Thursday, March 8, 2018

Ourdivar


In the entry on ourdivars, Bestiary 6 states:

Ourdivars are spontaneously formed when called forth via spells like lesser planar ally.  They toil at the behest of their conjurer creators, acting as tools of chaos across the planes.

This is suuuuuper interesting to me.  The creature-spontaneously-created-in-the-act-of-conjuration is a common trope of fantasy fiction.  But in fantasy gaming, we tend to assume all outsiders come from a specific somewhere—after all, our characters can visit those planes.  Even summoners, who call into being conjured creatures the way most people conjure up chili fries, supposedly get the spirits they call from…someplace.  That makes an outsider brought into existence purely in the moment of conjuration an interesting beast indeed.

Now give it the body of a crystal lamia, with a weapon hand that can morph from spear to saber to morning star with just an effort of will (as if they were Junkions in Act 2 of The Transformers: The Movie!)…well, that’s a monster worth conjuring/creating. 

But once they're created, how do they react?  As living embodiments of chaos, following orders to the letter isn't going to be a strong suit, even in the service of a chaotic caster.  Are they thrilled at their sudden coming-into-being, or do they seek to return to the Maelstrom, à la Mr. Meeseeks (“Existence is pain!”)?  That leaves a lot of room to play for an inventive GM and a chaos-loving conjurer.

The enemies of Mortis Minelus have all wound up dead.  But each time, the method has been different—beaten to death, bludgeoned, pierced, slashed, even warped by some form of raw magic.  Minelus himself wears the purple and blue robes of the pacifist Morning Glory sect, having sworn “to raise no weapon, nor fire a spell in anger”—and spells testing his veracity have returned nothing incriminating.  The truth is that Mortis Minelus is an accomplished conjurer, using called ourdivars to do his wicked work.

Debtors know they can always find refuge in the Abbey of Alms.  First, the land the abbey sits upon is properly part of the March of Lady Weatherall, and thus not within the jurisdiction of the Lord-Mayor or his Dunners.  Second and more importantly, the constantly shifting stained glass window in the ramshackle abbey calls ourdivars to fend off any scion of law—be they archons, devils, paladins, or even humble local watchmen trying to fulfill a writ of collection.

Lamias and spirit nagas sometimes summon ourdivars for coitus, not combat.  The resulting entropic creatures are inventively deadly and hate the trappings of humanoid civilization even more than their serpentine mothers.

Pathfinder Bestiary 6 213

Do I get to say I’m the authority on nagas?  Yeah, I’m gonna say it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Othaos


High-CR aeons are concerned with the great dualities of existence: creation and destruction, life and death, the peaks and ebbs of karma as it ripples like a sine wave through existence.

The othaos, being only CR 5, handles a more elemental duality: light and darkness, protecting the one from the other so that the worlds of shine and shadow remain in harmony.  If a mysterious obelisk casts an unnaturally large shadow or outsiders made of light make an incursion onto the Material Plane, expect an othaos to manifest.

The Spear of Dumar is an incandescent stalactite of unspeakable size that casts a rosy glow over the dwarf city below.  It is lovingly tended by the Glowstones, a sect of earth druids and elementalists, as well as an othaos that has spent more than a generation inspecting the unique crystal.  When the Spear of Dumar begins to dim unexpectedly, the Glowstones recruit adventurers to rule out sabotage.  They also seek a way to contain the othaos—the aeon seems mad with grief and has already attacked two innocent citizens.

The Mirror Plane actually moves through the Shadow Plane, a ribbon of glowing silver in the eternal darkness.  Othaoses guard crucial passages and intersections along this winding road, preventing incursions from the Shadow Plane onto the Mirrorways, and vice versa.  Owbs are these aeons’ particular foes, and they will attack anyone who seems marked by their stain—including adventurers injured in combat by the magical weapons or death throes of the dark folk.

The expansion of the Incandium, Porthos’s college of magic, has led to an explosion of magical innovations and curiosities, with recent graduates eager to apply their new talents for the public good (or at least for public acclaim).  Chief among these are Porthos’s new streetlights—some magical, some alchemical—which shine brighter than torches throughout the city.  An othaos takes exception to this interruption in the cycle of night and day, dimming or consuming every streetlamp he can find.  With no Lamplighters’ Guild to pick up the slack, Porthos is facing a rash of muggings, assaults, burglaries, and attacks from cloakers, gremlins, and other photophobic monstrosities.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 10

I’m no expert in the subject, but I’m pretty sure the othaos would make a kickass Pokemon. 

