Remember the Quintessons from The Transformers: The Movie? (Of course you do. They were amazing.) Now imagine taking a giant Quintesson and skinning it—alive. Now imagine that after you peeled back its metal plates, you found not the circuitry you expected, but instead shrieking organic skulls and tissue? With extra faces trying to pull away from its body in terror? Scared and grossed out yet? Now make that thing a former servant of the goddess of death, only it rebelled to torment the souls of the living with fear instead. And have it hang out on the Ethereal Plane and make it really adapt at abducting victims.
Starting to get the picture?
Oh, and make it CR 20.
That’s right…kimenhuls are the pit fiends of fear.
And we’re talking serious fear. Check out the Eternal Fear (Su) ability. Once a character has proved susceptible to a kimenhul’s eternal fear, it can telepathically communicate with that creature once per day as long as they are anywhere on the same plane. Worse yet, after the initial encounter, subsequent stressful situations can retrigger the fear, leaving the character shaken—even after the kimenhul is dead! Said stressful conversations include any and all combat…not something a professional adventurer wants to hear. (Oh, you want to cure it? Better have a wish or miracle handy.)
If that sounds like a horrific fantasy version of PTSD or anxiety…well, that’s because it is. And I’m not just hypothesizing that—I checked in with Adam Daigle (@thedaigle), creator of the sahkils (along with @wesschneider and John Compton), and he’s the one who pointed that out. Other sahkils embody specific fears; the kimenhul is, if not fear itself, certainly the next best thing—the persistence of fear, the fear you live with day after day, the anxiety attack that might be triggered at any moment. Kimenhuls are the fear that simply won’t let go. Worse yet, they particularly focus on hunting society’s strong and the powerful, humbling and incapacitating the very cream of the crop of humanity…including high-level adventurers.
I doubt most campaigns will have kimenhuls as the Big Bad. The two scenarios that spring to mind are: 1) campaigns very closely tied to the politics of the afterlife, where the rebel sahkils are one of the main threats to orderly march of souls, and 2) a campaign where fighting and defeating your fears is the main theme. (That could actually be pretty cathartic actually.)
In most campaigns, though, a kimenhul is probably the penultimate threat, the spoiler that must be defeated before the Ultimate Big Bad can be brought down—a very nice story-beat. Otherwise, the PCs risk being incapacitated or undermined just when they need to be at their best—another great story option. And here’s a GM pro tip: If PCs do face their fears and defeat the kimenhul, giving out, say, a morale bonus or ability score boost instead of treasure might be a great way to both reward the PCs and symbolize the renewed vigor with which they can now face their foes…
A ruler who was once an adventuring party’s patron has grown secretive and remote. He has also grown terrified of mirrors, stained glass, and snails. After some investigation—possibly even a red herring involving vampires—adventurers discover that a mirror in the king’s throne room leads to the Ethereal Plane. There sits a mirror version of the king’s palace staffed by sahkils, enslaved members of the snail-like psychopomp race known as shokis, and rakshasas—all ruled over by a horrifying sahkil high justice who has his hooks deep in the mortal king’s psyche.
A half-fiend cetus of mythic proportions and abilities terrorizes a city. The citizens expect their god-hero Tynin to drive off the beast, as he has done once a decade as far back as anyone can remember. But in the past ten years, age has begun to catch up to the nearly divine god-hero—and with it, fear of mortality, failure, ridicule, and countless other pitfalls. This growing anxiety has been helped along in no small part thanks to a run-in Tynin had with a kimenhul. With Tynin dragging his feet, it looks like some out-of-town adventurers may have to face the sea monster…but their initiative may not sit well with the hero-worshipping citizens, the well-heeled clerical bureaucracy built up around god-hero worship, or Tynin himself, who cannot afford to look weak on so large a stage.
Adventures have declared war on the night hags, busting up their markets in Faerie and the Dream Shore and harassing the soul trade in the Ether. Their efforts hit a snag when the hags suddenly abandon the pursuit of souls for the harvesting of liquid fear, taking them into territories like the Deep Dream and the Gray Lands that are much more dangerous for the adventurers to pursue. A kimenhul with aspirations of ascending to tormentor status has declared dominion over the night hags and is pulling their strings.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 5 214–215
I had such an abysmal posting rate last week I thought I better give you all some weekend love.
One last note from @thedaigle:
For another behind the scenes tidbit, the word sahkil is from a Yucatec Maya dialect and it means fear.
The more you know!
Oh snap, it’s Tuesday’s show! Nothing special to report, although I did get a Tiny Tim request that will put a smile on y’all’s faces. (But you definitely want to tune in this coming Tuesday…for reasons.)
Stream/download it here till tomorrow (Monday), 02/27/17, at midnight. Bros, don’t panic as the breastfeeding PSA comes up.
(Also, special apology to my Blogger readers, who never got linked to last week’s show because I wasn’t able to post an entry. Message me if you feel left out and I’ll find a way to get a copy to you.)