Friday, December 30, 2011


When people talk about the hordes of the abyss, they are talking about dretches, born in droves from evil souls and forced into slavery or to the front lines.  Their low CR also means that even beginning parties can get a taste of demon fighting in their very first adventure.

Like most campaigns, this one starts in a tavern.  A ragtag group of would-be adventures discover they all have something in common: a loved one who spontaneously turned into a dretch.  They join forces to find answers and hopefully stop the awful manifestations.

A party is walking through a planar market when a mob of dretches tears through, having escaped from the slave auctions.  Their vrock handlers do not care how many market-goers are mauled as long as the dretches are rounded up, and attack the party if their intervention harms their livestock.

Dretches are born of the sin of sloth, and likewise often serve spellcasters too lazy to reach for greater power.  A local hedge wizard’s habit of summoning dretches is a sign of his slow descent into evil and his growing search for easy shortcuts to power.

Pathfinder Bestiary 60

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Judging by published Pathfinder adventures, the draugr may be the most popular monster in the Bestiary 2.  This isn’t a surprise.  Certain deaths are so horrible that they seem to deserve their own monsters, and death by drowning is clearly one.  The nausea-causing draugrs are also an excuse to go whole hog with the gory descriptions.  “Their attacks smear rancid flesh, rotting seaweed, and swaths of vermin on whatever they hit,” says the Bestiary 2 (and thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean series, players have no trouble connecting those dots in their imaginations).

The templars of Dol Imri are known as much for their banking system as for their skill in fighting infidels.  When one of the Templar Knights’ lost treasure ships returns as a ghost ship, the sailors and paladins have all become draugrs, while the paladins’ Master is now a draugr captain wreathed in green obscuring mist.

Sages say the plains of the Middle Passage were once a vast inland sea.  No human eye witnessed that epoch, but the theory would explain the strange fossil fish sometimes unearthed in farmers’ fields there—as well as the elven draugrs that sometimes erupt from the soil to attack homesteaders, wielding magical harpoons and still rotting of fish despite now being thousands of miles from the water.

Certain dark priests can summon forth draugrs.  The rival sects of Urodel, the Marsh Queen, and Hungry Jinn, the spirit of shipwrecks, send draugr minions against each other in their never-ending war of attrition, with poor coastal communities caught in the middle.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 110

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dragon Turtle

If dragons are sometimes asked to do too much in RPGs—fighting machine meets powerful sorcerer meets string-pulling manipulator meets steed/spell component/treasure provider—dragon turtles are asked to do too little.  Over the years, they’ve gone from being the toughest aquatic beasts in the Monster Manual to today’s CR 9 mid-level menaces (the same as a young bronze dragon).  And when they’re mentioned in supplements, their roles are almost always the same—“dragon turtle haunts shipping lane or harbor, demands tribute” or “dragon turtle jealously guards cave.” In short, they’ve gone from dragon to turtle—a move even reflected in the illustrations, in which they’ve grown progressively more snapping turtle-esque.  And while sometimes you want a simple bad guy, don’t be afraid to boost your dragon turtle’s size, intelligence, and ambitions.  Its creature type is Dragon, and it deserves to be treated like one. At the very least make sure you describe it having a dragon’s head…

Cartographers limn the unexplored seas and coastlines of their maps with dragon turtles and other ferocious behemoths.  This is no mapmaker’s cliché.  There is a continent to the west, one whose existence is a secret closely guarded by the dragon turtles.

Jezebellus Crackjaw is an advanced dragon turtle whose bulk is matched by her wit and ambition.  She has enslaved several locathah tribes and seeks tribute from any merfolk or bronze dragons that stray into her realm. She regularly sinks ships in strategic locations to create temporary lairs and sponsor reef growth.  Now she seeks to be invited to the next draconic conclave.  She’s not likely to attend, but the recognition would be worth more than platinum to her.

Fey standards of handsomeness and beauty differ from mortals’.  Amalphi and her sister, two nereids, lure sailors into the waiting maw of Amalphi’s one true love, a corpulent dragon turtle.

Pathfinder Bestiary 112

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Dragonnes are a mix of dragon and lion—a nice aerial predator to throw into the mix, and a worthy mount for the right PC.