Also, I could use an othaos to do something about the apartment building across the street that has taken a chunk out of my bedroom’s natural light.

Longtime reader/encyclopedic dr-archeville gave me the heads-up about the Pathfinder Second Edition playtest.  I was really hoping this day wouldn’t come anytime soon, but given the life cycle of the product line—they’d splatted pretty much all the hardcover splatbooks it seems reasonable to splat—and the general veering of the tabletop world away from complexity/having a stat for every situation to ease of creation/use, 2e Pathfinder was probably inevitable.   (The learnings from the development of Starfinder was probably also a big third factor.)

So naturally I’m a little bit nervous (like Garth in Wayne’s World, I fear change), but of course I’m excited too.  Any time an edition switches over, that creates opportunities for hungry creatives like yours truly—and possibly for many of you out there as well. 

Last night The New Indie Canon went architectural and intellectual, courtesy of our guest DJ, mcmansionhell’s Kate Wagner.  We had a great time spinning songs about buildings, architecture, the financial crash, and masses great and smol.  A huge thank-you to her for coming out and to many of you for listening.  If you missed the fun, stream/download it now till Monday, 03/12/18, at midnight.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Ostovite


One of the hallmarks of the original Outer Planes—the 1e AD&D Outer Planes, that is—was their lethality.  If arriving on the plane itself didn’t kill you—on many planes you were only a saving throw or two away from energy drain, suffocation, or reaching your full potential and exploding into a star (no, really, that was a thing)—then the Wandering Monster tables surely would (“Suddenly a…*GM rolls dice*…Type V demon appears!” “Is that bad?” “Roman numbers are always bad.”). 

These days planar travel isn’t nearly so grim—2e’s Planescape setting and 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder’s templates went a long way toward ratcheting down the deadliness.  But it’s still really nice to run into fresh low-CR Abyssal creatures.  Ostovites are a great excuse to bring the Lower Planes into even the most introductory adventures.  That may not be the right arc for every campaign, but for certain setups—especially one centered on a holy city or religious order or crusade (in my head I’m immediately flashing back to the visuals of the Claymore anime series)—ostovites are an outstanding option.

But I’ve totally let the metanarrative distract us from the monster itself, which deserves a look: It’s a silverfish made of tiny bones!  That gathers up the bones of other creatures!  And rides them in something called a bone chariot.  Why?  BECAUSE IT HAS AN INFERIORITY COMPLEX!  (If any of you are Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men fans, this is your cue for a “WHAAAT?!?”) 

Come to think of it, it’s funny—I’m guessing that, for a lot of us, inferiority complexes are probably the main driver of conflict in our daily lives.  And yet when was the last time you ran across a monster driven by inferiority?  Let alone one who literally collects bones and rides them like a parade float because it hates looking up to the demons and human slaves around it?  That’s a pretty unforgettable hook for what is otherwise nothing more than an extra-nasty silverfish.

Novice adventurers stray into a crypt that is mirrored in the Abyss.  Fortunately for them, the crypt protects them the demonic horrors of that plane.  But the crypt’s more mundane inhabitants do not care to have their domain disturbed.  After spying on the adventurers from cover, the crypt’s ostovites eagerly seek their bones to ride like the lords of death they see themselves to be.

Adventurers stumble across a rare scene—an ostovite mating dance, where the Abyssal arthropods gather to challenge each other for status and mates.  While the scholars at the Collegium would pay handsomely for notes on the encounter, the adventurers likely won’t get the chance to take any.  First of all, there are more ostovites in the area than normally would congregate together, making them extra aggressive.  And since most of the ostovites in this year’s colony have only been able to cobble together bone chariots the size of halflings and dwarves, they are driven to a frenzy by the sight of taller prey.

