known language.  Soon they find themselves the subject of a number of assassination attempts.  A Leng ghoul wants the scroll, as it will allow him to bind a good outsider to the helm of a skyship designed to sail on human-skin wings between the stars.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 120

For another look at the Leng ghoul, check out Daily Planescape’s take.

Original post edited for my Blogger readers:

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