The Viscounty of Marlane’s coat of arms features a dragonne rampant.  When a live dragonne is spotted in the highlands, the viscount wants it—caged if it can be managed, stuffed if not.

The land of Elba has never known true dragons; what they call “dragons” are actually highly territorial dragonnes.  They are still formidable opponents, and each lord’s court and bishop’s diocese tends to have a skilled fighter, cavalier, or paladin trained as a “dragon slayer.”  When an actual dragon crosses the sea to take up residence in Elba, the dragon slayers must cope with a monstrous true drake and the still-ravenous dragonnes.

Most druids work behind the scenes; many are outright hermits.  But the druids of Brion take a very active role in the leadership of the region.  Arriving with the sound of wingbeats from their dragonne steeds, the druids dole out parcels of land, declare other tracts untouchable, and decide most matters involving nature, capital crimes, or the guardianship of Brion’s borders.  They are largely benevolent rulers, but loath to justify or even discuss their decisions, and they can be unforgiving of outsiders.  Those few upstarts who stand up to one of them typically quail after one blasting roar from the druid’s dragonne.

Pathfinder Bonus Bestiary 10

I always liked the dragonne, ever since running across it in the classic AC 9 Creature Catalogue.  I loathed the 3rd Edition art for it, though.  The Bonus Bestiary’s take is strikingly blocky and powerful looking.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dragon Horse

I like pegasi.  But there is something a bit MyLittle Pony about them…and even advanced pegasi are fragile as flying mounts go.  If you want to ditch the wings but still prove that friendship is magic, dragon horses are your best bet.

Dragon horses rescue adventurers trapped on the Ethereal Plane, spiriting them away from a xill hunting party.  There is a price for the rescue, however: the dragon horses need a rescue of their own.

The samurai of the Dragon Horse clan are regarded as cowards by many other bushi for refusing to engage in battle outside their ancestral lands.  When the cause is just though, they come riding on dragon horses, raining arrows, katana slashes, and blasts of wind down on the wicked.

A brave is visited from a horse made of clouds.  Three days later, the men in metal shirts on white ships come.  Now the brave must save her people, riding her dragon horse across the Planes to rally aid against the conquistadors.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 104

Friday, December 23, 2011


Woe unto the PCs who attack a draconal.  Saintly creatures of pure goodness, they nonetheless have the power to repel most mortal assaults.  Draconals will most likely serve as reclusive planar heralds and sages in your campaign, being such remote figures that even treating with one may be the culmination of a great quest.  That a draconal’s colors reveal something of her temperament and bailiwick is also worth mining for role-playing and adventure opportunities.

Triumph of Spirit is a rarity twice over—a female red draconal who remains active in the mortal world.  She guards the Maw of Tullamore, where the fey Tain sometimes manifest.

A herald of cultural invigoration, the white draconal Shivah Moonmaiden appears to the city-state of Anchorage to reveal two truths and a warning foretold by prophecy.  While her foresight spans the ages, her insight into the here and now is limited.  Only two years removed from a humiliating occupation by half-white dragon oligarchs, the Anchorage Blades and the militia immediately attack the kind-hearted agathion.

The yellow draconal known as the Silent Watcher holds the key to unlocking an ancient artifact.  Many have entreated him to surrender the key, but as a creature of earth and stone, he comes to decisions more slowly than even the oldest treant—supplicants have literally died waiting.  Should mortal adventurers wish his aid, they had better bring a compelling case before him.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 18–19

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dracolisk & Half-Dragon

Dragons breed, and not just with other dragons.  Out of instinct, lust, strategic concerns, loneliness, curiosity, or even rage, dragons spread their seed and beget offspring of all shapes and sizes.  Dragons also spill blood—theirs as well as others’—and their blood is potent.  Myths speak of its power to curse, heal, or grant rare abilities, and sorcerers and wizards covet it to experiment with.  And dragons have a supernatural connection to their domains, slowly warping them and the animals therein in their images.  All these factors make the existence of half-dragons not just likely but inevitable.  The dracolisk is just one example among many of such creatures.