The Day of the Dead comes every year to the seaside town of Mazatlan, as it does all across Mexico.  But this year not all the skeletons in the parade are human.  A nest of ostovites took advantage of the seasonal porousness between life and death to slip back into the mortal world.  They quickly assemble bone chariots from recently interred corpses and attempt to join the festivities of the living.  However, a young seminarian and his friends discover the disturbed graves, and anxiously attempt to recover the stolen bodies.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 187

God, I’m so tired I can barely see.  Forgive any typos, please.

A bit of Coco in that last adventure seed, no doubt.  Also, I visited Mazatlan over spring break my senior year of college.  Loved it, especially watching the pelicans fly home at sunset.

Also, for my Blogger readers—or any Tumblr fans who missed the news—I have two Pathfinder articles coming out in the next two months!!!  Details are here and here.  I hope you preorder, I hope you read, and most importantly I hope you enjoy!  Thanks!

And finally, last Tuesday we celebrated my radio show’s 21st(!!!) birthday!  Tune in for an hour of songs about drinking, then an hour about sex, drugs, poor decisions, and consequences…not to mention just a whole lot of 1997.  Stream/download it now through Monday, 03/05/18, at midnight.  Also keep an eye out for news about*fingers crossed*—a very, very special guest DJ coming up.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Oshageros


As proteans go, the oshageros is pretty simple.  No meditating on the beauty of ceaseless change or the nature of the Maelstrom, no trying to get mortals to broaden their perspectives, no games of transmutation or mental manipulation.  OSHAGEROS SMASH.

Of course, it’s not that simple—with Int 21, an oshageros would still wipe the floor intellectually with nearly every mortal wizard, and could out-consider (with Wis 18) even most mortal priests.  It’s just that all that piercing intellect leads them* to rather Gordian† solutions: too much order must be torn down.

That crystalline wall of Law separating Order from Chaos?  Oshageroses are gnawing at the foundations of that.  That presumptuous tower of justice on some Heavenly plane?  They’ll pop in and out in a smash-and-grab judge abduction.  That newly minted inevitable prototype?  Oshageros saboteurs will see it never reaches the production line.  And when the forces of Law strike at the heart of Chaos, oshageroses will stand ready (slither ready? side-wind ready?) with dispel law, chaos hammer, draining tentacles and warpwave bursts to turn aside the blow.

Adventurers attempt to replace the keystone of a magical arch.  To accomplish this feat, a rift must be opened, then the threads of reality anchored to the arch as a ritual is performed…all while fending off assaults from oshageroses drawn to the magnet pull of invasive law.

In theory, one shouldn't be able to walk along the Crystal Horizon separating the Universe That Is from the Void—it’s supposed to be a theoretical construct, and a sphere to boot.  But in the impossible way of the Planes, the Crystal Horizon manifests as a mountain range of otherworldly quartz and granite.  Half-celestial halfling ridge runners man watchtowers here, lighting beacon fires and racing along knife-edge precipices to warn of oshageros assaults from the misty Void.

The School of Thoughts sprawls along Avedon Square and the Aspirateum in the Sixth Sacred Ward.  Anyone who assumes the academy’s moniker is a wry joke would be mistaken—the school literally collects, catalogs, dissects, and displays important concepts from across the multiverse.  An oshageros named Uragolo, Invar, and/or Shezyx (depending on the day) joins in the School of Thoughts’s regular philosophical debates.  It is understood among the planar students that physical might is a valid means of supporting one’s metaphysical arguments, but mortals on the receiving end of the protean’s tentacle lash are often caught by surprise.

Pathfinder Bestiary 6 212

*If any monster was going to use the singular “they” pronoun, you know it would be a protean. 

†As in the Knot.

In addition to the crocodilian jaws, artist Rayph Beisner gives the oshageros a tail…club?…that is also suggestive of a rattlesnake’s rattle.  Whatever it is, I love it.

Enjoy another radio show, with new Remember Sports and Calexico! Also, 15 years of the Postal Service! Stream/download it now until Monday, 02/26/18, at midnight.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Orang-Pendak


(Illustration by Daniel López comes from the artist’s DeviantArt page and is © Paizo Publishing.)

An Indonesian cryptid in our world, the orang-pendak has made its way into the Pathfinder game as a kind of jungle sasquatch, although much smaller (the name means “short person”) and more orangutan-like (no surprise there).  They are shy and nomadic, though their migrations have a pattern if one makes the effort to study them; they befriend apes easily, especially orangutans and gibbons, and train them to fight for them; and they are surprisingly strong for creatures of their size.

