The ram-horned, mantis-armed phasmadaemons personify death by fright. They also happen to cause death by fright (convenient, that!), courtesy of illusion spell-like abilities supercharged to be practically real, and they feed on fright, too—demonstrating, all in all, a horrifically efficient and thrifty biology.
Though phasmadaemons didn’t make it into the hardbound Bestiaries till number 6, they’ve been around since Horsemen of the Apocalypse, so GMs looking for a deep dive on their tactics, hunting habits and culture should look there. Two things in particular jump out at me, though. The first is how powerful (CR 17) phasmadaemons are—an indicator that causing death by fear alone somehow situates them closer to the daemonic ideal than, say, more base deaths such as drowning, being mauled, or exsanguination.
The second is that—though this isn’t really reflected in the rules, it’s a great story bit—phasmadaemons somehow also collect fearful imaginings and trade them with each other. I’m a big fan of the soul markets of the night hags, so the notion of even more quiddity-derived commodity trades excites me to no end.
Struck by an azata’s arrow, a thanadaemon goes mad as the celestial wound grows septic. No longer content to represent death by old age, it begins stalking the living, culling souls before their proper time—and in the process, disrupting a phasmadaemon’s carefully orchestrated hauntings. Offended, the phasmadaemon tricks mortal adventurers into hunting down the wayward thanadaemon, though all the while it also sends illusory torments to harry their progress and stoke their fear. Once the thanadaemon is slain, the phasmadaemon offers its thanks by revealing itself to the adventurers before attempting to murder them.
Fireworks, porcelain masks, and sinuous manticore puppets are all hallmarks of the Yung New Year’s celebrations. But the court sorcerer made a deal with the daemonic Lord of the Wastes to win Yung’s last war against the northern barbarian tribes, and now daemons have begun slipping unchallenged into the empire. The rise in terror and deaths are largely felt only as a malaise that hangs over the city. But that changes during the New Year parade, when a porcelain-masked phasmadaemon erupts out from under the procession’s manticore puppet and sends illusionary horrors to torment citizens.
Bugbears that perfect the art of stalking and terrifying victims are sometimes visited by a phasmadaemon. The daemon stalks the chosen bugbear over the course of three days and nights, attacking at random, setting up ambushes, and never letting the goblinoid sleep. Though few bugbears could hope to defeat a daemon in combat, if the champion does not show fear throughout the entire ordeal, the phasmadaemon will grant the bugbear some boon. Often these boons include the gift of an intelligent magical weapon, magical prowess (treat as added class levels or the half-field template),a spell-like ability, transformation into a greater barghest, or some other dark blessing.
—Horsemen of the Apocalypse 52–53 & Pathfinder Bestiary 6 74
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