Black dragons are notorious for breeding with other reptiles in their swamps—in part to gain allies to defend their lairs, but mostly out of boredom.  (Given that they hate other dragons, including other blacks, they are not much given to socializing.)  Half-black dragon crocodiles and lizardfolk are thus somewhat common as such things go, and a wise black dragon will often coax or bribe his offspring into serving as guards or lookouts.  Dracolisks are a different story.  They’re far too ornery to serve as guards and far too dangerous to keep around.  Typically they are a result of a juvenile black dragon’s first mating (basilisks are considered a dangerous but worthwhile “catch” by the randy young bests), and are driven from the dragon’s domain as soon as the shell cracks.

Parental expectations can weigh heavy.  This is especially true for silver dragon offspring.  The Iron Coast boasts at least two ex-paladin half-silver dragons who could no longer bear to carry on their parents’ crusade against evil.  Recently one has heard rumors of an entire nation of half-dragons, and seeks companions to search out the truth.

The product of two truly evil souls meeting, a half-green dragon peryton adds a terrible cone of acid to its already formidable abilities.  It is slowly bringing a flock of perytons to heel, and already holds sway over the local leucrottas, who it deploys as spies.

Pathfinder Bestiary 170

Aside from the d20 mechanic itself, the template was, hands-down, the most revolutionary-yet-forehead-slapping, “We should have thought of this years ago” innovation delivered by the 3rd edition of the world’s oldest role-playing game.  With the system’s monster design and math smoothed out, templates meant you could transform, advance, power down, and otherwise mess with monsters like never before.  Nothing symbolized that more than the half-dragon.  Of course, soon the half-dragon went from everyone’s go-to new monster to being totally overexposed, and as the game aged template fatigue on the whole set in.  But enough time had passed that now you can work them back into your adventures without feeling sheepish about it…and maybe even make them a focus of your campaign.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Crafty.  Shape-shifting.  German (although somewhere along the way they lost the umlaut).  Not to be trusted.  At low levels they make for excellent solo assailants (see the notes below); at mid- and high levels their machinations can still make PCs’ lives miserable—abducting and replacing their friends, framing them for felonies, and otherwise creating an atmosphere of paranoia to hamper their every move.

A gang of doppelgangers insinuates itself into the city.  Its leader is obsessed with spell completion items, and the fact that it is never without a wand or three may be the tip-off needed to unmask it.

Some advanced doppelgangers have limited telepathy or can adopt the memories of their victims.  When a famous oracle is revealed as a doppelganger, it is unclear how long the deception has been going on, or if the doppelganger itself even knew its true nature.  Apparently exposure to the original oracle’s haunted affliction has permanently twisted its mind.

Doppelgangers’ laziness and desire for wealth and luxury are not unique traits among shapechangers.  Rakshasas and certain oni in particular pursue similar ends—and they don’t like to share.  As sea trade grows among the nations, these monsters are increasingly coming into conflict.  Janissaries up and down the Serpent Coast report stirrings of a Shifter War, with dueling morphing and magical beings duking it out in the shadows night after night for territory.

Pathfinder Bestiary 89

Back in the day there was an amazing Dungeon mystery featuring a doppelganger trying to take over an inn.  Anyone remember which issue?

I can’t believe I’m about to reference Star Trek (before this springs I’d barely ever watched any; I grew up in a Star Wars house), but any episode of Deep Space Nine with the Dominion will likely hold a nugget or two of inspiration for making your doppels truly wicked and manipulative.

I prefer the shriveled, gray nosferatu-looking doppelgangers of “basic” D&D to the grey-alien-looking beasts that are currently in vogue, but too each his own.  Also, while not about doppelgangers per se, Races of Eberron is worth checking out for seeing how that setting’s doppelganger-derived changelings handle multiple identities in the world.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dolphin & Orca

Dolphins are said to rescue drowning sailors. Orcas…are not.  But both are often seen in the company of druids and rangers.

The Navigators’ Guild of the Goldwater Sea is known for its dolphin standard, and each navigator wears a gold, silver or bronze dolphin on a chain about his or her neck.  This dolphin medallion is actually an ocarina, a few notes of which can summon any dolphin in the area.  The Goldwater navigators rely on the dolphins’ low-light vision and blindsight to guide them through difficult waters.

Treen is ranger famous up and down the pine-shrouded Cloud Coast for his skill with a spear and his orca companion.  Their specialty is hunting the bunyips that haunt the local sounds, as well warding off the occasional merrow incursion.  Of late Treen has not been seen, having offended a brine dragon with his zealous guardianship.