At first this doesn’t seem like a lot to build adventures out of.  But orang-pendaks are actually situated in an interesting design space.  As relatives of the sasquatch, they’re a good alternative when you want a “wild man of the woods” race more keyed to tropical mountain jungles.  As CR 1/2 creatures, they’re good encounters for 1st–3rd-level PCs that don’t automatically lead to violence, but are level-appropriate if a fight breaks out.  Vanarans might regard them as distant forebears, honored cousins, or embarrassing primitives.  They hunt with spears, clubs, and bolas—and let’s face it, every time I see an ape-man proficient in bolas, you know I’m thinking Planet of the (very short) Apes.  Although these ape-men won’t be riding horses, thanks to the adorable Own Two Feet (Ex) ability—ability? quality? drawback?—which has them so unnerved at riding other animals and vehicles that they take massive penalties—a great detail.

Most importantly, they’re a potential PC race!  And plenty of players out there will be willing to sacrifice some Intelligence and skill ranks for a four-foot orangutan-like druid or ranger (or shaman or hunter…or maybe even barbarian or monk!) who’s surprisingly strong (I keep forgetting to mention the orang-pendak’s Tear Apart (Ex) ability), petrified of horses, and has a platoon of monkey friends.  Heck, I want to play one right now, and I hate simians.

Indonesian myth and legend has been really kind to Pathfinder players in recent years, and the orang-pendak is no exception.  Treat the relatively blank slate they provide as an opportunity and see what they can add to your game.

Adventurers begin their career as villagers sent forth to look for a tribe of orang-pendaks.  The ape-men’s migrations typically carry them near the village, whose economy has become reliant on the herbs and medicines they bring to trade—but this year, the tribe is late.  Should the adventurers find the orang-pendaks, they discover the tribe is tardy because they’ve been taking longer and longer routes to avoid the Canyon of Lost Hope.  Evil wayangs have established a secret redoubt in the canyon, and they’ve been capturing orang-pendaks and gripplis to ship back to the Plane of Shadow as slaves.

Adventures are called in to solve a locked-room mystery, where a flamboyant local sorcerer has been found murdered, his body locked within a cage.  Investigation reveals that a business rival gave the sorcerer an “orangutan”—actually, an orang-pendak accomplice—as a potential familiar.  At night, the orang-pendak (a rogue by training) unlocked his cage, murdered the sorcerer, put his body on display, and then shimmied up the chimney, using his outstanding strength to pry open the chimney cap and then force it back into place.

Adventurers wake in the morning to discover their camp surrounded by trees filled with hooting gibbons.  Hunted nearly to extinction, a tribe of orang-pendaks has allied with several treants; now the ape-men and their forest travel together for mutual protection.  At least one of the young orang-pendaks wishes to join the party for a time.  If they consent and the youth comes to harm, the orang-pendaks and their moveable forest may come hunting for them.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 186

Hey, I’m from Baltimore; you know I had to go Poe.

For my Blogger readers (or in case my Tumblr folk missed it), the other day I posted an appreciation of Dragon Magazine #165 here.  And while we’re at it, Dragon #187’s “Ecology of the Dakon” could be used to flesh out certain aspects of orang-pendak society (though by and large dakons seem more hierarchic, aggressive, and fixated on gold than orang-pendaks would be).

As I said on air, this episode might be the platonic ideal of my radio show: something old, something new, something folksy, something grunge.  It was a night for dancing as we celebrated Mardi Gras, the Elephant 6 Recording Company, and 20 years of Neutral Milk Hotel’s indie rock monument to Anne Frank, In the Aeroplane Over the SeaStream/download it here until tonight (Monday, 02/19/18) at midnight.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Ophiotaurus


Bestiary deep cuts don’t get much deeper than the ophiotaurus.  It’s only found in a single reference from Ovid—and not from Metamorphoses, either, but Fasti.  That’s the mythological equivalent of saying your favorite ’90s alternative song is Sloan’s “Stove/Smother” cover.  Like, I can tell how you got there, but man, you were looking.

