Manus are sort of the base model manasaputra—if you’re jaded enough to call a near-perfect enlightened being “base.” Each one acts as a spiritual guide to a particular race, attempting to quietly smooth the path to enlightenment for that species. (Interestingly, the two examples Bestiary 5 gives are humans and basilisks, which makes me wonder what a really one-with-the-universe basilisk would look like. “To turn others to stone…you must be as the stone. Deep, right?”)
Obviously, as lawful good creatures who keep a very light touch on the cosmological steering wheel, most manus are better for role-playing encounters than combat ones. They’re good for dropping subtle riddles, pointing out more fruitful paths of action, and watching over a race’s sacred sites (likely driving away despoilers with aversion).
Of course, enlightenment is a journey…and one race elevating itself over another can have profound consequences, even unintentionally. A manu-guided race’s path to enlightenment might lead to closed borders at a time when PCs need to get to the heart of their lands, pacifism when PCs need to rally the race against a common enemy, evangelism in a realm already torn by religious strife, or any number of other consequences. PCs who are too forceful in pursuing their mission might find a manu taking an interest. And any actions that risk despoiling a race’s ancestral birthplace or that could lead to a genocide will receive a manu’s full wrath.
The creator of the Way of the Willow is being hounded by hobgoblin mercenaries and harpy bounty hunters. A manu believes the Way may be an important step in mankind’s evolution…but for it to spread, it has to survive. The manu quietly and subtly pushes a party of adventurers into the path of the fugitive sage.
Adventurers exploring a machine cyst come across a manu. The manasaputra is fascinated by the clockwork creatures, seeing in them the germs of a new kind of life that may be worth fostering. Charged with eliminating the clockwork menaces, the adventurers must convincingly demonstrate that the constructs have no souls and are a plague upon the surrounding area, or they risk conflict with the curious manu.
Hunted from world to world by medusa fangships, the last lashunta nation makes landfall on Erem. The striking-looking aliens are shepherded by a charismatic guru—actually, a disguised manu willing to risk his own enlightenment to see the lashunta survive.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 5 163
I'm sooo behind on reader mail (Sorry, Scott from Phoenix!) Though I did answer acanofjars’s query re: what I thought about Bestiary 6 back here.
An anonymous reader wrote:
I'm running a campaign with a lot of undead. Got any good adventure seeds for that?
Sure. First thing to do is try searching the “Undead” tag on the Blogger version of this site. (I was a lot less rigorous with my Tumblr tagging early on.) That’s every undead seed I’ve written.
Here’s a fresh freebie: A lot of game worlds explain the abundance of old ruins and the prevalence of the Common tongue on some vast empire—echoing the far-reaching impact of Rome in our own world. But what if that empire was an undead one—not a nightmare realm of slaughter and excess, but a functioning imperial state? Such an empire could have spread far before it was pushed back…and in its wake left garrisons who refuse to lay down their arms, cults of death who romanticize the old ways under the empire, necromantic books and formulae for young wizards and alchemists to stumble upon, pollution in the blood and rivers to foster young sorcerers, haunted bathhouses, undead tax collectors, ossuaries…you get the idea.
(This answer was inspired in part by Ruth Downie’s novels about the Roman medicus Ruso, which I’m currently audiobooking, and Crystal Frasier’s really nice write-up of the Infinite Ossuary in Pathfinder Adventure Path #115: Trail of the Hunted.)
Also, if you have around $40 lying around, the D&D 3.5 book Libris Mortis is definitely a go-to resource, with tons of hooks. (Pathfinder’s undead material is scattered throughout several books, whereas Libris Mortis is a one-stop shop and quite good overall—which explains why it’s held its value—and you can easily adapt it to Pathfinder rules.) And while it’s for a different game system, Dark Ages Vampire wouldn’t be a bad choice either if you run across it in a used book store, just for all the ideas.
Finally, primeval-atom wrote:
You named dropped Anne Carson. Ok. That’s awesome.
Ha! Anytime. In fact, it’s not even the first time I’ve done it. (Looking back, that was a doozy of an entry—one of a connected string of entries exploring the formian race, plus lots of reader feedback and my own rambling. Worth checking out if you’re a newer reader. Especially if you want links to the best essay about Orson Scott Card ever.)
I had spring on the brain last Tuesday, so my radio show had lots of spring-y tunes. Hope you like it! (Also, where the hell was I for Stornoway in 2010? Because holy God I am obsessed right now.) Stream or download the entire show till tomorrow (Monday, 05/08/17) at midnight.