Dolphins are constant companions of the good-hearted tritons, and often seen in the company of the insular merfolk as well.  Sailors encountering merfolk look for the presence of dolphins as a test of merfolk character.  “A merman with a dolphin,” they say, “is a difficult neighbor.  A merman without a dolphin is a trident pointed at your heart.”

Pathfinder Bestiary 88

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dog & Riding Dog

Man’s best friend.  Halfling’s best mount.

A young baronet covets land currently cultivated by a thorp of halflings.  He begins a series of measures intended to drive them out.  The first is outlawing the halflings’ riding dogs while at the same time training his own mastiffs to attack the small folk.

When mass-murdering templar’s crypt is opened, his spirit begins the process of reanimating as a mohrg, calling carrion entrails to itself as it forms.  The first clue is a rash of rabid jackal incidents witnessed nearby.  The diseased jackals feasted on the entrails as they slurped toward the still-convalescing mohrg.

In the miasmic sprawl of Lorton, the alchemical plants and hobgoblin tanneries give way to the bugbear slums of Spill Way.  Packs of wild dogs roam the streets, attacking any weak-looking passersby.  The bugbears in turn eat the dogs—but only after they, too, have had their filling of weak-looking passersby.

Pathfinder Bestiary 87

Friday, December 16, 2011


For players, djinn bring to mind whirlwinds and wishes—probably not in that order.  Djinn also bring some Arabian flair to an otherwise generically Euro-ish multiverse (unless you choose to give them some other flavor, which might not be a bad idea).  Djinn make great adversaries, because while they’re usually chaotic good, sore pride, a high-stakes bet, gold, sworn oaths, ancient enmities, or frustration at having spent too many years inside a lamp could all set them up to oppose your PCs.  And then there’s the wish thing.  In a globetrotting, Indiana Jones-style adventure, a djinn noble’s wishes offer pure possibility; in a darker, “Arabian Nights meets noir”-style campaign, PCs must weather the horror of facing adversaries who can alter the very fabric of reality.

A devil has commandeered a floating tower out in the wastes.  To cater to his mortal aides, he has contracted two djinn to provide them with created food and win, as well as transport them in and out of the tower.  By now the djinn have tired of the bargain, regretting the gold they earned forces them to serve such a vile master.

Rings, bottles, and lamps are the typical vessels for containing genie kind.  But in astrology-obsessed Marien, a djinni is housed in the orrery, appearing when the model of the moon is put into proper alignment.  His elemental anger at his confinement is what powers the orrery’s mechanisms—and is responsibly for the tornados that occasionally plague the city, leveling the poorer quarters.

A djinni vizier’s wishes all reveal themselves to have ill consequences.  Investigation (divinatory or otherwise) reveals the djinni has been cursed.  The proud djinni immediately recruits a party of sellswords to exact satisfaction from his efreeti archrival, but a hag coven unknown to the two is actually to blame.

Pathfinder Bestiary 139

A little tidbit that caught my attention in the 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting was a note that genies had shaped the culture of Calimshan.  I liked that—it was a tidy explanation that implied real consequences to trafficking with other worlds.  You can picture court wizards and architects (probably the same persons, actually; just look at Leonardo da Vinci’s résumé) desperately trying to sketch blueprints of the Plane of Air palaces they’d briefly glimpsed through the scrying pool, or imagine a marid noble consulting for some merchant prince.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dire Wolverine & Wolverine

Raging wolverines and dire wolverines are the barbarians of the animal kingdom.  Their musk is also almost as bad as a skunk’s, a fact that has no in-game impact but can add some disagreeable flavor.

Gnomes’ fondness for badger companions is well known.  The gnomes who opt for their larger cousins tend to be loners—often trappers, rangers, or solitary barbarians—who don’t mind wolverines’ musk or their need to pick fights with wolves and panthers over meals.

Dwarf outriders steer their shaggy ponies up and down the mountain passes, keeping the roads clear and tending small shelters for travelers (the better to keep them on the path and out of dwarven lands).  They also leave emergency caches of food, but in lean years this means conflicts with dire wolverines, who dig up and devour the stores, then spray whatever’s left out of spite.