Aside from being a Gargantuan, mythic half-bull, half-snake-monster, the ophiotaurus is most significant for what it offers—a massive power boost in the form of either its ascension spell like ability and its Questing Beast (Su) ability—if PCs kill an ophiotaurus they have access to certain divinatory powers, and if they’re willing to accept a geas on top of that, they also get a massive moral bonus (+6 to Str and Con) per vengeful outrage. 

In other words, facing (and possibly slaying) an ophiotaurus is an excellent step along the way to facing a mythic Big Bad—perhaps even the penultimate step.  Every hero needs his Campbellian journey, and the Ophiotaurus checks off the Road of Trials and/or Apotheosis boxes pretty nicely.  An ophiotaurus’s death, though, should be more than a plot coupon—it should carry an air of what it is: a necessary sacrifice.

Adventures attempt to seal a portal to the realm of Baphomet, the demonic patron of evil minotaurs.  If they fail to light the temple braziers and burn the proper offerings, the snaking tile labyrinth beneath their feet reveals itself to be the pebbled hide of an awakening ophiotaurus.

At the behest of a sovereign dragon, adventurers race to the ends of the earth to place a magical yoke upon the shoulders of an ophiotaurus—an animal they did not even believe existed mere days ago.  Unfortunately, their demodand rivals have sent a lackey to beat them to the punch.  And “punch” is the operative word, for the vile servant is one of the Hundred-Handed Ones, a hekatonkheires.

Adventurers slay an ophiotaurus and eat its entrails, as the old legends instruct.  But in doing so, they have inadvertently performed a religious act, for the sacrifice of a bull, even a mythic one, belongs to Tiernos, the Lightning Lord.  Now the long-slumbering Allfather wakes, and the adventurers must contend with his assumption that they are his new high priests…and vassals.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 185

Somewhere out there someone is screaming, “The Ophiotaurus was also in the Percy Jackson series!!!” 

Fair enough.  I have not read the Percy Jackson books.  Usually mixing mythic tales and modernity is not my jam—I’ve had some grim experiences in the past.  But surely it can’t be any worse than the Nicholas Flamel books, right? Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say…

Percy Jackson saves [the Ophiotaurus] in the middle of the night, when he was warned by his favorite pegasus, Blackjack. He first thinks it is a female and names it "Bessie". The Ophiotaurus thinks that Percy is his protector. Later, the creature is brought to Olympus via a magic water bubble and is put under the care of Percy's father, Poseidon.

…Nope.

*gently closes laptop, stares into space for a minute, gets up to walk away*

Nope.  I’m out.  Not going to happen.  Nooooope.

Someone burn the room after I leave.  It’s the only way to be sure.

Once again it’s Monday night, and once again I am encouraging you, with barely an hour to spare, to click a link I should have posted last Wednesday.  Sigh.  Sorry about that.  But click anyway—it’s my first radio show of the Spring 2018 semester, and we’ve got new Hop Along, Camp Cope, and Baltimore’s own Wye Oak and Letitia VanSant, plus 20 years of Pearl Jam’s Yield.  Stream/download it now through midnight tonight (Monday, 02/12/18, U.S. Eastern)!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Oolioddroo


(Illustration by Jorges Fares comes from GeekDad and is © Paizo Publishing.)

What, a moth psychopomp wasn’t mothy enough for you?  Then how about a moth demon, the oolioddroo?

From browsing Tumblr, I know a lot of Daily Bestiary fans are also fans of possession and body horror—so merry belated Christmas, kids, because this monster is for you. 

The oolioddroo’s party piece is using her thought-siphoning tongue—you know, the one that can slurp up memories, skills, spells, or Wisdom—to implant her eggs into the brain of a sleeping or helpless victim.  Eggs that then hatch as larva (still in that brain).  Which the moth demon can track across any distance in the same Plane (safely nestled in that brain).  And through which the demon can detect thoughts, modify memory, and cast suggestion (because brain). Worst of all, the oolioddroo can sacrifice the larva (and the victim’s brain—have I mentioned the brain?) in a kind of feeblemind bomb—a tactic that causes even the Bestiary 6 to break tone and refer to it as a “scorched earth” tactic.

That’s right: This is a monster so awful it makes even the rulebook itself stop and say, “Daaaaamn.”