Fairy tales are told about the awful winter witches of the North.  The tales are silent about the much rarer “spring witches”—the Vernal Sisters, strange wild-eyed witches who tap fearsome powers of renewal, making plants bloom, vines grow, the wind whip, rivers burst their seams, and even the very earth to leap up and shift in its place.  Dire wolverines are their servants, stubbornly carrying messages for the Sisters to places other animals won’t go.

Pathfinder Bestiary 279

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dire Wolf & Wolf

From Elfquest to A Game of Thrones, we fantasy fans love our wolves.  But familiarity has bred a little contempt—has any of us not had a character with a dire wolf pet?  If you want to put the wild back into the wolf, siccing a pack on the PCs while they’re vulnerable should do the trick.  (Make it a chase, perhaps, and emphasize their implacable tracking skills).  As for dire wolves, once again it’s all about the flavor text: “The size of a horse.” Have the characters wake up to that the next time their watchman falls asleep…

In some Nordmarch villages in winter it is traditional to leave one longhouse standing wide open, largely empty but for a joint of meat being roasted over the fire by a thrall.  Completely unafraid of humans, the dire wolves in this area are so brazen that if not appeased with the false longhouse, they will burst through the doors of the real one until they have devoured their fill.

An Unseelie dryad has a particularly nasty habit of charming attractive males an then, when she grows tired of them, allowing her pet wolves to dismember their pliant, unarmed forms.

There are wolf-riding halflings in the taiga.  Eschewing the female pantheon of their southern cousins, they are animists who worship totems and nature spirits.  Practically feral, the halflings regard their wolves as kin and accord them the same rights.  In fact, more than one of these tribes is actually led by an alpha wolf, rather than a chief, and the clans do not seem to suffer for it.

Pathfinder Bestiary 278

I was nearly killed by a dire wolf my first adventure, thanks to a fourth(?)-grade GM who refused to tell me that a 1d4 club was about the worst weapon I could outfit my cleric with.  But I think I remember getting a dire wolf pup out of the experience.  (Come to think of it, I think he also said Zeus was pissed at me, and we’ve all had that happen.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dire Tiger & Tiger

One on one, even a lion is no match for a tiger.  And let’s just call dire tigers what they are, shall we?  Saber.  Toothed.

The governor of Sirwat Province dictates that all non-white tigers in his domain be killed.  The governor is actually a white-furred rakshasa; orange stripes offend his vanity.

A tiger has never been seen alive west of the Util Mountains.  Presenting a specimen to their queen could earn adventurers her ear.  But the overland route is barred by yetis and storm-calling, blue-headed ettins.  The journey by sea involves sneaking past a naval blockade.

Monks who emulate the smilodon specialize in camouflage, leaping from concealment, and a fighting style emphasizing double dagger thrusts.  They study the beasts in the wild, fashioning their begging bowls from the skulls of animals freshly killed by dire tigers.

Pathfinder Bestiary 265

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dire Shark & Shark

As a bard once sang: “It’s murder out there / Murder out there / Sharks patrol these waters”…

Blue sharks often follow ships, disposing of the food scraps tossed over the side.  When the first mate finds a gnome stowaway in the hold while the captain is away in the jollyboat, he threatens to widen the definition of “scraps.”

The hammerheads of Astrology Bay guard a wealth of sunken treasure, as well as a nereid who delights in the chrysanthemum-like burst of crimson blood in blue water.

Sailors say the Jinkin’s Bounty has been cursed since the moment of its ill-favored christening.  And disaster after disaster has plagued the merchant vessel.  After a massive refit, the Jinkin’s Bounty is put to sea once more, only to be followed by a blood-red dire shark just an hour out of port.  At this point, even the famously unshakable captain thinks his reluctant crew may be on to something.

Pathfinder Bestiary 247

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dire Rat & Rat Swarm

Dire wolves may be the paradigmatic dire animals, but dire rats are probably the ones you first saw in the dungeon.  (I seem to recall a nice illustration of one in the D&D Basic Set red box.)  And now that swarms are all the rage, regular rats are a bother, too.

A hero’s career does not have to get off to a glamorous start.  When a rampaging red dragon firebombs their town, a group of ne’er-do-wells are too young to take up arms against the monster.  But when the dragon smashes the abandoned basilica and sets it ablaze, there is much the young heroes can do, including rescuing townsfolk trapped in the rubble and exterminating the rat swarms that come pouring out of the walls.

“The Stunning Rodentia of Seamus, Adventurer” read the signboards posted all over town.  Seamus’s trained piebald dire rats are a hit until one of the stars contracts filth fever.  Soon all the rats are half-mad and sickly, and the improvident Seamus releases them rather than put himself at risk nursing them back to health.

A wererat street urchin finds he can no longer empathize with dire rats.  Perplexed, he follows his former friends deep into the sewers in rat form, where he finds them chewing on strange fungi and weeping stones.  He also finds morlocks, and both discoveries terrify him so much he is willing to risk asking for help.

Pathfinder Bestiary 232

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dire Lion & Lion

Dire lions have a nasty habit of turning up in areas one wouldn’t expect them—like caves and northern climes.  And if players don’t think regular lions are a threat, they will once you force them to make hard decisions about wearing metal armor in the heat of the savannah. 

A common spectacle in Imperial gladiatorial arenas pits lions against a goblin and a human.  The human gets a cestus.  The goblin gets a short sword.  The lions, typically, get fed.

A wyvern that has been terrorizing badlands thorps is killed.  Unfortunately, its presence was all that kept the cave lion populations down, and a pride soon moves in, taking more livestock and lives than the wyvern did.

The head of the local thieves’ guild has a thing for exotic cats.  But his lions escape, running rampant through the streets of Hemley on Market Day.

Pathfinder Bestiary 193

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dire Hyena & Hyena

Most GMs don’t need a crib sheet for these animals.  Hyenas mean gnolls, and vice versa.  Encounter solved.  But you can still find places for hyenas and hyaenodons in your world without their upright cousins.

On the so-called “Dark Continent” of Paliwar, certain people are considered something more and less than human.  Due to the spiritual boundaries they regularly cross, blacksmiths, gravediggers, and oracles are all considered to have one foot in another world—especially the world of the dead—and often mark their foreheads with ash to represent their separate status.  (Clerics and wizards are not considered of this caste, having rituals, vestments, and writing to protect them.)  Druids and rangers with hyena or vulture companions are also among the ash-marked, their companions being scavengers who disturb the bodies of the dead.

The wild elves of Fel Sesh are not the vegetarian pacifists of the western forests.  These elves wield sabers and ride brindle-furred hyaenodons into battle.

A magician (Advanced Player’s Guide 82) seeks to develop a more powerful hideous laughter spell to demonstrate his mastery of the bardic arts.  A core component is the tongue of a dire hyena.

Pathfinder Bestiary 179

I think I’ll put the majority of my comments in the main body of the posts from now on, in this fetching color.  Of course, that means I have to go back and fix all my previous entries.  Yikes…

Anyway, as far as I’m concerned those things in Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers weren’t Tolkein’s wargs; they were dire hyenas. 

And apparently hyaenodons show up with Jenny Lewis in Primeval!  I’m still on Season 3, so I need to get catch up…

Also, my take on Paliwar owes a very slight something to the Dogon cosmology as portrayed (problematically, according to some) in Conversations with Ogotemmêli.  (I want to be sure to acknowledge both the debt and the controversy.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dire & Grizzly Bears

Players who scoff at any bear that doesn’t have an owl’s face will be stunned that a grizzly bear has the same CR and does more (slightly, but still—!) damage.  And even once PCs are dispatching owlbears with ease, a CR 7 dire bear with +19 to grapple should still give them pause.

For a barbarian of the Bear Lodge to be reckoned a true bear totem warrior (Advanced Player’s Guide 79), he must first find, then emulate, and eventually be able to single-handedly kill the grizzly bear he holds in such reverence.

Dancing bears are common entertainment in human cities.  They’re also common in hill giant steadings…but the bears are cave bears, and they aren’t chained or muzzled.  After all, their troll handlers can shrug off—quite literally—any unfortunate bites.

In particularly cold winters, the polar bears (grizzly bears with the advanced simple template) of Rime Ridge  are said to migrate beyond the borders of this world, following the aurora borealis to another land.  It is possible to follow them there, but en route they are even more likely to react to intruders violently.  The agathions who guard the ice-lined passes respect the beasts too much to interfere.