An oolioddroo poses as a roving fortuneteller.  Her magical abilities give her plenty of fodder for predictions, and she leaves a trail of infected or feebleminded victims in her wake.  Normally such a humble disguise would be beneath the moth demon, but this particular band of rovers has long been welcome at a local magefair the oolioddroo intends to infiltrate.

Adventurers are asked to check on the niece of a patron.  The young woman was married off to a stern landholder in a distant county, and in the intervening months her letters have grown strange and evasive.  Should the adventurers take the case, they find the woman in decent spirits but acting oddly—as do many inhabitants of the local village and the surrounding district.  Further investigation reveals the truth: Much of the town is under the control of an oolioddroo.  But when the adventurers go to confront the demon, they find themselves ambushed by the village’s uninfected in habitants.  The entire town has willingly devoted itself to the moth demon, and the infected villagers were merely a lure to draw the adventurers into its clutches.

Among a certain truly decadent and thrill-seeking set, oolioddroo eggs are a delicacy akin to caviar.  The challenge is to consume and pass the eggs without falling under the moth demon’s sway.  And since such eggs can only be harvested from the brains of an oolioddroo’s victims, this delicacy necessarily involves appallingly risky chirurgery or a hefty body count.

The Worldwound 50–51 & Bestiary 6 86–87

That second adventure seed has a very Hellboy feel to it, if you ask me.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Omnipath


(Illustration by Yigit Koroglu comes from the PaizoBlog and is © Paizo Publishing.)

The last year or so has been pretty good to aboleths—their schemes are the focus of the Ruins of Azlant Adventure Path, they got a full-fledged ecology in the same, and psychic monsters and psychic magic in general have been on the upswing since the release of Occult Adventures and the Occult Bestiary. 

One of OB’s contributions was the omnipath, the information-sharing/communications network (with a dash of spying and possession) of the aboleth race.  It was also one of our first indications that the race (known as othagu or alghollthus, depending on what source you’re reading) included more phenotypes than the tentacled fish form of the aboleths and the veiled masters.  Omnipaths resemble eels, but with a horrific set of multiple jaws nested inside each other, like something from the Alien franchise.  They have equally horrifying powers: an eidetic memory, the magic of a 15th-level psychic, a touch that can turn skin transparent and vulnerable, psychic tail rays (because why not), and a telepathic mesh that allows an omnipath to share sensations and possess victims with alarming facility.  They are, in short, bad news.

If you’re an aboleth fan, omnipaths make an excellent high-level contribution to the family tree.  If you’re not, they could still be useful in your campaign, either as one-off aquatic/subterranean monsters or as part of some other cabal.  Iku-tursos and siyokoys are both good options to pair omnipaths with in Pathfinder.  And in D&D (particularly 2e AD&D Spelljammer) the neogi race may have bred omnipaths to combat the threat of illithids, or developed them in some sick collaboration with the mind flayers.

The mysterious and seemingly utopian kingdom of Ildevania is protected by the Queen’s Mantle—a phrase meant as a metonym for her power and authority, but that also nods to the very real mesh of telepathic energy she shares with her trusted agents, the Footmen.  Adventurers discover that many of the Footmen are actually omnipaths and their thralls.  Is the country’s utopian peace worth the dark bargain the queen has made?

Adventurers manage to subdue the saboteur Renoir and shut the Cypher Gate, sealing in the dread energies he meant to unleash.  His capture also reveals the very real threat of the aboleth nation lurking far below the canals of Vinchenza, City of Spices and Spies.  Incensed that Renoir shattered the Calling Crystal that allowed Vinchenza’s fleet captains to speak over long distances, the Doge’s Council wants adventurers who can do the same to the aboleths—by gutting their omnipath network like so many eels.

A spiritualist unlocks a dark secret from an adventurer’s past: She was an omnipath in her past life.  Moreover, that omnipath’s mother is still alive…and seeks to make contact with her lost daughter, in whatever reincarnated form she now takes.  The adventurer must wrestle with what to do with this information, investigate what new insights or powers her heritage might unlock…and face the possibility that this is all a complicated aboleth plot.

Occult Bestiary 38–39 & Bestiary 6 204–205

I linked to the more recent (Bestiary 6) stats for the omnipath above.