Pathfinder Bestiary 31

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dire Ape & Gorilla

Apes and gorillas are separated from humans by an uncanny valley.  Crossing the divide may involve blood.

The palace of a rakshasa noble, slain six months past by janissary paladins, is regarded as taboo by the locals.  His zoo was the pride of the estate, and its many gorillas have grown feral now that no one comes to feed them.

The thermal springs of Shigoku are known for the snow monkeys who take the waters there.  Visitors to the springs are advised to keep their distance from the troops, for powerful guardian spirits protect the monkeys.  In truth, they are actually guarded by great white dire apes that seem to regard the monkeys as kin but react violently to humans, especially those wearing metal.

A prison breakout is sparked by an unexpected source—an orangutan (a gorilla with the young simple template) that comes to the rescue of his recently incarcerated rogue owner.

Pathfinder Bestiary 17

Friday, December 2, 2011


Half-man, half-vampire, the dhampir can fill any number of roles in your campaign: hero (likely tragic or anti-), villain, foil, informant with a secret, or convenient deus ex machina. And the dhampir as vampire slayer is so common in fiction and film as to be cliché by now (though don’t let that stop you—a cliché artfully employed is just a useful trope).  Like other half-breed characters, dhampirs stand at the intersection of two worlds—and PCs encountering dhampirs should be made aware that one of those worlds wants to tear out their throats.

The albino Cervus Malfio has been sickly since birth, a pale creature too dazzled by sunlight to even go outside on bright days.  On his seventeenth birthday, the day that was to be his confirmation, he was run down by a cart outside the temple just before the ceremony.  This set off an inexorable chain of events: the priest rushing outside to apply cure light wounds, the spell sending the boy nearly to his death, word spreading of the ill magicks it took to save him, and finally the arrival of his father, ready to claim Cervus as his heir…and more than a few lives in the process.

The alleys of Greenwald are abuzz with rumors about a new thieves’ guild.  This would have been inconceivable only a few years ago, in a land where vampires rule the underworld more or less openly.  But the new guildmaster seems unafraid of both the living and the undead—he has beheaded his few mortal rivals, and seems to have enough influence (or leverage) over Greenwald’s vampires that they do not dare to do him harm.

Twicehome is a growing mountain town that is fast becoming known as a settlement where half-breeds of any kind are welcome—half-elves in particular, but also half-orcs, aasimars, tieflings, even the rare mongrelman.  But the secret rulers of Twicehome are the dhampirs, whose holdings delve deep into the mountain.  Without seeming to, they share power over almost every aspect of daily life in Twicehome…and they may share a common forbear as well.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 89

More Pathfinder today at Penny Arcade.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Few things are worse than the hungry undead.  But a ghoul will only feast on you.  A devourer will sup on your soul—and then consume it like kindling to feed its magic.  For GMs, devourers also inspire questions that in turn can inspire adventures: Who was this devourer originally? What transformed it, and where?  And why has it returned?

The knightly Order of St. Manx seeks proof of the demise of the devil that killed the order’s founder.  In fact, said devil may not have been slain—some say the fiend’s broken essence lives on in a particularly bloated devourer called the Gravid Maw, an apotheosis brought on by the devil’s multiverse-spanning flight from St. Manx’s vengeance.  The Blade Proctor of the order will not rest until he receives word that the Gravid Maw, too, has been slain.

A certain codex in a certain library is known to devour souls.  It is kept under lock and key, assumed to be a work so blasphemous mortal men cannot safely read it.  In actuality, the codex is a devourer trapped in book form.  If it is removed from the library, the curse will be lifted, and the devourer will thank its rescuers by attempting to slay and consume them immediately.

There is a sentence the Dread Court of Pontefract has handed down only four times in living memory: imprisonment of the soul.  For the convicts, their prison and jailor are one and the same, a devourers bound by a special geas known as the Warden.  Over time the geas has begun to weaken, and the Warden now merely bides its time until it can shatter its magical fetters completely.  When the mage-bailiffs of the Dread Court try to compel it to release one of its charges, a paladin wrongly convicted of treason 20 years ago, they will find a very uncooperative—and hungry—undead monstrosity.

Pathfinder Bestiary 82